With the crystal in front of him disabled, Renn turns his attention to the sconce directly north of his location. He glances into the darkness beneath him and considers climbing down, running across, and climbing up, then dismisses that idea as requiring too much time, particularly since that stone statue is headed his way. He has rope, and from this close to the ceiling, he can see that there are plenty of elaborate decorations, some of which have hooks that could work as anchors. From here, he is confident he can swing to the northern sconce. Whether this setup will work for getting to any of the others, he is unsure, but this will have to do for now. He sheaths his knife and quickly pulls out the microfiber rope from his survival kit to fashion a lasso. The rest of the rope he loops several times around his right arm. As the statue swings its semi-functional fist at his location, Renn throws the lasso, catching one of the fancy hooks with it, and leaps.
Across the room, on the other side of the bier, Renci decides on a course of action. She dashes out from her hiding place and jumps. Aided by her boots, she rockets up to the sconce with the fractured crystal. She lands on the filigreed exterior and jabs at the crystal inside with her sword, but she cannot get a good angle to put enough force behind the blow. She maneuvers around the sconce at the top, looking at the contraption from all sides, trying to find a better approach. She notices the wiring, but from her new angle something else also catches her eye, movement across the room, movement at her level. On the eastern side of the bier, she sees someone grab onto the outside of one of the other sconces and start clambering over the decorative mesh. Is that Renn? The side of his head looks bloody, but maybe that is just the red lighting. What is he doing here? From the angle of the rope she sees, he must have come from the extinguished crystal, which the golem seems to have targeted. It looks like she has Renn to thank for messing up its left arm. Now is not the time, though. If she shouts over to him, she will distract Renn from his climb or draw the stone guardian’s attention to herself before she can disable this crystal. Best to stay quiet for now. She puts away her sword and blaster, then reaches into one of the pouches on her belt.
* * *
Torthal resumes closing the distance to the archaeologist. He has her in a Bind right now, but he has suffered some injuries in this temple and would prefer her demise to directly improve his well-being. It should be easier to siphon away her life once he is closer. He reaches out with his mind, trying to draw more from the Force, but it is like moving through a swamp. Anger courses through him. He pulls a thin rod from his satchel, a minor artifact that he picked up in the vault. Enraged, he snaps it in two, releasing the raw Dark Side power it contains, trying in vain to capture and redirect it. He feels the released power begin eating away at everything he has built—the Bind on Pramine and the aura of Misdirection he had wrapped around himself—which just makes him angrier.
Dr. Pramine suddenly drops to her knees, released from the hold. She sucks in a breath of fresh air, relieved that the Force worshipper has apparently been distracted from attacking her by the droid of Ka’thazar. Perhaps he does not have as much control over it as he thought. She sees one of her grad students running up to her looking distraught. What was his name? She cannot be expected to remember all their names. Ah, yes, Torthal. She always found him to be so level-headed, but she does not blame him for being ruffled by the events down here. “Torthal, do be careful!” she calls out to him. “Those people we met, they’re Dark Force users! I skipped the lecture on it, but I’ll be sure to include it next semester. They’re trying to get rid of us. We have to take them out! But don’t damage that pendant!”
Torthal smiles. This is music to his ears. “As ever, you are… so insightful, Dr. Pramine.”
“There’ll be time for accolades later,” she says as she fires her blaster up at the Dark Force user.
Nearby, crouched behind the smaller stone coffin, Gomarr listens with wide eyes to Dr. Pramine’s words. I don’t want to fight Dark Force users! I don’t want to fight any of these fools. He looks back up at the statue that just almost stepped on Dr. Pramine and is now battering away at where the human is. These people are all going to die. I’m going to live. He pulls his vibroaxe back out, just to be extra safe. As he backs away with it in one hand, the ancient blaster pistol relic in the other, he reflects that he is not really abandoning Dr. Pramine, since Torthal is here with her now. He has a pistol and a hydrospanner; he can look out for her. She’ll be fine. Yeah.
* * *
The energy of Renn’s leap swings him up to the next sconce, and he hooks a leg over the filigree to catch himself. He takes a quick glance over his shoulder and sees that the statue has turned its head towards him and is now beginning to move this way. There’s no time. There’s no kriffin’ time. He bends forward, leaning down inside the mesh. As he pulls his knife with his left hand, he darts his right arm, still wrapped in the rope, into the crystal’s housing and grabs the cables, yanking them closer. A fiery jolt runs up his arm, and he bites back an angry curse as he slashes his blade through the wires. The light within the crystal goes out, leaving him in darkness again. Then the whole column shudders. He feels a wave of heat scorch his back and shoulder as his vest takes the brunt of a blaster bolt. Someone’s shootin’ at me!? Who’s shootin’ at me? He whirls around and sees that the archaeologist down below has her pistol pointed up at him. And… Renci is down there with her? What is she doin’ here? Lass, ya don’ need a Dark Side artifact! The statue is now swinging its long legs at his pillar, its eyes gone dark. As the column starts to wobble, Renn extracts himself from the filigree, throwing his weight away from the giant statue kicking blindly at the column and in the direction of the next crystal. Hopefully Renci will take care of Pramine, but if she does not… As he swings, Renn chit-chits to the maalraa following his movements from the ground. That Bothan there is something ya can eat, if’n yer wanting another snack. She didna want ya ta be fed at all.
“Ah, geez.” From her vantage point west of the dais, Renci sees the golem kicking apart Renn’s pillar and Dr. Pramine taking shots at him. Torthal is down by the archaeologist, but who knows what he will do. She should do something about that whole situation, but regardless of who is on what side here, the stone guardian is a threat to them all and needs to be dealt with first. She quickly plugs her large alligator clips into her spare fusion lantern and taps the leads together to test it. Sparks fly. She hopes to overload this crystal and possibly start a cascade that will take out some of the others. “Let’s see if you have enough juice.” She looks across at the golem. “And let’s see how you like this. You’re going to learn that a Mandalorian hits back.” She clips the leads onto the wires around the crystal. The pulsing of the glow increases and then flares extremely bright. Renci shields her eyes and hears a resounding crack. The right arm of the golem explodes into shards of stone that rain down upon Dr. Pramine and Torthal, filling the air with dust. The crystal in front of Renci turns dark, and she jumps off the sconce, jetbooting to the next one with a smile of satisfaction. With half its power sources disabled, the golem stomps blindly about.
* * *
As she tracks the Dark Force user’s swing, taking shots at him, Dr. Pramine notices his bounty hunter accomplice is at another one of the control crystals up above. Then the archaeologist leaps back, throwing up an arm to protect herself as Ka’thazar’s right arm explodes, showering the area around the bier with sharp shards of stone. Through the rocks that pelt down on her, she sees her grad student dodging away from them as well. That fanged creature that has been following the cultist around then latches onto Torthal’s leg. Dr. Pramine lurches back, turning away from the dais and leaving him to handle that problem himself. It is important for grad students to take on personal responsibility out in the field, she tells herself.
* * *
Renn dizzily spins by one arm on the rope, his weight feeling like it is tugging his right shoulder apart, and then thuds into the next candelabra. Still clutching his knife in his left hand, he jams that arm through a hole in the decorative mesh to keep himself from being pulled backwards and then climbs the rest of the way up, throwing himself inside the crystal housing as more blaster bolts come at him. There is a shockingly loud crash from the center of the room. Renn spares a moment to look out over the filigree and sees rocks raining down on the people below. He briefly worries about Renci down there, but then he notices her up at his level, backlit by a glowing red crystal as she lands on the sconce next to his. Her jumpboots have saved her once again. Another blaster bolt comes at him, and as he ducks away from the heat of it, he shouts over, “There ya are, lass! Can we go now?!”
“Yeah, let’s go,” Renci calls back. “He can have that pendant; I don’t want it. Let’s get out of here.” But she is right here at a crystal, so she figures she might as well have a go at disabling it. Renci pulls out her vibrosword and tries slicing into the wiring, but it is awkward attempting that with such a large blade. Down on the floor, further across the room, she sees a Gamorrean dashing from column to column, headed away from the mess below. He has the right idea. She turns back to Renn. “Forget it. Let’s just beat it. I know a way back up. Follow me.” She jumps off her sconce, trusting her boots.
Renn looks down below again, trying to plan out a clear route past the statue and the archaeologist. He sees the maalraa dart among the fallen stones and throw himself not at the Bothan, but at the Twi’lek alongside her. The maalraa clamps his teeth into the man’s leg, and his target strikes back, but not with the pistol in his one hand. Renn sees the Twi’lek ignite a red lightsaber and cut down the maalraa with a single swipe. Renn goes cold, then flushes hot with rage. [He hurt something you care about. Shouldn’t he pay for that?] His knife clatters to the floor far beneath him as he whips up his air rifle and, without pausing to aim or even think, snaps off a shot at the Dark Force user below. The man collapses, the lightsaber extinguishing as it falls from his limp hand.
* * *
Renci pauses her forward motion, realizing she cannot just assume Renn will be able to keep up with her on the treacherous ground below. Looking back, she notes he now has his rifle up. What is he doing? Getting off one more shot? She sees Renn let go of his rifle, allowing it to hang from its sling. He jumps off his sconce and zips down to the ground. Renci maneuvers for a better view of where he is going and notices Torthal lying near the body of another one of those cat-rat creatures. Renn unslings his rifle, reverses it, and starts clubbing the still Twi’lek. What is he doing!?
* * *
Renn drops the air rifle and grabs the rope with his left hand, shaking his other arm free of it, and leaps.
[This is your fault.]
He catches the cord with his right hand, tearing both his abused palms open from the friction as he rapidly slides down the rope.
[You released this creature and took it under your care.]
He lets go when he hits the ground and pulls the gun’s sling up over his head and shoulder as he runs across the floor.
[You sent it on the attack, and it was cut down.]
The maalraa lies still and lifeless.
[Don’t you owe it vengeance?]
The Dark Force user is equally motionless.
[You should kill him.]
Renn flips the gun around, holding it with both hands, and slams the butt of the rifle into the Twi’lek’s face.
[Peace is a lie. Through passion, you gain strength.]
* * *
The statue stomps its feet, and Dr. Pramine coughs, blinking dust out of her eyes. The Dark Force user slams to the ground near her and charges at the downed grad student, clubbing him mercilessly, apparently not satisfied at the job that the monster was doing on Torthal’s leg. A corner of her mind catalogs all she has witnessed and starts outlining a paper on the danger of Dark Force users. But the rest of her is terrified of this violent, shouting lunatic. All her grad students are gone; she should just go. She has collected a lot of useful data already, and this pendant is not worth her life. I can just say it wasn’t here. These crazy Dark Force users need to be reported to the Empire, along with the College of Corellia for hiring such archaeologists. She fires wildly in the direction of the human as she flees. Dr. Pramine dashes through the large, dim chamber and spies Gomarr up ahead passing through an archway. Hastening to catch up, she calls out to him.
As Gomarr runs, leaving the ruckus of the battle behind, he reassures himself, I’m going to make it. I’m going to finish my dissertation. Then he hears the professor’s voice echoing through the chamber, “Thinking ahead, Gomarr, always good!” Maybe he will let her be a co-author on his paper.
The golem of Ka’thazar hears her voice, too, and blindly stomps off in that direction.