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A Storm of Fangs and Fear

In the mind of he who wandered about the rolling sands, very few in the Galaxy knew what it meant to be truly lost. This opinion was not born of the fact that Isley Verd, a Mandalorian, was wandering about the wasteland known as Tatooine; but something much more. Over the course of his lifetime, he had walked a convoluted path. Once he was a proud warrior of Mandalore: a son whose heart burned with a ferocity and loyalty to the people who reared him. Yet with time came changes and confusion. In the wake of his imprisonment and the subsequent revelation that his entire world had changed...well, it was only natural that he changed as well. Isley no longer felt as if he belonged, and then began to walk a darker path.

Goaded by promises uttered from the lips of a Sith, Isley briefly adopted the alias Dar'jetii...and it was under this name that he dove into the Dark Side of the Force. He allowed it to take root within his heart and to saturate every fiber of his being until he could not even recognize himself. In the wake of the promising, Mandalorian youth was a monster, born and bred by the Darkness. To wrest him from the clutches of the black that stained his very soul, it took feelings that confused Isley to no end. A woman, married no less, who had befriended him to the point of trusting him with her life. This friendship, at least as far as he was concerned, grew into feelings that he would dare not utter to anyone; and was enough to begin dragging him to the Light, for that was what she was.

And the end result was one confused man.

He was Mandalorian by birth and blood, a warrior to the very core; but he was also a Forceborn warrior of Light. At least, so he thought and desired. No matter how close he walked to the Light, he could feel the tug of the Darkness in his heart. With every kill, with every moment of emotion, he could feel the Dark Side tugging at him essence. It was maddening to say the least: to be tugged between two paths. And so, for this very reason, the Mandalorian was compelled to get away from it all and just...wander. He needed to find himself again. He needed to understand who the hell Isley Verd was, because at this very moment, he didn't understand anymore! As such, he selected the most desolate place he could think of, Tatooine, and began walking; with no destination in sight.

Finally, after what seemed hours, Isley came to rest under the shade of a rock formation. His helm was deposited upon the dusty earth and he indulged in several gulps of water from his canteen. Once quenched, he took a moment to center himself and to lull his eyes to a close. He began to wander in a different direction: in the Force. The Mandalorian reached out to the enigmatic entity which resided deep within him, and all around him simultaneously, and began to allow its presence to fill and wash over him. Like a mighty tide, the Force crashed down upon him; filling him to the brim absolutely until he began to ask himself the questions that plagued his mind. 'Who am I? What...am I doing? Why?' he'd cry out into the void...and in response an answer, posed as a question, was said.

'What are you afraid of?'
To say the very least, the voice shocked the living hell out of Isley to the point where he damn near leapt out of his skin. His eyes snapped open, but he saw nothing but sand, rocks, and dust...but upon closing his eyes, he truly saw. With the connection to the Force still heavy upon him, the Mandalorian could clearly see an "apparition" with the eye of his mind; and its form caused Isley to literally gape. There, before him...was himself! The Forceborn image of Isley strode forth with not a care in the world and came to a halt only a few steps away from him; a sneer characterizing his face. "Look at you...Pathetic..." he spat; the sneer quickly contorting into a rather angry expression. Isley compelled himself to stand and could not believe what his "eyes" were showing him; and he remained silent as the Apparition began to pace before him.

"Look at you, sitting out in a Force-forsaken desert, crying out like a lost dog. 'Who am I? What am I doing? Why?' Boohoo, man up dammit." he began, folding his arms across his chest expectantly. This was not, to say the least, anything remotely close to anything Isley had expected. Sure, he had zero expectations coming into the desert...but he did not anticipate being lectured by himself. The thought alone made him contemplate whether or not he was just delirious from the heat, to which the Apparition laughed; obviously being able to hear his thoughts. "Oh no, I can assure you, this is no mere dream born of the heat. You came here begging for answers, and here I am. Who are you, Isley Verd? Do you even have to ask?!"

"You're so karking confused, torn between feeling for a married woman and doing that which makes you feel alive. Let me enlighten you!" said the Apparition, rearing back a fist. Before Isley could react, he was met with a solid uppercut to the jaw; one that did not physically sting, but brought back a flood of memories as he slumped to the ground. Surrounded...on all sides by Stormtroopers, in the midst of a Star Destroyer's hangar...yet while Death was literally inches away, what did Isley do? He uppercut a Sith. Following that, he walked the path of Darkness, slaying and subjugating in the name of the Empire. "Who are you, Isley? You're a murderer. You're a killer. You're a cold-blooded, black-hearted warrior who always gets the job done; and if Death is the only payment, you go out with a bang."

"Yet here you are, sad and confused? Think about it Isley, where is your home. Who are you. What are you?" he demanded, squatting before his fallen counterpart. Isley couldn't believe what he was seeing, nor could he stop his mind from working. Did he truly feel satisfaction in the...liberation jobs he ran with the Archon and the smuggler? Did he truly feel alive whilst diving into Monster-infested pits? Or did he feel alive whenever he took a life...The answer was obvious, and the Mandalorian couldn't deny it. The Apparition was right; and it took nothing short of the Force screaming at him to get the point across. He was a killer, and a damn good one at that, and the only time he felt alive was when there was blood on his hands; or damn close to it.

Hearing his innermost thoughts and feelings once more, the Apparition cracked a smile. "You know what you are, good, now decide...What are you going to do about it? You're no damn lackey to the Empire, nor are you some glory drunk buffoon with the Light's tit in his mouth...Tell me, right now Isley, now that you know that you're a creature of the Dark, what are you going to do?" Could Isley even think as to what the "correct" answer was? Yes...Yes he could. He was a creature of the Dark, born of war and blood; yet he was too afraid to live up to that. He wasn't like the others of his people, ever seeking glory. Nor was he like those of the Empire, driven by ambition and a desire to subjugate. Isley simply...wanted to feel alive...and for him, life was in the Darkness...But what of the Archon?

What of the Light?
"The Light is but a fool's errand...you seek to walk a Path in the hopes of capturing the affections of one whose heart is claimed..." said the Apparition, speaking oh so true. Isley seethed and bore his teeth out of sheer frustration. It wasn't his fault that he was feeling this way; but as the aggravation surged through him, the being before him only smirked with amusement. "Be honest with yourself Isley. Even before you began walking the path of a Forceborn, you didn't think twice about the Light. T'was only through being exposed to an actual woman that you cared...You spent years, teenage years into adulthood, locked up as a prisoner. You never learned what it was like to be around a woman; and you know this. So you build your life around the first real woman you meet...Knock that poodoo off already and grow the kark up."

Another reality check. It was as if all the things that Isley had locked away in the back of his head were starting to rear up and confront him. Shakily, he returned to his feet and looked himself in the eye, saying nothing as the Apparition continued to speak. "You know what your Path is...it's right here." he said, motioning to the ground. This caused Isley to raise an eyebrow out of sheer "what the kark?" and so the manifestation elaborated. "Your Path is right here, in Confederate space. They took you in and taught your sorry arse about the Force, and alongside them, you'll have plenty of days where you'll feel alive...Isley, you've been too damn afraid to live. It's as if being locked up broke something fundamental inside you. You know what true fear is: fear of being yourself."

"Each day, you look in the mirror and you are too afraid to accept what stares back...well, you came to this Force forsaken desert in order to find out what the kark to do with yourself. This is it man! Be Isley Verd. Be the bloodthirsty soldier you were meant to be. Don't leave this karking desert the same, confused welp you were. Leave a man: a man unafraid to be himself." he said, reaching out to place his hand upon Isley's shoulder. The moment he made contact, a shudder ran down the length of his spine and Isley's eyes snapped open...he was sitting down; hell, he had never gotten up. The Force had hit him so hard that he saw all of this, but didn't move. The Mandalorian took a second to take stock of all that had happened, and even questioned if it was a heat dream yet again...But it wasn't.

He knew damn well it wasn't. "So, this is what I am." he said finally, reaching out to his canteen once more. It was going to take some getting used to, this whole "self- acceptance" thing...but at least something had become of the walk into the desert. Isley wasn't going to be a confused wreck any longer. He knew what his Path was and who he was...now, it was time to actually do something with that information. He indulged in a sip of his canteen once more, reveling in the rush of cool water down his throat whilst he contemplated where to go from there...but as he drank, a rather large shadow cast itself over the formation Isley leaned against. There was the din of claws scraping stone and of scales dragging against dust...With but a look up, the Mandalorian was introduced to rows of razor sharp teeth, dangling hungrily only a meter or so above his head.

"Oh, you gotta be karking kidding."
T'was if Mother Nature, or perhaps the Galaxy itself, had a sick sense of humor; and Isley was the butt of the joke. After what could only be described as a life-changing experience, the Mandalorian was confronted with the maw of a fully grown, fully hungry, fully karking dangerous Krayt Dragon. There was a moment of disbelief that crossed the Mandalorian's mind, followed by a literal second of awe; for he had never seen one of the creatures up close and personal before. However, the time for staring at the beast quickly passed and Isley dove forward, grabbing his helm in the process, just before the beast's head lurched forward in the hopes of grabbing a quick meal. Fortunately, Isley was relatively quick on his feet and tucked into a roll before coming to a halt facing his new adversary.

While most sane members of the Galactic community would respond with a mad dash for the hills, the Mandalorian was born and bred to respond differently. Where others would turn tail and retreat, Isley would stand and fight. He stared down an entire den of Rakghouls, an entire ship of Sithspawn, and an entire hangar of Stormtroopers; what harm could a scaly mongrel do? With said confidence characterizing his mind, the Mandalorian donned his helmet and reached into his holster, producing a pair of blaster pistols. Initially, he held them aloft, lining up shots upon the beast's limbs in hopes of slowing it down...but then a thought popped into his mind. Call it the fervor of battle, call it a bad idea, or anything in between; but Isley was compelled to take a different approach.

A Forceborn approach.

With the lecture about fear and identity still fresh within Isley's mind, he decided to reach out through the Force...and to hearken to the teachings of the Dark Side emparted to him by his mentor, Gregor. The former assistant to the former Emperor had instructed Isley in the ways of telepathy, and more importantly, mind trick...and had also spoken to him about the possibilities of telepathic combat. Through the Force, there was the potential to utilize the emotion of Fear as a weapon and cause even the strongest enemies to quake in their boots. There was, quite literally, no time like the present in the Mandalorian's mind; and as such he allowed the Force to saturate every fiber of his being before reaching out to the beast rapidly clawing its way to him.

Whilst jogging back in order to keep plenty of space between them, the Mandalorian's hand raised to his helm and instinctively the fingertips of his offhand touched his temple. This was a focusing maneuver, nothing more, that assisted Isley in projecting the telepathic assault where he wanted. Then, with a grunt of effort, he allowed the Force to surge forth from him like a mighty wave. He assaulted the feeble mind of the Krayt Dragon with all his might and, despite the fact that it was non-sentient, the flood of instincts were quite a daunting thing to overcome. In fact, Isley could barely begin to chip away at the raging beast's mental fortitude before he needed to duck out of the way of claws and rush back in order to put more distance between them. Once he was safe behind the cover of an adjacent rock formation, Isley tried once more...
To be perfectly honest, the Mandalorian felt as though his battle against the Krayt Dragon was an uphill climb. No matter how many times he attempted to batter away at the mind of the best, it kept on coming; it simply would not succumb to his telepathic assaults! The contest of strengths was as if he were swinging a tree branch against the trunk of a tree...However, despite the fact that the beast did not immediately succumb to his attempts to project fear upon it; the challenge did not affect Isley's morale at all. In fact, the difficulty of besting the beast only seemed to add to the smirk growing underneath the Mandalorian's visor! "Come on ya bastard, why aren't you scared poodoo-less yet?" he growled, once more abandoning cover behind a rock structure in order to keep distance between them.

However, as his rapid footsteps bore him into the shade of another stone formation, a realization struck the Mandalorian like a brick wall. Thus far, he had been projecting the emotion of fear upon the beast as he understood it; and was being battered back by the Krayt Dragon's instinctual fortitude because of it...if he were to strike fear into a beast accustomed to being at the apex of its foodchain, he would have to get a wee bit more creative with the way he assaulted the creature. As such, he took a moment to contemplate what exactly a Krayt Dragon would fear...but quickly changed direction into a more broad train of thought. Isley knew from the telepathic strikes he had launched that instinct characterized the beast, so he would have to project something much more instinctual.

He would have to project a more primal fear upon the beast.

Armed with this resolve, Isley dove out of cover once more and sprinted to the nearest rock formation, making absolutely certain to place additional sums of distance between him and the hungry beast. Then, once he had crouched down upon the dusty earth, he began to focus even harder than before. Through the Force, he began to muster the most base expression of fear that he possibly could. He focused upon the one thing that both man and beast alike feared: Death, and projected it using his own form as the focal point. Like a well-aimed arrow finding the chink in an enemy's armor, so too did this tactic penetrate the instinctual walls thrown up by the Krayt Dragon; and once it rounded the corner in order to swipe its claws at Isley again, it was met with an uncharacteristic chill in its bones.

Thump. Thump. Thump. The heart beat of the beast began to quicken as its wrathful eyes gazed down upon the Mandalorian. It was beyond confused as the young warrior focused the entirety of his mental fortitude upon the task; and judging from the response, it was working! Slowly but surely, the Fear that Isley projected upon the beast was one of killing intent. Though small and having been on the defensive for the entirety of the "fight", simply looking upon the Mandalorian chilled the bones of the Krayt Dragon and caused its limbs to tremble. It was damn near rooted on the spot, save for the fact that its claw was already raised to strike and came raking down out of desperation. Isley ducked, tucked, and rolled, before jogging off to the next rock formation; satisfaction plastered upon his face.
For the Mandalorian, the struggle he waged against the Krayt Dragon's mind was much akin to a prospector swinging his pickaxe at a mountain. While the individual, telepathic attempts to overcome the beast's primal instincts with the essence of fear did not succeed...he was successful in wittling down the resiliance of his opponent. Each strike, strong and true, wore heavily upon the Krayt Dragon's mental fortitude; and Isley was relentless in his assault. He was much akin to a fencer, swiftly impaling a target over and over again with quick, well-placed strikes. This process of striking, retreating, and striking again repeated for what felt like a small eternity...until finally a resolute crack formed in the rock of the mountain. This crack manifested itself as a grand shudder which ran the length of the Krayt Dragon's body; and in the wake of its appearance, Isley smirked.

The Fear was beginning to settle in.

However, now was not the time to revel in his minute victory. No, now was the time to strike with as much force and fury as he could! Despite the mental exhaustion that was slowly creeping upon him, and despite of the raging heat of the sun beating down upon them both, Isley continued his telepathic onslaught. With each ferocious blow against the beast's mind, it flinched again and again; until finally it no longer boldly advanced. In fact, the Krayt Dragon halted completely...and Isley felt the walls crumbling at his touch. There was no more resistance to be had, and with one final blow, the Mandalorian introduced a being accustomed to being on top of its food chain to Fear. He saturated the beast's mind with the emotional response, causing the pace of its heart to quicken, its muscles to tremble, and ultimately for it to begin to back away.

Snap. Hiss.

At this moment, Isley reached for the saber upon his utility belt and slid his finger over the power. At his touch, the blood crimson blade erupted into existence and the Mandalorian held it aloft; in no particular stance. Of course, this was simply a tactic to maximize the crippling Fear which now plagued the Krayt Dragon's mind...and the tactic worked. A shriek escaped its mouth and its hulking form continued its backwards retreat...until it ran into a rock formation. There was nowhere left to run, nowhere left to hide, and out of sheer terror the beast filled the air with yet another shriek.

"Fret not. This shall be swift."

And so it was, for Isley moved as quick as his body would allow him. As he moved, the Krayt Dragon continued to shriek...and then there was silence, for the killing blow was struck. It was brutal, and rather neatly placed: a saber through the bottom of the jaw and straight up into the skull. For several seconds, the only sound which could be heard was the hum of Isley's lightsaber as its blade the flesh about it...but then he yanked it free and stepped back. The Krayt Dragon slumped over and crashed upon the ground with a sizeable thud. Of course, by now, Isley had relinquished his grasp upon the Force and was catching his breath. He had taken a tremendous risk, but the end result was worth it. And now it was time to reap the rewards. According to what he knew, there were pearls of some sort inside these beasts, so he may as well claim them.

Not bad for an afternoon in the Desert.
There was nothing out of the ordinary about the trip that Jacques Cavill was taking. As per the usual, he set out in his refurbished vessel in order to seek any and all remnants of the past that would serve to augment his knowledge and power. As of late, nothing compared to the cache he had been granted by his recently-dethroned benefactor...but that did not change the fact that Jacques had a mission in mind. As such, he placed every one of his worldly belongings into the cargo hold of his freighter, revved the engines, and dove into hyperspace without another thought. This day in particular, the Sorcerer's search for tools of the past led him to follow yet another lead he had uncovered from the HoloNet. Sure, these sort of things were to be met with skepticism and a critical eye.

And having done as much, Jacques felt confident that there was some truth to this lead, thereby deciding his destination: Tatooine. Apparently, somewhere within the ocean of sand and rock formations were the ruins of a downed ship. T'was supposedly a transport vessel utilized by the ancient Sith Empire, and its cargo was something along the lines of a malevolent artifact. That was more than sufficient bait to draw the attention of the Sorcerer, and with but a few taps of his fingers upon the console of his freighter, the voyage began with a leap into Hyperspace. The initial hours spent betwixt and between, moving faster than the speed of light, were spent as typical: with meditation, sleep, and the watching of humorous videos on the HoloNet...

...and then there was an alarm which sounded...

Jacques dropped everything and looked upon the console in order to see what had gone wrong, only to learn that the Hyperdrive unit was failing. While this was not exactly the end of the world, there was immense danger in the fact that the faulty unit could literally drop him in the middle of nowhere, or worse. "Ah feth..." he groaned, gripping the wheel and looking to the navigational unit. By his rough estimate, he had just passed the border into Confederate space, and if the unit held up for just a little bit longer, he'd arrive at Tatooine and have the opportunity to commission repairs. However...fate was not in his favor this day, and the Hyperdrive unit sputtered out at the worst possible location: the Vergesso Asteroids. There was no time to panic, although his heart was drumming away in the midst of his throat.

The asteroids were relentless in the face of his freighter and, despite Jacques' best attempts at evasive maneuvers, scored blow after blow upon the hull of his vessel. He managed to avoid the larger, hulking asteroids; but it was the smaller ones that did the most damage. In time, even the engines began to sputter due to the volumes of damage; but that was when the Hyperdrive got its act together and began to function properly. Once Jacques managed to steer his vessel clear of the majority of the field, the Hyperdrive engaged once more and the Sorcerer breathed a sigh of relief. Yet the troubles he faced were just beginning, for once he was dropped out of Hyperspace into the orbit of Tatooine, the extent of the damage became clear.

He couldn't break, he could barely steer, and the ship's comm was all but eradicated. Down tumbled the freighter through the atmosphere like a burning comet, and Jacques did his absolute best to maintain control and to slow down. He raised the flaps, pulled up on the flight stick, and prayed to the Force for some shred of luck. There was a moment of silent terror as he helplessly plummeted to the earth...and then a sickening thud of durasteel meeting sand. Jacques was literally thrown out of the pilot's seat and across the ship, where his body collided with the cargohold door. A symphony of cracks sounded, blood spurted from his lips, and the fractured, broken form of Jacques Cavill slumped to the floor. His life, short and full of promise, had come to an end...all due to a karking ship.
In the wake of felling the Krayt Dragon, Isley had set about claiming that which was rightfully his: the pearls from its gullet. He did so through the elementary means of making a neat incision upon its stomach and fishing about utilizing telekinesis; for who wants dragon guts on their armor. After a few minutes of fumbling and rearranging innards, the Mandalorian was greeted by the sight of a duo of pearls, both red in hue, and promptly stowed them within one of his utility belt pouches. It was then that the din of failing engines and metal screaming through the sky caught his attention. He looked from whence the sound came and clearly saw that which was unfolding before his very eyes: a ship plummeting out of the sky.

There was absolutely nothing that the Mandalorian could do to liberate the vessel from its fate...and with a rather loud thud, it impacted the dunes. By his estimation, the crash site was less than a mile out; and more than warranted an investigation. There could be survivors, after all. As such, after taking a hearty swig from his canteen, Isley set out as quick as he could to the crash site; fueled by curiosity and adrenaline. The trek there took less than ten minutes, and upon arrival he immediately began the hunt for survivors. Through the utilization of the Force, he was able to telekinetically tear what remained of the rearmost doors off and braved the flaming wreckage. "Hello?!" he called, squinting through the smoke, "Is anyone alive?!"

Of course, there was no response, so Isley moved deeper within the vessel. Then, he reached the door to the cockpit and activated it with a touch of the side console...only to be greeted by the crumpled heap that was once Jacques Cavill. He crouched in order to feel for a pulse...and sadly, there was none. A sigh escaped his lips before the Mandalorian decided to rely upon that which he could do almost innately in order to decipher what all had happened! Rising to his feet, he placed a hand upon the console and awakened the ability known as Psychometry: through which he was able to see the mental images of the ship's recent history. He saw the crash, he saw the Hyperdrive unit failure, and he saw that there was nothing save the Sorcerer...and a cache of rather valuable objects...aboard.

This intrigued the Mandalorian immensely, so he stepped over to the cargo hold in order to investigate. A little elbow grease was applied in order to get the drawer to open, and the cache inside made Isley's eyes widen. There was the unmistakable form of datacrons, holocrons, scrolls, a pair of lightsabers, and a datapad...the latter of which he decided to look at first. The datapad was far from being locked tight, as its owner had casually stowed it before takeoff. With a few simple taps upon the surface of the screen, Isley interfaced his HUD and began a download of the contents within. As he did so, he skimmed that which scrolled before his eyes. There were translations of the scrolls, recorded sessions of the holocrons, and everything in-between. To say the least, Isley had hit the motherload.

The individual to whom this all belonged, one Jacques Cavill, was dead; and from the information about him within the datapad there was not much to go off of...He was a collector of sorts, but that was about it. As such, in light of the recent internal changes which had transpired within the Mandalorian, he felt no qualms about procuring a satchel from the ship's cargo hold and stuffing it full of all the valuables within the drawer. He then tapped upon the console that was installed upon his wrist, which reached out through the "magic" of unseen signals, in order to summon his personal ship from its resting place amongst the sands. The arrival took only a small span of time, and whilst waiting the Mandalorian drug the body out from the ship.

It was then that the armor he wore caught his attention; and while Isley had quite the beautiful suit of beskar'gam, he knew he could fetch a decent sum of credits for selling the deceased man's armor on the market. As such, once his ship touched down, he set his ill-gotten goods within the cockpit and set about stripping Jacques of his armor, leaving him all but naked on the sands. It was deplorable to say the least, but he sure as kark wasn't using it anymore. There wasn't anything left to do but leave, but not before covering his tracks. Isley delved into the ship to ascertain whether or not there were any recorders or anything of the sort; to which he learned there were not, then left in order to clear his footprints through the Force by sweeping dirt across them. From there, he made a mental note as to what the report should be.

Blame it on the Tuskens.