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Offline Joshmaul

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The Darkening Sky
« on: 06/04/19, 02:52:10 PM »
Nearly a quarter of a century after the end of the First Great War, and more than three hundred after Darth Malak had rained fire from above, Dantooine had become a sort of sanctuary again. He certainly saw it that way, anyway. After forty years or so of rattling around the galaxy, most recently with all the hubbub on Ossus, he was hoping that finally, finally, he was home to stay - and that the war would stay off his front porch.

Not that he didn't keep abreast of developments, of course. He kept in touch with his daughter, who was running the Direwolf out of Odessen and trying to keep out of the rising conflict between the Empire and the Republic. Not that he felt that was possible anymore, and he was sure she knew it, too. The Alliance had been going downhill ever since the Eternal Fleet and the Gravestone had gone up in smoke, and it was only inevitable that the great coalition to fight Zakuul would at last collapse, and everyone would go back to where they came from. Which meant that she'd come home. Maybe.

Lucia had always been a stubborn one, though - which was why (though it pained him to admit it) he was not surprised that of his three daughters, she had been the one who lived when the Empire came at the end of the First Great War.

That homecoming had been bitter, partly due to being blinded by the grenade that had killed his old captain, Vorian Tanis, during the liberation of Reydovan Prime, and not being able to see it until he'd gotten the cybernetics. (Though he mused it was probably for the best, he didn't have to see the actual attack...dealing with the aftermath was bad enough.) He had signed on with the old spacer to avoid this pastoral life he now was hell-bent on preserving. It had also been because he had wanted adventure and excitement, but didn't think he'd get it following in his father's footsteps and joining the Republic military. All those rules and regulations. He knew that rules had to exist, but did they really need so many?

All these years later, he couldn't help but smile as he remembered the old saying about how you could take the boy from the farm, but you could never take the farm from the boy...

Out in front of the house, he heard a noise in the air. Ships flying in low. Damn hotshots, he thought, until he realized he recognized the colors of the ships. Of all the pirate crews that had to come and spoil the peace and quiet, it just had to be the Nova Blades.

"Ah, well," Eidan Zherron said to the universe in general, as he turned to head back into the house to get his gunbelt. "No one said it would be a quiet retirement."
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: The Darkening Sky
« Reply #1 on: 06/11/19, 07:38:09 AM »
In her residence near the Citadel on Dromund Kaas, Darth Velariya was watching the HoloNet reports - not just the Imperial channels, but also the Republic ones. A chat show on Carrick Station claiming to have the Commander of the Eternal Alliance, for a start. Ridiculous, she thought. For someone who supposedly removed the Emperor's blight from the galaxy, I expected someone less...plain. Must be a decoy. Gods know the Emperor used his fair share of them...

As a Sith scholar as well as a sorcerer, the history of past glories had always been an interest for Velariya, ever since her days as an acolyte in Korriban's tombs. Her most recent voyage, in fact, had been to the Emperor's former homeworld of Nathema, which had been officially rediscovered in the latter days of the Alliance's war with Zakuul. Nathema's very existence in Imperial records was limited to the "fact" that it had been destroyed by the Jedi more than a millennium before. Of course, witness testimony from those who had been there - namely anyone still left from the "Tenebrous Gospel", a cult that had worshipped the Emperor as a god until they realized he had no use for them, other than as food - gave a description of the place almost like that of Ziost after the Emperor's "feast" there. Which meant that it had been the Emperor himself who had committed the act, and then lied about it - though if he intended to consume the galaxy, it made one wonder why he bothered restoring the Empire on Dromund Kaas... or creating another one on Zakuul, for that matter.

With the Emperor destroyed forever, the Void's grasp of Nathema had loosened (much to Velariya's relief; she found being without the Force uncomfortable, to put it mildly), and life had begun to return there, offering an opportunity to study the planet and to perhaps discover whatever artifacts had not been already looted or destroyed by the Cult of Zildrog. Whenever things go wrong, it always seems to be something with cults, the Rattataki sorceress thought. Cults to gluttonous madmen or genocidal AIs. Darth Nox had the right idea with the one on Nar Shaddaa...having a flesh-and-blood focus of devotion.

And then came the news from Dantooine. Formerly a Republic backwater, now it was a battlefield. She vaguely remembered it as being one of the last battlefields of the Great War, more than two decades before. She'd still been a slave on Korriban back then; it had only been after Coruscant, during the Cold War, that she'd been allowed to train at the Academy. She had Overseer Charva to thank for that; the elderly human had proven to be a far more open-minded (if still ruthless) teacher than that racist idiot Harkun, and had remained as her formal Sith master even after passing the trials. It had been Charva who had recommended Velariya's apprentice to her.

Speaking of... "Eliphas!" she shouted.

A moment or two later, her nineteen-year-old apprentice was standing in her doorway, breathless from having bolted down the hall from the library. "Yes, Master?" Eliphas Aximand finally said, once he caught his breath enough.

"How goes the work?"

"I've only got two and a half or so tablets left, what we picked up from that temple on Nathema. I have..." He realized that he in fact didn't have. "Er...my notes are back at my desk."

She couldn't help but smile. He was a bright student, enthusiastic to learn...but a little too eager to please. Part of her couldn't help but think that if she wanted something eager to please, she'd have picked up a mooka or a Kowakian monkey-lizard, not an apprentice. "Leave them. I have a task for you. Take a shuttle to Vaiken Spacedock and pick up the Stalker. I'm sending you to Dantooine."

His blue eyes went wide. "Sending me? Alone?" All of his trips thus far had been at her side - learning the ways of the Force, acting as her research assistant, and piloting her Fury interceptor, the Grey Stalker. He had, in fact, been on track to become a pilot back on his homeworld of Reydovan Prime, but the awakening of the Force within him when he was about twelve years old - triggered during the Zakuulan invasion - had changed that. Hedrath Jadre, the paranoid Exarch who ruled the planet, had made it a point of barring any Force-sensitives from going to Korriban, fearing that new Sith would be the genesis of a revolt against the Eternal Empire. It had taken Eliphas' mother going in secret to Darth Insomnius, the nominal Sith governor, to arrange for his escape. Impressed by his resilience during his trials, Overseer Charva had recommended him to Velariya as an apprentice.

Velariya's expression was one of amusement. "Have you suddenly forgotten how to use lightning or fly a ship?"

"Well, no, but --"

"'But' nothing, boy." Her expression was now sharp, cold. "If you are ever going to become a proper Sith, Eliphas, you'll eventually have to learn to operate without someone holding your hand." The young human had the sense to look angry at the insult. Good. Perhaps he is not as timid as he seems. She smiled. "Temples and libraries are all well and good, but blood must occasionally be shed as well. There is a battle ongoing on Dantooine - Sith Intelligence had sent the Nova Blades pirate crew to stir the pot and pave the way for us. Except now the damned pirates are shooting at our soldiers as well as the Republic's. It's low-key, at least at the moment...so it will be an opportunity for you to have some much-needed solo experience."

He now looked thoughtful. "Dantooine...didn't we wipe out some Jedi enclave there centuries ago?"

Velariya nodded. "Indirectly, yes; Malak was a front to keep the real Empire hidden until the time was right. So cheer up, boy - there may be some education in the midst of all the destruction." Her smile widened a bit. "The speeder is waiting to take you to the spaceport. I'll finish with the tablets - if your past excellence in note-taking is any indication, it will not take long to pick up where you left off." She raised a slender finger to silence him, as he had been about to thank her for saying so. "That said, if you were not content at the idea of being a chauffeur for morons back on Reydovan Prime, I can't imagine you'd want to be a glorified archivist, either. You are a Sith sorcerer, not a library clerk. You don't have the power to summon lightning simply as a party trick, you know."

Again, the anger. The way his ice-blue eyes narrowed, like he wanted to flay her alive with a glance, impressed her far more than his eagerness did. "I understand, Master," he said finally.

"Good. Now off with you. Who knows? Given the place's history, you might even run into a Jedi or two. An extra feather for your proverbial cap."
« Last Edit: 06/11/19, 07:40:21 AM by Joshmaul »
Circled tomb of a different age
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Heroic kings laid down to rest
Forgotten is the race that no one knows


Offline Joshmaul

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Re: The Darkening Sky
« Reply #2 on: 06/11/19, 11:07:18 AM »
For all that it was a radioactive backwater, Ossus remained a battlefield.

That came as no surprise to Colonel Ashmara Danrei. Anywhere a Jedi so much as sneezed became a target for the Sith. It had been that way for as long as she could remember; indeed, ever since there had been Sith and Jedi in the same place. And whenever Jedi and Sith started wars, people like her had to clean up the kriffing mess. Usually by mowing down Imperial soldiers with an assault cannon, in her case.

Army does all the flying and the dying, and the Jedi get all the kriffing credit, she thought uncharitably. Just another day in the life of a gropo. It seemed more so for her men - the New Talaos Irregulars, soldiers who had been listed as missing or dead, or dishonorably discharged, by Leontyne Saresh's regime during the Zakuul years, and been granted pardons by Chancellor Madon after the fall of the Eternal Empire. For all that their only crime had been displaying independent thought, they were kept at arm's length by the Republic High Command, considered to be criminals, deserters, cowards...until they needed bodies to feed to the meat-grinder.

Like here, for instance...

"Evening, Mara," a gruff voice greeted her.

"Evening, Toral. How goes?"

"Passing well." Toral - better known as Sergeant Major Toral Linavil, Republic Army, retired - was one of her closest friends. Mara had served under Toral's wife Ketana during the Great War, and had interacted often with their daughter Melena, who was a captain in Special Forces. Both had been killed by the Sith between the devastation of Ziost and the Zakuulan invasion. Toral had retired after the Great War, but when Zakuul came knocking, he left Coruscant and ended up with the Irregulars on Tatooine, finding sanctuary with Mara and her ally, Jedi Master Alieth Taldir.

"Any news?"

The old Mirialan gave a shrug. "Picked up some Imperial chatter about a certain friend of ours from Odessen haunting the ruins."

Mara couldn't help but chuckle, knowing full well who that was. "I see he's not changed much since Yavin."

"No indeed, Colonel." Mara nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of that voice directly behind her. "It helps to keep people on their toes."

"You did a bit more than that!" the Zabrak soldier snapped, giving him a glare that could have set him ablaze if she had the ability. "Have I threatened to strangle you for scaring the shit out of me lately, Tergahn?"

"Indeed," Tergahn Dai'lo replied, completely deadpan. "Yesterday."

She shook her head. "Well, you scare the Imps a lot more, I'll give you that. They've been going on about some red-and-white ghost from running around the Jedi ruins, picking off patrols with a saber-pike."

"You don't honestly believe everything you hear, do you?" The Togruta Jedi Master grinned mischeviously. Upon joining the Alliance, he had taken up armored robes similar to those worn by the Scions of Zakuul; the lightsaber pike was a gift from Galen Tavener, a former Knight of Zakuul who often accompanied Tergahn and his ally, Captain Lucia Zherron, on their missions. He was here now, in fact, going around the ruins fighting Imperials...still in his battered white Knight armor. She couldn't help but shake her head at that; he made himself about as inconspicuous as a Wookiee at a dinner party wearing that getup, and plenty of people on both sides had bad memories of the days when people dressed like that...

On the topic of the captain, she spotted her walking up to them. Mara immediately knew something was wrong; the young human looked like someone had died. Gods, not her father, she thought; Eidan Zherron had been a friend of the Linavils almost as long as she had. "Good, you are back. Not to leave our friends here high and dry," and at that she nodded at Mara, "I think we'd better go."

"Now?" Tergahn noticed something was wrong too. He gently grasped her shoulders. "What's happened, Lucia?"

"I just got off the horn with my father. The Imps are on Dantooine." Mara felt a twinge in her left leg at the mention of Dantooine. She had been there at the end of the Great War, and had had her left knee and hip replaced with cybernetics after sustaining serious wounds in an Imperial attack. It had been nearly twenty-five years, and the old wounds still pained her.

"Kriffing hell." Toral looked both sad and angry at the same time; he had been there as well, as had Ketana. "That planet can never seem to catch a break."

The colonel turned sharply to him. "Is this the first we've heard about it? Nothing on the comms from Command?"

The old sergeant raised his hands to placate her. "Honest to Ashla, Mara. If they'd told us, I'd have told you."

She seethed, but she also knew he was right. And she knew Eidan's reputation; Dantooine was his homeworld, and he wouldn't exaggerate about a thing like that. "Then we're here until they tell us otherwise." Which will probably be soon, if it goes to hell the way everything seems to, she thought. She turned to Tergahn and Lucia. "You guys, on the other hand..."

Tergahn's head tilted slightly. "Are you sure? We're still at your disposal if you should need us here."

"Right now it's just a pissing match over old scores here. Dantooine's a hell of a lot more important." She thumped his shoulder. "Don't worry - if I need a Jedi, I've got Alieth and Heldeon. We'll be fine."

Tergahn was silent for a moment, then turned to Lucia. "Prep the ship, Captain. We're leaving."
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: The Darkening Sky
« Reply #3 on: 06/15/19, 01:08:42 PM »
Agent Merelan Kinsale began to wonder what it was about backwaters that made them so magnetic to the fire of war. When she was in Imperial Intelligence, it had been hell-pits like Taris, Tatooine, and Quesh. In the Marines, Ilum and Makeb. As the years went on, she noticed that most of these vipers' nests tended to be targets with sentimental value to either the Republic or the Jedi, or perhaps both. Most recently, as part of Sith Intelligence, she had been on Ossus...and she was due to meet with her commander for another assignment. Based on the rumor mill, it was likely to be Dantooine, another backwater with some symbolic meaning to the Republic.

Landing at Vaiken Spacedock, she straightened her jacket and descended the ramp of her old Phantom, the Blood of Adasta, making her way into the station's core to the cantina. Within five minutes, she was approached by a Chiss in a similar uniform. "You are late, Agent Kinsale," he said without preamble.

"Apologies, Commander Indizar. Bug hunt back on Ossus. Damn Malora and her experiments."

Commander Indi'zar'kleoni, or Indizar as he preferred to be known among non-Chiss, gave a light snort at that. "Typical paranoid Sith," he said in a low tone. "Is there any other kind?"

"None that I've seen," Merelan admitted.

Indizar shook his head. He had come up the ranks of the Chiss Expansionary Defense Force, Imperial Intelligence, the Imperial Military, and finally Sith Intelligence, all alongside his friend Torv'ara'nerasi. He had remained in Varan's corner even after he ran afoul of the Families back on Csilla. Varan had ultimately run afoul of Sith politics as well, killed by Darth Insomnius because he had supported Darth Malagant's shadow war against Zakuul - and against her own increasingly unstable rule. It made Indizar wary of Sith-led initiatives, especially given the reputation of the lunatics who tended to lead them.

This one, however, seemed to be an exception. "I've had orders come down from on top," he said. Under the "load-lightened" Dark Council, there were five seats instead of the original twelve, and Darth Xarion now headed the "Sphere of Galactic Influence", which included Intelligence. "Another farm world, except this one's not radioactive. You've heard the rumors, I'm presuming."

Merelan nodded. "I figured as much. Did we really turn to these clowns as a front? The last we heard of them was on Rishi, and they were working for Revan."

"Times change. We seem to be going for the 'softly, softly' approach - fighting without fully committing, using proxies..." The Chiss looked amused. "Gives us more work to do, at least."

"Something I'd been thinking when I was on the ship: What is it about these backwaters that makes the planners want to fight over them?"

"Location more than anything else. Dantooine is close to the border, and it serves both a tactical and sentimental purpose to the Republic. Similarly to Taris, minus the rakghouls, the toxic lakes, and the general state of ruin. Ironically, it also connects to Revan in a small way. He trained there, and his ally Malak was responsible for bombing the Jedi Enclave there." Indizar shrugged. "Modern history, however, is partly what brings us there."

"Oh?"

In response, Indizar handed her his datapadd. It showed an image of a weathered man with shoulder-length white hair, shrapnel scars in his face, and goggle-like cybernetics in his eye sockets. He wore a beaten floor-length black leather trenchcoat, with a pair of blasters at his hips. "Captain Eidan Zherron," he said. "Republic war hero and Jedi privateer. Formerly the captain of the Custodian's Watch."

Merelan skimmed the file, about to ask how they would know such a man would be on a planet like this. And then she saw it: Homeworld of Note: Dantooine. And that homeworld was under attack. Of course he would be there. "Where will we find him?"

"Where else?" Indizar replied with a smirk. "Right in the middle of it all."
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: The Darkening Sky
« Reply #4 on: 06/19/19, 07:09:30 PM »
Galen Tavener had seen his fair share of worlds both during his service to the Eternal Throne and since teaming up with Tergahn and Lucia, but this had to be the first he had seen outside of Odessen that appealed to him. Minus the pirates and Imperials blasting the place to hell, of course. He could see why Lucia had such an attachment to the place, and no doubt why her father did as well...in a different age, he could easily see himself trying to spend his twilight years in peace in a place like this.

Of course, in this day and age, peace and quiet was a fleeting dream...

Ever since the collapse of the Eternal Empire, Galen had remained on Odessen as part of the Alliance; a number of Knights of Zakuul had pledged themselves to the Outlander after Arcann had been deposed, and he had been among them. A number of others he had commanded during the occupation of Reydovan Prime, and had escaped with him when Illuminopolis was all but annihilated by the Star Fortress' solar reactor weapon, had scattered to the astral winds at first to avoid being murdered by Vaylin and her Horizon Guard. When Vaylin was killed, they had come to join him. Other Knights ended up joining mad cults, like the Order of Zildrog. He had even heard of some going to the Empire, no doubt becoming Sith in short order.

Galen often wondered, should the Alliance ultimately collapse and its members return to their former factions, if he would ever find a place in the Republic. Tergahn had promised that if he ever returned to the Republic, he would vouch for him; gods knew he would never be able to return to Zakuul. At the same time, however, he was in his early fifties, far too old to consider becoming a Jedi - given that they tended to begin training when barely out of their infancy, in order to more readily weed out emotional attachments to family or home. He also had to admit that his ego was slightly in play here as well; the idea of starting from the bottom up again was just a bit insulting, though he would not say so aloud to Tergahn. (No doubt the Togruta Jedi Master was already aware of that thought anyway; he seemed to be aware of a lot of things.)

As he stepped down the Direwolf's ramp behind Tergahn, he noted the glances in his direction, a number of them hostile. Dantooine had more or less escaped the notice of the Eternal Empire, but that didn't mean that some of the people here had. He wore his battered Knight armor openly, so he was more or less used to the angry stares. In time, he hoped, perhaps people would look more at the man and less at the armor. Perhaps that time would even be now...

"Welcome, Master Jedi." The militia officer inclined her head in greeting to Tergahn. "It's been a long time since I've seen the Direwolf around these parts. No doubt Captain Zherron - er, the elder Captain Zherron, that is..." She inclined her head to Lucia, who returned the nod. "...will likely think the same thing."

"No doubt," Tergahn agreed with a smile.

"Where is the captain now?" Galen asked. "Out in the field?"

The militia officer glanced first at Tergahn, who nodded, before answering the Knight's question. "He's on his way back from a patrol, yeah. Damned pirates fouling up the wind turbines, or Imps planting bombs on the dam and blowing up the transport tracks."

"Not what I expected from our captain's descriptions," he mused. "Rather modern setup here for a pastoral world. Especially this dam."

The officer snorted. "Yeah, and that went over just great with some of the old timers. They think it's the next step towards turning this place into an industrial cesspit like Balmorra, or a crowded city-planet like Coruscant."

"Have faith, Lieutenant," came a voice behind the officer. All turned to see Eidan Zherron riding up to them; he had eschewed his long coat and hat in favor of his more functional utility vest, his blasters hanging from his belt. "We're not about to be turned into worker drones just yet."

Galen raised an eyebrow at the captain's mode of transportation. Behind him, he heard Lucia speak up. "What the kriff...is that a kath hound?"

The elder Zherron grinned. "I'm a Dantooine boy, honey, born and bred. Makes sense that I ride a proper Dantooinian steed into war. Plus, she moves a lot quicker than my speeder." Though his eyes were artificial, Galen could swear there was a mischievious glint to them as they looked at him. "Still running around with Tergahn, I see. Here to bring some of that Zakuulan justice to the Imps and their pirate scum friends?"

Galen smiled thinly. "Something like that, Captain."
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