Ambitions - Muz, Shikyo, Vodo, Ashia, Soccorra
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Create your story. You have a month to do so.
Four Days Ago
The flickering of the torches down the long hallway cast ever-moving shadows forged of menace and sadness. Wuntila tried hard not to name them, but he saw the forms of old friends emerge anyway, guilt tearing at his spirit as each bootfall crushed the carpeting. He forced himself forward, muscles screaming under the fatigue of too many campaigns too close together. He came to a stop outside the heavy doors, allowing his eyes to fall across the carvings of the ancient wood that stood between him and the Iron Throne; between him and his fate. The news that he bore... Wuntila was not happy to be the messenger.
The guards did not betray their unspoken questions with movement. The glow of the torches cast a dull pallor on the crimson and sable plates of their armor. Wuntila tilted his head for a second, giving his eyes a moment of deceit to see through the blackened visors of the Guardsman helm, hoping to find familiar eyes staring back at him. The effort was wasted, and he knew it, as sure as he knew that the doors were opening.
One would have expected some noise to herald the heavy wood and cortosis laced hardware moving against millennia old stone. There was no such warning, only the shift in air pressure. The man stepped forward slowly, letting eyes adjust to the new darkness, the quiet sheen of the dark metal within. He was there, he could feel him.
Wuntila stopped a few paces shy of the Throne, dropping to a knee, letting his fist touch the stone.
"Master." Wuntila looked up into the dark eyes of the Grand Master. "Lord Sarin is dead."
A Week Ago
Hall 18 Echo
The Sith Lord snarled, diving behind the oversized roots of a Dathomiri tree, the old growth shielding him from the eyes of the Nightsister that hunted him. He let his hand drop to his thigh, the soft click of the holster latch giving way soothing his senses as surely as the warm wood filling his palm did. The weapon was made for him, not the crude modification of a mass produced rifle that many of the Taldrya carried, but a custom crafted weapon, meant to be exactly what it was: an extension of his will.
It was more instinct than anything else that made him pivot and draw his finger across the trigger, the pistol stirring gently in his hand as emerald fire seethed toward her. It was raw battlefield experience that made him dive away as the bolts caught on her violet blade and were sent screaming into the tree beside his head. As the splinters erupted from his cover, he counted in his head, measuring her paces, gauging her distance.
The Force drew close to him, whispering the tales of a thousand dead men into his ear. The gloom approached, fogging his actions. Halcyon sneered to himself. He wasn't done, and he was tired of the meddling. The man had grown soft, complacent, tired. Unable to be as cruel as need dictated. Unfit to rule. Here to take his woman from the arena in his moment of victory, probably under some claim of need.
Muz Ashen, the Dark Lord of the Sith.
He was not Sith.
He made his legs heavy with the Force, coiling the energy below him before rocketing himself upward, twisting midair to bring his weapon to bear on the woman even as the digital scenery evaporated, breaking into hexagons of hollow color and air. The superheated Tibanna gas bellowed from the end of his weapon, every pulse a black curse against his foe, words that were never meant to be answered.
But they were.
Two Years ago
The Falleen Lady
Sashar looked at the case on the table, the dull grey pure in such a den of sin. The Mandalorian looked up at his contact, the geneticist's man nodding before turning away. He'd been paid well, and his work was done. Sashar envied him his role, watching him vanish into the crowd of men desperately trying to live and women equally attempting to die. He watched them swarm over each other, so like insects, responding to the base desires of their masters. The pheromones of the crew whipped them into a froth so easily.
The dull throb of music shook the drink in front of him, and he considered what damage the vibration could have on the product. Fingers closed around the glass, drawing it to his lips again. The song changed, but the stink of sweat and desperation remained, the club seeming to be one organism instead of many. It had been many years since he had thought so shallowly, and he was too far removed from them, their worlds. He wanted to teach them the reality, and at the same time, he envied their ignorance. Maybe it was better to just be, to feel.
The glass returned to the table empty, eyes returning to the herd. Even the few aliens among them wore the same uniform, narrow strips of cloth designed for only one purpose. It had been too long.
Sashar wished he had his helmet.
It wasn't like she'd thought it would be. There were no elaborate circles drawn on the floor. No rarefied materials used, like she had read in so many explanations of what happened. There was only willpower and the Force. A quiet murmur and an easy gesture from the man's hand.
Socorra understood, as the light burned through her eyes, rewriting her spirit, leaving a trail of nerves screaming their final cries in its wake. He was not done, and the difference was too large to bridge in only one pass. His calm words started again, stoking the fire in her veins before the old embers had chance to cool. He had warned her that it would hurt. She had no idea how badly. She might not have ever accepted the mission if she had known.
Socorra fell to her knees, fingernails biting into the soft flesh of her palms, the sweet pain keeping her mind together as the world changed color for her.
With the day’s staff having departed, the Voice waited another hour for the temple around him to grow silent. There he sat at his oversized desk, in the dark. With the faintest of summons, a large display emerged from the wood paneling before him. It prompted the Twi’lek for a password. He gave it. It prompted him for a demonstration. He gently pressed upon a pressure plate buried within the desk with the Force. It then asked for two biometric samples.
A small tray emerged as well from the desk with two needles. One he dabbed lightly into his arm and allowed it to take a sample of his blood. The second he carefully pressed into a small hole, perfectly sized for the task, at his hip. Having replaced his lower body years ago with a fearsome set of prosthetics, the needle came back not with a sampling of his organic matter, but of that of the lubricant used within the prosthetics. It was his little trick. Should someone know his password, find the pressure plate, and somehow obtain a sample of his blood, they would still be hard-pressed to know that it was oil they were looking for and not some sort of phlegm, marrow, or skin sampling they needed.
With the biometric data confirmed, the screen blinked to black before welcoming the Krath. Laid before him were the means by which he collected, maintained records of, and distributed information to his now far-reaching network of spies and informants. This had been his sole work for nearly the past year and a half. Placing, discovering, and recruiting assets in every House and Clan. No aspect of the Brotherhood went unnoticed within his network. With plants in every office of the Dark Council save for one - that of the Deputy Grand Master’s. His network was formidable once, a network he had displaced to some degree but yet still a viable threat in many capacities. Halcyon had been a great mentor to Vodo, he had no qualms admitting that, but there came a time when the student must aspire to something greater. Family ties be damned.
Vodo was no longer any man’s slave. He had freed himself, pulled himself up by the straps of his boots, and strove to survive when many had long since counted him out. From the depths of servitude and the life of a fugitive, the Twi’lek had overcome himself, those around him, and the continual spite of chance. He, not Hel-Pa Sklib, had gained that first appointment to Battleteam Leader, then to Aedile, and then to Quaestor. When Sklib quietly slipped into the night, never to return, it was Vodo who assumed his title as Proconsul and then assumed command of his Clan as Consul. It was Vodo, not Halcyon, who had assured his ascent to Voice of the Brotherhood. Everything he was, he had made of himself. There was only one more step in the ladder before his plans were achieved.
Even now, a Dark Councilor of the Brotherhood, Vodo was not his own Master. He reported to two men. Both supremely intelligent, awesomely powerful, and well-situated. Halcyon Taldrya: Vodo’s mentor and guide, Brother in Taldryan, and primary obstacle. Darth Ashen: Dark Lord of the Sith, Grand Master of the Brotherhood, and the piece around which this whole game revolved. Two men stood between true freedom and Vodo. Years ago he had sworn he would never be slave to another again. However, he could not merely pull a saber on those two men. It would take time and planning. It would require months, if not years, of work in deception and guile. However long it took though, Vodo would emerge victorious. He would assume the mantle of Grand Master, and Dark Lord, and would rule supreme.
There was much work to be done yet. There were deficiencies in his network; holes that could be exploited. Arcona always seemed to be his primary problem in that regard. He would need to find a way to rectify that issue. He would need an asset placed within the Clan that was not highly regarded, for they would never do his work. Neither could they be distrusted, for they would never be given access to the material Vodo desired. This asset would require a unique position, one outside of the normal chain of command but still situated close to the seat to the seat of power. An attaché, an Aide-de-camp, or an advisor would be best. Someone whose existing skills in subterfuge, espionage, and keeping their mouth shut was already well developed. The problem was…how did one find someone possessing those skills?
Two Months Ago
Flames danced and flickered at the walls surrounding the iconic Serpentine Throne, throwing eerie shadows across the wide expanse of the room’s stone-tiled floor and licking at the foot of Socorra, the newly-appointed Aedile of House Qel-Droma, as she knelt next to her Quaestor Invictus. The raven-haired Krath peered around the vast audience chamber, noticing that the entire Clan Summit had come in behind them and knelt before the Consul’s seat of power, including the large and powerful cerulean form of Consul Wuntila himself. Upon the throne before them sat former Grand Master Sarin, with the red-skinned Elomin Raken appearing at his side, warhammer hefted in both hands as he stood protectively over his close friend and ally.
Such an act was a surprise to many called to the sudden and intensely secret meeting. Socorra’s own mind attempted to quickly find the most rational explanation for the odd display and wondered finally if Sarin had suddenly taken over the Clan due to recent violent events...some of which the Knight blamed herself for.
Teroch Erinos, the clone son of the late Sashar Erinos, had once again attempted to assassinate Wuntila in an act of revenge for killing his father at New Tython. Socorra felt partially responsible for his father’s death; Near the end of the war, Wun had ordered the bombardment of the Abbey at Menat Ombo, and as his Attaché, the then-Jedi Hunter had relayed the order to the fleet, knowingly killing her Soulfire Sergeant Sashar and Consul Zandro both at once.
The return home from war had been anything but pleasant as the Clan grieved over the loss of their two iconic leaders. The Krath woman had convinced Wuntila to spare Teroch after the first attempt on Wun’s life, but Teroch tried a second time, and a full family feud resulted, tearing a rift within the ranks of Arcona; Erinos against Entar, Entar against Erinos, and d’Tana capitalizing on everything in between.
Sarin had stepped in once before to calm the violent waves of in-fighting, but this act now appeared to be the final solution. The Summit members in attendance each represented if not beared a family name, creating a palpable uneasiness in the room. But the voice of the former Grand Master cut through the tension, and all eyes were suddenly on him as he spoke and then began a pained coughing fit, spitting out harsh accusations at each and every one of them before collapsing to the ground:
“Your actions have cost a life. But not that of Teroch...”
Two Days Ago
“Marick.. what’s wrong?” Socorra’s brows furrowed in worry as she jogged to catch up with the agile Obelisk.
“The Consul wishes to see you,” Marick hastily replied. “We have to hurry, they are waiting.”
The twinkle in her former master’s eyes was gone, as was the rare smile that he reserved for his close friends and allies. Socorra was perhaps something even more than that, but right now the Prelate was nothing more than business. Something big was going on, she was sure of that much. Marick quickly led her through the winding corridors and turbolifts of the citadel and up to the throne room.
“Who the frak is they?” she queried, but the Hapan went silent and rushed them through security. The grand doors of the throne room parted, revealing the spacious chambers and the small assembly near the Serpentine Throne. Wuntila’s tall, imposing figure occupied it, casting a grand shadow across the open floor. His cerulean eyes locked upon the Knight as the pair proceeded towards him.
Socorra’s pale irises looked to every man gathered and she was surprised to find not just the Summit Guard, but the Grand Master’s Royal Guard as well, standing in a precise, silent military formation. She noticed that they were not just a lowly third Guardsmen rank like she was, but the heavies in the higher echelons, making this an extremely unprecedented gathering. The Galeres Summit was absent, only the Qel-Droma Quaestor Invictus standing behind the throne, where Marick moved to join him. Countless days Socorra had spent here, working directly for Wuntila as his personal Attaché, and yet she had never seen such an assembly before. What is going on?
The Aedile knelt down on right knee in subservience at the bottom of the stairs; a simple bow in such company would not do.
“Socorra,” the Consul’s deep, intimidating voice boomed, “you have been summoned to Antei by Grand Master Lord Ashen. The Royal Guard will escort you to a waiting shuttle immediately.”
No preamble. Wuntila was known only for clear and concise words. The young woman blinked for a moment, stunned silent. The Grand Master?
Socorra peered up to him finally, her expression begging Wun for an explanation, but he did not impart one. She looked at Marick, who offered a grimace of sympathy, and Invictus, who bore merely a mischievous expression. Paranoia began to zip through her mind like wildfire as it tried to quickly come up with its own analysis and explanation, to desperately fill in the database blanks. Then the realization slammed into her like a great herd of bantha:
They must have finally figured out my true identity.
Dread. Deep, agonizing dread crept into her heart, her chest tightening ferociously. The Guard motioned for her to leave. With robotic politeness she bowed to her peers and allowed herself to be led to the shuttle, her thoughts ever fixed on her demise.
One week ago
Radiant Twilight Hotel
Even with all the fancy luxuries of the world, it was the simplest pleasures that made every moment worthwhile. Meditating from the balcony of his suite, the Herald could feel the essence of Coruscant swarming through him. The desperate, the lonely, the fortunate, and the privileged. He could feel their lives affect the pulse of the planet, even if he could only feel but a soft beat of its life force. Shikyo focused a little harder on expanding his senses, pushing the bounds of what his mind and training said he was capable of. Each minute sensation was another victory in his mind, refusing to allow complacency to hold him back from his true potential.
As he stretched out further with his feelings, he could feel a powerful yet familiar presence settling into his mind like an old friend walking into his home. With a smirk resting upon his lips, the Dark Side Adept welcomed the essence of his eldest brother into his mind.
‘Brother, if you’re here about business, I already sent my report through the secured holonet informing you of our status.’
‘Lord Sarin is dead.’
Cold and matter-of-fact, the words dumbfounded the Herald nearly to the point of breaking his concentration. He had known of Sarin’s transfer during the Battle of Antei; there were many privileges in having family in the seat of power. But the Herald knew that the former Grand Master was a stubborn man who even refused to let death restrain him from seizing more power. The fact that Muz had simply stated that the former Dark Lord had perished did not settle well with the Wolf of Kyataru. There was more to it.
‘What could be great enough to finally take out the bastard?’
‘Not a man, ototo.’
A simple enough statement that told Sasuke to keep his mouth shut and accept the information that was provided to him.
‘What would you have me do, then?’
‘Your mission is complete, for now. Return to Antei. We’ll discuss things from there.’
Opening his eyes and catching the various colors of darkness, Shikyo savored the view before him as he felt lingering arms wrap themselves around his neck. Placing his hand on the slender arm of the angel behind him, Shikyo pulled the form of his wife onto his lap as he savored the simplest pleasures life could bring him. Elysia looked up at the Kyataran, her infectious smile telling the Elder that she had been reading her husband.
“I’ve seen that look in your eye before, Shik. We’re going on another adventure?”
With a mischievous grin, the Keibatsu brushed back the stray strands of hair that dared to cover the Kiffar’s face.
“It’s time you saw what I really do, mesh’la.”
Four days ago
As he watched Wuntila kneel before him, the Dark Lord ignored the words coming from the Arconan’s lips. He had known the truth well in advance. Everything was a test for future potential to be harvested or bait to lure out something much greater into the light. To the Consul, the news he delivered was severe enough to be reserved for the Grand Master’s ears only. To the Lion of Tarthos, it was just another piece on the board being moved into position.
Twelve Months Ago
It only took a moment for her eyes to adjust. The dull throb of her heart beating echoed through her senses as the light faded, leaving the dim and mundane splash from the torches. She could feel...everything. The slight draft in the hall played across her skin. She could taste the emotions of the people on the street outside. The rush of blood made her impulsively fill her hands with her lightsabers. She knew what came next, she could almost say the words before he said them. She waited for him lay out the mission, her target…her prey.
Moments like this were what she lived for. He had to see it in her eyes, the question, the desire that she never gave words to. The Force swelled her mind's eye, the color spilling from things in her view, the understanding of how and why new to her, yet not altogether unfamiliar. Of course not. She had been blessed with the Rite before. Many times. She smiled, letting the sensations wash over her.
The Grand Master’s mental voice penetrated sharply as he detailed where she was to go and who she was after, piercing her and reminding her that it was but temporary. Power played along her fingers like water; it was all the Nightsister could do to keep track of the important details he laid out for her. Failure was not an option. Find Ran Drayson; former member of the New Jedi Order and comrade of Michael Halcyon and destroy him.
The sooner she was done with him, the more time she would have for herself.
5 hours later
The clouds spat at the sidewalk in a never ending torrent of indignation. The lights from the various signs shimmered in the darkness streaking neon's squalid brightness across everything. No matter how brightly they lit it, no matter how they tried to hide it, the filth would always be there. Such is life.
A man hurried through the rain; eager to get out of the elements. He abruptly turned down an alleyway, hoping for a shortcut to his destination. His footfalls echoed in the confined space as he quickened his step. These were the places that one typically dared not tread. Spacers, ruffians, swoop gangs, muggers. They loomed in these little crevasses, predators in the urban landscape that were always looking for their next meal.
But he was no meal.
A tingling feeling crept over him, the hushed whispers of the Force. He stopped and spun on his heel abruptly; glancing back the way he had come. Only darkness smiled back at him. Darkness and the polluted tears of the city's clouds. He let his eyes focus, demanding they find what the Force told him about. And yet, nothing. Michael's Paranoia, it seemed, had infected him. The man was constantly in motion, always shifting erratically, trying to throw off the infamous Sith that plagued him for the better part of a decade. It was his own fault, Ran figured. When you treat with beasts, they will eventually bite you. And Michael Halcyon had played with them for a long time. He shrugged off the uneasy feeling that had come over him and proceeded to turn back the way he was headed.
He stopped dead in his tracks, one foot still slanted from turning.
A dark figure stood within a few feet of him; their presence masked perfectly. The man instinctively drew his sabre and prepared to defend himself. He could sense nothing from this individual. The Force showed him only emptiness where this person stood. The Force was suppressed, the mark of a very powerful master, perhaps even a prophet of the dark side. His mind raced through possibilities before the calmness found him.
The cerulean quintessence exploded forth from his hands; piercing the darkness and illuminating the world around him; including that of his attacker. There was no fear, no emotion, only peace.
The Nightsister raised her head only slightly, allowing the light from his weapon to play across her features, still slightly hidden by the hood of her warcoat. Droplets of rain poured from the rim, streaming to the ground as a small smile turned the corners of her mouth, a feral glare cast from sapphire eyes, cutting him to the quick.
“Who are you?” The Jedi demanded as she allowed the power to slide through her. It bounded from her soul, her flesh tingling as it wound its way to fingertips, the power coiling, not content to wait for her command, but begging for release, demanding to be used.
The Krath reached into him without a word, slowly winding the invisible hand between the fibers of his robes, through skin, then muscle and sinew, beneath ribs. It wanted more, and she restrained it, moving the power deliberately, slowly, enjoying the resonance that poured back into her. The man stumbled as she dug in and tried to shield himself with the Force. She dug deeper when he resisted; breaking through his connection. Tendrils wormed their way deeper and deeper still until they found his heart and curled themselves around it.
The man’s eyes bulged as she began to squeeze. He coughed and dropped his saber as he clutched at his chest; stumbling as he did so. He fell to a knee, hand outstretched, silently pleading for mercy, forgoing the pride of a full lifetime of strength.
The saber’s brilliance extinguished the same time his life did; slumping to the ground as the rain continued to pelt his lifeless corpse. She watched him with empowered eyes, feeling his temperature drop in the cool air, the muddy water as it was absorbed into his garments. She could feel the last bestial twitches of his brain, the electric twitch reflexes surrendering to the pale rider of death. Each one was different, but still the same. She saw something new with each kill, with each mission. What stories the Force would show her.
This was why she volunteered.
Ashia picked up his saber and clipped it to her belt before leaving. Her task complete, the power was still hers for a few more hours. Wild with the possibilities, she moved off toward an even more seedy side of town in search of those that no one would miss for what she called…practice.
Two Months ago
The Elomin seethed, watching the withering spirit of his master, his mentor, his friend. It sputtered like the blood from his clenched teeth. There could be no mistake. He was dying. Rage filled his breath, fire coursing through his veins.
He shoved aside the fury, the pain, and even the fear. He steadied the man with his hand, feeling his strength even in this direst of situations. Whatever may come, he would survive. This would be only a momentary setback. They would regain their footing, their strength.
The Kuati came as close to death as he had ever been, the grand mauling fists of the Elomin shuddering to a stop inches from him. Raken sneered as the apprentice used his will to pull the breath from his lungs. It would not have stopped him, not without the calming thought from the Lord, staying his hand. Raken stepped backwards, allowing the prodigy access to his master, watching him with deserted eyes.
The apprentice moved silently, the heavy armor barely a whisper across his form as he took a knee in front of the man who was once Aristan Dantes. It was time. Tradition made his path clear. The apprentice either kills the master or dies.
Such is the way of the Sith.
The swarm of stars bloomed into a supernovae before burning down back to dim glimmer. Nine chairs stood in a circle, most having been vacant for decades, sitting in the dark of the Chamber. Even the myriad stars that lined the domed walls barely gave them enough to see the others by, no door to mar the perfect sphere. Neither were needed. Neither were important. No words were needed between the men seated there.
Pravus had ascended.
That was not part of their plan.
Three years ago
Sashar stepped through the door, letting it close behind him, taking in the whole of the office, the holoterminal on the desk that showed the topographical map around the Hall in near-to-real-time. The communications bay that permitted coordination with entire battalions in the field. They were expensive materials for doing war in ways that he had dreamt. And it was all within his reach, within the reach of Arcona.
Korras' entrance went almost unnoticed as he entered from the war room, placing a single hand on the chair, pulling it away from the desk. "So."
Sashar shifted his weight. "I understand that you are in need of a Praetor."
Korras slowly took his seat, resting an arm on the cold durasteel of the holomap. Fingers drummed a quick staccato beat for a moment. "That I am. And you come quite well recommended." He peered up at the Mandalorian, searching his face for something deeper than the scars and burns. "Someone wants you to get this job. But more importantly, I need someone who is capable of doing it."
Sashar paused for a second, his mind crawling back to their discussion. Those seeds of hope, of praise that could be fostered. Arcona could be restored. No, it would be restored. His course was set. All he had to do was safeguard against a few possibilities.
"Would the Grand Master request my application had he no faith in my abilities?"
"He's not all that bad." The metallic grinding wasn't that bad today. Ronovi had heard him on bad days and good. He must have adjusted the servos again. She waited for him to finish before handing him a refilled glass.
"Don't misunderstand me, Taigikori." She paused long enough to taste the amber liquid in her own glass. "Halcyon is the Deputy Grand Master, and deserves all respect due his position..."
"Then what is your concern?"
"You know as well as I do the way of the Sith." Ronovi swirled the glass for a moment, watching the turbulence as if it would calm the air between the two of them, former Headmaster and current. "You know that eventually, one of you would die. You've read all the treaties, seen all the holocrons."
"And you, my dear Obelisk, have not." He curled his lip back, and she wasn't sure if he was trying to smile or not. "Not yet, you haven't. When you've had more time to study the hidden lore, you will understand."
"How much more do I need to know? Deception, it is the way of the Sith."
"Ambition." He threw back the remainder of his drink. "Not deception. Ambition."
"Ambition at the point of a blade." She put the glass down. These philosophical arguments tested her, and he had been having them with her for years. She was convinced that it was to make her see all angles, to groom her for the role she would eventually take. But as adamant as he was now, she wasn't so sure.
"Ambition is pure, naked." He raised a hand to stroke the metal of his beard, his mind seeking to put it in ways she would surely understand. "It is not deception, if you're the one holding the hilt."
Ad Mysterium Estate
The VOICE’s reach was constantly expanding. Using a combination of the power accumulated through his years of work, blackmail, and outright exthortion the shuttle bound for Antei baring a lone Arconan made a brief unscheduled detour into the Kr’Tal System. Oddly the shuttle found it had all necessary clearances to enter the system unmolested by Taldryan’s disciplined and exceptionally well-armed navy. It made its way to the fourth planet in the solar system, a heavily forested jungle-world, and descended to a well-developed estate overlooking a coastal cliff range.
Vodo watched patiently, his arms resting gently against his chest, as the shuttle touched down on the landing pad in great expanse of cleared acreage surrounding his manor. Built during his tenure as Consul of then Clan Taldryan, the estate mirrored Vodo’s architectural theme found in the nearby Library of Lears. It consisted of multiple tiered stories, open and inviting through the liberal use of transparasteel and grand spaces. The Shuttle’s ramp descended followed shortly by the confused Aedile of Qel-Droma.
She shielded her eyes, adjusted to the relative dim of the shuttle’s interior, from the bright yellow light of Kr’Tal. She glanced around at the nicely trimmed grass, landscaped exterior, and the beautifully constructed manor, and finally the Voice of the Brotherhood whom she recognized instantly. The Son of Taldryan stood tall upon his gruesome prosthetics. With his hood laying about his shoulders, as was unusual she had gathered, she could see the blackened and poorly healed scars of Sith and Krath runes adorning his Lekku.
“Welcome to my home, Aedile Erinos.”
“Taruma, Kr’Tal System.”
She glanced around, suddenly on the defensive, “I was bound for Antei, at the Grand Master’s summons. What is this?”
Vodo smiled, a gesture that sent a shiver through her spin, “You should follow me. Dinner awaits us inside”
The great room was brightly lit, richly decorated, and host to a great wooden table. Various dishes lay about it along with three place settings. The VOICE’s Praetor was already sitting, drinking from a crystal glass when the two entered. He stood, bowed, and sat again once the VOICE and his guest had done the same. The look upon Socorra’s face bordered somewhere between curiosity, anxiety, and justified fear. Here she, an Officer of Arcona, sat at the dinner table of two Taldryans. One a Taldrya; both former Summit members.
“I do ask that you forgive the interruption to your busy schedule, Aedile. I will admit I manipulated the situation to better suit my needs. I trust that you can keep a secret.”
Looking over the food and drink before her she was momentarily distracted, “I… Excuse me your Excellency, but this is highly irregular. Why did you bring me here?”
Vodo smiled again but this time she felt sick at the gesture. Vodo looked to his Praetor, “Leave us a moment.”
“I really think I should—“
“No, you should leave. I won’t be long, and I suspect our guest won’t be either. Have the shuttle prepped for the Aedile”.
Anubis excused himself, obviously put off, leaving the two alone. Vodo picked up the glass before him, filled with a deep crimson liquid and took a shallow pull from it, “I am a man that hides a great many things, but for your sake I will be frank.”
From the folds of his robe Vodo pulled a datapad and passed it to the woman. She raised an eyebrow as she accepted it from the Twi’lek and looked it over. Within moments her heart skipped a beat, “What is this? How did you get ahold of these?”
“You will find a record of every attempt you’ve made to penetrate Arcona’s mainframe system, the documents you’ve viewed, copied, formatted, and altered. You’ll also find timestamps of every activity you’ve performed whilst trying to do the same to some of Antei’s systems.”
It seemed to be very complete, she admitted to herself. How had he come into possession of this; what did the VOICE intend to do with it?
“I covered my tracks, I took every precaution: How did you get these?"
The Twi’lek reached for the decanter before him on the table and topped his glass off, filling its deep goblet with the crimson liquid, "Ms. Naja, I know you are good at covering your work, but I know some people who are much better."
She placed it down coolly, “What do you want from me? You brought me here, before my meeting with Darth Ashen, to show me records of my trespasses?”
“I have eyes and ears in nearly every sector of this Brotherhood”, Vodo stood, carrying his glass with him as he stared out the large panoramic windows overlooking the cliffs of Silah and the tumultuous ocean far below them, “and yet Arcona is still somehow just beyond my reach.”
“You want me to spy on my own clan?”
“Spy, inform, perform certain tasks: call it what you will. Yes.”
“Isn’t it obvious? There are a great deal many people within Arcona that would not be happy to see some of the inquiries you’ve been making into highly sensitive, highly restricted information. Even more who would be pleased to know you’ve altered some of their records, many involving your role in the last War.
You see, Socorra, I have no wish to ruin you. I am a man that sees useful individuals all around and I use them. I encourage them to do what they are best at, for me.”
Socorra was numb. Betray her Clan, and possibly some of the Erinos in the process, or die (for certainly that is what would happen once Wuntila discovered the information upon that datapad). She stood, looking at the datapad and stepped up beside the VOICE. The Epis held all the cards now it seemed, but she was clever. The Knight knew that given enough time she would find a way out of this, and perhaps even a way to get back at this karking Mynock.
“What would you have me do?”
“I will accompany you to Antei. I’ll explain along the way. Come.”
Months of studious work had seemed to show Vodo into the Grand Master’s good graces. Once the Dark Lord had concluded his business with the young women Vodo filed into the Great Hall, barely noticing the hidden glares of the crimson clad guardsmen posted at the substantial wooden doors and along the edges of the hall’s perimeter. As he approached the raised dais he found the Grand Master there awaiting him. A short, curt bow brought Vodo to a stop at the base of the raised platform upon which the Iron Throne sat, unattended.
“Welcome back, Vodo. Was your retreat worthwhile?”
Vodo looked up into the ebony eyes of the Lion of Tarthos. Many thoughts passed through his mind as he stared into the abyss that was the man’s ocular inheritance, “Somewhat. I’ve been researching certain artifacts rumored to possess interesting qualities. My Praetor, Anubis, brought back one such artifact recently in-fact.”
The Keibatsu raised an eyebrow in mild interest, “Is that so?”
Vodo lifted the spider shaped pendant from around his neck. Its delicate silver features radiated no certain energies or presence in the Force, to the Grand Master’s perception, but its craftsmanship was clearly evident. A radiant emerald gem glistened upon the head of the insectoid creature. Supported by a silver chain, Vodo passed it into the Grand Master’s hand. Muz took the amulet and took little notice of the warm sensation that flowed through him and the positive emotions it evoked him.
“What significance does this piece have?” Darth Ashen asked quietly
Vodo studied the man’s eyes more intensely, hoping to see some measure of the artifact’s effect upon the man in the bottomlessness of those organs but found none, “Initial studies suggest it was a gift from Marka Ragnos to a mistress of his before Naga Sadow’s— move for power.”
Muz smiled at the Councilor’s careful choice of words and gave back the pendent, “This is not why you’re here, Biask. Something troubles you, I can feel it.”
“It concerns your Shadow Hand.”
Muz searched the great room with his eyes, “Come.”
Together the two ventured behind the throne into a passage that was now well known to the Dark Councilor. He was unsure how many of his peers upon the Dark Council were privy to this hall let alone traveled it on a regular basis as he had begun doing in recent months along with the Grand Master. The passage led to a decently large chamber which was focused around a single repulsor field emitter in the center. The simple and unadorned case that normally floated there was not, curiously.
“Now that we have some privacy, I must tell you Lord Keibatsu that my meditations have been troubled of late.”
“So much so that have you cut your long deserved retreat short? Troubling indeed. Explain.”
Vodo paced the perimeter of the circular room, “I… Sense violence. I have heard that in the past you have gifted your most trusted of Lieutenants with certain powers; powers that were not their own.”
“You speak of the Rite.”
Ad Mysterium Estate
A small chime brought Vodo out of his meditations. He’d spent his time since returning exploring the depths of his newfound power. It was extraordinary. The very essence of the Dark Side of the Force was at his beck and call. It was no less a part of his being than his skin. All the same, it was temporary. It was a gift and it would not last. Again the door chimed.
Anubis Annedu entered the small study clutching a datapad excitedly, “I have good news.”
Vodo called the device to his outstretched hand with near practiced ease, startling his Praetor, “Has our source in Arcona yielded fruit?”
“Yes, and a ripe one at that.”
Scanning the documents present Vodo froze. Sarin was dead, defeated by a rogue Jedi. Again. For good this time it seemed. Curiously, there was mention of the Jedi though. Joining… Arcona? Official memos and files speculated on the former Grand Master’s demise and the possibility that this man Pravus had absorbed Artisan Dantes’s being into himself. Stranger things had happened however. This was powerful information, if used correctly.
“Thank you, Anubis.”
“There is one more thing, Vodo.”
The VOICE hated it when the man was so informal with him, “Yes?”
“Master Halcyon awaits you in the antechamber.”
Vodo’s heart skipped a beat.
The Krath entered the antechamber to his luxurious manor, alone. There stood the green-haired man he had considered friend and mentor for many years. A brother and clanmate for just as long. Halcyon Taldrya was solidly built, though getting on in years. When Vodo came to a halt across the room from the Deputy Grand Master, he did so wishing his Light Saber was not in the room behind him in the Dining Room.
“My Lord Vires, what an expected surprise.”
The elder dismissed the VOICE’s misspoken expectation, “No need for formalities now or here Vodo.”
Vodo nodded, “Very well Halcyon. Come, I have drink in the dining room here. We can talk there.”
“That will be unnecessary. I come only to give you a warning Biask.”
So the time had come, Vodo sighed, “What pray-tell should you warn me of?”
Halcyon stepped forward, visibly agitated. Perhaps not at Vodo in particular; He had been visibly put off when he had arrived, but the Twi’lek had been something of a nuisance and a disturbance for the better part of a year now in addition, “I warned you once before to stay out of my business. I give you one last chance to give up this foolish game you’ve involved yourself in. Give it up and you and I may find time to someday move past this.”
Vodo’s eye’s narrowed. His tongue traced the sharp lines of his yellowed teeth for a moment before he turned and strode towards the dining room. Halcyon, not sure if that was an answer followed cautiously. As they entered the room, the brilliance of the setting Kr’Tal over the distant ocean horizon briefly obscured the Sith’s eyes and the quiet slip of the Krath’s scepter-like saber hilt in his hand and into the folds of his robe.
“Why should I give this up, Darth Vires? As far as I can tell you’ve already lost this… Game did you call it?”
“Biask”, the Elder spoke through gritted teeth, “Do not test me. Though we may both be Taldrya, if you stand in my way, I will cut you down.”
The seriousness in the man’s voice was not lost on the Epis. Confident however, he stood his ground and chose his words carefully, “You’re no Taldrya. You’re barely even a Taldryan. You were and always will be the Arconan that fled from the Mando infestation of his own clan and used mine to catapult his ascension to the Dark Council once more. You’re nothing to me, though I may have once called you Master.”
Halcyon roared at the insult, finally pushed over his limit. A single moment was all it took for the man’s emerald blade to emerge and lance at Vodo’s neck. The same instant found Vodo’s five-handed scepter-like hilt slide from his sleeve and active, revealing the dazzling silver blade. Parrying the blow to the side with a powerful sweep Halcyon found himself surprised but not off-guard. The Twi’lek’s unorthodox weapon was a new challenge the Deputy Grand Master had not anticipated nor had foreknowledge of.
Drawing upon years of training and experience he found a way to deal with the weapon’s incredible range and combat flexibility. Vodo had seemingly found a way to incorporate aspects of his Soresu and Djem So into the neary 2 meter long light saber. Their blades danced off one another in a brilliant display of swordsmanship on both accounts until Vodo brought his weapon far over his head and brought it down in a great swing vertically. Halcyon gripped his two-handed hilt closely and blocked the blow horizontally with some effort. There their weapons locked. The Sith bared his teeth as he felt his grip slipping. Vodo’s longer hilt allowed for a wider grasp and a stronger position. Leaping backward and out of the way Vodo’s saber drew downward into the floor, singing the hem of the elder Taldrya’s pant leg as it came past.
Panting heavily Halcyon glared at the Twi’lek, his one-time Proconsul, “Ashen blessed you with the Rite then? Well, did he?”
Vodo deactivated his weapon, grinning murderously, “I imagine you’ve seen it by now, maybe you’ve hid the truth from yourself in disbelief, but the Grand Master favors one of us. Its not you…”
Vodo stepped toward the man who was now and would always be his enemy, “It is I who warns you now: stay out of my way Halcyon. Stay out of my way or I will strike you down. Now leave.”
Halcyon turned to do so but stopped. Turning his head over his shoulder he cautioned the VOICE, “The Rite won’t always be with you. You’d best pray that when I come for you next, I don’t draw out your death too long.”
With that the man was gone.
In politics, every word must be chosen carefully and every action must be
measured and calculated before implemented. In war, there’s no need for
words and every action had an equal and opposite reaction. Politics was an
intricate act while war was basic in its nature. Maybe this was why Shikyo
desired a battlefield much more than the stuffy halls of Antei. No
second-guessing, no layers upon layers of deceit. There is you and your
enemy. Nothing else. Kill or be killed. After returning from the meeting
with his brother, the Herald wished more than anything for the sounds of
blaster fire and the hum of lightsabers. He had been asked to play the
political game he had been trying to avoid; a curse that came with his
As he returned to his quarters, Elysia had just been finishing arranging the
room to accommodate for the both of them, as well as adapting to the new
lifestyle she had married into. Though she did not understand the trims and
designs of the robes given to her, nor the lightsaber that clung to her
belt, she nevertheless accepted the situation with unwavering obedience,
trusting in her husband to provide information when it was necessary.
Turning in his direction as the door opened, the Kiffar woman smiled
“Do you realize how long it’s been since this place was cleaned up? Kark,
Shik, you’re much more organized than this.”
Smiling back at the woman before him, the Krath leaned against the doorway
and scanned over the room, taking in the remnants of the mess he had left
several months after he left Antei.
“I believe we were celebrating something… Or I was having a rough day.
Either way, I don’t like being here much more than I rightfully should. Too
ancient for my tastes.”
“Liar. There’s something else going on here, isn’t there?”
Sasuke sighed. The Kiffar woman was too damn intelligent for the good of the
“Yes but I’ll have to tell you later. I have some business to attend to.
As he turned to leave his wife behind, the Elder knew she would heed to his
words. He wanted to tell her much more than he had and truly show her the
world he lived in. However, there were monsters of various shapes and sizes
in this world of his. Was it honestly best for someone he truly loved to be
introduced to this world of shadows and nightmares?
Chamber of Justice
Standing in the grand chamber, Shikyo recounted his brief time as the Left
Hand of Justice, standing beside a man who’s power was renowned in both the
combat and political world. Kir Taldrya Katarn. It was just another step in
the Wolf of Kyataru’s path towards greatness and he owed a lot to the Dark
Prophet. Pondering the correlation between his past and present, Shikyo
caught the form of current Justicar, Taigikori Ayabara, sweeping into the
room with a newfound grace that his position had given him. With a smile on
his face, the Elder moved toward the Sith with purpose.
“Taig, it’s been a while. Nice to see your ambitions have not failed you
Though metal could not bother itself to express joy, the eyes of the Equite
were sign enough of the emotion. Turning back in the direction from where he
came from, Ayabara led his fellow Councilor throughout the Chamber.
“It is the way of the Sith to seek power through ambition. I’d like to think
I’m continuing that tradition.”
“Tradition? Last I had heard, Kir was still alive and proclaimed a Sith
“Your ears have not deceived you. A grand honor for the man.”
Cocking his eyebrows slightly, the Keibatsu dropped his tone to something
resembling false ignorance.
“Then how could you continue tradition, as a Sith, to take up power that you
did not forcefully claim?”
The Justicar looked puzzled as he responded to the Kyataran.
“What are you getting at, Shik?”
Pondering his words carefully to reach the desired effect, Sasuke paused a
moment to look over the statues of former Justicars as they stopped to
continue their conversation.
“Taig, Sith tradition has always seen power taken forcefully and brutally.
You, as a former disciple of Naga Sadow, have heard of his actions and know
the history behind his rise to power. He did not simply receive power and
authority. He fought to the bitter end for every ounce he had. I mean no
offense when I say this, Taig, but if you were to fight Kir for his seat, I
highly doubt we would be standing here having this conversation.”
Something reflecting aggression yet understanding flashed upon the eyes of
the Battlelord as he tried to read the Herald’s expression, searching for
any kind of hint to what the meaning of his visit entailed.
“So what do you believe my rise in power is, Shik? A fluke? Do you think me
a puppet to the Dark Lord?”
Keeping a stoic face, Shikyo shook his head slowly.
“Not at all, my friend. I believe there is a greater purpose being placed
upon Kir and with his seat empty; someone else needs to fill the void. You
have great potential, but the ways of the Sith will not solidify the
foundation you seek. Trust me. Why do you think I gave up their teaching for
those of the Krath?”
Mechanical laughter did not hold the same effect as something more natural.
You could tell the different kinds of emotions that came from natural
laughter. With the necessity to have a mechanical voice box speak for him,
Taigikori sounded more like a droid pretending to be something more human.
“Shikyo, you mean to tell me that the Krath will prevail over the Sith in
their ambitions for power?”
The Kyataran smirked.
“I do not know but I will say that the Krath hold the Throne and have done
so for quite some time now. If the Sith were truly as ambitious as they are
made out to be, why does my brother still hold the mantle of Dark Lord? Why
has he not been challenged for the Throne already? Mandalorians, Jedi,
Yuuzhan Vong. The Krath continue to hold the Throne even midst these
threats. If you had truly earned your position through the ways of the Sith,
Kir would be dead and your ascension to Elder would have been more than
A vortex of emotions clouded the Justicar’s mind. Insults, cryptic messages,
threats, facts. Taigikori kept turning the Kyataran’s words over and over,
trying to find out the true purpose behind his words. As the Equite pondered
the words, Shikyo placed his hand on the shoulder of his friend.
“These are merely words, Taig. I do not doubt your ability to serve in the
grand position you have been given. However, I want you to see a clearer
picture of things. Perhaps there is a plan behind your ascension that you
yourself have not seen yet. Take care, my friend.”
Taking his leave of the Sith, Shikyo felt fatigue cling to his shoulders the
moment he left the area. There was something about politics that made him
more tired than if he had been engaged in a duel. Maybe it was the extra
effort needed in ensuring success; maybe it was the strenuous planning that
went into every word spoken. Either way, the only thing that the Elder could
think about was the beautiful woman who would be awaiting him in his room
One Year Ago
Knife after knife slapped against a tree, each one unsuccessful in burying itself in it, and flopping to the ground into a growing metal pile. Socorra huffed in frustration and set her tanned hands on her feminine hips, glaring at the small dents in the bark.
“Slice, kid, you couldn’t hit the broad side of Sang’s mum.” Sashar Erinos stood next to her, shaking his head and crossing his arms over his broad, armored chest.
“That’s just mean, Sarge. What’d I ever do to you?”
A smirk played about the Mandalorian’s features. “Come on, don’t let me down here. I know there’s a reason I want you on my team other than you curse worse than a Mando, which itself is damn impressive. What other skills have you?”
“Uh...” The young woman blinked for a moment, caught off-guard by the question. “I count cards.”
“What? Like, sabacc cards?”
“Yeah. I won a lot of money with it. Pissed off a lot of people, too.”
“Right. You said you were a smuggler or some osik. Pissing off people comes with the territory. Give me something useful.”
“Well, um, I know regular knives a little bit.”
“What about them?”
“Generally they’re pointy and-”
“Cut the crap.”
Socorra's lips puckered into a ruby pout as she withdrew a combat knife from her belt, emphatically pointing to it as she spoke. “I see it as a tool, not just a weapon. A huge amount of amazing things can be done with this tiny blade.”
“I was trained in knives. But it has been...a lifetime since. In my tribe, it was a tool, first and foremost, and perfect, at that. You can kill a man to protect your home, skin an animal for its fur, kill another for food. Use it to screw in bolts or pry open panels. Cut up meats and vegetables. Whittle new tools. Even heat it to cauterize wounds.”
Sashar nodded approvingly. “I like that. In fact, I love it. So much so, that I think you’re a clone.”
“Yep. I smell it.”
“You smell it? Is there some clone pheromone I’ve somehow not known about all my life?”
“Yeah, something like that. Kid, no one walks out of the Academy that brilliant. You’re definitely one of ‘em.”
“I’ll find out who. You go on practicing those throwing knives - I’ll be back shortly.”
She rolled her eyes and picked up a blade. “Whatever.”
“Hail, clone hunter!” Socorra snickered as the Erinos returned. She could almost spy the disappointment in his blue-black eyes.
“Right, so, you’re not a clone...that I know of.”
“Well no osik, Sarge.”
“Anyway, I’ve decided you’ll be our Analyst.”
“Because of my horrid knife-throwing skills?”
“No, because you are an analyst.”
“Oh...right. That is acceptable, then.”
“You’ll learn a bit of everything, anyway. You’ll have to go through the Killing House team training soon. I’ll get Celevon to set that up. You’ll also need a Master, too. Talos should be able to take care of that.”
“Wha? That Mando that captured and interrogated me? You’re making him my master?”
“Ahh frak me.”
“I’m gay, kiddo.”
Dajorra Intelligence Agency HQ
Sr. Analyst Office
MJHC Last Light
Three throwing knives floated around the newly-adopted Erinos as her mind triggered their orbit. Socorra’s skills were still sub par in thrown weapons, having instead focused on blasters for most of her Journeyman trials, but with her newly enhanced Force abilities, everything was suddenly...
The raw power that surged through the young woman was something that she could have only dreamt of or envied of her mentors. The Rite augmented all of her abilities and more; memories that would take time to pull to the surface were now instant. Telekinesis was no more than a mere thought.
The blades flipped ninety degrees, parallel to the floor, and suddenly exploded forward slicing through the air and penetrating deep into the wall inside of a crudely painted target. The knives formed the eyes and nose of a happy face.
Socorra smiled at her work and then spun gleefully in her chair, turning to the multitude of monitors on the wall, watching the progress of her current searches through the Agency’s databases. The work was painfully slow even with the best of modern technology, of which was more than fine to the Knight.
It gave her time to put her new powers to the test.
“He won’t break. We’ve tried everything, for two-some months, even went back to old-school waterboarding.” An intelligence agent handed Socorra a datapad and crossed his arms, peering through the one-way glass into the interrogation room. Inside the chamber sat a weathered, middle-aged man, shackled to a steel table and chair.
“I mean, I know you’re just an analyst, but if you want to try it, be my guest.”
“Right, I am just an analyst,” Socorra flatly replied and opened the door, stepping into the room. The agent watched through the mirror as the Knight jovially engaged.
“Greetings, I suspect you won’t be needing those anymore.” The prisoner’s restraints flew off in an instant and the man’s eyes widened a bit, as did the agent’s. The officer’s hands instinctively rested on an emergency panel as Socorra continued.
The Krath woman casually sat down across from the human and flicked through the datapad. “What is your name?”
“Mai,” he grunted, crossing his arms over his broad chest.
“An alias.” Socorra looked up and seemed to study him for a bit, her head slightly tilting to the side. When she spoke again, the language and intonation was in the prisoner's own exact native dialect, as if the female had lived in his own little town.
“Tell me your real name.”
The Knight’s head cocked to the side again and she was quiet for a moment more before a ruby-lipped smile adorned her face. “What if I call you Lani, as your mother used to?”
The man’s expression widened in surprise, and Socorra knew then and there that she had him.
Socorra’s office burst alive with a flurry of activity as she grew closer to fully understanding her newfound capabilities. The Krath’s encyclopedic mind was being tapped to its full as she analyzed and interpreted the data received on numerous monitors before her. A multitude of Academy courses were spread out on datapads lining her desk, all arranged neatly for faster processing. She sat at her desk in front of the screens, expression contorted in utter concentration, hands and fingers scrolling, flicking, pinching and twisting the displays in rapid-fire motion, soaking up the information like a superhuman data sponge.
The Socorran had longed for this for many, many years. Lacking formal education as a primitive desert nomad, she had set out to absorb and understand as much knowledge as she possibly could, using any and all means that the galaxy had to offer, much of it at an extremely high price. The Rite of Exaltation, as the Grand Master had called it, came with one such price. But at this very moment, it was so worth it.
Reserved only for his closest friends and lieutenants, it said something that the Dark Lord was so willing to impart its sweet embrace to that of the likes of a young Journeyman. The mission was that imperative.
The comm suddenly chimed on the desk, breaking her concentration as if snapping from a deep trance. The voice of Director and Dark Adept Timeros Entar Arconae emitted from the holocommunicator.
“Socorra. Please join me in my office.”
Still disoriented from the sudden intrusion, she mumbled out a quick: “Yes, Sir.”
With a curse, the woman quickly locked much of what she could and secured the office in a hurry. A fellow Krath Scholar and gunslinger in the Combat Centre, Timeros had also been her Rollmaster for most of her time in Arcona, and her Director in the DIA, placing her as Senior Analyst after her excellent work as Wuntila’s assistant in the recent Great Jedi War. Even so, Socorra was furious at having to stop in the middle of her work for him, knowing how time-sensitive much of the data may be. The Knight tried to hide her impatience as she sat down in a chair before his neatly-organized desk.
Timeros skipped the pleasantries, folding thin, gaunt hands down on the desk and piercing the woman with a cold, sharp stare, as if penetrating her mind with it.
"I am promoting you to my executive assistant, effective immediately."
She stared back for a moment, stunned. “You’re moving me from Senior Analyst to be your secretary? You want me to file osik for you?”
“Not quite. Take a look.” A bony hand gestured towards the datapad laying on the desk. Picking it up, she flicked through the datafiles and raised an eyebrow, peering up at him with disbelief written in her pale eyes.
“This is terrifyingly classified stuff, Sir. Like this team in the field here, although I don’t know why in Slice they’re using such an archaic system, this needs your review and signature. High-level meetings to attend--”
“Precisely. Review them, use my signature if I’m unavailable. Attend those meetings on my behalf, whatever you see fit.”
“Are you serious? This is your work. Director’s work.”
“You do realize I am the assistant to someone else right now--”
“Slice, Tim, I was considering taking vacation time--”
“Vacations are for bored and burnt-out housewives. Are you a bored and burnt-out housewife?”
Socorra frowned, noting the slightly insulting insinuation that as Aedile she was the housewife of Qel-Droma. Then again, maybe that was backlash for calling him Tim. She stared at his stoic, gaunt features for another moment, then sighed, her shoulders slumping in defeat.
“I'll need an assistant.”
“Then you will have one. Mindloop is yours.”
“Mind...loop? Why do I sense a trap?”
The Adept’s expression remained blank. “He is one of our premiere intelligence agents.”
Socorra slightly bent over the desk and flicked the communicator on.
“Summon Mindloop, please.”
“Mindloop is currently assisting in Interrogations. I can schedule him to meet with you in 30 minutes.”
“Fine.” She turned the comm off and returned to the Arconae. “I’ll need a bigger office. Here and Port Ol’val, probably the Citadel and elsewhere, too. I’ll seriously have to holocall for a lot of this--”
“And a raise.”
She tapped in a reminder to the datapad. “Remember to move decimal place on salary. Got it.”
Socorra expected the Entar to disagree but he nodded instead, throwing her for another loop. This whole meeting is strange, she thought.
“Now, I expect open communication between us. And of course, accountability.”
“Of course. I’ll also need higher security clearance. I don’t receive much as an Aedile.”
“Why higher clearance? Generally you just slice through the system when you need something.”
She blinked at him for a moment. There it is. The root of this entire conversation.
“This is why I want you as my assistant. You know what you are doing. And I need to keep an eye on you.”
“You knew about my hacking?”
“Indeed. As I knew about your real name. I know who you are. I wasn’t the first.”
Her jaw dropped. “Then who the frak was?”
“Sashar. Hence why he made you his analyst.”
She sighed. Oh Slice.
“Apparently you two knew the whole time, and seemed fine with it.”
“Teroch knows too. Mandos don’t care. When you join them, you cease to be who you were and embrace who you will become.”
She nodded. “That is a very good point. But you’re not a Mandalorian."
“Indeed. However, this is Arcona. Sneakiness and treason are expected and lauded attributes. Speaking of, I also know of your current trespasses.”
“Not by security breach. But by the sheer magnitude of the computing power your office is eating up right now.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me.”
Timeros’ dispassionate features told her that he was not, in fact, kidding. “Now, Socorra, I am more than a bit curious, and actually rather alarmed that I cannot seem to read you. What are you looking up? What is going on?”
She bit her lip, wondering how often the Krath read her mind without her knowing. “The usual Dark Jedi agenda. Blackmail, moves for power, power itself.”
Timeros replied with silence, and she sighed deeply before reluctantly launching into everything that had happened since she had left the Citadel days ago.
“Why did you not tell anyone?”
“Frankly, I find it difficult to trust anyone, even our own summit. I felt that I could handle this on my own.”
"Socorra. You are talking about a Dark Council member. You need to be extremely careful and you definitely cannot do this alone."
“And how am I supposed to trust you, for instance?”
“You generally shouldn’t. But under normal circumstances, I can spot deception. As you no doubt discovered and used in the interrogation room earlier, Krath are especially adept at reading minds.”
A voice suddenly chimed from the comm. “Mindloop is here to see you, Sir."
"Good, send him in."
A silver 3PO-class droid unit walked into the office, causing the Erinos to raise an eyebrow.
"Socorra,” Timeros gestured, “I'd like you to meet Mindloop. He's advanced."
"Really. Mindloop, where is the current location of Pravus?"
A jovial voicebox replied, “I do believe he is on Iltay, Master.”
"Iltay? The frak is Iltay? And what is he doing there?"
"He is outfitting the sharks with lasers, Master."
“Oh Slice.” Socorra buried her face in her hand. “Mindloop, you are the most special droid I’ve ever known. Welcome aboard.”
“I am happy to be of service, Master.”
The Temple Bellseph
He stood there in silence, the desert breeze flowing in through the hangar doors as he watched the transport and its fighter escort sweep across, calculating landing trajectory. It took but a moment for emerald eyes to close in on the pilots, for his senses to touch those inside. He had come alone to this ancient stronghold of the Sith. Even the millions of credits spent to modernize the facility weren't enough. They lacked the sense of camaraderie that drew the Obelisk to the Black Pyramid, they had no need for the constant learning that the Krath always drove themselves to.
Since they called the Force Bogan, the Sith were different. Each Sith was an army unto himself, and the battlefield was his college, each drop of blood spilled a lecture. The Temple that Okemi had rediscovered all those long years ago had gone quiet in recent years, the Journeymen focusing more on their home houses and clans, their summits paranoid that their strength would be sapped by recruiters from enemy clans.
The ships closed on the hangar, slowing to a crawl as the repulsorlift engines kicked up a cloud of steam, blowing back the green vestments that he wore over custom armour polished to a glossy sheen. The ramp descended and the dull crimson of the Guard spilled from the airlock. They moved with precision, but Halcyon saw through it, felt their anxiety. They weren't happy to be here.
The blackened robes and metallic beard of the Justicar made its way down the ramp, an antique holocron dangling on his belt across from the saber hilt he had reclaimed from the anachronistic Jedi in the last war.
"Taigikori." Halcyon greeted him.
Taigikori didn't waste any speech, dismissing the guardsmen with a wave of his hand.
"Awfully ...traditional?" Halcyon watched them turn and file back into the transport.
Taigikori twitched his upper lip. "I had to know."
Halcyon nodded. "The time is coming." He chose his words carefully, watching the Justicar, the one man who could really depose his enemy. "Sarin has fallen."
Taigikori was stoic in response. "Again?"
Halcyon paused, gathering his thoughts. "Surely you felt the disturbance in the Force, felt the shift in the balance of Power. There can be only one cause."
The mechanical jaw moved twice soundlessly before the name came out, echoing against the walls of the bay.
Halcyon did all he could to keep from smiling.
The mask hid him from the cameras, from the eyes of those who would know him. Pravus moved with a purpose, making his way to the depths of the Arconan stronghold, to the center of the hub. He had decided that he wanted to see the artifact himself, to feel along the threads of reality with new senses.
Everything buzzed. He could taste the power that fed the fluorescent lamps that guided his way, he could feel the ever ebbing echoes that the dead below the Citadel gave off. Every movement in the war-born complex was a vibrating hair on the back of his neck. The Force didn't merely speak to him any more. It sang a million songs, all at once. It was discordant, a cacophony of thoughts, of signatures, of madness, of hate, of fear, of presence, of pride. Each vied for his attention like a toddler. Pravus hated it and loved it all at once.
Sarin had trained him for this for a decade, hiding him with the Arconans that he had known a lifetime ago. Still, nothing could have prepared him for this, not even the ancient rites that burned his eyes and set his flesh to shake. Pravus paused for a moment, watching the wall move beneath his eyes before he sorted out the source of the vision. At least he wasn't ill like he was in the first few days.
The clomping of boots rapidly approached from behind him. Turning, he saw the journeyman through the walls as he approached, a holocom in his hand, urgency in his pattern, food still on his breath from the mess hall. He turned the corner, sliding into the man's natural vision.
"Master, there is an urgent message for you." He held out the holocomm as he slowed to a normal pace. Pravus wrapped his mind around it and pulled it to his outstretched hand with ease. The codes that flew from his mind into the device happened under unseen fingers as the journeyman turned and vanished from sight.
The standard of a horned beast spilled from the device, initializing a connection across private holonet connections made through Antei. He recognized the icon from Sarin's teachings. He waited as the connections routed across secure servers, from the Dark Councilor to his location. They knew.
"So it begins."
The camouflage was almost perfect. Sashar would have been proud. Soccora slouched against a wall, just out of sight from the man, letting the cool sensation sweep across her ears as she reached back to where she stood just a few moments before, letting the world unfold in her mind's eye.
She knew that voice.
The Fallen Spear
She shifted her weight uneasily as she watched the grey miasma through the forward viewscreen. The bridge was quiet, even for the Autoch ship. There was no rain of tones from the sensor arrays, no synthetically generated speech alerting the captain to whatever conditions that the engines faced. The man himself moved silently, the black uniform neatly pressed, the crimson piping a crisp contrast. He ignored her as he went about his duties, examining various readouts. He knew better than to mingle in their affairs.
The smooth hiss of the door opening behind her caused her to turn slightly. The Herald moved slowly, measured steps stopping alongside his sister-in-law. An eyebrow rose.
"In his quarters." The answer came before he asked it. "I can feel it, too."
He nodded. "It's worse than last time."
She turned from him slowly, moving toward the door. "I can't see an end." She paused, letting the door slide open in front of her.
"I'm not sure anyone can." Shikyo shifted his weight, looking back at her for a moment before staring out into the blur of hyperspace.
She moved slowly, her hand feeling along the smooth walls as she went, the sounds of her boots hitting carpeted durasteel floors resounding with muffled clacks. The air was cool, a hint of gorsa tree blossoms. He must have been to Tarthos recently. The trees would bud halfway through the warm season, the blossoms fluorescing in the summer nights to attract the bugs that would eat their nectar and pollinate them. It was a sight.
Her feet carried her to the turbolift and she keyed in the code for the captain's deck. The whirr of the motor pulling her up was faint, but still louder than her thoughts. The door slid open before she expected it to, the hallway lit brightly by the lamps of the turbolift. She stepped out, the dark carpeting absorbing her bootfall as the turbolift doors closed behind her, the light shrinking to a sliver, then vanishing, leaving nothing but the dim lights in sconces.
She let her eyes adjust to the dim, walking toward the entryway to the personal chamber of the dark lord. The antechamber was empty save for a desk, the holocomm still retracting back into the top. She watched it go, waited for the desk to seal the tech away inside of itself before heading for the door at the side.
The room was dark, save for the glow of hyperspace. The dull grey cast barely enough light to see tings in the room, but cut his profile out in stark shadow. She paused, watching him for a moment, letting him feel her presence before getting any closer.
"Pravus is moving." His words were simple, but begged many questions from her. The game of politics was difficult enough at the house level, where at the worst, the defeated one went into exile or retired into obscurity.
He turned slowly, and she could feel his eyes on her even if she couldn't make them out in the half light. He watched her for a second before answering the unspoken question.
"If it comes down to it."
“You know your instructions?”
“Yes my Lord.”
“Good. You have an appointment. Go.”
“Do not interfere. Follow where you must, but do not let either side know your intentions. Vodo can handle himself.”
“As you command, your Grace.”
Ad Mysterium Estate
Amicably the VOICE awaited his asset at the terminus of the shuttle’s landing ramp. The hissing of venting gases permeated the disembarking area, something the Twi’lek had never understood about starship design. Her face showed neither fear nor anger. Her steely expression gave away little of what was going on in that head of hers. Vodo attempted to peer behind the veil of her beautiful features and was instead stonewalled. Her mind was as closed to him as Arcona itself. The Grand Master must have gifted her with the Rite as well. So be it.
“This way, please. I’ve had my Praetor prepare us lunch.”
If Anubis was seething from constantly being used as little more than a serving man then his face betrayed none of it by the time the VOICE emerged from the manor upon the translucent balcony. The Transparasteel much of the great house was constructed from was again in prodigious use upon the protruding terrace. It hung, suspended a hundred meters over the crashing waves far below them on the cliffs of Silah. Socorra hadn’t noticed it from the Dining Room in her first visit but the view from here was quite beautiful and astounding.
“Breath taking, isn’t it?” The Praetor pulled a chair from the table politely and smiled to the woman.
“I—I’ve never seen anything like it!” She said accepting the seat, allowing the man to push the chair in towards the table as the VOICE assumed a custom sitting apparatus designed to accommodate his circumstances.
Anubis also took his seat after pausing halfway into it ensure that Vodo would allow him to remain. A quiet nod was all the instruction the Epis gave him. He poured a large glass of the same crimson liquid as before into goblets for everyone present and gestured to the dishes of sliced meats, cheeses, fruits, and breads.
After a short period, having allowed everyone to fill their plates and begin eating, Vodo looked to the Knight, “I’d like to begin: The information you sent us was valuable indeed. You did very well, Ms. Erinos.”
Finishing a piece of roasted meat she responded, “I prefer my surname, Naja. I’m an Erinos by affiliation”.
Lie or not, Vodo acquiesced, “Very well, Naja it is. The information your furnished me with however has proven valuable not only to me but to several very powerful individuals. For that, I must thank you with a token my appreciation.”
Vodo again nodded to Anubis who had produced an ornate dark wooden box. Polished to a bright shine in the light of Kr’Tal, Socorra could make out the intricate inlay of even darker wood as it drew arcane and indecipherable symbols. Drawing back an iron latch Anubis lifted the top open on its hinge revealing a highly polished blade within. 20cm long, the blade was sharpened along one curved edge. The backside of the blade was serrated viciously lending the entire weapon a certain elegance but also a sense of utility. The hilt was wrapped in some sort of lizard’s skin, black, and tied together with red-stained thread and capped with a pommel shaped from enamel. It held the visage of a roaring Rancor Chrysalaide.
“One of my sources remarked on your fondness for knives.”
“It’s wonderful”, she reached for it and grasped the hilt. Ignoring that the pommel set the balance slightly off she gently examined the entire piece, “I assume there’s a story behind this?”
The Epis stood and walked to the edge of the balcony, shortly followed by the Knight, “Have you ever heard of the Bladeborn?”
Shaking her head Vodo continued, “They were a Sith Cult that was obsessed with mastery of bladed weapons and the finesse to defeat opponents wielding Lightsabers with them. This piece was recovered by Anubis at my request after my research uncovered the final resting place of the last Masterblade; their equivalent of our Grandmaster. It was his most highly prized possession and now it is yours for services rendered and in my hopes that this… relationship may continue to be as fruitful.”
She regarded the weapon with guarded awe. Regaining herself she smiled and slipped it back into the case and closed the box, “In that case, you’ll be most interested to see what I’ve brought with me. Lord Pravus is on the move.”
The Arconan slid a small datapad from her pocket across the table to the VOICE and watched as his eyes danced over the contents. His breathing remained even, but she saw that it was only with effort. She felt his heart quicken and his thoughts begin to race, though of what they were she could not yet tell.
“Yes. This is very good as well. Pravus it seems will meet with Lord Halcyon and our esteemed Justicar… I’m sure the Grand Master—“
Vodo’s thoughts were cut short by the distant crack of a sonic boom and shortly thereafter the hiss of burning thrusters. The Praetor’s eyes locked with the Dark Councilors as they silently questioned one another. Anubis’s eyes went wide and he stood rapidly, his chair falling backward behind him.
“Socorra, are you expecting company?”
“No. Should I be concerned?”
Her face became contorted with alarm. She gently bit her lip and furrowed her brow and looked to the VOICE, seemingly for answers. The woman didn’t need one however, and she would play her part.
The Epis for his part suspected nothing, “Quickly, into the manor. Anubis, activate the perimeter security. Get TalSec on the Com, find out if this is a return visit from Halcyon. If it isn’t, I want a fighter wing over this estate now.”
“Yes, your Excellency”, the Praetor dashed off grasping his lightsaber hilt as he went.
Vodo strode into the manor briskly, not pausing to wait for the woman to grab her new weapon from its container. He summoned his own weapon to his hand from its resting place upon the mantle and climbed the short spiral staircase to the main landing and out the front entrance. He emerged from the great manor onto the lawn just as the shuttle, the source of the noise, touched down beside Socorra’s. A ramp descended.
Vodo reached out, seeking to identify the owner of the vessel. Expecting the familiar presence of his former mentor and now greatest enemy, the Krath instead felt nothing but cold. It poured from the shuttle as the icy wind swept across Hoth. He activated the weapon in his hand and watched from the corner of his eye as the silvery blade emerged with a distinct crack-hiss. He waited, but still nothing emerged from the shuttle.
Socorra stepped up beside him, her amethyst saber in hand, “What do we do?”
Vodo said nothing and took a step forward. He stopped immediately as a dark figure slowly emerged from the shadow of the shuttle’s interior. It clutched at a crimson saber, its body cloaked in a black hooded-robe. It was cliché, but it was the Sith way. He did not need to see the face to know.
Making to dash forward Vodo was instead caught off-guard as the man all but appeared before him, crossing the 20 or so meters between them in seconds. With nigh enough time to raise his defense the man was already making his follow up attack. The Sith’s mask was revealed slightly with each flurried movement as the hood swept back and forth allowing the bright sun to fall across it. The Epis struggled to keep up with the man. He’d never encountered a combatant such as this. One attack flowed into another. When one met resistance it shrugged the impedance off and became a second, and a third, and a forth; endlessly.
Soresu was useless against such an opponent. There was never an attack blunt enough to deflect and send the Sith off-balance. There was never a chance for the Twi’lek to pierce the onslaught of offensive maneuvers and change the pace of the battle. Pravus pushed in closely, denying Vodo the advantage of his lengthy weapon. His arms tired while his mind fought to remain out of the way. It was a relief, seemingly ages in the making, when Socorra’s amethyst blade wove into the intricate dance of light. Together silver and purple tangled with crimson allowing the VOICE enough time to begin to utilize his weapon as it was meant to. At distance and with power.
Overhead a new noise entered the battlefield. The clashing of blades upon one-another was replaced by the deafening roar of thrusters. Sensing his Praetor’s command, Vodo grabbed Socorra by the collar and leapt adroitly. The Dark Side coursed through the prosthetic legs, infusing them with a damp glow. Together they landed awkwardly upon the lowered boarding ramp of the Mare Nostrum, Vodo’s little used and greatly despised Horizon-class Luxury Yacht. The ramp lifted, sealing them safely inside as the Praetor punched the throttle forward.
Unwilling to allow his prey an easy escape the Sith Lord lifted his hands, calling forth with the might of his fury to prevent the ship from departing. Aboard, it felt as though the ship had become tethered and shook to a startling stop.
Over the ship’s PA Anubis’s voice strained to remain from becoming shrill, “Pravus has us! He’s pulling us to the ground!”
“Socorra!” Vodo opened his mind to the Knight, knowing she too still possessed great power that was not her own as he did.
She understood his intentions immediately and opened herself to him as well. Together they expanded their presence in the Force, enveloping the 30m craft in a protective bubble. Unable to find as great a purchase, Pravus’s grip upon the ship began to fade and with the ship’s thrusters maxed, the Mare Nostrum began to ply away. Slowly it gained momentum, meter by meter until the reach of the Sith Lord’s mastery was negligible. Pravus was naught to give up the chase. It had only begun. Calmly he paced to the ramp of his shuttle, closed the hatch, took the command seat, and lifted off.
Shaz'air raised an eyebrow in curiosity as he turned from the display. It was short notice, not that he would have expected any different. He knew that her presence was a limited resource and had tried to make the best use of it. Still, it didn't change the reality of the situation. He would need another Aedile and quickly if he was to maintain the battle-readiness of Taldryan. At the very least, he had to keep up appearances, to keep the wolves of the Brotherhood at bay.
She nodded at him; the half bow afforded an equal. The whine of the communicator beckoned him again, this time the frequency from Port Authority. He shrugged it off. "You’ll remain in Taldryan?" It was more of a statement then a question. The Quaestor did not wish to loose someone so valuable so completely.
"For the time being." She gave him a reassuring look before turning to leave. "I have work to do."
"Of course, you do." Shaz'air grimaced as the communicator whined more insistently. He wheeled around as the door closed behind her, slapping the button and barking into the microphone. "What?!?"
The Port Authority Officer was plainly stunned as he stuttered for a moment. "S..s...s..s.sssir, there's a lot of unregistered traffic, you should see this."
The display bloomed in bright blue at the display unit. The technology was older than he was used to, as the rest of the station was. The new platform was still under construction, and overseeing fleet maneuvering exercises was easier from space than planetside. Citadel Alpha had to do for now. He let the colored light wash over his eyes, drawing back his focus, looking for the problem. Vodo's ship was tearing ass from his estate, the IFF was easy to recognize. Uncomfortably close behind it was something else. He zoomed in, trying to get a read on the ship, a model make, an IFF tag. Nothing.
He felt his blood start to heat. Vodo was a Taldrya, and this fool was attacking him here, on Taldryan's home turf? He unclenched his teeth, then his fingers. "Sergeant, open a comm to ChaseX Squadrons." He scowled. The new fighters were brutal. Fast and powerful predators in the void, they were still untested in battle. He let a cruel smile creep up from the corners of his mouth.
Anubis punched it, the Yacht moving about as gracefully as a pregnant bantha. "This is the best they give the Voice of the Grand Master?"
Vodo wasn't sure if he’d heard Socorra say it, or if he had just thought it out loud. He sent out the prerecorded distress beacon to the Tal channels just as Pravus' assault cannons scorched the fuselage.
"He's a failure of a shot." Soccora laughed as she held on to her seat restraint.
Vodo shook his head. "He's just trying to get us to land."
"Why would he want that?"
"He probably wants to kill me in person." The Tactical display freaked out, showing the response of a half dozen of the new Taldryan fighters.
The ChaseX fighters emerged out of nowhere. The Starfighters surrounded Pravus’ ship like a horde of angry hornets swarming for the kill. Another squadron surrounded Vodo’s ship moments later. In different times, he would have been impressed by their efficiency.
“Sir, on my mark, bank left and head for Citadel Alpha. We have you covered.” A voice crackled over the comm unit. Vodo breathed a sigh of relief.
A moment later, Vodo and a half a dozen Starfighters moved off towards the Space Station just as the rest of the squadron opened fire on Pravus’ ship. Laser canons exploded, tearing through the hull of the ship. Vodo glanced back, watching the carnage, feeling something play across the Force, dancing across his senses as they dulled. The rite was all but finished, and Pravus was far from defeated.
Ashia paused in the middle of the hallway, a pale hand reaching to her temple for a moment. The snap of displaced air blew her warcoat and long crimson locks back dramatically. She blinked, letting her eyes adjust quickly.
"I still don't see it." He coughed, adjusting to his new surroundings quickly. The lightning quick deployment courtesy of his brother always unnerved him some, but he did well to hide it.
She nodded, moving toward the docking station and the transport waiting for them. They had little time to spare. By her math, the rite's effects would fade in little more than an hour. They had to be well on their way by then.
A door opened slowly, dark robes obscuring all but a lonely holocron dangling at the waist and the glint of metal at the chin. He stepped forward, heavy boots resounding on the floor. "Master Herald, I would require your assistance in a Chamber matter."
The Herald said nothing, just waited for him to continue.
They stood silently, each waiting for the other to speak, a deadlock of stares. Neither moved a muscle, their eyes trained, focused on nothing and yet everything. Taigikori knew the plan, understood Halcyon's intentions. Separate and weaken the base, then strike at the head. But first, the test of young Pravus. He would hold Vodo there for him to cut his teeth on.
Ashia’s azure eyes flickered towards her brother-in-law momentarily as a silent thought passed between them.
A whoosh sounded as the doors slid open yet again from the landing pad. Mechanical legs moved the Voice forward into the room as the fighter pilots finished their landing cycles behind him. He stopped abruptly and stared at the three of them standing there quizzically. A moment of panic set in as a silent thought passed between him and his Magistrate. The rite was all but finished, and his senses were dampened, worse than a fresh journeyman.
"Vodo, You are hereby bound."
Vodo's face was a mixture of shock and confusion.
"On what charges?" Ashia spoke up.
"That..." Taigikori blinked his eyes, a long pause as he thought before speaking again. "...is privileged information."
Taigikori moved forward only to have the Herald step into his path.
“I don’t think so, Aybara.” Shikyo’s eyes flashed crimson as his anger rose.
Eyes did all that his missing jaw could not do. Taigikori glared at the Herald with an intensity that could have shunned the brightest star.
"You dare to stand between the accused and the Justicar?"
The Wolf of Kyataru steeled himself, preparing for his next words and next action.
"On behalf of the Iron Throne, I stand between two Councilors. Stand down, Taig, or draw."
The Warlord had become faster than before but the Elder read him even before the words
escaped his lips. Aybara drew back his robe, unclipping his saber and snapping the crimson blade to life at the same time the Krath male had drawn his sabers, meeting the Justicar's weapon closer than the Sith would have preferred. Turning his head back slightly towards his sister-in-law, Shikyo let his mind say what he refused to let his lips release.
'Grab Vodo. Get him out of here.'
Ashia's lightsaber hung at the ready as she turned her attention towards Socorra and Anubis, arching her eyebrow slightly upon looking at her brother-in-law.
'Sidelining me already, little brother?'
Releasing his hold on Taigikori's blade before delivering a spin-kick towards the fellow Councilor, Shikyo pressed the matter a little harder.
'We need him out of range of Pravus until Musashi shows up. Vodo is useless for the time being and the two of them will need assistance in case Halcyon attempts to blind-side us. Don't worry. I'll save plenty for you.'
Nodding slightly, Ashia moved in front of the Twi'lek and led Anubis and Socorra out of the area, leaving the two Dark Councilors to the business at hand. Turning his attention back onto his opponent, Sasuke was greeted with the sole of combat boots, feeling the hardened rubber collide into his cheek with a fierce intensity. Spinning in place, the Keibatsu growled at his ignorance and let the pain wash over him, countering with backhanded slashes aimed at the Sith's chest. The Justicar jumped back just enough to watch the tips of the blades miss his torso by a couple of inches, lifting his head up before flashing a smirk of arrogance at the Krath.
Flashing his own sadistic smirk back at the Warlord, the Kyataran gripped his sabers between his thumb and forefinger, opening his hands to unleash a burst of unseen energy in the direction of his opponent. Taig wasted no time in building a barrier in the Force, confident that he could withstand the incoming maelstrom. The Sith was unprepared for the wave that battered over his defenses, feeling his concentration weakening just enough to open the
barrier slightly. Shattering the barrier, the wave of energy knocked Taigikori off his feet, moving him several feet deeper into the station. Aybara shook off the disorientation from the burst as his eyes furrowed in rage and locked themselves firmly upon the Herald.
The Justicar wasted no time in extending his hands, drawing from his rage and unleashing multiple blasts of radiant energy in the direction of the Krath Sorcerer. Shikyo turned and contorted his body to dodge the powerful bursts of energy, feeling the tendrils of the Force course through his muscles and increase his reflexes. Turning back towards the Sith with an
arrogant smile of his own, Sasuke was not prepared for the blast that took his legs out from under him. Somersaulting slightly in the air, the Kyataran fought to correct himself in mid-air, landing with a heavy thud on the durasteel below him. As he looked up to find the image of his opponent, Aybara was already leaping towards the Kyataran with the Warlord's crimson
blade pointed towards the jugular of the Keibatsu.
Behind him, the sound of a second lightsaber springing to life rang throughout the ears of the Herald. Resigning himself to his fate, Sasuke did not expect to see a radiant amethyst beam strike against the Councilor's blade, repelling him enough to provide a comfortable distance between the Warlord and Elder. With a playful purr to her mind's voice, the former Nightsister stood beside her brother-in-law, retrieving her saber in mid-air.
'No need to worry, Shik. He's here and Sidarace is moving Vodo to a secure location alongside Anubis and Socorra.'
Shikyo smirked sadistically before turning his attention to the former Headmaster.
"You have been deceived, Taigikori. Nothing more than a pawn to serve Halcyon's desires. If you truly value your position, stand down or prepare to receive the reward of your so called 'ambitions'."
Every second and every breath taken registered and claimed a memory slot in Socorra’s mind, weaving a tapestry of information that she would later recollect, analyze, and report. Her senses stretched out past the Voice’s entourage as it moved towards the command center, probing into the hushed conversations and covert transmissions of those onboard the station.
Not quite invited, but not necessarily taken by force, it was a rather strange situation to be surrounded by so many brothers, servants, and spawn of the enemy. It was no secret that Taldryan and Arcona were at odds. The irony of the situation was not lost on the Knight of the Shadow Clan, and neither was the danger.
Ashia had left the Dark Councillor’s entourage midway through their hustle to the command center. Shaz’air took over, the Taldryan Quaestor seeming as worried and protective over the Voice as the Keibatsu, though a probe into the Son of Taldryan’s mind told Socorra another tale entirely.
Vodo was weak, his body tired, exhausted, and completely depleted of all traces of the incredible Force connection he had had merely an hour ago. The Rite was gone, leaving him with a phantom limb of the Force. The Epis still clutched for the ethereal whispers around him but found nothing save the lonely emptiness of a mundane life that had known such great power.
It was obvious to the Erinos. What was once a brilliant flame next to her as they battled Pravus, was now cold, lifeless ashes, not even a hint of smoldering cinders. And she could see that the Twi’lek was afraid. Very afraid.
As he should be.
They are not your friends, she spoke to him silently, her lips remaining still. The Force carried her thoughts to the Voice like a leaf floating in the wind. Vodo turned to look at the raven-haired woman, fear radiating from him, his lekku twitching nervously, unable to hide his emotions.
So vulnerable without the Force.
He is stalling us. Waiting for Halcyon...and Pravus.
She felt his heart suddenly race within its cavity, panic rising through his normally collected conscience. What do I do? he thought, replying to the feminine voice inside his mind.
Is your Praetor loyal?
Are you so sure? He would replace you once you’re disposed of.
Vodo looked away, unwilling to face the truth.
I am here because of you - they will separate us once we get to where they are taking us. Ask to use the refresher, or fake something before it happens.
The Taldrya turned back to her and nodded slightly.
The ‘Spear is in the system now. We may need to break away, Mando-style.
The woman's ruby lips turned into a mischievous smirk as her tanned and burn-scarred hand brushed one of the dual pistols at her hips. The motion evoked wide, hazel eyes from the Twi’lek and lekku that raveled and unraveled themselves at the prospect of combat.
He hadn't expected this. Every stroke of his blade was met with ease, and two more seethed toward his limbs, the angry light of the Krath's blades shearing bits off of his sleeves, his robes. He bounded backwards, switching to a more defensive posture, watching the Herald glance at the Lord's wife. He read the files, heard the stories. They were trained to act in concert. Two of them were more than a match for him.
What was Halcyon thinking?
Taigikori debated another assault, tightening the fingers on his hilt. He let it play out in his head, riposte and parry, evade and counter. If it was just one of them, he probably still would have barely survived. Together...
They were playing with him.
He lowered his guard, stepping back out of threat range, eyes watching the pair for any sudden movement, any cause to raise his weapon again. Of course. They were told to let him live. The Dark Lord had no need for the death of a Justicar. There wasn't anything to gain.
Shikyo rolled his blades casually, falling backwards as Ashia stepped behind him, turning toward the corridor that led down to the airlocks. Taigikori would have sneered at the whole situation. He was manipulated. Thrown like fodder at an enemy that he had little hope of defeating. If Halcyon was to be his master, he had to know the traditional end of such an arrangement.
Taigikori lowered his head, his thumb flitting across the activation stud on his weapon, the plasma blade slurping back into the hilt. He could feel the crystals powering down, the low hum evaporating.
Shikyo raised a single saber to his brow, then swept it down in quick salute before turning down the corridor. The justicar dropped his knees to the durasteel, closing his eyes and opening his mind. He could feel the alien ship of the Krath Lord docking on the far end of the station. He could feel the Voice, muted as it was, edging toward it, felt the others as they joined him.
The engines fired twice, a gentle murmur before spinning free of the docking controls, the airlocks venting briefly as the ship cleared, passing out of his senses. There was something more, beyond all that.
It burned wild, a fire of crimson fury and putrid hate that stung his eyelids and scorched his breath. He reached out to it, and found himself withdrawing quickly, the pain blooming in ways he did not think possible.
You have failed.
There was a moment before the agony found him, dragged him to the ground and tore at his soul. The beds of flesh beneath his fingernails cracked in fear and he saw the blood begin to pool beneath them. The metals of his jaw began to creak, the gears screaming in agony, metallic howls of compression beyond what it was meant to do. His spine became a whip of horror, lashing up through his every nerve, caressing the base of his skull with vibrant tones of decay and fire. He wouldn't howl, he promised himself.
He could feel the man, hiding behind his mask. Behind the sensibilities of the emerald one, Pravus paced like a caged animal, his claws drinking deeply of his flesh even from so very far away. Each wave threatened his consciousness anew, each crest of suffering drawing him closer to the brink. He would not wish for death. He would not cave in to their rage, their cannibalistic tradition. He had purpose, strength he had earned for himself, not power stolen from the dying. Resolve filled his heart, but the unseen hand threatened to crush it out of him again, blood flowing across the metal of his jaw, bits of flesh and cold breath with it. There was only one who trusted him, and Taigikori had betrayed him.
Taigikori knew who he wanted that to be now.
Iron Throne Chambers
Shikyo remembered his first time Translocating via his eldest brother. He
felt as though his intestines would spill upon the floor before his very
eyes. As he watched the Justicar retch and gasp for breath, the Keibatsu
couldn't help but smirk at the scene before him. However, the Elder knew
that by bringing the Sith Equite back into their ranks, Pravus' wrath would
grow tenfold and it would come like a raging bull upon them all. Leaving the
chambers with a determined step, Sasuke made his way towards his own office.
As he entered the seemingly abandoned space, Elysia stood by the door way
with her eyes fixed on the Arconan and her hand on her blaster. The Kiffar
woman turned towards her husband and smiled slightly before nodding her head
in the direction of the Knight.
"She hasn't been going to anything questionable. Sticking to the task at
Never removing her eyes from the screen, Socorra snapped back with a tone
that was more than un-amused.
"You can tell your bitch to keep her hand off her gun. I'm not doing
Elysia flicked the safety off her blaster just in time for Shikyo to place
his hand on her chest, halting her advance. Turning his attention back to
the Knight, the Herald refused to let his annoyance fester in his physical
or vocal language.
"Arconan, I respect your abilities but do not make the mistake of referring
to my wife as such. I'd hate to send a useless body to the steps of the
The Journeyman scoffed. She hid her fear well in her body tone but the Elder
could feel the turmoil brewing within Socorra.
"You really don't trust me, do you?"
"Given my history, could you blame me? In time, you may see what I've
already known or perhaps not. Either way, I'd prefer caution to blind trust.
Now, what can you tell me about Pravus' movements?"
Fingers danced across the holopad in a flurry that nearly reminded the
Herald of a lightsaber duel. The Krath female certainly had a gift with
technology for which the Kyataran was glad to have at their disposal, if
only for the moment. As soon as she had found her target, a sharp gasp
managed to slip through Socorra's ruby red lips at the same moment Shikyo
felt a powerful entity in the Force.
"He's approaching The Shroud. And from his movements, he's not looking to
have a friendly conversation. Also, we have another ship en route."
Sasuke's words were cut short as he could feel a familiar presence coming
towards them. The sensations he felt reminded him of the calm moments within
the eye of a massive storm. Turning his attention towards the Kiffar, the
Elder's words came at a much louder tone than normal as he barked orders to
"Mesh'la, grab your weapons and hold this position with Socorra. I
will send assistance your way very shortly."
The Herald could hear his wife attempt to question her husband's orders but
he did not bother to stick around to listen to them. There were much more
pressing matters at hand. Reaching out to the Dark Lord and the Zabrak by
his side, Shikyo moved towards the landing bay where he would meet the
lesser of the two storms.
'Musashi, Pravus and Halcyon will be here presently. And they're not
alone. Tsainetomo is en route. And something has him furious.'
20 kilometers from the Dark Hall
First Sarin and now Taigikori. Wherever he went, the Lion of Tarthos went
unchecked in taking whatever he desired. Halcyon had made his pleas and had
spun his rational words together in simple yet eloquent designs. It didn't
matter. Words would not accomplish what needed to be done. Action and action
alone was necessary to fulfill the ambitions set forth by the former Dark
Lord. Muz Ashen had to die and with the powers bestowed upon him, Pravus
would see his master's will be done.
Outside the Dark Hall
The Wanderer approached the Dark Hall with subtle and focused steps guiding
his path. Looking up towards the entrance, he could see the form of a
dark-silhouetted man with a wide brimmed hat standing in his way. Lifting
the robe from his face, Sai had appeared a little more grizzly-looking than
Sasuke had been used to. His journeys had added a more rough and rugged
appearance to the Obelisk to the point that the Elder would not had
recognized his cousin were it not for his imprint in the Force. Lifting his
head up slowly to meet the eyes of the Primarch, confusion and uncertainty
laced the words that escaped the Herald's lips.
"Been some time, hasn't it, cousin?"
Tsainetomo's expression remained stoic to the point that it began to unnerve
"I've heard that Lord Sarin is dead. Worse of all that it was unprovoked and
done so by the current Dark Lord."
"Musashi has his reasons. He has never done a thing without just cause."
"Or have his own ambitions blinded you? What possible reason would Muz have
to end his life? Sarin has never once made an attempt to retake the Throne."
"That you are aware of. You've been out of the world long enough to not
receive current news, Tsainetomo. Search your feelings. Do you think Musashi
would be so careless in his actions?"
Sasuke hoped that his words had his desired effect. Looking at his cousin
however, the shuffling within his robes to produced two worn hilts told the
Herald of the Primarch's intent. Unclipping his own sabers from his belt,
the Elder tightened his grip on the wrapped pommel more so than usual. He
had sparred with his cousin before but the mood had become much serious than
that time. As tangerine blades accented the static background, Shikyo
steeled himself before igniting the amethyst and silver blades of his own
weapons. This was not the battle the Herald desired but for the time being,
it was a necessary evil. He could only hope that he could convince the
Haruun-Kyataran in time to turn the tide on the true storm on the horizon.
Vodo paced the rug thin, staving off fatigue with motion. He was worn out, the tired having worked its way through to his bones. Or was it hunger? He paused, feeling the cold worm its way through the ancient stone, through the rubber and metals all the way up to where his torso joined the prosthetic. The shiver was involuntary, and Vodo's eyes glared at his hand as it did so. He blinked, trying to will it silent, but found no purchase.
"If there is a hell..."
Muz turned slowly to look at him. Standing next to the ancient seat of power, the Dark lord rested an arm on the cold iron that many had died for. That many had lived for. Taigikori slowly found his way to his feet, forcing his legs to obey his command. It had been three hours, and the punishment doled out by Pravus was exasperated by the vulgar display that stole his form away from their clutches. He was grateful, if drunken with suffering.
"Tsainetomo..." Vodo spoke slowly. "Your brother faces him on the steps."
Muz pivoted, looking to Ashia, his dark eyes meeting hers for a moment, holding there as words unspoken flew between the two. Vodo cringed, feeling the cold of the Anteian night seep through him.
"Empower me, master, that I may be of some service to you." The Voice licked his lips, half bowed as he approached a few feet closer. "I implore you, my lord."
He turned from the Nightsister, bathing the Twi'lek in his gaze. Greed. Power held the alien like an addiction, casting aside logic, reason, fear. It was a selfish need that drove him, nothing more. Everything else was inconsequential to his eyes. Held away from the lifeblood of the universe, Muz understood him.
The rite had faded, and one such as he, who defined himself solely by what power he had gained would shake like a leaf in a tornado when it had fallen away. The hunger would never subside for him. Heaven forbid that the rite's aftermath would steal away his power for good.
He had no answer, only moved toward the door, leaving the throne behind him. Ashia moved in step with him, Socorra falling back with Anubis to help the Justicar and the Voice follow.
The Steps of the Dark Hall
Shikyo pushed Tsainetomo's defense hard, backing him up the narrow stone platform. Ataru commanded mastery of the soil, and the Herald flowed into Makashi to deal with the wild-maned one's Jar'Kai Niman. Sabers spun at awkward angles to deflect the precise strokes of the duelist form, the Elder's speed testing the durability of his will. He found himself backpedalling, letting Soresu guide his hands, the muscles moving almost of their own accord as they darted between Shikyo's saber and his throat, his heart, his knee, his shoulder, his gut.
There was no deception to be had here. No ruse would fool blood easily, no situation feigned well enough for either man to take the bait. This was skill on skill. Tsainetomo pressed hard, bounding backwards, out of reach of the Herald's weapons.
"What of Loyalty?"
The world went grey for a moment, and breaths came shallowly to them. Rooted to the ground, they found their sabers weighing more and more, arms struggling to keep them in play. Shikyo grimaced as he cursed the sorcery, deep magic from ancient times that no doubt was flowing from his brother's hand. Yet something more moved, just out of sight.
"Loyalty to whom?" Shikyo snarled. "For Sarin? He killed his own family just for the experience of it. Is that worthy of loyalty?"
"That makes it right for your brother to murder Sarin?"
It moved closer yet, the black hood crowding anything identifiable from their view. It moved between them, casually moving up the steps to the entrance to the ancient temple. It paused a few steps higher, looking back at them through the narrow black slit of a helmet painted in blood and ashes.
"No." The voice was deeper than either man would have expected. "I murdered Sarin."
Armor vanished under dark cloth again as he moved further on, opening the huge doors with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Two Years Ago
Sashar muttered to himself as he stared at it. The three small vials in their case, innocuous looking liquids that could have held anything. He closed the case, sealing the locks with a quick flip of his wrist. He sat down, watching the hidden drawer slide it away from view.
It was a deal with the devil.
He looked for a bottle, absentmindedly tapping the top of his desk with his fingers. Hidden there, the targeted virus would never see the light of day, let alone be deployed. Only he knew it was there. Only he knew it even existed. None would know of the Dark Lord's ...insurance policy.
Not so long as he lived.
The dark lord stopped mid-stride, simple looks causing Ashia to usher the others off to the side of the hall, holding fast between an antique frieze displaying Keto's attack on Deneba and a statue of Kun. Muz dropped his weight, hands casually resting upon the hilts that rode at his hip.
The doors opened quickly at the far end of the hall, the dark robes of the interloper seeming to swirl in the tide of shadows cast by flickering torchlight and stone effigies.
He came to a stop, a gulf of distance between them. "Yes."
"Come to replace Halcyon?"
Pravus's sabers screamed to life, the bloodshine and golden blades blazing as the man threw himself at him. They were familiar, crystals likely taken from his master's weapons. Muz evaded the strokes, bounding backwards out of reach, footwork taking him out of reach of each cauterizing blow as he let the hilts of his sabers fill his palms.
Pravus bore down, letting the weight of the universe lend itself to his blow, crashing the weapon into Muz's defense, blood pounding in his ears as the man just got out of the way, refusing to contend for space. Rage bloomed in his heart, and Pravus would feed it. He drove a weapon deep into the man's guard, the aurum singing precariously close to the Dark Lord's face, a lock of dark hair scorching at its vibrant embrace.
Muz's response was faster and more aggressive than he expected, the violet violence of his weapon shearing into the emitter of the lightsaber, rending the blade useless as it slurped back into the ether. Pravus let the loss feed the demon in his chest, pulling it to a solid point, white hot rage barreling from his core through his arms and to his outstretched fingers. The fury erupted from his hands, bolts of raw dark energy crackling from him, lightning striking from his own personal stormcloud.
They crashed into the crossed blades of the Dark Lord, pushing him back, boots scraping the stone. Pravus dropped the crimson blade, lending another hand to the outpouring, the power rocketing his foe back and into the air as the energy splashed off of his weapons, raining to the floor below.
Pravus poured his hatred into it, the fear of a life lived by that ancient code, that failure was death. The loneliness that such a life demanded, the cold rationalization fueling his temper, powering the infernal engine deep within. He bellowed as he poured it all into him, watching the lightning surround Muz, drinking his flesh as he lost sight of the man, blindly calling on the reserves he had built, every broken bone a log on the fire, every drop of blood spilt was a gallon of fuel. Not even gods had the rage he had. They would all become pillars of salt, monuments to his rage, to his power.
He fell to his knees, fingers writhing with age and corruption as he felt the price come due, the toll he'd pay gladly for this prize. The burn cascaded from him, each crackling bolt rebounding off, striking centuries old tapestries, works of art from ages past. The storm was passing, the presence of his foe muted as the leftover lightning struck near the feet of his wife, his brother, his cousin, his voice.
He let his hand strike the floor, let the cold of the stone seep through his weathered hands.
The clack of a bootfall in front of him drew his attention immediately.
"Did you need a break?"
"You will die." Pravus rocketed himself up, blade screaming vague obscenities as it was sent off in awkward directions by the Grand Master's defense.
"Not by your hand."
Muz's stance shifted, blades spinning in his hands as he built a cage of light around the man, power and aptitude meted by precision and skill learned only by decades of practice. This was not something Sarin had taught him, not something that the Sith Lord had prepared him for. Each movement was hampered by burning light of one of the man's sabers, the cold predatory eyes of the Dark Lord not betraying any emotion except...
He pushed past the depletion, scraped together enough strength for one strike from Hell's embrace. Snapping out of place, the crack of displaced air blew back the dark robes of the Dark Councilors where he returned to the universe.
"Sarin told me your weakness, Ashen." He raised a hand, letting his hatred pool again. "Your blood."
The thunderous crack resounded in their ears, knocking them all to the floor as Pravus vanished.
The Lion of Tarthos dropped to his knees, head bowed as he rested. "And your weakness was the same as your master's."
Ashia saw him first, the emerald erupting as it shot like an arrow straight to Muz's heart, taking advantage as always was his plan.
There was no time to warn him, no time to even react as the world fell apart, concussive force banishing them all to the far corners of the room. All sound was muffled as Shikyo pulled himself up first, moving to where his brother lay, screaming silent obscenities at Halcyon as he rose slowly. The Keibatsu picked up the blades of his brother, the amethyst and crimson blaring in the darkness and severing an arm before Halcyon's lightning cast him aside, a barrage of heated hate feeding on his heart and stilling his thoughts. Ashia threw her sabers into the air, her mind calling them to her hands as she absorbed the lightning as he redirected it at her. She collected the bolts on one saber before activating the other, the silver blade snaking out, cutting deep gouges at his hip, at his brow, his ear.
Halcyon's growl deepened, calling upon the pain that screamed from his wounds, the smell of burnt blood searing his nostrils as he used his mind to crack the crystals within her weapon, the saber detonating and casting them both aside, her lithe form cracking against the statue of Bane.
Halcyon couldn't hear the voice, but he saw Taigikori's jaw moving, no doubt cursing him and his treachery, the deceptions he wove to get to this point. His usefulness was at an end. He willed his blade to cut at the man, the emerald of the saber finding the notch between his gorget and jaw, silencing him forever. Halcyon sneered. Vodo cringed behind Socorra and Anubis, both drawing blasters and unloading them in his direction before he ended them with newfound ease.
He stopped to admire his work, his mind finding the path that led from here. He would find Pravus, wherever he was exiled to, and then begin pacifying the clans. Naga Sadow would join with Arcona at the loss of their own, and Taldryan would join them rather than side with him.
"You still haven't learned."
Halcyon's mind broke and he blinked. His blade was buried deep in the man's chest, the brilliant green having scorched into the Dark Lord's heart, but still he stared at him, the deep black of his eyes watching his own. He refocused himself. This wasn't the first time Muz had done this to him. He howled in rage, the betrayal of futures past stinging him as he pushed his weapon deeper into the man's flesh, only to see the power absorbed until the blade began to flicker, the power cells wearing thin.
Muz turned and stood, tucking his sabers back into his belt as he regarded the Dark Prophet. "My death is not all that separates you from the Throne."
Halcyon dropped to a knee. He had to admit that he was right. Everything he had dreamed would deepen the cracks within the Brotherhood, weaken it with pointless combat, wasteful energy. Every victory he would have was pyrrhic.
"Teach me, master."
Muz looked down at him. "But first..." He gestured with one hand, the thundercrack of displaced air roiled his stomach and twisted his mind.
Halcyon found himself elsewhere, his ears filled with the screaming of a billion souls and the death throes of stars. Bitter cold crushed him from all angles and the vacuum threatened to tear him apart. Halcyon felt the ice form in his nostrils, and tried to draw the Force up around him like a blanket to protect him, but it refused to listen, distracted by the howling netherworld winds. Darkness was so perfect here, he couldn't even see his nose. He reached for his saber, finding only empty holsters where it was but a moment ago. No light, no weapons, only the unending pain that burned into his mind, the curse of sensitivity in such a place. Sensitivity and power, but absolutely no control.
The Dark Star, Ante, was just as forgiving as the Dark Lord himself.
Such was the price of ambition.