Darkness On The Jungle Moon
“Again!” She commanded as the training droids reset and another flurry of blaster bolts hit the apprentice's lightsaber. He’d deflected every shot that came his way just as he had done countless times before. The master’s voice came once more “Again!” she said firmly. When she witnessed the same result she issued the order to stop. Her student had satisfied her now.
“That’s enough for now, Vural. Meditate on today’s lesson and I’ll catch up with you later.”
The apprentice, a Sith Pureblood teenager named Vural dressed in the customary robes of a padawan bowed his head and made off for the dining hall to get some dinner before his evening meditation. His people were naturally tuned to the dark side of the Force, and being a Jedi had always been especially hard for him.
His master on the other hand, had been summoned by the council. As she walked in the opposite direction of her padawan, her mind wandered as to what kind of assignment she would no doubt be receiving. While the Clone Wars raged on throughout the galaxy, things had been quiet on Coruscant and they hadn’t been sent out on a mission for a long time. Not that they didn’t have a good track record, quite the opposite in fact, but the council had been slow to issue new orders.
The young white robed knight entered the council chamber, and before her sat most of the masters of the Order. Yoda, Mundi, Kenobi, to name a few. The rest were present in hologram. As she reached the center the Masters spoke. “Happy to see you, we are, Master Tsaunin. An urgent mission for you, we have.” Said Yoda as another voice took over. It belonged to Kenobi “We are sending you and your padawan to Duxn to retrieve an important relic.”
This piqued her interest. Since Tache was a Jedi shadow, her primary duty was to seek out and destroy dark side relics throughout the galaxy. Up until now things had been quiet with everyone putting all their effort into the war. What could they have found, she wondered?
“You are familiar with the world of Onderon, correct?” Master Kenobi spoke.
“Then you must also know of its fourth moon, Duxn. We have received word that a Sith holocron has been found there. Your mission is to seek it out and destroy it.”
“Accompanying you, your apprentice will as well. A good test for him, this will be.”
“As you wish masters, we will depart immediately and I will make sure the threat is eliminated.” She said before giving a deep bow of respect and turning to leave the council chambers.
Looks like it was time to pack the camping gear.
Vural was busy packing the gear into the storage compartments of the two Jedi starfighters while his master received all the intel there was available on the jungle moon. He had never been there but he had known a bit about it from his years of study in the archives.
Duxn was the fourth moon of Onderon, both of which were covered in thick jungle with few safe zones. Onderon had the city of Iziz while Duxn had no established cities but instead was home to several sets of ruins from various colonization attempts, but the jungle always came out on top when it tried to reclaim its land. It was also a place very strong in the Dark side of the Force. An ancient Sith lord, Freedon Nadd was buried there after his reign as king of Onderon came to an end thousands of years ago. Naturally, the beasts of the jungle had grown more vicious as the taint slowly spread over the moon, forever cloaking it in darkness.
To resist the dark side energy there would be a challenge for someone whose people were naturally attuned to it. Vural was trying even now to prepare resisting it, for now it seemed to working as he continued packing rations and equipment, enough for the several days they would be gone on their journey. When he finished he took a moment to admire the sleek ships before him, wondering how he ever got here.
He and Tache each had a Jedi Starfighter, complete with a custom paint job and astromech droid.
Tache’s was yellow and black primarily, with an R2 unit locked into its socket. Yellow was to represent her role as a sentinel in the Order and the black to signify her duty as a shadow. She wasn’t very mechanically savvy, so her ship was relatively unmodified compared to other’s. She even knew of one knight who worked on his starfighter constantly with his blue R2 unit at his side, happily conversing.
Vural’s colors were copper and blue. Since copper is usually considered a weak material, and Jedi protect the weak that cannot defend themselves, he took it upon himself to at least symbolically declare that no one is truly alone. Complemented by the blue, the color of the sky on a clear day, their potential could only go as high as the sky allowed it to. So that they may achieve something greater, like he had. Purebloods were usually never considered for training, yet here he was, about to embark on a mission with his master. His droid was also painted orange, to represent the fires that forged those that went from nothing, to something through hardship and extreme perseverance.
Soon his thoughts were interrupted when he felt a tap on his shoulder. Turning its way, he could see that it was Tache, his master. She had that neutral look on her face that didn’t show any particular emotion on it. “Are you ready out head out?” she asked. He responded positively, and the pair climbed into their respective fighters, the plexiglass cockpits sealing as it met the metal.
The engines roared to life and they flew out of the hanger. The G forces pushing them back and giving that oppressive feeling until the inertia dampeners kicked in and their bodies returned to feeling normal. THey made steady progress toward space where they docked with their hyperspace rings and made the jump to lightspeed.
They had been in hyperspace for hours now. Master and padawan were in the same tunnel of blue light with a black spot in the middle that never seemed to get any closer no matter how long they stared at it. Vural was growing anxious, and understandably so. He could start to feel the dark side power of Duxn as they grew closer by the second, and was worried that seeing or making contact with the supposed relic would easily sway him to the Dark Side. “Master?” He asked over the comm to the Jedi right beside him in her yellow-black starfighter.
“Yes, my padawan?” She said with a genuine interest.
“I’m not sure me coming with you was a good idea. Even now I can feel the Dark Side of Duxn.”
Tache was only just starting to feel it as they had gotten about 98% of the way done with their jump. On only a few minutes they would be in the Onderon System.
“I know you can feel its presence, and the lure of the dark side can be difficult to resist, but remember your training and concentrate on the task at hand. We’ll be out of here before you know it.”
“I sure hope so, master. I don’t want to give in to the darkness and become a fallen Jedi. THere is already so much evil in this galaxy already.”
If Tache could reach out and touch him she would. “There is much evil in the galaxy, but it is our job as Jedi to end it wherever it may be, and destroying this relic is one step in the process. Duxn has been shrouded in darkness for centuries, and it will take a long time to cleanse the taint, if it can be cleansed at all.”
At that moment their navi computers made a warning noise and the serene blue ended into a planet with four moons around it. Duxn was one of those moons, and after detaching from their hyperspace rings the pair headed toward the strongest concentration of dark side energy.
After finding a landing zone reasonably close to where they believed the relic was located. THe place they had set down was in a large clearing that seemed to be a large compound from the air. It was overgrown and there was no sign of anyone living there. It had been, in the distant past, a Mandalorian stronghold. They had long since moved on and the base was now abandoned.
Vural opened the cockpit and could smell the jungle air and feel the incredible amount of fauna around him. Even for him it was easy to feel that this world was teeming with life, all of it driven mad by the corruption set in place by the dark side. Not that they were docile in the first place, but the added aggression didn’t help. Thankfully they seemed to avoid the compound for now so the pair would be relatively safe to leave their crafts behind while they went on with their quest.
“We can set up camp here.” Tache said pointing to an abandoned building built into the rusted metal wall. The Mandalorians were good at little else but fighting, and as a result their structures were solidly built and they had survived the jungle’s constant attempt to rip them down into a pile of rubble.
It was nearing nighttime on the moon now, and it would far more dangerous with all the nocturnal predators roaming about. After taking some time to move their provisions and setting up a fire to deter predators from getting into their temporary Hobbit hole, they tried to get some sleep. Tache fell asleep easily enough. Vural, on the other hand, had trouble getting any rest. He managed to get very little sleep by the time morning broke. He had a bad feeling about this whole thing…..
The night was rough for the young padawan as he slept. The darkness gave him nightmares all night long. His master’s maniacal laughter and drunken fighting style manifested itself before he dreamed of killing her out of self-defense. Other times he envisioned him killing her in fair combat after becoming tainted with promises of ancient knowledge and power. It was a practically sleepless night filled with sharp breaths and cold sweats.
The worst was the voices. Whispers in the night speaking of evil things. “Passion.” “Kill her.” “Destruction.” “Destroy.”
He thanked the Force when the sun rose and Tache roused herself from her seemingly peaceful sleep. He did not feel tired from lack of rest but instead relieved that they could get moving again. After a short breakfast of water and nutrition bars they started making their way to where the dark energy was strongest: the tomb of Freedon Nadd, an ancient ruler of Onderon. Vural knew the history of him and what he had left behind that many had left uncovered through the centuries. Many things were buried on Duxn. And there were many things that should remain buried. He couldn’t help but feel distracted as they walked the fairly short distance from their camp to the tomb. He looked to Tache before speaking.
“Master?” He said, sounding uncertain.
“Yes, my padawan? Is there something bothering you? I can feel you’re distracted.”
“Yes, I didn’t sleep much last night. This moon it’s… it’s hard for me to not feel the darkness here.”
Tache stopped and put a hand on his shoulder, looking into his eyes. Ever since she took him on as a student she knew this would be an issue for him, and it was entirely not his fault. Others had always tried to find the dark side in him.
“Vural, you know that I’m aware to your struggles. That you’re very easily affected by the Dark Side. But that doesn’t matter. No student of mine is going to take the path of a fallen Jedi. Is that clear?”
“Yes, master. I know. But the dream, it seemed so real. It’s like I was actually there. Your screams, the pain, it all felt so real.”
“We mustn't let our fears control us, young one. Remember the Code. There is no emotion, there is peace.”
Vural knew that line all too well. The Jedi Code was something everyone had learned and had to live by all their life, while there were many ways to interpret it, the principles remained the same. He took a deep breath and looked his master in the eye. :You’re right. I need to focus on there here and now, not what I dreamt up last night.”
“I’m glad you understand. Now come on, we need to get moving.”
He started once again following Tache to the tomb of Freedon Nadd.
The tomb itself was not terribly far from the old Mandalorian Camp. Only an hour’s walk or so. It stood at the edge of a small lake, the architecture very consistent with what one would have seen in an ancient Sith building, Large black colored statues on either side of the main ramp facing outward, and a large black steel door with no visible lock mechanism to keep non-Force sensitives out. Needless to say this was the source of all corruption on Duxn, and while it could not be permanently removed, it could be cleansed, slowly and with many of the Jedi’s resources. With the current war it wouldn’t be possible, so for now it would stand and continue to spread its tendrils of evil across the whole moon.
As the two approached, Tache noticed that a Separatist dropship had landed along with a personal shuttle. That could only mean one thing, either Count Dooku or General Grievous was here, and they brought a whole battalion of droids with them….
Vural took out his lightsaber and was about to activate it when his master stopped him “Not yet. We can sneak around these droids if we’re careful. Follow me.” Tache said before rushing forward and leaping to perch herself on a ledge. Her apprentice following behind her.After a few well timed jumps, distractions by nudging rocks, and dashes forward, the pair soon found themselves inside the main temple. Vural could feel a strong dark side presence, but tried to think nothing of it. They were here to destroy the relic and get back home. That was the mission. That was the plan.
Thankfully the guards outside were few, and given how vast the tomb was they could move around relatively easily without being detected. A lot of the droids had been destroyed in an attempt to take out the tomb’s built in defenses. Ancient war droids and many traps to keep undesired guests away. Permanently. They likely did not have very detailed knowledge of how a Sith tomb was laid out, but it was likely that everyone there knew that it was usually just a straight shot from the door to the burial chamber.
Finding a dark side relic in a place like this wouldn’t be easy. Tache reached out and trusted the Force to give her an answer, or at least point her in the right direction. It seemed her prayers were answered. While it was especially difficult to sense where the Relic might be with all that darkness swirling about, she got a vague idea of where it was: The far side near the burial chamber, no, past it.
“I sense it is this way. Keep your wits about you and be ready for anything.”
The main chamber was largely devoid of droids thankfully, and whoever was ahead of them had opened the door leading to the burial chamber, while they normally would take some time to make a note of the scenery, they were in too much of a hurry to take in all the details f the grey stone and seemingly bottomless pits surrounding the edges of the room that split off into two smaller branches.
As they neared the burial chamber a cloaked figure became visible before them. He stood at about six feet tall and was wearing a dirt brown robe before turning around, revealing a white beard and the face of an elderly man. Count Dooku.
"Ahhh, master Jedi. How nice of you to be able to join me. I trust you are here for the holocron?”
“Our business is of no concern of yours, Count. Stand aside and we will be on our way.” Tache said in a rather assertive tone.
“Oh come now. We’re all here for the same thing.” He was grinning at this point as he pulled out a small black and red pyramid, a Sith holocron.
It was the mere sighting of this powerful Artifact that Vural had gotten a terrible headache, along with the overwhelming desire to take the relic for himself and learn its secrets for his own use. He visibly shook his head and tried to stay focused on the current situation, reciting the Code in his head.
“Ahhh, you know what power this holds do you? Or did your master not tell you?”
“What?” The pureblood said confused.
“The true contents of this relic, the power it could unleash throughout the galaxy. To at last end this war. For the Separatists at least. At long last we can bring peace!”
“Don’t listen to him, Vural. You know just as much about this as I do. We can take him together.”
“As you wish, Jedi.” He said as he ignited his crimson dueling saber in an offensive pose. This resulted in Tache igniting her double-bladed saber with twin yellow blades, and Vural to ignite his ocean blue blade. Three blades against one, a challenge for any swordsman. “Prepare to meet you end!” Dooku shouted as he rushed forward to meet two saber blades and pumping to try and flank Tache, perceiving her as the bigger threat.
Tache turned and parried the attack and brought down one side of her saber to meet Dooku’s chest, but it was blocked and Vural saw this moment to rush in and add more pressure to his master’s attempt to overwhelm him. It would have worked if not for Dooku’s barrage of lighting that took the padawan completely by surprise, stopping him mid sprint and stunning him, causing him to scream in pain as the current coursed through his body.
Tche would not accept this, and used one hand to alleviate pressure from her saberlock and push Dooku toward a pit and she had succeeded in catching him off guard, stopping the lightning and sending him toward the edge, and causing the holocron to fall from its setting and into the mist of red smoke. He hung on by his hands, his weapon turned off and leaving Vural to force his way past Tache and stand over the Count, anger clearly flowing off of him.
Dooku chuckled despite his predicament. “You’re angry. Good. Use it to kill me and begin your path down the dark side like a true Pureblood.”
“Vural. Don’t do it!” She too his arm and tried to pull him away from the count, knowing that if he caused him to fall the darkness would consume him forever.
“If we kill him the holocron will die with him. Neither of them can be allowed to live.” He said reigniting his saber and preparing to strike at Dooku’s hands.
“Killing him out of anger isn’t the Jedi way.”
He stood there for a good few seconds, contemplating if he really wanted to do this. Soon he deactivated his weapon and simply looked at the somewhat helpless Count.
“Fools.” he said before throwing himself into the air and kicking off a piece of wall and making a series of Force enhanced jumps to make his getaway. He didn’t have the holocron, nor did he manage in turning young Vural down the path of darkness.
Vural looked to his master, ashamed of himself for nearly losing control. “I’m sorry, master. I almost let my anger get the best of me. The relic is lost, let’s get out of here before anyone else shows up.”
Tache brought him in for a hug. “You did good, young one. You overcame your passion and anger and stayed true to the Light. And you’re well on your way to becoming a knight. Let’s get out of here.
Vural re-clipped his weapon and quickly followed his master as they made their back to their campsite and then back to Republic space. while in hyperspce, Vural looked to his master once again. “Have you heard from Poss recently?”
Poss, to Tache, was Aunt Poss. Seeing She was his father’s sister. “Poss? Not lately. I’m sure she’s alright wherever she is. Your mother is a strong woman, Vural. She’d be proud to see you now. You learned a valuable lesson on Duxn, that even when surrounded by darkness, temptation, and evil, you can always come out on top if you’re determined enough.”
Vural smiled at this. He had surprised himself really. Never before had he thought that in the face of such adversity and evil, that he would walk away as easily as he did. Dooku had escaped as he always did, but at least the relic was destroyed forever, its knowledge as dead as the Sith Lord that rested in its tomb.
But the holocron was not really gone. Any hole or pit, no matter how deep, does have a bottom. And eventually anything that falls into it will hit that bottom and come to a rest. So on the jungle moon of Duxn, at the bottom of a hole, there sat a relic that contained the means to unleash a terrible power upon the galaxy.
But that, is a story for another time.