Wind howled in the distance and thunder crashed among the clouds, as the storm that frenzied perpetually in Antei’s sky raged unchecked. Rain pelted the Brotherhood forces arrayed in siege formation, and sleet poured mercilessly down upon the huddled soldiers.
The deteriorating weather conditions weighed heavily on the besieging troops, and morale was suffering as the seemingly eternal standoff dragged on with no end in sight. Even the appearance of Locke Sonje, the Consul of Naga Sadow, as the new commander on the ground hadn’t been enough to motivate the despondent troops and with his departure on some ‘secret’ mission into the Obelisk Temple, things seemed to be getting even worse.
The only signs of life in the base were the bright flashes that erupted methodically from the large heavy artillery cannons on the far side of the base, the roaring flames of the shells arcing off into horizon and disappearing in the oppressive gloom, and the ponderous crawl of the large and cumbersome AT-AT’s assigned to perimeter patrol duty.
Inside the Command Center, a chaotic dance was being artfully choreographed by Captain Lurzka as the situation unfolded with alarming speed. Information packets from Locke arrived, and simultaneous updates were constantly being shown on the main command screen from the heavy artillery crews. Different voices shouted out updates and operation officers scrambled around checking on all their monitors.
“Captain, all firing solutions are a go”
“Flight crew Alpha-One report all systems ready and await your command”
“Sensors are picking up an anomaly in the vicinity of the Temple grounds, type unknown. Power readings are off the charts!”
Standing tall in the center of the room, the Captain stood with his hands behind his back and his eagle eyes staring at the main screen. “Alpha-One is a go, tell them to get the Consul out of there as fast as possible” he barked with military precision. “Inform all artillery batteries to cease fire, and send a message to the Augur that transport is on the way. Landing co-ordinates are 4QFJ 2648”
The communications officer looked up at Captain Lurzka with astonishment “But that is right on top of the Command Center inside the Temple. How are they supposed to reach there? The Obelisk will tear them apart!”
“The Temple schematics show that the closest landing pad to their location is an emergency Hangar Bay attached to the enemy Command Center. It’s their only chance to escape before the Orbital Bombardment will obliterate all that is left of the Obelisk compound,” replied Lurzka, before turning away from the screen and heading out.
“May the Force be with them, because the Lord Marshal certainly won’t be…” he mumbled to himself.
Entering his private quarters, the Captain locked the door and called up his personal holo-com. Entering the memorized codes he had been given, Lurzka knelt reverently on the cold floor and bowed his head. A large blue-white figure materialized in the darkened room, buzzing slightly before solidifying.
“Report, Captain Lurzka.”
The voice that issued out of the hologram was distorted and warped by electronic security measures, and the figure was shrouded in a formless cloak disguising his identity. Keeping his eyes on the floor, Captain Lurzka was about to speak when the entire room flashed twice and then fell dark and the holographic image winked out of existence. The communications had gone offline.
Something was disrupting them…
Outside the Temple
The already darkened sky rumbled and sparked with newfound power and purpose, charcoal black clouds pregnant with condensed water clashed against each other and started to swirl. Winds suddenly picked up and churned the clouds together, their wild howling joining the already terrifying cacophony, mixing them into a chaotic maelstrom and spiraling away into the darkness.
The ground started to shake and rumble, slowly at first but with increasing regularity and power. The earth heaved itself skywards and then shook with rage, stone shattered and exploded with the virulent hatred coursing through Force and with a bone shattering scream cracks snaked through the base and wreaked havoc among the troops.
The ever present sleet and cold that formerly was just an irritating nuisance doubled in ferocity, and then tripled itself again. Hailstones of the like which had never been seen before hurtled down from the sky with murderous intent. Smashing into vehicles, tearing holes in tents, killing the unprotected livestock indiscriminately and wreaking havoc among the by now terrified troops.
Lightning flashed through the sky - previously a harmless ‘natural’ phenomenon - now lay waste to the entire area, lancing down from the sky mercilessly and killing screaming soldiers with each purple bolt of death. Bodies flew everywhere with each repeated flash and fires sprung up among the prefabricated buildings, adding toxic smoke to the already deadly nightmare.
But the worst had yet to come…
As the Krath witch’s ritual rose to its apex and sucked in with greedy abandon every shred of power it could, the whirling sky started spinning with a violent ferocity and a high pitched screech erupted from the wounded heavens. Winds spun in angry protest and clouds snarled together with savage energy, coalescing into a deadly funnel that hungrily reached down to the ground.
The massive tornado swirled into being a kilometer from the Loyalist base and spun towards them, leaping forward with unnatural speed. Tearing into the forces arrayed against the Temple it gobbled up AT-ATs with frightening alacrity, smashed through hardened durasteel barriers with the fury of a lightsaber, sucked up fleeing troopers by the dozen and spat them out broken and limp.
It seemed that there was no hope left for the beleaguered Loyalist forces…
Obelisk Command Center
Inside the Obelisk Temple
Oblivious to the seething battle that raged around him, Krilis lent voice to the rage coursing through him and released a primordial roar that echoed through the room. With each step that he took blood pulsed with a rising frenzy, thick, dark blue veins ran down the Obelisk’s arms, throbbing hard, where they poked up through his skin…
Muscles corded and bunched underneath the heavy armor, and his eyes turned blood-red with crimson rage. Armored boots thumped with increased speed as the Obelisk commander flashed across the battlefield. Moving with primal grace and feral aggression, a long heavy rod flashed into his hands, faster than the eye could blink and blossomed into a long sapphire beam.
With an expert whirl, another sapphire beam blossomed into existence and Krilis brought the long saber-staff to bear. Leaping above overturned chairs and broken consoles, the Obelisk charged at the raging inferno and the demented witch inside of it.
With one final exertion, the marauder brought his saber forward in a brutal overhand chop that was intended to slice through the fiery corona protecting the Krath Priestess and cleave her from head to toe. But just as he reached the apex of his swing, he was thrown backwards brutally and sent crashing into the ground. Cruel laughter sounded in his mind, and with mounting terror Krilis felt a foreign presence slither into his mind and coil around his soul.
Jerking awkwardly to his feet and spinning towards the intruders, the Mandalorian felt his body move with a purpose that wasn’t his own. Eyes clenched tightly against the mental hold, sweat beaded on the warrior’s face and a small rivulet of blood trickled down his neck, dripping from his nose. “Leave. me. ALONE!” he howled with anger, staggering slightly under the onslaught and visibly shaking with tension.
Grabbing his helmet with both hands and jerking it off his head with feverish haste, he let it fall to the ground besides him as the crushing pressure inside his mind forced his body to its knees. The empty helm rolled to the floor and landed with its faceplate facing the shaking Warlord, the azure jaig-eyes mocking him and the numerous battle decorations a silent testament to his failure.
With a sudden groan he jerked backwards, head snapping up and back arching unnaturally while his eyes rolled up into their sockets leaving eerie white orbs in its place. Sinking to his knees once more, Krilis braced himself with both hands and bowed his head as if resting from the exertion. Like a marionette, the Witch’s will caused him to push himself up with one hand and he got to his feet with sudden and jerking movements.
«Surrender… it is pointless to resist…» a seductive voice whispered in his mind.
The Obelisk’s jaw opened, but… no words of his own answered. Instead thrusting out a gauntleted hand to the side, the puppet-soldier leapt forward and charged at the Falleen Lord with wild abandon. Calling out through the Force, the commander’s long handled lightsaber hovered for a moment in the air, shaking slightly, and then streaked towards his outstretched hand.
However, this time he was a sad shell of his former self, a sorrowful parody of an Order sworn to war. Where formerly primal power surged in the Obelisk’s powerful frame, now uncoordinated movements and heavy-handed maneuvers defined his actions. Where feral aggression and dazzling martial skill once resided, now only a macabre caricature of his old swordsmanship remained.
Rounding on the motionless Falleen, Krilis called on the Force and with a sudden burst of speed seemed to blur into a streak of movement that culminated with a brutal shoulder slam. Using his body’s raw momentum, rather than the Warlord’s usually practiced finesse to stabilize himself and lend more strength to his strike, he spun around and brought his saber into a deadly spin expecting to find a dazed and unprotected target.
However a blue blade flashed into existence at the last second and intercepted the savage blow. Staggering backwards from the unexpected resistance, Krilis caught himself and stared straight at the lightsaber that spun in the air with lethal grace. A beautifully carved shoto saber, with gilded runes and teal symbols spun around the hooded Sith Lord, held aloft in the air by an invisible hand.
Head bowed and eyes shut, Xanos’s countenance was hidden in the folds his cowl and his hands were folded almost serenely in the folds of his robes. And yet power radiated outwards from the motionless Prophet in palpable waves, energy pulsed out from him and lashed out at the snarls that entangled the stricken warrior, as the Obelisk’s stolen lightsaber was wielded solely by thoughts radiating from the Falleen’s mind.
Pearly laughter rang out and from the burly Obelisk a sickly sweet voice chimed out with malicious glee “Well done, little Sithling. You can play your little tricks as much as you like, but it will do you no good.” Snarling once more, the Obelisk tottered forward and lunged forward with his blade but his clumsy strike was once more warded off by the circling shoto.
This time the voice that came out of the Obelisk was his own: “Get your filthy hands off my saber, Sith. You are not fit to wield that blade!” but Krilis’s momentary resurgence was broken as Cyrena’s voice rang out once more. “Do not deceive yourself into believing that history will be repeated once again, little one, this time there is no ‘Ferran’ to come save you and this Obelisk is my little plaything.”
Manic laughter filled the room and a massive storm of lightning sprang forth from the center of the inferno and spilled across the room, stunning the rest of the combatants and causing them to sink to the floor too paralyzed to continue their duels.
“S…stop… her…” Locke groaned before collapsing to the ground, clawing weakly at his comlink: “L…Lorzka… come in… Lorkza…!!!”
With barely a moment’s hesitation, Xanos breathed the storm in and fed the dark energy coursing through his body to the slumbering wyrm within his soul. With an almost indifferent motion of his hand the Sith Lord raised his open palm and released the pent up energy outwards, deflecting the lightning storm into the towering Obelisk who hurtled through the sparking air and smashed headfirst into Kaiburr.
A terrible scream shattered the sudden silence as Krilis clutched at his head again in violent pain and inside the inferno, Cyrena also grabbed at her skull as the psychic link fed his pain to her. Rolling weakly on to his back, Krilis wheezed heavily and coughed as blood trickled from his mouth. He groaned with pain and shook his head as he fought to break free of the witch’s power but with a violent mental lash, Cyrena crushed his will once more and asserted her dominance.
However this time Xanos was ready and already deep in trance within the Force, and with a gentle touch he sank into the Force, letting its currents wash his awareness away. Almost without conscious thought, cool energy washed across Kaiburr’s consciousness and awoke him from the terrible nightmare within which he had been imprisoned.
Struggling to reconnect his synapses within the artificial construct that housed the Shard, Kaiburr focused his rage and his pain into a diamond-hard spear and calling upon the Dark Side, cast his senses outwards.
Nearly shutting down once more from the sensory overload, Kaiburr called upon his training and focused on the teachings that his master in the Mystics Asylum had taught him. Two nodes of the Force shone like lighthouse beacons in the room, their signatures burning brightly to his Force-enhanced sight. One node a conflagration of searing balefire and surrounded with a deadly corona, while the other was a glacial void that seemed to greedily suck up the very warmth from the area.
Shadowy tendrils of power connected the two titanic beings as they struggled against each other for supremacy, and smaller tendrils trailed off from the two beings and reached out towards himself and the fallen Obelisk.
Withdrawing his consciousness from the Force, Kaiburr activated the movement software located inside his droid host and the droid rolled to its feet with mechanical precision. Still moving sluggishly from the electrical overload, a simple order crystallized in his mind and without even awareness of his actions the snap-hiss of his lightsaber heralded the birth of his peculiar blade.
Mimicking him with like some sort of macabre doppelganger, Krilis brought his own saberstaff to bear and both blades erupted from the hilt with a snarl. Forgetting form, forgetting skill, the Obelisk warrior lashed out with savage blows that landed with bone crushing strength on the Shard’s purple blade.
Falling into a Klarin Chi defensive stance and trying to bring to bear all his meager training in Soresu, Kaiburr barely managed to hold the mindless Obelisk. It was all he could do to deflect the heavy overhead blows that rained down on him like an unending torrent. It was only thanks to the metallic configuration of his host that Kaiburr managed to deflect the spinning blade, and with each strike small pieces of his body crumbled to dust or spun whirling to the floor with a metallic clang.
Knowing that he couldn’t hold on much longer against the superior ability of the Obelisk, despite his weakened and mindless state the Shard struck out the only way that he knew how. Calling upon the Dark Side, the Shard Arcanist reached out with his senses and dredged up every fearful memory and every moment of terror that he had ever experienced.
Fear washed over him weakening his resolve, crumbling his will and sapping his hard won discipline as the very Dark energies that he sought to tame raged inside of him. Harnessing that energy and channeling it out of him, Kaiburr funneled all of it into the palm of the droid’s hand and released the fel power at the mad Obelisk.
The fiery energy burned through his host’s body and caused even more deterioration in the chassis’s structural integrity, but almost reluctantly the wave of terror washed over the Obelisk marauder and crumpled him to his feet, gibbering with fear and babbling incoherently.
However his victory was short lived, as the powerful mind of the Krath witch shattered his spell and violently heaved Krilis to his feet. A surge of the Dark Side sent Kaiburr flying through the air and crashing with metal shattering force into the far wall, while the Obelisk leapt through the air, lightsaber held overhead, for a second recapturing his old grace and glory as he reached the apex of his jump, before descending with murderous intentions towards the battered and half shattered being.
Time suddenly seemed to slow down and everything froze in place, causing the puzzled Shard to slowly pick himself up and look around with confusion. The fountain of dark power in the center of the room was uncharacteristically still, the murderous Obelisk hanging in midair blade extended forward as if to impale Kaiburr and the hooded figure of Darth Vexatus still motionless and still in his place.
«Krilis is too strong, you need my power. Only together can we strike him down.»
The deep timbre washed across Kaiburr’s mind, the haunting voice coming from everywhere at once. Pacing forward slowly, the Shard waited for the voice’s wearer to appear before him. A ghostly apparition suddenly flashed into existence besides him, the familiar Falleen features of Vexatus staring back at him with an unreadable expression.
Once more the Sith’s voice rang in his mind «You are outmatched. Death is all but certain for you» he said, «I could save you, I only require the briefest moment of control. Accept my help or watch yourself die. Choose quickly, time has not stopped.»
Knowing what fate awaited him if he failed, Kaiburr sent his assent to the Sith Lord.
«I am ready, now.»
Time sped up once more and Kaiburr felt his will thrust aside roughly with barely a thought, as an entity more powerful than he could imagine reached out through him and raised his arms together. Purple-white bolts of power lanced upwards, electricity crackled violently in the air and lightning pulsed out of Kaiburr in a never ending torrent of electricity that engulfed Krilis and threw his smoldering body to the floor smoking from the dark energy that coursed through him.
Abruptly, violently, the torrent of power disappeared and Kaiburr was thrust back into his own body once more. The feeling far more jarring and draining than before, as if Vexatus was ripped prematurely from his body.
But this time a deep dread lodged itself in his gut, and Kaiburr felt the air crackle and spark with newfound power. Capitalizing on Xanos’s momentary distraction, the Krath Priestess funneled all her might and concentration into the ritual and with one last bloody scream sent the ritual’s power out across the Temple.
In the Force, a great wound ripped open and thousands of ethereal voices howled in pain and despair as they were sent careening and spinning impotently into the void. The souls of the dead and the leaking power of the Holocron gatekeepers fused together into one terrifying sinkhole, and whirled madly around the figure of the Krath witch. Like some sort of banshee, maw gaping grotesquely open and outreached hands grasping hungrily, the very life force of all present seemed to seep and tear out of their earthly shells.
To those with the sight, the Duros lieutenant clutched at his chest and with a terrified shriek of despair his soul ripped out from his clutching body and was dashed into the maelstrom as his lifeless body fell with an almost anticlimactic thud to the ground.