A read-only archive of discourse.darkjedibrotherhood.com as of Sunday May 01, 2022.

[ARC-TAR-PLA] Aftermath Plot Updates


The Citadel
34 ABY

“Combat the Throne directly?” Timeros’ cool voice, as flat and uninflected as ever, somehow scathed. “Such an attempt now would be foolish. The fact that a vengeance-mad child entertained all-out warfare against a superior force does not mean it is a tactic we should execute.”

“What other alternatives do we have, with the Grand Master’s forces hovering, the Inquisitors a step ahead, and runaway Jedi,” the word was sick as it fell from Rayze’s hot-blooded lips, “as our closest allies? These attacks from Teroch and Lorden have been too much a strain on top of it all.”

Kordath interjected, “How’s abouts we, ya know, dinnae go wavin’ our arms about at tha crazy darkity dark type who be glassin’ planets and killin’ folks, eh? Stay away from tha black robed goons o’ his and the whole bleedin’ thing.”

"That’s cowardly—”

“Bloody smart is what it is, do like tha Jedi did and just karkin’ take off. Why are we gettin’ involved, sendin’ supplies we may have a need for and info that pretty obviously came from us, eh? Why we sendin’ our own folks ta live on tha run? Bugger 'em all, keep our heads down and live.”

"The First Clan does not surrender—”

“How much more must we lose?” It was Sashar that interrupted, quiet, grave. His haggard face was set around eyes aged a hundred years.

“Look, bub, we’re all just so sorry for your losses, really, but our concern is the ones still alive to give a damn,” snapped Terran, taking his boots off the table as he sat up. “And I, for one, plan to stay that way.”

“How about ya just shut the kark up instead?” K’tana hissed in irritation as the Twi’lek bounced her forehead off the table top, wrapping her arms around her head and lekku.

“Gentlemen, lovelies," interrupted Atyiru as she drew herself up, her calm, solemn tone cutting through the clamor of those gathered. For the second time in so many weeks, the Shadow Lady wore mournful black. But her presence was strong. "A break is in order. I believe if we continue to shout at one another much longer, we all may end up deaf, and I, for one, rather need my ears.”

Many of the summiteers around the table growled or murmured their agreement and reached for drinks, tabaac or another particular vice, drawing into small circles to discuss amongst each other. Many familiar faces were also present by holo, former members of the Summit — many of the Arconae and Elders who had departed for other roles or whatever facsimile of retirement the Brotherhood offered had been called back amongst the chaos, entrapped either by loyalties or by the Consul’s will.

“Lady Consul,” a flat, steady voice said to her right. She turned to her Proconsul.

"Yes, Lord Scion?" she stressed, imitating his tone.

“A word?” He nodded aside, and the Miraluka gave a faint smile, tipping her head in acceptance. The pair strode over to the chamber’s sole viewport, its shades open to allow in light, an often annoying addition to some.

“Now, my dear,” Atyiru murmured as they drew out of even enhanced hearing distance. “If I let you talk, are you going to abscond again before I’ve even had the chance to check on your wellbeing?”

“You and I both know it is better for us to be apart, to split our enemies’ focus that much more.” His eyes flickered around, lingering on clusters of people bunching in groups — Arconae with Arconae, Braecen, Tamashi, and Larrik, Zujenia with K’tana and Marick, Ruvak and Kharoc, even Zakath waiting for him to the side and the few bodies that made no move to cluster at all, like Kordath and Terran. “All of them.”

“Careful, my friend. Your mistrust is showing.”

“As it should.”

“And why is that?”

“You know exactly why. If any of the traitors among us don’t put a dagger in you first, then Pravus will, and you refuse to do anything substantial about it.”

“I made you my right hand,” the Miraluka challenged. “Just as I’ve entrusted the rest of this Clan where they need be.”

“They need to be culled.”

“Must you be so callous?”

“When you must be so careless.”

“I must be the opposite. Someone has to care, to care about all people, even the unlovable. Someone has to be sad that they are gone, and glad that they did live. Someone has to wish them mercy when no one else will. Every single soul in this universe…each deserves that.”

“No, not every one. Some men and women simply need to die, Atyiru.”

“I disagree.”

“You do so foolishly.”

“I do so faithfully. Whether or not you regard those as one in the same is at your discretion.”

“I will kill Pravus, given the chance.”

The Miraluka turned to him, expression sorrowful. “And I will stop you.”

Uji scoffed and turned away, hand spasming on the hilt of his gruesome saber in frustration. “He needs to be stopped.”

“But he doesn’t need to die.”

“It is foolishness if you think one could be done without the other. He’s a Grand Master, Atyiru. He might be insane, or worse, not. What would we do with him? Attempt to contain him, only for complete disaster later? No. We end this, the only way all men can end.”


“Buried and forgotten.”

A heartbeat stretched between them, the Scion’s eyes hard and cold as a dead star’s core. Atyiru pursed her lips, lowering her voice. “Uji, I’m worried about you.”

“You should be concerned, and not about me.” The Miraluka’s expression morphed into one of genuine worry, almost pitying him. "Stop it. Show that face to the Summit and the Inquisitorius and the Iron Legion agents as you will, but for once listen to me. What would you do, Atyiru," Uji hissed, “if Pravus came here, today, and slaughtered everyone in front of you? If he destroyed Selen? Not even for our collaborations, but as an example. Nothing more than a massacre.”

“You sound like Turel,” she sighed in response, before threads of steel came into her voice, into her posture as she straightened. “He asked me once, when we rendezvoused, after New Tython, what I would have done if it had been Marick, or you, or Timeros, if it had been my people, my planet. If it would be so easy for me to be merciful if it was my home that burned. Do you know what I told him?”

Her Proconsul was silent at the rhetoric, and she went on, “I said 'Mercy? Turel, mercy is never easy. Revenge is easy, violence is easy, action and inaction are easy. It’s easy to do nothing. It is hard to forgive.” Her voice lashed, sad but hard and sharp. “If Arcona hurt, if Selen died, as MILLIONS have already been dashed from this world forever…it would be even harder. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t right.’”

“You always seem to forget that pacifism is a luxury and will have profoundly dangerous consequences we cannot afford.”

“I don’t forget it for a second,” snapped the Miraluka. “What would I do if Pravus came here today? If he tried to hurt you? Our people? I would fight to my last karking breath. If he walked into my throne room today, I would stand up and fight. But I would not kill him. I will not. I will not continue this damnable cycle of regret and guilt on top of mountains of anger and loss. I won’t. Yes, it could kill us. It could. But to do anything else would be the death of something more.”

“Most people value their lives considerably more than their souls. And the ones who don’t, should.” His eyes narrowed at her again. “You know I support you, Atyiru. You know I’ll follow you — in everything except you getting yourself killed.”

“Then follow me that long. That’s all I ask. Now,” her tone shifted, indicating the end of that particular topic. “Was there something else?”

Uji merely shook his head. “You’ll have a report of my further investigations upon my departure.”

“Then back to the madness!” Spinning and clapping her hands, the woman raised her voice, “Alright, everyone, come now. We need to get these contingencies plotted before we can even scratch at the repair budgets for Ol’Val and Estle, and there’s six more items on the docket between that and lunch.”

“And then?”

“Timeros has proposed a redistribution of DIA personnel resources, and then there’s the Autumn Haunts Extravaganza…”

“Motion to table that one until next meeting?” called Strategos, lazily drumming fingers on the table. A dozen hands shot up in near-unison. “Wonderful! Motion carried.”

“Overruled,” sniffed Atyiru. “Now, on the matter of the Phantom Complex’s security—”

They were interrupted as the chamber doors burst open and a uniformed man stumbled in from a dead sprint. The guards outside the doors had turned towards him with half-raised weapons, and Guard Captain Bly emerged from the shadows near the meeting table to intercept his subordinate.

“Calm down, soldier,” the Captain commanded firmly, backing the man away from the gathering. “Report, outside, now. Then we see if it’s worth the Summit’s time—”

“My Lady!” cried the Officer, chest heaving from lack of breath. He shrugged off Bly’s hand and blurted, “There’s been a murder! Lord Wuntila has killed Lady Telona of Tarentum!”

“What?” Atyiru gasped, while mutters and cries rose around the table at the accusation. The Shadow Lady lifted a swift hand, cutting at the air to forestall them. “According to whom? Where did we get such information?”

“My Lady,” puffed the man, wide eyes wheeling fearfully between her, his commander, and the other Dark Jedi, “Lord Wuntila confessed it himself.”

The heavy throne room doors boomed closed, and like night turning crimson gold to gray, color and sound seemed to vanish. The white flames roaring behind the Serpentine Throne provided the only illumination, throwing a ghastly pale over the faces of the two men standing before its gaze. One of them, tall, built like the dragon whose namesake he carried, stood calm and certain, bowing before he straightened to a soldier’s rest. The other, slighter but no less imposing in his blood-hued armor, wore a vicious, self-satisfied smirk, looking for all the world like he lounged in a cantina, completely careless.

Around them, the shadows breathed.

Seated rigidly upon the throne, the Consul raised her hand, and the shivering, writhing shades stilled, settling into terse silence. Into the empty space, she commanded, “Explain yourselves.”

A beat, and then, “As I have said, Atyiru,” Wuntila Arconae spoke, unapologetic and unafraid, “Cole and I infiltrated and dispatched of a Resistance cell and their leader, Telona Murrage, as fit the Grand Master’s standing orders.”

“Just serving the Iron Throne,” Val Cole added, flippant, that smirk still a crack on his craggy face. “As we all do. This,” his eyes, for once free of his helmet, lazed over the chamber and the faces of the Clan’s Summit, “is a temporary contract. Good for you to remember too. My Lady.” The last was added with the same courtesy the Bounty Hunter tended to show his droid servant.

“You admit to betraying and attacking our allies?” the Shadow Lady demanded, voice frigid. Her face was a merciless mask. “To breaking every one of your vows to this seat and this Clan in doing so? To opening the gates for an interclan war?”

The shadows stirred again, those of the title holders in particular. The Estle-Eden Axis was an old thing. Old, and precious, and bought with their blood and that of their brothers. Others shifted for different reasons. More fighting? the unvoiced whispers murmured, Aren’t we entangled enough? When does it end?

“I admit,” Wuntila announced, his tone booming. “to ensuring Arcona’s survival despite your attempts to the contrary. They had committed treason against the Brotherhood. They were no allies of ours.”

A hiss tore from the Shadow Scion’s throat, standing at his Consul’s side as he moved to step forward.

“Stop,” snapped Atyiru, placing a warning palm on the man’s arm. He shook ever so finely with anger.

Uji’s tone could only barely contain the venom in his words. “Cole, you would do well to remember you serve Arcona first, and through Arcona you serve the Grand Master.” The Proconsul’s eyes turned to Wuntila, his gaze growing even more disdainful. “The Arconae on the other hand has no such excuse and will be dealt with accordingly.”

“The Arconae,” a new tone rose from further down the dias, Strategos’, lacking its usual levity. “bears his name for a reason. If we’ve already established that opposing the Throne is foolish, which I believe somewhere in the inanity of the last several hours, we have, then listening to it obviously isn’t. Wuntila has done what he needed to do…and you ought respect that.”

The others, wordless, nodded their agreement.

A mirthless bark of laughter left the Proconsul. “You must be joking. He betrays the faith of this Summit, a Summit that has done everything to stand united with the Arconae in these last months, to mend broken bonds and old wounds, and you would throw it away to protect this fool who seeks to reclaim his lost glory by openly betraying his Consul and her wishes?”

“Consider carefully,” Sashar spoke up as Strategos quieted with a snort and a shake of his head. “Drawing the Grand Master’s ire would be the end of us, whether we care for the fact or not. Unsanctioned or otherwise, Wuntila has at the least delayed that inevitability, if nothing else.”

“We should be working to draw his favor,” Braecen spoke up from the side, earning a shrug and a nod from his fellow Quaestor, Koul. “We stand strong now. We stand untouchable with his backing. And we get that through loyalty.”

“Tell that to ta kiddies that got bloody murdered in the old Academy over their holos on blasted Brotherhood history,” snapped Kordath, his shoulders hunched, arms crossed tightly while his tail lashed. “Loyalty won’t mean kark no matter who it’s to in this crazy house. The bloke’s out to kill us all in the end, only difference is who gets there first.”

“So you’ve repeated—”

“Arcona first,” Timeros intoned flatly. “All else is a formality.”

Marick, a quiet specter up to that point, cut through the rising clamor with his lilted statement, “They aren’t wrong. Everything is permitted, and securing loyalty to Pravus is the only way to truly fight him.”

“And that,” Selen’s Dragon called once more, “is all that remains. I will not see this Clan fall.”

“I remember stories told to me, stories of men who stood together and as one to overcome a single force that had ranked at the head of the Brotherhood for generations. You Arconae were the example that I and many wanted to strive to live up to — the willingness to fight and die to ensure Arcona remained the First Clan of the Brotherhood,” disappointment echoed in the Proconsul’s voice. “And yet here you stand, willing to grovel and scrape on your knees for a place at Pravus’s table rather than fight. I wonder when it was that each of you lost your spines. Has complacency truly made all of you into cowards?”

“Call me a coward again, Tameike,” Wuntila challenged. “I earned my title and reputation and I will happily prove it to you. The Arconae still fight for Arcona and are still willing to die as necessary, even when the Consul allows her desire for peace to lead her astray. What I did was to protect this Clan despite her decisions!”

Marick’s eyes slid to the side, landing on Wuntila. “It was you who taught me the Consul was never wrong.”

“Only when the Consul does well to serve the Clan.”

“You can’t speak of serving the Clan when you undermine it for your own gain,” Uji growled. “What did Pravus promise you, Wun? Another chance to redeem your past mistakes? Perhaps when you betray Atyiru next as you did Telona you’ll get another chance at the throne? What did Pravus promise you in exchange for your honor?”

The large half-Theelian’s gaze turned blazing in a flash and his hand gripped his weapon as he took a step towards the Throne. The Proconsul smiled, infuriating the warrior even more as he realized he was being baited. “I welcome you to try, Wuntila. I promise you, draw your saber and I will see you beaten, chained and dragged before the Tarentae as the traitor you truly are.”

“Fool, everything I do is for this Clan—” the blue-skinned Arconae snarled, cutting off in rage.

The crystalline hum of his lightsaber activating sent a ripple of motion throughout the room. One after another, years of combat-ingrained instinct curled fingers around saber hilts with the speed only the Force-blessed could manage. Bodies tensed, gasps or mutters of mingled protest and furious encouragement filling the air, every one of them coiled to leap at so much as a breath from either man—


Atyiru stood in a swirl of silver skirts, the throne’s white flames leaping behind her and then sinking into near blackness. They simmered dimly in the ensuing silence. For several heartbeats it stretched, heavier than mountains.

Slowly, muscles unwound, hands dropping from weapons. Cold-eyed, Uji replaced his own blade as Wuntila’s died in his grip with a keening hum. Still, the silence stretched. The Force seemed to shiver. Then, the Shadow Lady spoke.

“I expect better from every one of you. From my Summit. From Arcona. You have all disgraced her name today.” She lifted her chin, her Cythraul heaving his massive bulk upright, his fur spiked as he growled. “We will turn none of our own over, and we will not fight our own allies. I will contact the Tarenti. There will be found a diplomatic resolution to this, and you all will heed it. This discussion is over.”

The Miraluka’s heels clicked as she descended the steps from the dais, passing by the faces of her Proconsul, Rollmaster, Quaestors, Aediles, Arconae. Her eyeless countenance turned to not a one of them. When the Consul approached Cole and Wuntila, she paused, half a step, lifting her fingers and gesturing to the Summit Guardsmen waiting in the wings of the massive, darkened chamber.

“Captain Bly, escort these men to their quarters and leave them under watch with as many men as you deem necessary. If either of them attempt to set foot outside, shoot them.”

“Yes, my Lady,” the Guard-Captain replied, his salute grim.

The throne room doors shut with a resounding thunderclap in her wake.


Castle Tarentum
Yridia II

Castle Tarentum was a dark, forbidding place from the outside. Guarded by sharks, great whales and other beasts of the sea, the former home of Tarentum seemed impregnable. Nearly all of the castle was built under the waves. It was a model of Imperial resources and engineering. Inside, it was warm, hospitable and inviting. It was a bastion of strength. While it was a home for the Clan of Death, and the present fortress of House Mortis, it was also a work of art. It molded modern construction, but still had the dark, almost earthy feel of an old castle. It was built of durasteel and permacrete, but still gave the air of something ancient. The exterior was dry and temperature-controlled, but had translucent hallways that provided a magnificent ocean view. Yet, deep within, it became a prison. The lowest, central levels and rooms were closed off to the world, and were dimly lit, sparsely used. The castle was not the hotbed of activity it once was.

In the grand gathering hall, in the very center of the complex, a raised dais was the only feature of the room. It bore a single throne, the seat of the Sith King. Or his regent, the Consul of Tarentum. When the forces of Death itself met, all were expected to stand before their lord. Today, the room was silent, deathly still. It was a fortress of solitude, as opposed to a place of camaraderie. It was a place that one had come to think. And that was not something this beast often did.

Frosty Romanae sat upon the throne of Khyron.

The Dashade’s muscular bulk filled up the stone seat well. It was as though the throne had been made for the current Consul instead of Khyron, who had inspired the birth of Tarentum so long ago. Perhaps each Consul or Quaestor of the original Tau House had found the throne to their liking, but Frosty did not appreciate the throne. He was a warrior, a killer. He was no king or administrator. Nor was Frosty a general to lead from afar. He preferred blood upon his claws, feasting on the souls and the living Force of others. For today, however, he was king of the castle, lord of the manor. And, in truth, he was good at it.

Frosty had the respect of his Tarentae peers. He had the admiration of the warriors he’d fought and bled with throughout his years within the Clan of Death. People would follow him to the brink of Oblivion and stare into the eyes of gods and demons alongside the elder Romanae. Tarentum stood behind Frosty. The Clan of Death was a conglomerate of powerful egos and tyrannical warlords all in service of him as the overlord of Tarentum’s goals. Frosty directed, and all of the individual beings of Death came together as a force behind him.

“But where do I lead them… That is the question…”

He kept voicing his own question to himself every few minutes. The Dashade was a killer, an assassin, and a beast. But now, as head of the Clan, he was forced to be a thinker. An analyst. Telona had been murdered. All signs pointed to Arcona. Wuntila had butchered her. The holorecording had been sent anonymously, but it was a very clear recording. It was a message, not a bystander trying to pass on the truth. Someone was trying to hurt Tarentum. Or the Tarentae personally. The Clan was in someone’s crosshairs.

“What assassin seeks Death?”

The soft echoes throughout the hall were the only company the head of Tarentum kept. It was dark, only dim lights from high overhead. The Castle could be as brightly lit as any desired, but like many in Tarentum, Frosty preferred the shadows. Even beyond the abilities of his species to hunt and kill, Frosty simply preferred the dark. It was comforting. And in his state of heightened emotions, comfort was a rare commodity. There was little to calm him for now. One of his own had been cut down. And his emotions were bubbling, boiling to the surface.

It was frustrating. Enraging. In the past, he’d have simply lashed out and torn the arms off of… anyone. Everyone. He once had the luxury of not sending very clear, very official messages for the Clan. That had been the responsibility of others. Bloodfyre. Rekio. Spears. Welshman. Oberst. Anshar. Ronovi. Scion. Anyone else. If his actions pissed off the wrong person, the leadership would answer and deal with the consequences. But now…now it was his responsibility. If he made the wrong move, it could lead to war. If he angered the wrong person, Tarentum could be besieged, destroyed, or embroiled in a conflict for decades.

“You’re troubled.”

Frosty looked up to the holonet receiver to the blue tinted image of Farrin Xies, the current Headmaster of the Brotherhood, and Consul before him.

“The Rat honors me with his presence,” the words rumbling from the Dashade’s throat. “Your timing, Rat. Very amusing, it is.”

“I felt you reaching out through the Force.”

“Lies. I did not reach.”

“Unintentionally, I’m sure, but you did,” Farrin replied. “I felt your questions, and I wanted to give you what information I have.”

“Vast were your networks while you were Consul. I imagine them greater with Council resources,” Frosty nodded slightly. “What can you tell me?”

“First, dig deeper. We’ve all seen the recording. Something about it seems suspect. Do not believe anything until you’ve ripped the truth from the throat of your true enemies.”

True enemies. The thought struck a note.

“Who then? What enemies? What fools stand against we who are Death itself?”

“We both know Tarentum has had the time to make many enemies. But we’ve also made strong allies. Do not be willing to give up alliances easily – new or old.”

“If Arcona struck, then strike back we must! Our anger unleashed at them. Devastation awaits. Telona’s death–”

“Is significant, yes,” Farrin finished his thought, “but there is always something more. Arcona had no reason to strike us. Was it Arcona, or just one of Arcona’s warriors on their own? Make sure you find out. But, for the present, our allies of Plagueis are also reeling. Stand with them. Strengthen our ties with them.”

Farrin’s image ended suddenly, abruptly. Frosty was alone once more, but only briefly. The doors to the great gathering hall and throne room of Tarentum opened slowly. It had been months since the entire Clan Summit of Tarentum had occupied this room. Since the decision to become a mobile, separated Summit had been made, only one of the Summit had been here in the Castle at a time – if at all. The Castle had been given to Mortis, and the throne room had sat empty. Yet now, here striding in confidently was his beastial Rollmaster Ranarr Kul, his fur looking splendid as prairie grass. Gliding along beside him cloaked in the wings of dark robes – Sith Bloodfyre, the Ghost Dragon of Tarentum.

“Our fate moves us all together,” Frosty’s voice rumbled with what passed for the awkward and fearsome sound of a Dashade assassin laughing. “First Farrin graces me, now do my friends and advisors.”

“We know,” Ranarr spoke. “Farrin suggested we meet with you. We’re in a pivotal moment, and we need to respond to Telona’s death, and the aggressions of our Grand Master.”

“What do the killings of Pravus mean to me? I am a killer, and so is he. I envy him. He murders at will, and no consequences exist for a Dark Lord. I yearn for the same,” Frosty mused. “Why should his actions be meaningful to us?”

“There are rumors,” Ranarr rumbled. “It sounds as though others have suffered loss as well. Not everyone has known their foes. Wouldn’t questions be less likely if this all wasn’t connected?”

“The Grand Master has struck other Clans,” Bloodfyre seemed to whisper, yet his voice carried throughout the entire hall. “His servant struck Plagueis. I’ve heard from Ramar himself. They’ve been in his crosshairs. We may be as well. We need to be prepared for anything.”

“We are at a time to prepare for war, or face doom,” Ranarr continued. “You know this. Whether our personal doom or the death of the Clan, who can say? But we must stand and face the future in a position of strength. Let us meet with Plagueis. We have the possibility of striking out before we are culled.”

“Caution, lest your words offend me, Ranarr,” Frosty’s gaze shot up, and focused straight into his Rollmaster’s eyes. “Never speak them again. I will tear the heart from those who question us. We are strong! Tarentum is Death! We are not the dying, the sniveling or infirmed!” The words of the Dashade boomed throughout the hall, echoing as though choirs of harpies whispered the Consul’s words back at him. It was almost eerie in repetition.

“Nor did I suggest such,” Ranarr’s voice growled with returned anger as the echoes finally died down. “Do not mistake my warning advice for weakness. We will not be victims, so we must prepare and be strong.”

The Dashade stared into the eyes of the Rollmaster, then turned to his Proconsul. The two locked eyes. At least, Romanae assumed he was staring into the Shaevalian’s eyes. Bloodfyre’s face was perpetually covered by the shadows of his hood.

“Consul you were,” Frosty’s voice was low, growling. “On the Council you were. A pawn and a manipulator have you been. And all that have been within Tarentum know your legends. You have stood upon the edge of destruction. You are the Dragon of Death. Advise me. What course of action will send our message of strength? Do we make war upon Arcona for Telona’s death?”

The Shaevalian ascended the few, simple steps, slow as a falling snowflake, towards the raised platform of the throne where Frosty rested. The two males were within a meter of each other, unmoving. Ranarr thought perhaps that Sith and Frosty might be sharing conscious thoughts not meant for him; but more likely, Sith was weighing the gravity of his words against the position Frosty held. Only one man could make the ultimate decisions for Tarentum, and the cost of knowledge and wisdom was having to make those choices with little or no information in the most grueling of times.

“My Consul and friend,” the Sith Master began slowly, “you will guide our Clan with strength, intelligence and lethality. You are a weapon. A living weapon. But you must also be the knowing lord, understanding when and where to strike, and when to call alliance and peace. I advise you to think clearly. I will seek input from the Shadows of Arcona. You will speak with their Consul and determine our course of action with her.

“But let me be clear that we do have a conflict ahead with the Grand Master,” Sith proceeded slowly, and stepped even closer to the Dashade. “We have enemies. Even close by to us, there are knives in the shadows. Be mindful of everyone. Tarentum will survive. It must survive if the Brotherhood is to live on through the ages. Even as we are the Clan of Death, so do we bring life to our symbiotic compatriots in the other Clans. We must learn what that means.”

Frosty nodded slowly, ever so slightly. For the first time in his memory, the Dashade Consul could actually see within the shadows of the Shaevalian’s hood, and into the eyes of the man therein. For the few moments that the two men locked eyes, Romanae began to question everything. Every choice he’d ever made. Every life he’d taken. Every life he’d spared – though there were admittedly few of those. He questioned his allegiance. He questioned his leadership. He questioned whether to remain on the throne, or to burn the place down.

There was knowledge within the Sith Master’s eyes. Knowledge paid in blood, sweat, sacrifice and betrayal. Frosty knew in that very moment that every choice his Proconsul had made in his time as head of the Clan had changed the Shaevalian, much as Frosty’s time as head would change him. Frosty respected the man, but in that moment, he also reviled him. The Shaevalian Master was perhaps the one person he could rely upon to do everything for Tarentum – even betraying everyone who might be anathema to Death and the Clan.

“Would you kill me if our survival required it?” Frosty stood to his full height, straightened every muscle and looked the formidable opponent from every myth and legend. “Would you stand against me as Consul if I lead this Clan towards a future you do not agree with?”

Bloodfyre’s eyes disappeared back into the shadows of his hood, but Frosty had the opinion that a slight grin replaced those tortured, dreadful eyes.

“My friend and Consul,” Bloodfyre intoned, “I believe you are learning the truth of your position, and the weight of that throne. You will be the savior of our Clan, and one of the greatest pillars of our Brotherhood. Men will follow you to victory, even through and beyond death. Good luck, Dashade. We will speak again soon.”

Sith bowed low and turned away and quickly left the hall. Ranarr stood silently, awaiting the words of his leader. Frosty watched the Master depart, the doors shut, and then turned to his Rollmaster and stepped down off the platform. Ranarr’s boots clicked slightly against the floor as he moved to stand in a deferential position to the regent of the Sith King.

“Answers were sought, yet deny me he did, didn’t he, Kul?”

“Yes, Consul,” Ranarr answered softly. “He didn’t answer your question at all. And that worries me.”

“As it should us all,” Frosty growled, nodding his head as the darkness in the hall seemed to claim them from the light.

A droplet of… something splashed on his nose, and enticed him back to consciousness.

“You were there.”

Trevak blinked his eyes and stared out into the darkness. It was a man’s voice. That was terribly obvious. His captor wasn’t hiding anything about his gender. But his captor hadn’t yet shown himself. He was still – well, he didn’t know where he was, but it seemed like he was still in that same, dark, musky prison he’d first woken up in. Time had lost all meaning at this point. The only senses he had were his hearing, and it was filled with his captor’s voice; his smell, and it was musky, dank, and smelled like mildew and body odor (his own, perhaps); and taste. Taste. It tasted like dirt. Like a cave. A cavern. Underground, maybe. It wouldn’t matter if he was in a pit, or a subterranean fortress. He planned to escape.

“Look, as I’ve said already,” Trevak repeated himself hoarsely for a fourth time, “I have no idea what you mean. This time either. You keep saying I was there. Where was I? Who the frak are you?”

“You were there.”

Despite being shackled and imprisoned, Trevak was still free to roll his eyes and show his disdain. “Mew mer mare. You sound ridiculous. If you’re trying to torment me with your hapless wit and drivel, you’re succeeding. But whatever you think you’ll get out of me, you’re out of your fu–urk!”

A hand shot out of the darkness and grabbed his throat with a vice-like grip. It was strangling him. His arms instinctively tried to shoot out and grab his assailant, but they only served to clink the chains that held him to the wall. Trevak was securely fastened to the wall behind him. And someone was killing him from the front.

“You were there.”

The hand released him and snaked back into the shadows. Trevak coughed and gasped so hard, he retched and emptied his stomach. It slopped all over his feet, but he didn’t care. He choked down each gasping breath. His throat burned. It felt raw. He was fairly certain the man’s grip could’ve crushed his windpipe if his captor had squeezed just a bit harder.

“Tell me about Telona Murrage.”

Trevak coughed and sputtered for a few more minutes. He was actually sure he could breathe easily if he wanted to, but his mind was working on the details. On figuring out where he was. On formulating an escape plan. On anything except the helplessness of captivity. He was probably in the hands of Tarentum. He had been helping out with the resistance, and had been with Telona’s group when she was murdered. He was going to be tortured to help someone find out more about it. Of course it was Tarentum. Who else would care about her death as much as her Clan? He finally started to breathe easy, and was working out a plan for freedom. Or escape. Or, at least to save his own butt by proving useful enough to enter his captor’s employ.

“You must be a friend of hers,” Trevak began, “one of the Tarenti. I get it. You want blood. You don’t need to do things this way. I’ll answer your questions and tell you what I know. And I’ll even help you track down her murderer. I know his name. Wuntila of Arcona. I watched him do it–”

“Oh, I already know that much,” his captor interrupted. And now, the lights raised slowly.

The man was robed, covered in a heavy cloak. But Trevak couldn’t focus on the man yet. Yet. His captor was holding the flaccid, comatose body of Shione. His daughter. Trevak’s child was a prisoner here too. Trevak felt his heart sink. And then his mind went to work. He was already trying to figure his way out of the chains. How to buy his daughter’s freedom. How he could placate his captor.

“Ok, you win,” Trevak bowed his head. Best to appear submissive. “You win. I’ll do whatever. Just leave her alone. She’s not important.”

“Oh, but she is,” the man almost hissed gleefully. “You’re not seeing the big picture here. Let me spell it out for you. You’re already dead. You just don’t know it. I’m going to rip your soul from your body. You’re going to serve me for eternity. Your daughter is going to grow up in darkness. Literal darkness. She’s going to be chained to your wall. She’s going to grow up in this very room. She won’t be taught to read, or write. She’ll never bathe, or dress. She’ll be covered in her own feces and filth. A true slovenly beast.”

“I hope you rot in hell.”

“Of course you do,” the robed man continued unabated. “And you’ll serve me willingly because, if you don’t, I’m going to heap torment upon her. The best case scenario is, I leave her here to rot. The worst case is, I let my other living servants treat her as entertainment. It’s your choice.”

Living servants?

“Who are you?” Trevak couldn’t help but wonder, entirely because no matter what, he had to know whose groin to cut off when this was over?

“Someone whose genitals you’ll never be able to cut off,” the man answered his thoughts. A hand shot out and slammed into his chest. Intense heat immediately flared up on his skin. Trevak screamed in agony. He was being burned alive. Or was he? There were no flames, but he looked down and saw his clothes and skin melting away, leaving nothing more than bones and organs. The visceral contents spilled out onto the floor, and left Trevak’s bones behind. Everything went black.

And then Trevak gasped. No air filled his lungs. His eyes flickered open. Everything seemed a bluish hue. Everything seemed different. He looked down. There was a pile of goop at his feet. His melted body. He looked up. The man was visible now. His daughter was still in his captor’s arms, sleeping. Dying maybe. Unconscious. Who knew.

[You’re a monster.]

His voice was different. It was hollow. Like a memory. It didn’t sound like him, but he knew he’d been the one to speak.

“Welcome to your afterlife, Trevak Nor,” the man said, a smirk upon his face. “Welcome to an eternity in my service. How you choose to serve me will reflect upon your daughter from here out. Now. Telona Murrage.”

[I’m sorry, Shione.]

“Worry about yourself,” the man’s voice was soft, but commanding. “Serve me well, and she’ll be covered in feces. Serve me poorly, and my other servants will cover her in far more detestable fluids. Now. Telona Murrage.”

Trevak bowed his ghostly head. If the dead had tears, he’d have wept. But the dead have emotions, not tears. And Trevak would hate his master for the rest of eternity.

“We’re in agreement then.”

“We are.”

“From this moment on, we’ll need to maintain the utmost secrecy in this. It’ll mean our heads if we’re caught.”

“The Dark Lord must die. Many deaths will come in this, even if we manage to succeed. It will not be an easy task.”

“But Pravus must die.”

“Agreed. We will kill the Grand Master. Or we fail, and we all go down as traitors and criminals.”

“I’d rather die a traitor, than live a lie. I cannot support his rule any longer. We’re targets, and I won’t die at his hand.”

“Neither will Tarentum.”

“Plagueis stands with our allies in Tarentum then.”

The image of Teylas Ramar flicked out. For long moments, he stood in the darkness, soaking in the sheer excitement. They were going to commit regicide. They were going to kill the head of the Dark Council. The head of the very Brotherhood itself. A Dark Lord of the Sith. Pravus. The madman. The destroyer. The bane of the Undesirables.

“The tyrant,” he whispered to himself. His voice carried throughout the shadows. He was alone, but his words echoed back carried the image of others surrounding him. It was thrilling. It was glorifying. It was intoxicating.

He reached down, typed in a few coded words, and sent the message. The plan was in motion. It would carry him to his ultimate doom. Or toward ascension.

Fate would decide if he was a traitor or a legend. History is written by the victors.


The Pinnacle
Command Center

Teylas Ramar di Plagia paced back and forth on the deck of the central hub of the Pinnacles operations. The rest of the summit was assembled. It had been a quiet, awkward moment of silence as the Dread Lord made his paces of contemplation. Finally, the silence was broken. “Has word spread?” he queried.

Dracaryis responded immediately, “Yes.” A short pause as Teylas turned his gaze slightly at the Plagueis Overseer. “We couldn’t expect something like that to stay secret for very long.”

“What has the response been?”

Arden chirped up sarcastically as he was leaning on a console nonchalantly, “You mean the response that the leadership of Plagueis believes that the destruction of our fleet was a plot orchestrated and carried out by the Grand Master of the Brotherhood, and we were lead to believe it was the ‘Order of Vader’? Yeah, not so good.”

“Point taken,” Teylas finally relaxed his shoulders and stopped pacing. It was true that the leadership of Plagueis did believe those things; there was certainly precedent. It was only a short year ago that the “One Sith” under Xander Drax was able to take control of the Anchorage during the Plagueis Civil War. Even then, when the dust settled and the “One Sith” were believed to be nothing more than a fabrication by some of the elder Plagueians, Teylas strongly believed it was Pravus who may have been behind it. But wild accusations would get him nowhere in the Brotherhood and no one had any real evidence. Just coincidence and supposition.

“What did Clan Tarentum have to say?” Selika asked of the recent call that that the Tarenti consul made directly to Teylas.

“They want to move on the Iron Throne, and want our help. It seems right now I may have no choice. With rumor spreading if I do nothing I will look weak. On the other hand without the Ascendant Fleet, our chances of getting to Pravus aren’t very high. But together with Clan Tarentum, we may stand a chance.”

“At the very least it could show that we aren’t afraid to retaliate if he’d attempt to act against us again,” Laren added. “Even if we can’t kill the bastard, there is a good chance this could still work out in our favor.”

Teylas nodded, “The only reason I can see him moving on us the first time was because he saw how large we were growing, how fast, and how efficient we were. We were his strong arm so he was intimately aware of our abilities. Plagueis was growing into a threat that could’ve rivaled even the Iron Throne. No matter the outcome after this, our position here in the Unknown Regions gives us a certain safety net. Estimates of the Pinnacles geothermal power source alone say that the shield can withstand orbital siege bombardment for possibly years.”

“Shall I prepare the Legion?” Selika asked firmly.

“Yes. Bloodfyre will have a ship here in 2 days, then we’ll rendezvous with the Tarenti forces,” the Anzat responded. He added, chillingly, “We prepare for war.”


The Citadel
34 ABY

The pristine, dispassionate holo-blue image of Zakath Agrona’s headless corpse filled the display as the Consul and Proconsul of Arcona stood together in silence. Neither could smell the blood or rot, could see the sickly discoloration of dead flesh losing its hue. No, the corpse but floated there, almost like a display in a museum. A faraway, shallow story forgotten but for this echo. An exhibit. A lesson.

After a moment, the massive Barabel’s lifeless body flickered away as the visage of the Brotherhood’s new Voice standing before them replaced it. His cold, emotionless eyes settled on the pair.

“Reports confirmed that one of your own, an operative named Zakath, was working to protect a band of Undesirables. When our forces engaged the target, he resisted and took the lives of many loyal agents.” A pause filled the room as the words sunk in. Zakath Agrona had been a monument to Arcona; a veteran, a leader, and a family member to many, including the man who’d allowed his death. The way he spoke of the Barabel now, one would think he hadn’t even known him beyond a numbered dossier.

Atyiru’s mouth worked soundlessly as words failed to spill out of her chest, her typical air of composed serenity dissipated like morning mist. Her entire form shook finely with a mixture of hot rage and betrayal too wide and empty to feel the heat. “Marick, what have you done?! Tell me this a test! Something to make me see, a trick to show Pravus! Something!”

“I,” the Hapan’s flat intonation interrupted the Consul’s brief exclamation, “have eradicated a traitor within your midst. You may consider it a last favor for Arcona. See that no others appear or further action may become necessary.”

"I don’t believe you. It was someone else, wasn’t it? Taelyn? Necren? Nix? Tell me you didn’t do this, please, Marick, this isn’t you—”

“I am the Voice of the Brotherhood, Consul Entar, and I serve as you serve. Be grateful, and be vigilant in the future.”


“Of course, Lord Voice. I can assure you that we will not rest until every last traitor to the Serpentine Throne has been dealt with,” the Proconsul of Arcona cut in, his voice betraying thinly veiled contempt as the threat echoed past his lips.

Marick Tyris looked towards the Proconsul and then away for a moment, his eyes shifting to something else in his vicinity before returning to the pair.

“Farewell, Arconans. The traitor’s body will be cremated and disposed of as necessary.”

The holo blinked away as the connection was severed. Atyiru’s hand rose to her chest, as if trying to hold in the sorrow that threatened to break open her heart’s boney cage as she sunk against the nearest table to hold herself upright. Her mind raced as she began to think of how to tell the others, how to tell Zakath’s family of his death, what to do in response, even as she mourned the loss of her close friend. Her jaw trembled with a sob, and she choked it back with a hand pressed firmly to her mouth, spitting words between her fingers instead.

“Uji, we need to prepare—”

She heard the swish of the doors to the Consular chambers sliding open, followed by the drumbeat of the Proconsul’s steps fading before her sentence could even form. Zakath had been her Proconul’s second, a close ally and mentor when Uji had ascended from Battleteam Leader, to Aedile, and even to Proconsul. The Barabel had been a constant in the Scion’s life. And yet, where she expected to find sorrow or pain, she instead sensed a cold determination from him, its beskar-hard chill only growing as his presence moved further away.

“Ashla and Bogan help us,” the Shadow Lady whispered, bowing her head for but a moment before she pushed herself upright and straightened her skirts, her hair, lifting her chin. Her face was smooth, her hands still. She approached the communications terminal again, gathering her thoughts. The priority call from one of the Dark Council’s relays had disrupted her attempts at hailing the Tarenti in the Yridia system. For a heartbeat, her fingertips hovered over the panel’s keys; and then they fluttered, entering the same set of codes they had been for the last hour.

The news of Zakath’s death would have to wait, for the moment. There was nothing she or anyone else could do for him now. Outrage would follow, surely, if it wasn’t already in motion. And just like the bloodshed she was still racing to prevent with Tarentum, that too she would attempt to quell.

One thing at a time, the Miraluka thought to herself, the Force murmuring to her, confiding flickers of pain, grief, fury, terrible resolve. Too many moving pieces, too much, too little time. And yet—

Triage. The worst first. Save what you can, and let go the rest.

Wuntila Arconae paced throughout his quarters. His anger had been growing as each hour of each day ticked by that he was constrained here by the order of his Consul. His entire being ached to be free of the walls surrounding him, to be doing as his sole purpose was to do: fighting for his Clan. Around the chambers were the signs of his fatigue, half-eaten food and drinks, broken remnants of something that had deserved his anger at one of the lower points of his confinement. With each passing minute, his mind formulated another possible plan to make his way back to the throne room and demand his freedom.

Outside his faux prison walls, he heard a brief interaction, a raised voice and the change of guard occurring. Suspicion began to rise within him — he didn’t recognize the voice outside. It was certainly not Captain Bly. The former Consul was all too familiar with the Captain of the Guard, and many of the guardsmen besides. As he listened, the half-Theelin reached out, summoning his lightsaber. The familiar weight of Dragonsbreath rested comfortably in his palm as the doors to his quarters opened.

His gaze fixed on his visitor, and a snort escaped his chest as he relaxed, muscles uncoiling. His Proconsul’s form filled the doorway, the Human’s eyes shifting throughout the room, taking in the disarray and distance between him and the Battlelord.

“What do you want, Tameike? Here to voice more of your empty threats?”

In response, he Seer simply tossed a set of stun-cuffs onto the table nearby. Something between surprise and amusement flickered through the Dragon’s mind.

“Put them on and leave your saber.”

“You must be jeering.”

The other man merely stared back. Wuntila thought for a moment, realizing the Proconsul fully expected his compliance. Shaking his head and turning away, the Arconae began to laugh, a deep, growling bark from his barrel chest. He nearly doubled over in amusement, his boisterous voice echoing out into the hallway. “Tell Atyiru if she wants to see me, she can summon me herself, or send someone I respect to collect me. Unless you want to try your hand at forcing me, boy?” He glanced over his shoulder as he finished, his fingers palming the weight of his saber as he waited.

“You seem to constantly forget, Wun, that I’m no longer in a role defined by my own strengths. You stand alone. I don’t.” Taking a single step back out into the hall, Tameike smirked that same infuriating smile from their last altercation, knife-sharp and indulgent, like a man observing a misbehaving animal. Then, the Battlelord saw the small metallic objects dropping into the room from either side of the doorway. The Proconsul pivoted aside, finding cover, while the Dragon of Selen roared as the twin concussive blasts from the stun grenades threw his surroundings into chaos.

For a moment, all he could hear was a high-pitched whine, his own shouts of anger silent to his bleeding ears as he was cast aside by the force of the blast, losing his saber as he fell. Within a few breaths he began to rise, feeling the pain throughout his body as every internal organ screamed in protest. Only the Force burning in his limbs allowed him to stand, kept him responsive.

“Coward!” the Arconae’s bellow echoed as he screwed open his eyes, unable to hear the clang of the next stun grenade falling nearly at his feet. The concussive blast wave sent the giant of a man flying back to impact the wall behind him. Heartbeats passed as he struggled to remain conscious, his vision flickering as he watched the Proconsul’s operatives enter the room. Even as he tried to draw once more on the Force, he felt the impact of their stun batons raining down on him, his muscles seizing with each discharge of the heavy weapons impacting his back, arms and legs, until he felt himself slip quietly away into numb blackness.

AVG Nighthawk
Minos Cluster

“Estimated time for arrival in the Yridia system?”

“About fourteen minutes out, sir. Confirm location for exit?”

“Put us close to Yridia II, but not in near-orbit. Behind one of the moons.”

“Yes, Lord Scion.”

Uji Tameike watched the stars that had hours ago turned to spinnerets, and those spinnerets to blurs of black and white before his aching eyes. In minutes, the forward viewport would instead be filled with the expanse of an unfamiliar cluster of worlds, known to him only in names on a star chart and historical anecdotes.

The fury that had boiled under his skin earlier laid heavy in his bones, smoldering like ash. He stood with his hands behind him at rest, saber belted in place as ever. To his right, Captain Rulvak Qurroc stood resolutely, yet he could observe some wariness in the man. Ernordeth Puer-Irae, to his left, seemed more eager, though the warrior was rigid. Moving against the Shadow Lady’s will was an uncomfortable thing, but the Proconsul knew he could trust the men and those of his old command on the Nighthawk. He’d been watching the way they moved, their suspicion, their investigation of their own superiors in Galeres. Atyiru’s direction guided them, yes, but so did her safety and the safety of Arcona and her assets.

The man shackled and unconscious two levels down in the medical bay under Bnar’s…care…directly opposed that. And while now, with his anger cool and solid in his veins, Uji could acknowledge that his rage had gotten the better of him, it remained that the only way was forward. The Estle-Eden Axis couldn’t fall. He wouldn’t allow it, nor a victory for Pravus. When they arrived, he would escort Wuntila to Romanae and Bloodfyre’s feet and dump him there like the trash he was.

“Preparing for drop out of hyperspace, sir!”

“Very good, Orsai,” called Rulvak, the half-Sephi’s tone strong. “The second we’re in, activate the cloak and silence all outgoing comms. All crew, brace for arrival.”

Uji’s dark gaze refocused, and his lips pressed into a tight line. The ship’s inertial dampeners made their transition all but seamless, the haul giving a slight, stomach-knotting shudder as the cratered face of a massive moon filled their sights.

“Activating cloak, sir!” one of the Ensigns shouted. “Cloak is deployed and functioning optimally, sir.”

“Excellent. Take us in slow, Orsai, we want—”

“Captain!” interrupted another officer. “We’re detecting multiple contacts on radar!”

“What? How many?”

“Debris or ships?” Uji demanded as well. The woman at her station swiveled in her chair, hands flying across her work station. A look of surprise covered her features before the ingrained composition of her training kicked in.

“It’s the Tarenti Fleet, sir, or part of it. Either they are preparing for one hell of a parade, or they’re ready to fight, sir.”

The Proconsul and his operatives exchanged glances. But days since the news of Telona broke and they’re already preparing an offensive? Uji looked back towards the helm, his mind turning. “Bring us around, but keep the cloak up.”

“Yes, sir.”

The craft glided out from the moon’s shadow, bringing the Tarenti homeworld into view. In-atmosphere above its landscape hovered indeed a handful of ships, ranging in size and armament. They weren’t close enough to make out much else in the way of detail.

The Scion’s gaze locked on the shape of the largest craft at the head of the formation, stars painting the black behind it. He closed his eyes briefly, inhaling, then opened them again.

“Open a channel and hail them with a general broadcast. Let them know we’re here to speak with their Clan leaders and ask that they stand down.”

“Aye, sir,” Ensign Delros answered at the communications station. For a few long moments, the entire bridge waited in tense anticipation. “Sir…they’re willing to talk.”

A collective wave of released breaths followed. Uji nodded to the officer. “Connect us on holo.”

“Aye, sir.”

A heartbeat passed, and then a blue shade materialized from the projector above the communications terminal. On the Tarenti ship, he knew, they would be watching him just the same. The figure before him was nearly indistinguishable from its cloak, its face but a hint of pixelated shadow.

“Children of Dajorra,” the voice was but a breath more than a whisper, and yet, even delivered and distorted by holo, seemed to echo throughout the entire bridge, slithering into every ear and igniting something inside every chest, “welcome to my home.”

“Greetings,” Uji answered, dipping his head. “I am Uji Tameike, Proconsul of Arcona.”

“Sith Bloodfyre,” whispered the figure, naming himself. The Seer had read of the Elder called the Ghost Dragon of Tarentum. “Given present circumstances, you’ll understand my asking — why have you come?”

“To right a wrong and ensure the peace between our Clans endures,” the Scion replied firmly. He gestured Ernordeth closer, murmuring quietly to the red-skinned man, “Escort the prisoner to the hangar bay and prep a shuttle.”

If the Tarentae was surprised, his projection gave no indication of it. The man merely lifted his arms, slowly, making his cloak flare like a pair of claw-tipped wings. “You speak of the murder of Telona Murrage. You have knowledge of it.”

“Yes. One of our men, Wuntila Arconae, acted without the sanction of his Consul in committing Telona’s execution. His treason was his alone, but his oversight was ours. For that, you have Arcona’s deepest apologies and,” he glanced at Rulvak, who nodded back, “our offer of the man for retribution as you see fit.”

Another pause came, Bloodfyre silent where his apparition floated. It stretched so long that the Captain at his side began to shuffle in unease, and Uji made a short gesture to still him.

“Why?” murmured the other Proconsul at last.

“As I’ve said,” the Scion began, tone cool but resolute. “I will ensure that the alliance we have not only survives, but prospers. While I admit the Estle-Eden Axis was formed before my time, nearly before the time of those who trained me, Arcona remembers its oaths. Some of us still were taught of the days before our rise to First Clan, and of those who stood beside us during those times. Tarentum has stood with Arcona longer than any other alliance, any other House or Clan. I would not see that come to an end during my days, not for the actions of a single man.”

“My perhaps friend and fellow Proconsul,” Bloodfyre whispered, cloak fluttering again as he gestured. For just a moment, in phantom blue, their gazes met, mirrored eyes intelligent, haunted, and determined. “As one cannot understand the depravity and nightmare paid in claiming the power of the Dark, one can only begin to learn the weight of kings when one’s every decision defines the fates of all they lead. You are learning.”

Uji merely blinked, unsure if he was being complimented and uncaring of the fact. He dipped his head again. “You too would see the Estle-Eden Axis kept, then? You’ll unscramble your ships?”

“We do not gather to fight you. Arcona is not our enemy. But there are enemies. And with them we conflict.”

“You are not the only ones who would see Pravus pay for his debts.”

Again, if the Shaevalian was surprised, he showed no sign. “Of this conflict, we are clear. The Grand Master will answer, and the Clan of Death will survive. If the Children of the Shadows wish to fight as do we and the Ascendent Children, then so may a reckoning be had. But now, today, we go.”

“Allow me to accompany you,” the Scion interjected smoothly. “I will bring Wuntila Arconae, and see that you may do with him as you see fit when your engagement is completed.”

“Very well.”

With that, the line disconnected. Uji cast a last, calculating look around the cabin before he pivoted on his heel and strode for the lifts.

“Sir…” Rulvak called, sounding wary. The last time one of his superiors had volunteered themselves off-ship, things hadn’t gone particularly well.

“Remain here until we and the Tarenti attack force depart, Captain Qurroc, then return to Dajorra and make your report. Understood?”

“And what should I say, sir?”

“Your service to me is done once I depart this ship, Qurroc. Make your report to Atyiru and let the Consul decide whether she wants to intervene. Good luck, Captain.” Uji departed the bridge, entering the lift that would take him to the hangar bay.

“…yes, sir,” sighed the half-Sephi, saluting, as did the bridge officers on either side of the elevator. Uji nodded to the man, then keyed the controls for his descent.

Rulvak Qurroc watched from the helm of his ship as one of their shuttles slowly made its way towards the open maw of the hangar bay on the Majestic-class Heavy Cruiser heralded the Corsair. In minutes, the smaller craft disappeared into the Tarenti ship’s hold, and the Captain gave another slight sigh, his mind racing.

Ernordeth approached from behind him, giving his Battleteam leader a nod. The Sith descendent had a bleeding gash across his cheek, and Rulvak raised one of his arched, silver brows.

“Did Wuntila give you trouble?”

“No, he was still out. Ood didn’t want to give up his new toy,” chuckled the large Battlelord menacingly.

“Lovely,” scathed the Captain. He turned his gaze back to the viewport, raising his voice, “Delros, do we have confirmation of their arrival?”

“Yes, sir!” called the Ensign.

“Alright. Let’s get moving then, people. Deactivate cloak and report to positions to engage hyperspace jump. I want our course home plotted within the hour—”

“Sir?” called Delros again, looking up with grim, steady eyes. “Sir, there’s another transmission.”

Rulvak frowned. “From who?”

“Captain Qurroc,” came a very familiar voice over the intercom routed from the comm station, the frigid fury in its tone sending his spine straight and causing the various bridgecrew to somehow straighten even more than their typical military stances. “where, exactly, under dear Ashla and Bogan’s benevolent gaze, is my ship, and my people, and my Proconsul, and my Arconae?”

“Shadow Lady, ma’am…”

“Answer me, Rulvak. Now.”

“We…the Yridia sector, my Lady,” the half-Sephi explained haltingly. “Proconsul Tameike ordered that we deliver the prisoner here.”

“And where is Proconsul Tameike, Captain?”

“…he has just boarded one of Tarentum’s ships, my Lady. With Wuntila Arconae in tow.”

“Do send him a message for me, dear, that he is disembark that ship and to report back immediately.”

“Ma’am…” Rulvak began, swallowing as his bright green eyes flickered from the communication station to the helm and back. “I can’t.”

“And why is that?”

“Because, my Lady…the Tarenti have just departed for Anteian space. They were gathering a strike force with Plaguies when we arrived. They’re going to engage the Iron Legion.”

Silence reigned for a heartbeat.


“My Lady?”

“Relay your coordinates and any other information you have on the situation and stay where you are.”

“And then, my Lady?”

“And then you wait until the AAF drags you, the Tarenti, and Tameike back to dry dock for the next thirty years.” Her voice faded, as if she was speaking elsewhere in the room. He faintly heard a command to someone to begin rallying the troops and readying their ships. “And Rulvak?”

“Yes, my Lady?”

“May the Force watch over you.”

The transmission cut.


Iron Fleet Command Ship
Orbit over Antei
34 ABY

Captain Lucpa Maatl stared out the wide viewport before him and felt his gloved fingers slowly curl into fists against the small of his back.

Nearly a year ago, he had watched brothers and sisters in arms, students and soldiers alike, die bloody on the planet below. He had watched their bodies burn in some misbegotten ritual, watched so much be sacrificed uselessly for Ashen’s greed. They had nearly been decimated, all that they were — not just the Academy, not just Lyspair and her sons and daughters in the Force, but all of the Clans, all of the Iron Legion, all warring only to be consumed for…what?

Pravus had put an end to it. He and Damon Nix and his council, they had saved them all. There was blood in ending the war. There always was, with such things. But they had stopped it, they had made the hard choices, and they had made sure that those that could still be salvaged would live on.

And they had taken steps to ensure something of a similar degree of horror or arrogance never happened again.

Not everyone understood that. Some of the people who besmirched the name of the Brotherhood had balked, cowardly, foolish or naive. They saw the actions their new Grand Master and Dark Council and they answered them with treason instead of gratitude. First the Jedi, then the Orders, and now, now the Clans. Scores of them, traitors all.

Now, those terrorists and their “rebellion” dared something like this, declaring an attack directly on the rightful Brethren and her people? They stood shouting on the very graves of their old home? So much had been lost on Antei, and they degraded it. Lucpa saw red. Good men had died down there. Good, loyal men who knew what it meant to fight for an oath to throne and empire, who knew the sacrifice of self for something greater, who knew stability and security meant acceptable losses. His men had died down there.

And at that very moment, some zealous, honorless excuse for the scum of the galaxy was tromping over their bones to line up with the rest of his treasonous company.

Lucpa wasn’t even supposed to be here. Once, it had been his sole role to command the Paladin, flagship of the Shadow Academy, in peacetime. After the Fleet had become the only available asylum for the Iron Legion and the Councillors, that role had passed on. There was no such thing as peacetime anymore. Lucpa had become an adjunct commander as Lords Dacien and then Lord Xies each ruled as Headmaster. Even this ship was typically under the Praetor’s helm. But orders had come from Lord Pravus himself — no one still associated with one of the Clans could truly be trusted, as evidenced in the necessity of Taldryan and Plagueis’ sacking. No, someone loyal was needed. And Lucpa, somehow, had been that someone.

Somehow, it was now his turn to put a stop to anyone who tried to harm the Brotherhood.

The captain broke from his study of the field below and spoke, “Do we have visual confirmation?”

“Sensors have a large mass of contacts on radar, sir. It’s an army, all right.”

So the information had been accurate. His eyes slid right for the briefest half a second, landing on the robed and masked man standing silently across the bridge. He was of no great rank, but an Inquisitor was an Inquisitor. Any agent of the Master’s was a great boon and warning both. Their situation was dire. They could not fail.

They would not.

“Ensign Kien,” Lupca lifted his voice again, tightly controlled and barking like the commander he was. If his words bit with anger, then the men and women on his bridge understood in the hard lines around their eyes and the steadiness in their hands. “Relay to hangar bay that away teams Aurek through Esk should be ready to pound ground the moment the smoke clears.”

“Aye, Sir!” the Communications Officer called. The captain turned turned. “Major Jeeka.”


“Fire the forward ion batteries on my command.”

“Yes, Sir.”

Captain Lucpa looked out the viewport once more. The ruined face of Antei, its peaceful corpse festering with rebel maggots, stared back. Enemy ships hovered like bloated flies.

When all else fails, use fire, he thought.

“Major,” Lucpa said. “Fire.”

MCH Corsair
Anteian space

For the eternity between heartbeats, Uji Tameike watched the world turn to flame. The whole of Antei’s ruined husk seemed to glow with it, a dim corona he recognized nearly a well as his own tired reflection: the light of weapons fire wiping clean the face of a map.

Time returned with the finished drumbeat in his chest, and he blinked as their drop from hyperspace pulled at his innards. He pivoted from the viewport, looking back out over the bridge of the Corsair. Bloodfyre, in all his inflated mystique, had departed shortly before the ship’s descent with his Sith-beast of a Consul and Teylas Ramar.

The events of the last hour had an been rather simple, and to the Seer’s critical mind, rather mad. He and the Arconae had arrived easily enough, despite Wuntila’s awakening on the shuttle ride over, still raring to fight. Uji had but graced the half-Theelin’s scathing commentary with a swift, Force-enhanced kick the temple, where the hulking man was still bleeding from Ernordeth’s care.

In the hangar, Bloodfyre himself had greeted him. His fellow Proconsul’s aura was much more potent in person, oozing intentional dread. The Arconan could appreciate the effect, if only for its apparent ability to unnerve the subordinates around him. He had gestured, and some Tarenti guardsmen took their new prisoner away as the Shavellian escorted Uji through the ship, explaining their plan briefly.

Plagueis and Tarentum had plotted to kill Pravus in one grand, desperate bid — whether or not they saw it as such. Information had been let slip and seeded in the hope of one of the Grandmaster’s dogs snapping up the scraps: a rebel army gathering in Antei’s boneyard. Surely, Pravus would come to snuff such an impudent showing, and they’d even baited the lure.

Far below, on the ground of the Brotherhood’s old capital, droves of the Tarenti’s reanimated living dead and Plagueian droids mingled with thousands of the Ascendent Clan’s slave peoples — the old, decrepit, or disabled, men, women, and younglings alike who were otherwise useless to them — burned alive, had they not been fortunate enough to be vaporized on the spot in the initial blasts.

If Bloodfyre had seen the harsh look that flashed in Uji’s gaze at that, he’d ignored it.

Now, a supposedly deadly handful of Tarenti ships moved into position to strike. They had waited just outside the system for the enemy’s arrival, and a perilously short hyperspace jump delivered them just so for when their ambush began. They would take the Iron Fleet from all sides, flanking vessels attempting to board strike teams on the lead ship while others drew the eye of the ion cannons. It would be simple, swift. Pravus’ forces would be few after his skirmishes with Taldyran and Plagueis, and the Consuls and their brethren would take the Darth’s head as a trophy of their wrath.

The Shadow Scion had stopped mid-step, eyebrow raised, and asked the other Proconsul, "You can’t be serious?” The Arconan leader’s face had shown a mixture of shock and amusement.

The hooded eyes peering back at him had been completely serious. Without another word to his objection, the Tarenti Elder had left him standing there, going off to gather his fellow Clan leaders and depart.

Truth be told, Uji had imagined death so often it felt like a memory. He had imagined its embrace the moment he stepped off the Nighthawk on this venture, for the sake of the alliance. The fact that it was now all but inevitable seemed almost like returning to greet an old friend after too long.

The Proconsul watched, feeling oddly at ease, as if in the center of a storm, as the order went out across the bridge and across the scattered strike force, to every ship hiding around the other side of the moon: commence the attack.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” he murmured, as the hull shuddered beneath his feet with the rumble of turbolaser canons firing at full and starfighters spilled from her sides.

Orbit over Antei

Squadrons of starfighters rocketed from their respective hangars, accelerating through protective magcon fields and into the empty vacuum of space now alight with laserfire.

A brave few Tarenti ships, bolstered by those of Plaguies that had survived the Grand Master’s wrath, approached from every side, their hulls alight with a muddled amalgamation of burning crimson streaks and ochre clouds of flame. Their artillery lit up the void around them, bearing down on the gathered Iron Fleet like a circling pack of vornskrs.

But it was not enough.

Aboard one particular ship bearing the mark of the Clan of Death, a bridge officer shouted out for the helmsman to take evasive action even as their commander bellowed that they brace for impact. Explosions punched into their side and threw crew personnel and Force practitioners alike from their feet. Less than a klik away, another vessel in the strike force made it through a hailstorm of fire from enemy starfighters to ram into the lead Destroyer of the Iron Fleet in a blaze. Others followed, some more successful in their attempt to dock and board the ship, some not. Boots of Tarenti and Plaguein soldiers alike spilled into the flagship’s halls, weapons ready and firing. Iron Legionnaires fired back, all the while ion and laser blasts volleyed between forces outside.

All the while, the Iron Legion Fleet quickly began decimating their attackers, their superior numbers and firepower a reminder in futility.

Still, the combined forces of Clans Tarentum and Plagueis fought on. Starbursts of ignited fuel and shrapnel littered the expanse of space as the dying shouts of loyal pilots were drowned in the silence of the black around them. Their passing was marked only by the floating debris that would later serve as gravemarkers of a fool’s battle.

Even as their numbers dwindled, bright lives snuffed out from the Force one by one, a lone assault-class shuttle wove through the throng of chaos, deftly dodging laserfire and making a break for the flank of the Iron Fleet’s command ship. The escort formation of X-wings on its left were caught in a spray of fire, sending their lead into a wild spin that hurled it into its fellow fighters. The second escort’s shields protected them but breaths longer before a lance of crimson from a turbolaser vaporized them into a cloud of dust.

The shuttle managed to attach to the command ship’s hull, puncturing it with a boarding tube so that its passengers could join their fellows who had yet to fall.

Iron Fleet Command Ship

Teylas Ramar and Frosty Romane watched coldly as their remaining soldiers took out the last Iron Legion troopers that had been assigned to protect the bridge. Captain Lucpa Maatl’s headless corpse was sprawled out on the cold, durasteel-plated floor. Only the bridge officers remained, who had all surrendered their sidearm blasters in the presence of the Dread Lord of Plagueis and the Dashade Consul of Clan Tarentum.

“Where is Pravus?” Romane growled at them, but none had answers, their faces steely. “Where?”

But the answer was evidenced in the blood splattered across the deck, in the faces of the men and women before them, in the devastation of their forces: the Grand Master was not here. He hadn’t even seen fit to address their attempt himself.

The Tarenti Consul gave a guttural roar as tore his saber through the officers kneeling before him, strikes wide and wild. Pravus was gone, and the scrap of a captain he’d sent in his place had managed to send out a distress beacon before the strike team had secured the bridge.

Teylas made a scoffing sound and shook his head, his eyes burning with spite and fury. “We need to retreat.”

Their gambit had failed.

Orbit over Antei

More ships burst into view from out of hyperspace, all bearing the markings of the Iron Fleet. Even with the flagship of the original array disabled, the Iron Fleet’s forces had but been greater, and now their ranks swelled. They had more starfighters, more ships with more pilots who moved with such precise, military efficiency that even together, the joint Clan forces could not match with their underwhelming numbers.

They were going to be annihilated.

Amidst the growing slaughter, a lone Star Destroyer dropped out hyperspace on the far side of the battle. Its matte black hull made it seem like a shadow of one of Antei’s moons, but in the harsh light of the conflagration it approached, the markings on the its side became clear: the Eye of the Abyss II had arrived.

ISDII Eye of the Abyss II
Orbit over Antei

The Shadow Lady looked out the viewport of Clan Arcona’s flagship, her lips pressed in a tight, solemn line that seemed so foreign on her usually enthusiastic visage. While the Miraluka could not see lay eyes on the destruction around her, she felt each and every death, every vanishing light, wave after wave of loss thrumming through the Force, reverberating in her bones as her hands curled to fists behind her back.

Atyiru Ceasura Entar turned to the Executive Officer of the the Eye and nodded coldly.

“Forward turbolasers, fire!” Commander Jaal Marinus barked.

An array of concentrated fire hammered into the exposed flanks of the Iron Fleet ships. Starfighters launched from the hangar bay as more Arconan ships, nearly the whole of their Defense Force, dropped out of hyperspace and began to open fire as well. The initial salvo was not enough to do more than distract the Dark Council’s ships, but a distraction was all they needed.

No communication came from Tarentum’s lead ship, but the Corsair took their cue without hesitation. As their remaining ships fled to hyperspace, the Iron Fleet turned its sights back on the newly arrived forces of the Shadow Clan.

The Eye of Abyss II had already begun to pull back, however, and quickly retreated with another jump into hyperspace. The forefront of their rescue blitz was not so lucky; they paid in blood for the Shadow Lady’s maneuver.

It was an acceptable loss, her advisors would likely argue. To Atyiru, no loss was worth it, but it was a burden that had to be borne.

She only hoped there were enough of them left to bear it.

MCH Corsair
Orbit over Yridia II

It was an unlikely cadre of figures that finally met, when all who remained to be counted had been accounted for, and communications had been reestablished.

Frosty Romane Tarentae, Teylas Ramar di Plagia, and Atyiru Caesura Entar stood in deep silence with their Proconsuls at their sides. Bloodfyre’s presence was forbodeing and silent, while Selika appeared nearly bored save her sly smirk, and Uji Tameike merely waited in unabashed silence after his Consul’s eyeless glare.

Surrounding each of them was an escort of their own guards, and nearby, another similarly armed group of Tarenti soldiers surrounded a large half-Theelin man.

“This is no business of ours,” Teylas was saying to the Miraluka woman opposite him, who replied with a raised hand.

“I am aware, but it must be addressed before we convene, my friend. Please,” she turned to the Tarenti leaders, “Allow me to take Wuntila home with us now, and I swear to you, on my Gods, in ink or blood as you need, when this is all over he will answer to you for what he’s done.”

Behind her, her Proconsul shifted, and she ignored it.

Romane but gave something akin to a snort, at least for a Dashade, waving a two-fingered hand. “Take him. But break your oath as he has already done, and we will show no clemency.”

“My friend,” Atyiru said sadly as some of her guardsmen moved to usher the Arconae to their own shuttle. “This all started with broken vows, but our vows are all we have left. We must unite instead of dividing. You have my promise. You will have to trust it, or,” her tone grew cool, “trust nothing at all, and be gone from here.”

“We shall see,” whispered Bloodfyre from beneath his hood. “Shall we not?”

“Let’s go,” Teylas broke in, striding for the lifts, “We’ve much to discuss and little time to afford lingering here.”

With tense steps, the others followed.

MCH Corsair
Orbit over Yridia II
War room



Lub-dub lub-dub.

Lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub lub-dub—


Eyes blinked from beneath the shadowy hood. His gaze was unseen, but surely felt. Everyone always seemed intimately aware of when the Sith Master’s eyes were on them. And it was also very apparent when his focus was elsewhere. The three Consuls standing before him almost seemed to be losing their patience with the Shaevalian. They’d been standing there for many long moments. Among Force-users, there was a certain understanding when peers drifted in and out. When the Force wanted your attention, it might wait, but it could also yank you away like a jealous, ravenous lover.

“To answer your question,” Bloodfyre responded, “I have no doubt that Pravus was aware of our intent. It was a long shot, but it is certainly hard to truly ambush a master of the Force.”

“And we’ve all painted huge targets on our backs now.” Teylas shook his head. “As if Plagueis hasn’t suffered enough of the Iron Throne’s wrath. We’re staring into the maw of a rancor in front, and the claws of the wampa behind.”

“With Dragons in our midst.” Frosty shrugged nonchalantly.

“You’ll forgive my lackluster response in this instance,” Teylas returned. “The Grand Master is more than a match for any Dragon.”

“I don’t believe he was talking about me,” Bloodfyre quipped. “We have a number of great beasts standing with us. Arcona. Plagueis. Tarentum. We all have our great ones. These odds are not in our favor, but they are not so overwhelming as we ought simply slit our own wrists and paint the town red.”

“What do you have in mind?” The Arconan Consul turned her eyeless, eerie focus to the Shaevalian. “Where were you just a moment ago?”

“Not so much where as when was I,” Sith responded. “Pravus’ days are numbered. I cannot say how, but I have seen his downfall. I have seen his corpse. And it comes from unity. A united response. All of the Clans must fight. We will never be truly unified, but we must fight as one.”

“Our Clans might be united,” Teylas spoke up,“but we all know the impossibility of having all six Clans and the Jedi truly moving in one direction. None of them will follow a single lead. Hell, we don’t all truly follow the Iron Throne now. What makes any other leadership possible?”

Frosty’s head turned to Teylas, then back to his Proconsul. “If Pravus is to be taken down, each Clan must see a prize. Each Consul must see a gift. Each must believe they will gain a prize so great that they cannot resist.”

Atyiru frowned solemnly. “Prize? This is not to be about prizes, my friends. Not even just survival. It is about bringing an end to this massacre, about bringing about peace — as much peace as we Clans can have. We must not forget that.”

“The Brethren will not move for ‘peace,’” Teylas scoffed.

“No, they won’t,” Atyiru replied, “but whatever bauble we dangle, it is but that, a bauble. When its distraction abates, the proper ideas must remain.”

“That isn’t what’s important now.”

“It always is, however…” she sighed. “For the sake of this — what prize would we offer?”

“The Iron Throne itself,” Frosty answered. “If all Clans are focused on the Throne, and each Consul believes that a unified force will give them the right of succession… perhaps that will force cohesion?”

“I sincerely doubt it,” Teylas answered, with Atyiru shaking her head in the negative as well. “Does anyone really believe a Consul would have the resources to take the Throne from any one of the Councilors, let alone all of them?”

“Not a bad idea,” Atyiru smiled slightly. “But perhaps not correct.”

“Forced equality then.” Frosty shrugged. “Perhaps not the Iron Throne, but each Consul having greater standing and leverage with the Grand Master. Rid ourselves of Pravus, and under a new rule, press for peerage with the Grand Master. The Throne rules with each Consul as a vassal peer. The Dark Council exercises the Throne’s Prerogative in the Grand Master’s domain, while we exercise Royal Prerogative in our domains. The Council is to the Grand Master as Proconsuls and House leadership are to Consuls.”

“Perhaps not this, specifically,” Bloodfyre nodded along, “but change and evolution may be enough of a prize to bring each Clan to a cohesive plan. I wouldn’t be surprised if each Consul might not be open to the idea.”

“This is a dangerous path, if we choose to walk it. Precious lives are at stake. If we make these oaths now, they cannot be undone” Atyiru cautioned.

“We’re already on a dangerous path, and have now invited Pravus to destroy us,” Teylas countered.

Each sat quietly for a moment. The ambush had not gone as planned. Tarentum’s ships had suffered heavy damage. Plagueis had already taken a pummeling from the Dark Lord. Arcona was in the crosshairs of the Iron Throne, and every Clan was historically wary of the others.

“Nothing is going to be decided here in this state,” Bloodfyre stated firmly, “and we need to be on the move. Pravus has eyes and ears everywhere. Much like the Envoys of our past, the Inquisitors among us hamper our ability to keep secrets and stand against the Mad Lord.”

“The Inquisitors among us will die.” Teylas had no emotion in his voice. This was obviously not the first time the Dread Lord of Plagueis had considered the matter.

“We need to return home, clear out the rats, and rebuild,” Frosty nodded.

“I disagree. If anything, we need to trust one another more than ever. What we need is mobility and wariness,” Atyiru added. “We can’t be obvious. We’ve a system, with our more…ostracized allies — communicate at random intervals, nothing in person. Make certain no one person knows everything, to safeguard. Keep everyone guessing.”

“To that end,” Frosty turned to the Shaevalian, “leave us now. We three will finalize things in private.”

“As you wish, Consul.” Bloodfyre nodded slightly and turned to leave. After a few long, quiet moments when he’d left, Frosty still remained silent, and Teylas turned to the Dashade.

“You have reasons not to trust him?” Teylas’ face turned grave, almost sour.

“I have suspicions,” Frosty answered. “Nothing concrete. But I fear that Sith Bloodfyre plays a dangerous game. Games he’s played before. Games I’m certain he always seeks to play. Never content, our Shaevalian friend is with his standing and situation.”

“Do you think he means to take the Throne?” Atyiru showed a bit of concern in the tone of her voice. “Was this all fabricated by him to try and set himself up to move for power?”

“Doubts are what I have,” Frosty answered. “Bloodfyre is not on the Council. Nor is he Consul, and I fear not that he means to claim my place. But at no point in my history in Tarentum have I ever truly feared or distrusted him… until now.”

“The Force help us all,” Atyiru murmured as they paused to absorb the weight of such a sentiment.

Gathered close, all three Consuls nodded.