The Dragons Breath
The Dragons Breath
As one dragon rises, another must fall...
Chapter 1: Rise
The future is not always in motion
A howling gale blew through the sorceress’s red hair.
Alone, the woman stood above the cowered form of one of the two she had knelt before, studied with, learned from -- but at that moment, a moment that had been frozen in time, a day that was unavoidable, destined
, she was now the one in control, not the prophet, nor the mad oracle, unwizened by the corruptive powers that had consumed the pair she had called master.
Her head rose toward the flashing white forks that filled the night sky.
Thunder shook the ground beneath her feet as the angry, violent forks of lightning tore apart the heavens above. For too long had invisible chains kept her true master’s essence imprisoned here, for too long had its power been locked away, kept sealed by the sorceries of its creator.
But no more.
Its creator had been bested. His apprentice along with him.
That left her. The one who had been apprentice to all three.
Behind her, the crumpled prophet lifted a withered, skeletal hand up toward the clouds. His jaw hung open but no audible words emerged; his pale eyes looked hollow, empty of life.
She watched the energy in the skies above her coalesce. It was being beckoned. Invoked.
Only to be shackled again.
But she would not allow it. The woman turned back to the dark inferno -- and stepped in front of the approaching chains of energy. It would embrace her just as she would embrace it.
“Until death do us part... Master." Her words were a mockery.
Then everything went black.
Somewhere in Deep Space
Sildrin awoke from her sleep with a start.
Her bed sheets were damp with sweat and she felt uncomfortably hot. The image she had just seen was still imprinted in her head. She quickly glanced around, feeling uneasily vulnerable.
“Master...?” breathed the sorceress quietly, almost feeling as if she was being watched.
Was what she had just seen in her dreams just a vision, or...?
She rubbed her eyes, struggling to make sense of everything, but all she could focus on was the irritating rattle of the durasteel walls of her sleeping quarters as the small shuttle tumbled through hyperspace toward their unknown destination. Her pale fingers slid up to massage the sides of her temples. This could not continue. They had to bring this search its conclusion.
It had gone on too long.
As she tried to empty her mind, her restored eyes drifted to the throbbing crystalline shard on the table beside her bed. The fragment of the damaged holocron that she and her new Master had found in that temple beneath the sand dunes on Jaguada.
Trevarus had been trying to stop them finding him all year.
But even the great oracle did not see everything. And now they were finally on the correct path. At least, that is what the sorceress clung to. Predictably, Xanos still had not explained what the holocron shard had shown them -- but her Master’s lack of support was nothing new.
A sharp buzz pulled her back out of her internal introspection and brought her attention back to the present -- and toward the door to her sleeping quarters. Why did they always make buzzers so irritating? The sorceress made an audible sigh and reached over to the bedside table and keyed her room’s commlink online.
"Yes?" Sildrin demanded, her voice tired and not hiding her displeasure at being disturbed.
If it had been her new Master, he would just have projected his request into her head. Whoever was outside was probably just one of the crewmen wasting her time with another update.
"We must speak," came the slightly modulated voice of the commlink.
The newest dragon was outside -- even if the man outside did not realise it himself yet.
Sildrin gave no immediate reply, but climbed out of bed and over to the entrance to key the lock open. The door slid aside with a hiss of compressed air to reveal the bronze-skinned Korunnai outside. The golden clips in the man’s hair glinted in flicking light of the corridor.
If the man was at all taken aback by the fact that a beautiful naked woman was now right in front of him, he admirably didn't show it... too much. He simply looked the redhaired woman up and down, no differently to if she had been fully clothed, then his eyes settled again on the face of the Matriarch of the Long family.
“We are being followed,” the man currently without a name said.
Sildrin turned back toward the small wardrobe at the side of her room and simply began getting dressed while the man who had been Tsainetomo Keibatsu explained his findings. To the rest of the galaxy, that man was dead. Only she and the Dark Prophet currently knew the truth.
“A ship departed Ziost after the battle,” the Korunnai continued. Something in the man’s voice was different compared to how he had used to sound; any element of doubt or uncertainty had left him. “I’ve been tracking it since our sensors detected it at the last hyper buoy stop.”
The man paused. Sildrin had finished getting dressed and had opened a compartment on the table beside her bed. Inside glinted a mercury vial. “Is that all?” the sorceress prompted, as she collected the crystal vial and hid it beneath a decorative sash now wrapped around her waist.
“No.” The electrum clips in the man’s hair clinked behind her. “It registers Plagueian.”
Macron growled at the modified IT-3 droid and licked his plasteel-clad Nastha teeth implants. “Did you get the signature of that ship? It was an obvious anomaly.” The madman gazed at the sheepish IT-3 with anger in his yellow eyes. “Well damn it all, Blinky. If it’s not ripping guts, sewing, blasting and injecting victims you’ve got no game. I suppose you do alright at guarding and interrogating.” The red-armored man swept his hands across a plethora of switches and touch-pads on the console before him. “Compute that last jump, astro-droid. Or else I modify you further. I want to know why they left. Now.”
A hapless salvaged surplus R9 droid that had been literally welded into the bulkhead with a web of clutching cables and grasping tines bleeped sadly as it began to compute the jump coordinates. The Alchemist frowned as he worked with the Nachzerer’s Verpine-enhanced computer in concentration. “I see. Here is where they left.” The Alchemist frowned as he tapped deeper into the Nachzerer’s Verpine-enhanced computer and repeated himself. “I see. Here is where they left.” Pointing armored fingers drew glowing lines from place to place as the holoprojector put up a hands-on interactive display. “Right- here.”
Another melancholy beep came from the dismembered R9 as it finished the calculations along with the ship’s Verpine computer. Ironically, they did not communicate well although each was a high-quality system. Macron closed his yellow eyes and listened to the Dark Side as he squeezed his own connection to a pinpoint of sight to gather what feelings he could.
The Adept cackled. “Shut up, R9N3.” The ship’s strangely tuned computer seemed to make the guesses more quickly in this later stage of the mad symphony. “There,” commented the Sith as he stabbed a finger into the webs of light to tack a line of red exactly onto the glowing vector point. “There. It’s a hyper-beacon. I want to know where they went. Track them,” hissed the madman. “Activate the registration mask. We’re jumping. Flank speed. Immediately. Arm all weapons, party favors, and the... Security Team. Hehe.” Macron Sadow walked to the cramped cargo bay laughing. “HaHahaHa!”
Two years ago...
Private Apartments of the Grand Master
Dark Hall, Antei
Domain of the Dark Council
"Yes, Trevarus, you may take the call. Merely excuse yourself."
A scant heartbeat later Trevarus frowned, as his communicator began to chirp. Nodding brusquely, he passed to a small alcove and answered the call. In blue-white miniature, the figure of his old friend Sith Bloodfyre-Tarentae.
"Hello, Trevarus. I hope I'm not intruding."
"No more than the Dread Lord, my friend. You seem troubled." Trevarus replied, noting a cast in the eyes of his ally. "What's the bad news?"
"The Ghost has a message for Lord Thunder, concerning their Father. How soon could they meet on Yridia?" Though not a code, the message was immediate and unmistakable.
"I will depart within an hour. Though, rather preoccupied at the moment, I would be capable of communicating with Lord Thunder."
"Very good my brother, watch out for Oberst. He wants blood."
"Tell me something that won't surprise me. I'll arrive within 2 days. Sadow out."
He scowled at the device. What news could possibly require his presence on Yridia? Though regarded as an honored guest of the notoriously isolationist Clan Tarentum, an invitation to a social call would not be extended to their Thronewrld unless it was exceptionally important. This was a matter between the Dragons. If Max was seeking blood, that meant the Keepers wanted him where he could be controlled. They did not yet know of the Binding.
Steeling his face, he resumed his place on the furr covered divan.
"Pour another Trev, it looks like you need it." Aisha said warmly, yet with a hint of malicious mirth.
"would you care to accompany me to Yridia, Xanos? The Tarentae requirtee my presence."
Aboard the wayward ship, a Korrunai was beginning to get antsy.
They’d been hurtling along towards a destination heretofore unknown to all excepting the Falleen and the Sorceress, the duo’s plans seeming to have accelerated ever since he’d awoken aboard the Sadowan flagship just before the action on Ziost.
Even for Dark Jedi, the excitement at their finding him was astounding. The Force-Blind all around them were oblivious, but the Primarch could see it; not in the way the Force might have spoken to him, but in their very movements and appearance. The Falleen, wracked an withered as he was, had begun to display a sense of urgency, and had a certain - equality - in his voice whenever he spoke to him; all others got the customary enigmatic monotone. And then, there was the woman.
She of the carmine hair and porcelain skin. Acting more and more with surety, the command in her voice and actions were becoming evident with every passing moment. To him, it seemed as if his appearance had answered some unasked question, giving his hosts some unknown divination as to their next course of secretive action. Even now, having left Sildrin - or Xia, as she insisted he call her in their more private moments - he knew that she held audience with Xanos in his chambers, no doubt speaking either in hushed tones or within each other’s heads about what to do about the craft with the Plagueian registry hot on their heels.
As he strode towards the ship’s cockpit, his mind strayed again to Xia. His mind’s eye conjured the naked vision of her delicate form, sinuous and rife with power. He knew he’d seen her like that before, laid bare and inviting, a lifetime ago aboard Trevarus Caerick’s personal craft. Before the Rite. This time, though, he’d beheld her with new eyes, just as she and Xanos seemed to behold him.
With every step he took towards his destination, he felt a primal lust rising within him. The feeling was more than just a mere physical reaction. It was an all-encompassing desire to be slaked. She had her secrets, to be sure. In the way she, like everyone around them, would call him “Sai”, except her eyes seemed to speak his true name when she did. Oh, her secrets would be his, but only if they were given.
And with her, surprisingly, he found that he preferred it no other way.
That, to him, was one of the more settling things about this new life he’d awaken to. He’d still possessed the disdain for titles, had the questioning for the need for identifiers. As Tsainetomo Keibatsu, and even later as Saiketsu, he’d found that he really had no pride in those monikers, as they were given to him by others who wanted to categorize him, to box him in, for their own comfort and devices.
But now, things were different. He’d let others naming of him define their intents for him; he’d use their need to categorize tell him exactly how they could be manipulated. He was more than a mere name. That which was awakened within him so long ago on Inos 42 came from a fount far older than convention.
His hosts were born of the same wellspring. He knew it in his newly-birthed core. It was that surety that settled him, and ironically so.
If he could be known with any accuracy, he would be Strife. His very existence begged conflict, reveled in violence. That was who he was now. Yet, it was who he was known by as others - others who had influence - that still found him in such situations.
Having reached the cockpit hatch, he’d thumbed the comm. “Open. It’s...me.”
Just before the hatch slid open, he’d heard the pilot speak. “It’s alright. It’s the Keibats...”
The Korunnai smiled inwardly as the pilot told him exactly what he needed to exert his own influence. Stopping behind the pilot, he asked for a status report.
“What’s the location of the Plagueian craft?” His baritone rumbled, hinting that he’d known the answer already and was growing impatient at this necessary game.
“Still on our vector...Arconan.” The pilot spat the last, having either lived through or heard tell of the man’s betrayal of the Overlord. The Sadowans remained proud, even in these slightly uncertain times, it seemed. If Tsainetomo still lived, he would’ve smiled.
Instead, the Korunnai spoke. “All Stop. Prepare the docking hatch for possible boarders. Alert your Masters...”
The co-pilot, silent until now, interrupted. “Lady Sadow gave no such order, traitor. You’ve no power here, not anymore.” The older of the two clearly had lived through the aforementioned events.
“Ah, so it’s out now.” The man did smile this time. “Well, you may be right, you may be right.” His voice took on a contemplative tone. “Think on this, though: your Masters take great pains to cover their tracks, and no matter how many course corrections you’ve made, our pursuer matches them. This Plagueian has a very strong interest in this shuttle.
“But, what if it isn’t Plagueian?”, he continued, the force of his will slowly beginning to fill the cockpit. “What if it’s Arconan, coming to get their 'kidnapped' comrade? Or, what if it's someone else entirely?”
Pausing, he placed a hand on each pilot’s shoulder. “Too many questions, gents; too many 'if's'. Now.” A powerful squeeze caused both pilots to wince; one even mewled a bit.
“I could slaughter the lot of you, right here and now. I can’t, though, because I don’t know where we’re going and I need you to fly this thing. But, more importantly,” he smiled, his teeth impossibly white in the reflection of the plastisteel windscreen. “More importantly, I think that craft has a better scrap on deck. Also, I’m tired of running.” He let go, turning to the hatch to exit.
The pilots gingerly worked their injured shoulders, leaning hesitantly towards the controls to obey.
One muttered under his breath, “She won’t be pleased.”
The man at the hatch threw his answer over his shoulder, amused and deadly serious. “I am more capable of handling her wrath than you are of mine, wouldn’t you say?”
The shuttle shuddered to a halt in response and the hatch opened. The man began a insistent jog towards the docking area, Nenshogeru eagerly finding its way into his palm.
He slowed, the access hatch meters in front of him. Planting his feet, he stood. Waiting.
His eyes never left the hatch. He was Resolute. He would not be moved.
Within him, his excitement roiled as he anticipated what was to come.
Energy is neither created nor destroyed
A cairn had been raised, by whom, he did not know. The Lord of Fire had many followers; students, apprentices, sycophants--many who would seek a fraction of the Dragon's glory. Though it was beneath them, a score of black- clad warriors dug, moving rock and earth with the brutal efficiency in which they killed. Trevarus knew this was the place. A billow of cigar smoke revealed his patience, Eosara expressionless at his side.
Two years ago
Domain of Clan Tarentum
"Corvette Sanguinus you are cleared for approach. Remind Lord Caerick that he's the only one allowed to disembark, per orders of the Grand Marshall."
"Copy, Control," Christine said, releasing a long sigh. "Eosara won't like that."
"I'm used to it. Oberst will try to kill Trev." The man said from behind her. "It won't happen, but I believe that I'm the only mundane Oberst respects. There's no such thing as a fair fight against Trev, but he'll try anyway. I'd just get in the way."
Rain began to batter the transparisteel of the bridge view as the ship entered low atmosphere. Six figures could be seen dark and clouded on a small platform, awaiting the craft. His presence suddenly filled the small bridge.
"Wait here. I may be an hour, or several days" Trevarus said calmly. His heavy coat lashed a wave of black as he turned and left.
Steam and air pressure hissed as the ramp lowered, he waited for the cycle, then walked down. At the bottom, his boots touched the water slicked surface, and he slipped, falling back in a parody of motion. In that moment, the Death Crimson cracked into his hands. A thunderclap of energy meeting energy drove water and time away. Air shook at the meeting of blades.
"That was sloppy, Max."
"If I was trying, not even the Oracle would see it coming." The two clasped fists as soldiers. A record of hatred that was friendship.
Another figure stepped forward. Dropping its cowl against the battering storm, Master Bloodfyre greeted the Oracle "It's been a long time Trev, rumor is you brought the lizard back."
Trevarus sighed. "Yes, that is true. I fear my Apprentice learned nothing... Have you hired a Chef yet, or must I cook" a grey cast covering the eyes of the Shaevlian told him all he needed to know. "Show me to the kitchen, we have much to discuss."
Oberst gave the barest nod, and the soldiers of the honor guard marched.
A waitron proved fire for their cigars, aged scotch with a single clear sphere of ice was dessert. All three men conspired for a moment, before Bloodfyre broke silence.
"You must pass a message to Lord Thunder, Lord Fire has renounced the Via."
"Ghost has seen, or foresees this?" Trevarus replied calmly. "I have not, therefore it is of grave importance."
"Ghost has foreseen Lord Fire's death. I saw a Storm, flaming, in which lightning and thunder were united in a great eye."
"I understand, my friend." Trevarus drew more smoke, Oberst considered the pair maliciously. Without another word, Trevarus tipped his fedora, and returned to his ship.
Wind whipped around the Oracle, nearly taking his hat. Yet, when he heard the sound of metal on stone, he leapt down. The Cohort had found if, the burial of Faethor Dejarc. The casket was sealed. Trevarus frowned.
Lion... How did this happen?
The runes carved into stone were elegant, but ineffective, enshrined by some lesser rank in the haste of battle. These were the marks of a warrior, not a sorcerer. Three eyes flashed violet for a moment, as the lid was cast away. There would be no stone to contain Fire.
He seemed almost as Trevarus remembered him, even as a corpse his eyes were enflamed. Tall, lithe, dark, his true Master was majestic.
"His body no longer breathes, but one does not kill a Grand Master. Quickly! To the temple!"
The woman stared at the meditating form of her Master in front of her. Through their shared mind she could see images come and go, emerging to meet the surface of the pool of visions, kissing the horizon that separated dreams from the real world, and submerging into the abyss of the dark sea again. But she did not share the insight to understand those visions besides a couple of fragments.
Frustrated Sildrin stood up, walking over the window of the ship. Her mind needed a rest from the flood of images. Stripes of stars quivered and the movement stalled, showing the cold shining stars calm and still. “Why have we stopped?” she muttered. A side glance to her Master confirmed that he would not react, nor give an answer. Perhaps he had already seen the reason and the outcome already.
She headed to the cockpit, wondering why they had stopped. But a few moments later she halted, she knew Sai’s blood screamed for battle; only on the fields of war did he seem to feel really alive. And running away from the Plagueian ship would not suit him. She gave away a soft sigh, knowing it may be better this way. She lifted her hand to contact the captain of the ship just as her commlink started to buzz. “M-Miss Dragon? The Plagueian Ship is about to…”
“I know.” She interrupted the Captain.
“The Arconan, Lady Sadow. He…”
It only confirmed her chain of thoughts. “I will remember on the next occasion that you disobeyed me, Captain.” Her voice stayed emotionless and calm. “Any message from the Plagueian ship?”
The Captain’s swallowing sound was transmitted as he finally regained his composure. “Yes, Lady Sadow. They demand us to surrender - claiming this territory as Plagueian Space and also claiming this ship and everything onboard.”
Sildrin chuckled softly. “Silly arrogant Plagueians. Just because they won a few worthless pebbles in the Crusade…” Her voice turned gentle as if scolding a child: “I guess we need to teach them a lesson. Allow them to dock. Sai and I will handle that.”
Arriving at the docking station, Sai turned his head towards her, his eyes widened barely notable. But to Sildrin he seemed more and more like an open book. Her lips lightly curled into a smile: “I guess no one can tame the cries for war within you. Who am I to try?”
Sai’s grin broadened, his blood pounded within his body, chanting. Soon it would sing the violent song of war. The hatch opened with a hiss, they were about to raid the docking bay. Sildrin’s voice turned into a whisper as she started to weave the threads of the Force to her will, bending the shadows to obey and give birth to illusions. “I will be… within the shadows.” The hood of her cloak drawn deep over her face, she appeared to melt with the shadows; only the red and green glow of her eyes hinted her location.
The Sorceress had left, leaving the Prophet on his own in his small quarters. An automatic emergency light cast a red glow over the cold metal walls as it blinked on-and-off, as outside, a heavy clunk reverberated through the ship as the Plagueian assault vessel made contact.
But the Master remained where he was. His mind was already adrift somewhere else...
Or perhaps: somewhen else.
Two years ago
Dark Hall, Antei
The holocrons whispered.
But there were no faces form above the shelves lined with ornate pyramids and hexagons. The Falleen stood before one of the cabinets in the archive beneath the Dark Hall. He had hoped he might find some answer to what his Master had done on Lehon. And then on Runculo. But none of the holocrons knew the answer or spoke to him. Or they were too afraid to.
We don’t serve failures.
Dark Lords... do not die.
Footsteps echoed down the hall from behind him. But the Falleen did not need to turn to find who it was. The red-haired woman should not have been there; this area was for Elders and the Grand Master’s choice few only. But her intrusion was nothing unusual.
The Blind Dragon took after her master. Like Trevarus, she cared nothing for rules.
“Master Xanos,” Xia Long said behind the Prophet.
“Xanos...” The Falleen repeated the name to himself.
His mind had wandered the abyss for so long, he barely remembered. His Master had left for Yridia, of that he could be certain, for that had happened recently... he thought. But a name? That was something he had lost all those years ago in the fiery pits of the Rakatan home.
“Xanos,” the Prophet said again, and he turned to study the woman.
The woman’s red locks framed her blind eyes, giving the almost ageless Sorceress a strange countenance that would unsettle most people - had their own soul not already been damned. Except, her eyes were not entirely white, as if something faint burned deep within them.
“And your name?” His own voice sounded alien, distant.
The Prophet said nothing further, but inside her mind, he could see her thoughts ticking over. Her thoughts were not on his question, but thinking back to the ritual on Runculo... where Trevarus had used both his own and her blood to draw the Prophet’s mind back from the shadows in which it had been lost beyond... in blood, the three of them had been bound.
The Sorceress remained silent... or if she had spoken, he did not remember it.
Another footstep intruded on their shared silence.
The Sorceress showed no sign of having heard anything, and when he reached out, he could feel no shift in the great tapestry, no bounce in the threads that held the cosmic fabric together.
But the Prophet nevertheless turned his head down the corridor behind the Sorceress.
A man stood not far behind her, a man dressed in yellow and gold, his clothes adorned with the dancing shapes of dragons, like two great serpents forever set to devour their own tails.
The man’s eyes burned with yellow fire.
When the Prophet turned back down to the Sorceress, who continued to pay no attention, he saw hers now shone softly with that same yellow flame. The Falleen did not understand. He could not remember the man behind the Sorceress; he could not remember the name, even if he ought to remember the face. He closed his own eyes, and reached out, but still felt no signs.
“Abandon those human eyes,” the figure spoke, from nowhere and everywhere, out of time.
Still crosslegged on the floor, the Falleen’s meditating body jerked, and his muscles tensed involuntarily before they slackened again. The Prophet’s eyes remained closed.
Had any of the others been in the room, they would have seen the black ichor as it ran from his nose.
The hyperlines blurred as Macron stared at them. Many said that doing so would drive one mad. To the Alchemist, the pulsing nothingness was comforting. In the abstract mass of riotous color existed everything- in this, The future and past could be Seen. His yellow eyes squinted as he peered into the chaos outside the port window. A sense of presence came to him. “I can feel them….” whispered the madman to his droid. “And others. I must have answers.” The injector hissed as it sprayed chemicals into his neck. Breakfast was served. He threw the empty hypospray into a bin and disconnected his lightsabers from the power port.
The Sith stood up, bracing his hand on the bulkhead wall as he headed back to the cockpit. His droids were ready. Two shielded and armored Sith wardroids hefting heavy repeating blaster rifles and phrikite vibroblades stood at attention in the bay. Each was highly modified from the original designs using the best of both modern and ancient technologies. Creating them had cost a fortune. Macron was a wealthy man, although most did not know the secret. All of his credits went to more deadly toys and he cared not for creature comforts or lavish accoutrements. Fine things brought no solace, unless they could be used to kill or prolong his own life.
In the cockpit, the gutted R9 droid and Blinky awaited him. “We’re dropping out of jump in ten seconds, into a fight” stated the madman as he sat down and ran his hands over a plethora of holocontrols. “Prepare yourselves droids.” It had taken some time to catch up to the ship he sought. The Nachzerer was a stout vessel for it’s small stature but it was not faster than any other military ship. The powerplant, shields, and weapon arrays took up too much space to install a ultra-fast hyperdrive.
The viewscreen resolved as the beetle-shaped craft dropped from the cocoon of hyperspace.
Ahead, a large shuttle with no markings had an assault transport attached to it. Around the transport swarmed two HLAF-500 fighters as an escort. “Party time,” chuckled the madman as the fighters turned and accelerated towards the Nachzerer. His hands swept through the vitreous lines of the holocontrols like angry buzzards lighting on a corpse.
Green bolts of energy spat from the twin HLAF fighters and two slammed into the Nachzerer’s shields. The ship rocked as the bolts were dissipated. Macron cursed. She could withstand quite a few more but each one was one more nail in the coffin closer to destruction.
An advanced concussion missile launched from the war-transport’s underbelly away from the fight in an arcing loop. The Nachzerer then replied with bolts of blue ion cannon fire. The azure beams lashed against the oncoming first HLAF’s own shields, causing them to fade and flicker. Just as blue arcs could be seen flashing in the cockpit, the concussion missile finished it’s loop and targeted the now-helpless HLAF. The look of terror on the pilot’s face was satisfying to the Sith as the missile blew his enemy's ship and body into space debris.
“The ole zap-n-pop got him. Fool. Target the assault transport and fire the turbolasers,” ordered the chuckling alchemist. “It’s a sitting Corellian duck. We’ll blow that scurvy barnacle right off their keel.”
“But master, that will possibly hit the shuttle?” asked Blinky in an eerie electronic voice as it interfaced a cable into a control port on the wall. The droid seldom spoke.
“Possibly,” giggled the madman. “If you don’t want to spend eternity drifting in deep space being forced to perform dull pop music and childish calculations in your processors, I suggest you and R9 don’t miss. We need to do this quickly as HLAFs don't generally operate without a carrier vessel of some sort.”
The second HLAF turned to face the new threat. This pilot was better- this one knew the Force.
Eyes opened even in mortal death glowed with tourmaline rage. Twin chips of ice blue gazed into the eyes of his Master, the Father Dragon who had been patron to his earliest experiments and failures. Trevarus recalled a few words from a deep memory.
In me, all chains are broken.
There was no genuine need for ceremony, yet perhaps the Cohort recognized their Lord's respect for this corpse. All twenty placed a hand underneath such that not a fold of cloth was disturbed to move it unto a waiting dais hovering at the head of the sarcophagus.
Staring into the eyes of his Lord, the Oracle knew that he found the answer to a riddle that had plagued him for two years.
Two mortal souls
Five immortal ways
Six paths become three
Three become four
Three reborn in Four
Four become one
Now, he would determine if he was correct. In his three eyes, Trevarus saw a dragon devouring its own tail.
Two years ago
Irad Holdings and Acquisitions
Gallinore, Hapes Cluster
One item was needed, yet he stood at the entrance of a vast warehouse. Metal shipping crates were arranged in a geometry that could only be understood by droids, stacked in rows with aisles between that terminated in fog. This was the state of his library, once encompassing almost the entirety of Kalekka Tower. He sighed, bemoaning the indignity of such art. Great works reduced to a metal catalog such that not even he could admire them, or remember how it came into his collection.
Yet, he moved with brutal efficiency.
To an observer, it would have seemed impossible that Trevarus could decide exactly where to go. He opened one container, stepped into the carefully arranged carrel, removed one crate, and from that crate one book. He traced the forefinger of his right hand, eddying with unholy silver along the spine. A tiny fleck of black fell into his palm.
Closing his fingers around this fleck, he left.
Temple of the Heralds
Calabrex, Antei System
Domain of the Dark Council
There was no noise, no light, no emotion. Only a sensation of cold enveloped the sorcerer. This place did not exist outside of the Prima Marked, for it was only the First Apprentice of the First Apprentice who knew of it. The deepest of the blackest Threads led here. Long ago, he suspected that such a place existed, and was instead lead to Antei. It was not until he slew the ghost of Kiln Tobasa, that he finally saw.
At what would be called the base of the tetrahedron, Trevarus inserted the small flake. It was in fact a small tetrahedron itself. The crystal began to glow with a deathly ultraviolet light.
"Legion, I must remember Fire"
In the darkness, a cloud emerged. Glowing with a grey-silver inner light that cast neither shadow nor aura into the temple, a thousand mouths spoke.
"You must sing..."
Taking a deep breath, the Oracle unleashed his voice. Soothing, yet terrifying, a song of gentle rains and destruction. There were no discernible words, but any who might have heard would know the storm.
"Are you certain, young one?"
"Yes my lord." Trevarus cast his eyes onto the chained form of a Falleen male. "This one shall see as I see, and if I fail, he shall continue in your service. I will take him as my apprentice."
"You are growing powerful, Trevarus. You risk much. In this boon to save his life, I will claim yours. In your service, he will be your second. You will teach him as you learn, you will show him to see as you see, to fight as you fight, to suffer as you suffer. If you fail, he will become you to bow before me."
"I understand, my Master."
"Then let it be so!"
In a swirl of vertigo, Trevarus swooned.
He kneeled on the cold stone, a sword, long and proud lay across his lap. Lord Fire carved from a huge granite block, each strike of his sword cleaving a simple flake from the whole. This was the art of Long Shan Zhi. Fire taught Thunder and Lightning... So that all might be united in the hurricane.
Trevarus stood and left the temple.
Doubling over, Macron swelled with rage. Pillars of light erupted from all three of his eyes.
He saw runes, gilded in black and gold on silk. He saw the glowing eyes of Fire, he saw what the Prima saw.
"That I might supplant him"
He had been appointed Secunda, not by Trevarus, but the Mark itself
The Plagueian assault shuttle sat coupled to the Sadowan shuttle, the only signs of conflict being the Nachzerer’s cannon pumping great sizzling hyphens at the remaining HLAF escort as the pair flitted around one another, each pilot coaxing the Dark Side to grant him some advantage over the other.
To the uninitiated, it may have appeared to be a far-flung meeting between Sadowan and Plagueian envoys, with the delegates taking time from the formalities to enjoy a demonstration of piloting prowess.
Alas, this was far from the reality.
The Plagueians, having grown fat from the spoils of the Crusade and emboldened by the Iron Throne’s decree as their House being the victorious unit, had grown lax in their self-policing of their forces. Particularly, those forces that were operating so far from their home system. Those close to Antei were satisfied with the Dark Council’s decree of victory.
Those that were not, like the ones who were now present took the decree as a literal letter of marque, unleashing their brand of piracy on any who would cross their path. Their nerves, already wrought to a razor’s-edge by the events surrounding their House’s victory and their subsequent courses of action, had blinded them. They were confident that Sildrin Sadow’s shuttle would be easy pickings.
In the docking area of the shuttle, a Korun stood transfixed, his molten-gray eyes locked on the hatch before him, an unlit lightsaber hilt held expectantly in one hand.
In the shadows behind him, a lithe carmine-haired sorceress stood serenely, the Dark Side churning within her as she drew on more and more of its power. Their Plagueian enemies’ frayed nerves gave her just the mental foothold she needed for what transpired next.
It started as a discontented whisper amongst the rank and file; a crewmember making his way towards the staging area let the barrel of his blaster rifle rap sharply against the head of another. No apologies given, glares full of hatred returned, sharper than the deadliest assassin’s blade. Unbeknownst to them, the mist of the Dark Side had permeated the entirety of the assault ship, a breath of malcontent loosed from the sorceresses’ rouged lips. All that remained was a push...
Xia Long shoved.
Suddenly, the crewmembers, most influenced to some degree or another by Xia’s Force-born majiks, turned on one another like rabid dogs. Heads were cored as some men were blasted in hatred, the Dark Side finding the smallest kernel of discontent within them and causing any contempt to blossom violently. Others were bodily pulped as some viewed them as some hellish nightmare from their childhoods made flesh, all tentacles, claws and gaping, putrid, dripping maws of rotten teeth. It was “fight or flight”, to the Nth degree.
The ones operating from the “fight” response had wiped one another out within moments of the docking coupling seating itself to the Sadowan shuttle. Those who followed the “flight” response had a very different fate awaiting them.
Those petrified souls scrambled, hand over fist towards salvation - rather, towards where Xia told them salvation was.
The sea of running men made their way towards the docking bay hatch. As if anticipating their need for escape above all, it began to slide open with a hiss of shared atmospheres.
Plagueis was not without its own Force-users. In fact, it was this very core group of about five whose marginal familiarity with the Dark Side - the strongest amongst them was no more powerful than a lower-tiered Equite - caused their specific “flight” response. They urged the remaining mundane - six in number - to follow them to safety. The others were simply too base of mind to ignore Xia’s deadly intent.
These men and women, however, would meet their ends not at their crewmember’s hands, but at the end of a Korunnai’s righteous fury, dashed as ineffectual waves against the bedrock of his savagery.
The hatch opened fully just as the the first of them rounded the final turn in the corridor. What initially materialized initially as a lone warrior, back-lit by the lighting of the Sadowan shuttle suddenly morphed, to their eyes, into a dragon spitting great tongues of orange fire.
To his credit, the Korun did wait until the hatch fully opened before he ignited his ragged weapon and strode forward. But when he did, it was as if a lifetime of violence was unleashed.
The man known by a thousand and one names plied his trade, his blade growling in sybilent discordance as he wielded it with savage surety. Those Plagueians who ignored their vision out of stark terror ran headlong into the bladesman’s strikes, their reckless momentum and his sublime technique cleaving them twain like so much wheat before the scythe. He stepped ever forward, a throaty laugh resounding in the corridor signifying his utter pleasure. His very blood sang within his veins, his sinews the strings upon which he composed his symphony.
One after another, they fell, the Korun giving no quarter and demanding even less; only the heady flow of Time would end the slaughter. The last man cowered seemingly undiscovered in a small corner, his horror-widened eyes and Force-addled brain causing his body to simply shut down. He hunkered pitifully amongst the smoking, sizzling detritus of his crew mates.
The Primarch did not care, not one iota. He had been loosed, a veritable engine of destruction, and he was bent on wiping every bit of opposition from the face of the cosmos by the force of his will and the steel in his resolve.
Until a singular utterance stemmed the tide of gore.
Xia Long’s voice bored its way through the Equite’s battle-haze, and he froze. The Primarch's sword arm trembled, almost imperceptibly, betraying his disappointment in denying himself this kill. Nenshogeru went silent, and his hand was mercifully stayed from destroying the lone Plagueian.
She slid from the shadows as a graceful cutter splits the seaborn fog, shouldering her way delicately past the Korun to kneel and regard the survivor. “Even such as we need chroniclers...and he will have quite the story to tell.”
Her smile promised more pain and suffering than a thousand of the Korun’s strikes could deliver, and the Plagueian screeched his throat raw at the prospect.
The battle outside still raged. The assault shuttle attached to the transport had suffered irreparable damage from turbolaser fire, and any boarders remaining were dead. Still, the Force using HLAF pilot had proved hard to kill. His craft had solid firepower and good maneuverability and flew circles around the Nachzerer. He easily evaded the advanced concussion missiles launched by the transport. Only the stout quadanium armor and shields had keep the craft from being shot to bits. And the shields had fallen to reserve power. Thankfully, HLAF’s did not carry ion cannons.
“...come on, you sonofabitch,” growled Macron as the tiny camera droid he had released earlier zoomed in on the HLAF’s cockpit. The little bug had gone unnoticed in the blackness of space as it clung to the cockpit of the HLAF and slowly crept towards the glass. The Nachzerer rocked as another blaster salvo glanced off the shields. “We’ll play dead. Switch all available power to shields, including life support,” ordered the Sith as he closed his helm. “Keep the secondary generator on warm standby. Tune the turbolaser output to the resonance of his HLAF chassis. I almost have him.”
The Nachzerer slowed to a crawl as the running lights on it’s hull flickered and died. The blue glow of the shields came up high. The HLAF swooped in for the kill, peppering the beetle-shaped transport with blaster shots as it circled, lowered power to the engines, and upped the power to the blaster cannons. The tiny camera droid peered into the edge of the cockpit.
Within the Nachzerer the face of a sneering Duros lit on one of the viewscreens. Macron raised his right hand and clenched it into a quivering fist. The Adept poured all his hate, his anger, rage, and fear into the Dark Side. It swept into an invisible crushing vise that closed around the Duro’s large brain. The image on the viewscreen appeared startled and began to convulse in death throes as green blood dripped from it’s reddish yellow eyes and then mouth. The HLAF yawed wildly and exposed it’s underbelly.
“Engage the secondaries. Return full power to the turbolasers and drop shields. Full salvo. Fire!” screamed the Sith as the green beams of energy ripped from the Nachzerer and impaled her foe deep in the guts. The HLAF almost seemed to atomize as the energy overload tore her apart from the entrails out. The Elder laughed in victory. “Fool. The power of the Dark Side overcame your piloting skills. And this is why the Nachzerer has no port windows. Hehe.”
The Sith leaned towards the comm channel controls as the lights returned in his vessel. “Macron Sadow here. My hyperdrive is out. I need assistance and time for repairs. The hostiles have been destroyed.”
There was silence for almost twenty seconds. A male voice replied. “This is the Captain. You have been cleared for docking in the bay. All boarders have been neutralized.”
The Alchemist nodded. “Docking in sixty seconds. Macron Out.”
Dim lit small room onboard the shuttle
The Plagueis man licked his dry lips, nervously looking at the madman in front of him. He couldn’t suppress a shudder as he grazed the look in the eyes of Macron. “You can’t do this! If the Grand Master hears about this…” Macron let out a roaring laughter. He is mad! the Plagueian thought.
His eyes filled with a flicker of hope directed at the flame haired woman who slowly placed glistening instruments of cold steel onto the table in front of him. “Y-you… can’t allow him to interrogate me!” he started to plead.
Her voice was calm, cold: “I won’t let him….” The Plagueian sank into his chair with relief, but he froze in his movement as she continued: “I will do that.”
Macron’s eyes gleamed as he admired the provoked reaction on the face of the Plagueian with those few words. He couldn’t help himself and uttered: “Marvelous!”
The world turned into bright pain for the Plagueian until it sank into darkness after an eternity. It all might have lasted only a few seconds... or maybe the pain had endured for days. Faintly he finally heard a voice: “Send him back home.”
Room onboard the shuttle; hours later
The room was only lit by fires on the six pillars that were arranged in a circle. Xia Long stood in the circle, back to back with the man she called ‘Sai’ - but not for long. She drew a deep breath. This is the right time. Maybe not the right place, but time is what matters, she thought. Heavy had been the cloak as the Matriarch of the Longs at first, but now it seemed to have become a part of her. She reached out with her thoughts to the Korunnai, her mental touch like a lilting song of fire, a poison-laced promise laid within.
“Are you ready... Brother?”
She felt the movement of air in her neck as he nodded. As ready as never before. The anticipation built up like a mountain within him, rooting him while the galaxy spiraled him. “Let us begin,” her voice was a mere melodic whisper. Both of them raised their arms and to the rhythm of an unheard drumbeat they executed the first step of many - they sidestepped and moved apart from each other.
The flames flickered on the pillars. Slowly they performed what seemed to be a dance, but an expert would see the martial arts behind each of the elegant and strong movements. A flame on top of the pillar assumed the shape of a fiery dragon. They stretched out their arms with hands clenched to fists, punching the air. The next flame joined in - a dragon covered with lightning. With a swift turn they turned, bending a knee and stretched out again their arms with palms facing the ceiling. A ghostly looking dragon joined. A movement of the right arm - bringing it beneath their left armpit - the left hand’s palm stretched outwards. A fiery dragon with white eyes emerged. Their upper bodies dipped low, touching the ground with both hands and their legs swept over the floor. A powerful elder dragon emerged.
With each staccato-like movement flame by flame on the pillars had shaped into small dragons. They began encircling the Matriarch and her Brother. Each of the moves was mimicked by the dragons.
Breathless they were close to finish to encircle the room. A tiny dragon emerged to join the roundel of dragons. Their fists jabbed forward, touching each other - with upper bodies bend sidewards and their arms sideways over their heads and they froze in movement. The dragons did not stop to move until they started to unite as one. Their flames united soaring up high above them. The flame was vibrant in their eyes. The Dragon’s Breaths - united as One. It embodied the Energy of all - of Life and of Death.
Sai whispered barely audible: “Chi….” The flame roared and shot through Sai’s body, purging what was Old, and leaving what was New. He dropped onto his knees.
“You are now reborn, Brother.”
His eyes looked up, seeing as if for the first time. And it was indeed the first time in his new life.
“You are Shi Long. The Stone Dragon.”
The Mark pulsed.
Thick, bloody ichor, halfway between black and a dark putrescent green, ran from beneath the eyelids of the unconscious Falleen. The Elder remained unconscious. From time to time, his foetal form convulsed, and another sharp exhale hissed from his bloody nostrils.
The pool of ichor possessed a life of its own. Shapes seemed to reflect in the surface of the dark ichor. Faces. Memories from the Dark Prophet’s past and perhaps visions of his future.
The Falleen’s lips tried to mumble a name, but the sound was lost...
Two years ago
Dark Hall, Antei
None of this was real.
The holocrons cried out, but the figure standing behind Sildrin did not appear conscious of the crying voices of history’s failures. The spectral gatekeepers of Tulak Hord and Okemi hovered atop their ancient, ensorcelled, arcane pyramids, barking unbidden commands into the ether.
The intruder’s face was simultaneously familiar and not. His eyes both distinct and impossible to decipher. He was there... but he was not there. Real and unreal.
He was a contradiction. But right then a reality.
The Prophet knew the name of the man -- or was it a woman -- and yet he did not know it.
Fire grew in the figure’s yellow eyes. Like a Storm. A Hurricane.
The sound of Thunder clapped through the forbidden aisles of holocrons, and flames had all of a sudden engulfed the Holocron Chamber beneath the Dark Hall.
The Sorceress continued to stand there in between the Prophet and the figure that had intruded into his memory of his meeting with his future apprentice. But Sildrin remained indifferent.
“I hear him,” the Sorceress said quietly. “In the back of my mind, he is always there.”
There was a faint reflection of the nameless fires in the surface of her grey, atrophied eyes. But the Sorceress paid it no attention. Like the intruder, him or herself, the memory of the Sorceress existed in a projection of its own.
The Blind Dragon was blind to the reality or unreality.
She was just a memory...
“The Bloody Book,” Sildrin continued. “Will you help me, Master Xanos?”
That name still sounded strange to his ears... he had forgotten...
The fires in the eyes of the shapeless figure behind the Sorceress intensified as the Prophet battled inside his own mind to recall the true past. He did not answer the Sorceress. Or maybe he had answered her. He did not remember that either... everything had been washed away in that black sea...
His eyes turned to the flames that had encircled himself and the distant memory of his future apprentice. He saw faces. He remembered them... and did not remember them. There was a man with the same arcane carving of a third eye on his forehead like his own... but the man’s name now escaped him. A woman, her skin grey-green, like a fellow Falleen... but again, he could not place a name. And then there was what looked like an entire world of Sephi, those long-eared Human relatives... but again, he could not remember where he knew them from...
Or if the memory even belonged to him.
Every face stared at him. They all appeared pleading. Begging him. As if they wanted help.
A saviour. Is that what they sought...? Or a destroyer. Was there a difference?
Their tears fell like frozen raindrops, hailstones that tore through the fiery hurricane. The stones of ice pierced the floor underfoot and disappeared into the unseen pits below. He thought he heard a splash. He could remember the crashing waves. The flooded shores of the desolate beaches. Not even a seagull or a mynock crowed on those lifeless sands.
Now he remembered. A name. The only name.
A smile formed on the face of the figure that had intruded in the Falleen’s dreams.
“Energy cannot be created or destroyed,” the shapeless one said, “only change form.”
Two years ago
Private office of the Grand Master
Antei, Domain of the Dark Council
Two men, powerful and wise sat. For hours they had been still, cigar smoke betraying a frustration lingering. Trevarus had been permitted the Dread Lord's time, and perhaps it was being wasted. The Grand Master honored the Oracle's reluctance. Both were aware of the Lady Morrigan, her words to the Oracle, yet neither understood the full context of her advice.
It was Trevarus who finally broke silence. "I must fade." He paused, and conjured a bottle. Speaking a few words over the crown, Muz produced empty tumblers. Trevarus poured for his host, then a draft for himself.
"A bit of chill, I think?" Muz said.
Without any word, the Will of the Grand Master dropped a single cube of ice into the cognac. A faint grin crossed Trevarus' features.
"I must show Xanos what has been done, I must show him the truth. Therefore, I must find Chi Long. I will do what I must. While I do not ask for your sanction, I ask your permission."
"I was young when you were old, Trevarus. Those before me were weak, they sanctioned you. You may fade, and do what you must. If you fail, I will kill you myself"
"I understand, Lord Ashen."
In the heart of darkness, even the darkness fades.
Something tugged at the back of Sildrin’s mind. She approached her master’s quarters and the door slid aside in complete silence. Beside her, Shi Long’s hand remained tight around the hilt of his lightsaber, while behind, even the mad alchemist kept unusually silent. They all felt it.
The fabric of reality was being... stretched.
The Sorceress stepped inside the darkness first.
Her eyes took in the room. Everything was still. Not even the stream of data on her master’s data console moved, the numbers having frozen in place. The pull in the back of her mind grew stronger. Everything in the room looked grey, colourless. Even the overhead lamp had dulled, more brown than white. The droid built into the computer desk that would normally greet - or question - anyone who entered the room, it too remained where it was, not moving.
Shi Long’s lips moved, but she could not hear him. Only the tug in her mind.
However, none of this registered in her mind anyway. Her eyes had dropped to the form of her master, unmoving, lifeless on the cold durasteel panels underfoot. Liquid pooled from his lips, from beneath his shut eyelids, his ears, nose, it looked even through the pores of his skin. Dark liquid. Black. It immediately reminded her of the nightmares that had plagued her for months.
Her hand unthinkingly fell to the vial she carried in the hidden pouch at her thigh.
“Master...” the Sorceress said, or tried to say, but she did not even hear her own voice as he knelt down by the Falleen’s side, momentarily forgetting her concerns for her own safety. In his hands, her master still clutched the broken shard of the shattered holocron of Darth Gravid that they had found in his lost temple, deep in the abandoned desert wastelands of Jaguada.
Strike at him. He is vulnerable. Or you will never be free.
The voices whispered in the back of her - and surely the others’ - minds as well.
Had any of them harboured the desire to kill the Dark Prophet, they could have there and then - but at the price of unleashing whatever curse it was that had plagued his mortal form. Macron stepped forward, and knelt down to stick a finger in the liquid, but before he could touch it, Sildrin reached out and grabbed his wrist. “No!” the Sorceress said suddenly, turning to face him and mouthing the word to make certain the alchemist understood her warning, even if the sound of her voice remained lost. “The Waters of Life,” she mouthed, raising the crystal vial she carried in front of her. In spite of all the emptiness that filled the room, the silver liquid in the vial shone with tranquil light. “But this...” she glanced back down, “has been corrupted.”
Macron studied the Sorceress intensely, but after a few moments the alchemist simply nodded.
When she reached out to hand him the vial, she could make out faces looking up at her from the dark ichor that surrounded her master, reflecting in the light cast from the water she had secreted from Runculo all those years ago. If she hadn’t known better, it almost looked like there was a hand, trying to rise up and snatch the vial away, but it was only an optical illusion.
If there was any difference between reality and illusions...
Her master’s words echoed in the back of her mind again.
The Sorceress placed her hand on the unconscious prophet’s forehead. All of a sudden, her mind was besieged by a myriad voices from the past, or future, and images of faces and events flashed before her in rapid succession. A small handful she recognised, but the vast majority were unfamiliar to her. Humans, Falleen, Chiss, Nautolans, even Hutts and Umbarans.
A hand suddenly tightened around her arm and pulled her away again. The images vanished and she found herself back in the lifeless room, discovering she was now gasping for breath and that it had been Shi Long that had clasped her arm - painfully - and broken the connection.
The Stone Dragon finally released her arm.
Sildrin looked back around at the two others, and projected her thoughts directly into each of their minds rather than wasting more time trying to be heard. “I must enter his mind,” she said telepathically. If she was to get the answers she sought, then there was no other way. It was not open for debate. There was no time. The pressure in the back of her mind intensified.
Moreover, if she did not do something, she might be dragged into the bottomless void as well.
I am sitting on the edge... she thought to herself, but the edge is too sharp - it cuts me.
She looked up at Macron, who nodded. “If anything happens,” Sildrin continued, “you are to find Trevarus.” She reached up and handed the alchemist the broken fragment of the Jaguadan holocron. One way or another, something left in the shard would lead them to the Oracle - there was no other explanation for why Trevarus had made such a misjudgement and left it.
The alchemist again slowly nodded, and then turned his attention to the broken shard.
Unbidden, Shi Long’s voice filled her mind:
“If something should go wrong,” the Stone Dragon warned, “I will not hesitate to end both your lives.” There was not anger or the lust for blood in his voice, only cold determination. Like his name, Shi Long’s resolve was as hard as stone, and it was clear he would not allow the chaos that had once before broken free to break free again.
The Sorceress nodded her own head. She would have done the same.
Sildrin turned back to her master’s immobile form and placed her hand once more upon his brow - and everything turned to darkness.
Inside the Transport
Macron grumbled as he adjusted the scanning neutrino-scope. He had left the room with Xanos and the Sorceress when the ritual began the second time to examine the shard. He could hardly contain himself- nothing fascinated him more than an unknown crystal. Boring rituals be damned, this was science.
“Waters of Life, my arse,” he chuckled. “Waters of Death, more likely.” The Alchemist peered into the flickering blue scope. Within, the crystal shard from the Jaguadan holocron was suspended between micro-forceps. Electrons, xrays, gamma excitation, neutrons all bathed the crystal within the sealed chamber of the scope. Across the side of the eyepiece scrolled data as it came in, spectral lines and other tidbits of information represented in glowing figures.
“That’s what I thought,” muttered the madman to himself. “Cut from a larger whole. A synth-crystal, and not the normal Sith or Jedi specimen either. The technique is more refined. Less inclusions, more lattice symmetry. Had to be made in a truly gigantic forge.”
The Adept felt within the shard with the Force as it was bathed in seething radiations. It felt… strange. It was flavor of the Force he was unused to. It had a Dark Side taint, but it was weak both from age and breakage.
The comlink on his gauntlet lit with an incoming call. “Yeah,” replied the Sith. “Macron’s madhouse, You kill ‘em, we chill ‘em. What’s up.”
“What have you found?” asked the Stone Dragon’s impassive voice.
“It tastes funny,” giggled the madman. “Synth-crystal, neither of Jedi nor Sith manufacture. Older than both. Possibly Je’daii, or even… Rakatan.” Moments of silence passed.
“I see,” came the thoughtful reply. “You’re sure?”
“Quite,” snickered the mad Sith indignantly. “It’s Dark Side for certain, but not something I have personally come across before. The information is severely degraded. Almost useless. I’ll do my best to extract what I can though.”