Fane fell to his knees as the Sith dragged him along and into a circular room, where several other Sith sat with Awgro in the centre. It looked like a meditation chamber of some sort. Fane ignored the friction burn he felt on his knees. He took the time to catch his breath.
Awgro stood, as did others, and walked towards Fane. Awgro scowled.
‘I thought you were going to bring back Talyc Kandera!’
‘He proved more difficult to capture than we anticipated,’ replied one of the Sith holding Fane.
‘More difficult to capture than a Jedi?’ Awgro snapped incredulously.
‘He had help! Shadie and Knarf arrived at the scene.’
‘Well, I suppose Fane will do. He’s not going to help me claim the Crypt, though, is he?’
‘We could use him as leverage,’ another Sith said. ‘We’re not going to claim or gain anything without some of that too.’
‘I suppose you’re right,’ said Awgro.
‘You know, for a leader, you’re awfully lenient,’ said Fane, defiance in his voice.
‘That’s because the Reformed Sith have no leader,’ said Awgro. ‘We work as one, and follow the dark side of the Force as it should be.’
‘What are you going to do to me?’ asked Fane.
‘That is a matter that is up for debate,’ replied Awgro.
Fane frowned. ‘I’m more powerful than you, Awgro. I killed Relsor.’
A masked Sith standing further back made a noise in his throat.
‘That you did, but we’ll see how powerful you are once the Force has been completely stripped from you.’
Awgro ignited his lightsaber and grazed Fane’s arm, ripping his shirt in the process. Fane moaned in pain, putting his hand on the wound to cover it up and holding it there.
‘My best shirt. You certainly have timing, to plan this coup on my wedding night!’ Some of the Sith snickered. ‘But you know what? You can never fully strip me from the Force because I have the power of the Crypt and you don’t. I will always have a piece of the Force within me, no matter what.’
Awgro crouched to look at Fane at hise eye level. ‘Maybe what you say is true, Fane, but you see, I will take your life away from you, I will take everything away from you. I want that Crypt and I will have it. And my companions want the galaxy they were promised, no matter how they get it.’
‘If this is about avenging Relsor’s death–’
‘This is not about revenge!’ one of the other Sith said firmly, a tall male Chagrian of a pale purple colour. He took Fane’s face and squeezed his cheeks hard. ‘This is about rectifying the error you made and correcting the course of the Force to balance it out towards the dark side.’
‘Balance? Pfft! You want to tip the scales!’
The Chagrian narrowed his eyes and began to drain Fane of the Force again. He seemed to be the strongest in that ability among the rest of them. Awgro began draining Fane of his life. Then they both stopped.
‘Let’s lock him up,’ said Awgro. ‘We’ll figure out what to do with him later.’
The Chagrian nodded and stood. ‘Take him away,’ he said.
Fane was dragged by the arms out of the room and propped up. He staggered into a room with containment fields and was thrown into one of the smaller cells. The containment field came up. He observed how Awgro and the Chagrian seemed to have the most authority, though they claimed they had no leaders. This was odd, yet perhaps they decided things as a council but with spokespersons.
Fane watched the Sith leave. One of them, the one who wore a mask over his face and hood over his head, turned back to look at him for a moment. Fane tried to get a sense of the man who merely stood there watching him before he turned back and exited like the others.
Fane lifted his hand from the wound on his arm and looked under the rip in his shirt. He sighed in relief. Although he still felt remnants of pain, the mark was gone; there was no cauterization whatsoever.
‘Healed,’ he whispered to himself.
He closed his eyes. Even drained from the Force, his body could regenerate. He focused and tried to muster the Force within him, however much of it that had not been drained, the little bit that was still there. He tried reaching out to the others, but he could not find them in the Force. He focused on Lian, but the Jedi healer felt too distant for him to feel him. So Fane turned his focus on the Sphere, he felt it searching for him, he felt it more strongly than he could feel the others, he assumed it was because of its own abilities. He let himself shine like a glowing beacon for it, ready to be found, calling out to it through the Force as loudly as he could, hoping it would sense him and find his location, wherever that actually was.
* * *
Talyc sat on his bed, staring at the holoimages of the previous night on his datapad. Knarf sat down next to his friend.
‘You’re going to torture yourself if you just stare at those all day,’ he said gently.
‘These, and the lightsaber, are all I’ve got left of Fane right now,’ said Talyc. ‘How do I know he’s even still alive if no one can sense him in the Force?’
Knarf didn’t know what to say that would comfort Talyc, for he did not feel any comfort himself.
Talyc stood and walked to the holomonitor console.
‘Who are you calling?’ asked Knarf.
‘You’ll see,’ replied Talyc, and Knarf saw when the holoimage of Vax appeared on the screen.
‘Talyc, what an unexpected surprise. What can I do you for?’
‘Vax, I need a favour,’ said Talyc gravely. Knarf could tell his friend was trying to keep it together.
Vax scowled. ‘Is everything all right?’ Talyc shook his head. ‘What’s wrong? I thought last night was–’
‘They’ve taken Fane!’
‘What?’ Vax leaned forward, concern in his eyes.
‘The Reformed Sith, as they’re calling themselves, came for me last night, but they…’ Talyc’s voice cracked. He paused before resuming. ‘They failed and instead left with Fane.’
‘What do you need me to do? I’ll do it!’
‘Find him. Find them.’ Talyc’s voice was hoarse, commanding, sad, and determined all at the same time. ‘Find Fane and bring him back to me safely.’
‘I’ll get our agents on it and I’ll speak to the Minister of Intelligence,’ said Vax. ‘We’ll search all the edges of the galaxy. More anti-stealth prototypes have arrived, so we’re going to double down in case they’re using stealth as well. If we find anything, I’ll let you know right away.’
‘Thank you.’ Talyc closed the call. He lingered at the monitor, leaning forward on it. ‘I’m such an idiot, Bes’laar. When the wind came in and the door opened, I should have realised we had closed it. Because I remember now we did. Fane kicked it closed as he pinned me to the wall before… Who captures someone when they are in the middle of making love!’
‘A very sick and twisted group of people, that’s who,’ said Knarf, walking to his friend. ‘And Talyc, you’re Fane’s idiot.’
Talyc smiled. ‘Thanks.’
‘You can always count on me!’ said Knarf.
Shadie entered, accompanied by Brenum and Trylia. She looked from Knarf to Talyc. She looked like she was holding back tears.
‘My love, it’s okay.’
She closed her eyes and shook her head, weeping. ‘No, it’s not. I’m sorry, Talyc.’
‘You have as much right to cry as I do, Shadie.’ Talyc hugged Shadie and they held each other tightly. ‘Don’t feel bad just for that.’
Shadie nodded. ‘No word from anyone yet and Lian’s not able to find Fane in the Force. He keeps searching; he keeps trying to detect him through their connection. He’s there, he feels him, but he can’t get a lock on him. Similarly to how I could feel Relsor draining me but I could not reach him. The Force is being drained from him. And every time it appears as though he’s beginning to shine through again, it’s subdued.’ Shadie wiped her eyes. ‘They took him because they couldn’t take you, and they couldn’t take you because we were too good of a team fighting them and killing them. They had to get away.’
Silence ensued. After a while, Brenum broke the silence. ‘There are Mandalorians ready to question the prisoners. They wanted to know if you wanted to be part of the questioning process.’
‘That’s a mild term for it,’ said Talyc. ‘They’re going to torture them, but Sith can’t be reasoned with. Not those Sith anyway.’ Talyc looked around the room. ‘I’ll go. But I need to change out of these clothes first.’
Knarf couldn’t help but worry about what this questioning might do to Talyc with the way he was feeling.
‘I’ll accompany you,’ he said.
‘And so will we!’ said Brenum.
* * *
Talyc secured his weapons as he marched his way to the cells where the remaining Reformed Sith were being held captive. Mandalorians stood inside and outside, guarding the area, and ysalamiri had been placed around, not that they thought it would stop the Sith from escaping. As far as Talyc knew, they all had learnt from Relsor and knew his tricks, just like Awgro.
Talyc realised he had been clenching his jaw the whole way there. As they made their way to enter, Knarf stopped him.
‘Are you sure you’re okay to do this?’
‘Yes!’ Talyc put his helmet on and entered the bunker. He took one look at the Sith and then ignited Fane’s lightsaber.
One of the Reformed Sith sat at a chair, secured in place, ready to be “questioned,” while the others stood in a cell behind a containment field.
Talyc pointed the aqua lightsaber at his throat. ‘Tell me where your companions have taken my husband or I will run his lightsaber through your throat.’
The Sith laughed. ‘You think you scare us, Talyc Kandera? You Mandalorians call yourselves warriors, but you don’t possess the Force, not you anyway. Our former master always thought it was a shame you didn’t. You would have made a formidable Sith. You’d still need to be killed so that Awgro could claim the Crypt, but those are mere details.’
‘Mere details?’ this came from Shadie. ‘Why does Awgro want the Crypt? How is it going to help him make the Empire what he claims it’s meant to be?’
‘Awgro’s the one who’s doing all the work for us,’ said the Sith, ‘but we will all have the power of the Crypt, every single one of us.’
‘What? Every single Reformed Sith?’ asked Brenum in disbelief.
‘Every one of us,’ repeated the Sith.
‘And none of you even killed a master or someone close?’ inquired Shadie. ‘It could perhaps save Awgro the trouble of killing Talyc.’
Another Sith snickered. ‘All our masters were killed by our other masters, except for Relsor. And we’re not going to kill each other.’
‘Oh, what a shame,’ said Brenum, his voice thick with sarcasm.
‘You know, I actually second that opinion,’ said Trylia. There was an edge to her cool, even voice.
‘We willingly sacrifice ourselves for our cause, if we must’ said the Sith Talyc was threatening.
‘So you won’t mind if I just kill you then.’
‘You wouldn’t taint the blade of the pure Jedi whom you call your husband. You wouldn’t use his weapon to have my blood on his weapon, while it would still be on your hands.’
Talyc powered off the lightsaber. ‘You’re right.’ He took out his vibroblade and rammed it into the Sith’s throat.
‘Talyc, no!’ cried the others.
‘You’re next!’ he shouted at the other Sith. They stood by the far wall of the cell. ‘Take the containment field down.’
‘Talyc, think about this.’ There was warning in Knarf’s voice.
‘Just do it.’ The other Mandalorians complied. Talyc walked into the cell. ‘Make one move to escape and it will be your last.’
‘Torture is not going to give us any answers,’ said Trylia.
‘No one asked your opinion, Trylia,’ Talyc barked back, while still staring at the Sith.
‘Hey, don’t talk to her that way,’ snapped Brenum.
‘And dissent in the ranks is precisely why you are all going to fall if you don’t bow to the Reformed Empire when we reshape the galaxy as it was intended to be reshaped.’
Talyc began kicking and punching the Sith. Some of them used the Force to defend themselves and he activated the shield to protect himself from their attacks. Suddenly, he felt his senses leave him and he was screaming and beating the Sith in a frenzy, hitting them with the butt of his vibroblade. Next thing he knew, he was being dragged out of the bunker. His helmet left his head and he was pinned to the wall.
‘Talyc! Stop it! Please!’
Talyc looked down, feeling ashamed. ‘I’m sorry, Bes’laar. I just… I saw red.’
‘It’s actually a good thing you don’t have the Force!’ said Knarf. Talyc tried to push Knarf off him but his friend had his hands on Talyc’s shoulders and held him firmly in place. ‘Breathe!’ Knarf shook his head. ‘I’ve only seen such intense anger in those who possess the dark side, and… This isn’t you.’
‘Someone needs to pay! Someone is to blame!’
‘Yeah! And someone other than me!’ His words stung him, as did the tears welling in his eyes.
‘Talyc, you’re not to blame,’ said Knarf more gently. ‘Where is this coming from?’
‘I’m… I’m being punished for what I’ve done in the past,’ said Talyc.
‘Nothing and no one is punishing you, Talyc.’
Knarf’s eyes were tender and full of sorrow. Talyc let himself fall into his arms and allowed his friend to reassure him as he wept. They sat down on the ground, leaning against the side of the bunker. Talyc leaned his head back.
‘You’re probably right,’ said Talyc, ‘it’s a kriffing good thing I don’t possess the Force.’ He laughed at his predicament.
‘You know, I get it, I’ve felt that kind of anger before,’ said Knarf. ‘Shadie has felt that kind of anger before. It’s easy to just get lost on that path.’
‘Except I’ve got you to always redirect me when I start to stray, don’t I?’
‘Only because you were there for me when I needed you the most,’ said Knarf. ‘What you did, taking Kromus’s bounty and pretending to kill me in order to save me, that came straight from your heart.’ Knarf placed his hand at Talyc’s breastplate. ‘Don’t let your fear or guilt taint that goodness that you have inside of you.’
‘Now you sound like Master Herl’unik,’ said Talyc.
‘Someone’s got to, someone’s got to knock some sense into you.’
Talyc looked at Knarf. ‘Thank you.’
* * *
Shadie took a deep breath, looking at the others as the Mandalorians reinforced the containment field around the Sith. There was a long silence.
‘Do you think we should go and make sure he’s okay?’ asked Trylia softly.
‘Knarf’s doing that,’ said Brenum dryly.
‘Don’t be upset at him,’ said Trylia.
‘I’m worried about him,’ replied Brenum.
‘Can everyone leave the bunker, please?’ said Shadie, an idea coming to mind. ‘And that means everyone.’
‘Shadie?’ Brenum eyed her warily.
‘Now!’ She put urgency and command into her voice. Everyone left the bunker, her friends a bit more reluctantly than the Mandos, but everyone did as she had asked.
‘You see, that’s how you master obedience in others, which is something Relsor lacked, and thus was never able to properly teach you,’ said Shadie, turning towards the Reformed Sith. ‘That’s why you have no leader, because none of you are able to lead. Yet you follow Awgro, and I’m sure he’s not the only one at the top. That speaks of disaster. When you all have the power of the Crypt, how will you get along? You need someone who will lead, who knows how to lead, who will garner respect. You need someone you want to follow and obey. I don’t think Awgro has what it takes, to be honest. Any of you have what it takes?’
The Sith just stared at her. She laughed.
‘Look, they don’t call me Darth Shadie for nothing. Why do you think I was on Korriban for nearly five months? You can’t just master the dark side and expect the galaxy will tip into balance towards the dark side. You need to understand that balance, and master both dark and light to tip the balance to one side whenever it’s necessary.’
Shadie inclined her head and went on. ‘You want to tip the scale, fine, but you’re going to need to do it in a much better way than following someone who has no idea what he’s doing.’
‘And that’s following you?’
‘Oh, no. No, no, don’t follow me. Has anyone ever challenged Awgro to see what happens? If he wants to be in charge, he has to earn it. Why does he get to claim the Crypt and not any one of you?’
‘Because he’s willing to do what it takes and has most of the trials already completed.’
‘And you’re not willing to do what it takes?’ asked Shadie. She took a more casual stance, motiining with her arms when emphasising certain things as she spoke. ‘Awgro doesn’t know what the extra trials entail. I do. I can tell you what they are. It’ll be to your discretion if you share it with him or not, but if I tell you, I need you to tell me where Fane is. We don’t need to do this the hard way, you know. You can ask politely to claim the Crypt; of course, I’ll say no, but we can negotiate something. I’m the Lady of the Crypt, and I know how to lead. Find someone amongst you who is worthy of taking it from me, and I might consider letting them. So long as it doesn’t involve killing anyone of my friends or allies, so long as it’s not Awgro. And maybe, we could become allies, or not. We can debate that later. My enemy is Awgro, it doesn’t have to be you.’
‘You talk too much!’
Shadie laughed. ‘So I’m told. I just love the sound of my own voice. You know, that reminds me–’
‘Fine!’ said the Sith in the middle. He looked down at his dead companion. ‘Do we tell her?’
‘She tells us first,’ said another of the Sith.
Shadie considered for but a beat before answering. She knew it was a risk to tell them, but them knowing wouldn’t put her or the Crypt in any danger, and it might just garner the necessary trust needed in this moment for them to tell her what she wanted to know.
‘The extra trial I had to do was to prove that I understood this balance in the Force between the dark side and the light side, and I had to show that I could master both the light and dark sides. I doubt Awgro can accomplish that, but perhaps one of you could. There will be another extra trial, since I still live, and I don’t know what that one will entail, but I can only guess that you will have to prove your worth. Lian knows what they all are and I’ve heard him whisper hints about mastering the art of negotiation, mastering the will to respect your foes and being able to defeat them through power, not through destruction, not by killing them, but by besting them. Best me, and I will step aside as Master of the Crypt.’
‘Last we heard, the flagship had docked at Alzoc 3 and was heading towards Wild Space.’
‘Are you going to let us out now?’ asked one of the Sith.
‘I never said anything about letting you out,’ said Shadie smiling. ‘But if you escape, be sure to make it a clean one with no deaths. That would garner a lot more respect from me than if you fought your way out.’
Shadie gave them a last quick smile, with a wink and a playful wave, then exited the bunker.
Talyc was arguing with some of the others, but it looked like Brenum was no longer upset at him, as he hand his hand on his shoulder and the Jedi looked like he was trying to comfort him. When the group saw Shadie, they all stopped mid-sentence and turned to her.
‘Awgro has Fane in his flagship heading towards Wild Space, coming from Alzoc 3, meaning they’ll be near the far edge of the Corellian Run in the Outer Rim.’
Talyc looked astonished. He wrapped his arms around Shadie. ‘How did you?’
‘I made an exchange with them and told them the extra trials they’d need to face if they were to claim the Crypt. I made it sound as though I’d be willing to step aside if someone of merit were to take over. I also made it abundantly clear that they were not to kill any of you or any of my allies and that Awgro didn’t have what it takes to pass the extra trial I had to pass, meaning his efforts are useless. They have no leader, but I urged them to find one. If they find a leader, we can better coordinate a war or negotiate peace, but not with Awgro.’
‘You’re amazing, Shadie!’
‘Well, Talyc, that’s what Knarf tells me every day,’ she smiled, allowing herself to seep pride into her voice, hoping her smile and tone would reassure Talyc.
He looked into her eyes, tears welling in his, and he nodded, smiling his appreciation. ‘You did it.’
‘For Fane,’ she whispered.
‘For Fane,’ Talyc repeated.
‘We need to inform everyone we know,’ said Knarf.
‘And I’ll make sure the Sphere knows,’ said Shadie. ‘If it finds Fane through the Force, then stealth or no stealth, we’ll have him.’
“Trials in the Force” is written by Celinka Serre (2022).
Disclaimer: The Characters in this Fan-Fiction are new and have original names. The story is an original written work. The story is derivative and consistent of Fan-Fiction since it borrows the franchise world of Star Wars. Certain jargon and places, or concepts mentioned, along with the SW Old Republic universe belong to Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney. No characters or story lines from the films are used. No story lines or characters from the games or books are used. A handful of characters from the games may be referenced, but are not the main focus in this fanfic story. This fan-fiction story falls under Fair Use.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.