MOTF Book II: Ascension Chapter 17

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MOTF Book II: Ascension Chapter 17

Post by Emperordmb on Sun Aug 30, 2015 1:56 am

Three crimson blades split the air of a large training room in Darth Vanquil’s base, one clashing with the other two. One swiping through the air with great force and the other two whirling and slashing offensively, sometimes in graceful arcs and other times in disconnected flurries as Nighthawk and Ignus engaged each other with their respective fighting styles. Ignus alternated between Juyo, Ataru, and Soresu with his saberstaff while Nighthawk, with his more traditional lightsaber, fought consistently with Djem So both offensively and defensively. Ignus was fueled primarily by his burning hot rage, and Nighthawk by his ice cold hatred. Nighthawk’s style constant, Ignus’s style variable. As a result, the duel oscillated back and forth between a graceful dance and a chaotic frenzy as the two friends and rivals traded blows.

Ignus’s arms and weapon were a blur as he twirled the twin blades of his saberstaff in a randomized series of quick slashes at Nighthawk, each coming from an angle that seemingly had nothing to do with the angle of the previous strike. Ignus watched as Nighthawk stepped back a few feet and drew his lightsaber closer to his chest after each slash, parrying and sweeping away each of Ignus’s strikes with great force, the force of Nighthawk’s blows only failing to completely disrupt each consecutive strike due to the leverage afforded to Ignus in the long handle of his weapon, and the power of his rage. After a couple more seconds, Nighthawk ended Ignus’s Juyo assault by pressing the offensive with his own aggressive application of Djem So, raining a series of swift but forceful power blows upon Ignus with two hands. This time, Ignus felt himself driven onto the defensive, quickly transitioning into the sequences of Soresu to repel each strike.

It had been approximately a year since Darth Umbravon had invited Ignus and Nighthawk to join the power base of his master, Darth Vanquil. Also brought into said power base were Sangara, who sat quietly in the corner of the room meditating, and the Chiss Sith Alchemist, Karp’atri’kuro, more commonly known by his core name, Patrick, who was currently somewhere else in the facility observing and experimenting with Hssiss venom. And in that year, he had dueled Nighthawk several times, but, as before, neither seemed to win a majority of their duels, and Ignus, as frustrating as it was to admit it, had not dueled Nighthawk as anything greater than a peer or equal. Luckily however, he had not dueled him as anything less than that either. Ignus dueled with three forms while Nighthawk only fought with two variants of the same form, which made Ignus the more versatile of the two opponents, which granted him an edge. At the same time however, Nighthawk was more focused and masterful in Djem So than Ignus was in any of the three forms he practiced, and he was able to transition between his offensive and defensive techniques more seamlessly. As a result, their duels could be likened to a wave crashing down upon a rock. It would end when the wave of Ignus’s diverse array of techniques either broke apart upon or eroded away the rock that was Nighthawk’s more focused skill set.

Despite the training Vanquil provided and despite the unity of his group of friends being preserved by joining Darth Vanquil’s power base, Ignus couldn’t help but have some misgivings about answering to another being on a daily basis. He had left Innamorta and joined the Sith to escape that very thing. And while Vanquil was not nearly as domineering as his parents had been, Ignus still did not like answering to him regardless, and, despite the extraordinarily lax control Vanquil applied over them for a Sith Master, Ignus could attribute one unpleasant thing to Vanquil that he couldn’t attribute to his parents. Back on Innamorta, one of the comforts of Ignus’s life had been that he was capable of keeping secrets from his parents. There was much he could do that they would never know about. It was how he had managed to smoke blaze blossom on a regular basis without them ever catching him. With Vanquil however, things were different. Darth Vanquil seemed to know so much of what Ignus thought and did, through pure observation and intuition. Despite Darth Vanquil allowing him to smoke blaze blossom on his down time and not exercising absolute control over any aspect of his life, Ignus still found the prospect of another being able to read him like a book at will to be immensely discomforting.

And of course, things weren’t entirely different from his situation back on Innamorta either. Ignus’s parents had always favored his sister and given her more than they had him, and while Vanquil did not treat him badly as a student, it was clear to Ignus that Vanquil definitely had a favorite among them. While Ignus, Umbravon, Nighthawk, and Sangara were all Vanquil’s students, only Umbravon was truly Vanquil’s apprentice. While Nighthawk continued to act as if all four of them were on the same level and that he was as important as any of them, it was clear to Ignus that such a thing was no longer the case, and had it really ever been? Back at the Prime Academy, as they had all ascended rapidly through the ranks of the Sith Apprentices, Umbravon had been the star student even then. Now, Umbravon was the sole Darth and Lord among the four of them, and easily received more attention from Darth Vanquil than any of them. In fact, at this very moment, as the three of them practiced and meditated in this room, Darth Vanquil was off somewhere else with Darth Umbravon, likely doing something far more intense. Despite how far he had come since joining the Sith Order, Ignus could not help but feel undervalued once more.

It would be at this point that most Sith, in their envy, would’ve started plotting and scheming to kill Umbravon, but Ignus was more than a Sith, he was also Umbravon’s friend. They had been friends for so long, and even after becoming Sith, they still continued to care for each other and help each other advance their power. Ignus and the others had helped Umbravon prepare for his duel with Darth Solu, and in his victory, Darth Umbravon had brought them into the power base he had earned his way into, bringing them quality training and no small degree of adventurous missions. And they even continued to train together, working together to hone each others’ abilities. Even with Umbravon aware of his greater power and status, their relationship as friends was still mutually beneficial, and they had no reason not to continue to love each other as friends. Despite this imbalance of power in Umbravon’s favor in their group, Umbravon admirably did not lord his power over Ignus or any of the others, and continued to regard them as friends first and foremost. All things considered, Ignus was certainly not going to betray Umbravon and destroy such an important connection in his life out of petty jealousy. He would continue to support his friend just as he knew Umbravon would continue to support him.

Despite being uncomfortable with a master, growing up with authoritarian parents had taught him how to suck up his misgivings, play the role of obedience, and cope with his life. He was not the most favored or the most powerful of the four of them, but he went along with them on this path by choice. He subjected himself to the discomfort of having a master for the benefits provided by Vanquil’s training, and the continued opportunity to train and fight alongside his friends, and he used what he disliked in his life, now and in his past, to fuel the blinding hot anger within him. His training and his passion and his friendship with Umbravon and the others all used as a way to make himself stronger. To make himself better. A way to become closer and closer to the man he wanted himself to be. And as Vanquil taught them to overcome their fears and doubts, it was this determination that allowed Ignus to do so. It was this determination that allowed Ignus to seize every technique and lesson Vanquil taught him and practice it to the point of refinement. It was this determination that he built his entire direction in life around. This was his purpose.

As he continued to duel Nighthawk, he knew, as he had always known, that he would not be nearly as comfortable with Nighthawk in the same position Umbravon was in. Nighthawk would not hesitate to lord his superiority over Ignus if he possessed any. Indeed just about every time Nighthawk won a duel with him he would boast of his supposed superiority, meanwhile every time he lost, it would be because he was “having a bad day.” Darth Umbravon handled himself in such a position in a way that allowed him and Ignus to remain friends and allies, which was a very good thing for both of them. Nighthawk would be incapable of the same however, and Ignus did not need someone lording themselves over him. That was something he found insufferable. And that was why he made sure he did not fall behind Nighthawk. It was his reason for giving these duels everything he had. And this desire and reason in the end became another part of his determination. Born into a life where everything had held him back, now that he was a Sith, Ignus decided to use everything he had to drive himself forward.

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Nighthawk drove a devastating sequence of power blows against Ignus, driving him back after cutting his Form VII offensive short. Time and time again, Nighthawk’s blade was turned to the side by one of Ignus’s twin blades, but he always made sure to bring it around again for another attack. He did this to maintain control of the situation because he had to be in control of the situation. Because he had to look to others to be in control of the situation. Because he had to feel in control of the situation.

Without warning, Ignus transitioned back into Ataru, flipping out of the way of one of Nighthawk’s power blows and opening space between them. Before Nighthawk could close the distance and continue to pressure him, Ignus flew at him in an Ataru offensive, twirling both blades towards him in graceful circular patterns one at a time. Nighthawk held his ground at first, repelling them without too much difficulty, but then the circular path the blades took began to shrink, growing smaller and smaller as the blades began to pick up speed. Nighthawk was forced to give ground as Ignus’s weapon was angled further and further towards him, grew faster and faster, and began to hone in on certain zones of his body and sections of his defenses. As Nighthawk adapted his defenses to meet that specific point of attack, Ignus separated the paths of both of his blades, each circular arc coming at him from a different side and angle each strike. Nighthawk fell back inexorably beneath this strange new assault of Ignus’s, before working out what to do. He decided on both how to counter Ignus’s creative assault with his blade, and how to use a trick Ignus would never suspect. When one of Ignus’s blades arced towards his right side, Nighthawk stepped in and slashed his blade against it with great force, arcing it along the edge of the blade as he pushed it back to drive it back even further. As the other side of Ignus’s saberstaff came at him from the left, Nighthawk brought his blade beneath his waist and brought it back up against Ignus’s blade, driving it upwards.

Without warning however, Nighthawk released the hold his left hand had on his blade and let it drop to his hip. In the blink of an eye, Nighthawk had drawn a holdout blaster pistol and raised it up just beneath his right arm. Before Ignus even processed what was happening, Nighthawk pulled the trigger and fired a blaster bolt straight into the lower right side of Ignus’s abdomen. As Ignus cried out in pain, Nighthawk took advantage of his surprise and shot him once in the chest before shooting him in his left thigh. He continued to push Ignus’s weapon to the side before shooting him one last time in the right forearm and whipping his blade to the right. Ignus’s lightsaber tumbled out of his hands and to the ground, and Nighthawk held his own blade half a foot away from Ignus’s neck with the blaster pointed right between the eyes.

“I win,” Nighthawk said smugly before holstering his blaster with one hand and deactivating his lightsaber with the other.

As soon as Nighthawk’s weapons were down, he barely had time to register a blur of motion before Ignus’s fist struck him hard in the side of the mouth, staggering him back a couple of steps before he used the Force to regain his balance.

“What the hell was that?!” Ignus cried out furiously, his eyes filled with rage.

“I’m pretty sure I just defeated you,” Nighthawk replied without a hint of apology in his voice.

“You shot me in a karking lightsaber duel!” Ignus screamed at him. “What the hell is wrong with you?!”

“You throw punches and kicks all the time, but your limbs aren’t lightsabers either,” Nighthawk countered. “The point of martial combat is that we’re allowed to use weapons and our bodies to fight.”

Instead of speaking, Ignus thrusted both arms in front of him and unleashed a wave of telekinetic force at Nighthawk. Nighthawk hastily threw up a Force barrier, sliding back only a foot rather than being flung into the wall on the other side of the room. Ignus glared at him with blazing yellow eyes for a few more second before using the Force to call his weapon to his hand and turning to leave the room.

“I utilized a maneuver in combat that you weren’t ready for and beat you,” Nighthawk yelled as Ignus walked towards the door. “You don’t have to be such a sore loser about it.”

“You shot me four times with real blasterbolts you blasted lunatic!” Ignus shouted before storming out of the room.

“We’re Innamortans!” Nighthawk called out after him. “There won’t even be a mark left by the time you go to bed!”

For a few seconds, Nighthawk stood in the center of the room alone before he felt something dripping down the side of his lower lip. He wiped it off with his hand, only to see a smear of purple on his palm. Quickly, Nighthawk wondered if anyone had seen him bleed. Most likely not, he reasoned. Ignus would’ve likely been too furious to notice, and he doubted Sangara noticed either. Meditating in the corner of the room, Sangara was likely too wrapped up in her own thoughts and feelings at the moment to notice his lip bleeding for a few seconds from halfway across the room. Neither of them had noticed, his lip had already stopped bleeding, and in five minutes there wouldn’t even be a trace of what had happened, which was of course a benefit of Innamortan physiology.

Satisfied that nobody had seen him bleed, Nighthawk drew his lightsaber from his belt and activated its crimson blade. Without wasting another moment, Nighthawk quickly fell into the ebb and flow of lightsaber drills, one Djem So sequence after another. Each forceful stab or slash trained his muscles to be stronger, and with each repetition he was able to execute the move more and more flawlessly.

If there was one Sith practice Nighthawk had taken up long before even hearing of the Sith, it was not to show weakness, not to display defeat or inferiority. At all times, Nighthawk had to show himself to be confident, strong, bold, and above all, important. Because if others saw weakness in him, that made him vulnerable. If others dismissed him, that made him less important. Nighthawk knew many believed true importance came from within, and that the opinions of others shouldn’t matter. Nighthawk however believed that those people were simply reframing the paradigm through which they viewed self-worth and importance in a way that helped them sleep better at night.

Nighthawk had been born into Innamortan royalty and from that saw the truth of importance. He had seen firsthand that a King or Queen didn’t hold power through how they revered themselves, they held power through how others revered them. And as a prince, Nighthawk had learned what such importance felt like and learned he could not live without it. Importance was what gave his life purpose. It was what validated the worth and meaning of his existence. And so he had built himself around projecting that strength and confidence to others. Making himself important was what drove his life forward, it’s what he pushed himself towards and what he strived to be.

Of course, back on Innamorta, it had been easy to juxtapose himself with his half-brother Terro, to showcase his superiority in almost every contest between the two. It had also been easy to showcase his strength in battle next to the other Blastidonez and Spearton soldiers he had fought alongside. But with his friends now, such a thing was not as easy. As time progressed it was growing increasingly apparent that Umbravon was the most powerful of the four of them, and he had garnered far more attention among the other Sith than he, Ignus, or Sangara had. And on top of that, in showings of power and skill, he couldn’t even convince himself he was mightier than either Ignus or Sangara. The three of them were definitely peers. And so Nighthawk existed within a group in which he was not overtly stronger or more important than any other member of said group, and that made projecting strength and importance difficult. Difficult, but not impossible. What would ruin him would be if he allowed himself to become the weakest of the group, and Ignus seemed to be trying very hard to advance beyond him. This was of course why Nighthawk fought as hard as he did against Ignus. He could not allow himself to become the weakest and least important member of their group of friends, and he would not allow it.

Even so, as the seconds ticked by, it was growing increasingly apparent to Nighthawk that he had indeed gone too far in his duel with Ignus and that he would need to find a way to reconcile things with him. He needed to do something for him, but something that would showcase strength and boldness rather than submission. What exactly he should do eluded him, but he figured sooner or later the opportunity he was looking for would turn up, and he would make use of it. He had been wrong, but he could not betray his goals and ideals to make up for it.

Indeed it was this desire and the personality he had built around it that had made him as strong and powerful as he was. The desire for importance strengthened his will and motivated him as he forged his path through life. And when Darth Vanquil had taught them to overcome fear and doubt, it was this personality, this way of only showing strength that allowed him to overcome his fears and doubts. As bold as he made himself, Nighthawk was practically fearless when he needed to be, and most of his doubts also vanished as he established his own importance. But no matter how hard he tried to overcome it, one doubt always gnawed at the back of his mind and sought to undermine him. It was the thought that maybe he wasn’t as strong or important as he thought he was. It was the inner vulnerability that he presented such strength and confidence to cover up, but it was still there. And this was of course why he had become a Sith. If anything could make him truly and unquestionably strong and important, it was tapping into the reservoir of power that bound the entire universe together and using it to build himself up. He had become a Sith so he could become truly powerful, and undeniably important.

He was a mere Sith Acolyte now, but he strove to be someone of true importance within the Sith Order at the end of his training. He had idolized the strength and power of the Sith back on Innamorta when he had first learned of them. It was inevitable that they would be the ones to rule the Galaxy one day, and when that happened, Nighthawk wanted to be a part of the order’s leadership. One of the few beings privileged with controlling the fate and direction of the Galaxy while simultaneously wielding power in the field of combat that most could scarcely imagine. What was power and importance if not that? If he attained that, he would no longer feel the doubt and vulnerability he did now. The Force would indeed set him free.

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Sangara sat cross legged in the corner of the room plunging through the depths of her passion to draw the Dark Side through her body. Meditation had always come easy to Sangara, and it was her means of learning to use and control her emotions. The Jedi learned to control their emotions so they would never use them, and many Sith used their emotions without learning to control them. Sangara wasn’t sure which was more foolish, but she did know that her emotions were best used to call upon the power of the Dark Side when she had them under control. And when Vanquil had taught her and the others to overcome fear and doubt, meditation had been the key to Sangara overcoming hers.

She had meditated ever since beginning her Sith training, but the method in which she meditated now was rather unique. At one point, Darth Vanquil had explained the importance of dreaming to Sangara. He had told her that dreams for almost all sentient beings were part of learning. In dreams, the subconscious mind could do many things. It could replay memories to help one better remember the past. It could grant one deeper insight into who they are through allowing a person to view certain aspects of their psyche in the form of mental constructs. And it could sharpen one’s skill or prepare them for something they need by going over that skill, either through a replayed memory of the skill being used before, or a mental construct of the skill being used, allowing their subconscious to effectively practice and hone an ability. For a Force sensitive however, occasionally visions of the future would present themselves in dreams, making dreams all the more valuable.

Armed with this knowledge of the mind, Sangara had created an entirely new form of meditation for herself. With mental control and the power of the Force, Sangara would detach her conscious mind from her subconscious mind as she meditated. Her conscious mind, freed from the distraction of her subconscious mind, would be focused exclusively on harnessing and controlling her passion and the dark powers that came with it, while her subconscious mind, freed from the restrictive control of her conscious mind, would behave as it would in a dream, going through memories and forging mental constructs to achieve the tasks of a dream. What was already a great addition to Sangara’s learning experience would then be further heightened as Force power harnessed through her being by her conscious mind seeped into her subconscious mind. It was through this that Sangara could develop the skills she was less specialized towards with minimal practice, and develop the skills she truly excelled in and strived to master at a much quicker pace than she would otherwise. Then of course, she also learned of the future.

Sangara had occasionally experienced visions of the future in dreams before, even before beginning her training as a Sith or even being aware of the Force. But with this new form of meditation she had developed, visions and impressions of the future grew more and more frequent. None however had held as much importance for her as the one she received today however. Deep in meditation, Sangara had foreseen that soon, she would find herself face to face with Arthur. She didn’t know how or why or when, but she vowed that when she did see him, she would make him suffer, as he had made her suffer and, but more importantly, as he had made Darth Umbravon suffer. Umbravon was her closest friend, and Arthur had taken his half of his family from him, killed four of their mutual friends, tried to kill both of them multiple times, and somehow made himself out to be the victim to the rest of the Galaxy. Sangara could not even think of his name without pondering how much he needed to die. She would not dare kill him however. She, as well as Nighthawk and Ignus, knew that his life was Umbravon’s to take. Instead she would make him suffer. She would break him beneath her power and bring him to Umbravon so her friend could finally have his revenge. So he could destroy him.

Sangara took hold of the rage and hatred she felt for Arthur in the very core of her being and joined it with the rest of the emotion she was channeling, which was already more extensive than normal. It had been earlier in the day when Darth Vanquil had felt the presence of a group of Sith Acolytes exploring the edges of the Valley of the Dark Lords, and Vanquil had not hesitated to seize the opportunity. Vanquil had set out with her, Umbravon, Nighthawk, and Ignus, and together, the five of them slaughtered the group of seven Sith Acolytes, using their deaths to draw out a Hssiss hatchling. The Hssiss was a beast that possessed venom capable of infecting anyone the creature bit with a blood frenzy, and Vanquil viewed the properties of its venom to be something worth looking into. When they tried to take the hatchling however, its mother had seemingly attacked out of nowhere, biting down hard on Sangara’s shoulder. A few seconds later, she felt a devastating rage radiate through her entire body and lashed back at the creature with bolts of Force lightning, killing it with the raw power of her fury. Though she was not in that state now, the venom was still in her system, elevating her anger noticeably beyond her usual levels. This allowed her to connect more profoundly to the Dark Side of the Force than she had in her previous meditations, and gave her useful experience controlling more intense feelings than she was used to dealing with, something she would definitely need to be ready to do when she eventually found herself face to face with Arthur.

She felt the power of the Dark Side mounting within her as she delved deeper and deeper into her passion, plunging into it with the raw force of her will. Though she had joined the Sith as a way of becoming stronger and seeking revenge, one of her primary motivators had been the feeling of forging such an intimate connection with the Dark Side and drawing upon such power. As Darth Umbravon had quoted to her at least five times from the devastatingly powerful Darth Bane, “Power is its own purpose.” Indeed there was a definite truth to that statement. Power is control; the ability to enact change or prevent it. It was this that had always drawn Darth Umbravon to it. Aside from the practical benefits of power however, Sangara found something beyond invigorating about connecting with and drawing on the Dark Side of the Force. The Dark Side of the Force was more than power. It was the power that bound and drove the entire universe mingled with the very impulses of her own sentience. It felt specifically personal, but at the same time it felt broad and monumental, and when she channeled such power, it felt absolutely exhilarating. This feeling was what drove her through her studies and propelled her through the path of the Dark Side, and when the time came to be strong or seek vengeance, Sangara would call upon the power of the Dark Side to do so.

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Darth Umbravon stood in a circle on the sands of Korriban. The circle was composed of several black jagged rocks erected along a perimeter, each with a score of ancient sith symbols engraved on them. For the past year, “The Circle of Illusion” had been a frequent part of Darth Umbravon’s training. Every two weeks since the beginning of his training, Darth Vanquil had brought him to the circle to face his fears. Every two weeks, Umbravon would stand in the middle of the circle and watch his fears come to life around him. He would be forced to fight against them, against the spectral illusions, though often Vanquil would set live creatures of the dark side upon him to keep an element of danger in the training exercise, perhaps to give Umbravon more reason to be afraid. The truly frightening part was that Umbravon had no way of knowing which of the creatures were real and which were illusions. Even when he was aware of an illusion’s falseness, it appeared so vividly to his senses even then that his mind had a challenging time letting go of the fear associated with it. Each time he entered the Circle, his fears would be tested in different ways, and as the months had progressed, the tests of the circle grew more profound and the illusions more terrifying. But as the months had progressed, Umbravon had grown exceedingly more powerful and skilled.

Aside from training to overcome his fears and doubts, Vanquil had also taught him to better harness his feelings of anger and hatred. And through his heightened mastery of his emotions, so too did Umbravon gain a heightened mastery of the Force. Mastery of his emotions had not been the only thing he had learned from his master however. Throughout his time as Vanquil’s apprentice, the Sith Master had trained him in hundreds of new techniques and sequences, each seeming to play perfectly into his fighting style. As it turns out such intuition and skill in observation was an extraordinary quality for a master to possess. He had also been taught new Force techniques and trained to further perfect the techniques he had already excelled in. Beyond that even, Vanquil had taught him to more effectively strategize both on and off of the battlefield. A month of training with Darth Vanquil had taught Umbravon so much more than the Prime Academy ever had.

Now, as Umbravon stood in the middle of the Circle’s ten meter diameter, a dark mist shot up from the sands themselves and rose to envelope his body, completely blinding him for a moment before falling away to reveal the Korriban desert once more. This time however, something was different. The ground shook and quaked beneath his feet, yet Umbravon wasn’t sure if it was illusory or real. Often times something he had thought to be an illusion was real, and other times what he thought was real was an illusion. With Darth Vanquil, there was no way to be sure. Another tremor shook the ground, and this time Umbravon spun around to face the valley of the Dark Lords less than a hundred meters away. Movement caught Darth Umbravon’s eye seconds before a massive shape leapt out of the valley. It was a massive purple skinned reptile with two legs and four arms. Most prominent however was the creature’s head. The edges of its gargantuan head were lined with horns, and four glowing red eyes sat above a gaping maw filled with rows of long teeth. Two tentacles thrashed around its fearsome mouth as the beast slowly lurked forward. The ground shuddered under every step, or at least it seemed to. It was hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t.

Doubt clawed at Umbravon as the grip of fear seized his heart. Though he had reasoned that this beast was most likely just an illusion, the raw visceral feel generated through sight, sound and touch was more than enough to be completely terrifying. Real or not, what stood before Umbravon was the spitting image of a Leviathan, perhaps the most powerful and terrifying monster ever to be spawned from Sith Alchemy, and before its splendor, he could not help but feel small, weak, and terrified. Then of course, there was the unlikely but very real possibility that the beast was real. Doubt ever gnawed at him. Not many ventured into the Valley of the Dark Lords. Would it really be impossible for such a beast to have remained hidden and dormant, buried within the valley for so long? And if so, what could he possibly do to survive it?

As the Leviathan closed within twenty meters of the circle, it slid to the slowest as a pair of massive winged reptilian creatures flew out from behind it, each one easily three meters long with two heads and a whiplike tail. Battle Hydras. As they flew at him a few meters apart, Darth Umbravon tried to overcome the fear he felt, but with the Leviathan staring at him from a distance that was decreasing slowly, but noticeably, he felt completely overwhelmed. Trying to get control over his feelings, Umbravon lashed out at the two flying beasts with force lightning, but he was betrayed by fear and the fury of his attack was muted by doubt. The Battle Hydras flew closer together as one fell in behind the other for cover, and when they reached him two seconds later, the front Battle Hydra that had taken the brunt of Umbravon’s attack suddenly flew to the side as the Hydra behind it flew towards Umbravon with astonishing speed, the lightning barely slowing it down. Umbravon tried to throw himself to the side but a massive claw caught him in the chest anyways, lifting him off the ground and throwing him into one of the rocks on the edge of the circle, knocking the breath out of him. Panic seized Umbravon as the Battle Hydra continued to fly at him. Desperately, he threw himself to the side of its first strike and drew his lightsaber, the one that had belonged to one of Vanquil’s old enemies. Umbravon’s blade moved in a furious, yet panicked, frenzy as it slashed and stabbed at the creature’s heads, but panic robbed him of his precision and the Hydra was able to twist its necks out of the way for a few seconds before Umbravon buried his red blade in one of the Hydra’s faces. He was only barely able to move to the side as the other head snapped at him, his head only a few centimeters from its mouth. Just as it was turning its head to tear his face off, Umbravon’s blade slashed upward, hacking its other head clean off. He had killed the beast, but it had been close. Far too close. And that did not help the sense of doubt he was feeling. Fear and doubt led to failure which begot more fear and doubt. It was a self perpetuating process that was not in Umbravon’s favor, particularly now that the Leviathan was almost upon him and the other Battle Hydra was flying at him once again.

Umbravon felt himself slipping closer and closer to having a full scale panic attack in the middle of his training, but he willed himself to fight back against his fear. With as much effort could muster, Umbravon relaxed, took a deep breath and cleared his mind. Now thinking more clearly, Umbravon realized that the Battle Hydra would easily reach him before the Leviathan meaning they would not be attacking in tandem. A lone Battle Hydra was the immediate threat, and Darth Umbravon was definitely strong enough to destroy it. With his fear purged, Umbravon let his anger and hatred flow through him once more, this time unabated, as the Hydra closed in on him. Instead of fleeing when it reached him, Umbravon unleashed a barrage of blue lightning from the palm of his left hand along the beasts entire front side, before grabbing it with the Force and hurling it back a few feet through the air. Then, without wasting a second, Umbravon summoned his courage and threw himself at the creature, this time deciding not to bother with the heads, and swung his blade with all of his might, cleaving the Battle Hydra in half.

As soon as the beasts halves hit the ground, a shadow fell over the circle. Umbravon glanced up to see the open maw of the Leviathan shooting towards him from above. He knew there was no escape, he knew at best he could run far enough from the center of the beast’s agape mouth to instead be impaled upon its teeth, but that would not help one bit. Rationally, Umbravon realized that the Leviathan’s mouth would close around him, there was no escaping it. In his heart, he accepted if there was no way to avoid death he would die, but until then, he would exploit every opportunity he saw. If there was no way to survive, then he was resigned to his fate. If there was a way to survive, he would find it. And so Darth Umbravon let go of his fear as the jaws of the Leviathan crashed around him. Instead of fleeing or panicking, he crouched with his lightsaber raged, drawing the Dark Side of the Force around him, fueling himself on the raw power of his hatred. Then, his world was plummeted into the inside of a Leviathan. Determined to destroy the beast from the inside, Umbravon unleashed that dark power in a storm of Force lightning, but as soon as the first few bolts hit the Leviathan’s flesh, the walls of its inside melted away in shadow, rearranging into a dark cave. A lone red light shown in the darkness. Then, without warning, it flew at Umbravon. It was a lightsaber blade.

Umbravon parried with his own blade before it transformed into a blur of motion. Umbravon couldn’t make out the appearance of whoever held the blade in the darkness. This being’s blade erratically but precisely slashed stabbed and twirled in complex disjoint patterns. Instead of facing one blade wielded in form, it felt as if Umbravon was facing a chaotic storm of blades, each erratic but precise at the same time, like the work of a brilliant madman, with such speed Umbravon could barely make out its location amidst the red blur before him. He should’ve been terrified, but instead he held that determination with him and did not let the grip of fear retake him. Darth Umbravon retreated backwards through the cave, but he did so without fear at the right pace with the right defensive maneuvers to keep him from being skewered as he rapidly, yet conservatively, gave ground. After a few seconds however, it became too much for him to defend against, even without fear or doubt holding him back. The blade slashed across his chest before a blast of telekinetic energy threw him to the ground. The blade’s touch elicited a feeling in him. It was a ghost of pain, but hurt somewhat nonetheless. Umbravon fell to the ground in defeat as his enemy moved his blade to the side and an unflattering glow rose around him to highlight his features. Umbravon froze up when he saw a pointed beard. When he saw short gray hair with jagged unkempt bangs. When he saw an eye of red and an eye of yellow. When he saw Darth Odious.

Right away, Umbravon knew it wasn’t real, but it still felt real, and again he felt fear. He felt as if his life was about to end as the illusion of the Dark Lord stood above him. He also however saw an opening. He felt as if he was about to die and nothing could change it, he felt resigned to the fact that he had no hope of surviving this foe. He accepted it, he let his fear fall away, replaced by one insatiable desire. The desire to take the dark lord with him. It may have seemed crazy to some, as Umbravon knew it wasn’t real and wasn’t truly resigning himself to death, but he embraced the emotional experience and seized the bloodlust as he drove his entire will behind it. In a blinding streak of motion, Umbravon flew at Odious’s visage just as it moved to strike him. Simultaneously, Umbravon’s blade struck the illusory Dark Lord straight through the heart just as the illusory blade passed through his own heart. He felt a searing pain spread through his body, but at the same time he felt an immense satisfaction as he saw his blade embedded in Odious’s chest. Then the world fell away around him in a blur, color and mist swirling around him as it flushed away. Once it fell away, Umbravon was back in the circle as it had been before with Vanquil observing him, save for one difference. The bodies of two Battle Hydras were strewn across the ground. So that’s what was real! Umbravon thought to himself. As Umbravon’s adrenaline began to die down, Darth Vanquil started to approach him.

“Darth Umbravon, you have done well today in more ways than one,” Vanquil announced with a sincere tone of praise. “Finally, after one year, I am ready to trust you with the goal which your entire training has been geared towards helping us achieve.”

Umbravon was speechless, astonished, and unquenchably curious. Anticipation swelled within him. He was sure Vanquil had something of great importance in mind, but when Vanquil spoke, Umbravon’s jaw dropped, his expectations completely exceeded.

“We are going to kill Darth Odious.”

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