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The Sanctuary of Regret


Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
10.04.2017 , 05:38 PM | #91
Quote: Originally Posted by frauzet View Post
A very enjoyable read!
I like the many small details you added, like Lia wondering about Senya's eyes. And of course I immediately recognized the name of the ship Lia stole. I <3 Andronikos!
With your hints in the other responses I'm looking forward to the next chapter even more.
Thanks! I'm so happy you enjoyed it.

I wondered how many people would recognize the Sky Princess II Our dear pirate will get his ship back, but I imagine he'll be securing far better from now on lol.

I do hope you'll enjoy next Saturday's. I'm excited about it, so I hope it will be well received. ^^

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Lunafox
10.07.2017 , 04:50 PM | #92
The Sanctuary of Regret

Chapter Eight



Empress Nox stood before the empty cage and pouted. She traced the aurodium-plated bars with a gleaming red talon and sighed. A pair of hands alighted on her shoulders, fingertips playing over her collar bones so lightly she shivered.

“My dear,” Vowrawn crooned against her ear, “still missing your favorite pet?”

She thumbed the engraved tag dangling off the spiked beast collar in her left hand. “He was a good pet. I shall miss his whimpering and drooling and how he insisted on being called Supreme Commander.”

“Oh, that pitiful bluster I could’ve done without, but,” he kissed her throat, “it always amused me how he liked to watch us. I think it excited him.”

Nox laughed and tossed the beast collar into the cage. “Oh, it did. Do you know, I once caught him trying to burp the worm when he thought he was alone? Of course, there was only one thing to be done when I discovered that…”

“I remember,” he said, cackling. “You’re positively fiendish and I do adore you for it.” He kissed her exposed shoulder. “I’m surprised you didn’t burn it off. I expected the maker would’ve been more generous with a brute his size…”

“Disappointing wasn’t it?” Nox laughed and wiggled her pinky finger at him.

“Ah, such memories—perhaps it was a mistake to sell him back to the Republic after all. He was almost a member of our twisted little family at that point.”

Nox picked at her nails with her thumb. “Still, it tickles me to no end that his ransom rebuilt our Citadel well beyond our expectations. And do you know my favorite part of it all?”

“I would think the solid aurodium monument of you? I daresay my sculptors outdid themselves.”

“It’s divine, but better still—the riots. Coruscant is practically eating itself alive,” she clapped her hands together with glee. “With what they paid us, they could’ve fed and rehomed millions. Do you think he’ll keep the piercings?”

“Oh, he’d be a fool not to, my dear, they gave him much-needed character. But let us not lament. What’s done is done. Perhaps it’s time I found you a new pet.”

“My birthday is coming up.” Nox turned in his arms and fluttered her lashes at him. “And I have given the idea a great deal of thought.”

“Have you a name chosen already?”

“I think ‘Not-Jace’ has a lovely ring to it.”

“I approve—it honours the old boy and sets a standard for the new pet to aspire to.”

“How is it that we’re always in such perfect agreement, you and I?” She asked, tracing squiggles over his chest with the tip of her fingernail.

Vowrawn took her hand and pressed a kiss to her bejeweled knuckles. “Because our black little hearts beat as one.”

“You always know just what to say, my Emperor.”

“Sssh. Only when we’re alone,” Vowrawn’s gaze strayed toward the door.

A timid knock fell on the door to their bedchambers and two loud breaths followed as if whoever on the other side was working up the nerve to enter.

“Come!” Vowrawn called out.

A powder blue Twi’lek male crept in, bowing profusely as he approached.

“Ta’lin,” Nox frowned and checked her chrono. “My manicure isn’t due for another three hours. Leave us.”

“But, Empress, there is a Sith demanding to see you at once. He will not leave.”

“Well, you should’ve made him leave. Why do we even keep you around? Nox snapped.

“Because I can colour between the lines?” Ta’lin offered.

“You impudent little worm,” Nox growled and Vowrawn clasped her shoulder. “Remind me to electrocute him later,” she mumbled over her shoulder at Vowrawn. “Who is this Sith, Ta’lin? Who would have the nerve to demand so much?”

“I-I don’t know. H-he looks like he crawled out of a Sarlacc.” The Twi’lek jerked his head nervously.

Vowrawn folded his arms. “Did you think to ask his name, m’boy?”

The Twi’lek’s lekku twitched. “He said it was—Scurvy? Or maybe it was Scrounge? No Scour. Definitely Scour. Or…maybe was it Scourge? I can’t remember, please don’t hurt me.” He threw himself to his knees and clasped his hands penitently.

Vowrawn whispered behind his hand to Nox. “Do you think further electrocutions wise? There wasn’t much between those lekku, to begin with.”

Nox pinched the bridge of her nose and shook her head. “Perhaps you’re right,” she conceded. “Do you really think it could be Scourge?”

Vowrawn twirled his chin tendril thoughtfully. “There’s only one way to know for certain, my dear. Ta’lin, m’boy, fetch some food and drink for our guest and inform him, that we will be along to meet him presently.”

The Twi’lek scrambled to his feet and bowed profusely the entire way out of their chamber, never once turning his back to them while in their presence. The door thumped to a close and Nox paced, her thumbnail digging into her full lower lip. “What if it is him?”

Vowrawn’s mouth curled diabolically at the corners. “Then perhaps we will be one step closer to solving my little problem at last.”

“The Hand has been after you for years. It amazes me they didn’t arrest you on Zakuul.”

“Ah, my dear, it was well worth the gamble. His children know nothing of his power base. They have all the finesse of rabid gundarks in a spice den. All that matters to them is the throne and their fleet and while formidable, cunning has always proven deadlier than might.”

“It’s not just those blasted Zakuulans that worry me. We both know it’s only a matter of time before Jadus makes a play for all we’ve built. The last thing I want to hear is his blather about the democratization of fear. ‘Only I am eternal, blah, blah, blah, yawn,’” she mocked.

“No need to worry my little vixen. Even Jadus has his weaknesses.”

“If you say so.”

“Do I detect a hint of doubt?”

“No Veles, not doubt—more like worry that your luck will run out.”

“So serious suddenly,” he kissed the tips of her fingers and pressed her hands to his heart. “I never rely on luck, only my wits, my dear. If lady luck wishes to join me, wonderful, but she is a fickle mistress. I prefer more reliable company.”

“So what will you do?”

“I think it’s time I made amends—and how better to apologize than with a gift?”

Nox’s brow arched into a sharp point. “Do you think it will be enough? She turned on them and they blame you for it.”

“Pah,” he smiled and waved her off. “It’ll be enough to get inside and that’s all I need.”

“Why stop with entry? Why not become The Hand?”

Vowrawn beamed impishly. “It seems we’re of one mind.”

“Just don’t forget that rest of you belongs to me.”

“Never fear, you’ll always have dibs on the best part.”

She slipped her hand into his robe and smiled. “There it is,” she purred. “The gift that keeps on giving. Are you certain it’s worth the risk?”

“My beloved Feravai, if not for our trusty Wrath, I would not be standing here today with my most entertaining attribute in your loving hands. I take my debts seriously—a lesson I learned from our old friend—I do miss him—immeasurably.”

“I know.” She flicked the tiny bell adorning his length and smirked. “The Wrath of Old and the Wrath of New—which do you suppose would win in a cage match?”

“Hmm, an interesting conundrum, my dear. He has the advantage of size and experience, but I believe her to be the more ruthless.”

“I’m not sure it was wise to turn away that handsome captain of hers…”

“Astute as Quinn is, he would only get himself killed. The Hand wouldn’t suffer his scrutiny, nor can we afford to have him underfoot—and if anything were to go wrong, well, suffice it to say, it would be best kept secret.”

“I agree.” She gave the adornment another flick and smiled at the tinkling sound before pulling her hand out of his tented robes. “I suppose we should go see if it’s really him.”

“One moment, I wouldn’t want him thinking I’m quite this excited to see him,” Vowrawn looked down and chuckled.


Scourge glared at the Twi’lek servant. Ta’lin opened his mouth but a squeak was all that came out. The goblets and dishes of fruit and cold meats on the tray between Ta’lin’s hands clinked as if a minor tremor shook the palatial apartment. The Twi’lek cleared his throat in an attempt to regain his composure, but when his nerves deserted him completely, he abandoned the tray of refreshments on the low table and fled.

“Hmph,” Scourge snorted, his lip twitching up smugly.

As tempting as the food and drink were, Scourge turned his back to it and strayed toward the glass wall overlooking Kaas City. The last time he’d seen the city it was little more than a smoldering pile of debris. The elegant buildings had resembled broken teeth, the streets held more craters than pavers and the Citadel was no more than a few girders drowning in a muddy hole.

Scourge marveled at the change wrought over the last five and half years. The Citadel was a gleaming monster of obsidian glass and durasteel, its uppermost spire piercing the cloud cover.

The architecture was more Zakuulan in style than he cared for, but it was impressive none-the-less. Lightning reflected on the glass face, turning the edifice a violent shade of purple. The ‘broken teeth’ from years past were capped with onyx and gleaming paved roads wet with rain linked the districts. The jungle loomed on the outskirts just as he remembered. He had underestimated Nox. She had rebuilt the city to exceed its former glory and managed to retain enough spoils to feather her own nest.

“If you’re quite finished terrifying my manservant, I thought perhaps we might talk.” Nox began good-naturedly as she descended the stairs.

Scourge didn’t turn around. He sensed another behind her—Vowrawn. They stood in silent unity at the base of the stairs and when he focussed on their reflections he saw them exchange calculating glances.

“Scourge, old boy? I must say you’re looking quite well for a dead man.”

“Returning from the dead—this is nothing short of a miracle. I think I speak for both Vowrawn and myself when I say we’re gratified that you survived the attack on Dromund Fels.”

Nox draped herself across the twisted sculpture that served as her throne. A serving droid clattered into the reception room and set about serving wine for each of them.

“We’d lost hope when the Reclamation Service survey found nothing. How were you able to leave Fels?” Vowrawn asked.

Scourge kept his back to them and stared out at the city.

“Are you all right, old friend? You were never loquacious, but you must admit this is an extreme, even for you.”

Scourge threw back his hood. A diagonal scar cut across his left eye and another bridged his chin. His eyes had turned a deeper shade of red and his frame bulged with even more muscles than either Nox or Vowrawn remembered. His robes were caked with sand, the material cracked like parched soil. He cut a terrifying figure and the hardness etched on his face was more terrifying still. Ta’lin wasn’t wrong—he did look as though he’d emerged from a Sarlacc pit—not as a half-digested carcass, but a victor, one capable of tearing the toothy maw apart with his bare hands.

Nox’s eyes widened. If she was taken back by the ferocity of his appearance, she hid it quickly behind a shiv-like smile. Her fingernails clicked against the bulb of her glass.

Scourge eyed the proffered glass the droid held out to him until the automaton backed away slowly, looking for all the world like he was tempted to down the libation himself. Vowrawn rescued the spare wine glass from the droid and kept it for himself.

“Clearly subjugation agrees with you,” Scourge began, his tone icy. “Perhaps it was a mistake to come here after all. I did not come here to fraternize with Zakuulan collaborators.”

“Hardly,” Nox spat and stood to pace the room, wine in hand, her gown swishing as she moved. “You would call me a collaborator when I’ve triumphed in the face of adversity? What would you have me do? Govern as Acina did? She had no love for the Empire. She was decadent and useless, as I’m sure you’ll remember.”

Scourge’s eyes were set in a hardened glare that never wavered. “I remember a frivolous woman obsessed with finery and hedonism—not unlike you.”

Nox laughed coolly. “I’ve been underestimated my entire life—I’ve grown rather accustomed to it. I don’t mind.” Her smile was as sharp and the pale grey eyes that marked her muddied pureblood heritage were just as keen.

Vowrawn threw back his wine in a single gulp and took a softer tone than Nox. “War has hardened us all, my friend. We merely hide it better than most, but make no mistake, each day that passes, is a day closer to the Eternal Empire’s demise. You came here for a reason. Speak it. I remind you—you are among friends.”

Nox circled Scourge and swirled her drink. “By the look of you…you’ve nothing but the robes on your back and the saber at your hip,” she began. “I’m not unsympathetic—the war has cost all of us. I was almost killed during the first Star Fortress attack. I survived—our child, not yet born, was not so fortunate. I will not risk my heart again until this is finished.”

Scourge dropped his gaze and fixed on the intricate mosaic at his feet.

Vowrawn drifted closer to Nox and claimed her hand. “As I said, you’re not alone. What can we do?”

“I would not have come if I had no need of allies. I will see Zakuul fall, but I require a ship and armor.”

“Your zeal is admirable, my friend, but we are under restriction. I’m amazed you weren’t shot out of the sky. You never did mention how you managed to get here.”

“How I came to be here is irrelevant. It’s past. My only focus is the future and the end of Zakuul.”

“Mmm, I see. Zakuulan restrictions won’t stop us, but it does complicate matters and there is a small matter I need to attend—I could use your assistance if you’re willing.”

Scourge folded his arms. “I’m listening.”

“An old friend of mine—your successor actually—is being held by the Emperor’s Hand. Perhaps you’ve met Darth Fernal?”

“I thought she was dead,” Scourge muttered.

Vowrawn kissed Nox’s hand and released it. “A hazard during wartime to be sure. And yet on occasion, those lost, return, just as you have today.”

“How can you be certain she’s still alive?”

“You know these people as well as I do, I’m sure. She is one of our most potent warriors—they would not waste such a commodity.”

“You know more than you’re telling me,” Scourge hissed.

“My sources indicate she was plucked from battle by—the Opticrons before her ship was destroyed. The Opticrons are droids created from modern and ancient technologies. They have stealth abilities second to none. If the legends are true, our Emperor forged them on a world called Iokath.”

“How did you learn of them?”

“Several years ago, just prior to my brief sojourn on Rishi, I learned of their existence. They were created to observe Darth Fernal.”

“You mean spy on her.”

“Precisely, my friend. I suspect after your betrayal, our Emperor decided to brook no chances with your successor. Of course, I took it upon myself to warn her that she was being watched. She and her young captain seemed none-too-pleased,” Vowrawn smirked.

“I imagine the footage must’ve been quite entertaining,” Nox oozed and raised her glass in a mock toast. “I had business on Rishi as well—it would seem our dear Emperor was in possession of some rather marvelous toys.”

Scourge twisted the ring adorning his left chin tendril. “You hope to gain access to their stronghold—presumably where Darth Fernal and these devices you mentioned are located.”

“That is the gist of it, yes. And it is my belief, they’re located on Nathema—a world, I understand that only a handful of people are aware of—most of them dead, regrettably—most, except for you. I trust you remember the way?”

Scourge paced and turned back to the window. Rivulets of rain snaked down the panes. “This technology, I trust could be turned against Zakuul?”

“My friend, just the stealth capabilities alone would be worth the risk, but there is a great deal more, I’m certain of it. The cache of intelligence and technology would be of immeasurable value.”

“Can we count on you?” Nox prodded.

“It seems we have an agreement,” Scourge said.

“Then it’s settled. It will take us some time—to arrange a deep space vessel—and of course to be smuggled off-world to rendezvous with it. I suggest you relax and take advantage of our hospitality while the arrangements are made.”

“The ship shouldn’t be an issue—I know just the man for the job,” Nox purred.

Vowrawn lifted a brow. “Your pet pirate?”

“My pet pirate,” she nodded and laughed. “Just don’t let him hear you call him that—I assume you’re still fond of your teeth. But a smuggler…any thoughts?”

“I may be able to assist on that score,” Scourge said. “If the Voidhound lives, perhaps she and her associates will help. I had occasion to meet her several years ago when she was still known as Captain Gwanshoo. I trust her past crimes will be overlooked by the Empire?”

“During wartime, forgiving potential allies their past indiscretions is a must, my friend. After all the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

“Exactly. The Voidwolf—who?” Nox crooned. “Why…I’ve forgotten already.”

((to be continued…))

A/N:
Spoiler

MayhemofChaonus's Avatar


MayhemofChaonus
10.07.2017 , 07:58 PM | #93
My god Luna you've outdone yourself! Reading this was...embarrassing for me. I was giggling like a 12-year old schoolgirl almost the whole way through. I enjoyed both Nox and Vowrawn as a pairing and as individual characters immensely.

Nox redesigning the citadel...I'm betting it looks like something out a fantasy movie now based on your description of the decor, and I also am thoroughly enjoying how you are taking the various plot points and literary devices used in the official Zakuul expansions and using them to craft a more delectable story.

I hate always writing glowing reviews of fellow authors because I feel like it makes me look like a mindless worshipful sycophant but damn...you just do your fanfictions so well I feel like it would be a crime to ignore the good parts and nitpick about the little things!
"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

Foxfirerose's Avatar


Foxfirerose
10.07.2017 , 10:46 PM | #94
An excellent and "giggle-worthy" chapter *laughs* Your sense of humor in writing Nox and Vowrawn is outstanding. I think I kept a grin on my face the whole time I was reading. I must agree, you -have- outdone yourself;-)

Looking forward very much to more of this!

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
10.08.2017 , 08:09 PM | #95
Quote: Originally Posted by MayhemofChaonus View Post
My god Luna you've outdone yourself! Reading this was...embarrassing for me. I was giggling like a 12-year old schoolgirl almost the whole way through. I enjoyed both Nox and Vowrawn as a pairing and as individual characters immensely.

Nox redesigning the citadel...I'm betting it looks like something out a fantasy movie now based on your description of the decor, and I also am thoroughly enjoying how you are taking the various plot points and literary devices used in the official Zakuul expansions and using them to craft a more delectable story.

I hate always writing glowing reviews of fellow authors because I feel like it makes me look like a mindless worshipful sycophant but damn...you just do your fanfictions so well I feel like it would be a crime to ignore the good parts and nitpick about the little things!
Well thank you, Mayhem! You've made my day. I'm thrilled that you enjoyed it and found it funny...I don't consider myself very good at writing 'funny' because I have a weird sense of humour. What I think is funny doesn't always translate lol. So you've made me very happy. Nox and Vowrawn practically write themselves, put those two in a room and who knows what will happen lol. I'm also happy that you like how I'm weaving in existing elements.

Don't feel that way about leaving positive reviews. I'm actually really happy that you did like it and tell me so, I was kind of down most of the weekend for various reasons. So thanks again for making my day.


Quote: Originally Posted by Foxfirerose View Post
An excellent and "giggle-worthy" chapter *laughs* Your sense of humor in writing Nox and Vowrawn is outstanding. I think I kept a grin on my face the whole time I was reading. I must agree, you -have- outdone yourself;-)

Looking forward very much to more of this!
Thanks! I'm glad you found it funny, like I said, my sense of humour may not always translate, I get weird looks in real life lol. Nox and Vowrawn are fun to write for. I thrilled that you're looking forward to more, I just hope I don't disappoint because it's not always going to be funny...but hopefully it'll be a bit of everything and I do prefer to write more dramatic stuff...but it can't rain all the time, as they say in The Crow.

MishaCantu's Avatar


MishaCantu
10.09.2017 , 07:11 PM | #96
Nox and Vowrawn, what a delicious soup of snark, innuendo and outright prurient bliss. Both hedonists without shame or regret, I do love your take on them. You may not do humor often, but you do it well when the mood strikes. Bravo.

Glad you revisited Scourge here, I had started to wonder what he's been up to. It both worries and delights me that he's going to throw his lot in with the deviants of the galaxy, strange bedfellows, as they say. I suspect that paths will diverge eventually but for now, they are in agreement and singular in the ultimate goal.

I truly enjoyed this chapter with more than a few chuckles along the way. Jace has come to a whole different light with getting a hand on the situation, so to speak. He'll have nightmares for years, lol, or at least, unbidden dreams.

Who knew that Vowrawn still had enough juice to father a child, that was a bit of a kicker, unless it was Nikki Revel's, I'm sure Nox would never tell.

Can't wait for the next. Great job. Oh, now I can't get that damned song 'Ring my Bell' by Anita Ward out of head, thanks a bunch.

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
10.10.2017 , 12:55 AM | #97
Quote: Originally Posted by MishaCantu View Post
Nox and Vowrawn, what a delicious soup of snark, innuendo and outright prurient bliss. Both hedonists without shame or regret, I do love your take on them. You may not do humor often, but you do it well when the mood strikes. Bravo.

Glad you revisited Scourge here, I had started to wonder what he's been up to. It both worries and delights me that he's going to throw his lot in with the deviants of the galaxy, strange bedfellows, as they say. I suspect that paths will diverge eventually but for now, they are in agreement and singular in the ultimate goal.

I truly enjoyed this chapter with more than a few chuckles along the way. Jace has come to a whole different light with getting a hand on the situation, so to speak. He'll have nightmares for years, lol, or at least, unbidden dreams.

Who knew that Vowrawn still had enough juice to father a child, that was a bit of a kicker, unless it was Nikki Revel's, I'm sure Nox would never tell.

Can't wait for the next. Great job. Oh, now I can't get that damned song 'Ring my Bell' by Anita Ward out of head, thanks a bunch.
*is tickled* Thank you! I'm so glad you love them. They're are completely devilish lol. Two peas in a pod. Scourge had a hard time getting off Fels, it's not like it has a lot going on. No one knows yet how exactly he managed to get off. I may leave that a mystery, or not ;D But as you say, strange bedfellows indeed.

Poor Jace, I almost felt bad writing that. Almost. And then I remember what an ungodly s.ob he was in Foundation and figured he had it coming. I'm a bit glad that the game showed him up to be what I've always suspected about him. That bit on Iokath, made my day, it basically showed that he did indeed have dark tendencies and was quite capable of what he did to Liatrix and the Littlebean. I felt a bit vindicated there, where Jace was concerned, considering the heat I took for what I did at that time. He will indeed suffer from nightmares and unbidden dreams of every sort.

It's quite possible as Sith that Vowrawn might have enough juice to father a kid at his age. Maybe. Picasso and Charlie Chaplin managed it in their 70's as mere humans I would have you know my dear Nox is standing over my shoulder glowering at you over her nightcap...and of course true to her horrid nature, she says to me..."And how do you know it wasn't Jace's?" Not that I think it is...but...she's horrid lol (and yes I'm probably a little crazy, but hey, if Lestat is chilling out with Anne Rice...I'd have to say Nox is his equivalent for me.)

And that song is perfect. Now it's stuck in my head and Nox is like..."You can ring my beeellllllllll, ring my bell...."

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
10.14.2017 , 08:33 PM | #98
The Sanctuary of Regret

Chapter Nine


Spoiling a pristine world in order to wage war seemed wrong somehow—wrong, but necessary.

Over the last six weeks, the base on Odessen had evolved from a cluster of tents to an efficient, mostly subterranean headquarters peopled by volunteers and former Imperial and Republic forces, many of whom Liatrix remembered from her time on Yavin.

The lush evergreen forests, craggy cliffs, and turbulent rivers reminded her of Tython, but the similarities ended with the landscape. Tython was a world dedicated to the light, but Odessen interpreted the Force differently—like a double helix—equal and entwined with neither side overruling the other. The world offered balance and with the balance came a serenity Liatrix had never felt before. Except today. Today was different and she didn't know why.

The final set of ion cannon cupolas were being airlifted into place, shuttles smuggling supplies and equipment came and went. Every day the Alliance base expanded and the possibility of destroying the Eternal Empire became more real.

The Alliance kept Liatrix from dwelling on her vow against destiny, but today, it felt as if destiny had had enough of her stubbornness and was about to lower the boom and remind her who’s in charge.

She leaned against the railing of the loading dock and took in the majesty of the spruce filled valley below. A thin sheen of sweat coated her palms, making them slippery against the metal. Every nerve ending and synapse tingled and fired. Worst of all, her stomach felt like it was full of butterflies drowning in cortisol.

A mild charge hung in the air like after a thunderstorm. It was fresh and filled with an undercurrent of anticipation. The sun felt good on her skin and she breathed in the sweet pungent air and closed her eyes.

A shuttle set down on the landing pad behind her. The hydraulics lowering the ramp released a steamy swishing sound and were followed by the confident footfalls of the latest arrival.

Liatrix’s eyes snapped open. Her breath caught. She turned around slowly, finally understanding the reason for her jitters.

Theron Shan sauntered toward her. In five years he’d barely changed, save for a few silvery wisps peppering his sideburns. Same broad shoulders; same serious gaze; and the same sculpted landscape under his fitted trousers.

Her cheeks burned and she smoothed her hands over the black leatheris jerkin she wore.
She’d often thought about the moment she might see him again and now that it had arrived, everything she’d imagined evaporated, leaving her speechless and shaky.

“I like what you’ve done with the place,” he drawled.

He spoke calmly enough that his greeting might’ve been rehearsed—or maybe she no longer mattered enough to scramble his nerves. She feared the latter.

“Theron…” Even as she said his name, her heart fluttered like a herd of Quivry gazelles and she had to remind herself to smile.

“It’s been a long five years.”

“Yeah.” She looked up at him, searching his eyes. “I was starting to think you were avoiding me. I thought we’d cross paths sooner than this.”

“Had a few loose ends to take care of first. Something wrong? You seem nervous.”

“—A little. We didn’t exactly part on the best terms.”

“Your husband did try to kill me.”

She averted her gaze against the bitterness she sensed in his tone.

“In all fairness, you did crash our wedding.”

“Not on purpose. You know that.”

“When I didn’t hear from you, I thought he’d succeeded.”

“You did?”

“Of course I did. And he let me believe you were dead—for months.”

“For what it’s worth, I thought I’d lost you that night on Dromund Kaas. I did lose you that night…” He corrected.

“You made it abundantly clear to me on Coruscant that we couldn’t be together.”

“You killed the Supreme Chancellor.” His gaze remained fixed on her as resolutely as his hands weighed on his hips. “Not that I had any love for Saresh, but you made a choice. You didn’t think it through. You didn’t think about what it would do to us. Did you really expect I could just throw everything away and run off with you to the Empire after that? That’s a thing with you—you don’t think before you act. And some of what you’ve done—can’t be undone.”

She dropped her gaze, knowing that he was referring to Satele. “You did come back though.”

“You know why.”

“I can’t change what I did—but I’d do it again to protect my father.”

“And that didn’t work out so well for any of us, now did it.” Theron raked his hand through his hair. “This is getting us nowhere.”

“I wrote to you. You never answered.”

“I couldn’t. It’s a long story and by the time I found out you hadn’t died—you had. Or so we thought.”

“You know about the children?”

He nodded. “I feel—responsible.”

“Don’t.”

“I wish I could’ve held him, even once.”

“He looked like you,” she said wistfully. “I blame myself. I thought we were invincible—that we’d take care of Vitiate and everything would go back to normal. I was wrong. I lost everything.”

“So did I.”

“I never wanted any of that to be the last we ever said to each other.”

“But it was—for a long time.”

“I know.”

“Look—there’s a lot we need to go over—the others are waiting inside—but I have something to show you first—”

As if on cue, her old corvette swooped down to land in the canyon.

“Tora says it needs work—but I thought you might want it back.”

“Don’t take this the wrong way—I appreciate the gesture—but it’s full of ghosts and I have enough on my mind.”

“Lana told me about what you’re going through—with the Emperor—sharing real estate with you.”

“Then you’ll understand.”

“Understand what?”

“Why I have to keep my distance.” The words came out colder than she intended and she wondered if she actually said them, or if Valkorion had somehow influenced them.

“That was never going to be a problem, Commander.”

“You said there’s a meeting? I’ll be along shortly. Dismissed.”

She regretted the authority in her tone the moment she spoke the command. He didn’t linger and made his way inside the base without looking back. He was always so damn stoic.

I wish it didn’t have to be this way. The ice in his voice hurt. Even the worst imagining of their reunion wasn’t as cold as the reality. She stared down at the sprawling tree-lined valley below to collect herself. Tears threatened, but she pushed away the reason for them. She held her breath until the heat in her eyes cleared.

Valkorion appeared beside her. “You can’t afford any distractions. Destroying my children is all that matters. Your destiny eclipses anything he could ever offer.”

She glared at Valkorion and her hands tightened into fists. Without saying a word, she stalked into the base.

*

Lana, Koth, Senya, Quinn, and Theron stood in silence around the vast table dominating the war room.

“Commander, it’s good to see you. Now that you’re here, we can begin,” Lana said.

“Let’s get down to it, shall we? Liatrix folded her arms and positioned herself between Quinn and Lana and as far from Theron as she could manage. “What do you have for us?”

Theron leaned against the support pilaster. “The Eternal Empire has positioned battle stations, we call Star Fortresses over every major world in all sectors. For the time being, they’re monitoring activity on each world, but our sensor readings indicate they are equipped to do a lot more than that, but we need to learn more about them before we can devise a strike.”

“We need to get the Gravestone fully operational and in peak condition first. Has there been anything further from Tee-Seven? Surely you must have heard something more by now?” Liatrix asked.

“As a matter of fact, Commander, Tee-Seven contacted us no less than two hours ago. We now know the exact location of this Lady of Sorrows,” Lana said.

Koth straightened and paced before the line of monitors tracking the space above Odessen. “If she’s got the schematics for the Gravestone, it would be a huge help to get ‘er battle ready.”

“The Lady of Sorrows is located in the heart of the old world—Breaktown,” Senya said.

“In an area, the locals call ‘The Razor,” Lana added.

“Anything we need to know about it? Things to watch for?” Liatrix asked.

“Thieves and thugs, scum of every sort. It’s a haven for criminals—it’s the underbelly of Zakuul’s underbelly—and I know it all too well.”

Liatrix nodded. “Then you’re with me—and Lana. We need to get Tee-Seven back and see what we can get out of this Lady of Sorrows. We get in, get out fast. I don’t want to linger. Theron, learn all you can about these Star Fortresses and assemble a flight crew. We’ll get started on them after we’ve dealt with this.”

“Understood,” Theron barked and turned back to his monitors.

“I know the old world pretty well m’self,” Koth announced. “I could take you in.”

“All right, then that’s the plan. Major Quinn—you should come too. In case anyone gets hurt.”

“Yes, my lord, I’ll pick up my med kit and await you on the shuttle.”

“I’m looking forward to seeing what this Lady of Sorrows has to say—and what it’ll cost us. I don’t imagine this kind of information will come cheap,” Liatrix said.

“There are no deals to be made with this kind of people,” Senya said.

Koth scowled. “Hey, it’s easy for you to look down your nose at them, but these people need our help, not our scorn.”
Senya met his stare. “They’re criminals. They’re beyond help.”

“Once Arcann is gone, I’m sure they’ll be happier for it. Let’s move,” Liatrix barked and left the war room without looking back.

*

Lost in their own thoughts, the reconnaissance team barely spoke on the way to Zakuul. The planet loomed ahead in the viewport, clusters of light in the darkness indicating where populations were concentrated—the capital, a veritable beacon summoning them to the surface.

“I’m taking us in now,” Koth announced as he took the shuttle down in a swooping trajectory toward the city’s fringes.

A thick grey brume coiled over the lower levels of the capital, making it look like the city was sprouting out of a cloud. Koth grinned. “We couldn’t have picked a better night for this—less likely to be spotted in this fog.”

The shuttle slowed and the landing ramp extended into a tunnel. Liatrix leaned over the com, “Is that a sewer?”

“Hey, you said you wanted to fraternize with the Breaktown folks. This is the best way in. I doubt any knights will be patrolling the filtration plant,” Koth said, shooting a barbed glance at Senya.

Senya scoffed. “For once you’re not wrong—we ran patrols, but never stayed long. For criminals, they police themselves well enough—the Heralds of Zildrog see to that mostly.”

Liatrix studied the map projected over the com station. “These Heralds, are they going to be a problem?”

“Nothing we can’t handle, but we should remain on our guard, Commander.”

“I think that goes without saying.”

Lana straightened. “It would seem this is our stop.”

“We’ll hang close unless anything happens,” Koth said.

“Good luck, my lords,” Quinn said.

“Thank you, Major. Lana, Senya, shall we?” Liatrix’s right hand opened and closed as she disembarked. Her nose wrinkled. “Helluva welcome. This place could stand some Alderaanian nectar. Shame ID-V8 isn’t here.”

“Who?” Senya asked.

“My old ship’s droid. He liked to drown everything in perfume and keep the cushions fluffed.”

“You’ll get used to the smell soon enough,” Senya reassured.

Vines dangled from the grates above and a constant ‘drip drip’ noise made it feel more like a cave than sewer pipe. Inside the treatment plant, the way forward consisted of suspended metal catwalks. The facility was deserted save for a few fuzzy vermin that scattered when the trio neared.

Senya beamed, seemingly enchanted by the dismal setting. At times she would even hum and sing. “This is a piece of Zakuul’s history—the first attempt Valkorion made to realize his vision of a grand society.”

“I’d say it was a failed attempt,” Liatrix said dismissively, “But I’d like to know more about you and Valkorian, your relationship.”

“It wasn’t some epic whirlwind romance. We met when I joined his elite guard. You could say, I was opinionated—and he seemed to appreciate that,” she said with a smile. “He was bold, innovative, confident.”

“I can understand why you’d find those qualities attractive. You had a lot in common.”

“You’re flattering me,” she chuckled. “But yes, we had much in common and we were…happy for a time.”

“What changed that?” Lana asked.

“The children—Thexan and Arcann needed their father, but no matter what I did, they didn’t want me and he didn’t want them. He barely spoke—it was like he became another person—distant, detached. And then there was Vaylin—she was troubled from the start and a danger to everyone around her.”

Liatrix stopped. “What did you do?”

“What could I do? I confronted Valkorion, told him his children needed help. His solution was to ignore the boys and to lock Vaylin’s powers away, along with who she was. She wasn’t always a monster—but that’s what she became. I couldn’t watch, I tried to take them and leave, but they wouldn’t come with me. They called me weak, so I left.”

“You left them?” Liatrix snapped, her face twisting with contempt. “You were the only one who cared about them and you left? What kind of a mother does that?”

“I heard you left yours.”

“Not because I wanted to. I did it to protect them. There was a war, that your family started. It’s because of them, that my family is dead and I can’t wait to repay the favour.”

“Please—this is getting out of hand. We need to continue,” Lana said quietly.

“Then let’s go,” Liatrix growled and moved ahead. “How much further?”

“Not far, according to these coordinates, Tee-Seven provided. I imagine he’ll rendezvous with us shortly.”

Senya peered over Lana’s shoulder. “We can reach The Razor faster if we keep to the eastern passageways. Less likely to be spotted too.”

“Let’s hope you’re right. The sooner we get out of here, the better.”

The corridors were mostly deserted, with the exception of a vagrant rummaging through the dumpsters and a drunk sprawled out and snoring at the end of the hall.

“It’s almost too quiet,” Senya muttered. “I don’t like it.”

“For once—we don’t have to do something the hard way,” Liatrix said. “I like the quiet. Even if it is unnerving.”
“According to my sensors, there’s a door ahead—three meters.” Lana shut the device and clipped it back onto her belt.

Before they could reach the entry panel, the door groaned and rolled to one side. Tee-Seven chirped and rolled forward to meet them.

“Oh, it’s you.” Liatrix exhaled her relief. “I’m glad to see you’re safe. The Lady of Sorrows is on this level?”

The astromech whirred and beeped. “Mission=accomplished. T-7 moving on to secondary objectives. You + T-7 = meet on Gravestone later. You + Lana + Senya = Good luck.”

“You too.”

The droid gave a final whistle and rolled away.

“According to him, the elevator to her penthouse is just up ahead.” Liatrix started for the elevator. Lana caught her arm.

“It feels like a trap, why are there no guards down here?”

“Because it would attract attention—people might wonder what they’re guarding.”

Senya nodded. “I agree with the Commander—it would draw attention and we’ve never come this close to the Lady of Sorrows before.”

“Looks like the elevator is locked down—care to do the honours, Lana?”

“I should be able to manage it without triggering any alarms.” Lana set about slicing into the elevator’s control pad. A moment later, the doors swished open. “I’m getting rather good at that.”

“We’ll pat ourselves on the back once we’re back home. Drinks are on me,” Liatrix said, stepping onto the glassed-in platform.

Lana followed, but the moment she stepped inside, the doors swished shut, leaving Senya on the outside. The older woman’s ice blue eyes grew wild and she slammed her fists against the outside of the elevator enclosure hard enough to crack the glass.

“I thought you said you’d gotten good at slicing?” Liatrix muttered.

“I take it back.” The elevator picked up speed and Lana looked up. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“Close your eyes and put your hands on your knees. It’ll pass. But get ready to jump, I don’t think it’s gonna stop.”

“Understood, Commander.” Lana stooped and after a moment the motion sickness passed. “It actually worked.”

“I have a bad feeling about this,” Liatrix grumbled.

The durasteel shaft and the lights illuminating each level became a blur. The elevator chugged like a speeding freight train and the lights inside flashed red. A warning blared through the compartment. “Warning! The device has exceeded safe velocity. Collision imminent.”

“How long before it crashes?” Liatrix barked at the system.

“Collision detected in three…two…one—”

“Lana! Jump!” Liatrix leapt toward the dizzying light ahead and tumbled into the vestibule of the penthouse apartment. Not a second later, Lana collided with her and both leapt to their feet. They stood back to back, lightsabers in hand at the same instant.

They strode forward cautiously. The entrance hall widened into a spacious living area, with luxurious but minimal furnishings. A trio of black-robbed figures lay prone on the floor, electricity still lancing through their corpses. The stench of charred flesh wafted through the penthouse.

An ominous looking pistol-grey droid, with black and gold accent coverings, stood before them, orange eyes blazing. The droids features were elegantly pointed into almost aquatic looking fins and the body seemed an exaggeration of an antique protocol droid.

“A droid?” Liatrix hissed incredulously.

“That’s no ordinary droid, Commander,” Lana’s eyes narrowed and her weapon growled to life. “That’s Scorpio.”

((to be continued…))

frauzet's Avatar


frauzet
10.15.2017 , 03:02 AM | #99
Another enjoyable read, thank you!
I love the comparisons of worlds at the start. For one because they are very fitting and second because they are a subtle reminder of everything that's happened in the past.
The reencounter with Theron is a painful one. Well done! Lia isn't good in forgiving other's it seems. And Theron isn't the one to come begging, even if he were able to forgive her.
Lia's conversation with Senya portrays Lia's trait consitently. Senya shouldn't expect sympathy there.
That's one neat powder keg you're building.
Looking forward to the next part.
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

Lunafox's Avatar


Lunafox
10.15.2017 , 09:46 PM | #100
Quote: Originally Posted by frauzet View Post
Another enjoyable read, thank you!
I love the comparisons of worlds at the start. For one because they are very fitting and second because they are a subtle reminder of everything that's happened in the past.
The reencounter with Theron is a painful one. Well done! Lia isn't good in forgiving other's it seems. And Theron isn't the one to come begging, even if he were able to forgive her.
Lia's conversation with Senya portrays Lia's trait consitently. Senya shouldn't expect sympathy there.
That's one neat powder keg you're building.
Looking forward to the next part.
Glad you enjoyed it! <3

The reunion was painful and tense, and I'm glad I managed to get that across. Had to really fight hard against the desire to smoosh them together and say 'now kiss!' lol. But they have things to work through and time didn't necessarily make the heart grow fonder...it gave the heart time to think, so hopefully what happens with them will be interesting. Both of them can be quite willful.

Next week...yeah, that should be fun. Hopefully. Thanks for reading and commenting! ^^