A big thank you to our Mar'Zambul sparring partners:
Aldrouk Grandaun | Ryv | Cedric Grayson | Vexander Graves | Rhook Mandragoran
With the collapse of the Croke Reach, no major spacefaring powers remained in the space directly adjacent to the Brotherhood of the Maw's domain. The closest significant threat was the Chiss Ascendancy, to the galactic northeast, but they had not yet taken much notice of the (still relatively distant) Brotherhood. Still, the Dark Voice was determined to stamp out any potential threat to their base of operations before beginning their campaign of terror against known space, and even minor powers came to its attention. As a result, its wicked gaze fell upon the fledgling Ardandulaniux Empire, a militaristic tribal society that dominated the arid wasteland planet of Mar'Zambul.
The Empire was the governing body of the Gundanbard, a vicious and warlike race dedicated to the worship of their battle god Jendu. Given the clear similarity in desire for blood and conquest between the Brotherhood and the Gundanbard, many of the Heathen Priests were in favor of exploring the possibility of an alliance, incorporating the powerful aliens into their ranks as they had with the Lugubraa. A delegation was dispatched to negotiate with the representatives of the Empire, soon arriving at Mar'Zambul's capital city, Zambul'Tacris. The negotiations, however, were short. The Gundanbard proved stubborn and utterly uninterested in an alliance.
Seeing the Maw's dark faith as an affront to Jendu and His living representative, the Dark Lord Aldrouk Grandaun, Gundanbard clerics passed judgement upon the Heathen Priests. In an act that the Brotherhood viewed as unforgivable blasphemy, the aliens murdered the head of the delegation, Dark Father Baaluk. Furious, the Dark Voice immediately laid an edict of extermination against the Gundanbard. By his command, Mar'Zambul should be cleansed of life, its temples to Jendu torn down, its worshippers silenced, and its resources turned to serving the Brotherhood and its campaign against the wider galaxy. The marauders scrambled to obey.
The Brotherhood's invasion fleet immediately took up a position over Mar'Zambul, and dispatched a huge contingent of troops to capture the planet's capital city of Zambul'Tacris. The ground war, however, soon proved challenging. In facing the hulking Gundanbard, far larger and more powerful than any human and trained for battle almost since birth, the marauders of the Maw found that they had met their match. With equal savagery and ferocity displayed by both sides, the battle swung back and forth repeatedly, with every inch of ground between the landing zones and the dark city stained with blood over and over again as lines shifted.
Adding to the brutality of the struggle was the intervention of the New Jedi Order. Since the raid on Jakku, which had briefly imprisoned several Jedi from the local enclave, multiple Jedi Masters had become aware of the threat that the Brotherhood represented. They soon began to fight back by any means necessary. Emboldened by the success of their rescue during the battle over Crakull, a Jedi strike team arrived on Mar'Zambul to fight back against the invasion. Among them was famed Jedi Guardian Rhook Mandragoran, who managed - through a classically Jedi combination of philosophy and force of arms - to recruit a tribe of Gundanbard to his side.
Mandragoran's "Legion of the Lightsworn" was aided by Ryv, the Sword of the Jedi, and by two Masters who had previously faced down the Brotherhood: Cedric Grayson and Vexander Graves, veterans of the rescue from Gehinnom. Together they fought their way toward the center of the Brotherhood lines, attempting to reach the Heathen Priests directing the Maw's forces. Although they had no direct contact, and certainly no formal alliance, with the Dark Lord Aldrouk Grandaun, they aided his efforts to defend his planet tremendously. Grandaun himself took the field at the head of his armies, demonstrating his terrible power against the marauders.
Fighting hard, the Jedi strike team actually managed to reach the location of the Dark Voice itself, where it and its heathen priests were overseeing a dark force ritual to sway the tide of the battle. However, they immediately found themselves beset on all sides, with Maw Warlords and Knights of Ren emerging from the shadows to force them back. For his part, Grandaun came face to face with crazed alchemist Tegan Starfall, a master witch, who battled him to a standstill. None of these foes were able to prevent the Brotherhood from completing its ritual, unleashing the power of a potent Dark Force nexus upon Zambul'Tacris.
With the ritual complete, unholy strength suffused the Brotherhood marauders, and the tide turned decisively. Both Grandaun's forces and the Legion of the Lightsworn were forced back, and the survivors were ultimately forced into a tactical retreat. Grandaun withdrew, intending to gather the lost Gundanbard hordes hidden in the furthest reaches of the Unknown Regions before returning to reclaim his empire. The Jedi also fell back, having substantially slowed the Maw's conquest... but having proven unable to fully stop it. Still, the battlefields of Mar'Zambul were littered with the Brotherhood's dead. This had been their most costly victory yet.
In the wake of the battle, the Brotherhood consolidated its gains and licked its wounds. Deep space shipyards were constructed to bolster the invasion fleet, and no new attacks were launched for some time as new slave-soldiers, warbeasts, and clones from the vats of Gehinnom were trained to refill their depleted ranks. Still, the fall of Mar'Zambul represented a significant milestone for the Maw: they had conquered the last local threat. Most of the systems adjacent to their newly-secured territory were uninhabited, and those that had been colonized were largely peaceful societies without the substantial militaries needed to challenge the Brotherhood.
Soon, the Maw could strike out from the safe haven it had forged to bring devastation to the wider galaxy...