|The New Imperium Plotline Forum
|"Remembrance" - By Joshua Ausley - Completed!
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|Author:||J.A. [ Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:49 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: "Remembrance" - By Joshua Ausley|
Xar was hiding.
He was hunkered down behind a giant black obelisk, crouching at its base, listening for any sound within the dark chamber.
He’d thought he had falled into the catacombs beneath the Royal Palace, but instead the scene had changed again. Now he was somewhere else, transported halfway across the galaxy in an instant. He knew exactly where he was, too.
This was Palace Ravenspyre, former home of House Ar’Kell.
This was where he’d fought and killed Krun. But that knowledge didn’t console him much. Just because he’d done it before, it didn’t mean he could do it again.
It was quiet, like a tomb. At first he’d thought he heard thunder in the distance, here as well. But it had faded after a while. His wounds were still there, gradually burning more and more as shock wore off. He’d tried to put himself in a healing trance, but two things had prevented him. First, the knowledge that Krun or Runis might find him and kill him before he had time to react. Second, and more importantly, was that whenever he tried to reach for the Force in that way, he felt it slipping through his fingers.
He could feel the Dark Side now, beckoning him. Since that initial lunge of hatred, he had felt its power begin to work on him, tempting him to give in and let the power it gave rush through his veins as it once had. Now that he was aware of it, he knew that it had always been there, lurking just out of sight in the distance.
Here, in this place, fighting two of the most powerful Dark Jedi he’d ever faced, it was hard not to give into that temptation.
Xar didn’t want to die. He would fight with everything he had. But would he give in to the Dark Side again, becoming like them in order to kill them?
He thought he heard a voice, inaudible to his ears but somehow in his mind, telling him not to give in, not to give up. It sounded familiar, but he couldn’t remember when or where he’d heard it before.
Angol Moa. Where had that name come from? What did it mean?
Xar closed his eyes, searching deep inside himself. He knew that he didn’t have the strength to defeat the two of them all by himself. There had to be something more, some way he could tap his power once again without resorting to the debilitating limitations of the Dark Side of the Force.
It was devastating to realize, now, how much of his power had actually come from Runis and Krun.
Xar could remember it clearly now, looking back. After Runis, he’d truly begun to come into his own as a Jedi, growing by leaps and bounds. He’d assumed it was the sense freedom after escaping from enslavement by Runis. Now he saw that it was Runis’ own power growing within him.
The second spike had come after absorbing Dasok Krun. Unlike with Runis, this time Xar had deliberately absorbed the man’s Force energy, as vengeance for the deaths of his family. Since that time, Xar had grown steadily stronger, until he’d reached the natural limit that all Jedi Masters of this day held. And he’d become darker.
Their power wasn’t the only thing that had influenced him. Xar had been subtly changing ever since he’d killed Runis, and even more so after Krun. Runis had given him his cold aloofness, his pragmatism and calculating view of killing. By contrast, Krun had injected a different element – hot anger, wildness, and a thirst for blood. Xar could remember all the men he’d killed since then. He’d enjoyed far too many of those killings.
With a stunned silence, Xar realized that he didn’t even know who he was. Without Runis, without Krun, who would he have been, really?
Suddenly he heard the sound of footsteps. Someone had entered the room.
Xar had been hiding in large meeting chamber in one wing of the palace. Mathis had held quite a few staff meetings in this room. It was surrounded by columns leading up to a dome roof, and windows looked out at the top of the wall on one side. In the center of the floor was a flat stone area where a meeting table had once been. Steps led down the the lower area on four different sides, and dark obelisks with Sith inscriptions flanked each of those sets of stairs.
Now Xar was sitting with one of the huge stone obelisks between him and the room’s entrance, so he couldn’t see who it was that had entered. Perhaps they had split up to search the palace for him.
No, he realized. They wouldn’t risk facing him alone; they would stay together and try to keep him outnumbered. Neither man would put himself at unnecessary risk. He knew them well enough to know that.
Sure enough, a second set of footsteps followed the first. Then a rough voice pierced the silence.
“Kerensky! We know you’re in here!”
Xar didn’t respond. He pressed himself against the column, trying to breate as lightly as possible. His wounds still burned like fire. He felt weaker than he’d been in a long, long time.
“Why are you hiding?” It was Runis’ voice this time. “Did you think we wouldn’t know where you are? We are you!” He broke off into laughter, and Dasok Krun joined him.
After a moment Dasok Krun spoke again. “Kerensky, we’re waiting for you.” A pause. “Or perhaps we should just drop the charade and stop calling you that. Nikolas Kerensky was not your father. You aren’t a Kerensky at all!”
Xar sucked in air at the words, repressing the urge to snort in derision. They were back to lies again, trying to goad him into reacting in anger. But these lies were even more ridiculous than claiming Uncle Aron was an Altarin’Dakor sympathizer.
“Do you think it was just coincidence that I happened upon your damaged ship after the attack?” It was Runis speaking, now. “Your uncle told me where I could find you after you ran away. He told me so that I could save you and bring you back to him. He wanted to raise you as a student of the Altarin’Dakor.”
Xar tried to shut their voices out, but there was nothing he could do about it. They had stopped in the room, and it sounded like they were speaking directly at him. He couldn’t move. Fear had taken hold of him. He knew it was just the beginning, that the Dark Side would use that just as easily as anything else. It still lay there, just out of eyesight.
“I lied and promised that I would return you to him,” Runis continued. “Your uncle never realized that I had no intention of helping the Altarin’Dakor, that I hated them as much as anyone else. Nevertheless he trusted me, told me secrets that you have no idea about. Things that your mother and father never told you.”
Xar wanted to shout at the man to shut up. Instead he stayed where he was, silent.
“Aron Kerensky told me of how his brother had found a young child on the edges of the Unknown Regions. He spoke of a boy with unfathomable Force potential, a boy he raised as his own son. The boy they found – you, my former apprentice – was discovered lying in a stasis chamber by a Varnusian archeological expedition. He had no memories of where he’d come from. In fact, no one knew where he’d come from. Or, when.”
Xar just sat silently, shaking his head. It was ridiculous. Runis a fool to think he’d believe this!
“But that wasn’t enough, you see. Your mother, Marina, wanted a biological son, and they couldn’t pass up the opportunity to infuse their line with such incredible potential.
“You see where this is heading, don’t you?” Runis said, mirth in his voice. “They decided to make a clone of their adopted son, which Marina could bear naturally. Unfortunately, little Rydon turned out not to be Force Sensitive at all!”
Xar realized he was screaming now, his howls echoing throughout the chamber. He quickly pushed himself out from behind his cover, fury raging in his veins. “Liar!” he yelled.
The two men, standing in the center of the room, quickly turned to look at him in surprise.
“You piece of kriffing dirt!” Xar yelled. “How dare you dishonor my family with such filth!” The handle of his lightsaber bit into his hand as he stood, gripping it with all of his might. It shot into existence, it’s yellow beam piercing the air.
“Do you think I’m lying?” Runis asked. “Then tell me, why do you still have memories of floating helplessly in that Warlord’s laboratory?”
Xar froze. “What did you say?” he blurted. How could the man know that?!
“You remember, don’t you? The time before you were placed in the stasis chamber. The time you really come from. You remember floating in Sado’s tanks, being studied. Experimented on. No wonder the Altarin’Dakor fear you as some kind of chosen savior out of legend! You’re one of them!”
Xar threw himself forward, barreling down the steps at the two men. He would not – could not – endure another moment of this man’s lying words.
Krun stepped forward in front of Runis, his eyes glowing with anticipation, his crimson blade raised in front of him.
The two men met in a clash of light. Xar struck out with everything he had, strengthened by a fury like he’d never known. He poured out every ounce of will and strength and hate at this men and the curse they represented, one that had plagued him for nearly as long as he could remember.
Dasok Krun fell back at first, but then Runis moved up beside him. Both men fought against him, their own faces masks of rage and hatred. Xar slashed at one and then the other, back and forth, attacking, blocking, striking and parrying again. Krun fought with sheer strength and speed, while Runis’ stuck with skill and precision. Then Xar began to fall back.
He couldn’t penetrate their defenses, not both men at once. They pressed the advantage, and Xar was on the defensive now, blocking attacks that came almost too fast for him to react. His strength was fading, fast. His anger had given him a burst of energy, but it was slipping away once more, his injuries taking their toll.
Nevertheless he pushed himself farther, crying out in fury and anger. He had to win! He had to kill these two once and for all!
He struck at Krun, crashing his blade off the man’s saber, then blocked a strike from Runis, pushing it away. He struck back, but the dark master backed up out of range.
Krun’s blade came in again. Runis’ followed. Then Krun’s. Then Runis’. They were too fast, too strong. Too many.
A powerful blow from Krun jolted him, knocking Xar’s blade back. He struck again, his blade coming down like an axe. Xar threw his own blade up desperately, and the blow hit, knocking his arms to the side.
Krun’s blade came down inside Xar’s guard and sliced his lightsaber’s handle in two. Half of Xar’s right hand fell with it. The blade went out as the pieces fell to the floor. Xar screamed in pain. Krun reversed his attack, sweeping horizontally. All Xar was able to do was throw himself backwards at the last instant, but not far enough. Krun’s blade cut deeply through Xar’s right side, sending out a gout of vaporized blood and flesh.
Xar gasped and fell back, his side going numb. He stumbled, his heels hitting the steps behind him.
A deafening crack split the air like a thunderclap, and Xar glanced up to see the massive obelisk there begin to fall, cut neatly into as if by some unseen hand. He threw himself backward instinctively, glimpsing Krun do the same in the other direction. The column crashed between them and broke apart, sending dust billowing up into the air.
The room shook with a massive earthquake. The windows cracked overhead, and dust and rocks fell from the ceiling. Splits appeared in the stones beneath their feet. Runis was standing back, casting about with an uncertain expression. More cracks began to appear in more columns along the walls, and they collapsed as well, casting rubble across the floor.
Xar collapsed onto the steps, clutching his ruined hand, holding his right arm down against his side, where a cauterized wound revealed a large chunk of flesh missing from his side. His vision narrowed, darkness creeping in at the edges. The room kept shaking.
Krun was up again, crimson blade singing as he approached. Runis stood not far behind.
Xar had no more strength. He knew he was dying. He felt his head droop, and saw only Krun’s booted feet as he came to a halt, standing over Xar victoriously.
The Dark Side had failed him. He’d known it would, tempting him with a lust for power that it could never possibly fulfill. It had drawn him in, and then abandoned him. All of Xar’s hate, all of his strenght, had not been enough.
His whole life he had struggled, sought after more and more power. He’d wanted to be the strongest. He had wanted to make a difference. But strength wasn’t enough. Hatred wasn’t enough. What good had it done? All it had given him was misery – abandoned friends, broken relationships, and a string of dead bodies.
It hadn’t even been enough to rid his mind of two psychotic madmen.
He’d fought for so long for what he’d thought was justice, but all he had accomplished was to preserve these men’s memories, and to continue the evil works that they had begun. Vengeance. Revenge. Now useless in this, his final moment.
No more. If he was going to die, he would do it without hate in his heart. He wouldn’t carry this to the grave.
And with that, he gave up. He let it go, all of the pent up hate that he’d had for these men for what they had done to him. Krun had killed his family. Runis had enslaved and tortured him. But it was Xar’s own actions that had ruined his life. He could blame no one but himself for what he had done and what he had become. He could afford to hate these men no longer.
So, in that moment, Xar did something he’d never done before.
He forgave them.
Suddenly, a peace settled over him, calm and soothing. The knowledge that he didn’t have to try anymore. The anger, the hate, the lust for revenge – it had all flowed out of him. He felt it leave as palpably as a weight falling off of his shoulders.
And suddenly in its place, where he’d never noticed before, a well of power floated. Almost curiously Xar reached out, grasping it calmly, confidently.
In that moment, Xar realized that all was well.
“Time to die,” Dasok Krun said, and swung his blade downwards. The crimson light blurred, curving down to meet him, reflecting the uncontrolled fury in the man’s eyes.
In response, Xar reached out with his left hand and caught the man’s wrists as they fell.
Krun’s eyes went wide. Xar gasped; the man’s arms seemed like a feather in his hand. Tentatively, he reached up and looked at his other hand. His fingers were growing back, flesh and bone reforming where there had been nothing a moment before.
The hand formed fully, and the handle of his lightsaber appeared in it, as well. Xar reached forward, pressed the end against Dasok Krun’s midsection, and touched the activation stud.
The yellow-white blade shot into existence, piercing the man’s body and appearing out his back. Krun’s mouth dropped open in gasp of pain, which turned into a wordless scream as Xar brought the blade up through the man’s body.
Light burst out of Dasok Krun’s eyes, out of the wounds in both sides of his body. Then he exploded in a burst of blinding, pulsating light.
Xar stood, his blade still held out in front of him. There was no longer any sign of Krun.
The room shook again. Xar felt strange, like another weight had lifted from his shoulders, a weight he hadn’t realized he’d been carrying. And something else, something he couldn’t quite define.
He looked at Runis, and saw fear in the man’s eyes. Runis reached out, grimacing, and lightning flashed from his fingertips. Xar brought his blade over and caught it, watching it crackle uselessly on the glowing edge of his saber.
Runis let the lightning die. He turned and ran for the exit.
Xar jumped forward in response. This had to end. Now.
He leapt into the air, flying ahead of Runis, his body feeling stronger than it ever had before. His wounds were gone, healed just as completely as his severed hand. He landed in front of Runis, and the dark Jedi master skidded to a halt on the rubble-strewn floor.
“You want to kill me? Do it,” Runis spat at him, eyes flashing. “Finish me off. I can see your hatred has completely overwhelmed you. Look at you. You’re an animal, not a man. The Dark Side is swelling within you. Kill me, and you’ll become more vile and evil than I ever was. You’ll be me – only much, much worse. And all you’ve fought for will be for nothing!”
Xar blinked. Runis’ words failed to resonate within him at all. He felt nothing – certainly not a trace of the dark side of the Force. If there was, he would have known it, now.
He attacked. Runis brought his blade up in defense, and Xar drove him back.
They clashed blades again and again. For Xar, this was now just an elementary exercise, its outcome already determined. Runis fell back, struggling to block although Xar no longer used all of his speed or technique. He struck back desperately, his attacks like the swats of a child against an insect.
Xar did not want to prolong this. He struck harder, batting the man’s blade this way and that. Then he stepped in and forced his blade up, locking his and Runis’ above their heads. He snapped a foot out, catching the man just under the sternum with bone-crushing force. Runis fell backwards, his mouth wide in a cry of pain. Xar brought Runis’ blade back down, thrust it to one side, exposing his guard, then struck downwards and sliced the man’s arm off just below the elbow.
Runis gasped in pain, the limb and the still-activated blade falling to the floor. Then Xar’s backhand drove the pommel of his saber across the man’s face, sending him reeling. Runis collaped to the ground. He rolled over and came to his knees before Xar after a long moment, clutching the stump where his arm had been. He looked up and froze, Xar’s blade resting mere centimeters from his face, bathing him in yellow light.
“Wait, Xar!” Runis whispered, his voice trembling. “You can’t do this! You can’t kill me. I’m your master! Don’t do this again; don’t give into your hate. I was wrong! The Dark Side isn’t the answer! Don’t kill me, Xar! You’ll never be able to live with yourself if you do!”
“You’re wrong,” Xar said, looking down at him with a strange calmness he’d never known before. “I don’t hate you. I don’t hate you at all. Why should I? I understand, now. Everything was destined to happen this way. What happened, happened, and it couldn’t have happened any other way. Not in this universe.” He raised his blade, its yellow light playing over his master’s dark form. “And that neither can this.”
“No, wait!” Runis shouted desperately, his expression changing into total fear. “You can’t kill me! You mustn’t! You need me! You are me! We are the same! The same!”
Xar swung his blade through the man’s neck, its piercing light merging with Runis’ dying scream, silencing it forever.
Runis vanished in a flash of light.
Xar’s blade disappeared in his hand. The room shook again, more violently than ever. The windows above shattered, and a flood of water began pouring through them into the room, as if the whole palace rested underwater. Another weight came off of Xar, a larger one this time.
Total peace reigned within Xar. He looked up, saw cracks appearing in the ceiling, revealing pure light resting beyond. The walls of the palace fell away around him, and suddenly he was rushing upwards, into that light, into rebirth and renewal.
The sweet light filled him, and he embraced it wholeheartedly.
* * *
Angol Moa watched the second spirit leave Xar’s body, emitting an unearthly howl as it fled up, through the ceiling, and out into whatever oblivion awaited it.
She let out a sigh of relief. Despite everything she had done to help him, only Xar had been able to do this part. And against odds that said she had been better off not even trying, Xar had done it.
He was free.
Then the energy spike occurred.
The room went white, then her screens went blank. The room began to shake. Even though her instruments had gone dead, though, she could sense it. It was like watching the birth of a star, coming together and igniting before her eyes.
“He has Awakened,” she breathed.
* * *
|Author:||J.A. [ Sun Dec 04, 2011 4:52 am ]|
|Post subject:||Re: "Remembrance" - By Joshua Ausley|
2117 Hours Local Time
The escape pod lay half-buried in the ground a half dozen meters away from the Jedi survivors.
Alyx stood among them, still watching as debris from the battle rained down through the atmosphere above their heads. It was night, and the sky was mesmerizing. The ring that encircled the planet Arcadia in the foreground, and the shafts of light falling through the sky – the stars beyond that, and in the distance, the Galbagos Nebula stretching out across the night sky.
Those who had gotten out on the ship’s other escape pods were here, as well as the Jedi who had flown down on the fighters they’d been piloting: Jinx, Atridd Xoan and Kiz Thrakus, Vykk Olyronn, Draken Ar’Kell. Sim Zaphod, Junor Brajo, Varanus Templar, and Satai Dukhat. Vortigern’s remnants, Roger Macreed Neres Warjan, Mrax Satai, Eric Donos, and Aethar Daemonstar. Nadia Ispen, Mathis, and Bren.
This was all that was left. The unaccounted for: Malik Raven, Colin Moore, Rilke Darcunter, and a half dozen others. Whether they had touched down elsewhere or had been destroyed along with the ship, he didn’t know.
In the distance, he could see the lights of a large city, or perhaps a military complex, seeing how this world was a border stronghold. Garbled communications they’d picked up on the way in said that the Altarin’Dakor had mutinied; they’d taken War Coordinator Gaius and the rest of his staff down to the surface as prisoners. Their current fate was unknown, but it seemed clear they had been taken to the stronghold before them.
“Well,” Atridd said, coming up to stand beside him on the grassy hill. “We came all this way to do this thing. We might as well finish it.”
Alyx nodded, still gazing out toward the lights in the distance.
Jinx appearing on his other side. “If this is our last charge, then let’s make it count.”
Alyx waited as each member of the Order formed up with them, in turn. Then he looked at them, meeting the gaze of each and every member gathered.
“One more time,” he told them. “For the New Imperium. For our homes. For the people of the galaxy.”
Then he turned and began walking down the hill, toward the waiting wall of light ahead.
* * *
He opened his eyes, the blurred light overhead focusing into the ceiling of a room. He was on a comfortable bed, wearing soft clothing. The air was cool, and refreshing.
He raised his head off over the soft pillows it lay upon. A tall man was standing in front of him. The man wore simple robes, and he had pale skin and jet black hair. He knew the visitor, although it felt as though he were seeing him for the first time.
“Do you know who I am?” the man asked.
“Yes,” he managed. “You’re… my friend. But…” he looked around. “I don’t know where we are,” he admitted.
“It should come back to you shortly,” Icis said. “Can I get you some water?”
Icis moved to the side, then returned with a cup of water. He took it and sipped it at first. He hadn’t realized how thirsty he was. The water was so cool and refreshing, he couldn’t imagine anything tasting better in all the universe.
He looked at his friend, then. There was a sense of sadness about the man, something that made concern well up within him.
“Something’s different about you, Icis. Are you okay?”
“I am well, Xar. But I’ve been through some changes, myself. I’ve both gained and lost things here, just like you. Precious things,” he finished with a whisper.
“What things?” Xar asked, curious.
“My Force powers have been restored, for one,” Icis said. “It feels… good, Xar. Like having an old friend back. I can’t use it much, quite yet, but it is returning, slowly.
He glanced down. “But I’ve also lost something… something just as important.”
“What?” Xar asked.
“My… Kajeat essence. The shell that contains the willful energy that makes us what we are. The thing that makes us immortal.”
“I gave it away, Xar.”
“Because someone needed it,” Icis said. And that was all he said.
* * *
Icis waited in the room with Nico and Angol Moa. He’d left Xar in his rooms to rest. He couldn’t explain it, but he’d felt uncomfortable around the man, like Xar knew too much about him just by looking at him.
Xar felt different, too. It was hard to put his finger on it. Angol Moa said the darkness was gone from him, just like it had never been. She’d warned him that his former friend might be a different man, without it. He’d lived for years under the influence of foreign personalities. Who knew what the real Xar was actually like?
“So what’s our next move?” Nico spoke up, breaking the silence. “We’re all back, and healthy, too. I appreciate all of your hospitality, er… Supreme Elder… But I would like to get back to New Imperium space before too much longer.”
“You will be returning soon enough,” she responded coolly. “For now, we wait for Xar. Even I am uncertain what he will want to do from here.”
“Why are you worried about that?” Icis asked. “I thought you said he was healed.”
“Oh he is,” Angol Moa replied, meeting his gaze. “He’s much more, actually. And depending on what he knows – what he remembers – it could change a great many things about this war.”
“You mean, our fight with the Altarin’Dakor?” Nico asked.
Icis didn’t think that was what she meant. Angol Moa looked at him, as if about to respond.
Suddenly the door opened, and everyone looked around to see Xar standing there, leaning against the door frame with one arm. He was still wearing the soft patient’s pants and button shirt.
At least, Icis thought it was Xar. He seemed perfectly normal, even a bit relaxed for a change. Something about the man’s eyes, though, looked different.
“Oh, my.” Angol Moa’s voice had dropped to barely above a whisper. “I didn’t see this coming.”
“See what?” Icis asked without thinking, still looking at Xar.
“There’s something different about Xar,” Nico said. “I can feel it. He feels… different. Like an entirely different person. And he’s stronger.”
“What is it?” Icis asked, looking at Angol Moa. He still couldn’t sense anything in the Force, blast it! Xar was just standing there, looking like he always did. He still had that thick, scraggly beard, unshaven in all these weeks here. He still wore the same clothes he’d been sleeping in the past few days. He looked a bit tired, but that was to be expected considering all he’d been through.
“What’s happened?” Icis demanded, growing impatient.
“When you live as long as I have, and seen all that I have seen, there is almost nothing that occurs in this universe that I haven’t already predicted or seen,” Angol Moa replied, inclining her head. “On the other hand, occasionally – so rarely that you never expect it to happen again – an event occurs that you haven’t already foreseen. And it takes you completely by surprise.”
Xar’s posture straightened, and he pushed himself off from the wall. In an instant, the appearance of fatigue faded off of him. He seemed completely alert, completely ready. And there was something in his eyes that made a chill run down Icis’ spine. It made him wonder if he even knew who this man really was.
“I know where Sado is,” Xar said suddenly.
Then abruptly he turned to the side. Icis felt the barest flicker through the Force as a doorway appeared out of thin air, right in front of the man.
“Follow me,” he said, and stepped through the opening.
* * *
The End of
Written by Joshua Ausley
Copyright New Imperium 2011
To be Concluded in:
Requiem of Dreams
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