Plagueis: Team 1
Selika Roh (2632)
Arturis Schulen (6643)
Teylas Ramar (12761)
Aabsdu Dupar (5580)
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!!!!!!!
Office of the di Plagia
While war raged outside, the locked command center of the di Plagia elite was a space of uneasy silence. Only upon the Grand Master’s grant of clan status to Plagueis had there been need for such a space for the first time in years. The matter was conveniently settled with the recent return of former Consul Aabsdu di Plagia Dupar to the clan. He had wasted little time giving himself in service to the Dread Lord Montresor and had personally overseen the outfitting of the offices for Plagueis’ prime. Four side rooms were built around a central command with holographic displays of everything Montresor and Admiral Cyvaria Ranin were seeing on the bridge. Aabsdu had near total access across the Ascendant Fleet, but he knew the true test of a di Plagia was the temptation at his fingers. He knew the strongest clans survived at the command of a single point, an apex of wisdom and guidance. Aabsdu was not that point, nor did he wish to be. Yet the call of his old home had been difficult to ignore; he served at Montresor’s command.
"Sir," spoke a nearby droid, "There are visitors at…"
"Allow them entrance," the former Headmaster interrupted. Only those granted the di Plagia title were allowed access to this space, but the Brotherhood was at war. Plagueis was under attack as its navy defended the skies above the deserted planet Bosthirda. Montresor and Wrath Victae required the Transcendent’s command centers for their purposes. Aabsdu had his own mission, and the team to assist him in accomplishing it had finally arrived.
The three beings who stepped into the central room were eclectic in nature. First, Battlemaster Teylas Ramar, Aedile of House Ajunta Pall. His thin lips formed a noticeable frown as his eyes darted around the room, coming to rest on Aabsdu, who stood at the far end, last.
Next was Battlemaster Kz’set, Quaestor and appointed Vassal of House Karness Muur. The Verpine stalked into the room, twin antenna darting back and forth as the lanky creature sensed its surrounding. Its feet clicked lightly as it stepped to the side of the center table and inspected the various holographic readouts scrolling across.
Aabsdu did not notice the third being until he had pulled himself up into one of the many chairs at the table to gain a similar view of the readings. Archpriest Arturis Schulen was also a Quaestor, ruling as Vassal of House Ajunta Pall. As a Kushibah, a small, furry rabbit-like creature, Aabsdu was not entirely sure what to make of him. He knew, however, that Arturis was as able a commander as he was a fighter. Both qualities were needed if this team were to succeed.
"You sever the head of both houses in the midst of battle," Teylas snapped with noted distaste. Regardless of rank, Aabsdu knew his presence here was viewed with suspicion. He had rejoined the Brotherhood during then-House Plagueis’ assault on Ziost. After Plagueis’ victory and clanning, he had taken close counsel with the Synod, even assuming the position of Overseer despite some questioning his motivations. Dacien Victae and Aabsdu were old friends, but the Dark Side Adept did not know any of these leaders he had summoned to aid him. They had only arrived at the behest of Montresor.
That said, he remained an Adept, former Consul, current Overseer, and di Plagia. Insolence would only be tolerated to an extent. Their objective came with a deadline, and their presence in orbit meant they were already behind teams inserted planetside by the other clans and houses.
"Consul Montresor and I trust those under you to be capable of following prearranged orders," Aabsdu replied cooly, "Clan Plagueis is engaged defensively against forces that seek to prevent our assault of Bosthirda, but we do not seek control of the planet."
His gaze shifted from Teylas to Kz’set and Arturis as he continued, "I require your services for a more specific task."
The insulated room shook slightly as a muffled hum reverberated beneath their feet. Aabsdu continued, "The Dread Lord commands us to ascertain for Clan Plagueis a great artifact. I am here to oversee your cooperation."
"What iszz the artifact?" clicked Kz’set.
"Details are forthcoming," Aabsdu answered as he stepped around the table without waiting for the trio to follow, "but we must be swift. We are not the only ones who seek bounty in this desolate place."
Arturis hissed disdain, "Arrrrcona."
Hangar Bay, Deck Echo
Aabsdu Dupar, Arturis Schulen, Kz’set, and Teylas Ramar stepped quickly through the halls of the Transcendent, ignorant to the organic and non-organic crew racing around them. Ahead of them sat an AIC-4 drop-ship prepped and ready to launch.
"Intel suggests the Revelation, an ancient sword used by the warrior Ferran, may rest somewhere within Xlopora City. We are to infiltrate the city, acquire the weapon, eliminate those who challenge us, and return it to the Transcendent."
"I have little desire to treasure hunt for the Dark Council," Arturis objected as he raced beside them to keep up with their long strides.
"The Revelation is not for the Dark Council," Aabsdu answered with a grin as he stood aside to allow them to step onto the drop-ship, "We will find Ferran’s sword…"
The loading bay closed as Aabsdu stepped inside the dimly lit passenger hold, "…and use it in the name of the Dread Lord."
Arturis, Kz’set, and Teylas were looking the opposite direction as the seductive figure of Archpriest Selika Roh glided out of the shadows towards them, her cynical smile exuding deep maliciousness in the Force.
"Hello, boys," she said, her tone dripping with disdain, as she stepped past each of them in turn. The sorceress glanced at Teylas, gave a look of dominating amusement to Arturis, and momentary scorn to Kz’set before settling comfortably next to Aabsdu.
All three Vassals showed equal parts disgust and distrust, as Aabsdu knew they would. Selika Roh had only recently joined Plagueis, having previously served the One Sith. She was a striking figure whose power only showed when she chose to display it, but her strength in the Force could be felt by them all.
"Our team is complete." Aabsdu said, "Rapid entry. Rapid exit. For the Dread Lord."
He was as cautious towards Selika as they were towards him, but he also knew her presence here to be another request from Montresor. She had the potential of a great ally, or a great enemy. Should she prove to be the latter, the Adept’s elimination of her would be swift and resolute. The same was true for all of these so-called leaders of Clan Plagueis. They would discover Revelation on Bosthirda, and with it a second revelation of whether they were worthy of their responsibilities. Their return was not a guarantee, but Aabsdu knew those who did would pave the way for Clan Plagueis’ future in the Brotherhood.
Dacien Victae, Proconsul of Clan Plagueis and Wrath of the Dread Lord watched through the forward viewport as the dropship emerged from beneath the edge of the Transcendent's hull and turned toward the planet. He was still puzzled at Montresor’s plan to retrieve the Sith artifact from Bosthirda, and even more concerned at the choices he had made in forming the team.
"You still have questions," Montresor's voice called from the command foyer at the rear of the bridge, his voice containing a hint of amusement.
Dacien turned away from the viewport and strode to the Dread Lord's side. This close, the confidence resonating from the man was almost palpable, but so far warranted. Montresor had overseen the final victory on Ziost as well as having lead Plaguies in its return to the status of Clan, but even so his confidence could be grating.
"I still don't understand why you sent them," Dacien complained. "We already have forces planetside that are more than capable of completing this mission."
"The newly arrived Imperials say otherwise," Montresor explained. "Our forces are already engaged. Pulling them away now, in the face of an enemy whose strength and numbers are unknown, would invite disaster."
"And removing the command of both Houses, assigning their vassals to some ill conceived retrieval, does not?"
"I assumed that my Wrath would be up to the task of overseeing the battle," Montresor said, mock surprise evident on his face. "Are you saying I was wrong?"
Dacien glared back at him, realizing that Montresor knew what it was he was truly concerned with. It wasn't tactics or protocol, it was personnel.
"You've sent some of your most ambitious allies to bring back a powerful weapon," Dacien explained. "It's like dangling a power cable in front of a nest of Mynocks. Arturis and Kz'set control their own Houses and the armies that go with them. Ramar probably would like nothing more than to suck the Force out of both of us and usurp our positions. Aabsdu formerly ruled our Ascendant Clan and held a place on the Dark Council. I'm sure he would welcome another turn at power. And as for Selika Roh, she is…"
"An enigma," Montresor finished.
"That is as good a word as any," Dacien continued. "I can only imagine that her reasons for coming to us in the first place stem from self interest and a lust for power."
"I sent those that I trust to complete the mission," Montresor responded.
"To complete the mission," Montresor repeated. "I also trust that they will act according to their nature."
Montresor strode forward along the elevated walkway that separated to two crew pits flanking the bridge, gesturing as if to encompass them and the ship beyond them.
"An ambitious vassal does indeed covet all of this, all the trappings and privileges of power. And we Sith are not above taking it from our superiors by force. Yes, each and every one of them has their own appetite for power, not unlike your Mynocks. But that self same nest of Mynocks will fight one another for a taste of power, Sith are no different."
Dacien's eyes narrowed. "Each one of them will be so busy making sure none of their rivals attain the sword that none will be able to seize it for themselves."
"Exactly," Montresor replied, turning back to face his second with a glint of satisfaction at the other man's realization.
Dacien stopped to consider his Lord's plans in silence, but the moment was interrupted by a shouted report from the crew pit below.
"My lord, we have unknown ships dropping out of hyperspace in sector forty-seven!"
"What?" Dacien hissed, whirling to face the crewman.
Back at the command foyer, Brimstone called up a sensor readout on the new arrivals.
“That's them,” Brimstone shouted across the bridge. “Those are the ships that destroyed the Predominant!”
Armored Interface Craft-4 Alpha
Bosthirda upper atmosphere
"My lord, enemy ships have entered orbit," the pilot reported over the intercom," And we're starting to attract some ground fire. Seems to be coming from the Imperial positions."
"Are the ships in orbit making any moves towards us?" Aabsdu asked from where he stood near the comm panel.
"No," came the curt reply.
"You three get to the flight deck," Aabsdu ordered, gesturing at Teylas, Arturis, and Kz'set.
As the three nodded curtly, Selika watched them head forward. The Anzat and Verpine were both trained pilots, and even the Kushiban was a skilled engineer, however silly that seemed. Sending them to assist the flight crew made sense. Aabsdu and herself, however, were nothing more than passengers.
"I never was pleased to be in these sort of situations," Selika murmured under her breath. "I would have prefered to avoid it all together."
Aabsdu nodded to her from where he had taken a seat across the compartment, obviously she had been speaking loudly enough for him to still hear her. The noise around them suddenly increased, however, as the ship lurched sideways for a moment before coming under control again.
"Fire's getting pretty thick," came Teylas' voice over the comm. "Our defensive systems are down and.."
Selika lost whatever he had meant to say next in the roar of an explosion and sound of tearing metal. Her ears popped as a whistling sound filled the compartment, obviously the ship had suffered some sort of hull breach. As she struggled to remain upright, the ship seemed to spin under her and she was thrown against a bulkhead.
"The inertial compensators must have failed," Aabsdu yelled to be heard over the rushing air.
Suddenly, Selika felt the ship drop out from under her as it entered free fall. The compartment seemed to enter a slow tumble around her, the situation seeming somehow surreal.
"And the gravity," Selika called.
"We have to arrest this tumble, otherwise they cannot engage the repulsorlifts!"
Struggling to call the Force to her, Selika pushed out her senses to take in the cockpit. In it she felt a rush of emotion, the others were struggling to regain control. But the feel of their minds in the Force said they did not expect to succeed. Then, suddenly, it was as if her Force sense was almost blinded by a brightness in front of her.
Shaking her head to clear her eyes and mind, Selika focused on Aabsdu. The Force was flowing through him as a torrent, shining with the brightness that had momentarily overwhelmed her senses a moment before. He was reaching out, trying to halt the violent motion of several hundred tons of dropship. His jaw was clenched, beads of sweat having appeared on his brow. His power was great, but she somehow sensed that it alone would not be enough.
The Adept must have know that as well, as she felt his presence reach out toward her. At first Selika shied away, feeling herself reflexively want to avoid such burning intensity. His Force presence then seemed to grab her and pull her in, and she finally surrendered to the meld. Their senses became one, and she could suddenly feel the air rushing past the hull, the contours of the ship, the minds within it, all with a new clarity. She could also feel his power, their power, reaching out and grasping the ship, arresting it's end over end motion. Slowly, as the ground was still rushing up to meet them, the ship regained control and energy flowed through the repulsor systems to halt their headlong plummet.
"We're back under control," Ramar said on the flight deck, more felt than heard by Selika. "We should be able to land, though it might be a little rough."
The words seemed to trail off to a whisper, then were gone all together. Selika realized she was once again separate from the Adept before her, the slightly taller man now down on one knee and breathing laboriously. As the last of the Force energy left her, she saw the deck seemingly race up to meet her as she fell down into unconsciousness.
As the ship settled back into a stable flight path, the trio on the flight deck started focusing on the next task at hand, finding a safe place to land. They had overshot their originally designated landing zone and upon further observation it didn’t appear to be as safe as they’d originally planned. After a few moments of contemplation, Kz’set was the first to speak up.
“There,” the Verpine pointed a long chitinous finger at a nearby rock outcropping. “Less activity in that area and the rocks should provide sufficient cover for us to deploy.”
“I’m guessing the exposure to fire from the ridge doesn’t concern you. If I was them I’d park an artillery battery up there.” Arturis retorted as he snapped his head around.. “Setting down on the far side of the ruins would be much more advantageous.”
“And normally I’d agree, but Esoteric isn’t known to resort to convention, ever. And if there were a battery, we’d have seen it by now.” Kz’set replied.
The Kushiban was about to respond when Teylas interjected. “We don’t have time to argue this, Arturis. Kz’set’s LZ seems the best of several bad options. Pilot, set a course.”
With no further argument from either party, the pilot silently nodded and banked the ship towards the rock formation that Kz’set had indicated. After a couple evasive maneuvers, the repulsors kicked on and the craft settled onto the rocky surface of Bosthirda. As soon as the craft was on the ground, Arturis unstrapped himself and hopped off to the main compartment, Kz’set and Teylas close behind. Selika had just returned to consciousness and Aabsdu was clearly strained by his efforts.
“We need to move before they close in on uszzz. Are you two fit to move?” Kz’set inquired.
Selika shot the insectoid a glare and Aabsdu nodded and spoke. “Yes. Arturis, why don’t you scout ahead.”
The lagomorph nodded as he hopped out the rear ramp and towards the rocks. The others took a moment to get a few items before following. While the LZ had been away from the main opposing forces, something still seemed off about the situation. No signs of vehicles moving in their direction, no troops moving in their direction, no reaction at all to their landing. Even Kz’set didn’t anticipate this.
“This isn’t like them. They would have moved to oppose us, at least some elements.”
“I’ll take the extra few minutes.” Selika murmured. “Gives us time to get our gear together.”
As Aabsdu nodded and gestured for the rest of the strike team to exit the shuttle with their gear, Arturis appeared on the rocks ahead and shouted.
The four near the shuttle barely had time to dive behind a nearby boulder before the distinctive whoosh of a mass driver projectile could be heard. A split second later the shuttle exploded, sending shards of metal flying into the air. Once it was safe to do so, Kz’set was the first to stick his head up, looking towards where the shot had come from.
“The guns were dug into the rocks on the ridge. Clever, maybe they are finally listening to my suggestions.”
“You let them lure us into a trap you suggested?” Teylas said with a glare. “You know how that sounds, right?”
Kz’set didn’t reply as s/he turned towards the rock formations and he walked off. Selika was the next to get to her feet, sighing as she looked towards the burning wreckage of the shuttle.
“Guess we’re roughing it then.”
No one responded immediately as the group was worried more about getting their bearings. They only had a few moments before Arturis hopped over, his fur beginning to redden.
“First off, great plan Kz’set. Second, we need to haul out of here. There’s a convoy closing on us from the southwest. I suggest we move along the base of the ridge. Several defensible positions and I think I spotted a cave entrance.”
Aabsdu nodded. “Let’s move then.”
With no hesitation or argument, the quintet hustled towards the rocks at the base of the ridge. While they managed to stay ahead of the incoming enemy forces, there was still a strong sense of urgency to get to a safer position. After a tense half hour avoiding the enemy by moving along the ridge, the group came to the dent in the rocks Arturis had spotted. Despite the look of it, there was no cave entrance in the truest sense, but nonetheless, it was a good spot to take a moment of respite and to formulate more of a plan. As they group began to catch their breath, Aabsdu moved towards the wall of the formation and squinted.
“Something doesn’t feel right about this place. The Force is reacting to our presence here, but I can’t explain how.”
Kz’set glanced back at the elder. “I feel nothing, but there’s definitely something structurally off about this formation. I’d need a scanner to be sure, but it’s as if there should be a cave here, and not an entirely natural one.”
Arturis’ ears perked up as he started glancing about. “You mean like there should be a secret entrance around here?”
Selika took a couple steps further in than Aabsdu and closed her eyes and tried to focus. “Perhaps. There is definitely something beyond what we can see.”
As Selika took a couple more steps, a surge of Dark Side energy erupted from the ground, shaking the whole area. Before Aabsdu and Selika could retreat from it, the ground gave way beneath them with a loud roar, sending them tumbling down into a rapidly expanding fissure and a torrent of dust and rock up in the air. The other three Plagueians leapt away from the crack before it swallowed them, too, but only just. When the dust cleared, Selika and Aabsdu were gone from sight as was the fissure, now plugged by rocks shook loose from the ceiling. All three started reaching out through the Force to locate the pair. After a moment, Teylas, who was the strongest in telepathy in the group, sighed and spoke.
“Nothing. I think they’re alive, but something is stopping me from reaching them. Something is actively blocking me.”
Kz’set nodded. “We were warned of ancient magics and traps. Looks like we walked into another one.”
“They can take care of themselves.” Arturis chimed in. “We still have a mission to complete and I am fairly sure our pursuers would have heard all that.”
“Agreed” Kz’set chirped.”And by the way, we’re even Arturis."
Arturis raised his ears up and bobbed his head around as he sniffed the air slightly. “Yeah, well, that’s something we will have to discuss later. We have incoming.”
“How much further until we reach the city?” Teylas asked as he stepped up behind the Kushiban, looking along the horizon.
Before Kz’set was able to answer, the convoy that had chased them rose up over the horizon ridge and increased speed as soon as it saw the three of them. The forward troopers mounted on top of the convoy vehicles began to lay down heavy fire, pinning them down inside of the rocky ravine area. “About half a mile, back past them at this point…”
Teylas grabbed and ignited his lightsaber as he leapt up over a fallen rock several feet to the next one, batting away several turbolaser shots as he got back into cover.
Kz’set did the same, using larger leaps and bounds and the walls for cover as well.
Completely naked, Arturis had something much better in mind. His fur was now a really soft colored brown to match the dirt on the ground, and he skittered along the ground on all fours like a lizard. Teylas glanced down at him for a second before looking back at the advancing trooper force before looking down at the naked creature in surprise. “What the?”
Kz’set looked down from hir perch above them, barely noticing Arturis through the force. Visibly, nothing was there from the angle above. As he tried to move to the next spot ahead of them, the walls began to rumble as they slowly started to close inward on each other at a moderate rate which forced him to stop.
The blaster fire came down the corridor much thicker and heavier now; preventing either of them from continuing onward without the risk of being hit.
Arturis skittered by with just his lightsaber wrapped around his tail as he continued to struggle through the increasingly tight passage. As he moved, it seemed to get narrower and narrower as he went but could see glimpses of light just a few feet ahead with the blaster and turbolaser fire flying above him.
Beads of sweat fell from his forehead as he wiggled and crawled closer and closer towards the edge of the passage. As he reached the end and poked his head out, he glanced around and noticed several enemy squads camped nearby.
They did not seem in too much of a hurry to reach the team that was trapped inside, almost more like guarding to keep them inside. Strange men in white suits were with them as well, with large spotlights and makeshift turbolaser batteries that were aimed at the entrance, but were far enough away to barely notice a grey-furred Kushiban move along the brown ground.
Suddenly without warning, the blaster fire stopped. Teylas and Kz’set looked at each other as they made a mad dash towards the end of the corridor and stood silent as they came out into the daylight.
Corpses lied scattered across the dirt, limbs, fingers, and other body parts laying about as well. Some of the few survivors tried to drag themselves away, their legs severed at the ankles and knees. Arturis stood on top of the convoy vehicle, his tail waving back and forth from the forward viewport while a man’s terrified screams could be heard, and suddenly were silenced.
“So...um.” Teylas started.
Arturis pulled his head out of the narrow hole and looked at them, covered in blood. “What? I was hungry.”
“Right… if that is what it takeszz.” Kz’set softly clicked as s/he turned and started along the other side of the corridor headed towards the city. Teylas followed closely behind as Arturis followed alongside them on all fours, a severed arm in his mouth.
"Seems like we picked the quieter route," Selika Roh muttered as she and Aabsdu Dupar gathered themselves at the bottom of the rockslide and started to inspect their new surroundings.
Dust blanketed the air above them, but the hole through which they had fallen was sealed tight. Selika sent out a signal in the Force, but could not feel the presence of Teylas, Kz’set, or Arturis nearby. The atmosphere was choked with dark magic and a swell of emotions she could not parse. Before them lay a long, narrow tunnel seemingly extending infinitely, but notably in the right direction of Xlopora City.
Aabsdu wasted no time. Their team had already fallen behind and could not afford further delays. Arturis, Teylas, and Kz’set would make their way up top while he and Selika pushed forward down below.
Selika followed diligently, "Perhaps we’ll run into a few ghosts."
Intel had noted the vast maze-like catacombs stretching beneath and beyond the city, as well as the vague horrors thought to reside within them. Aabsdu scoffed, skeptical, "I think not. The city is filled with skeletons, and will have new corpses before the week is out."
"The city will be rubble when the week is out," Selika noted with reference to the Brotherhood’s intended orbital bombardment. They needed little additional motivation to expedite their quest.
The former Headmaster raised a hand palm up and the length of tunnel directly in front of them suddenly brightened from an unknown yet omniscient light, the source of which was obvious by the way the Adept radiated luminescence in the Force.
Selika gave a sly smile, "You’ll have to teach me that one, Master."
"Masters naturally neglect to teach their greatest secrets," Aabsdu’s gaze remained straight as he answered, "but those who both listen and watch, see everything."
Aabsdu stopped abruptly, Selika nearly knocking into him. They stood at a fork, the tunnel breaking into left and right corridors which remained in stark darkness. The Adept listened to the stale silence funneled through the rocky tunnel, his head tipped lightly to the right as he tried to discern which route they should take. There was nothing but the slight crunch of pebbles beneath their boots as they shifted in place. Even the battlefield carnage undoubtedly raging above their heads was muffled to the point of nonexistence.
Selika extended her mental reach, feeling out in the Force for signs of disturbance or guidance. This sector of Bosthirda, Xlopora City and its deserted suburbs, radiated energy to an intoxicating effect. Sith magic had infused the very soil around them with the strength of the Dark Side. She knew there was great power to be found here, at the center of which stood Revelation, but she also knew herself surrounded by friends and foes alike who would strike her down without hesitation if it meant taking that power for themselves.
She turned, ready to suggest they take the left route, but Aabsdu had vanished. Behind her, a handful of stones unexpectedly tumbled to the ground, causing her to check the presence of her lightsaber at her waist. She preferred to keep her distance from her enemies, but one could never be too safe within such close quarters.
Selika again reached within the multifaceted colors of the Force to discern the location of the one who would guide her to an even greater plane of existence, but the Adept’s distinct signature was being twisted and pulled in every direction by the torrents of dark magic that submerged the tunnel. Her nerves started readying themselves as her ease about the situation vanished. Danger was coming in some unknown form, and Selika would approach it head on.
From the darkness of the right tunnel, sounds sliced through the eerie silence. Running, crackling, and a persistent mass of growling and grumbling which Selika could not place.
A slim silver lightsaber blade pierced the black and illuminated the face of Aabsdu in a soft glow as he stepped quickly towards her. Several meters away, he spun suddenly and let a jolt of electricity channel from his free hand that spiraled into the void behind him. Some of the growls turned into high pitched screams as a myriad of writhing shadows were cast against the sides of the tunnel, but Selika could not clearly make out the figures chasing the Adept.
Aabsdu reached the Archpriestess, pivoted on his heel, and immediately started down the left tunnel. Selika hesitated in following him, unsure what horrors could cause a Dark Adept to flee.
"Are you running?" she asked quickly.
His answer was curt, "Finding a better playing field."
"Why?" she called out as she started following him down the tunnel. Aabsdu had already brightened the darkness with a wave of his hand, one of his lightsabers still held tight in his other.
He turned and gave what seemed a grin, "I thought wrong."
Behind her, the growling jumped in intensity as Selika saw a horde of undead beings running, jumping, crawling, and pushing towards the Plagueians. Their bodies were in pieces, many missing entire limbs, their faces slowly melting away as they crumbled into themselves, but still they charged towards them ravenous and, quite literally, deadly. Selika reached for their thoughts but only felt a mindless drum of hunger.
Each looked fragile enough to break in half with a single punch, but Aabsdu’s instinct to not face what looked like a hundred ghouls on their territory seemed apt.
Adept and Archpriestess moved quickly down the tunnel, their orb of light following them as their steps and breathing echoed around them. They took turns spinning around to attack. Aabsdu would throw another volley of lightning into the front lines while Selika would push a wave back only to watch them immediately trampled as the wave behind rolled relentlessly forward.
"There!" Aabsdu called out as the tunnel suddenly opened up into a large cavern. As soon as they both shot out of the opening, Aabsdu turned and pushed both hands towards the tunnel. A wave of telekinetic energy slammed into the rock face, and with several large cracks the stone crumbled down, covering the entrance and burying the beasts within.
"I would have expected a man of your caliber to handle his own," Selika chirped snidely.
Aabsdu caught his breath and looked at her, "There will be plenty to fight when we reach Xlopora. We shouldn’t exhaust ourselves on appetizers."
"You lack imagination," Selika shot back as she stared at the boulders separating them from the horde.
"I know my purpose," Aabsdu’s response was stern as he straightened and glared, "We have been tasked to deliver Revelation to the Dread Lord. I will not allow childish frolicking to deter us while others steal what is ours."
Selika frowned as they stared at each other, bodies tense, but Aabsdu’s face remained calm and blank. She knew he was ready to wipe her away if needed, though she would not go down easily, but he seemed just as ready to continue moving forward.
The matter was ended for them as each turned to the sounds of growling and grumbling, but the noise was not from the tunnel whence they came. It echoed through the chamber as if coming from multiple directions at once, the intensity growing exponentially.
Aabsdu closed his eyes and focused as Selika felt him start to feed off of her in order to boost his own slowly dilapidating strength. Light burst outward from the Adept and expanded across the vast cavern, but as the sphere grew larger its luminance decreased.
The apparently natural cavern was approximately fifty meters wide and eighty meters tall. They stood on an outer lip surrounding a pool of murky water, at the center of which was a barren rocky island. As the rapidly dimming light splashed against the sides of the room, multiple openings were revealed out of which swarmed the horde.
Something else appeared in the light, at the top of the cavern. A half collapsed bridge, its metallic sheen giving away its artifice, still connected at one end to an iron door some sixty meters above them. Aabsdu and Selika both saw it and translated their intent in a gaze.
Death circled the two Krath as they pressed their backs together and prepared their escape.
The three trekked through the wilderness for what seemed like endless hours, causing Teylas to pine for when they were being chased and shot at. The troops that were behind them undoubtedly assumed them to be dead, and regardless they were ill equipped to track three Dark Jedi through the thick jungle and underlying thicket. It was certainly slowing the pace of the three.
They had briefly stopped twice to readjust their bearings to Xlopora City to ensure they were still heading in the right direction. Kz'set was quiet, other than a random clicking noise which oddly reminded Teylas of home. He saw Kz'set as more of an ally at this point than an enemy, as Teylas didn't believe to have any direct conflicts with the Verpine. They were newly accustomed to one another, but had an oddly growing working relationship. However, Kz'set didn't strike Teylas as one who would be directly confrontational, which kept the Anzat ever aware of Kz'set's presence.
Then there was Arturis, whom Teylas would be fine with drawing his lightsaber and cleaving the rodents head off right there in the jungle. However, given his position as Quaestor, the Dread Lord would likely frown upon such a summary execution. Not to mention Teylas' thirst for power was no where near that of other Sith, but his willingness to kill Arturis was more personal than it was for advancement within Clan Plagueis.
Finally, after the hours of quiet between the three and Teylas' own self ponderance of his team mates, the brush cleared and the jungle began to break up. Ahead of the three was a large, seemingly desolate and unmaintained, city. The team found some cover as they were each individually scanning the city-scape.
"Doesn't look that heavily guarded. No where near what you'd expect. I guess they figured the outer defenses would hold. But I can definitely feel a strong Force presence in there, so it may not be the troops we have to worry about," Teylas commented.
"I'm also feeling a similar shroud to what we felt when we lost Selika and Aabsdu. Either they're trying really hard to hide the lost blade of Ferran in there, or there is more going on," Arturis surmised.
Kz'set was looking over the city and the troops as they moved throughout their patrols and duties. "We should wait for nightfall and use stealth to infiltrate the city, look for where the blade is being held, and capture it."
"Agreed," Arturis responded, while Teylas gave a simple nod. The three then sat, hidden from view, biding their time for the dark to be their ally.
Selika set herself, drawing the Force to her. The bridge above her was likely a good deal beyond her ability to jump to, even augmented with the Force. There was, however, another option open to her. Moving oneself with telekinesis was possible, but could prove difficult. It wasn't the effort of moving her entire body that was the issue, as Selika had often used the Force to lift far weightier objects than herself. Instead it was the complications of moving the nexus of the Force that was responsible for the movement. Any slight lapse of concentration and she could quite easily fall as the threads of the Force slipped from her grasp. Even an Elder such as Aabsdu would require more concentration than normal to maintain his power, which likely explained why most Jedi had developed the ability to simply jump to great heights.
Selika felt Aabsdu lift from the ground behind her at almost the same exact moment she herself did, and they both slowly rose through the air towards their target. Only once did she nearly slip, her ascent interrupted by a dip of nearly a third of a meter before she regained her full control. As she made it over the bridge's railing, she could finally allow her attention to divert and looked down at the floor of the cave they had just left. The floor of the cavern, even the surface of the shallow pool of water, was lost in a writhing press of undead forms. Those directly beneath them had their hands raised into the air, as if trying to pull their prey down to them. It was a sight that even Selika found unsettling.
"This isn't just a few reanimated corpses," Selika observed. "How could our reports have missed this horde?"
"Even I can't sense them since they're not alive," Aabsdu opined. "Life sensors would likely be similarly useless. Also…"
"What?" Selika demanded as he trailed off.
"These alchemical abominations can remain dormant for centuries or more. Perhaps our arrival has been noticed and more have risen as a result," Aabsdu explained.
"You almost make it sound as if something has noticed the Brotherhood's presence," Selika said, her eyes narrowing.
The elder offered no further observations on the subject, but instead seemed to clear his mind with a subtle shake of his head.
"We need to keep moving, make our way to the city center," he ordered.
Selika nodded, content to let the subject pass for now. She focused her attention on the door blocking their path, feeling no power flowing to any of its mechanisms. The metal itself felt cold and disordered to her sense, the integrity of it's structure having seemed to succumb to the ravages of age and decay. Focusing on the center of the metal, Selika's hand shot out palm forward. The accompanying telekinetic blow sent cracks spider webbing out from the point of impact accompanied by the sound of shearing metal.
"I guess they never made them like they supposedly used to," Aabsdu observed wryly.
Selika set her teeth and delivered another blow, and then a third. Upon her fourth, the brittle metal finally gave way to shatter into shards that fell to the ground beyond the doorframe. Aabsdu took a step forward, holding his saber forward to illuminate the passage beyond. It was, however, not unoccupied.
Obviously drawn by the sound of blows against the metal door, another group of zombies filled the area beyond. With a wordless snarl they lurched forward towards the two Krath, intent on rending flesh from bone. Aabsdu's second saber leapt from his belt and into his hand, igniting with a snap-hiss as he grasped it. Selika's saber was only a moment behind, its violet hue joining the twin white blades of Aabsdu's weapons.
"So, would this be adultish frolicking?" Selika asked sarcastically as her blade lashed out to decapitate one of their attackers.
"No," Aabsdu replied coldly as his own weapons flashed quickly from one walking corpse to another.
The elder's strokes were efficient, almost surgical, when compared to Selika's own. His blades moved only as far as they needed to, never wasting motion. His swings would stop just as they cut head from body, often he would simply stab out quickly into a ravenous face to put down his target. Selika's strikes in contrast were more wild, her blows having significant overswing. Their two differing styles were both striking down body after body, but they were still losing ground to the shear number of their opponents. Pushing farther and farther back, they were nearing a gap in the bridge that would be too great to jump.
Selika could feel a shift in Aabsdu's attention, obviously he had a plan. He shifted his stance to shield his left side from the horde, deactivating the saber held in that hand and clipping it once again on his belt. The Force flowed into him again, but before he could act one of the zombie forms was within his defenses. It pressed in on him from behind his right shoulder and struck, its hands grasping his body as its jaws closed on Aabsdu's flesh where neck and shoulder met.
An agonized scream ripped itself from the elder's lips as he dropped to his knees and his saber fell from his grasp, anger flashing in his eyes and through Selika's Force sense. She had only a moment to prepare as the Force the di Plagia had gathered to himself erupted outward in all directions as a wave of telekinetic energy. The zombie that had been locked on his flesh was thrown clear with a spray of blood as its teeth were ripped free by the force of the blow. Others were lifted bodily from their feet and throw in all directions, many of them going over the rail to drop tens of meters into the twisting mass of bodies below. Selika had deflected enough of the energy around her to keep from being similarly thrown. The wave had still knocked her over, her back and head hitting the grate of the bridge surface where she fell.
She then felt more than heard Dupar's yell of frustration as azure bolts of electricity leapt from his outstretched hands. The bolts struck out at the zombie forms, in some cases arcing straight through heads, in others simply blasting their desiccated skulls apart. Aabsdu then pitched forward as consciousness retreated from him, the darkness once again returning without the light the elder had cast within the cavern.
Selika's eyes snapped open as she heard movement, silently cursing herself as she realized she had fallen asleep. Across the chamber, lit by the dying embers of a fire, she saw that Aabsdu was stirring, his eyes finally open.
"Where are we?" he croaked, his mouth obviously parched.
"In the catacombs, somewhere beneath the city," Selika replied, rising to her feet.
She crossed the distance separating them in two strides and picked up the elder's canteen. Loosening the top, she knelt and handed it to him. Pushing himself upright, he took several drinks from the canteen before speaking again.
"How long has it been?"
Selika's mind flashed back to her memories of the last few hours, dragging the unconscious Overseer with her as she traversed caverns and tunnels. They had eventually given way to chambers like the one they found themselves in now, obviously carved by intelligent hands from the rock.
"Six or seven hours, maybe more," she said, remembering that she herself had dozed. "I can't be sure without a chrono. I'm not even sure if it's day or night on the surface any longer."
Selika moved slightly, reaching over to move part of the man's robe that covered his wound. It was somewhat healed, but still dark and disturbing. She could even feel something within the Force, dark tendrils throbbing as they tried to reach deeper into the elder's body.
"I could feel you healing that as I carried you," she said, her eyes fixed on it.
"There is something dark about it, I can feel it eating at me," Aabsdu explained. "I cannot seem to drive its taint from me on my own."
"Just your luck that you are stuck in a cave with a Krath that has never shown even a spark of talent in that area," she said.
"And yet I was stuck with one that carried me through caves filled with reanimated corpses and untold other dangers," he observed.
Selika quickly stood up, turning her back on him without saying a word.
"Not what I would have expected from you," he continued after a few silent moments.
"It was motivated out of my own self interest, I assure you," Selika snapped defensively as she whirled to face him. "The newly arrived defector just happens to return without the Dread Lord's anointed Overseer, mere weeks after the destruction of one of the Clan's Star Destroyers? How long do you think it would take for Montresor to decide I needed to end up dead?"
Aabsdu said nothing, simply fixing her with a pointed stare. Selika snorted, turning on her heel and stalking out of the chamber. She told herself she needed to find more fuel to stoke the fire, more ancient and broken shelves that had lined the catacomb chambers. She wasn't willing to admit, even to herself, that she simply wanted to avoid questions which she could not face the answers to.
While the others appeared to be resting and waiting, Kz’set was planning. The situation the group was presently in, and the mission at large, was posing quite a challenge for Kz'set's tactical mind. There was also another set of calculations going on in hir mind. The course of events was presenting an opportunity that could very well play to hir advantage. Selika and Aabsdu were out of the picture for the moment and he was left alone with the two leaders of hir rival house. Thoughts of how to best exploit this situation buzzed around in the Verpine's mind as they trudged on.
”First consideration, purpose for group composition. Montresor, crafty leader but new in overall dynamic. Might be seeking to test potential rivals, adversaries, threats. All in this group fall into that category. May be counting on mission to remove one or more of us while achieving goal for Iron Throne. Stands to win should we succeed, wants to ensure that success. Might also be counting on natural ambition of group. Goes to next consideration.”.
“Second consideration, motivation of individuals. Aabsdu, powerful in the force and in position to strike against Dread Lord. Presently not of immediate concern and may expire without intervention due to present circumstances. Selika, cunning but not driven by power over others. Desires knowledge and power of other sorts. Worthy of watching but also not of immediate concern. Also potential to be killed by own recklessness. Both would likely seek to limit conflict within group as they stand to gain from mission success. Out of picture for time being.“
“More immediate concerns, Teylas and Arturis. Arturis shows surprisingly strong desire for power for one of his order. Close confidant of Dread Lord, far more trusted as initial selection to lead inquisition suggests. Dread Lord unlikely to respond well to assassination, high probability of considering such as treason. Removal would weaken Ajunta Pall in the short term, perhaps longer term. While I don't understand his thought processes, the same factors would lead to him seeking to eliminate me. Mission presents opportunity to remove without losing trust from Dread Lord. One complication: Teylas.”
“Teylas is an unknown quantity to me due to limited exposure, but more likely ally than opponent, at least in short term. He stands to gain from Arturis' death. Would be logical choice to rise to head of Ajunta Pall. As a Sith, he's quite likely to be looking for some way to advance. Also seems quite cunning, could also see this mission as an opportunity. Must also consider other possibility, he could seek to partner with Arturis to kill me. Possible, but unlikely. Less to gain from my death than from the Kushisban's. No, he's more of an ally than a threat. But how to use him...”
Kz’set snapped back to the mission at hand just as darkness began to set. S/he started focusing in on the troop movements and was looking for an opening. After a few moments, it appeared.
“Patrols are moving away from that gate.” Kz’set indicated one particular gap in the city’s wall with one of hir long fingers.“Only a couple sentries there, shouldn’t be a problem to get past them.”
Arturis looked at the situation and then back at the Verpine. “You sure it’s not another trap?”
“Doubtful, seems a part of their patrol pattern.” Teylas replied. “They have a small number of patrols that stick to a section of the wall it seems. They shouldn’t be back for a good hour or so.”
“Let’s move then” Kz’set chirped. “I’d rather avoid a drawn out fight.”
"Agreed," Teylas nodded.
The team bided their time for a few more moments to allow increased separation of the patrols before moving in. They made their way swiftly, coming up slightly to the left behind the sentires. Looking at each other to confirm, the three Dark Jedi pounced on the sentries, incapacitating them permanently without much effort.
"We should do something with the bodies, just in case," the Anzat recommended.
The three took a quick glance before noticing a conglomerate of shipping crates. Arturis pointed, "We could drag them behind those." In short order, Teylas and Kz'set dragged the bodies of the four sentries behind the crates and looked around again. "Now where?" Arturis asked as they came from behind the crates.
Pointing at a large stone structure in the distance Kz'set replied, "That appears to be what we are here for."
Swiftly and silently the trio moved through the city, ducking patrols and staying low to the ground. The patrol pattern was predictable. It almost seemed too easy, like a trap as Kz'set had suggested. 'On the other hand, they probably think their outer defenses we ran into would've been more than enough,' Teylas thought to himself. Their over confidence may had been what allowed for such an easy entrance into the city. The cover of night was proving to be an ally, both in the lack of light and the lack of pretty much anyone walking the streets.
Suddenly they stopped, each hugging a different section of wall as they heard an approaching patrol. Slightly larger than the last one: this time six sentries walking through the streets. Taking them down would undoubtedly take something with a bit more strike, speed and finesse than hand to hand combat. There was a chance with using their lightsabers, though, that the bright colors in the dark streets of Xlopora City could be easily spotted. While no other patrols could be sensed to be close, the lightsabers would certainly attract their attention if anyone was looking.
They'd have to move from that position quickly.
It was decided; there was no other way. Teylas reached out with his mind to his compatriots and informed them to be quick, concise and only have their lightsabers out for a minimal amount of time.
A few moments later the patrol reached them. Jumping from the shadows, Teylas grabbed one of the sentries, putting his lightsaber hilt up to their neck and activating and deactivating it as quickly as possible. The sentry fell limp, but before he could even hit the ground, Teylas extended his lightsaber for a split second, heaving it at another sentries neck and sending his head to the ground several meters away. As he turned, Arturius and Kz'set had just finished disposing of the rest of the sentries by similarly efficient means.
"We should move with haste, the building that houses the lost blade of Ferran is close now," Kz'set motioned in front of them. With acknowledgement, all three quickly fled from the area to be sure to avoid any patrols who might have seen what had just transpired.
As the three of them moved quietly from street to street, stopping from time to time as additional patrols went by to respond to the earlier incident, they knew they were running out of time.
Arturis silently watched both Teylas and Kz’set, having noticed them watch him as well during the earlier parts of the mission. Ever since the massacre, he had been unable to trust either of them with his own life. His selfish fighting demeanor proved this multiple times over, in addition to his trekking off by himself.
He had begun to regret hiding the information he had gathered on the traitor’s identity from the Clan for further investigation himself, and there now was a high chance it would not get out. From what he knew, there were multiple people within the Clan at large who were assisting the traitor. Given Kz’set’s origins into the Clan, and House Summit leadership, he was the greatest to not be trusted.
Teylas, his own second in command, was just as untrustworthy. Nightmares had plagued him these past weeks since both of them were assigned to the Predominant, nightmares of Teylas standing over him just waiting for the right moment to drink his soup from his head. He shivered at that thought.
At this point, Arturis’ main concern was completing the mission, returning to the Fleet, and bringing to an end the traitor’s reign of chaos. Plagueis was in grave danger, and should he not survive the chances of it persisting were almost nil. Especially if Teylas or Kz’set, or both, were indeed involved. It would seat both Houses of power under the traitor if that were the case and isolate Montresor, Dacien, and Aabsdu.
“Just ahead.” Kz’set clicked as he pointed his long arm towards a large temple-style building just across the way. “Many guardszz. Much trouble.”
“Perhaps our stealthy friend here should go on ahead and scope things out…” Teylas spoke calmly, with the slightest of a smirk on his face. Arturis caught this out of the corner of his eye, but made no reaction to it.
“No. We’re going together,” he countered, and lead the assault. In a matter of minutes, the few guards that surrounded the temple were dead and the three of them went inside. A large sanctum stood before them with statues all around, and in the middle a larger statue with the sword.
“There it is.”
Aabsdu Dupar’s vision faded and he stumbled forward, his right arm instinctively outstretching to catch himself on the rocky wall. The move resulted in a spasm of pain erupting from his shoulder, the partially scabbed over wound from where the undead creature had pierced fleshed ripping open yet again. The Adept grimaced, his teeth clenched as he pushed against the pressure.
Behind him, Selika stopped, watching with concern. Her worry had less to do with the Overseer’s injury and more her confusion over where they were heading. They were restoring their energy in the emptied cavern when the former Headmaster, in a fit of coughing, had suddenly stood upright and started walking. They had been traveling for at least an hour, the musty air seeming to grow thicker as she assumed they left the catacombs and entered the tombs directly beneath the central chambers of Xlopora City.
In order to conserve his energy, Aabsdu left the tunnels dark, their only light coming from the soft glow of his silver and her magenta lightsabers. He told her he had sensed Revelation and knew now its direction. The Archpriestess had sensed nothing, their connection to the rest of planet and the other members of their team still dampened by the vortex of magic in these caves. Still, she trusted the Adept’s prowess.
Aabsdu regained his composure. He had called upon his years of training to heal the infliction, but still he felt a dread eating away at him. His shoulder, physically, was scabbing over and no longer bled as frequently, but something lay beneath his skin he could not reach and it irritated him profusely. He pushed ahead, convincing himself the answer to his dilemma lay with Ferran’s lost sword.
Both Plagueians stopped, having sensed the same disturbance. Selika thought she may have finally felt the presence of Revelation, but quickly realized the feeling to be something much different and more familiar.
Sounds rolled towards them from around a twist in the tunnel. Grunts, growls, and a rumbling in the Force they recognized all too well now. Then, the darkness was momentarily lit by a red flash followed by the sound of blaster fire. Aabsdu stood defensively, lightsaber held in his left hand as he calmly cast a small sphere of light within their immediate vicinity. Selika stood a meter behind and to his left.
Five figures emerged from around the bend. Three were the wretched forms of undead, tattered clothes and falling flesh showing their immense age, barred teeth showing their mindless hunger. The other two were dressed in stark white stormtrooper armor, neither wearing a helmet as they raced from the creatures.
Selika struck first, raising a hand and sending the three beasts of sorcery slamming into the side of the tunnel. Stone and bone cracked as one of the zombies’ heads popped off entirely.
Aabsdu reacted in tandem, raising his right hand to send a shock of lightning into the three pinned foes while simultaneously spinning and impaling through the chest one of the two stormtroopers.
The man gasped, eyes wide with terror. Aabsdu watched the life leak out of them as his body went limp. Selika started towards the second trooper just as Aabsdu called out.
She did, if only taken aback by the command. She turned to the di Plagian for justification.
"He may have answers for us."
The Adept deactivated his blade, allowing the second trooper to finally fall to the floor, and stepped towards the survivor. Selika raised the quivering man off the ground, pinning him to the wall with an invisible grip as Aabsdu stepped within inches of his face.
"Name," he commanded, his voice deeper and darker than usual as the light around them dimmed and shadows etched across the contours of his face.
The trooper stammered, "Ve-Vemril. Cor-Corporal…Vem-ril."
Corporal Vemril was sweating profusely, his eyes darting back and forth between Aabsdu and Selika. Unlike his companion, he carried no weapon. His gloved hands merely twitched against the wall he could not escape as Selika lifted his body off the floor entirely, his feet dangling. She knew enough about the former Consul to know interrogation to be one of his favorite pastimes.
Aabsdu smiled and placed a hand against Vemril’s cheek as he squeezed his influence into the battered soldier. He felt the man’s consciousness bubbling within him like a pool that Aabsdu could dive into and drink.
"Why are you here?" he asked in a low voice.
Vemril did not answer, so Aabsdu exuded his influence deeper, taking one step into the edge of the pool’s shallow, outer depths. He repeated his question.
Vemril’s eyes continued to dart about as he stuttered, "We were…charged to clear the cata-cata-catacombs."
"And?" Aabsdu asked as he took another step into the pool, his ethereal feet wet with the corporal’s thoughts and feelings.
"We were…destroy-yed. The-the dead…they…li-live. He...ra-aises...them."
Aabsdu walked deeper into the pool as he pushed his way through Vemril’s memories. He saw a squad of stormtroopers marching through the dark tunnels Selika and he had spent the past day and night in. Then he saw men being torn apart as they broke rank and scattered away from the reanimated corpses that swarmed around them. The water of Vemril’s pool rippled as screams echoed around them. The man was distressed and weak-minded, but the Adept could feel an outside presence attempting to hold his deepest secrets out of reach. Aabsdu waded in waist deep.
"Who sent you?"
Vemril grimaced and let out a shrieking whine from which emerged a pained word, "Esssssoteeericccc."
Standing nearby, Selika watched the exchange in awe, oblivious to the mental meld going on between Aabsdu and Vemril. She knew herself in the presence of power. She could feel it washing off the men as their beings continued to merge together.
"You want to lead us out of this place" Aabsdu suggested. He stepped further into the pool of memories until the calm, cool water waded up and over his wounded shoulder.
Suddenly, Vemril’s erratic gaze shot straight into Aabsdu’s eyes and both men’s bodies stiffened. Within Vemril’s mind, Aabsdu was sucked down into the water, plunging deeper and deeper by an unseen current. His body twisted about as he struggled to regain control, but the funnel held tight as it suffocated him. The world blurred and grew dark as Aabsdu felt his essence being ripped from his body. He pushed back and sent a blast of telekinesis outward.
Water blew out from around him, revealing, at the center of the pool, a rectangular slab of stone etched with Sith markings and bathed in torch light.
Revelation, thought Aabsdu as the water collapsed back and slammed into him. His body was pulled forward and he tried to reach out towards the tomb and treasure that lay within, but as he inched towards it the churning water reversed course and yanked him backwards. He shot higher and higher through the water, the central chamber growing smaller, until he was thrown out of the pool completely.
Aabsdu’s corporeal body stumbled backwards with a yell of pain as he sent a blast wave through the tunnel. Selika was tossed sideways, her Force grip on Vemril relinquishing control. Rock and dust layered them from above as the tunnel shook under the sudden pressure. Selika turned to Aabsdu, momentarily losing sight of Vemril as he crawled away.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
Aabsdu gathered himself, "Yes, yes. He showed me Ferran’s chamber."
"Raarrrrghh," came a deep growl from behind them. Selika turned, her blade already ignited, to see the second stormtrooper back on his feet and stepping towards her. She readied herself to strike, but the trooper was rocketed back by a volley of blaster fire, its armor ripped in half as it fell lifeless a second time.
Vemril stood, blaster carbine in hand. Selika pounced, pulling the blaster from his grip and throwing him against the wall, her blade pointed towards his throat.
"Then he is of no further use," Selika growled and inched her blade closer to the man’s neck. Vemril’s gaze had returned to its unstable state, apparently ignorant his life neared its end.
"No!" Aabsdu commanded. He was not sure why, but he sensed the man still had a purpose to serve in their quest.
"We may have use of him yet," he said, "He is not a danger."
Selika frowned and deactivated her weapon, looking towards her Adept master, but the man was silent.
Aabsdu stared down the dark passage and twist from which their new companion had emerged. After hours of aimless wandering, their goal was finally within sight. The Force would guide them to victory.
With Selika and Corporal Vemril following, Aabsdu Dupar rubbed away the pain in his shoulder one more time before setting off around the bend.
Arturis, Teylas, and Kz'set walked into the heart of the temple as they descended a large set of stairs into the inner sanctum Statues lined the sanctum all the way across, and in the middle sat a larger statue with a large sword sticking out of it.
"There it is," Teylas said as he pointed across the sanctum.
“We came all this way for that?” Kz’set inquired. “I’ve always wondered what the obsession was with ancient bladeszzz. Lightsabers are far more efficient.”
Teylas shrugged and looked towards Arturis who had already descended the stairs and hopped across the room as he jumped on to the statue and stared at the sword. "Not quite as grand as the description of it in the briefing lead me to believe." he spoke as he grabbed on to it and pulled it from the statue. “And we’re here because this holds a hidden power. I can already begin to feel it.”
Teylas and Kz'set had just descended the stairs as Arturis hopped to the ground, wielding the sword that stood roughly three times taller than him and should weigh far more than he should be able to wield.
Kz’set glanced over to Teylas and quipped, “He can lift that?”
Suddenly Arturis’ eyes widened as he looked at his arm, now intertwined with blue strands of light that slowly started to climb it. He shook his hand violently, trying to let go of the massive sword but could not. "Wait a minute. I can't-"
He hopped over to Teylas and extended the sword towards him. "Help me get rid of it."
Teylas however, merely shook his head and smiled. "Sorry friend, but I'm disinclined to acquiesce to your request."
“Can’t take the risk,” Kz’set added. “Better it take one of us as opposed to all of us.”
"What?" Arturis questioned as he looked over at Kz'set as the Verpine turned away and shunned him. The tendrils extended further up his arm and started to move along his body as he began to panic and swing the sword maniacally to get rid of it. "Kriffing Sithspitters! You’re just going to let it-"
Arturis started swinging the sword around in a panic with far less effort than should have been required for someone of his stature. He took out statue after statue in his desperate frenzy. The Kushiban even started swinging at Teylas and Kz'set as well, hoping this might encourage them to aid him.
No such aid was coming.
Less than a minute later, Arturis had collapsed to the floor. A data chip fell from his pocket as he fell, a brilliant blue force ghost rising up from his body as the sword pulled it inside. Arturis screamed loudly as he struggled in his ghost form, but was quickly succumbed by the sword and absorbed inside.
They had been following Aabsdu's instincts nearly an hour, moving through passages and chambers unerringly towards the city center. More than that, however, Selika had noticed they had also been seemingly been moving in one direction: down.
"Are you sure this is where the sword is?" Selika asked, a slight hint of frustration in her tone as they stopped momentarily.
"It is here," Aabsdu said, his gaze locked on something beyond the walls in front of him.
Selika shook her head, resigning herself to the fact that she had little choice but to follow the elder's lead. She had spent many years pouring over the outer rim, tracing the exodus of those Krath that had fled Empress Teta after the fall, but her mind was closed to whatever hints in the Force that Aabsdu was following. As if responding to her thought, he began to walk again into the darkness ahead of them. Selika gestured for their companion to follow, letting out a quiet sigh as she did so.
The Imperial was obviously a mess, his eyes still showing no sign of losing the glint of madness that had been in them when they had first discovered him. Even the well trained Stormtrooper had not been immune to the traumas of seeing his own comrades ripped apart by the reanimated undead that stalked the underworld of Bosthirda. His instincts and equipment had at least remained, his blaster carbine having accounted for several of the mindless thralls they had run across during their trek.
"Here!" Aabsdu exclaimed, pulling his saber from its place on his belt.
The weapon ignited with a sound that seemed to echo on down the passages for hundreds of meters, and then was plunged into the hewn stone wall that blocked Aabsdu's progress. He cut out a hole slightly larger than a human body and gestured for Selika to remove it. With a wave of her hand, the Archpriestess pulled the stone plug from its place and dropped it with a dull thud that raised dust from the floor of the passageway.
The rock was accompanied by a breath of air even more stale than what they had grown accustomed to throughout their journey. It was the smell of air which had remained long undisturbed coupled with the scent of ancient decay. To Selika, it smelled like a tomb.
Aabsdu gestured the helmetless stormtrooper forward, allowing him to take the risk of first entry. They had encountered more than their fair share of traps along the way, and it seemed obvious that Aabsdu intended the soldier to take the brunt of any greeting that awaited them. It was the choice Selika would have made in his place as well, mundanes were there to be sacrificed for the Sith after all. Nothing happened as Vemril strode deeper into the chamber, so Selika moved to follow him.
The sight that greeted her when she arrived was not what she had expected. The chamber wasn't large, perhaps twenty meters in diameter. The periphery was ringed by stone pillars rising from floor to ceiling, while in the center was a raised dais. The dais, however, held neither statute nor sword, instead a stone rectangle covered by ancient Sith script.
So, it smelled exactly like what it was, Selika thought to herself.
Aabsdu was next into the chamber, and Selika turned to face him. As his eyes took in the sight that awaited him a cloud of confusion spread across his features. This obviously wasn't what he had expected, either.
"No, the sword should be here. I saw it…" he murmured to himself just loud enough for Selika to hear.
The sound of stone grinding on stone caused her to turn back to the dais, seeing Vemril pushing the top of what must be the sarcophagus open.
"Stop!" Selika ordered, causing Vemirl to turn to face her.
The madness was gone from his eyes, and with it any expression on his face. His eyes were dull and without focus, his features completely slack. She had seen that look before many times since they had arrived on Bosthirda, it was the look those zombies whose faces remained had possessed. Before she could cross the distance that separated them, Vemril's hand shot into the sarcophagus to grasp something within. The Corporal’s form was bathed in a red glow, and then the air was split by a thunderous crack. Selika stopped a few paces short of the dais itself and ignited her own saber, holding it before her in a simple guard. There was a power radiating from Vemril's form, something ancient and dark within him now.
Vemril let out a loud sigh of relief, though clearly in a voice not his own.
"Corporal?" Aabsdu asked.
"No, he is gone. Driven from this form," the being possessing Vemril said, and turned to face both Krath. "There is only Darth Agran."
Selika had never heard that name before, and a quick glance to Aabsdu showed the elder just as much at a loss as she was.
"I can see in your minds that you know not my name, but that will soon change," Agran said. "Darth Xedrix might have killed me, appropriated my separatist pawns for use in his own game, but now three millennia later I shall know triumph."
Selika lunged toward Agran, realizing that now might be the only opportunity to strike him down. Without even so much as a twitch, a bolt of Force lightning leapt from the possessed Stormtrooper's body and hit Selika in the chest, throwing her backwards ten meters to land on the floor. The blast was more powerful than any she had herself felt, and it had left spots dancing before her vision as her head began to clear.
"Come now, you think that a weakling like you can defeat me?" Agran taunted. "I, who mastered Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut, that which even Sorzus Syn herself could not! I, who command the horde you have already faced! And I," he went on, gesturing at Aabsdu, "who have already begun to turn him into one of my own."
"The wound," Aabsdu said, reflexively rubbing his shoulder. "The taint is your influence, it is what lead me to this place…"
"Yes, fool," Agran spat. "First, you will die. Then you will serve me."
The lightning once again arced from Agran, accompanied this time by a wind that erupted into a gale. The long dead Sith was not simply attacking them with Force lightning, he was calling forth a Force storm itself. Selika was struck again, eliciting a scream and once more clouding her vision. Then the wind took her, throwing her through the air and into one of the stone pillars with what felt like back breaking force.
She could feel Aabsdu in the Force, throwing lightning against the bolts hurled by Agran, deflecting the wind around his form. Selika could also feel that, while he seemed to be holding his own, Aabsdu's will was waning. The toll taken by his lingering infection was weakening the Krath; he could not stand against Agran forever.
But perhaps he would not need to, because he at least seemed to hold all of Agran's attention, the Sith lord sparing not a thought for Selika herself. Her eyes darted around the chamber, looking for something to use against him. And then, along the edge of the chamber near where Agran stood, she found it. One of the stone pillars, cracked and crumbled with age, had broken near its top, separating it from the ceiling. Selika gritted her teeth and walked towards it, her steps slow and plodding under the torrent of wind. As she walked, a loose piece of stone struck her, coming from the left and striking her across the face. Wiping away blood from the gash across her cheek, Selika continued forward.
Reaching the pillar, she moved to the leeward side to find refuge from the wind. It was a simple matter for her to cut a wedge from the base of the pillar, leaving it ready to topple with the right application of force. Calling the Force to her once more, she pushed against the pillar. Just as it began to topple, Agran seemed to sense her efforts. Whirling towards her, he readied himself to catch several tons of falling stone.
He would never have that chance. With his enemy's attention turned away for just that moment, Aabsdu launched twin lightning bolts from both of his palms. The bolts slammed into Agran, disrupting his attention for the crucial moment that was required. The stone pillar dropped on the staggered form that had once belonged to Vemril, smashing man and armor nearly flat beneath it.
As the wind died and debris and dust began to settle, the air was filled with a keening wail. Then, a form glowing red seemed to raise into the air from below the downed pillar, taking on a shape that resembled a man.
"If you will not serve me in life," Agran screamed, "You will serve as my vessel!"
The enraged spirit of the fallen Sith lord flew at Aabsdu, lifting him boldly through the air and pinning him against the chamber's wall. Aabsdu struggled, but his Force power did nothing to deter Agran's spirit. As his spectral hands grasped both sides of the elder's head, Selika could feel their Force energies begin to merge.
Accidental double post
"And that, my Verpine friend," Teylas said as he motioned towards the sword, "that is why pawns always go first in chess." Bending over to pick up the sword he felt it's light weight. Undoubtedly it was the reason Arturis was able to pick it up. 'Perhaps it even adjusts itself to its current user, Teylas thought to himself. He didn't care much for Sith alchemy or whatever the sword had done to Arturis, but it seemed safe enough in his hands.
"I'm sure the Dread Lord will want someone more familiar with these type of artifacts to look over it more closely upon our return. But first, we need to get out of this place," Teylas looked at Kz'set as he noticed his partner picking up the datachip that had fallen from Arturis upon his untimely demise.
"Any thoughtszzz?" Kz'set queried as he placed the datachip firmly on his person.
Teylas nodded, "Likely more of his paranoia run amok. Convinced there must be conspiracy." The tone in Teylas' voice said all that needed to be said about his opinion of what had transpired months before with the destruction of the Predominant. It was hardly a secret that Teylas wasn't as paranoid that the attacks had solely come from within, a large conspiracy of sorts, but rather the work of one, maybe two agents who had infiltrated Clan Plagueis.
"And what of Schulen?" Kz'set motioned towards the spot on the ground where Arturis body laid before being absorbed by the sword.
"The truth. He was overcome by something he didn't understand. As for our involvement, or lack thereof… I sense we come from very similar schools of thought, Kz'set. Best to omit certain details. I am but a simple pilot and engineer, you are but a former slave. What do we know of these things?" the tone of sarcasm clearly at the tip of his tongue.
Without a response, the two seemingly had an agreement. They knew what to tell the Dread Lord, and it wouldn't be a lie. As the two began to exit the sanctum, Teylas turned back from the doorway. To be sure that nothing could be investigated, he raised his hand, focusing his Force strength intently on the center ceiling tiles of the building. With a little effort he was able to shake the center tiles loose causing the entire roof to collapse in on itself, sealing the sanctum behind them.
"That is sure to attract attention. Hopefully away from our escape," Kz'set commented as the duo made a dash back for the streets of the ancient city. As they rounded corners they dove behind, around and on top of half crumbled buildings trying to avoid being seen. Successful as they were, the streets were starting to become crowded with Imperial forces.
Looking over at Kz'set as they continued their lively sprint, Teylas asked, "Perhaps the streets aren't the best option right now?"
"I have noticed tunnels leading underground. Perhaps they connect to a sewer system that will lead us covertly out of the city?" Kz'set answered.
Without much argument as their predicament was becoming tighter, Teylas and Kz'set made a dash down the steps and into an underground tunnel. The air was as stale as the ages, with a certain appreciation for the musk of death and sewage required to tolerate. The darkness was not absolute, with glimmers of light able to keep both the Anzat and Verpine within visual sight of the narrow walls. It was an eclectic mix of ancient tombs and waterways, the latter of which gave sound to the splashing puddles of their beated footsteps.
After about an hour of wandering Teylas quipped, "At least we aren't being shot at."
"But we can't be sure there is an exit, or even if we are going the right direction," Kz'set was quick to shoot back.
"Or an exit that we can fit through…" Teylas commented looking down at the narrow stream of free flowing water underneath their feet. "But I'll take any direction that isn't the one with guys shooting at us."
Finally, after hours of aimless wandering, a glimmer of light peaked through the tunnels as the sun was rising over the horizon. The two began to follow it, hoping they'd be able to reorient themselves from the topography they were familiar with from their infiltration of Xlopora City.
The entire world was a cavern and within this cavern was a pool and within this pool Aabsdu Dupar drowned. The waters were red as they tossed and turned, pulling the Adept back and forth as he struggled to keep his head clear. He was failing, his strength evaporating with each second as the tug of Agran’s presence intensified. The Sith surrounded him, clouding his mind until he was finally pulled beneath the waves to his inevitable death.
In the depths, the world was calmer. Aabsdu floated helplessly, an unseen force gradually drawing him deeper and deeper, but his panic was diminishing. Perhaps a partnership with Agran was not a terrible fate. Perhaps, together, they could reach new and untold power and domination across the Brotherhood and galaxy. All who stood in their way would be struck down only to be raised again as another soldier in their horde. They would be unstoppable.
The Krath blinked as he sought control over what remained of his weak senses. He craved not power but knowledge. He wished not domination but stability for Clan Plagueis. His years as the face of politics were behind him. He was the Overseer, the shadow always present but rarely acknowledged, guiding and advising the dictates of the Dread Lord. He was…as Agran was, now, seeking to consume his soul and control him from within.
Aabsdu Dupar was no puppet.
He sank deeper into the pool, the power of Agran’s spirit increasing alongside the growing pressure on his body. The Adept waved his arms in an attempt to swim upward, but the current continued to suck him down. Finally, exhausted, he stopped swimming and turned, resigned to face his defeat head on and battle to the end.
Then, he saw it. At the bottom of the pool was the source of the power, his final destination. Thick strands of rose-colored powder were emanating from a rectangular stone sarcophagus etched with Sith markings. He had seen this coffin before -- he had seen it in person.
The tomb was not the resting place of Revelation, but Lord Agran. Sensing himself on the verge of answers, Aabsdu gave in to the pressure and started swimming down, his speed quickened by the current.
He slammed into the side of the sarcophagus, grabbing the edge for support as the current whipped about him in a powerful whirlpool. The lid was already half open, and within the coffin the darkness was highlighted by a deep red pulsing glow.
The entire world was a cavern and within this cavern was a pool and within this pool was a tomb and within this tomb was a crystal. The heart of everything swirling around him. The heart of the dark magic that had blinded them to the outside world. The heart of Lord Agran’s trapped spirit.
With the last vestiges of strength in him, Aabsdu sent a wave of energy into the ground beneath him, propelling him up through the water. Another jet of energy rocketed him further, his face and hair stretched back, until the former Headmaster broke the surface.
Waves crashed against his body with nearly enough force to break him apart. He could already feel Agran tugging at his boots, craving his essence.
As the Adept and former Consul of Plagueis was pulled under again, Aabsdu yelled as loud as he could, "The tomb! The crystal! The heart!"
Aabsdu Dupar vanished, but his words echoed within the cavernous space that was to be his own tomb.
The magenta blade sliced through the air with a hiss, cleanly cutting Corporal Vemril’s reanimated head into halves at the nose. Selika Roh frowned with disgust and turned back to Aabsdu, still pinned high against the chamber wall. The red spirit of Lord Agran had disappeared completely into the Adept’s body, but she sensed her master fighting. She could also hear the familiar growls and grumbles of the horde surrounding them, clawing for a way inside. They had yet to discover the hole through which Aabsdu, Vemril, and she had entered, but knew she was running out of time.
She needed to decide now whether to strike down Aabsdu while he appeared defenseless. Selika would have preferred to save him, knowing the favor would go a long way towards the secrets he shared, but circumstances were limiting her options.
The air around her grew thick as a low chanting echoed across the chamber.
Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut. Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut. Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut.
The phrase repeated as the grumbling turned into howls and shrieks of pain.
Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut. Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut. Tsaiwinokka crystal.
The Archpriestess froze, listening intently. She was missing something, so she extended her sense beyond her ears to the current of the Force around them. The chamber was a vortex of energy, the mystical presence of the undead pushing against the walls on all sides. The form of what she hoped was still Aabsdu Dupar glowed hot red. She extended her presence further, opening herself up to the thoughts and feelings of those around her. The step was dangerous considering the unpredictable nature of her setting, but she needed to know.
Tsaiwinokka Hoyakut. Tsaiwinokka crystal. Tshaeiwinokka heart! The tomb! The crystal! The heart!
The heart? Crystal? Tomb?
Selika snapped back to reality just as the first undead Twi’lek warrior crawled through the opening in the stone wall. She locked eyes on the sarcophagus partially opened by Vemril and leapt towards it in one bound. Inside rested a large red crystal, pulsing regularly and exuding a deep, dark strength in the Force. Without hesitation, she levitated the crystal up and out of the coffin until it rested on the floor at her feet.
The undead warrior was five meters away and closing as Selika sent a hard pulse of telekinesis slamming into the crystal. The stone beneath it cracked, but the crystal held firm. She hit it again. The stone cracked further, creating a half-inch indention. The half-rotten Twi’lek was within three meters. She hit it a fourth time and fifth in rapid succession.
The crystal cracked as red mist started to seep out of the seam. The Archpriestess pulled her lightsaber, raised it high, and delivered a heavy downward hammer strike. The blade struck the crystal and a bright red light flashed across her eyes, filling the room as the crystal exploded.
A wave of energy rolled out from the shards, throwing her back against the sarcophagus. She tumbled over it and barely saw the ravenous Twi’lek ripped into four pieces.
Aabsdu’s body glowed red as a mist bled from every pore, but instead of coalescing into a humanoid form the magical vapor merely spread across the cold stone floor before seeping into the various cracks and crevices.
The room was still and silent.
The rumbling of the horde had ceased, and Selika no longer felt their presence in the Force. In fact, the blanket of dark magic that had weighed on them since their arrival in the catacombs seemed to have lifted. She could sense the forces of the Brotherhood not far above their heads, and somewhere nearby the familiar signature of Teylas Ramar.
Sounds of coughing pulled her attention back to the chamber. Aabsdu was leaning against the wall, eyes glazed as he spat up blood and dust. Selika kneeled next to him, looking him over boots to forehead.
"You are weak," she mused.
Aabsdu looked at her with a steady defensiveness, his hand dropping to his waist.
"Does it tempt you?"
Selika waited a moment to answer, allowing her hesitation to unsettle the Adept’s clearly fragile and fatigued mind out of curiosity to his reaction. Finally, she said, "No. I still have much to learn."
Aabsdu narrowed his eyes before closing them completely. His breath slowed as he allowed himself to sink into the Force. He bathed in it, allowing its rejuvenating currents to wash across his wounds and restore his strength best he could.
He could sense the rest of Bosthirda again. Nearby he felt the presence of Teylas Ramar and the insect Kz’set. A great strength radiated from their position, but not in the form of the Kushiban Arturis. Events had transpired during his and the Archpriestess’ detour in the caves. It was time they rejoin their companions and, if their mission a success, return to the Plaguiean forces in orbit.
"Your will against that Sith spirit impresses me," Selika spoke suddenly from beside him.
Aabsdu did not open his eyes as he answered, still entombed within the healing energies of meditation, "Some teach the Force as a deeper nature. We live in harmony with it, working alongside it, but I see it as a tool. The Force is mine to master, control, and bend to my will. The Jedi allow the Force to guide them; I choose to guide the Force."
"But many are overcome by the power of the Force. It continues to surpass our imaginations for what it can accomplish," Selika countered.
"All slaves rebel in time," said the Adept, "A dutiful master allows the excursion long enough to expend the energy before returning rightful order. The politics of power that Sith like Agran crave so dearly confuses this. They forget the inevitable nature of history."
Selika listened intently to her master’s wisdom as he paused to breathe, his robes and body worn from their adventures. After a moment, he continued, "In my journeys beyond the Brotherhood, I discovered a great wilderness in the universe. Between distant stars and planets, the Force reigns free of man’s selfishness. There is great knowledge there, waiting to be seized."
Selika considered this before saying, "Then why did you return?"
Aabsdu hesitated, his eyes opening to stare at the Archpriestess. She thought he was scanning her features, trying to pierce her deeper intentions, but just as he was now closed to her readings so, too, was she to his.
Finally, he answered in a low voice that seemed partly to himself, "The universe has no master."
He slowly rose to his feet with the assistance of Selika. They left the chamber and made their way back through the tunnels, frequently stepping over the collapsed corpses of creatures moments earlier seeking to feast on their flesh.
The question of why he had returned to the Brotherhood was one Aabsdu had asked himself regularly over the past weeks, and he was still uncomfortable admitting to himself the true answer. He no longer sought outward power, as the Sith do, or strength, as the Obelisk do. He was a teacher and scholar, a Krath best he could be, but he knew the wisdom of Plagueis had not been the only sign calling him back.
Deep down, Aabsdu Dupar craved a legacy.
The two Plagueians turned a corner to see two of their teammates at the far end. Kz’set stepped lightly with Teylas trailing behind, the gleaming sword of Ferran in hand. Arturis was nowhere to be seen, but the Overseer would wait until they were safely off planet to raise the matter. The rabbit had taken no liking to him.
Aabsdu did not miss the emptiness of space no matter how far into the depths of the Force he dived. Here, in the Brotherhood, was a Clan and Shadow Academy that admired, respected, and partially feared him.
He was someone important here, and he intended to keep it that way.
Having located their missing compatriots, all that was left now was to get back to the fleet. Given the number of troops above, that was not going to be an easy task. Between all the activity in the catacombs and the raid on the surface to acquire the sword, the enemy forces had begun to swarm in the general direction of the group. While they might, in time, locate a safe exit outside of the city, it was not a practical solution. They didn’t have supplies for an extended period of exploration. When the strong possibility of being cornered or otherwise boxed in by the far superior enemy force was added to the already suboptimal solution, a bolder plan was required.
“I sense you’re forming a plan Kz’set.” Teylas said looking to the Verpine.
Kz’set nodded. “Yes, but you won’t like it.”
“Let’s hear it” Aabsdu replied, a clear hint of exhaustion in his voice.
“Well, as I understand it our forces include some rather bold and unconventional pilotszzz, correct?” Kz’set inquired.
Teylas replied with a snide grin. “If that’s what you want to call Zuser, yes.”
Kz’set nodded and continued. “There’s an opening to the surface a few meters back. I just checked my comm unit and I think we could signal for pickup from here. It’s risky but...”
“Do it.” Aabsdu replied without hesitation.
Without another word, Kz’set led the group back towards the surface exit that was just down the tunnel in the direction Teylas and Kz’set had come from. Kz’set snuck up to the grate and carefully removed it, poking his head out into the ruined structure that surrounded it. As he’d hoped there was a small plaza out in front of the structure that was just big enough for a shuttle to land in. Ducking back into the tunnel, Kz’set pulled out his comm unit and activated it.
“Kz’set to Transcendent, come in.”
After a few moments a staticy reply came back from the Transcendent’s ground control officer . “We read you Kz’set.”
“We require immediate extraction. Instruct your pilot to come down on this transmission.” There was a bit of a pause after the Verpine made his request.
“Inside the city? That would be crazy!” The officer replied. “We’ll send Zuser.”
“Acknowledged, and tell him to hurry.” Kz’set added as he closed the channel. The Verpine could see Teylas rolling his eyes.
“I guess we’re going to answer an age old question shortly.” Kz’set looked back at the Anzat with a curious look. “We’re going to find out what color Verpine vomit really is.”
Kz’set smiled slightly as he inched back towards the tunnel exit and out into the structure beyond to watch for the incoming shuttle as well as for any enemy activity. What Kz’set hadn’t mentioned about his plan is that it was highly likely any transmission that could reach orbit would almost certainly alert the One Sith and their allies to the group’s location. Given their luck so far, the One Sith would respond quickly and with great intensity. Sure enough they did,
Within a few minutes of the transmission being sent, Kz’set noticed several armored vehicles moving down the narrow streets towards their location. Leading them were two groups of soldiers on speeder bikes that raced into the square ahead of the main force. Kz’set sighed and moved back to the grate. He looked straight to Teylas, the only other member of the group he’d observed with any weapons other than a lightsaber.
“Scouts in the plaza, armored vehicles inbound, two entrances, right or left?”
Teylas narrowed his eyes and then moved forward. “Left.”
“We’ll do what we can to do to assist.” Aabsdu added “And Zuser better hurry.”
Without another word the two Sith slunk off in opposite directions. The next few moments were filled with the familiar ring of blaster shots, the less familiar sound of reports from Kz’set’s shatter pistol, and more than a couple explosions. As the armored vehicles lumbered closer, the comforting whine of the engines of a Firespray echoed through the plaza followed by heavy blaster fire.
“Heard you needed a crazy pilot.” Zuser shouted over the Chaser’s comm as it set down.
Kz’set immediately dashed for the rapidly descending boarding ramp. followed shortly thereafter by Teylas and a hail of blaster fire. As Aabsdu and Selika started to make their way into the plaza, an enemy combat speeder glided into the plaza, sending a hail of blaster bolts right at the pair. As Selika made a dash for the Chaser, Aabsdu turned towards the speeder and with a thrust of his hand sent the vehicle flying back several meters in the air, sending it crashing into an oncoming squad. As the enemy troopers dove to the ground to get out of the way, Aabsdu spun on his heels and strode towards the Firespray. A few seconds later, all were aboard and the Chaser rocketed off into the stars.
Dread Lord’s Chambers
Montresor looked at the sword before him with a narrow grin on his face. After a few moments he looked up at the foursome who had retrieved it. He spoke with a pleased but concerned tone.
“I must congratulate you on your efforts in acquiring this. I am, however, quite concerned about the loss of of Arturis. I’ve read your report, but I would like to hear what occurred directly from you.”
Kz’set spoke up without hesitation. “I’m no scholar of such things but it’s quite clear that it was the sword itself that was responsible. It consumed him almost as soon as he picked it up.”
Montresor glanced at Teylas who simply nodded in reply. He studied the pair for a long moment, looking for any signs of deception. After an awkward half minute or so, the Dread Lord gave a satisfied nod.
“Very well, dismissed.”