Register a free account today to become a member! Once signed in, you'll be able to participate on this site by adding your own topics and posts, as well as connect with other members through your own private inbox!
The SECOND GREAT HYPERSPACE WAR rages on between The Empire and The Brotherhood of The Maw, following the devastation of NIRAUAN at the hands of the villainous DARTH SOLIPSIS and THE MONGREL, The Empire seeks revenge on the insidious band of marauders.
TASK FORCE TRACHTA, led by Emperor RURIK FEL embarks toward the world of CSAUS, where the hidden sanctuary and citadel of the traitorous DARTH CAELITUS lies.
Seeking retribution for the devastation of NIRAUAN and the death of the IMPERATOR, The Empire conducts a surprise attack on CSAUS, leaving the MAW in a state of chaos as they struggle to strike in reprisal, turning the tide in a bloody conflict.
"The wicked flee when no man pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion."
Where the battles of Carlac and Nirauan demanded the entire defense apparatus of the New Imperial Order be called to battle, Csaus is a surprise attack conducted by the Empire. After seizing a New Sith Order landing shuttle from a raid aboard a New Imperial vessel, an Imperial Knight strike team aboard led by Rurik Fel careens into the Citadel Caelitus to set off the surprise attack before shortly after, the ground invasion forces led by Lord General Erskine Barran begin the assault toward the dark fortress.
IMPERIAL KNIGHTS vs NEW SITH ORDER
After seizing a New Sith Order shuttle following the Sith Knight Letifer’s attempted infiltration of an Imperial vessel, the Imperial Knights have seized control of it and modified it to utilize the clearance codes and signatures against the Brotherhood of the Maw. Embarking with a strike force of Imperial Knights, Rurik Fel commands the vessel to slip by the air control systems set in place around Citadel Caelitus before crashing the vessel head first into the dark fortress, letting the Knights of Order loose in a stronghold of chaos with the primary objective of finding and killing the traitor lord Darth Caelitus within his very keep, seeking revenge for the death of the late Imperator and for the desolation of Carlac and Nirauan, the New Order strikes in vengeance and the New Sith Order must meet them in equal brutality.
Minutes following the shock and awe of the Imperial Knights' abrupt surprise attack, Task Force Trachta deploys in opposition to the swelling tides of chaos once more. Leading a ground assault force of infantry, armored and starfighter corps elements, the Lord General of the Imperial Army leads them through the breach once more with the war machine of the Empire creeping toward the daunting Citadel Caelitus through blood stained snow step by step as the maniacal mind of The Mongrel scrambles to the defense of the Sith fortress.
**Citadel Caelitus surroundings and defenses, outside, larger scale battle.
*** Note for all WARPOSTERS to keep NPC compliments light on this objective, no more than platoon sized element to each additional poster on top of the main brigade sized element on either side. Done in an effort to keep stories more grounded and character-based.
IMPERIAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS vs BROTHERHOOD OF THE MAW
As the brunt of the Imperial Army forces take the headline charge to siege and assault Fortress Caelitus and the Imperial Knights seek the head of the snake in Darth Caelitus and any other high profile Sith present within the fortress, a small force of specialized Imperial military assets move to infiltrate the fortress in the hopes of disabling and destroying defense systems and seizing intelligence pertinent to aiding the war against the Maw and more importantly, stopping them from utilizing the fruits of what Caelitus and his followers have concocted within the dark domain as the Maw seeks to fight them off in cold savagery.
They would be prey no longer. The Darkness had come for all of civilization, scourged the vaunted world of Nirauan, the once seat of the Empire of the Hand and rose in dark deceit on Carlac. Their advantage would come to an end. Their unending initiative in their relentless chaos would cease. Rurik would not...could not simply kneel down and hope to weather the coming storm.
He would be the storm. The Maw attacked only when circumstances completely slanted in their favor, with the advantage of surprise and opportunity resting solely with them as the Empire only lumbered to trail their path of devastation with each attack. The Brotherhood would taste their own blood again.
They'd once staged a successful infiltration paltry to the scale of Carlac, aboard an Imperial starship, but ultimately were cast away fruitless. In return, the Empire had retrieved an asset of the New Sith Order. In the scale of the Galactic War they waged against darkness, it might've seemed to be a negligible artifact. Something of note, but hardly anything of use.
But after the workings of the vessel's navigation computer was sliced to reveal the strategic locations of several New Sith Order strongholds, the time had come for the Empire's reprisal.
Csaus. Citadel Caelitus, the newfound cathedral to darkness constructed by the very traitor lord who sought the death of the Imperator now slain. That would be the venue of the Empire's revenge. As Task Force Trachta lie in waiting in the wake of Rurik's vengeance, the seemingly well in-place New Sith Order Shuttle-Tenebrae emerged from the entrancing cobalt starstream of hyperspace to emerge in the pale gleam of Csaus. Its frosty appearance offered little difference from the shades of pale blue and alabaster that was once the serene Imperial bastion on Carlac. A world which the New Order regarded with little more than devastation now.
The shuttle graced the atmosphere with no disturbance to its traverse, whatever scanner systems picking up on the shuttle's silhouette and signature regarding it with no alarm or note even as it drifted closer in flight toward Citadel Caelitus.
Soon the crimson and ebon of the foreboding spire of the Citadel appeared past the frigid fog ahead of them and the Imperial Knight pilot reeled in the controls as an Imperial Security Bureau tactical droid plated in digital grey and white camouflage took ahold of the commo. Which should've been a machine like voice, overt in its inhuman nature and traits emerged instead as a low, guttural voice, breathing with the dark side of the force. Compiled through a complex AI process, the voice was artificially generated by running through hundreds of thousands of voice recordings of New Sith Order personnel gathered through the helm mounted camera and microphone systems of Imperial military personnel through their past conflicts with Brotherhood of the Maw to ensure the fullest caliber of deception in their approach.
<"This is Shuttle Tenebrae, clearance code 6-0-1-1-0, Caelitus wants his Holocron so I wouldn't suggest keeping the Dark Lord waiting."> The droid patched through to the control tower of Citadel Caelitus, the very same code attached to the shuttle when Letifer commanded it.
<"Understood, you are permitted to land...welcome home, Master Sith."> A voice replied, voice breathing with the lifeforce of nigh undeath in its strained and lumbering inflection.
Immediately after breezing past the outlying defenses, Rurik gave his command.
"Full forward. To the spire." He said as he stepped into the command bridge of the shuttle. The Imperial Knight turned for his visual queue and authorization. The Emperor nodded once and the Knight pressed forward on the throttle to full speed. Just as the command was given, the message was relayed to the Lord General Barran and his task force to spring the attack unto Citadel Caelitus and bring forth to full fruition the Empire's vengeance.
The audible thrumming of the engine began to intensify through the crew cabin and cockpit of the dimly lit shuttle as it pulled into full speed toward the fortress proper. Attempts to hail the vessel were audible from the communications console of the canopy's dashboard but were of course, ultimately ignored.
Then, after aligning itself with the crimson pane running through the middle of the grand spire of the fortress, the shuttle burst through with a violent, cataclysmic collision of metal, glasteel and fire as the shuttle immediately slammed down and into the heavy metal flooring beneath with a loud scream of steel against steel as the orange white of sparks emerged from the tension of the collision.
The Knights were unphased, ready and waiting for the impact. Rurik turned from the flashing alerts and systems lights and into the troop bay of the shuttle walking down toward the landing ramp of the vessel before pushing it out and down with the force.
From the outside, it was an open maw of blackness, until his argent blade came to life, followed by the rest of the knights at his back.
Retribution had come in earnest to the Maw, to the New Sith. In contrast to earlier battles of fate when they had been the ones in control, they had been the ones with the initiative and advantage, they were now at the whim of the Empire. Vulnerable. Now left to react.
Raising his left hand up slowly over his shoulder he motioned it forward.
There was no word of command.
They knew their duty.
Kill anything and everything within this fortress. Render it all to ash.
I regained consciousness to that my head ached and I was lying on the ground. My ears ring as if there was an explosion. My helmet was on the ground, not so far from me, something warm flowed on my face and I’m on the ground. I think I thought about that a moment earlier. Something immediately appeared on my retina, but I could still see it quite vaguely, so I couldn’t figure out what the sign MANIAC wanted to send me was. I reached for my face, then forehead; ouch!
I looked at my gloves, it got bloody. Then I think that was what MANIAC wanted to “say” that I had a head injury. So far I have seen everything vaguely, I have had very strong nausea and I am also dizzy. I think I got a concussion. AI moments later, he said it all out loud in my mind. OUCH! I groaned. His average, usual tone was too loud now. I turned to the side and threw up. I also saw sounds and movement, although they didn’t notice me, yet.
As I noticed, it was as if I was under some sort of debris that hid me from those further away. Where am I? And the best question is why? No matter how hard I tried to think it back, I couldn't. One of my last memories is of going to work at Bastion. For a moment, a picture or two popped up that I was on some ship; based on the style of the NIO ship. That is ours. But I didn't know more than that. Concussion, yes, is usually accompanied by some amnesia. Then I have no reason to worry yet. Right?
~ MANIAC, where am I and why? ~ I asked. ~ And please try to answer softly, my head hurts a lot. ~
~ You are currently on the planet Csaus, if the data is correct in the Citadel Caelitus and in the Necropolis part of it. And the reason you are here is an NIO action in which the citadel must be sabotaged and occupied. ~ he answered.
Then I'm on a mission, good to know! Then that means they're out there… the Maw's men! Feth! I blinked a few times, and my vision began to clear. I was really under ruins, and there were Marauders. For some reason, they hadn't particularly noticed me yet. Maybe they didn't see me? It is conceivable because there was quite a lot of dust here. I tried not to cough; if they hadn’t noticed me so far, it would have been nice if it stayed that way. So I reached out silently for my helmet and picked it up.
I wish I had time to ask MANIAC how I got here and what I did so far. He had notes on this. The big advantage is if you already have a biochip in your mind. But that will happen later if I get out of here or we take this place. I tried even more to climb into the shadows to overcome my malaise so I could continue afterwards or begin my mission. It would have been good to remember which is the case…
A WOAD'S PLAYGROUND: THE FROZEN FORTRESS - PROLOGUE
FORT IMPERIUM, THE MYRMIDON QUARTER, NEW CARANNIA, NIRAUAN (870 ABY)
In the Aftermath of Nirauan's Reconquest....
After aiding the Lord-Executor's successful attempt to break their inundated positions and sally out into the fort's basement levels, the men and women of the 313th brought the Iron Maiden and her Hell Hounds with them to link up with the 307th and the Vandemarian host, directing an outward swarm of mobile firepower from the breaches on the ground floor and clearing the city of every mob of undead civilians and soldiers alike, block by block, street by street, and district by district without a single complaint uttered by the living. Within the first few hours, and with more than enough of the Imperator's warfighting resources for the task, every last threat and risk-factor would be eradicated with swift precision, even finding Vandemar's ruler and a decent portion of his Agema guardsmen alive and unharmed along the way.
By the time victory was declared and broadcast across the Imperium's Holonet terminals and public screen-projections, only then would the Lord-General feel content enough to bring their forces back to the Myrmidon Quarter, an easier line to hold after the tiring exertions of completing their reconquest of Nirauan once and for all.
<"Wyll to Lance One! Make your way to the upper-south corridor, the one that leads directly to the command-centre's map room.... There's something you should see, sir.">
'Rosk'Aiar's sayin' there's something up with the 2nd-Lieutenant's voice, an' ah'm quite inclined ti agree wae that assessment.'
<"Making our way south as we speak, Lance Four.... Jus' keep your six covered over there, lad. Won't be long. Lance One out!">
All the commanders of the other contingents were present to hear this interaction, as the Lord-General himself had picked them up beforehand in a tracked APC, opening their slide-door to each and every last officer and commander of note to speed their sluggishly-slow walk back to Fort Imperium. A tense silence would follow, knowing that something gruesome awaited, tying not to ruin their chances of being wrong about their assumptions on the matter, and it continued long after they passed through the Myrmidon Breach and under the redoubt's northern portcullis. Even as Erskine led them down a series of hallways that eventually had them in the right direction, the most in terms of vocalisation the others would hear throughout were gruff, monosyllabic and monotonal at best, already sensing the dread intensifying within him as they neared scar-faced Lieutenant's exact location with weapons drawn. None knew it then, but in the exact moment the Stormchaser opened the last door between Wyll and himself, the other Imperial commanders would find a world of pain, wrath, and endless resolve waiting for the old Woad, and in turn - something that would also affect the others greatly.
'Stand aside, I wish to see this with my own eyes.'
As the door opened before them, a small grouping of guardsmen would obscure the new arrivals' view of the coroners and Lieutenant Wyll, and further back, consequently hiding the cold, slowly decomposing remains of 2nd-Lieutenant Sellis Gorman as they studied the scene around him; but the soldiers and officers seen huddled around what he needed to see were slow to react, greatly angering the Lord-General in that moment, enough that even the Tusken started backing away from the Woad for fear of his own safety. Pacing forward a little as his sword-hand danced above his dagger's pommel, Lord Erskine stopped, inhaled deep through his nostrils then roared,'I SAID - STAAAAND AAAASIIIIDE!!!! I WANT TO SEE MY DEAD SUBORDINATE WITH MY OWN EYES, YOU IIIIIINGRAAAAAAAAAAATES!!!!', and only then did the soldiers before him truly begin to understand the extent of their poor form.
'MOOOOVE!!!! GET OUT THE WAY AFORE AH START SLITTIN' THROOOAAAAAAATS!!!!'
All the poor luck and bad outcomes had occurred by then, and though there had been small glimmers of hope littered throughout, the toll that the harshest of hands dealt on him would still be taken to heart regardless; and though the real worst hands had been taken firmly in stride by the time the Stormchaser's cybernetic fitting had been completed, it was clear to tell that war was on the verge of changing him again, with life itself flaying pieces of his soul away in clear sight of the other Imperials. Parting to either side of their Lord-General, the Sabretooth-Troopers, officers and colleagues from other contingents could see this for themselves, bowing their heads respectfully as Lord Erskine dragged the treads of his boots to the table Sellis Gorman's corpse was slumped over, remaining completely silent as warm tears fell flowing over the grief-struck Woad's aging facial features. The last straw, the tether's end of Erskine's patience had finally (and quite violently at that) been reached, seeing for himself that it could only have been the work of a Shi'iDo's masterful blade-work and surprise tactics, adding insult to injury like the coarsest salt imaginable had been rubbed into the proverbial wound.
'If ever I see Lao-Mon in my travels, mark my words - that planet will be glassed without hesitation. We've lost too much to let such slights stand unchallenged now, too many like Sellis Gorman here.'
Losing his best Special Forces units first, it wouldn't be long before the survivors of Vandal Squad called in BROKEN-ARROW protocols that Erskine arranged through clenched teeth and severe disappointment in himself; from there, the bad run of luck would only continue, losing a young captain who had all the promise in the world, but died in the attempt to get his unconscious Lord-General to safety. If it had not have been for his brazen challenge to the Marauders in command of the assaulting forces at the Myrmidon Breach, Barran may have noticed the zombie sneaking in past his left periphery, and may have avoided cutting off his hand in response, and as a result may have helped the defenders hold on a little longer. The MIA-list certainly brought it's own fair portion of heavy-weighing dread to the table, and though some of the names had in fact been found safe and sound, (some even without the Woad's knowing until that very day) IMPAF-Command knew it made no sense to hold any real hopes for the others' likelihood of surviving that Hell to fight another day.
'An' just like that - it would appear the Maw were toying with me THIS WHOLE FETHING TIME!!!! HUMOURING AN AGING MERCENARY - LIKE IT WAS SOME NOSTALGIC REVISITATION OF GLORY DAYS I NEVER EVEN KNEW TO BEGIN WITH!!!! Go on, tell me of the great deeds that were less than half a decade ago - see what happens.... This isn't a reconquest, the Maw were only testing our defensive mettle to begin with. Took the absolute pish out o' my best-laid plans, did they no? Ah had this comin' t'me, no fething doubt in my mind that this is true.'
All of it compounded with the endless run of worries and dismays that already plagued the old Woad's mind, the endless grief and all the regrets that flowed constantly to the forefront of Erskine's mind in moments of peace to himself. Everyone who had ever had dealings with the Lord-General, either in recent months or over the course of the six years he'd served with the Imperium, had known him to be a little too used to the steeling process by the time Blue-Heart Battalion stepped forth to play their part in the Second Battle of Bastion, and by the time deployments like Generis, Ziost, and Vjun had concluded for the Blue-Hearts in Brigade form, many would know it to be a miracle that Barran was (not only still standing to fight) still somehow sound of mind. Csilla, Ilum and Coruscant, in comparison to his first defensive coordination against the Maw on Nirauan, were masterstrokes that showed his clear strength in mentality and mindset, so the resounding run of rotten misfortune would hit all the heavier as the highest highs fell on their way down to the lowest lows.
'Let those without faith leave us be, and for those who think to remain - I care not if yours would differ from mine. You're welcome here.'
Losing friends who both knew him to be friend and those who hadn't, from his best officers in multiple iterations of the Blue-Hearts, to the very man who kept Lord Erskine from ending it all for himself in the Second Battle of Ziost, there was yet still no doubt in anyone's mind that the Stormchaser had danced on the very precipice of giving way to mental breakdowns on many multiple occasions. However, even despite the sheer volume of misfortune and duress that had been loaded onto his psyche, the Woad had stood as a testament to meaning of indomitable until that moment, slumping with head in hands, taking them both away in the realisation that even seeing the cybernetic one still negatively affected his mood. Not that it mattered, as a kindly hand on his shoulder would give his soul every justification possible for letting it all out in a ball of tearful rage, and though tears would flow - something new would begin to show on the face of the once-lifelike array of Barran-like expressions, emptiness.
'I would have Lieutenant Gorman buried in the courtyard. Among the cannons, the MLVs and the Predator Launch-Platforms - the very guns that elevated him beyond the status of staffer, even if it was only for a day.... I would have him respected, and beatified as the protector of this fortress forevermore.'
<"Greetings from Bastion, Mandalorians. My respects to each and every clan who thrives in war to this day, but I must express respects to one clan in particular. To the sons and daughters of the Krayt clan, I extend my hand in friendship to one who goes by the name of,"Shai". My name is Erskine Barran, Lord-General of the Imperial Armed-Forces, and as rumour would have it, this individual wishes to end the life of my greatest rival in this Galaxy.">
Landing at the wide, flat summit of Csaus' tallest mountain, the NIV Tigress would become a beacon for other landing warships and dropships from more-cautious allied elements, resting on the windswept, starlit horizon as all the playing-pieces in the valleys were still moving into place. They were waiting for one ship in particular, one bearing the 501st's coat of arms - containing the commander of 16th company, Lord Erskine's chosen duelling-champion for this outing. Fortunately for IMPAF-Command, the Mandalorians were eager as ever, answering the Woad's summons for many a reason more than answering the call to stand as champion on behalf of the Imperium's Lord-General; many questions would've been posed between those in receipt of this broadcast summons, especially among the heads of the Mandalorian clans, for it also seemed by then that not a single duelling callout in the galaxy escaped the old man's notice.
<"I can lend this sword to you in the hopes you might kill him with it, Shai.... See you on Csaus, I'll be easy to find - whether you want to wield this sword or not.">
The Black and Silver lion of the Galidraani would be seen first, sticking with the main cluster and peeling off to land closer to Citadel Caelitus in the latter stages of their descent, showing Lord Bex's good ear for instruction from the lower ranks; no doubt encouraged to land closer, and probably by everyone who knew how far they'd have to take the XT-62s before starting their part in the siege, and despite their speed and advantages over snowy, mountainous terrain, they knew they'd take far too long to make it to the frontlines if they landed too far away. Gladdened that those he left behind in his ascension were still showing their will to exert supreme competence, and in every aspect of their answer to the soldiering profession, Barran made a silent note to himself as the snow blew in swathes of blizzard-storm strength around him; making sure to summon the one his kinsmen had affectionately dubbed in jest,"Hammer of the Heartlands.", for a first encounter that was long-overdue.
'Beautiful.... Gutted ah missed the height o' the snow-deployment era, so am are. But this? Ugh! Perfect enough for me anyways.'
'Brought Leith into the Free-State's holdings with ease an'aw, could see the smoke-plumes fae mah study in Barran Hall's north wing.', Lord Erskine revealed, seeing recognition of the smoke though it was evident that Lord Carwood was remembering the black smoke in the Undeclared District for entirely differing reasons. What Barran had not known of the Reconquest was the fact his old friend had defeated and finally ended the Death Druids' most potent bloodline, and in the moment his opponent was beheaded, those same plumes of black smoke could be seen from Lord Carwood's location at the time too. The drunk Stormchaser would see the sober Stalwart reach for his hipflask, wishing to wash out the bitter aftertaste his Reconquest experience left every time, almost like the poor soul could taste the iron of his nemesis' blood in the air; Lord Erskine would regardless take this as a good opportunity to drink from his own hipflask, taking more than enough for the small drink it was supposed to be, but caring little for what others were thinking in seeing it for themselves.
Something 2nd-Lieutenant Wyll wasn't impressed to see, but he was doing well in keeping his emotions in check, and his opinions to himself, or at least until Lord-General Barran finally took exception to the look on his subordinate's face. Rounding on Martin, standing just inches away from his face, Erskine's cold-coloured irises glared a dead-eyed apathy into the eyes of an otherwise-peaceful subordinate as he muttered,'When the Miraluka's castle flies Imperial colours, you and I will talk on the Gorman matter.... An' If what I say doesn't satisfy your intent by then, you will have my expressed permission to call me out.', holding the Ravelin-born officer's gaze to leave no illusions as to what he was saying. If the Stormchaser was seen to be negligently apathetic to the 2nd-Lieutenant's bereaved plight at any point of their discussion, then Erskine would loudly verbalise exclusive duelling-callout permission to his lowest-ranked prospect for captaincy, granting a young officer with a slashed face a chance to end his life if fortune favoured the former - something that none among IMPAF's chain of command.
'In your current state? Thanks for the offer, but I'd rather fight a Lord-General - not this local-grade fething yokel I see standing before me.... Besides, shouldn't you be trying to patch through to the Mongrel or something useful like that?'
'Good point actually, but first.... We need a 501st dropship with the 16th Company coat-of-arms on it afore we make any rash decisions.', the Woad retorted, though somewhat less intensely than his 2nd-Lieutenant was expecting at the time, turning back to the flat-topped summit as dropships (laden with vehicles far more mobile than his own) began to litter the horizon in front of him, kicking up snowy dust from left to right periphery as Lord Erskine Barran measured the rest of his response to the soon-to-be knighted Sir Martin Wyll. The sword was becoming a matter of serious discussion among the other commissioned guardsmen, with none being quite as vocal about the matter as the disfigured one had been after seeing the broadcast for themselves, with Wyll being the most-supportive of seeing a Mandalorian wield the claymore in ways Barran had never seen before, also going on to urge his Lord-General to instruct some of the basket-hilt's finer nuances in the event Shai Krayt accepted the tool for the job.
'Funny how a single callout can fit the bill so easily. Think about it - warrior-clan culture, check! Clan of great renown, check! Warrior with experience in battles with IMPAF involvement, check! Willingness to take on the Mongrel, check! Willingness to kill him if necessary, check! Honestly.... Champions like that are rare, extremely rare. Not passin' up this chance t'see what the claymore's capable of, especially in Mandalorian hands.'
Looking up to the skies once more, Lord Erskine would gaze up to find the rest of the landing-cluster plotting their paths and picking the safest landing-trajectories, and peeling around from the top of that first wave was none other than the ship that was ferrying Shai Krayt from orbit direct to Barran's exact location; veering closer to the NIV Tigress with clear intent to land broadside, and with plenty room between both vessels for their brief meeting to take place within the realm of standard operational safety. Then, as soon as the landing was safely assured, the exit-ramp came down to reveal the champion's visage, prompting Erskine to walk out ahead of his small retinue of capable champions in their own right, unclasping his sword's scabbard from his belt as he stopped at the exact center-point between both ships. As the Mandalorian was closing the distance, the Woad would wait until they were close enough to hear properly before drawling,'Greetings from IMPAF-Command, Shai. You know who I am, so let us get to the heart of the matter while the momentum still rolls along with our advance.', slightly slurring his words in the process.
'The silk in the Basket-Hilt hides the nuances of the hand, but not the wrist. If you so choose this blade as your tool today, then do take care not to get cocky with it.... Here, draw it before you make up your mind. If it suits, accept it - an' I wish you best o' luck for when you find 'im.'
THE WOAD-BORN HUNTSMEN: THE SECOND SALVO - PROLOGUE
ABOARD THE NIV: PARAMOUR, OUTSIDE CSAUS' ORBITAL SPHERE (870 ABY)
Halted well out of range of anything Citadel Caelitus had to throw their way, Michael's ship would remain in place as the operation's unexpected early-birds awaited the arrival of the NIV: Tigress, knowing that commencement would surely follow soon after; and in the hours before the Lord-General's landing, Lord Michael and Lord Yorunarr would sit at the lavish smoking-observatory, gazing on their frozen globe of dark foreboding as all of Barran's subordinates slept like logs on the wide fabric couches around them. Each and every man among the unconscious would conserve their strength as the smoking-lounge's barkeep, also no stranger to the taxing physical demands of soldiering, decluttered and wiped over table-surfaces in discrete silence, tiptoeing around those he perceived as the lightest sleepers as the barkeep worked away in cheery, calm wordlessness.
'Almost like Carlac.... Almost. Gonna be a tad more difficult this time, canni be havin' false starts like Ursa's Redoubt - no doun there. No this time.'
Just the faintest hint of resonance could be heard over the perpetual hum of the ship's inner-workings, with inoffensive, warm musical arrangements playing on the speakers around them at their quietest possible setting, something that could only have been facilitated by the barkeep in particular; this dreamy ambience the observatory had provided for the otherwise-restless Goidels as a result, kindly contributing to the uninterrupted rest-patterns of the entire handpicked platoon before the landings were well and truly underway, something the Highlanders there wouldn't forget in a hurry. Even in full tactical-gear, the Wanderer's sleeping subordinates looked to be very models of the meaning of comfort, and a fair part of it was owed to a retired veteran who knew how to read a room, a man who once needed to store his energies with similar last-minute recuperation rituals in his day.
'Since I was declared Chieftain over all Novanians, and by my own people nonetheless - the Ancients have instructed me to stand with you, no matter the cost.... That I will, and for the first time as an equal. As one who negates this false start caper you speak of, as one who knows how to instil the right mindset in you.'
'Most you've said on the Ancients since Lao-Mon, ah swear.', Lord Michael started, replying with clear irritation in his eyes, though Lord Yorunarr would be relieved to hear his commander still adhering to the hushed, near-whispered tone they'd adopted since the last subordinate drifted off to the land of nod. The only thing keeping the Woad and his Novanian friend from both raising their voices was complete consideration of the squad that had been hand-picked by both Barran and Ahan-Yan'Sharlim personally, wisely keeping to the same reasoning behind the avoidance of playing pranks on the likes of Pinely, McBain and Denwood as they slept. Yet the Wanderer would relent further, especially after seeing one of the unconscious snipers in the background moving, only to continue,'It helps that we haven't done any Root magic the-gither since.... We were out - of - control back then, eh? Good times though.', after realising it was just another,"Subconscious search for more couch".
'But,"Out - of - control", was exactly what the Imperium needed when our enemies assassinated Irveric Tavlar.... And the Root did help us achieve our goals in some fashion or other, but I do agree - good times were had back then. The best.'
Sharing nods of respect, both the Goidel and the Arkanian would raise their hipflasks and drink in a silent toast to the wonders yielded by inhaling the smoke of the infamous burning vine-root, to the astral travels and the vivid hallucinations they both experienced whilst surviving in the heart of war's deathly crucible. After that, the Druid and the Shaman's attentions would return to the gorgeous view of the planet they intended to leave their collective mark on, and without saying a single word, without even uttering a single sound whatsoever, both Michael and Yorunarr would attain a strangely serene, meditative state of wonder for a while. The barkeep would see this, smile to himself and take a moment to join the others in taking it all in with the intent of remembering the planet as it was before the NIO ran rampant on it's surface; becoming an enrapt trio of silent, knowing eyes as the sleepers snored, stirred and dreamt around them, like three little vigilant gargoyles on a derelict steeple, keeping watch over an old, abandoned ghost-town.
The auld man's gawnty run roughshod on this place, I can feel it.
Enthralling though the sight was, Barran knew his assumption wouldn't be all that far from the truth, and by the time his father was finished with Citadel Caelitus, the Wanderer would understand this success likely preceded a violent pursuit of the last fleeing Mawites, such that was fated to leave a trail of nasty pockmarks across the planet's northern hemisphere. Lord Michael would ponder on this for a while, realising his father was going through changes more drastic than he ever could have anticipated in his last conversation with Lord Erskine, and in that previously-blissful span of time in complete silence, the Druid began to worry for the safety of the Lord-General - for the first, but sadly not the last time. This mindset was on the verge of becoming a slippery slope to something much worse for the Lord-Captain in the long run, and a thought-pattern that had every chance of becoming a dangerous risk factor for all serving beneath him, but a blessed interruption would snap everyone out of their collective reverie, the all-too-recognisable sound of a cigarette-lighter's flint being flicked into life with a singular metallic scrape.
'Sssshh.... Good morning, Sinclair. Still no sign of 'em yet though, might as well crash oot again as soon as that's been finished an' stubbed oot. But if yer stayin' up, might as well join me an' yer predecessor for a few whiskeys while we wait.'
THE WOAD-BORN HUNTSMEN: THE SECOND SALVO - PART 1
SOUTH ROOK VALLEY, LOWER-ASCENDANCY MOUNTAINS, CSAUS (870 ABY)
25 miles outside Citadel Caelitus....
As soon as everything began to sway into motion around them, the handpicked platoon were in their dropship almost as quickly as they were awake, knowing what awaited their landing on Csaus; Darth Caelitus had been a power force-user before his shift towards the deepest depths of the Dark side, wielding untold numbers of undead in the NIO's favour, a tool for which the Wanderer's father had been thankful in the earlier years of his Imperial military career. Some there had even felt this power, though very much on the receiving end of a wrath inflicted by a Miraluka who'd become much stronger since, as Carlac was something of a horrifying masterstroke that the veteran elements with Lord Michael could never forget for as long as they lived, and none quite so acutely as 1st-Leftenant McBain. Then, to top it all off in an all-too-troubling fashion, were the reports on the exploits of the dark lord's Perished and the fact they could move unlike any undead entity they'd ever encountered before, somehow still cunning enough in death that they managed to sneak up on the Stormchaser and turn the tide of battle with just a single bite.
First the bomb, then the bite.... It would seem the Miraluka's been runnin' roughshod on the auld man an'aw.
Much had been divined of the Miraluka's growth in power as time passed, with each and every scion of the Highland Brotherhood sensing the slow death of the Lord Halketh they all know from the recent history books on the Third Imperial Civil War, understanding with ease that whoever, or whatever they would be facing off against in the future - would be some-one, some-thing entirely worse as time progressed. Kezec, a dream long gone, a part of both Halketh and Caelitus in the deepest depths of the soul that both personas shared, this would be the only thing the Goidels would never learn of, the only shred of innocence that none could reach or use against him. One of these days, even if only for a momentary ripple in the endless winds of time, Barran would find himself wondering what kind of person his perceived future opponent had been before the Galaxy's wars came to find him, perhaps even gaining something of a Force-Adept's momentary glimpse of the childlike wonder still resonating meekly from within.
Similar things had happened on Michael's travels, but like then, there was some paths that even the Wanderer was unwilling to walk down; and in the realization that he'd see it in more enemies than Darth Caelitus alone, the Druid would make no such attempts to bring Caelitus back to the man he was when he still went by the name,"Halketh". However, despite this, the Woad had no intention of gunning for the Miraluka's spine outright, intending like he had with Khaostra Devoid, to play whatever games his opponents had to throw his way. If the Druid wished to strengthen his mind in every aspect, he knew he couldn't resist the tests of his enemies, and in wishing to become more powerful than every last one of those among his dark-hearted opposition, Lord Michael knew that he would need to embrace crucibles much darker than those his father had been put through.
Whatever the Highlanders were stepping out into, the Lord-Captain would know then what the best course of action would be - choosing to let his intuition take control for the first time since his ritual on Dathomir, the Druidic element within the Wanderer would decide the best course of action.
An' the Brotherhood will achieve victory every time.... The difference a Krieg-Mandalorian can make, staggering.
Readied up in full winter gear, the Highlander's best warriors, (judged after their training exercise on Serenno) in all their quiet, calmly resolve, seemed like they were acquiescent to whatever fate, or their Laird, had in store for them and others aligned to the iron sun of the Imperium. This generality in action, though comforting to see, still wasn't new to Lord Michael - and still wasn't the most noteworthy aspect to what the Druid was seeing on a soul-deep level. Apart from the slight fluttering of Randall's aura, every last operator in,"Fang Platoon", including Caulen, Woodsy, Lachlan and Yorunarr to near-exact extents, was calmer than they had been for their deployment to Ursa's Redoubt, though it was obvious that the Lycanthrope could feel the 1st-Leftenant's unease emanating for himself. None blamed McBain for it, as he had been kind enough to reach into his own trauma each and every time it was asked of him, as Carlac in particular had left him understandably cautious whenever the undead were mentioned in the 1st-Leftenant's vicinity.
'You did well on Carlac, mate. Naw, honestly.... I shouldn't have put so much responsibility oan yer back like that, an' should've focused harder on closer threats at hand. That's on me - always has been, understand?'
Nodding, McBain would be given reasonable cause for a moment of self-reflection, hanging head low for a moment before straightening his posture out once more, and then, without any prompt or coaching whatsoever, Barran's best Highlander would be seen exerting more calm than he had been before.
Now that's more like it, Randall. This, right here, is the Kern we need.
With an aura that was steadily beginning to calm to an extent it was steadily starting to align with all the others, Randall,"Gallowglass", was finally starting to look like he had morale that could outlast the Maw's offerings for the Imperium, one of the very few things Druid's clique relied on more than anything else, perhaps even more than the very weapons and ammunition they carried into battle. Just in time for the eventual flashing,"Brace for Landing", light atop the landing-ramp opening in their sector. Affectionately slapping his second-in-command across the shoulder, Michael gruffly concluded the matter by saying,'Gledd ti have ye back, McBain. We'll be needin' some o' that Gallowglass action the-night, an' that's puttin' it mildly.', and sharing one last nod of kindly affirmation before the ramp fell outwards beside them. It was time for the Highland Brotherhood's Grandmaster to make his final call on their particular strategic approach, so Lord Michael made sure to be the first to step out into the frozen wilderness, to let his senses run wild as any true Goidel would in his shoes, to make his mind up once and for all.
'Noted, but remember - you still have a choice to make. One we need you to make in the next minute or so.... Figure it out, sir. We'll wait.'
McBain was more right than he would ever know, and there was nothing Michael could do or say to change this fact, only hindsight would offer the Druid's trusty subordinate any wisdom in later life, for time never permitted such moments of revelatory self-speculation for the warriors of the Highland Brotherhood, as there were always more pressing matters of more-immediate concern getting in the way. Powdery snow-particles would lap up around their heads as Lord-Captain Barran considered the unspoken for a short moment, stepping out alone as he thought on what his next decision would mean for their warfighting doctrine henceforth, but when he saw the stars above the hills to the north, everything began to make sense. Serenity, littering the skies in an ocean of wonder, like bioluminescent plankton on a calm sea-tide, a breath-taking beauty to behold in a moment when absolute clarity was needed.
Good thing we landed here anyways, I'd hate t'be catchin' glances o' this on the way oot, that's for sure.
'Sinclair, on me!', Barran exclaimed, reaching into his left trouser pocket for cigarettes as the Lycanthrope stepped out to stand beside him and join him in looking out to the view of the wintry landscape beyond. This decision would affect Lachlan as much as it would himself, but Lord Michael knew that he wouldn't have any other way, seeing for himself that ascension awaited them both - regardless of what decision was made in the end. Taking a long draw from his Dunwaller Silver as Sinclair lit one of his own, Barran would look to the stars one last time, taking it all in for a while with his bodyguard until he finally said,'We use our recent-training - I will trust Kurze's advice.... We shall stick t'the shadows, an' if we're lucky enough, perhaps one day we might behave like the shadows that shroud us.', stopping to take another draw, exhaling the smoke through his nose as his gaze turn to seek Sinclair's own in sincerity.
'Safe though it might be, it buys us enough time t'weather the real storms oan the horizon. Buys us time ti adjust, buys us time t'learn what the feth we really are.... The Aurora De Danaan have plans for you an' I, plans I would have them forced to divulge - an' out of principle alone. More on that later.'
'For now though, we ought to get moving.', the Lord-Captain concluded, flicking away the last third of his cigarette and walking northwards with rifle unclipped from the shoulder-sling and shouldered with intent, then kneeling to properly mark his pointman position for the rest of the Wolfpack. Those alighting the dropship would step out into a singular fire-team formation, allowing the others to bring their IFV down the wider off-ramp and drive it up the line to protect the vigilant first fire-team as each rifleman climbed aboard. Nothing would get in the way of the top-turret's chambered ammunition as every last pair of eyes looking to the horizon was assured safety, and in their attempt to slip into the nooks and crannies of the hills beyond, the newly-trained Highlanders would negate the valley-floor's many disadvantages without so much as a single shot fired in anger, safely moving in a direction that was in fact being watched from afar.
Michael could sense almost every presence in the mountains beyond, and some of the more powerful auras from within the citadel itself, though he could not put faces or names to the powers of Dark and Iron Light that could be detected so early, only speculation as to who it could've been at that point. If they were resonating with more intensity than all those around them, the Druid could only surmise that Rurik Fel and Darth Solipsis were among those already making their first moves within the Citadel itself, the living, breathing avatars of Order and Chaos locking horns - setting an explosive tone for the fight ahead from the very offset of the assault the Highlanders were trying to get to. But then the Woad sensed one presence in particular joining the clashing lines of force-users beyond, one he recognised, one that was still quite recent to his mind's collection of memories.
Dooku.... An omnipresence, one who remains out of my reach. Just like he was with my father.
Dokal was observing the void through the transparisteel glass in front of her. She sighed while someone put a hand on her shoulder plate. She turned around, looking at the man who was now in front of him. Dokal was very tall for a near-human and the Zabrak that she looked at — whose name was Hukor — appeared very short next to her.
“Everything is gonna be okay. Don’t worry, Dokal,” he said with a little smile. He showed his right ear where there was an earpod and added: “I’ll be with you, as always, you know.”
“I know,” the Chiss answered immediately after he finished his sentence. “But this time it’s a little different…”
“Because of Chiss Space?” he asked. The Chiss nodded as she was turning her eyes to the transparent bay of the spacecraft. Hukor crossed his arms on his chest and sighed heavily, trying to take a look at something else in the room. “I’ll try to help you.— You don’t have to.— That’s my mission, Dokal. ‘Am your advisor, remember?— Rav’hn! You do what you want, but I can cut my coms when I want, remember?!” She looked away. “Sorry, Shorty. I didn’t want t-...— Don’t say anything else, Dokal, I understood what this meant.” He turned around quickly, moving to the cockpit section. “Shorty… — Don’t call me like that.”
“So where’s the landing zone?” Dokal asked while the motors’ sound covered his voice on his microphone. “K’pah! I have to fix this mic! Hey, Shorty, can you hear me, boy?— I’ve already asked you to not call me like that!— Okay, I’ll stop, Shorty, but tell me where’s this damn landing zone! Quick!— Lemme two seconds, motraloa. So… thirty-five seconds before landin’.— Why didn’t you prevent me earlier?!” Dokal exclaimed, “Be sure that you’ll pay for that, Shorty!— I do my work.— You’ve done wrong!— Don’t be this stressed.”
The Chiss didn’t reply to this last provocation from Hukor. They were talking in their own languages to one another, even if he didn’t talk Cheunh, and even if she didn’t talk Zabraki. They were only non-human soldiers, working for the New Imperial Order. Dokal was coming from the Ascendancy, and this was very important to her: BEING CHISS was part of her identity — as fighting the Maw. She knew that the fight would be hard, but she had knowledge, aptitudes and, most importantly, Hukor, her advisor.
She removed the face-plate of her helmet, looking for the last time at her HUD’s chrono and a whiff of smoke from her cigarette that had been consumed in her fingers since the lift-off from the main cruiser and her entrance into the atmosphere. She crushed her cigarette on the gunship’s ground and the Chiss put back her helmet to fit her face.
“Landin’ in ten seconds for you, Dokal,” the Zabrak informed. “Copy that, Shorty. Dokal, over,” the woman answered as taking her SFR-58 blaster in her right hand. “Time to fight,” she thought.
“An wat we ave to eat today?” One of the men asked as each of the inner walls were lined with lines of a platoon of fresh troops covered in the grotesque display of stormtrooper armor and animal hide stained with dry blood of they’re victims. “Will ya shut it! We eard a large force comin here. Hopefully they got food.” The one lowly trooper that spoke before responded with a lick of equally disgusting lips. “Mmm none of that paste crap… mmm some nice tender meat…. We ain’t having nothing but Magot bread for days.” He complained while they continued to sat right next to a makeshift fire they made.
Another typical day for the men of the Crimson Hands, a recharged force of a First Imperial remnant led by the Wrath of the Maw Kyrel Ren. Just like their master they have shown to be just as deadly, and just as feral. When word had reached Kyrel’s ears of the possibility of attack by the New Imperials a detachment was sent. Not a large force but a force that was big enough to man the walls of the dark citadel. For days the barbaric troops had remained manning the walls, subsiding on bread that was given to them to ensure they went mad with hunger. With food being the first thing on the mind it would make the battle the main focus.
“Food is not our primary focus… our focus is what the Master commands of us, and that is to hold the walls with our lives…” A voice emerged from the dark, as what stepped forth with loud stomps was a monster. What stepped forward slowly looked to be covered in head to toe in Stormtrooper armor. Unlike the others that were adorned with the hides, and horns of animals. His armor on the other hand was like standard white, albeit covered in very jagged edges as if twisted in a Maw like way. The man stood as tall as the ceiling he emerged from, and even compared to the others, who were tall as men he was a giant. Each step was almost a stomp that shook the very ground they stood on. The hilt of what seemed to be a large sword had shown itself with every step.
The other troopers seemed to step back a little, if almost cower before the huge behemoth. “R-Red Fist… we-We we’re just aving a bit of fun you see…” One of the troopers barely stuttered out. The reaction that came from the giant only seemed to frighten more of the troopers. Approaching with even more heavy steps he picked the man up by the throat. The small trooper gasped as if trying to be free of the grip before Lurtz spoke with a growl. “If I hear one more pipe about food…” He said stopping his words for a moment.
Slowly he had taken the trooper and slammed him down. Unsheathed his sword with a clank of the metal as he went as far as to cut the man open. His darkened guts was shown to the troops, before in a frenzy they had descended upon a former ally. Now made a meal as in such grizzly horror the man screamed, and the other troopers were dripping in his own blood. Confidently the one known as Red Fist spoke.
“Looks like meat is back on the menu Boys!!” He said with a roar, his men enjoying a short meal while off in the distance sounds of war were approaching. Red fist turning his direction to what was coming, too focused to even partake in the brutal feast.
The artillery begins firing on any NIO troops coming within range
Other forces are held in reserve at the Mawite line
The Mongrel demands that Lurtz keep his warriors in line
This time, he couldn't even feel the cold.
The Mongrel raised a cybernetic hand, flexing its durasteel fingers back and forth. The movement made little eddies in the air, tiny gusts of wind that caught the falling snow. Snowflakes danced on those microcurrents, their slow, serene fall suddenly turned into crazed whirling as they circled the metal digits. A few collected on his skinless form, sticking to the polished surface, failing to melt. He couldn't feel them. They were too small to register on his pressure sensors, and they did not change the temperature of his metal frame, already chilled.
Not that he could tell. Not that he could feel.
And that was the only real difference, wasn't it? Here he was again, staring across another frozen battlefield at the tanks and troopers of the New Imperial Order unleashed - Barran's boys, surely. It was the same sight he remembered from Csilla, the same he'd faced on Ilum, as if this were all the same battle still raging across the years. And the only thing that seemed to change was him. On Csilla and Ilum he had felt the bite of the frigid wind, but now? Now he felt nothing, nothing but a deep weariness. Bone deep, he might have said...
... if his body had still had any bones in it.
The Heathen Priests told him he was greatly blessed. They said that he had been sent back from the Galaxy To Come time and time again, turning away from paradise so that he could guide other warriors of the Maw to their reward. They said it like it was something he had chosen, and not a fate that he had been dragged into. He had been ready to die on Koriban, the last survivor of the Dark Voice's honor guard, when that unstable hyperspace rift had snatched him from the jaws of death. He had been ready to die on Nirauan, finally laid low...
... but they'd dragged him back again.
How long would it be before he earned his final reward? How much more did the Dark Three expect of him? He had given body, mind, and soul to them, everything he had stripped away in service to their blood-drenched crusade, and still he had not been allowed to pass through the gates of paradise. Instead he fought these battles over and over again, losing a little more of himself each time. It was as if he was moving while the galaxy stood still... but only moving downward, plummeting further and further into darkness, falling to pieces.
It didn't matter, of course, all his inner existential despair. What other path was left to him? If he turned from serving the gods with his whole heart and mind and soul and strength, they would inflict on him the fate of all apostates: he would be left to rot in this corrupt galaxy, with no path to paradise. He had done so many terrible things in their name, had given up everything that might have let him go another way. He was at the mercy of the Hidden Maw, their animal, their tool, and there was no changing that now. All he could do was continue to serve.
Perhaps forever. Who could know Their will?
He didn't know this world. He didn't care about this fortress. But The Mongrel was sworn to obey the Dark Voice, and by the Dark Voice's command, he had come. Their tactical position was reasonably good; the enemy would have to pass through the snowy valleys between these high peaks in order to come at the fortress, constraining the number of troops that could clash at any one time. Normally, that would have been to the Brotherhood's detriment; they thrived when they could throw mass numbers of howling marauders at the foe.
But Jedha and Nirauan had changed things. The Scar Hounds, once a teeming horde, had been whittled down to a bare remnant of their old numerical strength. The Bloodsworn and Chosen had also taken terrible blows, and would not take the field here. That left The Mongrel with the grizzled veterans of his tribe's most devastating battles, the gristle at the edge of the meat which the enemy had found too tough to chew up. Patched back together, like him, with metal and ceramite, they would stand beside him to the bitter end.
They weren't entirely alone, but their allies were... dubious. The Crimson Hands Tribe was wild even by Mawite standards, prone to savage violence amongst themselves when there was no enemy to fight. The Mongrel expected them to fight with brutal effectiveness, but he did not expect them to employ much in the way of tactics or discipline. And tactics were already going to be a challenge, for the Brotherhood fought best on the offensive, with the weight of a charge behind him. Forced onto the defensive, well...
They would be fighting without numbers or momentum, and that would require the warlord to adjust his entire mode of thinking. But if there was a positive side to the fact that The Mongrel seemed to change while the galaxy stood still, it was that - for all the sacrifices of his body - his mind had grown cannier and more experienced. He had watched and analyzed each battle he and his men had faced, dissecting each success and failure, pondering ways to capitalize on the former and counter the latter. And as it turned out...
... you can teach an old dog new tricks.
"Prepare the artillery," the warlord bellowed, his harsh mechanical voice echoing out across the half-ruined walls. Citadel Caelitus had been built atop a Chiss compound destroyed in the conquest of Csaus, and bits of the old structures still remained, providing the basis for the Mawite defensive line. They were also scattered along the valley, which was both good and bad. On the one hand, the rugged, choppy terrain would make it hard for the attackers to mount a cohesive charge. On the other, it would give them cover as they advanced.
"Keep the skiffs in reserve. We'll wait until their tanks appear." It was hard to get used to his voice issuing, not from a mouth - or even the synthskin approximation of one he'd worn for a while - but from a series of speakers set all around the base of his brain canister... but the unnerving effect only heightened the reverence his Scar Hounds had for him, this ultimate martyr, giving up his body and even his life over and over to serve the Maw. It would inspire them to die gladly for the Avatars. They would reach paradise long before him.
At The Mongrel's order, the LuchsHai technicals he'd requested trundled out onto the field, their repulsorlifts kicking up plumes of dirty snow. One lesson he'd taken away from his many battles with the "civilized" powers was that artillery won wars, and was not easily challenged by anything except rival artillery. So his engineers - not least among them little "Iggy" (Ignatius Rausgeber
) - had whipped up an answer named in his honor: the Mongrel's Howl. The improvised thundahvelin rockets it fired would keep the enemy's heads down.
Or better yet, take those heads clean off.
That would serve to harass the NIO troops as they prepared to mount their attack, landing in the valleys beyond and streaming toward the Sith fortress. The Mongrel's Howl wasn't what you'd call wildly accurate, but if you put enough thundahvelins in the air, they were bound to hit something, and the effect on enemy morale of being under a constant barrage of rocket sticks tended to be pretty devastating. So let them come. Let them crawl along under artillery fire. And when they were made good and brittle by the barrage...
The Mongrel would know just how to break them.
Well, so long as the Crimson Hands didn't get too out of line and get in the way of his tactical maneuvering. The warlord glowered over at the cannibals, watching them literally devour their own, and shook his head - or the transparent brain casing that passed for it, anyway. "Control them," he transmitted to Lurtz Null
, better known as Red Fist. "There will be plenty of infidels to feast on, but not if they charge into our own artillery barrage in their zeal." There was a place for the berserkers, but they'd have to find patience.
Objective 1: Defend and hold off enemies
Location: Citadel Caelitus
Weather Snowing heavily
It began as a small flurry, a trickle of snow but then it got heavier and windier and now it came down in sheets. A blizzard. Well, that's just how it goes, nothing but uncertainty the Citadel needs to be defended and Superious volunteered for the chance to. He had spent the last few weeks in a library researching and being anti-social and cantankerous. Well, he wasn't much out of character at that point.
Well, he did refrain from lecturing his brother as harshly as he would have usually been inclined to do so. As he had to leave in a hurry. When they win or at least keep the Citadel in their possession he can resume dealing in family matters. He was going to find out sooner or later and he reminded his little brother that which caused a brief spat between them both.
Now the task at hand needed his full attention, because knowing a highly militarised faction, they will be laying siege to the place between a few hours to a few days and they can last months which is a common way to force surrender. Starve the defenders until they surrender.
Then his skin developed goose-pimples, which could be either the cold or a warning of an impending attack, the place shook, and loose powder rained down, oh, so it's an attack. Well, there is no time to stand and think around the sudden change in plan and situation.
As some green alien one said "Do, or do not. There is no try." Superious scoffed, if you don't try how will one have any chance of winning or learning?
For now, he kept in shadows, Lightsaber drawn but not ignited, he can be stealthy, and that may allow him to find out exactly what they are up against. Once he figured that out he can contact Sith inside, alerting them of an attack, if the noise didn't first.
IMPERIAL SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND
SF Reconnaissance Team Epsilon SUPPORTING TASK FORCE TRACHTA
Sargent Colton and the rest of SF Reconnaissance Team Epsilon were in a small briefing area aboard their drop ship Colton packed his can of snuff and put a big pinch in his lower lip, and spit a stream of tobacco juice in the spitoon droid at his feet before making his way to the front of the room.
“Eyes..Front!” he yelled sternly in a heavy, low-born imperial accent “For those of you that don’t know me, My name is Sergeant Colton Renfro my callsign is Crosshair you can probably guess why and I’m your field commander.” He paused for moment and spit another stream of tobacco juice into the spittoon droid before continuing “Our mission in support of TASK FORCE TRACHTA is to infiltrate the enemy fortress, disable all defences and security systems we can, gather any intel that will help win this and crush the brotherhood maw quickly and effectively, as well as put stop any unholy experiments, and destroy related research into into side experimentsMy Myself and two other snipers Callsigns Viper, Hunter will be in hides at strategic position surrounding to fortress, our job to help guide the infiltration group to an entry point, and help avoid enemy patrols and the like, we will be covering you extraction after the mission is completed, your assignment have already been downloaded to your data pads, check ‘em and check your gear 15 miles till drop.” he paused for moment spit yet another stream of tobacco juice into the spittoon droid before moving to his gear for his final check once completed made his to the drop pod, the rest of the teame did the same once he saw they were all in the respective drop pod his voice came over the comms <Comms Check>
Once all the members had comfy working comms he signaled the pilot they were for drop the pilot's voice came over the comms <Approaching drop zone commencing drop in 7, 6, 5, 4, 3 2, 1, drop, drop drop.>and with the pods began to fall in the pre-programmed other. The drop process was a little unnerving even to veteran troopers several seconds to a little over a minute of free-falling, followed by a sudden impact the pilot’s cames over Colton’s comms, <Alright Sargent last pod is down seen you on the other Raven out>
<Crosshair to all Epsilon units, get to destination rally positions, check-in once there, Crosshair out.> and with that, he started a 2 km hike to his hide in the mountains approximately 200 meters from his area of responsibility for the fortress.
Lord-Captain Bex Tarring
Bramber First Battalion
Hurst Company 150km south of The Citadel
1st Platoon-4 XT-62s
2nd Platoon-4 XT-62s
3rd Platoon-4 XT-62s
Command-3 XT-62s plus two Armoured Command Vehicles
"I want it moving in five minutes, Sergeant."
This particular XT-62 sat motionless, like some bloated mammal out of the water, nary a murmur of sound, nor a sign of life coming from its cold plated design. They had landed some twenty-five minutes prior, establishing as rudimentary a perimeter as possible to ensure they were unimpeded in the disembarking of the precious payload; the XT-62s, mainstay and backbone of the Imperial Army.
The snow was settled but the cold was undeniable. The troopers that milled about were dressed for the weather, stolid and sure in their duty. They had a singular order; get the tanks moving.
The mountain range loomed ominous and giant, unlike the rolling hills and undulating downlands of Bramber, safely placed as a gem on the landscape of Galidraan. They saw snow very rarely but the troopers that made up the Bramber First Battalion were hardened and becoming ever adaptable in the course of their early tenure as a leading player in the Free State's armed forces. The Lord-General would be here, Bex thought to himself, patting the snow off his leather gloves, and adjusting his officer's hat, which did little to keep the chill off his ears and face.
The light was blistering and cool, setting off all sorts of hues and colours in the desolate landscape that surrounded the company.
Hurst Company. Three platoons plus Command. Lord-Captain Bex Tarring, Commanding Officer and ranking member of the Bramber First Battalion.
With him today were the armoured element, led by 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Lieutenants Fears, Netley and Tuppen. Tarring's immediate subordinate was Lieutenant Boniface, the otherwise competent and efficient leader of the armoured company, comprising fourteen XT-62s and several command vehicles.
They were currently one tank down.
"She's givin' us jip, sir. Repulsor lifts have seized right up. She's not engagin' at all. Could be another ten minutes, I reckon, sir."
Sergeant Boxall rubbed his arm against his weathered face, his warm breath visible in the clear frosted air. He looked with a mixture of anxiousness and keen frustration at the tank as it sat, motionless. Bex walked up to it, giving it a reassuring pat, as if it had some sentience of its own. To the crews that lived their days under intense battle conditions inside her, she would certainly be alive, with a character and a charm of her own. She would ensure they made it through to see the next day if they kept her happy.
She was less than amused right now, sat in an ignoble pile of rapidly melting snow and slush. Bex spoke to the Sergeant.
"Was it checked before boarding, Sergeant?"
The sergeant dared to guffaw the Lord-Captain. He knew it was insubordinate, but he wasn't about to have the care of his machines called into question. Bex could admire that. Just about.
"Yes, sir. Passed both preliminary and pre-op checks, sir."
Bex hummed to himself, biting his lip to see if any sensation might return to it. It didn't.
"Very well, just do your best, lest we have to tow it off the mountain. Heck, we might as well paint a sign saying 'target-this way' on the top of her."
The column of tanks moved slowly, each one filling its place with a serene majesty that filled the hearts of Imperials all over. The delays with the XT had set them a few minutes behind schedule, something Bex would not tolerate. After some cajoling, they had attached the front portion to the rear axel of the tank, the damaged war machine's basic function now working on the deployable treads but not enough to propel itself without assistance. There wasn't a chance they'd leave that tech to be found by just anybody and, with time on the move, it was imperative they made the necessary preparations before the conflict that was due.
It was a bastion, a vast fortress and the Hurst Company would do their part, bringing their large ordnance to bear and serving as a hammer to strike against the defences. Bex hoped to meet Lord-Erskine himself but wasn't sure if the time would present itself.
Speaking of time.
Tarring sat in the command vehicle, well protected and well-abreast of the unfolding action. Reports from various other command posts and centres told him that things were moving well. He looked over at his adjutant, 2[SUP]nd[/SUP] Lieutenant Horsham. The man lacked charm or the grace becoming of an officer of Galidraan but did have a certain…ambience…that kept Tarring in a stable mood.
"That's time, sir."
Horsham was often talkative but today he was calm. He sat, listening to the hum of the command vehicle as it churned through the rocky terrain.
Bex nodded, silently thanking Horsham for keeping him on track to report in. It was a big thing, to report in. It ensured the safety and coordination of all involved, but today was especially important. It would be to Lord-General Barran himself.
"<Bramber One-Lance One. Hurst Company calling in, Milord. En route to designated rendezvous. Due 100km South of the redoubt. No forces yet engaged. Will check-in. Monitoring comms as per. Bramber One over>"
He clicked his hand off the console, a moment of dread still clutching his chest. He was always nervous to place himself in the path of his most extraordinary of commanders. It could draw their ire or any keen focus that might find him wanting.
"Point is asking us to stop, sir. One last go on the broken down XT. Say that it should be ready for a go."
Tarring nodded, the comms officer relaying orders along the column. They would need to get a move on if they were to make contact on time.
Speaking of time.
Made successful landing 150km south of enemy fortification. Attempted to fix the broken tank. Began advance towards the enemy position. Checked in with Commanding Officer. Stopped shortly to ensure optimum condition of tanks. The position of the column is now 110km south of the citadel.
Yubari knew she was partly to blame. The days she had spent hunting Darth Caelitus
had greatly frustrated both her superiors and the efforts of COMPNOR to remove the rogue former Imperial from existence. Always seemingly one step ahead, the HRD had tried to kill the Miralukan in the ruins of Nirauans capital, even going as far as to hunt down and kill many of Caelitus's subordinates. All for nothing as the Sith Lord escaped and hid behind his fetid and rank legions of the undead. Out of the many the Replicant had killed or brutally maimed under orders of the committee, Caelitus had been one of the few enemies that had gotten away.
This time that 'mistake', that error, the cost of which had been immense to the state security forces, would be corrected once and for all. Inserting via a cloaked landing craft in the passes above the valley, the Atrisian made her way silently through the desolate peaks and its rugged paths. The bulk of the Mawites seemingly congregating below to face the incoming iron tide of the Imperial armed forces, with her only company for now being the odd patrol and reservists left behind by the main force. The dead took no notice of her moving among the opaque grey rocks; they hadn't on Nirauan either when Asa had gone after Caelitus. Only the living among the Mawites would see her, and by then, it was too late.
The Replicant pondered if Caelitus and the rest of the Mawite leaders had the capacity to beg; part of Yubari hoped they would. She would, of course, torture them regardless of their co-operation or not, but it was always more gratifying to watch them break slowly. Beneath the ghoulish decor and cult appearance of Caelitus's lieutenants on Nirauan, human emotion overtook them, and most died in terror or were reduced to being little more than squealing piggies in a slaughterhouse. After breaking the arms of the last one and taking what she needed from him, the man was left hanging from a ruined bell tower on Carannia—ironically becoming the latest face in Caelitus's horde of the undead.
Something moved up ahead in the path.
Asa darted quickly out of view, hugging a large crop of rocks on the side of the path and narrowly balancing on the sides edge, which faced a considerable drop below. She heard them clear as day. Two signatures arrived in close proximity to the replicants position, and they were moving closer. From what she could make from the sounds, they were drunk idiot raiders typical of a Mawite Warband. Two they could easily handle, especially since Yubari didn't feel anything special about them. No sense of training about them. But Asa still opted for stealth. It wasn't like she was in a hurry. She did need that blaster rifle and that access card, though.
W H I T E C L O A K NEW IMPERIAL ORDER
KNIGHTS OF THE EMPIRE
Imperial Knight Armour | Lightsaber ALLIES: NIO, Rurik Fel ENEMIES: NSO, MAW,Erion Justeene
Tags - Open
While the Sith vessel was piloted through Mawite Space, Atticus was looking inward. Today was an important day. The battles he had fought in the past were different in comparison to this one. They had fought the Brotherhood before, it was true. But todays mission was not for the sake of reclaiming a lost planet like Carlac, or cleansing Nirauan of the vile infestation of the Sith and the Perished. It was not for the sake of liberating Imperial brothers and sisters from the tyranny of the Sith, or for some long lost son to return home.
It was for revenge, as Atticus saw it.
Revenge for the Imperator.
Revenge for those lost.
A kill mission.
So deeply in tuned with his senses, he felt the transition from vacuum to gravity well. Atticus arose, tugging the mask down from atop his head, and brought that ivory hood up from his shoulders. Every moment they drew closer to their destination, and the white cloak's blood pumped faster and faster. He was familiar with the feeling. The initial moments after impact would be the bloodletting. It could've been a trap, who knew how prepared Caelitus the Deceiver was?
But after impact? That was when the battle would truly start.
In his minds eye he could see Citadel Caelitus drawing closer and closer. The obsidian ledges turned to shelves holding snow, the crimson windows. He saw it all, and then the front of the Citadel crumbled, and it all went back. A force dragged his physical body forwards, attempting to wrench him from the troop bay's flooring, but another, strong one kept him fastened to the ground.
In the wake of tumbling stone, there was a metal clang, echoing.
He finally moved, a silver hilt in each hand.
In the darkness, his naked eyes could see nothing.
But he was not alone.
The Empire was with him.
At Fel's command, Draco leapt out to start the bloody business of the day.
DARK LORD OF THE SITH |VOICE OF THE MAW Citadel Caelitus Rurik Fel
Dark clouds impaired his vision, whirling gusts of unnatural winds spirited his astral form off as the dark shroud grew thicker and thicker the deeper he went. He raised his hands into the air and gestured away, parting the clouds as if he had control over the very wind at his back. Even then, the environment fought against him, the shroud resisting his efforts as if it had a will of it’s own.
Time was meaningless here, a day, an hour, a century it mattered not. The Sith’ari could not be denied, his efforts were merely a drop of water in the ocean of timelessness that was here beyond shadows and yet, something or someone continually opposed him. He felt a familiar presence one not touched since..
The Dark Lord’s eyes opened as he snapped back to his physical shell, bold orbs of sulfuric hatred glistening outward into the darkened chamber of which he found solace. It was here in the Qabbrat that he had ascended into the realm Beyond Shadows. He could still feel the lingering metaphysical touch of Romi Jade
, he knew now it was her that had been interfering with his astral projection. It been her that had followed him in his search.
The door to the stone chamber parted open with a momentous thud, the Dark Lord hissed audibly as crimson light flooded in from the outside hall. An attendant to the Dark Lord Darth Caelitus
, a member of the Church of the Dark Side stood with his head bowed before the Dark Voice whom rose from his cross legged position on the floor.
“Milord, we are..”
A single word bellowed out from his lips, an interruption that spoke volumes of the sudden foulness that followed.
The Dark Lord of the Sith stepped forward his eyes falling to the lowly disciple with a terrible glare, “He is mine.”
With venomous eyes releasing their hold over the poor servant, the Dark Lord retrieved his dark armor and prepared for battle. Ready to end this feud with the Emperor once and all. They would pay for their defiance this day.
The hollow thud of footsteps growing louder with each passing second drew a curt breath from the miraluka's lips, a sign that his moments of meditation had come to an end. From his place of rest, legs uncrossed and his weight was cast forward, where his hands found rest folded in his lap, and his marbled features turned toward the door. The rhythmic cadence came to an end, ceasing just beyond the gilded entrance, and he awaited with his Sight situated through the guardian twins to gaze at the one lingering beyond. Hesitation plagued the familiar figure, the woman poised with a fist lifted to knock against the steely doors. It drew a sinister smirk from the edges of his lips, amused, though he would remain silent until she grew the fortitude to commit.
"M-my Lord-" the woman called out, punctuating her hesitance with three knocks against the door, "the acolytes are prepared, the chamber is ready." The wait for confirmation had seen his insomnia rile up in its full vitriol, wracking his plagued mind with sequences of thoughts fragmented by the splinter of his psyche, the rise and fall of both halves churning in their endless wrestle for control. As silent as the grave, his spectral stride carried him from his seat to the doors, which opened before him without the guidance of his hands. "Thank you, Amarth," his voice oozed from between his scarred lips, pouring as molten gold to burn the edges of her countenance, "Your direction upon my lessers is always appreciated." His monotone masked his sarcasm, yet he weighted her shoulder with his touch, all the same, moving by thereafter to course down the hall with leisure at his back. Behind him, the zabrak rushed, struggling to match his lengthy strides. "Of course," she stated, unsure, "how are you fairing? I know you mentioned you were suffering a migraine."
Inside of the elevator, he offered her a response, the silence hanging between the two nurtured until he could feel the zabrak sweat, unnerved by it all. "I am perpetually plagued by migraines, my dear, I would only begin to worry if I managed to rid myself of this one." Trembling fingers brushed the shaped mustache over his words briefly. What he did not reveal, of course, was the source of this particularly nasty headache. Prophetic visions and murmurings had come to torment him throughout the previous week, coalescing in a worrisome chorus of anxiety that saw his heartrate spike and remain so. The Citadel had been erected quickly, a new place for him to rest his head, and to grow his influence within the New Sith Order, his guidance shaping a great number of acolytes into intimidating sorcerers capable of enacting his will to the letter. Yet, he knew this contentment and peace would not last, as the Iron soldiers would find him surely, and sully the very grounds he had hollowed. They would come to this world, he had no doubt about it, and they would break just as they had on Carlac.
The gentle chime of the elevator drew him back to reality and he stepped beyond, venturing into the spiraling steps swallowed by the growing darkness of the Citadel's underbelly. Downward the pair descended, accompanied only by the growing echo of otherworldly chants resonating from the stones surrounding them, and the forceful pulse of the earth's upheaval in equal rhythm. Prepared it all had been, indeed, so much so that in actuality, there was very little left for him to do. Operating with hundreds of devoted followers had preserved him the excessive strain of his own toil into every incantation, it had spared him the struggle of fighting against his mortal restraints, and had freed up much of his time to pursue more pertinent matters than the expansion of his undying forces. Asa Yubari
's subterfuge had been punishing, the cost of her interference had been great, with some of his most promising sorcerers taken out of commission. Yet, as the Darkness grew, more and more devout practitioners would emerge from the fringes of the galaxy to serve, bolstering the number of his effective convent into something he only could have dreamed of in times when madness did not twist his dreams into nightmares.
The sprawling chamber opened wide, the air was ripe with the sharp copper of blood and the taint of foul magics. The chanting peaked, the dozens of voices achieving perverse harmony rattled his heart against his ribs and reverberated through his bones, driving the air on the nape of his neck to stand. Though they were his most devoted, his Presence would go unannounced, as the ritual was far more important than the customary groveling and bothersome formalities exercised by much of his ilk. He turned briefly to the woman at his elbow and waved her away with the flick of a wrist. She was not one of them, as desperately as she tried to be, regardless of how many tests of his she passed, he always found her lacking. Frustrated, she scowled, tightening her jaw, but marched off in the direction the two had come all the same. The Dark Lord allowed the tension mounting in his shoulders to ease, and carried himself between the rows of channeling sorcerers to perch upon the precipice separating the runic platforms from the rest of the chamber below. Spiraling stairs carved into the obsidian stone unraveled to each curving side, spilling out onto the plateau where, by now, hundreds of corpses lay neatly arranged in pin-straight rows- visible to him only by the flowing weave of Darkness swirling through the cavern.
Delicately, his hands cuffed and rolled his sleeves up over his elbows, the Dark Lord swaying gently with the pounding rhythm of the chants, immersing himself in the environment eagerly, his power stoked from its dormancy by the effort on display. Knuckles rolled into the opposite palms, the joints cracking down the line, loosening in the stiff cold. Caelitus extended his grasp into the metaphysical, fettering the tendrils of insidious might dancing freely about to guide them, weaving the threads between and around his digits. He latched onto it parasitically, eagerly drinking in what it was his followers offered him. "Acolyte Sipha," the Dark Lord hummed with the elegance of silk, "step forth, claim your destiny." Bare feet shuffled against the stone, and between his outstretched arms, the human took his stance, amber eyes fixed solely on the features smiling back at him. "Your time has come, my dear," Caelitus went on to state, "have you brought what I requested?"
Silently, the sorcerer produced a thin, obsidian blade from his lengthy sleeve, and overturned his palms to present it in an offering to his patron. "Very good," The Mercurial Saint cooed, "you have served me well." Tender fingers curled around the grip, the Dark Lord giving the man only one moment of pause before the abrupt flick of his arm drew a deep, visceral line across the pale stretch of his neck. Crimson bubbled rapidly to the surface, rushing down to stain the skin and soil his robes. Greater spurts projected outward, splattering the dagger-wielding Dark Lord in a spray of warmth, the likes of which brought greater delight to his face. His hands rushed upward, catching the man's shoulders in his topple, and he took a step back, supporting the angle at which the man's failing body had begun to fall.
Blood poured onto the runic sigil carved into the stone beneath, and in almost the same instant, did the lines illuminate, and the stone began to sing. "And you will continue to do so-" Caelitus finished his thought aloud, whirling the dagger in his lagging hand to plunge beneath the man's ribcage, where it was left nestled. "-in a state far greater than what you've come to believe."
The explosive crash far above jolted him awake, and more concerningly, so too did the swell of mostly unfamiliar energy in his mind's eye. No, it was not wholly unfamiliar... his lips twitched, the scowl taking form deepening as he swung his feet from his bed and arose, turning his focus upward to hone on the rippling Lights above. No, it was familiar but entirely unwelcome. What a bothersome development this was. A deep, guttural breath rattled in his chest, leaving him as little more than a growl of frustration, and he slapped his hand on the console stationed above his nightstand, using the tactile buttons to key in a command he had hoped would remain unused. Yet, the prophetic tease fluttering between his thoughts the previous days had foretold it, and it was his foolish hopefulness that had prayed it was merely a farce conjured by his unsteady psyche. There was little he could trust, his own mind perhaps most of all.
Klaxons wailed, powering from gentle cadence into an outright wail, and with them, heavy doors crashed down from the ceiling, sealing off the more intimate expanses of the fortress. <"MY LORD!"> the console crackled, <"A ship has crashed into the upper spire!"> Caelitus' expressionless face angled toward the panel, his lips pressing into a firm line which all but screamed the sarcastic remark he withheld. "I'm aware," he uttered instead, his tone plagued by his fetid annoyance, "Close off the upper reaches, contain them. Seal quadrants thirty-four through twenty-eight, and mobilize the defense forces." The commands were issued, and just after, the Dark Lord extended both curling hands toward the armor levitating in its display across his chambers. Ethereal hands unfettered it, and as he hastily slipped into his body glove, the heavy suit clamped around his limbs, sealing him within its protective lay. Digits tightened the straps down, further locking the pieces into place, and after his lightsaber was summoned and tucked into its sling.
He turned his grim masque downward to his bed, his attention given to the mewling cat sitting expectantly on the foot. Delicate fingers curled along Solare's bare spine. "We've got visitors, dear one," he spoke casually to his pet, his voice brimming with growing, giddy delight, "whatever shall we do about them?" The cat's cold, yellow eyes blinked slowly, his body humming with a purr sourced in his chest. "You're right," the Dark Lord spoke again, "we should be good hosts." A final pat was given, his hand delicately squashing the cat's ears, "Stay put, I'll be back before too long." And thus he went, departing his roost to emerge into the black corridor already swarming with the undead kept closest to him. Beneath his helmet, the Dark Lord's lips twisted into a rueful smile, ivories bared to nothing. Silence enveloped the hall and onward the group went, the undead lurching ahead eagerly to taste the blood of their unwelcome guests.
Languidly, the Dark Lord parted from them, turning to ascend the spiraling stairs climbing into the ruined spire. Each toll of his heavy boots timed the cadence of his power unfurling its sinister span. The fortress was beneath his command, it lived and breathed as he did, and at his summons from his blackened font, it pulsed with ominous dread. Alone in his climb, he sorted the foreign Presences from one another, naming those in his mind he knew and grouping those he did not. The Imperial Knights had grown tremendously in strength as of late, Rurik Fel
's rallying cry to unify them on Nirauan had been powerful enough, in fact, to banish the Darkness he had summoned to blot out the very sky. It was a remarkable thing, to say the least, and though he found himself full of nothing but malice for each of them, even he had to admit the display was impressive. Admirable or not, it was destined for the forces to collide once more, and this world, another beneath his sway, was to be the latest staging ground.
Anixety bled from the walls, poking and prodding at the minds of the unwelcome, seeking any crack, any crevice it could bury through to sink in its dreadful teeth. Suspense was created, breathed in. Thereafter followed the overwhelming pestilence of Caelitus' Presence, his being felt throughout every chamber and corridor of the accursed Citadel. This was his home. This was his place of peace. And they had come to soil it. A silent command was issued, the Dark Lord reaching through the thousands of strands he had woven with his acolytes to touch the minds of every member of his army, wrenching back on the crimson ties to launch them into action. And with the order to mobilize given, his voice announced his awareness of their intrusion, resonating from places on high and far below, until it washed through the Imperial Knights with all its bleak, starless reach. He taunted them from afar, yet he sounded unnervingly close, too close for comfort:
"Believe me, I'm flattered really, but discourtesy is such an abhorrent, ugly thing. I'll mourn the wounds dealt to my beautiful home with your corpses in due time, but for now, do please try to enjoy your visit."
Beyond him, beyond the walls of the Citadel, thousands of his undead troopers animated from their almost mechanical duties, turning their helmeted heads skyward to unleash a vengeful howl of awakening that ripped the stars from the sky.
So close to attaining what he sought. He had fought the galaxy, fought the best and brightest. He had purged the bloated and weak, had suffered both victory and defeat. Letifer had become the embodiment of what it was to be Sith, his very presence stirring dread where he would tread. The time has come, he was ready.
The Sith assassin marched through the sinister halls of the Dark Lord’s abode, his stride steady and unbroken. As he made his approach toward the Throne Room he was stopped by Final Dawn technician, one with a look of confusion rather than fear.
“Milord you’re not on the Tenebrae?”
Letifer paused, his body arching around with sudden concern beneath his armored veil.
The hall shook with great force as shuttle met with the Citadel in the nearby area. The Sith Assassin held his ground, recovering well from the massive quake from the damage done nearby . After regaining his footing, Letifer audibly roared through his vocabulator, taking off into a dead sprint towards to the epicenter of the collision.
Arriving into the sudden war zone thrust upon them, the Sith Warrior rallied out to any nearby members of the New Sith Order caught off guard by this sudden attack. The tables had turned… the New Sith were on the defensive.
Letifer drew his shakkar and his saber, his blade exploding to life with a sudden snap hiss. This would be a day long remembered, he leapt into the fray ready to fight off the invaders.
I really hoped they wouldn’t notice me, I really, really hoped, but I wasn’t lucky. Moments later, I saw several of the shadows and shapes point to where I was. True, there were several larger piles of debris here, so I was hoping to think of their own peers who might have been trapped under the ruins as well as me. However, this hope of mine was also shattered when a female individual was referred to. Maybe… maybe a female marauder is trapped under the ruins, right? Right? No, I was not so lucky…
"Here, I found her, help me to get her out of the ruins!" said a man's voice.
The sound was unfamiliar, however, I tried to climb as deep as possible into the ruins, but those marauders unloaded the debris over my head much faster. Last but not least, I had very, very limited options here under the ruins for where I could hide. In short, nowhere. So in a minute or two I was already surrounded by three big armoured marauders, mawite, who were standing over my head. I was still trembling with the fear and shock that the explosion might have caused. Not to mention that I was feeling bad due to a head injury.
I almost screamed when one grabbed my shoulder. I managed to keep quiet; you're good Ziare, you're good, so far! Let’s say I don’t know how long this condition will last. However, it was a little strange that they were not aggressive. This was very, very contradictory to what I have experienced about them so far. In every case they tried to destroy everything and everyone. But they didn't even take my weapons. Weren't they considered me a threat? That would have been very, very uncomfortable. True, maybe I could have caused quite a few surprises to them.
After all, I escaped from them once and almost killed one of their commanders, warlords, that Mongrel. The end result was ugly and I was taken prisoner of war, but even then, I almost killed him. Later I escaped from them! I didn’t want to be ours again, meaning one occasion was enough for a lifetime and even more! So I wanted to run away. That’s why I was nervously looking around the room in the hiding place of my helmet to see where to escape. MANIAC immediately showed the two exits; one of which had already collapsed and the other. Well, the Marauders just stood on the way which leads to it.
Why haven't they attacked me yet? Rather, they just examined me, which made me even more nervous and scared. I was glad my helmet was already on my head so at least they couldn’t see my face. They couldn't see that I was terrified. While it is possible that my body language was also quite telltale because, as I saw from their facial expressions, something was bothering them. About me. Maybe that, I'm still alive? However, the following question from marauder was genuinely surprised me and caught me off guard:
"Are you okay Mercy?" the man asked me.
"Who?" I asked back in surprise a few seconds later.
Who is Mercy and why did he call me that? Help? Someone, help me please!
A mysterious Imperial Security Officer sits beneath flickering lights. Annor's nostrils steadily heave and hoe on the recycled oxygen in the confines of her jet black helmet. Peering through a pair of polarised lenses, the emotionless visage of a painted Stormtrooper pivots left and then right. Annor was studying the men and women of the Empire who had been placed on the joint-task force. "Most of them will be corpses before this is over." Annor keeps the deadpan and pessimistic comment an inward thought; she was recalcitrant to apply the same grey outlook to what she perceived as the more "elite" among the teams of warriors: particularly the spectre.
Annor thought about her involvement in the operation and concluded it couldn't have been an accident. Somebody in the brass must have seen that she was a graduate of the Elite program. No doubt, perceived as an asset that person whoever they were requisitioned Special Task Force assets from the Imperial Security Force. Annor curses that person; due to their interference in her life, she would find herself on the business end of what was tantamount to a suicide mission. "Damn the General responsible for this insanity." Annor's teeth clench, and she quietly snarls. "I'll just have to kill my way through the new Sith's slaves to get home." Thoughts drift into imagining the sight of the twisted cultists who would no doubt await in the belly of the fortress. Anxiety and anger push Annor's hands to curl into fists on the adolescents' knees.
"Capturing or killing Caelitus in this mess will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack." Cerulean blue orbs shift over to the helmet-mounted displays' heart-rate monitor, forty beats per minute at rest. Annor's gaze floats to the sidearm that hugs her right leg in its' holster. "But that's not about to stop us." The pilot's panicked mumbling fills Annor's helmet. The drop pod hurtles with perilous speed toward the citadel below, nestled into the mountainside.
"The airbrakes failed. They peeled too early!" Annor's heart rate finally leaps up into her throat, carotid arteries pulse with fiery fury and her blue spheres peer around desperately. Many of the Storm Commandos begin to shout and whimper, panicked. "I'm losing control, brace, brace, brace!" Everything went dark inside the simmering cylinder, now a tomb.
The floor gunmetal floor is stained scarlet and charcoal black by broken armoured bodies. Annor's lungs quiver and expel a cough with a deep thoracic gurgle; she rolls onto her side with a gasp and peers on the thermal channel through the dense black smoke curling through the greasy air. "Status!" With a warrior's focus, Annor's gaze peers over toward the malfunctioning jaws of the drop pod's door. At its' precipice, a dying storm commando clutches at his knee and groans violently in pain. "Hold on, Trooper." Guiltlessly, Annor deftly steps over the dead and takes a knee beside the trooper, his back slumped against the hull wall. Temperature sensors begin firing wildly on her helmet-mounted display as the furnace ignites. Annor resolves not to let the man be incinerated.
"You didn't deserve this." Annor's statement is cold, albeit sincere and in the same movement as standing. Fires a single shot with post-human precision from a blaster that detaches the man's brain stem. Killing him instantly, she then focuses on the malfunctioning doors, which threaten to swallow Annor as the trooper did. She wouldn't be caught dying in an inferno. Annor coils down low like a feline and then, with a furious roar, manages to roll clear of death's jaws into the gale of the mountainside.
A geyser of flame reaches into the sky, and several flatlines are heard playing through the helmet. Annor breathes a sigh and, without missing a beat, keys up to her intercom, with a tone confident and calm as chilled water. "This is Ordinal-Minor, to all operation callsigns, catastrophic casualties, I say again. Fatal casualties. Strike team Aurek is gone. How copy?" Their objective had been to infiltrate the citadel and rendezvous with other Imperial assets to assassinate Caelitus, realistic about her own abilities. Annor thought she could take any Mawite soldier alone but a Sith Lord? That was beyond her capability. The monsters were already atop Annor, and she began fighting her way through them. The cybernetic commando trained from childhood and built for war was to the hordes of cultists a scythe to a field of wheat.
The maw gave and asked not for clemency or mercy and would find none in the ruthless graduate of the Elite Program.
"Oooooooh. Oh no. Oh, no, no, no. This ain't right."
It had all been a simple operation to investigate a smuggling ring. That was it. A minor ring, nothing major, just get a bit of information, a few names, and report back on Kashyyyk. How had it all gone so wrong? First they had to turn out to be slavers, which was bad enough, but with connections to the Maw?
Marus didn't even know what that meant but he knew it couldn't be good!
So of course—of kriffing course he got captured, and woke up on their jank-arse freighter in hyperspace. Overhearing them say something about the Maw, Sith, a citadel or something, and—
Nope, not even gonna try and pronounce that name. It looks like some Chiss language thing. Not about that tongue-cramp life.
Luckily, these slavers didn't seem to be very experienced, and their restraints were terrible. He'd manage to bust out of better on thirty different backwater stations by the time he'd turned seventeen.
Or was it eighteen?
From there, it wasn't too difficult to surprise the one that was left to guard him, take that guy down, and take advantage of the choke point to knock out every other member of the slaving crew that came to try and re-subdue him. Even managed to find his pistols, empty wallet, and datapad while still in hyperspace. Of course, he needed some way to deal with the slavers, and he couldn't just take a blaster and execute them all. That'd be against the code, right?
The code he still needed to learn. Yeah. The Jedi Code. That code.
So, he decided it was better to let nature take its course. He stripped them of their belongings while they all remained unconscious, dragged them all back to the airlock, and vented them out into hyperspace, beyond the freighter's protection. Instaneous (hopefully), painless (hopefully), and didn't leave any bodies behind (definitely). That just left him to figure out what else to do. Unfortunately, they'd sent word ahead to this "Citadel Caelitus" that they were coming, so there was no simple turning around and booking it back to Silver Jedi space. Without a prisoner on-board, he couldn't really pass himself off as a slaver, which left talking his way out.
Which, after he saw the citadel as he piloted the freighter in for a landing, escorted by a pair of fighters, he could tell would prove...extremely difficult at best.
The waiting didn't make it any better. At least the slavers had some decent gear; a nice blast vest on one, a cortosis-lined vibrosword and a similarly-enhanced dagger, spare power cells, and best of all, money. Of course, he couldn't distract himself with counting through the plunder forever. While the powers-that-be seemed inclined to make him wait until they were good and ready to have him exit and walk into his impending doom, apparently some others decided to make a more bombastic appearance.
Which led to his exclamations of surprise and fear as he saw the vessel carrying multiple imperial knights crash into the side of the citadel. Not to mention the numerous other forces that had been showing up shortly after he did, which looked...decidedly unfriendly to the ones who owned the citadel. "Oh, I'm in danger."
Well, no wonder they were making him wait, if there were so many hostile forces showing up. No doubt, they were putting together a group to come and check him out pretty quickly, heavily armed, far more than he could deal with alone, all to make sure the ship he arrived in wasn't some new trap. Which, in an unfortunate sense, it kinda was.
Except now it was turning into a death trap for him...
Marus was shocked out of his contemplation of death and doom and destruction by a beeping at the communications console. A message from the flight controller; telling him to be by the loading ramp, ready to lower it and disembark so that it could be inspected within the next five minutes. "Sithspit." Without much else to do, he acknowledged the message with two words in return:
Sybila’s breath pooled before her, eyes drooping as she savored the metallic stench in the air. The back lights on the shuttle flickered as bodies swayed amidst the hurdling descent. In the dark there was no notion of the rapidly approaching planetside, only the durasteel cage they found themselves wedged into. A strained chuckle shook her, the cold set in slowly. The upheaval that rippled in the air passed over her as they approached the eclipse in the Force. Skin rippled with gooseflesh and chilled her neck-faceless helms maintained a level of sight on her from both sides; their attention peeled the back of her skull insistently.
What more was she then a wolf in sheep’s clothes.
It only fed scraps to the ugly thing nestled in her chest, pride or ego-she bared her teeth nicely at her fellow compatriot. They were no more than panting hounds, waiting for the chain to hit the ground but to do so now...there was far more greater enemies to turn their misguided wrath on. She supposed she could respect the Knight’s animosity. What they wouldn’t give for the command she wondered. Her armor clicked softly as she rolled one shoulder-she would have welcomed it under different circumstances. When Fel had revealed the true nature of Irveric’s death to her, rage was rebirthed-echoing the past that had led her down this dark path. Caelitus too now branded her mind, faceless-only a name but it was enough for the hunt to be renewed.
The proverbial loaded gun was there kissing her temple, it was the only thing that made her consider her next steps carefully. These consequences were far less dramatic then she had hoped, an expectation in this zealous crusade hardly seemed like an arduous sentence. The ship shook violently, mounting as metal and anything not strapped down rattled away. The radio clicked off at some point as she stewed in silence, runaway chatter on the console had played like a broken reel until one of the pilots went as far as to cut the line. She had to give it to Fel, this was downright bloodthirsty...but seemingly desperate. She would buy her time.
That never boded well for the long run, but it made it all the more invigorating.
An affront burned inside her chest, it had been aged and a dying notion needing invigoration-she had needed this purpose once again. Simpler times, she had pondered it after skulking back to the likes of the Iron Sun. But that notion was still but a pipedream, rooted in the past. They all had yearned for it, they all had to of at some point. She swelled with some grim satisfaction, as if she was privy to some greater truth-knowing it would never end. She would bury a few more demons here alas. Her servo wove into the brace strap over head-her grip adjusting again until the wires lacing her cybernetic creaked.
It would not be long now, her hand slipped from overhead and moved to smooth out the layer of robe and blast plate. Metallic fingers dancing to the long hilt of the blade on her hip. They weren’t the talkative bunch it seemed and she shook her head. The blade was prodded and left to be, it was a meager exchange, an arms and a half’s length and sleek. It was far too long-to light she had complained. Where was the worn grip that melded in hand. The pike was just a weapon-not an extension of herself.
But another unfortunate sacrifice required to move forward.
As the shuttle broke the atmosphere and the woman swayed as the hull began to shake, abandoning the saber as her hand returned to the brace line. Mind adrift with the chaos as the steady whine of the engines grew until only the hum reverberated off every corner and body. It was a far cry to clutching the ledge of a downed bird spiraling out of control, how times had changed.
Any sense of belonging had been left in the hangars upon her departure from her own men, from the ruines of Nirauan. Soldiers understood soldiers. Those of the 307th, her own..there was a sharp absence where they had always stood at her back and here..she was alone. The eccentricism to chase away the nihilism that had never been far in those men. Eyes flickered over the wall of white robes, she had nothing to say to here to theses men. She didn’t need their camaraderie, and her hand swung forward grabbing the next loop ahead with purpose-wedging herself past the Knights wordlessly-shoving her way toward Fel. For men who preached the sanctity of balance..they were teeming with something that bordered violent as elbows kissed ribs.
She pitied them, testing the weight of her own blackened helmet in hand. Sybila hefted it up and slipped it over her head to chase away the smothering feeling off; her heart rate steadily climbing. The HUD flashed as the screen before her eyes, cycling with aurebesh as the load out finished. Her visor turned, peering over her shoulder as names filed down the screen, she looked away only to strain her neck again-turning around eyes following one familiar name.
Vyshraal. The muffled and distorted laughter that escaped her helmet was far too much to hide, and it took even herself by surprise. Sybila’s gauntlet reached between Knight alike to grab the Togruta’s shoulder, maybe then she had swung the gavel too soon. A dwindling set of numbers at the corner of her HUD spelled little time until they crashed. For better or worse she owed that man an apology but this..she hadn’t expected.
<”Boy-”> Sybila’s digits dug in, shaking the younger xeno. Her words backed by a warmth and promise, pressing gently through the Force but her physical words were distorted by the layers of tenebrae-<”I know your father..come find me after all this is said and done.”>
She let him go then, forced herself to, the pit in her stomach was ruthlessly squandered as realization set in. He shouldn’t be here, Ravraa would of never let his own inherent this fight and a bad feeling dispelled the fleeting joy. Sybilas gaze darkened and she turned her sights back on the rear of the shuttle-joining the front..mind reeling
Now wasn't the time and she inhaled sharply, ventilators spinning as hot air washed over her face.
The chasm that languished inside, beckoned and invited her but there would be no chance to channel the white searing blade inside-not yet at least. She would have made better company in the hell. A martial prowess, a discipline-this was what was touted about before her. Sybila enjoyed the challenge, no matter how bloodied she walked away.
It wasn’t trust Fel had extended in her, the woman eyed their stalwart defender’s back as he moved toward the shuttles doors. This was her trial, one she would have to relive until the end of time surely. It didn't matter the method, they only need get the job done. The ships straight shot lurched them and all braced, metal rend just beyond the doors in a horrific deafening show, the screeching did not stop. Her gauntlet closed around the sleeken saber, unhooking it from her side. When all seemed to still, the brief hiss of the blast doors revealed them unto the enemy. Her heart beat mercilessly against her chest, seizing the adrenaline that ran liquid fire through her vein.
She descended with a lumbering step, her wrist rolling as the pike extended sliding through her hand-thumb brushing the delicate switch. Sybila raised the saber high in a flourish as a brilliant white blade erupted, palm resting on the hilt as they stared down the sea of red and rubble, the citadels wall collapsed all around. The woman moved with quick steps, parting from the mob greeting the open arms of brandished blades with her own like old friend. It was steeped in the air, bleeding from the stone underfoot-darkness. It was intoxicating still and she considered it.