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The Sanctuary of Regret


Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
08.20.2017 , 02:41 AM | #1
Previous story links listed in order of the series:

The Well of Undying http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=532619
The Foundation of All Desire http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=769205
Spy Vs. Spy http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=858581
Marr http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=879214
Sanctuary of Regret (here)


The Sanctuary of Regret

Chapter One

The stars studding the galaxy lied. Their glow implied a heart filled with fire and brilliance, but they did not sparkle and a star with no sparkle was no star at all. They were pretenders and fakes and they were not alone. Littered among them were fleets of starships eerily suspended in the heat of battle or in the throes of destruction, or in retreat—all of them trapped in a frozen orbit over the rocky purgatory below.

Even the plumes of fire and smoke girding the vessels remained static. Placid and unmoving, fire had turned to ice, its fury pressed into an unwilling surrender.

The sound of rocks being piled on top of more rocks broke the silence with its imperfect rhythm. There was a persistence in the effort, marred only by the falling sift of a rock that lost its place on the stack.

Time had no meaning here, but the scratchy rhythm continued out of spite, forcing time on a plain where it didn’t exist. It was the sound of an uneasy progress, all at once defiant and broken and impudent. The beat was an affront to the unseen entity shadowing both builder and cairn.

The mound grew and when it was complete, the process would being again.

A raspy hiss gathered into a male voice—a hedonistic baritone as decadent as every known indulgence combined.
“Look at me. Do you know why I followed you to this place?”

The song of piling stones grew more assertive as an angry staccato took over the beats.

“Say something,” the voice taunted. “You’re of no use to either of us so long as you insist on piling these wretched stones over a body that isn’t there. You have covered entire continents with these mounds. What will you do when you’ve exhausted every stone and hectare?”

Liatrix stopped building long enough to take in the landscape. Burial cairns touched every horizon—thousands upon thousands of mounds—spanning as far as the eye could see. She said nothing and continued packing the stones with bloodied hands.

“This is the sum of your life as Jedi, as Sith. Was it worth the journey? I think not. All of this,” he said, sweeping his arms in a wide arc, “was quite unnecessary. All I asked was that he kneel—a small price to preserve your way of life.”

The rhythm quickened and the words hung between them.

He turned his back to her. “He was not the father you deserved, but I am. I could teach you more than you can imagine.”

She hurled stone after stone at him, his low cruel laughter rising as each one passed through him without harm.

Liatrix leapt to her feet. “You didn’t deserve his fealty, Valkorion. Or mine. He was a true leader to the Empire. You abandoned your people.”

“But I didn’t abandon you.”

“Guess we can’t have everything.”

“Don’t think that I don’t hear you calling out to him, begging him to answer you. No matter how you beg and plead, he will never reply. Priorities change after death.”

“I need him. He wouldn’t abandon me.”

“He already has.” Valkorion pivoted to face her. “If not for me, you’d be alone.”

“I’d rather that.” Liatrix’s stomach knotted. She couldn’t deny Valkorion had a point. Why wouldn’t he answer?

“As for the Empire and the Republic—both of them were failed experiments, peopled with beings trapped by their dogma and narrow-mindedness, much like your father. He’s not worthy of your grief. Forget him, cut your losses, like I did."

“Never! You murdered him. You took everything and everyone that mattered from me. If there’s a hell, I’m in it.”

“I have no patience for your anger or self-pity. You’ve wallowed in both long enough. The time has come to achieve something of worth.”

“Maybe I should just dash this rock against my head until my brain leaks out. Maybe then you’ll shut up and leave me alone. You’re a disease, Valkorion. I should’ve known you’d pull something like this when I killed you.”

“Do you honestly believe that was the moment I joined you?”

“I don’t have time for your mind games.”

“On the contrary, time is all you have. Use it to evolve.”

“Everyone I love is gone. You should’ve killed me too. I’ll never bow to you. I’ll never be what you want.”

“I need no such obeisance from you. You and you alone have earned my respect.” He gazed up at the unmoving heavens and clasped his hands behind his back. “I have always loved the stars.”

“I sincerely hope you’re not flirting with me.”

“Do not play the fool. We are long past such trivialities. Together, we watched a world die. We reveled in the true meaning of what it means to live. No other can understand its purpose as we do—we share a connection far deeper and more powerful than one forged of something so provincial as blood or lust. Our bond transcends all others. Unlike those who share your blood or those you’ve had intimately, I never left you.”

“Now I know I’m in hell.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t become you. It’s an unfortunate trait I would see you stamp out.”

“I’ll get right on it,” she snarled. “There are more than a few things I wish I could stamp out. The horrors you inflicted on me—I can’t forget. When I’m alone at night, I can still hear them screaming. I see the look in their eyes—that moment of realization that they’re about to die—that everything is about to die. You violated me. You think forcing me to share a global extinction with you should endear you to me somehow?”

“You learned the value of life that day. In that moment, we achieved something together. We became more than what we were before—we took our first steps to becoming our ultimate selves. I have watched you for a long time. Only you were truly deserving of my favour.”

“I’m sure your children would disagree. No wonder they hate you.”

“They are pale shadows, nothing more. You were the one I wanted to call my own and none of my creations ever came close.”

“You’re not my father. You're nothing. I’ll always be devoted to him and his memory. Never you. You’re a killer.”

Valkorion laughed. “As are you. You were always at your best when you took a life. Each one added to your power. That was my gift to you. You could be so much more and yet you insist on clinging to this absurd loyalty to a man you barely knew.”

“I didn’t know him long, but I knew him long enough. He left an impression.” Liatrix turned her back to him and snatched up another stone.

“Your dedication is admirable, but why settle for building these mounds when you could be building empires? I would share all I have with you.”

“You don’t share. You devour. I’m nothing like you.”

“You are exactly like me. In your heart of hearts, you long for true freedom. You long for the galaxy with all its wonders and delights. You have denied your true nature for too long.”

“That’s where you’re wrong. I long for my family. They mattered to me more than any Empire or war. I fought only because it meant a better life for them.”

“Assuming they survived the holocaust my son has unleashed upon the galaxy in my name, you will find they no longer need you. Your core worlds are ash. There is nothing left for you—no Empire, no Republic. Become who you were meant to be.”

“You can’t know that. It’s impossible. You’re as stuck as I am.”

“Am I?” Valkorion’s lip edged up slyly.

“Go bother someone else if you’re not.”

“Denying the truth will not make it any less true.”

“Scourge will come for me.”

“He betrayed me and he will betray you too.”

“Liar!”

“I pity your delusions. The time you spent with him was a mere blink compared to the centuries he spent at my side.”

“He never showed you his true face. He lied to you for three hundred years. He resisted everything you are.”

“I know. Make no mistake, I saw through his machinations from the moment he betrayed Revan and the Exile to me. He fooled no one.”

“Then why didn’t you kill him?”

“Because his visions would lead me to you—you were always my goal.”

“You’re lying. You couldn’t have known about me. It doesn’t matter. Someone will come.” Liatrix gasped and doubled over. A searing pain cut a path from her abdomen to her lungs. Bile bubbled up her throat and she vomited. “W-what is this?” She cringed at the rusty sputum at her feet. “What’s happening to me?”

“You’re dying. My children had you frozen in carbonite. Regrettably, the process was less than perfect. Only by my graces do you live.”

“Don’t do me any favours. Dying would be worth it to be rid of you.”

“Not even death will excise my hold on you. You are mine as thoroughly as I am yours.”

“Someone will come. I have friends.”

“You have no friends—only those that would use you. Your companions…do you wish to see them before the end?”

Her eyes widened and she opened her mouth to speak but caught herself.

“I can see that you do. Come,” Valkorion beckoned with an upturned palm.

Liatrix hesitated, her gaze wary. She regretted the moment of unguarded candor he elicited. She followed him up the rocky incline until the burning hull of a wrecked freighter came into view. She’d only seen the Scumrunner once but recognized it immediately.

Thin plumes of static grey smoke curled over the site and she broke into a sprint, leaving Valkorion behind.

She collided with an invisible barrier and frowned. “I need to talk to them—to tell them…”

“Your companions were useful before you understood your potential. But now, you are complete. You have no need for this mechanical servant, or my failed creation—any more than you have a use for this man you once called husband.”

“I’m here!”

“Calling to them will do no good.”

“Where’s my family—my children? Scourge?”

“I’ve indulged you quite enough. Seeing them would serve no purpose. Every day they drift further away from you and each other while the galaxy spirals into chaos.”

“I won’t fall for your illusions. They’re not really here. They never were. None of this is real.”

“There is greatness in you. I never understood how you could settle for such a mediocre existence.”

“That’s not for you to decide. I was happy.”

“Were you?” Valkorion drawled and circled her like a vulture circles a carcass. “Your silence is telling. Admit it. You outgrew the Republic, long before you murdered their champions.”

With a pass of his hand, Liatrix relived her duel with the Grandmaster on Dromund Fels. Within minutes, Satele stood before her, arms charred and severed at the elbows and her weapon at her feet in pieces. With one deft kick to the chest, she’d sent Satele Shan hurtling off the cliff to her death. Liatrix peered over the edge, watching her enemy connect with the jagged rocks below.

The vision faded and Valkorion stood at her side. “I sense no regret in you.”

“That’s because there isn’t any. She deserved it. She failed the order and her family. My only regret is that Theron suffered—”

“And in time, you would have outgrown the Empire as well. You should be grateful, I saved you the trouble of having to kill your father yourself. He would’ve held you back.”

“My father was everything to me. You’re kidding yourself if you think I’m going to believe your lies, Valkorion.”

“One day, you will realize the truth. These crude vessels are not who we are. I no longer require voices, hands, or children. I need no Wrath or Will. I have moved beyond death’s reach. I am truly free.”

“Wish I was, just so I wouldn’t have to listen to you ramble on. You do love the sound of your own voice, don’t you?”

“There was a time not so long ago that you would sit by my side, all too willing to hear my wisdom.”

“I’m no longer a mindless puppet. I’m stronger than I used to be.”

“Yes, I can feel it.”

“You choose to harass me, day in day out. Why?”

“Because you are a part of me I wish to keep. I have done all I can for you, but I cannot save you unless you choose to live.”

“Fine. What is it you want from me?”

“Only you have matched my will to survive—we share a common foe—one that will require both of us to defeat.”

((to be continued…))

frauzet's Avatar


frauzet
08.20.2017 , 08:58 AM | #2
What a pleasant surprise to log in to a new thread of yours. I am glad to see you back with another story, and am looking forward to your take on the events.

I like your description of the scenery, and this was my favorite sentence:
Quote:
Time had no meaning here, but the scratchy rhythm continued out of spite, forcing time on a plain where it didn’t exist.
With 'out of spite' this sentence masterly sets the mood for the rest of the chapter.
Author of "Trouble, Destiny and Other Complications" and the AU "Caught"
Participant of the "Short Fic Weekly Challlenge Thread!"
All my stories from TDaOC and SFWC in chronological order

Foxfirerose's Avatar


Foxfirerose
08.20.2017 , 03:40 PM | #3
I found this posted on Fan Fiction.net this morning and was thrilled! I'm really looking forward to the story ahead because I know without a doubt it will be great

MayhemofChaonus's Avatar


MayhemofChaonus
08.20.2017 , 04:22 PM | #4
Squeeeeeeal! Luna made a new story! Luna made a new story XD XD XD XD!!!!
"The weak will always be victims. That is the way of the universe. The strong take what they want, and the weak suffer at their hands. That is their fate; it is inevitable. Only the strong survive, because only the strong deserve to" - Darth Bane
May the Force forsake you

Diviciacus's Avatar


Diviciacus
08.20.2017 , 07:10 PM | #5
Quote: Originally Posted by frauzet View Post
What a pleasant surprise to log in to a new thread of yours. I am glad to see you back with another story, and am looking forward to your take on the events.

I like your description of the scenery, and this was my favorite sentence:

With 'out of spite' this sentence masterly sets the mood for the rest of the chapter.
I legit squee'd when I saw a new thread started by Lunafox in the Fan Fiction section, AND someone posted on my own story. It was like Christmas, only not disappointing! Myess, spite is a wonderful thing. Liatrix, I find, is driven by quite a bit of it, even in Foundation of All Desire

The Sanctuary of Regret Review Notes

Unum Caput
Spoiler
Nonne mei fratres congruitis nobis nostram cruore ferroque humum recipienda esse aut Imperium Aeternum quae omnia speremus peregerimusque vere perdat?
Conquering the Darkest Places, the ongoing misadventures of a Sith doing what's right by her.

Coge's Avatar


Coge
08.20.2017 , 11:06 PM | #6
Count me with the squeeeers, I did too. Really glad to see you back to your writing Lunafox. I've been wondering what your take on the newer chapters would be like. You didn't disappoint, so much better than the game. Excellent start and I can't wait to see more. Best of all I got something to read during lunch again.
Do or do not. There is no try.

MishaCantu's Avatar


MishaCantu
08.21.2017 , 12:32 AM | #7
Glad to see you back and posting. I have missed your voice. It will be interesting to see where you take this. I'll be watching for updates and reading.

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
08.21.2017 , 02:21 PM | #8
Quote: Originally Posted by frauzet View Post
What a pleasant surprise to log in to a new thread of yours. I am glad to see you back with another story, and am looking forward to your take on the events.

I like your description of the scenery, and this was my favorite sentence:

With 'out of spite' this sentence masterly sets the mood for the rest of the chapter.
Thanks, Frauzet It's a nice feeling to be back at it again. <3


Quote: Originally Posted by Foxfirerose View Post
I found this posted on Fan Fiction.net this morning and was thrilled! I'm really looking forward to the story ahead because I know without a doubt it will be great
Thanks so much I hope it lives up to expectations. *fingers crossed* <3

Quote: Originally Posted by MayhemofChaonus View Post
Squeeeeeeal! Luna made a new story! Luna made a new story XD XD XD XD!!!!
He hee, thanks so much! To both Mayhem and the 'Hand of Mayhem.' <3

Quote: Originally Posted by Coge View Post
Count me with the squeeeers, I did too. Really glad to see you back to your writing Lunafox. I've been wondering what your take on the newer chapters would be like. You didn't disappoint, so much better than the game. Excellent start and I can't wait to see more. Best of all I got something to read during lunch again.
Thanks Coge, the encouragement and kind words mean a lot. I'm happy to see you here still reading. <3

Quote: Originally Posted by MishaCantu View Post
Glad to see you back and posting. I have missed your voice. It will be interesting to see where you take this. I'll be watching for updates and reading.
Thanks Misha I missed writing for these characters. I hope the story lives up to expectations and that everyone enjoys it. *fingers crossed* It's always a bit scary at the start. <3

Quote: Originally Posted by Diviciacus View Post
I legit squee'd when I saw a new thread started by Lunafox in the Fan Fiction section, AND someone posted on my own story. It was like Christmas, only not disappointing! Myess, spite is a wonderful thing. Liatrix, I find, is driven by quite a bit of it, even in Foundation of All Desire
I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it and as always what an amazing review you left for me. Simply amazing, I'm so grateful for your take on things. ^^ Going to post my answers to your commentary in a separate post, to make things easier. <3

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
08.21.2017 , 03:00 PM | #9
Answers to Divi's Review (My responses in blue):

Thanks again so much, your insights are very much appreciated and I can't thank you enough for the time and care you devote to evaluating the chapters. It helps me more than you can know. <3

-I enjoy the emotional impact of starting your new story during chapter 2 of KOTFE. Marr has already been killed, and as readers we necessarily are forced to relive our own memories of it. You couldn’t have twisted the knife harder; we don’t have the detached empathy of Liatrix’ experience of the event but instead in our own minds we feel every emotion again, raw as the day the Emperor struck Marr down. I'm hoping to make my take on things quite different and divergent from the game story; I want this sequel to wrap up my previous stories and unite them and while I'll integrate some of the game material, my own will be my focus. I didn't want to relive that moment yet again (at least not at this point), it honestly doesn't get any easier, so I hope to provide a different take on that.

Instead we only see her damnation; an eternity of building empty graves, tormented by the lies and false promises of Vitiate. And the pain is glorious. It's a pretty sad and terrifying way to spend five years of your life. She may be many things, but she was utterly devoted to her father.

-The imagery itself is also wonderful. The way you describe her ceaseless devotion and it amuses me to no end that Vitiate is JUST SO BUTTHURT she’s doing it. I'm glad the imagery touched you, it was one of my favorite things, imagining this stark horrible place with nothing but graves as far as the eye could see in all directions. And the fact that she does this to honour Marr, really does tick Valkie/Viti off.

-Vitiate’s arrogance is just spectacularly described all throughout here! I had to wipe off my desk with a towel it dripped so much! You write the puppet of Valkorion so incredibly well. I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear that. I've been worried about doing his voice properly for ages now. Even before I finished Marr,
the idea of having to write Valkie was in my head and it worried me. Glad I pulled it off believeably.


-I so missed her snark haha! “But I didn’t abandon you.” “Guess we can’t have everything.” It’s been quite a while since we got to see Liatrix. He hee, yeah Liatrix and her snark, well at least she comes by it honestly. Both Mom and Dad had their moments, though I think Mom was snarkier.

-Marr can’t answer because he’s too busy making sure Ravage bites the dust. I’m genuinely curious how much of what Marr has been up to Vitiate knows. I wonder if we’ll find out. I imagine we will in time.

-I’m also curious why Vitiate considers the Republic a failed experiment. Or perhaps the real question is why would he lie this time. I think he looks at the Empire and Republic in the same way...and I think he's lying when he states that he was trying to build something great with them...I think they were just the means to his power, a food/energy source.

-Liatrix also isn’t wrong here. From her point of view Vitiate has indeed taken everything from her. She feels at this point like she's lost everything, she can't access any of her loved ones...I think there are times she's not even sure she's alive anymore...she thinks this is her afterlife, until she starts gleaning certain things from Valkie's prattling.

-I also don’t think Liatrix has the conviction to kill herself here – even were it possible. Thinking back on the Foundation of All Desire, Liatrix does to some degree fear death. I think she does too, she's not quite as cavalier about dying as her father was. She was always more afraid of regret than anything else.
-Ahaha, I always loved that line, where you can accuse Vitiate of flirting with you. I don’t know if you know, but the different class/gender combos will say different things for that line. You know, I didn't know,
I haven't played through that with a male toon or non force user; only my female JK, SI and SW.

-What I really like about how you wrote Vitiate here is that I can’t tell what’s in-game dialogue and what’s not, even though I literally just played the first nine chapters of KOTFE on most of my toons to catch them up. It blends so seamlessly!That is an awesome compliment It makes me really happy to know that you can't separate what is from the game and what is mine.
-I wonder what Tulak Hord thinks of Vitiate messing with his bloodline? Something tells me he'd not be overly pleased.
-So from Marr, we are told that Vitiate is really Izax the Devourer, the Zakuul god of… destruction or something? So it’s interesting that the player character tells Valkorion-puppet that he devours. Is this all in-game or is the Izax thing your own device? The line that the character says about 'you don't share you devour' is actual game dialogue...the idea that the Emperor is actually Izax was my idea. It made sense to me that he's a being that lives to explore the galaxy in all ways and 'devours' to fuel his whims. They seemed to me like one and the same individual. Just like his children strike me as being Izax's children, with Vaylin as Aivela (the favored daughter)
and Nahut (Arcann) the hated son and Tyth as (Thexan). Or you could consider Thexan and Arcann as Izax's twins Aivela and Esne...Aivela being the favoured and Esne being the Jealous. There are definite parallels to what we're seeing there with Zakuul's mythology.


I haven’t played KOTET, mostly because I’m stuck in this obnoxious quandary: my Warrior is my “RP/story” toon. If I join the Empire on Iokath I can kill Saresh but not Quinn, and if I join the Republic I can kill Quinn but not Saresh. WHAT DO! To me, that decision is very easy. KILL SARESH! But then again, I love Quinn.


Anyway, in-game aside, I don’t really know a lot about KOTET except what has been spoilereded on the forums so I’ll probably miss things in The Sanctuary of Regret I don't know how much you'll miss,
because as I said before, I'm going to follow my own work over the game, I want to wrap up my loose ends and make my own conclusion to it.

-I want to say we can see here Vitiate clearly lying because the Empire and Republic still exist in truncated forms… but also do they? You have killed both Saresh and Darth Acina in previous stories and without the lynchpins… does the cloak falter? I imagine someone must have stepped up to try and hold them together,
but there wasn't much left.

-I sense that you struggled with the inclusion of the word “holocaust” here. While accurate given the billions if not trillions of deaths Arcann has caused, it’s also a word that certainly has a lot of emotion attached to it. Anyone who says they don’t know/knew someone affected by the Second World War is either a liar or doesn’t know as much about the older generations of their family as they think – or should. I did struggle with that actually, I'm amazed it came through...it's not a word to be thrown around casually, or even at something as trivial as a video game. It's a word I take very seriously but ultimately I went with it, because of the feelings it brought out. Arcann and Valkie/Viti killed trillions of people, even if they're fictional, there is no other or better word, you have to call it for what it is.

-IS HE?! It never did make sense for the player how for eleven chapters Valkorion is stuck in your head but then suddenly he peaces out in Chapter 12. I don't believe he ever left the player's mind, he just actually shut up to see what would happen. I would think it would be dangerous for him to reveal himself to these two characters while he's so vulnerable. I think he just became as distant as he could during that chapter.

-For that matter, where is Crimson Cueball? He hasn’t shown up at all yet as far as I’ve heard. I reckon we'll find out a bit more about him soon enough.

-It of course kind of makes sense that Vitiate would have calculated and accounted for Scourge betraying him, but I also feel like specifics of the level Vitiate knowing here are all ex post facto. I'm not sure you can believe everything he says; even if he had short comings or was 'taken for a ride' he'd not admit it.

-Vitiate also, sadly, isn’t wrong here. Liatrix never really did have friends. She always kept everyone at arm’s length. She basically forced Kira away, even if unintentionally, and spent most of the latter half of Foundation of All Desire struggling to not threaten Lana. This is sadly true. She's an odd sort of person in this way,
she seems friendly but if people get too close she backs off. She has acquaintances, advisors, and ex lovers, but no real friends. Her family is everything.


-So clearly this is T7, Kira, and Doc based on the conversations. I’m also curious what happened to the latter two. My gossipmongering is curious to see whether they actually ended up together as I begin to suspect towards the end of Foundation of All Desire. Five years is a long time. Five years is a long time...and of course I plan to reveal what happened to Doc and Kira.

-Dude, Vititae… Marr was like 65. He was on the road out already. Actually, I can’t help but wonder if that’s a lot of why the writers killed him. They realized he was a pretty geriatric Darth. For that matter, from a balance in the Force standpoint I much appreciate how you killed Satele as well. Both are dead. Both can now see beyond. As opposed to Satele just magically being able to in KOTFE Chapter 12. Well, Marr is a human Sith,
it's possible that he could have lived longer, if not for circumstances. Sith tend to have longer lifespans, and I think the Red Skinned Sith even more so, so I could see Vowrawn getting to be even older, even though he's quite old now. I always hated the imbalance and preference shown to the Republic...both important characters needed to die to make it fair. We didn't get this in game, so I made it happen, just like I made Saresh's death happen because it needed to. I'm glad the game caught up in that regard finally.

-DUN DUN DUN! Coming soon to a Zakuul Spire near you!
-Overall loved this chapter. You poured a lot more thoughtfulness into it than the real Chapter 2 of KOTFE. It’s much more well written and enjoyable!

I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it and that you felt it was more thoughtful than what we actually got. That's the main purpose of these stories, is to give us more than we got. I hope it measures up with the installments to come. Thank you again for your thorough analysis of it all. <3

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
08.27.2017 , 02:59 AM | #10
The Sanctuary of Regret

Chapter Two


“Papa…don’t go.”

“I must.” Scourge rolled his cloak over his shoulders and slung an empty leatheris pack over his shoulder.

“Nooo,” she mewled.

“You sound like an irritated Nekarr cat.” The edge of his lip curled up, but he kept his back to her so she wouldn’t see. He clipped his lightsaber to his belt and drew his cloak over it.

“Papa, stay,” she pouted. “Please?”

He returned to her bedside and she looked up at him with eyes as blue as those in his memories.

“There is no more to be said—I’ve told you every story I know.”

“Tell me about Mama.”

“Toska, you need rest.” He sighed and fastened the Tuk’ata fang toggle at his throat.

“Please, Papa? I can’t remember her. I try and try, but I can’t,” she insisted, tears threatening to spill.

A pang of guilt stabbed him in the gut as surely as a blade and he sat on the edge of the child’s bed. He couldn’t deny her any more than he could deny Liatrix when she was alive. “Your mother was brave—fierce, beautiful and devoted to her father,” he whispered.

The little girl’s brows puckered thoughtfully and she smiled. “Like me.”

He chuckled. “Yes, like you.”

She coughed, the sound echoing deep like thunder trapped in her chest. Scourge eased a cup of water to her lips and frowned at the lack of colour in them and the dark circles under her eyes.

She pushed the cup away. “What happened to her? How did she die?”

Scourge drew a deep breath, deep enough to fill his lungs so that it felt like they would burst if he didn’t blow it out.

“She died—in battle, fighting alongside your grandfather. I was unable to save them. The enemy—there were too many of them and of our fighters, only I survived. My ship was damaged and I was injured—I don’t remember much else. I woke much later to learn they’d lost the battle. I should never have left them.”

“But then you’d be dead too.”

“Indeed.”

“And I’d be all alone.”

Scourge shifted his weight and stared at the plank floor between his boots.

“Do I look like her?”

“Yes.” Scourge stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers. Her face was hot, hotter than it should’ve been and every breath rattled. “You look like her—exactly like her. Perhaps you’re old enough now, I can show you.” He left the room and returned with a palm-sized holo projector. He tapped the switch at the side and watched the image rise from the center of the unit, casting a pale blue light between them.

The little girl drew herself higher onto her pillows and reached for the image. Her eyes grew wide and Scourge set the projector into her pudgy hands. He pushed the damp hair on her forehead to one side.

She stared at the tiny figure, examining it from all angles and when she tried to touch it the image glitched. “Mama was pretty. I want to be like her when I’m big.”

“You will,” he said wistfully. “You’ll be exactly like her, I promise you.”

“If she had lived would I have had brothers or sisters?”

“Without a doubt,” he murmured.

Another rumbling cough escaped her and she dropped the holo to clamp her hands over her mouth to stifle it. Her shoulders and body shook. The cough was relentless.

“When you are strong enough to travel, we’re leaving.”

“Where are we going?” She sputtered between coughs.

“Perhaps Alderaan—perhaps elsewhere—but away from this dust.”

“What’s it like there?”

“There are mountains, covered with snow and trees, the air is clean…it was the birthplace of your grandmother.”

“What’s snow?”

“It’s cold and beautiful and something you need to see for yourself. When you’ve recovered, you can play in it.”

Toska beamed. “Will Shyn and Werd come?”

“They’ve served our family for many years. I’ve no doubt they’ll wish to remain close to you. They love you as their own.”

“And Kalil and Morlus, too?”

“Perhaps—but do not fault them if they choose to remain. They’ve made a life here—they have families to consider and a factory to run.”

“But Papa, won’t you miss it here?”

“A home isn’t defined by stone or timber—home is defined by family. So long as we are together, we are home.”

“When are we going?”

“When you’re well enough to travel but for that to happen, I must leave. Ingredients are needed for your medicine and I’ve tarried long enough.”

“When are you coming back?”

“I should be back in time for supper.”

Toska coughed and wretched until she filled a kerchief with scads of rusty mucous.

Scourge dabbed the spittle from her lips and chin and took away the sullied cloth. He pressed the cup into her hands and she drank.

“I’m c-cold, Papa,” she managed through chattering teeth.

Scourge frowned and pressed his hand to her forehead. “Sleep now, I’ll stoke the fire.”

She nodded obediently and settled into her pillows and cuddled her toy nerf.

He knelt to feed the fire and the light played over his hand to highlight his burn scar. It was barely noticeable anymore, save for the branch of thickened flesh dividing his hand. Many years had passed since he’d last meditated before the flames and the goddess within them—an oversight he promised to correct upon his return, for Toska, if no one else.

He returned to her side and drew the coverlet up to her chin but as he turned away he felt a tug on his cloak.

“Papa?”

Scourge froze in his tracks. “Mmm?”

“I love you,” she looked up at him with heavy watery eyes. Sweat pilled along her hairline and he feared the fever had worsened.

“And I you.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead and left, just as the elderly turnip faced maids returned with fresh supplies. After a brief exchange, he ventured out into the dusty heat that defined Dromund Fels. The wind and sand whipped through the settlement he had built with the slaves he’d liberated from Kaas City.

He cinched his hood more snugly and began the treacherous hike into the Red Bluffs. He paused from time to time to harvest the gangly tufts of golden chaparral and to dig for osha roots. He licked his lips, tasting the salt of Toska’s fever on them.

Her questions haunted him and he dreaded the day he’d have to tell her the truth. One day she would be old enough to suspect the lie he’d told and worse still she’d begin to question it. She had never been shy about asking questions. There were days she did nothing but question, nearly driving him mad. Why this, why that, why, why, why.

This wasn’t the first time she’d asked about her mother, but somehow he’d managed to deflect her questions or distract her with some bobble. Until today.

Of course, she couldn’t remember her mother—she had never met her, let alone grown in her womb. Liatrix wasn’t her mother, but her progenitor—her mother, perhaps, from a certain point of view.

He hadn’t intended to claim Darth Creant’s personal clone. He had done all he could to put its existence from his mind and while Liatrix and his children lived, it was easy to forget.

After their loss, the temptation to search for the clone bloomed and ni.ggled at him day and night. He had resisted.

The day he’d caught himself believing he’d finally conquered his grief was the same day a messenger arrived with coordinates to a genetic cache hidden on Dromund Tyne—a barren, rocky world too near to resist.

The message was several years old—issued by one of Creant’s droid servants—surely the sample wouldn’t be viable, but the possibility that it might be tormented him.

He thought on the clone Balkar had stolen for himself—the one he’d murdered because of a vision and the one that earned him life time enemies in Balkar, Theron Shan, and Kimble.

The memory haunted him—but perhaps this was meant to be his redemption. Perhaps the Force had deemed his loss punishment enough and this was meant to balance it. The Emperor’s cache of clones on Kamino had been destroyed by Marr years ago and if this one was viable, it was the last in the galaxy.

Two days after receiving the communique, he donned extreme climate gear and took a shuttle to Dromund Tyne.

A week later, he learned the sample was viable and with the help of a retired cloner, he began the process. Seven months later, he held his new daughter in his arms and though he needed no justification for his actions, he asserted that in this way—the Marr line would live on.

He stuffed a large clump of osha roots into the satchel and squinted at the horizon and then the thriving settlement below. The home he’d grown up in was the largest of the buildings and the heart of the village. A few kilometers away stood the factory they’d built to collect and refine the sandy dust into a durable glass suitable for space faring vessels. The treaty with Zakuul strictly prohibited the Empire from manufacturing any material that could be used against them. Their former suppliers had either been destroyed or relocated to Zakuul and carefully monitored. The demand for space grade glass grew and profit came from that which could be kept secret from their Zakuulan oppressors.

Scourge tipped his canteen to his lips and guzzled the tepid water. He capped the container and dragged the back of his hand across his mouth. The layers of dust accumulated on his face cracked like parched soil.

He climbed higher and higher until he’d scaled the bluffs. Two hours later, he’d tracked and killed a mature cliff manka for its teeth—the final ingredient needed for Toska’s medicine.

The sun began to sink as he harvested the other useful parts of the dead animal—including the claws and whiskers. He packed each part into his pack and began the long climb down.

A third of the way, a feeling of foreboding seized him and took root deeply enough that his facial tendrils tingled.

His jaw tightened along with his body and his reaction was followed by the swooshing zoom of a fleet, at least a dozen ships large, all of them appearing from nowhere at once with geometric precision.

They formed a barbed wall over the settlement and the factory and hung with a menacing silence as though they were waiting for something.

Scourge quickened his descent. The ledges crumbled and gave way under his weight and the speed of his effort. He looked down, searching for a ledge he could land on. The stone he clung to broke and he tumbled and bounced against the face of the cliff. He caught a sharp outcropping below and dangled from it. He extended his legs toward the rock face, hoping to still his body and recover from the dizzying spill. He panted and shut his eyes, waiting for the motion in his brain to stop.

He released the crag and eased himself to the next ledge. The whirr of guns powering up buzzed over him and a rain of silver-blue plasma bolts pummeled the settlement.

“No!” He bellowed.

Even at his current elevation, the screams of the terrified villagers rose up with the smoke. They scurried out of their homes in a frenzy like so many confused ants. They ran half-crouched and shielding their heads against the onslaught.

The barrage continued, the blasts shaking the surface as well as the bluffs. The smoke mingled with the dust to form a thick dark brume over the settlement. Rocks tumbled and skipped down the cliff face. Scourge clung to the wall and pressed his body against it to avoid most of the avalanche’s deadly crush. He coughed and his eyes stung.

Waiting for it to stop felt like years. The world shook and he lost his footing. No ledge was safe. He tumbled alongside the boulders and when he landed the blasts stopped. The screams stopped. His hands vibrated down to the small bones buried under his flesh. The dust wafted around him making his eyes dry and itchy. He pawed at them to clear his vision and stood. Miraculously, nothing was broken, only bruised.

He looked up and was able to make out the barest silhouettes of the fleet over the clouds and then in unison they darted away, leaving as they’d arrived. In their absence, a deathly silence took over the settlement.

His legs throbbed and he forced himself to take a step forward, followed by another and then another, until he broke into a stiff legged sprint toward the village. Plumes of fire and smoke choked him as surely as the dust.

The ground beneath him suddenly dropped and he flung out his arms, swinging them to keep his balance. At his feet, was the start of a crater perhaps fifty meters deep. He backed away slowly and followed the edge of the maw—the new perimeter of a dead village.

Hours passed. The flames burned down and the wind thinned the smoke. Scourge stared out as far as he could see. The abyss yawned before him, vast and terrible enough to swallow the horizon.

A vision of the clone he’d murdered wormed its way back into his mind—like Toska, she was nothing more than an innocent struggling to survive. He had taken her life and foolishly believed the Force had meted out his punishment and that all he’d lost had paid for that crime.

It hadn’t.

He shuffled aimlessly, trying to decide where it was exactly that his home had been and he was certain of two things; the first, that he shouldn’t have left her, and the second, that he wouldn’t rest until he’d razed the Eternal Empire.


((to be continued…))


A/N:
Spoiler