Give me… the antidote
E’XingXin was surprised at the human’s reaction. It was pathetic, had he no sense of dignity? She almost felt sorry for him. Almost. The pathetic human had grabbed hold of the hem of her cloak and she jerked it away from him. She wondered what she would do with him when she remembered her grandmother’s words.
‘Humans are odd creatures,’ Darth Katanra’s image said to E’XingXin as she sat cross legged on the floor before the holocron. ‘They can be fickle and emotional at the same time. They are afraid and often times feel lonely despite being the most numerous in the galaxy. They are as varied as their skin tone in their mentalities, and can be just as unfair in their judgments of others. Use caution in your dealings with them.
Resisting the urge to tear the human’s head off his shoulders, she smiled as patiently as she could.
“I’m afraid, my friend,” she said. “There is no antidote. We haven’t had the need for it as we’ve had no visitors to our system in over a hundred years. Don’t worry though, I’m told it wears off in an hour or so.”
E’XingXin reached out to grab the human’s chin, lifting his face to she could stare into his eyes.
“You’re sure there isn’t anything you want to tell me?”
“How dare you,” he responded. “How dare you refer to me as your Lord after betraying our people.” He approached him, his anger coming off of him in ripples that bent the air through the Fabric. The arrogance of this “soldier” was astounding.
Chi was silent. He did not protest his abuse- nor did he submit. There was some honor left in him, after all.
“You betray our people by giving our enemies the gift of a live Arian to interrogate and study. Then, you lead the Galactic Alliance here, the group in the galaxy most likely to extend our struggles. How dare you even-” E’ren broke off. He was so infuriated, he was reduced to a stutter, and was far too well trained to allow himself to revert to such speech. Instead, he extended his arm, and the condemned slammed against the wall he was originally chained to.
E’ren paused before continuing. This man was sentenced to execution, yes, but he had too much respect for himself to kill a being in a blind rage. His subordinates wouldn’t think anything less of him, but he personally would. The room was dead silent for nearly five standard minutes; the only sounds audible were the two Arians breathing. “Stand,” The warlord commanded after a time.
He thought he would have to enforce his command, but Chi stood. E’ren’s rage was renewed; he still wouldn’t look him in the eyes. The arrogance! Still, he resisted the urge to strike him. Instead, he would retain his honor- and honor his ancestors, albeit in a non-traditional manner. But She Tiange was not a traditional ancestor- how many Arians were masters of the Fabric?
E’ren unsheathed his grandmother’s sword, a heavy weapon that was pristine despite having seen its share of combat. The wrist guard glittered with a gem that stood out so powerfully from the darkness of the hilt that it almost seemed like the weapon’s eye. It was a Sith sword, powerful in darkness and designed for mayhem, with a blade sharper than any forged with normal techniques. The warlord drew the weapon until it was even with the ground and held in between the two warriors. The special alloys were incredibly heavy for the weapon’s appearance, and the mucles in his arm bulged to maintain it. E’ren held it for a moment, enjoying the Dark Energies flowing through the hilt, and then he brought it forward.
Predictably, the prisoner flinched, although it didn’t take him too long to realize he was being handed the weapon. E’ren almost scoffed, but he didn’t. This was to be a formal challenge, and he wouldn’t dare disrespect the beholder of his grandmother’s blade in any case. Chi gripped the blade with both hands, and finally looked his Lord in the eye.
“You abandoned our people. You allowed yourself to become a live prisoner with no knowledge of the interrogation you would be subjected to, no knowledge of the information you would give away. You declared yourself more important than Aria by leading a member of the Galactic Alliance here.” Spreading out his feelings and creating ripples in the Fabric, he stirred his opponent’s feelings, urging him to violence. “Prove it.”
Chi was uncertain. He didn’t move, simply holding his blade and slowly realizing his situation. He looked at the weapon in his hand, and its influence began to spread through his muscles, and he looked at E’ren. But he didn’t move.
“I’m not unarmed.” he replied to the unspoken statement. He was fully prepared for battle now, his voice growled out by the Dark Side of the Force. “I have the Fabric, and if you prove you are the challenge you think you are, I have my other weapon. But you must prove it!”
Chi FengWei was terrified. He was a combat veteran, but he had no interest in dueling the brother of Zhu E’XingXin, the general who had led him into battle. He had seen her battle three Mandalorian soldiers to a draw at once, and he had also seen what she could do in one-on-one personal combat. He knew, intellectually, that her brother had never actually been to the war, but that did little to slate his fear. If anything, the thought of this unknown quantity who felt no camaraderie toward him frightened him even more.
But you can kill him with one cut he thought- rather, someone thought in his mind. Could this be the Fabric? It wasn’t either of the Zhu twins, but there was something similar about it nonetheless. It seemed good advice- he felt more alive than he had in months, probably a result of holding a weapon for the first time since his captivity. He felt… hungry.
Yes, hungry was the word to describe it. It wasn’t a physical hunger, but he felt the need to draw blood- the need to win. FengWei had never born any ill will toward the ruling class, nor had he any inclination to take their place, as the Warlord was suggesting… still, he had the urge to kill his captor, to defeat him, humiliate him, in personal combat.
He felt energy flowing through his veins, and strength such as he had never experienced. Was this the power of Zhu E’ren’s inherited weapon?
It could be. It could be yours, if you can kill.
Kill. That was something he could do. He had killed Mandalorians- he could kill an unarmed politician. If that was all it would take to have that kind of power to exert at his will…
But there was always E’XingXin. She would be hard to compel to his will- and she might not be bound to her brother’s agreement.
You will have the means to defeat her- if you’ve already defeated her brother.
Who are you?
Best I worry about that, while you worry about your duel. Unless you’re too afraid to accept an honorable challenge.
The noble-born and master-trained regent adeptly stepped to the side as his grandmother’s sword swung through the space his neck had been taking up. He flashed his right hand up, glancing it off of the flat end of the blade and avoiding its attempt to redirect itself at a more viable target. He thrust his left hand at Chi, his open palm coming to a halt centimeters away from the elder Arian’s chest and releasing a pulse of Force energy that threw Chi into a wall.
This time, though, the veteran warrior didn’t fall into a slump. He landed on his feet, springing forward and using his adrenaline-powered muscles to handle the Sith sword as if it were a standard durasteel weapon. Leaning back and to the side, E’ren dodged the weapon, and then he dodged it again. Snapping his heel hard into Chi’s kneecap, he used his opponent as a sprinboard to catapult himself into the air. He spread his wings to their impressive span, and drifted slowly to the floor as he showered his opponent with yellow bolts of lightning, shocking his nerves but not causing serious damage.
It seemed the POW was relearning his fighting spirit, as he began to stagger forward while he was still suffering from the debilitating effects of the “Electric Judgment”. Chi swung, but his body was still not responding properly, and all it took to end his attack was a counterstrike in the form of a snap-kick to the stomach. E’ren followed this up with a brutal series of elbows and jabs, driving Chi back to the wall. The warlord noticed that Chi had a deathgrip on the Sith sword- either by his own will, or the sword’s master’s, he would not be disarmed.
E’ren smiled. His sacrifice was accepted- now all he had to do was follow through with it. His moment of distraction earned him a near-hit, and he staggered backward as the blade passed by his nose close enough to smell its unique alloys. Chi followed through successfully this time, swinging several times and just barely missing or cutting glancing blows off the regent’s skin. E’ren began to collect minor cuts and scratches, and he saw the blade begin to darken and react to this.
The pain was nothing but an irritant, but he allowed it to become more. He breathed in deeply, drawing the pain into him and drawing out the rage which he had suppressed. In an explosion of power, he through FengWei backward and onto the floor with a kiai.
E’ren was now at the pinnacle of his physical power, the Fabric flowing through his veins and revitalizing his muscles. Time seemed to move in slow motion for him as he drew his remaining weapon, what appeared to be a simple stick of foreign design. The item was covered in electronics and devices, and it resembled only one other item in the Aria system: its mate, worn on his sister E’XingXin’s waist. Following through with the drawing motion, he brought the item up over his head and then down to point at Chi, who had come to his feet- and ignited the blade.
The blade of a red lightsaber- an almost mythical item on Aria, where temples of the ancient Sith were still revered by many- materialized in mid-air. At the slide of a switch, a tiny, almost trivial laser was activated within the chamber. The superexcited beam of light passed through an item even rarer than a red lightsaber: a blood red Krayt dragon pearl. A round, usable Krayt dragon pearl could be found only in the gizzards of old, hungry Krayt dragons found on the planet of Tatooine; one in a million of these developed red pearls. Owing largely to the size and viciousness of a Krayt dragon, a red pearl held enough value to purchase a small, uninhabited planet from conglomerates like RePlanetHab.
The pearl acted as a powerful focusing crystal, further mirroring and re-energizing the beam of light passing through it. The shorter wavelengths of light were slowly phased out within the prism of the pearl, increasing the intensity of the red light and emerging as a pure line of red. A lens of synthesized Byrothsis- originally created for use in holocameras- tightened the beam into a thin line, darkening it to scarlet. The beam traveled into the electromagnetic field of the emitter matrix, focusing into a lightsaber blade and developing a defined size and shape.
The scarlet light spread out and filled this shape, completing its activation just as the exotic sound of a snap-hiss reached Chi FengWei’s ears. Water vapor flowed around it as the air inhabiting the space the blade assumed was super-heated. The thrum of the blade almost hypnotized Chi, as the cycle creating the lightsaber blade began to repeat indefinitely.
Then, Chi struck. He slashed forward brutally, as if to make up for lost time, and E’ren was forced to block. The blades drove against one another hard. Their dissimilar compositions caused them not to lock, and it seemed to E’ren as if he was pushing against a slippery blade. Chi withdrew his blade, throwing E’ren somewhat off balance and open to his counterstrike.
The Sith sword hit E’ren in the shoulder, digging in deeply and painfully, although without serious relevant damage given E’ren’s combat style. Blood flowed, and for a moment it was profuse. The Sith weapon darkened in its presence, becoming nearly as scarlet as the blade of the lightsaber. E’ren could feel a release of of Dark Side energy from the blade, a direct reaction to his pain. He grimaced, bringing his own blade to bear for a stab at FengWei’s midsection.
“Wait until Lord E’Ren is finished,’ she ordered. “Then put the human in with the traitor he brought back to us. In the meantime, I want every bolt of his ship examined by our engineers.”
“It will be done, my Lady.”
E’XingXin then left the cell and walked to her personal quarters. Taking out her grandmother’s holocron and dimming the lighting, she sat cross legged on the floor.
She reached out to the holocron, stroking the dark forces that flowed through the Fabric. The holocron glowed softly before emitting a surge of dark energy to envelop E’XingXin. The candles she always commanded to be burning wavered as if a wind passed through the chamber and then went out. E’XingXin was alarmed but then didn’t notice as much when she blacked out and entered the Farplane, the supposed mythical resting place of the spirits that had a connection to the Fabric.
E’XingXin awoke on a distant plane, a desert marked by temples that looked similar to the ones on her home planet. Looking around, it was almost like she could feel a pulse in the planet’s surface. Closing her eyes, she reached out as her grandmother had shown her and felt the Dark Side.
Opening her eyes, Xing scanned the distance and felt herself being called towards one of the temples. It laid in ruins, but in it’s midst she could see her grandmother talking with a Chiss. It didn’t surprise her, for it was said that Katanra was the one that bridged the original non aggression treaty with the Chiss that changed into the almost partnership they saw today. What did surprise Xing was the fact that Katanra and the blue skinned being seemed more than friendly with each other.
Xing waited until her presence was noted then came upon her grandmother’s beckoning gesture. The Chiss looked Xing over and she glared back at him. In her mind, the Chiss had no business looking at an Arian of the ruling caste without her consent or acknowledgment. After a brief comment made by the Chiss about Xing’s familiar spirit to her grandmother, he disappeared. Xing glared daggers at the spot where the Chiss had stood and Katanra seemed to laugh to herself.
“You would do well to take that as a complement, XiXi.” Katanra said, “But do not let him get to you.’
Xing bowed to her grandmother, the savior of Aria. “Damu, I need your help. A human appeared in system and I cannot get him to reveal anything to us. He is even able to withstand the affects of the koushui.”
“You pushed koushui into his system?”
Xing shook her head, “No, that was didi’s doing.”
“I see.” Katanra looked down and shook her head, “He’s so impatient. One thing you need to know about the military human, my child. They are more defiant than the average human. They have training very similar to what E’Ren and yourself faced with your instructors at the temple.”
“But how would I open the human’s mind then?”
“You must find what he values, then destroy it.”
Xing had to pause. “That would take time, damu.”
“Indeed it would. But there is another way.”
“An emotional attack?”
Katanra nodded slightly. “As you know, it causes stress to the human mind. A Force able mind can withstand that as well, but a non sensitive would not be able to cope for long. Humans have an odd sense of duty, even more so if they are or were military.”
“So if I find what he values emotionally, I can get him to open his mind?” Xing had to think for a moment. “How do I do that?”
Katanra smiled. “You are smart and powerful Xing, you will find a way.”
The world wavered around Xing and Katanra raised her arm in a farewell salute. Xing started to raise hers in return but she found her arm slow to respond. Knowing that her time with her grandmother was finished for the time being, she focused on her body, her breathing and came around her her own world.
Gesturing through the Force, the candles were lit once more. Closing her eyes and levitating slightly, Xing dwelt on what Katanra had told her and began to formulate a plan for breaking the stubborn human that was her and her brother’s captive.
The “voice” “spoke” with a deadly confidence, the same sort of confidence with which Zhu E’XingXin had spoke entering battle; the same malice and confidence with which her brother E’Ren rallied the last clans of Aria during the war. It was a confidence that was utterly alien to the bedazzled warrior.
How can I fight something so… so powerful?
FengWei had heard rumors of the blade of magenta light that Zhu E’XingXin carried on her waist. When he served beneath her against the Mandalorians, members of her personal commando squad had attested to how it cut through anything. Even the impenitrable armor of the Mandalorians, they said, was no match against a being of her skill with a lightsaber.
Fool! Despite being an entirely cognitive event, FengWei was still almost certain he could detect a disdainful snarl of the “voice”‘s lip. You think that carrying a weapon you’ve never seen before makes E’Ren more powerful? Are you or are you not a warrior, trained to wield blades of all kinds against your foes?
Chi took her words in as he felt the weight of the deadly blade in his own hand. Almost as if he triggered some hidden mechanism, he felt a rush of adrenaline and strength coming from the weapon. The urge to fight, to win, to kill filled him, erasing his doubts. He would slay this paltry politician, claim the throne of Aria and win over the beautiful E’XingXin for his own.
Now… quit stalling and attack !!
A strange force took over FengWei, forcing him forward. Even the part of his brain that wished to sum up the situation and properly aim his strike was overcome by this push. His strike was strong and fast, but it lacked the delicate aim of his fencing nature and found itself locked against the Warlord’s energy blade. The opposing natures of the blades made the hold slippery, and FengWei feared that his sword would slide to the side and allow his opponent to strike.
Almost seeing in advance the effect it would have on his opponent, FengWei withdrew his blade. E’Ren, caught up in the saber lock, was drawn staggering forward, and the older warrior brought his blade down again, digging into the Warlord’s shoulder.
Blood flowed, and Chi FengWei felt as though he were becoming another being. A small, quiet part of his brain began to understand that the ancient weapon in his hand was drawing on the released blood, and the silent scream of pain, coming from E’Ren’s body. That part of him was silenced, however, as Dark Fabric energy released from the blade began to command his mind further. Stab, cut, kill, drink. The weapon had a mind like a low-level predator, but it was powerful enough in the Fabric to dominate the lesser will of its wielder.
Now you know the true power that you hold. Use it, draw on it, and you can have more power than you ever imagined.
E’Ren stabbed at FengWei’s abdomen, but the warrior somehow knew it was coming. Was he gifted with the Fabric after all? Was this a latent gift, one that had waited until he truly needed it to reveal itself?
In any case, he was able to step to the side. He brought his sword along E’Ren’s shoulder blade, leaving a large superficial gash but doing little in the way of damage. He struck again and again, staying one step away from the light blade of his enemy and drawing enough blood from his captor that the Sith Sword took on a scarlet hue of its own.
Chi FengWei was winning, and he was going to become the leader of the Arian systems.
Zhu E’Ren wept, not through tears, but through the blood of now over a dozen cuts on his body. Some were minor scratches, while others still fountained enough blood to make his skin slick and harder to hit.
Have I made my sacrifice yet, Pó? He deflected the latest attack, knowing that there was only so much abuse his body could take and remain in top fighting condition. If there was more to be sacrificed, he would do so- but not without doing some damage of his own first.
E’Ren locked blades with Chi once more. This time, knowing what to expect, he was able to manipulate his opponent’s blade, turning it slightly to the side as the Dark Acolyte leaned into it. He lifted them both off the ground with his wings, slamming the sentenced into the wall.
He backed off, bouncing a bit so that the momentum of striking the wall did not injure him. As he did so, the Battle Raging Chi swooped down in an attempt to spear him. E’Ren ducked under it, allowing the blade to nick his shoulder, as he stabbed forward with his lightsaber.
Chi’s scream was audible throughout the ship. He had pierced several organs, none of them required for his survival for the next several days, though all of them extremely painful to damage. Smoke and fire drifted from the traitor’s mouth and nostrils with each breath, thanks to the biological controls E’Ren had severed. Very little blood poured from the wound, thanks in part to the automatic cauterization provided by the lightsaber, although small amounts of pus, acid, and other internal fluids were expelled from his back before the blade was removed, as swiftly and efficiently as it had first entered.
Chi FengWei would be put in his place.
The traitor was barely slowed by this attack, hacking and slashing in an offensive velocity E’Ren had seen his sister use. Chi was relying more and more on the power of the Sith Sword and the crystal embedded within it- the very reasons why the Warlord had given them to him.
Certain that the would-be usurper had given in completely to overconfidence by now, E’Ren gave up all pretense of dueling an equal. He didn’t feign surprise, or difficulty with the familiar kata.
Instead, he acted as though it wasn’t there. Chi FengWei was not She Tiange; nor was he E’XingXin. He was merely a wannabe, a lesser Arian with no talent in the Fabric and little more skill in the way of the blade. His training was standard, and his combat experience, although varied, was against inferior opponents with little more training than he had himself.
With little aid from the Fabric, E’Ren intercepted FengWei’s maneuvers whenever they left an opening. Rather than block or dodge, he simply placed himself where he knew the blades would not be. He struck with his lightsaber two, three, four times, and felt a scream in the Fabric.
Half a second later, E’Ren heard the same scream in his ears, and after another half of a second, he saw the hand he had severed flying through the air. Drawing on his victim’s pain mixed with his own anger, E’Ren mentally threw the traitor to the ground.
With a thud, a grunt, and an audible crack, Chi hit the ground. Still clenched in his right hand was the sword of E’Ren’s grandmother, a weapon that would not be so easily given up after all the power it had drank today. Chi lay prone on his back, and for a moment, E’Ren considered simply spearing him from a distance.
No, he decided. This was an execution, not a battle to the death. The ritual duel would end in death, but not yet.
Pó and XiXi will have more to say on this matter, I’m sure of it, the Warlord of the Arian systems thought as he began to float groundward.