Chapter 1: The safety of the children
It was just over a standard week after the disastrous battle where Echope Kallinahgh-Quinn, the Empire’s Wrath, along with Darth Marr, had gone missing. Malavai, Echope’s Captain and husband, the father of their young twins, was searching for answers in the Imperial Fury’s cabin that he and his beloved had called home for almost ten years. His eyes were drawn to the glowing pyramid which sat on her writing station. He had never seen it quite the shade it was now, not even when she had first been called to be the Wrath. Of course, he had never seen it when it was this far away from her. Did it have some sort of self-destruct built into it? He had seen her storing her personal log crystals in it many times before along with a smaller object that looked like two joined pyramids that she called a holocron. He had often wondered why she used crystals instead of data spikes for her logs, and what was special about the stands that she used when she did so.
She said that the holocron was her gift to her legacy in the Force and that it was something that neither the Emperor’s Hand nor Lord Baras had wished (or needed, truth be told) to teach her to make. She never had told Malavai how she had learned to make it. However, now that the pyramid was glowing, he was not certain that there was a way he would be able to get the contents to their family safely.
He had only touched the pyramid once. It was on the day the Dark Council had acknowledged her as the Wrath; the day that he had said the ancient marriage vows only used between vassal and lord that his Imperial Academy roommate and best friend Lieutenant Drellik – sworn vassal of Darth Nox, member of that same council – had researched for him. They had used a ceremonial Sith knife to gash their left hands, anointed the pyramid with their mixed blood, before having Jaesa Willsaem bind the hands together for the marriage feast. He particularly remembered how hard it was for Echope to eat the blood soup that Vette had specially made for the celebration since she, like most Sith Purebloods, was left-handed. He had ended up feeding her most of her meal that night.
Malavai walked over to the desk and touched the side of the pyramid. It chimed softly, almost too softly for him to hear, and the side opened. Two sets of the log crystals, (why two, he wondered), the holocron and a solitary data spike were inside the pyramid. A recorded message started playing and he wondered when Echope had had the time to make it during their recent adventuring.
“If you are hearing this, my love, then we have been forced apart. I have keyed my storage pyramid with a genetic lock long ago, keyed only to the two of us. Later, the twins, as they share our genes, will be able to open this gift to our legacy. The crystal logs are keyed to be opened by only by you and Vette in addition to me; there are two of the special stands I use inside this pyramid for that purpose. The holocron must ONLY go to the twins and absolutely must never fall into Jaesa’s hands as it will teach them things about their blood legacy that the Empire is not ready for. The data spike is in standard Imperial format and can be used to convey my orders to people other than you and Vette.
“Whether or not you have not felt the severing of our blood-forged bond in the Force, if we have been forced apart you must get the twins to my younger sister on Rekkiad. Our family lives there among the descendants of the followers of Dramath the Second, who fled from the world of Medriaas before the formation of the current incarnation of the Sith Empire. They will be raised loyal to the Empire, but away from the political infighting that is certain to be going on with both Darth Marr and I so far away from Dromund Kaas and the heart of the Empire.”
Malavai called Vette into the cabin and shared the message with her, asking Vette if she had known anything of Echope’s family or childhood before this. This is the one subject that Echope had never spoken with him about although she shared his interest in Sith history.
“I haven’t even HEARD of Rekkiad before” the Twi’lek slicer and confidant of the Wrath said. “It must be one of those worlds that the Empire controls but never really has much to do with other than to collect the annual tax from. And who was this Dramath the Second, and why was HE of any importance? I’ve never even heard of him in the lists of Sith loot that collectors want.
“Let’s go get the twins from the Kaas estates and do what Echope said as soon as we make the report to the Empire about the battle. I have a feeling in my lekku that we’re about to get into ANOTHER war with whoever runs that crazy fleet we saw, and I don’t want Kinarath and Rymar to be mixed up with that. Then we check the holomap for this Rekkiad place and haul jets to get there. Even Imperial High Command can’t argue with a command from the Wrath to her Captain to perform a mission in her absence. I’d even bet that it’s in the ship’s computers on a “deadman” setting if you plug that data spike into the console.
Later that week at the Citadel on Dromund Kaas
“So, you see, Minister Beniko” Captain Quinn stated” it appears that the ships Darth Marr and the Wrath had with them were drawn into an ambush by the same mysterious forces that attacked our outposts recently and even dared to attack the sacred sites on Korriban during the very period Darth Marr and Darth Echope Kallisti, my Lady Wrath were on their way to where our former Emperor Vitiate was reported to have been sensed and were thus unable to engage them.
“This data spike, along with the automatic recordings of the Fury’s battle-logs will confirm my shipmates and I were ORDERED by Lady Echope herself to report what had happened to the Empire and to bring the recorded data to you rather than staying in the battle. It didn’t sit well with either Lady Jaesa Willsaem or Lieutenant Pierce to not engage in the battle but as they had both heard the order and knew it was for the good of the Empire, they obeyed. Would it be possible for them to transfer to roles working with High Command? Lady Echope has another mission for Specialist Vette and myself. Here is a copy of it from the command console of the Two Spears Ascending . It bears her personal command codes and is dated the date of the battle as a precaution”
Minister Lana Beniko of Sith Intelligence scanned the order provided to her by Captain Quinn and “Specialist” Vette, hiding her surprise about where the two of them were being sent. The order was clear and specific, even to the backwater Imperial world that was referenced in it. Immediately prior to her being asked to work for a former member of the Dark Council who headed the Sphere of Military Offense, Lana had been part of the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge. In fact, Minister Beniko had even led a dig into the temple attached to the tomb of Dramath the Second just prior to that assignment. What she had found had IMMEDIATELY been hidden away from even most Sith who might research that world. What had the Wrath known about as a native of that world, that the rest of the Empire had not?
Although it concerned a matter that most Sith would have considered to be trivial in time of war, Lana had worked closely with this particular Sith in the past and knew that she was able to think in ways other Sith were not. This was the reason that Lana and Echope had been able to survive a very trying period in the recent past which had resulted in Darth Marr appointing Lana to head Sith Intelligence. It had been a period that most of the citizens of the Empire had not been aware of the danger they were in from their own former Emperor, Vitiate, or even the Revanite conspiracy that ultimately revitalized him and allowed his spirit to devour all life on the former capitol world of the Empire, Ziost.
“I will see that Lieutenant Pierce is transferred to my personal detail immediately and request that Lady Jaesa work with the Imperial Reclamation Service for the time being, until more permanent arrangements can be made for her. Rekkiad is one of the more obscure systems in the Empire so Lady Echope’s children will be safe there. I know you were blood bound to her. I must ask you a personal question before I continue. Is the bond still active?”
Malavai was startled by the question but feeling within said with certainty, “Yes, Lady Beniko”.
Lana nodded before asking Vette to leave the room to call ahead to Lady Echope’s estate and make the arrangements for the children to be transported to a secure hanger in Kaas City.
“This is something that I want you to keep only between you and me.” Lana said. “Your Force bond would tell you if she was dead. After you deliver your twins to their haven, I want you to begin searching for your wife. I will attempt to have this mission be authorized, but there may come a time when it is no longer authorized. If that time comes, I want you to CONTINUE for as long as you feel the bond. If a time comes when the bond is not active anymore, I want you to contact me at this encrypted code. The only other people who will know of this mission are Darth Vowrawn and Darth Nox - because we don’t know who else on the Dark Council we can trust with this knowledge itself as it is a search for the Lady Wrath herself. May the Force guide you, may it ever serve you”
Malavai nodded, glad that Lady Beniko did not mention Darth Acina, who as she sat on the Dark Council might have had the rank to attempt to override the Wrath’s instructions. He was equally glad that Acina no longer used her birth name, in keeping with Sith tradition, a tradition his Lady Echope had said was foolish unless the new name was earned and given by a master.
The next night
“Well, Vette,” Quinn said after the twins had been put to bed in what had been the “crew” quarters on the Two Spears Ascending, “it seems my Lo-Lady left us each a set of these crystals with a special stand. I often watched her use the stand, both with the crystals and with the holocron, but she never showed me now it worked.”
“So, basically, what you’re saying, is that we must figure out how they work so that we can ‘read’/view, or whatever, the crystals. Why don’t we start with the one IN the stand? It’s probably the most recent anyway. And if we kriff it up we won’t destroy something from farther back that might be important. Also, if we kriff it up, maybe her family will know how to fix it when we get there because I KNOW she’s had one, if not both, for as long as I’ve known her.
“Hmm. There’s a spot here that’s warmer than the rest of it. YIKES! What the KRIFF????”
“Hello, Vette. I see you’ve activated the interactive holomatrix of one of my personal logs. The stand will act as a Gatekeeper now that you’ve used it the first time, allowing you to not only view my log through my eyes and words, but ask a limited amount of questions. Because you are not Force-Sensitive like myself, or even faintly like Malavai (at this, both jumped back – how could QUINN, of all people, be Force-Sensitive?) you will not be able to converse with the log the way he will. But you know more of what happened at the beginning, so perhaps you might not need to.”
Malavai sat there, stunned. He remembered the tests that Imperial children underwent when they entered school for Force-sensitivity. He remembered how the Inquisitors in charge of the testing had selected ten out of his Entry Level class of one-hundred ten students for “further evaluation” and how he had been one of those ten. He remembered how both his Father Colonel Rymar Quinn as well as his Aunt Sybellia (his father’s sister), had been both proud and nervous about Malavai, his twin sister Amerine, and his cousin Serina being chosen for that additional evaluation.
He also remembered the crushing disappointment that had rolled off his father in waves when of those ten, Malavai was the only family member who had not been chosen for training as a Sith. It was at that point, six-year-old Malavai had sworn to himself to never be the type of person to disappoint his father again. He would be the model of an Imperial officer and bring honor to the Quinn name.
Malavai also remembered the times when he had seen openings in battles that others missed and how he became a “crack shot” who just barely missed ending up training as an Imperial sniper assigned to Imperial Intelligence, only avoiding that because of his talents in tactical analysis and strategic planning instead being assigned to Counter-Intelligence training under Vasil Dorne. The Battle of Druckenwell, was both a shining example of that talent being used and how that talent could be resented by those who didn’t have it, but wanted to take the credit for it.
“Faintly Force-Sensitive…? Vette, that explains quite a bit about things that happened to me when I was much younger. I wonder if that was why Baras decided to “deliver” me from the court-martial after the Battle of Druckenwell, having the judges sentence me to demotion and a punishment posting of Broysc’s choosing instead of being executed the way Broysc had initially wanted. It would go a long way to explaining why Baras kept me there as long as he did, grooming me to be his agent. I wish we knew if the Empire kept track of the children who were like me. And, had Baras planned to use me against cousin Serina or my sister Amerine as we grew older, who WERE taken for training to Korriban?
“Enough of that. Now that we know how they work, why don’t we take the time on the trip to learn more about each other’s childhoods and what little we can dig up in the records about Rekkiad so that we know more about where we’re heading?”
1 week later
Malavai Quinn and Vette hugged goodbye on Rekkiad. She was walking down the ramp, on her way to the estate of Echope’s family with one twin in each arm and a pair of nanny droids following along with their belongings. The pyramid with the holocron inside was on her back in a satchel for delivery to Echope’s family. Malavai had already secured his copy of the crystal logs with their stand into a custom belt for viewing while he searched for his love
“Take care of yourself ‘Admiral Malcontent’, the Twi’lek teased sadly”.
“I will, ‘Blue Pirate Princess’, otherwise she’d torture me by making me listen to you tell jawa jokes while you buff your lekku for hours”. Remember to keep checking the encrypted frequencies we set up for news of my search. And, if you learn anything I should know, use those frequencies to send me an encrypted message.
What neither of them said, but both meant, was “I love you, because SHE loves you”
Malavai knew that there was one member of the council other than Darth Vowrawn that he personally might have asked to aid them, but he hadn’t dared. His twin, Amerine, had become Darth Acina, but hadn’t seemed to recognize him, or if she did, hadn’t considered her “force-blind” twin to be important. He was not ever going to deliver Echope’s children to her to be pawns – especially as he had never told his wife of their relationship because he was loyal to Echope, not Acina, now. He served the Wrath of the Empire, not it’s Council and that is the way it would always be as long as he could still hunt for her.
Chapter 2: The Dust of Korriban, fanned by the winds of Bogan
Echope's Arrival on Korriban and her first "day" there
Some insight as to why Lana had less problems working with her than most Sith, although it's not what Lana was referring to in the previous chapter
Introduction of Sith Inquisitor Wrallani (in passing)
Some of the stuff in this chapter will be non-canon for the SWTOR-verse unless you go WAAAY back in the chronicles on the SWTOR website and add a little bit from another source titled "Dawn of the Jedi" which talks about events in the solar system containing the planet Tython during the Force Wars with the Rakata.
The word Je'daii mean "Mystic Center" and the Je'daii Order of Tython were the predecessors of both the Jedi and Sith orders
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no fear, there is power.
I am the heart of the Force.
I am the revealing fire of light.
I am the mystery of darkness.
In balance with chaos and harmony,
Immortal in the Force.”
“My mother taught me that this was the oldest known code for Force users in the Galaxy, even older than the code the followers of Dramath the Second and the rest of the Sith Empire used – a code that focused almost exclusively on Bogan (the “dark” half of the Force) to the exclusion of Ashla (the “light” half of the Force). The overseers at the local training facility for Force Sensitives were more interested in making certain that I knew the basics of lightsaber forms and telling us that we were better than those around us because we could touch the Force. Having grown up in an extended family of Force-users who had trained through the Imperial system, although not under the changes mandating final training on Korriban which happened shortly after my birth, I don’t see myself as being better, but then again, our only servants were droids not grotthu.
And of course, our Seedship’s Clan-Family also included some members who were also members of what the Empire considers “lesser” races, so we hide the ones we know are Force-sensitives from the Inquisitors when they come around, as they usually do not think to check Twi’leks, Miralukas, or Mirialans in (what are inactive) collars for sensitivity. And, they absolutely have not checked the nearby bay, so they do not know of the Selkath who also share Rekkiad with the Empire. I hope they never find out, I feel it would be disastrous.”
“I thought that the Selkath were native to Manaan, and never went off-world except for trade missions or the Republic Senate. What are they doing with a secret colony on an Imperial world?”
“My love, they have been there since before the current form of the Sith Empire, even before the Great Hyperspace War. They were part of a seed-ship sent out from the Deep Core system that includes the planet Tython over thirty THOUSAND years ago, close to the time that the Sith species were otherwise confined to the planet of Korriban under King Adas, the first Sith to earn the title of Sith’ari or Emperor/Lord of the Sith (as opposed to Sith Lord). At the time it was the ONLY other system where the Red Sith could be found, but my ancestors did not get there in a way that Sith history records, but the history is preserved by my family. I have made a special crystal for you to explain it, but that will be a matter for another time.
“My family is descended of the Kissai caste of the Sith as were almost all the Tythan system Red Sith, so it was no surprise that I would be sent to Korriban, as my younger sister Achana will after me, although after her time on Korriban my mother will be Achana’s master while I will be striving for a master from one of the Capitol world’s Sith Lords. Mother Erian, our Clan head – who is, by the way, a Twi’lek, has had a vision of me as a “power” in the Empire…and so I must follow her directive.”
“Is that why you were so fond of Vette? Did she remind you of other members of your Clan-family on Rekkiad? She often seemed less of a servant or squad member than something like a younger sister herself.”
“Yes, Vette did come to be like a little sister to me, although she did start as a servant. Darth Baras gave her to me as a slave, who I freed at the first possible moment (although I never needed her to clean up my room or do my laundry). It did help that I was lucky at pazaak on the way to the Korriban Academy and was able to use that money to file the paperwork to free her between leaving Korriban and arriving on Dromund Kaas to begin my apprenticeship with Darth Baras. But, I may be getting ahead of myself.”
“I was certain that I would be asked about the Code the greater Empire and would have to find out about that code as soon as I could when I got there. It was to have been a major part of my studies in my final year at the local training facility, but I was missing that year because I had been called a year early to Korriban. I had also heard that Overseer Tremel is the one I will be reporting to once I arrive. I hoped that he was like the training master I last had. I already missed Overseer Alishaa.
“Once I learned the Modern Code of the Sith, as well as the Je'daii Code I had learned from my infancy, I was planning to meditate daily, if possible, on the whirling balance points between the modern Code and the Ancient Code of the Je’daii Seed-ship Clan Khallistee, my Clan-family on Rekkiad. It was always interesting to me that the Dramathii thought that those who were not Red Sith were the servants of those in the Clan-family who were. They truly did not understand what we were, and still are even now.
“To have them understand, they would have to learn of the Tho Yor, and what happened over five thousand years before the beginning of the reign of the Sith King Adas who met, and learned from, the accursed Rakata. They would have to learn of the Order who the Jedi have become a perversion of, and truly understand that knowledge and power lend themselves to the eternal dance to control the use of the Force.
“My family, BECAUSE we are Red Sith, and because we are of the Kissai caste, are not questioned when we tell people that there are secrets that we guard on Rekkiad for the Great Lords. What we guard, even the Great Lords might find to be heresy by the standards of the modern Empire, even though it is older, predating even the Great Hyperspace War by thirty THOUSAND Galactic Standard Years. My family awaits a time when the Empire might be open to a fuller understanding of the Force than it is now”
What were the Tho Yor? Were they and the story about the order from before the Jedi existed part of what was on the special crystal that Echope had left for him? And what would he say if he were unfortunate enough to be asked about it by someone who she wouldn’t have wanted to know, like her former apprentice Jaesa?
“When I arrived on Korriban and met Overseer Tremel, he told me of his reason for bringing me to Korriban early, and of an acolyte named Vemrin who would already be my enemy, although he did not say why. Without giving me a chance to adjust to the dryness of the air, or the heat in the sunlight at that latitude on Korriban, which was already a very dry world, almost a desert; he then sent me into the tomb of Ajunta Pall, a Dark Jedi who became a Lord of the Sith on a quest to get a war blade. While in the tomb, I was asked to set explosives in a brooding chamber for klor’slugs (a type of worm-like creatures with many sharp teeth that seem to be drawn to heat) to thin their numbers and accepted a mission to help cut down looters from the tomb and recover the artifacts being stolen. Ironically, one of those looters was almost Vette. However, she was in another tomb, which was what ended up saving her.”
“What do you mean, Vette was a tomb looter on Korriban when you were there? I have been told that the tombs nearest the Sith Academy are of some of the greatest Lords of the Sith, like Marka Ragnos and Naga Sadow. Whose tomb was she defiling?”
“It was Naga Sadow’s, and I will tell you of that presently. As of yet, in my tale, I had not even become known to Darth Baras as one of the acolytes at the Academy. And it was not until after I became Bara’s prime candidate for apprentice, pending my successful completion of a final trial, that Vette was “given” to me and I began to get to know her.”
“I recovered the war blade, but before leaving the armory chamber I had to combat some ancient guardian droids and wondered if they were really ancient, instead of made to look that way for the sake of acolytes seeking war blades in this tomb as a trial. I rested and meditated on maintaining my Bendu balance between chaos and harmony my mother taught me on a world so fraught with the energy of Bogan (remember, Malavai that I told you that this was the ancient name for the Dark Side that I was taught?), to the almost total exclusion of Ashla. It was no surprise to me that it is “natural” for the Red Sith to use Bogan easier than Ashla because of how the Force flows on Korriban. The Red Sith never saw activities that are “traditionally Dark-sided” as particularly “Dark” until after the Ajunta Pall and the “fallen Jedi” who were exiled with him brought those definitions with them. It was just how things were for our species, even before the Tho Yor came to Korriban.
“I’m recorded this in the armory room where the war blade was after fighting its guardian droids. It was a secure place for the moment for me to rest, use a medpac, eat some of the rations I brought with me, and meditate. No other acolytes were in the area and there are no klor’slugs or looters either. I didn’t dare to sleep until I am through the tomb and finally at the Academy of the Sith. It was also the place that I met Wrallani, who later became Darth Nox.
"At the time, I found out that she was a fellow hopeful, but assigned to a different Overseer, a man named Harkun, as part of an assorted group of Force-sensitive slaves. I knew that because she was a Miraluka as well as a recently emancipated slave, she would have difficulties in the Academy because she would be considered to be "lesser" than the humans and Red Sith there. I promised her that if I could help her, I would, and it is a promise that I have never regretted making.
Then I recovered the stolen artifacts and hunted down the looters before I going to Overseer Tremel. Maintaining my Bendu balance while not being marked as a heretic here was be difficult, but I needed to be able to do it.”
“Apparently, my love, you managed to do it because you not only survived the Academy. I remember seeing Overseer Tremel when you were confirmed as the Emperor’s Wrath by the Dark Council. Why was he no longer at the Academy when you became Darth Baras’ apprentice? I seem to recall you telling me that his daughter thought he was dead. Or, am I getting ahead of myself again?”
“Yes, you are getting ahead of yourself again.
“It took only a few hours to recover the artifacts and cut my way through the looters and ‘slugs on the second level of the tombs. After that, it was a climb through the upper passage that had been dug by grotthu attached to the Academy. I gave my report on the looters and turned the recovered artifacts into a recovery service sergeant near the front of the Academy itself before climbing the ramp to the main entrance to the Temple of Sith Knowledge and Power (the actual “official” name of the Sith Academy).
“I was greeted by one of two overseers who greeted all the trainees who had survived the trek up through the tomb of Ajunta Pall and was told that although Overseer Tremel was the overseer responsible for my Trials, there were other trainers in the Academy that all acolytes were expected to learn from. She was assigned to those who were more likely to be trained as Warriors for the Sith Order instead of Inquisitors and, like I, Loun was a Red Sith and, in addition, was certain that she was better than the other species of students who I would meet at the Academy solely because she was of the original Sith species. I made certain to not contradict her because of how I had been raised, even on behalf of the majority species of the Empire, humans.
“I made a point of quickly visiting one of the other trainers, so I could find what bunk I was assigned to, and then go to meet with Overseer Tremel. I can already tell that this is going to be a long day, even by the standards of the days I’m used to because Rekkiad’s rotational period is six standard hours longer than an Imperial Standard Day. Since landing on Korriban I’d already been up for almost two standard days and it looked like I’d be up at least a few more hours before Overseer Tremel dismissed me for the night.”
“I was right about being up several more hours. I also met three acolytes senior to me that I needed to keep an eye on. Two of them were actively hostile towards me. Vemrin was one of them, and his lackey Dolgis was the other. They threatened me just outside the entrance to Overseer Tremel’s office, but because of “the academy’s rules” did not try to kill me there when an “accident in the tombs is more convincing”. They were both right and wrong for not trying then when I was as tired as I was. I remembered Vemrin as the acolyte that Tremel had warned me about when I first stepped off the shuttle and warned them that I was not someone they wanted to make into their enemy. He went off, but Dolgis stayed a little longer to tell me that Vemrin was, as he put it, the “alpha monster” and I was going to be in a lot of trouble if I didn’t keep out of Vemrin’s way
“The third, was not actively hostile to me, but dangerous nevertheless because she of being Tremel’s daughter Eskela. She was about eighteen months ahead of me in the usual program because she had been at the Academy for six months. She was upset because she has only now gotten her war blade. She knew her father was planning something, but not what. She did not know that her father was plotting to throw a spanner into the plans of Darth Baras and that I was that spanner. I think that it was because her father viewed me as disposable at the time rather than her. I proved him wrong.
“He immediately had me do my first “Trial” within the Academy walls. It consisted of deciding the fates of three prisoners in the Academy. When I arrived, there were four prisoners there. There was a Twi’lek (who was busily annoying the jailer with bird imitations) and three others.”
Malavai thought to himself, “Why am I not surprised that the Twi’lek was busy annoying the jailer? I’m only surprised that she didn’t somehow manage to steal the controller for her cell from him.”
“The first was a woman with short hair, whose name I never learned. Her crime was the attempted murder of an Imperial agent in the Yavin system. After a brief conversation, I decided not to execute her or send her back for more interrogation, but rather to second her to Imperial Intelligence as an assassin candidate. I wonder if she will make it through their training program, which I hear is rather brutal.”
“My love, did you ever find out how much less brutal the training program for Imperial Agents is than that for Sith?”
“No, I never did find out exactly. I am assured that it is much less brutal however by a member of Imperial Intelligence that I came to know after Darth Jadus tried to turn against the Dark Council.
(Malavai remembered hearing about that. It had been right before he had met Echope on Balmorra. It had surprised him that Grey Star had been a Republic trooper. He wondered if Commander Rylon had even known about that figure of the Balmorran resistance’s identity and what he would have done with the information had he known)
“The second was a “Sith champion” by the name of Devotek. He had failed in a mission and because of that had caused the deaths of thousands of Imperial troops. Imperial citizens are too valuable to squander, no matter the feelings of SOME Sith. I executed him on the spot with no regrets.
“The last one was a non-human of some type (a Duros, maybe? I wasn’t certain at the time) who was accused of forging Imperial documents but maintained his innocence. The problem being, there was a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing to him, as well as his record in the Republic of being a forger (which he admitted to). I felt there was more to learn and sent him back to the interrogators.
“After I returned to Overseer Tremel, he informed me that I had made the “best” decision in all three cases. In the first, I had chosen not to waste a potential resource. In the second, I had “disposed of something no longer useful” (I shuddered inwardly at that. What if I were to become “no longer useful”? Would I be discarded? Much to my chagrin, I found out later that Baras intended to do just that when I became less useful and more a threat to him.) And in the third, I had made certain that all possible information was gotten to protect the Empire and its secrets.
“A short shower in the fresher attached to the dorm and then to sleep. Overseer Tremel said he has an important Trial for me the following morning. I was extremely grateful for even that VERY cold shower after the heat and choking dust I had been through in the preceding Standard day.”
The Graphic Novel series "Dawn of the Jedi" also touches upon Tatooine's history BEFORE it was all desert CONFIRMING the Sandpeople Shaman account in KOTOR. It also gives a reason for Rajivari's decision to create his "version" of what the Jedi *should* be instead of what they became.
Je'daii were the predecessors of both the Jedi and Sith orders and Echope's family considers them to both be working from flawed understandings of the Force.
Language note -- grotthu is one of the castes within Sith society and equates out to slave.
Chapter 3: The Beast of Marka Ragnos
Echope's Second trial where we learn more about her and see her first contact with the Sith Code
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Of course, before I was able to attend to my second Trial for Overseer Tremel, I was tasked by another, visiting Sith Lord named Abaron with taking a holocron blood monitor to check the purity of ancestry of four of the Overseers at the Sith Academy; the Overseers Arzanon, Cestus, Ragate, and Solence. He seemed chagrined that there was, as he put it, so little pure Sith blood, in all the Overseers. Although the “purity of my blood” was not in question, he was hoping for a day that other acolytes would “again kneel at the feet of the pureblooded Sith” after he brought it to the attention to the Dark Council.
“I also had a request from Overseer Arzanon to eliminate heretic acolytes in the valley near the entrance to the Academy entrance. I could see that Arzanon’s commitment to the current Sith Emperor and his order is absolute, and that if I didn’t agree, that it would not be long before I was on his list of heretics (and with better reason than even he knew). If I was identified as a heretic so soon after my arrival at the Academy, it would be a disaster for my Clan-Family on Rekkiad. I schooled myself for what will likely be the first of many decisions I will find distasteful and pretended eager acceptance of his request, for which I was rewarded.
“Was it common that visiting Lords and other Overseers would have additional tasks for Academy acolytes?”
“Yes, it was. I would end up doing additional tasks several more times before my time at the academy was over.
“in fact, by the time I was finally able to reach Overseer Tremel’s office he was showing signs of having had a sleepless night. He ran his right hand through his graying hair, catching the curls on two large rings – one of which had a carving of a snarling nexu on a Kaasian bloodstone set into it.
“Tremel then told me, “I will be sending you next several hours travel down the Valley of the Dark Lords to where the Tomb of Marka Ragnos is located. There you will find your way past the tuk’ata in the valley, into the tomb itself to where there is a chamber with a great carving in the ancient Sith language. Meditate on that carving until the Beast living in the tomb comes out and slay the beast. Bring me a fang as proof of the deed. This will be a dangerous trial, but if you survive it and return with the proof, you will be well on your way towards our goal”
“I asked, “Is there any advice you would give me on how to kill the beast once it emerges?”
“He replied, “This is a test of your ferocity and ingenuity. It would not be a true Trial for you if I gave you more information than this.”
“Little did he know that this was the last Trial he would send me on, although probably not the last he had planned for me”
Malavai’s thoughts and questions
“No matter how hard the life I remember the life for the average Imperial Cadet being, I never remember being asked or expected to kill my fellow cadets merely on the word of a superior. And, I certainly never was threatened on the way to meet my cadet corps advisor by a senior cadet merely for being at the Imperial Naval Academy in the Tactical track. And certainly not being asked to kill multiple fellows for disloyalty for fear of being labeled disloyal myself. How did you deal with that?
I can agree with your sentencing of the people who she was asked to decide the fates of. I’m especially glad that her concern for the regular citizens of the Empire was evident so early and that the Sith Academy never made it waver. It was always something I loved about you. I just wish I could tell YOU instead of saying it to a crystal recording of you I wonder if you would have been surprised to find out how less strict the Intelligence track of Imperial Academy was than the Sith Academy was.
“What was the washout percentage at the Sith Academy; and what happened to them as you never see a “Sith washout” in the Empire, although you hear of Jedi Academy washouts in the Republic. (I seem to remember that Theron Shan was one; and he wound up an SIS agent who in retrospect I’m heartily glad I never had to match wits with due to how he ended up helping my Lady and my Love on Rishi and Yavin 4). I wonder if they ended up as a special subset of servants to high-ranking Sith Lords or if they never made it off Korriban.”
“Less than one in twenty candidates sent to Korriban as potentials make it through the process of acolyte to become apprentice Sith. Of the original twenty, I would estimate four even lived, although the ones that did not become apprentices were often made into tenders for the security beast pens, or assistant jailers. The rest fled into the tombs, where some of them were rumored to stay to regain their place within the Academy”
“Something tells me it’s the latter, but I still don’t know if it is because they stayed to serve lesser roles at the Sith Academy or if the selection process was more ‘final’ than that. It also makes me wonder what happened to my cousin Sirena when she tested as a Force-Sensitive and went to Korriban. Aunt Sybellia didn’t hear from her after she was there 6 months and said she was “probably too busy” with her studies and duties to her new lord. Was she too busy, or was she dead?”
“Sadly, Malavai, there was more than an even chance that she died if your aunt did not hear from her after such a short period of time. There were disturbing rumors about some of the things that happened to the corpses of the potentials who failed.
“I would find out later just which of those rumors were true, and it was one of the odder and more disturbing. It was during my last trial before leaving Korriban, one in which Vette had become my ‘partner-in-crime’, even though what I was doing was actually authorized by Darth Baras.”
The Beast in the Tomb
“My second Trial involved me taking an air-cab to the Lower Valley of the Dark Lords. It was the only easy way that It could be accessed from the Sith Academy. I was going to have to fight past some tuk’ata to reach a Sith research area, which served as a jumping off point for the tomb complex of Marka Ragnos. An Overseer named Lord Renning was also looking for someone to kill a specific tuk’ata in the complex in order to retrieve its brain for study, and there were code cylinders for a supply crate that some now-insane Imperial troopers had scattered in several places throughout the Lower Valley that I would need to gather to return the supplies to the troops.
“I remembered my mother telling me that the Imperial military were as important, if not actually more so, to the Empire than the Sith. For all that members of the military were not Force-Sensitive enough to be Sith candidates, it was the military that were the ones who were in the front line of doing the will of the Emperor and his Dark Council throughout the galaxy. She had been the one who told me that whenever possible, that I should lend aid to the military if I could do so in the course of my other duties as a Sith. She made the analogy of the rank-and-file Sith being the left hand and the military the right hand of Imperial strength, and that if I remembered that model I wouldn’t go wrong in the long term.”
Malavai always had to remember that the Red Sith were one of the rare species that -- IF they tended to have a preferred handedness – tended to be LEFT-handed, so where he would have said that someone was his “right hand man” a Red Sith like Echope would usually use the opposite hand to mean the same thing. It tended to make him a little dizzy at times.
“Sadly, I had to kill several dozen troopers to get the code cylinders I needed. It didn’t sit well with me to do so, but it felt like a strange sort of mercy because they would probably never have recovered from the madness Bogan had engendered in them so close to the funeral complex of Marka Ragnos with its many buried artifacts and even several large beasts that had been created by Sith Alchemy and/or breeding programs.
“The tuk’ata that Lord Renning had wanted killed, while more difficult than the average beast I had faced up to that point was not overly so. I was glad that I had chosen to hunt that before seeking the chamber within the main tomb building that housed the great Beast of Marka Ragnos. It also allowed me to slice some large chunks of flesh to use as bait for the larger animal so that I could have a greater amount of time to steel myself for the actual combat with the Beast.
“I entered the main tomb, remembering that Academy rules “didn’t apply” and I would need to be on guard against my fellow acolytes in the gloom leading to where I would be preparing for my ACTUAL Trial. There were several who tried attacking me. Looking at the state of their uniforms and vibroblades, I knew that these were “failures” like those who Wrallani had had to face in the chamber of the Mad Sith Spindrall in the Tomb of Ajunta Pall. None of them looked like they had had recent contact with acolytes in the Academy itself where they could have been acting as agents for Vemrin.
“I placed the meat I had carved from the tuk’ata around the chamber of the Beast so that hopefully it would give me some additional time to combat it as I had no illusions that it would be a simple beast to fight. I decided to take a holo-image of the tablet in the chamber for further study as it was carved with the Code of the Sith. ‘Peace is a lie, there is only Passion. Through Passion, I gain Strength. Through Strength, I gain Power. Through Power, I gain Victory. Through Victory, my chains are broken. The Force Shall Free Me’ I could see why Tremel wanted me to meditate on the tablet, especially as I remembered my Overseer in the training center on Rekkiad had often told us that it was our passions that gave the Sith the strength we used to protect the Empire.
“When the Beast appeared, I saw that it was a terentatek. Those rare beasts were developed through Sith Alchemy and fed on the flesh and blood of force-users. What many – even among historians in the Empire OR EVEN THE JEDI ORDER – did not know is what they had been created FROM, and thus, just how truly dangerous they were. A fully mature terentatek was capable of slaying a fully trained Jedi or Sith, and somehow, Tremel thought that *I* would be able to kill this great Beast. I had no choice, however. It was either slay the terentatek or die in the attempt. I had no intention of the latter.
“After a draining struggle, I finally prevailed, obtained the requested trophy for Overseer Tremel and made my way back to the research camp headed by Lord Renning. I took an air-cab back to the Academy. Following a quick wash, I returned to Overseer Tremel. My fortunes at the Sith Academy were about to change and Dolgis was the omen for that change. He was hiding in the corridor leading to Tremel’s office, where he had made certain there would be no witnesses and attacked me. I defeated him easily but although I knew I should not risk allowing him to return to Vemrin’s side, I impressed upon him that I WAS indeed as strong, if not actually stronger, than Vemrin. Dolgis swore to leave me alone from that time on. It was a promise he would keep, and I would see him on the Empire’s battlefields of his native Balmorra during the time I spent there later.
“I went into Overseer Tremel’s office and was told that he had made a mistake in sending me after the Beast of Marka Ragnos because of the tremor that the slaying had made in the Force. This tremor had made me known to Darth Baras, who was now demanding my presence. When I asked what to expect, I was told, ominously “Be careful around him at all times. He will be inclined to judge you harshly, and by harshly, I mean fatally”
That was certainly Malavai’s experience with the Late un-lamented Darth Baras. He had seen on more than one occasion that Baras was never merciful unless he planned to use the person as a tool. Just as he had been to one, Malavai Quinn Captain First-Grade of Imperial Intelligence seconded to Moff Broysc on the occasion of his court-martial following the battle of Druckenwell. It had cost Malavai ten years of his life in service of Baras directly and had almost cost him everything he loved after Baras had betrayed Echope and ordered her killed to remove her as a threat to Baras.
As its name implied, the Beast of Marka Ragnos once belonged to the Dark Lord of the Sith Marka Ragnos, who ruled over the Sith Empire for a standard century. The Beast was a giant terentatek, a species that had been created by the Ninûshwodzakut, a group of Sith priests who used manipulated breeding and alchemy to produce fearsome creatures.
**Head-canon** What is not commonly known in the Sith Empire is that the Kissai who created the species were descended from the Kissai of Rekkiad and used an animal that had been bred originally by the Je'daii of Tython as "bomb-sniffers" as the basis to breed from.
Chapter 4: From Tremel to Baras
Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Fire at the Sith Academy.
Darth Baras is inclined to judge people fatally and that is only considered "harsh" by the standards of the Sith Order
We say good-bye to Tremel
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
From One Master to another
“Peace is a lie, there is only Passion.
Through Passion I gain Strength.
Through Strength I gain Power.
Through Power I gain Victory.
Through Victory my Chains are Broken.
The Force shall Free Me”
Baras instead of Tremel
I quickly ducked into my barracks area to wash up and change into a fresh acolyte’s uniform as my old one was torn from the battle with the Beast. I also placed the fang safely into my lockbox so that I could later commemorate the event by fashioning it into an ornament for my saber belt.
Following that, I quickly ran to where Darth Baras was in the Academy building. I knew that I would be judged by the Darth as soon as I arrived. Taking a deep breath and surrounding myself with an aura of Bogan, I entered the hallway leading to Baras’ chamber.
In the hall there were acolytes who wanted to ally with me because I was on Vemrin’s radar as an adversary. They wanted to give me an alibi in his killing. It didn’t take me long to convince them of their error before I actually entered Baras’ presence.
Darth Baras was a heavily built man who appeared to be fat, however, I could see the layers of muscle that still lay beneath the layer of fat that Baras cultivated in an effort to have people underestimate him. He was speaking with several apprentices concerning a trial he was sending them on. Apparently, this was a trial that would be potentially lethal to one or more of them. It was a sign of things to come with Darth Baras; a man who I didn’t yet know saw everyone as tools and expendable for him to accomplish his ambitions.
As they left, Vemrin and another acolyte named Klemral commented on Dolgis’ absence. Following that, I was alone with the Darth. I projected an aura of someone with much less true readiness than I actually had because I knew if Baras saw the real level of training I had he would instantly become suspicious of HOW I had gotten it and I would have betrayed the Je’daii of Rekkiad to scrutiny that could have harmed all that we were protecting.
I had to pretend to having an untrained, undisciplined mind and to be completely ignorant of “what it means to be Sith”. He then stated that because of this Tremel was acting as an actual traitor to the Sith Order. I was then ORDERED to execute my former mentor, bringing his hand back as proof – and told that Baras would excuse it by virtue of his rank.
Going back down to Tremel’s office, I formulated a plan to spare the Overseer if I could. There were secure holochannels I knew of that I could have him use to escape Korriban and get to Rekkiad. Yes, he would have to pretend to be a servant of my family, but if he agreed I would be able to keep him alive.
Tremel seemed surprised that I had returned as quickly as I did. Then I informed him of Baras’ demand for his death. We ended up dueling and because of the training I had as a child I was able to beat Tremel. I was finally able to get his attention and tell him I really only needed his hand and outlined my plan to help him survive. Tremel agreed and, using my blade to do it, cut off his saber hand knowing that Baras would expect that I would give the Darth that one. I made certain to give him the least important of my encrypted channels so that if it was discovered it would be less likely to be traced directly to my Clan-Family.
Malavai remembered Echope had a long list of encrypted channels in the crystals she had “left” for Vette and himself and had labeled one of them “Tremel”. He also remembered her making several holocalls before the event confirming her as the Emperor’s Wrath to channels she later erased completely from the records of the Two Spears Ascending. It was these channels that he was going to be using to keep in touch with Vette during the search for his Lady. Malavai was glad that Baras had never discovered them in the time Echope had been his Apprentice. Malavai was glad that Baras had never discovered them in the time Echope had been his Apprentice, and Malavai was equally glad that HE had not discovered them until after Echope and Darth Vowrawn had freed the Ancient Sith Spirit that Baras had enslaved on Corellia and he was no longer Baras’ thrall
Then it was time to return to Baras and bring my “trophy” to him. Baras told me that Tremel “had thought of me as family”, which made me wonder if he had been sent by the Clan-Family of Rekkiad to be an Overseer at the Sith Academy and help smooth the way for others from our home. I was given the ring with the carved jewel, a ring then decided to give as a marriage gift to the one I would wed.
Malavai rubbed the snarling nexu ring on his hand. He had suspected its history upon meeting Former Overseer Tremel when he first visited Echope’s family following their marriage. Tremel had commented that it was a ring that only passed from owner to owner through trials of strength and he hoped I was strong enough for it.
Baras “instructed” me in the Sith Code, which I committed to memory. Following that, he gave me the instructions for the next trial I would be facing, the same trial the other acolytes had already started on. Although the task itself was simple, there was danger in that there was local wildlife in the form of shyracks that I would need to cut my way through to collect what was called for. I would gather two of each item, just to be certain. Darth Baras also told me that I had “permission” to start on that trial in the morning as it was almost midnight by the time he was finished with me. I recalled that he had only sent the other acolytes just before sunset so “technically” I wasn’t losing too much time.
Rekkiad is a wonderful place to hide people and things that need to disappear because Echope's Clan-Family ALREADY does this with Force-Sensitives of "lesser" species so they don't get brutalized by the greater Empire in the training for membership in the Sith Order.
And, considering that Echope's family are known to have a strong Force presence on Rekkiad, adding people to that presence is something that the Inquisitors are likely to overlook if the humans are "servants" to the Pure-blood Sith.
Chapter 5: How Echope tried, and failed, to protect the Sith Empire
The events of the starting chapter of KOTFE...
Yes, it's a Point-of-view change, but Malavai isn't the only one that this fic is about.
Echope and Marr aboard the Eternal Fleet
Echope awoke with her head pounding and a rasp in her lungs. Her battle armor was torn in places and still bore evidence of having been in some variant of a kolto tank even though Malavai should have removed it before putting her in the tank. That, along with the Force-dampening cuffs muting (but not completely dampening her tie to the Force), told her that she was not in friendly hands. The shape of the cell and the color did not match what she remembered from the Republic capital ship Illuminator the Jedi Grand Master Satele Shan commanded. This impression was confirmed when a guard in a style of armor she had never seen before released the energy barrier at the front of her cell and motioned for her to sit up.
“I see that you are awake. You didn’t even know the name of the empire you invaded”, stated a man wearing white armor along with a half-mask on his scarred face and a cybernetic left arm.
Echope replied, “Considering that we had border outposts attacked recently, I don’t think we ‘invaded’ first. And, somehow, I don’t think we came off the worse in all of our encounters.”
This brought a scowl on the brow of the white-clad man as Darth Marr asked the name of the “Empire” we had supposedly infringed upon.
“The Eternal Empire, Zakuul”
Shortly thereafter, Echope heard over a ship-wide announcement that Prince Arcann’s ship was coming in for docking. (So, Arcann is the name of the man in white. He certainly is deferred to the way Marr and I were aboard the Indomitable and has an air of someone used to being obeyed without question)
The three of them, Arcann, Marr, and Echope, strode -- flanked by an honor guard in alternating white and red armor holding saberpikes -- along a docking tube leading to a tall spire standing above the cloud line of a planet Echope did not recognize either by land masses or Force signature which felt almost like Tython had in Je’daii lore. Although it was one of at least a dozen such spires, the spire they were heading for was the tallest of all of them and had a sphere of some sort of transparent material at the top forming a viewing globe. The docking tube attached just below that sphere, indicating the importance of the ship they were on in a way that was unmistakable even if Echope had not heard the announcement naming Arcann as a Prince.
When they had gone about 2/3 of the way along the tube, they were met by a man in a gray set of hooded robes trimmed in gold letters that Echope could not translate and carrying a lightsaber. This man had a feel that Echope had only felt in the presence of the Mystics of Voss and caused her to wonder if he was such a visionary.
“Have you come with more dire warnings of disaster Heskal?” Arcann growled menacingly. “Bring your pronouncements of doom to someone who will listen.”
“You may close your ears to the whispers of Fate, my Prince, but you cannot escape your destiny”
“I create my destiny”, Arcann flared at Heskal. “You and your Scions would do well to take your mutterings away from my ears and out of my sight”
“We did not come to hear you argue with soothsayers”, said Darth Marr, “we came in search of something”
“You have found something.” Said Arcann in reply. “You are to be brought before my Father, the Immortal Emperor of Zakuul”
“An Emperor….” Marr trailed off. Echope “heard” an echo through the Force wondering if the traces they both were feeling of Vitiate – the former ‘Immortal’ Sith Emperor – were somehow connected with this ‘Immortal’ Emperor in what the Sith Empire had called “Wild Space”. They would shortly find out and Echope was not looking forward to meeting whatever it was she was feeling coming from the center of the sphere.
Arcann, Heskal, Marr, and Echope were ushered into an elevator holding two more of the armored figures, this time in gold armor and holding staves in their hands that looked like the handles of the saberpikes the other guards had held. When the elevator opened, and the occupants stepped out Arcann lead the two captive Sith Lords forward across a bridge lined with more of the golden armored guards with ignited saberpikes to the center of the sphere before going to his knee in front of a high throne and introducing “My father, the Immortal Emperor of Zakuul, Valkorion”.
Valkorion…. Vitiate…. They were one and the same somehow. And somehow also, the Emperor’s Hand had never known of this when they had named Echope “The Emperor’s Wrath”, a title that she had modified to “The Empire’s Wrath” after the events on Yavin 4 and Ziost.
Echope kept quiet and studied Valkorion while Marr questioned him “Is this the reason for your silence across our history? A second Empire?”
In a voice that raised shivers up and down all the ridges that Echope had on her spine by virtue of being a Red Sith “Pure-blood”, Valkorion asked “Why did you come all this way?”
At this, Echope said “For answers, do your people here know who you are?”
“Are you certain YOU know?”
At that point ‘Valkorion’ said, “I will free you if you will kneel like you used to, to me as your rightful ruler”, and with a wave of his hand unlocked the cuffs from around Darth Marr’s wrists.
“I will never kneel to you again!” Marr declared, using a Force-shove to push one of the golden armored guards off the walkway and seizing the guard’s saber pike to use on another. Unfortunately, for the former head of the Sith Empire’s Dark Council, Valkorion waved Arcann aside and disposed of Marr with more Force lightning than Echope had ever seen used by any Sith other than her friend Wrallani, now Darth Nox of that same Dark Council.
Following the killing of Darth Marr, a young woman with dark hair dressed in what appeared to be a black variation of Arcann’s armor with a hood commanded the guards to clear the room. That she was immediately obeyed spoke to her also being a member of the royal family. This left only three people in the throne room of Zakuul – Valkorion, Arcann, and Echope.
Echope asked “Why send your new followers away? Is there something that you don’t want them to hear?”
To this, Valkorion responded, “They are not like us. In all my years you alone have merited my full attention. I have forged this Empire of Zakuul to be the greatest the galaxy has ever seen; to span the ages. I would share all of this with you – if you will but kneel”
Echope considered for a moment. If she were to protect HER Empire and Her people from Valkorion’s Empire and thus protect the ones she loved the most – Jaesa, Octavian Pierce, even the Talz Broonmark, but most especially Vette and Malavai, dearest Malavai – her only option was to do the thing that she in truth would not have done otherwise. She chose to kneel.
“Emperor Valkorion, your power is unquestionable. I have seen it first-hand. Our power, together, nothing could stand in our way”
At this moment, Arcann made his move.
“You are fortunate, Outlander. For all my life, I have struggled for what you have now been given. I have sacrificed everything -- even the life of my twin brother – trying to win that invitation you now have. You have done what I could not. In exchange, I will to what you could not”
And, having said that, Arcann thrust the ignited blade of his lightsaber through Valkorion’s back.
Much to both Arcann and Echope’s surprise, Valkorion laughed as a wave of Dark-Side energy erupted from his body only to be absorbed into Echope’s form, knocking her to the floor of the walkway. She barely heard Arcann announce to the people of Zakuul that a “cowardly Outlander” had assassinated his father the Emperor Valkorion, and that he would punish the worlds that had spawned this aggressor – before she heard nothing more; being frozen into a carbonite block. The last thought going through her mind as the freezing process started was “Malavai, I love you. Be safe….”
Chapter 6: Vette's Interlude on Rekkiad
Vette is Echope's oldest friend outside her home-world, and an adopted sister. Here is where she finds out a little more about some "Interesting" information.
(Added to April 13, 2019 -- I'll be writing more, I PROMISE. Right now I'm in college though and having to write some difficult papers....
On Rekkiad – Vette’s Interlude
Echope’s family, no, Echope’s CLAN was quick to welcome Vette when she brought Kinarath and Rymar to Rekkiad. They ushered the three of them into the stronghold where Ry’thmi, Echope’s mother, sat in an inner chamber. It was here that she found out one of the greatest secrets of the Rekkiad Je’daii, HOW they prevented many of their members from being found by the Sith Inspectors and forced into the Academy system as Force-Sensitives.
Rekkiad was rich in a mineral that when blended into jewelry or even made into false “slave collars” for the Force-Sensitive Mirialan, Twi’lek and Zabrak members of the clan allowed them to mask their sensitivity and Force-signatures so that there was effectively “only” Human and Sith Pure-blood Force-Sensitives in their Enclave. If non-Humans were not pretending to be slaves for the Imperials and wearing the phony slave collars, they wore bracelets, headbands or necklaces that masked them, so they could go about their daily business in the settlements around the central “castle” that had been created from what she learned was a Tythan seed-ship. And, what made it even more interesting, was that they had been on Rekkiad for well over twenty-thousand years -- LONG before Dramath the Second and his followers – and later still followers of Revan and the Mandalorian Clan Ordo, had settled nearby.
How they had managed to avoid being inbred was through careful husbandry of egg and sperm banks that had been brought with them in cryo-storage along with inter marriage with newer settlers who, once married into the clan, would then be brought into the secret. It had been a miracle that their secret had lasted through the entirety of Vitiate’s Sith Empire.
Achana, Echope’s younger sister, reminded Vette strongly of the Empire’s Wrath, but without the edge that the Sith Academy of Korriban had forced Echope to develop. Kinarath decided early on that she didn’t want to be near Achana, choosing instead to sit with her grandmother while Rymar almost immediately began sparring with his aunt. It was almost as if he was trying to beat away the loss of his familiar surroundings from Dromund Kaas.
Vette found out something else about Echope’s early training as a Force-sensitive in the “local training schools” for Sith potentials. Shortly before Echope was evaluated, a mandate had come from the Emperor that all trainers had to come from the ranks of “His Loyal Inquisitors” from Dromund Kaas and that most of the trainees were earmarked for “special attention” when they were sent on to Korriban – and most of those did NOT “graduate” to the rank of Sith Apprentice. Ry’thmi had a theory about why that was and had schooled her eldest daughter Echope early on to “forget” the real history of Rekkiad and what – and more specifically WHO -- Dramath the Second and his followers were fleeing from. Echope was taught by her mother to say that as far as she knew Dramath the Second colonized the planet in the late days of the Great Hyperspace war fleeing the “Jedi Genocide of the Sith” with no mention of his half-brother – the Sith Lord Darth Vitiate, who would later become the Sith Emperor. Vette was surprised by this information, especially when she realized just how fine a line her friend had been walking for all her life.
Vette resolved to meet with Malavai and let HIM know that there was much more to his wife’s home-world than met the eye and that if he ever had to go “dark” from the perspective of the Empire’s military that he should find Vette at a safe-house on Hutta where one of Vette’s acquaintances from Nar Shaddaa had lived for a while. Mako and Vette had run together as slicers after Nok Drayan’s crew had to break up and Vette had lost touch with Risha. She quickly sent him a message with the co-ordinates on their personal encrypted channel – hoping that he would be able to use it before it was too late to do so considering the way the Empire was being shaken up right then.
Vette started noticing other things too. When the family used the actual Sith language, they used an odd dialect, one that sounded somehow different than the dialect that Vette had heard used on worlds like Dromund Kaas, Ziost, and Korriban, while she traveled with Echope. Echope had always been careful in how she said things, but Vette had always assumed that it was just because she was trying not to let her enemies figure out how to use her words to their purposes.
Now, she began to see that some of the more dangerous of Echope’s enemies, those on the Dark Council, especially such as the Councillor for the Seat of Technology -- Darth Acina -- who had an accent like someone trying to hide her past, would have known that something wasn’t right with some of the Red Sith of Rekkiad, and would have discovered things that those Sith were hiding from the rest of the Empire, and more importantly, from the former Emperor, Vitiate – because he would have learned about something called the “Force Wars” and how if you looked in certain points on Tython even today you would find technology beyond anything that existed elsewhere in the galaxy. It was to their credit that they had never joined the Revanite movement and told THEM about it, because Vitiate would have used it against them.
The tightrope that Echope had walked was never made more obvious than when Vette was surrounded by Echope’s blood-family. It was something that she protected even more vehemently than the rest of the Empire. And, when Vette saw Kinarath preferring the company of Ry’thmi, she got the mental picture of Echope sitting at her mother’s feet listening to the strange history that no other world in the Empire knew.
Chapter 7: Preparing to enter the tomb of the Lord of Hate, Master of the Gathering Darkness -- Pt #1, the Rite of Blood and Bone
Getting ready for the Tomb of Tulak Hord. Soon we'll be meeting up with Vette, but first some head-canon on how Echope's story starts twining with Malavai's BEFORE SHE EVEN MEETS HIM.
I was already behind Baras’ other acolytes early in the morning, when I started for the Tomb of Tulak Hord. The way the trial had been described was simple, but I knew there was not going to be any trials on Korriban that were truly simple. I was also tired from having just gotten into not one, but two battles before Baras sent me on this trial – putting me at a disadvantage, a fact that Baras knew. I was only glad that he had allowed me a brief rest period before going to the trial. I knew he was watching to see how much rest I would allow myself, to see if I was “worthy” or if I was as soft as he had been led to believe by his spies.
There was an Imperial notice console near the entrance to the bunk area I shared with other acolytes from my sector of the Empire where additional things the Overseers wanted acolytes for were posted. There was a message from Overseer Urinth asking for a “new face” to visit her, to which I replied I would gladly do. There was also a personal message for me from Overseer Ragate to visit her immediately upon receiving her message which was unusual, because I knew Ragate was not Rekkiaddi Sith – although I had gotten a feeling from her the day before similar to the feeling I had experienced when Mother Erian had made her prediction about me. I resolved to visit Overseer Ragate, then Overseer Urinth on my way out of the Academy.
First was the stop with Overseer Ragate. She was an old grey-haired Inquisitor who I took to be one of the Sith Order’s Sorcerers. She told me that she administered a rite “as old as Korriban itself”. It was the Rite of Blood and Bone. As she described it to me, I could readily see it as being a rite that went back to the days of the earliest blending of the Dark Jedi and the Kissai Sith. I was to brave a series of rooms with specially bred shyracks to reach an altar piled with the skulls of those who tried before and failed. I was then to return part-way through those rooms to where there was the “blood pool”, immerse the skull and then face the challenge of the pool. If I succeeded, my reward would be Ragate reading my future in the skull that I brought back. If I failed, my fate would be to BECOME one of the skulls myself once the shyracks had picked my bones.
That was the physical part of the trial. There was also a symbolic and spiritual part that Ragate described. It was this that convinced me of it being something of the Kissai Sith and not just another way to brutally weed out the acolytes that were not strong enough to become Sith. Ragate had said that it was a way to steal one’s own mortality and drown it in the fluid of life. A way of accepting one’s own death. I knew that accepting my own mortality meant that I would not fear it and shy away from my duty as a Sith in service to the Empire and her people. It also echoed within me the line of the Je’daii Code that reminded me that I was Immortal in the Force.
Malavai shuddered. He had fought shyracks along with Echope on Yavin 4 during the campaign against the Revanite traitors. Some of them were almost as hard to kill as the lurkers and acklays of Belsavis. Here she had needed to fight through them alone when she was only an ACOLYTE on Korriban, even BEFORE she had an actual lightsaber as a trial there chilled him. He wondered out loud how many failed compared to those who succeeded. And how soon acolytes usually had to face this trial after they arrived, is this what killed his cousin?
“Malavai, I found out after I finished the trial and Ragate read my future in the blood-stained skull that USUALLY the trial of Blood and Bone was given to acolytes who had been at the Academy for some time – at least six months. What Ragate read in the skull was that my fate was tied with a small and sorry creature, one that I could shape in my image if I so chose, who was the key to my success. And that she didn’t see anything more clearly than that. She complemented me on how attuned I was to Bogan, saying I had “a darker heart than most” because fighting the beast in the blood pool was easy for me. (Of course, having faced an ancient terentatek the day before made THAT portion of the task relatively simple) And the failure rate was at least 4 failures to each success.
“And Overseer Ragate did NOT contact every acolyte, only those who SHE sensed “something special within” them. I remember that the skull I had chosen was one of the newer skulls, but also that I felt a tenuous connection with it. The connection was WHY I chose that skull, feeling somehow that part of the Rite was accurately identifying the skull that would “speak” for me. I felt that connection again, and more strongly, when I entered your office on Balmorra for the first time. I was also to KEEP the skull to help me remember the message the Blood Pool had brought to me, as it would also guide me in dealing with the “unseen hand of Fate”
“I remember seeing a pair of women from Dromund Kaas be selected shortly before my first trial within Academy walls. Only one survived. Both had black hair that was so dark it shone blue braided tightly down their back. And the one that lived was told not to look back to the past, but to grasp most tightly to her power when the winds of change blew from an unknown direction. Both of them had worn the robes assigned to trainee Inquisitors – those who would become Sith Sorcerers and Sith Assassins (according to their talents and the needs of the order) and the survivor had a training staff instead of a training vibrosword indicating that she was likely to be one of the Empire’s Assassin corps.
“They had been graduates of the Dromund Kaas Sith Preparatory Schools and as such, were expected to do well at the Korriban Academy due to their coming from one of the two most prestigious schools, the other being the one which was at New Adasta on Ziost. It took many of the other acolytes, including Klemral and Vemrin, by surprise that the smaller of the two – who had been adept with Force Lightning, failed in the Rite.”
There it was. The news that Malavai had hoped never to hear but had figured out was the likeliest probability years before. It was the confirmation that his cousin Serina had never left Korriban alive. Interestingly enough, her skull, it seemed, had traveled with Echope and himself for several years as traditionally those who succeeded at the trial of Blood and Bone were expected to KEEP the skull they had chosen, so it had been on a shelf in Echope’s quarters on the Two Spears Ascending from the time Malavai set foot on the deck plates of the Fury. It also explained why it seemed the ship had felt like it was “welcoming him home”
“Yes love”, the crystal replied. “I also suspected that the skull might have been of someone related to you after our wedding and the way the pyramid reacted when being put on the shelf near it. I had it tested against your DNA without telling you shortly before the events of Rishi because I didn’t want to upset you. I never got a chance to ask you if you had any other relations who had passed through Korriban during the aftermath of Ziost and the re-settlement of the refugees from that world. I know that Rekkiad absorbed a good number of the poorer residents from around the epicenter. This was deliberate on my part. Rekkiad has some of the best mind-healers in the Empire, which is NOT well-known outside of Sith circles.
Malavai nodded, “I had suspected you had a reason for settling the New Adasta refugees on Rekkiad instead of places in the Dromund system or other systems nearer the heart of the Sith Empire. I knew it was likely going to be more than simply climate despite the fact that New Adasta had been near the north polar regions of Ziost. I just didn’t know about the mind-healers. That is a profession that the Empire truly needs more of but doesn’t mention because we sometimes over-value the virtue of self-reliance.”
“There’s something more I need to tell you. Malavai. And, it will upset you. I only wish I was there in the flesh to say this and hold you tightly afterwards. I had originally thought the prophecy of Blood and Bone referred to Vette because I met her shortly afterwards, but I was wrong. Your years on Balmorra had sapped away much of your vitality, leaving you much “smaller” than you eventually returned to being. AND your actions were indeed “key” to my success. As wife and husband, we molded each other into our images. It is for all these reasons that I concluded Ragate was telling me of you. And I am glad that you are not the “sorry creature” that Baras thought he had reduced you to with his manipulation of your stay on Balmorra.”
Malavai felt his world spin. He had only heard the prophecy that day, in the context of the rite his wife’s crystal had described. “The key to your success is a small and sorry creature, but you can shape it in your image if you desire”. And, like Echope, he had connected it with Vette. To hear her crystal self tell him she had been wrong, and he was the creature of the prophecy, no matter how gently worded, made him both angry at her, and guilty that she had been right. He had allowed himself to be diminished after the second or third time on Balmorra when he should have been promoted and wasn’t because of Moff Broysc. He hadn’t thought that Baras, as a Sith Lord who he had been serving, could have overruled Broysc – until it happened, and he had been promoted and “assigned” to Echope’s Fury as HER Captain.
She was right. She HAD remade him in her image. She had allowed him to find his strength again when she freed him to go after Voloran. And again, when she helped bring Broysc to justice. She even had pointed out AFTER the “incident”, that if Baras had been able to file an “executive order” allowing him to get off Balmorra in the wake of Echope’s mission there, Baras could have done it at any time. He had been fooled and Echope had opened his eyes. He only wished she were here in the flesh so he could hold her. He resolved to visit Vette and let her hear this part. Vette needed to know just how important she was to Echope in light of THIS prophecy, as well as other things.
The crystal voice continued, “I’m sorry to have brought you pain. Visit my family home after hearing this if you can and speak about it with my sister Achana. She was always most talented of my generation with “pure” Force powers. She can help you with the pain. And, bring the skull from the Fury to our family home so it can be kept in a shrine there along with our honored fallen."
Chapter 8: A twist -- but is the Aunt REALLY interested in what she SAYS she is?
With both Darth Marr and the Wrath missing, two Dark Council members are now looking to find her children to use as means to gain power in the shifting political landscape of the Empire.
Echope's oldest friend on the council doesn't KNOW where they are, but in exchange for Amerine Quinn's secret is "slightly" more helpful on THAT front with her than with her opposition.
Meanwhile – on Dromund Kaas
Members of the Dark Council start looking for leverage – and not finding it. The Empire’s Wrath’s CHILDREN would be powerful acolytes for any Dark Council member – with one among them, secretly their aunt, especially interested in their whereabouts during the war with Zakuul just starting.
Darth Aruk, head of the Sphere of Sith Philosophy on the Dark Council stormed into the chambers assigned to Wrallani, now known as Darth Nox, head of the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge on that same council.
“Where are they? You were the Wrath’s closest ally on the Council! Why are you hiding her children from me? It is imperative that they be raised in our traditions and that they be kept safe from those Jedi thieves who would love nothing more than to steal them away from our Empire and use them against us!”
Darth Nox (who was a silver-haired Miraluka), turned her eyeless face towards Aruk as she placed the silver-edged mask over where eyes would be in other species. “I would like to know their location as much as you. The last information that I have been able to discover is that their father went to the Wrath’s estate on Dromund Kaas and took their twin children with him. However, she apparently had used her personal authority -- which I need not remind you stands equal to any of ours – to give him instructions about where SHE wanted them to be fostered in her absence. It is likely that she did not want them to become pawns in a power struggle between Sith Lords.
“She told me once that her husband’s line, like my Lieutenant Drellik’s family, would sometimes produce Force-sensitives and it is possible that one of those relations could want to use the children as a path to more power than they deserved in our Empire. I know that SHE did not want the Sith to have power and authority they had not earned. It was a lesson that she felt we needed to remember from her late unlamented master Darth Baras – who you saw falsely claim the power and authority of Emperor’s Voice and whom she defeated when she was the Emperor’s Wrath, instead of the Empire’s Wrath.
“I did work with her in the resettlement of the Ziost refugees. Perhaps, one of the lesser Lords on Dromund Fels or Begeren who took the bulk of them would know. Of course, if you’re insisting on finding them instead of dealing with other issues facing the Empire, I would recommend speaking to Acina of Technology to see if you can track where her Fury has been. Personally, I would recommend focusing on the reports we’ve been getting from the fringe worlds though. The ships and weapons are matching the reporting we have of the fleet that destroyed Marr’s flagship Indomitable as well as the ships that the Twin Lords that attacked Korriban last month were in.
“That is what is most concerning to me, NOT whether or not we can find the Wrath’s children right now. If we do not stand together, we will fall. We cannot afford to fight amongst ourselves! Acina sees this even if you are too blind to see it yourself. The droids we fought were of an unknown design and the fighters were trained differently from either our ways or those of the accursed Republic!
“Even their FORCE-WIELDERS seem to wield the Force in ways that IGNORE the Light and Dark sides of the Force – as if they do not know the difference in the two! Yes, I know that is Heresy in our Empire, as it is heresy as well to the accursed Jedi who would destroy us. It is as if they NEVER LEARNED that there are two sides to the Force.
“And it is THIS we should be studying about them because in the vaults of the Reclamation Service, I have placed holocrons dating back to almost the founding years of the Republic that Talos unearthed when we fought the Revanites on Yavin 4. They speak of Force-Users called Je-daey who strove for an active balance between the Light and Dark sides of the Force – what they called Ashla and Bogan. AND that this balance was a constant tension like walking a blade’s edge where imbalance could happen. The holocrons even speak of the Jedi themselves as heretics. We must be cautious. We do not know if those who strike at us are the descendants of these Je-daey who keep to that strange philosophy.
“We do not even know if there are descendants of that society that live in our Empire still. The holocrons of Yavin spoke of ‘seed-ships’ having been sent out from their ancestral home of”, Wrallani spat and continued, “Tython. If they DO live in our Empire, I for one find it of more importance to find them and study their STRENGTH – instead of destroying it as heresy as it predates our Empire’s Sith Philosophy – so that WE can better defend our people. And Aruk, if your only thought would be to destroy them, then you are a bigger fool than I thought!”
Darth Aruk, a dark-skinned Human, recoiled from her vehemence. “I do not agree with your priorities! You were not raised in the truest of our traditions, you were a grotthu before you were a Sith! I will continue my search and Darth Zhorrid of Intelligence will help me! I will not let you hide them from me so lower species like you can continue to rule our Empire!” And at that, he turned abruptly and left the room.
Darth Nox summoned her retainer Talos Drellik. “You must go to the Vaults of Massassi Lore before Darth Aruk gains entry and retrieve the Je-daey holocrons and artifacts, so he does not gain access to them. I remember there was a DNA database and even some preserved genetic material. They must not fall into his hands. I am sending you with them to the home of Darth Ry’thmi on the world of Rekkiad. She has worked with me and Lana Beniko on digs there before. She knows how to keep things silent and safe. Wipe my Fury’s navi-computer and send it back with the ship droid when you get there. I will meet you there as I can. Aruk, along with Zhorrid, only want to keep the reins of power in their hands. They do not see what dangers they are facing if they do not work together with ALL the Dark Council. I will speak with Darth Vowrawn. May the Force speed you and shroud you in invisibility.”
After Darth Nox gave him clearance to leave and to keep his destination unfiled, her door chimed again. This time it was Darth Acina. “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice Darth Nox. I know you deal in secrets as much as any of the Minders in Sith Intelligence who report to Lord Lana Beniko. You also keep them as well as any of the Sith entombed on any of the various worlds of the Empire.
“I also know that Darth Aruk came to you about the children of the Empire’s Wrath and Captain Quinn. He sees them only as a path to power and leverage with her if she is found. With what I am about to tell you, I am hoping that you might be able to help me where you were not willing to help him.
“I know, for example, that you did not always use the name of Nox that Darth Marr bestowed upon you when you were elevated to the Dark Council and placed in charge of the Sphere of Ancient Knowledge. I remember your original name of Lord Wrallani. I’ve been on the Council longer, but even before I became a Darth, when I first became an apprentice, my master changed my name to Acina to commemorate my becoming a full member of our order. My birth name, however, was Amerine Quinn.
“I never wanted to embarrass the Wrath in my dealings with her by telling her that she had married my twin. I was only glad that her master Baras never found out that I was his twin when the Emperor’s Hand tasked me with the guardianship of the Arcanum and elevated me to the head of the Sphere of Technology after Darth Karrid perished at Duro. He would have used Moff Broysc’s pique at Malavai and how the Moff stymied his career against me as blackmail.
“Now, with the Wrath missing and my twin on a possibly hopeless quest to find her, I want to try to find my niece and nephew so that I can bring them to a place of safety. That way, if the worst happens, they will still have blood relations in the heart of the Empire.”
Wrallani thought for a while, and poured them both some tea before saying, “I don’t know where they are, but I know that your brother was the one to remove them from the family’s estate on Dromund Kaas. No matter how close Echope and Malavai were to Lieutenant Drellik and me, they were very private about a great many things. It is possible they had a small estate off-world where the children are now, or maybe he took them to live with her family – which as Sith Pure-Bloods would out-rank “mere humans” in the hierarchy of the races in the Empire to raise them. In any case, it is my feeling that we have bigger fish to fry with these new invaders. I will be taking some of our more vulnerable Ancient Knowledge and bringing it to a safer location soon. I wish we could do the same to the Technology of the Arcanum, but I’m not certain that we can do that in time. Find a way to UNIFY the Empire, and if you cannot, persevere so you can RULE the Empire.”
“I will”, Acina said, ending the conversation. “I will take to heart what you have said.” Then, Acina left.
Chapter 9: More in the tomb of Marka Ragnos -- and some interesting information
Chapter 3 (Part Two)
The Tomb of Tulak Hord, home of the Red Machine, rebelling slaves, rogue droids and Sith Lord Sundar (among other things)
Interesting information about HOW the Inquisitors drugged the Jedi Quorian Dorjis.
Also, my Sith Inquisitor Wrallani speaks Ancient Sith (or at least one dialect)
I had barely had time to put the bloody skull away with the knowledge that I would succeed in the trials Darth Baras would give me when I went to speak to Inquisitor Urinth about her bulletin asking for a “new face”. Here I was asked (for the first time, although it would not be the last) to lie to someone on behalf of the Sith Order – and it was different to me than the concealing of the Je’daii behind the front of the Kissai Sith Purebloods of Rekkiad. Inquisitor Urinth asked me also to have a concealed recorder on me when I spoke to the Jedi, in case he told me anything because he thought I would be a pliant personality as a new supplicant, freshly on-planet for my trials.
It was a lie that would potentially harm innocent settlers on Outer Rim worlds that the Jedi “protected” by giving them false information about the Sith and Korriban. However, it would also protect the Sith Academy from the Jedi Order who had led the charge in the Great Hyperspace War against my species, and who still saw the Sith Purebloods as living avatars of Bogan, almost impossible to “redeem” in that they did not seem to believe we are even capable of accessing Ashla. Ultimately, although I knew that he had been fed false information about Korriban and our strength, I decided to not inform him of how that had happened, but to also tell him that the reason I was helping him to begin with was because he needed to understand that not all of the Kissai were always “dark” in nature and maybe my help would bring him closer to that truth. It was a reason that even if I knew it to be true, Inquisitor Urinth would think I had made up to gain his trust.
Quorian Dorjis, (the Jedi) told me that before his capture, he had hidden his gear in the tomb of Tulak Hord in an urn and if he were to escape, (as I was supposed to be “aiding” him to do) he would need me to retrieve it. After getting detailed information on where EXACTLY in the tomb he had hidden the items, I told him I would return as quickly as possible. I returned to Urinth with the recorder so she could listen to the conversation (knowing that it was what she expected), before heading on to the tombs. Although she did not say anything THEN, I could tell that she was slightly disappointed that I was not slated to become an Inquisitor after passing my trials because of the “lie” I had told him about the Kissai Sith and our tie to the Dark Side of the Force.
I thought of the Force-Suppressing cuffs Dorjis had been wearing, and realized what the export was that kept the Empire from looking too closely at my Clan-Family’s holdings – and why the Dark Council regularly sent shipment of prisoners to work in mines on the outskirts of our territories that were not even the purest ores of the Force-Suppressing mineral. Our manor house’s ancestral catacombs hid the entrance to a mine where we extracted the purest for our own use – for the protection of the vulnerable among us.
I wondered what other use the Imperial Science Bureau had made of our mineral. I was to find out later that day when I ran into Wrallani again and was sickened when she told me because told me of her part in what had been done to the Jedi Dorjis. It was something that would later be used at Hutta, when you assisted in the capture of Jedi Master Nomen Karr for Darth Baras. Malavai, when I saw it in your medkit, I wondered if you would ever use it on me. And, although you never needed to admit it to me, on one fateful day, when you shot me with a “stim” right before we boarded a ship together, I know that you did (not that it had the same effect on Kissai physiology that it did on other sentient species but an antagonist effect, although you could not have known that)
Malavai winced at the memory of that fateful day where he had made the wrong choice – still wondering why Echope had forgiven him for his weakness when confronted with having to decide between the Emperor’s declared Wrath and the Sith Lord who (at the time) sat on the Dark Council as head of the Sphere of Military Offence. He had done everything (or so he thought) to ensure that only one of them left the ship they had boarded alive in order to protect the people Echope had gathered – her adoptive sister Vette the Twi’lek, her apprentice Jaesa, the Talz Broonmark, and even the perpetual malcontent Lieutenant Jaster Pierce.
He had butted heads on numerous occasions with Jaster, but after the events where, along with Lord Echope, they had become honorary members of the 75th Legion on Taris and the legendary Bane Brigade on Hoth, Malavai had wanted to ensure that Jaster’s place in the military would not languish as his had in the decade following the battle of Druckenwell. In fact, he had insisted on accompanying Echope on that fateful mission so that he could ensure that Jaster would not face a military tribunal for Malavai’s actions, but only be reassigned if Lord Jaesa dd not claim Pierce for her ship (as Jaster had become Jaesa’s lover).
Maybe it was BECAUSE he had taken care to do plan what protections he could for those he knew she loved, that she had allowed him to live and kept the secret of his betrayal until after she had faced Baras in the chamber of the Dark Council – with Dark Ladies Darths Acina and Nox (and with Nox herself having just ascended to her seat in the days before) as witnesses. He had deserved the blackened eyes Vette and Pierce had given him in the aftermath of that event as well as the claw marks that he still bore on his back from Broonmark – that only Echope’s word had kept from becoming deadly. Only Jaesa had stayed her hand – after using her special gift on him while he renewed his dedication to Echope in front of her crew, vowing to mentor her future disciples and acolytes, and finding no deception in him.
“Yes, Malavai. That was when I finally fully forgave you, but I’m still getting ahead of myself in the story. I still had to finish my trial in the Tomb of Marka Ragnos to prove my worth to compete for the favor of Darth Baras and become his apprentice.
“There were speeder bikes available for acolytes to take to the vicinity of the tomb where they could be left with a researcher at the entrance. He asked me if in my travels through the maze-like chambers of Marka Ragnos’ tomb if I would be willing to attempt to activate the Red Engine as he was not able to do so himself although he had figured out how to fuel it. When I asked what the fuel was, I was told it was the blood and life force of the beasts within the chamber, the Red Engine had to be fueled by rage and death before it would release a tablet with teachings of the ancient Lord of the Sith. I agreed to at least LOOK for the chamber, as it potentially would increase my strength in the coming days.
“I saw Wrallani entering the tomb as well and she told me of a notice that had appeared on the screens for acolytes while I was speaking with Inquisitor Urinth. There was a Lord Sundar who had stolen an artifact from some of the researchers in the Academy and fled into the Tomb. There would be a reward for acolytes who “brought the rogue Lord to justice”, and she wondered if we could work together for this goal. I agreed, and even suggested that we work together to accomplish ALL our goals in the tomb as we had complimentary goals, not competing goals.
“Wrallani and I would do this many times over the years, Malavai, as you remember. We did on Balmorra when it was not something our respective Masters wanted to be secret – I never DID understand why she wanted to go into that toxic waste pit at the Balmorra Arms Factory, but I did stand guard while she did go into it with her Dashade Khem Val (who she “acquired” on Korriban). I even stood guard outside the chamber where she had to go to acquire him because of it being our final trial on Korriban – and thus, one that we had to do without another Sith’s aid.
“In fact, it was only when I had been made the Wrath and she was challenged by Darth Thanaton to the Kaggath on Corellia that we COULD NOT “support” one another’s endeavors) against our respective former superiors who were at that time on the Dark Council (at least publicly, although she and I did make arrangements for each of our apprentices’ safety in the event the “worst” should happen) – although I didn’t supplant Darth Baras the way she did Darth Thanaton after the fact, because as Wrath, I was not eligible to hold a seat on the Dark Council due to my unique office directly in service to the Emperor.
“Our initial entry into the tomb was uneventful as there were actual guards in the first couple of chambers, but then we found a datapad that had belonged to a group of acolytes who had been excavating the tomb with slaves and droids – when the slaves (and even some lower-ranked guards) rebelled and reprogrammed the droids to be rogues, attacking any acolytes or higher-ranked guards who penetrated farther into the tombs. They had been badly outnumbered, and outmatched because they were nowhere near as powerful, or as well-trained, as me and Wrallani were. Just a little further in was the initial one of the three chambers we needed to seek out for our respective trials, me to get shards from the carvings on the walls and Wrallani to scan and translate stele in the center of each of the chambers. As I had intended, I took two shards instead of one. If nothing else, I reasoned, I could keep them as reminders of the trial in this tomb.
“We did have to deal with shyracks there, and there was at least one corpse from the group of acolytes that had been in Baras’ chamber. She had not made it past the entrance before being set upon and lay off to the left. I lay her blade across her chest and said the traditional prayers for a warrior who was being sent into the Force. It was in our Clan’s ancient dialect of the Sith language, and as I was Kissai, few would have questioned me about the words – because they would have recognized that they were not MODERN Sith. Wrallani, who had been forced to learn Ancient Sith by her former masters on the dig she was on prior to her being sent as an acolyte to the Academy, did – because they were apparently different than the dialects she had learned for her translations.”
“Echope, what dialect of Sith is that?”
“It is the temple dialect of the Kissai that originally settled the world of Rekkiad prior to the attempted genocide of the Sith race by the Jedi. It is said that it may even predate the time of Ajunta Pall and stretch back to the earliest colonies of our people under Sith’ari Adas of Korriban. I know it is from before Lord Dramath the Second brought his followers there at the end of the Great Hyperspace War, fleeing the Jedi murderers of our people, when the Emperor first established our Empire away from their hypocritical hatred of our species. My mother, Ry’thmi, is one of the guardians of the temple, and if I were not called to serve the Empire away from home, I would return there after my trials to apprentice with her instead of having the opportunity to apprentice to Darth Baras.”
“What were the words you said?
“They were words releasing the fire of her spirit back into the Fire of the Force so that it may be born again into a new Sith Warrior or Inquisitor to Serve our Empire. A gift from the Force should be given back TO the Force. She may have been human instead of Red Sith, but even so, she fought until she could fight no more. Let us continue with our trials.”
“Let’s at least take the stims from her medkit in case we get injured. That way we can bind our wounds and keep them from getting infected in here. The tomb of Marka Ragnos is one of the largest tombs in the Valley of the Dark Lords after all.”
“What kind of stim is this? It doesn’t look like any sort of antiseptic I know of. And it has a note with it to her from Dolgis saying it will help her with her stamina.”
“Be careful with that! If you inject that it can confuse you and interfere with your ability to touch the Force! We used it in one of my assigned tasks a few days ago when we were implanting false memories into a Jedi for Inquisitor Urinth. I know it is made from an off-world mineral that is also used for Force-dampening cuffs, and I even saw the formulation of the chemical. It is designed to mimic the look of a regular stim if you don’t know what you are looking at, and I KNOW that my group is receiving injections of it on orders of my Overseer Harkun – except for his “pet” Ffon, who HE has decided ON HIS OWN will be Lord Zash’s apprentice WITHOUT waiting for the end of our trials. I have found a way to beat the effects though, I let the heal-droid inject me in the morning, and then go around the corner and channel lightning through my body to burn it off immediately. I haven’t let Harkun know though. I want to see his face when I beat his prize student”, she said with a grim sense of satisfaction.
“I think I know what planet this mineral is from. And, if I’m right, it is as dangerous as you say. Why else would the Empire have to replace the workers in our mines between two and three times a year? And it is good that I know about the chemical for the Jedi that Inquisitor Urinth is working to feed false information to as I am assigned by her to pretend to be “helping him escape” because I am a face he would not recognize. This way I know that I am more likely to be believed by him even though he should NOT be allowed to escape if it were not a plan of the Inquisitors.”
“--- Of course, Malavai, I did not tell her of the other properties our mineral had, even as I was sickened by it being used wrongly (to my mind, at least) to tamper with the ability of Sith acolytes to utilize the Force at the Academy. I resolved to find a way to prevent that abuse in the future if there was a way that I could manage it. To this day, I don’t know if she ever found out about our jewelry, because I never knew if I could trust her with that secret. There was no way that she would not have found out the secret of our group of settlers being an old offshoot of the Sith people once I found out she knew the difference in dialects. It was only later that I gave her other hints that there was more to the story, but she would need to come to me, or my family would not share it.
“After a few short passages, we entered into the large central courtyard of the tomb. The chambers where we were to find the second and third parts of our respective trials were not through the same exit from it. It was a matter of only a short time for me to find the jar that the Jedi Quorian Dorjis had described placing his equipment into, but part of it had been taken by the rebelling slaves. Now, I just had t recover it before one of them tried to USE his lightsaber on one of the guards trying to take back the tomb. With Wrallani’s help, I was able to manage it, as well as to fuel the Red Engine (recovering the writings it revealed, which Wrallani and I kept separate from the writing her Overseer wanted so that we could study it ourselves) and also, we were able to bring the Rogue ‘Lord” Sundar to justice (not that he was much of a “lord”, but still…). Following those tasks it was only a matter of a short bit of work for us to enter the second and third of our trial chambers so that we would be able to accomplish the task that her Overseer and Darth Baras had set us.
“Then, back to the Academy we went, just before the sun (that I had learned from Wrallani was named Horuset) was setting. We would just have a short time before curfew to complete our evening tasks, so we parted at the doors.
“I returned to the Jedi and returned his gear to him. When he expressed his “worry” that I would no longer be safe on Korriban, and his “regret” (despite my species, apparently) that the Jedi Order had not found me first and taken me in, I told him that I would b fine, as I was Sith. I then returned to the Inquisitor, who seemed reasonably pleased. I had not done perfectly, but it was still well done, and she would tell Darth Baras as much. (Too good, I could tell, would have been suspicious – so I was glad that I was “inexpert” in how I had done).
“Yes, Malavai. I probably would have made a reasonable spy if I had been human instead of Red Sith in appearance because of my early training in making certain the Empire did not find out about the Je’daii and our secret. That is why I held your work with Military Intelligence as something that was of high importance, and why I was so irritated that Moff Broysc had not sent someone to deal with your information on the SIS agent Voloran.
“I knew that I would have only a short time to get to Darth Baras’ chambers that night with the proof of my survival. Outside of the chamber, in the hall, was Klemral – one of the acolytes I had seen before inside the chambers – waiting with some lower-level acolytes for my return. He had not made it even into the FIRST chamber because of the shyracks and would lose any chance of being Sith. He knew that if he returned without the shards, he would be killed, so he had resolved to ambush me and steal mine, knowing he could not beat Vemrin – but not knowing yet he couldn’t beat me. It was only after I had beaten him that he told me this, though. I took pity on him, looking to create an ally, and gave him my spare set of the shards – swearing him to secrecy (something that didn’t matter as Darth Baras knew he had been too weak to get them on his own, sending him to apprentice to an Overseer in the jails who I'd met before, Knash – where he would never show up)
“I was happy to see the look of disappointment on Vemrin’s face when I entered the chamber with my set of shards and my bloody warblades. Baras commented on the tension between us and wondered what it would be like when it boiled over. (It likely would have surprised both Baras and Vemrin that the ONLY tension I had was that I was tired of Vemrin’s posturing as someone who had “paid his dues where I had not”, even though I had been training as a Warrior for the Empire since I had been old enough to hold a practice sword). It surprised me, though, when Baras announced that the last trial was not going to be a contest between us, but rather a solo challenge for me to retrieve a blade from the tomb of the last Lord of the Sith before the end of the Great Hyperspace War and beginning of our Empire, Naga Sadow. To venture into that tomb, was to breathe in death itself according to the acolytes who had been there. I would also be assigned the Twi’lek from the jail to activate the hidden switches throughout the tomb to enter the chamber – the very same thing she had been jailed for. I was to pick her up at dawn the following morning.
“Vemrin was ordered to wait in Darth Baras’ antechamber for his next assignment, but I suspected that the “solo” trial was not going to be as solitary as Darth Baras was portraying it to be. I would prove to be right, and that Baras was sending him off in advance of me to set up an ambush right outside the hidden chamber’s entrance – telling him that if he wished to PROVE his will and legacy stronger than mine, he needed to do it there. What he didn’t tell Vemrin, which was as much a part of Vemrin’s trial – a trial of intellect – was that he intended to disavow all knowledge of Vemrin’s whereabouts if Vemrin failed. (Which, as I’m recording this, it is obvious happened). I was never so glad to do my night meditations and get to sleep”