Ferns tickled Narasi's ears, and a bug landed on the back of her neck and began to feed, but she crawled forward anyway, letting her claws dig into the dry soil for a tighter grip, sweat dripping down her nose and beading in the buzzed hair on her forehead. Dressed in camouflage fatigues instead of her Jedi robes, woodland color paint smeared across her face, she tried to remain invisible as she crawled forward a few centimeters at a time. An indigenous avian ikk-kawed in a tree nearby; she felt the shadow pass over her as it flew beneath the moonlight. Creeping along with her whole body flat to the ground, even her head angled as far as she could go without smushing her left ear into the dirt, a sentient who only caught her with a glance might have mistaken her for a native predator.
Let them, she thought savagely. I am a predator, and they're my prey.
She felt tension behind her and glanced over her shoulder in time to see a brown-scaled snake hanging from a vine and hissing at one of the Republic Marines crawling in her wake. To his credit, the man had not cried out or even flinched for a weapon, just stilled on the spot as the vine snake lowered itself. Narasi wondered if she could use the Force to aim a thrown knife; using her lightsaber would be as bad as sending up a flare.
We wound the Force when we kill without real need, she remembered. The memory hurt, and a spasm of pain twisted her face. But she took a deep breath and lifted one clawed hand out of the muck, stretching out into the Force.
Not hungry she told the vine snake, but it hissed, clearly not believing her. Grimacing, she looked up where the birds had flown by and tried instead, Up high in the trees. Food up there. Easy food. Tasty. Go get it'.
The vine snake coiled itself, looking at the Marine, then up into the foliage, then back at the Marine. To Narasi's relief, another clawbird chose that moment to flutter from one branch to another, and the vine snake pulled its coils back in, slithering up a branch in slow pursuit. Exhaling quietly, Narasi returned to her crawl.
The need for this glacial, creeping stealth vexed her; she wanted nothing more than to reach the objective. But she couldn't be sure her mind tricks were strong enough for her to just walk up to the door, and even if she could pull it off, she couldn't mind trick a security camera, nor was she powerful enough to divert the guards from the entire Marine Commando team crawling with her. But while the direct approach might have been feasible on some technopolis, there was an advantage to this jungle backwater too—a world so obscure that even the Temple Archives hadn't been sure whether "Wayland" was the planet's name, a nickname, or just a "resting point" designation by some bored spacer. The guards might be on the lookout for anything out of the ordinary, but they were also unlikely to be expecting any action.
And Narasi's team had a guide, too. The four-armed, snouted purple alien crawled along at the point, covered in camouflage paint so thoroughly his knives and spear were almost invisible, and even Narasi might have struggled to spot him without the Force. Her team's protocol droid had struggled with the native languages, but eventually cobbled together enough to learn that the indigenes called themselves Myneyrshi and had no love for the Sith presence. The Jedi's promise to remove that issue had been enough to secure them guides through the jungle to the Sith outpost; while Narasi advanced from one side, her master and his team of commandos were coming at the Sith bunker from the other.
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In 1,391 BBY, shortly before the mission that ends in Suwo Tolp's death and Tirien Kal-Di's Knighthood, the two Jedi meet with information broker Sorin Ruy'the, who gives them the location of a Sith Candorian Plague manufacturing site: Thissipias.
In the present, Narasi Rican participates in a raid on a Sith Intelligence site seeking information about Darth Alecto, but strays close to the dark side while interrogating the Sith until Slejux Nissatak, her acting master, restrains her. On Coruscant, Tirien is still struggling with having lost his Force powers and his place among the Jedi, while on Anzat, Nevya Khiyali struggles to hold the Brotherhood of Shadows together in the absence of their new master, Darth Alecto. Tirien seeks guidance from Jedi holocrons, but his reunion with Narasi is awkward and uncomfortable for both: Tirien feels he has failed to pull himself together for her, while Narasi blames herself for Tirien's condition.
Frustrated by her failure to find Alecto, Narasi reconnects with Aldayr, who has returned to Coruscant with Mali. When Slejux, concerned with Narasi's attachment to Tirien and her rising anger, announces that they will cease participating in the raids, Narasi and Aldayr hatch a plan to follow an Intelligence tip to Skorrupon, not knowing it is a false lead set by the Sith as a trap. When Mali and Slejux realize what has happened, they go in pursuit, leaving Tirien behind. On Anzat, Nevya discovers the Sith do not know where Alecto is either and leaves with a handpicked team to find her.
Aldayr and Narasi fall into the Sith trap and are captured. On Coruscant, Tirien hunts down an old criminal contact for Sorin Ruy'the's current location. When Mali and Slejux report the capture, Tirien follows the tip to Kwenn Space Station. Nevya and her Anzati tear apart the Brentaal underworld for news of Alecto, but ultimately concede their master is not there and spread out over the Hydian. On Kwenn Space Station, Tirien gets an audience with Sorin and finds out that Alecto is in hiding on Bogg 14.
Narasi and Aldayr are kept captive in an unfamiliar dungeon and begin plotting their escape. Tirien follows the lead to Bogg 14, navigating its crime-ridden streets to find Alecto in a bar. The two fight briefly, but just as they come to a stalemate, they realize that they have both lost the Force.
The access code to the upper level of Rosstark's where Alecto is hiding is 1-1-3-8, continuing the Star Wars tradition of giving things the numerical designation 1138 in honor of THX 1138, George Lucas's first film.