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Star Wars CLOSED Interlude Etched in an Epitaph

Discussion in 'Role Playing Forum' started by HanSolo29 , Jul 3, 2021.

  1. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    Between Resurrection...


    Before Knights of the Last Republic...


    Set between 14 ABY and 41 ABY in One Canon...


    Interlude Etched in an Epitaph
    (a 1x1 RPG featuring @Sinrebirth and @HanSolo29)​

    [​IMG]


    * * *
    IC: Aryan Graul, Lumiya, and several specters
    On the edge of reality

    Awareness flooded Aryan’s senses, forcing a gasp from his lips as he jerked awake and instinctively squinted up at the white brilliance streaming down from above. Surprisingly, there was no more pain, but that hardly seemed to matter once he focused his attention on the tantalizing light shining overhead. The orb was bright and luminous compared to the doldrums of his mind, and he found himself drawn to it like a swarm of blister gnats buzzing around a ronto’s behind.
    At first, he assumed the source originated from the sterile light fixtures found in a typical medical center—he had suffered extensive injuries on his mission, after all. But as his eyes began to adjust to his new surroundings, he became aware of the enclosed space and the high, steep walls that encircled him.

    There was no monitoring equipment; no medical bed. It was essentially a box.

    Wait, no. It was more than that.

    Along the edges, Aryan noted that the surface appeared rough and textured, almost as if someone had carved etchings into the wall itself. He soon recognized them as scars. Lightsaber scars. That realization allowed the horrible truth to sink in—this was not an ordinary box or prison cell. It was the nightmare he had escaped from all those years ago.

    He was back.

    But...how?

    Panic immediately began to set in, prompting Aryan to utter a feeble moan in his distress. As he staggered to his feet and scrambled for the nearest facade, his fingers clawing desperately against the black ebony in an attempt to break free, he failed to notice the mysterious figure scrutinizing him from the space above. That’s when she spoke, her voice acquiring an ethereal quality as it echoed across the chamber.

    "I traded an apprentice for you, Aryan Graul."

    He paused and craned his neck to stare up at the figure, his lips parted in both surprise and fear. The harsh light created a distinctive silhouette of a woman attired in a triangular headdress, one hand hanging loosely at her side and coiled around a weapon that resembled a whip. While she appeared intimidating enough, he had no recollection of ever crossing paths with her before. This certainly wasn’t Tavion.

    "I would appreciate you telling me just why I did that," she continued in a jeering tone. Despite the shadows concealing her features, he could practically feel her smile as she leered at him through the darkness.

    "I...I don’t know," Aryan muttered with a shake of his head, the words slipping from his mouth before he even had a chance to consider his answer. "If it was up to me, I would say that you made a terrible mistake. I—I can’t give you anything. They—he took it all from me."

    Exhaling sharply, his thoughts went out to Arek before he slumped back down to his knees, tired and hopelessly defeated.

    Lumiya, for it was clearly her, peered at her fingernails. "Yes, I gather that. A Holocron, which emerged from... what, exactly? The vaunted Epitaph power? Seems suspicious."

    "But it vanished in the middle of the confrontation with Wyrrlok, Vassago, and some other pretend-Sith," Lumiya smirked slightly. "So here I am, raiding your dreams as a phantom, but it all comes back to this room, where you were tortured by Sentan Moor, on behalf of the Emperor himself..."

    "Now, a Second Imperium attempts to rebuild his Empire in Palpatine's name, but nobody has ever met the reborn man, not in the three years since he took back the reins," she chuckled drily. "Sounds like a hoax to me, if I ever heard one." She leaned down, holding his chin and redirecting his face to look into her green eyes.

    "Whatever this Epitaph is, I want it. The Second Imperium wants it and threw aside a Sith cult for it. A gamble, perhaps, but I realise now, and only now, that my apprentice had it..." Her jaw worked, as if in memory, or perhaps in pain. "Darth Syren was more than just an apprentice to me."

    She slapped Aryan to the floor, who of course would notice he had no pain, not in this between-place.

    Darth Syren.

    There was a ripple there, in Aryan Graul's memory... or, rather, the memories that he didn't yet have...

    Lumiya sneered. "Tell me why I shouldn't leave you a wreck of a man, even moreso than your body is now. I could crush your brain, once and for all, and you will never recover."

    As Aryan pondered the question, he merely cowered on his hands and knees where Lumiya had deposited him, his teeth clenched and his face angled toward the concrete floor. While he might have felt some relief over her revelation that this was only a dream, he did not want to tip the balance unnecessarily. He already knew from experience that dreams could easily become reality and cause indescribable pain.

    For instance, he could not ignore the words she had spoken or the memories they stirred within his mind. It was all so familiar, fantastical tales about a Holocron, a special calling, and a hidden conspiracy that he had heard several times before, and yet some aspects were glaringly different.

    One, in particular, aroused his senses beyond anything he could explain. Who was Darth Syren and why did that name stimulate his emotions in such a way?

    Aryan clamped down on that thought, pushing it from his awareness so that he could focus on another memory that soon rose to the surface—it was an agonizing memory, but one that may provide the answer to pacify Lumiya’s wrath...if that was the route he wanted to take. At this point, he wasn't so sure if losing himself would be such a detriment. Perhaps it could serve as a true release from all of his suffering...

    That notion continued to linger, even as he parted his lips to speak.

    "You admit...that—that you want the Epitaph power and proof that the Second Imperium exists," he noted as he slowly lifted his chin to peer into her face with calm defiance. "I can reveal that to you. I’ve encountered White Eyes...and lived."

    "Who is White Eyes," Lumiya said, stepping forward, her hands resting upon his throat, betraying a durasteel grip. "If you cannot tell me that, then you are nothing."

    The box faded for the cloaked man, his white eyes burning like suns. Lumiya dropped Aryan and strode over to the illusionary memory, attempting to see beneath his hood. But nothing was there, for Aryan did not know. Not this Aryan, anyway. Or was it perhaps, not yet?

    As that thought was imposed upon him - not by Lumiya, but by some mysterious, unseen narrator, Aryan himself split in three, into a Senator from Nubia that cringed before a woman that appeared to be a much younger Shira Brie - and a differing one, holding a woman lovingly, and her name crested his lips.

    His Syren.

    Lumiya turned from White Eyes, to face the three Aryan's.

    "What is this," she hissed.

    A gasp escaped from Aryan’s chapped lips as he staggered back, his hand instinctively going toward his throat to ease the discomfort her vice-like grip had imposed upon him. It took him a few moments to regain his bearings, but once he angled his chin to survey his surroundings, he noticed the source of the Dark Lady’s dismay. In an unsettling twist that mirrored his earlier encounter with his other-self, two doppelgangers emerged to join them within this mindscape. One was him as a much younger man, while the other appeared almost exactly as he did now, except for the beard.

    They seemed to have materialized from…himself, as if a part of his very essence had split to form these two entities. Were they alternate versions of himself? Memories? A reflection of his subconscious? Whatever the case, he could not recall anything that would help him to understand this reality. He was confused, perhaps even terrified of these strange happenings. This reflected in his eyes as he stared at the beings before him, suddenly oblivious to Lumiya’s presence.

    And Aryan Graul stared back.

    Leaning away from Syren’s embrace, the former Chancellor worked his jaw in silent consternation, his eyes narrowed as he tried to comprehend the scene unfolding around him. It was as if the walls of their private quarters aboard the Star Destroyer Arae had dissolved into oblivion. He could not fathom how they had ended up in this terrible place, a desolate wasteland filled with apparitions he did not care to acknowledge. They were of the worst kind, after all—himself.

    Two of them. One disheveled and fearful, and the other young and cocksure.

    Could Syren see them as well?

    Or was this all the result of the alcohol he had indulged in earlier that evening?

    "I think I should’ve stopped with that first whiskey," the bearded Graul vocalized his thoughts, trying to convince himself that he wasn’t growing soft.

    However, Aryan Graul had no need for such concerns.

    Even the two wraiths that wore his own face did not seem to trouble him, nor the cloaked figure with white, burning eyes. He did not perceive them as a threat; they were not real. After being engaged in a life or death struggle with a Dark Jedi, a particularly vile woman by the name of Shira Brie, the Senator recognized this farce for what it was. It was a mere illusion created through the Force, a vast dreamscape designed to weaken his resolve – a part of the Dark Jedi Insurgence. She planned to entrap him, though Aryan would not allow her to succeed.

    That’s when he shifted his gaze to the woman in the triangular veil. The elaborate headpiece may have concealed her features, but the lightwhip at her side gave away her identity. It was his assailant. Despite the fact that a younger version of Shira Brie still remained within striking distance, the Senator knew that the veiled woman was the true enemy. It was a clever disguise, but it did not escape his notice.

    It was time to act; to end this and save the Peace Summit.

    Reaching within his suit jacket, he swiftly removed the blaster from his shoulder holster and leveled the barrel at the woman’s head. "A charade," Aryan sneered, replying to her prior exclamation.

    He did not wait for a response and simply depressed the trigger.

    Lumiya raised her hand, catching the bolt on her palm, squeezing it and dispelling it, before batting the pistol from that Aryan's hand. "Interesting," she said, softly.

    "A divergence, it would seem." Her hand snaked out, and she took the Nubian Aryan in her hand, yanking him to her hand. It was an echo of a memory that would be etched upon a dream that the man named Skelm would one day confusingly have.

    The Sith regarded the man who had the imprint of another upon him; a woman, a whisper of Syren. Lumiya mused. "So you existed as a traitor of a man, twice now," her eyes took in the older Aryan... "Correlation, causation?"

    The woman looked thoughtful. "A change?"

    She wondered aloud. "So what can I do, or perhaps, who needs to do it?" She threw the Skelm-to-be to the ground, and drew the older one to her with a finger. "What do you know of these two?"

    The White-Eyed spectre simply stood, staring, a curl of a perpetual smile in the Force...

    The Dark Lady’s speech roused Aryan from his stupor, though it was the heavy thud of his younger self striking the ground that ultimately prompted a reaction. He visibly winced and turned to regard the man, noting his struggle as he slowly picked himself up onto his hands and knees. The humiliating ordeal would no doubt force him to confront his wounded pride. It was an experience the older man could certainly relate to.

    In fact, for a fleeting moment, Aryan considered going to the man’s aid, but Lumiya swiftly intervened by ensnaring him with the Force. Invisible tendrils wrapped themselves around his legs, torso, and neck and pulled him forward against his will. His boots scuffed feebly along the ground as the Sith loomed ever closer.

    And yet, he did not protest. He felt exhausted in both body and mind, and he feared that he no longer had the willpower to resist. This was evident through the helpless look he conveyed to both the bearded Graul and the younger man at his feet before he turned to meet Lumiya’s gaze. Perhaps it was a silent plea.

    He realized that he had no idea how to adequately answer her question; he had no knowledge about a divergence or what may have caused such an event. Why did these doppelgangers exist?

    "I...I’m not sure," Aryan murmured quietly, canting his head to briefly consider the cloaked specter standing nearby. He still trembled under his scrutiny, but he had to wonder if he was the only one capable of revealing the truth. In the end, he decided that it wasn’t worth the effort, especially if it led to more torture at his hand, and quickly returned his attention to the Dark Lady.

    "There’s no context. They’re obviously me, but I don’t know from when or…where. It doesn’t make sense. I have no recollection of any of this."

    Lumiya looked intrigued. "That's the fact of it." Her hand stroked the cheek of the Aryan Graul from a future... and then glanced at the Aryan Graul that had followed a different path to the older one. "There's a point between the three of you, a tie..."

    If Aryan had any lingering doubts about the plausibility of this existence—if it was still merely a manifestation of the alcohol he had recently consumed—they instantly vanished when the woman lured him close and caressed his cheek. An icy chill ran down his spine upon her touch, and he reflexively responded by reaching up to grab her wrist.

    He started to apply pressure to ward her off, but that’s when he caught the eye of the younger Graul as he finally staggered back to his feet. The young man shook his head once and narrowed his eyes dangerously, a silent warning not to do anything rash. Apparently, he had learned his lesson after already incurring her wrath. They would have to bide their time.

    And so, the bearded Graul released his grip and stepped aside, glowering at her under a penetrating stare.

    She narrowed her eyes, focusing upon an image.

    "A holocron? Pyramidal? Red?"

    She glanced at the Aryan she had kidnapped from Korriban. "Where is it?"

    Both the Senator of Nubia and the bearded Graul turned to exchange glances with their older counterpart. It was a fascinating inquiry, and they anticipated his response. Despite their uncertainty, they wanted answers just as much as he did.

    However, Aryan Graul could not provide them with those answers—not entirely. While he knew exactly what Lumiya was referring to, a strange incident had occurred to separate him from the object of her desire. It was an encounter that closely mirrored their current predicament. He perceived it as a dream, but the similarities went beyond a mere coincidence.

    But how to make her understand? Her persistence had already dissolved into an obsession, which gave rise to his panic. Sweat began to bead on his forehead, and his pulse quickened as he worked up the courage to explain. "I–I don’t know," Aryan uttered in a gravelly whisper. "I don’t have it, not anymore. It was stolen from me by…"

    He paused to survey the faces of the two men standing before him, searching for the thief who had invaded his dreams. Curiously, he could not identify him; he was not among those who had appeared in this reality. Did that mean there was another version of himself still unaccounted for?

    That revelation scared him more than he cared to admit, the words now tumbling from his mouth without restraint. "He looked like me, but more affluent…successful. It was like peering across to an alternate reality—what could have been if I had chosen a very different path after the Senate disbanded. He also resonated with a deep Force presence. I could feel that much, even with my meager abilities. I suspect he was well-trained to accomplish what he did."

    Pursing his lips, Aryan then inclined his chin to meet Lumiya’s gaze. "He came to me in my dreams and lifted the Holocron from my possession. When I awoke, it was gone...and so was he."

    "So there is an alternate side to this story..." Lumiya looked amused. "These aren't just fragments of your deluded, broken mind..." She eyed the White Eyes staring at them, frozen, a mere hallucination. "The true power that this man seeks is that power..."

    There was a certainty to her. "The power of the Change."

    With the word, there was a resonance through the man who would become Skelm, and indeed he transformed into him, fresh from being named, previously standing in the Indigo Tower. Lumiya watched the change and glanced to the Aryan of this reality. "And who is this?"

    "Or," she said, drawing her lightwhip on seeing the lightsaber on Skelm's belt. "When is this?"

    The Holocron, she could sense it, somehow, somewhat…

    Aryan watched in bewilderment as the younger version of himself shifted and morphed into the man he had encountered in his dreams—the man who had deceived him and had stolen his prize. The transformation itself was spontaneous, which contributed to Aryan’s confusion and fear. He had reached his limit on what he could endure in terms of these strange happenings, and as he turned back toward Lumiya, he collapsed to his knees and ran both hands through his tousled hair.

    "T–that’s–I think, uh…might be him," he stammered in a harsh whisper, his blue-gray eyes imploring her to grant him a release from the madness. He didn’t even bother to explain who he was referring to anymore.

    Meanwhile, Skelm staggered back and inclined his chin to observe his new surroundings as they swam into focus. The Force initially failed to provide much clarity, other than a subtle tingle at the back of his mind. But when he reached out to further probe this curious anomaly, it quickly expanded to encompass the entire space, filling it with a sense of dread. That’s when he recognized that this place felt tarnished...or torn, almost as if it shouldn’t exist at all.

    How was that...possible?

    But then he noticed his counterpart crouched down on the ground in an enfeebled state. While Skelm couldn’t be certain by merely looking at him, his intuition told him that this was the same man he had tricked into handing over his Holocron. That meant he had returned to the peculiar dreamscape from earlier.

    And it had apparently evolved to include another iteration of himself, a bearded version—he had to admit that it didn’t look half bad; it was a convincing case to grow out his own at some point—along with a mysterious woman in a triangular veil. He noted that the latter was strikingly graceful in her form-fitting dress, and despite the scarf that concealed her features, she appeared…familiar somehow.

    He soon realized why.

    The lightwhip she brandished at her side immediately attracted his gaze. It was a unique weapon that triggered Skelm’s memory, allowing his mind to drift back fourteen years to the Dark Jedi insurrection on Coruscant. This was the same woman who had attacked him, who had nearly humiliated him.

    No more.

    A wicked grin spread over Skelm’s features. "Shira Brie," he recited her name with a hint of malice, his azure blade crackling to life with a distinctive snap-hiss. "I thought you had succumbed to Darth Ananke’s wrath, but apparently she wasn’t as thorough as her boasting led me to believe. There are loose threads that even she left undone...you survived."

    "Ananke?" Lumiya flicked the light-whip up and at Skelm, wondering. As she did, the joint-mindscape answered, creating an image of the Sith.

    Lumiya frowned as she saw the woman, formerly Qi’ra. She knew that face, had recently apprenticed her. "Syren?"

    Of course, when she did that, Darth Syren appeared, but not just the Qi’ra that Lumiya had taken - and lost - but the woman that Aryan of the future had taken as his lover.

    With a flourish, Lumiya turned aside from whatever Skelm would inevitably do while she was distracted, spinning and lashing out her whip at his throat. "The ties between you and her... how intriguing."

    She could see the connections, personified by these three women and these three men. There was more, she could sense it, but she didn’t have the anchors with which to draw them out.

    Not yet, anyway. The Sith Lady held out her hand, fingers ready to snap, and awaken her Aryan Graul... the man she intended to keep close for many, many years to come.

    "What say you to these women... to these Qi’ra’s and Syren’s..." There were shadows here, others, but it would take time for Lumiya to dig at it all... "to your three fates."

    Aryan, who remained huddled before the Dark Lady’s feet, angled his chin to survey the scene, practically shaking in his distress. It was hard to focus at first, his vision clouded with specters from his past; literal nightmares that came surging back to haunt every waking thought. But they faded just as suddenly, the horrific images warping and evolving to become the fates that Lumiya had referred to.

    He watched as Skelm pivoted and brought up his azure blade to block the writhing tendrils of Lumiya’s lightwhip. The slash nearly missed his throat, but that hardly slowed down his momentum. Or rather, from Aryan’s perspective, it appeared as if the other man was too distracted to pay it much heed. Once he cleared the attack, he swiftly turned to confront the fate known as Qi’ra with a vengeance he had never seen displayed in himself before.

    What had occurred in this divergent reality to cause such unbridled rage?

    Alternatively, the bearded Graul adopted a defensive stance as he placed himself between the expanding conflict and the woman he now recognized as Syren. It was as if he was trying to protect her, a notion that Aryan could certainly relate to. Despite the distance that separated them, he felt an inherent connection to this woman. It was something…familiar that resonated within his very soul.

    That same connection also served as the catalyst that bolstered his strength, affording him the confidence to finally meet Lumiya’s gaze. "I—I don’t know them," Aryan replied in a harsh whisper, the strain evident in his voice. "I’ve never seen them before, and there’s no correlation. I...I don’t see how this is relevant."

    Clenching his jaw, he then straightened his posture to show his resilience. "Whatever you hoped to gain, you—you’ve failed."

    Lumiya snapped a finger, and they were suddenly back in the box, where it had all started.

    The one carved on the inside.

    "I will master the Change, and the Epitaphs, and complete Palpatine's research, little man."

    Her hand snapped out, and he was levitated into her waiting grip. It squeezed, physically compressing his breathing. "You are nothing to me. I am the Dark Lord of the Sith. You impede me at your peril."

    She drove him into unconsciousness, infuriated by his resistance.

    Aryan would have the distinct impression that there was supposed to be something rising up within him to defend him.

    A sentience should have come to his aid.

    There was no Darkness within him...

    ... he was no Skelm.

    Aryan instinctively winced at that revelation, despite not fully understanding its significance.

    He had recently witnessed Skelm’s raw fury and was fearful of the way the darkness had pervaded the man’s presence. It had rendered his alternate self unrecognizable, both in mind and spirit. And yet, he could not ignore the longing he felt—the hollow void within himself, knowing that this distinct personality had retreated.

    Or had he ever been there at all?

    It was becoming more difficult to differentiate between reality and perception, especially after his recent ordeal. He was too confused, too rattled by his experiences. But if this was simply another manifestation of his addled mind, then why did he feel so…betrayed?

    That last thought lingered, haunting him, even as he felt the physical pressure upon his neck from Lumiya’s vice-like grip. It depleted what little remained of his energy, and he found that he no longer had the resolve to openly defy or to resist her cruel punishment. He merely allowed his body to fall slack as he surrendered himself to her dark embrace.

    Eventually, he slipped into merciful oblivion.

    It was the last time he remembered being conscious for some time.

    Days.

    Months?

    Years?

    Time would tell.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth
     
  2. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Asteroid Home

    She brought Aryan Graul to her home.

    It was near Bimmiel, in the Kanz Sector, a region of space with it's own set of historical woes and dramas and unique aspects.

    Historically, the sector had been discovered by a lost human colony ship, and allowed to join the Old Republic notwithstanding that it was essentially within the Unknown Regions, which it was.

    When the Great Sith War began, it fell to religion that loathed nonhumans, and many of its systems fell to a three hundred year long bloodbath as the Old Republic was first too busy, and then entirely forgot, about its distant territory. So extreme were the Kanz Disorders, as they were politely remembered, that the people of Lorrd were banned from speech and developed an entirely nonverbal language to escape their slavers.

    At one point the leaders of the sector actually became associated with a Shaper, a monstrous woman who claimed to be from another galaxy, and her creations were used to secure the position of the zealots for a time. Her fate is lost to time, but it was one reason why Lumiya began digging into the sector when she was lead here by her research into her Baneite heritage.

    During the Great Galactic War the Jedi divined that the sector was a weak point between their territory and that of the Sith Empire of Emperor Vitiate, and liberated it, belatedly, for entire altruistic reasons... so they said. Lumiya doubted that, and thought the Jedi Master in-charge was just looking for an easy win.

    Thereafter it had ebbed and flowed between the Jedi-backed Republic and Sith Empire's in the typical boring fashion of almost other sector of the Outer Rim, and that was that.

    It was following the records of Darth Vectivus that she discovered this asteroid, a source of a dark side nexus caused by sentient mynocks... of all things. But it was off most charts, having been erased centuries ago and long before the strife of the Clone Wars and Galactic Civil War. Nominally within Imperial territory, and near the Sith worlds - a short hop over the Hydian Way - it served Lumiya well, though she kept her flotilla away for now.

    Indeed, she had kept her three Imperial Star Destroyers out of the galactic spotlight, notwithstanding that such a deployment would give her some muscle in the post-Palpatine militaries. For a time her beskar prison had been held aboard the flagship of Admiral Bethrogg, the Behemoth, and the Dark Lord of the Sith had opted to remain on the move after the Battle of Korriban...

    ... but after five years, it was time to go home.

    With the annoyance Aryan Graul with her.

    Her new apprentice, Syren, she had not re-emerged, and no matter of digging had discovered their location. Indeed, the two Sith slain by the Jedi and New Republic Intelligence operatives she had been unable to identify, notwithstanding that they were clearly cut from a different cloth to the other Reborn or Disciples of Ragnos.

    It was all kinds of maddening; to have gambled and lost.

    Aryan was useless, more than, and after their first session had yielded very little... he had been catatonic for most of it, for one.

    Which was why she was going home.

    Because Lumiya intended to take that dark side nexus, tap hard into it...

    .... and break open Aryan's mind.

    That is what she would do.

    He would come do as she threw a bowl of water into his face.

    He stank, after all.

    TAG: @HanSolo29
     
  3. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    IC: Aryan Graul
    Lumiya’s Asteroid Habitat

    Drifting…

    His mind was drifting.

    It had been for some time now.

    In this infinite realm that resided halfway between wakefulness and sleep, he could see shapes and colors. It was a dizzying kaleidoscope that encompassed his essence and stimulated his perceptions, and he was in awe of its beauty.

    Time also did not exist here. It was enduring… eternal. And in a sense, that also made him immortal. He could do what he wanted and live up to his expectations. There was nothing to worry about in this endless domain. Unlike the material world, he did not have to contend with illness or pain…

    He was comfortable and content.

    But like a fragile shell, his peaceful sanctuary soon shattered under the strain of his own delusions.

    An icy shroud suddenly enveloped his body; the cold was so intense that it felt as if thousands of jagged shards had penetrated his flesh. His suffering became palpable, and it was enough to rouse him from his comatose state.

    Aryan Graul’s eyes fluttered open, and while he parted his lips to express his anguish, his vocal cords constricted painfully and refused to cooperate. He could not speak or produce any sound except for a gasping whisper. His throat was simply too raw from disuse. It was his first indication that something was terribly wrong.

    How long had he been unconscious?

    ...and where was he?

    Panic rose within his chest as he set out to answer those questions. He began by surveying the silent room with ardent curiosity, noting the sting of antiseptic long before he discovered the non-descript walls, monitoring equipment, and white linens inherent to a medical facility. He was also simply dressed in nothing but gray fatigues.

    And he was… wet.

    Several rivulets ran down his face and soaked through his shirt, his hair plastered flat to his head from the brief deluge. Suddenly, he understood what had ultimately mustered him from his slumber. Someone had thrown chilled water into his face, which accounted for the cold sensation that he had experienced earlier. It wasn't much to draw from, but it was certainly a start; a proverbial piece of the puzzle.

    Again, he tried to move to get a better vantage point, but much like his vocal cords, his limbs and muscles refused to function. They felt leaden and heavy, no doubt an unfortunate side effect of his extended stay in the infirmary. Or had he sustained a grave injury at some point? He seemed to recall something along those lines—something that had affected his mobility—but his memory remained hazy and dull. That was probably also a factor in his inability to determine how much time had passed, which vexed him more than he cared to admit.

    But perhaps that was all inconsequential compared to the slender figure looming at the foot of his bed.

    While it was nearly impossible to distinguish her features in the dim overhead lighting, the triangular headdress was unmistakable. Aryan recognized her instantly from the cloister on Korriban and the scuffle that had ensued shortly after their arrival. She had been the source of his suffering; the phantom that haunted his waking thoughts… and often defined his nightmares.

    She was evil incarnate.

    The former Senator visibly trembled under her scrutinizing gaze. He was vulnerable; a mere victim to her many whims.

    For Aryan Graul knew the truth…

    There was no escape from the Dark Lady Lumiya.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth
     
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  4. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Dark Lady Lumiya
    Asteroid habitat

    "Get up," she snarled at him. A gesture in the Force lifted the man to his feet, and essentially dragged him from the room.

    "I had hoped you would allow me to unlock the mysteries of the Epitaph Games, Aryan, but you've let me down." Her eyes flashed, the madwoman again.

    "I am the Dark Lord of the Sith, Senator," Lumiya intoned for dramatic effect. "The merest hint of a suggestion from me is to be taken as an absolute order. My whims, fulfilled as if your deepest desire. My fancies, your life's work."

    She threw him to the floor in a control room, showing screens and more besides. The gaily painted protocol droids attended the consoles, looking alarmed even without moving faces. There was an enhanced image.

    "So what am I to do with your son?"

    There he was on-screen.

    Arek Graul.

    In a prison cell none too dissimilar to his own.

    "Well?"

    TAG: @HanSolo29
     
  5. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Surprised

    The man known as Aryan didn’t seem cognisant of anything. If anything, he seemed to be even more broken than before.

    Mumbling about love, and lost.

    It was almost as if he wasn’t inside his body.

    Like he was…

    Temporally challenged.

    And then he would come to, but snapping into existence, as if drew like a fish on a hook…

    … was a Chiss woman.

    “Who are -“

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent, @HanSolo29
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2022
  6. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    IC: Aryan Graul
    Asteroid Habitat

    A sharp gasp signaled Aryan’s return to the present, though he had no memory of ever being away. Time continued on as if he had always been here. There was no spark of recognition, no hint of an illusion to suggest that something otherworldly had occurred. He merely carried on with the moment as if he had never succumbed to a strange fugue-like state.

    Unfortunately, that still left him with his physical and mental infirmities.

    His body, including his ligaments, muscles, and various tissues, had deteriorated due to atrophy. While it was impossible to determine how long Lumiya had kept him isolated and unconscious inside her medical suite, he knew it was enough to amplify his suffering. That was evident when he demonstrated his inability to support his own weight. Instead of assisting him, she had dragged him through the corridors and roughly deposited him on the floor of the small observation room.

    Only now, after managing to catch his breath and open his eyes, did he notice his surroundings, including the gaudy protocol droids and the bank of vidscreens that lined the opposite wall. There was a figure displayed on one of the static-filled arrays, a young man with a disheveled appearance.

    Aryan’s mouth parted wordlessly as he staggered forward on all fours, determined to get a closer look at the man’s countenance. Details still eluded him, but there was a certain familiarity about the way he conducted himself. Almost as if…

    No.

    No.

    Arek.

    His son was dead… wasn’t he?

    He had witnessed the terrible moment with his own eyes back on Korriban.

    Or have they deceived him as well?

    The revelation about Arek’s fate clenched tightly at his heart, and he gave up his energy, allowing his body to collapse against the tiled floor with a sickening thud. His cheek slapped the hard surface, and he contorted inward to contain his pain. In spite of several attempts to call out his name or utter any sounds to let the boy know he was there, his vocal cords would not cooperate. The only thing he could manage was a silent plea as tears spilled forth from his eyes.

    However, through his tear-stained vision, something else caught his attention. Something both intriguing and wonderful. Lumiya wasn’t the only presence casting a shadow upon his prostrate form. There was another. A petite female with blue-tinged skin and glowing, scarlet eyes. A Chiss.

    But Aryan quickly realized that she wasn’t some ordinary Chiss. Much to his amazement, he knew her. Through the muddled haze of his addled mind, he was able to conjure memories from his youth… two lovers traversing a lush landscape with the stars illuminating their path from above.

    A name also accompanied the lingering image, prompting him to try once again to speak.

    Sybelle.

    He formulated the word in his mind, but he was unable to bring it to fruition. It issued from his lips as a hoarse croak, which was an improvement from his earlier attempt, but it still failed to afford him any satisfaction. He had failed, and he was left to wonder why Sybelle was here in the first place. Hadn’t she perished as well? How had she returned… and why was she alongside Lumiya?

    Had she aided the Dark Lady in capturing Arek?

    He wasn't sure if he wanted to know that answer—or the answers to any of the other questions he had swirling around inside his head. Nothing made sense anymore.

    Maybe that was for the best.

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  7. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    IC: Sybelle
    unknown to her

    The battle was gone, left behind maybe, Sybelle wasn’t sure and didn’t care. Not when she saw that Aryan wasn’t doing well, and his collapsing frightened her.

    His mind felt more troubled than it had been only moments ago, and unless she was mistaken, he seemed to be acting as if he was just seeing her for the first time.

    The woman standing nearby was another stranger, and she seemed just as surprised to see them.

    “I find myself just as shocked as you seem to be,” Sybelle spoke to the woman as she took in where they were, “are you and Aryan acquainted?”

    Sybelle knelt down beside him on the floor before she asked the other question that was on her mind, “am I dead again?”

    Tag: @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29
     
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  8. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    The inner heart of her home; breached

    The Dark Lord of the Sith was not prone to overreaction, but a Chiss woman appearing in her very secret asteroid base was surprising.

    She dug her hand into her thigh and dug free a hilt, with a set of metal and leather strands attached to it -

    Snap-hiss-hiss-hiss

    Energy joined the whip -

    "Explain who you are."

    Her tone took no quarter.

    "Or you truly will be dead."

    She was completely focused on Sybelle; she had left Aryan entirely to his own devices.

    For better or for worse.

    Her voice was murderous, and for once, Lumiya embraced the crazed madwoman.

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady Belligerent
     
  9. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel


    The young man on the display looked oddly familiar, and Sybelle felt Aryan’s shock at seeing him there. Her old friend was again overwhelmed by strong emotions that made her heart ache.

    "Explain who you are."

    The woman asked her, as she had taken out her unpleasant looking weapon. Sybelle wondered that if she could keep the woman focused on her long enough, then perhaps Aryan could free the young man.

    Sybelle smiled ruefully and slowly answered, “I’m an old friend of Aryan’s, who are you?”

    She couldn’t help but to step back and away from Aryan. “I am unarmed,” Sybelle held her hands out to show that she clearly had no weapons, “and I can assure you that I didn’t arrive here on purpose.” Her eyes moved around the area, “I couldn’t begin to guess where we are, unless you’d be so kind as to tell me?”

    That weapon was a concern, so Sybelle didn’t turn her back on it, but she did keep edging away from Aryan… and hoping.

    Tag: @HanSolo29 @Sinrebirth
     
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  10. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001

    [​IMG]

    IC: Aryan Graul
    Asteroid Habitat

    Aryan visibly flinched as the lightwhip’s tendrils ignited with a chorus of snap-hisses that echoed around the small chamber. Their golden hue penetrated the darkness with an ominous glow, conjuring memories from the last time he had encountered the formidable weapon. The deadly strands had lashed at his skin, ripping and tearing until his back had turned raw. Even now, the phantom pain returned and contorted his body at an odd angle, but he clenched his teeth in an effort to endure his suffering.

    Despite his weakened state, he wasn’t entirely ignorant of the scene unfolding around him. He could see Sybelle—or was it Bellorum?—engaged in a tense conversation with Lumiya. Judging by her outward appearance and body language, she was uncertain about the scene unfolding around her. However, he also noted the way she had begun to step toward the perimeter of the chamber, almost as if she was purposely leading the Dark Lady away from Aryan’s position.

    Was it to protect him?

    Or perhaps she intended to afford him an opening to spring Arek from his prison?

    Maybe it was both.

    Either way, his mind swam into focus long enough to capitalize on the opportunity.

    With a muffled groan, Aryan planted his hands and slowly elevated himself from the deck, rising to his knees before staggering awkwardly to his feet. For a moment, he feared his weakened muscles would fail to support his weight, but he quickly shuffled forward to stave off any embarrassment—for the most part. His efforts weren’t exactly coordinated, causing his limbs to flop around like a fish out of water.

    Ultimately, he tripped and fell into the control console, his fingers grasping desperately for purchase along the cabinet's edge. A pained expression crossed his countenance, though his discomfort was soon forgotten as he lifted his chin to regard his son on the monitor.

    The boy appeared pale and unwell from this vantage point. The poor transmission was probably to blame for Arek's complexion, but he did not want to take chances. Without a thought to his actions, Aryan began to randomly depress buttons and toggle switches in an attempt to free his boy.

    When that didn’t immediately produce results, he turned frantically toward the protocol droid at the work station beside him. "R—Re…lee—assse," he croaked through his garbled speech, willing his vocal cords to cooperate as he waved his hand toward the screen. "Reeelease—hi…him."

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
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  11. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Leverage

    Aryan was lisping, forcing words.

    The Dark Lady of the Sith snorted and addressed Sybelle.

    "I assume you're something to do with the Epitaph. The differing realities and times that challenge the Revenge of the Sith."

    She chuckled, keeping her lightwhip to the side of her, hissing.

    "I'm interested in the Change. In causing one, and ushering in the Second Twilight War."

    Her free hand gestured to Aryan, and he levitated into it. She held him up. "I have his son held hostage; Arek Graul. This man, Aryan, was a former Imperial Senator, his father was obsessed with the power to change time."

    Her chin tilted. "And you, well, you look like one of the Sith apprentices of Darth Tyranus. One Sev'rance Tann. A relative?"

    Her gaze cut into Sybelle.

    She released Aryan, gestured to undo whatever bindings were in-place. "If you can find your son, you can leave with him."

    A flash; amusement.

    "Shall we play a game?"

    TAG: @HanSolo29, @Lady Belligerent
     
  12. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    Sybelle’s heart was pounding, and she was doing all she could to remain outwardly calm. Aryan’s condition had completely turned around from when she healed him during the battle, but he had to try and get himself together to save his son.

    It was then that the reality of the situation hit her, she might die again to help save Lyz’s child. No one helped save Airabella, but Sybelle would set that aside, and she had to get that wretched woman Lyz out of her head too. I’m doing this for Aryan, she thought, and there was also the fact that she was already dead. Sybelle really had nothing to lose.

    "And you, well, you look like one of the Sith apprentices of Darth Tyranus. One Sev'rance Tann. A relative?"

    “Why should you care?” Sybelle asked Lumiya mildly. “What if I am? Does it really matter?” She looked down at the floor as she spoke, her mind grasping for ideas on how to get them out of here.

    She didn’t dare look over at Aryan, ”go, save your son and flee this place,” Sybelle didn’t know if her words would reach Aryan’s mind. She’d resisted using the Force for a long time before her death, so it was possible it wouldn’t do her bidding now, and Aryan may have forgotten who she was.

    The best chance was still if Sybelle kept Lumiya busy. “I don’t know about this Epitaph you mentioned, nor have I ever encountered his father. Why are you torturing Aryan if his father was the one with the information you seek?”

    Sybelle had been slowly creeping away from the last place she’d seen Aryan as she spoke, “from what I know of his father, he wouldn’t have shared that information with Aryan, he was a hateful man.”

    Her eyes went to the lightwhip, and she noticed her fear had dissipated as she spoke. Sybelle lifted her chin and stared into Lumiya’s eyes when she spoke, “let Aryan and his son leave, and I’ll stay as your prisoner. Aryan can retrieve the information you seek from his father’s possessions, and trade that for my freedom.”

    She wasn’t sure if Aryan could do that, but Lumiya didn’t need to know, let her think Aryan could retrieve the key to how to change time. Sybelle could sit here and wait indefinitely.

    Tag: @HanSolo29 @Sinrebirth
     
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  13. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001

    [​IMG]

    IC: Aryan Graul
    Asteroid Habitat

    Aryan had tumbled against the control console after Lumiya released him from her invisible grip, where he now lay in a fetal position with his knees drawn to his chest. The scene continued to swim in and out of focus in his mental haze, the information inundating his mind until it was nearly impossible to comprehend.

    Everything except the Dark Lady’s ultimatum.

    If you can find your son, you can leave with him.

    He didn’t want to believe that; it couldn’t be that simple. There was always a catch, and he knew that Lumiya would exploit it to the fullest extent possible. It was such a hopeless endeavor, especially in his feeble state. He had lost before the game had even begun. The sole purpose of her frivolous gesture was to prolong his suffering. She would torture him—and Arek, for mere amusement.

    And yet, a seed of doubt still managed to plant itself within his mind, inciting his anxiety.

    Was he throwing away a suitable opportunity?

    Was he a terrible father for refusing to humor Lumiya?

    Was he weak… worthless?

    He could… end it?

    His thoughts began to spiral out of control, prompting him to groan and clench his head in an attempt to mitigate his destructive tendencies. But somewhere, in the midst of this traumatic episode, a clear and gentle voice pervaded his awareness.

    Go. Save your son and flee this place.

    Aryan’s lips parted with an audible gasp, his blue-gray eyes searching the area until they fell upon Sybelle. Had she… spoken to him? It didn’t seem possible, but in a world where everything felt nonsensical—Sybelle was supposedly dead, which meant he was essentially interacting with a ghost—he didn’t dare question the veracity of what he had just experienced. He simply acted.

    Rising unsteadily to his feet, his right hand propped against the bulkhead for support, Aryan inclined his chin and tightened his resolve. He was grateful for Sybelle’s intervention; it provided him with the hope and determination he required to carry on in this moment.

    Before he realized what he was doing, he instinctively opened himself to the Force and conveyed his gratitude.

    Thank you.

    Only then did he recognize the extent of Sybelle’s strategy and how she intended to assist him. While he had been mindful of his father’s obsessive nature, he had never been privy to the source of his madness. He would’ve never guessed that his old man sought to manipulate time. It sounded ludicrous, but he had learned long ago never to question Norin Graul’s convictions.

    However, it wasn’t necessary for Lumiya to know the full scope of Aryan’s knowledge about his father’s research. He could still utilize it to his advantage.

    Following Sybelle’s lead, he slowly lifted his hands in a defensive position and nodded. "Sh—She’s right," he stammered through his parched throat, his voice finally beginning to regain its utility. "I… I can secure… the information… you require. If—If you give me that… chance. Just… don’t harm her… and l—let… my son… go. T—There’s no… need for, uh… a hostage sit—situation if… I willingly c—comply with… your wishes."

    His gaze then darted toward Sybelle, a sense of longing evident in his eyes. He felt guilty about potentially leaving her behind, and he desperately wanted to make amends for that decision. His expression conveyed those sentiments, silently hoping that there was another way to achieve their goal.

    Aryan hoped that she would understand.

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  14. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Asteroid

    Lumiya snorted at Sybelle, regarded the battered Aryan Graul. “You truly think that he can save anyone?” She toed the man, who she had dropped. “He can’t even save himself.”

    She regarded Sybelle. “What do you know of the Two Oracles of the Sith? If you cannot answer this question, I’ll have no use for you, Chiss.”

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A smirk. “Not as an Epitaph project, but I do need an apprentice to ruin… my placeholder.”

    She regarded Aryan. “Go, if you can. Your son is down the hallway.”

    Lumiya grinned and ignored the man thereafter.

    TAG: updated tag for @Lady Belligerent, @HanSolo29
     
  15. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    Sybelle didn’t want Lumiya to notice that she had feelings, or shared an all too brief history with Aryan. The woman might exploit it, and that could be more harmful to Aryan’s already fragile mental state.

    It was difficult when she looked over and met Aryan’s gaze, she thought he might be feeling guilty, and that wouldn’t do. He had to be strong to take on the task of escaping. Her resistance was slipping and she only wanted to run to him, to take him in her arms. She had to push those selfish thoughts aside and be strong, so that Aryan could be strong too.

    Sybelle looked in the direction Lumiya had directed Aryan, ’go, hurry and save your son.’ She had no clue how she was able to stay so calm, all she tried to think about was Aryan getting to safety. Hopefully he heard her words and he would run, and get as far away from here and never return.

    “Are you in the habit of ruining your apprentices, ma’am?” Sybelle turned her focus on the woman, “don’t you think I’m a little mature for an apprentice, even as a disposable one?”

    The lightwhip definitely intimidated Sybelle, and she dreaded learning what it's bite would feel like. Would this person use it on her? It seemed probable.

    “I was… am, an archaeologist, so I am familiar with the tales of artifacts such as an oracle stone. Of course, I’m not sure if that’s what you speak of.”

    Sybelle’s fingernails were digging into her palms to keep her hands steady, “sadly I wouldn’t know if such a stone exists or is simply a legend. Maybe you could share anything you’ve learned about this?”

    Tag: @HanSolo29 @Sinrebirth
     
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  16. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001

    [​IMG]

    IC: Aryan Graul
    Asteroid Habitat

    The surprise was evident on Aryan’s face when Lumiya ultimately accepted the conditions of their proposal—but not without taunting, of course. While her provocative words had easily pierced his weakened defenses and compounded his anxiety, he was able to momentarily suppress its effects to reflect on the strange turn of events. He hadn’t expected their desperate plea to actually succeed, and he became naturally suspicious of her motives. In fact, he felt tempted to renege his offer to ensure that she couldn’t hurt them further.

    Until he noticed the palpable change in her behavior. Suddenly, she seemed disinterested in his plight. He was nothing; a mere pawn who she could easily discard. The Dark Lady’s attention had now shifted to another… to Sybelle.

    Aryan’s heart clenched with worry, causing physical pain to manifest within his chest. His hand clutched at his tattered shirt to ease his discomfort, and he gasped as it became difficult to draw breath. He wanted to intervene and prevent Sybelle from carrying out her end of the deal. He couldn’t allow her to make such a costly mistake, especially not for him.

    However, as she had moments before, his former lover broke into his mind and offered him encouraging thoughts. 'Go, hurry, and save your son.'

    Sybelle had given him her consent to leave. How could he refuse her? He wouldn't dare betray her trust and destroy everything she had suffered for. Deep down, he still… loved her.

    Biting his lower lip, Aryan nodded to acknowledge her words. His gaze lingered a moment longer before he reluctantly turned and retreated toward the exit. As he staggered into the corridor that Lumiya had indicated, he gripped the side for support and pulled his body along hand over hand, shuffling along in a slow, lumbering motion until he reached his destination.

    Aryan did not hesitate as he crossed the threshold to save Arek.

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
  17. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Amused

    She turned and led Sybelle to a room inside the caverns, ignoring Aryan's scrambling.

    They turned a corner and then Lumiya turned back, placing something in the Chiss woman's hands.

    It was round, completely spherical, and for a moment it flashed with a memory of who had once held it.

    [​IMG]

    The voice was grave... the hands that held it, were not her own, they stank of decay, her entire skin, for a brief moment.

    Then she was back in her own body.

    Another image, of an aged man, commanding the Oracle Stone.

    [​IMG]

    Darth Tyranus, or, to her, Count Dooku.

    Lumiya watched, and waited for her to react.

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent
    ---
    IC: Arek Graul

    Bound, in body and soul

    Eventually the room was revealed.

    It had no door, which was odd perhaps for a prison.

    But when Aryan made his way around the entrance of the area, where the Force tugged him - where Arek drew him...

    He would see why the cell need not be locked.

    [​IMG]

    It was a box... styled in the art of the ancient New Mandalorians, a pacifist faction that did not survive the Clone Wars.

    A beskar sarcophagus.

    The Force struck at Arek with a vision.

    A memory of the past.

    [​IMG]

    A Sith Lord had been held in this box.

    Darth Maul.

    TAG: @HanSolo29
     
  18. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    Sybelle quickly brushed away a tear as Aryan made his way to his son, she had to hope that Aryan would have done the same if the situation had been reversed. Maybe he would have taken actions that could have saved their daughter. Maybe that was why Sybelle had been revived. Could some deity have placed her with Aryan so he could save his son?

    That probably wasn’t the case, it was just folly, but she needed something to cling to. A reason for why she was able to walk away from the only man she’d ever loved without being able to tell him that.

    Following Lumiya, she was in awe of the cavern they had walked into. Sybelle was so engrossed with seeing everything that she almost bumped into her captor when she’d suddenly stopped.

    By reflex Sybelle had taken the orb thrust into her hands, and she was immediately struck by a scene playing in her mind. Without realizing it, her hands gently stroked the cool surface, it appeared she was giving the stone reassurance and comfort.

    The scent was so overwhelming that she gagged. It was an odor that you had to prepare yourself in advance to manage. Rotting dead flesh, had an unmistakable scent, the hands were old and crumbly, the haunting voice fit the corpse-like hands.

    It was gone as quickly as it had startled her, she breathed in deeply now that the odor had passed.

    She looked at Lumiya, but instead of seeing her, she dissolved into an older man ordering the stone. It wasn’t clear what he wanted, unless it was the Dark Hope promised by the dead man.

    Her grasp on the stone tightened, she willed it to show her more, but the scene was gone and she was back standing in the cavern.

    Sybelle noticed Lumiya watching her and asked, “are you looking for the same thing? This Dark Hope that Dooku and Palpatine wanted?”

    Tag: @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29
     
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  19. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001

    [​IMG]

    IC: Aryan Graul
    Asteroid Habitat

    As Aryan stumbled along his path, the encounter with Sybelle remained at the forefront of his mind. It disturbed him to see her here, especially since he had presumed that she was dead. Of course, he had never found any proof to confirm his beliefs; perhaps it was merely a coping technique he had devised to explain why she had never returned.

    Whatever the reason, he was still glad to see her alive and well. It pained him to leave her behind in Lumiya’s clutches, and that guilt continued to consume him, but he tried to remind himself that it wasn’t a complete loss. He had an opportunity to rescue his son, and then he would keep his promise and return for his former love.

    That thought bolstered his resolve and convinced him to carry on. Eventually, the corridor widened to reveal the prison cell, though it wasn’t what Aryan had expected. There was no lock or defense mechanism to retain the occupant; it also lacked a proper doorway that could open and close. It was simply a small room with no distinguishing features except for the large, black box that stood at its center.

    A familiar black box.

    Aryan suddenly staggered to a halt and swallowed hard, the gesture producing a clicking sound in his ears. He had once been encased in a similar box; a long time ago, before the fall of the Empire.

    Inside that tomb of perpetual suffering, it had been like a waking nightmare. The torture and horror he had endured at the hands of Tavion and her ilk were beyond his comprehension. He had only just begun to recover from the traumatizing experience in recent years, but now memories flooded his awareness and ripped open the old wounds. He suddenly felt light-headed, and he instinctively pressed his shoulder against the wall for support. However, it did very little to ease his discomfort. Although he had nothing left in his stomach to expel, his body reacted violently to the stress, causing him to double over and wretch.

    It was only after the embarrassing moment had passed that he noticed the viewport on the side of the box. The clear window displayed the face of the prisoner within, pale and haggard from his ordeal. Nevertheless, there was no denying that it was Arek. His features were unmistakable, but in case there was any doubt, the Force rippled to serve as further confirmation.

    With a sharp intake of breath, Aryan lurched forward and practically fell into the box, both hands slapping against the smooth surface to stop his forward progress. "A—Arek," he stammered in a feeble attempt to reach his son.

    Unfortunately, his actions triggered another adverse effect. As his palms touched the vault, a vision flashed before his mind’s eye, jolting him like an electrical shock. An audible whimper slipped from his lips as a distinctive visage began to take shape. A stranger with a crown of horns atop his head, yellow eyes, and a black and red tattooed face peered at him through the shadows. A name then came to him through the Force, along with the revelation that this man had previously occupied the box that now held Arek.

    Darth Maul.

    A Sith.

    Aryan blanched as a sense of foreboding swept over his being. His past experiences with Tavion, White Eyes, and more recently with Lumiya, had taught him everything he needed to know about those who practiced the dark arts. If Maul had somehow infused a part of himself into the vault, it was crucial that he retrieve Arek before those influences could corrupt him. He would not condemn his son to such a fate.

    Moving at a frantic pace, Aryan instinctively slammed his fist against the window to gain Arek’s attention. "I—I’m here... I, uh—I’ll get you free," he shouted hoarsely, his brow creased with determination. He then turned to regard the control panel on the side of the box, his fingers fumbling over the various dials and switches in an attempt to release his son.

    "I’m here," he repeated once more, almost as if he needed to convince himself.

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent; @Sinrebirth
     
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  20. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Amused

    "Palpatine's Dark Hope was a way to survive the sabotage of his clones." A grin, which even reached her eyes behind the mask. "The ones I sabotaged."

    Lumiya touched her chest. "Yes, I caused the downfall of Emperor Palpatine, of Darth Sidious, the Dark Lord of the Sith."

    "Does that change how you view me?" Lumiya said drily. "I don't care for hero worship from temporary apprentices, Chiss."

    "What about fawning?"

    The voice was dry, and Lumiya pivoted.

    A man stood there, arms folded, booted feet, gloved hands, Black-Coated.

    His voice was lilting.

    "Sybelle, you're rather not supposed to be here."

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent
    ---
    IC: Arek Graul

    Resisting

    The beskar box was horror incarnate; he'd been trapped all but in suspended animation, his processes slowed to a crawl.

    It wasn't like carbonite, no, it was more like torture.

    Mandalorian justice, no doubt.

    Arek saw his father, eyes fluttering open, slowly, as if a dream - a paralysed one.

    Sleep paralysis was one of Arek's pet fears, and that had been nurtured into full-blown terror.

    Aryan's weak fingers found the necessary latch, and the box opened, Arek tumbling into his old man -

    TAG: @HanSolo29
     
  21. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    Sybelle’s forehead was creased while she listened to Lumiya, and she continued to stroke the orb in her hands.

    “I need to ask the obvious question, why ask me what I saw if you already knew what the stone would reveal?” Sybelle turned the stone in her hands wishing for an explanation on how and why she was here.

    “My opinion of you remains the same,” Sybelle answered and looked at the woman who she didn’t trust, “I am grateful that you agreed to allow Aryan, and his son, to leave. But, temporary apprentice? Surely I’m far too old for that.”

    "What about fawning?" A male voice spoke up, starting Sybelle such that she almost dropped the stone she held.

    "Sybelle, you're rather not supposed to be here." He spoke directly to her, and his words frightened the petite woman. She had to keep Lumiya’s attention away from Aryan, why was this person interfering with things?

    “I beg your pardon?” Sybelle asked the new arrival. “I don’t recall having any control over where I’ve recently been, in fact I feel like I’ve been someone’s marionette. Do you know who has been pulling the strings, sir?”

    ”Please hurry, Aryan,” Sybelle thought to herself, she could only hope that he was safe and fleeing.

    “Maybe you could tell me where I am currently?” She smiled softly at the man in black as she engaged him in conversation.

    Tag: @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29
     
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  22. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Maddened

    How was he here.

    This was her fortress.

    Her keep.

    Her secret asteroid base.

    Lumiya seethed, but Sybelle spoke up, undoubtedly hurling thoughts the way of Aryan...

    "Where?" The Black-Coat snorted. "Where is merely an observation. When is what I'm more interested in, but I'll trade you."

    A dry chuckle. "Where is a asteroid not far from Bimmiel, in the Kanz Sector of the Outer Rim." Lumiya twitched again.

    "When is about ten years after the Battle of Endor, which killed Palpatine... for the first time."

    He stepped forward, arms stretched out.

    "But the why, that's the doozy. Even I don't know why." He stopped an equal distance from Lumiya and Sybelle. "I'm merely hunting down Vessels for Six Darknesses, the spiritual essence of those eldritch Old Ones."

    Lumiya twitched. "You know about the Epitaph."

    "My dear Shira," he said, grandstanding. "I am the Epitaph. I wrote the Galaxy's Obituary." A grin, slashing through the Force like a whip-crack that would cause them both to flinch. "The Dirge of the Force; the Twilight of the Jedi; the Swan-song of the Sith."

    The Dark Lord of the Sith had nothing to say back to that!"

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent (single), @HanSolo29 (mention)
     
  23. Lady_Belligerent

    Lady_Belligerent Previously Lady Belligerent, now RPF Queen star 8 Staff Member Moderator

    Registered:
    Jan 29, 2008
    Sybelle
    MZX32905, near Bimmiel

    She was likely sticking her neck out, judging only from Lumiya’s reaction to the new arrival, but he was a welcome diversion to Sybelle and she would take advantage of it.

    “I seem to be at a disadvantage here,” Sybelle didn’t dare glance toward Lumiya, “you both know each other, and you know me… but you and I have never met.” She wanted to keep a dialogue going, anything to buy time for Aryan.

    The details of when, and where they were was probably worth making note of. Maybe there would be a small chance that she would escape one day, if Lumiya didn’t snap and kill her first.

    “It would be lovely to trade with you, my dear,” Sybelle smiled softly, “but I have nothing to offer you in exchange. I’ve been out of the information loop for a while, and was woefully unprepared for my sudden arrival in this… this place and time.”

    Ugh. She sounded like an idiot, but she honestly had no idea how and why she was here. It was frustrating, and she had not had time to even attempt to find out.

    ’I don’t know if you can hear me, Aryan,’ Sybelle thought desperately, “but, please hurry. There’s now another one and you must escape.’

    The sharp crack was startling, and had Sybelle’s heart pounding, and the tension had her trembling. She clenched her hands together to still the shaking and spoke up again, “are the vessels you seek made of a metal substance or stone?” Sybelle asked innocently, recalling the many burial containers and urns she had unearthed throughout her career.

    “Perhaps I could help, if you’d explain why you have an Epitaph? You appear to be very much still alive, so what is your Epitaph? She might as well find out anything that might help Aryan… if she could find a way to get it to him.

    Tag: @Sinrebirth @HanSolo29
     
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  24. HanSolo29

    HanSolo29 Manager Emeritus + Official Star Wars Artist star 7 VIP - Former Mod/RSA VIP - Game Winner

    Registered:
    Apr 13, 2001
    OOC: The following is a combo with the always amazing Sinrebirth – thank you so much! [:D]


    IC: Aryan Graul and Arek Graul
    Corridors, Asteroid Habitat

    Weary eyes blinked at him through the darkness, flashing with a hint of recognition. It was the first sign of life that Aryan had observed from Arek since he had arrived, but it was enough to send his emotions soaring; his son was alive!

    Adrenaline coursed through his veins, expunging the pain and the mental haze that had recently plagued him. His muscles moved of their own accord, his fingers prying more fervently at the vault’s controls in a desperate struggle to free his boy. He was no longer completely cognizant of his actions, only that he needed to reach Arek and escape before Lumiya changed her mind.

    Due to his heightened sense of urgency, he failed to notice when the locking mechanism ultimately disengaged and released Arek from his prison. The boy slumped forward and collapsed against Aryan’s weakened body, causing both father and son to tumble haphazardly across the room.

    When they came to rest, Aryan refused to remove himself from Arek’s personal space. He merely pressed upon his side and relished the sound of his breathing and the warmth of his body heat.

    His boy was alive.

    That statement had more than one meaning, particularly after the disaster that had occurred on Korriban. He had seen the blaster bolt tear into the flesh of his belly, the force of the impact launching him backward, his arms pinwheeling…

    Aryan blinked away the tears that had clouded his vision. The memory was too painful, especially when paired with the revelation that Arek had survived that ordeal only to suffer exponentially at the hands of the Dark Lady. It was too much, far too much. He felt the walls closing in around him as he succumbed to his mental anguish.

    Before Aryan realized what was happening, he leaned forward and wrapped his arms around the boy, pulling him into a tight embrace. A slight whimper then escaped his lips as he buried his face against his shoulder and began to openly weep.

    He was lost; reduced to a broken, fragile man.

    "A—Arek," he stammered feebly, struggling to control his convulsive sobbing. "I—I’m… here."

    Arek took a long, long time to say anything.

    He merely enfolded his father in a hug, holding him.

    They were beyond words.

    Flashes of what had happened to Arek flowed between them.

    His injury on Korriban; his survival on the edges of that hell-world; his travels to Naboo at the behest of a shadowy benefactor, to kill the New Republic Agents who had hurt him so; his incarceration in Oovo IV, and his transportation here, kidnapped and freed and imprisoned anew in a new darkness.

    Forever a tool of the Sith.

    The Disciples of Ragnos; the terrifying White Eyes; the Dark Lady Lumiya.

    He was an open wound, and Aryan would feel it all.

    His pain, his tortures, the endless questioning about Aryan, about the Change, about the Epitaph.

    Croaking, his throat parched, Arek finally spoke. "Dad -"

    He was weeping, in the Force, but he had no spare water to give to tears.

    A patchwork of images and impressions flashed before Aryan's eyes, inundating him with a wide range of sensations that were not his own. It was similar to the onslaught he had endured in White Eyes’ domain, and he initially recoiled—but then he recognized a familiar touch that set his addled mind at ease. While he felt pain, fatigue, and confusion, he was also aware of his son's presence as an important component of the vision. That’s when he realized that Arek had tapped into his consciousness to share his experiences with him.

    The revelation elicited a faint moan from his lips, his arms tightening around Arek’s torso in a frantic attempt to grasp the tangible line that linked them together. It was the intimate bond between father and son.

    "I–I’m… here," he repeated for the boy’s benefit, tears spilling forth once more to trace a trail down his grizzled cheek. "I… I thought I lost you." He was content to remain in this position for as long as it would take for both of them to fully recover their strength, but a distant voice soon dashed those expectations.

    "... can hear me, Aryan... please hurry, there’s another... must escape…"

    Silence reigned for a long moment before the name and visage of his former lover flashed across his mind’s eye.

    "Sybelle."

    The gravity of the situation suddenly weighed heavily on him, causing his breathing to come in short, shallow gasps. Falling back on his haunches, his eyes appeared feral as he glanced at Arek and then at their immediate surroundings. He could no longer conceal his fear. "W–We… we need to leave… now," he uttered breathlessly, reaching an arm around Arek’s waist to provide him with additional support. "C–Come on…"

    Aryan tried to help the boy to his feet, but it was like the blind leading the blind in his weakened state. However, the lack of progress did not discourage him; his determination remained intact. While struggling to lift Arek up to a standing position, his face visibly strained, he unknowingly tapped into the Force to assist him. It afforded him the strength he required to succeed.

    Arek did the same, the Force refreshing him, having been kept from its nurturing stream while trapped in the beskar, pain inflicted upon the man to keep him from concentrating -

    They were making it, moving together.

    "Where are we, Dad? What... happened?"

    The Force’s healing properties helped Aryan rebound from his physical ailments, but his mind was still shrouded in a murky haze, and he found it difficult to concentrate and recall the answers to Arek’s questions. In response, he stumbled forward a few paces, though it was hard to tell if this was a result of his delirium or if he deliberately hesitated to compensate for his incapacities.

    Either way, he turned to regard Arek with a somber expression, his lips parting slightly to convey his consternation. Fortunately, he wasn't at a complete loss. "Lumiya…" he replied simply, his voice a hoarse whisper. "I—I don’t know how long it’s been, but she took me… from Korriban. After… uh, after—"

    His hands trembled as he recalled the terrors unleashed by White Eyes. There was no need to elaborate further; he knew that Arek understood the anguish he had endured. They had both incurred his wrath.

    "I woke up here," Aryan continued after a prolonged pause, still shuffling along at an accelerated pace. "Sh—She didn’t divulge too many details, but… uh, she mentioned the Epitaph. I—It’s the same kind of obsession I observed in your grandfather, and I think she believes that we hold the key to… unraveling the truth… that we can provide her with all the answers. Th… that’s why we’re here… together. It’s the condition of our escape." He clenched his jaw and tightened his grip on Arek’s wrist. "If… If we can present her with Grandpa’s research, Lumiya will release—"

    Aryan visibly winced and bit his tongue before he could reveal Sybelle’s involvement. He could not address that subject with his son; it didn’t feel like the appropriate time to explain that they were former lovers.

    His mind began to unclutter, as Arek remembered. "We're tied to all this... Epitaph nonsense. Palpatine has Sentan kidnap you; Tavion takes me; an Imperial agent codenamed White Eyes manipulates us all; now Lumiya is seeking to catch up..."

    Arek looked at him, unfocused. "She wants to figure out how to perform a Change... to have the power to... destroy Luke Skywalker, somehow. She has something... it may have been yours... or Grandpa's... the heart of a Holocron of Prophecy; an oracle stone."

    His eyes clouded. "There's a Holocron here... ancient, one of the oldest; a Sith one, by Adas... he... he knows about the Epitaph, too... and a fleet? Some... secret power, hidden... Lumiya offered me to him once... to his... armour?"

    The boy's words became more muddled. "I think Lumiya used the Force on my memories... it's a mess... Grandpa's research... he was connected to some Sith cult, I think..."

    He placed a hand on his head, squeezed them shut in concentration. "The One Sith."

    "From the Tapani Sector?"

    Aryan blinked a few times to clear his mind, but his efforts proved fruitless. The thick veil returned, settling over his body like a wet blanket threatening to suffocate him. He staggered as he gripped Arek’s arm, his eyes glazing over in accordance with his deteriorating condition. His inability to sort through his jumbled memories fueled his frustration. Every time he tried to latch onto a snippet of information, a door closed in his face.

    He could recall the Holocron previously in his possession on Korriban; it was probably the same one Arek had described, but it had been crudely stolen from him by—SLAM!

    There was also something familiar about the One Sith. As Arek had explained, there was some connection to his father. He could see Norin Graul’s face lurking in the shadows, along with someone else—a Chiss?! The image shifted too quickly, and he could’ve sworn he saw his own visage reflecting back at him as well. Either way, there had been an altercation, and then—SLAM!

    With a sharp gasp, Aryan desperately sought his son’s gaze. It was as if he had experienced an epiphany, and he began to ramble. "I—I don’t… there was something there, but I can’t—the Holocron?" He shook his head slowly, his eyes closing briefly as he tried to formulate his thoughts into words. In his current mental state, it was difficult to stay focused. "We… may be able to stop her, if we can find the Holocron… but that would betray Sybelle. Her…sacrifice, I uh… I can’t do that to her—we’ll have to… come back—"

    His voice trailed off into a garbled cry, his emotions running rampant. It tipped him over the edge, and he felt himself spiraling…

    Nevertheless, before succumbing to his addled mind, Aryan managed to embrace the Force once more and reach out across the void:

    "Sybelle… there is a Holocron—or an oracle? I believe it belonged to my family… it may hold the key to the Epitaph. Find it… get it away from Lumiya… destroy it, if you have to."

    Exhaling heavily, Aryan then collapsed to his knees as the darkness threatened to overtake him.

    TAG: @Sinrebirth; @Lady Belligerent
     
  25. Sinrebirth

    Sinrebirth Mod-Emperor of the EUC, Lit, RPF and SWC star 9 Staff Member Manager

    Registered:
    Nov 15, 2004
    IC: Lumiya
    Bimmiel asteroid

    “Perhaps I could help, if you’d explain why you have an Epitaph? You appear to be very much still alive, so what is your Epitaph?"

    Lumiya bared teeth at Sybelle.

    "Don't be dense."

    "Harsh," the Black-Coat said.

    "He wrote the epitaph of the entire galaxy. The entire timeline. So when we speak of the Epitaph, we speak of the words he wrote." Her finger brandished at the man. "He created a legacy which kills everyone. Everywhere. Everywhen."

    "Now, now," the hands were held up, apologetic. "That's simply untrue. I just saw what would happen, wrote it down -"

    "- and by writing it down created a fixed point in the Force -"

    "Who knew? Honestly, how could I know -"

    "Shut up," he hand went up and a Force choke grabbed at the garbed man. He seized his throat with one hand and panicked with the other, waving it, appealing to Sybelle for help -

    TAG: @Lady Belligerent
    ---

    Elsewhere

    The Force spoke of violence, and it wasn't pleasant.

    The dark side was being used.

    To murder; that was the intent.

    The Dark Lord of the Sith had acted.

    Arek's eyes widened, and he tried to turn his father away, growing stronger with each passing second, drawing upon the Force. "The hangar, I know where it is. Lumiya, she, she teased me about it."

    There was plenty of Force to pull upon; an immense wellspring of it.

    Arek knew it was tinged with darkness - what else could it be - but he had no choice, and Arek dove head-first, and the Force buoyed him, making him powerful, and he used that power to upright Aryan, to make him march -

    Laughter echoed in Aryan's ear...

    No.

    It echoed in his mind.

    In the place where Arek's resonance usually lived.

    What had he tapped into?!

    TAG: @HanSolo29