Barrissoka: The Queen of Hearts (A Halloween tale)
The last Clone Trooper ran through the ancient ruins in terror. He had seen many battles with clankers, mutants, devious agents of the Separatists but nothing had prepared him for this terror on the ancient world of Korriban. A recon team, they landed ahead of Skywalker's fleet to assess the defenses of this dead planet. They had explored the ruins of a temple in a place called Sebua. A horror had been awakened by their rough and tumble soldiering ways, and by the 3rd night under the dread blood moon they had been wiped out. CT-6443 cried out in terror. So great was his terror, he could not even hear his own voice, but the maddening beats of his rapid heart as it drummed through his whole body.
He and CT-9753 had set the distress beacon in the mad panicked hope that a rescue could evacuate them, since their LAAT transport had been sabotaged by the thing that stalked them in the ruins. CT-9753 was grabbed and pulled into the shadows, gurgling noises that sent CT-6443's paranoid shriek's to a new level. The thing had killed them all one by one in the most horrible way possible. A monster unlike any he had seen on the battle field. He ran, and climbed through the ruins, but he could sense the terror getting close. How does it keep finding him? CT-6443 turned to hide in another part of the ancient ruins. A soft hand stopped him. It was a beautiful hand from a woman in the shadows that gently stopped him. And that's when his heart beat the fastest, the loudest. The Terror had found him. With one last scream in the night, CT-6443 became one with the darkness.
"Distress signal from a body in code named "SK" system" an officer walked towards Ahsoka. He read the signal from his data pad "The old archives list this world as...K..kori...Korriban."
Ahsoka felt a chill down her spine at the name, though she didn't fully understand. But the Dark side of the Force crept into her senses like whispers from a long dead age. "One of our units?" she inquired
"Bright's platoon. They were on a recon to scout the strategic value of the planet. It seems we must list the world as hostile and put a quarantine on it."
"But to do so would not stop the Separatists" she added "Korriban is a central world that connects to many other worlds. A perfect launching point for their strikes against our supply lines"
The Officer scrunched his eyebrows as the intel scrolled along his pad "Nothing but old ruins and tombs. Must have been a great world centuries ago. Civilized and wealthy. But it's kind of a dead place. The platoon was camped in a sector that was once called Sebua." he shrugged as she examined the pad.
"Nevertheless, this is a distress signal, and we shan't leave behind our brothers. I will go down there and secure the platoon's rescue. We'll need to get medical supplies in case they have wounded." she left the bridge of the Cruiser as it ended its hyperjump into the system.
Ahsoka took an elevator to the lower levels, walking down to her room. Barriss waited in a corner. They shared the room, but most of the crew took no notice of them sharing quarters. Barriss and Ahsoka shared much more than a room. They shared their innermost feelings and hearts together.
"I sense it too" Barriss whispered as Ahsoka walked to the bed. "There is a great, dark disturbance on Korriban. The entire planet is a sinking pit of darkness. But the place we seek has...." she could not finish. Barriss shuddered. She felt cold.
Barriss frowned "I don't think any of those recon troops are alive, and I felt a coldness from the Force."
"I felt it too. But we will have Rex and a platoon of our own. We will find out what happened."
Ahsoka felt Barriss' spirit drop a bit "Do you suppose there are secrets in the galaxy that....we should never uncover? I mean, Maybe there are things from a darker past that we were never meant to rediscover. Ahsoka, I want to rescue those men as much as you do....but going to this Korriban....the tremor I sense in the Force is like nothing we've ever experienced before."
Ahsoka raised an eye brow. She suddenly notices that Barriss was studying a data pad with old hieroglyphics and symbols of a dead language. "What are you looking at? I don't recognize these words."
Barriss shuddered again as she felt the whispers of the Dark side "I have a bad feeling about this. I've had our old librarian Jocasta Nu transfer some holocron files of the ancient Stygian dialect of Sith."
"What? SITH notes?" Ahsoka was surprised more than anything "What do you need THIS for?"
Ahsoka almost shrugged at what practical use it could be, but Barriss was sober in her dread of studying the old Sith language, what little of it she could be allowed to see from the Jedi archives. "Some of the early reports by Bright's platoon indicated a lot of ruins with the Sith Hieroglyphs on various walls and structures. It could come in handy."
"Well, we won't be having a vacation or do any archeological digs. We just need to find Bright and his men and evac from the planet. And do it with every caution in place." She said as she grabbed her light saber.
Within hours, Rex had gathered troops for the rescue, Two LAAT gunships and medical supplies. The Jedi boarded the first ship with the group ready. Rex looked over to the two small women. Small in their stature, but great in their abilities. "Do we know anything about this world? Korriban?" he asked
"Abandoned world, home to a lost civilization" Ahsoka tried to give a general description.
Barriss felt another curling of dread as the gunships lifted off the fly to the surface "We must be on our guard. This world is dark and deadly. I suspect the recon troops have suffered a horrifying fate."
Rex nodded at the the possibility. His instincts also alerted him that this was a place not to be taken lightly. "Dead or alive, we'll bring our boys home!" The other soldiers nodded silently, steeling their resolve.
The gunships floated with their noisy burbling engines through the dismal clouds. The landscape below was a cascade of ruins, ancient cities of a dead era, and desert waste. "It must have been such a great, mighty civilization!" Barriss marveled at the remaining structures.
"And it died, like all great nations do. Under the weight of its own hubris." Ahsoka guessed. The sun started to go into its setting, casting shadows off the looming obelisks and gothic statues of great warriors of long ago.
"We're coming up on Landing Zone" the pilot announced. It was one of the few ruined areas with growing flora and an oasis. The gunships landed near the established zone set up by Bright's team. The platoon troops moved fast to secure the LZ and start to establish a shelter.
"We have a few hours before nightfall" Ahsoka surveyed the terrain "We'll get the camp set up, and try to complete the mission asap" she told Rex.
Captain Rex could feel the empty wind howl about. "I'll have a patrol watch our perimeter. We still have not made contact with any of Bright's men. I am not optimistic for this."
Barriss stared at the massive temple near the camp. A whisper carried itself to her on the wind, and she shuddered. She could almost hear the thumping of her heart beat. Were it not for her sensing Ahsoka nearby, she would have jumped in fright at her secret lover's touch. "You're scared" Ahsoka raised an eyebrow.
"It may be nothing. But I believe this dead planet holds terrible secrets." the whisper on the wind floated by both of them, and even Ahsoka felt a chill down her spine. Rex barked orders for perimeter guards and sent two patrols out to investigate any signs of Bright's men. The night fell coldly.
Within the ancient Ziggurat, the Thing took a breath as it awoke once again to the horrible torment of beating hearts. It hungered, not only to keep it in a terrible state of unlife, but to cease the horrid beating that pounded in its mind.
The camp was awakened by a scream. Ahsoka and Barriss jumped from their cots and rushed to meet Captain Rex. Shots fired at the perimeter, and then there was silence.
"Quick! We have an intruder!" Rex rallied everyone. They rushed to the guard post. The guard on duty, CT-0888 code named "Laris", found a member of Bright's group amongst the rocks. It was CT-6443. Blood was everywhere. The Jedi and the Clones were particularly horrified to see that the man's heart had been ripped out. Rex barked for patrols to scour the land to hunt down and kill the intruder.
Barriss felt ice cold and Ahsoka shook a little despite the warm wind that made noises around every bending rock and mountain. Sleep would be lost for all of them, and for those that could sleep there was only howling nightmares from the void.
Ahsoka started early in the morning, gathering Rex and a squad to join her and Barriss. "My instincts tell me that the Temple should be investigated."
"I would agree." Barriss blurted. She had been quiet all morning except for those quick words. Rex was exhausted, having searched half the night for the thing that attacked and wiped out Bright's platoon, but his frustration kept him motivated. He drank a fast cup of stim caf. They trudged up to the grand necropolis. The pillars lined the inner hall, and despite its aged cracks and holes, the inside was quite dark even for the bright orange sun.
Ahsoka walked ahead with her flash light, a tickling dread vibrating through her.
"It's like a Tomb" one of the troopers muttered.
"Cut the chatter!" Rex cut all discussions short with some irritation. He was only in the mood to frag the thing that tore out a man's heart. He dreaded the thought of stumbling upon the remains of Bright and his troops. There were a myriad of rooms, some very opulent. The hieroglyphics on the walls were a painted language presented in dazzling colors, and told darkly amazing stories that were horrifying to the younger races walking through on a planet that had not been explored in hundreds of years.
"These structures are hundreds, if not thousands of years old!" Barriss marveled cautiously "I shudder to think of what kind of Empire the Sith created..." she interpreted several glyphs and images of horrible creatures from the wall, keeping their meanings to herself. Many of the images were a record of the Sith beings being conquered by Dark Force users, bargains with creatures from beyond, and rituals upon the Force that were unnatural in their practice. Many of the beings depicted were shadowy hints of horror teased with tentacles from open entrances and hungry Gods that danced just out of sight of the Sith figures worshiping them on the painted walls. The recorded events of this place were nothing short of a complete blasphemy, and she held her breath at some of the murals of monsters that had once inhabited these rooms. She felt it best to not say much more, for her own sanity was kept in place with a small prayer of gratitude to herself that the Republic and the modern Jedi never had to experience what she witnessed upon these murals.
They came to a place of entombment, a mass grave within that smelled of hard death. The dirt was black on each grave, and in the center was a grand gold sarcophagus painted in majestic reds and purples. A lone corpse skeleton in priestly robes lay on the ground next to it. A male Sith priest, fossilized eons ago after some kind of heresy ritual performed before his death. Horrible as the skull looked under its ceremonial robes and Ornate gold head piece, the body lay in a position of tranquility. Barriss surmised its peaceful repose may have been the only comfortable thing she had observed thus far on this wicked world.
"What do you make of it?" Ahsoka asked her.
Barriss was cold but tried not to show her body shaking a little in the dropped temperatures as she read the hieroglyphic story painted around the raised coffin. "It is the final damnation of the Sith Lady Tiyet of Sebua. Worshipped by Thralls in life, her vanity pushed her to seek immortality and rise above the Sith." She observed more symbols with a confused look "She was granted success in the Dark side.....I'm not sure about the ritual. The Sith dabbled in things that created horrible consequences, and Tiyet's success....Hmmm, I don't understand. She was a vain lady of some power, but I'm not sure what happened. The writings end with her committing one last horrible crime to achieve her goal, but it is not eternal life. At least, not as we would know. Ahsoka, I think we should leave!"
Barriss backed away, seeing something in the writings that made her eyes grow twice big, and set her heart pounding awith alertness to a new danger. All was quiet, but her heart was a beacon in her own mind and she tried to calm down. The last images were of men getting their hearts ripped out. She did not believe in ghosts or unnatural things, but if what she read had any truth in it, she hastened at the thought of finding Bright's ill fated expedition and leaving as soon as possible.
"I feel it too" Ahsoka nodded to Rex. It was to to leave. Ahsoka felt a whisper on the wind. It called out seductively, a tempting wine of a voice that dissipated in her ears with a slithering temptation. Ahsoka's heart started to race and she was almost light headed from the disturbance. She let out a small gasp at the chill words that whispered in a dead language to her.
They exited the Temple and began to patrol for a couple more hours, but did not find any trace of Bright or his men. They returned to camp to rest. Rex, frustrated and alert, maybe even a little spooked, tried to lay down and close his eyes.
Ahsoka sat in a chair to use her data pad to continue logging the progress of her mission. She became drowsy at the hypnotic rhythm of her beating heart. She felt smooth female hands caressing her shoulders, relaxing her. She smiled for a second as she slowly caressed the hands. "You have an amazing touch..." she almost sighed. She turned to look back, and snapped to attention at the reality of no one being behind her! She scanned around camp, but none of the men were nearby, and Barriss was washing her face in a pan of water on the other side of camp.
Barriss could not relax, and was paying close attention to every noise the wasteland echoed. Both near and far, the wind slowly made a low howl. Her neck became alert and she looked around. In the far off distance, at the top of the ancient Temple steps, she thought she could glimpse a feminine shadow in black. The womanly figure swayed. Or was it a mirage in the orange glow of the landscape? She blinked again at the seductive shadow, but it was gone. A figment. Barriss was not given to flights of fanciful superstition, but the tale of Sith Lady Tiyet had awoken primal fear in her. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the Dark side and its temptations.
The camp continued to operate under full alert for the rest of the day. No creatures intruded, and no life could be found anywhere. Rex reconfigured the security around the camp and the gunships. Barriss meditated to get some rest, but her senses remained open. Ahsoka fidgeted at every noise, but soon drifted off from fatigue as the sun began its setting again. She was contemplating just evacuating, but a tiredness settled upon her. Her heart was slowed as she crept into a sleep. But the heart beat loud enough to wake the undead.
Long ago, her name had been Tiyet of Sebua, and she was a legendary Sith beauty once. Like many Sith of that long dead Empire, she climbed for power and wealth. She explored the many ruins of Korriban to unlock its ancient secrets. She had wished to be young forever.
But Immortality, in any form, was a curse and not a blessing. Tiyet had found out too late the price as she committed blasphemies to prevent age and death through old Sith rituals even the Sith themselves had forbidden. She was now trapped between life and death, forever running from Death but never being truly alive.
Not when the beating hearts of the living haunted her, tormented her. She had to silence the beating hearts once more!
Tiyet rose from her sarcophagus, ancient and mummified, wrinkled and rotted. Each breath was pain to her deformed lungs, wheezing and gurgling the dry air that she was forced to take in. She moved swiftly into the night, taunted by the pounding that drove her eternally. Ahsoka's heart rested as she drifted into sleep, but its beating pained Tiyet, and she thirsted to devour it and silence its mockery of her unlife.
The whispers returned to Ahsoka in her dreams, and in these night dreams of phantoms and riddles, she saw Tiyet in her radiant beauty. The Sith held out her hand to Ahsoka, and the wasteland was transformed into the once paradise of centuries past. She was scantily clad in black satins and see through garments. Tiyet's life was, no doubt, filled with carnal delights, and a wicked use of the Force to bend pure hearts to devious lusts. The old Queen of Hearts smiled in a youthful appearance at the Togrutan, swaying her hips as she led the captivated Ahsoka to a pool Oasis. Ahsoka soon felt a sort of sleep paralysis, unable to move as she slept and as she dreamt. Tiyet smiled seductively and caressed Ahsoka's shoulders. But the lust would become terror. The beating of Ahsoka's heart now raced as a cacophany of drumming that drove Tiyet to madness and hunger. And rage. The curse of her existence forced her to want to eat of it.
Ahsoka's eyes widened in the dream horror as the beautiful Temptress decayed and shed her skin for an old tapestry of death and mummified rags. The mummy's rags and paper flesh drifted about as the wind picked up. The thing became a dark Valkyrie of death with red lights from its skull sockets. It screeched a Banshee's horrible wail as it clutched clawed fingers at her heart and began to tear at her to silence the infernal beating that hammered Tiyet's deranged lunatic mind! Ahsoka screamed in her sleep. And then she was gone.
Barriss gasped and jumped up. She raced through a dismal fog to where Ahsoka had been moments before. But the mists carried off Ahsoka, and her scream howled on the wind. Rex and the other men were with guns drawn, and scrambled to pair up and form teams for survival.
"Commander Tano!!!" Rex called in a panic "AHSOOOOKAAAAAA!!!!" the clones began to freak out, ready to blast any noises that approached. The fog rested around them, and terror made their hearts beat in a fast, deadly trap. The same trap of terror that Doomed Bright and his men.
"She's gone" one soldier whisper in despair "It's like the fog snatched her away..."
"Captain Rex" Barriss called to him "We are now evacuating!! I want everyone packed and on the gunships in thirty minutes! Leave behind any equipment that we cannot recover in that time!"
"What about Commander Tano?" he got a grip and reformed his calm training senses.
"If I am not back with Ahsoka in 30 minutes, you are to leave and never come back! Do not respond to any signals! Just go. Evacuate the men. This mission is over! THAT IS AN ORDER, Captain Rex!" Barriss jumped into the night in her dark robe before the Captain could respond. Rex sounded the orders for evacuation.
Barriss drew her saber to light the way, and to strike down any abominations that would cross her path. She marched to the Temple, for it was the only haven for a creature of the damned such as Tiyet. Terror did grip her heart, for the cold whispers returned on the wind to taunt her and warn her of death. The great old house of the hungry dead loomed, its entrance a mouth in the night. Barriss marched through, picking up to a jog to hurry down its throat to Hell. Her senses calmed her down and she trusted in the Force at a truly dark hour.
She sensed Ahsoka down in the depths, still alive. But it was like trying to feel for a cube of ice in a bucket of water. Everything was cold, and she wanted to scream at the evil disturbance that swam in the Force. Deeper down she went. The paintings and murals flickered in her saber light, the monsters in the Hieroglyphs skittered between light and shadow, forcing her sanity to acknowledge that there was so much in the Force the puny Jedi had yet to learn, and what they might discover could easily destroy the Republic just as it had destroyed Korriban and its mighty Empire from the sands of the past. She ran fast as she heard Tiyet's wheezing horrible breaths. And Ahsoka's cries for help.
"I won't let you win!" she trembled. The Temple was a terror, but she had to persevere for Ahsoka, and for the sake of the Light of the Force. It was all she had left to protect her heart and soul. Barriss entered the tomb, beholding the terrible sight of Ahsoka, lying paralyzed on the floor above the sultry figure.
"TIYET!!" she challenged loudly, daring to awaken the Legion of the dead that remained buried. "I know your secrets! I KNOW HOW TO DESTROY YOU!!" she growled as she walked closer. She saw Tiyet's seductive beauty from the half lit room, a figure who must have broken many men and women into desire and lust when she was truly alive. Barriss tried to breath calmly and steady her heart. Tiyet's dark gothic smile was silent, and almost alluring. What tantalizing dark pleasures she must have supped on as her pale skin glowed in the light on soft fabrics that barely covered her.
But Love was stronger and braver than pleasures of the flesh, and Barriss would not be swayed when the life of her true love was on a precipice to eternal darkness. "You have taken many hearts, Sith, and broken them with your perversities against the Force! Your quest to remain immortal dies here tonight!"
Tiyet's form blackened in the shadows, her rage at the defiant girl's challenge making her become the withered mummy hag again. The Queen of Hearts leaped at Barriss, now a maelstrom of tattered wrappings and skeletal limbs, and a horrible death face that secretly cursed its existence and haughty arrogance that led it to this downfall. Barriss deflected the Mummy's attacks and left scorches on the lich body as it attacked.
They jumped around, Barriss with her fire and light against black claws.
The Witch thing scraped its claws across her soft face, knocking Barriss back into the dirt piles of the dead, blood scrawled on her face in crisscrossed patterns of red on her olive skin. Tiyet hungered for the angry heart, it beat with a ferocious defiance that pounded Tiyet's mind like a hammer. It withered over Barriss, ready to strike!
Barriss plunged her her blade into the creature, missing its dead heart by inches. Barriss had surmised that to kill the Mummified monster that devoured hearts of the living, she had to burn and destroy its heart. But she missed. Tiyet screeched with pain and victory, its ability to speak lost in the aeons of being undead. It would sate its hunger and rage upon the girl.
Barriss screamed as the beast plunged its clawed hand upon her chest with intent to rip out her heart. Tiyet had to end this girl, for the painful beatings of her heart were magnified not by fear, but by love. Love for Ahsoka. The thing was determined that it would feast violently upon Barriss' heart this night. Such defiance would not be tolerated. In life, Tiyet held sway on the lives of such insignificant slaves of lower people, she would not bow this day, even to a skilled Jedi.
Ahsoka still ached from the ghostly attack that spirited her away. But as she looked over, her heart was in pain as she saw that Barriss was about to be torn to pieces! Barriss screams of terror brought them both to the edge of darkness and death. Ahsoka gave out a rageful cry to will her body to break from the paralysis and rise. Tiyet stopped digging into Barriss' flesh as the beating of Ahsoka's heart broke into her mind with a crushing blow. The curse of this mummy had always been the beats of mortal hearts mocking her immortality. She spent centuries silencing hearts in the vain attempt to end the pain of such beatings.
But now she faced two strong hearts, and it was a crushing burn into her that could not be stopped.
Ahsoka gave a cry and leaped at the thing, a cry of victory as she plunged her saber into the lost soul of the Dark side. Barriss and Ahsoka were careful with their blades to not impale each other, but to sever the withered heart of the Lich mummy. It gave out a fierce but silent twist in its decrepit face. The old, dead organ in its chest was burned away by blades.
But also the power of two hearts that beat as one. The creature could not withstand such light, such life. The Sith Tiyet never learned in its decadent past or its dreaded present that only in limited mortality could a being achieve true life. That Ahsoka and Barriss lived each mortal day to its fullest together to achieve eternity. They would perish one day, but live a thousand lifetimes in each others arms rather than a cold existence of merely not dying.
Tiyet could not speak, but exhaled its screeches as its heart burned away and it crumbled to dust. The winds of Korriban swept her away, dust and mummified rags to the sands of lost time.
Ahsoka stifled a cry and gently floated into Barriss' arms. And they embraced for eternity, a forever love that no creature could end.
Rex leaned against the inside of gunship, in mental anguish. He stayed ten minutes over, and was going crazy. "Come on, ladies. Come on.......come on.......come on....."
He stared ahead as everyone was packed and waiting for him to give the signal. He was more scared to leave them then to face any monster. His heart ached over it as he inhaled to speak one more order to the pilots.
Then the com link crackled "Captain Rex, do you copy?" Ahsoka's voice broke into the open channel "We're doing fine, and are on our way."
The men erupted in a cathartic cheer as the gunship pilots spotted the two Jedi. Rex held back tears "Rex isn't here right now....he left TEN MINUTES AGO!! Please leave a message after the beep!" he half joked, and then broke into a sigh of relief as the soldiers continued cheering. Ahsoka and Barriss carried each other to the gunship, smiling. It would be many hours before dawn, but as far as they were concerned a new day was born in them as they defeated death once more. They would see Korriban's star shine beautifully as they left Korriban.
They would feel immortality in each others' eyes as they basked in the sun light together.