Scholae: Team 1
Scholae: Team 1
Xen'Mordin Vismorsus (3783)
Kell Palpatine Dante (2407)
Koryn Thraagus (9761)
Evant Taelyan (9118)
IC: You are a member of an elite task force assigned to conduct a rapid entry raid in Xlopora City. Your team is tasked with recovering the the lost blade of Ferran, known as Revelation. Intelligence reporting indicates four distinct opposition Forces operating within Xlopora City.
1. One Sith Forces: The Sith Lord Esoteric has been identified by Taldyran reconnaissance teams. Esoteric is an unpredictable Sith Lord and has been connected to the death of multiple members of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood.
2. Unknown Imperial Forces: Arconan agents have reported multiple engagements with Storm Commandos and unidentified Imperial Storm Troopers. These unknown Imperial Forces appear to be coordinating their operation with the One Sith.
3. Sith Revenants and Ancient Sith Magic: Xlopora City is the seat of ancient Sith powers and is protected by unknown quantities of arcane wards and traps. Sith Zombies have been identified within the catacombs underneath the towered palace located in the center of the city. Shadow Academy Scholars have reported multiple deaths resulting from failed attempts to breach warded doorways and structures.
4. The Dark Brotherhood: The Dark Brotherhood is a fragmented organization designed to reward those who excel. Infighting, backstabbing, and treachery are acceptable tactics to achieve results. Dark Council reports indicate at least three skirmishes have occurred between opposition Clans and Houses.
The Sith Medium, Dantella Novae, has provided the Dark Council with a rough sketch of the chamber housing Revelation. She believes that a ritual, of some sort, will be required to gain access to the weapon. This ritual will require a significant cost from the team who discovers it.
This is a time sensitive operation that will conclude in 96 hours (16 real life days!) with the commencement of an orbital bombardment. Due to the short nature of the operation, your team will be limited to light infantry operations (no mechanized forces are to be deployed in Xlopora City). You may use any other equipment from your organization's order of battle.
OOC: The following links provide additional information.
Plot Update Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cZ1VFYjY3SElrMU0/edit?usp=sharing
Bosthirda Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cbmNOMURTM3R0R3M/edit?usp=sharing
Dantella Novae Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0rPsJ1Xn54cY1piSHZJOHhlMEU/edit?usp=sharing
Welcome to the Dark Crusade Epilogue: Bosthirda, a Run-On Event.
The following rules are in effect:
This is a run-on event based on the most recent Dark Brotherhood Plot Update, Bosthirda Planet Document, and event hook placed at the beginning of each run on.
Sign-ups for the event will begin on 22 February 2014 and end at 2359 EST on 27 February 2014.
The Team Captain from each team will email their team name and team roster to Muz, Raken, and Sarin.
Teams will consist of no less than 5 members and no more than 7 members. Units may submit as many teams as they can field.
250 word minimum per post. No maximum word limit. A post under 250 words will not be considered in a participant’s 3 post total. If a player writes five entries, 3 over 250 words and 2 under, they will still be given credit for reaching the minimum post limit.
Each team member must post at least three times during the event. There is no maximum post limit, but members cannot post consecutively. A single member failing to post three times will result in their teams DQ and elimination from the top 3.
Edits may occur on a post until a follow on post has been made (follow on posts include "reserving" a space). Edits may only be made by the posts original author (as in, if you have Forum Administration Rights, you cannot edit another member’s work).
Members may reserve post, but no posts can occur until after the reserved post is written.
The event will be graded by Raken, Sarin, and Muz using a rubric that focuses on creativity, plot development, realism, and grammar.
The winning team will win the Run-On for their unit. A single Independent Unit can finish 1st, 2nd, and 3rd in this event. This is a nova producing event.
22-27 February Sign-Ups
28 February: Event Hook Published on all Team Threads (You can read the plot update and potentially divine your mission!)
28 February to 16 March: Members Post on the Forums! This event will be plugged into the Database, but will not conclude on the forums until 2359 EST on 16 March 2014!!!!!!!
= Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
= Auxiliary Legion Barracks Aleph-3
= 0400 GST D-Day (Galactic Standard Time)
Various parts were neatly laid out on the oil cloth before him. Springs, coils, levers and mechanisms gleamed in the dim light of the barracks armoury. Cleaning brushes and implements lay poised for use, though some showed wear and tear. A pair of large hands moved methodically, with practiced finesse, fiddling carefully with a trigger mechanism. A small tube of oil was gingerly pressed against a joint in the finer portions of the assembly, eking out a small amount of lubricant onto the bolt. The trigger reacted to a gentle pull with perfect ease. A contented smile spread across the man’s face.
“You leave in just a few hours,” a voice said quietly, from the doorway of the barracks. At this late hour, soldiers were either on duty or asleep. Very few people knew where he would be. But she always did. No sense in trying to sneak off to do some maintenance in peace. She could find him in a snowstorm on Hoth.
“My rifle needed cleaning,” he replied simply, setting the trigger down and hefting the primary receiver, sighting down its length for deviations or nicks in the metal. He saw none, and with a slight nod of satisfaction, he started to polish the already gleaming part. A pair of arms wrapped themselves around his neck, followed by a sense of warmth, as if a fire had been kindled, warming him from the inside out.
“No it didn’t,” the voice replied, a bare inch from his ear. The newcomer’s voice was cool and feminine, with a tone known to all husbands throughout the galaxy. She knows more than you, and she knows it. He set the receiver down, and inclined his head slightly, pressing it against the side of the newcomer’s head. The movement was familiar, a static constant in the face of a changing galaxy.
“I need to be prepared,” Archangel said quietly, surveying his work confidently. The rifle had been in his possession since his days with the Hammer’s Fist, the Stormtrooper Legion assigned to the Emperor’s Hammer Strike Fleet. He’d earned the rifle for his twenty-fifth confirmed kill, along with finishing the Elite Sniper School the HF ran. It was a tried and true weapon, a rifle fit for any real sniper in the galaxy. But this one was his. There were many others like it, but this one was his.
“There is such a thing as over-preparedness,” his wife, Rayne, replied. He could hear the knowing smirk in her voice, and didn’t need to turn to see it. She was equal parts confusing and familiar to him. He smiled, wiping his hands on cloth, which had long since been discolored by oils and dirt. It could have been green in the past.
“A master of war must prepare for all eventualities, even the slightest possibility of a jammed weapon,” he said, turning to regard his wife. She was eying the parts before them with one part predatory interest and reserved dislike. She had never been a fan of his weapon choices. A spear, she said, was such an ungainly and ridiculous weapon to use, and a slug-throwing sniper rifle even more so. There were, she’d said, easier weapons to use, which would provide him with the same reliability and effect as desired. But a slug thrown a thousand meters with pinpoint accuracy, destroying the head of an enemy officer had more of an effect than just the death of a leader. Morale was often more important than the leader or weapons. A rabble with conviction and zeal could destroy an Imperial Legion. This certainly was the case on Endor.
“Well, this master of war is still my husband,” she said, pointedly. She pulled his chair out from under the desk and plopped herself on his lap, arms wrapped around his neck, “And you are mine until they take out.”
He smiled, and embraced her.
“You are mine,” she continued, with a smile, “And Emperor help anyone foolish enough to take you away from me.”
“You always know what to say,” he replied, lifting her gently and walking out of the barracks.
= Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
= Main Flight Hangar
= 0730 GST D-Day
The Bantha-class Assault Shuttle sat on its single landing gear like a fat man standing on one leg. But instead of wobbling uncontrollably and huffing with effort, the shuttle looked solid and sturdy, bristling with weaponry and thickly armoured. In a word, juggernaut. Just the kind of shuttle Archangel liked.
“What’s her name?” he asked as he strode towards the waiting gangplank. His heavy boots clipped neatly against the steel of the deck, his gait tempered with military precision. Years of life in the Imperial military had forged him into an element of war and a very neat one at that. He’d had his hair shorn to a bald fade, so his helmet could fit snugly against his skin. His helmet was held under his right arm, pressed between the ceramic armour plates of his guardsman gear.
“She doesn’t have one,” replied the man who walked with him, slightly ahead and to the left. To an entire solar system of people, he was the Emperor, the beacon of Imperialism in the region, a savior from the encroachment of evil. But to those within earshot, he was simply Xen’Mordin Vismorsus, friend, fiend and comrade-in-arms.
A man of a little above average height and nearly, but not quite, dapper features, Xen was one of the pillars on which the House Scholae Palatinae rested. He held the House together through the Dark Crusade, and in spite of being on the front lines for most of it, had come away without a scratch. His smug goatee goaded Archangel, whose face still bore a myriad of purple bruises, though some had faded to a sickly mustard. Though Xen’s face was uncovered at the moment, his mask was at hand, ready to be donned to return him to the mystique of his position. Archangel stopped in his tracks, leaving Xen to walk a few steps before turning to regard the Battlelord.
“We can’t go into battle without her having a name, sir,” he said, his voice calm and resolute. It would not do to seem to be shaken by something so ludicrously superstitious as a nameless shuttle.
“Well, then name her, man,” Xen replied, his eyebrow arched slightly at the usually stalwart man, “Though I am quite partial to a more serene name for our smaller craft.”
The Emperor turned to the shuttle, and continued his advance, eyes scouring the plating as he examined it. His hand ran almost lovingly over the gangplank hydraulic joist.
“Quite shiny, isn’t it?” Xen said, with a far-off expression of his face, “but entirely too malevolent.”
Archangel appeared at his side, before turning to regard the other Dark Jedi following them towards the vessel. His eyes moved from face to face, his mind replaying the thousands of hours spent in close quarters battle with these men.
“Cerberus” he murmured under his breath. Xen shook his head, as if to return from the funk which had clouded his mind.
“Yes,” Archangel said, shortly, “Three heads, each vicious, dangerous and on the attack. Three Banthas.”
“Very well, Battlelord. Let us board Cerberus I, shall we?” the Emperor replied, slapping his hand against the shoulder plate of the towering man beside him before striding up the gangplank.
‘Once more into the fray, dear friends,’ Archangel thought as he entered the newly christened shuttle.
= Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
= Briefing Room Besh-1
= 0030 GST D-Day
He had read the orders from Antei dozens of times since the first call came in from the Iron Throne. His private comm had been set ablaze requesting immediate orders from his superiors. Of course it happened while he was in the middle of a very public meeting on improving schooling options in the Cocytus system. Luckily by now, people were used to the Emperor of the system having to quickly excuse himself from meetings. Emperors were busy men, even when the Empire was just a single system. If only they knew the other half of Xen’s life.
“This has got to be one of the most insane operations we’ve ever set out to accomplish. And I don’t trust these reports from Dantella Novae,” Xen said half to himself.
“What, you don’t think it will be worth it?” Xantros replied. The Duro stretched back in his chair. The other members of the small team of Dark Jedi who were going in adjusted in kind. The bulk of the last few hours had been dedicated to planning out their own assault in Xlopora City. They had to be quick. The reports already showed One Sith and worse in the region. Plus their own “brothers” in other units would be gunning for it as well.
“Worth it? We are talking about *the* Revelation. Blade of Ferran, one of the founders of the Triumvirate. Honestly I’m a bit surprised that the entire Council isn’t already down there themselves,” Xen said coldly. The others picked up on just a hint of hunger in his voice. It was a hunger they all were feeling. With the news of the reclanning of Plagueis and Taldryan, there was nothing they wanted more than to snag such a rare artifact out from beneath them all. The followers of Palpatine were not about to be forgotten.
“They don’t like getting their hands dirty,” Archangel said followed by some swearing under his breath. Xen allowed himself a smirk at the remark.
Then came a buzz at the door. Xen quickly reached out and placed on his mask. While in the company of his summit and closest friends and allies he didn’t feel compelled to keep up the theatrics of his role. For anyone coming in however, that was a different story. The door opened with a hiss and in stepped a bright-eyed officer.
“Pardon this intrusion, m’lords,” the officer said standing stiffly. “We’ve received a transmission, and none of you were responding to comms.” He placed a small datapad on the table in front of him, saluted, and exited the room. Koryn was closest and grabbed it before the door had closed behind the officer. While Koryn quickly read over it, Xen lightly tossed his mask back onto the table.
“It’s the sketch of the chamber containing the blade we were promised. Along with a few notes on the ritual involved,” Koryn said as he passed the datapad up to Xen.
“Great sacrifice…” Xen read aloud as he looked at the pad. He pressed a few buttons and had it sent to the closed networked datapads the group had been working off of in planning their assault.
“Of course, a great sacrifice. Why is it never ‘throw a party and get smashed’?” Dante asked with a smile. “I assume we will leave that bit to our resident Krath bookworms.”
“I think we can come up with a few likely ideas from this information, yes,” Xantros said with a glance to Koryn.
“Well stew on it a bit. We punch out early. You all know the drill,” Xen said coming to his feet. His eyes burning with fatigue, sleep was all he could really focus on at the moment.
= Bantha-Class Assault Shuttle Cerberus I
= Approaching Bosthirda Atmosphere
= 0825 GST D-Day
“You know, I’ve always hated this bit,” Xen said as he double checked his seat straps. The others laughed, checking their own. It wouldn’t do any good to punch in and get knocked out from the jostling that came with the territory of these kinds of operations.
“I’m a bit surprised you can see anything with that hunk of metal attached to your face. Need one of us to make sure it is fastened properly?” Archangel asked.
“I can see just fine. Though to be frank, I’m a bit surprised you can fit in one of these seats. Must be a bit uncomfortable,” Xen replied. Some of the nearby support commandos sniggered. Archangel shot them a glance like daggers. He singled out the closest one to him.
“Something funny, Jerrak?” Archangel asked. The commando’s face went flat.
“No, sir. Nothing at all, sir,” he replied.
These soldiers were comfortable enough with each other to work well, but still knew enough to not provoke the Dark Jedi that led them. Loyal to the last, and all with plenty of experience in the more delicate matters of warfare between corrupted force users. You didn’t last long in the Scholae Palatinae military without either trait.
The comm system for the ship beeped. The calm and collected voice of the pilot filled the hold.
“Prepare for atmospheric entry.”
There was a collective deep breath from all the men on shuttle, and they knew the troops on the two other heads of Cerberus shuttles were doing the same thing. D-Day was here and it was too late to back out.
= Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
= Command Bridge
= 0730 GST D-Day
It was hard to see all the details of the the Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer hanging mere kilometers away off the starboard bow in the darkness of the area of Sith Space chosen for the rendezvous. Yet as the beautiful dagger like shape of the Indomitable blocked the brilliant glow of the stars beyond, it brought a comforting smile to Evant Taelyan’s face. The Fleet Admiral's bright emerald eyes traced the outlines of the other heavy cruisers and gunships that made up the second and third flotillas of the Fleet of Scholae Palatinae from the command bridge of the Warspite as he waited.
“Enjoying your stay on my ship?” the unmistakable voice of Rayne Victae would have startled most, had Evant not sensed her approach. Yet he knew the Firrerre had allowed him to do so, as she glided across the bridge to join him at the viewport, her footsteps barely audible. It took no time at all to understand why she was personally chosen as the Emperor’s Hand.
“Quite, I’ve always had a soft spot for the ImpStar Deuce, the familiar layout just feels like home. There’s just something about the Excidium that’s lacking.”
Rayne looked behind her, down into the crew pits and across to the starfighter operations stations nearby, as the gesture caught Evant’s attention. He tried to figure out what had caught her attention when her wit finally caught up to him, “Right, a command bridge. Anyway, I am surprised to see you, considering you already know all the details of the mission, shouldn’t you be with Archangel?”
“I needed to get him away from his cleaning supplies, so I convinced him to go see Xen in the main flight hangar.”
Evant rolled his eyes as the two Palatineans attention turned to the sound of precise footsteps that carried a short squat human their direction. The unmistakable horseshoe mustache of the Captain of the Indomitable gave him away immediately as he crossed the command bridge to join the conversation.
“Captain Proxon, glad you could finally make it,” Evant addressed the officer as the two shared salutes.
“My apologies for the delay my Lords, I am ready to serve,” Proxon responded in a calm and professional tone befitting an Imperial Officer.
Evant nodded and turned to the viewport, “We don’t have much time, so I will make this short. Rayne is in command of all fleet operations above Bosthirda, you and all others in the fleet will take orders directly from her.”
Allowing a brief pause for comment or protest, but finding none the Fleet Admiral continued, “After we receive the coordinates for our final jump from the scouts in the Fighter Corps, we will position our fleet defensively above Bosthirda. From there we will launch three assault shuttles from the Warspite carrying a small strike team. Everyone onboard must reach the surface of the planet safely, that is our number one priority.”
“Very well my Lord, I will return to my ship and prepare at once.”
= 50 kilometers above Xlopora City
= Bantha-Class Assault Shuttle Cerberus I
= 0845 GST D-Day
As Cerberus I hit the stratosphere the air resistance began to slow its descent, the drag on the bulky assault shuttle heated it up. The resulting shock wave pulled heat from the shuttle during the atmospheric entry but lit it up like a firework. The three Cerberus shuttled soon shined brightly with a fiery anger living up to their names. A display that also alerted everyone on the planet to their coming.
Inside the shuttles the passengers, Dark Jedi and soldiers alike, rattled in their seats as the atmosphere above Bosthirda was broken apart by the entry. With another beep from the comm system, again the calm and collected voice of the pilot came on, “Please collect your belongings as we are nearing our destination.”
Puzzled looks filled the shuttle as the shaking got even more violent, everyone holding on tightly as the shuttles finally reached the troposphere and passed through a light cloud cover as they approached Xlopora City. Yet with the atmosphere behind them, they now had a new threat to contend with as bright crimson bolts filled the skies from anti-aircraft fire on the ground.
Unaware of the situation outside the soldiers in the shuttles were anxious, ready for the bottom hatch to crack open so they could reach the ground under their own power. Again another beep from the comm system came, followed by a strong port side turn that had every clasping to their seats, “Weather at your destination is partly cloudy with winds from the east at 10 kilometers per hour and a slight chance of blaster bolts.”
Xen turned to Archangel, “Who the frak is this guy?”
Another hard bank starboard jolted everyone in the opposite direction. “I don’t know, but I like him,” his own calm demeanor reflected in his tone and face.
Across from them, normally quick to jump in with his own inappropriate comment was Evant, tightly strapped into his seat in his full armor with his eyes closed in deep battle meditation. He had dedicated his mind fully to the heightened senses of the Cerberus pilots as the turns tossed his body left and right in his seat.
Turning as if they were one step ahead of the attackers on the ground, the three Bantha-Class Assault Shuttles continued their descent. Their destination was unmistakable as massive towers rose from the planet’s surface, growing larger with each passing moment as they approached.
Again the comm system beeped as the repulsorlifts kicked in, “We have now arrived at unpronounceable decaying city, better known as your destination. Please watch your step on the way out and thanks for flying with us.”
As the comm system clicked off the hatch at the bottom of the shuttle cracked open and blinding light and the loud roar of the turbolifts filled the entire cabin. “Two out of ten, would not fly again,” Xen spoke out as he unlatched his seat straps and readied himself for the drop.
“We got here alive, I’d fly again,” Archangel said as he too unlatched his straps and his bulky frame joined Xen at the hatch as it finally opened completely.
“We’re here already?” Evant asked as he came up behind them, the three Dark Jedi preparing to leap to the ground first ahead of the rest of the team. Xantros, Koryn and Dante would be joining as well from the other shuttles.
“Time flies when you’re busy meditating it seems,” Xen responded as he prepared to jump first, hopping from the bottom hatch of the shuttle as it slowed down in a small clearing north of Xlpora City. Following him almost immediately were Archangel and Evant.
All three hit the ground in Force-controlled landings ahead of the rest of the soldiers. Where the three hit the ground was rather unremarkable. It was outside the boundary of what had formerly been the city, yet in the distance was a decaying structure. It wasn’t obvious but based on the clearing it seemed they had landed in the field of some farm lost over time to nature.
As Xen and Archangel quickly began to survey the area looking for the best cover, Evant fell to his knees and clasped his head. He pressed hard into his temples and struggled with some unknown ailment.
“What’s wrong with him?” one of the support commandos asked as he approached, the first of the team beginning to gather on the ground.
“He’s exhausted himself with his battle meditation on the descent, he’s struggling to protect his mind. The Dark Side is strong on this planet, no wonder the Dark Council has us all here,” Xen could feel it as well but easily ignored the whispers in the Dark Side.
“Hollinger, scout the area and find us a defensible position. It’s likely enemy forces projected our landing zone so lets not stay too close,” Archangel immediately began to issue orders, not wasting any time getting the mission underway.
Without hesitation Archangel grabbed Evant and easily picked all 56 kilograms of his mass from the ground and tossed him over his shoulder, “Let’s get the hell out of this field.”
= Outskirts of Xlopora City
= Ancient Sith Sentry Post
= 0915 GST D-Day
Almost half an hour later, the Scholae Palatinae strike team found the ruins of what appeared to be an ancient sentry post. Despite their extremely poor condition, they might turn out to be useful. Xantros looked around and spoke, “It will have to do, as nothing more suitable is in the range of sight.”
Dante nodded, “This place hardly suits our needs, but we won’t stay here for too long”
“Not that I will ever miss these ruins,” smirked Archangel.
“Fine,” said Xen’Mordin Vismorsus. “Troopers, prepare this sector to be our temporary field headquarters. Deploy the mobile defence posts as soon as the scouts return from their mission and mark out the best positions.”
“As you wish, my Lord,” spoke the commander of the Imperial soldiers. They immediately moved out to conduct the necessary preparations. Professionalism, as well as years of murderous training regimes and experience gained during countless battles, were clearly visible in every move of the troopers. They did not think about what they were doing, they just acted on instinct as they had been taught. They did not waste a second, they acted as one great machine, even despite the fact that everyone felt the influence of the Dark Side gathered in the Xlopora City.
In the meantime, Evant had managed to sit upright, leaning against one of few surprisingly preserved pieces of ancient walls. He concentrated on the meditation and using his superficial abilities to renew himself. His mind, slightly damaged by the Dark Side, returned slowly to its natural state, allowing him to act as usual after another half an hour.
The orders were given out. The troopers hastened to carry out their tasks, before the enemy forces would arrive at Xlopora City. It was obvious that they had noticed the shuttles and estimated the landing area. However, Xantros seemed to not be interested in such trivial matters like the upcoming battle. The ruins of the ancient city fascinated him and almost immediately he started to wander around, in order to explore the secrets hidden beneath them.
"Xantros, get the frak away from those ancient tablets, and don't touch anything!" Xen yelled, anxiety in his voice as he watched his Aedile run his fingers across the intricate patterns carved into the stones, "We have no idea what might happen."
“I’ll be careful. Actually, I can’t do much to damage these ruins any more,” Xantros shrugged and continued to trace before pulling his hands away. His curiosity burned in his mind, his desire to wander off and to explore constrained only by the awareness of the nature of their mission.
“XANTROS!” yelled Xen again. “We’ll be back here for the holidays one day, so that you can explore this cursed city, but now you need to focus on more important stuff!”
“Fine, fine,” replied the Aedile. “The smartest guys are never given their chance to satisfy their curiosity…”
= Outskirts of Xlopora City
= Ancient Sith Sentry Post
= 1000 GST D-Day
“Scouts are back,” Dante said as he peered around the corner of the ruined sentry post. While the two scouting parties had run ahead to assess the situation, the rest of the team prepared. Xen’Mordin kept a close eye on everyone, particularly Xantros who still seemed to be looking toward the tablets out of the corner of his eyes. That was a Krath for you, always curious.
“That was faster than expected,” Xen replied as he moved closer to Dante and looked out as well. Both two man teams were running as quickly as they could through the field from the nearby tree line. Dante nodded in agreement.
“Attention, defensive positions now!” Dante barked. The small assault team formed up, weapons drawn. Xen tried to sense any nearby enemies but the whole planet felt like it was against them. His mind buzzed as he tried to probe the nearby city, but it was just not clear. It made him feel a bit dizzy, something he found very upsetting. But there wasn’t time to dwell on that now. He had to be focused, sharp. They all did.
The first of the scouts flung himself around the corner of the crumbling sentry post breathing hard. The other three men soon followed. All of them were breathing hard. There were several seconds of tense silence as they caught their breath.
“We can report,” one of them started between deep breaths, “that we are definitely not the first unit here. Was nearly taken out by a stray compact missile. The One Sith forces are not messing around. Dug in deep. Pretty sure it was Arconans they were firing at.” His partner nodded in agreement.
“We found a tunnel entrance,” One of the others began, “Didn’t get far enough in to see if it’s blocked though. There were commandos crawling all over near where we found it. I honestly don’t know how we got away without being seen.” The Dark Jedi all exchanged quick looks at each other. The tunnels were going to be the quickest way around the ruined city, but it also very limited exit plans.
“What if they let these two get back to us?” Evant piped up, still looking a bit pale. At least he was on his feet. Archangel looked a bit relieved to see he wouldn't have to continue carrying the Sith Warrior.
“That is a real possibility,” Xen said shaking his head. He couldn’t sense anything but darkness, and it left him feeling blind.
“One Sith and their… Allies have been here a while. Getting through the city surface will be nearly impossible,” Koryn said.
“But the tunnels could be blocked, or filled with soldiers, the deep surface scans show it looking like a maze,” Archangel replied. There was a particular bloodlust look in his eyes. He was already looking for a fight. They all knew it was going to come to them sooner or later. This was a prize that just couldn’t be passed up.
“We are too exposed on the city surface, too limited in the tunnels. We are just going to have to bite the bullet and move. We can’t stay here,” Dante added with his own assessment. Both options made them all uncomfortable.
“Tunnels will give us a bit more control over the situation than the surface. Take us to this entrance you found,” Xen said pointing to the two scouts that had found the tunnel entrance. He paused then added, “And take us a different route than the one you took back here. We need to move quickly, I don’t think you just happened to get away.”
= Imperial II-Class Star Destroyer Warspite
= Communication Suite
= 0700 GST D-Day
"Plagueis high command is keeping silent on the matter." The situation was becoming more despondent with each hologram that appeared before the Rodian. The other Houses and Clans were keeping their cards close to their chests; not a single stratagem had been intercepted by his moles. Speculation, on the other hand, was plentiful. A dozen deep cover agents planted on a dozen Brotherhood ships gave him a dozen different rumours. One man had dared suggest Arcona's ISDII Eye of the Abyss II had engaged and destroyed the Warspite, the very ship Koryn now stood on. Following the Bosthirda engagement, he would be dealt with appropriately; perhaps the Arconan summit would discover his identity...
"Alright, well if you find out anything, radio me immediately: channel Vev two seven four." The hologram saluted before the Rollmaster disconnected. Sighing, he rubbed his temples anxiously. Koryn wasn't accustomed to entering battle blind, yet sometimes the only things that could be relied upon were his own skills and those of his comrades.
There was one thought that consumed his attention, a problem he was determined to solve before the coming events came to an end. The Imperials should be a natural ally of the House, yet they fought each other just the same as the rest of the Brotherhood. His trail of thought was interrupted as he felt a familiar presence approaching. The door slid back with a swish and Xantros stepped inside.
“Do you have anything useful?” the Duros asked, getting straight to the point. Koryn shook his head.
“Not unless you count conflicting guesswork,” he responded. “The shuttles are prepped?”
“They’re waiting on the team to assemble in the hangar bay.” He held out his hand, proffering the Rodian lead the way. Stepping out into the slate grey corridor, he turned back to the Aedile.
“Hypothetically, how would you feel about an alliance with an enemy?”
= Outskirts of Xlopora City
= 1030 GST D-Day
“This is the quickest alternate route back to the tunnels,” whispered the scout insistently. The strike team were hidden inside a dilapidated building. Half of the exterior walls were reduced to rubble strewn across the ground. Beyond the building, a single platoon of One Sith and Imperial troops had dug in to guard an entrance to the city, a makeshift checkpoint having been hastily constructed; not the most defensible of structures, but they obviously had to make do in a short time frame.
“This is exactly why you needed to make sure you weren’t followed,” chided Dante, casting a look of derision in the scouts’ direction. “How long will it take us to go around?”
“Too long,” answered Archangel without skipping a beat. “I haven’t trained for over a hundred years to avoid a good fight.” Drawing himself up to his full height, the Shaevalian silently dared any to oppose him as he hefted the technologically mismatched pairing of his lightsaber hilt in one hand and an ironwood spear in his other. “We hit them hard and fast; don’t let them realise what’s happening until it’s happened. If they radio for help, our mission could be over before it’s begun.” Hastily, the Battlelord came up with a battle plan, his keen strategic mind playing through various scenarios simultaneously.
"We only get one shot at this," reminded Xen as they prepared for the assault. "Take your positions and await the signal." Before leaving the husk of a building, Koryn cloaked himself in the Force. It was impossible to see anything through the Dark side's taint with his internal radar, but melting into its embrace had become second nature. Calmly, he walked passed the sentries, stopping occasionally to ensure none had seen a shimmer of movement. Once at the rear of the checkpoint, the Krath crouched behind a barrier to await his companions' movement.
It came in a gout of blood as a primitive weapon flew into a guard's gut. For a brief moment, the One Sith and Imperials did not react, even as soldiers began to rush their position; even as lightsabers lit up the area. Time hung frozen for them as they attempted to come to terms with the situation. As the reality dawned on them, the guards returned fire. Focusing on the enemy ahead of them, not a single man looked behind. Dropping the facade, Koryn drew his pistol, choosing his targets and putting them down with practiced ease. As the sentries realised the trap they were caught in, a few turned to stop the attack from within their own ranks but we're cut down as the Dark Jedi of Scholae Palatinae overran their position. As fewer guards remained and they took to cover in desperation, Koryn replaced the blaster in its holster and drew the crimson blade from his belt.
When the fog of war cleared, a platoon lay dead and the forces of Scholae Palatinae had suffered only one casualty. The medics patched him up as best they could, but he would quickly become a liability to the mission were they to bring him along. Informing the Warspite of his position along with a request for his extraction, the strike team pressed on into Xlopora City.
The scouts led them winding through the debris-laden streets, hurrying away from the scene of the skirmish before any reinforcements happened to show up. The unmistakable sounds of battle echoed across the city as the strike team approached the skeletal remains of a once great tower. The ground around it had shattered from fallen masonry, the brickwork now acting as a gentle decline leading to Xlopora’s underground network of tunnels. The group were funnelled into a semi-natural chamber; stalagmites reached up towards the ceiling beside intricately designed stonework. Moss and vines had begun to encroach upon the architecture, adding splashes of colour to an otherwise monotonous scene. The light filtering through the cracks in the ceiling was dim, but just enough to see by unaided. On the far side of the room, a pitch black doorway sat engraved with Sith runes. The chamber was unnaturally quiet as though any sound died upon reaching it.
“I thought there were commandos guarding the entrance?” questioned Xen as they cautiously made their way through the cavernous room, their eyes scanning the shadows in the dim light. The scouts gulped back a response. They could feel eyes on them, watching from the gloom. "Last chance to turn back, gentlemen," said the Emperor as the group reached the door. Pushing it open, they stepped across the threshold as a figure shambled forth from the murk, the insignia of his platoon displayed proudly above torn flesh and exposed bone.
= Xlopara City Underground
= Anterior Entrance
= 1110 GST D-Day
The air was rank with the stench of death. Fetid corpses had gathered in heaps along the walls, bearing insignia of half a dozen legions and regiments. Vermin ran rampant, devouring the soft tissues of the freshly dead with vim and vigor not often seen amongst scavengers. When such a feast is laid before them, each rat has become a king unto themselves. An eyeball which had till recently festooned a human’s socket was gouged out by a particularly ingenious rat the size of a household feline. It glared at the intruders with three eyes.
But the raiding party’s attention was not on the rats, the dank air or the corpses laying on the ground, slowly decomposing in an ignominious grave. It was the corpses shambling grotesquely towards them, jaws wide with gluttonous lust. A sergeant, rank chevrons hanging half-peeled from his lapel, let out a low, rabid moan, advanced towards the Dark Jedi, with flesh-slaked arms raised.
“Oh rats!” cried a commando behind Archangel, fumbling for his blaster rifle, its leather strap tangling itself in the webbing on his combat vest, hampering his efforts. He stepped backward, the heel of his boot slipping on what had until recently been the leg of a One Sith trooper. The commando collapsed into a heap of corpses with a scream, sloshing around in the filth and putrid flesh.
With a grunt, Archangel stepped back from the encroaching sergeant, and grabbed the commando by his emergency pull tag, intended for use when a rapid removal from battle by medics is needed, but only one man is available to do the work. With a firm yank, he boldly tossed the man back up the tunnel, the commando rolling and grunting with the impact.
“Form a line!”, he bellowed, his lightsaber igniting, filling the twilight with a green glow. The piles of corpses acquired a sickly glow in the lightsaber light, turning an already horrendous situation that much more terrifying. But his voice was filled with the arrogance and surety of knowledge that the order would be obeyed, despite the situation and with alacrity.
The commandos formed a firing line, a group kneeling before another group standing over their shoulders. Blaster rifles at their shoulders, the commandos were wide-eyed and pale, but followed their orders with speed and efficiency. Xen moved to the other end of the firing line automatically, his mask giving him a sickly pallor. He ignited his lightsaber as well, its red blade battling with Archangel’s for control of the ambient light.
“Fire!” ordered Dante, taking Archangel’s role from him just as the Shaevalian had expected. Dante was old hat at infantry command, and it freed the larger man to do what he does best: rampant destruction. A dozen blaster bolts were loosed in an instant, peppering the sergeant, ripping dead flesh from the walking skeleton. The commandos didn’t wait for the order, firing again and again at the man who should have long been dead, and probably already was. Something kept the… thing going. The Dark Side of the Force welled out of the creature like a bubbling cesspit.
“It’s still coming,” shouted Evant, before crouching behind the firing line and closing his eyes, concentrating on some inner thought. The commandos around him seemed to steady themselves more readily, their eyes less terrified, gleaming with focus and strength. The Sith Warrior was not the most masterful of warriors or frightening of assassins, but what he could do to a group of men could only be described as the second best morale boost known to existence.
The creature lurched again, in spite of a now missing jaw and a shattered left shoulder. Its flesh was ruptured and oozing, but somehow the sinews and tendons kept it mobile and erect. It rasped a harrowing, voiceless scream, both feral and very human.
“Enough!” shouted Archangel striding forward, “Firing line back ten paces and reform”
The commandos moved effectively and carefully, momentarily encapsulating Evant before he was able to be moved without disturbing him too much. Archangel’s stride did not falter, his lightsaber sweeping up into a high guard. The creature groaned and swung its arm with impressive speed for an appendage made up of little more than tendons and bits of muscle. The Shaevalian turned the strike aside, astounded by the incredible strength behind the attack, and quickly used the momentum gained to spin, slicing his blade through the creature’s hip bone. Though no expression could be made on a face so mangled and jawless, it still managed to put on a slightly surprised grimace as its legs couldn’t seem to continue forward, and its torso fell to the floor with a sickening slap of dead meat. A moment later, the lightsaber turned, removing the head.
“Force Zombies,” announced Koryn, his Rodian eyes staring at the remains at Archangel’s feet, “Not a good sign.”
= Xlopara City Underground
= Underground Labyrinth
= 1310 GST D-Day
Minds began to dull as every chiseled stone in the labyrinth began to look the same. It was particularly monotonous in the rear, following the small contingent of adventurers as they wound their way around another corner following another decision from the front. Left, right, up some stairs, down some stairs. The whole column began to collapse again as they filtered into another small chamber. Perfectly square with paths in all four directions, in the middle a tall polished obelisk stood. Everyone slowly packed the small room as the Dark Jedi who lead them gathered around the pyramid-like monument in the center.
“Form up a defensive perimeter, hold this position,” Dante ordered, noticing the sharpness of his soldiers began to wane in the past few hours, yet they still readied their weapons and broke into teams to cover the exits. Echoed moans and piercing screams came from every direction, keeping everyone on edge as they all took another moment to develop a strategy.
“You think we've seen this particular piece of beautiful art before?” Xantros asked as large red eyes ran up and down the length of the tapering monument.
“No, but I bet it’s about as useless as all the others at helping get us out of these tunnels,” Xen spat out, exhausted as he put himself physically between his Aedile and the mysterious statue to keep him from it.
“Maybe this one is really different this time?” Xantros asked, his curious eyes searching the room for anyone who agreed.
“You rubbed every inch of the first one we saw with your green hands, then you meditated on it, stabbed it with your lightsaber, blabbered the Sith Code at it, and then Koryn shot it with lightning and it recoiled and knocked one of our soldiers unconscious who woke up a Force zombie we had to then kill. So I don’t really care if it’s different you stay the frak away from it!” Xen yelled, he could sense his anger growing. With a deep breath the Emperor struggled to maintain control it in the presence of the rest of his team.
As emotions ran high, the Dark Side energy below the ancient stone palace fed off it, as he sat there Evant began to wonder if that wasn't the intent of the infuriatingly designed network of tunnels to begin with. Wear down their patience until they killed each other. Effortlessly the Sith Sorcerer bent the energy around him to his will refreshing his mind as he himself struggled to maintain his composure over the past few hours.
“The Dark Side is so prevalent here I’m surprised we can’t just use it to smash our way through,” Evant spoke, knowing it wasn't possible but frustrated he couldn't call on the Force to aid him in the task.
“Right, and when Arch and Dante tried to carve their way through the wall at that dead end we ran into with their lightsabers I think we answered the question on how effective brute force was going to be,” Xen responded, pacing now.
“It was a solid plan at the time, you don’t know what you don’t know,” Arch commented defiantly, in a tone that dared anyone to question his logic.
“We could leave a trail of Xantros’ blood after he kills himself with one of these obelisks,” Danted noted, nodding his head towards the Krath as he had now moved past Xen during his incessant pacing.
A piercing scream echoed through the halls as Xantros reached out and touched the smooth polished surface of the monument before him. A stale breeze of air began to wash over the small strike team carrying with it the stench of death and decay. The piercing dead silence that followed as everyone held their breath was broken only when Archangel grabbed Xantros by his robes, hauling the shorter Duros up into the air a meter off the ground.
Archangel’s attention turned to Xen, as if to inquire what to do with him. A brief moment of silence fell, as Xen fixated on Xantros. Reaching out he grabbed the Duros on either side of the head, his masked face peering deep into his glowing red eyes, “I've got it.” Xen proclaimed.
“The Force has been rising and falling as it flows through Xantros since the moment we set foot in these tunnels. The Krath and his curiosity might just help us know how close we’re getting,” Xen explained, knowing full well it wasn’t much to go on at all.
“I suppose I can carry him along as a compass,” Arch smiled as he held the Aedile up and pointed him in the direction of a nearby tunnel, “He seems to get weaker if I point him this way, so the other way it is.”
“I prefer to use his blood to help guide us,” Dante exclaimed as he looked closely at the Duro's eyes to see if he could try and figure out what Xen had seen.
As they all began to try and decide the usefulness of the new strategy of their Emperor, a heavy shallow wheezing had begun to grow. Ignored at first as the tunnels echoed with various sounds it became painfully obvious it was coming from within the room they now stood in. The memories of the fight when they first entered the tunnels came flooding back to them all as they looked around.
Without hesitation Koryn pulled a small silver blaster and an emerald bolt lit up the room as it buried itself into the back of a nearby soldiers head. Slowly the commando stood up, despite a hole emerging from the side of his head where blood now gushed down his body soaking him. A horrifying and voiceless scream emerged, as he turned to face his attacker.
Archangel struck next, his spear landing square in the soldiers hip, immobilizing the commando who he had saved the life of mere hours ago.
= Xlopara City Underground
= Underground Labyrinth
= 1310 GST D-Day
“Sithspawn!” cursed Dante. “The Dark Side gathered in these tunnels turns our own soldiers into Force Zombies. Our very own allies become our most devoted enemies. I don’t like it at all!”
“Neither do I,” spoke the Emperor. “We need to eliminate them as soon as they become zombified. Otherwise, they will pose an extremely dangerous threat to us and our mission. It will slow us down, but it is the only way to make sure that we live long enough to leave this cursed planet.”
“Better them than us,” confirmed Archangel. “I just hope that we won’t be affected to such a degree.”
“Don’t worry, Arch,” replied Xantros with a dull voice. “We are not that weak, even though we need to move as quickly as possible to save ourselves.”
Getting rid of the trouble caused by the former commando, the strike team continued their way down the tunnel. At every fork, crossroad and in every room with multiple doors, they utilized Xantros as a living compass. Of course, he did not like that humiliating role at all, but he was aware that it was necessary, if they were to succeed in their mission and leave the planet alive.
On the other hand, it was quite an interesting effect. Apart from its obviously great usefulness, it made the members of the Imperial House curious about what exactly influenced Xantros to such a degree, particularly himself. More importantly, they wished to learn how to possibly use that effect in the future for the best interests of the House… and themselves.
However, it was only one matter that could be discussed in the future. First, they had to take care of their current situation, otherwise there would be no future for them to discuss such interesting phenomena. The worst thing was that they continued to suffer even more casualties from the decaying influence of the Dark Side among their commandos.
= Xlopora City Underground
= Underground Labyrinth
= 1520 GST D-Day
The dead were unrelenting. The deeper they delved into the labyrinthine passages, the more came at them. They were too numerous to kill each and every one, so the team rushed on, the unthinking horde shambling after them. The team no longer worried about the directions they took, instead putting their trust in the Aedile. A left. A right. Another right. They all blurred together, survival instinct taking over as they cut down Force Zombies in their stride. As one grabbed at Dante, its hands were swiftly severed at the wrist; any that stepped in their path had their heads removed from their necks. As they rounded the latest corner, Xantros cursed.
"Our route is blocked," he explained as the remaining commandos put down a handful undead who wandered too close. "We'll have to find another way around." Taking an alternate exit, they wound their way back around before discovering that it too was blocked. Whether by chance or sabotage, it seemed everything was against them to stop them reaching their destination. As Xantros led them onwards, Archangel glanced something none of them had seen clearly for many hours: daylight.
"Down here," he urged. "We're getting out of this labyrinth."
"We can't," argued Xantros. "These tunnels will take us straight to where we need to be. I can feel it."
"And how much longer will we be down here? Another hour? Days? Weeks? In case you've forgotten, we'll be turned to ash before then." The Shaevalian motioned to the approaching horde. "Or are we just going to keep running into cave ins until we become one of them. We're leaving now."
"I'm afraid Arch is right," agreed the Emperor. "We're just going to have to take our chances with whatever is up on the surface. Every hour we spend down here is another hour closer someone else is to Revelation." With a reluctant sigh, the Duros nodded in agreement.
The sounds of blaster fire echoed through the tunnels: battle was raging in Xlopora city, and it was close. Emerging from the labyrinth, each man squinted as they adjusted to the natural light. They drank in the fresh air even as they analysed the situation before them. A missile collided with an Imperial walker, sending shrapnel flying in all directions and crippling the AT-ST sending it crashing to the ground. The attacker's insignia marked them out as the Lightsiders of the Brotherhood: Odan-Urr. The Jedi were pushing the One Sith allied Imperials back, but the Imperials were bringing in reinforcements including entire platoons of armour.
"Those Jedi forces make a nice target, don't they?" Asked Dante, preparing to signal the troops to engage on the Emperor's order.
"But the diplomatic backlash would be astounding," warned Xantros. "We should put our pride and heritage aside for the sake of survival." Each member voiced their argument for how to position their forces, with Evant being tactfully silent. To argue for assisting Odan-Urr may make it appear that he still held sympathies for them, but to oppose them could make him seem overzealous in his hatred. Instead, the Sith proposed an alternative.
"Maybe we should let them decide..." The rest of the group followed Evant's line of sight to the shambling army that had followed them since they entered the maze like tunnels. "What if we just let them do what they do best?"
= Xlopora City
= Ancient Stone Palace Courtyard
= 1540 GST D-Day
“Who am I to interfere with the horribly beautiful work these creatures can do,” Archangel spoke with a sinister tone that almost suggested he enjoyed their skirmishes in the tunnels.
Beyond the ruined debris of what was a former mausoleum and entrance to the underground passages beneath the city, the Imperials showed no signs of giving even an inch as they resisted a continuous assault from the Jedi of Odan-Urr, entrenched on the far side of the courtyard near the base of the towers.
Above the courtyard, the massive towers of the grand stone palace towering above the city made it all too easy to orient themselves. Although Xantros had not led them all the way he had done great work in getting them so close. Even closer still though was the coming horde of Force zombies as they too rushed to the sounds of the ongoing battle between the Jedi and Imperials being waged before them. “Seems our living compass is working at least, though perhaps a bit of his blood could have taken us all the way,” Dante took a jab at the Krath who was busy staring doe eyed at archway at the far end of the courtyard.
“All teams will at their discretion secure a location on the walls above us, or on top of ruined structures and provide cover from a distance. Priority targets for snipers are Jedi or Imperial officers, and keep the fight focused on the courtyard. We’re going in for the prize,” Archangel barked orders as he spotted the first of the Force zombies emerge from the tunnels. Now in the open air, it hungered for them as it let out a scream that was lost to the sounds of the battles.
As the commando teams moved away from the courtyard towards the surrounding structures and walls, the six Dark Jedi moved swiftly with the aid of the Force along the perimeter. Countless of the mindless creatures from below the city were slowly pouring out from the ruined structure and making for whatever they could. Fearless in the face of the ongoing fire fight they pressed on.
It was all the distraction the group needed as they moved using the rubble of the surrounding structures for cover. Above them they could hear the unmistakable sound of sniper fire as their own men engaged in the battle below adding their own elements of chaos. It was almost getting hard to tell what of the structures in the area were lost to the decay of time and what were lost to battle.
The Sith and Obelisk among them hated to leave a good fight as they finally passed through the archway leading into the palace, yet the excitement in the Krath among them was almost palpable. The bright red eyes and deep blue eyes of the Xantros and Koryn began to glow as they fell on the massive stone guardians flanking the path to the inner sanctum. Revelation called to them all.
= Xlopora City
= Ancient Stone Palace Courtyard
= 1545 GST D-Day
Corporal Danziger took aim with his AXM-50, and let loose a barrage of micro-grenades at the incoming Force zombies. Over the past couple of years, the young human had seen far stranger things as the Imperial Scholae Guard had accompanied the rulers of the Cocytus system on a number of campaigns against a variety of enemy forces ranging from mercenaries to Sith Lords. Body parts flew as the projectiles landed on target, and the rest of the sniper and commando teams followed the corporal’s example by sending a vast amount of firepower down from the surrounding structures.
A heavy blaster bolt from the chin turret of an Imperial AT-ST melted a trio of zombies that were eating a poor Jedi padawan whose skills had failed him. Chaos reigned supreme as the rest of the forces of Scholae moved into their covering positions.
Without air support, the teams were having to rely on the age old methods of covering fire and pre-planned exit plans. So much of their standard tactics involved vertical movement, but this mission was a throwback to the basics that all troopers learned in their first days of training.
Hopefully, we can hold them off until the Emperor and the Field Marshal’s team returns with this high value target, thought Danziger as he switched to rifle mode and began picking off targets.
With the increased fire from the special operations troopers from Scholae, the battle was now even more confusing as Imperials, Jedi, Palatinaeans, and zombies crowded the ruined courtyard area. Luckily, confusion was the perfect environment if the Emperor and his men were going to be able to pull off this mission.
= Xlopora City
= Ancient Stone Palace Courtyard
= 1600 GST D-Day
Not a lot of ingenuity went into the code naming of the Stone Palace. Half a dozen spires of granite and sandstone jutted up into the dark skies, obelisks akin to those found on dozens of Sith worlds. The Sith Lords who had ruled over this planet spent a lot of time, money, and slaves building the opulence of the structure, carving thousands of ornate pictograms and designs into the stonework. But in deference to more military-oriented minds, the designers had created a false reality, a palace of glory which was simply a figurehead. The real strength and power behind the palace lay below the surface, in it’s labyrinthine underground.
“Looks like someone was making up for something,” Evant murmured, somehow contriving to sound sleazy while maintaining the outward appearance of pure honesty. Though not nearly the time for humor, Archangel let out a momentary snort. Pressure and fatigue weighed heavily on the team, as it did in every mission. And of late, especially during the Dark Crusade, endurance was increasingly difficult to maintain. He slapped his hand on the smaller man’s back with a meaty thud, and smiled.
“No need to be intimidated, Evant. We can’t all be seven foot behemoths,” Archangel said, before turning to the rest of the team and nodding, “It’s time.”
His lightsaber dipped slightly, as he adjusted his grip. The Dark Jedi around him turned to regard Xen, their leader, who, though his expression was covered with his familiar mask, radiated calm and focus. He strode forward, lightsaber drawn and lit.
“We’ve come to acquire our future, gentlemen. Let’s not be late.”
Archangel led the way, his bulk easily marking him as the most opportune target for anyone foolish enough to attack the team, making him the best pointman. The rest of the team followed, wary and alert. The long stone steps seemed to stretch out ahead of them. While the outside staircase led them up into the palace prime, the second staircase, narrower and spiraling, sent them downwards.
Their foot steps echoed loudly as they progressed, the natural resonance and bulk of the palace and stone around them amplifying the sounds. The air stank, both of age and rotting flesh, though neither was readily present. The palace was in remarkably good repair, at least below ground, for such an ancient building of natural material.
The Dark Side of the Force, however, had left its mark quite clearly. Pictograms and runes, though ancient in age, bore no signs of aging or degradation. A Sith emblem, emblazoned with silver and gold, stood stark against the pale orange-brown of the stone. An inscription below read ‘Fear the powerful, destroy the meek. The sword is king’.
“Don’t anyone suggest we split up. It’s spooky as hell in here,” said Evant, eyeing the emblem as he passed. Koryn shushed him, a hand pressed over the man’s mouth as he pointed to a light not too far down below them. The team slowed, following the gesture and examining what looked like a doorway three flights below them.
“Quiet,” whispered Archangel, extinguishing his lightsaber, reducing the light in the area. The others followed suit, plunging them into abject darkness. Only the doorway below provided any light, and the ambient glow was not nearly enough for normal vision. As the point, Archangel began to descend again, slowly and carefully, feeling with his feet before putting any weight on it. Behind him, the team had created a daisy chain, hand on the shoulder of the man ahead of him. Their care paid off, as the reached the door with barely a whisper of a curse from Archangel as a step had been carved at an angle, causing a momentary slip.
The team stood by the doorway, keeping away from the light, but looking in from the shadows they’d descended from. Before them, was a large chamber, ornate and bejeweled. In the centered was a large statue, clearly a Sith Lord, holding a large, glowing sword. Around the base, a dozen men and women, robed and hooded, murmured under their breath, heads bowed, standing in a circle around the statue in a kind of reverence.
“Bingo,” Dante said, quietly. He drew a pair of thermal detonators, and tossed one to Archangel. With an approving nod from Xen, the pair armed their respective detonators, and lobbed them with a duet of grunts. The small silver globes floated gracefully through the air to either side of the circle. None of the ritualists seemed to notice.
The explosion was cacophonous. The sonic wave reverberated around the chamber, bouncing back and forth, bursting ear drums and causing nausea and confusion. The detonators had left perfectly spherical holes in the floor where they’d landed, taking six of the ritualists along with them. The remaining six, shaken and staggering, turned to the entrance with vehement rage in their eyes. They spat a string of words at them in an language no one of the team understood, and charged, drawing crimson lightsabers as they did.
As a group, the Scholae team roared, lightsabers coming to light in a rainbow of colours and charged at their enemies. Ahead of the pack, the juggernaut Shaevalian leapt forward, arching a slow parabola before slamming into the ground just ahead of the lead ritualist. With a vicious rake of his arms, he swept the two ahead of him into the air, telekinetically flinging them out of his path. He ducked under a slice from one man and kicked out at another before rolling away towards the men he’d blown away, leaving the rest of the team behind him.
Sith Wardlord Vismorsus battered a lightsaber out of the way, his fist connecting with chin of his opponent, a thin, dark man, barely out of the teens. The man staggered back and lifted his hand, sending out a lance of Force electricity. Xen caught the charge on his lightsaber and deflected it away, sending it harmlessly into a nearby stone wall. In return, he removed the man’s hand, soon followed by his head.
A burly woman, taller than most of the men in the chamber, lashed out with a pair of lightsabers, spinning wildly at Evant and Koryn, a harpy screech on her lips. Evant faltered slightly, and turned to the side, dodging under the wild woman’s rampage, letting Koryn take the brunt of the attack. The Rodian moved with alien grace, his lightsaber meeting that of his opponent in brief flashes of light. Evant turned to attack, his lightsaber cutting in at the ritualist. His lightsaber slipped through her upper thigh, removing the limb before she tried to land. She fell awkwardly, screaming in pain. Koryn finished her with a neat downward slice.
The two men ahead of Archangel were a completely different matter. Both weathered and powerfully built, they could’ve been twins, and probably were. They moved with astonishing synchronicity, their heavy lightsaber strikes beating the Shaevalian backwards. He rarely had an issue with the strength of an opponent, having spent most of his life being the physical superior of most of his enemies. He tried to stop his backpedaling, but tripped over a fallen body. He landed hard, but rolled, the twin lightsabers slicing through the stone where he’d just been.
“Little help!” he shouted, landing a Force-enhanced kick into the center of the chest of twin one, grinning in spite of the danger of the situation as the man’s ribs snapped audibly. The other twin, his composure shattered like his comrade’s bones, went completely on the offensive, slicing out wildly at the Shaevalian, who did everything he could to keep out of the way. It was only with the timely intervention of Dante’s lightsaber blocking the man’s blade that saved Archangel’s life.
Dante pulled the man off-balance with the Force, and slammed his knee into the man’s stomach. The man bent double, and collapsed, wheezing pathetically. Archangel rolled away and grunted with effort as he pushed himself to his feet. Dante finished the man with a powerful downward slice, removing the man’s head. He grabbed Archangel’s hand and pulled the large man bodily to a standing position.
“This was too easy…” he said, his eyes looking to the dead and dying around them. His eyes fell on a man and woman hanging back from the fight, watching with amused expressions. In some way, their robes were more ornate, flowing liquid about their bodies as they moved slowly and carefully, circling the edge of the battle. The man, his hair streaked with white and his jawline set firm, smirked slightly.
“Impressive,” he said, his lightsaber held by his hip, unlit. His comrade, a very young woman, but with eyes which set her well apart from those of her age, moved opposite him, her lightsaber still on her belt. She moved sensually, her motion both calculated and lustful, and her full, ruby red lips smirking coyly in the amber ambient light.
“Can I play with them, father?” the girl said, her voice cheerful, and childish, but dripping with sultry menace. Her eyes fell on Xen, watching him carefully. She began to move towards him, her hips moving slowly, sensually.
“He is mine, child. You may have the others,” the older man said, igniting his lightsaber. An oddly long purple blade extended from the saber, an unusual choice for a Sith Lord. The girl turned to pout, huffing with indignation, and yanked her lightsaber from her belt and igniting it, an amber blade appearing instantly.
“Who are you?” called Xen, as composed and dignified as ever. You could take the Emperor out of the throne room, but you couldn’t take the Emperor out of the man. He commanded the room, the attention of all in it, even the Dark Side spirits inhabiting its walls. He embodied the Empire, the true Sith and his House. It helped, of course, to have a heavily armed assault team at your back when making demands.
“I am Esoteric. You may bow,” the man said, superiority dripping from his voice, arrogantly believing that in spite of the obvious, those present might actually considering following his order. Dante let out a derisive snort and endeavored to stand a little straight in defiance.
“And the girl?” Archangel said, his eyes glaring laser bolts at her. He’d seen her like before, those unencumbered with morals, or limits. Those with only one goal in life: satisfaction, be it carnal, gluttonous or simple power. it was quite possible she was completely and utterly mad, but the Scholae team couldn’t count on mental instability in Sith. It’s considered a useful trait in some less… selective circles.
“I am Esoteric,” she replied, her voice suddenly more mature, feminine and sultry. She seemed to age instantly, from a bratty girl to a holovid star, her hips and shoulders set into a pose of pure, unbridled need. Archangel could feel a subtle change in the ebb and flow of the Force in the chamber, gentle waves of which moved towards the Palatinaean.
“Esoteric,” muttered Xantros under his breath, his red Duros eyes seemed to stare blankly into space, “refers to something that would only be understood by a group of specialized intelligence”
“Give the frog a fly for his troubles!” shouted Lord Esoteric, a hearty bellow echoing throughout the hall. He was a beefy man beneath his cloak, and could easily have been the town drunk at any backwater worth mentioning. His sudden jolliness was meant to put the team off, give them a sense of unease. It worked.
“I am not a frog,” Xantros replied, calmer than Archangel would’ve been, even on the best of days, “But you are not what you seem”
“I am Esoteric!” the man roared, his jolliness disappearing in a sudden flood of anger and rage, his face flush with blood. Veins popped on his neck and forehead, pulsing with a suddenly sprinting pulse.
“No wonder no one knows who Esoteric really is!” shouted Evant, “You are a group, a cabal, all working in concert!”
“Enough!” Lady Esoteric screamed, her voice shrill with fierce rage, “You will die before our secret is revealed!”.
The Sith Lord and Lady charged, their lightsabers blazing, their eyes furious, and their fury burning. The Palatinaean team, though momentarily falting, quickly rallied, and stood firm, ready to weather the attack.
= Xlopora City
= Ritual Chamber
= 1625 GST D-Day
Archangel, Dante, and Xen moved forward to engage the two “Lord Esoterics” while the other members of Palatinae moved to the sides to support their own leaders’ positions. Sweat and blood poured forth as the battle was joined. Lightsabers flashed. Lightning flared.
Falling back, Evant reached out with his mind and opened up a weak form of battle meditation. The group of six began fighting as one against the melded Esoteric.
“Dante! Go for the legs!” yelled Arch as he moved to his right to avoid the slicing blow from Lord Esoteric that had threatened to decapitate the Shaevalian.
Startled, Lady Esoteric looked over at the Field Marshal and said “Dante? You left me after….” then trailed off as the anger began to rage from within her. The entire room could feel the supercharged energy of the Force that had come about at the mere mention of Dante’s name.
Blocking a blow from the female warrior with a quick riposte of his own, Dante said “Uh…” then shook his head and jumped back. “Great. Thran has got to stop using my name.” Reaching out with the Force, the Field Marshal let loose a blast of energy that sent Lady Esoteric flying back into the statue that held the Sword of Ferran. Blue tendrils of Dark Force energy flowed forth from the sword and encompassed the woman.
Evant took the opportunity to let loose his own burst of Force shock into Lady Esoteric. His blast hit the blue energy and exponentially increased in power as the mild attack essentially fried the female as she tried to escape the power of the sword.
Feeling the death of his daughter, the remaining One Sith’s knees buckled. “NO!” screamed Lord Esoteric right before his life was ended at the hands of Xen and Arch as both impaled the One Sith in his chest with their sabers.
= Xlopora City
= Ritual Chamber
= 1630 GST D-Day
The Palatinaeans all extinguished their blades. The charred body of Lady Esoteric still clung to the sword hilt. It quickly turned into dust, the blue tendrils released their deadly grip. There was a collective sigh of relief now that the group could turn their full attention to removing the glowing sword.
With the battle over, the small team of Scholae Palatinae Dark Jedi were able to properly take in the bizarre subterranean crypt they now stood in. Eerie green torches adorned the basic and bare walls of the crypt. Everyone of the team of six that stood here had spent time in places of Dark power. Yet this room was nothing like anything they had seen before. Everyone’s eyes were transfixed upon the expressionless ancient statue that stood proudly in the center of the room. And there still glowing blue after all these years was the hilt of the blade Revelation.
Xantros stepped absentmindedly over the body of one of the slain ritualists. It was obvious the One Sith had not made much headway in figuring out how to remove this most prized blade from the statue. The Duros' red eyes looked lust filled at the statue as he moved closer and closer. Xantros reached out with a green hand ready to attempt to pull the blade free. The others stood by transfixed by the power of the Dark Side that emanated from every inch of this room.
Xantros’ hand was mere inches from the softly glowing blade when the others shook out of their trance. “Xantros! NO!” Several of them yelled out simultaneously. Xantros seemed not to hear. Luckily the hulking mass of Archangel flew at near superhuman speeds as he raced toward Xantros. There was a sharp smacking noise as the dense mass of the Shaevalian barrelled into the much lighter Duros.
They hit the ground hard, and Xantros let out a shocked scream. Dante turned quickly, blade ignited and stared at the entrance to the crypt, waiting to see if anyone had heard the new noise. Archangel rolled off Xantros and got to his feet. He brushed himself off before extending a hand down to the crumpled Duros. Xen stepped quickly over to the both of them.
“Stop TOUCHING everything. You nearly got yourself killed. Dantella made this information very clear. Not to mention we literally JUST witness it kill. Glowing is bad,” Xen angrily belted out to his Aedile. His finger shot forward and poked Xantos firmly in the forehead to punctuate each word. Xantros blinked several times and looked around to the others. He finally made eye contact with Xen and nodded.
“Yes, yes. I don’t know what got in to me. This place. It is all… off,” Xantros said with just a slight undertone of actually being apologetic. He nodded to Koryn and smiled.
“Lets get everyone into position,” Koryn said as Xantros made eye contact. He too wore a slight grin. Behind Xen’s mask he rolled his eyes. “Krath,” He muttered under his breath.
“This will require blood, from all of us,” Koryn said. Dante smiled. “Good finally get to use Xantros’ blood!” he said enthusiastically.
Koryn and Xantros took positions on opposite sides of the statue. Their active minds pushed aside, as their sub-consciousnesses flowed into the power of the dark side that permeated the very air around them. They began chanting in an ancient dialect of unknown origins. They both held ornate sacramental blades, recovered from the bodies of the One Sith ritualists in the room, in their right hands. Simultaneously they made deep gashes into their left hands, blood running freely. They held their hands out over the hilt, allowing the blood to fall on to the still glowing hilt of Revelation. One by one they motioned for the others to approach and endure the same wound. After all six had made their blood sacrifice to the statue, they took position around the statue. It wasn’t the most perfect of circles, as the holes blown by the thermal detonators made it so some of the group stood too close, and others too far . They raised their hands to the air, heads bowed in respect to the power of the dark side. They could feel it pulsing like a heartbeat in the air. Koryn and Xantros continued chanting, more frantically now.
Just as the chanting reached a point near frenzy, it stopped. Everyone’s arms fell to their sides, and their heads snapped up looking to the statue.
The hilt still had an unnatural glow to it, tendrils of blue light moving over each other like a host of snakes clinging to a rod.
“Well… uh…” Xantros started.
“That didn’t work. What is the point of having you Krath if you can’t even get a ritual right?” Xen asked annoyed.
“Can we open the medkit now? We are kind of all bleeding,” Evant probed looking a bit upset his hand was cut open for nothing to happen.
“But I don’t understand. This should have worked. The statue needed lifeforce to open. This makes no sense!” Xantros yelled frantically circling around the statue. He and Koryn looked frantically over the statue muttering to themselves about what they could have missed. Dante walked up closer to the statue staring into the face of the carved stone.
“You know this face almost looks amused now,” the Obelisk said. With a frustrated kick he slammed his armored foot into the base of the statue. There was a loud click, like a latching mechanism catching. The blade stopped glowing.
“You have got to be joking,” Xantros said slack jawed.
“It was glowing cause the compartment wasn’t fully closed? Why in the name of Palpatine did you cut us before looking into that?” Xen yelled at the two Krath. They both looked to the ground and mumbled something about the blood letting the compartment close.
“So who gets to carry the sword?” Evant said stepping up closer to the statue, inspecting the hilt now that it wasn’t glowing with blue tendrils of death. Xantros quickly stepped up looking eager to finally have something he could touch without being yelled at.
“Xantros. Not a chance,” Xen scolded shaking his head.
“You know Ferran was the founder of the Obelisk order, and well, I happen to be the only Obelisk here,” Dante said staring at the sword.
“You hate bladed weapons,” Evant said turning to Dante. “We wouldn’t have even made it to the ground if I hadn’t been in Battle Meditation. I should carry it off world.”
“I think we should give the pilots a little credit there, Evant. I am the Emperor, it is mine by right,” Xen’Mordin said.
“Woah ego there, Emperor, sir. You may be Quaestor but that doesn’t automatically mean you get to carry it,” Koryn said. The argument came to a halt as new voices and sounds came echoing into the chamber. There were several screams and the fire of blasters. Everyone turned toward the entrance.
“I think our diversion above is about to catch up with us. We need to go. NOW,” Xen said firmly and quietly. Archangel nodded and pulled Revelation from the statue’s sheath.
= Xlopora City
= Ritual Chamber
= 1655 GST D-Day
"My Lords! My Lords!" The cry echoed through the chamber as footsteps approached quickly. "We're overwhelmed; we have to go. The dead..." The One Sith Knight's expression morphed into one of purest ire as he took in the scene before him: the slaughtered Sith Lords, their killers standing over them, and worst of all Revelation in their possession. Another Knight arrived close behind the first, shocked at what he saw, before steeling himself and drawing his lightsaber, spinning it in a simple flourish. The pair leapt into battle as the kaleidoscopic colours of the Scholae lightsabers ignited as one. The One Sith Knights had greatly overestimated their own ability, both being cut down in a matter of seconds by the superior force.
"More will be on the way," warned Koryn, eliciting a grin from Archangel.
"Then we'll kill them just as easily as these," he said. "Either way, we need to get back to our transports." Dante nodded in agreement as he tapped his commlink.
"Corporal, we're done here," he informed Danziger. "Get to rendezvous point Thesh on the double." A simple "yessir" was all the reply that came through, heavily laced with static as the communication struggled through the Dark Side energy permeating the area. Returning to the surface, the sight before them looked like something out of a holovid. Dozens upon dozens of soldiers lay dead or dying, with survivors on both sides dispatching the undead droves. Entire groups of zombies crouched beside the fallen, feasting on their flesh. Smoke billowed high into the atmosphere from knocked-out armour, the electronics having set ablaze. The pilot of an Imperial repulsorlift tank let out a scream as the undead dragged him from the apparent safety of his vehicle before tearing through the flesh of his stomach.
"We've got to cross this chaos?" Asked Xantros. "I suppose sneaking through is out of the question?"
"Too right it is," answered Dante as he waded into the thickest part of the siege, his violet blade smoothly and efficiently slicing through multiple zombies in a single swing. With a shrug, Archangel joined his comrade, his lightsaber in one hand and Revelation in the other. The others followed close behind, carving a path through the tumult in the general direction of their transport.
By now, half the city would be consumed in the fires of battle. A clear run to the transports would be nigh impossible. With the sword of Ferran in their grasp though, the Dark Jedi of Scholae Palatinae felt unstoppable in the face of overwhelming odds.
= Xlopora City
= Smoking ruins of the ancient city
= 1730 GST D-Day
The team of Dark Jedi moved throughout the ruins as quickly as they could, in order to reach the rendezvous point with the remaining commandos. With Revelation in their hands, they were somehow able to find the most suitable way to move. Certainly, there was no way to avoid the hostile forces of the One Sith and their Imperial allies, the Forces zombies and the Jedi of House Odan-Urr, but they always encountered small groups of the enemy, who were easy to defeat, despite the fact that even the Dark Jedi suffered from fatigue. Finally, they reached the rendezvous point and saw the terrible price they had to pay for the prize that they had gained. Numerous commandos had been killed during the mission and the rest were wounded; some of them heavily.
As the the rendezvous point was located just outside the Xlopora City, they still had to cover quite a bit of ground to return to their ships. The survivors of the of the One Sith and their allies, as well as the Jedi of House Odan-Urr, were also retreating, so it was still going to take some fighting if they wished to make it to the evacuation zone. It meant that more casualties, especially among the commandos, were highly probable. None of the Dark Jedi of the Imperial House were happy with that fact, but they had to deal with it somehow.
The joint forces of House Scholae Palatinae literally blasted, punched and cut their way to their ships, where they would finally be safe. In the meantime, they lost two more commandos, who fell to the hands of the One Sith before anyone could kill the hostile warriors. After a long march with some exciting fights, the Dark Jedi and the soldiers of the Imperial House reached the evacuation zone, but they all sighed with relief only after the shuttles set off from the ground.
In the silence that fell in the shuttle in which the Palatineans were gathered, they suddenly heard the shy voice of Xantros, who spoke: “can I touch anything yet?”
= Cocytus System
= Headquarters, Imperial Scholae Guard
=1210 local time D-Day +3
The party for the commandos and other regular forces who had gone to Bosthirda was still going strong at Big Daddy’s, but the members of the House of Scholae Palatinae had returned to their more mundane duties.
Dante sat comfortably behind his desk perusing a stack of reports that had piled up while he was gone. Luckily, the staff that both he and his father had put together over the years was able to effectively handle the day to day affairs without his every approval. With just a smattering of true members of Scholae actively serving in the Guard, it was imperative that the Royal House have a well-trained standing army.
With the much sought-after weapon being safely held in the Palpatine complex on Caina, it was finally time to return to his duties. The Crusade campaign had sharpened the military forces of Scholae, and the long series of combat operations over the past year had weaned out many of the poor performers within their ranks. With one planet solidly under their control, now was the time for Scholae to return to clan status. In order to accomplish that goal, they needed to succeed in the final phases of the Crusade.
The vidcomm screen on his office wall suddenly came alive with the vestige of the current Emperor of the Cocytus Empire. “Dante, there might be a problem developing on Caina. Near the complex…” Xen said quickly until he was cut off by an intelligence officer. “It seems that a ship was detected entering the system and heading for Caina about 1100. A fighter patrol was sent to intercept it, but all contact was lost approximately 10 minutes ago.”
“Yes, my Lord… we’re dispatching a Legion from the Caina Guard right now, and we’re mobilizing a full team of House members in case it is Force users” said Dante as he began pulling on his armor and combat gear.
Nodding, the Emperor said “Now that we have the sword, we must protect it and keep it for the glory of the Empire!”
The comm went off almost as abruptly as it had turned on. Dante shook his head as he clipped his saber onto his belt and holstered his dual DL-44’s. He took a short glance at the massive stack of datapads on his desk and then headed towards the landing pad where the transport full of troopers and Dark Jedi was waiting for him.