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 Forgiven, Not Forgotten. [complete] 

Joined: 01 Aug 2007
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Title: Forgiven, Not Forgotten.
Rating: G
Genre: Angst, Romance
Summary: A Yuuzhan Vong fic. In what will be a trying time for most Yuuzhan Vong, Communications attendant Seef finds herself in a precarious position. Torn between accepting her fate and a deeper rooted fear of the gods wrath, she realizes that she must make her decision and soon - to the ruin of that which of she cares most.

Note: I originally wrote the first chapter as a stand alone vig/sequel to my Adult rated fic "All is forgiven in victory" but was encouraged to write a few more chapters. You do not need to have read my other fic for you to understand this one, but a basic knowledge of the NJO book Star by Star is slightly helpful - nothing major.

She lightly ran a talloned hand across the intricately scarred flesh of her forehead in bewilderment. The scars there stung anew, as if recently inflicted.
Long since passed was the sickening, debilitating nausea that had threatened to have her doubled over like some poorly crecheling. Now all that remained was the bitter aftertaste of the bile, that even now, threatened to rise in her throat.
That and the knowledge that now filled her with a dread so great, it had caused her to seek refuge in the bowels of Domain Dal, cowering in an empty chamber not far from the worldship’s maw luur. There she had relinquished, like some pathetic injured brenzlit.
And it was here, when she knew she could no more run from the facts than she could have thrown herself into the maw lurr and survived, did she finally let the alien sense of fear buckle her legs, allowing herself to double over with the sickness that ailed her.

Seef knew she had passed out, but how long she had been in an unconscious state was anybody’s guess. Down here, the bioluminescent fungi that lit the halls, remained alight no matter the cycle.
She had pulled herself into a seated position, propped up by the rough yorik coral wall at her back. That was where she had remained for what seemed like an eternity.
A fresh wave of uncertainty washed over her, but she did her best to banish it from her mind all together. The Gods saw and knew everything…and she knew well that she had earned enough of their disapproval without having thought of an uncertain nature to add to it.

Barely a Klekket ago she had received word via villip, concerning the ill fated Ebaq 9 mission. Being a communications attendant had earned her ears the honour of learning the bitterly horrific news before many.
Hundreds of Yuuzhan Vong warriors had lost their lives on that moon. Hundreds lost in the mere seconds it had taken for the traitorous familiar-turned betrayer, Vergere, to crash an infidel vessel into the surface of Ebaq 9. She had killed herself in the process of course. An honour, Seef duly noted, that should have been denied to the strange feathered creature.
But then who was she to speak of honour now?
Among the dead of Ebaq 9 – and without doubt the most notable- was warmaster Tsavong Lah himself. A fact which had both shocked and sought to consume Seef to such a degree that she had struggled to remain calm as she had asked for confirmation of this fact.

Mere klekkets prior to the spectacular arrival of Supreme Overlord Shimrra on Yuuzhan’tar, be it because of Seef’s own foolish mistake or Tsavong Lah’s own fancy, she and the warmaster had once briefly become lovers. Perhaps through technicality alone.
Seef had had no choice but to interrupt the warmaster during his cleansing, and upon entering his private steam-chamber, being confronted with the fact the Young Attendant had seen him naked – this was strictly forbidden to any subordinate, resulting in only two outcomes- he had to decide weather to kill her with the coufee she had held out in offer, or to take her as his lover.
Seef had fully expected to die that day and would have allowed that, had that been his choice.
Surprise and pride had taken the place of expectancy of death, when he had explained otherwise. Long had she looked upon Tsavong Lah with admiration and perhaps a hint of lust, but had known such inter-caste relations were forbidden to all of Yun-Yuuzhan’s children. It was not her place to raise the issue however, nor did she wish to.
Tsavong Lah had alleviated her concern regardless, with the words that the Supreme Overlord had uttered only moments before he had rejoined her.
“ All is forgiven in Victory.”

Oh how she had clung to those words in hope before now. Now they were like the mark of shame, smeared like black blood across all honourable that she might once have been. But no one else had known about Tsavong Lah’s tryst with Seef except Shimrra. And if she remained far enough from his reach for long enough, perhaps then she could have found some cause with which to redeem herself in light of the warmasters failings?
She had been a fool to think thus, Seef knew now.
The gods knew everything, saw everything. There was no escaping their wrath, she thought bitterly.
Tsavong Lah, at least, knew that now.

She had mourned him, silently, when she was alone in her small chamber. Curled up upon her nest-bunk she mourned and prayed that the gods be lenient. He had done so much for the cause of the glorious Yuuzhan Vong. He had effectively handed Yuuzhan’tar to Shimrra on a platter. Surely in light of these great acts in service to the gods, one mistake could be overlooked?
Not in the eyes of Shimrra, and therefore not in the eyes of the gods.

Seef had done much in the past few weeks that was alien to her, unbecoming of one that was true caste. Of one that was Yuuzhan Vong for that matter. And through it all was one feeling that reigned supreme, dominated all else. Not the anguish, but fear.
Not for herself, no. She would accept her fate and go to her death willingly if she had not known what she did now.
Her dark eyed gaze travelled back to where her hand was placed protectively, over her stomach. She almost certainly carried the deceased warmaster’s child. The attendant did not need a shaper to tell her what had afflicted her these past days. She just knew.

Seef’s other hand now moved to caress the pommel of the coufee she kept concealed within her robeskin at all times. Backstabbing was rife among her caste, she would hope to be prepared had the chance presented it’s self to her. It would be so easy to end this torment.
“Life is pain.” She reminded herself aloud.
The gods had done this to her. An inter-caste child would not go unnoticed in their eyes. But she hoped desperately, with a feeling she could not fully comprehend, that the child be spared her own fate.
If word got out that this were the child of Tsavong Lah, she would be sacrificed, her child with her.
Once more, Seef toyed with the coufee, it almost called to her to set things to rights.
She drew it, admiring the rust-hued blade in all its vicious glory.
“Let the gods decide…” She whispered to the empty chamber, “…or is it that they have already decided my fate?”

Truly, had they not spoken by afflicting her with this growing shame inside of her? Her shame…not the child’s.
Snarling, she flung the coufee far from reach. It clattered to the living floor loudly, it’s landing reverberating off the yorik coral walls for several moments as if to taunt her cowardice. A testament to her shame.

Shame. Perhaps there was another way? If only until her child was born and she could ensure their safety among those who would not remember her station here. It would be a fitting date for her to secrete herself among the shamed ones. No one paid attention, nor considered the shamed ones worthy of thought. And certainly not a second glance. The fact that her nose ridge was wrinkled in disgust at the very idea, only sought to prove her point.
Shamed ones went unnoticed, even by the gods, and she had nothing to beg of Yun-Shuno.

Seef rose unsteadily, her fate decided. The gods would receive her all in good time, but for now at least, she had a task to do.
“ All is forgiven in victory” She thought, “ But not forgotten.”

"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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Chapter 2

The pounding sounds of footfalls upon the yorik coral, startled her into alert awareness. Even from here, concealed within her own small chamber aboard the worldship, she could hear them at a distance…or were they?
Darkness coiled it’s deceptively enveloping tendrils around her prone form as she scrabbled about, hand outstretched, trying to find the coufee that should have lain by her side. Along with that, the lambent she had used to find her way to her sleeping place, the luminescent fungi was aged and insufficiently dull this far down in the worldships.
She realized with panic, neither items were there.
The steady sound of approaching footsteps drew closer still, causing her to resume her frantic search and double her efforts. Her clawed fingers would reach out, sure that they had discovered their mark, only to be errantly rewarded with the sound of her claws scraping the solid, cold floor again and again.

The footsteps never slowed, never decreased in number, only drew louder. They had come for her, why else would they be here? They knew.
There was no time now to search for the weapon she would have defended herself with, she had to get out. Rising unsteadily to her feet, she stumbled in the icy black, crying out unwittingly in hopelessness as she tried futilely to make her way to the exit only to slip on the dampness of the floor.
She could not recall there being any spillages or secretions on the floor before, but now it sought to hinder her progress toward the exit. The more she tried the further away the exit seemed to be. Her heart hammered with every step she heard in the distance, each one taken being another moment closer to her soon to be imminent and ignoble death. It was as though the darkness did not wish to let her go, it was pulling her back into its seemingly endless maw.

Louder and louder the sound of approaching steps came, betraying the fanatical fury that could only come from warriors sent to slaughter under the orders of Shimrra. And just when she had thought she would falter again, the fingertips of one outstretched hand met with the membrane that sealed the exit to the chamber she had thought would become her tomb.
Hands, all of a flurry, sought the sensitive ‘tickle pad’ that would cause the membrane to dilate, thus allowing her swift exit. They found their mark, but as they did so, she found reason to pause as an icy sensation wound its way up her spine.

No longer could she hear the sounds of approach that had, until now, hounded her like a drone-beetle’s thrumming an executioner’s beat. All that remained was bleak silence, that and the sounds of her own unsteady breath falling in shaky breaths and gasps.
For barely a second, she contemplated her safety, but only for that second.
For now she realized what had truly awoken her from her fitful sleep.

She had never been alone at all.


A rasping, low toned voice spoke out from the enveloping darkness behind, taunting her inability to have known what was going on all along.

The voice was not familiar at first to her, but as the young attendant turned sharply on her heel - arm raised slightly to block attack should it come – the sight that met her dark, wide eyes should have been known to her. And yet it took a few moments to realize what, or more aptly who, she had turned her gaze upon.

At first glance, somewhat horrifically highlighted by the soft glow of the lambent the once imposing figure now held in their hand, Seef recognized them only to be a shamed one.
Festering open wounds oozed around failed implants and scars that were once defined, now marred by the marks of shame. His hair hung in dank patches at the back of his cranium, clinging to the sickly, pallid flesh of the nape of his neck. If she had not been so astounded or confused, she may have missed what sudden realization had just shown to her.

This shamed one, hand now outstretched towards her, was offering her her own coufee. But Seef’s attention was drawn to the shamed one’s other arm.
A festering, near rotted stump of what had once been – no doubt- an exquisite graft. It had once been a radank claw.
As the attendant’s gaze travelled upward to meet that of the shamed one, she had hoped to her minds end that this was not so, was not real. But Seef found no comfort there either, this was indeed Tsavong Lah.

“ You can’t be…” she found the words hitch in her suddenly dry throat, taking a hasty step backwards. “ You are dead…they said…they saw you!”

“ Seef, you can end this, you can set things to rights, for all of us.”

The sounds of footfalls in the passage beyond the cell entrance returned now, their presence much closer than before.

“ I do not understand!” She had begun to let panic seep back into her being, something she would never have dreamed, let alone shown to the former warmaster before….before what exactly? This was impossible!

“ You know of what I speak,” Tsavong Lah continued, not shifting his sharp, piercing gaze from her for one moment. Even in this blatant pitiful state, he was more intimidating than any shamed one Seef had ever had the displeasure of encountering.

She continued to back away, starting slightly as her back contacted with the viscous surface of the entrance membrane.
Outside, Seef could hear voices, angered and enraged, baying for blood. They would find her.
Seef’s stare fixated on the coufee held out to her, panic stained her every sense, there was no way out!

“ End this now, end it and grant us both back our honour so we may find rest after the blessed release!” The former warmaster was urging.
‘There is no way out. No way forward, no way back.’ She thought hopelessly
Death waited around every corner and for all the times she had expected it in the past, had willingly offered her life in payment for foolish mistakes, never did she think she would actually learn to fear the end when her time was up.
The warriors were outside the entrance to the chamber now, shouting taunts, insults and accusations. They would make short work of the membrane should they try to force their way in here.

“ End this Seef!”

She was already shaking her head at her once lover, tears stung her eyes and blurred her vision until she could no longer focus on the mere shadow of a warrior she had once known.

“ Seef?!”

The impact of hands clamping down on her slight shoulders, shaking her gently caused the former attendant to cry out in alarm, kicking out with both legs, arms flailing in an uncoordinated attempt to push her would-be attacker off of her. It had the desired effect.

Whoever had woken her from her vivid nightmares went skittering back into the darkness, hitting the cold, unforgiving floor with a dull thud and a strained groan of pain.

"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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Chapter 3.


Seef slowly opened her eyes, allowing time for her dark orbs to drink in what little light there was down here in the ruins of what had once been the infidel world of Coruscant.
The soft living moss sleeping mat shifted beneath her weight as she tried to sit up awkwardly. Mobility had become somewhat of an issue in recent months and her pregnancy was on blatant, shameful display to all who dare cast a glance in her pitiful direction. That was why she languished here, hidden from most.
None, of course, knew the full details…none need ask, rumours were rife among the shamed. Thankfully the true caste paid such rumours no mind.

Another groan and a small curse from the shadows caused her to squint into the dim light.

“Tln’aa?” She called out uncertainly, tensing slightly in remembrance of the shadows of her prior dream.

The sound of scuffling could be heard, before the somewhat cowering, sinewy form of a shamed one, a male, peered out from behind the broken remains of what Seef guessed had once been the wall of an infidel built thing. This shamed one had once been a shaper, as his ailing adepts hand clearly showed. He was tall, but cowardice betrayed any confidence that could have been implied by formidable height, and his reluctance to approach the previously alarmed female before him proved as much.

“ I heard your raised voice, I thought you may have been in danger.” He muttered, hands clasped at his ribs, nursing what might well have been a breakage.

“It was nothing,” She managed, adrenaline slowly draining from her nerves, leaving her exaughsted, forlorn. “ Dreams…nothing more.”

Tln’aa did not seem so convinced, he lingered, shifting his slight weight from foot to painfully sore foot.
He was part of a word detail up on the surface, and ask such did indeed have a slave grashal to return to after a day’s hard labour. It was pure chance that he had happened upon Seef almost two Klekkets ago. She had been placed among his group one morning, the prefect overseeing such things had paid little or no mind to the newcomer, only that should she fail to complete the day’s quota, severe action would be taken.

Tln’aa however, had the knowledge and insight to know someone wearing an Ooglith masquer when he saw one, and several arduous weeks of whispered conversations in the villip fields had proved fruitful. While the female newcomer had given no name, nor any mention of where, exactly, she had originated, her reason for leaving her old life among the true caste became clear soon enough when a rather horrific bout of sickness had the slight female doubled over with nausea. Enough to cause her to meet with the flattened side of an amphistaff when the warrior keeping a close eye on the group of shamed workers, had decided she needed some painful encouragement when it came to completing her tasks.

Tln’aa had not completely understood why he had offered to hide her down here in the forbidden lower levels of Yuuzhan’tar at first. Perhaps he had hoped he would discover her identity? With that knowledge he could have reported it to the prefect, then Yun-Shuno would have cause to consider his long awaited redemption.

But as weeks turned into klekkets, he had come to enjoy keeping this considerably risky secret, in hope that she, whoever this ‘Seef’ had been, would one day look upon him favourably as he had grown to her. He risked all to visit her daily, to bring her food and anything else she may have needed and yet he did not mind.

“Dreams,” He scoffed as he brought to her a sac worm filled with collected fresh water.
“This was the same one?”

He held out the bulbous creature toward her, she took it and drank thankfully. When she had finished, Seef placed the creature to one side for reuse, responding to Tln’aa’s question.

“The very same, but it matters not…really.” She lied, when she was alone she often thought of nothing less, nothing short of her decision made aboard domain Dal, and how her dreams connected with her decision made. She had chosen not to end her own life, and with it, the life of her unborn child.
Subconsciously, she placed a protective hand upon her swollen stomach, Tln’aa’s expression brightened some at the motion.

“The crecheling stirs?” He asked, reaching out in peculiar fascination to touch her stomach also.
A touch that Seef shifted back and away from sharply, her sudden revulsion apparent on her face. She had chosen to live among the shamed out of fear, a feeling that was very wrong for one of true caste. For all intense purposes she should have been dead, but she was not and never would be one of them. One of the shamed.
After all Tln’aa had done for her, hiding her, keeping her nourished and relatively safe, he was still and always would be disfavoured in the eyes of the gods. And therefore, beneath the favoured true caste, disfavoured in her own eyes.

The hurt she saw in the shamed one’s eyes was immeasurable, like that of a child who had failed their domain for the first time. Shamefully, Tln’aa did little to hide the blatant display of emotional pain either. Still, he moved back to his sitting position and proceeded to continue speaking as if this instance had not just occurred. Though this time, he could not meet her gaze.

“ Have you decided what you shall do when the crecheling is born?”

Seef relaxed enough to sit back down also, though with effort that betrayed just how far gone in her pregnancy she really was.
“I have,” she began somewhat pensively, “ But there is something I must ask of you first.”

The former shaper glanced up then, a glimmer of expectant hope in his dark eyes.
How pitiful, Seef thought to herself, that one could sink so low as to behave more like a loyal pet or familiar than the Yuuzhan Vong that he must once have been. And how ironic that she should find herself here, now, relying on a shamed one to carry out tasks she was incapable of doing unseen. No Ooglith masquer could hide her condition now after all.

“ I need you to steal a linked pair of villips from the fields upon your assignment there. One you must return to me, “ Seef explained, going over her plans in her head. There was little choice left to her, while she may have been damned to a life of shame, denied blessed release of death through a twist of fate so devious, only Yun-Harla herself could have birthed it, her child, need not suffer the same fate. Then she could set all of this right.

“ And the other?” Tln’aa asked eagerly. He was leaning forward now, listening intently.

“It must find it’s way into the hands of a member of the deception sect.” Seef explained and watched as the colour drained from the shamed one’s eye-sacs. Suddenly he seemed less than confident, but nevertheless he nodded in acknowledgement.

“ Forgive my asking, but would that not be a great risk to yourself and the unborn one? If I were to give the villip to one devoutly loyal to shimrra…”

Seef nodded in accordance with his words,
“My life was forfeit a long time ago, but yes, you are correct in your worries, however simpering they may be.”

Tln’aa’s expression was one of great pain, he clearly did not like the way this conversation was going and could not begin to wonder what it was that had caused Seef to land herself here among the shamed. He dare not ask his fellow shamed ones for any scrap of information they may have either. And even less any members of true caste he may have encountered. That would be suicide, possibly signing the preverbal death warrant for his companion too.
It had been in complete confidence that she had told him her name, if indeed she had told him the truth.
Her tattoo’s and ritual scarring showed her to be someone from the Intendant caste, though she had carefully concealed her domain marking by rearranging tufts of her hair to cover the small, yet intricately familiar, sign.

Undeterred by the shamed one’s reaction, Seef felt the need to explain on.
“ This is why I have someone in mind to be the recipient.” She spoke.

Tln’aa returned from his reverie, eyes seeming less clouded by thought this time, could he do what she asked? Surely there was another way? And was this just cowardice whispering in his ears?
“ You said to me that your fate had been decided long ago?” He asked, playing nervously with a long strand of rags tied about one wrist. He was clearly fishing for answers, some justification of why this must be done, “ The dreams that haunt you, they have to do with this decision of yours, do they not?”

Seef’s continual silence was all the confirmation he needed, and again he felt the need to reach out in comfort. He reined the urge in just in time, the last thing he wanted to do was to drive her away now.
How different they were, he thought, and ironically the same in many ways.

“ There was once a warrior, who was unwittingly presented with a choice,” Seef’s words were laced with a bitter sweet sadness, one that seemed to still the air around them, so that for a moment, for memory’s sake, time stood still.

“He could choose to keep for himself, one that was forbidden to him, one that by all rights belonged to the gods. He could have done as the gods demanded, by returning that one to them.” She fixed the shamed one in her sights, “ but he chose not to return them, keeping this one for himself under the belief that all would be forgiven if victory was won in the many battles to come thereafter.”

How like a crčche tale, Tln’aa thought, but he knew better than that.

“ The two of them thought that this was so, battles were fought, won. They still prospered…but Yun-Harla, as we well know, is cunning and elusive. The gods were merely waiting for their chance to show their displeasure, and show it they did.” The words seemed to catch in her throat, choking her, taunting her painfully with the memories they evoked.

“ What became of them?” The shamed one asked gingerly, curiosity getting the better of him rather than sense.

“ The warrior died in battle, though it is rumoured perhaps, that his death was far from honourable.” Eyes downcast, face partly n murky shadow, she could no longer look him in the eyes either.

Tln’aa thought better of asking her what had happened to the other in the story she had just told. He already knew. She sat here before him.
He also now partly understood her intentions, having once been true caste himself, he knew their devout logic and fanatical sensibilities all too well. She was giving the gods what was owed to them, but did not wish the same fate to befall the child. Perhaps things were this way in the hope that it would give back, if a little, this warrior’s honour in death.

“ The crecheling…” he began, but could not finish as words evaded him, his voice dry and hoarse from moments of silent trying to contain himself.

“Will be well looked after, if the one I seek will agree to my wishes,” Seef finished somewhat sedately, hand playing over her swollen stomach once more.
Clearing his throat, Tln’aa responded in a tone that hid his emotion enough to reassure her, he would do his utmost.
“Tell me, who this person is, and consider it done.”

"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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Chapter 4.

Under the cover of Yuuzhan’tar’s star littered sky, weaving through the mirage of autumnal trees and plant life of the sacred square, a lone figure travelled with haste.
Onward they went, carefully, toward a temple located at the far side of the square. It was further than he had imagined from the emergence hole he had used to gain access to this sacred place. He knew all too well that if he were caught, death would come to him on swift wings, for this place was forbidden to all of his kind.

A gentle breeze stirred the flora and fauna, carrying the scent with it in a refreshing dance that played about the timid figure in question. Somewhere in the distance he could hear the faint sounds of a brawl, warriors perhaps in some minor dispute, he tried to pay it no mind, focussing instead on the task ahead. Beneath the heavy shroud the figure wore, clasped tightly in one, gnarled hand, he held a small leathery sphere of a creature.

Tln’aa attempted to force his fear down within him when at last, he reached the temple he had sought. Its shimmering yorik coral steps and gaping maw of an entrance added to its imposing stature on this part of the world, to such a degree that he, a shamed one, would be daunted by its intimidating appearance. A testament to the power that the gods held sway over all of Yun-Yuuzhan’s children and their devotion to them in return.

The guards stationed at the entrance however, were not an ornate gesture and Tln’aa bade his hammering heart be still, least it burst within him. He began to tremble, visibly, as one of the large, imposing warriors took a glance at the Shamed one in disgust - before uttering a curse of contempt as he moved toward the cloaked figure.
At this close distance, Tln’aa’s eyes could clearly see the amphistaff uncoiling from its resting place about the warriors arm and the fresh, raw marks of recent devotion upon the burly beings face.

“ Be gone, this is no place for your kind!” The warrior growled out contemptuously, almost uttering the words over the shamed one’s head.

Instead of heeding the warning, Tln’aa fell to his knees, forehead pressed firmly to the unforgiving ground in a mark of submission.
“ Forgive me fearsome one, I am but a lowly worker who has been sent on the words of another!”

The warrior spat at the sound of this pathetic voice, his spittle landing close enough for Tln’aa to hear it hit the ground centimetres from his festering ear.

“This other sends a shamed one to do their bidding? Then this is no place for them or their words either, now be gone before I have reason to remove you permanently!”

For encouragement, Tln’aa received a booted foot to the ribs, driving it in hard enough to force the breath from his lungs and sending him flying backwards several paces.
He tried to pull himself to his feet, but a fit of incessant coughing caused him to falter. Hands clasping at his ribs, he was sure there was now a breakage, Tln’aa looked up in time to see the imposing warrior stalking toward him.

Clearly unimpressed by the shamed ones inability to heed quick warning, the warrior was closing the gap between them fast, amphistaff hissing at the ready. The shamed one –still trying to regain his breath- found his only course of action was to back pedal as fast as he could, only to stumble clumsily over the thorny roots of a sapling.

“You snivelling worm!” The warrior had begun to utter as he prepared to end Tln’aa’s miserable life, but stopped in his tracks when he felt something bump gently against his hefty boot.
Glancing down, he recognized the dull, brown inert form of a villip.

A flutter of noise and a flurry of rags caused his line of sight to snap right up again, just in time to see the shamed one scuttling off into the shadows he had come from.
The warrior struck out with his weapon, but the fanged head narrowly missed sinking its teeth into the flesh of the fleeing one, instead spilling its acidic venom onto the ground below.
It was at this point he became aware of having being joined by his fellow warrior.

“Should we persue him?” His companion asked with eagerness.
He was to be disappointed when the larger of the two, villip now in hand, shook his head.

“What shamed one would carry a villip?” He answered in puzzlement. The shamed were devoid of all privileges, even ones as paltry as carrying a means of long distance communication.

“What is the meaning of this commotion?” A voice at the warrior’s back demanded sharply.

The pair turned to see the slender form of a priestess crossing the way from the temple they had been stationed at. Her tone and her manner suggested an air of annoyance, as much as one of her station could show to warriors of corresponding rank. Her features were haggard, old for one of such low station, but that still commanded some form of respect.

“Did my masters not say that the nightly devotions should not be disturbed in any such way?” She added when at last she reached them, her face a little flustered.

Even with her tall lithe figure and elaborately cloth-wrapped hair adding to that height, the warriors towered over her imposingly. But this was more her caste’s place on Yuuzhan’tar than it was theirs. She could be forgiven for taking liberties perhaps.

“ The disturbance was unintentional Priestess, it was a shamed one, nothing more.” One warrior intoned.
This seemed to satisfy the priestess until she saw the bulbous brown creature in his grasp.

“Merely a shamed one?” she asked as she raised a tattooed brow, “ then what of this?”
She extended a rail thin arm, palm open expectantly. Reluctantly and with an unsure glance to his companion, he placed the villip in her hand, to which she nodded once in simple acknowledgement.
“ Return to your posts, should there be any further disturbance, notify us at once.”

The warriors did not salute, they need not do so. But they did obey the order, following the female back towards the temple.

From his hiding place, located near a group of empty warrior grashals, Tln’aa looked on. Fear and anxiety knotted his gut, it could have ended so much worse. And yet so much better.

His knobbly and sore-ridden fingers played over his ribs once again, bringing with their touch a fresh wave of achingly hot pain. A small price to pay for a partial success, he thought.
When he was certain the priestess bearing the villip had entered the temple without hindrance, he crept away silently to return to the enveloping and endless night that were the ruins of Coruscant.


“ And you say that it was a shamed one who bore this?” The priest asked, belaying any hint of curiosity that might have crept into his voice aside from the question it’s self.
He turned the inert villp this way and that, examining it - as a crecheling might have had they encountered the creature for the first time.

“ Yes eminence, the warriors stationed outside had sent it on its way when I arrived.” The priestess explained with a hint of apology.

The priest, a middle aged male with only 3 fingers upon each hand, continued to regard the creature with a sense of wary thoughtfulness. Word had reached his ears before now of a heretical movement sweeping across small groups of shamed ones. Born out of a half-truth, but potentially threatening to all true caste society if it gathered momentum, Harrar had voiced his concerns on this to those among the elite just that very day.
Was this related in some way? Would the shamed have the audacity and boldness required to infiltrate various caste’s underlings?
There was only one way to find out.

“Leave me.” The priest muttered.
His female counterpart genuflected and did as he asked.

Crossing the chamber floor, he passed several offering left before a small coral effigy of Yun-Harla. He could almost taste the metallic scent of blood in the air.
Pausing as the membrane to the main chamber of worship opened, he took a moment to ponder weather or not he should merely cast the villip aside.
Curiosity told him otherwise, it weakened him where other feelings, sensations could not.

Taking a glance around the rust-red chamber, he made sure he was indeed alone.
With a few gentle motions, slender digits playing over the surface of the villip, it began to evert and take on the appearance of a Yuuzhan Vong female’s visage.
He had expected to see the grotesque, smooth features of a shamed one appear before him. Perhaps even that of one of the infidels that still relinquished beneath their very feet, but not who he was seeing now.
As the villip sought to portray an accurate likeness, he saw clearly the tattoos and markings of an Intendant.
But above all else, what surprised him the most was the fact he recognized the face after only a slight hesitation of image invoked memory.

Thankfully for the confused and speechless priest, the replicated features spoke first.

“ Eminence Harrar? I had feared this would never reach you.”

She remembered him well enough, but that was of little surprise really considering his rise through the echelons.
He was about to tell her that her message very nearly had not reached him, but he held his tongue on that matter.

“ You served Tsavong Lah as his attendant aboard the Sunulok.” He acknowledged, silently adding to himself ‘among other things’

He was certain he had seen relief in her eyes, but with it was a sadness that seemed almost alien in the eyes of one who was not shamed. For all intense purposes, she should have been. But that was one of the plethora of secrets Harrar had agreed to keep long ago.
He broke from his reverie as Seef began to speak again, and this time the uncertainty in her voice was blatantly heard.

“Eminence, I have something that I might ask of you…”

"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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Chapter 5.

Her words still ringing in his ears, Harrar could not help but acknowledge the sinking feeling threatening to engulf him. While he weighed up the pros and cons of allowing Seef to speak the words she had – so clearly – gone to so much trouble to get to him. And yet that left a great many questions in it’s self.

“Speak it.” He uttered with a hint of force.

Seef appeared to take a moment to compose herself, before then speaking her mind.
“Your eminence, you were one of the few that warmaster Tsavong Lah could have ever called friend. You were an advisor to him and loyal throughout his life, you even took it upon yourself to aid in the lessons learned by his son, Commander Khalee Lah.”

Harrar nodded once, “This I already know.”

Seef, undeterred by the matter of fact tone, continued,

“And so I can say that without doubt I am not the only one who was affected by his sudden death. Many say that he died less than honourably and I perhaps am somewhat responsible for that.”

Now Harrar could do nothing to belay the astonishment from reaching his face. Or was it outrage?
“You speak of treason?” Was his first line of thought, a hint of threat trickling into his tone.

“I speak of heresy”

The priest was stunned into an immense silence. Tsavong Lah and the word heresy were not something anyone would have dared put in the same sentence together before his death. It felt so disrespectful to do so now.
This was madness.

Ignorance was not something he could profess in this case however. He had turned a blind eye to his friends tryst with the communications attendant in light of Tsavong Lah’s explanation regarding the matter.
Harrar had agreed never to utter a word about those events to anyone. A vow he’d kept up until now.
‘All will be forgiven in victory’, he recalled with a sad shake of his head.

“Eminence?” The sound of her voice caused him to look up and regard the visage formed by the biot before him, sharply.
Content that Harrar had heard her, that the connection had not been compromised, Seef continued.
“I know he spoke of this with you, I heard it all.” She admitted, eyes downcast,
“If I had known what this would bring, I would have thrown myself upon my own coufee – “

“You should have, intendant.” Harrar cut in, perhaps a little harsh than he had intended.

“ I should,” Seef conceded, “ But what is done is done, and I intend to pay for it as I should have long before now.”

“I see not what this has to do with me.” Harrar intoned, though curiosity begged him to listen, knowing could bring with it untold consequences.
Smoothing down the folds of his robeskin with his palms, the priest kept his composure immaculately.

“Word reached my ears long ago, rumours perhaps, that you once offered a failed warrior an honourable death, so that he might spare his honoured domain the indignity of a fall from grace.”

How had she known this? From whose lips had these rumours poured like infidel blood? She spoke of course about the warrior Khalee Lah, who’s failed plans to capture Jaina Solo would have meant disgrace fell on his domain.
Tsavong Lah’s domain.
Harrar had offered the disgraced young warrior another option when Khalee had literally begged him to grant him a warrior’s end. A chance to end his life as his father would have wished.
All the priest had had to do then, was furnish a reasonable explanation regarding the commander’s death. Being a priest of the deception sect, this had come easily to him.
But he could scarcely say it had worked, how many more knew of this rumour?
What else would people ask of him so as to prevent them from speaking up?

Eyes narrowed to slits of black, the priest waited with bated breath to hear this female’s terms. From the alcove high above the altar at the far side of the chamber, he could feel the effigy of Yun-Harla gaze upon him. Her stare blazing through him, burning into his back.
Oh how she must have delighted in this, he thought to himself.

“I too have failed in ways unimaginable.” Seef was saying “My actions have caused an undeserving shame to befall one who never should have been granted such. I deserve to find no honour in my death, nor do I ask you to speak in my favour when I embrace it.” She paused now, carefully contemplating the words she had wanted to speak for so long.

With one deep breath – her words feeling heavy as she formed them – it was done,
“I wish to offer myself in sacrifice to the cloaked goddess, eminence. I ask that you officiate this.”

"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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Chapter 6.

Such requests were not uncommon, Harrar noted, particularly among the Intendant caste. What had made this request exceptional was that had been on her own terms. Many would have been ordered to offer up their lives and Seef offered hers freely. Most who had been faced with this decision would have opened up their own veins with their coufee. Let the gods deal with them.
Never could Harrar recall a single instance during his time as a priest, where someone had asked such a thing.
He was surprised to find that the notion sought to shock him in a most unexpected way.
He had wanted to decline, he almost had, but this one had been of great importance to his old friend. More so than perhaps even she knew.

Seef had, at least, admitted she knew what must be done. That at least, deserved a small scrap of respect.

“When?” The sinewy priest asked, his voice sounding as dry as fallen autumnal leaves.

“Soon,” The villip transmitted, “I will contact you again once I am sure all is in place.” Her voice showed no sign of cracking, but her expression betrayed an inner turmoil that he could not imagine.

“Soon then, I will await your word, “
The villip’s formed features inclined slightly, and then inverted.

Harrar visibly sagged as soon as their conversation was at an end.
What had he just agreed to? And more to the point, what was Seef hiding?


Tln’aa scuffled beneath the half ruined remains of an infidel built-thing air duct. It’s path lead directly to where his friend was hidden – give or take a few sharp turns and pitfalls.
The flapping, frayed edges of his robe catching on the twisted rusty metal that jutted out from where the pipe had ruptured, jolted him into a clumsy stumble. The former shaper lurched forward suddenly as the fabric was torn free by his weight.

With a muffled noise of discomfort, he fell into a juncture where the duct veered off to one side. Directly in front of him however, was a dangerous drop down into depths of unknown distance invisible to the naked eye. It was only by the skin of gnarled hands that he managed to grasp hold of the lip of the pipe, preventing a fatal fall.
Tln’aa’s startled cry echoed all around him, carried untold distances by the enclosed stretch of conduit.

Clawed feet scraped helplessly against the surface of the duct in an attempt to propel himself upward.
It was no use.
With every twist, this way and that, he felt his injured ribs strain more until every breath he took seemed to rattle his lungs, bringing with the motion immense pain. He couldn’t die here. What would become of his friend?

His efforts renewed, he began to whimper and utter pained grunts of frustration over his inability to pull himself from the reach of the threatening dark beneath. He could not risk shouting for help, there were far worse things than other shamed ones that lurked in the depths of Yuuzhan’tar.
Tales told of those infidels left behind during the conquering of this world. Those so starved that they would literally kill anything for sustenance, even their own.
It did not bear thinking about what could become of him, should he happen upon them.

Another sharp crack of pain to his ribs caused him to bite his lip to stifle an agonized cry. Only this time, it was answered.

From somewhere further back along the duct, faint footsteps could be heard approaching.


Seef had sat merely gazing at the quiescent villip for several moments after her conversation with the priest.
Had he suspected there had been other motives for her asking what she had of him?
Of course he had. It was a dangerous game to play with those so closely associated with the trickster goddess. But she felt it had been a risk worth taking.

For so long now her dreams had been haunted by harrowing sights. Sights that filled her with dread before she closed her eyes at night, only to awaken with the bitter taste of guilt inside of her come daybreak.

Soon she would give the gods pause for thought, a chance to set things right.

“Soon,” She whispered to the silent darkness, as though her nightly terrors would hear her.

Seef refused to rest her weary head until Tln’aa returned as he had said he would. As he had every night since hiding her here, before heading back to the workers grashals where he dwelt.
Each night he had come to bring the former attendant anything she might need. Food, clothing, anything he could pilfer from the surface unnoticed.
But not tonight.

After his errand had been completed, she had not seen nor heard any sign of the ex shaper.
Perhaps he had been taken captive? Interrogated? If that were so, a party of warriors could have been dispatched into the bowels of Yuuzhan’tar to retrieve her.

The realization struck her harder when she thought of the consequences of such actions. She had to leave…and now.
Hauling herself awkwardly to her feet, Seef did not stop to gather any belongings that she might have found need to take with her. Belongings could be replaced, she only had one chance at righting her wrongs in the way she desired.

The balls of her sore and blistered feet burned anew as she placed her full weight on them. Swollen ankles had prevented her from wearing the vonduun crab armour boots that she had kept all this time. That had been almost a klekket ago. Since then she had been forced to go barefoot as a shamed one.
The pain was no more than an irritation and she subconsciously ignored the urge to portray such irritations in her expression.

Moving swiftly was night on impossible, but she managed to make some headway, slipping into the maze of fungi-lined air ducts that had once pumped scrubbed air into the ruins she had secreted herself in.
The makeshift tunnel creaked and groaned ominously beneath her weight, but she did not halt. It had withstood Tln’aa’s daily crossings, an invasion and now intrusion by Yuuzhan Vong bio-tech, it would withstand her.

Ears primed, listening for any sound other than that which she made herself, the former attendant headed onwards into the cramped passage.

Frozen, Tln’aa listened as the footsteps drew nearer to his precarious hanging place. His gaze fixated on the lip of the ledge above, he wondered how far the seemingly endless drop was. He could not allow them to find him, to bleed a confession out of him as to why he was here. He would sooner let the dark abyss swallow him whole. Wouldn’t he?
Would it really take them to bleed him dry before he told his pursuer why he had journeyed this distance into forbidden territory?

In his heart, Tln’aa felt a previously silenced ache awaken in it’s dark depths.
Why had he done all he had? What was it that had caused him to hide the stranger that was Seef, here of all places?
He had felt something within his very soul the day they had first crossed paths. The mere flicker of a hope. But that was all it had ever been, had it not? He had given to her, time and time again, proved his worth, but still she had rejected him. Just like those who were true caste.
Just like the gods.

Bitter emotion seared through him, urging him to let go of his ledge as well as his hopes.
What was the point? This was all he would ever be to her, a coward and a shamed one, cursed by the gods and betrayed by the very implants that had signified his last escalation. And just when Tln’aa thought his grip too war failing, a face – half cast in shadow – appeared at the top of the ledge.

Hideously scarred and emblazoned by a spectacular array of tattoos, this was no shamed one. Leering down at the figure below him, a snarl marring the flowing lines of his embellishments, Tln’aa recognized this one as the very same warrior who had almost ended his life back at the sacred square.

Fear took an all encompassing grip of his senses, tightening it’s icy hold as the warrior uttered in a guttural tone,
“And what might you be seeking down here, my snivelling brenzlit?”


The place through which she travelled was somewhat of a linear and daunting maze. Ruins full of their unnatural straight walls and jutting out durasteel supports were immensely difficult to navigate, knowing which way to turn when everything looked like the same mass of twisted monstrosity was proving worse than Seef had originally imagined. It had been Tln’aa who had navigated their way here klekkets ago.

She would take a turn which, may have lead further into the ruined infidel cityscape, only to find he way blocked by fallen debris or caved in structure.
Occasionally the artificial ground fell away completely into a gaping black maw. She had almost fallen foul of that a couple of times already.

Seef raised her gaze to where she would have hoped to see sky, but all that confronted her eyes was endless built-things and debris. Some skeletal remains of abominations that had become trapped and crushed between levels of collapsed framework were also visible, and the sight sent a notable shudder through her body.
She did not stop, trying to clamber around things that she would have otherwise avoided like the itching plague.

The former attendant knew that if there had been warriors dispatched to infiltrate the ruins, then they would stop for nothing until they had found their quarry. And for that reason alone, she could not stop either. That was until a pain unlike any other she had ever experienced, spread across her abdomen, igniting every nerve in the near vicinity of it’s origin.

Seef steadied herself with one hand against a cold metallic wall, suddenly breathless.
It was akin to being hit in the stomach with a thud bug –she might have noted, if it were not for another all encompassing pain so fiery, she pitched forward as her head swam with the unfamiliar sensation.
Her bare knees made harsh contact with the debris-littered floor, cutting the flesh in raw graze-like wounds.
But it was not that which had her staring down – eyes widening in what was unmistakably fear.

The ground her feet had touched moments before had been bone dry, and her blood-slicked knees had certainly come into contact with moisture prior to them becoming damaged.
She opened her mouth to utter a curse, anything, but no sound issued from her as her mind began to understand and then plead silently to the gods who had so cruelly twisted her situation with superb timing yet again.
“Please, not now, not here!”

"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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Chapter 7.

Ensnared in the razor-sharp taloned grip of the warrior above him, Tln’aa was hoisted from his precarious hanging position on the lip of the broken air duct. ‘Out of the jaws of the maw luur, only to be thrown to a vua’sa,’ the shamed one thought bitterly as he braced himself for a painful death.

In the warrior’s eyes, all he could see was triumph and murder, he knew that this encounter was far from over. He would be made to beg for death before the end.

“I asked you a question.” The imposing figure spoke, his voice laced with severe threat, his gaze as piercing as his sharp claws, scrutinizing.

“N..Nothing fearsome one!” Tln’aa stammered “…I..I was merely looking for somewhere to rest – “ The former shapers words hitched in his throat as the warriors free hand clasped his neck, the grip growing tighter and thus causing Tln’aa’s eyes to bulge as he desperately gasped for air.

“Lies!” Hissed the warrior through gritted teeth. His face was now close enough to Tln’aa’s that he shamed one could smell his foul breath above the stench of decaying ferrocrete and rust.
“You wear the trappings of one assigned to the villip fields, you are far from the grashals, why are you here?!”

The grip on his throat grew tighter still, constricting much like the living noose of a tkun, and Tln’aa’s vision began to fade to black from all sides. He shook his head unable to answer, both hands frantically clawing at the hand about his neck, but to no avail.
Just when Tln’aa had been about to resign himself to his fate, the tall warrior threw him across and into one side of the pipe. The former shaper hit the wall with a sickening crack. Pain of almost overwhelming proportions wracked his body, shredding his nerves as he choked and gasped to regain much needed air.

Through his coughing, wheezing and groaning, Tln’aa became all too aware of the warrior’s approach well before the spiked-booted foot pressed him back against the wall, pinning him there by his now severely tortured ribs.

“I tire of your insolence Shamed one, you will tell me wh- “ The warrior cut short his own words, when an agonized scream pitched through the damp air. Circulating through the ruined duct, it reverberated off the metallic surfaces from a distance.

His attention firmly caught, the warrior’s head snapped round as quick as an amphistaff in the direction of the juncture and the near fatal fall the shamed one had almost suffered.
Pushing off the shamed one, he ignored the pitiful cry Tln’aa voiced in favour of discovering the source of this unexpected noise.
If he had had taken the time to notice, he would have seen the flicker of panic-stricken recognition in the ex shaper’s eyes.

Tln’aa knew the look of an enraged warrior on the hunt when he saw one. Even through the mixture of nerve-searing pain, through his laboured breathing, fear began to rise within him, urging him to do what no shamed one should. To put an end to this warrior’s deadly hunt before it began.
This fear was unlike any Tln’aa had ever known, ever heard of even. Yuuzhan Vong did not feel fear, they never surrendered. These were the lessons taught in the crčche of all domains, even his own. The fear he felt was not for himself, but for the survival of another.
She may never return his feelings, may never look upon him favourably, but that could not change the way he felt here and now. If he could give her one last chance at escape, he would take that notion and run with it. Even if that meant his life’s end.

How ironic, he thought sadly, that it was now he found a new purpose.

Summoning every last scrap of strength he had left, embracing the pain that threatened to overcome every single nerve and synapse within his flesh, he hauled himself to his feet.
Anger, fear and desperation gave him the strength needed to allow him to surge forward toward the warrior’s broad, turned back.

The warrior, hearing the sudden flurry of movement, began to turn sharply, amphistaff already unfurled and in a position of attack. It was not enough.
Tln’aa put all his effort and weight into driving himself forward, bracing for a bone-jarring impact barely a second before his shoulder came into contact with the warrior’s armour-clad body.

It all appeared, to the shamed one, to happen in slow motion, the reality was much different.
The impact had been just enough to catch the large warrior off balance, and for a moment he teetered on the edge of the broken metal pipe – arms flailing, veering into the blackness of a deep fall. Unable to grasp anything but the shamed one responsible for his misstep, the warrior plunged backward into the waiting abyss with a startled shout of pure hatred.
With him, tumbled Tln’aa.


Waves of white hot agony assaulted every inch of her body. Her sweat slickened brow furrowed and her expression contorted to betray her confusion, her dread. Somewhere in the distance, she could have sworn she had heard cries, but as pain gathered her into its furious and fiery embrace, it was the only thing she could comprehend or focus on. The danger to herself was never far from her mind either. Indeed, Seef had managed, through burning waves of intense pain, to edge her way through the ruins after the realization of her child’s imminent birth had initially set in. Her hands and feet were caked in dirt and blood from where she had been forced to drag herself through smaller, filthy debris littered portions of the conduit.
Hot tears of frustration stained her cheeks with wet tracks, brining with them an intense shame when she knew she could no longer pull herself onward.

So it was here, in a small, grubby ruin of what may have once been an infidel dwelling, that she lay surrendering herself to a pain unlike any other.

Seef found herself wondering if these were indeed her last moments. She was alone out here and in no condition to fight. Another furious wave of pain wracked her body, causing her to clench her teeth in a futile effort to muffle her cries. The pains were becoming worse by the minute, becoming more frequent and crippling. Such notions, feeling had been unknown to her before now, this was pitiful! Were the gods enjoying this? She wondered, were they truly testing her mettle before she was returned to them?
Her head felt light, overcome by this, the former attendant’s vision blurred slightly.

There came a sudden but subtle shuffling in the darkness. Had she imagined it?
It was as one more pang of sharp, indescribable pain assaulted her nerves, Seef became aware of the fact that she was no longer alone.

Darkness, that was the first thing he was aware of, that and the delicate sound of dripping water – or was it blood? The taste was apparent on his lips, inside his mouth, its scent on the air.
How had he gotten here? How long had he lain here? The pain in his head was a sharp contrast to the numbness he felt elsewhere. Why could he no longer move?
It all came back to Tln’aa the moment he dared to look up at the miniscule shaft of light high above him. The warrior, the scuffle….and then the steep plunge downward.

Silhouetted by the faint bioluminescent glow of fungi in the duct above, Tln’aa could make out the long spires of twisted and pointed metal struts, reaching up out of the darkness like shapers whipstings toward a glow as faint as a quiet lambent.
On one spire, he could clearly see the figure of the warrior he had attacked. Impaled on the metal talon, unmoving, he was almost certainly dead.
Impaled on another protrusion, Tln’aa stared in disbelief at the large spine of blood-slicked metal rising up through his own stomach viciously.

He had failed, he had failed her. That hurt more than any physical pain ever could. His life literally draining from him, the shamed one let out an anguished cry of defiance to the gods that rattled his lungs and carried up into the ruins.
Unknown to him, he had been watched from the shadows, it was only as his vision began to fail and he spoke last words of desperation, did he see who it was that had been watching. All fading to black, he would never know if his final words were heard.
“Pl….she needs…hel….”


“Why should we? She does not look like one of us, how can we be certain this is not some form of trap?” A hoarse sounding male voice uttered suspiciously.

“Look at her Hess! If she had been sent by them, do you not think they would have sent someone in better condition?” This from a female, Seef could just about make out her hideously symmetrical face as she leaned over her, seemingly checking her over – most likely for a weapon or villip. The shamed female would find neither, Seef had left both behind her in haste to get away.

“She bears the symbols of her domain, her caste…her implants are healthy, she is not one of us!” The male responded, pacing somewhere unseen in the darkness.

“So do you, yet you and I both know of your shaming.” The female reasoned. The voice from the darkness issued a grunt of annoyance at the reminder.

So these were shamed ones? What were they doing here? Seef had no time to contemplate this for long, the pain flowing thick and fast through her abdomen, another cry escaping her lips.

“We stay” The female was saying to her counterpart.

“And I say that this is madness! If we stay here, we could be found, you saw what happened back there! Who knows how many more might be lurking in the shadows?”

The female’s retort was drowned out by an agonized groan from Seef, and she then saw the female glance at her comrade in earnest.
“There is no time,” She bit out decisively, “Go back and fetch fresh water along with anything else that will be useful, bring Yemii, she will know what to do.”

Clearly the male was hesitant or dragging his heels, because the shamed female barked an order for him to leave soon after.
Turning her attention back to Seef, she placed a rough, but reassuring, hand on her arm. It felt cold, alien on her flesh.

“You are fortunate that we found you, if it were not for your mate, we would not have known you were here.”
Seef tried to respond, but was unable to do much else than try to get through this. No, there was no question, she was Yuuzhan Vong, she would get through this.

An eternity through which Seef could only see pain and suffering, passed. Eclipsed by nothing, it drawled on until she was certain all she had become was the embodiment of pain it’s self. She was aware of the presence of others around her, the attentive shamed one, the female that had remained with her constantly.
From time to time, Seef could hear words of encouragement, reassurance, but all merged into a blur as fresh waves of agony consumed her like the embrace of pain personified. Assaulting her senses, distorting sensation and causing her limbs to tingle as it ebbed before a new assault.
When her energy and will began to fade, when she was so sure that this would never end, Seef was jolted from her self pitying by the sharp cries of an infant. Her infant.

Eyes trying to focus on her surroundings, the former attendant caught sight of one of the shamed ones wrapping the newborn in waiting, living cloth. The other, the female who had remained with her during the birth, now held out and offered the former attendant a small sacworm of fresh water. Too fatigued and pained to show disgust, Seef accepted the offer, drinking in small sips that stung the back of her raw, dry throat.

Now the shamed one – a hideously festering female who had taken her child – approached, handing over the newborn to Seef carefully. Nervously, she spoke in hushed and pitiful tones,
“You have a son.”

Taking the squirming bundle into her arms, Seef first looked upon the crecheling in amazement, somehow things had never seemed as real as they should have. Now, confronted with the evidence of her foolish tryst, there was no denying how dire her situation was.
A son, she thought to herself with mixed emotion, would Tsavong Lah have been elated by the news? Or would this one have been but a stain on the name of his domain? It mattered not, not now, she decided as she watched over the small being, attempting to soothe the child’s cries.

As if only just remembering that they were still there, Seef looked up to regard the small group of shamed ones. They all seemed to hide behind one another, as though trying to avoid the unwanted attention.

“Who are you?” She asked, her voice a mere croak.

“We are nothing, we are no one…” The male, partially hidden in shadow, responded quickly, snappily.
“We might ask you the same thing.” One of the bolder females added.

Seef would, in any normal circumstances, killed this kane a bar for asking her such things. But as fatigued and perplexed as she was, all she could respond was likewise
“I am nothing…I am no one.”

The female at the front of the group seemed to portray a notion of understanding in her expression. She nodded once as if to signify a change of subject.

“We must leave, the warriors will come looking for the one who did not return,”

Seef’s look of surprise indicated that she knew not of what this shamed one spoke. Had Tln’aa been captured? Had he betrayed her? She was amazed at the small amount of undignified hurt that notion caused. But of course he would do something thus, he was a shamed one.
She knew it were not so however. If he had been the one to lead them down here, she knew that she would already be dead.

“Can you move?” The more timid male of the group asked, still not daring to emerge completely from the shadows. The resonating aching in Seef’s limbs told her she should not do as he required. Years of conditioning on the other hand, told her otherwise.
The two hideously deformed females were at her side as she attempted to rise – crecheling in arms.

“Tln’aa,” Seef managed to say, a look of revulsion in her eyes at the fact she would even think to ask after him. “You mentioned one who told you I was here. His name was Tln’aa?”
They were moving now, slowly and unsteadily the maze of ruins. Several of the shamed ones at their back conversed in hushed tones, the female at Seef’s left had all but gone silent if it were not for her occasional muttering.

Once again it was the bold female that spoke up,
“He was not your mate?” She asked suspiciously. Seef’s silence confirmed that much and the shamed female could feel the former attendant’s muscles bunch beneath her grip.

“He is dead, killed by a fall into the ruins, he died soon after divulging his message to us.” The shamed one finished, her words as sombre as words of such nature could sound coming from a yuuzhan vong. Almost like an infidel, seef thought, but she was sure not to react to them. There would be time for contemplation later, now they must move.
She found it hard thought, for all the disapproval rained down on Tln’aa by the gods, she had seen what she would have called almost worthy moments in him. And that – she thought – was perhaps how far she had fallen.

2 Standard Weeks later.

The priest, Harrar, sighed impatiently as he watched the breeze tease the edges of the foliage surrounding the temple gardens. Blister-flowers bloomed and burst releasing their acrid scent and leaving an acidic tang in the air, which was not –Harrar noted – unlike sacrificial blood. Living flag-like creatures fluttered where they hung, partly clinging to the coral surfaces and bone struts that made up the shrines to the gods.
At the center of the ornate arrangement, a large contemplation pool – it’s waters glassy and still. Only moments earlier, the priest had sat in the pool himself, quietly asking the gods for guidance, for the insight needed to see this through.

He was as still as the effigies surrounding him when movement in the brush caught his attention.

A sinewy figure, too lean to be male, cloaked in a dusty old robe. This was she then? The one who had once again made contact with him a cycle before.

With her she brought a small bundle that had, at first , perplexed the priest. As the figure drew closer he could make out tiny arms, reaching up from the bundle in silent askance of attention. A crecheling?

“Eminence, I am honoured.” The female uttered as she bowed, careful not to crush the one she held in her arms.

“What is this?” Harrar asked curtly, extending a three fingered hand in motion to the child.

Seef dare not raise her gaze now, but she did speak.
“I regret I have one more thing to ask of you,” She began, “ The gods have chosen that this one be given life, and I would not have my son share my fate.”

Harrar’s dark eyes narrowed dangerously, “You dare speak for the gods?! You and I both know you were denied to them, you cannot speak thus, and to do so is heresy!”

Seef inclined her head further, in a mark of obedience, her words countered this however,
“My wish remains eminence, he should not share my fate, his father’s fate.”
She let her words hang in the air, risking a glance up only to discover with a start, that Harrar was now much closer than he had been moments earlier.

His brow was furrowed in confusion, in his eyes she saw a silent askance of truth, a shock and realization.
Could this be? Enough time had passed, it was possible….no!
It was as the priest cast a scrutinizing eye over the crecheling that he knew he could not be wrong. He could see, even at this early age the similarities – be they unscarred ones or not.
This was Tsavong Lah’s child?

Harrar had to take a step back, steadying himself on the bone-formed strut of a small shrine to Yun-Harla.
Had Tsavong Lah known?

Seef’s expression pleaded even before her words left her mouth.
“You agreed, you said that you would allow – “ She was silenced with one sharp movement of a hand.

“I was foolish, I did not know….this!” The priest was surprisingly composed considering, “Now go”

The former attendant remained where she was.

“You foolish tsup! Do you realize what you have done?!” Harrar continued exasperatedly “Do you wish a death for the both of you in the Yargh’un pit? Be gone!”

Still she remained, a renewed determination resonating from her like a lambent light,
“You owe It to him!” She pleaded, “he kept me from a death that I fully deserved and unwittingly paid with his life, please…I ask nothing more if this ends here today…I know what you did for Khalee Lah. I know you would see the right thing done for your friend’s existing offspring.”

The priest’s blood ran cold. How had she known? How could she? But know she did, he would be forced to hear this out now if only for fear of exposure.

“I could not return this one to his rightful domain, too many questions would be asked. The disgrace domain Lah has already suffered is too great.” He responded after a short pause.

Seef had seemed to calm slightly upon hearing the suggestion and she listened intently as the priest continued.
“He has yet to receive his domain marking, one of the lesser warrior domains then, he could be placed in the crčche unnoticed.”

The former attendant was contemplating this, staring down at the now silent child in her arms. He slept so soundly, unaware of the shame his birth had caused, and yet she loved him. He was her world.
She had tried not to of course, gods how she had. But how could she not?

“Yes, I..I would be most grateful…” She tried desperately to keep the edge from her voice, she would not break. The idea that her child would never know who he was, at first it had killed her inside to even think it, but it was the only logical answer if she wished him to live.

Harrar nodded once and then turned towards the temple.
“You will follow me,” he said.

Inside, wall dwelling naak-biots excreted incense, anointing all who passed through the temple portholes. The long capillary like passageway from the gardens, opened out into a small ante chamber where a warrior, clad in full vonduun crab armour, stood waiting.
Seef immediately tensed, but the priest had been prepared for that.

“Do not be alarmed, this is Neeka Sot, my personal guard. You have my word that she is most trustworthy.”

Coming from a priest of the deception sect, trustworthy was not a word that Seef would have used. She had, however, no choice but to accept it.

The warrior nodded her recognition to Seef, though she spoke no words to inform her weather or not that recognition was born of having met Seef in the past, or acknowledgement of the tasks before her.

Harrar gestured toward the slender, toned form of Neeka Sot.
“You will take this crecheling and secrete it among those of your own domain’s crčche. No word of this will be spoken again, understood?”

Neeka Sot gave no indication of objection, which both concerned and caused curiosity to form in Seef’s mind. Was she merely waiting for a chance to put another plan into action, or had she become so accustomed to the ways of the deception sect that she did the priest’s will without question?

“Yes Eminence, “ Neeka Sot responded sharply, offering a salute as was just. She remained waiting for Seef to hand the child over.

Strong emotions warred within her, the invisible tendrils of maternal instinct wrapping around her limbs like the embrace of pain. Forbidding to let her go, making this last moment more than she could bare. An ache within, one she had tried so hard to repress, burned with fiery intensity in the charred remains of her soul. He looked so peaceful in his slumber, how could one who caused such pride to burn within her heart, be a stain on anyone’s domain?
But that was what he was and for as long as she lived, there would always be danger to him. To deny the gods once was unthinkable, to do it a second time for the sake of one born out of a forbidden secret shame, pure sacrilege.
She would do it for him then, for him and his father.
Taking no further look at her son – she feared it would be her undoing – she carefully handed the child to the warrior.

“I do not want him to know…” Seef began as Neeka Sot was turning away, “…about me, about what I did, how he came to be.”

Neeka Sot spared a look in Harrar’s direction, the priest inclined his head and the warrior responded in kind.
“Then it will be so.” She assured Seef before making her way, soundlessly, down the living corridor.

Seef watched them go with a heavy heart, one image alone keeping her from taking off after them. The shamed visage of Tsavong Lah – the vision she had seen a thousand times in haunted dreams.
A three fingered hand on her shoulder gave her cause to glance round and meet the stare of Harrar.

“Come, it is time.”

Pain, blinding, searing and white hot assaulted her senses, shred her nerves like the sacrificial coufee that had opened her veins. Life flowed from her freely, pooling about her convulsing form as nature took it’s course.

No longer could she feel the jagged surface of the spatter pit beneath her pallid skin. Despite being brought back into her pain – as was required- feeling had started to fade from her limbs.
She could not hear the sounds of her own stifled agony anymore. The room swirled before her eyes, darkening at the outer most reaches of her vision, like the fissures of carved symbols that ran black with her blood, adorning the floor of the pit.

She looked up for one last time at the imposing over hanging effigy of Yun-Yuuzhan, and for one last time, she embraced pain.
Darkness enfolded her in it’s deathly cold and numbing arms.
Finally, silently, she embraced death too…and was free.


“Do not be foolish Vhhen! You cannot possibly hope to win now. Not even a Jeedai could!” The voice of a young Yuuzhan vong male piped up from under the shade of large boras.
Beneath it’s swaying fruit-laden branches, sat two quarrelling crčche brothers.
The source of their argument, a living game of strategy - not unlike those played in many cantinas around this galaxy- within which small bugs were placed on a mossy mat and set opposing another group of bugs.

The rules to such a game were unknown to the elder figure that had become enthralled by the antics. He had been alerted by the sound of the quarrel and had merely decided to investigate.

“Not if I chose to make my move here, Kqir’sa, and I do.” The young male’s opponent returned just as sharply, if slightly condescendingly.

In one movement, he had apparently turned the game around, and the figure watching them felt a smile play across his lips when he saw the look of bemused shock in the young male’s eyes.

“You…what? cheated!” His opponent protested, clearly irked by the turn of events – which his crčche brother was celebrating proudly with a look of pure satisfaction on his face.

In truth it was not noise that had caused Harrar, the priest watching, to remain and observe. He had known from the moment he had seen the two sitting here who one of them was. He bore the marks of a warrior of domain Sot, certainly, but unmistakably had inherited many of the traits his father was renound for, in physical appearance and canny ability to work out a last minute strategy – clearly.

“An impressive move,” Harrar spoke up at last, appearing to analyse the board, it’s bugs still beating their wings and creating a faint buzzing sound from time to time. “Your father would have been proud of that mind.”

The boy the priest had spoken to frowned slightly, his nose ridge wrinkling as he allowed a slight amount of confusion to creep into his words,
“Would? My father watches over the dwellings of the communal garden’s eminence…” The priest had clearly made a mistake.

Harrar nodded once, his head-wrap falling into slight disarray,
“Indeed, that he does,” He said slightly cryptically, “If you have the time, I would like to tell you a tale…”

Both crčche brothers exchanged curious glances, and then settled cross legged on the grass. This was going to be interesting, they could already tell.


"You can run, but you'll only die tired."
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