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Author Topic: The Storms of Exodus  (Read 1474 times)
TheDutchman
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« on: August 15, 2018, 03:27:01 PM »

This takes place after "Interlude-A Glimpse of Dawn"
******************************************

Prologue

As the battle-scarred and carbon-scored assault frigate obtained a geosynchronous altitude with the floating ship berth, a group of people disembarked, all of them disheveled, dirty, and battle-worn.  But each and every one of them walked tall, heartened by the recent victories over the Sith, including the most recent.

Especially the most recent.

Already being called “the Fourth Battle of Ruusan,” the combatants and prime architects of the battle had been recalled to Coruscant.  Some had cheered that they were going to be commended, others whispered that they were going to be reprimanded, but only two knew with absolute certainty the exact reasons for their presence.

Well, three if one included Lord Hoth.  But given that he wasn’t on-planet, those two kept their own counsel, doing nothing to dissuade the rampant rumors circulating.  

“Besides Rikard…word of what’s occurred should help to silence any…ah, ‘reservations’ shall we say, from the Clan leaders.  Sorry, ‘Speakers.’”  Sulen reminded her Kage.  She was a beautiful woman despite the mud upon her robes, armor, and face, although she’d been able to comb her jet-black hair.  Hanging straight down her back, Coruscant’s setting sun shone off Sulen’s hair, the sky taking on an orange hue along the horizon while the star turned blood-red.

…Fitting… Rikard thought.  …After all of the blood that had been shed lately…and I still have to prepare for battle, if a different kind…

For the first time in two years since the beginning of the Ruusan Campaign—and his election to Kage—the seven Vhal’Dan Clans had congregated together on Coruscant.  Last time they’d done so in solidarity, eagerly electing Rikard and in no small part due to his successes as a proven tactician and captain.  In fact, it was one of the few times that the Clans had been unanimous in anything in the history of the Vhal’Dan Jedi.

Of course, with the overwhelming threat of the Sith and the collapse of the Republic a distinct possibility, there were few tolerances for dissenting voices; action was not only encouraged but indeed required.  When Skere Kaan had defected to the Sith, creating his so-called “Brotherhood of Darkness,” the Republic found itself facing what had been its greatest champion.  And the Brotherhood had added countless former Jedi to its numbers.  By the time that Kaan and his Brotherhood were ready to attack the weakened Jedi, the Sith numbered over 20,000 strong.

And it was Lord Hoth that had ultimately took the reins as Supreme Commander under the title “Seneschal of the Army of Light, Jedi Lord Hoth.”  Gathering together those Jedi who opposed the Sith under one banner—his banner—Lord Hoth waged a war of attrition against the Brotherhood using guerrilla tactics, never directly confronting them.

And during those early years of the formation of the Army of Light, the Vhal’Dan had been seven separate clans, each distinct and with little-to-no fealty to the others.  To be certain, the Vhal’Dan clan Jedi would often aid the Army of Light.  In fact, it was on many of Lord Hoth’s offensives that Rikard had fought with the Army, gaining reputation and renown.  But ultimately the Vhal’Dan were divided, seven different and disparate entities that not always saw things in the same manner.  The clans would often fight against each other, infighting and turmoil impeding growth and progress.

Until their homeworld of Istic III was annexed by the Cloak of the Sith, the area that included the Outer Rim that the Brotherhood had taken absolute control over.  This was right before the Ruusan Campaign.  Such a singular, powerful antagonist was the impetus that the clans needed to finally unite for the first time in millennia in solidarity, finding a strength in unity that surprised even the individual clans.  And against such a foe, the seven clans had created the Vhal’Dan office of “Kage,” borrowing the title from the Mak’Tor.  And just below the Kage, the original ceremonial position of Clan Arbiter—the person elected among the seven clans to adjudicate inter-clan disputes—was now considered the right-hand of the Kage.  And to ensure that each clan had representation within the new government, the former clan ruler would hold the position of “Speaker of the Vhal’Dan.”

And so, tradition and necessity merged to form a synthesis, evolving as the seven clans of the Vhal’Dan became one heterogeneous entity.  The Vhal’Dan Congress consisting of the Seven Speakers were headed by the lone, elected Kage, the Arbiter in turn acting as the Kage’s adjutant.  

United, the consolidated Vhal’Dan Forces joined wholesale with the Army of Light, driving the Sith from Galtea.  The Vhal’Dan then became the vanguard in the Ruusan Campaigns, often times mirroring the savagery of the Sith with their own.  Rikard’s reputation among his enemies and allies alike grew…if not exactly for the reasons that he wanted.

In the “Cleansing of Istic,” Rikard had established himself as an adequate if not outstanding general, respected by his troops.  Unfortunately given his combat pragmatism, his methods were sometimes questioned by his peers and allies.  Rikard had told them that he would do anything to obtain the objective of the war, namely: win.  With gossip rampant, his political enemies used this for their own propaganda, some saying that Rikard would face the Maker without a soul, having lost it amidst the fighting.

He was ever-after known as Black Rikard Macias.

But success breeds its own defense; with every victory, any dissention was quickly quashed.  And for the first time in almost 1,000 years, Republic victories outnumbered Sith, the Army of the Light finally numerous enough to meet the Brotherhood of Darkness in strength.  People among the galaxy were beginning to believe that the Republic could finally rise from the ashes of war and establish itself once again.

Of course, with such hope also came stagnation and a call to return to old ways of thinking…

“Fools…bureaucratic fools…” Rikard’s disgust was apparent on his face, the scar running verticle along the right side of his face already slightly twisting his upper lip below his blonde mustache and beard.  His armored boots resounded through the halls as he made his way to the conference room.  Sulen’s own face was schooled and impassive…but her presence in the Force was something else entirely.  Rikard was certain that the fool Speakers would be able to feel them (thanks to Sulen) far sooner than before they saw them.  Certainly his Honor Guard felt it, all seven of them—despite their disparate species and genders—had the exact same look upon their visages: grim determination.  Rikard smiled, proud of his Honor Guard.  Even now, they were ready for battle, despite being selected among each clan as a representative.  Like their Kage and their Arbiter, their first allegiance were to the Vhal’Dan first, clan second.

And, as he’d been told at his investiture, the Kage was the Vhal’Dan.

Well, Rikard would remind them, these officious pfassks, that they’d all sworn fealty to their Kage, for the good of the Vhal’Dan.  The Old Ways were gone, dead; those that wished to perpetrate them the fossils of a bygone era.  The clans were no more.  There were only Vhal’Dan, allies, and enemies.  Rikard inhaled sharply, letting his irritation give rise to his anger.  Anger was a valuable tool, one that he knew to be at odds with the doctrine of the Jedi Order at large.  …Well…I guess that it’s only to be expected from a back-water Jedi like myself… He smiled sardonically.

That had been one of the reasons for the Clans’ hesitance to join the Army of Light: while, yes, they were technically Jedi, they were often seen as “second-class” Force-users by those of the Order proper.  Well, by most; there were various allies among the Order, most prominently the Mak’Tor.  …One of the few allies… Rikard thought, …Even a few friends…

But too few altogether for comfort, at least by Rikard’s esteem.  And now: the growing squabbling between the Speakers concerning what to do next after war’s end.  …Frelling idiots!  This war is not over yet… Well…that was one universal truth: there were always people to fight.

He stopped short of the doors, his Honor Guard now flanking him and Sulen.  They—the Honor Guard—could not go into the room; that was under the purview and exclusive right of Congressional Members only.  Sulen moved to key open the door, looking meaningfully into her Kage’s green eyes.  Good, she looked as ready for battle as he felt.  Giving a slight nod, Sulen turned and opened the door.  Before Rikard entered the room, he thought again of what he’d come to realize, considering those within and finding at least a couple of them wanting.  …With me…or against me… Rikard surmised, remembering his credo.

There were only Vhal’Dan, allies, and enemies.
Logged

Sig courtesy of DarthScrub

Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2018, 08:19:21 PM »

"the Kage was the Vhal’Dan" - L'Etat, c'est moi.

Rikard is a very different leader to Kazic, or even Anson, I strongly doubt they would see eye to eye on much at all.  Having said that I can see him having a bit more of a commonality with Zearic whose ‘Take what you want and pay for it’ concept is far more pragmatic.

“There were only Vhal’Dan, allies, and enemies.”  Is very close to “there are only People and Outsiders,” He would get on well with Valens…excepting Rikard is (I assume) long dead before Valens is reborn…and you know they’d both see each other as a threat and end up in some kind of conflict – though I suspect Rikard who “would face the Maker without a soul, having lost it amidst the fighting.” (Brilliant line!) might be one of the few ‘Jedi’ who would be able to fight back with equal ruthlessness and cunning if not sheer power.

Given the clan based nature of their recent history it seems understandable though, they’ve shifted from loyalty to one tribe to loyalty to an over tribe with Rikard as Chieftain – but still clearly have that tribal view point nonetheless, even in looking to Rikard the ‘big man’ for leadership.

A very different character and a setting for the Vhal dan look forward to seeing where this goes, obviously we know it ends up at some point with the Vhal Dan on Galtea with the Speakers elective rather than representing clans, and inclusive enough for an Anzat like Kazic to join – but the journey there….I can’t begin to imagine!

*Congrats on the Raffle win BTW - who know maybe you will get Rikard's sabre?
Logged

Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

Karmack
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Light side points please.


« Reply #2 on: August 16, 2018, 06:00:19 AM »

Black Rikard Macias, first Kage of the Vhal'Dan: The Sword of the Vhal'Dan, Bane of Sith, forged in Ruusan's fire and dipped in blood...

And so now we get the Vhal'Dan back story!  Like their first Kage, forged in fire and blood.  Driven together to fight the common enemy, the tribal divisions suppressed under the cloak of need.  Its easy to see how those differences could fester over time, eventually leading to the schism of their Civil War, the origins of them lost in the mists of time - but still very real and nearly fatal.

But as always, you deliver my friend!  Compelling characters and a wonderful setting.  Looks like I need to dive into Wookipedia and do some more research on the New Sith Wars, especially the battles of Ruusan and Lord Hoth's campaigns!  :-)
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Master Singer of the Mak'Tor

TheDutchman
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2018, 09:33:54 AM »

Thanks guys!

I've been thinking about this for awhile and came to the conclusion that the Ruusan Reformation was the perfect backdrop for the origins of the Vhal'Dan.  And yeah Karm, Wookiepedia was a BIG help, not to mention that it was exceptionally interesting  Smiley

Oh, BTW, I made a mistake in the following sentence:
"United, the consolidated Vhal’Dan Forces joined wholesale with the Army of Light, driving the Sith from Galtea."

Sorry, I meant to write the planet Istic III, NOT Galtea.  My mistake  Tongue
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Sig courtesy of DarthScrub

Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

TheDutchman
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« Reply #4 on: August 23, 2018, 03:40:41 PM »


Chapter 1: Heavy Is the Head, Part I

First Vhal’Dan Congress
Kage Black Rikard Macias, human male
Arbiter Sulen Reu Lai, human female
Speaker Sarll Båz Rhadde, Cathar male
Speaker Lorack Vasch, Kel-Dor female
Speaker Khrom-Xon Prine, human male
Speaker Darjaní Korpil, human female
Speaker Jol’l Dulovic, Togruta male
Speaker Aah’valia Mortari, Trailian female
Speaker Piodas Bastra, Verpine

 “This is useless!  I don’t care how many times you insist, but saying such does not make it real!”  Rikard’s fists slammed the semi-circular table, cracks forming in the center where he sat.  “The Sith are not defeated!  Furthermore, during the interim that the passage from Ruusan to Coruscant took, they have not remained idle!”  Indicating Sulen with his bearded chin, he stood suddenly.  “The Arbiter has informed me that since we’ve been here in this ineffectual committee, the Sith counterattack has retaken the territories that we fought and died for!  And still you fools try to convince yourselves that there is no danger!

Rikard’s face was crimson with fury, his blonde mustache and beard in stark contrast.  Sulen sat behind him just to his right, her face completely impassive.  Statues showed more emotion than the tall Arbiter.  The Kage, on the other hand…

“You elected me as your Kage.”  His tone was even but it burned with rage.  “You will defer.  I will hear no more nonsense about reimplementing Clan Laws, at least not while the Sith are a problem.  Am I clear, Speakers?”  And while all seven Speakers held his gaze, not one dissented.  Almost as an afterthought, Rikard’s voice changed, an unspoken challenge underneath.  “…Unless one of you wishes to invoke P’Rae’Lior?”  This time almost every speaker lowered their eyes.  All but one.

Speaker Sarll Båz Rhadde.  A large Cathar Jedi Master, he had been the most vocal opponent against Rikard, almost always at odds with the slender Kage.  If Rikard said “Up,” Sarll would growl “Down.”  It was whispered that the only thing that he hated more than Rikard were the Sith.  And he was as versed in combat as he was in politics: he’d amassed many victories against the Brotherhood of Darkness, gaining prestige and repute.  In fact, he’d only lost the nomination of Kage from the Clans by the barest of margins.  Rikard knew him to be a powerful Jedi but unfortunately seemed to be able to agree to nothing with the Cathar.  Except the eradication of the Sith.

“Kage.”  Sarll’s deep bass voice rumbled.  “Our Congress is concerned.  The Sith are finally being beaten back across the galaxy; Ruusan seems to be where they intend to make their last stand.  It is our duty and right to make plans for the future of the Clans.”  Rikard noted that Sarll was deliberate in saying “Clans” and not “Vhal’Dan.”  A brief glance at Sulen was all the confirmation that he needed to see that she’d also made a note of it.  Sarll continued.  “The Clans came together in solidarity during our darkest time of need.  And because of that—and your actions, Kage—” the Cathar allowed, “—the Clans have not only survived but indeed thrived.  Each clan now numbers almost 400 Jedi strong…”

Rikard smiled humorlessly.  “Yes, almost 3,000 Vhal’Dan Jedi.  Maker’s blessings but we have a substantial constituency within the Republic, or will at any rate once we’re given our proper representation.”  Rikard doubted that last; he noticed that many of the Jedi Order were…uncomfortable with the Vhal’Dan’s recruitment, both in technique and numbers.  …Frell them… He thought.  But one way or the other, Rikard would ensure the best future for the Vhal’Dan…despite the machinations of fools like Sarll.  …No… the slender Kage thought …Sarll is many things but he’s not a fool… The Cathar Speaker’s voice pulled Rikard from his ruminations.

“…Be that as it may, the Clans are now stronger than ever.”  Standing, Sarll looked at each Speaker in turn, the massive Cathar adopting a pedantic pose.  “But we must discuss the facts.  The office of ‘Kage’ was never to be permanent.  As soon as hostilities are at an end, I submit that Bl—that Rikard Macias cede control of the Clans back to the Clan Chiefs.”

Rikard caught Sarll’s stumble; he’d wanted to say “Black Rikard” but stopped himself just before… As Rikard had admitted, Sarll was no fool.  He knew that he would lose against Rikard…at least for the time being.  And such a blatant breach of protocol would allow Rikard the chance to redress an insult of that magnitude.  Or so everyone thought and expected.  Rikard himself had actually taken to the epitaph and considered it a badge of pride.  But he would never let anyone know that.

“Rikard Macias has acted honorably in his capacity as Kage…”  Rikard knew that Sarll’s preamble was so much hot air as the expected qualifier came.  “…But the Clans have never suffered tyrants.  And that is precisely what I worry about should a Kage be allowed to remain after the Sith have been defeated.”  He took his seat, golden eyes staring directly into Rikard’s green.

“…Well Speaker, I’ll give you this: you’re consistent.”  Rikard’s voice was light as he remained seated.  “Now let me posit you something.”  Rikard stood, leaning on balled fists.  “Have ‘hostilities’ ceased?  Are the Sith defeated?  Did the ‘Dark One’ surrender while I wasn’t looking?  No?”  As soon as Rikard had mentioned Skere Kaan by his nickname, the Kage stood his full height, his tone no longer easygoing.  “When—or indeed if—that happens, you can discuss this until your lungs explode.  More, even.  But until that time, I am Kage.  And as you all agreed, as per the Clan Concord of the Vhal’Dan, while at war it is the Kage and no one else, who dictates policy.”  Rikard crossed his arms.  “Am I clear?”  His voice could crack durasteel.

This time all Speakers voiced their assent.  “Then that is all.  The Arbiter and myself must return to the Ruusan Front.”  Unceremoniously, he began walking from the table towards the doors.  Before they’d fully irised out, Rikard added, “And do not ever pull this again.  Or by Clan Law I will have your heads.”  He knew the emphasis on “Clan” would not be lost upon those Speakers who had dissented from his policies.  That would change now.  “…Oh, and ‘meeting adjourned.’”  Rikard said sarcastically as he walked from the room.

As Sulen followed her Kage, she had a ghost of a smile upon her face.

            <<<<< >>>>>

Walking the halls as they waited for their assault frigate to be resupplied, Rikard listened to Sulen as his Arbiter kept him apprised of the latest intel.  

“…the Sith have amassed a large army, threatening General Kiel’s flanks.  Jedi Lord Ga'Lan'Chillum, Kage of the Mak’Tor has taken position to reinforce Kiel’s forces but they are still outnumbered three-to-one.  Still, with a contingent of over 100 Singers, their combined army should be able to repulse any Sith offensive, short of the Dark One appearing.”  Sulen consulted no datapad nor report, she didn’t have to.  The Arbiter had an eidetic memory, one of the many talents that Rikard was thankful for.  “If we are able to de-orbit undetected, we should be able to trap the Sith in a pincer…” she continued, giving Rikard a concise run-down of the most likely options.  And usually she was right.  She was the perfect foil for Rikard, her sensible logic and tactics balancing his willingness to gamble and keen intuition.

“Sulen, I want three battalions, each fronted by a wall of Guardians.  We’ll use them in our feint while our last battalion consisting of Shadows supplemented with Sentinels will attack the flank, using your pincer as one of the diversions.  But I want a company of Forcesages accompanying each battalion, focusing entirely on countering Sith majiks from Inquisitors.”  As he continued to strategize, Rikard and Sulen began to encounter more Jedi in the hallways.  

The transparisteel walls would often give one a complete panoramic view of the world whilst in the skies of Coruscant; this time was no different.  The deep blue sky of the afternoon was painted with the white cirrus clouds high in the atmosphere.

But Rikard was oblivious to the vista; instead, he and Sulen put their heads together as they spoke in hushed tones.  Suddenly, Rikard rebounded as if he’d hit a wall.  Or something just as immovable…

Maker-dammit!” He exclaimed.  And then under his breath, “…bit my tongue…”  His eyes rotated upwards to see what he’d run into while he felt Sulen’s hands on his shoulder, Healing flows from the Force caressing him.

In front of him was a large Cathar male over two meters in height, his yellow fur accented with stripes of brown and deep red.  He was flanked by a dozen or so Jedi, not all Cathar: some were human, a couple were Togruta, and even one Sullustan.  The Cathar stared down, defiance upon his face.   Rikard thought he could stand within the Cathar’s profile and not be seen from behind, so large was the lion-like alien.  “Watch where you walk.”  Rikard could feel the bass vibrato of the Cathar’s voice reverberate through him, followed by a growl.

Before he’d been elected to Kage, Rikard would have immediately challenged the impudent pfassk who’d dared to do such a thing… But he’d since calmed.  Somewhat.  Inhaling slowly and letting the tension in his muscles go, he faced the Cathar.  “Apologies.”  He went to walk around the large humanoid.  But before he’d even stepped to the side, he felt a heavy, powerful hand upon his shoulder, the tips of the Cathar’s claws scratching against his armor.  The crowd around the Cathar hadn’t bothered to move, either.

“I do not want your sorry excuse for an apology.  We have business.”  And for the first time, Rikard noticed that the Cathar was wearing a Vhal’Dan Clan suit of armor.  His eyes squinted, fury rising in him.  A quick glance told him the rest: all of the Jedi were Vhal’Dan.

“You will address your Kage properly, Clansman!”  Sulen’s voice was uncharacteristically harsh, the tall woman’s hand grasping her saber hilt.  For the first time, the Cathar’s noticeable arrogance was not all-consuming.  While most of the others looked contrite, the Cathar dipped his head a centimeter.

“We have business.  Kage.”  He said the last almost as an afterthought.  “I, Rayfe Båz Ullis, invoke the right of P’Rae’Lior.”  He fell silent with no preamble or further elaboration.  And, although what Rayfe had done was by the barest letter of the Law, he was technically within his right to do so.  “Do you accept?  Kage.”  Rayfe’s amber eyes were full of condescension.

…Båz…so one of Sarll’s Pride… Rikard realized, recognizing the cognomen.  He stared up at Rayfe, Rikard’s own eyes reflecting his anger.

“Knight Ullis, now is not the time to address petty grievances.  We are at war.  We Vhal’Dan need—”  Sulen’s soft voice had an undercurrent of contempt, all delivered in a tone as hard as durasteel, her eyes including all of Rayfe’s companions, ensuring that they listened…right before she was cut off.

I accept.”  Rikard interrupted.  “Time?  Place?”  As they weren’t on Istic III, they did not have access to a proper Pancratium.  But that was only a small detail.

“Main hanger bay.”  Rayfe smiled.  “Now.”  Flexing his enormous arms, the Cathar stalked away followed by the retinue that had accompanied him.

Sulen stood close to Rikard, a serene look upon her face.  It was only because of their long-time friendship that Rikard could tell that she was worried.  “Rikard…I’ve heard of this ‘Rayfe.’  He’s one of Sarll’s litter by his Second Concubine.  He’s quick, powerful, and brutal.  But he’s young, arrogant.”  As they both walked towards the hanger, the tall woman took both of her sabers from her belt, keeping them in hand.

“Anymore good news?”  Rikard ran through a couple of basic techniques, loosening his muscles while strengthening his mind.  As he looked sideways at his Arbiter, the scar running up his face pulled the corner of his lip, giving one the impression that Rikard was trying to smile and frown at the same time.  Sulen gave a small smile.

“Yes.  He’s also the Knight who ‘accidentally’ put weapons master Derrosk in a bacta tank for a week, claiming that he ‘didn’t see Master Derrosk give the sign for capitulation.’  But without concrete proof, Rayfe received nothing more severe than a reprimand…”  She stopped suddenly, a hand upon his forearm as Sulen’s dark eyes looked directly into Rikard’s.  “Rik…be careful; he’s dangerous.”

Smiling, Rikard’s mask of anger dropped.  Grasping her hand in his, he looked at her fondly like the sister that she was to him.  “I will, Su.”

Sulen continued to stare.  “…You’d better.  I’ve invested a lot of time into you; I’ve even gotten you to the point that you can dress yourself.”  The corners of her lips twitched.

Rikard laughed appreciatively, walking arm-in-arm with her.  “Yes…Maker-forbid that you have to train up someone new…"

            <<<<< >>>>>
Logged

Sig courtesy of DarthScrub

Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

TheDutchman
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« Reply #5 on: August 23, 2018, 03:44:53 PM »

Chapter 1: Heavy Is the Head, Part II

There were over three-dozen witnesses, all standing around the perimeter of the room.  And within the center were both combatants.  Both had doffed their robes but not their armor; Rikard had his saberstaff in hand whereas Rayfe was a Jar’Kai practitioner.  Under different circumstances, the scene might look comical: the Cathar dwarfed the slender Kage.  But the ambiance was anything but.

Stepping forward, Sulen addressed all those gathered.  “One of our Clansmen has claimed aggrieved status and has invoked the right of P’Rae’Lior.  One of our Clansmen has responded to the challenge.  May the Maker look upon the Clansman that is pure and strike down the pretender whose name shall be stricken from the Clans, never to be uttered again.”  She looked from one face to the other, all the while stepping back.  “Only one shall live to leave the circle.”  With that, every single Jedi along the perimeter ignited their sabers, held at the ready.  “May the Maker protect the Vhal’Dan.”  And with that last, Sulen stepped outside the circle.

Simultaneously, both Rikard and Rayfe ignited their sabers, the Kage’s dual green blades against the teal and silver of the Cathar.  Slowly, they began to approach one another, feeling out their opponent’s movements, defenses, and patterns.  And like quicksilver, they attacked in unison.

Rayfe’s two blades hammered against Rikard’s saberstaff as he tried to beat the smaller human into submission with his superior strength.  And while it was not dazzling, it was effective.  Rikard’s defense soon gave ‘way as the Cathar pressed his advantage, doubling his efforts.  Working to give himself some breathing room, Rikard retreated under Rayfe’s assault.  Smiling widely, the Cathar’s face took on a disdainful look.  He followed two swift slices with a powerful, double overhead cut intending to behead Rikard.  He went down to one knee, reinforcing himself against the attack.  Instead of riposting, the human was busy batting away the next round of attacks, always a little slower to regain his position.  This made Rayfe smile all the more broadly while he renewed his efforts.  Each swing threatened to decapitate, each cut was meant to bisect Rikard’s torso, each slice intended to part limbs from his body.

The contest had gathered more spectators, many more.  Almost half the ship had come to watch, including the seven Speakers on board.  Rikard smiled inwardly, showing nothing on his face.

Rikard was moving more slowly, almost imperceptible at first.  But as the contest continued, Rikard’s exhaustion became more and more noticeable.  And the next time that Rayfe performed a power attack, Rikard’s defenses almost broke.  Seeing this, the Cathar smiled deeply.  Desperately, Rikard locked up both of Rayfe’s sabers, the two combatants staring face-to-face momentarily.  Both of them gritted their teeth as they fought for primacy to overpower the other, as well as a war of wills.

The crowd looked on in anticipation, almost on the verge of shouting.  But no one made a sound; such was tradition.  But every set of eyes stared rapt as the two combatants fought.

Suddenly, Rayfe headbutted Rikard hard, breaking his nose.  Blood began to pour down his face and Rikard tried desperately to clear his vision, deliberately blinking rapidly.  Grinning, Rayfe pressed his assault, each cut seemingly followed by one faster than the last.  Rikard went down to one knee, his saberstaff hanging from loose fingers.  And with a triumphant smile, Rayfe cut down upon Rikard, an executioner’s blow intent upon severing the Kage’s head from his body.  So committed was Rayfe that his shoulders and head followed through with the strike, ending almost perpendicular to the floor.

With sight-defying speed, Rikard rose, pivoted, and sliced downward in one, smooth motion.  Rikard walked away oblivious of the blood flowing from his nose, quietly whistling as Rayfe’s headless body came crashing down to the floor.  As the Jedi in the circle extinguished their blades, they parted to allow the victor to pass through unmolested.

Heading towards the hanger exit, Rikard stopped in front of Sarll, looking at him knowingly.  “Now the war can continue.”  And with that, he walked confidently through the doors.

            <<<<< >>>>>

“Stop fidgeting, I need to clean the wound.”  Sulen said distractedly as she applied a salve of poly-bacta to Rikard’s nose.  Rikard sat in a chair, his head back.

They were both alone in the Kage’s Quarter’s on the assault frigate, Istic’s Aldrnari, Rikard on the receiving end of Sulen’s ministrations.  The soft blue light of the hyperspace tunnel bathed the entire room, making the dried blood on Rikard’s face appear black.

“That took you long enough.”  Sulen’s quiet voice wasn’t exactly chastising but it was close.  Smirking as far as his broken nose allowed, Rikard exhaled.

“I know.  But I wanted to make certain that my point got across.  Shavit!” He yelled that last as Sulen suddenly reset the bridge of his nose.  “By the Maker, Su...next time: warn me!”

With a self-satisfied smile, the tall woman sat in a chair next to Rikard.  “Sorry, Kage.  I just wanted to ensure that I got my point across.”  Still, the concern on her face was evident.  “Rik, I realize that you want to keep all of your enemies guessing concerning your abilities but did you have to allow yourself to get hurt?”

Grimly, Rikard’s eyes looked deeply into Sulen’s.  “In this case, yes.  You’re right: I don’t want anyone to know just everything that I’m capable of.  But that’s only part of it.”  Gingerly, he touched his nose, producing a grimace of pain when he did so.  Sulen crossed her arms, patient and silent.  “I also wanted Sarll to know something beyond a doubt.  Damn…”  Rikard’s face contorted as he tried to relax while dealing with waves of pain.

Sulen looked on unabashed.  “…That being?”

Rikard’s eyes closed.  “That there are things that he’ll never see that he won’t be able to account for.  Ever.”  Exhaling loudly, Rikard looked as if he was falling asleep.  Until he opened his right eye, a small grin playing upon his lips.

“And to think that some people consider you ‘simple.’”  Sulen laughed, playfully hitting Rikard on his shoulder.  “Get some rest, Rik.  I’ll let you know when we’re in the Ruusan System.”  And with that, she exited the room.

Leaving Rikard alone in the blue-lit room, contemplative and worried.  He hated that he had to teach such a lesson again, worse since the Vhal’Dan had lost a powerful Knight in the process.  …Damn you, Sarll… Rikard had had no fight with Rayfe, indeed the Kage had thought highly of the Cathar.  But it was necessary.  He knew that he was the best chance for the Vhal’Dan for the upcoming conflict.  Rikard knew that the Old Ways were gone, as dead as the Rakatan Empire.

He would see the Vhal’Dan survive.  Even if it meant culling the chaff from the former Clans.  …Damn you, Sarll… Rikard thought again right before he fell asleep.  The last thing that he needed were enemies on both sides; the Sith on one, outmoded and archaic fools on the other. 

A grin spread across his face as sleep took him.  At least you knew where you stood with the Sith…
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Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Karmack
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« Reply #6 on: August 23, 2018, 05:16:05 PM »

Nicely done, Dutchman!  You can see the beginnings of what we find in the Vhal'Dan in the modern era in this, but with a far more "primitive" twist.  I love your take on the "Trail by Combat".  P'Rae'Lior ... the 'final option' that Anson is considering as a possible way to end the war with Kazic.  Its very .... Nordic.  :-)  Which totally fits my impression of the Vhal'Dan from the beginning, a system based in something not unlike the Vikings.

Excellent flow, and the battle is engaging.  I suspected that Rikard was holding back, setting up Rayfe, but even "knowing" it was coming it was a suspenseful and tense moment when he took the blow to the face.  Well done, my friend.

More!  :-)
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Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #7 on: August 23, 2018, 08:04:44 PM »

Heavy is the head indeed...Rayfe's dropped right off...

Rikard might regret it after the fact, but he had no problem following through with the duel...a very different Vhal'Dan indeed, much more aggressive - how much of his short temper in the council meeting was act is an interesting question.

"Even if it meant culling the chaff from the former Clans."...hmm....that is an interesting thought...I'm reminded of another Sci-Fi universe i read (Horus Heresy) little battle at Istvaan III...all the likely trouble makers sent to the planet to fight a rebellious governor...them bombed form orbit. What better way to dispose of Rikard opponent than hurl them at the Sith...

Exactly which Vhal'Dan is he trying to keep alive apart from his own vision of what it ought to be....
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Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

TheDutchman
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« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2018, 10:02:33 PM »


Chapter 2: The Song of War

As Rikard stepped off of the main ramp of Istic’s Aldrnari accompanied by Sulen and his Honor Guard, he was met by three people, only two of whom he’d expected.  But one and all, he smiled warmly, genuinely gladdened to see everyone of them.

The first person he approached was a tall, slender blonde woman, her familiar green-and-gray eyes so like his own…harder now, he had to admit since last he’d seen her.  Jedi Master Cir-Lan Macias, Vhal’Dan battle- and blademaster, was Rikard’s twin sister.  And during the Ruusan Campaign, she was Rikard’s proxy whenever he was otherwise detained.  Which made news of the victorious Sith counteroffensive so alarming.  …Cir-Lan’s a better strategist than I am… Rikard thought, and not for the first time.  Still, one could not account for everything in war…

“Rik…” Her tired smile warmed her face.  “Glad to have you back, frater.”  She used the Vhal’Dan term of endearment for “brother.”  “Things have changed.  The Sith have reinforced themselves, consolidating the three armies that Jedi Lord Ga'Lan'Chillum and General Kiel were fighting with another two full companies.”  Cir-Lan’s lips thinned as she related the next bit of news.  “Kage Chillum had them bottled up but Kiel disobeyed his orders to stay on his flank; instead of supplementing the Mak’Tor line, that fool attacked with almost his entire army…exposing the Singers when the two other Sith armies hooked up with the main contingent.  Kiel thought that they were falling back and over-extended his lines…right into a double-envelopment.”  Rikard rubbed the bridge of his nose, seeing in his mind that vain-glorious idiot Kiel falling straight into the Sith trap… But Cir-Lan wasn’t done.  “The Mak’Tor lost almost half of their Singers.  It was only due to Kage Chillum’s quick-thinking that prevented it from becoming a complete rout.  But the Mak’Tor losses are significant…”  Cir-Lan glanced to her companion, the one person that Rikard had not expected to be here.  …Ah, well that explains his presence here… Rikard mused, a bittersweet thought at seeing his friend.

“Slo’Ma!  I’m sorry to see you under such circumstances, brother.”  As the two man clasped wrists, they both pulled each other into an embrace, clapping each other on the back.  Looking up to the taller man, Rikard could see that the horrors of the day had done little to dull the keen intellect evident in his clear eyes, although said eyes were sunken from exhaustion.  Rikard could empathize.

Incredible for one so young, Slo’Ma’Mack was not only a powerful Jedi Master but more remarkably was the Mak’Tor Master of Song.  Coupled with the fact that he was also the Singers’ battlemaster, Slo’Ma was one of the Army of Light’s most potent assets.  With what his sister had told him about the insubordination of Kiel and the ensuing debacle, now Rikard had a better idea as to why the Sith had changed the tide of war despite facing such tacticians as Cir-Lan, Slo’Ma, and Kage Chillum.

“Rik…” Slo’Ma’s baritone sounded as tired as he looked, even if his eyes held humor in them.  “…Nice to see that Sarll didn’t make a meal of you.  Yet.”  The taller man wrapped his arm around Rikard’s narrow shoulders.

Grimacing, Rik looked from under his brow.  “Yeah…remind me to tell you about that later…” He looked around his friend’s shoulder, addressing the other person that he’d expected to be here waiting for him.  “Dyrald, you need to start cooking for Su again; she’s getting irritable and I’m the one who is paying the price.”  Winking at the shorter man, he saw Dyrald disappear as Sulen wrapped him in a fierce hug, pulling the man’s face up to kiss her.

Short and wide, Jedi Master Dyrald Reu Lai was not only secretly married to Rikard’s Arbiter but he was amongst the most powerful Forcesages the Vhal’Dan had ever seen.  He was also one of Rikard’s best friends, and one of the main reasons that he was Kage: Dyrald had convinced as many Forcesages as he could that the Vhal’Dan were better served under Rikard as Kage instead of Sarll.  Consequently, Rikard was not the only human that the Cathar hated beyond measure.

“How was Coruscant?” Slo’Ma’s question was expected.  Disgustedly shaking his head, Rikard continued.

“The heads of the seven Clans…excuse me, ‘speakers’ (I don’t think that I’ll get used to that), well, they thought that since the Sith are finally on the run that they could go back to their old ways.  Kriffing fools…” Even from the corner of his eye, Rikard could see that Slo’ma wanted to laugh.  “As you no doubt guessed, that went about as well as a Hutt on a weight loss program.”  Then he told his friend about Rayfe’s claiming the right of P’Rae’Lior.  “I know that Sarll was behind that pup’s challenge but I have no proof.  Worse, Rayfe was a strong Jedi… May the Maker keep him…”  Rikard said the last under his breath.  Not surprisingly, Slo’ma echoed the Vhal’Dan Kage’s litany.

“My condolences, Rik.  But I can’t lie: I’m glad that you’re back.  Kage Chillum personally tasked me to coordinate with you for the next offensive.”  The taller man grinned.  “Ga’Lan thought that an army of Mak’Tor and Vhal’Dan headed by two Jedi Lords would be inspirational or something like that.”  Rikard chuckled appreciatively.  But both men sobered quickly.

“Agreed.  I figure that between you, Ga’Lan, and Cir-Lan, we’ll have a working counter-offensive to push the Sith back.”  It wasn’t quite a question but Slo’ma treated it as such.

“The Kage and I spoke at length about the logistics of the Sith army.  Rik, the Dark One himself is on Ruusan.”  Rikard stopped short, astonished.

“Skere Kaan is on-planet?  Since when?”

“Wait, there’s more.  One of the reasons—both for Kaan’s presence as well as the renewed Sith offensive—is that Mak’Tor Intelligence was able to confirm that the Dark One wanted to seize on an opportunity given to him by one of the Army of Light’s own.”  Slo’ma paused for effect.  “Jedi Master Githany.”  Rikard felt like a Gamorrean had sucker punched him.

“…So she wasn’t killed in the Second Battle of Ruusan… Where has she been all of this time?”  Rikard crossed his arms, absently stroking his blonde beard.

Slo’ma leaned in.  “Korriban.  Rik…she was at the Academy.”  That in itself was telling: Jedi Lord Hoth had dedicated a large contingent of the Army of Light to try to root out and destroy the Sith Academy.  Up to this point, Hoth had been unsuccessful.

“Slo’ma, how’d the Mak’Tor get this information?”  Rikard knew that Mak’Tor Intelligence was lightyears ahead of almost everyone else but had no clue as to how they did it.  And by the blank stare that Slo’ma gave him, nor would he know.  “Alright, alright.  I know; ‘clan secret.’”  Rikard put his hand up in capitulation.  He turned to Slo’ma.  “…you and Ga’Lan have an idea don’t you?”

The Master of Song grinned.  “Yes.  With Githany having handed Kaan the Army of Light’s entire battle strategy, we thought we could finally use that fact to our advantage.  Githany expects the Mak’Tor to be in the vanguard of the Army.  Our motifs alone make the Singers tactically valuable in any offensive.  We’re thinking instead of a flanki—”

Rikard interrupted.  “Slo’ma…you said that about half of your Singers were killed or incapacitated.  Who else knows that?”  The Mak’Tor master’s brow furrowed in thought.

“…Outside the Mak’Tor?  Just you and Cir-Lan”  Slo’ma’s piercing blue eyes locked onto Rikard’s.  “What do you have in mind?”

“Just a hunch; a minute on that flanking maneuver.  I was thinking let Mak’Tor Intel leak that almost all Singers were killed.  Have two of your three brigades merge with almost half of my Vhal’Dan and link up with General Kiel’s army at the spearpoint of the attack.  Then, the other half will supplement a quarter of your remaining Singers in a rear surprise attack.”  Rikard winked.  “Now to your flanking tactic: take your third brigade and combine them with a contingent of Vhal’Dan Forcesages and attack the right flank.  Finally, our joint Shadow forces should flank the left.”

“I like it.  But I think that our Sentinels should join the Shadows; also, they have several Singers among their ranks.  And I think that you may want a few Singers supplementing the vanguard.”  Slo’ma tone was contemplative as he considered Rikard’s strategy.

“Good thinking, Slo’ma.  And—if I may—you yourself should join the Sentinels and Shadows.  I figure if I’m with Kiel in the forefront he won’t kriff things up too bad.  That, and with you leading the Sentinel and Shadow contingent, they’ll do the most damage to the Sith.”  Suddenly, he clapped the taller man’s back.  “Besides, I think that you’re owed some payback on those Sith.”

“Thanks.  About that last part: I would suggest that Master Jar'es'Kinsler lead the Shadows.  He’s a powerful Singer and is perfect for the offensive.”  

Rikard nodded.  “Done.  Thanks, brother.  Can you tell Kage Chillum that I’ll ping him after Su and I get back to the army?”

Slo’ma gave a small nod and smile.  “Sure, plus I’ll talk to Ga’Lan.  He’ll probably have some input.”

“I hope so; when Cir-Lan isn’t with me, I rely on you two to perfect my crazy ideas.”  The two men turned to one another.  “I’d say ‘be careful’ but what we’re about to do is anything but.”  Rikard’s grin was equal parts pensive and predatory.  “Maker keep you safe, Slo’ma.”

“You too, Rik.”  And with that, the tall Mak’tor turned to where his speeder was parked.  Rik felt Cir-Lan behind him.  Offering his arm, the two walked together.

“Alright, soror—”  Sister.  “—we need to get all of the Vhal’Dan together.  Slo’ma and I have come up with some ideas to beat back this Sith offensive…”  As Rikard continued to talk with his twin-sister, they were shortly joined by Sulen and her husband, Dyrald.  Surrounded by Rikard’s Honor Guard, they made their way to one of the land speeders, going over the particulars of the strategy that Slo’ma and Rikard had devised.

But all the while, Rikard’s thinking kept coming back to how the Army had been betrayed by one of their own.  Which invariably made him wonder about Sarll.  The Cathar was many things but Rikard didn’t think that he was a traitor… Was he?  His constant undermining of Rikard’s authority might be all that it took to fracture the Vhal’Dan.  Somehow he would keep the clans together in a truly unified order.

Or he’d die trying.

            <<<<< >>>>>

“As I said, Milord, my acolyte may be eager but he is not wrong to suggest that the Brotherhood pursue his aggressive tactics.”  The Sith Lord’s black hair whipped about her face in the hot wind, her green eyes intelligent and cruel.  And—at least when she looked upon her Master—tinged with fear.  But such was the case regardless of whomever faced the Dark One, leader of the Brotherhood, Skere Kaan.

“Githany…we’ve just won a great victory.  Why should I listen to the advice of a mere Sith apprentice over that of my Lords and generals?”  Kaan’s hard face was proud, his stance arrogant.  But then, he had reason to be: even with the successes of Jedi Lord Hoth’s so-called “Army of Light,” his Brotherhood of Darkness held sway over a majority of the galaxy, even retaking the ancient Sith homeworld of Korriban where Lord Kaan had established the Sith Academy.  But moreover, he had united the fractured Sith under one banner—his—forming the Brotherhood.  And the galaxy trembled.

Except that the Ruusan Campaign had proven troublesome: the Sith tide that had washed over the entire galaxy had begun to meet with opposition in the form of the Army of Light.  Oh, Jedi Lord Hoth would never directly confront the Brotherhood, but the Sith had been defeated soundly on a number of occasions, the amount of casualties significant.

Like on Istic III.

Who knew that those backwater yokel Jedi clans would be so effectual in battle?  Even Kaan had to admit that the only course of action against the indigenous Vhal’Dan was to retreat after having lost so many Sith… He thought it a fluke and had decided that the Brotherhood would make a stand around the planet Ruusan.  And, at first, the Sith were victorious over the Jedi, many of Hoth’s warriors dying even before setting foot upon the planet.  The destruction of the Jedi seemed all but a foregone conclusion.  The First and Second Battles of Ruusan (and a number of skirmishes) had been resounding victories for the Sith.  

But then…those damned provincial Vhal’Dan joined the Army.  Worse: they were supplemented by those kriffing Mak’Tor Singers… With the Army of Light reinforced from both the Vhal’Dan and Mak’Tor, they turned the tide in the Third Battle of Ruusan, giving the Jedi their first win.  And even though the Fourth Battle had begun favoring the Sith, it had ended in inglorious defeat.

The Dark Lady Githany had provided Kaan with Hoth’s entire war strategy when she defected to the Brotherhood.  But clearly these Vhal’Dan and Mak’Tor did not subscribe to established Jedi stratagems.  Lord Kaan had been droll at the time.  …They fight like Sith… He’d thought, aware of the irony.

He no longer considered such to be amusing.

And once again, the Brotherhood stood on a knife’s edge, their latest offensive successful to be sure…but the outcome of the war still far from certain.

…If the Jedi can change, then should not the Sith be able to do likewise…?  Lord Kaan considered.  His red eyes focused upon the female Sith in front of him.  “I have decided to incorporate your acolyte’s ‘suggestion’ into my offensive.  I believe that it will ensure to keep the Jedi off-balance and clueless to our tactics.”

“I hear and obey, Milord.”  Githany smiled, turning to go.

“And Githany…”  Kaan’s hard voice gave the Sith woman pause.  “…Should for whatever reason this tactic fail, I will not only hold your acolyte responsible.  I shall blame you.  And you know the depths of my vindictiveness.  Then not only will he die—as he should have—but you will join him.  And in that instance, I shall take my time.”  Involuntarily, Githany shuddered.  Yes, she knew just to what lengths Skere Kaan would go to assuage his spitefulness.

The entire galaxy knew first-hand the Dark One’s spite and the lengths that he’d go to appease his sense of pride.

“Yes, Milord.”  She genuflected to her Master, her fear unfeigned and evident in her voice.  Quickly bowing herself away, she hurried to meet with her apprentice.  His advice had been not only sound but valid.  …It’s a good plan… She thought.  Searching through the Sith camp, she tried not to dwell on the possibility of failure and the ramifications of such.  She instead focused upon the here-and-now.

Cresting a hill, she saw him from afar near the command bivouac.  He must have also seen her for he swiftly intercepted her.  His hard face imperious, her acolyte spoke without preamble.  “Well?  What did Kaan say?”  She grimaced.  He’d never been one to stand on ceremony, much less deference.  But…he was too useful, too powerful an ally to dispose of.  At least for the time being.

“The Dark One agreed.  Meet him tonight at the cliff’s edge by the Virdunne Forest.”  Githany said, still wondering if she was doing the right thing.  Should she stay loyal to Kaan, or should she stand beside her acolyte… “And Bane, do not keep him waiting.”  She would just have to see.

Turning his back, Bane smiled, realization meeting expectation.  Yes, he would be the one to ensure victory for the Sith.

It was just too bad that the Brotherhood were no longer Sith.  And should his plans bear fruition, he would not only succeed Kaan as the one, true Darth but would also herald the destruction of the Army of Light.
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Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Karmack
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« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2018, 06:19:11 AM »

Oh, WHY did I know her acolyte was going to be Bane?   ;-) 

Dutchman, I love the way you're pulling me into this tale!  Its not easy to weave around fixed points and still create a fresh story, but you're doing it.  I like the Mak'Tor as well.   They're Jedi ... sort of.   :-)  You can kind of see how they're already on a trajectory that sets them apart from the main-stream of the Order, eventually leading to Kimar's decision to excommunicate them.  But in his day, Lord Hoth was also a maverick, 'unsanctioned' leader.  The historical figure I think of when I read about Hoth is General Chennault and his AVG "Flying Tigers" in China in 1941-2.  He's a rouge!  *wink* *wink*

Looking forward to more!  We know how this ends, so its kind of like the prequels.   But do we REALLY know?Huh   ;-)

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Lord_S_Gray
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2018, 05:50:36 PM »

The Army of light doesn't seem to shine much brighter than their dark enemy all things considered.  I like the parrallel here of Rikard and his allies and then Kaan and his, while Rikard seems to have a more positive less confrontational relationship there is just as much distrust toward Sarll and Kiel as Kaan has for Githany I think...it wouldn't take much to push Rikard into an equally exploitative mindset.  And as Karm noted, they are all 'rogues' here, all prototypes of what they will become, far rougher versions of the Jedi, Mak'tor and Vhal'Dan in later stories to the point i don't think they would recognise each other in some cases...but the times make the man...and Rikard is certainly being made by the times he is living in i think.
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Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

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« Reply #11 on: October 01, 2018, 11:49:37 AM »

Indeed. As the others have said, and excellently crafted story. It is kind of cool to see a bit more of the Sith. I really like seeing the history of the galaxy. There really hasn't been anything like it since then. Even the GCW and CW were not nearly this bad. It was a different time though. And the fact that it was pretty much Jedi vs. Sith in every single battle didn't help. Keep it coming TD, really enjoying your "historical" stories.
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"I am the Outcast's Shadow" - Taegin Roan
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TheDutchman
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« Reply #12 on: April 20, 2019, 12:34:46 PM »



Chapter 3: Hope & Machinations

A hard fist hit Rikard’s chin, momentarily disorienting him.  Lashing out blindly with the Force, he projected an omnidirectional Push in the attempt to give him time to recover.  Instinctively ducking, he felt the heat of his opponent’s lightsaber singe the gorget of his armor; clearly the Sith Lord had been able to evade Rik’s Push.  Now desperate, he once again trusted on his luck: sweeping his saberstaff in a wide orbit, he used a burst of Force Speed to get within the Sith’s lightsaber proximity throwing his saberstaff in the air.  This close, his opponent would be unable to use her weapon.

Or so he’d hoped.

Instead, he found himself frantically evading her reverse Shien grip.  Rik didn’t think; he moved.  It was only by luck that his left hand grabbed ahold of the Sith’s wrist and not her blade.  Simultaneously, he locked her in a tight arm bar, rendering her saber effectively useless.  For her.

Wrapping his other arm around, he gripped the Sith’s saber hilt while pulling her off her feet and into the air.  And with precise timing and acute Force acumen, the tip of his falling saberstaff impaled her head, falling straight through her body, and finally lodging into the ground below.  Throwing the body away from him, Rik called his saberstaff back into his waiting hands.

“Rik—DOWN!” Slo’ma’s shout was all the warning that Rikard got before the taller man’s lightsaber swung towards him, the golden blade bright in the twilight dusk.

Throwing himself to the side, Rikard landed hard but managed to pull himself into a roll and back up again before reigniting his saberstaff.  He came up, twin green blades at the ready.  Upon realizing that there were no enemies around he finally relaxed, looking behind him to see what his friend had saved him from.

…Damn I must be tired… He thought.  Only a meter from his feet lay two more of Kaan’s Sith Lords.  “Thanks.”  He said in between breaths.  Slo’ma was himself subdued, his only response a terse nod.  And then, his legs gave out from beneath him.

Rikard hurried to help his friend back to his feet, grunting in effort as he hoisted Slo’ma off the ground.  Together, the two Jedi made their way to one of the many small outcroppings of rock jutting from the muddy ground.  Sparsely-leaved pine trees surrounded them, many of them blasted and shattered.  And—at least for a brief moment—the fighting no longer seemed to be around them.  Now, most of the battle seemed to be focused in the forest along the horizon.

Breathing heavily, Rikard drank deeply from one of the canteens he had secreted about his armor, handing it to Slo’ma after he’d finished.  Gratefully, the taller man took it, finishing off the water within.  Both men looked around the battlefield, surveying.

As with as frontline strategies, it had survived long enough to finally devolve into a melee free-for-all.  Rikard had been right: enemy intel must have counted on there being no Singers left after the last Sith counterattack.  Grinning grimly, Rikard’s blond beard pulled up on the side, tighter where his scar ran up his face.  Yes, the Sith had taken the bait: heading the Jedi vanguard, Kiel had acted like a lightning rod…just as Rik and Kage Chillum had intended.  The Sith had expected for Kiel to repeat his “gallantry” of the past battle…which amounted to the fool running headlong into the enemy lines.  Well since he’d been so good at doing just that, Rik had “suggested” he do the same.  And like a hammer hitting a rock, Kiel did just that.

Of course, the Sith line had held…but that was to be expected.  What Kiel did do right was to gather ALL attention to him…thus allowing the combined Vhal’Dan/Mak’Tor battalion of Sentinels, Shadows, Forcesages, and Singers under Master Jar'es'Kinsler’s command to flank the Brotherhood.  And, as the hammer smashes the rock against the proverbial anvil, the Sith lines violently and spectacularly broke, the majority of the enemy cut off from any aid. 

But that wasn’t to say that there had not been reinforcements.  Indeed, the Dark One, Skere Kaan, was the one personally leading the counter-offensive on the exposed vanguard. 

Or so he’d thought.

With perfect precision, the Dark One’s forces found themselves flanked by a joint battalion of Mak’Tor Cantors and Vhal’Dan Cataphracts.  And leading the charge was the Cathar Speaker, Sarll Båz Rhadde. 

Rik grimaced.  He may be at odds with Sarll politically but he knew the Cathar was an excellent general.  And an immensely powerful Jedi.  Even if half of what Rik had heard was to be believed, Sarll had killed no fewer than two dozen of the Dark One’s own Sith battlelords and had even engaged Kaan in one-on-one combat, if briefly and only after Master Jar'es'Kinsler had fought him for the majority of the battle.

Of course, the Dark One had been able to regroup—testament to his skill as a master tactician—but the sway of the war was now markedly in favor of the Jedi.  Now…the Army of Light had to press the initiative.

Rikard ran his gloved hand through his short hair, careless of the drying blood.  …Wonder when that happened… He thought, surprised by the sudden pain of his head wound.  Absently, he tapped the armored cuisses on his right thigh, the action releasing the medkit compartment.  Removing a tube of poly-bacta, he squeezed some on his head, working it into the scalp with his other hand.  Again he thought of Sarll.

His Cataphracts had been timely, personally saving Rikard.  The Vhal’Dan Cataphracts were the regiment of Jedi that were intended to act as “crowd control” in the thick of battle.  Heavily armored—some had said “overly so”—the Cataphracts had more ordinance than a dropship and more protection than a tank.  As such, it tended to attract physically larger beings; somewhat necessary given the requirements of the power armor.  Well, Rikard was always one to follow the maxim that “more was more” when it came to armor and armament.  And when the Cataphracts had been combined with the Mak’Tor Cantors?

Rik allowed himself a grin.  “Those Cantors of yours sure are useful.” He offered casually to his friend.  Slo’ma turned his head slightly, a twin of Rik’s smile spreading on his own face.

“Yeah…of course, it helps when they’ve got a wall of Cataphracts to work their Singing from behind.” The taller man said just as casually.  Rikard could only nod.  The Cantors were akin to Forcesages…and not. 

He’d seen what Vhal’Dan Forcesages could do when given proper time and preparation.  Well, the Cantors could emulate them but with the added bonus of supplementing one another in a synergy that became more than the sum of its parts.  Slightly shaking his head in remembrance, Rikard was once again truly amazed of the display of power against the Brotherhood.

Too bad that Cantors were a rarity amongst even the Mak’Tor Singers.

“Did you see Jar’es?” Slo’ma’s tired voice suddenly sounded excited, surprising Rikard.  “He was able to fight off the Dark One himself.”  The taller man smiled.  “Makes me think that we’ve got a chance…”

Rik couldn’t argue.  When he’d first seen Jar’es’ unique orange lightsaber, it had renewed almost everyone’s spirits.  And with it in hand, Jar’es had singlehandedly repulsed several waves of the Sith offensive.  Rik knew that Jar’es was a powerful Singer but he also suspected that there was more to it than that.  He’d wanted to ask Slo’ma about it…but he figured if his friend had wanted for him to know, he’d bring it up himself sooner or later. 

Nevertheless, the thought of that orange blade and the man that wielded it did give him hope.

And for what seemed to first time since the Sith had attacked Istic III, Rikard allowed himself a broad smile while a seed of hope took root deep within him.

               <<<<< >>>>>



The fighting had been brutal regardless of location but within the confines of the Virdunne Forest, the hand-to-hand combat was especially bloody: both Jedi and Sith had reached a virtual stalemate without either army gaining advantage over the other.

All in accordance to his will.

Bane smiled.  Standing atop the cliff, a tall and imposing figure, he could see his plans coming to fruition.  This would present him the opportunity to dispatch many of the enemy forces, and not just counting the Jedi.  Of course, Kaan would know nothing of his true intentions.  Not until it was too late…

“Bane.  I see you’ve already assessed the battlefield below.  Tell me what you see.”  Skere Kaan’s deep voice boomed, commanding and arrogant.  He was a fool, Bane thought.  But a dangerous fool nevertheless.

Standing tall a few meters behind Bane, the Dark One was surrounded by about 40 of his Sith Lords, Githany among them.  …Kriffing sycophants one and all… Bane thought contemptuously.  But for now, he would utilize them as the tools that they were.  And discard them as soon as their usefulness was at an end.  His face betrayed nothing of his emotions, the Force none of his intentions.

Instead, in a clear voice Bane replied, “Our army is at an impasse with the Jedi, the forest canopy and thick underbrush impediments that hinder our advance.  Against any normal commander, this would be problematic.  But for a true Sith master, this presents no obstacle.”  Deliberately, he closed his fist.  And even though Bane knew that Kaan’s Sith Lords detested him, he also knew that his reputation—and his power—demanded that they pay attention.  Bane pointed towards the forest below.  “What our enemy believes is that they are safe, safe among the trees.  I shall…disabuse them of their folly.”

Kaan’s red eyes had a shrewd bent to them.  “And how do you propose to accomplish this?”  His gaze went from the forest below and back to Bane’s.

Bane’s eyes never once wavered.

Bane did not answer the question immediately.  “Even now, our army is ineffectually spread out, attacking single Jedi whenever they’re found.”  He deliberately stared at each Sith Lord gathered.  “That is a fool’s errand.  Instead, we should kill them all, wherever they hide, en masse.”

With that, he began to utter the spidery language of the Ancient Sith.  As each syllable was articulated, a red glow began to encompass Bane.  “What I ‘propose’ is that we amalgamate our collective might and, using a focal conduit, completely annihilate the Jedi with a Force Wave.”

The gathered Sith Lords could feel the power radiating off of Bane, each wondering in both awe and trepidation: if such a feat was possible…

“And who will control these energies, becoming this ‘conduit?’” Kaan’s inquisitiveness superseded his disdain, a look of avarice beginning to affix itself upon his face.  Bane smiled inwardly.

“I will.  It is only I that knows of the proper ritual, the correct words to intone.”  Bane pointed at Githany, his voice commanding.  “Wrap yourselves fully in the Dark Side.  Place your intent upon the knife’s edge between ‘thought’ and ‘action.’”  He then addressed the rest of the Sith Lords.  “Follow her example.”

Within a minute the red glow that surrounded Bane seemed to infect those he’d instructed, first Githany and, as more of them acquired the red halo, the glow began to pulse growing more potent and all of it seeming to flow within Bane.  Soon, every single person on the cliff top was aglow with the power of the Dark Side, even Kaan.

Speaking the Ancient language of the Sith, Bane walked the precipice of immense Force energies, directing the flow, bending it to his will.  He felt intoxicated; the Dark Side was a mighty river and his to direct.  Surely, every single Forceuser in the area could feel him with the power that he held?!  And with the final word spoken Bane opened his eyes, releasing the pent-up Force Wave.

In an instant, the Wave manifested itself in an enormous conflagration, a towering inferno that seemed to especially seek out the Jedi in the forest below.  Whenever the flames touched anything, it left only a charred husk that, after a few seconds, would fall apart as ash.  Countless Jedi died…as well as many Sith.  But what did they matter?  Certainly nothing—less than nothing—to Bane.  And it was he alone who wielded the power, a fiery crucible of truth:

He was death.

He suddenly became aware that the pillar of fire had shrunk, the power within him was lessened.  Turning his gaze from the forest, he saw that several of the Sith Lords were no longer surrounded by the red glow of Sith magiks.  Someone was interrupting the ritual!  His eyes searched the crowd before him.  And foremost among them and absent the red glow stood Kaan, shaking his head while proclaiming loudly, “This is…beneath a Sith Lord.  Ours is the power of FEAR.  And the Jedi are right to FEAR us…but for them to truly know such is to look upon us.  And dread.  And die.”  Kaan’s contempt echoed throughout the clifftop, his eyes locked upon Bane’s, a snide bent to his mouth.  “Come.  We shall take our speeders and kill these Jedi in the Sith way.  And we will taste their terror.”  And with that, they all left Bane, joining their lord and master as he prepared to hunt down the escaping Jedi.

All except Githany and one other Sith Lord.

As she approached Bane, he affixed his raptorlike gaze upon her, his seething rage controlled but storm threatening to explode.  “Kaan is a fool.  A true Sith is more than just the fear they inspire; no, they are death incarnate.”  Slowly he nodded his head, whispering fools under his breath.

Worried that the Dark One would still hear them, Githany adopted a blasé attitude.  “Come now Bane.  This way it’s more fun than what you were proposing.  Who wants to kill all of those Jedi without seeing their miserable faces in their moment of death?”  True, she feared Bane…but she was absolutely terrified of the Dark One.  When he said nothing, she boarded her speeder and joined Kaan thinking to finally divest herself of Bane.

Or so she believed. 

Much like the Jedi below him, he would disabuse her of her own imprudence.  But first…

Looking around, he finally took stock of the lone Sith Lord standing in front of him.  …Kopecz… Bane named him, face impassive.

Meeting him gaze-for-gaze, the Sith Lord’s countenance was instead ablaze with anger.  And rebuke.  “Know this, Bane: your loyalty to the Dark Side before the Brotherhood will not be accepted by the Sith Lords.  You are alone.  You will submit to the Dark One’s will.  Or you will die.”  And with that, Kopecz left upon his speeder.

Bane stood alone atop the cliff, the flames below within the forest casting a hellish, smoldering radiance across the land.  And much like the fires that burnt the trees into ash, he knew that he would be the conflagration that razed the Sith and incinerated the Brotherhood.  Kaan had not been condescending, or at least not only.  No, even as he’d left, Bane saw within Kaan’s eyes the glimpse of his true feelings.

He was afraid.  He was fearful of Bane and the power that he’d wielded.  Not that it mattered; all of the Brotherhood would soon share in his lament.

He scowled momentarily.  Githany.  He’d thought that she’d seen the error of the Brotherhood, that the Sith could never survive their machinations, their incompetence, their existence.  Unfortunately, she was as much a coward as the rest.

Without another look, Bane left.  No matter; he would find a new apprentice, an acolyte worthy of the mantle of Sith, one that would give the Dark Side strength.

Someone who would eventually supplant and replace him.  As it should be.  Only the strong could gain mastery of the Dark Side.

Only the strong.
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Maenowan Nexu Master of the Vhal'Dan

My sabers:Zearic's Aldrnari, Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, AS; Zearic's shoto, Initiate v5 w/Obsidian, AS; Graflex SE w/Obsidian, GB; Archon v3 (modded w/ activation box) w/Obsidian, CG; Dark Sentinel v4 w/Obsidian, BR; Sentinel LE v4 w/Obsidian, GB; Apprentice v4 w/Obsidian, AS; Sentinel LE v4 stunt, EG; Aeon LE v4 stunt, FO; Dominix v4 stunt, BR; Aeon v3 stunt, SY

Karmack
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« Reply #13 on: April 22, 2019, 12:04:34 AM »

Sweet!  I love the glimpse into Bane's early development, the road that leads in the end to the Rule of Two.   Question: Is Sheer Kaan canon (EU) or did you just make him up from The Jungle Book?  Because that's the name of the 'bad guy' tiger in that story.  LOL   Good imagery, either way.

And these Cantors...    Oh, we must discuss what ever happened to the Mak'Tor Cantors....   :-)
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« Reply #14 on: April 22, 2019, 06:23:25 PM »

Sweet!  I love the glimpse into Bane's early development, the road that leads in the end to the Rule of Two.   Question: Is Sheer Kaan canon (EU) or did you just make him up from The Jungle Book?  Because that's the name of the 'bad guy' tiger in that story.  LOL   Good imagery, either way.

And these Cantors...    Oh, we must discuss what ever happened to the Mak'Tor Cantors....   :-)

Kaan is Canon along with Githany and Kopecz and the whole forest burning incident - what Dutch is wonderfully doing is adding the 'other side' of the story to these canon events with the Vhal'Dan/Mak'tor angle, where as in the Bane books etc. its just the Sith POV for the most part. But yeah if Bane was looking for an apprentice as ruthless as he is...Rikard would almost be perfect....

And we see the cracks inherent in any gathering of Sith...the self defeating selfishness....(not that the Vhal'Dan are that much better at this point following on from the P’Rae’Lior earlier, obvious why Bane realized he was better off alone...but only after he harnessed the darkside to himself exclusively as far as possible.
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Lord_S_Gray

Surik: "Kreia, what are you—are you a Jedi, a Sith?"
Kreia: "Does it matter? Of course it does, such titles allow you to break the galaxy into light and dark, categorize it. Perhaps I am neither, and I hold both as what they are, pieces of a whole."

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