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Qaela last won the day on August 2

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  1. π–™π–π–Š π–Šπ–žπ–Š π–†π–•π–•π–—π–”π–†π–ˆπ–π–Šπ–˜ Disappointment briefly brushed against Qaela when she realized her prey wouldn't take the bait and come against her. She couldn't truly blame the Jedi for not wanting to leave the shelter of her fortified Temple, but it was still frustrating because it meant she would need to directly assault the enemy's defenses. With a snarl, she returned to the shuttle to relay further orders without the howling of the wind drowning out her every word. The shuttle was on its way and that was good because it would be her opening. Still, she needed more and it was time to summon it. She directed the squadron of bombers that the orbiting Victory class Star Destroyer Exultant Darkness carried and a fighter squadron escort to get into position to make a bombing run on the enemy landing pads. Intel showed minimal threat from there, but she wanted to have the option of causing maximum death and destruction if needed. They wouldn't strike just yet: she had learned that an enemy fought twice as hard if backed into a corner and she wanted the Jedi to have the option of retreating. Still, if the Jedi elected to dig in and fight to the end instead of being flushed out, she wanted the ability to destroy the ships there and their valuable medics. Best not to let them escape if possible since each one of those medics could mean dozens of enemy troops recovered from wounds on the battlefield instead of dying as they deserved. After ordering the fighters and bombers into position, she looked at the weather situation, linking in with their orbiting ships and seeing the storm from above. She smiled at the sight of the eye of the storm approaching. It would give her the opportunity she had wanted: clear skies. She quickly ordered the half of her troops that had been put on standby to launch and, as soon as the eye reached the Temple, to join her in assaulting the Temple itself. She would force the Jedi to fight or retreat into the open where they would attempt to flee or be crushed by her fleet. With the orders sent, she returned to the gloriousness of Nature's fury and began soaking it in. There was something truly awe inspiring about being in the center of a storm such as this. Even without her help, this storm was one of the largest examples of the raw power and strength that Nature possessed, and it was a power she would bask in and be strengthened by. This planet was so full of Darkness as it was, the addition of the storm made it almost intoxicating. Yes, the Jedi had been wise not to engage her while she was in her element. Wind and water whipped about her, tugging at her armor and causing her to sway about even with her using the Force to part the wind around her. It was glorious to the point that she almost regretted its coming to an end as the eye rapidly approached. * * * * * * In the skies above the Temple and even the storm itself, the Sith fighters quickly detected the approaching Jedi interceptors and broke off their pursuit of the offending ship they had been harassing. They met the approaching missile volley with a hail of blaster fire, then dove straight towards the enemy, using gravity to assist their assault. One of the quartet was not able to avoid the Jedi attack and exploded into a briefly brilliant tribute to its pilot's all-too-short life. The passenger liner itself continued its course for the Jedi Temple at maximum speed, seemingly eager to get away from the Sith fighters.
  2. π–ˆπ–”π–Žπ–‘π–Šπ–‰ π–˜π–Šπ–—π–•π–Šπ–“π–™ Focusing in on the concentrated island of sickening Light that floated among the sea of darkness that was Lehon, Qaela had the nervous shuttle pilot fly closer and closer into the massive storm. She had been in battles that caused less turbulence than this trip afforded, but she didn't fault the pilot. Winds were reaching 140mph and could grow even harder as the natural cycle of heat, cold, and moisture mixed while being fueled by the Force. Once started, that process would build for some time until eventually fading away as did all storms. Knowing better than to get too close to where she knew the Temple to be, she ordered the pilot to land a kilometer from the Temple roughly equidistant from the separate landing pad that was nearby. Though he didn't want to, fear of failing his duty compelled him to stay despite the shuttle's shaking and the constant impacts from uprooted trees and other debris. Qaela took a deep breath, then punched the button that lowered the landing ramp. She created a small bubble around her that would deflect most of the wind and smaller debris. She would still have to be careful for larger objects, but at least this would allow her to stand properly without hunching over too much. It did nothing for the rain, though, and she was almost instantly soaked by rain that, if not warm, wasn't quite cold. They were in the tropics, but being wet was never extremely comfortable. She removed her sodden cloak and tossed it back into the shuttle since it wouldn't do to have it constrict her movement by clinging to her body. Now, she was clad only in her medium black armor with her lightsaber at her belt and grenade bandoleer crossing her chest. She made no attempt to conceal her presence from the Mon Calamari that she was seeking. Instead, she focused her own presence into a beacon for the other as she stalked towards the Temple on foot, betting that the Jedi's own sense of caring and honor would draw it to her. Just in case, she kept her senses out and if the Jedi decided to bring others to the party, she would simply withdraw and resort to Plan C. She was looking forward to this confrontation and this chance to bury her own doubts once and for all, but she wasn't suicidal about it. * * * * * * A civilian medium transport emerged from hyperspace in the middle of the Sith blockade. It didn't take long for the Sith fighter screen to start chasing it, blasters lighting the space around it and impacting off the ships shields. As several ships that had come before, the shuttle made a mad dash down to the planet and the relative safety of the storm covered Jedi Temple. The panicked voice of its pilot declared her emergency situation, reporting that there were 119 souls on board, all desperately fleeing the chaos and devastation that the plague had brought to Felucia. Despite the comms jamming, sensors would be able to detect that the ship indeed had life signs on board, but also that its shields were beginning to fail.
  3. π–œπ–—π–†π–™π– It wasn't until Qaela felt her daughter's presence wane and then vanish into nothingness that she lost her cool. A part of her knew this wasn't the first time that Telperien had switched bodies in this fashion, but something about falling in battle made it different and that infuriated the Nightsister Sith Master. The Jedi ignored her warning, so now she would carry through with her threats and many would die. That pleased her because right now, she didn't want to restrain herself and wanted to bring down wrath. She shut off the open comms line to the Jedi and reinstated the jamming. Switching over to her synchronized comms, she ordered the one special shuttle summoned to play its part. The Jedi Temple needed to be humbled and that would play a part in it. By this point, the remaining Nightsisters had withdrawn from their forward patrol and rejoined her. Looking out over them, she said, "Join with me, delve deeply into the Darkness, and lend me your strength so that we may wreck havoc upon those who felled Telperien." They weren't overly eager to fight and die without their leader, but this would not require that of them. The truth was that Qaela never did want to see the Nightsisters on the front lines and dying, she had meant for them to offer support and lend their own skills with Nightsister Spellcraft to her own Sith blended skills. They fell in line quickly enough and, once she explained her intent, they began chanting the appropriate spells. Qaela reached out into the pool of Darkness that was the cause that brought her to this planet and began to command its strength. Using both the other Nightsisters and her own strength, she bent its power to her will and applied it out to the large storm that raged out over the Jedi Temple. Originally, she had considered stilling the winds so that she could bring in her army, but that thought fled away when her daughter fell. Instead, she poured her wrath into the swirling hurricane increasing its winds and the torrential downpours. Nature had created a monster to ravage the coasts of this part of Lehon, but she would turn that monster into a true leviathan that would scour the Jedi's ships and Temple. Channeling the power that was being generated and built up by the Nightsisters, she molded and directed it to increase the winds to catastrophic levels and cause the rain to fall in sheets. It took far less power to manipulate a storm that already existed than to create one from nothing, but it still felt good to do. When she was at last done, they could hear the rumbles of the lightning even as far back as they were. She smiled at nobody in particular and prepared her next move. She was one with Nature, and if she could create storms, she could become the storm. There was one within that cauldron of destruction that Qaela needed to face. She had been repulsed on Felucia and left polluted with the Light side and that had caused an uncertainty that shamed her. She needed to face the Mon Calamari Jedi and put the Dark Side to test once more so that when she emerged victorious, all of her doubts would be laid to rest. "Hold this position until you hear from myself or Lord Blackbourne," she told the major commanding this battalion. "If both of us fall, leave this planet and return to Onderon." She commandeered one of the shuttles and ordered its pilot into the massive storm, seeking her target. Taking a ship into this maelstrom was risky and she wouldn't risk her soldiers who would be highly ineffectual anyway. Despite the dangers, she had prey to seek and vengeance to achieve.
  4. π–—π–Šπ–˜π–™π–—π–†π–Žπ–“π–Šπ–‰ π–‹π–šπ–—π–ž The part of her that was tied to her own flesh and blood howled in anguish telling Qaela that her daughter was in trouble. Her first instinct was to rush to her daughter's side with wrath and vengeance to crush whatever caused the pain, but that was her impulse, not her logic. She was not just a mother, nor was she a rabid animal: she was a commander of many and must take the larger picture into consideration no matter how much it burned her to do so. For now, she restrained her fury, but that would not last forever. With a snarl, she made up her mind of a new strategy, one that she doubted would work, but that she would at least attempt. She went to the command console in the shuttle she was operating out of and arranged for a single comm length to be exempt from the jamming fields. When it was done, she sent out a message that all people with an open comm between her and the Jedi Temple would be able to hear. "I am Qaela Darksong, commander of the Sith forces here, to the Jedi in the Temple. We are both on the verge of a great deal of death and slaughter, all for a planet that has no population to protect. Though it goes against my greater desire, I will make one short term offer to you. Stand down and I will allow you to peacefully withdraw from the planet unharassed and unharmed. This Temple holds little strategic value for you, but we desire this planet for its closeness to the Dark Side. If you depart, no more of us shall have to die. If you do not, even if you manage to repulse my invasion forces, I swear to you that many will die and the planet itself shall suffer for if the Sith Empire cannot claim this planet, I will make sure nobody can have it." She would give them a short time to respond, then call in her wrath and bask in the death of hundreds or thousands.
  5. π–˜π–Žπ–Œπ–π–™ π–šπ–“π–˜π–Šπ–Šπ–“ She waited, ensuring that her forces were ready to attack or defend, and monitoring what information she could from the rest of the planet. Qaela looked at a holomap showing what intel the Sith forces in orbit possessed. Their visual sensors could penetrate the heavy cloud cover somewhat, but it was nowhere near as complete a picture as she would have liked. Sensors from the ships carrying Blackmorne were linked and provided a clearer picture of the Jedi Temple and its surrounding area. If things went according to plan, Blackmorne's forces would strike quick, then fade away drawing the enemy back to Qaela's waiting forces. If. She would have to see how things evolved, but just in case, she ordered two shuttles loaded up with troopers and put on standby in case she needed to relocate to assist him. She didn't want to fight in a storm, but she would if needed. She could sense her daughter's presence had amplified as adrenaline and anticipation coursed through her. She had already found combat, hopefully it wasn't more than she could handle. For now, she waited, her forces readied to hold or advance as the battlefield changed.
  6. π–”π–•π–Šπ–“π–Žπ–“π–Œ π–Œπ–Šπ–˜π–™π–šπ–—π–Šπ–˜ A safe distance from the lush green planet below, the Sith fleet minus one very special shuttle emerged from hyperspace. As soon as they did, they began broadcasting signal and scanner jammers and a squadron of modified bombers fanned out to further expand that jamming field around the Jedi facilities. It wasn't known if all transmissions would be blocked, but it was hoped that the jamming would cause at least some confusion and make summoning reinforcements more difficult. Troop transports began descending to the surface, careful to avoid the massive storm enveloping their target and landing several hundred kilometers from the Jedi Temple and behind its affects. While their intelligence on the Jedi facility was fairly limited, sensor readings made by a stealth shuttle had managed to pinpoint one area of the planet to within a kilometer or so. Scouts would soon brave the storm to gather further intel, but the main bulk of the Sith army would assemble in order where the weather was more stable. Qaela stood behind the pilots of one of the transports as it descended. She had with her three of her daughter's Nightsisters. Her daughter was in another shuttle with three more while the rest of the Nightsisters were spread throughout the other shuttles. If a lucky enemy strike took out a shuttle, it wouldn't destroy all of their most powerful weapons in one blow. The tropical jungle they landed in was damp from the recent storm and many of the trees were splintered or broken in half entirely. It wouldn't be the best ground to march in, but at least they weren't dealing with the winds of a hurricane. Yet. The Sith forces began deploying in good order, setting up defensive AA positions and making sure the artillery cannons were properly set up. AT-ST's escorted by a platoon of troopers began fanning out while the rest of the troops and their squad of sappers began digging emplacements as best as possible in the muddy terrain. Qaela didn't know if they would meet the enemy here, but if they did, they wanted to be ready. If they didn't, at least they would have a semi-safe fallback point to rally in should things go poorly. She waited as the rest of the Sith force got situated, then, using the larger than normal commlink on her shoulder, gave an order. The commlink was specially created to track down the seemingly random modulations in the jamming field and find usable frequencies to allow her to communicate with the rest of the Sith forces both on land and in orbit. Her order went to another shuttle that had hung back from the initial drop, telling them to begin their own task, one that was all part of her opening gestures of this new battle.
  7. π–™π–Šπ–’π–•π–™π–†π–™π–Žπ–”π–“ 𝖔𝖋 𝖇𝖑𝖔𝖔𝖉 Qaela smiled at her daughter's question. There were so many possible causes for the question and avenues for the answer, none of them would make the Jedi happy. That her daughter was on such a promisingly dark path was a good sign. "They need not be all slain in the field, but I will not brook any risks that could endanger the overall operation. If we can take some of the Jedi alive, that is a pleasant bonus, but I won't have anyone taking undue risks. Any Younglings we find in the Temple itself should be spared, though, there are many things we can do with them." A small chime chirped at her desk. She stood up and gestured for the door. "Go now and prepare yourselves. I must give instruction to the Imperial officers so they may know their roles." As soon as they had departed, Qaela began readying herself for battle. Instead of the spear she lost on Felucia, she returned to the use of a lightsaber. The deep blue sapphire that powered it created a similar hue that suited her well. She also prepared another suit of medium matte black armor, complete with a small blaster pistol and bandoleer with grenades. This time, since the Sith weren't fighting with full biohazard suits, she limited herself to two incendiary grenades and two fragmenting ones. She didn't like fighting at close range, but she would be ready should that happen again as it did on Felucia. * * * * In Onderon's highest security prison, routine was what kept the inmates under control. It allowed the guards to know when something was out of place and if their wards were trying to escape or cause problems. It gave the otherwise violent and unstable inmates a sense of structure to build their lives around and keep them from overreacting to anything. However, today, routine was broken. Dozens upon dozens of the worst offenders, the most vile of rapists and murderers, the most hated traitors, and even some of those who peddled death dealing narcotics that weakened the health and resolve of the Empire's youth were all rounded up. They knew not where they were going, but they ultimately had no choice in this. Some were excited at the change, hoping that they would be going to a better place than the oppressive prison cells. Others were apprehensive at the change and and uncertainty of the unknown. Regardless to how they felt, within a few hours, over a hundred of Onderon's worst were secured in specialized cells on a medium transport commonly used by space liners and other transport companies to ferry paying passengers around the Galaxy. As soon as they were loaded and all was ready, the shuttle lifted off and joined the Sith fleet in orbit as it readied for battle. A Victory class Star Destroyer, the Exultant Darkness, formed the core of the invasion force while the HerlΓΈv remained at Onderon to finalize repairs. It was escorted by two Lancer frigates and a half dozen smaller corvettes. It had recently suffered heavy losses to its own fighter and bomber compliment, so it took on both from the HerlΓΈv's own compliment which had been replenished at Kuat. Troop transports were also present, ready to deliver a battalion of Sith soldiers onto the planet's surface along with AT-ST's and some medium artillery units. It wasn't the largest invasion force Qaela had ever commanded, but their target wasn't a heavily occupied Core world, either. As soon as everything was ready, the force slipped into hyperspace.
  8. π–™π–π–Š π–‰π–Šπ–Šπ–• π–‡π–—π–Šπ–†π–™π– Qaela eyed Blackmorne with contemplative eyes. He was either going to be an useful tool or a liability. She generally preferred to work with a slightly different breed of Sith, but there was a time and place for those who dipped into the berserker school of thought. She did chuckle slightly at his words. "I care little for any artifacts, Lord Blackmorne. I care more about taking this planet and driving the Jedi off it. Do what is needed to gain victory, just do not allow any foolish overzealousness to cost us." She pulled out two blank command cylinders from a small stash of them in her desk and plugged them into the built in computer. Once they were programmed, she handed them to her daughter and Blackmorne. "These will give you access to the ship and avoid any confusion among the Imperial officers as to your rank. Go, there are quarters being established for you and your entourage. We will be departing within a day, but the trip will take several more to arrive."
  9. π–˜π–•π–Žπ–“π–“π–Žπ–“π–Œ π–™π–π–Š π–œπ–Šπ–‡ Qaela sat at her desk waiting as the presence of her daughter grew closer. It wasn't long before the door to her small reception room opened admitting the quartet that had come for her. It amused her that Telperien had brought along the male that she had so callously abused down on the surface of the planet they were orbiting, but she didn't question her daughter's company so long as it didn't endanger either of them or this mission. The other Sith with them was a wild card she wasn't too sure about. She had never met this Blackmorne, but the inquiries she had made into him made hints and indications that he came from the court of Master Sheog whom was affectionally called "the Mad" by those who both admired and feared his work. That intrigued Qaela, but also meant she wasn't sure what camp he might fall into. There were no chairs other than hers in this room, not that it was very large. Her sleeping quarters were larger, though this was more narrow so there was slightly more space between the entrance and her desk. Space on warships was always a premium and war was no place for lavish luxury. She met the commander's eyes and slightly flicked her eyes to the side. He understood the gesture, bowed, and left as soon as the other three had entered the room. This was for Sith and wielders of the Force only: she would give Captain Geratos, Commander Melforne, and Colonel Barten their briefings when it was their time. She looked over the three Sith with her now naturally brown eyes and considered each for a moment before speaking. "We have been tasked by our new Dark Lord with the reduction of Lehon's Jedi garrison and its annexation into the Empire. I have already began making preparations for this purpose and scouts are seeking further information about what we will be facing. You two," she said, looking at both Sith Lords and pointedly passing over Telperien's pet, "have been assigned to assist me in commanding our forces. "Since there is a Jedi temple there, an additional dozen Sith warriors will be added to our number and will fall under the direct command of you, Lord Blackmorne. There will be six Lord and apprentice pairs who will join you in directly engaging whatever Jedi forces we can catch on the planet. We are not entirely sure of the numbers the Jedi possess, so I expect you to keep your wits about you and not allow yourself to be overwhelmed should their numbers be greater than can be handled." She looked over at her daughter, "Lady Telperien and her Nightsisters will be working with me to unleash some darker abilities that our kind excel in. I wish to test the power of linking and merging some of the Sith's skills she and I have learned with some of the Nightsister's traditions. We will wield these powers against whatever support garrison the Jedi have on the planet as well as any foolhardy Jedi that Lord Blackmorne isn't able to attract. We will also offer his forces further support or directly engage if needed. "We will have fleet support, but that is mostly to counter any reinforcements the Jedi send. To try to minimize those chances, I have ordered a squadron of modified TIE Bombers outfitted with communication jammers to be transferred to the HerlΓΈv. It is my intent to cut off all communications between the Jedi garrison and the rest of their forces until after we have dealt with them." She paused and looked them over one more time with both eyes and the Force, seeking to get a sense of any reactions they may let on. "I am not arrogant enough to believe I know everything, so now, within this room, if either of you have specific input or suggestions, bring them forth and we can discuss them without ego or retaliation. However, once we depart and are among our lessers, there will be no disputing between us. I will not have the Imperial officers and underlings witness dissention between those who lead them: such things only cause harm to the Empire.
  10. Alarms chimed as Major Kell Sorexon dropped out of hyperspace three light minutes away from Lehon's orbit. His stealth shuttle wasn't designed for combat, but rather for scouting enemy positions without being spotted. As he got his bearings, he plotted a course closer to the planet so he could get better readings from his passive sensors. Eyes and radiation detectors were often just as good as active scanning when trying to remain undetected, so for now, he sent no signals or scans out and remained observing as he was ordered. Commander Melforne had sent him ahead to scout out the enemy positions in this planet before their invasion. Since there was no civilian or commercial traffic to the practically uninhabited system, the Sith couldn't rely on general knowledge or slip in spies the old fashioned way, so they resorted to stealth ships like him. He would make a careful orbit around the planet, gathering whatever information came his way and monitoring whatever transmissions or radiation waves came from the planet and its orbit, then jump away, never sending transmissions or doing anything that would cause undue suspicion. He wouldn't even fire his engines once in position for a slingshot orbit. Unless discovered, when he was finished, he would return to friendly space and transmit his findings there to do his part in expanding the glory of the Empire.
  11. π–•π–—π–Šπ–•π–†π–—π–†π–™π–Žπ–”π–“π–˜ Melforne looked over the Sith Lord without visible emotion and with a careful calculation. He wasn't too sure about this one, or even of Lady Telperien, but at least the young woman had ties to Mistress Darksong through blood. Lord Blackmorne was an unknown quantity, one with no loyalty or ties to his mistress and, like all other Sith, needed to be viewed cautiously. He knew of the games those Sith often played and wanted no part in them, especially for his own mistress. He was briefly distracted by the arrival of a squadron of TIE bombers and sighed slightly at their presence. Despite being in command of all of the HerlΓΈv's fighter compliment, Mistress Darksong had overridden him when it came to replacing an entire squadron of his bombers with one modified to carry jamming devices instead of actual bomb bays. He understood her intent, but still didn't like being handicapped as he was, especially after the losses incurred over Fondor. This was but one of many of the preparations she had been commanding since her return from Felucia, though he wasn't sure if it was because of the peculiar mood she was in or the cause of it. Still, one among the Imperial Navy didn't question a Sith, especially a Sith Master, so he accepted her plans. Turning his attention back to the trio of Sith as they exited the hangar bay and began their journey to Mistress Darksong's modest reception room, he answered Lord Blackmorne's question, "Play no games with her and put the good of the Sith Order above all and you won't have problems with Mistress Darksong. She despises undeserved bravado, arrogance, and pointless machinations above all, in both Sith and Imperial officers alike. My predecessor was not wise enough to understand this and the HerlΓΈv unexpectedly found herself needing a new wing commander."
  12. π–˜π–“π–†π–• 𝖙𝖔 π–—π–Šπ–†π–‘π–Žπ–™π–ž A presence brought Qaela back into reality from her meditations and contemplations. Her flesh and blood was returning, and that gave her some comfort. So Telperien had survived Felucia, and maybe the other Nightsister would be able to shed some light on what happened there to the Spider. It was time to return back and put aside her own concerns. She would see what her daughter was bringing, then judge whether to confide in the girl turned woman, or if it was best to maintain an air of confidence. She typed in some commands, replaced her mementos in their sealed safe, then waited for her daughter to arrive. She relied on years of experience to mask her emotions, then present the face she wished. Best not cause her daughter any doubts if it would prove to weaken her. Qaela would throw herself upon a lightsaber to prevent any harm to her only surviving child, even if that harm came from herself. * * * * Commander Melforne and a squad of black armorered naval troopers greeted the newly arrived shuttle. He gave a quick salute to the woman that arrived, introducing himself. "My Lady, I am Commander Melforne, leader of the HerlΓΈv's fighter and bomber wings. It is my pleasure to escort you to Master Darksong's quarters, unless you prefer to get settled in the VIP quarters that have been made ready."
  13. π–‰π–Šπ–Šπ–• π–—π–Šπ–’π–Šπ–’π–‡π–—π–†π–“π–ˆπ–Š Qaela woke to the darkness lit only by a dim pale light. An oddity since her time in bacta and the cloning tubes was that she felt most comfortable and able to sleep when her room shared the same pale blue lighting that had filled the medical wards from machinery and monitoring screens. Her body had been healed from Felucia allowing her to return to her own quarters, but her mind was still troubled. She swung her legs off the bed and stood up, left behind Commander Melforne's sleeping body, threw on a robe, and walked into the small reception room she had been afforded on her flagship. There, she turned the lights on to half and sat at her desk. There were several objects of power and importance locked in the magnetically sealed safe on the right side of her desk. She pulled several out and laid them in front of her to contemplate each. The first to catch her eye were the three small uncut black diamonds that glittered in the dim light, each the size of her thumbnail. These represented the three Sith allies she left Korriban with who had been killed in various ways. A new tradition she created while there was to cremate the bodies of the honored fallen, compress the ashes into diamonds, then place them in a monument on Korriban for all to see and respect. She had left with four other Sith: two pairs of Lord and apprentice. Two had fallen fighting the Imperial Knights escorting the false empress Zinthos on this very ship and one other had fallen on Corellia where she also fell. Staring at the dark beauty of these gemstones, she could appreciate the thin line between life and death and the ultimate fate of all regardless to what they hoped to attain in life. It was also a stark reminder of the duty and legacy that the Sith had. Next was the wooden knife that, despite the material it was crafted in, was nearly impervious and sharp enough to give a lightsaber a run for its money. This was perhaps the oldest thing she owned, and one that was the most storied. She had crafted this weapon before leaving Dathomir the first time while under the direction of her mother. It was a seemingly crude thing, but it was very useful. Honed with and imbued by the Force, it was an extremely lethal weapon, but because it was made of wood, most unaware of its nature ignored it including weapons scanners and droids. The weapon of an assassin, she had used it to kill several throughout her early life. Though she didn't use it as a combat weapon any longer, she kept it to remind herself of her origins, of the fear and terror she experienced being the weakened outsider in a wild and hostile Galaxy. It was a time before she had mastered the Force and bridged the gap between Nightsister and Sith, between her primitive upbringing and the technologically advanced Galaxy. She went through the rest of the objects one by one, contemplating each in turn. She had a vial of poison from the days when she still fancied herself an assassin before further delving into the arts of the Force. There was a shard of metal from the fighter she crashed into Coruscant during the fight against Faust. A particularly painful token was a small piece of cloth from the under armor Ca'Aran wore when she killed him in blind rage on Dathomir. A small glass bottle contained a lock of hair from the body of one of her sons: the only remaining piece of either of them that was left in this Galaxy. She had a black coin, made and distributed among those she trusted from the Bastion of Pelko as a way to repay favors and indicate those who could be trusted. Finally, there was a spent blaster power pack, gathered from a shuttle that returned to the HerlΓΈv after the Battle of Corellia where she had fallen. Each of these held an importance to her, each reminded her of her past and the triumphs and costs. For hours, she sat staring at them, contemplating the path that led her to where she sat. As night turned to day, Melforne emerged from her sleeping quarters and walked over to her. He was wise enough not to say a word, but simply stood there beside her for a time in solidarity. Despite being blind to the Force, Qaela had found a great deal of wisdom and perception in the commander of the HerlΓΈv's fighter and bomber wings. He wasn't the most physically attractive men, but his mind was sharp and his dedication to both the Empire and to her were far more appealing than a muscular young body. Though they didn't advertise his time spent with her, most of the officers knew and turned a blind eye to it. One didn't question a Sith Master on her own ship. At last, when his duty shift approached, Melforne left her side to get into his uniform and depart leaving her once again in contemplative silence, considering her future.
  14. π–™π–π–—π–Šπ–†π–‰ π–ˆπ–šπ–™ The HerlΓΈv reverted from hyperspace in orbit above the Sith capital and took up orbit among the rest of the fleets that were gathered there. On board, Qaela remained within a bacta tank healing up from the injuries she received on Felucia, though it wasn't her body that concerned her. It would heal, and with barely a scar, but whatever happened to the Force on that planet was far more intriguing. She had been aware of the ability to cut beings off from the Force as a punishment or even because they did it to themselves to hide from trauma, but she had not heard of something that would make an attempt to force upon the subject the Light side. It sounded similar to what rumors had existed around the Exorcists, but she dismissed many of those as rumor. One couldn't typically force the Light side into someone's being any more than they could force the Darkness within them. Oh sure, there could be situations created that encouraged one side or the other, especially the Darkness, but she wasn't aware of anyone who could force that upon someone unwittingly, especially in so quick a time. Nearly anything could be done if given time and forcing a subject to remain saturated in one side or the other, but what had happened to her had been quick, very quick. Regardless to what she had previously believed on the subject, the fact of the matter was that it had happened. More interestingly was what all had actually happened. Qaela was self aware enough to understand that the Dark Side had a cost, and that once that path was trod, it had various connections and hooks into its subjects. That was the way of Nature: everything had a cost and offered a reward, desired or not. Lift heavy objects and you will be left in pain, but once that pain was over, your muscles were then stronger. Be lazy and you will avoid that pain, but you will forever grow weak. Qaela preferred to embrace the Darkness, accept the costs, and come out stronger for it than to wallow in the weak protection of the Light and grow weaker. What happened to her on Felucia was extremely intriguing. She had had those chains and ties ripped from her along with the Force. Without the Force calling her one way or the other, and without those ties that the Dark Side fostered, she was left with a choice for the first time in a very, very long time. She had grown up with no choice but to embrace the Darkness and had accepted that. She understood its dangers, but also realized that its harsh rules were also the closest option to the similarly harsh rules of Nature and its Balance therefore she had been comfortable with that decision. Still, having had the Darkness blinded by the Light, it left her with the ability to consider a new, wider possibility regarding the Balance, one that she couldn't truly and fairly contemplate before now. As she floated in bacta, she could feel her connections to the Force slowly returning, but that still left her with a choice. She was in a very unique place where she could leave the Darkness and escape the ties that normally bound one to it. On the other hand, she could choose it once more and replace her old ties with new ones freshly forged and ready. Instinct said to carefully consider this opportunity and choose after much thought. It was an instinct that she would listen to so that she could make the best choice. Until she had made a full decision, she felt it safer to remain here on her HerlΓΈv with a crew that was mostly loyal to her. She would stay here for the time being, recovering physically and pondering the choice and path in front of her.
  15. π–‡π–‘π–Žπ–“π–‰π–Žπ–“π–Œ π–‘π–Žπ–Œπ–π–™ As the storm raged, the area around the clearing became darker, lit only by flashes of lightning and the flares of blaster bolts. The energy it took to create such a storm took much out of Qaela, but its potential for destruction was great. She could sense the attacks of the Jedi coming for her as they struggled through the storm and gales of wind and moved to avoid the strikes. She managed to evade the slashes of the Zabrak, but in doing so, she fell into the blinding light of the Mon Calamari's strike and her world dissolved into whiteness. * * * * Qaela woke up with her helmet off, staring into the ceiling of the shuttle she had arrived on Felucia in. She struggled to make her mouth form words, but one of the commandos put his hand on her shoulder to stop her. "Turgin came back for us when he saw the storm," the soldier said. "I won't pretend to know what happened, but the storm and the damned furries pushed us back. We found your unconscious body seventy meters from the clearing and got you on board. Only four of us made it out, but we did take some of them out with us." It took a little longer than it should to process that because she was still groggy and disoriented, but there was something else clearly wrong. She felt physically intact, but there was something missing. Her eyes widened slightly as she realized she could no longer touch the Force. Perhaps she had burned herself out with the storm, but she suspected that blasted Mon Calamari did something to her. The shuttle climbed out of the atmosphere of Felucia away from any of the other fighting and made the jump to hyperspace. They would rendezvous with the HerlΓΈv while she decided what to do about this. She clearly couldn't return to the rest of the Sith until she figured out what was going on with her ability to touch the Force. Being on board the Star Destroyer would be an opportune place for her to figure out what was happening while in a safe place.
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