Tales of Darth Skuldren
Chapter 1: Introduction

"Sith Enlightenment"

During the end of the New Sith Wars, during the reign of the Brotherhood of Darkness, this tale takes place...

A being of average height stood ominously over a chair. He was clad in dark robes offset by his shimmering eyes. Their grey stare pierced like daggers with an intensity that unnerved the man sitting before him; a young Jedi Knight.

Struggling within his restraints, the Jedi made another attempt at freeing himself. He closed his eyes and brought a blanket of calm over his conscience. Focus. Focus. Nothing. It was no use. Ever since he was captured, he had found himself powerless in the Force.

His captor turned and smiled. "You just don't give up, do you."

Pacing in front of the chair, the dark robed man addressed his captive. "I have severed you from the force. It will not return unless I will it. Now please, stop trying to escape, it divides your attention."

With his black-gloved hands tucked behind his back, the dark robed man turned away. "First, let me introduce myself. I am Darth Skuldren, and you are…?" He paused, waiting for a response.

Begrudgingly, the Jedi cast an irritated glare and replied, "Codal Rayn, Jedi Knight."

"And what do you think of my home master Rayn?" Asked Skuldren.

Rayn glanced around the room. It was a vast, gloomy library. Rows upon rows of ancient books were neatly stacked on the endless shelves. The room was large but there were no windows, just bookshelves and a solitary reading table. Heavy-duty industrial lights illuminated the green stone floor and black marble walls. A myriad collage of eerie shadows crisscrossed the expanse.

"I asked you a question, my friend." Skuldren's voice was calm and articulate.

"Seems lonely. Kind of place that gives you the spooks at night." Rayn looked back at his inquisitor.

"Yes, it is very lonely. You know I was exiled here by my masters. They presented it as a gift. An old abandoned library of neglected books and several non-functioning holocrons." Skuldren turned his piercing eyes on the Jedi. "They told me to fix the holocrons and return when I was successful. The answers lie in the Sith texts. But it was all a lie." His gaze floated off into the distance.

"So what now. Are you going to kill me or torture me or both?" Rayn said these words with a resolute defiance. He would face his destiny no matter what. Even in death, he would go with courage.

"Torture." The word rolled off the Sith's tongue and hung in the silence.

Three days ago Codal Rayne was walking peacefully along an empty street. It was early, the sun was still creeping over the horizon, and the streets were still damp with morning dew. Roe pigeons were scavenging through the garbage, digging for precious morsels of food. Life was thriving. Changing. Adapting.

As he strolled along, he reflected on his mission.

The Jedi Council had formed a task force to deal with a rogue Sith. He and three other Jedi were sent to the Bogdel system to try and find this Sith Lord and put a stop to him.

Right now Jedi Masters Mulser and Wasseur were investigating leads on another planet. That left Rayn and Jedi Knight Vok Quetel among the bliss of this beautiful city. Rolain Maxis was a bustling city and a center for the arts. Elegant sculptures marked every corner, music played over city-run audio systems, and garish paintings adorned the sides of towering skyscrapers.

Rayne and Quetel had been the honored guests of the city since the day they arrived. Day after day they attended banquets and balls. They met with numerous political hosts and chatted endlessly about what the Republic thought of the new Inner Rim Bill. The Jedi took it all in stride. Their mission was elsewhere.

The plan was simple. The Jedi would announce their arrival in the system and would attend as many public events as possible. They wanted attention. Hopefully it would attract the Sith Lord they were looking for.

Rayne remembered being briefed by Master Wasseur; her words were frank. "There is a Sith Lord who has been kidnapping Jedi for some time now. His third victim returned last week. The council has determined to bring him into justice. So far the war has drained the strength of our order. There will only be four of us."

Four.

At the time, four sounded like plenty. Rayne was fresh from passing the trials and had just gotten used to his new title as Jedi Knight. Anything was possible.

Now the gleam was gone. The stories had sunk in. During their journey, he read over the case files on the other three victims. All of them were taken by complete surprise. There was no warning in the 

Force. In fact, all of the victims noted that while in captivity none of them was able to make a connection to the Force.

In a remote location they were interrogated by a Sith. He talked to them. Talked. When Rayn read that, he was taken back. What kind of Sith would take the time to capture Jedi and talk to them. According to the reports the conversations were varied. Sometimes he revealed details of himself. Sometimes he lectured about philosophy. But one thing was constant. Each victim came back shaken. Visibly shaken.

Whatever was discussed somehow rocked the fundamental teachings of the Jedi Order. It caused the Jedi to question their beliefs. One of the captives was a respected Jedi Master. His mental state after the ordeal was what spurred the council to act.

There was more to this Sith than it seemed.

All of these thoughts flowed through the young Jedi's mind as he walked down the sidewalk. Listening to soothing music flow from the curbside speakers. Pigeons cooing over their morning meal. Blissfully. Unaware.

Crack.

And here he was. Taken by surprise and held captive in some Sith's library retreat.

And the Force was nowhere to be found.

"You look startled. I would say even pallid." Toyed the Sith as he continued to pace. A thin, black mustache curled with his smile. "What stories have they told…surely you know?" His eyes paused on Rayn's face. They were looking for an answer.

Surely he can read my thoughts. Even a padawan could see my fears through the Force. Thought Rayne.

"I'm not going to torture you, not unless knowledge is painful to you." His black cloaks fluttered as he spun on his heel.

Rayne didn't know whether to be relieved or not. Sith were natural liars. Right now he couldn't use the Force to determine one way or another.

"Why do you think the Force was given to us by the galaxy?" Asked Skuldren. His thin lips curled slightly at the corners of his mouth. It was a smirk.

Curtly Rayn retorted, "Enlighten me."

"Very well." Skuldren pulled out a chair from a nearby table and sat down. "In the beginning we did not have any supernatural powers, not like today. There were no Jedi, no Sith, no Force-sensitives. Everyone was equal. There was balance."

Rayne watched the Sith relax comfortably in his chair. It only made Rayn's discomfort worse.

Skuldren continued, "When hyperspace travel was discovered, everything changed. Soon governments were formed over governments. Thousands of species were traveling the stars and at some point they all came together and formed a galactic government." Skuldren paused to make sure Rayn was listening. "And as with all governments it faltered. No one had the ability to rule that many people at one time. The amount of force required led to bloody battles of unification and chaos. Political committees had too many voices and no one could come to an agreement, thus the Force was born." He emphasized his point, raising his brow and sweeping his hand before him.

"You see, the Force was given to us so that we could lead the galaxy out of chaos and into relative harmony. Peace, mind you, is an ideal that cannot be achieved. It is merely strived towards." Skuldren's eyes hovered upon his audience.

Rayne picked up the cue. "So you think the Jedi fouled up by passing the reigns of government off to the people of the galaxy. I guess the Sith have it right then. We should all bow down to them and their superior power." The sarcasm was laid on thick.

"You're not being fare." Skuldren frowned. His pale cheeks blushed in the artificial light. "You were right about the Jedi though. But wrong about the Sith."

That statement unsettled Rayne. He had to stop and think a second. Things were falling in to place. Skuldren said he was exiled here by his masters. His thoughts must have run contradictory with the rest of his peers. To be outcaste in a time of war was pretty bad. What would drive the Sith to get rid of him and yet not kill him?

Skuldren interrupted the Jedi's thoughts. "The Jedi have one thing right. The darkside is evil and it should be avoided. Lord Nihilus was proof of the dangers of its power. Of all the Sith I know of, he was the only one in the entire history of the order to give himself completely to its will. The hunger of the darkside consumed him until he no longer existed. He became an embodiment of darkness. My fellow Sith do not see the danger. They think they can drink from the dark wells of the Force and control its desires. In time it takes them all." Silence again engulfed the room.

"So you don't use the darkside…how did you ever survive training as a Sith Lord?" Curiosity had peeked Rayn's interest.

Skuldren rose from his seat. He faced the black marble wall before him. A ghostly reflection stared back. "That is another story." His voice was soft, little more than a whisper. Turning, his gaze lingered on the 

floor.

Later that evening, Darth Skuldren returned. He had brought food for Rayn to eat.

"Do not worry, it is neither poisoned nor drugged." Skuldren assured him.

"I think I'm too hungry to care." Retorted Rayn. He dove into the food. It was a mix of vegetables, meat, and noodles with a thin sweet sauce.

Skuldren stared off amongst his books. He was lost in thought. "Do you know the secret of lightsaber combat?"

Lightsaber combat. You got to be kidding. Why in all the moons would this Sith Lord want to reveal a combat secret?

"I bet your instructors don't teach you this…first you must study the use of swords, real swords, not these beams of light." He revealed a polished and intricately engraved lightsaber, holding it up so that if gleamed in the light.

The handle was long enough to accommodate a two handed grip. A snarled dragon adorned one end while the tail curled around the other. That was where the beam would be emitted.

Skuldren tucked the lightsaber back within his robes. "After that, you must abandon the seven classic lightsaber forms. They are taught only because it is easier to instruct by grouping things into categories. Each form is broken down into movements and sets that are memorized. Half of the battle lies in predicting your opponent's attack. If you know the sets, you know his moves. Your opponent becomes predictable. Thus you must form your own style from the start. No one will recognize your movements and if they do, they will be surprised when you seamlessly flow in another direction. Your movements must be natural, not segmented. Most Force users spend years trying to unlearn the sets and act on instinct-"

Without warning, Skuldren's face was slammed against the wall. He fell to the floor from the force of the blow. Slowly he rose to his feet, regaining his composure.

Before him stood three Jedi. Judging from their stance, he ventured to guess that two of them were masters.

Quickly, they acted. Master Mulser freed Rayn from his restraints and gave him a lightsaber. Meanwhile Quetel and Master Wasseur pooled their Force strength together and enclosed Skuldren in a stasis field.

In a matter of moments, the captor had become the captive.

"Please do not kill me. I beg of you to show me mercy." Clad in his black robes, the Dark Lord fell to his knees and groveled. "There is no cause for a fight," he pointed off to the side at Rayn, "you see, no harm was done." His eyes begged as much as the expressions on his face. "I was only looking for some company. It is so lonely out here by myself, ever since my masters abandoned me in exile." Pathetic eyes deploringly searched the Jedi for sympathy. "I'll do whatever you ask, just spare me my life."

Nodding to each other the Jedi Masters came to agreement; they felt truth in his words.
Rayn stood in shock. He couldn't believe the transformation of the man before him. At one moment his captor was imposing and full of power. He was emboldened to the point that he felt the need to show mercy to his captive. Now this Dark Lord of the Sith stood on his knees begging for his life. Completely powerless. Where had that power gone? Was it ever really there to begin with?

"Codal, can you touch the Force?" Asked Master Wasseur.

Rayn looked down deep within himself and was surprised to find that soothing comfort of the Force waiting for him. "But how-"

"He was using a Sith disturbance device. It prevents a Force user from finding his connection in the Force." Master Mulser tossed a black metallic device into the air.

Rayn caught it. So this was how he did it. It was all a trick. An imposter.

Master Wasseur raised her voice, filling it with authority, "Alright Sith, it's over. Surrender your cloak and your lightsaber."

Reluctantly, Skuldren complied. He removed his flowing cloak and dropped his lightsaber to the ground. The metal cylinder clanged on the stone floor. Gently, he kicked the sword across the room.

"Now you will wear this disturbance band. It will secure itself around your neck, and much like your device, it will render you powerless in the Force." Cautiously, Master Wasseur approached the Sith and snapped the band around his throat.

Skuldren's kidnapping days were over.

Outside a Jedi Consular 5B interdictor-sloop was waiting. Its sleek hull was a new innovation by Alderaan Royal Engineers, famous for their luxury yachts and exotic starships. The Jedi Knights boarded first, Skuldren followed, and the Jedi Masters brought up the rear. On board, they secured Skuldren in a specially installed containment cell. In his cell, Skuldren sat cross-legged in a simple gray tunic. He looked at peace.

The two Jedi Knights stood guard, while the masters piloted the craft. And so began their long journey back to the core. The fate of Darth Skuldren was in their hands.

Three minutes after hitting hyperspace, the two Jedi Knights spontaneously collided in the ancient meeting of the minds. A sharp crack could be heard as their skulls hit. Their bodies thumped to the deck. Meanwhile Skuldren's cell door opened and the Dark Lord strolled out of his temporary prison.

Quickly he grabbed a lightsaber and headed for the cabin.

The starry, ethereal stripes of hyperspace streaked by beyond the cockpit window. Master Wasseur glanced casually over at her copilot. He was oddly crumpled in his seat, a humming blue bade stuck out of his chest. A disturbing gurgling noise crept out of his throat. Behind him stood a figure dressed in gray. His face was emotionless, his eyes intense.

Instantly Master Wasseur reacted, igniting her emerald-green blade and rapidly striking out at the escaped Sith.

Careful to control her emotions, Master Wasseur fought with a cool, inner calm, but without the Force.

So he could sever Jedi from the Force, it wasn't a trick at all. That didn't matter, she told herself. She had trained for many years in lightsaber combat and her skills were something even a Sith Lord couldn't take away.

For two dramatic minutes of intense parries, slashes, and thrusts, they fought. It seemed to Master Wasseur that the Sith "Lord" was holding back, he wasn't using the Force to enhance his strength or speed.

With a master's skill, his lightsaber form was simple and effective. He's using Shii-Cho, Form I.

Form I was a lethal and competent lightsaber form but it lacked finesse. Master Wasseur sought to end this conflict with an advanced Makashi sequence. Form II's elegance and superior technique could easily counteract Shii-Cho's simplicity. She aimed at opening up her opponent's defenses amid an attack. When the moment was right, she would unleash a surprise sun djem strike to disarm the Sith's weapon.

Suddenly Skuldren let loose with a double feint, followed by a full thrust with his blue blade. The Jedi Master parried the saber away with a double tap then instantly struck inside her opponent's defenses toward his hand.

That's when something odd happened. She looked down and saw the hilt of another lightsaber, its green blade extending into her stomach. Falling to her knees she realized the Sith had picked up both lightsabers from the two Jedi Knights. Now the green blade thrummed in the silence of the cabin. Only now did the aftermath of their battle set in.

The pilot and copilot seats were singed in half. Drop panels hung haphazardly from the ceiling, exposed wires snapping in the air. And there was Master Mulser's motionless body, hunched over on the deck. His lifeless eyes stared back.

Shutting down his lightsabers, Skuldren sat down in the remains of the navigator's chair. He looked Master Wasseur full in the eyes and cracked a carnivorous grin. "If you always want to win in a contest, use a wildcard. Surprise works every time. I would tell you more but I'm afraid you would miss all the key points." His eyes were captivating but felt eerily hungry as he gazed at the Jedi Master.

Wasseur wanted to reply but her voice failed her.

"Ah, you want to know how I escaped." He rose from his chair. "That disturbance necklace is part of a ritual in the Tucano Cults of Meditation. The irritating sounds and vibrations are used to block out interfering thoughts. It creates a state of pure and utter focus, thus I severed the guards from the Force and escaped." Coyly he tilted his head, "You Jedi always underestimated me. The reason my masters exiled me was because I was too powerful. I was born with the ability to sever people from the Force with ease. My masters were rendered powerless before me. The only thing that infuriated them more was my refusal to help them conquer the galaxy. So here we are."

The blackness of space silhouetted his gray form. "There are only two bright possibilities in your future. One would be if I knew the lost arts of Krudesh, the ancient powers of life. I could bring you back from the brink of death or even create from anew. Alas those scrolls were destroyed in the Katarri Wars of Jentel." He looked sullen; those last words brought him sorrow.

Krudesh. Krudesh. Where had she heard that before…

Regaining his focus he went on, "The other bright spot is that sun over there." Turning, he pointed out the portside cabin window. "I'm going to crash this ship straight into it at full blast. Of course it will dishearten you to know that I will leave the ship before then, but it may bring you peace to know that your companions will survive."

He stood and began to leave. Then he cocked his head back as if remembering something. "May the Force brighten your life from this moment on and shine into the depths of the astral planes."

She recognized it as a quote from a famous Jedi Master who lived long ago, but who…the pain was too much. It clouded her thoughts. Those questions would have to wait.

And with that he left. The clunk of an escape pod shooting off and the tremors of the massive gravity well of the sun were the last things she felt. Sweltering heat struck her with such a force that death was instant. Soothing sounds of harmony took her into the afterlife. All was one, all was knowing, and the story of Darth Skuldren was thus revealed to her.

Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1782-AZL of the Jedi Archives
Personal Note: These recordings were gathered from Jedi Master Wasseur's holocron. It was acquired from Skuldren's personal belongings. This Darth Skuldren could necessitate further research. I shall have to inquire the Jedi Council to lend one of the masters to unlock some of the deeper levels of Wasseur's holocron, it is unlike any other. Perhaps something of these Krudesh powers can be discovered.
-Jedi Knight Azel Mustar