Jasin dogged Kephess through the vaults, slashing away trees when they got in his way and animals that attacked him. He would not lose the Trandoshan. He pushed his way forward. Kephess came to a stop in the middle of a huge clearing. There was nothing as far as the eye could see save for water, and the cliff face that signaled the end of the dome in the distance.
"You're trapped," Jasin said. "Surrender, Kephess."
Kephess turned and looked at Jasin. There was madness in his eyes, and he looked like he would die at any moment. With both arms gone, he was leaning awkwardly forward. His armored chestplate was gray and smoking, slashed and shot to pieces. Scar tissue covered his entire face. His jaw sagged.
"I...will not...surrender," he growled.
Jasin heard a rumble, and he took a step back. A ship rose from the water behind Kephess. An Imperial ship, it had the symbol of the Dread Masters painted on the side. Jasin felt his blood run cold. Kephess turned, jumped onto a large boulder behind him, and then took a leap toward the ship. Jasin hissed and leapt onto the rock after Kephess, and then shoved off with the Force, flying after Kephess.
The Trandoshan landed on the top of the ship. Jasin landed behind him. A hatch opened in front of Kephess, and two Dread Guards stepped out of the ship. Kephess entered, leaving Jasin behind. The Dread Guards snapped their lightsabers to life and charged. Jasin ducked under the blade of the first guard, while blocking the blade of the second. He kicked out, sending the second one stumbling back, and then slashed at the first guard. The guard blocked his blow, and Jasin slashed three times in quick succession, each blocked by the guard. Then Jasin reversed the grip on his saber and back-stabbed the second guard, who had been coming up behind him. In an equally fast move, he ripped the lightsaber from the guard's chest and decapitated the other.
Then he entered the Dread Masters' ship.
* * *
The ship was cold. Jasin shuddered as he dropped down into the hallway. It was dark in here, and frost lined the walls. He took a cautious step forward, and then another. He reached out, probing the ship with the Force. He sensed Kephess' distinctive presence down the hall. He followed.
His lightsaber cast a silver-blue glow through the hall. The walls were tinted blue, and the symbol of the Dread Masters was painted every few meters. Jasin felt darkness in here. Powerful darkness.
He stepped into the room where Kephess was. Inside, it was larger than it should have been. The walls were lined with trophies; dozens of them. From lightsabers to blasters, Mandalorian helmets to ancient Sith breastplates, holocrons to scrolls...it was all here. And at the end of the room, Kephess sagged on the ground, tired. He could no longer run. But Jasin glanced up, and the walls behind the Trandoshan opened.
Five Sith stepped into the room.
Jasin and his allies had already killed one of the Dread Masters. But the others were bent on revenge, on making the Jedi who'd slain their fallen brother pay for what they'd done. Styrak had been a tough foe to defeat, even with backup. Jasin knew he couldn't face the other five alone.
"At last you come to us," Raptus said.
"Not willingly," Jasin replied.
"But you still come," Bestia rasped.
"You come," continued Tyrans, "to die."
"No," Jasin said. "I came to kill Kephess. But I will fight you instead, if I must."
"You will lose," Brontes said.
"Perhaps. But I'll take at least one of you with me."
"And what good would that do?" Raptus asked. "One of us fallen, but with you dead the Republic loses its greatest chance of victory."
"The Republic will prevail," Jasin said. "With or without me."
He took a step forward, his lightsaber clasped tightly in his right hand. Raptus took a step forward and blasted Force lightning at Jasin. Raising his lightsaber, the Jedi deflected the energy into the ground.
"I fought the Emperor," Jasin said. "I defeated him. I may not defeat all of you but I can protect myself."
The door behind Jasin slid open. Taking a risk, Jasin whirled. Scourge stepped through, lightsaber gripped in his hand. Jasin frowned. How had Scourge...?
"It is time," Raptus said.
Scourge nodded. "Yes, my lord."
He lunged–at Jasin.
* * *
Jasin jumped aside, shock making his body tremble. How could this be? Scourge had been his most faithful ally for over a year now! They'd defeated the Emperor together; why would Scourge ally himself with the Dread Masters?
Dropping to his knees, Jasin swept his lightsaber at Scourge's knees. The Sith leapt over the blade and brought his hilt down on Jasin's head. Jasin rolled aside before the blow could land. He Force pushed, knocking Scourge away and shattering many display cases. Jasin lifted the glass shards and hurled them at Scourge. The red-skinned Sith casually blew them aside with the Force.
Jasin's knees buckled as Scourge lashed out. Another blow, and another, took Jasin aback and knocked his saber wide. Soon, he knew, he'd lose his grip on the weapon. When had Scourge become so powerful? How?
Scourge brought his lightsaber down again, and Jasin brought his own blade up. The energy blades locked. Jasin looked at Scourge in the eye; Scourge glared down at Jasin. The Sith sneered.
"Know your true foes," Scourge said.
The words lodged themselves in Jasin's mind and he stood there, confused, while Scourge pressed his lightsaber down farther. And abruptly, Jasin understood.
Taking a risk, he disengaged himself from Scourge's lightsaber, leaving himself open to a killing blow–and hurled his lightsaber across the room at the Dread Masters. His guess was correct; as soon as he did so, Scourge leapt into action, his lightsaber sweeping for Tyrans' head.
The Dread Masters reacted instantly. Raptus reached out with the Force, grabbed Jasin's lightsaber, and snapped the hilt in half. Jasin winced. That's another saber... Jasin thought ruefully. He did not have time to react to the attack, and Raptus and Brontes Force-blasted him across the room. As he flew, he thought he saw a glint of glowing blue standing by one of the cases...
He rolled that direction, grunting in pain. He landed right beside one of the smashed cases. He pulled himself up. And there, to his surprise, sat the lightsaber once used by his long-gone Master. Orgus' lightsaber! How had the Dread Masters gotten it? Jasin gripped the hilt, ignited the blade, and basked in the glorious, deep blue. Then he leapt into action.
The lightsaber swept with unbelievable speed, as if Orgus were guiding Jasin's arm. The Dread Masters blocked his blows, if only barely. He swept the blade, letting himself fall into the flow of the Force. He didn't even realize the battle was over until he was standing in the middle of the room, panting. Sweat matted his hair down, making it a mess, unrulier than usual. The Dread Masters were all on the ground with Kephess, groaning. None of them were dead, Jasin saw, but they all had stab- and slash-wounds on their torsos, and one of them–Calphayus–had both of his legs chopped off at the knees. Scourge, kneeling, holding a wound in his side, stood and walked over to Jasin.
"Come on," Jasin said. "Let's get out of here, fast."
Scourge nodded. "Lead the way."
"Go if you want, Jedi," Raptus snarled. "But you...cannot...go back to what you were. Our ship...has left Belsavis' atmosphere...it is too late...your former life is over."
"I'll find my way back to the Republic," Jasin said. "And then we'll stop you."
He and Scourge turned, found the escape pods, and blasted off. Floating in space, Belsavis a mere speck in the distance, they sat there, staring at each other.
"How did you gain the Dread Masters' trust?" Jasin asked.
"It was simple," Scourge replied. "After Styrak's death, I presented myself to them, explaining my intention to betray you. From there, I simply gave them information that was just correct enough to be proven reliable. When you began to chase Kephess, they summoned me to their ship, saying it was time."
"So you didn't tell me about this plan because...?"
"Because your surprise had to be genuine," Scourge replied, "your hurt real."
Jasin nodded. "Well done, Scourge. If it weren't for you I might not be alive right now."
"Always a pleasure to betray a Jedi," Scourge replied, the corner of his mouth curling into a small grin.
Jasin walked over to the control panel and programmed their destination. Scourge frowned over his shoulder.
"Wait...that's not in Republic space," he said.
"No," Jasin replied. "No, right now I have to follow my vision. We're not going back to the Republic. We're going to find Revan...strap down. Our next stop is Lehon, Rakata Prime...the Unknown World."
* * *
Gareb stood, staring up into the sky. Kira walked up beside him, frowning.
"Jasin never returned," she said. "Do you think he's...?"
"No," Gareb replied with a smile. "No, my cousin is alive and well. But I sense it will be some time...quite some time...before we see him again."
He put his arm around his cousin-in-law's shoulder.
"Come," he said, "we have a Republic to protect."