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Everything posted by Qaela

  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.
  16. π–˜π–™π–”π–—π–’π–‹π–šπ–—π–ž Though her spear tasted the blood of its foe, it was not a lethal strike as desired. The Mon Calamari leaped away even as the Zabrak flew above with a strike that bit deep into Qaela's left shoulder sending another jetting burst of pain throughout her body. Even as she turned her body to engage her horned foe, she could feel the power building up within the other. Instinctively, she knew she needed to get a way from whatever it was and started to withdraw, but not quite fast enough. That gathered power released and a large wave of energy rippled outward throwing Qaela up and away from any further attacks against or from the Zabrak. Rather than fight the wave, Qaela rode it until she landed against a spongy fungal cap that had been uprooted by the Jedi's destructive power. She was impressed at the scope of the power, but it was not enough to end things. The dark witch found herself now nearly forty meters from her Jedi foes and that suited her well for now. The smaller windstorms holding the continually expelling tear gas that she had formed a short time before were gaining strength, but were now not directly controlled by her any longer. The Light was still present, that much Qaela could feel, but there were now some major taints to that light. All around the Force gifted trio, scores of beings were fighting and dying. Pain ripped through a Sith commando as his shoulder was ripped apart by a blaster bolt and his life began to fade. Others of his comrades were also falling, as were the furry creatures attacking them. This did not surprise the Sith because she knew the truth: with all life eventually came death. It was inevitable, and it was a natural part of the universe that Jedi seemed to rebel against and attempt to delay over and over again. They embraced life, but eschewed its balance of death. Qaela didn't. Life and death were two parts of the same coin, each necessary for the other to exist. Where the Jedi brought life and tried to stop death, the Sith would counter that unnatural state and bring forth death to provide the Balance of Nature. Reaching out to the surrounding jungle, beyond the areas contaminated by the unnatural concentration of Light, Qaela began summoning the natural balance of that life and death cycle. Everywhere here, things were living and dying both, but for now, she would need to draw more heavily upon death to counter the abomination done by this Jedi. Those soldiers fighting provided an easy source of death, but there was also the jungle itself with everything from flies being caught in the web of spiders, small rat like creatures falling prey to feline predators, and even the normally harmless herbivores ripping up and consuming plant life. This energy, which some may call "Dark" was simply the natural cycle of life and Qaela was going to use it for her own will. Pain of her own rippled from her thigh and shoulder as she drew upon the windstorms that she had already summoned and fueled them with further power. Those windstorms were originally following the two Jedi, but when they leaped in the air and came very close, the two mashed together into a single entity becoming a small but growing tornado. Qaela was a Master of the Sith among the highest of the Empire, she had summoned tremendous amounts of energy before and created thunderstorms that ravaged hundreds of square kilometers in the past. She didn't have the time to summon that much power, but she only needed to devastate a hundred square meters or so. Harsh winds began sucking everything inward to a point roughly between the two Jedi, sucking in both more of the tear gas and increasing until it was like a tornado. The fungal jungle had a great deal of warm, moist air below and the air being drawn in by her funnel was much cooler creating the ionization needed for her purpose. She leaned on her spear as energy poured through her, fueling and directing this terrible storm of energy. With a whimper, the rancor knew something was wrong and for a brief moment, it looked as though he would flee. Instead, drawn by the dark energy Qaela was expelling, he raised his makeshift club above his tusked head, let out a battle cry, and charged against the spider crab swinging his weapon down to crush its opponent's head. The energy Qaela had summoned needed releasing, for no being could contain all that she was drawing for long. When she did, massive, brilliant arcs of lightning began slamming into the clearing all around the Jedi and whatever other beings were still fighting in it. This was the fury of Nature, power tapped from the jungle itself and merely redirected by Qaela to rip and destroy what stood against it with bolts of energy that left massive, jagged scars in the ground and deafening thunder that buffeted Qaela. The power of a mighty thunderstorm was slamming into the relatively small part of jungle causing further death and destruction, bringing the area back into Balance once more. ((3)) ((wonderful duel, guys. Either way this goes, it was a pleasure.))
  17. π–‹π–Žπ–—π–Š 𝖆𝖓𝖉 π–†π–˜π– As the spear fight began in earnest, Qaela relied on instinct and experience to guide her moves while keeping at least some of her attention on the Mon Calamari that was hovering around the edge of this fight. It was less than optimal, fighting with divided attention, but it would suffice for now. She and the Zabrak parried and fought, testing each other and seeking an opening, but neither committing fully to the fight for the first few moments. Normally, she would begin pressing this assault, but for some reason, her vision began to blur and she was not as able to focus as normal. It took only a few moments to realize the interference was coming from the Mon Calamari who had managed to overcome the quick psychic attack Qaela had hurled at it before. The Light intensified around her, aimed at her, and trying to burn her with its fiery, unnatural brilliance that tried to wash away the comforting coolness of the Darkness. Her vision began fading so she immediately sought to disengage and reassess. The effort it took to combat this new attack slowed her sufficiently enough that she was slow to react to her Zabrak opponent's attack. Even as she began to withdraw, the butt of the lightspear lanced out at her and caught her in the abdomen. With her reversal momentum and the armor she was wearing, the physical blow didn't do much damage, but the swinging blue blade that followed caught the edge of her high, searing through the armor that only barely slowed it, and scoring her flesh with intense heat. The suit, designed to protect in a contaminated environment, immediately detected the breach and sealed her leg off from the rest of her body, but that did nothing to stop the pain. Pain. Pain was good because it was natural. The universe was full of pain, so was life itself. No life lived without pain of some sort, even in birth. Pain could be useful, very useful, to one that didn't shy from it. The pain she now experienced cut like lightning through her nervous system straight to her brain and was amplified by the darkness she was seeking. With a burst of adrenaline inspired haste, she leapt a few meters away from the Zabrak and roared out in pain as she used it to feed into the Dark Side and stifle the assault from the Mon Calamari. Though she rarely gave into pure fury, Qaela knew that were she to gaze into a mirror, her eyes would no longer be their natural brown, but rather a fiery reddish orange. The bull rancor, though severed from the active connection Qaela had forced upon it, no longer needed the Sith Nightsister's input to do what Qaela wanted. In triggering his territorial instincts to challenge the spider crab intruder, he was committed to fight. He realized the potential danger of the enemy's legs, but he had tusks of his own to contend with. Though slow, he was powerful and knew that should he get a hold of his prey, the fight would be over, but also that catching this prey would be a challenge. For a few moments, he tried catching this foe, then his semi-sentient mind realized it was a futile attempt. Instead, he waited until the circling creature was closer to the center of the clearing and then lunged towards the edge of the clearing and to the nearest fungal stalk. With his power and anger, he ripped a stalk several meters tall and half a meter thick from the spongy ground and slammed it against the ground breaking off its cap. Now, armed with a club, he turned back to the faster opponent with purely murderous intent. She could still see a little, but it was by no means full vision and that fact insulted her. They dare try to take my sight? she thought angrily, then smiled beneath her helmet. Then I shall take theirs. With an infuriated flick of the Force, she ripped off and triggered the two tear gas grenades on her bandoleer causing smoke to begin to erupt all around her. She had initially intended on using the non-lethal but very irritating gas against any of the nycillin farmers should they grow unruly, but they had been so decimated by the plague that they offered no true resistance to their initial roundup. She and her commandos were in sealed and filtered armor, so the noxious gas wouldn't harm them. She kept one grenade where she was to cover the Zabrak, then lobbed the other over to where the Mon Calamari was. With a sneer, she began kicking up a small windstorm around her with the Force, catching up the gas and hurling it in a swirling cloud around the two Jedi. Her fury grew, building up larger and larger as she began to regain control of herself against the barrage of the Light. No longer content to let the annoying Mon Calamari mess with her mind, Qaela elected to attack it directly while clutching her spear at the ready. Even partially blinded, she could clearly see the brilliant light blue of its blade to counter. Not wanting to leave the Zabrak on her rear, she launched a whirling attack to the side designed to sidestep the aquatic alien and end up behind her or at the least to the side while it dealt with the toxic gas. Her spear tip, honed to the width of just a few atoms and bound by applications of the Force at its creation, lashed out as she went by, hoping to pierce into the abdomen. ((2))
  18. π–˜π–”π–“π–Œ 𝖔𝖋 𝖇𝖑𝖔𝖔𝖉 As they advanced through the jungle, Qaela could sense her prey as it got closer and closer for it too had come to sense them and was approaching. When doing her research for this planet, she had found some very interesting pieces of information that called to her. Her first objective was to serve the Empire, but had she the option, she had desired to seek out a personal prize. In her search for her second objective, she had also lumped in the opportunity to accomplish what she had wanted, especially in light of the pursuit. There was a feral sense of being hunted that quickened her pulse in excited anticipation. As her followers waited in disciplined silence, the sound of crashing foliage approached rapidly as the object of her desire rapidly approached. With a gleeful smile beneath her black helmet, Qaela waited without fear as the final few fungal towers were pushed aside and the massive, hulking shape of a mature bull rancor emerged with a delightful roar as it spotted them. They sought prey, but instead, found a new master. Reaching into the Force and touching a part of her that she had been using since girlhood, she touched the rancor's mind and, pushing against its own sense of self with her own, assumed a place within. The massive beast reared back and blinked with whines of confusion as he struggled against her for a few moments, then settled down in submission as her control overwhelmed their simple instinct driven mind. Now, instead of prey, he viewed her as master, and that fact delighted her greatly. It had been some time since she had commanded a rancor and the ability to do so again was a pleasure. Now, to deal with the other hunters that were stalking the back of her mind. Instead of running, she elected to carefully choose her spot to confront her pursuit. Half of her commandos were with her, but the other half were deployed in an arc behind her, some in the tops of the fungal towers and others in various sniping locations. They were in a small clearing for now, but that was just for the moment. She had scouted out the area while waiting for her pursuers to catch up to her to ensure she had escape options if needed. The rancor was a few dozen meters behind them in the cover of the jungle, waiting to be summoned. It didn't take too long for their pursuers to find them, though she was intrigued at who approached. Two Jedi, lightsabers already lit, approached in none the too friendly a fashion. The other....creatures....that joined them were not familiar to her, but they were fairly small and looked nimble in what some of lesser intelligence would describe as a cute and charming way. She immediately hated them and would take great pleasure in killing them, but first the Jedi. She was intrigued by the presence of the Zabrak for she wasn't aware that too many had joined the Jedi. Mostly, though, she was intrigued at this one's command of a crab spider looking creature. Not many Jedi dared take command of even something as inferior as an animal for fear that it would lead to the darkness and make them suddenly realize how easy it was to do the same to sentients. The Dathomiri Witches rode rancors, but they trained them and treated them almost as equals rather than slaves, but for a Jedi to do so was fascinating. Even more interesting was the choice of weapon that this Jedi carried: some sort of attempt at a lightsaber spear. That thrilled Qaela because she actually had more experience fighting against the spears of her fellow Nightsisters, Witches, and various training droids with electrostaffs than with a sword and was eager to see which of them was superior with the weapon. The Mon Calamariβ€”Qaela didn't care to determine if it was a male or femaleβ€”made more sense being among the Jedi. Qaela had been around very few of them, but had known they had long been seeking the protection of weak Republics and weaker Rebellions for decades and watched the reports of how their planet had fallen to the Empire. Weakness always sought the safety of those misguided fools who would protect them and shelter them from all hardship and harm thus leaving them unable to properly harden and become strong, so to find Mon Calamari among the Jedi was to be expected. Curiously, neither Jedi did immediately attacked, though they certainly seemed to want to appear all nice and threatening. For some particular reason, they seemed less prone to desiring to fight and instead the Zabrak demanded she leave while the Mon Calamari seemed interested in "helping". Clearly, they knew of the village massacre, yet instead of demanding "justice" or even viewing her as their blood enemy, it seemed she simply wanted her to leave. For a moment, Qaela considered simply replying that she would leave just to see what the reaction would be, but dismissed that. She was here to fight and kill, not to flee. That was fine with her, she was more than happy to take action. Her commandos knew to target any forces that came with the Jedi and leave the Force wielders to her unless they finished off the Jedi escorts first. * * * * She looked forward to this, and was glad to be armed with the weapon of her childhood: a spear just over two and a half meters long. This weapon, while heavier than a lightsaber, was well balanced and had tasted the Force to the point that it was near impervious to anything that could harm it. It gave her a sense of realness when holding it that she never received while wielding the traditional weapon of Jedi and Sith alike. It also gave her a better ability to engage multiple opponents similar to a double bladed lightsaber but with more flexibility since she could grip it at any point instead of just the middle. She had grown up fighting with the spear and was glad the opportunity of losing her lightsaber on Corellia let her return to this. She could sense an...easing...of the comforting sense of darkness that naturally permeated this planet. One of the Jedi was trying to pervert the natural order and force a sickening sense of light to it. So very much like them: they could never accept the truth that Nature and Balance were harsh and brutal though fair. Instead, they tried to always unnaturally protect the weak and sick while holding back the strong and worthy. It was a nuisance, but once the inevitable killing began, the Dark would return and things would once again return to Balance. "Very well," she replied to both Jedi. Planting the butt of her spear into the spongy ground with her right arm, Qaela lifted her left above her head and formed a fist. She needed to keep that spider crab out of her way and the best way to do that was to bring forth her own new pet. The ground shook as the bull rancor emerged and, with a slight stoking of his cerebellum, Qaela stimulated its base territorialism and rage against this invading creature. He roared and began stalking towards the spider crab with extreme prejudice, though Qaela left its own innate intelligence intact enough that it didn't just rush in. It towered over the spider crab and probably weighed more, but the rancor was smart enough to know how dangerous those sharp legs might be and would cautiously engage. Qaela mostly just needed him to keep the spider crab busy while she dealt with the Jedi. With the rancor's arrival and advance, chaos broke loose. Sith commandos began opening fire on the miniature creatures that came with the Jedi and began taking return fire. Qaela let them do their job while she slowly approached the Jedi with spear in hand. To counter the attempts at polluting her with the Light, Qaela dredged up every single terror, every dark deed, and every murderous memory she had experienced and let the purity of the Dark flow back into her. She focused especially on the time while she had been dead and her spirit was tortured in the Spirit Realm since those were the most recent traumas she faced. Horror and dread filled her, bringing with it the despair and fear that would have consumed the Sith Master had she not become one with such things in her past. Choosing the initially less aggressive Mon Calamari who appeared to be the source of the Light influence, Qaela funneled all of that rage and suffering into a psychic blow and hurled it at it with a touch of the energy Qaela would normally use were she trying to syphon off life energy from a being. She didn't expect to completely overwhelm and drain the aquatic creature, but she needed it to be distracted for a little to hopefully break off whatever light side influence was going on and to allow her to focus on the Zabrak. Engaging two enemies at once was not impossible, but she preferred to fight one on one where odds were a bit better. Closing in on the Zabrak, Qaela launched into a quick and aggressive series of assaults with her spear held at range. She needed to probe her opponent and gauge her strengths before committing to a full out assault, so she held her spear in a firm guard close to the butt so that she had the range to quickly withdraw or shift focus to the Mon Calamari should it be needed. ((1)) [[The duel technically starts at the break and I also promise not to have more long posts like this as part of the duel]]
  19. π•·π–Šπ–™ π–™π–π–Š π–œπ–Žπ–™π–ˆπ– π–π–šπ–“π–™ π–‡π–Šπ–Œπ–Žπ–“ From her vantage point standing behind Ensign Turgin piloting the shuttle, Qaela was able to see the sensors and terrain around them. They had picked up some pursuit, though it looked like at least one speeder bike and not starfighters. They would need to take action about that and continue to draw off as many of their enemies as possible to clear a way for the others. There were other villages in the area, but that wasn't what drew her. There was something...else...that she wanted and needed to do first. "We will not be moving to another village. The others should be arriving soon and the invasion fleet is to follow, so we no longer have direct need of you. I will guide you to where you will drop us off, then you will retreat while the data on the plague collates. When it is make sure you are transmitting as much of it as possible as it is ready to the Imperial scientists." Ascertaining the level of threat that this plague presented to the Empire was one of their objectives and the sooner that data was transmitted, the better. Samples that had been taken would be scanned and the images, chemical makeup, and DNA sequences would be sent. It wasn't as good as having the actual material, but it was a start. That material was being encased in a small cryogenic container for later. "What will you do if they come for you?" the ensign asked. He was responsible for the team and it would look very, very bad on his record if they were all killed. "I take responsibility for that, but you are to keep at distance from any pursuit, even if you must make for orbit and hyperspace. Stay in the area if you can in case I need to recall you, but the data you have needs time to be scanned and sent off. If there is an active threat, the main army needs to know." She could feel the Force drawing her into the deep jungle, far away from even the sparsely inhabited regions. When she sensed what she was seeking, she pointed and calmly said, "There." Turning to the commandos, she gave the command, "Prepare to move back out, we are going to go on a little excursion." She had been given orders and a considerable leeway in which to accomplish them. Her experience at the village told her that the locals would likely heavily resist the Imperial invasion and may need to be purged, but there was another alternative. It was time to delve into the jungles and find that alternative. "I don't know how much time we may have with pursuit so we will be doing a touch and go." As soon as the shuttle got reasonably close to where she wanted, she gave the signal and it found as close to an opening as possible in the heavily fungal jungle. The platoon of commandos deployed rapidly followed by the Sith Master. As soon as her boots were off the landing ramp, it began to retract and the shuttle took off once more. Getting a quick bearing of where she was, she gestured for the platoon to move out. They made their way as swiftly as possible through the jungle, leaving the occasional claymore or other trap in their wake for any pursuit. She wasn't sure if it would help, but it wouldn't hurt and it may cause their pursuit to advance a bit slower.
  20. 𝔭𝔯𝔬π”ͺ𝔦𝔰𝔒 π”Žπ”’π”­π”± "So be it," whispered Qaela at the defiance. Waste was to be regretted, but there were those who were too weak or defiant to ever serve their proper place. Louder, she said, "Kill them all!" then joined in the slaughter as blaster shots began struggled to overcome the sounds of terrified and angry shrieks. Contained as they were within the warehouse, there was only one real outcome. The commandos unleashed on the unarmed villagers with blasters, burning down those who tried to charge in. With their numbers, the villagers did manage to take some of the commandos to the ground, but armor versus fists wasn't a fair fight, especially when there was a Sith involved. Qaela lashed out with pure indignation at the stubborn refusal causing bluish white lightening to erupt from her gauntleted hands. Villager after villager fell with flesh burned from faces and chests smoking from her wrath. Those that didn't fall by the dark powers of the Force fell to blasters. There were some who survived the initial slaughter, but the probes that surrounded the area began tracking. Multiple teams of commandos sprinted out tracking them down and finishing off all who could be found while a half dozen remained with their master. "This is frustrating," Qaela said while standing coldly over the dead. Though she enjoyed a good slaughter, this would put her behind schedule and make more work for them. It also meant a great inconvenience to the Empire as it wasted those who could help its goals. Now she would have to go to another village and begin this tedious process all over again. "Burn the bodies and prepare to move out. Tell the trackers they have five minutes to finish their prey." She doubted they needed that long with children and terrified villagers with the probe droids hovering above pointing them out, but she would prefer to keep her promise that all of them would perish should they resist. One's word was important, and if a Sith Master was known to go around and make threats and promises that weren't kept, then who would ever fear the Sith Empire? Five minutes later, with smoke still billowing behind them from the contaminated structures they torched before the massacre joining the flames from the warehouse, the Sith shuttle recalled its probes and the Sith team lifted off. They had another target scoped out already and it wouldn't take long to arrive. Qaela hoped this village was a little more rational, that and that she could find the true prize she had been hoping to come across on this planet: a reminder of home that would be a very nice bonus to acquire.
  21. Qaela sighed in genuine sadness. She despised waste, but there was nothing to do about it. This one was stubborn, but there would be those who submitted. "They came here?" She gestured her arms around her, though most couldn't see her, their leader could. "If so, then the carnage that my men are cleaning up is testament of their failure. I hear no offers of rebuilding, though it is doubtful that the scattered Rebels have the capacity to do so even if they desired it. I am saddened that you choose to reject the Empire's hand of friendship, but I respect your decision." She gestured to two of the commandos and said, "This one needs to go into isolation for the safety of the entire village. I will not see them all infected with the same sort of insanity that he suffers, nor will I doom all here for the foolishness of one." The two pulled the older man apart from the rest of the pod he was in and his daughter's arms. They ignored any cries of anger or fear: these were beings in no shape to offer resistance. "Rest assured, I have great mercy," she continued. "He will not be harmed so long as he does not cause problems or resist the Empire. Simply disagreeing with our authority is not a crime punishable by death until thoughts become actions against the Empire. His property and authority is stripped from him, though: all that he owns now belongs to the Empire, to be distributed among those here who decide to join us." She addressed the rest, "Each of you must make a choice: swear to the Empire and reap the great bounty we offer or side with our enemies and lose your property. I am a Master of the Sith, one conversant with the Force and I despise lies. Do not seek to lie to me for I will sense it and push those who falsely claim allegiance with a righteous fury. Each of you may decide where your loyalties lie." She would let them make their decisions for democracy had its value even to the Sith. Should enough of the village swear allegiance, then they would assume the land and property of both the dead and those who remained loyal to the Rebels. If too few swore to be worth dealing with, then she would sterilize the entire village and move on to the next. Hopefully, those would be more amenable to her offer.
  22. π–—π–Šπ–‘π–Žπ–Šπ–‹ π–π–†π–˜ π–ˆπ–”π–’π–Š? Ensign Turgin smiled at the uncoded response he received from the Rebel's automated defenses from behind the console of the drop shuttle. It was actually quite nice of the Rebels to warn them, especially due to the plague. There wasn't a great deal of specific information about the plague, but it at least confirmed that the thing was airborne. He sent a response back along the same channels. Warning received and appreciated. Our mission here is to offer medical assistance and conduct further research in hopes of discovering better treatments for this plague. We have deployed twenty-one field medics in full hazmat suits to offer assistance to outlying settlements that likely have not received prior medical assistance. Be advised, have also deployed medical probe droids into the area looking for solitary dwellings with possible victims. They will also scan the area for viral or bacterial traces of the virus. We will be moving from settlement to settlement offering assistance. Do you have further information on areas with current medical assistance operating? Would like to make sure we offer assistance only to areas not yet reached by medical services to prevent redundancy and reach as many of the infected as possible. Please alert any security forces in the area of our presence and intent so they are not alarmed by our probes or movements. It was a risk, they knew, in directly alerting the Rebel's security, but Qaela had decided it was best to not look like they were hiding. Anyone trying to avoid the planetary defenses would likely invite further attention, same with them deploying scores of probes in the area without letting anyone "know" what their purpose was. If local forces believed these were for medical purposes, they may not view them as a threat, at least, not until they took a very close look. Even a casual flyby here would show a bunch of beings taking samples, though even that wouldn't be easy with all the smoke he saw rising from the village as commandos burned the bodies. They would have to land and go into the various buildings to really figure out what was going on and by then, it would be too late for the Rebel scouts as they wouldn't survive to report back. Outside the shuttle, things were a slight bit less relaxed. This was a small settlement, but news of the shuttle landing spread quickly. Though they expected to encounter some victims of the plague, even the hardened Sith commandos were slightly taken aback to see the scale of the losses. Though the place looked to hold between 750 and a thousand beings, there seemed to only be around 200 to 250 survivors remaining alive, and most of them seemed to be in a state of shock. It was immediately clear that they would need to progress to a more cautious approach so five of the commandos returned to the shuttle to acquire flame throwers so they could deal with the bodies. Instead of blasters, the commandos wielded scanners and medical instruments, testing the air and recording everything possible from fungal spore content to the local atmospheric composition, anything that would help the Empire know the optimal conditions for farming and growing nysillin should the High Council decide to export production. Samples were taken of several bodies discovered before they were incinerated, though there was some halfhearted objections from the locals. At the outset, it looked like they were here to do just what they said when approached by the locals: offer plague relief. Yes, their armor was fairly scary looking, but these were tough times and a war was on, plus Felucia wasn't exactly known as a pleasant resort park. Just in case the locals didn't buy the initial stories, the commandos carried with them local jamming fields and set them up around the settlement to prevent any sort of alert going out. Most of the vehicles in the area were slow farming craft, but the few speeders were guarded by commandos who turned away anyone approaching warning both that leaving the area could expose them to the plague or, if it was already present here, could spread it to their neighbors. Several didn't seem to like that, but that was where the armor and assault rifles on their backs came into play. Most seemed all but defeated by the plague and were in little condition to oppose the incursion, even if they may have objected to the treatment of their dead. The Sith took no chances with infection: anything that looked like a plague victim was treated with intense fire. Samples were taken from several and holo-recordings took note of what happened, but all faced the flame. Structures with the infected dead found in them were torched as well, though it seemed that some had already been burned by the locals trying to stem the initial outbreak. Qaela stood back, overseeing the situation and using the Force to quell the more suspicious and skeptical of the villagers. Several didn't like what they were seeing, but it was easy to manipulate their minds to accepting what was happening. The Dark Side simply hummed here on this planet and Qaela decided that should the opportunity arise, she would seek to assert her influence here. There were just so many delectable opportunities here with how the Dark Side seeped through everything. Not to mention all the chemicals and potions that could be created from the flora and fauna that were native here. It was delicious, positively delicious. At last, the perimeter was secured and the time came to gather in the harvest. Qaela approached the old male that seemed to be what passed for a mayor or local leader here and, with more than a subtle touch of the Force, convinced him it was beneficial for him to gather all of his people into the largest building in the area. The building, some sort of warehouse for the crops, was big enough to clearly hold two hundred or so beings. With the apparent cooperation of their leader, most beings began to assemble, though some grumbled about it. Those that were a bit slow to move were encouraged by the commandos, though there was no need for anything more than a few helpful shoves with assault rifles. These simple folk were no fools: they knew they couldn't fight even a score of armed soldiers. As they arrived, each being was scanned for signs of infection before being separated into various silos. Should one prove to be infected, they would not expose the entire village. These beings knew how to grow nysillin, so they would be a valuable resource for the Empire and were not to be wasted. Even a hundred of these farmers could teach ten thousand Imperial replacements if brought in, so it was imperative that the survivors be kept alive. Once everyone in the settlement was in the warehouse and secured in various silos, a fact confirmed by both the probe droids and a quick search with the Force, it was time to reveal the villager's fate. Relaying her words via small speakers placed in each of the silos, Qaela said, "Those in the cities have abandoned you to your horrific fate. The Jedi whom those in their glittering towers sought to protect their interests have left you simple farmers to your own suffering. They tended to their cities and factories while ignoring the plight of the small villages. "The Empire regrets that we were not able to come to your assistance before now, but we could not risk a devastating confrontation with the Rebels and their Jedi puppets that would have caused more harm to you good people than good. I am Mistress Qaela Darksong and I bring news that the Empire has heard your cry and will answer it. While the Rebels struggle to provide resources to fund their pointless war, the Empire has resources aplenty to spare and the generosity to share them even with those under the control of our enemies. Just as we spent time and resources to come to the aid of Mon Calamari as it suffered a similar plague and brought order and medical relief to those beleaguered people, we do so here as well. "In my wake, the Empire will be sending medical personnel to tend to any of you who are recovering or infected. After them will come engineers with resources to help rebuild and even expand your village. You will soon become the overseers of thousands of new settlers all wanting to learn from your wisdom how to grow nysillin. You need not fear for your future for the Empire will see to it that all who assist us will be rewarded with a portion of all of the profits of all of those that you teach. We come to expand, but not at your expense." Her voice hardened slightly, "Make no mistake: the Empire is here and means to take this planet so that it will no longer assist our enemies. Change is coming and any who refuse to accept this change will find themselves in a poor place. I have no desire to destroy and waste such precious resources as you all are, but resistance will not be tolerated. If you do not wish to accept my generous offer, then I shall find a village that does. Join us and we will tend to your wounds, care for your orphans, and help you rebuild even stronger. Oppose us and we will finish what the plague started. "The choice is yours."
  23. π–™π–π–Š π–π–†π–—π–›π–Šπ–˜π–™ π–‡π–Šπ–Œπ–Žπ–“π–˜ A small shuttle, one of many, appeared in the space over Felucia. By design, there was nothing particularly eye catching about this ship: it was simply one of many that blended into the mix of relief ships coming to offer aid to the victims of the plague that ravaged this planet. The ship's idents proclaimed it as one of the many seemingly neutral planets that had been trying to get through these tumultuous times without attracting the attention of either side of the galactic war. Its pilot made no mad dash to the surface, but instead went along a leisurely path down to see what good they could do for those outlying areas that were suffering the most. Felucia wasn't Onderon nor was it Nar Shaddaa or any of the other host of heavily inhabited and rigidly controlled planets in the Galaxy. Taking advantage of the relative lack of centralized authority, the shuttle headed away from the fairly small number of population centers until it honed in on one of the smaller, remote settlements. As soon as it landed in a small clearing near the scattered houses and fungal farmsteads, its ramp opened and dark figures emerged. Qaela disliked wearing full armor, but in this case, it seemed prudent due to the remaining affects of the plague. Imperial Intelligence wasn't completely sure what the status of the plague here was so all would come prepared. Her armor, a matte black, was sealed and her air supply heavily filtered. The commando platoon with her also wore the same armor so that the only thing distinguishing them from her was the fact that she had her black spear strapped to her back instead of a rifle. "Fan out, secure the village," she commanded, though the words came through harsh and mechanical. Fear would be their tool today. She preferred to take the population intact and force them to serve, but she would be satisfied by sterilizing this place of sentient life should they not prove useful. Along with the platoon of commandos, scores of small hovering probe droids shot out of the shuttle like spores, scouting the area from along the fungal tree lines and reporting any anomalies. This place, once secured, would serve as the launch pad for hundreds or thousands of Sith who would come once the main invasion began. Until then, Qaela's objectives were to establish a ground presence, secure as many nysillin farms and crops as possible, and ascertain exactly how prolific the plague was so that the main invasion force would be better equipped.
  24. After Telperien and her new slave departed, Qaela waited, appearing merely to finish her drink. The deep red wine was of a very fine vintage, perhaps Chandrillian, though it could have been Bothan. She was never the expert on such things, though she had recently come to appreciate them. There was a lot of work for her to do to accomplish what the Emperor entrusted her with. She would need beings she could trust not to be overly ambitious and to place the Order over self. In a band of bloodthirsty, extremely narcissistic, power hungry beings such as the Sith, that wasn't always an easy task. There needed to be a fine balance between a spineless pushover and someone who understood that there was a greater purpose to existence than simply self aggrandizement. As she had suspected, there was one here who she recognized and who just might fit the bill. Taves Bortillin, now stylized as Darth Capricious, had been one of those who had gone through training at the Bastion of Pelko while she ran it. Throughout her time there, she worked behind the scenes as much as possible to cultivate and grow those who showed the potential to see beyond themselves and to the greater good of the Sith Order, those who would be receptive to the concepts of the Balance of Nature. Bortillin had been one of those and thus received personal instructions from her and a few of her other hand selected and trusted instructors. When he had graduated and been christened as Darth Capriciousβ€”a peculiar misnomer considering his generally stable and reliable conductβ€”he had gone out into the Empire to bring order to the Galaxy. Seeing him here was an unexpected bonus. He was cautious and circumspect enough to not approach while she was with her daughter, but seeing her remain gave him the opening to come to her table. He bowed respectfully and sat when she gestured for him to do so. They spoke for some time before he nodded, rose, and departed. Qaela waited a minute or two after he departed, then left herself. It was high time to get back to her ship and make sure preparations for their departure were going well.
  25. π–†π–—π–ˆπ–π–Šπ–‰ π–Šπ–žπ–Šπ–‡π–—π–”π–œ It was with a great deal of amusement that Qaela watched as her daughter put what she strongly suspected was a blood trail on this one, claiming him for her own. It seemed that her daughter, in spending time with Nightsisters, had absorbed some of their attitudes towards males. It took Qaela quite some time to realize that the rest of the Galaxy didn't quite see things that way, but before then, those views caused her quite a bit of trouble. Hopefully, Telperien wouldn't have to learn those same harsh lessons, but it wasn't her place to interfere in this. With an eyebrow arched in amusement, she said, "Take care, blood of mine, of the words I spoke. Know that the war will summon us again to its front lines and we must prove our mettle. Go before the Dark Lord and give him your genuine respect for to do otherwise or to offer false contriteness would only doom you. I have weighed him and found him worthy of my true respect and loyalty, not like the selfish and short sighted Dark Lords that came before. Do as you need, I am sure that our paths will cross soon and, if the Spider wills it, we will fight side by side." She remained sitting, savoring her drink and waiting for her daughter to take her leave. There was something else here for her to attend to before she could depart.
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