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Private Nadiem: The Empty Temple

The Nadiem Jedi enclave, like the world, sat silent. Not long ago it had played host to tens of thousands of people and dozens of evacuation ships. Now Quill treasured his solitude for what might be the last time.

Sitting on the edge of the enclave's roof, he looked out over the torn-up fields. He cleared his throat and activated the recording function on his datapad.

"This message is for Auteme Auteme . I know you were never formally my Padawan, but you've been the closest thing I ever really had, and a great research assistant. I just wanted to thank you for that. And I'm sorry to put this on you.

"This isn't a death message if I can help it, but I figured at least one Jedi should know what I've done. There was a meeting - a whole lot of Jedi, most of them young Knights, wanted to charge off and try to kill the Bryn'adul leader. I'm all for eliminating him, but they're going to get themselves killed for a low chance of success. And I'm not saying I've got a better one, but a chance is a chance, right? So I've done a little visionary work with the Windspeaker saber, and I think I can draw the Drael patriarch out personally with that Suerton probability manipulation we studied together. I've got backup plans, I don't intend to die here unless it's to accomplish what I came to try. The Force tells me this can go any which way. The future's not set. There's no fate but what we make for ourselves.

"You're a good kid, Auteme, and a great fething Jedi. You're one of the few true bridges between Wyatt's Order and Elise's, and you always have been. Give it ten years and you'll be running the place. Take care of yourself."

He bounced the message through a location baffle so it couldn't be traced to Nadiem. He also gave it a one-hour delay. Then he sat there on the roof and waited for Tathra Khaeus Tathra Khaeus to answer the Force-borne call of a manufactured and open-ended destiny.
ᴡᴀʀ'ꜱ ᴄᴜꜱᴛᴏᴅɪᴀɴ

"He is alone." Somehow, the Seers had known the Enclave was required. They demanded it remain untouched.

This was why. No doubt.

Below the Jedi Master, the grand oak tree's branches would dance in a synthetic wind as a pearlescent white circle would be born from nothing just beyond the left of the tree in the outer courtyards. The circle would be formed from pure white energy, circling in tendrils as it cut through the ground like butter - streaks of pure black energy forming in the epicentre of the circle as one could feel the universe scream, the void seemingly summoned.

From within, a singular entity would approach. Clad in silver armour laced with gold trimmings, the red vapour of the Axe igniting as it peered through the void. Aureate opaque eyes finding the lingering Jedi a top of the rooftop, staring from the darkness as the Chieftain of the Bryn'adûl stepped out from the miasma of force energy.

Tathra stood, holding the Axe aloft in his left hand as he looked from the Jedi Master to the Oak tree. The air shifted, its density almost suffocating as the presence of the Titan became like a gravity well; leeching all of the life from their surroundings as everything grew terribly still. The portal closed behind him.

Quill was one of a handful who had survived a direct encounter with Tathra. Yet the Jedi Master had returned, his actions spoke. Though Tathra didn't know of what - Yet. For once, he was curious. Curious eyes shifted from the Oak to the Jedi.

"[Basic:] Quill."

- Jend-Ro Quill Jend-Ro Quill



" Tathra Khaeus Tathra Khaeus . That's your name, isn't it?"

Quill kept the high ground for the moment, but stood up, right there on the edge of the enclave. He glanced at the closing rift for confirmation of what he'd sensed through the talents that the life-weavers had shown him here and there: the Draelvasier had the secret of spacetime portals. Perhaps Tathra had stood on the Draelvasier homeworld a moment ago, whatever and wherever that was. Perhaps his Darksiders had sent him from the scene of yet another genocide.

Down below Quill was a large, semicircular courtyard, the enclave's main entranceway. He hopped off the roof and landed in front of the enclave's door. His eyes tightened as he took in Tathra's bulk. Had the Drael patriarch somehow grown even larger? Gene therapy of some kind, self-mutation perhaps?

"Thank you for coming. You should know that I intend to kill you if I can. You're personally responsible for the genocides of the Kubaz, the Glottalphibs, the Keshiri, and half a dozen other sapient species. I don't see you agreeing not to murder any others. Would that be a...realistic assessment, Tathra?"
ᴡᴀʀ'ꜱ ᴄᴜꜱᴛᴏᴅɪᴀɴ

Tathra nodded in response to the query, raising his right foot against the bronze shaded metal step that lead to the Oak Tree. Right hand braced against his thigh as the red vapour leeched upward to the branches of the tree, embers flickering from them molten heat as stray leaves began to catch fire. His eyes shy'd away from the Jedi as he so abruptly stated what both already knew, pushing the temptation to take his skull deep into the recesses of his stomach.

The Jedi was here to try and stop him. To stop the truth. To spread the plague, the cancerous weakness that made all of this Universes creations so pitifully weak. Genocides? Yes, he was personally responsible. Pride swelled in him as his head raised slightly, looking back to the Jedi Master now.

He was cleaner, thinner even too maybe. What Quill did not understand was proven by his own existence, he was a child of Khaeus as the Primarch woud put it. Tathra had made him stronger, he could smell it on him. The Titan smiled.

"[Basic]: I saved them. They have served a greater purpose than they could ever know."

- Jend-Ro Quill Jend-Ro Quill

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Quill's cheek twitched as he got a whiff of...pride? Satisfaction?

"I'd imagine you speak of your people becoming stronger, but how does one grow stronger by killing only the weak-"

His breath caught in his throat.

"Oh. I think I see. I know you despise weakness in...everything and everyone. But it's not the people you despise, is it, so long as they can...rise above, become stronger. You think you're honing the galaxy. Honing people like me. Challenging us to strengthen ourselves. Now maybe that's all speculation, but - have I guessed right? Do you see the Draelvasier as the galaxy's...forge, Tathra?"

It was disgusting, of course, but he'd spent a long career trying to see things from the other's point of view, no matter how otherwise incomprehensible, and he wasn't about to stop now. Even though he definitely needed to kill this man.

If humanly possible.

Tathra Khaeus Tathra Khaeus
ᴡᴀʀ'ꜱ ᴄᴜꜱᴛᴏᴅɪᴀɴ

The insight of a Master was always interesting. The force spoke to many in different ways, maybe Quill was subconsciously reading his thoughts. It didn't matter, but ultimately the Jedi did not understand and never would. He had made Quill stronger, but that strength ultimately would serve to increase Tathra's own, it was too late for this Galaxy. Far too late. Quill was brave, but ultimately he was tool. Whether he knew it or not, that usefulness was a greater purpose that would save him from this existence.

"[Basic]: I will tear this Galaxy down to its last atom. Then I will rebuild it in our image. A stronger, better world."

Tathra's eyes shifted to the tree, its leaves fully engulfed in the fire now. That was it - times up. The Jedi was here to take on the Titan alone, saving others once again. But who was he saving now? The people of this planet had been evacuated. Perhaps he wished to save those who wished to attempt the same thing.

Ah - That was it. Tathra's stance shifted, the angle of his Axe moving slightly.

"[Basic]: But I have to thank you. Now I know they're coming."

Without another word, Tathra swung from left to right at the base of the Oak Tree; the blade cutting clean from one side to another as the Titan grasped the mid-length of the massive tree in his right hand, crimson fingers digging deep into the bark as he effortlessly flung the severed Oak Tree directly at the doorway where Quill stood.

- Jend-Ro Quill Jend-Ro Quill

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The tree had to weigh hundreds of kilos, but the massive Bryn'adul sent it flying. From their fight on Vasar, Quill remembered Tathra's disproportionate speed and strength. Even with the Force as his ally, blocking Tathra's strikes had been a painful experience. Precognition would play a major role here: Quill certainly didn't have the strength to match, and might not have the speed.

He went low, a duck and roll from his left shoulder to right hip, easier since he hadn't drawn a saber yet. The tree's bulk rushed over him and plowed through the front door and its surrounding wall. Huge, broken branches protruded from collapsing stonework. Green leaves fluttered loose before their time in a fluttering torrent. Quill's brief roll brought him back up to his feet. He sprinted for Tathra. The purified saber of Sylus Ren fit his hand snugly, metal crossguard flat against the top of his fist, and its blue-white blade hissed to molten life.

So far as intelligence analysts could determine and Jedi could report, Tathra and the other large Drael had energy-resistant plating inside and out. Finding a gap in that plating would be a matter of trial, error, and instinct. He drew on the Force in the manner of the Suerton and bent probability - but instead of a good hand of cards, he was after a much richer pot.

There were some who said Quill's skillset was unsuited to combat, and they had a point. He hadn't learned what he'd learned with combat in mind. After a few decades of experimentation and sad experience, though, he had a good sense of how and when his more esoteric skills applied. Like using probability manipulation to chance upon an otherwise-unknown weak spot, if one existed. The saber lanced out for Tathra's knotted hand as Quill twisted his body to avoid the axe's most probable angle.

Tathra Khaeus Tathra Khaeus
ᴡᴀʀ'ꜱ ᴄᴜꜱᴛᴏᴅɪᴀɴ

When the Jedi moved, Tathra moved forward two steps, assuming a defensive stance, holding the Long-Axe at the mid-length as the Jedi closed the distance, moving within the range of the Axe. Even with the Axe held at the mid-length there was nearly four feet before Quill was in range.

As the Jedi swung for his hand Tathra moved to manipulate the Long-Axe, its weight incredibly light in his grasp - he raised his arm above the arc of the blade, using that momentum as he turned his wrist inward, bringing the upper length of the Axe low and behind Quill's blade, whether caught by the hook of the beard of by the shaft of the weapon; the blade would be pushed to overextend.

At the same time, Tathra brought his right foot forward; striking at Quills throat, his hand shaped life a knife to shatter his mastoid, and put him on the back foot.

- Jend-Ro Quill Jend-Ro Quill

Tathra Khaeus Tathra Khaeus ' significant reach advantage made temporarily closing the distance imperative. As that long axe swatted the saber away - or tried, at least - Quill deactivated his weapon in an expert Trakata move and went low. Tathra's wrecking ball of a right hand rushed past, just above his head.

At which point Quill's other saber, his own saber, went live in his left hand. The blue-hot plasma jutted straight up, aiming to impale the wrist or take off a finger.

A heartbeat later, Quill slid smoothly back, both sabers deactivated again. He found his feet just outside Tathra's reach - a relative position that would last moments at most. Though he'd given ground, his balance stayed as nimble as it had ever been.

The Force strongly suggested that Tathra had plenty of options over and above his insane strength. Even with precognition, Quill would need to think on his feet.
ᴡᴀʀ'ꜱ ᴄᴜꜱᴛᴏᴅɪᴀɴ

The deactivation of the Jedi's blade was a tactic most did not use, but he had seen it before. The motion of the Axe's outward swing brought the lower length of the weapon beneath his underarm, the pommel of the Axe pressed into his underarm - stopping the momentum easily.

The dagger hand strike was dodged, a second saber igniting into the Gauntlet worn over his wrist, the material of his
armour making the blow ineffectual; Tatha turned his wrist as to bring the blade to the right of the Gauntlet, stepping in closer as the Jedi moved to back away. Tathra would've went for his wrist if he didn't disengage.

Instead he swung the
Axe upward, anchoring from the length of the shaft under his arm in a concise and incredibly quick strike; releasing a semi-circular kinetic blast from the weapons head that flew across the small distance between them to cut Quill in half.

- Jend-Ro Quill Jend-Ro Quill

So the armour was lightsabre-proof - valuable information, but a little irrelevant to Quill's survival at this precise second. That red-crystal axe was bigger than he was. He had plenty of wariness toward it, and the Force whispered that it was more than it seemed.

The energy discharge met a quick Force barrier and tore through, albeit in a weakened form. A line of fire slashed up and across Quill's chest. The burst's impact on him and his barrier threw him off his feet, back to the broken tree. He went low and skidded on his boot soles, keeping his eyes on Tathra. A fresh, angry weal marked Quill's chest, and his robes were cut clean, smouldering at the edges. He cracked his neck and straightened up, one deactivated lightsaber in each hand.

With the tangle of cracked wood and stone behind him, and the semicircular courtyard's low walls sweeping out to either flank, this could become a killzone very quickly. The axe's ranged ability changed the game somewhat. Quill leaped up, a basic Force jump, and landed on the edge of the roof. If he could lure Tathra up there, the roof might not support the Drael's immense weight. The crumbling mass of a Jedi enclave might bog him down, do some damage, slow him for a killing strike.

Also there was a trap, but not one Quill was ready to use.

Tathra Khaeus Tathra Khaeus
ᴡᴀʀ'ꜱ ᴄᴜꜱᴛᴏᴅɪᴀɴ

Tathra watched as the Jedi was flung back several metres, crashing into the broken Oak Tree that now was half buried in the doorway. The Titan lowered his Axe, his guard relaxing as the Jedi rose slightly. The Titan walked slowly toward him, their previous encounter and the small sequence of combat seemed to make it clear to both of them that this was no battle the Jedi could win, he was retreating to regain control - the gate had been unlatched, there was no retreat now as much as physical movement would provide the illusion.

Such foolish ignorance. Through the unity of Tathra's kin - through their ability to seek strength and purge weakness; the Titan could never grow complacent, never grow stagnant. Instead, Quill was here alone because he saw weakness in his kin. Where as Tathra stood strong now, propped up by the strength of his children. The true battle was already fought and won, this was ultimately semantics.

The Jedi leapt to the battlements, it was no surrender - Quill knew there was no true walking away from this bout of combat. It was a strategy, it was only a matter of time before Tathra understood why and what. It was simple calculus.

"Trickster." The Drael growled from the depths of his stomach in his mother-tongue.

Tathra leapt into the air, using sheer strength to rise above the rooftop and landing on the rooftop a metre away from the Jedi, the rock beneath them rumbling as the Titan brandished his Axe.

- Jend-Ro Quill Jend-Ro Quill

When a large truck's worth of armored alien jumps into one's immediate sphere of influence, one faces decisions. Those choices require the honed ability to evaluate and choose on a moment's notice. That's true even when one is a precog actively engaged in bending probability. Some things are just that urgent.

Quill could have refused to let Tathra close that distance. A quick preemptive leap back toward the weaker centre of the roof was tempting. But he had the feeling that Tathra would jump very close, and that kind of proximity offered a rare opportunity.

Tathra touched down within easy reach. In the same heartbeat, Quill gave his nearby trap a mental yank. It was a simple metal shell, comparable in size to a grenade. In silence, it zipped toward Tathra's left side from the rooftop about three meters away.

It contained a Yuuzhan Vong singularity mine. On impact, anything within its relatively small 'blast radius' would just plain cease to exist. Quill couldn't sense the biotech mine, but he could certainly feel and manipulate the metal case - and the shard of kyber crystal nestled inside. The kyber was there to make his telekinetic grip more instinctive, easier and quicker to target.

There was one other such mine inside the enclave, on the top floor about ten meters behind and below Quill - a backup plan for the backup plan.