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Wrath of the Cabal

Posted on Sat Aug 4th, 2018 @ 1:49am by Amare & Thane
Edited on on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 @ 3:15pm

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Cavern system, Vaa (Thaal system)
Timeline: After "Legacy of the Cabal"
Tags: laboratory, cabal, darth cabal, phylactery, lich, undead, dark transfer

OLD

Coda nodded a few times. "Yeah...why'd they give up? The big guy almost had me. How did you stop them like that?"

And that was the more troubling concern. "I didn't," he admitted, "and whilst I am wary of them returning, I don't care to waste the opportunity."

"We should get this over with and find where that key goes," Coda agreed, having had more than her fill of this grotto of the dead to last a lifetime. "I don't want to be here much longer."

NEW

Thane helped Coda to her feet in silent agreement, and also picked up the sword she had dropped, returning it to her. As he did so and they resumed their adventure into the depths of the Vaa cavern, he wondered on her lack of experience in melee combat and the recent loss of her blasters. He committed to making combat the focus of the next stage of her training, once they were clear of the phantom menace manipulating events on the Caanan moon.

Once more, the former Jedi used the light of his weapon to guide them through the deep darkness of the next corridor, now devoid of sconces and candles to light their way. Descriptively, it could only be described a corridor now; there were masonic walls etched with vaguely familiar script, but certainly not of Caanan origin, and a slab flooring that was more or less in a serviceable condition.

More of the bone dust the thralls had collapsed into decorated the ground as they walked, the sudden affliction that had saved them seemingly having saved them from even more foes further along. After just a few minutes, and having passed through yet another antechamber with a slab that appeared suspiciously much like a sacrificial plinth, they spotted candlelight once more.

An ancient bronzium door, so decidedly more esoteric than even the ritualistic objects and scenery Thane and Coda had been treated to thus far, was embedded at the end of a short corridor beyond the antechamber. At its base, crimson candles had little flames dancing atop them, yet no wax wound its way down along their shafts. The door itself was heavy and richly decorated, if a bit macabre. Images of golden skulls and bones were woven between a series of tendrils that reached across its shape, all stretching out from the image moulded into its centre.

With wide, mad eyes, the centrepiece was the face of a man adorned with a huge beard that reached down from an open, screaming mouth, inside of which was something that looked conspicuously like a keyhole. The beard had been made to appear straight, its lines slotted over one another in a geometric and minimalist fashion - quite a different art style from the corpse-and-tendril motif that made up the rest of the portal.

Now within arm's reach of the door, Thane felt as though he were about to fall to the floor from the weight of the key dangling about his neck, the burden of its heaviness having multiplied incredibly as the pair drew closer to the door. Calling upon the Force to resist the power it sought to impose upon him, he dragged the key from his neck and held it up before them.

Examining the metal of the key's grooves, he could see it was an exact match for the material of the engraved face in the door - just as the bronzium metal of the rest of it reminded him of the key prior to the touch of his Force lightning.

He offered only a brief look to Coda to make it clear he intended to proceed, but did not slot the key in immediately. Whilst the dark side was becoming a constant companion to the young Sith, he could still recognise it had different forms and auras, and there was a thick, deathly miasma of loathing that dripped all about them in this grim underground fortress. Thane was convinced that he could hear voices muttering in the corners of each of the rooms they passed through, but he tried to pay them no heed, considering them mere illusions of whatever power had forged this place.

And so, Thane put the key in the door and turned it.

There was loud clank from within the lock that was accompanied by low hissing sounds of air escaping, as if the room behind the door was depressurizing. It was followed by the heavy sounds of old rusted metal laboriously grinding together under the trigger of an antiquated mechanism that had no business still existing anymore.

The glow that was within the key faded, and it withdrew from the lock and hung in the air in front of Thane for a second before he reclaimed it, just as the door split open from a diagonal half and parted to reveal what was inside.

Another chamber was laid bare before them, also lit magically with the undying candles that had marked much of their journey. Whilst not as tall, large or even as grand as some of the ceremonial/sacrificial chambers that had come before them in the labyrinthine cavern network, it was decorated with a variety of pieces of furniture and ornaments. The chamber itself was circular, appearing made of dirt and clay, with both metal and wooden tables hugging the walls and numerous shelves cluttered the walls above them.

Peculiar and ancient pieces of alchemical equipment rested upon the surfaces of the chamber, wrought of several different coloured and unknown metals, both rusted and shining in the menacing light of the crimson candles. As Thane and Coda took their first few careful steps inwards, some of the oddly-shaped bottles and equipment seemed to rattle in response to the newcomers. An alembic-style piece sounded as though it were starting to bubble, an unseen, unspeakable concoction of millennia-past suddenly threatening to rumble to life.

As in the previous chambers, there were two sacrificial tables arrayed about some of the ancient laboratory's more densely-packed areas, tattered tapestries with both Caanan and alien script scrawled across them. Tomes that had somehow survived the generations, anatomical charts and other curios associated with the fine line between some arcane and medical arts littered the shelves and surfaces of this final room. Sketches of Thaalda were quite distinct in the artwork, just as the bones of the species seemed to decorate much of the chamber, too.

Most notably, however, was what was at the center of the room. A small pool of viscous purple goo was actively boiling and releasing a faint unpleasant odor that was somewhere between a moldy wet blanket and formaldehyde. Hovering above the pool was something unlike anything either of the tomb raiders had ever seen.

Rising from the pool, in a stark contrast to the sick colouring of the material within it, were fumes of a deep mossy green, like dying vegetation and not unlike the shade of the smoky power that had erupted from the animated corpses that had assaulted the two young Sith earlier.

The dark side oozed from the pool unlike anything Thane had ever sensed before, feeling both deeply unnatural and of the universe at once, like a gargantuan mutation, being both alive and wrong. Within the rising smoke was a shadow, writhing and turning and seemingly growing larger with each passing second. Accompanying the jerking movements of the unknown shadow were yet more whispers, and a deep, guttural groaning.

Not thinking and sensing this was the source of their hours of menace, Thane let his lightsaber blaze to life, but as he did so, the ancient key that was in his hand was yanked with an unseen force from his grip, flying into the mysterious mass shifting before them. As soon as it struck the shadow, it glinted brightly, and the groans became more-

More Human, Thane realised, eyes widening in alarm as he also finally began to realise what the writing on the tapestries, braziers and walls had been. "Sith."

Before them, the shadow contorted and cracked, angular limbs stretching out and a head appearing to slide upwards from its bulk. The shape of a man began to coalesce, initially small and deformed, but soon becoming larger and proportioned as it floated forwards from the pool, still transitioning from a grotesque shadow into the black-robed shape of an aged, fiercely-bearded and golden-eyed man.

The groans gave way to cackles, prompting Thane to grip his weapon tighter as he observed the unholy spectacle unfolding before him - the same laughter he had heard when he first touched the key with the Force on the Red Raptor. Watching the figure amalgamate before him now, now formed but still floating above the dry surface of the floor, wisps of its dark robes ceaselessly twirling as if licked by flames, he knew this man to be the aged maniac from that same vision.

"Jedi children..." He hissed mirthfully, exposing those jagged, yellow teeth within his wonky mouth, which seemed to open to an unnaturally large size.

The spectre's eyes were also entirely golden, showing no pupils or differing colouration, whilst Thane's key glinted the exact same hue as it dangled from the thing's neck. The lines of his sunken and wrinkled face also seemed deeper than those of any living Human, with shadows nestling against every crevice and crack on his pale features. Even the tangles of grey hair that hid within his cowl seem to twist and turn, giving that impression of watching a man float deep within water.

"Lost Prince Cain has returned," the wraith cackled as gnarled, clawed hands appeared from within the paper-thin robes of the floating man to point a yellow talon at Thane. "With a little girl, no less, to once again face the Undying God-King of the Caanan Sacrosancty; the great and immutable Darth Cabal of the True Sith Empire, true and immortal heir to Dromund Kaas."

Thane's eyes flickered with deep recognition, recollecting Caanan history and the darkness that had befallen his world during the Galactic Cold War courtesy of Cabal and his undead minions, even as he dismissed the shallow, self-proclaimed titles Cabal claimed. Thane also noted, with no uncertainty, the Sith Lord's failure to apparently identify the passage of time, or that Thane was most obviously not Cain.

"You are alive?" He finally challenged, wary and unmoving as he considered the situation, certain of quite the opposite, although this spectre's presence within the Force was unmistakable - and unnerving. Deep power coursed through Darth Cabal, and whatever manifestation of the Force he in fact was, he was decidedly still very possibly a threat to both him and Coda. He was not sure if a lightsaber could even affect whatever it was Cabal apparently was.

Cabal let a hefty bellow of laughter boom about him, before bringing his sickening visage in close first to Thane, and then to Coda, before going back to Thane again. "Yessss... and what makes you think you will succeed where you have failed before, little Caanan?" The shade seemed to take a deep breath, as if taking in the essence of his audience. "I sense the dark side within you, mortals, but that did not win you the day before; I transcend the mundane realms of your petty existence and epitomise eternity. Your feeble fumblings against my majesty equate to little, and serve no one. Your life will be my own, as will all existence."

Everything about this dread-inspiring encounter with Cabal and the strangeness of the eerie Sith laboratory was indeed frightening, but there was something...familiar about it to Coda, particularly with that strange green mist from the pool. She recognized it subconsciously, and saw the purple substance. It was all wrong. It was crude. It was corrupt. Waters...of life...?

She narrowed her eyes upon Cabal, and remembered her encounter with Shadrak on Irrikut. She wasn't sure about Thane's past, but she had some of her own recent experience enduring the horror of one of these dark shades. Cabal did indeed have the deathly pale complexion, foreboding voice with an unearthly tone, and empty eyes of a forgotten revenant, but he wasn't quite as scary as the wraith that was linked to her soul. She bravely took a step forward in front of Thane to stare down the ancient Darth.

"Lower your saber," she gently told Thane and turned to Cabal as she fell to a knee and lowered her head in supplication to the shade, "And bow to your new master." If it was one thing she learned in her time as a slave, it was to quickly identify the depth of a man's ego, and ingratiate yourself to him as precisely as possible in order to avoid resentment or punishment. She guessed just by his words and elaborate magical entrance that Cabal's ego was most likely as deep and massive as the most peerless trenches on the ocean floors of Glee Anselm. She wasn't sure where she was going with this, but she had to try something to delay Cabal's wrath and unearth some kind of opportunity for her and Thane to exploit.

She raised her gaze and began her one best shot at play-acting while writing the script on the fly as nervous sweat beaded from her forehead, "We are in the presence of the true Emperor. Great Lord Cabal, my companion here is a... he's an assassin named Thane who uses the appearance of the Prince to trick the Caanans to let us come here unopposed. Please forgive his fear of your boundless might. He is... excited from the battle with your powerful guardians. We were sent here by our superiors to destroy you, but they are weak and are not true Sith. We seek to serve only the strong. We come so that we may instead help you destroy them and ascend you to your rightful throne."

The spectre regarded them both with those hateful, glowing eyes. The two molten discs appeared unconvinced, and as Cabal shifted, an odd clattering sound could be heard within the ghastly,ghostly robes of the Dark Lord.

"Yes," Thane said from his bowed position, doing his best to summon a sense of deference as he considered the truth of this phantom and what threat he posed. Tales of long-deceased Sith haunting both their successors and unwelcome Jedi were abound in the foreboding warnings of the Reborn Order and other scripts, but no description had ever suggested any of them had found what an outsider would consider a 'true' form of immortality - although that could easily be a falsehood propagated by the fearmongers within the Jedi.

Those Sith who were rumoured to have survived after their first 'natural' death - the likes of Ajunta Pall, Marka Ragnos, Darth Nihilus - did not do so out of some arcane technique known only to Dark Lords, nor did they retain their identities in their entirety, often becoming tethered to a location, object, or even an aspect of the Force itself. From what little Thane knew, it was immortality, but immortality at the cost of being who you were.

Eyeing Cabal narrowly from his dipped eyes, he wondered exactly what nature of torn spirit Caanus' ancient conqueror was, and what exactly anchored him here. He also, sensibly, wondered at his apprentice's plan.

"He reeks of the Verus! Sedition!" Darth Cabal insisted, his size shifting to grow larger, and his head shifted beneath his cowl, revealing more of its thin skin, the edges of his skull deeply defined and gaunt.

The wraith's outburst had actually made Thane jolt slightly, and he turned his head upwards to Cabal, gripping his lightsaber tighter at the same time. As he did so, he found his eyes locking onto the key dangling from Cabal's neck - the only thing, apart from their presence, that had actually changed within the Sith Lord's long-forgotten laboratory of horrors.

He tried projecting that very-same thought to Coda, as Cabal once again boomed at them, and they could both feel his malevolent pressure exerting itself upon them both through the Force, slowly creeping into their flesh with a sharp burning sensation.

"Hnnngh!" Coda cried, doubling over in mounting agony. She was on both hands and knees, the fear of knowing her bluff failed almost as bad as Cabal's radiating power.

"But assassins and thieves you are, Jedi! I will hang your corpses from the rafters of Vaarthul. You will dance an eternal waltz as my puppets - examples to the cretinous hordes you call kin!" Cabal began to cackle maniacally, crimson sparks beginning to whirl about his ethereal clothing, like a lightning storm set against a grim and cloudy night, growing in intensity.

"I do not need simpering mortals to pad about my throne!" Darth Cabal continued, raising his hands and now telekinetically dragging at the two would-be Sith before him, albeit to limited effect. "My spirit is eternal and I will weather all sinew and bone; mine is immortality, and yours will be as bone-slaves!"

"Never!" Thane roared against the mounting Force pressure and pain, quickly igniting his lightsaber and thrusting it directly towards the shade, between Cabal and his first target: Coda.

Rising to meet the Caanan's weapon, however, was a prolonged blast of Darth Cabal's lightning, sparking and striking against the connecting violet energy blade of Thane's weapon. Much like Axion's, the licks of Cabal's electrical power were a bloodshine red, and threatening to blast the hilt from Thane's hands.

It was taking all of Thane's focus to hold back the fury of Cabal's Force power, the might of which had almost forced him back to his knees, calling upon every iota of his rage and determination to absorb or spin the power back at his attacker, who continued to howl with glee at the spectacle before him.

Grunting and grimacing through gritted teeth, feeling that all-too-familiar pain of lightning striking at his digits, Thane managed to speak. "The... key! Argh!"

His words were cut short as his blade disengaged and was blasted away by Darth Cabal's onslaught. Reacting quickly, Thane switched to absorbing the brunt of the power with his hands, recalling his training with Bomoor on the very same technique on the Raptor. He could feel the power of his hated adversary's own fury and ego smashing against his own, raging at the impotent young man for deigning to challenge his glory.

Himself determined, Thane began to channel as much of the Dark Lord's rage into his own, and now, instead of simply trying to absorb the lightning and redirect Cabal's emotions, he began to release his own torrent of Force lightning against his foe. Rising from his charred gloved fingertips to push back the tide of the scarlet storm were chaotic tendrils of violet-blue, cracking and contorting as they lapped up and into Darth Cabal's.

Maintaining the apparent stalemate was unlike anything Thane had ever attempted within the Force, and the effort itself felt as though it were tearing him open from within. Even with Bane's training, the fuel of his base emotions and sheer desire to survive, the blood coursing through his veins felt like acid bubbling like the pool beneath Cabal, stretching and tearing the tissue within, and darkening his heart with a deep clamping sensation.

"The key, Coda!" He finally managed to shout again over the din of the Force storm crashing between them. Now, of course, Cabal was no longer laughing, but was instead focused intently on the mounting challenge from Thane, the wraith's sick, one-tone eyes having grown into wider, madder cymbals of hate, flashing occasionally with the red light of his Force power. "The key!"

Coda forced herself to look up against the tide of pain, her vision a blur, only now seeing the epic clash of mighty godlike power between man and wraith. She blinked a few times, and for a brief moment, time seemed to stop. In reality only a second or so passed, but from her perspective, it was several minutes. She had a vision...of herself, a changed and corrupted Zaracoda with beaming blood red eyes and exotic tattoos on her head tendrils. It didn't feel like a vision of the future, but more like a communion with her true self. A meeting of the mind and her darkest instincts. She knew what she had to do.

She raised up her right hand and it flared a bright crimson red. She closed her eyes and focused on the key. With Cabal fully committed to destroying Thane, Coda found little resistance to her will. A small column of fiery energy appeared seemingly out of thin air and blazed into her outstretched hand. The key heard her call, its power feeding into the Nautolan's spirit, and it broke away from its undead master to its new living one.

She snatched the key easily and clenched her fist as tight as she could on it. It struggled and resisted her, Coda's hand shaking rapidly. She grasped the fist with her other, ground her teeth as she fought back, and pressed it hard against her chest. "Errgh....ahhhhh--Enough!!"

In an instant, Cabal's deep thousands year-old reserves of power slipped from his control. His lightning faltered, and Thane's energized lances smashed clean into Cabal's ethereal torso throwing him several feet back and making him cry with rage and pain and humiliation the likes he never imagined he could feel in his virtually immortal state.

He bellowed his rage at Thane and turned his soulless eyes on the Nautolan whelp that was now on her feet baring a confident smile and a hand that looked as if it was on fire. He recognized that power. He hissed and hurled curses at her in a strange antiquated language out of his jealousy of what he saw.

It was a very distinct gift of the Force he slaughtered scores of innocent people to try and acquire. Some Sith sorcerers had given it the mundane name of "spell-fire", others called it "the blood of the Force", but Cabal knew it as Dark Transfer. It was a deliciously aberrant mutation of traditional Force drain, but had light-side properties of enabling the transfer of one's own essence to heal wounds or empower others.

"Are you looking for the key?" Coda asked the dark spirit.

"You will return it to me... now!" Cabal furiously demanded as he attempted another lightning strike to be directed at her, but failed to manifest it. He looked down at his hands, horrifically exasperated at his failing powers.

"I am the key," Coda said triumphantly.

To her side, Thane watched his apprentice with avid interest, mesmerised blue-gold eyes flickering with the power of the Force, fascinated with the Nautolan's show of power. As he compelled the spirit of Darth Cabal with his own power, he felt his confidence growing with every second.

Coda then strode slowly in front of the Human, her hand ablaze, her smile reflecting the pleasure she experienced at finally feeling truly useful to her master, and to hold the fate of someone far more powerful than her in her hands. For the moment, the slave was now the master, and she held the allegorical whip.

"I broke it, and it is a part of me now. It showed me the source of your power." She closed her eyes again and raised up her hand towards the pool of bubbling purple goo. "I'm a girl who loves secrets. Let's take a look, shall we?"

Out of the viscous magical muck slowly rose a bronze tinted decahedron the size of a man's head with each of its ten sides shining gold and inscribed with distinctive runes all glowing a bright green colour. It hovered several feet above the pool and slowly rotated in place.

"This is what we came for, master," Coda said to Thane, excited with the revelation of what they saw. "I think this is why the Force made me choose Sheva on the map, and why we were given the key. This thing is the heart of this ugly old idiot. I can feel its call to me. All his power, all his knowledge in a box. Ours for the taking."

Cabal's eyes glinted with a new flashing emotion, one that Thane had seen all too regularly during his years as a Jedi touring the galaxy. It was fear, and it was not empowering his homeworld's ancient tyrant as it would someone truly in tune with their own darkness. To capitalise upon this, the heir to Caanus exerted more power upon the phantasm.

"Jedi whelps!" The defeated Dark Lord growled, although his menace was minimised and his presence weaker. Physically, the smoke engulfing him seemed to scrape away the definition of his form, even his long, entangled beard flowing unnaturally in the heady air of the long-forgotten laboratory. "You know not what you trifle with! I am the Dark Lord of the Sith, heir apparent to the legacy of Marka Ragnos! I am the immortal king of the cosmos, infinite and awful. All shall despair at my name, as my will be done!"

Despite himself, Thane smirked. "Words." The decahedron phylactery flew into his hand, Darth Cabal flinging himself forward but apparently unable to wholly fight against the might of the power restricting him. He snarled in an animalistic fashion as he regarded Thane and his artefact with jealous hatred.

"You would seek immortality through undeath?" Cabal then asked, a hint of desperation accenting his warped voice, narrowed eyes searching Thane and Coda's features, one after the other. Suddenly, it became somewhat difficult to tell what exactly was now compelling Cabal's thoughts forwards - was he fearful, not only of his own destruction but of someone stealing and copying his methods, or was it a warped and curious delight at someone wanting to emulate his power?

Regardless, Thane shook his head. Immortality was not his current goal, not that he necessarily considered Darth Cabal's technique to have been a true success. He wondered if the Sith wraith was merely a portion or an echo of the true article, Cabal having been disturbed during the process of ultimately converting himself into an undead and immortal iteration of his former self, perhaps slain by his own ancestor before the process was complete. In spite of the truth, which he was sure he and his apprentice could divine from the remains within the laboratory and cavern, he had decided what the appropriate course of action was.

"I am unsure how you have perceived the passage of time, my lord," Thane spoke, "but I am about to send you to the Void, in whatever small shreds your soul might still exist. Perhaps you will find the rest of the creature that called himself Darth Cabal there. Thank you for your contribution to the new Sith."

With no more preamble and not inviting Cabal to comment any further, Thane imbued his hand with the Force and crushed the phylactery. Despite its bronze appearance, it did not bend or warp in the way metal would, but instead exploded in a brilliant haze of green smoke and light, the proximity of the force knocking both Thane and Coda backwards.

Immediately, Cabal roared, recognition of his impending and final demise only brief on his deathly features as his form began to stretch and contort as he writhed in pain. The faux storms twisting within his smoky robes collapsed in on themselves, and two brilliant beams of light blasted out from the phantom's eyes and mouth, showing the two young living Sith before him one final ghastly image of the not-so-aptly-named Undying God-King of the Caanan Sacrosancty before his form finally withered away. Even so, Cabal's screamed for several long seconds after the disappearance of his visual form, haunting Thane and Coda along with the residual dark side energy scar he had inflicted upon Vaa for the past four millennia.

As Cabal became another footnote in Sith history, Coda felt a burning in her right hand, and the key reappeared in her palm. When she tried to pick it up, it passed through her fingers to the floor and became a small collection of salt and ash.

After the blast and witnessing Cabal's end, Thane had let himself drop to the floor next to the shattered remnants of the phylactery, which now appeared as china shards, silvery on one side and slick-white on the other, entirely unlike the appearance it held when ensconcing the grim consciousness of their defeated foe. Turning over one of the pieces, he was certain he could still feel some residual semblance of Cabal clinging to it, and he briefly wondered on how a 'whole' and complete Darth Cabal would have fared against them. The fact he and his allies had felled yet another generation or form of Sith was not lost on him, either, and he was curious as to whether that could ever be considered some rite of passage. It was something he could ask Bane's holocron, or merely accept as his own Sith truth, if Thane really were to be the Sith Master.

"You have been exceptional, Zaracoda," he then said to the Nautolan, the weariness from their excursion to Vaa creeping into his voice and body. "And you continue to amaze and vindicate me. Take what you can of the tomes, scripts, trinkets and notes," Thane went on, gesturing towards the rest of the laboratory as he also dragged more pieces of the shattered phylactery towards himself. "I think our time on this moon has finally reached its end for now. We can return to our new conquest in the future, so let us take what is pertinent for the time being and be away. We need to find Bomoor."

His apprenticed did as instructed, but before they left, as Thane was almost finished with his half of the looting, Coda knelt beside the pool where the decahedron had emerged. The goo was no longer bubbling, and was a bright green. The liquid was calm, and no longer stunk putrid old chemicals. She waved her hand over the pool and fanned in some of the odorless vapor to her nostrils. For a moment, she froze, struck with the familiarity of the substance.

"Water of life..." she whispered softly to herself as another word popped into her head. "Coterie?" She blinked several times and shook her head out of its reverie. It was time to go.

When master and apprentice emerged from the dungeon, Thane took it upon himself to exert his command over the Force one last time on Vaa to collapse and seal the entrance to Darth Cabal's lair. His reasoning wasn't to permanently seal forever, but rather to save it for another time. There may have been more secrets hidden, and a time may come when they might have use again for that forgotten hole in the ground.

Moments later, the most welcome sight they saw all day: the arrival of Bomoor with the Red Raptor and their salvation. It was good to be home again.

END



THANE
▬ Force Lightning Increase

ZARACODA WOLPH
☼ New Ability - Dark Transfer
▬ Melee Increase

 

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Comments (1)

By Amare on Wed Aug 8th, 2018 @ 3:14pm

Edits inserted at the end for skill improvements, Thane and Coda.