Odan Urr: Team 1
Nathan Deciarus (307)
Aerin Taggart (13764)
V'yr Vorsa (6463)
Sa Ool (10051)
Kah Manet (8343)
Turel Sorenn (13830)
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!!!!!!!
LAAT/i gunship several miles from Xlopora City
With the wind whipping across his face, Nathan inhaled deeply as his transport, one of House Odan-Urr's LAAT/i gunships, raced through the skies of Bosthirda, a mountainous planet in the Sith Worlds sector. The Dark Jedi Brotherhood had descended on Bosthirda in force, seeking an unknown artifact within Xlopora City. The House's Farseer, A'lora Kituri, had sensed as much during one of her meditations, and House intelligence was able to confirm that the Brotherhood had indeed mobilized. Once again, it fell to House Odan-Urr to shoulder the burden of opposing the Brotherhood in their war against the One Sith, to try and protect the innocents caught up in the path of war. Thanks to an abundance of luck, and no doubt the arrogance of the Dark Jedi, House Odan-Urr had been able to wage their own guerrilla war against the Brotherhood and One Sith forces, but the young teenager quietly wondered how much longer their luck would last.
Nathan opened his eyes to once again take in the landscape beneath them. He had not seen many planets beyond the world of Talus, where his former master D'hak had entrusted him to House Odan-Urr, and visiting new worlds was certainly an enjoyable part of this experience. The communicator in his ear came alive as the somewhat familiar voice of Kaira Rohana spoke, but Nathan didn't pay attention. It was his second ride on a LAAT/i gunship, and he intended to enjoy it. The gunship dropped down to a very low altitude and skimmed about twenty meters above ground level, provoking a shout of exhilaration from the boy and approving grins from most of the soldiers traveling with him.
Odan-Urr's strategy would be quite simple; rush in, strike the city outskirts hard enough to penetrate a good distance towards the impressive central tower, and proceed on foot from there. Other LAAT/i gunships had flanked them, and they sped towards Bosthirda in formation, keeping a wary eye open for danger as they approached the outskirts of Xlopora City.
As Nathan took in the sights and sounds of his second ever gunship ride, the other members of his strike team had settled into different areas of the passenger compartment to prepare for the upcoming mission in their own way. V'yr Vorsa, the strike team leader and veteran of countless battles, paced at the front of the compartment studying maps and intelligence reports. Vorsa was troubled by Kaira Rohana’s revelation over the COMM channel that Imperial Storm Commandos had engaged Odanite forces and began adjusting the battle plan to account for the new combatants. Vorsa’s apprentice, Aerin Taggart, stood a few meters away from her master studying her own data pad. Aerin was more anxious than usual because this was to be her first mission as a full-fledged Jedi Knight and she did not want to let her master down.
Kah Manet positioned himself toward the middle of the compartment sharpening his femur knives with a strange aura of focus and serenity. Sa Ool stood opposite Kah in the middle of the compartment listening intently to the COMM traffic and formulating his own battle plan. Sa was also quietly observing his fellow teammates trying to assess their level of preparedness.
Turel Sorenn knelt in the back of the compartment carefully inventorying and packing a small backpack with grenades, energy cells, rations, and explosive charges. Sa Ool, taking notice of the volatile contents of Turel’s backpack turned to Kah and quipped “Kah, are you seriously letting your apprentice go out on his first mission with explosives?”
Kah continued sharpening his knives. “He’sa passed his tests. He’suh smart for a human, knows what hesa doing.” Kah gave a slight grin. “If mesa wronong, missa won’t be der when hesa go boom!”
Turel gave a slightly wounded frown. “Gee, thanks for the vote of confidence Master.” He finished packing his backpack and put it on. “In my experience I’ve found that when it comes to explosives it’s better to have them and not need them, than to need them and not have them. Besides, we’ve all read the intel reports on what’s down there. I will not die at the bottom of some ancient Sith death maze. I’ll make an exit if I have to.” Nathan nodded in thoughtful agreement as he contemplated the various scenarios for which explosives would be useful.
Aerin looked up from her datapad. “The Imperials are attacking Brotherhood positions as well as ours. If our enemies are fighting each other, we should use this to our advantage.”
Vorsa’s otherwise stoic visage beamed with pride for a second. “A very astute observation, young one. One worthy of a full Knight….”
Vorsa’s praise was interrupted by the LAAT pilot coming in over the compartment intercom. “We are taking anti-air fire! Secure all personnel and prepare for a touch and go landing. One minute till the L-Z.”
The group braced themselves in their own ways, the LAAT jostling in attempts to avoid the anti-air fire. Kah Manet gripped a metal railing to stabilize himself, enjoying the exciting ride that the attack provided. He looked to his apprentice, satchel stuffed full of explosives, and a low click emanated from the Gungan. Turel looked at the Sentinel, and when the Human saw his master's eyes he clutched the bag tightly and made sure it was secure. A smirk crossed Kah's face, tapping the side of his head and pointing at his apprentice.
"Would be a bad t'ing to lose so early. 'Specially cause we blowed ourselves up."
"We're going down, I've spotted a clearing. Should be able to avoid fire long enough to get there." said the pilot, his voice calm even through the stress of evading enemy fire. More shots blazed passed the LAAT, but the danger stopped when the transport fell below the firing line and landed safely. Quickly and quietly, the ship vomited out its occupants and powered down.
The Gungan sniffed the air, the scent of ozone and dust mingling. He frowned at the absence of forest aromas and swampy scents, but he pushed those thoughts and his longing for Lianorm out of his head. As one, the group quietly followed each other, masking their approach as best they could. Those that knew basic tracking or hunting knew exactly where to step to avoid breaking the silence, but others such as Turel had lacked that knowledge due to their life on the streets.
The Sentinel Ranger did his best to scan for tracks or prints or some kind of sign of any enemy activity other than the anti-air fire, but failed to notice anything.
“Wesa be safe for now. Just in case, get ready.” said Kah as he wrenched his dagger out of its sheathe, “Never knowin’ wit dees Sith and Imperial scum. Gonna feel good to hurt dah Empire some more.”
Aerin scanned through her datapad, acquiring the coordinates and relative distance to the large tower, showing it to V’yr and Nathan. Kah kept his eyes peeled, glancing all around them and getting a sense for the environment. It felt different, not right and it made him feel uneasy. It almost felt like cold pins were pricking his skin the longer he sat still. The dark side was potent here, causing Kah to remind himself to keep his inner darkness at bay.
“We should start making our way there. Let’s form a skirmish line in case we run into trouble.” said Sa, his saber remaining firmly in his grip yet unactivated.
The group made various grunts and acknowledgements of agreement to the proposal, and made their approach. Kah kept low, appearing as though he were stalking some kind of prey that wasn’t there. Every passing of a weed or patch of grass would have the fingers of the Gungan run through it, the cool touch of it and thirst for life helping the Sentinel focus. Against the horizon, blue skies and wisps of cloud touched against the horizon. The tower of the forgotten city taunted them, anti-air fire continuing to burp into the sky as more troops began to touch down.
Turel did his best to stay close to Kah, observing the way the Gungan moved and carried himself. For a species known as being clumsy, the Sentinel Ranger moved with the grace of a feline predator, and the human hoped he could learn from the Gungan.
Kah had a really bad feeling. The other three Equites stopped and looked at each other as the Journeymen stare with confusion. The Equites dropped down to the ground and the Journeymen dropped down in response. The Jedi moved slowly forward towards the knoll.
On the other side of the knoll, in a crater 100 meters away, Imperial forces camped out in a makeshift camp. Numbering thirty troopers, this camp was rapidly set up after the Arconans engaged the One Sith with the mission to report any suspicious activity back to Xlopora City.
The Imperials forces were camped in lightly armored prefabricated shelters with the communications shack located in the center of the camp. Three speeder bikes were located next to the communications shack. Entrenchments and makeshift fortifications equipped with several E-Web repeaters separated the camp from the plains. The E-Webs were pointed outwards from the camp with some pointed toward the Jedi.
V’yr was the first to speak, “We could circle around them or engage them.”
Kah responded with Turel in agreement, “Mesa keel more Imperial scum, thesa no problem. Wesa attack.”
Nathan added, “They have communications equipment. I can slice into their communication network and gather intelligence.”
V’yr responded, “These soldiers lack the spirit to engage. They’re afraid.”
Kah nodded, “Theysa opee. Wesa bigger fish.”
Sa Ool added, “Let’s scope the area. This can go bad really quick. We need to prevent them from communicating back to the city.”
Aerin piped in, “Let’s go around them. They may have to report every hour on the hour. Disabling them might alert the enemy.”
Nathan responded, “Kah can pick their brains on their procedure and I can set up an algorithm and script to keep the enemy unaware until its too late.”
Crouched down with his lightsaber at the ready Sa listens to the conversation and planning of what they need to do and is going on. Because of his history Sa is feeling a bit anxious of being on a team this soon of coming back to the people he considers a family. He does not think that this is going to end as well as everyone is hoping it will and is planning for the worst in his head.
Sa commutes what's on his mind “If we stay here any longer we are going to be found out. We ought to just take them out and hurry up with the mission.”
Aerin quickly pipes in “Why we can go around and them and just slip past them?”
Shaking his head and clicking his tongue a bit Kah states "Nosa. Wesa need to disable themsa at best and set up a program for if and when Daysa check in. If yousa nosa liken disa idea Aerin then yousa, V'yr, and mesa apprentice can go around while Sa, Nathan, and mesa take care of dem."
Agreeing with what her Gungan friend and comrade said V'yr thinks it may be best for them to go by unnoticed while keeping some of them out of the fight to act like a bit of a scout but also keeps an eye out for patrols they may have missed. “Alright it is settled then while split of but no longer than an hour Kah or I'm coming in to save you.”
With a nod from everyone else in agreement to the plan the six team members split up to do the task that they are assigned to do with minds being clear with about the situation they are leading them selves into.
Vorsa, Aerin and Turel set off due east in a long arc, to avoid the Imperial position. They moved through the woods with deliberate stealth until they came several hundred meters away from the Imperial camp. Vorsa gave the signal that they could relax a bit and move at a faster pace. Vorsa was on point fully concentrating on keeping the group on the right azimuth for their next waypoint and reaching out with the Force to search for Imperial patrols. Aerin and Turel followed behind Vorsa in a V formation visually scanning their sectors and reaching out with their respective Force senses. Aerin couldn’t help but notice that Turel was visibly frustrated.
“Is something wrong Turel?” Turel had played enough losing hands of Pazaak with Aerin to know that her empathic abilities made attempting to bluff pointless. He exhaled deeply, and briefly dropped his pride.
“I just don’t know why my master was so quick to send me away when he’s getting ready to fight a whole platoon of Imperials.”
Aerin nodded in understanding. She could feel the deflation in Turel’s otherwise oversized ego. “Well maybe he felt that you were needed elsewhere. Our path is no less dangerous.”
Vorsa normally didn’t engage in superfluous conversations on a mission, especially conversations of such a personal nature. This situation was different, though. Vorsa had been in enough battles to know that journeymen who were overeager to prove themselves were capable of great feats, but more often than not, would make terribly foolish mistakes. She needed to mitigate this before Turel did something rash.
“No one doubts you martial prowess, Turel. You wouldn’t be on this mission if Kah and I didn’t think you could handle yourself. Perhaps Kah sent you with me to learn a core lesson that every Jedi, especially one of the Guardian order, needs to know.”
“And what lesson is that?”
“That knowing when to fight is far more important than knowing how to fight.” Vorsa let that bit of wisdom sink in a moment before continuing. “Meditate on this later young one, for now focus on the task at hand. Do not be so eager to prove yourself in the eyes of your master that you make rash decisions that put us all at risk.” It was strong medicine but it was what Turel, and Aerin to a lesser extent, needed at that particular moment. Turel’s frustration dissipated and his focus returned to scanning his sector for signs of Imperial patrols.
The team progressed another 200 meters toward their objective when Vorsa suddenly stopped and gave the hand signal to freeze in place. Aerin and Turel took cover behind separate trees and began diligently trying to ascertain what Vorsa saw. Vorsa crouched down and whispered, “I sense a group of humans moving about 50 meters northwest of our current position.”
“Imperials?” Aerin inquired with concern.
“I can’t tell from this distance. We’ll have to get closer.”
Turel pulled his blaster pistols out of their holsters. “Well, whoever they are, they probably aren’t friendly.”
“Remember my lesson young one.”
“Oh, right.” Turel holstered his blasters.
Vorsa gave the hand signals for silence and move forward. The group kept low and pressed forward with an extra emphasis on stealth. After 25 meters Vorsa gave the hand signal to get down and the signal for visual contact dead ahead. There was a squad of six Imperial Storm Commandos moving in tight formation directly ahead of them.
“Can we avoid them?” Aerin whispered.
Vorsa thought for a second then replied, “we can, but they are heading right for the other group. We’ll have to incapacitate them if we can.”
Turel stood crouched behind a tree with his hands on his holstered blasters in anticipation. “So what’s the plan then?”
Aerin piped in, “Hasty ambush.” Vorsa and Turel both looked at her as if to say “go on.” “It’s simple, the path they are currently moving on has a 90 degree turn in it half a kilometer down the path. We set up an ambush there with Turel at the intersection directly in front of them and Vorsa and I flanking on either side of the path. Turel initiates with suppressing fire to scatter them then Vorsa and I swoop in to disable them.” Aerin glanced down at Turel’s blasters. “Those *things* do have a stun setting right?”
Still whispering Turel replied, “Hey! Don’t talk about Celestia and Luna that way! And yes, for your information, they do.”
“You named them?”
“Yeah, don’t you give your weapons names?” Aerin rolled her eyes at that question so hard they almost popped out of her head.
Vorsa interjected, “An excellent plan young one. Turel, just make sure to cease fire once Aerin and I engage the Imperials.”
Turel grinned. “This isn’t my first ambush Master Vorsa. Let’s do this!” The team quickly and quietly moved ahead of the advancing imperials and moved into position at the designated ambush point. Turel had taken cover in a small ditch just off the intersection. When the Storm Commandos entered the kill zone Turel popped up and opened fire with both blasters. His first few shots caught the Imperial point man completely by surprise who immediately collapsed in the middle of the path having taken three direct stun blasts. The remaining five commandos scattered to either side of the path, two on one side, three on the other in accordance with Imperial infantry doctrine. As the commandos got in position to return fire on Turel with their blaster rifles, they were set upon by Jedi on their right and left flanks.
Vorsa rushed the three commandos on the right flank. Running with both hands in the air she hit two of the commandos with powerful telekinetic blasts sending them flying out of their positions and into the open path. The third commando of the group froze in abject terror as Vorsa closed the distance between them to land a force-enhanced haymaker to the head, knocking his helmet off and him unconscious.
At the same time Aerin suddenly appeared to the two commandos on the other side of the path as she had used the force to conceal her approach to them. “Hi boys.” She ignited her newly constructed lightsaber and with one swift motion cut both the commando’s blaster rifles in half, leaving them holding non-functional trigger assemblies with no barrels. Aerin followed up with a flying kick to one and pommel strike to the other to knock them out.
Turel had stopped firing as soon as his fellow teammates engaged the commandos. He lept out of his position and rushed forward with force enhanced speed to close the distance between himself and the two commandos Vorsa had hit with telekinetic blasts. The two commandos were still reeling from the shock and trying to get up. Turel got into point blank range and when he was sure Vorsa and Aerin were clear of his field of fire, he hit both commandos with stun blasts.
Turel set his blasters back to full power and holstered them. “Not bad.”
Vorsa threw the unconscious body of the commando she had just engaged into the center of the path. “Break their radios, destroy their weapons and handcuff them together using the cuffs in their kits. We need to move on.” The team stripped the commandos of their equipment and handcuffed them to each other to form a circle around a large tree. After destroying the radios and weapons with their lightsabers the team pressed on to the rendezvous point.
Just as the team pressed on, Nathan came in over the team COMM frequency. “Vorsa come in, this is Nathan, mission accomplished. We are heading to the rendezvous point now.”
Vorsa keyed up her radio. “Acknowledged Nathan. See you at the rendezvous point.”
Turel keyed up his radio “Tell Kah we left you guys a present on the road.”
The other group set off without hesitation. Like ducklings following their mother, the Journeyman trailed behind Vorsa until they popped out of sight. Nathan, Sa, and Kah remained hidden to try and muster up some kind of strategy.
“Thirty against three.” said Nathan, looking quickly at the two aliens he was with, “Not the best odds.”
Sa nodded, Kah clicking in agreement. The Gungan poked and dragged the dirt with his stick, eying the camp every so often as he placed circles and triangles in differing areas. A pattern began to develop, and Kah smirked as he saw it. A large circle, with small breaks in walls and defensive measures to allow for openings. They could easily deploy soldiers to fill these gaps, and pick off any resistance with the turrets and amassed forces. Frontal assault, clearly, was a no go.
“The back seems undefended, for the most part.” said Sa, his goggled eyes looking through a pair of binoculars. “In fact, if we’re quick and quiet, we might be able to sneak into the communication’s shack and get what we need before anyone notices.”
“So, no death?” said Nathan, “I like it.”
“I didn’t say that. It’d be best to have a distraction and draw them away from the communication’s shack, wouldn’t you agree?” said Sa, looking at Kah. The Gungan nodded with a smile.
“Mesa can spring over dah walls and draw dah ones away.” said Kah, his deep raspy voice embracing an almost wistful tone.
“If we’re going to do this, now would be the time. It looks as though a patrol is about to go out, that will leave the camp easier to maneuver in.” said Nathan.
The three immediately darted onto the path and quietly followed it to the rear of the camp. Sa and Nathan hid on the left side, while Kah stalked the right side. The Gungan had become enshrouded by bushes and leaves, his bluish gray skin blending surprisingly well with the foliage. Sa began to count on one hand, signifying the time they’d wait before starting their plan. He reached five and made a fist, causing Kah to burst forth from the bushes.
Rapidly, he approached the thin durasteel wall and leapt an impressive distance into the air. As quick as he had come from the forests he had disappeared behind the wall. The Gungan crouched low behind one of the tents, allowing his senses to adjust to his new surroundings. A small gust of wind billowed through the camp, the warmth of the sun hitting his skin, slowly but surely his senses became attuned to the little nuances. He could hear the quiet footfalls of a trooper approaching, but they fell short before reaching where the Jedi hid. He could faintly hear the angry mutterings of his enemy, along with the quick gust of wind that came from a fast turn of the shoulder.
The trooper had now placed his back to Kah, who used the opportunity to sneak up behind him. He swiftly slit the troopers throat, popping off the helmet and covering the dying man’s mouth, holding him till he died. When the trooper stopped moving, Kah dropped his body and dragged it behind the tent. The first of many had fallen, and Kah darted behind the tents to position himself once more.
It wasn’t until after he felt the meat of the second trooper embrace the blade of his dagger, the quick tug he gave it catching gingerly on the muscular flesh, that he noticed he had been spotted. Everything was going according to plan, and Kah had hoped the trooper would fire at him instead of request back up. As luck would have it, the trooper wildly fired at the Gungan, who held the dead guard in his hands as a meat shield. With every impact of a blaster bolt, the Sentinel Ranger clicked angrily. With the sound of blaster fire, the signal for Sa and Nathan had been given.
Quickly and quietly, the duo dipped into the camp and made their way to the communications shack. Nathan entered and began his work of slicing their systems. He was quick and efficient, wasting no time other than the occasional supportive word he cooed at the machine. When he was done, the terminal quickly popped out the spike he had inserted, which he pocketed afterwards.
The sound of a saber coming to life bellowed outward, only to be cut short by the screaming of dying machines and sparks flying. Nathan apologized to the corpse of the computer as he left the shack, immediately witnessing Kah drive one of his daggers deep into the shoulder of a guard. The stabbed guard shot a hand out at Nathan as he gasped his last remaining breaths, only to die shortly after.
The group took a moment to look around the camp. Though only a handful of the soldiers had remained back to watch the camp, it looked as though a massacre had occurred. Streaks of blood covered the walls, the spew from the arteries being cut by Kah redecorating them. Bodies had been left wherever they had fallen, their wounds causing red pools to saturate the ground. While Nathan got the information he required, Sa and Kah made sure their presence went unreported, killing the remaining troops before they could alert anyone. Unfortunately, they could do nothing to mask the appearance of the camp.
The three moved as quickly as they could to get out of the camp and back into the forests. Kah had leaped over the wall again, his powerful Gungan legs and use of the Force flining him high into the air and on the outside. Sa and Nathan ran through small gaps in the wall to get out, meeting up with Kah and using all their strength to get away from the camp. After running a ways and deeming it relatively safe, the trio stopped briefly.
“Why didn’t we take the speeders? We could’ve caught up to the others.” said Sa.
“Tracking devices. If we did take it, and they somehow have another way of communicating with home base, we don’t want to make it too easy for them. Were their deaths really necessary?” said Nathan through gasps of air.
“Yes.” said Kah without hesitation, “Theysa start it. Wesa finish it.”
Sa nodded to Nathan, who shook his head as he opened up a communications channel with the other team.
“Vorsa come in, this is Nathan, mission accomplished. We are heading to the rendezvous point now.” said Deciarus.
“Acknowledged Nathan. See you at the rendezvous point.” crackled a response through the receiver, the voice of Vorsa slithering into the air. It felt as though a weight had been lifted from everyone’s shoulders, as if the first hurdle they came across had been cleared. The sailing should have been smooth from here.
“Tell Kah we left you guys a present on the road.” crackled the voice of Turel over the comm.
The Gungan smiled, shaking his head as he placed a hand over his eyes. “Silly city boy…” he said, his feet slowly carrying him to where the two teams would reunite. Kah liked his apprentice, which was saying something as he didn’t like most humans. He tolerated Nathan, but that was only because he was curious about the clone.
“Think it’ll go that smooth next time?” asked Sa.
“Hopefully. But I doubt that will be the last of the blood spilled today.” said Nathan, his voice somewhat disappointed.
“We’ll avoid dat if we can, boyo.” said Kah, “But if we can’t, better to be breathin’ and apologizin’ den dead with a clea’ mind.”
Nathan acknowledged Kah with a brief nod, then inserted the recently used spike into a small datapad from his collection of tools. Nathan’s monitor/respond bot would keep any communications in check, and would trigger a vibrate alarm if the camp was contacted. The boy followed the other two Jedi as they circled back around the camp. Most of the camp’s forces had left on a patrol to the south, so they wouldn’t cross paths on the way to the rendezvous point, but for the sake of caution the group stuck to the underbrush near the road to Xlopora City. Hopefully, this would allow them to make good time in catching up to the others.
After half a kilometer, the group relaxed a little. With the camp dealt with and behind them, the task ahead returned to their minds; the tower in the centre of Xlopora City, as the most dominant feature, was clearly where they needed to be but the battle around Bosthirda would likely impede their progress once more. Sa felt certain that they were not the only ones trying to reach the tower.
While following the two alien Jedi, Nathan paid less attention to his surroundings and more to them. He had not been in Odan-Urr for long, and had spent a good deal of his time repairing and upgrading parts of their fleet, without really interacting with the others. They were a little scary, he acknowledged to himself, particularly the Kel Dor. Lumpy, orange skin and a breathing mask certainly made for an intimidating sight, more so than the tall, lithe frog-man leading the way.
Nathan’s thoughts returned to the blood-stained camp they had left behind. He did not like killing, it was so final, allowing no chance for someone to improve themselves, to become a better person. Everyone should have the right to make their own fate, Nathan believed, and killing was the greatest act one could take against another’s destiny. He glanced at the Gungan again as Kah signalled for them to be cautious. Sa placed a hand on his lightsaber as the two Jedi crept around to the side, then after a few moments of concentration, he clicked his fingers to get Kah’s attention. He signalled that it was clear, and then lead the way to a group of soldiers, handcuffed to each other and unconscious. Why couldn’t we have done that? Nathan thought to himself as he glared at the Sentinel Ranger.
“Better to be breathin’ and apologizin’ den dead with a clea’ mind.” His words echoed in Nathan’s mind. There simply wasn’t the opportunity to disable the soldiers at the camp, and the cold truth behind Kah’s words became clear.
“What do wesa have here?” Kah asked as he looked over the unconscious troops. “A present, mesa dinks.” The aliens looked over the soldiers carefully.
“I sensed them a short distance ago,” Sa Ool explained. “They’re all unconscious.”
“We should be getting close to the others,” Nathan said as he approached one of the soldiers. The boy removed his helmet and placed his fingers gently against the human head underneath.
“What are you doing?” Sa asked. The soldier’s eyes opened as Nathan concentrated on the Force.
“Be silent. You don’t want to make a sound.” Nathan locked eyes with the soldier as he tried to probe his thoughts. Caught by surprise and still groggy, the soldier was easy prey for the clone’s abilities. “You want to tell me what lies ahead.” The soldier sneered defiantly, and Nathan concentrated harder.
“There’s a hole blasted… into the wall… we’ve got a dozen troops and an E-web. We were meant to get... reinforcements from our… communications post to the south east.”
“Why desa wanting reinforcements?” Kah asked.
“You want to answer him.”
“Tarentum forces were spotted… nearby.” Sweat began to stand out on the soldier’s forehead. “Not many, but enough to… pose a threat.” Nathan looked up at Kah and Sa.
“You want to sleep now,” Nathan commanded, and the soldier slowly quietened down before falling asleep.
“Let’s alert the others and catch up,” Sa decided. Kah took point once more as Nathan raised the other team on his radio.
Aerin moved several dozen meters in front of her master and Turel, scouting the terrain for any movement. The rendezvous point was across the way from the small forest they hid in, in the relative safety of some buildings. They would be in the clear sights of any hidden sniper or enemy team waiting in a potential ambush on the other side, while crossing. With little to see or sense but stillness, Aerin trekked back to her team's position always keeping as low as possible.
Vorsa observed her apprentice approaching from her perched position in the tree above the beaten path they had been following so far. She could hardly see her in the undergrowth. Were it not for her attuned force-senses, Aerin might have passed her without notice. Aerin had progressed so much in such a short time, Vorsa was indeed proud of her apprentice. She dropped down next to Turel, who was checking and sorting his equipment for probably the third time already. He was still nervous at times, not yet properly learning to subconsciously calm his mind, a skill all Jedi needed to master. He flinched at Vorsa’s sudden drop.
“Turel. Child, calm yourself. You’ve checked your pack several times already”, she said in a calm voice.
“I know. I don’t know why I’m nervous. I’ve been in many fights before.”
“It’s not that anything outwardly has changed, it’s something in you that has changed, Turel. You sense the Living Force more keenly with your training. The battlefield is never still, it is full of sounds and images; friends and enemies; life and death. There is a lot of emotion here. All this affects you in one way or another”, she spoke calmly, reflecting on her own experiences, “it is something you come to be accustomed to. Your master will teach you this in time. For now, keep yourself level-headed and focus on the now.”
Turel exhaled a long breath and nodded in approval just as Aerin came out of the bushes. She looked at Turel, his pack upturned on the grass.
“Checking your gear again? Didn’t you already do that?”
“Yes, yes he did,” Vorsa intervened in Turel’s stead, “what did you see, girl?”
Aerin gave Vorsa a puzzled look at that last remark. She had never called her that before. Vorsa’s eyebrow lifted at the Knight, hinting at the meaning. Aerin glanced at Turel again, understanding her master’s intent. She also felt his anxiety, opting to let him be. After a moment she replied, “We’re clear, as far as I can see. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re out of danger.”
“Agreed,” Vorsa replied, stroking her chin, “well there’s nothing for it, we should press on.”
As Turel picked up his gear and backpack, Aerin extended her hand to help him stand up. Vorsa smiled, sensing the threads of camaraderie spin between the two Jedi.
They rushed to the clearing and moved across once they were sure no ambushes were awaiting them nearby. Suddenly the comm crackled with Nathan’s voice.
“Vorsa? Are you there?"
"Yes, Go on," she replied.
"Be advised, both Tarentum and Imperial forces were spotted near our rendezvous point. There is a hole somewhere in the wall with a heavy blaster and more enemy troops. Keep yourselves hidden until we reach you, we might have a bigger fight on our hands soon. Nathan out.”
“Understood, Nathan,” Vorsa replied as the trio moved to the relative cover of the buildings.
“Well. At least we’re in some good cover,” Turel whispered.
“Let’s see if we can’t find the enemy before the others arrive,” Aerin said as they positioned themselves in and around the buildings, looking for any movement.
Somewhere among those building was a platoon of Imperial troops. Somewhere close by were a few Tarentum, just enough to pose a threat to the troops’ safety. The safest thing the three Jedi could do right now was to stay put.
Nathan’s team made its way about two hundred meters to the right of Vorsa’s position. Between the two of them, they had a very clear picture of the buildings just beyond the woods. It was all a waiting game now. Soon, the dark Jedi would get impatient.
It all happened quickly. Tarentum attacked the post and quickly decimated the dozen troopers in a fashion not unlike Kah’s attack an hour earlier. As quickly as they attacked, they left, leaving the bodies untouched.
Slowly, the Jedi made their way out of the woods and towards the rendezvous point. They met up at the site of the battle, slowly surveying for information amongst the rather clean cut and smoking carcasses.
Aerin was the first to speak up, “Did you guys get anything out of the camp?”
Nathan responded, “Yeah, troop movements. Aside from the camp, there was this squad here and the squad that you took care off down the road. We shouldn’t run into any problems from here to Xlopora City.”
Kah interjected, “Mesa t’ink Tarentum a problem.”
Nathan nodded and spoke, “Did you see how Tarentum came in and then walked off? They weren’t expecting anything, they weren’t looking for us. They’re not our problem as long as we stay behind them.”
Vorsa nodded, “We could use the help; if Tarentum wants to clear the path, thats more energy conserved for later on.”
Sa walked back towards the others, “There doesn’t appear to be anything of worth here. Perhaps we should move on.”
Slowly following the Tarentum team of Sith, Sa as was feeling uneasy. It wasn't the feeling of something about to happen, but that of nostalgia. Sa was hoping that he did not have to fight anyone he once knew. He knew his friends from Taruentum were against the tenets that he believed in. They needed to be either turned to the light or become one with the Force, Sa deemed. Thanks to these thoughts, Sa couldn’t help but make a fist and then unclench it, going unnoticed by all but Kah.
“Sa, what be de matter?”
“Just some nostalgia Kah, Tarentum was my home for a little over two years.”
With a nod of his head, the Gungan said “Try not to t’ink bout it. If dah thoughts be too much, wesa here brudda.”
With that, the teams thoughts were refocused, and they continued further along the same path as the Tarenti. Seeing how the path was clear because of the Sith, the Jedi had a little more energy in them than they would have, otherwise. The city of Xlopora was just that, a city with tall buildings and some short ones, just enough cover for the Jedi to use.
Turel, being in front, raised his hand to halt the rest of the Jedi. He signaled for them to come forward and to take a look at what their adversaries are doing. Looking through their binoculars, they saw that the members of Tarentum were going underground into what they, the Jedi, could not yet see.
With a small groan Turrel spoke out “Do we have to follow them down there?”
With a look from V'yr “Sorry young one, but yes. We are following Tarentum.”
The group pressed on, slowly approaching where the group of Sith from Tarentum disappeared. Kah had yet to activate his saber, instead wielding his bone daggers in each hand. Their leather handles always made him feel calm, something he needed at the moment. Kah was proud of Turel for leading, and even more proud when he bowed to Vorsa and asked her to lead the way after she said the team would pursue the Sith. He was smart, Kah could work with that.
The group turned the corner, expecting a battle. What they saw instead was nothing but dirt, the ground caked in it as the team had begun an excavation. A hole had been punched through a wall, a curious black hole staring at the Jedi. Almost inviting them. The group all stared at each other, not wanting to accidentally spring some kind of a trap. After a moment or two, Kah had grown bored and decided to step forward and investigate the large hole.
The actual part that the Gungan could stick his head and shoulders looked as though it had been cut away by plasma. He guessed it was the Sith from Tarentum, but he didn’t rule out any possibility of potentially other things lurking. What little light entered the hole revealed a large room with walls and walls as fars the eye could see. The Gungan saw that there was a vaulted ceiling as he craned his neck to look around.
He popped out of the hole and turned around to the group with a grin.
“Biiiig room.” he said, his eyes flashing.
“Probably the catacombs.” said Nathan, “We’re getting close.”
“That means we’ll most likely be running into ancient magics soon aren’t we?” said Aerin.
“Ancient what?” said Turel looking at Aerin.
“Mageek, boyo. ‘Ts real, and it be strong down der. Yah, dat and udda tings be down der. Udda nasty tings.” said Kah, “Be careful dah pull don’t getcha.”
Kah popped back into the hole, his hands stretched in front of him to brace his fall and allow him to roll. The ground was cool, the dirt soft and almost like sand in consistency. It felt unnatural, however, beneath Kah’s padded feet. The others started filing in, first Vorsa, then Nathan, so on and so on. The Gungan studied each of them as they entered the chamber, wondering if they felt anything different. If they did, the Sentinel couldn’t tell.
The Gungan didn’t like it here, it made his chest hurt and his heart feel heavy.
Kah wasn’t the only one feeling uneasy as the team descended deeper into the catacombs. Each of the Jedi could feel the icy embrace of death as they passed through the hole into the antechamber. The stale, musty, air of the chamber seemed to steal the very life from their lungs. Each Jedi also felt a slowly growing, mental pressure upon the furthest edge of their consciousness. That mental pressure grew with each progressive step they took into the tomb, steadily eroding their mental defenses.
The antechamber on the other side of the hole was actually the intersection of two different hallways. Once the team was through the hole, Kah began to apply his considerable tracking skills toward determining which route the Tarentem Sith had taken. The Sith had left a trail of footprints in the soft ground so obvious that even a city dweller like Turel could follow it. The trail could have been a ruse designed to throw off pursuers. Kah diligently searched the antechamber for any signs of an alternate route. He found none. He knelt down at the entrance to the hallway which the footprints led and took a big whiff of the chamber air. The air made him slightly nauseous but his finely tuned senses confirmed that the trail wasn’t a ruse. “Desa head disa way me dinks. Desa in a big hurry.”
Sa was in no hurry to confront his former housemates, but he knew that the Jedi had to reach the sword first. “We must make haste if we are to reach the sword first.”
Aerin lacked Sa’s certainty, “Wait, how do we know the Tarentum are going the right way?”
Vorsa looked up from a map she had been studying, “This hallway seems to be the correct path.” No one on the team offered any dissent, so they proceeded down the hallway. As the Jedi progressed into the hallway, the natural light the hole provided the antechamber gave way to an eerie green glow emanating from a chamber at the end of the hallway. In many ways the green glow was far more unsettling than if the hallway had been pitch black.
“It is cold down here or is it just me?” Turel inquired.
“That’s the Dark Side you are feeling child. Be on your guard, it may grow stronger as we progress.” Turel visibly tensed up for a second at Vorsa’s revelation. He exhaled deeply and attempted to center himself with the Force as Kah and Vorsa had been teaching him. Turel had learned about the Dark Side in his journeyman studies, but until now it had all been theoretical. Nothing in his experience in the underworld had prepared him for this.
The team came upon the source of the green glow, a large chamber lit with unnatural green torches. The chamber had four alcoves on right and left walls containing ornate Sith sarcophagi. The wall opposite the room’s single entrance contained a large engraving depicting robed figures conducting various dark rituals. The trail of footprints seemed to run right up to the wall with the engraving and stop. Kah entered the chamber first, attempting to follow the trail. Vorsa followed immediately behind Kah, map in hand. “Be very careful, Sith tombs often contain deadly traps.”
“Oh, I’ve got something for their traps.” Turel said as he patted the straps of his explosive laden backpack. His thin attempt to mask his growing anxiety with bravado didn’t fool anyone.
The Jedi moved cautiously across the chamber to the engraving on the far side, each taking in the chamber’s strange architecture as they moved. Nathan was particularly enthralled by the wall with the engraving. Judging from the way the footprints appeared to go right into the wall, the wall was clearly a door of some kind. Nathan welcomed the challenge of figuring out the door’s opening mechanism as it gave his mind something to focus on besides the indistinct mental pressure that had been building since he entered the catacombs.
Kah knelt down directly in front of the wall to try to see if he could sense what lay beyond it. “Deysa definitely went through here.”
Aerin studied the actual engraving itself hoping to find some clue as to how to open the door. “I wonder what this engraving means.”
Vorsa momentarily seemed at a loss. “The writing doesn’t match any language I’m familiar with. Perhaps the artwork itself contains the answer.” Turel shrugged silently in response, utterly perplexed. Nathan began feeling along the edges of the engraving, searching for some kind of switch or mechanism.
Sa exhaled deeply through his Kel Doran breath mask. “The engraving seems to suggest that in order to pass through this barrier one must give in to darkness.”
“How do we do that?” asked Aerin.
Sa continued, “the ritual required to open the door would be symbolic in nature but require a physical component in order to trigger the opening mechanism.” Sa looked around the room for a moment, deep in thought. “Perhaps the torches are the answer.”
“Interesting theory, could you elaborate?” inquired Nathan.
“Well the surrender to darkness would be symbolic, but if we were to extinguish the torches and cover the room in actual darkness.”
Nathan finished Sa’s thought, “it might trigger the opening mechanism.”
“It’s worth a shot.” Turel said as he began to open his backpack to retrieve some water. Sa motioned for Turel to stop.
“These flames are forced based. We will have to use the force to put them out.” There were two torches in the chamber, one on each of the side walls containing alcoves. The Jedi divided into two groups of three and gathered around both torches. Sa coordinated the two groups, “on the count of three reach out with the force and snuff out your torch. One. Two. Three.” The Jedi closed their eyes and extinguished the flames. For a few moments the room was pitch black and nothing happened.
“Well that’s unfortunate.” Aerin said in an attempt to lighten the mood. As she said that, the sound of a stone mechanism springing to life emanated from within the wall with the engraving. The wall slowly raised up to reveal a hallway similar to the one the team had just passed through. Once the wall locked into an open position, the sounds ceased and the green torches re-lit themselves.
Turel gave voice to the rest of the team’s amazement, “Wow! Nice detective work Sa. How is it you know so much about Sith artwork?”
“I haven’t always been a Jedi.”
The soft sputtering of the torches was lost in the background as the Jedi of Odan-Urr stole their way further into the catacombs. Nathan could feel an invitation, a sense of tense welcoming, which suited the cobwebs that hung from the ceiling. Vorsa had warned that the Dark Side was behind what they were feeling. Like flies hunting a spider, the team crept forward, uncertain how far behind the Tarenti they were. Nathan took in his surroundings as best he could with quick, darting glances. Any moment now, they could run into the Tarentum Sit-
A moderate boom echoed behind them, and the team spun around. The wall had closed behind them, and the additional light provided by the torches was gone. It was very dark, and for some reason very foreboding; Nathan imagined this would be why the Tarentum forces would have been attracted to a place like this.
The boy wondered how close they were to the palace grounds, which intelligence rumored to be at the base of the massive tower - and supposedly, several smaller ones - the team had noticed on their approach to the city. This underground labyrinth could stretch for miles, and they could be trapped here forever like rats scratching around the dirt, until they ran out of food and water and were forced to...
A faint shuffling startled Nathan out of his thoughts. Had he imagined it? He pushed his mind out through the Force, trying to pierce the darkness behind the walls and further ahead, but could sense nothing. The human boy gulped down his dread, his nerves must have been playing up on him. While he had been in quite a few dangerous situations in his short lifetime, he always had others around to protect him: D’hak, his fellow clone; Sa Ool, the fearsome-looking Kel Dor; and now Kah, the lithe Gungan that crept in front of them, guiding them with hand signals and whispered words. At least Turel was human. A little worn-looking, to be sure, but human. How could I trust these strange creatures? Nathan wondered to himself as he crept around the catacombs, one hand on his lightsaber. Why should I? They weren’t human. Even Aerin, as appealing as she was, was another of these freaks with her shiny red skin and those eyes…
Nathan shook his head, dismissing his thoughts as best he could. It seemed odd to be worried about his companions. They hadn’t turned on him yet. Maybe they were just waiting for an opportune moment? Nathan looked over the aliens once again, his eyes settling - with something almost akin to anger - on Vorsa. The tree was clearly the most alien of them all. She was just a plant! A salad ingredient! Yet here she was, walking around, being a Jedi, and for some reason everyone afforded her respect. It was like rabbits worshipping animated carrots or mice praying to talking cheese.
Feeling his glare, Vorsa turned to Nathan with a comforting smile. "Child, you seem tense. Do not be afraid. We are not your enemies." The boy stared at her uncomprehendingly as the team slowed to a halt, a little alarmed with her choice of words. "The Dark Side is strong here, and it will test us."
"I will do what I have to, to protect myself from the likes of you."
"Don't be so quick to wear blood on your hands," the Neti replied. "There is always a better way." The boy glanced at the frog-man as Kah rested a hand on his lightsaber.
"There wasn't back at the camp, and if there isn't one now, then I won't be dead with a clear mind!" By now, the rest of the team were firmly focused on Nathan. Despite his youth and his pleasant, shy nature, they knew he was one of the most powerful Force users in the House. Vorsa, however, was unafraid.
"We do not always have the choices we have now. We must be mindful of the moment, little one, and right now the Dark Side is clouding this moment." Nathan's glare eased off a little as she continued. "Search within yourself, and you will find the truth: that our loyalty is not something to fear."
The tension in the air was palpable; you could cut it with a knife. Kah’s hand on his saber and the general unease of the others wasn’t helping to calm young Nathan down. Vorsa expanded her consciousness with the Force, her mind probing around her, sensing their emotions. It was an interesting thing, emotion. However much you control yourself, you can never be free of other people’s influence. This was particularly true with Jedi, who were by definition overly sensitive to others.
Vorsa observed the Living Force around her companions, like a silvery web in a blue mist, it hung around them, connecting them to the world and each other. Each string was a thought; an emotion connected to a particular image or object that brought up any sort of mental response from the Jedi. But under all of that, subtle and faint, was a darkness that intertwined with the silver web; a kind of black smoke seeping slowly into each of their minds. It was the Dark Side at work and it had already affected Nathan to the point of xenophobia and paranoia.
The web around her companions was vibrating in response to their emotions. The more agitated and nervous they became, the more it vibrated. All of their webs, even Vorsa’s, were vibrating now, affected by the Dark Side’s influence.
“Nathan. Calm yourself brotha’. Theesa being da dark influence. Wesa your friends,” Kah said calmly and with effort. He also wanted the boy to calm down, but he would take no chances, so he held his hand firmly on his saber. Nathan’s hand lowered to his own hilt in response.
“How can I trust any of you,” the boy asked “when you’re all so different. How can I not expect you to stab me in the back?”
Vorsa and Kah glanced at each other in telepathic conversation. Moments later Kah straightened and let go of his hilt, and Vorsa bowed in gratitude. As he observed the transaction of unspoken, yet clearly understood words, Nathan seemed to relax a bit, the vibrations around him subsiding. He reluctantly closed his eyes and concentrated.
A loud commotion broke the silence, and Nathan’s concentration, as the team observed what seemed to be a mass of people moving towards them from the direction of Tarentum’s forces. Moving closer, they could see the Sith of Tarentum and their soldiers, overwhelmed by what looked like walking corpses. Biting and slashing with their jagged teeth and claws, the zombies ripped the Tarentum team to shreds and feasted on what was left. Inching closer on stiff legs, the zombies would do the same with the Jedi.
The zombies kept coming. The fallen Sith were trampled under the feet of hundreds of zombies, which had all come to life as if someone had called. Instinctively, the Jedi lit up their lightsabers and started attacking the zombies.
Aerin dispatched one zombie as another brushed up against her. Bracing for her death, she was astonished as the zombie moved along towards Nathan. Looking at her master, she could also see the startled look on Vorsa’s face as the Neti reached the same conclusion. The zombies were drawn to the dark side of the Force, to the four who had ties to the Dark Side.
Turel was fighting for his life, his blasters to the point of overheating. He was running his odds in his head and kicking himself. Of all the opponents he had faced, it would be long forgotten corpses that would make him think of his odds, something that he would never had expected. Suddenly, Aerin rushed out in front of the corpses and cut their legs out from under them, all the while screaming for Turel to pull out his grenades.
Vorsa brought down more corpses with her Telekinesis as she rushed towards Nathan and Sa. All of a sudden, Nathan and Sa were airborne, sailing to the other side of the room, where Kah was making his way towards. As Turel rushed over to join them, the corpses turned to follow.
Aerin threw the grenades skyward, towards the lumbering stone chandelier in the center of the room. Sailing over the giant stone mass, the resulting explosion weakened the chains connecting the great piece of stone to the wall, brought the once majestic object crashing on top of the zombies and the dead Tarentum, and sealed the floodgates that the corpses had charged out of.
After the Jedi finished off the last of the corpses, Turel looked at Aerin, “Why weren’t they attacking you?”
The other Jedi looked at Aerin and Vorsa replied, “They were attracted to the dark side. Siths fear competitions. The corpses were enchanted to kill Sith, possibly because only a Sith was sacrificed in their enchantment.”
Standing there in a thinking pose Sa was remembering his time in Tarentum when he and other Siths had made zombies like those encountered to ward off their enemies. It brought a feeling Sa had not felt for awhile. It was the dark side calling to him, taunting his more aggressive side. Why am I remembering this now? All of that was so long ago… No. Stop this thinking, Sa. You're a Jedi now and you can not go down this path. Not again. Vorsa, being the wise Jedi that she is, came over to Sa. She placed a hand on his shoulder, not saying a word letting him know he was not alone. With a small smile, Vorsa spoke up.
“We need to continue on there may be more Tarentum members ahead of us we do not know.”
With everyone nodding in agreement the team of six Jedi left the area to go forward in finding the artifact that they are searching for. Everyone was now on guard, their weapons in hand but not activated, in case more Sith zombies lurked about. The tension and the Dark side of the force was beginning to get to the members, some more than others. After a little bit of walking the Jedi came to an opening, and saw two humanoids standing in the middle of the room.
The one on the left was a human male, most likely in his late 40’s with graying hair pulled back into a ponytail with a goatee. He was dressed in an old Imperial uniform from his days as a pilot, with two lightsabers and a blaster on his person. Sa quickly recognized him as Scion Altera, his old Quaestor when Sa was the Rollmaster for House Gladius, in the old days when Tarentum was still a clan. Scion’s companion was also human, a bit broad shouldered and with his arms a bit longer. The human was a plain looking male with short and neatly trimmed brown hair, wearing only a black Sith robe, the traditional garb of the Order. On this human’s belt hung a single lightsaber. Sa also identified him as Hades, another prominent member within Tarentum. Seeing two of his old leaders caused Sa to shake with anticipation, knowing what was bound to happen next.
After sensing some presence behind them, the two Sith turned around and saw the team of Jedi and quickly recognized the Kel Dor on that team.
“ Well, well, well, look who we have here, Hades.” said Scion while taking a sip from his flask
“Scion, I do believe it is our old buddy, Sa Ool.”
“Sa why don’t you come over here and have a small chat with us?”
Kah looks at his fellow alien and ask “Deysa be yo’ pals from yah darker days, Sa?”
“Yeah. They are Scion Altera and Hades, two of the strongest Sith I know.” said Sa, his irritation at being taunted and mistrust of humans in general making him unable to think clearly. The Kel Dor leaped into the air, his blade bursting to life as he came upon his enemies. His strike was blocked, however, by a well timed barrier by his foes.
Scion chuckled as he pulled out his own lightsabers and ignited their ruby blades. “Now Sa, is that any way to greet your old Quaestor? That was very un-Jedi-like of you.” Sa’s fury seethed.
Hades ignited his own blade. “Six Jedi versus two Sith, hardly seems fair. For them.” Kah pulled his own blade out in response and began to circle around Hades like a jungle cat getting ready to pounce.
The strength of the Dark Side in the catacombs put the Jedi at a disadvantage and Vorsa knew it. She reached out telepathically to coordinate a battle plan with Nathan. “I’m going to need your help. It’s going to take both our battle mediations in unison to keep Kah and Sa from slipping too far into darkness.” Nathan nodded silently in agreement. Vorsa turned her attention to Aerin and Turel who were standing behind her, hands on their respective weapons, ready to jump into the fray. She was proud of their courage for being so willing to engage Sith equites but this fight was beyond the skill of a junior knight and a journeyman. They would just get in the way and endanger themselves. She reached out to Aerin and Turel’s minds in turn with the same message, “this fight is beyond you, you must continue on with the mission. Nathan and I will cover your escape with the force.”
Vorsa could sense Turel’s frustration at leaving his master in a major fight for a second time, but he also knew his own limitations and that Vorsa was right. Aerin put up more resistance. Aerin’s telepathy skills were not developed enough yet to send clear messages back, yet it didn’t take a telepath to know what was on her mind. Aerin gave a pleading look to her master that said “I can help.” Vorsa reached back with her mind “think of the mission, child. Turel needs you more than we do right now. We will catch up with you.” Aerin nodded with reluctant agreement. She had already saved Turel’s life once today, and someone had to keep the ex-con out of trouble. Vorsa telepathically coordinated with Nathan to cover the young ones’ exit. Aerin and Turel slipped out of the room and deeper into the catacombs without the Sith paying much attention to them. With her Journeymen momentarily out of harm’s way, Vorsa joined Nathan in battle meditation. Nathan stayed in battle meditation but also stood ready to throw up a force barrier to protect himself and Vorsa.
Sa’s rage was a blazing inferno by this point. Even Nathan and Vorsa’s combined power could barely keep him from slipping over the cliff of darkness. Scion could sense the struggle within Sa. “Why hold back? Have you forgotten what power truly is? You are Sith, you will always be Sith. Stop this farce; you should be fighting with us not against us.”
Sa had heard enough from his former Quaestor. “I’m not holding back!” The Kel Dor launched at the Sith with a flurry of lightsaber attacks.The Sith Battle Leader almost seem amused at the Knight’s furious attempts to strike at him. Scion effortlessly parried Sa’s strikes with elegant Soresu maneuvers. Kah seized on the moment and pounced at Hades. The two Vapaad practitioners began trading lightsaber blows in an almost incomprehensible blur of motion and acrobatics.
Scion seized on a momentary hole in Sa’s defenses to slam him with a telekinetic haymaker directly to the chest. The blow sent Sa flying backwards into a nearby wall. Scion calmly walked over to the now stunned Kel Dor to gloat. “Do you see how the Jedi have made you weak? This isn’t you. This isn’t the indomitable Sith knight who fought at my side through so many battles. It can be that way again. We can seize the sword together and restore Tarentum to its former glory!”
Nathan broke his battle meditation and with purple saber ablaze rushed across the room to defend his stunned comrade. He got into a position where he could place his saber between Scion and the recovering Sa. “Get away from him!” Scion took a few steps back and chuckled a bit. Scion could sense a change in Sa’s aura. He was starting to feel less like a Jedi and more familiar to the Sith Quaestor. Vorsa could sense the change too. The struggle within Sa’s mind had shifted and Sa the Sith was starting to overpower Sa the Jedi.
Sa slowly got to his feet, still shaking off the previous blow. The pervasive influence of the Dark Side in this place was now a heavy fog in his mind clouding his judgment. Lost in the mental fog and with his hold on his Jedi discipline all but gone, Sa began to fall back on what was familiar. Sa began to hear Scion’s words as the voice of an old friend beckoning his return rather than an enemy trying to deceive him and divide his team. His team? What was his true team? His strong loyalty to his former house and mentor was one of the few things strong enough to cut through the fog. All those years fighting under Tarentum’s banner. All those years fighting at Scion’s side. In that moment joining Scion felt natural to Sa, it felt right. It was the Jedi who were strangers to him.
Sa turned his saber toward Nathan. “Tarentum shall rise again and you won’t stand in my way!”
The words from the Kel Dor seemed to echo in the ears of the Gungan, his mind focused on the blazing torrent of strikes and assaults vibrantly dancing before him. Another practitioner of Vaapad, another maelstrom of darkness being poured into every swing and touched by every parry. Kah raised his turquoise blade to stop the violet plasma of his opponent, Hades. Their eyes locked, and all Kah could see was a flame of determination growing in the eyes of his enemy. The Gungan did his best to not let the darkness that saturated the air infect him too much, instead letting his Vaapad style churn any vile emotions outward into the battle.
Kah dropped to one knee, shifting the balance in the saber lock and granting an opportunity for the Gungan. The Tarentae stumbled forward slightly, unable to pick up the shift before it happened. Kah swept his legs and tripped his opponent, keeping his eyes trained on the violet blade that flailed in the air as Hades's back hit the ground hard. The Sentinel rose to his feet, a low growling click emanating from the Odanite as he stared at the Tarentae.
"Bah." spat Kah, "Too much dahkness, not 'nuff discipline."
Hades snapped to his feet the second the words slithered from the Gungan, immediately launching into another flurry of attacks. One, two, three, Kah made his blade dance to and fro as he stopped each strike. The muscles in Hades's face clenched, his jaw tight and the anger smoldering in his eyes. Kah launched his own attack, a strike low near the shin with a swift strike to the head. He followed up on the last strike, adeptly blocked by Hades with ease, with another strike aimed near the Tarentae's stomach. Again, Hades blocked it with a swipe from his saber, opening up Kah's defenses and allowing for the Battle Team Leader to deliver a powerful cross punch to the Rollmaster's kidney.
Pain rippled across Kah's body, the Gungan squinting at the sudden explosion of agony. He delivered a quick elbow behind him, causing his opponent to dodge the blow and give the Odanite some distance. Though the pressure at the back of Manet's mind had grown considerably since the start of the fight, the darkness within him didn't burst outward and thrash against it's cage. It didn't rage into the dying of the light that was Kah's self-control, it merely stewed within him and ate away at his mind. If it wasn't for the comforting breeze that was the presence of Vorsa within his mind, who knows what the Sentinel would have done. For now, however, he was able to resist the lapping of the waves that was the Dark Side against the shores of his mind. For how long, and if he’d actually want to, still remained to be seen.
The Gungan could hear the battle between the others, his mind begging for a quick finish so he could help.
He had heard the whispers since entering the catacombs, the warning that he would be betrayed by these killers, and now as Scion and Sa turned to fix their blood-thirsty attention on him, Nathan had accepted the truth of the moment: he would have to fight, to give it his all.
Nathan kept his humming lightsaber low and tight in his fist, both blades burning with a desire to cut down the Sith before him. As he had predicted, the Kel Dor had been the first of the so-called 'honourable' Jedi to turn against him. The betrayal stung like some low insect that had landed a lucky shot against its betters. They - no, he - would likely find Revelation a short distance away; the revelation that would let the boy stand shoulder to shoulder with the young clone‘s progenitor, the great Lord Denath Ciarus Arconae. He could rise as the better man, ascend to something greater, if he could only survive this.
Scion smirked to himself in a self-congratulatory manner as he slowly paced to the side, letting his former Housemate approach from the front. Unwilling to wait, Nathan lashed out with the Force, covering his advance with a telekinetic push. He thrust and turned, deflecting all three blades with deft parries as soon as they drew near, then lunging to the far side of the pair to force them to turn their backs to Vorsa. Since the shrub had not betrayed him yet, the boy could afford to try and keep her out of harm's way - for now.
Scion snapped his closest blade back at Nathan, who ducked and swung at Sa's legs. Regaining his feet, Nathan caught Scion's other blade along with Sa's in an upward, awkward block. Sensing he could not keep them both at bay for long, he Force-gripped Sa and began to strangle him as he thrust back in Scion's general direction, inviting his blocking saber a little too far to the centre. Switching his telekinetic abilities to Scion, Nathan seized on the opportunity and threw the Sith Quaestor back some distance before resuming his grip on the Kel Dor.
Vorsa watched the Living Force surrounding her companions in dismay as the blue mists darkened and became clouds of the Dark Side, obscuring the silvery web of the Force that connected the team of Jedi together. She was already in their minds, using her battle meditation to promote courage and their fighting prowess, and as the battle continued it became clear to her that she was their last remaining hope.
The frown on Vorsa's face became deeper and deeper as the fight progressed. As her comrades fought the Tarenti, she was locked in a mental battle of her own. Maintaining concentration on her friends as well as fighting the dark side influence was a daunting task, even for her. However, she never let up; she never broke her concentration for a second, knowing full well that a lapse from her would leave the whole team in peril.
She tried relaxing, releasing any tension in her body as well as her mind. Her focus shifted from the whole team to just Kah and Nathan, and as her mind's energy lashed out at the dark clouds of smoke circling the two Equites, they began moving faster and striking harder, fighting almost in unison. Vorsa coordinated the Odanites like figures on a chessboard, moving them closer and closer to each other until, at last, they were back to back. Their sabers were a whirlwind of motion, united in purpose and intent, and as one deflected a strike from his opponent, the other was there to cover him. Slash followed block, deflect followed stab, and slowly the Odanites gained the advantage.
As Nathan deflected another blow from Hades, aimed at Kah, the Gungan tumbled over the boy’s back surprising Sa with a swift cut across the hilt and a Force augmented punch to the jaw. The Kel-Dor flew through the air, landing several meters away. The punch left Sa dizzy and stunned long enough for Kah to finish him off with a kick to the temple. Before the Gungan could land the killing blow, Vorsa’s voice echoed in his head.
No, Kah. He is being manipulated, she said, watching the corruption leave Sa’s unconscious body. Kah frowned and reluctantly returned to Nathan’s aid. With their combined skill and Vorsa’s help, the two Odanites pushed the Tarenti toward the hall’s exit, and the Neti’s position.
Vorsa coordinated their actions with surgical precision, all leading up to one moment. Scion and Hades were pushed to the very doorstep they came from earlier, and with a swift kick from Kah’s foot, and an augmented punch from Nathan they were pushed through the doorway. Suddenly Vorsa showed up next to the Odanites, and in unison the three Equites pushed out with the Force. The telekinetic wave hit the Tarenti so hard, they were sent flying back across the hall. Hurt, battered and outmatched, Scion and Hades limped away like hurt animals. As Kah moved to chase, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
“Not now, my friend. They’re not a threat any more. We have to help the young ones,” Vorsa spoke in a worried voice as she looked over her shoulder towards the room where Aerin and Turel disappeared to. Nathan stared at both the tree-woman and the Gungan for a long moment, his earlier fears about treason and back-stabbing seemingly far, far away. He blushed a little as he recalled his prior thoughts. Like a cool summer breeze in the afternoon, he could feel the tension leave the back of his mind.
“I’m sorry,” Nathan stammered, simply. Vorsa smiled at him reassuringly. “I don’t know what came over me, I felt like... like I was someone else. It was almost like Denath’s ambitions had come to life in me.”
“Just be yourself, little one, and remain true to the Force. Do not aspire to be like those in your past.” Nathan hung his head a little and nodded a slow agreement before kneeling beside Sa’s unconscious body.
Aerin and Turel came to a spiraling stone staircase. The staircase led to a large chamber lit by the same unnatural green torches the rest of the catacombs had. Aerin motioned for Turel to stop as they reached the bottom of the staircase. “This must be the sword chamber. There’s the warrior statue. It’s just like the Sith legends described.”
Turel was ready to finish the mission and get out of this Sith death trap. “Well if that’s the sword then what are we waiting for?”
“There could be traps. I take that back. There probably *are* traps.” Aerin and Turel stood at the bottom stair and both scanned the room with their eyes and the force. Turel was visibly tense and growing impatient. He took off his backpack and set it down on the bottom stair. He loosened up for a second and got into a ready position like a sprinter just before the start of a race. Aerin looked concerned and confused. “What are you doing?”
“If there are traps in here, they are probably too slow for me.” Turel may have still been a journeyman, new to the force, but one force power he had a degree of confidence in was his marauder speed.
“We don’t have time to thoroughly sweep this room with an archeology team, more Sith strike teams will be on us any minute. The rest of the team is buying time for us, we can’t waste it.” Turel wouldn’t admit it, but he was afraid. He was more afraid of staying in the catacombs and facing further horrors than whatever ancient traps lie in the chamber ahead.
“Just be careful.”
Turel grinned. “Hey. It’s me.” Aerin groaned audibly. Turel launched himself into the room with force augmented speed. He stepped as lightly as he could while maintaining speed. He made it to the base of the statue and stopped. Nothing happened. “I think the room isn’t trapped, or at least the floor isn’t.”
Aerin grabbed Turel’s bag and followed to the base of the statue. “I should be the one to take the sword. You aren’t strong enough in the force yet to handle its power.” Turel rolled his eyes and began to pace around in a huff.
“Really? You’re going to pull rank on me too? Why does everyone in this outfit treat me like I was born yesterday!? I’m older than most of you. Even that creepy kid gets everyone’s respect.” Turel turned to Aerin directly. “I was fighting the Vong when you were what, barely a teenager!” He threw his hands in the air and turned his back to Aerin, still fuming.
Aerin had meant no insult with her previous statement. She was stating a fact and a valid tactical concern in the current situation. She knew that his perception of the way his Jedi superiors treated him was a sore spot for Turel but didn’t expect him to blow up like that. She sensed that the influence of the Dark Side was amplifying Turel’s frustration and pride into full blown anger. She slowly approached and got in front of him. She gently placed her left hand on the scarred side of his face and using a combination of the Force and Zeltron pheromones, she sought to extinguish his smoldering anger. She spoke with the most soothing, gentle voice she could muster. “This isn’t the time or the place for this. You are well on your way to becoming a great Jedi Knight. Everyone sees that. These things take time and patience. As Vorsa said, no one here doubts you. Let go of your pride and focus on what’s in front of us.”
Turel closed his eyes and exhaled. “You are right. I’m sorry for lashing out like that. It’s this place, I just feel so scared and angry while I’m down here. Let’s get the sword and get out of here.” Aerin was thoroughly relieved to hear that.
Aerin approached the statue and reached for the sword in the statue’s sheath. As her hand was about to close around the pommel of the sword it was thrown back by a mysterious force. Aerin took a few steps back. “What was that?” As she said that the emerald torches in the room dimmed slightly and Aerin and Turel heard laughter from a disembodied voice. Aerin ignited her lightsaber and Turel pulled out his blaster pistols.
The glowing visage of a handsome human male warrior with shoulder length black hair, clad in ornate Mecrosa battle armor phased out of the statue. The ethereal warrior was thoroughly amused at the two Jedi who disturbed the peace of the chamber. “Countless Sith slaughtering Sith in the city above to get this sword and it’s two Jedi who make it to this chamber. A journeyman and a newly christened Knight no less. Ah, the universe does have a cruel sense of irony sometimes.”
Aerin defiantly pointed her lightsaber at the ghost. “Who or what are you?”
The unidentified ghost brushed his hand through Aerin’s yellow lightsaber as if his body was made of pure smoke. “Put that thing away. Your crude implements can’t harm me.” Aerin and Turel put their weapons away.
Undeterred, Aerin challenged the ghost again. “You can’t harm us. You have no power in the physical world.”
The ghost chuckled again. “True enough young Jedi, but if you want my sword you’ll have to deal with me one way or another.”
Turel spoke up, “Your sword? You must be Ferran of the Mecrosa, founder of the Obelisk order.”
The visage of Ferran smiled, “I’m glad to see that I have not been forgotten these long ages. Even the Jedi know my name.”
Aerin interjected, “But you died on Antei, how can your spirit be here?”
“I did die on Antei but my soul was bound to this sword. I only left my sword here because I was betrayed by that witch Tiamat. I got my revenge on her. But here I am, trapped in this chamber.”
Aerin inquired “So why couldn’t I take the sword from the sheath?”
Ferran scolded the Jedi. “You’re pathetic, both of you. You aren’t worthy of my sword.” Ferran floated toward Aerin. “You fancy yourself a knight but do you really have what it takes to kill, to win? I think not. You are weak. You purposely deny yourself the freedom of release and the pleasures of the flesh that are so clearly a part of your nature. And all for what? Some ridiculous idea of Jedi discipline?” Aerin stood unphased at Ferran’s taunts.
Ferran floated toward Turel. “You’re worse. At least she’s a true Jedi, I can almost respect that. What are you? You delude yourself. I see through you. I know a killer when I see one. The blood of your victims stains your very soul Turel. You are no Jedi! You call yourself a Guardian but you would make a fine Obelisk if you would only stop running from who you really are.” Turel winced at Ferran’s harsh words
“You are unworthy! No one claims my sword!”
“I do,” Turel replied, stepping past the insubstantial visage and grasping the pommel firmly.
The ghost almost seemed to smirk at the warrior’s confidence, something he had prized dearly in his own lifetime. The spirit vanished as Turel removed the sword from the statue.
The rest of the team rushed down the stairs into the chamber. Vorsa was somewhat confused and concerned that Turel had the sword instead of Aerin. “Good work Turel, now give me the sword, child,” she said, extending her hand toward him.
Turel stopped brandishing the sword and calmly turned around. “No thank you. I think I can wield the sword just fine.”
Kneeling beside Sa Ool, Nathan gingerly placed his fingers beside his temples, concentrating on the Force. The skin was lumpy and drenched in sweat and Nathan grimaced to himself. He had never been fond of aliens, having spent most of his short life in the company of his former companion, D’hak, but right now he owed his teammates something. He had nearly been driven over the edge of sanity, to rise up as the dark monster he had been cloned from. It was not a fate he had chosen for himself.
After a few moments, the Kel Dor coughed and rose to his feet slowly. He glared at the Gungan, and the others tensed up a little, but then he hung his head. “Are you all right now?” Nathan asked. The Kel Dor nodded.
“I don’t know what came over me,” he confessed. “Scion was a great leader, and being around him again, joining him, it felt like destiny.”
“Dis place be changin’ us, mesa thinks,” Kah replied, holding out a hand. Sa smirked beneath his breather and took the hand, shaking with his own.
“The Dark Side is strong here,” Vorsa confirmed. Nathan frowned, however.
“It was,” the boy agreed. “It was like trying to fight in the bottom of a lake.” He glanced at the Gungan. “For some of us.”
“It is gone now, child. Let us meet up with the others.” Nathan stayed in the middle of the group as they wandered through the corridor Turel and Aerin had escaped through during the fight.
The team rushed down a spiral staircase at the end of the corridor, Vorsa in the lead, and they stepped inside a small crypt with a raised dias in the centre. A statue of a warrior was on one side, the only entrance on the other. Turel, sword in hand, stood beside Aerin. They all took a few moments to stare at the prize, the dark at the end of the long tunnel their journey had been. ”Excellent work child,” Vorsa said as she stepped forward. She frowned as she sensed a taint in the air. Something was wrong in this room, some kind of presence. She exchanged a worried glance with Aerin. “Now, give me the sword for safe keeping.” She calmly extended one of her arms out to Turel, who stopped brandishing the sword and turned around, locking eyes for a moment with Vorsa.
“No thank you. I think I can wield the sword just fine.”
“I am not so sure, young one,” Vorsa stated as the others filed in around the room.
“I found it, I took it from the scabbard. I will carry it home.”
“Ferran was here,” Aerin reported as she slowly stepped towards her master. Most of the others stared at her as if she had two heads, while Nathan, already fixated on the statue, approached. “His spirit appeared to us. It seems to be bound to the sword.” Turel smirked, but kept a cautious eye on Nathan.
“It’s just a ghost,” Turel declared. “It cannot hurt us.”
“Mesa don’ t’ink so,” Kah replied. “Mesa t’inkin’ maybe dat’s what’s been bothering us. Hand de sword over, apprentice, and wesa be goin’ now.” Turel almost sneered at the word apprentice. He wasn’t just some lackey, following along like a lost puppy. They were not going to take his prize from him, not after all this.
“Wesa don’t have time to argue. Wesa need to leave, quickly. Hand over de sword!” Turel chuffed at his master as Nathan began examining the scabbard.
It was fascinating. Strange runes covered it’s surface, and it somehow appeared that the writing was moving. The boy reached up and touched it, flinching back as he felt something transfer. Turel tightened his grip on the sword. “You’re right,” Turel conceeded, “we don’t have time for this. Let’s go.” He took a step towards the others.
“Every secret we take, we must pay dearly for,” Nathan whispered as he struggled to understand what the statue had shown him. It had clearly been a warning of some kind, free to anyone who approached, but it seemed to lack teeth. There was also a sense of longing, a hunger.
Nathan stared at the base of the statue, where a small compartment hung open. It was empty, Nathan realised, as Turel growled something at the others. Nathan dropped down and stared inside the compartment, poking with an overly curious finger. He doubted that the statue was placed here to contain an old cobweb. “I think someone beat us here,” Nathan murmured. “Look at - hey!”
Turel yanked the young boy up to his feet and held him with ease. Nathan squirmed uncomfortably. “Enough!” he shouted. “I found the sword, and I’m keeping it. You’re not taking it from me.” Turel raised the sword slowly, pointing it firmly at the others with his cybernetic arm. Kah removed his own blades, clicking a warning to his apprentice as Nathan took in the situation. There was something unusual about Turel’s behaviour. With a quick pulse, the boy shoved Turel back telekinetically. This only seemed to anger him further, and he reached back to swing at Nathan’s head. The boy’s lightsaber arced up, slicing off Turel’s cybernetic hand as he froze him in place. Nathan held him there for a few more moments while the others carefully approached. Turel groaned in pain and closed his eyes as Vorsa felt something move in the room, something that had clearly been influencing Turel.
“Are you finished?” Nathan demanded as he deactivated his weapon. The boy grasped the sword around the cybernetic hand, and immediately he felt a probing, a prodding of his mind. Images flashed briefly, too quick for him to understand, and he felt a strange satisfaction. For a moment, Nathan felt like he did back in the catacombs, back in the battle against the Sith; like someone old and powerful, detached from himself. The feeling faded as the clone of the ancient warrior Denath lifted the sword and stared at Turel’s cybernetic hand while the others checked over his injury.
“I’m sorry,” Nathan apologized as he stared first at the sword, then back at the statue. “I can fix it when we get back to the ship. I can probably improve it, in fact. The design is good, but it could be better.” He concentrated for a few moments to relieve his companion’s pain, then turned to the statue. On another impulse, he removed his own lightsaber and placed it inside the small compartment, which slowly ground shut. “This sword is strange,” he reported. “For a moment it felt alive, but I think that might be the ghost Aerin was talking about. When I touched the statue, I felt something touching me, and when I grabbed the sword it was... I think it was trying to get to know me.” Aerin gave him a very worried look. “It seems quiet now, but let’s not linger. Let’s leave.”
Vorsa came closer to Nathan, and slowly and calmly placed her hand on the hilt of the sword. She also felt the presence, a malevolence trying to penetrate her mind, and linger. Like before her resolve never faltered. Pushing against the presence, she evicted it before it could take hold. Better to be safe. As Nathan let go, Vorsa wrapped the sword in her own robe, slung it over her back and tied it across her chest.
“It should be safe like this. Hopefully we can get it back to the ship, and safely stored, very soon. I can only hold this presence at bay for so long,” she warned looking at Turel with a compassionate look. Turning to Kah, who observed his apprentice with a disappointment, she continued “he is not to blame, my friend. Even you would have been seduced by it’s power.” With a nod of silent agreement, Kah pulled his apprentice to his feet.
The weary team made their way back to the chamber where they had fought the Tarenti Sith, their hands close to their weapons. While the chamber still echoed of the dark side, the majority of the presence they had felt earlier had dissipated, but they still felt the need to press on quickly. They marched past the partially eaten corpses of the Tarentum forces, and the great stone chandelier that had crushed the last of the monsters thanks to Aerin's ingenuity. They were tense and fully aware that the Brotherhood and One Sith forces were fighting a war in the city above. While Odan-Urr had arrived early, and no doubt saved a good deal of time by following Tarentum's shortcut into the catacombs, they knew that entire armies would be coming for the silver-and-black blade that Vorsa was carrying. "I don't think this opens from this side," the boy exclaimed as they approached the wall they had entered through earlier. His high-pitched voice interrupted the silence that had come over the team, and Nathan felt it was almost an unwelcome intrusion to everyone's withdrawal.
"Maybe mesa be havin' an idea," Kah grinned as he pointed at Turel's pack. "Wesa can blow da wall down." Turel's eyes lit up at the suggestion and the team watched as he tried to rummage through his pack for an appropriately-sized charge. Nathan placed one hand on the wall, and it spun smoothly and effortlessly at his touch.
“I guess it is designed to keep others out, rather than in,” Aerin smirked as Turel stared at the open wall in disappointment. The team quickly continued through the musty catacombs, Kah leading the way, his eyes and ears peeled for any sight or sound that would indicate trouble. A very muted rumble echoed around them as they made their way through the catacombs and back the way they came.
Around Xlopora City, squads of Brotherhood, Imperial and One Sith forces engaged each other in short skirmishes, the ruins of the city providing a broken and uneven urban environment for the war that slowly edged in. Sunset was approaching, and the ensuing night would bring death and chaos as each faction scrambled to obtain the secrets underneath the city. The occasional explosion echoed as rocket launchers and heavier vehicles battered the north end, while in other corners of the city, small excavation teams stood under heavy guard as the Clans started their digging. In the south-eastern corner, a small hole hung open and dark, before being interrupted by a pair of gungan eye stalks that stuck up like periscopes.
Kah climbed out of the hole, his hands resting on the leather handles of his daggers, and the others made their way quickly to the closest building. The team bundled together against a wall while Kah took a lookout position. Nathan slipped a communicator out of his gadget pouch and fiddled with it for a few moments. The fighting continued to echo in the background, making it clear that the Brotherhood and the One Sith would not be far. “Any time now, boyo,” Kah whispered from his vantage point.
“I just need to modify the signal so it won’t be picked up too easily.” A little more fiddling and he was done. He began tapping the transmit button, sending a pre-arranged series of pulses.
“Are you done yet?” Turel asked.
“Yes, I either ordered us a ride or possibly Corellian potato sticks. Was it five dots or four at the end?” Turel glared at him briefly, but was then distracted by an explosion.
“That was too close,” Aerin exclaimed.
“Wesa best be goin’ now.”
Kah led the team through the ruined city, almost clinging to upright walls and sprinting the short dashes through open space. A quiet purr sounded nearby, and as the Jedi stole their way through the city, several TIE fighters streaked overhead, some firing on each other as they ducked and weaved through the air. The dogfight veered away to the east as Nathan’s communicator beeped a response. Nathan activated the comm and spoke the code.
“This is Nobilis. Any friendly forces, respond,” followed by a short burst of static. Very soon a voice spoke from the contraption.
“This is Rainbringer, Nobilis. We’ve been awaiting your call, sir.” the human male said in a rather official tone.
“Major Varn!” Vorsa’s excitement was apparent but Nathan waved his hand to hush the Neti.
“Good to hear from you. Are you ready for collection?”
“Just transmitting coordinates now,” the boy replied. He pushed a few more buttons and waited patiently for acknowledgement.
“On our way. Paladin squadron riding escort.” The team breathed a collective sigh of relief. Somewhere on the planet, LAAT/i’s and X-Wings were breaching the clouds and sprinting towards them.
“Did yousa remember your hand?” Kah asked. Turel glanced at him and his eyes widened in horror.
“Oh right, the hand!” Nathan exclaimed. The boy removed it from his pocket and handed it over. Turel breathed a sigh of relief under Kah’s amused grin. The Gungan noticed something was missing “Wheresa yousa pack?”
Turel smirked “I left a surprise for the Sith at the catacombs entrance.” he winked as the LAATs touched down in front of them.
Vorsa placed a hand on Sa’s shoulder. The Kel’Dor seemed to be shaken from the experience. He looked at her through visored eyes, as his head fell down apologetically for the tenth time already.
“Now you see what the Dark Side brings, my friend. All of us still have a lot to learn, but if we keep true to ourselves and our cause, we cannot fail. You are proof of this,” she smiled as Sa nodded. “accept your experience. Learn from it and you will become the finest of Jedi, Sa.”
As she said that she removed the sword from her back, hoping beyond hope they would arrive safely. This weapon in the hands of the Dark Jedi could mean a threat to her home. They had to keep it locked away. Setting down the blade, she soaked in some of the last, dying rays of sunlight, keeping her eyes on the smoke-filled horizon.
Soon, they would be home.