Odan Urr: Team 2
Sanguinius Tsucyra Entar
IC: You are a member of an elite task force assigned to conduct a rapid entry raid in Xlopora City. Your team is tasked with recovering the the lost blade of Ferran, known as Revelation. Intelligence reporting indicates four distinct opposition Forces operating within Xlopora City.
1. One Sith Forces: The Sith Lord Esoteric has been identified by Taldyran reconnaissance teams. Esoteric is an unpredictable Sith Lord and has been connected to the death of multiple members of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood.
2. Unknown Imperial Forces: Arconan agents have reported multiple engagements with Storm Commandos and unidentified Imperial Storm Troopers. These unknown Imperial Forces appear to be coordinating their operation with the One Sith.
3. Sith Revenants and Ancient Sith Magic: Xlopora City is the seat of ancient Sith powers and is protected by unknown quantities of arcane wards and traps. Sith Zombies have been identified within the catacombs underneath the towered palace located in the center of the city. Shadow Academy Scholars have reported multiple deaths resulting from failed attempts to breach warded doorways and structures.
4. The Dark Brotherhood: The Dark Brotherhood is a fragmented organization designed to reward those who excel. Infighting, backstabbing, and treachery are acceptable tactics to achieve results. Dark Council reports indicate at least three skirmishes have occurred between opposition Clans and Houses.
The Sith Medium, Dantella Novae, has provided the Dark Council with a rough sketch of the chamber housing Revelation. She believes that a ritual, of some sort, will be required to gain access to the weapon. This ritual will require a significant cost from the team who discovers it.
This is a time sensitive operation that will conclude in 96 hours (16 real life days!) with the commencement of an orbital bombardment. Due to the short nature of the operation, your team will be limited to light infantry operations (no mechanized forces are to be deployed in Xlopora City). You may use any other equipment from your organization's order of battle.
OOC: The following links provide additional information.
Plot Update Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cZ1VFYjY3SElrMU0/edit?usp=sharing
Bosthirda Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cbmNOMURTM3R0R3M/edit?usp=sharing
Dantella Novae Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cY1piSHZJOHhlMEU/edit?usp=sharing
Welcome to the Dark Crusade Epilogue: Bosthirda, a Run-On Event.
The following rules are in effect:
This is a run-on event based on the most recent Dark Brotherhood Plot Update, Bosthirda Planet Document, and event hook placed at the beginning of each run on.
Sign-ups for the event will begin on 22 February 2014 and end at 2359 EST on 27 February 2014.
The Team Captain from each team will email their team name and team roster to Muz, Raken, and Sarin.
Teams will consist of no less than 5 members and no more than 7 members. Units may submit as many teams as they can field.
250 word minimum per post. No maximum word limit. A post under 250 words will not be considered in a participant’s 3 post total. If a player writes five entries, 3 over 250 words and 2 under, they will still be given credit for reaching the minimum post limit.
Each team member must post at least three times during the event. There is no maximum post limit, but members cannot post consecutively. A single member failing to post three times will result in their teams DQ and elimination from the top 3.
Edits may occur on a post until a follow on post has been made (follow on posts include "reserving" a space). Edits may only be made by the posts original author (as in, if you have Forum Administration Rights, you cannot edit another member’s work).
Members may reserve post, but no posts can occur until after the reserved post is written.
The event will be graded by Raken, Sarin, and Muz using a rubric that focuses on creativity, plot development, realism, and grammar.
The winning team will win the Run-On for their unit. A single Independent Unit can finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in this event. This is a nova producing event.
22-27 February Sign-Ups
28 February: Event Hook Published on all Team Threads (You can read the plot update and potentially divine your mission!)
28 February to 16 March: Members Post on the Forums! This event will be plugged into the Database, but will not conclude on the forums until 2359 EST on 16 March 2014!!!!!!!
"Kriffing bucket of bolts!" A female voice swore over the constant rumbling of the LAAT/i's battered cockpit. She struggled to maintain control, pressing furiously at the console interface. One of them exploded in a short burst of sparks, which jumped onto her exposed palm. The pain didn't register - Already, she could feel adrenaline pumping through her veins while she called to the Force for guidance - only to find none. They were abandoned.
Less than six hours ago, the Sentinel Network - House Odan-Urr's latest source of intelligence, a network comprised entirely of spies within Brotherhood Space - intercepted a transmission from Brotherhood channels. While the information gleaned was accurate, it wasn't from the Brotherhood's usual informats in the Star Chamber. An Umbaran, identified as Dentella Novae appeared to be collaborating with Brotherhood intelligence. For which reasons, Liam Torun couldn't fathom, but it was safe to assume that the former collaborator to the late Zoraan had undergone some sort of processing to make her more compliant. While the information was sound, nothing could have prepared them for the Imperial's presence on the planet's surface.
Squinting against the harsh light of the countless battles sweeping over Xlopora City, Kaira yanked at the controls, hoping to pull the craft away from the incoming barrage of turbolaser fire. The city appeared as if set ablaze, engulfed in a raging inferno of pain and misery - which reminded her all too well of the Brotherhood's attempt to destroy New Tython, only two years ago. The scars inflicted upons its beautiful surface were still fresh in her memory, serving as a reminder of the horrors she had witnessed. She could feel it through the Force; Hundreds of voices echoed their final screams before falling to a grim death. One of the console's emergency lights sparked to life, emitting an alternating glow between shades of red and yellow. All that remained were the aft deflector shields, and even those couldn't stand up to the punishment the Imperials were inflicting upon the ship. Two more impacts scored the hull - one of them ricocheted into the rear-mounted ordnance belts, igniting the last of their short-range homing missiles. In the time it took for her to blink, it was already too late.
"Our repulsorlifts are gone, I can't level..." Was all Kaira could manage before the cabin shook from the full power of a planet-side turbolaser emplacement. The viewport's glass shattered inwards, splintering into many jagged, yet sharp shards that fell upon her like knives. As if by the will of the Force, she only recieved a series of minor cuts and bruises. The sudden decrease of the cabin's pressure forced the craft into a sluggish, spiralling descent, which would have been unrecoverable even if the pilot had remained conscious from the impact; She wouldn't have been able to determine the orientation of the gunship, if she had. Over the next twenty seconds, both drag and gravity took over. The lifeless wreckage of the LAAT/i began its accelerating plummet through the atmosphere, building up heat from the rapid fall through Bosthirda's atmosphere until the cockpit ignited, sending plumes of an opaque black smoke through the access hatch.
"Close that door! We're going to suffocate in here!" A second, almost elderly voice shouted over the chaos. The Jedi pulled a cloth over his mouth, reaching forward while he disappeared into the toxic screen. The durasteel portal grudgingly closed, its door shooting sparks along the tracks as Mirus heaved against its inch-thick bulk. The dense fog dissapated, no doubt aided by the tears in the hull caused the melting and peeling plates that made up its armor.
"It won't stay closed! Give me a hand!." The Guardian Duelist commanded. In an instant, the two Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force soldiers unfastened their restraints, bracing themselves against the door. As if on cue, the main cabin lit up in a dull, washed-out red. The seconds had stopped counting down. Spun onto its side by the unbalanced force acting upon its mangled hull, the air friction created in the descent ripped off the aft of the vessel, the sudden and complete loss of pressure caused the two unrestrained soldiers to be sucked out of the gunship, their screams still audible for a second while they cascaded to a painful death. The Force had barely given Mirus enough warning. Instinctively, he gripped the door's handle, gritting his teeth in preparation for the impact.
There were no final words, no screams of pain. Most of the passengers were barely aware of their surroundings when the LAAT/i collided with Bosthirda's unforgiving surface, directly between opposing lines of Imperial forces and... something else. Trakkar struggled to keep his body from flailing about in his restraints, noticing briefly as the Guardian was overcome with such force that the cockpit door's handle tore away in his grip, the stripped bolts that once held it in place ricocheting through the cabin's interior. The Disciple's vision blurred when the spacecraft lurched, bounding towards the turbolaser emplacement that had utterly destroyed it. The scraping sound of metal against metal was almost unbearable, forcing the Journeyman to muffle the screeching cacophony of carnage with both hands clasped over his ears. His master, still fastened in his seat, struggled to slow the ship's landing through the Force. To which extent his efforts had succeeded, Trakkar didn't notice.
Kaira wasn't even aware of what had just transpired. Only seconds ago, she was at the helm of an LAAT/i gunship, struggling to maintain altitude, despite the protests of turbolaser fire, just below. Now, she lay motionless, weakly sensing no sign of the vessel in her immediate surroundings, save for a smoldering wreckage of two folded plates that had once made up a section of the starship. She forced her eyelids open, though her surroundings remained indistinct; Her sight had not yet returned to her. The only sense she still retained was smell - And as she inhaled, she smelled death. After several blinks, her vision focused on the familiar uniform standing above her, bloody and reeking of decomposing flesh. Before she could gasp in terror at the revelation, the glowing emerald blade of a lightsaber materialized in the center of his chest - protruding through his stomach like a spear. The shambing corpse turned to the interruption, rotating its neck at an unnatural angle before the blade disappeared, only to re-ignite with a snap-hiss at one side of the disfigured neck, passing through and severing the head completely. Startled, Kaira recognized the lightsaber's owner as the Togruta Jedi, A'lora.
While blasterfire and explosions of unknown origin filled the void of silence, the six Jedi gathered around the uniformed corpse. Sanguinius gazed into its lifeless eyes, feeding his hatred on the grotesque mass of flesh and bone at his feet. The Knights of Odan-Urr had accepted him into their ranks, but he knew better. Already, he could sense as the lavender-skinned Jedi watched his every move. She was well aware of his true affiliation with the Dark Side of the Force, and his undying hatred for Kaira Rohana, who had just crashed their transport deep into enemy territory.
"KUDF." Liam stated, against the swelling in the back of his throat.
"Where did it come from?" Trakkar inquired, turning to his master, expecting some light to be shed on the situation. Sanguinius didn't take notice - Or at least, he didn't care. All he knew was that their mission suddenly became much more complicated. The Jedi simply stared at the decapitated soldier in silence, until one of them could muster the courage to continue on with their mission. They had arrived within Xlopora City, and something sinister stood in the way of their mission.
It was the voice of the Aedile, their leader, which broke the silence that overshadowed the group like a looming spectre that threatened to engulf their minds.
“Let’s go,” she intoned with a finality that dispelled their doubts and fears and quelled any nerves that were still in their stomachs. They had a mission to undertake and it simply would not complete itself. As one, the unit of Jedi heaved their collective weapons and supplies salvaged from the wreck of their downed transport and moved off in the general direction of their objective as outlined by their maps.
As they trudged along, only one of their number trudged behind, which did not go unnoticed. Trakkar was lagging slightly behind and, as the self-appointed defender of the group, Mirus felt it his responsibility to find out why. Quietly he slipped behind Kaira and Sang-- decidedly looking in opposite directions to one another-- to speak to the newer member of the House, to see what plagued his mind.
“Is everything alright?” the Dathomiri rumbled.
“I’m not sure how much help I’ll be, that’s all,” mumbled Trakkar after a considerable pause, the inexperienced Protector. Compared to the four Equite Jedi around him, he felt rather insignificant.
Mirus placed a large hand on his shoulder, patting it as reassuringly as he could muster. “I know what you mean. I’ve been there too – my first major group mission had me surrounded by Equites as well. Never feel that you will be useless. This is a valuable experience and you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t have a reason for being here. The Force calls us all – and you aren’t expendable.”
It wasn’t entirely reassuring, noted Trakkar – the titanic Guardian could have chosen his words better. However, it was at least the truth… and perhaps a nice sidebar to know the fact that the House valued his life enough to consider him a worthwhile addition to a team of experienced Jedi Knights. Sometimes it was the little things. Perhaps the big brute wasn’t so dumb after all.
“Thanks,” was all Trakkar managed as Mirus moved away to listen to the voice of Quaestor Torun and his mission updates.
“Our intellgence tells us of three groups that have invaded the city – One Sith, Empire and Brotherhood forces are all here equally. On top of this, this city is permeated by ancient Sith magic that has killed more than one scout. Our own scouting parties are reporting plenty of other forces landing to seize key objectives all across Bosthirda and Xlopora City, so we may encounter any of them at any time.”
“Are there any routes to the objective that don’t involve us running head-first through a wave of Imperial troops?” Sang asked laconically, trying to inject a little bit of humour into the situation. Mirus had to laugh at that one – both warrior-like in nature, they’d both find it the same kind of challenge.
“We could try the catacombs,” suggested the Quaestor. “Our scouts reported a network of catacombs under the city. They might be full of One Sith troops, though.”
It was a dangerous suggestion, one that would mean fighting their way through the enemy just to get to the entrance of the catacombs, then potentially through Sith magic traps and One Sith enemies. However, it meant that they’d be out of the line of sight of aerial scouts and snipers, increasing their odds of survival against the landing Imperial troops.
“Better than the Imps coming for-“ Sang began, but found himself stopped as another voice rose.
A’lora hissed out to cut the Peacekeeper off, her montrals twitching in response to something feeling very, very wrong – her ears picked up a strange sound first, followed by the Force screaming a warning into her mind. “We’re not alone here.”
The sound of nearby crunching boots filled the ears of the group as they realised that they were walking head-first into the fire zone of an Imperial squad. Lightsabers snapped to life in unison and blasters were raised with safeties off – it was do or die.
A torrent of blaster fire screamed out across the sparse wasteland leading to the catacombs. The Jedi were caught in the open, but quickly sprinted towards cover, with Sanguinius dragging Trakkar along with him.
“Come along, Trakk...We’ve got some Stormies to educate.” the Entar grinned as he spoke, “Consider this one of your lessons as well.”
Pulling out his well used Westar 34 blasters as they reached a rock formation big enough to hide them, the Peacekeeper laid down a wall of covering fire, allowing his fellow Guardian, Mirus, to advance. Trakkar followed his Master’s lead, placing well aimed shots with his Bryar Pistol at the burnished white armour of the Stormtroopers.
A’lora meanwhile had spun away from the laser bolts flying around the clearing. Her emerald blade sweeping up to deflect any shots that came close. Her athletic body betraying her ancestry as a hunter as she kept moving, never still for more than a second. The former Arconan was glad the Aedile was with them, her senses were keen, however he knew that he would need to keep an eye on the Togruta when the time came to strike.
Sanguinius wasn’t truly a Jedi yet, he knew he was being held at arm’s length. It explained why he was being babysat by both the Quaestor and the Aedile and his on again, off again nemesis, Kaira. The Jedi weren’t as stupid as the Sith maintained they were, the Anaxsi mused.
The old man, Liam, weathered the shots, his knowledge in the defensive art of Soresu was well founded and it was being used to create a wall of light between him and harm. The shots coming towards him were pushed towards the ground or sent straight back at the offending party.
Kaira darted around Liam, heading for cover in an effort to move up towards the shooters and neutralise them in a non-lethal capacity. Her lightsaber rose to block a blaster bolt that would've killed her if it had connected. She was determined to stop the Stormtroopers before her old nemesis, Sang, killed them like the heartless bantha poodoo he was.
A cry of anguish rose above the blaster fire and then cut off mid scream as Sanguinius put another blaster bolt into the wounded trooper. “Never could abide screaming, Trakk.” he winked at the Protector as he ducked back down into cover. “Always rubbed me the wrong way.”
Trakkar could only wonder at his Master as a silver ball landed between the pair of them. DANGER! The voices in his head screamed at him. Quickly as he could, he grabbed the grenade and lobbed it back at the Imperials. An explosion answered him as the frag grenade exploded in amongst three of the squad, sending flecks of shrapnel scything through them. Two were down, dead and a third, partially sheltered by his dead compatriots, was injured
Sang turned to his student and nodded in approval, “Nice work, Trakk. Keep it up and you might just survive this hellhole.”
Taking advantage of the exploding grenade, Mirus and A’lora had worked their way in amongst the rest of the Stormtroopers, closely followed by the Juggernaut that was Liam Torun. Lightsabers rose and fell, emerald and aquamarine blades hacking and slicing through plastoid like a knife through butter.
The Tythonians killed with regret, their need to get inside the catacombs outweighed their consciences and thus, the Imperials suffered for it. With three well trained and experienced Equites carving through the remaining six troopers, they lasted little longer than twenty seconds.
Sanguinius whistled with admiration as the last one almost fell to a riposte from Mirus that was blocked by Kaira, the Consular getting there in time to save at least one life. In the same movement, she unleashed a hammer blow through the Force that knocked the last Stormtrooper unconscious.
Turning his attention back to his student, Sang clapped him on the back. “Well, looked like you survived your first fight. More than I can say for some of my former students.”
Trakkar shot back with a quip, “It doesn’t take much to avoid your shooting, Master. I guess your aim has gotten worse over time.” eliciting a grin from the Peacekeeper.
The pair walked over towards the four Equites standing amongst the bodies of the Imperials.
“The entrance to the catacombs seems unguarded except for these poor fellows. May the Force be with them.” Kaira bowed her head momentarily before lifting her gaze to affix Sanguinius’ and held it, her eyes twinkled knowingly as she continued to speak. “I suggest we continue onwards towards our goal.”
Sang matched her stare, giving nothing away.
Liam closed his eyes, feeling his surroundings through the encompassing tendrils of the Force. He could feel faint life sources nearby, but they were being drowned out by the Darkness emanating from the catacombs. “I sense a great darkness, Kaira. We must continue with caution. Remember our brother that we encountered at the crash site. I fear that before long, we shall encounter more.”
Nods answered him as A’lora, Kaira and Trakkar acknowledged his wisdom. Mirus’ face was closed, his emotions hidden as he pondered what hidden horrors were concealed within the catacombs while Sanguinius merely smiled enigmatically as his plans continued to unfold. He would be victorious on Bosthirda and he would claim what was rightfully his.....Supremacy.
The entrance that Kaira lead the group to was covered over with vines and moss. Kaira's saber came to life as she lifted it from her belt to cut away the vines. Beneath the moss was a very ornate door. It looked very old as Kaira pushed it open, then stepped aside.
“Go ahead.” Kaira said with a smile, hiding the chill that ran up her spine.
It was hard to tell but almost all of them could sense Kaira's uneasiness about heading underground. Sang looked at her with piercing eyes. “What's wrong, Kaira? Scared of the dark?”
If that was it, I'd just light up my saber, the Consular thought as she stood there watching the group head underground. The walls were made of coarse stone and dirt. The only light that Kaira could see as she peered down the stairs that lead deeper into the catacombs was Liam's lightsaber. The green light that came from the saber made it feel eerie as they descended further.
Mirus turned to see Kaira frozen on the top step. He paused, looking around; no threat could be seen, she simply refused to follow. He turned to the group and watched them head deeper into the catacombs, feeling as they did a growing sense of something wrong. Rather than keep up with the group he turned back to Kaira.
“Rohana, come on. We're losing the group.” He said softly.
“You go on ahead. I'll catch up.” Her voice cracked as she said that.
Just then they heard a crash from where the group was headed. With a deep breath Kaira started down the stairs to where the sound came from. Mirus was way ahead of her as he took off with the aid of the Force.
Just as the pair rounded the corner at the end of the stairs they saw what had happened. Trakkar, trying to look in every direction at once, had backed into an old burial stone. It marked one of the graves in the small room they were passing through. Intricate murals covered the walls, depicting colorful scenes of battle and Sith victory. Even common graves like this were dressed up with grandeur.
They all turned to Trakkar; their gazes ranged from surprised to admonishing. “You do know we're trying to be quiet, right?” Sang said rather harshly.
“Lay off him, Sang," Kaira said protectively, her ire turning her will into steel. "This is his first mission. If memory serves, you had a few clumsy moments on yours.” She couldn't resist a mocking smile, or the urge to antagonize her old foe.
“Oh yes, of course, Kaira. If we didn't all spin in circles, we might miss the bugs on the walls down here. In fact," The Dark Jedi's eyes glinted darkly as he returned the grin. "In fact... is that a spider crawling up your back? Looks dangerous.”
A'lora sighed as Kaira's eyes went wide, though the woman admirably ignored the urge to check her shoulder. It was like taking care of children. She shot Liam an exasperated look, only to get a soft chuckle from the old man. “Stop it now. Everyone, focus on the mission at hand. Every time you open your mouths, you give away our position. We need to keep moving.” She looked to Trakkar, her look and words softer than Sang's but still admonishing. "Trakkar, you can't cover the whole chamber by yourself; trust in the group, and try to be more careful."
The Protector nodded, his embarrassment giving way to caution. "Yes, Master Kituri."
With that, the group resumed their march, with Kaira shooting Sang a rude glare. Once he'd walked by, she swept off her shoulders, just to be sure. The thought of an insect crawling on her was enough to make her take a long, deep breath as she stood rooted on the spot.
Mirus, ever helpful, smiled. “I've got your back, Kaira. Lets go.”
The catacombs wound on as the team of Jedi made their way through, ducking cobwebs and obstacles as they went. Liam's blade thrummed steadily as he held it before him, its light revealing the filthy, worn features of what had been extensive burial chambers. Each mural and statuette, though blanketed by centuries of dust and grime, seemed more ornate and extreme than the next; the Sith would have seen them as symbols of wealth and power. To Liam, they were just so much excess; the fevered trappings of an Empire rabid with arrogance and elitism. Looking back, he watched as the group began, once more, to bicker.
"Sanguinius," He called back, his voice bearing the slightly hoarse croak of a man of age, "Come, help me to scout. Rohana, Mirus, you two form the rear guard."
The Sith - for that was what he still was, though he made a great deal of effort to hide it - strode up to the aging Jedi. "Let me guess," He said, the snark back in his voice once more. He was testing the old man, probing him for weaknesses; no doubt he'd sized up the rest of the group by now. "Your eyes are tired?"
"Not at all," Liam replied, smiling warmly at the Dark Sider. "I just wanted to get to know you better."
For the briefest moment, the Sith's eyebrow arched; he was seeking an ulterior motive, the double-speak he was used to seeing from his compatriots. Torun didn't have any to offer him; aside from the obvious need to split him and Kaira up, he genuinely wanted to know more about the Anaxsi beside him. The man had clearly come to Odan-Urr under less than ideal circumstances, likely fleeing persecution or outright hostility from his former peers. Yet, rather than running to another basion of darkness, he'd come to the Light. Some would have seen this as a cover, or a ruse; in fact, Liam was betting on such an outcome.
Even so, he had faith in a higher purpose for the Sith; whoever he may have been, whatever his goals were, he was an instrument of the Force - as were all beings. "I saw your work during the battle. You shoot to kill." Liam's tone wasn't accusatory; it was a simple statement.
Sang's eyes rolled. "Here comes the rant about Jedi and killing."
Liam smiled again, the lines in his face oddly suited to warmth. For Tsucyra, it was unsettling; no one he'd ever met who was this warm could be trusted. "Death is a natural part of life, Sang. Those you've struck down, during or after the fight, become one with the Force." His brown eyes, at once piercing and reassuring, looked to Sang. "I have only one question."
"Then ask it," The Dark Sider snapped, somewhat harsher than he'd intended. Mentally, he cursed himself; this do-gooder had him on edge.
"Why do you do it?" Liam asked, not unkindly. "Obviously we must defend ourselves, and sometimes we must kill; you lash out, as if angry with those you've never met." The old Jedi's tone was genuinely courteous, and maybe a bit consoling. "So why the rage?"
"Because-," Sang stopped in his tracks, biting back the obvious response. He felt frustration building at the back of his thoughts.
"Because they are weak," Liam replied, smiling warmly and turning to face him. "Is that you talking? Or is it your teachers?"
Further down the corridor, Trakkar watched as his Master and Quaestor spoke, their hushed tones too low to be heard or deciphered. His grey eyes took in everything around him as he crept forward, his body in a defensive posture and his pistol ready. A'lora had made his mistake clear, and yet, it didn't sting to be admonished by the Aedile. She'd made his mistake clear, without attacking him. Though some called him humble, Trakkar brushed off such labels; he knew when he'd made a mistake, and knew he had to learn from it. Moving forward, he kept close to the Aedile, stopping only when they passed a bend in the corridor.
He spied motion; looking toward it, he spotted several shambling forms. "Uh, Master?" He called, his suspicion building to fear as the glow of Liam's blade began to kiss the very edges of the undead forms that approached. Like something from a nightmare they approached, snarling and growling, undead flesh presenting bite marks on faces twisted into permanent scowls of Dark Side fury. Their uniforms, Imperial and KUDF alike, were torn and stained a dark brown; Trakkar knew the description of dried blood, even if he hadn't had such a literal experience with it. His call alerted the Jedi, who hurried back to join the formation. Taking a deep breath, he raised his pistol, fighting to keep it steady.
That was when he heard the thud behind the wall at his back, followed by a faint series of beeps. "Get down!" Sang roared, tackling the Protector to the ground as the breaching charge went off. The boots of stormtroopers filled his vision as his head smacked into the stone beneath, giving way to blackness.
The breaching charge had caught the group off guard; more importantly, it had also punctured through the catacomb wall, collapsing the ancient pillars that supported the low ceiling. Once engulfed in an eternal silence, the explosion shook the catacomb's very foundations, rippling through it like an earthquake. The tremors that followed rocked the earth beneath their feet, disrupting the balance of both Jedi and Imperial intruders. Liam Torun siezed the opportunity, lunging forward with his already-drawn lightsaber and impaling the closest stormtrooper before he could raise his rifle in any meaningful direction. Nevertheless, the stormtrooper reacted in his final moments, squeezing the trigger of his E-11 blaster rifle with his dying grip. The blaster cried out, its shot amplified by the deathless silence shrouding the tombs and reverberating through the passage. Both sides of the conflict regained their footing, bracing for the aftershocks that followed.
A'lora wasn't so lucky. The initial blast had nearly swept her off her feet after taking a fist-sized chunk of stone to the forehead, leaving a small gash dripping with blood. The ultrasonic signals supplied by her naturally hollow montrals became garbled and distorted by the constant shifting of her immediate surroundings. The scrambling of her spartial awareness had barely registered in time; The Togruta narrowly avoided being crushed under the full weight of a stone sarcophagus before it slipped from the shelf, upon it once rested. With the agile grace of a natural predator, A'lora rolled with the momentum of the unstable ground, the ancient coffin smashing harmlessly into the smooth floor.
However, while Liam Torun and Mirus pitted themselves against the Imperial stormtroopers, Kaira sensed another presence on the battlefield. The aftershocks of the explosion and the roaring of blasterfire created echoes in a chain reaction. The acoustics of the labyrinth made each sound ring clearly throughout the entirety of the complex series of mazes and tunnels. Loud enough to rouse the spirits of the dead - both preserved servants of the SIth and recent intruders alike - each of the echoes sparked new life into the resurrected cadavers. The unsetting sounds of their moans as they scratched and pressed against the heavy granite lids of their tombs in an effort to espace were drowned out by the barrage of blasterfire and aftershocks. Imprisoned for years, they had grown frantic and relentless, but above all, they hungered for the sweet taste of sentient flesh.
"A'lora!" The Jedi shouted, igniting the magenta blade of her lightsaber with a snap-hiss before bisecting one of the walking corpses, cleanly slicing the creature's torso from its legs. The injury had only elicited a few short, violent spasms in response before the reanimated carcass began clawing against the stone floor, dragging its legless body closer to the disoriented Togruta. Despite the loss of its stomach, the restless cadaver still craved for its next meal - that of a Force-sensitive Jedi, helpless against the conflicting senses plaguing her awareness. While the Jedi didn't take pleasure in killing, Kaira knew the stakes, and what must be done to defend those she cared about. Driving the glowing blade downwards into the fallen form like a pike, she skewered the creature, clad in an Imperial uniform.
Trakkar, now standing with each foot planted at either side of his fallen master, raised his Bryar pistol in the direction of a trio of snarling corpses, their features eggagerated with sunken holes that had once contained eyes. Guided as an extension to the will of the Force, the Bryar pistol in Trakkar's hand glided towards the nearest shambling figure. Despite the limited visiblilty of the burial chamber, the first of the bolts scored an impact directly through its eye socket, killing it instantly. Taking notice of the positions of the remaining undead in the brief illumination of the first shot, the Defender was able to easily repel the advances of the second corpse, which bore the insignia of a KUDF officer. The third cadaver - an original inhabitant of Xlopora City - managed to close the distance. Its jaw began an unsettling clicking as it strived to sate a ravenous desire for flesh, uncontented for over a millennium. Trakkar's eyes went wide, struggling to take a step backwards before remembering his unconscious master. Tripping over the Dark Jedi with the heel of his foot, Trakkar fell onto his back, fumbing with the Bryar pistol in his grip, attempting to bring its barrel towards the former servant.
Mirus noticed the strugge out of the corner of his eye. The Guardian broke from the stormtrooper invaders, illuminating the two prone forms of his companions, as well as the sithspit that dared attack them. The creature craned its skeletal face towards the source of the bluish haze for the instant before the glowing blade found an entrance into the shambing monster's skull, continuing down the length of its spinal column. Trakkar, still shocked at the near-death experience finally brought his own weapon to bear, depleting the remnants of the weapon's power pack into the emaciated musculature of the once servant of the ancient Sith.
At the other end of the commotion, Liam Torun fended off the Imperial invasion, which had now divided their attention between the Jedi Quaestor and the horriffic undead. One of them cried out, the stormtrooper's scream clipped by the helmet, which proved to be useless against creatures as ravenous as these. They were determined to whet their appetite, and no amount of gleaming armour would prevent them from achieving their goal. As soon as the stormtrooper's comrades took notice, they had forgotten about the Jedi, instead filling the wretched corpse with as many cauterized wounds as they could. In their desperation, the Imperials had missed many of the shots, with the majority of them soaking into the stormtrooper's now-useless armour.
Recovered from disorientation, A'lora came to the Quaestor's side along with Mirus, cutting down the last of the shambing corpses, even as they feasted upon the last of the two Imperials. After all of the shots had been fired, an uncomfortable silence filled the chamber. Kaira, kneeling beside the fallen form of the Entar broke the silence. A'lora recognized the emotions that often accompanied sorrow, though realized these feelings weren't directed towards the Entar, but towards the KUDF soldier Kaira had been forced to slay. Placing a reassuring hand on the Chronicler's shoulder, A'lora tried to ease the other's pain.
"It was an act of mercy," A'lora assured, "Without your intervention, she would have done exactly what she swore to end. You saved my life, and for that, I owe you my gratitude." The Togruta spoke with a soothing tone. Even then, it did little to relieve the tension.
"Come on. We had better get moving while the way is clear, unless you two would like to take the time to bury it." Sang interjected, his voice betraying none of the sarcasm that was directed towards his nemesis.
Liam nodded, though they could all see that the term "clear" was relative at best in this situation. What had once been a three-pronged hallway now only had two clear directions - one out through the wall, leading into an open battlefield, and the other leading forward toward the ever-increasing sense of darkness. The way they'd come, like that which the zombies had used, was now nothing but a mess of rubble.
Liam took a moment to take the measure of his surroundings, brushing the now dust-coated mop of thick, white hair out of his eyes before motioning toward the open corridor with his lightsaber. "Come on," He said, his beard flecked with a few errant splashes of blood.
"Hold on, now," Sang replied, motioning toward the open breach. The sounds of battle could be heard outside; while Brotherhood soldiers levelled heavy weaponry against their foes, it sounded as if the Imperials had conjured up a light walker. "We should be out there, where it's open."
Kaira looked at the massacre around her before sighing, begrudgingly agreeing with her old foe. "I hate to say it, but Sang's right - we'd have more room to move out there."
"True," Liam replied, "But take a moment. Reach out, and feel the Force."
The group paused, looking at one another for a moment before stretching their senses out; the four Jedi that accompanied Torun let go of their anxieties, though Trakkar struggled with the distractions, and let their consciousnesses slip into the stream of events. Sanguinius, by comparison, didn't wait for calmness to settle over him. With all the subtlety of a career Sith, he bent his emotions as if they were metal, sending a ripple of discontent through the Force as he ripped the veil apart. Even so, he came to the same conclusion as the others.
"The Force..." Trakkar said, his face pale. Few could face true evil for the first time without a dose of fear. "The Dark Side... it seems stronger, now."
"Indeed." Liam replied. "It has ebbed in our immediate presence, only to focus elsewhere. These troopers were after something."
"Then we know for certain," Sang interjected, his face grim. "The Imps are working with the Sith. There's probably one of them down here now, searching for the source." He looked at Liam, and for the briefest moment the elderly man thought he spotted a glimmer of respect in the Dark one's eyes. "Could it be the blade?"
"Anything is possible," Liam replied. "These catacombs are huge; they'll likely lead us directly to the Palace, or close to it at least. We've not a moment to lose."
With that, he took off at a light jog, his team falling in line behind him. Sang, the last to go, knelt beside a stormtrooper and rummaged through his equipment pack. Finding a mine, he hit the proximity switch and left it before the opening, before running after his compatriots.
If anyone tried to follow them, at least he knew they'd regret it.
Ruined Villa, Palace Overlook
Below, the city of Xlopora was on fire. Crippled, abandoned skyscrapers collapsed as explosives rocked their foundation, lightsabers aflare in many parts of the city. To some, it was chaos, the very picture of terror; to Legorii, it was the first act of a play he'd seen repeated across the Galaxy. The play had a simple name, composed of two words - Arcona Invicta.
"Proconsul, we're nearly ready for the assault." The Army Corps' Corporal was quick to deliver the report, clearly eager to please the man in charge. Legorii smirked at the news, his probosci twitching and curving in the open air.
"Very good, Corporal. Prepare to march."
The Dark Council's orders had been clear - no huge deployments or occupation were to be permitted here, lest they risk an orbital bombardment by the Throne's forces. Legorii didn't care; it hadn't taken much negotiation to get the Consul's approval for a bit of foul play, and if the Anzat had exaggerated the amount of forces he'd bring to bear, he knew he'd be forgiven. Results would speak for themselves; the One Sith would fall behind the weight of a full regiment of firepower, and the Blade of Ferran would go to the Shadow Clan.
He looked to the adjacent side of town, where yet another shuttle of the hated foe descended; of all the Houses - he refused to give them the honorific of Clan, whatever Ashen might say - he had come to hate Plagueis the most. Even now, the glorified pirates assembled their own covert force, this one made of slaves. Where Arconan mettle would drive away fear, the Ascendant scum relied on the lashed backs of beaten peasants. It was disgusting, to think of them as anything more than parasites; the fact that they'd come out on top in the Crusade thus far only made it worse. The desire for vengeance sat heavy on his heart; if anyone needed to die, it was the Plagueian scum that took the award.
"Sir," A scout came up, his voice uncertain. "We're getting... unusual reports. Scouts report that they're being attacked by mass numbers of..." He paused, then continued. "Well, massive numbers of walking corpses. Their positions are being overrun."
Legorii shook his head, rolling his crimson eyes. Mundane scouts were such cowards. "Massive numbers? Please. Next, you'll tell me there are Jedi down there."
Slave Housing Ruins
"Dark Lord," The Ravager Underlord's gruff voice seemed ragged as he prostrated himself, red-and-black tattoos crossing the length of his skin. "We are prepared."
"Good. Get back in line, and prepare to attack." Dacien's icy blue eyes swept over the hordes of slave soldiers before him, nodding to himself as he watched them twitch and move. "You know the drill - scorched earth, burn anyone in your path."
"Yes, Master," The slave grovelled. He glanced upward, not quite meeting his owner's eyes. "And the prisoners?"
"There won't be any. Kill anyone before you." The Sith's words were cold and concise, as he strode to the edge of the assembly.
Before him, the whole of Xlopora City stretched outward, pockets of it explosive with combat between Brotherhood and One Sith units. Strike teams had left every Brotherhood unit, including Plagueis, destined for the same mission - recover Ferran's blade, and get out. Yet even here, with the threat of bombardment nigh, political tensions remained high; nearly every unit had sent that little extra in, and yet, for some it had not been enough. Victae's Wraith scouts had reported the expected; the haughty Arconans, bloated and tired in their years-long reign, had deployed extra forces to the world in secret. Even now, they prepared to charge.
Dacien looked over his soldiers; these Ravagers had come from the reserve forces, and according to the official record didn't exist. The Arconans would have to be tactical, and conserve their troops; the Ascendant Clan, on the other hand, demanded that these slave troops should die. Huge, bulky, frothing from genetic trickery and insane, gladiatorial training, they were indoctrinated in their new roles and terrified of their Dark Masters; their fate was as certain as their Maul-styled tattoos. They would bring anarchy to Bosthirda, and Dacien would escape with the Blade.
A Subjugate slave, meek and covered, sprinted to him; his mumbled report gave the Warlord pause for but a moment. So, there were Jedi on Bosthirda; the Ascendant Clan had yet to run into this shadowy pseudo-House, this "Odan-Urr". Dacien's calculations were quick - he wouldn't take any risks.
"Ravagers," He shouted. "Kill all in your path. If you see anyone wearing brown robes," He added, "Kill them first."
Liam's hand came up, stopping his fellows in their tracks. "Hold here," The elderly Jedi said. "This is no ordinary door."
A dull boom sounded behind them; Sang smirked. "We're about to have company."
Before them, a massive stone-and-steel doorway closed off their path. Ornate and interlocking, its parts were clearly sealed, not even air and dust penetrating them; the Dark Side seemed to ooze from it in a thick miasma. Etched into it were Sith runes and symbols, each letter hooked and barbed like an assassin's blade. Slowly, Liam approached the door; running a finger over the symbols and etchings, be looked them over briefly before running his saber across its surface. A loud crackle sounded as it dragged along, and sparks flew wide; the door didn't even take a scratch. Liam looked back to the Entar, a questioning look on his face.
He didn't even have to ask; Sang had spent enough time dealing with Mandalorians to answer. "Yeah, that's Beskar alright. Not to mention whatever the Sith did to it." He looked at the floor; only then did the group notice the heavy, flaking coat of dark brown on the floor. "Looks like it needs blood to unlock. A lot of it, or I'm a gizka."
"Good," A woman's voice, seductive and cold at the same time, hissed into the chamber. A red lightsaber shot to life in the darkness, as a tattooed woman strode in. Stormtroopers flanked her on each side; they took firing positions around the One Sith woman, their weapons levelled and their stances disciplined. "Will you be surrendering, or will I have to bleed you personally?"
The debilitating wave of the Dark Side hit Trakkar like a physical force, causing him to take a step back and brace himself. Seeing as his Master was a recovering Dark Sider, Trakkar had become used to the dull thud of the Dark Side knocking on the door of his consciousness, but this woman’s presence was like nothing he had experienced before. Only in the colorful images of his secret studies back on New Tython had Trakkar seen such a powerful Dark Sider. But as the red saber cut through the darkness Trakkar was struck by just how potent a foe this would be.
Sensing his pupil waver before battle had even began, Sang reached out with the Force and spoke to his Apprentice. “Steady, boy, this is where you earn your keep.” While the words were kind coming from the Entar, Trakkar also felt a rush of courage course through his veins and knew it was his fellow Urrites controlling the Force to strengthen the young Protector and each other.
With no time to come up with a clear plan the six Jedi leapt into action, their training and instincts overcoming any other hesitation that might have crept into their consciousness at the sight of the intruder and her bodyguards. It wasn’t until a moment later that Trakkar began to sense his decisions and body guided by the Force and realized that Liam had begun to use his well-honed Battle Meditation to help guide the conflict like a great musical conductor. While his will was still his own, Trakkar felt like he was part of a whole, a single note in a grander chord of sabers and blasters.
It became obvious to Trakkar that Liam, Sang and Kaira were focusing their efforts on the Sith Lady, while he, A’lora and Mirus had taken the task of clearing out the Imperial Stormtroopers acting as her shield. While Trakkar desperately wanted to take in the battle around him and examine his housemates’ strategies on the battlefield, he also knew that his piece of the puzzle was important and that they were relying on him to keep the shiny white blaster carriers off their backs.
A quick squeeze of the trigger sent a beam of light racing from his trusted Bryar pistol toward the nearest Stormtrooper, sending him reeling back but not out of the fight yet. Another blast knocked a trooper to his knees while a flash of electricity came out of nowhere sending the trooper into spasm that eventually left him dead and smoking from his suit creases.
A swift glance and Trakkar caught Sang’s eyes as the Peacekeeper winked and seemed to revel even more in the killing. The Light Side teaches peace and justice, but Sang seems to enjoy killing at any time. I know I must trust the will of the House leadership but what lesson are they trying to teach me by placing me under the care of one so dark?
Trakkar was caught short as a loud thud reached his ears and the desperate cry of “Nooooo!” echoed through the entire chamber. Looking up, Trakkar saw the tattooed woman raise her ruby red lightsaber and prepare a death blow. Lying on the ground underneath her was the body of their leader, Liam, conscious but unable to defend himself…
Things had gone from terrible to worse in only moments. Kaira’s eyes saw it all happen; the wave that rippled in the force when her Quaestor hit the floor and failed to get up made her almost stop the battle immediately. It was only through the willpower granted to her through the Force that she remained defiant, her lightsaber glowing in hand with a blazing intensity. Then she did something no one expected. She felt an unyielding hatred boiling inside of her, a rage so powerful that it threatened to break the barriers keeping her darkest emotions in check. As the power of the Dark Side seemed to creep into her mind she surrendered to the hatred flowing through her veins like molten iron, using the strength of her anger to battle back the fierce woman.
With a trademark smirk Sang knew it was only a matter of time before Kaira would show her true skills in battle. The sudden and unpredictable retaliation forced the Sith woman on the defensive. Despite Kaira’s unrestrained emotions, the Jedi managed to keep herself from leaving Liam Torun’s damaged form helpless, remaining as a barrier between him and their adversary. This dark figure had not expected the group to stay so well connected, despite the loss of their leader unconscious on the floor. She had expected that the remaining Jedi would become disorganized, uncoordinated with the loss of the one charged with guiding their movements. Yet, Sang and Kaira had fought together in battles beyond counting. In the heat of conflict, they knew how the other would react. While one parried the incoming blows directed at them, the other would seek an opening.
As the battle raged on, Sang’s young apprentice felt an overwhelming sense of dread, his shots becoming wild and erratic, for he could feel the Dark Side’s influence on Kaira. His weapon fired, yet the staccato of blasterfire emerging from the barrel was inprecise. It was merely though the Force that he could keep his pistol steady while his mind battled away the Dark Side’s presence. For now, his eyes were trained on his Master and fellow Jedi Consular. They had worked so well as a team, but he had heard nothing other than their arguments over the entirety of the mission. How could they work so well together?
Over the sounds of battle, Mirus yelled at Trakkar. “Hey kid, keep your head in the game.” The Jedi warned as he sliced off the leg off an unlucky stromtrooper.
It was then that the woman smiled at the battle. “You see, I have already won. You have gone to dark powers to use against me.” She sneered in a snide, almost amused demeanor.
Quickly, and with the aid of the Force Kaira jumped back from the fight. The woman stopped and laughed. “You may think what you wish, Sithspawn. I am a Jedi.”
Kaira’s voice rang with such clarity and power that the woman was taken aback, but she felt it. They all felt it. The entire time Kaira had been fighting she had always been using the Force to help her Quaestor to heal his wounds. In order to mask her true purpose, she had turned to a bitter anger to act as a cloak of obscurity. Although Kaira could still feel its influence, the deception had worked; rising with his lightsaber In hand, Liam Torun returned to the conflict. As the shock melted from the woman’s face as quickly has it had appeared for the battle was far from over.
Her eyes, stained a sulfuric yellow by the Dark Side, flitted to her troops; she grinned as reinforcements arrived. "Destroy the Jedi!" She roared, flipping backward toward the door.
Sang and Kaira moved to intercept for a moment only, before a barrage of blaster bolts poured into the chamber, their combined light staining the shadows a brilliant red. The two Jedi fell back slowly, their blades weaving to catch the bolts; one grazed Kaira's arm, then her hip, while another burned a neat hole in Sang's robe. The heat of it sent blisters along his chest, eliciting a curse.
"Slag it!" He shouted. "We're pinned down here! We've got to run!"
"Jedi don't run!" Kaira snapped back. "They work together! Come on!"
Groaning with effort, she gathered all of her focus, hurling a telekinetic blast at the formation of soldiers; they stumbled for only a moment as the wall of their peers caught them, falling back to formation in seconds. It was enough; Sang and Kaira took the opportunity to dart to the side of the other Jedi, falling in line beside Mirus and A'lora. Bolstered, they kept the blasts at bay, but only just; soon, the deflected bolts began to vaporize the stone of the walls, blasting debris around in a thick cloud.
The Sith woman grinned at the sight, turning to sprint for the door. Her march was interrupted by a pair of blaster bolts; dodging the first, she batted the second aside, before hurling Trakkar backward against the wall with the Force. He hit with a heavy thud, his vision swimming for a moment as he watched her stalk over the frame of a wounded, groaning stormtrooper. Drawing a wickedly curved blade, she drew his helmeted head back, slashing his jugular. Sommelin looked on in horror as the man gurgled a last scream, crimson ichor pooling across the floor.
The door creaked, twisting open with a great release of dust; the Sith was quick to dart for the exit. Before she could get there, a brown-robed figure landed in front of her, emerald blade ablaze. "How many times must I kill you, Jedi?" She spat, taking up a combat stance. "Get out of my way."
Liam stared her down, determination on his face; his left hand went behind his robe, producing a second saber hilt. "You," He said, activating the weapon and brandishing both, "Shall not pass."
Scrambling to his feet, Trakkar dropped to a crouch to avoid errant blasts before diving for the fallen stormtrooper's gun, snatching it up. An ornate portion of wall tore free with a blast, its huge mass cracking the stones beneath it as it hit the ground; Sommelin didn't question fate, rolling behind the improvised cover and taking stock of the situation. To his right, Liam and the Sith woman wove and darted, moving so quickly that their blades seemed to roar and snarl at one another; to the left, the Jedi only barely held the line, firmly stalemated beneath a wall of blaster fire. When one row of troopers reloaded, the line behind it opened fire - they couldn't even hope to redirect the shots. Things were looking grim; every bolt in the chamber was aimed at the line of Jedi.
Every bolt, He thought to himself, realization dawning. Nobody was looking at Trakkar.
"Hold the line!" A'lora shouted, as a bolt grazed her montral; it burnt a black line across its surface, eliciting a yelp of pain. "Do not falter!"
"We can't keep this up!" Mirus yelled. "We have to go!"
A'lora growled, but she saw the futility; behind the weaving saber blades, she could see the organized troopers, each focused intently on their targets. She was searching for a weakness when one of them went down, a blaster bolt punching a wide, sparking hole in his chest. She blinked, as a second shot took a man in the groin; still another caught a stormtrooper's eye, blasting the back of his helmet out in a sparking shower. She yelled encouragement at the Jedi as the troopers peered over, spotting the new assailant; their momentary lapse in attention gave the saber-wielding Knights the chance to advance, forcing the stormtroopers to once again ignore Trakkar.
The Aedile grinned, watching yet another man fall. Now it was the troopers who were trapped, and the clock was ticking.
Across the chamber, the Sith woman roared, her saber leading the charge as she slashed forward with her knife. Impossibly, the old man flowed aside, like water through a channel; his green weapons came back around, striking and slashing against the defense of the Sith. Around and around they went, red blade crackling against green, her waves of rage smashing against his determination like waves on a cliff face. She roared, diving forward, trying to smash his defense aside with Djem So and go for the throat; his Jar'Kai expertise gave way to an impeccable Soresu defense, flowing and guarding. Catching her blade between both of his, his boot came forward in sharp kick to the sternum, knocking her backward with a grunt. His sabers caught hers, dragging down the blade to take its emitter off.
Rolling, she landed in a vicious attack crouch, knife still wet with blood. "Surrender, Sith," Liam said calmly, taking up a balanced posture. Behind them, the Jedi broke free, ripping into the trooper lines. "Your blade is destroyed, your soldiers are falling; you've lost this fight."
Her response was an inhuman howl, at once shrill from her own scream and disturbingly deep with the Dark Side. The sound rocked the entire chamber, sending Liam back as her hands shot forward, Sith lightning exploding forth from her fingertips. Torun caught the blast with a growl of effort, holding it back with his twin weapons as he slowly pushed toward her. Her strength in the Force far outstripped her saber technique; where her body had been worn down fending off three foes, her mind remained sharp, and her hatred had only grown.
"You will die!" She roared, her face's veins bulging out and going a dark purple. "I will destroy you!"
The sharp notes of a blaster rifle echoed over the lightning, and the Sith went rigid; four blasts ripped up her back, the last burning clean through her shoulder. Her lightning faltered before dispersing entirely, and she turned as she fell, her body convulsing as its nerves sent impulses down a spine that had been blasted apart. She craned her head up, drool escaping the corners of a mouth frozen in a snarl of dead nerves, to look at her attacker.
Trakkar stalked up, placing a boot on her chest; he met her eyes, anger burning in his, leveling his blaster barrel at her face. "You will kill no friends of mine," He said firmly, before squeezing the trigger. She was dead before her head hit the ground.
Her wickedly-curved dagger, still clutched between her pale fingers was the last to hit the ground, clattering on the smooth stone with a metallic ‘ring.’ Her death had barely registered to Sanguinius’ apprentice. Trakkar kept his full attention trained on the Sith, crumpled at his feet with an expression of pure disbelief spread across her pale features.
“Be calm now. It is over.” A’lora assured, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder. Stunned, Trakkar didn’t respond; the Bryar pistol remained clutched to his palm, trained on the motionless Sith at his feet, as if expecting the woman to rise as wretched, starving corpse. With her other hand, the Torgruta carefully reached for the blaster, lowering the weapon in his grasp.
“Looks like you’ve earned your keep, after all.” Sanguinius commented, summoning the crimson-stained blade to his palm. “You should keep this, as a reminder.” He explained, admiring its malevolent edge. An intricate design was carved into the blade’s surface in a tapestry of fine carvings, bearing the visage of a serpent poised to strike. Despite the knife’s unique craftsmanship, it appeared to be an ordinary blade in all other aspects. The only trace of the Dark Side remaining he could sense was the faint, distant echo of its former keeper.
Liam examined the Dark Jedi for several moments, noticing the smirk spread across his thin lips, but unable to otherwise sense any malicious intention. “I agree,” he stated, nodding his head, “But remember this: true courage is about knowing not when to take a life, but when to spare one. When all else fails, this blade will serve you well.”
Turning his attention from the preceding battle, Trakkar looked up at his Master. Removing the bloodied blade from Sang’s hands, he clipped it to his belt. “Thank you, Master. I am certain it will serve me well.” He remarked.
“Perhaps sooner than you might expect.” Mirus interjected, staring into the abyss that stretched beyond the portal. Below their feet, the blood of the stormtrooper had flooded the shallow basin carved into the stone floor, beginning to swirl and darken as it settled. Kaira stood at his side, dreading whatever awaited them in the beyond.
“Something grim lurks in the shadows.” She muttered, almost to herself.
“Yes, I can sense it, as well.” Mirus echoed, unclipping the weapon at his hip. The blade flickered to life, emanating a muted teal light. However, the shroud of the Dark Side persisted, closing in at it threatened to extinguish the weapon’s radiance.
“Our lightsabers will not be needed here. Whatever this evil is cannot be fought with using weapons.” A’lora observed, in a grim, foreboding tone. Her calm demeanor vanished in an instant, replaced with a disturbed expression. Liam Torun had seen the transformation in her behaviors before; usually occurring only moments after the Togruta witnessed an insight into the impending future. A master of the gift of foresight, he knew the woman often regarded the ability not as a gift, but as a curse. In this case, he conceded; for her disposition to change so disturbingly, she must have foreseen something dreadful.
“Are you all right?” He asked, in a concerned, but fatherly tone. Since the Jedi had arrived, she was charged with the leadership over the Jedi of Odan-Urr. Throughout the Dark Crusade, she had known nothing other than pain and suffering; occasionally, these emotions transformed themselves into a deep and destructive hatred. She did not inform him of her latest vision, that of her conceivable fall to the Dark Side, at the hands of the Sith Lord, Esoteric. It was a chilling thought, and one she was determined to circumvent.
“I am fine.” She replied, in the same remote tone. She knew it was a lie, but she didn’t care. Her visions had filled her with a forbidden knowledge, that of the inner workings of an ancient ritual. Sacrifice was an inevitable outcome, yet it remained unknown whether the risk was worth the reward. Fixing her icy gaze on the Dark Jedi of their group, she wondered if the Sith would resort to betrayal in the end.
For a moment, the group fell silent, staring into the abyss that lay beyond. The only sounds were those of the soft moans being carried from the deepest levels of the catacombs, and the explosions that shook the ground overhead. None of them had noticed as the Togruta strode forth into the darkness until her lavender skin was nearly bathed in shadow.
“A’lora!” Trakkar shouted, though his scream was muffled by some arcane phenomenon. He cursed to himself at the sorcery obfuscating his senses.
“You must take a leap of faith.” Her voice trailed into their thoughts, until each of them realized her words were carried through the Force. Mirus was the first to follow, stepping forward into the unknown. As the group’s defender, he knew that if something malevolent threatened their safety, it would have to go through him, first. When the darkness had completely sheathed his features, he took notice of the lightsaber’s blade, flickering out of existence briefly before returning for a split-second.
Sanguinius smirked. The darkness did not frighten him; he revelled in its power. As he stepped into the shadow, he felt invigorated. The cloud of obscurity fuelled his hatred as it wrapped his body in tendrils of the Dark Side. Never before had he felt such power coursing through his veins in desperation to escape. Without effort, he reached into the Force Nexus surrounding him, channeling its power to point in a particular direction.
“I know where to go.” He said, his words carried to the others effortlessly through the blackness.
“Come now, Trakkar. We’ll face this darkness together.” The Quaestor commanded. Kaira accompanied them as all three Jedi faded into the void.
Behind them, the sounds of stone against metal creaked deafeningly. The only source of illumination began to close off while the doors rotated inwards, replaced with a sickly crimson glow. Kaira recognized the reddish substance as blood, decorating the door in various icons spread across its surface. As soon as the images began to contort as the blood oozed down the door’s length, Kaira turned away in disgust. The Sith ritual was an abomination, unnatural in every possible respect. She also had no doubt that the sacrifice was also meant to power the incantation placed in this very room, centuries ago.
This safeguarding test was the first trial of many, a testament to the ancient Sith magic protecting the secrets of this ancient palace. Together or alone, each of them would need to combat their deepest fears, or perish.
The door shut behind them with a heavy slam, the creaking stonemasonry sealing the only perceivable exit heavy with its blood-infused Sith magic. The way barred behind them, the team of Jedi found their only refuge in their ability to press forward, for the darkness had stolen the idea of turning back from them. Whatever demons plagued their mind had to be quelled immediately, for there was no place for mind-killing fear here.
Every step they took through the passageway echoed loudly off the imperceptible walls, though they could not see the passage itself. It felt the very air itself was so thickly black that their vision would no longer work without the aid of the Force. Every breath they took in felt like it would choke their throats shut with an overbearing power and the musky scent of stale air filled their noses. It was as if nobody had been down here in an eternity, as if this place had been sealed shut for far to long – yet it still felt as if something was down here, watching, waiting. Something was ready to prey on them, to feast on their minds and consume them, willing to devour them whole if need be.
Every step they took began to feel heavy, their bodies turning sluggish with every agonisingly difficult motion. Their eyes began to cloud over and their minds swam with a lackadaisical inability to think straight and focus. The thickness of the air was almost palpable now, trying exceptionally hard to stop their breathing altogether and force them under their wills. As they struggled to resist this new, crushing barrage of sensations, their minds turned to nightmares. To fears, to shadows and evil, where the quietest monsters lay under their beds, shoved there for the times that they could only face them with an ounce of strength rarely conjured up for others to see. This, too, was a test. Were they strong enough to obtain the blade of Ferran? Were they strong enough to conquer the demons within?
If they were not, they would be brushed aside. The darkness would swallow them whole.
A’lora’s dreams were already constantly plagued with visions, ideas of futures that may or may not come to pass. Some she could affect and prevent with decisive action, perhaps occasionally the strength in her arm. Some simply never came to fruition altogether, whispered skeins of fate brushed aside before someone could weave them upon the tapestry of time. Some of them came true as the fates spun themselves together like fine silk strands.
Yet some were more terrifying than others. Some were friends dying, loved ones perishing. The Galaxy burned aflame. It was the curse of the seer, gifted with the ability of sight beyond sight so keen that the dreams simply did not stop. Rarely, however, were the dreams so deeply disturbing that they caused even the Aedile to flinch at their thought. She had seen this before, that her hatred of the Dark Brotherhood would consume her. It was the teachings of the Jedi Order that kept her darkest thoughts at bay. Yet, seeing herself at the side of Lord Esoteric, bound in the Dark Side by their shared hatred of Ashen and his marauding bands of Clans and Houses, of the hounds that the Lion kept at his beck and call… she did not know what to think or say of what she could see. The Togruta knew that it would take every ounce of her strength to overcome her hate and fight back. She had to, for the sake of her House, for the sake of her soul and sanity.
No matter what the Force chose to show her, she would not fall. This was like the other visions. Some were simply not real. This, too, she could brush aside.
Since birth, he had been born to fight. Mirus had been bred for war by his parents, a hunter and killer made to serve the greater will of the witches of the Dathomiri Clans. He knew death and had stared it in the face far more times than he cared to count. He had seen family die, of course. People died in internecine warfare. People were devoured by rancors or lanced cleanly through upon a spear’s jagged tip. Death was no stranger, after all, for it had even claimed him once by his own choice in order to serve the greater good. Sometimes it was the call of the darkness that motivated people to kill. It had been his driving force for so long. Now, however, he killed in order to protect people. He fought only those who harmed innocents – and avoided killing for the sake of it. He was becoming a far better person, atoning for the sins of his past life.
To see the heads of Liam, A’lora, V’yr, Kah and Revak arranged neatly before him was not a worry. After all, everybody died eventually, didn’t they?
Mirus looked down, feeling a warm sticky sensation upon his hands… and saw blood. A few different colours, mixed together to form streaks all across his hands and forearms. The five bleeding stumps before him oozed the same hues and he knew, instantly, that it was his fault. He had been the one to succumb, to slaughter them like animals. Their torn heads proved that he had all but snapped their necks and forcibly removed their skulls with his bare hands, if only to prove a point.
He had killed them all. His weakness. He could not resist the call of the Dark Side, after all. His fate was still no better than a common murderer. In the end, he was still an attack dog, a hound. He was no Jedi.
That was the greatest failure of all. Somehow, he would have to repent for his sins. One day. The cost of lives would come back to haunt him.
All of them had their own demons to face. Some were stronger than others, their minds able to resist the attacks – those who could not come to terms with their own darkness found themselves unable to stand, their bodies shutting down as their minds came under terrible assault. For them to proceed, however, they all had to be able to face their own inner demons and stand on their own two feet.
A’lora’s eyes were the first to open that this was only a shadowy visage preying upon them, her seer abilities allowing her to discern the truth of the matter and know that this was not quite her normal series of visions. She prayed, quietly, that the rest would open their eyes in time too.
The darkness...so familiar, yet so intimidating. Sanguinius had spent years feeling fear, pain, guilt, anger and rejection. He had experienced power, love and loss. He had lived amongst the Shadow Clan for six years, living by the adage, Light is limited; Darkness is infinite. The Entar had fought in the shadows, he had wielded them as weapons against his enemies, used them to strike down those he hated most.
Yet, now he feared those same shadows. His leave of absence from Arcona weighed heavily on the mind of the Equite. For so long, Sang had been in the darkness, the murky undertones of the Dark Side permeated his being, shaping him into the cynical, world weary, sociopath that he now was. The Anaxsi hid behind a facade, one of kindness to those who needed it most. He had helped his fellow Galereans because it suited him. The more powerful they grew, the more powerful he, as a Quaestor, grew. It wasn't kindness at all, Sang showed, it was selfishness masked by his actions.
He was good natured to his compatriots, yet he was always ready with a barbed comment, witty and designed to latch onto a person's weakest link and eat away at them inside, distracting them, forcing them to make a mistake. And when they made that mistake, he was there, ready with his lightsaber.
But now, all that Sang had once used as weapons against his enemies, turned against him. The darkness, the all consuming darkness ate away at him. Voices shrieked and laughed at him in the nothingness, insulting him and pointing out his foibles. Those he had helped in the Shadow Clan darted around him, their wraith-like forms wailing, accusing him of abandoning and betraying them. This much Dark Side energy was too much for the Peacekeeper to take. Too much for him to process, too much for him to use. He could attempt to reject the darkness and latch onto the Light that had surrounded him what seemed a long time ago, yet was merely seconds ago. Or he could seize the power inherent in the midnight black around him and focus what he could on escaping this test.
For a test, this certainly was. A test designed to eat away at a person's psyche, a test to separate the strong from the weak, the worthy from the chattel. The proud Entar was determined to be strong, to be worthy. Ferran's blade was a worthy prize for the person strong enough to take it. A lure great enough to drive the Assassin onwards. Fear had been a constant companion to Sanguinius during his time in the Brotherhood. He had used it to become stronger, to aid him in his quest. His brother, Timeros, had been a veritable beacon of dread, unconsciously affecting those around him, making them uncomfortable and sometimes even run away in terror, especially the students fresh from the Shadow Academy. A sight that had always made the Professor laugh.
His studies in the Shadow Academy had gifted Sang with knowledge, and as any self-respecting Krath would tell you, knowledge was power. He tended to agree with them. The darkness began to coalesce around the Anaxsi's fingertips as the Entar meditated upon the Sith Code.
"Peace is a lie, there is only passion." The voices began to lessen in intensity.
"Through passion, I gain strength." The shrieking suddenly cut off, but the wraith-like figures were still there, hauntingly floating in the darkness, their gray translucent forms intruding on Sanguinius' view.
"Through strength, I gain power." The forms of his former compatriots began to fade into non-existence.
"Through power, I gain victory." One by one, they popped out of existence and the constant fear slowly abated.
"Through victory, my chains are broken." The power of the Dark Side infused the Guardian, filling him with confidence and power.
"The Force shall free me." Sanguinius shouted, unleashing a burst of energy that shook through the darkness, disturbing it.
An eerie darkness surrounded Kaira from the moment she walked through the doorway. Just as the others stepped forward in front of her a mist engulfed them and they became obscured from her sight. This sent a warning shiver though her body as if the force was screaming at her to go back. What would happen if she kept walking? It was the dark side of the Force at work within this room. Kaira knew that much, for it was all around her, threatening to consume her.
What made her stop dead in her tracks was that the room had changed to show a small form on the ground. Her mind snapped as she saw the image of her daughter on the floor, insects skittering all around her. They were killing the small child as she screamed out for her mother. The cries echoed in her mind as her weapon snapped to life. All rational thought gone, she stormed towards the helpless victim, raising the violet blade in an effort to save the child…
…Then came the laugher from behind her.
The light from the purple blade bounced off the dark mist. A figure stepped from the shadows laughing. “I told you I would find and kill her someday. Watch as your daughter dies painfully and you can do nothing to help her.”
Sang’s voice was cold as ice as his smirk drove the darkness into Kaira’s heart. All she wished to do now was take off his head. He had to die; nothing mattered anymore as the Jedi forgot the test of the mist. Every bit of her mind lost to the Dark Side of the Force. She had fallen prey to the darkness as laugher rang from every corner of the room.
Just as the others were facing fears of their own so was their Quaestor, Liam Torun. All their fears seemed to be amplified and played out with the Dark Side controlling the scenes that played out before them. The room changed just as it had for all the others, but to Liam it was a powerful scene of the other Jedi with him. All of them lost to the Dark Side’s temptation. He had lost his House, his trusted companions had succumbed to the darkness, and becoming the very evil they had fought against.
He could not believe his eyes. How could he have let this happen? They needed him now more than ever and yet he was unsure of what path to take. The Dark Side clouded his mind with each choice that came into play. If he called out to them it might only drive them deeper into the shadow. If he tried to help them would he not be lost as well? Fear rooted him to the spot as he tried to make a choice, but would that choice cause more of the House to fall?
Each Jedi had a path they must walk, but for himself, he was leader of a Jedi House that was surrounded by darkness. How could he not see some of them fall? This House would not fall as long as he could be strong, yet he didn’t think at this moment he could be that strong leader they needed most. His head turned this way and that to see each Jedi, wondering if they could make their way back into the Light without him.
Then as the mist swirled once more around him he saw it, the fall of the Light. It was coming and it would be the worst nightmare of any Jedi. He saw all of his housemates turning on him. One by one they would be consumed by darkness. It was his fault he saw that now. His leadership of letting them make their own choice would be the downfall. Yes, he couldn’t do it for them, but he had to make some decisions. What would be the right one for right this moment, though?
He closed his eyes to focus on the Light and found the answer. This was a test, his choice was simple. To let the darkness work its way around each of his companions, letting them remember it was a test. They could overcome their fears if they let the Light shine through.
“You have now power over me. I know my housemates will take the right path. I cannot do it for them, they have to let go of their fear as I let go of mine.”
Only then did the images change once more around him. He was in a simple room with two doors. The way they had come in and the way they must go out. The others were there but masked, so to give each of them hope he called to them. “Remember the Light.” He could say no more.
“Remember the Light.” The words filled her mind as it drove back the darkness just a bit. Her mind became clearer as she saw this for what it was. It was a test by the Dark Side to see if she could handle her fears and still stay on the path of light. Could she? Had she just not proved that she would go right for a weapon if this illusion had been real?
Quickly she dropped her saber to the floor as it turned off. She turned on Sang and rushed over to where her daughter’s body lay. “I love you my dear little one. I cannot save you this time. I give you over to the Force as I shall do the same, someday.”
Kaira watched as the body faded as did the laugher from her enemy. She sat down and closed her eyes. There she called upon the Force to surround her in the Light and strengthen her to overcome such things in the future. A single tear rolled down her cheek as her body became clear to Liam once more. The old man walked over and put his hand on her shoulder.
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side. We have nothing to fear with the Force on our side. Everything has a time that it must fade. Remember the Light…” The words echoed though the room as if calling to the others.
Together they remembered. Together they saw Light in the Darkness, despite their personal fears—and in Sanguinius’ case, beliefs—and allowed the power of the Light Side to fill their bodies instead of succumbing to the crushing power that was the terror in the corridor. Together they stood and together they would conquer all – as their sabre barrier had proven earlier, they could do a great many things as a single, cohesive unit. Calling upon that power allowed them to conquer the darkness and pass the test of this shadowy chamber.
As if on cue, the fog lifted, revealing the stone-hewn passage to them in all its glory, letting them march forward until they passed through the hooded archway that opened up into the throne room. This place, suddenly, had become bedlam. There were already three forces opposing the Dark Brotherhood as they landed – the Imperial forces that had made planetfall alongside them, the One Sith forces led by Esoteric and his men, as well as the planet’s innate Sith magics and its cultists following its dark path. However, three more forces were now making their move on the throne room itself: the Plagueis forces led by Dacien Victae and Proconsul Legorii’s Arconan strike teams. The Shadow Clan and the Clan Ascendant were both making their moves now despite the withering fusillades of fire that rained down upon them. Finally, there was the Jedi strike team, Odan-Urr’s first and foremost, and some of its greatest. They had snuck through into the battle the back way, using a passageway warded by magics that none of them had dared consider a viable path.
Now the foes of the Light were paying for their folly.
An explosion rocked the building as a heavy laser cannon struck masonite and blew a support beam away, followed by the rapid-fire pinging of an Imperial repeating blaster as it cut down a full team of Plagueis soldiers. The throne room was under full siege, both from the outside and the inside, as forces tried to fight their way through a five-way all-out battle to claim the throne as their own.
When Quaestor Torun and his Jedi broke through into the bright lights of the throne room itself, they came into it with their lightsabers raised and their bodies steeled.
“We can’t take them all,” said Mirus loudly, trying to project his voice over the din.
“Use this corridor – it’s a more defensible position!” shouted back Sang, far more concerned with his own survival than that of the others. Whatever doubts they had about fighting five enemies had to be cleared from their minds now, before the Clan forces broke through the doorway and into the throne room itself and made themselves known to the Odanites.
There was no time for doubt, no place for fear.
Explosions ripped through the room, rending armour and tearing apart bodies. The screams and cries of the dying intermingled with the sounds of blaster fire. The cacophony of war was delightful to the Entar as he waved his compatriots forward in front of him.
The Imperial troops supplemented by One Sith Acolytes presented a united front against the internecine warfare that had the disciplined Shadow Clan troops firing upon the hordes of slaves that the Ascendant Clan had brought to the planet.
So far, the Urrites had fought off Imperials stormtroopers, defeated a One Sith Lady and confronted the Dark Side. Now they were presented with the messy detritus before them as several of the dirty and unwashed slaves of Plagueis’ throwaway army charged at them. With a grin, Sanguinius stepped forward, confident in his skills against the mere chattel before him.
“They’re mine,” his aquamarine blade flashed upwards and to the right, slashing the first slave in the face and killing him. In the same sequence of moves, the Anaxsi side-stepped the already dead Plagueian and brought his saber back to decapitate the second, while smashing the third slave in the face with his free hand, snapping cartilage and spewing blood. With a shriek of anguish, the third slave threw himself at the Guardian, who darted back towards his fellow Urrites, allowing the Twi’lek slave to impale himself on his lowered saber. The slave’s momentum carried him along the blade to within spitting difference of Sanguinius who disengaged the power cell of his lightsaber and headbutted the Rylothian, sending him to the floor.
Mirus and Kaira moved up past Sanguinius, their blades working in tandem through the rest of the Plagueian slaves charging them. “We need to move forward,” Kaira gritted her teeth, upset that she had no other choice than to kill her opponents due to the situation she found herself in.
“Agreed.” Liam thundered, the Quaestor surveyed his surroundings, calculating the best way to get through the antechamber into their destination. His Brotherhood opponents were known factors, the Consular had faced Legorii and Dacien on the battlefield before countless times during the Dark Crusade and knew how they fought. Added to that, he had the Anzati’s brother here with them could offer them a way of getting through the Shadow Clan’s forces. Sanguinius was a well known Arconan, his supposed defection to Odan Urr a mere three weeks ago could mean that some of the soldiers of Arconan Armed Forces wouldn’t know he had left.
On the other hand, the Imperials were definitely not a way through into the chamber, the Urrites lacked the necessary white armour to sneak through the combat. The Chronicler saw One Sith Acolytes fighting Arconan and Plagueian Dark Jedi, lightsabers rising and falling as the Sith tore themselves apart. Their incessant fighting was their weakness, only the unity of the Light Side could succeed.
And it would.