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Ziost


Tarrian Skywalker

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Where once had been a fierce warrior, upright and strong, with blood as hot as the seven suns, only a sad, feral thing remained. Bronzium hair stained dark by spice, muscles withering under anorexia’s ravenous toll. The girl could see nothing but the pale specks of light that filtered through the course blindfold that rasped against her face. Bruises pained her every movement, coughing in fits upon ruined lungs. The addict strained to breath through a nose packed with congealed blood, and could only smell the ash of deathsticks and the sick-sweet fester of her fellow captives. 

 

The girl next to her had sounded younger than her teens, crying for a lost mother and begging for water. The addict judged she had been rotting for three days now as the botfly larvae had begun to crawl the few inches between them, to cover her in their waste. She estimated from the weeklong journey, they had lost half of her fellow captives. Many had been refugees, some addicts or prostitutes, swept up by cultists in the undercity 

 

The weight of the ship shifted and shuddered, pitching the former mercenary into the rotting corpse beside her. Pain blossomed from a hundred bruises, giving a sharpness to her mind she hadn’t felt in many months. A few muffled moans came from the bay around her, driven by desperation, stupefaction, or pain. For her own part, the addict spat a mouthful of larvae and putrefaction onto the floorboards, followed by the black bile that had filled her stomach. The hissing of an airlock interrupted the growing symphony of self pity, and every voice fell silent, daring not to invite a kick, a stab, or the ravenous hands of lust. 

 

“These smell dead” 

 

The voice came from a Weequay, a cruel beast of an alien, with long curls of wiry hair

 

“Even the dead have use to the Necromancers.” 

 

That was from a female Twi’lek, skin as pale as alabaster, with dark, cruel eyes and a voice like shifting gravel. 

 

Beyond them, fresh air leaked in, pressing into the bay with icy fingers. The world beyond was cold and smelled much as its creator; of purulent rot and festering bogs. She knew it far too well; The Old Slug had fashioned a world in his own image. Into that new world, the addict was tossed into a pile like cordwood, sorted from the dead. And so Terra had come to Ziost, a former Mandalore stripped to nothing but a blood sacrifice

 

To the Death...

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Darth Mavanger watched the Sith for signs of trickery-  and was relieved to see none. She was well built, the time behind the forge shown by her figure. Her spirit was commendable as well- she was not one who would fall to the elements, at least. Not every Sith who had survived the collapse would be able to say the same. How she managed to fend off the warlords, though, remained to be seen. Was she simply too small for them to notice so far? Did she offer her services? Was she dangerous enough that letting her have one building on the fringes of their territories was a minor appeasement? All of these questions he would know the answer to in time.

 

"The extent of complacency within the Sith will never cease to disturb me. You are correct that I seek no such pity. I forged my will on the front lines of war and conflict, in space and on ground. I had thought that I found allies cut from the same cloth, but alas, they have disappeared along with Calypso and those loyal to her. No matter- The Sith were once powerful enough to annihilate any form of resistance to our rule, and with the right leadership, we can be that again."

He didn't move as he spoke, watching for signs of hostility.

 

"I would offer that leadership. I don't ask that you kneel if you do not know me, nor my deeds, but I would ask a service of you. My blades have been lost in the throes of battle and chaos and rage. I would petition you for a new weapon. My forge is far from here, and returning to it risks both its' secrecy, and Ziost's. In return for services rendered, I would offer you a fresh shipment of bodies to continue your repairs and your fortifications. They are on their way as they speak."

In truth, he didn't know that she was a forgemaster when he had come, but everyone on the planet was looking for manpower. Whether she had been a fighter or a crafter, he would have found use for the slaves.

 

 

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The changes came in flashes of wakefulness and blessed abeyance; being dragged upon a dias, stripped of all cloth and virtue and sprawled upon a diagram. The earth beneath her was warm, comforting. Screams filtered through, flitting and floating with cries for mercy. There was none to be had, and each in their turn was slain, filling the bloodlust of ancient Sith. It was how it was always done, extraction of dark emotion, be that pain, fear, agony, hopelessness, fed the power of the dark. 

 

Perhaps it was the nature of the planet itself that caused a stir within her soul. That warmth was different. Hungry. She had been adrift for so long upon the currents of whim and apathy, but the knife’s edge cut into the fabric of that dream, shredding her drug-hazed world into a bitter reality. 

 

She didn’t want to die. 

 

Not here, amongst the filth and the sewer rats, to be sacrificed for the edification of mania and ego of some false god. Terra had seen such things countless times; the rise and fall of Sith Lords were a bloody affair. Ar-Pharazon had sacrificed countless Jedi, Geki, legions of slaves. Sheog consumed everything in his Hunger. The knife split into her skin and sinew, causing a trickle of crimson to spill in rivulets down her naked spine. Ason… Oh how the Sith had marked her life. 

 

Ason. 

 

He had made her something greater and yet worse than human. The Soul of Nagathul had devoured her own. A Pariah. One bereft of life and power. Cursed always to the infeeling insanity that came without that which bound all life together. The consequences had been a rise in her own sociopathy and a downfall of any morality. A bitter narcissistic aimlessness. An assassin who killed entire royal families and Jedi Councils. The knife bit deeper.

 

How did it come to this? 

 

Feeling came flooding back as that drug-haze was ripped away. The Sith Sorcerers were here to feed upon her anemic fear, like they had done to her predecessors, but she had none to give. Not even pain. They would never be abandoned to some Sith’s keeping again. They were hers alone. She took a staggering breath and turned swiftly, letting the knife scar her back and shoulders. 

 

Ason’s lasting gift, those of teeth of runed darkmetal, ripped into the throat of the priest, slipping easily through fat and muscle, vein and artery. Her mouth filled with the copper taste of warm blood. How it sated her. She had never known she was so hungry. She bore down upon the Sith, her spindly arms and legs wrapped about him like a lustful lover, riding him down to the wet, crour-bound earth as she devoured every drop of his lifeblood. 

 

Terra sat upon that drained corpse and smiled towards the Sith audience, her lips revealing something cruel and dark, outlined by shimmering torchlight; blood-soaked runes of darkmetal. The assassin of Lords and Jedi had returned. Crimson eyes, sparkling like a holocron with their palm; A Sith creation, ancient memories of long-dead masters, had returned. A Pariah in their midst

 

To the Death...

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Darth Idrija scrutinized the Sith carefully. Her order within the Sith had always enjoyed favorable relationships with the warrior caste, cultivating a shared love of fire and steel. Warriors were akin to sharks in biology, holding close to tradition because their traditions were so effective that there was rarely a need to evolve. Such a person could help anchor the Sith back to their philosophy of breaking chains rather than deluding them into thinking that being a Sith means that your chains are already broken.

 

“I will grant you this boon, on the condition of a black sacrament to prove your devotion to this course. Divest yourself of your arm so that I may forge you a weapon made of your own essence. Or I can remove it for you, I have the means to perform a swift dismemberment. I do not have any intention of handicapping your bid for the throne, by all means replace it as it suits you, but I do require proof of the courage of your convictions.”

 

The Crucible Sage examined the stock of slaves that the man who would be king provided, discerning their worth one by one as potential fuel for the forge. Most of them were the middling products of a world that chained itself to mediocrity and unconditional acceptance, but there were a few notables and one peculiarity. Normally the Force revealed the potential of people to her, but this woman was naught but scars and infected wounds, piled atop each other and draining the soul like cancerous tumors.

 

“These are suitable vessels for my work, but I would like to hold on to this one, its spiritual state is of interest to me, and studying it might grant me greater insight into my craft.”

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Darth Mavanger pondered the smith's words. In his time studying the Sith Forge he had read about such rituals, and she didn't ring of deceit or treachery, neither in her body language nor her presence in the force. He walked forward, lifting a large cleaver from it's position on a wall rack. He examined it closely- it was a twisted, old thing. He could only imagine the creatures it must have cut to create a fine cuisine. Now, though, it would taste a different kind of flesh. He looked at the smith, a stern expression upon his face.

 

"Then it is done."

 

He placed his arm upon the counter closest to the lit fire, taking only a single breath before bringing the cleaver down on his arm with frightening speed in power. In a mere moment, it had been severed just below the elbow, blood spurting across the counter with a warmth that seemed almost cool compared to the fire of the forge. He withdrew the stump quickly, shoving it into the fire to cauterize the wound. As the fire flared and his flesh melted, his stoicism broke, and he released a bloodcurdling scream. It carried not only the pain of the wound and of the flames, but deeper pain, something more ephemeral. A wound that would not heal with bacta or with time. One that had festered now for years. One that he had pushed down and abandoned for the sake of the Dark Lords before him.

 

Vengeance had never truly been his.

 

But now the Sith were at his command. Not a contingent, not a war front, not the military. The entirety of the Sith Empire was at his back, and he would wield them as a blade. He would cut a wound deep into the same part of the Sovereignty's soul as what now bled him every moment of every day.

 

The Galaxy would know peace only when there was nobody left to fight him.

 

He removed the stump of his arm from the fire with a shuttering breath, steadying himself. Once, he had thought himself able to rest. That if he couldn't find a cure to what ailed him, that he could stop the pain in another way, in the embrace of death. But he was denied his death on Naboo. The Dark had dragged him from the brink with but a single purpose- to burn those responsible for Jarvus's death world by world.


And then again, in a moment of clarity aboard that damned shuttle, forced to leave Falleen, he had consigned himself to the same fate. That he would never again be called upon to face these things. The cold expanse of space had consumed him, hidden him- Until the Dark led that damned sorcerer to his resting place. Back into the war. Back into the politics.

Back into pain, and suffering.

 

It was who he was.

 

It was what he was.

 

But the time had come to uphold his end of the bargain, and his moment of introspection faded as his arm cooled and the pain began to simmer. Clarity was once again lost. He led the smith to the courtyard, where many already lay slain by an over zealous sorcerer. For a moment, he looked for the offender, intending to bury the cleaver in the chest of whoever had disobeyed his orders.

 

He was pleasantly surprised to see the man already dead, his corpse used as a seat for a militant slave. Something about her seemed different than the rest- The way she carried herself, even here, spoke to him. She was a fighter. A warrior. A predator. It was no wonder that she was who the smith was drawn to. Indeed, had he known such a presence was amongst the slaves and captives he would have done things much differently.

 

"They are yours. Whether you sacrifice them, train them, or set them free matters not to me so long as it does not threaten our position here on Ziost."

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A thousand voices across a thousand worlds hammered into her senses, converging into a cacophony of static through which she could only make out two Sith. The bloodletting of her past seemed to stream past her in parallel, drawn from her like venom from a wound, malice spilling like vomitous bile to mix with the lifeblood around her. Her fingers twitched and picked at her former captor’s rough garments, wrinkling the cloth and spreading the blood into the intricate stitching. 

 

The former mercenary stared at the two Sith before her, swaying upon her kill, and was thoroughly confused

 

Terra had expected Ziost to be inhabited by far greater people. There was no grand assembly of Masters, there was but two young Sith. 

 

She saw something of the nightsister within the man, a pale imitation cast within a mirror, nothing but a bloody reminder of that Darksong whom she buried beneath the surface of Naboo. A smile twitched upon her gaunt features, the scene of the Nightsister’s death reflected upon the Force; the fracturing of skull by a slug, how the light reflected off the brain matter staining the granite.  

 

The woman, clothed in the orange and black of smiths, had no lineage she could see. A sorcerer, but without the deeds that made her important. This was no Sheog, no Geki, no Ason. Just a Sith without fame. Terra smiled ruefully, her scarred hands rising from the slaver’s clothing to grasp at her own face. Her blood was running hot and fast, thrumming within her ears with each heartbeat, driven ever on by the bloodlust protocols of the nanobodies that infested her marrow. Geki’s insanity. 

 

The girl stumbled to her feet, her unshoed feet slipping in the blood as she fell into a fighting stance. Unsteady, but she would die fighting, as the Sith of old would have bid her. 

 

Your commands echo still, Master…

 

To the Death...

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“I have no intention of killing you, Ninûshwodzakut. I prefer to spend the lives of the dull and mediocre, and you are neither. Is there anything that you want from the corpse of that would be Sith? In the faith of this place murder is an assertion of conquest, and strength is rewarded with the pillager’s bounty. This place is full of weak vessels thinking that calling themselves Sith entitles them to greatness. Cull the weak and bring me their bodies, and I will bestow upon you a boon, as power belongs to those willing to seize it.”

 

Darth Idrija barked orders alloyed with her iron will at the other thralls, and they cried and shrieked as they unwillingly marched themselves to the forge’s kiln. It was once a private dining area, but now the room itself would consume any guests and burn them down into sorcerous coals. The warrior’s arm she took a more precise approach with, rendering it down with alchemical apparatuses. Midway through the process, power returned to the city, her earlier labors coming to fruition. 

 

The pyromancer took out another journal, considerably less sealed than the first, and began sketching designs to lay the groundwork for her creation. Her notes were scribed in a coded shorthand known only to her, a flowing script that allowed for her pen to maintain pace with her manic moments of creativity. She wanted to make something that balanced momentum and control, rage and precision, abandon and forethought. 

 

With a gesture she opened the kiln door and willed the proper amount of coal to the forge. It was the duty of the smith to take the mundane and inscribe upon it greater purpose. She offered her hammer to the warrior, he still had the one arm and his willingness to accept her challenge had ingratiated him towards her. The journal lay open for him to see her designs, so that he might shape what she had prepared and would in turn refine, transcribe, and ensorcel. Ingots were placed and the shaping began, a dialogue of fire, steel, sorcery, and might.

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