Taldryan Base of Operations
Near the Valley of the Dark Lords
The most recent holoscan of the Valley of the Dark Lords rotated slowly above the table in the center of the make-shift command tent. Arvalis Raith, the former apprentice of his close friend had just brought the latest reports from the still ongoing planetfall of the so called ‘Rebels’. The Consul of Taldryan felt a brief emptiness at the thought of his late friend friend Kazmir during times like these, then pushed away the thought upon dismissing the Prelate.
So far only four Taldrya had made it to the surface. Other than the Consul and the Ektrosian Quaestor Halcyon Rokir Taldrya. Nyssa ‘Bubbles’ Taldrya and former Consul Vodo Biask Taldrya were present in the flesh with two more Taldrya projected as holoimages in the small tent. Attending the War Council as holopresences were their chosen Leader Grand Master Jac Cotelin, commanding the CSD Justice and the Proconsul Keirdagh Taldrya Cantor aboard the Dark Prophet II.
“Our spies indicate that Darth Ashen’s troops have made planetfall here.” Rian was saying, his finger jabbing at another canyon leading into the Valley of the Dark Lords, “This brings his troops closer to the estimated location of the tomb of Marka Ragnos than any other faction.”
“Still they have to make it around Ajunta Pall’s tomb and Esoteric’s forces,” The Twi’lek cyborg said, “Do we know the strength of Esoteric’s forces?”
“Not for sure, the tomb has an immense size and can hide tremendous numbers of troops from long-range scans.”
Keirdagh’s frown wrinkled his forehead. “Their reinforcements are on the edge of the system. Probably waiting until we and the Loyalists have weakened each other enough that we aren’t as much as a challenge to them any more… cowards.” The last word almost spat from his mouth.
“Master Keirdagh, what about our own reinforcements?”
“Rian, what kind of reinforcements do you mean?” The Proconsul replied scowling. “At the moment we can’t effort even a single soldier to be send your way as reinforcement.”
“What about our allies? Have we heard from Odan-Urr or Scholae?”
“We know that Odan-Urr has dispatched a small entourage of Jedi, but too little to serve as reinforcements,” Halcyon offered sternly. “Nothing from Scholae yet.”
“Rian, what ever happens, we have to ensure that Muz won’t gain access to the tomb of Marka Ragnos.” the image of Jac Cotelin emphasied. “Even if it means we have to destroy it.”
“You can’t be serious about that Lord Cotelin,” Vodo said briskly, “There might be countless relics and scrolls inside the tomb, to destroy it might mean to destroy crucial parts of our history.”
“I am not a historian, but I agree with Vodo here, there has to be another way” Rian said, “Can’t we just sneak around Esoteric’s troops after nightfall and get to the tomb of Marka Ragnos?”
“Rian, given the numbers our scanners picking up on the Loyalist’s base,” Halcyon added. “I doubt we have that much time. Our scans indicate that they may have transferred enough troops to make an attempt at breaking through Esoteric’s lines within the next twelve hours.”
“Fine, that means we could get past them while they deal with each other.”
“I don’t think that it will work like that Rian, most of the Loyalist troops on the ground come from the Fist and Arcona, they will recognize you the moment you enter the battlefield.”
“Still, for me, that looks like our best guess to secure the tomb ourself.”
“Rian, this is too dangerous, you might get either captured or killed – or both. Muz will simply step over your corpse and claim the scrolls inside the tomb that will allow him to perform the Rite of Immortality again.” Halycon said. “Bombing the estimated location of Marka Ragnos’ tomb before Muz get’s there sounds like our best chance.”
Rian leaned forward over the table. “I know we can do it.”
"Rian- " Halcyon began once more.
“I know that this is dangerous, Halc. If we use the Derriphan already on ground to make a fast ‘Hit and Run’ attack on Esoteric’s troops, we can make it past them and then secure the tomb of Marka Ragnos and get the scrolls out of Muz’s reach for ever.”
"By the time the you and the Massassi enter the valley, Esoteric’s troops will see you… It will be a massacre.
“The same can be said about a squad of gunships coming in hot,” For the first time Nyssa raised her voice, an odd curl of her auburn hair falling into her face. “We all saw what Muz did on Antei, what makes you think he would refrain from doing it again here on Korriban – or on any other world? If the tomb of Ragnos holds information about how to make the Rite of Immortality more powerful, it might contain information on how to lessen it’s effect, if not how to stop it’s effect.”
Looking around in the group she added. “If I had to make a vote, I would vote for Rian.”
Vodo nodded. “I concur, let’s make this a vote.”
"Given our range of options, I vote Rian.” The image of Keirdagh counted nods. “Four in favor. Jac?”
“This is a risky plan Rian, with failure being not an option. I reccomend you leave Halcyon to organize the assault from here.” Jac sank back into the command chair of the Justice. “You will get twelve hours before I order the bombardment of the temple from orbit.”
After a moment Vodo turned from the table. “I will inform the troops that we move out in less than one hour.”
Tomb of Ajunta Pall / Center of Operations of the New Order
Valley of the Dark Lords
The Ensign’s throat tightened with every step as he rushed through the cavernous corridors of Ajunta Pal’s tomb, even though he wasn’t attuned to the Force like the ones he was taking orders from, this place still had something in it that made him shiver. But that shiver was nothing compared to the feelings that boiled up within him when he thought of her and the reaction that might happen when he told her what he had been ordered by his superior. Turning around a corner, he met a larger cavern, sparsely furnishedwith only dim lights coming from a few torches arranged all around the room. He stopped close to table holding various sharp and spiky instruments, not even daring to look at the poor individual being bound to the chair. Both the blond haired man and Dark Lord Dantelly Novae were with their backs to him.
“Lady Novae,” The ensign said, still fighting the tightnessin his throat. “Perimeter scanners picking up five signals, closing in on our location.”
“Who?” Came the reply from the Dark Lord, who still seemed more interested in her unintentional guest than the news presented to her.
“From the make of the transports and their markings: Clan Taldryan, my Lady.”
“A bold turn from Cotelin,” The Elder said after a moment of consideration, finally taking her gaze from the poor being on the chair. “Commence defensive protocols once they are within reach.”
“Yes, my lady.” The ensign hesitated.
“You may now leave, Ensign, or don’t you see that I have more important matters?”
“Of course my Lady.” Bowing, the ensign retreated, feeling lighter to not have brought his superior’s anger upon him.
The tomb of Ajunta Pall was located centrally within the valley of the Dark Lords atop a small plateau overlooking the valley, almost mocking the five heavily armed All Terrain Open Transports that now wound their way toward it. Each carried a Dark Jedi as well as a full circle of Massassi Warriors, each ready to bring the death and destruction carried aboard where ever their commander wanted them. Standing on the open platform of the leading AT-OT the Consul stared across the canyon leading into the Valley. Only a minute more, maybe two, and they would be in reach of Esoteric’s cannon emplacements already visible by the eye. Turning, Rian faced the twenty-five Massassi warriors aboard their transport carrying them into battle. Though the Massassi were known to be fearless warriors, they felt what every soldier in the galaxy felt shortly before entering a battle: fear. Not of death or watching their friends and brothers die, but the fear of failure and even more important, the fear of being wounded and living out the rest of their lives crippled or maimed. The fear of failure was something not uncommon to Rian. it had been one of the earliest lessons he had learned in the Brotherhood; how to turn fear into his own advantage. He patted the shoulder of the Arban, silently commisurating with the leader of the circle, then Hell broke out upon them.
The five transports kept moving against the heavily increasing fire coming from Esoteric’s troops; their medium laser cannons mounted below the cockpits eager to return what was thrown at them. Lacking anything in the way of shields to absorb the fire, only one lucky hit could take out each transport. The AT-OT to his left side was the first to go down, thanks to a direct hit to its forward right leg. Abandoning the wounded transport, Rian could make out the mechanical legs of the Twi’lek cyborg digging violently into the stony surface before making a run for the nearest cover.
“Lord Taldrya, we can’t go any further without risking more transports.” The muffled voice of the pilot came over the inbuilt comlink of his battle suit.
“Looks like we have to take the rest the hard way… Everyone out of the transports.” Rian commanded, already jumping over the ledge of the open top. “Pilots, we need support fire to cover our tracks.”
On the ground Rian took a brief look instantly recognizing the features of each of his fellow Dark Jedi, alive and already on the move to close in on the tomb of Ajunta Pall. Mere meters in front of the tomb the Massassi broke into a run storming the enemy lines, covering the tracks of the Dark Jedi who assembled just outside of enemies base of operations.