Dark Crucible was a collaborative story written in 2008 and 2009. One of the collaborators went without a name, and another has asked not to have her name associated with her work for personal reasons. There may have been other collaborators – Opal Skoien likely played a part. In many cases, if the scene was not absolutely sufficient and I was unable to contact the initial writer, the scene was cut. This was intended more as a writing exercise than a publication, but due to the length and the story told I thought it fair to put it all together, with minimal editing. This was initially available to be viewed as written online; I would provide links but I am fairly certain that none of the related sites are currently open, meaning that the only link I have to provide is my now-defunct site.
Due to the nature of this writing, there is no attempt (outside of what editing I have done) for various authors to assist one another in improving their work. It is present for the entertainment of telling a story in this universe, and exploring the characters that each author has created for themselves – and occasionally others – to use. Still, the level of writing was sufficient that we kept up with it for over 50,000 words, so I believe it will be worth your time to read it; just keep in mind that this was never intended to be publishable.
Regarding my own efforts, I notice that oblique references to the action tend to be more common than actual descriptions. This is a combination of hubris – trying to impress those I was writing with – and deleted scenes. Whatever the cause, the reactions to what is happening are more often described below than what is actually happening.
The man who once thought he was a pretender to the Sith name screamed in agony – then he realized it was just breath along exposed nerves that had touched nothing but the Embrace of Pain in over a month. He gritted his teeth, and searched his feelings for what has happening around him.
They were moving.
Finally, after a month dedicated to training exercises and torturing him, the Vong were moving on to take the world which was now his home.
They were stopping.
The shapers and warriors that had flayed and beaten him for every agonizing century he had been in the Embrace were gone. He was still in the Embrace of Pain, of course, but without them it was nothing but a paltry annoyance. His human flesh had grown strong enough with the Dark Side to disregard it, and his Yuuzhan Vong biotic organs didn’t even notice it.
They were dying.
That was in the future – but immediately foreseeable. He tested his limits, certain he could break free of the Embrace in the Dark Side-rich atmosphere of Korriban.
Oh, there will be blood.
* * * * *
The Chiss who had begun to grow accustomed to his new name began to awaken. There was a disturbance in the Force.
Rather, there was a lack thereof. On a world where the Force itself was disturbed, the existence of such a large volume of undisturbed Force was an anomaly in itself, even before Lord Iurus recognized the Force’s absence in much of that space. Of course, the absence was hard to discern, considering the two very strong Force presences it carried within it.
The Sith Lord began to pace. The fleet was too far away to attack with his hidden defenses, and it would be foolish to rush out and confront it now. All he could do was watch through his viewport until the point ship came into firing range.
Well, that was not all he could do. Straining his focus and drawing on every trick he knew not to succumb to the strain, he began to work his sorcery on a pair of the planet’s moons. It would take a number of Lords working in concert to make them into true weapons; illusions carved into the moons’ surfaces would have to suffice.
* * * * *
Lumiya opened her eyes. Her meditation had been interrupted, and she looked at the scene unfolding in front of her.
The faces of Exar Kun and Darth Malak were unfolding on the moons in front of her. She stared for a moment, watching the faces take shape, comprehending the imagery and considering the awesome skill and focus such a feat would require. Her former masters could probably have aided one another – with Kadann as well, most likely – to have accomplished a similar feat, but she knew of no such alliance of Darksiders remaining. As far as the Dark Lady could discern, the greatest surviving concentration of Dark Force users in the galaxy was her own Crimson Guard – though it was possible there were enough of those fools from the Imperium to mount such a force. Still, she was pretty certain by its halting progress that it was a single Sith Lord’s efforts – one that she was familiar with.
“Fleet Admiral Bethrogg” she spoke into her new holocommunications link with the Behemoth before anyone on the bridge had an opportunity to acknowledge her. “The enemy is moving into position.”
“Yes, my liege,” Bethrogg said as he hastened onto one knee. “Do you have any further inst-” He stopped as the air stopped in his throat.
“You know what to do,” Lumiya said icily. “If you do not, I will dispose of you and appoint someone who does. Am I clear?”
Bethrogg tried to nod his head, but he couldn’t move. He was running out of oxygen. “Hyyeeeh-” he managed to squeak out.
Abruptly, the transmission ended. Lumiya left her Fleet Admiral wondering whether he was still living or not. It would keep him on his toes for the upcoming battle.
* * * * *
The commander of the Yuuzhan Vong attack force stood rigidly at attention as he viewed out the bridge window unto the scattered system before him. His warships were cruising at maximum attack velocity, quickly closing the distance between them and their target: Korriban.
According to intelligence, there were Jedi-like defenders holed up here, particularly on the sole planet of the Horuset system. The Yuuzhan Vong has tasked a large offensive force to deal with the threat, regardless of the warnings their Jedi captive told them about. His cries will not deter us from our faith. We will cleanse this galaxy one system at a time if need be.
The thought came to an abrupt halt as two glowing moons appeared in visual range. At first it appeared as if their might be massive dust storms obscuring the barren orbs of rock. But as they got closer, the moons became more apparent.
There were faces on them.
What demons are these? The commander asked himself.
And as the question loomed, two sneering, ghastly faces from the grave appeared on the glowing white moons.
* * * * *
A’Sharad dispatched the two Yuuzhan Vong warriors guarding him with little difficulty. Doubtless his lightsabers had been destroyed, but he took a pair of immobilized amphistaffs – for the time being, they would suffice.
He killed three more warriors on his way to the coralskipper bay, and about ten more to actually get into a skip. After all this time, communicating with it was easy – the hard part would be escaping.
* * * * *
Iurus kept an eye on his view-port as he watched for the first wave of attackers. It appeared that the aliens were deploying their small fighter craft, either for a strafing run or to gauge opposition. He targeted one. His turbolaser cannons, scavenged from the remains of a Rebellion-era dreadnaught, were somewhat sluggish and worn-down, but their accuracy was still top-notch. Using the Force, he was able to lead the skip sufficiently that the sluggish response from the cannon was a non-factor, and blew the lead coralskipper in the formation out of the sky.
Lord Iurus watched the space battle, firing his cannon wherever he was certain it would be a kill. Using his Sith Battle Meditation, he was able to avoid targets that Lumiya’s forces and other independent self-proclaimed Sith Lords were about to eliminate, and altogether the work proved relatively efficient.
A coralskipper flight made the mistake of skimming the atmosphere near a tomb of a relatively recent Sith Lord. Iurus took full advantage of this, using the wellspring of Dark Power to launch massive boulders into the air and crush the invaders. He controlled the airborne stones briefly, entering into a dogfight with another flight of skips which also were annihilated.
Finally, he prepared a comm message that might not be essential to the battle as a whole – though it might also crush Vong morale and make them wish they’d never visited the Tomb World.
The time had come.
The Lord of the Sith – he had accepted that Lumiya had held the title of Dark Lady for years before he was fully initiated into the tradition – donned his cloak. Like a sorcerer of old, his was filled with components involved in the various alchemical spells he had spent hours laboriously preparing.
He stepped out of his bunker – truly that was what an underground fortress was to be called, regardless of its purpose – and began to stride across the dead planet. He knew all of the places of power. He was aware of all the living beings around him. And he expected the alien arrivals to come and test his blade. But first, he reached out with the Force.
* * * * *
The Dark Lady transmitted a new order, this one directly to the captain of the Rampage, the Star Destroyer nearest the twin moons. Thankful for the technological assist, she melded with the Chiss Lord and made a broad-spectrum call for assistance from those in orbit. With some assistance, the tractor beams could be made irrelevant.
Lumiya wished she could see the Yuuzhan Vong commander’s reaction when the moons, adorned with specters of Dark Lords of the past, began to move – seemingly of their own volition. Would he see it as an omen from his infernal gods? She sure hoped so.
* * * * *
Darth Iurus was growing tired of these aliens. They came at him randomly, invisible to the Force, and always in large, annoying groups. Having only heard of them, he was somewhat disoriented at first to come across living foes that he could not crush or dominate with the Force, but after the second group it became almost second nature to him. They had no swordsman who could stand against him – not one on one, not three on one. And he was still focusing more attention than he would like on controlling the awkward satellites over Korriban.
After a time, the Sith Lord came across a presence that he could not only feel, but one that was familiar. Two such presences, actually: the Sith Lad Nemo and his apprentice. They were with a third being, one whose simple presence brought the Chiss’s dark emotions to the fore: a Jedi Knight.
Iurus followed the small Sith – and their still free and living Jedi companion for some time, somewhat surprised that they had not noticed his presence. Was the young one, the “Master”, really a complete dunce, or did he have a good reason for hiding this knowledge?
Still, they were leading him to Vong to slay, and for a short time he put his weapons away for the chance to quietly fight with nothing but his alchemically-enhanced body and the Dark Side. They came to a Yuuzhan Vong camp, and the time to remain hidden was over. Darth Iurus used the Force to catapult himself over the heads of the sentries, and landed with both of his weapons drawn and lit, ducked down into a fighting crouch with one leg bent almost to the ground, the other straight forward for maximum versatility.
* * * * *
The Dark Lady of the Sith was not pleased.
She had spent a good fraction of her resources – Force power, pilots, and ships – against a Yuuzhan Vong vessel, only to see one of its own fighters slip through its defenses and destroy it. She sensed a powerful presence aboard it – one older than herself, and at least as powerful.
All of a sudden, Sith Masters are coming out of the woodworks. She would have scowled, if her metal jaw was capable of such a feat. No matter. She would merely need to prove herself with vision and cunning. She had been taking losses and doing the hard work for the Sith for decades, and she’d be stanged if she was going to let another challenge her leadership.