Team Prime: Clan Naga Sadow
Team Prime Roster
OP Mirado Pepoi L'eonheart - 11584
OP Atra Ventus - 11708
SBM Kalia Pepoi - 12908
DJK Mirus Cavataio - 13358
GRD Syntari Bastiayn - 12301
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0300 Hours Since Crash
The icy wind clawed daggers into the Miraluka’s face, forcing him to consider the options presented to him and the rest of the team of Sadowans as they trekked along towards their goal. It was fortunate for the rest of the group that they had the clan’s own murderer in their pocket, as his depth and breadth of wilderness survival was unrivaled in the halls of Naga Sadow.
Behind him, Syntari offered Mirus a hand, the two journeymen seeking aid from one another in a wise move. They may find themselves at cross odds further down the road (provided they survived this trip) but currently, they needed each other. In fact, they all needed one another.
“How long?” Mirado asked of his cousin. Unable to read a standard chronometer, he was forced to ask this question of those with actual eyes in their sockets. “And how cold?”
“Four hours,” Kalia answered, her voice reedier and higher pitched than usual, “and six below.” While she was bundled in one of the thick coats packed into the crash kits in their now downed shuttle, there was a considerable shiver in her motions, the same as everyone else. Only Atra remained perfectly silent about the whole situation, mostly because he had no other choice. The corruption of the Dark Side had been far from kind to Sadow's world, and such subtles actions as telepathy were hindered by the saturation. The Mute Proconsul had no means to communicate aside of drawing in the snow, and pausing long enough to write a complaint about the cold was both counterproductive and foolish.
“There’s a copse of evergreens over there,” Mirus said, pointing roughly east over the blasted, frozen tundra. “We could probably find some shelter and firewood. Maybe some food too.”
There were quiet murmurs of agreement from the rest of the team, before it was cut off by the low baritone of the Miraluka assassin. “Defensible too. We’re being hunted.”
“What?” Syntari asked. “I haven’t seen or heard anything.”
“Me either,” Mirado replied. “I can smell them. Fur, sweat, and dander. Picked up the scent when the wind changed. Big herbivores, if I’m right. We’ve got time, but not much. “
Atra nodded. Trained by Mirado’s brother Methyas, he was all too familiar with the powerful senses possessed by the Miralukan species. With a stoic shrug, he began heading towards the small copse of trees, hand absently straying towards the lightsaber at his belt.
There was no sense in arguing the point either. If Mirado was wrong, there was still shelter and the potential for fire, things they needed at the moment. If he was right, there was cover and concealment. Still, even this wasn’t enough annoyance and threat.
“Sith War Behemoths are native to this world," Kalia said grimly, arms clenched over her chest for warmth. When everyone else looked at her, she added defensively, “Am I the only person who researched the planet after the briefing?”
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0300 Hours Since Crash
Atra merely blinked at the incredulity of the situation as the wind cut across the exposed flesh of his arms. Like shards of honed ice, his skin felt as if it were about to split open against the unrelenting strikes of frigid air. Yet still, he remained ever stoic. The Proconsul could not afford to feel, that much was certain since his reintroduction to society only one standard year ago. Kalia continued to look at the group, muttering under her breath about the merits of good intel.
In the quiet of the moment, the two Equite level Obelisks glanced at one another. Having trained in the martial studies under Mirado, the pair could commune in the form of shared understanding more often than not. Turning again, the Proconsul continued towards their intended shelter. His large boots cut a swath through the snow at their feet, forming more of a path than tracks as the large man walked. As one, the group of Sadowans continued on their path, eyes ever scanning for the promised threats. Syntari kept silent for the time being, her stance as frigid as the air they each fought to pull through their lungs. Intelligence shone bright within her silvery green eyes as they took in not only the frozen tundra, but her companions as well. The proverbial gears were grinding within the Krath's mind as she weighed them each in turn. At the back of his mind, Atra felt as if the lab rat again, being observed and recorded. He pushed the thoughts from his mind hard, as they had no place in the here and now.
They were alone and betrayed from within, as was the way of the Sith. There was no need for them to quarrel among those that would be relied on for survival.
"I haven't survived this long just to give nature the pleasure." Mirus' scowl was clear in the rising wind as they entered the copse, particles of snow starting to obscure their collective vision. Although newly indoctrinated to the ways of Sadow, the ex-Taldryan had already found his own identity within his clan; his dedication and tenacity were nigh tangible in every cause he pursued.
"So kill nature first." Syntari had to speak louder than she would have liked in order to be heard over nature's wrath. This action earned her what could only be interpreted as a glare from Mirado. Silence was paramount to their survival, especially when being hunted in unknown territory.
The Krath should have known better.
To the credit of the Herald's apprentice, she said nothing and merely nodded in acknowledgement as her features turned hard once more. Still, whether consciously or not, Syntari's hand drifted to the comfortable weight of the katana at her side. Shelter was their primary goal, especially as their conditions became increasingly more inhospitable. To that end, they worked as a complete unit seeing to each task so that no one was wasting energy on duplicated efforts. Words were no longer needed, only their immediate survival remained.
In silence they prepared, and in that silence they were delivered a hint to the rewards of failure.
Carried upon the wind as a whisper turned howl, what could only be the beastial tones of the Behemoths fell upon their ears. The beasts must have stumbled upon something, anything, lost to the almost predatory tundra. They sounded nigh psychotic as they ravenously feasted. Atra hoped that whatever had been discovered was long dead, for such horrors were promised within those echoing cries.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0400 Hours Since Crash
The tension in the air was so thick that it could've been cut with a knife. They had shelter available to them, rudimentary as it was from the efforts of the group, but it was not the most ideal situation to be stuck in. Snow and ice was everywhere upon clothes and bodies, chilling to the bone. For anyone other than a Dark Jedi with command of the Force at their beck and call this would have been untenable at the best. The desperation of attempting to construct shelter with an enemy unknown somewhere nearby, heralded by the trumpeting of naturally-enraged Sith War Behemoths, added to the consternation of working under pressure.
When the beasts in the distance fell silent, it was unspoken between the five Sadowans that there was something extremely wrong with this situation. Mirado was the first to cast a glance around at the horizon, searching for shadows and massed threats but finding none there. His words, tempered by experience learned the hard way, came as more of a command than a suggestion.
"We need to move. Now." None argued.
There was a palpable shift in the air at the change of pace; anxiety was replaced with urgency as their campsite fell abandoned, only the necessities taken with them. If they were to have any chance of survival, it would be in stealth and mobility, not sitting around a campfire and hoping to laugh it off with a few tall tales as so many adventurers seemed to believe plausible. Lest they become the hunted, the team had to find what was already tailing them. All of them broke into a run the moment they could, running away from their campsite as a group. There was very little footing to be had across the cold, harsh ground; Mirus found it difficult to traverse the snow of Khar Delba, being unaccustomed to the idea of a snowy planet despite his membership in a battle-team that found its headquarters on an icy moon. Syntari, the only person as green as he was to Sadow operations, was patient enough to lend him a helping hand through the bigger snow drifts, for which he was thankful - but that slowness was costing them celerity and time. When their lives were on the line, there was no greater price to pay than being caught by their assailants.
Suddenly, to their left, the group heard the simultaneous roar of a number of berserk animals and the crashing of trees amidst gigantic feet thrown into stampede. The behemoths were on their trail already, which was never a good sign. There were an unknown number of them, already on their tails. This was not stalking - this was an outright attack on them. What was more troubling to Atra, Mirado and Kalia, however, was the dark presence they could sense even further beyond that, something sinister and dark, something stalking them through the ice and snow.
"Hurry it up!" Kalia's voice could be heard over the din. There was no point trying to hide it now as the stampede drew closer, but the Battlemaster's frustration and the total lack of preparation on the parts of the others was bubbling to the surface. Mirus and Syntari were already starting to lag behind the group, which would inevitably be the biggest problem of them all when whatever was hunting them caught them already; the Bpfasshi’s refusal to allow her Clanmates to die would end up costing someone their life. Chaos would not replace madness, however, and Mirado placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder for little more than a moment before springing off again, naturally fleet of foot across the snow to serve as their guide.
It was evident to only the Proconsul thus far that there was something wrong with this. Were someone to hunt them, it would not be with a Sith War Behemoth; the megafauna were not designed for subtlety nor tact, and could have easily been used as the catalyst for a trap rather than be the hunters themselves. A sudden moment of dread filled him as he realised they were being caught between two opposing forces; Mirado, so distracted by leading an entire party across the snows, would not have been thinking about a separate train of thought in the same moment. Atra knew in that moment that they were trapped, but silenced through the Force, they had no way of knowing that they were walking headfirst into danger. But what would be worse - the horde of beasts behind them or the unseen, unknown force in front of them?
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0400 Hours Since Crash
How was it that so quickly their situation could have come to this? How was it that everything Syntari had worked for thus far could end in quickly? The last thing she wanted to do was die, certainly not here, and certainly not like this. She risked a glance over her shoulder and swore as she glimpsed the silhouette of a fearsomely ferocious creature blitzing through the snow towards the team of fleeing dark Jedi. To Syntari, some aspect of their situation simply did not feel right. The blizzard did not ensnare their bones in frigid agony as such things were wont to do, and in reality their vision was only mildly impaired, except for Mirado; Syntari should not be viewing their pursuers as ghostly figures as if she too were effectively blind. In addition to the shards of burning snow whirling through their ranks, she could have sworn that a presence as viscous as any she had encountered in the Brotherhood slithered about to touch each in turn.
For a moment the Bpfasshi lost sight of her team as the presence surrounded her and she released a particularly questionable phrase in her native tongue as she felt Mirus's hand-which she had grabbed as the group first began to flee-slipped from hers as he lost his footing in the harsh terrain. Without missing a beat she whirled to reach for his hand again, the action done in part to satisfy her selfish desire not to be alone. For the first time, she felt the tug of the bond between Clanmates and understood why those in the Brotherhood went on about their Clan.
She sought out Mirus's hand amongst the swirling elements and fought to yank him out of the snow-drift which he had involuntarily fallen into. Blinking away the flakes obscuring her vision, Syntari saw two forms lying in the snow, one obviously a male and the other that of a female.
The Krath's heart ceased to beat for a crucial second as she regarded the figure before her. Her eyes saw the nearly frozen body of Cyril Nighthunter, the one whom she loved above all else, while her mind insisted that, logically, only Mirus truly existed there. At the same time, the sliver of her heart which longed for Cyril insisted that she drop Mirus's hand and rescue her one-time friend.
A quandary: save a friend or sacrifice a team-member? Cyril, whom Syntari loved more than she loved herself and possibly anyone in the universe, reached for the hand of her savior just as Mirus did.
"Don't leave me," came Cyril's plea.
How could Syntari live with herself leaving her closest friend to death? The logical side of Syntari insisted that Cyril's sudden appearance was merely an illusion borne of her own longings, that realistically the former Brotherhood member would have already been dead had she truly been on that planet. In moments, Mirus would face a worse fate, and Syntari would not bear that blood on her hands for the world to view.
Sometimes those other than herself had to come first. Sometimes a choice like this caused more agony than any other trial--sometimes such a wound had to be endured.
Garner a future alliance, or save Cyril?
Her decision took a matter of seconds to make. No sooner had she grabbed his hand and hauled him from his blisteringly frigid prison then Mirado's voice floated back to them, shattering the illusion.
The two Journeymen managed to rejoin the rest of their team moments after, both alive and still possessing of both their faculties. Mirus had no idea how close he had come to death, but logically, the team had to come first. Had Cyril's presence been real and not merely generated of her secret desires, Syntari would have sacrificed them all in a heartbeat.
Those more versed in the ways of the Force knew of this occurrence, just as they were fully aware of what it cost for the Krath's to make such a choice. Both on her team and those whom now they now faced, those shadows of ill-will worse than the average dark Jedi, were now aware of the strengths of Clan bonds.
Once the group had reached the cover Mirado had led them to, Syntari released Mirus’s hand and backed as far from the rest of them as possible. Her eyes gleamed with golden-tinged green at the injustice of it all; she would not be speaking more this day, not unless the Clan bonds once again proved stronger than her inner sense of failure. From glancing at the others, the Sadowan could only guess if the rest had witnessed anything; Mirus nodded gratefully in her direction, but she could not tell if anyone else had experienced any such illusion. Had any of them been forced to make such a choice? She guessed not, and at the least, such a choice would be shoved onto their shoulders soon.
Observing the group of dark Jedi, Mirado experienced a brief burst of relief that they were all safe, even if it was imagined. The creatures and whatever had conjured them--for he knew now that they were products of another's Force prowess--had seemed to vanish once the Sadowans reached cover, but not all was well, not yet. They had to plan for the future, not just survive in the present. His eyes scanned over the team, taking in their shivering, panting forms and trying to figure out who or what was missing, if anyone else had the sense of being herded as he did.
Syntari, check. Mirus, check. Kalia, check. Me, check.
A harsh word that aptly summed up their situation slipped from his lips as the thought came to him. How could he have not noticed this?! How could anyone not have caught this?!
“Where is Atra?”
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0400 Hours Since Crash
Kalia's eyes widened slightly at her cousin's statement, and a single glance validated its merit. The Proconsul of Naga Sadow was very much missing in action. A single spin, a flutter of golden locks and her fur-lined coat, brought to her eyes a full survey of their newfound cover. The anger and concern was writ all over her face despite her best attempts at hiding it. Mirado had found the cave well enough, and the shelter from the hungry wind outside was a blessing in itself. Yet in every nook, each cranny, there was no sign of the rather hard to miss man she had served with on summit for the past year.
"How could we lose him?" The question was both rhetorical and sincere. How do you lose a ridiculously tall man clad in shades of grey and black within an expanse of white? It just didn't seem possible that they all could have made such a mistake. Even more so did it seem unlikely given Mirado's own manner of seeing, the snow should never have bothered him at all, as was the way of the Miraluka.
Icy blue eyes settled on the expensive looking knockoffs that hid the Obelisk Assassin's eyes. Accusation hung upon the air for but a moment before the man merely shrugged. It was not his place to take responsibility for each of them, least of all the Proconsul. To be frank, the Spider knew the extent of Atra's abilities, at least from the time they spent together. He wasn't particularly worried. If those Behemoths hunting them began to feast once more, then he would allow himself to worry.
"Regardless of his location, it has bought us some time to plan."
Mirado's baritone voice reverberated deep within the cave, adding a richer quality to it somehow. Mirus and Syntari tried to remain quiet, though a single glance belied their actual thoughts. Spreading the furs of her coat open to reveal the black and red armor beneath, Kalia's fists came to a rest upon her hips as her mind worked out what they knew. It just didn't make sense, why had their team been sent to the planet itself and not the moon? From the information she had gathered, Sadow's palace planetside had merely been a distraction; a lure to take in his enemies and catch them unawares as he approached from the dark of the moon. Still, it stood to chance that valuables were to be found as readily within the presumably abandoned decoy as Sadow's true home. Yet, it could be a far worse trap.
Such was the way of the Sith, to betray or be betrayed. The long dead Naga Sadow had expected such from his brothers in arms, and his contingency had been brutal and complete. A twinge of admiration spread through the Sith Battlemaster.
Mirus could no longer sit idly by, turning with an audible huff as his gaze came to the opening of the cave. He had so many visions running through his mind, all of them concerning Atra. The man had taken his arm, and so much worse, his pride. No one would take Atra's defeat from him.
As his brows furrowed, he couldn't help but wondering what was going through the silent Paladin's mind.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0400 Hours Since Crash
Why is it always me?
The single thought reverberated in the contained silence of Atra's mind as snow struck at his face like a whip. His senses were dulled due to the ever present darkness emanating from the very ground with a sickening aura, but they were not entirely deaf. The silken strands of the Force gave a sudden tug from the side, a moments notice of threat that would not be repeated and required immediate reaction. The roar of a megafauna, the Sith War Behemoth, coalesced into life just to the side of him, towering above. A beastial growl from deep within answered the call and once more the Proconsul was standing at the edge of the icy lake at his core. He could see it there, just below the surface. Coiling, uncoiling. Still, yet always in motion. He could feel its impatience and yet still, he could not bring himself to give it the release it sought.
His lips moved, the man's voice soft and melancholy. It was a sharp contrast to the sensation given off by his telepathic methods. Here, deep within Atra's being, he was complete again. Putting out his hand, palm to the lightly churning surface, the Prelate closed his eyes and let the water rise. A chill brought goosebumps to his flesh as the slippery tendrils of fluid latched on to his flesh.
The Proconsul snapped his eyes open and he was once again faced with nature's fury. The flurry slowed to a crawl as the Obelisk's perception of time shifted. A massive tusk, longer than he was tall, swept into view. Planting a boot with a defiant crunch of dirt and snow, Atra redirected his momentum and let it carry him into a lateral spin. As the sensation of weightlessness took hold he could feel the blast of air denoting the passing of what would have been a lethal strike. Three locust knives came to hand, just as Ventus' feet touched ground once more. He visualized a conduit of air, rigid and guiding as he launched the blades towards the unseen face of the Behemoth. Telekinesis worked its magic as the blades whistled through the air. The less than spectacular thud that greeted his ears told the Proconsul that there had been no damage done.
Why couldn't it have been Mirado?
As the man struggled for the right to exist, he felt that intelligent darkness once more, a dark presence surrounding them. For but a moment, his thoughts turned back to his separation from the group.
He had been heading in the same direction as the others, that much was sure. Keeping pace with Mirado it had been a sure thing that they would arrive at cover safely, and then the snow had all but disappeared. A strange warmth had come over him as darkness pressed in from all sides and the world faded away. It was an oddly confusing sensation, darkness yet warmth, but where was it said that oblivion had to be cold? The faintest whisper of a form appeared in that inky void, smoky features that seemed to waft and flicker yet somehow retained a feminine appearance.
The thought echoed into eternity, two simple words yet with such pull.
They care nothing for you, they understand nothing of you.
At the most basic level Atra could understand his legs had stopped moving, but he simply didn't care. All that mattered was the voice.
Wouldn't it be easier to just let go? Why live such suffering?
Ventus' head drifted low, his grey eyes turning to the ground as the world shifted in that distant blackness. The ground seemed alive and restless as rocks shifted and ragged outcroppings jutted out from below. Taking in a deep breath, his gaze turned up once more and found himself face to face with that featureless being, close enough to touch yet there was nothing of substance to her.
Let go, young Firrerreo.
Once more, his instincts cried out. The one instinct stronger than all others, the driving force behind his once fractured sanity for the sake of remaining whole. Survival.
The world came crashing back in a concussion of light and sound, and Atra found himself alone and lost. Well, as alone as you can be with a pack of megafauna bearing down on you. Now, as the Proconsul fought for survival with all his might, he suddenly felt as if his act of defiance had been a cruel joke of fate. No matter his decision, it seemed that he would be forced off the ledge into the nothingness beyond.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0415 Hours Since Crash
Mirado scowled inwardly. He’d had Atra pegged very close to his own position, his Miralukan Force Sight not prone to failures of this magnitude. He wasn’t particularly pleased with the turn of events either. One person down, which left himself and Kalia babysitting Journeymen, was not the way to be at the moment.
“I saw him, he was right behind us.” The assassin said after a moment’s thought, not pleased with their position or their level of safety. “I could see the rest of you too.”
Mirus looked at the Prelate for a moment, unsure of his next words, but speaking them anyways. “So, you might have gotten fooled by the glare off the snow.”
Kalia opened her mouth to say something, most likely in the hopes of disarming the ever-ticking time bomb that was her cousin, but Mirado had already leveled a glance at the human man. “My eyes can’t be deceived,” he said harshly, and then removed the cheap knockoff sunglasses he wore, refusing the use the traditional wraps of his people. “Because I don’t have them.”
He was going to say more, but a thought struck him. “Wait,” he began. “Yes they can. Has anyone else experienced hallucinations?”
Syntari had kept herself silent as the grave until this moment, and had planned on doing so for a while longer, but felt this time might be appropriate to pipe up. “I saw… somebody that couldn’t be here.” And let it hang at that.
“Sorcery,” Kalia spat. “Explains how Atra got lost, and how you missed him.” She knew full well of Mirado’s difficulty in resisting Force attacks, but said nothing of it. It was something of a touchy matter.
Mirado nodded, and simply dug into his pack, rooting about for a moment, occasionally running his thumb over embossed letters on different vials and containers. “You trust me, right?” He asked, turning his head towards Kalia.
“I do,” She said. “And if they’re smart, they do too.” She added, gesturing towards Mirus and Syntari. “Why, though?”
“I’m going to poison us.” He said, and the moment the protests began, he made a hand motion to cut them off. “Three hundred milligrams of trimethoxyphenethylamine, three hundred fifty milligrams of acetylsalicylic acid, and twenty milligrams of dimethyl amphetamines, all rolled into one.”
“Sounds like a combat stim,” Mirus said, unsure of what most of those ingredients were, but knowing amphetamines were commonly used to keep troops fighting longer.
“Close,” Mirado answered as he quickly combined his concoction. “The amphetamines ramp your metabolism and the acetylsalicylic acid is a vasodilator, allowing the hallucinogen to hit faster, harder, and more efficiently.”
“I keep forgetting you were Macron’s apprentice.” Kalia said as Mirado handed out small syringes. “The hallucinogens should make it harder for the Sith to make believeable illusions to use against us, right?”
“That’s what I’m hoping for. We might just get mowed down while contemplating a snowflake, but there’s risks to everything, right? Mirado said, a rare quip from the usually dour murderer. “Intravenous, not intramuscular, by the way.”
“Only live once,” Syntari said quietly, driving the small needle home in her arm before holding Mirus’ sleeve so the man could inject himself.
“You mind? I can’t see my veins really.” Mirado asked, handing the Bpfasshi hybrid the last injector. Syntari took the needle, and drove it in, pushing the autoplunger once she was satisfied.
“How long?” Mirus asked, looking around.
“Five minutes or so on the concoction. Maybe six or seven before they find us again. Hope they’re less focused on their swordsmanship than they are on sorcery or this isn’t going to take long.” Mirado said, replacing his kit while waiting on his concoction to do its job. Unlike his former master, he derived as much of his chemicals from his own garden, the mescaline and acetylsalicylic acid both found in plants growing in windowsill boxes at the assassin’s own home, a place he would much rather be at the moment.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0420 Hours Since Crash
This would be the most trippy five minutes of his life, the Knight mused to himself. Never before had he done something like this; using a combat stim was a new experience, but whenever the name Macron was dropped, he knew from personal experience at the hands of the alchemists of the Clan that this was going to be nothing short of twisted. He wasn't alone in that experience, either. Little did he know that the Proconsul had also suffered at the hands of the Mad Alchemist. While Atra had been tortured for years on end, Mirus had been kidnapped and reshaped to being a vessel of the Clan, making them both subjects of experimentation. Whatever concoction this was, were it to be inspired by the crazed Coruscanti, it would be a night they would either never forget or never remember.
The first two minutes passed almost in silence, the occupants of the cave contemplating their situation in solitude as the effects started to kick in. The slow dull of the edge of reality, minds ablaze with thoughts running like wildfire between the synapses of the mind, was but the first of many things to come. Kalia and Mirado were definitely used to this brand of mind-bending insanity, though Syntari and Mirus were not, this being their first experience with any kind of hallucinogeni. Even as people expected the Knight to be well-versed in them, being from some crazy tribal culture as Dathomir tended to be, he was most definitely not accustomed to this kind of thing. Mirado's concoction was already sending him on a wild ride, one he had partly expected somewhere deep inside his subconscious. The chill of the wind felt like steel razors dragging along his skin with every gust that managed to find its way into the cave, his vision beginning to blur behind those strange eldritch-glowing eyes. Something in his mind crawled along like a tiny insect even as it tried to free itself on the wings of a butterfly. Yet, what was this place? This ancient residence of Naga Sadow, this little trap of a world that was clearly their goal and yet so far out of reach, why were they here? More importantly, why was anybody else here? Who cared about this place beyond some vague need to conquer the entire Galaxy at the whims of powerful people he would never meet and likely would never care about himself? After all, he'd been made to care very much about things that were far closer to home by the Clan's will.
Mirus realised, by that point, that his subconscious was rambling to him in easily the most detached stream of conscious internal monologue that he had ever delivered. This was absolutely nuts. Delicious takhal nuts.
"Let's find Atra," said Kalia curtly to break the trance, prompting them all to leave the cave, weapons at the ready with the knowledge this was going to turn into a fight. She could practically see the Dathomiri staring off into space at the cave's roof - it was more than slightly unnerving. While all of them were certainly starting to see the entire Galaxy differently, Mirus alone was, for lack of a better term, tripping balls. They needed to get him out of there and his mind on the job before this escalated into something far worse.
The Sadowans trudged through the snow towards the sounds of furious beasts, their roars a clarion call through the darkness that their hatred would not go unsated. None of them contemplated this, however, as their minds all ventured in different places. Something else was watching them entirely, beyond the simple rampage of the Sith War Behemoths. The presence that had been stalking them this entire time was not pleased with this new development, unable to implant its vicious thoughts and visions into their consciousness to disrupt them. Their drug-addled minds were now so hard to penetrate that this presence simply could not conjure the focus to do it. In fact, so disturbed by this change in their mentality, the presence wafted away, determined to assault them through some other means.
As Mirado took point once again, the sharpness to his Force vision aiding him as he crossed the snows like a silent nexu stalking its prey, the group did not need to wait long to find the beasts. They were close. So close. In fact so close that the Force revealed Atra sprinting towards them, his hunters not too far behind as they chased him down, intent on finding him and feasting upon their next meal. Four of the massive beasts, charging behind a sprinting hybrid mute, roared one last time before they noticed four new pieces of meat for their eating pleasure. Syntari noticed immediately that they had no riders, staring at their backs with sharpened vision. It was an unspoken thought that led them all to assume combat stance, three lightsabers activating in perfect unison, a katana unsheathed in a deliberate motion and Mirus himself dropping to the snow, contemplating the falls of snowflakes for only a moment before he raised his custom blaster rifle to his eye. The marksman weapon trained on the lead beast's left eye with perfect aim enhanced by senses sharpened beyond razor's edge. A crimson eye stared back at an azure one and for a moment Mirus felt the pulse of the Dark Side beat within his own soul, which he intended to steal from this beast as his own prize.
A single shot rang out and the beast howled in pain, rearing back and breaking the entire charge, the beast's eye shot cleanly through. Half-blind, wounded, but not defeated, the rage of the titanic monsters redoubled, intent on slaughtering each of the Dark Jedi assembled before them.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0420 Hours Since Crash
Syntari did not even have the chance to spring towards the nearest creature before Mirado and Kalia took the prize, lightsabres blazing a path of triumph so bright that, thanks to her stim-enhanced senses, the Bpfasshi mutt was momentarily disoriented. The portion of her mind dominated by her Umbaran genes was only marginally successful in sustaining her concentration; despite that, the pulsating rhythm of colors emitted from her companion's lightsabres nearly consumed her concentration.
While Syntari watched, half blinded and fascinated by their weapons, Mirado and Kalia easily took down their respective enemies with little difficulty. While they worked in perfect unison, the Bpfasshi swore ever after that there were four clones of the Pepoi cousins pitting themselves against a Behemoth far larger than it should have been. It was just too much of a struggle to rid the sensation of living in a distorted world warped by light and sound. If this was all an illusion, it evoked a tidal wave of irritation within her rather than a storm of fear.
“Syn! Get down, man!”
Well, then, Mirus, no need to be bossy. Save a man's life and suddenly we're best friends and he thinks he can boss me around.
Syntari dropped to the ground anyway, letting loose a muffled "OOF" as her face hit the snow. It was just in time too; one of their enemies, wounded by a ricocheting shot from Mirus, catapulted itself over the two Journeymen, kicking up a flurry of snow.
Guided entirely by instincts, the Krath lashed out with her katana and succeeded in slicing the creature open from stomach to tail; she and Mirus both gagged as the putrid stench of a thousand rotting corpses spewed from its insides.
She stared at the dead...what was it again? she wondered.
Thing, her blurred and disoriented mind informed her.
She stared at the corpse in front of her with mouth agape as the others fought off the remaining things, completely oblivious to the carnage raging around her. For a moment she had to wonder if its skin would melt if she were to poke it with her katana. That thought was the most ridiculous notion to ever enter her brain and without meaning to she burst into hysterical laughter. The high-pitched shrieks of amusement drew the attention of the two Pepoi's as well as that of the Proconsul. Syntari collapsed back onto the ground, misjudged the space between her and Mirus, and smacked him in the head with the flat side of her katana.
“What on earth is she doing?”
“I think she finally lost it.”
Mirus shoved the Bpfasshi away from him and lurched to his feet, rubbing his head; instead of making her stop, however, his actions only increased her fit of merriment. While the drugs no longer seemed to affect Mirado or Kalia and only marginally lingered in Mirus’s system, it was obvious that giving the combat stim to Syntari may not have been the best idea.
Her unusual expression of emotion only increased when she caught sight of Atra.
To the rest of the team the Proconsul was perfectly normal, standing there in the snow with the world’s most intimidating, scowling glare plastered upon his face. But to Syntari, the entire team looked completely different; the Bpfasshi's drug-soaked brain had switched everyone's heads, so to be perfectly honest Atra with Kalia's face was intensely amusing.
Finally, his mind ringing with the ridiculousness of the situation, Atra stomped over to Syntari, picked her up, shook her, then dropped her onto the ground once more. Faced with the overly serious look upon his features, it was an immense struggle for the Sadowan to remain quiet because really, how could anyone take him seriously with Kalia's head on his gigantic body? Atra turned to Mirado and managed to communicate to the Miralukan his incredulousness over Syntari’s condition. The glare that the Prelate sent towards the other Obelisk clearly conveyed not only his annoyance but the message, “How could you let this happen? Now we’ve got to babysit!” as well. For Syntari, seeing the masculine Proconsul glare down Mirado--who bore Mirus's face--with Kalia's ticked-off expression was enough to send her over the edge. She began laughing again, oblivious to the glares sent her direction.
In reality, Mirado--who had his actual face--couldn’t even see and he correctly interpreted the look Atra cast his direction. “How was I supposed to know that she would lose it?” he snapped.
Kalia stepped forward and quickly took charge, her eyes flashing over everyone in turn. “Stop bickering and let’s regroup for a moment. We’ve found Atra, and while that’s fine and good, we still need to keep moving.” She glared at Syntari, who was still withholding further peals of laughter with a deceptively innocent expression. “Let’s proceed quietly, shall we?”
With that, the group trudged onward towards their destination, Mirus and Syntari taking up the rear, although the Mirus kept far away from the Bpfasshi’s sword.
And all the while Syntari had to wonder why everyone kept their distance.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0420 Hours Since Crash
Something wasn't right. Of that, Kalia was sure as she glanced back at Syntari once more, for reassurance of the hybrid's sanity. The megafauna shouldn't have been felled so easily. They were called behemoths for a reason, and had fallen to their attacks far too readily. Clearly, the beasts had not been as mature as assumed, or something far more sinister - a puppet master. The Sith's thoughts returned to that seemingly sentient darkness that had encroached upon their senses. It was gone now, and that bothered the Quaestor more than anything.
The newly reunited Proconsul was scanning the horizon, his eyes wide and wary as the weather began to lessen in intensity. A single glance told Kalia that Atra's thoughts were on a similar trail. There was a sudden growl from Mirado, his nostrils flaring as his lips curled into a snarl. Despite his lack of head movement, there was no doubt that the Miraluka was plying his senses to their full extent. Even the Journeymen to their rear could feel just how severe a threat Sith Sorcery could present.
Shifting the weight of his rifle around, Mirus seemed to grow more agitated as time went on. "Where, exactly, are we going anyway?"
Clearly recovered from the effects of his mind altering experience, the Dathomiri fixed Mirado and Atra with an ominous glare. The Proconsul, whether frustrated by his utter lack of communication or stricken by indifference, merely continued on over the next ridge. His fellow Obelisk Equite turned to face the softly glowing eyes of their Knight companion. "We lack communication... We're heading to Sadow's citadel, boy."
The Miraluka made a grand gesture, as if in jest, but was greeted with a rather auspicious parting of the snowy veil surrounding them. The citadel was drawing near. Mirus' teeth ground together, unaffected by this revelation as focus turned inward. Rage coiled, near untamed, just beneath the surface of his features. The Knight knew better than to react to the Spider's goading, yet being called a boy by someone who was, in fact, younger than himself pricked against the Dathomiri's pride.
A sharp giggle from behind broke Cavataio's broiling storm. "Sorry." The quick statement seemed almost comical as Syntari's own hand clasped firmly over her mouth. A shaking of her head showed that the hybrid was starting to gain complete control of her senses once more, yet still suffered from the fog of Mirado's concoction.
"We don't have time to fight each other, children. We have bigger problems." Kalia pushed past both Mirado and Mirus, condescension thick in her sultry tone as her eyes narrowed slightly in Mirado's direction. At the end of the day, nothing mattered more than restoring communication with the Brotherhood. They were the advanced team, and they would quickly become the lost advanced team if they didn't get word out.
Still, a sense of dread was shared by each Sadowan present as they moved ever closer to the looming citadel.
Naga Sadow's Citadel
"The Sadowan team is making progress and should be here within the hour," announced the masked member of the One Sith.
The Citadel of Naga Sadow was a tempting prize and not just to the Clan who worshiped the dead lord. The One Sith and various factions of the Dark Brotherhood vied for the riches within the great ruins and each had rushed to Khar Delba's surface. The One Sith had arrived first and pressed their advantage by securing advantageous positions within the outer courtyard of the fortress. Hidden within rubble, the One Sith team of six members waited patiently for the bloodbath would come.
Unknown Local, Icy Tundra
0450 Hours Since Crash
The shadows shifted between shallow and deep to Syntari's eyes, while the sounds of the barren, frozen world seemed so loud they threatened to split her ears apart. The temperature was another factor, well below freezing, the Bpfasshi hybrid could feel the strength leeching from her muscles, the synesthetic effect looking like dry ice sublimating back into carbon dioxide.
Behind her, the Proconsul strode softly through the snow, his footsteps coming easier as the temperature variance between the ground and the fallen stones of the citadel meant there was less snow to slog through. He, like the rest of the team, was feeling considerably uneasy about this whole situation. The Behemoths had been far too easy to fell, leading him to think they weren't an assault, but a speedbump.
“You don't like this either, do you?” Mirus asked, flipping the cowitness optic up on his rifle. In the close quarters of the ruined citadel, it would assist his target acquisition without sacrificing accuracy. In addition, he adjusted his weapon's sling, bringing the rifle closer to his chest, and in very easy reach to bring it up and on line.
Atra shook his head with perhaps more emphasis than would be considered usual for his average day to day mood. Absently, he brushed his fingertips against his lightsaber, the weight a small comfort.
Well ahead of them, Mirado, the most experienced of the group, still walked point. The citadel grew less ruined as they moved further towards the ancient edifice, but at their current position, pillars and monolithic stones littered the place like a maze. With a customary scowl, the Miraluka plotted a course and leapt, negotiating the obstacles like it was a creed he lived by. Climbing, jumping, and springing, he brought himself atop a nearly intentional wall of rubble.
“What do you see?” Kalia asked, sparing a moment to glance up at her cousin. He'd been acting more pensive than usual starting around the time they'd arrived at the citadel.
“Terrain problems,” Mirado said with a frown. Their entire approach into the place had the stink of being corralled, and keeping with the path of least resistance (a wise choice given their levels of exertion and dehydration in this cold) would lead them into a bottleneck. “We need to go around.” Absently, the Miraluka took a long sniff of the chilled air, hoping to catch a scent out of place.
“Not gonna happen,” Kalia drawled as the rest of the team caught up to them. As they took a short breath, the Ragnosian Quaestor evaluated their position. The only other path available to them had been around and through massive snow drifts on the windward side of the citadel's approach. “We need to get shelter.”
A chorus of quiet agreements was the only acknowledgment, so they continued on, picking their way across the two hundred or so meters. Mirus had chosen to follow Mirado's path on the walls of the ruined obstructions, to provide overwatch with his blaster rifle.
It was maybe halfway to the doors of the citadel when their world fell apart around them. Six other sapient creatures sprang forth, their Force illusion concealment so close to perfect that it had fooled the lot of the Sadowans. “Not a word,” Kalia chided her cousin, lightsaber already coming to life in her hands.
Being the better man this once, Mirado did in fact say nothing, instead electing to take a flying leap towards one of the One Sith. A small male in armor was his target, likely not human given the stature, though the massive rotary blaster it carried wasn't so discriminating.
To his credit, the armored male whipped his weapon around lightning quick, cutting the thing loose with a remarkable celerity. He did a solid job of suppressing the hell out of the Miraluka, forcing him to take cover behind a thick slab of fallen stone.
The buzzsaw like sound of the rotary blaster was joined by the snap-hissing of lightsabers, but to the ears of the assassin, the blaster fire was the only thing he could focus on. No matter how much he would argue that it was training, or some kind of instinctual approach to handling such a weapon, the truth was, Mirado was terrified. Blasters had never, EVER, sat well with him, the sound dredging up the most nightmarish memories the Miraluka carried around in his skull.
Of course, when Mirado got scared, he got violent. As the adrenaline rose in his body, so too did he, quickly going around the side of his cover, and throwing himself into a display of acrobatics so distracting that the small armored thing couldn't fire for fear of ripping his whole team apart in the volley.
Each motion carried the Miraluka closer, and as he finished his approach with a side scissor flip, he whipped his lightsaber around, lopping the end off of the small artillery piece the armored thing carried. In a profound moment of shock, the armored thing had no defense for the face full of Force Blast that Mirado lobbed into its visor.
Satisfied at the wet, sickening sound that followed the impact, the assassin turned to aid his fellow Sadowans, but instead of joining the battle, a massive telekinetic impact sent him sprawling further away from it. Quickly, he was approached by a humanoid, a bit bigger than himself, rushing him like a null hockey player seeking a body check.
Frighteningly fast, the thing, which smelled like a Zabrak, was on top of Mirado, pummeling him mercilessly. Still reeling from the cold, the exhaustion, and the mag-lev train magnitude Force Strike, Mirado could only mount a semblance of a defense.
Outer Courtyard, Sadow Citadel
0450 Hours Since Crash
They say war was hell, but they didn't tell you that each individual skirmish was a chaos unto itself.
Atra's saber came to hand, the azure blade casting a glow across the stone laden ground. A quick scan of the battlefield brought the count of enemies to six, though a sudden concussion of Force energy caused that number to change. Mirado was good at what he did, and what he did wasn't very nice.
So there were five operatives of the One Sith. Still an uncomfortable number given his present company. Syntari was another matter entirely. She stood with wide eyes, taking in the conflict unfurling before her. To the hybrid's credit, her katana was at hand. A lot of good that would do against the imposing masked figure stalking towards the Guardian.
With a quiet sigh, Atra didn't bother to focus on the Ragnosian Quaestor. They had fought side by side, he trusted her abilities. Reaching out with the Force, the Proconsul located each ripple of power within the immediate vicinity. He was far from skilled enough to pinpoint their exact locations, but the directions from which the Force signatures emanated was enough to paint him a mental picture of the battlefield. Opening the shields of his senses, the Paladin let the Living Force flow through him, unimpeded. It was time for the Obelisk to do what he was best at.
The sudden, shrill cry caused the half-breed Corellian to snap open suddenly pure gold eyes. His tattoos slithered to life upon his pale flesh like snakes crawling from the swampy abyss. He had half a breath's time to sidestep, the stone at his feet exploded into shrapnel just as his feet left it. With hands outstretched, a Sith Sorceress grinned from ear to ear. At such a distance, her eyes seemed obsidian gems in a porcelain frame, accentuated by the black of her robes.
Green lipstick. An intriguing choice.
"I see your true face, spawn! I will have you!"
A look of utter incredulity, unabashed, fell upon the silent man's features just before he was once more on the move. For all his speed, attacks with the Force were nigh instantaneous, and the Obelisk had more than one opponent to track.
Syntari let out a roar as she stepped back out of reach from her attacker, his crimson blade cutting through the air with a near tangible sizzle. Her counter attack came swift, the exceedingly sharp edge of her sword parting flesh at his shoulder. Yet the masked man merely laughed.
Silvery green eyes fought to focus as fear sought to blur her vision. The man's wrist pivoted as he realigned the bend of his arm, preparing to bring a rising slash to bear and cleave her in two. Syntari glanced down, the light of the blade reflecting off the lightly snow-dusted floor causing her to shield her gaze, lest she be entirely blind.
A flurry of cloth crossed the Guardian's vision, the chromatic glimmer of a silver hilt, and suddenly a cerulean blade intersected that of the crimson. Syntari took a quick step back, opening up distance once more as she looked at the almost foreign appearance of her Proconsul, who didn't so much as offer her a glance.
With a roar, the masked One Sith forced Atra's blade skyward. One handed, the contained plasma of the deadly weapon was born through the air by the Obelisk as if calligraphy writ upon paper. The unknown Sith, hidden behind the darkness of a mask, was no stranger to combat, but he carried himself how he looked.
A juggernaut had no business flirting with finesse, and there was no art to his savage attacks.
Danger screamed through the ever flowing tendrils of the Force, Ventus' blade cutting a swath through the air as he split a suddenly careening piece of debris in two. Shrapnel scattered to the air and brought slim crimson stains to his pale flesh. An unseen blow concussed against his shoulder, knocking the Proconsul back several steps. A cry of victory echoed over the audible chaos of the courtyard as the masked Sith brought a two handed strike driving down like an anvil. A glimmer of steel flashed in the growing darkness of the courtyard as the never ending cycle of day and night marched towards dusk. Pain once more infected the voice of the man as ruby strands of blood splattered to the ground.
Atra threw himself into a pivot around Syntari, kicking off the half-crumbled obelisk at his back. A single swipe of his cyan blade brought the scent of burnt flesh and fabric to his nostrils, a most offending smell, as he passed the masked man and charged the Sorceress. As the Paladin approached, his mind's eye granted him a flicker of recognition, turning the strange woman into an ethereal shroud he recognized all too well.
This was the nerfherder that had messed with their minds.
The woman had eyes only for the approaching Sithspawn, the effects of Macron's alchemy painted upon his flesh. She seemed psychotic, standing firm against the charge. Bravery some might call it, pride or confidence in one's abilities. Tunnel vision is what the Proconsul liked to call it. A shimmer of blonde and red denoted the arrival of Kalia, her back to the Sorceress as she back pedalled from her own attacker. The pair collided unceremoniously, the woman so shocked at the sudden impact that she held onto the offending object. Atra's free hand went to the dagger at his side, he once more plied his hand at telekinesis to make up for his own failings in accuracy. The blade struck home, pinning the Sorceress' hand to Kalia's back as both women let loose mirrored cries of pain. In that moment of clouded consciousness, succumbed to pain, Atra's azure blade seared through flesh and bone. The Sorceress' head fell to the ground.
Amidst the ruins of the stronghold's time-ravaged outer courtyard, there was utter bedlam. Mirus had the momentary flicker of vision of Atra and Syntari entangled with a woman dressed rather strangely, Mirado entering into a deadly melee with a blaster-heavy opponent who he surely would have liked to have taken down himself at considerable range, and Kalia off doing Force knew what. However that vision was not enough to save him, sensing only a streak across his peripheral vision as something massive and strong smashed into his right side, driving him across the yard and into a pile of rubble, blaster lying forgotten on the ground. For a moment, his vision swam and darkness almost consumed him with its hungry grasp but he shook it off with some effort, the dregs of confusion swept away in a moment. A hurried knee rose to push his assailant off, kicking him far enough away that there was some distance. Standing up to face down his opponent with a glare forming upon those burning azure eyes, Mirus watched as what seemed like a very fateful opponent rise to meet his challenge.
The beast before him was a seven and a half-foot monstrosity known as a Noghri with a full-body range of tattoos in red and black patterns of ancient Sith markings. Not one tiny piece of his skin was left untouched; the taint of ink was left across his entire body and what decency it required in the form of leggings was granted in the form of black tunic pants and a synthweave belt. So too did the presence of the Dark Side drip from him, like an artist having sloshed paint across the canvas uncaring as to how thick the paint was or how badly it hurt the easel holding it up. The beast's very core was tainted with mutation and darkness - this was a Sithspawn, likely one of the creations of the presence that had already been influencing their minds. At its side rested a lightsaber hilt so big that it could only be a dual-phase lightsaber that extended into a massive three-meter blade for cutting down opponents very far away. It was plain to see that this Sithspawn was already stronger than him and tougher to boot, blessed with an innate knowledge of Stava as per the proud warrior clans of its people and present within the Dark Side enough to present a challenge to him.
The Dark Jedi Knight smiled ever so slightly as he drew his lightsaber, its violet blade hissing to life as the monster activated its own crimson saber at its standard length. This was perfect. A duel to the death against a superior foe. Inside, the tribal Dathomiri warrior's spirit knew its battle lust would be sated.
With rapid footsteps across the stone and a pair of battle cries that sounded like two dueling rancors, both Mirus and the Sithspawn charged. Two blades met instantly with sparks flying in front of them, colliding into a savage saber lock. The Noghri was apparently trained the same way he was, in the arts of Shii-Cho. Stepping back to disengage the lock, Mirus brought his saber into only his right hand, left passing across his body so that he could bring his saber around the back of his body, blade pointed down. At the sash's completion behind his right shoulder, he accepted the pommel into his left hand and brought the glowing purple blade down diagonally, only for it to be parried hard upwards by that crimson glow, the weaker blade deflected off completely. Suddenly, a massive red and black fist smashed hard into his face, knocking him back and to the ground as blood trickled down from a totally shattered nose, crimson leaking down his face like a river. The dizziness kicked in yet again from such a massive hit but the Obelisk summoned the Force to him to control the pain and shook this one off, too. This foe would not best him, even as he advanced with his lightsaber raised to its full length to finish him off in a single slice.
Taking the initiative, Mirus rolled forward off the stone ground and thrust his saber forward as the red blade slashed downwards, sneaking under the One Sith’s bulk and lancing his blade cleanly through the Noghri’s knee. Screaming in pain, the beast doubled back, unable to support his weight upon his pierced appendage and resorted to fighting on one knee. With a slight dizzy stumble Mirus stood back up, avoiding the first wild swing his foe made in order to keep him at bay. The second was parried cleanly with a short vertical block, sabers clashing once more as Mirus ran in to make what was hopefully his final strike. First, Mirus delivered a quick Force Strike to his wounded foe’s face to deliver some of that pain and send the titan reeling for just a moment. Then, as the range closed, Mirus began a simple lightsaber kata, practiced over and over until he could do it no longer – blade whirling forward through his right hand, he turned to his left as he advanced to use his blade almost like a shield until that final powerful diagonal strike, moving right through the large and unwieldy lightsaber’s guard to bisect the head and the right arm from the body of his kneeling opponent. There was no scream of pain or any resistance. The beast dropped dead to the ground in an instant.
That fight had been short and brutal. Mirus was struggling very hard to breathe now that the momentary adrenaline high that kept him going had passed and there was no way his face would be fixed anytime soon until he got back to a bacta tank. Dashing towards the others, Mirus hoped to lend a helping sword in order to end the threat of these intervening One Sith and reclaim what rightfully belonged to the Sadowans.
Outer Courtyard, Sadow Citadel
The fact that her Proconsul had thrown himself into the line of attack in her defense still had her reeling, but the Bpfasshi didn’t have time to contemplate it. Although he was severely wounded, the Juggernaut still posed more than an ample threat to the Bpfasshi and judging by the way he was sizing her up, he was going to relish ending her life. Syntari’s eyes flashed as her hand tightened upon the hilt of her katana, the blade gleaming in the light of her opponent’s crimson weapon.
Tenshi, don’t fail me now, she thought. The Sadowan eyed her opponent warily as he picked himself up and stalked towards her, brandishing his lightsabre with a snarl blooming across his lips.
“I’m gonna split your head,” he boasted. If he meant to gain a rise out of her he was sorely mistaken and in dire need of a new tactic. Syntari just watched him approach her with a calm expression, the fear wiping itself from her eyes as she settled her racing heart. Anyone who knew her was well aware that her serene demeanor shielded the tension coiled within her gut; while proficient with the use of her katana, her skill had been honed through assassinations in the cover of darkness. Tenshi had tasted more blood than its wielder could ever know, but much of that had been borne of backstabbing and deceit, not honorable combat. The blade-to-blade battles she’d participated in numbered less than 4, and of those the only truly dangerous one had been against her Master. While he had given her quite the thrashing, he certainly hadn’t been completely aiming for her death.
As her mind careened into overdrive the Juggernaut steadily closed the distance between them, brandishing his lightsabre as one would an old-world club. His right arm hung limp and useless at his side, the tendons obliterated and weeping with the same blood staining her katana. The wound did not impede him nearly as much as she had hoped.
The Krath’s thoughts flickered from one strategy to another and discarded them just as quickly. On her own, survival was slim to none. Though she was strongly connected to the Force, her abilities in that area were morosely nonexistent. In nearly every sense of the word, she was screwed. Syntari was well aware that an outright fight was not only stupid but would end up with her death, and she was certainly not going to die. Not here, not now, not after everything she had been through. All of this flew through her mind in a split second, the gears in her brain whirring about at top speed. She was quick, not nearly as much as Atra, but quick enough; maybe if she kept enough distance between herself and her opponent she could keep herself out of reach of his--
Syntari swore as the Juggernaut barreled towards her at break-neck speed, rushing towards her far more rapidly than she could hope to move. His huge bulk slammed her into a nearby crumbling statue with the impact of a stampeding bantha, and if it weren’t for Atra’s swift use of the Force to form some sort of a cushion between her and the stone, she would have died then and there. His fighting style may have screamed brutality but his Force prowess bellowed ferocity.
For several heartbeats the Sadowan female lay in a crumpled heap upon the ground with eyes clamped shut in automatic defense against the pain resonating through her skull. Her entire torso screeched in agony and she had the sneaking suspicion that her arm was broken, confirmed when her common sense coerced her into opening her eyes and attempting to move out of harms way. Before she had the chance to so much as twitch the Juggernaut crushed her within his Force grip and, with a blaring guffaw of triumph, pulverized her knee as he tossed her to the floor.
Across the room, Mirado heard the sickening CRUNCH of splintering bone amidst the blood roaring in his ears and Atra, the head of the Sorceress rolling about on the floor, whirled in Syntari’s direction. Still uttering his booming bark of a laugh, the One Sith bounded just inches from his young opponent’s splintered form. Hovering upon the threshold of unconsciousness the Guardian could not divine the strength to rise and the Force lingered inches from her grasp, taunting her with a promise of power Syntari knew she could never employ. There was only the expanse of a crimson-tinged afterlife.
Just as the One Sith brought his lightsabre down in a vicious overhead strike towards Syntari's head the Force thundered with Atra's presence. Enraged at the needless, pointless death about to occur, the half-breed Corellian careened into the path of the approaching lightsabre, his own cerulean blade deftly blocking the killing blow.
Far swifter than they eye could ever follow he bashed his way through the One Sith's defenses, his movements little more than indistinct blurs to the wounded Sadowan. Syntari could only watch through pain-glazed eyes a fight she could barely track, each of their lightsabres a slash of color on an otherwise visually-dulled world.
When at last the One Sith's lifeless form landed limply before her, the Bpfasshi's eyes burned golden from the agony in her shattered knee and damn near broken body. At Atra’s approach her gaze crawled up to his face. With her face awash in the blue of his lightsabre, Syntari’s last impression of the Prelate was one of a cerulean storm before her world faded to black.
A moment later Mirus arrived, his face flushed with his victory over his opponent. As soon as he saw Syntari, however, the Force echoed with his frustration. Now they were ALL stuck babysitting and he could only hope that Kalia and Mirado had fared better.
Outer Courtyard, Sadow Citadel
Shock, from pain and disbelief, coursed through the Praetor's body. Pale, blue eyes locked on the passive visage of her Proconsul for a singular moment of tangible rage. A laugh, throaty and entirely annoying, brought Kalia's focus back to the here and now. Unphased by the death of her companion, the One Sith woman knelt down and took in the reality of the situation. The sudden dead weight upon her, knife linking the two together at her shoulder, brought the Pepoi down to one knee. It was quite the sight.
Bitch, was the only thought that echoed within Kalia's mind through the fog of pain.
The Ragnosian Quaestor could already feel the thick fluid crawling down her back, her own blood, and that of the Sorceress, mingled and poured freely between the gaps in her armor. Focussing herself, eyelids tightly closed, she reached over and yanked the knife free with a jerk that caused her entire body to rock towards the wound ever so slightly.
"Looks like your friend doesn't much care for you, that's too bad. Why don't I just kill ya so you don't hafta worry 'bout that?"
Once more, daggers fired from the eyes of the Praetor as she let the bloody knife fall to the ground while glaring at her assailant. While she couldn't place the drawl-like accent, the voice of this woman most assuredly pissed Kalia off... And that attire? Even for a One Sith, it was damn near fetish gear. Clearly lacking in the subtle art of seduction.
A quick shake of her head dispersed the curtain of golden locks that was the Pepoi's hair. She needed clear vision. Rising once more to her full height, a Sith Battlemaster in her natural habitat. The Force flowed, a trickle at first, towards her wound. The strands began to weave her flesh anew, healing the damage as best as she was able. A pivot of her shoulder within the socket brought some tenderness in response, but otherwise manageable.
"C'mon, girly! Can't wait to put some scars on that pretty little face!" The unnamed woman grinned from ear to ear.
Kalia's lightsaber rose ever so slightly, ruby blade humming with anticipation as her free hand shifted to the leather shaft at her belt.
"I'm going to enjoy killing you." Kalia sneered as she stepped forward, leading with her right foot.
Gripping both of her weapons tightly, the Praetor unleashed her chain whip with a clinking snap. The razor sharp tip cut through the air with a whistle as her assailant sought to lean back out of range. With a satisfying snap, the whip became taught as it secured itself to the One Sith's arm. Tugging hard, using considerable strength given her size, Kalia brought her enemy stumbling into range. Red fury carved a burning path through the frigid air, aiming to behead the foe in a single swing. It would not be so simple. The Sith's own blade, an amber hue, deflected the blow high. The Quaestor put herself into a spin, acting off the momentum as her chain spun about her like a trailing veil. Shimmering strands of blood sprayed to the ground as the whip spiralled about.
An animalistic growl escaped the curled lips of her opponent, who would thereby be known as the bitch. Kalia allowed herself a smug smile as her dual weapon assault kept her enemy on the defensive. Every time she tried to break through, the Battlemaster punished the attempt severely and efficiently.
Kalia's words cut deeper than the cold ever could, a verbal whip much like her chain. The One Sith had underestimated them, or overestimated their own. Regardless, the Pepoi's instant dislike for the bitch before her was fueling her prowess, the pride of a Sith coursing through her. Taking another step forward, a shiver of warning through her senses halted Kalia in her tracks. Her boot hovered just over a patch of ice, hereto unseen due to the dull palette of colors adorned by their surroundings. A silent whisper of relief answered the momentary precognition before the Battlemaster retreated a few steps. Her opponent misread the situation, seeing it as an opportunity. With a roar, the bitch charged forward unaware of the softly snow covered lack of traction before her. At full speed she suddenly found herself without footing, stumbling forward with the strength of her momentum. With practiced efficiency, the length of Kalia's chain whip grew taught once more as it secured itself around the other woman's neck. Choked off sounds and gagging escaped the gaping maw of the Sith as Kalia calmly approached, placing an armored boot upon the collapsed woman's spine.
"Such a waste of flesh."
A gargled response and a sickening crunch were the only replies as the Quaestor wrapped the remaining links of the chain around her own forearm and pulled tight, pushing hard with her boot. With what strength remained in her system, it took little time for the bitch's windpipe to collapse and a violent twisting of the weapon snapped the Sith's spine handedly. Only then, as the deadweight was released, did the extent of Kalia's fatigue set in. Her breathing became heavy, her bosom rising and falling against the suddenly all too constraining armor of her breastplate. With a weary gaze, she turned to see how the others were faring and spied Syntari unconscious on the floor.
Outer Courtyard, Sadow Citadel
Hands gripped the front of Mirado's coat, the sleeveless thing purely his own personal style and ineffective against the cold. An intense, explosive strength lifted the Miraluka off the ground where he lay stunned.
“I will enjoy this,” the Zabrak said. “I will enjoy this very much.”
Mirado would have said something witty to the horned headed thing, except the words weren't coming to him. No, the only thing coming to him was a wicked elbow shot as the One Sith warrior drew back and snapped the strike viper quick.
The impact was tooth shattering, literally, but before the assassin could spit his own teeth out, he was pushed backwards, staggering and reeling for a moment before the titan Zabrak snapped a change-up kick, landing the first shot to Mirado's mid-shin area before re-chambering the kick and drilling him in the side of the head.
“Echani.” Mirado thought to himself, amazed he could even think at all, as he fell towards the ground. All around him, he could see his Sadowan brethren conducting themselves like the professionals they were, leaving him to consider his own crap situation with the punctuation of a Zabrak's fists and feet.
Mirado hit the ground hard, but rolled back to his feet out of desperation. Drunkenly, he wiped the blood from his mouth with the back of his hand as he watched. The One Sith he fought relished the punishment he was delivering. He was strong, and he was fast, more so than even the physical presence that was the younger of the L'eonheart brothers.
The thing charged, giving Mirado the opening he was hoping for. As quick as he could muster, Mirado whipped his head around as he attempted a sidestep, the steel ball bearing at the end of his very long braid turning into a near ballistic weapon.
Or, it would have, if the Zabrak hadn't caught it with the ease of a professional athlete. Wasting no time, he yanked the Sadowan closer before clenching him up and repeatedly kneeing him in the face and sternum.
This lasted a few moments when Mirado heard a sickening snapping, plainly the breaking of bones. It was followed by a fierce whirlwind of lightsaber, which would have been a handy thing to have if the assassin hadn't dropped his several meters back.
“Why can't I just pass out?” Mirado very nearly whined in his own head. For a moment, he considered just how much like this his own victims must have felt, before realizing he didn't much care so long as the kind of beating he was receiving didn't happen again. Quick punches and elbows were combined with punishing kicks. “Jakelian,” Mirado thought to himself as he tried to block and got his elbows punched for the trouble, dropping his block and opening himself up to a lightning quick axe kick.
The Zabrak laughed as he tossed the prelate's carcass aside. “My name is Gratch. Carry it with you to the Underworld.” It seemed not to care as it turned to approach Kalia, Mirado's cousin, who'd just finished shutting another female's mouth in a manner most foul.
While he lay there bleeding, Mirado considered his options. Feign dead and come back and kill this thing later (most likely in vengeance for killing Syntari, Kalia, Mirus, and Atra), try bargaining his way out, or...
That was it. The Zabrak was a beast, for certain, trained in an art Mirado only knew about in a scholarly manner, but he'd thrown everything he had at the assassin, leaving him in what had to be well contained frustration. It was the only explanation for why he'd tossed him aside. It was what Mirado was looking for.
“Gratch,” Mirado croaked. “I ain't finished with you.” his voice exited his mouth in a whistling manner, what with most all of his teeth littering the ground, and with a good pint or two of his blood around them for good measure. “I ain't finished with you by a damn sight.”
“You're beaten fool. Lie still and I'll kill you in a moment.” the thing said, his attention diverted from the other Sadowans in the critical moment Mirado needed.
“Too late,” Mirado spat. Nor far away, Mirus was lining up a shot, but the aura around him was one of curiosity. Odds are good he wanted to see this unfold. “I know all your moves.”
“Not all of them.” Gratch said, and darted forward, dropping into a K'thri roll, a testament to his culture. Of course, he wasn't prepared to face an Obelisk.
Mirado wrapped himself in the Dark Side like a cloak, allowing it to permeate his muscles, lending a false balm to his damaged body while it made him more powerful, much much more powerful. It was temporary, but he only needed a moment.
As the Zabrak came up out of the roll into a very nasty jump spinning crescent, Mirado was already ducking, and when the One Sith felt himself miss his target, he knew there was trouble. Quickly, Mirado grabbed the thing by the horns, burying the Zabrak's face in his knee. With him stunned, the assassin struck out in the Teras Kasi Death Weave.
Considered by many to be legend, the series of strikes to the nerve plexi, meridian lines, and connection points of blood vessels did, in fact, do a bang up job. Again and again Mirado's fists, elbows, knees, and fingertips made contact with the Zabrak. Solar plexus, carotid artery, gall bladder meridian line, brachial artery, groin, base of the skull, and liver, in a nice orderly series, left the One Sith laying on the ground, awake, and aware, as his lungs and heart stiffened in paralysis. The Bukundi monks who invented this attack were some truly evil bastards.
Finally, Mirado gave Atra a thumbs up, before collapsing on the ground.
Outer Courtyard, Sadow Citadel
At least no one died.
That singular thought reverberated through the Proconsul's mind as he knelt over the unmoving form of Syntari. No one died, but it had certainly been close. Much like the young Journeyman, Mirus bore the marks of his encounter and looked none too pleased with what little expression he could muster. Releasing a silent breath, air flowing softly through semi parted lips, Atra wondered why they were put into such situations. What motivation had they to be here? Better yet, they were here regardless and betrayed twofold.
"There has to be an uplink around here somewhere, I doubt the One Sith would have been unprepared."
Like we had been? Atra's thought held so much venom that he was glad the planet's corruption had rendered him fully mute. He could feel Kalia's eyes upon his back, the burning sensation belying the none-too-kind quality of her gaze. His actions, though efficient and fruitful, would not be forgotten by the Praetor any time soon. Her gaze shifted again, watching her cousin approach slowly from the resolution of his own conflict and nearly debilitating exhaustion.
Picking up the Guardian's fallen katana, Ventus weighed the two halves of Tenshi and sighed once more. She was a newcomer to the Clan, and thanks to this war had nearly been lost to the Force. To whose will were they bound? Was it the will of the Force that such suffering permeated? Did even the One Sith have to die?
A quick shake of his head brought Atra's focus back in line, placing the pieces of Syntari's katana back into her sheath. With a muffled grunt he rose to his full height, pulling the woman up alongside him. Motioning for help, the Proconsul got Mirus to take over the burden, having his own wounds to tend to the Knight would be less than useful if another fight broke out. They couldn't afford another one. They needed that uplink.
"As useless in death as life." Kalia muttered as she rummaged through the belongings of the woman she had slain.
The Proconsul glanced to the bloody mark upon the Ragnosian Quaestor's back, a twinge of apology colouring his senses for a single instant before it passed as quickly as it had come. There were no regrets, no emotion, he couldn't afford to feel. Paying no further mind to the others, he fought back the sluggish effects of fatigue as a burning sensation began to set into his muscles. His bones ached, his mind throbbed, and Atra had a vague sense of grim tidings to come.
War was indeed hell.
Outer Courtyard, Sadow Citadel
The Knight was only too happy to carry Syntari after her failed combat encounter against the One Sith, resolved only by the timely intervention of the Proconsul; she had helped him across the unfamiliar terrain of the snowdrifts and now it was time to repay the favor. Saddled with the added burden of scooping up the Guardian, Mirus was going to have to carry her for the remainder of this mission until the extraction team could collect them. More importantly, however, was the fact that his senses were still functioning and cluing him in to the events around them. Both his eyes and the Force told him the same thing: zero remaining threats. With his rifle slung over his shoulder and his lightsaber clipped at his side, the feeling that he was no longer going to need either of them flushed through his system and he felt safe for the first time since they had deployed. Here, in the citadel of Sadow, the Dark Lord’s watchful presence shielded his chosen.
“Let’s move on,” came Mirado’s terse voice to his left. It was the best idea Mirus had heard all day.
The party of five—well, four and one knocked out—ventured into the castle. Darkness encroached upon them as they moved into the antechamber, swallowing them as they entered the belly of the beast. What little light sources the One Sith acolytes used as they set up their base here were shut down, inactive while not in actual use. The group stayed close together, what few of them that had taken physical injuries halting the outpouring of blood with Force healing powers. Only Mirado had the ability to heal others and there was no point standing around and waiting. A medical team could be dispatched to this location faster, after all.
Down the hallways they ventured, seeking the communications relay they were hunting for. None dared to separate after that vicious melee, preferring safety in numbers and reassurance of the fact that as a group they had come so far. To separate again would be insanity. It was only blind luck—literally—that Mirado’s hand brushed over a wire leading to a button temporarily mounted to the wall, and light shone brightly as glow-lamps flickered to life.
Mirus looked down at the unconscious Bpfaashi in his arms, knowing full well that her fate could have easily been his own. There was no way of telling who would have survived that onslaught and how they would have come out of it were they against different foes. He could not have handled the sorceress, for example; he had matched brute force against the beast that had challenged him, as was his specialty. The others had been powerful warriors and properly-trained lightsaber duelists at a level far exceeding his own. One day, perhaps—and still he chased Ventus’ level of skill, a scowl upon his lips. Forever he would be stuck at his heel, never exceeding his achievements and talent. The fact that he had not left that unscathed was testament to that. Survival was more important, though. The Dathomiri had managed that much and that was a blessing in its own right.
Very few of them had words left, so drained after that swift but highly intense encounter. The last dregs of the combat stim had finally washed away and all of them returned to reality, letting them all see the world for what it was again. Down hallways they ventured, the twists and turns of Naga Sadow’s ersatz citadel a maze that the party could have easily gotten lost in. Each doorway they passed was spared a glance, though they found nothing as they wandered.
Then, as they were halfway up to the second floor of the citadel having found nothing on the ground floor, the tone of Kalia’s refreshing voice chimed in. It came in a manner implying that the three men around her were lacking a few brain cells. “Wouldn’t a communications relay be on the roof?”
Atra glanced to Mirus, who glanced right on back. Mirado would have joined in that if he could. Of course it would be – portable antennae and satellite receivers had to be mounted externally. Each of them felt slightly stupid for not thinking so, even if Mirus had the valid excuse of ‘I’m a backwards savage’ to rely upon.
Upwards they climbed, towards the roof, to get themselves the hell off that rock.
Upper Ramparts, Sadow Citadel
The group of Sadowans advanced through the citadel without further incident. Had Syntari been conscious, the Krath would have been entranced by the history surrounding them and would have wandered about with an awestruck expression on her face. She would have loved being there, and the fact that she was missing out on a dream of a lifetime was utterly, highly regretful.
For a while the trek was entirely uneventful; no enemies leapt out of shadowy corners and, for good or for ill, the Force remained silent on the presence of danger. Kalia, Mirus, and Atra were the only members not too brutally abused from their respective battles, while Mirado and Syntari were by far the worst off. Close to death, Mirado had recovered enough strength to walk only due to the immense fortitude of his iron will, but Syntari was not that lucky. Completely unconscious, suffering from multiple broken bones and ribs as well as a pulverized knee cap, the Bpfasshi’s Force presence barely fluttered with its usual cynical aura. If they didn’t find the uplink soon...well, no one wanted to consider that possibility.
Mirus hefted the Guardian gently into a more comfortable position, easily bearing her weight as well as the burden of his weapon. It was lucky that no one else seemed interested in attacking them; had there been any more surprise visits from the One Sith, Syntari and possibly Mirado would be counted amongst the ranks of the dead. Nonetheless, the team had been plowing on steady feet for quite some time, and the distance was wearing on the battle-worn Sadowans.
“Kalia, how much farther?” Mirus called up to her.
The Pepoi glanced back at him briefly as she replied, “just up ahead, I think.”
He checked Syntari’s pulse again as he had every so often since being saddled with her and in the back of his mind was relieved to feel the beating of her heart, albeit faint, beneath his fingertips. While by no means out of the woods, she at least was not slipping into the realm of the Force.
When they finally arrived at the extraction point, the entire team-at least, the conscious ones-released a pent up sigh of relief. It was over, it was finished. No one was dead and they had accomplished their mission; all in all, Mirus counted it as a highly successful assignment. As she raked a hand through her hair and glanced around at their surroundings a final time, Kalia let out a soft little chuckle.
“What’s so funny?” Mirus questioned.
“This little venture of ours is going to make quite the interesting report.”
Upper Ramparts, Sadow Citadel
Despite her words, Kalia was merely trying to put on a brave face for the others. So many of them had come close to death, mere moments ago. While the Proconsul and herself looked no worse for wear, she knew from experience that Atra was just as fatigued as she was, and had only succeeded through desperation. It was for that reason that it was paramount they find the comm array. None of them would survive another attack.
Mirus glanced back through his broken features as he felt a weight on his shoulder. Atra pointed to Syntari's limp form and made a slight gesture. Somehow, beneath that stoic exterior, Mirus couldn't help but feel the man was getting incredibly annoyed at his inability to communicate properly. Still frustrated at his own ineptitude, the Dathomiri decided he could hide any supposed shame at sharing the burden with the fact that it was an order of his Proconsul. Nodding slightly, a rather awkward exchange occurred as Atra took the petite form of Syntari on in Mirus' stead.
Mirado, on the other hand, looked like death itself. Despite his blindness, Kalia felt that his gaze was distant and drifting. The fight had taken more out of him than she had thought possible, yet she held her tongue. The younger of the L'eonheart brothers wouldn't take kindly to commentary on any supposed weakness from him. So, it was left to Kalia to focus on the technical side of things, once more pulling the fur coat that sheltered her from the frigid air tighter around her. She couldn't say why, exactly, but she felt like they were nearing the end of their little adventure.
She could see makeshift wiring nearby, spiraling up towards the roof. That had to be it.
Pushing forward with a burst of temporary energy, the Ragnosian Quaestor came around the corner to discover the One Sith's comm array. Thank the Force! Relief flushed through her like a warm spring, taking some of the chill away from her flesh. They weren't saved yet though, where was the terminal? There had to be a terminal!
A sudden moment of panic started to pierce the Pepoi, before a grunt from Mirado brought her focus back in line. They had survived battles and carnage, they would survive this. Taking a walk around the emitter, her eyes finally fell upon the central hub of the device.
"Here we are," she said calmly before kneeling down and starting to fiddle with the system. Her muttered tones carried on the wind as the others waited, eyes scanning the horizon. It took longer than was comfortable, but no one commented as Kalia got the proper frequencies set up. It wouldn't help them at all to send a distress call to the One Sith. No, as they keyed in the message, it was destined for the Iron Throne and their Clan in kind. They had been betrayed once more, and whom could they now trust?