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Osetto
01.06.2013 , 08:35 PM | #102
Chapter Twenty Five: Partners

Emerging from the mists was Lord Tash, garbed in his suit of armor, saber ignited within his hand. Darth Omnus watched as the figure approached with a calm and collected gait, a smirk planted firmly upon his face.

“It’s good to see you, Darth Omnus,” Tash declared. “I promised Syrosk I’d keep an eye on you.”

“I know… exactly why you are here,” Omnus admitted.

“Is that so. Let me guess. A vision?” Tash asked in a mocking tone.

“Yes. I’ve come to terms with my fate. I know that today is the day I die. And I know that it will not be at the hands of the Republic.”

The smile faded from Tash’s face. His eye twitched and he let out a snarl as he rushed to be face to face with the Darth. Omnus didn’t move an inch from his position, watching as the younger Human’s nostrils flared as he locked eyes with his own.

“How dare you call yourself a Sith,” Tash said through gritted teeth. “How could you just lay down and accept your fate?”

“I’ll not lay down. I plan to continue standing when I meet my end. But there is nothing worth doing beyond that.”

“Then you are weak,” Tash declared. “There is always something worth doing! If you will not fight, no matter what, you are no Sith! Syrosk will be better off without you.”

“Of that I am certain. After all, it is the natural progression of things for an apprentice to take his master’s place. There is nothing left for me to teach him. He can survive on his own now.”

“You Seers truly are blind. Without you, Syrosk is nothing to the Empire. Without a master, no Sith will tolerate him, no matter the skills he may possess.”

“Except, of course, you,” Omnus suggested. “I am not as blind as you might think. I know the only reason you have remained close to my apprentice is because you knew you had something to gain.”

“Selfishness is in our nature,” Tash declared. “I have much to gain by using Syrosk’s talents, but I am not shackled by the petty ambitions of lesser Sith. I am going to change the Empire. And your apprentice is going to help me.”

“I’m sure he will,” Omnus commented. Tash continued to stare down the elderly Human. “What’s the matter? Expected more? More declarations? More explanations? More protest? You despise mysteries, don’t you? Ever since you were a student of Leshai. You were kept in the dark. Given absolutely nothing. And everything he did, you could never understand even to the day you killed him. And you hated him for it. He possessed unlimited knowledge while you wallowed in confusion. You couldn’t understand how someone like him could end things the way he did. You can’t understand how I stand before you right now, unafraid of my own death.”

“Your kind don’t deserve the knowledge you’re given! If given the answers you or Leshai had access to, I would be on the Dark Council by now!”

“Knowledge is worthless. Wisdom, is what has value,” Omnus explained. “And that is the last you’ll hear from me. If you intend to end my life I suggest you-“

Without another word, Tash lifted his saber and plunged the blade through Darth Omnus’ chest. The elderly Human maintained a stoic facade, even as the life left his body. The Sith Lord withdrew his blade, allowing the Darth to slump and sink into the wet ground. The area had become consumed by silence. Tash stood alone, surrounded by fog and the fallen bodies of Republic and Imperial forces. The Lord reached down and retrieved the lightsaber hanging from Omnus’ belt, then did the same with the Jedi, picking up the weapon that stuck out of the mud a short distance away. With that, he departed, leaving the scene to its stillness.

----------

Korriban. Omnus’ sanctum. Within the living area, Lord Syrosk and Vai Thorel sat locked in mutual meditation. Meditation that was interrupted by a series of soft knocks on the door. Syrosk stirred from his trance and rose to his feet, signaling the young apprentice to stay put. Opening the door, Syrosk was greeted with the sight of Lord Tash, donned in his battle attire, baring none of his usual jovialness.

“Tash? What are you doing here?” Syrosk asked.

“Syrosk it’s… it’s about your master,” Tash began, almost whispering. “Omnus… I’m sorry, he didn’t make it.”

Syrosk took a step back, breathless, as he clutched at his chest, gripping the amulet that rest beneath his robes. Tash rushed in, stabilizing his friend as his legs grew weak.

“Omnus… he’s dead?” Syrosk muttered, increasingly exasperated. “How is this possible?”

“He was ambushed by a Jedi strike team,” Tash explained. “The planet we were on was dense with natural cover, it only bolstered the Jedi’s stealth tactics. They blocked communications, masked their presence. It was a miracle I was able to find them… but I was too late.”

“You… you were there… you said you’d protect him,” Syrosk rasped, gripping at the other Lord’s shoulders.

“I know I did. And I tried. I really did,” Tash somberly explained, He felt the alien’s grip lessen, fury turning to solemn despair. The Human guided Syrosk to the dining table where he sat him down. Reaching behind his back, Tash retrieved two lightsabers from his belt and placed them on the table. Syrosk’s eyes widened at the sight of the objects. One was utterly simple with a black case, absolutely no frivolous adornments. The other was an regally crafted silver hilt.

“His saber…”

“And the one that belonged to the Jedi that ended his life. I plucked it from his cold, dead hand after I killed him. His squad was weakened, almost reduced to nothing. Omnus put up a valiant fight, if only I could have reached him sooner. I’m sorry.”

“No. It’s okay Tash,” Syrosk stated, not lifting his eyes from the items on the table, followed by a few beats of silence. “I think I’ve done all I can for your apprentice. He’s a good student. Everything else is up to you and him. Now I’d… like to be alone. I’ve some things to take care of.”

“If you need anything, please, do not hesitate to ask,” Tash said, placing a gentle hand on the Lord’s shoulder.

“Omnus took our ship when he left for war. I could use a new one.”

“That can be arranged. Anything else?”

“No. Just some time for myself.”

Tash offered a silent nod as he called to his apprentice. He raised himself from the floor, having knelt patiently throughout the entire proceedings. The master and apprentice exited the establishment, Tash looking back one final time to see Syrosk still staring at his master’s lightsaber.

The door shut and the alien Lord was left alone with his thoughts. His fists clenched as an intense anger brewed within him. Snatching up his master’s weapon, Syrosk leapt to his feet and ventured deeper into the sanctum. Within his personal dwelling, he opened the door to his closet where his suit of armor resided. Reaching in, Syrosk grasped his old helmet and began staring into its featureless visage. Two slots rest on either side of the helm for the alien’s horns. When fully garbed for battle, the Sith Lord was nothing but a shadow. A horned devil. He saw the helmet as a tool for fear, one he could use against the Republic. And use it he did.

Syrosk received his new ship, and with it he ventured to the frontlines with his master’s saber in hand. He was a warrior with no face. A force of nature. In the presence of his fellow Sith, he never removed his mask. Never spoke. Never revealed his identity. He simply longed for battle, and the chance to strike down the Knights of the Republic.

For two years he did battle against the Jedi, against the Republic. His armor was battered and beaten, burnt and slashed. And as time went on his body fared no better. But he refused to yield, driven by the purest of passions. But his righteous drive would prove his undoing. He could not rest. He could not falter. But over the course of constant warfare, he could not forestall defeat.

He charged alongside his fellow Sith in battle, lashing out at the forces of the Republic. But during one such battle, the force of a blow knocked the helmet from his head. In the aftermath, his Sith allies could only stare at the alien. The veil had been lifted. The shadow had been given form. And they found it unsuitable. Syrosk was cast out with none to speak on his defense. No troop would have him. No Sith would command him. He was utterly alone. Abandoned. The thoughts and feelings of his fellows seeped into his head. His rank had lost its meaning. He had reached his endpoint. He could not continue alone.

He reached out to the only person in the Sith Empire he knew he could count on.

----------

16 BTC

Within the cockpit of their Fury-class Interceptor, Tash and his apprentice were eating a meal of rations.

“You know, I was thinking,” Thorel spoke up, taking a bite of his brick of rations. “My attire could use a little updating.”

The apprentice was approaching twenty years of age. His face was soft, possessing zero signs of scarring or fatigue. His garb was a simple set of dark gray, form-fitting robes, unadorned and without armoring.

“What, do you want a cape or something?” Tash asked, himself dressed in his casual black robes.

Thorel recoiled. “Ugh, no.”

“Wait, what’s wrong with a cape?”

“I was thinking a coat, or something. Not a cape.”

“I’ll have you know capes are a sign of dignity and superiority.”

“Do you want a cape?” Thorel asked.

Cutting off the pair’s conversation was the blip on the ship’s control console signaling an incoming holo-call. The master and apprentice shared a knowing glance and a series of nods as they lifted themselves from their seats and make their way to the center of the ship. Activating the holoterminal, the grainy image of Lord Syrosk appeared. His body was encased in his battle attire, face exposed.

“Syrosk… we haven’t heard from you in so long,” Tash stated with worry. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m… no, actually,” Syrosk rasped, his voice and posture exuding exhaustion. “I… I need your help.”

“Of course, of course, whatever you need,” Tash replied.

“I’m afraid… I could use another ship. They broke your first one,” Syrosk explained.

“The Republic?”

“The Sith.”

“I see. Don’t worry, give us your coordinates and Thorel and I will pick you up ourselves,” Tash explained. Syrosk’s image faded and a series of coordinates were uploaded to the Fury’s galaxy map. “The time has come, my apprentice. Now we must build, rather than destroy.”

“I’ve been a Sith long enough to know the two aren’t mutually exclusive,” Thorel pleasantly offered.

“I see you are not without wisdom, my apprentice,” Tash admitted.

“Syrosk was more than just mental defense tutor,” Thorel explained.

“Yes, and now, without his master, hopefully his ideals and talents can be used to their fullest potential.”

The pair made their way to Syrosk’s coordinates, where the three of them would make plans to change the Empire forever.

----------

Tash, Thorel, and Syrosk stood together as they waited for their ship to drop out of hyperspace over Korriban. The alien explained his actions over the last months, fighting for the sake of the Empire but being looked down upon, even lashed out at by his fellow Lords upon the revelation of his identity. As much as he despised the Jedi, his faith in the Sith Order was faltering. Tash offered a remedy.

For as much as Syrosk thought himself without allies, Tash knew of one besides himself. The headmaster of the Korriban Academy. Though the Empire no longer desired the services of Omnus and Syrosk, the headmaster was indebted to them for reestablishing the institution.

With Syrosk calling upon that debt and Tash pulling every string attached to his domain, they would set out to start a new classroom of Sith acolytes. Syrosk would meditate, searching for applicants ineligible for Academy acceptance. Thorel would follow Syrosk’s visions and gather the Force-sensitive children. Tash would do everything necessary to keep the operation running smoothly.

Even with the headmaster’s blessing, Tash knew they could not operate in the open. The Korriban Academy was an extensive facility, having received renovations since its reopening. But there rest untouched chambers. Halls dug low and deep into the surrounding mountains, even bordering some of the tombs the rest near the Academy. Halls not used since the institutions previous occupiers. Halls that would once again serve a purpose.

But if he wanted things to go according to plan, Tash needed to do more. He knew nothing escaped the attention of those higher up. He needed to assuage them. From the ground up, Tash ensured the acolytes wouldn't be admitted like normal students, nor treated like them. They could be guided along certain paths. If there was one thing a Sith Lord would appreciate more than an ancient artifact, it would be a loyal servant. And Tash knew how to make some.

Tash utilized those who continued to follow him since Leshai’s demise. The their number had shrunk recent years, there were still some to call upon. From them, he would find suitable instructors, who could teach acolytes in an altered form of Sith instruction befitting the students’ impure heritages. Each person who would gaze upon his crop would need to see a purpose in them. And Tash provided many. Indoctrinated servants. Tools of war, loyal to the Empire and only the Empire. The definitive next generation of Sith. But in the end, only Tash knew the true purpose of these students. Not his apprentice. Not Syrosk. Not the students themselves.

The foundations were in place. Tash had made his arrangements, his gambits. All that was left was to see them pan out, carefully managing expectations and perceptions along the way. Over the next few years, Syrosk would receive visions, and for once had he someone willing to act upon them. The two Sith Lords were partners, striving for a better future. For whom, however, depended on the Lord.

The time came when Tash’s classrooms were filled. Students were divided and assigned to suitable instructors. However, the time had also come for the two Lords to part ways my no amicable means. It was only natural, as confrontation runs through the Sith like blood. After seeking out the last of the future acolytes, Syrosk had one final vision. One that would prove to clash with Tash’s own.

Lord Tash severed all ties with the alien Lord. Once more Syrosk was alone, having lost everything. Everyone. A lone candle ready to be snuffed out by the first unpleasant Sith to cross his path. He had nothing but his master's saber and a set of armor. And once more he intended to put them to use. He had already lost so much. His master. His friend. His future. He didn’t care if his time was over. He marched to battle, uncaring of what his fellow Sith thought. He vowed to never hide his visage again. He vowed to keep fighting until he expired. But after countless battles, he didn’t.

He had faced soldiers, Jedi, Sith, but his body refused to die. And he knew why. His final vision. He had an obligation to see it through. And he had preparations to make. It would take many years, but Syrosk vowed to one day return to the Academy, to finally take an apprentice of his own.



End of Act 0