Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan (3 page)

BOOK: Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan
5.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

A pureblood born without any connection to the Force was an abomination; by custom such a creature could not be suffered to live. During his time at the Academy, Lord Scourge had encountered a handful of Sith whose power in the Force was noticeably weak. Hampered by their failing, they relied on the influence of their high-ranking
families to find them postings as low-level aids or administrative officials at the Academy, where their handicap would be least noticed. Spared from the lower castes only by their pureblood heritage, in Scourge’s eyes they were barely better than slaves, though he did have to admit that the more competent ones could have their uses.

But never before had he encountered one of his own kind with as feeble an attunement to the Force as the man huddled at his feet. The fact that Darth Nyriss had sent someone so vile and unworthy to greet him was unsettling. He’d expected a more substantial and impressive welcome.

“Get up,” he snarled, making no effort to conceal his disgust.

Sechel quickly scrambled to his feet. “Darth Nyriss sends her apologies for not coming to meet you personally,” he said quickly. “There have been several attempts on her life recently, and she only leaves her palace under the rarest of circumstances.”

“I’m well aware of her situation,” Scourge replied.

“Y-yes, my lord,” Sechel stammered. “Of course. That’s why you’re here. Excuse my stupidity.”

A crash of thunder nearly drowned out Sechel’s apology, heralding an increase in the storm’s intensity. The driving rain started to come down in stinging sheets.

“Were your Master’s instructions to leave me standing here in this downpour until I drowned?” Scourge demanded.

“F-forgive me, my lord. Please, follow me. We have a speeder waiting to take you to the domicile.”

A short distance from the spaceport was a small landing pad. A constant stream of hovercabs was landing and taking off—the preferred way for those of the lower ranks who couldn’t afford their own speeder to traverse the city. As was typical at a busy spaceport, a thick crowd surrounded the base of the landing pad. Those just arriving quickly fell into the queues waiting to hire a driver, moving with the disciplined precision that was the hallmark of Imperial society.

Of course, Lord Scourge had no need to step into the line. While some in the crowd cast sharp glances at Sechel as he tried to force a path through, the throng quickly parted upon catching sight of the towering figure behind him. Even with his hood drawn against the
rain, Scourge’s black cape, his spiked armor, his dark red complexion, and the lightsaber prominently displayed at his side clearly marked him as a Sith Lord.

The individuals in the crowd showed a wide variety of reactions to his presence. Many were slaves or indentured servants out running errands for their masters; they wisely kept their eyes fixed on the ground, careful not to make eye contact. The Enlisted—the ranks of ordinary individuals conscripted into mandatory military service—snapped smartly to attention, as if waiting for Scourge to inspect them as he passed by.

The Subjugates—the caste of offworld merchants, traders, dignitaries, and visitors from planets not yet granted full status in the Empire—stared with a mixture of wonder and fear as they stepped quickly aside. Many of them bowed as a sign of respect. On their homeworlds they might be rich and powerful, but here on Dromund Kaas they were well aware that they ranked only slightly above the servants and slaves.

The only exception to the rule was a pair of humans, one male, the other female. Scourge noticed them standing at the foot of the stairs leading up to the landing pad, stubbornly holding their ground.

They were wearing expensive clothes—matching red pants and tops trimmed with white—and both clearly wore light armor beneath their outfits. Dangling from the man’s shoulder was a large assault rifle, and the woman had a blaster pistol strapped across each hip. However, the two humans were clearly not part of the military, as neither displayed the official Imperial insignia or any indication of rank on their garb.

It wasn’t unusual for Subjugate mercenaries from other worlds to visit Dromund Kaas. Some came seeking profit, hiring their services out to the highest bidder; others came to prove their value to the Empire in the hope of one day being granted the rare privilege of full Imperial citizenship. But mercenaries typically reacted with deference and humility when confronted with someone of Scourge’s rank.

By law, Scourge could have them imprisoned or executed for even a trifling offense. Judging by their confrontational behavior, they were blissfully unaware of this fact.

As the rest of the crowd parted, the mercenaries remained in place, staring defiantly at Scourge as he approached. The Sith Lord bristled at the continued lack of respect. Sechel must have felt it as well, because he quickly rushed ahead to confront the pair.

Scourge didn’t slow his pace, but neither did he make a move to catch up with the scurrying servant. At this distance, he couldn’t hear what was being said over the wind and rain. But Sechel was speaking frantically, gesturing and waving his arms while the humans stared at him with cold contempt. Finally, the woman nodded, and the pair slowly moved out of the way. Satisfied, Sechel turned and waited for Scourge to arrive.

“A thousand apologies, my lord,” he said as they mounted the steps. “Some Subjugates lack a proper understanding of our customs.”

“Perhaps they need me to remind them of their place,” Scourge growled.

“If that is your wish, my lord,” Sechel said. “However, I must remind you that Darth Nyriss is expecting you.”

Scourge decided to let the matter drop. They climbed into the waiting speeder; Sechel at the controls. Scourge settled into the luxurious seat, pleased to note that the vehicle had a roof—many of the hovercabs were open to the elements. The engines engaged, and they rose to a height of ten meters before the speeder accelerated, leaving the spaceport behind.

They rode in silence, drawing ever closer to the massive citadel that stood at the heart of Kaas City. But Scourge knew this was not their destination today. Like every member of the Dark Council, Darth Nyriss was allowed access to the Emperor’s citadel. In the wake of two recent assassination attempts, however, Scourge fully expected her to stay within the walls of the personal stronghold she maintained on the outskirts of Kaas City, surrounded by her most trusted staff and servants.

This didn’t strike Scourge as cowardly in any way; Nyriss was simply being practical. Like any high-ranking Sith, she had many enemies. Until she discovered who was behind the assassination attempts, exposing herself unnecessarily was a foolish and unwarranted risk.

Yet her practicality had to be balanced against the understanding
that her rank was based solely on strength. If Nyriss appeared weak or ineffective—if she was unable to take firm and decisive action against whoever was plotting her death—others would sense it. Rivals both off and on the Dark Council would prey on her situation, leveraging her vulnerable position to their own advantage. Darth Nyriss would not be the first of the Emperor’s inner circle to lose her life.

That was why Scourge was here. To root out the secret masterminds behind the assassinations, and destroy them.

Given the importance of his mission, he couldn’t understand why Nyriss hadn’t sent a full honor guard to escort him through the city. She should want everyone to know of his arrival. He was proof that steps were being taken to solve her problem; a warning to any other rivals who might be emboldened by the recent attempts on her life. Keeping his arrival almost secret served no purpose … at least none Scourge could see.

They passed by the Emperor’s citadel and made their way to the western edge of the city. After several more minutes, Scourge felt the speeder begin to slow as Sechel brought it in for a landing.

“We’re here, my lord,” Sechel said as the vehicle touched down.

They were in a large courtyard. High stone walls stood to the north and south. The east end was open to the street; the west was bordered by what Scourge assumed was Darth Nyriss’s stronghold. In many ways the building resembled the Emperor’s citadel, though on a significantly smaller scale. The architectural similarities were more than just an homage to the Emperor. Like his citadel, this building would serve both as Nyriss’s dwelling and as a fortress she could fall back to in times of trouble, and it had been designed to be simultaneously ornate, imposing, and easily defensible.

The courtyard itself was populated by half a dozen large statues, each several meters wide at the base and easily twice as tall as Scourge. The two largest depicted humanoids in Sith robes—a male and a female. They stood with their arms raised slightly forward, their hands palms up. The man’s face was hidden by a hood—the common depiction of the Emperor. The woman had her hood thrown back to reveal fierce Sith features; if the sculptor’s work was accurate, Scourge knew this was his first glimpse of what Darth Nyriss actually looked like.

The other statues were abstract pieces, though each incorporated Nyriss’s household emblem—a four-pointed star inside a wide circle. The ground was covered with fine white pebbles. A rare type of lichen that thrived in the gloom of Dromund Kaas had been planted in decorative patterns throughout the stone, the faint purple glow providing a ghostly illumination. A smooth path of finished stone led from the massive double doors that marked the entrance to the stronghold, through the center of the courtyard, and out to the small landing pad where their speeder had touched down.

Sechel scrambled out of the vehicle and raced around to open the exit hatch on the other side for his passenger. Scourge stepped out of the speeder and into the rain, which had lessened only slightly during their journey.

“This way, my lord,” Sechel said, heading down the path.

Scourge followed him, fully expecting the doors to swing wide at their approach. To his surprise, the entrance remained sealed. Sechel didn’t seem taken aback, however. Instead, he turned to the small holoscreen on the side and pressed the call button.

A flickering image materialized on the holoscreen—a human male of about forty. He appeared to be wearing the standard uniform of an Imperial security officer, and Scourge surmised he was the head of Nyriss’s personal guard.

“Our guest has arrived, Murtog,” Sechel explained, nodding in Scourge’s direction.

“Did you verify his identity?” Murtog asked.

“W-what are you talking about?” Sechel stammered.

“How do we know this is the real Lord Scourge? How do we know this isn’t another assassin?”

The questions seemed to catch Sechel completely off guard.

“I don’t … I mean, he seems to be … uh, that is …”

“I’m not letting him in until I have proof,” Murtog declared.

Sechel glanced back over his shoulder at Lord Scourge, his expression a mix of humiliation and fear. Then he leaned in close to the holocomm and, in a low voice, said, “This is completely inappropriate. You’ve overstepped your authority!”

“I’m the security chief,” Murtog reminded him. “This is completely
within my authority. Just give me five minutes to confirm everything’s on the up-and-up.”

Scourge stepped forward, grabbing Sechel by the shoulder and yanking him aside.

“You dare insult me by making me wait out in the rain like some beggar?” he spat at the screen. “I am a guest! Darth Nyriss herself invited me!”

Murtog barked out a sharp laugh. “You might want to check your facts on that.”

The holoscreen clicked off abruptly. Scourge turned around to find Sechel cowering against the wall.

“I’m sorry, my lord,” he said. “Murtog has become somewhat paranoid since—”

Scourge cut him off. “What did he mean when he told me to check my facts? Was I invited by Darth Nyriss, or not?”

“You were. Of course you were. Sort of.”

Scourge raised his hand toward Sechel and reached out to the Force. The servant began to gasp and clutch at his throat as his body was lifted slowly up into the air by an invisible hand.

“You will tell me what is going on,” Scourge said, his voice devoid of all emotion. “You will tell me everything, or you will die. Do you understand?”

Sechel tried to speak but could only cough and sputter. Instead he nodded frantically. Satisfied, Scourge released his hold. Abruptly Sechel dropped the full meter to the ground, where he landed in a heap, grunting in pain before scrambling to his knees.

“It wasn’t Darth Nyriss’s idea to hire you,” he explained, his voice still raw and rough from the choking. “After the second assassination attempt, the Emperor suggested that her own people could be involved. He suggested she bring someone in from the outside.”

Suddenly it all made sense. The Emperor’s will was absolute; a “suggestion” from him was a de facto order. Darth Nyriss had invited him here because she’d had no choice. Scourge had assumed he was an honored guest, but in actuality he was nothing but an interloper. His presence was an insult to her loyal followers, and a reminder that the Emperor doubted her ability to deal with the assassins herself. That
was why he’d received such a meager reception, and why Nyriss’s security chief had reacted to him with such hostility.

Scourge realized he was in a precarious situation. His efforts to investigate the assassinations would be met with resistance and suspicion. Any mistakes—even those that were not his fault—would be blamed on him. A single misstep could spell the end of his career, or even his life.

He was still pondering this new information when he heard a speeder approaching through the storm. The sound was innocuous, but it instantly put his senses on high alert. His heart began beating rapidly and his breathing quickened. A rush of adrenaline caused his cheek tendrils to twitch and his muscles to tense.

He drew his lightsaber and glanced up at the sky. At his feet, Sechel cried out and covered his face, assuming the lightsaber was meant for him. Scourge ignored him.

In the darkness of the storm, he could just make out the speeder’s silhouette heading straight for them. He reached out with the Force, probing the vehicle and its passengers. He felt a bolt of anger rip through him as his suspicions were confirmed: Whoever was in the speeder was coming to kill him.

BOOK: Star Wars: The Old Republic: Revan
5.71Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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