The biggest among them stuck out his hand, an act of courtesy that still managed to seem hostile.
"Name's Bruul." It was the most he'd said since Darrus and Maya landed. This delegation had been waiting at the landing pad to meet with them, heavily armed and practically radiating distrust and violence. Even without Maya's empathic gifts, Darrus had been able to sense that. One false move here and there would be pain.
Pain, and the end of their mission one way or the other.
Darrus took the offered hand and shook it once, letting the servos in his gauntlet do what his own meager strength could not. The big man seemed to appreciate the tight handshake, pulling back with a satisfied grunt.
The smaller human beside him spoke immediately afterwards. "Forgive the formalities, but I trust you have the little gift you were sent? I'll need to see it before we can..."
Darrus cut him off by thrusting out his left hand and opening it, palm upwards. There, resting on leather and metal, was a thick ring set with a scarlet stone.
The speaker smiled widely. "Excellent. Well then, let's get down to pleasantries. I am Kyvo, the mountain here is Bruul as he already said, and our third companion here is Hollow. Hol, show these folks where you got your nickname."
The woman he was speaking to, tall and dark haired with a willowy build, turned to face Darrus directly. With virtually no emotion on her face, she opened her mouth and he saw nothing. Absolutely nothing except the back of her throat. Her teeth, her tongue, all of it was just gone. Scar tissue made the inside of her mouth as ugly as the rest of her was lovely.
"Hol here was a guest of the Tusken for nearly a week before one of our hunts came across her. They'd been playing especially rough with her, it would seem, but we took care of them for her. Even gave her the honor of the last shot. And what a shot it was, let me tell you. She took my blaster and lined it up right between the Tusken's..."
The woman raised one hand and made a complicated set of gestures with her first two fingers. Darrus recognized it as Twi'lek Leeko speak, a language normally reserved to that race's head tendrils. He'd never seen anyone agile enough with their fingers to mimic the language.
In this case, the message was short but expressive. "You talk too much."
Kyvo apparently also understood her. "Yes, yes. Well, I get excited when we have new guests. Still, we've others to meet, right? We should move on." Kyvo gestured to the desert sand-coloured manor behind him. They were more than a hundred kilometers north of Mos Eisley; Maya hadn't known there was anythign out here. It wasn't on any map, but that didn't surprise either of them. A secret headquarters, a hate group, and a planet full of aliens - the perfect equation for a bloodbath waiting to happen.
"Fine. Let's go then." Darrus started forward and then instantly stopped as Bruul's meaty hand barred the way.
"No. We give names. Now you."
Kyvo nodded, looking momentarily regretful. "Ah yes, my apologies but the lummox is correct. Shall we finish introductions before proceeding?"
Darrus nodded, slowly pushing Bruul's hand off his chest. he wasn't very strong normally, but the Force made up for a lot. He did not want to rely on it here around so many unknown variables, but he also did not want to seem weak around these people. They respected strength; indeed, it was likely the only thing they considered worth respect at all.
"Call me Wraith." Darrus found another reason to appreciate his helmet. Though it looked like it was open over his mouth, the rim of the faceplate incorporated a set of microphones and direction speakers. It amplified his voice and made every word sound utterly ominous.
Kyvo gave a half bow. "Well met, sir Wraith. And your lovely companion?"
Inwardly, Maya cringed. She'd hoped some regulars from her bar would have been here. Then she could have just gotten past without having to speak. This was all Jeht's idea; she was just here to make sure he didn't get caught up in things. Caught up and, if she had to be honest, taken away from her.
Now she needed a name and she needed one quickly. Jeht's was easy - Wraith. She needed something that went well with it but fit her enough that it wouldn't seem forced or suspicious. The only times she'd ever heard the word Wraith used were when people were talking about ghosts and, oddly, back on Hoth.
On Hoth, the conversation had been about ways to infiltrate the Imperial Fleet. The concept she'd heard bandied about the command table was for Rebel pilots to fly Imperial craft and work their way into the Fleet. The idea would be for this "Wraith Squadron" to then supply the Rebellion with information gained on the inside. A daring thought, to be sure, but she wasn't sure it had ever been employed.
Wraith Squadron... basically, it was doing what Darrus and she were doing right now. So what went with Wraith in that sense? Another squadron name?
"Echo. The name's Echo. Where he goes, I follow." As she spoke, Maya moved up against Darrus' left side to emphasize the point.
Another bow. "And fortunate he is to have you, no doubt. All right them, Sir Wraith and Lady Echo, let us proceed inside."
A few steps past the main gate of the compound took them all into its courtyard. Still open to the sky, the inner area was completely surrounded by sandstone walls. A massive iron door barred the way into the villa's main building, flanked on either side by armed humans in sleeveless red long coats. "You are fortunate to have been issued an invitation to join us, you know. Most require a great deal more... 'initiation' to get this far."
Even as Kyvo was speaking, a smaller outbuilding to the right of the villa opened up and three red coated men came out, dragging an obviously injured Ithorian. The three moved quickly towards them, bringing the hammerhead alien painfully along.
"But, I am afraid, there is one test of loyalty I have to ask of you. It seems some of the scum on this planet haven't gotten the message of our ascendancy yet. It's tragic, but those who won't learn have to feel. So, if you want to be part of the Wake, I'm afraid I'll have to ask you to..."
Jeht's hand flickered, moving with nearly impossible speed to his shoulder. The sound of his songsteel blade rang out across the courtyard, an aria of murder that ended only when it was buried near the bottom of the Ithorian's sundered entrails. His wide, flat head fell in two pieces, spilling viscera all around him, a low burble of anguish seeping from his ruined throat.
"Well!" came Kyvo's surprised exhalation. "That's that then, ay?!" He looked down at the Ithorian, nearly cleft in twain. Even Bruul beside him looked impressed, his expression one of admiration for the perfect stroke, the violent end of that alien slime. Only Hollow seemed, unmoved, though she was staring intently at Jeht the entire time.
"Throw him outside, where garbage belongs," 'Wraith' told the three guards, who quickly moved to obey. They dragged the dripping carcass out of the compound, hurling it through the open portcullis and spitting after it as the corpse rolled down the dune hill beyond.
It was a few moments before Kyvo spoke again. "I... yes, well. It would seem you are not here to waste time, are you, Sir Wraith? I can respect that; yes I can! All right then, allow me to welcome you both into the Tatooine manse of the Scarlet Wake. The Master is downstairs, ready to greet you personally. I look forward to introducing you."
And with that, Bruul opened the iron door and ushered everyone inside. Maya, stunned and silent, allowed herself one last look back to where the poor Ithorian had been so brutally executed. Then, swallowing deeply, she pushed those emotions away and acted like her new namesake.
Darrus was going inside and, for better or worse, she would follow...