Chronicle: Arden Karn
Once again the Iron Throne calls upon us, calls upon me, to claim another jewel for its crown. While initially I understood the point of this crusade against the One Sith - they hit us and thus retribution was called for - this has gone far beyond simple vengeance. Four worlds should be enough, but no, Ashen desires more. More blood, more treasure, more resources being expended fighting an enemy that's not even seeing fit to strike back and do any more than fight holding actions. But why? Why keep up the pressure?
Some say it's to strengthen the Brotherhood, and maybe that's true. I don't see it, though. We send our forces at the One Sith. Sometimes we send our forces at each other in order to claim specific objectives for our selfish ends. How does that strengthen us? It's just one more example of something I have gleaned from my studies of Sith tactics and history. Every time Sith set out to conquer the Galaxy, they meet with initial success in the early stages of a war. However, as soon as some major setback occurs, we turn on each other. The unity and strength gives way to personal jealousy and internal conflict. We fight amongst ourselves, distracted from our original goals. Eventually our enemies regroup and drive us back into the shadows from whence we came. This war is just one more example.
That doesn't mean I have any less desire to win it.
I've always been a soldier and I know what my job is. My job is to win battles, to win wars, and while not losing sight of the larger picture to leave most of those concerns to those above me. Darth Ashen must have a reason for this conflict and it's not my place to question that. I've seen what happens to those who question him, and it's not a fate I seek for myself I'll continue to fight to the best of my abilities. There are, however, far more immediate concerns I find myself distracted by. They are far closer to me and are of the sort that could lead to our defeat if not dealt with.
The first I've been sensing for ages but first came to the surface on Khar Delba. There seems to be a fair number of individuals that seemed concerned with my rapid advance through the hierarchy of this house. I worry not about some of them, Teylas in particular. He's just a brash, aggressive sort that thinks with his lightsaber. I can outthink him, outmaneuver him. In fact, I already have.
The problem is he is now at the side of Alaris, and he's my bigger concern right now. I sensed how he treated me on Khar Delba. In his eyes, I'm still a whelp to be broken in. I might still have much to learn, but he underestimates me . He only sees my relative lack of skill in the Force. He apparently hasn't learned that, for me, the Force is a tool, not a crutch. I use it to supplement other skills. I might not be the greatest with a lightsaber, though I'm getting better. A lightsaber is irrelevant at two kilometers, though. I put a hole in Solus from a kilometer and a half - I could do the same to that blue twit if it came to that. But Teylas and him together? That could be a problem. A problem I can't solve entirely on my own. I have Celevon, but I'm not sure I can trust him.
I need someone else.
I would have once said that someone would be Solus, but after Khar Delba, I doubt him. I had to save him from an enemy whom he let escape. I know he's more capable than that, but I have begun to question that faith. No, Solus is not the answer. I need someone more powerful than him.
I need Ronovi.
I feel strange saying that out loud. She hasn't exactly been my biggest fan in our prior interactions. She's already tried to kill me once, though she was not herself then. Still, she may be my best hope. She's got the ear of the Dread Lord, she's got contacts on Antei, and she seems to be the one person who can keep Solus in check. I can't think of anyone better to be associated with. I might have to learn to like Whyren's Reserve, but I think that's a sacrifice I'm prepared to make. Together, we'd make a good team. We complement each other. She's an impulsive drunk, a blunt instrument like most Obelisk. I'm calm and calculating, and drunk a lot less often. She'll try to manipulate me, use me, and I might even allow it for a while. What is clear is that she's my best path to greater power, and perhaps continued survival.
That only leaves the battle ahead as a concern. I've read the reports on Ch'hodos. Interesting place. A desert world, somewhere I can go without my mask if I so choose. It might be good to show my face again, and the ancient fortress of Shar Dakhan might be the place. Or perhaps not, if I'm reading these intelligence reports right. My past may come back to haunt me there. Maybe the mask is best.
No. I must face this, I must overcome this fear and put that chapter of my life behind me for good. I'm not a two bit cop on Bonadan anymore. I am Sith and I am leading an army into battle. I can't let her keep getting in my way.
Plagueis is victorious again. We have dominated everyone who has stood in our way. This is the legacy that I had planned for the House since I was Proconsul of Clan Plagueis. I am, however, forced to admit that I did not expect it. We were obliterated in the last battle of Jusadih and were running on pure instinct. That has seemed to be a successful recipe for victory. To future COs of Ajunta Pall, never overestimate the thirst for blood of those under your command; it is insatiable. Where we fail is when we allow compassion to overtake that thirst for blood.
The perfect example was provided to me quite recently. Solus Gar, not one known for anything but domination and control, allowed compassion to slip into his otherwise impeccable leadership. The concept of victory at all costs was somehow lost on him. He allowed Xander Drax to escape and for that has paid the price. The question that lingers is not how he allowed him to escape, but why he allowed him to escape. The answer, of course, is compassion.
Ronovi Tavisaen, a brilliant warrior in her own right, was at death, and death is where she should have fled. Instead of giving chase and terminating the traitor, Solus Gar, instead, stopped to save the life of a comrade; someone he had grown accustomed to. He was her Praetor in the Shadow Academy. He came to Plagueis, disenfranchised with other Clans and Houses. She followed suit, whether by choice or apparent destiny, I cannot know. They had been attached at the proverbial hip for some time. He allowed that attachment to cloud his judgement and his bloodlust. He saved her life and then was summarily dismissed from his position as Wrath for his compassion.
Now, Xander Drax continues when he could have been completely destroyed. It is true that I could have, and apparently should have, gone alongside Ronovi and Solus to confront Drax, but my attention was needed elsewhere. I had assumed that the two of them alone should have been able to completely obliterate any trace of the defector. I assumed incorrectly. The filth lives and will continue to cause problems for Plagueis and the Brotherhood at Large. Rest assured that if I were to be faced with the same choice, I would have no hesitation, and it seems that I may have to be the one to do so.
Let this stand as a lesson to all who read this. The Jedi of old were correct to press upon their followers to avoid attachment, though their reasons were faulty. Attachment leads to corruption, and I have learned never to attach myself to anything. Imperial Center taught me that. The Brotherhood taught me that. Now, Solus Gar has taught me that, once again.
Right Hand of Justice Report: Re. Solus Gar
Esteemed Justicar of the Chamber of Justice,
The following is my recommendation concerning Solus Gar, former Aedile of House Plagueis.
When you initially had requested an investigation into the actions of Solus Gar, I thought immediately to respond to you in the affirmative of charging him with Dereliction of Duty. Previous experience, however, saw the benefit of full inquiry and investigation of the aforementioned. I should also mention that approaching both Solus Gar and Ronovi Tavisaen as Hand of Justice after both of them holding a position of authority over me within House Plagueis proved to be more problematic than one would assume. Fortunately, the seal of the Chamber of Justice hasn’t lost all respect as of late.
By the time I began my investigation of Solus Gar, he had been dismissed from his appointed position of Aedile of Plagueis and replaced, ironically enough, by Ronovi Tavisaen, the person who survived based on his alleged criminal action. He was forthcoming with his reasons, which was also fortunate, though I hardly believed them at the time. He claimed that keeping her alive was of greater benefit to House Plagueis than killing Xander Drax, the former Brother who defected to the One Sith many years ago. Tavisaen’s skills as an orator to boost morale are outstanding and as a swordsman she is second only to Braecen Kaeth in House Plagueis and perhaps me.
At first, I was extremely hesitant to believe the words of a disgraced man, but then I did some digging and personal reflection. Under your orders, I was in lockdown in the Shadow Academy during the Horizon Crisis. At the time, Tavisaen and Gar were Headmaster and Praetor, respectively. Headmaster Tavisaen was more willing to destroy the entire Academy rather than risk any more of the plague escaping, believing that the Academy had been the source of the plague in the first place. She nearly succeeded, had it not been for the sharp tongue of Anshar Kahn Tarentae and the brilliant technical ability of Arden Karn.
She was willing to kill herself, hundreds of journeymen, me, other Equites, but most importantly, Solus. She kept compassion in check, if not completely non-existent, during the crisis, believing more that the Brotherhood would collapse if she did not destroy the whole complex. Her actions were reckless, but proved that she was willing to die, and for others to die, than to have the entire Brotherhood collapse into chaos.
Solus Gar, and I, concluded that her life, at the right hand of Plagueis’s Dread Lord, was more important than the death of Xander Drax, one of Darth Krayt’s underlings. Do I believe that he showed excessive compassion while in the line of duty? Absolutely. Do I believe that he was derelict in his duty? Absolutely not. He has already been punished by the Quaestor of Plagueis and, indeed, by the Grand Master himself, for his actions. A conviction in the Chamber of Justice is not necessary. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the Right Hand of Justice that Solus Gar not be charged with Dereliction of Duty.
Captain’s Personal Log
With Brotherhood forces having secured both Rhelg and Khar Delba, I have once again been assigned to the front lines of combat. Ch’hodos doesn’t appear to be of any real strategic value and I have absolutely no idea why we are even considering attacking it with anything larger than a two ship task force. There is a large keep that doesn’t need to be taken. It can be blasted with turbolasers from space and glassed. Yet, here I am about to embark on another mission of assassination. Erithin Vax is a former Brother who went by the name, Nephet, or something along those lines. My failure in destroying Yobd Nan apparently gave me a demotion in who I am to attack. This planet is a waste of time and effort. My talents are better used elsewhere. I have powerful enough turbolasers to melt the area around Shar Dakhan’s fortress and then be on my way.
This is, of course, under the orders of one Ronovi Tavisaen, who, for all intents and purposes, should be dead, were it not for the cowardly actions of Solus Gar. Gar was too weak to chase down Xander Drax and Ronovi was too weak to kill Drax in the first place. This left only me as the individual who should be at the Dread Lord’s right hand, but no, I am assigned to the front lines, once more. Though, Solus Gar is, as he should be, now under my command, I am certain that Ronovi is simply intending to let me die on the surface. I imagine she is already training turbolasers on the fortress below waiting for me to walk into it with the little effort it was actually require.
Yet, I do my duty. I follow my orders. She is something else, this Tavisaen. I only know her from her recklessness in the Shadow Academy. She is not as easily controlled as Solus Gar or Tra’an Reith are; in fact, she is not controllable at all. I have never found myself at the mercy of another, not for nearly a decade. This bothers me and I am not one who likes to be bothered. Perhaps it is time for her to meet the fate that should have fallen her on Khar Shian.
<< Solus Gar >>
<< Personal Log :: ENCRYPTED >>
Relegated to the background, cast aside like a expended weapon. It is not where anyone would chose to be, let alone a Sith. And now, instead of leading the forces of the Dread Lord into battle, bringing down his wrath upon his enemies with such force as to make the ground shake, I'm left to lead myself alone. To go after a target that is not even of the One Sith, a mere smuggler. Not even granted command of a unit because one such as Captain Lin should not require more than one Sith to capture. Calling her a "High Value Target" for one such as myself is asinine, a Journeyman could slap aside her defenses with ease and drag her back to face the Brotherhood's judgement with little effort.
It also shouldn't be something that I allowed to happen, it was a moment of weakness where I can blame none other than myself. As Ronovi saw, as Tra'an saw, a Sith does not turn away from an enemy to spare an ally. Especially if that so called ally is truly a rival for the reigns of Plagueis. He was there, it was within my power to stop Xander Drax and I allowed him to elude me. To elude Plagueis. Whatever else has happened, that will never change.
Anger and aggression are the path to darkness, the path to victory. Compassion can only lead one astray. It seems that the old Mandalorian code, to honor your comrade in battle, has not been stamped out of me sufficiently. The Mandalorians, fierce warriors they might be, have been beaten down throughout their history. They have fought both Sith and Jedi, only to know eventual failure and death. Driven to near extinction, they only now claw their way out of the rubble of their own homeworld. And why? They turn away from the killing blow to honor their brothers. As I have. If it were not so monumental stupidity, I could almost bring myself to laugh.
Ronovi has her plan, and I am simply a part of it. She saw her opportunity, and she grasped it with both hands. Not that I should be surprised mind you, I've seen her operate for years now. Hell, she was ready to wipe the Shadow Academy from the face of Lyspair without batting an eye. Why would I be any different? Clawing her way back to a place of power after being toppled from her post lording over the Academy wasn't her first instinct, but I realized that it would enter her mind sooner or later.
The Whyren's Reserve induced fog finally lifted and the wheels began to turn. It wasn't like she had never had this happen before. She had been pushed off the throne of Tarentum a number of years ago, only to engineer her rise to another throne on Lyspair. She tells herself that she is "just a simple fighter", but I know her well enough to put lie to that particular self delusion. Ronovi Tavisaen is one who cannot just stand on the sidelines and watch things unfold.
Not that I can blame her, really. I'm not exactly happy just sitting back either, as my current situation has made painfully clear. But as I said, it is a situation of my own making. I did not have to let myself succumb to an emotional outburst that, stupidly, left me open to a fall to where I find myself now. The man who defeated Yobd Nan reduced to taking care of the trash. A Nautolan smuggler is your punishment for failing to bring in the big bad, never mind the fact that you took his fortress, destroyed his troops, and ensured the survival of one of the most powerful members of the Ascendant House.
In the end, it all comes back to the machinations of the Brotherhood. Ronovi finally decided she wanted her power base again. I presented her with an opportunity to seize it without having to deprive herself of a useful resource for her future use, namely me. She is once again on her path to power, leaving herself in a position to take her revenge on those that have left her where she has to climb that path again. And who knows, if she can pull the rest of House Plagueis along with her, she may just improve my fortunes along the way.
If there is one thing that I've learned from watching her work for all these years, it is that one should never count oneself out. There are always... possibilities.
0300 hours, Predominant, Wrath’s Quarters
I’m walking on hot coals here.
The floor’s warm under my boots. The engines keep my aerial fortress afloat, so that I may become as much a part of the cosmos as all others before me. I can wax philosophical here in my room. Poetic. Lugubrious prose on a datapad. It’s unlike me to succumb to flowery language, but I believe in these circumstances – with enough liquor in the belly – it becomes almost appropriate of a creature like me to draw out sticky words like molasses between my teeth.
The assault of Ch’hodos is going…poorly. Far more poorly than I expected. There is not so much of the vigor and venom that I saw in my legions’ fangs on both Nfolgai and Khar Delba. The failure to capture or kill Xander Drax has severely stunted morale. The loss of Solus Gar as Wrath has gotten others on the summit vigilant. Trust is very rare to come across these days within the Ascendant Fleet. And as such, the liquid courage we’ve stored in flasks is starting to lose its potency.
We cannot afford to look weak in front of the Dark Council. I cannot afford to look weak.
Seven hours ago, Tra’an and I discussed, at length, the men we’d send out to kill Elser Repu. We had some…irreconcilable differences of opinion, in my mind. The Dread Lord has some agendas that I am wary of. He says he speaks for the house, for Plagueis, but his eye wanders elsewhere. I’m not sure if the aura of the Sith Worlds is beginning to turn his stomach somewhat. I may not know much of my superior, but I do know that, normally, he is not one to back down from any conflict. Yet now, it’s not safe to assume what was once perceived as the obvious.
I have not seen Reith on the ground in Ch’hodos. I have not heard him deliver orders for some time. He has not stood in front of his troops to rally them. It’s un-Dread Lord-like. And it’s made one thing perfectly clear:
I cannot trust Tra’an Reith.
It’s made another thing blatant, too: I cannot trust Tra’an Reith to be Dread Lord.
Amusing, perhaps, I know. After all, it took considerably yanking on Ashen’s collar to even have me become second-in-command. He still maintains a disdain for me and my fallible nature, and he should. I have learned to use my “acknowledged” flaws as a weapon – to make people believe I’m a drunken oaf when in truth, I’m just pulling on their marionette strings. It worked on Nfolgai, when I returned to the watchful eye of the Council as a still useful element of their pathetic Brotherhood. My assistance with the death of Yobd Nan was certainly not aid to be taken lightly. It was on Nfolgai that I knew that resisting a second rise of power was counter to the rebirth that I needed so direly to achieve my end goals. And my end goals, of course, are oiled with others’ blood.
Khar Delba, though – that was when the machinery operated the most smoothly. We lost Xander Drax. Yes, that was an issue – at first. Now I see all the more how Drax has become an adequate cog in the whole ticking, spinning, groaning mechanical display. I needed him to live. I needed him to oust that petty Mando-Sith monstrosity so I could take his place. I needed Drax to ensure my stability in the ranks of Plagueis. My stints in Tarentum and Arcona – they are gray with the ash of time now. This is my future. And I must think clearly, briskly, in order to make my plans work.
But first, another drink.
0400, Predominant, Wrath’s Quarters
It’s a little sad, isn’t it? This whole state of affairs. Plagueis can and will truly prove itself to be the Ascendant House. But Ch’hodos may become more of a burden than an example of that fortitude. Especially if we appear petty to the likes of those fighting for Taldryan and Naga Sadow.
This could be bad. This could be very, very bad.
But who am I to judge, really? I couldn’t even judge Whiner’s own cunning back in the Shadow Academy. I should have known better. And the simplistic nature of Ashen, when he so very easily turned his back on me. How often have I allowed the mannerisms of the Sith and Krath to overwhelm me? Too often, I’d imagine. It’s sickening.
Tell me, whoever is unfortunate enough to read this – when the man at the helm of a great ship looks wayward, toward the planetside shore rather than the great expanse of the nebulous ocean – do you stage a mutiny? Or do you pivot his head just enough, without cracking the clavicle or splintering the spine, to force his eyes against the glare of the starry waters again?
Reith is a liability now. He is easily manipulated. I know very well that Jinn enjoys that about him. The damn Twi’lek was furious to have me ascend instead of him. He won’t get his cushioned seat for much longer. I cannot let things go the way they have been going. If I do, Plagueis will lose footing.
I need to kill Reith.
0500, Predominant, Wrath’s Quarters
I have decided not to kill Reith. Very uncharacteristic of me, I grant you, but hear me out, whoever has five minutes left to listen to this before I find out you’re doing so and consequently slit your throat. Hear me out as my written language becomes more uncouth and less pretty.
Reith is better off alive. He is better off deposed, disposed of, than murdered. It makes more of a statement to Plagueis than anything. I know of people who will see to my transition to Dread Lord. Karn is on my side. Schulen as well. I thought the little rabbit wouldn’t be much use to me, but he has informed me that he has already poisoned enough acolytes’ minds to see a perilous future with the Shi’ido in command. Well done of him to spread the toxins of treachery. I should reward him with a cookie.
Those who do not ally with me, well, they’ll have an army to face. The Subjugates, the Wraiths, the Reapers – they feel the pressure of my gauntleted fist. When I beckon them, they will rise with me and only me. They will focus their blank visored gaze on their true captain. The Ascendancy is no place for Tra’an Reith, and when the storm has ended in the dunes of Ch’hodos, and I emerge with Elser Repu’s head on a pike – all of Plagueis will see me as the Lord they so desperately must worship.
I will not let my tarnished legacy in Tarentum ruin the sheen of the gold nugget that I hold in my hand now. I am walking on hot coals here. It is scorching, and I can feel my feet burn beneath my weight. But it is a good burn – a pain I’ll gladly take with the blistering brew I swill every night. Lesions, welts, and gashes are scars I easily bear now. It is not my place anymore to do “bidding” as Wrath. To have someone else do my bidding is much more suitable.
I will have meetings, after Ch’hodos, after I assume the role of Dread Lord. I already have plans to travel to Dajorra. They will welcome me there, far more warmly than Plagueis has been embraced before. I will offer more than words. Gratitude is not in my vocabulary. Expectation is instead in the lingual repertoire.
I have decided not to kill Reith. I will string his effigy on the wall, with a noose around his neck, and barbed wire against his ankles. He will feel the biting heat more than I do now.
And he won’t like it.