The fire crackled and the flames rose higher spreading through the crags, the lava beneath boiling as though it was aggravated by the unannounced guests that had disturbed the sanctity of the caves. The couple of intruders argued their way to the dead center as a third, and silent, visitor was dropped down against the stone plateau, her body slumped over as it landed with a thud. One of the intruders, a tall woman with raven black hair, echoed a mocking type of laughter through the hollow cavern as the man she was with made a plea she found all too amusing.
“Don’t do this Caerna, she’s innocent in all this! If you’re going to punish someone, punish me. It was I who’s forsaken your love,” the man begged as he looked down at his unconscious fiancée and then back at the sorceress before him.
Her eyes glowed ruby red as she gracefully motioned her hand and with little effort entangled the other woman in a trance. “This is me punishing you, my love, she’s merely one of the tools at my disposal with which I’ll orchestrate my vengeance.”
He dropped down to his knees and clasped his hands together, a futile attempt to beg for a different outcome. “Please just let her go. Do to me as you wish, but free Lissandre.”
She ignored his pleas and turned her attention to the petite blonde who now hung motionless and bound several feet above the plateau. With a swift flick of her wrist, she used her powers to tear the woman’s pendant from her neck and then separated the setting from the large amethyst gem. The sorceress’ whispers in a tongue he’d never heard before caused the gem to enlarge in size as it hovered in the air between the three of them before linking to the snaked Force bindings that held Lissandre.
“Stop! Please! What are you doing to her?” The man made an attempt to rush over to his fiance but found himself frozen in place unable to lift a foot off the ground.
“Draining her natural life force Prince Aerun,” Caerna cackled, “but don’t worry, I’ve slowed the process down significantly. It’ll be at least another hundred years before she’s nothing but a bag of dust and bones. And you get to watch.”
“You’re mad! My father should have never—”
“Your father’s nothing more than a sniveling peasant! It was my power that earned him his throne, and it was I who was meant to marry you until your pesky love for this... child got in the way. Now you get to watch her wither away while you stand guard as an immortal, bound by the fires of this cavern,” she vowed as she channeled her powers and the lava that had been rising slowly suddenly stretched up like a pair of arms. They grasped the prince and engulfed him fully until he became one with their molten essence and was swept away.
Caerna weaved her powers further and created an engraved pattern across the plateau, the grooves running deeper towards the center than they did at the four outer connecting points. She waved her hands and shifted Lissandre and the linked gem high up to the very middle.
“Only the blood sacrifice of an immortal can fill these trenches to release the gem and only the purest of hearts will have the strength to break the gem and free your beloved from her fate, to return her life to her. And as for you.. your freedom can be bought only with the truest essence of love.”
The lava bubbled and boiled profusely at her words as the prince who’d traded his physical form in for pure magma realized he no longer had a drop of blood left to spill and no hopes of defeating her curse himself. They’d never be together again. Caerna took a bow as she began to exit the caves and used the last remnants of her own powers to sink the caverns further down to the planet’s core to ensure none would ever find them again.
“Arielle do you...” Lord Scourge started as he entered her private quarters unannounced but he stopped mid-sentence when he found the Jedi slouched half over her desk and seemingly asleep.
He let out a silent sigh and quietly walked up to her before crouching down at her side and gently tucking a lock of hair back behind her ear. She looked so peaceful, so beautiful and Lord Scourge thought for a moment that if he were capable of any feelings, the sight of her right now would have touched his heart. Instead, his attention was drawn to the book that rested underneath her arm and he carefully inched it away from her before eyeing the cover. ‘Lost Legends of the Empire’ he read out to himself and shook his head.
Lately, she’d been almost obsessed digging into the history of the Sith and a part of him had begun to regret ever telling her about his own cursed life. She’d decided he needed to be cured, fixed. That he’d earned that after all he’d gone through to ensure the galaxy’s survival. Lord Scourge didn’t agree and warned her that if the Emperor’s death didn’t end his own torment, nothing else would. Still, stubborn as he’d come to know her as being, she hadn’t given up and each time dismissed his protests as she further delved into ancient knowledge of the Sith.
“Oh Jedi, why don’t you ever listen to me?” he muttered to himself while snaking one arm along her back and the other under her knees before lifting her up in his arms as he rose to his feet.
He carried her off to bed and gently lay her down before reaching for the ends of the sheets and pulling them up to cover her. Arielle stirred slightly and for a moment Lord Scourge froze in place, he’d tried hard not to wake her, but then breathed with relief as he watched her settle back down.
Lord Scourge was about to get up when she suddenly grabbed his arm and closed her fingers around his wrist. “Why is it you always visit me at night?” her voice croaked quietly.
She knew the answer even if her mind was still half asleep. The late evenings and night time was when the rest of the crew had retreated to their own quarters, and he needn’t put up with their interference.
Lord Scourge didn’t dislike them per se, he just had a hard time connecting to any of them. Kira was always far too bubbly and chatty for his liking. Although he approved of her free-spirited nature and lax approach to the Jedi code, something he felt Arielle lacked, he still had a difficult time talking to her. Doc was the bane of his existence and he thought little of the man who spent his time flailing around the medbay as if his work were impressive. He didn’t appreciate the manner in which Doc addressed the women either—he found his flirts were slimy and desperate. Sergeant Rusk however though Lord Scourge rarely spoke to the man, he could at least appreciate his existence. The man was often quiet, well mannered and only really spoke when he actually had something sensible to say. His mindless devotion to the Republic was his only shortcoming as far as Lord Scourge was concerned and, well, Teeseven, he was a simple droid.
“At night is when you’re alone,” he spoke softly and sat down on the edge of her bed.
Arielle pulled the pillow up behind her back and sat up. “Night is also when I sleep but since I’m awake now, what’s on your mind Scourge?”
“The Emperor. Every nerve in my body screams at me that he has somehow survived, that our quest hasn’t ended yet.”
She tilted her head slightly while looking at him, considering his words and though she’d like to believe they’d been victorious a part of her continued to doubt.
“You’ve told me he’s an immortal man much like yourself—death isn’t something he’s likely to ever experience. If he’s still out there then we’ll deal with it but for now, I do believe his power and strength have diminished greatly. He won’t soon attempt another ritual.”
“Perhaps his survival is why I still suffer,” Lord Scourge thought out loud and though Arielle knew he was void of any emotion, a small hint of pain lingered in his eyes when he spoke those words.
“I do not believe your immortality is linked to his. I don’t know the workings of whichever ritual he’s put you through but a man like the Emperor would never connect his own essence with another, not unless it concerns full possession and you’re not possessed Scourge.”
“I could be. He may linger in my subconscious and we’d never know until he decides it’s time.”
Arielle gave him a sympathetic look and reached out, taking his hand in her own. “If the Emperor was any part of you I’d feel it. He may plague your mind and defile your memories but he’s not within you. All that remains of his bond with you is the immortality he’s left you with and we’ll find a way to cast that out too.”
He scoffed at her words and pulled his hand back, remembering the state which he’d found her in as he got up and grabbed the book from her desk. “With this? All these tales concern extremely dark rituals Arielle and most of them are pure fantasy. Stories to entertain the bored mind, nothing more.”
A faint grin crept upon her face. “If these stories are so false then why do you oppose me reading them? If these dark rituals don’t exist then why can’t I know about them?”
Lord Scourge always savored a particularly scolding glare for her whenever she’d get smart with him and this time was no different. “They provide you with a false sense of hope. The hope that I can be cured, returned to a mortal state in which I can once more relish in all the pleasures life has to offer. Such a thing doesn’t exist and I don’t wish to see you disappointed.”
She shook her head and got up, taking the book from his hands before sliding it back between the many others she’d worked to collect. “Scourge perhaps it’s not my hope you fear will be crushed but rather your own.”
“If that’s your belief then you’re more foolish than I thought. I do not hope. I have accepted who and what I am, the broken state in which I’ll forever linger—you must too.”
Arielle drew closer to him and he watched as she reached out to touch his cheek. He flinched away. Under most any other circumstance he would have used the opportunity to test her resolve, to try and open her up to the things she avoided in life but not tonight. He didn’t enjoy it when it wasn’t on his terms and he even more hated how close to the truth she was.
“Don’t you get it Scourge? The very definition of broken means it can be fixed. There’s an opposite to almost everything. Where there’s light, there’s also darkness. Where there’s good there’s also evil. For love there’s hatred and for wounds there’s healing. For life, there’s death and—”
“Unless you’re immortal and trapped between the two, like me,” he interrupted her speech which he knew was well intended but he tired of it.
“There was a story in that book,” she carried on ignoring his objections and the agitation she sensed flaring up inside of him.
“It’s one the Jedi know too. To us, it’s often served as a warning against the dark side. About the treacherous nature of forming attachments. For decades the sorceress Caerna was a force of good who protected her people and nurtured the land which in turn constantly revived her youth until she fell in love with a prince. She sought to be married to him and though the King initially granted her request, the prince instead chose another. Her heart was broken and the powers she once used for good now turned dark as she carried out her vengeance.”
“And your point is?” Lord Scourge raised a brow at her, unimpressed with the story she tried to convey to him and much less understanding what it had to do with him. “It’s still just a fabrication. The fact this story is told to Sith as well as Jedi means little and of course the Jedi would spread a tale that cautions against love and emotion.”
“You’re wrong!” Arielle insisted, now raising her voice desperate to get through to him.
“The fact both our sides know of this story means there’s a truth to it and Caerna’s vengeance? She cast a curse that drained the mortality of the prince’s fianceé into an amethyst—the Gem of Mah’eana. Mah’eana was their Queen at the time and from her bloodline stem the nobles who today reside on Alderaan which means she’s not just a myth but an actual historical figure.”
Lord Scourge let out an exasperated sigh and turned away from her. “The fact this Queen was a real person and that gem of hers might have existed at some point in time doesn’t mean the entire story is true. Cast these foolish notions from your mind Jedi! You’re chasing ghosts.”
“Fine. Get out then and let me go back to sleep!” she snapped at him and climbed back into her bed before demonstratively pulling her sheets far up over her head.
He groaned and dropped himself next to her, laying comfortably on top the bedding. “Don’t act like such a child—you’re better than that.”
“Am I really? Because all you do is treat me like a child. A foolish child with foolish hopes and dreams, with childish notions of ending your suffering. Well fine then, forget it! Suffer all you like, far be it for me to care.” she muttered from underneath the covers.
“I mean it Scourge.” She snapped the sheets back and glared at him, the anger in her eyes was more than evident. “If you’re not going to take me seriously then just stop coming in here altogether. I enjoy our talks, I care about you and yes I do hope to one day see you whole again and I do believe it to be possible. If you cannot accept that then just get out and forget I ever said anything.”
“Why do you care so much?” The question that escaped him was genuine.
They’d formed an unusual and close bond over the time they’d spent together ever since he pledged his loyalty to her. Sure enough, they’d both learned a lot from each other, but part of him couldn’t understand why she’d be so concerned about him and so eager to see him cured. He’d helped her when she needed it most to protect the galaxy from the Emperor, but he also felt hadn’t earned this sense of care and devotion she seemed to have for him.
“Why do you care so little? After all this time, don’t you wish to feel again? To smell the rain on freshly cut grass, to feel the warmth of the sun, to genuinely laugh so hard that, for a second, you actually forget to breathe? To enjoy the rich taste of caf in the morning, the sweetness of fresh berries? To eat for a reason other than basic sustenance?” she fantasized openly hoping to reach his some distant memories in his mind, to tempt him with the thought of life.
A smirk curled around his lips and his eyes narrowed on her, hooking onto her approach. “There are many things I’d wish to experience once more. The smell of a woman, the warmth of her touch, the joy when she laughs wholeheartedly. The taste of her lips on mine, the sensation of our bodies entwined. That rush as she sighs in absolute pleasure for all the things I’d do to her.”
Arielle stared at him, her mouth half open in awe as a fluster reached her cheeks before she snapped herself out of it and grabbed her pillow. She smacked him with it several times before laying back down and giving a small huff.
“You’re such a jerk. We had a genuine moment there before you had to go and ruin it with your Sith-like dirty talk. Go to sleep.”
He laughed purely on instinct knowing, he’d gotten to her and, for a moment, he did wish he was cured of his own predicament. If he were then he’d certainly seek to tease her with more than just words. Instead, though he simply rolled onto his side and settled in for the rest of the night.
“Is there a problem with your own bed?” Arielle managed while stifling a yawn.
“Yes but I wouldn’t be able to explain it to you, you might accuse me of more Sith-like dirty talk.” He grinned to himself as he shut his eyes and felt her kicking him once.
“Whatever. Just don’t snore.”
“Mmm good night, Jedi.”