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Frond’s massive heavy trunked form crashed to the sacredly untrod soil where Nok’s body had been, his saber sending bits of dust and dirt pluming upwards into the foggy air. His saber ignited the finest particles of dust as they contacted the sunlit blade, resulting in a plume of flame that shot upwards and vanished in an instant. Before he had time to even process what had happened or realize that he had missed the dark sider he felt it. Before he had felt the murderous hunger and aching power of his saber buffeting against his own calm buoy of self within The Force, he now felt something else. The tidal wave of fear that rocketed through The Force erupted from everywhere and nowhere, powerful enough to redirect the very bits of sand and debris scurrying every which way without order or thought; waves of uncontrolled unbridled crippling fear. He recognized it, even if he did not know it well. Like a shoddy swimwear salesman on Hoth, he had seen it before, but it was not something he was deeply familiar with. Fear was an emotion for lesser beings who had not found themselves enshrouded within the comforting totality of The Force. Fear was for the countless lesser and lost beings that roamed the galaxy. In short, fear was for the young; not the likes of the mighty tree that now lay in the earth.


An uncharacteristically twistedly wicked smile spread across Frond’s face.


Your you betrays fear. You your fear condemns.


He thought as he righted himself, the visage of a tree unfalling from the forest floor to its old standing height; rewound to be watched again. Spinning about his eyes fell on the green being. His fear was palpable in the air. In fact, in the howl of the winds that buffeted his leafed limbs he could hear the low moaning howl of a voice. The voice of The Force itself was speaking his condemnation.


Dead In The Cold And Dark. Dead In The Cold And Dark. Dead In The Cold And Dark


The fear blinded Frond’s outstretched mind in The Force as he withdrew to his own center of calm, embracing the unwavering will of The Force as his own, but seeking to protect his own self. He must persevere if he was to become the avatar that The Force willed of him. He must survive. Fear had no place in his being.


Then out of the blindness, something appeared. Withdrawn from the world around him, Frond had not sensed it, a blade cloaked in the dark side, twisted and evil. It rocketed from the cover of fear, appearing in Frond’s vision moments before it drove itself with the speed and power of a rocket into his wood-based cranium. He had no time to try and dodge the man-made fang of dark desire and the blade found its mark, squarely within the center of Frond’s face, obliterating what had been the knotty growth of Frond’s humanoid nose. The blade, the hilt, the handle, the entirety of the weapon carried itself with such ferocity that it did not stop like the humming vibroblades in his shoulder did, at the hilt. Instead the deactivated weapon buried itself to the pommel into the tree-like man’s head, sending him toppling over once again.


The Force had rewound him to a standing position and then played it again. Frond tumbled to the ground with a thunder that echoed the ground and the very air with its ferocious crack. His saber, as much a part of his being as his now devastated face, deactivating as Frond slipped from consciousness, the weapon dissipating as it was subconsciously absorbed back into the womb from which it had been birthed. The dark roaring hunger dropping to a dull, almost non-existent hum that throbbed in the back recesses of the minds of those who had ears to hear.


The last thoughts that Frond had before his mind slipped away into nothingness were none less troubling than the fact that he had fallen when The Fore had willed him forward to this confrontation had it not? He had thought it would have been an easy victory for the light. Was he not a true servant of The Force compared to this meager pretender? Balance was his banner. His banner had fallen to the dust. Where he had sought to unite the two in unity, the darkness had prevailed. This pitiful worm had somehow bested him.

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"Heh...haha...HAHAHAHA! I'm alive!"


The tree Jedi thing lay collapsed on the ground, Nok's knife buried in its face.


"What's the matter!? Did your infinite wisdom and knowledge not tell you to avoid a knife in the face!? Or maybe you're so arrogant that you thought a pathetic, money-grubbing neimoidian like me couldn't possibly scratch someone like you! A pure soul falling to a lowly scum sucker like me! How could that ever happen?!" Nok's grin split his face. He didn't know if the creature was conscious and he didn't care. "There are no chosen ones tree. No fated victors, no grand plan, no cosmic order.


No purpose.


It's all just power and the people who wield it. That's what the Force is you know. Power that yearns to be ruled. Heck, that's what the universe is."


Nok extended his hand and pulled with all the might of his mind and the searing fear ebbing in his chest. The knife in the tree's face squealed against the wood as he worked it free. It shot back to his hand and he stowed it in his robes. Then he drew back the other knives, completing the set. For a brief instant, he considered carving into the tree and taking that saber. His lip curled into a sneer. These knives were his, by right of the blood he'd shed on them and that he'd shed with them. He'd just beaten a massive Jedi warrior wielding a blade of pure energy with a single one of those knives. He felt a connection with them, a familiarity that extended past physical senses. Why take the creature's saber? It was worth next to nothing compared to these knives, a piece of glass next to a diamond. No, let the tree keep its toy. Let it know how worthless it was to Nok.


"You know something..." Nok said, quieter this time. " You're something I hadn't considered. I hadn't thought about the Jedi, about how your kind would devote themselves to killing me.


You frighten me."


"...And that's why I'm going to let you live."


Nok's smiled returned, and his voice rose. "I want you to get stronger. I want you to get fiercer. I want you to hunt me down and kill a hundred Sith on the way! I want you to become a Chaos-spawned reaper of death, with charred corpses littering your path! I want you to become a specter that I have nightmares about every time I close my eyes and see in every shadow! I want you to TERRIFY me!"


Nok raised his face to the sky, and shouted, "BECAUSE THAT ONLY MAKES ME STRONGER!"


"I understand now! Fear was never my enemy, never my weakness! It is my strength, my power, my edge! And I am rich with fear! I'm rolling in it! I'm a bottomless vault of the stuff! My whole life I've denied it, but I've always been the same coward as every other squirming member of my species! And it's the greatest advantage I could ever have!"


Nok looked down. "...So thank you for teaching me that."


Kneeling down, Nok scooped up the dry, lifeless dirt. "I think I will build a home here. Yes. A place to retreat to and meditate on what you taught me. A place where you can find me. I want you to come back and fight me again. But more than that, I want to fear your return, fear that today will be the day you finally bust down my door and swing that saber at my neck again. I'll step into the trap, heck I'll build the trap for you, because that moment of panic will be when I'm at my most powerful. So please, terrify me Jedi. I'd consider it a personal favor."


Nok looked over the fallen tree. He focused on the creature's hand that had held the saber at the end.


"And to make sure this is personal..."




Nok emerged from the temple as he made his way back to the ship. In his left hand he held the strange crystal, retrieved from the ground. In his right he held a gnarled, wooden hand, still clenched into a fist.

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2...3...5...7...11... Ficcabin mentally thought to himself the sequence again and again, trying to hide the fear that crept into his mind. That presence of the predator he had felt in the ship was now stalking and giving chase. It was almost overwhelming the skeletal being with terror. Now among the dead corpses of the planets long gone residents, Ficcabin only hoped that he could lose the presence in the fog of the natural graveyard. The popping and hissing around him as he stumbled forward didn't make an impression anymore. His panicked mind had only one goal: get back to the ship.




Then he heard the voice. That presence he had felt in the force was now reaching out to him with a screech of rage, like a clawed hand attacking its prey. Hunger coated the words like deadly honey. Ficcabin's mind barely held on to the prime numbers. They were a scrap of bravery in this time of dread.




An audible sound of hissing, quite different from the deadly fungus that hissed from the bones of the dead, rose with the mental screech. Ficcabin turned to glance back behind him. Had he been breathing, he would have gasped in surprise. There he could see in the fog was a monster; a serpent of unnaturally large proportions, coiled and beginning to launch itself into the air towards the helpless scientist.


41...43....4- oh prime numbers I'm going to die, I'm going to die!


Instincts had taken ahold of Ficcabin. But being a scientist and a freighter pilot with little combat experience meant that instinct held little insight for the Givin. This became very evident as the serpent launched itself. Ficcabin, in his surprise and terror, tripped over a corpse and fell to the ground, dirt and fungus staining his pilot suit completely.


Above and before him the serpent went, it's target now flat with the ground. The crash of the beast caused more bones to fulfill their purpose of releasing more fungus into the air. Ficcabin felt something in his hand as he began to face the monster. In his hand was a bone that had been snapped and broken at one of its ends. The broken end of the bone was now a bunch of deadly sharp points with the fungus creeping out.


Prime numbers, the Force, Frond, anything, save me! Ficcabin cried out mentally.


With blind instinct and pure desperation, Ficcabin wielded and drove the fungal-infused femur forward at the snake's body. While a sane man or a trained one would have utilized the blaster in his holster, Ficcabin was approaching the breaking point of his own mind.



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Frond did not hear any of the Neimoidian’s taunting words. Not that it would do him any good, the prophetic taunting, guided by The Force, was as if the slimy worm was speaking an unholy blessing over the fallen tree.


Frond did not know how long he lay there. His mind was awash in silent blanketed darkness. He was not travelling beyond shadows or lost in his own thoughts. The blade had buried itself deeply enough that Frond’s mind had retreated back within himself to the cellular level. For a being without a brain or internal organs, he did have several convenient and capable ways of surviving on an instinctual level. Even as he lay there a fallen tree amongst the dead world’s dead trees and bodies, Frond’s body slowly began to compartmentalize his wounds. Yet another cellular defense to wall off the wounds and prevent the spread of any diseases. This combined with his immersion in The Force resulted in his body actively preventing any of the latent dark side tendrils that had enshrouded the worm’s weapons from seeping into his very soul. As the time passed, Frond’s body slowly began to heal, expedited by the will of The Force. It was not done with him . . . yet.


Frond’s eyelids flickered and pain flooded the Neti’s body as his consciousness began to return. His mind was a daze. Whereas an animal-based being would have been bleeding out into the sandy soil, Frond’s wounds slowly had seeped a sugary sticky sap that coated his wounds. The pain that radiated through his body was not focused on any specific wound, save for the yawning hole in the center of his face; and only because it played havoc at the edges of his vision where the knife had splintered and cracked his eye sockets. As his eyes slowly looked around taking in the world around him, his eyes clicked and snapped against the jagged torn bark of his face.


Frond sighed, his leaves rustling as his eyelids fluttered shut. Even as his sight closed to black once again, Frond’s mind reached out in The Force. Gone were the crashing breakers of fear that had clouded his mind and sent him retreating back within the comfort of his own timeless mind. Still as Frond’s mind connected with the comforting familiarity something was different. In the distance he could hear the faint cries that he had felt in his vision. He felt something else too, the faintest desire to destroy, to destroy anything, to destroy everything.


Slowly, with great effort, Frond pushed himself upwards to a sitting position. His legs were a tangle of roots beneath him. Going to push himself up Frond realized for the first time that something else had happened. The dark worm had taken something else from him! Holding up his arm, Frond’s eyes opened wide to look upon the cleanly severed stump that had been his right hand.


Normally, he would have had a snarky comeback of some sort that played across his mind and possibly across his lipless mouth; but here, in this moment, Frond’s mind was blank, awash in the tender embrace of The Force. All the thought that he could muster was a brief scattering of confusion and a sense of certainty. He was but a servant of The Force; nothing more, nothing less. He had never been promised safety for this galaxy-based body. But still Frond struggled to grasp the idea that he had been defeated. As a servant of The Force, he was sure that he had been called to bring forth the balance, to beat the darkness back to its banks. Yet he had not been the victor of this confrontation. He had lost.


Struggling to his feet, Frond’s mind whirled in loss and confusion. While it seemed that The Force had abandoned him, the comforting embrace of The Force spoke otherwise; wordless comforts that soothed the raging pains that plagued his body. In the distance, the Jedi padawan could hear the cries of pain and agony echoing from beyond the yellow billows of fog. They were the cries he had come to liberate. Even in his fractured mind, he knew, these pained voices in The Force were what he had come for.


Shuffling slowly forward one sure rooted foot after another, Frond trod forward. Each footfall heavy and sure, falling instead of stepping. Eventually, the massive humanoid tree, made his way to a crumbling wall within the abandoned temple. The voices, still indiscernible, were louder now. Their desires were clearer. While he had walked in the glory of the shadowless beyond, these entities of light had been plagued by the torture of removal from their bodies, trapped here in this mortal sphere for eons, unable to act, unable to do, unable to be. Frond could feel their pain, even as his own physical pain radiated through his body. Their pain was different. It was more intense. It was real. While Frond’s pain was physical, the pain felt by these entities was more real, their pain was caught up in The Force itself.


Leaning his handless arm against the wall that crumbled, sending loosely affixed stones plumping and plopping to the ground on the other side, Frond rested his head against the crook of his elbow and let out a sigh of exhaustion. Normally, he was a tireless being that could press onwards, slowly and constantly growing. Now, however, this short trek that followed his defeat left him exhausted. Frond’s body cried out for pure air and pure water. He needed to rest in the embrace of this reality’s nourishment. He was a servant of The Force bound to this plane to carry out its will. The cries of the souls drove him onwards. The Force had brought him here, perhaps not to defeat the darkness, but to preserve the light.


Standing up, Frond stumbled forward until he came to a cache of translucently clear crystals set into the walls of a hallway whose roof had long since been dissipated by the ravages of forgotten wars and time. Here the cries were almost overwhelming as Frond’s mind was open to the call of The Force. Unlike the duel, where Frond had allowed the fear to drive him back, this time, he did not offer any resistance. His mind was awash in the tidal flows of The Force on this world; the death and destruction of the world, paired with the cries of the crystals lining the walls before him and the faint desires that radiated from his chest where his saber lay nestled.


Stumbling the last few steps forward, Frond fell to his knees, his hand brushing down the wall and over the crystals on his left, while the sappy stump of his arm left amber streaks down the stone and crystals on his right. As his body brushed each crystal, its voice became clear. They desired to be released. These were the souls of Jedi, but not just Jedi. These were the souls of Jedi, of Seekers, of beings like him who had sought the will of The Force, of followers of obscure and ancient traditions Frond had never even heard of before. They all had one thing in common. They had come to this world, called by what they thought had been the will of The Force only to be overpowered by the shamans of the Order of The Terrible Glare and imprisoned for all eternity cut off from The Force, trapped in this false world forever.


Frond recoiled at the sheer horror of the thought. They were cut off from The Force, unable to touch it, unable to influence it, trapped in the windowless cell of this false reality. He sat there in that moment. Even as The Force swirled about him, Frond’s mind rocked and warped around him. His nose and hand were gone, results of his recoiling from the waves of fear. He had lost parts of his being. The souls trapped in these crystals had lost their entire physical form and their connection to The Force. He, like they, had come to this world seeking to follow the will of The Force. He, like they, had come here and when confronted by something they had not expected had recoiled, unwilling to throw themselves all in to follow the path The Force had laid bare before them. They had come here seeking to build their knowledge of The Force and had been destroyed. Every soul that had come here seeking to grow had been destroyed. That was, until another force, the Jedi, had come and had been willing to not recoil. They had gone all in and had willingly devastated this entire planet in retribution for the crimes committed here regardless of the knowledge that might have been lost.


As he held his head in his hand and stump, Frond’s mind was wracked with realization and loss; but he could not focus on the thoughts, buffeted as it was by the cries of pain that warped the air in the hallway before him.


Slowly, Frond arched upwards until he was standing. The Neti’s mind was awash in a cacophony of cries and desires. The crystals desired to be released. Frond’s mind cried for healing and understanding. Staring down at the crystal filled walls, Frond reached towards his chest with his remaining hand. Drawing forth his four-handed log hilted saber without even thinking, the saber ignited. Flames shot outwards and upwards leaving the golden sunlit blade spider-webbed with crawling crackling red tendrils of electricity. In that moment, nestled amongst the other cries and desires in The Force, came a new yet ageless ancient desire; the desire to destroy.


A twisted smile crossed Frond’s face. He hefted the saber above his head and his mouth opened in a silent scream as he brought the blade downwards raking it against the crystal lined walls, again and again. Each blow sent shards of crystal exploding out of the walls. Each blow lessened the cries of ageless pain as waves of gratitude washed over him. Each blow fell, the desire for destruction radiating with glee from the crystals within his weapon until it overpowered the cries for release. The Force whirled about him and Frond embraced the desire to destroy. Up and down, back and forth, Frond swung the saber sending shards of crystal and sparks of red electricity arcing across the hallway. The Force was a whirlwind about him. His mind felt nothing. Frond acted on impulse alone, the guidance of The Force and the voices in it leading him forward. Destruction was his language even as his mind could not form the words to speak.

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Sailing forth, Snake’s maw wide in anticipation of crushing the bony being between his powerful jaws; he could taste the fear, the absolute terror. He relished it. It was the same for any who had stood in his way before. To the serpent it was a clear sign of domination that any would fear his primordial ancient form. Then, however, the skeletal being did something completely unexpected for such a supposedly dangerous foe, he collapsed. The fear had so easily overcome his two legged prey, it shocked Snake, as his body sailed upwards and over top of the fallen man; all 15 feet of compact muscle, scale, and draconic darkness. He did not even have time to look back, as he felt the jagged scraping and scratching of the makeshift bony weapon screeching against his scales, gouging a bright blue serrated blue path along his scaly dark blue underside.


With a twist of his body, to lock his foe back in his sight, Snake crashed to the ground, his unblinking eyes staring daggers of bottomless hunger and domination at his foe. The momentum of his leap ground him against the dirt and sand, plowing a dune against his backside as he slid to a thundering halt that echoed through the still foggy air. One of his jagged scaled that had been marred by the bone wielding skeleton slipped free. He left it lying in the soil. He did not have time to stop or worry about a meager scratch. Now was the time to strike. It was time to end this combat before his cowardly prey got any more bright ideas; like that blaster Snake saw nestled at his hip.


With an open mouthed hissing snarl, Snake lunged forward at his supine foe; his body twisting across the earth in a jagged lighting back-and-forth. Here, in this moment Snake was the master, the monster of nightmares surging forth to devour his prey. All he needed to do was . . .




His fangs slashed downwards as his mouth slammed open and closed repeatedly, seeking a foothold, quite literally a foot to hold and crush, to begin the not-quite lethal incapacitation of the skeleton Nok Morliss had brought him to hunt.


Abandon all hope. You. Are. Mine.



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For the briefest moment, not even a millisecond long, Ficcabin experienced a moment of accomplishment. He saw that he had given the beast a scratch: his improvised weapon had broken off a piece of its reptilian armor. However, that feeling was once again replaced with panic. If all Ficcabin could do was give it a minor scratch, what hope was there? Perhaps death was the only way off this planet...


No! I will not die here! Ficcabin clung to sanity like the fungus clung to the bones.


The beast began to snap at the Givin. Ficcabin had turned over onto his back now and saw the teeth that came towards him. Once, twice and again, the monster’s teeth grappled nothing but air as Ficcabin flinched and flailed around dodging the attacks by a hair's width. The greatest scientists of Yag’Dhul would’ve praised such fortune. Only the slimmest of chances would have allowed such an inexperienced fighter to last as long as Ficcabin had. Most Givin believed in neither miracles nor fortune but instead in what could be calculated out. At the moment however, Ficcabin didn't have a chance to argue with blind luck.


But the scientist's luck did not hold out. Upon its final snap, the monster's jaw wrapped itself about Ficcabin's foot and clamped shut.


Ficcabin mentally screamed in pain. He could feel his exoskeleton as well as the muscle and nerve tissue underneath being crushed. Blood began to squirt and spill into the creature's mouth. Ficcabin's pained mind momentarily flashed back to the Beyond Shadows, back to where the cursed fountain stood alone in its power. The fear there was as strong as the fear Ficcabin felt now after he had abstained from drinking its foul fluid.


However, the image in Ficcabin's mind was different. In his mind, the Font's contents had begun to rose to a bubbling boil. The blood like substance called more strongly now to Ficcabin, beckoning to drink and be made powerful. It promised a destruction of the monster that threatened the young scientist. This beast was like that of the Font: Powerful. If Ficcabin was to defeat it, he would also need to be powerful. If only he had not ran from it in fear before! He could've stayed in that perfect place and enjoy both knowledge and power for an eternity!


In Ficcabin's mind, nearly blinded by pain, he could see himself taking a small drink from the fountain. Only a touch of power would've been needed.


This brief vision, nothing more than a fancy and a desire to change the past, inspired Ficcabin. He was still in fear, but two forces drove his actions: A powerful instinct to live and the thought of what the Font could've provided. The creature's teeth still clenched and crunched Ficcabin's foot. But Ficcabin's hands, one still grasping the weapon from the dead, were free.


Fueled with adrenaline, Ficcabin bent over and once again stabbed the bone towards his foe. But not at the monster’s side or belly. That had been a mistake. Now it's eye was within reach.


I will not die here today! Ficcabin mentally screamed at the monster and himself.



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The satisfying crunch of bone between Snake’s jaws paled in comparison to the warm metallic-tasting blood that splattered in the serpent’s maw. Snake knew, there, in that moment, that victory was his. This skeletal being, who appeared to be the walking dead amongst the long fallen, was nothing more than flesh and bone. Flesh and bone were Snake’s specialty.


As the blood washed over his forked tongue, Snake thrashed his head back and forth with a sense of glee; happiness in the thrill of the climax hunt, the strike. All of this paled, however, to the wave of emotion that washed over Snake’s taste buds and mind, radiating out from the foe clenched firmly in his own mouth.




He could taste the sickly sweetness of it like an elegant desert. The subtle swirls of fearful dark desire mixed with the strong blunting fear of death. They were different in their subtleties, only to those who had dedicated their lives to the study of the flavors of fear. All of it was carefully enveloped in a crisp buttery cocoon of fear-based resistance and covered in the metallic frosting of blood.


It would be easy to become lost in this overwhelming smorgasbord of fear, had Snake had more than one bite that was still actively thrashing to escape him. In truth, the massive predator enjoyed few things quite as much as sitting and digesting the aromas and flavors of his victims’ fears whilst he slowly digested the still living paralyzed being deep in his constricting stomach. Such a desire was not to be. This mere skeleton-looking being, still had a purpose. Nok Morliss had brought him to hunt it for reasons unknown. Perhaps when the pitiful greenling was done with it could Snake crush the bony shell and drink the fear-filled entrails. . .


As the he thrashed his head back and forth, in an effort to do even more damage, his acute senses and lidless eye sensed the movement of the same bony spear point that had raked his body already plunging towards his eye.


Had the serpentine predator been one to wax poetically, he may have mused on the irony that his last foe had been left sightless by the sting of his fangs and now this foe sought to return the favor. He was, however, a wordless predator not a pompous philosopher, so no such thought passed through his mind to give him pause. Instead, he reacted without thought. The viper’s mind had the sole focus of conquest in the hunt. Instinctually, as he thrashed back and forth, Snake tossed his head backwards in an effort to change the momentum of the incoming jagged bone. He reared upwards into the air from the ground in a spray of dust and dirt, opening his jaw in a spray of bloody mist and releasing the soon-to-be-battered corpse of his foe at the height of momentum, as his body careened over backwards; twisting in an effort to avoid losing sight of his foe. Warm blood trickled from the corner of his slotted eye where the bone had caught him, running down to mingle with that which remained on his lipless maw, the pain stirring the beast into a further frenzy of hunger and destruction.



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In the din of broken crystals, the humming saber, pained bodiless cries for freedom, and swirling dust caught up in the rushing of souls on their way into the ether, Frond paused. His weapon was still alight in his remaining hand. In the din, there was something else, silence. As each crystal shattered along his sunny blade, the voice of its bearer was finally freed from its aged tomb. And like a long imprisoned entity, the souls vanished into the wider world beyond, destined for the Lake of Souls and more.


Raising the hilt of his blade to his forehead, in a sort of homemade salute, Frond tapped the wooden haft against his wooden head with a slight *tunk* before the blade hissed from sight, switched off by Frond’s own will. The wild call of merciless destruction receding as water in a newly cracked cistern until all that remained were the smallest patches of slickness; slight reminders that spoke of the power that had moments before swirled in a hurricane.


And in it all, Frond stood. His peaceful core returning like the rotating beam of a lighthouse in the swirling storm of spirits and desire amongst the rain clouded Force.


There, in the relative silence, a single solitary voice still echoed in The Force. Looking downward, Frond saw that a single crystal lay in the sandy floor of the ancient temple. There, amongst the shattered shards, one crystal still pulsed, the soul within crying silently for release. Without the din of the remaining crystals, Frond could hear the voice as clearly as if it rang from a distance in his audible receptors.


Please! I did not do anything! Please! Please! Please! They betrayed the Jedi, not me! I just did as my master instructed me! Please! It hurts so much!


The voice cried out in fear and longing, the voice like that of a youngling, pleading for mercy in the face of an expressionless executioner.


It was not often that Frond encountered something, especially in The Force itself, that took him by surprise; but this single crying voice did just that. He had no idea how whoever it was had come to be imprisoned without body in this crystallized prison of this false reality; but the fact that the stone lying before him emitted cries in The Force, filled Frond with a sense of curious fear. Something in this world could affect The Force and the true bearing of those entombed to this reality alongside him.


Fear sweeps in like rain

Knowledge with the sunny rays

Ignorance away



With that thought in mind, Frond absentmindedly tucked his elongated wooden hilt into the freshly opened knothole in his chest. The weapon was quickly enveloped by the shape-shifting form of the tree, as he slowly reached down and gently cradled the silently crying clear stone in his hand and stood. This was something that needed to be studied. Even as Frond knew that he ought to free the soul ensnared within, he knew that he would not until the fearsome secret that this prison cell held was known to him.


Standing up, the stone gently clutched in his tendrilled hand, Frond turned. There was swirling fog in every direction, pierced only by the broken shards of the once temple room he stood in. All outside of him was silent, even as The Force flowed and ebbed invisibly across this desolate


Somewhere out there, Frond knew, the worm that had fell him was making a hasty retreat. Elsewhere, he hoped, Ficcabin Yule was faring better than he. Reaching out, Frond found himself unable to find his fellow sojourner, the pain of his injuries drawing his focus back inward, reminding him that he too had a mortal prison that required his attention as much as he would like to discard it.


Without a word, Frond turned and followed his own plodding tracks through the deathly soil back through the fog towards the ship that he and his fellow had arrived on. With any luck, Ficcabin Yule would be there to help him. Now that the battle had ended and the peaceful stillness of death radiated about the world again, Frond felt as if he had aged a millennia. He needed to rest. The Force would guide him, but his body needed rejuvenation.

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As Ficcabin flew through the air, his hand lost its grip on the femur bone. That improvised weapon, now dripping slightly with blood from the wound it had just caused, had been wielded with surprising efficiency. A scratch of the monster's belly and a wounding of its eye were feats worth bragging about. However, it was now lost in the yellow fungal-infused fog amongst the other bones of Garn's long dead residents. It would serve this fight no longer.


After crashing into the ground, Ficcabin tried to work himself into a standing position, but wound up kneeling instead. The pain that shot up through his broken left leg was immense. Only the adrenaline allowed him to ignore the pain and focus on what was happening. In his mind, he was feeling nothing. There were no pains. There were no thoughts. There was only a powerful, overwhelming drive to succeed in this horrible game of survival.


For a moment, there was stillness. The beast, blood running down its face, looked at him with a blood-fueled fury. Ficcabin, bent over on one knee, looked at it in fear. Instinctively Ficcabin knew this one moment would decide his fate. If he acted right, he would live. If he faltered, he would most likely die. This was a choice between the two most important numbers of the universe. To live was to become one, a number with infinite potential. To die was to become zero, the embodiment of nothing.


Without a hint of hesitation, Ficcabin acted. This action was just as instinctual as the beast's actions had been throughout the entire fight. But this was different. Ficcabin's action was being influenced by something he had learned much earlier. The Force was in all things. It was in Frond, in Ficcabin, in his crystal, in the planet, in the bones, even in the fungus and the fog. The Force was in all things. And Ficcabin knew that this beast had the Force in it as well.


In that lesson, Frond taught Ficcabin how to move small crystals through the Force.


Here, through the Force, Ficcabin would move giant beasts.


With both arms outstretched towards the towering monster, Ficcabin called the Force into one solid push. His mind was focused and driven. His thoughts were sharpened to a point by the adrenaline rush and by his instinct to survive. Nothing existed to Ficcabin. There was only the beast, Ficcabin and the connection between the two: The Force.



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Frond stumbled onwards through the fog until the outline of the aged angular freighter materialized before him. Tripping over his own rooty feet, Frond fell to the earth with a woof of dust, unable to catch himself with his handless arm or one good hand clutching the still crying ensnared soul.


With the dust caked to his face, especially thick where his own sticky sap had seeped from his wounds and jellified on his gnarled barky skin, Frond slowly lifted his face from the dust towards the ship. He could not see Ficcabin Yule anywhere, nor could he sense him in The Force. There on the ground, Frond closed his eyes and reached out searching for the young Givin. He could not find him anywhere around the ship. In fact, the ship seemed entirely deserted.


With a snort that sent a cloud of dust billowing up the cavern that had been until recently his nose, Frond slowly pushed himself up on his forearms. Pulling his feet up beneath him, one slow dragging timber after another, Frond stood up. With the crying crystal begging blindly for release in his hand, the dull hum of his saber’s innate desires seeking destruction within his chest, and his own body yearning for healing, Frond’s mind was enshrouded in a whirling sandstorm of pulling temptations, good and bad, natural and not. With an inhale that rattled his quickly drying leaves, Frond searched deep within his being to grasp at the truth that he knew, the truth that was his guide, The Force. He was but a servant of The Force. That thought was what sustained him. When he desired nothing more than to give in to any and all of the calling temptations, The Force sustained him.


Standing on his own two legs again the ancient Neti lurched forward making his way to, and then into the vacant ship. The door was still open and the aged air purification system whirred away, grinding to purify the air as it came into the ship. Clomping upwards into the ship, Frond dropped to his knees, the stale but purified air washing over him. In that moment, Frond could feel The Force even purer. Without his body having to fight the toxins in the air Frond felt his very heart and soul open even more to the call of The Force.


There on his knees with his eyes clenched shut, Frond felt the tears stream down his wooden face. Wrapped in the comforting folds of The Force, Frond sat there for who knew how long. The waves of The Force washed over him, driving everything else away in a cleansing torrent of purity. No longer did he hear the call of the entombed soul or felt the desires of his saber or even the silent cries of his own body. In that moment, in the dark entryway of the aged Jedi vessel, Frond was at one with The Force.


”Calm before the storm

Leaves twitching in the stillness

Called to serve The Force"


He whispered the words, not even aware that he was doing so. His mind was awash in the swirl of lights and color; painted images morphing from one blurred vision to another. The figures and vortexes of a power greater than any single mind could comprehend played in a never-repeating cycle across all that was Frond’s being. Images, emotions, thoughts, feelings that pushed the limit of sentient capability pushed him from one extreme to another, yet in it all, Frond felt an overwhelming sense of peace. Peace in The Force, knowing that he was right where he needed to be.

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Amidst the toxic boneyards of a dead world, a deadly serpentine predator hunts a terrified pilot.


Snake from the start of the fight establishes a strong sense of being in his element, hunting a prey creature that was terrified. He repeatedly leverages his size and power to overwhelm his opponent and further intimidate him. He took damage appropriately, however in his biting attack that landed he did not mention injecting poison, which left open an ambiguity. Also of note, Snake was wounded by an improvised bone weapon with a coating of lethal fungus.


Ficcabin, a Givin pilot who has begun to explore the path of the Jedi, comes into the fight terrified into irrationality. Despite carrying a sidearm, he's too panicked to use it, instead relying on whatever nearby detritus he could get his hands on. In this case its a broken femur coated with deadly fungal spores. While he does manage to score some superficial hits, he takes some particularly nasty ones, including one that breaks his leg. Furthermore, while his exoskeleton initially protected him from the hazardous environment, that protection has been compromised by Snake's bite attacks. While Snake's character sheet lists his bite attack as being venomous, he failed to mention injecting venom so I'm less inclined to penalize Ficcabin for not acknowledging the paralyzing effects. That being said, going from mindless terror to collected Force concentration with minimal training was more than a bit of a stretch, especially given the broken leg.



While Ficcabin definitely RPed his character excellently for the circumstances instead of turning him into a terminator at the first sign of conflict, Snake seized and maintained the upper hand through brute force, and Ficcabin just didn't deliver enough damage to break that momentum. It never stopped feeling like Snake was cornering prey. While a mistaken assumption gave Ficcabin some measure of space to turn things around, the damage dealt was simply too much even without the venom for a controlled surrender to the Force at Ficcabin's training level.


With all of that being said, Snake is the winner*


*However both of you have been exposed to lethal fungal spores.


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Snake surged forward from the plume of toxic spores and dust billowing up from his fall and coalescing into one with the sickly yellow fog. With his maw wide, blood streaking down his face from his eye, cutting a swath through the dirt, the massive predator pressed the attack. There before him the kneeling skeleton held his hands outstretched; a sight Snake had seen before as his helpless prey begged for mercy from him, their pending doom, or from whatever deity they called upon.


Even then, Snake felt a stirring he could not explain as he charged. The stirring pushed forth from the skeleton a mere moment before an invisible wave permeated through the air, brushing by the fog as if it did not even exist, before slamming into his body. The blow was unexpected, but gave Snake no pause and little thought. He simply chalked the strange move up to being another of the reasons Nok Morliss had brought him here to hunt.


Shrugging off the invisible wave that the cowardly undead had clearly thought would stop the legless maw of hunger, Snake twisted his body, lunging the final short distance as his wide open mouth hurtled through the air, twisting to catch the arm-outstretched being about the chest. Then he bit down. His massive maw slammed around both sides of the Givin’s chest. He felt the crunch of bone beneath his jaws and felt his fangs rake along the cracking exoskeleton until they locked around his back, cementing his position of power.


From there, all Snake had to do was thrash about, spinning Ficcabin Yule through the air, back and forth, slamming his legs and head into the ground repeatedly until all that was left was a cracked mass of blood oozing bones clenched in the near-durasteel strength clasp of a serpent’s jaw.


Only then as Snake felt the emotions and fight wane from his prey’s body, did he stop. He deposited the body on the ground. It was still breathing.




He was pleased with himself. The battle had hardly been a challenge at all. Now that he had done what he had been brought here for, it was time to retreat to the ship and deposit his prize somewhere where Nok Morliss would find it.


Expertly wrapping the skeletal being between his thick muscled coils, Snake slithered back towards the luxury liner, his prize safely squeezed in his grasp.


Back at the ship, Snake did not even bother to make a subtle secretive entrance. The few droids that he encountered easily recognized the escapee and thought wiser than to press the discussion. Snake’s practically palpable dark fire of victory radiated about him. Up the gangplank, Snake drug Ficcabin upwards into the ship. The air here was no cleaner than it was outside. Clearly the results of the skeleton’s destruction.


Aboard the ship, Snake paused.


Where should I imprison this worthless life form?


He pondered to himself for a moment before a sick smile twisted across his face. Youngling on Kuat read stories of a young girl wandering the woods when she stumbled upon a home inhabited by three large furry beasts. The youngling tried their food, sat in their chairs, and even slept in their beds. He had heard the story countless times as he positioned himself unknowingly in the houses of those who thought they were untouchable on Kuat. Snake knew a bed that was ‘just right.’


Dragging the body of Ficcabin Yule forward, down the thickly rich hallways of the ship, he made his way back towards Nok Morliss’ bedroom. There, even in the disrupted state that it was, Snake deposited the body on the mangled bed linens. His prey lay there unmoving, save for his ragged breathing and oozing blood. Then, he slithered off. The rest of this problem belonged to Nok Morliss. He had done his job.


Once he regained his makeshift nest in the engineering bay, Snake reached deep within, grasping the inner darkness and he grasped it and used it, reaching out, trying to find Nok Morliss, broadcasting a wordless message through the air in all directions, hoping that the cowardly green worm had the power to hear him.


Nok Morliss, I have reclaimed that which you brought me to hunt. Let us leave this accursed world.



((I'm gonna have the spores hit him in a post or two))

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"What the kriff happened to my ship!?!"


Nok didn't need fear or pain to see. His anger was more than enough to illuminate the inside of his ship's entrance. Covered in fire suppressant foam, it stank of chemicals as the gloppy substance dissolved on the lush, expensive carpeting. Whirring through the mess, the cleaning droids banged back and forth while chirping manically "Contaminant detected. Contaminant detected"


"Pilot! Front and center!"


Nok waited for several interminable moments, until the clanking of battle droid jogging cut through the din of the frantic cleaning droids.


"Master, reporting for duty." The pilot droid didn't sound panicked, or repentant, or even concerned.


Of course not. It's a stupid droid.




"Master, while you were gone, an intruder boarded the ship. The security you left behind pursued, but the intruder barricaded itself in your quarters-"


"My room!?"


"Correct master. Your room. We forced the door open, though we damaged the motors and now it will not close. The intruder had escaped by then, after setting off the fire suppressant system."


"Is that why the cleaning droids are having a fit?"


"No sir. The intruder apparently tracked in a biohazard when it entered, and they've been working to eliminate that."


"...so...you didn't catch it."


"Correct sir."


Nok rubbed his temples. "Alright, call up GH-7-X3 and have him brief me on the biohazard situation."


"Yes sir. What should we do with the intruder?"


"...you said you didn't capture him."


"Correct sir. The serpent brought it back after it escaped. The intruder is currently unconscious on your bed. It seems to be bleeding profusely."


"...I'm going to wipe your mind out of spite."




"Nothing...just secure the intruder and bring me X3."


The droid nodded, and Nok was certain it was completely unaware of how easily Nok could see it right now...




"As you can see sir, the givin has sustained trauma to his exoskeleton in several places."


Nok could not actually "see" but his irritation was enough to give him a fuzzy picture of the "intruder". X3, an expensive GH-7 model medical droid, hovered nearby silently. The state of the art medical droid actually had enough intelligence and social grace that Nok didn't want to put it through a wall. Most importantly, it knew to shut up when it's master was ticked off.


"Those sheets were bioengineered silk. They had to be custom ordered months in advance."


X3 didn't move.


"Alright. And it's suffering from the fungus?"


"Indeed sir, though the exposure seems recent, likely coinciding with the damage to its exoskeleton. If allowed to continue however, the infection will certainly pose a serious health problem. I can't be sure as this particular breed of fungi is not in my database, but given its behavior I can deduce it is most likely lethal."


"Am I in any danger?"


"No sir, the majority of the spores have been cleaned, and the inhalants I'm having you take should prevent any fungal infections from occurring in your lungs or bloodstream. Apply the eye drops as I instructed, and you should be fine."


"And the givin? What can you do for it?"


X3 paused for a moment. "Well sir, I can put together a cast for the leg and chest, though he'll need a bone graft at least, and perhaps a cybernetic replacement. He'll need bacta patches round-the-clock, and of course a full disinfectant course along with antibiotics in case the spores can survive and multiply in his bloodstream. Also, we'll need to IV him to ensure proper nutritional needs are met. Givin consume three times the nutrients of most humanoids, and even more when healing."


Nok nodded, half-listening as he wondered why the serpent had brought this thing back? Was it like a pet, bringing its kills home for its master? No, more likely it wanted to show Nok what it could do to him if he crossed it.


Wait, the serpent had been out there too...


"X3, how long until the givin shows symptoms of the fungal infection?"


"2 to 3 hours, depending on a variety of factors."


Well...that will be an interesting time. Perhaps its time for that snake to see the universe is more dangerous than a terraformed world filled with fat, stupid livestock.


"Give the givin the full treatment. Once he's stable, call me. Then I want you to wake him up. Use adrenaline, or whatever else you need to. Make sure he's not armed, but don't restrain him."


"Of course master."




Nok sat in his favorite chair, waiting. Across the room, one of the ship's astromech's was reinstalling the window that had somehow been removed. On the bed, the givin was a mess of tubes and casts, the result of an hour of X3's work. Now, aside from the astromech, only the two of them remained in the room.


"That injection should be kicking in...now."

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Slithering quickly along the relatively vacant and muggishly warm corridors, Snake curled his way around corners, leaving deep heavy grooves in the thick carpeting of the Neimoidian’s luxury yacht all the way back to the tightly cramped engineering bay. Deep within his belly a familiar longing grumbled, hunger, physical hunger. It had been some time since Snake had feasted on the flesh of prey. He had expended energy several times hunting and even killing without having the choice or chance to absorb the energy of his foes in death to sustain his own life. That hunger mixed with his hunger for lordship over all that he laid eyes upon. Together, they made him nigh unstoppable.


In this moment, however, there was no prey to be had. Nok Morliss was of too much use yet to be devoured; and the skeletal undead was clearly of some use to his ride yet. It was of little worry for the massive serpent; he had gone longer without nourishment. All he had to do now was lie in wait. Rounding the last bend, Snake descended downward into the dimly lit and even warmer compartment that housed the technologically advanced engine and hyperdrive; though the technological superiority of the ship’s drives was lost on the primitive mind of Snake. What he did know was that the dull warmth that the engines gave off, even in the heavy air was comforting and allowed him to relax and conserve even more energy. Encircling his massive length about the engine, Snake settled into the dimness to await a time to go forth and hunt. There, he closed his transparent eyelids and fell asleep; though to the frightened observer that might stumble on him it would be hard to tell even that.


Snake lay there for untold hours as his body conserved energies and his mind whirled in the deepest untouched wild recesses of his subconscious. There was no time to be told in this berth. No sun, moon, or clock to tick away the passing of the time. It was there in these recesses that Snake’s mind mingled along the thinnest veil that separated his own being from the very purity of the dark side of the force; a force that he did not know even existed. Snake was not bound by ages of tradition and tomes, by religions and rituals. In that, he could lay bare the truth of the dark side, all he had to do was embrace it.


From that swirling of dark omens and signs, Snake awoke abruptly. His body felt as it was enflamed. Every inch of his scaly form burned with invisible hellfire that seeped between his interlocking armored scales. His eye, wounded in the fight had swollen nearly shut, turning his sleek angular head into a visage of warped freak show inducing terror. From his lipless mouth and slitted nose, ran rivers of saliva and phlegm, bubbling and gargling with each raspy breath the venomous apex predator drew.


To this, Snake awoke; his mind awash with a pang of fright as his mind cried for air. Deep wide-open mouthed gulps of air helped sate the desire in that moment, but each breath was labored and drew the precious energy that Snake desired to conserve for the hunt.


What matter of attack is this? He thought, wordlessly, swinging his massive head back in forth, looking for the strange attacker that he knew had to be trying to kill him in his sleep. He could find nothing and no one. Even in his pain and suffering, Snake deftly uncoiled himself, his fogged mind set on one single desire. He would find the inflictor of this suffering and vanquish this attack and the attacker. No one dared to attack Snake and lived.


He could find nothing, no one but a single miniscule mechanized droid that was deftly crushed beneath his massive coils, in the engineering hold. With each thrash of his body, Snake could feel the cold grip of death tightening its fists about his lungs and heart.


In a fury of rage, Snake thrashed about, mentally sending out his threat across the waves of the force, darkened by his anger at that which hid from him and dared to challenge his authority,


I will find you! I will destroy you! You cannot escape me! In my belly will you find rest! In my maw, death!


He did not care who could hear his cries. He would have his victory over this treacherous attacker.

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Frond knelt there in the entry to the angular boxy Jedi freighter, his mind washed by the waves of The Force, light and dark and everything in between, for countless hour upon hour. Finally, when from the crashing invisible waves, Frond was able to grasp and not slip away from the single solitary lighthouse of strength; he came back to the reality of Garn. Slowly he opened his eyes, Frond’s mind was pin point focused. He was a servant of The Force. It was his duty to serve it. Nothing was off limits. Nothing was forbidden. The Force desired balance, craved it, demanded it. Frond, its servant, here in this fantasy reality, one of millions, would do what he needed. Frond served the light because it needed him in the moment. Any who sought to misbalance The Force, Frond would persecute with extreme prejudice.


Slowly, Frond pushed himself up to his feet. First things first; Brother Ficcabin was in trouble. The very essence of the windless fog spoke that to him through The Force. He did not know how, where, or why; but he knew that Ficcabin was troubled. The Force whispered it to him in wordless thoughts of pain, suffering, and despair.


Frond made his way to the bridge of the ship. Standing there, he took in the various aged consoles. Ships had been the one fascination of his in this made-up reality, but even that did not help him now. He had never bothered learning how to even turn one on. Ficcabin Yule needed his help and if Ficcabin was to follow the path of the light, he would need pried from the grasp of the dark worm that had felled him.


Pondering over the console, Frond slowly reached forward and depressed a button with a single knotted finger. Nothing. The console stayed dark. A second prod resulted in the same result. Nothing. Lowering his hand, Frond stared down at the console. Resting his palm against the cool durasteel, Frond closed his eyes an exhaled. He turned his attention back to The Force, looking away from the physical world around him as he allowed his mind to slip into the endless ocean that was The Force. The otherworldly peace that flooded his soul offered reassurance and bolstered the Neti’s confidence. Pushing outwards into the washing waves of eternal power and knowledge, Frond was a seed amongst the interminable waves; one point looking for another. He needed help. He needed to reach out and touch the mind of one of his fellow Jedi. In the vastness that was The Force, Frond could feel how small and worthless he was. It was an awesome feeling. As small as he was, Frond was chosen by the vastness of The Force. Search as he could, Frond could not find Sandy Sarna, her presence lost amongst the waves. He found some of his old Mind Walking acquaintances; but he knew they would be of no help. They were called to observe The Force, not follow it. He had evolved beyond that.


Frond was alone, awash amongst the waves. At one point, he again felt the brushing presence of Ficcabin Yule, but he did not respond, he was suffering and surrounded by the familiar darkness of the green worm that had taken his hand and nose. Expanding his mind, Frond pushed and searched. Then, he felt it. He was almost ashamed that he had not thought of him sooner. The glowing beacon awash in the waves, visible across the cosmos was none other than his brother in The Force, the follower of the Baren Do way; Kel Koon.


With his mind open, Frond spoke aloud, the essence of his words vibrating across the invisible string that now connected his soul to that of Kel Koon on Felucia.


”Crawling worm defiles

Waves of darkness crashing down

Ficcabin is lost”

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Ficcabin floated in the darkness, each sense inside of him tingling with a sensation somewhere between pain, pleasure, and mind consuming numbness. Ficcabin lacked the word to describe what he was feeling, so he blindly associated the word ‘dreamlike’ to it. There was nothing to be seen in the palpable darkness, nor nothing to be heard.


283...293...307...” Ficcabin muttered into the muffling darkness. Even now, in this state of dreaminess, Ficcabin’s brain raced with the numbers beaten into his head since he was born. The comfort in this blackness was not necessarily but was still helpful. The one thing he had control over. The one thing he didn’t have to worry about.


Then the unthinkable happened.




Ficcabin couldn’t remember the next number. No that wasn’t it. He refused to remember the next number. And he didn’t understand why. These numbers were his life. They were his everything. And for some odd reason, he refused to remember the next number.


“...The force….there is only the force…There is only the force...” the words came naturally, like the return of an ocean current. Ficcabin repeated the phrase over and over again, these words echoing in the eternal blackness.


Then Ficcabin awoke.




Ficcabin opened his eyes, recognising the master bedroom from earlier. Near the window a little astromech buzzed as it worked to remedy the scientist’s handiwork. The sheets that he had been laid on were still drying from his own blood. Ficcabin was surprised to feel the numbing feeling of bacta patches over his body. However, they barely held back the immense pain in his leg. What happened?


Only after a few moments of waking did Ficcabin notice the Neimoidian. The presence of it disgusted him. It was like a light, choking smog. Ficcabin tried to sit up and turn, but found he was far too weak to do so. Instead the givin only turned his head.


“Nok I assume?” Ficcabin finally muttered after a few moments.


Nok smoothed the wrinkles from his robe before resting his folded hands on his lap.


“I see you know me. Yet...I don’t know you. Seems inappropriate given what I’ve done for you,” Nok gestured at the cast on the givin’s body, “...and what you’ve done for me…”


Ficcabin glanced down and realized just how badly in shape he truly was. His exoskeleton had been broken at the chest like a shell for some food. And his leg… Ficcabin felt a wave of pain wash over him at the sight. He remembered it now. The snake. The huge monster. So somehow he had survived the encounter. Ficcabin shook himself in fear, followed by another wave of pain from accidentally moving his leg.


“Ow...ow...um, Ficcabin.. Ficcabin Yu-.” Ficcabin stopped himself from spilling his full name. No sense giving away who he was.


“Ficcabin...Yu,” Nok arched an eyebrow. “I apologize for the pain, but I wanted you alert for this. Are you aware of your situation? You have made quite a mess of my ship. Droids destroyed, property ruined, ship damaged…”


“Yes, well, if your looking for a payment for the damages…” Ficcabin groaned. “Well...my account is considerably less than or equal to what you would find acceptable. So, what do you want?”


“A conversation for now. Perhaps we can start with an explanation of what you’re doing on my ship. More importantly, why are you on Garn?” Nok’s folded hands tightened, and his mouth turned down into a grimace.


The Neimoidian’s visible annoyance made Ficcabin slightly nervous, but he tried not to show it. “Working on a scientific theory. Something you wouldn’t understand.” he lied, not sure if it was safer than the truth. “I suppose I could ask the same of you though. You have a lot of information on... ” Ficcabin had to struggle to remember the name. “Order of the Glare?”


Nok’s breath caught. After a moment, he relaxed again, but his hands were now still.


“You’ve been in my records I see.” Deciding to take a stab in the dark, Nok smiled. “That doesn’t seem in keeping with your morals...Jedi.”


Ficcabin gave another look at the Neimoidian, then smiled to himself “eh, that could be up for debate.”


No fear. Interesting…


“Debate Ficcabin? Since you’ve examined my ship’s records, I imagine you know who...rather, what I am. And I highly doubt you belong to my little club, and I would only think a Jedi would be interested in these ruins. I could be wrong though.” Nok leaned forward, his ruined eyes fixed on the Givin. “What are you then? A treasure seeker? An adventurer? A failed Jedi? Oh, or maybe an exile?” Nok leaned back. “If you did look through my computer, then you know that I’m a wealthy man. Finding this place, and all the trouble you’ve caused me means you’re exceptionally talented...if somewhat aggravating. Perhaps you’re looking for employment?”


“I’m a student” Ficcabin snapped slightly, not liking the threatening tone he detected. It made him nervous, to be in the belly of the beast as it were. “Nothing more than a person testing a theory. I’m not a Jedi but I’m studying them. Nothing wrong nor exceptional about that.“


Irritation, and only a touch of fear.


“A scholar? I suppose that makes sense. Every Givin I’ve known has always been prone to analysis. Well, then perhaps this will interest you.” Nok stood, and walked over to his shelves of Sith and Jedi artifacts, the diametrically opposed relics sharing space in the lush chamber. “This here,” he said picking up what looked to be a fragment of what must have been a massive stone circle, covered in dots and lines carved in geometric perfection. “This is a piece of a Jedi starmap, recovered from a ruined temple on Lothal. I’ve put the word out to agents all over the galaxy for the remaining pieces, but unfortunately this is the only one I’ve been able to recover. And now,” Nok gestured at his eyes, “I doubt I’d be able to appreciate the finished piece of art even if I did assemble it.”


“What happened, you got blindsided by a blaster or something?” Ficcabin asked, just now noticing the blindness of Nok. However, it was slightly strange, he did walk around well enough, unaided by any droid or stick. While the piece did interest him a little, Ficcabin’s priorities were focused on his captor.


Nok’s breath came a little faster, as he remembered his last sight. The serpent lunging for him.


“No,” he said after a pause. “I just...bit off more than I could chew you might say. The life of a Sith is not without sacrifice.” Nok deepened his voice almost unconsciously, hiding that he was barely an apprentice. Power is perception. Be seen as powerful, and you are powerful.


“Right...well for a...sith or eccentric collector or whatever, you keep a certainly exotic pet” Ficcabin groaned again in pain. He needed to stop moving but he couldn’t help but try to sit up, only to fail.


The givin’s pain washed across the room, his broken leg a candle to Nok’s senses.


“My pet...yes. However, it seems we’ve gotten a bit off topic.” Nok put the star map fragment back in its place on the shelf. “Now, Ficcabin, we have a bit of a situation here. You know about me, about my business, and you know about my associations. Not a lot of people can claim to know two of those things, much less three. I’m not sure what to do with you,” Nok lied. “As I mentioned, employment is on the table if you want something lucrative. Or perhaps a trade. Some information perhaps in exchange for the risk I’d be imposing on myself by letting you go. Simple business and all. A balancing of the equation, if that makes you more comfortable.”


Ficcabin stayed silent for a moment, trying to think things through. However, he quickly realized he had very little choice at the moment.

“I suppose I could answer a few questions. Employment…” Ficcabin raised a hand and waved it slightly. “Eh, I like to keep my options open.”


Nok’s smile was wooden as he turned around. Arrogant bonehead. “Very well. We’ll keep employment out of the discussion then.” Nok took his time striding back across the room before retaking his seat. “Now then, first question. You’ve studied the Jedi, correct? That’s what you said. So I want to ask you, what is your opinion of them?” Nok hoped his indirect, and seemingly harmless question would throw the givin. Plus, he was curious.


Ficcabin’s curiosity was also piqued by the question. “Well, they are protectors of the galaxy, right? They strive to keep the galaxy in a position of peace through their connection with the Force. It’s just a pity it can be so hard to find them. ”


“I asked for opinion Mr. Yu. Not propaganda. What do you really think about them? What’s your analysis?”


Ficcabin had to think for a moment. He hadn’t really given the Jedi that much thought. In all of his travels, he was focused on the Force, which in turn forced him to study the Jedi.


“Well...they are idealistic. They have something that a lot of my people don’t utilize that much. Hope. We focus on numbers and what will or will not be. The Jedi seem to be more focused on what could be.”


Ficcabin nodded to himself, approving of this idea, then realizing he was missing a few details.

“However, they are….too focused. They don’t attempt to expand themselves. Through all of my studies, the Jedi seemed very stuck on one variable and nothing more. Peace seemed to be all they were about, when there is so much more. Knowledge on how the galaxy worked, how the Force itself works. Where does it come from? What is it’s purpose? Is peace even the best final answer? In my studies, I didn’t find the Jedi address that.”


Ficcabin turned his head back to the Neimoidian. “However, that may just be me.”


Nok’s smile this time was genuine, creeping onto his ruined face. “We agree on something. The Jedi are limited. Like you say, they’re too focused. They don’t see the big picture. So, Ficcabin, if you’re interested in study and a more pragmatic approach, why not come to the Sith? We don’t have the same paranoia regarding knowledge that the Jedi have, and we value results over tunnel-vision ideals. Seems more fitting for you.”


“Oh? And what are the Sith interested in? Power.” Ficcabin recalled the hologram that held the Sith code and the feeling it had given him as well as what Frond had said to him.

“Power for power’s sake. What end goal is in there? That’s like looking at the beginning of the equation and never adding everything up. Power, but with no rules or knowledge is supreme chaos. No, from what I can tell, the Sith are worse off.”


“I could say the same of knowledge for knowledge’s sake. What’s the point of learning all these facts if you don’t apply them? Knowledge without context is just numbers on a screen. And judging from the state of the galaxy, I’d say the Sith are doing fine. Heck, the Sith empire is in better shape then the Galactic Alliance right now.” Nok grinned. “Is that what you intend to be Ficcabin? A bystander?”


Ficcabin had to shut up for the moment, caught off guard by what was said. Was he nothing more than a bystander?

“I just want to know before I act. Action minus knowledge equals foolishness” Ficcabin quoted the old Givin saying, finding it less helpful than ever. He decided a change of subject was necessary. “What do my thoughts about the Jedi have to do with anything anyways?”


Nok leaned back. “I was curious. I figured I could learn something about you.” Pausing for a few, deliberate moments, Nok continued, “Fine then, next question. What’s your end goal here, Givin? I don’t mean just on my ship or this planet, I mean in general. You claim you’re a student, you claim you want to know the facts before picking a side. I admire the approach, but what do you want in the end? A happy life on some safe hideaway? I can give that to you. Do you want to change the universe to suit your ideals? I can help with that. Or do you just want to be a spectator, watching from the sidelines while we all struggle and fight so that you can revel in how ‘knowledgeable’ you are? If so, please tell me. I know a few deep space observatories that could use a janitor.”


“For a person who has me in their bed, you sure are fixated on keeping me as a bedmate” Ficcabin noted, annoyed once again and not wanting to answer the question.


Nok chuckled. “Sorry, sorry. A weakness of my species. We’re greedy. Alright then, a more concrete question for you. What were you really doing on my ship?”


Ficcabin attempted to find a better way of wording the answer then just ‘espionage’. All he wound up was “Doing a favor for a friend.”


This puffed up accountant’s resistance was getting on Nok’s nerve, and the opportunity was too good to resist. Nok reached into his robes and drew out the severed hand of the tree Jedi. He let it fall to the carpeted floor.


“All our friends can use a hand now and then.”


Ficcabin fell silent again as he recognised the hand for whose it really was and the understanding of the situation. Frond went off to face the worm. Here, Nok held Frond’s hand. It didn’t take a Givin to do the equation. This worm, this creature, more dark and twisted than the snake, had dealt with his friend. A slight fear came up in Ficcabin’s throat


Nok leaned forward, his tone turning low and vicious. “I left that thing lying on the ground after I pulled a vibroblade out of its face. I took that,” he gestured at the severed hand, “as a trophy to remember it by. Power for power’s sake might seem like chaos to you Ficcabin, but it means more in this universe than a few factoids and idealistic philosophies.”


Ficcabin’s thoughts raced. Then, a slight smile crept inside of him. His mouth opened slightly, but what emerged wasn’t an answer. It was a laugh.


“That’s it! That’s why you are so intent on gaining my employment, isn’t it? You aren’t strong enough!”


Ficcabin made a very different connection that, had he not been in as much pain as he was, wouldn’t have made it in a stable mind. But the hand Nok presented reminded Ficcabin that Frond had never been as straight forward ever. “That pet of yours...that’s the worm! And you...you can’t beat it! You went and fought my friend and he showed you how weak you really are! I fought your pet and I lost. I know its power first hand! And it doesn’t take a genius or even a givin to know that two is greater than one! Tell me, was it Frond that made you blind? Or was it your pet?”


Nok’s hands clenched as his teeth snapped shut. He’d been expecting the hand to have an effect on the givin, maybe a touch of real terror. But instead…

“You...you think you know about me? About this?” He pointed at his eyes, his breathing coming faster as his anger rose and illuminated the room. “You have no idea who I am, or what I’ve done. I’ve destroyed colonies and killed dozens by my hands alone, and hundreds more have died by my decisions. That’s power Ficcabin,” Nok spat the name.


“And yet you are still asking for my employment” Ficcabin breathed out, feeling his emotions rise slightly.


Nok continued, barely hearing the givin mutter as his rant gained steam. “You think your knoweldge makes you better? Makes you powerful? I’ve seen people like you. Academics criticising the galaxy for not conforming to their perfect ideals. Half-cocked blackmailers who think an intercepted holomessage makes them kingpins of the underworld. No, Ficcabin, your knowledge means nothing out here, in the deep. Let me show you.”


Nok let one of his knives drop into his hand. He walked over, standing over the prostrate givin.


“I could kill you right now. Every hour of study, every precious brain cell, every perfect equation in that head of yours would mean nothing. Why? Because I have a knife and you don’t.” Nok spun away.


“And tell me, what would that add to your existence?” Ficcabin asked after a moment of silence. “What does my death add? If i am zero like you seem to think, then nothing. The only reason you are trying to make yourself bigger over me is to prove you are better than nothing.”


Nok’s smile returned as he looked over his shoulder at the givin.


“Well...waste not.”


Ficcabin didn’t fall into fear from what was meant to intimidate him. “Well if you are thinking of using a knife on me, you would do well to remember that your pet has bigger teeth.“


Nok’s lip curled into a sneer. “I’m not going to kill you Ficcabin. Using you was always the plan. How pleasant it was for you, that was your choice.”


“Eh…” Ficcabin shrugged, still feeling a high from what he viewed as a win and not fully understanding what Nok meant. “As long as you’re paying the bills for these sheets”


Nok’s fists clenched until his green knuckles turned white, his anger coalescing into rage. The Force shuddered and wrinkled around him, and the pain from his gritted teeth swelled to a sharp ache. The artifacts on the shelves, the blanket on the bed, the chair behind him, it all quivered. The fragment of the star chart rattled on the wood, the chair tipped and bounced on the floor, and the sheets crumpled and flattened over the bed. In the far corner of the room, the howlrunner skull danced on its pedestal before falling off onto the soft, expensive carpet. The thunk of it striking snapped Nok from his trance. His rage still burned, but his mind had the reins again.


He stalked out.


“X3, put the givin under, and restrain him in the medbay. Pilot! Set a course for Balmorra.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

There, at the lifeless bridge of the Jedi vessel, Frond stood. His eyes were not looking down onto the console. They were staring, unseeingly, beyond any that which was mortal before him could see. Frond's mind still held in its eye the warm light of Kel Koon, lightyears away amongst the warm lushness of Felucia. Even as he reached out to his brother, Frond knew that he had connected; not in words, but Frond felt a sense of peace vibrate along the invisible golden strand that connected he and his brother. Help was to come. All he would need to do was wait.


As for Ficcabin, Frond could still sense him, enshrouded by the hungering grotesque darkness that he had fallen into. A small part of the Neti, a part that he would not speak of or bring forth to be examined in the daylight, felt a pang of remorse. he had propositioned the young Givin and brought him along. This was to be a simple venture to save souls in need. Now, Frond felt, this reality The Force had placed him in was even darker than it had been. In his quest to balance The Force, the ancient tree had only served to cause its misbalance to tip further towards the point of no return. Ficcabin was a youngling yet, not yet committed to the darkness or to the light. In many ways, Ficcabin Yule, was what Frond had once been. That thought drove home deep into his heartwood, deeper than the Sithling's blade had dug when it pierced and carved through his face. Awash in the tidal surges of The Force, Frond knew one thing clearly, be it the will of The Force, his own will, or something else; he would not allow Ficcabin to fall to the dark madness that now swaddled him.


Blinking, the console of the ship swam back into view. Frond's mind was still lost on another plane of The Force; but he could bring his focus to bear enough that he could look down on the controls. He could still feel Kel Koon's mind beside his own. As much as it pained him to admit it, he, Frond the mighty Neti Mindwalker, needed help.


"Boulder on the ledge

A breath sends it rolling downward

Kel see through my eyes"


The words flowed from his mouth in a hushed whisper. Frond's eyes focused on the lifeless controls before him. Even as he spoke, he willed his words to carry forth across the cosmos to his brother, Kel Koon. If only he would be able to see that which Frond's eyes took in, perhaps he would, in some small way, be able to offer guidance on how one might activate the ship and pursue their fallen comrade. THe calm aura that Frond so carefully nestled himself in waivered as his emotions for what he had allowed the young Givin to fall into did what even the Sith had not been able to. It cracked, and across that invisible connection, his emotions gave that extra push to propel his words and sight onwards; onwards to Kel Koon.

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The planet of Balmorra was like a family attic. Dusty, infested with vermin, and full of junk. Miles of industrial wasteland sprawled lifeless under a smog choked sky, abandoned factory complexes creaked and threatened to topple after generations of Balmorran metal parasites had honeycombed their struts and walls. The planet known for its weapon manufacturers had seen hard times after the end of the clone wars, and the battle droid builders had all but vanished when the CIS collapsed, leaving their thundering assembly lines silent. Now scavengers scurried in the shadows looking for scrap the parasites had missed. Workers clamored for jobs in the remaining factories. And, like maggots in a corpse, the scum of the galaxy lurked in the abandoned districts.

One factory stood out from the rest. An old Balmorran Arms complex, the eight story block of durasteel and cement looked like a fortress, with hundreds of feet of open space between it and its neighboring, smaller factories. That open space was littered with charred corpses, the ground scored with blaster fire. Patrolling around the factory, searching for any that might ignore the warning the corpses served to an onlooker, marched four SD-6 "Hulk" infantry droids, with their shoulder cannons swinging back and forth in emotionless repetition.

The Bleeding Edge descended through the greasy black clouds before landing in the no-man's-land surrounding the factory. The droids paused, their guns locking on the ship, before an all-clear signal compelled them to resume their patrol. Nok's ship was known here.

As the space yacht's ramp descended, a wrinkled devaronian riding an old hover chair zoomed out of the factory towards the ship, six scratched and scarred super battle droids jogging beside him.

Nok walked sedately off the ship, his arm on one of his battle droids as his ruined eyes left him with little option. His newly discovered Dark Sight, as he'd dubbed it, was useless without negative emotion like anger, fear, or pain to send out ripples for him to see by.

He heard the familiar sound of the old hover chair coast to a stop, and he smiled.

"Malabo Kell I presume?"

"Omni!" The devaronian's gravelly voice betrayed genuine shock. "What the kriff happened to you!?"

Malabo only knew Nok by the pseudonym Omni. No sense letting someone like Malabo Kell know his real identity. The old pirate turned black market dealer was a man cut from the same cloth as Nok, so of course he didn't trust him in the slightest.

Nok shrugged. "Snake bite. Open for business?"

"Your credits are always welcome in my pocket. What can I do for you?"

"I've got two orders actually. First, I need some new droids."

"What's wrong with the last ones I sold you?"

"Nothing, exactly. They work as advertised. They can point a gun and pull a trigger. But with my business getting more...diverse, I think it's time to upgrade."

"You do realize that anything more advanced than those OOM models aren't going to be near as legal on most planets?"

"Coruscant is looking worse than this place, and the Galactic Alliance is done. Legality is a lot easier to buy now. Besides," Nok shrugged, "I'm going to be working in Sith space a bit more from now on."

The flash of unease from Malabo illuminated him to Nok, and he saw his shoulders tighten as his hands twitched. One hand signal from the old scoundrel and the Hulk droids would turn Nok and his ship into ash stains and slag.

Nok couldn't blame him. In criminal circles, Sith could develop a reputation for violence, entitlement, and a tendency to refuse to “play nice”. The reputation wasn’t entirely warranted, but it wasn’t without a solid foundation either. When a man thought he was the Force’s gift to the universe, it didn’t make much convincing for him to start getting Forceful when things didn’t go his way.

Still, Malabo knew Nok, and Nok had never cheated or threatened the old pirate before, and Nok hadn’t actually said he himself was a Sith. Greed must have beat wariness, because Malabo relaxed.

“Alright, what are you looking for?”

“A couple of those super battle droids would be a good start, and do you remember that one droid you tried to pawn off on me last time?”

“The BX commando?” Malabo grinned. “Changed your mind huh?”

“It’s come to my attention my ship needs better security, so yes, I’ve changed my mind. And throw in a few remote probes. I can’t spend all my time with a battle droid leading me by the hand.”

“Alright, nothing too complicated there. But for that you could have ordered ahead. You said you had two orders. What’s the other one?”

Nok’s face hardened. “I want a Leash.”

Malabo was perfectly silent for a long moment. “You serious?”


“And...you understand…”

“Yes. I know how illegal it is. I don’t care.”

“...Alright, then when do you-”

“Now,” Nok cut him off. “I brought the subject with me. He’s injured, but he should survive the surgery. A givin, if that helps.”

“Now? I don’t know Omni…”

“I’ll pay your expeditation fee. I don’t care what it takes. I want this givin on a Leash today.”

“...Well okay then. Bring him inside.”

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There in the cool stillness of the deactivated ship, Frond's mind swam in the endless seas of The Force, he sought to connect with his brother, Kel Koon. Even as he knew that The Force was capable of such things, a portion of Frond's soul doubted that he possessed the willpower to make such a connection happen. When a sudden spark of energy lurched between the two distant bodies, binding them as one in the moment, Frond was pleased, if not somewhat surprised. He stood, a sentinel, watching as his own hand, guided by an outside force deftly flew over the console activating the ship. Kel Koon, he smiled, as the interior lights of the dimly lit cockpit came on with the hum of engines and equipment all around him.


Frond allowed his gratitude to flood through the connection towards Kel for his assistance. Frond still did not know how to fly the ship, but at least he was taking a step forwards to finding Ficcabin Yule and the worm that had taken him.


As the ship finished booting up, Frond looked down at the console, a blipping light indicated that something was leaving the planet. Not being versed in starship communications or technology as a whole, Frond had no way of knowing that he was watching the ship's sensors alert him to a ship leaving the planet, much less that it was that belonging to Nok Morliss. Still, Frond felt a faint sense that Ficcabin Yule was drawing further and further away from him. He had told Kel, but would the other Jedi listen to another apprentice? If his knowledge of the Jedi of old was correct, padawans and the like were sometimes paid little heed depending on who might be listening and how attuned the receiver ws to the will of The Force.


"Stone falls in silence

A single ear is needed

The message is heard"


he mused to himself as he stared down at the console, willing a solution to present itself. by The Force's will it did. a blinking light illuminated itself and like a curious youngling, Frond was a little too eager to depress the flashing blue button. What played next was the message that summoned all Jedi to Borleais, as it played out, Frond nodded listening. He had other things to worry about at the moment, but if anything it was good to know. As the message ended, a warm smile crossed Frond's face. he did not need to know much about technology to understand what the small 3-dimensional blued figure was saying. All he needed to do was press the same button again to send a response. True, Frond was not sure who it would go to, but it was another means of communicating with the world outside of his ship.


Pressing the button, Frond stared at where the hologram had been moments before, before he spoke, trusting in the will of The Force to deliver his message to the right people.

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  • 3 weeks later...

At last, Kel had exited hyper space and found himself in the Garn system along the outer rim. he traveled through the system until he had found the planet for which the system was named for. the planet was full of barren landscapes colored a putrid and sickly yellow fog. kel detached the ship from its hyper space ring, and descended to the world below. As he descended to the planet came across what could only be described as a forest of rot and decay. Though for such things to exist would mean that the world still desperately clung to life. Such is the balance of life and death. As his fellow Padawan Frond would say, it is the force as it wills.


Kel's trusty astromech R5-N7, picked up a transmission signal from an active ship. no doubt, this was the very ship that Frond and Ficcabin had used to come all the way out here. Frond must have figured out how to transmit a signal. "R5, lock on to the source of that transmission." the droid beeped in the affirmative and kel steered the ship in the direction that the signal originated from.



At long last, Kel had found the ship belonging to his brother in arms. Kel deployed the landing gear on his ship and began the process of landing the ship. once it was safely on the ground, Kel opened the cockpit hatch and practically leaped on to solid ground. Kel walked up to the ship and stood before the door to the ship's interior. "Hey Frond, It's Kel. Open up, the air here stinks so bad that i'd rather be on felucia without my breathing mask!"

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  • 1 month later...

Frond? Frond open up!" still no response Kel tried sensing his fellow jedi through the force, but was shocked to find he had simply vanished. what in the world is going on here? as if to answer his question, he received a transmission from master Vos stating that both Frond and Ficcabin gone into the force and to return to his ship. "Understood. I'll meet you up in orbit and follow you." Kel gazed at the ship's entry way briefly before slamming his fist upon the metal door. "I'm sorry. I should've gone with you."

After that Kel boarded his ship and returned to outer space where he reconnected with his ship's hyperspace ring and flew out to Join master Tobias and company for their next task.

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  • 10 months later...


Ban hadn't been to this planet yet, but he'd heard of it before. Nice place, much like Corellia, or at least the rural areas of Corellia. Shili had its cities and settlements, but not some of the radical urbanite development that some of the more central galactic planets had. 

He stepped down the boarding ramp into the sand, looking around.

"So...where are we, exactly?"

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Kari smiled almost gleefully as her gaze shifted around, spreading her arms out as if she almost wanted to yell the thumping she felt in her chest as she stretched out her small toes in the sand that had risen from their landing. Just ahead of them was a small mountain range with a hut at its foot, the grass nearly as they were surrounding their sides and rear. Kari simply pointed in the direction of the small hut which mirrored in the distance just barely upon the horizon. Her worda escaped with both excitement as well as dread, perplexing as she uttered them. "We're home."


On the outside, Kari mimicked a small girl returning home after a long trip that took her across many worlds, lapping up the smells, taste, and sight of home. But on the inside, there was hesitation, gloom, and weariness, like someone who returned to a darkened manor full of horror and spirits of the past. And in truth, it was both for her. Motioning Ban to follow, Kari slowly made the half hour walk to the hut.


The hut sat in shambles when they arrived, much like it did when Kari and Faust came nearly a decade ago. As she approached the door to turn its handle, Ban could easily see her unwillingness. But despite this, she turned the knob and the door opened. The abandoned hut upon entry, sat a room to the left that held memoirs of Kari's past, mostly dusted pictures of Angela and what appeared to be their mother, none of them containing Kari or Tori and both standing alone. Kari's gaze barely adverted to it as she moved deeper inside, a room to the right past the living area that had been left untouched for nearly a century aside from the single impression that was left by Kari's former Master, his own dusted over since. And in the back stood a door with a lock dangling open, Kari's gaze fixated upon it.


She stood before the door for what felt like hours, her breathing labored by the emotions she fought to withhold, tears still managing to fall before she finally reached her hand out to open it and reveal its dungeon. Like the other two rooms, it was dusted over as if it hadn't been touched in many years, the sun barely shining through the boarded windows. But what separated this one from the others was the cage within that replaced where a bed should have been. Bending down, Kari reached her hand out and slowly slid her fingers across its metallic frame before unlatching it and letting its door swing open before she stood back up and walked back outside. It was evident that a part of Kari did not want to be walking down memory lane, but there was also the part that knew it was a path she must walk if she was to figure out her sister's purpose. Outside in the fresh air, Kari was frantic in her pacing, running her fingers across her montrals and headdress before grasping at her mouth to fight back the tears. Kari may appear strong willed and full of purpose. But this place always held a deep emotional scar and imbalance within her, and it was noticeable.


Taking deep breaths, Kari slowed her pace and looked off toward the mountains, distinctly the caverns that ran beneath it, the nexus within swirling with darkness that even the local fauna could feel. Turning to Ban, Kari questioned him, speaking for the first time, her voice slightly trembling with the emotions she was still fighting. "Do you feel it?" 


One could see why she had always worn boots, stifling her connection with both nature and her emotions that ran through her roots upon Shili. And in her barefooted state, the connection had returned with gusto, flooding her form with its entirety. But Kari felt the urge to feel it, to know it once again, and in return, become one with again. But this also posed a dangerous opposition for her, her hand tightly gripping the Sith Mask in secret through the lid of her satchel. "The nexus has grown unnatural."

"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - C.G. Jung


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  • 5 weeks later...

"Do you feel it?"

Ban felt like the half hour walk had been unnecessary, as there were several closer spots they likely could have parked the ship. However, it was likely that it would have taken some skill to pull off, which spoke mildly to Kari's piloting abilities. He still said nothing about it, there really was no need to. He could use the exercise anyways, and the views had been nice. Like she had said, the Force was strong with this place, thick in the air to the point it was like he was swimming in it. He felt...stronger. But it wasn't him, it was the Force. Ban had never been to a place like this before.

"You say it is unnatural, but my master used to say 'natural is subjective.' What might be natural for us might not be natural for someone else. If you mean do I feel the influence of the Dark side...then...yes. It's subtle, but it's there. I was not trained to know the darkness as an enemy, but rather a wild animal. If you understand it well enough you can prevent it from harming you, dangerous as it is. I am not a servant of the darkness, but it in and of itself is not my enemy. Light and Dark, the Force is as one, tying us all together and providing the current that changes the face of the galaxy as we know it."

He looked at the mask she held, then back to the rest of the hut, something still not quite feeling right.

"Still...the servants of the darkness are another matter. From your tone I take it it's not supposed to be like this here. The influences of those who would wish malice on others are hard to tell until they strike. What about this place feels unnatural to how you remember it? Perhaps we can uncover some of your mystery here and now."

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"Darkness and Light are but two sides of the same coin, existing within the nature of every living creature. It's as much a part of the Force as it is with you and I." Kari spoke, her gaze fixated upon the mountainous range and the caverns that ran below it, the catacombs where her people had buried their dead for millennia upon millennia. However, it was severely evident that what she felt was against the laws of the natural order, the Togruta curling and expanding her toes in a repetitive fashion.


"I cannot put in words the unnatural aura that I feel, only that I feel it, cold and crepid as it may be." Kari shifted her gaze back to Ban, a look of hesitation and subtle fear in her eyes. "It is familiar, yet unknown. And it calls to me, asking me to come to the Catacombs. I won't deny that it scares me, Ban, a sense of fear that I have never felt before in either life I have lived."


Yet despite the fear and unease that Kari felt, both she and Ban knew it was going to lead them straight down the rabbit hole so to speak, and while they still could turn around right now and leave, it would plague Kari worse than even her past two lives ever could. As Ban was left to briefly ponder on her words and what emanated from within, Kari's gazed shifted back toward the Catacombs, small bumps rising up upon her soft orange skin as her emotional state made her vulnerable to the fear she felt. Perhaps she wasn't ready to truly face what laid ahead of her, but she still had to tread forward even if Ban chose not to follow. But if he did, perhaps because he was there, she might just overcome it.  Perhaps this was why the Force brought the two together.


"I am going in." Kari spoke without looking back, her fists clenched despite the trembling that engulfed them. "Prepare yourself if you follow, and remember my words of Ventras. She is a Master of Illusion and Manipulation. There is no telling what traps lay ahead of us."


And with that, Kari began her trek down a long winding crevasse behind the hut that delved into the mountain's side and led to a large cavern just inside it. It was there that the entrance to catacombs would be found, and at its heart, the nexus.

"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - C.G. Jung


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Ban thought about what she said as he watched her leave the hut. For a moment, he considered going in unarmed, knowing that illusions often were only dangerous in that they caused people to hurt themselves. But he was Kosai, a servant of the Living Force. If he stayed true to himself, and to the Force, then they would safely find their way through whatever obstacles were in their path. 


Shaking his head of the doubt, he started after her at a brisk pace, intending to catch up. He couldn't let her go through whatever waited for her alone. It was not his purpose. Wordlessly, he followed.

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For Kari, the crevasse was familiar and full. But for Ban, it would likely be a dark and dank cave littered with bugs, humidity, molds, and algae. Basically any old cave he would trek through. But this passage had been trek more times than could be counted by Kari's people, a holy and sacred place where they buried their dead with hopes that their souls would rejoin the Force that gives life to all. But as they grew closer to the cavern within, an unnatural aura would begin to surround them and attempt to persuade them.


Kari walked with slight fear in her heart, and it seemed to grow as their trek drew them closer. However, it wasn't the aura that Kari seemed to notice, but it was something darker that laid deeper within, a power not of this world. Some would call it a scar, others would call it a wound. But the tear in reality that laid at the entrance only spoke of the unnatural feeling that Kari had spoken of earlier, something that her former Master was great at creating.


But this wasn't a creation of Faust, at least not intentionally. No this held the presence of another, a presence very similar to that of Kari's own, only more sinister. Kari stops briefly, the echoing voices calling at her name in unison as they neared the cavern's entrance. At first, she seemed spooked by it, but in a brief second, a happier aura emerged from within her and she dashed toward it.


"Mother? Angela?" She questioned as she darted ahead, tears flowing from her eyes leaving their imprints upon the stones that surrounded her in her dash. But what laid in the cavern wasnt possible, at least not in the natural order. For as Kari came into the opening of the large cavern, with it's natural display of light that reached in through the cavern's open ceiling, sat Angela and Kari's mothers rotted forms upon the pool of water that collected the rain. Kari gasped and screamed. "No Tori. What have you done?"


It seemed Tori wasn't just a Master of Illusions.

"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - C.G. Jung


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The scene was grisly. Ban could feel the influence of the Darkness here, seeping against the light as it tended to do. This was not a natural balance like he had tried to calm her into thinking it was. Someone had done this, perverted the natural order to corrupt the light and enhance the influence of the Darkness, using that influence for...well, Ban could only guess, but it was rarely good.

For a moment, he let her weep. It was good to let her grieve, to have the moment to understand the pain and accept the loss. From what she'd told him on the ship, it wouldn't be a foreign process to her, but that didn't mean she would be any more comfortable with it. When the moment passed, he somberly stepped forward, placing a hand on her shoulder, reinforcing her grief with his own connection to the Force.

"Come. We can give them a proper burial. Honor them as your people would have wanted them to be. It's the least we can do right now. This place may be steeped in Darkness, but you heal scars...you don't meditate on them or allow them to control and define you. We should allow this scar to heal."

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Kari could hear his words, feel his serene sincerity, and nodded in agreement. But as she took a step forward, the rotting carcasses of Angela and Lynn both stood, arms reaching out as they called upon Kari. Kari, frozen by fear and want, could do nothing as they made their approach, tears flowing from the Togruta's eyes even as they embraced her, the feel of their rotted flesh upon her skin sickening her and yet she still could not move.


"Join us Kari." They spoke in unison, their voices like whispers upon the wind as they crossed the veil into the living world. "Come with us. Tori awaits us. We will be a family again."


"No!" Kari shouted in disgust and anger, her shout reeling with the Force as it shoved her mother and sister backwards, her sobbing hindering her thoughts and her heart breaking as her gaze fell upon them. "You're dead. You're all dead. Please. Rest in peace."


But despite her pleas, despite the begging she gave and the ache she longed for to return them to their graves, she couldn't, nor did they relent upon their calls to her and their reaches for her form. And all Kari could do was sob, one hand on her aching chest while the other grasped at her forehead. For most, this simple sight would be enough to drive them mad. But for Kari, it was worse. It was driving her to the point of wishing her own death just so she didn't have to choose. Despite what her mother and sister had done to her in life, they were family, and because of that, she loved them dearly, long forgiving them in her heart.


"Come Kari. Step through the wound." Angela whispered into her ear, a subtle caress of Kari's montrol. Lynn leaned over, kissing Kari's forehead like a dutiful mother would, only causing Kari even more pain as she had ached for such a thing her entire life. "Let us join Tori on the other side, like Lusef intended."


As Lynn spoke these words, a cold aura set upon the atmosphere around them, chilling the air nearly into crystals. Kari's sobbing quit, her form limber as her gaze lit with fire. The two rotting corpses squealed with unfelt pain as the twin indigo tonfas blazed to life through their forms before they slunk to the ground, seemingly lifeless once again. 


Her tone was void as she spoke, as was her emotions, as she stood there in her stillness, her gaze as lifeless as the two at her feet as it shifted past the wound and into the chamber beyond. "What did you say?"

"People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own souls. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious." - C.G. Jung


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Now this was something unlike Ban had ever witnessed before. He'd heard of the Dark side manifesting in such a manner, but they were always rumors that came off more like urban legends than actual truths. But reanimation of corpses? This had to be the work of a powerful Sith. That was the only real explanation in his mind.

"Lusef. You said that name before. Wasn't he the Sith that trained you as he masqueraded as a Jedi?"

He found his lightsaber hilts in his hands but restrained himself from activating them, there was simply no need to at that moment. Kari had neutralized the threat posed by the reanimants, or at least it seemed she had. Ban was keen to keep his wits about him should another threat present itself, but there wasn't any other immediate danger.

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