Arcona: Team 2
Timeros Caesus Entar Arconae (25)
Wuntila Arconae (8533)
Nadrin Erinos Arconae (2555)
Verse Theris (13723)
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!!!!!!!
“Drop in sixty!”
The pilot’s voice rang out from the cockpit, just audible above the hum of the shuttle as it dipped beneath the towers of Xlopora City.
“Sith magic, he said?” Socorra asked conversationally, turning to the hulking hybrid next to her. Wuntila did not respond. His eyes were closed, his thoughts elsewhere. They were all seated in the dropship, headed toward another godforsaken planet at the behest of the Iron Throne.
It was Nadrin who responded. “I don’t believe in Sith magic. We’ve seen what the Dark Side can do, sure, but magic?” Socorra shot him a withering look; the Arconae shrugged. “Fine, prove me wrong.”
“Drop in thirty!”
“Maybe I’m not much of a Krath, but I just want to get this over with,” Legorii declared. Timeros nodded, though it was characteristically hard to tell if he was agreeing or just accommodating. The Proconsul rolled his eyes.
Xlopora City. We’ve all heard the rumors. The orders handed down from the Iron Throne say we’re going in to get a sword, but are we? What use could this sword be? I mean, Ferran just left it behind, after all.
Wuntila threw open the main door of the shuttle, bracing himself against the wind. The pilot circled low, giving the Arconans a full view of the ancient stone palace that dominated Xlopora City’s skyline. With a glance at the looming walls, Legorii murmured a word of thanks that they were descending within their confines in the courtyard.
Nadrin stepped up and tossed three anchored fibra-ropes from the shuttle, which hovered above the grounds of the palace. Then, flashing a cocky grin at the others, he disappeared over the edge. Legorii and Wuntila grabbed the other two and rappelled the twenty meters to the ground, with the others close behind.
“Form up around me!” Legorii called as the others touched down. Scanning the palace grounds, the Anzat motioned for the others to move to cover. “Looks like we’re all--”
“Imperials!” Verse warned, pointing toward a particularly dilapidated section of the palace walls. Sure enough, a team of eight Imperial Commandos was rappelling down the cracked stone.
Nadrin and Legorii opened fire, peppering the Imperials with blaster bolts. “Keep moving!” Wuntila bellowed, leading the others toward a pile of rubble. It looked as though a tower had fallen recently, impressions fresh in the ground. The team members slid and ducked behind the broken stones, just as the Imperials began to return fire.
With his back to the Commandos, Legorii looked towards Wuntila and Timeros. “Think you can take a couple of Imperials? We’ll cover you.”
Wuntila nodded. “We will break them.” His lightsaber sprang to life, casting an eerie indigo glow over the intricately-carved stone. Fearless, he leapt into the center of the blasterfire, charging the Commandos. Timeros, armed with a lightsaber and a pistol, was close behind. Together, the two tore into the soldiers with a distinctly Arconan ferocity.
Legorii stepped out from behind the debris and depressed the trigger of his rifle, spraying bolts that caught the first of the Imperials in his chest plate. As the man dropped, Wuntila’s saber bit into another, halving him. The furthest trooper went down hard, felled by a single shot that Legorii assumed came from their sniper, Socorra. The melee was over almost as quickly as it had begun -- the Commandos did not match up well with Arcona’s elites. Regrouping, the team looked to Legorii.
“What do you know about this place? We must know what we were sent into,” Timeros reasoned, words curt and staccato, as if every consonants was a treasure to be hoarded.
“I only know what I saw in the directive from Grand Master Muz, and that wasn’t much. We need to find Ferran’s sword, which was left here eons ago,” Legorii responded.
Timeros opened his mouth as if to reply, but was interrupted by a high-pitched shriek. Confusion crossed his features. “Verse?”
“No, she’s right behind…” Socorra trailed off, turning to find that Arcona’s newest Knight had disappeared. “She’s gone.”
Legorii swore. “Get back from the rocks, everyone step back!”
Nadrin snorted derisively. “Right, the rocks are going to snatch us up, is that it? Sure, yeah, I’ll step back.” The headstrong Warlord pushed off the rock he was leaning on. While the others watched, astonished, his foot appeared to pass through the ground. Nadrin gasped as if the air had been stolen from his lungs, teetering with arms outstretched. To no avail, the ground appeared to swallow him in deeper, soil and clods of grass folding in on him like pudding. The Battlelord choked a garbled plea of rescue; Socorra offered her hand a second too late. He was gone.
The four Arconans were shocked. Momentarily speechless, Socorra drummed her fist against the now-unyielding ground. She regained herself and barked, “What’s going on here?”
Timeros sighed. “Ancient Sith magic. It’s an illusion, a trap of some sort. They’re probably--”
“NO! Don’t touch it! Stay back!” Wuntila bellowed, stepping toward Legorii and interrupting Timeros.
The stone that Nadrin had pushed was beginning to roll forward, right toward the spot where he had disappeared. Frantic, Legorii had lunged forward, arms and fingers outstretched toward the tumbling hulk of rubble. At Wuntila’s voice, he stopped. “But It’ll crush them! We have to stop it!”
Together, the remaining four reached with desperation for the Dark Side, attempting to manipulate the air around them in an effort to halt the rolling chunk of tower. Silence settled over the group as their Force tendrils fruitlessly licked over the last visible portion of the stone, knowing the effort had been for naught, the ruin lost into the wasteland.
It was Timeros who broke it. “Come. There is a labyrinth beneath the palace. They will be there. We should get inside.” Carefully, the Arconans made their way toward the main gate.
“This seems too easy,” Wuntila remarked as the four approached.
“Yeah,” Socorra agreed. “Where are the other teams?”
Legorii smiled wryly. “Maybe the Imperials are giving the new Clans some trouble?” He stepped forward and grasped one of the ancient iron clasps on the double-doors while Wuntila took the other. Anticipating a struggle, both men exchanged surprised glances when the doors swung inward at their touch.
“Odd,” Timeros remarked softly, before shaking his head. He turned to Socks. “Looks clear. I expect more trouble in the labyrinth.” The Adept offered his assistant his arm, seeming for a moment almost gentle. Together, they stepped across the threshold.
“Again?! What is this cursed place?” Wuntila angrily slammed his fist against the intricate stonework of the palace. “We have to follow them.”
Legorii resolutely stepped forward. With an unpleasant smack, he hit solid matter, and his bulbous nose mashed against cold stone. Momentarily dazed, he swung his hand forward and sighed.
“Another illusion. This isn’t a doorway, it’s a trap. And it’s already been sprung.”
Wuntila swore. “Alright, there’s gotta be another way. We’ll find them.”
Will we? Maybe we were never meant to succeed. Maybe this palace is just one elaborate trap.
Caved in Passageway
“Yn… vre… in there?”
A sense of awareness trickled into Verse, the slow drip of a single leaf after a rainstorm. The words were muffled and seemed to exist in no particular direction surrounding her. Position unknown, she sprawled across her universe, on the cusp of lucidity and floating free.
Then the pain came, grounding her into reality. With a spike in both legs, a split up the back of her cranium, the Hapan realized her unpleasant position, lying on a bed of rocks and rubble.
“Ssy.. ing! Fr.. ve!”
The voice emerged again, this time a fair bit more frustrated, resonating.
Verse snapped her eyes awake, to the sore sensation of her shoulders being jostled. The vision she encountered was no more pleasant. A vicious looking skull wickedly menaced her field of view, etched with blue spiderwebs.
“I swear, if you don’t get up right now I’m leaving you where you’re lying.”
The Hapan heard the voice clearly this time. The floating skull before her wobbled along with the words.
“Nn.. I am..” Verse choked breathlessly, feeling as though her lungs were filled with splinters.
As her consciousness began to collect itself, the Knight came to the realize that the skull before her was no grim phantasm, but rather a masked Warlord identified to her previously as Nadrin. As for the spiderwebs… the Hapan smacked a hand against her visor, or rather, where her visor once was. Her suspicions were confirmed as she felt the prick of shattered resin remains.
“I have broken my helmet,” the Knight declared in strong Hapan lilt, flopping her arm uselessly back upon her bed of stones.
“No, really?” mocked the skull.
The world suddenly flicked into view for Verse. Above her, a cavernous ceiling, rumbling with sounds of battle from above. Even with her vision obscured, she soon realized she was encapsulated in a smaller chamber barely larger than the cockpit of a starfighter. Boulders of all sizes surrounded her. Kneeling beside her at an impersonable distance was Nadrin. He held a glowrod in one hand, and traced the beam around the confines of the chamber.
Verse attempted to sit upright with a groan. From her currently-hazy recollection of the events leading to her current situation, she summarized to her company.
“We have been trapped underground. There has been a cave-in,” the Hapan stated simply, beginning to assess her injuries. It hadn’t been just her visor shattering; her helmet was dented and cracked in many places, hide armor shredded to reveal raw patches of bloodied skin. Thankfully, all of her bones seemed whole.
“Well, that’s obvious enough,” the Warlord scoffed. He stood and made his way to the far end of the small chamber.
Growing tired of her fractured field of vision, Verse slipped off her helmet, setting the shattered remains tiredly beside her. Nadrin’s masked face eyed back at her from his corner.
“You know if you leave that, I won’t be letting you use mine if we come to trouble later,” the male remarked snarkily, gesturing to her ruined helmet and then his own skeletal facial covering.
“Hmph.” Verse had little else to reply. She was hurting and in no mood for discourse. One question nagged at her, however. “What was that about leaving, before?”
In the dim light, she could see the ragged tatters of robes covering the Warlord, streaked with dirt. No doubt, he had taken a similar fall to her. Before him, seemingly hundreds of small boulders comprised a wall from floor to ceiling. As the Knight watched, Nadrin swept up a single boulder with the Force, concentrating as he hefted it with the might of his mind, and tossed it off to the side.
“I imagined you might still be of some use,” he replied with a biting tone. He lifted another rock, repeating his prior operation. “I sense that these rocks are blocking a passageway of some kind.” His off hand gestured to her in a come-hither.
“On your feet then, before we both run out of air.”
He had been falling for hours, now.
Air rushed by his face, a chillness his robes did nothing to shield him from as it flashed amidst the darkness, the roar in his ears the only sensation of his passing. He twisted himself in the air, arms flailing around as he tried to get some purchase - any purchase - around him and found none. Even Socorra, by his side just moments ago, had mysteriously disappeared, her touch on his arm now completely ephemeral.
And so, Timeros felt a sensation that he believed himself long grown beyond: utter helplessness. Amidst his fall, he could feel beads of cold sweat rise on his face, only to be stripped away moments later by the invisible winds of his descent. Bile was rising in his throat, as well, as he fought to force back the panic rising from his marrow. For once, the Adept was transfixed, captured in the throes of fear in a way usually reserved for his victims.
The Arconae felt as though he had shouted the words, though no sound issued forth from his lungs – or perhaps, his plummet has erased that from his hearing as well. He drove his mind inward, thought sharpening as he tried to rip some remaining shred of power from his soul. And indeed, the Dark Side did issue forth from somewhere inside of him, but it trickled rather than gushed, lapping gently against his surroundings rather than slamming into them like a roaring wave.
Panting with effort, blood rushing against his ears, Timeros tried again, concentrating harder still as he reached inside, invisible hands ripping at the walls of his unconscious, ready to rip himself open completely... and suddenly, the Force came flooding out of him, crashing into the world like a tsunami into a beach of sandcastles.
Timeros' emotions flatlined, arctic dispassion asserted itself, and the awareness poured into him like a deluge.
The Entar hit the floor the very next instant, bone and marble alike crackling in protest as he slammed into the labyrinth with a stone-splintering crash. Dust filled his lungs immediately, the earthy mix seeping into his body as he tried to adjust to his suddenly-recovered self-control.
It took him a few moments to realize that the hacking sounds he heard were not all his own.
The gaunt Elder crawled to a side, trying to regain his composure as his hands groped around in the dark. Finally, he found what he was looking for…the familiar warmth of human presence.
“…Tim?” Socorra’s voice was accompanied by a spray of dirt and saliva as she coughed up the remainder of the splintered floor. “Is that you?”
By way of response, the Arconae reached for his belt and thumbed his lightsaber, letting its amethyst shine be his answer. His XO’s one-eyed face, suddenly visible amidst the glow, showed a palpable relief.
“Socorra,” the Entar finally spoke, his voice gravelly and stilted, a stark contrast to his smooth and frigid tones. “Leave. This area is not safe.”
The bronze-skinned woman rose to her feet along with her superior, dusting herself off as she looked around. In the absence of lighting other than Timeros’ saber, she lit her own weapon, studying the empty room about them. “No doors, solid stone walls…” the Battlelord peered up, her single eye narrowing. “How long d’you think we were falling?”
“Minutes. Hours. Days,” Timeros replied, seemingly indifferent.
“And somehow, we’re not even wounded?” Socorra’s words, phrased as a question, seemed a statement more than anything.
Somehow, the Entar managed to convey a shrug while remaining utterly still. “Magic.”
“Oh, great,” the Sith groaned, sweeping her lightsaber around. “So, we’re basically at the mercy of – what the frack?”
Timeros raised an eyebrow as he turned to the spot she was illuminating with her saber. Moments, ago, it had seemed hermetically sealed. Now it showed a corridor carved from obsidian.
“Our way forward seems clear, then.”
“And you don’t figure that this might be a trap,” Socorra said, sarcasm dripping from her voice like poison. The Battlelord continued to stare at the newly appeared corridor, as if her one-eyed gaze could somehow force it to reveal its true self.
“Of course it is,” the Entar said, stepping into the corridor.
“We’ll have to oblige our host.”
Seemingly without care or hesitation, the Arconae sauntered into the corridor.
Caved in Passageway
Good thing I’m not claustrophobic, or this would really suck.
The seemingly neverending task of shifting the rocks which blocked what Nadrin believed to be a passage from the cavern was beginning to fray the Sith’s nerves. Even with the additional efforts of Verse, there seemed to be no headway being made whatsoever and Nadrin knew that there was every chance that they would tire themselves out before they moved the rubble enough to create a tunnel. Frustration threatening to boil over, the young Arconae took a step back to survey the makeshift wall of stone, a familiar presence flitting into his consciousness and causing his mood to darken further.
You’re not going to let this beat you are you? Come on, I raised a better son than this.
“You didn’t raise me, you started the job and then went and got blown up.”
Verse shifted to gaze at Nadrin, hearing him speaking aloud as though to thin air. Her raised brows spoke a thousand words, the most obvious of which being that this Human is mentally unstable.
To Nadrin, it wasn’t an entirely surprising look to receive.
“After an incident involving some Sith magic during the early parts of the Crusade against the One Sith, I somehow got saddled with my father’s spirit fusing with mine. He flits in and out, normally succeeding only in being a complete pain in my arse. I’m not crazy, so don’t give me that look.”
Awww, scared of what the pretty girl thinks of you?
Nadrin flashed a look of scorn at nothing in particular, his response to the mocking words emerging like a growl from his throat.
“You can shut up too.”
Trying to bar any more distractions from derailing his new train of thought, the Arconae turned to look at the wall of rocks that Verse and he had been attempting to break through. Examining the blockage as a whole, the Warlord mentally separated each stone, trying to pinpoint the lynchpin that would cause the others to fall like a house of cards.
Which one is the heart of the wall…
Thirty seconds of silence stretched before Verse turned towards him and spoke.
“You have finished?”
Eyes not moving from the wall, Nadrin held up a single finger in the Hapan’s direction and the meaning behind the motion was all too clear; wait.
The Knight’s face went slack as she bit back whatever it was she wanted to say and obeyed the Sith’s command as Nadrin stalked forward with his eyes fixed on a single rock that lay in the middle of the wall. Coming to a standstill mere metres from the barrier of stone, Nadrin focused his energy into a concentrated miasma of telekinetic fury before throwing the mass in a titanic burst at the rock that he had been so focused on. The object of his ire shot out from the wall and into whatever lay beyond, while those rocks that it had supported before suddenly crashed down with nothing there to hold them up, causing an avalanche of rock, dust and swearing as Nadrin almost got caught in the falling rubble, hopping back to safety at the last second. Turning back to his companion, the Arconae tried to hide the sudden rush of fatigue that came with expending such a large amount of his Force reserves in a single strike.
While the Arconae knew that the feeling of weakness was only temporary, he was still reluctant to show any vulnerability to someone that he had yet to fully trust, even if she were in the same Clan as he. Scampering over the piles of fallen rock and through the opening in the wall that he had manufactured, Nadrin pulled his lightsaber from his belt and lit the weapon, crimson radiance banishing the darkness in his immediate vicinity. He began to walk forwards, Verse following him with her own weapon now ignited and in hand, cyan beams intermingling with those from Nadrin’s weapon to form a bubble of multicoloured light around the pair as they advanced.
Time seemed to pass quickly for the pair of silent stalkers, their progress steady as they made their way along what felt like a never-ending tunnel. The passageway was a blur of smudged shadows and ominous feelings, forcing both Arconans retreat into their own heads to deal with it as they trudged ever onwards.
This is ridiculous, are we even going the right way?
Minutes stretched on before Nadrin’s unspoken question was answered in emphatic style as the passageway opened up into a cavernous room. The room was noticeable for it’s lack of furnishings apart from a solitary throne, sitting at the centre of the room. It was grandiose, opulent, grotesque, magnificent.
“Wow...what sort of ego do you need to have to make this your throne room?”
En route to Bosthirda, Xlopora City
“Did you not think utilising a larger task force might result in a more favourable outcome?” Wuntila turned from the viewport in the dropship, instinctively running a hand through his thick, silver-flecked hair. He and Legorii stood back from the others; Verse, Arcona’s newest Knight, adjusted her helmet with intensity, Socorra tapped wildly at her datapad, and Timeros sat solemnly, eyes closed, hands clasped in his lap. The only one missing was Nadrin. He had found solace in the cockpit. It was where Zandro was most comfortable; it was only fitting that Nadrin held onto that custom, if only in memoriam.
“Small and unobtrusive,” Legorii said with the air of confidence he always exuded during Wuntila’s long tenure as Consul. “We cannot afford to waste our time choreographing even a small infiltration team. We’ll keep it to those we can trust.”
The Arconae seemed to weigh the Anzat’s words in quiet contemplation before nodding in agreement. “As you see fit.” The Dragon loomed over Legorii, almost waiting for the Proconsul to continue conversation, but he simply stood eyeing the Human-Theelin with his fiery stare. Wuntila knew that his recent return to Arcona had been the underlying topic of conversation within the Clan; still, he had contemplated and accepted the potential repercussions of his leaving when Marick had put the suggestion forward. All he could do now was ensure that the damage to his reputation was kept at a minimum.
Wuntila stepped forward, but not before Legorii wrapped a pale, slender hand around the former Consul’s arm. “I believe this is yours.” In the other, the Proconsul held a heavy, scaled hilt, tipped with the open mouth of a Selenian Krayt. Dragonsbreath. Wuntila’s lightsaber. A gift from the Grand Master himself. “Don’t make me regret the decision to give it back to you.”
“The only thing you’ll regret is speaking out of turn, Lord Proconsul.” Wuntila stopped, meeting the Anzat’s brazen glare with his own icy gaze. He snatched back the hilt and sauntered to the aft of the ship, ducking under the low metal overheads.
The Dragon still bore the mark of the Arconae; Legorii could only hope that his allegiances still sat with the clan to which he had helped give birth.
Wuntila swore. “Alright, there’s gotta be another way. We’ll find them.”
Will we? Maybe we were never meant to succeed. Maybe this palace is just one elaborate trap.
The Dragon noticed the Anzat’s momentary hesitation and gave it little thought. “Through here,” the hulking blue Exarch announced, rapping the pommel of his lightsaber across the walls and finding a small alcove. The Anzat followed, taking one last look over his shoulder.
The two men meandered through a warren of narrow, criss-crossing tunnels, Wuntila’s hulking Aegis armour occasionally scraping the ornately carved walls. Groans and growls could be heard in the distance, amplified by the acoustic confines of the decorative labyrinth, but they pressed forward unperturbed.
The Proconsul and the Arconae soon emerged in a small antechamber. The room was spartan, save for a worn statue in its centre. Wuntila grunted, moving forward inspecting the effigy with an uncharacteristic intensity. “He was holding weaponry once,” the Dragon finally said, turning to Legorii, who stepped warily into the room. In the dim light he saw Wuntila reach up and touch one of the statue’s hands; the remaining digits crumbled, the hand falling to the floor in a plume of dust.
“We don’t have time for this,” the Anzat shook his head, walking past the former Consul and towards the only other door to the room. “We need to find the others.”
“Kadann…” Wuntila muttered, oblivious.
“This statue. It’s an effigy of Kadann.”
“And that pertains to us how?” Legorii said, feigning interest. Wuntila stood, looking at the Krath distantly.
“It doesn’t,” Wuntila said, shaking his head in a poor attempt to clear his thoughts. “Come, let’s press on.”
Wuntila started towards Legorii, but froze as he heard the familiar sound of creaking stone. He looked over a heavily-clad shoulder, only to see the statue’s head turn towards the two Arconans. The effigy’s remaining hand clenched, and it seemed to frown, cracks running down its forehead and away from narrowing eyes. The two Arconans spun, sprinting out of the room into a wide corridor, only to be followed seconds later by Kadann crashing through the wooden door. They pushed harder, drawing upon the Force to reach the large monolithic doors at the corridor’s end. Behind them they could hear the clunking stone footsteps of the statue... swiftly followed by the daunting sound of the opening doors ahead.
Imperial Storm Troopers spilled into the corridor, a flurry of blaster fire raining upon the two Arconans. The two made short work of deflecting the bolts, Soulflayer and Dragonsbreath spitting emerald and teal into the air. Legorii reached the trooper cadre first, leaping over one to drive his lightsaber deep into the shoulder and down into the chest of another. Wuntila soon followed, careening into the trooper over whom Legorii had leapt; the Imperial flew backwards, crashing into the hard stone walls, and dropped to the floor motionless.
The two Arconans wasted little time, parrying and deflecting as they pressed past the troopers and out onto the balcony of the great hall. They did not stop to take in the ornate decoration - long, dusty banners; winding staircases, and intricately carved pillars - instead flipping over the edge and down into the main welcoming chamber.
Above, they heard the troopers’ screams as Kadann lumbered forward.
“Through there,” Legorii pointed towards a dark alcove housing a spiral staircase.
Wuntila nodded, following the Proconsul down into the bowels of the palace.
Socorra cocked her head to the side and watched silently as the Arconae brazenly entered the unknown. She stood still, frozen in place as her thoughts wandered over Timeros. His gaunt form still maintained an air of confidence and little fear, if any. Her hatred for the man had lasted years, built up over a multitude of events, least of which being held as hostage and of course, the Arena. Over time as his assigned assistant, the hatred had slowly turned towards respect and possibly even understanding; but it hadn’t been an easy transition - the Well still haunted her dreams at night, and the physical scars still remained a reminder of what Timeros had done to her. And what he could still do.
She had tried to forget, to repress it all. The Sith had little choice in the matter; Timeros was an Arconae, the Consul’s right hand, and her direct superior in Arcona, the woman had to learn to press forward or be cast aside. There was no room for dereliction or weakness in the Shadow Clan.
“Interesting,” he murmured ahead of her in the corridor. Socorra’s body suddenly jerked as if startled out of a daydream. She blinked her remaining eye several times; the other, scarred over and concave, had lost its covering in the fall.
“What is it?” she asked, her right hand grasping a pistol before jogging to catch up to him.
Timeros stood just inside another dark chamber, though it was lighted with several torches hanging from the stone walls, casting dancing shadows as the fires flickered from invisible winds. He pointed with his amethyst blade towards the center of the room.
The woman heard it before she smelled it. The groans and cries, screams and howls grew louder the closer she drew. Her feet slowed as the putrid smell wafted past her nose, her stomach nearly immediately and violently emptying its contents into her throat.
Socorra knew the sounds. She knew the smell more. And finally, the Well encapsulated her vision by the time her feet stopped an arm’s length from the Entar. She knew the image most of all.
First, her breaths became labored. Her hands trembled. Sweat nearly instantly developed upon her sun-bronzed skin. Then, finally, the woman was frozen in total fear, her single pale eye transfixed upon the very horrors of her nightmares. Dark demons circled the Well of Darkness, their claws sinking into the dirt below them and their backs crooked and deformed, razored maws sadistically grinning as they danced to the beat of invisible drums and the horrified screams of the tortured souls clawing their way out of their eternal prison.
The rancid stench was overpowering, caused by the crimson liquid bubbling and coagulating as it sloshed and spilled out of the round pit and seeping into the sour ground. Decaying flesh and bone moved in waves and thrashed up into the edges like ocean detritus in a violent storm.
Timeros had forcefully introduced the woman to the Well of Darkness in illusions, to frighten her into withdrawing from the 5th Championship Ladder or face the truth that all felled by Entars became soul sacrifices to the Well.
But she knew then that it was merely illusions. They were still in the arena, where she later humiliated him and was punished for it.
“It isn’t quite as I remember it. Is this how you do?” Timeros turned to Socorra, his casual tone and eerie flickers of shadow dancing upon his face lending more to the demonic ambience of the chamber.
As quick as lightning, the Sith’s pistol and lightsaber shot up from her sides and parallel to the ground, aimed at the Krath’s chest. Her eye was wide open and countenance wild and utterly fearful.
“Is this why we separated?! So you could finally sacrifice me?”
Timeros was silent for a moment as he pondered her outburst. His reply was flat, emotionless, and matter-of-factly. “Entars are rather pragmatic. We needn’t make an elaborate and wasteful trip to sacrifice a soul.” He turned on his boot heel and sauntered into the chamber. The creatures bowed and scampered around the Arconae as he peered into the foul mixture below him, and then turned back to Socorra. The demons turned to her as well, sadistic grins lining their razored maws. “Come, look inside.”
Her weapons clattered to the floor and the woman suddenly bolted from the chamber door, back into the dark corridor they came from.
Legorii and Wuntila took the steps two at a time, steadying themselves against the wall as the stone stairs shifted and crumbled beneath them. It had been a long time since anyone had willingly descended into the labyrinth. The Arconans had no choice -- their directive was clear. They could not allow Ferran’s lost blade to fall into the hands of an enemy Clan.
The Proconsul led the way, his Anzati vision guiding them through the darkness. His violet-hemmed robes swirled about his ankles, attracting dust and cobwebs. The descent seemed to take hours, with each moment punctuated by Legorii’s beating heart. With each thump, he felt a heightened sense of anxiety. The cares of the surface world faded away, and were replaced with an unsettling sense that he couldn’t quite put a finger on.
The staircase opened up into a corridor running east-west. Legorii had no sense of direction as he squinted in the darkness. An unnatural chill crept up his spine. “What do you think, Wuntila?” he asked, turning to the armored Exarch. In response, the former Consul gave a laborious sigh.
“The Force is confused by this place,” he said simply.
Legorii nodded. His stomach seemed to be tying itself in a knot. “There’s a slight incline. We’ll head down.” Mute, their heavy footfalls accompanied only by the creaking of Wuntila’s armor, the two scions of the Shadow Clan forged ahead. As the moments ticked by, the strange emotion began to take hold in the Anzat’s heart. He felt it tingling through his veins; not the adrenaline he was used to, but an icy sensation that left him shivering. Fear.
“Do you think they’re still alive?” Legorii asked, glancing sideways at Wuntila as they walked.
At first, the Human-Theelin looked confused. As if he’d forgotten the other members of their team, the others who had been tasked with the foolish errand of retrieving an ancient bauble for the Grand Master. “They must be. We need them to be.”
Legorii nodded again and swallowed. He fidgeted, his fingers tracing an unseen pattern on his lightsaber hilt. At each unfamiliar noise, he cringed. Something was wrong. After a few more paces, the Anzat’s ears were filled with a high-pitched whine, the shrieking of a banshee, and it set his teeth on edge. He froze, halting abruptly and surprising the hulking Obelisk.
Where was he? Ask him. He wasn’t here.
“What is it, what’s wrong?” Wuntila asked, irritation plain in his voice.
Legorii tapped an ear, his fingers shaking. When he spoke, his voice came out as a whisper. “That sound...the screaming…” The Epis trailed off, and in place of the shriek, he heard a soft voice slithering through the shadows of his mind.
Tell him, talk to him...it’s his fault...he’s the reason…
Wuntila stared at him blankly. “What sound? There was no screaming.”
The Epis’ brow furrowed. “Yes...yes there was. I heard it.” He shook his head and looked away, unsettled.
Rolling his eyes, the Exarch kept walking. Legorii quickly caught up, falling into step behind him. His fingers were clenched tightly around his lightsaber hilt, and his crimson eyes flitted from side to side.
Gone, in the blink of an eye...not a word of warning...abandoned.
“Wuntila…” Legorii whispered, coming to another stop just minutes after the first. The Exarch stopped and turned to him with an exasperated sigh.
“Yes? What is it?” The Obelisk crossed his arms impatiently across his chest, and glanced down the corridor.
Legorii hesitated, biting his tongue. The voices came unbidden, and he felt as though he was losing control of his emotions. He hated this place, this dungeon, this hell. He hated what it was doing to him. He did not need to ask the former Consul anything now, it could all wait until the mission was over. He would wait.
He doesn’t care about you! He never cared. He abandoned you.
“Where were you? Where were we when you needed you? You left us, not a backward glance! We were in the middle of a war, Wuntila, and you walked away! Arcona needed you! I needed you!” Legorii subsided, panting, as his words reverberated off the walls of the corridor. Dust fell, coating the Exarch’s already-flecked hair. It fell around him, unbidden, just as his self-control and his discipline had fallen. He wanted to scream.
The outburst shocked the Exarch. For a moment, he was speechless. When he found his voice, his reply was gruff. “I did what I had to do. I don’t have to explain myself to you. This place is doing strange things to our emotions -- let’s stay focused.”
What he had to do? What he had to do was leave you, let you suffer alone!
Legorii said nothing, glaring at the armored warrior with a ferocity that seemed at odds with the timidity he had displayed moments ago. The fear was gone. Angrily, he walked ahead of Wuntila, deeper still into the labyrinth. He ran a hand through his jet-black hair, massaging his temples.
I don’t need him. Let him rot. Arcona’s better off without him.
Distracted, Legorii did not notice the rough-hewn wall that awaited him a few meters ahead. When he reached it, he beat the stone with his fists. Anger, suppressed for months, bubbled to the surface. His fear was gone, replaced by the white-hot fire of unquenchable rage. Rage of an irrational sort, all-consuming. Two hot tears stung his eyes, running down his bulbous nose to drip, unseen, against his robes. But he did not fool Wuntila.
Turning, Legorii met his stare dispassionately. “Dead end.”
“Right, we’ve been over this,” the frustrated voice of Nadrin echoed throughout the vaulted ceilings of the surprisingly immaculate chamber. “There are no switches, there are no panels. My side of the room is just as barren as yours.”
The pair had positioned themselves at opposite ends of the room, both combing the walls, ceiling and floor for hidden escape hatches or activation mechanisms. Besides the ornate throne that stood proudly in the center, the room seemed utterly featureless. While Nadrin and Verse had split up the room into two sections between them, intending to cover more in less time, the plan did have the downside of the Hapan not trusting the male’s perceptive skills.
“Perhaps it is this, that is the ruse,” the Knight explained, “This is a dead end, not a way to the center. This chamber is just a means to waste time. We will be better off going back, to find a missed passageway forking from our original path.”
Verse gestured out towards the darkened corridor that had led to the throne room. Fortunately, such a retreat remained an option.
The Hapan took grasp of another one of the Force-powered torches that rimmed the chamber, attempting to dislodge it from the white-washed wall. For all her might, the austere light source remained flush with the cool stone, refusing to budge.
Nadrin seemed unaware of her struggles, as he paced into the center of the room. Tattered robes swishing, he circled the gold-gilded chair, expression imperceptible behind his death mask.
“The Force energy is palpable here. I don’t know how it works, but I know the throne is the key.” One hand extended to gingerly stroke a ruby encrusted arm of the chair. Verse ceased in her attempts on the torch to turn and watch Nadrin with a keen eye.
“Which is exactly why it was the first thing that we checked,” the Hapan replied with a smart smack in her tone. The bulk of their efforts had concentrated on the study of the throne upon discovery of the room. Like the torches, the throne appeared to be bolted into the floor via some unseen means. Aside from the Force energy permeating their senses as they neared the object, neither Nadrin nor Verse could find anything about the throne beyond the mundane.
“You, of course, leave out the most obvious thing. Neither of us sat in it.” Nadrin trailed his hand over the red velvet seat appraisingly.
Verse frowned in thought. It was true that both she and the Warlord has resisted planting themselves down upon the ornate piece of furniture, for fear of springing an all-too-obvious trap. As they searched for another point of egress from the room, however, the centerpiece of the chamber seemed to invade the Hapan’s thoughts. She forced herself to resist, the throne calling out with dark Sith energy, prodding into her mind with the temptation of taking a seat.
“We must not sit,” Verse spat firmly in strong Hapan lilt.
“Fine, you be imprisoned here forever!” Nadrin retorted, gesticulating with irritation. “Trap or no trap, I am frakking tired of waiting for something to happen!”
The Hapan reached out as if to stop him, but it was already too late. The robed Sith ensconced himself in the throne, his hands sliding onto the jeweled armrests, posterior sinking in the plush scarlet of the seat.
For a moment, nothing happened. His body stilled, expression concealed by the hollow look of his skull-faced death mask. Verse cautiously approached as she inquired, “Do you feel anything?”
The Warlord did not reply. Instead, the Hapan was stunned by the whoosh of ignition as flames sprang up instantly on two opposing sides of the chamber. Tall and menacing, the flames erupted to veil the walls on either side of the room, completely blocking the entrance from which they had came.
Distracted by the shooting flames, the Knight realized only after a moment the compromising position that her companion may have found himself in. While his facial features were still hidden by his mask, Verse noticed that his body had begun to violently tremble, knuckles white as he gripped each arm of the throne.
“Get off of there!” shouted Verse, as she yanked at one of his arms in an attempt to pull him away. Her efforts appeared futile, however, as she found herself unable to move the Warlord even one inch. Through invisible Force energy Nadrin appeared to to be bonded to the throne, and the Hapan knew no amount of tugging on her end would be able to free him.
She cried out in rage. “Say something, then! Do something!” Utterly helpless and unable to escape, the young Knight watched Nadrin with fear-stricken eyes. Without any ideas, this challenge would be his alone to win.
Why must every interaction with that woman have to end with me running her down?
Timeros’ footfalls clacked against the floor, rebounding off of walls as he did his best to ignore the gruesome tableau surrounding him. Somewhere ahead of him, he knew, Socorra was still bolting away, driven to panic by the labyrinth’s hallucinations.
It had been like this for as long as the Adept could recall; he remembered each incident with detached interest. Somehow, despite having been his assistant for years, the young Sith managed to end up on opposite sides from him in every conflict. The Entar had been forced to beat her down several times now, with occasional regret but never hesitation.
Apparently, the Battlelord had not yet learned her lesson.
He threw his senses forward, attempting to track his fleeing assistant. She was somewhere ahead of him, an elusive presence known in direction rather than distance. Confusing matters further, the hallways now split and curved where they had previously been straight lines, and he was forced several times to backtrack as his sprint hit upon dead ends. If it had not been for Socorra’s distinctive presence, he would have lost track of her long ago. The bronze-skinned woman was radiating delirium like a torch, and her surroundings obliged her mad impulses: burnt flesh, acrid and coppery, wafted across the corridor and into his nostrils. The floor had taken on a greasy cast, and the smears of paleness strewn across the floor were all too familiar to the Arconae.
Human fat, molten from bones and left to congeal upon the floor. Timeros ignored the still-warm grease: he had done as much to others and besides, he had –
A slightly battered form crashed into him, screeching with panicked fury as she ignited her lightsaber.
Socorra was somewhat disheveled, her hair hanging in loose strands, single eye pulsing with fear and her fingernails bloody and broken, as if she had been trying to scale sheer walls. Behind her obvious terror, however, the woman’s hands remained smooth and steady, and there was no hesitation whatsoever in her as she lunged for his throat.
The Arconae swerved on the balls of his feet, using the grease-marked floor to ease into a pivot, saber lashing at his assistant’s unprotected neck. It was, in truth, a test more than a serious attack, to see if the Sith still had her wits about her. Indeed, the Battlelord dodged the amethyst gout of flame by the slimmest of margins, hairstrands abruptly severed as she dug underneath his riposte. Her mind, still addled with fear, seemed only dimly aware that she was currently fighting for her life. When her superior’s next strike fell, she caught the weapon and turned it aside, inches from her face, impact sparks sizzling on her eye ignored. Wasting no time, she tried to withdraw, hoping to find some distance now that sheer surprise had failed to fell the Adept.
Timeros did not allow her the chance. He kicked off against a nearby wall, skidding across the greasy floor. Socorra responded with a sudden and vicious stab, the lightsaber arcing for the Battleteam Leader’s stomach.
The Adept’s wave of movement turned to a sudden flash of quicksilver alacrity, moving far faster than any man had a right to be. He spun on his heels, sidestepping the lethal blow even as he countered the stab with one of his own.
Unlike his XO’s savage attack, however, the amethyst beam moved almost gracefully, tracing the outline of the woman’s inner arm from wrist to elbow. The motion could even be called gentle, were it not for the acrid tang of flesh, withering under the saber's caustic blade.
Socorra shouted as agony suddenly flooded her body, flesh searing away under the Entar’s ministrations. Her lightsaber clattered uselessly to the floor, even as Timeros reached for her face with his free hand. Somehow, the Battlelord had the presence of mind to snap at him, catching his middle two fingers and biting down, hard.
For one moment, she could taste blood, heady and triumphant, a small victory against her superior’s overpowering force now granted a palate of its own. The next, Timeros surged with the Dark Side and pushed, using his leverage to slam her into a wall.
Darkness rose and swallowed her whole.
Timeros hissed softly as the girl fell, ignoring the biting pain in his bleeding fingers. He reached down, grunting as he heaved the bronze-skinned XO and slung her over his shoulder, before turning around.
I hope I can find my way back to the Well. After all, it would do little good to take Socorra with me if I cannot get her in.
Nadrin’s first thought as he sat in the throne was of appreciation for it’s creator; the thing was comfortable. He was interrupted however when he felt his body begin to vibrate, alarm bursting through his brain as his body refused to obey his commands. Suddenly, he felt the sensation of being pulled as the vibrating stopped and the Warlord found himself separated from his body, standing a short distance away and experiencing the decidedly weird sensation of watching himself from what he could only assume was the spirit plane. He seemed to be standing above the room, looking down on what was happening to him and Verse’s futile attempts to help him. Tearing his eyes away from the sight of his shaking body, the Erinos turned to see two other people standing in his immediate vicinity; one he recognised and one that he didn’t.
“This is a very unusual stand-off; me, my dad and then what I can only imagine is a Sith Lord of some considerable power. Was it your chair I sat in just now?”
Zandro rolled his eyes at the comment, whereas the as-yet unknown Sith seemed completely unperturbed by the Arconan’s flippant remark. His opulent robes were spotless and a large plumed helmet of deepest obsidian sat atop his head, hiding his features in shadow. The outfit was as imposing as it was elegant, an outward sign of his power and arrogance. When he spoke, the deep baritone that emerged seemed to pierce the veil of sarcasm that normally cocooned the Warlord and shake his resolve, the tone strumming innate chords of disquiet and fear within Nadrin’s soul.
“Your progress has halted, and by sitting in that throne you have submitted yourself to my judgement. I alone can reveal the path forward, but to do so I need to be...persuaded.”
The statement hung in the air as Nadrin tried to think of some way he could deal with this man, musing on why this particular Sith had been ensconced in the labyrinth through which the Arconan team were attempting to progress.
“Well, normally I would interrogate you, but I have a feeling that wouldn’t work here so instead I’ll simply go with the obvious choice and ask you straight; what is it you want?”
The glint of teeth as a grin pierced the shadows that lurked beneath the Sith Lord’s helmet bored a further hole in Nadrin’s resolve.
“You aren’t seriously considering this?”
Nadrin turned to look at Zandro, the young Arconae’s face as unreadable as the mask that he normally wore. His father's features twisted into pursed lips and a furrowed brows, a bitter mixture of anger and anxiety.
“Anything for the Clan, right?”
Zandro let out a strangled noise of frustration at Nadrin’s words, his remaining eye blazing with an intensity that shocked the young Sith slightly.
“This is nothing like the choice I made. I did what I did to save the Clan, the Brotherhood even, from forces that would have torn them apart. This...this is a shortcut. This is meaningless.”
I have no other choice...do I?
Nadrin paused, biting back a response that had been on the tip of his tongue as that errant thought entered his mind, blasting away the witty comeback he had been about to unleash. He had been brought up to believe that there was always a choice, always another way, and that the difficulty was in identifying what the alternative was. He continued to look over at the spirit of his father, remembering the feelings of being watched and judged that had blanketed him over the year since he had first been possessed by his father in the Sith Temple on Rhelg. He remembered the times that control of his own body had been wrested away from him by a man he had barely known. He remembered the resentment that had grown within him as he had looked for a way, any way, to rid himself of this spirit that had seemed to condemn every choice he had made and lament what Nadrin had become.
Two birds and all that.
Nadrin turned around to face the Sith Lord once more, ignoring his father’s statement as he spoke.
“You will have your soul, spirit.”
He raised his right arm and pointed it at Zandro, refusing to look over at his father.
'The glint of teeth flashed into a wicked grin, piercing the darkness that shrouded the Sith Lord's face.
A cry of betrayal shattered the silence before being extinguished, and when Nadrin turned back to look at Zandro, the man was simply gone. Nadrin exhaled, not realising that he had been holding his breath before glancing back to look at the remaining spirit, his voice laced with confidence as he spoke.
“I will be going back to my body now. I have done as you asked, open the way.”
The spirit faded from view, it’s last words coming just as it disappeared fully.
“As you wish, Sith.”
Nadrin once more felt the uncomfortable sensation of being sucked towards something, and opened his eyes to find himself once more sat on the throne. His companion stood in front of him, fear evident in her eyes for a moment before it began to recede, replaced by a mask of calm, familiar blankness. The Warlord rose gingerly, his body feeling slightly unwieldy due to his temporary absence from it.
“The spirit has been placated, there should be a way out open for us now.”
Even as he spoke, the shooting flames that lined the outside of the wall seemed to fluctuate wildly and it took Nadrin a few moments to realise that they were undulating towards a section of the wall that was simply not there any more. Nodding towards the new opening, the Sith began to walk towards the exit.
“How did you do this?”
Nadrin paused, struggling to find a suitable way to explain what had happened.
The thought was his own, unfiltered and unblemished by his father’s influence as the realisation that he was finally free washed over the Warlord. He grinned, the expression hidden beneath his mask as he walked past Verse and away from the throne.
“I paid the toll. Come on, we’re wasting time.”
Wuntila tensed. Dark tendrils of the Force seemed to ebb below the ground. They flowed, swirling at his feet, growing larger by the second as they licked at the soles of his boots.
“So what do we do?” Legorii’s distant voice snapped him back into reality. And with it, he heard the groans. Hundreds of faraway voices straining, pained.
“Wuntila!” Legorii spat, tears now streaming down his chiseled features.
“Shut up. Listen.” Wuntila swung a colossal arm into the Anzat’s chest as he spoke; it was meant as nothing more than to stir the Proconsul’s attentions, but the Entar did not respond in kind. The tendrils of dark Force energy rushed up into Legorii as he ducked under the mammoth, muscular arm with preternatural speed, throwing his body up into Wuntila’s own. The former Consul stumbled with the unexpected collision, bouncing off the wall on the opposite side of the narrow corridor.
“Legorii--” Wuntila began regaining his footing, but was cut short by a quick chop to his throat. He stumbled back, clutching at his neck with thick, meaty hands. The Dragon shook his head, clarity returning to his vision, and drew upon the Force as Legorii dashed forward. The Human-Theelin was surprisingly agile for someone of his size and he dipped to the side, allowing the Anzat to careen past him and into the wall that had originally blocked their passage.
“Stop!” Wuntila growled, his right hand outstretched, his left fingering the lightsaber hanging from his belt. The Proconsul halted with gritted teeth, eyes blood red. “Listen!”
The groans grew louder as the two Arconans froze. The lazy padding of muffled footsteps rung along the corridor from whence they came.
“This way.” Wuntila said, running back down the tunnelway. Legorii fell in step as they weaved through the winding, narrow corridor. They turned a corner and spotted a smaller passageway inset into one of the elaborate carvings on the wall, but stumbling past it was a sea of shuffling bodies.
Putrid flesh hung from bleached bones, dark blood stained faces, and cold dark eyes stared at the two men. “Run! Back the way we came!” Legorii screamed, but Wuntila grabbed one of the Anzat’s arms pulling him easily back in line beside him when the Proconsul turned to bolt.
“And pin ourselves further away from the only conceivable exit? No.” Dragonsbreath leapt up into Wuntila’s hand, spitting teal fire into the darkness. They dashed forward, Soulflayer spinning outwards into the amalgam of rotting bodies and erupting in a brilliant arc of yellow, cutting through flesh and limbs before circling round to be caught by Legorii mid-stride.
The two Arconans became flashes in the blackness, the staccato rhythm of Wuntila’s methodical strikes punctuated by the flurry of Legorii’s elaborate swordplay. A sea of faces stretched into the darkness within the narrow corridor, but the two Arconans pressed on, unperturbed. They surged forward, through the bodies and towards the narrow walkway. It did not take long to push through the biting, clawing mass of dangling flesh and, with a little effort to carve through the stragglers who had begun to spill into the smaller walkway, they broke free, sprinting toward the faint light at the end of the tunnel.
Wuntila emerged first in a wide chamber, amber light emanating from a burning brazier at its centre. The former Consul turned, watching Legorii follow him through the small doorway. He extinguished his lightsaber, clipping it to his belt, and reached out with the Force, grabbing the rough hewn stone above the entrance.
“Legorii!” Wuntila bellowed as the mass of bodies began stumbling into the chamber. The Proconsul resisted against the strange power playing with his emotions and channeled the Force, bolstering Wuntila’s efforts. The two men strained, dragging the heavy stonework downwards. Hairline cracks became gaping crevasses and, finally, the stone gave way. The wall crumbled, burying the creatures, and settled in a plume of dust.
The two men exchanged a glance and took a moment to catch their breaths.
“What on earth is up with you?” The Dragon finally grumbled through laboured breaths.
“I… I don’t quite know,” the Anzat replied almost quizzically.
“Well whatever it is, make sure you aren’t compromised. I don’t have any qualms about leaving you behind.”
“The same way you left the Clan behind?” Legorii found himself asking the question before realising he had asked it.
“I don’t have time for this. Come, let’s go.”
The pounding headache felt like an Ewok playing drums with her head. Socorra’s lone eye rolled in its socket as she came back to consciousness, groggy with an incomplete memory. Her raven-haired head bounced with every step Timeros took until finally she was awake enough to realize she was being carried.
“What. The frak. Are you doing? Put me down, you brute.”
The Arconae stopped upon entering the chamber of the well again, contemplating his next course of action.
“I am not sure that is a good idea. Are you ready to face the Well, or will you run off again?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. Put me down before I bite an ear off.”
Timeros raised his blood-caked hand for her to see. “Wouldn’t be the first time you bit me.”
"...Are you sure? I think l'd remember the taste of asshole."
"It was probably not the first time for that, either."
Before she could retort he let go and dumped the woman on the dirt floor. Socorra sprung back up swiftly, her arm outstretched to pull her weapons from his belt with the Force. It was met with little resistance, as the Krath’s focus was seemingly centered on the middle of the chamber, where the well rested.
The Battlelord’s arm was still in pain, the long lightsaber burn vaguely reminding her of what had transpired. “Wait.” She turned her eye to what was suddenly an ordinary stone well in the room, her head cocking to the side as she tried to remember.
“Come,” he said, beckoning her to the edge of it. “You need to look inside. The quicker, the better.”
She looked at Timeros warily, but shrugged her shoulders and moved forward, coming up beside him.
“What do you see?”
The Entar raised an eyebrow almost imperceptibly. “That is good. Let’s go.”
Socorra followed his lead and stepped into the hole in the ground, still attempting to fully recollect what had just transpired.
“Where are we? What is this place?” Wuntila raised his lightsaber above his head like a torch, inspecting his surroundings as he walked.
The two Arconans moved through the chamber briskly, leaving the groaning heap of flesh and stone behind them. The chamber, illuminated only by a brazier and the indigo and emerald lights casting shadows across the stone floor, was vast and barren. Legorii’s Anzati eyes, keener than his companion’s in the dim light, were able to make out the shape of three trailing tunnels.
“There seem to be three tunnels, all leading away from us,” he murmured, as much to himself as to Wuntila.
The former Consul nodded. “Do you sense that? Something...a Force signature of some sort.” The uncertainty in the Human-Theelin’s voice was uncharacteristic, but in the labyrinth, the Dark Side was unyielding. Deception ruled here, and it was all too easy to mistake an eons-old trap for the comforting presence of a friend. Wuntila was too cautious for such an error, but the presence was too distinct to ignore.
“I do. Timeros must be nearby,” Legorii agreed tersely.
The air seemed to crackle with Force energy as the Arconans moved toward the mouths of the three tunnels. The tension between them had not decreased. Instead, it seemed only to grow, to writhe and twist poisonously. The serpent of distrust was coiling around the Proconsul, separating him from the man who had once been his friend and mentor. Questions were bubbling up from within, frothing and boiling, ready to burst forth…
But the voices in his head had stopped. The Epis had suppressed them for now. My behavior was unacceptable. He wanted to blame it on the powerful currents of Dark Side power and the lingering curses placed upon the labyrinth by long-dead Sith sorcerers, but knew that it was cowardly to do so. He would own up to his failings. He would give Wuntila ample time to explain his absence, and to prove his loyalty to the Shadow Clan once more.
I will not accept that what we once had is lost. I must trust that he had good reason for abandoning us.
Wuntila motioned with his lightsaber toward the right-most tunnel. “What is that?” His voice was barely above a whisper, but the Anzat was already moving. Darting toward the mouth of the tunnel, he took up a defensive position around the corner. Wuntila followed his lead, taking a similar stance on the opposite side. Seconds ticked by as they held their breath.
“...carry me there, but you will not carry me down the stairs,” a vaguely feminine voice carried through the stale air down the tunnel.
Legorii cocked an eyebrow at his companion. He thought he recognized the voice, but…
“Quiet. I sense something.”
At the sound of the second voice, a grin spread across the Anzat’s features. Wuntila recognized the voice as well, and together the two stepped out in front of the tunnel.
“About time you two joined us,” Legorii called, his voice carrying down the corridor to where the two lost Arconans stood, frozen in surprise.
As Timeros and Socorra stepped forward to meet them, Legorii appraised both Aretans. “You don’t look so good,” he said, his gaze lingering on the Adept’s bloodied hand. “Are you alright?”
The Entar’s response was characteristically clipped. “We’re fine.” At his side, Socorra rolled her eye and crossed her arms across her chest.
“Any news of the sword?” the Sith asked, though she could see that neither man had it with them. Their expressions confirmed her belief, and she sighed. “Do we at least have any ideas?”
Wuntila shook his head. “Your guess is as good as ours. Our first priority has been finding you.”
“Well, flattered though I am, we need to get that thing and get out of here,” Socorra responded. Under her breath, she muttered, “If someone hasn’t already beaten us to it…”
Timeros turned toward the middle tunnel. “We can go no deeper. It must be close.” He set off down the passage with the others close behind. Legorii, falling into step beside Wuntila once more, said nothing more to him. His doubts crept back to the forefront of his mind...where had he gone...why had he come back…
Nadrin and Verse did not speak as they limped along a circuitous route inside the labyrinth. The Hapan’s head continued to pound from her prior tumble into the rocky cave-in, each step she took painfully thumping against her cranium.
Glances to the Arconae that accompanied her revealed little about what had occurred during his brief lapse into immobility while he sat in the throne that they had discovered earlier. He appeared to carry himself with the same confidence and resolution that he had maintained throughout their time together. Under normal circumstances, curiosity would have bit at the Hapan’s thoughts to discover more of the toll that her companion had paid for the both of them. In this case, however, the urgency of their current situation sapped her focus, and caused the Knight’s concentration to be bound solely to endure the pain and press forward. For the time being, Nadrin would be alone with his secret.
At a sharp twist in their route, the pair found themselves faced with a wall of smooth stone. Verse’s stomach wrenched as she remembered the last stretch of agonized travel, loathing the idea of backtracking. As the Hapan focused on the wall in the dim light, however, she became heartened by her discovery and broke the silence between herself and the Battlelord.
“It is a door,” proclaimed Verse in heavy Hapan lilt, as she traced the hinges with a gauntleted finger.
“So it would seem,” replied Nadrin, his tone somewhat cryptic. “After you, then.”
Verse shot a glance of disdain back at the Sith as she heaved the heavy stone alone, her soft-muscled form straining against the weight of the massive block.
The door, edged in dried mud and dust built up from ages past, initially resisted her pull. The Knight bucked and clenched her teeth in effort, eventually managing to slide the door partially ajar. She hissed to the waiting Nadrin, “We should consider rest soon...conserve our energy.”
Nadrin did not remark, his skull deathmask concealing whatever feelings he may have had on the matter. The decision would be difficult to weigh, as Verse imagined even short-term survival odds slim within this wretched underground. While her body screamed for reprieve, she could only move forward in the hope that they may find a way out. It would not be too much longer, the Knight mused, before this Sith-cursed labyrinth would strip that hope away from them.
The narrow passage created by sliding the door ajar revealed total blackness on the other side, in contrast to the dim lighting that had been diffused through the labyrinth halls up until now. On the other side, Verse would be blind, as courtesy of her Hapan heritage. She briefly thought back to the unsalvageable helmet that she had left behind at the rock cave-in, regretting not having her onboarded night-goggles.
Here was the only way forward. Without further hesitation, Verse squeezed through the opening between the rough-hewn wall and the door.
As expected, Verse could see nothing but black void before her, but the echoes of her boots on the floor of the chamber suggested that she had emerged in a larger passage. A miser with her Force sight, Verse resisted the temptation to scope out the room when it seemed by all other senses rather quiet and empty. She hoped that she would not run into anything.
Suddenly, an amethyst saber flashed into view as it snap-hissed to life, wielded by a hulking form. Verse leapt back with a yelp, fingering the hilt of her own saber and weighing her chances in a near-blind lightsaber duel. The saber held steady before her, and the Hapan heard more sabers activate, generating enough light that she could make out the forms. A suspicious Wuntila stood before her in ready stance, flanked by the forms of Timeros and Legorii. A silhouette of a figure that the Knight could only imagine was Socorra stood back farther.
“What do you think you guys are doing?!” the shrill voice of Nadrin echoed behind Verse, now joining her in the chamber. “And by the way, you really could have slid the door open wide enough to fit a man,” he chided Verse with coarse sarcasm as he plodded up to the newly-formed reunion.
“We heard sounds from a nearby passage, something is coming our way,” explained Legorii, keeping his lightsaber drawn to bear light on their features. He too looked thoroughly harrowed from his own journey, the Anzat’s scarred features drawn into a grim expression.
“A ‘glad to see you are alive’ would have been nice to start with...” snarked Nadrin, while he raised his blaster chest-high. At the warning, Verse too gripped her favored Relby pistol as she peered out into what was only blackness to her.
“Shh, he-” someone began to speak, but their words were unheard when a sudden boom assaulted the area, and a chamber wall blasted down in a billowing cloud of ancient dust and particulates. Light streamed in from behind the destroyed wall to illuminate the one that had tore through it. Towering over the rubble, a massive beast slowly rose its head, beady eyes glowing white. Standing erect, long forelimbs and hairless body revealed the monster as an enormous rancor. However, a dark presence accompanied the beast, much more than the standard fare of average rancors.
The creature strained its veined muscles and opened its maw wide to emit a sickened roar. The vocalization strained and permeated with revulsion and terror; it was clear that this rancor was no longer a living being. This beast was a horrid ideation of Sith Magic, animated through the Force to carry out the ends of its Master as a Sith Undead.
Verse was hit with the stench of the creature’s putrid breath as vibrations of its bellow carried throughout the chamber. Lifeless and willed to wanton ruination, the tainted reptomammal lowered its shoulders and charged towards the Arconans.
POST 15: Timeros
For a moment, all six Arconans stood transfixed.
“Is that thing real?” Timeros heard Socorra mutter the question under her breath as she reached, perhaps unconsciously, for the back of her head.
The rancor reached them, bellowing a gravelly challenge as it raised one claw and slammed it down. Instantly, the Arconans’ demeanor changed. They scattered, rolling aside and taking to the air as the beast’s claws raked along the floor, tearing deep gashes in the ancient stones.
Timeros, landing lightly on his feet, wasted no time dashing forward, lightsaber unfurling as he struck for the monster’s heel. Opposite him, Legorii did the same, glowing beam of light tearing through the animal’s graying flesh. Yet, while the creature roared in agony at the weapons’ caustic bite, it did not fall: flesh knitted itself back together moments after the Dark Jedi struck.
“Healer!” Legorii shouted, perhaps redundantly, before ducking underneath another swipe, barely dodging the roaring creature. To his side, Verse and Nadrin leveled their blasters, unleashing a torrent of fire on the rancor. Crimson bolts did, indeed, rip through the undead animal’s chest, but they were like punching holes in water: the reptomammal regenerated before their eyes, seemingly from the dust itself.
The creature growled again, turning around and breathing, poisonous fumes barreling towards the shooting Dark Jedi. They were forced to relocate, scrambling away as the poison stripped away dust, grime and even layers of rock, melting under its acidic touch.
Socorra ran to a side immediately, leveling her own blaster with her sole remaining eye and firing bolt after bolt into the animal. Like the others, she failed to find purchase on the storming creature, the consequences of her fire evaporating in seconds. The rancor, in turn, bolted forwards, finding another prey. Behind it, Timeros made use of the opportunity to throw himself onto the creature’s back, saber digging uselessly into a constantly reforming spine. The animal’s steps faltered, and its next swipe hit with stone-crushing force – but missed the raven-haired Battlelord, cracking the tiles feet away from her. The creature roared in response, and another fume of sickly green poison narrowly missed the still-shooting pair of Nadrin and Verse.
Its next swipe, however, was set to come straight down on Legorii.
Wuntila appeared seemingly out of nowhere, his massive bulk slamming the Proconsul out of the way as he raised a pair of equally colossal arms into the air, fortifying himself with the Dark Side just instants before the rancor’s swipe hit the ground. The hulking Theelin grunted as the claw came down, but he had chosen his position carefully, and he moved with the impact. Amazingly, impossibly, he held, groaning as he struggled against the rancor’s claws.
“Now,” the Exarch snarled through clenched teeth. Immediately, Legorii jumped forward, his saber tearing through the animal’s extended claw. The blue-skinned half-Human tore away the creature’s arm as it fell, throwing it on the ground and battering against it, punching it savagely, fists becoming steadily stained with grime as he literally beat the rancor’s detached arm into dust.
It’s our weapons, Timeros realized, as he saw the creature’s arm collapse in on itself, leaving only an expanding cloud of dirt. Instantly, he shut off his lightsaber and reached down, slamming at the animal’s head, his putrid touch leaving searing infected wounds. The other Arconans, somewhere beneath him, did the same, rushing the animal from all sides as it wailed from the distraction. Moments later, the four had punched, kicked and bitten through the creature’s ankles, just as the Adept brought his own fist down on the animal’s head with all the force – and Force - he could muster.
The rancor hit the stone with a single, long wail of agony – or perhaps, release? - collapsing into dust as soon as it hit the floor. Timeros emerged, rolling, from the creature’s exploding dust, coughing heavily as he stood up. Behind him, Wuntila likewise emerged from his struggle with the animal’s claw. The Theelin’s knuckles were filthy and smeared with blood, but his jaw was set in a triumphant grin.
“We should go,” the Exarch rumbled.
Hastily, his fellow Arconans continued down the passageway.
The six Arconans had wasted no time in fleeing from the chamber within which the putrid remains of the rancor lay, all injuries ignored as adrenaline fuelled their fight. There was an unmistakable air permeating through the group; they were getting close to their prize.
Nadrin’s mind was not quite fully focused on the immediacy of their victory however, instead he was still revelling in part at how free his mind felt without the constant comments coming from his father. He knew that some small part of him regretted what he had done, and he knew that he felt some modicum of shame or he would have told Verse and the others of his success at passing the Sith spirit’s test and ridding himself of his father’s influence in one swift stroke, yet he held back.
They would say it is dishonourable, that I had no right to use Zandro’s spirit like some sort of credit chip to pay our way through. I don’t fully believe that, but I do think that if they found out they would treat me very differently, and that’s not something I want.
The team’s progress carried on unimpeded as they navigated their way through the passage that they were heading down. Wuntila and Timeros led the way with Verse and Legorii behind them and Socorra and Nadrin forming the rear pair of the advancing formation, the young Arconae battling with himself over whether to reveal what had happened to Socorra and let her know that she could stop looking for ways of ridding Nadrin of his father’s spirit.
No, I don’t want to lose this camaraderie. For now, we are united in our common purpose, and I don’t wish for that to be risked. I will have to keep this secret for a little while longer at least; the mission must come first.
“I can feel something ahead. Be ready.”
Timeros’ comments cut through Nadrin’s self-absorbed thinking and brought his attention back to the matter at hand. Mentally readying himself, the young Warlord checked the charge on his blaster pistol and was pleased to see that it was still mostly full, confident in the fact that his Force reserves would be sufficient to at least allow him to go down fighting if whatever was ahead proved to be particularly potent. An opening from the passageway seemed to grow in front of the group slowly, yawning open like the mouth of a rancor as the sextet approached it and then passed through it, out into a large chamber lit with an odd green hue by torches that were lodged in the walls of the room. In the middle of the room was a statue of a warrior, standing with expressionless menace and a rather impressive looking sword in a stoney sheath at the statue’s hip. More interestingly, attached to the sword was a severed hand, withered by the ages but still somehow attached by whatever magics had cause it to remain in place in the first place.
“Looks like someone beat us to it.”
Nadrin’s comment was fairly pointless as everyone could see the trio that was stood before them, surveying the sword in the stone statue. One of them turned around and some hint of recognition flashed through the Arconae’s mind but even as he tried to remember where he recognised this woman from his Proconsul spoke, the Anzat sounding like he was spitting out the words.
“Dantella Novae, I didn’t expect to find you here. What is your purpose here?”
The woman flashed a thin-lipped smile at Legorii after he spoke, her eyes as hard as transparisteel and half as expressive.
“Your Grand Master made a deal with me; release me from prison and I would be his lapdog. Servitude beats imprisonment so here I am, doing a job that you were ordered to do but beating you to it.”
Legorii scowled at the woman, looking like he was weighing up the odds if it came down to a fight between his group and Dantella’s. While he knew just how strong his men were, he knew that Dantella was at least Timeros’ equal and had no knowledge whatsoever of the strength that this Adept’s fellows possessed.
“It seems to me like we’re all here for the same reason, but I must warn you that I fully intend to take that sword and fulfil my mission. You will not stop me, though by cooperating you may rest assured that I will inform the Grand Master of your assistance.”
The tension in the air was unmistakable and Nadrin spared a glance down at the blaster that hung on his hip, bemoaning the fact that if it came a fight here the weapon would be rendered relatively useless thanks to his opponents’ lightsaber usage. Looking over at his Proconsul, the Warlord waited with bated breath to see what would happen.
Smash or grab, or do we just slink off. We can’t let this woman beat us, the sword is too big a bargaining chip for us to simply walk away from.
The words that came from Legorii next, however, were entirely unexpected and seemed to take the Sith aback.
“So, what have you surmised by inspecting the sword so far?”
“My thoughts are my own, ” Dantella Novae spat in response. “Now, if you don’t mind…”
Dantella flicked her wrist casually, throwing a wall of Force energy at the Arconans. It hit them like a freighting barge and, whilst Timeros, Nadrin and Legorii had a natural affinity with the Force enabling them to brace against the assault, the three remaining Arconans flew limply backwards, smashing into the cold stone floor underfoot.
“Meagre.” The woman cackled, turning to place a hand on the hilt of the sword. Timeros, however, bolted forward, dipping between the somewhat sluggish slashes of her counterparts, and threw himself at the Sith. Dantella slammed to the floor, Timeros flipping over her lithely before turning and meeting her with the tip of his lightsaber. She jumped to her feet, her own lightsaber spinning through the air and into her open palm.
She stepped forward, her expression souring. “I don’t have time for this.” She leapt to the side, narrowly avoiding Timeros’ lightsaber and darted forward in a blur. The Krath dipped, avoiding her attack for the most part, but stumbled as he caught the trailing end of her foot. They launched back in without respite, lunging, diving, striking and evading with every ounce of their being. At least, that’s what it felt like to Timeros; to Dantella, he could only assume it was at best a minor annoyance. He ducked under a wayward strike, rolling to meet her lightsaber with his own before drawing upon the Force...
Nadrin and Legorii had taken Timeros’ cues well. As he darted forward, they followed in tow, engaging the overreaching assailants as the Adept bolted through. Nadrin flipped up, assaulting one of the Force-users - an overly bulky male - with his own quick, snapping strikes. His small frame coupled with his attuned sense of the Force made his attacks swift, neat and precise. Through the legs of the statue he could see Legorii fighting furiously with the other Sith, his eyes streaming with tears and with gritted teeth fully bared.
Wuntila shook the haze from his vision and pushed himself to his feet. To his left Socorra was doing the same, but Verse looked more than a little worse for wear. Still, she picked herself up just in time to see the Dragon and Socorra sprinting forward to join the melee. She followed hastily, her lightsaber springing to life.
“Legorii!” Wuntila bellowed, pointing at the Anzat. Socorra knew that it was an order, not a statement. She bolted forward, crossing over Wuntila’s path and towards her struggling Proconsul. The former Consul looked over his shoulder and pointed, directing Verse towards Nadrin. She nodded, drawing upon the Force to rush into the fray. The Arconae, however, did not intend to fight, despite his inclination for blood sports...
He stopped at the foot of the statue. Against the far wall Timeros held Dantella’s attacks at bay. But he was tiring. Quickly. For such a towering figure, Wuntila felt largely unnoticed by the warring parties to his flanks. It was a golden moment of opportunity, and he seized it with both hands. Literally.
He wrapped both hands around the sword’s hilt and began to strain against the scabbard, but before he could react, the Force swallowed him.
Red faces. Screaming. Fire. Bloodied eyes. Tears. Tears of blood. Faces. Burning. Burnt flesh. Horror. Disbelief. A world in ruin. War. Pale faces. Tattooed men. Shirtless. Lightsabers. An army. An army illuminated by crimson. Fatigue. Desperation. Destruction. Domination. Death…
The Exarch’s eyes rolled into the back of his head as images assaulted his senses. He felt himself wrenched backwards, but he held his grip. Sith and Arconans alike looked up in disbelief as the former Consul seemed to be pulled upwards towards the ceiling as he held onto the sword.
One hand slipped free, and before Wuntila could react, he saw the other explode outward in an orb of crimson and flesh. He smashed into the vaulted roof above, clawing with his remaining good hand. The Force surged through him and the sword shuddered. Growling, he pulled harder, the Force extending his grip. Suddenly the sword broke free from its tomb, flying upwards and piercing the former Consul through his shoulder. He hung limply for a moment, his body pinned against the obsidian stonework by Ferran’s sword. Then, with all the strength he could find, he reached out, ripping the sword from both wall and flesh, and he fell the long distance to the ground.
He struck the floor with a mighty clunk, the sword beneath his barrel-like chest. His arm was outstretched, flesh hanging from a stump just below the elbow.
The Arconans and Sith watched as his breath shallowed… and stopped.
Once the sword was freed, the One Sith seemed to double in their fervor to lay claim to it as they returned their attentions to the Arconans. A crimson river pooled beneath the felled Human-Theelin, filling in the ancient cracks in the ardent stone below and beside him. The battles in the chamber were reflected in the puddles in glorious displays of superhuman feats. The combatants spun and weaved with brilliant flashes of colored plasma mirrored in the pools, complete stillness in the liquid suddenly shattered by little ripples forming, slowly growing stronger by the second.
“Wuntila!” Legorii shouted, his voice echoing through the chamber and the empty corridors, his lightsaber locking with that of his foe, the heavily-muscled One Sith pushing him back even more until Socorra’s own weapon joined the fray. The male Human broke off before it became a match of strength, but the female Socorran spun to the side and introduced her pistol from her hip, splitting his attention. Legorii outstretched his arm, calling upon the Force to wrench the stone out from beneath their foe’s feet. Suddenly knocked off-balance, the One Sith managed to bat away a blaster bolt as he tumbled backwards, but was unable to stop the Anzat from dashing forward with incredible speed and beheading him with one swift swing.
They needed no words spoken, no orders made; Legorii watched as Socorra turned and sprang towards the fallen Arconae, and the Proconsul dashed to aid Timeros, where his skills would do the most good.
Combat boots splashed through the rippling blood pools and the poly-blend material covering Soccora's knees became soaked with Theelin blood as she dropped beside her former Consul. Her fingers met cold and clammy blue skin and an unmoving chest; his former Quaestor knew instantly he was going into shock.
I wish Atty was here, Socorra thought, a flash of the beloved Miraluka entering her mind’s eye and bending over the Obelisk, healing him with practiced ease.
But she wasn’t, and with the others in combat, Wuntila would certainly die if Socorra couldn’t help him. The Battlelord wasn’t a stranger to battlefield medicine, but the one-eyed woman had become used to taking a step back with the arrival of Atyiru.
Her mind opened up like an encyclopedia, the former Krath’s own knowledge of statistics and procedures sweeping across her brain as her hands went into action.
One third of injury deaths are due to shock from blood loss. Preventing shock in people with uncontrolled bleeding is therefore vital. Treatment aims to maintain blood pressure, so that tissue damage is minimized.
The rose-colored blade ignited in her hands, and they held the lightsaber steady as it cauterized the Theelin’s arm stump. The Sith magic had jaggedly carved the limb instead of cleanly severing, and what flesh remained helped slow the loss of his precious lifeblood, though not enough.
The weapon disengaged and clattered to the stone, Socorra’s tanned and burn-scarred hands tearing at his chest and ripping off the remaining armor. She remembered the first day he had worn it, tall and proud, an Obelisk force to be reckoned with.
“Wuntila,” she called, repeating several times to bring him back to consciousness. His heartbeat was faint, and breaths nonexistent; the energy she poured into his shoulder wounds to cap the rest of the bleeding wouldn’t alone save him.
Verse, though inexperienced, held her own against the One Sith. Nadrin instead toyed with the combatant, oblivious to the rest of the group, as he feigned and parried, nearly bored with his opponent. Snide remarks crept past his lips after the One Sith made mistake after mistake against the Warlord, until Verse disengaged from the melee with a scowl upon her refined Hapan features.
“This is highly inappropriate,” the woman scolded, the lilt in her voice strong as the annoyance finally found purchase.
Nadrin shrugged at the Knight, disengaged his own weapon, and raised a hand towards the One Sith. The Force flung from it like a weapon, slamming into his face with the intensity of a space collision. Gore and matter exploded over the scene, and a disgusted expression lit Verse’s face as vile bits slid and fell off of her hide armor. Nadrin turned without a word and left her standing there as he joined the Entars.
Verse spun on her heels and headed in the opposite direction. The Hapan knelt down on the other side of Wuntila, watching as Socorra struggled and strained in deep concentration to restart the Theelin’s organs, the Force flowing freely through her body to his through her hands upon his massive chest.
“He’s not responding,” she said softly, her pale eye fluttering open. The Socorran’s dark brows furrowed as she shook her head, muttering to herself more than Verse. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. Stims aren’t helping at all, there’s just so much blood loss--”
“He is laying on the sword.”
“The sword -- help me get him off of the cursed thing.”
Socorra’s eye widened and she grabbed one of the hulking arms, heaving with the Hapan in an attempt to drag him off of the weapon. They fell backward after they had managed to pull the male nearly upright, huffing with the exertion. To their chagrin, the weapon remained buried deep in the meat of the former Consul, a force greater than gravity alone holding it fast in his flesh. The Praetor looked at the blade for a moment, before something dawned on her.
“The frak was I thinking, it’s a Sith sword that lanced him, not some ordinary thing..”
“I do not follow.”
The woman turned back to his chest, leaning over and pressing into it heavily, her teeth gritting and eye fluttering closed again as the Force surged between them.
Our emotions give us power, my passion will save you, because I command it to.
“Just die already!” Nadrin shouted as he ducked less than gracefully underneath one of Dantella’s poison-tipped daggers as it flew past where his head had been.
The Umbaran’s abilities were not to be taken lightly; even with both Nadrin and Legorii assisting Timeros and fighting her in tandem, the alchemist posed a significant challenge. And while for others it would be a great moment to relish, the Arconans were tiring, both mentally and physically.
We do not have time for this, Timeros thought. Something nagged in the back of his head even while he concentrated on the woman. He knew Wuntila had fallen, but this mental tug was different.
The momentary distraction was enough for Dantella to send another telekinetic burst at the trio and back off, creating distance between them in order to pick them off with her superior ranged abilities.
Timeros collected himself and nearly sprinted back into the fore, but the nagging sensation suddenly began shouting in alarm.
“We have to leave, now!”
“I will claim the sword!” Dantella sneered equally as loud, but her expression changed as a rumbling became loud enough to hear.
The Arconans looked up and around, and dust and sand began falling from the cracks in the ceiling.
“It is working,” Verse announced to Socorra, though the woman was deep in a trance-like state, forcing the rest of her reserves into destroying the Sith magic that had inhabited Wuntila’s body.
Parts of the ceiling began giving way, crashing to the stone ground. The Arconans and the Umbaran both dodged around the sudden obstacles, becoming separated at the same time as walls between them were created.
“Socorra, Timeros has given the order to evacuate.” Verse dared not touch the Sith, but Timeros was unafraid of disturbing her. Wuntila’s body rose in the air, still splintered by Revelation, as the Krath sprinted up to them, his hand outstretched and beckoning the Obelisk forth. The Battlelord broke from the healing trance, panting from the exertion and dark emotions still freely flowing. Her ruby lips parted to shriek at Timeros, but a grand column reaching the ceiling cracked in two and began falling on them.
“Go go go!” Legorii and Nadrin both hurled the Force at the falling stone to slow its descent while the rest sprang to their feet and charged towards a slight opening in the ceiling, light streaming through. The chamber floor began cracking and splitting, and the feminine form of Dantella could be seen attempting to navigate through it before disappearing into the darkness. The Sith curse that had preserved the hellish maze for so long had been broken, and now all was crumbling around them.
“Take over,” Timeros shouted to Nadrin, passing Wuntila into the care of the Erinos. The Theelin began to grunt at the exchange, a deep rumble rising from his throat as he regained consciousness. Timeros stepped back from the group and his mind wrapped around a large portion of the crumbling ceiling, bringing even more of it down but safely away from them while at the same time creating a portal to the surface.
Sunlight streamed in, and the whine of repulsors could barely be heard above the rumblings and collapsing of the giant ancient ruins. Soon, other Arconan teams were visible. As a transport ship descended, ducking beneath scattered blasterfire, the teams descended through the rubble. The Arconan teams formed protective barriers around the reviving Obelisk and his companions.
“Welcome back,” Nadrin smirked at Wuntila as his cerulean eyes slowly opened. Socorra rushed to his side and quickly scanned him, letting out a sigh of relief.
“By the nine Hells, Wun, Atty has a challenge ahead of her on this one,” the woman smirked as well, gesturing to the sword’s placement in Wuntila’s shoulder.
Timeros secured their line to the transport over the ruins and they were quickly evacuated, carried toward the orbiting Arconan fleet and its medical bays.
ISDII Eye of the Abyss II
Wuntila’s boots clicked against the metallic flooring of the Star Destroyer as he limped toward Consul Marick Arconae from behind. Legorii walked at his side, supporting him, streaks of blood and the grime of the labyrinth apparent on his tattered cloak. The naval officers on the bridge of the Eye of the Abyss could not help but stare as the Proconsul and former Consul approached. They had not seen the hulking blue Exarch in a long time, and they had certainly not seen him in such a state before.
“Lord Consul,” Wuntila intoned in his deep voice, his broken Aegis armor creaking as he knelt. He was in obvious pain, his right hand obliterated and deep rents visible in his armor. Marick did not turn. Legorii stood to the side, watching the exchange. Wuntila glanced at the Anzat, and then he cleared his throat. “I have brought you Revelation, the sword of Ferran, our long-dead lord.” As if to prove his point, he raised the blade above his head with a wince, offering it to the Primarch’s back. The sword, a legendary weapon in the Obelisk order, was being offered from one adherent to another; from one Consul to another. Though the torch had already been passed, Wuntila was offering to pass the very symbol of the Order’s strength to one who had been his student.
Still, the Hapan did not turn. Moments passed. Legorii stepped forward, moving close to his Consul. “Marick,” he hissed. “Take the blade.”
The Consul’s stare was glacial, but he turned. Glancing down at Wuntila, eyes lingering over his wrapped right stump, his gaze softened. “I dare not touch it, Wuntila. That sword will bring only death upon us.”
Confusion crossed the Human-Theelin’s features. “Its power is...unmistakable. With this sword, we can vanquish the upstart Clans that presume to challenge our supremacy in the Brotherhood. With this sword, we’ll take Korriban itself!” The Dragon subsided into a fit of coughing, blood and phlegm speckling his lips.
Marick smiled sadly and placed a hand on Wuntila’s shoulder. “Rise, brother. Come, look.” The Hapan helped him to his feet, carefully avoiding the recently-treated wounds. Walking slowly to the end of the bridge, the two came to the vast array of viewports that overlooked the planet below. Motioning magnanimously with one hand, the Consul drew the eyes of all watching toward the Imperial ships not too far away.
There was silence on the bridge, as recognition set in. Those ships, that had previously held their fire after an initial incident with Plagueian vessels, were regrouping. They were moving, as one, toward the Eye of the Abyss and the other assembled Arconan ships. Legorii’s breath caught in his throat as he watched.
“The One Sith. They know that we’ve taken Revelation,” Marick said simply.
Legorii’s eyes widened. “We need to move, we need to act. Mobilize the fleet, get everyone to their battle stations. Call the Iron Throne, get the Grand Master to support us!”
Marick shook his head. “No. Muz Ashen wants the sword for himself, and I will not give it to him. Besides,” he shrugged, “we cannot stand against the One Sith and this Imperial remnant here alone.”
The Anzat stood, blinking. He did not understand. “So, then...we’re just rolling over? We’re going to die here, above this long-forgotten world?”
“We need to get back to Dajorra!” Wuntila shouted, clenching his fist around the sword that was the cause of all the conflict. He gritted his teeth in pain, doubling over momentarily before regaining his voice. “We can make our stand there.”
Again, Marick shook his head. “No, no. They will follow us, and we will die there. We cannot turn back now.”
Legorii threw up his hands, turning away from his Consul. “Then what, Marick? What are we going to do?”
“We’re going to go onward. We know the coordinates of the next Sith World, and it is there that we must go to make our stand. There, the first Clan will prove its dominance, or it will be sundered by the hammer of the One Sith against the anvil of the ancient Sith,” Marick stated, as though it was a simple truth obvious to all.
A hushed calm settled over the bridge of the Star Destroyer, while neither Legorii nor Wuntila protested. Finally, Legorii found his voice. “The Estle-Eden Axis. Please, Marick, if you won’t let us call to the Grand Master, at least let us call to the Tarentae.”
Marick hesitated, and Legorii pushed on. “I’ll talk to Ernordeth, his connections there have not all dried up. Maxamillian von Oberst and their Quaestor, Scion Altera, remain allies of ours. They will lend their fleets.”
After a moment, the Consul nodded. “Alright. Get me a secure link to Scion, and quickly. We’re making the jump soon. We only have a few minutes before they’re upon us.” Legorii nodded, bowing to the Consul as he backed away.
Before he turned away, Wuntila looked down at the sword that remained in his left hand. “Well...this has been eye-opening.” He turned and limped after the Proconsul, leaving Marick alone on the bridge.
Esoteric was coming.