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

[GJW XI] Clan Naga Sadow: Team One


Naga Sadow Team One

  • Teams must have a minimum of 4 participants, and a maximum of 6. For a team to qualify for placement, all posts must meet requirements in these rules and all members of the team must meet post number requirements. However, for participation alone, any individual meeting minimum post requirements will count towards his or her unit.
  • Any member posting twice in a row will disqualify his team from placing - but not participation credit (e.g. if an entire team is dead, Johnny McDarthman can post twice in a row to get his own participation at the end of the event)
  • Members must make 3 posts throughout the duration of the Run-On.
  • Posts must meet the following requirements:
  • Minimum post length: 250 +/- 10 words words
  • Maximum post length: 2000 +/- 10 words.
  • Points from placement are awarded to the unit of the placing team, irrespective of number of members on each team. E.g. if CNS Team A takes first place, and first place is worth 50 pts (example only), CNS gets 50 points, regardless of number of members on the team.
  • Edits may occur on a post until a follow on post has been made (follow on posts include “reserving” a space). Edits may only be made by the posts original author (as in, if you have Forum Administration Rights, you cannot edit another member’s work).
  • Members may reserve post, but no posts can occur until after the reserved post is written.
  • Judging will follow the Fiction Rubric.


Civil War has befallen the Brotherhood. The Clans have split into three factions: the Loyalists, who have rallied behind Grand Master Ashen; the Rebels, following the banner of Jac Cotelin; and the New Order, led by the mysterious Sith Lord Esoteric. Each faction has stormed the surface of Korriban, establishing impressive fortifications and moving towards the Valley of the Dark Lords. Loyalists, Rebels, and the New Order clash across Korriban’s surface, all three attempting to gain control of the Valley of Dark Lords and the secrets it holds.

The Valley of Dark Lords has erupted in carnage, forces from every unit in the Brotherhood streaming into the ruins and temples, establishing makeshift defensive positions behind virtually every wall. Blood is spilled over every inch, each of the three sides gambling the lives of thousands of Jedi in an attempt to put an end to this conflict once and for all. The Loyalists, following Ashen’s command, seek to break through to the Tomb of Marka Ragnos, where the Disciples of Ragnos once sealed a chamber with writings on the Rite of Immortality. To open it, Ashen has sent three of his most skilled advisors in ancient dark rites and alchemy, but the way is not yet safe or clear for them, as the One Sith were originally entrenched in the Valley and still maintain a strong control over most of the area. Esoteric’s forces have a base of operations at the Tomb of Ajunta Pall, a fortified location that allows them a great deal of mobility throughout the Valley, which they use to harass any operations by the other two sides. The Adept Dantella Novae reluctantly commands Esoteric’s forces in the region, though she seems more interested in stealing the secrets of Marka Ragnos than in defending the Valley itself. Cotelin is seeking to contain and control whatever the Tomb of Marka Ragnos holds, through any means necessary… and before Ashen’s forces can reach it.

You and your team have found yourselves just outside one of the few entrances to the Valley of the Dark Lords. You know that inside the Valley, death and destruction have overtaken the ruins, but you also know that ultimately, victory for one side of the other is likely to come within the walls of the ancient tombs. Your runon should detail the battle within the Valley, and must illustrate (either through success or failure) at least one of the sides in the conflict - this will play a major role in your Story grade.


The Eleventh Great Jedi War

“We are as children playing with toys compared to the prowess of the old masters."
~ Kreia, speaking of Tulak Hord

Esstran Sector
5000 BBY

A funeral bell tolled as a slow procession passed through the Valley of the Dark Lords. The faces of the long since departed watched on in silence, their gigantic images carved forever into the red-stone walls of this most ancient of holy sites. From the very first, Ajunta Pall, to the mad witch XoXaan, and the most celebrated of sorcerers Tulak Hord, all had assembled as the newest of their brothers returned to the earth to become one with them and join his fellow Dark Lords in the eternal afterlife of death.

“No!” a female voice shouted.

A woman’s cry broke the silence and a baby began to wail and scream – the procession did not pay them any notice. The slaves who had once served Marka Ragnos in life were being herded toward the entrance to what was henceforth to serve as their lord’s – as well as their own – resting place. Despite their protests, the woman and her child were pushed back beneath the colossal doorway by a group of heavily armoured Massassi warriors, clad head to foot in gold and coloured gemstones.

“No! I… I won’t!” the woman cried, struggling against her wardens. “Think of my child…! No!”

When the woman resisted further – and tried to force her way back outside – her effort to liberate herself was brought to a quick end when one of the towering Massassi swung the heavy axe of its lanvarok into her bosom – the force of the strike silencing her instantly, and throwing her now lifeless corpse back under the entrance, all the while as her baby continued to scream. Many slaves had helped build the tomb. Many more had died in the process. Others had already been locked inside its deepest chambers, inside the reliquaries and forbidden storerooms where the Dark Lord had made sure to deposit his most secret treasures – the treasures Marka Ragnos had strived in life to earn, the treasures he had made sacrifices for, and that no others would ever deserve the right to unless they shed the blood to earn them.

The sounds of the funeral march gradually faded away as the red sun set and Tulak Hord and Ajunta Pall kept their silent vigil over the newest tomb. A cool wind blew through the valley as night fell, and Marka Ragnos slept his long sleep. Like his brethren, Marka Ragnos stood the test of time, even if as the years passed, his face would weather and dull. Priests and acolytes would come and go, but none but the most foolish would trespass beneath the sight of the ancient lords of the past – at least, none apart from those seeking a painful end in the jaws of a feral hound, or to see their mind ensorcelled by the ghosts of the long since departed.

The centuries would pass by and the Tomb of Marka Ragnos remained much as it always had been; the sand-choked gales that would scour the Korriban landscape, and which could strip the flesh from any visitor’s carcass in minutes, had only succeeded in weathering the surface of the mighty monument. The facade had always mirrored the one who it had been built to honor - imposing and eternal. From time to time, a Jedi or two would venture in hunt of forgotten stories, two such prodigal knights even once breaching the outermost chamber – but not even the one in the beskar mask would make his way into the deepest catacombs, nor unearth the most buried secrets that would forever sleep with their lord.

That was as Marka Ragnos had intended, as the greatest of the Dark Lords of the old empire had ordained. He had lived through the cataclysm brought by the betrayal of Okemi, and watched from the shadows beyond the grave as the bastard son of a slave - who Ragnos himself had elevated to lordship - later turned on his overlords, on the true Dark Lords of the Sith, in pursuit of his own profane texts…

But Marka Ragnos had lived a long life, having survived well beyond his species’ ordinary norms, just like the legendary Tulak Hord in the centuries before him, and for all the trials and tribulations of his heirs and usurpers, none had ever managed to rediscover the ancient secrets that still lay buried with him – the secrets that through the countless generations, his own disciples and cultists had long kept hidden, awaiting the day when one of their own would return to claim them…


Edge of the Valley of Dark Lords
Horuset System
Esstran Sector
Outer Rim

The cold winds whistled and howled, whipping the iron-laden red sands of the stony landscape like hapless Grotthu slaves. Today, the sand was sanguine with spilled blood. The closeby Valley of the Dark Lords was a literal fortified war-zone. Blaster bolts of differing colors lit the air above the dry canyon in flashes of red, green, and blue. Lives were being lost, and the release of life-energies filled the air with menace. The Dark Side was stronger here than almost anywhere else in the entire Galaxy. Shouts, screams, and the groans of the dying were strangely magnified. The thanatopic choir sounded clearly here at an entrance to the Valley proper.

Commander Daedric Turelles lowered his electrobinocs and slid back from the edge of the stone. “It’s been fortified, Shi. From appearances, I’d guess that all three factions are engaging in a Corellian stand-off in there.” The Marauder ran a hand briefly across his crew-cut. “It looks pretty rough. I’m not sure whether Connor will be wanting to deal with this fubared situation.” The native Tarthosian spoke quietly. “I’ve worked with him before once. The lost Jedi is a greedy one though, and the little bit of intel I gave him on the mission seemed to pique his interest. He should be able to get us to the Grandmaster’s position.”

Shi Long hunkered down with the others behind a rock outcropping. The flaking red sandstone smelled faintly of old resins and fire. The dim red reflection from the hoary stone highlighted his dark skin with a ruddy hue. Shadows lingered about his face, giving him the seeming appearance of a death’s-head to the imaginative. “Oh, I think he will come. From your description he’s far too greedy to stay away. We have credits.” The hardened killer winked knowingly, one grey eye closing. “And as you say, he’s a natural-born liar.” The Obelisk jacked a clip into his slug-thrower. “He had better be on the level, soldier.”

A chuckle escaped from the robed Kyataran man squatting on his heels beside him. “Or he’ll get leveled with this unfriendly crowd. I would think he’d be ready to deal. I’ve run enough spice back in the day to know his kind. Shifty, but money often talks loudly with that sort.” Rocks shifted nearby and the warrior’s hand moved instantly to his lightsaber hilt. He relaxed after seeing the source of the sound. “Macron. Stealth is not your forte.”

“No Master,” nodded the Alchemist as he scuttled to the overhang. “Nice outcropping you have here.” He ran an armored finger over the eroded surface. Flakes of grit and dust dropped to the earth with a crunch to be lost among their countless brethren. “Plicarsian Age, Horuset Era. Iron-bearing lateritic sandstone. Shows fire scoring, probably from the historical Jedi bombardments. Old bones of the planet and all. Damn stuff is everywhere around here. No visible fossils, just bacteria casts. Why, I saw…”

Shi and Daedric looked at each other and suppressed laughter as Manji spoke again. “Focus, kid.”
The Krath shifted his steely one-eyed gaze back towards the Valley. “No change. It’s a Darth-damned shitstorm in there. Should be an interesting run.” He smiled grimly at the thought.

“Right. Ahem. We’re in the right spot according to Daedric’s coordinates. There’s so much pudu flying around in there that no one is really paying attention to anything out here much, just yet. Still, that will change quickly as we approach.” Macron closed his eyes, one yellow and one reptilian. “Aah. Can you feel it? The death, the combat…” The madman drew a deep breath and let it with pursed lips. “Pshoo. Almost makes me high, man. Good stuff.” The Sith frowned. His hand went to his lightsaber hilt, drawing it instinctively. “Something’s… sonofabitch!”

There were no crunches of stone as two more figures joined them. The first was a lithe woman with one crimson and one emerald eye. The redheaded Krath priestess was wearing dark robes with the faintest hint of purple at the edges and stepped from behind a stone with no sound. Her form wavered and solidified as the illusion faded. The other figure was an ashen-faced Falleen wearing plain dust-spattered robes and carrying an ebony staff. Both had been utterly silent until they had shown themselves.


[B]Edge of the Valley of Dark Lords

The silence stretched as the two new arrivals stared at the group, punctuated only by gusts of screaming wind. Then Macron spoke, one word hissing from between gritted teeth.


The Falleen stared at them blankly- as if he either didn’t remember who they were, or didn’t care. He looked innocuous enough- his robes were plain and offered no clue to his status. The only indicator was the ebony staff upon which he was leaning slightly; a symbol of someone who had attained the highest ranks of the Brotherhood, a symbol of extraordinary power. And yet, his mere presence and the blazing fire of the Dark Side that burned within him were enough to set the teeth of everybody present on edge.

At his side, the Krath priestess smiled, a cold expression that didn’t reach her eyes.

“Macron,” she said, acknowledging the Adept briefly before casting her gaze over the rest of the team. “Manji, Shi… it [B]has[/B] been a while.”

Her gaze halted on Daedric and the smile grew slightly, became more predatory.

“I don’t believe we’ve ever met in person, Knight… I am Xia Long.”

Daedric bowed deeply in a show of deference, the realisation of who the newcomers were pounding into his brain.

“A pleasure, Mistress-” he began, before Macron cut him off, his face still twisted like someone had waved bantha pudu under his nose.

“You’re late. Both of you,” the Alchemist grimaced. “We don’t have time for the introductions- we need to find our man before he takes a blaster bolt to the skull.”

Xia bowed slightly to him, a mocking gesture as the Sith stormed past her towards the edge of the outcropping with Manji close behind him, the other members of the group following suit. Glancing back at Xia and Xanos as they fell in at the back of the team, Manji let out a heavy sigh, folding his arms inside the voluminous sleeves of his [I]kimono[/I].

“Y’know, Mac,” he muttered as they strode purposefully down the gentle slope towards the entrance of the Valley, “I sometimes wonder whether me and you are the only sane ones left around here.”

“We’re hardly sane, Master,” the Alchemist chuckled, Manji’s dry humour cooling off some of his fury. “You’re a bloodthirsty schizophrenic and I have more voices in my head than I know what to do with.”

A short, barked laugh was Manji’s response as their feet carried them down the slope towards the entrance of the Valley. Both Dark Jedi lapsed into silence, contemplating the battle before them and the decisions that had led them to this point- travelling to meet the Grand Master, one of their own, and to stand with him against betrayal. Muz was significant to each of them- as a mentor, a comrade, a fellow Sadowan, and in one case, a brother. Manji’s face wrinkled into a frown, the scars crisscrossing his visage deepening as he thought back to the last time he’d seen the Lion.


[B]Three hours earlier
En-route to the Valley of the Dark Lords

Blaster bolts and missiles clouded the air as the shuttle bounced and shook from impacts and the skilful manoeuvring of the pilot. Aboard the shuttle, silence reigned. The incumbent Grand Master of the Brotherhood sat in silence, his eyes fixed on the floor in front of him, an expression of intense concentration on his face. Across from him, arms tucked inside his archaic-looking [I]kimono[/I], Manji Keibatsu gazed at his brother with a storm of conflicting emotions that mirrored the chaos outside swirling through his head.

It had been many years since the two of them had fought side-by-side. Muz’s path had taken him to the highest levels of the Brotherhood, where he had forged a Way all his own, distinct from that of his family. Manji felt no resentment- on the contrary, he felt nothing but pride in Muz and all that he’d achieved. When the news broke of Cotelin’s betrayal of the Star Chamber and the call to arms was raised, Manji had wasted no time in rushing to his brother’s side- whatever Muz was planning, he would follow.

However… something wasn’t right. The explosion on Antei had changed Muz somehow; he seemed even more distant, even more withdrawn. Manji could barely sense the brother he had shed blood and shared [I]saké[/I] with behind the stony visage, and the thought tore at his insides. Snapping out of his reverie, the Pontifex transferred his gaze to the battle outside, his lip curling in a snarl.

“Weather’s kriffin’ terrible out there…” he muttered sarcastically.


Smoke rose from the wreckage of the downed shuttle, now nothing more than a jumble of scattered parts. Somehow Muz and his followers had escaped injury, and were embarking onto another shuttle that had landed nearby. As Manji followed, swearing profusely, the Lion turned to face him, breaking his silence.

“Wait, Manji- it’s not safe. We may be targeted again.”

Manji frowned, his expression darkening.

“You wanted me along, [I]onii-chan[/I],” he said, the Kyataran words rolling easily off his tongue even after so many years apart. “Now you want us to split up?”

Muz’s face stayed serious, did not soften. His words were cold, calculated- even the Kyataran sounded forced, strained.

“We are the two heirs to the Keibatsu, [I]itouto[/I]. If we are both destroyed by a missile, the family is no more.”

Turning away, Muz climbed up into the shuttle as it began to ascend, warcoat fluttering around him.

“Find Macron,” he called, above the roar of the shuttle’s engines. “And get to the tomb!”

Edge of the Valley of Dark Lords

Manji snapped back into the present, drifting out of his reverie at the sound of a familiar voice.


His head whipped round to see the face of the man they now called Shi Long- the man he had known as Tsainetomo Keibatsu, his cousin and sworn comrade in arms. A surge of emotion tore through Manji’s chest as he reflected on the fates that had befallen his family- like Muz, Tsainetomo had changed, perhaps irrevocably.

“You were miles away,” Tsainet- [I]Shi[/I] said, flashing a knowing smile at the Pontifex. “What’s done is done. We need you here, not in the past.”

Manji fought down the vitriol of his initial, instinctive response, settling for a wordless grunt and a wave of his hand. Shi shrugged and walked past him, joining Macron at the front of the group.

[I]We’ve all changed[/I], Manji thought as they continued their trudge towards the Valley. [I]But some of us have changed more than others.[/I]


[B]Valley of the Dark Lords

A stray blaster bolt smashed into the rock right next to Connor Grey’s head, causing him to duck backwards involuntarily with a surprised yelp. The Rogue Jedi was already regretting his decision to run a salvaging mission to Korriban- it seemed like he’d picked the worst possible time to try and pick up a few relics, catching himself right in the middle of a full-blown civil war.

“Bloody [B]idiot[/B],” he muttered, the cigarette clamped between his lips wobbling comically. “Should have just taken a run at the Hutts, shouldn’t you? About as much risk as reward there, this is just mental-”

Another bolt cut off the monologue, sending Connor scurrying away from his makeshift cover and towards another, more secure-looking pile of rocks, swearing fitfully as he ran. His contact had tipped him off that the Grand Master of the Dark Brotherhood- one of the big “mucky-mucks”, as Connor called them- wanted to open up the Tomb of Marka Ragnos. Connor hadn’t listened to much of the rest of the conversation, too occupied with the thought of venturing into a previously-unopened Sith tomb. He now realised that he might have missed the part where his contact mentioned a full-scale war breaking out on the surface of Korriban.

Planting his back against the rock, Connor pulled the last few drags out of the cigarette hanging limply from his mouth and, with shaking hands, slipped another one out of a battered packet tucked inside his jacket. He needed a plan- and fast.


The thing about plans was that they actually required time to formulate. After all, the only reason a rag-tag band of rebels had been able to destroy the Empire’s superweapon - twice - was because they had the time to think of a way to do it.

Unfortunately for Connor, the sound of claws scraping on stone let him know that time was a luxury he would not be afforded.

The relic hunter cast his senses about, but there was no need; a tuk’ata slunk into view, its head slightly bowed and massive jaws dripping with saliva. It headed straight for him, and Connor, only now noticing the makeup of his chosen hiding place, realized too late that he’d stumbled right into the creature’s den.

‘Out of the frying pan…’, he thought, his eyes locked on the beast. The tuk’ata was favoring its right foreleg, a smoldering wound signifying that it wasn’t as fortunate as he was in avoiding the blaster bolts peppering the area. Though it was hurt, the rogue Jedi knew he’d be no match for the monster alone. Still, he fumbled within his coat for the .48…

The sudden scream of shuttles streaking overhead towards the battle main startled both man and beast, and Connor’s head jerked upwards reflexively at the sound. When he focused again on the tuk’ata, he discovered with mounting horror that the creature had now noticed him.

The cherry on his cigarette winked pitifully as Connor’s jaw dropped, mirroring the triple-rowed maw of the tuk’ata. Comically, the end of the forgotten smoke remained stuck to his bottom lip as his mouth dried, and as the beast emitted a guttural noise from deep within its throat, he could only manage a weak response.

“Bantha pudu…”


“Thought you said your man would be here,” Shi barked at Daedric, doing little to mask his irritation. The group had made their way to the agreed upon coordinates, skirting the outlying skirmishes as they did so. It was becoming increasingly harder to avoid the fighting the closer they came to the tomb, and much to Shi’s chagrin, they were successful in their efforts to escape detection. The lack of action had put the Stone Dragon on edge, and Daedric was an easy target for his rising ire.

For his part, the Knight largely ignored Shi, instead consulting his datapad. He didn’t take his eyes off of it, choosing only to offer a half-hearted response. “I did…I mean, he’s shifty, but like I said before, as long as the credits are right…” He trailed off, equal parts confusion and concern flavoring the Force around him. His reputation was on the line, and he swore he’d drop Connor to the deck for putting him in this position in front of the people whom he’d sworn to serve. If they could find him, of course.

“Cut the kid some slack,” Manji said sharply, running his hand over a scorch mark on a nearby boulder. “Looks to me like he had to bug out.” The Keibatsu knelt, his fingers closing around a discarded cigarette butt. Rising, he held it out, offering it for everyone’s inspection. “See?”

“But, do you ‘see’, dokugan?” Shi retorted, throwing the Kyataran term for ‘one-eye’ Manji’s way. The Keibatsu flicked the butt and turned to square on the Long, who only smiled. Only an almost imperceptible shimmer in the Force put an end to the potential confrontation.

Xanos was first to notice, the Falleen’s head turning slightly to an unknown place not far ahead. The Lady Dragon put word to Xanos’ thought, speaking in sure and silken tones. “Yes, I sense it as well. Shi…” Xia finished, the rest an unspoken and shared directive.

The Apostate nodded tersely, his ire replaced with excitement. He began to move in the direction of Xanos’ silent and unwavering gaze, and Macron asked, “And, just where the frell are you going?”

“No worries…back in two shakes.” Shi winked at the Alchemist and grabbed Daedric by the upper arm as he went, causing the Knight to fumble for the datapad that he’d almost dropped. “With me, ‘Turtles’; you may get a chance to redeem yourself yet.” The pair disappeared from sight, the Dark Side speeding them into the deepening dusk.


Tuk’ata’s Den

The beast, doing its best to ignore its wound, limped menacingly towards Connor, who’d finally pulled his sidearm and was aiming at its face. He truly never believed that in all his misadventures that he’d meet his end in some monster’s gullet, but the rogue was determined not to be an easy meal. He drew deep on his cigarette, then exhaled a plume of bluish-gray smoke as he spoke, attempting to call on his remaining bravado in the face of certain death and say something clever to serve as his epitaph.

“C’mon in, you fu…”

Connor’s curse was cut short by the merry chatter of a auto-pistol and the distinctive sound of a lightsaber blade’s birth. Claret fountains erupted along the spine of the Sith Hound, and it reared back, screeching as it did so, its prey forgotten. Connor watched from within the den as a dark shape flew over the beast, tucking and rolling before coming up, turning and smoothly reloading a sidearm. The barrel began to vomit sparks almost immediately, the slugs unerringly finding new homes in the tuk’ata’s hide. The creature recoiled from the stinging swarm of metal, not noticing a second form alighting silently in its blind spot and clutching a lightsaber, its sanguine blade piercing the dusk. A trail of bloody blossoms appeared alongside the hound’s massive head, and it jerked its head away.

The lightsaber’s owner now rushed the tuk’ata and a mighty two-handed stroke halved the creature’s snout. The beast fell, its death-cries diminishing as its claws scuttled impotently in the dirt, trying in vain to propel it from its doom.

“Well,” Shi said with resigned disappointment and holstering his slugthrower while Daedric buried his blade into the thrashing hound’s skull, stilling it forever. “That’s that. Now…”

The pair looked about as if searching for something. Shi came close to the den’s entrance, sniffing. Daedric joined the Long, peering inside, but seeing nothing. He looked at Shi and shrugged. The Primarch cast a knowing glance at the Knight. “Aha!” Shi exclaimed, ducking inside and jamming a strong arm within the den. Withdrawing it, the form of Connor Grey shimmered and solidified, the Force Cloak diminishing as the relic hunter seemed to be birthed from the dark. Shi hoisted him bodily and set him roughly on his feet.

Connor made a show of smoothing his dingy shirt and tie. “Careful!” he admonished. “You’ll ruin the finery.” Daedric angrily shot back, “Bill me,” as Connor booted the dead tuk’ata’s rump, which thankfully did not stir. The rogue turned back to them and, secreting his .48 back within his coat, he spoke. “Thanks for the save, but how…?” He knew he was among Force-users, but how they’d seen through his illusion escaped him.

Shi suddenly stepped forward, his hand shooting out towards Connor’s face. Connor winced, expecting a broken nose on top of everything else that had befallen him, but no blow came. Instead, he felt the sting of broken skin on his bottom lip as the Long deftly plucked the still-burning cigarette from his mouth.

Shi wafted it under his nose, deeply inhaling the cobalt plume rising from the cherry, his eyes closed in ecstasy. “I could smell you,” he uttered, almost reverently, and Daedric wasn’t sure whether the Apostate was speaking to the man or to the cigarette. Shi flicked it, opening his eyes as he did so. Incredibly, Connor had produced yet another one and had already had it lit.

The Long addressed Daedric, his mercurial eyes never leaving Connor. “This your man?” he asked.

“That’s him,” confirmed the Knight, sighing and allowing himself a measure of relief.

“Good. You two catch up. I’ll go get the others.” With that, Shi leapt atop the rock formation and disappeared the way he and Daedric had come, leaving the Knight with Connor.


Edge of the Valley of the Dark Lords

Manji stepped nearer the edge of the rocky outcropping the group stood on in order to get a better view of the battle unfolding down in the valley beneath them. By luck, the sun was now setting behind them in the sky over the red desert, meaning that the shadows cast by the outcroppings provided at least some cover - and helped mask their presence.

He frowned and his one eye narrowed.

“There must be another way through,” the Keibatsu murmured to himself. “The cloak of the night should give us enough cover to rendezvous with Muz - hopefully.”

Macron joined him and replied: “Or we fight our way through!” The madman bared his teeth.

To Manji’s surprise, Xia Long emerged by his side, her differently coloured eyes following his gaze down to look at the valley below. Her voice was soft and a tinged with a slight hint of melancholy: “It reminds me of the battle… back on Kyataru.”

For a moment, the three stood there in silence, thinking back to the crusade on Kyataru, home planet of the Keibatsu, which saw that planet liberated. Maybe she hasn’t changed as much after all, Manji reflected in his thoughts.

The sounds of battle filled their ears and it was possible to make out explosions near the old Sith Academy in the distance. Xia Long inhaled deeply; the air was heavy with the smell of freshly spilled blood. She spoke, however the words escaped her throat in a bestial sound like a growl: “Korriban soaks with blood. It thirsts now for more. We should grant it what it wishes.” Her hands drifted toward the lightsabers on her hips, and her right eye burned with fury - with hunger!

A grin spread across Macron’s face: “By frack… yeah!!! I’m tired of all this sneaking around.”

Manji laid his hand on her arm. “We should not rush…”

A slight look of anxiousness filled the Keibatsu’s face as he wondered how he could convince the two Elders that charging in would get them all killed. It would be suicide to charge straight down into the battle that was engulfing the valley, especially when it was not just soldiers fighting, but two armies of Sith and darksiders! He felt Xia’s muscles tense beneath his touch. This was no longer the woman who had once fought on Kyataru for the honour of the Keibatsu.

Shi reappeared around the corner and froze upon sight of the situation. He and Manji held their breath. Manji’s eyes pleaded for help. But surprisingly help didn’t arrive from Shi’s side.


The voice was not loud, but it made Manji shudder, being more a cold, icy whisper. He turned his head. Xanos was looking down at them, for a moment having awoken from his apathy. Xia’s lips moved, but there was no sound to be heard. She appeared to privately commune with her Master on another plane, audible only to the pair of them… or perhaps discuss was the right word? But at once Xia withdrew back at Xanos’s side.

“You… are right,” Xia muttered, sounding a little bitter.

Manji and Shi exhaled at the same time in relief.

A certain disappointment spread on Macron’s face, not dissimilar from the look on Xia’s, but even he realised that it was not time for an open fight.

Quizzically, Manji looked at his distant relative Shi, but a slow shake of the head was his only response. Sadness filled Manji; years ago Shi might have confided in him - but now he had left the bosom of the family … just as Macron had done.

Shi remembered at once his reason for returning to the group: “I believe I have found an alternative solution.” He could not hold back a smirk on his face: “Follow me, before Daedric can do something stupid and mess it up.”

Macron grumbled: “Now I am curious. I hope it has something to do with blood and slaughter. Because I just missed a chance of beating people with their severed limbs.”


Outside the old Sith Academy
Valley of the Dark Lords

Lightsabers hissed all around Dantella. Another explosion detonated in her left ear, and a superheated spatter of molten rock peppered her left cheek, searing her flesh. The Umbaran screamed automatically, the smell of burnt flesh filling her nose, and she redoubled her defence, her violet lightsaber blade flashing blinding hot white as she parried another blow from one of the many dozens of warriors who had fallen upon the ruined Sith Academy, and now laid siege to the cyclopean stairway that rose up from the Valley of the Dark Lords to the broken pyramid.

Hold the line!” the sorceress hissed, pressing her immediate foe backwards - and quickly following through with a telekinetic blow that swept both the Twi’lek attacking her, and the two others waiting directly behind him to pounce on her, all backwards, as a wave of Force energy threw them into the path of another explosion - a clever trick, but Dantella had to accept, not actually what she had planned, but simply a lucky coincidence.

The three Sith, or maybe Krath, even Obelisk, she had no idea, identifying marks were masked by the shadows from the walls of the valley now that the sun had nearly set, and she did not care much to pay attention anyway - it was kill or be killed, who her opponents were was of little consequence at this point: all that mattered was that the Sith Academy remained secure.

If not, Lord Esoteric would have her head for her failure if she made it out alive.

…of course, the Sith Lord would likely have her head regardless.

She had already lost too many men defending the academy. Moreover, the anti-air defences that she and her forces had positioned throughout the valley had failed to prevent the armies of the Dark Brotherhood from landing their forces - albeit many had been shot down in the process.

“This is a waste of my time…” the woman muttered to herself, being careful to keep her voice low enough that nobody would hear her - even in the thick of battle, Esoteric’s loyal stooges were everywhere, all chomping at the bit for glory, hoping their lord would reward them when the battle was done and the Dark Brotherhood finally vanquished for good.

Worse, she had spent long enough in the past year to get to know Lord Ashen and the other Elders of the Dark Brotherhood; they were not the cowards that Esoteric sometimes treated them, and Dantella knew that there was a chance - a remote one, perhaps, but still a chance! - that Ashen might manage to obtain what he came to Korriban for…

And that she could not allow.

Not when the treasures of the Dark Lords of the past could instead be hers.

The Umbaran woman withdrew a little, backing up against the still glowing embers of the turbolaser cannon that had exploded a few moments earlier, but which had cooled enough for the heat not to immediately scold her back, and drew her Shadowcloak around her, whilst at the same time focusing her mind on her own presence to shrink it, making her presence in the Force small, small enough to stay hidden, small enough that none would think that an Elder stood there, even if she lacked the skills to actually cloak herself from their sight completely.

Discretely, Dantella began to slip away, keeping to the edges of the battlefield and quietly made her way back down the staircase, heading away from the battle at the Sith Academy…


Just Outside of Loyalist Camp
Valley of the Dark Lords

Connor and his escorts had been walking the better part of an hour, the explosions from the raging battle beating the growing darkness into submission. The relic hunter worked his jaw in silence, having been dropped to the ground by a wicked haymaker thrown by Daedric after the bandaged one who’d come with him had left after his identity was confirmed.

Adding to the sting was the fact that Daedric had halved his promised fee for his “guide services”, but only just so; after all, no matter what Daedric might’ve thought, his true benefactor had promised a king’s ransom for what he was really here to do.

When the bandaged one returned with the woman, the Falleen, and two other humans - one, clad head-to-toe in armor and the other, in what seemed to be some sort of robe - there were no introductions made. There was only Daedric’s hand roughly shoving him forward and they’d embarked on their little trek. They seemed to be bent on concealing their identities from him; smart, he surmised, as he himself was used to that sort of thing in his trade, so it did not bother him that they were being secretive. Besides, he could still learn a lot from them in everything they did, conversation or no, and he only needed their strength, not their names.

He noticed there was no clear leadership chain, although there seemed to be some deference given to the robed one and the armored one, even though they themselves seemed to completely avoid the woman and the Falleen. He could understand that; even after all that he himself had seen and done in the pursuit of riches and relics, that pair set his skin to crawling everytime he spared them a glance.

Daedric and the bandaged one flanked him, and they walked on, the robed one taking the lead, only stopping to speak in hushed tones when they seemed to be approaching a pocket of fighting. Even with his Force-aided hearing, he could only make out words here and there; the one running point seemed to be using the Dark Side to get a general heading, only addressing Connor directly when they needed a path around a skirmish or an approaching patrol. He did notice agitation heavily spicing the Force, especially around the bandaged one and the armored one; it seemed they wanted to fight. The one in the robe displayed an almost preternatural focus; whatever - or whomever - he was homing in on had to be extremely important to him for him to ignore nearly everything else.

After a few moments, they’d come to another outcropping of rocks, the telltale glow of lumens just beyond the formation signalling more beings ahead. Daedric was called to the front of the group to join the rest in some sort of discussion, the bandaged one remaining by his side and staring, unblinkingly at him. Connor shuffled his boots in the dust and attempted a half-hearted joke to break the palpable tension - “Nice night for a walk, eh?” he offered - but his guard only continued to stare at him. Connor swung his arms, clapping his hands in front of him and he sighed heavily, lamenting the fact that his escort could have left him with someone more chatty, and he craned his neck to look upwards.

The skies were overcast, but there were still bright flashes overhead, reminding him of chained lightning. In truth, what Connor saw was the result of the three opposing forces’ turbolaser fire pounding each other’s ships mercilessly; still, he instinctively winced in anticipation of thunder that never came.

Despite the circumstance, the sight was calming to the rogue Jedi and he’d just begun to relax when the world erupted around him.


It began with a faint whisper in the Force, then louder shrieks within the Dark Side as his companions drew obscene amounts of eldritch power into themselves. Time slowed as he felt the bandaged one tackle him bodily to the ground, moments before the pressure wave of an explosion buffeted his body. His companions - even the elegant lady - threw themselves in similar prone positions all around him and the earth vomited great gouts of itself skyward, choking the air with the stench of cordite and scorched rock, courtesy of an extremely coordinated artillery assault. The ground continued to tremble around him as round after round peppered their general area, and they swiftly recovered to scramble furiously towards the relative protection of the boulder formation. The mortars were soon joined by sizzling hyphens of blasterfire streaking above their heads. Their backs were against a literal wall, and despite the great pains they took to avoid trouble, Connor cursed the day he’d allowed a half-vetted contact to lead him right into a trap. Worse, he was no closer to completing his assignment.

His benefactor would not be pleased.


The sound of blaster fire streaking above the group somehow made Daedric feel right at home. The battle hardened soldier of the former Dlarit Army had seen his fair share of battles and it made him feel complete, like he could actually do something in this battle of tri-forces. Daedric somehow felt honored as he was selected to partake on this assignment with many of his elders. Most notably he felt honored to serve next to two of his Masters. Xanos and Xia Long, both of which he had only heard tales of from his own Master, Shirai Dupar. The thought of fighting along side of Darth Vexatus and Master Long was mind boggling to him. He wanted to ask so many questions, but knew that there was a time and a place for such a thing, and this was not that time nor place.

“We have to get out of -” Connor began, only to be silenced mid panic by Daedric. “Shut it.” Connor only looked at him as he attempted to push himself deeper into the rock. Bolts continued to stray dangerously close to the group as the frantically searched for an escape route. How did they find us? Daedric thought to himself. He noticed as Macron had taken a point on a near by covered outcropping trying to get a look at their would-be attackers.

“It appears to be a squad and half of loyalist troopers!” Macron shouted over the blaster fire as he looked back to report it to the rest of the group. Most laid prone on the ground, so as to create a smaller silhouette, but Connor decided to stay in a crouched position against the rock. This made him feel safer. Daedric looked back to Connor, reached upwards and jerked him toward the ground. “If you die, I’ll fu-” A large round hit the top of the rock formation and cut Daedric’s scolding to an abrupt halt. Small chunks of debris fell on the group.



“Damn,” commented Manji Keibatsu sarcastically as the entire group huddled behind the battered stone boulders. “What a friendly reception. I don’t think we have an invitation for tea at the moment, however.” The Krath looked expectantly at Macron as the others spat sand from their mouths. “Don’t you have some code or something? Don’t keep us in suspense!”

“Regardless of how bad-ass you are in the Force, one of those puppies drops in your lap and you’re going home in multiple small baggies. Not a single big black one.” Daedric looked at Connor. “Though we have worked together briefly in the past, I’d try and be cooperative with these folks.” He gestured towards the grey-skinned pasty-faced Falleen and the Krath sorceror by his side. “Those two are the worst of the lot.”

“Yeah, Daedric’s right. Bastards have a karking light field gun.” The Sith Adept held electrobinocs up, peering into the Force to enhance the clarity of his vision at that range. With the smoke and flashes of light it was difficult to make out, but the Dark Side hinted at the identity of the ship in the close-by encampment. “The markings look like Grandmaster Ashen’s heraldic device.”

Macron quickly scrambled for his communication link after noticing that the advancing troopers were that of the Army of Ashen. The Sith nodded and touched a stud on his vambrace. “Command, this is code mern-aurek-cresh four-eight-five-six, Proconsul Sadow. We are at vector 20 point three-oh-seven two. Your arty is zeroed in on our position. We are friendlies. Cease fire. I repeat, cease fire.” Macron repeated the authentication once more to confirm with loyalist command.

“That should do it,” said Shi Long as he counted the seconds between impacts. A few more shells hit nearby, and then the explosive sounds seemed to decrease and almost walk away blast by blast as another vector was targeted. “They’ve changed their fire coordinates.”

Macron stood up with a clank of armor. “Shi, we’re going in. Would you mind keeping one of your keen eyes on our guest here?” The Alchemist clapped an armored hand on Connor’s shoulder. Considering the appendage was wearing a crushgaunt, the meaning behind the lunatic’s twitching smile was quite clear. “I don’t think he’ll try anything.” The Sith turned his weird eye on a wincing Connor. “Yet.”

The bandaged warrior with the serpentine hair smiled in return. He could have some fun with this decidedly shady scout. “Of course, Macron. We can’t have him in there in any case. And what if he does try something? I’m hoping he will.” The Obelisk grinned affably as he winked at Connor. “Don’t get too jumpy bud. It’s bad for your health.”

“Use your best judgement. I wouldn’t presume to give you orders. Or, you could just kill him.” The brief silence was deafening in spite of the muffled explosions in the distance. “Bwahaha!” Macron cackled as he turned to the others. His face fell into a serious expression, a startlingly quick change of demeanor. “Alright. We’ve got to get in there and interface with Darth Ashen. I know he has need of stalwart supporters. Besides which…” The Sith closed his faceplate with a click and a puff of escaping gas. His voice continued with the modulation of a vocoder as he hefted a lightsaber hilt and a Merr-sonn disruptor pistol. “I cannot WAIT to beat the ever-loving shit out of some One Sith and Taldyanites.”

The quiet, emaciated Falleen and the robed Krath Adept remained quiet, one glancing at the other. Darth Vexatus remained impassive as Sildrin scowled slightly. The Alchemist was crude in many ways, but she had known him for a very long time indeed. He was an excellent distraction.

Manji stepped up next to Macron and the two of them took point. Daedric followed right behind them, his own weapon at the ready. “For Sadow!” rang Macron’s battle-cry as he stood and readied himself to jump the boulders.

“No. For the Brotherhood!” corrected Manji. “We’ll all be fracked if Ashen gets deposed or fails.” Both of them vaulted over the boulder wall and hit the ground running like torpedoes right for the encampment. Daedric followed, and Sildrin and Xanos seemed to vanish as they moved around to the right side of the rocks.

The three warriors jumped over the rocks with the aid of the Force, and landed right in the midst of a group of three human Taldryan Equites and a Knight who had been sneaking up on the command center. Perhaps the artillery barrage had not been directed at the party from Clan Naga Sadow after all. Both parties looked surprised- neither had heard the other over the din of combat both distant and nearby.

A whirlwind of combat ensued as the shatterpoint broke. Seven lightsabers ignited simultaneously. Most of them were red, one was argent, and one orange. Macron and Manji each faced off one of the enemy Equites. Daedric Turelles engaged the Knight, and the third Taldryan Equite gloated as he closed on the already engaged Daedric.

Unfortunately for him, his path passed right by the edge of the boulders. The air shimmered as Xia Long wove her illusions. At the same time the enemy Equite’s mind was overwhelmed with pure fear. He grabbed his head and screamed at the gibbering squamous tentacled horrors that swam menacingly in his mind. Darth Vexatus stepped up in front of him and waved his flaking hands with an almost bored look on his withered countenance. Xia Long then swiftly removed the Equite’s head with her wine-colored blade as he knelt weeping, and then returned the weapon to quiescence inside her robes. “Hmph.” Illusion soon wrapped the pair in its embrace as they began to move again.

In the meantime, Manji found himself engaged with what could only be a Soresu stylist. The Taldryan’s circular movements and spun blocks gave the Sadow trouble. The enemy was good but did not have the one-eyed man’s experience. The hard strikes and broad movements of Shii-Cho were not as effective against an opponent who seemed to have an answer for everything that was thrown at him. The Keibatsu would have to use his whole repertoire to win.

He stepped in with a particularly withering side-blow, and the Taldryan spun it aside. The Pontifex’s martial-arts hardened foot followed as the blade went past. Every ounce of strength that the Kyataran could muster in the Force was behind the jackhammer blow. It caved the man’s ribs in with the sound of splintering bone, and the Taldryan fell gagging up black blood. Manji snickered as he turned to assist Daedric. “It’s called Broken Gate for a reason, punk.”

Daedric had the situation in hand, however. The Knight found himself battling a fellow student of the Way of the Sarlacc. Each of them threw mighty blows at the other, long hard cleaving slashes and smiting cuts. Sparks flew from their twin crimson blades as they howled at each rude meeting. A tendril of Dark Side energy snaked out from Daedric’s off-hand and stabbed the female Taldryan in the guts. The oozing wound threw his enemy’s rhythm off just as the Taldryan delivered a glancing blow to Daedric’s left hip. The Taldryan woman died with a vision of a red lightsaber blade ramming into her right eye being the last sight she saw in this world.

“Good job kid.” Manji quickly scanned the area. “I think we’re in the clear.”

“What about Macron? Uhng.” Daedric asked as he grunted and applied a bacta path to his wound. Characteristically, neither Xia Long nor Darth Vexatus were seen. “That’s going to slow me up some. I hope they have a medic over there. And Master Long and Lord Vexatus are gone…”

“I wouldn’t worry about Macron or the terror twins. In fact, here he comes now.” Manji jerked a thumb towards the boulder pile. “Speak of the Devil. Good hunting eh?”

“Indeed,” The Elder’s machine-like voice chuckled from within his helm as he stepped from the back of a boulder laying at the base of the pile they had jumped over. Blood and bits of brain matter were sprayed in a diagonal line up the madman’s armor. In his hand was a bloody severed arm, still clutching a lightsaber hilt and dripping gelid gore. It appeared to have been squeezed off at the shoulder and then used as a club. He pried the unlit saber hilt from the orphaned hand and arm and they convulsed spasmodically together. “Spoils of war. Blue crystal, probably Adegan… maybe I’ll make a focusing lens out of it. He won’t be needing it anymore in any case.” The arm was dropped nonchalantly to the cold dusty sands. “We should get moving.”


[B]Command HQ
Loyalist Camp
Valley of the Dark Lords

Portable lamps glowed outside the heavy canvas tent that had been hastily erected to serve as a command centre for the Grand Master. Symbols marked the sides of the tent- the lion-head crest, Muz’s personal sigil on one side and the emblem of the Brotherhood placed on the other. The tent-flaps had been staked back to allow an easy passage in and out, and a stream of officers and military men were making use of it.

Macron and Manji pushed their way through the crowd easily- despite the controlled chaos that made up the forward camp, the soldiers recognised high-ranking Dark Jedi immediately, moving aside to let them pass. Pausing briefly before they entered, Manji stared at the sigils marking the tent, his expression souring.

“Of course he’d leave off the kriffing crest…” he muttered, almost to himself. Macron said nothing- it wasn’t his place to comment on the brothers’ relationship, lapsed as it might have been. Stepping through the tent flaps, the two looked around, surveying the inside of the large command tent.

A huge holo-projection table stood in the centre, decorated with a holographic image of the rocky terrain of the Valley of the Dark Lords, the huge statues that adorned the tombs picked out in shimmering blue light. Blocks of colour moved across the table as enemy and allied forces took part in the dance of death, advancing and retreating as the combat ebbed and flowed. Around the table stood a host of uniformed officers, men fiercely loyal to the Grand Master, updating the stream of information flowing through the table with every passing second as reports flooded to the datapads they held.

And at the head of the table, fists pressed against the edge of the display, stood Muz, sable eyes fixed upon the movement before him. His gaze flickered up as the two Sadowans entered, the steel in his eyes fading slightly as he recognised them.

“Macron, brother- I’m glad you made it,” Ashen said, stepping away from the holo-deck. “It’s carnage out there- Esoteric one side, Cotelin and his traitors the other.”

Without pausing, the Grand Master gestured towards the back of the tent, where the two Sadowans could see a small raised dais upon which stood a folding general’s stool- the same setup that had been used by Kyataran generals down the ages. Manji felt his annoyance at Muz for the omission of the Keibatsu crest fading away- his brother was maintaining the old traditions in his own way, still remembering his homeland. Flicking his warcoat out behind him, Muz took a seat on the stool, Manji going down on one knee before the dais. Macron followed suit, twitching slightly- he remembered the custom from his time on Kyataru, but wasn’t as practiced as the Pontifex.

“The situation is grim,” Muz began, his voice brisk and clipped. “We’re holding Esoteric and Cotelin back, but barely. The Valley is a bloodbath.”

Gesturing at the holo-projection table, Ashen continued. “I can’t spare any men from the defenses to go into the Tomb- they caught up with us before I could get what I came for.” He fixed Manji and Macron with a steely gaze, and both shuddered involuntarily as the Dark Side quivered within them, flowing in waves from the man before them. “That is your task.”

“There are three tablets within the Tomb which will help me complete the Rite of Immortality. I must have all three, before Cotelin and Esoteric can get their filthy hands on them. You [B]must[/B] succeed.”

“Ancient Sith tablets?” Macron said, his bloody yellow eyes lighting up at the thought. “Containing the instructions for the Rite… hmm, very interesting!”

For a moment, there was relative silence in the tent, interrupted only by the bleeps of the table and the bustle of the command staff. Then Manji broke the quiet, withdrawing his twin sabers from his belt and staring at them reflectively for a second before placing them on the dais.

“My blades are yours, [I]nii-sama[/I],” he said, his sole eye meeting Muz’s gaze fiercely. “As ever.”

Macron giggled involuntarily as he followed suit, laying his own blade on the dais. “I’m here for the slaughter,” he grinned, “Filthy Taldryanites won’t know what hit ‘em!”

For the first time in many cycles, Muz felt the beginnings of a smile crack his visage. For all his years away from home, for all the brashness and snark that he’d picked up, his little brother was and always would be a warrior of Kyataru, taking solace and comfort in the ancient rituals of their homeland. Reaching forward, the Grand Master took hold of the twin hilts that he himself had crafted, noted their condition. Then he handed them back to the Pontifex with a firm nod before lifting Macron’s saber hilt off the dais, noting the changes and modifications he’d made to it with a smile and passing it back to the Alchemist.

“I trust you, [I]itouto[/I]… as ever. Gather your companions and make for the Tomb.”

Macron and Manji nodded, pushing themselves upright and bowing their heads to the Grand Master. As they turned to leave, Muz pushed himself upright, hands clasped behind his back.

“One other thing,” he said, his expression dark once more. “There are three high-ranking members of the Krath Order within the camp- three Pontifices. They’re here to help open the tomb, but they may wish to obtain the tablets for their own purposes. Be on your guard- they will not hesitate to kill you if you stand in their way.”

“Let ‘em try,” Macron giggled, checking his crushgaunt reflexively. “We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves…”

Stepping down from the dais, Muz watched them leave silently. For a moment, he felt the Dark Side surge unwillingly through his body, amplified somehow by the darkness baked into the very stones beneath his feet. The future swam before his eyes, a mess of events that slowly coalesced into something resembling clarity- faint visions of one of many possible futures.

As he moved back to the holo-projection table, Muz spoke without turning his head to a uniformed officer who snapped immediately to attention.

“Prepare a comms channel, Captain. I have a message to send…”


Loyalist Camp

“I s-sure could use one of these,” Connor stammered as his shaking hands coaxed a crumpled cigarette from its worn packaging. “How ‘bout you, ‘Shi’, was it? C-care for a smoke?” He held out the nearly ruined pack with one hand while the other struck a match to light his own.

Shi, for his part, was reclined atop a smallish boulder, legs crossed at booted ankle and his head cradled in interlocked fingers, looking very much like a man on holiday rather than a survivor of a near-fatal artillery barrage. He moved but one eyelid, opening it to fix the orb on Connor who, for his part still looked as if the attack was still going on, unable to bring the meager flame to ignite the tip.

“It was, and still is,” the Primarch sighed, his baritone flat and bored. Connor shuffled close, the hand holding the cigarettes still shaking. He nearly dropped the pack but Shi was quicker, snatching it just as it left the Jedi’s fingers. “And, yes: I would care for one.” Shi skillfully plucked his own from the pack and smoothed it before grabbing Connor’s wrist, steadying the hand so that he could lean over and spark the tabac.

The match burned down to Connor’s fingertips and he dropped it, shaking his hand furiously. “Shavit!”, he exclaimed, exaggeratedly jamming his fingers into his mouth to soothe them while Shi looked on, amused. The Long inhaled and blew out a long, gray plume of smoke, a look of supreme satisfaction painting his bronzed features as he resumed his watch over the relic hunter, a study of lethality in repose.

Where Shi’s display was genuine - he seemed to Connor to be truly enjoying the smoke without the slightest hint of pretense - the rogue Jedi’s was naught but affectation. Indeed, that is how he was able to survive for so long, in any type of circumstance. What drew the attention of his benefactor, so long ago. The fine art of affectation allowed him to appear at the moment nervous, shaken, even shell-shocked, but inside, he was cool, calm, collected and analytical.

For instance, as with many others he’d worked both with and against, he was able to tell that Shi’s relaxed form spoke of a shared confidence that was brimming within his companions, too. Just as well: confidence always lead to chattiness, and before long, they’d told him exactly what he needed to know.

'Grandmaster Ashen…Proconsul Sadow…for the Brotherhood,’ the armored one he now knew to be Macron and the one clad in the kimono had gushed just before they left him with his guard. No doubt they’d meant to rally themselves, but in the space of a few short moments they’d laid bare their allegiances, all while assuming his own was only to credits. He was not a threat to them, they thought, and so their tongues were free to wag.

The fools were handing him the slug he’d put them down with, and were doing so with a smile.

Connor fought to suppress his own, the corners of his mouth quivering as he thought of his reward.

“Alright, then; ‘Shi’ it is. I’m Connor…Connor Grey.”


Landing Field
Outside Loyalist Camp
Valley of the Dark Lords

Troops bearing the marks of Clans Arcona and Sadow and others wearing the colours of Tarentum assembled outside the Grand Master’s camp, not far from the landing field. Xanos was standing with his apprentice near the foot of a shuttle, looking as rigid as the ebon staff he leant on. Like the others, the Dark Prophet had also been caught in one of the artillery volleys that the loyalist forces had fired – the difference was that he should have foreseen it; he should have anticipated the strike and moved.

But something - or someone - continued to cast a shroud over the Force, blocking his sight…

“Master,” began the sorceress by his side, “I am not so sure it was an… accident.”

As Sildrin was speaking, a soldier unloading the nearby shuttle walked backward into the side of the Dark Prophet, and the man quickly went perfectly still, his hands trembling slightly as he turned to see who he had knocked. “Oh my… f-forgive me, Grand Master,” the man said, bowing his head deeply.

The man’s face seemed to visibly whiten beneath the Falleen’s gaze.

“At ease, soldier,” said Sildrin calmly, and she waved him off. An almost imperceptible grin tugged at the corner of the sorceress’s lip at the soldier’s mistaken form of address. “This could all have been yours, Master…” the woman said, her voice hushed, “…the Brotherhood… the Rite of Immortality.”

Xanos turned to his apprentice and something cold flashed in his eyes.

Silence! snapped the Dark Prophet straight into the woman’s head.

The Falleen turned his attention back to the ranks of soldiers and Dark Jedi who hurried about the camp on their business for Lord Ashen – most giving Xanos and his apprentice a wide berth, many often suddenly remembering somewhere else they had to be, and turning to head back in the other direction rather than pass the two sorcerers who stood in the middle of the camp, not far from the landing feet of the shuttle that the Grand Master had used to redeploy deep into the Valley of the Dark Lords.

It was true that the approach to the Grand Master’s camp had gone less than smoothly, and the Falleen had had little interest in listening to Muz’s plans; because the Dark Prophet already knew them, having already walked this same path for himself so many years earlier. The entire crusade now brought back memories that Xanos had wished forgotten. More than a decade ago, he himself had pursued Okemi’s Final Way and the Rite of Immortality all the way into the heart of the old Rakatan Empire…

Ashen had been one of the ones to stop him…

“He does not understand the significance of what he seeks,” Xanos said out loud. “He seeks only immortality… but the Final Way, it is about so much more than that…”

It was about remaking the galaxy… rewriting time itself.

The Falleen’s mind drifted back to what he had seen on that strange world in the heart of the galaxy just a few weeks earlier, to the truths – or maybe they had in fact been lies after all – that his Master, Trevarus Caerick, had supposedly revealed. As it now emerged, Trevarus had been one of those who had been working for the Grand Master all along. But Trevarus was always more complicated than that.

The Oracle was never what he seemed on the surface.

“We should speak with Master Trevarus,” Sildrin said, no doubt reading her master’s thoughts.

Yes, yes they should…


They found the Oracle on the other side of the camp.

Three others were with him. Two were robed head to foot in identical robes, both decorated with all manner of Krath runes and esoteric symbols, their faces being masked completely to conceal their identities. The third and final figure, a young woman, stood a head shorter than the three men with her, and Trevarus was presently smearing blood over her face in some sort of arcane pattern that echoed the same Sith tattoos that were worn by the armies of Esoteric’s New Order that now rallied against them.

Neither Xanos nor Sildrin spoke as they approached.

The unfamiliar woman’s eyes remained firmly locked on the Oracle’s and none of four gave any sign they had noticed the two new arrivals. The other two men’s gazes were too focused on the ritual.

“Do you submit to the Final Way?” Trevarus was saying.

“I submit,” the woman answered with no sign of fear in her voice.

“Do you surrender yourself to the Lord of the Black Sword and offer your body unto him?”

“I surrender myself.”

The Oracle reached into the small bag that he always had with him and withdrew a small vial, but it was too difficult to make out what was inside. Trevarus unscrewed the lid and poured a small sample of whatever liquids it contained onto his palm before he returned his focus to the unknown woman.

“Then by the Blood of the Father, you shall unlock the Gate to the Shadows Beyond.”

Trevarus reached out and pressed his hand against the woman’s forehead.

“I call upon the Dark Lord and anoint you His Vessel!”

Dark blood ran down her cheeks from where he held his hand. The blood already smeared across her face reacted, glowing in response as the Oracle said a few more words, invoking a tongue so ancient even the Falleen did not recognise it. A moment of silence passed… but then the woman’s jaw fell open and she proceeded to wail at the top of her voice. Her entire body began to shudder and she screamed out in raw agony, her eyes rolling back in their sockets, as the wail refused to stop.

The two figures behind her backed away slightly, but the Oracle remained firmly where he was, his hand still held against her face. Still the screams continued, her cheeks beginning to go blue.

“What… what is happening…?” one of the other men finally said.

It was Sildrin that chose to answer.

“I think,” the sorceress began, “she was not found worthy.”


Loyalist Camp
Valley of the Dark Lords

Trevarus removed his hand from the woman’s face. A blue nimbus surrounded his hand. Screeching, with her fingernails the woman clawed and pulled at the blue flames that were consuming her flesh. Her legs could no longer support her and she fell onto her knees. Her body convulsed and she vomited blue flames. Where the unholy fire landed, the earth hissed, sizzling.

“Will she survive it?” asked one of the other Pontifices, although there was no emotion in his voice. What did he care about one of his rivals for the High Priesthood?

A nonchalant shrug was Trevarus’s only answer. “Next one, please,” said the Oracle.

The Pontifex blanched, his sight stuck on the writhing woman. Her screeching would not stop and she continued to tear at her skin. He took a deep breath; the temptation of the power he would feast on was too great for him to let the screams of a useless wench to deter him!

The Oracle again drew arcane symbols in the air. A strong sense of foreboding hung over all those present and the overwhelming presence of dark energies almost squeezed the air from their lungs. Before Trevarus’s hand could touch the man’s face, the Pontifex winced.

Trevarus muttered the same words as before; however, this time, the ritual was completed, and the Pontifex was inaugurated as one of the chosen ones. Unlike the woman, the man now bore the sigil that would unlock the Tomb of Marka Ragnos. The Oracle stepped back and a triumphant grin lay on the priest’s face. The man looked around and stared down at the wailing woman on the ground with disgust. But then his eyes widened. He lifted his hands which began to tremble. His veins now glowed blue along his skin.

His mouth opened in a silent scream of horror as his fingers turned black and crumbled into ash from his fingertips downwards. “No… no…” He shook his hand – but only accelerated the process of decay. He stumbled backwards and fell down as one of his legs gave way; flaming ash trickled under his robe down onto the ground.

He reached an accusatory hand in the direction of Trevarus, but whatever he wanted to say, it never left his lips. The man’s form dissolved into a cloud of ash and all that was left was a small pile of blue flaming ashes.

An angry murmur sounded from a nearby group from Clan Arcona. The voice of the last one of the three Pontifices shouted: “That was… deliberate!”

However Trevarus just answered: “This was… unfortunate.”

A metal boot stamped on the pile of ash and an armoured hand grabbed a handful of ash. Macron looked at the glowing embers and his face lit up with a ghostly blue glow. He pulled out a vial and murmured: “This is something I’ve always needed for my alchemical experiments!”


“Krath Priest Sheol was one of us Arconans! This requires a proper burial,” muttered angry voices and people stared angrily at the Sadowan Macron.

Macron ground his metal boot into the ash, rubbing it into the dirt and grinned mockingly: “Done.”

Some were close to pouncing on Macron, but they were just held back by their comrades. “Not here… in the Grand Master’s camp… not yet,” the others whispered calmly.

Trevarus turned to Rozius; the last of the three Pontifices. “Your turn.”

But Rozius spat back: “Only when we have a found a suitable replacement! Three were chosen! Three should there be!” He turned, looking around as his eyes scrutinised the crowd that had now gathered nearby… and finally settling on Manji, who was standing just behind Macron. “Him! He is a Krath Priest!” The mad idea brought a wild look to the Pontifex’s eyes at what he believed the genius of his plan: if the “Spawn of the Keibatsu” were to end up like the other Pontifices, it would be one less rival!

A soft voice brought all to silence. “There is a better alternative.” The heads turned and looked at the woman who had just spoken. Xia Long began to continue: “Manji Keibatsu is already a confidant of the Grand Master and therefore the first target on the battlefield.” Many of the gathered people looked at each other.

She raised her voice again: “He is a relative of our Grand Master. Who would be the one to bring Lord Ashen the bad news if something were to happen to him?” Her eyes looked at each in turn, but whenever her eyes fell on someone, they lowered their own gaze. No, they would not be the one who would convey the Grand Master such a message.

Rozius’s own confidence dwindled with every one of her words. “But… who…?” He began uneasily.

Xia Long lowered her own face and a sigh escaped her lips. “Who would ever think that a Long would be such a secret confidant…? I offer myself as a candidate.”

Trevarus’s eyes followed hers and for a moment they flashed.

A murmur went through the crowd. “I myself have fought on the side of the Grand Master in the war for his home planet.” Manji and Macron looked thoughtfully at Xia Long. Rarely had she sounded so… convincing. And yet… could they have been wrong about her?

She knelt down: “I, Daughter of Sadow, offer my services so that we can finally put Clans Plagueis and Taldryan in their place.”

“Hear, hear!” A lot of people nodded approvingly.

Rozius nodded, his eyes glowing feverishly. “Yes! So be it!” He stepped forward and stood at Xia Long’s side.

Trevarus raised his arms. “Then let us finally complete the ritual!”


Loyalist Camp

A cadre of Taldryan speeder bikes idled just beyond the sweep of the search lumens dotting the Loyalist base camp. After contact was lost from a sapper squad sent to the camp at the onset of the fighting, Cotelin himself ordered this elite group to perform a search and rescue op. When they’d arrived at the sappers’ last known position, even the most battle-tested among them were hard pressed to recall a brutality similar to the kind that had left their comrades scattered across the Korriban landscape by the Sadowan’s attack.

There wasn’t even enough left of their Taldryan brethren for them to recover, much less rescue.

Angered though they were, their ever-present professionalism allowed each rider to fester in silence, their collective rage building and seeking release. The Dark Side vibrated between them in anticipation.

They were presented an opportunity before long; the group’s leader spied through his electrobinocs five fantails of red dust, speeding away from the camp and towards Marka Ragnos’ tomb. Signaling to his riders, - six in all - they took up pursuit as one.

En Route to Marka Ragnos’ Tomb

The ritual completed - indeed, Trevarus had no issues with transferring the ward to open the tomb to Xia - the group sped away from the camp on speeder bikes provided by the Grandmaster. Whether it was because of Xia’s power curve, paling that of the Pontifices, or due to a deeper design with Caerick’s signature writ large throughout, there were none of the pyrotechnics that had plagued the Krath Order’s representatives. Instead, each one of the group felt the enormous gravity of the situation, including Shi and Connor, who were summarily picked up when the others left and briefly detoured around the camp before striking out with the trust of the Grandmaster and the fate of the Brotherhood itself on their collective backs. It was as if the Force itself had picked up weight, pressing upon all of them just as Macron, laden with his battlesuit, sat heavily upon his own speeder.

Manji was similarly mounted, claiming he rode side-saddle to no one. That left Xanos to ride solo as well, with Connor and Daedric sharing a bike and Shi and Xia bringing up the rear of the loose formation. The wind and dust whipped past them all, and the roar of the laboring speeders filled their senses. On the rear bike, Xia leaned forward to speak to Shi; it seemed to him that her voice was all.

“Brother…I must ask something of you.” Her carmine lips brushed the lobe of his ear and the sensation sent chills down his spine. “Anything,” came his throaty reply. Their relationship was a strange one, mysterious to anyone not a Long, marked by indisputable closeness and tainted with irrepressible distance. She was forever, and never to be, his.

“If I were to do something so terrible that it would call down the wrath of Ashen himself, would you follow me?” Xia’s tones were dulcet, hypnotic, belying the treacherousness of the question and cloaking betrayal in silk.

The question gave the Primarch pause, and he focused on the group ahead while framing his answer, straining to peer through the debris their passage kicked up. There was a world of possibility within her query, and Shi was so enamored that neither he, nor his comrades, noticed the Taldryan riders flanking them and his own speeder slowing, courtesy of a surreptitiously disconnected power coupling, the terminus of which was clasped in Xia’s alabastine fingers.

Shi answered, “Dear Sister, if your heart was truly in it, I’d follow you to the gates of Hell.”

There was a portentous lurch of the speeder bike, and Shi’s eyes flew over the controls and gauges as it slowed to a crawl. Their comrades continued to speed on, and Shi looked up in confusion.

Xia’s voice suddenly turned hard. “Then, follow.” A shove ejected the Primarch from the saddle of the bike, and he tumbled head over heels in the dirt just as the Taldryan riders closed their pincer maneuver, their light cannons barking and sending the rest of the Sadowans into disarray. Their enemy was numerous and skillful, and before long the Sadowan convoy ground to a halt, their vision obscured by thick dust and their heads forced down by the blasterfire.

Macron roared in anger, and Manji cast his gaze about, searching for his comrades. He saw Xia mounted aboard her bike in the near-distance, with the Taldryanites breaking off their attack and speeding towards Shi, who rose and stared at the Blind Dragon.

The pair shared a knowing glance, but before any words could be spoken, the Taldryan riders had reached them. “Follow,” Xia repeated, then inexplicably, took lead rider position after she’d reconnected the bike’s power coupling, the Taldryan force in tow. Shi jerked his sidearm from its holster and laid on the trigger, but he was too slow; they were well out of range of the autorepeater before the first slug quit the barrel.

Shi felt an excitement welling up within him just as Manji, Macron and the rest joined him. Daedric called out, “Is everyone alright?” The others muttered their assent and the Keibatsu stared off in the distance at the rapidly retreating ambush.

Standing beside the now speederless Shi, Manji asked, “so, what the frell was that all about?”

Shi’s mouth curled at the corners. “I…have no idea.”



Macron snorted. “Well, it’s clear she’s chosen who’s she’s with. Let’s go then. We have a mission to complete for the Brotherhood and Lord Ashen. No matter what.”

“Not without my Sister,” Shi bristled, his voice dangerously low. “You of all people should understand what family means.” The Sith just shrugged under his armor in reply.

“I’m… wondering if splitting up is such a good idea.” Daedric looked concerned as the air thickened around them all. “Won’t we need Adept Xia to get in the Tomb anyhow?” He scanned the other side of the valley wall with electrobinocs. “Still going at it over there. I’m grateful not to have to cross that.” Flashes of light in the distance and the crack of blaster fire reminded them all of the continuing battle.

“The ward is only needed to open the Tomb’s main entrance.” The Sith Lord moved slightly, wrapping himself in his unadorned robes. Though he spoke little, the others listened to the Prophet when he did.

“That settles it then. Xanos and Shi have volunteered to find the wayward Xia Long. Shall the rest of our party press on to the Tomb with good Connor here?” Macron giggled. “That last little bit of combat really whetted my appetite. It’s easy to do here on Korriban…” mused the Alchemist as his voice trailed off. “Rock’s changed too. Iron-bearing red limestone over here… hmm.” He laid his hand on a nearby boulder as the other spoke up. “This place had water on the surface long ago. I wonder if the Dark Side usage of it’s inhabitants contributed to the water loss. Dried the place up like a bituminous mummy’s skin. Probably went underground.”

“Gentlemen, I can get us there, and in. I know of an old water-bearing grotto that leads under the Valley. It should take us under the main fighting and to the Tomb. I’ve been there once before, although not very far in.” Connor kept a straight face as he told the story. “The native denizens scared me off.”

“Oh?” replied Manji-sama as he turned to regard the former Jedi. “As in, beasts or humanoids?” The Kyataran smiled, the lines on his face wrinkling around his eyepatch. “I’d be very interested in matching my blades against a real challenge that I have not yet encountered.” The warrior spent his life testing his prowess against sundry foes, and the lure of monstrous prey was nigh-irresistible here on Korriban. “Now I’m interested. Do tell.”

“The first party I went with, well, most of us didn’t make it back. These damned things, looked like dark side dragons attacked us.” Connor winced between nervous drags off of his cigarette. This particular story was easy for him as it was uncharacteristically true. The fallen Jedi’s sincerity was convincing. “I could feel the energy that they put off. I got the frell outta there.”

“Hssiss,” muttered Macron as he turned away from his rock and refocused on the conversation. “Not surprising. It is written that the Exile encountered them as well in the Valley so long ago.”

“They had to get water somewhere, after all.” Shi Long smirked. “And food. I’m sure Sith Hounds don’t taste very well. I wonder where they got the food. Could it be… tomb robbers?” His eyes rose in mock disbelief as he looked pointedly at Connor. “How awful.”

“Hibernation.” Vexatus offered one word, and then returned to his brooding silence. The sand motes floating by seemed to swirl around the rotten Falleen as they passed.

“What my reticent Sith Master means, is that they sleep for years at a time.” Macron frowned and stoked the chin of his helm. “For thousands of years, apparently. Damn efficient system. I’m sure the ancient Sith modified them further from the reptilian scum that crawled forth from Lake Natth. I used to have two small ones as pets.”

Daedric spoke up. “I’ve never seen them with you, Macron. Do you still have them stored away somewhere?” He checked the charge on his lightsaber against a plug-in indicator. The presence of the Prophet and the others had him slightly unnerved aside from the eerie emanations from the planet itself.

“No Commander, they died on Coratua in that foolish conflict that Korras started.” The Alchemist closed his helm back up like a turtle retreating into its shell. “I doubt anything is asleep down there right now with all this madness going on up here. Don’t let them bite you. Dark side poison.”

Shi Long gestured at Darth Vexatus, who stood with closed eyes swaying back and forth slightly. “I doubt he’d even notice.”

“Probably not,” laughed Manji in reply. “No, probably not. Drinks it like sake, I imagine. Speaking of which…” He drew a gourd from inside the sleeve of his robe. “Thirsty work in a dry desert makes me parched. Ah.” He took a swig and replaced the gourd. “Care for a drink Shi?”

“I’ve got to hit the ‘fresher folks.” Connor stepped behind one of the boulders. “Just a sec.”

“I don’t trust him,” flashed Macron’s scarlet text link across all of their Sadow-encrypted comlinks. “I have a bad feeling about him.”

“He plays the fool, and takes us for fools.” The purple of Shi’s text flashed in reply.

“I dosed him with a micro-dot of mutagenic DNA disruptor when I touched his shoulder before we met with the Grandmaster. It’s slow, but he will need the other half to counter it. Call it insurance.”

All of them closed up their links as Connor stepped around the corner. “The opening to the caverns is over there,” he said with a gesture towards a low-lying small sink hole at the base of the valley wall. “It gets slick down there. Watch out for the stalagmites and stalactites, they can be sharp.”

Shi Long spoke up as he moved towards Vexatus. “We’re going to go find Xia and figure out what the frell is going on.”


Aquifer Entrance
Valley of the Dark Lords

As the group descended, the smell of something rancid filled their noses. The smell of rotten flesh and decaying animal carcasses was all too potent. As they continued downward into the cavern the meager light from the surface quickly began to fade. Small beams of light began to extend outwards as the group initiated their flashlights, each in a different location on their armor.

“Damn…this smell is horrible.” Daedric stated, raising his hand to his nose attempting to filter the smell from reaching him.

“They’re here.” Macron stated, as his voice was slightly distorted through his helm. Daedric looked over at Connor who was already lighting another cigarette. With a flick of the wrist, Daedric reached out with the force and swiped the cigarette from the chapped lips of Connor.

“Light another and I’ll make it your last. They can smell you.” Daedric stated as he moved past Conner and around an overgrown stalagmite. Manji looked back at Connor and motioned for him to continue. For the next thirty minutes the group navigated through the cavern. The occasional shake from above served to remind them that the battle on the surface was still raging. Countless soldiers were dying, giving their life for what they believed in. Martyrs. All of them. It was still hard for Daedric to comprehend that they were betrayed, but he had his orders. He had no time to question what had happened.

The group reached a spot in the cavern that opened up to a chamber the size of three stories. As Connor began to move to the other side, Macron reached out placing a hand on his shoulder, refusing to let him continue.

“What are you doing?” the relic hunter questioned, fear evident in his voice as he stared at the mask of the Madman.

“Do you want to live?” Macron stated through the mask. “There is something here. I’m not sure what it is yet, but it’s here.” Macron turned to Manji, raising the visor so that his face could be seen. “Master, do you feel it as well?” Macron asked.

“Yes, it feels dark, angry void of anything really.” Manji stated as he closed his eyes, reaching out into the Force.
“Smells like ass too.” Daedric stated as he raised his scanner, hoping to detect a heat signature. His efforts were futile. “I’m not picking anything up on any wavelengths in the room, Master Sadow.” Daedric stated moving next to Macron.

“You won’t, young Knight.” Macron stated as he reached for his lightsaber. Following suit, Manji and Daedric reached for theirs as well.

“I’m not seeing or feeling anything…” Daedric stated as he began to get frustrated.

“Reach out with the Force. Command it to show you what is out there. If you listen, it will show you.” Manji stated. By this time Connor had moved a little ways back into the cavern to take cover from what was about to happen.

“There.” Macron stated as he ignited his saber


Outside the aquifer caverns
Valley of the Dark Lords

The Falleen stood standing by himself, staring off into the horizon where the sorceress had vanished with the Taldryan raiding party that had attacked them. Shi Long approached calmly, but the Korun’s hands, with his fists clenching and unclenching, betrayed the man’s wishes.

“We should… make haste,” the man said.

However, there was an unfamiliar hint of uncertainty the warrior’s voice, something that likely sounded strange even to the man himself. Shi Long had been born to fight; it gave him purpose. The price of which was the immeasurable weight of renounced fealty from brothers in Sons, Tenebrous friends and the peril of joining the group who had once hunted the Sith Lord Darth Vexatus down in order to stop him achieving immortality of his own…and his life.

Now here, now, he stood with that same Sith Lord, both equal and not, yet aligned. Times changed. But one thing and one thing alone remained a constant:

War. War never changed.

Shi Long was that war; Strife, incarnate. It was in the way he seemed to needle Manji and the others. For Shi, conflict was required for improvement, and improvement always required conflict to mark its development. And he embodied this War, the war writ on the very tapestry of the Force itself. A being singularly blessed with the certainty of purpose.

And yet… the man who had long ago been Sai Keibatsu was, for once, in doubt.

“Why?” the Korun asked. Shi Long did not elaborate, but there was no need: his question was as plain as the darkening red sands of the Valley of the Dark Lords as the night fell on the tombs and statues. Xia’s… betrayal? If indeed it could be thought that, had come out of nowhere… or had it? Shi Long had not been with the sorceress throughout her long sojourn with the Falleen the past two years, and ever since he had caught back up with her and her two masters on the world of Runculo, he could not deny that she had… changed. Matured.


No longer was she the apprentice hiding who she was. She had become an Elder. And so it seemed, just like the woman herself had always confided in him: Elders were never to be trusted.

In front of Shi, the Falleen continued staring blankly off into the desert, paying the Korun’s concerns and thoughts no attention, albeit the man was well aware that his thoughts were no secret to the Dark Prophet. In the skies, multi-coloured forks of coruscating lightning carried on bisecting the heavens, cruisers, frigates and mighty Star Destroyers tearing through the upper atmospheres, and bathing the valley of darkness in a firework display of constantly changing reds and blues and greens.

Up there, the battle was clear. The starships and their transponder codes plain for all to read.

But back on the valley floor, where loyalties shifted as easily as the winds changed, the battle was to be decided not by the number of troops and starfighters, but by the question of who could be trusted. And it was that battle inside Shi Long that would decide the fate of all currently warring, both on Korriban’s surface and in the heavens high above.

A bright flash illuminated the heavens – an explosion! – and one of the many starships erupted in a blinding white fireball, its debris spiralling through the sky, pluming a trail of smoke in its wake. The flash pulled Shi’s mind back to the present. The ship carried the markings of Clan Taldryan. When Shi looked back down, he found the Dark Prophet no longer staring off into the horizon, but tracking the same ship’s rapid descent. When the corvette-sized vessel crashed – deep in the valley itself – the Falleen finally turned back to Shi Long, though, as always, Xanos’s face remained unreadable.

“Cotelin makes his move,” the Falleen said, his voice as cold as the icy winds that brushed Shi’s cheeks.

Shi Long looked down at the valley, where the ship had crashed, before turning back toward where Xia Long had disappeared in the opposite direction.

“She thinks she acts by herself,” Xanos said, but unlike Shi, the Falleen kept his eyes on the burning wreckage that now smouldered down in the valley, not far from the Sith Academy where the three armies of darksiders clashed, “but she is as much a pawn in Cotelin’s games as the others are in Ashen’s.”

Even though the Dark Prophet had not stated who he referred to, it did not take a starship engineer to realise that Xanos was speaking of Macron and the others now following their alleged ‘guide’ under the valley into the ancient abandoned catacombs beneath the battlefield.

Xanos glanced over his shoulder back at Shi Long.

“If you wish to follow her then come with me,” the Falleen said, before he started off in exactly the opposite direction to the one that Xia Long and the Taldrya had disappeared.


[B]Aquifer Caverns

The harsh light of Macron’s saber lit up the darkness, and revealed the beast that had been tracking the small group. Teeth bared, the hssiss stalked out of the shadows menacingly, spiked tail waving back and forth as it advanced. It appeared fearless- the harsh landscape of Korriban bred all weakness out of the species that inhabited it, and the hssiss was used to fighting for its food.

Macron chuckled, the sound robotic and bizarre emerging from the grille of his helmet.

“I’ve always wanted one of you,” he muttered, keeping his blade levelled at the advancing beast. “You’ll make a fascinating specimen-”

Mid-sentence, the hssiss lunged at the Alchemist, teeth bared and claws raised to rake at his armour. In the same instant, Manji and Daedric felt another sudden burst of danger through the Force and wheeled round to see a second hssiss sprinting towards them, out of the subterranean gloom.

“Of course,” Manji shouted as he drew both his sabers, twin flashes of silver light illuminating the cavern. “They hunt in pairs!”

The hssiss shrieked horribly as it fell upon them, its body smashing into Connor as he tried to get out of the way. The rogue was hurled to the ground, but had the presence of mind to roll between two large rocks and away from the battle- he’d leave the fighting to the maniacs who enjoyed it.

The second hssiss lunged at Manji with a sibilant roar, seeking to rake him with its terrible, curving claws. However, the Pontifex wouldn’t go down that easily, drawing on the Dark Side as he ducked underneath the strike and threw a blast of telekinetic force into the hssiss’ stomach that knocked it onto its back. As it struggled to right itself, two silver blades scythed downwards and sliced its head off cleanly. The hssis’ tail quivered in shock for a brief moment, then thumped lifelessly to the floor.

Meanwhile, Macron was slowly circling the other hssiss, his armour showing several claw marks where the creature had attempted to scratch him- his battleplate had repelled much of the damage, and application of the Force to harden his skin like Mandalorian iron had provided an extra layer of defence where necessary. As much as Macron wanted to take the hssiss alive, and had been toying with it for that purpose, he was beginning to realise that the creature would be too much trouble.

“Dissection instead of vivisection, then,” the Alchemist sighed. With one swift motion, as the hssiss charged aggressively at him again, he rammed the tip of his blade into the creatures throat and shoved until the length of his saber was embedded in flesh. The hssiss’ roar had become a strangled gurgle before Macron yanked his blade out and turned away without a second thought, ignoring the body that thumped to the ground behind him.

As Connor crouched behind the rocks, planning out his next move, he felt a hand grasp the back of his jacket. His feet scrabbled against the floor as Daedric hauled him upright, a look of disgust painted across his face. Connor smiled disarmingly (or so he thought) at Macron and Manji as they stood before him, sabers still drawn and ignited.

“Get moving, Grey,” Manji snarled. “There will be more of those things, and next time you won’t be able to cower behind the rocks.”

“Of course, my lord Dokugan,” Connor smirked, secretly overjoyed that the Sadowans were following him so readily. “The tomb isn’t far now…”


Connor, Daedric and the others scrambled forward as quickly as they could through the darkness of the chamber. The relic hunter led the way, trying his best to make his directions seem recited by rote; they were after a fashion, as he’d perused the documents he’d gotten in Dreshdae. His benefactor - rich and unforgiving beyond compare - was waiting for Connor to deliver them, and his run-in with the Sadowans had delayed him from his task. However, the rogue didn’t see it as bad fortune; after all, if he could give up the documents and the tablets, he was sure the reward coming his way would smooth the edge of any punishment he’d receive. And he always - always - completed an assignment. It was just too bad that Daedric contacted him afterwards, and the Knight’s pockets were nowhere as deep as His.

Connor counted on the Sadowans whole group to help him through this. He hadn’t counted on their forces being halved - the whims of a woman! - but after seeing what Macron and Manji were capable of, he’d begun to regain some of his intestinal fortitude. He just might make it out of this alive, yet. Adding to that, he recalled a short exchange between Manji and Shi just before they split up.

‘I dunno,’ he recalled Manji growling. 'We shouldn’t separate; we need to be at full strength. This whole thing crawls…and I don’t like going in blind.’ Manji had reflexively adjusted the tsuba covering his eye, and as Connor saw Shi walk towards the Keibatsu, he thought, as the others probably did, that the Long was going to take yet another opportunity to needle the Pontifex.

Surprisingly, Shi did not take the bait. There was a different way about the Korun, and he moved as if possessed. ‘Keibatsu,’ Shi began, the name sounding both familiar and foreign in his mouth to those in the know,‘I realize there have been many things that have changed between us, but one thing remains: as you are committed to not failing Ashen, I will not fail you. Get the tablets. I will be there. The way will be opened to you.’

Shi had offered his hand at that moment, and tense heartbeats passed while Connor and the rest of the remaining group awaited Manji’s response with baited breath. The success of the mission, they all sensed, hinged on this pivotal moment. Manji looked at the hand, then at Shi. Just then, the Long flashed a brilliant smile: ‘besides, I can’t let you die: no one gets to kill you but me.’

With that, Manji returned the smile, hefting his well-worn hilts confidently. The warriors within the pair came to an accord, evidence of a bond spanning the gulf of death itself in blood, shared and shed. *‘You’re welcome to try…*cousin.’ Keibatsu clasped Long at the forearm, the soldier’s clutch sealing the deal, present and future.

Now, with the hssiss behind and even in the face of untold dangers ahead, Connor’s confidence was renewed. If Shi and the Falleen where anywhere near as bloodthirsty as these two, he’d be out and home in time for brunch with a newly ‘acquired’ concubine to warm his bed. “This way,” he said, leading the group deeper inside.


Loyalist camp
Valley of the Dark Lords

He had been betrayed.

Ever since the days of the Rakatan Empire had the bloodied red sands of Korriban been forever cursed. Whether it be the betrayal of King Adas to those same Rakatan lords who had once enslaved this world, or the countless betrayals of one Dark Lord of the Sith to another, the Grand Master currently held out his hand, a handful of those same seeds of betrayal clutched in his palm.

“You knew this,” Darth Ashen said aloud, his voice… little more than a haunting whisper.

Behind him, his former mentor remained silent and simply watched the Grand Master when the man clutched his hand, and the red sands of betrayal clenched in his palm slowly trickled back out between his fingers, falling back down onto the accursed soil.

“Moraband will forever be a cursed world, my lord,” Trevarus replied, citing not the name of the world given to it by the Sith, by the much older name still used only by the few. “This you already knew.”

That much was certainly true.

The Grand Master himself had already foreseen that one of them would betray him - that was why he had already taken steps. He had endured treachery and deception for the past six years. No one else had survived this long on the Iron Throne and made it this far. He had grown more powerful than any of them - and the Rite of Immortality would be the culmination of all that he had accomplished.

Darth Pravus, Michael Halcyon, and now… no matter. None of them would stand in his way of his goal.

He would fulfill what the man behind him had foreseen more than twenty years ago.

The Final Way would be culminated and a new age begun.

“I trust the last Pontifex completed the ritual,” the Grand Master said, putting aside the latest betrayal.

The Oracle bowed his head and nodded. “The Arconan will unlock the tomb, yes,” Trevarus replied.

“Then instruct him to make haste,” Lord Ashen said as another explosion roared in the sky above them, the wreckage hurtling onto the Valley of the Dark Lords.

“I will see that the Final Way is brought to pass,” Trevarus answered, and turned to head back into the Grand Master’s camp to find the remaining two aspirants for the Krath High Priesthood.

The Grand Master’s eyes fell down toward the inferno engulfing the base of the valley, watched by the towering statues of the Dark Lords of antiquity, as if Ragnos, Hord and Bane were all watching to see if the latest in their ancient line would finally succeed where every Dark Lord throughout history had failed.

“My plans will not be undone so easily.”

He opened his fist and threw the remaining sand in his hand back onto the floor. Like the sand, his enemies would soon learn that they too could just as easily be discarded.

Outside the Tomb of Marka Ragnos
Valley of the Dark Lords

The Valley of the Dark Lords was on fire.

The flaming transport had collided straight into one of the towering statues of Marka Ragnos that loomed over the hillside down at the valley floor. The ship had exploded, detonating - not from the impact alone, but from the inside out, in what could have only been an act of sabotage… or suicide. Flaming, molten hot chunks of liquid metal had rained over the armies warring at the footsteps of the towering statues of the ancient Dark Lords, the largest chunks of wreckage slamming down onto the desert floor, tearing entirely new valleys into the main floor of the existing valley itself.

But that had only been the start.

Marka Ragnos himself had descended on the battlefield - his mighty visage crashing from the walls of the Valley of the Dark Lords, as the face of the ancient Dark Lord of the Sith toppled over, his statue breaking in half as his torso crashed to the earth, clattering down the hillside, indiscriminately crushing countless soldiers - from all three armies - beneath its cyclopean bulk.

Dantella herself had barely managed to roll out of the way as Ragnos’s face roared down the giant steps that led up to the entrance to his tomb that had been sealed for so long. The Umbaran woman limped as she reached up from the dirt, clasping at the nearest object in range for support - it felt like a helmet, but the rest of the body was no longer attached to the helmet - and she pulled herself, stiffly, back onto her feet.

Arrgggh,” the woman hissed, cursing as well in her native tongue.

She staggered, nearly stumbling back onto the ground again. Her knee had been injured, and she could no longer support her weight fully - but at least she was alive! That was a far sight better than the dozens that lay at the foot of the tomb’s steps, their collective groans of pain and cries for help now dominating the area. For the most part, the fighting had calmed - at least here.

Elsewhere, of course, she could still hear the distant claps of gunfire and crackle of laser swords, but at least for the moment, right now at the Tomb of Marka Ragnos she was… safe. Dantella looked around at the largest chunk of wreckage that had made its way to the surface, seeing the glowing outline of the seal of Clan Taldryan still emblazoned on its surface. The Rebels.

Cotelin,” the Umbaran hissed.

This had been no accident.

Nearby, she made out another whimper, almost sobbing. She turned - making sure not to move too quickly, her legs still needed time to recover - and made out the bloodied visage of a middle-aged Zabrak, three of its cranial horns broken off, blood running down its black and bruised cheeks.

“D…Dantel… is tha… is that you?”

The Zabrak tried to raise an arm to wipe the blood out of his eyes, but let out a scream. His arm was broken. Dantella studied the wounded figure, her eyes taking in the insignia on its body armour. He was from Clan Plagueis. One of the men that had been fighting to defend the Tomb of Marka Ragnos.

“I won’t bother asking if you can move,” Dantella replied coldly.

The forces from Clan Plagueis had been formally assigned to her command… but she no longer cared. Esoteric would regret having sent her to this world. Like Zoraan and Darth Ashen, Esoteric had used her, underestimated her, like a fool: trusted her. But no longer. The entrance to the tomb waited for her. She had already ripped the knowledge from the mind of that man back in Dreshdae, even if that fool relic hunter had never realised what the attractive Umbaran had really been talking to him about.

“It will be mine,” Dantella whispered to herself. “It will all be mine.” She would finish what Zoraan had started. The secrets of the Rite of Immortality that had been written on those Obelisk ruins back in the Phare System, it would be hers - there was nothing neither Ashen nor Esoteric could do to stop her.

The Plagueian nearby let out another groan. The Umbaran staggered over to him.

The Zabrak looked back up at her, his pain etched on his face. He needed urgent medical attention.

“Mis…Mistress… help me.”

Dantella winced a little as she knelt down over the Plagueian warrior, and smiled sweetly at him; the Zabrak’s face eased slightly, feeling relieved to be back among allies - and safe, as Dantella reached under her now tattered Shadowcloak to find something… However, it had not been with the sweetness of a precious rose that she had smiled, but rather the toxic bloom of poison ivy. The Umbaran pulled an object from her waist - a dagger! - and the Zabrak’s eyes went wide, but before he could even elicit a surprise gasp of alarm she had driven the blade underneath his jaw and up into his throat, ending him.

The Plagueian’s blood flowed down his neck and fell onto the red sands of Korriban as Dantella shrugged her ruined Shadowcloak off her shoulders and pulled off the Zabrak’s to replace it.

No longer would she be anyone’s servant. Now, all of them, would learn that they existed to serve her.


Rebel Camp

He had betrayed them.

Had they ever expected anything else? Xia Long observed the distant starlights glittering in the sky. Two Taldryanites stood a short distance away in order to protect her - and probably also to watch her. Her sight lowered again to her hands. She had always believed that Elders would be the downfall of the Dark Brotherhood… and now… now was she herself not one of them? Furthermore, she recognised that with power also came possibilities. Possibilities that she could seize and shape with her will.

But all too easily could such power lead to corruption…

From all the paths open to him, Grand Master Muz Ashen had chosen the path to immortality and now aspired to achieve this with all of his power. All the senseless bloodshed, the loss of so much knowledge, all just to make himself godlike. She curled her lip in disgust. He must already had felt like a god - a god among insects, whose lives only existed to serve his purpose.

However what about Jac Cotelin? She had served under him as Seneschal, but was that enough to trust him? No, trust was the wrong word. Either she walked away and resigned herself and the fate of the Dark Brotherhood to the capriciousness of Muz Ashen… or…

She clenched her hand into a fist. No. This was the only way. She whispered: “I hope you understand… Brother.”

“Miss Long…?” One of the guards approached her cautiously. “Grand Master Cotelin is ready to speak with you.” She drew a deep breath, the cool, night air filling her lungs, and nodded.


Inside a tent, a hologram of Jac Cotelin flickered into life before her. For a moment she studied his face; gone was the youthful visage she remembered from her days on the Dark Council. Deep lines and wrinkles now dug in around his eyes and his stature was no longer as muscular or athletic as in the past. Even for a Grand Master it was impossible to stop the ravages of age and growing old. But this did not lessen Cotelin’s appearance, which remained just as imposing, just as… grand as it always had been.

Suddenly she remembered her etiquette and knelt down. Lord Cotelin looked at the woman before him solemnly. “It has been a long time,” he began. Her eyes watched him carefully, taking in every slight movement, the way he spoke, his posture… her strong empathy trying to read every small detail.

“Indeed… Jac.” It was daring not to address him by his proper title, but she wanted him to believe that she was a friend. “This is a difficult time for the Dark Brotherhood.” Her face tensed slightly and she held her breath, hoping that she had not overstepped her bounds.

For several moments, Jac gave no answer. In this war, placing trust in the wrong person risked bringing ruin to all - and just by being there, Xia had demonstrated that her trustworthiness was questionable.

“Indeed,” Jac said finally. Xia relaxed a little. “Tell me your concerns, Miss Long."

Xia stood up again and paced back and forth in front of the hologram. “You know what this is about, Jac. We both know it.” She stopped and fixed her eyes on Jac. “But I have the knowledge that will prevent Muz Ashen getting ahold of the Tablets of Immortality.” She lowered her voice, it becoming almost a whisper, pleading: “He must be stopped. Antei lies in ruins. All the people having lost their lives. The libraries are destroyed. All the knowledge of the Dark Hall lost. All our years of work… for nothing.”

She clenched her fists in anger and indignation. “He… he has used us. And for what? Sold for a fleeting scrap of eternity! And the only thing the tablets will manage is to create a monster - not a god. He has to be stopped.”

Cotelin didn’t reply right away; with a flick of his hand he dismissed the guards. This was meant for only their ears. After both were alone, the Grand Master slowly shook his head. “If I could have - I would have stopped him earlier.”

In silence Xia listened to him, she was still troubled at what had happened.

Jac continued, hesitating slightly: “My visions… these past years they had been blocked.”

Xia’s eyes widened slightly at this statement. “But … by whom?”

Now Jac’s hologram began to walk up and down also. “For a long time, I suspected Esoteric, and now… after these events - can you not guess?”

Xia felt her blood drain from her face. “This… this is… for so many years?” Her mind raced, and then a monstrous chain of thoughts shot through her head. What if also her own Master, what if Xanos had also… and just at that moment, she felt the searing anger of her Master about the revelation of the truth behind his own blocked visions. Their mental link was too strong to keep something like this a secret from him. But she didn’t mind sharing this information with him. It answered everything.

Cotelin nodded. “The entire existence of the Dark Brotherhood teeters on a knife’s edge.” He paused, and looked away for a moment. “And I do not know how to prevent this fate.”

Xia straightened herself and took a step forward. “But I do.” She let her words sink in. “Because I know of the location of the tablets. And I am the key to open the gates.” She didn’t mention the other pontifices, in case Lord Cotelin had his own sinister plans; but this way, he still needed her alive.

Finally, the hologram’s facial expression changed - and the smile on his face made him look more like a cheerful child than a Dark Lord of the Sith. It was an expression Xia had not seen for years.

Her lips returned his smile.

En route to the Tomb of Marka Ragnos
Valley of the Dark Lords

Shortly after her conversation with Lord Cotelin was complete, Xia Long was back on her way to the tomb, now with a group of Taldryan’s chosen as her escorts, each one having been personally hand picked by Jac Cotelin for their unquestionable loyalty. She had revealed the location of Macron’s group beneath the tomb, but not of Muz Ashen’s camp itself. A direct attack on the current leader of the Dark Jedi Brotherhood would be pointless in any kind of way and would only mean more bloodshed.

The speeder bikes of the group would take them quickly to their destination.

And hopefully it wouldn’t mean their doom - because the fate of everything depended on them.


Aquifer Caverns

The group continued to trek through the cave, set on reaching their destination in time. Connor led the way followed closely by Daedric. Daedric had a bad feeling about him, but could not figure out exactly what. Manji and Macron followed closely behind the newly christened Knight and the relic hunter, constantly watching their back. Suddenly - everything shook. Small rocks began to fall from the ceiling and dust began to fill the air.

“What the hell was that?” Connor questioned, fear evident in his voice. He quickly reached for another cigarette, but failed to light it as Daedric swiped it from his hand again. The cave shook again, this time sending the group to their knees.

“Something huge just happened on this surface,” the Madman stated with a distorted voice.

“Should I try and reach Command on the comms, Marshal Commander?” Daedric asked as he turned around to face Macron, brushing dust from his face in an attempt to get a better view of the Alchemist.

“No. We can’t risk the chance of the Rebels or Esoteric intercepting the transmission.” Macron stated as he approached Daedric, lifting the metal visor that was hiding his face.

“We have to be close,” Manji stated looking at his holo-map. Connor gave a slight nod in agreement.

“From my estimates, we are directly below the temple entrance. What ever happened top side, well, it must have been huge.” Daedric watched as Manji put away his map. He didn’t know much about Manji, and quite honestly it seemed that was the way that Manji wanted it. Secretive. Daedric couldn’t tell if he wanted to know more or not as he could see that the man standing before him had been through a lot.

“Mmm, let them get through. My blade thirsts for blood.” Macron stated as he chuckled to himself, making it known that he was patting the hilt of his blade. Daedric knew all too well how Macron was in battle. The reports from Tarthos were clear as to what he had done. Vicious. Smart. A sense of pride began to swell in Daedric. Darth Ashen, the Grand Master of the Brotherhood who he held so close to him, was the Lion of Tarthos. A Sadow. Failure was not an option. Daedric not only had to prove his worth to his Summit, but to the Lion.

The sad fact was Daedric couldn’t help to feel that he was acting nothing more than a baby sitter for Connor. Why was he the one who had to find this guy? A lower Journeyman couldn’t babysit this guy? Even with the events that happened he ended up serving with powerful individuals. Hell, even Darth Vexatus himself. The Master of his Master’s Master. It was an honor truly. Nevertheless, Daedric had his orders and knew what he had to do. Get this group to the Tablets of Immortality, and make sure Connor stayed alive.

At least until they reached their destination.

“We are almost there. We should be directly under the chamber where the tablets are held in about two minutes,” Connor announced, snapping Daedric out of his self-induced inner monologue. Daedric quickly caught up to the side of Connor and checked his map to make sure the sly relic hunter wasn’t misleading the group. With a nod of approval from Daedric, Connor continued on.

It was about time. It felt as if they had been traveling in the bleak, depressing and awful smelling tunnel for hours. Daedric began to wonder what the tablets looked like. Stone sketched markings? Surely not. Could he gain power from these ancient artifacts? Stop. He couldn’t think of things like this. Korriban was a strange place and it had a strong, lustful pull of the Dark Side. Darth Ashen, Lion of Tarthos required these relics. He could not fail him, or the Clan.

“We’re here,” Connor stated as he began to assess the roof of the cave. Daedric felt a surge of energy, and quickly turned to face Macron.

“What is that?” Daedric questioned, he had never felt this before.

“Someone is coming,” Macron stated, his visor slamming back down into the lower locked position. His blade quickly lifted off his belt and flew into his hand.

“Two of them,” Manji added, reaching for his blade.


Under the Tomb of Marka Ragnos
Aquifer Caverns

“Let’s move up into the Tomb proper. It’s a more defensible position, and the enemy will lose any range advantage in the close confines.” Daedric looked confident as he holstered his saber. Small-scale tactics was something he grasped thoroughly. “Too bad I don’t have a satchel charge. That should be easy for you, right Proconsul?”

“Easy? No. You think far too much of my knowledge of the Force. Everyone has their limits Daedric. Even so, I think I can carve us an entrance. Just a sec.” Macron regarded the ceiling above carefully with his one yellow and one squalid eye, looking for flaws within the stone. He raised his hands, and concentrated with a grunt. He lowered both hands abruptly like a symphonic conductor of destruction, throwing an imaginary telekinetic aria to the floor with a shout. A few meters of the already-damaged stone above were torn loose by the Force and fell into the floor of the cavern with resounding splashes and the thunder of grinding stones. “There.”

“No need for stealth now. I imagine that explosion from up top that we felt earlier caved the back tunnels in,” said Manji quickly. “They’ll be right behind us. Let’s get up there fast.” He placed one lightsaber hilt clenched in his teeth, causing his good eye to squint as the other one was re-slung on his belt.

“How’s that going to happen?” quipped Connor as he tried to hide the gleam of pure greed in his beady eyes. “I mean, er, yeah we should probably get up there quickly.” He could hardly wait. They were almost inside, and the avarice was eating at his soul. “Gorram I need a karking smoke.” The artifact hunter eyed Daedric. “Ole iron-fist here won’t go for it though.”

“Now’s not the time, Connor. I can get us up there,” replied Daedric as he uncoiled a rope and climbing harness from his rucksack. “We should probably save our Force abilities for the fight.” He threw a coil of rope and a powered grappling hook up into the hole, the 5 meter distance being an easy toss. The soldier climbed it easily. Mountaineering was a required curriculum for Black Guardsmen. “Come on up!” The other three followed, each scrambling up the rope with as much alacrity as they could muster. Macron came last, his armor and gear being heavier than the others.

This scene before them was a vista that no living eye had seen in thousands of years. The architecture was hauntingly familiar. The stone was not the red limestone from below, rather well dressed blocks of black basalt hewn from quarries elsewhere on Korriban. Arches in triangular and trapezoidal sweeps supported the buttressed roof of the antechamber. Red gems in the wall glinted faintly in the light from the party’s illuminator devices. Sith scripts were incised into almost every surface, their harsh scrawling lines seeming to almost creep along the flagstones when not looked at directly. The entire place had a sense of age, and the cold presence of the Dark Side clung to everything inside.

Connor shuddered as he pried a few ruddy gems loose with a boot-knife and stuck them in a belt-pouch. “Personally, I’m glad Ragnos’ shade is gone from this place. Place still gives me the creeps. Anyone mind if I requisition these?”

“I don’t give a damn honestly. Help yourself. Pshew,” Macron commented as he pulled the rope up. “Now I see where Caerick got his ideas for Sadow Palace from. Still, it pales in comparison to the real thing. I bet the actual sanctum is completely fracking over-the-top. Too bad the Disciples of Ragnos never found this level. Not even Tavion and her cultists penetrated this deeply into Ragnos’s tomb.”

“We’ll find out soon enough. Ready yourselves,” urged the Kyataran warrior as the tomb raiders moved away from the hole to the cavern below. Manji turned to face the gaping hole behind them. “They’re here. Connor, make yourself scarce until we deal with them.” The former Jedi nodded, all too eager to resume looting the gems from the walls as he hid in a nearby alcove. Lightsaber battles were not his thing anyhow. Theft was, however.

Two robed figures levitated slowly up from the narrow opening into the cavern below. One was a short woman, her face and hands crisped and scarred heavily. The other was a tall, imposing figure in heavy sigil-encrusted vestments. Macron recognised the large figure from back at the Grand Master’s camp as the Arconan who dreamed of being the next Krath High Priest. The man spoke first as his companion circled to face Daedric and Manji. “You!” His face twisted into a snarl beneath his hood. “The despoiler of the dead,” the Pontifex shouted as he pointed at the chuckling madman. “I, Rozius, will teach you some respect!” The Dark Side coalesced around him as he began to weave illusion and fear into his aura.

“I sincerely doubt that, dungheap,” giggled Macron by way of reply as he drew and ignited his tangerine-colored lightsaber in a guard position. “I’m going to enjoy using your friend’s ashes as toilet decorations. You bastards better have brought your frackin’ A game. You’re going to need it. ” The Elder glanced quickly at Daedric and Manji as the two ignited their blades. “You got that crazy bitch?’

“Yeah. Watch out for the illusions.” Manji drew his second blade, gripping both of his weapons loosely. The Krath turned his body slightly to the side with a rustle of his jinbaori overcoat. “Looks like you’ve seen better days, woman,” he quipped sarcastically. “You’ve got something on your face.” He shrugged his arms out of the overcoat so it would not restrict his movements. “You look rode hard and put up wet.”

The Pontifex hissed in anger. “You’ll never be as powerful as your brother… that must sting. I am Lady Aleztra. I forsook my own Clan. I walked away from Lord Cotelin. You think I’ll let some insignificant insect like you stand in the way of me and the Tablets of Immortality?" The scarred woman prepared herself for the coming conflict as Rozius moved to the side so they could not be targeted simultaneously with area effect powers or weapons.

Manj Keibatsu Sadow was all business as the power-mad Aleztra moved to face them. “Daedric, we’ll flank her and cut her down. Watch yourself. Don’t look her in the eyes.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” hissed the smaller Taldryan woman as she gestured at Daedric. Her Force-imbued voice purred softly. “You don’t want to fight me….” The Krath smiled fetchingly although with her hideously burned face the result was anything but beautiful. Nonetheless, with her superior Force powers she pressed the image of her former beauty into Daedric’s mind.
Daedric struggled with the Force compulsion. “You want to help me get the tablets.”

“I… I…” Daedric’s eyes dilated as the woman’s will invaded his mind. The Knight’s grip on his lightsaber loosened as he shut it down. “I… want… to…”

“Pull yourself together kid!” Manji yelled as he stepped in to strike at Aleztra, disrupting her concentration as she barely managed to sidestep the stroke of one of his argent blades. “Shake it off!”

Across the chamber Rozius drove the full power of his skill in illusion and fear at the Sith Juggernaut that was stomping angrily towards him. He was confident in his abilities, and it showed. He fully expected the Sadowan to drop to his knees in abject terror.The Pontifex smirked arrogantly. “These Sith almost never study the perceptive arts like a Krath,” he thought to himself. Unfortunately for him, he was dead wrong in this case.

The Alchemist hesitated. Images of squirming vermin raced across his inner vision, causing him to shudder involuntarily. “AAAGH! I HATE BUGS!” Macron screamed as the rage-rush hit him like an addict’s favorite drug. His body accelerated seamlessly to flank speed as he charged his target directly. The Elder was made of sterner stuff. His senses were now keen with the power of the Dark Side, and Rozius’ sorcery had failed to stop him. “DIE!!!” screamed the Adept as he attacked viciously.



The grinding hum of clashing sabers jolted Daedric out of his stupor as Aleztra ignited her own blade to parry away another of Manji’s whirling strikes. Harried by the Sadowan, who had launched himself at her like a raging wampa, she was unable to maintain her grip on Daedric’s mind. The Knight felt a snarl rising from his throat as he re-ignited his weapon and charged forwards to lend his might to the Keibatsu.

Aleztra moved like few other warriors Manji had fought before- he favoured the more martial side of the Force, and was comfortable in that arena. The Pontifex before him, however, used her saber sparingly and seemingly as a last resort- evasion, misdirection and the careful application of the Force to deflect his attacks were her forte. As he ripped his main-hand saber round in an arcing slash aimed at the Taldryanite’s jugular she lashed out with a precise telekinetic strike that smacked against his wrist, knocking the blow off-target, before aiming her own strike at his exposed midriff.

With a roar of fury, the Keibatsu channeled the Dark Side through his limbs and brought his off-hand saber up just in time to smash her attack away, the impact of the block sending Aleztra staggering backwards.

“You fight like a coward!” the Keibatsu barked, spinning his blades around his body almost without thought before levelling them at Aleztra once again. “But then, what else would I expect from a filthy [I]ronin[/I]? A traitor?”

The unsettling smile crept across Aleztra’s face once again as she slowly moved to her left, watching both Manji and the approaching Daedric. Her voice dripped with venomous honey, still audible over Macron’s roars and the sounds of combat between him and Rozius.

“And you fight like a fool, [I]Keibatsu[/I],” she hissed, the Force imbuing her words with dread meaning. “Your… [I]brother[/I] cares nothing for you. He has cut his ties to your wretched family. He would not even care if Kyataru [B]burned-[/B]”

Manji’s scream of fury was wordless and visceral, rising up from his gut as he surged forwards, seeking to deny her words with his blades. The doubt and fear that had filled his mind ever since landing on this godforsaken world rose to the surface, a chorus of internal voices telling him that she was right. Daedric followed his charge with alacrity, his own crimson blade held high.

Aleztra’s smile twisted into a snarl as she wove together tendrils of the Force, battling for her life against the onslaught. Daedric’s blade slashed through a wispy, illusory vision of the Pontifex even as Manji’s blades smashed against a Force-crafted barrier that shattered under the force of the blow. Aleztra moved back across the cracked flagstones almost methodically, seeking an opening to slip her blade through one of the Sadowan’s guards, but she had underestimated their combined strength and the power of Manji’s rage. Hurling himself upon her like a ravening beast, the Keibatsu battered at Aleztra’s defences until she was driven down onto one knee, her saber held before her in one hand as a last defence.


The sizzle and pungent stink of cauterised flesh filled the chamber as Daedric ripped his scarlet blade through Aleztra’s wrist, lopping it off cleanly and sending her lightsaber flying through the air, de-activating as it clanked against the flagstones. Before the Pontifex could even scream in pain, Manji thrust his face into hers, teeth bared and breathing through his nostrils like a winded bull as he fought against the fatigue that was seeping through his body.

“I will piss on your grave,” the Keibatsu growled, his eye bloodshot and manic. Aleztra managed a shaky sneer of her own, her remaining hand clutching the sizzling stump.

“Nobody will piss on yours, worm,” she snarled, reaching up with her good hand to grab hold of Manji’s face, the last of her power invading his body like a disease. The Keibatsu cried out as he felt the alien sensation coursing through his body, hurling the Pontifex backwards as he broke contact. As she turned her face back towards him, two silver blades carved down through the air in a v-shaped pattern and embedded themselves in her head, Manji’s limbs twitching as he buried his blades in her skull. Aleztra’s features slowly disintegrated from the intense heat of the saber blades and she collapsed to the floor almost peacefully, her life extinguished without pity or mercy.


Outside Tomb of Marka Ragnos

Bronzed warrior and ashen Prophet picked their way through the canyon of fire, newly made by the scuttled Taldryan starship. The Korribani soil seemed newly tilled by some celestial plow, but instead of seed the ground sported new growth of warped, twisted metal, secondary explosions and the burning corpses of the three armies’ soldiers. Shi led the way, the reasoning why they’d gone the opposite way unclear to him even now, but he’d traveled with Xanos long enough to know that all would be revealed, eventually. The pair cut across the length of the giant trough, making their way up one of the more gentle grades on the other side towards a small plateau that ran all the way to the tomb’s main entrance.

Shi crested the rise and helped the Falleen the rest of the way, a strong hand wrapped around a dessicated arm. They’d traveled in relative silence until the Primarch finally broke it, his impatience getting the better of him. “Where is she,” he demanded more than inquired. Xanos stiffened, his gaze locked on the tomb’s entrance a short way off the only answer the Falleen would offer, and all Shi would need.

Xia Long, accompanied by twelve Taldryan speederbikers suddenly appeared out of the night. The distance brought no sound, but the Sadowans could see that Xia was directing her escort; some erected portable lumens that threw up feeble beams of light onto the facade of the tomb’s door, others took up a light defensive position, assured of victory, and the message to the Sadowans, clear.

“She means to culminate the ritual.” Xanos’ voice was flat, but this time, it was his own fists’ turn to clench. A pallid hand squeezed; a nearby boulder cracked instantly, the sound resounding like a gunshot indicative of his rage. Shi couldn’t help but beam broadly; at last, his time had come.

“Not happening.” Xanos’ gaze broke at the sound of the Long’s voice, and he craned his head infinitesimally at the sound. “What do you need?” asked the Prophet. So incensed, his spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak. Shi had turned his attention back towards the group with Xia; most had heard the report of the boulder’s rendering, and strained to peer through the thick smoke, dust and darkness to find the source.

Shi took a deep breath. “Oh, I can get to her, no question…but, if you happen to have a battalion stashed in that staff of yours, it would help. Some.” His request was tongue-in-cheek, but he knew the seriousness of the situation, and as much as he relished a good scrap, he had no wish to die under the banner of another. Not here.

Shi barely felt the Falleen touch his shoulder, but his companion’s words were clear as a bell: “And you shall have one.”

With that, Shi Long started towards the group. Slowly at first, then with increasing speed he closed the distance, allowing Korriban to pervade him just as much as the Dark Side did the planet itself. He felt the rough, pebble-strewn sands give beneath his boots. The cold wind lashed at the skin not covered in bandages, tearing at his eyes and electrifying his remaining senses. At last, he snatched his lightsaber from his belt; to him, it seemed to beg for release as the rough wrapping on the hilt made his palm sing.

“Now,” began the last thing resembling human speech that he would utter for the next few moments, “let’s burn ‘em all…Nenshogeru.” At the mention of its name, Shi’s weapon birthed a ragged blade the color of sunset shimmering on the horizon, a star raging against the coming of night.

Meanwhile, Xanos employed the natural advantage of his species and every unnatural skill with the Dark Side his lives had given him, and the evening breeze had carried his pheromones downwind to the awaiting group. One after another fell in rapid succession to the Prophet’s glamour, his illusion taking a firm root in their weary minds; instead of the lone Shi, they’d beheld a Sadowan death-squad, numerous and fierce, suddenly bearing down upon them. Their voices rose in a dissonant chorus of alarm, and they braced, wincing against a mighty impact…that never came. The singular Apostate crashed into the group with abandon, a hymn of violence his soundtrack. The score was composed of screams, barking blasters, igniting lightsabers and above it all, pure in its expression of pure enjoyment, was Shi’s throaty laughter. The speederbikers’ surprise was total, and Shi’s advantage, absolute.

With the Force, it was said that remarkable feats were possible, especially when wielded by the immeasurably skilled. The same was true in the hands of the extremely lucky: drunks, children and the ignorant few in between. A comparably curious dichotomy, so too was Shi: dead, yet reborn. Unfamiliar, yet known; immovable, and irresistible.

He pressed ever forward, his blade cutting swaths through his enemy; those missed by the ‘saber were put down by foot and fist, alike. So-called duelists were rebuffed, unprepared for the ferocity of Shi’s strikes. The Stone Dragon undulated amongst the spectral warriors conjured by the Prophet. An artful evasion of a blaster bolt smoothly blended into his gutting the gunman’s compatriot opposite him; Shi grabbed the blaster-hand of the corpse, spinning and firing a bolt back into the first Taldryanite’s chest. Their corpses were forgotten as the Long embraced the next wave, protected by a rapidly wavering cocoon of protection woven by Xanos’ illusion, fading as the remaining Taldryanites gathered their senses. Shi welcomed each blade, eager to smash a hasty defense. He stood tall in the face of their Force-attacks, defiantly willing his own barriers to hold even as they crumbled and he fell, briefly tumbling in the dirt before rising again and again. Sublime, savage; words on flimsi at day’s end, but here, now, sentiments given life with every breath Shi took being devoted to his fury.

An engine of destruction, the Dark Side powered him, healing and rejuvenating his body even as it ravaged it for sustenance. He was consumed by the will to triumph over those who would dare stand between he and the scarlet-haired siren, now and always just beyond his reach. Three thought they’d fare better together, and so rushed the Long, roughly clutching at his arms and waist, trying to bring an end to the assault. Shi moved with their momentum, thrashing and jerking violently and throwing them free; Nenshogeru flashed twice, and they all fell under Shi’s sure, skillful swipes.

He stiffened briefly as another blaster barked, and he spun to face his attacker, teeth bared and a smoking hole in his left shoulder rendering the arm nearly useless. Now, where three had failed, the remaining four would learn. Shi would struggle mightily before falling to their combined weight. Their fists rose and fell even as Nenshogeru continued to roar…and as its master continued to laugh.

Abruptly the beating stopped and Shi staggered back to his feet while his assailants fell, their hooked fingers failing to claw the specter of roiling violet fire - courtesy of Xanos’ Dark Side mastery - away from their faces. Shi himself saw glimpses of the purple tongues, but upon seeing the shadow of Xanos fall upon them and feeling no heat, he rose once more, shaking his head to clear it of the cobwebs spun of beating and Force-Trickery. The Taldryanites, their minds momentarily made clay shaped by the Prophet’s will, ceased their thrashing when Xanos moved past the scrum, his attentions now dedicated to Xia; a bloodied and exhausted Shi replaced the shadow, his very real blade bringing an inglorious end to their ambitions


Tomb of Marka Ragnos

In milliseconds, an eternity passed.

Rozius was taken aback. Normally his Krath sorcery would melt a subject’s mind, make him or her subject to his own will. Aside from a strong presence in the Force, this Sith he faced had a strange mind. Each time his fear abilities penetrated the enemy’s intellect he found a different personality facet. One ran screaming in terror of insects, only to be replaced by another that did not. Another fell to the ground whimpering as images of a family he had never had floated tantalizingly around him. And still, there were more personae.

His trickery had found purchase on his foe’s insecurities, but had failed to sink its fangs in deeply. The mind-poison did not take. This man’s psyche was already deeply fragmented, and he had mastered his fear. Additionally, the Force bolstered his enemy’s senses enough to tell the real from the unreal. Either way, it did not matter to one who was used to all manner of phantasmagorical hallucinations on a daily basis.

Still, the Juggernaut came.

The Pontifex became concerned. With a wave of his hand, a solid wall of Force energy erected itself in front of him. Assured his foe would be stopped, Rozius armed himself with his lightsaber. The barrier was rudely shattered by a powerful explosion of invisible power. Rocks lifted into the air and dropped around them both as the potent telekinetic thrust tore down Rozius’ defense. Rozius was gifted in this manner of defense, and yet his unseen battlements had been thrown down defiantly.

Closer now.

The Pontifex began to feel fear himself. Not of the Force-generated kind, no. Rather of the personal kind that sinks deep into one’s bowels when the outcome of a battle is uncertain. The Krath was used to being in control, the master of his situation. No matter. He would rot the man’s flesh and soul with the Dark Side.


The armored red figure swung a lightsaber at Rozius with preternatural speed. A defensive swirl of the Arconan’s purple blade kept his shoulders and head attached, but the impact drove him to the side. The Pontifex was not a physical match for the Force-imbued Alchemist. As he staggered, his hand touched the madman’s side desperately and injected him with vile energy that ate at his flesh.

Rozius’ reward was a blistering coruscation of Force Lightning that snapped and sizzled as it arced across his blade and then his body. The Krath screamed as the lightning crawled across his skin. Macron staggered as the Dark Side began to corrupt his nervous system. He fell heavily onto the twitching Pontifex and dropped his lightsaber while doing so. It shut off, the orange light no longer illuminating the fight in chiaroscuro.

As his weight pressed down on the Krath, the madman thrust a spear-hand powered by the Force into Rozius’ abdomen. The serpent strike penetrated Rozius’ abdominal wall and the Sadow pulled out a handful of coiled insides. The two wrestled, loops of blue-grey bloody intestines being wound around Rozius’ neck as the lunatic pressed him down and then garotted him with his own electrified quivering guts. The Krath turned blue and gurgled as he died, unable to scream while cockroach-kicking from the Force Lightning that was channeled into him.

Macron slumped to the ground and groaned as Manji and Daedric finished off Alestra nearby. Connor had obviously seen the end of both of the Pontifexes, as evinced by the gagging sounds from his direction.

“Damn,” huffed the former Jedi as he stepped out from his alcove with pockets bulging with stolen gems. “You guys are some sick frackers.” He fished out and lit a stick of tabac, and this time Daedric said nothing. “Disgusting. Still, I’m glad to be with you or those two would have ended me. Plus, now I’m rich.” He grinned.

“Everyone okay?” asked Daedric. “I think I’m shaking it off still.” The Knight looked a bit woozy and braced himself up with a palm placed against the wall.

“I’m alright,” replied Manji. “Bit numb…. slowing me down a little.” The Kyataran took a pull from his sake bottle and wiped his lips. “Nothing I can’t handle.”

Macron gritted his teeth as he opened his helm and placed a hypospray at his neck. It hissed quietly and the chattering of his teeth stopped. “Nnnerve damaggge. I’ll … be okay.” His voice seemed to tighten up and return to some sense of normalcy as the stim kicked in. “Ahh. Karking Krath bastards. I can repair myself back on Sepros. I’m not at one hundred percent by any means, but the show must go on.”

The Elder looked down at a mess of bones that lay beside the wall that Daedric was leaning up against. “I think you’ve found the door, Daedric.” He knelt down with a grimace and examined the old weary bones. “Female, by the look of it. Bisected. There are tool-marks on the bones. Probably ritual sacrifice… and this must be her offspring. Fascinating.”

“There are more bones over here,” commented Daedric. “Slaves perhaps? Looks like they clawed the stone up trying to get out. Damn. What an awful lingering death.” He ran his hands over one of the walls. “It seems the old Sith had little regard for life.”

“They still don’t,” muttered Connor as he looked at the rag-tag group. He walked to the sealed doorway and gently blew tabac smoke across the edges of the archway. The tomb raider worked his hands over the surface where the smoke had been wafted away, and then pushed two protrusions in the carvings. Stone ground on stone as blocks of basalt that hadn’t moved in thousands of years slowly parted. “You’re not the only ones that can read old Sith,” he said with a grin around the cig-stick clenched in his teeth. “We’re in.”

The scene inside of the chamber was magnificent, even coated with the planet’s red dust of ages. Gems glimmered faintly in the light-beams produced by the party. Accents of gold, electrum, and other precious metals highlighted old Sith scripts on the walls. There were stone boxes and chests, sarcophagi of granite and basalt, and a plethora of racks meant to contain scrolls. The powder on the floor had once been those old documents, and now they had returned to dust.

In the center of the room was a skeleton covered in dust. It sat in a squatting position and held three dust covered square objects to it’s chest.

“Bingo!” said Connor as he walked to it. “That’s them!” The sound of three igniting lightsabers reminded him of his perilous situation. “I mean, heh, er, one of you should come over here and check this out.”

Manji chuckled as he shut his blade back down. “Smart man. Mac, that’s all you. We need a second opinion on that diagnosis, my Apprentice.”

“My pleasure,” replied the Elder as he examined the bones. He blew the dust off of the stone slabs and coughed. “I think that’s them. I’m sure of it. I’m going to remove them one by one, and I suggest none of us carry all three at once. If anything animates, ready yourselves.” The madman proceeded to hand a tablet to Manji, one to Daedric, and then took one himself. All four of the group looked around, expecting some new awfulness to erupt from the sarcophagi or the walls themselves.

Nothing happened, except a fleeting voice that spoke old Sith as the antediluvian bones of the tablet’s former keeper seemed to speak. “Hask Chwuq Chirikyat Asha.” With that utterance, the bones crumbled into dust.

“Anguish ember He-who-causes them to tremble in fear victory,” said Connor slowly. “Literally translated. I think that refers to the tablets?”

The group looked thoughtful. Daedric spoke first. “I wonder if it means that they are not actually used for the Rite of….”

Manji interrupted him while looking at Connor. “Shaddup kid.”


Outside the Tomb of Marka Ragnos
Valley of the Dark Lords

Still leaning on his ebon staff to support the leg he injured in the earlier blast, the Dark Prophet clambered over the burned bodies and dismembered corpses that littered the steps to the tomb. The acrid smell of smoke filled the area while fire hissed and crackled back at the base of the staircase where Shi Long remained, dispatching the last of Cotelin’s minions and any lingering Plagueians who had survived the kamikaze shuttle that had plowed into the tomb’s summit.

Shi Long had not bothered to follow the Falleen; the Korun knew that this was a betrayal not between armies but between Master and Apprentice.

The apprentice in question waited at the top of the stairs, beneath the giant arch that opened into the tomb of Marka Ragnos, as she carried on with her incantations, paying her Master no heed.

Apprentice,” Xanos called, his voice echoing off the abandoned columns that lined the small courtyard on the hillside outside the main entrance to the ancient tomb. “You forget your place.”

Dominating the neighbouring mountainside, the fallen head of the mighty colossus that had for centuries stood watch over the ancient resting place lay silent, the face of Marka Ragnos looking on as the sorceress wove her hands through the air, repeating the arcane spells and invocations that Trevarus had implanted in her back at the Grand Master’s camp- only she was not invoking the rite to unlock the gateway, but the opposite, to seal it such that none could reach its secrets.

“By the Guardians of the Watchtower of the North, the Spirits of Nonirgas, I summon the First of the Dragons, Tiamat, to call forth…” a cold gust of wind carried away the rest of her words, however the Falleen recalled them from one of the Oracle’s rituals back on Sepros, many, many years earlier, back when Grand Master Paladin had invoked the rite that sacrificed the entire Ekindu race. The sorceress slashed her left wrist with a small curved knife. Warm crimson droplets that matched the shade of her long, scarlet hair ran down her hand onto the face of the doorway.

“I cannot let you enter,” the sorceress called back as her blood flowed across the door, following the runes she had traced on its surface in defiance of the laws of gravity, as if being beckoned by some supernatural force- which of course they were. “I cannot allow it… we cannot allow it.”

The triangular patterns began to glow purple and waves of dark side energy rippled over the door’s surface, almost as if the stone had turned to clay, the ripples coinciding with the last cries of the dying as they drew their final breaths back down in the flaming gulley at the foot of the staircase.

The Matriarch of the Dragons lowered her hands. The ritual was done. The doorway sealed.

“If Cotelin believes…”

The Dark Prophet stopped mid-sentence as he studied the patterns… it was impossible…

“The Mark…” Xanos breathed. Sildrin was not a student of the Wanderer. This was a violation. Unthinkingly, his claws balled into a fist, and he reached forward in the Force. “You have not studied the Mysteries from the three mouths of Azhi Daka, nor pondered the riddles of the Seven Enigmas… you have no right to invoke his seal, the seal of the Wanderer - the First of the Marked.”

“His seal?” The woman turned around. “It’s cute how you believe the Wanderer was a man, Master.”

She stepped away from the door toward the Falleen.

“You really don’t understand,” the sorceress said sourly, her voice condescending. “Trevarus never told you the full story, did he? He only fed you myths and legends… half-truths.”

Shadows swept across the floor and up the woman’s legs, the darkness rising in a cloud that almost seemed alive, the air itself beating, its voices whispering in the wind, as if it wanted to surround her, engulf her… but the sorceress merely swept an arm in front of her and the cloud vanished as easily as if she were batting a fly away. “Your phantoms will not work on me,” Xia Long said, her expression souring at her Master’s attempt. “Our minds are too closely linked.”

The Dark Prophet for once realised the weakness that lied within his mental connection to his apprentice. Then it dawned on him. “Cotelin is not the one you serve.”

“Cotelin?” The woman snorted. “He is as much a fool as Ashen. He and the Star Chamber would see the Dark Brotherhood burn before they saw the Rite of Immortality come to pass. That… we cannot permit.” The woman’s eyes flashed briefly, a violet light shining from their deepest depths. She fixed her eyes on her Master. “Nor can we allow you to stop it.”

Xanos’s claws tightened around his staff, the wood creaking under the pressure of his grip.

Xia grabbed for her sabers. “I won’t let you reach the tablets and destroy them.”

Xanos’s free hand lowered to the unused weapon that hung at his side at the revelation of his true intentions, a relic belonging to a past life that the Dark Prophet today so rarely drew. His dark sanguine blade crackled to life with a haunting wail, the dust around its emitter sizzling from its lack of use.

“You have betrayed me, and still you keep secrets.”

“Was your Master ever any different?” Xia Long retorted.

“Trevarus led you to Lehon… but you failed because you never reached Grand Mastery.” The sorceress’s hands unclipped her own pair of purple etched lightsaber hilts. “But this time, this time the Rite of Immortality will succeed - but not for Ashen, nor for you.”

The woman’s blades snapped to life.


At first blush, he was virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the corpses strewn about the base of the tomb: bones broken, bandages soaked with blood, and his great mane of hair matted with equal parts grime, sweat and gore. But, Shi was very much alive.

Stunted movement marked his passage, and he strained to see through lidded and swollen, purple eyes as he picked his way amongst the fallen, as much a victim of the Dark Side as he was its conduit. Whether it was the obscene amounts of its eldritch flow - setting bone and repairing torn muscle - or the sheer might of his will that kept him moving, the Long was beyond caring. All that mattered was the slaking of his thirst for death. His breaths came ragged and deep through split and bloodied lips; the Taldryanites nearly gave as good as they got, but in the end, they all lie in the dust while the Dragon stalked among them, snuffing the slightest hints of life betrayed by the lowest of moans or nigh-undetectable twitches of limbs with heavy strokes of Nenshogeru. Yes, he’d prevailed, but the culling would not - could not - stop, until only he remained, and all before him were obliterated.

Presently, the ignition of weapons not unlike his own caught his attention. Fixing his eyes towards the sound, the purple blossoms around them fading as the Force continued to do its work, he made out the tall shape of the Falleen and the lithe form of his Sister, his siren. He made his way to the great steps, the Force slamming a dislocated knee back into place with a sickening pop. He climbed wearily, ever and always forward, bringing them into focus. Their lightsabers crackled and hissed, and the Dark Side was a maelstrom about them, buffeting them both without mercy.

His vision was clouded by visions both fantastic and horrible; where one would be beset by demons conjured only in the most depraved of psyches, the other would seem to be lanced with unrelenting lightning and gales the power of which could shape worlds. Much like what he’d seen on Runculo.


The recollection brought a measure of Shi’s higher-mind to the fore, allowing him to process what he’d beheld Xanos and Xia unleashing with such abandon upon one another. To Shi, the Dark Side was very real, an intimate companion that gave him both suffering and succor.

What Master and Apprentice were wielding…was not. The pebbles and dust about them did not move from their hurricanes, no claw marks scored the ancient stone where their demons passed.


Shi’s upper lip, newly healed, curled with equal parts amusement…and disdain. In that moment, he’d realized that despite their promises, both spoken and not, they were still very much a part of another’s game, another’s world. And, Shi would always be master of his own, beholden to no one.

That was why he continued towards the dueling pair, presently deciding whether to allow them to reach their private resolution…or to put them both down, ending their respective misery. The scream of shuttles passing overhead and circling the downed capital ship settled the question for him.

The pair before him, they’d gone as far as strife would carry them. They moved towards their denouement now, and there were others within the tomb who would be better suited to traveling with Shi along his path. His decision made, his voice held no ring of awe or adoration that it might’ve had in the not so distant past as he spoke. “If you two would care to hurry this along? We’ll soon have company.”


Outside the tomb, a crisis of conscious had been resolved. Inside, one was just beginning.

Connor Grey and the rest of his Sadowan escort had secured the tablets and were moving with relentless purpose towards what the relic hunter hoped against hope would be the main entrance. After all, he’d only a moment to glance over the parchments he’d barely escaped from Dantella with. He suppressed an involuntary shiver as he recalled her, but felt a surge of confidence when he remembered with whom he travelled.

The Sadowans had proved their mettle. Admittedly, they hadn’t abused him, not really. Of course they were distrustful, but by and large had treated him better than most he’d worked with - and crossed - in his shady dealings. They only required his guidance, and he delivered. Connor had needed their strength, and got it, albeit dishonestly. At every turn, their focus was only on obeying their Grand Master, and surprisingly that hadn’t meant mistreating him.

Not that they were gentle; truly, every opportunity that came for brutality, the Sadowans took. With relish. But, they protected him from being visited by that same brutality. Connor had seen Korriban swallow all manner of creatures, great and small. Those with him now helped him avoid that fate.

And, he would earnestly help the Sadowans avoid it in turn.

He stopped. Turning, he pulled the sheaf of parchment from the small of his back. “Guys,” he started, “we’re close to the end, but I gotta tell you, we should watch these tablets. These papers have somethin’ in ‘em, somethin’ about a curse. Sorry, but I haven’t been…”

Connor froze, the words freezing in his throat when his lumen shined on the group.

Daedric cradled his tablet to his chest, murmuring softly, his eyes as wide as saucers and drool drenching his chin in a cascade. Macron was turning his about in his hands, running his fingertips over runes that only his eyes could see. Manic cackles came intermittently, immediately stopping after the Alchemist shook his head with such violence that Connor thought that it might just pop off. Then the process would begin again.

The Keibatsu scared the rogue Jedi the most. Manji had torn one of the panels of his kimono and used it to wrap and carry his tablet on his back. The upper portion had fallen around his waist, exposing his scarred torso, corded with muscle and sinews, bunching. His hands darted with no predictable pattern towards the hilts in his sash, blindingly fast, and his lone eye was bloodshot and brimming with murder.

And it was staring at Connor.

The relic hunter’s voice finally returned. “Oh, shav…”


Quickly, the rogue Jedi tried to survey his surroundings, seeking some kind of escape route, some means to get away from the three Force-crazed berserkers he was now sharing the temple with. There was nothing, and Manji was beginning to inch towards him, his breath coming in short blasts.

[I]Kark[/I], Connor thought.

“Leave him,” came a deranged voice from behind the Pontifex, a strained, robotic gargle. Manji turned, slowly, his hands clenching as they hovered near the hilts thrust through his belt. Macron stood in the centre of the corridor, his own tablet at his feet and his entire bearing geared towards war. Connor slowly backed further away as Manji let out a short, barked laugh, his teeth bared.

“You forget yourself, Apprentice,” he snarled, but Macron cut in before he could continue.

“Why must you insist on that childish term?!” the Alchemist roared. “You [B]know[/B] I have become more powerful than you… [I]Master[/I].” The last word was almost spat out, soaked in bile.

Manji’s response was instant and equally venomous- his hilts were in his hands before Connor could blink and ignited seconds later, bathing the walls of the corridor in silver. Macron followed his lead with alacrity, drawing his own hilt and igniting the orange blade with a snap-hiss.

They wasted no time on pleasantries. On a subconscious level, both had been itching to test their mettle against the other since the beginning of the mission- Macron still desperate to best Manji and prove his might, the Pontifex eager to see how far his former apprentice had come. This, however, was not how they had envisioned it happening- finesse and technique hurled out of the window as the two crashed together like raging beasts. Several brutal saber strikes hurled sparks against the dusty floor as they found each other, grinding and clashing together. Manji’s bloodshot eye narrowed in fury as he pushed his sabers against Macron’s guard, the veins popping out on his neck.

Then, unexpectedly, all three sabers dissipated, fizzing out of existence. Connor’s glance shot to the tablets- did they have some kind of effect on energy weapons, some ability to drain power cells in close proximity? Frantically, the rogue Jedi turned his attention to the parchments, scrabbling through them to try and find something describing the effect of the tablets. However this fight panned out, he didn’t want to be stuck in this tomb with a bloodthirsty and crazed Dark Jedi.

For the briefest of moments, their saber lock broken, Macron and Manji froze. Then instinct took over and Macron surged forwards, hurling his saber hilt aside. A palm-edge strike from his gauntleted hand smashed into the Keibatsu’s side, twisting Manji’s body from the impact, but rage gave the Pontifex reservoirs of unseen fortitude and he was able to suppress the pain, lashing out with a strike of his own that smashed against Macron’s armoured throat. Spittle flew from Macron’s mouth as he roared wordlessly in defiance, his own eyes narrowed furiously.

The sound of blows thudding against flesh intensified, reverberating around the corridor as the two continued to smash fists and feet into each other- driven mad by the tablets and by their pain, they gave no thought to blocks or defence, pounding at already-bruised flesh with reckless abandon. Connor’s fingers ran frantically down one page of the scrolls that he carried, tracing the ancient words with alacrity.

“C’mon, c’mon,” he muttered, sparing a brief glance as Macron’s fist smashed across Manji’s face, sending blood and teeth spattering across the aged stone. The Pontifex staggered, the force of the strike slamming through the red mist clouding his senses and inflicting a deadly toll on his rapidly-weakening body. At that moment, Connor found what he was looking for, his eyes lighting up.

“Aha!” he shouted, his eyes tracing the passage he had sought. “[I]Tegu th’diable buti svistuis!![/I]”

As if doused in ice-cold water, Macron felt his senses flood back to him, his hands mid-way through clutching at Manji’s throat. The Keibatsu’s own eye jolted open, no longer bloodshot, as he regained his reason. At the edge of the corridor, Daedric came out of his reverie, looking around him in confused wonder.

“Wh-what…?” Macron stammered, loosening his grip. Manji dropped onto one knee, holding himself up with one fist pressed against the temple floor and spitting more gobbets of blood from his mouth onto the stone before looking up at the shaken Alchemist. For a moment, they stared at each other, frantically trying to understand what had happened.


Outside the Tomb of Marka Ragnos
Valley of the Dark Lords

Shi’s words were swallowed by the illusionary storm and never reached their goal. Blades were exchanged.

Xia Long dodged her Master’s blow through sliding backwards. Purple shadows condensed into a cloud in which she disappeared. Her voice sounded out of the swirling vortex of energy: “Now we will see who is the Master of Illusions.” Scales flashed through the clouds and partly exposed a huge coiling serpent. Two glowing eyes, red and green, opened and a hiss could be heard.

“Do you think these paltry illusions scare me?”

A voice called out behind Xanos through the darkness. “What does scare you, brother?” The Prophet went still and he tried to identify the voice, however he did not turn around.

“Do you not remember me? I begged you, even back then, not to follow this path… that it would only lead to your doom." A shudder ran through Xanos - for a moment he was tempted to turn around.

“You are not real, Xora. You have been dead for years and your corpse became dust long ago.”

He ignored the imaginary voices and lifted his lightsaber as he approached the cloud in front of him.

The eyes in the centre of the cloud narrowed as Xia realised that this was the wrong way. However then laughter began to rise from inside the cloud. “Indeed, she is already dead. Her corpse rotten away - just like yours. Your own body has already battled for too long against what dwells inside it. Your mortal body will not survive much longer… and what then, Master?”

Xanos felt a twitch in his arm. At first, he just ignored it, but then something began to irritate him. Something under his hand began to move. His eyes fell to look at his exposed arm. The skin began to stretch, became thin and splotchy like old parchment. Something moved and he smacked the spot with his free hand. Deep inside something seemed to be wriggling - and Xanos felt something he rarely experienced: fear.

His fingernails changed colour, turning a sick shade of yellow and began to crack and break. Xanos’s eyes widened; parts of his skin began to turn pale, dying, and leaving black spots along his arm. He watched as his skin began to age.

“No…” he breathed in horror. He dropped his lightsaber and saw that his hand began to rot. The movements increased under his cracked skin and suddenly maggots burst through the surface! He whisked the maggots away frantically, his movements urgent, and he stumbled back. Rarely in his life had he felt such a sense of dread than in that moment, as he saw his life rotting away, his body dying.

He moved his mouth to speak, but only silent whispers escaped and then realised his lips were no longer there. A part of his mouth had rotted away and he felt his exposed gums with his tongue. He touched his face and felt his skin slide off his bones… He grasped his ebony staff and leaned on it for support, the weight of age heavy on his legs.

Xia stepped out of the cloud, her lightsaber ready for the final blow. Her eyes flashed and several more mirror images of her emerged from the storm. She would not leave anything to chance.

Xanos reached out with the Force in an act of desperation. The sealed entrance to the tomb opened! Xia hissed: “That can not be.” A shape emerged from the shadows inside the tomb. Long, dark, silky hair, a face like an angel, and yet demonic at the same time.

“Tiamat…” whispered Xia.

Tiamat looked down at Xia, there was a coldness in her eyes. Her mouth twisted into a scornful smile as she spoke. “Look at you, Daughter of the Dragons. You… call yourself Matriarch?”

Xia breathed in horror. She had expected anything… but a rebuke from the First of the Dragons… Tiamat continued: “I’m disappointed. You are… unworthy of the legacy of the dragons.” Her face began to change, melting into the face of Trevarus Caerick. Their voices merged into one. “You are unworthy of my legacy. And I cast you out!”

The Matriarch of the Longs started to tremble and was overcome by a dark sense of despair, of failure, and felt as if she was falling into a deep, bottomless pit from which there could be no return. She could not shake the feeling of being rejected from her mind. “No…” she whispered. “Do not reject me! Please!” Something inside her was close to breaking…

Xanos felt his energy returning, inspired by her torment. More and more, the weariness of age began to fade, his strength returning as he began to shake off his apprentice’s illusions. He drew a deep breath; the fresh air was refreshing, invigorating!

And he felt young again despite his age.

“My Apprentice…” the Falleen began, and he stepped toward her while she stood there paralyzed, frozen by the horrors that he projected into her mind. “What I have given you, I can take away.”

All of a sudden her eyesight began to wane, everything turning cloudy. Xia rose her hands, rubbing her eyes as a darkness filled them. Was she blind again, like all those years before? She could see nothing but darkness, the nothingness surrounding her. And then… she felt like she was thrown backwards into a hard rock. Something cold, like stone, began to enclose her body, surrounding her. Even though she could breathe, she could no longer move…

She cried out, trying to rebel against the stone shackles that had wrapped around her, but her mind could not free itself from Xanos’s illusions. In reality, however, she still there in front of him, untouched and completely free… neither bound to the rocks outside the tomb, nor imprisoned in a sheath of living stone, however her mind was completely ensorcelled and held captive by the illusions conjured by the Dark Prophet.

With a cold voice he said, “I will entomb you alive, forever forgotten; your life will be meaningless. And I will keep you alive until I decide your moment of death.”

Xia’s mind began to crumble beneath the terrors in her mind. She collapsed onto the ground, her eyes wide opened, staring blankly at the ground.


Suddenly, a coil of dark energy wrapped around the Xia Long and she was thrown forwards, her face smashing straight into the sealed doorway that led into the tomb. She felt her vision draining, this time for real, her entire body exhausted from the exertion of sealing the tomb and her failed attempts to dominate the Dark Prophet. A deep sigh escaped her lungs.

Her body was spent.

Her eyesight still was not returning. The Falleen clutched the dark wood of his staff and he reached forward, laying his other hand on top of her head, his long, clawed fingers wrapping around her skull. Through their existing mental link, she could already feel the Dark Prophet feeding on her life force, draining it.

“You won’t succeed…” Xia cursed, hissing the words as she held a hand up against the door to steady herself, the protective wards and seals that she had invoked still glowing on its surface. “Neith… neither of you will…”

The scarlet-haired woman’s words were cut short when a dark tendril wormed its way into her mind, burrowing ever deeper into the most hidden chambers of her thoughts. The air in her lungs escaped her lips like a serpent’s hiss, and she grit her teeth, balling her fists as she tried to resist. She tried slamming shut the doors to her memories as her Master stalked the corridors inside her head, tried to stop him violating her privacy… but it was no good, the Falleen’s face had flushed dark red, mimicking the shade of her hair, as his alien body pumped pheromones into her, and he succeeded in penetrating her consciousness, violating her in an act she regarded as tantamount to an assault- and indeed, for the sorceress, a physical assault would have been less of a violation.

At least she could shut herself off from what was done to her body… but this… this was…

“NO!” the sorceress screamed, clutching her head between her hands as spikes of pain shot through her mind. “No… no…!”

Her thoughts were laid bare to her Master, her past, her present- even her future- naked for him to leer at and ogle as if they belonged to him, as if her very mind was his property to do with as he saw fit. She could feel as her thoughts were just idly paged through like someone flicking through a cheap holomag, searching for that one centrefold that they were interested in…

He found it.

The woman growled, her Master’s breath hot and sour against the back of her neck, but when she tried to shift her body, to push him off, her Master’s claws simply clenched even tighter around her skull, his long talons digging into the sides of her forehead, drawing blood. She could have tried to fight back, could have reached out to summon her two lightsabers back to her hands, and with a harmonious snap-hiss of both her weapons could have pivoted on the heels of her boots and struck down the Dark Prophet, thrusting both blades deep into the man that was right that moment violating, raping her mind… but it was already too late, he had already broken through her mental barriers.

He had already gotten what he wanted.

With his hand still clutched tight around her skull, the Falleen pulled her up by her head, and she felt his fingernails digging into her eyes as he rammed her face against the door so that her arm pressed against the surface and her slashed wrist bled down it once more, then he repeated the words that had been on the sorceress’s own lips just a few minutes earlier, but this time it was not the powers of the Star Chamber that he invoked, but the spirits of the ancients that slumbered right beneath his feet in the bloodstained sands of Korriban.

The Dark Prophet spoke in the tongue of the ancient Sith whose hands had built this tomb:

Τακα ζεεχ μα τοκα δμμυας.”

The glowing sigils that she had drawn on doorway dulled, the symbol of the Mark going black as the seals she had invoked shattered and dissipated. The gateway growled, thundering as the weathered stones began to rise, and an icy gust of stale air howled out beneath a thin opening at the base, blowing away the runes she had drawn in the sand as the Tomb of Marka Ragnos opened…


Inner Chamber
Tomb of Marka Ragnos

“What… the hell was that?” commented Daedric as he wiped the drool off of his chin. “I feel like I’ve been hit by a landspeeder.” The Knight stood, placing his hands on both knees and leaned over. “I think I’m going to….”

As Daedric’s lunch rations profaned the inside of the Tomb, Macron and Manji regarded each other in bewilderment. “That was not how I would have wanted that to go,” winced Manji as he fiddled with his bruised mouth. “I’d say you hit like a girl, but you don’t. You’ve grown up. And I hate dentists with a passion.”

Macron chuckled quietly as he threw his ruined helm and gorget on the ground. His voice was rough from the throat-shot he had taken. “Ugh. Neither do you, as usual Master.” The madman swallowed audibly. “Well, my days in the men’s choir on Gamuslag are over I think.” Both of them laughed, and both groaned afterwards.

“Gah. Don’t make me laugh, Mac.” Manji gathered his dropped weapons slowly as he held his side. “Good thing I brought a sword. That’s the nice thing about a katana- no power cells to drain. And unlike a blaster, if it jams you just pull it out.”

“Looks like the curse was temporarily held off,” Connor commented as he read more of the old scroll. “For now. As long as those tablets remain in this tomb, it will eventually return. We should get the hell out of here.” He rolled the scroll up, placed it in a metal tube and slid that inside his vest. Another tabac stick came out of his shirt pocket. “Any ideas?”

“Macron, can you do the thing to the walls like you did down below?” Daedric was checking his own weaponry. “My saber’s dead too, and so are my blaster cells. I’ve still got a couple plasma grenades though.”

“I don’t think so,” replied the madman’s scratchy voice as he checked his own kit. “I’m close to spent. That last battle really took it out of me. My backup saber is dead too. In any case, I doubt these walls would be affected anyhow. This whole place has been reinforced alchemically.” Macron took off a gauntlet and ran his bare fingers over the sealed front door. Outside, faint vibrations of the continuing battle could be felt through the blackened stone. “Hell, I bet a turbolaser couldn’t even cut through this. Reminds me of Nadd’s tomb on Dxun, but not done with Mando iron.”

“And unlike a mag-shield, it doesn’t need power to operate for thousands of years. I ran into something similar once on Ruusan after the Vong left. We left a man outside, and that was the trick. The redoubt could only be opened from outside. We found the bones of looters, ah, I mean fellow archaeologists from a couple centuries ago in there. Poor bastards got in but never got out, like a Coruscant roach motel.” Connor went to light his cigarette, and the mini-torch would not work. “Frell. Damn power drain got my lighter too.”

“My skills with mental communication are limited, but I may be able to reach someone outside.” The Alchemist sat down and crossed his legs. He closed his weird eyes and concentrated. An image of the stone door opening was formed in his twisted mind, and projected desperately outwards to one he trusted to a limited degree- Shi Long.

“Can you tell them what happened?” asked Manji quickly. The Pontifex was eager to get out of this claustrophobic hole and back to the wide-open spaces outside. His good eye peered into the empty gourd he held. “Damn, I’m out of rice wine.” Daedric handed him a canteen and he drank deeply after rinsing the blood out of his mouth.

“No Master, I cannot. At best I can send an image and hope that’s enough. Let’s hope Shi gets the hint.” The Sith stood back up and wiped the dust off of his legs. Unexpectedly, at that same moment, the stone door the stone door began to slowly grind its way open. Destiny and the will of the Force coincided. The tablets themselves almost longed to be free. A lone figure highlighted by the ruddy light outside stepped from the swirling dust and smoke.

“You guys look like shavit,” grinned the bloody and battered bronzed figure before them. “Door’s open, no time to waste. You have them?”

“Says the guy who looks like he jumped into a gundark nest,” replied Macron as the tomb raiders headed for the door and the cold red dusty valley outside. “We do.”


Outside the Tomb of Marka Ragnos
Valley of the Dark Lords

The night breeze was cold on Dantella’s cheek as she stared down at the courtyard outside the tomb from her vantage point atop the remains of the fallen statue of Marka Ragnos. Red sand clung to the robe that she had taken from the warrior who had been wounded during the shuttle crash, and her cheek still throbbed from the burns that she had suffered during the explosion.

But she still stood.

The same could not be said for them, the Umbaran thought, as she watched the entrance to the tomb begin to open. Down in the courtyard, the stone columns and walls still glowed from the discharge of dark energies during the sorcerous battle that she had just witnessed. The two combatants- the red-haired siren and the green-skinned alien- both looked utterly broken.

Inside the now-open entrance to the tomb, she could feel the Tablets of Immortality- as well as that fool relic hunter. Connor Grey had done well. Her lips twisted into a sinister grin- the act causing an involuntary wince, due to the burns on one side. Everything had gone as she planned.

“And you thought it would go the way you wanted…” she muttered under her breath, thinking about Esoteric, the man- or woman, she had never been sure- who had appeared so confident, so self-assured that everything on Korriban would transpire as Esoteric had ordained.

She couldn’t avoid a small laugh.

Dantella shut her eyes and reached out toward the two sorcerers down in the courtyard below…


The sorceress was exhausted.

Xia Long still rested on her knees, right outside the now open door to the tomb… not that she could see inside. Her eyesight was forever ruined. She tried to pull herself to her feet, reaching for the door that was no longer there… she should have known that.

“I… don’ un’erstan’…” the sorceress mumbled, her words slurred due to her jaw having been injured when her face was slammed into the cold stone door. She sounded like a child, and… that moment, her mind raced in a thousand directions, still spinning from what had just been done to it a few moments earlier. Still her thoughts swirled, still she felt… violated. How had it gone so wrong? How? When back on Runculo, when she had spoken with the vision of Tiamat… or had that just been another dream, another illusion… she no longer knew what was true anymore.

“Where did I go wrong?” she muttered to herself, unsure if her vision had been real, or if she herself had been nothing but a pawn in another’s game… but not even the voices normally inside her head answered. Right then, she felt so alone… and abandoned.

Behind her, her Master fared little better.

Xanos stood, but his strength had been spent ripping the knowledge from her mind about how to break down the wards and seals that she had invoked upon the entranceway. Rarely did the Dark Prophet show his weakness, but… rarer still did he fail to foresee the betrayal of the one closest to him. There in the Valley of the Dark Lords, the presence that had been blocking his visions the past two years loomed over him, like a giant, shadowy wraith that wanted to smother them all.

Even now, its face remained an enigma to him… was it man or woman? Human or…?

The Mark flashed in his mind again, and he heard a bestial roar, but… he could not see further.

Instead, he felt another presence touch him, this one much closer.

The Falleen clutched his staff for support, and turned a little, inclining his head up the wreckage of the giant image of Marka Ragnos that now slept on the hillside, however as soon as he did, the presence withdrew again… but not before he had touched its mind and sensed its intent.

A thin smile.

There was still another solution. Ashen had not won yet.


She felt… agreement.

Dantella quickly withdrew her senses. The green alien in the courtyard had touched her mind, but she had not felt an enemy… instead, she felt a feeling of confidence wash over her.

Her right hand, the once white, porcelain skin now charred black from the blast earlier, closed around the lightsaber hilt that hung at her side, beneath the dead Plagueian’s cloak. Being careful not to tread where the fallen statue would split in two, and the resulting crash alert the entire valley to her presence, she began to make her way down the remains… and toward the tomb.


Main Causeway
Tomb of Marka Ragnos

“You sure are a sight for sore eyes,” breathed Connor with relief, taking halting steps towards the door.

“I told old ‘One-Eye’ I’d be here,” Shi replied, but then stopped when Connor staggered past him, his gaze unbroken. Shi laughed - a ragged, hitching sound - and leaned over, placing his hands on his knees and fighting to remain upright. He realized the relic hunter was not talking to him, but rather to the open expanse of the war-torn skies of Korriban. “Hey, I understand you’re feeling a bit cooped up in here, but I could use a hand getting these guys out of here. I’m beat, and these guys are pretty big.” Shi smiled and gestured tiredly at Macron, Daedric and Manji when Connor snapped from his grateful reverie and turned at the Primarch’s voice.

“Oh, yeah…of course. Here, c’mon,” Connor offered after jogging back to Daedric and throwing the Knight’s arm around his neck, bodily propping him up. “It’s just a few more meters…”

The others watched Daedric and Connor leave, and Shi gave a low whistle. “He’s awfully helpful,” he remarked. “The rat didn’t misbehave at all?”

“No, surprisingly,” Manji replied. “In fact, you might be tempted to say he’s the reason any of us were even able to meet you here.”

“He’s right,” agreed Macron. “It got pretty frakked in here. Connor had a spell, got these tablets outta our heads…I even gave him the cure to that nasty little mutagen I hit him with. Oh, don’t give me that look,” he said with a chuckle at noticing the Long’s quizzical gaze. “Black as coal it might be, but there is a heart in here,” he chuffed as he pointed at his chest, affecting an exaggeratedly pained look.

“Well, I’ll be damned,” Shi said, letting his chin drop. “Kid earned his keep.” He cupped a hand to his mouth as he called down the causeway. “Congrats, Grey; I’m not gonna kill you!”

Instead of a witty retort from the rogue Jedi, they got the echo of a passing shuttle reverberating down the causeway for an answer. Their heads jerked upwards at the sound. “Well, let’s make sure there’s even a ‘later’ to talk about and get out of this dump,” cautioned the Keibatsu, and the others locked arms, supporting one another, and shuffled slowly the way that Daedric and Connor had gone.

They exited the tomb, tablets in tow, and they glanced about the area searching for Daedric. The sight that greeted them was not as comforting as Connor had first made it out to be. Instead, they saw shuttles approaching from the distance, and Xanos leaning heavily on his staff.

At the Falleen’s feet lay the inert form of Xia Long. Exhausted though Macron was, the sight of her made his blood boil. “One side, Xanos,” he ordered as Shi put a hand on his shoulder. “Traitors to the Throne - to Sadow - must be dealt with severely.” Macron’s thoughts swam with fury at recalling all they had to contend with - and could’ve avoided - were it not for Xia’s decision.

“This one…is MINE,” the Prophet warned, desperately searching within for some reserve that would let him fend off the Alchemist.

“And, what of what is mine?”, sang a heretofore unfamiliar voice


Every head whipped around in response to the words. Macron felt an expletive uncoiling through his clenched teeth.

“[I]Shavit,[/I]” he hissed.

At the edge of the causeway, Daedric- still weary from the ordeal within the tomb- stood. Behind him, with a dagger pressed tightly against his throat, stood a cloaked grey-skinned female, her right hand charred black. Sprawled on the causeway beside them was Connor- he’d been hurled aside by a blow crafted of the Force, the breath knocked out of him. From beneath the hood of her robe, the woman smirked at the assembled Sadowans, her eyes glinting.

“I ought to thank you,” she said, almost ignoring the stupefied Knight in front of her. “Pulling those tablets out looks like it was hard work. You’ve saved me most of it.”

Manji, his patience frayed to nothing, stepped forwards, his face twisted.

“Who the [I]frell[/I] are you?!” he roared, ignoring the spasms of pain that knifed through his body as his muscles tensed. “Who are you with?”

The question gave Dantella pause, and she let out a cold, humourless chuckle.

“So many questions, and no easy answers!” she sneered, her own grip tightening on Daedric’s neck. “You will find out in the fullness of time, Sadowan.”

With a swift, sudden movement, Dantella reached around Daedric and grabbed hold of the tablet he was still clutching between his hands. Planting her shoulder into the Knight’s back, she hurled him away, Daedric’s feet losing their grip on the stones as he fell heavily to the causeway. Her knife dropping unheeded to the floor, Dantella raised the tablet over her head with both hands, her eyes gleaming with unfettered craving.

“Finally…” she murmured, her eyes tracing the lettering on the tablet swiftly. “The power… all [B]mine![/B]”

Lowering the chunk of stone before her, Dantella began to read out loud, her voice deepening and gaining layers of unnatural harmony as she drew on the Dark Side, channeling it through the tablet in her hands. The wind began to rise around her, dust swirling in a circular pattern around Dantella’s body as she continued to read, her voice growing louder and louder, echoing from the ancient stones all around them. Her feet slowly lifted from the floor, a baleful light filling her body as the ritual began to take hold. At the back of the group, Xia stirred back into consciousness- her eyes were useless again, but she could sense the incredible power being unleashed, her head turning towards where Dantella was rising off the ground.

“No…” she whispered through cracked lips, feebly reaching out towards the Adept, but the word was stolen by the wind. Standing over her, Xanos seemed to drink in the power that was being wielded- his back straightened, his eyes glowing as he stared at the ascending Adept.

“We have to stop her!” Macron roared, raising a hand to mask his eyes against the ferocious dust-storm that was now whirling around Dantella’s form, the sands of Korriban rising at her command as her chanting reached a feverish pitch. “The ritual- she mustn’t-”


The slug smashed into the tablet clutched between Dantella’s hands, the ancient stone blown apart by the impact. Dantella flinched backwards, her eyes now pupil-less, wide and staring as she screamed with a thousand voices, the backlash of the ritual arcing through her body.

Lying on the causeway, smoke coiling upwards from the barrel of his .48 slugthrower, Connor Grey felt a shaky smirk cross his lips.

“Guess I’m not getting paid after all…” he muttered.


Whatever one believed about who was responsible for the events on Antei, there was no debate as to what had happened. Destruction on a planetary scale.

And that was without the tablets. Dantella, in all of her greed, impatience, and hubris, dared to access a mere third of the power they promised. In the end, it could be argued that she was destined to fail. Power such as this had to be divided and sacrifices had to be made for the gains. Her recklessness, combined with Connor’s timing…

The results were not what she expected.

Held aloft in a swirling nimbus of Dark Side energy, her body thrashed and jerked, contorting in unimaginable angles. Light poured from her mouth and eyes, and an unending howl ripped itself from her throat. There was a final spasm, and her body froze. The light strobed, then died, and the eternity that Dantella Novae wished for was visited upon her.

Her skin wrinkled, dried, then flaked away in large patches. Her hair, once shaved, grew suddenly like creeper-vines from her blanched scalp, grayed, then fell away. She hooked her fingers like talons, the nails sprouting, yellowing then curling back on her hands before they disintegrated like a poorly made sandcastle in the wind. Her gaze, moments before turning milky from cataracts locked on Connor, and what remained of her lips parted a last time to allow the gurgling death-rattle dribble from her desiccated throat. The backlash had extinguished the Umbaran, burning her out and aging her in a matter of seconds. Not even her skeleton was spared, obliterated into powder and swept with the rest of her over the Korribanian landscape to forever mingle with the rest of the windblown sands.

Thanks to Connor’s intervention, the Sadowans were by and large unaffected. That was, however, with the exception of Xanos. The furtive link the Falleen had made when he had touched minds with the Umbaran had rebounded, and just when Dantella herself had suffered the punishment of daring to drink from the cup of life, the same irreverence had caused those fires to wrap around the Falleen. His face sunk and his skin turned even grayer and leatherier, stretching across his cheekbones. It was as if the Tablet of Immortality had exacted the same price from the Dark Prophet, adding to the laundry list of suspected reasons for the Elder’s affliction. The Falleen collapsed.

Xia, blind though she was, managed to crawl over to where he lie and draped herself over him, protectively. “Master…” the woman whispered with concern, placing a hand on his chest to check for a heartbeat. Finding one, she relaxed; a short respite, as Macron’s voice came at her, vicious and accusatory.

“Get the hell off of him, traitor,” he spat, his righteousness carrying him through his utter exhaustion. “You both have a lot to answer to, for now and for before! I have a long memory, and you got some payback coming!”

Xia met his threat with equal ferocity, shouting even as she helped Xanos and they both got to their feet. “How dare you?! Are you so feeble-minded that you forget that it was he who allowed you to escape the tomb?” she hissed, pressing the attack. “Or, are you too cowardly to admit that you fear I will succeed at destroying Xanos where you failed so very miserably all those years ago?” The last oozed from her tired lips, but the fire within her was more than evident.

“That was a long time ago.” For Macron, no more words were necessary. But, before he could take a step towards Xia, Shi’s hand on his shoulder stopped him. The Long stepped past him, jerking a thumb behind them. “As much as I’d like to see this through,” he said, clearly struggling against his base nature, “I’d like to remind everyone that this thing’s not done yet.”

Macron followed Shi’s thumb to see a shuttle bearing down on them, it’s search-lumen sweeping the area in broad strokes of light. “You can do some delivering, or some explaining,” the baritone continued as Shi moved to join Xanos and Xia. “And, I don’t think any of us are in shape to have a conversation, civil or otherwise. Besides,” he looked at everyone, lingering momentarily on Xia’s blind and searching face, “I think we all got what we came for.”

Crossing his arms, he managed an insightful grin as he watched Manji and Daedric move to where Connor was last seen. True to his previous form, the rogue Jedi had slipped away in the confusion, but in his place lay the silver canister containing the scrolls. While Daedric collected the canister, Manji retrieved the stone tablet that Dantella had dropped.

The Knight then joined Manji, appraising the damage that Connor’s slug caused. “I hope this thing still works, for the Grand Master’s sake,” he said before the roar of engines drowned out the rest. The Keibatsu knelt, looking on the tablet with equal parts awe and disdain. ‘For your sake, I hope you know what you’re doing, nii-sama, he thought. He picked it up, and stood, training his eye on the approaching craft.

He recognized the Lion’s sigil emblazoned on the armor plating near the cockpit and it touched down. The Keibatsu and the others shambled over to the open hatch, scrambling aboard as the shuttle’s escort fended off others from the opposing factions overhead.

The prize and the Sadowans safely aboard, the shuttle rose, screaming low over Marka Ragnos’ tomb and streaking towards Ashen’s camp. The mountains below went by in a blur, immutable and eternal. They were stony witnesses to failures both ancient and recent, and victories taken and earned. Each one aboard reflected in silence, the lessons inherent in the sting of betrayal and the satisfaction of success forging them in the crucible that would forever be Korriban.

“The Spirits of Korriban are quite real. Indeed, on one occasion they nearly killed me."

  • Darth Sidious, Book of the Sith