A Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic fanfic by Princess Artemis
© S.D. Green 2005, except for the really obvious parts that are © BioWare and LucasArts
Darth Revan strode toward the Ebon Hawk, her new apprentice Darth Stilita in tow. She grinned, yellow eyes flashing. It felt good, so right, to claim her rightful place as the Dark Lord of the Sith. The inevitable culmination of a life, what she knew of it at least, lived in Darkness. There were just a few minor matters to address, little things such as slaughtering Malak for his impudence, attacking her from a distance like a coward. It didn't matter to her that she couldn't remember her previous life as Revan; she would fill her new existence with future glories. She knew she was more powerful than the old Revan, and she reveled in it.
She expected little resistance from the crew that had inadvertently helped her regain access to her Star Forge. Oh, they hadn't meant to, they had tried to reach the Star Forge to destroy it, by the dangerous gamble of the Jedi Council. Well, they would soon find how well that had turned out.
The crew of the Ebon Hawk spotted her and jogged up the stretch of white beach to meet her. Carth spoke first. "Bastila! It's good to see you, I was worried about you after..." He slowed down and a puzzled expression replaced the previous relief. "W-where's Jolee? What happened?"
Revan tapped her teeth with a fingernail, a tiny smile on her face. "He died fighting the Dark Lord," she answered, too sweet to be anything but venom.
"What? Wait, what, what are you talking about?"
Mission was just as confused. "Malak wasn't there, was he? Jolee run out of here like a gizka with a rancor on his tail. He was worried about you."
Bastila, the newly renamed Darth Stilita, put her hands on her hips and declared in an icy tone, "No, fools, Revan has reclaimed her throne! He refused to bow down to her might and he died for it."
Mission gasped in disbelieving horror while Carth took a moment to let this revelation sink in. "Ni'e, that can't be...you...no, I don't believe it," he said.
Still on her tirade, Stilita shouted, "Now all of you must bow to Revan reborn or die!"
A quick Force shove sent Stilita sprawling. "I'll speak for myself, apprentice," Revan said, and Stilita simply nodded, chastised. "Now, as Darth Stilita was saying...I have reclaimed my rightful title and rule. Swear loyalty now or regret it at your leisure." Revan turned to address all of them, Dark Side bleached eyes lighting upon Carth, Canderous, Mission, HK-47, Zaalbar, and T3-M4 in turn.
Zaalbar held his head in his paws and uttered a quiet, keening wail that held no words. HK-47 stood tall, his grinning and malevolent voice standing in well for his motionless droid face. "Answer: Yessss, master! Of course, master! I could not be more delighted to hear you reclaim your rightful place. I look forward to the bloody massacre and charred corpses we will leave in our wake."
"No!" Carth yelled, "This isn't you, I know it...you're, you're not Revan, I can feel it!"
Stilita stood and dusted sand from her dark robes. "My, my, I think he's in love with you, master," she sneered.
Revan glanced at Stilita, then looked at Carth. "Is that so?" She stepped toward him, and Carth took a step back. He wasn't quite fast enough—Revan rested her arms on his shoulders, gracing him with a predatory grin. She had found him an endless source of amusement, stringing him along, even making the effort to turn his son way from the Sith just to see how blind he was. It delighted to her to no end that he had fallen for her. "I am Darth Revan, and you could rule at my side if you wanted," she whispered, voice silky. Before he could answer, she kissed him.
He couldn't claim he had been caught off guard, but Carth was unsure what to do with himself. He found, much to his confusion, that he was returning the kiss and holding her with a startling desperation.
Despite the unfavorable conditions of having a few two many Darths on the beach, Mission couldn't keep an offended "ew" from escaping.
Carth didn't hear it, but he reacted as if he had. He managed to shove Revan away, with no little force, but she didn't seem to mind. "No," he choked, then with a stronger voice, "No, you, you aren't the woman I love."
"Aw, I'm so disappointed," Revan mock pouted.
Shaking hands raked through dark hair. "But, but...I, we, I'll help you find her."
Revan glared. "You are an epic fool. A twice blind fool! I was and always will be Revan!" Sometimes her amusements failed to amuse. She spun on her heel and stared at the rest. "Anyone else feel like denying me?"
Canderous shrugged. "I already told you it doesn't matter to me. Light side, Dark side, what's the difference? I'll follow you where ever you go, Revan."
"Well, at least there's one smart man here," Revan said. "I'll just assume T3 will follow me, since I am its master."
T3-M4 confirmed her statement with a series of rather resigned sounding beeps.
"T3 doesn't sound very happy about that," Mission observed, her head tails wrapped protectively around her throat. "Me and Big Z, we're with Carth on this one."
Zaalbar shook his head. /I swore a life debt to her, Mission. I can't dishonor that sacred vow./
"What?" Mission shouted. "Zaalbar, it doesn't count if she's gone all Sith on you!"
"But it does, Mission," Revan said, grinning. "He said it himself, he confirmed it, when you all found out I was Revan the first time around. And you were nearly as blind as Carth, going on and on about how you didn't see a Sith Lord in front of you." She laughed. "I can't believe the gullibility of some people! You watched me revel in cruelty and anger for months, and you still thought I was on your side! Even Stilita was a bit deluded at that point. You, Mission, I'll put aside your delusions to youthful naïveté; at least you have an excuse. Perhaps you had never seen a true Sith before and didn't realize what was before your very eyes."
"No! I'm not going to join you!" She stomped a foot then looked up at her Wookiee friend. "Big Z, you can't go with her, she's evil."
/I'm sorry Mission, I can't go back on the traditions of my people. It would be a betrayal to my ancestors and myself. Join us./
"Oh, oh, y'mean those traditions you tossed out the nearest window when Chuundar had Freyyr killed? The ones that you upheld because Wookiee slavery is such an old and venerated practice? I see you holding Bacca's Blade and I know what you said about it," Mission snapped. "Yeah, you hold onto traditions all right. At least if you break this one you'll be helping people and being loyal to your friends."
Zaalbar looked down at Bacca's Blade, then back at Mission. /Perhaps you are right. We have abandoned the old ways.../
"You still owe me a life debt, you walking carpet!" Revan declared.
Carth ran over to Mission's side and grabbed her wrist. "As long as I'm here, you won't have to serve the Sith. Come on, we have to get out of here and find some way to save Ni'e and Bastila." With that, he started running up the beach, away from the Ebon Hawk, Mission in tow. Mission motioned to Zaalbar, and he too began to flee.
"Not so fast!" Revan shouted. She snapped back her arm as if she held a rope in it, and indeed she did, a Force binding. The bind yanked Carth's feet out from under him and he slammed into the sand so hard the wind was knocked from him. Mission tripped over Carth's prone body, and the only thing that saved Zaalbar from following them down was a quick leap. It took a moment for Mission and Carth to sort themselves out—a little longer than it should have, since the ends of Mission's head tails had instinctively wrapped themselves around Carth's arm and neck. Mission managed to get up after regaining control of her errant lekku, but Carth could only turn over; it felt as though something was eating him from the inside out, some dull burrowing thing, leaving him with just enough strength to gasp and watch. He didn't doubt that Revan had used some kind of Dark Force power on him.
Mission tried to help Carth up, but it did no good. The Force affliction left him too weak. "You're not doing too good...well, all right, I'll just have to, to drag you away, that's it, that's what I'll do..." That plan was not the best; Carth was a good deal stockier than a teenaged Twi'lek could handle, but Mission couldn't think of anything else.
"Now, Zaalbar, you still owe me a life debt," Revan said. "I'm not one to release anyone from their servitude to me except through death. I can kill you if that's what you really want. But, what I want is a demonstration of loyalty." Revan waved her hand and said, "You want to kill Mission. To fulfil your oath."
For all that had happened on Kashyyyk, words spoken in derision of ancient tradition and values, in reality, Zaalbar had not quite disposed of them in his mind. It would have been better, perhaps, if he had. Then the Force persuasion wouldn't have worked so well; he did put great value on his life-debt. /Forgive me, Mission! I must honor my debt/ he howled, and raised Bacca's Blade to strike her down.
"No, Zaalbar! No!" Those were the last words Mission spoke as the unexpected attack eviscerated her. She fell forward onto Carth, draining her lifeblood onto the white sand of the beach. Carth had strength enough to set a hand on the dead girl's shoulder.
Zaalbar straightened and shook his head, freeing it from the compulsion. He rounded on Revan and roared/You tricked me! For that you will pay/
"Of course I tricked you," Revan answered, as if it were the most obvious and reasonable thing in the galaxy. Zaalbar charged, but Stilita stepped in and with a flick of her double bladed lightsaber, clove him in two. He died before he hit the ground.
"Are we finished now?" Canderous asked, unconcerned with the drama playing out. He pointed up at the blue sky. "With the disruptor field down, I'm sure the Republic and Sith fleets are having fun up there. Don't you think we ought to get going?"
"Yes, of course. Just one more thing." Revan stepped over to Carth's side and said, "Maybe I'll just keep you by my side anyway, whether you like it or not." She grinned down at Carth. "You did say we were in this together, didn't you? That I gave you a reason to live?" Her words mocked him, but sworn and witnessed by the Force and the unyielding stubbornness of Onasi nature, neither one of them had any idea what that would entail.
She then Force choked him unconscious, and had Canderous carry him into the Ebon Hawk.
'Mandalorian of burden' wasn't quite what Canderous had in mind as for what work he might perform for Revan, but it could have been worse. He just wished Onasi would stop muttering strange codes in his ear. That's what it sounded like to him, at any rate. Force this and Force that, it was a litany of denials and statements that would likely have made Bastila, Jedi Princess of Pretentious Prattle, want to slap him upside the head.
Canderous dropped his unconscious charge on the bed in what passed for a med. Bay on the Hawk and restrained him so he wouldn't cause trouble when he woke up. Then he wandered into the cockpit. "Hey, Bastila, I need to ask you something."
Stilita narrowed her eyes at Canderous. "That's Darth Stilita. Remember it."
"Whatever. Come here 'Stilita', and tell me what Carth's nattering about."
The two walked into the med. Bay, and Stilita frowned. "It sounds like the Jedi code."
"That's what I thought, all that Force talk."
"No, no, it's not quite right. It only sounds like the code. This is some perversion."
"What, like the Sith code?" Canderous grinned.
"No, you idiot, it's all wrong." Stilita waved her hand. "Although it sounds like he's muttering about the Sith code as well." Stilita leaned in so she could make better sense of Carth's quiet mumbling.
"There is no emotion; there is the Force. No peace; there is the Force. Peace is a lie; there is only the Force. No ignorance, no knowledge; there is the Force. No passion; there is the Force. Through passion I gain nothing; there is only the Force." All of this whispered, muttered, and it appeared to Stilita that whatever was causing Carth to say these things was not pleasant.
"Perhaps he's just having a nightmare," she said, voice hesitant. Something tugged at the edge of her mind, but she brushed it away. "Don't worry about it, just more delusions." She breezed out of the room.
"I didn't say I was worried about it," Canderous said to Stilita's retreating back. "I was just curious if you knew what the hell he was talking about."
After spending a few moments lying through her teeth to Admiral Dodonna and Vandar, Revan had the Ebon Hawk well on her way to the Star Forge. With Darth Stilita and Canderous installed in the cockpit and enjoying the wonderful irony of having a Jedi escort onto her dark factory, Darth Revan decided she would pass a little time amusing herself.
She stood at Carth's head, one hand settled to each side, and watched him. As Stilita had said, he did seem to be having a rather nasty nightmare. Revan wished she could feed off of whatever plagued him, but it was often a difficult matter to sense the emotions of Force blinds with strong wills. One of the reasons that the Dark Side was so appealing was the ability to enjoy the emotions that others broadcast, and in many cases, draw power from them. Taris had been a thing of beauty, to her. It wasn't mindless cruelty; she wouldn't bomb planets just to feel all the death, but it was something that empowered her and delighted her. Why experience such emotions as stunning pain the way Bastila had when they could be pleasant and enjoyable? It wasn't just so-called negative emotions that a Sith could draw power from, but they were often the most potent. It was all about passion; sure, Iziz the Jawa's happiness at having his people rescued had given Revan some raw material for power, but it was nothing like the fury of the Selkath when they found out about the Progenitor. Even love would work, if it were passionate enough. Revan wondered if that was the reason the Jedi proscribed attachments. Did they realize that the seductive power of the Dark Side was close when a person could feel the emotions of another, the passions? Should that person learn to draw power from them, they were well on their way to the Dark Side. She wondered for a moment if there were any Sith who based their power on love and familial attachments. Probably not; the darker passions were easier to induce, easier to find...that and a lovey-dovey Sith would likely be unable to stand against the more common sort simply because the undeniable passions of love often lead to mercy, a terrible weakness.
Fighting Mandalorians was useless for feeding off their emotions...there was just something about Mandalorians that made them difficult to sense. And the whole Leviathan adventure had been a huge disappointment. Carth was just as Force dense as a Mandalorian, which made Revan's hope for reveling in his feelings when he finally got a shot at Saul almost impossible. Just an echo came back through Saul, and it was hardly worth a Force spark. It frustrated her to no end knowing that there was so much anger and hate standing right next to her and she couldn't use any of it. She was glad the Force had thrown Mission and Zaalbar in her path, if only so she had some people around that she could fully feel their passions.
She settled in a little closer so she could hear whatever it as Carth was saying, but she could make very little of it out. Just that he hissed unsounded words as if they hurt to say. Soon the words were sounded, and now it was as if Carth were fighting not to say them.
"No serenity; there is the Force. No death, no life, no love, no hate; there is the Force. No Dark, no Light; there is the Force."
I wonder what sort of dreams cause men to obsess on the Force like that? Revan mused. Especially men for whom no love was lost on the Jedi or the Sith.
"No identi...no, no, identity...no self, no identity...no ide..." Carth shook his head hard, and woke up with a gasp. "Identity, there's, there's, no, yes...not a thing, not a tool."
"Not a tool?" Revan asked, curious.
"Huh?" Carth looked up at her, startled, then tried to shrink away, but there was no where to go. "Uh, why, why do you ask?"
Revan shrugged. "I'm curious. You know that. What were you dreaming about?"
"Caused enough trouble answering your questions," he grumbled. "Shouldn't have done that, should have kept it to myself."
"Ah, well, the harm's been done by now, hasn't it? What's one more little secret?" She paused. "Well, I suppose if you hadn't told me about Saul, and I knew then what I know now, I wouldn't have been so encouraging. How was I supposed to know you were gunning for one of my best soldiers?"
"He would have died anyway."
Revan gave a little shrug. "So, what were you dreaming about? The Force?" She started stroking his hair, much the way an owner would a furry pet.
"Stop that," Carth demanded.
"No. I like your hair. Dark Lords aren't immune to handsome pilots, you know." She smiled, and it looked genuine enough.
Somehow, someway, Carth found it in himself to play with her...maybe habit, or maybe just to forget for a moment what had really happened. Maybe because it was a connection to the Revan he loved, not the Dark Lord he hated. Everything had gone quite surreal on him. "Oh, now I'm a handsome pilot. Not a Gamorrean pig-man, not a monkey-lizard..."
"Nope, not a hairless Wookiee nor a sexless marsh-toad. My handsome pilot. So what were you dreaming about?"
Carth's playfulness evaporated. "I'm not yours, no one owns me."
"I suppose that's true, all except for the mine part." Revan wasn't angry at all; she was fully convinced that everything her eyes surveyed was hers, if not now, then in the future. She continued petting his hair. "Sooner or later. Easier on you to admit it sooner, more fun for me if you take your time. Short term fun, anyway. I've never been fond of broken toys, even if breaking them was satisfying."
As futile as he knew it was, Carth still tried to get away. "Let me go! There is life and death and love and hate and identity and I'm not going to be owned by anything!"
Revan snickered, amused at how strange he was acting. She figured he must have had a first rate nightmare; he didn't seem all there just yet. "We'll see about that." She changed tactics; if he was dreaming about identity, she didn't want to know. It struck too close and she was here to have fun, not get angry. "And didn't you say you loved me? That makes you mine already."
"I, I didn't, I didn't say that, and no, it wouldn't. Stop touching me!"
"Not in so many words, and no, I'm not going to stop. I always liked these bits of unruly hair, do you leave them like that on purpose?"
Carth didn't answer; there wasn't much point to it, since it seemed Revan was just trying to rile him with silliness. Talk of ownership angered him and for some reason gave him a sudden, unholy headache out of proportion to any emotion he was feeling.
"Back to the 'Carth loves me' part. Will you talk about that? I'm very curious to find out how fundamentally deluded you really are."
"Very, very deluded," was his unhappy answer. He felt like he was fighting a mental rancor and losing—but he also felt as though he had to fight it, whatever it was. It made any other thoughts too difficult to keep to himself. As if he'd ever found it easy to keep his thoughts to himself around Revan... "There's no, uh, ownership involved, though. Binding, you could say, but not ownership. I'm such a damned fool. I do love you, and that makes certain demands of me, but I don't know why. You've never been anything but repulsive, I see that now, I don't know why I didn't...didn't before...but..." He trailed off, headache blinding for a moment. He growled, "There is life and death and love and hate and identity!" Glaring right into Revan's eyes, Carth hissed, "I saw another life in you. I don't care, I love you, I will save you, and I will not be a tool!"
Revan stepped back. So much for having fun. She didn't like the look in Carth's eyes when he said that. His conviction that he had seen another life, another Revan, somewhere in her, was real. That she had felt, despite her difficulty sensing his moods, and she didn't like it at all. If she didn't know better, she would have thought he had seen a vision through the Force. One way or another, she would not tolerate that piercing look a second time.
Not wanting to think about the import of such a gaze, the insistence on identity, nor the sudden strong sense of defiance she felt from Carth, she brushed them aside. She did not take well to being rattled, and she had been, and she didn't know why. Instead, she channeled her feelings into anger and petty spite. "It's nice, I think," she said, tone slow and deliberate, "when delusions fall away. I'm honored that you find me repulsive; you should." She waved her hand, putting Carth in stasis. "You are too Light to honestly see me any other way. But we must replace blindness for blindness." Using one of her short lightsabers and surgical care, Revan burned out Carth's eyes. Another wave of her hand removed the stasis and the restraints.
Carth immediately covered his face with his arms, partly an instinctive move to protect himself from something that had already occurred. His breath was gasping and ragged, but otherwise he made no sound. Revan was disappointed; she had hoped to hear Carth's pain, not just see it. No such luck on feeling it either; that had gone as soon as it arrived.
When it became obvious she would hear nothing except the unfathomable attempts by Carth to speak through his agony, she left the room, forgetting for a while his strange talk of life and death and love and hate and identity and a twice blind fool's perfect perception. She was the only Revan that had ever been.
"We're getting close to the approach," Canderous stated, preparing the Ebon Hawk for docking at the Star Forge. "It'll be a few minutes, so we should get ready."
"I'm prepared," Stilita said.
"All right then. I'm not quite ready. You handle the approach while I go get suited up." Canderous got out of the pilot's seat and turned around. He wasn't expecting to see Carth standing there, still in Cassus Fett's armor. "What are you doing here?" It was an honest question; if it had been up to him, he wouldn't let Carth wander around the Hawk. Especially not in fancy armor and possibly armed, although Canderous didn't see any vibroblades or blasters on him.
Carth shrugged. "I didn't have anywhere else to go." He rubbed his forehead. "Been keeping my seat warm?"
Canderous snorted. "It's not your seat, Onasi. Unless you've decided to join Revan now?"
A faint, weary smile tugged at Carth's mouth. "No, but if it would keep her from being flown into the broadside of a planet, I might have piloted the ship."
"I can fly the Hawk as well as anyone." It was almost true; Canderous was a talented pilot and it had taken both of their combined efforts to escape the destruction of Taris. However, he knew he had nothing on the born pilot Onasi. Canderous was man enough to admit this to himself. He stepped past Carth, and on the way, he added, "You look like hell, by the way."
"My head hurts."
Canderous paused and took a closer look at Carth. "Yeah, I'll bet." Someone was understating the matter by quite a lot. At a glance or a distance, nothing appeared out of the ordinary, but close up, Canderous could see that the curve of Carth's closed eyelids was wrong; and it really was nothing more than that. His eyelashes were still there, as were traces of tears. Canderous couldn't blame him; he imagined that there wasn't enough kolto in the galaxy to make Carth look less like a ghost right now. He shook his head and continued on his way. "Whatever the Jedi did to you, Revan," he muttered to himself, "they definitely did a number on you." The rest of his opinion, that blinding one of the best star pilots he had met, for whom he held a very grudging respect in terms of battle only, was not perhaps the best military move, Canderous kept to himself. Neither did he say out loud that he thought this iteration of Revan might be lacking in the tactical genius of the original. She was still Revan, and he would still follow her, but he did wonder if she would have been able to defeat Mandalore and his people in her current state.
After Canderous left, Carth sat in the pilot's seat, running his fingertips along the wall and console the only concession made to his new found blindness. He knew he couldn't pilot the Hawk now, but he had no trouble making his way around. He knew her too well.
"Don't touch anything," Stilita said.
"Wasn't planning on it. I just thought I'd get comfortable for a bit, before everything goes to hell." He leaned back in the seat, just as he had numerous times over the course of their mission for the Star Maps. Booted feet rested against the console, and Stilita scrambled to correct whatever may have gone wrong...until she belatedly and with no little embarrassment remembered that control of the craft was entirely on the co-pilot's side of the cockpit. She was an average pilot, capable enough, but over the months they had spent seeking out the Star Maps, she had hardly done any flying herself.
Stilita glared at him, put off by his placid attitude. He had never been a calm person as far as she knew; he was rather intense, a bit on the suicide by proxy side...but now that things seemed their worst in his world, he was calm. It was unnerving. She tried to push the feeling aside; it was just as likely that he'd given up to the inevitable, didn't care anymore.
"Why, uh, why did she do it?" he asked after a short silence.
"You two have a bond, from when you saved her life before. You have an idea of what is going through her mind, right? I suppose I understand why she fell, it couldn't have been easy to even pretend to be anything but on the Dark Side after you fell, and she's definitely been cruel just for the sake of it before...but this was different. She's a liar, but she's not very good at it when she's startled. Likes control too much. So why did she do it, why blind me? And why did she think it would make a difference?"
Stilita frowned. It wasn't a question she could answer. She had felt Revan's unease, and she thought she had an idea from where it may have come. Revan didn't remember her past life, she was, in many ways, a newborn. Stilita sensed through their bond that Revan had felt something tugging at the Light she didn't recall. "You should know better than I do," she said after a moment, although she doubted her own statement. He wouldn't have asked if he really knew. "Caprice, perhaps."
"Mmm." Carth rubbed his forehead. "I guess so. Maybe. I don't know. This isn't, isn't...this isn't...going to, uh, go well." He got up and shuffled out of the cockpit, trailing fingers along the wall. "Gonna be sick..."
For the continued cleanliness of the cockpit, if Carth did end up getting sick, it wasn't there. Stilita watched him leave, and for reasons she never could explain, she felt sick as well.
"Revan, what in all hell are you thinking?" Canderous demanded as he stood on the Hawk's gangplank. They had just watched their Jedi escort defeat a squad of Sith and run into the Star Forge to further secure their passage. "This place is crawling with Sith who aren't loyal to you. You need every advantage you can grab."
Revan adjusted her bloodstone mask one more time. "I am taking an advantage. I'm telling everyone here that this is my Star Forge. I'm walking in like I own the place, which, incidentally, I do."
Canderous almost sneered, but fought it down. Not that she would have seen the expression behind his Mandalorian armor; it was the principle. His guess must have been right—she had lost some of her tactical mind, although he granted her current plan might catch some of the enemy off guard out of sheer audacity. Still, it was a fundamental fact of battle: feet had to be on the real estate. Declaring ownership in the middle of a swarm of enemies just didn't work.
"It's psychological. Trust me, the Force serves me well."
"All right, but I'm not watching him. He gets shot, it's all on you." Canderous strode forward, hefting his favorite repeater, ready to fight.
Revan, now dressed in the voluminous black robes she had worn before as Dark Lord, held a chain in her left hand. Attached to the chain was Carth—his hands were shackled in front of him and the chain was part of that. He had an idea of what was going on, and he did not like it. Revan planned to use him to proclaim her dominance. To say she was so sure of herself and her place that she could parade captives around and fight at the same time.
He agreed with Canderous; it was a damn fool thing to do. He thought it likely she was also doing it just to humiliate him, and that galled. He did hope that dumb luck was on his side, though; he was as good as a giant target with no way of knowing if he was about to be hit at point blank range. Cassus Fett's armor wasn't that good.
He didn't doubt Revan had the power to pull off a stunt like this, but it was not the best tactical move. Never mind the chill sense that Revan's actions were dooming her to a painful end. He wished that headache would go away. It would be hard enough being lead around as it was...he had no idea how long his other senses would take to compensate enough to spare him vertigo, he didn't need a migraine making it worse.
The Force moves in mysterious ways, Canderous thought as they traveled through the outer edges of the Star Forge. Revan's plan to both use and humiliate Carth worked often enough for Stilita, Revan, and himself to get in a couple good shots before the enemy Sith realized what was happening. He thought it very likely that she was also using some of her Dark Force powers to affect their minds as well. Maybe Revan projected such confidence in her place, such an alpha hound mentality, that the Sith, conditioned for pack behavior, immediately responded. Canderous couldn't tell, being immune to Force suggestion and thus unable to sense its use. That many of the Sith recognized her robes and mask also gave her an edge. Whatever it was, Canderous wasn't going to question the gift-giver. It made blasting them and keeping his hide intact a lot easier, and in the end, that's all that really mattered. Perhaps he had underestimated her tactical skill; he remembered the Revan that had fought his people and won, and certainly this Revan worked differently, but it didn't seem to be less effective. At least, not for this situation. He still wasn't certain this new Revan could have defeated the Mandalore. He would make a final decision on the matter after they had secured the Star Forge and he saw her leading the Sith fleet.
He did smile slightly at Carth's luck, though. The pilot had managed to be dragged through half the Forge with only a few blaster hits to show for it, and every one that had found its mark only winged him. His ability to dodge blaster fire was uncanny; it always had been, but Canderous had thought being able to see the other guy was a big part of Carth's reflexes. Apparently not—maybe he had just enough Force-sensitivity to know when he was being shot at. It was as likely an explanation as any; a person didn't have to be a full-blown Jedi to have a hell of an intuition.
It would also explain why he walked a step ahead of being dragged. None of the rest noticed, including Carth, and he wondered at that.
While she was fighting, lightsaber clashing against lightsaber, Revan felt a sudden tug at her left hand. She ignored it for the moment, her attention focused on the Dark Jedi before her. Her Force senses alerted her to another behind her. Twisting to fight them both, what met her eye nearly startled her enough to drop her 'saber. That almost cost her, but she recovered and finished off the Dark Jedi before her.
Then she turned to get a better look at the impossible.
Stilita battled a Sith soldier and Canderous covered them, but that wasn't surprising. What did surprise her was the Sith she had sensed behind her—he had a chain wrapped around his neck, choking him to death. The only one with access to a chain was Carth, and it was not possible that he had done what he had obviously done. There was no way he could have used it as a whip to strangle the Sith, but he had.
"What happened?" she demanded, a squeak in her voice she didn't care for at all.
Carth was holding his head as best he could with shackled hands and wavering, as if standing upright was a very difficult thing. He also held the end of the chain in one hand. "There, he...he came up, uh, gggh, he came up, behind you...nnmm..."
Stilita finished off her Sith and turned to see what Revan was on about. Her expression was incredulous. "What happened?"
"Heh, you should see the look on your face, 'Stilita'," Canderous said with a smirk. "I think Revan's description, what was it? Oh yes, smunched up like a kinrath pup, that sounds right. Anyway, I'll spare you the obvious details; you can see what happened just as clearly as I can. I'm a bit surprised myself, but...it looks like Carth saw that Sith through the Force. Saw him dead to rights, judging by his current state of asphyxiation."
"That's not possible. He's Force blind," Revan insisted.
"And he's regular blind, too. That didn't stop him from seeing that Sith. I saw the whole thing; he saw that Sith. You want to say he didn't, go ahead, but I don't believe in coincidences like that. Sometimes someone gets in a lucky shot, but that was not a lucky shot." Canderous put his repeating blaster on his shoulder and started walking forward. "You go ahead and gawk, I'll go see what's in this room up here."
Revan unwrapped the chain from around the dead Sith's neck. "Come on," she said sharply, pulling on the chain. She didn't see any Force talent in Carth, but she didn't believe in luck either. She figured that with so much Dark Side energy around them, he could have channeled it without being formally Force sensitive. That was not unheard of, although it would be surprising for someone as Force blind as Carth.
When she yanked on the chain, Carth jerked forward, keeping his feet by main force of will. He was dizzy and nauseated—and as much as he didn't want to admit it, he could see where he was being led. Not well, not well enough to walk unaided, but enough. Enough to wish he couldn't, for the Star Forge was an hideous place seen however it was he was seeing it. It wanted to devour them; it had dark teeth and horrifying madness. Seeing this served to redouble his efforts to protect Revan; otherwise he would take that chain and use it to garrote himself to get away from the Star Forge's crawling walls. It was outside his ability to understand how Stilita and Revan walked through it without going insane. Maybe they couldn't see it. Maybe he was imagining things.
Somehow, though, he knew he wasn't. He was seeing through the Force, that was the only possibility, although he found it almost impossible to believe.
The unadulterated evil he saw would explain how Revan and Malak could come here with the best of intentions and find it a shortcut to hell, however. Even the slightest Darkness in them would have been magnified, no matter why they came.
He had never been so relieved at any one simple thing in his entire life as he was when the Force sight faded and the world became an ordinary dark once again.
That his headache went away was secondary.
The room Canderous had gone to explore turned out to be a small, personalized armor factory. "Pretty useful," he said under his breath as he let the machine scan him. As he went to fetch the armor it made for him, Stilita came in.
"I don't think I can wear this," Canderous said, not turning to look at Stilita.
"Why ever not? From what Revan and Malak told me of this Star Forge, what it creates is perfectly suited to the person it is created for. In fact, every fighter and ship in the fleet was manufactured with their crews already in mind. It is one of the reasons the Sith fleet is so effective."
Canderous held up the armor for Stilita to see. "This is the armor of the Mandalore. I'm not the Mandalore."
"Perhaps you are and don't realize it yet. The Rakatan Elders spoke the truth: the Star Forge is filled with Dark Side energies. It may see your future."
"Huh. Well, I did say that if Darth Malak fell into my lap on the Hawk it wouldn't surprise me. I've just seen too much." With that, Canderous quickly changed into the much better armor patterned after the Mandalore's. Stilita had the machine scan her as well. For her it produced a sleek red robe with gold embroidery and a circlet of gold. When she donned the garments, she could feel them augmenting her Battle Meditation, making it easier for her to move swiftly into the frame of mind needed to use it. She also sensed that the circlet would make it easier to use her Force powers.
"This will be quite useful, I should think," she said, adjusting the circlet.
While Stilita and Canderous finished settling into their new armor and robes, Revan and Carth entered the room. Revan shut the door with a wave of her hand. "What have you found?"
"Personal armor manufacturing device," Canderous answered. "It definitely makes good armor, but I think it has delusions of grandeur."
She looked over Canderous' new set of armor and nodded. While she didn't remember defeating the Mandalore, she had seen holos of him. "It suits you, Mandalore."
"I suppose if you feel I should bear the title, I will. To the victor go the spoils, and I think that goes for granting rule as well, now that the clans are scattered. I'm not sure how the other Mandalorians will feel about it, but I'll kick them into line."
"That's one way of gaining allies," Carth said.
"Time honored," Revan replied. She smoothed down a bit of her black robe. "I don't need to change my armor, these robes and mask have served me well in the past and they serve me well now."
"Shall we go then, Master?" Stilita asked.
Standing as if she were sniffing the air, Revan held up a hand. She lowered it and relaxed. "We have a moment. There's not much farther for us to go. Let's take the time to regroup, heal. Then we can go on."
"Sounds like a plan, as long as those doors stay shut," Canderous said as he pulled out a few medpacks from his pouch and passed them around. Stilita might have been able to Force heal them without tiring herself too much, but Revan was incapable, and the kolto saved them the effort. Fortunately they had stockpiled medpacks before Revan poisoned Manaan's source of kolto. They had enough to last a while yet.
After using one of the packs, Revan pulled Carth over to the machine. "Let's see what the Star Forge thinks is appropriate attire for you. Satisfy my curiosity." Canderous had to make an effort not to roll his eyes; not because anyone could see him, since Mandalore's armor came with a helmet, but because he'd unconsciously picked it up from Mission. Revan and her damned curiosity was going to get her killed some day, he thought.
"Ah...I, I don't exactly trust this thing," Carth said. After seeing the Star Forge through the Force, Carth was loath to keep his feet on the deck plating. He did not want the monstrosity actively looking at him.
"Your left hand doesn't trust your right hand," Revan scoffed. "Just stand there for a second."
Although the machine made no noise when it scanned, Carth flinched when it started. It made him feel far too exposed, although he sensed no real malice from the machine.
Canderous, curious despite himself, picked up the armor the Forge had made for Carth. "Nothing surprises me anymore." He looked over the robes, more suited to a Jedi than a soldier, and tossed them at Carth. He caught them with his face, although he made a surprising effort to catch them with his hands.
Carth felt the robes while he pulled them off his face. "Light Side. I didn't think it could do that." When he felt Revan disengage the lock on his shackles, he made a face. "I'd rather have armor instead of cloth between me and blasters, lightsabers, and grenades I can't see, Revan." When she didn't say anything, he said, annoyed, "Fine, fine, whatever you want, sister."
Canderous understood Carth's hesitation quite well, and he thought it would be a shame to leave behind a fine set of armor like Cassus Fett's. He didn't mind leaving his Mandalorian battle armor behind, as his new armor was superior in every way. But exchanging good armor for Jedi-styled robes when Carth couldn't take advantage of them seemed like a waste.
As soon as Carth managed to get the robes on, he wanted to tear them off. They burned. His attention was quickly diverted to the much clearer Force sight and the near-debilitating headache that accompanied it. Before he realized it was happening, he was on his knees, vomiting.
When he finished, he wiped his mouth with his sleeve. The robes weren't burning anymore at least. He turned toward Revan and said, "Please, please turn back. Go back to the Light Ni'e, you have to."
"Don't look at me like that!" Revan screeched, snapping out a vicious kick to Carth's head. He dropped to his side, covering his head.
"I can't look at you like anything!" In spite of that, he still seemed to be looking at Revan. "All I can do is talk, are you going to cut out my tongue, too?"
Revan grabbed the front of Carth's robes and hissed in his face. "I will when I get the chance!"
"If you don't turn back to the Light, you won't get a chance."
"Are you threatening me?"
"No, I...I don't know why I said that." He was sincere; wherever those words had come from, that certainty, he didn't know. Yet it was there, he was positive that if Revan kept to her Dark road there would be hell to pay, and soon. "Please go back."
"You forget I was never there to begin with." She snapped the shackles back on his wrists. "Now get up."
Carth staggered to his feet and kept anything else he might have to say to himself. He didn't tell her that he remembered there had been a Jedi Knight Revan once upon a time, a servant of the Light, and it made a difference to him, even if she didn't remember it. He wondered which of them was more foolish.
Behind him, he heard Stilita mutter to Canderous, "Why would the Forge make robes that radically increase and focus Force power for Carth?"
"You're the one that says the Star Forge can read the future, 'Stilita', not me," was all Canderous had to say in response.
Revan laughed in the faces of the three Dark Jedi that Malak had sent after her. Silly Sith wannabes thinking they could actually defeat her. She did respect that they were stronger than any of the others they had encountered on the Star Forge, but that was meaningless. Drive horror into their minds and she cut them down like wheat before the blade. She let Darth Stilita cut down one, and Canderous riddle the other with blaster holes.
"If that's the best he has left, I'll be shocked if Malak lasts more than a minute," Revan said.
"Master, he is far more powerful than these," Stilita replied.
"I doubt that. And he's afraid as well. He wouldn't face me on the Leviathan, and then he had a clear advantage. Just ran away like a kath with his tail between his legs."
"He defeated me," Stilita said. "And here he has a far greater advantage in the Star Forge itself."
Revan waved her hand. "I doubt the advantage will be so great that I can't surmount it. As for defeating you, what does that mean to me? Your talents lie elsewhere. He fights with brute force while you undermine with meditation. You ought to do that now. It won't do me any good if the Republic fleet is able to get to the Star Forge. And it will help me as well."
Stilita bowed. "Yes, my Lord." She found a spot, then sat down to meditate. A swift blue glow surrounded her.
Revan felt the power of the Battle Meditation reach out past her and into space. She smiled beneath her mask. "Good, good. This battle will be over soon. Canderous, guard Darth Stilita. I'm going on alone from here. I sense nothing of importance between me and Malak."
"I told you, I'm not babysitting your pet pilot, Revan...," Canderous replied as he situated himself to guard Stilita.
"Pet pilot?" Carth snapped, indignant.
Revan ignored it and said, "No, I'll take him with me."
The incredulity of both soldiers was palpable. In unison, they both shouted, "What?" Canderous looked over at Carth, a habitual glance that the two often shared when one of the less military minded of their hodge-podge party came up with some gizka-brained plan. He and Carth weren't friends, would never be friends, but they did share a remarkably similar outlook on idiotic plans. It wasn't until Carth turned toward Canderous that he remembered he couldn't share that secret 'these fools!' glance with him. It also served to remind him that something very strange was going on. Maybe Carth had turned toward his voice, but Canderous didn't think so. He was convinced that Carth could see something, although he wasn't sure what. He was also convinced that this was an unpredictable card in the side deck. Force sight, the Jedi robes the Star Forge made for him, Stilita's confusion over them, Carth's preternatural talent for dodging blaster fire blind, and that deadly strike against that Sith...none of it sat well with Canderous.
"Maybe it would be best for all concerned if you just killed him, Revan," Canderous suggested after a moment. "I've got a bad feeling about this."
"Oh, thanks, yeah, killing me would definitely be in my best interests," Carth muttered. Canderous was surprised to see that for an instant, Carth's expression suggested he did think it would be in his best interests. That put Canderous even more on edge.
"No, I have plans for him," Revan answered, and the firaxan smile was clear in her voice.
Canderous half-shrugged. "OK, whatever you want, Revan. Just don't tell me what it is, because I know I don't want to know." Obviously not military, so it's none of my concern, he thought to himself. But if he thinks it would be a good idea...? He's changed as much as I have, and he has his son now...there's more to it than what I'm seeing. There's something very wrong here.
Canderous found out soon enough what was wrong, but by then, it was too late.
Furious, Revan cut down yet another defense droid that the Star Forge had produced out of nothing. She hadn't sensed this trap. Of course she hadn't; there were no droids until she entered the room! There had been a number of Sith, but she had dispatched them with ease. These droids, however, were another thing entirely.
She frantically sliced into the nearest computer console, telling it to stop producing droids. She needed both hands to slice and defend herself from droid blasters, so she had left Carth to his own devices. That was her own fault for being arrogant, but it was no skin off her hide if the droids killed him. She would have liked to have kept him, but there were more important things to consider, such as keeping her own life.
Too bad Destroy Droid was a Light Sided power. She could use it, but it would be exhausting to destroy this many droids with it. She wanted to save her power for Malak.
The droid producing device sputtered and groaned, then with a flash, it stopped working. Good, one down, five to go, and a sea of red droids in between. She was about to dash over to the next computer panel when one of the droids skittered up and cornered her. Revan would have no trouble dispatching it, but the longer it took to get the production machinery down, the less chance she had to get out of here with her skin intact.
The end of a chain struck the droid like sudden lightning, shattering its one visual sensor. It went crazy, staggering about on spider legs and bumping into another droid. Stunned, for an instant, Revan just stood there.
"What are you doing? Move!" Carth shouted, pulling up on the chain, preparing for another strike.
She growled under her breath. She hadn't thought she had been that surprised, not enough to warrant being yelled at by someone who shouldn't have seen her hesitate in the first place. She ran over to the next console, not thinking about the sound of that chain tripping droids, putting out their sensors, and otherwise doing things its wielder could not possibly be making it do.
It didn't take a very long time to finally disable the last droid production unit, but it had taken too long for Revan's taste, and she had not made it out uninjured. Even using two lightsabers she couldn't deflect every blast, and that was when she didn't have to turn her back to the droids in order to slice the computers. In her robes, she still had a few of the medpacks, but she hadn't been planning to use them this soon, if at all. She looked over at Carth; he hadn't faired that well either, but fortunately for him, the droids had concentrated their efforts on her. They had only started attacking him in a distracted manner after he had shut a few of them down with the chain. Since he was not very badly hurt, Revan Force drained him.
The Force drain wasn't as effective as she would have liked, due to Carth's robes and his innate resistance, but it worked well enough to heal most of her injuries. She examined the rest to see if they were worth using a medpack on while Carth fought and lost the battle against vertigo. Finding that the rest of her hurts were minor, neither bad enough for a medpack nor to waste Force on, Revan made her way back toward the door she knew Malak hid behind.
"That was a dirty trick," Carth said as he managed to get up.
"Nice to know you aren't totally worthless. Quite useful as a backup battery."
"Mmm, I suppose I should have just let those droids blast you full of holes then?"
"I can handle myself quite well on my own. I didn't need any help." Revan picked up the end of the chain, glaring at it.
"I couldn't let them hurt you," Carth whispered to himself. He tapped his forehead with his fists. "Damnit, damnit, damnit."
"What are you grumbling about?" Revan continued glaring at the end of the chain. Carth should not have been able to hit those droids with it!
Instead of answering, Carth said, "Jedi Ni'esla Stargazer. You need to be her again. You have to."
"The false name the Jedi gave me was just Ni'esla," Revan ground out. "I do not need to be their puppet. I do not need to be their tool. I think you can understand that."
"Yes, yes, I understand that, I do...I do, I'm not a tool, I don't want to be a tool either. But you were a Jedi once. The real you, you were a Jedi. You did follow the Light. You have to again. You have to. You weren't always Dark, even if that's all you remember." Carth was holding his head now, though it didn't look like he was going to get sick again. "I, I, I told you I met, met Malak once. When he was a Jedi. He was strong, intelligent, and Light. He was also, uh, named Senil then, I didn't tell you that...maybe I forgot. Malak and Revan, you used them as cover names when you decided to help us. It wasn't very smart of the Jedi to rename you with half of your real name...I forgot that too, I guess, but something in me remembered. That's why I was, uh, so, so suspicious. I know I'm suspicious of everything, but...I mean, I was...more suspicious than usual. So I forgot, but part of me remembered, and that part remembered what a good person Ni'esla used to be I think. Could be again..."
"Will you stop rambling?" Revan said, annoyed. "I'm Revan, Dark Lord of the Sith. Emphasis, underline, exclamation point, DARK! If I've ever been Light Sided, Force forbid, I don't remember it and I'm perfectly happy to stay that way. I am not turning Light now, I never will."
"Please? I'm begging. Again. I'll do anything you want, anything you ask. Just go back, turn back, before it's too late."
Revan narrowed her eyes. "Not that it matters, but satisfy my curiosity. You would, say, slit your son's throat if I asked? I'm assuming that I get to ask now, since obviously a Light Sided person would never ask you to do that on a whim."
Carth took a shuddering breath. "If you went back to the Light, right now, yes, I would." Those words were not easily said, perhaps not willingly said.
There was silence for a space. "You want it that badly. Why? Is the Republic really worth murdering your son?"
"Th, that, that's not why, that's...not it..." He was clawing at his head now, as if he were trying to crack it open and physically pull out whatever was bothering him so much, whatever was driving him mad. "You have to, have to, there's, there's love and and hate and life, life, and death and i-i-identity and I won't be a tool! I can't be a tool! It's too much! I can't! You have to! You'll lose everything!"
"You've lost it," Revan declared, putting an end to the conversation, and dragged Carth into the room in which Malak waited.