Some time before the Eleventh Great Jedi War
Slow, deliberate breaths controlled the rhythm of a heartbeat. In the suppressed stillness of the temple’s cloister, each pulse could be felt within her chest. Coupled with the sounds of blood as it rushed through passages and arteries, the deadened silence was too much for most to bear. Stale air filling her nostrils, the dust lingering in the air for a millennia smelled of decay and ruin. For A’lora, the silence cleared her mind of all distractions to focus on the controlled pattern of breaths before kneeling in the patchwork of vines at her feet.
As centuries passed, this once sacred place felt the effects of natural decomposition - Even lingering within its sheltered support structures was dangerous. Sunken several meters below the surface, the structure’s foundations have long since vanished. Twisting and extending through the cracks above, the ancient foundations of the temple were replaced by a network of roots woven through the cloister’s interior, creating natural pillars as they rose towards the planet’s surface - a tribute to their lineage. Small basins of water formed within as the ocean seeped in through the soil the building once rested on, providing nourishment for the forest above, the liquid filtered through the natural deposits of limestone embedded in patches throughout the complex. A mosaic detailing the rich history of the Harakoan first civilization, A’lora basked in the strong imprint this place left in the Force.
Another heartbeat. She closed her eyelids in an effort to regain some sense from the chaos.
Blood. The crimson liquid stained her hands and forearms, soaking itself into the wrapped cloth around her wrists. The chamber vanished, leaving her exposed among hundreds of Sith; a single light surrounded in darkness. Another million voices shouted in unison, but not distant. She then realized, she was not alone, as three forces converged on a single point.
She was running. The Jedi of Odan-Urr at her back with the unlikely allies of Taldryan, Scholae and Jac Cotelin. Lightsabers hissed to life in a deafening clash of blades. Ahead of the advance, one figure appeared from the dust kicked up by thousands of combatants. The visage of a lion, with a mane of silver flowing from his mask. Musashi Daraku Keibatsu, the Lion of Tarthos stood as a challenger, seeing none fit before him.
“Jac Cotelin!” He roared, sensing his former friend-turned-enemy on the battlefield, “Come, see what your efforts have wrought!”
Retaining the snarling face of a lion, Muz Ashen matched blades with the former Grand Master. His Sokan against Cotelin’s Jar’kai Niman; Muz Ashen’s form was as flawless as was his opponent’s. Each matched equally in their choice of weapons - the use of two lightsabers - it seemed that the battle was on an even footing. Even so, Muz Ashen’s defense was wearing Cotelin’s strength thin. All things after that event was a blur, but it was clear that Jac Cotelin would not stand victorious in the battle.
It was a vision she had seen countless times before, when the Jedi followed Jac Cotelin into battle against Muz Ashen and the growing threat of Esoteric. When Liam Torun and the Jedi would denounce her visions as mere possibilities, she would cling to the flow of the White Current for as long as she was submerged in its depths.
“Jac Cotelin cannot fulfill his promise to remove Muz Ashen from the Iron Throne. He lacks the strength needed to strike him down and prevent the rite of immortality. We should seek out this Esoteric and side with them to crush the Brotherhood threat, ending Muz Ashen’s madness.”
A’lora remembered these words as if she had said them hours ago. It wasn’t a distant memory, the remnants of this recollection was forever etched into her mind. She was never wrong in her translations of these visions, but in times such as these, fragments of the truth were hidden behind a veil of lies. Such was the way of the Sith to form these distortions of the ultimate outcome to hide their true intentions, hiding in the shadows.
“What then if Esoteric establishes his New Order?” Vorsa interjected, leaving a slight pause for everyone to consider those words, “think, sister. He would raise a united One Sith against us. Cotelin would let the clans continue their infighting. We would have more time and opportunities to strengthen our position against them. What we lack here is time to prepare for the inevitable outcome - another invasion on New Tython. Esoteric would see that come to fruition far sooner.”
It was apparent now that many in their ranks had doubts about either path. Seraphol spoke first, “she’s right.” he conceded, “we can work into the cracks, hit them when they’re weak until we can raise a force big and strong enough to challenge them.”
“Don’t you see?” The Togruta remarked, “we can’t defeat the Brotherhood ourselves, even while it is weakened. This is our chance to end this, once and for all. Esoteric would see them destroyed or subjugated. He would take all the power for himself,” she paused “once he has-”
“All we have to do is remove him? Is that what you mean, A’lora,” Vorsa finished the Togruta’s remark, “cut off the head and the body dies?”
“Why are you so blind to the obvious truth? We are weak as we are now. We struggle, we fight, but we aren’t gaining ground. We are slowly falling into a dark pit that will swallow us whole. We must do what is necessary to defeat the evil that we face - once and for all.”
Vorsa stood from her Councilor chair, “that would send us over the edge. We are not murderers! We don’t deal in the Brotherhood’s methods. And I am no fool, nor am I blind, A’lora,” she replied, her voice already raised, “I know full well the consequences these paths will take. As do we all.”
Shock covered many of the faces in the chamber. None have seen the Neti so unsettled before. Even Torun and young Nathan seemed too shocked to protest. A silent pause ensued as Vorsa made another step of the raised podium where the Council was seated, as if to prove her point. She looked around her at the gathered faces, calming herself before she continued.
“I would rather sacrifice millions so that billions may live, then give darkness a chance to rise again,” she paused, “never question my resolve.” she added, her face as rigid as the Praxeum walls around her.
A’lora sighed, deeply troubled and saddened by her friend’s apparent lack of faith in her visions. “Do what you must.” she observed the gathering one last time “So shall I.” she turned around, lekku trailing behind her as she made for the door.
After the Eleventh Great Jedi War
“So, why do you think we’re suddenly declaring war on Tarentum, hasn’t the High Councillor seen enough of these battles?” Suur asked the human walking in stride within the vast halls of the refurbished complex.
“I think,” Droveth started, sensing around for Force signatures before answering, “that our stance alongside Jac Cotelin has the High Councillor clouded since her disappearance to fight alongside Esoteric’s cause. Who knows what she might have seen on that side of the battle?”
Footsteps approached, muffled in the background of a grand waterfall crashing against the rocks ahead, “we have all had our share of troubles to face in such a desperate time,” the heavily accented, yet soothing voice of Councillor Vorsa echoed, “most of us are unclear of exactly what transpired in the aftermath, with Muz Ashen having disappeared along with Esoteric. It would appear that we were indeed victorious, but others hold a different…”
She paused for a moment, considering the weight of her words on these young Jedi, “…opinion.” She concluded, her features creasing into a questioning smirk, “what makes these two Jedi so curious of late?”
The smile from Suur’s face vanished to reveal a blank expression, “There’s been rumours going about the Praxeum, Councillor Vorsa. Some of us aren’t sure that the visions of our High Councillor are something that can be trusted. Tarentum was one of our strongest supporters, and now we’re rivals.”
“Oh?” The Neti challenged, “would you consider yourself to be among those to question these directions?”
“I…” He stammered, unsure if there was a correct answer to the question, “I suppose so, Councillor. Still, there could be much that she isn’t letting on in her visions. What if the war held some other purpose, with a guiding hand none of us could see?”
The truthfulness of Suur’s response was satisfying to the Neti, who gave an honest smile, “the future is ever in motion, even if she fails to realize that. She thinks the Brotherhood weak and unable to defend the darker clans with the loss of Antei. Nonetheless, Tarentum was our strongest ally until we were forced to cross blades. The Sith have grown desperate since, resorting to foul practices in the darkest aspects of the Force. We must put an end to this.” She reminded the Jedi, in almost the same manner as she had advised the High Councillor countless times before.
She was a general, and one that served for longer than most of these Jedi were a part of the Living Force. In her heart, Vorsa knew that A’lora would often need guidance in seeing past the growing shroud the visions have pulled over her eyes, preventing her from seeing the cold, hard facts. If this meant that she would one day be forced to disobey a direct order in the interest of Odan-Urr’s protection, she would defend those Jedi in the face of impossible danger. Not all would agree on these new directions or the outcomes, and Vorsa would be there to weigh these decisions against the Clan’s best interests.