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May 29, 2022 4:41 AM
people really should learn to knock before traveling between universes
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By the judgment of the High Council, Anakin Skywalker, padawan to Master Elesse Vendar, is ready to seriously pursue her Trials of Knighthood. She's young for it, especially by modern standards - barely eighteen - but she's made remarkable progress under Elesse's tutelage, they hold, and she's already passed the Trials of Courage, Skill, and Insight through the course of her apprenticeship. She'd passed Courage and Skill at sixteen in successfully holding off a Sith Lord until her Master could join her in the fight, and she passed the Trial of Insight throughout the year after, as she pursued treatment for her own psychosis, recognizing the tricks her own mind played on her as illusions.

(There'd been a debate on if this counted for the Trial of Spirit, but - not quite, the Council believed, and none of them were privy to the true challenges Anakin had faced alongside Elesse in that year.)

(None of them were privy to the full details of her undercover mission with Elesse, the one that ended in her crossing lightsabers with a Sith. Certainly not to the ways Elesse tortured Anakin, to maintain and further their cover - that would count for the Trial of Flesh several times over, though Anakin doesn't exactly regret having an excuse to demonstrate her pain tolerance again.)

The Trials don't have to be back to back - they rarely are, especially when intentionally administered - and by tradition, she should pass the Trial of Flesh before undergoing the Trial of Spirit.

There's traditional methods, which one chosen idiosyncratic to the padawan, the Master, and the whims of current fads. But the Trial of Flesh always involves overcoming and pushing through great hardship - tremendous pain, sacrifice, losses that sear one to the bone. (Sometimes literally. 'Interrogation techniques' are a popular fallback, and the worst of those are, well. Some would find the description of having their flesh slowly burned away gruesome. Anakin had needed to excuse herself from her and Elesse's common room after reading about it.)

And so, to her Elesse, tone light and teasing and trying not to sound too desperately breathy - 

"The real problem for this Trial might be finding a pain that's a genuine hardship for me to bear." Then, more seriously: "I'd - like this to be something you do, though, especially if we'll need to challenge my limits."

(That's what Trials are supposed to do. Life isn't kind, and doesn't care much for safewords.)

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"That would be unusual," Elesse says. "But I think we could arrange it."

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Wider grin. "Maybe a bit of an extra challenge, to make up for how - easier, things being at your hand makes everything."

(The most popular Trial nowadays is the thorough severing of the training bond between Master and padawan. An immensely painful loss, one Anakin would prefer to lose her limbs than face.)

There's plenty of other hardships she could endure, though. Other losses she could be stalwart before.

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"Perhaps I'll keep the exact trial a surprise to you."

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Hum.

...Anakin wants control. Wants to know it'll be okay, that it won't be too harsh for her - wants to suggest things, to squirm as Elesse considers them - 

"I trust you," she says, quietly and sincerely. 

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"Thank you, Anakin."

"You will be strong enough to survive what I choose. I will not promise you that, because this quality is intrinsic to you."

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Shiver. 

Strong enough to survive... She likes the sound of that. (Likes the implication of how far Elesse might push her.)

"I know," she says, throat dry. 

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Elesse smiles.

"I think you might need to concern yourself more with the Trial of Spirit, young padawan."

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"I've faced a lot of my demons already..."

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"Then you should beware, for the ones that remain may be stronger than you think."

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Slow, serious nod. 

" - My limits are more extreme than they were, and the Trials always push those."

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"The path to Knighthood is not easy. But many have trod it before you."

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"I'm confident I'll get there." Smile. "But - yeah, I know it'll be hard." Teasingly: "You'll make it that way, if nothing else."

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"A good teacher is ever attentive to her student's needs."

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"Gives them plenty of opportunities to advance themselves."

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"Quite."

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Grin! 

"Will you warn me when my Trial is coming up?"

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"By at least five minutes."

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"Very kind of you."

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"I know."

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"I'll be waiting until then."

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Within the week, Elesse meets Anakin after one of her classes.

"It's time," she says as a greeting.

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She bites back a yes ma'am. They're being subtle. Not creating any situations Anakin will have to lie about to avoid getting Elesse in trouble.

"Lead the way," she says instead, bleeding her eagerness into bravery.

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Elesse leads her to a room, distinctly chill, with a bath of water in the center. There is ice floating in the water.

"You'll want to remove your robes," she says.

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She nods, because if she speaks she might say things she really wouldn't want to say in a formal and probably remotely observed event. 

She starts stripping, motions quick and efficient and unhesitating. She starts breathing rapidly and deeply too, building an awareness of her body and blood and lungs - she can guess where this is going, and there's mundane tricks to extend how long a human can hold their breath. Her grasp of the Force helps already here, though, lets her keep her mind sharp even as her blood gets increasingly alkaline. 

She stands once she finishes, naked and without seeming embarrassment, skin alternatively flushed and pale, and pebbling in the cold. (Intensely aware of Elesse's eyes on her.)

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Elesse makes a shoving gesture and Anakin is pushed back step by step until she teeters at the lip of the water.

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