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Author Topic: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence  (Read 679 times)

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Offline Joshmaul

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Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« on: 06/30/16, 10:04:38 AM »
Whitesoul Spire - Insomnius' New Residence
Montagne Noire, Reydovan Prime
Two months after the fall of the Star Fortress


The dark side had begun to take hold in the Reydovan capital city. Like on Dromund Kaas, the storms were constant here, a testament to the power of hate and anger that had rendered this city to ruins not once, but twice...and to the hate and anger of the planet's rulers that sought to rebuild it not once, but twice.

Darth Insomnius stood in the archive room of her new residence, a home built more to a modern Imperial style. Rather than rebuild what Cyanoculus had wrought here, with golden spires and pyramids, she decided to go to "Imperial architecture" - simple, modular, and functional. The new Palace of the Mountain Shadow, which would serve as the headquarters of the IRDF and other planetary government offices, would be built like the Citadel in Kaas City, or the People's Tower in New Adasta on Ziost, as it had been before the cataclysm.

The Temple of Introspection had served its purpose, and was now left to be claimed by the forests of the Caymarnian foothills. She would not live in his shadow any further; that building had always been his, even when she had resided in it. This was her sanctuary now.

Who knew - in a few thousand years, maybe someone would find the old place, and wonder how a Massassi temple from Yavin 4 got all the way out here...

Insomnius had been receiving reports from Varan, now acting on her behalf again with his master "gone", regarding the ongoing struggle with Zakuul. The results had not been promising. Even as Exarchs and Star Fortresses were removed, the grip was as tight as ever. Arcann burned five planets looking for this "Alliance", and kidnapped, tortured, and/or executed anyone suspected of sheltering them. For everything this "Alliance" did, it seemed, nothing changed for the better. If anything, it was made worse.

Perhaps she would have a skifter up her sleeve for that...

"Your Excellency." Insomnius looked up from the archive she had been consulting to see the chief technician in the doorway. She had brought in a team of cyberneticists and droids to work on her "latest project" since they had returned to the capital. Work progressed in both Montagne Noire and in the damaged city of Illuminopolis, thanks to a generous business deal with Krayt Industries, the conglomerate owned by Darth Karmic.

Setting aside the archive she had been consulting, she walked up onto the raised floor to him. "Progress, Doctor?"

"Progress, my lady. I think our team has done exceptional work with this one. The Sith trainers have been equally impressed; Darth Metheius, Lord Lazhna and Lord Ammenkayn all agree he has progressed in leaps and bounds."

She walked with him towards the upstairs chambers. "He is still strong with the Force?"

"He is, but the changes to his body have resulted in their being funneled into his physical strength; he himself recognizes the limitations to his Force abilities brought on by the cybernetics. His circulatory system is largely dependent on them, given the damage done to his chest by the plasma beam. His respiration was tricky, but we preserved enough of it where he could operate without a mask or helmet under non-combat conditions. We have spent a great deal of time testing with our Sith guests to determine how long he can go without requiring artificial respiration in combat, and it improves day by day as his body adjusts to his implants. The kolto injectors also come in handy for that."

"Better than Cyanoculus, you reckon?"

"Much more so, physically. Taelios' records indicated he had had to do a near-total body rebuild for Darth Cyanoculus, and the cybernetics - while highly advanced - made some of his movements slower. This was much less to replace, but much more work to adapt them as you wished us to."

As she entered the audience chamber, Insomnius watched as two Sith were engaged in lightsaber combat. One was Lazhna Dai'lo, the Togruta Sith Lord who served as Insomnius' chief enforcer. The other was a human with brown hair running to his shoulders, one side of his face scarred by burns, which were partly hidden by the elaborate Sith tattoo around the eye. He was in battle armor, and to Insomnius' surprise, carried a pair of lightsabers - one with a straight hilt, one his usual curved-hilt. And he was holding his own, without a helmet - though she could see that his breathing was becoming somewhat labored.

Darth Metheius, standing in front of the throne, clapped his hands twice, bringing an end to the duel. "Enough. The governor is here." Lazhna, stepping back, raised her lightsaber in a salute; after a moment, her opponent returned it, then disengaged both weapons and hooked them to his belt.

Insomnius looked pleased. "Leave us," she said to the others, who bowed respectfully as they filed out of the room. Once they were alone, she said, "You have adapted quite well, all things considered."

"I'm sure this was part of your plan. By enhancing certain skills...and hampering others."

"Of course. I couldn't very well allow you to think you could dominate me...as I now dominate you." Insomnius grinned wickedly. "Command word: Eagleshard." The man suddenly froze, standing straight at attention, his facial expression going utterly blank. "Are you ready to carry out the work of the Empire, Darth Malagant?"

"I am ready, my lady," Darth Malagant replied at once, his voice mechanically flat - though that was not the response he had wanted to give...
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« Reply #1 on: 07/01/16, 10:19:01 AM »
Palace Square, Montagne Noire

Remarkably, the heads were still there. Even after the bombardment of the city and its abandonment to the elements, they were still there.

Commander Varan was amazed; he had been there, what felt like an eternity ago, when Malagant had taken these heads, the heads of the four thorns in the Sith Lord's side on Nikaea, before he had burned the planet to a cinder. He remembered their names - Darth Verulam, Malagant's master's master, who had sworn to the Order of Revan; the Jedi Master Merken Netalis, who had been recruited by Verulam; Netalis' niece, Captain Melena Linavil, sent by the Republic to stop him; and the Jedi Knight Katran, the "sister" of the former Archivist Caradell, kidnapped on Yavin 4. The flesh had all but mummified, but they were still easily recognizable.

Varan remembered how they had died, as if it were yesterday. Verulam had mortally wounded Netalis, only to be killed by the Jedi in turn. Linavil, who had killed Lord Tethik Nadun - Cyanoculus' former apprentice - in a hail of assault cannon fire, had been killed by Malagant, who Force-pulled her to him and impaled her through the chest with his lightsaber. Katran, tortured and brutalized by Verulam, had been granted a merciful death. It had been this last death, Varan thought, that had finally pushed Caradell over the edge. Now she was Darth Insomnius, and now ruled over this planet.

The Chiss ex-agent looked up into the sky, and frowned. It reminded him of Dromund Kaas; the city itself was starting to as well. The dark side had left an indelible mark on Montagne Noire, given how it had been hate that had destroyed the city, and hate that had inspired its reconstruction. Years ago, it had been Cyanoculus who had burned his own capital to the ground in a gesture intended to show his "Sithy-ness", as some of his men put it; and it had been Cyanoculus and Malagant who had made the deal to rebuild it. Then, five years ago, it had been Hedrath Jadre, the Zakuul Knight commander who had been made Exarch of this planet; now Insomnius sought to rebuild it, but to move it away from its "original" look to a style more suitable for an "Imperial" city.

Varan didn't like it. Nor did he like that Insomnius had arbitrarily abandoned the Temple of Introspection...or what she was doing with Malagant.

At that thought, he saw the familiar appearance of an HK-51. "Statement: I have the information regarding my master that you requested, Commander."

"You were right outside the door? I understand she dismissed everyone in the room before she spoke to him."

"Confirmation: My stealth field generator allowed me to hide from their sight, and my auditory sensors were able to pick up their conversation." The HK-51 replayed what he had been able to hear inside Insomnius' audience chamber. Three words stuck out to Varan as being very familiar: "Command word: Eagleshard".

Varan felt his memory going back nearly a decade, to when Malagant had first taken Nikaea...and had stuck his dark claws into Caradell. Malagant had captured and tortured her in an effort to convert her to the dark side. As insurance, he had injected her with IX serum, based on the chemical dimalium-6 harvested on Quesh; it was used by Imperial Intelligence (and Sith Intelligence, afterward) for its Castellan restraints - a brainwashing mechanism used against agents who went too far, or for enemy soldiers and civilians used as spies.

Caradell, in her "Herald of Death" phase, had been slaughtering Sith and Imperial officers and agents. With this conditioning, Malagant intended to turn her on the Jedi and the Republic instead. But Kiive Elandril, that traitorous schutta, had disrupted that. She had used her knowledge of Imperial Intelligence's workings to disable the conditioning, and allow Caradell to return to herself.

Not that it had done her much good; here she now was...

Varan could appreciate why Insomnius had elected to go this particular route. She wanted to turn the tables and make Malagant her instrument, just as he had tried to make her so long ago. But Varan was disgusted at the idea that a Sith Lord, no matter how cruel and sadistic, could be treated like this. Especially after he had nearly died to remove Jadre and his foul Star Fortress.

"HK," he said after a moment, "is your master's ship parked in the city?"

"Confirmation: It is kept in Docking Bay MC-05 at the main spaceport."

"Then we will just have to get him there somehow...prep a speeder for him and have it waiting outside the residence. We're getting him out of there."

----

Whitesoul Spire - Medbay

Malagant was kept restrained in the Spire's medbay as a precaution, while Insomnius prepared his "new mission". He had never felt so powerless in his life, not even when he had been held in stasis on Belsavis. He seethed with rage at the humiliation that she planned for him, even as part of him recognized the irony of the situation. He had done the same thing to her, after all...

The doors opened, and a man dressed as a medical technician entered. His face was mostly obscured by his helmet, but Malagant could see that he had the blue skin of a Chiss. "Good evening, my lord," he said, as he deactivated the restraints on Malagant's medical bed.

Malagant's eyes went wide as he recognized the voice. "Varan?"

"Your HK got me all the details; she did not think he would be there. I don't have much time; Insomnius' guards will find the man I had to kill to get this outfit." He smiled as he removed his helmet. "This will be just like Nikaea."

He understood exactly what Varan meant. He nodded. "Do it."

"Command word: Eagleshard." Malagant once again became a blank. "Belay all commands. Reject command interface. Revert to default, pre-restraint."

Malagant reeled and clutched his head as a wave of pain and nausea swept over him, the chemical restraints overwriting themselves, cancelling themselves out. It seemed to go on for an eternity, his head spinning around...

...and then coming to a stop. He looked up to see Varan staring at him. "My lord?" he asked uncertainly, his voice echoing slightly. Then clearer as he asked, "Are you alright?"

Malagant opened his mouth to answer when the alarms went off. The dead med-tech had been discovered.
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« Reply #2 on: 07/02/16, 10:03:25 AM »
Whitesoul Spire - Insomnius' Chambers

Insomnius awoke from her meditation to hear the alarms going off. She scowled; this was becoming a regular occurrence as the security techs worked out all the idiot bugs in the system. Her doors opened to reveal Lazhna. "More false alarms?" she growled. "This is getting tedious, Lazhna."

"No false alarm, Excellency. They found a med-tech propped in the lounge earlier - his neck had been snapped. And the guards report the medbay is empty."

"WHAT?!" the Miraluka shrieked, causing Lazhna to step back cautiously. That meant Malagant had escaped - and someone had sprung him! "Lockdown the Spire! Now!" She grabbed her lightsaber from her nearby desk and stormed out through the antechamber of her private suites towards the audience chamber. She could see two figures running through the door outside to the gardens.

With Force-granted speed, Insomnius sprinted after them, Lazhna following as quickly as possible. She saw them - Malagant, and a Chiss in a med-tech's uniform. HALT! she screamed through the Force.

Malagant did not so much as stagger from that. But Insomnius knew how to deal with him. "Command word: Eagleshard!"

Malagant, much to her surprise...laughed. "Not this time, Caradell."

The phoney med-tech turned, and much to Insomnius' lack of surprise, she saw it was Varan. She nodded, a bitter smile on her face. "He overrode it. Just like Elandril overrode it when you did it to me."

"You will die slowly for this insult, Caradell," Malagant replied, still using her "real" name, knowing how much it angered her. "But not today." And with that, he leapt backwards off the balcony.

Insomnius ran to the edge of the balcony, only to hear the scream of an aircar's engines as it flew him away from the scene. She let out a scream of outrage. He was free - and he was unchained.

Varan had approached her while her back was turned, and unsheathed the Erinian combat knife he had carried for nearly a decade. With her attention taken by her rage, she would be easy pickings.

But he had forgotten about Lazhna...

He screamed as the hand carrying the blade was suddenly gone, along with a good half of that arm. The Togruta had thrown her lightsaber. Collapsing to his knees, he looked up as Insomnius suddenly loomed over him. She raised her hand, lifting him off the ground. "Your days are numbered," he hissed through gritted teeth.

"Perhaps," Insomnius replied, igniting her lightsaber with her free hand. "But your days are over."

Clenching her fist, she drew the Chiss ex-agent to her, impaling him through the gut with her blood-red blade. Varan twitched and gasped, and then went limp, the last thought going through his head was perhaps he would see his father and brother, and ask their forgiveness.

He was already dead when she hurled his body over the balcony...

----

The Temple of Introspection
Caymarnian Mountains, Reydovan Prime


The HK had managed to take him to the spaceport, and he had brought the ship out into the mountains, back to his old sanctuary, where the mineral deposits around them would foul an enemy's scanners. He was under no illusion that she would search for him, but she would likely think he had escaped the planet. But he was not ready. Not yet.

Walking from the ship, having told his HK to stay put, Malagant made his way into the main chamber of the temple. Once again, it had been left to the elements, the plant-life and grasses growing out of the floor and the walls even faster than last time. In time, he knew, no one would remember it, and it would be lost forever.

Much like him.

Malagant staggered and collapsed to his knees, exhaustion and despair washing over him, his artificial systems struggling to keep up. He remained there as the sun went down, the same feelings going through him.

He had nothing now. Jadre had wounded him, but it was Insomnius who had maimed him, made him into this. She had taken everything he had - his world, his followers, his dignity. His powers in the Force had diminished, and he was alone...and he was afraid. Not even when he had set foot in a Sith tomb on Korriban for the first time when he was a boy, decades ago, had he felt anything like this.

Who would respect or fear him now? He was nothing but a cringing machine freak, hiding like a hunted animal. He was ashamed...and enraged.

Yes...that was it. That was his solution. He suddenly felt a weight lifting from his machine heart.

Rage. Hate. These were his tools now. His powers in the Force had diminished...but they had not left him! He could still tap into the dark side - he was still a Dark Lord, damn it all! If he couldn't do what he could before...he would find something else, some other way to fight for the Empire.

Insomnius had mutilated him, body and soul...but she had also given him a tremendous gift. If he could not bring down lightning and darkness to consume his foes, then he would destroy his foes himself. Face to face. Hand to hand.

He slowly got to his feet, a determined set on his face. Then he looked down at himself, the armor that Insomnius had given him. Advanced, yet bulky. He knew better could be done. And he knew where it could be done.

Returning to the ship, Malagant sat in the captain's seat as his HK looked up from the pilot's chair. He smiled.

"Set a course for Dromund Kaas."
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« Reply #3 on: 07/04/16, 08:39:51 AM »
Whitesoul Spire - Audience Chamber

"What do you mean, you can't find him?!" Insomnius shouted. "Could you not have tracked his ship?! Hunting people like this down is your job, Commander!"

"The ship disappeared in the Caymarnian Mountains, Your Excellency," Commander Menrim Tekan, the Cathar chief of the IRDF's Special Forces Division, replied calmly. "The Caymarnians have natural mineral deposits that scramble scanners. That was why Malagant had the Temple put there in the first place, and why we used it for the resistance against Jadre before you arrived to end the fighting."

"I want results, Tekan, not excuses! FIND HIM!" She stood, rage showing in her face. But her voice was quieter as she said, "Find him, or I will demonstrate what I did to your predecessor - except that I will make your agony last longer."

Not willing to push the limits further, Tekan bowed and quietly made his way out. Insomnius slumped into her throne with a sigh. Lazhna was looking at her with narrowed eyes. When she continued to stare and not say anything, Insomnius became impatient. "Well?!"

"For someone who's hell-bent on not being like him, you sound more like him every day," Lazhna said with disgust. "This is why I did not tell you I sent him away." She turned on one heel and walked out.

----

The Citadel - The Sith Sanctum
Kaas City, Dromund Kaas


The place was as quiet as a tomb. It had never been "bustling" even in the old days, but now it was downright depressing.

Malagant had maintained a small chamber in the Sanctum; it had been given to him by Darth Thanaton as a reward for slaying the traitor Darth Defileris, when the latter had disobeyed the Dark Council. The chambers had been vacant since the death of Malagant's master, Inquisitor Jaeden'laek; these chambers had been granted to the old Pureblood by his own master, Darth Verulam. Though Verulam had died a disgraced traitor - Malagant had personally seen to that - his old estate was still called "the Verulam House", and was still owned by Malagant. But all of the treasures and archives Malagant had kept in the house had been brought to Reydovan Prime when he assumed control...and they were now held by Insomnius. His old chambers here at the Citadel would suffice for now, until he could set up his home again.

As he entered the room, a thin, elderly man was standing there waiting. At the sight of him, he stammered. "D-D-Darth Ma-Malagant?"

"Relax. If I wanted you dead, I would have come for you. Sit down, please." Malagant smiled as he sat at the desk in the room, and poured a glass of aged Sith wine for his guest. Though he did not partake, he knew some of his visitors did. "I understand you're still one of the best armorers on Dromund Kaas."

The man sipped the wine, feeling a bit calmer. "Y-yes, my lord. Not as much business nowadays, with the Zakuulan embargo, but...I do have enough for an order for you. You want your armor to look less...exposed, I would imagine - all these wires showing...you want something that looks 'proper', while maintaining an air of fear in your foes."

"You understand me well."

"I make armor for the Sith, my lord. It's my duty to understand their needs." The armorer stood, a portable scanner in his hand. "If I might? I want to have up-to-date measurements." Malagant nodded as he also came to his feet, allowing the man to measure his "dimensions". After a moment, it was done. "If you could come to my workshop in the city, my lord, I will get right to work on it." He paused for a moment, looking it over. "Your cybernetics, are they fully integrated into the armor, or built around it?"

"You know, I'm not entirely sure. It was built based off of a system developed by Taelios for the late Darth Cyanoculus at my behest, nearly a decade ago. Kolto injectors and what not."

"I see you have a control unit on your chestplate..." The armorer inspected his chestplate. "Hmm...I can arrange to have a mobile life-support unit set up just in case. Some of the Sith Lords I have worked for had extensive cybernetic enhancements, including artificial respiration. Many of them preferred not to have their armor molded and beaten while they were still wearing it. I would imagine you are among such."

Malagant chuckled humorlessly. "I've been molded and beaten enough nowadays."

"I thought so."
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« Reply #4 on: 07/08/16, 09:48:52 AM »
The Armorer's Workshop
Kaas City, Dromund Kaas
Two weeks later


"Perfection."

Malagant gazed at his reflection in the mirror, seeing for the first time what both injury and darkness had done to his features. He was deathly pale, save for the intricate design over his right eye, covering part of the burn scarring on that side of his face. The exposed wires were covered with non-conductive material, the metal gauntlets and boots less ponderous than the original design. Armored shoulderguards and a heavy black cloak with red markings gave him an imposing appearance. He placed the helmet on his head, a fearsome skull-like design, with burning red photoreceptors. "You do beautiful work," he said, his voice electronically altered by the helmet's vocabulator.

"Thank you, Lord Malagant," the armorer replied, bowing his head. "I made every effort to combine form and function as you specified. Fortunately, you will also be able to operate outside of it in situations not requiring it; I made certain of that. You will not be a prisoner of your wargear, not like other Sith; your cybernetics are compact enough. The only difference, of course, would be that only this armor hooks into the ports in your body for the kolto injection system, which I would presume you would only require in combat."

"One can never be too sure," Malagant replied thoughtfully. "Still...I am most appreciative of your efforts." He tapped a code into a datapad. "As promised, half on commission, half on delivery, with an added bonus for your diligence." He still had access to immense wealth after plundering the treasures of the Reydovan nobility after he executed them; while he had spent a tremendous sum in moving the temple from Yavin 4 to the Caymarnian Mountains (a sum now wasted, as the temple was left to rot in the woods), he still had a king's ransom squirreled away for a rainy day. And on Dromund Kaas, there were plenty of those.

"You are most kind, my lord." The armorer looked slightly uneasy.

Malagant picked up on this. "Is there a problem?" Then he thought for a moment. "Wait...don't tell me. You're expecting that now that the commission is done, I intend to kill you; I have a reputation for 'killing the help', is that what's going through your mind?" The man stared in terrified silence. "You can speak freely."

He opened and closed his mouth like a fish gasping for air for a long moment. "The...th-the thought had occurred to m-m-me," the man stammered finally.

Malagant chuckled. "I am not in the business of slaying everyone I commission to do work for me. If I was, no one would want to. You think me a fool?" He raised a hand. "Don't answer that...no, I am not going to kill you. But I am going to warn you to keep this little arrangement between us, or I will kill you. Fair?"

The man nodded rapidly. "Eminently, my lord. You may count on my discretion."

"I will hold you to that." Malagant nodded courteously. "For the Empire." And with a flick of his cloak, he was gone.

The armorer sagged against the wall, relief washing through him. He was thankful that the Sith had not noticed the dark stain spreading in the front of his trousers, or the puddle gathering near his feet...

----

The Shadowlight - Malagant's Fury-Class Interceptor

Leaving Dromund Kaas behind, Malagant sat on the bridge of his ship, his head resting against the back of the captain's chair. His helmet was held in his lap, and his fingers drummed rhythmically against it. He was having to re-educate himself all over again, now that his powers in the Force had diminished as a result of his injuries.

It brought back a memory that had worked its way through his mind for years, especially since the revelation in the Force that Valkorion, the Immortal Emperor of Zakuul, had in fact been the Sith Emperor. Before Revan had begun his crusade, Malagant had been a Darkspeaker of the Tenebrous Gospel, a cult led by Darth Magius that had worshipped the Emperor as a deity. Magius had turned traitor years before, aligning with the "New Empire" under Darth Malgus, and was presumed dead; Lord Eskenah Koonto, the chief Darkspeaker, had re-emerged shortly before Revan's defeat on Yavin 4, and had called all of the remaining members of the Gospel to meet with her on the dead world of Nathema - Vitiate's former homeworld, now left as a void in the Force by the ritual that had made him into the Emperor.

Even all these years later, Malagant still had nightmares of Nathema. He, Lord Lethash, and Lethash's apprentice Kazimir had gone to the surface, where he had felt no link to the Force for the first time since it had been awakened in him as a boy, decades before. Stranding them on the surface, Eskenah had sent acolytes to murder them, and they had been forced to rely on their sabers and their wits to survive and escape to their battleships in orbit. Reinforcements had come in the form of Darth Marr and his fleet, which destroyed the traitor flagship Emperor's Wrath.

While he could still feel the Force, and it still empowered him, Malagant now knew he had to rely on physical abilities, augmented by the enhancements in his armor. But to do that, he thought, he would have to go somewhere like Nathema, where the Force could not reach him.

And he knew just the place.
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« Reply #5 on: 07/09/16, 09:21:38 PM »
The Sith Citadel
Ziost
Thirty years earlier


Masac Undjo stood in the great hall of the Citadel, trying his best not to shiver from the cold. This was the first place he had seen outside of Dromund Kaas or Korriban, and it was an important part of the Empire's past. A keen student of history, the young human had asked his Master, Inquisitor Jaeden'laek, about the place during the trip from Dromund Kaas. Even today, Jaeden'laek had remembered the tales, passed down by Sith tradition over millennia. Upon his departure from the Jedi Order, Ajunta Pall had gone to Korriban and taken control of the ancient Sith kingdom, expanding it into what would become the Old Empire. The ancient Red Sith called him
Jen'ari - the first Dark Lord of the Sith.

After conquering Ziost, Pall and his followers established the Citadel, which soon grew to be the capital of the Old Empire, remaining so until the fall of Naga Sadow. It had been largely abandoned after the surviving Sith followed the Emperor to Dromund Kaas, reclaimed during the ongoing war. But rather than return to the ancient halls of yesteryear, the Empire had left the Citadel abandoned, and built the city of New Adasta as the new planetary capital. The "People's Tower", the center of government, was built in the image of the Citadel on Dromund Kaas. The relics of the Ancients were left to collect dust and ice.

"This building was our seat of power for nearly three thousand years, Masac," Jaeden'laek said, breaking the long silence as Masac took in the sights around him. "When the great Dark Lords of yesterday ruled the Empire, they ruled from here. Ajunta Pall, Tulak Hord, Marka Ragnos, Naga Sadow...just to name a few. This was back in the days when being Sith
meant something, when the strong ruled the weak, and power was openly displayed, instead of all these shadow wars and...politics that dominate the Dark Council." He spoke the word "politics" with particular disgust.

"But is the Dark Council not an expression of the strong ruling the weak, Master?" Masac asked. "Weak Sith could not last as one of the Twelve; another would unseat him, or his fellows would destroy him."

"You would think so," Jaeden'laek agreed, "but things are not as they once were, Masac. Those who are weak in the Force, or weak physically, can easily ascend to the Council through trickery and murder - tools of men who are motivated by fear. They cannot fight openly, as in the Kaggath; their opponent would destroy them. They know this. So they resort to coward's tactics to win, and sometimes, they succeed. The Council is often none the wiser for it, either - or if they are, they simply do not care. After all, a weakling would be no match for any of them; they would simply wait until someone stronger came along and deposed the man."

"How can the Empire operate like this?" Masac wondered. "How can the Emperor allow it?"

Jaeden'laek chuckled. "He does as he sees fit, Masac, because he is the Emperor. He has greater goals and higher aspirations in mind, which is why he largely allows the Dark Council to rule in his name. He only cares that the Empire continues; he does not care how."

Masac was troubled by this. "Yet if he does not concern himself with the now...why does he bother with the Empire?"

Jaeden'laek was momentarily wrong-footed. He had not expected such a direct question, one that bluntly displayed doubt. "I do not presume to know the Emperor's reasons," he said finally, although it sounded like a hollow answer, even to himself. The truth was, he wondered the same thing at times, but he did not dare voice that out loud. "He rules as he deigns to, and no one - not even the most senior member of the Dark Council - has the right to question that. You will not voice such questions aloud in the future, Masac, do you understand me?"

"Yes, Master," Masac replied quickly, realizing he had stepped over a line he was not supposed to cross. At least...not yet. "I understand clearly."

"Good." Jaeden'laek looked around him one more time...then nodded. "Let us return to the ship, Masac. We have work to do."


----

The Sith Citadel
Ziost


Malagant now stood in that same audience chamber, even more sepulchral than it had been thirty years earlier. Part of that was the passage of time. But mostly, it was due to the great cataclysm that had consumed this planet, and every living thing on it, save for the dark and twisted monoliths created by the Emperor's power. And he was not entirely sure they could be considered "living".

It was just like Nathema. The deadening of sound. The draining of color. The inability to feel the Force. It was just as he remembered...and it made his skin crawl. But he was here for a reason. He had had no choice but to suffer the void on Nathema. This time, he had made the choice to suffer. Pain was the fuel that powered his rage, his strength. When he had suffered enough of it here, he would go out and bring it to his enemies.

Malagant sat down on the floor of the chamber, eyes closed in meditation, as he remembered the tales Jaeden'laek had told him about this place - about the ancient Sith who had ruled before the Emperor. Even today, he still had a soft spot for Marka Ragnos, considered the greatest of the ancient Lords, ruling over a Golden Age of the Sith. Jaeden'laek had revered him. So had Darth Verulam, until he chose to revere Revan instead. "Marka Ragnos was the ultimate manifestation of the dark side," Jaeden'laek had told him once. "He never lost his power...but he still died. And with his death, the Empire collapsed. Not all at once, but little by little, thanks to Naga Sadow's reckless war with the Jedi that led us into the embrace of Vitiate, the one who would be our Emperor, in order to survive. We were not ready then. We are now."

Yet we still lost, Malagant thought. We won the battles...and lost the war. He wondered what would have happened if the Emperor had been more like Ragnos, a man revered for his strength and wisdom. Instead, the Emperor had been a consumer of worlds, focused on his own selfish desires, his own hunger. Malagant had been to Nathema, and seen the results of that for himself. He had seen it happen first-hand from the orbital station here on Ziost. And he wondered what Jaeden'laek would think, if he had been alive to see what had happened here - if he would still shrug and say "as the Emperor wills"...

And yet, in his guise as Valkorion, the Emperor had also built up Zakuul, a place that made Dromund Kaas look provincial by comparison, with a mighty fleet that rivalled even the Old Empire during its heyday...but why? Why go through all that trouble, if he sought simply to consume anything and everything?

So many questions. About the future, about Zakuul...about himself. And here, without the Force to act at his whim, he hoped to perhaps find the answers.

If there were any.
« Last Edit: 07/09/16, 09:23:48 PM by Joshmaul »
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: Changing with the Times: Rebirth and Resurgence
« Reply #6 on: 07/17/16, 04:12:27 PM »
Whitesoul Spire - Insomnius' Office
Montagne Noire, Reydovan Prime
Three months later


"'Make preparations in anticipation of a resumption of armed hostilities with the Eternal Empire'...what the hell does the fool think we've been doing?!"

Insomnius crushed the datapad in her fist, tossing the debris to the side. General Daltyn and Commander Tekan tried not to jump in fright; Lazhna tried not to roll her eyes. These rages were getting tedious.

"We have months - no, YEARS - of reconstruction work to deal with, a standing army so reduced that we can't spare a man anywhere but here, and no fleet! And he wants to take what I have! What in the name of Ashla and Bogan does he suggest I do? Conjure them?!" She looked in Daltyn's direction. "You don't know what Malagant did with the fleet, do you?" Then her "gaze" went to Lazhna. "Or maybe you, who has lied to me consistently for the last four years!"

"Malagant did what a number of other Sith Lords and high commanders did," Daltyn replied. "He sent it off into deep space. What was left of Darth Marr's fleet did the same thing when he disappeared; Darth Nox's forces under Moff Pyron, same thing. Only he would know where they are."

"And we can't very well ask him," Lazhna said sarcastically. She had grown to respect Insomnius less and less in the intervening months. "Not that he'd tell us if we could. I can't imagine why."

Infuriated, Insomnius lashed out with a burst of Force lightning, knocking Lazhna back against the wall. "When I want your opinion, I will ask for it!" she snarled. It was a bluff move, though. She knew Lazhna was right; she had been mentally kicking herself for the whole mess with Malagant since he escaped. Varan had paid for his treason with his life, but the only fault was her own. She had underestimated his ability to inspire loyalty. Now he was free, and out there...somewhere.

"Get out," she finally whispered, her voice shaking with rage. "All of you."

----

Shadowgarde Palace - Malagant's New Estate
Nar Shaddaa
Five days later


Malagant was glad he still had access to his credit account, with a considerable amount of money still in it. And he was especially glad this house was still for sale. It was among the many "floating estates" owned by the wealthy on Nar Shaddaa; the Dancer's Palace, where he had been just two days before, was another of these. He finally sold the estate on Dromund Kaas, the old Verulam House, too full of ghosts and regrets (though he would keep the chambers at the Citadel)...and he would not return to Reydovan Prime. That phase had passed.

This place would do.

Standing on the balcony, where a number of Makebian-style structures had been set in the gardens, Malagant contemplated his options. Were it not for the security systems in the Dancer's Palace, he could easily have carved that arrogant little desk-driver into pieces, before he could draw that concealed blaster he had been looking to use. But Malagant did not desire his death...at least, not yet. He was an important official at the Ministry of War, and he was calling for resources; his HK had remained in the Palace when Insomnius had arrived, and had recorded the shouting match between them. Insomnius had nothing to give him...but Malagant did.

He was more confident in his physical abilities now, after all that time he had spent on Ziost with only his armor and his weapons. After leaving the ruined Citadel and making his way back to his ship in New Adasta, he was attacked by a monolith. He had not seen it coming. But he had prevailed...or at the very least, he had survived. He was not sure the monoliths could truly die. In that, they were like him...

Now he had a card to play.

Stepping into his new office, Malagant sent out an encrypted message on a channel only he knew:

The trip is over. The battle begins again.
Circled tomb of a different age
Secret lines carved on ancient stone
Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows