CH1: Corpses and Crystals.
The hunter looked down again, his lip turning up in disgust as the last of his ‘guides’ ran screaming from the edge of the ravine. Sure, occasionally the fog rising up from the gravesite would eddy and appear for a second like some apparition, but it would take more than the poor mimicry of a dark-lord to frighten Illian away. A real spectre of one of the deceased sith lords would be something different, though it was doubtful that anything was truly frightening to him anymore. Not since he lost his mind.
Grunting, Illian stood, picking up his pack, and began to walk towards the small stairway that descended down the cliff to the first bridge. This was known as dark-maw bridge by the locals (if you could call the small humanoid squatters that had set up camp nearby locals), probably due to the fact that it led to the first altar chamber in the network of catacombs that made up the burial yard of some of the most powerful Sith Lords history had ever known. Picking his was down slowly, careful not to use the force until necessary (after all caution was not only for the sane), Illian came to the bridge and was amazed by how far it actually spanned. From the edge of the cliff it only looked to be a few meters, but in fact it crossed nearly two-hundred feet. The way was treacherous, with a sheer drop to either side that would send the careless individual plummeting down several clicks to the bottom of the valley.
Illian paid no heed to any of this as he walked almost casually across the bridge, eyes focussed on the first stage of his quest, the Altar chamber. He reached it quickly, barely registering the titan statue that stood in the anti-chamber carved with the insectoid features of an ancient Sith Warrior. Instead his eyes began darting back and forth across the floor, searching for his prize: an Adegan crystal that would form the basis for his first lightsaber. It was said that the crystals here were special in that they could absorb some of the powerful energy that flowed through the valley during their growth, leading to unusual effects in the plasmic flow of a sabre using one. It was here Illian was hoping to find one that had captured the essence of one of the Sith Lords themselves.
The chamber itself was decrepit and crumbling, walls giving way to spidery grey vines while the wind that whistled through the cavern wore away the stone over time till barely any of the statues once intricately detailed face was visible. It was the same throughout the catacombs so ancient was the valley. This was all lost on Illian as he greedily searched every crevice for any signs of the precious stones.
The way an Adegan crop would grow was similar to that of gold found in quartz, only far more difficult to find. It was only through the force that one could identify the crystal itself from the vein it grew in. Rarer still, the crystals would sometimes ‘bloom’ from the vein like jagged flowers. The most valuable form of Adegan however, was the crystal formations that had no vein, simply forming in a place where the force was highly concentrated. This would infuse the minerals with accelerated growth, and resulting in the most powerful (albeit volatile) crystals. This was why Korriban had such powerful Adegans, especially for dark-siders.
Illian’s eyes glowed excitedly as he pulled away some decaying lichen to reveal a small yellow line running through the wall. A weak vein, but with the possibility of greater treasures further on. Following the trail with his finger, his senses reaching out into the crystal, probing for the one he would carry in his blade, he slowly made his way through the entrance chamber and out onto the next bridge. The vein went all the way to the middle of the bridge where it stopped abruptly.
“Sith-spit,” Illian swore violently, letting his black snow-coat billow out behind him with the wind. He looked around, wondering where to start next, when something sparkled in the distance. Squinting, he could make out the entrance of another chamber several bridges down. Only a large vein would be visible from this distance, so heart racing, Illian made his way towards the crystal. He passed through several other chambers, all similar in size and condition to the first, until finally he reached the bridge that crossed to where he had seen the gem. He reached the site, seeing the sparkling blue gem shining out at him, welcoming him. Almost tenderly Illian reached out and touched it, searching for the familiar warmth that would signify a force channelling crystal… and found nothing. The crystal was silent.
The day continued to yield disappointment after disappointment for the young Jedi as he made his way further and further down into the gravesite. So preoccupied with his task was he, that he didn’t notice Korriban’s sun setting gently, and the shadows of the Valley of the Dark Lords becoming deeper. It was a well known fact that no force user was safe amongst the ravenous spirits of the ancient sith once the sun set, wether dark or light, and Illian was no exception.
Fog swirled up to gently caress the Jedi Hunter as he followed trail after trail of crystals, each time finding nothing but dead gems. Whispered words seemed to follow him, only to fall on madness-deafened ears as Illian got more and more obsessed with his work. Already the wind had picked up immensely, howling through the tunnels and caverns like angry screams of the Dark Lords themselves protesting the desecration of their ancient tomb.
Through all this Illian laboured, travelling further and further into the black depths, soaked with feverish sweat despite the cold. All around him the tombs were taking on mysterious qualities, the statues seeming almost alive as the shadows made by the luminescent stones adorning the halls played across their faces. The stone seemed to be in better repair down here, sometimes seeming to be as new as the day they first held their forsaken charges.
It was in one of these chambers that Illian found it. The chamber itself was huge, empty except for three colossal stone figures that served as pillars for intricately carved ceiling. It was growing up through one of the titan’s feet, seemingly small, but as soon as Illian touched it he knew its worth was not in its size. It blazed out in the force like a beacon, power surging through it in rhythmic pulses. The Hunter’s heart beat with it, and he threw his head back and laughed in elation. As he did, his eyes brought the carvings on the ceiling into focus, and he stopped abruptly. Demonic faces leered at him while dancing on the corpses of hundreds of beings of all races. In the middle stood a figure in a long robe, lightening arcing from his hands, smiting those still alive with dark energy. His face bore a look of pure malice that made Illian smile, his own gauntlets tensing reflexively as he shared a moment with the being on the roof.
Then the moment was passed, his focus returning to the work at hand. Pulling out a small laser, he prepared to begin extracting the crystal. Before he started he turned to wipe sweat from his eyes and froze. There, in an anti-chamber just beyond where he sat was the biggest gem he had ever seen. His eyes flared up as he walked towards it, mesmerised by the yellow Adegan that sat nestled into a stone casket. In his broken mind there was no doubt it was the tomb of the character on the ceiling, and any crystal growing there must be powerful indeed.
He reached the Adegan in a trance, his hands moving of their own volition to begin cutting away the crystal. It seemed to call to him, inviting him to take it. Hours ticked by as he carefully cut away the stone until the yellow gem was nearly free. As he moved to cut the away the last fragment of rock he could almost hear the crystal talking to him.
*Yessssss, yessssss, cut away Jedi, cut till I am freeeeeeee…*
“Yes. Free,” Illian murmured as he raised the laser to the stone.
“Free. I must free…” He echoed the voice in his mind as the last of the stone fell away. Cupping the crystal in his hands he felt power like nothing he had ever experienced before. He laughed an insane laugh as his eyes blazed green fire, but something was not right. His laughter continued even after he had stopped, deeper somehow. He dropped the crystal and drew his DX-2, eyes darting across the room as he sought the source of the sound.
“Whats wrong Illian Syn? Don’t you recognise me? I am the crystal you so dearly wanted,” a voice mocked from somewhere nearby, the echo of the room making positioning impossible.
“Show yourself fiend. I am not scared of the darkness! I AM THE DARKNESS!” the mad Hunter screamed, but the laughter was his only reply. Eyes still scanning the room he bent to pick up his fallen prize. His metal fingers made contact with the stone and he was suddenly against the wall, crystal in hand, screaming as the most twisted powers of the force tore through his mind and body. In his pain he thought he saw a figure in front of him, laughing, bolts of lightening pouring from its hands, and a fear he thought he would never have again took hold. Darkness came, and the world was silent.
Waking up, Illian was unsure weather it was night or day. He realised he didn’t even know how long he had been lying there, curled around the yellow crystal. The crystal! He leapt up, kicking the evil gem from him, and was doubled over in pain as fire laced through his mind. Crawling over he retrieved the possessed Adegan and a voice re-entered his mind, clear and commanding.
*Know now the price of failure little creature. Go to Ton’Ju. There I will be reborn. Go, go, GO!*
Illian screamed again as pain twisted through his mind, as he scrambled to leave the chamber. The journey back through the catacombs was a haze, only the constant driving of the voice giving him any clarity. Finally after what might have been minutes or hours he was back at the cliff-stairs, and then he was back at the retribution. As he passed its reflective hull he caught a glimpse of himself. White hair now flowed around his head, and his face was gaunt, his eyes glazed. A smile of insanity crept across his lips, now grey and parched, as he boarded his ship and plotted a course for Tarii. All the while the voice goaded him and mocked him, hurting him when he was not fast enough in performing any particular action.
The stars spun into light as Illian set out to find Ton’Ju, wherever that may be.
ALL ILLIAN SYN TALES FOR PUBLIC REVIEW!!!
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