Veraan scraped away the last bit of earth from the container. It was sealed, but he could still feel the malice seeping forth from it. He directed two of his others to help him pull it from the ground. This was their prize.
Something from the darkness around them was calling, begging to break the seal and open the box. Veraan grinned. Whatever was inside was powerful, and had called to him since he had set foot on Voss again.
He looked to his two others, and they nodded back at him. Whatever power was within the sealed container, would soon learn that it had chosen poorly.
Saltion roused from his slumber. Slowly he untangled himself from his love’s arms and slid from their bedroll. The sun had not yet risen, nor would it begin to breach the horizon for some time.
Part of him wanted to crawl back under the covers, and return to the dream he had been sharing with Shaylin. However, something had awoken him, and was now calling to him.
He dressed himself in his normal tattered seeming robes. He checked the contents of the hidden fold, then clasped Whisper to it’s place on his belt. Slowly, he made his way outside of the shrine.
Whatever beckoned him, it did not give away it’s intent. He carefully let the force guide him to the source. He travelled southeast of the shrine.
As he approached the ruins that lay there, he gathered the force about him. The gormak tended to watch the ruins, but they were not present as he came close.
The ruins were silent. Saltion made his way to the center. There he found the gormak he had been wary of. Their bodies were rent apart, strewn across the ground. He stopped, and held to the shadows, and the shroud of the force around him.
A lone figure stepped from behind a crumbling wall. Saltion did not need to see his face, nor did he need to use the force to determine who it was.
The figure stepped into the clearing where the bodies lie. He spread his arms and circled around. “I know you are there, brother.” Veraan’s voice was steady, flat, and emotionless as he spoke.
“I can smell you. I know you are here,” he continued. “Come out of your shadows. We both know they won’t hide you from our bond.”
Saltion circled behind him, at a small distance, and let the shroud of the force dissipate from around him. Veraan still looked away from him.
Saltion coughed politely, “Over here.”
Veraan turned to face him. “Still resorting to your cheap tricks?” Saltion shrugged at his pure-blood brother. “Not very jedi like of you.”
“I thought you made an agreement with the others,” Saltion spoke. “I’m assuming that you have decided to renege your end of the bargain.”
Veraan grinned “that depends.”
“Oh I don’t know…” Veraan cut his sentence short as he drew his saber and threw it at Saltion.
The jedi dropped to his left, rolled and faded into the shadows. Veraan willed his blade back to his hand.
“Come now, if you keep doing that, killing you will take all morning.” Veraan looked around. The dimness in the early morning would not aid him. He heard a sound to his right and swung his saber, hitting nothing but air.
Saltion scrambled behind one of the crumbling walls. He judged his options, and chose to leap to the top of a pillar and wait for an opening. He watched as Veraan swung at the air below him as he landed above.
From his perch the jedi began to evaluate his surroundings once again. Deciding how to strike at the sith. Below, Veraan stood still lowered his head and closed his eyes.
Saltion decided on his course of action and prepared to jump when Veraan flung one arm out at the pillar that Saltion stood on. A wave of force energy struck the pillar.
Saltion lept, barely in time. He landed to his opponents unarmed side and drew his staff. He extended a single blade form it, and let the shroud drop from him.
“No more stupid jedi tricks, brother.” Slowly he turned to face his brother. “Face to face, as the force intends it.” He snarled and stepped towards Saltion.
The Saltion took a defensive posture and deflected the first few blows. Veraan lowered a shoulder and slammed into Saltion.
The jedi staggered back, barely keeping his footing. Veraan pressed his attack. Saltion ignited the back end of his staff, and battered back the assault.
Both sides traded blows, neither gaining an upper hand. Finally, Veraan stepped back. and glared at Saltion. They had battled each other enough to figure each other out.
He decided to try a new tactic. The sith reached out toward his brother through the force, and sent a bolt of pain into his mind. Saltion grunted and dropped his guard. Veraan swung hard down on his brother.
Saltion instinctively reached into his bag of shadow’s tricks and collapsed the force around them, slowing time. He managed to deflect part of the blow, his shield flickered and caught the rest of the lethal blow, but the force of the impact dropped him to a knee. Instinctively, he swung up with his hand. The sith took the blow and ignored it.
He could feel his shoulder loosen as a muscle tore. It took effort to suppress the pain. His brother readied for a second blow. His mind raced, where did that come from? His other arm swung and hit Veraan’s sword arm. The sith again acted as if nothing hit him.
He rolled away and kept focusing on the flow of the force around his brother. The beast had been slowed, but not as much as had had been in previous battles. Veraan almost seemed to be shrugging off the effects of Saltion’s tricks.
He came again, with the same aggression. His swings wild and strong. Saltion tried his best to counter, but with his shoulder getting worse with each blow, his saber strikes were weakened and his more physical strike were apparently harmless .
Veraan feinted a swing of his saber and slammed the pommel on Saltion’s shoulder. Then his fist met Saltion’s midsection. The jedi fell to the ground, his staff rolled away from his hand. Veraan swatted it with his saber, breaking it apart.
Veraan stood over his brother, and prepared to give the final blow. He lifted his saber…
To his surprise his arm did not respond. He looked down at his hand in confusion. His right hand still held the saber, but it had gone numb.
“Interesting,” he murmured. He looked to his brother, who now was struggling to gain his feet. “I suppose this is another of your cowardly tricks?”
Saltion’s head hurt. He could feel his strength draining from him. “Numb?. It’s about time it started working,” he paused to catch a breath and steady himself as he rose to his feet. “Not a shadow’s trick, mind you, but a very effective one it seems.” The sith growled at him, but could not manage to attack.
“The first blow hit that arm, didn’t it.” Saltion began to draw himself up to his full height, and examine his brother.
“What is this? The hell did you do to me,” demanded the sith. Saltion stepped up to his brother and pulled the saber from his hand. Veraan spat at the jedi.
“Morichro,” Saltion said softly. The sith stared at him dumbly. “I don’t expect you to understand what it is. But safe to say, no sith will ever be able to use it.” He paused, and looked into his brother’s eyes. “Your own body is shutting down. Soon you will sleep, Veraan. The voss will see you back to your kind safely.”
Veraan’s anger boiled over. He tried to attack his brother, but his arms failed to respond. As his brother spoke he felt sleep beginning to overtake him. “I will find you,” he said angrily. “I will kill you, your friends, your mongrel brother,” then Veraan put all he could into moving into his brother’s face “and then I’m going to get my hands on your little whore.”
He could feel the anger in him. Veraan was baiting him. Saltion stepped back. One more blow would send his opponent into a coma. But to use this technique required him to do it with no malice.
Saltion turned his back as Veraan slipped to a knee. He searched his mind and his feelings. No matter which way he looked at it, he came to the same answer. “Do you know what a shadow is, sith?”
Veraan grunted, back at him. Of course he knew what a shadow was. “We are granted our leniency in what we do, for the sole purpose of fighting the dark with the dark.” He turned and face his brother. “What I have done to you here, drained almost all I have in me. I tried to show you mercy. Something in me wanted to believe that because you and I are from the same blood, you could see the light.”
The sith spat at his feet. “Obviously I was in error.” Saltion reached into the hidden fold of his robes and drew forth it’s contents. Veraan struggled to lift his head and stare at what Saltion held. He watched as two green-black blades extended from the blurred object.
“Veraan, brother, I have tried to hold back against you. Even allowing my friends to become confused by my actions regarding you.” He sighed and readied himself. “Know that for what you said, you are no longer my brother.” His saber rose, “you are simply another sith, whose life is mine for the taking.”
“Unarmed,” Veraan struggled to say.
“I know, sith” Saltion responded. He swung the saber down.
Pain shot through his head. He screamed and dropped the holocron he held. One of the others, scrambled to help steady him.
“He lives,” he groaned in agony. “Saltion survived.”
More of the others came over and surrounded the man. “He failed,” his voice croaked. After a moment he offered the holocron to one of the others. “Use this, learn from that one’s mistake.” It nodded and took the glowing cube.
“Do not fail, lest our brother kill you as well.”
The one who spoke, the one who had held the cube put his hands to his head. One was crimson and flesh, the other was dark and of a machine.