Something from the Dark Side

Oram Vord crept through the ancient ruins of S'hettla lightsabre in hand. His thumb hovered over the activation switch as he tried desperately to empty his mind and drive away the fear that threatend to overwhelm him. Olathaxis Prime had once been a slave world of the Sith Empire, but unlike other slave worlds it had produced nothing. No ores or fuels had been mined, although there were rich deposits beneath the planets surface. No weapons had been made or supplies exported. The slaves of this world lived for one purpose and one purpose only. They were there to feed the Sith Masters with their fear. The temples of S'hettla were vast torture chambers designed to break the minds of their victim's allowing the Sith to draw on their terror and grow strong as they studies the breaking of the mind and spirit.

So foul were the practices of this cult of fear that it was the Sith themselves who eventually destroyed the temples and drove the Sith heretics who ruled here underground. The Jedi did not come here. Until now. The Council had decreed that Olathaxis Prime should be cleansed, freed from a thousand years of darkness. A team of twelve Jedi Masters had been dispatched one month ago, amongst them Vords own master Utha Lhiss a Devaronian. The Masters had landed on the planet and entered the temple before communication was lost.

So Vord had come, in defiance of the Council. A lone Jedi Knight... a fool. His master would berate him for the arrogance of this mission. "A Jedi Knight is powerful, but not omnipotent." He could hear the words now and see his furrowed brow beneath those gilded horns he was so proud of. Not that he would admit to taking any such pride or indulging in such obvious vanity.

Even before he had landed Oram had started to sense the Dark taint of this world. He could almost hear the tortured souls screaming out as he brought his ship into low orbit and entered the planet's atmosphere. He had lost his trajectory so strong were the feelings of pain and anguish. He had barley been able to make the landing.

He had soon found the other Jedi ship. The larger vessel used by the Masters had obviously faced a similar trial judging by the damage he saw on the outer hull. A quick scan of the ship confirmed that it was empty. Strangely all of the droids were missing.

It had been about a two hour walk to the outer perimeter of the ruined temples. The whole trek was a bitter struggle with the dark pull of the planet. Thoughts of violence and horror came unbidden to him. Whispered urgings and sudden overwhelming terror that was not his own but felt no less real because of it. He tried several times to reach out with the force to contact his master, but each time it was like opening a flood gate and allowing a tide of darkness and filth to overwhelm his mind.

At the entrance to the first temple he had been struck by a white hot pain that tore through his muscles and into his mind. He had screamed until his voice was horse and then passed out. The pain had come from a vision of torture. A female Utapaun stretched out on a rack with molten silver held in great vats above her. She had been there for days watching the vats being heated and then slowly, deliberately the contents allowed to drip down onto her body. Each drip a dagger of white hot fire. Her death would be days in the coming. He felt every drip.

Vord had woken in near darkness. He was in a cold sweat and his hands were shaking. As he lay there panting and trying to gather his strength he heard soft whispers carried in on a fetid breeze. He almost gagged on the smell. He could not discern any clear words from whispering, he supposed it was a language he did not know. Some ancient Sith dialect. He found a hidden reserve of strength cut the sound off, focusing his mind and body on his purpose. He would find his master and then get them both off this light forsaken world. He would...

Several more dark visions of pain and torture assailed him as he moved on, though not as strong or as terrifying as the first. He struggled through them and continued to search into the night. He did not remember when he had unhooked his sabre but as he clutched it now it gave him some comfort.

The sound beneath his feet changed from the soft crunch on rubble to a hard tap of stone. He glanced down and noted that he had found the beginning of a path. Broad flagstones stretched out before him leading towards a distant building. A small ziggurat of sorts and seemingly whole. He started as he noticed a soft red glow coming from within. Carefully he crept forward keeping his body as low as possible to avoid being seen. He surmised that if the ruins were indeed occupied then his shuttle would have been seen and he may already be in their sights, but he had to trust not.

As he grew closer the soft sound of chanting began to carry on the night air and with it came the fetid smell of death once more. He tried not to gag as he pushed forward towards the light and the sound. He could just make out a small mound rising from the path in front of the ziggurat entrance and he moved towards it to investigate.

It was the droids. They were shattered, torn limb from limb and piled up on top of each other. He saw his masters astromech ripped in two and its red and silver plating covered in a viscous black liquid. Utha loved that droid. Who could have done this?

Sudden laughter came from all about him in the darkness. Many voices all at once. He stared around him in wild panic and ignited his sabre. The blue glare and vibrant buzz of the weapon drove back the shadows and brought the laughter to an abrupt end. As if in answer to his own light the red glow from the temple grew brighter and chanting beyond louder. He could almost make out the words now.

He waited there for a moment, braced against an attack but nothing came. With a heavy outlet of breath he moved on, stepping around the wreckage of the droids. He was suddenly glad he had left his own astromech back at the ship.

The cavernous maw of the temple entrance rose up before him and as he looked inside he saw that the ground within immediately dropped away with wide stairs leading down into the earth. The red glow flickered upwards from those depths as did the chanting. He could here the words clearly now,

"From shadow comes fear, from fear comes hatred, from hatred comes power. So we fear and so we are strong."

Keeping his sabre lit he moved down the stairway and into the bowels of the temple. The floor and walls seemed to be bathed in blood as the red glow grew closer and brighter and soon the steps ended and he walked forward along a short passageway leading into a huge hall.

"From shadow comes fear, from fear comes hatred, from hatred comes power. So we fear and so we are strong."

The words were repeated by many voices and now he saw their source. In the centre of the room a great shrine and what looked to be a sacrificial table was surrounded by twelve tall statues. He guessed they were images of the ancient Sith Masters. Each one was terrifying to behold, their features warped and twisted into demonic visages designed to bring terror to any who stood before them. At the foot of each great statue low stone tables had been built and lying upon them were the twelve lost masters. They were writhing against unseen bindings, eyes wide open in horror as they looked up towards the towering Sith statues. As they lay there in a tortured trance they spoke;

"From shadow comes fear, from fear comes hatred, from hatred comes power. So we fear and so we are strong."

Oram saw that the source of the light was a sabre. It was floating about the central shrine. The red glow of the ancient Sith weapon was painful to look at and his own blue sabre seemed a weak and pitiful thing in comparison. It was useless to pit his own weapon against such a thing. In disgust he flicked the blue sabre off and let it fall to the ground. As it struck the chanting abruptly stopped. The Jedi gasped in horror then as he saw more light sabres discarded on the ground at his feet. He did not have to count them to know that there would be twelve besides his own. A flicker of thought called out for him to pick the weapon back up but it was swept away the voices of the masters spoke once more in unison.

"FROM THE SHADOWS YOU HAVE COME..." the sound filled his mind and he tried to cover his ears. Visions of horror poured in and obscured his sight. He gasped for air and staggered forward towards the central shrine. He was drowning in the terror of this place. Thousands of tortured souls battling for the tattered shreds of his sanity. He was losing himself. The abyss waiting, that or...

He cried out, not in terror this time but in rage. He saw his master now, for a moment their eyes seemed to lock and the utter despair he saw in Uthas eyes forced him over the edge. He allowed rage to fill him, to drive him forward. They would pay for what they had done here. For what they were doing to his master. He was Oram Vord a master of the force and he would save them and complete the ruin of this forsaken place started so many years ago.

"FROM FEAR COMES HATRED..."

Oram mastered himself, standing there panting heavily with the strain of it. The fear welled up around him trying to find a crack in his defences a place where it could seep in and overwhelm him. He kept it at bay with a will of iron fueled by hatred. He saw Utha straining against his bonds reaching up towards him, his eye pleading.

"I will save you master!" Oram called to him and he saw clearly now how he would do it. The chanting had started again but not from the masters this time. It came from the shadows beyond. He smiled grimly and walked forwards towards the red sabre. He would teach them, he would show them the real meaning of power.

"FROM HATRED COMES POWER!" the masters cried the words out as if in agony as they writhed beneath the statues.

Oram leapt atop the central shrine and snatched the light sabre out of the air. It came easily to him, a willing servant to his power. As he held it there bathed in the red light he felt power flood into him and understood for the first time the futility of fighting against the dark side of the force. It was a vast and magnificent well of power and it was there for the taking. He looked around at the so called Jedi Masters, trapped here by the merest tendril of dark power. He could see it now. The force emanated from the statues holding the Jedi in their thrall. They were pitiful. No.. no they were his...

"SO WE FEAR..." the voices called out.

And now he saw the truth of it. Each of them had given in to fear rather than rise above it. They were weak and they were misguided. How could he have ever respected these people? They lay there helpless while he a mere Jedi Knight stood strong and victorious. No... not a Jedi, no longer. Shame clawed at him, years of training pulled at his mind. His love for his master the reason he was here... was a lie.

"AND SO WE ARE STRONG!"

This time Oram joined the chorus as he descended upon his one time masters with all of his hatred, all of his scorn and all of his fear. Each one died in searing agony and he drove his blade into them, swiping away limbs and severing heads from torsos. There was no room for thought or doubt as the darkness of this place did its work taking possession of his mind. A small corner of his mind screamed out in horror but that just fed his rage until there was nothing else left. There was little blood which disappointed him he realised.

He came last of all to his master and he saw that the Devaronian was weeping. Pathetic. He flicked the red sabre twice, snipping away the horns which brought his master such pride and then feeling sudden power well up inside of him he deactivated the sabre and opened his palms wide releasing force lighting into the body of his Master. He screamed in rage and shame as he poured out his power into the blackening corpse.

When it was all over Oram found himself kneeling before the remains of his master. Tears were flooding down his cheeks and he let them fall, cursing his weakness. What had he done? What had he... There came the soft sound of clapping from the darkness behind him. Rage bubbled up within him once more and the sharp sting of shame and guilt. Who dares...

There came a voice from the darkness like a stab of ice to his heart,

"Rise my young apprentice. Rise and together we will show the galaxy the true meaning of fear."

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