Beskar mines, Mandalore
115 days ABDK
Jasin lit his lightsaber and cut down two of the Dread Guard. Ahead, he saw a squad of Imperial troopers take down another line of Dread Forces.
“We have to take out the Dread Masters now!” Jasin said.
Ylenia and her Jedi leapt in, clearing a path for Jasin and his allies. Jasin cut down a rear guard as he entered the lower levels of the mine.
He shuddered. Down here, it seemed the darkness swallowed even the light of his lightsaber. He lowered his blade slowly and motioned for the others to enter. Dankin and Backblast activated helmet and gun lamps, but it didn’t help much.
“Stay close,” Jasin said. “This is the Dread Masters’ work, no question.”
Scourge and Kira formed up on Jasin’s flanks, while T7 and Rusk guarded the back.
“Here we go…”
Mine entrance, Mandalore
115 days ABDK
Tran’thar led his forces down the tunnel. The Republic troops with him stood at arms’ length or farther, as if frighetened of him. He didn’t like it.
“The Dread Masters will be difficult foes,” Khem Val noted.
“And after we went to the trouble of freeing them,” Andronikos said with a note of irony.
“We shouldn’t have done that,” Tran’thar said.
That stopped almost all conversation. Tran’thar lit his lightsaber, the red light filling the cavern. Two guards saw them approaching and lit their own blades. Andronikos and the Republic forces blasted one down while Khem leapt in and slashed the other one apart.
“Quietly,” Tran’thar said. “I sense a great deal of dark power at work here…”
Suddenly a horrific beast leapt out of the shadows. On instinct, Tran’thar brought up his blade and slashed the beast in half. He frowned.
Asation. Unspeakable terrors. The Dread Masters…
What was this? A trick, a memory? A lie?
No matter. They just had to keep moving.
He whirled and sent a blast of Force lightning back behind him as he sensed something. Another beast. It fell to the ground, where Khem Val quickly dismembered it.
“The Dread Masters,” Tran’thar said. “I…I remember. Something, something about the Gree…a Terror?”
“You went on a mission a few months back,” Ahsara said. “You fought terrible things on Asation, summoned by the Dread Masters. The Gree asked you for help.”
“Yes…but I still don’t remember much else. Why…?”
“Head in the game, Sith,” growled Major Prudii. “We have Dread Masters to kill.”
Tran’thar nodded. “Right. The Dread Masters.”
Dread Master rally point
Methic entered the chamber. The Dread Masters were gathered in the center. Across the room, he could see Jasin and his allies entering with their own weapons lit. Silently he wondered if they’d experienced similar attacks as he had on the way in.
“The Emperor’s Wrath,” whispered the Dread Master leader, Raptus. “You come to us at last.”
“You will join us,” Brontes, one of the female Dread Masters, said.
“Never,” Methic snarled.
“That wasn’t an option,” Tyrans snarled.
“You will join us,” Bestia, the other female, hissed.
Methic groaned in pain as an invisible hand clutched at his brain. He cried out in anger, lit his lightsabers, and attacked.
* * *
Jaesa gasped in surprise as Methic’s lightsaber passed over her head. She realized in horror that the Dread Masters were exerting some type of Force persuasion over him. She activated her double-bladed lightsaber and leapt over Methic’s head.
“What–?” Vette exclaimed as Methic lunged at her.
Jaesa sent a Force blast at Methic’s back, and he stumbled. Broonmark jumped in and grabbed him in a bear hug, trying to keep his arms pinned.
Jaesa turned and went for the Dread Masters. Bestia raised a hand and calmly sent a blast of lightning at Jaesa. She redirected it into the wall of the cave. Bestia drew her lightsaber and clashed with Jaesa. In two quick moves, the Dark Lord had Jaesa on the ground.
Suddenly a green lightsaber interposed itself in front of the red one, and Gareb shoved Bestia back. Jaesa sighed in relief and picked up her lightsaber to resume the fight.
* * *
Jasin leapt at Raptus, hoping to take out the leader and make the dark siders less effective. But Raptus’ second in command, brutish Styrak, leapt in front of Jasin and took the blow on his own lightsaber.
Jasin dropped to his feet, turned, and jabbed at Styrak’s side. The Dread Master blocked, turned, and sent a blast of Force energy at Jasin’s head. Jasin ducked, turned, and side-slashed at Styrak’s legs. The large Sith leapt over the blade and brought down his pommel on Jasin’s shoulder.
Jasin dropped, rolled, and came up with his saber in guard position just in time to absorb a bolt of Force lighting from Tyrans. He spun and sent the bolt toward Raptus. The leader held out his hand, absorbed the lightning, and suddenly the room around Jasin went completely black. He gasped in fear and raised his lightsaber against any potential block, but he realized it was a foolish move–not only could he not see, he could not sense the Dread Masters anymore, either. An attack could come from any direction.
So he stood still, closed his eyes, and felt for disturbances in the air. He detected two. He spun his lightsaber back to block the hot blade of Styrak and at the same time raised his left hand to absorb another bolt from Tyrans. This time, the redirected lightning found its mark, knocking Raptus off his feet. Jasin’s vision and senses instantly cleared.
Scourge and Kira were now in the middle of the fray, Scourge dueling Calphayus and Kira dueling Brontes. And around the corner…
Jasin grinned, spun, and slashed again at Styrak. It caught the Dark Lord off guard for a moment, plenty of time for Ylenia to run her lightsaber through his gut. Unfortunately the Dark Lord sensed it coming and leapt to the side, and Jasin had to block Ylenia’s blow to keep from being impaled by his ally.
“This isn’t going well,” Ylenia noted.
“No,” Jasin replied, “it’s not.”
* * *
Tran’thar entered the chamber and saw chaos. Methic was struggling against his own men, trying to free himself from the steel grasp of Broonmark and Pierce, while Jaesa and Gareb dueled Bestia. Across the room, Jasin and his allies were engaging the other Dread Masters. Only Raptus was unoccupied.
“Methic’s being controlled by Raptus,” Xalek noted.
Tran’thar nodded as he realized Xalek was right. No wonder the other Dread Masters were going to such pains to keep the others off Raptus.
Tran’thar turned to Khem. “Eat Raptus.”
Khem nodded and charged in, vibrosword coming at Raptus’ throat. The Dark Lord raised a calm hand and sent Khem flying back into the wall. Gareb’s Trandoshan and his Padawan leapt in at Raptus in unison, and Styrak turned away from Jasin for a moment to blast them away.
“Okay then,” Tran’thar growled.
Igniting his lightsaber, he leapt in at Raptus. Bestia and Tyrans turned toward him and sent bolts of lightning at him, but he absorbed them and sent them at Raptus. Raptus blocked them, but by that time Tran’thar was only a few meters away from Raptus. With a swift move, he hit the Dread Master over the head with the pommel of his saber. Raptus dropped to the floor and ignited his blade, but the desired result had been brought about.
* * *
Methic froze in confusion as Styrak and Tyrans turned into Broonmark and Pierce. What was this, a trick?
No, he realized. The trick was that he’d been fighting the Dread Masters. With a start, he realized he’d nearly killed Jaesa and Vette, and he hung his head in shame.
“I’m all right now, guys,” he said. “Let me go.”
Broonmark started to comply, but Pierce held up a hand, signaling him to wait, and turned to Quinn.
“Colonel? You want to examine him?”
Quinn came over, pulled out a brain scanner, and waved it over Methic’s head. He nodded.
“He’s clean,” Quinn said.
Broonmark let got. Methic sighed in relief and bent over to pick up his lightsabers. The fighting across the room was fierce, he realized. Dread Forces had been pouring in, occupying Havoc Squad and the other non-Force sensitives. He realized that was what the Dread Masters wanted. Well, then, they’d get exactly what they wanted.
Igniting his lightsaber, Methic leapt across the room.