He felt the intense heat, the weight and the crushing pain on top of him. His breath was scarce and labored; he could barely take in a single gasp of air without shoveling ash and other debris into his throat. He had no idea what had happened before to lead to this fate, but he held in his chest a deep seeded feeling of hatred. And just like how he did not know how he had been led into his current situation he also had no idea why he had all of this anger pent up inside of him. In all of his years of being sith he had never before been this angry.
He felt his mind separating from his body and like a movie he was looking, formless and detached, at a pile of metallic and ashen rubble as fire rained from the sky. Some tall buildings lit up the horizon like bonfires as some of their counterparts shook and shifted giving into the planet's gravity and crumbled into dust.
With his vision still separate from himself a sudden and agonizing pain raced through his body. The rise of debris began to shift and shake, and a muffled and gruff groan could be heard. A metal arm shot out of the pile of smoldering wreckage and twitched around frantically trying to grab onto something to pull itself out of the nightmare.
"This… is your choice… and yours alone." He could hear a familiar voice say in the far distance.
When Kiber awoke from his night terror aboard his flag-ship he bolted upright, shirtless, and gasped for the air that his mind had convinced him was not coming. He slowed his breath and licked his parched lips. It was all a dream, but it felt so terrifyingly real and the pain was no exception. He felt at his artificial arm and peeled back his synthskin; everything was normal, everything was as it should have been. He wiped his face and forehead of sweat and then sat up with his face in his hands.
When he looked over he could see that the other half of his bed was taken by Lynaree – free of terror and pain. As long as she remained safe he would gladly face any terror that haunted his nights.
He jumped up once more when the holocom on his nightstand rang to life. He reached over to the bleeping and flashing communicator and tore the sheets off of himself as he got out of the bed. Kiber pressed the button on the holocom and listened.
"Forgive me if I woke you, my lord." Spoke General Hamlin as his hologram flickered, "We will be entering Corellia's orbit within the hour."
Kiber felt at his face once more and sighed.
"Thank you, General." He disengaged the holocom and simply let it fall from his grasp, clattering on the metal floor beside his feet. He had slept to regain his energy, but in the end it had taken more out of him than what it had given.
In the senate…
"Do you understand Senator, how many people will suffer if the Empire is allowed to take complete control of Corellia!?" Said one of Corellia's representatives as he stood up from his seat – one of many – on the side of the senate rotunda. Repulsorpods lined the cone shaped wall of the tall room and a single podium where the supreme chancellor was seated lifted thirty meters off the ground in the center of the room.
"We have lost too much ground." Argued Ord Mantell's senator, "If we do not pull out now then more lives will be-
"Then you have not seen the planet in its current state, Senator!? Do you understand what is happening to those who resist!?" the corellian leaned forward on his repulsorpod and it shook slightly, "People will die by the thousands every hour if we do not hold our ground!"
A senator from Alderaan rose from his seat.
"He is right! These sith have ravaged too many democratic worlds, and we cannot allow them to consume another!" there were numerous cheers and applause displaying the agreement of much of the senate. Senator, now supreme chancellor, Dorian Janarus stood up from his seat atop the center podium.
"Order! Let there be order!" he called through his microphone. He looked around the room, gazing at the restless crowd of politicians as they whispered amongst themselves.
"I cannot sit idly by as freedom dies on one of our most important worlds… we will send more troops to the front lines of the battle on Corellia, as General Garza has already recommended."
An outraged Ord Mantellian senator arose from his seat.
"Ord Mantell is in dire straits as well and what have you done to help!?"
The senator of Corellia once more stammered about on his platform.
"Senator, you need to understand that there is a momentous difference between the states of our two worlds. You are not under direct attack by the full force of the Imperial army!" he rebutted as the majority of the senate's members seemed to agree. Still Ord Mantell's representative pressed on.
"You cannot simply send battalions of troops to a theater of war without the approval of the senate, chancellor!"
The supreme chancellor glanced around the room and smiled at the faces of the senators. The general opinion was clear: War.
"Then we shall put it to a vote…"
"Yes, good." Liam said as he sat cross-legged on the floor of Lymathe's ship. Maeyara, with her eyes tightly closed, was trying her hardest to lift a group of writing utensils from the floor, and at best they were rattling about, lifting only slightly before falling back down again. She appeared very frustrated and was biting her lip at times as she held her hands out. When she opened her eyes Liam would slap her hand.
"You need to learn that seeing them lift from the ground is not the same as feeling them lift from the ground. Let go of your sight; it can, and will, deceive you." Liam tried to explain. Maeyara let her hands fall to her sides and the rattling of the utensils stopped dead.
She sighed dramatically.
"Master, it's just so hard."
"You need to let go of these labels: easy, hard, and impossible. Nothing is ever impossible with the force at your side."
Without either the Jedi or his apprentice noticing initially Lymathe walked into the room and leaned against the wall. Liam soon noticed this shifting in the force but decided to ignore his brother and focus on the training of his new apprentice.
"A shiny, expensive, modified blaster can sure make things seem a lot more possible than they were before, kid." The captain said. Liam sighed as his brother smiled innocently.
"You are not helping things."
"I never said I was trying."
"Clearly." Liam stood up and dismissed his apprentice. "Go to your quarters and study those texts I put on the holopad for you, alright?"
"Yes, master." Maeyara ran off to her room and left the two brothers alone.
Liam put his hands in the sleeves of his robes and approached his brother as Lymathe continued leaning carelessly beside the frame of the door.
"Do you need to disrupt me while I'm in the middle of a lesson?"
"It seemed to me like you needed a bit of comic relief." He continued smiling.
"If I need your jokes I'll tell you; until then put a Mynock in it." Liam said as he pointed to his brother's mouth. "Are we almost to Nar Shaddaa yet?"
"We'll be there in an hour or so."
"Good. The sooner we're done-
There was the sound of a holoprojector ringing from the adjacent room. Both of the brothers looked at one another and bolted off into the room to see who it could have been. When they answered it the hologram of Grand Master Satele Shan flickered in front of them as she was seated cross-legged in her private chambers.
"Master Satele." Liam bowed.
"Master." Lymathe curtsied contemptuously.
"Liam, the council has a request of you and your crew."
"His crew!?" Lymathe said in an outrage. Liam jabbed him with his elbow and made like nothing had happened.
"What is this request? Can I assume that it is more of an "Edict" than a simple favor?"
"I suppose, yes." Satele in took some breath and then spoke, "War is erupting on Corellia once more and we need capable healers and supply runners for our brave soldiers, as well as any injured civilians."
"Look no further, master Satele." Liam said. "We're your instruments of peace."
"We'll do whatever we can to help, Grandmaster." Lymathe said with a nod of his head.
"I cannot express my relief; I appreciate your assistance in this sensitive affair. We cannot allow this planet to fall. Liam?"
"Unless innocent lives are at stake, do not take commands from the officers stationed there. You are a Jedi Sentinel and Watchman, not a soldier. This is a mission of humane assistance; understood?"
"I understand, Satele."
"Then may the force be with you." She said before her hologram glimmered and then faded.
"Here is squishy Jedaii one you wanted." Kaarxe said as he threw his prisoner to the ground. A human, and former Jedi knight that left the order years ago, but not before Urthalias. Urthalias walked across the room of the ship, listening as the Jedi breathed shallowly. When his foot came to rest beside the Jedi's head Urthalias kneeled painfully down and grabbed the nearly unconscious man with his metallic hands.
The Jedi's hands were bound and his mouth gagged.
"I suppose I am a… Hypocrite… for punishing you…" his voice had grown no better with time, "But… I would rather… use you than… a man who actually… helps against the… empire." He let out a cough and then brought the man up to his feet. It looked like he planned to turn and run, but the Dark Jedi had different plans for his powers.
Urthalias grabbed his head with both hands, encircling his temples with his cold metal palms.
"May you find… peace… in the force." He took in one more rattling breath and then his body began to shudder. The Jedi in his inescapable grasp shook as well, more violently, as the power of the force tore his mind apart. He tried to scream but only muffled cries and pained sounds made it through the rag caught in his mouth.
The man's cries soon subsided and blood trailed in streams from every orifice of his face. As his body slumped to the ground after slipping from Urthalias' grasp Urthalias' breathing became even more audible and strained. He fell to his knees and gazed intensely at the dead man's face.
"Are you alright?" Kaarxe questioned as he leaned forward and grabbed his friend by the shoulder, hoisting him up to his feet.
"I will… be fine…" he coughed and wheezed through his mask. "I can already feel… the power coursing… through me." He coughed once more and continued walking with his Trandoshan companion.
"This man, who was he to you?"
"Just an old acquaintance." He seated himself down on a stained and blotched couch in the corner of the room. "Did you set up… a meeting with the… man I told you… about?"
"Yes, that one seemed eager to hear from you." Kaarxe hissed as he too sat on the couch.
"I am eager… just as well." He leaned back in his seat and relaxed his muscles. "Soon it will all… be complete. It has been a… long time coming."
Urthalias' entire armored body was covered with a long flowing black robe, shrouding his identity from all of the smugglers, bounty hunters and other criminals lining the halls of the compound. Kaarxe had stayed with the ship, as was requested by the man who had decided to allow this meeting. From behind him Urthalias could hear the snickering of greedy mouths devoid of compassionate reasoning. These men and women would sell out his location in a heartbeat; if they had any idea of who to let know. Slavers and pirates, spice-heads and loan-sharks.
It sickened him that he had to stoop to such a level as bargaining with delinquents, but it was a necessary evil to endure. And Urthalias had a grand amount of experience with necessary evils, as well as good deeds left undone. He decided that it was no longer the time for reflection as he reached the entrance to the leader's den and was stopped by the guards.
Two Gamorreans with their green porcine snouts jutted their broad axes out at the dark Jedi.
"I have an appointment… with your master."
"You no need see him! You go!" Said the first of the pig-faced pair in their alien language.
"He is expecting me… I suggest… you let me in."
The second Gamorrean grabbed Urthalias by his robe's collar and snorted in his face. Urthalias did not flinch.
"You not tell us what do! I crush your-
Urthalias grabbed the pig's wrist in a flash of movement and twisted with hardly any effort, breaking it and nearly poking the bone out of his leathery skin. As he squealed in pain his ally watched in horror as Urthalias twisted his arm behind his back and snapped his neck with the other hand, once again with barely a movement.
"Now…" Urthalias said as he let the body drop out of his hands, "let me in."
Without changing his facial expression, the Gamorrean reached over and casually pushed the button to let the door slide open.
"Thank you." Urthalias said. He walked through the doorway and readjusted his cloak that had been somewhat undone in the tussle in front of the door.
The room beyond the door was lined with extravagant cloth and plush pillows surrounding low-riding tables. Water-pipes emitting long clouds of thin smoke sat in the middle of each table. People of all species sat around laughing and doing other enjoyable things. Urthalias cared not if he was interrupting their fun; he made a beeline straight to the biggest pile of cushions in the room up against the back wall.
Atop the pile sat two Twi'lek slave girls caressing the man who he had unquestionably come to meet. The man in question was a Bothan with long brown hair and a small frayed beard that stuck out the bottom of his canine chin. There was a deep scar across the bridge of his muzzle. He sneered as Urthalias drew closer.
"Who approaches Grazo in his own space station? I don't remember inviting you."
Urthalias stopped in his tracks and stood silently as he waited for a reaction. People from around the room put down the hoses of their pipes and glanced over at their visitor. Grazo cocked his head to the side and growled.
"Are you gonna answer me!?" he said angrily, "I'm not known to be patient."
Urthalias pulled back his robe's sleeves, revealing his armor, and then raised his hands up to shoulder height; palms to the ceiling. The Bothan crime lord was about to call for more guards, that was when the pipes around the room began to shake and the lights on the ceiling began to rattle around. The patrons frantically whispered to each other as the room seemed to be falling apart around them.
That's when Urthalias closed his hands.
The pipes exploded spraying glass and liquid everywhere, and the lights shorted out and then shattered, raining shards of glass on everyone in the room. The men and women who had not already left fled the room, including Grazo's slave women. The room emptied and the two men were left alone. The only source of light was the red mood-lights on the floor flooding in an eerie red glow as the Bothan jumped down from his plateau.
"Who are you?"
"I believe we had… an appointment."
The Bothan smiled and raised his hand, shaking his finger at Urthalias.
"You're the one that the red Lizard was talkin' bout!" he held his hand farther forward and Urthalias took it in a firm shake.
"That would be I."
"I heard you might have some information for me regarding an old associate of mine."
"Yes." Grazo cracked his furry knuckles and motioned for Urthalias to sit down on a cushion, "That little Womp-weasel." They both sat down opposite one another and Urthalias could feel his muscles seizing as he bent down awkwardly to sit on the cushion.
"So, you have his location?" Grazo wondered.
"Better." Urthalias hinted. Grazo squinted intriguingly, "I have a tracking… device on his ship."
Kiber watched through the glass at the bridge of his Harrower as they came warping out of hyperspace and entered orbit around the sprawling core-world of Corellia. Kiber took in the sight of his newest battlefield – it was still much too green and blue for his tastes.
Hamlin approached his sith commander from behind and bowed.
"My Lord. The ships we acquired from Darth Ralanon's fleet will be joining us shortly."
"Thank you, General. You are dismissed."
"Thank you, my Lord." He said before stepping off back to his station. Kiber lowered his head and folded his hands behind his back, softly against his dark robes. This would be either his greatest victory, or his longest fall – if he was not cautious then it could very well be both.
It was so quiet, even with all of the different ships floating above the planet, quiet enough to hear the force whispering to him. He tried his hardest to shut it out, but he had Miraluka blood and the force would not allow him to deny it. He needed to hear someone's voice before he went insane.
He walked off of the bridge without a word to anyone, and Hamlin knew better than to interrupt his deep thoughts. Kiber took a long walk to his holoprojection chamber and punched in the code to dial Kyshwanee's communicator. After a few painfully silent moments alone in the dark, the blue hologram shot up out of the projector and Kyshwanee giggled to herself from her mantled seat.
"Kiber! What is it this time, my dear?"
"I gave you that blood sample, remember?" he pointed to the crease of his elbow, indicating where the needle had entered. "What did you discover about these… powers… if anything?"
Kyshwanee sighed and then leaned back farther in her chair. She licked her soft red lips and folded her fingers over one another.
"I went a bit further than a mere blood sample, my dear. I would discover nothing from just a simple blood test." She smiled coyly from underneath her folded hands.
"Whatever do you mean?" Kiber wondered.
"I went over some of the security footage from that republic ship you boarded all those years ago, and what I found was-
"How did you acquire such footage?" Kiber squeezed his hands together nervously.
"Such unimportant details." She giggled. "What is important is what you did. Up until this point in the video you had force control equal to that of a very skilled sith warrior," she showed him a video clip through the projector, a video of him grabbing the Jedi Danjo from the ground. "And then this happened…" she resumed the video, re-enacting the scene where Danjo's insides began to bleed profusely and Kiber looked down at his bloodied hands almost in disgust. "From that point on in the footage you stumble around in a stupor, until you reach a hall full of soldiers." The recording skipped forward to Kiber jolting streams of electricity at a group of republic soldiers. They burst into ashes.
"I think I see where you're going with this." Kiber sighed.
"Whatever you did to the Togruta enhanced your powers, your control, and suddenly it appeared as if you wielded the powers of a sith master!"
Kiber knew that it had something to do with Danjo, he was just unsure of what.
"Thank you, but I must go."
Kiber stopped as he got up from his seat and groaned irritated.
"I think you should return to Korriban for a bit." Kyshwanee said as she leaned forward.
Kiber cocked his head to the side.
"And why would I do that?"
"Competition among apprentices is key to their growth." She said, "I suggest you look over some more acolytes and, when they are ready, take on another apprentice." She leaned over on one hand. "I understand that Lord Ulain and a few others are also searching for their own apprentices."
"I suppose it's not the worst idea." He said, "Thank you for your input." He switched the projector off and took out his holocommunicator. He pressed a button and his apprentice's visage took form atop the device.
"Yes, my Lord?"
"I need you to meet me at my personal starship. Immediately."
"Of course, my Master." He bowed and then severed the connection.
"What is this about, Master?" Aedrus wondered aloud to his master. Kiber put his hood up and Aedrus watched curiously as the fabric draped on the upturned horns of his helmet.
"I need to return to Korriban for a time and I need you to deliver a message to Hamlin for me."
"Of course, whatever it is I will repeat it, Master."
"Tell him to contact Lord Rakus and inform him that I will join the battle within the next week, but that I have some business to attend to. Until then Darth Pravus will be placed in charge of our fleet."
"I will go tell him immediately," he bowed respectfully, "My Master."
"Good." Kiber muttered as he entered his ship, and then turned his head to face his apprentice, "Study in my absence."
Aedrus nodded and then backed away as he watched the ship ascend from the floor and rocket off toward the stars.
Korriban was still the same dusty orange-red waste pit that Kiber had remembered; a planet like this one was bound to never change. He sat his ship down on a pad not far from the Academy, nearby where Artumez had landed his own ship back when he was first brought to Korriban. When he stepped back onto the red soil it left behind distinct footprints as he walked off toward the academy.
A single Klor'slug made a weave toward the sith lord, but just when it was about to wrap its toothy red maw around Kiber's head Kiber swept to the side and severed its body in three different places with his silver saber. He looked down at the body as it twitched about with its little buggy legs and its eyeless face.
When he looked up he could see the academy of the sith within spitting distance. He would have spit at it if he hadn't been wearing his helmet. The worst years of his life, save his time at the Jedi temple, were spent here training under unforgiving masters who had no respect for his power; thinking him a weakling for being pampered by his uncle. Those days were over, and now he was powerful enough to defeat all of his old instructors.
Young acolytes and experienced honor guards donning blood-red armor bowed as he passed through the silvery halls of the monochrome academy. The apprentices and Acolytes here looked on in awe at the sith lord before them, hoping that they could even be given a chance at becoming his apprentice. He had had enough of being admired however, and now it was time for him to forcefully arrange a meeting with his old overseer.
He traipsed up the stairs dutifully and made his way into his former overseer's office; it would be a joyous occasion indeed. For Kiber, at the least. He pulled his robes to the side to stop them from being caught in the closing door, and watched as he was ignored by Overseer Tramden who had his face nose deep in a pile of documents.
Kiber swept his hand through the air as he walked toward the desk and the papers dispersed onto the floor messily. Tramden groaned and smashed his fist on the desk. He was a pale human with light hair and deep bags under his eyes.
"Who dares to-
He realized soon who had dared.
"M-m-my Lord!? Darth Kiber I-I-I had not expected you!"
"You never expected much from me at all, Tramden." Kiber undid his mask and pulled his hood down, resting the mask on his belt. "Now look at me."
"What is it you require, my Lord!?" he asked frantically.
"I am in the market for a new apprentice and I wanted to come see what Acolytes I had to pick from."
Tramden swallowed hard.
"Is something the matter?" Kiber wondered. A voice came from the entrance.
"I'm afraid that I am already choosing my apprentice, Kibby." Said the familiar voice. Kiber turned around and saw that it was none other than his old friend Lord Ulain. A Dark skinned human with short black hair dressed in thick black armor, he was always goading Kiber when they were in the academy together.
"Ulain… what a disgrace to see your wasteful presence here." Kiber said. Ulain walked up beside Kiber and placed his hand on Kiber's shoulder.
"It has been so long, Kibby-
"Don't call me that, Sleemo."
"Ooh, using a lesser language, so like you, Kibby."
Kiber would have liked nothing more than to rope this man's intestines around the academy like party decorations.
"Please, sirs." Tramden pleaded, "Can we get back to the business at hand?"
"Actually…" Ulain said as he scratched his chin. "I would rather make this a contest. He wants an apprentice, and I want an apprentice. How about we make this just like old times, hm?" Both Ulain and Kiber looked to their former Overseer for approval. A bead of sweat ran down his face.
"V-very well then… uh… I remember when I sent you out to search the temple of Marka Ragnos and not a single one of you returned with the relic I tasked you with retrieving…"
"Ah…" Ulain breathed, "You want us to finish what we had started?"
"Yes, the gauntlets of Ragnos himself. If… If one of you can… uh… retrieve these relics then you shall have the honor of a Korriban apprentice."
Ulain was already making for the door.
"Good luck Kibby." He said as he laughed manically. Kiber grabbed his mask from his belt and threw it onto the desk.
"You never heard it from me," he said, "But I'm going to destroy him if we meet up in that maze of a tomb."
"When is he going to return?" Jorek asked from over the Dejarik table as Liam made his next move with the holographic pieces.
"I'm sure that Lymathe will be back from his outing shortly, patience." Liam reasoned.
"You were never one for patience, Liam. What's gotten into you?" Jorek asked intrudingly. Jorek moved one of his pieces and looked awfully proud of his strategy.
"I've learned from training my newest apprentice that patience is more important than ever. She is not grasping it as easily as Rue did, but she is every bit as powerful; I feel it."
Liam soon felt something else, presences drawing closer.
The two Jedi could hear the door to the loading ramp fly open and blaster fire accompanied by screaming. Liam prepared his sword as he shot up from his seat and Jorek did the same. Before they could assist the door had already closed and a group of people accompanying Lymathe burst into the ship.
A Mirialan in torn spacer clothes and a human with a wide-brimmed hat and a long brown trench-coat. Lymathe and Bruudar brought up the rear as the captain ran for the cockpit. In the Wookiee's arms was an elderly woman in a brown robe that concealed her entire body.
Bruu roared at Liam and held the body out towards him.
"You got her shot!? Uh, um, put her down here!" he swiped some trinkets off of the coffee-table in front of the couch and Bruudar laid her down gently. "Okay, Bruu, what is going on!?"
He roared again, more frantically.
"No time to explain!? What do you mean-
The ship lurched from side to side as it lifted off of the hangar floor and shot off into the sky.
"Krink! Can he not fly a ship!?" exclaimed the Mirialan.
"Everyone shut up! I need to concentrate." Liam bent down and began soothing the woman's wounds with the force; two laser wounds to her chest, nearly fatal. "Just stay with me!"
As he released the force into her frail body, he felt a strange feeling – he didn't feel weak from giving her his energy; he instead felt rejuvenated, stronger even.
Kiber breathed in the sandy air as he approached the entrance to Marka Ragnos' tomb lined with faceless statues crumbling from age. He remembered when he first entered this labyrinth of a tomb – he and the others were lost for days at a time, and most of them never came back. He drew his silver lightsaber but did not ignite its blade. He stepped through the sand closer and closer to the dark cavernous catacombs. He didn't lie to the overseer; if he met with his rival in this place then he would not hesitate to demonstrate his power.
He entered the ancient sepulchre as Acolytes watched in the distance. They probably hoped that he would clear out the dark beings in there to make their explorations and trials a sight more tolerable. The sound of the wiping sandy winds outside began to fade as he stepped further into the darkness. Purple and red torches lit by dark energies made for the only lights in this place making the already eerie mausoleum of the sith even more unnerving.
With his Miraluka-like senses through the strings of the force he could tell that Ulain had indeed been here recently. He had no hint of where he had gone, or where he himself should go. He soon came upon a room that was familiar to him; a room filled with coffins that stuck out of the walls and statues with their arms crossed over their chests watching over the dead. Sets of ancient sith armor and sith war swords among other weapons and affects littered the wall and floor, untouched by anyone wise enough not to disturb the dead. He would not be the unwise one.
He stayed going straight ahead, not diverting from the path, entering similar rooms with similar scenery barely lit by the strange torches. His attention was not on the ground, and when he accidently kicked an old sword he could hear the rattling of bones and the shifting of stone.
He whipped around and flung his lightsaber through the air, cutting the skull of a reanimated skeleton in half. The pile of bones lost its form and rattled to the ground before turning into dust. He scoffed and disengaged his blade.
Soon enough he had entered the main sanctum of the ancient sith lord, but something felt wrong. He had never made it this far in his trials, but just from what the stories said he could tell that this was far too small to be the final resting place of the great Marka Ragnos. Could the excavators have missed something before they were driven insane by the dark side? He would have to have a better look around.
Without thought of the possible consequences, the young sith lord threw open the sarcophagus at the center of the room and beheld the body of the once great sith lord Marka Ragnos. Still, something was missing. His amulet was nowhere to be found; the amulet that he was buried with. It was never found by the excavation teams because in that case it would have been opulently put on display in the academy. Needless to say that no one could have gotten this far into the tomb before the return of the true sith. They would have all been killed, their skeletal corpses added to the pile.
Then, suddenly, there was another whisper in the force, although with much more pull than the echoes he felt aboard his ship. Kiber reached uncomfortably into the sarcophagus and found something stuck in between the ribs of the skeleton. From the back of the Sarcophagus jutted out a lever barely big enough to see. He reached further in and pulled the lever down.
The large statue of Marka Ragnos against the back wall of the room cracked perfectly in half and slid to each side, revealing an amazingly well-lit pathway suspended over a massive open pit. He approached cautiously as dust fell all around them and soon realized why the path was lit so. Lava, boiling hot, bubbling, oozing, red lava. The whole pit was full of it, but the path was wide enough to have no worry of falling in, unless pushed. He continued down the path to the next room as the whispers grew in their influence. Sarcophagi lined the walls of the lava-filled chamber and skeletons and their boney limbs hung out of the few odd coffins that had fallen out of place.
After a long and hot walk through the lava chamber he entered into what appeared to be the true inner sanctum of the tomb. He could sense that Ulain was somewhere nearby, but he was nowhere to be found.
The walls of this absolutely massive room were lined on each side by three colossal statues of the ancient sith master. On the back wall opposite the entrance was another large statue of Marka Ragnos, this time sitting upon a throne in his elaborate robes and leaning his head on his fist; he appeared very bored. This was the only place in the burial crypt that seemed to be lit by natural torch light, yellow-orange and flickering even without the interruption of the wind.
An elaborately decorated cist sat entombed in front of the statue, supposedly containing the remains of Ragnos.
Kiber heard the voice and engaged his lightsaber, pointing it toward the statue.
"Who is this?"
I am… eternal… and I am… darkness…
"This isn't possible?" Kiber questioned himself as he began to build assumptions in his mind as to who this voice belonged to.
I am always possible… I will always BE possible… I have waited a long time for someone like you.
"I'm not sure if I yet regret coming in here or not." Kiber remarked humorously.
The booming and powerful voice laughed.
YOU have nothing to fear from ME…
From out of the statue the air began to bend and waver as its very substance twisted and from out of the effigy appeared a force shade wearing a torn and tattered dark robe and a helmet with outsized bent horns. The shade held out his deathly blue hands and an old relic flew from the side of the room and into his right hand. It was a jagged staff that seemed to radiate dark side energies like a storm of thunder and lightning.
The force apparition of Marka Ragnos.
Kiber quickly clued into the importance and power of this "man" before him, and kneeled down respectfully; as painfully humiliating as it was to be bowing to anyone. He lowered his head.
"The Great Marka Ragnos. I am unworthy."
Many have been unworthy…
The pure-blooded sith ghost put his staff just beneath Kiber's chin and lifted his face up to look at him.
You are not one of them…
Kiber rose to his feet.
"What are you talking about?"
I have heard about your emperor and this "Dark Council" of yours from the few that have made it this far into my Sepulchre… they sicken me…
The ghost snarled and crossed his massive arms. His fingers were ended in monstrous points that looked like they could tear a man in half.
In you, however, I see a hint of… rebellion… of a desire for absolute control; just like when I was in power…
"You… You speak correctly, my Lord."
Then I have need of you…
He turned around and floated off toward the statue as his spectral garments fluttered behind him. Kiber followed after him slowly.
I sense that you have… a power that I have not seen in a long time… A ritual of the dark side used by the ancient sith to gain even more power from their enemies…
"That is what I assume to be correct, my Lord."
Then let me be the first to tell you that, for reasons even beyond my knowledge, this ability has a… limitation…
"And what may that be?"
You… are a former Jedi… like my ancestors… I have not a clue if that has to do with your limitations, but it is likely.
The shade of Ragnos leaned against his sarcophagus.
I sense that you must have true, personal, fiery hatred for the person you are using this ability on…
"That is not rather difficult for me I must admit." Kiber said.
He pointed a finger.
You wish to have control over this… empire! Don't you?
"More than anything."
Then take this gift so that it may assist you on your way to restoring the true sith order…
He swiped his hand to the side and the stone coffin opened up to reveal something that Kiber had not in the slightest expected. Instead of being occupied by the remains of the late sith lord, there was instead the unconscious body of Lord Ulain.
"What is this about!?" Kiber asked.
Show me your ability… I can sense your anger, your pure hatred for this man. Take his power and receive my blessing to rule as lord of the sith!
Ragnos was not jesting, he was giving Kiber the opportunity to undo all that his rival had worked toward and also gain his power in the process. This was unbelievable, like a dream. Kiber half-expected to wake up any second; a cruel trick of the force. But no, it was real, it was happening and he could take his revenge after all of these years – how akin to the downfall of Pohn.
To Ragnos' surprise, Kiber lit his lightsaber.
And why ever would I do that? You have the opportunity to kill him without hassle…
"I want to relish in his defeat, and savor my victory." He turned to face the force ghost, "You should know how satisfying a feeling that is."
The twisted force ghost shared an equally twisted smile.
"She should recover within the next few hours, but I'm not sure if she'll be able to walk right away." Liam said as he exited the medical bay and the many occupants of the ship showed their relief, and among others their indifference. Lymathe sat on a swiveling chair while everyone else stood.
Xaffaj threw his hands up into the air.
"Who in the hell are all of these people?" he asked. Lymathe rested his forehead on his fist as he sighed heavily.
"Green guy's name is Nestro, and the Smuggler over there is Marler. Nestro is my… uh…" Lymathe's voice quieted as he scratched the back of his head, "My… spice dealer…" he cleared his throat. "Marler's an old friend of mine, and Nestro's body guard."
Nestro diverted his eyes from the crowd as Marler tipped his hat and smiled.
Jorek crossed his arms and shook his head.
"You're fortunate that we're too busy to be placing arrests." He said. Liam chimed in soon after.
"You forget that Lymathe is a Republic sanctioned privateer; we can't arrest anyone while they're aboard his ship."
"I'll arrest anyone who breaks the law, Liam. That's what we do." He argued.
"Hellllooooo!?" Xaffaj interrupted. "Why in the Kark were you getting shot at!?"
"I honestly never expected him to find me again, but…" he leaned back even more in his seat, "A guy-
"A crime lord." Marler quipped.
"Okay… A crime lord has a bounty on my head and uh… every criminal on his payroll is after me now." Lymathe finished as he slapped his knees. "There ya' go! My habit and occupation have gotten me in trouble with a criminal overlord," he flared his arms out and did an overly dramatic jazz-hands display, "Big surprise!"
"It doesn't matter," Liam said, "When we get to Corellia we'll be under republic protection, so let's get moving."
"Damn it!" Ulain screamed out in a rage as he was thrown against the wall beside the passage into the lava flooded room. Marka Ragnos' spectre watched in amusement as the two sith battled for their lives. Dust and pieces of stone fell from Ulain's shoulders as he raised himself back to his feet and took a battle stance.
Kiber once more charged the rival lord and clashed his silver saber against the crimson edge of Ulain's blade. Ulain nearly crumbled under the force of the hit and had to use his power over the force to push Kiber away. As Kiber slid across the room and dust collected in droving clouds in front of him Ulain caught his breath. The aged and stale air of the tombs did little to satisfy his lungs. Kiber burst forth from the cloud of dust and dirt and stabbed downwards, narrowly missing Ulain's chin. Kiber then allowed his lightsaber to slide into the ground and grabbed it with both hands. Ulain was still dazed from the last attack and had no time to react when Kiber used his saber's hilt as a centering pole and spun around it, kicking Ulain square in the face.
The impact sent Ulain reeling into the lava-filled chamber and Kiber rolling to the side, quickly regaining his balance. Ulain hit the path with his shoulder and nearly rolled off of it into the boiling molten rock below. Kiber came from around the corner of the adjacent room at a slow and menacing pace, creeping toward his prey while the dust clouds continued to settle still. His silver lightsaber gleamed through the dimness.
"Come, Ulain. Let us finish this like true Sith."
"I couldn't have said it any better-" he grabbed his lightsaber off of the stone floor and ignited it as he rose back to his feet, "Myself."
Kiber continued jaunting forward in an unhurried matter while Ulain on the other hand wasted no time charging forward to face his enemy head on. Once more their blades contacted and sparks flew through the heated air as the two sith stood atop the platform that separated them from boiling hot death. They leaned in closer and closer to one another and finally pushed off when they realized that neither one of them had the upper hand.
Kiber snickered to himself.
"You're almost as much of a challenge as my uncle."
"You're uncle died on Coruscant! Stop babbling nonsense!"
"Oooh I love it when they don't have a clue." He said smiling.
"Silence!" Ulain charged at his opponent again with both hands on his lightsaber. Kiber saw the recklessness in his eyes, the pure hatred coming off of him and the sweat dripping off of his face – he was tired, and he had made a grave mistake in being so headstrong.
Ulain swung down to slash Kiber in half, but Kiber was prepared long before. The sinister sith moved quickly to the side as Ulain issued his heavy handed, and clumsy, attack. Kiber grabbed the hilt of his enemy's weapon and unleashed an enormous amount of pent up force energy into it. Before Ulain could react the saber exploded in his hands, devastating his armor and blowing a few of his fingers off in the process. Ulain's eyes widened as he realized how he had been played.
"You should have invested in force resistant materials." Kiber mocked as he began to display his own weapon, lightning arcing around its hilt. Ulain fell to his knees; his charred and twisted hands were practically useless and now he was at the mercy of the one person that he made a point of making his enemy. Still, he did not beg.
"Just get it over with, Kibby. You've won… you get the apprentice."
"I'm not here for just an apprentice anymore." Kiber said as he walked around the back of his fallen opponent. Once more he ignited his saber as Ragnos' ghost watched on from the archway. "I'm here to prove a point."
Kiber stabbed his saber into Ulain's back, just missing his spine, and forced him up to his feet by tugging on the energy blade. When the other sith lord was on his feet Kiber reached over Ulain's head and grabbed his face, pulling his head painfully backwards. Ulain cried in agony and it rung in Kiber's ears like a symphony. Soon enough Kiber's fingers would be playing each muscle on this man's face like the strings of a xantha.
"I'm almost going to miss you… I'm not though."
Kiber dug his fingers into Ulain's face and began drawing energy from him. Ulain tried to claw his face free with his mangled hands, but it was of no use. He screamed in wrenching pain as wisps of dark side energy coursed through the air around them and his face began to bleed profusely. Kiber clenched his teeth and tried not to scream, but it was a strangely painful procedure.
When Ulain's eyes had rolled into the back of his head and his mouth had permanently locked open in a scream that fell silent, Kiber knew that it was over. He would have to get out of the temple soon, before he began hallucinating like the last time. He threw the body of his pitiful rival to the side, before it slid off the edge of the pathway and fell into the lava that had been gnashing its figurative teeth the whole battle.
"And thusly," Kiber dimmed the blade of his lightsaber and deposited it back on his belt, "I have made my point."
The spectre tapped the tips of his long fingers together. Kiber could already feel the light-headedness; he needed to leave soon.
Can you feel the power of the dark side flowing through you?
Kiber was about to respond, but instead fell to his knees coughing. He could feel the dark side essence wafting off of Ragnos as the ghost floated above him. With all of his remaining strength he pushed himself off of the ground and stood up from the platform as straight as possible.
"I can feel the void itself…"