Fiction Update #2 – Post GJWXI - Part II - “Blank Spaces”
(Written by Marick Arconae and Sashar Erinos Arconae)
Estel City - Selen
Following the Conclusion of Great Jedi War XI
A long, rectangular chamber lined with huge, trunk-like pillars led the way from the doors at the far end of the chamber, flanked by two of Arcona’s Summit Guardsmen. Their black armour and white face masks shone in the dim, flickering, pure white light of the many torches mounted on the pillars. There was a raised dais at the far end, and steps leading up to the focal point of the entire chamber. Between the steps and the Throne itself was a line of constantly-burning fire, again pure white - a sign of separation for the Consul. The Throne itself was occupied.
Marick Arconae slouched in the huge, monochromatic throne, elbows resting on knees and head bent forward towards the ground . Beneath the curtain of long dark hair, his too-blue eyes were distant and half-lidded. His usually impassive mask had cracked all along the edges and showed all the signs of fatigue and weathering. The Hapan was tired. He was war-weary, and he wanted nothing more than to just sleep. However, there was always work to be done. There was always one more fire to put out, one more crisis to be averted. One more person to kill.
Thankfully, tonight was going to be different. The end, at least for Marick, was in sight. He sat back, and fell into the all-too-familiar arms of Deadheart. His features hardened as fatigue and emotion retreated behind a stoic mask.
“Bly, assemble the Summit immediately. It’s time.”
The curtain of flame cast a soft luminescence on the Serpentine Throne, fueling the din of crackling fire that stretched throughout the chamber.
Atyiru Caesus Entar led a small procession into the throne room. Standing before the throne was a line of Summit Guardsmen led by Captain Bly - the only one without a mask. Instead, he wore a long white cape and held a large, deceptively plain greatsword before him. Standing beside the throne were some of the Arconae: Strategos Entar and Nadrin Erinos to one side while a holographic representation of James Entar flickered slightly to the other. Almost unnoticed, standing near the back, was Legorii, his eyes glittering in the light like chips of glass.
Marick sat in the throne, weary but still alert, his dark-rimmed eyes moving over the few he trusted to lead his Houses. They were a small, varied bunch. Atyiru, unfazed by the presence of the guardsmen, stopped a respectful distance from the dais and bowed low, though the sardonic quirk of her lip took the formality from the gesture. Arcia and Andrelious bowed in unison at the Aedile’s side. Turel, Mako and Celevon mirrored the motion, followed by Rhiann and Skar respectively. Atyiru noticed something off in Rhiann’s face, and realized through her unique vision that she had her eye replaced with a cybernetic. She made a mental note to inquire later.
The veterans fell into place, with the newer leaders following suit. There was a practiced ritual to everything, but there were awkward spaces left unfilled.
The Consul’s immediate left was empty. A blank space. Usually, a large white Cythraul would be watching everyone, heterochromatic eyes tracking while pointed ears flicked like radar antenne. But now it was empty. Even the cheerful Miraluka felt her mirth sink. Empathy was both a curse and a blessing, and the collective mood of her companions was somber and grey. Invictus had always found a spot out of the way and off to the side, but now that space was instead filled by the odd couple of Troutrooper and Baxir. Both Elders, resolved in their sagely wisdom, seemed to sense Atyiru’s unease and did their best to offer silent comfort.
It helped, but only just so. She almost leaned to her right, expecting to get a grumpy grunt from the pillar of support that had been her brother and Quaestor. But Cethgus Tiberius Entar was also gone, his space, too, blank and empty.
Atyiru fought back a shiver and turned her attention back towards Marick, wondering how on earth he was still moving with everything that had happened. He had trusted and been betrayed. She knew that there was no greater pain one could inflict on the Hapan. He was probably blaming everything on himself and keeping it bottled up. She frowned, and started to think of some way to cheer him up, but stopped as he rose from his seat and stepped forward.
“The War is over,” the Consul began to speak. “Arcona has prevailed victorious, but we are not without losses.”
His words hung in silence for a pregnant moment before he continued.
“We were unable to recover the scrolls requested of us by Grand Master Ashen. Our team was betrayed by Invictus, who thought that aiding Ashen was folly. In the heart of Korriban we fought, and by the power invested in me as Shadow Lord, he is hereby banished from Dajorra space.”
Marick’s sneer melted away into a stoic mask as he kicked Invitus’ remaining Sapphire blade out of his grip.
“Mal’ari’carun,” Marick spoke the Chiss’ birth name. “You have dishonored not only yourself, but the Clan and all those you swore to protect and defend. By my will, as Shadow Lord, I retract your status as a Shadeborn and sever your link to the Shadesworn of Clan Arcona. You are hereby banished, and if I ever so much as hear a whisper of your presence again, I will end your life personally.”
With that, the Consul of Clan Arcona turned away from the stranger before him and walked towards his only remaining friends.
There was a round of murmurs. The images flashed through Atyiru’s mind, vivid as a storybook.
“And what of Cethgus?” Troutrooper spoke freely, his watery voice unperturbed by the gravity of the dialogue.
“Cethgus has left to lend aid to Naga Sadow,” Atyiru answered woodenly without looking.
“Darth Pravus has claimed the Iron Throne. He has made quick work of implementing changes in the Brotherhood, and we must be ready to adapt to the new Grand Master.”
Another round of murmurs, this one a bit louder and intermixed with swearing and clipped chatter.
“The road ahead will be difficult,” Marick continued. “Arcona’s future rests in each of your hands. I have done everything in my power to get us to this point, but the time has come for another to lead us forward. If a Consul remains in place too long, they’ll either get assassinated, killed in battle or become a liability to Arcona. With those thoughts in mind, Atyiru Ceasus Entar will take my position as Shadow Lord, and I expect that each of you will give her—”
“Wait, Atyiru is the new what?” Atyiru sputtered and looked around self-consciously. “I…what?”
There was a series of loud whispers as members of the gathered Summit exchanged glances, some knowing, some concerned, and others indifferent. To her surprise and everyone’s in the room, Marick’s lips quirked into faint, weary smile. He looked at her expectantly.
“We…we can’t make Atyiru Consul,” she explained, rushing the words out as quickly as she could.
“And why not?” Marick queried evenly, not so much as blinking.
“Because I’m Atyiru!” she practically yelled.
There were a few sighs that mixed with chuckles. The sounds tumbled into one another and coalesced into communal laughter, breaking the aura of gloom and lifting it away like gust of wind.
“Atyiru has been studying with me for the past year,” Marick continued. “She has proven time and again how valuable she is to Arcona, through all her faults shortcomings. She is the guiding light that we need right now, and is ready to take the mantle.”
Hushed conversations broke out, but Marick raised his hand and everyone quieted. “Step forward, Atyiru.”
Gingerly, the Miraluka stepped forward, passing through the white curtain of flame and onto the dais.
“All hail the Shadow Lady,” Marick said, as he lowered himself to one knee. The rest of the room followed suit.
“Marick, I can’t, this is—”
Atyiru’s protest was cut off as the doors to the massive doors to Throne Room opened and a cloaked figure entered. His face was obscured by a mask that covered his nose, mouth and chin, and his eyes were hidden behind a pair of weathered goggles. The only thing truly visible was a shock of jet black, unruly hair.
The chamber went quiet, and Atyiru shuddered despite the warmth of the room. There was something familiar about this man. Not to her, exactly, but to everyone else gathered. She could feel the connection through each of them. It was a torrent of disbelief, remorse, remembrance, and regret.
“Griever. What brings you to the throne room?” Marick Arconae spoke plainly, but his words carried an entirely different subtext. Who are you really, and why are you here?
“Shadow Lord. Thank you for taking the time to see me. I just wanted—”
“Turel briefed me on your exploits during the War with his team. Quite impressive and heroic for someone so…new to Arcona.”
While his face was concealed behind the mask, something in the Force flared like a forge fire. To Atyiru’s Force-sight, Griever’s aura flickered angrily. He did not appreciate being cut off. At all. The surge dispersed as quickly as it came, though. Griever’s aura quickly reverted to a neutral monochrome.
Marick didn’t seem to notice and continued unimpeded. “Celevon noted a particular fighting style that hasn’t been seen in a long, long time.”
Silence permeated the air. Marick slowly started to walk forward towards Griever.
“Some called it the Mighty Guard, and only one person ever truly perfected it.” Marick’s aura became cold as ice, his brows knitting together in concentration as he snapped both of the twin lightsabers at his belt to life. The collected Summit stood still and watched. Marick had never drawn his sabers inside of the Throne Room. Ever.
“So, who are you, and why have you come here!?” he yelled, hurling one of his shotosabers at Griever like a throwing axe.
The cyan blade, guided by an unseen hand, spun end over end and angled towards Griever’s neck. The masked Elder took a careful step backward, letting the thrown saber pass harmlessly through the air in front of him. His own lightsaber snapped to life.
“I’m not here to fight,” he said calmly.
Marick made a turning gesture with one wrist, and the thrown-saber mimicked the motion by circling around in the air and then spiraling back towards Griever like a boomerang. Sparks hissed as the masked Elder parried the strike aside, only to leap backwards as a second shotosaber zipped towards his heart. Griever batted the second blade aside, but suddenly found himself facing off against two floating lightsabers, each guided by a seemingly invisible hand.
Marick gritted his teeth as he moved both hands in a series of patterns. The twin shotosabers reacted in kind like stringed marionettes.
Griever’s saber worked calmly through a series of tight, defensive coils. Behind his goggles, his eyes managed to track both blades, dipping, dodging and batting aside each wild and kinetek attack. His feet wove smoothly across the tile floor with the practiced grace of a Soresu master.
As Marick moved closer, the blades hastened their pace, one attacking high at the masked Elder’s neck while the other went low for his ankles. Greiver somehow stepped over the lower saber and batted the high one away in the same concurrent motion. The telekinetic blades moved like a pair of angry vipers, circling and snapping from every direction. And each time, Griever managed to deflect or dodge.
Griever’s blade bounced back and forth between the two ghost-wielded sabers. He blinked as a both weapons retreated temporarily, and a blur of black robes and dark hair flashed across his vision.
A glint of emerald light flickered as a dagger slashed across Griever’s chest. He managed to lean away from the strike, however, sacrificing the fabric of his cloak instead.
Both Elders made a flurry of hand motions too quick and precise for the eye to truly follow. Atyiru didn’t have eyes, but still had trouble tracking the exchange of slashes, punches, elbows, and slices. Griever’s lightsaber flung from his grip, but he managed to check Marick’s forearms aside and counter with his own dagger and a blur of preternatural motion.
All of the Arconae had their hands on their sabers, but no one dared to get between the two fighters. Timeros and Nadrin started forward, quiet as shadows.
A crescendo note sung out through the Force as both Elders came to a sudden stop. Marick’s emerald dagger pressed against Griever’s throat, but the masked Elder’s own blade prodded underneath the plated mantle of the Consul’s Invicta robes, just above his heart.
“…the Mighty Guard…” Marick whispered through a labored breath.
“Yea, verdi’ka,” Griever said evenly. “I’m here.”
“You…you can’t be though.” Marick growled, pushing away from Griever and keeping his body bent in a fighting stance with his dagger hovering in front of his face.
A slow series of claps echoed through the chamber. Another cloaked figure came through the doors to chamber. Atyiru made a note to question the effectiveness of the Summit Guard, but thought better of it when she noticed the newcomer’s aura. He was powerful. More powerful than anyone else in the chamber. She swallowed.
“Perhaps I could help with that,” the Human male spoke. He was plain of face, pale of skin, with close-cropped black hair and sharp eyes.
“Korr—I mean, Darth Aeternus!” Strategos exclaimed excitedly.
“Nice read, Thran,” Turel muttered.
“Korras,” Marick ignored the Darth’s title. “Explain.” The Consul respected the former Master at Arms, but his mind was working through too many conflicting thoughts and emotions for formality. Atyiru had never seen
Marick this…blunt before. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.
“Good to see you too, Marick,” the former Dark Councilor said easily, then gestured at the other Arconae. “Timeros, Strategos…oh, hello James.”
The hologram of the Senechal waved cheerfully. Troutrooper and Baxir also waved.
“It seems like the Elders all…know each other,” Skar grumbled in a hushed whisper.
“All old people know each other,” Turel and Celevon replied in unison.
“Oh, right,” Skar nodded.
“I said explain,” Marick repeated, his voice sharp as a shard of cut glass.
“Oh, right. Well, it’s a long story that involves Force ghosts, clones, new bodies…in short, the part of Sashar that was imparted on Teroch as a protective “wraith” has spent the last few years coalescing like…lightning to a lightning rod, if you would. I was able to get the sample of blood Sashar left for Teroch that the boy had worn around his neck all these years, and was able to…transfer the Wraith from Teroch and into the new body you see before you. With the help of Grand Master Ashen, of course.”
“So that’s why Teroch left, before we left for Korriban?” Marick asked, fitting the pieces together in the back of his head.
Griever nodded. “He…was not very pleased to see me, especially after realizing how he had been used in the process. I guess I’m not exactly the best father,” his voice almost had a hint of remorse.
“Yea, well, you don’t say,” Marick growled. The Hapan stared at the man who claimed to be Sashar. His too-blue eyes moved from Korras, to his brethren Timeros, Legorii, Strategos. He looked back at Atyiru.
“You’ll have to ask the new Shadow Lady,” Marick said coldly before shouldering past Sashar like a wounded teenager.
Silence fell over the hall. All eyes focused on Sashar Erinos Arconae as he blinked a few times. “I know that you all have questions…but for now…”
He lowered himself to one knee. “I’ve given everything I have for this Clan, and I hope you will accept my blade as yours now, to continue to defend it.”
Atyiru stood still as nerf in headlights. She turned her face to Timeros and Strategos, who both nodded.
“Welcome home, my friend. I’m sure Marry will come around. He’s been through a lot,.” she said simply and summoned up a smile. Sensing the awkward silence about to arrive, she tapped her lip and turned to face the curtain of flames.
“So, who knows how to change the color of these? I was thinking a pale salmon, or OH! a lavender, perhaps…Neon green? Anyone?”