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Thread: Montegue: Chronicles - Kings

  1. #1

    Closed Thread Montegue: Chronicles - Kings

    The another installment of the -insert witty comment- Montegue: Origins series; part of the 'Chronicles' set.

    Ord Ithil - 8 BE

    Alone. That was all she knew right now; loneliness and darkness. Sorrow raged around her mind like an ocean, great islands of anger, hate and dispair rounding off the world inside. While mere years had passed outside, an entire age of emotion had unfolded within. It had been tormented with every concievable emotion, but now only the darkest, most negative ones remained. They said that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned; Emaryn Montegue was certainly that, and if her surroundings didn't qualify as hell then such a place surely didn't exist.

    Emaryn had been abandoned. Worse than that, she had been betrayed; and by the ones she held most dear. With no sun visible in the sky over Ithil - a world she knew as L'Khost; a dark realm beset by death and evil, from ancient mythology - she had no concept of the time that had passed, but back then they had come, and then they had left. She had reached out to them; cried for their help; but her family had abandoned her. Her husband had abandoned her. Her sons - boys who had seen her; sensed her - had done nothing to cooerce their father into a rescue. And then when, in her desperation, she had entered the mind of a shapeshifter - spoken to Hugo through him, with her own voice; her own face - he had shot her in cold blood. She had seen the venom and the hate in his eyes. She had saved their sons from the 'shifter's attempts to steal them away, and he had killed her before even having the opportunity to plea for his help.

    Her love for him was no more; she had purged herself of it. All she felt now was the hate, the anguish, and the scorn. A black fire boiled in her chest: a desire for cold, primal revenge.

    She could not achieve it on her own however; forces that she could not comprehend or understand bound her to this world, and prevented her from leaving. Her ship refused to fly; the pervasive black fog that encircled the globe somehow infected the engines, no doubt; plagued the drives as soon as they had cooled, and choked the life out of them. The same was true of the other ships she had found on her explorations around the planet: strangled to death by the darkness.

    No, she had come to realise: conventional means would not liberate her from this prison. That left her forced to rely on unconventional means. Forced in fact.

    From her eerie above the dead city, she slipped deep into a meditative trance. Her mind reached out; fought against the oppression of the darkness around her, and stretched out into the galaxy at large. Her mind probed, feeling through the ripples and eddies and currents for something: a rock within the sea of life energy; a wave; a convergence; anything that might indicate the presence of her quarry.

    She found one, and her consciousness wrapped around it. It felt slow; unalert. Sleeping, no doubt. A smile broke onto her face: an expression of malice, and sick pleasure. That would make the task of influencing his thoughts that much easier.

    She drew in a breath, released it slowly, and let her consciousness soak into his dreams.
    Last edited by Hugo Montegue; Sep 9th, 2009 at 12:37:49 PM. Reason: Because it has been far too long since I renamed a thread and confused everyone.

  2. #2
    Vertical City, Nar Shadda

    Mandan Hidasta woke with a start, a cold, beaded sweat dotting his forehead. Like most dreams, the details were fading fast from his mind; for once he was relieved, if the sense of tension and panic in his chest was anything to go by. It hadn't been a nightmare - the inner peace that the Force and his Jedi training had provided meant that he hadn't experienced such things in years. It had been - from what he could tell - a simple and pleasant dream. But it had felt wrong. The woman his imagination had conjured was to the untrained eye the same as the one who now lay curled in his arms, but things had been strange; subtle differences that only a lover could percieve.

    Speaking of her; she stirred a little, head shifting from its resting place on his shoulder ever so slightly. Blessed relief flooded down his arm as the pressure shifted to his chest instead; he flexed his fingers to stir the circulation back into life before resting his arm gently around her shoulder. Their love was forbidden by the Jedi Code; but those rules had been torn to shreds the same day that the Order had passed into oblivion. The Jedi were no longer the noble protectors of the people; they were just people now, cowering in their hidden corners of the galaxy to evade the danger that hunted them.

    There weren't many things that they could be thankful for in these dark times; Mandan considered himself blessed that he posessed one of them.

    The dream still tugged at his focus however, the last vestages of it snagging in his memory. He glanced down at Oa, but even her soothing presence wasn't enough to set his mind at rest. He unleashed the faintest of sighs, planting a gentle kiss atop her head as he eased himself from under her, and padded from the bed towards the corner of their cramped apartment that they'd set aside for his meditation. He breathed deep and, settling down with closed eyes, reached out into the Force for guidance.

    * * *

    Never have I been to a place so alive with the Force, yet so dead to it. The contrast is like a blade.

    He was unsure which historical figure had uttered those words, but they had struck the truth dead on with Lightsaber precision. A wretched, dark, and crime-infested place, it contrasted with everything that the Force represented. There was no light here; save what neon signs an grime-filtered streetlights could provide. There was no goodness here; just wave upon wave of people who would take every opportunity to prey off those around them for their own personal gain. There was no hope here; no chance of redemption.

    Appropriate then on a world where the Force held so little sway that two Jedi - perhaps more - would choose to hide themselves from the galaxy. One of them was Mandan Hidatsa: a Jedi Consular with a close affinity with the living Force. The other was Inyos Aamoran: a Jedi Guardian, and his closest and longest friend.

    Despite their closeness, Inyos could not help the wave of disgruntled frustration that rose up inside him at being awakened so early in the morning. At least Mandan had posessed the decency to call ahead this time, rather than simply turning up at his door and jabbing at his mind with his Force presence until Inyos regained enough sobriety to work out what was going on.

    Wrapping a robe around him - less an issue of modesty, and more a concession to the fact that the superintendant of his appartment building hadn't bothered to repair the heating in the corridor for the last eight months - he padded barefoot across his cramped studio and manipulated the assorted locking mechanisms that would, at the very least, delay a would-be attacker by a good thirty seconds while they kicked the flimsy duraplast door in.

    Now framed in the doorway, the Mandan of now was still a sight that he had not grown accustomed to. The hair that had been long and blonde in their days as Padawan had been cropped short and darkened. His usually warm and open face seemed drawn, controlled; strained almost, by the effort of keeping so much hidden from those around him. It pained Inyos to see his old friend so evidently damaged by their ordeal. But Mandan was a survivor; there were many more years of service to the Force in him yet.

    "What?" Inyos asked simply; the hour was too small to waste time with pleasantries.

    Mandan chose his words carefully, not giving too much way lest they be overheard. "I had a bad dream. Can I come in?"

    * * *

    "And you think this wasn't an ordinary dream?"

    Mandan shook his head, his brow deeply furrowed as he perched on the corner of one of the assorted 'items' that posed as furnature in Inyos' cramped appartment. More so than anything else, this experience seemed to have harrowed his friend. "The woman called out to me through the Force; there was so much fear in her. If we do not act soon, I believe it will be too late to save her."

    And why would we want to do that? Inyos kept that particular question silent. He knew that Oa's desire to help and harbour the survivors of the Jedi Purge had infected Mandan deeply, and that his love for her would not allow him to take such a criticism of that attitude as the mere objective observation it was. He had no desire to anger his friend - he knew what the implications of that were. He also knew how sensitive Mandan was to the emotional side of the Force: the side that most Jedi vehemently ignored because of the dangers. It made him a formidable Jedi, far more capable in his manipulations of the Force than Inyos could ever hope to be; it also put him at risk of slipping over the precipice of darkness that the Jedi fought to avoid.

    "Where is she?" he asked instead, selecting a question that he hoped would be just as effective in arresting Mandan's intended rescue. After all, how could they save a woman they could not find?

    The Consular's brow furrowed deeper. "I'm not sure," he admitted, puzzling over the thoughts that even his intense meditation hadn't managed to retrieve entirely. His hands covered his eyes, as if blocking out sight would let him recall the images more clearly. "She is on a dead, abandoned world that orbits distant from its star; closer in there is a world that flourishes with live, vibrancy, and energy, as different from the other as a sun is from a moon." He glanced appologetically towards Inyos. "I am afraid I cannot give you a name."

    Inyos mused carefully. The details were hardly conclusive, but far more specific a description than he was expecting. They might churn out a few dozen results, but that was a more managable list than the few hundred he had expected. Perhaps with further meditation, they could retrieve more details and -

    He stopped himself, realising that somewhere he had already signed off on this venture. He smiled a little to himself; perhaps he was spending too much time with Oa as well.

    He scrubbed at his jaw, brow furrowing himself. "I know a few people," he revealed. His voice was tentative; almost reluctant to indulge his friend. "I will find out what I can, but I can offer no assurances."

    A smile broke on Mandan's face; genuine, warm, and thankful. "I ask for nothing else," he said simply, rising to his feet. As Inyos echoed his motion, he placed a hand firmly on the Guardian's shoulders. "Force be with you, old friend; lets hold on to hope that our search reveals something."

    Hope. The word echoed inside Inyos' mind. Yes, lets hold on to that.

  3. #3
    The air was thick; almost noxious with smoke. Inyos had been to some pretty undesirable places over his years, but this was probably one of the least pleasant. He'd been to Raxus Prime once; and while this particular location did boast an atmosphere that wouldn't kill you instantly, he didn't plan on lingering long enough to research the corrosive properties of the air here.

    He only half-paid attention as Mandan recounted the details of his story. Their contact didn't seem entirely convinced by their cover story - a childhood memory that Mandan had recalled only recently - but to his credit he didn't ask any questions; or rather, to their credits... and a sizeable number of them, at that. His reputation preceeded him however, both as an honourable businessman, and as one of the most accomplished information brokers that this level of Vertical City had to offer.

    "Not much to go on," the broker - a man named Kira - announced, as Mandan's description drew to a close.

    A hint of a scowl formed on Inyos' brow; a note of frustration creeping into his voice. "If we had more to go on, we'd have been able to discern the location ourselves, and thus wouldn't need to engage your rather costly services."

    A grin split across Kira's face. "True enough," he conceeded, flashing teeth. The expression faltered momentarily, and his expression turned contemplative, a hand scrubbing across the tangle of undergrowth that burdened his jaw. "Luckily for you however," he continued, eyes flicking between the two Jedi-in-hiding, conveying an air of smugness and mischief, "I happen to be somewhat familiar with some of the galaxies more obscure myths and legends; a few details certainly spark a few memories." His eyes fell to the small stack of credit chits that the Jedi had already provided as payment. He frowned, eyebrows knitting together in mock effort. "It's difficult to remember the specifics, though."

    Inyos closed his eyes, and willed back the rising frustration that had been tugging at him since they'd arrived. Its mere existance compounded the problem; it had been in the past that Mandan was the more emotional of the two, but apparently his closeness with Oa allowed him an outlet that graced him with a clarity of concentration that had elluded him back at the Temple. Inyos meanwhile had found the conditions on Nar Shaddaa detremental to his own calm and clear mind. Perhaps that - and the chance to leave this world, even for a short while - explained his willingness to engage in what he'd normally dismiss as a frivilous pursuit.

    Delving into his pocket, he tossed a few more of their earnings onto the growing pile in front of Kira. The broker smiled. "Its coming back to me now," he teased, flashing a sly wink in Inyos' direction. "There's a story; an old, Republic tale. The Mandalorians mentioned it too. Talks about a couple of the old Ord planets that the Corellians set up, way back when. Folks back then used to avoid Wild Space as a rule; saw the edge of it as a frontier, and didn't dare to cross it. Wouldn't be much of a frontier without a last outpost to mark it, though; Corellians had two. Called them Anor and Ithil."

    Inyos shifted in his seat. Before he'd dismissed the endeavour as pointless, but the fact that the broker was actually managing to produce results had sparked a curiosity that had lain dormant. He scrutinised Kira with his vision; brushed against him with his mind, seeking out his intentions. They seemed pure; or at least, as close to that as anyone around here ever got. He certainly wasn't giving away any signs that this was a scam to milk more money out of them; that was either a good sign, or just an indication of how accomplished a con artist he was.

    Uninterupted, Kira continued. "A thousand years ago - or there abouts - the Jedi finally overturned those Sith cousins of theirs. But they didn't get them all. One of them hung around; snuck himself out to those frontier worlds." He downed a mouthful of ale; hissed through his teeth as he swallowed. "Anor was tucked in close to the star they orbited: a warm, habitable place; and reasonably populous, back then. Ithil on the other hand was out on the edge: a barren rock where the settlers spent their time trying to rip anything useful out of the soil. Story goes that he landed himself on Ithil, and tried to worm his way in with the local culture. One by one he corrupted the people living there; turned them dark; turned them against each other. Their souls turned black, and one by one they killed each other off, until all that remained was a malevolant darkness."

    Inyos tried to ignore the icy chill in his stomach, but couldn't hold it at bay. He'd heard rumours, back at the Jedi Order, of places that had been so tainted by the Dark Side that the planet itself was turned evil; places like Korriban; Dagobah; one of the moons of Yavin. Those were places that even Jedi feared to tread, and yet it seemed that was where they were forced to go.

    He swallowed hard, forcing the feelings aside, knowing full-well what slippery path they would lead to. Mandan however seemed far less affected, somehow managing to maintain a grip on logic. "If they killed each other off," he pointed out, brows puzzling into a frown. "Then where did the stories come from?"

    Kira grinned, apparently pleased at Mandan's shrewd query. "The Republic sent a ship to investigate; landed a crew on the planet. They stayed overnight; by morning, they'd all vanished, leaving no trace of the crew. They suspected predators, so beamed down a contingent of soldiers; next night they died, but the officer managed to squeeze off a wave before they disappeared, reporting that a cloud of blackness was advancing on their camp. Orbital scans detected the thing; some amorphous dark mass that had been lurking on the dark side of the planet, trailing the border between day and night. The Republic couldn't explain it, so they shoved a quarantine up around the planet, and declared Ord Ithil off limits."

    He unleashed a chuckle. "Trust the Mandalorians not to listen, of course. They decided the darkness was some sort of foe they could vanquish. By the time they showed up, the darkness had grown too big to just stay lurking on the dark side; it overflowed into the daylight as well. The Mandos figured they'd head down to the city; find some sort of trophy to display as a demonstration of how fearless they were. Most of them didn't make it in the end; only a handful managed to make it out, barely alive."

    His voice became low; ominous. "The Mandalorians have a name for it. They call it je'karta dha - means 'vengeful dark', or so I'm told." He regarded them both with a nervous, conspiratorial look. "If you go, chances are you won't make it back."

    Inyos' and Mandan's eyes met across the table, the same concern and nagging fear evident in them both. But the grim determination in Mandan's eyes sparked resolve in Inyos' gut. He nodded; flashed a vague hint of a smile, before he turned back to Kira. "Your concern is appreciated," he explained simply, "But my friend and I don't answer to chance."

  4. #4
    The computer terminal - an archaic contraption that was centuries out of date, but was unfortunately the only such device they could afford - whirred angrily as it processed its assigned task, tearing its way through the holonet in search of the information they needed. Inyos slumped, resigned to patience; almost meditative in his outward calm.

    Mandan on the other hand was restless; he paced back and forth, boots wearing through the already tattered and worn carpet of Inyos' ragged and weary appartment. A hand gripped at his temples, then ruffled through his short-cropped hair. They had known each other for a long time, Mandan and he. Throughout all of it, Inyos had been the patient, level-headed one; Mandan had been impulsive and emotional. Together, they made an effective whole. Granted, current circumstances had strained their respective roles, and it pained Mandan to see the core essence of his lifelong friend being so irresistably erroded; but Mandan had hope that it was not irreversable, and that their destiny to spend the rest of their lives in hiding was not yet set in stone.

    "Here we go," Inyos said finally, snapping Mandan's mind from its reverie. "Ord Anor. Out past Ryloth; a few lightyears counterspin of the tail end of the Corellian Run." He turned to Mandan, eyebrows climbing as he addressed his old partner directly. "We should be able to sneak around through the Outer Rim; bypass the Core completely, and avoid any Imperial entanglements. One of the Hutts has a stronghold on Tatooine in the Arkanis Sector, a few parsecs from the Run. Should be able to secure transport there without too much difficulty; and then maybe charter our own ship to take us the rest of the way."

    Mandan nodded vaguely; hearing his words, but not allowing them to truely register in his mind. Images of that dream - vague now, barely focussed enough for him to percieve them as more than flashes - danced in his mind, mixing with other stray thoughts that would have given his tutors from the Jedi Temple fits if they had seen them. The face of the woman he felt so compelled to rescue twisted: took on the visage of his belovéd Oa. He shuddered at the thought of her suffering, trapped in the darkness, so alone. And yet, if he went from Nar Shaddaa now - abandoned Oa here in this wretched place - how was the fate that he left her to any different?


    The Jedi's eyes refocussed. He glanced at Inyos with a quizical brow. The Guardian seemed to sense some of the thoughts that swam in his mind, and despite his efforts he couldn't hide the mix of sympathy and disappointment from his eyes. Mandan knew that, while his friend would support his union with Oa for as long as it continued, the other Jedi was too much of a traditionalist to approve completely.

    "I need to speak with Oa."

    The words came as no surprise to Inyos; he nodded, slowly, and returned his attention to the console. When Mandan returned, he would be focussed once again; but while his mind was filled with her, distraction would plague him. "I will arrange for our transport to Tatooine," Inyos said simply; the closest he'd ever get to acting as if he understood.

    * * *

    The lights were dim; Mandan didn't dare spark them in to life again, for fear of waking Oa from her slumbers. Instead he crept, barefoot, to the corner of their modest kitchen, and peeled back the duraplast layer that coated the floor. Steel panels stared back at him from beneath; eyes fluttering closed he reached out with the Force, wrapping mental fingers around one that seemed indistinguishable from the others, and raised it upwards. A chasm opened beneath it: a secret void in which he hid the last few remnants of his past life.

    The leatherette green of his robes was a strange comfort; despite a decade having passed since last he wore them, they felt as familiar to him as they had back when he had served in the Clone Wars. The fabric had softened and worn, moulded perfectly to his body so that it draped across him like a glove. Most Jedi robes were rough and uncomfortable, designed as a reminder to the wearer of the discipline needed each and every day of their lives. Mandan's were no different, and yet as the loose weave of the woolen undershirt brushed against his skin, he realised that he missed the sensation; that its presence brought far more comfort to him than its design robbed away. A smile tugged at his lips at the thought of how disappointed the Temple's tailors would no doubt have been, had they known.

    He set the robes aside, and reached in further, pulling out a small box carved from a wood that he couldn't name, but guessed - from the familiar runes carved into its surface - that it had been felled on his native Naboo. It had been a gift, years ago, from the sister he had been forced to leave behind when the Order had taken him. The Jedi frowned on allowing their members to retain connections with the life that would have been, had they not joined the order during childhood. Mandan however had been one of the number that had trouble letting go of his family, and had sought them out: established fleeting contact. This had been a gift from Cheyenne when he had completed the Trials. With almost reverence, he opened the leaf motiff clasps that bound the vessel closed, and eased open the hinged lid. He reached inside; pulled out a bundle wrapped in non-descript cloth. The familiar weight eased into his grip instantly, even before he had unravelled the bindings. As its metallic surface was revealed, cold against his fingertips, he felt something that he had not experienced in far too long. I am a Jedi, he remembered, as he held the lightsaber in his hands.

    He felt her presense even before she entered the room. He chastised himself for having let his attention slip; otherwise he might have felt her stirring from sleep. Still, that she was there soothed him. He set the 'saber on the floor beside him, but did not rise from his knees.

    "You're back," she said. Her voice was soft and gentle; like music to his ears. "You were gone all day. I was worried."

    His head bowed. Defunct as it was now, the Jedi Order had instilled in its members a dogmatic leaning towards emotional restraint. Though Mandan had never been able to embrace it fully, the compulsion to try was hard to ignore. That Oa didn't even make an attempt, and that her emotions surged againt his Force-enhanced senses was still something he had not grown used to. There were times when her love slammed into him like a wave, and submerged him completely; and yet, it was a wave under which he was happy to drown.

    "I'm sorry," he said simply. He didn't dare look at her; couldn't face the possibility that the disappointment and upset he imagined in her eyes might actually be there. His heart shivvered and fluttered as he felt her touch against his shoulders; his own hand rose there to clasp around hers, but still he did not raise his eyes.

    Perceptive as always, she knelt behind him, allowing her arms to slip around his body in an embrace as her head tilted, resting gently against his shoulders. "You're leaving, aren't you?" It wasn't really a question. She knew he wouldn't have unearthed the trinkets of his old life for any other reason.

    "Yes." His muscles felt weak, weighed down with regret. "I sensed - something. Someone. A Jedi. I have to -"

    She smiled, but the expression was bittersweet. "- save them. I know." She heaved out the gentlest of sighs, the warmth of her breath tickling at the nape of his neck. "Even though you can't save everyone, there isn't a power on the 'verse that would stop you from trying."

    Mandan's own mouth quirked, but his voice couldn't quite match the mirth he intended to portray. "I know of a certain Dark Lord of the Sith who would beg to differ," he teased, tone betraying how tired these long years had made him.

    "You will be safe." There was a hint of uncertaintly in Oa's voice; as if she wanted to believe it, but couldn't quite muster the will to do so. "Inyos will protect you."

    Mandan nodded, slowly. "He is a Guardian, after all." Confusion worried his brow; he tilted his head, resting it gently against his love's. "Oa: is something wrong?"

    She pulled away; Mandan found himself chasing her, rising to his feet and turning towards her as she stood, her hand gripping his gently. She guided his palm towards her, resting it against the skin of her stomach... and then he felt it: the small disruption in the ebb and flow of the Force that swirled around the first formations of new life. The energy of the unborn child swam through his body, battered down the restraint of his emotions, and left him reeling. "You are -"

    She nodded, slowly, worry dancing behind her eyes. Her teeth teased at her bottom lip as she gazed up into his own, trying to read what thoughts were meandering through his mind. "A son," she revealed. Her eyes flashed with momentary panic. "Do -"

    She never had the opportunity to finish the question; his lips descended, enveloping hers with intense passion. One arm enfolded her, the other not straying from her abdomen; not daring to break the connection with the life they had created together. As their lips parted, a smile played across his. The tremor of worry in her voice had not been abated, however. "Come back to me," she whispered, pleading. "Come back to us."

    Mandan snared her eyes with a gaze that was drenched in open honesty, and determination. His fingers brushed gently across her cheek. "I promise you, Oa: I will."

  5. #5
    Weeks Later - en route to Ord Ithil

    Inyos lay on his bunk, staring steadfast at the ceiling of his cabin. He claimed he was meditating; Mandan had his suspicions that he was simply trying to sleep, but having trouble doing it. Such was certainly the case with Mandan, though the Consular doubted that Inyos was plagued with the same sense of emptiness at not having Oa curled up against him. Something else tugged at his consciousness as well, growing stronger as they approached their destination; some darkness, plaguing the back of his mind. He dismissed it out of hand, as doubts or second thoughts, or some side effect of the rumoured concentration of Dark Side that Kira's stories had implied.

    Letting his eyes flutter closed, he reached out with his Force senses, searching out the woman from his dream, but despite his efforts he couldn't find her. A moment's concern washed over him; had she been hurt? Killed? More likely though, he had felt her only because she was meditating - or perhaps dreaming, like he had been - and their respective minds had been allowed to wander, bumping into each other by chance in amongst the ebb and flow of the Force. If her mind was no longer relaxed and open, the odds of him feeling her from so far away - especially when she was hidden amongst so much shadow - were slim.

    He turned his senses inwards; or at least, aimed them closer to home. The ship they had sought passage aboard - a clunky, Star Dragon Freighter called the Kadri'Ra - was hardly in its first flush of youth, and seemed to have been maintained by an engineer who attempted to avert technical disaster with luck, rather than any kind of mechanical skill. The crew was what Inyos described as 'of questionable morality'; despite their claims that they were delivering their two passengers as part of a detour from a cargo run, Mandan hadn't seen anything even remotely resembling the alleged medical supplies they were shipping to Rodia, and had sensed more than a little deceit and evasion from the crew. But such considerations were hardly his business anymore; his Jedi status no longer held the legal authority it once did. Learning to accept his new role in the galaxy meant learning to turn a blind eye to the illegal activities of a few smugglers from time to time, among other things.

    Speaking of smugglers; he sensed the disgruntled aura of the Twi'leki Captain approaching down the corridor that led to the passenger accomodation. "Inyos," he said simply, his voice quiet and low; just enough to alert his partner to their impending visitor.

    Lucky too, as the doorway slid aside without warning. A twist of disappointment rearranged the Captain's features; no doubt he had been hoping to discover the two young and apparently single men up to some illicit activity that might make for an amusing anecdote among the crew in a few hours time. He decided to vent his annoyance at their seeming innocence with a growl. "We're approaching Ord Anor," he informed them, lekku twitching a little as he spoke.

    Inyos eyes narrowed, as he sat up to regard the Captain with scrutiny from his bunk. "That isn't what we agreed. Twelve Thousand credits, and you take us as far as Ord Ithil."

    The Twi'lek scowled. "You think me a fool?" he snarled, rounding angrily on Inyos. "No Captain who flies these parts has not heard the stories of what happens to those who land on Ithil. I will not risk my ship or crew by stumbling blindly into the lair of je'karta dha!"

    "Then we will take one of your escape shuttles," Mandan said simply, voice calm and level. "And we will fly it to the surface ourselves."

    The Twi'lek snorted dismissively. "It would be more economically viable for you to hold your breath and have me throw you out of the airlock; at least I wouldn't strand a perfectly servicable piece of hardware down on the surface with you, reduced to nothing more than a tomb for two fools."

    Mandan's movement was so fast that even Inyos didn't percieve it until it was two late. Moving with practiced grace that belied the years since last Mandan had acted thus, a snap of his wrist unleashed the silvered cylinder of hilt from within his clothing, a verdant beam of blade-bound plasma exploding into existance, hesitating mere inches from the Twi'lek's chest, a wrist-flick away from a mortal injury. "That wasn't a suggestion, Captain. We will take one of your shuttles."

    Inyos stared with disbelief; Mandan felt his disapproval pressing against his mind, but didn't waver in his resolve. The Captain did however, swallowing hard, then regretting it as his larynx bulged and perilously crept closer to the glowing blade. "Very well," he muttered; Mandan could see the venom in his eyes, and feel the desire for vengeance radiating from him. "A shuttle you shall have."

    Mandan's lips curled into a brief flash of smile; responding to an unspoken signal, Inyos advanced casually across the cabin, delving inside the Twi'lek's coat and depriving him of the blaster he carried. With a look of dismay and disapproval, he pulled the power pack free, and tossed the two components into separate corners of the room. With a satisfied nod - and a scathing glare - from the Guardian, Mandan thumbed the activation stud of his weapon, and let the blade vanish into nothingness. Reflexes not dulled however, he rose to his feet and rested a steel grip around the Captain's upper arm, the other hand pressing the emitter of his 'saber into the small of the Twi'lek's back. "No sudden moves," he said simply, pressing the weapon a little harder into the Captain's spine for emphasis. The Twi'lek merely growled.

    They wound their way through the lower deck of the ship, the Star Dragon design conveniently separating the areas frequented by the crew from those inhabited by passengers. They passed the sealed and unoccupied infirmary, and ducked through the hatch that led them onto the deck of the cargo hold. Mandan felt suddenly exposed in the cavernous space, and reached out with his senses; beside him, he felt Inyos doing the same. For now, fortunately, they were unobserved. Mandan jabbed the Captain into leading them up to the suspended gangway that bridged the two sides of the cargo hold together, draped between the access hatches that led to the pair of shuttles the ship carried.

    Things were going well, until an instant before the Captain entered the access code into the controls that would unseal the airlock and grant them access. A cry of surprise from behind them heralded the arrival of one of the ship's crew; Mandan barely had time to register the whine of a blaster discharging before Inyos' own lightsaber had burst into life, batting the bolts of crimson harmlessly aside to splash against the metallic walls of the ship.

    A laugh of triumph escaped the Captain; he jammed his fingers into the controls, initiating a deadlock on the hatch that would prevent it from opening without his specific security code. "You won't kill me, Jedi," he hissed. "That code of honour of yours won't allow it." A grin split his mouth apart, bearing teeth. "You'll never make it out of here alive."

    Mandan's eyes rolled in his socket, as the 'saber holding hand rose up, and cracked the ornate metalwork of the hilt into the back of the Twi'lek's skull. The Captain's weight staggered; the Force helped Mandan hold him steady, and heaved him over the railings, tumbling towards a pair of crewmen who had taken to the floor of the hold in a vain attempt to flank the blaster-deflecting Inyos. Both crewmen were kind enough to break the Captain's fall.

    Inyos grunted, the sound almost lost amid the hum of his 'saber and the crackle as bolt after bolt crashed into it. "Great plan," he muttered, a deft twist of his wrist realigning the lightsaber, and sending a bolt careering back into the leg of the smuggler who had fired it. "Got another?"

    "Shut up," Mandan bit back, hooking his lightsaber onto his belt and jabbing furiously at the door controls. An angry red sigil in some language he didn't recognise manifested on the screen with each attempt. Frustration escaped in a growl; he had to force it down, reaching inside himself for the tranquil pool of calm that would allow him to harness what they needed to escape. Closing his eyes, he placed his hands flat on the metal of the door, and breathed deep, reaching out in his mind to search the conduits and circuits for the mechanisms that held the doorway locked in place. Electricity crackled at his fingertips, channelled by force of will and will of Force into each servo, one by one. A series of dull clunks sounded within the durasteel of the hatch as one by one, the locking pins retracted. Mandan strained, brow furrowing in concentration as he wrestled each one free. The last retreated into its berth within the hull of the ship, and he unleashed a breath of relief; a cautious glance at the console revealed a much more pleasing green hue to the indicators. Manipulating the hatch controls once again, he landed a hand firmly on Inyos' shoulder; a silent signal that their retreat was clear.

    Mandan didn't wait for confirmation from Inyos. Ducking through the hatch, he ran to the fore and dropped himself into the pilot's seat, memories of flight training at the Jedi Temple flowing in his mind as he tried to identify the logical components. Fortunately, enough of the dials and controls were familiar to him; several meters behind his head, the escape shuttle's power core burst into life, channelling power throughout the craft.

    "That was stupid," Inyos observed, appearing behind him. A staccato of blaster bolts splashed against the now sealed hatch, but Mandan knew craft such as this were generally sealed well enough to resist the onslaught of low powered weapons like the pistols and carbines the smugglers had carried. "Next time, I get to come up with the plan."

    Mandan's mouth produced a tight-lipped smile. "If I'd waited for you to think of something," he muttered, running the last steps of the power-up sequence, before disengaging the magnetic clamps that held the lifeboat gripped into the side of the Kadri'Ra. "We'd still be sitting in that cabin come next week."

    "Patience is a virtue," Inyos countered, trying to sound defensive, but Mandan could feel the resignation and mild amusement in him.

    Mandan let the grin broaden, and kicked in the repulsorlifts. Their lifeboat bounced out of its dock on the side of the ship, the momentum carrying it a few metres above the hull before Mandan engaged the stabilisers, the small winglets snapping into place from the side of the ship. The thrusters engaged; the sublight propulsion of the ship was barely interplanetary, designed mainly for transit between surface or orbit, but it would be enough to allow them to cross the distance between Anor and Ithil, if Mandan was sparing with their fuel; and if the smugglers weren't too scared of drawing attention to themselves - or of approaching Ord Ithil - to follow.

    Inyos unleashed a sigh, leaning over the back of Mandan's seat to peer out of the viewport at the distant pinprick globe of their destination. "Mandan Hidatsa," he muttered, patting the Consular on the shoulder. "Space Pirate."

  6. #6
    The shuttle nestled down into what the sensors identified as a clearing within the tangle of urban structures. With the minimal resolution offered by the lifeboat's scanners, and the complete absense of light around them - the dark clouds that Kira had warned them of now seemed to enfold the entire planet in perpetual, unbroken night - 'clearing' was as specific as they could be. A brief patch of light had followed them out of the shuttle's hatch, but as they had advanced into the blackness, that had quickly diminished. All that guided them now was the battered datapad Inyos carried, which marked their position relative to the shuttle and an aerial map of the settlement into which they'd landed; and a dim, flickering handheld lamp in Mandan's grip, that seemed to threaten failure at any instance.

    "Where do we go from here?"

    Inyos' question was simple enough, but apparently Mandan could not summon a simple answer, remaining painfully silent. Inyos turned, eyes catching a glimpse of his features twisted with concern, thrown into stark relief by the hand light. "Something wrong?" Inyos asked, trying not to allow his own concern to grow into anything more than that. "Do you sense something?"

    "Darkness," Mandan said, simply and ominously. It was clear that the absense of light to which he referred was not photonic in nature. He looked in Inyos' direction, and for once the Guardian was not even remotely jealous of the stronger affinity his Consular counterpart felt towards the Living Force. In the lamplight, Mandan's eyes glistened with what looked like tears. "All I sense is darkness."

    Something grim stirred in the pit of Inyos' stomach, but he forced himself to ignore it. The Dark Side was strong here, and such concerns - such fears - could not be allowed to flourish. He focussed his mind on the study of the datapad in his hands; advanced a few steps away as he sought out a logical next step. "In your dream," he said aloud, "You mentioned a tower." The perspective of his readout shifted, providing the elevations of the various structures around them. "The tallest building for miles around appears to be -"

    The light behind him shifted. He frowned, turning to look behind him. There it rested, settled on the floor. Mandan had dropped - Mandan had -

    Mandan was gone. Lantern snapping to his hand through the grace of the Force, he panned it through the darkness, seeking out a glimpse of his friend. "Funny, Mandan," he muttered, trying to hide his deepening concern beneath a blanket of humour. "You got me. You can come out now." Nothing, save for silence and darkness, answered. Inyos' eyes darted about frantically, for some flash of sight that would reveal where Mandan had gone. He reached out with his senses, probing the blackness for the familiar aura that had been at his side throughout these long years, but even as he began to search, he knew he would find nothing. Mandan was gone.

    Inyos was alone.

    * * *

    The following - and much of the contents of subsequent posts - are exerpts from a short story that I wrote as a coursework piece when I was 15, with a couple of minor tweaks. When I decided to retell this story here, I had intended to rewrite the events, but now I reach them, I can't bring myself to do it. Appologies for the ensuing drop in quality of my writing!

    The darkness was everywhere. It didn’t merely block out what you saw, it surrounded you. You drowned in it. The beam of light from his lantern did nothing, except for creating a small bubble of light around him. Anxious to get him, the darkness formed a wall around him. As if total blackness was not enough, there was a thunderous, menacing silence. No sounds of insects going about their lives. No rodents rustling in the leaves around his feet. No leaves. People said that nothing lived on Ithil. And if anything were alive here, it wouldn’t be for long. But had there been death, destruction, Inyos would have sensed it. The Force would scream with the pain and agony of it. But it did not. The Force did nothing. No screams, no laughs…not even a whisper. The Force was a void: a vast empty, dark mass. Like everything else on this forsaken rock. Moving in a circle around his ship, he began to search the area around him, in a path slowly spiralling outwards. He made sure to know exactly where his ship was. It was his only escape, the only way out of this place.

    There was a tremendous howl, and Inyos felt a presence brush past him like a drifting breeze. He closed his eyes, and reached out around him with his senses and perceptions. He searched for the mysterious presence, but found nothing. He searched further, and further until…

    He screamed. His hands reached up and clawed at his face, and he collapsed onto the floor. Pain, fear, suffering, death, all rippled through his body. One place, a central vortex, had collected all of the bad things of this world, and concentrated them in one, dense group. He saw people slaughtered; brutally murdered; executed; their homes decimated; animals exterminated. All in that short space of time, these images rushed through his mind. He saw and remembered every look of horror and agony on every face, their features distorted in expressions of immense suffering. What could do this?

    As the feelings subsided, Inyos allowed himself to relax. Collapsed in a heap on the floor, he had no idea where he was. The lantern, thankfully, still glowed with its golden, hope-giving light. He grabbed frantically at it, and drew it in close, clutching it to his chest. Slowly, he rose to his feet and, with the lantern swinging back and forth before him, made his way to where his ship was. He hoped. And then, once again, like a breeze, the presence came. It surrounded him, chilling him through and through. And then, by some divine force or incompetent quartermaster, his lantern went out. He was left in the darkness.


  7. #7
    In the highest room of the tallest tower, she surveyed her empire of one: an endless realm of endless darkness, devoid of detail, of feature, of life. The only light came from the dull, blood red radiance that hung about the room. There were no lights. No candles. Nothing to produce the scarlet glow; it just was. Like everything there, it needed no reason, no purpose, except simply to exist.

    The crimson aura did give colour to her otherwise pallid complexion. Her eyes were deep and dark, filled with the endless suffering of countless worlds. Her lips, grey and full, tightened up to form an icy, emotionless smile. And her hair, long and black, flowed and cascaded down her smooth, silky skin and down her soft, supple neck. Under any other circumstances, her gently curved, and her perfectly shaped form, to which her black dress clung in a most flattering manner, would be considered to be beautiful. Even the strongest willed men had been unable to resist her. She glanced around at the small piles of skulls, ribs and other assorted bones that had collected in her chamber. The corners of her mouth twitched up into an evil grin. She radiated with everything that was bad and wrong in this life, and yet she was irresistible: the women of most men’s dreams. She almost had a power to control the minds of men; in fact, she did have a power to control the minds of men. She could control their thoughts, feelings, and pry upon their feeble, weak masculine emotions.

    She had sensed the new arrivals on her world from the moment they breached the swirling dark maw that spiralled above them. One of them she recognised: the mind into which she had strayed, seeding her lure as a helpless damsel out into the galaxy. Apparently, her efforts had succeeded. She could feel the waves of fear radiating from him every second he spent in her domain. His mind was hideously open; an easy mark; easily broken.

    With him however was another: a much stronger, more ordered mind, though tainted with a strange hint of bitterness that she found almost intoxicating. It reminded her of him - of Hugo, the betrayer; he who had abandoned her in this place; shot her in cold blood. The anger at his actions boiled inside her. She did not quash it however; instead she bathed in it, allowing it to sharpen her senses, and drench her in the darker shadows of the Force, where the Jedi and their archaic ways feared to tread.

    A smile curled her lips, the blissful irony not lost on her. Breaking this second Jedi would be more of a challenge, yes, but the satisfaction she would feel would be all the sweeter for it.

    Her thoughts strayed to the first Jedi. She knew, untrained as she was, she would be no match for both of them combined. Separate them, then; she reached out with her mind, touching on the menace and malice that rolled around the blanket of clouds like thunder. It had taken many years, but in her isolation she had learned to bend the blackness to her will. Steering them towards the approaching Jedi, she sent the vengeful darkness to whisk her first victim away.

    * * *

    Darkness had scared him since he had been a child. It filled him with fear and anxiety. He had never known why - such was the nature of irational fears - but it was one that he had long battled with. The Jedi had tried to teach him perspective; educate him to retain a healthy respect for it, but to not allow things such as fear to find purchase in his heart. But Mandan had always struggled with suppressing his emotions, and not allowing them to guide his actions; his fear had never truely gone away.That is why he always kept his Lightsaber at his side. Not that the ancient bladed weapon could help, of course: even its energy could not slice through the shroud of darkness that covered him. But even so, there was something reassuring about the glowing blade that could beat back the darkness, even if it was only a small way.

    Somehow, this experience vindicated those boyhood fears. Something had found him in the darkness; wrapped him in black and whisked him away. He didn't understand what, as consciousness had faded for much of it - not that he could tell the difference, without any visual frame of reference. All he could be certain of was that he was away: Inyos was not here. He would never have abandoned him if Mandan had remained in the same place.

    Right now, he was lost. He was blind. An entire army could be surrounding him, but he could not see it. Nor did he want to reach out with his mind and probe for it. The suffering he had felt before still lingered within him, not so much a pain, but more of a dull ache: the sort that never goes away.

    Slowly, he rose to his feet. “I am a Jedi,” he assured himself. “I fear nothing. Not death, not suffering, not even the Dark Side.” He reached out with his mind, just far enough to ‘see’ what was around him. Nothing. A barren empty wasteland surrounded him. Not a single thing for miles around. Except for one, solitary object; a presence, perhaps? Gripping his lightsaber tighter, he strode out boldly towards it, focussed his attention tightly on it and ignored everything else. Such single-minded determination would usually be frowned upon by the Jedi; but in the choice between that and succoming to fear, this seemed the lesser of two evils.

    As he drew closer, his mental perception sharpened. He reached out with his mind, and felt another; not Inyos, and yet still something familiar. His pace quickened in recognition; it was her - the woman for whom they had journeyed to this place. He almost ran, only the years of muscle memory grace keeping him from tripping over the rubble and scrub that littered the wasteland landscape. He drew closer; saw her face in his minds eye -

    A flash of red appeared ahead of him, much closer than he had realised. He barely managed to drag himself to a halt; it took longer for recognition to percieve what it was. The lightsaber blade loomed through the darkness towards him; fear struck as he wondered if at last the Empire had caught up with him, one of their Force-trained assassins trailling them to this place. But he sensed no one else there with him, except for her. Grim realisation settled over him. "You lured me here," he announced to the dark, holding his 'saber ready to defend.

    The crimson blade rose, casting a bloody hue across her features. Her face twisted into a smile. "I am glad that you came." She advanced, menacing through the darkness.

    "I am not afraid of you," Mandan warned, tightening his grip.

    The smile continued. "Not of me, no." Her brow furrowed, contemplative. Mandan felt her presence dancing at the edges of her consciousness. He fought to hold her at bay, prevent her from plucking the thoughts from his mind. Satisfaction flashed on her face, and Mandan knew he had failed. Her voice was almost mirthful. "But there is fear in you, Mandan Hidatsa. You are not afraid to die; but you do fear what you would leave behind." She arched an eyebrow. "Or rather, whom."

    Mandan's green-lit face formed into a scowl. "Don't."

    There was no doubt in the threat of his words, and yet Emaryn laughed, a melodious chuckle that became haunting in the blackness. She stroked the blade of her ignited lightsaber against his, more teasing and suggestive than a threat, the two beams of imprisoned plasma crackling and hissing at the contact. A momentary surge of white light provided Inyos with a brief glimpse of improved vision; in the 'saberlight, he caught a glimpse of those twisted, golden eyes, and fought hard against a shudder.

    "I will strike a bargain with you," she announced, her blade retreating away from his, and then vanishing altogether. She stepped back; paced sideways; circled around him, remaining at the very limits of the orb of vision that his lightsaber could conjure. "Come with me now, and you will have a chance to leave this place. Refuse -" Her voice crackled with venom. "- and I assure you, you will not live long enough to meet your son."

  8. #8
    Inyos was afraid.

    There was no use denying it now; no one left to fool but himself. The lantern had long failed, and now he was adrift in an unseen sea, fighting to refrain from drowning and completely lost without his anchor. During the Clone Wars, he had been the rock: he had excelled where Mandan had failed, and the Council had hoped that his example of emotional control and cool perspective would rub off on the more emotional and unstable Consular; help him cope with the crushing loss of his Master.

    But in recent years their relationship had inverted. A realist, Inyos had percieved their situation for what it was: a complete end to life as they knew it. They went from day to day with the sole purpose of ensuring they were still breathing by the end of it. They lived in hiding - and in fear - lest they be discovered by the Empire that had vowed to wipe every last remant of Force Sensitivity from the galaxy, to prevent a repeat of the 'evils' the Jedi had wrought during the Clone Wars. But somehow, Mandan found hope, and optimism. Inyos had disapproved strongly of his union with Oa, which the Order would have forbidden without question; but it had bestowed upon him the calm that he had always lacked. It made him wonder how many of the other doctrines and dogmas he had learned to live his life by were similarly inappropriate in their new circumstances. Inyos had become disheartened with the teachings he had sworn to live his life by; it was Mandan that had been his rock then, holding him above water while he came to terms.

    Now Mandan was gone, and Inyos was afraid. His mind willed for him to return to the ship, but in his frantic search for his friend he had lost his bearings; lost the map too, which left him stranded. His Force-given senses were blinded by the fear of experiencing the pain and suffering that infected every street and every wall of this infernal place. He collapsed to his knees, despair flooding every part of him.

    Let the Force guide you.

    The words came unbidden, conjured from his memory. They were spoken to young Jedi when they first learned to fight, their vision robbed by opaque visors. The objective was to augment their perceptions with a sixth sense: allow them to feel objects around them through the Force. In those early days it had been a mere remote drone that they had sensed, the Force guiding their blade to deflect bolts of energy directed towards them. By the Clone Wars, the drones were droids, and the bolts were murderous plasma hurled from blasters. The Force had guided them even then, pulling his blade by reflex to block, parry and deflect each blast. In orbit aboard the ship he had done the same: immersed himself in the Force, and trusted in it to protect him.

    As it guided his blade, so too then would he allow the Force to guide him. He forced himself back to his feet, and withdrew his lightsaber, holding it illuminated ahead of him. He zoned out his focus on vision; zoned out the angered screams of the darkness around him; focussed instead on finding the path he sought. An impulse tugged him forward, spurring his legs into motion. He followed it, advancing slowly through the dark, lightsaber held like a beacon before him.

    I'm coming. It was a warning. A promise. He wasn't sure who to; he just knew that this was the way the Force wanted him to go. As always, he would follow the will of the Force.

    * * *

    The tower became more imposing the closer Inyos got. As he drew nearer, the crying of those in pain grew louder. It was tolerable; but it might not be for much longer. Slowly, cautiously, the Jedi ascended the stars to the cavernous main entrance. He could feel the walls around him. But he could not feel beyond him. At first, he hardly noticed it. But as he became surrounded on all sides, he felt trapped. He’d never experienced a feeling like it. Being completely inside an enclosed space was not new to him; he'd flown lightyears in starfighters, and there wasn't even room enough there to stand. But then, he always knew he would get out. Here, he couldn't be so sure.

    He roamed the endless, twisting, turning labyrinth. He felt like he was going in circles, but he never saw or felt anything familiar. He was drawn onwards by a strange force. What it was, he did not know. Nor did he like it. He just knew he had to go where it led him.

    The prison in which he now roamed seemed different to the outside world. The walls that blocked out the Force kept the darkness outside. No longer did its depressing weight press down upon him. His grip tightened on his lightsaber; more confident he held it higher. The light bounced off the walls, reflected back from the dull, drab stone that had not seen light for, as the legends told him, over a thousand years.

    By the light of his ‘saber, he marched on, a newly discovered strength coursing through his body. Sweeping his arm back and forth, the energy blade drove off any shadows and dark things that dared to cross his path. And behind, keeping its distance, the darkness stalked him.

    * * *

    He reached the summit; a grand atrium atop the tower, destined presumably to be some grand venue to observe the city that people of the past had tried to build. Now, there was precious little visible outside the grand balcony that dominated one wall, but at least inside there was a chance for sight. Crimson hung in the air; Inyos searched, but couldn't see lights. It didn't matter. Whatever magic conjured it, it was better than the outside.

    He allowed the blade of his 'saber to wither and die, but caution in the back of his mind refused to allow him to release it from his grip. He trod carefully, advancing slowly into the penthouse, eyes wary for any sign of movement.

    A sound behind him made him spin; heavy durasteel doors that he hadn't even noticed when entering slammed closed, propelled by some unseen force. He rushed to them, panicked fingers closing around an archaic handle; despite the efforts of his muscles, no movement in them resulted. He swallowed hard, and turned his back to them, finding some small comfort in having the inpenetrable metal guarding his rear.

    Something loomed ahead of him; a figure, standing at the far side of the room. Nervously, he allowed his gaze to explore the walls to either side, but nothing revealed itself as a hostile threat. He remembered stories from Geonosis; tales of how the very walls would seem to come alive as the natives - perfectly camauflaged against them - appeared. He tried to batter that fearful notion aside, but it slipped through the fingers of his mind, dancing around; taunting.

    The figure came to a halt, waiting for Inyos to advance. He stuck close to the wall, minimising the directions he was forced to watch in as best he could. As he drew closer, his anxiety tightened its grip around his chest, squeezing until it felt as if his heart would burst -

    "- Mandan?"

    Recognition flashed through him as he came close enough to see. Relief, too. His shoulders slumped, and his cautious advance abbated, replaced instead with confindent - though embarassed steps. He sighed; smiled. "I thought I'd lost you."

    A snap and a his announced the activation of Mandan's lightsaber. Confusion rattled Inyos' brow, as he took a cautionary step backwards. "Mandan? Its me, Inyos." Despair tugged at him; deflation that his longest companion didn't seem to recognise him. Confusion too; and fear. "What happened? We got separated, and -"

    Inyos didn't have time to finish that sentence. He barely had time to raise his 'saber in defense as, his own weapon raised ready to strike, Mandan charged.

  9. #9
    Inyos barely fought back the ferocious sweep of Mandan's emerald blade; more blows had been parried by reflex before he even realised what was going on. He summoned strength to his muscles; pushed out against Mandan and his 'saber, shoving him a few paces back across the room to gain some strength. "Mandan, its me," he insisted, backing away, circling around to gain as much space and time as he could.

    The Consular charged again, blue and green blades crashing together. A sickening screach filled the room as the containment fields interacted, the sustained contact taxing both the technology, and the strength of both men. Close enough to see him clearly in the 'saberlight, Inyos peered at the face of Mandan; heart tugged at the sight of his face streaked with tears, eyes filled with obvious pain. He growled in frustration, confusion, and panic. "Mandan, snap out of it! What the hell is going on?"

    Mandan shoved him back, and lunged forward with a few quick strikes that Inyos barely blocked. Despite his obvious emotional turmoil, Mandan seemed otherwise unaffected; his swordsmanship was certainly unhindered, and he struck with more ferrocity than Inyos had ever felt from him. Frantic for time to try and understand, Inyos lept, flipping head over heels as he summersaulted backwards, the sudden surge of motion gaining him the precious seconds he needed.

    Mandan frowned in frustration. "Only one of us can leave," he said at last, words choked by his emotions. He stalked forward, sword held high, strides eating up the distance between them. "I made a promise to Oa. It has to be me."

    Only one of us can - ? A promise to Oa? Confusion and desperation fought for the chance to be displayed on Inyos features. He blocked a trio of broad, reckless sweeps, knocking Mandan's blade high on the third and lashing out with the Force to throw the Consular backwards. He stared in diselief. "What are you talking about?"

    Mandan snarled, impatience rising. "The clouds," he said, as if it was obvious. "They aren't just clouds. They're -" He searched for the words, pacing impatiently as the two Jedi circled around each other. "Spirits, I guess. They're the Force essense of everyone that died here. They were corrupted; turned to the Dark Side. The Force doesn't want them, so they're trapped here. And they won't let anything leave."

    Inyos felt a chill as the memories flooded back. All that pain and suffering: was that how these people had died? That alone mattered little however. There were more pressing concerns. "Then how does killing me help you?" he asked, exasperation creeping into his words.

    "She -" Mandan found himself struggling to find his voice. "She said that - that she could -" He shook his head, as if fighting against something for focus; something pressing on his consciousness, like pain, or the darkness, or something else. His face twisted in agony, the first not gripping his lightsaber tightening. "It was a trap, Inyos. She lured me here. But it was to help her escape. She said - she'll take me with her, Inyos. But she can only take one." Certaintly descended over him, and made the circumstance all the more chilling. "I'm sorry: I made a promise to Oa."

    With that he charged again, and Inyos felt his strength waning as he fought to beat back Mandan's assault. His mind raced. She? Lured? The dream; he realised. A trap; a lure; a Darksider, then. Perhaps the one responsible for the demise of all these people, though the notion of someone surviving for a thousand years - and here, of all places - made that seem unlikely.

    "We can fight her, Mandan," Inyos pleaded, struggling to hold him at bay. "We can defeat her, and then we'll find a way out of this place. Together."

    Mandan shook his head, face twisted with emotion. "No; this is the only way."

    With a roar, Mandan charged again, the Force hurling him high in the air. Inyos saw him coming; panicked; tried to block, but Mandan lashed out and threw off his balance. He barely brought his lightsaber up in time; even then he wasn't fast enough to arrest its momentum completely, the tip of Mandan's blade scoring across the flesh of his arm. He staggered and, thrown off balance he stumbled; fell; body wracked with impulses of pain.

    Tears in his eyes, Mandan loomed over him. He raised his lightsaber, ready to strike. "I'm sorry, Inyos."


    Something snapped inside Inyos; something imperceptable, and irreparable. The Force surged from him, slamming into Mandan hard enough to send him staggering back. It helped Inyos leap to his feet too, adrenaline taking care of the pain for now, though the arm hung unused at his side. Fury flashed in his eyes as he surged forward, beating back the Consular with broad, furious blows. Fear flashed in Mandan's as the lightsaber was sent tumbling from his hand, clattering across the floor even as Mandan was knocked down to it.

    "Please -" Fresh tears leaked from Mandan's eyes as he cowered beneath Inyos' attack. "- Inyos, please; I have a son." His voice faded to a whisper. "I promised."

    Inyos was deaf to his pleas. A snarl curled on his face as he raised the lightsaber high, venom tainting his words. "I always was the better swordsman," he muttered.

    The blade shrieked as it bit into flesh, and bone, and blood.

  10. #10
    Inyos could bearly find his breath as he stood over the corpse that he had just forged. His muscles twitched in spasms as his fury and adrenaline pumped around his veins. His eyes fell on what had once been his friend; a man whose only fault had been that he loved one woman so much that it robbed him of all reason. Inyos waited for the tears and the remorse to come, but they didn't. No excuses, either; no attempts by his subconscious to justify his actions as self defense, or find some way in which Mandan deserved his fate. All he felt was an emptiness inside. His heart had become a void.

    A staccato rhythm echoed around the cavernous chamber, heralding the entrance of the architect of their fate. Emaryn beamed, the crimson hue that permiated the room flushing her palid features blood red. Inyos turned, slowly, eyes falling on her like a predator. She approached, slinking towards him like a tigress, but the way her twisted features bore her teeth flashed an almost rancor smile. "Congratulations," she said, her voice melodious but sickly, belying the age that her features no longer showed. "I had hoped all along that you would be victorious."

    Inyos allowed his lightsaber to extinguish, but kept his weary gaze focussed on her. "Victorious?" he echoed, a hint of laughter escaping from it. "Not the word I would have used."

    Emaryn's brows arched, her unnatural amber eyes locking with his own crystal blues. She drew close; near enough for him to reach out and touch her, and incomprehensibly he longed to, the vow of abstinance seeming so futile now. Mandan had found comfort when he lay with another; why shouldn't he?

    Her smile rekindled, seemingly in reaction to his thoughts. She stepped closer still, fingertips trailing down the side of Inyos' face. "Your friend was correct." Her words were soft, gentle; alluring. "Only one of you could leave; though by my design, more than anything else." She bit at her lower lip, eyes exploring Mandan's features with close scrutiny in the scarlet light, wavering perilously close to him: so close that their breath mingled together. A fingertip toyed gently across his own lips; her gaze flicked between his eyes and these, the desire of what she had been deprived of for decades dancing around behind them. "The darkness keeps me contained here; it would take more strength than I have in me to escape this world. Even together, we cannot hope to succeed."

    Confusion toyed with Inyos' brow. "Then why let Mandan die; why reduce our numbers so low?"

    "He would not have waited," she revealed simply. "His desire to leave was too strong; incompatable with my plan."

    Her lips strayed ever closer to his. Inyos swallowed, hard. "Your plan?"

    The smile returned; teasing, playful. "Alone we are insufficient, Inyos Aamoran; but together, we can be more." Her hand strayed to his chest, palm pressed against his heartbeat. "Sons," she explained, in simplest terms. "Sons and daughters. With you as Lord, and me as Lady, we shall begin a generation that will beat back the darkness with ease; we shall return triumphant to the galaxy, and then make of it what we will." Her fingers tightened, gripping a handful of clothing as her lips crept back towards his. Her words were barely more than a breath. "What say you?"

    "I say -"

    Emaryn's eyes widened as her mouth fell open in a gasp, the expression stretched into something horrific by the cyan underlight from the 'saber now impailed through her gut. Her eyes, unnatural and golden as they had been turned by the darkness that posessed her, faded back into the deep, dark brown into which her belovéd Hugo had once stared.

    "- you backed the wrong Jedi."

    With a twist of his wrist and a shove against Emaryn's too-close body, Inyos' lightsaber found freedom from her torso, leaving an ugly tear through her chest and abdomen in its wake. She fell, the life gone from her eyes before she even reached the floor. Inyos didn't even look, disgust curling his lips into a snarl. The cycle was complete then: she had corrupted Mandan, who he had then been forced to kill; now she lay dead as well, and vengeance had been exacted. Only one step remained.

    Inyos did not view his actions with regret or remorse; they had been done, and there was little else he could do about them now. For whatever reason, the Force had led him down this path, and this was where the road ended. He thumbed the activator on his lightsaber, and tossed it aside, the weapon skitting across the polished stone that he hadn't even noticed was underfoot. Like those actions, he was certain that this one too was the will of the Force, and at the end of this path he had chosen to walk, he would find himself within the Force's warm embrace.

    Without second thought or hesitation, Inyos walked calmly out onto the balcony atop Emaryn's tower, and stepped off the edge.

  11. #11

    Inyos awoke. That in itself came as some surprise. He fought for memory and found it; distasteful actions that he had been forced into. A dream, perhaps? No; genuine memories it seems. How then was he still here; still able to percieve anything at all. Was this the Force?

    He attempted to wave an arm in front of his face, but saw nothing. Incorporeal, perhaps; and yet, he could feel himself when he reached beneath. Blindness? Darkness?

    His eyes swirled, the blue that had once matched the crystal of his lightsaber shifting to take on the golden tones that Emaryn and her predecessor had shared. As the transformation took hold, his vision cleared; not sight as such, but he could percieve the world around him in some strange way. It was as if he could sense the very blood that stained the walls: feel the imprint of the death, the despair, and the darkness that made this place what it was.

    He looked upwards, staring at the tower from which he'd just fallen. He knew, inexplicably, that he had survived uninjured. Had something arrested his fall? Had something shielded him from injury? Or a healing trance, perhaps; how long had it been since those events transpired? Even if there had been a sun above for him to chart the passage of time, there was no way to know how long he had been unconscious.

    He clambered to his feet, and looked about himself. Regardless of how it had transpired, he was here now, as the Force willed it. He sighed, resigned to his fate. Let the Force guide you. He had, and here he was: trapped, alone, with everything he ever had, and was, gone. He found himself wondering what Mandan would say, but the void in his chest sucked in any chance of hope and optimism. All that remained was the dark and dismal truth: he was stranded here, and the Force intended to preserve him alive.

    A thousand years, his memory whispered ominously. Dread flooded through him at the notion; the idea of spending a millennium with the knowledge of what he had done only made the black hole in his heart grow stronger. He staggered, legs growing weak as realisation crashed in, all of the emotions that had somehow passed him by collapsing on him now like a tidal wave of pain. He buckled beneath it; fell back to the ground. Mandan was dead, killed by his own hand. That woman too, whoever she was: he'd seen in her eyes at the end that she had been a woman trapped within the shell of herself, not unleashed until the brink of death.

    Tears came, then went: he had none left to cry. Sorrow stole his voice away. For an eternity he sat there, guilt the only companion he had left. He turned his eyes to the heavens, but found no stars above to reassure. He fell backwards, slumped against the earth of the world that was now his to inhabit, alone. Force, please, his mind whispered to the nothingness. Let me die.


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