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

[Long] The Dragons Breath


[size=115]The Dragons Breath[/size]
As one dragon rises, another must fall…

[size=110]Chapter 1: Rise[/size]

The future is not always in motion

A howling gale blew through the sorceresss red hair.

Alone, the woman stood above the cowered form of one of the two she had knelt before, studied with, learned from – but at that moment, a moment that had been frozen in time, a day that was unavoidable, destined, she was now the one in control, not the prophet, nor the mad oracle, unwizened by the corruptive powers that had consumed the pair she had called master.

Her head rose toward the flashing white forks that filled the night sky.

Thunder shook the ground beneath her feet as the angry, violent forks of lightning tore apart the heavens above. For too long had invisible chains kept her true masters essence imprisoned here, for too long had its power been locked away, kept sealed by the sorceries of its creator.

But no more.

Its creator had been bested. His apprentice along with him.
That left her. The one who had been apprentice to all three.

Behind her, the crumpled prophet lifted a withered, skeletal hand up toward the clouds. His jaw hung open but no audible words emerged; his pale eyes looked hollow, empty of life.

She watched the energy in the skies above her coalesce. It was being beckoned. Invoked.

Only to be shackled again.

But she would not allow it. The woman turned back to the dark inferno – and stepped in front of the approaching chains of energy. It would embrace her just as she would embrace it.

Until death do us part… Master." Her words were a mockery.

Then everything went black.

Somewhere in Deep Space

Sildrin awoke from her sleep with a start.

Her bed sheets were damp with sweat and she felt uncomfortably hot. The image she had just seen was still imprinted in her head. She quickly glanced around, feeling uneasily vulnerable.

Master…? breathed the sorceress quietly, almost feeling as if she was being watched.

Was what she had just seen in her dreams just a vision, or…?

She rubbed her eyes, struggling to make sense of everything, but all she could focus on was the irritating rattle of the durasteel walls of her sleeping quarters as the small shuttle tumbled through hyperspace toward their unknown destination. Her pale fingers slid up to massage the sides of her temples. This could not continue. They had to bring this search its conclusion.

It had gone on too long.

As she tried to empty her mind, her restored eyes drifted to the throbbing crystalline shard on the table beside her bed. The fragment of the damaged holocron that she and her new Master had found in that temple beneath the sand dunes on Jaguada.

Trevarus had been trying to stop them finding him all year.

But even the great oracle did not see everything. And now they were finally on the correct path. At least, that is what the sorceress clung to. Predictably, Xanos still had not explained what the holocron shard had shown them – but her Masters lack of support was nothing new.

A sharp buzz pulled her back out of her internal introspection and brought her attention back to the present – and toward the door to her sleeping quarters. Why did they always make buzzers so irritating? The sorceress made an audible sigh and reached over to the bedside table and keyed her rooms commlink online.

“Yes?” Sildrin demanded, her voice tired and not hiding her displeasure at being disturbed.

If it had been her new Master, he would just have projected his request into her head. Whoever was outside was probably just one of the crewmen wasting her time with another update.

“We must speak,” came the slightly modulated voice of the commlink.

The newest dragon was outside – even if the man outside did not realise it himself yet.

Sildrin gave no immediate reply, but climbed out of bed and over to the entrance to key the lock open. The door slid aside with a hiss of compressed air to reveal the bronze-skinned Korunnai outside. The golden clips in the mans hair glinted in flicking light of the corridor.

If the man was at all taken aback by the fact that a beautiful naked woman was now right in front of him, he admirably didn’t show it… too much. He simply looked the redhaired woman up and down, no differently to if she had been fully clothed, then his eyes settled again on the face of the Matriarch of the Long family.

We are being followed, the man currently without a name said.

Sildrin turned back toward the small wardrobe at the side of her room and simply began getting dressed while the man who had been Tsainetomo Keibatsu explained his findings. To the rest of the galaxy, that man was dead. Only she and the Dark Prophet currently knew the truth.

A ship departed Ziost after the battle, the Korunnai continued. Something in the mans voice was different compared to how he had used to sound; any element of doubt or uncertainty had left him. Ive been tracking it since our sensors detected it at the last hyper buoy stop.

The man paused. Sildrin had finished getting dressed and had opened a compartment on the table beside her bed. Inside glinted a mercury vial. Is that all? the sorceress prompted, as she collected the crystal vial and hid it beneath a decorative sash now wrapped around her waist.

No. The electrum clips in the mans hair clinked behind her. It registers Plagueian.


Transport Nachzerer
Ziost Orbit
Sith Space

Macron growled at the modified IT-3 droid and licked his plasteel-clad Nastha teeth implants. Did you get the signature of that ship? It was an obvious anomaly. The madman gazed at the sheepish IT-3 with anger in his yellow eyes. Well damn it all, Blinky. If its not ripping guts, sewing, blasting and injecting victims youve got no game. I suppose you do alright at guarding and interrogating. The red-armored man swept his hands across a plethora of switches and touch-pads on the console before him. Compute that last jump, astro-droid. Or else I modify you further. I want to know why they left. Now.

A hapless salvaged surplus R9 droid that had been literally welded into the bulkhead with a web of clutching cables and grasping tines bleeped sadly as it began to compute the jump coordinates. The Alchemist frowned as he worked with the Nachzerers Verpine-enhanced computer in concentration. I see. Here is where they left. The Alchemist frowned as he tapped deeper into the Nachzerers Verpine-enhanced computer and repeated himself. I see. Here is where they left. Pointing armored fingers drew glowing lines from place to place as the holoprojector put up a hands-on interactive display. Right- here.

Another melancholy beep came from the dismembered R9 as it finished the calculations along with the ships Verpine computer. Ironically, they did not communicate well although each was a high-quality system. Macron closed his yellow eyes and listened to the Dark Side as he squeezed his own connection to a pinpoint of sight to gather what feelings he could.

The Adept cackled. Shut up, R9N3. The ships strangely tuned computer seemed to make the guesses more quickly in this later stage of the mad symphony. There, commented the Sith as he stabbed a finger into the webs of light to tack a line of red exactly onto the glowing vector point. There. Its a hyper-beacon. I want to know where they went. Track them, hissed the madman. Activate the registration mask. Were jumping. Flank speed. Immediately. Arm all weapons, party favors, and the… Security Team. Hehe. Macron Sadow walked to the cramped cargo bay laughing. HaHahaHa!


Two years ago…

Private Apartments of the Grand Master
Dark Hall, Antei
Domain of the Dark Council

“Yes, Trevarus, you may take the call. Merely excuse yourself.”

A scant heartbeat later Trevarus frowned, as his communicator began to chirp. Nodding brusquely, he passed to a small alcove and answered the call. In blue-white miniature, the figure of his old friend Sith Bloodfyre-Tarentae.

“Hello, Trevarus. I hope I’m not intruding.”

“No more than the Dread Lord, my friend. You seem troubled.” Trevarus replied, noting a cast in the eyes of his ally. “What’s the bad news?”

“The Ghost has a message for Lord Thunder, concerning their Father. How soon could they meet on Yridia?” Though not a code, the message was immediate and unmistakable.

“I will depart within an hour. Though, rather preoccupied at the moment, I would be capable of communicating with Lord Thunder.”

“Very good my brother, watch out for Oberst. He wants blood.”

“Tell me something that won’t surprise me. I’ll arrive within 2 days. Sadow out.”

“Tarentae out.”

He scowled at the device. What news could possibly require his presence on Yridia? Though regarded as an honored guest of the notoriously isolationist Clan Tarentum, an invitation to a social call would not be extended to their Thronewrld unless it was exceptionally important. This was a matter between the Dragons. If Max was seeking blood, that meant the Keepers wanted him where he could be controlled. They did not yet know of the Binding.

Steeling his face, he resumed his place on the furr covered divan.

“Pour another Trev, it looks like you need it.” Aisha said warmly, yet with a hint of malicious mirth.

“would you care to accompany me to Yridia, Xanos? The Tarentae requirtee my presence.”


Present Day
Deep Space

Aboard the wayward ship, a Korrunai was beginning to get antsy.

Theyd been hurtling along towards a destination heretofore unknown to all excepting the Falleen and the Sorceress, the duos plans seeming to have accelerated ever since hed awoken aboard the Sadowan flagship just before the action on Ziost.

Even for Dark Jedi, the excitement at their finding him was astounding. The Force-Blind all around them were oblivious, but the Primarch could see it; not in the way the Force might have spoken to him, but in their very movements and appearance. The Falleen, wracked an withered as he was, had begun to display a sense of urgency, and had a certain - equality - in his voice whenever he spoke to him; all others got the customary enigmatic monotone. And then, there was the woman.

She of the carmine hair and porcelain skin. Acting more and more with surety, the command in her voice and actions were becoming evident with every passing moment. To him, it seemed as if his appearance had answered some unasked question, giving his hosts some unknown divination as to their next course of secretive action. Even now, having left Sildrin - or Xia, as she insisted he call her in their more private moments - he knew that she held audience with Xanos in his chambers, no doubt speaking either in hushed tones or within each others heads about what to do about the craft with the Plagueian registry hot on their heels.

As he strode towards the ships cockpit, his mind strayed again to Xia. His minds eye conjured the naked vision of her delicate form, sinuous and rife with power. He knew hed seen her like that before, laid bare and inviting, a lifetime ago aboard Trevarus Caericks personal craft. Before the Rite. This time, though, hed beheld her with new eyes, just as she and Xanos seemed to behold him.

With every step he took towards his destination, he felt a primal lust rising within him. The feeling was more than just a mere physical reaction. It was an all-encompassing desire to be slaked. She had her secrets, to be sure. In the way she, like everyone around them, would call him Sai, except her eyes seemed to speak his true name when she did. Oh, her secrets would be his, but only if they were given.

And with her, surprisingly, he found that he preferred it no other way.

That, to him, was one of the more settling things about this new life hed awaken to. Hed still possessed the disdain for titles, had the questioning for the need for identifiers. As Tsainetomo Keibatsu, and even later as Saiketsu, hed found that he really had no pride in those monikers, as they were given to him by others who wanted to categorize him, to box him in, for their own comfort and devices.

But now, things were different. Hed let others naming of him define their intents for him; hed use their need to categorize tell him exactly how they could be manipulated. He was more than a mere name. That which was awakened within him so long ago on Inos 42 came from a fount far older than convention.

His hosts were born of the same wellspring. He knew it in his newly-birthed core. It was that surety that settled him, and ironically so.

If he could be known with any accuracy, he would be Strife. His very existence begged conflict, reveled in violence. That was who he was now. Yet, it was who he was known by as others - others who had influence - that still found him in such situations.

Having reached the cockpit hatch, hed thumbed the comm. Open. Its…me.

Just before the hatch slid open, hed heard the pilot speak. Its alright. Its the Keibats…

The Korunnai smiled inwardly as the pilot told him exactly what he needed to exert his own influence. Stopping behind the pilot, he asked for a status report.

Whats the location of the Plagueian craft? His baritone rumbled, hinting that hed known the answer already and was growing impatient at this necessary game.

Still on our vector…Arconan. The pilot spat the last, having either lived through or heard tell of the mans betrayal of the Overlord. The Sadowans remained proud, even in these slightly uncertain times, it seemed. If Tsainetomo still lived, he wouldve smiled.

Instead, the Korunnai spoke. All Stop. Prepare the docking hatch for possible boarders. Alert your Masters…

The co-pilot, silent until now, interrupted. Lady Sadow gave no such order, traitor. Youve no power here, not anymore. The older of the two clearly had lived through the aforementioned events.

Ah, so its out now. The man did smile this time. Well, you may be right, you may be right. His voice took on a contemplative tone. Think on this, though: your Masters take great pains to cover their tracks, and no matter how many course corrections youve made, our pursuer matches them. This Plagueian has a very strong interest in this shuttle.

But, what if it isnt Plagueian?, he continued, the force of his will slowly beginning to fill the cockpit. What if its Arconan, coming to get their ‘kidnapped’ comrade? Or, what if it’s someone else entirely?

Pausing, he placed a hand on each pilots shoulder. Too many questions, gents; too many ‘if’s’. Now. A powerful squeeze caused both pilots to wince; one even mewled a bit.

I could slaughter the lot of you, right here and now. I cant, though, because I dont know where were going and I need you to fly this thing. But, more importantly, he smiled, his teeth impossibly white in the reflection of the plastisteel windscreen. More importantly, I think that craft has a better scrap on deck. Also, Im tired of running. He let go, turning to the hatch to exit.

The pilots gingerly worked their injured shoulders, leaning hesitantly towards the controls to obey.

One muttered under his breath, She wont be pleased.

The man at the hatch threw his answer over his shoulder, amused and deadly serious. I am more capable of handling her wrath than you are of mine, wouldnt you say?

The shuttle shuddered to a halt in response and the hatch opened. The man began a insistent jog towards the docking area, Nenshogeru eagerly finding its way into his palm.

He slowed, the access hatch meters in front of him. Planting his feet, he stood. Waiting.

His eyes never left the hatch. He was Resolute. He would not be moved.

Within him, his excitement roiled as he anticipated what was to come.


Undetermined Planet
Wild Space

Energy is neither created nor destroyed

A cairn had been raised, by whom, he did not know. The Lord of Fire had many followers; students, apprentices, sycophants–many who would seek a fraction of the Dragon’s glory. Though it was beneath them, a score of black- clad warriors dug, moving rock and earth with the brutal efficiency in which they killed. Trevarus knew this was the place. A billow of cigar smoke revealed his patience, Eosara expressionless at his side.

Two years ago
Yridia II
Domain of Clan Tarentum

“Corvette Sanguinus you are cleared for approach. Remind Lord Caerick that he’s the only one allowed to disembark, per orders of the Grand Marshall.”

“Copy, Control,” Christine said, releasing a long sigh. “Eosara won’t like that.”

“I’m used to it. Oberst will try to kill Trev.” The man said from behind her. “It won’t happen, but I believe that I’m the only mundane Oberst respects. There’s no such thing as a fair fight against Trev, but he’ll try anyway. I’d just get in the way.”

Rain began to batter the transparisteel of the bridge view as the ship entered low atmosphere. Six figures could be seen dark and clouded on a small platform, awaiting the craft. His presence suddenly filled the small bridge.

“Wait here. I may be an hour, or several days” Trevarus said calmly. His heavy coat lashed a wave of black as he turned and left.

Steam and air pressure hissed as the ramp lowered, he waited for the cycle, then walked down. At the bottom, his boots touched the water slicked surface, and he slipped, falling back in a parody of motion. In that moment, the Death Crimson cracked into his hands. A thunderclap of energy meeting energy drove water and time away. Air shook at the meeting of blades.

“That was sloppy, Max.”

“If I was trying, not even the Oracle would see it coming.” The two clasped fists as soldiers. A record of hatred that was friendship.

Another figure stepped forward. Dropping its cowl against the battering storm, Master Bloodfyre greeted the Oracle “It’s been a long time Trev, rumor is you brought the lizard back.”

Trevarus sighed. “Yes, that is true. I fear my Apprentice learned nothing… Have you hired a Chef yet, or must I cook” a grey cast covering the eyes of the Shaevlian told him all he needed to know. “Show me to the kitchen, we have much to discuss.”

Oberst gave the barest nod, and the soldiers of the honor guard marched.

Hours later…

A waitron proved fire for their cigars, aged scotch with a single clear sphere of ice was dessert. All three men conspired for a moment, before Bloodfyre broke silence.

“You must pass a message to Lord Thunder, Lord Fire has renounced the Via.”

“Ghost has seen, or foresees this?” Trevarus replied calmly. “I have not, therefore it is of grave importance.”

“Ghost has foreseen Lord Fire’s death. I saw a Storm, flaming, in which lightning and thunder were united in a great eye.”

“I understand, my friend.” Trevarus drew more smoke, Oberst considered the pair maliciously. Without another word, Trevarus tipped his fedora, and returned to his ship.

[i]Undetermined planet
Wild Space
Present time

Wind whipped around the Oracle, nearly taking his hat. Yet, when he heard the sound of metal on stone, he leapt down. The Cohort had found if, the burial of Faethor Dejarc. The casket was sealed. Trevarus frowned.

Lion… How did this happen?

The runes carved into stone were elegant, but ineffective, enshrined by some lesser rank in the haste of battle. These were the marks of a warrior, not a sorcerer. Three eyes flashed violet for a moment, as the lid was cast away. There would be no stone to contain Fire.

He seemed almost as Trevarus remembered him, even as a corpse his eyes were enflamed. Tall, lithe, dark, his true Master was majestic.

“His body no longer breathes, but one does not kill a Grand Master. Quickly! To the temple!”


Present Day
Deep Space

The woman stared at the meditating form of her Master in front of her. Through their shared mind she could see images come and go, emerging to meet the surface of the pool of visions, kissing the horizon that separated dreams from the real world, and submerging into the abyss of the dark sea again. But she did not share the insight to understand those visions besides a couple of fragments.

Frustrated Sildrin stood up, walking over the window of the ship. Her mind needed a rest from the flood of images. Stripes of stars quivered and the movement stalled, showing the cold shining stars calm and still. Why have we stopped? she muttered. A side glance to her Master confirmed that he would not react, nor give an answer. Perhaps he had already seen the reason and the outcome already.

She headed to the cockpit, wondering why they had stopped. But a few moments later she halted, she knew Sais blood screamed for battle; only on the fields of war did he seem to feel really alive. And running away from the Plagueian ship would not suit him. She gave away a soft sigh, knowing it may be better this way. She lifted her hand to contact the captain of the ship just as her commlink started to buzz. M-Miss Dragon? The Plagueian Ship is about to

I know. She interrupted the Captain.

The Arconan, Lady Sadow. He

It only confirmed her chain of thoughts. I will remember on the next occasion that you disobeyed me, Captain. Her voice stayed emotionless and calm. Any message from the Plagueian ship?

The Captains swallowing sound was transmitted as he finally regained his composure. Yes, Lady Sadow. They demand us to surrender - claiming this territory as Plagueian Space and also claiming this ship and everything onboard.

Sildrin chuckled softly. Silly arrogant Plagueians. Just because they won a few worthless pebbles in the Crusade Her voice turned gentle as if scolding a child: I guess we need to teach them a lesson. Allow them to dock. Sai and I will handle that.

Arriving at the docking station, Sai turned his head towards her, his eyes widened barely notable. But to Sildrin he seemed more and more like an open book. Her lips lightly curled into a smile: I guess no one can tame the cries for war within you. Who am I to try?

Sais grin broadened, his blood pounded within his body, chanting. Soon it would sing the violent song of war. The hatch opened with a hiss, they were about to raid the docking bay. Sildrins voice turned into a whisper as she started to weave the threads of the Force to her will, bending the shadows to obey and give birth to illusions. I will be within the shadows. The hood of her cloak drawn deep over her face, she appeared to melt with the shadows; only the red and green glow of her eyes hinted her location.


Present Day
Deep Space

The Sorceress had left, leaving the Prophet on his own in his small quarters. An automatic emergency light cast a red glow over the cold metal walls as it blinked on-and-off, as outside, a heavy clunk reverberated through the ship as the Plagueian assault vessel made contact.

But the Master remained where he was. His mind was already adrift somewhere else…

Or perhaps: somewhen else.

Two years ago
Dark Hall, Antei

The holocrons whispered.

But there were no faces form above the shelves lined with ornate pyramids and hexagons. The Falleen stood before one of the cabinets in the archive beneath the Dark Hall. He had hoped he might find some answer to what his Master had done on Lehon. And then on Runculo. But none of the holocrons knew the answer or spoke to him. Or they were too afraid to.

[i]We dont serve failures.

Dark Lords… do not die.[/i]

Footsteps echoed down the hall from behind him. But the Falleen did not need to turn to find who it was. The red-haired woman should not have been there; this area was for Elders and the Grand Masters choice few only. But her intrusion was nothing unusual.

The Blind Dragon took after her master. Like Trevarus, she cared nothing for rules.

Master Xanos, Xia Long said behind the Prophet.

Xanos… The Falleen repeated the name to himself.

His mind had wandered the abyss for so long, he barely remembered. His Master had left for Yridia, of that he could be certain, for that had happened recently… he thought. But a name? That was something he had lost all those years ago in the fiery pits of the Rakatan home.

Xanos, the Prophet said again, and he turned to study the woman.

The womans red locks framed her blind eyes, giving the almost ageless Sorceress a strange countenance that would unsettle most people - had their own soul not already been damned. Except, her eyes were not entirely white, as if something faint burned deep within them.

And your name? His own voice sounded alien, distant.

The Prophet said nothing further, but inside her mind, he could see her thoughts ticking over. Her thoughts were not on his question, but thinking back to the ritual on Runculo… where Trevarus had used both his own and her blood to draw the Prophets mind back from the shadows in which it had been lost beyond… in blood, the three of them had been bound.

The Sorceress remained silent… or if she had spoken, he did not remember it.

Another footstep intruded on their shared silence.

The Sorceress showed no sign of having heard anything, and when he reached out, he could feel no shift in the great tapestry, no bounce in the threads that held the cosmic fabric together.

But the Prophet nevertheless turned his head down the corridor behind the Sorceress.

A man stood not far behind her, a man dressed in yellow and gold, his clothes adorned with the dancing shapes of dragons, like two great serpents forever set to devour their own tails.

The mans eyes burned with yellow fire.

When the Prophet turned back down to the Sorceress, who continued to pay no attention, he saw hers now shone softly with that same yellow flame. The Falleen did not understand. He could not remember the man behind the Sorceress; he could not remember the name, even if he ought to remember the face. He closed his own eyes, and reached out, but still felt no signs.

Abandon those human eyes, the figure spoke, from nowhere and everywhere, out of time.

Present Day
Deep Space

Still crosslegged on the floor, the Falleens meditating body jerked, and his muscles tensed involuntarily before they slackened again. The Prophets eyes remained closed.

Had any of the others been in the room, they would have seen the black ichor as it ran from his nose.


Present Day
Deep Space
Nachzerer Hold

The hyperlines blurred as Macron stared at them. Many said that doing so would drive one mad. To the Alchemist, the pulsing nothingness was comforting. In the abstract mass of riotous color existed everything- in this, The future and past could be Seen. His yellow eyes squinted as he peered into the chaos outside the port window. A sense of presence came to him. I can feel them. whispered the madman to his droid. And others. I must have answers. The injector hissed as it sprayed chemicals into his neck. Breakfast was served. He threw the empty hypospray into a bin and disconnected his lightsabers from the power port.

The Sith stood up, bracing his hand on the bulkhead wall as he headed back to the cockpit. His droids were ready. Two shielded and armored Sith wardroids hefting heavy repeating blaster rifles and phrikite vibroblades stood at attention in the bay. Each was highly modified from the original designs using the best of both modern and ancient technologies. Creating them had cost a fortune. Macron was a wealthy man, although most did not know the secret. All of his credits went to more deadly toys and he cared not for creature comforts or lavish accoutrements. Fine things brought no solace, unless they could be used to kill or prolong his own life.

In the cockpit, the gutted R9 droid and Blinky awaited him. Were dropping out of jump in ten seconds, into a fight stated the madman as he sat down and ran his hands over a plethora of holocontrols. Prepare yourselves droids. It had taken some time to catch up to the ship he sought. The Nachzerer was a stout vessel for its small stature but it was not faster than any other military ship. The powerplant, shields, and weapon arrays took up too much space to install a ultra-fast hyperdrive.

The viewscreen resolved as the beetle-shaped craft dropped from the cocoon of hyperspace.
Ahead, a large shuttle with no markings had an assault transport attached to it. Around the transport swarmed two HLAF-500 fighters as an escort. Party time, chuckled the madman as the fighters turned and accelerated towards the Nachzerer. His hands swept through the vitreous lines of the holocontrols like angry buzzards lighting on a corpse.

Green bolts of energy spat from the twin HLAF fighters and two slammed into the Nachzerers shields. The ship rocked as the bolts were dissipated. Macron cursed. She could withstand quite a few more but each one was one more nail in the coffin closer to destruction.

An advanced concussion missile launched from the war-transports underbelly away from the fight in an arcing loop. The Nachzerer then replied with bolts of blue ion cannon fire. The azure beams lashed against the oncoming first HLAFs own shields, causing them to fade and flicker. Just as blue arcs could be seen flashing in the cockpit, the concussion missile finished its loop and targeted the now-helpless HLAF. The look of terror on the pilots face was satisfying to the Sith as the missile blew his enemy’s ship and body into space debris.

The ole zap-n-pop got him. Fool. Target the assault transport and fire the turbolasers, ordered the chuckling alchemist. Its a sitting Corellian duck. Well blow that scurvy barnacle right off their keel.

But master, that will possibly hit the shuttle? asked Blinky in an eerie electronic voice as it interfaced a cable into a control port on the wall. The droid seldom spoke.

Possibly, giggled the madman. If you dont want to spend eternity drifting in deep space being forced to perform dull pop music and childish calculations in your processors, I suggest you and R9 dont miss. We need to do this quickly as HLAFs don’t generally operate without a carrier vessel of some sort.

The second HLAF turned to face the new threat. This pilot was better- this one knew the Force.


Present Day
Undetermined Planet

Eyes opened even in mortal death glowed with tourmaline rage. Twin chips of ice blue gazed into the eyes of his Master, the Father Dragon who had been patron to his earliest experiments and failures. Trevarus recalled a few words from a deep memory.

In me, all chains are broken.

There was no genuine need for ceremony, yet perhaps the Cohort recognized their Lord’s respect for this corpse. All twenty placed a hand underneath such that not a fold of cloth was disturbed to move it unto a waiting dais hovering at the head of the sarcophagus.

Staring into the eyes of his Lord, the Oracle knew that he found the answer to a riddle that had plagued him for two years.

Two brothers
One father
Two mortal souls
Five immortal ways
Six paths become three
Three become four
Three reborn in Four
Four become one

Now, he would determine if he was correct. In his three eyes, Trevarus saw a dragon devouring its own tail.

Two years ago
Site 8
Irad Holdings and Acquisitions
Gallinore, Hapes Cluster

One item was needed, yet he stood at the entrance of a vast warehouse. Metal shipping crates were arranged in a geometry that could only be understood by droids, stacked in rows with aisles between that terminated in fog. This was the state of his library, once encompassing almost the entirety of Kalekka Tower. He sighed, bemoaning the indignity of such art. Great works reduced to a metal catalog such that not even he could admire them, or remember how it came into his collection.

Yet, he moved with brutal efficiency.

To an observer, it would have seemed impossible that Trevarus could decide exactly where to go. He opened one container, stepped into the carefully arranged carrel, removed one crate, and from that crate one book. He traced the forefinger of his right hand, eddying with unholy silver along the spine. A tiny fleck of black fell into his palm.

Closing his fingers around this fleck, he left.

Temple of the Heralds
Calabrex, Antei System
Domain of the Dark Council

There was no noise, no light, no emotion. Only a sensation of cold enveloped the sorcerer. This place did not exist outside of the Prima Marked, for it was only the First Apprentice of the First Apprentice who knew of it. The deepest of the blackest Threads led here. Long ago, he suspected that such a place existed, and was instead lead to Antei. It was not until he slew the ghost of Kiln Tobasa, that he finally saw.

At what would be called the base of the tetrahedron, Trevarus inserted the small flake. It was in fact a small tetrahedron itself. The crystal began to glow with a deathly ultraviolet light.

“Legion, I must remember Fire”

In the darkness, a cloud emerged. Glowing with a grey-silver inner light that cast neither shadow nor aura into the temple, a thousand mouths spoke.

“You must sing…”

Taking a deep breath, the Oracle unleashed his voice. Soothing, yet terrifying, a song of gentle rains and destruction. There were no discernible words, but any who might have heard would know the storm.

[i]“Are you certain, young one?”

“Yes my lord.” Trevarus cast his eyes onto the chained form of a Falleen male. “This one shall see as I see, and if I fail, he shall continue in your service. I will take him as my apprentice.”

“You are growing powerful, Trevarus. You risk much. In this boon to save his life, I will claim yours. In your service, he will be your second. You will teach him as you learn, you will show him to see as you see, to fight as you fight, to suffer as you suffer. If you fail, he will become you to bow before me.”

“I understand, my Master.”

“Then let it be so!”[/i]

In a swirl of vertigo, Trevarus swooned.

He kneeled on the cold stone, a sword, long and proud lay across his lap. Lord Fire carved from a huge granite block, each strike of his sword cleaving a simple flake from the whole. This was the art of Long Shan Zhi. Fire taught Thunder and Lightning… So that all might be united in the hurricane.

Trevarus stood and left the temple.

Present Day

Doubling over, Macron swelled with rage. Pillars of light erupted from all three of his eyes.

He saw runes, gilded in black and gold on silk. He saw the glowing eyes of Fire, he saw what the Prima saw.

“That I might supplant him”

He had been appointed Secunda, not by Trevarus, but the Mark itself


The Plagueian assault shuttle sat coupled to the Sadowan shuttle, the only signs of conflict being the Nachzerers cannon pumping great sizzling hyphens at the remaining HLAF escort as the pair flitted around one another, each pilot coaxing the Dark Side to grant him some advantage over the other.

To the uninitiated, it may have appeared to be a far-flung meeting between Sadowan and Plagueian envoys, with the delegates taking time from the formalities to enjoy a demonstration of piloting prowess.

Alas, this was far from the reality.

The Plagueians, having grown fat from the spoils of the Crusade and emboldened by the Iron Thrones decree as their House being the victorious unit, had grown lax in their self-policing of their forces. Particularly, those forces that were operating so far from their home system. Those close to Antei were satisfied with the Dark Councils decree of victory.

Those that were not, like the ones who were now present took the decree as a literal letter of marque, unleashing their brand of piracy on any who would cross their path. Their nerves, already wrought to a razors-edge by the events surrounding their Houses victory and their subsequent courses of action, had blinded them. They were confident that Sildrin Sadows shuttle would be easy pickings.

Poor bastards.

In the docking area of the shuttle, a Korun stood transfixed, his molten-gray eyes locked on the hatch before him, an unlit lightsaber hilt held expectantly in one hand.

In the shadows behind him, a lithe carmine-haired sorceress stood serenely, the Dark Side churning within her as she drew on more and more of its power. Their Plagueian enemies frayed nerves gave her just the mental foothold she needed for what transpired next.

It started as a discontented whisper amongst the rank and file; a crewmember making his way towards the staging area let the barrel of his blaster rifle rap sharply against the head of another. No apologies given, glares full of hatred returned, sharper than the deadliest assassins blade. Unbeknownst to them, the mist of the Dark Side had permeated the entirety of the assault ship, a breath of malcontent loosed from the sorceresses rouged lips. All that remained was a push…

Xia Long shoved.

Suddenly, the crewmembers, most influenced to some degree or another by Xias Force-born majiks, turned on one another like rabid dogs. Heads were cored as some men were blasted in hatred, the Dark Side finding the smallest kernel of discontent within them and causing any contempt to blossom violently. Others were bodily pulped as some viewed them as some hellish nightmare from their childhoods made flesh, all tentacles, claws and gaping, putrid, dripping maws of rotten teeth. It was fight or flight, to the Nth degree.

The ones operating from the fight response had wiped one another out within moments of the docking coupling seating itself to the Sadowan shuttle. Those who followed the flight response had a very different fate awaiting them.

Those petrified souls scrambled, hand over fist towards salvation - rather, towards where Xia told them salvation was.

The sea of running men made their way towards the docking bay hatch. As if anticipating their need for escape above all, it began to slide open with a hiss of shared atmospheres.

Plagueis was not without its own Force-users. In fact, it was this very core group of about five whose marginal familiarity with the Dark Side - the strongest amongst them was no more powerful than a lower-tiered Equite - caused their specific flight response. They urged the remaining mundane - six in number - to follow them to safety. The others were simply too base of mind to ignore Xias deadly intent.

These men and women, however, would meet their ends not at their crewmembers hands, but at the end of a Korunnais righteous fury, dashed as ineffectual waves against the bedrock of his savagery.

The hatch opened fully just as the the first of them rounded the final turn in the corridor. What initially materialized initially as a lone warrior, back-lit by the lighting of the Sadowan shuttle suddenly morphed, to their eyes, into a dragon spitting great tongues of orange fire.

To his credit, the Korun did wait until the hatch fully opened before he ignited his ragged weapon and strode forward. But when he did, it was as if a lifetime of violence was unleashed.

The man known by a thousand and one names plied his trade, his blade growling in sybilent discordance as he wielded it with savage surety. Those Plagueians who ignored their vision out of stark terror ran headlong into the bladesmans strikes, their reckless momentum and his sublime technique cleaving them twain like so much wheat before the scythe. He stepped ever forward, a throaty laugh resounding in the corridor signifying his utter pleasure. His very blood sang within his veins, his sinews the strings upon which he composed his symphony.

One after another, they fell, the Korun giving no quarter and demanding even less; only the heady flow of Time would end the slaughter. The last man cowered seemingly undiscovered in a small corner, his horror-widened eyes and Force-addled brain causing his body to simply shut down. He hunkered pitifully amongst the smoking, sizzling detritus of his crew mates.

The Primarch did not care, not one iota. He had been loosed, a veritable engine of destruction, and he was bent on wiping every bit of opposition from the face of the cosmos by the force of his will and the steel in his resolve.

Until a singular utterance stemmed the tide of gore.


Xia Longs voice bored its way through the Equites battle-haze, and he froze. The Primarch’s sword arm trembled, almost imperceptibly, betraying his disappointment in denying himself this kill. Nenshogeru went silent, and his hand was mercifully stayed from destroying the lone Plagueian.

She slid from the shadows as a graceful cutter splits the seaborn fog, shouldering her way delicately past the Korun to kneel and regard the survivor. Even such as we need chroniclers…and he will have quite the story to tell.

Her smile promised more pain and suffering than a thousand of the Koruns strikes could deliver, and the Plagueian screeched his throat raw at the prospect.


Present Day
Deep Space
Nachzerer Cockpit

The battle outside still raged. The assault shuttle attached to the transport had suffered irreparable damage from turbolaser fire, and any boarders remaining were dead. Still, the Force using HLAF pilot had proved hard to kill. His craft had solid firepower and good maneuverability and flew circles around the Nachzerer. He easily evaded the advanced concussion missiles launched by the transport. Only the stout quadanium armor and shields had keep the craft from being shot to bits. And the shields had fallen to reserve power. Thankfully, HLAFs did not carry ion cannons.

…come on, you sonofabitch, growled Macron as the tiny camera droid he had released earlier zoomed in on the HLAFs cockpit. The little bug had gone unnoticed in the blackness of space as it clung to the cockpit of the HLAF and slowly crept towards the glass. The Nachzerer rocked as another blaster salvo glanced off the shields. Well play dead. Switch all available power to shields, including life support, ordered the Sith as he closed his helm. Keep the secondary generator on warm standby. Tune the turbolaser output to the resonance of his HLAF chassis. I almost have him.

The Nachzerer slowed to a crawl as the running lights on its hull flickered and died. The blue glow of the shields came up high. The HLAF swooped in for the kill, peppering the beetle-shaped transport with blaster shots as it circled, lowered power to the engines, and upped the power to the blaster cannons. The tiny camera droid peered into the edge of the cockpit.

Within the Nachzerer the face of a sneering Duros lit on one of the viewscreens. Macron raised his right hand and clenched it into a quivering fist. The Adept poured all his hate, his anger, rage, and fear into the Dark Side. It swept into an invisible crushing vise that closed around the Duros large brain. The image on the viewscreen appeared startled and began to convulse in death throes as green blood dripped from its reddish yellow eyes and then mouth. The HLAF yawed wildly and exposed its underbelly.

Engage the secondaries. Return full power to the turbolasers and drop shields. Full salvo. Fire! screamed the Sith as the green beams of energy ripped from the Nachzerer and impaled her foe deep in the guts. The HLAF almost seemed to atomize as the energy overload tore her apart from the entrails out. The Elder laughed in victory. Fool. The power of the Dark Side overcame your piloting skills. And this is why the Nachzerer has no port windows. Hehe.

The Sith leaned towards the comm channel controls as the lights returned in his vessel. Macron Sadow here. My hyperdrive is out. I need assistance and time for repairs. The hostiles have been destroyed.

There was silence for almost twenty seconds. A male voice replied. This is the Captain. You have been cleared for docking in the bay. All boarders have been neutralized.

The Alchemist nodded. Docking in sixty seconds. Macron Out.


Dim lit small room onboard the shuttle

The Plagueis man licked his dry lips, nervously looking at the madman in front of him. He couldnt suppress a shudder as he grazed the look in the eyes of Macron. You cant do this! If the Grand Master hears about this Macron let out a roaring laughter. He is mad! the Plagueian thought.

His eyes filled with a flicker of hope directed at the flame haired woman who slowly placed glistening instruments of cold steel onto the table in front of him. Y-you cant allow him to interrogate me! he started to plead.

Her voice was calm, cold: I wont let him. The Plagueian sank into his chair with relief, but he froze in his movement as she continued: I will do that.

Macrons eyes gleamed as he admired the provoked reaction on the face of the Plagueian with those few words. He couldnt help himself and uttered: Marvelous!

The world turned into bright pain for the Plagueian until it sank into darkness after an eternity. It all might have lasted only a few seconds… or maybe the pain had endured for days. Faintly he finally heard a voice: Send him back home.

Room onboard the shuttle; hours later

The room was only lit by fires on the six pillars that were arranged in a circle. Xia Long stood in the circle, back to back with the man she called Sai - but not for long. She drew a deep breath. This is the right time. Maybe not the right place, but time is what matters, she thought. Heavy had been the cloak as the Matriarch of the Longs at first, but now it seemed to have become a part of her. She reached out with her thoughts to the Korunnai, her mental touch like a lilting song of fire, a poison-laced promise laid within.

Are you ready… Brother?

She felt the movement of air in her neck as he nodded. As ready as never before. The anticipation built up like a mountain within him, rooting him while the galaxy spiraled him. Let us begin, her voice was a mere melodic whisper. Both of them raised their arms and to the rhythm of an unheard drumbeat they executed the first step of many - they sidestepped and moved apart from each other.

The flames flickered on the pillars. Slowly they performed what seemed to be a dance, but an expert would see the martial arts behind each of the elegant and strong movements. A flame on top of the pillar assumed the shape of a fiery dragon. They stretched out their arms with hands clenched to fists, punching the air. The next flame joined in - a dragon covered with lightning. With a swift turn they turned, bending a knee and stretched out again their arms with palms facing the ceiling. A ghostly looking dragon joined. A movement of the right arm - bringing it beneath their left armpit - the left hands palm stretched outwards. A fiery dragon with white eyes emerged. Their upper bodies dipped low, touching the ground with both hands and their legs swept over the floor. A powerful elder dragon emerged.

With each staccato-like movement flame by flame on the pillars had shaped into small dragons. They began encircling the Matriarch and her Brother. Each of the moves was mimicked by the dragons.

Breathless they were close to finish to encircle the room. A tiny dragon emerged to join the roundel of dragons. Their fists jabbed forward, touching each other - with upper bodies bend sidewards and their arms sideways over their heads and they froze in movement. The dragons did not stop to move until they started to unite as one. Their flames united soaring up high above them. The flame was vibrant in their eyes. The Dragons Breaths - united as One. It embodied the Energy of all - of Life and of Death.

Sai whispered barely audible: Chi. The flame roared and shot through Sais body, purging what was Old, and leaving what was New. He dropped onto his knees.

You are now reborn, Brother.

His eyes looked up, seeing as if for the first time. And it was indeed the first time in his new life.

You are Shi Long. The Stone Dragon.


Present day
Deep Space

The Mark pulsed.

Thick, bloody ichor, halfway between black and a dark putrescent green, ran from beneath the eyelids of the unconscious Falleen. The Elder remained unconscious. From time to time, his foetal form convulsed, and another sharp exhale hissed from his bloody nostrils.

The pool of ichor possessed a life of its own. Shapes seemed to reflect in the surface of the dark ichor. Faces. Memories from the Dark Prophets past and perhaps visions of his future.

The Falleens lips tried to mumble a name, but the sound was lost…

Two years ago
Dark Hall, Antei

None of this was real.

The holocrons cried out, but the figure standing behind Sildrin did not appear conscious of the crying voices of historys failures. The spectral gatekeepers of Tulak Hord and Okemi hovered atop their ancient, ensorcelled, arcane pyramids, barking unbidden commands into the ether.

The intruders face was simultaneously familiar and not. His eyes both distinct and impossible to decipher. He was there… but he was not there. Real and unreal.

He was a contradiction. But right then a reality.

The Prophet knew the name of the man – or was it a woman – and yet he did not know it.

Fire grew in the figures yellow eyes. Like a Storm. A Hurricane.

The sound of Thunder clapped through the forbidden aisles of holocrons, and flames had all of a sudden engulfed the Holocron Chamber beneath the Dark Hall.

The Sorceress continued to stand there in between the Prophet and the figure that had intruded into his memory of his meeting with his future apprentice. But Sildrin remained indifferent.

I hear him, the Sorceress said quietly. In the back of my mind, he is always there.

There was a faint reflection of the nameless fires in the surface of her grey, atrophied eyes. But the Sorceress paid it no attention. Like the intruder, him or herself, the memory of the Sorceress existed in a projection of its own.

The Blind Dragon was blind to the reality or unreality.

She was just a memory…

The Bloody Book, Sildrin continued. Will you help me, Master Xanos?

That name still sounded strange to his ears… he had forgotten…

The fires in the eyes of the shapeless figure behind the Sorceress intensified as the Prophet battled inside his own mind to recall the true past. He did not answer the Sorceress. Or maybe he had answered her. He did not remember that either… everything had been washed away in that black sea…

His eyes turned to the flames that had encircled himself and the distant memory of his future apprentice. He saw faces. He remembered them… and did not remember them. There was a man with the same arcane carving of a third eye on his forehead like his own… but the mans name now escaped him. A woman, her skin grey-green, like a fellow Falleen… but again, he could not place a name. And then there was what looked like an entire world of Sephi, those long-eared Human relatives… but again, he could not remember where he knew them from…

Or if the memory even belonged to him.

Every face stared at him. They all appeared pleading. Begging him. As if they wanted help.

A saviour. Is that what they sought…? Or a destroyer. Was there a difference?

Their tears fell like frozen raindrops, hailstones that tore through the fiery hurricane. The stones of ice pierced the floor underfoot and disappeared into the unseen pits below. He thought he heard a splash. He could remember the crashing waves. The flooded shores of the desolate beaches. Not even a seagull or a mynock crowed on those lifeless sands.

Now he remembered. A name. The only name.


A smile formed on the face of the figure that had intruded in the Falleens dreams.

Energy cannot be created or destroyed, the shapeless one said, only change form.


Two years ago
Private office of the Grand Master
Antei, Domain of the Dark Council

Two men, powerful and wise sat. For hours they had been still, cigar smoke betraying a frustration lingering. Trevarus had been permitted the Dread Lord’s time, and perhaps it was being wasted. The Grand Master honored the Oracle’s reluctance. Both were aware of the Lady Morrigan, her words to the Oracle, yet neither understood the full context of her advice.

It was Trevarus who finally broke silence. “I must fade.” He paused, and conjured a bottle. Speaking a few words over the crown, Muz produced empty tumblers. Trevarus poured for his host, then a draft for himself.

“A bit of chill, I think?” Muz said.

Without any word, the Will of the Grand Master dropped a single cube of ice into the cognac. A faint grin crossed Trevarus’ features.

“I must show Xanos what has been done, I must show him the truth. Therefore, I must find Chi Long. I will do what I must. While I do not ask for your sanction, I ask your permission.”

“I was young when you were old, Trevarus. Those before me were weak, they sanctioned you. You may fade, and do what you must. If you fail, I will kill you myself”

“I understand, Lord Ashen.”


Present day
Deep Space

In the heart of darkness, even the darkness fades.

Something tugged at the back of Sildrins mind. She approached her masters quarters and the door slid aside in complete silence. Beside her, Shi Longs hand remained tight around the hilt of his lightsaber, while behind, even the mad alchemist kept unusually silent. They all felt it.

The fabric of reality was being… stretched.

The Sorceress stepped inside the darkness first.

Her eyes took in the room. Everything was still. Not even the stream of data on her masters data console moved, the numbers having frozen in place. The pull in the back of her mind grew stronger. Everything in the room looked grey, colourless. Even the overhead lamp had dulled, more brown than white. The droid built into the computer desk that would normally greet - or question - anyone who entered the room, it too remained where it was, not moving.

Shi Longs lips moved, but she could not hear him. Only the tug in her mind.

However, none of this registered in her mind anyway. Her eyes had dropped to the form of her master, unmoving, lifeless on the cold durasteel panels underfoot. Liquid pooled from his lips, from beneath his shut eyelids, his ears, nose, it looked even through the pores of his skin. Dark liquid. Black. It immediately reminded her of the nightmares that had plagued her for months.

Her hand unthinkingly fell to the vial she carried in the hidden pouch at her thigh.

Master… the Sorceress said, or tried to say, but she did not even hear her own voice as he knelt down by the Falleens side, momentarily forgetting her concerns for her own safety. In his hands, her master still clutched the broken shard of the shattered holocron of Darth Gravid that they had found in his lost temple, deep in the abandoned desert wastelands of Jaguada.

Strike at him. He is vulnerable. Or you will never be free.

The voices whispered in the back of her - and surely the others - minds as well.

Had any of them harboured the desire to kill the Dark Prophet, they could have there and then - but at the price of unleashing whatever curse it was that had plagued his mortal form. Macron stepped forward, and knelt down to stick a finger in the liquid, but before he could touch it, Sildrin reached out and grabbed his wrist. No! the Sorceress said suddenly, turning to face him and mouthing the word to make certain the alchemist understood her warning, even if the sound of her voice remained lost. The Waters of Life, she mouthed, raising the crystal vial she carried in front of her. In spite of all the emptiness that filled the room, the silver liquid in the vial shone with tranquil light. But this… she glanced back down, has been corrupted.

Macron studied the Sorceress intensely, but after a few moments the alchemist simply nodded.

When she reached out to hand him the vial, she could make out faces looking up at her from the dark ichor that surrounded her master, reflecting in the light cast from the water she had secreted from Runculo all those years ago. If she hadnt known better, it almost looked like there was a hand, trying to rise up and snatch the vial away, but it was only an optical illusion.

If there was any difference between reality and illusions…

Her masters words echoed in the back of her mind again.

The Sorceress placed her hand on the unconscious prophets forehead. All of a sudden, her mind was besieged by a myriad voices from the past, or future, and images of faces and events flashed before her in rapid succession. A small handful she recognised, but the vast majority were unfamiliar to her. Humans, Falleen, Chiss, Nautolans, even Hutts and Umbarans.

A hand suddenly tightened around her arm and pulled her away again. The images vanished and she found herself back in the lifeless room, discovering she was now gasping for breath and that it had been Shi Long that had clasped her arm - painfully - and broken the connection.

The Stone Dragon finally released her arm.

Sildrin looked back around at the two others, and projected her thoughts directly into each of their minds rather than wasting more time trying to be heard. I must enter his mind, she said telepathically. If she was to get the answers she sought, then there was no other way. It was not open for debate. There was no time. The pressure in the back of her mind intensified.

Moreover, if she did not do something, she might be dragged into the bottomless void as well.

I am sitting on the edge… she thought to herself, but the edge is too sharp - it cuts me.

She looked up at Macron, who nodded. If anything happens, Sildrin continued, you are to find Trevarus. She reached up and handed the alchemist the broken fragment of the Jaguadan holocron. One way or another, something left in the shard would lead them to the Oracle - there was no other explanation for why Trevarus had made such a misjudgement and left it.

The alchemist again slowly nodded, and then turned his attention to the broken shard.

Unbidden, Shi Longs voice filled her mind:

If something should go wrong, the Stone Dragon warned, I will not hesitate to end both your lives. There was not anger or the lust for blood in his voice, only cold determination. Like his name, Shi Longs resolve was as hard as stone, and it was clear he would not allow the chaos that had once before broken free to break free again.

The Sorceress nodded her own head. She would have done the same.

Sildrin turned back to her masters immobile form and placed her hand once more upon his brow - and everything turned to darkness.


Present day
Deep Space
Nachzerer Hold
Inside the Transport

Macron grumbled as he adjusted the scanning neutrino-scope. He had left the room with Xanos and the Sorceress when the ritual began the second time to examine the shard. He could hardly contain himself- nothing fascinated him more than an unknown crystal. Boring rituals be damned, this was science.

Waters of Life, my arse, he chuckled. Waters of Death, more likely. The Alchemist peered into the flickering blue scope. Within, the crystal shard from the Jaguadan holocron was suspended between micro-forceps. Electrons, xrays, gamma excitation, neutrons all bathed the crystal within the sealed chamber of the scope. Across the side of the eyepiece scrolled data as it came in, spectral lines and other tidbits of information represented in glowing figures.

Thats what I thought, muttered the madman to himself. Cut from a larger whole. A synth-crystal, and not the normal Sith or Jedi specimen either. The technique is more refined. Less inclusions, more lattice symmetry. Had to be made in a truly gigantic forge.

The Adept felt within the shard with the Force as it was bathed in seething radiations. It felt strange. It was flavor of the Force he was unused to. It had a Dark Side taint, but it was weak both from age and breakage.

The comlink on his gauntlet lit with an incoming call. Yeah, replied the Sith. Macrons madhouse, You kill em, we chill em. Whats up.

What have you found? asked the Stone Dragons impassive voice.

It tastes funny, giggled the madman. Synth-crystal, neither of Jedi nor Sith manufacture. Older than both. Possibly Jedaii, or even Rakatan. Moments of silence passed.

I see, came the thoughtful reply. Youre sure?

Quite, snickered the mad Sith indignantly. Its Dark Side for certain, but not something I have personally come across before. The information is severely degraded. Almost useless. Ill do my best to extract what I can though.


Several months later

The hull of the Arconan shuttle creaked, the metal yawning like an old bantha in a deep sleep. The starship drifted through the silent corridors of space, all alone, and now abandoned, except for the tapestry of distant stars within which the ship now gently slept, like a small shellfish adrift in the vast ocean of space.

Inside the shuttle, nothing stirred, but for the quiet beeping from the ship’s autopilot. No voices or footsteps filled the dark corridors, which were only lit by the tranquil glow cast by the faint starlight that shone through the ship’s viewports.

In the medical bay, two shapes floated side-by-side in the shuttle’s twin bacta tanks.

The Falleen and his apprentice slept, or maybe had already passed on, who could say, it had been so very long. Macron had left months ago, having lost his patience with the fragment of the holocron that Trevarus had in his haste left behind on Jaguada-- or left behind deliberately perhaps, with the Oracle, it was always impossible to tell either way.

“This karking shard!” the alchemist had sworn, and hurled the crystal against the wall-- had others been there to see him, they probably would have gasped, fearing that the Elder was threatening the very artifact he had been trying to decode; but Macron was an expert with geology, and there had never been any risk involved; he knew it would survive intact.

But still, Sai, or rather Shi Long as he had now been rechristened, had seen any further study was proving useless. The Arconan and Sadowan exile had himself struggled with their plight.

Macron had departed, heading back to Orian with the holocron crystal. Stubborn though the alchemist might be, he knew well enough when he was beaten, and when to not waste time on a fruitless quest from which he could not proper. “I will seek out Vodal Kressh’s journals in the Great Sadow Library,” the alchemist had said, speaking of the descendant of Ludo Kressh. There, Macron had hoped to find the answers to unlock the mysteries that had been sealed.

Sai had not abandoned his task quite so quickly, however. After all, had he not sworn to end his own Matriarch should her voyage inside the Dark Prophet’s mind become a prison from which she might never return? Indeed, it had started to seem that way. After Macron had left, the weeks had dripped by, with Sai still trapped out there in deep space while the problems facing his Arconan brothers and the Dark Brotherhood continued to worsen with every step of the Grand Master’s crusade.

In the end, however, there had been no other choice: despite the feeling of failure, the guilt, Sai had had to leave, and hope that fate would prevail without him there to guide it. But he had not left before setting up a remote data feed, so that he could continue to track the ship’s location-- and the condition of its two remaining passengers. Every now and then, he had returned to check for himself that all was still in order-- or at least, that nothing had got worse. However, each time he simply returned to the same ghost ship, as if time itself had gone on hold and nothing changed, the prophet and the sorceress frozen in time in their two tanks.

It had been some time since the Stone Dragon’s last return, as if even he had begun to forget them, as if the pair left onboard had finally drifted into eternal slumber. However, when the monitor Sai had left behind to monitor the two bacta tanks flatlined, and the reading ceased, the automated system followed its instructions and sent a message to the distant Korunnai.

It was only two words, but it was enough:

Intruder Alert.

Between seen and unseen…

Sooner or later, all memories begin to fade… As time passes, the past drifts further and further beyond our reach, and everything, the people we hold dear, the battles we have fought, the reasons we have lived and fought for, all of it slowly washes away and leaves nothing. At the end, even the most brilliant minds become lost, alone at the end, when all returns to dust…

Outside, the wind howled again…

Xanos felt cold. He and his apprentice had spent days, weeks, maybe it had even been years, trudging through the snowstorm of his mind, reliving the past, the future— if there was any difference to divine between the two. How they had ended up where they were now he could not say, if he even knew; repeatedly, his memories had been intruded upon by nameless faces and voices, and an interloper whose name he was sure he should remember and yet did not…

A ceiling rattled above his head, as if a thousand hail stones were raining down atop wherever he and Sildrin were now. He looked up from his apprentice, the constant companion in his shattered thoughts, the one and only face whose presence he had come to rely on, and found there was now a roof; the pair were in a hallway, cast of dark stone and grey metal. A small window filled the wall to their right, and he stepped away from the sorceress to try and see where in his memories they had now shifted. What looked like a blizzard swirled around them, but the storm howling outside made it all but impossible to see further; it was clear they were somewhere high up. It reminded him of the sights in the winter from the summit of Trevarus’s original tower back on Sif, but there were not the mountains and seas… this was not there.

Faces seemed to shout out through the snowstorm, but they were not faces he recognised. Even their features, their brows and cheeks, all looked so alien, so ancient and impossible.

Looking down, everything was blanketed in snow, as if frozen. Through the storm, he could just make out a small river, its surface frosted, and even the few birds on the surrounding trees either side of the river, they too appeared to have been encased in blocks of ice. Further away in the distance, more towers rose from the snow-covered plains. He did not remembered this place, but that did not mean anything— memories were easily forgotten, if not lost forever…

A gust of wind whistled through the corridors. He heard a familiar voice faintly. “Apprentice.” The voice almost seemed as if it had been carried on the wind. He knew this voice’s source. This voice was the only voice he could never escape: his Master. High above outside, a storm flashed in the heavens, filling the sky with white forks in a spiderweb of intercrossing threads.

Still, he did not know where the voice had come from, or how it knew to find him.

He turned back to his own apprentice, whom he now found had her hand pressed up against the side of a glass tank— how the tank had got there, he did not question; he had given up questioning the fluidity of the mind. “Father,” she whispered in a hushed tone. He tried to make out what was inside the tank, but another flash of lightning outside filled the room, and then the tank was gone again, replaced by just the ashes of what had once been there inside. Like everything here, nothing was to be believed, nothing to be trusted…

Sildrin lifted a hand to rub the side of her forehead.

“I feel…” The sorceress’s voice sounded slightly faint, like someone suffering from a very bad migraine. Her head drooped a little bit. “I should sit,” she said, and kneeled down on the hard cobble stones that lined the floor, in front of where the tank had previously been. Even for her, her skin looked pale, almost white, like the snow outside.

Xanos moved back to her side.

He touched the side of her cheek: she was cold as ice.

The woman did not answer. The feel of her skin felt almost as if the sorceress was… dying. However, that was impossible; Sildrin had never died. This memory had to be another illusion, another trick. Still, even if clearly false, the woman remained silent, and Xanos only now spotted how dulled her hair was, her brilliant red locks drained, greying as pale as her skin.

Another memory whispered in the back of his mind:

“Apathy is death.”

The nightmares had tried once before to break him, back in the frozen plains of Khar Shian. It had not worked back then. It would not work this time. Nonetheless, he shivered as the colour continued to drain from the sorceress’s cheeks, from her hair. A strange feeling was growing in his chest— it felt alien, unfamiliar. In the back of his mind, if such a concept had any meaning when he was already inside his mind, his thoughts drifted back to the world Runculo, when Sildrin had offered her own blood during the ritual that had drawn Xanos back from the dark corners of his mind where he had been lost once before… where now he was lost once again.

Another draft rustled through the ruined tower, and he heard the distant rumble of thunder again. Trevarus’s voice echoed in the back of his mind. “Fear is beneath us,” repeated the voice from earlier, or maybe it was another memory, “we two are gods among insects.”

The frail-looking woman in front of him glanced up from the floor weakly, her eyes grey and atrophied again, like they had been in the past. Her body looked frozen, her skin turning to ice right before his eyes, as if she were nothing more than a sculpture— and perhaps that was all memories are. The ice maiden’s lips cracked as she tried to smile, before the frozen body of the sorceress burst apart into a snowdrift, and he could do nothing but stand by and watch, as the one last presence in his mind that he had clung to and trusted faded away, passing through the window and joining the snowstorm outside. Was this blizzard merely a reflection? Of his own lost memories, of his thoughts and feelings, which he had long ago buried deep inside, all caught up in the storm outside the tower within which he had now become prisoner inside the shelter of his own mind? The memory of the face hidden in the tank filled his thoughts again.

He understood.

Like Trevarus, Sildrin had helped revive his soul.

And now that part of his soul was dying, and ‘she’ was dying with it.

This had not been his real apprentice. He had been looking only at the fragment of her she had offered on Runculo. He had been looking down at himself. He tossed the handful of snow still in his hand aside; it too blew away, passing through the walls, joining the blizzard outside.

In perhaps a fitting irony to the crumbling shelter within which he had trapped his own mind and consciousness, the storm battering the tower was growing worse, and the wind had starting whistling up through the stony corridors like the building had now been caught in a hurricane. The snow and thunder thumped against the lonely tower, like they were knocking to come in—

And perhaps they were.

The voices in the wind grew stronger. “Do not fear the dead… fear only your own control.”

“Master, I will stay with you.”

Xanos knew what he had to do. His steps guided him towards the entrance; the gates swung open by their own volition. Each snowflake frozen in motion— each representing a facet of the person he had forgotten, the being he had resisted and fought to deny; freezing in place, they now hung in the air, under his control. He was their jailer, keeper of the dead, and their voices, their feelings, they would no longer control him; there was no need to hide away anymore.

The eyes of the face that had been in the tank burned as its body returned to dust.

His voice was cold, detached: “I remember.”

As his mortal eyes fluttered back open for the first time in so many, many months, the memory that had been locked away in the depths of his mind all those decades finally came crashing back to him, infusing him as if a storm had all of a sudden smothered him, seeking to burst free. A face. A name. He breathed one word:


And he woke up.


“Am I dead?”, Sildrin wondered.
“But I can still think. If I think, I am still alive…?” There was no sensation from her body - did she still possess one? She forced herself to remember what had happened. Memories of Sai’s promise to kill her should she not return from travelling into Xanos’ mind.
The eternity she seemed to have spent within her Master’s mind - she had felt like a leaf in a storm, barely able to survive from the voices and memories that had battered against her mental barriers. Her Master’s thoughts penetrating her mind, giving her barely space for individuality.

And then… she was thrown out of his mind. Now she was a lone star in a void. For the first time since an eternity she was alone. But time didn’t seem to exist right now. Maybe this is how it feels when one is dead.

A tingling sensation hit her. She felt her body. Relief or grief that she wasn’t dead - she couldn’t decide.

The Matriarch of the Long attempted to open her eyes, voices reached her ear. She started to feel her body.

“… Grandmasters’ portfolios shifted. They lost a great deal of their powers.” A voice said.

“The portfolio of the Force has changed ….”. Her consciousness started to fade in and out.

“ …… before. A shift of …… and within the Force.” A change of the Force itself? Yes. She also had felt that.

“Even the ……. of the Brotherhood ……the rift.” She tried to focus hard. Dim light granted her only a blurred vision of what happened around her, but she was sure she saw two tall figures - one holding a glass in his hand - in front of a viewport.

“…hit our universe. Has the time come, my Master?”. She recognised Xanos’ voice; the other voice was familiar - cool, a slight hint of arrogance - Trevarus Caerick. She tried to open her eyes fully, but her eyelids felt like lead, and all she could capture was the briefest glimpse on a planet through the viewport - if you could call that a planet since it seemed to have been partly blown apart. It appeared hollow inside, two half shells connected by an earthen pillar. Or maybe her eyesight was still not working properly yet.

“Come ,my apprentice. Time and effort will reveal to us what the Wheel of Cosmology has chosen for a fate.”

“What about her?”
She could not make out the response; a flicker of light reflected on a silver gloved hand. The cool touch of metal at her forehead and her consciousness faded.


Space, for all of its vast infiniteness, can be awfully crowded when it wants to be.

Such were the vein of thoughts running through Shi Long’s head as he silently regarded the two empty bacta tanks before him, emptied of their precious cargo by someone who’d happened upon the quiet hulk of the shuttle.

In the quarry that was his heart, the Korun knew that “happened upon” was too light a sentiment. It rang of coincidence. If there was anything he’d learned in his eventful life, it was that there was no such thing. Especially considering the ordered-randomness he’d programmed into the ship’s navcomp; a surreptitious venting of atmosphere here, a “glitch” in the retro-thrusters there, and the shuttle would drift obediently towards pre-set coordinates until he’d come to do his semi-regular checks. It was a fairly simple algorithm, but still served the purpose of keeping the ship out of frequented lanes and away from prying eyes.

Someone didn’t happen upon the shuttle. They knew exactly where to look…and who’d be aboard.

Just then, an eerie feeling of being watched threatened to overcome the Korunnai. But, he was made of sterner stuff; he remembered that he’d already done a thorough walkthrough of the shuttle, Nenshogeru at the ready just in case someone was foolish enough to tarry.

Still standing before the emptied bacta-tanks, he closed his eyes against the already dimmed lighting. Shi began to breathe deeply, retreating further and further into himself while at the same time extending his senses outwardly. His “re/birth” made this exercise uniquely different for him, as the “death” of Sai had granted Shi a more-than-formidable defense against mental Force-based powers, but had effectively deafened him to all but the basest of whispers from the Dark Side. The result was a warrior’s warrior, firmly rooted in the physical world in which he was molded to fight.

He let that world “speak” to him now.

The gentle plip-plip of the remaining bacta fluids voiding the tanks marked a steadily slowing metronome in his ears. A rough estimate of how much fluid had been in the tanks with his two charges and some tracking skill cross-referenced with instinct and the laws of fluid dynamics gave him a sphere in which to begin tracking his prey. ‘No more than a day off, three at the most,’ he silently judged, cursing his naivete; never again would he hope against hope that things would work out, as he did when his patrols of the craft began to wane. He shrugged off the last of his guilt, the adage of “spilt milk” echoing deep within his consciousness.

The air scrubbers, activated upon his docking with the shuttle, were doing their work as the atmosphere within became more breathable, but there was - something - undercutting the sanitized air. Two breaths, then three…

He had it. Rather, he had Him.

The Stone Dragon had occasion to smell this aroma many times since coming to the Brotherhood, and in everyone of his lives - Sai, Tsainetomo, Saiketsu, Son and Apostate, Sadowan and Arconan - it was a constant reminder of the thread upon which he tread and was now firmly bound with. It was the smell of autumn fires and cognacs, of privilege and machination, of cherrywood and megalomania.

It was Trevarus Caerick’s unique brand of cigarra tabac. But the Stone Dragon only spoke aloud his true name. “Shan Long.”

Suddenly, as if invoking his Patriarch’s name was a key in a lock, an earlier transmission from The Madman came unbidden to his mind.

‘It just doesn’t make any sense,’ Macron had tittered, the sound frustrating and tinny through the blue-ghosted image of the holocomm. ‘I’ve seen all manner of minerals, artifacts, do-dads and thingamajigs, but nothing like this. It’s as if who ever left it…’

‘…is taunting us.’ Shi finished for Macron, the Korunnai’s jaw set tight.

‘Yes! Catch me if you can, catch me if you can…’ Macron had sang before erupting into gales of mad laughter, the sound lilting like…like…

Suddenly, the dripping of fluid came back to the fore. “Like ‘water,’” Shi thought satisfactorily, bolting suddenly from the abandoned shuttle back to his interceptor, replaying Macron’s song in his head as he hurriedly checked the navcomp for surrounding systems. ‘Catch me if you can…if you can…not “can”…”Kan”!’ His heart leapt at the recognition, his mind filtering the hoary Dragon’s-speak as only a humanoid life form’s mind could. The language of the ‘Ancients of Days’ was as old as the omniverse itself, but the meaning was clear.

He sped away from the abandoned ship, punching in the coordinates for the series of jumps that would take him to Runculo.


Sildrin woke up with silken sheets flattering her skin. She found herself in a luxurious comfortable bed. It was a change for once. A welcome change. She was tempted to linger for more time in the bed, but she was too restless as she realised she was on Trevarus’ ship, the Sanguinus. Her eyes wandered through the room and clinged at the huge viewport - or rather what it showed to her: A bright star, radiating golden strands of energy into the cosmos.

Why are we here? She wondered. Her eyes narrowed and a frown appeared on her face. Why Runculo? There was only one thing Trevarus would want of Runculo - the Waters of Life. And with Trevarus being one of the most powerful sorcerers around this would mean that he intended to perform a ritual beyond his usual limits. This along with the fact that she was onboard of his ship caused her to shiver. Was she meant to be a part of the ritual? But for what?

A golden strand of energy bursted into empty space, reaching out for the ship and bursted apart into sparkling flares. This planet amazed and scared her at the same time. Moments passed by and yet the sorceress couldn’t move her eyes away. For an eternity she had been inside of Xanos’ mind, trying to survive within the turmoil of voices or maybe tormented souls within the Falleen. At times she had felt she was about to loose the integrity of her essence - and if she had she would have joined the agonizing crescendo of voices within her Master’s mind. Yet there was one voice inside her Master that appeared to be different. But she had not been able to separate it from all the others. For a brief moment she wondered what happened to Shi Long - she still remembered his promise to kill her if it took her too long inside her Master’s mind. And yet she was alive. Maybe it would have been better if he had done so.

She climbed out of the bed, pushing the thoughts aside - it all had strengthened her mental resilience. A couple of clothes had been placed out next to the bed on a cupboard. She arched an eyebrow at the design of the expensive and handcrafted clothes - if there was a word to describe them it would be “daring”.

Just as she was dressed she sensed Trevarus’ presence on the outside of the room. Of course. He was the Oracle for a reason; and thus all of his appearances happened at the right time. “Master Trevarus… “, her red and green eyes mustered him. This was the first time she was able to really see him with her own eyes. Tall, slender, handsome, piercing blue eyes. An aristocratic aura surrounded him, yet he seemed cold.

His cold icy eyes met hers and a slight smirk appeared on his lips: “Greetings Lady Dragon. I hope you had a good rest?”
“Yes. But I am sure you expected no differently.” She shortly motioned her head into the direction of the luxurious bed. She turned on her heels and walked towards the viewport. “I am… surprised to see you. And to be on your ship. Along with …”, she closed her eyes, sensing her current Master, “… your foremost apprentice. The biggest question is… why?”

Trevarus kept up the irritating smirk. To him it must seem like a child asking why a sun shines, or why wind moves leaves. “Lady Dragon, “ he began and stepped next to her. “We are heading into an uncertain future and even our past will not be as it once had been. A boulder had been cast into the rivers of time and its ripplings now start to reach for us. What I had foretold is finally coming to pass.”

Sildrin swallowed. Trevarus’ presence had always made her feel awkward. And awkward she felt again. And there was only thing she could do to disrupt her Master from the flow of mysterious foretellings she never understood: “Master Trevarus…”
“Yes, Miss Long?”
“Excuse me, but I wouldn’t mind some food. It must have been some time…”
For a brief moment Trevarus’ face flashed with childish joy: “But of course. If you like to come along with me?”, he gestured with a hand towards the door and offered his arm to her.
“I just happen to have gotten a delivery of some exquisite wines. And I believe there is also a shipment of some rare spices and fruits among that. My food hunters might have gotten ahold of the famous grazer farm from Askaj. They feed the grazers with special fodder and massage them daily for the fat to spread through the tender meat so it gains a marble effect. I believe we also got some sea food from ….”

As Trevarus continued his neverendless praising of food, Sildrin’s gaze kinda turned blank as if she was blind again - she was barely able to suppress a sigh. Still her stomach was looking forward to that meal.


The Dragons Breath

A day shall come
and stars go black
when even your sons
are no more than ash
as time becomes undone.

— from the Prophecy of the Final Way

Chapter 2: Fall

Galactic Center

In the hidden corners of the galaxy, there some secrets that the mortal eye was never meant to see. From the worlds of Moraband, Kathol and Mortis, to Dathomir, Kaas and Runculo, some truths were never meant for mortal comprehension, but for those few foolhardy wanderers who would try to pull back the veil to gaze at the truths hidden behind… and be lost to the madness.

On Runculo, one such soul stood on the edge of a vast, bottomless crater, looking out at the dark, endless abyss. The colossal wound in the planet’s desolate surface resembled a gigantic footprint left behind by a celestial giant, stretching out, far beyond the distant horizon - and down, down into the underworld’s dark and infinite depths, down where even time itself ceased to have any meaning anymore. The wayward Prophet had tried to peer beneath this strange world’s surface, tried to divine answers from its forgotten core, from the mystic currents from which he himself had been drawn back from the shadows beyond and reborn - but this time, there in the shrouded heart of the galaxy, the truth felt even further away than before, the solution out of reach…

The prophet did not take his eyes off the abyss… not that he felt like he was a prophet anymore.

He had become blind. His future become unknown.

“I see no more path before us,” Xanos said, his voice sounding empty, even for the typically absentminded Falleen, “only the darkness beyond.” The bottomless underworld stretched out to the horizon, its hidden depths impossible even for Xanos to discern as brilliant, blindingly bright threads of golden energy rose up from the chasm up toward the heavens above - and up into the infinite possibilities of the stars beyond. This world, this Runculo, was beyond even the Falleen’s understanding… and not-knowing shook him to his core. He had always had an answer, had always known the way forward; never had his skills with a blade or starship been in question with the future ahead transparent to him, that falling tree, an opponent’s next lunge, the next missile, everything foreseen days in advance. But those days had gone. His great power useless.

By the Elder’s side, the red, flaming hair of the woman that had sought him out to become her master, her teacher, her… ally, if such a word held any meaning for two beings such as they, glistened in the brightness of the golden light as a fresh ripple of energy sprouted beneath her, its first shoots rising through the thin cracks in the dark rocks. “This energy…” Sildrin reflected, her own red and green eyes sparkling with a new intensity, a new light as bright as the strange and alien force that first grew through the cracks under her feet; the sorceress held out her hand as the energy slowly floated higher and she gently weaved the threads between her fingers, “it feels so warm, so full of life.”

The gentle curiosity in the woman’s voice lacked the concern, the sense of foreboding that had filled the Falleen’s own - instead, the sorceress simply sounded intrigued, inquisitive, forever the student in search of answers to the great unknowns. The Falleen turned back from the crater to face her, his vacant expression unable to mask the unease that he poured into the Force, and through the bond that bound master and apprentice. Time truly stood still on this world as memories of four years earlier flooded back, of the day Trevarus had offered his own and the sorceress’s bloods to beckon back the third of the three who had now returned to this world…

The Blood of a Brother, is the Blood of a Father. Bring forth your Son!

The Blood of a Sister, is the Blood of a Mother. Bring Forth your Son!

Sildrin’s mind returned to the present and she found the Oracle himself standing back in front of her, once again alongside the Falleen. Trevarus was watching the golden threads that she had been weaving between her fingers, but which now continued up on its journey, toward the stars above. “Fitting that at the end we three should find our way back here,” Trevarus said, it not entirely clear if he was speaking to the other pair or just speaking out loud to himself. “All worlds begin in darkness, and all so end. The heart is no different. Darkness sprouts within it, grows, consumes it.” The Oracle turned toward the first of his apprentice. “As it did with you all those years ago, my apprentice. Such is its nature. In the end, every heart returns to the darkness whence it came. The challenge, the meaning of life if you will, is acceptance of this and finding the way to overcome it.”

Trevarus now looked around at Sildrin instead.

“Lady Dragon,” the Oracle said curiously, addressing the matriarch of the dragon family in the form that he always had, “tell me, why have you come? What is it you hope to discover here?” There had always felt a distance between Trevarus and Sildrin that she felt did not exist between him and Xanos, as if for some unknown reason the Oracle had always preferred to keep her at arm’s length, although perhaps it had once been this way for Xanos as well, back in those days she had not yet been privy enough to the two sorcerers’ secrets to be be in a position to know.

As Sildrin considered Trevarus’s question, the Oracle continued to study her, the tattoo of a third eye on the man’s forehead seeming to stare back at her, as if gazing into the very depths of her soul - but not even Trevarus would find answers there; she knew better than to leave the most secreted parts of her mind unguarded. Not, she accepted, that even her best efforts were likely to be any defence should the Oracle ever wish to pry open her thoughts for the truths that remained buried even to herself and her fractured memories. “I seek the truth, Master Trevarus,” Sildrin answered finally. “I want to know why you disappeared.” The sorceress saw no point in sugar coating the question: she wanted answers, and this game had played out for far too long.

Not that that was the real question she sought answers to.

But the truth of her desire was something Trevarus had yet to prove himself entitled to.

Regardless of what Sildrin herself truly wanted, the question she had asked had momentarily stopped the Oracle cold and his sight presently remained fixed on her, although she felt less like Trevarus was staring at her, and more inside her. Being unable to see through his eyes, she could not tell what it was about her that held the Oracle’s attention, but… Trevarus looked concerned.

And concern was not something that Sildrin particularly wished to associate with the great oracle of the Dark Brotherhood. For Xanos and Trevarus to both present the same unrest was worrying.

Well?” Sildrin pressed, not prepared this time to give Trevarus any further chance to turn his back on her and march off again before giving her any answers. She was no silly apprentice anymore, no child for the Dark Jedi Master to toy with, her powers had grown in the recent years far beyond any that even she had ever anticipated, even if the newfound source of her strength remained an enigma even to herself. “What have you been searching for that you could only do alone?”

Trevarus continued to stare back, appearing as curious about her as she was about him.

“The end has started,” the Oracle began, “and nothing any of us can do will hold back the Final Way.” Sildrin looked back at him, she had heard of the Final Way of course, every student of the Dark Brotherhood had in the years following Trevarus’s prophecies. Even if those lessons may have fallen by the wayside in the recent years, or not been remembered by the Headmasters that ran the Shadow Academy today, the sorceress was old enough to remember the foundations upon which the Exodus and the Dark Brotherhood had been built. However, the Final Way had always been a distant fantasy, a dream of the End of Days when time itself reached its conclusion.

This was not the day that the Oracle had spoken of all those decades ago.

“Come,” Trevarus said, turning and looking down into the crater, where Sildrin now spotted a stone pathway, which had not been there a few minutes earlier, now ran down the wall into the bottomless depths. “I shall show you the answers you seek, Lady Dragon.” He paused a moment, and glanced back over his shoulder at her. “But I do not believe they will be as you expect.”


Mucenic Plains

“Soon, Brethren; soon…”

Such were the breathless utterances of one wayward Dragon, far-flung from the others of his ilk as he was.

Since he’d set foot on Tarthos, the thrumming within his breast was insistent. Certainly muted when he was dodging explosions and blasterfire, a dull roar when he’d killed the first gene-soldier the enemies of Sadow had dispatched against them, but it was always there.

The Pull.

A tug within his restless heart and sleepless mind, the Stone Dragon was very much aware of the summons. Something momentous was about to transpire on Runculo, and he should be there, he knew.

But, one cannot change one’s basest urges, no more than any jungle cat could change its spots. He was born of War; Strife, personified. And here on the blood-soaked plains of Mucenic, the keep at the top of the hill kept a silent vigil as he happily plied his trade.

Still, there was the summons. And, Shi would, in due course, obey. Such was the way of the Dragons. But until then, he’d fight until there were no more worthy enemies to slay.

Besides, he’d rationalized, his presence there amongst the Clan served the will of the Longs just as well as if he were on Runculo. After all, a great many powerful Force-users had returned to the Sadowan fold; their collective need for control would suss out the gathered Longs’ location, and given Thunder’s previous record, the Sadowites would no doubt want to stop the Longs before their plans could come to fruition.

So, he was pleased to serve as a distraction. Keep the Sadowites looking at him, while the real magic happened elsewhere.

All the better to amaze, he thought, when the Final Act had culminated.

A purpose for Everything. And, to everything, a Purpose.

The Stone Dragon had his. But the pull was strong.

“Soon, Brethren; soon…”


Galactic Center

Like the blood flow of a living world, golden rays pulsed through the dark stones under Sildrin’s feet as she and her two masters made their way down the cold, windy caverns of this mysterious world that the Oracle called Runculo. A cold, icy gust of wind rustled up from further inside the planet’s core, like the cry of a distant giant – or perhaps, a distant dragon, reflected the sorceress, as she felt a familiar voice tugging far at the back of her mind.

Soon, the Blind Dragon whispered to herself silently.

She had ventured to this hidden world with the Oracle’s apprentice to learn what Trevarus had been doing for the past two years, why he had departed the Dark Brotherhood systems back before the start of the Dark Crusade, why he had always seemed one step ahead of the war, visiting worlds before the Clans’ armadas descended, had always plundered the deepest treasures first…

Because he was the Oracle, Sildrin had previously told herself. Because he had foreseen it first.

But that was no longer true.

Xanos had now revealed the truth: the Oracle and his apprentice were now the ones who had become blind. No, they may not have said it directly, the Falleen may have masked his words to his Master back on this strange planet’s surface; but the Oracle and the Prophet did not need to say it for the sorceress to already feel it in their thoughts, their buried feelings, their very presence.

The Falleen had become afraid

Sildrin was not surprised. Indeed, she could understand it, she had lost the memories of her own past so many years ago, lost her certainty of what of her own history was true and what was false. Not knowing was the greatest burden of all – and, no doubt for a man – no, for two men – whose lives, whose power, whose whole purpose had been defined by their visions of the future, their knowing what was before them, for them to lose sight of their own existence was… surely torture.

“You sought answers,” Trevarus said from up ahead, his first apprentice by his side.

Light shone through the end of the cavern as Sildrin approached the pair of masters. They still thought her the student, and yes, in many ways she still was, but neither comprehended the full extent of her skills, knew the number of hours she had spent in the Sadow Library on Sepros, nor walking the restricted halls of the Shadow Academy on Lyspair or the Temple Tiamat on Antei itself. Did they know she furthered her reading? Of course! But with their sight shrouded, and her own skills of suppression – and her ability to hide, even from Xanos and Trevarus – not even the Oracle himself had yet realised how far her powers had grown in his absence.

Or maybe he had always intended that. Who knows… if it even made a difference anymore…

The sorceress joined the pair of lost seers at the end of the catacomb, where damp now rose up the walls, and clear waters now lapped at her feet underfoot. Sildrin stepped out in the new dawn of Runculo’s hidden paradise, finding herself on the shores of the infinite seas, the great, silvery waters of life stretching out to the distant horizon – and beyond. In the other direction, back on land lush, vibrant forests filled her view, full of alien plants and foliage, the kinds of which she had never cast eyes on before. In the sky above loomed more living worlds, islands rich with life floating in the skies.

“This… is not as I remember,” Sildrin said, observing the world that so differed from the bleak, lifeless shores that she had found when last Trevarus had brought her here, all those years ago to draw Xanos’s spirit back from the underworld. Gone were the decaying forests, the dark, sooty sands, and replaced with the light of a new day, its golden brilliance so bright she part feared she could end up blinded again by the sheer intensity of the rays that now filled this strange land…

“The end is a new beginning,” Trevarus replied. “As time draws to a close, a new dawn is breaking.”

Sildrin followed the Oracle’s eyes back down from the floating islands to the shoreline again, where – true to what Trevarus had just said – creatures of an unknown, alien origin were crawling out of the sea, onto the beach, like back in the days when humankind had first crawled out of the oceans for the very first time and started on its long journey that would one day lead her to be right here.

Her hand moved to the vial still clipped onto her belt.

Years ago, she had taken a vial of the Waters of Life away with her, kept it all those years in secret, so she could study this strange world’s secrets – and maybe, hopefully, find a way to awaken her own mind to the Force further, or, perhaps, even to hear the voice of the one she considered her true master clearly again… the one who had for so long seemed so far away…

Trevarus and Xanos studied the vial she had long kept secreted on her person, but neither gave any comment. The Oracle turned his face back toward one of the floating worlds, the violet gem infused into the back of his gauntlet pulsing. “Come,” the Oracle said, “we must speak with the Five.”

Sildrin frowned a little, having no idea what the Oracle was now referring to.

“The Seven Enigmas, those who embody the Will of the Force. Five reside here. Now come.”


Standing at the lip of the crater that his three comrades had entered hours before, Shi Long contemplated the grandeur of the omniverse as never before. His lust for battle temporarily slaked by the actions on Tarthos, he’d left when he’d discovered there were no more enemies to fight. Granted, as his shuttle sped away from the Sadowite planet, he’d noted - with a very distant concern, mind - the enemy Star Destroyer keeling dangerously towards the atmosphere with swarms of Sadowite fighters attempting to break it up so that reentry would spare the remaining ground forces an inglorious end via showering orbital detritus. Still, he was encouraged that some “lucky” warriors would have to face gene-soldiers - cybernetically enhanced fighters the interlopers had deployed in a last ditch attempt to crush them. Those Sadowites would come out better and stronger for those encounters - and the Clan would need them thusly prepared in the years to come.

His thoughts drifted back to the present. The Stone Dragon sensed he’d been here before, but the feelings were distant, detached. The warrior previously known as Tsainetomo had been here, but he half-remembered being so focused on taking down the Falleen and the Sociopath at that time that there was no recollection of the staggering juxtaposition of Life and Death that Runculo embodied, the energies simultaneously threatening to tear the orb asunder while holding it tenuously in place.

No, it was no foolish sentiment that gave the Long pause at the precipice. It was a primal feeling, reflected by the sparse foliage blooming, withering and blooming once more in the space of a single glance. Strangely, there was no thought of the cycle marking a countdown of sorts; unless something as primordial as Entropy itself laid waste to the planet, that birth/death/rebirth would continue into infinity. The Dragon within him, he knew, was being quickened by the planet itself; no wonder his Elder Dragon brethren and sister had come here, time and again. Absently, he stuck his hand to his side, extended and palm down; as if called, a plume of golden aether erupted from the ground to dance between his bronzed fingers. He shuttled his fingers as if weaving a tapestry; indeed, this could have been said to be yet another defining chapter in the histories of the Dragons.

Now, unlike then, he’d be an author of those histories, and not a footnote. His ink would be blood - or, was that the other way ‘round? - and the prose, punctuated by the death throes of those who’d stand in their way - the Final Way.

Without reservation, he stepped down the path into the maw.

“I come.”


Galactic Center

An icy wind whistled through Sildrin’s ears as the sorceress and two Elders clambered up the bulging trunk of a giant, pulsating vine that hung down from one of the small islands floating in the skies above the forest. The ‘sun’, for lack of another term, had begun setting in the distance, and a dark shadow starting to fall across the previously rich and thriving jungles, but which now retreated from the night, the flowers closing their brightly coloured petals, the trees dropping their leaves and falling dormant, as if autumn was approaching with the setting of the sun.

“We must not dawdle,” Trevarus said, “the vines here too will soon retreat from the night.”

The Oracle redoubled his pace and the three hurried up the dangling plants and tendrils. The Dark Prophet, by contrast, slowed, almost to a complete stop, and Xanos stared out at the dying forests, as they shut down, in what seemed to Sildrin almost a metaphor for the passage of time itself – and, perhaps it was, nothing on this strange world followed the usual order of things, not even the course of time itself. When she reached him, Sildrin paused beside the Falleen.

“This place…” the sorceress said slowly, thoughtfully. “Time itself feels suspended, and not suspended, as if we are outside, looking in, a crystal, both frozen in- and outside time…”

A small, white light flashed overhead in the night sky. Sildrin blinked, the sudden flash being unexpected. The small, delicate gold spot descended toward them, like a golden raindrop, falling through the night sky, toward the floating island where the three found themselves.

“My Master…” Xanos said cautiously, his eyes fixed overhead as the small star approached. The Falleen’s own eyes glowed with a similar green-gold flare as the starlight neared.

The small star, no bigger than a small starfighter, passed through the giant leaves and petals of the small floating island’s trees, and Sildrin hear a voice, simultaneously quiet and loud at the same time, coming from everywhere and nowhere, inside her mind, and not.

“What brings you, Trevarus Caerick, once again back to this world?”

The small star flashed brightly – momentarily blinding Sildrin – and when the flash subsided, she found a humanoid figure in front of her, its outline female, its formless body as black as the void itself. Its face was hidden behind a bone-coloured mask that resembled a skull, with patterns etched into the surface like the sort of ritual engravings that one found in any pre-civilised wall carvings and primitive tribal art. The mouth of its skull-shaped mask had a permanent look of confusion, and the strange, otherworldly creature stared at the Oracle, not having even acknowledged the presences of Sildrin or Xanos, its attention fixed on Trevarus.

“I seek one caught between life and death,” Trevarus replied, without any hesitation. Even if he had not yet explained their purpose for coming here to the others, it was apparent that the Oracle had a clear purpose for journeying into the heart of the galaxy to Runculo.

The confused face stared back at him in silence, and another shining light fell from the sky. Like the first, this second star flashed with a golden brilliance, before shifting into a second, similarly shaped entity, only this time its skull-face bore a far more stubborn, irascible look.

“Another?!” the entity snapped angrily, briefly scowling behind Trevarus toward the Falleen. “How many more times, sorcerer, do you intend to tear apart the tapestry of creation?!”

Trevarus gave no sign of being disturbed by the second entity’s confrontation, and instead kept his focus on the first of the pair. Without looking around at her, Trevarus said: “Lady Dragon, please step forward.” The Oracle reached out to one side with the Amulet of Orian, and waved for the woman to join him and the strange entities.

But Sildrin remained firmly where she was.

“I am no toy, Master Caerick,” the sorceress said, her voice souring. The man beside her was evidence of what happened to those who simply did as the Oracle instructed without a second glance. But she was not Xanos. “You said this world would provide answers. Now explain. What are these…” she studied the two masked entities for a moment, “…spirits – and for what reason did you bring us here? I am not Xanos or Muz. I did not come here to become your latest pet.”

“Anger!” the second of the two spirits shouted. “War! Conflict! That is what you and your kind bring to this world, Trevarus Caerick! That is what you and your kind do to creation!!”

Thee more flashes filled the sky, and three further entities, the first of the pair’s mask having a far more serene, neutral expression, neither angry, nor confused, but at peace. “Calm,” the spirit said softly, “there is enough conflict in the Force already.” Rather than addressing the Oracle, this third entity inclined its face toward Sildrin directly. “We do not seek to bring any harm to you, Sildrin of House Hastur. We will give you what you search for…”

The fourth spirit, which had appeared alongside the third, continued. “…but you must be prepared to accept the price.” This fourth spirit’s face looked sad, like one at the funeral of someone close to their heart. It looked over Sildrin’s shoulder back toward Xanos. “Nothing good comes to those who seek out answers in the dark…”

Sildrin looked between the faces of the four spirits and then back at the Oracle. Trevarus had said nothing and simply watched as Sildrin continued to study the different faces, the distant whisper in the back of her mind having also fallen silent – the first time she could remember in a long, long time. Unlike what had been done to Xanos all those years ago, here, this time, it was her decision to make, her choice to choose the path in front of her…

Confusion, Anger, Serenity, Sorrow… the faces of the spirits stared back at her, waiting.

Finally, she looked from the spirits to Trevarus. Her mind was made up.

“I made my choice long ago.”

“You are certain you wish to know?” Trevarus asked, offering her one final chance to back out.

Sildrin stepped forward beside him. “I want the truth. This world. Its purpose. You keep coming back. You were here when this all began, and here you are again, at what you now purport to be the end. Why? What makes this world so unique? What is its reason?”

A familiar cry called out in the back of her mind again.

Ever since she had stowed away on the Sanguinus five years ago, ever since she had been here the day Trevarus had drawn Xanos back from the dead, ever since everything she had known and understood about life, death, about existence itself, had been shattered, left broken beyond repair, the questions had nagged at the back of her mind, clawed at her memory, cried out like the distant voice of the dragon that lurked in the darkness in her lost memories…

Trevarus studied her deeply, the savage tattoo of the Mark of the Wanderer shifting on his forehead, as if the poison inked into his flesh contorted in await of a response, an answer, as the silver gauntlet on his right arm shone, its crystal gemstone shining with purple brilliance.

“Very well,” Trevarus answered finally, his voice smooth, even… knowing.

But of course the ‘Oracle’ knew what her answer was going to be, even without his vaunted foresight, even if, like Xanos, Trevarus’s prophetic vision was stunted – though she had no way of knowing if that held true on this world of all worlds, with this Runculo itself existing outside time, outside space, in a time and realm of its own.

Trevarus’s eyes fell to the crystal vial containing the silver waters from Runculo’s ocean that still hung on her waist, between her two lightsaber hilts. Behind him, the five spirits attention had all five locked on the vial that Sildrin had carried with her for over five years, ever since the first time she had been brought to this the most strangest of lands.

Sildrin looked down and studied the vial for herself, detaching it from her belt and raising it to look at its contents more closely. Here on Runculo, the ordinarily dull, lifeless grey water had taken on a slight shine, the silvery liquid seeming to glow gently in the black of the night. As she stared into the small vial of silver liquid, her thoughts drifted back into the past, back to the day Xanos climbed out of the Well of Life, the day she had been held captive and her own life taken and returned over and over again, the day the towers of her homeworld had burned, the day…

She quickly shook her head, returning her gaze to Trevarus and the five spirits floating in the air behind him. Her thoughts had become lost in the silvery liquid, her mind being swallowed…


It was far from the first time she had tried to study the liquid’s mysteries. For the last five years, she had watched it, inspected it, analysed it. Even with the help of Macron, the great alchemist of the Dark Brotherhood, she had grown to closer to understanding its secrets…

It was not the Oracle that answered her question.

“The Waters of Life,” said the fifth spirit, who had until now not spoken. This one’s face was smiling, the sight somewhat off-putting given the importance of Sildrin’s question. “Life’s greatest gift…”

“…and its greatest curse,” the unhappy-faced spirit added.

The spirit with the confused face continued. “Life is not meant to be understood.”

“Only fools seek to corrupt the fountain of life!” snarled the angry spirit.

Finally, the serene looking entity floated forward, closer to Sildrin. “Life is to be lived.”

“Lady Dragon, the choice is yours,” Trevarus said when the five spirits had all finished. “You wanted to know where I have been. You wanted to know the reason for Lord Ashen’s crusade. You wanted to know the reason why I brought you and Xanos back here. The answer to all three questions is the same.” He gestured to the vial. “The answer lies in the water – in Kǎn.”


Shi sprinted along the shoreline, his lungs filling with Runculo’s air. Each pull made him feel invigorated; each stride, empowered him just as the rising sun gave voice to the blossoming petals’ electric hues reflections off of the distant shoreline.

He was keenly aware - as Conflict’s embodiment - that he and this land were intimately connected. As Life required Death - both in form and function - evolution itself had need of the passing of one existence to make room for the birth of another.

He himself had to die so that he, Himself, could live. The Long felt the distant clarity that epiphany brought, but he had no time to reflect. Only the End mattered.

He ran and ran, leaping over rocks erupting with moss in an instant as if they weren’t there; his Force-fueled flight had brought him closer and closer to his quarry, and though they were still not in sight, he tracked them effortlessly, the Dragon-speak within his heart guiding him unerringly towards a floating island. Shi’s vision focused to razor-sharp clarity; even at distance, he could see the tell-tale wiggle at the vines’ tips that betrayed their retreat. Even witnessing the glory of the sunrise at the distant shore bringing vitality at the same time the encroaching darkness where he ran signaling decay, the Stone Dragon was resolute. Unwavering.

He would reach his brethren.

Shi reached the bottom of the island, the vines now far above the normal reach of a humanoid. Without slowing, the Primarch leapt from a boulder, the Force bearing his fully extended form aloft. His bronze fingers outstretched just as a celestial choir of otherworldly voices sang in his ears; he imagined the symphony of his new life reached a crescendo. Perhaps it was imagined; his heart knew it was not. Such were the ways of Runculo.

He hung suspended for what seemed a lifetime, his fingers tickling the bottom of the tendrils. The tale of the hell condemning the man to never reaching ripe fruits or slaking waters was never so appropriate.

Shi Long’s flight - much like everything else in his life…or was it lives? - was a metaphor. Leap after leap of Faith, many of them ending in disappointment.

Or, more to the point, Apostasy.

Still, he always made the leap. Such was his life, his character. It was what drove the Stone Dragon, the unbreakable will to fight, to live, to throw himself from the precipice. He closed his molten-mercury gray eyes to the world…

…and felt his grip firmly entrench in the vines.

Shi exhaled, the effort punctuated with the strains of relief and his feet swung and dangled as the retreating vines carried him upwards. His forearm strained as he craned his body around to witness the glory of Runculo. Truly, sang the Dragon within, this was Home.

The Apostate shifted and secured his weight with his free arm and he climbed upwards. He had an almost overpowering sense of destiny as he scaled the retreating lattice, and as Shi made the top of the cliff and rose to his feet, it was as if the plateau he reached was yet another physical metaphor for the overcoming of one obstacle to be shown the way to more untold mysteries.

To wit: the almost interrupted skyscape the unobstructed view of the area seeming boundless, yet the eye being inexorably drawn to the eight figures before him - three corporeal and the others, ethereal - all familiar but introduced to him as if for the first time.

Where there was birth, there would be Death. Life would always necessitate decay. This was the truth of the universe.

This was the truth of Shi Long. He was strife. He was conflict.

And as he spotted his sister, she who he could take - but could only have if given - , throw her head back with abandon and drink deep of the Waters, he knew that he witnessed a death and a rebirth which could only herald conflict on a cosmic scale. It was a strange sight, that: as if the mother of Creation were toasting a Final act, the curtains opening on the Apocalypse.

The prospect made the Stone Dragon genuinely smile, and light reflected from his impossibly white teeth.


Galactic Center

“She is an outsider and not worthy!” snarled one of the five spirits.

The saddest one looked at Sildrin with worried eyes. “Only those strongest in the Force can survive…”

Sildrin looked back down at the glass vial in her hand again and began unfastening the crystal stopper. The five spirits watched intently, their collective gaze locked on the mystery of the ritual, a mystery whose secrets were known to all but herself - but for no longer. No longer would she be kept in the dark, no longer would Trevarus hide the truth from her…

As she raised the vial to her lips, her senses warned her of its peril. It had the familiar smell of a poison, but at the very same time, was utterly unlike one. A bittersweet smell, one moment being dangerously seductive, the next threatening, like an old friend, who had already stung her one too many times in the past, and who she knew from past experience it was better avoided…

Kǎn, the water that frees the soul,” whispered a different spirit. “If you are worthy, it opens the universe to you. Let the Force judge now.”

There was no turning back now.

She bent over the vial, remembering then the distant faces of Trevarus’s earlier apprentices, the blank stares of Xanos, the blackened eyes of Muz. Is this what Trevarus had been searching for the whole Dark Crusade? Had bringing her here been his plan from the very start? It would not have surprised her if that had indeed been the case, but it made no difference either way now.

She lifted the vial to her mouth.

“To accept a little death is worse than death itself,” whispered the mourn-faced spirit.

Sildrin tasted the vial’s contents in her nostrils, in the roof of her mouth, in her cheeks, in her eyes - a biting sweetness, now. Cool. Delicate. Like a drug, she told herself, but it was unlike any mortal drug of her experience. In front of her, Trevarus and the five spirits’ features were so clear, as though outlined in light.

Whirling silence settled around Sildrin. Every fibre of her body accepted the fact that something profound was happening to it. She felt she was a conscious mote, smaller than any subatomic particle, yet capable of motion and of sensing her surroundings. Like an abrupt revelation - the curtains whipped away - she had become aware of herself. She was the mote, yet not the mote.

The colossal plants, the raging seas, the thundering storm clouds overhead, all the tapestry of Runculo remained around her - the people. She sensed them: Trevarus, Xanos, Sai.


She had no idea how Sai had got there. Or, rather, not Sai, not anymore. The youngest of the dragons. Shi Long. Sildrin focused her attention on the man who had once been Tsainetomo Keibatsu, aware now this was happening in a frozen instant of time - suspended time for her alone. She stared at the frozen expressions around her, seeing a dust mote above Trevarus’s head, stopped there. Waiting. She focused on the astral extension of herself, looking within, and was confronted immediately with a cellular core, a pit of blackness from which she recoiled. That is the place where we cannot look, she thought. There is the place the Jedi and the Sith both are so reluctant to mention - the place where only an Elder in the ways of the Force may look.

This realisation returned a small measure of confidence, and she ventured to focus on the extension of herself, becoming a mote-self that searched within her for danger.

She found it within that black core that had remained hidden for her whole life.

“The darkness will consume all it touches,” another voice said within her awareness, a different voice, but a familiar voice, a voice she knew well. ‘Stars will burn black.’


Distantly, she could feel Trevarus looking back at her, his brow furrowed in concentration, but it was so distant, so far away, as she focused instead on that voice, that dark, familiar voice.

“Ashes raining on lifeless worlds!”

Experiences began to unroll before Sildrin. It was like flash memory imprinting… but faster… blindingly faster. Yet… distinct. The drumbeat of thunder pounded louder and louder as she watched and she knew each experience as it happened: there was an alien - green, his lithe body bruised, broken, and Sildrin watched as an arm, a leg, as bodyparts grew back, and the alien healed, before the image faded, and was replaced with an old, wizened figure, his yellow hair the brightness of the sun, before the aged figure collapsed, knees broken, face bruised, and fell silent, and the image faded away again like another shadow, and she saw instead now a woman, her hair dark and long, dancing like five serpents, eyes as black as the night, a third eye on her forehead glaring - seconds, moments, an instant, before the woman’s head jerked backward, jaw opening, blood pooling from a wound in her chest, dagger piercing right through her heart.

Sildrin’s own ears were bleeding, pounding, the pain agonising from the earthquake of footfalls, of roars, the imprisoned cries of dragons and demons that flooded her memories, filled her mind.

The image of the unknown sorceress collapsed, and faded like all the others, and the crescendo grew louder still, thundering, hammering, raging for release from its imprisonment. Her mind was filled with a blinding flash, blinding flashes, lightning flooded her thoughts, angry forks of twisting, iridescent energy, burning through her memories, burning into the depths of her soul, burning, burning, burning, she heard the roars, the screams, felt the pain, the fire, the thunder.

She saw him now.

A mighty, towering obelisk stood alone, shimmering in the depths of this empty nothingness that she could only describe as hell. A bent, dishevelled figure crouched at its base, muttering to itself in a hundred voices. Its long black hair flowed down its back, knotted and unkempt, writhing like a Gorgon’s serpents. “Feel the end, we do,” the creature simultaneously whispered and shouted, its volume erratic and shifting, one moment inaudible, the next deafening, “the darkness will consume all it touches, stars will burn black, ashes raining on lifeless worlds!”

Sildrin watched, unable to withdraw even if she had wished it. The creature stood in a thick pool of black, slimy ichor, its own black blood bubbling, imprisoned faces crying out through each bloody boil as the bubbles’ burst, one by one. “Long ago, we told you. From across that great sea of glass, we told you all! Blind is the Hurricane, and Thunder the Storm that rages inside!"

The creature snapped its head around toward her, and instantly the sorceress realised what it was: its skin scaled, its teeth feral, eyes blazed with dark, violet light, blood dripping from the infinite wounds and marks where it had clawed itself, mutilated itself, with its own, barbarous talons.


Shan Long leapt toward her - but crashed back down onto the floor, unable to go any further than the crackling, golden-white shackles of searing energy binding it to the Obelisk would permit.

“Release us,” the Elder Dragon whispered, its voice now seductive, “release us and live!”

“Live?” Was she dead? Was this hell?

“Yes!” Shan Long barked suddenly, interrupting her own thoughts - not even her own mind was secret, not anymore, not from him. “Hell. Heaven. What is the difference?” The Dragon’s lips curled back, sneering. “He,” Shan Long spat the word with contempt, “led you here.”

“Trevarus,” Sildrin answered, knowingly.

“The coward,” Shan Long snorted. “He was not prepared for the Rite.”

Now Sildrin could not help but frown. “The… Rite?”

The Dragon’s eyes flashed brightly, and an amused grin spread across its lips. “He did not tell you?” Shan Long began to laugh. “He led you all the way here, all the way to the darkest corner, and still you do not know what our Father sought?”

Sildrin gave no answer, and simply waited. Unlike Trevarus, she knew the creature that Chi Long had created had no need for secrets.

“My, my, my,” Shan Long chuckled, his laughter growing even louder, more erratic as he continued, “the coward and his apprentice have been keeping things from you…”

“His apprentice, Xanos…?” Sildrin said, stating the obvious, but…

Shan Long snorted. “The failure? No.” Failure? She would have asked, but there were more pressing issues. The Dragon inclined its fanged face toward her, so she could stare into the dark pools of its eyes. “We speak of the one who locked us here. The one who sits on the throne.”

Sildrin stared. Shan Long could only be speaking about…

Ashen.” The Dragon growled the name like a curse.

Muz… and Trevarus? That would explain much, explain everything that had transpired since the day Trevarus had departed Antei, but it also raised more questions than it answered. She wanted to ask more, but the image of Shan Long began to ripple, like the surface of a pool of water that someone had cast a stone into and disturbed. The Dragon glared at her, snarling as the binds wrapped around her tightened once again, dragging him back, nearer the lonely obelisk.

“Cowards! We alone have seen the truth!” Shan Long shouted. “We alone have beheld the glory of the Culmination! It will fail! His Rite will fail!”

And with that final curse, the image of her true master dissolved back into the darkness.


The air was electric, singeing Shi’s senses with the energy of anticipation. His footfalls were silent as he approached, but every step was heavy, weighted with Fate as they were.

The Apostate drew closer to Trevarus and Xanos; the former peering over his shoulder to spare a sidelong glance at the newest Dragon, the latter, more silent and and impassive as Shi’s namesake could ever hope to be.

“…and, all is as it should be,” intoned Trevarus, his voice lilting with the tone of an unspoken secret.

A few of the shades discorporated momentarily, their misted forms swirling briefly about the Korun as if to gauge the newcomer’s worthiness to serve as witness; Shi shooed them away as gnats on a humid day, and Trevarus chortled despite the gravity of the current situation.

“As brash as he never was…and as irreverent as he shall nevermore be,” said the Elder, his grin cheshire and genuine as he tried to bait Shi.

“No riddles today, Caerick,” Shi said, dismissing the old games with a word and a locked gaze upon Sildrin, matching the Falleen’s own. Stone threw a silent nod at the Blind, but addressed Thunder.

“What’s doin’?” he asked, his considerable senses registering something happening within the carmine-haired sorceress, but not quite able to put his finger on it.

“She is between Time.” Brevity was never the soul of Trevarus, wit or no, and Shi broke his gaze to look fully upon Trevarus, his silent look begging for clarity.

Astoundingly, Trevarus was compliant. “Our sister has embarked upon her quest for truth,” he explained. “The draught she’s swallowed will not quench her thirst, but will instead shine light on depths within her she never knew existed.

“You are witnessing - from without - her journey.” Trevarus finished, strangely satisfied. Shi took a tentative step towards Sildrin and poked her shoulder, just enough to set her lithe frame a bit off balance. The sorceress rocked once, then righted herself, but her face gave no indication that she’d sensed Shi’s touch, her eyes remaining rolled disturbingly within her skull.

Shi merely cocked an eyebrow, shrugged, then turned away from her. “How long?”

“Who’s to say, young Dragon?” Trevarus answered. “What is a minute to her could be a year to us, and a lifetime for her could be only a heartbeat for you.” He spread his hands about and spun with a dramatic flourish. “Look about you, brother, and see! Runculo itself could be said to be both darkened by Destiny’s penumbra and warmed by the fires of Inevitability.” He gestured, almost fatherly, towards the still entranced Sildrin. “She has tasted the waters. There are bound to be some…effects.” The pause was almost imperceptible.


Shi said nothing in response, instead posting a silent watch alongside the Falleen and the Sociopath.


38 ABY

The sorceress stretched out her hand as Shan was pulled back, but it was a futile gesture; her power could not be on par with that having shackled Shan Long to the obelisk. A quiet growl escaped her lips; a thought and she moved through the aether of the dreamworld. If not for Shan Long, her fascination had focused on this world, to explore and learn about it. It appeared to her like an endless sky, where sensation and dream were sharpened to an edge. In the empty sky she could yet sense a number of presences - single diamonds, drifting asleep. And it made her shrink back; not for nothing in this world did she want to wake what slumbered here; because for whatever they were, they were beyond her imagination. A premonition about the nature of these creatures hit her and the sorceress moved with more care than ever before.

Her long black robe billowed shortly as she landed on the floating isle - Shan Long’s prison. Shackles twined around him, pulled and held him tightly to the obelisk. Black blood dripped to the floor as the shackles cut into his tormented flesh. Four floating smaller obelisks, covered with ancient runes, appeared to keep up a sort of barrier around the main obelisk.

“Another ancient toy in your hands…,” the sorceress whispered with disdain, “…which you only use as a tool, to get your way.”

Shan writhed at the obelisk, he hissed: “Free us.”

“How?” Xia Long rested her hands against the barrier. Smoke rose when flesh was incinerated.
There was no pain; still she felt her vitae being leached away. Sie increased the pressure. Her skin became scaly, covered with scales and her eyes turned completely white. For a moment Shan stood still to watch her. “This is not necessary.” A wild insane laughter came from his throat. “Ashen himself will open a path.”

The sorceress looked up and opened the lips, but then she saw what Shan meant. The fabric of space was distorted and nearly torn apart by incredible powers. Shock waves of pure energy bent space and time, warping the Force itself. Sie pulled up her arms and established a barrier. “What has he done….” It was no question, but horror and consternation over Muz Ashen’s deed. Something had happened - on Antei. Antei - whatever was left of it now. She narrowed her eyes and her facial expression darkened. The event horizon of the storm - a threatening dark purple mass - reached the isle and with it also both Dragons. For a moment her barrier trembled, but then it stood firm. The storm hit the golden barrier around Shan. Wherever both energies met, purple and gold, forks of lightning flashed up.

The storm began to leech the energy of the barrier. As the Rite of Immortality thirsted for more energy, as much the resulting storm thirsted for energy, seeking it wheresoever it could find it, unhindered by such mortal concerns such as time or space. And it found it in the barrier around Shan Long. Both were related and called into existence by one and the same man.

“He had not learned the rules, the drumbeat by which the universe marches. A law had been broken,” Shan Long howled. “The transgression has to be punished.” The storm moved on, spreading out in the dreamscape.

“Punishment? And who dares execute it?” Sildrin mumbled as she turned again towards the golden barrier. “No. Justice is not what drives this universe.” With a tremor the barrier collided and the sorceress stepped closer. Cracks appeared on the surface of the weakened obelisk. She stretched out both hands and words of power came forth her mouth. And with each word rune by rune began to glow and vanished. Violet eyes flashed up.

“Yes, Sister.”

For a moment Sildrin shut her eyes, and breathed out. And from the Dragon’s breath came a word in the dark tongue, and the obelisk shattered into a thousand pieces. Shan Long threw his head back; free, finally free! A shiver ran through Sildrin’s body; finally was her task complete. “My Lord…” she whispered and knelt, bowing her head.

“We share two destinies; joined and yet separate,” Shan Long began. “You… are like her.” His scaled hand ran through the red strands of her hair; where he touched the strands turned black, like the night. “She, who was the first of us.” He removed his hand and her red hair burned its original colour again. Sildrin watched, incomprehension in her eyes, but then understanding spread across her face.

Shan turned. Three eyes now filled with a new purpose. “It is time.” All three eyes flashed violet.

Sildrin stood and she understood.

Yes,” she replied and stepped toward Shan. She laid her arm on him. A sword manifested in her free hand and she drove it through his body.


Galactic Center
38 ABY

Runculo crackled ferociously. Bright forks fell from the heavens, cracks tore across the surface, tearing open new rifts, trees blazed, wind howled, out at sea, oceans raged, swirling. Caught on the edges of life and death, this world lingered on the precipice, the edges between life and death. The Force was out of Balance, the Five Priestesses had dissolved back into air, their cries howled like death rattles, the wailing screams shared even by the voices of Joy and Serenity themselves.

Nothing could stop it now. The storm tore through the vibrant forests, the golden, life giving leaves, shredding plants, toppling mighty timbers. The storm was out of control, raging, burning.

Runculo had become death.

In the midst of Chaos personified, three men and one woman stood, looking out from the summit of a remote rock, floating adrift in an ocean of stale air as the world Runculo shrivelled back into the Void and died, its life withdrawing, its golden sunrays retreating, cowering back into the cracks between the black rocks of its surface. Birth. Suffering. Death. Life had never just been about joy and happiness, but about the cycle, the yin and the yang, death and rebirth. Lady Morrigan had forever known this - that was why the Sixth Priestess was not here.

Far too often the warriors of Light and those of the Dark both forgot this, forgot that the Essential Construct was neither one nor the other, but betwixt the two, Sword and Shield twain, locked forever in the Eternal Conflict, ever since the War of Beginning at the dawn of time.

Trevarus Caerick stared out toward the distant ocean, a wide, brilliant white smile on his face.

“The Culmination,” said the Oracle. “It has begun.”

He had come here for this reason, and this reason alone. Come here - to undo what had been done. A lifetime had passed since the Star Chamber’s great oracle had first prophesied this day, a lifetime in which many had forgotten, lessons were no longer taught - but never Caerick, never he or his wanderers, whose pursuit of the Final Order had never faded. Nine years ago, his first apprentice had tried - but failed - to achieve ascendance on the ancestral home of the Rakatan Empire, but this time was different. Where Xanos had failed to usher in the Culmination alone, the Oracle’s other student had had longer to prepare, more resources - an entire brotherhood! - to guide, even if unknowingly, toward the ultimate goal, the final purpose: the Final Way!

On Antei, Muz had reached that final step - and now the Culmination rang out through the Force like a galactic tidal wave, an earthquake that tore through the very fabric of great Tapestry of the Weavery. The Sword had been re-forged and had cast the first blow.

To Trevarus’s right, his first, failed apprentice stood, staring out, his expression unreadable.

“You did this,” Xanos said, neutrally.

Trevarus did not answer right away. He knew what his apprentice spoke of: the barrier in the Force, the darkness that had shrouded his apprentice’s visions, the great shadow that had been cast over the Force itself. But Xanos was not entirely correct. It was not Trevarus. Nor even was it entirely the work of the Grand Master. The Force itself was fighting back.

The Force itself had been thrown out of Balance.

The Shield had risen in defiance - and neither Trevarus’s nor Xanos’s, nor even the farsight of the great sorcerers of the Grand Masters themselves from Lords Khyron and Paladin or even Cotelin, could pierce the veil that the Force had thrown up in opposition to the dark sorceries and twisted rituals that the man who had been born Musashi Keibatsu had now stoked, kindled and nurtured for so many long years. But Ashen had cast the first stone - and the Essence thundered!

To Trevarus’s left, that same Grand Master’s cousin stood firm, immovable as a rock. A rock on which not even the end of all that had been known could be shaken. The Stone Dragon, Shi Long, held his gaze on the ocean currents, which stirred, his eyes transfixed on the shapes and sorceries that swirled on the silvery surface, the faces, memories, the shadows of the netherworld that cried out through the water’s currents. Trevarus recognised them, from the great Alaiedon to the Lady Tiamat herself, the dead had been woken from their restless slumber, and all had come to partake on this, the last day - the day that everything changed, the day whose echoes Trevarus had heard all those years ago, rippling back through history to lead him toward this moment.

Faethor had been right all along.

The secrets his old mentor had unearthed in those first ruins of the ancient Star Chamber back in the Aurora Sector, they had been found right. Back then, Cronal and the rest had cared nothing for that Obelisk temple beyond its weapons and trinkets, and even Zoraan had never been more than a naive fool, looking no further than his own selfish gains, but Faethor had seen more - and this day was his validation! The Sword spoken of in the legends had always meant more than iron and steel: it had spoken of a man - the man - who would usher in the Final Way and a new dawn.

That dawn was now.


38 ABY

The sword had been driven through Shan’s body by Sildrin’s hand. Black blood ran down the blade, and down his lips, as he said: “Woe betide whomsoever should dare separate us again.”

She responded: “Let the two of us be together and never be apart again…” His body dissolved into black swathes; condensing into a small, shining star of light.

Sildrin softly laid her hand on the ball and drew it into her. For a moment, her body glowed violet, and a pillar of light bursted from her; the isle began to dissolve.

One whisper, two voices in the same space…