The Old Republic
The Emperor's Wrath
By Jonathon Morris
(Based on the Sith Warrior Storyline.)
THE FORTRESS OF LORD GRATHAN
Zorn and Vette wasted no time returning to Baras’ chambers. They ran into the training/tortor area and found that Commander Lanklyn and his men had completed their task. Darth Baras overlooked his carbonite-contained prize for any signs of damage from the battle at the hanger. Zorn and Vette approached Darth Baras as the blue skinned Twi’lek started to shiver as she drew herself closer to Baras.
“Ah, apprentice, welcome back,” Baras greeted, drawing his attention away from the person frozen in carbonite. “Lanklyn informed me of the ambush at the cargo port. Apparently, there are more eyes on us then even I thought. I have felt a disturbance in the Force. It leaves doom imprinted on my dreams. It’s a grave and mysterious threat that could bring down my entire power base.”
Baras indicated the man frozen in carbonite to his apprentice. “This frozen man is a top Republic agent,” Bara explained. “He was captured while investigating my most deeply imbedded spy on Nar Saddaa, one of my ‘invisibles.’ The Force grants me a vision of doom, and immediately, my untraceable spy, who has left no footprints and no trails, is almost exposed. It makes me furious.”
Zorn could feel his master’s frustration and his master’s need to unleash it on something… or someone for that matter.
“It could just be a coincidence, master,” Zorn said, after choosing his next words carefully.
“It’s not a coincidence, my apprentice,” Darth Baras assured. “I can feel it. I must learn what tripped off this Republic agent. He is the key to uncovering the nature of this threat. Now, I have some concerns that require your special talents, while I thaw the prisoner and painfully siphon every morsel of information I can from him.”
“Tell me what I must do, master,” Zorn said.
“No rest for the wicked, I guess,” Vette commented under her breath.
“I want you to go to the Imperial post in the jungles outside of the city,” Baras instructed. “Commander Pritch is stationed there. He has a seek and destroy task for you.”
“It’ll be done before you know it,” Zorn said, containing his delight to for getting and destroy task. With that, Baras dismissed his apprentice and his Twi’lek companion.
Zorn and Vette made their way to Imperial post without any sign of trouble from the wildlife inside the jungle. Imperial troopers patrolled the area, their blasters at the ready for sign of trouble. The only thing that bothered the two travelers was the rain. As they approached the post, Zorn and Vette picked up the sound of blaster fire and combat and it got louder as they got closer. Once they arrived at the post, Zorn asked near by troopers for the whereabouts of Commander Pritch.
All of the directions they got led to a bridge that led a nearby battle. Zorn and Vette approached Commander Pritch, a human male of average height and shaved head that was covered by an officer’s hat, or cover as Imperial troops called them. The Commander saw the Sith Pureblood and the Twi’lek approach him and turned his attention towards them.
“Commander Pritch at your service, my lord,” the commander introduced. “Lord Baras informed me you’d be paying us a visit. I’m prepared to offer full assistance.”
The way the commander spoke, Zorn felt that something was off. But he decided to go along with the act. “You’re ready for me, huh? News travels fast,” Zorn commented.
“Lord Baras in nothing if not efficient. Let me follow his lead and bring you up to speed,” Pritch said. “There’s been much unrest in these parts recently, my lord, capped off by a violent slave revolt that has the surrounding jungles overrun with armed slaves.”
“Then, they’re not slaves anymore, now are they?”
“I stand corrected, my lord. They are armed former slaves.” Then, Pritch came closer to Zorn and lowered his voice. “What no one knows is that Lord Baras orchestrated the insurgence to disrupt one of his rivals and he wants his involvement kept secret.”
So that is why the commander is act weird, Zorn thought.
“Now, the slave captains who led the revolt are threatening to expose Baras’ involvement unless they receive more potent weapons,” Pritch continued. “You’d think they’d know better than to blackmail a Sith Lord.”
“Slaves. They’re never satisfied. They just want more,” Zorn muttered.
“Having been a slave for a period of time, I’d say that’s an understatement,” Vette said in frustration.
After an awkward moment, Pritch finally said, “Anyway, Lord Baras wants you to kill enough of the blackmailing slave captains to make the others lose their resolve.”
“I’ll kill everyone I see,” Zorn said.
“Present company excluded, I hope,” Vette said, still pissed by Zorn’s slave comment.
“You have nothing to worry about, Vette,” Zorn assured.
“The slaves are scattered throughout the area, but the captains tend to congregate near the unfinished colossus. I’ll wait here for your return,” Pritch said.
Vette and Zorn walked away from the commander approached the bridge to combat and destruction. Vette looked back at Commander Pritch and said, “Takes guts to sit here and wait, don’t you think?”
“Why don’t you take it up with the commander?” Zorn said sarcastically. “I’m sure he’d appreciate the constructive criticism.”
“No. I think I’ll let him live in shame,” Vette said.
“How Sith of you. Ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Vette said drawing her blasters.
Zorn and Vette carved a path of death as they made their way to the unfinished colossus that Commander Pritch spoke off. Most the slaves they encountered were either human or members of the Zabrak species; armed with blasters, practice sabers, bowstaffs and heavy-duty blaster cannons. But even with all that firepower and weaponry, the revolting slaves couldn’t stop Zorn’s warpath.
Zorn and Vette found the camp of the slave captains just outside of the unfinished colossus, which was a statue a hooded Sith Lord holding a Sith holocron. Zorn and Vette caught to the captains by surprise. Some of the captains weren’t given the chance to draw their weapons before they were stroke down by Zorn’s lightsaber.
Vette didn’t pull any punches when it came to ending the lives of the slaves. Zorn wondered if Vette was pulling her weight on this task out of fear that if she didn’t, she would have the shock collar placed on her neck again. Or maybe, she saw killing them as means of saving them from a far more painful fate. It didn’t matter to Zorn in any case as long as the task was completed.
Zorn and Vette returned to Commander Pritch’s post, catching the commander of guard. “Ah, my lord…you’ve returned,” Pritch said with astonishment. “I take it many slave captains have died this day.”
“Are you surprised, Imperial?” Zorn said, annoyed.
“Oh, I…I didn’t mean to doubt you,” Pritch back paddled. “Please take no offense. I must say, my lord, it’s been inspiring to watch you work.”
“I’m sure it has,” Zorn said, wondering if he was being monitored in some form or other, even when it didn’t seem possible to him.
“I’ll inform Lord Baras that the situation has been handled.”
“Before you do that, I’m curious about something,” Zorn said. He beckoned the commander to come closer for a more quiet chat. “Who is this rival that my master wanted to disrupt?”
“I’m surprised you haven’t heard of this. Your master has had a long rivalry with a Sith Pureblood named Darth Vowrawn. They have been at each other’s throats for years. The unfinished colossus was meant to be a dedication to him and his apprentice, Lord Qet. Personally, I think Lord Baras is out of his mind for taking on Lord Vowrawn.”
“What makes you say that?”
“Because Lord Vowrawn is a member of the Dark Council.”
“I see. Thank you for your assistance.”
“Any time, my lord,” Pritch said before returning to his duty.
“I…I don’t care what you do. Break my bones, burn my flesh. I’ll…tell you nothing!” were the agonizing words that Zorn and Vette heard coming out the spy’s mouth when they walked into Baras’ torture chamber. The spy’s face was all bruised up, with a few cuts on it and a bloody lip. He was strapped to the torture table, making him unable to prevent himself from receiving the beats.
“I will not be DENIED!” Baras roared, unleash a wave of purple lightning from his fingertips. The bolts encompassed the spy and circulated through his body. His strained body jerked about and he howled in unholy pain.
“G-g-g-g-go s-s-s-s-s-spit, you m-m-m-monster!” the spy said once Baras’ attack ended. Baras unleashed another way of Sith lightning.
“I didn’t know bodies could bend like that,” Vette said with a shaky voice. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“Makes the shock collar seem tame, doesn’t it?” Zorn said.
“I rather take the shock collar then…that,” Vette said before turning her head away from the torture.
“If you’re going to empty your stomach now, make sure you don’t do it on my boots.”
Baras stopped his torture once he heard the conversation that Zorn was having with Vette. “Ah, apprentice, you’ve returned,” Baras said turning his attention away from the spy. “Commander Pritch confirmed that the slaves have been silenced. Good. I wished I had your luck. I’m still trying to extract the information I crave from this Republic agent. He’s much more resilient then anticipated.”
“He’ll crack, master. I’m sure of it,” Zorn encouraged.
“I will not rest until it does. In the meantime, I have another important task for you. It involves a renegade Sith Lord by the name of Grathan. He’s a particular bothersome thorn in my side. Meet with my apprentice, Dri’kill Ba’al. He’s my covert operative in Grathan’s compound. Ba’al claims to have made a key discovery.”
“I thought I was your only apprentice. That makes Ba’al my rival.”
“Try to tolerate him long enough to get the details and conclude your business there.”
“Yes, master. Do you know the nature of Ba’al’s discovery?”
“Ba’al only communicates in predetermined signals. He was to find Grathan’s exploitable weakness and today he sent the success signal. Grathan’s presence is useful to me, so I don’t want him killed, just crippled. Find out what Ba’al has discovered and do exactly as he instructs.”
“Yes, master,” Zorn bowed.
“Now then, Republic wretch, where were we?” Baras taunted as he turned his attention to the spy. Baras unleashed another way of Sith lightning on the spy as Vette raced out of the room to throw up. Zorn took his time to rejoin her, hoping that she would be done vomiting when he got to her.
Unlike the cargo port and the encampment of the slave captains, Zorn and Vette had to be stealthier when it came to Lord Grathan’s compound. The grounds were surround by patrol droids and guardsmen, who were armed with blasters and practice swords. Zorn took the lead, coming up behind each droid and guardsman. Once he was close enough, he ignited his saber for an instant kill and switched it off once the deed was done. This maneuver lasted for only a couple of moments. But guardsmen coming out of the building caught them in the act of killing. Vette and Zorn made quick and noisy work of them before the alarm could be raised.
They entered the building and were met with heavy resistance. They didn’t last long as they cut down one by one at the hands of Zorn’s lightsaber. Vette provided cover for Zorn’s back, but she didn’t see much in terms of action. All she saw was what remained of Zorn’s carnage. The resistance of Lord Grathan’s forces came to an end once Zorn and Vette reached the office owned by Dri’kill Ba’al and went inside.
Dri’kill Ba’al was dark skin human of average height. He wore red armor, the same color as the armor of the guardsmen. A standard hilt lightsaber hung on Ba’al’s belt. He also had a cross shaped scar across him entire face. Ba’al notice the new arrivals at his office and took his attention away from his work.
“You must be the operative Lord Baras sent,” Dri’kill Ba’al observed. “I thought he’d choose a stealthy assassin, not some senseless savage.”
“You better watch who you’re calling a savage, Ba’al,” Zorn warned.
“You’re not talking to one of Baras’ Imperial peons,” Ba’al stated. “I’ll be working for Lord Baras long after you’ve worn out your welcome.”
“Oh, I highly doubt that,” Zorn said with cunning smile.
“We’ve got business to handle. With the entire complex roused, we’ll have to get in each other’s faces another time. Now, listen. Lord Grathan is a rogue Sith who boldly defies the Dark Council. Locked away here, he’s been untouchable. Lord Baras wants to let Grathan know he can be reached. And after a year of undercover work, I’ve discovered the way. Lord Grathan has a son.”
“And in another year, you’ll find what his shoe size is,” Zorn cracked. Vette bitter her lower lip to stop herself from laughing.
“He wears boots, not shoes, smartass,” Ba’al corrected. Zorn grinned. He was getting under Ba’al skin. “I was assigned to find Grathan’s weakness. He’s kept his son a secret in order to protect him from his enemies. Grathan would be devastated if his only child and heir were dead. That would send a message.”
“Fine by me. Tell me where he is.”
Ba’al hand Zorn the location of Lord Grathan’s son and data spike. “Grathan’s kid is nearly twenty and strong with the Force.” Ba’al added with amusement in his voice. “He’s been trained in the ways of the Sith since birth. You’ll have your hands full.”
“Good. The tougher the better.”
“Grathan’s away on business. Use the spike I gave you will get inside his son’s private quarters. But first, you’re going to have to knock out Grathan’s surveillance stations so you aren’t seen entering the quarters. If you don’t, the surveillance system acts as defensive network and you’ll never reach the quarters. All you need to do is locate the monitoring stations around the compound, and well, stick your lightsaber into them. Think you can handle that, brute?”
“Is that all I need to know?” Zorn asked, ignoring Ba’al taunt.
“That’s all,” Ba’al said, sounding a little disappointed. “I’ll meet you back here when you’re done. Try not to screw it up.”
Ba’al turned his back on Zorn and went back to his work. Zorn and Vette left to complete their mission. Ba’al could hear the Twi’lek shouting in pain as Zorn whacked her upside the head for saying, “I kind of like his attitude.”
Destroying the monitoring stations around the compound was a rather simply task. It was so simply that Ba’al could’ve done it himself before he arrived, at least that’s what Zorn thought. But he didn’t let it bother him. It was a good way to improve his skills as a Sith juggernaut. Vette and Zorn split up to make the destruction of the stations easier. Vette went with a stealthier approach, drawing on her experience as a pirate to get the job done. For Zorn, it looked as if a ranging beast had craved a path through the compound.
Once all the monitoring stations were wiped out, Vette and Zorn entered the fortress once more. They followed the coordinate that Ba’al provide and hoped that Baras’ undercover apprentice wasn’t setting them up. As they got closer, they were with heavy resistance, heavier then when they first fought their way to get to Ba’al’s office. This meant that they were getting close to Grathan’s son.
The resistance halted their advance, but not for long. One by one they all fell to either Zorn’s lightsaber or Vette’s blasters. Vette got work on the door that had Grathan’s son behind it, using the data spike as Ba’al had instructed. After a short moment, the door opened.
“Mother, a stranger approaches,” said a young human male with dirty blonde hair and wearing dark armor as Zorn and Vette entered the room. The middle age woman, who wore a form fitting gray and red suit and her head encased in a red and gray headpiece of a trapezoid shape. Hang on her belt was a lightsaber, labeling her as a Sith. Her face had a couple of wrinkles, but it was from aging natural and gracefully, not deep emersion in the dark side of the Force. She had dark purple make-up on her face, the same style as the woman Zorn and Vette met on the shuttle down to the planet.
“You don’t know that half of it, kid,” Vette said.
“I am Cellvanta Grathan!” the middle aged woman protested. “How dare you enter my son’s room uninvited? Who are you?”
“Step aside, woman,” Zorn demanded. “I’m here for the boy.”
“You’ll have to kill me first,” Cellvanta said. “While my son is still an acolyte, I am fully Sith.”
“Then, we have something in common, Cellvanta,” Zorn said, drawing his lightsaber and igniting it.
“Beelzlit, take cover!” Cellvanta ordered as she drew her saber.
“No, mother! I will stand by your side,” Beelzlit Grathan shouted, drawing his practice saber. He charged at Zorn, but the Sith juggernaut hurled the young man across the room. Cellvanta went on the offensive, only to be over powered by Zorn’s counter offensive. Cellvanta unleashed a powerful Force hurl at Zorn, knocking the Sith Warrior off his feet.
Zorn got back up as Cellvanta came in for a killing strike. Cellvanta was quite the skilled swordswoman Zorn had to admit. It made him wonder if his own mother was just as skilled, if not better.
“Look out!” Vette warned as Beelzlit charged at Zorn. She fired at the young acolyte, but he dodged her bolts. Zorn kicked Cellvanta hard at her side and whirled at Beelzlit. The young man had little time to react as Zorn craved his practice sword in half.
“Stop!” Beelzlit demanded. His mother staggered her way to join him, holding the area where Zorn had kicked her. “It is clear that you are more than a match for us. Mother, if I am the target then save yourself. I don’t want to see you die.”
Zorn understood the young man’s feelings all too well. He might have said similar words to his own mother before she died in the war. But he was a child then and he barely remembered anything back then.
“My son, you must not sacrifice yourself for anyone, not even me. You must endure at all costs,” Cellvanta said. She turned her attention to Zorn. “Assassin, you’ve carved your way into the inner sanctum of Lord Grathan’s compound, all to kill a boy? You are a breath away from the master himself. Spare us…spare my son and I’ll help you destroy Lord Grathan instead.”
“You want me to kill your husband. Aren’t you the dutiful wife?” Zorn remarked, after over coming the shock of learning that Lord Grathan was still in the compound.
“I married Lord Grathan for power. It was a means to an end. Now I want out. I’m strong, but I can’t touch my husband. How long I’ve waited for someone to end his oppressive rule.”
“I’m ordered to keep your husband alive, but I will hear to what you have to say.”
“Fair enough. Long age, my husband was nearly beheaded. Now he cannot exist without his helmeted mask. Everyone knows this. What I propose is this: Kill Lord Grathan. My son will wear the mask and assume his mantle. He’ll probably rant that his son was murdered. No one will be the wiser.”
Zorn had to admit that what Cellvanta was proposing was a good plan. He always wanted to kill a Lord of the Sith and this was a good opportunity for it. And Baras would never suspect that Beelzlit replaced his father. But then, Zorn remembered what Commander Pritch said about watching him work. Zorn still hadn’t figured out how that was possible without his notice and it worried him.
“And what do I get in return?” Zorn asked after a moment.
“In addition to appearing successful in your task, I’ll reward you in either credits or an item of power. Your choice,” Cellvanta answered.
Zorn took his time to weigh his opinions. He had no need for credits. He could get those any time, whether it was working on an odd job or by taking them off the corpse of fresh kills. The item of power that Cellvanta mentions peeked the young Sith Pureblood’s interest. But there was one thing that crept into his mind. After the deed of killing Lord Grathan was done, they could easily turn against him. There was also another fact that crept inside his head: if he killed Cellvanta and her son, Grathan could send an assassin to take him out. There was always the chance that Grathan had a survaillance system that Ba’al knew nothing about. One way or the other, Zorn would be damned.
“I’m sorry, but I have my orders,” Zorn said, raising his saber.
“Beelzlit, run!” Cellvanta order before Zorn ended her life.
“No!” Beelzlite cried, calling his mother’s lightsaber to him. Zorn intercepted the saber and used it to kill the boy.
“Wow, I thought you might go for the deal,” Vette said in astonishment.
“There was too much of risk of being betrayed,” Zorn said. “I chose the less of two evils.”
“I see,” Vette said upon realizing what Zorn meant. “So, what now?”
“I think Baras is going to be needing a new spy,” Zorn said with delightful smile on his face.