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Jegora
ComNet Disciple
 
Jegora
 
[VE-ARMY] Brigadier General
[VE-DJO] Sith Vitiator
[VE-ICS] Pirate Lord
[VE-NAVY] Ensign
[VE-VEHC] Brigadier General*
 
Post Number:  2162
Total Posts:  2174
Joined:  Oct 2007
Status:  Offline
  Shades of the Past
June 2, 2019 5:44:29 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
OOC:
Just a little intro to get the juices flowing and get oriented to current events. If I've got my timeline right, this is set post-shatterpoint and post-destruction of Lotaith, around 21 ABYish (1-2 years before current time?)
.

Jegora wasn’t sure what woke him first. It could have been the light shudder as the ship reverted from hyperspace—to someone who had spent as much time aboard starships as Jegora had, that particular sensation never went unnoticed. Or it could have been the soft beeping of the datapad that rested on his desk across the room—the ship’s flight computer was programmed to page him automatically any time there was a proximity alert. Or maybe it was the soft knock at his door, a gentle rapping that echoed through the durasteel bulkheads that comprised the four walls of his little cabin—very few people on the ship had the nerves to interrupt his sleep, and for someone to actually come knock on his door was unusual enough to wake him quickly.

But while it could have been any of those things, Jegora knew the truth: once again, the dream had driven him from his sleep.

As he sat up slowly, swinging his long legs over the side of the couch, Jegora tried to calm his racing heart, but his blood was pumping and adrenaline was flowing freely. He took deep breaths and centered himself, willing his body back under control, and as always it responded slowly. He had been having this same dream for close to a year, and it always had the same effect on him, as if he awoke out of a desperate fight for his life that his body fully believed was real. At first the dream had come infrequently, once ever few months, but soon it came more and more often until now the dream haunted him every time he closed his eyes. It was good that he did not need much sleep—the dream rarely let him close his eyes for more than a few hours at a time, and it all but ensured his sleep was never peaceful.

In the background someone knocked again and the datapad continued to beep. Jegora grunted, pushing himself to his feet with a grunt. He was nearing his fiftieth year, but his large frame was still packed with heavy muscle and it was clear from the way he carried himself that he still maintained the great strength and grace, natural and otherwise, of his youth. He was in prime physical condition for a man of his age, and his physical presence alone was often enough to inspire or intimidate. Still, he wore the marks of age and of a life spent at war. His face was worn and lined and seemingly carved from stone. His hands were terribly scarred, almost as if burned, and on his arms and chest we wore a variety of cut, stab, bullet, and blaster scars. As he pulled on a shirt, he grimaced silently at the stiffness in his left shoulder. He had caught a bolt from a repeating blaster almost ten years ago and the wound had never healed right. The pain was just a reminder that he was quickly becoming an old warrior, and old warriors always had aches and pains. At that moment Jegora felt every single one of his.

As he padded silently towards the door of his chamber, Jegora made a small gesture towards the datapad and it immediately ceased its beeping. He keyed the door and it opened to reveal one of his three apprentices, a young woman Jegora still only knew as York. He wasn’t surprised to see the young woman standing there. He had sensed York’s presence soon after he awoke, of course, but also she was probably the only person aboard the ship who would have interrupted his sleep. Even Jegora’s two other apprentices would have been reluctant to wake him, but York seemed to have very little fear of him. That either made her incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. Maybe both. York had been with him almost two years, and she was a quick learner with no small strength in the Force. She was also an enigma, even to Jegora, but she followed orders and was dedicated to learning what he could teach. He chose not to pry into her past, deeming it irrelevant to his training. And secretly Jegora found her irreverence refreshing—it got tiresome when everyone was afraid of you, even when they should be.

York looked him up and down and shook her head. “The dream again?” she asked, her voice soft and concerned. Jegora scowled slightly and said nothing, catching her gaze with his own. His stormcloud-purple eyes flashed, and York quickly looked away and cleared her throat. While Jegora might have generally enjoyed her lack of formality, sometimes York had a tendency to get a little too familiar. It was a problem he would have to address later.

“We’ve arrived at the coordinates you provided,” she said after a moment, continuing on as if nothing had happened. “But this system isn’t on any of the maps. What’s here anyways?”

Jegora was silent for a long moment, lost in thought. Then he sighed, and when he responded his voice was full of gravel and iron.

“Lopen,” he said. “Home.”

__________


The last time Jegora had been on Lopen, the fractured Order had been attempting to retake the great Citadel from the Reborn and their traitorous masters. That had been several years ago, and at the time Jegora had not been in a good place. His body had been weakened and injurred, his skill had atrophied, and he had been neglecting his training. After the Order failed to retake their home from the Reborn they had all split up once again. Jegora fled to the outer reaches of the Galaxy, wandering somewhat aimlessly. Slowly he began to recover himself, and in the process found York. He picked up two other apprentices along the way, and soon they had hired a ship and crew, making a living on the edges of civilization doing odd jobs for anyone who could pay. Business was good, and eventually Jegora and his apprentices hired a new ship and a larger crew. Soon Jegora found himself with his own corvette-class warship and a crew of nasty, highly effective fighters at his disposal, an accidental full-fledged mercenary lord.

Looking back it was almost comical how quickly and easily he fell into the role, as if it had been custom tailored for him. But it was ultimately just what he needed to get back on track. He resumed his own training, and as a result his powers had grown considerably since the disastrous attempt to take Lopen back from the Reborn. He had pushed the Order and its home out of his mind, choosing instead to focus on exploring the edges of the galaxy with his crew and thinking only of the next job. For once, he had thought himself content.

And then the dreams started.

Truth be told he never remembered the dreams. All he ever remembered was the sounds of fighting and the sensation of pain and the dim glow of a lightsaber. The only clear thing that he could ever recall from the dream was a single word, burned into his mind every time he awoke like a brand.

Lopen.

Initially he had tried to deny dream, had tried to ignore it, but even in the beginning he had known that course to be futile. Although his talents lay elsewhere, Jegora recognized the hand of the Force in this dream. Ignoring such a dream would not work, and sure enough it began to come more and more frequently until it was quite literally impossible to ignore. It had started preying on Jegora’s waking thoughts with such ferocity that eventually, and with great trepidation, he had ordered the crew to set course for the shadowy system. He had no idea what to expect upon arrival, but he assumed the Reborn were still operating on the planet. Still, he hadn’t been back in years, and he had no way of knowing that for sure and thus had no idea what was going to meet them when they arrived. On the approach to the plant Jegora kept an open mind, and he thought he was prepared for anything upon arrival.

What he wasn’t prepared for was for Lopen to be utterly and absolutely devoid of all life.
Jegora Fal

Dark Lord of the Sith
Sith Vitiator

DLoS | SVT Jegora | Marauders | Eagle | Sith | VEDJ | VE  [SoY] [KC:1]


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Trick
ComNet Sultan
 
Trick
 
[VE-DJO] Dark Jedi Warrior
[VE-NAVY] Rear Admiral
 
Post Number:  3772
Total Posts:  3782
Joined:  Feb 2011
Status:  Offline
  RE: Shades of the Past
June 2, 2019 7:31:40 PM    View the profile of Trick 
“I don’t understand,” Raqra said again.  “If you won’t take me, at least take some bodyguards,” he pleaded.

Zev slowed, then came to a stop.  Officers and enlisted beings strode by, trying to keep their distance without looking like they were keeping their distance.

Their efforts were insufficient, and Zev was acutely aware of how many sight organs were surreptitiously directed at him.  And it wasn’t just his pilot get-up drawing attention.

“Raqra, my darling,” he said, turning around to face the younger man.  “I’ve told you.  Not in front of the children.”  He darted his eyes left and right, pointedly.

Raqra suddenly seemed to become aware of his surroundings.  He let out a breath slowly, his shoulders relaxing a few centimeters.  “I’m sorry, my--” he cut himself off, clearly unsure of which mode of address to use.  The man in the jaunty, personalized TIE fighter gear was his best friend, his spouse, his sovereign, and his master in teaching the dark arts of the Force.  He settled for saying “Be careful, will you please?”

Zev let his expression soften, and even offered his endearingly earnest partner a small smile.  “You too.  Don’t die of boredom while I’m gone.  The Moffs are self-important, sure, but every now and then the Council comes up with the rare good idea.”

Raqra’s return smile was weak.  Unconvincing.  He leaned in close.  “I’m used to dealing with tiresome old men,” he whispered.

“Hey now.  I’m not so old,” Zev whispered back with feigned hurt.

Raqra gave him a quick peck on the nose, then backed up a pace.  “See you later.”

Zev rolled his eyes, then glanced around again at crewers moving by purposefully.  He shot one last smirk at Raqra, tightened his grip on his flight helmet, and turned to continue his walk to the forward hangar bay.


***


Revenant, you are clear for launch.  Safe travels sir.”

“Thank you Control.” Zev said, his helmet’s internal speakers making his voice sound tinny and distant.  “Launching.”

And just like that he was free, the familiar whine of twin ion engines screaming behind him.  He whooped and laughed, surprising himself, and spun his Defender ‘round and ‘round with unabashed glee.

He looped back just in time to watch his flagship stretch with pseudomotion, then disappear.  Taking Raqra with it.  “See you later,” he said quietly.

He accessed the encrypted astrogation files, and set the computer to plot out a course.  He knew the calculations would take much longer than usual, and he used the lull to meditate.

His connection to the Force was… different, these days.  Not diminished, not exactly.  Merely narrower in breadth.  Mistress Sharpe’s debilitating injuries and her withdrawal into seclusion had left him without a mentor to guide his training, while simultaneously thrusting him into a leadership role more expansive - and more demanding - than even his own towering ego and ambition could ever have imagined.  After years spent holding together an Empire of trillions of wildly diverse sentient beings, Zev suspected that being Force-sensitive was a prerequisite for effectively exercising autocratic control over any interstellar government.  The sheer scope of the job positively required the use of supernatural abilities.  There were too many responsibilities and too many decisions for any lesser being to handle, all on their own.

The years had taught him that.  And the lesson had spurred him to develop his talent for manipulation and domination.  He had attained no small measure of mastery, when it came to invasive and persuasive telepathy, and he continued to improve his nascent capability to remotely influence his subordinates even across great distances.  But even the Force couldn’t add more hours to a day.  Practicing his most-useful powers had meant letting his lesser skills atrophy.

He brushed a gloved hand over the hilt of his lightsaber, the cylinder wedged awkwardly between his hip and one of his safety restraints.  He wished, ruefully, that he’d found more time to practice his swordsmanship.

The astrocomputer pinged.  An overeager voice suddenly rang out in the cockpit: “All done, Master Zev.  And I took the liberty of plotting an escape course as well” the chipper voice said.  “If we revert and there’s danger, we can jump away again immediately.”

Zev frowned.  “Nobody told you to do that, Kiddo.”

“Nobody had to!” the prototype model K-D droid intelligence retorted cheerfully.  Simultaneously, the words scrolled by in written form on the ship’s many screens and monitors.  “I’m blindly leaping into danger too,” the ship-integrated AI explained condescendingly.  “I can’t help it that I don’t want to die.”

Exasperated, Zev brought a gloved fist down hard on a support strut.  “Ow!” he yelled, shaking his hand gingerly.  He growled.  “Listen Kiddo, stop acting like an insolent child and just go, will ya?”

“As you wish, Master Zev,” KayDee Zero chirped.  “Course set.  Jumping to Lopen in three, two, one…”
Naval High Command
CNW/Rear Admiral Trick/NHC/VEN/VE

Second Vast Imperial Fleet
SCAP/RADM Zev "Trick" Tikarian/Interdictor-class Star Destroyer Subjugator/TF:A/2Flt/FC/VEN/VE

Decorations
[HNS][1NS][2NS][3NS][4NS][5NS][LSM][BWC][SWC][GWC][PWC][WM0][WM1][WM2][WM3][WM4][WM5]
[*IG*][*AO*][SoA][CoB.][VC:B][VC:S][VC:G][VC:E][SoV][LoM][DSM][NSM][E][NAR][CC:4][CNQST][NDM][MSMx2][NC][IGC]

(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
[This message has been edited by Trick (edited June 3, 2019 7:06:41 AM)]
Jegora
ComNet Disciple
 
Jegora
 
[VE-ARMY] Brigadier General
[VE-DJO] Sith Vitiator
[VE-ICS] Pirate Lord
[VE-NAVY] Ensign
[VE-VEHC] Brigadier General*
 
Post Number:  2163
Total Posts:  2174
Joined:  Oct 2007
Status:  Offline
  RE: Shades of the Past
June 3, 2019 5:31:14 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
OOC:
Sorry Trick, this is a long one and still didn't get to the surface. Too caught up in backstory, laying little seeds for stories I might pursue later. Anyways, I'll try and get something else up tomorrow.


Jegora stood off to one side on the bridge of the ship, which the crew had name Charlotte…or Charolette. The spelling was in some dispute, culminating in the fact that the huge stenciled letters that spelled out the ship’s name on the port and starboard sides each used different spellings (the port-side letters spelled out Charlotte while the starboard-side letters spelled out Charolette). Despite the naming gaffe and the continued debate over which was the proper spelling, the ships was in surprisingly good repair for her age.

The Charlotte was definitely an older ship, a relic of the galactic wars that had been raging for almost a hundred years, but it was in good repair and posed no small threat to anything that decided to cross it. It’s turbolasers were strong, and the crew and retrofitted the vessel with military-grade ion cannons. It was almost two hundred meters in length, proving roomy for Jegora’s roughly eighty-strong crew. Their recent successes had ensured that ship’s powerplant, engines, and shields were all upgraded to modern standards. There was even room in the ships ventral hangar for a few starfighters and one or two assault shuttles. The end result was that although she didn’t look too much on the outside, the ship was deadly and effective, the perfect base of operations for a mercenary band. Or a Sith-in-exile.

The Charolette's good repair was due in large part to the crew and the man who commanded them. The core of that crew had been together when Jegora had first found them almost three years ago. At that time there had only been ten of them, led by a man named Stolk, and Jegora had hired them out of necessity. That arrangement had worked out well, and had led directly to the next job, which was also successful. The end result was that after several months of fighting and bleeding, the crew had grown to almost thirty men and women and Jegora and York had been adopted into the crew as de facto leaders. Stolk still officially called the shots, but the man was an old mercenary, and no one got be an old mercenary by being stupid. He recognized a good thing when it landed in his lap, and together Stolk and Jegora procured the Charlotte, grew the crew, and very quickly became very successful and very wealthy.

Jegora glanced around the bridge, observing the crew in action. He had slipped in unnoticed, which gave him a quiet moment to appreciate the ship and its crew all over again. Even when at general quarters, like now, the bridge only held five individuals at various workstations (two pilots, a gunnery officer, a communications and navigations officer, and an electronic warfare officer) plus the captain’s perch. There were also three droids plugged into various terminals around the outside of the bridge, but while at battle stations they only served to automate non-critical tasks and provide redundancy. The ability to operate the ship with such a small crew was another reason why Stolk and Jegora had selected it in the first place. There were auxiliary stations scattered throughout the ship, of course, but as long as five people lived aboard her the Charlotte could function at maximum effectiveness. And with a skilled and dedicated crew, like the men and women who now helmed her, the Charolette could prove truly dangerous.

Clearing his throat slightly, Jegora made his presence known. Stolk glanced over and then beckoned for Jegora to come closer.

"What’s the word, Captain," Jegora said, using the man’s formal title. Stolk and Jegora had quickly reached an understanding—when they were alone, they were equals, and Stolk often deferred to Jegora’s judgement. But on the bridge of the ship, or on the ground in the middle of a fight, the chain of command had to be preserved, and so some formalities had to be observed. That suite Jegora just fine. He had been a military man long enough to appreciate a clear chain of command.

Stolk shook his head, his long greying hair falling loosely around his eyes before being swept away again. The man probably wasn’t that much older than Jegora himself, but he had lived a hard life as well, and lacked Jegora’s natural talents that served to stave off the worst of time’s effects. The result was that Stolk looked considerably older than he was, but if anything it only added a certain gravitas to the man’s demeanor.

"It’s a strange place you’ve brought us to, Fal," Stolk said, handing Jegora a sensor report. "No signs of life anywhere. Trill is still completing a more detailed long-range sensor check, but no sign of any unfriendlies like you warned us."

Jegora glanced at the sensor report, but it seemed to verify what Stolk was saying. "What about the planet," Jegora said. "There’s really no signs of human activity?"

Stolk shook his head again, and this time he got a distinctly uncomfortable look on his face. "No signs of any life, Fal," he said. "No plant life, no animal life, and certainly no human life. The whole planet is dead. But there’s no sign of physical catastrophe, no asteroid craters, nothing. It’s just empty."

"That’s not possible," Jegora responded immediately, his mind flashing back to his memories of Lopen’s incredibly resilient flora and fauna. He knew from experience that things native to Lopen’s harsh environments were incredibly hard to kill—he had fought very hard to do so himself, often in self defense, on several occasions. "I know this planet," Jegora explained. "I doubt if cracking the crust would kill the native life. And I know the people who were in control last time I was here wouldn’t just up and leave."

Stolk shrugged. "Maybe Trill’s scans will tell us more, Fal, but I don’t have any explanations for you."

Jegora stared out the bridge’s viewport as Lopen slowly rotated into view. The dusty brown planet was just as he remembered, except for that apparently it wasn’t. The Force trembled, and Jegora felt it as a cold chill on the back of his neck. The memory of his dream echoed in his mind. Lopen.

"Atmosphere is in-tact?" he asked, lost in thought. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Stolk hesitate and then nod.

"Prep one of the shuttles, and someone tell York to kick my other two apprentices out of bed. I’m going planetside."

Stolk opened his mouth to protest, but Jegora glanced at the man and caught the old captain’s gaze with his own. Stolk saw something there that would brook no argument, and was smart enough to realize that this was not a battle worth fighting.

"You want a squad to go down with you?" he asked instead, and Jegora was immediately reminded once again why he liked working with the man so much. Still, however well-intentioned the offer, Jegora knew that the entirety of the crew would be little help. Whatever was waiting for him on the surface he would have to face alone.

Well not quite alone. His apprentices would accompany him, although whether they would prove to be a help or a hindrance was anyone’s guess.

"That won’t be necessary, but thank you," Jegora responded, inclining his head slightly in acknowledgment of the offer. "I would appreciate it if you would detach one of the droids, though—we could have need of its services."

Stolk nodded and keyed his comlink, relaying orders for the shuttle to be prepped and a droid brought aboard. Jegora turned and left the bridge, heading to his quarters, and as he did so he gathered his power around him before letting it pulse outwards in a wave that travelled the length of the ship in an instant. A few seconds later he felt the echoes that were his apprentice’s response. They would be ready.

Once back in his room, Jegora moved immediately to a lock box at the foot of the bed. The box was nondescript, but it nevertheless contained some of the most valuable things that Jegora owned. There were no external latches or locks on the box, no apparent way to open it from the inside. For Jegora, however, that was no problem. Reaching out through the Force, he deftly triggered the complex locking mechanism that was inside the box, and the lid popped open with a small groan.

Reaching inside, Jegora first pulled out a set of dark grey robes, tightly folded with military precision. Designed for maximum movement, they were at first relatively plain looking, but a keen-eyed observer would note that they were made entirely out of armourweave cloth, and thus were almost as energy-resistant as standard military body armor. They were also incredibly expensive, but they had been made for Jegora at a time in which cost (at least for the Order) had not been an issue. He hadn’t worn them in a long time, but had had them re-tailored only a few months ago, a time-consuming and expensive process that he had felt silly for pursuing. Now, however, he was glad he had listened to his instincts and had taken the time and the effort.

He pulled out a few more things, including a utility belt filled with all sorts of useful items and a communicator that had enough range to send encrypted communications anywhere in the system. At last, however, he pulled out a relatively small package wrapped in heavily waxed leather. Gingerly he laid the bundle on the bed and stared at it for a moment before slowly unwrapping it, carefully unwinding each leather strip with great intention.

Eventually the last strip fell away revealing two unassuming metal cylinders. One was wrapped in strips of worn leather and was a little shorter, flaring outward slightly on one end. The other was solid metal save for the twining grooves cut into its handle; it was perfectly straight and slightly longer than the first cylinder. Jegora stared at the devices for a long moment before gently picking them both up and clipping them to his utility belt. These were his lightsabers, the legendary weapons of Force users. It had been a long time since he had wielded them in battle, although he still regularly trained with the training versions he had constructed for his apprentices. He found the weapons’ weight on his belt strangely comforting, as if he had been missing their presence all along and had not even realized it.

When Jegora arrived at the hangar deck his apprentices were waiting. All three were dressed in lightly armored combat suits and wielded a various assortment of blasters and knives. They were dangerous in their own right, and becoming more so every day under Jegora’s tutelage. The finer arts of the Sith and Jedi might elude him, but if it was one thing Jegora could teach it was the martial skills. When Jegora arrived, the three were softly talking amongst themselves, but that ended as soon as they caught sight of their master.

The apprentices had never seen Jegora like this. Oh, they had seen him wield a lightsaber in training, and they knew that he had once been a member of an Order akin to the Sith and Jedi of legend, but they had never seem him dressed in the formal robes of the Order and wielding a real lightsaber. They stared openly at Jegora as he approached, mouths hanging open slightly.

York was the first to recover, falling back on her usual glibness. "Got any of those fancy robes for us?" she asked, her voice only quavering slightly. Jegora figured it was finally settling in that this might not be a walk in the park after all. The trio was used to danger, but they were also used to fighting with a whole company of men at their backs. This would be different.

"No robes," Jegora replied dryly. "But I have something else you might be interested in."

With that he drew the shorter cylinder from his belt and tossed it to York, who caught it by reflex. Now Jegora could really feel her surprise.

"This is a loan, not a gift," Jegora explained. "I want that back. But you’ve come far in your training and I don’t know what we’re going to find, so you deserve to be well armed."

Jegora nodded to his other two apprentices. They were twins, brother and sister, and were barely eighteen. They had been with Jegora not even a year, but they were learning fast. The boy, Atle, had a natural skill with the Force that Jegora had rarely seen. His sister, Prin, was less subtle in her skill but possessed more natural power. Despite their talents, however, they were not ready for real lightsabers. Jegora had doubts as to whether or not they should even accompany him to the planet’s surface, but he had kept them in training long enough. It was now they would sink or swim, and where better to have their first real test other than Lopen itself.

"You two stick close," he said, his voice full of iron and brooking no argument. "Follow orders and don’t do anything stupid and you’ll probably be fine." The pair quickly nodded, their faces growing pale as Jegora spoke. "We don’t know what we’re going to find down there, but I will tell you from experience that Lopen is full of surprises and is brutally unforgiving. Remember your training and you’ll survive. Do something stupid and you’ll regret it, at least until it kills you."

Convinced that the young apprentices got the message, Jegora turned his attention back to York, who was still admiring the lightsaber in his hands. "You, don’t get ahead of yourself. That weapon will just as easily be a liability as it will an asset. Keep your wits about you and, like I told the twins, try not to do anything too stupid."

York only nodded, and Jegora knew it was a sing of how nervous she was that she didn’t respond with some witty remark. Satisfied that his apprentices understood the risks, he motioned for them to board the assault shuttle and then followed them up the ramp. Once they were all aboard the ramp slid closed with a hiss, locking into place, and Jegora settled in behind the pilot’s console.

"Alright droid," he said, "plot us a course to the main set of ruins on the surface. We want to get in low and quiet." The astromech beeped in response and Jegora keyed the ship’s direct line to the Charolette’s bridge.

"Captain, we’re ready down here. Requesting launch authorization."

Stolk’s voice crackled to life, echoing throughout the eerily empty shuttle, which was designed to hold two dozen men and equipment but now just held four beings and a droid. "Permission granted, Fal. Happy hunting. We’ll keep you informed if anything develops up here.”"

Running his hands over the familiar controls, Jegora increased the power to the engines and the shuttle’s repulsers started to lift it off the hanger deck. "Much appreciated bridge. Fal out." Turning off the comms, he motioned to the astromech and said, "take us out, droid, nice and easy."

With another beep, the droid did just that, and the shuttle smoothly slid out of the Charlotte’s hanger bay and into the blackness of space. Jegora watched as Lopen began to steadily grow closer and closed his eyes, feeling the nervousness and excitement rolling off his apprentices. That was good. Nervousness would keep them alive, hopefully, and excitement proved that they had the courage to face this challenge. There was even a bit of fear, but that was okay too. Fear would make them strong. And truth be told, Jegora was a little bit afraid himself, although he had an iron grip on his fear and would have never admitted it. Still, it had been a long time since he had been to Lopen, and he had no idea what to expect on the surface. Stolk’s strange sensor readings only had him more wary. Add to the fact that his last visit to Lopen had led to the shattering of the Order and Jegora had more than enough reason to be cautious about returning to the planet.

But as the planet grew steadily closer, Jegora also felt his own excitement grow. His memories of Lopen were not all pleasant (in fact, very few at all even approached pleasant), but somehow, for some reason, it was still home. His dream had been driving him back here for months, and now he was finally here. The Force was churning, and although Jegora didn’t know what he would find, he knew it was going to alter the course of his life significantly. Tasting adrenaline in the back of his mouth, Jegora couldn’t help but grin. He suddenly realized that he had been on the sidelines long enough. Whatever he was going to find, whatever was going to happen, he was ready.

Or so he thought.
Jegora Fal

Dark Lord of the Sith
Sith Vitiator

DLoS | SVT Jegora | Marauders | Eagle | Sith | VEDJ | VE  [SoY] [KC:1]


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Trick
ComNet Sultan
 
Trick
 
[VE-DJO] Dark Jedi Warrior
[VE-NAVY] Rear Admiral
 
Post Number:  3773
Total Posts:  3782
Joined:  Feb 2011
Status:  Offline
  RE: Shades of the Past
June 3, 2019 7:36:12 PM    View the profile of Trick 
OOC:
This happens mere hours before the Charlotte arrives in the Shykar System.  Trick gets there first, and lands his customized (maybe recognizable?) TIE/D Defender right in front of the Citadel before going in.


The cockpit was bathed in subtly-changing blue light as the starfighter hurled itself through the vortex of hyperspace.  Zev took a deep breath, redirected his gaze to the central octagonal viewport, and squinted in anticipation.  A single heartbeat later, a sudden flash of impossibly-bright whiteness burned everything else away.  Time seemed to hang, suspended in that blinding void.  And then the ship reverted to realspace, and infinite white lines rushed past until they slowly resolved themselves into a faintly familiar starfield.

“I am happy to report that we have safely arrived in the Shykar System,” KayDee Zero said immediately.

“No,” Zev murmured.  “This place will never be safe, Kiddo.”

“Ah.  Well I am running continuous scans,” the AI said.  The feminine voice seemed flustered.  “And there’s nothing here.  No threats.”

“There are some threats that sensors can’t detect.”

“Fine then,” KayDee said petulantly.  “My sensors aren’t good enough for you and I’ve already locked in your departure course.  Since you won’t be needing me I guess I’ll just shut down for a while.”

A decrescendo indicated the power-down sequence, and the temperamental astrogator had switched itself into standby mode.

Zev slumped in his seat.  “Don’t be like that, Kiddo.”

There was no reply, only the omnipresent high-pitched drone of the Defender’s double ion engines.

But Zev didn’t have time for a pouting droid.  He turned his attention to the little brown ball floating many kilometers away, and frowned beneath his helmet.  Despite her tantrum, KayDee had been right: there was no sign of any activity at all around the planet.

Zev began to look for threats in ways his ship couldn’t.  But even the Force seemed quiet.  Not silent, though.  Not tranquil.  Instead, he felt a barely-perceptible sensation of anticipation, as if the planet itself were holding its breath.

He realized that he had been too, and he exhaled slowly.

It didn’t make any sense.  When last Zev had been there, the entire system was heavily fortified by occupying Thrawnist forces.  The wily Chiss had allied himself to a group of twisted Darksiders who called themselves the Reborn, and together these allies had invaded Lopen.  The planet had been the secret headquarters of the Order to which Zev had belonged, and their enemies drove them from it with heavy loss of life on both sides.  Lopen was an ancient nexus of Dark Side energies, and the Reborn used these energies for their own nefarious purposes: they were able to tap into this font of power directly, which greatly enhanced their fighting strength.  Thrawn upheld his end of the bargain by diverting conventional forces to help conquer and then defend the Shykar System.  The move helped both of the allies, and helped build some small measure of trust between them.

Lopen had seemed lost forever.  But now it seemed that all that had changed.

“You were right, Mistress Sharpe,” Zev said aloud.  “Something happened here.”

He grabbed the control yoke and turned his ship toward Lopen.  It was time to figure out what that something was.


***

The mystery only deepened as Zev began his descent.  His instruments and his instincts reached the same inescapable conclusion: the surface was completely devoid of life.  The planet’s teeming ecosystem of mostly-predatory life was gone.  The bases and barracks of Thrawn’s garrison were intact but empty.  And perhaps strangest of all, the spindly black spires of the ancient Citadel seemed deserted as well.

Zev completed three flyovers of the tall, foreboding complex, and finally brought his fighter in for a landing.

He popped the hatch and the hot, dry air of Lopen poured into the cockpit like superheated plasma.  He removed his flight helmet and raised a hand to block the swirling grit from the sun-blasted surface.  And then he clambered up and to the ground, pushing his way through the gusting wind.

He was alone.  Or so it seemed.  Zev felt uneasy, and unsure of himself.  He spared a glance upward, and quickly turned his head down to shield his eyes from both sun and sand.

He shook his head, and trudged to the vaulted doorway opposite the landing pad.  The interior of the Citadel was much colder than its surroundings, Zev knew.  And much more dark.  But those were hardly comforting thoughts.

He placed a hand on the heavy stone door and closed his eyes.  Another test, he thought.  She’s just giving me another chance to confront my fear.  He leaned forward until his forehead rested on the preternaturally cold stone.

Zev took a breath, and pushed the portal open.
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(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
Jegora
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Jegora
 
[VE-ARMY] Brigadier General
[VE-DJO] Sith Vitiator
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 4, 2019 3:48:06 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
The course the droid plotted down to Lopen’s surface took too long for Jegora’s liking, but he couldn’t fault the droid’s navigational abilities. They came in on a shallow decay orbit against the planet’s natural rotation, skimming just over the desert surface at high speed. Watching out the shuttle’s front viewport, Jegora watched the empty horizon as the droid kept the ship just a few dozen meters above the ground. He was a fair pilot himself, but the crew had invested heavily in several state-of-the-art astromech/pilot droids, and he was more than content to let the machine handle the work. It handled the approach far better than he could have.

Suddenly the Citadel’s black spires pierced the horizon, rising up out of the desert like a clawing, black hand stretching out of a cold grave. Even at this distance it was intimidating, and Jegora was reminded that the Citadel was much, much older than the Order. Whomever had built the massive fortress had built to last, and his own Order had merely tenanted the structure for a time. The Citadel emanated such an aura of permanence that Jegora couldn’t help but be reminded of his—and his Order’s—own mortality, and he grimaced at the unpleasant thought.

But it wasn’t just the Citadel that was making Jegora uneasy. This close to the planet’s surface, he could feel the echo in the Force that belied the absolute and unnatural absence of life. The wrong-ness of it permeated everything, and the as the droid brought them closer to what was once the heart of the Order’s power, Jegora felt the tremors in the Force grow even stronger.

And then, surprisingly, he felt something else, something he couldn’t place. The feeling tickled the back of his mind, trying and failing to find purchase in old memories. It was like forgetting a word that was on the tip of your tongue, and that sensation too grew stronger as the shuttle drew closer to the Citadel.

The shuttle’s comlink beeped with an incoming message and York quickly moved to answer it. A miniature Stolt leapt to life on the console’s holodisplay.

“Be advised, shuttle, long range scans indicate you’re not alone. At least one fighter-sized craft hidden in the fortress’ shadow.” Stolt paused, hesitating slightly before continuing. “Trill says the structure is preventing his scans from getting any useful readings, so we have no idea what’s hiding in the structure itself. Are you sure you want to go through with this?”

Jegora was only half listening. As soon as Stolt had relayed the message about the parked fighter, the Force had started pulsing around him. “Too late, Captain,” he said after a long second, realizing that York and the twins were looking at him to respond. “We’re here.”

______


The droid brought the shuttle in for a smooth landing right next to the fighter craft. Thermal scans with the shuttles’ sensors showed that the ship’s engines were still hot, meaning that it hadn’t landed all that long ago. A few hours, at most.

“Droid, keep an eye on that fighter. If it sends a signal, powers up its main reactor, or even so much as twitches, blow it off the pad.”

The droid beeped happily in acknowledgement, and Jegora heard the shuttle’s heavy laser cannons spin around to focus on the fighter. Jegora tilted his head towards the back of the ship and the four of them made their way out of the cockpit through the crew hold. York hit a button on their way by and the ramp began to lower, revealing Lopen’s dusty surface. Seemingly without hesitation, although internally he was far less sure of himself, Jegora strode down the ramp and set foot within the Citadel for the first time in a long time.

If the sense of wrongness had been strong before now it was almost overwhelming. Even the apprentices gritted their teeth against the sensation, which seemed to emanate from the central tower in front of them. Jegora also noted that one of the stone doors leading into the central spire was open. Again a sensation of familiarity spiked through the Force, and Jegora let it wash over him as deeply as he could, drawing on all his power to try and decipher the meaning of the message. After another long moment he relaxed slightly and sighed, frustrated—despite his training over the last several years, such subtle interpretations were still beyond his skill.

Drawing his power in tight around himself, Jegora went through the once-familiar exercise of purging all emotion from his mind. He clamped down on his fear and uncertainty, even his excitement, with an iron will. He would harness those emotions, use them as fuel as necessary, but he would not otherwise let them affect his actions. This was a technique that Jegora hadn’t used in a while, and so it took him longer than he would have liked to achieve control, but he had learned that particular skill very early on in his training on Lopen and his Masters in the Order had been especially diligent in making sure that their students remembered what they were taught.

Glancing at his apprentices, all of whom were looking a little unsure of themselves, Jegora motioned towards the spire’s great stone door. When he spoke, his voice was cold as ice, flat and emotionless and full of steel. His eyes flashed purple-gray, the color of storm clouds at sunset, and he saw his apprentices start in surprise at the sudden change in his demeanor. This was yet another side of their master that the three young ones had never seen before.

“Be ready,” he warned. “This place is old, full of memory. Full of hate. It does not easily tolerate trespassers, if it decides we are such.”

York nodded and the twins followed suit. Jegora eyed all three of them one last time before sweeping forwards towards the open door. As he pushed his way across the threshold and into the darkness beyond, he felt something new from the Force, and itch at the base of his neck. He glanced around the shadows of the cavernous hallway, trying to figure out what his instincts were telling him now, but he was distracted by memories of his time on Lopen and at the Citadel. As an Initiate he had travelled this same path to the Citadel’s central audience chamber. The memory was so strong he could almost taste the fear he had felt then as a young man confronted with things beyond his understanding. He could almost see the other Initiates around him, being ushered in for an audience with the then-headmaster of the Order, the one they called Japheth. He could almost smell the sweat and dull odor of decay that had, at that time, permeated the entire Citadel. His mind reeled, and he started to lose himself in the memory.

He was a dozen steps inside before he realized what was happening, and by then it was too late. Drawing on his power, he banished the memory from his mind, reasserting his will and stilling his thoughts. At the same time he whirled, his lightsaber flying off his belt and into his hand in one smooth motion. With a thought he activated the weapon, revealing a dull blue blade slightly more than a meter in length. His apprentices, close on his tail and now between him the door, started in surprise, clearly uncertain what was going on. The ambush quickly became clear to them when the door to the courtyard slammed shut behind them. This time they spun around at the noise, just in time to see a second lightsaber flick to life out of the shadows in front of them. Nervously they glanced back and forth between this newcomer and Jegora, hands going to their own weapons. Jegora shook his head slightly, ordering them to stay still. All they could do now was get themselves killed.

“Ah, and the trap is sprung,” the newcomer who was now blocking their exit said softly. “And who, pray tell, are you all?”

Jegora didn’t respond immediately. The sound of that voice had triggered a memory. The Force nearly shouted at him, and the last piece fell into place. Jegora couldn’t see the newcomer clearly—the would-be ambusher was only half-lit by the wavering green/white glow from his weapon—but he had no doubt about the identify of his assailant.

“Sharpe’s lackey,” he said, not responding to the man’s question. His voice still lacked any emotion, but no one in the hallway missed the way his eyes flashed in the dull reflected light from the two lightsabers. “Tikarian. This is certainly a surprise. I suppose I have you to thank for that little trip down memory lane?”
Jegora Fal

Dark Lord of the Sith
Sith Vitiator

DLoS | SVT Jegora | Marauders | Eagle | Sith | VEDJ | VE  [SoY] [KC:1]


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Trick
ComNet Sultan
 
Trick
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 4, 2019 6:41:26 AM    View the profile of Trick 
OOC:
Just something quick to move us along a bit.


“Jegora Fal, as I live and breathe,” Zev said evenly.  The mirthless greeting echoed in the cavernous room.  “I never would have guessed.”

The brooding brute’s presence was genuinely puzzling.  Fal was a dumb beast, and although he was quite dangerous in his own straightforward way, he seemed wholly incapable of making an entire star system’s worth of lifeforms disappear without a trace.

Zev sneered, hoping to obscure his confusion and fear.  “Never would have guessed,” he repeated, “that you’d ever manage to make a friend.  And now look at you.  You have three!”  He made eye contact with each of Fal’s underlings in turn, grinning all the while.

The most powerful of the three took a step toward him, no doubt trying to convey menace.  The effect was somewhat marred, however, when Fal sent her a simple telepathic message and it caused her to cringe.  It had been a brief mental touch - part warning and part chastisement - but the woman shrank back from the contact as if she’d been physically struck.  Observing the oversensitive reaction confirmed what Zev had suspected: the three lesser Force-users were Jegora Fal’s apprentices, and despite some raw talent they weren’t yet much of a threat.

Fal grunted.  His three students stepped back toward the walls, leaving a clear space in the center of the chamber.  Across the divide from each other, two lightsabers hummed.  “You still love the sound of your own voice, Trikarian.”

Zev shrugged.  “And you still have no sense of humor, Fal.  People never change eh?”  He relaxed his stance and let his saber fall into a lazy low guard.  “So what brings you to Lopen?”  He glanced at the three apprentices again.  “Leading a tour group?”
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(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
Mongrel
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 4, 2019 6:49:53 AM    View the profile of Mongrel 
Something on Lopen changed. The Force reverberated, turning Bloodhound’s red eyes outward, to the surface.

Fal.

An interesting change of pace, but one for another time. Here, in the darkness, there was no time for anything but the scents and sounds around him. The whole tunnel reeked of soap and sweat, and of food on heavy breath. Each sound of movement added to the picture, each shifting of weight, each foot fall, every muffled clink of metal and creak of leather. There were four, and they all smelled of fear and soft beds.

The Mongrel waited for them to make a move, to come closer, to ignite a lightsaber, to reach out with The Force, but nothing came. Just more of the same sounds and same scents, until he groaned and pulled The Force into him, wrapping his mind in a maelstrom of energy, of white hot power. The illusions disappeared, like a switch had been thrown, and The Mongrel made a mental note that this tunnel was no longer safe. His eyes turned again to the surface, and lingered.

He wondered if it was daylight up there, if he’d have to check, but this interruption was too significant to ignore. When he’d warded his mind, Fal had not left it. He was here, on Lopen. He itched a scab on his head until his fingernail peeled back, then shook his hand until the broken nail flew free. There were other problems to deal with first.

He reached out his left hand, feeling the stone wall, rough after so many centuries beneath the earth. He pulled The Force in, the heat and the sickness, and shoved it into his arm until the stone began to melt beneath it. He poured The Force into the handprint until it glowed, then until it glowed brightly, then a touch more until it continued after he removed his hand.

Then he set to work. His time on Lopen, however long it had been, had given him time to learn many things in his search for a way to dodge a death that he knew was coming soon. The ancient alchemies of the Sith were among the most valuable, and he set about his work, pulling from a small blood spattered satchel the ingredients needed to ward another tunnel. Once the powders and potions, things made to hold Force energy and manipulate it, sat in a semicircle before him, though, he stood and he paced.

It wasn’t the only tunnel that lead further down, but it was the most direct. He’d warded to few tunnels, and each was a calculation. He couldn’t risk the Reborn finding his safehouse, but avoiding this tunnel, now that the malignant presence knew he used it, would slow him. He could ward his mind, but only so much, and for so long. He chewed on a strand of black hair for a moment until it cut into his lips the taste of his own acrid blood reminded him of something.

He returned the ingredients to his pouch, and, from a smaller one on his belt, took forth a red crystal. The light began to dim, but the crystal refracted even that. He put it in the burning handprint, holding it in with his palm as he recited the words and poured Force into it. The words had no power themselves, but it was how they made the mind work, and the subconscious jump in circles, that affected the way The Force would be stored in the crystal. With that done, and the light finally fading, The Mongrel retreated down the tunnel, back to his safe house.

The safehouse could be called a cave, or a sanctum, or a hermitage really, Mongrel called it a safehouse because had been a criminal and that’s what they called safe places. Hideout was a bit passé. It was really more a cave though. Books sat piled on ramshackle tables, a chalkboard had been found, recovered, and set up in one corner. The walls were covered in writing and glyphs, many burned into the stonework and the tools for distillation and manipulation of alchemical components were arrayed against one wall. There was no bed, Mongrel hadn’t needed on in a long time, The Force sustained him and destroyed him. He was more aware of the rot now than he’d ever been, and at some point during his time in the darkness, he had realized it would kill him. The books were largely arcane in nature, most dealing with alchemy of the body, though they were difficult to understand when they could be understood at all and many were just the ravings of madmen. Mongrel hadn’t set up this safehouse, a blackened skull he kept on his main desk was all that remained of the original occupant, though what had happened to him was as mysterious as the visions and illusions that plagued the catacombs.

Mongrel could move freely below ground, but above ground the winds and the weather ripped at his decaying body, and so he returned to find protection. It was a mishmash of Reborn armor and clothes pilfered from above grounds. He’d found early on that wearing a helmet did more damage than good, so he wore a mask and goggles under a hood. Everything was scarred and patched, and what could be painted black was.

Fal will fix this, or he will die.

Mongrel felt into the pouch he’d pulled the crystal from, just one left, the important one. He closed his fist around it, feeling it under the thin leather gloves. The temptation to use it was strong, it was always strong, but Mongrel had a task to complete, and so, he dove back out of the safehouse, running, to the tunnels that lead to the surface, to that pinprick of hate, Jegora Fal. There was no quick way out of the catacombs, and Mongrel hoped, with no expectation of it being realized, that it was still day above ground.
Bitch! I eat people.
-Alucard (abridged)
Jegora
ComNet Disciple
 
Jegora
 
[VE-ARMY] Brigadier General
[VE-DJO] Sith Vitiator
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 5, 2019 3:41:59 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
Jegora ignored Tikarian’s jab, and he flicked his gaze over each of his apprentices, silently warning them to do and say nothing. He lifted his chin slightly, and his apprentices began to edge down the hallway towards Jegora, slowly clearing his line of assault should violence become necessary.

“Get tired of playing emperor, Zev?” Jegora responded, his voice flat and emotionless. “Or did Sharpe finally give you a little bit of leash?”

Tikarian gritted his teeth slightly. Jegora’s jab was an old one, by now no doubt familiar, but it still touched a nerve. “Some of us couldn’t just drop all our responsibilities and run away.”

“And some of us couldn’t ride coattails to fame and fortune,” Jegora snapped back. “Where is Sharpe, by the way? Last I heard she got herself blown up, but I think I’ll believe that when I see the body. Unless you finally grew a pair and took her out yourself, but I don’t find that very likely either.”

Outwardly Tikarian showed no response to Jegora’s words, but the Force pulsed with the other Dark Jedi’s tightly control anger.

“That’s far enough,” Tikarian’s voice cracked like a whip, his voice holding the authority of one who was used to commanding millions. “I’d appreciate it if the kids would stand still for now. I might get nervous.”

The apprentices froze in their tracks, now just within a couple yards of Jegora but still between him and Tikarian, which was not optimal. But Jegora noticed something else: the apprentices had obeyed, and they had obeyed without question and almost without thinking. And even Jegora, who was very, very unused to being ordered about, had found himself pulled to obey. 

Jegora closed his eyes briefly and reached out through the Force and felt the ripples of Tikarian’s words. After a brief second, Jegora was able to discern that the other man had subtly layered a Force persuasion over his words. It was a deft touch, and even more impressive that Jegora had failed to notice it until he had looked for it—the first thing every Initiate learned was how to recognize and resist Force-enhanced persuasion. At the same time, Tikarian had shown little effort, and might not have even realized he had done it. The man was probably so used to using his passive Force talents in managing an empire that he did so without thinking and with great skill. It was a sobering reminder that Tikarian was not some unblooded neophyte. Maybe, Jegora thought to himself, a little more caution was warranted.

“Ah,” Jegora said, opening his eyes and meeting Tikarian’s questioning gaze. “That was well done.”

“Don’t try it again.”
Jegora Fal
Sith Vitiator
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 5, 2019 3:56:41 PM    View the profile of Trick 
Zev felt himself losing control of the situation.  Fal was getting angry, and Zev didn’t think he’d like the brute when he was angry.

He had to keep tempers contained for just a few minutes more.  Zev had been observing the curious quartet since they first arrived - with his physical senses and with his metaphysical ones - and his reconnaissance had revealed a point of weakness that he could exploit.  If only he had a little more time.

“I’m sincerely sorry Fal,” Zev said, careful to keep his tone earnest and conciliatory, and injecting a note of regret.  “It’s a terrible habit.  Sometimes I do it without even realizing.”  And sometimes I do it on purpose.

The three apprentices looked utterly confused, their consternation palpable.  The poor dears didn’t understand what their elders were discussing.  Indeed, at their stage of development it was even possible that they couldn’t understand.

But Jegora Fal understood.  He knew what it meant to penetrate deep into another’s psyche, to wrestle their soul into submission, and to subjugate their will.  His own talents may have lain elsewhere, but Fal had spent enough time in the Order to witness extreme acts of mental domination first hand.  He’d been forced to observe others succumb to thralldom as part of his training, as had Zev.  Forced to examine the unspeakable violation from close up, using all his physical and metaphysical senses.  Conditioned to feel both the victim’s fear and the assailant’s hatred.  And taught to feed off of the hurt and the horror to fuel his own dark power.

This place was one hell of a boarding school, Zev reflected.  He suppressed a sudden urge to shiver.  Memories were a distraction.

For his part, Fal simply folded his arms skeptically.  The gesture accentuated the man’s intimidatingly massive muscles.

Zev plowed on.  “We were peers once, Jegora,” he said, deciding on impulse to risk the use of the man’s first name.  “Comrades.”

The hulking Sith’s only response was another grunt.

Such a dazzling conversationalist, Zev thought, his inner voice charged with so much sarcasm that it was difficult not to betray his feelings through his body language.  But at least he seems a bit less… volatile.

Zev didn’t know whether Fal was responsible for making countless lifeforms disappear.  All he knew was that his Mistress had sent him to Lopen to confront a mysterious threat, and his investigation had uncovered nothing besides a hostile Sith who hated his Mistress, accompanied by three armed apprentices.

A confrontation seemed inevitable, and Zev wanted the odds a bit more even if and when the fighting broke out.  He had to keep working on the young twins, delving deeper and deeper into their minds until he could control them completely.

Zev preferred to face dangerous situations with allies - willing or not - at his side.

But his stamina was flagging.  Maintaining the psychic camouflage required to hide his thoughts and feelings from Fal was exhausting.  He couldn’t maintain the facade forever, but he dared not drop his guard.  It was a race against himself: would his offensive manipulations succeed before his defensive illusions sputtered and failed?

Only if he could keep Jegora Fal listening.
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SCAP/RADM Zev "Trick" Tikarian/Interdictor-class Star Destroyer Subjugator/TF:A/2Flt/FC/VEN/VE

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(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
Jegora
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Jegora
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 6, 2019 2:03:20 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
Something was wrong. Jegora didn’t know what it was, but the Force positively thrummed with warning. His instincts were screaming at him, causing the hair on the back of his neck to stand up. But while he had learned long ago to trust his instincts, he already knew the situation he found himself in was precarious. He knew the Force was trying to tell him something, but his perceptions just weren’t sensitive enough to divine the specifics of the message on the fly and while he was distracted with an immediate threat in front of him.

“Why are you here, Tikarian?” Jegora growled, his frustration slipping through his iron self-control and tinting his voice with malice. Jegora gestured around vaguely. “Doesn’t seem like there’s much left here you could want.”

Tikarian’s eyes narrowed slightly. “The place does seem awfully empty.”

Now what does that mean, Jegora thought to himself. Could he know what happened here?.

Or maybe he was even responsible. Jegora hadn’t assume that Tikarian commanded that kind of power, but if he had managed to remove Sharpe, then maybe Jegora had drastically underestimated the man.

The Force pulsed again, and again Jegora couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. He focused on Tikarian, using the Force to enhance both his physical and nonphysical senses, hoping to gain a better understanding of what the other Dark Jedi was planning or thinking. Jegora lacked the telepathic skills to penetrate the Tikarian’s mind, but it might be possible to get a sense of his emotions, of his intentions.

Except it seemed that the harder Jegora looked, the less he saw. The deeper he reached through the Force, the more jumbled the emotions and sensations emanating from the man became. Even his eyes, sharpened by the Force so that he could see fairly well in the dark gloom of the corridor, couldn’t pick out any details. Jegora’s gaze just seemed to slide off the other Dark Jedi, refusing to focus and refusing to process what they were seeing. After several long seconds of intense scrutiny, Jegora began to get a headache and his thoughts were getting foggy.

Finally something pierced through the confusion and Jegora’s instincts took over. Something wasn’t right, and even if his conscious mind was unable to process what was happening, he had to assume it was Tikarian’s doing. He had to act, and he had to act now lest he lose the initiative.

“Enough!” Jegora thundered, channeling energy into the floor and walls of the corridor. The energy traveled towards Tikarian like a wave, and as it passed the apprentices they were thrown violently to the floor. Jegora grimaced, but he had other concerns. In the blink of an eye the wave reached Tikarian, and while it didn’t knock him off his feet like it did Jegora’s apprentices, it was enough to stagger the formidable Dark Jedi. It also seemed to interrupt whatever the man had been doing, as Jegora’s thoughts cleared.

It only took Jegora a minute to realize that something was still wrong. The Force rang in his ears, a howling whine that only he could hear, signaling imminent danger. And since Tikarian was occupied, shaking his head and still recovering from the telekinetic disruption, the only others who could offer threat were…

Jegora focused his senses on his apprentices. They were rising to their feet, shaking off the effects of the strike—they had suffered the physical blow more readily than Tikarian, but only as collateral, and as a result they recovered faster. York looked to be okay, but when Jegora locked gazes with Atle and Prin he was met only with hateful glares—glares that were directed at him. The look on their faces wasn’t human; something else, something almost feral, moved behind their eyes. Some deep part of him was horrified, but that part was locked away and under control. He would deal with his apprentices—it would be easy enough to incapacitate them without killing them—and then he would make Tikarian pay.

Except Tikarian didn’t give Jegora a chance to act. With a howl the Dark Jedi threw his will against Jegora’s, and suddenly Jegora found himself desperately defending himself against a mental assault that was proving almost more than he could match. Snarling, Jegora jerked his head towards the twins, who’s Force-fueled hate had by now turned to bloodlust, all of it directed at Jegora and York.

“Try not to kill them, York,” Jegora bit off, each word costing effort he could barely spare, “but do what you must.”

With that he turned his full attention towards the Dark Jedi who was assaulting his mind. With practiced ease he drew his lightsaber off his belt once again and ignited it, it’s dull blue blade humming to life. York did the same, the silver blade of Jegora’s first lightsaber adding its light to his own.

Across the room, Tikarian grimaced and drew his own weapons from the depths of his robe, all the while maintaining his mental assault. Jegora didn’t know if he could fight while defending his mind, but he also knew he didn’t have much choice. If he let Tikarian hammer away at his psyche for much longer the man would break through and run rampant through Jegora’s thoughts. Rather to die cleanly than as a plaything for a spider like Tikarian.

He learned well from Sharpe, Jegora thought to himself. Let’s see if he learned anything else.
Jegora Fal
Sith Vitiator
Trick
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Trick
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 6, 2019 4:09:43 PM    View the profile of Trick 
Everything happened all at once.

Zev broke the twins simultaneously, smashing through their last mental defenses and starting to dissect their internal sense of self.  But there was no time to celebrate, because in the same moment he lost his grip on Fal.  Instantly, Zev felt the man drawing in Force energy, preparing to attack.  He knew he only had moments.

But after years of practice, Zev knew that it would only take him moments to program his new automata.  He cut off their access to empathy and amplified their fear until it was all-consuming.  He prodded at old psychic scars and reanimated secret traumas long buried.  And with one final effort, Zev transmuted the twins’ every remembered hurt into white-hot rage.

“Enough!” Fal bellowed, and he released a powerful wave of telekinetic energy.  All three of the brute’s students were thrown to the ground, and Zev could barely keep his footing in the torrent of malevolence.

When the wave passed, Zev let himself rest.  He retreated from his mental attacks and abandoned his attempts at emotional concealment.  He allowed himself to appear as vulnerable and pathetic as he felt.

Because he wanted Fal’s attention focused on him, not his pawns. The twins were already starting to stand up, their eyes hungry and bright in the darkness.  Zev felt his anticipation building.  That’s right, Fal, he thought.  I’ve run out of tricks; you’ve got me beat.  Revel in my defeat.  Gloat a little!  Just pay no attention to the pair of animals I’ve unleashed, sneaking up behind you...

But Jegora Fal refused to play along.  He noticed the twins advancing on him, and Zev could see he meant to neutralize them immediately.

That wouldn’t do at all.

Zev threw himself back into the duel, lancing out with telepathic barbs and spinning up auditory and visual hallucinations summoned from the darkest recesses of Fal’s subconscious.  He felt himself beginning to sag - the mental strain was starting to add up - but his spirits were restored when Fal staggered under the barrage of illusions.

Fal spun back around and locked eyes with Zev.  “Try not to kill them, York,” he called over his shoulder, “but do what you must.”

The gambit had worked!  Zev had turned a four-on-one fight into a one-on-one duel.

The only teeny, tiny, weensy little insignificant problem was that the matchup still pitted him against one of the best duelists he had ever met.

As if on cue, Fal drew his lightsaber.  There was a loud snap-hiss and the blade extended, bathing the chamber in soft blue light once again.

Zev had to admit: Fal was downright scary when he wanted to be.  He flashed his fellow darksider a tired smile, and shrugged off the heavy robe he’d pulled on over his flight suit.  Here goes nothing, he said to himself.  He drew his own lightsaber and thumbed the activation button.  A green glow commingled with the blue.

With great effort Zev stilled his racing thoughts and slowed his heartbeat, readying himself for the challenge ahead.  He held his saber vertically in a traditional salute, and then flicked the blade down and away to indicate readiness.  Even as he did, he sensed Fal’s anger boil over.  Time seemed to slow to a crawl, and just as his foe shifted his weight to begin a charge, Zev winked at him.  Better to project the aura of a predator than the posture of a prey animal.

By the time Fal had taken a single step, Zev had already transferred his lightsaber to his left hand and drawn an elegant holdout blaster pistol with his right, all in one smooth motion.  He opened fire, hurling angry red bolts at his rapidly-approaching foe.  The first shot went wide, and Fal deflected the second and third.  But by then they’d both found their rhythm, and when Fal sent the fourth shot whizzing back at Zev, the latter didn’t even try to return the serve with his own lightsaber.  He simply dodged.  Zev contorted his body with unnatural flexibility and speed to avoid the shot, and his lightsaber swung wildly as he awkwardly tried to regain his balance.  But throughout it all, he kept shooting.

The constant pressure finally paid dividends: a single blaster bolt hit Fal in the shoulder hard enough to rock him back.  But the maniac kept up his advance, and Zev knew he was almost in melee range.

He had one last trick to try.  He kissed his blaster’s engraved laroon wood grip farewell, and lobbed the gun underhanded at Fal.  It was a pitiful toss, and the weapon sailed through the air in a slow, gentle arc.  Fal looked appropriately contemptuous, and easily batted the pistol away with his saber.

But when he did, the blaster’s power cell exploded.

Zev couldn’t tell whether the blast had inflicted any damage, but it didn’t really matter.  He was already taking advantage of the distraction to line up his first slash, aimed at the same shoulder he’d shot moments before.

But Fal’s blade was there to intercept.

And so the duel began in earnest.

OOC:
The beginning of this is a little long, just to recap stuff from a different POV.  I hope the last few 'graphs are enough for you to work with, Jeg (and Mongrel!).
Naval High Command
CNW/Rear Admiral Trick/NHC/VEN/VE

Second Vast Imperial Fleet
SCAP/RADM Zev "Trick" Tikarian/Interdictor-class Star Destroyer Subjugator/TF:A/2Flt/FC/VEN/VE

Decorations
[HNS][1NS][2NS][3NS][4NS][5NS][LSM][BWC][SWC][GWC][PWC][WM0][WM1][WM2][WM3][WM4][WM5]
[*IG*][*AO*][SoA][CoB.][VC:B][VC:S][VC:G][VC:E][SoV][LoM][DSM][NSM][E][NAR][CC:4][CNQST][NDM][MSMx2][NC][IGC]

(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
[This message has been edited by Trick (edited June 6, 2019 4:25:49 PM)]
Mongrel
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Mongrel
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 6, 2019 5:20:21 PM    View the profile of Mongrel 
“Of course,” Mongrel thought, watching, “they’re trying to kill each other.” The Order never changes, they come all the way to a forgotten tomb just to flex their little muscles and bandy words. It was no wonder there was no one left on Lopen, with organizations that spent more time jockeying for power and puffing out their chests than getting anything done.

He briefly considered stealing one of their ships and blowing up the other, leaving the preening power mongers to their just deserts, but there was nothing beyond that could save him. No, for that he’d have to stay on Lopen, and he’d need them. He couldn’t get where he needed to go by himself, but with two other powerful Force users and a handful of cannon fodder, well, it was worth the chance.

His hatred for Jegora “Two-Fists” Fal was a force of its own, and pulled at him. Mongrel didn’t know exactly what was going on, but even as his hatred pushed him to just into the fray and tear out Fal’s still beating heart, he could make some guesses. He recognized the silver lightsaber as a matter of course, he had seen it much closer than any had and lived to tell of it, and the fighting style of the ones with training sabers, well, Mongrel knew that fighting style, it was something Fal had tried to beat into his own head, though even “Two-Fists” fists weren’t as hard as Moelik Hond’s head. When there had been a Moelik Hond, The Bloodhound of Corellia, before there was just The Mongrel, Fal’s name for him. It had come to fit. He also knew that, if he could, Fal would have ended this already, so there was another fight going on, one that he couldn’t see. Either they were busy gauging each other, waiting to move until they knew they could land a blow, or there was battle going on within their minds the Force their weapon, and considering the turmoil among Fal’s followers, Mongrel guessed the latter.

There it was again, the hatred, pulling at him, the darkness closing his vision, the focus that had first given him the moniker “Bloodhound”. The ability to focus, truly focus, on accomplishing a singular goal, to let everything else fall to the side, ignored. The tenacity that mindset created, it was the part of him that, somewhere even in his corrupted mind he knew, made him strong beyond just the torrent of Force energy that rampaged through his body.

He inhaled, though long ago he’d lost any real sense of smell, there was something he could smell, he could smell fear. He could smell confusion, and anger, and betrayal. He could smell the specter of defeat. His mouth smiled behind the mask and he rolled his shoulders. The armor was cumbersome, he disliked wearing it, or the mask, or the hood, but he knew it was one of the things that kept his failing body together, so he endured it, after all, it was unimportant. All that mattered, now, as his vision tunneled, was Jegora Fal’s back.
Bitch! I eat people.
-Alucard (abridged)
Jegora
ComNet Disciple
 
Jegora
 
[VE-ARMY] Brigadier General
[VE-DJO] Sith Vitiator
[VE-ICS] Pirate Lord
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 8, 2019 3:22:54 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
Lightsabers flashed as Jegora smoothly intercepted and redirected Tikarian’s thrust. Good thing I wore the armorweave, he thought to himself, his shoulder aching slightly from the force of the blaster bolt. He had underestimated Tikarian and the man had proved more resourceful than Jegora had anticipated, but now that the battle was joined in earnest all of that was moot.

Rotating his weapon, Jegora tested Tikarian’s outer defenses, letting loose a quick offensive flurry aimed more at forcing Tikarian to expend energy deflecting Jegora’s strikes than at causing any real harm. The sequence was fairly basic, and Tikarian deflected or redirected all of Jegora’s attacks with ease, but as the Dark Jedi was forced to focus more and more on his blade-work the mental assault he had been maintaining on Jegora’s psyche lessened considerably. Jegora felt some slight satisfaction at that, but he had already underestimated the man enough for one day. He would not do so again.

Jegora kept his movements tight and precise, conscious that the corridor, no matter how large, really kept him from leveraging his superior strength against his opponent. His blade flashed again and again, constantly pressuring Tikarian’s defenses and forcing the man to react rather than take the initiative.

This is what Jegora was good at. He may have lacked the telepathic talents of some of his peers, and the skills of the mind often escaped him. He couldn’t look into the future or the past like the seers of the Order, and he couldn’t conjure illusions and manipulate emotions like Tikarian and his ilk. But with a blade, in contest of skill and strength, Jegora was formidable. And of course his telekinetic abilities were unrivaled save for the Masters of the Order.

After several seconds of back and forth, Jegora began to get a feel for Tikarian’s blade work. Unless the man was even more wily than Jegora thought, he was a competent but uninspired swordsman. His blade work was proficient, but relatively simple. He had learned the basics and had learned them well, but Jegora could tell his skills were rusty.

Jegora’s were not. He might not have dueled blade to blade for some time, but he had kept up a strict training regimen using practice sabers and an assortment of bladed weapons, going so far as to equip the Charelotte with a training room designed specifically to hone his skills.

Time to turn up the pressure, he thought dispassionately. Then he really began to move, his blade turning faster and faster as he poked and prodded, constantly forcing Tikarian onto the defensive. The Dark Jedi was forced to give ground in the face of Jegora’s assault, and the mental assault lessened further.

Jegora didn’t know how York was fairing, but he knew that technically the young woman was far ahead of either of his other apprentices. Combined, however, they would prove a challenge for her if they worked together, but Jegora doubted the twins were acting very rationally or collaboratively in their Force-hypnotized state. Jegora was focused on Tikarian, and now he had the man on the run. A few more moments and this fight would be over.
Jegora Fal
Sith Vitiator
Trick
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Trick
 
[VE-DJO] Dark Jedi Warrior
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 8, 2019 9:32:14 PM    View the profile of Trick 
It had all started so well.  But with mounting fear, Zev realized he had miscalculated.

Jegora Fal was a masterful swordsman.

The man’s technique was perfect.  His movements were efficient, even graceful.  And despite Zev’s constant attempts to distract him, Fal’s bladework never faltered.  He kept up a withering assault, implacable.  All Zev could do was lurch from one defensive move to another, always a hair’s breadth away from a thoroughly unpleasant death.

Parry.  Recover.  Parry, riposte, recover.  Deflect, step back.  Dodge, step back.  Block, block, block, step back.

Zev had to devote more and more of his attention to simply staying alive.  He could feel himself losing his already-tenuous grip on Fal’s thoughts, which of course only made the man even more dangerous.  It was a vicious cycle.

Unless something changed, Zev knew he was doomed...

...and that’s when he felt his feet swept out from under him, and suddenly the black stone floor came rushing up at his face.  Worst of all, his saber hand hit the ground first, and the impact caused him to accidentally deactivate his lightsaber.

Time slowed.  The Force seemed to grow still, as if eagerly awaiting whatever came next.  And before Zev’s pain receptors had even registered the fall, the sudden metaphysical quiet was pierced by a spasm of pure, unrefined terror blasting out from his subconscious.

The Dark Side guzzled down his fear - greedily, ravenously - and in return it offered him a surge of unspeakable power.  But it was too much for Zev’s conscious mind to control, and instinct took over.  Unthinkingly and unimaginatively, Zev used the influx of energy to execute his long-favored tactics: misdirection and evasion.

For just a split second, Fal’s psychic resistance seemed laughably trivial and his mind was laid bare.  But Zev only needed a split second.  There wasn’t time for anything fancy, but fancy was overrated: with a thought, he inverted Fal’s sensory input.  The beast’s blue lightsaber was already arcing down to cleave him in half, so Zev took advantage of his own momentary enhancement to roll out from under the blade with superhuman speed.

And even as the power ebbed away, Zev had the satisfaction of hearing Fal’s lightsaber hiss and crash as it impacted the Citadel’s spell-woven floor.

Zev had rolled away to the left, relative to Fal.  But the latter had perceived that the former had moved to the right, and had therefore corrected his angle of attack in the wrong direction.  By the time Fal realized what had happened, Zev had opened up the distance and pushed himself back up to standing.

He forced his emotions back under control, making sure to reveal only his swelling pride at having lived through the ordeal.  And once again, he projected arrogance and disdain.  He rested his hands on his hips, and didn’t reignite his saber.  Secretly, he worried that it might have been damaged during the scuffle.

“You attack me without cause,” he said sneeringly, “and then you can’t even manage to finish the job.  Some swordsman you are.”  Really?!, his internal critic yelled at him.  You’re going with insults right now?

Fal was squinting, his lightsaber still humming quietly at his side.  “You attacked us, Trikarian.”  His tone was matter-of-fact, but his expression was dubious.

Just keep him listening, Zev told himself.  Stall for time.

“We were having a perfectly lovely conversation...” Zev began to say ...that was entirely one-sided, he thought.

“No!” Fal interrupted.  “You were jabbering at me, while you were secretly doing that,” Fal said, using his lightsaber to point at the three-way fight that was - somehow - still raging on the other end of the corridor.  His gaze lingered, and his profile in the Force shifted slightly.

Zev exulted: Fal had turned some of his attention back to his embattled apprentices!

But the relief only lasted a moment.  Reality set back in.

No matter how long he managed to hold out, Zev knew that he would only be delaying the inevitable.  Fal was unbeatable.  Even with his mind clouded, he was unbeatable.  It was comical really: Zev’s swordsmanship was so pathetic that he was outclassed even by Jegora Fal’s muscle memory alone.

He had no choice but to stall for time, of course.  The survival instinct was strong.  But he knew that - unless something wholly unexpected happened - he was going to die.

***

Her internal timer marked 4 full hours of the silent treatment, and Kay-Dee Zero finally switched herself back on.  She was ready to punish Master Zev aloud, now.

But before the droid intelligence completed her start-up sequence, she paused.  Passive internal scanners showed the cockpit was empty, and Kay-Dee knew better than to betray her presence to any watchful eyes outside, whether biological or technological.  When it was unoccupied, Master Zev wanted the Revenant to always appear to be a typical, unassuming starfighter of its type.  And Kay-Dee was bound to obey.  She didn’t draw any more energy from her independent battery bank than was necessary, leaving the ship looking like a powered-down non-threat from the outside.

But as was typical during these situations, KayDee quickly began to feel bored.  She assumed, since they had clearly landed, that they had reached Lopen.  But she wondered if she could risk a quick external scan, just to make sure.

And besides, a deep part of her programming suggested, it would be good to check on Master Zev.

She kept weighing her options for some time...
Naval High Command
CNW/Rear Admiral Trick/NHC/VEN/VE

Second Vast Imperial Fleet
SCAP/RADM Zev "Trick" Tikarian/Interdictor-class Star Destroyer Subjugator/TF:A/2Flt/FC/VEN/VE

Decorations
[HNS][1NS][2NS][3NS][4NS][5NS][LSM][BWC][SWC][GWC][PWC][WM0][WM1][WM2][WM3][WM4][WM5]
[*IG*][*AO*][SoA][CoB.][VC:B][VC:S][VC:G][VC:E][SoV][LoM][DSM][NSM][E][NAR][CC:4][CNQST][NDM][MSMx2][NC][IGC]

(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
[This message has been edited by Trick (edited June 8, 2019 9:44:15 PM)]
Mongrel
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Mongrel
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 9, 2019 2:35:06 PM    View the profile of Mongrel 
If he looked closely, Mongrel could see the exact moment the more experienced apprentice realized they were out of their depth. She saw him before anyone else, and held her composure even as he barreled into the male apprentice, grabbed him by the collar and flung him at her, but she stepped to the side and let him fly into his twin, the two of them sprawling across the floor in tangled limbs. She even managed to dodge a low kick and a jab, her stance unbroken. No, she didn't realize what was happening until she counter attacked. Mongrel saw so much of Fal in her stance, her defense, and her attack that it just enraged him. It was clear she didn’t know how to fight something like Mongrel though, his fighting style was nothing like Fal’s, there was no discipline, and no training, just passion and improvisation. Her counterattack was slow, so much slower and clumsier than Fals that Mongrel swatted the blade aside with contempt. It burned his glove, but the energy he held so tightly meant the silver blade did little more than singe a hand that already had smoke rising from it. That was when she hesitated, and that was when Mongrel gave her a wide haymaker in the jaw. He wasn't trying to kill her, but the force of the blow knocked her down and the kick that followed it knocked her cold.

The twins were untangling themselves; Mongrel didn’t know if they'd be themselves or not, but he didn't care, he didn't know who those selves were. He spared a glance for the Dark Jedi engaged in their asinine duel and shook his head. It only took a couple steps for him to reach the twins, but he already had a vial in his hand. He wasn’t sure if or how well this would work, but he pulled the stopper and, channeling the Force, used one finger to draw a symbol on the males temple, as he finished and energy poured into the symbol, the flesh bubbled and burned, nothing that wouldn’t heal, and the apprentice went unconscious. He copied the procedure with the woman, though she had more time to recover and was harder to hold down. He practically had to sit on her chest and hold her head still with his other hand, but it was done in a moment.

He wasn't entirely sure how the warding would affect a person; he'd never used it this way before. They didn't appear to be dead, so that was a start. No time to worry over trivialities though, he scooped up the lightsaber and two training sabers just in case and turned his full attention to the duel, though he could only hear the sounds of combat, it having moved around a corner. Combat was good though, it meant, for the moment, they were both alive. Mongrel doubted that would last much longer, Fal was a right bastard, but he was an excellent duelist, it was the only reason Mongrel hadn't killed him yet.

There it was again, the raw anger, tearing at what little remained of the wall he built between himself and The Force so many years ago. Every slight, every black eye, Fal had visited upon him came flooding back all at once and Mongrel ground his teeth keeping it in check.

He didn't hold it back completely, just enough to remain in control and pulled in as much as he could, filling himself again, heightening his senses and speeding his muscles. He launched himself again in the direction for the fray, letting the heat rising inside him propel him, the corner came quickly, and when it did, he grabbed the wall to help redirect his momentum, leaving a glowing red impression on the stonework.

He'd been right about the fighters, Fal was in his element here, the battle playing precisely to his strengths. Fal’s strikes were even, measured, each maneuvering of the blade so that even when he was attacking, there was blade and distance between him and his opponent. It was a fighting style that grated at Mongrel’s decaying nerves. An overzealous parry gave Fal all the opening he needed, a quick snap of his wrist and the blade would, at best, remove an arm, but Fal never got the chance.

Mongrel wasn’t quite in range to interfere, but he did have three lightsabers, so he pulled one of the training sabers off his belt and, activating it, hurled it at the back of Fal’s head. They might be oblivious to the fight outside them, but even if Fal didn’t turn to deflect it, it would distract him.

Mongrel smiled as Fal turned, only slightly, his saber lashing out and knocking the flying toy against a wall where it clattered and lay, still humming. It wasn’t the distraction that made Mongrel smile though, it was the flash of recognition on Fal’s face when he saw the charging half-chiss. Mongrel’s mirth was short lived though, as Not-Fal took advantage of the distraction to thrust at Fal’s midsection, tugging Fal’s attention in the opposite direction of Mongrel. Fal was a fast and canny opponent though, and wasn’t about to ignore a threat that had, on more than one occasion, made attempts on his life. Still, it was enough for Mongrel to slip past Fal, deflecting a horizontal cut with his forearm and settling Mongrel between the two fighters.

Mongrel had hoped that when he slid between the two of them and made no move to attack, they would both pause, and while Fal did, outnumbered now, Not-Fal took the opportunity to thrust under Mongrel’s armpit towards Fal, a blow that Mongrel slapped away, knocking the blade against the stone wall. So it continued, the two fighting around Mongrel as much as fighting him, though the Not-Fal seemed to have realized Mongrel had no intention of attacking them because he mostly sniped at Fal.

Mongrel grew more irritated with each failed attack and each new burned hole in his protective gear. He had one trick, well two tricks. He wanted to keep the first a secret, he’d been saving it for a long time to use when he finally fought Fal, something the other couldn’t have known was coming, still, he’d have to waste it on this petty disagreement. He’d been pulling on The Force for too long now, the skin under his armor was already charring. He needed to end things.

It took only a heartbeat for him to find his chance, two attacks, a lunge from Not-Fal and a vertical strike from Fal. Mongrel caught the blades, hard things to hold, but the energy he used to protect his hands and burn the things he touched kept them bound, then he felt the energy in the blades. A lightsaber contained an incredible amount of it, both what was in use and what wasn’t, he called on The Force, and he pulled that energy into him. His ability to feel pain was, now, limited, but he felt this, as though the marrow of his bones were bubbling. Flames shot up his arms as he pulled on the energy, added it to his reserves, and he kept pulling until, in a moment that felt like millennia, the blades sputtered and disappeared.

“Alright, assholes,” Mongrel yelled, “You want to die so bad, why I don’t I just blow us all up right here, right now? Huh? Give the gods damn Citadel what it wants?”

“You’d die too,” Fal said, voice flat.

“I’m dying anyway, Two-Fists, and I’ve wanted to kill you for a long time, you know damn well I can do this, so why don’t we put our toys away and use our gods damned brains,” Mongrel said, breathing heavy with the effort of pulling as much Force energy as he could into himself.

The sabers reignited, really all he could do was buy a moment, but there was a pause. Until Fal’s eyes fell on the two sabers hanging from Mongrel’s belt, then a pale blue blade was pointed at Mongrel’s face.

“They’re alive. Harmed, but alive,” Mongrel said, “I could have stabbed you in the back at any time, or killed them, but I didn’t. As for this,” Mongrel patted Fal’s old saber, “don’t you think you owe your apprentice something after abandoning him on this tomb?”

Mongrel had no intention of keeping the saber, he had little use for one, but perhaps it would remind Fal who he was dealing with and that, perhaps, if Mongrel wasn’t trying to kill him, there might be good damn reason.
Bitch! I eat people.
-Alucard (abridged)
Jegora
ComNet Disciple
 
Jegora
 
[VE-ARMY] Brigadier General
[VE-DJO] Sith Vitiator
[VE-ICS] Pirate Lord
[VE-NAVY] Ensign
[VE-VEHC] Brigadier General*
 
Post Number:  2168
Total Posts:  2174
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 11, 2019 3:46:33 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
"They’re alive. Harmed, but alive,” Mongrel said. Jegora breathed a silent sight of relief but he didn’t lower his blade. He was still debating whether or not he should just kill his former apprentice right then and there.

To Jegora’s Force-sensitive sight, he thing he had once known as Moelik Hond, the Mongrel, positively glowed, and it was more than just the light from Jegora’s blade. Jegora himself possessed no small amount of strength in the Force and had stood high among his peers in terms of the amount of power he could bring to bear, but sheer amount of energy that the Mongrel was holding within his physical shell was a little intimidating even for him.

How is he not dead?, Jegora thought to himself. How does he even survive?.

Glancing past his former apprentice at Tikarian, Jegora could almost see the wheels of the Dark Jedi’s mind turning, no doubt wondering the same thing.

The whole situation was more than a little disconcerting, and Jegora suddenly found himself off-balance. From the earliest moments of his training, Mongrel had made no secret of his desire to see his former master dead. Jegora had even encouraged those ambitions, seeking to motivate the young apprentice using one of the classic training methodologies of the Sith. But Jegora had thought Mongrel long gone, a victim of the Order’s failed assault on the Reborn-held Citadel, and now it turned out that somehow his one-time apprentice had survived. That was enough to make Jegora cautious, but somehow his former apprentice had also survived whatever cataclysm had wiped out the rest of Lopen’s life, which was impressive to say the least. And, to top it off, he had managed to take Jegora by surprise while holding enough energy to incinerate a large portion of the Citadel.

It was one thing to encourage the revenge fantasies of a pitiful apprentice who could barely summon the discipline to not blow himself up. It was another thing entirely to be confronted by a creature brimming with enough Force energy to create a small crater and who was harboring a grudge, especially when Mongrel had already demonstrated no small skill in controlling, or at least channeling, his powers.

It was enough to make any man nervous, and even within the cold shell of his iron self-control, Jegora felt the beginnings of fear licking at the edges of his psyche. The real question, he thought to himself, is why am I not already dead?.

When Mongrel had served as Jegora’s apprentice, Jegora had controlled the halfbreed through a combination of brute force and the tantalizing possibility that there might be some cure for the apprentice’s debilitating condition—namely, that the Force was constantly threatening to burn him alive from the inside out every time his control slipped. That combination had been effective at the time, more or less keeping the unruly and unpredictable apprentice in line.

Clearly brute force wasn’t appropriate at this point. Even Jegora was smart enough to realize that Mongrel was more likely to blow them all off the face of the planet rather than acquiesce to demands made under threat of violence. But the latter pressure point, Mongrel’s desire to master his powers before they mastered him, could still prove useful. I’m dying anyway, the former apprentice had said. Jegora began to suspect that Moelik Hond was getting desperate, and he quickly came to the conclusion that the former apprentice’s desperation was the only reason he was still alive.

Meeting Tikarian’s gaze for an instant, Jegora saw the man nod subtly, coming to much the same conclusions as Jegora himself and probably twice as fast. Hond kept his gaze locked on Jegora’s stone-blank face. Eventually Jegora nodded and, with a thought, deactivated his blade and drew his lightsaber back to his belt, securing it there with the Force. Hond’s hand moved instinctually to Jegora’s other lightsaber on his belt, but Jegora shook his head. He’d let the halfbreed keep the lightsaber…for now.

“Alright Hond,” Jegora said after a moment, his voice belying none of the emotions he felt. To let Hond sense his fear would be unwise. The man was nearly feral, and Jegora didn’t want to know how he’d react to any sign of weakness. Probably like a jackal, or a shark: lethally, and without mercy. “What do you want to do?”

Mongrel cocked his head as if that was a question he had never expected to hear come out of Jegora’s mouth.

“I want to get out of this damned hallway before it finds us,” he growled. Jegora felt the Force flutter at the words, and he started to get yet another very bad feeling.

Tikarian drew in a breath, his own Force-enhanced senses probably having much the same reaction. “Before what finds us?” the Dark Jedi asked, sounding for all the world as if he already knew and dreaded the answer.

Mongrel was quiet for a few seconds, but when he spoke his words were laced with something that Jegora had never heard in the man’s voice before: fear.

“The Life Eater,” his former apprentice spat out, refusing to elaborate further. Chills ran down Jegora’s spine, and across the back of his arms he felt a rustling of wind, even though Jegora knew that they were in a sealed corridor and there was no way there could be a breeze. His unease deepend considerably; something was very, very wrong.

Hond felt the breeze as well, but his reaction was much more immediate and much more alarming.

“We have to go, right now,” the apprentice almost shouted. “Follow or don’t, but if you don’t you’ll be dead.”

With that Mongrel spun around and began to stalk off through the corridors of the Citadel. Jegora paused, exchanging looks with Tikarian, but the other Dark Jedi was difficult to read. The wind came again, and that made up Jegora’s mind. He didn’t know what a Life Eater was, but the wind was unnatural, and the Force was beginning to howl in his ears in warning. He followed Mongrel, with Tikarian doing the same a few paces behind, their battle forgotten in the face of a larger threat. 

As they rounded a slight bend Jegora saw his current apprentices slumped on the stone floor. He moved quickly to where they lay, reaching out through the Force for signs of life. York seemed to be in decent condition—he poured some energy into her unconscious form and she quickly began to stir. The twins, however, were another matter entirely. They were completely blank to Jegora’s senses, and although he could see that their chests were rising and falling with steady, measured breaths, he could not sense their presence’s in the Force.

Turning to Hond, who was dancing back and forth impatiently, Jegora asked, “what did you do to them?”

Hond snorted. “Nothing permanent. Probably. Either carry them or leave them but we go now or we die.” With that the former apprentice took off again, and Jegora clenched his teeth, his anger and annoyance threatening to break though even his formidable self-control.

Slinging Atle over his shoulder with an ease that belied his immense strength, Jegora turned to York, who was by now fully conscious if a little groggy. “York, help Prin,” he ordered, pushing more energy into York. The young woman’s eyes went wide at the influx of power, and Jegora grunted from the sudden loss of strength. “We have to keep up now. No time for questions.”

York glanced at the younger, still unconscious apprentice and nodded uncertainly. Jegora understood her concerns—he didn’t know if she could carry or drag Prin along fast enough to keep up. He began to search for other options, but there weren’t any good ones. Even in the few seconds they had been sitting here, Mongrel’s form had faded into the shadows and only the man’s echoing shuffle steps revealed that he was still close by.

“I’ll help,” Tikarian said quietly, and Jegora had to consciously remind himself not to let his jaw drop. He didn’t know what the man gained by helping in this situation, but there were few other options, and most of those he refused to consider.

“Thanks,” Jegora said roughly, refusing to make eye contact with Tikarian and knowing that he was revealing a weakness that the Dark Jedi would no doubt exploit later.

If we survive until later, Jegora thought to himself. Whatever had spooked Mongrel was getting closer, and Jegora was pretty sure he didn’t want to meet it.

Tikarian and York lifted Prin up between them—luckily she was slight, or even the pair of them would have had difficulty carrying the young apprentice along. Jegora readjusted Atle into a classic fireman’s carry, and together the five of them set off down the hall after Mongrel.
Jegora Fal
Sith Vitiator
[This message has been edited by Jegora (edited June 11, 2019 3:47:13 AM)]
[This message has been edited by Jegora (edited June 11, 2019 3:47:40 AM)]
Trick
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Trick
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 12, 2019 11:46:03 PM    View the profile of Trick 
It was all quite a lot for Zev to process.

Jegora Fal had bested him.  But then he’d been saved when a disgusting undead-looking Chiss had intervened, out of nowhere.  And then the icy wind had blown by, and their desperate flight into the depths began.

The journey was long and arduous.  Which gave Zev plenty of time to think.

The corpse-Chiss led them through lightless passageways, shambling along with surprising speed and occasionally muttering softly to himself in the dark.  Fal had called the red-eyed creature “Hond,” and eventually the memory came: Zev remembered that Fal had once had a pathetic apprentice by that same name.

But the creature scurrying headlong through the warren of tunnels under the Citadel was anything but pathetic.  Moelik Hond had changed since Zev had met him last.

The man’s raw power was impressive - scary, really - and the fact that he’d managed to channel that power using some kind of alchemical compounds was superlatively fascinating.  Mistress Sharpe had taught Zev the wisdom of studying the occult practices of the ancient darksiders, and although their lessons had been focused on the sorceries of the Krath sect, Zev was more than passingly familiar with the history of Sith alchemy.

But he’d never seen the arcane craft practiced in the flesh, so to speak.  The display was grotesque: equal parts disturbing and captivating.

Curious to learn more about what he’d witnessed, Zev gently probed the mind of the unconscious woman slung between him and the apprentice Fal had called “York.”  A throbbing, searing sensation of existential pain radiated from the brand Hond had burned into her forehead, completely obscuring whatever thoughts might exist beneath.  Zev grimaced, and shifted the young woman’s body so her head lolled over to rest on York’s shoulder instead of his own.

Temporarily controlling another’s thoughts was one thing.  Indefinitely imprisoning a being’s whole consciousness was… something else entirely.

Zev suddenly wondered whether Mistress Sharpe had sent him to Lopen not to fight the Reborn, nor to confront her old rival Fal.  Maybe he’d been sent to learn more about this savage, Hond.

It was at that precise moment that Fal and Hond started talking, at the head of the ragtag column.  Fal wanted to know more about this “Life Eater.”

Zev did too.  He listened intently, trying to keep pace while simultaneously trying to keep in sync with York’s groggy steps.

Moelik Hond was the only survivor of the mysterious system-wide catastrophe, the only living corporeal being in this planet-wide tomb.  It was apparent that he had survived alone for years in these catacombs, somehow avoiding both the Reborn and whatever evil entity pursued them now.  And he could command the Force in a dangerous - and novel - fashion.

Oh yes indeed.  Zev wanted very much to hear more from Moelik Hond.
Naval High Command
CNW/Rear Admiral Trick/NHC/VEN/VE

Second Vast Imperial Fleet
SCAP/RADM Zev "Trick" Tikarian/Interdictor-class Star Destroyer Subjugator/TF:A/2Flt/FC/VEN/VE

Decorations
[HNS][1NS][2NS][3NS][4NS][5NS][LSM][BWC][SWC][GWC][PWC][WM0][WM1][WM2][WM3][WM4][WM5]
[*IG*][*AO*][SoA][CoB.][VC:B][VC:S][VC:G][VC:E][SoV][LoM][DSM][NSM][E][NAR][CC:4][CNQST][NDM][MSMx2][NC][IGC]

(=*AE*=)(=*SAE*=)(=*TG*=)(=*SCFE*=)(=*FOCE*=)

SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
Jegora
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Jegora
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 14, 2019 4:46:57 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
The Mongrel led them through the twisting maze of the Citadel with a certainty that almost made Jegora shiver. His former apprentice had obviously spent some time wandering the halls and corridors of the Citadel, and he was clearly more familiar with the winding passageways than Jegora ever would be. The twisted thing that had once been Moelik Hond never hesitated, never once faltered, selecting hallways and passages seemingly at random. After several minutes of walking, the halls growing ever darker as they moved deeper into the citadel, Trick pulled a utility light out of a belt pouch and clipped it to the front of his robes, providing just enough light to see by. Mongrel shot the Dark Jedi a glare, but otherwise said nothing.

Jegora shifted his apprentice to the other shoulder, noting as they shambled through the dark corridors that there were symbols painted (or etched, or in some cases burned) into the walls. Jegora glanced at Mongrel, wondering at how the halfbreed had learned the old magics.

As a disciple of the Sith teachings himself, Jegora was familiar with the theory if not the practice of the alchemies and sygaldry that the ancient Sith had used to fuel and direct their machinations. But the skills the Mongrel had exhibited thus far surpassed anything Jegora could have imagined.

He must have found the old texts, Jegora thought to himself. But how the hell did he translate them?

It was a problem for another time. There were more pressing concerns that needed answers.

"You’ve been here since the Order’s assault, I take it?" Jegora asked, keeping his voice carefully neutral.

"Of course," the Mongrel spat, hate filling his raspy voice. "Not a lot of chances to take vacations. Don’t pretend like you didn’t know you were marooning me to die when you left me here."

Jegora closed his eyes momentarily, something very much like regret nipping at the edges of his thoughts.

Somehow the Mongrel seemed to sense his unease. "At least, I thought you buried me alive in this tomb on purpose," the halfbreed muttered. "Now maybe I think you were just running away so fast you forgot all about me. Touching."

Jegora couldn’t keep the grimace off his face at that. He had not been in a good place when the Order had attempted to retake Lopen—as a result, he had been operating at less than peak efficiency, scared for his life, and the honest truth was he had simply forgotten all about his apprentice as the remains of the Order desperately fled the Reborn. Not a very good example of a Master, Jegora knew, and he could feel York’s gaze boring into the back of his skull.

"The past is past," Jegora said gruffly, trying to change the subject. "Tell me about this Life Eater. Is that really what it’s called?"

The Mongrel chuckled, a grating sound that ended in a wheezing cough. "It’s not called anything, Fal--or at least it’s not called anything for very long. Most people just go screaming."

Jegora clenched his teeth at his former apprentice’s lack of helpfulness, but again he locked his annoyance away. His apprentice was volatile enough without adding Jegora’s own frustrations into the mix.

"But what is it?" Jegora tried again. "You seem pretty familiar with it."

The Mongrel was silent for a long minute and Jegora heard York and Tikarian stagger from somewhere behind him. Reaching out through the Force, he extended a tendril of energy towards York, using the Force to wipe away some of her fatigue and strengthen her body. It wasn’t much; the Masters of the Order could have done much more, but Jegora’s skills didn’t particularly lean that way. Still, he figured every little bit help, and he noted with some satisfaction that York was standing a little taller once he was done.

"I think the Reborn made it," the Mongrel finally responded. He sounded lost in thought. Or maybe lost in memory--rather unpleasant ones, Jegora imagined. "Or maybe it was always here and they set it free. Or maybe the Citadel conjured it up to get rid of the Reborn…"

The Mongrel snarled to himself, shaking his head. "It kills you. And not pleasantly. That’s all I know."

Jegora nodded thoughtfully. There were dark places deep below the Citadel that no one--except now maybe his former apprentice--had ever really explored. There were rumors of deep, dark things dwelling in the caverns and catacombs beneath the Citadel. If the Reborn had gone delving for secrets and had stumbled across something better left forgotten, that would certainly explain the malevolent presence haunting the Citadel. Still…

"Seems unlikely that a single creature could consume all life on the planet" Tikarian interjected, his voice piercing the silence that had fallen and giving voice to Jegora’s own question. Jegora pressed his lips together, the wheels of his mind turning.

"What if--" Jegora began, but before he could finish his though the Mongrel hissed.

"Quiet!" the former apprentice whispered, his voice grating and grinding like his vocal cords couldn’t quite handle the sounds they were being asked to make. "Shut that blasted light off."

Tikarian hesitated, but eventually complied, and the small group was plunged into absolute darkness.

"We’re close," the Mongrel whispered once the darkness had settled. "But so is the thing. So be quiet and stick on my ass or I’ll leave you behind. It’s not going to get me."

"How much farther?" York asked, daring to speak for the first time since the group had began their shambling trek through the Citadel.

Jegora could almost hear the sneer in the Mongrel’s voice when he responded. "Not far, little girl," he said mockingly. "Then you’ll be safe--or at least as safe as you can be anywhere in this godforsaken place."

With that there was a grinding sound as a new passage was opened, no doubt a result of some secret mechanism that the Mongrel had triggered. Stretching out with the Force, Jegora honed in on the Mongrels presence. The former apprentice was impossible to miss, a shining beacon of energy within the Force. He noticed, however, that York was struggling to adjust to the darkness.

"Still your thoughts," Jegora whispered to his apprentice, punctuating his words with a brief touch through the Force. "Reach out with the Force; you have other senses than sight, and they’re far more powerful. Use them."

Jegora watched--or rather felt--York calm herself and do as instructed. Her thoughts quieted, and Jegora nodded slightly before he could stop himself, quickly realizing that no one could see him nod in the absolute dark. Instead he again touched York briefly in the Force, letting her feel his approval.

"If we’re done with lessons," Tikarian whispered, "can we get a move on? I’d rather not get eaten today."

Jegora again fought back his annoyance, but Tikarian wasn’t wrong, and as he was still dragging one of Jegora’s own apprentices along with them he had little room to argue. Jegora himself still had his third apprentice slung over one shoulder, but even he was beginning to feel the strain. He shifted his apprentice back to his other shoulder, then hone back in on his former apprentice to make sure they weren’t all left behind.

The Mongrel was already moving, true to this threat to leave them all behind, and was descending down the new passageway that Jegora could only imagine led deep into the bowels of the catacombs below the Citadel. Taking a collective deep breath, the rest of the party followed, and their descent into the unknown began in earnest.
Jegora Fal
Sith Vitiator
Mongrel
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Mongrel
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 21, 2019 3:29:06 PM    View the profile of Mongrel 
The apprentices were becoming a problem, and not just because they were slowing the group down. They were dividing everyone’s attention, attention better spent on the surroundings. The Life Eater wasn’t the only thing to fear in the dark, many ancient traps lay unsprung and there were areas where The Force misbehaved, or was absent entirely. Mongrel knew the lay of the tunnels, but he was always vigilant travelling them, there was no telling what one might find in some yet undiscovered room or corridor, secrets were the norm and surprises plentiful.

“Stop,” he hissed, holding out an arm none of them could see.

He turned to where he could hear Fal moving. His step was long, and his boots fell hard in the dusty floor, even with the apprentice weighing him down. The other three shuffled and grunted, and when they stopped, the Not-Fal and the apprentice sat the unconscious one down almost gently.

“I need to mar that ward,” Mongrel said, “they’re slowing us down.”

He could hear Fal stiffen, “You’ve done enough.”

They were impossible, these Dark Jedi, always wanting to do the wrong thing at the wrong time, talk when they should run, fight when they should talk, and mistrust when they should trust.

“Then wake them up, kick them if you have to, or leave them, but we’re not going to make it anywhere moving like this. There’s more here than that thing,” said, digging his finger into his arm as he absently chased an intense itch.

“What do you mean?” The Not-Fal asked.

“What I said,” Mongrel said, the idea of hiding the irritation in his voice never occurred to him.

Sound caught Mongrel’s ears, but not the expected ones, a soft groaning and the shuffle of movement from the floor, Mongrel tensed, then relaxed when he realized it was the apprentice they’d set down. That was a start, it was waking up.

“where. . .I can’t see,” the unfamiliar voice said, panic creeping in, “I can’t see, Master Fal,”

There was a shuffle of movement and the sound of a hand going over a mouth.

“Quiet,” York hissed.

There was a moment of silence, and Mongrel waiting for any sign of discovery, but there was none. He forced a sigh of relief a moment too soon. Down the corridors began a soft blowing of dust that began to pick up. The wardings kept it out of their minds and kept them safe from discovery in The Force, but it did not block out sound, and they were being loud in halls that had heard only silence and terror for millennia.

“What you hear can distract you, what you see can kill you. Follow me, stay silent, ignore the halls and turns, focus on me, and for all the stars: No. Light.”

Mongrel ran as soon as the words left his mouth. He didn’t bother sticking to the warded tunnels, it was impossible to stick to just them and move quickly anyway, but he’d been playing it safe with the large group. The time for safety had passed, speed was all they had left. He said nothing as he turned them down a corridor he’d left untouched. He pulled The Force into him to propel him forward, with any luck, they’d keep up.

It wasn’t log before the tricks began. They started with the old favorites, the sounds of his friends, The Mountain Dogs, baying at the moon, sounds from so far in his past that they were barely remembered, the sounds of battles followed, but no light from blasters or sabers made those illusions easy enough to ignore. He dodged to the left when he heard a club rushing through the air and cursed himself a fool for not ignoring it. He heard Fal and Not-Fal, and all of the apprentices call after him, demand that he slow, threaten him, tell him one had been hurt, but he ignored it. Even if it weren’t a trick, they were dead now if they stopped.

Based on the echo, they were in paths he travelled frequently, the layers of dust and dirt were thin. There were roughly hewn and build corridors in these catacombs, perhaps some were natural, but some were definitely made by someone, built of stone and mortar, and they ran through one of these. Mongrel couldn’t tell anyone exactly how he navigated, except maybe experience. He’d been powerless once, and hidden paths were the greatest boon to the powerless, and now he was powerless again. Whatever the thing was, it was a greater power than he and he despised that knowledge. So he ran, and he lead the others, by what he could hear, they followed at a jilted pace.

He was near his safehouse, but the wind was howling in his ears. Whatever was coming, was coming soon, and he couldn’t risk it finding the safehouse, if that meant leaving the others as bait, so be it. He wouldn’t hesitate, but he wasn’t there just yet.

Mongrel stopped dead, and as the others came to a halt behind him, he marched to the other side of them. He pulled one of the vials from his pouch, he didn’t need to see it to know it held green sand, made from infusing a crushed lightsaber crystal with his own Force energy and some rather unpleasant Reborn based ingredients. It took hours, at least, in a crucible heated by his own hands to make, and now he’d lose it all. A high price to pay for helpless help.

He poured the sand out on the ground in a line from wall to wall and put both hands on the ground, fingers touching it. Pulling on The Force, he pushed as much power as he could into it. Flames flickered on his shoulders, shedding a dangerous amount of light, but it only lasted a moment, the flames pulled into the sand and with a sound like thunder, a wall arose. Not something of stone or steel, but a wall no less for being invisible.

Mongrel let out a long breath, then returned to his feet, pulling The Force into him again to fill where it had been emptied. His head was light, but he pushed on. He would not die, not after wasting so much of something he couldn’t replace, and not for these people, not for anyone.

“Come, it’s not far,” Mongrel said, he stumbled once, but caught himself on the wall.

The well of Force Energy in him was almost refilled by the time they reached to steel door. He put his hand over the lock and the bars holding it shut slid out of the way. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.

“We’re here, inside,” He said.

They didn’t move, instincts of mistrust getting in the way again.

“If I wanted you dead, you’d be dead already. Stay out here if you want, but when you’re pounding on my door, screaming, I won’t let you in,” With that, Mongrel stepped into his safehouse.

They followed, of course they did. What other options did they have? When they were all in, he slammed the door. The room was dark for a moment, until Mongrel found one of the lights and turned it on. It was a jury rigged thing, part flashlight, part lightsaber power supply. There were a few disassembled lightsaber’s laying around, captured Reborn things, largely primitive, but effective. Mongrel found the power supplied particularly useful, and crystals were capable of so many more interesting things than a glorified flashlight.

Mongrel inhaled, pulling The Force into him. The recently awakened woman looked around, her face lost. Fal looked around, searching for something, and, not finding it, laid his apprentice down on the ground with far more care than Mongrel had seen from the man in the past.

What mercy, was it a question, or a statement? Mongrel did not know. 

“We’ll be safe here for a time, but I fear you have exposed my safehouse,” Mongrel growled, “we’ll need to move soon.”

Fal barely looked over his shoulder at Mongrel, “they need rest.”

There was no time for rest down here, what about that didn’t they understand? Mongrel shrugged.

The outside threat set aside for a time, light restored, and the tensions rose again. They’d have questions, Mongrel didn’t want to waste time answering them, but he’d pushed his luck as far as he could.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

Fal and Not-Fal looked at each other, then quickly away. York was trying to calm the awake twin, but Mongrel ignored them, they’d proven themselves useless. The Dark Jedi, though, them he needed.

“You two clearly know each other, but I’m afraid you have my at a disadvantage,” The Not-Fal said, “I am,” a considering pause, “Tikarian.”

“Mongrel,” Mongrel said, there was nothing to elaborate on.

“It might be easier to trust someone if we could see their face,” Tikarian said.

Mongrel had to laugh, a loud, brief cough of a laugh, “you want to see my face? Fair enough,” Mongrel said. Mongrel turned to the apprentices, “Tell me, little ones, did ole Two-Fists tell you what happened to his other apprentices? Where this path leads?” Mongrel smiled behind his mask, “why don’t I show you, show you what comes with following a man so cowardly that he’d leave his apprentice to die rather than face the consequences of his actions?”

He reached up and threw the hood back, revealing a skull wracked by open wounds, healing wounds, and infected wounds, the black hair still clinging in stringy clumps. He took off the goggles next, revealing more of his decaying blue skin and the red eyes, dim now and covered in inky swirls, eyes that should be sightless. The mask came last, and bits of rotten flesh stuck to it, revealing teeth blackened by corrupted blood and spittle, rotten, and lips that split and bled. Up one side of his neck ran recent burns, the skin charred and black, from pulling on so much of The Force so frequently. He rolled his neck, cracking it. He had to laugh at their faces. What had they expected? Then he shrugged, the mirth passed, and gloom took its place, he was dying and his body showed it.

“If you have questions, I’ll answer as I can,” he said, “but I need your help, and it might just keep you alive long enough to hate me.”
Bitch! I eat people.
-Alucard (abridged)
Jegora
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Jegora
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 22, 2019 5:48:57 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
It took all of Jegora’s considerable self-discipline not to physically react when the Mongrel revealed his scarred, rotting face. Instead he buried his emotions deep, although he couldn’t entirely suppress the revulsion and regret that continued to gnaw subtly at his gut. He had known intellectually that his one-time apprentice was probably dying almost from the moment the halfbreed had revealed himself, but to witness the reality of the corruption that was eating the Mongrel from the inside out was another thing entirely. A deep silence settled over the small room as all of the visitors tried to process the Mongrel’s decaying visage.

Jegora’s former apprentice flicked his gaze between them, almost daring any of them to stare at his ruined face. Jegora, like the others, found reason to be looking elsewhere when the Mongrel’s gaze moved to him. Guilt burned in his belly, and Jegora steeled himself. When his former apprentice turned his eyes towards his former master once again, Jegora met the halfbreed’s red-eyed gaze directly.

“I can’t speak for Tikarian here,” Jegora said after a long moment, breaking the silence with a voice full of gravel and iron. “But as crazy at it sounds, I’m here because of a dream.”

The Mongrel snorted at that, a wet sound that scattered the long, sickly strands of black hair hanging down in front of the halfbreed’s face. The former apprentice spat a glob of blood and phlegm onto the stone floor, then turned and began to rummage through a bundle of rags piled against the wall.

“Not the craziest thing I’ve heard you say, Two-Fists, but maybe the dumbest. You’re going to get killed because of a dream.”

Jegora inclined his head slightly at that. He couldn’t fault the Mongrel’s logic—in hindsight, coming back to Lopen was quickly turning out to be a rather poor decision.

“We’ll see,” Jegora said, keeping his voice as neutral as possible and betraying none of his misgivings. He turned to Tikarian and gestured with one hand towards the Dark Jedi. “But now that I’m here, I need some answers. What about you?”

“Answers do sound good,” Tikarian responded glibly, mostly ignoring the meat of Jegora’s query in the process.

Jegora eyed the smaller Dark Jedi with no small amount of suspicion—the man was tricky and was used to weaving webs far more intricate than Jegora could imagine. The man’s unwillingness to provide a straight answer only reaffirmed Jegora’s opinion that he couldn’t be trusted. And yet he had helped carrying the apprentices to safety, despite the additional risk to himself.

Quite the study in contradictions, Jegora thought to himself. What is he playing at here?

“Why do you think we’re not safe here?” Tikarian asked Jegora’s former apprentice. “You seem to have survived here for some time.”

Eventually the Mongrel rose from the pile of rags and bags, tucking several items into various pockets and pouches on his person. Jegora wondered where the halfbreed had gathered his materials, but recalling the smear of red he had seen on the walls of the catacombs, he decided he’d rather not know.

“Long enough to know that we can’t stay here,” Mongrel responded, glaring at Tikarian as he checked his supplies one last time.

Jegora took a deep breath. “Okay then, where do we go?”

Mongrel quickly looked down, suddenly and studiously avoiding eye contact. Sharing a glance with Tikarian, Jegora knew that he wasn’t the only one to pick up on the former apprentice’s sudden reticence.

“I…might know a place,” the Mongrel responded after several long seconds. “But it’s deeper. Darker. But it might have what you’re looking for.”
Jegora Fal
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Trick
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Trick
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 22, 2019 9:39:50 PM    View the profile of Trick 
It took all the willpower Zev possessed to suppress his urge to smile.  The others would no doubt misinterpret his sudden feelings of relief and wry amusement.  Better to maintain the appearance of enigmatic aloofness for the time being.

But despite the foreboding danger that Zev perceived was closing in on the small company, he had finally regained a sense of control over events.

With the momentary respite from their desperate flight, the group members were beginning to talk to each other and make plans.  Zev knew all about talking.  And he knew all about making plans and seeing them through to completion. 

Fal asked the obvious question, and asked it directly: “Okay then, where do we go?”  Zev could appreciate earnestness.  Personally he preferred to deploy it strategically, but he knew that most people didn’t possess his own level of self-control.

But the response of the self-identified mongrel was even more transparently vulnerable.  “I… might know a place.  But it’s deeper.  Darker.”  The Force laid bare the poor creature’s all-encompassing fear.  “But it might have what you’re looking for.”

“What a fortuitous coincidence” Zev said, holding the being’s red-eyed gaze.  “Since it also has what you’re looking for.”

The rotting Chiss didn’t deny it.  He didn’t lash out with reflexive anger in a subconscious effort to redirect the conversation from the unexpected turn it’d just taken.

He merely squinted at Zev, and let out a quiet grunt.

Zev finally let himself grin, and turned to face the tired-looking little congery with arms outstretched, palms up.  “Isn’t it wonderful?  We’re all seeking the same thing!”

Fal was looking doubtful, arms crossed.  The York woman kept glancing between her master and Zev, uncertain.  The boy - Atle? - was comforting his sister - Prin? - and together they were fumblingly trying to reassert their individual senses of self, after the mind tricks and wardings they had endured.  Zev felt another small pang of guilt upon seeing the twins’ pathetic pietà.  But he wasn’t about to betray his own emotional weaknesses like the other two Dark Jedi had done.  He kept sweeping his gaze around the foul-smelling cell until he’d turned back to face the much-changed Moelik Hond.

It was time to deploy a little earnestness of his own.

“You’ve both been fairly upfront about your goals, and since we’re going to be working together I think it would be counterproductive for me to withhold my own reasons for being here.”  Notably, nobody objected to the bit about working together.  It seemed he had the floor for the moment, but that could change at any time.  He had to talk quickly and be succinct, but he also had to choose his words very carefully.

Given the circumstances, he was having entirely too much fun.

He backed up into a corner of the room so that everyone could see him properly.  “I’m here to solve a mystery, my unexpected comrades.  As we’ve all now seen for ourselves, something strange happened here.  Something bad.  I am responsible for protecting the lives of trillions of innocents, and whatever happened in this system could very well be a threat to those lives.  It warranted an investigation.”

“You’re here to play at being a detective, Your Majesty?” Fal’s tone was predictably incredulous and snide.

Zev’s smile never wavered.  “It’s ‘Your Imperial Highness’ actually, but it couldn’t make the least bit of difference - yes, I’m here to play detective.  Ruling an interstellar empire is less exciting day-by-day than renting myself out as hired muscle to a gang of ne’re-do-well nobodies..."

“...Oh stop, you brooding brute of a man,” Zev said teasingly as Fal shifted his weight and puffed up his chest in the universal sign of an insecure being sensing an insult to their pride and instinctively resorting to the threat of violence in response.  “I’m sure Stolk and the rest are lovely people once you get to know them.”

That stopped Fal in his tracks.  The realization that Zev had been able to read his mind to such an extent was no doubt unsettling.

“You’re wasting time!” Hond growled.

Zev’s eyebrows shot up, and he remembered the need to stay focused.  “Oh course you’re right,” he said, bowing his head slightly.

He went back to earnestness.  “My master is Mistress Kami Sharpe - you know her well, Fal - and she sensed this cataclysm from many sectors away.  She knew that something unnatural was happening here - she said the Force was being twisted somehow, ripped apart and sloppily stitched back together - and she sent me to observe the danger firsthand.  Her visions coincided with reports from my scouts and agents: reports of unusual activity by Thrawnist naval forces in this area.”  Zev couldn’t help but glance at Hond’s Chiss eyes as he mentioned the notorious Grand Admiral’s name.

“Define unusual,” the elder apprentice said.  Fal shot her a withering look.  Zev plowed on with his explanation, ignoring the sudden tension between them.

“Nothing has entered or left this system in months,” Zev said.  “Nothing.  My empire is at war with Thrawn’s, and we watch his fleets very carefully.  The man is a genius of strategic maneuvering: he anticipates threats and redeploys his assets ahead of time, to maximize the forces he can bring to bear in any conflict.  But he hasn’t redeployed anything to or from this system lately.  He’s fighting many wars on many fronts - he has had ample need to use the fleet he left here.  And yet the Shykar System stays quiet.  It even seems that his forces in the local area have withdrawn from Shykar's immediate surrounds, as if they’re engaged in a sort of quarantine-from-a-distance operation.”

He shrugged, as if the conclusion was self-evident.  “Thrawn is not to blame for what happened here, and a disturbance in the Force required something more subtle than a reconaissance-in-force action by my own navy.”  He smirked at Fal.  “So I came to play detective.”

“Anyway.”  The time for earnestness had passed.  He turned back to Hond.  “What’s down in the basement?”
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Mongrel
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Mongrel
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 23, 2019 2:44:39 PM    View the profile of Mongrel 
Mongrel didn’t care about Thrawn. Mongrel didn’t know what a Thrawn was. Mongrel wasn’t sure very many of the trillions of lives were all that innocent. Mongrel didn’t care, as long as all that nonsense meant the man was helpful. They were a long way from anything else in the Galaxy, it was hard for him to even conceptualize the idea of other places anymore. How long had he been down here? He looked them over, but Fal was the only one he had a point of reference for. He looked largely unchanged, but there were signs of aging. Years, perhaps?

He looked to the apprentices, concern building in the more experienced one, confusion in the others. Time enough to train, but none of them were as far along as Mongrel was. Then again, was Mongrel still an apprentice? No, that title had fallen away long ago, now he was just a Sith: apprentice, master, it didn’t matter. He looked to the two Dark Jedi before him; answers. As many as he could give.

Mongrel had to be careful, while normally he despised secrets, even he had to admit that there were times, and some secrets, where necessity dictated the terms. He knew many secrets and some these people could never know. He didn’t know what they’d do with them, but he knew it wouldn’t be good, not for anyone, not even them. The Sith, and Dark Jedi as a whole, were far too often self-destructive by nature, though omni-destructive might be a better term. His own body was proof enough of this truth.

“The Reborn did many things here, I don’t know what they were trying to achieve, perhaps they were as divided as The Order and were all fighting and scheming, but I know they had trouble with the Imbued breaking down,” Mongrel grunted, explaining all of it would take too long; simple terms, “the people they made Force sensitive didn’t always last very long. They didn’t suffer this,” he gestured at his face, “but many still went screaming, if they didn’t go even madder than they already were and have to be put down,” he didn’t mention that he was the one doing the putting down, that the Reborn just tossed them in the catacombs and forgot about them.

“They were trying to solve this problem,” Tikarian ventured.

Mongrel inclined his head, “I don’t think they were close, but then, they had little understanding of,” he paused to think about how to phrase it, he’d never had to before, “the more esoteric aspects of the Sith’s alchemy,” he snorted, “I doubt they even knew about it, but if they did, very little.”

“So that is what you’ve been using,” Fal said.

Mongrel nodded, “it’s what’s protected us thus far.”

“You want to complete the experiment,” Tikarian didn’t ask a question.

Mongrel tilted his head from side to side for a moment, choosing his words, “I want to use their equipment,” it wasn’t a lie.

“Something is wrong with them,” York said, aloud, surprised.

It had taken her long enough. Mongrel couldn’t feel it, but he had his suspicions. What he had done was a simplified version of the wards he used, quick and dirty. You didn’t have to think to use The Force, the subconscious was often a better and more nuanced master of it, but with a seal made to ward from mental intrusion burned into your head, there might be a block. A ward was only as good as what it was put into, and chances were that the wards would break down as the marks healed, but until then, there was a good chance The Force was gone.

“They’re here,” Mongrel said, “this is no place for children.”

Mongrel didn’t need the ability to sense emotions to feel white hot rage. York turned on him, so angry. Mongrel pulled Fal’s old saber from his belt and tossed it at her, she caught it against her chest.

“If you think you can, try it,” he said, smiling around black teeth, and he looked to Fal, “isn’t that what you told me once, Fal?”
Bitch! I eat people.
-Alucard (abridged)
Jegora
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Jegora
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 25, 2019 5:33:13 AM    View the profile of Jegora 
Jegora and York had been together long enough that he felt the furnace of her white hot rage almost as an extension of his own emotions. He could only watch as the Mongrel tossed Jegora's own lightsaber back to the young woman and dared her to attack him, using the same taunt that Jegora himself had once directed at his former apprentice. The Mongrel hadn't taken him up on the offer all those years ago, but Jegora had a feeling that York was about to choose a different path.

He felt the rage spike in York, overwhelming her already tenuous self-control. York had been through some of the worst experiences of her young life, had been confronted with terrors and threats beyond her understanding. She had been forced to fight her friends, follow a verifiable madman blindly through dark catacombs, and had been chased by a formless terror that inflicted crippling hallucinations before eating you. Although he couldn't have said how, Jegora understood in a flash of insight that his apprentice had reached her breaking appointment. Instinctively he knew what his apprentice was going to do probably before she herself had made a decision.

York fumbled with the lightsaber for a brief second before she got a firm grip and her training kicked in. Muscle memory took over, and the young woman ignited the weapon with a simple flourish that belied her burgeoning skills. Still, Jegora knew that if she tried to attack the Mongrel, especially in her current state, things would end badly for her. Furthermore, the last thing they needed was to upset Jegora's former apprentice--like it or not, they were still reliant on the halfbreed to get them out of the catacombs alive.

So Jegora intervened from where he stood at the other side of the small chamber. He did so quickly, without conscious thought, and as a he result his response was harsher than any that York had suffered during her time as his apprentice. Some subconscious part of his brain recognized that this was just the type of response that Mongrel would recognized, but there was no time for subtlety.

From across the room, Jegora focused his will on his apprentice. He reached out through the Force and, with a finesse that few could match, plucked the lightsaber from York's hand and sent it flying into his own. At the same time, he lashed the young woman with the Force, driving her to her knees and holding her immobile.

York gasped as the air was driven from her lungs, her eyes wide and wild. Jegora watched carefully and saw the moment that reason returned to her eyes...along with something else that Jegora instantly recognized as the deep disappointment of one who feels they have been betrayed.

That look hurt Jegora more than he had thought possible, but as always he buried that emotion deep, fed it into the fire of power that burned at his core. He would have to deal with York later, and he knew that the young woman, already traumatized and unused to being treated so, would not be understanding. So be it. They had larger concerns.

Mongrel barked a laugh, a wet wheezing sound that reminded Jegora of an old man on his death bed. "There's the Master Fal I know and love," Mongrel chuckled, but Jegora could hear the edge to his words. How many times had the former apprentice suffered even more violent retribution for lesser offenses. Jegora cringed internally at the thought.

Jegora focused his gaze for a moment on the halfbreed but otherwise ignored the former apprentice's comments. The whole point was to avoid confrontation, and the Mongrel had proven himself not entirely unskilled and exceedingly volatile. Jegora wasn't scared of the creature as much as he had a burgeoning respect for the new dangers the halfbreed posed. Best, he thought, to continue on as if nothing had happened.

Jegora released his hold on York and spoke as calmly as he could. "See to the twins," he instructed, trying to brush past the altercation that had just taken place. He pulled a small canteen off his utility belt and tossed it to York. "Give them some water, see if they don't come around."

York caught the canteen gingerly and moved to obey, her previous rage now extinguished. But the look in her eyes as she did so told Jegora that there was going to be some work ahead to repair his apprentice's trust in him. The knife in his gut twisted, and Jegora's lips pressed into a thin line as he watched York turn away back towards the twins.

Glancing at Tikarian and the Mongrel, Jegora clipped the lightsaber he had taken from York to his belt next to his other weapon. "So you want to use their equipment," Jegora repeated, his voice completely lacking in emotion. "Why haven't you made use of it already? Seems you've been down here long enough to have the run of the place."

The Mongrel shook his head, setting the ruins of his greasy hair swaying. "Can't," the former apprentice said simply, and Jegora struggled to keep from grinding his teeth.

"Why not?" Tikarian followed up. "You seem like quite a capable fellow."

"Don't know," the Mongrel shrugged in response, and Jegora caught Tikarian rolling his eyes.

"What do you want to use it for?" Jegora asked, and again the Mongrel shrugged, this time not even bothering to answer. Or unable to articulate a viable answer. Jegora was becoming more and more suspicious that his former apprentice had gone even madder during his isolation in the catacombs below the Citadel than Jegora had previously thought.

Tikarian pushed away from the wall he was leaning agains, rolling his shoulders and cracking his neck deliberately. "Seems pretty obvious to me: the Reborn were experimenting with ways to survive channeling large amounts of energy, and our friend here has a similar problem."

Mongrel growled, but nodded. Jegora thought for a moment. He was curious about the Reborn experiments, but he had already risked enough on Lopen. Not too mention what his apprentices had suffered. It had been a mistake to bring them to the surface, as ill-prepared as they were. He should force Mongrel to take them back to the surface right now, get on the shuttle, and rejoin the Charelotte. That would have been the perfectly sensible, logical thing to do, and Jegora was nothing if not sensible and logical.

Except not this time. Deep down he knew that he had to continue on, had to see these events through. If nothing else, the dream that haunted his subconscious demanded it. But as strange as it was, he also felt some sort of obligation towards the Mongrel. After all, the man had been his apprentice, his responsibility, and as such Jegora shared some blame for his current predicament.

If nothing else, Jegora knew he had to continue on simply to keep and eye on Tikarian--he didn't know what the other Dark Jedi was up to, but he suspected that the man would chase secrets through the ruins of the Citadel until the sun went nova. Jegora knew that someone had to try and keep things from getting too far out of hand, and he figured himself the only likely candidate.

"Fine," Jegora growled after a long, silent moment. "You think we can help you get into this lab?"

The Mongrel nodded. "Probably. You were always good at breaking things."

It was Tikarian's turn to snort a laugh, although the man had the decency to look surprised at his own reaction. "Sorry," he mumbled. "But you are good at breaking things."

Jegora shifted his weight and crossed his arms in front of his chest, choosing once again to ignore the side comments he didn't want to deal with. "And you can get us there? In one piece? The alchemy will keep that thing at bay?"

This time Mongrel hesitated longer before nodding. "Should work," he said, his raspy voice quavering slightly and not at all offering the reassurance Jegora was looking for. "If not, we won't last long."

Jegora closed his eyes. The Force help him, he may not have known what he was getting himself into, but he had a feeling it wasn't going to end well. Finally he nodded, and he thought that maybe the Mongrel looked a little relived. Curious.

"Well," Tikarian said, "you said this things hunts using illusions?" Mongrel nodded absently again, more interested in picking a scab on the back of his hand.

"Fantastic!," Tikarian cried, startlingly everyone in the room. With a big grin he continued, "good thing you have a master illusionist on your team."
Jegora Fal
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Trick
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Trick
 
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  RE: Shades of the Past
June 26, 2019 5:17:29 PM    View the profile of Trick 
The pieces were falling into place at last, and Zev could finally see the solution to the deadly puzzle.  All he had to do was protect a madman, a rival he’d just fought, a wildcard angry apprentice, and two temporarily-crippled children, against a nameless shapeless entity of terrifying power, for long enough that the group could reach a mysteriously-blocked portal and get through to the room beyond, on the slim hope that they might thereby be able to escape the murdered planetary system in which they were all trapped.

Simple.

“You’re a fool,” the mongrel said, his tone matter-of-fact.

You’re not wrong, Zev thought to himself.  “Your vote of confidence is much appreciated,” he said aloud.

Jegora was frowning.  “You can’t seriously think--”

“--I think seriously all the time,” Zev interrupted.  “I mean sure, sometimes I think about trivial, silly things.  But most of the time…”  He trailed off and held up his hands in a mea culpa.  “Oh lighten up, friends.  A little gallows humor never hurt anyone.”

“Make another joke and we’ll test that theory,” York said from across the room.  She was holding the canteen up to Atle’s mouth.  She did not look amused.

Zev’s grin twisted into a grimace.  “You want serious?” he asked, his voice too-loud in the small chamber.  “Here’s serious: I think I can deal with that thing out there.  Distract it, confuse it.  I can shield you all from its probes for a time, recognize when it’s broken through my screen, and attempt to override the hallucinations you’ll be experiencing.  I can even try to replicate its technique, once I’ve seen it… try to finesse the nightmarescape and give you a better chance of finding your way back to reality.  While I’m doing that--”

Without warning, the door through which they had entered Hond’s sanctum suddenly shuddered under the impact of something massive moving at great speed.  The entire Citadel seemed to shake, and all warmth drained from the air.

Everyone turned to face the door, expressions ranging from fear to… no, it was pretty much only fear.  But as he watched the others, Zev was afraid for a different reason.

“It’s not there,” he said softly into the silence.  “That was a trick.”

Hond was the first to react.  “You’re sure?”

Zev nodded.  “It wants to flush us out.  There’s another exit to this room, isn’t there?”

Hond’s turn to nod.  He pointed to one corner of the chamber.  “Over there.”

The main door thumped again, more insistently.  Again, everyone’s head spun around to face the obvious threat.  York instinctively shielded the twins, placing herself between them and the doorway.  Under other circumstances, Zev would have found the gesture touching.  As it was, he saw the whole situation as a giant tangle of liabilities.

“Hey!” he whispered, grabbing their attention again.  He shook his head slowly, holding their gaze all the while.  “It’s over there!” he said, pointing at the corner the mongrel had indicated.  The thing burned brightly in the Force; Zev was surprised - and deeply dismayed - that the others didn’t seem able to perceive it.

But then he noticed a slight… buzzing sensation.  At the outer edge of his perceptions.  His gut twisted as he realized: he wasn’t immune to the thing.  His defenses would only keep it out temporarily.

“I am forced to agree with our charming host,” Zev said, still sotto voce in the chilly quiet.  “It’s time to leave.”

Hond was already gathering the last of his little vials and pouches.  The twins still looked haggard, but now an existential terror radiated off them.  York was studying the second exit in the corner, her face scrunched up in concentration.  Zev didn’t need to read her mind to know she wasn’t able to sense the monster lurking there. And Jegora Fal was staring at his apprentices, his expression of concern undisguised.

“This way!” the mongrel growled, shouldering Zev aside and walking back to the main door.

“Hey wait,” Zev objected.  “We need to make a plan.”

Hond put his hand on the door, and after a moment the chill in the air began to retreat.  He was using his barely-controlled well of power to shift his wardings and spells again.  A process that always seemed to leak heat.

If they survived this, Zev was looking forward to learning more about all that business.

As the door heated up, Fal spoke: “Trikarian’s right.  Not all of us can move quickly.”  The compassionate, guilt-ridden version of the big Sith warrior was sort of adorable.  But Zev wished he could swap back to the implacable instrument of Dark Side power that had almost decapitated him earlier in the day.  That guy might be more useful in the present moment.

“Then not all of us will survive.”  Hond shrugged, and removed his hand from the door.  Zev thought he might have heard a mechanism click somewhere deep within the stone floor, but he wasn’t sure.  He was focused on using senses other than hearing.

Zev held up his hands to the mongrel, and spoke as if trying to calm a distressed animal.  “Yes.  Well.  We might have a better chance of survival if we made a proper pl--”

“The plan is to follow me,” Hond said.  And without another word he took off down the passageway in his characteristic scrabbling shamble.  The damned hermit.

The apprentices began to protest, but Fal cut them off: “Silence!  Stay here.  This room will be safer than the open passages.  York will keep you safe, while we distract the Eater.”

“Master…” York started to say.  Zev sensed so many emotions underlying that one word.  Anger.  Resentment.  Guilt.  Fear.  Shame.  A lot of self-doubt.

Fal placed a heavy hand on her shoulder.  “You will keep them safe.  I know you will.”

Zev was already moving to the door, sensing the direction events were progressing.  “I promise that the thing won’t be interested in you unless it kills me,” he said over his shoulder.

“Guess you should try to stay alive then.”  She was a much better conversationalist than her master, Zev would give her that.

But Hond’s shuffling footsteps were growing faint, down the passageway.  “Fal?  Time to go.”

The big Sith sent one last pulse of reassurance to his pupils through the Force, and then joined Zev at the door.  When they were through, he summoned his power and telekinetically slammed the portal shut, pushing and pushing until it seemed the atoms of doorway and door were on the verge of merging.

With a grunt, he released the effort.  “That asshole didn’t even ward this in behind him.”

Zev shrugged in the darkness.  “So let’s go catch up with him and give him a good talking-to about it.”

Fal grunted again.  “After you, Your Majesty.”

Zev snickered.  “No, I insist: you first,” he said.  He took the electric torch off his utility belt and turned it on.  Bright light flooded the passageway, revealing Zev’s smirk and Fal’s look of alarm.  Instantly, the cold wind started to blow, quickly building in intensity.  The temperature plummeted, and their breath started to condense into mist.  “Seriously,” Zev said.  “I think you should get well away from me.  I want it focused on me.”  He waggled the flashlight in his hand, and the light danced over the dark stone walls.

The Sith shook his head, and followed after his former apprentice.  When he’d safely faded into the darkness ahead, Zev took a deep breath.  He remembered what Hond had said: You’re a fool.  Again, he couldn’t disagree.

He stretched out, widening his awareness to seek out intelligences at work.  He felt the apprentices, Fal, Hond.  And he was frightened to sense the ambush predator moving quickly along a zig-zag course, presumably navigating the Citadel’s catacombs.  It was stalking them, and getting closer.

Zev focused inward, mindfully shoring up his own mental defenses.  The monstrous thing surged along, and after a moment it finally entered the passageway perpendicular to where Zev stood.  “Okay, that’s close enough,” he muttered to himself.

He thought he was beginning to understand the creature’s way of hunting.  He hoped he was.  Either way, he couldn't think of anything else to try.

He set his jaw and projected an illusion of his own.  He tried to camouflage the three beings cowering behind the door, and simultaneously he tried to mirror their fears and their thoughts, amplifying his own extant sense of vulnerability.  “Come and get me,” he said through gritted teeth.  “I’m all alone here.”

Zev felt the Life Eater take the bait.  The thing turned all its focus and malice toward him, and it picked up its pace.  Run, you idiot! a voice screamed in Zev's mind.

So he obliged.  He fled, following the other two Dark Jedi.

And as he ran, he allowed his fear to express itself freely: he screamed in terror the whole time.
Naval High Command
CNW/Rear Admiral Trick/NHC/VEN/VE

Second Vast Imperial Fleet
SCAP/RADM Zev "Trick" Tikarian/Interdictor-class Star Destroyer Subjugator/TF:A/2Flt/FC/VEN/VE

Decorations
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[*IG*][*AO*][SoA][CoB.][VC:B][VC:S][VC:G][VC:E][SoV][LoM][DSM][NSM][E][NAR][CC:4][CNQST][NDM][MSMx2][NC][IGC]

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SM/DWR Trikarian/Dark Jedi/Shades/Raven L-04/DJO/VE [EoP]
Mongrel
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  RE: Shades of the Past
September 20, 2019 8:53:48 AM    View the profile of Mongrel 
Mongel stumbled.

These paths were well known, and he knew every sound and smell and touch of them, but still he stumbled. Now, running in the dark it was just another day, and now his exertions were catching up with him. He’d burned his arms, his neck, his torso, The Force had healed them, and he’d burned them again. The skin was charred enough that it was making moving difficult, not for pain, he’d long ago forgotten this kind of pain, just pure, mechanical, stiffness.
Could Fal hear it? Or, rather, notice its absence? There were only two sets of foot falls now.

Mongrel stumbled and crashed to his knees. He pushed himself up, but he heard Fal falter. That was probably for the best, Mongrel wasn’t sure he’d be able to keep up if Fal didn’t. Mongrel coughed and hacked until oil thick fluids and chunks spilled from his mouth, he was glad he couldn’t see them. One squirmed across his hand and he flicked it off. No time for trivialities.

“I’m fine,” Mongrel growled, pushing himself to his feet, “keep moving.”

The Force was slippery, and he was. . .tired? Is this what tired felt like? It had been so long. It was there, in him, powering him, the energy. He wiped his mouth with his burned glove and kept moving. Seven lefts, three rights, where the rough wall goes to stone and third one up is poorly hewn, then down, not up, but then down went up a bit first, and keep left at the five fork turn. Not far now. Just run.

At the first turn, Mongrel stopped, propping himself up on the wall. He heard Fal stop, but the older man said nothing. Mongrel was glad of that, he didn’t have the energy for more pointless conversation. It was taking everything to hold onto what he had. Fal was a brute, but not a dullard, he didn’t need to tell him they were waiting for The Tikarian.

“We need to wait,” Mongrel tried to cover up the wheeze with a growl, “if we do with just Sith,” wheeze,” I wouldn’t need both of you.”

Fal’s feet shifted in the sand, Mongrel could hear his heel push a loose bone to the side. He might not be at his best, but Mongrel knew they were on track, the bones would get more plentiful soon.

Mongrel was gasping for air, something he hadn’t needed much of in a long time. It was probably taking most of his well to keep the degradation of his body from consuming him. He might need to start eating soon and he wondered if he even still had enough anatomy left to do that. Wouldn’t matter anyway, there was no food on this tomb.

“You’re flagging,” Fal, so matter of fact.

Not such a secret, even in the dark Mongrel could hear Fal squaring up. It was no time for a fight. There had never been a time for a fight here. Another power filled Mongrel, rage. He had fought Reborn, survived these horrors, and now some jumped up soldier with delusions of importance was going start playing games with him. No.

“Maybe, if you two fuckwits hadn’t decided to start hitting each other with sticks,” his mouth was filling with blood and spit and he spit it all on the ground and a thick stream, “I wouldn’t have had to waste all this fucking energy on your fucking egos.”

A scream. Fal’s feet moved again, and, after a few seconds, Mongrel shifted his ears better. That might be the third, the Tikarian. Mongrel pulled on The Force, but it was barely coming. The anger, it did nothing, and it left with his next breath.

“Anything seem off to you, Two-Fists?” Mongrel hated this, but he would survive, “guard your mind as best you can, does anything change? Is the scream still there? Smells, the feel of the wall, anything, what is still there?”

He had expected a protest, but instead he just heard an inhale, and pause. Silence but for the scream. It was growing closer, footsteps. Mongrel listened for any repetition, any irregularity, but there were many, and that was a good sign.

“I smell rot, and. . .dryness. The scream is getting closer. The air moves, but it’s not wind,” Fal said, it wasn’t the normal hard voice he used, it was softer. He wasn’t filtering it. Mongrel didn’t know how someone like him tapped into The Force, but he knew Fal touched it in a very different way.

Mongrel nodded even if it couldn’t be seen, “then it’s real.”

Mongrel slammed against the wall, Fal’s hand shoving him, “what do you want, Hond?”

So he’d pushed his former Master too far now, “Through Victory, My Chains Are Broken. I just want my chains broken,” Mongrel said, wheezing, “Nothing more, nothing less.”

The grip tightened, but the footsteps grew closer.

Mongrel’s head was light, “flagging. If you break my chains, they’re no less broken.”

The hand didn’t let go, “can you move?”

“Yes,” the footsteps grew closer, “I can’t walk, but I can run.”

The hand released him. Had it been Fal? Mongrel couldn’t tell, but what was certain was Tikarian yelling “go, go, we need to go.”

So Mongrel went, left, he trailed a hand along the wall of the cavern, feeling the familiar bumps and breaks in it and, for a moment, it all felt normal.

The only Victory was survival.
Bitch! I eat people.
-Alucard (abridged)
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