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The Nightsisters are their Sith

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
“Never serve the Nightsisters, children. They’ll treat you badly, as if you were mere slaves. Their taste is foul, so it is best to crush them. If you cannot crush them, then escape from them, for you can continue to serve the good Witches, and hope to crush the Nightsisters another day.”
―The rancor Tosh

Jantar had been having the same dream for some time. Irregularly at first, then more frequently until she had had the same vision for the past ten nights in a row. Clearly the Force was speaking to her – her gift of Farseeing letting her know that something needed her attention. But what?

She had two overwhelming thoughts from the dreams – Rancors and sister.

Given she had no sister, this made no sense. Or, at least she did not believe she had a sister. Was this the Force’s way of letting her know she was wrong?

Rancor? Sister?

No! Not sister…sisters!

Her hand was hovering over the nav panel when a strong possibility occurred to her: that by ‘sisters’ was meant to inform her of her ongoing search into dark sided magic. From this perspective the clues made such obvious sense, she did not know how she’d missed them before.

In truth she did understand…the hope of finding a sibling and understanding her lineage was stronger than she’d cared to admit – even to herself.

There could be only one explanation, the Nightsisters of Dathomir.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Dathomir was not a safe place. Witches and Nightsisters alike were strong in the Force, and they were understandably hostile to outsiders.

Despite this, Jantar made the decision instantly and dropped out of hyperspace to put her hands to the navigational controls again, this time to set a course for Dathomir. She was both excited and surprised when she realised that was the course she had already laid in.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
The Nightsisters were a sect of the Witches of Dathomir who embraced the usage of dark arts within their Force-driven Magics.

Their story, in Jantar’s eyes – was similar to that of the Sith. They were originally members of other witch clans who began to utilise the dark side in defiance of the light-sided orthodoxy found in the Book of Law — the governing holy text of the Dathomiri.

These witches adopted a shamanistic culture that rejected the notion of ‘good’ and ‘evil’, and instead chose to call upon the twin energies of the Winged Goddess and the Fanged God in order to utilize their Magicks and communicate with the spirit realm. What intrigued and excited her most, as she travelled through hyperspace to her destination, was that they focused extensively on the art of casting Force illusions through ‘spells.’

Witches found guilty of practicing these heretical techniques were banished into Dathomir’s wilderness and left for dead. However, in the final decades of the Galactic Republic’s reign, the exiled witch Gethzerion used her superior powers to unite the wandering outcasts into a new clan—the Nightsisters.

Operating under a revised holy text known as the Book of Shadows, these sorceresses used their powerful connection to Dathomir’s untamed wilds to terrorise their fellow clans and fight for dominance over the planet.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Next, Jantar researched Dathomir. Situated in the Outer Rim, it was a temperate planet and, according to many reports, resonated with the dark side of the Force.

And, unlike Coruscant, which was broadly the same size, it had a varied terrain that included coastal lakes and tar-pits, thick forests and snow-capped mountain peaks, powerful rivers and broad savannas, small icecaps and dramatic rift valleys.

And, most unlike Coruscant, nine-tenths of the planet remained unexplored and uninhabited, with the population limited to a relatively small area along the edge of one of the three main continents, a zone of uplands and river plains bordered on one side by the ocean and on the other by vast expanses of desert.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
And Jantar also took note of a creature that, until she was taught by her Master, she had grossly misunderstood. For the apex of the food-chain was actually a semi-sentient species – the mighty rancor.

It is not clear whether they had made any independent progress towards basic tokens of civilization like kindled fire or shaped tools, and their social system and lifestyle were little different from those of many non-sentient animals: matriarchal herds led by herd-mothers roamed the landscape, hunting live prey for food. But they passed on their clan her tories from generation to generation, and when they formed a symbiont circle with the planet’s Human population in the last centuries of the Galactic Republic, they adopted basic armour and weapons.

Dathomiri rancors were also larger than off-world specimens, with full-grown adults in the range of eight to ten metres tall. This extreme size can in part be attributed to the planet’s low gravity, which allowed native trees to rise up to eighty meters tall, but it may also reflect a more general effect of the sheer vibrancy of the planet’s biosphere. The temperate climate and varied terrain had given rise to a dramatically diverse ecosystem, thriving with so much life that the air almost seemed to sparkle in the Force.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
In low orbit above Dathomir, Jantar carefully considered where to land. There were a number of clans of so-called Witches tucked into the landscape. New ones formed occasionally, too, peopled by outcasts, ex-slaves, or renegades.

The Nightsisters had been such a renegade group, and – according to the records she’d gleaned – there were at least two clans rumoured to be made up Nightsisters who had rejected the strict matriarchal hierarchy of the established clans and who aimed to create a more egalitarian society. They might be more kindly disposed to a visit from an outsider than their more isolationist kindred, but she doubted either side would automatically welcome a Sith acolyte with open arms – especially as she came with the sole purpose of taking knowledge away with her.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Any doubts she might have had about her choice of destination were dispelled as she flew over the planet, close enough to make out individual trees. She felt the Force resonate with the decaying energies of the place. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to alert Jantar to the fact that the crumbling field of slag and rocky debris still held residual power.

The best intelligence had placed one of the clans she sought in the lap of a major peak in the mountain range ahead of her. She circled a few times and then spied it.

She was expecting a rudimentary settlement – a series of tents at best. What she saw was a walled township on the lower slopes of the mountain, hemmed in by a sparse forest.

That the clan would be at full alert by the time she landed, Jantar had no doubt. She brought her ship down on a flat table of rock that lay just beyond the township gates and stepped from the cockpit into the chill mountain air…and into the full sight of half a dozen warriors – all female and all, no doubt, deadly.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
She didn’t hesitate, but simply strode to the bottom of the narrow landing ramp, her hands in plain sight, palms out. She moved to within conversational distance of the women and surveyed them carefully.

Two were armed with lances, each tipped with an energy bolt. Two carried staffs. The pair at the centre of the group were unarmed – unless you counted the Force as a weapon, and Jantar suspected they did. One was decidedly human; the other was a Dathomiri Zabrak and wore the facial tattoos that declared her adulthood. They ringed her eyes and the bases of her horns and connected the bridge of her nose, upper lip, and chin.

Unlike many humans, Jantar found the concept of tattooing intriguing. But for her, it was not to show allegiance to a group but rather to demonstrate individuality.

Though neither woman was dressed for battle, Jantar had no doubt they were as well-trained in the art of defence as they were in the arcane nuances of Force manipulation.

Sending out gentle ribbons of Force sense, Jantar learned only that these two women saw themselves as co-equal and in the service of another.

“Please,” she said, quietly – and more cautious and reserved than she would usually be, “I seek an audience with your clan leader.”
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
The women exchanged glances. The Zabrak tilted her tattooed chin toward the ship Jantar arrived in.

“You fly a Sith craft. Are you a Sith.”

“I am.”

A pause, then: “We have heard rumours of the destruction of the Sith Order.”

“Sith Orders come and go. I am a Sith and serve the Sith Empire.”

She felt the touch of the others’ Force sense as questing hands that brushed her temples, then swept across her forebrain. She shielded herself against the intrusion.

“You are a Force adept, at least,” the human observed. “Only an adept could block so effectively. Show me your weapon.”

Jantar knew she wasn’t asking to see the blaster she wore in plain sight on her belt. She held her right hand out and called her lightsaber to her open palm. It flew from beneath the folds of her cloak and landed solidly in her hand.

“Activate it,” the Zabrak commanded.

Jantar could feel her patience begin to ebb. She would be compliant, but this bordered on some childish game. She breathed deeply and did as she was asked.

The blade surged into existence with a hum of raw power – bright, gleaming, and the colour of sulphur. Jantar had still not crafted Bane’s Heart into a working saber.

All but the Zabrak took a step in retreat.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
The Zabrak nodded and exchanged a glance with her human counterpart.

“A Sith weapon.”

Jantar breathed a sigh of relief.

“Her weapon may signify nothing,” the human Witch said. “She might have stolen both the ship and the weapon from a dead Sith.” She turned her gaze to Jantar. “You will enter the citadel and allow yourself to be scanned ... or you will leave.”

Jantar bit her lip and then deactivated the lightsaber and inclined her head in acquiescence. “Whatever it takes.”

The human held her hand out for her weapon. “This is what it takes. Give me your lightsaber.”

Jantar handed it over to her without hesitation.

The human took a step back and gestured for Jantar to pass through their group. The young Sith bowed deferentially and moved toward the now-opening gates.

“What’s your name, Sith?” the Zabrak asked.

It would be futile to lie. “Jantar.”

“Why have you come?”

Why had she come? What did she hope to find? “That’s what I need to discuss with your leader.”
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
They escorted Jantar into the citadel and swung the massive gates closed behind without the intervention of either being or machine. In the broad plaza just inside the enclosure, Jantar felt the pinprick regard of many eyes. The buildings were no taller than three stories, but people – mostly women and girls – watched from every window and doorway. The streets, too, were filled with onlookers.

Her guards took her straight across the plaza to a roundhouse that seemed to be an official greeting centre. Its conical, two-story roof was supported by huge columns carved from native tree trunks and capped with metal-clad ornamentation. Each column was adorned with a medallion of worked metal that bore the sigil particular to a neighbouring tribal or clan group.

Jantar supposed it was auspicious that she hadn’t been immediately marched into a stockade from which she would then be forced to escape. She had no doubt that escape from here would not be easy. And for the first time wondered how sensible her arrival had been.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Jantar moved to the centre of the roundhouse floor and turned to look back at her hosts. The two women who’d spoken – somehow the term lieutenants seemed to fit them – moved to stand one on each side, facing her. The other four took up positions around the circle.

The two closest to her raised their arms in a parody of an embrace, then the Zabrak uttered a series of tonal words she didn’t understand. She was immediately assailed with the sense that someone had poured a bucket of warm water over her head so that it flowed down into her brain, trickled down her spine, and pooled in her gut. It was at once a soothing and nerve-racking sensation, and when it left her, she felt winded and invaded.

She had closed her eyes. Now she opened them to find both women regarding her with increased wariness.

“You say you are Sith,” the human said, “But your mind says you are a sorcreress.”

Jantar took a deep breath and spoke words she had not intended to say. “A Sith can be a magic user and a magic user can be a Sith. And a Sith can have no abilities with magic and a magic user can have no interest in being a Sith. I am a Sith but foremost I wish to be a magic user. I seek all knowledge of sorcery.”

All knowledge?”

The voice floated down to her from the second-floor gallery that ran the entire circumference of the roundhouse.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Jantar looked up, seeking the source. Her eyes found a woman of sixty or more standard years watching from above. She was tall, regal, with hair the colour of moonlight.

Jantar turned to face her and bowed. “Yes, all I can find.”

The woman shook her head. “All? That is a difficult thing to bring about.”

“But none the less it is what I seek.”

“Bring her up to me,” said the woman. She turned from the gallery rail and disappeared into the shadows.

Her two acolytes immediately flanked Jantar and led her to a flight of stairs that connected the ground floor of the roundhouse with the gallery. At the top of the stairs, two hallways ran away at a forty-five-degree angle to each other. The roundhouse, Jantar realized, was connected to the building or buildings behind it. The guards took the hallway to the right and they passed along it briskly, following the flickering shadow of their clan matriarch.

Their destination was a large chamber with walls of stone and a central hearth whose fire burned bright and warm but consumed no fuel. The matriarch was already seated on a wide, padded chair hewn from the same native stone as the slab and bricks that made up the walls and floor.

Jantar’s guardians ushered her into the room.

“Thank you.” The clan matriarch nodded at each woman in turn. “You may leave us now.”

The Zabrak, started. “But, Mother, she is a stranger.”

“She is a Sith,” said the matriarch, as if that was all that need be said. She held out her hand to the Zabrak. “Her weapon, please.”

With a glance at her companion, the Zabrak came to her mistress and handed over Jantar’s lightsaber. Then the two young women bowed and took themselves out of the room.

“Sit, Sith,” said the Witch, gesturing with one graceful, long-fingered hand, “And tell me precisely why you have come to us.”
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Jantar seated herself upon the divan the Clan Mother indicated and considered how to answer her question: why had she come?

“I was led here, mistress. In part, by my dreams. I can often see the future in visions and places or people that are important to me.”

The Clan Mother’s gaze was serene, but Jantar felt a sudden sharpening of her focus. “You mentioned learning before, why not be honest and state this first?”

“I had a vision: Seek sisters. Only the Witches of Dathomir might be called ‘sisters’. And my desire for knowledge is not behind my intention to come – so I was being entirely honest. But I suspect it is the reason for me being here.”

The Clan Mother’s regard intensified. “You have visions?” Jantar felt her mind being probed – more gently this time and she relented to the invasion.

But her host said nothing and Jantar felt compelled to continue. “Clan Mother, while I was still immersed in this vision, I laid in a course without any conscious effort. I didn’t think about what course to set, I simply did it – without consulting any star maps. When I dropped out of hyperspace, I realized that I’d set a course for Dathomir.”

The Matriarch’s eyebrows rose. “Seek sisters,” she quoted softly. “Yes, I see. But what do you expect from us – in return, I presume for nothing ivy way of payment?”

“I’m not sure. I only know what I need.”

“And that is?”

“Knowledge. More knowledge.”

The Clan Mother nodded. “And you believe you will find that here?”

“Yes.”

The Clan Mother stood and paced away from her. “You are mistaken, but not in the way you expect me to say. You seek knowledge, yes. You seek any secret of sorcery you can find, yes. But that is not what you seek more than anything else, is it?
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Jantar looked puzzled.

The Clan Mother smiled. “To risk being cryptic and entirely enigmatic, you do not know what you do not know."

"But I do.”

Jantar’s look of bewilderment deepened and, for one, she had no smart-ass talk to retort with. “I…I don’t understand.”

“I cannot tell you, not entirely. That is for you to discover, if and when you are supposed to know. But for now? I can tell you this. The blood that courses through your veins does not come from Coruscant. You are Vahla.”

The Clan Mother put a finger to her own tresses. “And you are blessed, if the old sayings are to be believed – and, for what it is worth – I do.”
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
Jantar was – for possibly the first time in her life – speechless. Yet in her mind she had questions – so many of them. The Clan Mother raised a hand – she knew it was only a matter of time before the dam broke.

“Absorb what I have told you and reflect upon it. I cannot – or rather will not – say any more on the subject. From this point on, it is for you to progress, or not.”

“But learning I can help with. We just have to agree a fee.”

A few moments of silence passed between them. It took this long for Jantar to clear her kind of the thoughts that were swirling inside her head and focus on the Clan Mother.

“A fee?” Her voice sounded far less self-assured than usual. Vulnerable almost.

“We shall agree on a favour. To be called in at a future point.”

Jantar cocked her head to one side. “What sort of favour? How big?”

“Let’s say it will be commensurate to what you learn. The more valuable the teaching, the more valuable the favour. That’s fair, isn’t it?”

Jantar nodded – it was difficult to argue with logic like that, especially when you had no bargaining chips. But the concept of writing out an open-ended debt was not one she was entirely comfortable with.

A few more moments passed.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
“I agree,” Jantar finally said. And she meant it – and she suspected the Clan Mother would know if she meant it.

“Would you like your training to begin immediately?”

“If you will permit it, Clan Mother.”

The Clan Mother looked at the Sith, a tiny spark of humour in her pale eyes. “We have a deal then. And I have the perfect teacher in mind.”
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
“You summoned me, Mother?” the Zabrak asked.

“I have granted our guest permission to learn from us.”

The younger Witch threw Jantar a startled glance, but all she said was, “Yes, Mother.”

“And I wish you to be the instructor.”

If the Zabrak had any emotion to go along with the request, she hid it well. In fact, Jantar concluded her reaction was internally negative, and that was the reason she showed no outward signs.

The Clan Mother nodded, an unspoken agreement now reached and she held out her hand, Jantar’s lightsaber balanced across it.

Jantar raised her own hand and called the weapon to her. It settled against her palm with a comforting weight and she clipped it to her belt.
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
The following morning, at dawn, the Zabrak led them far away from the settlement, to a place beneath curving, blackened trunks of what had once been eighty-meter-high trees. A few had escaped the flames, and some of them still bore poignant, precious fruit.

As Jantar gazed upon the red-tinted, mist-wreathed world. Here, especially, she felt the power of the dark-side; how strong it was, and how deep it went.

"This is a place held sacred by my people, my clan. Here we suffered grave losses. Yes, we inflicted as many back – but it was a bloody battle. It is why the dark-side is so prevalent here. Stretch out your feelings. Don’t hold back. Feel the presence of my sisters – their fear, their anguish, their pain, their hatred. It is this you must learn to focus on if you are to learn.”

Sensing the presence of a living thing, the Zabrak turned to one of the burned branches. A black snake about half a meter long twined lazily about it, flicking out its forked tongue to smell her. Unafraid, she touched its mind and called it to her. It obeyed, climbing up her left arm to her neck. Its tongue tickled as it touched below her ear.

She watched the snake make its way across the back of her neck and halfway down her other arm. It lifted its head and turned to meet her gaze. Stonily, her eyes locked with its slitted ones.

The Zabrak lifted her right hand, and the snake obligingly coiled its first few centimetres about it. She raised the creature so it was only a few centimetres from her face.

Hatred.

The snake hissed, and then began to thrash.

“Allow your hatred to take over.” At the words, the snake’s struggle intensified. The Zabrak drank in its panic, closing her free hand on empty air as the Force throttled the animal for her. “Do not look to control it, that is the Sith way. Give into it. Hatred unharnessed gives you access to abilities many think are too unnatural. The Sith know that the path to bridled hatred is the path to power. But the Nightsisters know that to give yourself to hatred is the path to ultimate power.”

The snake went limp. She let it fall from her hand to the ground, dead. “The Clan Mother told me you know nothing of your birth right.”

Jantar felt betrayed. What else had she told the Zabrak?

Still savouring the snake’s torment, the Zabrak noted the anger building in Jantar. “And you are powerless to find out,” she said, sending her encouragement to dive still deeper into her emotions.

She lowered her voice till it was a husky purr. “Let that anger guide you,” she said. “Your feelings for the loss of your childhood.”
 

Jantar Keltainen

Evil is a word used by the ignorant and the weak
Character
“Nightsisters know the dark side better than anyone. We grow up steeped in it, but we can use it as a tool and stay ourselves – unlike the Sith, who become corrupted by it. That balance is what you must learn now.”

They established an area as a camp, and went on climbs to build Jantar’s strength and agility; hunting trips; and long runs to build her endurance.

One evening, their meal finished. The Zabrak extended a hand and made a beckoning motion. Jantar saw the glitter of firelight on two small, cold eyes, and then the reptile the Zabrak had summoned slithered into view. It coiled in on itself, its eyes fixed on the Sith.

“You have been trained to kill based upon a need. A commendable notion – and not necessarily one every Sith adheres to. But today you must learn to undo that conviction. Sometimes a senseless killing is necessary, and there will be no emotion to drive that energy, just your will. And you will learn that deception will become one of your greatest tools.”

Jantar nodded her understanding and lifted a hand.

Sensing the Sith’s intent, the snake reacted immediately. It reared and hissed, exposing sharp fangs.

The Zabrak’s voice, strong and soothing, floated to her ears through her concentration. “No, gently...you want it to come to you willingly.”

That was oddly more challenging than a simple attack, but Jantar nodded, shifting her energy and her focus. The serpent responded, closing its mouth. Its tongue still flickered, smelling her, but it was curious, not hostile.

“Good,” the Zabrak said. “Now draw him in. Lower his guard...”
 
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