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The deserts of Exegol were dark as light could barely breach its thick covering of sand and clouds - but every few moments a massive strike of lightning would show the silouhettes of buildings and tombs spanning entire valleys. A planet yet lost to the Galactic Maps, it had changes places a thousand times over the years - and hadn't seen such a gathering since the Battle in which Sidious lost centuries before; now there lay ships of every color and creed as Sith found themselves upon it once more. Gathered in various clumps around the galaxy - there was only one rule they had been given before the gathering;
There would be no blood shed upon Exegol.
It was common knowledge that the Sith were at eachother's throat abroad - for personal reasons, for theological; but they fought for a thousand reasons. In those hyperlanes, in the orbits of planets stained by war - they would kill eachother at their own content, but a pact was formed for those of the Sith Faith that Exegol would be a zone of nuetrality. A compromise to the backstabbing and conflict they thrived on, with a need to consider the future of the Order as a whole; against the Jedi, the Imperials, and the fate of the Sith themselves.
For this reason, training exercises were set up in portions of the Sith Citadel, feasts were held for the percieved arrival of a golden age, and others slink away for politics and pleasure. Others still did not cease their work - as teams of Sith loyalists unloaded supplies and building matierals to bring the planet back up to the glory it once held under the Final Order. Yet more were given the task of clearing out structures infested with squatters - corrupted and inbred as they were after generations of living upon the planet in isolation.
Setting One: The Dark Lords (Open to Faction Leadership / Ask to Join)
In one of the highest towers within the Sith Citadel, a special meal was set out. Wine served in obsidian and golden chalices, imported delicacies lining a specially carved stone table - ur-Kittat lining its edge with words of power, the Sith Code, and some of the history of the Order. Around them were four windows in the cardinal directions - displaying a view just over the cloud coverage. Between the windows, Busts of some of the legendary Sith Lords from the greatest era's of Sith's history.
From Sidious and Valkorian, to Tulak Hord and Bane; they looked upon the table with a glower that spoke to their historic efforts and power. At the table was lined some of the greatest Sith of the current era; but the first to arrive was the multi masked figure of the Worm. Golden masks unmoving, with an empty plate before him - seated next to the Dark Council of the Sith Eternal. From the massive figure of Darth Apedemak, Fist of the Emperor, to the Chiss Darth Bourous - ignoring the others as he ate at the meat on his plate. Missing was the notorious Qual'Al-Selim, but there was also Darth Vulcanus
; the special guest of the Worm.
Rather, he was brought before them to serve as an example. The first successful Canonization of the era, the Worm had brought him as a show of strength, and as a proposal to the others gathered.
Setting Two: Feast of the Horde
In the ground levels of the Sith Citadel, a gathering of the Sith of unknown precedent was taking place. Hundreds to thousands of Sith were eating, drinking, and throwing chalices about in the more unruly places, while the others instead sat gathered in the regality of their fanciful garment. Some had begun to get into fist fights - over words, over women and men, or over a slab of meat - but each was broken up quickly by the Sith Prefects and Sith Holy Guard. Violence was not permitted on the grounds, and those who broke the rule were brought outside to be exiled during the extent of the gathering - or summarily executed, if the grevious was large enough.
Every faction of Sith had moved to gather themselves for posturing and politicking - as information was traded, deals were made for corporations, or training documents were used to grease palms; there would be no shortage of social circles forming. Few times in history have Sith had a nuetral zone to meet one another - to appreciate eachother's collective skills, reputation, or accomplishments without seeing it solely as a thread. Unbound by the Faction limitations, each was open in such a way they would not normally be.
Setting Three: Infestation
Far from the Citadel, in tombs yet unclaimed, building yet to be rebuilt - there existed an infestation that had yet to be settled. After the fall of the Final Order, cultists had been abandoned upon the planet for centuries - leading to foremost a terrible case of inbreeding that made most abominations in genetics. The others, however, had been further corrupted by the Dark Side; leading to crippled crawling creatures at best, and massive Sithspawns with clubs for arms at worse - but they were dangerous, and needed to be removed if the planet was to be brought back to its old glory.
Teams gathered from multiple Sith Orders had been brought together to strike these buildings clean - but their reasons to do such were often their own. Some would be there only to get first claimant on lost knowledge, others were interested in studying the fighting style of other Sith Orders, and some just wanted to prove themselves before the entirety of the Sith Order at once. There would be no shortage of glory seekers, and with rumors abound about leviathans made of corpses in the depths of some of the buildings - they would have all the glory they could want.
He had come here once before, but that seemed like a lifetime ago.
The seers on Tantorus showed him the way, gave him the means to navigate the red nebula. He had thought it a fairy tale, a legend born from the superstition and mysticism which was rife throughout their isolated society. Yet something had resonated with him as he held the Wayfinder in his hand, turning it over and studying the glyphs etched into its surface. It pulsated with ancient knowledge, whispering delightful secrets that could only be unlocked if he were brave enough to take that plunge deep into the unknown.
Resolute and full of vigor, he plugged the Wayfinder into his starship and made his journey to a distant world that the natives of Tantorus called Iksâdzul. In time, he would learn that this world was also known throughout history as Ixigul and Exegol. Long ago, the ancient Sith Lord Darth Sidious made Exegol his lair following his betrayal by his apprentice Darth Vader. In other times, the Sith Lords Darth Noctyss and Darth Sanguis independently journeyed to Exegol to discover the secret of immortality. What they had discovered there was never recorded, but it was assumed that they had failed in their respective quests.
Darth Vornskr was determined to uncover if the legends were true or if they were just that; legends.
What Vornskr had found on Exegol were barren sullen fortifications and empty temples, hardly worth the grandeur that millennia of myth had seemed to indicate. Yet, as Vornskr and his uncle, Darth Prazutis
, would soon discover deep in the bowels of Exegol; there was something more powerful than legend.
They would never speak of what they saw to any other, but what they had seen deep in the lightless recesses of Exegol had profoundly changed them.
So there was a distinct sensation of dread running through Carnifex's bones as his ship came in sight of Exegol; the hidden redoubt of the Sith. He sat at the controls of his vessel, the Crestfallen, for several minutes as he stared blankly at the distant curvature of Exegol's event horizon; his ship so perfectly positioned so that the star that Exegol orbited appeared directly behind the planet like an ethereal halo. Finally, he resigned himself to pressed forward on his journey and cutting through the electrified atmosphere of Exegol.
His ship landed on the outskirts of where the Sith Eternal had set up their camps, Carnifex departing his vessel and proceeding to wordlessly walk through the mass of Sith. His hood was drawn up around his face to mask his identity, but even then it would not spare him from identification. There were only a few Sith in the galaxy who shared his silhouette, and none who shared his power. But, then again, he made no effort to conceal his presence from those summoned, but he paid none of them any mind as he walked towards the Sith Citadel and entered that ancient and profane structure.
Much had changed since he last walked these halls, they were not so decrepit as they had once been. Efforts to light and repair much of the structural degradation had taken place, and even now the drones of labor meandered about in their duties; never daring to impede his path towards the inner sanctum. He rode up through the citadel, rising higher and higher until he reached the tallest tower. He could feel the others inside, seated at their haughty table piled high with decadence.
Carnifex entered silently, his molten bronze eyes staring out from under the hem of his hood towards the Worm Emperor and his followers. He did not take a seat, not yet anyway, but rather stood tall and proud with hands idle at his sides as he waited for the Worm to acknowledge his presence.
"Darth Carnifex.", the Worm replied - slow and deliberate.
Apedemak, eyeless as he was, simply grunted in acknowledgment as a piece of gravy slid down his gaunt jaw - while Bourous seemed to be in his own contest to eat as much as the Fist. The Worm didn't motion to a seat, but one of the Praetorian tasked with the protectiong of the Sith'ari pulled a seat out for the Black Iron Tyrant, then bowed their head as they motioned to the seat for them; and obvious sign of respect, be it commanded of them, or implicit.
"We were curious if you would join us. Qual'Al-Selim had claimed you would not - but alas, it seems this time I have won."
If there was such a thing as a laugh from the Worm, it would have filled the air after - but instead it was just the distant touch of metal on his tone that seemed to imply it.
"Since you are first to bear witness - what do you think of Darth Vulcanus
? Surely you can feel the difference, from what he was to what he is. Ascended, canonized, he is reborn; just as I said he would be."
The Sith Acolyte moved with haste, his black robe flowing in his every step as he moved through the halls that led away from the ground floor and the rest of his Superiors and gathering Sith from other groups, planets and faiths; As one of the newest Acolytes within the Order of the Sith, Zeptepi Zambrano
had seen fit to task him with clearing out the rabble that called the lower levels home and hindered the reclamation of the holy site to the Sith Order once more.
Lightsaber in hand, he moved alongside others with the intent to cast down the squatters and layabouts, filth who had somehow survived millennia off of each other like rabid creatures in the shadow. No Sith blood would be spilled, that was the command that had been given down the chains of hierarchy within their Order, yet he had been led to believe that these people...-These things were not of the Sith, and it was their task to see them removed. Indefinitely.
Whatever dark secrets remained within the depths of the great labyrinthine fortress, Valen could not know. He wasn't aware of the past history surrounding the far off and the vastly isolated world from the rest of the Galaxy, he having travelled aboard one of the Empire's Starships to arrive alongside his peers and otherwise falling under the command of the Knights and Lords that stood above him. Valen had quickly learned to obey the chain of command from day one, where his Master's methods of teachings had left a lasting impression he'd carry with him forevermore. The first time he was forced to take a life.
Every life that came after that had grown easier to stomach until the Acolyte had learned to draw strength from the residual essence of power that could be exhumed in their final moments.
In all she ever witnessed about him, he rendered a display of delight. The promise of True Power motivates his desire. His connection to the Darkside came easy to him, as does it those born of good stock.
For every waking moment of life thus far, she focused upon learning more and more, and she likewise transposed her strict regiment upon her Apprentice. He already passed her unspoken tests to become elevated above the other candidates to be granted the position she bestowed upon him.
Zeza came at the drop of the invite to learn still. Like the Nightsister blood that burns in her veins, she intends to share her discoveries with deserving Sith. The Empire must endure even better than it always has! She would seek to become a pillar of education for the Empire.
Just as her Apprentice seeks her approval, she too strives for the enduring approval of her Father.
The Captain arrived decked out in her military uniform. She made her appearances for a moment, attending the lavish meal that their host presented, although promising just what by way of festivities, she is entirely uncertain. Sensing that her Apprentice arrived upon the planet, Zeza decided to forego the remainder of pomp and circumstance of the elder Sith hierarchy for the propensity towards discovery and opportunity to teach.
Once bowed out respectively and outside the citadel towers, the Knight focussed upon her Apprentice and she inquired Telepathically, 'Why do you confront your task by way of typical means?' Expecting his answer to be immediate, she next levitated herself from the ground and began to soar to his location.
There was a quiet disdain that the leaders of the various factions had decided to walk away - the Worm no doubt showing them some important facet of his plan Maliphant had yet to fully understand. Perhaps it was insecurity bubbling up, perhaps ambition; but he could feel a slightly burning behind his ribs knowing that he belonged at their table. Afterall, he outskilled most Sith Lords - wrote cutting edge theory and manuscripts on the force and dueling; but here he was drinking wine with the lowest of them.
Then again, at least here there wasn't as much tension. While a few of the groups fought among one another, most seemed content to experience the night for what it was - one of the few instances in galactic history that Sith were able to gather without the concern for poisoning, death, or otherwise major conflict. While the use of slaves bothered Maliphant, he would contain himself for the moment.
Quietly walking back to the table he had secluded from the others, Maliphant set the bottles upon it's surface while his arms wrapped around the shoulders of Srina Talon
. His pale lips rested gently on her cheek as he glanced around for familiar faces - those that wanted to speak to her, more than likely. Srina had friends, family, and Maliphant had a long list of enemies he had yet to kill. Without Darth Adekos
present, busy as he was running the IGBC, Maliphant simply had to suffice for the moment.
"Nobody has bothered you, have they?", he asked her quietly as golden eyes peered at the crowd - like a wolf asserting itself to the pack. In his eyes alone he'd show them this was 'his', and to not intrude. Lest he have another Merridius Black
"I'd hate to have to break the Emperor's Peace just to deal with a fool who has more hormones than sense.", Maliphant said with a smile as he sat next to her.
Tara Willows was sent on another mission. Her first was a simple cleansing of an abandoned tomb. Now she was doing much of the same. The white haired Sith hoped this wouldn't become a regular thing. She had far more potential than taking out the trash.
As she herself was also a pilot, she would land her Omnicron-class 0-1 Imperial Shuttle near the main temple on Exegol. The shuttle had little to no firepower, but Tara cared not for the destructive properties of space combat. She liked the ship for its aesthetic and natural beauty. Nothing more. It also made her feel like royalty as this class of star ships was mainly used to fly diplomats and the like. It was one of the reasons she wore her red-fuzzy jacket over her shoulders; to feel like a queen.
Departing the shuttle she made nice with some of the servants so they wouldn't trash her ship while she was away. Then she went to find her fellow Acolytes. Along with Valen Arenais
, she was one of the newest to join the Sith Order. They could probably argue back and forth over who was actually the newest. Not that Tara wanted that title for herself. He could have it; thus giving her more seniority over him. Tara was wearing her usual attire: a black sleeveless vest with matching pants. Her double bladed collapsible lightsaber rested on her right hip like a trophy.
Tara flicked her hair out of her face as she walked beside her fellow peers. Her competition. They were not her friends. But she would have to make friends. Her master told her no one was to die here. Not of Sith culture at least. Backstabbing would not be allowed. She would hold to her master's orders; she only hoped the others would do the same. Needless to say trust was not something she'd be giving them.....
Exegol... a planet of history and power. Petrichor had found his way here once before, many years ago. It was a place steeped in the energy of the Dark Side. Since his first visit, he hadn't found a reason to revisit this desolate place. At least, not until now.
There had been a message sent out to the myriad of Sith factions, asking members to come to the planet for political talks. Petrichor would have normally not shown up. When you've been branded a heretic, surrounding yourself with those that labeled you as such is hardly an ideal situation. Luckily for Petrichor, the mandate was that no Sith blood was to be spilled. This was likely going to be the only time he'd be surrounded by this many of his brethren without having to worry about watching his back. That being said, he still kept his guard up. He arrived with two of his own guards, members of the Exalted, leaving them to guard his ship as he proceeded into the meeting.
As he entered, Petrichor took a moment to do a headcount of those in attendance. Many had come from across the vast reaches of the galaxy for this meeting. He recognized a few, but many were fresh faces to him. He began making his way through the crowd, eyeing each individual through his beskar mask as he passed by. As Petrichor calming pushed his way through the throng of darksiders, he eventually reached the periphery of the crowd; a fine position to both see his surroundings, and avoid unnecessary conflict with the more hotheaded members of the Sith.
Petrichor kept his calm demeanor as he stood to the side, waiting to see where this feast among this motley crew of Sith would take him. Hopefully, it would be an uneventful experience.
Never before had Darth Vulcanus suffered himself the endless drone of Sith politics. The pleasantries, veiled threats and expectation of peace at the table were irritations that Graug were not one to abide by.
Yet the Black Flame, who sat draped over a stone chair fit more for a throneroom than a dinner table, was a great many things at once. Vulcanus was now a picture in a growing collage. It was as if the mountain, once called Vulcanus, had now become a gale or vortex - a dominant, guiding personality of what amounted to a storm of darkness and ideas contained in a mortal coil. The individual was still there, but had become a part of a greater whole. He dominated an unseen world of foreign thoughts and ideas that he kept caged at his whim - feeding from at will.
Zygerrian's in tattered cloth and heavy chains buzzed around the Great Khaan, retrieving for him portions of his meal while two Graug prieats pointed, slapped and growled in their native tongue at them. The Black Flame ignored their existence except for when he would lazily reach for whatever morsel they offered out - his fangs digging into the meat while his eyes of boiling, red magma drug themselves slowly over the gathering ensemble.
The Fist of The Emperor was seated nearby, a deadman whose time had simply not come yet. Near him was the Chiss, red eyes transfixed on his plate with what could be called obsession. Useful. His end was not in sight.
Again and again this process would repeat, Vulcanus' eyes shifting and then stopping at each of the guest's while he determined what was to become of them. Some unimportant to his current plan. Others waiting to die. Then there was the black hooded figure who paraded into the hall, stoic and silent as he stood beside the table.
"Carnifex..." the name slipped between jagged fangs, hissed with a malicious glee. Three sharp claws tapped against his chair as he laid eyes on the Sith's scarred visage, "...you have descended from your high tower. How momentous. Have you tired with shambling from one ritual circle to the next?"
Immediately Carnifex would realize something striking about Vulcanus' appearance...it was no longer the ragged corpse he had provided him. Gone were the necrotic layers of flesh and rotting bones. The beast locking eyes with him now wore the face of a Vulcanus long dead - the only difference being the twisted horns still jutting from its skull.
E X E G O L - Setting Two: Feast of the Horde - X Tag:Darth Maliphant _________________________________________________________
Here they were.Again.
Too often, Srina, Darth Omnia, was placed in direct proximity of the Worm Emperor. Too often she was required to stay her hand. Her own gifts were more than formidable but it was her tongue that often left the deepest of wounds. She spoke little, but that didn’t stop it from being dangerously sharp. Srina could not say who would win in an all-out duel between herself and some of the craven creatures that had decided to pull themselves from the filth to walk the desecrated waste that was Exegol.
It depended on what side many of the participants decided to join. One on one, the odds were simple. Yet when the divisions between them became apparent it could become a mob scene. She represented Darth Metus
in all things, thusly, his power moved through her. It added perhaps an unnecessary presence to the weight of the dark that already exuded from her. Regardless, it was there. A seemingly endless well. Silver eyes flickered from figure to figure.
Placing names to spectral forms. Assigning threat levels, plus, noting her blind spots from the secluded table Darth Maliphant
had arranged. Thus far she had been left primarily to her own devices. She could hear so much in the silence, absorb, while metaphysical fingers crawled through the masses in quiet inquiry. She wore the typical fair that she might for a gathering of this sort. Long, black, appropriate, something that allowed ease of movement. The dark fabric fit her slender frame as if she had been poured into it—While the hem swept the ground in a way that mimicked unsettling shadows.
Silken ivory hair hadn’t been hidden. Instead, it fell down her back in a barely contained braid. Delicate wisps fell expertly to frame a heart-shaped face. As soft and feminine as her attire tried to make her; it would be difficult to hide the punishing light that glimmered in silver eyes. Something was disconcerting about the way she watched others. It was reminiscent of the way a scientist might study a rare insect in a jar. A displacement of air at her side caused her to break away from people watching.
Lips to her cheek weren’t entirely a surprise, though, were the venue not so public she might have turned her head to catch such attention properly. “I thought you got lost…”, she commented, tone soft, while his arm wrapped around her. Darth Maliphant
was one of the few who could escape her wrath for breaching her personal space without consequence. That she let him near so easily, without thought, was telling to anyone who knew of her standoffish personality.
A light laugh rose from her at his question. It was a beautiful sound. Rare. A winter rose, silver bells, but with a lingering tone that breathed the warning of indulgent danger. Had anyone bothered her?
“And what would you do if anyone had?”
She could feel the subtle sense of being claimed through the golden rings that ran a near-constant line of communication through them. At times, it was only a heartbeat. A reminder that they were both well and alive. In other moments it could be pain, from battle. A well of hatred. “Your Emperor would not allow you to take action before beneath his roof. Unless things have changed…”
Srina turned a little to lean into him when he sat beside her, though, her fingers rose to catch his hand. Delicately, she brought it behind her so that it could lay against the curving edge of her waist. The young Echani had already decided he didn’t need it. “...I suppose I will need to take care of it myself.”
No part of her seemed to mind the prospect of a lower lifeform deciding that this was the time they wanted to make a name for themselves. Pressing them both, regardless of house rules, would only end bloody. She served one Master. This Emperor? Not it.
In a gathering like this, filled with ego and barely hidden contempt, truly, beyond all measure… The Dread Queen wished someone would.
Baalagor stood just behind and to the side of her master, Lord Vulcanus, the Black Flame, a silent and certain presence. She only listened to the proceedings, uncertain of everyone save for the monster whose shadow eclipsed her even while seated. He was the beacon of safety in a room of strangers, and she regarded everyone else with due suspicion.
Dark robes hung loosely from her form, made for someone much larger and crudely fitted to something approximately her size, yet somehow fitting better than the simple mail armor she'd worn before. The most striking aspect of her appearance was the silver headdress that covered her eyes, surprisingly ornate for something of the Graug. It disguised her newfound blindness, eyes scarred by the holy fire of her Burned God.
Now she saw through means she didn't entirely understand, leaning heavily into the currents of the Dark Side as a way to navigate the world. It had been her birth and existed now as her salvation, the only thing standing between her and total darkness. Where most would have despised the Great Khaan for stripping away their sight, she was grateful. While she had lost all manner of physical vision, her eyes had been opened in another way. Such was the beginning of her existence as a priestess.
The same slaves that attended her master offered her a chalice of wine that she couldn't see, but when she raised her hands to accept what they presented it was carefully handed off to her. Using both hands she raised it to her lips, cautiously sipping at the wine that filled it. As the slightly sour taste of alcohol washed across her tongue her nose crinkled, and she lowered the chalice, holding it close to her body.
When Carnifex entered the room she reacted visibly, his presence in the Force alone something she had to consciously adjust to, her stance shifting as she readjusted. Unconsciously she moved just slightly closer to Vulcanus, maintaining a respectful distance but still basking in the near invincibility his mere existence provided her. There had been few guarantees in her life, but this was one of them.
"The beast has changed its scales, but it is still a beast," replied Carnifex, his eyes never leaving either the Worm Emperor, his lieutenants, or that fiend Vulcanus as he approached the chair pulled out for him. He placed his gloved hand on the back of the chair, gripping its uppermost edge as he took in the sight of their feast. It was at first unknown if he was going to take his seat at the table or use the chair to smash it, but in the end, he finally slid into his seat. "Though it is a preference to the animal that once was, perhaps there is some merit to be found in your methods."
Carnifex did not partake of the feast that had been laid out for the guests, he had no appetite of which to speak. Such mundane pleasantries were an abstraction to the Black Iron Tyrant in his current state, his intense experimentation and rituals in the deepest esoterica of the Dark Side of the Force having deprived him of sensation both physical and emotional.
All necessary steps to achieve his ultimate aims.
"And I have come to bear witness to whatever motley assembly you've collected on this lifeless rock. To see what you intend to do with these mealworms and botflies." It was a surprise to no one what Carnifex felt about the other Sith meandering in their meager revelry down below, those whom he considered lesser. Undoubtedly he felt very similar about the others in this room, his contempt for others a well-established fact; especially when the likes of Vulcanus were involved.
"I certainly hope this will not be a waste of my time, Worm."
"We will take that as a compliment, even strained as it were.", the Worm offered back.
Slowly the seat of the Emperor slid back as he took the time to stand - though it seemed less like a person moving, and more like a piece of fabric shaken and lifted. As the black cloak settled and the masks settled on different faces all around, he would begin to speak;
"In the same way you had, Darth Carnifex, I have come to request unity.", the voices offered simply.
"Yet not as the Rule of Order; but a unity of ideology. Of purpose.", he explained simply.
"Darth Vulcanus has been awakened to secrets known only by those canonized, exposed to the darker sects of the Force. I've come to offer the ritual to those who prove themselves - to stand alongside the likes of Tulak Hord, Darth Bane, and Ajunta Pal in the annals of Sith History. Modern Gods - cast in obsidian and flame, exposed to the deepest truths we Sith can know."
"So that when the time comes, the Sith'ari spirit that dwells within me may be passed down to the most qualified, and from them to the next - so that in time, we may transcend the Celestial Throne and remake the Universe as we see fit. I am both Immortality, and a Death Sentence; but a necessary sacrifice for our goal."
"Darth Vulcanus is simply the first; an ideal for Sith to strive to become, to witness and find hope - that despite the Force's machinations, we are immune to its efforts. Vulcanus could be considered the only true Sith to live now - as he alone knows the Grand Plan. I, do, however offer this to others. Those who have proven themselves through their efforts - that yet live today."
"That can be found, at least."
"Ashin Cardé Varanin
as she names herself, Darth Desmius. For her stalwart nature, the thousand planets she had conquered, and the Empire she had ruled."
- for the Cult that worships him, his efforts through the Nether, and his personification of Hunger."
" Darth Carnifex
- for your great deeds yet undone, to rule the greatest Sith Empire since the Days of Krayt, and your own efforts in the search of our goals."
"Accept the ritual, consider what I offer, or don't. For those not present, they shall be informed and given the option - to realize the deepest truths of the Force and what we seek, to be made heir's to my spirit, and to lead the Sith. My death will come soon - but my successor must be the greatest among you."
"A beast fumbles through its existence, bound to the will of things so far beyond its own understanding that they may as well be gods" Vulcanus mused at Carnifex in a way that was so many worlds apart from the violent, mindless remarks the beast was known for, "you may as well be a dog from where you are sitting."
Calm and collected as the words may have been for Vulcanus, they were scathing and full of a hatred not quite resolved. Still, the beast leaned into his chair and offered a single branch before The Worm proceeded.
"Perhaps The Worm will make you far more tolerable." As high praise as one could hope, even from a far more enlightened beast.
As The Worm addressed the rest of the room, Vulcanus turned his firery gaze towards Baalagor. The creature had been offered wine and taken it. Her face showed her immediate contempt. The beastial lord laughed at her and it was not at all out of good humor - pain of many kinds were funny to The Graug.
"That piss is hardly worth drinking" Vulcanus noted, "lesser beings find some false comfort in it. Graug have no need for such wasted comfort." Alcohol had no effect on Graug physiologically after all, their immune systems would not allow it.
"Now..." Vulcanus' voice grew deep and quiet as he touched a single claw to the chalice, sensing his power surging through the cup and igniting the contents within. The flame was black as night, swallowing the light rather than casting it and as the alcohol burned away the beast forced it ever closer to Baalagor's nose.
"...tell me, seerer, what do the flames show you of those at this table? Of The Worm?" Prophecy was a thing to be dreaded - as it was the Force's way of binding one to its own will. A tool of the celestials. Baalagor's talent was much more than seeing visions of the force.
She did not foretell future and prophecy. She foretold drive and ambition. A compass that pointed him towards what a being desired most and how they may seek to obtain it. A dangerous distinction, perhaps, but one Vulcanus would put to the test.
As The Worm finished, Vulcanus allowed his attention to drift back to the table while his priestess worked her spell. The greatest among you...Vulcanus smiled.
"And who was it that brought him back?" her voice would whisper into Carnifex
's ear as she stepped from his shadow as he sat, hand lazily trailing along his chair as she moved to an empty one herself. A little Dathomiri magic upon their arrival, but effective. It was always about an entrance and a point to be made, and emerging from Kaine's shadow could tell any number of things to observers to conclude rightly or wrongly. So far she was the only member of the Sith Empire's Dark Council to be present, but that wasn't too surprising. She was the Councilor for Galactic Influence, one might say it was her job to be here. She turned her attention to the host of this gathering, to the others around the table, inclining her head in a polite acknowledgement.
She had listened to the speech, keeping her thoughts to herself on the Worm's plans for the Throne of Balance. She would not partake of the feast spread before the table, nor would she imbibe any of the liquids on offer. It was a similar reason to Carnifex's, although different at the same time. It was useless for him for her had no senses to anything but the most extreme. She retained all her senses and feeling, but chose to never accept that which might interfere with her mind.
Purple eyes took in the first Sith that had been subjected to this ritual and... she just could not stop the narrowing of contempt from them or the nose crinkle of displeasure. Vulcanus as an ideal to strive for? Hardly. The Graug overlord was a brute, a walking engine of destruction and war, but still a brute. Respected for his abilities to wage war? Certainly, but Arcanix had never hidden her dislike of the creature. He was useful, his Graug were useful, but the creature could not be trusted to not have his own designs outside of what was Sith.
She was curious about the ritual of course, her insatiable thirst for knowledge meant she wanted to study it, to observe it. She knew the only way to do so would be to go through it. The Worm would hardly reveal such a secret otherwise.
"You mean to build a dark pantheon," she murmured in thought. "Useful for attempting to bind the lesser Sith to the ideals, empowering to others, a goal to strive towards to join those elevated. Clever."
"Have I ever been known to get lost?", he asked her with a coy grin.
"Rhetorical - don't answer that."
As he closed in around her, he beamed still - eyes departing the crowd with a wolf like stare to watch her. Her arms gently but sternly wrapped themselves around her neck in a head lock - but without the force to back it; more playing, even less than when they would spar. His tone dropped an octave and matched its volume;
"They may not die here, but they would die. It'd only be a matter of when - since the where would most certainly be 'not-here'.", he quipped before releasing his playing hold and moving to sit next to her.
"Did you read the book I sent you?", he asked as he got comfortable.
"We shall see," spoke Carnifex, "Words are easily uttered; promises eagerly made but just as eagerly broken. The Sith thrive on deception and misdirection, it will take far more than words and token concessions to convince the Sith." It was amusing to see other Sith so easy to decry his Rule of Order when none of them had truly stood where he had as the leader of the Sith for well over a decade, but even he could silently admit that this ideology that the Worm was championing had its appeal.
It would all come down to convincing the current Sith leaders to adopt this thought, a task easier said than done.
"Be careful, Krag, this dog still has teeth." Carnifex flashed an uncharacteristically large smile, ensuring that his teeth would be fully presented to the assembled Sith before his lips slowly concealed them as his mouth slipped into an emotionless line. But he did not come here to trade japes and insults with a beast like Vulcanus, so Carnifex decided to leave it there and refocus his attention on the others in the room. He paid little attention to the pale creature at Vulcanus' side, though he could recognize a retainer when he saw one and passed over the others to squarely focus on the Worm Emperor. Despite all of his efforts to uncover the Worm's origins, they still remained elusive.
It was frustrating to be certain.
Taeli's arrival, however, was not as mysterious to him. He had sensed her before she made herself known, and he welcomed her presence; an ally in this sea of potential enemies. "A regret I am reminded of every day, Lady Raaf. I should have made the chain myself." His eyes briefly moved to Taeli before falling back on the Worm, "The ambitious will certainly flock to this new belief, though we must always be cautious of the failings of the Sith before Bane. The weak will mask their strength in numbers against the solitary strong, and I would rather not see our kind again reduced to nothing in several generations."
Carnifex's words were deadly serious, "Our flame must never expire."
"The Sith before Bane treaded water - feeling the depth of the Dark Side, but never diving to find the source of the water.", the Worm offered back.
One of the Praetorians moved around the worm to lift his plate - not that he had touched it, the Worm never ate; but keeping up public impressions and the mystery of what he was often helped the legendary nature of the Worm. Now, however, was not the time to offer mysterious facades to some of the greatest Sith gathered. Now, it was a matter of showing them truth, so the masks glanced about as he spoke.
"The vox populi will allows carry the strength of the masses, and the Sith will know that infighting breeds strength. As even Revan had said before his fated 'one apprentice' message to Darth Bane, the greatest strength of the Sith is their ability to culminate that strength, to cut away the cancerous weakness of the Order with each generation. What Revan did not know, is that the collected masses turned to infighting because of the will of the Celestials - those not yet strong enough to resist their influence."
"The Eternal, however, will be immune to such. The Sepulcral is required to inherit the strength of the Canonized, and only the Canonized can inherit my spirit. They are awakened to the secrets of the Force, and work diligently to enact the Grand Plan. Let the petty masses squabble, Darth Carnifex, for only the truly strong will bubble to the surface; and those strong need not the weight of an Empire behind them."
"So long as the Sepulchral or the Canonized live, the Sith will be Eternal - and whether one, or a thousand of us - we will succeed in the manumit of the Galaxy."
The tomb. Along with her fellow Acolytes Tara Willows was ready to delve into the deep. It seemed she would be the first to go in, everyone else was apparently waiting for an invitation. Tara rolled her eyes at the thought. She shouldn't go first. That's what pawns were for. Not that she had any. She needed some troopers. But even her brothers and sisters in arms could go before her. Who knew what sort of dangers lurked below.
But that's what they were there to find out. Tara walked to the entrance and descended the stairs into the dark. Taking out her saber she would ignite one of the orange beams and leave the hilts folded up. The light from the saber was minimal, but it gave a decent amount for her to see. Everyone else would have to either stay close to her or use their own sources of light. She would admit hearing the blades ignite behind her made the hairs on her neck stand up. She didn't like having her back to them.
With her senses as active as she could use them, she entered further into the caverns. She was worried not only about things coming at her from afar, but from behind as well. It didn't take them long to come to a stop. A long since activated trap had been in their path. The floor was missing some chunks leading to a pit with pikes. Not a fun way to go. Tara looked behind her for a moment before jumping to the other side with ease. She didn't even have to use the Force to guide her. Where was the fun in that.
Though she made it across, she hadn't done so silently. Her saber still made noise as it cut through the air ever so gently. This coupled with everyone behind her jumping and their sabers too, was enough to alert something to their presence. Tara would meet her first abomination. She didn't even get a chance to look at it as the demon came screeching out of the darkness towards her. Tara brought her blade up in a diagonal arc and sliced the beast's arm as well as his chest. It came crumbling down beside her. Tara took a stance as she waited for another to come.
No such luck. The threat was over. Just as quickly as it had come. Tara relaxed her stance and would look down at the thing she'd cut apart. It was white and pale, probably from never seeing the sun. It's arms were far longer than most humanoid species, same with its legs which had an extra joint. If it had hair it was sparce, and mostly on its back. Tara looked at it in disgust before looking to her fellow Acolytes. Time to move on.
With that, she raised her saber again for light and headed into the next room.....
As the heat of the fire burned closer to her face she fell into an almost trance-like state, holding the chalice in her hands even as its temperature grew and began to burn her palms - calloused and scarred though they were. The quiet hiss of burning flesh filled the air, her face stoic, for she had already endured far worse by his hand. Baalagor used the white-hot ache of fire to fuel her strange reverie, becoming lost in flames far blacker than any blindness that had whisked away her sight. This one was purer, cleaner - holy.
She didn’t so much draw on the Dark Side as wade into it like a river, her technique far less practiced or refined than present company. But what she lacked in skill she made up for in a drive to serve and do it well. So it was that the darkness washed over her like a tidal wave, and for the briefest of eternities the world around her was no more.
There was nothing.
The emptiness that enveloped her was reminiscent of that just before her birth, the uncertainty of an existence not conceptualized. But just as the first time it was quickly replaced by a flood of stimuli, things she didn’t so much perceive as innately know. This world that existed in her mindscape was different, but not in a way she was immediately able to place. Remade in one man’s image, just not one she recognized. Uniform, precise, deadly. It closed in on all sides, almost claustrophobic. And just when she was certain the enormity of it all would crush her, there came that sudden nothingness again as it was all stripped away.
With the fluidity of turning a page in a storybook pain overwhelmed her as the first vision faded, overpowering and overwhelming not physically, but in a way that threatened to break her mind and soul. For the first time since being ripped into existence genuine terror filled her chest, and with a desperation known only to the basest of instincts she pushed back, making up for strength in sheer willpower and ferocity. Whatever this was refused to let her in, retaliating with an extreme prejudice rivaled only by that which she had experienced firsthand.
So violent was this amalgamation that it took her half too long to remember to breathe, the chalice falling from her hands and the flames extinguishing in a way that was almost violent, torn from reality by a hand she didn’t recognize as her own. Her next few breaths were unsteady and pained as she recovered, slipping slowly to the floor as exhaustion seeped into the very core of her being.
Still, she managed to speak, her voice hoarse, “Pain. Rebirth,” she paused to draw in a breath, “The Galaxy will tear itself apart.”