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The Academy: Acolyte Ascension


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Osetto
12.13.2012 , 07:55 PM | #91
Chapter Seventeen: Seers (Part Three)

Lord Omnus took a seat across from his peer, his apprentice standing closely by his side. Lord Leshai offered an emotionless nod to his primary guest before casting a stern glance toward the young alien.

“This is… unexpected,” Leshai muttered with a coarse tenor.

“The fact that I’ve taken an apprentice?” Omnus suggested.

“That fact that you’re willing to parade such a creature through the Imperial capital,” Leshai corrected. “I’m not even familiar with this species.”

“Neither am I,” Omnus admitted. “But we’ve never cared about such things.”

“Maybe not, but there are thousands of Imperials who do. Many of them in positions of power. I’d not waste my time with an apprentice shackled with so many limitations,” Leshai declared.

“Neither would I. I have ambitious plans for the both of us.”

“Which, I assume, prompted this meeting.”

“Correct. I’ve finished my latest recruiting drive for the Academies, so I’ve time for my own pursuits. But I lack the facilities and resources to properly train an apprentice.”

“And you’d like to use mine,” Leshai suggested. The other Lord offered a simple nod. “I’d rather not jeopardize my sphere of influence so that you might pursue some petty pet project.”

“I assure you, my interests in my apprentice are anything but petty,” Omnus declared. Looking to Syrosk, the Lord placed a hand on his shoulder and offered a confident nod. Syrosk gave one of his own as he looked across the table, focusing on the young Human by Leshai’s side.

“His apprentice is wondering why his master is wasting time with us,” Syrosk explained. “Before that he was trying to figure out what I am, suggesting Twee-lek and Chag-ree-un. Now it seems he’s getting defensive…”

“I think that’s enough of a demonstration,” Omnus said as he patted his apprentice’s shoulder. Tash meanwhile subtly squirmed where he stood, blinking and furrowing his brow.

“Suddenly things become much… clearer,” Leshai softly stated, hand rubbing the fleshy tendrils that hung from his chin. “Tash, Lord Omnus and I have some private business to discuss. Why don’t you give the young apprentice a tour of the study.”

“Right away… master,” Tash dutifully replied as he slowly circled around the desk. The Human apprentice stood face to face, or rather, waist to face with the child. Exchanging no words, Tash directed the alien toward a nearby door with the subtle wave of his hand. Syrosk remained still as he gazed toward his master who offered an affirming nod.

Together, Tash and Syrosk ventured from the meeting area, granting their masters their privacy. The two apprentices delved deeper into Lord Leshai’s sanctum in silence. Side by side, they eventually came to stand in front of a rather unassuming door. Such was the overarching décor of the dwelling. Dark. Imposing. But never lavish. Never loud. Anything worth talking about spoke for itself. Such was evident when Tash opened the door at the end of the hallway.

Syrosk stared in wonder as Tash guided him into Lord Leshai’s study. A circular room, robust in size and stock. Databanks lined the walls, and the areas unburdened with technological records held shelves packed with mystical artifacts. Holocron, arms, armor, and trinkets of olden Lords.

“This is the embodiment of my master’s work,” Tash explained. “The physical manifestations of knowledge, and the power to be acquired from them. All of this acquired within a few short years. Given enough time, we believe Lord Leshai might assume the seat of Ancient Knowledge upon the Dark Council. It is to my understanding, however, that Lord Omnus isn’t much of a collector.”

“His home is pretty empty,” Syrosk admitted as he panned his gaze up and down the assorted treasures. “Does your master let you use any of this stuff?”

Tash let out a soft chuckle, his unease in the presence of the alien lessening. “My master isn’t one for… ‘letting’. He is a… calculating… individual. Stern. Dedicated to the tenets of the Sith. Gives absolutely nothing freely. Thinks everything… and I mean everything, ought to be earned.”

“And you enjoy this?”

“It isn’t about enjoyment. It’s about becoming better. Something that is done through challenges. Many of which I have endured. My childhood. My trials at the Academy. My master’s tutelage. It has been a series of harsh events and circumstances, but because of them, I will be strong. And I will keep getting stronger until I am capable of killing the man.”

“You plan to kill your master?” Syrosk asked, more confused than outright shocked.

“I guess I was right in assuming you don’t know much about what it means to be a Sith,” Tash stated. “It is expected for an apprentice to eventually succeed their master. The nature of their upbringing perpetuates the likelihood that it is achieved through one’s death. And I guess you could say it is explicitly expected of me. You are not the only one capable of reading minds.”

“Your master can read minds too?”

“My master. Your master. It is but one of their talents. They are Seers. It is in their nature to possess and acquire information that ought not rest in the hands of lesser beings. They reads minds. See the future. Control and manipulate others. The nature of their talents depend on the individual, however. Omnus is a more accomplished precog, while my master… no thoughts are safe from Lord Leshai. At this very moment he is aware of the conversation we are having as he no doubt is working an agreement with your master that heavily benefits him for allowing you to continue your training.”

“Are you a Seer?” Syrosk asked.

Tash remained silent for a moment as he gazed upon no particular piece in his master’s collection. “No. I lack the inherent skills for mentalism. Always been more of a… hands- on kind of Sith. Instead, I’ve been trying to perfect my mental defenses, but alas I’ve not yet discovered a way to keep Leshai out. Probably never will. But that which goes unchallenged grows weak.”

“I don’t want to be weak,” Syrosk muttered.

“Then you might make it as a Sith after all,” Tash offered. “I don’t know enough about you, or your master, to tell you how things might go in the future. But from what I’ve seen of Lord Omnus in the past, this is decidedly out of character for him. He is very self-contained. No masters. No apprentices. No subjects. No power structure of any sort. His only accolades and standings come from his work with the Academies.”

“What are you saying?”

“That you’re not alone in being… unusual,” Tash declared. “Whether that’s good or bad… only time will tell.”

“Are giving me advice, or a warning?” Syrosk asked.

“All I’m giving you is information,” Tash explained. “It holds no motive. No intent. No personal factors. It’s just information.”

“Information you’ve chosen to give, though. You could have kept it to yourself. So, for that, I thank you.”

“I don’t need your thanks. And if you truly desired that information you could have taken it yourself.”

“Maybe. But I wouldn’t want to,” Syrosk admitted. “I know now that it bothers you whenever someone tries to read your mind.”

“You’ll never make it as a Sith if you remain so concerned for others’ well-being.”

“I don’t think progression has to be at someone else’s expense,” Syrosk admitted

“Your personal beliefs has no influence on the matter. It is something beyond your control,” Tash explained.

The two apprentices’ conversation became sparse as time passed and silence began to fill the robust archives. Before long, the door behind them opened and Lord Omnus calmly stepped in, his negotiations with Lord Leshai finished.

“Syrosk, it’s time to go,” Omnus stoically directed.

“Syrosk?” Tash whispered to himself.

The young alien gave his fellow apprentice a departing nod before joining his master. Omnus offered his own appreciative dip of his head to the teenage Human as the two exited the study. Passing through the entrance hall, Syrosk saw Lord Leshai confidently leaning back in his chair, his eyes intently following as the pair exited the sanctum.

“I’ve secured us access to Leshai’s facilities for the purpose of your training,” Omnus explained.

“Does that include access to his artifacts?” Syrosk asked.

“Impressed by his collection were you? We’ll have access to historical recordings and the like, but nothing of the treasured sort. Though I don’t suppose you saw his most prized possession. One he keeps concealed and close to his heart. A talisman.”

“Like yours?” Syrosk asked.

Omnus reached to hold his amulet within his fingers, looking deeply into the golden stone. “Quite. It is a common trait of those in our circle. People like us usually possess some trinket that allows us to focus particular powers.”

“People like you… you mean Seers?” Syrosk suggested.

“Your talk with Tash proved enlightening did it?” Omnus said, releasing his grip on the amulet. The apprentice offered a silent nod. “He is a… strong and wise individual, even at his young age. However, if he proves to be anything like his master, I’d be careful of interactions with him.”

“You’re not friends with Lord Leshai?”

“Friends are a curious thing amongst Sith, of that I’m sure you’ll come to understand over the course of your training. Training which will begin when we return home,” Omnus detailed. Syrosk eagerly followed his master as they continued their return to their own sanctum.

----------

Within the confined halls of Omnus’ dwelling, the master and apprentice sat across from one another in the entrance hall. In their respective meditative stances, the pair kneeled in patient silence. The silence finally broken by Lord Omnus.

“When dealing with the mind, the first thing a Sith should understand is that there are five layers…”

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Osetto
12.16.2012 , 01:27 AM | #92
Chapter Eighteen: Seers (Part Four)

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For almost a decade, Syrosk studied under the tutelage of Lord Omnus. Honing his mind. Bolstering his spirit. Testing his body against the wilds and Lord Leshai’s rather large stock of training droids.

Under the perpetually cloudy skies of midday, Lord Omnus had taken his apprentice away from the Imperial capital, away from his peer’s facilities. Instead, they sat upon a hill, meditating across from one another as the dark forests surrounded them. Their minds and bodies focused, a series of hefty stones lifted themselves from the ground and began to hover. Slowly, the small boulders began to circle the pair as they focused on keeping them telekinetically afloat.

Syrosk had grown. Matured. He had seen much of the Empire that he never could have witnessed scrounging in the back alleys of Kaas City. His master had taught him much. How to control and conceal his mental prowess. How to direct it toward a singular goal. Only a few short years ago did the apprentice craft his first lightsaber, his martial training seeming to always take up a tertiary position.

As the two meditated, the hovering stones kept their steady pace, staying at an unfaltering altitude as the pair shared the burden of lifting them.

“Reach out with your mind,” Omnus calmly spoke up, body still locked in the stillness of meditation. “Tell me, what do you sense?”

Syrosk followed his master’s lead, remaining locked in his meditative state as he mentally scanned his surroundings. “Vine cats. Small pack. Six strong. Four hundred meters north-northwest of here. Unaware of our presence. No other mental signatures between us and the nearest Imperial outpost.”

“Excellent work. You’re focus has shown remarkable improvement,” Omnus said, compliments subservient to his stoicism. “It can be argued that the mind is the most important aspect for a Sith to perfect. That is why so much of your training has been focused on it, and why I took an interest in you in the first place. You displayed a talent and potential beyond any of the children I’ve encountered as a recruiter.”

“Thank you, master,” Syrosk stated, still focused on keeping the stones afloat.

“The body and its senses are subservient to the mind. It drives us. It allows us to act outside the realm of simplicity. But it does not rest above all else. No, to admit so would be unbecoming of a Sith. The spirit is what ultimately reigns supreme. It is our connection to the Force from which we derive our superiority. That we must never forget.”

“I’m sorry master, but I believe we’ve sufficiently covered the importance of the Force over the past few years,” Syrosk replied with a usual deadpanned-ness.

“Few Sith possess the humility to admit that they don’t understand their connection to the Force. That is what prevents them from unlocking their true potential. Most initiates believe the Force to be some material thing, something they can grasp ahold of and wring out some measure of power,” Omnus explained. “In truth, nothing as powerful as the Force could ever be so simplistic. The Force is energy. It affects us. We affect it. It is a source. It is an engine, a tool. But perhaps most important to your training, it is a lens.”

“A lens?”

“I’d have said a filter, but I think lens better suits the motif.”

“The motif?”

“Of the Seer,” Omnus explained. “The body has its limits. And although it has less, the mind does as well. Pass those through the lens of the Force, however, and those limitations are slowly peeled away. The body becomes stronger, faster, more resilient. The mind gathers information well beyond the capabilities of the natural senses. By passing the entirety of our essence through that lens, the Seer gains his power.”

“But I’m not a Seer.”

“No. Not yet. But you will be,” Omnus declared. “You’ve all the potential skills. All you must learn, is how to immerse yourself into the Force. To connect your senses to that which touches everything. To reach out across the stars. To receive visions of the future. To be my successor.”

“To follow in your footsteps.”

“I don’t intend for you to follow me. I intend for you to surpass me,” Omnus explained. “To be everything I am and more.”

“A recruiter?”

“A Sith unique amongst Sith. Valued for your skills despite your being an alien. The Empire has enough warriors, enough inquisitors. Enough strong bodies and capable minds. It needs people who are not only capable of defeating its enemies, but challenging itself. The Empire has become too set in its ways. Though the inevitable war may shake things up, it cannot promise the change it needs to survive. The weekly feasts, the parades, the flashy showings of luxury and excess… they are mere reminders to the populace that there is a reason to keep fighting. To keep believing in the Empire. But there are cracks in the foundation. There is a creeping decay. A cannibalism present in its ranks. If the Empire is to survive, it needs something new. Something I believe you can provide.”

“I’ll be in no position to do affect anything if I am not strong,” Syrosk declared. “As much as I value the skills and training you’ve provided, there have been gaps in your tutelage. All the information in the galaxy will do me no good if I am not capable of acting on it. Leshai’s combat droids have proven poor tests of martial combat. I’ve trained my mind. Accompanied you on recruitment mission. I understand you one day hope for me to take your place, but I’ve my own desires. Though many of them align with yours, I’ll not see them go unfulfilled.”

“I… understand,” Omnus stated. “I have been neglecting your martial training, likely because my line of work never called for direct confrontation. But lest I contradict my own creed, I must be open to progress. I will give you the training you seek, but first, I must impart upon you some prudent information.”

“Very well, master,” Syrosk offered, reaffirming his meditation.

“Sith have always possessed a curious relationship with the Force,” Omnus began. “We seek power. We seek that power through the dark side of the Force. You’ll not find many Imperials willing to espouse the dangers of that path. The dark side degenerates the body, it clouds the mind, it shatters the spirit… if you cannot control it. And it demand utter control. Otherwise it will be in control of you. It allows the body to drive itself on only emotion and pain. It allows Sith to channel destructive energies from their fingertips. But it does not grant peace. It does not grant its knowledge except to only the strongest and most dedicated Sith. A Seer cannot draw from the dark side without countless years of practice… and drastic sacrifice. Sometimes a warrior seeped in death will be granted a vision of future destruction, but sustained precognition is beyond their reach. What you possess now is involuntary. A self-defense mechanism. Automated for your own protection, much like your heartbeat. And like a heartbeat, you’ve some measure of control over it, but not yet enough to be a proper Seer. And only through the Force can you attain proper control.”

“So what you’re saying is. The Force is my greatest ally as well as my greatest enemy.”

“Your greatest restrictor and liberator,” Omnus added. “You must learn to balance the body, mind and spirit.”

“As well as the light side and dark side of the Force,” Syrosk suggested.

Omnus took pause. “There are some things in the universe that cannot be balanced. Some things, that will not cease until they see the other destroyed. And if you find yourself caught between them, they’ll see you destroyed as well.”

“I see. Then how do I tap into the Force as a Seer would?”

“Let me show you…”

----------

The day’s training ended, and more like it would follow. Lord Omnus instructed his apprentice in the ways of the Seer, reaching out even beyond the threshold of his own mind. Amidst the dark forests of Dromund Kaas, he would meditate, sensing the creatures that populated the shadows. Seeing the paths they’d traveled, and the ones they currently tread upon. Each life, each tree, each stone had a story to tell. Taking his already honed mind, Syrosk slowly learned to pass it through the lens of the Force, seeing that which could not be seen.

For months he would train in such a manner with his master. Solely guided along the singular path of perfecting the mind. The apprentice was unsatisfied with his master’s handling of other aspects. His lightsaber had seen little use. His martial prowess paled in comparison to his mental capabilities.

On his own time, on his own terms, Syrosk walked through the halls of the Citadel alone, one particular destination in mind. As he eventually came to a stop in front of a familiar door, his senses told him that only a single denizen rested behind it, in line with his calculations. The alien delivered a few firm knocks to the door, and patiently awaited an answer. A few moments later, the door would rescind, a familiar Human greeting his guest.

“Tash,” Syrosk calmly greeted.

“Syrosk,” Tash warmly replied. “Are you here for a training session.”

“You could say that.”

“Well, feel free to come inside, the battle room should be in ready condition.”

“Actually, I had something else in mind,” Syrosk stated as he entered the sanctum. “It is to my understanding that Lord Leshai is occupied off-world with some sort of excavation, and he’s left you in charge of his affairs on Dromund Kaas.”

“It would seem my master’s not as good at keeping secrets as he thinks he is,” Tash joked. “Or maybe you’ve just come far along in your training to be privy to such information.”

“That is what I wished to discuss,” Syrosk explained. “I imagine your master hasn’t left you with much to do in his absence. Meanwhile, I have been somewhat dissatisfied with my own master’s ability to provide martial training.”

A smile stretched across the Human’s face. “Ah, you want a sparring partner. I must admit, things do get a bit boring around here. But that doesn’t exactly dismiss the fact that I’d basically be freely aiding my master’s rival’s apprentice. Something I’m sure he wouldn’t appreciate. And something I’m not exactly too thrilled about either.”

“I do not intend to merely take what I desire from you. I propose a trade.”

“A trade? Well, I’m always interested in making an exchange. What are your terms?”

“You provide me the necessary skills I lack, and I will provide the same to you.”

“While I’m sure the sparring would help me a little, I don’t know if I’d call it necessary.”

“No, but I could offer you something else," Syrosk suggested. "Something you so greatly desire.”

“And what might that be?” Tash asked.

“I can stop Leshai from getting into your head.”

Tash continued to stare at his fellow apprentice, smile still plastered across his face. “Alright. You have a deal.”

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Osetto
12.19.2012 , 07:13 PM | #93
Chapter Nineteen: Seers (Part Five)

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Deep within the Citadel in Kaas City, Syrosk patiently waited outside a heavily secured room. The entry doors were tall and wide, and at each side a crimson sentinel stood watch. Imperial Guardsmen defended the chamber where the Dark Council, supreme leaders of the Sith Empire, held their meetings.

Syrosk stood adamant, with his eyes firmly affixed upon the door. He had long ago shed his simplistic robes in favor of a suit of black battle armor beset by a heavy cloak. Silence filled the halls, but the promise of whispers yet remained within the council chambers. Syrosk focused his mind, tried to gain some insight into the proceedings, but there was such a fog, an overhanging cloud of darkness, that he was unable to pierce the veil despite all his attempts. None could know of the Dark Council’s musings unless willingly permitted.

Syrosk waited for minutes, maybe hours, for someone to step from the chamber doors. That time finally came with the subtle parting of the entryway, and passing through it to meet him was the apprentice’s master.

“Master…” Syrosk began, before being hushed by the master’s calm raising of his hand.

“Come with me Syrosk. We’ve much to discuss.”

The two walked the halls of the Citadel, Omnus leading them back to his sanctum with an unusually tepid pace.

“Did your meeting with the Dark Council go smoothly?” Syrosk asked as he walked by his master’s side.

“You could say that,” Omnus calmly stated. “I’ve been given the rank and title of Darth. And apparently I fall under the Sphere of Production and Logistics, which I found curious. Though I suppose our work does consist primarily of transportation and trafficking, and the Councilor seemed pleasant enough.

Syrosk’s eyes widened as he continued to follow his master. “I'd have expected a different response to being given such an honor.”

“I’d not cast off decades of stoicism now,” Omnus declared. “As important as the promotion is, it holds nothing compared to what is to come.”

Syrosk had expected his master to elaborate, but he had instead fallen to silence as they made their way back to their dwelling. The apprentice dutifully followed his lead in movement and thought. Safely within the confines of their sanctum, however, Darth Omnus rescinded his silence.

“My work recruiting for the Academies caught the eye of the Dark Council. But it is not the past that most interested them, but the future,” Omnus explained.

“Did you impart upon them a vision?” Syrosk asked.

“No. In fact the opposite. I was given access to some of the most securely kept information in the Empire. I was given a taste of what the future holds for the Sith.”

“What did you learn?”

“War is coming. The war for which we’ve been preparing for centuries. It’s finally coming. And we have a part to play.”

“I’d assume every Sith will have their part to play,” Syrosk stated.

“But we have the honor being amongst the first to return to the Sith homeworld… Korriban.” Syrosk looked upon his master with a contained wonder. “When we first met, I had given you a glimpse of the world. Now the Empire plans to retake it as one of our first goals. They seek to reestablish the Korriban Academy.”

“And they’ll seek to repopulate it,” Syrosk suggested.

“Exactly. I’ve dreamed of this day. Seen it through visions of desire rather than understanding. And now it lies within my grasp,” Omnus declared. “But I couldn’t have gotten to this point without you, my apprentice. You’ve aided me in seeking out Force sensitives and greatly expediting the recruitment process. You’ve given me something to focus on. You’ve given me a drive I’d not possess had I never taken you under my wing all those years ago.”

“I’m honored that you value my contributions, master,” Syrosk stated with a subtle bow of his head.

“The honor is mine. You’ve persisted despite a society that would see you forever shunned as a lesser being. But we challenged the idea that an alien could never possess the same raw skill and potential as a Human or Pureblood. And now we can challenge that even further.”

“I’m afraid I do not understand.”

“It’s simple. You of course know of the privileges afforded so someone who is a Darth. One in particular is the ability to grant someone under his guidance the title of Sith Lord.”

“You mean…”

“Yes. You deserve this… Lord Syrosk. And you also deserve this…” Omnus’ words trailed as he reached around his neck, and pulled his amulet over his head. The silver chord clenched within his fist, the golden gem dangled and glistened in the light. “Consider this the end of your training as a Seer. Anything more from this point forward you must discover yourself.”

Syrosk watched as his master extended his hand, gifting him the amulet he had worn since the day they had met. The apprentice hesitantly accepted the item before carefully maneuvering it around his horns and over his head. Holding the amulet within his gloved palm, he found himself becoming lost in the golden gem.

“What does it do?” Syrosk asked.

“It provides focus… and guidance. Believe in it and your path with become clear, even when you are consumed by doubt,” Omnus explained. “Come now. We’ve preparations to make.

----------

28 BTC

It was time for war. The Sith Empire had emerged from the darkness, formally making its presence known. The first fleet to appear was approached by a diplomatic convoy on the end of the Outer Rim. They were attacked. They were destroyed. They survived only long enough to broadcast images of the invaders. The galaxy at large would come to know of the Sith Empire. To know of its strength.

The galactic conflict had begun. The Empire threw the entirety of its might at its targets. Republic worlds fell, by conquest or by choice, multiple systems having had puppet governments installed years ago. The turned worlds turned against the Republic fleets stationed above them. In the hectic chaos, the Republic could only hope to rally every available ship to bolster their failing defenses. This however, meant calling upon the ships patrolling the Korriban system.

In the dark space above the Sith’s homeworld, a massive fleet materialized from hyperspace. Capital ships and fighters descended upon the orbiting station and remaining security patrols protecting Korriban. Fiery bolts of energy lashed out Republic defenders, tearing lesser vessels immediately asunder. Whilst the larger forces dealt with the space station, small strike teams headed toward the planet’s surface to retake their ancestral home.

Within the cockpit of a Fury-class cruiser, Darth Omnus stood unflinching as the chaos of battle encircled the ship. Hands folded neatly behind his back, his gaze was firmly affixed upon the planet as the Imperial pilot flew them closer with each passing second.

Near the rear of the ship, two figures stood ready for battle. Lord Syrosk possessed his usual battle armor, with the addition of a featureless helmet that masked the entirety of his visage, his two horns jutting from its sides. Beside the black juggernaut was a man similarly garbed, though his smiling face remained utterly unprotected. Lord Tash.

“This is it,” Syrosk spoke up. “Korriban. Home of the Sith.”

“I’m more interested in the prospect of battling my first Jedi,” Tash admitted.

“Really? Not the prospect of your ancestral home? The tombs? The artifacts?”

“I may have inherited my master’s assets, but not his desire for all things ancient and mystical. I’d like to see if all this training ends up for naught against an opponent who isn’t a Sith.”

“Well, do take care not to destroy everything on your warpath. We’d like as much of the Academy left intact as possible.”

The ship’s intercom chirped as Darth Omnus reached out to the Sith from the cockpit. “Syrosk. Lord Tash. We’re passing through the planet’s atmosphere. Scans show little ground forces, but whatever is present will have to be dealt with directly. Prepare yourselves for a hostile landing.”

“I’m surprised your master is actually heading directly into a battle,” Tash admitted. “He never seemed the most hands-on type of Sith.”

“He isn’t. But he’s dreamed of setting foot on Korriban as long as he’s been recruiting for the other Academies,” Syrosk explained. “Being one of the first to do so is an added boon.”

“With the war in full swing, I imagine you two will be busy once we retake Korriban,” Tash stated.

“And I assume you’ll be wading headfirst into countless battles in the near future,” Syrosk countered.

The Human let out a soft chuckle, “Now, now, Syrosk. I’ve gained a bit of subtlety since we were mere sparring partners.”

The comm came on once again. “We are fast approaching the old Academy grounds. We’re struggling to find a suitable landing area for the ship.”

“No need,” Tash declared as he pressed a button near the rear hatch. Red lights began to flash as the vessel’s entrance opened mid-flight, the sight of the passing landscape beneath them greeting the two Sith.

“What was that about subtlety?” Syrosk asked with a raspy chortle. Turning his attention to a nearby panel, the alien sent a message to the cockpit. “Get us as close as possible. We’ll handle things while you find a proper landing spot. I’ll make sure the entrance is clear by the time you arrive, master.”

Without another word, the two Sith Lords leapt from the cruising vessel toward the surface of Korriban, lightsabers ignited, their first targets in their sights.

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Osetto
12.22.2012 , 11:49 PM | #94
Chapter Twenty: Lies (Part One)

65 BTC

In a quaint dwelling in the residential district of Kaas City, there was only silence. Three figures, motionless. The mother. The father. The son. The first two lay dead, the first at the hands of the second, the seconds at the hands of the third. The Human child sat shivering in the corner, head buried in his arms as his hands shook, the very hands that were tightly clenched around his father’s neck a few minutes prior.

The boy was alone. For now. Soon, men would come to take him to his proper place. To the one of the Academies. For within him rested the power of the Force, waiting to be unlocked. A potential, one that had been kept from him. Kept from his father. The signs were there, the budding traits of Force sensitivity. But even in this time of prosperity and patriotism, some still feared the consequences of putting their young through the trials. They valued protection and obscurity over their duty to the Empire. Such thoughts required protection and obscurity themselves, lest they be extinguished by those who held the Sith’s values above all else. The Sith themselves.

Such discoveries rarely required excess mediation, as the justice of the Sith was righteous and swift. But such values rarely transfixed fully unto the minds of children. And where conflicting thoughts prevailed within the Empire, only death could follow.

----------

57 BTC

Within the halls of the Dromund Kaas Academy, a gathering was taking place. A group of students, eight strong, stood in a large dueling circle, the eyes of their superiors watching from a distance. Eight of the finest Human acolytes had been gathered for one purpose, to uncover amongst them the single most powerful individual. By way of death match. One sponsored by a Sith Lord seeking an apprentice.

Lord Leshai stood next to the overseer who had gathered the eight teenagers from the Academy. The Pureblood looked upon them with a dulled stoicism as they readied themselves, showing no sign of interest amongst the candidates. The students remained focused on themselves for the most part, not daring to cast an errant glance toward their patron. The entirety of their focus was put toward the upcoming battle, which only one of them would be walking away from. Each acolyte possessed only the barest of trainee’s robes and a basic training saber. This was a measure of skill, not equipment.

As the acolytes prepared, two stood apart from the rest of the group, in position and in action. Where everyone else was silent and isolated, these two engaged in hushed whispers together.

“This is it, the chance to be an apprentice,” spoke the first. He was young, and though his face was unburdened by scars, a Sith rune had been inscribed upon the left half of his face by way of a tattoo.

“Yes, a shame only one of us can be the victor, but such is the nature of these things,” spoke the second. He matched the first in age, but in his eight years at the Academy, he had not accumulated a single scar upon his pristine face.

“Yeah, but when have we just accepted things for the way they are?”

“We are not dealing with Academy staff here, we are dealing with a wishes of a Sith Lord. He desires an apprentice. He will find one, despite our wishes.”

“He intend to whittle us down to a single candidate. But if we were the last two left standing… we could refuse to do battle. It’s not out of the ordinary for a Lord to take two apprentices.”

“It’s also not out of the ordinary for someone of his caliber to strike us both down for our insolence.”

“Then we can at least ensure that we remain the final candidates. Better than neither of us becoming an apprentice.”

“I see. Then until we’re the last ones left standing… a partnership.”

“Agreed.”

“Then let’s do this.”

The two separated as the overseer approached the gathering of acolytes. Forming a large circle, the students brandished their sabers and ignited their energy arrays. The overseer spoke of the match's conditions. A battle to the death. The last survivor would become the apprentice of Lord Leshai. Once the match had started, the only way out was to win, or to expire. To forfeit was to forfeit whatever life yet remained within the combatant.

With the deft rise and fall of his hand, the overseer had signaled for the battle to commence. The melee began with the careful studying of one another, no student willing to break formation first. With careful precision, the conspirator duo lashed out first, beginning the hostilities proper. The acolytes each focused their attention on a single opponent, splitting the battle into four concurrent duels. Each student displayed a great martial prowess, the overseer having chosen eight students of relatively equal skill and training.

It wasn’t long before the first acolyte was driven to the ground, and not long after that that he was utterly defeated. Though lacking the swift lethality of a true lightsaber, the acolytes’ weapons were sufficiently capable of brutally ending a fellow students life. The melee continued as one by one the contestants fell. Cuts, bruises, and scorched flesh plagued the dwindling pool of acolytes, but their resolve never faltered.

When only three remained, the tattooed student lashed out with one final series of strikes toward his unaligned foe. Piercing his defenses, his opponent laid at his feet his life slowly creeping away from him. As the fallen acolyte’s breath grew ever weaker, the tattooed individual looked upon his victim trying to catch his own. Amidst the heavy panting the student managed to speak.

“Alright, it looks like-”

A resounding thwack resonated throughout the chamber as the length of a training saber swept across his face. The might of the blow sent the acolyte twirling and tumbling toward the ground. As his arms struggled to lift his weakened body, the damage had already been done. His tattoo had been overwritten by the deep and burning gash that had been struck upon his cheek. As he writhed upon the floor, whatever words attempted to make it past the student’s lips were inhibited by his mangled teeth and the growing pool of blood that poured from him.

“B…b…ba…”

The last remaining acolyte stood over him, looking upon him with pain in his eyes. “I’m sorry my friend, but I couldn’t risk it.” Without another word, the Human raised his weapon high, and brought its weight down with the full expression of his might upon his victim’s skull. Then he did so again. And again. And again, each time a barbaric growl slipping past his gritted teeth as his eyes began to water.

When the victor finally ceased, the chamber fell silent. Lord Leshai looked upon the last acolyte left standing with the same expression he possessed before the battle. Slowly, he approached the dueling circle, eventually passing its threshold with a lackluster gait. Carefully, he walked around or stepped over the corpses that lay between him and the remaining contestant.

The young Human was bent over in exhaustion, using his training saber as support, his short blonde hair damp with sweat. He raised his head to see the Sith Lord before him. He towered over him, maybe not in height, but definitely in presence. Black robes with flowing red accents. Crimson skin. Blood-red eyes that locked with his own.

“What is your name boy?” Lord Leshai coldly asked.

“My name… is Tash,” the boy answered. Tash’s gaze lowered, where his eyes fell upon a remarkable amulet that hung from the Sith Lord’s neck. His eyes became lost in the red gemstone that seemed to glow and pulse in beat with his own heart. Then, the Human felt a creeping sting in the back of his mind.

“No. No it isn’t,” Leshai bluntly said. Tash raised his gaze once more, staring at the cold and dominating Sith.

“It is now,” Tash declared.

“Very well, but you’ll come to realize that it is pointless to try and keep secrets from me,” Leshai stated. “But regardless, you are now officially my apprentice.”

“Thank you, master.”

“Don’t thank me. I have given you nothing, and I never will. Anything you desire must be earned. I will merely provide the necessary challenges to motivate you toward such earnings. And should you find yourself insufficiently motivated, I will personally end your pitiful excuse for an existence. Is that understood?”

“Yes, master,” Tash stated.

Lord Leshai refused to break eye contact with his new apprentice, continually staring with his harsh visage. “Already a regret begins to fester within you. Such weakness will be purged.”

Without another word, the Sith Lord began to depart. Still injured from his battle, Tash could only struggle to keep up with his new master, but he knew better than to offer any words of protest. Following in the Pureblood’s shadow, the Human limped back toward the Lord’s sanctum across Kaas City.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
12.26.2012 , 09:44 AM | #95
Chapter Twenty One: Lies (Part Two)

Lord Leshai and his new apprentice had finally arrived at the Sith’s sanctum within the Kaas City Citadel. Tash had not recovered fully from his fight at the Academy, and the long trek to the dwelling was not helping things. Stepping into the sanctum after his Lord, the Human gazed at the fascinating dwelling. Utterly simplistic in its form yet an extension of his master’s designs. Traditional Citadel architecture and furniture, accented with flowing red banners and tapestries. Tight halls and high ceiling stretching deeper into the compound, mysteries laying behind each new door.

“This is my home,” Leshai coldly stated. “By extension, it is yours as well. It does not, however, belong to you. Nothing here does. You’ll have access only to things you yourself have earned by your own merit. Until then, touch nothing.”

“Okay. Do I get a room?” Tash hesitantly asked.

Leshai paused as he stroked the fleshy tendrils hanging from his chin. “There is an empty office I have no use of. You may have that as a reward for your success at the Academy. There’s no furniture so you’ll be sleeping on the floor.”

“Can I at least take a shower?”

“Tomorrow I suppose, if only to prevent you from contaminating any of my belongings.”

“What about my stuff? We left the Academy before I could grab anything,” Tash explained.

“Assuming you haven’t been given a task, you may come and go at your leisure. Once the other students realize you are gone, I doubt they will honor any claims of ownership, so I suggest you retrieve what you want sooner rather than later.” Tash had no further objections, or rather, he had no desire to speak them. “Your room is down this hall. If you see a chamber with something inside of it, you’re in the wrong place. Goodnight.”

Lord Leshai slinked away without another word, leaving the apprentice in the foyer, tired and exhausted. As the Pureblood disappeared into the deeper halls of the sanctum, Tash began to search for his room. Slowly he ventured forth with a limping gait, the tip of his training saber dragging against the floor.

Passing through the dark halls, the Human came across his master’s study. The extensive room held an impressive catalogue of artifacts and collections unlike anything he had seen back at the Academy, and the shelves that lined the circular room still held room for future acquisitions.

One particular item caught the apprentice’s eye, a holocron of Sith make. The small pyramid shone with a crimson glow. Tash ignored all else, staring at the artifact, reaching out with his hand. Just as his fingers were about to grace the holocron, he recalled his hand, wary of his master’s words, and the possible consequences for defying them.

Instead, he was on his way, content with isolation. Content with nothing to his name. For now, at least. Tash eventually came to a completely empty room. Square, it’d be compact if not for the utter lack of furniture. Carefully, he laid his weapon down by the door before making his way to the room’s center. Cold, metallic walls surrounded him, closed in on him. He was alone. No possessions. No friends. No family.

As he lowered himself to the ground he struggled to find comfort in his position, but none the less he endured. And he would continue to endure for as long as it was necessary. And it would definitely be necessary.

The hours could not have passed any slower, even as Tash had managed to fall asleep. He dreamt of his years at the Academy, and their deadly culmination. He was haunted by the face of his former compatriot. He knew more trials lay ahead of him. He knew he’d have to be stronger if he wanted to survive. If he wanted to be a Sith.

Morning came, as much as morning could on Dromund Kaas. The Human was granted access to the sanctum’s bathroom where he attempted to cleanse himself of the events of the days prior. Stepping out of the shower, the apprentice realized the only clothes he possessed were coming apart at the seams. Everything else yet remained back at the Academy.

Tash readied himself for the day ahead before coming across his master in a seemingly deep meditative state. Just as it seemed as if nothing could get to him, the young Human heard the words of his master scratching at the walls of his mind. Lord Leshai was giving him permission to leave the sanctum, but required he be back at a specific time. Time was not on his side. Even in the event everything went smoothly, a trip to the Academy and back would leave little room to beat his master’s deadline.

The apprentice proceeded to his destination on foot, possessing no credits to expedite the procedure. Arriving at his former institution, the Human was filled with a peculiar feeling. Though he still wore the robes of an acolyte, everything seemed foreign. Like he didn’t belong there. The other students didn’t believe he did either. Had it not been for the careful interference of an overseer, Tash might have faced the deadly approach of students looking to put down someone lucky enough to escape the fate they remained attached to.

The apprentice returned to his old dwelling, a small room afforded to him as one of the upperclassmen. A comfortable bed, in retrospect. A trunk of personal belongings. Multiple sets of clean, pressed robes. Long he had looked upon the small room with disdain, thinking it unbefitting of someone destined for greatness. Now, he wanted nothing more than to have it back. Knowing what he had to return to, he figured that to be as good a solution as any.

Tash had gleaned from the occasional conversation the level of sway his master possessed with the Academy. Thus was born the apprentice’s first scheme. He wanted a room like he once had, and was going to have it. Specifically, he was going to have that exact one. Through a bit of guile, the young Human managed to convince the Academy officials to deliver his belongings to Lord Leshai’s sanctum, included the furniture he rightfully had no right to claim, with the promise of credits to be paid at a later date. As his first attempt, it was a simple play. He didn’t know if or when he would have any credits, or what the consequences were for abusing his master authority without his knowledge.

He was willing to take a little punishment if it meant getting what he wanted. Which was good, because there was punishment to be dealt upon his return to his master. He had missed the deadline of his return by ten minutes. He had expected an extra trial, some feat that would lead to his exhaustion or humiliation as per Academy standard. Instead, he witnessed the silent motion of his master extending his hand, and the quick flash as lightning arced from his fingertips and lashed out at his body.

The dark energy surged forth, wracking his insides as the lightning coursed through every fiber of his being. Time slowed as mere seconds of torture seemed endless. The attack was pure agony, doing no bodily damage, but brutally attacking every nerve and pain receptor it could find. The world grew dark, and Tash fell to his knees before the flat of his face collided with the ground.

He slowly came to, how long afterwards he did not know. Lord Leshai stood over him, ever the stoic, his piercing gaze refusing to relent. The Sith muttered something, or maybe he spoke plainly and the apprentice’s hearing had not yet recovered. Whether it was some catty remark or some profound words of wisdom, he would not know, nor ever know. But from that day forward, he vowed to never fail again.

But in time, he would come to fail again. With each new trial, there was some condition, some qualifier that despite his best efforts he could not achieve. And so he was punished. He would act too slowly. Shocked. He would finish too early. Shocked. He would scuff his Lord’s walls moving in his new furniture. Shocked. He would sneak a peek into his master’s archives. Shocked.

The pain never lessened. Lord Leshai had perfected the art. But Tash endured. He even grew stronger. He would come to understand pain. Though his master’s attacks forever yielded agony, he could defend himself against all others. Whereas in his early years at the Academy, the pain would deter him, now it only pushed him forward. Tash was motivated. He wanted to be stronger, and for the first time, he had undeniable proof that he was capable of achieving such. Before his first year of training under Lord Leshai had even completed, he had pushed his body past what he thought possible. He grew confident, confident enough to delve into his master’s artifacts and repositories despite the near infallible retaliations.

Each new day brought new training. New ways for Leshai to punish his apprentice. New ways to deprive him of what it was he desired. The Pureblood had sworn he wouldn’t give anything to his apprentice, and he had upheld his word. For any true Sith, must learn to take.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
12.31.2012 , 06:54 PM | #96
Chapter Twenty Two: Lies (Part Three)

For months the apprentice trained, settling into his new home. Each day brought new tests, new trials, new ways to continue what began the day Tash left the Academy. Each success brought with it an increased strength, endurance, coordination. Each failure brought a better understanding of Force lightning.

Within the battle room of Lord Leshai’s sanctum, the battered chassis of a sparring droid fell to the ground, a confident Tash standing over it, his training saber in a similar state of disrepair. The Human looked over the defeated sparring droid as oil leaked and sparks flew from its wounds. The saber in his hand flickered as the energy array of its bent blade struggled to stay on. With a gruff sigh the apprentice tossed the weapon to the floor with the rest of the scrap.

“Honestly master, I think we’ve moved well beyond the point of training sabers and these pitiful droids,” Tash declared.

“We have, have we?” Leshai stated, adamant in his cold stoicism.

“I have earned the right to have a lightsaber of my own, you have to admit that.”

“You’ll find I have to admit nothing, and that I am the one who dictates what it is that you have earned.”

“Apprentices less accomplished than I have already received a lightsaber from their masters.”

“Then I suggest you seek another master if you find yourself so dissatisfied.” With a begrudging grunt, Tash kicked the fallen droid chassis before heading toward the door. “Where do you think you are heading?”

“Out.”

Without another word, the apprentice left his master alone in the battle room as he left the sanctum for the streets of Kaas City. On his way out of the Citadel, the Human saw the comings and goings of Sith and their underlings. Masters and apprentices walking side by side. Lords conversing with Imperial officers and technicians. Business as usual.

A range of emotions brewed with the apprentice as he trudged out of the Citadel. Anger. Fury. Disappointment. Then, intrigue, when his eyes fell upon a familiar face. Making his way from the Citadel was a young Human. Someone Tash had met at the Academy. Someone who had gained his apprenticeship a year prior. Someone with a lightsaber at his side.

“Hey, Serron!” Tash called out. The other Human perked up, looking around for his addresser, a small metallic box resting within his clutches. Tash offered the quick wave of his hand, and received a hesitant one in return as the other apprentice balanced the package beneath his arm. The confused Human stopped dead in his tracks as Tash rushed over to greet him proper.

“Oh, hey,” Serron muttered as the other apprentice drew close. “You were a student at the Academy. What was it? ‘V’ something… or…”

“It’s Tash now,” he informed. “New master, new life. You know? So where are you heading?”

“Making a delivery for my master. Finally escaped the Academy’s clutches, did you? Pretty lucky,” Serron teased as he continued toward his destination, Tash following closely by his side.

“Yeah, apprenticed to Lord Leshai.”

“Leshai? Heh, okay, maybe not so lucky,” Serron replied.

“You know of him?”

“Any Sith who deals in the artifact trade knows of Lord Leshai.”

“You some kind of artifact hunter?” Tash joked.

“No, but my master’s had dealings with him in the past. I mean, he’s no expert on the ancient stuff, but he isn’t one to let an item of power slip through his grasp. No Sith is.”

“Understandable,” Tash admitted. “My master does… take pride in his acquisitions… and his secrets.”

“Well, as his apprentice, I’m sure he’ll pass them onto you eventually.”

“Not so sure about that,” Tash declared. “These past few months of training, it’s been nothing but brutal, unforgiving physical trials.”

“Physical trials? You mean he’s not training you to be a Seer?”

“A Seer?”

“Hah! You weren’t kidding about him telling you anything,” Serron stated. “You know, that actually makes sense, given his line of work.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, he’s a Seer. He has access to information other Sith don’t. They look into the Force itself. Sometimes they see the future. Sometimes they see the connections of fate. Now, your master? He sees items touched by the Force. Artifacts left behind by the Sith of old. Holocrons. Weapons. Trinkets. Anything some powerful being some years ago poured some power into. Sounds to me like he doesn’t want a successor, he just wants some dumb muscle to help him retrieve the things he sees in his visions.”

Tash fell silent as his pace slowed. Serron’s words stirred within his mind. Could he be telling the truth? Leshai chose his apprentice with a test of strength. He has kept the knowledge of his Holocrons and databanks out of reach. Each and every trial presented has done nothing but focus solely on martial prowess.

Tash began to fall behind. Serron paid no attention to the sullen apprentice, having no investment in his company. The Human’s gaze sunk to the ground, his eyes darted back and forth in panic. His fists clenched and shook. Looking up, he saw Serron conversing with a taxi droid.

“Hey… Serron,” Tash called out. His words were soft and wavering. He trudged forth, Serron watching his slow approach as he stood beside a rented speeder. “Do you think I could get a ride?”

“A ride? You don’t even know where I’m going,” Serron said as he entered the vehicle.

“I know. It’s just… I’m not in the best of places right now,” Tash admitted. “Honestly, I think I’d prefer the Academy to… to this. I hold no loyalties to Leshai. If you could help me out, I could definitely return the favor.”

“What are you offering?”

“You know more about Leshai’s possessions and capabilities than I. If I were so inclined, I might be able to steer those toward the benefit of your master. Or if you’d prefer, yourself.”

Serron continued to stare down the other apprentice as he considered the offer. He wasn't exactly content with his place in life either. His mouth stretched into a sly smirk. With a wave of his hand, Serron offered Tash the passenger seat of the speeder. He accepted. Taking control, Serron lifted the vehicle and set out for the Dromund Kaas wilderness, intent on delivering his master’s package to a distant outpost, as well as partaking in a mutually beneficial dialogue with his new friend. Tash had other plans.

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Hours passed, and at the mouth of the Citadel, a speeder approached. The taxi droid scanned and documented the return of the vehicle, not bothering to note that it possessed one less passenger than when it departed. Parked amongst the lineup of rentable speeders, Tash hopped out of the driver’s seat. With a bounce in his step he approached the Citadel, newly acquired lightsaber at his hip, newly acquired metal box resting beneath his arm.

Within Leshai’s sanctum, the Sith Lord meditated within his quarters. Such meditations were interrupted by intrusion of a rambunctious apprentice.

“Returned, have we?” Leshai coldly stated, his body refusing to budge from its meditative position.

“Yeah, with a gift,” Tash warmly admitted, tossing Serron’s package to the ground in front of his master. The Pureblood opened his eyes, focusing them on the mysterious item. With the power of the Force, he lifted it from the ground and brought it to eye level. Narrowing his gaze, it’s lid separated from the rest of the box, revealing its contents to the Sith Lord.

“How did you come to acquire this?” Leshai asked with the stern arch of his brow.

“I guess we all have our secrets,” Tash haughtily answered.

“No. No we don’t,” Leshai declared as he turned his gaze toward his apprentice. “This box contains a holocron, one I parted ways with some time ago. You took it from its owner, or rather it’s owner’s apprentice. Followed him to the wilds, murdered him, and looted his corpse. Am I wrong?”

“If you knew, why ask?” Tash asked, increasingly flustered.

“I was being cordial,” Leshai admitted, completely deadpan. “So, you went and took what you desired. A weapon and a gift to appease your master. But not before acquiring whatever knowledge he possessed before you ended his life. All in all, a well-executed plan, if not accounting for my relation with Serron’s master.”

Tash could only stare at his master as his visage slowly turned into a harsh grimace. “How?”

“How, what?”

“How could you possibly know all that?”

“Well, you told me,” Leshai declared, slowly raising himself from the floor, Tash frozen in his place. The apprentice felt some burden wash over him, his master’s presence towering over him. “You cannot keep secrets from me, no matter how hard you try. Whatever you know, I know.”

“Fine, you can read minds. But we both know there are ways to keep telepaths out.”

“You don’t get it. This isn't about mental intrusions and safeguards. This is about us being connected. Bound. Linked, by more than just Sith convention,” Leshai explained, the gem around his neck glowing a bright crimson. “Your knowledge becomes my knowledge. Your strength, my strength. You know now that I am a Seer. That I specialize in the divination and acquisition of Sith artifacts. I can sense items powerful in the dark side of the Force from across the galaxy. I can read minds or tear them asunder, should I choose. But the connection you and I possess stems not from my powers, but from this.” Leshai palmed the glowing amulet as Tash remained awestruck.

“Between the master and his apprentice rests a bond. A code,” Leshai continued. “The powerful should never be forced to lower themselves for the sake of the weak, but it is their duty to ensure that strength endures. Whether it be in themselves, or the next generation. But as long as there have been Sith, there have been countless different views on how to pass on that strength. As well as countless different ways to cheat the system. One particular Sith long ago, fearing his life might be cut short by an overly ambitious apprentice, forged this amulet. It gives its wearer direct insight to the thoughts of his followers, regardless of either party’s mental capabilities. This is not some Seer’s trinket, for I require no such item. This is the embodiment of superiority.”

“So what, I’m just supposed stay your apprentice, knowing that no matter what, I’ll never be able to surpass you?” Tash shouted.

The Pureblood sharpened his gaze. “Still you do not understand. I believe in no gods. I believe that every individual has their limits. If I siphon your strength, if I know everything you know, that just means you’ll have to try harder than any other to take the place of your master. Unlike other Sith, you’ll not be allowed to ascend unless you are utterly deserving of it.”

“Am I supposed to believe this is all for my benefit?”

“Tell me, are you not stronger than you were the day you left the Academy? Wiser? Did you not procure your own livable quarters? Do you not now possess a lightsaber?” Leshai listed. “Just because I haven't directly given you something, doesn't mean I am not responsible for its acquisition. I’ll not assuage your expectations. The knowledge you now possess has earned you no more favors than you held prior. The difficulty will never lessen, but that which goes unchallenged grows weak. And I've no tolerance for weakness. You will become a proper Sith, or you will be broken. I've no vested interest in your success, and I've contingencies for whether or not you stay, and for how long you remain my apprentice. So you've a choice. Do you follow the countless easier paths that lay elsewhere? Or do you remain my apprentice?”

Tash stared at his master long and hard, thinking of his answer. He almost thought to refrain from answering, knowing the Lord had unfiltered access to what was running through his mind anyway. But he spoke aloud anyway, knowing he yet not yet lost control of his speech, and he needed to believe he still retained some control over himself.

“I’ll stay,” Tash declared.

“Good,” Leshai stated as he raised a hand. A moment later a small arc of Force lightning leapt from his fingertips and into his apprentice. The quick burst of energy surged through his body, wracking his nerves as usual. “Don’t kill your fellow Sith unless you have to. Any living asset can be controlled and utilized to your benefit. Remember that.”

“Yes… master,” Tash muttered as he recovered from the attack. The apprentice left for his quarters, hand tenderly resting upon the lightsaber at his side, an unwavering determination in his eyes.

Lordmird's Avatar


Lordmird
01.03.2013 , 06:44 PM | #97
You're truly an outstanding writer. I absolutely love the way Lorrik thinks, and I love even more, the way he has grown throughout the story.

Seriously, keep writing and you'll get something published one day.
Semper Paratus

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Osetto
01.03.2013 , 08:23 PM | #98
Quote: Originally Posted by Lordmird View Post
You're truly an outstanding writer. I absolutely love the way Lorrik thinks, and I love even more, the way he has grown throughout the story.

Seriously, keep writing and you'll get something published one day.
Thank you so much for the kind words.

I know some people are probably sick and tired of Act 0, and to be honest, I sort of am too. I had this cool idea and extended it out of a want for backstories and believable antagonists and such, but given my problems with pacing... I don't know how I thought trying to tell the story of a few decades in a few chapters would suit me. The next chapter should be up in a bit, (formatting and proofreading it now). As with the previous Acts, this one should end at 25 chapters. No epilogue, just a content filled Chapter 25 this time.

The good news is that all the time working on this part of the story has gotten me worked up for the final act, which means I have more of it planned out, as opposed to my rather impromptu style of Act II and some of Act I. What to look forward to: Tombs! Unseen Force powers! More hand injuries! Coruscant!

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
01.03.2013 , 08:53 PM | #99
Chapter Twenty Three: Lies (Part Four)

The years came and went. Tash faced new challenges, encountered new faces. The most intriguing of which was the young Algo Syrosk. The Human apprentice dealt with the young alien much as he would any other Sith. With caution. Perhaps even some fear. But with the passage of time came change. Unfamiliar change.

The two apprentices’ masters reached an agreement. A sharing of resources, the true cost of which was known only to them. But the immediate effect was the amount of time Tash and Syrosk found themselves in contact with one another. As a child, there was little the alien could offer the Human apprentice, aside from maybe an ear. A curious prospect, as Tash had little in the way of acquaintances, and none in the way of friends. A Sith in his position couldn’t afford it.

But Syrosk was different. A good different, and yet, a scary different. But for all his differences there was familiarity. A good familiarity, and yet, a scary familiarity. Syrosk progressed as any apprentice should, but as he honed his mental capabilities, Tash was reminded of the constant intrusions offered by his own master. But he couldn’t bring himself to hate Syrosk, despite his alien heritage, despite the downright benevolence of Syrosk’s master compared to his own.

As the years passed, the apprentices advanced along the paths set by their masters. Syrosk was trained in the ways of a Seer. Tash was driven toward physical dominance, through the utter brutality imposed upon him. But as time moved forward, both apprentices began to want more than what their masters could offer. Would offer. Syrosk was the first to suggest a greater cooperation than mere sparring partners now and then. A trade of skills, that would permit each to reach untold potential, and to purge whatever weaknesses remained within them.

The boldness of the alien’s proposition intrigued Tash. It was atypical of the reserved child he had met ten years ago. But time changes all things. Especially Sith. For all he knew, the ambitious but kind mentalist could have changed into a cold, calculating schemer. But the Human was not without schemes of his own. For he intended to kill his master one day, and Syrosk was offering a solution to the one problem that prohibited him from doing so.

Year after year, their masters grew more and more distant, and the apprentices grew closer. They relied on each other for new lessons, new trials. Lord Leshai had grown colder, lashing out at his apprentice without the typical insightful declarations following it. The Pureblood had withdrawn, tasking himself with personal ambitions rather than tending to his growing apprentice. His attention had once again returned to the artifact trade, to his skills as a Seer.

When he would emerge, it would always come alongside a task. One Tash would accompany him on. The two apprentices would accompany their masters on missions. Syrosk and Lord Omnus seeking out Force-sensitive children to place in the academies, while Tash and Lord Leshai would seek out Force artifacts to stockpile and trade.

As Syrosk spent time with his master, he began to understand his capabilities, his responsibilities. As Tash spent time with his, all he felt was doubt. He would delve into tombs, takes items by force, do everything his master was incapable of. And with each acquisition the words of Serron repeated in his mind. Each day, he wondered if he was just yet another tool in his master’s arsenal.

With time, Leshai gained more and more favor with the Dark Councilor whom held the seat of Ancient Knowledge. His work earned him boons and privileges, and eventually the title of Darth. Even as his master achieved one of the ultimate honors, Tash felt little reciprocation his way. As his master ascended, he remained firmly stuck in his place as a lowly apprentice. He felt he had done more than any other in his position, and yet he had nothing to show for it.

And so once again he left his master’s guidance, trying to achieve some semblance of his own sovereignty. He left Dromund Kaas, did battle, colluded with fellow Sith, partook in pleasures he never could under the watchful eye of his master. But even with his freedom, he felt himself incapable of accomplishing anything. He realized he had come to rely on earning his master’s favor. Leshai’s training style had indebted the student. As powerful as Tash had become, he was without funding, without a power structure. He could do nothing as an apprentice. So long as Leshai continued to exist he could not advance, and he could not break away. The final straw came the day Lord Omnus became Darth Omnus, and Syrosk became Lord Syrosk.

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30 BTC

Within the expanded halls of Darth Leshai’s sanctum, the elder Pureblood quietly meditated within his chambers. The quiet could not last in the face of the ruckus that resounded from the sanctum’s entrance. Tash barged into his master’s quarters, face locked in a snarl.

“Leshai!” the apprentice shouted. The Darth opened his eyes and responded with a slow, drawn out sigh. Tash barged in on is master’s meditations to see him kneeling upon the floor, his back to him. “Do you know who’s been given the rank of Sith Lord?”

“I’ve no doubt you intend to tell me,” Leshai coldly muttered.

“Syrosk! His master promoted him!”

“You two trained together for quite some time. You must proud for him.”

“My feelings about him aren’t a factor here!”

“Aren’t they? Aren’t your feelings about him being given rank and title the entire reason you’ve decided to interrupt me?”

“This is about me and you. For decades I’ve served as your apprentice. For years, I’ve been stuck in my place while you rose to the rank of Darth, an achievement you could not have attained without my help!”

“I’ve countless contingencies for various circumstances,” Leshai stated. “If I so desired, I could have done so without your-“

“Shut up!” Tash interrupted. “I have waited long enough!”

“For what?”

“For something! For anything! You are going to make me a Sith Lord, or else!”

“Or else what?”

“Come on, don’t play stupid. You know exactly what I’ve been thinking. You know exactly what I plan to do.”

“I suppose you’re right, if for the wrong reasons,” Leshai declared as he began to stand. “I know you intend to kill me if you don’t get what you want. You’ve been working up the nerve to do so for quite some time. It was seeing your peer given the promotion you believe yourself so rightfully deserving of that triggered this confrontation. But then again, I didn’t require delving into your mind to come to such a conclusion.

Tash was dumbstruck as his master turned to face him. “You’re amulet… it’s gone. Where is it?”

“With the rest of my collection,” Leshai declared. “I suppose in your frustrated haste you haven’t visited the study recently.”

“The study?”

“Is empty… yes. As are my many strongholds and vaults,” Leshai clarified. “You managed to trigger the ultimatum contingency. Every tangible archeological asset in my possession has been collected and put on ships bound for Republic space. There they will crash, scatter, and eventually be recover by the Jedi, to be sealed away with the other dark artifacts they seek to protect themselves from.”

“WHAT? Why?” Tash exclaimed

“Because I had a vision long ago, one I had a duty to see fulfilled. One that pertains to me… and you. I have done my part. The rest is up to you.”

“I’m sick and tired of your Seer nonsense! How can you call yourself Sith if you let yourself be shackled by such nonsense as visions and fate? Well that’s it. I’m done. I don’t need your precious little trinkets. I don’t need your restrictions.”

“You’ll come to understand… that even should I perish, you’ll not escape such restrictions,” Leshai declared.

“Then there’s no reason to dwell on it. If things are the same whether you are living or dead, I’d prefer dead.”

“Very well. If you can kill me, you’ll earn yourself the title of Sith Lord. I’ve arranged as much. But I’m afraid no matter the circumstances, my pride refuses to allow me to go down easily,” Leshai explained as energy began to crackle between his fingertips.

“Just one thing,” Tash spoke up. “Tell me, how do I plan to kill you?”

The dark lord arched a single eyebrow even as Force lightning jumped between his fingers. Sharpening his eyes, the Darth peered into those of his apprentice searching for the answers. His eyes widened when he found none. “It would seem that without my amulet, I am unable to pierce your mind's defenses.”

“Wonderful,” Tash softly declared. A moment later, the apprentice thrust his hands forward, sending out a powerful Force push. His master flew back, colliding with the wall behind him, cracking the hard surface. Rather than fall to the ground, the Darth found himself telekinetically held against the wall. Still in control of his hands, Leshai sought to lash out with Force lightning, but found the apprentice had already closed the gap.

Tash pinned one of his master’s hands to the walls with one of his own, whilst the other thrust forward to grip the Pureblood’s neck. As the apprentice clutched at his throat, Leshai gripped the wrist with his remaining free hand. Lightning passed from the master to the apprentice, surging throughout the aggressor’s body. Tash didn’t care. He let the dark energy course throughout his entire body, and back out his own arms into its originator. The Force Lightning traveled in a loop as the apprentice tightened his grip. As Leshai struggled for his final breath, the lightning lit up his gasping maw before it finally ceased.

The smell of charred flesh permeated the chamber. Relinquishing his grip, the Pureblood slumped lifelessly to the ground. The apprentice took a step back, marveling at his work. Though his body was in pain, he had endured his master’s attack to no ill effect. A smile graced the Human’s face.

He had done it. He was free. And now, he had some things to present to the Dark Council.

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28 BTC

“We are fast approaching the old Academy grounds. We’re struggling to find a suitable landing area for the ship,” Darth Omnus spoke over the Fury’s comm.

“No need,” Tash declared as he pressed a button near the rear hatch. Red lights began to flash as the vessel’s entrance opened mid-flight, the sight of the passing landscape beneath them greeting the two Sith.

“What was that about subtlety?” Syrosk asked with a raspy chortle. Turning his attention to a nearby panel, the alien sent a message to the cockpit. “Get us as close as possible. We’ll handle things while you find a proper landing spot. I’ll make sure the entrance is clear by the time you arrive, master.”

Without another word, the two Sith Lords leapt from the cruising vessel toward the surface of Korriban, lightsabers ignited, their first targets in their sights. There was little in the way of established defenses stationed across the old Academy grounds. Light security forces, just enough to keep ordinary looters out of the nearby tombs.

The lightly defended grounds were soon overtaken by the two Sith Lords and their eventual reinforcements. Their crimson blades made short work of any security forces that dared stand in their way, slicing through cloth and flesh without effort. Eventually, none were left to oppose the Sith’s arrival on their ancestral homeworld.

The battle was over. The first battle in the first war either Lord had participated in, and it was already over. As Tash walked amongst the scattered corpses that bled into the rocky terrain, he felt a disappointment wash over him. He felt as if he had been preparing for this moment his whole life, and was sufficiently let down. In his mind, he knew nothing of the Republic’s true resilience, but there was a definite part of him that wished for anything but an expedited conflict.

Darth Omnus eventually found a suitable landing spot for his cruiser. Side by side, he and his apprentice were amongst the first to step foot in the remains of the Sith Academy. The elder master was awestruck with its magnificence. Lord Tash held little in regards to wonder. He had long since abandoned the sense of sacredness in anything.

Omnus and Syrosk had planned for an extended stay on Korriban, working with the Dark Council to get the Academy up and running. The other Lord possessed other interests, however. For the land stretching forth from the Academy was the Valley of the Dark Lords, where the tombs of the powerful Sith of old rested, along with all manners of treasures, troubles, and the spirits who hold domain over them.

After a few days, Tash was planning on joining the war effort alongside the dispatched warriors, when word of a local captive caught his attention. During the Battle of Korriban, a number of Republic forces had managed to escape destruction at the hands of the Sith. The reason such a gathering was even taking place was the trade and attempted smuggling of Sith artifacts.

A grave robber by the name of Farel Wickes had just finished selling a number of items before the Empire invaded. He was unsuccessful in his attempts to escape, being captured and held on the planet, where information on the surrounding tombs would be painfully extracted from him. When Tash caught word of the man's apparent fame amongst collectors of Sith artifacts in the Republic, the Lord could not pass up the unique opportunity.

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Lord Tash ventured to where the grave robber was being tortured, interrupting the assigned inquisitor in progress. The room was utterly dark, the only powerful source of light the jolts of Force lightning that leapt from the inquisitor’s fingertips. Upon the Lord’s intrusion, the interrogator ceased.

“I’m a little busy at the moment,” the inquisitor rasped.

“My name is Lord Tash, I’m here representing the Dark Council’s sphere of Ancient Knowledge. I’ve a few questions I wish to ask of our prisoner.”

“Why wasn’t I informed of this?”

“I do not know, nor do I care, but I promise my business with this man will be quick and you can return to your work in a matter of moments,” Tash declared, his hand politely gesturing toward the door. The inquisitor hesitantly complied, leaving the Lord alone with the grave robber.

“Are you awake?”

The prisoner offered a low groan. “Yes…” he eventually answered.

“Good. I have a series of precise question that I hope you could answer for me. No aggression. No torture. Just you, me, and some answers. And if you help me out, I can help you. Understood?” Wickes supplied a groggy nod. “Good. I need to know. Roughly two years ago, a large cache of Sith artifacts should have suddenly manifested in Republic space. Would you know anything about that?”

“A cache? I've only dealt with the stuff... that's been undisturbed for hundreds of years.”

“But you’ve dealt with traders. Collectors. Surely you’d have heard about such a large find.”

“Two years ago… the only thing that comes to mind is a particular string of finds that occurred around the same time. But the Jedi got to all of them before anyone in the trade knew of their existence.”

“Alright. And what would the Jedi have done with them?”

“Same thing they do… with any Sith artifact they come across. They lock it up.”

“And where might they lock it up?”

“Coruscant. The worst stuff… is hidden beneath the Jedi temple. The rest of it… is put in heavily guarded vaults across the planet.” Tash looked upon the prisoner in silence. “That’s all I know. Please, you have to help… they’ll kill me.”

“Don’t worry. You’ve helped me a great deal. I’m sure I can work something out.”

“Oh… thank you. Thank you… so much…”

Tash supplied a quick nod to the prisoner before exiting the chamber. Outside, a testy inquisitor looked upon the Lord with an arched eyebrow.

“Well?” the inquisitor muttered.

“I have everything I need, inquisitor. You may proceed with your duties.”

Lord Tash left the premises. He had no interest in the gathering of artifacts left behind by long forgotten Sith. He wanted only to act and progress by his own merits. But his master was right. Even beyond his death he had shackled his apprentice. Darth Leshai had left the stipulation that should he fall by his apprentice’s hand, that apprentice be given the rank of Sith Lord. But that wasn’t the only agreement he made before his passing. He had made many promises to many Sith Lords. He had promised certain collectors certain artifacts, ones that he knew he’d no longer possess. The Darth had predicted his own demise, and prepared accordingly.

Leshai had left behind a series of circumstances that would challenge Tash even beyond his death. Lord Tash now balanced appeasing the Lords spurned by Leshai’s broken promises, with his own vendettas. He had a set of skills that could sufficiently satisfy certain desires of any Sith, but he could not overcome the debts he owed without his master’s collection. He had thought he could ignore it, but it was proving difficult as time passed. He knew that eventually, he would have to complete his master’s final challenge: recovering his collection of artifacts and Sith knowledge. All of which now rest in the hands of the Jedi.

Osetto's Avatar


Osetto
01.05.2013 , 12:15 AM | #100
Chapter Twenty Four: Lies (Part Five)

War was afoot. And yet, even a year after its initiation, Lord Tash found himself kept from the front lines. Aside from the collection his master ensured he wouldn’t get his hands on, the Sith Lord inherited all of Darth Leshai’s holdings. His assets. His followers. The old Pureblood had kept much from his apprentice, and soon he was finding out that just as many people were indebted to him as he was indebted to others. For once in his life he found himself holding some sway over others. Some measure of power.

Connections to the Reclamation Service. Low level officers and warriors. Both Imperial and Sith subordinates. All once controlled through the utter fear and intimidation wrought by Leshai. And now they looked to his successor for guidance. For answers. Tash didn’t possess the same capacity for mental intrusions as his master, but he knew the mind didn’t need to be read to be controlled.

The Sith offered something his followers had always desired, a strong guiding hand, tempered with a respect and benevolence. Tash had seen what manifested from brutality and domination. Nothing but a lust for escape and revenge. For once in his life, he was comfortable in his position, and he didn’t want anyone needlessly usurping it.

He offered kindness, and received such in return. The Sith Lord had experienced what it felt like to control others. And he enjoyed it. He decided it was time to finally choose his apprentice. The Korriban Academy was already starting to field students, but Tash’s interests laid elsewhere, back where he himself received his trials. Back on Dromund Kaas.

It had been decades since he had walked the halls of the Dromund Kaas Academy. It brought back no fond memories. There was little familiarity with the staff, enough time had passed for instructors and overseers to have come and gone. Wandering the halls, he observed the various students as they proceeded with their day. He had no trial planned, no tasks for any overseer. He had only the conditions for apprenticeship firmly within his mind. He knew exactly what he wanted in an apprentice, and he knew exactly when he would see it.

And see it he did. A young Human male by the name of Vai Thorel. A child of only eight years, but showing remarkable progress. The same age Syrosk was when his master took him under his wing. Tash knew from personal experience the kind of men certain masters could breed. No matter what his desires or plans, he vowed to never be the person Leshai was. He would guide his apprentice, forge him into something great, unburdened by the limitations his master had imposed on himself. But as much as he intended to shape his apprentice’s mind, he wanted to ensure it remained solely his own. And for that, he required someone with special training.

Once more Tash had returned to Korriban, after he was sure his old friend wasn’t out recruiting with his master.

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26 BTC

Within Darth Omnus’ chambers, Syrosk sat at a dining table, eating a simple meal alone, when a knock at his door caught his attention. The alien was intrigued to see Lord Tash standing at his doorway, a young child standing by his side.

“You’ve got a child,” Syrosk curiously rasped. The alien’s appearance varied little in the passing years. His skin had never been without a wrinkled, leathery facade. Lord Tash meanwhile seemed to be aging gracefully as he neared fifty years of age.

“An apprentice, more appropriately,” Tash replied in a jovial fashion. “I figured it was my duty to take one on as I am without a master. And I figured I’d take him away from the Academy before, well, you know what those places can do to a kid.”

“I never actually attended any of the Academies.”

“My point exactly. Here you are, a respected alien Sith Lord, having only trained under the guidance of one dutiful master.”

“Well, the levels of ‘respect’ are ever shifting these days. Omnus still has trouble dealing with some of the more traditionalist figures,” Syrosk admitted. “But if you’ve no interest in enrolling him in an Academy, what are you doing on Korriban?”

“I came seeking your help, old friend.”

“Have you, ‘old friend’?” Syrosk repeated before looking to the child. The young Human stared right back at him, a wide smile smeared across his face. “Well, he hasn’t recoiled at the sight of me, which is more than I can say for most of children I’ve dealt with over the years.”

“Yeah, he’s a got a good head on his shoulders. One I’d hope you’d be able train.”

“You want the me to give him the same mental training you received?”

“Something like that,” Tash admitted. “But such business can be discussed later. Can we come inside?”

“Sure,” Syrosk stated as he stepped away from the door. Tash and his apprentice stepped into the cramped Academy dwelling as Syrosk returned to the dining table. Tash took the seat across from him, whilst the young apprentice wandered the area. “You know, you never did tell me about what happened… with Darth Leshai.”

“The day Omnus made you a Sith Lord…I went to see him. We had been drifting further and further apart. I was sick of the way I was being treated. I wanted something, anything, better than what I had with him. But he had told me that he had some… vision, of his death. Said it was his duty to see it fulfilled. He challenged me. Said if I didn’t end him then and there, I would be killed. He tried to read my mind, but he couldn’t. Turns out your help saved my life.”

“Why would he outright attack his own apprentice?”

“I don’t know. I’ve always felt a disconnect with him, him being a Seer, me not,” Tash explained. “Tell me, has your master had a vision that he didn’t see through?”

“I can’t say that he has. Omnus always said that visions were to be considered a gift, and that to ignore one could lead to negative consequences.”

“I often wonder if in his later years he was losing his mind. There was always an intense darkness within him. Maybe he was at odds with his precognitive abilities. He was driven, dedicated, but a relentlessly cruel man. I don’t intend to treat my apprentice the same way. If anything I was hoping to emulate Omnus.”

“My master always did tell me to be cautious around yours. To this day I do not know what he gave up to earn me access to Leshai’s training facilities. And as much as I could not think of losing my master, I know that not all pairs possess the relationship we do.”

“Your master understands the importance of cooperation. For a time, the entire Empire did. But as time went on, we began to lash out at each other. One would think our war with the Republic would remind everyone what we are fighting for, but it seems things are just getting worse. The other Sith think our enemies too weak. They already scramble to take over the domains of any Lords who fall in battle. Things need to change.”

“And how do you propose bringing about such change?”

“I inherited everything my master owned when he passed. When I met with the officers and Sith whom used to report to him, there was a fear in their eyes. They had expected me to treat them as my master did. But I wouldn’t. I treated them with respect. I wasn’t soft, but my no means did I needlessly beat them down. Nothing done without purpose. I may not have taken his place as a Darth, but I’m in a position to bring about some change.”

“You really think you have enough to make a dent in the established order of things?”

“It’s a start,” Tash declared. “And think about it. You and your master, just two people, hold a great sway in who is accepted into the Korriban Academy. This place is on the verge of becoming the Empire's premier training institution, more so than any other Academy. The Dark Council is planning on establishing their chambers here. You have direct ties to the headmaster. You are Omnus have a hand in the formation of the next generation of Sith.”

“What are you suggesting?”

“We cooperate out of more than just some petty sense of bettering ourselves. We both stand in a position to influence how this Empire evolves. I control the past. You control the future. I deal with artifacts and ancient knowledge. You deal with the students who may yet become Sith.”

“I don’t know. My master gets enough grief because of me. He serves the Empire, and I know he’d do anything to see it prosper but… we cannot afford to make waves. If either one of us step on the wrong toes, it’ll be the end of us both.”

“I understand,” Tash admitted. “The Empire’s prejudices are rather deep seeded. It is a shame you don’t receive the respect you deserve. If you ever want to join the war effort proper, I could ensure you receive that respect.”

“Thank you for the offer, Tash. But my master needs me on Korriban for the time being,” Syrosk explained. “Finding new students is aiding the war effort. We’re in this for the long haul.”

“I see. You know, I‘ve always wondered, if there are more like you. Force-sensitive aliens. I imagine most of them are purposely overlooked. But as the Empire conquers more and more territory, it seems inevitable that the regions you could recruit from would expand accordingly. The Empire could use a few more like you, if you know what I mean.”

“I can’t say I disagree,” Syrosk admitted. “But like I said before, we can’t afford to take radical actions at this point…” The alien’s speech seemed to drift off toward the end as he eyed the cold meal that remained in front of him. “You asked if Omnus ever had a vision he didn’t act upon. He hasn’t. But I have. I’ve seen visions, visions of Force-sensitives to be. Aliens. Slaves. Outcasts. I’ve told Omnus about them, but… he says we cannot afford to bring them into the Empire.”

“Hey, things can change. Especially in times of war. No reason to give up yet.”

“I suppose,” Syrosk commented. “Alright, as for the present, I’ll help you train your apprentice.”

“Excellent! Apprentice, come meet your new tutor!” Tash warmly called out to the young one. The child rushed over from the living area to stand between the two Sith Lords. He offered a quick bow of the upper half of his body to the alien.

“What is your name boy?” Syrosk asked.

“Vai. Vai Thorel,” the child answered.

“And what is that you desire?” Syrosk continued. The boy puzzled for a moment, looking to his own master for guidance. Tash offered an affirming nod of his head.

“I want to be strong!” Thorel exclaimed, filled to the brim with adolescent eagerness.

The alien let out a raspy chortle. “Well, I’m sure that can be arranged. Do you wish his training to start now?” Syrosk asked, turning to Tash.

“No, that’s okay. I have a few things I’d like to take care of beforehand, I just wanted a confirmation before proceeding. You’ve been more than a valuable ally, Syrosk,” Tash declared, extending his hand. Syrosk added his, and the two Sith Lords shook hands. With a wave of his hand, Tash instructed his apprentice to follow, and the pair was on their way. “We’ll be in touch. Say goodbye, Vai.”

“Goodbye!” the child waved as he stepped from the alien’s home. Syrosk watched as they were on their way, the words of his fellow Sith Lord stirring in his mind.

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Time passed, and it was business as usual. There was an attempted assault on the planet by a Republic fleet while a rogue Sith did battle within the Academy, but such things were expected to happen from time to time. Over the next couple of years, Tash would drop off his apprentice on Korriban whilst he did battle on the outskirts of Imperial space. Syrosk would train the boy in areas his true master found himself lacking in.

In time, Omnus’ visions became few are far between. Syrosk kept to himself, lest an errant Force visions give him knowledge of a potential student he knew he could do nothing to recruit. As the Korriban Academy became more populated with suitable students, many Lords began to question the need for Omnus or his apprentice. With the war effort ignited, Imperial families were more than happy to send their children to be forged into the Sith of the future. There was less and less need for ‘hidden’ candidates.

The biggest shock came years later, when Darth Omnus was called forth to the frontlines.

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18 BTC

Lord Tash once more found himself on Korriban alongside his teenage apprentice. The two walked a pleasant walk even under the harsh sun that beat down upon them from above. Entering the Academy, they saw an institution bustling with activity. However, as they traversed deeper into the facility, there was nothing but a stillness outside Syrosk’s dwelling.

A knock on the door, and they received a greeting a few seconds later. Without a word, the alien Lord invited them in. As the pair casually entered, Syrosk’s movements were unusually brisk. He had a hurried aura about him as he paced around the sanctum.

“Something wrong Syrosk?” Tash concernedly asked.

“It’s Omnus. He’s been asked to take part in an ongoing campaign. On the frontlines,” Syrosk hastily explained.

“Darth Omnus? He is powerful to be sure, but no warrior. Why would they call him away from the Academy? I thought things were going well here.”

“They are. Too well in fact. They don’t need recruiters of his caliber anymore. They offered him the role of a strategist, but he turned it down. Said there’s something he has to do,” Syrosk explained.

“Did he have a vision or something?”

“I don’t know, he wouldn’t tell me. The whole situation’s been chaotic.”

“Why aren’t you accompanying him. I know you’re still a great fighter.”

“His orders. He says we can’t risk both of our lives. But I don’t care, it’s not like I could accomplish anything without someone like him supporting my actions.”

Tash offered the firm shake of his head. “Don’t say that. Look. If there’s nothing we can do about his deployment, I can at least keep an eye on him. Accompany him. Protect him.”

“You could do that?” Syrosk asked, a warmth in his eyes.

“Of course. It’s the least I could do, what with you helping out my apprentice. You keep an eye on him, I’ll keep one on Omnus,” Tash suggested alongside the extension of his hand. Syrosk immediately accepted the handshake, and supplemented it with a firm hand placed upon his friend’s shoulder. The two shared an silent agreement and a mutual nod of respect. “I’ll keep in touch, give status updates. That sound good?”

“Yes, thank you Tash,” Syrosk said, before casting a quick glance towards Thorel. “Do you think your apprentice is ready for the higher tiers of training?”

“Of course he is,” Tash declared, patting his apprentice on the back. “Run him through the mental gauntlet. And who knows, it might help you take your mind off of things.”

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It had been a couple of days since Tash and Syrosk met. Darth Omnus had been sent to the threshold of Empire’s territory, to help push Imperial forces into Republic space. The Sith had their eyes on the galactic east, and on their way to Bothuwai, they sought to take control of a small, unpopulated planet to use as a staging ground for future invasions. It was without a civilian populace, but the forested world did, however, possess a number Republic outposts.

On the planet’s surface, the elderly Darth Omnus walked with a small accompaniment of Imperial troopers following him. The Sith was garbed in slightly more form-fitting black robes than usual, but he possessed nothing in the way of armor or personal reinforcement. As the squad of soldiers slowly advanced with their rifles raised, Omnus advanced with a polite walk, his hands neatly kept behind his back. Which each step, the group’s boots sunk into the wet grass and mud that stretched around them in all directions. The planet was lush with green, doused with moisture, and beset by an ever blinding fog.

“Lieutenant,” Omnus spoke up. “We are approaching the assigned coordinates, but I do not sense any outpost nearby. Contact base, see if you can't confirm our intelligence.”

“Right away, my lord!” one of the troopers stated. Omnus paused his advance, as did the squad behind him. A moment later, the lieutenant spoke up. “Command is rechecking our coordinates. They say there’s a chance the Republic fed us some false-“

The lieutenant was cut off by a crimson blaster bolt striking him dead in the chest. The other soldiers immediately began searching through the fog for the source, cycling the vision settings on their helmets. It would prove useless as more bolts emanated from the fog in all directions. Expertly place shots downed each of the soldiers, leaving only the Darth unscathed, who had yet to budge from his previous position. With utter calm, he watched as Republic troopers slowly emerged from the ethereal veil, the white-clad squad having him completely circled.

Omnus cautiously panned his gaze amongst the enemy soldiers who had their rifles trained on him but refused to fire. One figure, however, stood out from the rest. Clad in white plates like his comrades, but beset by a heavy brown cloak, head uncovered by any helmet. His visage was colored and alien, that of a Togruta. A Jedi.

“I must commend you, Jedi,” Omnus stated. “You did an excellent job masking your group’s presence. I’m quite humbled that you managed to sneak up on us.”

“Quiet Sith. We have you surrounded,” the Jedi declared in an authoritative tone. “I’m offering the chance to surrender.”

“Then I suppose I’m honor bound to offer you the same.”

“You’re in no position to make such an offer.”

“I’ve studied the intricacies of the Force for over fifty years. I’m more than capable of handling a single Jedi,” Omnus stoically boasted.

The Jedi continued staring down the unwaveringly calm Sith. “Are you forgetting about the squad of soldiers, each ready to shoot you dead?”

The Darth let out a brief sigh. “I suppose you’re right.”

The Sith took a deep breath and closed his eyes. A moment later, he released a torrent of Force energy, kicking up a wall of mud all around him high into the air, completely blocking the trooper’s line of sight. As the pillar of wet dirt stalled and fell back to the ground, the soldiers were stunned to see the Sith Lord was missing. Their target lost, the troopers could do nothing but ponder as a fine mist of water settled on their armor.

“A fine show, Sith, but-“ the Jedi began to say, before being interrupted by the howling yelp of one of the troopers under his command. One by one the circle of soldiers began to panic, waving their weapons around in all directions.

“Oh no… oh no! AH!” one shouted before discharging his rifle, sending a blaster bolt flying into a nearby compatriot. The formation began to break, each soldier seemingly fighting some invisible foe. Meanwhile, the Jedi looked on with confusion, eyes dead set upon the elderly Sith who had not budged an inch from his original spot.

“What are you doing to them?” the Jedi shouted.

“The mind is a curious thing, you know,” Omnus stated, utterly nonchalant. “It’s a shame they don’t receive the same training I assume you Jedi do. And don’t bother trying to help them. They can’t hear you, or me. And if you lay a hand on one, you’re liable to get shot.”

“Stop this. NOW!” the Jedi commanded, drawing and igniting his lightsaber. As the blue beam pointed at the Sith, he still refused to budge.

“The offer to surrender still stands,” Omnus stated. “I can save the remaining few.”

“I’ll never surrender to you, Sith! You can’t control my men if you’re dead!” The Jedi declared as he charged toward the Darth.

“Predictable.” As the Jedi ran forward, a blaster bolt surged toward him. The Jedi quickly raised the saber to deflect, sending it back to its shooter and killing him. More and more bolts were sent toward the Jedi, halting his charge as he focused on defense. “Of course. I mean, after all, they are just a few lesser beings getting in the way of our conflict. What do their lives matter if you have the chance to strike down one of your Order’s mortal enemies. In all this time, still the Jedi haven’t changed one bit.”

As the Jedi deflected the blaster fire, one managed to strike him in the back of the leg, forcing him to take a knee. Then another one struck him in the shoulder of his saber arm. As he struggled to keep his weapon up, the Jedi used his last moments of life to cast one final despicable glare toward the Sith Lord. The two locked eyes, before the Jedi succumbed to the overwhelming blaster fire.

Looking around, what remained of the panicked squad was still deeply engaged in combat with the mental projections of a Sith Lord's physical onslaught. As he lessened his grip on the troopers’ minds, they slowly began to recover. However, almost immediately they began to suffer from some unknown malady. One by one they dropped their weapons and began clutching at their throats.

Darth Omnus began to turn on his heels, searching for the source of the onslaught with the first signs of panic brewing in his visage. As more and more of the Republic forces drew their last breath and crumbled to the ground, Omnus finally laid eyes upon a new figure. Beyond the veil of fog a shadowed figure was approaching. It was not the outline of the figure that signaled his presence, but the shining of a crimson blade that bounced with each step taken.

Omnus reached out with his mind, trying to uncover the identity of the mysterious figure. All attempts proved fruitless. No matter how hard he tried, he could not penetrate the mind of the figure approaching him. But that proved to be as good a confirmation as any.

“Tash…”