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[COU] Rise of the Force Ascendant: Story



New Tython
Northern Wetlands

Dusk befell the village bordering the Kuku-Hawene temple, casting a shadow over the bog that surrounded its raised shelters. Shutters of bark and sinew rattled in the breeze; the inhabitants barricading their doors for the nightmares that came in the night. All those who ventured far would not return, for the terrible sounds that reverberated through the bramble and muck were proof enough of their fate.

The village rested at the eastern base of the Central Mountains, removed from the politics of Menat Ombo to the far south. Sunlight was short; the sun disappeared over the mountainous peaks at midday.

Superstition was the lifeblood of the Arataki Harakoans. It provided them with the tales and rules that governed their isolated existence. Clutching to their families, the villagers feared for the horror that would mark their homes, scratching the wooden posts with monstrous claws.

Outside, some of the homes bore the marks of this behaviour. Deep scratches in the posts that suspended the homes above the filth and mud were constant reminders not to venture outside when the fog blocked out all light. Lumbering and intelligent, the creature that appeared would be easy to spot in broad daylight. Instead, this creature used the mist to hide its passage.

“Mother!” A child shrieked, startled at the noise of bone on wood. His breath was visible in the growing cold as the mist gathered around their home, nasal cavities drawing in cold air with each breath.

“Quiet, child. Zukohu doesn’t like children who scream.” A wizened Harakoan chastised, “Remember the tales I told?”

Pulling a blanket around his shoulders, the child shivered against the cold, “Yes.”

“Remind me.” The elder asked, leaning on his staff for support.

“He comes but once a night, looking for those whose ancestors cursed these lands. He leaves a mark on their door, and leaves without a word. Give him what he wants, or he takes what he can.”

The old man nodded sagely, “Good.”

Another Harakoan shuffled in the corner with unease, “Didn’t you hear that? The child is marked. We need to give the monster what he wants, or he takes us all!”

“Enough of this nonsense!” the fourth declared, wearing a ceremonial headdress over broad features, “leave him alone, and go to sleep.” He turned to the elder, “That’s enough tales for the night.”

In recent times, the attacks have grown more frequent. Blood had been spilled each week when the beast had caught one of them unawares. The child’s mother hadn’t returned from her duties of gathering fruits from the swamp’s edge. She set out in the morning with baskets and nothing with which to defend herself. In truth, the elder had given up hope that she would return, instead remaining to give her son comfort

Standing within a clearing, she tried to pierce the fog without effect. Hours of gathering the berries and fruits that were meant to sustain the village had drawn her too far from home, and the path was lost when the fog gathered into clouds. She dropped the basket at the sounds of rustling in the underbrush. Berries spilled from their container, rolling to the west and disappearing into the void. Her chest rose and fell without a steady rhythm, concentrating most of her attention on seeing through the veil to find her way. Each moment lingered with several heartbeats vibrating in her ribs like a hammer.


She heard the cries, turning around to orientate herself to their origin. “I’m here!” she announced, rushing forwards while twigs snapped under the weight exerted on her heel. But, not all of the snapping was coming from underneath her. The ground pounded underneath her feet, a guttural roar coming from behind her as the beast began the chase. The familiar taste and smell of Harakoan still on its tongue as it raced to claim its next prize.

“Open the door!” She screamed, realizing the death that followed behind. Her foot trailed, catching onto the underside of a root and faltering. She fell forward into the muck, her face splashed with dirt and grime while her ankle twisted under the pressure.

Her fate was sealed, as the dripping of saliva from above her felt like acid on her skin. She closed her eyes, praying in silence for a painless death. However, aside from her leg she felt no pain. It wasn’t until she opened her eyes that she realized that nothing had changed. Her hands coiled and relaxed in front of her face, letting her know that she was still alive.

Above her, the beast gurgled with an unusual sound. It wasn’t until the carcass fell to the mud beside her that she realized someone or something had killed it. A different sound emanated from above her in its place with a dull thrum. Flipping onto her back, she looked up in both fear and amazement at the armoured figure holding aloft a flickering blade. It burned with azure fire that did not radiate heat.

The blue light glinted off his armour, illuminating the bronze plates with a pale reflection. “Come with me,” he commanded, extending out his hand.


Part I

New Tython
Arca Praxeum

Ambient lighting reflected off the faces of the councillors gathered around a holoprojector, radiating beams of light representing a coded message—an invitation being transmitted to the Jedi from an undisclosed location. Rumors circulating the Praxeum following the grand deeds of the Crusaders had warranted investigation into the matter. Tension wasn’t as thick as the uneasiness that flooded into their past meetings. Rather, genuine interest and curiosity forced their attention to the appearance of these newcomers.

“The Order of the Force Ascendant, how subtle.” Turel Sorenn echoed their thoughts, relaxed in the comfort of his surroundings.

Wood clacked against stone thrice, before gathering the Councillors’ attention, “Councillors, our goal is to discover a course of action to deal with the arrival of these Crusaders. Where their true intentions lie remains unknown to us—we must find their motivations to see if we have found new allies, or a threat.”

“Mar Sûl,” A’lora Kituri addressed the bearded Human, “as the leader of these Crusaders, I assume you have some understanding of their principles?”

Mar Sûl shifted his cloak, revealing a glint of the Order’s bronze armour, “We’ve all waded through the machinations of evil many times, too many. There are those of us who have delved into the depths of Kuku-Hawene—fought tooth and nail through our own trials, seen the truth and ascended to greater heights”

“The abyss of Kuku-Hawene acts as a chrysalis for all of those who enter. Every step in the darkness takes you deeper, your senses are assaulted at every turn; you learn to have faith, in the Force and in yourself. When blanketed in darkness, one needs to teach themselves to shine brightly.”

A’lora Kituri regarded the man’s words carefully, her eyes glinting in the sunlight shining through a windowed frame above their heads. Amber with flecks of gold, they narrowed in deep, contemplative thought as she focused on his words, and the meaning behind them. Creasing a brow in interest, she rose to her feet; clacking twice, her quarterstaff announced that a decision has been reached.

“Mar Sûl, as the leader of these crusaders and our own Quaestor of House Satele Shan, I will grant our Jedi leave to experience the trials under your guidance. We’ll see if these words hold merit, and what will become of the Order.” She announced, scanning the room for signs of objection to her decision.

Nathan Deciarus nodded in support, a boyish grin creeping along his face—although he was by all accounts the youngest of the councillors, he possessed a wisdom unbefitting for one of his age or naivety. Whether it was some byproduct of cloning or an innate talent that marked him as one of the most powerful Jedi of Odan-Urr, this trait was as abnormal as it was unsettling for those who had taken advice from the adolescent.

Turel Sorenn was of a different mind—to him, these ‘trials’ sounded dangerous—too dangerous to commit the Odanites’ resources on such a fruitless endeavour. Tearing his attention from the sea of nodding heads, his gaze met with Liam Torun’s; the wizened Jedi shaking his head with a degree of dissatisfaction at the notion of withdrawing from other matters to pursue this mission of intrigue.

“Councillors,” a voice rose in objection from Turel’s direction, “I must disagree with sending our Odanites to face these ‘tests’. There are tribes in need of our Jedi to keep them safe before the start of a new winter—the Kotahitanga-Unity Defense Force is spread thin across the colonies. We have been called on to assist; it would be remiss to direct our aid elsewhere, where it isn’t needed.”

Another throat cleared from across the room, that of Mar Sûl, “Brother, I can see to it that the Harakoans are safe, under the protection of the Order of the Force Ascendant. We will not falter, and our hand is ever-vigilant. There is no need to worry.”

“Very well.” A staff clacked once against stone tiles, “The Order will assist in protecting the Harakoans while the tribes prepare for the coming winter. When our Jedi have undertaken the trials, we will resume our watch over Harakoa’s inhabitants. This meeting is at an end.” A’lora commanded with a distinctive inflection in her voice. She stood standing, watching as the Councillors retired to their tasks and duties. A dozen questions whispered thoughts into her mind, her head-tails shuddering as a cool draft brushed across her skin. She had glimpsed something of this moment, but the lines were blurred, the outcomes out of focus. Her words carried weight, but it was her burden to shoulder. Whatever path she was leading the Jedi down, she knew they wouldn’t fail.


Part II

New Tython
Arca Praxeum

With a frustrated sigh of impatience, Karan tapped on a wooden table irritably. He had been waiting for hours, summoned by the Jedi of Odan-Urr, and so far they had kept him waiting. Their performance in the Trials had its moments, to be sure, but Karan knew that none of these outsiders deserved the prestige bestowed upon the true servants of light, those who served the Order’s higher purpose without question. He curled his nose up at the smell that pervaded his senses; these Jedi were an affront to all that was holy, in Karan’s eyes.

The door to the small room opened and a whelp walked in. Karan snorted in derision as Nathan Deciarus nodded a greeting. “What is the meaning of this?” Karan huffed as Nathan walked up to the table and began pouring himself some water.

“My apologies for the delay,” the boy began as Karan directed a puzzled, incredulous look towards him. “You are the representative of the Order of the Force Ascendant, correct?” Karan nodded coldly as the boy continued. “Some concerns have been brought to my attention, and I wanted to discuss these concerns about the Order with you.”

“I am here to speak with a diplomat from the Jedi of Odan-Urr, boy. Please fetch your master and waste no more of my time!” Nathan smiled patiently at Karan. He would be perfect.

“I am the diplomat,” Nathan declared as he gauged Karan’s reaction.

“You cannot be serious!” Karan declared as he rose from his seat, knocking the wooden chair to the floor in his rush. “I was told that the Jedi wanted to speak with me, and instead they send a small boy to entreat me?! I have never been so insulted in my life!” Karan tilted his head and swept up his cloak, making for the door.

Nathan’s eyes narrowed slightly at his sheer arrogance. He would have to interrogate him very carefully if he wanted to get the information he was searching for. “Please, I mean no offence. I have become aware of some… rumours regarding the Order of the Force Ascendant and I wish to discuss my concerns.”

“Your concerns? I won’t tolerate idle gossip. The Jedi keep me waiting and now send a boy in place of a man! Fetch your master, boy, I will speak with you no more.” Nathan’s smile dropped as Karan took another step towards the door.

The door slammed shut in his face, barricading him in the room as Nathan calmly took a seat, sipping at his cup of water. “What is the meaning of this!” Karan exclaimed as he turned to fix this impure excuse of a Jedi with the most irritated and icy look he could muster. The nerve of these Odanites!

The closest chair slid towards him as Nathan fixed him with a studied gaze. “I sense that you are uncomfortable with us taking part in your Trials,” the boy began. Karan snorted to himself. At least the boy had a little common sense. “I imagine you cannot be too happy that one of us is leading your Order.”

Karan shifted uncomfortably. “Mar Sul is a far better Jedi than any others I have seen here. He has… adequate faith and ability.” Nathan smirked as he probed with the Force. A flash of insight triggered in his mind, the same flash that had caused him to summon Karan in the first place.

“Karan,” the boy continued softly, “you misunderstand. Please, sit down. I only want to discuss the merits of the Order with you - you are one of the longest-serving members, aren’t you?” Karan nodded slowly as he sat down, so he could better hear the almost whispering child. Nathan felt a faint twinge of victory - this man was easy enough to lead around. He would be an ideal source of inside information.

“I have felt a disturbance in the Force,” the boy spoke, quieting his voice further, “and I wanted to discuss with you, the future of the Order - and its leader.”

New Tython
Northern Wetlands

Invisible fingernails traced Turel Sorenn’s shoulders, down the arch of his spine as he exhaled. A cool mist coalesced from his breath, the condensing moisture acting as a reminder of the freezing temperatures in the bog. If it weren’t for his outer jacket, he was sure to have caught some illness from their journey through the swamps and muck dotting their travels. Even his Consul, A’lora, had forgone her traditional tracker’s garments to use something far more practical—that is, to the Togruta unconcerned by the societal rules of decency.

Her clothing was modest in some respects, consisting of a tight-fitting leather chestpiece around her abdomen and a skirt tattered from her travels and split at the side; a similar fabric draped over her right shoulder, partially covering the bands that contained her breasts. It was distracting for Turel, though the effort was at least commendable.

“How long have the Jedi been in there?” Turel asked the crusader guiding them about the encampment at the Kuku-Hawene’s entrance. Delegating a meeting with the crusaders at their base of operations was proving to assuage some of his fears, while others stoked. This “Order” seemed to at least hold the light side of the Force in high regard—more so than most Jedi. What he feared, however, was the clawing doubt of seeing his Jedi emerge from their trials.

“Each passing hour marks the new depths and challenges of their trial. Kuku-Hawne reaches far beneath the surface. I spent weeks traversing through the mazes in the darkness, where I found a new light to guide the path.”

Karan, as he was called, guided them unblinking across the steppes of rotted platforms ascending to the eastern slope of Kuku-Hawne. His words gave the Jedi some comfort, easing Turel’s mind for their meeting with the crusaders. Bronze glinted in the lights of a dozen fires when the Odanites came to a circle of stone with the crusaders gathered around a raised platform. Iron braziers rested on either side, illuminating the face of Mar Sûl as he turned to acknowledge his followers and newcomers.

“Welcome, friends of the Order.” He announced to the summit, igniting his lightsaber in a salute that his followers matched—blades of silver, cerulean and emerald contrasted against the red and orange of the flames, “Together, we must discuss the terms of our involvement with the Jedi of Odan-Urr. If we are to remain a sword against the darkness and shine above all others, we must consider banding together our forces against a common foe.”

Turning to the face of a scowling member of his order, Mar cleared his throat, “If there are those who object, I will hear of it.”

“Very well.” the battle-scarred crusader responded, “Brother, these Jedi will not see in our shared vision. Forming an alliance will weaken the integrity of our mission; we cannot be held back when it comes to blows with this ‘Brotherhood.’ We can fight our own battles.”

Liam Torun shook his head in regret; this summit, he knew, would end up a waste of time that the Jedi could spend managing their own affairs. Whether it was the crusader’s one blind eye that had been marred in some conflict that scarred his face or his focus on the Order’s leader, he didn’t notice the wizened Jedi’s outward dissatisfaction.

“I have seen this ‘Brotherhood,’ Varten, and the might of its armies. This fight is not ours to shoulder without the aid of others. Whoever feels the same must trust in this wisdom. The crucible draws nearer, brothers—a time for us to wash the darkness from the Force and let the light prevail. This, we share in common with these Jedi.”

“That might be so, but I will not be a part of an alliance.” Varten denounced, lowering his gaze across the circle of gathered comrades-in-arms, “Those who feel the same should stand beside me. The Order of the Force Ascendant must remain purified, these Jedi have not abolished the corruption of the dark side—some have not yet committed themselves to stop the spread of darkness. We’ll do this ourselves, brothers.”

Rather than raising an uproar of support or mutiny, silence befell the gathering. The sound of metal plates shifting filled the void as the crusaders followed Varten in his missions while others remained behind, sharing confused glances among themselves. Karan stood like a pillar, a great conflict boiling inside his thoughts. Still, he trusted in Mar Sûl’s leadership and guiding vision.

“Cowards.” Seraphol muttered under his breath. It seemed that the crusaders were at a divide; mission and purpose had lost all meaning to their collective.

“No,” Karan replied, “Heretics.”


Part III


Maia’toa Fortress

“Brothers! The time draws near,” Varten announced, taking in the sea of faces under his gaze, “Mar Sûl would dilute our Order with promises of an alliance—for what? Must we appease these so-called Jedi who follow under the banner of one who does not share in their beliefs? Even those who claim to stand against the growing darkness allow it to infect them, welcoming it with open arms in the name of ‘redemption’ in the false hopes that the darkness can be eradicated from within.”

Thunder crackled overhead as lightning arced between dark clouds looming overhead. Raindrops fell from the overcast, glistening over cobblestone and the bronzium of their armour. Varten strode to and fro across the turreted walls of the ruined fortress, built eons ago when the Maia’toa reigned over Harakoa.

Fire from a thousand torches reflected off the glossy orbs set in his skull; malice and hate burned from his vision, projecting itself onto his gathered followers on the cobblestone below, “We will not stand on the sidelines while the light is snuffed out under the Jedi’s watch. Even on this world, the Jedi cannot protect their own charges while waging war against this ‘Brotherhood’ of darkness. How can we choose to form an alliance with those who have, not long ago, allied themselves with evil?”

Cheers drowned out the metallic din of rain falling against metal, the crusaders igniting their silver lightsabers as one, “Purge the darkness!”

“Yes.” Varten echoed, smiling maniacally at the spectacle unfolding in the courtyard, “We will see the Jedi purified, as soon as our own Order is cleansed. Those that have not followed us are now heretics of the Order; abominations and heathens, Mar Sûl has allowed them to follow a false vision that will lead to our downfall.”

“Now,” he raised a hand to hold over the wall, retrieving a torch from the brazier with the other, “bring forth the traitor!”

“Brothers!” the captive shouted, struggling against his bonds, “don’t follow this madman, there is a darkness around him. Can’t you feel it?”

It was no use. His brethren gripped his shoulders, bringing him closer to the stake at the center of the courtyard. The bonds around his wrists was released and he fought back, but was overpowered and soon found his arms tied to the wooden spike above a pit of coals and timber. The madman held out his hand so that the torch was above the stake’s base and dropped it.

“We are lost.” He uttered before the flames took him, turning his pleas into a stream of anguish.

Somewhere in the Northern Wetlands

The heat of the swamp was stifling and as small buzzing insects flew lazily around his face Torin Ardell sat back on a fallen tree waiting for the Order of the Force Ascendant to send a shuttle to retrieve the group of men currently occupying a small dry patch of ground in the middle of the swampy jungle. Leaning his rifle against the log the Odanite rose to his feet and pulled off his armour letting what little breeze the was to wash over his soaked undershirt.

Off in the distance the sound of a shuttle could be barely heard over the chorus of chirps and croaks of the wildlife around him. Time dragged on and the sound of the approaching vessel became ever louder until, overhead through the foliage of the trees, the outline of a shuttle could be seen. As the shuttle descended, cracking thick branches on its way, Torin and Fenn moved their prisoners clear of the landing zone. With a gentle rumble the shuttle touched down and as the ramp descended six pairs of boots could be seen striding down the boarding ramp.

“Greetings brothers” shouted Fenn over the racket of the engines.

Without reply the six Order Jedi pulled their sabers from their belts, ignited their weapons and began to cut down the bound prisoners. Before either Torin or Fenn could react they had struck down every prisoner the pair had taken earlier that day. But their wicked work wasn’t finished as they turned on the Bothan and his Human compatriot. Fenn drew his weapon, the emerald blades of his saberstaff springing to life in an instant to block an incoming strike.

“Brothers what are you doing?” he asked but no reply was forthcoming.

He fought valiantly but the odds were not in his favour and eventually he was struck down. While Fenn was struggling Torin had his own problems as two of the Order members approached him their sabers humming in the warm swamp air. Torin was in trouble and he knew it, his rifle was nearly thirty feet away across the clearing beside his armour. The only weapon he had was a large bone handled hunting knife his father had given him on his sixteenth birthday.

Pulling the blade from its synth leather sheath Torin readied himself for the coming fight. The left opponent, an attractive Zeltron woman, feign an attack before stepping back as her partner, a hulking Nautolan with brilliant blue skin, struck out hoping to find the Jedi off balance. The ploy however didn’t work as Torin sidestepped his thrust and struck out with a fist. The blow caught the Nautolan flush on the jaw snapping his head to the left, his head tentacles whipping to and fro from the force of the blow.

Before he could recover Torin struck, the blade of his knife plunging into the exposed neck of the Nautolan. As the blade came free of his flesh a torrent of blood erupted from the hole as gurgling sounds came from his mouth. The shock on the Nautolan’s face had Torin transfixed, so much so that he didn’t notice the Zeltron’s slash until it was too late. With barely enough time to move Torin leapt to his left as the Zeltron’s sapphire blade slashed a ragged scorch mark along his upper arm. The pain was incredible and it took Torin a moment to regain his wits but when he did he was that Fenn had fallen and the remaining Order Jedi were now closing on him. As difficult as it was he concentrated through the pain, calling on the Force before he unleashed it in a wave of telekinetic power that knocked the Order Jedi from their feet. Knowing this was his one chance to escape Torin took his chance and sprinted off into the swamp, the shouts of his pursuers off to his rear.

Kuku-Hawene Temple

Two Hours Later

Karan, a grizzled veteran of the Order, strode purposefully through the shadowed halls of the Kuku-Hawene temple his mood clearly dark. All who saw the broad shouldered Jedi stepped out of his way lest they be bowled over by the single minded man. Finally spotting the man he’d been searching for he strode over and stood to attention, waiting for his superior to acknowledge him. Moments later he was beckoned over as the leader of the Order, Mar Sul, beckoned him over.

“Apologies for the interruption sir but I have news that couldn’t wait” said Karan in his gruff voice.

Looking up to the older man Mar said “What is it Karan?”

After a quick glance at Mar’s companion, the leader of Clan Odan-Urr A’lora Kituri, Karan answered “Sir, I’ve just received word that several of Varten’s followers left the compound two hours ago. Word is one of the Odanites had slain one of our members. Varten’s people have gone to take him into custody”

“WHAT!!” shouted A’lora before she regained her composure. “Who is this supposed murderer?” she asked.

Looking to Mar for permission to answer the Order leader gave a slight nod. “Torin Ardell ma’am. They say he went mad and killed a bunch of prisoners before turning on Fenn.”

“That’s ridiculous, Torin would never murder someone in cold blood. You know that as well as I do Mar. Besides if he’s gone rogue they’ll never find him out there” said the Togruta.

“What do you mean?” asked Karan.

Looking up at the man A’lora said “Torin is a Melewati. He’s been trained almost since birth to survive in even the harshest of environments. He can live off the land and eat things that’d make a Hutt vomit. He can track like no-one I’ve ever seen and if he wants to disappear out there he will. Simply put, they’ve probably chosen the worst person to go up against in that environment.”

Noticing Karan looking at him Mar said “Oh she’s not exaggerating. The Melewati are some of the hardiest, most stubborn people I’ve ever encountered and Torin is probably the best of them. And the Force help them if he has a rifle.”

Somewhere in the Northern Wetlands

He’d been lying in wait for twenty minutes or so, concealing himself in the underbrush amid a scattering of ferns and dead leaves, while insects and reptiles of every kind crawled and slithered their way over his still form as a storm began to rumble its way in from the north. Doing his best to mask his presence in the Force the Jedi waited until one of the Order’s soldiers, a Human male, wandered too far from their allies before he struck. Leaping from the undergrowth like some demon of legend, covered in mud and leaves, he plunged the blade of his knife into the thigh of the man and twisted. The man fell screaming in agony and clutching at the ragged hole in the back of his thigh. Before the rest of the Order Jedi could respond Torin was off back into the increasingly thick jungle.

As the remaining Order Jedi converged on their fallen ally he said through gritted teeth “He went that way” as he pointed off in Torins direction of travel.

The leader, a Zabrak woman motioned, for the Zeltron to stay with him as she and the remaining two members of their party to follow her into the jungle. The two Jedi, a Chiss male and Duros female, followed off into the jungle as the rain began to fall in buckets. They’d been following a reasonably clear trail through the underbrush until it suddenly disappeared.

“Spread out, no more than fifty feet between us” she said.

They began to drift apart, carefully picking their way through the jungle looking for any sign of Torins passing but finding nothing. The Chiss passed the remains of a large tree that had fallen sometime in the past when something grabbed his wrist and raised his arm to shoulder height. Suddenly his elbow exploded in pain as a heavy fist collided with the joint bending it in a direction it was never meant to bend. With a howl of pain the Chiss fell to the floor writhing in pain, never once catching sight of his assailant.

The Duros heard the scream and began to make her way in that direction. As the screams got louder and she got closer to her fallen friend a searing pain shot up her leg and she fell to the ground. As she tried to rise she found she could put no weight on her left foot and, after looking down, she could see why. The back of her boot was slashed and blood flowed liberally from the hole and she knew her Achilles tendon had been severed. The Zabrak was frantic now, her people were dropping like flies and she was now alone against the Jedi. Suddenly she was bowled off her feet as Torin crashed into her shoulder first. She tried to rise to her feet when the cold steel of a knife blade was jammed against her throat.

“I could have killed 'em all, I could’ve killed you. You come after me again and next time you won’t be so lucky. Out here I’m the hunter, never forget that. ” he whispered in her ear before he rose to his feet and disappeared into the jungle. The Zabrak was in shock, her body shaking violently as tears fell down her tattooed face.

With his pursuers dealt with for the moment Torin made his way back to the clearing with the shuttle. As he entered the clearing he approached his fallen friend, kneeling down to close his lifeless eyes. He said a quick Melewati prayer for the dead to himself before scooping up the lifeless Bothan in his arms and entering the shuttle. He laid his fallen friend on a bench before exiting the shuttle to reacquire his rifle and armour. With his possessions in hand he re-entered the shuttle and slid into the pilot’s seat and took off.

The flight back to the Kuku-Hawene Temple gave him time to reflect on the day’s events. A friend fallen, an alliance potentially shattered, not to mention the fact that rich frakkers were paying a fortune to hunt exotic wildlife in the jungles and forests of New Tython. It was then that the exhaustion washed over his and Torin let his eyes slide shut as he drifted off into a fitful sleep until, what seemed like only moments later, a klaxon began to sound telling him he’d reached his destination.

Kuku-Hawene Temple

“Sir,” said Karan as he approached Mar and A’lora “we have an incoming shuttle, transponder marks it as the ship Vartens people left in earlier.”

Rising to his feet Mar motioned for A’lora to precede him as he asked “Shall we?”

The Togruta rose to her feet and followed Karan outside to the landing platform at the far end of the compound as the shuttle slowly descended to the ground. As the boarding ramp slowly descended a single pair of muddy boots could be seen coming down the ramp until Torin, the body of Fenn cradled in his arms, became visible for all to see. “Oh thank the Force” A’lora whispered under her breath. “Torin what happened out there?” she asked.

Taking a deep breath Torin replied “We discovered some men in the swamp; they’d been hunting these strange cat like animals they’d released into the jungle. Fenn and I took them prisoner and was waiting for pickup when six Order members came in that shuttle and killed the prisoners before they turned on us.”

“Fenn?” Mar said motioning to the body in Torin’s arms.

Nodding the Melewati said “Yeah, he took on four of them and fought bravely but the odds were against him. I barely got away myself.”

“And the Order Jedi?” Mar asked.

“One of them’s dead, three are injured, the other two were fine when I left them” replied Torin.

Motioning over a junior member of the Order he said “Take Fenn and prepare him for burial.”

“Yes sir” replied the young Rodian as he took the dead Bothan from Torin.

Motioning to Karan the leader of the Order said “Take Torin and get him cleaned up and fed.”

Nodding Karan said “Right away sir.”

As he began to turn away Mar called him back and said “And when you’re done take a group of Jedi and find Varten, I would have words with him. And try to keep it quiet Karan” so quietly that even Karan struggled to hear.

“Understood sir” Karan replied under his breath before turning to Torin and leading him off into the temple proper.



New Tython


Arca Praxeum

Berries, muskeg and the scent of rotting wood filled the senses of A’lora Kituri. As was her custom, the Togruta rested on her knees before a collection of seemingly random objects from the northern wetlands. A large bowl emitted the foul odor as a reminder of the area; herbs and other substances were mixed together to create an incense that when burned, bathed the room in strong scents she would use to heighten the focus of her visions. Whether or not this practice affected what she would see, the High Councillor had faith that she would see what she needed to.

However, another smell radiated above the others—one she knew well from its prevalence in the Northern Wetlands. Death, in the form of the deadliest of poisons native to this world, found on the corpse of one of the former Ascendant.

Before she could move, her surrounding shifted from the manicured courtyard of stone and grass to that of another place unfamiliar to her. It was dark as a cavern with torches flicking against ancient runes of Maia’toa origin and a dark figure emerging from a black pool of carbonite. He wore a mask—transparisteel while his armour was outfitted with a number of mechanical devices. Beneath the mask, the man wore a rebreather connected to those devices.

“This is a sick world, riddled with a plague that cannot be cured through conventional means.” the figure spoke in her vision, as if addressed to her, “I am talking about the Jedi. Defenders of the lie that is peace. There can be no peace while the Jedi are allowed to exist and wage their wars. This planet is better off without them, A’lora Kituri.”

The last chord in the modulated voice shook A’lora to the core. Her vision was wrenched from her grasp, threatened to tear her sanity apart by the threads and descend into madness.

“A’lora!” a voice echoed into her mind, both distant and close. Short, brown hair fell around her face as Gresee’s satin hood fell back around her shoulders. She smelled the faint scent of poison, fearing the worst as the Togruta fell forward to knock over the bowl, the contents spilling ablaze.

Lu’aisha doused the fires with a cloth dipped in the basin that rested atop a pillar, preventing the noxious odor from affecting her own senses as it did to A’lora. As a master of medicines, she knew that it couldn’t have been the poison in the bowl, but something else that was far more sinister.

“Gresee, is there something wrong?” Seridan asked, unable to see the exact state of the Consul. He raised a golden brow, making out a strange scent he recognized from the swamps of the Northern Wetlands, “It reeks over here.”

Brown eyes flicked in his direction, “Get us some assistance. Now.”


Maia’toa Fortress

The same torches from the night before burned bright, remnants of the burned stake fallen to the ground in piles of ash and bone. The traitorous followers of Varten roamed the fortress, claiming it as their own to use against all that would oppose their quest against the darkness and those deemed ‘impure.’ It was an affront to Mar Sûl’s vision of a united front against the Brotherhood and the darkness it stood for, which made them little more than heretics against his cause.

“Halt, or be purified, filth.” a voice shouted from above the battlements. Mar Sûl recognized the person to whom it belonged—the former crusader had sworn to uphold the vision he shared with the Grand Paladin from the depths of the Kuku-Hawne temple.

“Let us in, brother. I wish to exchange words with Varten.” Mar Sûl replied cooly, the glint of his breastplate visible in the overcast lighting.

“Oh? So it is the ‘Grand Paladin,’ then. Varten has been awaiting your surrender.”

“He will not have it.” Mar Sûl offered bluntly, “but let us in, and we can discuss terms—that we will allow his followers to leave New Tython unscathed.”

Without further exchange of words, the mechanisms of the gate pulled the massive bronze doors inward into a stone courtyard littered with ash. Looking to his companions, his armoured boots clicked against the cobblestone into the jaws of Varten’s madness.

“What madness is this?” his boots scattered the dust to reveal the scorched ribcage beneath. Then, his heel clicked against something else—metallic, with a bronze sheen.

“Traitors.” the guardsman on the wall spoke, before each drew their blades in unison.

Edgar Drachen marched alongside Daniel Stephens, the two having emerged from the trials a few nights ago from the depths of Kuku-Hawne with Xantros, Gresee and Vorsa. Before them was something of a road stretching around the wetlands into some sort of massive structure in the distance. A number of Jedi marched behind them, those that could be spared from other pressing duties that needed attention. For a moment, Edgar wished Lu’aisha was with them as their Harakoan guide had fallen sick and needed to return in the middle of their travels.

Edgar found the silence to be uncomfortable. Flies buzzed in the bog that roiled to the east while other creatures croaked from the west. Instead, he turned to the Jedi beside him, “Who do these ‘crusaders’ follow?”

Daniel shrugged, staring off into the distance to scan for dangers or ambush that might await them, “Newar Forrth—heard of him?”

“No, who is he?”


The rest of their journey was carried on in silence until the Jedi drew closer to the fortress. Echoes lingered in the swamp from the distance. It wasn’t until he travelled closer that Edgar knew the sounds were coming from the structure.

It was the sound of battle.

“Surrender.” the voice of Varten commanded, his scarred face revealing no emotion for what he was about to do.

“Don’t do this, you were a good man, Varten.”

“And I once called you ‘brother’.”

Silver streamed from the blackened hilt of a lightsaber, blending with the overcast of the skies for a moment before the blade crashed down onto the crusader’s shoulders, searing flesh as it travelled through to the hip.

“What changed, Varten?” the stoic voice of Mar asked, “You were the one I most trusted among the paladins. Whatever sickness has consumed you, it is evil.”

A gauntleted fist caught Mar in the jaw, his lip cracking open to spill blood onto the cobblestone. Mixing with the ashes of his comrade, it seeped into the cracks. He didn’t have time to look back into Varten’s emotionless gaze before the same gauntleted hand seized his shoulder and marched him to the battlements.

“Look around!” the heretic screamed, “this land is sick. The darkness has consumed this planet. He…” Varten trailed off, regaining his composure. With unnatural strength, he held the Grand Paladin mere inches from the edge of the wall.

His arm blistered in pain as a bolt of plasma seared through the bronzium plates that guarded it. Forced to reel back, Varten released Mar, who managed to call the traitor’s own lightsaber to hand with the Force and drive it through the heretic’s black heart.

“The Jedi are here! Fight!”

Two Hours Later

The battle was a bloodbath, with the heretics having lost their leader and the survivors being sent offworld to live in seclusion, never to return. The Order of the Force Ascendant was reduced to a handful of crusaders united under Mar Sûl’s leadership. A’lora Kituri recovered from the tainted vision, with Gresee having cured her ailments—given to her through poison not within the bowl, but coating it.

Now the Jedi knew of one that had set their sights on New Tython, and against the Jedi. It was up to them to stop it.