I was the last one to enter Harkun’s chamber for the morning recital of how worthless we were when compared to the gloriousness that was Ffon Althe. I glanced over to my right to take in the Sith acolyte, who was acting somewhat more subdued than was normal. Apparently our little talk had had some effect on him. Not enough to save him, but he damned himself long before he ever set foot on Korriban.
There were only five of us left now; beyond Ffon, Kory and myself there were a pair of hulking human twins, Balek and Wydr. They had displayed no particular talent for the Force, but Harkun had allowed them to live nonetheless. I suspected they might be little more than tools for whatever agenda he had, but without proof to present or an ally in authority to present it to, there was not much I could do to confront them without risking my own position.
Behind Harkun, almost hidden in the shadows, I noticed an older woman; blonde, serious, composed and very much in control of proceedings, even if Harkun was the one doing the talking.
“So good of you to join us, slave.” He turned his normal sneer on me as he caught sight of my entrance. His behavior was so predictable that Harkun might have been almost humorous…were it not for the matters of life and death that hung in the balance with his every word. “No doubt, you were busy preening in front of the mirror in the hopes you might distract others from your lack of talent with your looks.”
Almost sounds like he’s admiring them. I had to struggle a great deal to refrain from smiling, so I decided to focus on the woman behind him. Striking features, more handsome than beautiful, but something was wrong with her, as if the face she had was merely a mask for something terrible beneath. Not uncommon for a Sith, but there is something strange about her.
Harkun was still prattling on, so I attempted to pay attention.
“Your task, shameful as it is that I lower myself to speak to you, is to enter the tomb of Ajunta Pall and seek out the hermit Spindrall. He will test you, in what way I cannot say. Should you survive the ordeal, you are to return here for further instruction.” We all turned to leave the room when I felt his presence in the Force focus on me with the intensity he normally saved for his ranting. “Except you, slave. Lord Zash has a different task in mind for you.”
I stepped forward, somewhat uncertainly, and clutched my robes around me a little tighter.
“For reasons I cannot hope to ever understand, Lord Zash wishes you to enter the tomb of Marka Ragnos to acquire a holocron that has been buried there for centuries. Naturally, there are many dangers in the tomb and it is almost certain that…” Zash cut him off with a loud cough, and I was not one to let such an opportunity slide.
“Yes, yes. This is where you send me into another ancient tomb full of traps and horrors, fully expecting and hoping to have it result in my mangled corpse being discovered in a few months.” I arched an eyebrow and noticed Zash had a slightly amused expression on her face. “Naturally, I will dash your hopes and return both intact and with my prize held proudly before me. What a sad little life you lead, Harkun.”
I favored him with a broad smile, which provoked him to ball his fists in rage and sputter before he managed to spit out the words. “Get out, slave. No one is amused by your antics, and they merely hasten your death. Your painful death.” With what little dignity he had left, he made a broad sweeping gesture to encourage me to exit the room.
Traveling through the academy reminded me of why I had to walk the path I had chosen; the young acolytes that might yet be saved from deaths that would be terrible or lives that would be even worse. Sith, both young and old, that devoted themselves to studies and actions that damned their souls and ruined lives across the galaxy. Korriban was an ugly place, the home of the darkness that threatened to engulf all before it, and I was uniquely positioned to do something about it.
If you don’t go mad yourself, first.
They said that everyone goes a little mad once they spend more than a few hours on the surface. I had laughed off the reports at first, but I was not so sure any more. This place was haunted, by ghosts, memories, the Dark Side, or some combination of things I could not comprehend. I could feel it every night, in the crushing weight upon my chest, could hear it in the voices that haunted my dreams, could sense it in every waking moment. I wanted to be sure of what I was doing, needed to be sure, but my concerns grew as time passed.
I did my best to focus only on what lay ahead as I made my way to the tomb of Marka Ragnos, another ancient Sith Lord that was remembered with fear and trepidation by the normal people of the galaxy but was worshipped among the Sith. To say the Sith have crossed a moral event horizon would be an understatement without peer across recorded history. They breached that horizon from the moment they first acted on their dark impulses.
The tomb of Marka Ragnos was unremarkable; more dust and ruins that might have impressed at some point years ago but was as pathetic as the Sith inside were frightening. There were teams of archaeologists streaming in and out of the halls and rooms, but the crowds thinned out noticeably the further in I went. The darkness scares them. The evil is palpable. By the time I reached the antechamber that housed the device containing the holocron, it had been several minutes since I had last seen someone. The air was rank, and the tingle up and down my spine was only the most noticeable sign that there were about a million other places I would rather be.
I took a deep breath, trying to collect my thoughts. The device was almost indistinguishable from the other obelisks that littered the tomb’s grounds, except for the eerie glow emanating from the top. It had a strange presence in the Force, as well, something sinister. I shuddered, and realized I was losing focus; something I desperately needed if I was going to uncover the device’s mysteries and return with the holocron.
There were no distinguishing marks anywhere on the device, no crevices, nothing that gave even a hint of being useful. As moments turned into minutes and those minutes dragged on, I grew ever more frustrated. I tried reciting the Sith Code to see if that would accomplish anything, but the stone proved as poor a discussion partner as most of the other acolytes at the academy. I sat, cross-legged, on the floor and attempted to puzzle it out, but got nowhere.
Finally, with my temper flaring, I finally gave in to the impulse that had been niggling at me from the start. Purple lightning arced from my hands and into the obelisk with greater and greater intensity. There was a loud crack, and the top of the obelisk slid up and out, revealing the holocron inside. For a moment, I wondered how it could have remained hidden for so long, until I realized that any Sith that had attempted this before must have been so caught up in how to make their success as brilliant and impressive as possible that they forgot that succeeding at all was more important.
As I re-entered Harkun’s chamber back at the academy, I did not even attempt to hide my satisfied expression, particularly after I noticed how annoyed it made him. The twins were oblivious, and Kory was looking on with a slightly bemused look. Ffon, much to my delight, looked as apoplectic as his master. I noticed Zash was again monitoring the situation, but paid that no attention.
Harkun waved me forward and motioned for me to place the holocron on his desk, which I did, before returning to my previous position in line with the other acolytes. He remained silent the entire time, although I did note that his annoyance had dissipated somewhat, replaced by a self-assured smile. He motioned Kory forward.
“Acolyte, you managed to survive the perilous journey through the Tomb of Ajunta Pall to speak with Spindrall. You accomplished the task he set before you, but revealed your pathetic weakness while doing so. Your childish attachment to your other slaves, your inability to grasp the machinations required to be a Sith.” He paused long enough for my heart to leap into my throat. Kory was shifting slightly on her feet, but she seemed to not know what was coming. Some part of me did, all too well. “There is only appropriate response.”
Harkun glanced back over his shoulder at Zash, who gave a slight nod. Then, his mouth transforming into a leer, he fired thick purple lightning at my friend, his tongue caressing his lips like a feral animal.
Kory screamed as she died. So did I.