Nebula-class Star Destroyer Fey’lya’s Last Stand
High Arbra Orbit, 1730 Hours
Chaos. Pure, unadulterated chaos - and Mirus had to sit back and watch the entire thing unfold. He could not risk travel to the surface; would he, too, be corrupted by the artifact? He had wrapped the darkness about him like a cloak once before. If he were near that artifact, would he become corrupt? Perhaps. Not only that, but the Last Stand needed her commander. Someone needed to command this battle now that there was, indeed, a battle - and it was becoming problematic. With their battleteam commanding officers requesting different orders, the two corvettes were now at odds with the orders of the Aedile. This was going to be difficult.
But there was no place for doubt.
“Starboard batteries, independent targeting! Fire at will!” rang the Titan’s voice, a command as hard as durasteel. As one, the gunners on the ship’s right side opened up with a fusillade of verdant blasts, space filling up with a cacophony of green. Fighters died to the point-defence fire of the laser cannons. Freighters and corvettes detonated under the raw force of heavy turbolasers, crumpling under the might of the Nebula-class Star Destroyer and its nigh-unmatched power. The forces of the Sith cult would not survive this day if Mirus Hi’ija had anything to do about it - but this was only one aspect of the fight. It would not do well for him to let that go unresolved - but what could he do from up here with no communication?
The sudden whirring of a turbolift door opening behind him woke the Titan from his momentary reverie, forcing him to realise that he was no longer alone up here. Two robed figures had come to his aid - one wearing a simple black uniform and the other wearing the Odanite Nomad robes.
“Rhiann. Kaayn. I’m glad you’re both safe,” said Mirus suddenly, turning and nodding to the Admiral beside him and giving the Bothan command of the vessel temporarily. “I need a sitrep.”
“Bedlam and chaos, master,” said Rhiann quickly. “Sith forces have landed, we’re surrounded on all sides, and Haven Base is sealed up tight by our guys. We’re being strafed below by the Mustirion. I doubt we’re going to survive much longer like this - JScumm is injured and out of the fight, Seridan’s been incapacitated - and we don’t know where the artifact is. I don’t know what else to do.” Kaayn, too, looked pensive - Rhiann was doing all the talking but his face said it all. The situation as it stood was hopeless.
A momentary pause. “I do.”
Mirus looked to Kaayn, first - “You’re a scholar and a leader, Kaayn. I know you’re a damn good hand with a lightsaber, but I need you to do something for me. You’ve got a way with words. Get on the comm with the Pride and the Proxia. If you have to… convince the Proxia’s crew to obey, you have my permission to do so. Rein them in. I want them blowing up cultists before we all die. Can I trust you with this?”
“Of course, Aedile. You picked the right Jedi for this job.” A flash of a grin and the self-styled heroic champion was out the door, headed for the communications room to deal with this particular task.
This left Mirus to reach for his own lightsaber, the silver-plated hilt of his hand-crafted lightsaber unclipping from his belt as he handed his beloved weapon to his student.
“You are my representative in all things. Represent me on the field. Find their leader and this artifact. I have a feeling you will find both in the same place - but you will succeed. You are my Champion.”
“And then?” quizzed the Sephi, eyebrow arching in curiosity as she accepted the lightsaber, nonchalantly clipping it to her own belt.
“You know what to do.” A sudden coldness overtook the Dathomiri as he gave his last and only order. This was an important moment between master and apprentice - an ancient tradition of the Jedi known as the Concordance of Fealty, where one Jedi entrusted another with their lightsaber. It carried words, pomp and ceremony, under normal circumstances. There was no time for such tripe now, however. Rhiann had a task and she knew it, but she also knew the significance of her master’s first true weapon as the Praetor to the Herald. She had seen him labour over this blade, lovingly sculpt the crystal to the perfect shape. This was his one true lightsaber - and now it was hers.
Without words, without even looking at him again, Rhiann Baenre left the bridge of the Fey’lya’s Last Stand, ready to conquer every foe that stood in her way, bolstered by the strength of the only man she cared to listen to.
There were never any words for them.
Nebula-class Star Destroyer Fey’lya’s Last Stand, Combat Information Centre
High Arbra Orbit, 1740 Hours
Kaayn now understood why admirals liked to command battles from the safety of a starship, where they could see - the god’s-eye view was an intoxicating thing. Here you could see all the information of a battle as it unfolded; the tactical readouts of ship locations and displays, the way that the vessel moved and interacted with the millions of other pieces of information like locations of enemy ships, speeds, their bearing and so on. He knew this place. He was at home on large ships, making plans - this sort of place was, indeed, somewhere that he would have liked to be far more than his skillset allowed him to be. No, the Aedile had chosen well.
“Alright, ladies and gentlemen, let’s get to work,” announced the Jedi over the milieu. “We have two rogue ships that we need to rein in. Patch me through to the Pride of Owyhyee.”
“At once!” called a technician.
The sudden, hissing voice of a heavily-masked Kel Dor came on the line without hesitation. “Acting-Captain Tel Vrak, Last Stand. How may I be of assistance?”
“This is Kaayn Salis, Acting-Captain. I trust you can carry out a task for me?”
“Of course, sir. How can I help?”
A thin smile came across the Sentinel’s lips as his master strategy formed. “Chase the Proxia Mustirion down. Hunt it down for me - but do not open fire unless I give the signal. Stay on a channel for me, just in case. Can you do that for me, Acting-Captain?”
There was a pause. “But, sir, that would put the Last Stand in danger. Are you sure about this?”
“Very sure. Get it done.” With that, Kaayn cut the line and motioned to a tech. “Get me on the horn with the Proxia Mustirion!”
A pause - an obvious acceptance of the call, but silence on the other end, save the inter-station banter of different command posts interacting. They obviously did not want to talk just yet.
“Proxia Mustirion, this is Jedi Sentinel Kaayn Salis. I have a very simple message for you,” Kaayn began, weaving the Force into his words as his semi-heroic speech began to take form in his mind. “Your commanding officer is dead. My team leader is corrupted by the Dark Side and you see fit to join him, to conquer the skies over your allies while you succumb to their taint. Let me fill you in on the situation.”
Over the Proxia, the Pride of Owyhyee suddenly roared into position, guns indexing and tracking - but not quite opening fire.
“You are now being targeted by our command ship and the Pride of Owyhyee. You will stand down and rejoin the battle overhead and ensure that you do not break formation. Right now you are severely outgunned and outnumbered. You have a chance for greatness here, people. You can save the lives of hundreds of Jedi and militiamen. Let your names go down in history as saviours, not conquerors, and you will be remembered for this day. Now what say you? Dare you tempt fate and rise up?”
There was a pause. A moment of indecision as Kaayn rocked back in his seat with a bemused smirk. He had put a mind trick on all of them - now to see if that appealed to their sense of adventure and ego enough.
“Acknowledged, Last Stand. Proxia Mustirion returning to position. Sorry - don’t know what came over us.”
The sky was theirs. Kaayn Salis was a hero in his own right.
Arbra Surface, 1815 Hours
T’espera knew that her feet were not carrying her fast enough any more. Revak Kur had entrusted her with the artifact, to take into the depths of the caves while the forces of Light besieged Haven Base and had ample distraction for her to hide the piece. However, she knew she couldn’t run fast enough to get away from the Light Jedi and the Sith cultists. One way or another, the little Disciple knew she had been entrusted with a mighty task. One lofty for one such as her, but with that kind of trust who was she to say no?
Breathless. She’d been running for almost an hour straight now - an hour? Two? Half an hour? Five minutes? She couldn’t know any more. This haze over her mind seemed to be a permanent fixture. She felt weary and woozy and drained - was it the little black box in her hands that was messing with her?
She stopped, resting against the cold rock of the cave walls as the luminous crystals bathed her in their warm light. A finger rested against the latch of the box as she dared to tempt fate, to open the box and see what was truly inside, what all this fuss was about.
But the sudden snap-hiss of a lightsaber behind her dissuaded her of that idea.
“Not so fast, little Jedi.”
The silky-smooth voice of Raxen Amarr behind her was enough to startle her and force her to drop the box, immediately going for her own lightsaber - a paltry thing, as it was a mere training saber, not enough to resist the power of a true saber for very long. It was a meagre offering - and she knew, in that second, that she was about to die.
And then she arrived.
Kaira Rohana, seasoned veteran of so many wars, drew her saber without a second thought. “T’espera, are you alright?” she called immediately, trying not to make light of the fact that there was a black-cloaked figure as strong as she was, an orange-bladed lightsaber already in his hands. It was hooked slightly on one end; a relic weapon, a long-handled lightsaber in his hands. It could not have a second blade, at the very least. Not many Force-users carried such a weapon, but there it was.
“I’m fine,” called the Disciple. Whatever hatred she had of one who followed the Light in that moment was overtaken by the base need to survive - and the need to murder this guy for trying to sneak up on her and stealing the artifact.
Without a second thought and in a desperate show of bravado, the Disciple leapt in as the opening play. Kaira was moments behind - and in the same moment, they both slashed their sabers in vicious arcs. Raxen Amarr, however, was skilled and keen enough to block both lightsabers in a single motion. The bright, burning orange turned about to cut wickedly first at Kaira, then at T’espera, the cultist leader deftly maneuvering the blade with one hand near its midsection and the other on its pommel, perfectly shifting the weapon like a truly skilled swordmaster.
Block - parry - block - riposte. It was a dance that Kaira and Raxen were both familiar with, and T’espera was very quickly learning on her feet. Every time the cultist went for the Disciple, Kaira was there, the saving grace of the dazzling archangel defending her less skilled compatriot in a true show of mercy and compassion. Kaira was one of the better duelists, having seen far too many battles for her own liking. In many ways she was skilled in the arts of single combat, having fought for the vicious masters of Plagueis for the longest time. Those skills were now being put to the test in the greatest way.
She thrust with her saber, grip shifting slightly to put the balance back a little for more dextrous control while T’espera thrusted forward with her blade in an equal motion moments later. She had no true saber training to speak of and was somewhat useless in this fight - but she was trying anyway, bless her heart. Amarr was quick on his feet, batting both away in a savage arc reminiscent of Ataru.
As Kaira moved in, she adjusted her duelist’s stance, getting a little lower as she carved three quick slashes in rapid succession, pushing Amarr back as she made every effort to back him against a wall. T’espera followed suit, choosing to come at him from his right side, holding her saber in two hands as she made a concerted effort to hit him. Amarr, not realising the false threat of a training saber, chose to block T’espera’s incoming strong blow, parrying high - giving Kaira a perfect lunge, into his left shoulder. The blade plunged through cleanly, causing him to howl in pain - but not quite drop his saber. No. Instead, he seemed to relish it, for the howl of pain became a maniacal laugh.
Then he sprung in a flurry of feet and blade, Spinning mid-air with a powerful leap, he performed what could only be described as an Echani hurricane kick, striking both T’espera and Kaira with one foot after the other in the same motion. The poor Disciple was sent flying backwards, saber flying out of her hand as the black-clad foot made contact with her right temple. Kaira took a similar hit to her head - and, while her resolve was strong, her body was not.
She, too, crumpled.
Raxen Amarr let out a victorious roar of triumph as he downed both Jedi, using his pure brute strength to overcome the foolish Jedi and beat them in their weakness. He looked down at the two beaten forms of the women Jedi - knowing that they were, indeed, foolish for challenging him - and then went for the artifact, ensconced in its box.
He wasn’t counting on the sound of another lightsaber activating.
“I don’t care who you are,” Rhiann said, the teal glow of her master’s lightsaber giving her the strength she needed to carry on. “Get away from the box and surrender.”
“You think you can intimidate me, little Jedi girl? Your friends are beaten! The artifact belongs to me!”
“I told you - I don’t care.”
Without a second thought Rhiann charged in, saber held in her right hand as she prepared to strike against the orange-bladed menace before her. Stopping and pivoting on her right foot, her saber slashed for his weakened shoulder, attacking the obvious weak spot that was Amarr’s open hand. He was tired, exhausted - and unable to use his weapon to its fullest capability. She was no fool; she was an emergent Royal Guard. Training with the other Guards and her Master upon Antei’s Spike taught her the fell ways of war and about the myriad weapons employed by the One Sith and their agents. This was no different.
Their sabers clashed in a vicious dance, but Rhiann refused to take a step back. She met every thrust and slash of his, controlled near the emitter of his saber, with equal precision. He felt weakened, certainly - but in that weakness she could sense his rage, trying to fight back with every power in his anger-fueled being. She’d seen this before - when Mirus fought at his fullest. She could feel the same kind of rage coming from him now. The difference was, she was used to this - and in his state, she could overcome him.
He cut. She blocked. She thrusted. He parried.
Until the moment that his foot lashed out at her knee - and she dropped slightly, buckling under the pressure of having her knee kicked in. At that moment, he blasted her back with a wave of telekinesis, knocking her master’s saber out of her hand and her into the nearest piece of stone.
With a maniacal laugh, Amarr conjured the dropped lightsaber to his hand and cut the emitter off - Mirus’ saber now reduced to a sparking pile of waste. She looked at the wreck as he cast it aside, trash to be discarded. She had lost her master’s lightsaber. Shame filled her at the sin.
“Pathetic, Jedi. You can’t even keep your lightsaber!” Raxen roared as he advanced on her, raising his saber high over his head, ready to cut her to pieces as he did so.
He didn’t know about the other lightsaber - and in one swift motion, she drew her blade, activated it in a dazzling display of azure, then sliced him in half with his saber too high over his head for him to notice.
Killed. Slain out of hand. The body fell to the floor.
Rhiann stood up and dusted herself off, deactivating her lightsaber and returning it to her side. She wiped the sweat off her brow and collected the fallen fool’s fancy lightsaber as her trophy - then the artifact in her other hand.
The new Champion of Arbra stepped over the fallen Jedi’s bodies, not even bothering to wake them up, burdened with glorious purpose. They would stir in time. The artifact, however, was hers, to be returned to the Fey’lya’s Last Stand - where, out of range, her fellow Jedi would wake from their torpor. They would wake up, realise what they had done, and this would all be over.
The cult would be routed.
Nebula-class Star Destroyer Fey’lya’s Last Stand
High Arbra Orbit, 1940 Hours
Rhiann’s return heralded a rise from Mirus in the command chair. The space battle had already been won - the timely return of the two corvettes to the battle had ended that.
“I brought you a gift. But…” Rhiann said, almost unable to finish the sentence as she handed both the long-handled lightsaber and the artifact box over to Mirus.
“You lost my saber.”
Those deep, burning blue eyes brooked stony silence from the Sephi as she hung her head in shame, having conquered a great foe but had failed at such a simple task.
“No matter, Rhi. I can always make another better one.”
She glanced up. He was a strange one - but such was dealing with the Praetor to the Herald. He had all the time in the world to craft himself the perfect weapon.
He accepted the box and placed the saber down under the chair, then resumed his seat as the Rollmaster took her rightful place at his side. “All forces, this is the Titan,” said Mirus into the comm, keying all the Jedi and their armies - light and dark alike. “Regroup and rally. Return immediately to the Fey’lya’s Last Stand. We’re going home - this cult is destroyed. Mop them up on the way out, recover all casualties. Don’t ask what side someone fought on, just get everyone home safely. To all you ‘corrupted’ Jedi…”
Mirus looked down, a hand on the box as he contemplated his next words.
“I get it. You did nothing wrong today that you could have helped. Atone for your supposed crimes by helping your brother and sister Jedi to get home safely. Recover the wounded and return to the ship. There willl be no penalty for your actions here. This battle is over, brethren. The forces of Light have won.”
Everyone around him was certainly confused, but it had to be said. To punish people for actions under a spell was cruelty. He could feel the darkness in this thing - it wasn’t going to go well for anyone if it was left to be left alive.
All they could do was count their blessings that this fight was over - and that they had won, with their morale still intact. Perhaps brothers in arms would have their bonds tested in the future. This, however, was good. This was practise… for the true war.
New Tython, Arca Praxeum Council Chambers
One Week Later
“So, it’s settled,” announced the voice of Liam Torun, leading the Council as always. “We will destroy the artifact as planned. It is far too dangerous to be left unchecked.”
The Jedi Council nodded as one, its six leading members all in agreeance. They had seen its terrible effect on minds, what it had done to all of them. All barring one.
“Since all of you were exposed to it, I’ll take the box to the vault. You all may be compromised,” said Mirus sternly. And, it was true; they had all come under its spell in one way or another. On that planet, so many people had come under the influence; as a result of the battle, there would be new positions of power because the tides of battle had turned and people had developed and displayed new skills. Perhaps there would be a field promotion for someone, somewhere along the line. Mirus wished sorely to promote the little Disciple that almost did the impossible - fight off a true Dark Side wielder.
“Very well. Aedile Hi’ija will take the box to the vaults for destruction. This session is adjourned.”
As the others rose to converse amongst themselves about the happenings of their recent little sojourn, Mirus shot Rhi a glance on his way out, the box tucked securely under his arm against the chest of his armour. He had a job to do now - and none would stop the Aedile of Odan-Urr when he had a mission to carry out. The long-handled saber, taken from the body of a dead man, was enough to deter all that would interrupt him.
Then, once away from the Council chambers, he took his comlink and raised it to his lips, paging his agents in Olympus Squad. “Get me a secure line to the Grand Master - I come bearing gifts.”
This box was not meant for destruction. This box had higher purpose - somewhere, hidden away, on this planet, where the Jedi could not get their hands on it. A time bomb, ticking away, waiting for the right moment to explode in a furious firestorm. The agents of the Brotherhood were everywhere - and this saber was proof that eyes and ears were on Odan-Urr, everywhere they went. After all, no true Praetor to the Herald would miss this design. It came straight out of the higher archives of the machine shops; this was a saber he knew. When he had accepted the blade from Rhiann, he understood everything that needed to happen. Everything that he needed to do - and just how to do it.
Once, this planet had been devastated as a reminder of the Jedi’s subservience to the Brotherhood, that they existed at the mercy of the Grand Master. One day, perhaps, if they needed reminding of that fact again, then the new Praetor to the Grand Master’s actions would be sufficient to unglue them from within.
His own affliction had taken hold.