Shadows in the Darkness
Dark Side Adept Halcyon calmly walked down the corridors of the Clan Arcona headquarters. He was eager to begin his journey but he needed to complete his business before leaving his Clan. It was all too common for Consuls of Clan Arcona to leave on a sabbatical and never return and Halcyon did not intend for this to happen. He had already made contingency plans. His current destination was the apartment of his new Proconsul and long-time friend, Sith Warlord Syn Kaek.
Halcyon made his way in the darkness. It was night on the planet and very few personnel were awake. The Consul could, however, feel his Proconsul’s active presence – Kaek was freely broadcasting his signature. No one would willfully announce themselves as much as the Warlord was, especially with the Sith school of thought that Kaek came from. Perhaps he was distracted? Or maybe he was doing it intentionally? Halcyon knew of only one way to find out.
As the Adept finally reached the primary entrance to the Proconsul’s apartments, he straightened his robes and ran his hand through his emerald hair. He was not trying to look good for Kaek – certainly not! – but every man has his own pride and the Consul could feel a tingling in the back of his mind which indicated he should look, at the very least, acceptable.
The door whisked open as Halcyon pressed the small round button. He stepped into the darkened antechamber and passed into the living room. The chamber was lavishly furnished and a fire blazed in the fireplace giving the room a homey feel. It was surprising to see a Dark Jedi so cozily disposed! The Consul walked towards his friend’s bedchamber and tapped lightly to indicate his arrival.
“Yes, Halc,” Kaek responded through the door, “I’ll be with you momentarily.” Halcyon nodded without a word and turned to take a seat on one of Kaek’s couches. The fire danced magically and cast shadows on the wall. They captivated the Adept. The shadows seemed to be moving with a will of their own. Halcyon, amused, called upon the Force and invoked Arcona’s unique power of Shadowcrafting. He allowed his own shadows to duel against the wall. The shadows played out a grisly game of cat and mouse – with one, clearly a warrior, gaining the upper hand. The warrior shadow had an opponent who was much weaker. The weaker opponent was losing to the warrior until at the last minute it withdrew a dagger from its shadowy robes. As the scholar closed in to strike at the warrior, Halcyon’s concentration was disturbed.
The door to Kaek’s bedchamber whisked open and the Proconsul of Clan Arcona emerged. He was dressed in his robes and had his hood up. Behind him, a woman also appeared. She was dressed in the robes of a Krath Priestess and silently stood behind and to the right of the Warlord. The darkness of the room was not so great that Halcyon could not make out the features of Cymbre Kall of Clan Tarentum – formerly of Arcona. She said nothing and remained standing behind Kaek.
“My friend,” Kaek began in his slow, quiet voice, “What have you come to me for this fine evening?” Cymbre’s eyes shifted towards Kaek and she quietly left the room through one of the numerous doors leading to other areas of the apartment. Halcyon nodded with gravity.
“As you know, I am leaving to search for our beloved former Consul,” the Adept said almost sarcastically as if he fully expected to fail. “I expect you to remain in command of the Clan and to be ready to take over as Consul the moment you hear of my untimely demise. Let us hope that does not occur. I know even you, one of the most ambitious men I know, would not wish that upon me.” Halcyon smirked self-consciously and Kaek smiled thinly.
“Nevertheless, Syn,” Halcyon continued, “you already know all that I am telling you. I will warn you of something you perhaps do not know. I have felt a tremor in the Force. There is some danger ahead for the Clan. Have you felt it?”
Kaek, still standing, stepped slowly and without word towards the fireplace. He leaned on the mantle and looked towards his Consul. Halcyon had remained sitting and tilted his head slightly.
“I have felt it. I will be on my guard. You may rest assured that no enemy will threaten the existence of our Clan.” The Warlord was confident but not arrogantly so. Halcyon was pleased.
“Good, then I leave now,” he said. And with that, he stood up. “I certainly hope I have not disturbed anything important with my altogether unnecessary trip.” Kaek smirked and Halcyon grinned. “It is just that with so many of the calamities we have had to endure recently, I was anxious to ensure that you were just as aware as I am of what is going on and what might take place.” Kaek nodded knowingly.
“You can relax, Halc,” Kaek said calmly, “I felt it. You must either be getting old or you must be really paranoid.” The Warlord chuckled softly.
“Shush, Kaek” Halc smirked. “Anyways, I must be leaving – I’m sorry to disturb your evening recreation.” With one last knowing smile, the Consul briskly disappeared out of the room and left the Warlord alone.
Kaek gazed down at the burning flames. He concentrated on them and manipulated them with the Force. They were easy to control – as if moving chess pieces on a chess board. He caused the flames to twist and turn like dancers. As Kaek silently focused on the fire, Cymbre reentered the room. She walked gracefully towards him and stood to his side and behind him – much the same way as she had stood before. His back was to her.
“He does not know?” She asked quietly.
“No, he does not,” Kaek replied just as softly. The flames contorted into a swirl and whipped out into the air.
“He did feel something, though,” she offered.
“Yes, but he knows nothing. I have done well,” the Warlord responded. At his response the flame levitated into the air and floated slowly out into the middle of the room. It was now outside of the limiting structure of the fireplace but was instead being held only through the sheer will of the Warlord.
“You are sure he will not find Lan and come back? This is still a danger,” the Priestess queried again.
“Cym,” Kaek began, “You are far too cautious. You already know what my responses will be.” She nodded quietly. “The tremor Halc felt is a mask of what is truly to come. He fears an attack from one of our enemies.”
Kaek turned to face the Priestess. The flames were still suspended in the air and now separated into two snake-like tendrils twisting around each other. “He might even suspect Tarentum – you are here, after all.” She turned her head slightly and averted her eyes from his intense gaze.
“But it is not Tarentum,” she said after a brief pause.
“No, it is not Tarentum he needs to worry about,” Kaek responded with a smile. Cymbre’s eyes shifted back towards the Proconsul. The flames behind him split apart and danced separately. “I promised him no external enemy would harm us – and it is true that no external enemy shall harm us!”
“No,” Cymbre replied, “You said no enemy; not just an external enemy.”
“Ahhh,” the Proconsul chuckled, “You are correct. I should have clarified that to him. Oh well.”
“You are too manipulative, Syn,” Cymbre said with a small smile. “That wasn’t even terribly smart of you – you just omitted a few words.”
“Yes, I suppose you’re right,” he sighed complacently. “But the true test of my manipulation is about to begin.” As these words were spoken, the flames clashed together and formed a solid ball of energy. The Priestess reached out and touched Kaek’s shoulder.
“And if you should fail? Or if you should overreach yourself? You know that I am here for you.” Her words were fully of honey – her eyes were pliant and even affectionate. Kaek contemplated to himself how important it was to have someone such as her. It was all well and good to be in touch with anger and aggression but sometimes, it helped your sanity to have someone who loved you. Still, he didn’t deceive himself. They were Dark Jedi and she would just as well kill him the next day as express her affection tonight. And women could be far more dangerous than men. Kaek smiled.
“My dear,” he stated decisively, “I will not fail and I will not overreach myself. And of my beloved Clan there will only be two possibilities!” Behind the Warlord, the glowing orb brightened to an almost intolerable glow and then – it was entirely snuffed out. “Let us hope it is the former, rather than the latter,” Kaek whispered.
Quejo Bandon Drakai stood silently in the throne room of Clan Arcona. There was no one else there; everyone was typically late for the meeting. There was little he could do but stand around until everyone else arrived. This meeting would be important for the Clan seeing as Consul Halcyon had left the evening before and Proconsul Kaek wanted to explain what was going on so none of the members grew wary of another Consular disappearance. The Sith Warrior waited patiently and tapped his foot…
Quejo being slightly upset with his fellow clan members, reached into his pocket and pulled out a cigarette. The stench of Balimorian tack root and Chiss grasses flowed from his lips as he lit it with a torch mounted on the wall to his left. Just as he inhaled the first drag he heard footsteps echo down one of the nearby empty corridors. He slightly smirked as the Aedile of Oriens Obscurum stepped into the room.
"Just as I suspected. Not a clan member in sight." Sykes stated with clenched teeth.
Just as he finished his sentence the rest of Oriens Obscurum stepped into the room. The Quaestor smiled as the remaining members of Arcona poured in behind them.
Maybe we can get this meeting underway after all. Quejo thought to himself as he saw the Proconsul lazily walk into the room.
"Greeting's brethren. I'm sure you're all wondering why I've called you here. I have to inform you that our Consul has gone missing. Where he is, is yet to be known." Kaek stated, realizing that now would be the time for him to take control. " Since Halcyon has left and no one knows where he has gone, I will be acting as your Consul. And my first action will be to set up a search party. I'm going to hand pick a team that I feel will be capable of handling the job."
The newly proclaimed Consul paced back and forth eyeing the members of Arcona carefully. He then hand picked 4 members. Two from Oriens Obscurum and two from Qel-Droma. The first to be selected were Sykes Rokir Jade, and Khamier Sarin. The next to be selected were Laethan Ciarus, and Sashar.
"Men I expect you to find Halcyon, If not then you will regret your return." Kaek said with the tone of a true leader.
Quejo looked into the eyes of the self Proclaimed Consul and smirked as he was well aware of the Warlord's motives.
Why wasn't I picked Kaek? Quejo asked with his mind.
Your role in this will be an important one my friend. Kaek replied while stepping up to the throne.
Quejo smiled and sat on the steps leading to the throne while the remaining members of the clan retired to their chambers.
The Warrior then snuffed the cigarette under his boot and stood up to face Kaek.
"What do you want me to do?" the Quaestor asked.
Meanwhile in the hangar of the temple the so called "search party" was gathering rations and valuables that would aid them in their journey.
"I don't like the idea of sitting in the same shuttle with Krath scum. The stink is overwhelming." Sykes said to his Sith companion.
"Yeah well hopefully we'll get the chance to get rid of them when we land." Khamier said while sneering at the two Krath who were eaves dropping on the conversation.
"If you Sith plan on stabbing us in the back like cowards think again." Sashar stated with a concentrated look on his face.
Already the team was at each others throats.
"Instead of bickering like children let's get this mission over with." Laethan said with a firm tone.
"Yeah well the Consul we've been asked to bring back is a Sith in case you've forgotten. And I'll be damned if we need the aid of Krath." Sykes responded, snapping at Laethan.
The Krath growled as they carried their belonging's on board.
"Sykes, I'm getting a strange feeling about this mission."
"Khamier now isn't the time for your paranoia. But we should keep our eyes open just in case."
The four got on board and the door closed behind them as the shuttles engines instantly ignited. The rumbling of the engines let the four know that it was time to depart.
"You don't look so good Krath. What aren't you used to flying?" Sykes asked while laughing under his breath.
(I'm posting this for Sashar because he is having MB probs).
Sashar glanced balefully down at the Aedile before running a hand through his hair, letting out an exasperated breath of air.
“Just get this craft off the ground you glorified Chauffeur and we’ll handle the rest.”
Sarin was quick to bite off a retort in defence of his Aedile.
“Who said you could tell us where to go? We control the shuttle, we control our destination.”
Laethan shook his head in disgust.
“This bickering is pointless. Do you even know where we should start our search?”
Patiently, the Krath waited for a response. When it was clear that no such answer would come from the Sith duo, he continued.
“Exactly. When Sith go AWOL they have a nasty habit of going to Korriban. If he isn’t there then the planet will still provide us with a strong focus of the Dark Side where we can center ourselves and reach out, feel for Halcyon’s presence.”
Grudgingly, the pair of pilots remained silent. The logic was not perfect, but as they had no better course of action, it would have to do. Whilst the exchanges were going on between Laethan and the Sith, Sashar had slipped a hand onto a small pocket in his grey robes and pulled out a tiny eavesdropping device. Making sure to give off a feeling of bland irritation so as not to alert his travelling companions, the Mandalorian slid the device under a control console, tapped it once to activate the miniscule adhesive package that would secure it to the surface and tapped it a final time to turn it on. The whole movement took less than 2 seconds and he was positive that no-one noticed.
“You might want to strap in to the Passenger compartment, we’ll be taking off in a moment.” Sykes said, removing all emotion from his voice. He obviously did not appreciate the presence of the Krath, much less work with them.
Sashar and Laethan left the cockpit, and the Mandalorian made sure to shut the door behind him.
Sitting down next to his companion, Sashar reached into the grey robes (which he stubbornly refused to give up in place for Dark Jedi robes) to pull out a datapad. Flicking it on, an audio feed ensued, and he let out a tight grin.
“If, say, it would serve our purpose to…leave the Krath behind on Korriban, would you object?”
Sykes’s voice was easily recognisable. A chuckle from Sarin identified the other party.
“I’d object if we kept them with us, to be sure.”
“Good. Let them go on their spiritual journey, we’ll say they got lost among the tombs and we didn’t have time to find them.”
Sashar clicked off the audio feed and spared a significant glance at his companion.
“We’re going to need to watch these guys.”
Epis D'hak poured himself a glass of scotch, sighing as he remembered his last conversation with Denath, the ancient Jedi warrior that now inhabinated Laethan's body.
"I still think you should go," the super-human clone muttered.
"Do not get me wrong, D'hak," Laethan replied as he affixed his cloak carefully. "I care not for the fate of any leader of this Clan. What was once a kingdom is not even a memory." Laethan affixed his cloak carefully, then smoothed down his robes. "I owe them no allegiance."
"As acting Consul, Kaek now rules this Clan - for better or worse." Laethan shook his head at D'hak, who rolled his eyes. "If you would rather cower and mourn your forgotten empire, then I will go in your place." The Epis jumped to his feet. Laethan turned sharply, lashing out with the Force and striking D'hak to the ground.
"You dare accuse me of cowardice? In my time, Arcona was a name feared by your precious Grand Masters. Now it is a meak little kitten, ripe for the crushing. What is this Clan, other than a walking corpse?"
"Take it from a walking corpse, there is still some strength left." D'hak hopped to his feet. "A great soldier does not let his personal demons cloud the battlefield. He cares only for his mission, his duty. Your duty is the defense of this Clan - I suggest you live up to that."
"Do not imply that I am disloyal. I am my own valor, loyal to the end." Laethan ignited his lightsaber and swung at the clone. D'hak ducked it effortlessly and spun on the ground, sweeping out the boy's legs. He ignited his own blade and struck, but Laethan managed a block. "I would love to test your mettle," the young boy hissed, "yet some truth hides in your ignorant observations." D'hak relinquished his weapon and reached out, helping the boy to his feet. "I'll find this Halcyon, but not for what I owe you." The doors whisked open to witness Laethan's departure.
The Epis raised his glass as he sank back into a comfortable chair. "For what I'll owe you," he whispered, completing the boy's sentence. Laethan had a very sharp mind, and D'hak had no doubt that his show of loyalty would cost the Clan soon enough. The clone wondered briefly if he should find Halcyon first, but decided against it. Whatever Denath hoped to gain, he would have to bring back here eventually. This was his Clan, his home, and while he had been displaced by thousands of years, he remained loyal to his own idea of Arcona.
Within the hanger, Archpriest Frost observed the sith craft. A slight grin formed as he thought back of a time when Arcona would send him on a fools errand, however that time has past. The brotherhood as a whole believes him to be unstable, an uncontrollable force as it was better put by a former master, but that never bothered the Archpriest. He enjoyed his seclusion.
The sound of foot steps and a familiar voice broke the Archpriest from his thoughts. "Frost?...."
Turing slightly Frost came face to face with Strategos whom continued to speak.
"...You did not attend the meeting."
"I know of the meetings details, there was no reason for me to attend" Frost replied holding a hand up to examine his fingernails that had recently been cut and filed to represent claws.
"That is not the point. Arcona is in a state of unrest and all members must show their.." Strategos, having been cut off grew angry.
"Show their loyalty?" Frost questioned "You know better than anyone of my loyalty to this clan." He spoke with a great anger in his voice.
Strategos placed a hand on Frost's shoulder attempting to sooth the archpriest of his anger. "Frost, I was not questioning your loyalty to Clan Arcona." Letting out a slow sigh, Strategos walked passed Frost, and into the main hanger floor. "It's just that, the old ways are dead Frost, I have come to terms with this and you must to. I feel that if some of the elder members show their support for change, newer members will also catch that fever"
Frost looked at the floor before taking a place next to Strategos.
"I understand" Frost in a calm tone once again.
With that the two of them stood in silence as they watched the sith craft make final preparations before taking off for its destination.
After what felt like hours, Laethan sighed irritably and rose to his feet, marching to the cockpit. "What are you doing?" Sashar asked, but the young boy ignored him. The doors to the cockpit opened, and Laethan greeted the Sith with a mutally spiteful glance.
"What do you want?" Sykes demanded gruffly.
"Are we approaching Korriban?"
"I'll tell you when we're approaching Korriban," the Aedile replied, "now be a good boy and sit down." Laethan glanced out the window, pointing at a specific planet.
"Then tell me now," the boy said, recognising their destination. "Bring up a map of the planet."
Sykes turned back to the controls, under Laethan's almost curious glare. "Show me where you are going to land." He continued to ignore him. "Comply, Warrior," the Epis ordered, emphasising the rank with particular disdain.
"I am an Aedile of a military House. You are a bookworm. I am in charge of this mission." Sykes winked at his lackey.
"I am the only one of us strong enough with the Force to pinpoint Halcyon across the galaxy," Laethan countered. "To do so I need to be in a specific place. You can dredge through the tomb defences for hours to get nowhere if you wish, or you can take me to where I need to be in a fraction of that time. Make your choice." The two glared at each other for a few tense minutes.
Sykes grudgingly pressed a button, displaying a map of the planet. He rotated it to match the cockpit view, and after a little study Laethan pointed at a location on the far side. "This is a safe zone. Land here, and we march half a mile north to a small structure that serves as a focal point of the Dark Side, made by Marka Ragnos to find the traitor Okemi."
"Surface scans don't reveal anything in that area," Khamier replied matter-of-factly. Laethan smirked.
"It can only be found by those who have seen it. A little trick of the Force that the ancient Krath prepared at Lord Kun's request." Sykes raised an eyebrow, to which Laethan only turned and left, firing off one last comment before the doors slid shut: "Now be a good boy and land the ship."
The newly proclaimed Arcona Consul sat lazily back in his chair. He had only been Proconsul for a few days before he had assumed complete control of Arcona – certainly a new record in transition time! Halcyon’s lavish office was now his but Kaek had been smarter than most other usurpers. Instead of claiming that he was the permanent Consul, he had instead indicated to his summits that the office of Proconsul would remain open and that he would only wield Consular powers for a time: until Halcyon was recovered or declared missing. The fools couldn’t see past their own ambitions and were only angry at the fact that none of them would get to become Proconsul. No one suspected the true reason – and no one would be able to figure it out until the very end of everything. By then it would be too late!
The Warlord leaned forward to Halcyon’s former desk and puffed on his pipe a little. It was time to stop musing and get to business. Quejo and Gaius were supposed to meet with him at any moment. Kaek, sensing their approaching presence, sat up straight and brushed himself off.
The two men entered. Quejo, in his usual severe manner, walked forward briskly and stood before the Consul. His pale blue skin seemed to glow in the dim lighting of the room. His eyes were intense and his scar indicated the many battles he had been in as a Sith Warrior. Though the scar was not earned in his time as a Warrior, it was a strong symbol. Gaius, his pupil, was less conspicuous and less threatening. He stood a few feet behind his Quaestor and said nothing.
“You have called, Kaek?” Quejo said – straight to business!
“Yes, gentlemen,” Kaek began. “I have called you here to discuss something that has been particularly disturbing to me of late. You two understand the importance of Halc’s disappearance?” The Quaestor of Oriens Obscurum nodded. Kaek seemed unconvinced. “No, you fools, I am implying the political implications within the clan – not your prospects for promotion!” The Consul practically spit the last words. The two warriors reddened and frowned almost simultaneously.
Kaek took another puff from his pipe. “Gentlemen, let me explain this to you in terms even you can understand. Oh!” Kaek paused, “Forgive me for being so rude to you. I have not been in the best of moods lately.” The Warlord sighed and seemed to moderate his abrasive attitude. “You two must understand something of politics; you are Sith.” They nodded.
“Very well, let me explain the intricacies of this to you. With Halcyon gone and my claim on power being very tentative, Strategos and his allies in Qel-Droma see this as a good time to advance their ambitions. I am not in the best of positions right now.” Gaius, behind Quejo, nodded knowingly. Kaek continued.
“Strategos would love to usurp the Consular throne from me – and theoretically from Halcyon as well. He has always been aching to do this.”
“I would dream of nothing like that, Syn,” Quejo said pliantly.
“Silence Quejo,” Kaek commanded. “Do not take me for a fool. I know that everyone with half a shred of ambition would like to ascend to the Consular throne. And you have more ambition than most.” Cowed, Quejo said nothing but nodded and glanced at his feet.
Kaek set his pipe down onto his desk. “Listen,” he started, “I’m only asking you to do this because I trust you. And not as in I think you won’t lie to me but in that I’m sure you both understand that I am not to be crossed. You have more to gain by serving me than you do by going against me. And if Strategos thinks he can take control of Arcona with his pitiful little House, he is going to find out there is more to the Brotherhood than how fast you can swing a saber, how well you can write propaganda and lore, or how well you can pilot a ship.”
Kaek’s eyes jumped from man to man. “I am asking you gentlemen to support me firmly and without question.”
“Without hesitation, Consul,” Quejo said.
“Good. Now, no one is to know of our little meeting. Do not communicate with anyone in Qel-Droma. In fact, I would recommend you start sending your spies there now. Their first target will undoubtedly be you two. If he cannot subvert your fleet, he will want to crush it. You present a great danger to him because of your military force. He will attack you first – I am sure of it.”
“Should we mobilize our forces now?” Quejo asked.
“Mobilize now but do not attack until the Qel-Dromans make it perfectly clear their intent. I want you to seem as defenders – not attackers. And I am not kidding when I say send your spies. The Krath are wily.”
“Is there anything else, Consul?” Quejo inquired.
“No, you may go,” Kaek responded.
With that, the two men bowed and turned quickly. They exited the room. Kaek reached out and scanned their minds. Yes – they had bought it. Clouded by their own ambition and House pride, they had immediately started to suspect Strategos and the Qel-Dromans. They hadn’t even questioned Kaek’s orders! There was a shade of doubt in Gaius’ mind but Kaek reached out casually and slightly adjusted his thoughts. Quejo would convince him. This was becoming all too easy. Kaek picked his pipe back up and began to smoke again. He reached out with the Force and suppressed the departing Force signature of Quejo and Gaius. He sensed his next appointment approaching.
With a flourish, Strategos Thanatos Entar Arconae and Paladorian Teranioklon Entar entered. Strategos, decked out in his usual lavish vestments took up position to Kaek’s left. He smiled pleasantly. Paladorian, looking a lot darker than his Quaestor, stood to the right. His yellow eyes looked at Kaek neutrally from within his raised hood. Kaek leaned forward and placed his pipe again on the table. He clasped his hands in pleasure.
“Gentlemen!” Kaek exclaimed, “So good of you to come see me today. I trust all is well with Qel-Droma?”
“Yes, all is well,” Strategos smirked. “We do, however, wish that we’d have a stable Consul for once!” The Archpriest chuckled.
“Well, hopefully we won’t have the same problem! I don’t intend to go anywhere,” Kaek responded with a smile. His face suddenly became grave. “And that is why I have called you here.” The Archpriests both became more serious.
“What is it, Syn?” Strategos asked.
“It is true that in the past you have been particularly ambitious, Strategos,” Kaek said while raising his hand towards the Quaestor. Strategos fidgeted nervously. “I dare say, almost to the point of treason.”
Strategos opened his mouth to speak but stopped when the Consul raised his hand in the air. Paladorian moved nervously. “I did not call you here to censure you or berate you, my friends.” The Warlord smiled again. The two Krath relaxed a bit. “Instead, I’m here to enlist your aid – and perhaps help you satisfy some of your ambition!” Strategos perked up.
“What is it that is bothering you?” Paladorian spoke this time.
“I will be to the point,” Kaek said. “My hold on the Clan is tenuous at best. There are those within Oriens Obscurum who question my legitimacy and are suspicious of Halcyon’s disappearance. They, like you, are also very ambitious. You know of what I speak?”
Strategos nodded. “Yes. You are speaking Quejo and Sykes who are not quite experienced enough to know not to challenge their Consul openly.”
Kaek smiled. “Clearly, you are as astute as I hoped you were! Yes it is indeed the House summit I speak of – and probably many of their rank and file members feel the same way. I don’t have to tell you that I consider them a threat. They control our navy, after all. Fortunately, we have only to worry about Quejo since Sykes is gone.”
“What would you have us do? And what do we get out of this?” Strategos asked.
“To the point, eh? I like that” Kaek grinned with pleasure. “You must prepare for battle with Oriens Obscurum. Now that our houses are no longer constrained by orders, you have Obelisk soldiers at your disposal and I trust you know how to use them. If it looks like they are about to move, you should attack them. They will undoubtedly claim that you are trying to take me out. But that is not the case, is it gentlemen?”
The Archpriest turned his head slightly. “That would depend, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, you would be properly rewarded of course,” Kaek stated. “In the midst of a possible coup, I would be inclined to assert full Consular authority and declare Halcyon officially missing. After your successful suppression of Oriens Obscurum, I would need a new Proconsul. And I think we can all assume who would fulfill that role. Additionally, Qel-Droma would need a new Quaestor.” Kaek looked over at Paladorian. “I think if we work together on this, we all will emerge victorious.”
“I see the wisdom of your words, Syn,” Strategos said with a sly smile. “I will engage our spy network at once.”
Kaek waved his hand and the two men departed. This was simple. These Krath were blinded by their own ambition and their deeply ingrained prejudices against the other orders. Controlling them was no more difficult than controlling Quejo, Sykes and Gaius. It was only a matter of time before civil war within Arcona broke out. What would appear as a petty power struggle to other Clans would be much more than that to Kaek. This impending civil war was only the first step on a long journey for the Clan. The Consul sighed contentedly and leaned back in his chair. He grabbed his pipe from the desk and continued to smoke.
Quejo walked briskly towards his shuttle. Gaius was at his side. “What do you think, Gaius?” The Protector pursed his lips and then spoke.
“I am suspicious. It is obvious to me that Qel-Droma and Strategos will press for more power as they usually do but I am anxious to see what the search party for Halc accomplishes. Also, I think Kaek is lying through his teeth.”
“Really, why?” Quejo asked.
“He knows we’re ambitious. He wants our support not because he feels threatened, but because he wants our loyalty. We need to eliminate Qel-Droma fast and then use our position of strength to negotiate with him – or even remove him,” Gaius explained.
“Gaius,” Quejo smiled, “If we fight Qel-Droma, which we most certainly will, we will not be strong after their defeat. We will be drained of men.”
“Yes, I know. Perhaps I am wrong,” Gaius responded. “Kaek very well can’t be Consul of a nonexistent Clan! I should not have second-guessed him.”
“No,” Quejo said. “You were right to think it over. I hadn’t though of that. I guess even I can learn from you. We need to prepare for battle though so let’s hurry up.” The two men walked on.
“His deal is good,” Paladorian stated abruptly. The two leaders of Qel-Droma were making their way to their shuttle.
“Yes,” Strategos admitted, “It is a very good deal. And I know he is not lying. He needs our support and both you and I could feel that through the Force.” Paladorian nodded his agreement. “The only trick is we need to mobilize faster than Oriens Obscurum can. That will be difficult. As soon as we get back to base, contact our spies and mobilize our forces while I meditate.”
“Understood, Strat,” Paladorian responded. The two Archpriests walked slowly on until they made it to their shuttle.
With the departure of the two shuttles, things were in motion. Kaek sighed with ease at the report of the departure. He reached out with the Force. There was a voice waiting for him.
“It goes well?” the voice asked.
“Of course, they bought everything,” Kaek responded telepathically.
“Good. With you as Consul, everything will go as planned. There will be no interference from any resident Dark Adepts!” the mysterious voice laughed in Kaek’s mind.
“I think perhaps you underestimate the chances of Halc returning!” Kaek responded.
“I think we all do,” the voice returned, “But I’m sure we’ll be ok for the time being. Continue with the operation and stay in touch.”
The voice dissipated and Kaek was left in the completely darkened room. He rocked in his chair for a moment and then stood up to leave. Things were going well indeed.
When Laethan re-entered the passenger module of the shuttle, Sashar raised a questioning eyebrow, which was again ignored. Inwardly sighing at the complete lack of camaraderie between the two house-members, Sashar vowed to prove his worth to the young Epis. Sashar was new to the House, he was raw, untested, and didn’t display the intrinsic evil aura that most of the others gave out. It seemed as though the Dark Side hadn’t permeated him as it had his colleagues that shared the rank of Archpriest. To a certain point of view that would be correct. The Mandalorian wasn’t truly Dark Side, but more…grey, undecided. It was almost as if Sashar was waiting for something.
Dismissing the thoughts of his force-orientation, Sashar did pick up a sharp stab of warning before his mind cleared. Blinking in surprise, Sashar let out a gasp in exclamation, easily identifiable to the other Krath.
Looking over at Laethan, Sashar was surprised to see his expression mirrored in the boy’s.
“You felt it too?” the Mandalorian queried tentatively.
“A spike of warning, it felt as if it came from…home.” The youthful voice with its strangely serious content drifted off as the Epis tried to re-establish a link that would provide more insight. However a brittle voice cut through the artificial speakers, forestalling any further meditations.
“We’ve landed, in case you haven’t noticed. Run along and play among the tombstones.” Sykes’ voice dripped in derision, and Sarin’s muffled laughter could be heard.
The com clicked off and both the Krath stood, stretching.
“You know what you’re looking for out there. I’ll stay here and keep an eye on the Sithlets, make sure they don’t try and leave without you.”
Laethan nodded once and set off. Sashar slipped into the cockpit and sank down into one of the rear seats, watching the pair studiously a moment before saying “You two go stretch your legs, I’ll finish up here.”
Guardedly, Sykes threw a contemptuous glance over his shoulder. He considered Sashar lower on the pecking order of the shuttle than waste receptacle apparently. Shrugging, Sashar paused a moment more before continuing.
“Look. We need to get along on this trip, We want Halcyon back as much as you do. I’m offering to help you shut down the shuttle so you can have a breather.”
Sashar’s earnest expression didn’t sway the Sith, but it was enough. With a grunt, Sykes got up and looked over his shoulder as he was heading to the ‘fresher, leaving the Mandalorian and the Zabrak.
Inwardly, Sashar had to work overtime to shield his emotions. This was going to be almost too easy. Moving into the pilot’s seat and absently running a diagnostic on the weapon systems, Sashar concentrated on the sand outside the shuttle in the valley, making it swirl about in an almost random fashion, whipping up stray debris such as dead leaves and the like. Catching the Zabrak’s eye with the maelstrom of movement, Sashar himself frowned, partly as an act, partly in concentration as he manipulated the force and shielded Sarin from sensing it.
“The hell is that?”
Receiving no answer from the mildly curious Iridonian, Sashar pushed his hand.
“Whatever it is, I don’t like it; I’m raising the ramp.” His hand moved to the controls, but was stopped by the Jedi Hunter’s.
“Don’t be such a coward. I’ll go and check. You hide in that cabinet if the breeze has your underwear in a twist.” Sarin sneered, and the Mandalorian tried his hardest to blush; not an easy feat.
As soon as the Iridonian left the cockpit module, Sashar flicked the navigation computer on and password locked it for use, then activated a remote activation sequence for the main sublight engines. They wouldn’t activate without a signal from his datapad. Closing the consoles off as if he hadn’t touched them, Sashar let the wind drop just as Sarin got to the bottom of the ramp and settled in to the acceleration couch to get comfy, letting the tendrils of his mind feel out across the barren landscape of Korriban, trying to get a hold of Laethan.
Laethan looked over his shoulder at the shuttle. He had only come two hundred meters, with a long distance yet to make. He sighed, wondering at what he had felt earlier... he ran. He didn't get very far. Frowning, he chose to walk instead, and suddenly he began to notice how difficult that task was. He chided himself for being so pre-occupied; he would have to be alert here, on guard, ready to respond to the slightest urgings of the ancient Sith Lords entomed on this planet. "1.4 Gravity," Laethan muttered, remembering that he had encountered similar difficulties on his first trip here. This body was a good deal smaller, but it would have to do. He turned to the Force, using it to fuel his stamina.
An hour later he felt the echoing presence of the stone. He froze immediately and sank to one knee. A gust of wind flickered past him, scattered around some of the dust. He waited a little longer, straining his senses for any signs. He did not find the one he was looking for, however, and was instead blasted in the chest by a fist of air. Quite suddenly a sandstorm starting brewing, the wind whipping him across the face with painful lashes of dirt. He began to shivver as the temperature in the immediate vincinity dropped sharply. Who are you that disturbs the dead?
"One that has already passed," Laethan shouted, "one that has slept for many centuries." The boy fell to the ground, pressed down by the powerful winds. "Master Arcona, shield me," he whispered.
You would beg your master's protection? the voice continued. How weak. You shall perish where you crawl. Laethan grit his teeth together, shouting a reply that was drowned by the fury of the wind.
Suddenly the storm subsided, and the planet grew a little warmer. Laethan breathed a sigh of relief. I welcome you, Lord Denath, the voice greeted him. You were once a fledgling Master, but now you are a mere Equite. What a pitiful shell you now inhabit. You have paid the owed tribute of blood long ago; seek your question and be answered. The boy climbed to his feet, a little bruised and scratched but mostly unharmed.
"I am searching for one who is lost," Laethan said, closing his eyes. He began forming a picture of Halcyon, though it wasn't a very good one. While his host body had known him, Denath himself had no memory save that of Halcyon's coronation. He hoped it would be enough.
The one you seek is lost only to those who search for him. The boy frowned, but kept his peace. His journey is his own. Disturb him not.
"Clan Arcona requires his presence," the boy replied.
You defy my words?
"Where is he?" Laethan demanded, mustering as much inner strength as he could. The fear remained stronger though; the Dark Jedi buried with the stone was not to be crossed lightly.
His journey is his own. Your paths shall cross again, but only when they are meant to. Laethan sighed, but inclined his head respectfully. However... the voice continued as the air grew cold once again, I owe you tribute for your weakness and defiance. The young boy screamed in pain as claws of Force raked the right side of his face. Blood splattered across the ground as he was struck down.
After the cold had passed, Laethan raised himself to his hands and knees. A deep patch of ice had formed in front of him, creating a mirror in the sand. He gulped nervously but knew better than to ignore it. Peering forth, he caught sight of his reflection. The guardian would not risk such an insult as to kill him; indeed, the spirit even healed him. The healing had left three jagged white scars across the right side of his face, forever branding him for his weakness. Laethan crawled back to his feet and wondered briefly if he should call for help. A chill across the back of his neck told him he'd better not. Despite feeling rather tired he began marching, resting a comforting hand on his lightsaber as he considered the words of the guardian carefully. They would have to report their failure to Kaek and see if he had any leads. If not then they'd return home to whatever situation the Force had warned him of earlier. He quickened his pace, not wishing to dwell any longer on this planet.
Sykes growled as he reached out with the Force. The Dark side filled his body as he made his way down the shuttles ramp and headed towards the nearest sand dune. Sykes raised his comlink. "Sarin, check the engines incase we have to rush out of here. Korriban has a tendency to have unexpected surprises. And don't leave the damned Krath in the cockpit too long. I don't trust em." The only reply was two quick clicks of the comm. The Sith warrior clipped the commlink to his collar and made his way over the sand dunes.
Sykes shook his head and looked around. He hated having to work with the Krath but not because they were Krath. He hated working with them because of the rivalies. Sykes held the Krath no ill will at all but kept that fact secret. It was one of his deeper secrets. Sykes had been a member of Qel-Droma for a time and knew much about them and how they lived their lives. Sykes' own brother, Vassan Rokir, was a Krath. His wife, Tay was a Krath and even his mistress had been a Krath.
But now all of them were gone. Vassan had no contact with him, his mistress had gone rogue and his wife had been stolen from him and he knew not where she was. He had no contact within the Krath community but he did not fear or despise them. He just didn't want to lose another one of them. Therefore he did not associate himself with them very often.
Sykes looked over the sand and over towards the tombs of past Sith Lords. He could feel the Force here. Laethan was right to think of coming to korriban. However he was wrong about him being the most able to reach Halc. Sykes was by far the most capable in doing that. The anzati looked at his right hand and saw the Rokir family ring on his hand. Halc was a Rokir and had a very similar ring. The stone was specially in tuned with the Force and allowed the Rokir family to contact each other in times of need. Sykes knew that if Halc was in trouble, Halc would hear him.
Sykes focused on the ring. He forced his consciousness out through the Force and made a call to Halc. If Halc was truely in danger he would hear it. He waited but heard no reply. Sykes sighed and shook his head. there was something odd going on.
"Come in." Strategos spoke before Paladorian was able to knock at the door. Paladorian entered the room casually, closing the door behind him. Taking a place in the middle of the room the Aedile bowed his head slight before speaking. "I was able to contact many of our spies. However a few are currently on side missions for the Brotherhood."
Picking up some data chips Strategos looked up from his desk "Excellent work, what of the fleet?"
"The are preparing as we speak. There are reports that the fleet belonging to Oriens Obscurum has already began to assemble in a distant system" Paladorian posture became more relaxed as the conversation progressed.
"Damn, they waste no time." Replied Strategos continuing to organize his desk. "I would like you to over see the mobilizing of our forces."
"Understood" Paladorian spoke with an agreeing tone.
Sitting back to look over his desk, Strategos made a minor adjustment before continuing the conversation. "When all is ready I want you to depart with our forces.
Paladorian raised a brow "Your not going?"
Laughing Strategos stood "Of course im going, I will meet you there." Strategos walked around his desk to meet Paladorian in the middle of the room. "I have some business to take care of here. Paper work, that type of thing"
Paper work? What type of paper work would be more important than this? There has to be more behind his staying here. Paladorian thought to himself.
"Very well Strat" Paladorian responded.
Holding the door open Strategos bowed his head slightly as Paladorian walked out. After watching the Aedile round the corner Strategos closed the door and made his way once again back to his desk retrieving a secure comlink and giving three quick clicks. A moment later a distorted yet distinguishable voice came across. "What is it you require?"
With that Strategos sat in the chair behind the desk. "I have a favor to ask of you......"
“I have a favor to ask of you.”
The Qel Droman Quaestors statement went without a reply for a few long moments.
“There is not much that would have you calling me, asking for a favor. Especially now that I have arrived home. Mantessa is not a hop skip away from Arconae, Entar.”
Sighing Strat’s shoulders slumped as he looked at the comlink. He knew it would be difficult to talk to his old friend. At one time they had been close. Now, now he was unsure of who was close to him anymore. Neither him or the rest of his family were. Nor were the Rokir’s for that matter.
“If it appeases you, I have some information for you as well as the favor.”
Silence. Taking it as a cue to continue Strat shrugged.
“Halcyon has gone missing. Kaek has taken over duties of Consul keeping his position as ProCon. It’s also his belief that Oriens Obscurum will wage war to take him out and set themselves up..”
Strat could not finish the sentence.
“Waitaminute! What do you mean Kaek has taken over duties of the Consular Office!?!” The confusion was apparent as well as something else. Something that Strat could not place. “What happened to Lan? What does that damn Rokir have to do with anything anyways?”
“Lan? He went missing. No one has heard from him for some time. I’m guessing about the same time you’ve been gone.” Strat explained.
“Missing! Damn you Entar tell me everything now!”
“I have a name Priest. You would do wise to use now that I am your Quaestor.” Strat said matter of factly knowing full well it would have no affect on the person he was addressing.
“As for your questions…” Strat started before he could be interrupted again.
He was met with silence for some time before he remembered that he was talking to someone. Looking curiously around his office he wondered if he should say anything or not when the person on the other side spoke.
“So Syn wants you to take the house and take on Oriens Obscurum?”
Nodding Strat turned to face the source of the voice before realizing once again he was speaking over a comlink.
“Correct. Now listen, I want you to come back. There have been many changes regarding membership since you were last here. Not a lot of your friends are around anymore.”
“Nor is my family.” There was a trace of bitterness and sadness almost as if there was an emptiness in the person’s voice.
“That is not what I contacted you to talk about…” Strat started.
“I know it’s not Entar! But I just lost my whole family and what was left of the Kainai to brutal feud with the Rokirs! Who had the enlisted help of the Arconan fleet! And you want me to go back so you can look for Halcyon to put him back in his place as Consul! Not only that you are blindly following Kaek’s orders to take on Oriens Obscurum no less!” The person shouted obviously having become angered at something the Qel Droman Quaestor had said.
“The orders are to prepare to for battle against Oriens Obscurum. Not to fight them.” Strat corrected.
“Same difference Strat. But still it was they who decided to help out that damn Rokir you want to save so much. I will gladly return to help take out the Summit of Oriens Obscurum and rub their endtrails against the face of every Rokir I meet!”
Strat could not put in another word, even if he had wanted to. The connection was terminated and he had gotten what he had wanted. Now it was just a matter of stalling everything so that he could have back a very valuable ally.
“So much hatred fills your veins old friend. How can I use that to my advantage? How can I re-stoke the fires that had once burned bright in the family feud of Rokir versus Xyler? How can I use you best Ktulu Revolier Xyler? How?”
The Qel Droman Quaestor sat in his chair contemplating the return of a bomb. Pausing, Strat reached out and touched a button on his main comcenter.
“Paladorian. We must hold off from searching out the Fleet for now. In retrospect I have realized that we cannot rush off into something of this scope without proper preparation. There is much we must do to ensure our victory and in the case things do not go our way our survival as well as the survival of the house itself.”
“As you wish Strat.”
Again you show signs of deception Strategos. Of what you are up to I aim to find out.
What was left of the Qel Droman Summit waited in the hangar. Waiting to see why Strat had called him out for the arrival of what seemed to be an unimportant shuttle. Each day Paladorian grew suspicious of Strategos’ actions. They had been ready for departure for the past week. No new measures were outlined or taken as Strat had requested. It had become obvious to Paladorian that Strat was delaying departure and Paladorian denied the attempt to think that it was out of weakness. Until the shuttle’s arrival had gotten the Quaestor excited that is.
Now was time to see why Strat had posed so much secrecy.
With the shuttle landed and secured to the hangar deck, the shuttles ramp extended itself so that the passengers could exit. Soon enough a silhouette darkened the shuttle entrance and from the presence of the being that stood at the top of the ramp emanated a strong sense of hatred.
Slowly the figure descended down the ramp to the deck and made its way to Strat and Paladorian.
“Welcome back to Qel Droma Ktulu. You do not know how pleased I am to see one of your experience and background back in the fold of our house.” Strat said by way of introduction not even stating who it was that stood by his side.
“Stow it Entar.” Ktulu replied, his voice menacing and dripping with malicious intent.
“What is it that you would rather hear me say then Xyler?” Strat said putting emphasis on Ktulu’s surname.
“Carpe Diem Entar, Carpe Diem.”
Walking away Ktulu pulled out his latest addition. A fresh pack of cigarras and lit one as he exited the hangar.
Looking at his retreating back Paladorian started “Was that…?”
“Yes. That’s my predecessor and one of only four survivors of a brutal feud that had escalated to the point of the Arconan fleet being used to staunch it. The other three are the residing Rokir’s of the clan.
"There's the brat," Khamier muttered, nodding towards Laethan, who was stumbling over. Sykes frowned as he caught a look at him.
"Start the engines and prepare for take-off," Sykes instructed as he left the cockpit.
Laethan Ciarus breathed a sigh of relief as he approached the shuttle. He was exhausted, and looked forward to a warm in-flight meal. The ramp lowered, and a slightly startled Sykes marched out. "Are you all right?" he asked with uncharacteristic concern. "Were you attacked? Khamier said that there was something stirring around the sand." He placed his right hand on Laethan's shoulder, trying to help him stand. Sykes felt a sudden pulse through the Dark Side, and with no further warning, the boy trapped his hand with both of his own. With lightning reflexes, Sykes withdrew his hand and stepped back cautiously.
"I am not so weak as to need babysitting," Laethan sneered, still bitter over his encounter with the Dark Jedi spirit. The Sith almost laughed at the display, but nodded instead, leading the way into the shuttle.
"Do you know where Halcyon is?"
"Are you all right?" Sashar asked as he rose from his seat.
"The tomb is gone, but I spoke with the guardian spirit." Laethan took a seat in the shuttle. "He struck me down and refused to help. When we enter orbit, I'll report our failure to Kaek."
"Hopefully he has come up with some kind of a lead for us," Sykes muttered. He frowned as Khamier stepped out of the cockpit, signaling him over.
"If not then we'll return home and declare Halcyon missing."
"Thanks for all your help," the Sith Warrior added as he left. Laethan glared at his back, but forced himself to rest while Sashar quickly reached for his datapad to transmit the remote activation signal.
"The channel is open. Speak when you're ready." Sykes left the small room of the shuttle, granting the boy a little privacy. He had no intention of being around when Kaek learned of their failure. As one Sith left, the hologram of another arrived.
"Quaedile Kaek," Laethan nodded in greeting.
"Consul Kaek," the Warlord corrected. "Acting Consul. Do you have a report?"
"I do. Sashar thought to use the Dark Side imprint of Korriban to help our search. I knew a short cut, and went to consult an oracle that was constructed to find those who are lost. The guardian of the oracle..." The boy touched his scars, a bitter expression flickering across his face. "He refused to help us. Our best chance to locate Halcyon has failed." Kaek frowned.
"And with it, your mission?" he asked, his tone taking on an edge. The boy nodded grimly.
"Halcyon is a powerful Dark Side Adept. If he wants to hide from the Force, then we shall not find him. Even if I could, I would not recognise him. The others are less likely to succeed." Kaek scowled as he considered his options.
"I do not appreciate failure, boy." The hologram looked to the side, as if something had caught his attention. "The situation in Arcona has changed," the acting Consul continued, choosing his words carefully. "There are certain dissident parties who wish to overthrow me. I am naturally trying to counter this with the truly loyal. I wonder, where do your loyalties lie?"
"I care nothing for the petty bickering of lesser heirs," the boy replied with a hint of defiance. "I once sworn to defend Lord Arcona with my life, and I will continue to guard his legacy."
"Summon the others," Kaek ordered. Laethan inclined his head and marched out of the room, returning a minute later.
"My loyal search party," Kaek greeted them. "My claim on Consul is tenuous. With the disappearances of my two predecessors, I fear there might be certain groups within Arcona that will make a bid for power. Usurpers and traitors conspire behind closed doors, while I try to rally those who are truly loyal. I need you to return home immediately and report to your Quaestors. Be careful; someone is playing a very clever power game here. The traitor, traitors will be hard to find, so stay on guard."
"We shall return at once and weed out these usurpers," Sykes pledged as he stood at attention.
"Good luck," the hologram replied before it faded from sight.
"I'm setting a course for Selen," the Sith pilot announced. He and Khamier rushed to the cockpit, while Laethan stared at where the hologram had been.
"I guess this is what we felt earlier," Sashar said as he came to stand next to the boy.
"I suppose it is... I'm hungry." The boy turned on his heel and left the room quickly. Sashar sighed as he watched him leave, before drifting away himself.
"Krath Epis D'hak," Strategos greeted the superhuman clone of one of Qel-Droma's fallen Jedi. "Thank you for coming." The tall, dark-skinned and sleekly muscular man inclined his head respectfully. He was dressed in basic robes, with a vest of armor hidden across his chest. Small steel plates lined his boots and gloves. "Kaek assures me that House Oriens Obscurum is going to seize the throne of Arcona." The clone scowled. If there was one thing he despised, it was a traitor, someone disloyal to their purpose. "I want you to go to Selen for the time being. I do not anticipate a ground attack, but according to the latest reports, Oriens has mobilised their forces. They are almost certainly ready to strike. While I have our own forces ready to intercept a direct move against us, I want our best soldier protecting the throne. I'm sure you could handle a dozen angry Jedi."
"Good times," the clone replied with a smirk. "I'll secure the throne." The Epis bowed and left in a hurry, nodding at Paladorion.
"If there is a ground battle here, we could use him," the Aedile mentioned as he stepped out of the shadows.
"You do know he can see in the dark?" the Quaestor asked. "I'm sure that Kaek would appreciate a strong effort to secure the throne. Don't worry; we have strength enough here to fight a war, should it come to that."
"Brother against brother..." Paladorion sighed. "I've received word that the search party is approaching Selen, and that we will have Laethan and Sashar back soon." Strategos nodded slowly as he took his seat, pouring himself a drink.
"To blood and battle," he toasted.
At the very top of the Arcona Citadel, Sith Warlord Syn Kaek switched off the comlink and slowly leaned back in his chair. It was night, as it usually was when Kaek conducted his business. He preferred the darkness – it generally inspired more fear than the daytime and it was good for his image. Musing to himself, he imagined that the computer screens in the darkness had helped cause his vision problem. Hah! What a harmless thought. The Consul swiveled in his chair and leaned back even farther.
He reached out with the Force and shut down the computer. The Warlord gazed at the wall and felt the mental presence of his fellow Clan members within the system. It was time for him to do some checking up. His stood up slowly and moved quickly out of the room and to the turbolift. It took him down several levels to the throne room of Arcona. The Consul took his seat on the Serpentine Throne and reached out to monitor the thoughts of the entire Clan.
Yes – things were going as planned. No one suspected what was taking place. Even those that thought they were ‘scheming’ against the Consul were still walking into his trap. Personal ambition in the Clan was at an all time high. So was House pride. Many of the members were being motivated by their desire to uphold their House’s honor. Others, those that were higher ranking, were trying to advance their own personal cause. So predictable!
The Consul felt a familiar presence. So the fool had returned. No doubt he was intending to claim some level of power for himself. Ktulu would be an interesting addition to the forthcoming party. Kaek touched his mind briefly and examined its thoughts. Nothing surprising there. Really, it was becoming rather trite that almost everyone of any importance in the Clan was interested in personal gain. Even Quejo! Kaek had expected more of Quejo.
Several new minds entered the Warlord’s field of perception. So the search party was returning! Fruitless, of course. As if Kaek and his associate would allow Halcyon to be recovered! Fantasy at best. Sykes and Khamier were eager to return to Oriens Obscurum to see what was going on. They would be essential to the approaching war. Laethan and Sashar were also anxious to get back to Strategos. Yet though these four probably had the best chance of suspecting something, none of them did. How easy it was to manipulate so many people! Of course – he wasn’t without some help.
“Indeed,” a voice resonated in the Consul’s head. Kaek quickly rose from the Serpentine Throne and moved to a shadowy corner of the room.
“You have been listening to my thoughts?” he replied telepathically.
“Of course,” the voice said, “You are enjoying this all too much. Our plans are proceeding perfectly but you must still be on your guard. One of the fools might figure out what is going on.”
Kaek nodded. “I doubt it, though. Tell me of what has occurred on your end.”
“Halcyon will not be a problem,” the voice laughed.
“You are sure of it, then?” Kaek asked.
“Oh yes,” the voice intoned. “I have made sure that he is thoroughly erased from the Force. No one will be able to find him – not even the Grand Master.”
“Excellent,” the Consul responded. He stood there without a word for a few minutes before the voice spoke again.
“Something troubles you?”
“Yes,” the Warlord said. “If things go as planned, there will be great personal risk to me. I can probably avoid a confrontation but do we have any contingency plans?”
“You need not fear for yourself,” the voice replied kindly. “You are a powerful Jedi – and even if you weren’t, with my power supporting you, you will be virtually impossible to stop.”
“Ahhh, so you are going to augment me with your own powers?” the Consul asked.
“Of course!” the voice said.
“Wonderful – with such power, I could dispute the Grand Master!” Kaek replied excitedly.
“Not quite,” the voice replied. “But no one in this Clan will be able to challenge you while I am still alive. And since no one knows who I am or that I am even involved in this, we are quite safe.”
“Strategos has sent me a bodyguard. You have heard of D’hak?”
“Yes. Even he will be nothing before our combined might,” the voice sneered. “And I sense that you are even growing in power as we speak. You must be feeding off of my own power.”
“I am nothing more than a parasite,” Kaek responded jokingly.
“Now,” the voice began more seriously, “I must go. Continue your work. Make sure they start fighting as soon as possible. I’m tired of waiting.”
Kaek nodded and moved towards the entrance. He exited the throne room and moved towards the turbolift. After a brief trip, he had returned to his spacious apartments. He opened the door and walked silently in. As the Warlord turned towards his bedroom, someone stood up and turned to him. It was Krath Priestess Cymbre Kall.
“Don’t scare me like that, Cym!” Kaek exclaimed. He had not been paying attention to the Force and had not noticed her presence.
“I’m sorry, I thought you knew I was here,” she said meekly.
“No,” he replied. “I rarely see you anymore now that you joined Grand Master Chi Long and became a Quaestor in Exar Kun. I would never have expected you to show up here! Regardless, I am pleased to see you.” He smiled pleasantly. He truly was pleased to see her. She walked towards him.
“Syn,” she began, “I think perhaps you are pushing this civil war too far.”
Kaek was taken aback. “What? Expressing allegiance to your old Clan?” the Warlord scoffed.
“No,” she said, “I just think that this is an awful lot to enhance your own personal power. You will probably cause a lot of damage to Arcona and maybe even the Brotherhood! If this war was to spill over into--”
“It is enough,” he cut her off. “Come, let us not talk of this business. It has been so long since I’ve seen you.” His eyes pleaded with her.
She looked at him hesitantly. Finally she acquiesced and said nothing more. Kaek reached out with the Force and shut off the lights
“Sykes!” Sith Warrior Quejo exclaimed. “It’s good to have you back!” The Quaestor of Oriens Obscurum was pleased to have much of his high command staff back. He would need them for the upcoming battle.
“Same, Quejo. What’s going on?” Sykes asked.
“Kaek ordered me to move some of our fleet into orbit around the Qel-Droma HQ,” Quejo responded.
“Won’t that incite them to attack?” Sykes posited cautiously.
“Well,” Quejo sighed, “probably – but Kaek said they would attack first and if they do, we need to be in a good position. Besides, I’d rather incite them to it than just sit around and wait for them to attack.”
Sykes nodded thoughtfully. It would only be a matter of hours before the war broke out. He was prepared – he hoped his House was as well.
Sykes feigned the hope he knew Quejo would want to see. This was not what he wanted to have to deal with when he returned. Sykes turned away from the younger Warrior and walked away from the man. Thoughts ran through Sykes' head as he imagined a war with Qel-Droma. "A civil war in Arcona...it has happened before but never while our leaders were gone. This could cripple us." he muttered to hismelf as he made his way through the sith temple to his office and quarters.
Sykes used the force to light the candle in his office and took a seat behind his desk. The Sith warrior grabbed some datacards about Clan history and looked them over. Clan Consuls dissapearing was not uncommon but for some reason these recent dissapearences were..strange. It's because Halc is family. I should have felt..something. The Forced lived in all things and was everywhere. Sykes could still feel his wife but knew not where she was. He could feel all of his family but could not place them. The only one he could not feel was Halcyon. "Where does the Force not exist?" he asked himself. Sykes knew that in some places of immense Dark or Light side power, one could hide in the shroud. Then there were yslarmiri. They effectively cut off all Force in the area. "Someone may have Halc hidden in a place full of yslarmiri. Perhaps even under stasis or cryosleep." Sykes sighed and leaned back in his chair. "Halc has either hidden himself or been captured. I have the feeling he hasn't hidden himself though."
Sykes shook his head and looked over the ownings of Clan Arcona. Oriens Obscurum held most of the fleet while Qel-Droma owned most of the Clan Artifacts. Sykes knew which one had the advantage. The Force surged through those artifacts and not even the ships of HOO could stand against the Force. The anzati closed his eyes and focussed for a moment.
Vassan. We have trouble. War may break out between the houses. We can't let our Houses be destroyed by this. We need to find Halc immediatly.
Calm down, Sykes. Our Clan will stay strong. Halc is missing but we have seen this before. Study your history and learn of your past. You may come across some things. the telepathic voice of Vassan rokir echoed in sykes' head as the connection broke.
"My past? What does he mean by that?"
The sky grew dark at the headquarters of Oriens Obscurum. A great evil was at work and the anticipation of the war that would soon begin weighed on the minds of the Soldiers who were now ready to confront their former allies in battle.
Quejo Bandon Drakai sat in his office waiting for the opportune moment to begin his assault. He looked at the door as he heard rushing footsteps striking the floor outside of the room. Barging in, an Apprentice with an eagerness to taste blood looked the Quaestor in the eye.
"The men are ready sir."
Quejo sat back in his chair and smiled waiting to respond.
"Inform the pilots to make their final preperations and wait for my signal."
"Yes sir." The Apprentice smiled as he darted out the door.
Quejo finished preparing himself just before he left his office. His eyes burned with hate and concentration as he strode down the hallway leading to the hangar where his shuttle would take him to the frontlines. Finally reaching the end of the hallway to board his shuttle he saw Sykes and Khamier waiting for him at the ramp.
"What the hell are you doing?" Sykes asked with a raised voice.
"I'm preparing for war, what are you doing?"
"Your going to war with Qel Droma. Your alot dumber than I ever gave you credit for."
"You will learn your place!" Quejo shouted.
"And give me one reason why I should listen to a rookie leader such as yourself."
"Because this rookie leader is capable of killing a veteran. If you want to live through this war Sykes, stay out of my way."
"If I see you on the battlefield Bandon, your blood will stain my hands."
Quejo smiled and looked to Khamier.
"Come with me."
The Apprentice had no other choice but to follow his Master into battle. The two boarded the shuttle and the ramp slammed shut shortly after. A rumble echoed within the hangar as the shuttles engines instantly ignited, and with a flash of the forward thrusters the ship was slowly taking what could possibly be it's final voyage.
"Quejo do you really think that a Civil War is a wise choice?"
"It wasnt up to me. When your as loyal as I am you will learn to follow orders without question."
"Orders?" Khamier asked himself, then spoke up. "Someone commanded you to fight Qel Droma?"
"Silence young one. Enjoy the ride. It may be your last."
The small craft shuddered just before landing at the armies frontlines. Stepping out was the Quaestor of Oriens Obscurum and Khamier the newly appointed Sith Commander of Pandragon.
"We're ready sir."
Quejo nodded and looked over to Khamier.
"Tell the fleet that when I give the signal they are too attack Arconae Primus."
Khamier hesitated before turning away and giving the command through his commlink.
The wind picked up and dust began to fly freely through the cool night air. Boral grew silent deadening any signs of life, until the silence was suddenlt broken. Every member in unison looked up to see the Qel Droma fleet move into position. The sound of the enemy fighters was like a roaring thunder that made the soldiers of Oriens Obscurum snap back into reality. It was now, fear and doubt began to set in. The once battle hungry members were now filled with regret and shame as they thought of retreating at the first sign of war. Very few were willing and able to stand their ground until Quejo climbed to the top of a rock and began to shout at the army standing before him, wide eyed and frightened.
"It's time for the slaughter to begin." The overconfident Warrior shouted at the crowd.
It was then the crowd roared with excitement and rage. Fear no longer ran rampant throughout their mind, body, and spirit. They were ready.
"Strategos the Oriens Obscurum fleet is ready. They are eager to get this battle underway."
"Then what are we waiting for. Let's do what we've come here to do." Strategos smiled through clenched teeth. "Finally I can silence the Warrior who speaks ill of Qel Droma. On this day he will feel the might of our Krath armies."
As Strategos finished his sentence the ramps of the landed shuttles opened, letting the army of Qel Droma loose from their cage. They poured out of the vessels like starving beasts waiting to taste blood.
"Let the War begin."
As the words echoed throughout the minds of every Qel Droman they began their march into the darkness.
Sykes' anger could be felt by all the apprentices and Journeymen near him. "Bucon, go to my quarters and brings me the holo of my wife." The Warrior ordered his apprentice. Bucon turned and looked at his master. "Master..it is a time of war. Why would.." The Acolyte was cut off as pressure was applied to his throat. "Obey me, my Apprentice. Do not question my orders." Bucon nodded and scurried off towards the large temple of House Oriens Obscurum.
The massive temple was covered in stone and looked weathered but only to the casual glance. People who knew about the temple also knew it was a large starship that could match a Dreadnaught in terms of strength. And Sykes knew all about that ship.
Vassan Rokir stood on the bridge of the Nighthawk, House Qel-Droma's Carrack cruiser, and looked out into space. His cloak moved with the artificial air as it circulated around the command area. The four TIE fighters on board the cruiser had already launched and the shuttle it held had already left with its complement of troopers and Obelisk. Vassan looked down at the moon of Boral and could already see some fighter engagments. "So far we have fallen, that we have come to war against ourselves. All because of little struggles of power between two power hungry jackels." The former Consul said quietly.
Vassan turned and faced the ship captain, his shadow scarred face sending fear coursing through the Twi'lek man. "Captain, we have launched our fighters and troops. Pull away from the combat area and do not engage unless fired upon. Lets keep our distance and watch."
The captain nodded slightly and followed the order that the Krath epis had given. Vassan turned away to face the battle again, his shadow moving in odd ways.
Sykes moved into the temple and went up the turbolifts to the bridge of the mighty ship. The hustle and bustle of warmen preparing for combat was to be expected. The Sith moved towards the closest comm unit and spoke. "All hands prepare for liftoff. Hangarbays close main doors." he spoke through the intercomm. the human that was overseeing the ship turned and looked at Sykes. "Sir, what is going on? i thought we were supposed to stay out of combat by orders of the Quaestor."
Sykes turned to the man and growled quietly. "I am in command of this vessel now, Commander. Follow my orders." The human shook his head. "No, sir. i can't do that." Sykes stepped closer to the man. "You will or I will have you killed." The human seemed to back down slightly but at the last instance pressed a button on his collar and drew his blaster pistol.
The sith had fully expected the attack as was alreeady in motion. He reached out, grabbed the mans blaster ahnd and twisted the wrist. He felt bones snap in the man's wrist just before he brought his elbow up to connect with the human's jaw. The Commander fell to the floor, his eyes wide at the sudden attack. He began to crawl away but the Sith stalked forward. "You ahve failed me, Commander." Sykes reached over towards his shadow and stuck his hand completly into the shadow. After a few seconds, Sykes' hand came back out..fingtips holding a black dagger. The Sith moved forward, knelt down, grabbed the human by the hair and jammed the shadow blade into the mans throat. The human gargled as the blade slipped into his body effortlessly.
Sykes let go of the blade and stepped away, the shadow melting and forming up with his shadow once more. Sykes looked around and saw that the computers had been locked by the Commander. The Sith nodded. "The man did something right for once." Standard protocol was for the commanding officer to lock down the temple's systems if it was ever even possible for it to be captured. Nothing could break the lock down except special codes from the Consul or House Quaestor. However, Sykes had designed the systems and everything about the temple with his brother Vassan.
Bucon came onto the bridge and bowed his ehad to sykes as he handed over the holo projector. "here you are, Master>" he said as he retreated away. "Bucon," Sykes atarted. "Have the journeymen of Guardian and up equip themselves with a lightsaber from the armory. They are going to need them." The Acolyte nodded and went to do his duty.
Sykes shook his head. The temple housed more apprentices and lower ranking members than most of the rest of the house. The most inexperianced were still training here while the majority of Purgatory was out fighting already. The Sith looked down at the holoprojectior and pressed a few buttons. access codes came up and Sykes quickly typed them in. "Crew, prepare for launch in 2 minutes." He told the bridge crew as he typed in the rest of the override codes. The temple was now his and his alone.
The ground around the temple shook as its massive engines came online. Very slowly it began to rise from the surface of Boral and make its way through atmosphere and into an orbiting pattern to the non fighting side of the moon. "Jump to Arconae Secundus when ready." Sykes ordered as he brought up his communications console and punched in Quejo's comlink. "I told you fool. Do not trifle with me. Have fun dying against your fellow Clanmates." Moments later the temple jumped into hyperspace.
Vassan watched as the temple took off into hyperspace. A smile came to his face. "I knew he could do it." The Epis said quietly. He turned and made his way to his quarters within the Carrack cruiser. Now it was time to finish this battle.
Epis Laethan Ciarus sighed as he examined the holo-portraits of older Qel-Dromans, a look of disdain firmly fixed across his face. He held no loyalty to this place, and saw no reason to want to keep it safe. Yet, he had been tasked with the defense of the temple, while others were waging war on and around Boral. The boy muttered under his breath. It grated him, to be assigned such menial duties. He frowned as he felt something in the Force... a lone soldier ran into the hallway, hitting his head against the first pillar. "Help! Laethan sir!" the soldier yelled. The boy ran over. "We're being invaded, like Strategos said!" Laethan ignited his lightsaber as he sensed a sniper watching him. "An Oriens transpor-" The man dropped forward, a burning hole in his back, and Laethan reflected the second shot, which strayed near him.
"The name is Denath," the boy sneered as he casually hopped to the side, sheathing his weapon.
Several soldiers ran up the steps, whom Denath greeted with a curt nod. Suddenly, D'hak dove off of the roof, grabbing the archway and somersaulting himself into the corridor. He landed in front of the group of soldiers, igniting his violet blade and cutting one down quickly. He smashed one hand through the nearest ribcage, using the owner to block blaster fire while he cut down another solider. The superhuman clone kicked forward, sending his shield into a small crowd. With lightning speed and monster reflexes, the clone cut down the rest of the troopers in a flurry of attacks, deflecting a sniper shot on the way. "We're under attack," D'hak noted.
"Really?" the boy asked. "I thought Strategos sent you to Selen?"
"I never boarded the shuttle. As far as Oriens intelligence knows, I'm guarding Kaek right now. Strategos wanted me guarding the temple, while he went to meet Quejo."
"Why? Are you good or something?" Denath almost laughed his reply. D'hak winked as another group of troopers poured inside.
D'hak stepped forward, carving through a soldier. He dropped and spun, kicking out someone's legs and impaling him on the ground, before slashing back upwards and decapitating the next guy. He thrust his lightsaber through someone's shoulders and jump-kicked the last soldier, sending him flying through the air for several meters. He stepped back inside and retrieved his still-glowing blade from the dying soldier, deflecting an attack from the sniper. Denath raised an eyebrow. "Super clone, remember?" D'hak reminded the boy, who nodded.
"So, what is our plan?" Denath asked. D'hak shrugged vaguely.
"My duty is the defense of this temple. I owe this place my loyalty." The boy chuckled.
"Is there something here worth saving?" Denath asked. D'hak raised a hand, signaling for silence as a third group of soldiers marched inside - this time escorted by two of the former Galeres Obelisk, who had been evenly split between the two warring Houses. Acting on instinct, Denath rolled to the side, igniting his ruby colored blade.
D'hak swung high and low to test the mettle of his attackers. With lightning reflexes the Epis held them back, flicking his blade wildly. D'hak swapped hands and struck middle-level, carving down a soldier as Denath blocked another sniper shot, coming to his aid. The two Jedi exchanged a quick grin before turning to the invading squad. "I missed this," the boy commented as he raised his blade in a formal salute.
On Boral, Quejo's anger was growing beyond belief. His Aedile broke his loyalty and trust and ran from the heat of battle as a coward runs from the shadow.
"You will die Rokir. This I swear." Quejo stated over the commlink.
The Warrior couldnt focus on his Aedile at the moment. A battle was beginning and his men were ready to carve into flesh and hear the screams of the defeated Krath fleet that would soon lie crippled and crushed beneath their feet. Quejo, not being overconfident but having faith ignited his Saber and looked out at the field as hundreds of Qel Dromans marched across the barren wasteland of rock and sand.
"Stand your ground men. If we dont win the war we'll win the battle. I will not allow the Qel Dromans to gain victory on our own soil."
The men clenched their teeth and the few that had Lightsaber's, readied them. In an instant the fleet of Qel Droma was on them. A barrage of blaster fire rained on Oriens Obscurum and Qel Droma. Men began to drop on both sides and blood began to stain the sand.
"Wait!" Quejo shouted at the Lightsaber wielding combatant's. "Our time will come. They're to far out."
The war waged on. The Qel Dromans were getting closer.
"Charge men. Give'em hell." Quejo shouted at the Knight's.
A long line of Lightsabers instantly came to life. The blades hummed a violent tune of ill intent. Soldiers of both sides were now fully engaged. Quejo fought off several members of Qel Droma before looking over to his Apprentice Khamier.
"Khamier, Move Pandragon into attack formation. See to it that the shuttles dont land."
Khamier nodded and called his fleet on the commlink.
"Our Quaestor wants you to attack the incoming shuttles. We cant afford to have their reinforcements land. Cut them off now!" Khamier commanded.
"Yes Sir." The transmission ended in static.
Soon after the message, the Pandragon fleet moved into position. They could see five shuttles moving in, slowly but surely.
"Form up. On my signal we attack the shuttles." The Pandragon Flight Leader commanded.
The ships formed on the Flight Leaders wing, waiting for the attack signal.
Saber's clashed and blaster bolts seared flesh as the battle progressed. Soldiers on both sides were dropping like flies. The roar of war cries and the screams of those dieing rang through the ears of the men that were fighting with an enormous ammount of passion and determination.
An hour later, the fatigued men remained standing, fighting to the end. Right now Oriens Obscurum was in the lead but not by much, their men were dropping quickly. Oriens Obscurum may of started with the advantage but the men of Qel Droma were fighting ferociously.
"Quejo, they're breaking through our lines."
It was then, the Quaestor sighed and turned his mind off to the battle and war surrounding him. He gazed up and almost instantly locked eyes with Strategos, a man he desperately wanted to kill. He tightly gripped the hilt of his saber and began to express an enormous amount of hate and aggression as he fought his way through the front line to meet with his rival in battle.
Denath grinned down at the fallen Jedi at his feet. He had not fought with anyone for millenia, having been trapped in the Dark Orb crystal. It was good to unwind. He kicked at one of the corpses, almost hoping that it would spring to life and attack again. Disappointed, the boy began climbing the steps to the Qel-Droman temple, coming to rest in front of the statue of Ulic Qel-Droma. D'hak marched out of the jungles surrounding the temple and slowly made his way up the steps, glancing once over his shoulder. He stepped up behind Laethan, reaching out to place his hands on the boy's shoulders.
"Did you eliminate the sniper?" Denath asked, his voice harsh and ominous. The clone froze, his hands wavering in mid-air. "I trust he wasn't too much for you to handle?"
"He's gone," the clone replied, crossing his arms and sighing.
"Who carved this masterpiece?" Denath asked, indicating the statue.
"No one knows," D'hak replied. "It was just another piece of rubble from the temple, but someone went to the effort of carving out this statue. Vassan believes it was done with a lightsaber."
"That would explain some of the angles of some of these lines," the boy whispered, running a hand across the stone. D'hak stepped towards the temple entrance.
"A few people believe that the statue was carved with Ulic's lightsaber."
"Nonsense," the boy snorted. "Ulic's weapon is as far lost as he is."
"No. We have one of them in the temple." Denath turned and gave the clone a curious look. "A black lightsaber with a yellow blade. It still carries some of Ulic's Dark Side imprint."
"Is it safe?" Denath asked. "Could the strike force from before have been seeking it?"
"It is secure," the clone replied as he glanced at the statue.
"I took it from the vaults last year when you an... when Laethan and I were joint Quaestor. Oriens and Galeres declared war against Qel-Droma, and for some reason I had this urge to hide the lightsaber."
"Were we attacked?" Denath asked.
"No," D'hak replied. "Consul Vassan managed to prevent a skirmish. This is the first major threat we've had to deal with since then."
"So why hide it?"
"I don't know, I just... had to. So, I tucked it into the shadows around the stairway, where only a powerful Jedi could retrieve it."
"Does anyone know?" The clone frowned. "Would Strategos want to take it with him, into war?"
"He would," D'hak whispered. "He wouldn't have much chance against the militant arm of Arcona without..." The Epis sprinted into the temple, followed by the boy.
D'hak almost dived into the library, catching the chief librarian by surprise. The old man hastened over, aware that D'hak would not rush without reason. "Is something wrong, D'hak?" he asked.
"Where is the lightsaber of Ulic Qel-Droma?" D'hak demanded.
"Quaestor Strategos bid that I take it from the vaults and hand it to him," the librarian replied. "Is something wrong?" The clone turned as he felt something in the Force. "No, I was just making sure," he replied as he headed back for the stairs. Strategos had taken the replica. D'hak cursed himself for not informing the Summit after he returned from Clan Exar Kun.
As D'hak stepped into the reflecting pool chamber, he caught sight of several soldiers. The super-human clone ignited his violet lightsaber as he prepared to defend his home once more.
Battle raged on as Keno slashed at a Qel-Droman, his blood ran from his neck down the front of his armor. As he fell another came up to him aiming his blaster pistol, Keno activated his droid lower body function and a compartment opened and a DX-2 shot out into the air to which the Protector grabbed it from and shot this opposition. He now faced Quejo and saw him heading to a person Keno never seen before, the Chiss's face seemed of hatered and Keno felt sorry for the opponent. He heard a battle cry from behind and saw three other Qel-Dromans running at him, he fired three times and they fell.
On Keno's left bionic arm a message came through, most of it was in static but some words were heard.
". . . can't hold them off . . . killing us . . . can't stop him . . . northeastern end . . ."
The message stopped there. Keno looked around and found a few solders. "You people, come with me. We need to help a platoon." They moved without any argument. They moved towards the northeastern sector only to find that the platoon was already dead and in thier place stood a Krath knight. His lightsaber buzzed in the air. With a quick glance the Krath dashed at Keno's men and slaughtered them, he also tried that with Keno put he was fast too. He dogged the slash and gave one of his own, his trusty Shyarn stabbed itself into the surprised Krath's belly. Keno looked up and saw the surprise in his face. "I'm no trooper, I'm a Sith. Your mistake cost you your life." The knight dropped his saber and took a few steps back, the Falleen withdrew his Shyarn and watched this. The Krath looked at him and started to laugh.
"You think its over, Sith scum. You a bigger fool then I thought." Keno's opponent raised his hands and called the Force to heal him.
"I don't think so, Krath." Keno walked to him grabbing the knight's saber, turning it on and cutting off the head of the Krath. The body fell and Keno put the saber up planning on presenting the weapon to Quejo after this battle was over.
As the men desperately fought for their lives a cooling breeze swept across the barren surface of Boral. Claps of lightning and the low rumble of thunder echoed in the distance as the war began to slow and the dust began to settle. Many men were still engaged in battle and now Quejo was able to reach his chosen opponent. The two Quaestor's locked eyes and held their sabers in a ready position. With an explosive amount of energy the two blades met. Sparks flew and the screams of the blades rang in their heads. For several moments the two fought ferociously, giving into their hate and allowing it to fuel their bodies. Quejo swung low, but the blade was jumped by the Qel Droman. The Warrior then brought his blade up diagonally, attempting to cut the head from the Krath, but that too was blocked. Time seemed to slow around the two as they fought each other in an amazing display of will and raw power. Strategos then cut through the air only to have his blade blocked by the Sith. The blades once again screamed as they were pressed against each other. Quejo clenched his teeth and Strategos smiled before a thermal detonator was tossed between them. In unison the two jumped out of the way just in time to dodge the blast. Quejo rolled to his feet and quickly turned, only to see that his opponent was no where to be seen.
"We'll meet again Bandon. This I promise." The words of the Qel Droman echoed in the brain of the Warrior as the message was sent telepathically.
Quejo growled before turning to cut the head from a wounded Krath Monk.
A mist and the smell of rain began to fill the air as the storm closed in. The cooling moisture in the air cleansed the dust from the overheated Soldiers.
"Sir, the majority of our men are depleted. What do you want us to do?"
"Fight to the death. Leave no one alive." Quejo commanded in response.
"Ye...yes sir." The Apprentice hesitantly responded.
The Battle of Boral was coming to a close. The Warriors of Oriens Obscurum and Qel Droma had battled themselves to a stand still. While Oriens Obscurum had numbers, the Qel Dromans had alot of fight left in them. A small amount of blaster fire flew over the piled up corpses. Lightsabers were still activated and men were still living. So in Quejo's opinion the war was far from over.
"Quejo, Pandragon has taken out two of the shuttles filled with reinforcements." Khamier stated as he stepped over defeated members of both houses.
Quejo smiled and looked to his right to see the battle once again quickening in pace.
"We're gonna win this fight my Apprentice." Quejo stated in an overconfident tone.
"What about the men at Arconae Primus?" Khamier asked.
"Send a transmission. I want every detail."
"Yes Sir." Khamier responded as he punched away at his commlink.
"Quaestor Quejo," Khamier said, "the forces on Arconae Primus report that they have met some resistance. They suspect that Strategos did not commit his full forces to Boral and Selen, as our intelligence indicated." The Quaestor cursed under his breath.
"He must have tricked us," he muttered. "He's clever, I'll give him that much. Tell them to launch a full-scale assault against the temple." Khamier nodded as he relayed the orders.
D'hak leapt at the closest wall, springing off it with his powerful legs. As he sailed through the air, he decapitated one of the soldiers that had just invaded the temple. Landing on cat's feet, he flicked his lightsaber around, deflecting blaster shots and severing someones arm. The Dark Jedi stepped behind one of the pillars for a moment, pausing before jumping out and throwing his bent lightsaber at the next target, slicing him neatly in half. The last soldier took careful aim, but he never got a shot off; he hovered in the air, gasping for breath as Denath marched inside the corridor. D'hak rushed to the temple entrance, peering outside carefully. "Great, more Jedi," the Epis muttered. Denath smirked down at the clone as he slowly stepped forward. With a twist of his wrist, the strangled soldiers head rotated to an obscene angle before finally being dumped on the ground.
"Don't be afraid, D'hak, I'll handle this," the boy chided the clone. He marched out of the temple, coming to a halt halfway down the stairs.
"Are you insane?" D'hak exclaimed before he chased after him, coming to a halt at the top of the stairs as the boy removed his lightsaber.
"My master, Lord Arcona, once taught me an important lesson about power." His voice carried across the clearing as a dozen Galeres and Oriens Jedi marched out of the jungle, followed by a task force of soldiers. "Power is not rewarded, and it is not earnt. It is taken, as opportunity presents itself." The boy glared down at his opponents with a malevolent smirk. "Surrender your weapons and I might spare your lives." The invading Jedi burst into laughter, one of them stepping forward to address him.
"Perhaps you should run to your mother," the leader taunted. D'hak suppressed a smirk as he readied himself for what would be a tough battle.
"I am Lord Denath Ciarus, guardian of Arcona's legacy. You shall not pass." Their leader bowed mockingly.
"Forgive me my lord," he chuckled. He then turned to the Jedi under his command. "Kill them. Leave none alive." The invading Jedi ignited lightsabers of every color and began a slow, deliberate advance. D'hak cursed under his breath as he ignited his own weapon. The boy calmly raised his lightsaber and ignited a beam of amber light. D'hak's blood ran cold as he recognised the weapon - the lightsaber of Ulic Qel-Droma.
Denath smirked as he issued his reply. "Your terms are acceptable."
Gripping his Shyarn, Keno walked away from his fight with a Krath. Shocked with his win. Various messages came through the com-link, but it didn't matter. A war was still going on, but in his mind he thought, 'Why is this wae so easy, this can't be a real fight.' Disregarding this thought a noise came to his ears, a sound of movement. Keno whipped around to find the source of this, finding a human standing there with a weapon in his hand. When Keno looked closer he found it to be a Shyarn.
"Who are you? What do you want?" Keno waited for a answer and getting none, he reached out with his mind to find one. He found his mind clouded, but got a feeling of danger. Getting ready for anything, his opponent answered him, "My name is Varago, an Acolyte of the Krath order, as for what I want? I want you to die." With that Varago dashed at Keno with impresive speed and grace. The Protector put his Shyarn up in defence and the Acolyte's attack did not hit its target. Keno pushed with his weapon and threw Varago off his feet. The Human rolled over and jumped to his feet, with that done he gave the Falleen gave a look of hatered. Keno saw that this Varago had not mastered his style with a Shyarn. The Protector looked away so that his opponent wouldn't know of his own weakness. The fighters would see to it that one of them would not leave this battle ground.
"Let us see who is better with this weapon" Keno then started to laugh.
The soldiers looked at one another, waiting for the other to strike. After what seemed like ages the Krath made his move. Varago dashed at the Sith, Shyarn poised for a slash like no other. The Acolyte jumped in the air and slashed a downward strike, Keno stepped aside and punched his opponent, Varago flew back hitting his head on the ground. A smirk was visible on Keno's face when he heard the sound of bone cracking, the Protector started to walk towards the fallen Human ready for the final strike. But a couple of steps towards his goal Varago moved to his feet, grabbing his Shyarn on the way. The Falleen saw this and ran to him in hopes to get there before he got up. The Acolyte jumped from a kneel and flew over Keno's head, once on the ground he tried to plunge his blade into the Sith's belly, but Keno was too fast and deflected with his organic arm. He felt a sting and nothing more, the Krath stepped back laughing. Keno did not understand why he was doing this until he looked at his arm. It was not there.
"You are now one less bit organic, how do you feel? Are you missing your limb?” Varago laughed louder then ever. This laughter made Keno seethe with rage; he looked up from his numb and stared at this Human. He felt rage push within him the Protector smiled then chuckled. He started to roar with laughter, he let his rage manifest into the force. He raised his hand still grasping the hilt of his blade, and then raised the index and middle finger. Varago felt the invisible push of the force; he flew back into ground yet again. The Acolyte moved to his feet, but when he looked up he saw Keno pull his bionic arm back and then forward faster then anything Varago ever saw. Keno let the Shyarn go and it flew into the Krath’s face imbedding itself into the brain of his opponent. Varago went limp then fell in a heap. He was no more.
Keno slowly walked over to the body, and retrieved his weapon. A sickly slurp rose from the head. The Protector’s Shyarn came out of the wound, pulling his Varago’s mind out with it. The Sith cleaned his blade with the cloth of his opponent. He then walked away with a slight stumble. Keno sheathed his weapon and raised his droid arm, the com-link turned on automatically.
“Medic… need help… anyone… help… I…”
Keno fell to the ground not just a few feet away from the body of a Krath. He passed out from loss of blood. The location beacon activated upon him passing out. He laid there hoping someone heard his call.
Denath concentrated, tapping in to the Dark Side imprint of Ulic Qel-Droma. He fixed the soldiers with a penetrating glare as he tried to manipulate them through the Force. "Our allies are our traitors. The temple must be defended. Kill them." Without hesitation, the soldiers raised their rifles and fired on the backs of the invaders, shooting down a few of them. The others, while caught by surprise, had managed to block and were now locked behind the fire and the frying pan. With a cruel smirk, the boy raised Ulic's lightsaber in a salute.
Denath lunged forward, carving the leader aside with a powerful swing. The boy sidestepped and spun his lightsaber around in his hand, plunging it backwards to impale his upper half. The boy swung high at the next person and tilted his lightsaber to strike on the other side of his guard. He was rewarded with a cry of pain as he nicked the man's shoulder. He followed it up with several more strokes, targeting the next person as well, reveling in the confusion and the rush of battle. D'hak, meanwhile, ran more carefully into the fray. The super-human clone took the Jedi on two at a time, often pausing to block blaster fire that strayed too close to him and Denath. The battle was a short and bloody affair.
After the last Jedi had been decapitated, Denath grinned down at the soldiers who knelt, awaiting their orders. "Come with me," the boy commanded. With Ulic's lightsaber in his left hand, he marched into the temple, the clash of armored feet echoing through the halls. Worried, D'hak followed closely.
"Shouldn't we make sure the jungles are cleared before retreating?" the clone asked. The boy shook his head as the entourage marched past holographs of great Qel-Dromans.
"Strategos was a fool to leave me behind," Denath explained. "I am certain we will lose the battle on Boral. No such victory would ever come to us. Oriens is clearly the stronger these days." The boy stepped into the reflecting pool chamber, turning to his left. "Open this door." D'hak dealt the boy a suspicious glance, but complied, punching in his personal code. The doors grinded open slowly, revealing behind them the secure hallway that lead to the House Summit offices. Denath led his invasion inside.
Sensing an imminent threat, the large and powerful security droid turned to face the invaders. "Halt! Identify yourselves."
"I am your master," Denath declared as he raised the lightsaber of Ulic Qel-Droma. "You will stand down and not oppose us." The droid laughed at them, provoking a raised eyebrow from the child.
"You will surrender your weapons and your lives. Comply." Without further warning, large cannons rotated from the droids arms and opened fire against the soldiers. Once again tapping into the lightsaber's imprint, Denath stopped the projectile bullets in mid-air while his newly recruited soldiers returned fire. The droid shrugged it off irrelevantly as he switched to energy cannons. Growing impatient with the interruption, Denath lashed out with a burst of anger, throwing the droid face-first into the wall. It opened fire with cannons embedded into the stone. With a small explosion, both of them were sundered. Again, the monstrous droid shrugged it off as missile launchers flipped out from the shoulders and laser rifles from its arms.
Invoking the Force, Denath leapt forward, slashing at the droid amidst a hail of blaster fire. He paid no thought to the occasional missile that sailed towards his soldiers, gliding through the air to deliver oblivion to the invading army. They never arrived, however, as D'hak halted them. Denath finally thrust his weapon upwards, plunging it into the main chassis and leaving it there, where it began to melt away the insides of the security droid. Finally, Denath deactivated Ulic's lightsaber as the monstrous machine crashed to the ground, nearly split in two. With a triumphant smirk, Denath signalled to the surviving soldiers and resumed his invasion - until D'hak stood in his way.
"What do you think you are doing?" the clone demanded. "These are Quaestor Strategos' chambers!"
"He isn't here right now," the boy chided. "No one is." Slowly, deliberately, Denath ignited Ulic's lightsaber. "Stand aside."
"Strategos has commited our forces to more important wars," D'hak replied. "He trusted us to defend the temple while he swept the traitorous elements from our Clan."
"There is only one traitor here," the boy whispered as he swung his blade. D'hak easily blocked the weapon, gently kicking forward to boot the boy back a short distance. "You hid the lightsaber. You knew this day would come, didn't you?" D'hak sneered and stepped forward as the soldiers raised their rifles. With lightning speed, the Epis dismembered the nearest three before impaling a fourth, stepping back to raise his bent lightsaber in a mockery of the boy's salute. Denath growled as he rose gracefully to his feet.
"The bickering and the infighting in this Clan have made it weak. This House's stagnant devotion to meditation and study have crippled its body, while the scheming politics of those that are meant to lead have corrupted its mind." Denath raised a hand, and the remaining soldiers backed off. "Power corrupts the innocent, twists the strong and obscures the truth. Power commands the weak and reinforces those who have it. Power is neither rewarded nor earnt. It is taken, as opportunity allows." Denath lunged forward, striking at D'hak with a blade of furious amber.
The pair exchanged cautious blows as they felt each other out. "I have given my life for Arcona," the boy chastised his former companion.
"Well who hasn't these days," D'hak replied drolly as he picked up his pace a little. "I will die to defend this Clan. Again, if I need to."
"That won't save it," Denath whispered as he tried to decapitate his opponent, only to be blocked easily. "You passed up a good counter-attack then, and your stance isn't in to the fight. What's wrong? Aren't you sure I'm your enemy?"
"There is no such thing as an enemy." The clone blocked high and followed with a crescent kick, striking a glancing blow across Denath's face. The boy still reeled from the kick. "Enemies are only relevant to the times. Today's foe may be tomorrow's friend. A true soldier cares not for enemies." Spinning forward, D'hak struck a few more times, aiming carefully for the amber blade. "A true soldier is loyal to the end, to his purpose. He does not consider the politics behind his enemies - or his friends."
"Those politics will destroy this Clan," Denath replied, striking forward and forcing the clone back a step. "It will tear itself apart as the truly loyal follow blindly to the slaughter, so that the greedy can claim positions of supposed power until the next opportunity arrives." The boy spun his weapon around, scoring a light slash against D'hak's arm. "This is a fine weapon. If Strategos were to take this to Boral, Oriens would have been crushed. I wonder, did you know this when you hid the weapon from him, or were you under the influence of Ulic's wisdom?" The clone sneered and side-stepped before swinging forward and narrowly missing the child.
"I have given my life to defend this Clan," the clone repeated, "and I will see no threat mark or destroy it." D'hak pressed his attack as the conversation continued.
"Look around you!" Denath urged him. "We destroy ourselves, complacent in our meditations, docile in our hibernations, we sleep away every day until our last. Now our last has come. Oriens champs at our heels. It will not be long before they claim victory and move against us - don't you see that?" Denath ducked a formidable side kick, using the Force to push the clone back a step. "This House will destroy Arcona's legacy."
"This House is Arcona's legacy!" D'hak swung forward, nearly cleaving Denath in half - but the boy took a half step to the side at the last moment, and slashed D'hak across the chest. The clone dropped to his knees with a loud groan.
"This House is unworthy." The boy deactivated his lightsaber and turned his back on the mortally wounded clone. "I will show you the frail, whose eyes with no future will show how you failed. Then will you be worthy."
Denath slowly stepped inside the Quaestor's office, running his thumb across the length of Ulic Qel-Droma's lightsaber. "I'd like to speak with the Summit," he ordered. "See that they pass through unhindered." The door slid shut behind him as soldiers took their posts.
The rain poured down. Battle was sporadic. The forces of both houses had retreated into defensive positions. The ground was wet with rain. The storm was a product of the terraforming project currently underway on Boral. The moon had been without a strong atmosphere until Clan Arcona had undertaken a plan to terraform it for habitation. Their method of terraforming generated radical changes in weather. This rain storm was a visible manifestation of the project.
Quaestor Quejo Bandon stood in his trench staring across the barren plain. The soldiers of Oriens Obscurum had hastily dug these trenches to provide a defensible position from any further attacks. Though the enemy was weakened, they were still a danger. Quejo turned as his lieutenant approached.
“What is it, Khamier?” Quejo asked.
“Sir, we’ve received notice that our fleets in orbit are also in a stalemate. They’ve ceased firing. Both of the battle groups are very heavily damaged but no capital ships were lost,” Khamier reported. The Hunter quickly turned and ran back to the communications center.
Quejo mused. At least he hadn’t lost any of his prized vessels. He was still wondering what had happened to Sykes. The Rokir had taken the temple to Arconae Secundus and was no doubt gloating at his clear victory over his Quaestor. Sykes had always considered himself to be superior to Quejo and this latest maneuver was nothing more than the same old fight magnified in scale.
“Sir!” Khamier exclaimed.
“Yes,” Quejo turned, “What is it?”
The Hunter ran back to his Quaestor as fast as humanly possible. “I…received a strange communication that I felt you should see.”
Quejo grabbed the datapad out of Khamier’s hand. It was a private note from Krath Priestess Cymbre Kall, known as Xiao Long to those not quite so familiar with her. Quejo scratched his head as to what it could be about – he knew little about her except that she was ‘associated’ with Kaek. He chuckled to himself.
The Sith Warrior pressed the display button and a few lines of text scrolled across the screen. What was this? A summons. A message from Kaek? It made sense. He was to leave immediately. He motioned to Khamier and within half an hour, a shuttle left the surface of the moon for Arconae Secundus.
In the Quaestor’s quarters on the Oriens Obscurum headquarters, Sykes Rokir stared across the table at Krath Priestess Cymbre Kall of Clan Exar Kun.
“So they will come?” He asked
“I hope so,” she responded. “I have indicated it is a message from Kaek. Even Quejo is on his way.” She glanced around the room. “Where can we meet?”
“The recc room will suit us nicely,” Sykes replied. He stood up from his chair and walked around the table to the other side. “You should greet them,” he said.
“Why?” Cymbre asked.
“Primarily because Quejo wants to kill me,” Sykes laughed to himself. “And also because they will believe you are a representative of Kaek – whereas if I greet them it will be seen as a trap. We need all of them to be here.” She nodded. Sykes clearly understood what was at stake here. He had put aside his own personal prejudices in the interest of the Clan.
A button on the console flashed. Sykes reached down and activated it. “Yes, what is it?” the Aedile asked.
“Sir,” a voice replied, “several incoming ships requesting permission to dock. One is demanding to speak with the commander of the temple.”
Sykes grinned. “Let them all dock.” He turned to the Priestess. “You should speak to Quejo since he wants to make sure I’m not in command.”
Cymbre nodded and moved to the communications console. Sykes spoke into the comm system. “Acolyte, put the ship through to the console in my room.” There was an affirmative and a clicking sound.
“Sykes! You bastard! I’m going to eviscerate you when I get back there!” Quejo’s voice filled the room. Sykes smirked.
“Quejo,” Cymbre began, “I have control of the vessel. Come land and forget about Sykes. We have more important things to discuss.”
There was a momentary pause followed by a terse affirmative and a rapid click. The Krath Priestess turned and smiled at the Rokir. Everything was going well so far.
The recc room was filled with the hostile members of Arcona. Strategos and Paladorian sat in one corner. Quejo stood near the doorway. Sykes and Denath sat on the couch. Cymbre stood in the center of the room and looked around. There was some grumbling and dirty looks but nothing that would disrupt the proceedings. They had all sensed something – especially the now changed Denath.
“Gentlemen, I’ve called you here for this ceasefire because you have a greater enemy,” she stated simply. There was a murmur in the room that died away quickly as the Priestess raised her hand for silence. “You have all been manipulated by Kaek. He is setting you against one another for his own gain.” Denath laughed out loud.
“Why should we trust you, Cym?” Quejo asked. “You’re not a member of Arcona anymore. You would want us to go against our own Consul just so you could further the power of Exar Kun!” There was another murmur.
“Shut your mouth, Quejo,” Sykes growled. “Her integrity is not in question here. I think we have all been able to sense something strange about this little civil war of ours. This isn’t a normal power struggle among Dark Jedi.”
“Indeed,” Strategos commented. “Cym’s record shows that she still holds some loyalty to our Clan despite the fact that she has moved on. And if anyone would know what intrigues were being fabricated in Kaek’s mind, she would.”
“You don’t need to vindicate me, Strat,” Cymbre said. “Let me ask you gentlemen. Did not Kaek ask you all to be on his side? A very simple question.”
“He asked us to support him,” Quejo stated.
“He asked us to support him as well,” Strategos added. Everyone looked at one another.
“Son of a…” Quejo whispered under his breath.
“Kaek has played all of us!” Sykes exclaimed.
“Such an obvious trick too! He must have been betting on our egos,” Paladorian added. The room was tense with anger.
“It is clear that Kaek was betting not only on our egos, but also our knowledge of the recent instability of leadership,” Denath stated matter-of-factly. “He knew that every single one of us wanted to line up to become the next Proconsul so that when he disappeared, we would get a shot at the top job. We were willing to ignore our own inklings in favor of personal gain. Or rather, I should say that YOU were willing to ignore your own inklings in favor of personal gain.” There were a few dirty looks.
“I refuse to believe he could’ve deceived us so easily,” Quejo said. “He must have tampered with our minds to some extent.”
“Oh, I’m sure he did. I can feel some of it,” Denath responded quickly. “It is a pity I was not able to feel your minds earlier.”
“This is all interesting, gentlemen,” Cymbre interjected, “but we need to get on with business. You all need to go and confront him wherever he is. He needs to be stopped. He is going to destroy the Clan.”
“Wait,” Strategos said. “Why would he do this? And why would you betray him? Aren’t you two together?” The others nodded. Everything was happening so fast.
“I saw what was happening,” the Priestess started, “and I knew that I couldn’t let him damage Arcona. I was afforded too much hospitality in this Clan even after I had left. He wanted to pit you all against each other and effectively eliminate Arcona’s fighting power. He wanted to eliminate its soul. I couldn’t let that happen. After you all started fighting and the dead starting piling up, I had to intervene.”
Denath smirked. He was reaching into her mind. “And you know that a weakened Arcona was not in the interest of the Brotherhood, right?” he asked sarcastically.
“Yes, that too,” she admitted. “Call it sentiment, call it pragmatism. Whatever it is, you need to stop him.”
“That still doesn’t answer my question,” Strategos said. “Why would he do this?”
“To be honest, Strat,” Cym replied, “I don’t know. There must be some greater reason. You all know how Kaek is.” Everyone in the room nodded and a few smiled. “Maybe he was trying to weaken the houses so that none of you could challenge his ascendancy? Maybe he was trying to draw away attention from Halcyon’s mysterious disappearance? You know that Halcyon left of his own free will but never returned. Maybe he just wanted to see a lot of death and destruction? Regardless – we need to confront him.” She emphasized these last words.
“Well,” Quejo said, “I guess that’s good enough for me. Let’s go find him and demand some answers.”
Denath chuckled again. “Going to battle without consideration again, Quejo? She could be deceiving us just as easily as Kaek deceived all of you.”
“Shush, boy,” Strategos commanded.
Denath fingered Ulic Qel-Droma’s lightsaber. “Do not question me, Quaestor,” the Epis replied. He spit the last word out with much disdain. “I know quite a bit about double-crossing and I was not the one who was so easily deceived the first time around.” Strategos reddened. “You all don’t care if Kaek is causing problems or not. Now you have a casus belli to overthrow him. Well, I won’t contradict you. Let us go and find out what is going on.” He stood up and exited the room with a tight grin. His motivates were in contrast to the rest of them but none of them could feel that.
“You heard the man,” Sykes said. “Let’s go.” The rest of the Dark Jedi stood and left. Only Cymbre lingered behind. She looked at the room’s decorations and then down at her feet. What had she done? Why had she betrayed him? She didn’t know. Her guilt was growing exponentially. Yet what was done was done. She looked up again and quickly followed the leaders of Arcona. They were on their way back to Selen; to the Clan headquarters. There, the fate of Arcona would be determined.
The Leaders of Arcona boarded their shuttles and began the trip to Selen. They were all upset at what they have found out, Quejo more then the others. He respected Kaek and thought him to be a friend. But in the end he found out he was being used as a pawn, scurrying around to do the dirty work of a traitor. He was eager to confront Kaek but he knew it would have to wait. The Shuttle that carried Quejo, drifted back towards Boral. It shuddered as it slowly landed on it's barren surface. As he he stepped out of the shuttle he saw his apprentice Khamier waiting patiently.
"You're in charge here, I need to go to Selen to take care of something."
"Then why are you here?" Khamier smirked.
"I needed to see how many men we've actually lost. Now that the dust has settled I can clearly see that this war was never meant to happen."
"Sykes was right...." Quejo stated to himself. He then shook his head and looked back up to the Pandragon Commander.
"Khamier I want you to get the bodies together."
"And once they're gathered?"
Khamier nodded and turned to carry out the orders. It was at that moment Quejo heard a painful moan coming from behind him. He looked over his shoulder and saw that it was a young Protector.
"I gave'em hell sir." Keno stated through clenched teeth, trying to bare the pain.
Quejo reached out and laid his hand across the Falleen's forehead. He then used a technique to revive the young Jedi. His Altered State skills came in handy as Keno slowly sat up and gripped his sword.
"Come on Keno, you're coming with me to Selen." Quejo stated before once again boarding the shuttle, that was now refueled and ready for take off.
The ship's engines ignited and the forward thrusters kicked in allowing the ship to begin its voyage to the Arcona Headquarters.
"What are we going to Selen for?"
"I need to confront a friend."
"I'm going to need someone's help?"
"Then why ask me for it?"
"Cause you were the only one that was near me when I was talking to Khamier. And he needs to take care of things while I'm gone."
"Plus I'm gonna need someone to cause a diversion." Quejo stated with a sadistic tone.
"Nothing." Quejo smiled.
The shuttle continued its journey to Selen. Quejo, looked out the cockpit window and curled his lip as he saw the wreckage of the space battle. Not only was the loss of warriors a hard thing to bare. But losing a ship, one's that arent easy to come across was a frustrating thought.
The stranger sat in a secluded corner, the fading sun casting a harsh glow on the already poor-excuse for a cantina. A shadow seemed to blanket the stranger, his body seeming to shout “stay away” for anyone bothering to look his way. His robes stank of sweat, dirt and blood as his dishevelled hair hung limply across his face. The hint of emerald seemed to appear as the sun finally sank out of existence.
A cold mug of something sat in front of the stranger, his fingers idly outlining the rim of the glass as his thoughts ventured to areas far outside this hovel. For the past number of days, the now seemingly broken man had ventured halfway across the galaxy, his shuttle stripped down of any extra upgrade, the only real working piece on it was its engines and hyperdrive. He had travelled to both populated worlds and dead worlds, chasing after the ghostly images of a man who wanted to be left alone. He had ended up at this cantina, his final stop. This planet had no name, only a number. Its “attractions” made Tatooine seem a tropical resort in comparison.
His instincts had brought him here, no other guidance being used on this trip. Each world had been a dead-end, but always the impression was there; always was there a thread that continued to lead him on. That thread ended here, and it was here that the stranger rested before going home.
Why do you continue? A voice asked him.
I must know, was the answer.
Why you left.
A slight rustle revealed another man, this one looking near-death as he sat across from the stranger.
“Look at me to find your answers”, the newcomer rasped as his pale-eyes bored into the stranger.
Unaccustomed to showing his true emotions, the stranger was visibly shaken by what he saw in front of him. This man he had known for quite some time, although always looking like he had one foot in the grave, seemed to have become even frailer. His once vibrant tattoos had diminished, and his long hair was now in clumps. And behind the eyes lay the true horror. The connection they once had was re-formed, the stranger reeling from the images that filtered through.
“No…” he whispered, “what have you done?”
“I’ve done nothing. Look to my predecessor for that, your ‘brother’”.
“Where is it now?” the stranger demanded of the newcomer, his eyes turning cold once more as the situation grew graver.
“I’ve forgotten”, the newcomer hesitantly answered, “I made myself forget. I don’t want to know”. He turned his head, downcast, his past pulling him down deeper.
“And what of your power? You deny that too?”
“Going there will mean my end. Do you think yourself capable where I faltered?”
“We shall see. When that day comes, we will meet again”.
The grabbed his mug and drained it of its liquid before pushing himself up. Pulling his robes tight around him, the stranger nodded at the newcomer before walking out of the cantina. Exiting seemed to lift a weight off his shoulder, his back straightening as he finally had what he had sought. Striding with renewed confidence, the Consul of Arcona made his way towards the shuttle and prepared himself for his return home.
In the cantina, al’Lan Mandragoran still sat at the table, a smile on deathly face.
The shuttle glided peacefully into the hangar of Arcona’s headquarters. Inside, the leadership of Clan Arcona along with a few companions prepared for a battle. Strategos eagerly thumbed the switch of his saber. Paladorian and Sykes sat quietly and calmly. Quejo paced back and forth with anticipation. Cymbre Kall lay peacefully asleep and Keno looked around with curiosity. In one corner, Denath meditated in preparation for the confrontation. There was tension in the air and there had been little conversation on the trip over.
Once the shuttle had landed, the ramp had lowered, and Cymbre and Denath had been roused, the seven Dark Jedi calmly walked out into the hangar. It was virtually empty. There were no other craft and not a living soul was in sight. Quejo walked towards the turbolift quickly and without a word. The other warriors trotted after.
“Do you sense that?” Denath asked the others. There was a general murmur of agreement followed by a tense pause as they ran along towards the lift.
“Stop it people,” Quejo commanded as they arrived at the lift.
“Uhhh, Quejo,” Strategos smirked, “We have to – we can’t walk through walls.”
Quejo looked at the Quaestor with a blank stare. “No, idiot, I meant stop being so nervous,” the Sith Warrior replied. “It’s just Kaek. He’s a Sith Warlord, not a Grand Master. We can take him.” Some of the others nodded but Cymbre shook her head.
“Something is wrong,” she started. “I feel something different. This is very strange. It doesn’t feel like him.”
“I agree,” Denath said. “We’re not going to face only Kaek today. There is something else at work.”
“I feel nothing,” Strategos sniped, “except for the overpowering presence of Kaek’s ego. Let’s go take him down.”
“Be cautious, Strat,” Sykes commented, “or you might not last long.”
“Shut up, Sykes. Let’s just get on with this.” The Quaestor of House Qel-Droma marched into the turbolift and motioned for the others to follow him. This they did and the lift rocketed up into the pyramid.
No one said anything on the ride up. Everyone was preparing. Some were there to enhance their own reputation. Some were there to protect their own Clan. Some were there to avenge their honor. Some were there for love. Regardless, they all hoped to be the one to kill Kaek and claim the title of Consul. Even Keno held vain hopes of glory and power. Despite the wisdom of Denath, he was still a Dark Jedi – and he still wanted more power. Cymbre, perhaps, was the most tormented in making the decision to move against her lover. Nevertheless, the die was cast and this was to be her move. The others were singularly focused.
The turbolift came to a halt and they stepped out onto the concourse. The throne room was only a few hundred feet away. Quejo led the way eagerly. He ripped open the throne room door and stepped in. The others quickly followed.
Sitting on the Serpentine Throne staring at a datapad was their target – Sith Warlord Syn Kaek. Templar Magus Lionheart stood to his right and was looking at the same datapad. The ‘Consul’ looked up and smirked. He handed Magus the datapad and the Templar disappeared into the shadows.
“Ahhh, welcome,” Kaek grinned. “I have been waiting for you.” He shifted in his seat and titled his head.
Denath took a step forward. “Kaek, where is the banner of Shadow?”
“It has been removed for…safe-keeping,” Kaek grinned again – this time much more coldly. The Warlord shifted in his seat again.
Quejo stepped forward as well. “Kaek,” he began, “you have betrayed all of us and you have betrayed Clan Arcona! And for that, you shall die!”
“Oh please, Quejo,” Kaek scoffed. “Spare me the crap. I have infinitely more important things to do than listen to you try to give a speech.” Kaek waved his hand and Quejo was knocked back a few feet. “Mind your place.” Kaek’s voice had modulated. It was deeper, darker and filled with an intense hatred. His eyes narrowed.
Denath took another step forward. “You do not stop me,” the Epis said. “Why not?”
Kaek’s eyes shifted towards the Krath. “You….” he started in a gravely voice. “You…are nothing to me, boy.” Denath’s eyes blazed. He took another step forward and reached for Ulic Qel-Droma’s saber.
“What did you say?” he asked quietly.
“I said you are nothing. Nothing at all.” Kaek’s voice seemed to be booming but it was only reverberating through their minds. Denath took another step forward. The others watched cautiously.
“That’s what I thought,” Denath said and ignited the saber. But it was too late. As the saber came to life Kaek put out his arm and the hilt flew safely into his hand. “What the…?” Denath gasped.
Kaek’s voice returned to normal. “Hah! You fool!” the Warlord laughed. “So easily goaded into aggression.” The ‘Consul’ smiled broadly. “Oh really, sometimes I wonder at the Dark Jedi Code. Aggression – pah! What good does it do you if you lack control over it?” Kaek grinned again and shut off the saber. He slipped it into his robes.
Denath was stunned. How could Kaek have done that? They were of roughly the same rank. They had roughly the same mastery of the Force. He could not have easily overcome Denath’s own defenses on his own. The Epis took a few steps back and looked at the others.
Sykes smiled. “You’ve prepared well, Kaek,” he said, “But the seven of us can take you.”
“Are you so sure of that, Warrior?” the Warlord replied. “Not all is as it seems.”
Denath cautioned. “He has been sitting on the throne. He knows all of our thoughts and he knows all of our plans. He can read our minds.”
Kaek clapped his hands together. “You are right, my dear friend! Indeed, I know of all your plans. I have been anxiously waiting for you to get here so we could have this little chat. So please please – come: speak your minds! It’s the least I can offer you before we have to conclude our…business.” The Warlord smiled eagerly and stood up from the throne. He tilted his head slightly and looked at the seven Dark Jedi.
Cymbre stepped forward and looked at Kaek. “Why did you betray Arcona, Syn?” she asked quietly.
The Warlord looked at her emotionlessly. “I would ask you why you betrayed me.” The words were terse and harsh. The air in the room hung still for a moment. Quejo shifted his weight.
“For the good of the Brotherhood,” the Priestess finally responded with downcast eyes.
“Ah hah!” Kaek laughed maliciously. “For the good of the Brotherhood…” He looked around at the other Dark Jedi. “And you seriously think that letting one of these fools overthrow me is in the interest of the Brotherhood? Look at you all! Eagerly clamoring for power! All anxious to kill one another. Oh this is for shame!”
“What do you consider what you did to Halc??!” Quejo demanded.
“What has been done to Halc was what was necessary. You know nothing of these things, Quaestor,” the Warlord spit contemptuously. His gaze shifted back towards the Krath Priestess. “Why don’t you tell me the real reason you betrayed me. It’s not as if I couldn’t figure it out.”
She hesitated for a moment and then spoke. “You changed – something happened.”
He nodded. His eyes softened for a moment. “I know – but it was necessary.” There was a split second of silence and then his features hardened into a grimace. “So, I see arrayed before me Quejo, Sykes, Strategos, Paladorian, Denath, Cymbre and Keno. A formidable task force I would say under any other circumstance. But today is not just any other circumstance.” Kaek looked at Strategos.
The Qel-Droman Quaestor had been smoldering the entire time but had restrained his urge to attack the Warlord so far. His Aedile, in-tune with Strategos’ thinking, stood ready to assist. Denath fingered the switch of his own lightsaber. Keno ran his hands down a training lightsaber that Quejo had given him.
“Enough of this, Kaek,” Strategos said. “Let’s end this.” With these words, Strategos ignited his green saber and stepped forward. His Aedile did likewise. Denath turned his head and then followed suit, his yellow blade adding to the colors. Quejo and Sykes both ignited their sabers. Keno was the last to ignite his feeble training saber. Cymbre stepped back but did not ignite her saber. The others looked at her.
“I cannot strike him down,” she said apologetically.
Denath nodded. “There are still six of us. We can handle him.”
“Oh really?!” Kaek scoffed. He turned back towards them and reached into his robes. He withdrew a wickedly curved saber and ignited it. Its yellow blade lanced out towards the ground. With his left hand, he reached into another fold and withdrew another saber. This one was not curved. He ignited it as well and its sapphire blade flickered into the air. It was a shorter blade – a short lightsaber.
“Wha…?” Quejo gasped.
“Two? But he’s not…?” Paladorian said.
“I told you we should’ve been more prepared for this,” Sykes whispered.
“Shut up, let’s go to it!” Strategos proclaimed. The Archpriest ran at the Serpentine Throne and swung widely at the Warlord. Kaek jumped over the Archpriest and engaged him with only the yellow saber. His speed was amazing. Kaek had always been very fast – that was how he preferred to duel – but something was enhancing his speed. Strategos parried blow by blow but was slowly losing ground. Keno, seeing his chance ran forward before the others could join and swung broadly and clumsily at the ‘Consul.’
Without even looking in his direction, Kaek swung his blue saber in a mid-level half-circle that would’ve effectively halved the Protector if it hadn’t been for Keno’s reflexes. Nevertheless, another quick saber swing by Kaek and the Protector’s training saber was useless – cut to pieces by a small swipe. Meanwhile the right-handed duel with Strategos continued. The Archpriest was amazed at the rapidity with which Kaek was able to anticipate and counteract his moves.
Some of the others were not to be outdone. Quejo and Sykes ran forward to join the fray while Denath and Paladorian were more patient. The Sith Warlord grimaced with exertion as he locked his saber with Strategos. They both pushed hard against each other but with a sudden burst of the Force, Strategos was slammed back several feet and dropped hard onto the ground. The ‘Consul’ turned around and looked at Keno who was a mere meter away. The look on Kaek’s face was one of concentration and – concern? He wore a kindly frown. While these thoughts passed through Keno’s head, Kaek held up his right hand and Keno dropped to the ground gasping for air. At this sight, the others stopped and observed. They were horrified. Several meters off, Strategos stood up again battered but ready to continue the fight.
Keno reached for his neck and attempted to wrest away the invisible hands that were draining the life away from him. The Protector gasped for air. The only sound that could be heard besides the hum of the lightsabers was Keno’s pitiful muttering. After what seemed like an eternity but was in fact only a few seconds, the Protector collapsed to the ground unconscious. Kaek released him and turned to face his attackers.
Quejo and Sykes turned towards their opponent and charged forward. This was definitely a more worthy duel. With his left hand, Kaek slashed broadly while with his right hand, he was infinitely more precise and artful. He twisted and turned with each of their slashes. Quejo’s blue blade and Sykes’ white blade clashed against Kaek’s two sabers as the two Warriors attempted to best their ‘Consul.’ Strategos, not to be outdone, soon joined the fray. The agile Warlord would dodge one of the three blades while parrying two of the others.
Denath stopped walking towards Kaek. Something was wrong. Paladorian stopped as well. They looked at each other. “He shouldn’t be able to do that,” Denath said. Paladorian nodded in response. They both turned and looked at Cymbre who was observing the events solemnly. The light of the battle reflected in her soft eyes but she said nothing and did not even return their gaze. “We need to help them – now!” Denath spoke with sudden urgency. The two Krath charged towards Kaek.
The Warlord saw this and leaped back away from his attackers. Quickly he reached out with the Force and there was a low humming sound as a black orb formed around his right hand. He breathed deeply and replenished his Force powers with the pure power of the Dark Side. The others were breathing heavily and were preparing to attack him again.
“He has Elder powers and Elder reflexes!” Strategos said quickly to the others.
“Yes,” Denath responded coming to his side, “But how does he? He is only a Sith Warlord. There is something else going on here!”
Sykes gasped for air from his duel. “The banner of Shadow – he is hiding something.”
Denath nodded. “But what? Whatever it is or whoever it is, it’s giving him his power.”
Quejo looked at Kaek silently. “We have to try to take him out. He is reacting with the power of a Dark Jedi Master – but we have to at least try to take him out.” Strategos nodded and they moved to attack.
The Warlord was ready, however. As Strategos walked forward, Kaek held up his hand and massive arcs of lightning issued forth. They ripped into the completely unprepared Quaestor’s body and slowly started to shatter his bones. The others were taken aback. Strategos screamed out in pain.
“Quaestor, you have been one of my most annoying opponents,” Kaek said with hatred. “So now you will be forced to understand the penalty for your power lust.” The lightning continued to rip through the Archpriest’s body. Strategos dropped his saber and it fell to the ground and shut off. Kaek’s face contorted into one of anger and hatred and Strategos’ body lifted into the air. The screams became louder. The acrid smell of the Dark Side permeated the room. With one final burst of Dark Side energy, the Quaestor of Qel-Droma slumped to the ground.
“No!!!” Paladorian ran forward to Strategos. The Aedile crouched down and felt his friend’s pulse. He was still alive – but barely. With a look of hatred, the normally reserved Paladorian charged at Kaek. “Die!!!” he screamed. He raised his purple saber high in the air. Kaek closed his eyes as Paladorian approached. As the Aedile swung the saber down to slaughter the Warlord, there was a strange sound and the lightsaber disappeared. Paladorian swung with nothing as he charged by the ‘Consul.’ His hands were empty. At the same time, Kaek twirled his yellow saber and jabbed it back behind his back without looking. There was a small yelp and the smell of burning flesh. Paladorian dropped to the ground and looked at the large wound that Kaek had stabbed into the back of his leg. Several meters away, Paladorian’s saber dropped to the ground.
The Warlord whirled around and shot a quick burst of Force lightning into Paladorian’s body. The Aedile, from a combination of shock and Kaek’s Force powers, closed his eyes and did not move. He was unconscious. Kaek whirled around again and grinned at the three remaining Dark Jedi.
“Uhmm…gentlemen?” Quejo began.
“Yeah?” Denath asked.
“What do we do now?” Quejo asked.
“Well…I don’t know,” Denath responded.
Kaek smiled and readjusted his stance. “So my friends, the odds are more equal now?” The Warlord reached into the air with his right hand and an arc of lightning smashed into the bodies of the disabled warriors. “For good measure,” the ‘Consul’ said with a wicked grin.
“Guys,” Sykes, ignoring Kaek, said quietly.
“Hmm?” Quejo responded.
“We’re screwed,” Sykes murmured. The two Warriors and the Epis assumed defensive stances.
“Oh I see,” Kaek smiled. “Realizing your mistake this time? I would’ve expected it sooner!” The Warlord moved towards them.
“Uhm Sykes,” Quejo said, also ignoring Kaek.
“Yeah?” Sykes responded with a touch of hopelessness.
“Remind me again, how did Kaek suddenly become a Dark Jedi Master?”
“He didn’t,” Denath interrupted. Kaek had inched towards them. He was not that far away at this point. “He is being supported by someone more powerful than him.”
“Who, Trev?” Sykes asked.
“No, Trev would’ve just killed us all right away,” Quejo replied.
“Mejas?” Denath proposed.
“No, Mejas would be more open about something like this,” Sykes considered. Kaek seemed to purposely be giving them time to debate what was going on. Yet soon he was within range. He lashed out suddenly at Sykes. The three Dark Jedi quickly resumed an attack stance and parried the Warlord’s slashes. They came faster and harder and were clearly aimed primarily at Sykes. If he swung his saber at Denath or Quejo, it was only to parry their attacks. Sykes was starting to lose ground to the superior swordsmanship of the ‘Consul.’ Finally, with three heavy strokes from Kaek, the Warrior lost a grip on his saber and it clattered off to the side. Sykes fell back several feet as Kaek shoved him away with a push from the Force.
As Kaek turned to face Quejo and Denath, Sykes struggled to regain his composure. Suddenly, several sharp telekinetic blows lashed out at various points in his body. The Warrior yelled out in pain and winced. They continued to increase in both intensity and frequency. The attacks continued until the Aedile dropped to the ground unconscious with pain. Sykes’ face was bloodied and his body was bruised.
Denath and Quejo were struggling to strike at this seemingly invincible foe. As the swings and slashes grew faster, all three men were growing more and more exhausted. But Kaek had more energy – he fought with the energy of two men. Finally, with a burst of strength, Denath was shoved away by a ferocious Force push. The Epis flew across the throne room and slammed into the wall. Cymbre, who had been quietly musing, turned to look at him for only a second and then resumed watching the duel between Kaek and Quejo.
Quejo pressed his attack on Kaek. He was fighting with all his might. He desperately wanted to prove that he could stand up to his old mentor. It was essentially a rite of passage in the Brotherhood to be able to successfully duel your mentor when you believed that you had outgrown them. This Kaek, however, was something different. The attacks just seemed to keep coming without end. Finally Kaek leaped back several feet and turned towards the Quaestor of Oriens Obscurum.
“It’s over, Kaek,” Quejo said. He wasn’t so sure of himself when he said it but he felt like he needed to make some kind of threat. Kaek only smiled. Suddenly, Quejo felt a searing pain in his mind. What was this? More of Kaek’s trickery? He was terrified. He didn’t want to go out like a fool. He gasped and suddenly realized it wasn’t pain he was feeling. His connection to the Force was being blocked! Quejo could feel nothing around him – he was blind to the Force. It was cut off from him. He could not duel Kaek without access to the Force. He could not stand up to this power.
As his Force powers disappeared away, the Sith Warrior began to lose control of himself. He dropped his saber and it switched off. He dropped to his knees and gasped. The Force finally left him completely and the Warrior was helpless. As Kaek walked forward to swing his saber down and end the duel, Denath suddenly jumped forward in front of the ‘Consul’ and swung his saber.
“Did you forget about me?” Denath asked quietly. He had saved Quejo for the time being.
“No,” Kaek responded bluntly while parrying Denath’s attack easily. As he responded with his one, simple word, a shroud of darkness covered the Warlord and he could no longer be seen. Denath grimaced in anger as Force lightning ripped out from the shroud and smashed into his body. Who had so much power? The Epis dropped to his knees and reached out with the Force. He pushed back against Kaek’s aura and felt something at the edge of the Warlord’s power. It was a familiar presence…who was it? With a singular concentration, Denath struggled against the unbridled power of the Dark Side and after several seconds, he finally was able to block and contain an arc of the energy. Suddenly the barrage stopped.
The shroud had disappeared. Kaek was standing next to the Serpentine Throne. His sabers were off. Denath looked up in surprise. The strange aura around Kaek had disappeared. He seemed normal again. His face even looked genuinely pleasant. Quejo gasped as his command of the Force returned to him. All of the others in the room had suddenly regained consciousness and were slowly standing up – all except for Paladorian who was only able to return to a sitting position. No one made any move towards Kaek.
“Gentlemen, it is now over,” the Warlord smiled.
“What do you mean, what has happened?” Denath asked as he lifted himself up off his knees.
“I have not done as badly as you would all have thought,” the ‘Consul’ said. “It is now time to reveal the truth to you. You all know that I had played you against each other. You all thought I had usurped the Serpentine Throne from Halcyon. However that is not the case.”
With these words the banner of Shadow unfurled above the throne. All could now sense a very familiar presence. A powerful man with emerald hair stepped out of the shadows behind the throne.
“Halcyon!” Quejo exclaimed.
The Consul nodded and stepped slowly towards his throne. He smiled broadly. “Indeed,” was the only word that escaped his mouth.
“But what about…? What?” Strategos asked.
“Your illustrious Proconsul and I have orchestrated this entire affair. Though I must give most of the credit to him,” Halcyon said.
“Oh please, Halc,” Kaek added, “Without you, I would’ve been dead when they walked in here.”
“Yes, surely,” Halc replied “But without you, we could not have deceived all of them so easily.”
Slowly, it dawned on Denath what had happened. This had been a culling. The two newest leaders of Arcona had intentionally set the Houses against each other. They were trying to eliminate those who they considered weak and counter-productive to the interests of the Clan. It was also a test for the highest ranking Arconans. That is why Kaek had stopped when Denath had successfully blocked a Force attack – if even only for a moment.
Halcyon smiled. “I see you understand us, Denath,” he said. “And I see that the others now do as well.”
The other Dark Jedi moved towards the throne. “Consul, I –“ Strategos started but was cut off.
“This is how things will be from now on,” Halcyon said rapidly. “I will explain what has happened to the Clan in a few moments. The physical damage to facilities is minimal. Our ships can be repaired easily – you were all too hesitant and didn’t cause any major damage.” Sykes looked sheepish. “From here on, Denath is to be Quaestor of House Qel-Droma.” Strategos stirred but Halcyon did not let him speak. “This is final, Strat. You and Paladorian are removed. Perhaps next time you will consider your actions first.” Neither of the two men said anything. Halcyon raised an eyebrow. “I feel your thoughts – we manipulated you. But you were naturally predisposed to betray us anyways. Do not try to deny this.” They remained silent.
“As for you, Quejo,” Halcyon continued, “You will remain Quaestor of House Oriens Obscurum though Warrior Sykes will no longer be your Aedile. I have felt his thoughts and he needs to be away for now. There is something that waits for him.”
“What is it, Halc?” Sykes asked with a quizzical look.
“Something in your future, Sykes,” Halc replied. “You will soon know.” The Consul turned towards Kaek. “Have you anything further to add?”
“No – except it was fun having Elder powers for a short time!” Kaek grinned. Halc grinned. The others glared.
Slowly, Kaek turned and looked at Cymbre. She was looking at him with bright eyes. He walked slowly towards her. “Do not feel guilty,” he started with a much more compassionate tone and expression than earlier. “I placed those seeds of betrayal in your head. I needed you to betray me. You would never have done so without my work,” he said. She looked at him and said nothing. Her eyes, however, betrayed her feelings. Slowly she embraced him.
Halcyon snickered. “What I wouldn’t give now for an auditorium to collapse!” A few of the others chuckled.
Denath sat and mused to himself. It had been two weeks since the Civil War had ended. Halcyon had returned to the Consular throne. The population of Arcona had been drastically decreased while the quality of its forces had drastically increased. The two disgraced Krath had spent most of their time meditating. He now led Qel-Droma himself. He was amazed at how there had been no sense of bitterness within him. He had had no urge to strike out against Halcyon or Kaek for their overt manipulation of the Clan. No one else had felt it either. In part, it was because he understood what they had done. The Clan had been culled – resources would be more appropriately used now. It was also in part to the mental tampering of the two leaders.
Had the Civil War been necessary? Had it been useful? As Denath considered his own enhanced position and subsequently the enhanced position of Arcona, he concluded that it had been more than necessary. So many had been killed but really, what were they worth? Nothing but a drain on the Brotherhood. And so many had now proven themselves. Things looked brighter for the future. Arcona stood on a threshold. Now, the true test of resolve was over the horizon.