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A Jedi in Azeroth


RagingCyclone

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About a week ago I spoke with alaurin about a story I wrote and have had posted on fanfiction.net for the past couple of years. After those messages I have decided to also post that story over here. This is a crossover story of swotor and WoW centering on my sage, Daneel. This story spans a trilogy that is more about the blending of lores than a typical "who would win in a fight" plotline. I will be posting the books over the next few weeks and welcome any comments you may have. Hopefully by the end of this week I will have the first book, A Jedi in Azeroth, fully posted and then proceed with the 2nd, A Jedi in Azeroth: Legacies, and then lastly the 3rd, A Jedi in Azeroth: The Past Returns.

 

Just a note...every ability used in the story has some basis in SW lore, Warcraft lore, or both. Some have become a little outdated since I first wrote the story as the lores have continued to expand and grow.

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The Arrival part 1

 

Daneel leaned in his chair as the ship lurched to starboard. Sparks flew from the consoles and acrid smoke began filling the air. He could hear a fire crackling aft of the bridge. Deckplates groaned as stresses from gravitic shockwaves pounded the small vessel. An anomaly engulfed the viewport ahead of him and the source of the ship’s erratic behavior. Inwardly the Jedi master was grateful he had left his companions behind for this trip…one that was supposed to be simple and without incident. A routine diplomatic mission to Belsavis to help Hallow Voice reach the other Esh-Ka who had not joined in their effort to end the war with the Sith Empire. The elder leader hoped to join the renegade people of his race to the “harmony” of the Republic. Skyhopper, as Daneel was known as amongst the Esh-Ka, served as a powerful example of how other races could help the Esh-Ka according to Hallow Voice. It had sounded daunting but hardly dangerous…until the maelstrom emerged from nothingness near Daneel’s ship pulling it from hyperspace. He struggled to gain control of the Defender and hopefully escape the grip of the monstrosity looming before him. A kaleidoscope of colors beautifully rimmed the outer edge of the anomaly belying its ferocity. The plates continued to buckle beneath him as the ship lurched violently to the port. Daneel prepared himself to become one with the Force…survival from this did not seem possible unless a miracle occurred. The ship lurched again and plunged deeper towards the maw of the anomaly. Lights blinked out on the control panel before him, and the ship’s engines grew quiet. He was heading into a torrential abyss of violent energy…and he was helpless. He reached out through the Force…and then everything went black.

 

The Sin’dorei walked in the peaceful grove searching for lost relics of Azeroth’s past. The planet possessed a rich and tumultuous history, and Professor Demira often looked for her treasures in remote places such as this small glade. Almost anywhere in the world forgotten relics could be discovered. It was just this morning she left her friend Zharn near Mt. Hyjal where he assisted the ancients. Zharn was an orc, and like her people a member of the Horde. The shaman was helping in the best way that he could, and she had returned to this forest to search for relics that might help her in her own quest. She stopped to pick up a flower and examined it. She wore her dark hair in a braid hanging down to her waist which only highlighted her long and slender elven ears. Unlike most mages she wore simple red pants with a matching top baring her midriff. She continued walking slowly as she examined the flower with her glowing green eyes.

The grove was just a smaller part of a larger forest she had come to. It lay in a valley near a village she visited often…a place so far largely untouched by the conflict between the Horde and the Alliance. Faint magical energies existed in this area hinting at a past wrought with struggle and power. She hoped to find some indication as to who lived here, when this place teemed with life, and what had changed to make them leave this tranquil region. And it served as a diversion and a chance to leave the larger current conflict behind. She had seen her share of the war…participated in many of the major events and battles which shaped Azeroth as it existed currently. Today…she just wanted to get away from it all…and this grove was the perfect place to do just that. She stopped in an opening still holding the delicate flower in her hand. She breathed deep inhaling its fragrance.

A clap of thunder disturbed the normal quiet of the forest. The mage peered skyward searching for the source of the noise. When she had left the village earlier that morning there were no clouds in the sky, and she had not seen any during her trek through the serene woods. In fact everything this morning had been peaceful. A slight breeze rustled the leaves of the trees and billowy grasses. Small creatures scurried about their lives unafraid of anything including her intrusion into their environment. Still no clouds occupied the skies, but her eyes widened at what she did see. A trail of fire streaked from the heavens towards the ground. She could hear the rumble of the flames as it came closer, and to her dismay she realized it would impact not far from her. Instinctively she searched her surroundings for some sort of cover…some sort of protection from the flames and whatever they were burning that was falling from the sky. She could sense the panic in the forest creatures around her as they too sensed a danger and ran for whatever cover they could find.

At first she thought the fireball could be a dragon, but that race had been quiet since the demise of Deathwing. None of the former Aspects or their flights had any reason to be near this part of the world. As Demira watched it fall she tried to think of what it could be for she had seen many strange things in her short life…at least short for a sin’dorei. Its angle was too steep and high for a skyship…and much too large. A meteor perhaps…its flight path in the sky told her it could be such a thing, but those events usually foretold of more urgent and deadly events soon to occur. Her heart filled with dread. After the return of the Burning Legion, the Lich King and the Scourge, and even the recent Cataclysm…Azeroth could not withstand another catastrophe. As these thoughts raced through her mind she found an outcropping of rocks. She was convinced they would not protect her should the falling object hit very near but might provide cover from any debris should it land a short distance away. She dug the heels of her boots into the soft dirt and ran for all speed she could muster. The roar grew louder and she chanced a glance over her shoulder. It was close…too close…and she instinctively dove to the ground and covered her head with her hands. The sound was deafening and she could feel the heat from the flames. She should have felt panicked, but instead curiosity took over and she peeked through her cover to spy the falling object. It was a hundred feet above and would not land on her. She started to rise and watched as the object landed perhaps a mile away. Whatever it was hit with such force that there was a blinding light and a few seconds later the shockwave hit knocking her to her back. Her head struck the ground hard…and darkness took over.

 

Daneel stood on the cliff and watched the fireball fall from the sky. He was certain it was his ship, but how it had followed him through the journey he could not fathom. He was not even sure of where he was. As the ship began to tear apart in the strain of the maelstrom in space he remembered a final lesson from the jedi master Revan when they met after the former’s rescue from the Emperor’s prison and before that man himself disappeared. The three centuries old master had taught Daneel one technique very few Force wielders knew…and for good reason. It allowed one to fold space using the Force transporting the person from one point in the galaxy to another without actually moving. The travel was instantaneous, but the costs were unknown. It was why so few knew the technique in the first place. The ramifications were too unpredictable and too dangerous so the old masters of the Order had deemed the knowledge unusable. Revan was once a Jedi then Sith and then neither. He was not bound by the tenets of the Jedi Order or its code. Daneel would not have used it himself had the situation he faced had not been so dire. Watching the wreckage fall now through the sky towards the surface, he harbored second thoughts about his own use of the precarious and ancient technique. Perhaps the old masters were correct in sealing the knowledge of this power and banning its usage. Even the Sith, or for that matter even the ancient Rakata, would hesitate with consequences such as what he was witnessing.

The ship’s wreckage impacted the surface a few miles from where he stood. Almost a minute later the shockwave hit him. Bracing himself with the Force he was able to withstand the impact upon his body. He shook his head…and reached out through the Force. Hopefully no life was extinguished when the ship collided with the ground. Saving himself at the cost of other lives was not his intent nor was it the Jedi way. He smiled as he welcomed the embrace of life around him. He sensed none had come to permanent harm from the explosion. Daneel marveled at how different the Force felt to him on this world. This world teemed with life. The living Force flowed around him and through him…it was invigorating. He felt no influence of the dark side on this world, nor did he sense an abundance of the light side…just the living Force generated by all living things. He sensed it in every thing around him…including the rocks beneath his feet. Never had he felt the Force so fully before, and he was a master of the Jedi Order and one of its council members. But still while it was comforting and exhilarating it was also…different…in a way he could not quite describe. In all of his travels to all of the different worlds of the galaxy…this one was unique. After another moment of contemplation, he used the Force to help him traverse down the side of the small mountain on which he stood. He needed to reach the wreckage and salvage what he could. He did not hope to find much, but anything he could find would be of great benefit since he was assuredly stuck on this world for an indefinite time. He was not even sure if this world had any intelligent life.

At the base of the mountain he found an animal trail that lead in the direction of the crashed ship. The foliage was dense here with shades of blues and purples. At least he perceived them that way through the Force for he had no physical eyes with which to see. Daneel was a Miraluka…a race which looked outwardly human with the exception of the lack of eyes. He wore a metallic covering over the sockets where eyes would have been as was the custom of his race when in the presence of other species. They did this because non-Miralukas were discomforted by the empty eye sockets. Daneel followed the trail for about a mile before coming to a small clearing. Despite the presence of life in the Force he had not yet come across any. Perhaps the crash had scared the local wildlife away from the area. A possibility that while disconcerting to him, Daneel felt there would be no lasting effect to the native environment. On the far side of the clearing was an outcropping of rocks, and he walked towards them for some shade from the sun and perhaps to meditate and gather his bearings through the Force.

 

Demira watched from the behind the rocks as the human approached. What was a human, or any Alliance, doing in this part of the world? He was slender for a human and wore robes in a fashion she had not seen before. They were purple and blue with a hood that covered the top of his head but not his face. Perhaps even stranger was the fact that the only metal he wore covered his eyes. He did carry a weapon of some sort at his hip, but she could see no blade as would befit a sword or dagger, just a smooth metal cylinder the size of a sword hilt. No open hostility existed between the two factions at present, so she decided to take a chance and step from behind the rock keeping a mental list of spells in case her instinct proved faulty. “Who are you, human? And why have you come here?” she asked. He looked at her with a slight tilt to his head as he came to a stop. He replied in a language she had never heard. “Who are you?” she repeated.

He tilted his head to the other side and spoke again in his strange tongue. He then brought his hands up in front of him…palms facing her and fingers spread upwards. She crouched instinctively recognizing the man might be casting a spell. She inwardly cursed not thinking at first the man might be a mage. Had the Alliance sent this man as a spy? Did he have something to do with the falling object from the sky? His reaction to her movement was to take one step back and push his arms forward. She whispered a protection spell to ward off whatever spell he was casting, but nothing came from him. Instead he kept talking in his strange language. “I warn you,” she began, “I am a mage as well and this is a fight you do not want.”

The man lowered his arms to his sides and smiled. “I apologize for any misunderstanding,” he said. “I mean you no harm.” She relaxed a little at the tone of his voice. Few humans knew the sin’dorei language. He seemed rather…refined…for a human. “I am new to your world, and it took me a little while to learn your language.”

“Learn my…language?” she asked. ‘Such an odd statement,’ she thought. She did not trust this man…could not trust him. He was human but claimed to be from another world. That was not possible. Azeroth had many humans and his strange language before could simply mean he was from a part of the world she was not familiar with. Were there humans not part of the Alliance? Was he a member of the Earthen Ring? The Cenarian Circle? The Argent Crusade? She did not think so because of his strange language. She remained cautious. “I do not believe you, human,” Demira finally said.

“There are humans on this world?” the man asked her. “Is this planet a colony? It is not familiar to me as being any world of either the Republic or the Sith Empire.”

“Are you mad, human?” she asked. This talk of republic and empire made no sense to her. There was the Horde and the Alliance…she knew of no other factions that would even have colonies as he was suggesting. He was talking gibberish and must be mad. “Humans are of the Alliance…and you are a human. I am a child of the blood…a blood elf…and of the Horde. This land belongs to the sin’dorei people, so why are you here?” A strained truce existed now between the Horde and the Alliance. She would not be the first to draw blood and start a new war, but she would defend herself.

“I am no human,” he replied with a smile. “I admit in appearance my species looks human…to a certain point. But believe me…I am not human.” She tilted her head to the side. He most definitely was human according to her eyes. This had to be an Alliance trick. Despite his pleasant demeanor she grew more cautious of him. “I am a Miraluka,” he continued. “We are similar to humans in many aspects except one.”

“And what would that one be?” she asked curious as to how much longer this human would attempt his ruse. For this had to be a trick on the part of the man…any other explanation was too outlandish for her to conceive.

He reached up with his hands to his face and the metal covering over his eyes. She tensed half expecting him to cast a spell at her. He smiled. “You will find this…a little disconcerting. Most species do…which is why my people wear these adornments, but I can tell by the tone of your voice that you do not believe me. Seeing is the act of believing.” He removed the covering from his face. Demira gasped at what she saw…or the lack of what she saw. Where his eyes should have been was…nothing! She cautiously stepped closer to him forgetting her previous trepidations about this man…or his connection to the Alliance. Surely this human’s eyes had been removed and the skin healed over the sockets. But as she stepped ever closer she could see no scars…no indication that this man had been born with eyes at all! She found herself waving her hand before the vestigial sockets.

“Please don’t do that,” he said with a smile.

“Don’t do…what?”

“Wave your hand in front of my face. I am not blind…I just do not have sight organs. Like the rest of my people I was born without them.”

“Preposterous!” she exclaimed. “You must be hearing my hand…or feel the brush of air…”

“My people do not need eyes to see…we see through the Force,” he replied as he placed the covering back over the sockets. “My people have an affinity with the Force which allows us to see more clearly than those born with sight organs.”

“What is this force you speak of?” she asked. “You are a mage…are you not?”

“I…do not know what a mage is,” he replied. “I am a jedi.”

“A…jidei?”

“Yes…a jedi. Please…can you tell me the name of this world?”

The man was strange indeed, but his manners were not threatening and he was pleasant enough despite the whole missing eyes thing. Still…he talked strangely and she began to believe this man was not a member of the Alliance. Yet she remained cautious. He was definitely not Sin’dorei or a member of the Horde. She was convinced he was human, but… He cleared his throat. Oh…he had asked a question. Her thoughts must have wondered, and again she cursed inwardly for her lack of concentration. “Azeroth,” she answered.

“Azeroth…I do not know this name. I don’t remember seeing it on any of the astrogation charts. Interesting.”

“What’s an…astro…ga…”

“Astrogation?” he queried. He tilted his head at her. “Perhaps it might help you understand better if we found the wreckage of my ship. Surely you saw it crash not far from here.”

“There was a fireball,” she conceded. He claimed it was a ship and from another world…not from Azeroth. Could this man be telling her the truth? It would explain his strange language and mannerisms…and the creepy eye thing. The orcs were not originally from this world…and the Draenei were also not from Azeroth. And she had seen and heard stranger things in recent years. “It landed about a mile from here.”

He started to take a step…then stopped. “Perhaps you would join me? I would like to learn more about your world. You could tell me more about it on the way to the crash site. And then once there perhaps I can explain more about myself that can make more sense to you.” Again he smiled.

“I will…but be warned…I am not a helpless sin’dorei,” she said coolly.

“Ah…is that your name?”

“Sin’dorei is the name of my people…my name,” she hesitated. Should she give this stranger her name just yet? Was she sure she could trust him? He had spoken the truth to her so far as she could ascertain even as preposterous as it was…she sensed no deception from him. “I will tell you once we have seen your ship.”

“Fair enough,” he replied with a smile. Again with that smile. “My name is Daneel….jedi master and member of the Jedi Council. It is a pleasure to meet you…emissary of the Sin’dorei people.” He was definitely strange. Demira motioned for him to begin walking towards the crash site.

She walked a little behind him, and Daneel felt her reaction perfectly reasonable. Their initial encounter intrigued him. She spoke a language he was completely unfamiliar with, and during their initial spoken words he had reached out through the Force to touch her mind. He did not want to damage her, but he needed to grasp her language to better facilitate communication. He did not linger longer than was necessary to garner the nuances of her speech, but what he noticed about her was fascinating. Her mind was unlike any other he encountered. She was highly intelligent and the Force flowed differently through her than it did any other person or creature in his experiences. During their conversation he sensed at first her confusion and fear…and then curiosity. She also did not trust him. He would not either if their roles had been reversed. She at least was not outwardly violent which was promising. And he sensed from her a closeness to her environment similar to that held by Hallow Voice and his followers.

 

The trek to the crash site was not an easy one. The ship impacted in the forest at the bottom of a ravine. There were also two small streams to cross. Demira was impressed with the sure footedness this stranger possessed since she still could not understand how he saw his way through the woods. He stepped gingerly over fallen branches and rocks along the trail, followed game trails when they were available and even balanced better than she when crossing one stream along a fallen tree. Had she not seen with her own eyes his rather unique condition Demira would not have believed the man blind by the common definition of the word. Another fascinating thing was that he made his way directly to the crashed ship. She was using the sight of the smoke as a guide, but this jidei never looked up instead walking almost directly as the woods allowed.

They finally walked into a clearing in the trees created by the crash. Demira’s eyes widened at the devastation she witnessed. She expected to see…something…in a crater and in a smaller area. What she saw instead was a long and wide swath through the forest. Small fires lined a crevice that was perhaps ten feet deep, fifty feet across, and ended beyond her line of sight. She let out a long breath not realizing she was holding it in. Beside her the man sighed as well. Large chunks of metal and some material she did not recognize were scattered along the trench and in the trees surrounding it. Some of the debris was small, but there were also pieces as large as a house. The jedi walked up to one of the larger pieces and reached towards it. As he did his head was turned as if he were looking for the end of the trench.

“This is one of the engines,” he stated. “It must have sheared off on impact with the ground. I have not seen any other wreckage beyond this track. With luck,” he turned to her and smiled, “the rest of the ship may remain mostly intact.”

The sin’dorei only nodded and watched the jedi continue to examine the debris. Her mind was still trying to imagine the size of the vessel this man had travelled in. “How many engines did your ship have?” she asked. At first he did not answer her; instead he walked further along the trail of the downed ship stopping a few times to examine bits and pieces of the ship’s remains. She wondered just how many of these engines the ship did have. If the first was any indication of the size of the vessel it could be larger than even the dragon Aspects themselves…perhaps even larger than the leviathan Deathwing. She was about to ask him her question again when he stopped and looked into the trees to their right. His right hand came down to the cylinder on his left hip, and he pulled the hilt-sized object out as if holding a sword…one with no blade. Demira tensed.

“I sense we are not alone,” the jedi said calmly. “The being I sense is not like you. We must be cautious.”

Demira tensed. There had been no signs of danger in the area as she walked the forest that morning. However… “There have been reports of night elf spies in the area,” she stated. In her mind she brought forth several spells ready to use should there indeed be spies in the area. She hoped that who this jidei sensed was instead one of her people coming to investigate the crash.

“What is a night elf?” Daneel asked.

“They are a species of elves aligned to the Alliance. They are our…” the word hanging. Were they enemies? True there was no open war but tensions between the two factions remained high. And that failed to account for the hostility of the two halves of the elven race for the past ten thousand years. How could she tell this stranger what they were in a way that he would understand? Despite there being spies scattered on their land, the sin’dorei also had their own spies in Alliance territories. And how would she further explain the night elves. The animosity between the two races shared that went deeper than Alliance and Horde. The arrow that whizzed by the jidei’s ear provided the distraction she was searching for while she tried to summon some sort of plausible answer to his question. There was an audible snap and hiss coming from the direction of the Miraluka, and her eyes widened in shock. The metal cylinder still in his hand now had a green blade! The sword…for that was all she could think it could be…glowed and hummed. She felt energy radiate from it. Although it was apparently a weapon it was unlike any she had ever seen. He then reached out with his free hand almost faster than she could see, and from the air he snatched a second arrow from the air.

“Primitive,” the jedi stated calmly, “but still deadly.”

He dropped the arrow to the ground and stretched out his hand with fingers splayed in the direction the projectile had come. She saw ripples in the air form before his hand. They churned faster and started to glow. In a matter of seconds a ball of energy formed in the air before his hand, and with what looked like a slight push hurled towards their attacker. It struck the trees a short distance away. Dirt, branches, and leaves joined other debris as the energy ball struck its target. Still stunned, Demira stood and watched the jedi walk forward. The strange sword still glowed with the green blade. He stopped a few yards from the trees and stretched his free arm again. His palm flat, he lifted his arm and then pulled it towards him as if pulling an object. From the trees a being emerged. The body was limp and arms dangled towards the ground while it moved through the air towards the jedi. She gasped as she recognized the male sin’dorei as one of the hunters from the nearby village. Dread filled her heart at the realization that the stranger had killed one of her own.

“I know him!” she exclaimed suddenly. “You killed him!”

“He is not dead,” the jedi replied without looking at her. The comatose body came closer. “I did not form an attack to kill…only to incapacitate.”

The body stopped just before them and then lowered gently to the ground. Demira ran to the side of her fellow sin’dorei and knelt beside him. He was still breathing, and as she searched his body she could find no outward injuries. She looked up at the Jedi. The strange blade still glowed at his side and he looked towards the trees trying to sense any more attackers.

“This is not the one I sensed earlier. Do you know why he would have attacked?” the jedi asked. Demira shook her head and continued to examine the Miraluka. His blade still glowed to his side, and he looked out into the trees. “This one felt…strange. He is obviously of your kind, but he does not feel the same as you do. He almost feels like…” Daneel’s voice trailed off.

“Like what?” she asked looking up at him.

He did not answer at first instead still examining the woods. She gasped as the green blade slid back into the hilt, and the humming ceased. He straightened and placed the hilt back on his waist. “You have a strong presence in the Force as do most sentient life forms in my experience. Birds, animals, fish, and other wild beasts feel differently…more primal. This one that attacked…and please do not take this as demeaning…felt like a wild beast and not a sentient being.” He looked down at her. “The other presence felt as you do…a sentience…but has left the area. I no longer sense its presence.”

“I assure you this elf is not a beast.” Demira stood…anger filling her at the insult this jidei leveled at one of her own people. “He is a respected hunter in my village.”

“I am sorry, as I said he felt like one in the Force. That does not mean I think that he is one. All living things exist in the Force and their presence can be felt by those sensitive to it…those like me. The Force is generated by the energy of all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us and binds the galaxy together. Some beings have a stronger presence than others in the Force. Tell me…what is the difference between the two of you? I mean other than I am guessing you are a female and he is a male?”

Demira felt her anger waning. His talk of this force was strange, but it was also a very fundamental part of his belief system…whatever that may be. “I am a woman…and he is a man…that much is correct. As for what makes us different…there are lots of things. But he is no beast or should be mistaken as one.”

“I mean,” Daneel started bringing his hand to his chin, “you mentioned before you were a…mage…I believe the word was. Is this man also a…mage?”

“He is a ranger,” Demira answered. “He does not wield magic as I do although arcane energies do persist in his body as they do in all sin’dorei.”

“This magic…can you show me?” the jedi asked. She nodded and held her hand before her. She whispered, and as she did a small ball of fire materialized above her fingers. “Interesting,” Daneel stated. “And that whispering…what does it mean?”

“I was casting the spell to make this ball of fire,” the mage replied.

“And to use this magic…does all of it require these spells?”

“Most,” she answered. “There are some mages who have learned to wield magic without speaking the spell, but those are very few and very powerful. Shamans can also cast magics, but they do so by calling upon the spirits of the elements. Druids call upon the forces of nature.”

“So even if this man spoke the words of the spell…he could not create the ball of flame as you did?” Demira nodded her answer. “Then that is the answer to the riddle. I sense you differently because you are a mage. This man is not like most creatures of the wild. In the Force he feels the same because he cannot wield magic. So I would surmise the other I sensed was also a mage.” Daneel dropped his hand to his side and looked back along the track of the wrecked ship. “This could pose a challenge.”

“How so?” she asked not quite understanding the majority of what the jidei had been saying. She only gathered that he sensed mages and magic wielders differently from most beings.

“Because if mages, druids, and shamans are as common as other Force sensitives…which is small compared to the larger population…then there could be an army not far away and I would not sense them any differently than if they were a herd of grazing animals. This is…most unexpected…and troubling. Perhaps I have been affected from the fold through space to come here and my connection to the Force has altered. It feels the same, but still…” his voice trailed off.

“Still?” Demira asked. He looked at her. “Still…what?”

“I…I do not know,” he answered. “I simply…do not know.”

“Well…we cannot just leave him like this,” Demira stated. She whistled and from nothing a large scorpion appeared. She heard the snap-hiss of the jidei’s weapon, and she turned to hold the stranger off. “Do not be alarmed. This is just one of my mounts. He will take the ranger back to his village where his injuries can be tended to by the healers there.”

“You…ride this…creature?” Daneel asked.

She nodded and maneuvered the ranger’s body onto the back of the scorpion. After securing him as best she could, she leaned forward and whispered to the arachnid. Soon it sped from their sight bearing the injured ranger back to his home. She wiped her hands together and perused the jedi who still had his weapon in hand, but the green blade had vanished yet again. As much as she had wanted to take the ranger back herself, she still was curious about this stranger but not trusting enough to take him anywhere yet. Her great ride would know what to do with the injured sin’dorei. “What is that?” she asked pointing at the jedi’s weapon.

“It is my lightsaber,” he replied still watching after the long gone scorpion. Slowly he clipped the hilt back onto his belt and turned to face the elf. “A traditional weapon of a jedi…its blade is pure energy.” He looked back towards the trail of the ship wreckage. “Only a person fully trained in the Force can make and wield such a weapon. To wield one shows others where I come from an affinity with the Force.” He paused for a few breaths. “Are you sure that man will be alright?”

“Safer than he was with you,” she replied as she began walking towards their previous destination. She was curious to see the ship. It had to be at least as strange as the man’s weapon.

“He attacked us,” Daneel protested following in step beside the mage.

“He attacked you,” Demira stated not looking at him.

“Why would he attack me?”

“Because you’re human,” Demira replied. She heard him stop. She turned to look at him. “What I mean is…you look human. He probably thought you were attacking me…so…he was defending me…from you.”

“But why would he think that? I was not threatening you…we were not arguing…what possible reason could he have to think I was attacking you?”

“It’s…complicated,” she stated thinking about how much she should reveal to this man. True that he had not been threatening to her. Quite the opposite in that he thought they were both being attacked. She could see now that he was trying to protect her even though she did not need it. Despite his appearance this man was someone who would protect those near him…his allies. He would be a great addition to the Horde…that was…if he was not an Alliance spy. She was still uncertain where this man’s allegiance lay, but for the time being she felt he was trustworthy simply by his actions. He still looked at her with a quizzical expression. “Remember I mentioned the Horde and Alliance?” he nodded to her. “Well…the two groups are split upon racial lines. Orcs, trolls, forsaken, tauren, and my people make up the bulk of the Horde. Humans, dwarves, draenei, and night elves make up the bulk of the Alliance races.”

“There are that many sentient species on this world? Or is this across many worlds?” Daneel asked.

“There are more races, but those are the main ones,” Demira replied. “And all on Azeroth. I know the orcs and draenei come from other worlds, but I do not understand how they came to be on Azeroth…only that they are here now.”

“Fascinating,” Daneel said.

“How so?”

“There is an old belief that states in the age before spaceflight if two sentient species developed on the same world they would eventually war with each other until one enslaved the other or destroyed each other in mutual annihilation. This war you speak of…divided along racial lines…would seem to prove that old belief to a certain extent.”

“And you think this is what our war is about? A struggle to see who can destroy or enslave the others?” Demira asked accusingly.

“Not quite,” Daneel replied still walking and examining bits of the ship’s wreckage. “I have never heard of so many species originating on one world. It would appear on the surface that the old belief is correct.” He stopped to look at her causing her to stop with him. “However, another thing that may make things different is this magic you have…and others do not. Your lines may be split along racial lines now, but the danger is that eventually it may split on lines of those with magic…and power…and those who do not have it.”

“How can you know that?” Demira asked. “You just got here according to your story. You make that kind of statement without knowing anything of this world…or its people. How very arrogant.” She turned and started walking.

Daneel followed a step behind her. “I apologize if that sounded wrong to you. I have just seen evidence of just this kind on many worlds.”

“And just how many worlds have you been to?” She didn’t think it could matter, but she was curious. She wasn’t really upset, but irritated he could make such a statement that she herself saw the reasoning behind…something she really did not like. Only in her experience the ones with the power were the Old Gods trying to escape their millennia long prison…one created by the Titans. They had been the cause of so much suffering on Azeroth…and behind the corruption of many powerful beings like Deathwing. But this stranger…one claiming to be from another world no less…could know nothing about that struggle or its impact on Azeroth today. Nor did he know just how close her people came to extinction. She was of a people who just mere years before were almost annihilated…ninety percent of her race killed…in one of Azeroth’s many wars. Since that time the sin’dorei deeply hated the Alliance for abandoning them. Many of her people had become insular seeking ways to harness arcane magic from sources other than demons…a source readily available after the destruction of the Well of Eternity which had been the focal arcane force for the elves millennia ago. The act of feeding off of demons, and their fel energy, had led to the glowing green eyes of the blood elves today much akin to the changing of the orcs from being of brown skin color to green. There were some sin’dorei, like her, who actually enjoyed being with the other races of the Horde. Two of her closest friends, Zharn and Kitali, were not sin’dorei. Zharn was an orc and Kitali a Pandaren, and they were shamans. Their influence was why she looked for artifacts and magical energies in natural surroundings. She did not like dealing with demons.

“I have been to several hundred,” came the jedi’s reply. “But even more striking was a war over twenty-five thousand years ago between two races from different worlds. Their hatred for each other ran so deep that their war threatened millions of worlds, trillions of lives, and the entire galaxy. That war ended when one race, the Rakata, imprisoned the other, the Esh-Ka. But the remaining Esh-Ka are still alive today…their prisons keeping them alive all this time and aware of everything happening in the galaxy…while the Rakata are few and almost extinct. Twenty-five thousand years…and the Esh-Ka have escaped…and most of them want to rekindle that ages old war…only now with those of us members of the younger species.” She stopped but he continued walking. “That old belief has roots in very tangible evidence. I have found ruins of the Rakata on many different worlds all across the galaxy…and only one for the Esh-Ka. That world was their prison. But not all of the Esh-Ka seek to end all of the other races. One great Esh-Ka…his name is Hallow Voice…is a visionary amongst his people. He believed that all races could live in harmony and peace. I sought him to aid the Republic in its war with the Sith Empire. It was the same kind of peace and harmony embodied by the Republic he sought long ago for his people that he agreed to aid me in my mission. The war is officially over, but the tensions still are high…a sort of cold war exists now. Hallow Voice wants harmony for his people…all of them. I was hoping to carry his message to the rest of his race trapped on Belsavis, but I guess that will not happen now. My mission has failed…and the hatred will still burn brightly.” He stopped walking a few yards ahead of the mage.

Demira stood staring at him in almost disbelief. He said millions of worlds…trillions of lives…numbers she could not even fathom. Rakata and Esh-Ka? And some were still alive? Prisoners for millennia? For longer than Aspects had been in existence? Older than the elves before the sundering? These were thoughts she struggled to grasp. Daneel looked wistfully into the trees. His mission of peace was a failure? He was a peacekeeper? Demira could hardly believe what he was saying, but with the conviction of his words…the tone of his voice…one of sadness and…dare she say it…wisdom? He was a stranger to Azeroth, but if his story was true…and she started believing him more and more because it was so preposterous and complicated that nobody could have imagined such a lie…perhaps he was not jumping to conclusions. Was her world heading for demise? The dragon Aspect Ysera believed one was coming if the rumors were true. “I am sorry,” she said quietly.

“Why should you be sorry?” Daneel asked. “I am the stranger to this world. I must sound like some insane…whatever,” he said shrugging his shoulders.

She walked up behind him and placed her hand on his shoulder. “I am called Demira,” she said with a smile. “Now let me tell you of my world… and how frighteningly close to the truth you are.”

 

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The Arrival part 2

 

Daneel sat on a stump as Demira told him of her lifetime and the horrors she had faced. The Titans and the Old Gods…the Elementals…the Dragon Aspects…the Ancients and the Sundering thousands of years ago…how the blood elves and night elves at one time were of the same race separated by the destruction of the Well of Eternity…the arrival of the orcs and the beginning of the Horde…the Scourge and how the Alliance had abandoned her race to die…ninety percent slain…and his heart reached out to this beautiful woman as she continued her tale of sorrow. But it was not all sad…she was a happy person despite all she had gone through. Like most of her people she struggled with addiction to arcane energies. It was a result of her people’s separation from the Well over ten thousand years before. Some time since then many had found themselves driven to seek such power from demons who he understood as beings that sought dominance over the other races…and corrupted those they seduced with fel energies with high costs. He was not sure if his assumption was correct, but it was what he would understand for the time being and until he learned more. Those fel energies from the demons had marked her species with green glowing eyes that continued long afterwards.

Demira herself was actually about the same age as he though many of her people lived for centuries and some for millennia. She was more of a free spirit and not as close to nature as he at first surmised, but had lately come to appreciate it more because of her friends who where shamans and close to nature themselves…a product of their gifts in magic as far as Daneel could understand. She was patient with him as he asked questions about the arcane energies and other magics. These intrigued him as on the surface they seemed similar to the Force yet profoundly different. The elements and spirits she described to him could be the reason the Force felt so differently…and why some beings also registered as simple creatures and not sentient beings as he was used to…something he would have to learn to adapt in his methods and use of the Force. Demira was also curious about the Force, and he tried to answer her as best he could. As much as he was confused about magic, she was just as confused about the Force. They sat and talked for hours sharing their experiences…each fascinated by the other. They found that the more they differed…the more they were similar….kindred spirits from different worlds…and a strong friendship grew between them in a short span of time.

Finally they made their way to the main body of the wrecked ship. It was mostly intact, but the inside was hard to navigate. He told her to wait outside while he searched for the navicomputer. Hoping to find the unit intact, he searched the smoldering remains of the bridge.

“You came to Azeroth in this?” he heard Demira ask behind him.

“I thought I told you to wait outside. It’s dangerous in here.”

“I couldn’t resist,” she replied coyly. She peered around the bridge. “I mean…a real ship from another world…amazing!”

“Well…try to not touch anything…alright? There are electrical connections that might be severed and touching the wrong place could get you electrocuted.” He turned his attention back to his search for the navicomputer. “And I wasn’t exactly onboard when it entered the atmosphere.”

“Yeah…but still…you flew in this thing from world to world like you were telling me? That would be so…cool!” She reached out and touched one of the control panels. “Ouch!” she exclaimed as sparks jumped. She stuck her burnt finger in her mouth and looked innocently at the jedi. “Sorry.”

Daneel sighed and touched a panel to his left. The controls lit up on the board. “I think I found the navcomp…and it still has power.”

“And the astrogation charts you were looking for?” Demira asked.

“Precisely,” he replied. “Now…if I can just…get this…” He turned a couple of knobs and in the central console a holographic map of the swirling galaxy appeared. Demira gasped as he examined the records coming from the computer. “I was afraid of this,” he said after a few minutes.

“What is that?” Demira asked pointing at the hologram.

“It’s a representation of the galaxy…or I should say the galaxy I came from,” Daneel replied.

“Came from?”

“As in…this is not the same galaxy,” Daneel stated with a sigh. “The navicomputer has confirmed what I have been sensing for a while now.” He turned and left the bridge to leave the ship the way he came in. Demira followed him making sure not to touch anything else as she left the wreckage. “Azeroth is in a different galaxy than the one I called home,” he stated once they were back outside the ship. “I am…for lack of a better phrase…completely lost.”

“But didn’t you say the galaxy has millions of worlds? Are you sure?” the sin’dorei asked.

“The galaxy does have millions of worlds, and many are unexplored. I was hoping Azeroth was such a world. But the universe has millions of galaxies and this is not the same one I came from. The computer cannot match any of the stars to known configurations. Even if this was an unexplored world it should still match some of the stars…but it cannot match any…not a single one. The only conclusion possible is that I am in a completely different galaxy.” He turned from her and looked into the sky. The brightness of day had given to the darkness of night. Stars shined in the sky. “I am alone.”

“I am sorry,” she said walking up behind him. She placed her hand on his shoulder. “Will you be alright?”

“I will survive,” he replied.

 

Demira sat on a stump watching the jedi pull container after container from the ship. She had volunteered to help him, but he asked her not too since he would be going deeper into the ship and did not want to endanger her. Thinking of what happened to her finger she grudgingly complied. Instead she walked the perimeter of the vessel setting enchanted stones along the ground. After the jedi had finished what he was doing she would enact an invisibility spell around the ship. He had not stated such, but she felt obligated to keep the ship secret from even her own people…there were technologies inside she couldn’t begin to comprehend and knew some people would try to exploit the marvels the ship possessed. The temptation was too great, and in the wrong hands the danger more so. Technologies like the containers the jedi had been bringing out of the wreckage. She had asked him what they were…what they contained…and he had replied with details that still made her head hurt. All she knew for certain was they contained supplies like food, clothing, some tools, materials for making weapons like the one he wore, and some personal items he would not discuss in detail. She was curious as to what these last items could be, but since he had not volunteered that information she did not pry. She would wait for him to tell her when he was ready…he had been through too much. After a time she fell asleep.

Daneel emerged from the ship with the final nulentropy container and placed it with the others outside the ship. He looked over towards the sleeping sin’dorei. Despite the strangeness of recent events she had been kind and helpful to him. She slept peacefully under a tree, and not wanting to disturb her he sat down on the ground close to her and tried to meditate. He found himself in a condition no other being had ever been in. Travel between galaxies was deemed impossible because of the vast distances between them. How had he gotten here? He could use the force-folding technique again, but what would be the consequences? It got him to this world, but would it return him home…or somewhere else? No…he could not use the technique again…the risks were too great. He looked to the sleeping elf…her near perfect form lying serenely on a large tree branch slung low to the ground…and his thoughts drifted to those he left behind. He realized he would never see his friends again…never look into Nadia’s eyes or hear her laughter as she marveled at the universe around her. Never hear Tharan and Holiday as they schemed to unfold some scientific mystery. Never hear Felix talk of his days in the Republic military or Qyzen and his great hunts. He would never know if Zenith was able to bring peace to the war-torn world of Balmorra.

He stood up and walked to the ship and rested his hand on the hull. “There is no emotion, there is peace,” he intoned. He would have to make this world his new home. Azeroth…with all the troubles and tribulations Demira had told him about. “There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.” Demira had a kind heart, and if this world had more like her it could be a good home despite the troubles. “There is no passion, there is serenity.” He would be a lone jedi on this world…a lone Force sensitive amongst a diverse peoples. He thought back to the elf behind him…could he actually give up on passion now that he was the only one here? The order frowned on relationships believing they led to the dark side. But he never held true to those beliefs. She was very beautiful and had befriended him when she did not have to…helped him when she could have fled and left him to the fates of this world…was still here instead of leaving. He could easily find himself attracted to her. “There is no chaos, there is harmony.” He had to find some solace in that he was alive…alone but alive…and in a place where there were people…friendly people…people like Demira. “There is no death, there is the Force.” And in this last part was truth. The Force was here with him…had brought him here to this world. He could have folded into the vast emptiness of space…folded into the corona of a star…anywhere…but instead he was here. And yet he could never return home.

“What was that you were saying?” he heard Demira ask behind him. He turned his head to see her lying on her side propped up on one elbow. “Was that some sort of prayer?”

“I was reciting the Jedi Code,” he answered as he turned his body to face her. “It is the basic tenets of my order.”

“It sounded like you were praying,” she said with a smile.

“Perhaps,” he replied. “We jedi sometimes repeat the code to ourselves whenever we are stressed.”

“Like waking up on a world that is not yours?”

“Something like that. I know I can never return home.”

“Why not?” Demira asked sitting up. “Can’t you just return the same way you came here?”

“How I came to be here…was an accident. Plus…I do not know where home is. Is it the closest galaxy? Two away? Ten? A hundred…a thousand…a million? Even if I knew where…the technique that brought me here is dangerous and avoided. I used it in a moment of weakness…and now I must face the consequences.” He turned to the look back at the ship. “Some would say this is my punishment for my arrogance.”

“Arrogance? I have not seen this in you,” she said.

“But I was when I used it. Consciously or not…I believed I could control the technique to bring me safely from danger. Instead I caused harm to save myself. This is not the jedi way.” He felt her hand on his shoulder…he had not heard her stand or approach him.

“You are too hard on yourself. It is only natural to save oneself from danger. And there was nothing harmed here. I live…the animals of this forest live...you live…from what I can tell…things turned out alright.”

“And how would you feel if you were in my position? If you found yourself on a strange world with no hope of returning home?” He turned to face her…felt her body next to his.

“I would probably freak out,” she replied with a smile. “You are much stronger than I am.”

“I doubt that,” the jedi stated. “I am freaking out.”

“Then you need to know the Litany of Fear,” she said.

“Litany of Fear?”

“Yeah…it goes something like this,” she said clearing her throat. “’I shall not fear…fear is the mind killer…fear is the little death that brings total obliteration…I will face my fear…I will permit it to pass over me and through me and when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path…where the fear has gone there will be nothing…only I will remain.’”

“That is a great saying,” Daneel said quietly. “Is that a saying you use often?”

“No…just something I picked up along my travels,” she said coyly. “I have no idea who came up with it. I know very few on Azeroth know it, but I like to keep it in mind for stressful times. If I could actually follow it, however…” She backed up from him and turned to the crates he had stacked outside the ship. “Did you get everything you needed?”

“I did,” he replied. “Especially the food and water supplies.”

“Why those? Got certain things you like to eat and drink?” The coyness returned to her voice. “We have plenty of food and water here on Azeroth.”

“But I do not know yet if it is safe for me to consume. This is still a strange world for me. What you might find pleasing and healthy could be poisonous to me.”

“I…hadn’t thought of that,” Demira stated. “How could we find out?”

“I do have a device in the one crate that can scan items and tell me if they are safe.”

“Oh…and if we don’t…I can learn to conjure some for you,” she stated enthusiastically. “I would just have to learn what you have in there…and then cast a spell…and wha-la!” She spread her arms wide. “Look no further…I am your personal cook!”

“You don’t have to do that,” he said.

“But…I insist.”

“Why would you do that?” he asked.

Demira put her arms to her side and looked seriously at the jedi. “Because I know what it’s like to alone and scared…to feel like sometimes you are the last of your kind. I told you there are not many sin’dorei left in the world…and fewer still who like to mingle with the other races of the Horde. Some races treat us as…inferior…because of our addictions…which they just do not understand. I didn’t choose to be this way…I was born this way. And sometimes…I just want to be alone…to get away from the sneers and jeers I hear from goblins, taurens, trolls, orcs…” her voice trailed off. “My people…are just too serious sometimes…if they would just quit fretting about arcane magics and stop to just…smell the flowers.” She looked back the ground. “I love them all…I truly do. But sometimes…I just…want to get away…to simply live and enjoy what is around me.”

“You are a very complex woman,” Daneel said with a smile. “But I agree that sometimes it’s very nice to just stop and see what is around you. To just live in the moment…forgetting all the troubles around you…and just simply feel alive. Thank you for reminding me of that.”

“You’re welcome…and don’t you forget it,” she replied looking back at him. “So…what do we do now?”

“I guess…we get busy living,” the jedi replied. He turned back towards the ship. “There is just one more thing I need to check on. And then I will take you up on your offer. I would enjoy your company…and having a personal chef.” He smiled and then entered the ship.

“I enjoy your company too,” she replied quietly. “I enjoy it a lot.”

 

Daneel stepped gingerly into the rear of the cargo hold. Several containers were littered along the floor…their seals broken and contents destroyed. But what he was looking for was not in any container. What he sought was his one vice…the Aratech Ice speeder he had been awarded for his various achievements across the Republic. He maintained the vehicle himself. It was more than a mark of achievement…it was a toy he enjoyed. He wasn’t sure if the speeder had even survived the crash, but if there was a chance he wanted to salvage it if possible for it would make travel on Azeroth that much easier. Passing a few more crates he spotted the sleek blue nose of the bike ahead of him under some debris. Reaching out with the Force he lifted the clutter up and away from the speeder beneath. A wry smile crossed his lips…the speeder appeared undamaged. Again with the use of the Force he brought the vehicle forward and then let the debris return to the floor of the bay. His smile widened as the suspensors held the speeder a half meter from the deck…at least that much still functioned. He stepped over to check the power supply and controls. After adjusting some of the switches the speeder’s engine hummed to life…light blue flames erupted from the exhausts at the rear. At least this part of his life was still with him…and he let himself release a slow whistle. He turned to walk back to the exterior of the ship and to Demira. She would be amazed when she saw the speeder and what it could do. The jedi stopped at the bottom of the ramp. Why had that thought crossed his mind? Was he actually thinking about trying to impress the elf? Wasn’t that way of thinking frowned upon by the jedi? But he could never return to them...never worry about what the council would think even if he was a member. He shook his head. Revan’s outlook of the Force thrust itself into his mind. The dark and light were intertwined more than anyone realized and Azeroth proved this to Daneel. According to the old master there was more gray in the Force than light or dark…a product of being an actual living thing. The man had been married and had a child. He had been both Jedi and Sith. Was what Daneel experienced now a reflection of Revan’s…a realization of the truth behind those beliefs? This was something he would have to meditate on when the timing was right. He took a step. He was just still adjusting to his circumstances and a new world…that had to be what triggered his thoughts. The woman was beautiful, intelligent, witty, charming, and had been open and kind with him. Was this a genuine attraction to her or just a reaction to the void left from having friends and family lost forever in his life? With each step he took a short breath escaped him as his thoughts adjusted back to his immediate concerns…survival.

Daneel emerged from the ship to see his stack of containers gone. Next to where he had stacked them was what appeared to be a hole in the air. Through the hole he saw Demira stacking the containers in what appeared to be a home with a fireplace in the rear of the room and some furniture surrounding it. She was humming some tune he did not recognize with her back to him. She stretched her arms to the sides…and for the first time Daneel felt his heart race…and not from physical exertion. “There is no emotion, there is peace,” he said softly.

The mage turned at the sound of his voice and smiled. She let her arms down and stepped through hole the air. As she came out it collapsed behind her leaving no trace it had ever existed.

“What was that?” he asked.

“That was my home. I figured I would take your stuff there where it would be safe. Don’t worry…it’s in a secluded area. I have my home magically warded so there is no chance anyone can get in or out unless I am there,” she replied.

“I mean…that thing you stepped through…what was that?” he asked.

“I opened a portal,” she said with a shrug. “My home is far from here, at least for walking, so it’s the quickest way.”

“Was it…magical?” She nodded back to him. “And you can do this…any time you wish to?” Again she nodded twirling her braid with her fingers. Daneel walked to a stump and sat down. “And other mages…they can open portals as well?”

“Yep,” she said walking to stand in front of him. “Why? Don’t your people use portals to travel? I mean…we have ships and mounts as well, but sometimes a portal is just…quicker.”

“And you can open these to anywhere you wish?” the jedi asked.

“Anywhere I have been to before. I mean…I can’t just open one to say…Stormwind…because I have never been there so I have no reference when I cast the spell. But to any place I have been to…yeah…I can open a portal to those places any time I wish. But only mages possess the spells and arcane knowledge to open portals like I can. Other magical casters like druids and shamans can’t…or at least I don’t think they can…because they don’t really use arcane magics or spells for that matter.”

“Before you saw me…before the ship’s crash…did you open a portal?”

“Yes,” she replied crossing her arms across her chest. “Why do you ask?”

“I think,” he started as he stood up, “that when you opened your portal was the exact same instant I used the Force to fold space from the anomaly in my galaxy. That opening on both ends…might be what brought me here to Azeroth. My technique opened one end…and your portal the opposite…and the ship and I were pulled through the tunnel between the openings.”

“So there really is no way to get you home,” she said beside him. He looked at her. “I mean…if what you say is right…and sounds reasonable to me…then for there to be any chance of repeating that I could open a portal, but you would need an opening on the other end at the exact same time.” She shook her had. “It was blind luck that brought you here…I mean…luck…I didn’t mean the blind part…sorry,” she shied away from the Miraluka.

“A jedi does not believe in luck,” was his only response apparently not even hearing her mention of blindness…or not caring.

“Then call it fate…your force…whatever,” she said standing straight. “You were meant to come to me…I mean…to Azeroth.”

“For what purpose? The Force does have a will of its own…but why bring me here?” He turned to face her. “Do you have any ideas? The Force is seldom just a matchmaker.”

Demira looked at Daneel and shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t think of anything. Right now my life is kinda uneventful…which at the moment I enjoy quite a bit.” She twirled her braid in her fingers. “I still say it was luck…or fate.” ‘And what if it was playing matchmaker?’ she thought to herself. ‘Despite his strangeness…I really like this man.’ “Whatever the reason…you are here so you might as well make the best of things.” He looked at her and then started laughing. Demira crossed her arms again…confused and anger building. Was he laughing at her? “Fine…I’ll…just leave then,” she said turning away from him. How dare he laugh at her. She started to take a step when his hand on her shoulder stopped her. He turned her around and she stood looking into his face. He was still smiling. What was so damn funny? “What!” she blurted.

“What you said,” he started with mirth, “you just sound like…”

“Like?” she interrupted him.

“It’s just that…well…my sister used to tell me something similar,” he replied. He reached into a small pouch on his belt and pulled out a small metal disk about two inches thick and three inches across. His thumb contacted a small button on the side, and above the disk appeared a hazy three dimensional image of a woman dressed in a full length white dress. Her brown hair was pulled back onto a ponytail and over her eyes was the same kind of covering Daneel wore. Demira gasped as she looked at the image before her. “This is my sister, Zufa,” Daneel told her.

“She is very pretty,” Demira whispered. The image moved as the woman waved at her, smiled, and then blew a kiss.

“Like me she is a Jedi,” Daneel said quietly. “But unlike me she held a…looser…standard of the Jedi teachings. The Order frowns on romantic relationships because it is believed emotions like love can lead to others like jealousy which can lead one to the dark side of the Force. Zufa…did not agree with those sentiments. This image was taken on her wedding day.”

“And you don’t believe in…love?” Demira asked quietly.

“Lately I do not know what to believe,” he replied…the image of Zufa still waving and blowing kisses as it looped on the holo-imager. “I met a man who taught me…who…” He hesitated. Demira uncrossed her arms and placed her hand on his cheek…and felt a tear? A bead of sweat? Was he nervous? “Revan was the name of the man,” he finally continued. “He was a Jedi…then a Sith…but when I met him he was neither. He told me that there was…more to the Force than I understood. He tried to tell me…” The jedi grew silent again.

“Tell you what?”

“I’ll just say that in the past six months I have seen and experienced things that have made me begin questioning my understanding of the Force…and of the Jedi teachings.”

“Are you…falling to this…dark side?” the mage asked. “Turning…evil?”

“Nothing like that. I’ve just begun to think that maybe Revan is right. There is light and dark, but also more…gray…more…in-between…more…intermingling of the two sides in the middle. The Sith govern themselves through their passions…use the strongest emotions like fear, anger, and hatred to give them power…to bend the Force to their will. The Jedi try to avoid emotions instead to allow the Force to flow through them…to be become a conduit for the Force. But since I met Revan I have seen that neither is truly the only path…but there are several…and like him I have begun to see the truth and rightness of following both paths…along the grayer areas of the Force. In times of battle detaching oneself from emotions as a Jedi is invaluable…but also using the strong emotions like love, compassion, and caring can be just as powerful if not more so than using the emotions of fear, anger, and hatred as the Sith do. I have spent many hours meditating on this…and still I am no closer than this simple truth…I do not know enough to know what way is the right way…to follow my passions based in the light…or to suppress them.”

“When did your sister get married” Demira asked…her hand still on his cheek.

“You are insightful,” Daneel replied. “Six months ago…and Revan I met a year ago.”

“So you began thinking this way because of your sister?”

“Partly,” he said. “She was married in secret…the council does not know and I would never tell them. I would never betray my sister like that.” He sighed deeply. “She was always telling me I needed to find a woman…to think beyond the strict guidelines of the Jedi Code. To experience love and what having a caring relationship can mean on a personal level. She was…more understanding of the living will of the Force than I.” His thumb broke contact with the switch and the image faded then disappeared. “The living Force is strong on this world. Very little of the light or dark do I sense…just the living will of the Force. I believe…I believe my sister was right all along. Azeroth…is showing me something I have never experienced before…at least not as profoundly.”

“So what will you do?”

“Take things one day at a time,” he replied placing his hand on her cheek. “Beginning now.” He leaned forward and kissed her. He held onto the kiss…his arms sliding around her waist and pulling her closer. Her body did not tense at the abruptness of his kiss instead relaxing into his embrace. Their lips parted.

“I am sorry. I should not…” he began, but she pulled him into another kiss interrupting him. He relished the moistness of her lips as she kissed him deeply…the flick of her tongue in his mouth giving a deeper intimate feeling to the embrace. Her heart was racing with his as though they had just run a great distance, but he was not tired. And it ached…ached for her. He lost himself in her kiss…her touch…lost himself in the moment. Feelings he had never felt flooded him…

“What have we here? A jedi?” The strange voice startled the couple and their lips parted. They turned their heads towards the voice, and Daneel felt a familiar yet strange disturbance in the Force. Standing several meters away was a being that looked like a sith, but with green skin. To his side he held an ignited lightsaber…the crimson blade glowing in the night. “Have the jedi so come to fear us that they reach even to this remote world?” the sith continued.

Daneel pulled Demira behind him and faced the strange being. It talked like a sith…wielded a crimson blade like a sith…but the green skin…

“At a loss for words…scum!”

“How did a sith come to this world?” Daneel asked while igniting his own blade. It spoke the native language fluently…not the galactic basic of the Republic and Sith Empire.

“Over a thousand years…and still your kind cannot leave us alone!” The sith lunged forward…the crimson blade slicing through the night sky. Daneel pushed Demira back as he brought his green blade to block the sith’s attack. She fell to the ground with a grunt, and Daneel maneuvered the sith away from her as their blades connected time and again…attack and parry…attack and parry. Daneel blocked all other concerns from his mind instead allowing the Force to flow through him. The sith was strong in the Force, but it was different than he had experienced before. He had encountered many dark side users including his old master Syo Bakarn. This being before him…sith yet something else…felt strange. And it kept coming at him again and again…blades crashed and sparked…the air crackled from their energies reverberating in the calm night. Finally Daneel was able to knock his foe off balance with a feint and gathering the Force he pushed the being several yards into a tree. Bones cracked as the sith struck the trunk and the lightsaber fell to the ground…its blade extinguished. Daneel stepped towards the downed enemy. It pushed itself up to look at the approaching jedi. Green blood trickled from the corner of its mouth…a mouth twisted into a sneer as the sith sat slumped with its left arm holding its ribs.

“You have succeeded, jedi. Are you happy?” the sith asked.

“Who are you?” Daneel asked.

“Feign ignorance all you want…I know you have come to finish what you started over a thousand years ago.”

“Over a thousand years…do you mean the Great Hyperspace War?”

The sith laughed and then choked on its blood. It spit on the ground and looked back up at Daneel. “You defeated us in that war, but it was not enough. You hunted us down to the edge of the galaxy…sought to eradicate us!” It coughed again and spat more blood. “There was one who called to the lords…to escape the genocide of the jedi. But my master…he knew that way lead to death. We did not heed the call. We fled further…until…” it choked again and its body spasmed.

“You are referring to the Emperor,” Daneel said. “You speak of Lord Vitiate…the one who drained all life and the Force from the world Nathema.” It nodded. “You could not be from that time. No natural beings live that long…not even the Hutts.”

“On this world there are beings who live that long and longer,” the sith replied.

“But this world is not even in the same galaxy as I come from.”

“And yet you managed to find your way here,” it said spitting more blood. “Tell me, jedi…tell me how you found us after all this time. Sargeras said we would be safe here…that no jedi would ever find us on this world.”

“How I came to be here was by accident,” Daneel replied. He sensed Demira approaching them. “I am honestly not certain how I came to be here…only a theory.”

“He mentioned Sargeras,” Demira stated as she stopped behind the jedi. She looked at the green skinned creature dying at the base of the tree. “What do you mean Sargeras brought you here?”

Demira fell to the ground, no was pushed to the ground, by the jedi she was just kissing. She heard the snap-hiss of his peculiar weapon and looked to see him jump twenty yards through the air. He jumped to another strange being. It had green skin like an orc, but that was where the similarities ended. For starters it was slender like a human. It also had no facial hair or tusks like an orc, but instead it had fleshy tendrils around the mouth and chin. He wore simple black robes, and in its right hand a lightsaber similar to Daneel’s only with a red blade instead of green.

She gaped at the speed of the two combatants. Demira had participated in several battles in recent years. She witnessed elves, dwarves, humans, orcs, tauren, and other beings fight…and they were the best fighters in all of Azeroth. But these two before her moved faster than she imagined possible. Their movements were blurs. She heard the clash of the blades…a noise that echoed throughout the woods around them. The stranger swung his blade at Daneel’s legs, and instead of jumping as she had seen others do…he cartwheeled over the blade never touching the ground in the movement. The jedi landed and brought his hand before him, and the stranger flew thirty yards through the air and into the trunk of a tree. She heard the distinctive sound of bones breaking, and the being slumped to the ground. She stood up as Daneel approached the attacker…his blade still ignited while the other blade was gone…where to Demira was not sure. The two were talking, and as she neared them she heard the other mention Sargeras…that foul being who had attempted to destroy Azeroth countless times.

“He mentioned Sargeras,” Demira stated as she stopped behind the jedi. She looked at the green skinned creature dying at the base of the tree. “What do you mean Sargeras brought you here?”

The sith laughed. “He brought us here and thought he controlled us. He offered power and escape…and we took both.” It coughed again and then smiled. “He never realized just how much we took from him…the fool. Yes I know…your kind and others defeated him and his legion. But you would never have done so had we not siphoned his power from him. He was powerful…but lacked any knowledge of the Force.” It spat blood on the ground and coughed again. He looked up at Demira and smiled. “He was a tool for our salvation…and the key to our ultimate power.”

She looked at this being…sith was what Daneel called it. The smirk on its face twisted the tendrils into something demonic. It had red eyes with yellow fringes around the pupils. And she could not believe what she was hearing. It claimed to control Sargeras?

“How many of you are there on this world?” she heard the jedi ask. She looked at him…his blade still humming active.

“One…less…than…there…was…before…today…” the sith gasped with its final breaths. Its head slouched forward and hand fell to its side…dead.

Daneel sighed and then to Demira’s surprise thrust the green blade into the inactive hilt of the sith’s lightsaber on the ground. Sparks flew from the blow. She looked back at the dead creature lying against the tree…a being completely alien to her. Then its body dissolved into a purple mist that dissipated into the night air. She felt Daneel’s hand cup her cheek, and as a thousand confusing questions flooded her mind she looked into his face.

“Are you ok?” he asked her. She nodded and did not speak. Her tailbone was bruised from when he had pushed her to the ground, but that now seemed so trivial compared to what she had just heard and witnessed. Again this man…one whom she found herself caring deeply for…had just protected her again without thought of the danger to himself. She wrapped her arms around him and buried her head in his chest. After all she had seen and experienced…this time she felt truly…helpless. The only comfort she wanted now was in his arms…her protector this day for the second time. She felt his arms wrap around her shoulders and his cheek rest against her head. She took a deep breath.

“What…what was that?” she finally asked.

“I believe it was a sith. A species from my galaxy.”

“How did he get here?”

“I do not know,” he replied. “But he claimed to have been here a thousand years.”

“He mentioned Sargeras,” she whispered. “A foul demon who brought the orcs to Azeroth…was behind the destruction of the Well of Eternity…led the Burning Legion…so much destruction.” She looked up into Daneel’s face. A tear ran down her cheek. “Where the Dark Portal existed…it killed all life around it. The fel energies are the reason the orcs have green skin…my people’s eyes glow green…and now this…person….with green skin…” her voice trailed off. “Sargeras’ corruption left Draenor, the original home of the orcs, a dead world.”

“Like Nathema,” he muttered. “A world left void of all life, color, even the Force. To step on its surface is akin to touching…oblivion. Unnatural and done for the greed of one man to become immortal…over a thousand years ago…all because he was afraid of his own inevitable death.”

“Sounds as bad as Sargeras,” Demira whispered. She buried her face back into his chest. “Do you think he brought those beings here to Azeroth to kill it like this…Nathema place?”

“I doubt in quite the same way,” he replied. “Only one sith knew the ritual to kill Nathema, and he is now dead. But…” his voice trailed off. She looked up at him. “There are some sith…the Dread Masters…who can kill only by their thoughts and amplifying their victims fears. This one…was not like that. I would guess his abilities as a low level lord. But he spoke of others…” He kissed her forehead and ran his hand through her hair. “He felt strange in the Force…corrupted. I fear what they have been doing on this world for the past millennium.”

“If they have been in league with Sargeras it can be nothing good.” She shuddered and held him tighter. They stood quietly in each others arms for a moment. “We should leave this place.”

“I agree,” he replied. “The danger seems to have passed. And I have a means to get us anywhere from here quickly.”

“I would like to see this.”

Daneel let go of his embrace of Demira and smiled. He walked back to the ship. She watched him walk into the darkness, and a few moments later heard a high pitched whine. Her eyes gaped as she saw him approach on a vehicle. It was sleek and hovered a couple of feet from the ground. Blue flames spewed from pipes under the jedi’s feet. He leaned forward on a black seat atop the light blue frame. He stopped next to her and smiled.

“Hop on, little lady,” he said. “Then just point the way and hold on tight to me.”

Demira climbed onto the seat behind Daneel and wrapped her arms around his waist. “What is this?” she asked.

“My speeder bike,” came the reply. “It can travel over two hundred kilometers per hour.” The last statement intoned with a sense of pride.

“Is that fast?” the mage asked. “I do not know what a kilometer is.” The past few minutes of fear caused by the appearance of the strange sith eroded from their minds.

“Oh…that it is. Which way to your home? Is it far?”

“We can head to Saltheril’s Haven,” Demira replied. “It’s not far at all and over in that direction,” she said pointing.

“Hold on tight,” Daneel stated.

She tightened her embrace around his waist. Suddenly they sped across the glade and into the darkness. She felt the wind whipping her hair at a speed she seldom travelled at except when riding her drake mounts. Although sin’dorei possessed excellent night vision she had difficulty seeing their path in the night, but she felt confident in the jedi’s ability to see their way in the night. So far he had done things she scarcely imagined possible…and especially for a being with no eyes.

They travelled to the Haven, and then to save time Demira opened a portal to her home in a secluded part of Eversong Woods. She found the speeder ride thrilling, but opted to retire to her home to rest and recuperate from the day’s events. She asked Daneel to join her, and he accepted. They spent the next few days just getting to know each other better than they had that first day. Their love for each other blossomed and for the next few years they lived uneventful lives…but always in the back of their minds remained the encounter with the corrupted Sith…and concerns about what that species was doing on Azeroth. Despite periodic investigation into the sith’s whereabouts on the planet they uncovered not a single person, reference, or evidence of their existence…except for that one encounter.

 

 

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A New Home part 1

 

Daneel…jedi master…sat on the rear deck of a small abode settled near the edge of a thick forest at the base of a mountain. About one hundred yards before him was the line of trees marking the beginning of the dense foliage. All sorts of creatures made their home in the woods from small squirrels to mighty bears. As with much of the planet of Azeroth it teemed with life and was full of the Force. Today was no exception as a fox chased after a rabbit on the edge just within sight of the cottage. To the jedi’s right a short walking distance away was a small lake fed by a waterfall from the mountain summit. Along one of its banks a golden haired bear fished in the shallows of the stream that continued from the lake to the valley below. Daneel sensed all of this as he reached out with the Force. With his mastery of the living Force he slowed his perception of time as he watched each wing-beat of a hummingbird as it flitted amongst a bed of flowers. He felt the fear of the rabbit as it searched for cover and safety from the fox that pursued it. The elation of the bear as it caught a fish in its claws. This was nature…the ebb and flow of life in its most raw and primitive form. Nature sought balance as did also the Force. The master meditated on all that was happening around him and its reverberations in the Force…the one thing that was bound to life, created by life, and was itself alive. He let it flow around him and through him. Daneel the Jedi Master…far from what he had called home living on a strange world not even in the same galaxy of his birth…was at peace.

It was almost three years since his arrival to Azeroth. To save his life from a violent anomaly in deep space, Daneel performed a seldom used and nearly forgotten technique in the Force that folded space. At the same time a sin’dorei mage, Demira, had opened a portal to a quiet glade on this world. Their timing was perfect to open a tunnel through space and time that brought Daneel to Demira. A small smile crossed the jedi’s face as he thought of the beautiful woman he had come to love. He thought back to that first day they had met. At first there was the natural trepidation and confusion, but by the end of that first day they had shared their first kiss. Convention said that things between the couple had moved too fast, but as the past years demonstrated convention was sometimes wrong. The mage and the jedi were closer than ever and both were very happy.

The sound of the wing-beats of a drake filled the air in the distance. The smile widened on the jedi’s face. The drake drew closer and shortly afterwards he heard it land near the front of the cottage and then take off again. Daneel remained sitting with his legs crossed and hands steepled before his chest. His only clothing was a pair of shorts. The slight breeze tousled his collar length white hair. He never heard her footsteps or when she knelt beside him on the wooden deck. Her only sound was a deep sigh escape her lips. She was troubled…this much he could sense even without the use of the Force. He reached out and grasped her hand. He felt her tension relax a little with his touch.

“Your visit with the Kirin Tor did not go well I take it,” he stated. Demira had been trying to gain acceptance to the order for the past two years. She had met with some resistance mainly due to her race.

“Neutral my ***,” she replied with a heavy sigh. She leaned over and placed her head on his shoulder. “Just because blood elves created the mana bomb that decimated Theramore at the behest of the Horde…and I was a member of the Horde at the time…they say I still have to prove myself trustworthy before they will accept me.” Her other hand touched his. Her voice grew quiet. “Thalen Songweaver did more damage than just what happened at Theramore.”

Daneel squeezed her hand tightly. “I believe this is for the best. I do not think now is a good time to be in Dalaran.”

“But you know this is what I want,” she replied. She looked up at his face…he was no longer smiling. “Do you know something?”

“The Force has given me a vision,” he replied turning his face to hers. “There will be a great deal of turmoil in that city. I do not feel that now would be a good time for you to be there.”

Her heart sank. This was not the first time she had learned of his visions. As he described them, when he opened himself to the Force he would receive visions. Sometimes they were from the past, some from the present, and some from the future. The Force existed outside the normal understanding of time and space…it was everywhere and at every time. She swallowed hard. “Is it the future you saw?” she asked quietly.

“This war that Garrosh machinates…it will have dire consequences to your people in that city. I am not certain what will happen for the future is always in motion…always changing…but I see…” his voice trailed off.

“What?”

“It is best that you are here,” he replied trying to avoid a direct answer. “Here…you are safe…and free to live as you wish.”

She reached up and cupped his cheek. Her eyes searched his face. “Daneel…tell me…tell me what you saw.”

“The sin’dorei will be either imprisoned or expelled…or possible killed…within Dalaran. I do not know the reason…only saw glimpses of what could happen,” he replied. “I could not bear any of those things happening to you,” he whispered. “You are too important to me.”

“You should speak to Jaina Proudmore…to Aethas Sunreaver…tell them what you saw…tell them…” Demira pleaded.

“They will not listen,” he replied…sorrow echoed in his voice. “Both are proud and stubborn. They would not…and still do not…believe that there are sith on this world. They will not believe what they do not understand. Although they know me…know what I am…they would never understand how the Force works with visions. It took me a long time to get you to understand.” He sighed deeply. “It is because of our relationship that I think you were not detained. I sense…I feel things are already in motion in Dalaran.”

She nodded as she knew his reasoning was sound. After he had been on Azeroth a month she had taken him to Dalaran and the Kirin Tor. Since that time he had been accepted as a neutral entity always striving for peace between the Horde and the Alliance. When the Council of Six asked him why acted as he did, Daneel explained the jedi philosophy to them and their history. She sat and listened in fascination as his order was revealed to the highest magical authority on Azeroth. And he was right…for they never did understand what he was telling them about the Force. They saw him as a mage with a strange source for his power. His lack of eyes helped them to understand he was from a different world…that they never questioned…only his power and where he drew it from. That he acted for peace kept them from imprisoning him and torturing him for his secrets. They did not know the jedi as she did…she understood him.

“Then we can do nothing? For my people?” she asked.

“There is nothing safe for you to do,” he replied squeezing her hand again. “I did not say there was nothing that I could not do.”

“You?”

He leaned forward and kissed her. “I need to get dressed, but I will need you to open a portal for me in a few minutes. I must do what I can to ensure your people are not endangered unnecessarily. The vision I received…I believe I must act soon for the benefit of your people.”

“Why?” she whispered already knowing the answer. “You are not sin’dorei.”

“They are your people…and that is enough,” he replied. “The jedi way is to serve those who are in need…and right now those in need are the sin’dorei in Dalaran.”

“Why haven’t you left before now?” Demira asked.

“I sensed through the Force your return. I wanted to ensure you were here and safe before I left.”

“You mean you just had this vision?”

“Just before you arrived,” he replied standing. “Events are in motion…and I must make haste.” He walked to the cottage door and turned to face her. “I love you.”

She watched after him for a few moments. She began pacing with nervous energy causing the skirt of her long red dress to flow behind her steps. What had happened that the blood elves would be expelled from Dalaran? Or imprisoned? Or even killed? Her thoughts drifted to the conversation she had with Kalecgos, the former Aspect of the now disbanded blue dragonflight. He had stopped to talk to her just before she left Dalaran only a few hours before…just minutes after the Council of Six denied her membership in the Kirin Tor.

“Demira,” he had called to her. “May I have a moment?” She did not stop or answer him. She just wanted to leave before she said or did something she might regret. But the former Aspect was insistent. He strode up alongside her matching her stride for stride. “I think you misunderstand their reasoning,” he said.

“What’s to understand?” she retorted quickening her pace. “I asked to join the Kirin Tor and they said no. Who am I but a single blood elf mage?”

“A mage with a very strange and powerful friend,” Kalecgos added. “But that is not why they hesitate.”

Demira stopped suddenly and Kalecgos almost tripped trying to stop himself. “Hesitate? I have been asking to join the order for almost three years! That’s a little more than hesitation! And what has Daneel have to do with any of this?”

“To the first let me just say that there have been some developments regarding an ancient and powerful artifact.”

“So?” she huffed crossing her arms over her chest.

“It was recently stolen, and we think by the Horde. That is why Jaina Proudmore was not present today,” he answered. “She left to investigate the theft.”

“Still not seeing what this has to do with me,” she replied. “I didn’t steal any artifact. In fact until just now I didn’t even know one had been found and hidden away to even think about stealing it.”

“And you are a blood elf…and a member of the Horde…” he started.

“The Sunreavers are Horde! Aethas Sunreaver himself sits on the council! How does that affect my joining the Kirin Tor?”

The dragon in human form looked at her with pity. “Things are just very complicated.”

Demira rolled her eyes as she started walking again. “Whatever,” she sighed. He walked in line beside her. “Just let me be.”

“You had two questions,” he said. “Your jedi friend has powers that…quite honestly…scare us.”

“Good,” she replied with a smirk.

“Not good,” he said grabbing her arm stopping her. She glared at him and roughly removed his hand from her arm. “He can resist all forms of arcane magics thrown against him…that has never been done.”

“Blah,” she answered. It was a true statement. She had seen Daneel shirk arcane attacks many times. He erected what he called a Force barrier that blocked all arcane attacks both physical and mental. She had even thrown her most potent spells against him to no effect while sparring. But the jedi was not invincible. Zharn and Kitali could both hurt Daneel if they wanted to with ease. While he could resist arcane magics with little effort, the magics of the elements used by shamans and druids he had no defense against. Fire still burned him…winds could still knock him off his feet…the ground could still open and swallow him. “So mages can’t hurt him…so what?”

“So where does he get that power?” Kalecgos asked. “If not arcane sources…then it must be demonic. It certainly does not come from the Light as a priest or paladin utilizes it. ”

“He told you all about the Force,” she retorted. “The living energy created by all living things. He is very sensitive to it and can harness it as he needs. When you first met him he explained all of this.”

“That is too…unbelievable,” the dragon replied. “I, for one, do not believe it.”

“Of course you wouldn’t. You are a blue dragon…the flight with governance over arcane magics. It’s all you know! Did you ever confide in the Life-Binder? Did you ask Alexstrasza her opinion about the Force? Her domain was over all things living…right?”

“She could not confirm or deny its existence,” Kalecgos admitted. “But if she of all beings is not certain then I cannot believe in it myself.” He hesitated. “Then there his influence on you, Demira, blood elf mage. We can all see it. We know you have not visited the Sunwell in the time you have known him. Blood elves must satiate their arcane hunger at the well or risk drawing their energies from fel sources…from demons. This fact disturbs us. We fear you may be falling down the same path as Kael’thas Sunstrider.”

“I am NOT consorting with demons!” she exclaimed. “I’m…I…I am just going to leave now and try not to think about what happened today.” She turned from Kalecgos and walked away. “Good day, Kalecgos of the blue dragon flight.” She meant the last part as an insult. She didn’t feel good about doing it and knew that Daneel would not approve. However, today she didn’t feel good about anything.

Daneel’s emergence from their home brought her back to the here and now. He was dressed in the same robes from when they first met. His lightsaber hung from his belt on his left side. She smiled at him. He walked over and caressed her cheek. They didn’t day anything…they didn’t need to. He leaned forward to kiss her passionately. When their lips parted she kept her eyes closed as they touched foreheads. “You make sure to come back to me,” she whispered.

“That I can promise,” he replied and kissed her again. He then stepped back and allowed her to cast the portal to Dalaran. He smiled at her as he stepped through the portal. She stood looking after him a few moments after it had closed. She hoped he was wrong…that the vision was only one possible future that he could avoid. With a sigh she turned and walked back to the deck. They had a small table and some chairs to one side and she sat looking back at where the portal had been.

“You have a good man there,” a voice said shocking her. Demira stood and faced where the voice came from. Only a few yards away stood a man dressed in black robes…and a crimson face half obscured from the black hood of the robes. She recognized the race from three years before, but that person had green skin like an orc. She tensed remembering the confrontation with that sith and Daneel. He put his hand before him but did not threaten her. “Please…I only wish to talk.”

“I know what you are,” she replied. If only Daneel had not left already, or had this sith been watching them and waited until the jedi had departed. “I can defend myself against you, sith.”

“Of that I have no doubt,” he replied with a smile. “And I am sure your jedi friend told you all about us sith. I would have to admit most of what he probably told you is true. But there are some of us who do not follow the dark side of the Force.”

“And I suppose you are telling me you are one of those. Then why are you here on Azeroth?” she asked.

He kept his hands in front of his body where she could see them. She kept wary because she knew force-users had more weapons than just lightsabers. In that regard they were like mages…their power could manifest in many ways. “I did follow the dark side…long ago,” he began. “Then we came to this world. Much like the orcs our leaders were beguiled by Sargeras. You see…the jedi were hunting us…and for good reason for we tried to enslave the galaxy. The demon lord came to us in our most desperate hour and offered us a way to avoid the jedi…to avoid the genocide. But some of us, like myself, did not trust Sargeras or his seemingly benign offer.” He stepped to a chair and sat down keeping his hands on the table. Demira watched him closely looking for any trick…any indication he was poised for an attack. “You see…he used the same argument on us we had used countless times before turning the weak to our service in the dark side. Our level of technology is much farther advanced than on most worlds. Sargeras promised us he could augment our engines…make it possible to leave our galaxy for a new world. ‘This world,’ he told us, ‘is ripe for dominance. And the sith are perfect for dominating this planet. I promise you power beyond anything you have achieved before.’ But a few of us did not believe him. Worse yet was that our leaders thought they could subvert Sargeras to their will. Some still believe they have power over the demon, but of course that is their vanity for he controls them as he always has since they accepted his bargain. Our fears were confirmed when he forced our leaders to drink of demon blood to seal the pact. A few of us refused to drink his concoction, and we had little choice but to come with the others. It was either come here and live or die when the jedi finally found us…so we chose life.”

“That sounds too familiar,” Demira stated. “Sounds like you changed what happened to the orcs just enough to make a believable story to try and…”

“I know you have seen one of us,” he said angrily. “One of us with green skin! This is what my race is supposed to look like,” he continued as he pointed to his face…the red skin. “We were a crimson nightmare ravaging across the galaxy!” He took a deep breath and placed his hand back flat on the table. “There is no emotion, there is peace.”

“That’s part of the jedi code,” Demira said.

The sith smiled at her. “I know. We had some of their holocrons in our possession as ‘spoils of war’ as it were. When we finally arrived on this world, a few of us immediately left the others. Only one other came with me to find our own corner of seclusion on this world. Where the other dissenters left to I do not know. But after a few years we, my wife and I, were amazed at the complexity and variety of life on this single world. The Force was rich and alive more so than either of us had ever experienced. We began to…question…our old beliefs about the Force. Soon I used one of those jedi holocrons and began to appreciate a more enlightened view of the Force and life in general. For over a thousand years my wife and I have embraced the light side of the Force, and we adopted the jedi philosophy to better understand the living Force we found ourselves drowning in.”

“I don’t believe you,” Demira replied. “And I would like for you to just leave.”

“I didn’t actually expect you to believe me,” the sith replied standing up from the table. He kept his hands where she could see them.

“Then why come here?” she asked.

“I was hoping to meet your friend, but it seems he has more pressing concerns at the present time,” he said as he started to turn away from her, and then stopped. “I have…a favor to ask of him. When he returns just tell him of our meeting.” He looked at Demira with a sad expression. “Sometimes a father’s love for his child will cause even the hardest to seek help from once mortal enemies.”

“And shall I give him your name as well?”

“I am called Maktai,” the sith replied. “But he will not know my name from history. I was nothing significant during that war…only a foot soldier that had a little wisdom.”

He walked away from her into the forest. Demira watched after him a few moments, and then placed warding stones around the cottage. With a quick utterance the spell was enacted protecting the small abode. She walked inside and to the bedroom she shared with Daneel. Next to the wall close to the bed was a small end table with a drawer. She opened it and reached inside. The metal cylinder was cold to the touch. She held it before her and thumbed the contact igniting the green blade. She smiled and looked back in the direction of the woods where the sith had left moments before. If he returned he would find her more than a simple mage.

Kalecgos was partially right…Daneel had been teaching her of the Force. By no means was she close to the abilities of a jedi, but she had been awakened to its presence around her. Instead of simple arcane energies her spells now were fuelled by the Force. The former Aspect was right in that she had lost her addiction to arcane energies…that she no longer needed to visit the Sunwell like the rest of her people did. Instead she let the Force flow through her as she had arcane energies before. Her spells were more potent, but all of this she kept secret because others, like Kalecgos, would not understand. The blade she now held she could not make as a jedi could. Her attunement to the Force was very rudimentary…she could wield the weapon if needed, but she was not familiar enough with the mysterious energies of the Force to align the crystal which was a basic test of the jedi. This lightsaber Daneel had made for her. It was more a deterrent than anything else…she was never that comfortable with swordplay. If the sith returned and pressed her into a duel she was quite sure she would not survive the encounter. If only Daneel would hurry back then she would feel safe.

 

Daneel emerged from the portal into utter chaos. Guardsmen were either fighting blood elves or escorting obvious prisoners through the streets. Bodies were strewn everywhere. Some were bleeding, some burnt, and some so contorted they were barely recognizable. His heart sunk in his chest. The worst scenario he could imagine had come to pass…war had erupted in the streets of Dalaran. Screams of agony mixed with rage and fear assaulted his hearing. Death and decay mixed with the putrid smells of destruction smothered every breath of air. The sky was blackened with smoke. With a heavy sigh he began walking towards the center of the city and Runeweaver Square where Dalaran’s leaders should be located to coordinate such a purge as he was witnessing. There was nothing he could do for the dead immediately around him. He resigned himself to help those he could along the way, but as he neared the center of the city the fighting was worse not less.

Daneel turned west towards the Violet Citadel. Perhaps he could convince the Council of Six to halt their purge and end the bloodshed. He walked down several streets wary of danger, but these appeared to be deserted. He rounded a corner and stopped to stand face to face with none other than Jaina Proudmore and Kalecgos. With them were two members of the Silver Covenant.

“Strange to see you here at this very moment,” Jaina stated, her silvery hair billowing in the wind. The two high elves moved towards opposite sides of the jedi. “Are you here looking for your Horde friend?”

“She is at our home where she is safe,” replied the jedi. “I came hoping to avoid bloodshed, but I see I am too late for that.”

Proudmore smiled. “All Horde members are ordered to surrender and placed into custody in the Violet Hold. Do you submit?” Her smile waned. “I will only ask this once.”

“I am not Horde,” Daneel replied. Jaina’s face grew stern. “Guilt by association I take it?”

“You’re friend is Horde.” The two elves stepped up close to either side of the jedi. “And Garrosh Hellscream has made it abundantly clear there are no neutral parties in this war.”

“And so you follow his example and also recognize no neutral parties?” Daneel asked. She only looked at him. “I did not come here for violence…only to try and avoid any if possible.” She nodded and each elf grabbed one of his arms. They began to lead him away from the area. “I pity you, Jaina Proudmore. To have once been a beacon of peace you have become someone who will condemn all members of a race for the actions of a few.”

“Once a Horde always a Horde,” she replied. “I will not allow what happened at Theramore to happen again.” She turned and walked away apparently with nothing more to say to the jedi. Kalecgos followed without saying a word, just an apologetic look on his face.

The two elves escorted Daneel along some of the back streets of Dalaran trying to avoid the fighting that had become localized near the center of the city. Neither said a word to the jedi, and he did not try to strike a conversation with them sensing they had no desire to speak…only to escort their prisoner to the Violet Hold. They did not treat him roughly, and he did not resist. At a “T” intersection they stopped to get their bearings, and the woman on Daneel’s right suddenly gasped. A red blade protruded from her chest. Using the Force he pushed the surviving elven woman towards a wall and reached for his lightsaber with his other hand. The stricken elf fell to the ground dead, and behind her a green skinned sith snarled at the jedi…his lightsaber blade glowing crimson. Daneel’s green blade sprung to life with the familiar snap-hiss. The surviving elf turned to face something she did not believe possible…a member of the race the jedi claimed but nobody believed existed stood mere feet from her.

“You should thank me, jedi,” the sith said with a grin. “I saved you from their prison, but I just could not let them take the chance of killing you away from me.” His simple black robes flowed in the breeze. The hood fell away from his face revealing the green skin and red eyes of a once pureblood sith.

“Stay out of the way,” Daneel said to the elf behind him never taking his gaze from the killer. “I will deal with him.” She only nodded…eyes gaping not only at the sith but the weapons wielded by both he and the jedi who only seconds ago was her prisoner.

“Don’t worry, love,” the sith said to the elf. “Your time will come soon enough.”

“Are you the one behind what is happening here?” Daneel asked. He took a step to his left further blocking the sith from the elf behind him.

“These people are primed for such violence without any interference from me,” the sith replied. “I came for the feeding…so much hatred and anger to strengthen the dark side. I could feel its power from miles away…and I just had to come and sample some of that power. I never imagined I would also come face to face with a jedi here.” He stepped to his right to stand directly in front of Daneel. “This is indeed a glorious day.”

Behind the sith Kalecgos rounded a corner and stopped. Before him stood the jedi with a green blade, an elven woman of the Silver Covenant cowering against a wall behind him, and before them a being with green skin he had never seen before. His arrival startled the sith who turned to face the former Aspect. Kalec’s jaw dropped as he saw what he thought was unreal…a being never seen or heard of before the jedi’s claim they were on Azeroth.

“What’s this? A dragon?” the sith growled. He turned back to Daneel. “No matter…first I kill you, then the intruder, and then maybe I will have my way with the pretty one behind you before I kill her as well.”

“You will do no such thing!” cried Kalecgos as he quickly passed his initial shock. He unleashed a barrage of arcane energy at the sith engulfing him a colorful cloud of magic. The sith was unaffected and laughed as he raised his free hand towards Kalecgos. Force lightning arced from his fingers to engulf the former Aspect. Kalec writhed in agony as the lightning coursed through his body.

“Pathetic,” the sith cried as he poured more of his power into his attack. “Arcane magics are nothing compared to the dark side of the Force.”

“Then what about this?” The sith turned at the sound of Daneel’s voice just as a bright white ball of telekinetic energy hit him full in the chest. The lightning ceased as the sith was hurled backwards. Daneel kept his focus on the sith knowing he would recover quickly. “Go help Kalec,” he said to the elf behind him. “And get yourselves away from this place.” She nodded without a word and scrambled towards the dragon lying unconscious on the ground. Picking up the former Aspect she looked back at the jedi and the sith who was beginning to stand. The jedi raised his free hand and a boulder close by lifted from the ground. With a push of the Force Daneel hurled the boulder at the sith who jumped at the last second avoiding harm. She struggled to the corner and rounded it just as she heard crackling sounds behind her.

Daneel pushed back on his lightsaber as his blade clashed with the sith’s. The being smelled putrid as if his flesh was rotting from decay. The blades parted as each combatant swung to the left only to have their blades clash again. With their free hands they each tried to push the other with the Force. Their hands shook as each channeled more of the Force. Their blades parted as each was thrown back…repulsed from their mutual onslaught. Both jedi and sith landed on their feet only to spring back immediately towards each other…blades clashing.

Further away Kalecgos began to stir as the elf dragged him further from the fight. Her fear took hold as she heard the crackling and sparking behind her. She had seen a friend and comrade killed, and one of the most powerful mages, if not the most powerful one, proven ineffective against an unknown assailant. She slowed her pace as he began regaining consciousness.

“Where…what…happened?” he asked groggily.

“I am not certain what is happening,” she replied.

“Where is the jedi?”

“He’s back there fighting that…thing.” He looked up at her. “Back around that corner. He told me to get you to safety.”

“I need…I need you to do something,” he said regaining some of his strength. She looked at him and nodded. “Just leave me here. Go to the Violet Citadel. Get one of the draenei shaman that are visiting here. They were left at the Citadel for their protection.”

“What can a shaman do against that creature?” the elf asked.

“Hopefully more than I could,” Kalecgos said forcing a smile. “I’ll be fine. Just go quickly. I fear our jedi savior might need some help.”

She simply nodded and guided him to a small waist high wall to lean against. She then turned and ran towards the Violet Citadel to carry out his order. He watched her go and then struggled to step from the wall. He almost fell, but summoning all of his remaining strength he took another step…and then another. He slowly made his way back to the corner. As he got closer he could hear the fighting between the jedi and the sith. He peered around the corner to see flashes of green and red as the two combatants performed a deadly dance. The sith struck from high as the jedi whirled around with his blade behind him blocking the attack. He continued his turn and swung his green blade at the other’s neck, but the sith ducked and cartwheeled…his red blade deflecting the green. Their movements were fluid and flawless and almost faster than he could comprehend. He watched this dance for a few moments until he heard two people coming up behind him. He turned to see the elf and a draenei woman.

“I brought this woman,” the elf said as they approached. “Her name is Kitria.” The other nodded.

“I think you might just prove the person we need to tip the balance in this fight,” Kalecgos said.

“What do you need me to do?” Kitria asked.

“Just a distraction of the green skinned one,” Kalec said. “I am convinced the jedi made no idle boast that his kind are immune to arcane magics. But you, my friend, do not use arcane magic…and I believe that is exactly what our jedi friend could use right now.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” the draenei replied. She stepped around the corner. If she was shocked by what was happening she did not show it. Kitria reached into a pouch at her waist and pulled out a totem and placed it on the ground. “I will call on the elements of fire to help us.”

“Remember…just the green one,” the former Aspect reminded her.

Kitria did not respond. She began waving her hands in a circle before her chest, and between her hands a ball of fire formed. With a nod she pushed forward and the fire flew towards the sith. It struck him on the back, and he hissed in pain. His robes caught fire. The seconds of distraction was all Daneel needed to bring his blade down and slice through the sith’s blade arm just below the elbow. The lightsaber’s blade extinguished as it fell to the ground. The sith backed away shedding the burning robes. He glared at the jedi then jumped onto a high wall behind him.

“This is not over between us, jedi,” he growled. “I will return to finish what we started. We sith never forget…and we never forgive.” With a leap he was gone from their sight. A few seconds later they saw him escape on a speeder much like Daneel’s. The jedi turned to his benefactor and bowed. He then brought his green blade into the lightsaber on the ground. Sparks ignited as the sith’s weapon was destroyed. He extinguished his blade and walked the distance to the corner where the dragon, elf, and draenei stood stunned by what had happened.

“I must thank you for your timely assistance,” Daneel said with a smile. Kitria nodded. Daneel faced Kalecgos. “Are you badly hurt?”

“I’ll survive,” Kalec answered. “I suppose that was one of those…sith I think you called them?”

“It was,” the jedi replied. “But this one also had the green skin. Pureblood sith have red skin and eyes. The two I have encountered on this world still have the red eyes, but their skin is green which I find most unusual. If they did come as they claim with the help of Sargeras, then that would seem that they suffered the same fate as the orcs as Demira has told me. They have been…corrupted.”

“Then how is it that the mage’s attack was ineffective, but the shaman was able to have an effect on it?” the elf asked.

“The Force is the energy created by all living things. Shamans deal with the forces of nature, so the two coexist,” Daneel explained. “As for arcane energies and thus its attacks not working…Demira and I believe they are similar to polar “likes”. You know that positive and negative go together…are attracted to each other.” The three nodded agreement. “However, two positives or two negatives will repel each other. We believe that possibly the Force energies and arcane energies fit this pattern… alike enough that they repel each other. She has tried to attack me, and I can erect a Force barrier which blocks even her most potent and powerful attacks. Conversely if she erects a similar barrier she can deflect most Force attacks I unleash on her like my telekinetic based energy attacks.” He looked at Kalecgos. “You acted much too quickly. I could have warned you to protect yourself in such a manner, but the fact that you still live tells me you did so instinctively.”

“I still owe you my life,” Kalec said solemnly. “I have no doubt I would have died had you not intervened.”

“The jedi way is to serve,” Daneel replied plainly. “You owe me no debt except to try and help those who cannot help themselves. Like what is happening in this city. There are innocents being punished for the actions of others. Do what you can to lessen their suffering.”

“I promise you that I will do what is in my power, though you know Jaina can be stubborn about such matters,” Kalec said bowing his head. Daneel simply nodded.

“And what about him?” the elf asked. “I say we let the jedi go free.” Kitria nodded agreement beside her.

“I agree,” Kalecgos replied. “You may leave in peace, my friend. I will make certain nobody interferes with you or Demira. This I also swear.”

“Thank you,” Daneel said. He turned to walk away and stopped after a few feet. He looked back to face the trio and smiled. “May the Force be with you.” Then he turned back and left the city without running across any other people

.

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A New Home part 2

 

Demira paced the living room. Her conversation with the strange sith was racing through her mind. She was also worried about Daneel. It had been hours since he left, and he should have either returned or called her. She jumped when the holocommunicator beeped on the hearth. She walked over and activated the unit. Daneel’s holo image appeared above the device.

“It is as I feared here in Dalaran,” he began. “And something else happened I will tell you once I am home.”

“I have something to tell you as well,” she replied. “Are you ready for me to open a portal to bring you back here?”

“I am, but do not come through it yourself. It is not safe for you here.”

“Why? What has happened?” she asked.

“I will tell you once I am home,” he replied.

Demira nodded and deactivated the holocom. She stepped outside and opened a portal. Seconds later Daneel emerged and picked her up in his arms. He kissed her deeply and held it for a long time. Then he buried his head by her neck and tightened his embrace. She laid her head against his and hugged his head with her arms. Neither said anything for another moment.

“I am so glad you are safe,” he whispered.

“I’m glad you are home,” she whispered back.

He carried her back inside their home. In the living room he kissed her again before indicating she sit while he paced the room. She watched him intently waiting for him to tell her what had happened in the city. Obviously what he had seen touched him deeply.

“They were imprisoning or killing all of the blood elves in Dalaran,” he said quietly. “And the whole time I was there I was thankful you were safe here at home.”

“Why would they do that?”

“I do not know the details, only that all Horde members were being purged from the city,” Daneel replied. “I am afraid the Kirin Tor is no longer a neutral entity nor will they recognize there are neutral parties in this war.”

“Tell me everything,” Demira said. She listened to the jedi as he told her of the fighting in the streets, the burned and tattered bodies, the guards escorting families to the Violet Hold. He told her of the conversation with Jaina Proudmore and her attempt to incarcerate him for his involvement with Demira. Her eyes widened when he recalled the fight with the sith in the street and the promise of Kalecgos. She thought back to her earlier conversation with the blue dragon and realized even then he knew something was about to happen in Dalaran. She pieced the parts of the puzzle together and told Daneel of her conversation with the former Aspect and the theft of the ancient artifact. It had to be the trigger to the purge in the city.

“But why would a sith be in Dalaran?” she asked.

“I am not sure,” Daneel replied. “He fought like a sith…even felt like a sith in the Force. But his demeanor was almost vampiric. Like his saying he was there to feed…on what? Sith in my experience never acted like that. It was…unnerving.”

“There was another sith here at the house today,” Demira stated. Daneel stopped in his tracks and looked at her. “He had red skin and was very polite. He was looking for you to ask you a favor.”

“A sith? Here? What favor?” Daneel asked.

“He wouldn’t tell me,” Demira replied. She recalled her conversation with the mysterious visitor. How he was almost angry about the existence of green skinned sith, of his use of the jedi code, and his claim that he followed the jedi way. She recounted the sith’s version of how they had arrived on Azeroth.

“That is not unheard of…a sith turning to the light,” Daneel said after listening to her. “Pureblood sith do have crimson skin and eyes. If what he told you was true…did he say where and when he wanted to meet with me?”

She shook her head. “Only that his name was Maktai and that what he was doing was for a father’s love for a child.”

“A father’s love for his child…” he repeated.

“Does that mean something? I mean beyond I thought he meant he had a child,” Demira asked.

“It might…and he might.” He stopped near a window and looked out to the forest beyond. “Demira, have you ever been to Theramore?”

 

Demira and Daneel emerged from the portal just outside one of the few remaining walls to the once great city. They looked at the ruins in awe. The devastation from the mana bomb was visible everywhere they looked. Walls and fortifications stood crumbling. Towers were pockmarked from debris thrown by the explosion. And there was no sign of life anywhere around them. Even the plants were dead.

“So why Theramore?” Demira asked from the jedi’s side.

“It was not so much that he said a father’s love, but that one would go to once mortal enemies for help,” Daneel stated. “Where in all of Azeroth could mortal enemies meet and seek help? Plus Jaina Proudmore took over the city after her father was killed. A father’s love for a child…a city to call home after the tragedy of Lordaeron.”

“It was rumored that Thrall came here often as Warchief to seek help finding peace. He would meet here or close by with Jaina Proudmore. But those were better times for the Horde,” Demira sighed. “Garrosh is too hungry for glory.”

“But in those better times this was a haven…the site of a peace summit.”

“Not necessarily successful or a haven. Theramore was also a staging ground for the Alliance’s armies in Kalimdor,” Demira countered. “Proudmore was always Alliance despite her efforts at finding peace between the two parties. And Theramore was a major Alliance city. What happened here…to think what she is doing now in Dalaran…to my people…” her voice trailed off.

“Some cope with the horrors of war better than others,” Daneel replied compassionately. “One is truly tested when losing someone very close in war. That can change a person for better or for worse. Only time will tell if she can heal from her wounds.” He lifted her chin to look into her eyes. “For now we must hope that Kalecgos can uphold his end of the deal with me and lessen the burdens your people now carry.”

“But why meet here?” Demira asked. “What is…” her voice trailed as they heard the sounds of lightsabers clashing. Both tensed trying to ascertain where the fighting was. She looked at Daneel and whispered, “I think someone else is here with that Maktai.”

“Erect your arcane protection,” the jedi whispered back. “I have a feeling we have stepped into an ambush.”

She nodded and smiled. “Already done. Try to keep up.” She walked past him to the edge of a wall and peered around the corner. She looked back at him. “They are not over here.”

Daneel crossed the remnants of the street to the opposite wall and peered around another corner. “Not here either, but the sounds are louder in this direction.” They repeated this for a couple of more streets until they came within sight of the blast crater from the mana bomb when Theramore was devastated. Near the center they saw two combatants fighting with crimson bladed lightsabers. One was male with simple black robes with a hood over his head. His single blade deflected the high attack from the other. The two bladed lightsaber was wielded by a woman. She wore a black skirt and halter top with a hood leaving her red skinned midriff bare. She retracted from her attack to bring her blades along the length of her arm slightly behind her back. She reached out with her left hand and lightning sparked from her fingers towards the man. He raised his blade intercepting the electrical attack. Bolts of lightning inched along the blade and his arm. He cried out in pain. The woman stopped her Force attack and brought her blades back into the attack in a whirlwind. The man switched his blade from his injured hand to his good one and tried to deflect the woman’s high attack. The blades connected, and the woman pivoted so her back was just in front of the man. She brought her arms down and back…the bottom red blade of her lightsaber impaling the man through the stomach. His lightsaber dropped to the ground. The woman grunted and pulled her blade from her opponent and turned to face him. She said something neither Daneel nor Demira could hear. She extinguished her blades and left the man either dead or dying on the ground. After a few seconds they heard the familiar whine of speeder engines leave the area…the woman had left.

Demira and Daneel cautiously approached the fallen man. Demira gasped as they got closer and she saw his face. “It’s him…it’s the same sith that came to our house today.” His eyes were closed and he appeared dead. Daneel kneeled down and reached forward to check his pulse when the sith’s eyes popped open and he grabbed Daneel’s arm. He let out a labored breath and red blood trickled from the corner of his mouth. His eyes darted from Daneel to Demira as he released his grip. His hand was shaking.

“Just lie still,” Daneel began, “you have been wounded.”

The sith looked at him and reached slowly for his belt. From a small pouch he pulled a small object and handed it to the jedi…his eyes pleading. Daneel took the object from the shaking hand. The sith looked at Demira and then at something behind her. His breathing became short and erratic. He looked back at Daneel and let out a short breath. He gripped Daneel’s arm again…his hand shaking more violently. “My…m-m-my…d-d-d-daughter,” the sith stuttered with his last breath. His grip loosened and then his hand fell to the ground. His eyes looked vacantly at the sky. Daneel stepped back from the body and looked upwards.

“His daughter?” Demira asked quietly to Daneel’s side. “I don’t understand. Did he mean that was his daughter that attacked him?”

Daneel looked down at the object the sith had given him. “I’m not sure, but perhaps this will tell us.”

“What is it?” she asked.

“It appears to be a locator beacon.” He activated the device and it pinged. He held it up before him. It pinged again. “I believe what we are looking for is in this direction,” he said pointing to his left near a cluster of crumbling buildings.

“What about him? We can’t leave his body like this,” Demira asked.

“We will bury his body after we find what he felt important for us to find.”

Daneel started walking where the locator indicated. The pinging grew more pronounced and frequent as they neared one of the buildings. The jedi held the locator over the wall and scanned the surface until the pinging became a solid beep. He switched the unit off and placed it into a pouch on his belt. Feeling around the bricks of the wall and lines of mortar he found a loose stone and pulled. Behind the stone was a cubbyhole with a holocommunicator inside. Daneel retrieved the device and held it between Demira and himself. He thumbed the contact switch and the unit projected a six inch tall image of the dead sith.

“Master Jedi,” the image began. “If you are seeing this then I am dead…most likely by the person I am most interested in saving. I am certain by now your friend has told you about our conversation and how I walk the path of light. This was only partially true. I do not regret the deception for it was necessary. What I told her about how we came to be here was true as was the part where myself and a few others split apart from those who drank the demon blood back in our own galaxy. I am neither a servant of the light or the dark…living on this world for the past thirteen hundred years has shown me that there is more gray in the Force than either jedi or sith philosophy teach. Those that drank the blood are corrupted. They not only have the physical signs with the green skin, but they also inherited an insatiable hunger. Where you find war and suffering they will be there as well. They feed off the emotional turmoil of war…of disease…of despair. They are abominations and you must beware them.” The image looked around him and then back at the projector. “Three thousand sith came to this world thirteen hundred years ago…and of those twenty-five hundred drank the blood of demons to seal the pact with Sargeras. Since our arrival we have fought an invisible war on this world. Those like myself were appalled at what our brethren had become. We have fought each other over the centuries until only few of us on either side remain. Of the original three thousand sith to land on this world only twenty remain. The green versus the red.” The sith looked down as if in shame. “Today only three of us red have survived. That is unless you are seeing this recording then there are only two…my ailing wife and our daughter…and soon there will be only one. My wife suffers from an ailment strange to us and we know of no cure. She is prepared to become one with the Force, so please do not concern yourself with trying to find a cure or save her life. I instead come to you, a jedi, to plead for you to save our daughter. She has…fallen.” The man looked back at the projector. “She blames me for her mother’s illness…and her pain has turned to anger which has turned to hatred. Master Jedi, you know the path I speak of…” he grew silent for a moment and Daneel simply nodded at the holo. “She has said as much that she seeks to kill me. I do not doubt that soon she will try. I cannot kill my child…and if she attacks me…I will sacrifice myself trying to save her. I do not mean for you to bring her to the light side of the Force…just stop her from falling further to the dark side…and madness.” The image of the man looked down again and played with something in his hands. The image was not clear what he was holding. He looked back up. “I have nothing to offer you for helping me, Jedi, except this data packet I will store with this recording. It contains all the information I have on the remaining seventeen corrupted sith on this world. I know you will find it useful for whatever purpose you have in mind for those abominations. Take this data…use it…but first help my daughter…save her from herself.” The holo blinked off as the message ended.

“So that was his daughter,” Demira said after a few moments. “She came here to kill him…and she succeeded.” Daneel nodded. “What do you suppose this sickness is that he mentioned that is killing his wife?”

“I do not know,” the jedi replied. He looked at the bottom of the holocom. “I cannot find any other data on this device. She must have arrived before he was able to upload it.”

“Then it might still be on his body.”

They walked back to the sith’s body. Daneel kneeled down and searched the man’s pockets and pouches. He found nothing like a data packet, but he did find a small piece of cloth with some numbers on it. He stood and handed it to Demira as he looked across the landscape of Theramore.

“What are these…chicken scratches?” the mage asked.

“Coordinates,” Daneel answered. “They are written in galactic basic from our galaxy. I believe the location is in Eversong Woods not far from our home.”

“I don’t like the sound of that,” Demira stated. “Any sith in Quel’Thalas is too close for my comfort.”

“Let’s return home first and start in the morning. It’s getting late and both of us have had much happen to us today.”

“I hear that,” Demira yawned. They buried the sith just outside the old city wall at the base of a tree. Demira then opened a portal back to their home where they planned to rest for the night and check what was located at the coordinates in the morning. Daneel’s thoughts mirrored Demira’s. Their home in Eversong Woods was his new home on this world, his life with her was a life he cherished…and he did not want anything to jeopardize their happiness or their home. And another thought kept nagging him at the back of his mind…where was the missing data?

 

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Search for the Wayward Daughter part 1

 

Demira and Daneel arrived at the coordinates they found on Maktai’s body. He was wearing a light brown tunic and trousers under a traditional brown jedi robe. The mage was wearing a similar outfit to the one she wore when the couple first met. At first glance they saw nothing but a grove of trees near the base of a small mountain. They could find no buildings or even temporary structures. They parked their speeders near a tree…his blue speeder and a matching red one he had aboard his ship and rebuilt for her use. Daneel reached through the Force but could sense nothing. Demira walked to a large boulder nestled against a cliff wall and looked back at the jedi.

“Sense anything?” she asked.

“Nothing.”

“And do you see anything unusual?” she said with a smile.

“I cannot,” he smiled back. “But I am guessing you have found something.”

“Sometimes real sight is better than Force sight. This boulder…it should not be here.” She ran her right hand along the surface of the rock. “It’s not that it’s a different kind of rock…just oddly placed. Its shape is too…perfect…compared to the rest around here. It’s too smooth.”

Daneel walked next to her. “I can feel a slight resistance in the Force when I try to reach out to the boulder.”

“Like an arcane resistance? Then it must be conjured. But I thought the sith used the force and could not therefore use arcane magics.” Demira leaned closer and examined the rock more closely. “You think he might have had someone local assisting him in making this little hideout?”

“If he did then that person would be of no help to us. In my experience the sith don’t leave witnesses,” Daneel replied. “There must be a manual way get past the boulder…like a lever or a switch.” He started looking at the area just left of the boulder.

“You mean he would have killed them,” Demira stated as she searched the area just to the right of the boulder. “Have the jedi ever done something similar?”

“We would normally build such things ourselves or by very trustworthy people, like those who came to the academy but did not succeed during the trials. But The Force does have an affect on the weak-minded and a slight suggestion could cause a person to forget what they saw or did, but that is not something often used.”

“Have you ever you used that technique on me?” she asked with her hands on her hips.

“You are too strong willed,” he replied still searching. “Plus I have never seen the need to even try.”

“Even during sex?”

“Especially during sex,” Daneel said with a smile. “Your ******s are so intense and frequent you make me *** with you.”

“Blah,” she replied looking back at the wall of stone. “So these sith kill the witnesses. I wonder…” her voice trailed off.

“What is it?” he asked when she stopped looking and crossed her arms over her chest. He walked over to stand next to her. “I sense an idea forming in your head.”

“I thought you said you never even tried that technique on me,” she gasped as she looked at him.

“Still don’t…your body language and tone of voice tells me you have a thought about what is happening here…so spit it out.”

Demira rolled her eyes at him and pointed to the stone. “I don’t think that stone is conjured at all. I think it was crafted. But you sensed something arcane. What if there was a spell to hide the trigger?” She whispered an incantation and frowned. “Well…that didn’t work.”

“You thought there was something like a glamour present?”

“That spell I just incanted should have removed any glamour or other spell used to hide something.” Her brow furrowed as she looked at the cliff more intensely. “Couldn’t you just do that force lifting thing you do?”

“I already tried that,” he replied sheepishly. “I figured the arcane magic was what was blocking me. But if the magic is hiding the trigger, then I am not sure what is blocking me from lifting the stone or simply moving it.”

“Then it has to be….” she walked to the boulder and placed her hand back on it. She whispered her incantation again. The surface of the boulder changed to reveal a steel door set into the cliff wall. Beside it was a digital panel with a keypad. “If you couldn’t lift it then I figured the rock itself was the glamour,” she said proudly turning to look at the jedi. “Now it’s your turn.”

“If I only knew the pass code,” Daneel replied. “It’s a locking mechanism that is safeguarded against lightsabers. I could destroy the keypad, but it will not open the door.”

“Can’t you bypass it? I mean…it’s technology like you are used to.”

“I was never good at slicing things,” he admitted with a shrug. He walked to the panel and entered some numbers. “The coordinates do not work. And there are letters here…the possible combinations are astronomical.”

Demira sighed beside him and furrowed her brow again. “Maybe he told us the code and we just don’t recognize it. Try using some of the words or phrases he told us in the holo.”

Daneel tried the words red, then green, then red versus green, then Sargeras, and a host of other words he could think of, but the door would not open. “I am guessing it’s the name of his daughter which he failed to mention.”

“Or his ailing wife…or…”she stopped and brought her hands to her mouth. “Enter his name! Remember he said that not everything he told me was true. He never mentioned his own name in the holo or before he died. We just called him ‘Maktai’ because he told me that was his name while he was at our house, but what if that was not his name after all…it’s the door code!”

“Let’s find out,” the jedi replied while entering the name into the security panel. With a hiss the door slid slowly open. The air coming from inside was cold and stale. “Good job,” he said turning to Demira. She was smiling. “I would not have guessed that part.”

“Yeah…I have my moments,” she stated with pride…then her smile waned. “But this still doesn’t explain the glamour in front of the door.”

“I think the air coming from inside does,” Daneel answered. “It’s old and stale like this has not been used in some time…like finding a vessel in space that has been…sorry…bad analogy. I’ll just say it’s not been used in…I might suggest years or even decades.”

“So then we have nothing to fear from inside?” Demira asked.

“I wouldn’t say that just yet. There might be automated traps or other hidden pratfalls to catch the unwary. We need to be cautious.”

She nodded and pointed to the door. “Age before beauty?” she giggled.

“Ha ha,” he chuckled. “You are both of those things.” He stepped into the doorway and investigated the walls along the sides. “The panels in here are simple open and close mechanisms…no security pass codes needed from this side. So when the door closes we should be safe from intruders from out here.”

They entered the doorway and Daneel closed the door behind them. Demira conjured a torch to provide light in the dark tunnel. They walked for about fifty yards until it opened into a larger square room. The room itself was mainly empty, but from each corner branched more hallways. They followed them one by one finding living quarters at the end of three of the four with a lift at the end of the last hallway. They discovered the lift had access to ten more floors. The next seven were much like the ground floor, but the uppermost had air more fresh and signs it had been used very recently. Demira voiced she thought this last part odd, but Daneel was already forming a theory about why this floor had seen recent activity. They had two more floors according to the lift controls. At the next floor they walked into an immense storage area. They examined crates of equipment and food stuffs. Nulentropy canisters lined every outside wall and with almost perfect corridors in the interior of the room for ease of access to each one. Daneel whistled at the age of some of the crates. They dated to the time when the sith claimed to have arrived on Azeroth…and the Great Hyperspace War.

“I think this was the base for the reds,” Daneel finally revealed to Demira. “If my hunch is correct the top floor might be a hanger.”

“For what?” she asked.

“Their speeders for starters. His daughter left Theramore on one…probably his.” Daneel walked to the lift and stopped. “There might be more up there as well. It would be easier to hide a large door on the side of the mountain. I doubt even the dragons would bother to notice a concealed hanger door up this high.”

“More…like a ship? Something big like your ship?”

“Mine would not be large enough to house the five hundred reds he mentioned let alone the three thousand that came to Azeroth. But it might be a shuttle.” He turned to her. “If they kept their ship…their main ship they came here on…in operation it could hold its orbit for uncounted years. To keep the orbit from decaying they would use a shuttle to periodically fly to it and adjust its course.”

“And resupply themselves when they ran low here on the surface of the planet,” Demira added. “I’ve wondered how there has never been a record of finding a large shipwreck ever since Maktai…or whatever his real name was…mentioned it before. I mean…it could’ve crashed into the ocean, but if it had then how did all those sith survive?”

“Great minds think alike,” the jedi said. She cocked her head to the side. “I was thinking the same thing,” Daneel added.

They took the lift to the top floor and walked into an immense hanger. As Daneel suspected there was a shuttle sitting in the middle of the floor. Lined along the far wall were thirty speeders. Above the shuttle was the main door leading out of the mountainside. There were also a couple of wide tunnels leaving the sides of the rooms. They followed one to another door leading outside. These apparently were for use with the speeders. When they returned to the main hanger they were welcomed by an unsuspected guest…the sith’s daughter was standing near the boarding ramp to the shuttle. She watched them but made no threatening moves.

“I see you two found your way to my father’s lair,” the woman’s melodic voice stated. “I suppose you came here answering his plea to save me?” She walked over to sit on a crate nearby. Daneel noticed she was thin like a sin’dorei, but the red skin on her hands and exposed stomach told him she was a pureblood sith like her father. “His message said I was falling to the dark side…didn’t it?”

“We witnessed you fight with him in Theramore,” Demira stated. “You killed your own father!”

“I killed a monster,” the woman replied calmly. She reached up and moved her hood down to reveal her face. Her features were smooth lacking the facial tentacles common with most sith. Her straight black hair fell loosely to her shoulders framing an elegant face. She smiled at the pair standing a few yards away. “I am not falling to the dark side of the Force I assure you.” She looked directly at Daneel. “I felt your presence back at that place, but I had no reason to confront you…you are not my enemy.”

“Then why would your father ask me to save you?” Daneel asked matching the sith woman’s calm demeanor.

“That’s easier to explain elsewhere than here,” she answered coolly. “If you both board the shuttle I can take you there and let you see with your own eyes the kind of monster my father really was.”

“Why should we trust you?” Demira asked. She was not as calm as Daneel. The woman’s sudden appearance was unnerving, and Demira was not as practiced at masking her feelings as well as the jedi master standing beside her. “You might just want to lull us into trusting you so you can kill us like you did your father.”

“You can bind and gag me if you like,” the sith replied with a smile. “You can even sedate me. The controls on the shuttle should be easy for your jedi friend to operate.” She stood and her smile waned. “But believe me, if I wanted to you dead I could have easily killed you this morning in your home while you were ***********.”

Demira lurched forward only to be grabbed by Daneel around the waist. Her arms and legs swung in the air as she tried to free herself. “Let go of me…I’ll kill her for spying on our home!”

“Calm down, Demira,” Daneel said quietly. “She is trying to goad you…that is the sith way. Remember there is no emotion…”

“There is no emotion my ***!” the mage exclaimed. She held out her right hand and a ball of flame appeared and flew across the room towards the sith.

“Quite the temper,” the woman stated as she sidestepped the fireball. “You really must learn to control your anger.” She sat down on the crate. “Especially since I was never actually at your home. I simply guessed you had sex this morning.” The smile returned to the sith’s face. “I mean…it was no secret to my father that you two were more than just living together. But you must learn to govern your emotions when you face the greens. You think my little trick was bad…you have a surprise ahead of you.”

Demira relaxed in Daneel’s arms, but she did not stop seething at the sith sitting calmly near the shuttle. Daneel kept his arms around the mage’s waist. “So why the game? Why play the typical sith if you claim to not follow the dark side?” Daneel asked.

The sith frowned…sadness etched her elegant features. “Because what I am about to show you will make you angry…even you jedi.” She looked at Demira…and for the first time showed a sincere emotion…shame. “To you specifically, elf, I apologize now for what you are about to witness. The jedi was right in deducing that the original ship my people used to reach this world orbits above us.” She then looked at the jedi. “What you do not know of are the horrors…the atrocities…that my monster of a father performed on that…” her voice trailed off.

“Just what is on that ship?” Daneel asked.

“My father’s…experiments,” the sith replied quietly. “His playthings.”

 

They let the sith pilot the shuttle to the warship waiting in orbit. In thirteen hundred years Daneel noticed sith ship design had changed very little. It was the same wedge shape he was familiar with in the most recent war between the Republic and the Sith Empire. Demira sat beside him in wonderment seeing Azeroth for the first time from orbit. Periodically she would tug on Daneel’s sleeve and point down at her world. When they flew over the Maelstrom she gasped at the shear size of it. The sith said nothing during their trip. She simply maneuvered the controls and brought them into the docking bay on the underside of the behemoth. Once the bay doors were closed and secured she opened the hatch to extend the ramp allowing them to leave the shuttle. The party said nothing as the sith led them down one corridor after another, from one lift to another going from level to level. Daneel noticed most of the ship was dark and some sections had been sealed off…possibly for centuries. The thrumming along the deckplates and walls was also different than normal ship engines. He theorized this was from the augmentations Sargeras had made to the ship as part of his deal to bring the sith to Azeroth. Beside him Demira shivered from the cold air and he took off his robe and placed it around her shoulders. She smiled back and wrapped it around herself. Finally the woman led them to a chamber blocked by doors as large as the docking bay doors. She stepped to a control panel on the side of one of the massive doors.

“Inside you will find some of the answers you seek,” the woman said. “I cannot go in myself…my revulsion is too great. I will wait here in the corridor while you explore my father’s laboratories.”

“What will we find inside?” Demira asked holding onto Daneel’s arm.

“Your worst nightmares,” the sith replied. She turned and walked down the corridor to a small room and sat in a meditative posture. She closed her eyes and held her arms on her knees with palms facing upwards.

Demira and Daneel stepped through the doors. After a few feet the sensors detected their presence and activated the lights. They flickered on row by row until the whole room was lit. It was the same size as a shuttle bay being some two hundred yards on each side and three decks high. Periodically along the outer walls were doors leading to other chambers. In their immediate area was numerous carbonite units arranged carefully like in a warehouse. They were arranged in rows and columns stretching from the floor to the ceiling and for the first fifty yards of the room. Demira gasped not fully grasping what she was looking at, but she recognized the faces of sin’dorei, orcs, tauren, humans, gnomes, dwarves, and many other races from Azeroth.

“Are these statues?” she asked Daneel squeezing his arm tighter. The faces looked like stone to her, and with some twisted in expressions of agony she was hoping they were just creations of a really bad artist.

“They are living beings encased in a substance called carbonite,” Daneel replied quietly. “See the lights on the sides of the units? Those that are blinking means the being inside is still alive.”

Demira shuddered. The pain she was afraid some must be feeling. “Are they…aware?” she asked staring at one with a sin’dorei. The woman’s face appeared caught in mid scream. He hands clenched just in front of her chest, restricted from the binds visible on her arms that apparently went behind the woman’s back but could not be seen from the front.

“They are in a deep sleep,” the jedi replied. “The way you see them now was how they were when the freezing process began.” He stepped in front of Demira and put his hand on her cheek. She looked up into his face. “Perhaps you should wait in the corridor with the sith woman. You do not need to see this or what else might be in here.”

“I have seen the ravages of the Burning Legion,” she began with a tear in her eye, “and what the Scourge did to my people. I have seen horrors before.” Her eyes darted to his mouth then back to his eye covering. “I need to see this,” she whispered. “To better understand…”

“Yes?”

“To better understand the world…worlds…you come from. I want to see what you faced in your war.” She reached up with her hand and touched his cheek. “Today I have seen my home in a way no one else on Azeroth has seen it. When you told me you were on a world that had been destroyed from above I thought I understood, but today coming up on the shuttle I realized I did not fully understand what you meant.” She looked down at his chin. “I still cannot grasp what Azeroth would look like completely devastated as how you described that other world. Such a scale of destruction is much too staggering for me to comprehend, but you have seen it firsthand.” She looked back up to where his eyes should be. “My world’s wars and tribulations now seem so small compared to the conflicts you have seen and fought in.”

“War is war, Demira,” he replied quietly. “The larger things you are thinking of right now are horrible that is true, but the ones I remember the most…that haunt my nightmares…are those I saw face to face. The child orphaned, the parent holding a dead baby in their arms, people starving because their farms have been destroyed by fire or some other weapon of destruction. These are the things about war that leave scars…and you have seen just as much or more than I. Do not let something like scale diminish what you have seen and accomplished.”

She nodded. “Thank you,” she whispered. She looked back at the carbonite units hanging around them. “I am ready to see what there is in this place.”

“Are you certain?” he asked. “What I think we are about to see has nothing to do with war.”

“How so?” she asked. “What do expect us to find in there?”

“A slaughterhouse.”

After a few minutes standing there quietly she readjusted to holding his arm and nodded she was ready. The walked slowly along the rows of carbonite units….some with lights blinking…others with no lights. After the hanging units the room opened into a typical laboratory. There were computer terminals aligned opposite centrifuges for DNA and other samples testing. Microscopes and probes lined up another row of tables. Beakers and jars lined yet another row. On these they saw labels for different organs from the non-sentient creatures of Azeroth. Demira said nothing instead holding tighter to Daneel’s arm. They walked to one of the computer terminals with two chairs and sat before the unit. Daneel reached forward with his free hand and activated the terminal. The monitor before them displayed the various bits of data the computer stored. Daneel searched for the earliest vids expecting the sith calling himself Maktai to have kept a visual record of what he was doing here. After another minute he found the files and activated what appeared to be the oldest entry. The vid began its playback on a nearby screen, and Demira’s eyes were drawn to the familiar face from the day before.

“We have been on this world for two years now,” the sith began, “and yet we are still no closer to understanding the augmentations made to the ship’s engines or the navicomputer.” Demira felt herself drawn into the voice as if she was listening to him speaking in the very room she was sitting in. He walked around one of the tables and stood next the centrifuge sitting atop it. “We must proceed on the assumption that we will never get home. As such I, Lord Varok, have decided to begin these recordings with the basis of our arrival to this small world as year one. This is now year three on the new calendar. Myself and the other top lords have stayed aboard the Vindictive while our underlings ravage the world below. It is such a primitive world I am surprised this Sargeras is even concerned with it considering the technological prowess he exercised to bring us here.” He walked back around the table and sat before the computer station. “We were right not to trust him fully. By having our underlings partake in the drinking of whatever that foul concoction was we lords have remained free of the taint that turns their skin green. We have also maintained our free will which I am sure by now Sargeras has discovered. He thought he was dealing with the masters, but we had our apprentices masquerade in our place so we could gain the full power that rightfully belongs to us. Fools were we that we did not keep some of our best engineers free of the taint as well, then perhaps we would have an answer to what makes the engines work as they do.” He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “But all of that is now moot. Sargeras, safe to say, has left us to our own devices. We have not answered his call as he intended, and he has no power to enact his vengeance upon us. In fact it would appear that he has forgotten about us entirely. This leaves us with the only option left which is to take control of this world the locals call Azeroth. This world’s only endearing quality is the wide variety of species living on the surface. A fascinating marvel this world is. We have brought up some samples of the different species and began experimenting on them.

“The most powerful, and yet disappointingly also the most reclusive, are called elves. There are two subsets to this race. One subset has darker skin and glowing eyes either white or golden. They are mostly nocturnal and unbelievably worship their moon considering it a goddess. Their lifespan is what I find intriguing spanning thousands of years. They are under the belief that they are immortal. While this is completely absurd I can understand their reasoning given their abnormally long life. The other subset lives just long as the other, but where the previous has darker toned skin these are much lighter and they all have green glowing eyes. They are also quite opposite in that they live during the day and worship their sun. This is a dichotomy I must research further. Note in the log to examine these elves more closely.

“There are also humans on this world which is fascinating. While on this world they are very primitive with a preindustrial technology, they are gaining a prominence on their world that will be worth following. Since we have some sith lords of the human species amongst our ranks it should prove quite simple to mingle with the natives.”

Daneel stopped the vid and started playing another one. Demira looked at him but said nothing.

“Year one hundred thirteen…the war with the underlings, who we have come to simply call the ‘greens’ has escalated. Lords Malice and Narcis have been studying why we have not aged since our arrival. A pleasant side effect to have our lifespan extended.” The sith was sitting in front of the terminal in a white lab coat. “The greens have begun actively seeking a way to return to the Vindictive. As such we have limited our shuttle activity to and from the planet’s surface. Lord Seurat also informs me that our supplies aboard are becoming limited. If we stay as we are our supplies will run out in two centuries. While in the past that would not have concerned me, we now are living longer and this has become an issue we must address. I have assigned two scout teams of lesser lords to scour the surface for a suitable place to inhabit. Most of the greens have inhabited the western continent of this world, so I have instructed them to concentrate on the eastern continent.

“Of a more personal concern is my daughter. During this first century we have not shown any signs of the taint that has overcome our underlings. The taint manifests itself changing the normally red pigment to green. There is also become an inherent lust…almost a hunger…to relish in the anguish and torment of others. While this is not outside the parameters of the sith code or beliefs, these ‘greens’ have become something different. They do not relish the torment of others to gain power, but instead more akin to feeding an addiction. You will find them more in concentration around spouts of war, famine, and plague amongst the surface natives. As I stated, those of us who did not drink Sargeras’ concoction have shown none of these effects until now. My own daughter has developed a skin rash. Upon examination of one such concentration on her back I noticed the skin underneath the lesion was…green. I have withheld this information from her and the others, but I fear that she might be turning into one of them. And if she…my own flesh and blood…the strongest amongst us left pure…is susceptible to this taint, then we as a species are doomed.”

The vid ended. Daneel looked for the next one in chronological order. “Interesting,” he said.

“What?” Demira asked beside him fascinating by what she was seeing.

“The next entry…it is centuries later. Why the huge time gap?”

“Well…play it and maybe it will shed some light on that question,” the mage replied anxious to see more. This was a part of her world’s history unseen by the inhabitants of Azeroth.

Daneel punched the command to play the next vid. On the screen was the same sith in a white lab coat arguing with another who appeared a decade younger wearing a black hoodless robe.

“I do not understand why it keeps showing up! Time and again the taint manifests yet none of the rest of us has it.” Lord Varok told the other sith.

“Maybe it’s because her mother was human,” came the reply. “You should give up this nonsense and focus your attention on the conflict with the greens.”

“But this is my daughter we are talking about,” Varok replied. “There is nothing more important than her.”

“This is not even your daughter! She has been dead for over four hundred years. You are obsessing with clones!” Seurat turned his back to Varok. “The greens are decimating us. They have not found the base, but sooner or later they will. They may be less than sith, but they are not stupid.” He turned back to face Varok. “As I see it…with your obsession over your long lost daughter and the onslaught of the greens you are no longer fit to be our leader.” His lightsaber ignited…its blade a crimson standing out against the predominant white of the laboratory.

“You seek to challenge me, Seurat?”

“You spend more time on this ship than necessary,” Seurat replied. “You obsess over the dead. We no longer live by the sith code. This must end…and it ends with you. I will bring us back to what we are meant to be…true sith!” He started forward and stopped. His lightsaber dropped to the ground as he brought both hands to his neck.

“Such impudence!” Varok growled. “You think you know what it means to be sith? You do not even have the slightest notion what being sith is!” Varok’s hand was outstretched before him. Several feet away Seurat choked…his eyes bulging. “I am what it means to be sith…I decide what we do and how we do it. I hold the power here, boy!” He brought up his other hand. “Now you will feel what a sith…a real sith…can do!” Lightning arched from his fingers engulfing Seurat. The other tried to scream, but his breath was still being choked from him by the invisible grip of Varok. His robes smoldered as the lightning began to cook his flesh. His legs began to flail and then after a few seconds his body went limp. His arms dropped to his sides, but his body still hung in the air. “I am sith! I am eternal! And soon so will my daughter who will rule this world at my side!” Varok screamed. Then the screen went dark.

“What was that all about?” Demira asked staring wide-eyed at the monitor. “Is that even the same man?”

“I believe he might have possibly gone insane,” Daneel replied.

“That other one he killed. He said his daughter had been dead four centuries. If his daughter was still alive during the one he said was year one hundred thirteen, then this would be about five hundred years after they arrived….about eight hundred years ago.” Demira looked behind her at the laboratory. “But where was that taken? The lab in that was white, but this place and the one in the first two vids were not that white.”

“It seems we have a mystery. Perhaps viewing more of these vids might shed some light.”

“Or add more questions,” Demira countered.

Daneel shrugged his shoulders and keyed up the next vid on the list. The sith sitting before the camera was not Lord Varok as they had been watching, but a woman. Her black hair was tied into a ponytail, and her features smoother than normal for a pureblood sith. She was sitting in the laboratory as it was currently.

“This is year seven hundred ninety-three. My husband is on the surface hunting the greens. Varok means well, but I think the pressures of the failures have finally gotten to him.” She stopped talking and looked to her side in the direction of the main doors. “Although I miss our daughter I have never been able to accept these clones as her. And now he has begun claiming my human half the reason for the death of our daughter.” She looked back at the monitor. “She did not die of the taint nor would she ever have. But he could not live with a daughter suffering from an ailment. So he killed her…killed her in her sleep. He did not even allow her to fight as a sith deserves. And now he makes these clones in the hopes to have her back. And each one has been a more dismal failure than the previous.” She sighed. “But this is not why I have come to the labs today. I know he never watches these. But I hope that someday another sith might see these recordings and know what happened to us. You see…we are becoming as you are now…green skinned. The taint is unavoidable.” She lifted her arm into view of the monitor and pulled her sleeve back exposing green skin under peeling red skin. “It has taken time, but the taint eventually manifests itself in us. Varok may be right that I am susceptible because of my human half, but there are others…Lord Narcis in particular…who are pureblood sith and yet still have the symptoms.” She put her arm down and looked downwards from the monitor. “There are many days since our arrival I wonder if coming here was the right decision. It’s been over seven hundred years since the war. I often wonder if the jedi annihilated all of the sith back home. Did some of our kind survive? Could we have avoided the jedi if we had stayed and hid on some remote world?” She looked up at the screen. “I believe now that it would have been better to have tried and died than to take the deal we made with Sargeras. Living like this…” The screen blacked out.

“What happened?” Demira asked. “What was she going to say?”

“I don’t know,” Daneel replied. His fingers worked on the keyboard.

“Well…bring it back on. I want to see the rest of what she was going to say. She sounded like they were regretting their decision to deal with Sargeras.”

“Most of the file is corrupted. I cannot get the rest to play. I am afraid that is the last of that particular vid we can see.”

Demira slumped in her chair. “That sucks!”

“Let me see what else I can find. Ah…here is one close to that time frame.” Daneel punched a few more keys. “I wonder what this vid has.”

Lord Varok appeared on the screen before them. He was sitting in the chair facing the monitor. Behind him was another sith they had not seen before. “What is it you want of me?” Varok asked the other.

“My lord, the greens have taken over the base on the surface,” the other replied.

“And how did this happen? We are sith…they are not.” He stood and turned to face the other sith. “Explain yourself.”

“My lord, they came upon us riding the backs of black dragons. They entered from the top of the base. My lord…the greens outnumbered us four to one.”

“So the black dragonflight has sided with the greens? Is that what you are trying to tell me?”

“No, my lord. We think they must have gotten these as whelps and raised them in secret.”

“How is that even possible? The greens are simpletons!” Lightning arched from his fingers and struck the other in the chest. “You mean to tell me that corrupted greens are more powerful than pure sith?” The other sith writhed in agony. “I do not reward failure!” He poured more lighting into his attack. From the side and away from the view of the monitor a piece of metal flew into view and struck Varok’s hand. He looked in the direction of the attack ceasing his own. The beleaguered sith slumped down and out of view. “What is the meaning of this?” Varok shouted.

“You think after eight hundred fifty years that the greens have gone inept?” came a male voice from off screen. “Quite the opposite! They have grown more shrewd and vindictive. During that time we have lost one fifth our number….”

“And they have lost more,” Varok countered. “They started at twenty-five hundred. Today they have only sixteen hundred.”

“And after today we have only two hundred of us,” the voice replied. “You have spent too much time here on this ship and not enough with the rest of us. You are no longer fit to lead and have not been for quite some time.”

“And you think you have the power to stop me?” Varok snarled.

“I don’t even have to try,” the voice replied. “We who have survived this day have decided to no longer hear anything you have to say. You have no power where none will listen.”

“You will not survive long without my leadership,” Varok growled.

“We have survived this long without it already,” the voice countered. “The sith are no more save you. We have given up the old ways…and we will not return to them.” The man stepped into the view of the monitor. Demira gasped beside Daneel…the man was human. “I have taken the holocrons stolen during the war with the Republic. We must adapt to survive on this world. We will abandon our technology and live as the natives. And we will survive.”

Varok’s hands dropped to his sides. “Lord Maktai, you cannot do this to me.”

The man who owned the name Maktai…a familiar name to Demira and Daneel…smiled to the sith. “It is done.” He turned and walked away from the view of the monitor. “Maybe those ten who are still loyal to you will learn the folly of their decision. If that day comes when they do, we will welcome them…on our terms.”

Varok slumped back into the chair and stared at the deck. “You cannot abandon me. I am Lord Varok…I am your emperor…I am…”

“You are nothing,” Maktai’s voice replied from a distance.

The screen went dark. Demira looked at Daneel. “Could this mean that when he said there was only three left…he was not counting the others?”

“I believe it is with what we know so far,” Daneel replied. “Although I would not say that for certain yet. This last event happened almost exactly five hundred years ago. A lot has happened on Azeroth since that time.”

“Let’s see what the rest of these have to show us. Right now I am not impressed with this Varok. And he fits more with what that woman has told us than the man I met yesterday. This one seems…unhinged,” Demira stated.

Daneel nodded and keyed up the next vid.

Lord Varok sat before the monitor. His hair was disheveled and appeared to have not bathed in days. His white lab coat was covered in red and brown smudges. “I am alone,” he rasped. “The others have all left me…including my wife. After the destruction of the original surface base we built a new one in what is called Eversong Woods near the home of the sin’dorei elves. That took us over two years to build…scavenging what we could from aboard the Vindictive. For the past three hundred years we had made it a home and raised families. We had also begun building droids to help with security around the base and securing specimens from around the globe. Those proved ultimately a failure.

“The base itself is also closed off. The rest, some twenty individuals including my wife, had left into the world to find what they considered a new beginning. They had grown soft and weak. I found their bodies yesterday some twenty leagues from here. They had been ambushed and killed by trolls native to the area. I procured my wife’s remains, and I plan to implement a plan to bring my daughter back. Previous attempts at cloning have met with failure. I believe another option will prove viable to restoring my daughter. I have also begun to procure more specimens from the world. The task is tedious and will require a large amount of time. To help with this process I have reactivated the carbonite freezing units aboard this vessel to prolong the value of the specimens I acquire. I believe the secret to curing this taint of Sargeras’ lies in the local inhabitants. I finally understand why he values this world.”

 

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Search for the Wayward Daughter part 2

 

 

“That’s the last of them,” Daneel said after the vid ended. “The rest of the files in the computer are corrupted or missing large amounts of data.”

“So that’s it? This was still two hundred years ago! What has he been doing since then? And he is still talking nonsense.”

“Apparently the others thought as well including his wife,” Daneel answered. “But I wonder what he did with her remains? We know he was successful in garnering his ‘specimens’ as they are near the entrance to this facility. And he has been doing such since this last recording. Didn’t the orcs, ogres, and draenei come from another world in recent years?”

“Less than fifty years,” she replied. “And he seems to have captured quite a few of them. I have to wonder why the change to an interest in orcs.”

“Because they have green skin,” the sith’s voice came from behind them. They turned to face her. She was standing a few feet away with her arms wrapped around her waist and hood pulled back over her head. “He took an interest in any species that had been changed…or individuals who showed a change after a cataclysmic event. He sought a cure for what he thought was a disease. It was never a disease in the common sense of understanding.” She walked over to a stool by one of the tables and sat down with her arms still wrapped around her waist. “Taking the demon’s blood altered the DNA of the person. In the case of the orcs their skin turned green and they received a heightened bloodlust. For the sith the skin also changed, but their other change was a hunger for the emotions they relied upon for their power. The sin’dorei it was the change in their eyes and a heightened addiction to arcane energies. All this my father theorized but could not definitively prove.” She swallowed hard then took a deep breath. “As for what he did with my mother…he made clones of her to test his various stages of a cure.” She looked at Demira. “For you I would suggest you go no further into this cave of depravity.”

“Why?” the mage asked. “What else is in here?”

“I think I know,” Daneel said beside her and reached over to hold her hand. “If he was taking ‘specimens’ then he was also testing on them. I am guessing the other rooms are the various testing chambers including at least one autopsy room.”

“And as you saw in the last vid he was not the cleanest these past two centuries.” She looked again at the mage. “And what is in there is worse than anything seen during the attacks of the Burning Legion or the Scourge. What exist in those rooms are…mutilations.” She wrapped her arms tighter around her waist. “As to what he did to my mother’s various clones…they are still lined in stasis in another room not far from here. I will not show you but simply tell you that once he thought he had found a cure he raped the surviving clone to conceive me. Then while still a zygote he manipulated my DNA to match his long dead daughter.”

“But you are still his daughter?” Demira asked. “I don’t know what a clone is, but…”

“I don’t know what I am,” the sith replied. “I call him father because I never knew him by any other name. And he always called me his daughter, Selene. But I am not Selene. The real Selene died centuries ago.”

“I don’t understand,” Demira reiterated. “I don’t know what a clone is…or DNA.” She looked at Daneel. “What are these things?”

“DNA is the basis of what makes you look and appear as you are,” Daneel tried to answer. “It is the basic fundamental of what makes you a woman, your hair to be a certain color, your height…how you look. It has two parts of which half comes from your mother and half from your father. That’s why you have characteristics of both your parents.”

“Ok…I think,” Demira replied. “But what is a clone?”

“You can take the DNA of a person and copy it,” the sith answered. “With that copy you can create another version of it…another person.”

“But that copy is only the physical parts,” Daneel added. “It does not copy the essence of that person. What makes you…you. Your personality, your likes and dislikes. I would say almost like twins. Both can appear to be identical but have widely different personalities.”

“But the clone would be a created twin?” Demira asked.

“A simple of way of putting it I suppose,” Daneel replied. “I am not well versed in such knowledge so I am afraid what I have been telling you may be false or inaccurate.”

“Accurate enough,” the sith replied. “I may look like Selene. I may even sound like her, but I have seen vids of her…and I do not move like her. I do not think like her…and I am not her.” She looked down at the floor trying to wrap her arms tighter. “I was never supposed to know any of this. I was never here…on this ship…until about a month ago.” She hesitated then took a deep breath. “My father left for some trip looking for a mage. He said something that she had survived a horrific magic attack and her appearance had been altered. He had been studying her for a time, but as much as he wanted to ‘collect’ her he could never get close enough. I understand she is a person of high standing on this world.” She shook her head and sighed. “But back to the point…while he was away I was searching and found the base in Eversong Woods. When I saw the shuttle I…remembered how to fly it.”

“But if you never saw it before then how did you remember how to fly it?” Demira asked.

“Implanted memories,” Daneel whispered. “Part of what he was doing to her while she was still in her mother’s womb.”

“Oh,” Demira mouthed back.

“Some of Selene’s memories came flooding into my consciousness,” the woman continued. “I began to remember the flight from the battle over Korriban with the Republic. The destruction of Ludo Kressh’s ship…and then Naga Sadow’s…and the Republic pursuing us deeper into sith space. Then my father telling us he had found a way to save us from the Republic and the jedi. I remember my husband drinking this stuff…not my husband but Selene’s husband. He turned green… I remember…crying.” She sighed again. “But those were not my memories. So I got on the shuttle. I knew how to fly it. The coordinates were already entered into the navicomputer from so many trips over the centuries. I came here to this ship…and found this place. I played the vids just as you did. I cried for hours…mostly because I was confused and did not know what to think. I felt lost.” She looked back at them. Demira and Daneel both noticed her wet cheeks from recent tears. “I eventually returned to the surface and back home. Father was waiting for me. I didn’t even wait for him to speak…I just threw one of the data discs at him and told him I would kill him for what he had done. Then I stormed out of the house and stole my speeder.”

“And all this time you did not have a clue what your father was doing?” Daneel asked.

“We were avoiding the greens,” the woman answered. “But I have always had a rebellious streak. When I was ten I found some old relics hidden away in a chest. I took one and touched it. Before I could blink my mind was filled with the vision of a beautiful woman wearing brown robes. She called herself a jedi and spoke of things I had never heard. I kept that holocron for years learning from it. I learned that I had more in common with the jedi way of thinking than I ever did of my father’s.”

“So you follow the light?” Demira asked.

“I did…until a year ago,” the woman replied. “Then I discovered this.” She reached up with her right hand and pulled down on the collar of her top exposing her cleavage. Directly in the middle between her breasts was a patch of peeling red skin…with green beneath it. “As I said there is no cure for what is not truly a disease.” She moved her hand back to her embrace of her waist, her collar moving back into its previous position around her neck. “I showed this to my father, and I remember the look of horror on his face. It was brief and only a fraction of a second, but it was there and I saw it. He assured me it was nothing. That night I went to sleep and woke up a month later. At first I did not realize the vast amount of time until the snows came sooner than normal. When I told him about this he said I was imagining things. But through the Force I sensed he was lying to me. So I decided to be deceitful and get the answers he would not tell me truthfully. The more I discovered the angrier I became at his betrayal. And then I found the shuttle as I told you before.”

“Why tell us all of this? Demira asked.

“Because I intend to end his legacy on this world once and for all,” the woman hissed. She stood and let her hands fall to her sides. “The data packet he promised I stole. I know where the last seventeen greens are and I will destroy them.”

“Don’t you mean eighteen?” Daneel asked while standing up himself.

“The one you winged in Dalaran I found earlier this morning. I finished what you began…only I did not stop with taking his arm.” Her hands balled into fists. ‘I will hunt every last one of them down and end this farce of an existence once and for all. They should have died over Korriban…or some other world in the old sith empire. And I should not even exist! And after I have killed the last of them I will return to this ship.”

“And do what?” Daneel pressed. “What then once your need for vengeance is fulfilled? What do you plan to do…continue in your father’s footsteps? Take over the ship and his experiments?”

“I will destroy it!” she yelled. “I will pilot the ship into this world’s sun ending all this madness forever! His legacy will be lost for all eternity!”

“You will destroy yourself as well,” Daneel said calmly.

The sith woman looked at him and her fists unclenched. She breathed deeply then smiled. “But don’t you understand? I am the biggest part of his legacy. All the people he kidnapped and tortured over the centuries…and these people frozen in agony hanging in this very room was to…in the end…create me…a lie.” She relaxed and again wrapped her arms around her waist and sat back against the stool. “I will fly you back to the surface and then leave to finish my mandate. I know where the greens are and will destroy them. Father was right about one thing…they are diminished from what they were before, but they are clever…and so am I.” She smiled at the couple. “I will tell you that you were right about Maktai and his followers five hundred years ago. They were not counted in father’s final tally of reds and greens. Once they left him he considered them dead. And yet over the past fifty years they have done more to kill off the greens than father ever imagined. Maktai’s people simply fostered the idea that the greens were another form of demon never seen before. Many of them were killed during the attacks of the Burning Legion. They fell in battle next to demons as the people of the Horde and Alliance didn’t perceive them to be anything different than another kind of demon to kill. Later during the Scourge even more fell as they again looked like demons or another form of undead. It was quite a brilliant stroke of genius on his part if you ask me.”

“Are Maktai or any of his people still alive then?” Demira asked.

“My guess…you have already met some of them,” the woman replied smiling. “Most of them are human so they can fit into Alliance society very easily. Those that are sith have stayed in hiding or seclusion. As populated as this world is there are still many places never seen by its inhabitants. They live happy and peaceful lives on this world. And while I regret the legacy my father left, those people I do not and will not harm. I no longer consider them a part of my father’s legacy…his plague upon this world.”

“But I still do not understand why he wanted Daneel to save you,” Demira said.

“He didn’t mean in the sense you might be thinking, hon,” Daneel replied. “During this whole time since Selene’s death he has been obsessed with saving his image of his daughter. You heard him say it when he first saw her skin changing…the doom of the sith race if even the purest and strongest could falter. He was talking about his daughter. In his eyes she was perfect…and anything to the contrary was appalling to him. He spent years, decades, and then centuries to remove that flaw and bring back not his daughter but what he perceived as the perfect form of his daughter.” He looked at the sith woman. “You said yourself you followed the light. You could sense his lie to you. Certainly you realized that at some point he noticed this through the Force himself. At this point he did not care what you believed so long as your skin remained red…that you remained untainted. But once he knew you would kill him, he sought me out. I do believe at the end he could not bring himself to kill you. You were the closest thing to his real daughter he had achieved in centuries. In his madness you were finally his daughter he had been searching for despite the green patch of skin. And yet for all of that love there was also the hatred of what was happening to you. You show signs like the rest of them did…your skin had begun to change. And lately so had you. He could sense your change from the light to the dark. The thinking of vengeance…thinking like a sith....”

“And thus like his real daughter,” Demira added. “He thought that since you were a jedi you would kill her for him since he could not finally bring himself to do the deed.”

“Exactly,” the jedi said. “I do not mean for you to bring her to the light side of the Force…just stop her from falling further to the dark side…and madness” was his plea to me…stop her from becoming a green.”

The sith woman stood up. “Now you understand.”

Daneel looked at Demira. “I still need to see something, and I want you to wait here.” This time she nodded and stayed seated.

“What you are looking for, I think, is in the far left corner,” the Selene clone stated.

The jedi placed his hand on Demira’s shoulder and squeezed. She reached up and grasped his without saying a word. They exchanged nods, and he left towards the corner the clone indicated. When he reached the door he stopped and looked back. Demira was looking towards him. He waved and smiled, then stepped through the door. The sensors activated the lights of the room. Before him were twenty autopsy tables with a datapad at the foot end of each. He walked slowly to the last table. On each table was a cadaver splayed open as though the autopsy was still being performed. There were two orcs, four blood elves, two dwarves, one tauren, three worgen, two gnomes, one night elf, two trolls, one satyr, one naga, and on the final table a human. Daneel approached the table with the human…a female with silvery hair. He picked up the datapad and read the entry.

“I have not been able to procure the most recent oddity from this world. Instead I have followed and studied the woman as she walked the streets of her chosen city. I find her fascinating. She is the lone survivor of an explosion caused by what the natives call a ‘mana’ bomb. I have never understood what mana is or how it is used in these feats of magic the locals perform. This woman herself is considered one of the most powerful, and as a result of this mana explosion has become even more powerful. Reports I have procured indicate that immediately after the explosion this woman’s eyes glowed a bright white while her blonde hair was changed to a silvery color. Despite my inability to abduct this woman I have acquired a sample of her DNA. When the clone was finished I was astonished to find it to match the woman in her current appearance and not the original blonde hair and blue eyes. Apparently her DNA has been altered by the exposure to the mana explosion. While regrettable I do not have a sample from before her transformation I am confidant I can ascertain what was changed and how. This might be the breakthrough I need to find a cure to the taint of Sargeras and thus save my only child. A thorough examination of perhaps multiple clones down to the molecular level may be required to find the link between mana concentration and this woman’s transformation. Thus when this answer is found I can return my daughter to the perfection she was before Sargeras’ intervention.”

Daneel placed the datapad back in its holder and walked to the back of the room. He placed his hand on the wall next to a darkened screen. Within seconds the screen powered to life and revealed a room on the other side. Four stasis tanks held three more Jaina Proudmore clones. He shook his head and removed his hand from the wall causing the screen to return to darkness. He turned and walked out of the room and back to Demira and the Selene clone.

“Did you find what you thought you might see?” the mage asked quietly. She was still wrapped tightly in his robe.

“He did…and what was there will not matter any more,” the clone answered.

“Let us just leave this ship,” Daneel replied. “There are no more answers to be found here.” He reached down and held Demira’s hand. She got up and held onto his arm again as the trio left the room and walked the corridors of the ship back to the shuttle bay.

Once they returned to the hidden mountain base they left the Selene clone alone and left on their speeders to return home. Very little was said the rest of the night as both Demira and Daneel contemplated what they had discovered. The next morning Daneel returned to the base alone. He had more questions for the clone he did not want Demira to hear. However, when he got to the base the clone had left on one of the speeders. By its docking station he found a datapad she had left for him.

“I am leaving out to find the rest of the greens. I am confidant my father was thorough in his information of where they are. I know you were looking for greens in the autopsy room, and you were right to think he might have been studying them as well. The reason you did not find any on the ship was because he quit studying them after the Scourge ravaged this planet. That event left the number of greens decimated with the remaining twenty left until your arrival three years ago and he was afraid of not having enough material left to work with.

“Ironically I was the one following that particular green the day you arrived. I told my father about the strange Force user I had seen and what you had done. Since that time he redoubled his efforts in procuring native specimens. He was frightened of you at first thinking much like the green and that you had come to find and kill the rest of the sith as the jedi had done centuries ago. He felt you would notice the rise in missing natives and deduce he was the one responsible. I also want you to know that your arrival is what eventually saved me. His paranoia and fear drove him to believe a great many contradictory things. One was that we were the only two sith left of our species…and instead of killing me to opt for another clone as was his plan just before your arrival (as I discovered)…he decided to concentrate on a cause instead of a cure for the taint. If only he had pursued that path centuries ago a lot of suffering could have been avoided.

“This base is now yours to use as you deem necessary. You will never see me again. Once I have killed the last green I will take the shuttle and pilot the Vindicator into the sun. Do not try to find me or stop me…I am committed to this outcome. You will simply see one day the shuttle is gone and thus so also shall I be gone from this world.

“One last thing. I have been in contact with some of the other survivors. Maktai in particular who I have told about you in detail. He has followed you since your arrival on Azeroth. Should you wish to meet with him simply travel to the human capitol of Stormwind. Once there head to the canals near the mage tower. Take some bread crumbs with you and feed the birds or squirrels or whatever small animals are present. That will be the sign to him you wish to talk. He will then come to you. I wish you well, Master Jedi. May the Force be with you and your love.”

Daneel placed he datapad back on the docking station and left the base. He returned home and told Demira what he had found and the writing the Selene clone had left for him. For the next two weeks the couple lived as they normally did trying to forget what had happened aboard the ship. Finally unable to resist they returned to the base to see what it had in its entirety. They took the lift to the top floor first and discovered the shuttle missing. Daneel sighed knowing the Selene clone had finished what she set out to accomplish. He found a telescope and searched the heavens for the Vindicator. He found it…slowly turning towards the sun. With a flash the engines ignited and thrust the massive ship towards the center of the solar system…and its destruction.

“May the Force be with you, Selene,” he whispered. “And may you finally find peace.”

 

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Unanswered Questions

 

The sun rose high over a clear valley located in a secluded area of Eversong Woods. The sweet sound of songbirds filled the otherwise calm and quiet afternoon. Near the end of that clearing and the base of a small mountain Demira emerged from the back door of her home onto the deck at the rear of the abode. She was carrying a tray with some fruit, a pitcher, and two goblets. She walked to a table and set the tray down. She offered a goblet to her friend and poured cool sparkling water from the pitcher. Her friend smiled and took a sip from the proffered drink.

“I am still amazed at this place,” Kitali stated as Demira sat in a chair next to her and poured herself some water. “Every time I come to visit the elements are so much at peace. It’s like you found yourself the best part in all of Azeroth to live.”

“Surely there are other parts of Azeroth that are just as peaceful,” Demira replied. “I doubt that this one little spot is the only place where the elements are ‘happy’ and content.”

“There are other places,” the shaman admitted. “But none of my close friends has made one of those places their home like you have. And with all that is going on with the war and what happened in Dalaran…it’s nice to get away from all of that for even a short time.” She set her goblet on the table. “Any news from Daneel?”

“None,” the mage replied. “He’s been gone for about a week now. Of course it could take him that long just to get to Stormwind. I offered to open a portal for him, but he said he wanted to take the time getting there to sort through some things.”

“And what about you?” Kitali asked. “All that stuff you told me about seeing on that ship and in the base. That woman left…what…two weeks ago? Are you sure all of those beings she went after are gone?”

“Zharn asked me the same thing the other day when I was in Orgrimmar. We didn’t get to talk much, though. He was preparing to leave out to some other battlefront somewhere…I don’t remember exactly where.” Demira took another drink. “What about you? Aren’t you heading off to some battlefield as well?”

“Perhaps,” the shaman answered. “But I wanted get a little relaxation in before going back to the grind of war. When I heard you had stayed here instead of going with the jedi, I wanted to come by and visit.”

“There’s no way I could have gone with him,” Demira said with a smile. “Especially now after what happened in Dalaran.”

“But you are not exactly an active Horde member,” Kitali countered. “And last I knew you were respected by a lot of people in the Alliance because of what you did during the wars with the Legion and the Scourge. In the company of the jedi I imagine you could have gone to Stormwind if you wanted to.”

“But I am also a blood elf and my people are obviously with the Horde. Even in Daneel’s presence I cannot hide who I am, and there is just too much bad blood now between the Alliance and Horde. After the theft of the Divine Bell past deeds are simply forgotten.” Demira cocked her head to the side and grinned. “You are the lucky one. With pandaren on both sides you could easily get lost in the crowd in Stormwind and truly go wherever you wanted.”

“That’s because secretly I am a draenei,” Kitali teased. Demira gave her a disbelieving look. “What? I am. I only wear this disguise to better spy on the Horde.” A mischievous grin crossed her face. “And I noticed you still have not answered my question. Do you think there are more of those sith out there? The one’s with green skin?”

Demira took a long drink. Kitali kept staring at her. “If the crazy sith was correct about his information, then I do think she got the rest of them.” She placed her empty goblet on the table. “But part of me has to wonder just how accurate he was. I mean, Kit, he was really crazy. Daneel saw some things he told me about later that still makes my skin crawl just thinking about it.”

“That whole making copies of people,” Kitali added, “I mean…if you weren’t the one telling me about it I would never believe it.”

“I still don’t understand it all.” Demira poured herself more water and offered more to Kitali who declined. She took a sip and then stared at the woods ahead of them. “What scares me most is if he was making copies of his daughter, and their people have this kind of technology…how many horrors could be revisited upon us.”

“What do you mean?”

“What if one of them decided to make another Lich King…or Illidan…or Archimonde…I mean…imagine if those people were set loose upon us again.” She looked at the pandaren staring wide-eyed at her. “What if one of those sith decided to claim power and just unleashed one of them? It was everything we could muster to defeat them the first time…but a second…or a third? Or worse…what if they cloned Deathwing?”

“They could do that?”

Demira nodded in response. “Daneel told me that where he came from they could clone any living being and with other techniques even with the memories of the other person. That woman mentioned she had memories that were not hers. Any evil unleashed on Azeroth could be returned…even Deathwing if they were devious enough.”

“I need something stronger to drink than water,” Kitali stated after a moment.

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The squirrel sat on its haunches eating a nut. Beside it another squirrel darted to a nearby tree carrying another nut…there were several strewn along the ground. A few feet away stood a man in simple brown robes with collar length white hair. One squirrel stayed in a grassy area further from its two more adventurous companions. The man gently tossed another nut close to the shy animal. Several people walked by quietly observing the unassuming man paying little attention to them. This was the mage quarter of Stormwind and all of them had important duties during this time of war. Except for one mage with long black hair and a graying beard. He wore light blue robes and walked up next to the man feeding the squirrels.

“Odd in these days to find someone performing a small act of kindness to insignificant creatures,” the mage stated.

“It is especially in these times that such acts are needed. They can mend the soul,” the other replied.

“You say that with such passion,” the mage said.

“There is no emotion, there is peace,” came the answer.

“Peace is a lie, there is only passion.” The mage looked at the man feeding the squirrels.

“There is no ignorance, there is knowledge,” the other said turning his head to face the mage.

“Though passion I gain strength.”

“There is no passion, there is serenity.”

“Through strength I gain power.”

“There is no chaos, there is harmony.”

“Through power I gain victory. Through victory my chains are broken.”

“There is no death, there is the Force.”

“The Force shall free me,” the mage finished. “Odd how these two philosophies have become so divergent yet sprouted from the same source.”

“You mean from the Second Great Schism,” Daneel replied to the mage. “When after twenty thousand years the Order was split. Those who followed the dark were exiled…”

“And journeyed to find a race of red skinned beings who also followed the dark,” the mage answered. “They were the sith’ari…and when the two darks merged they became the Sith.” He smiled at the jedi and gestured with his hand, “Let’s go for a walk.”

The two walked to a secluded area of the quarter without talking. They found a couple of chairs and a table near a small café. They sat across from one another, the mage smiling at the jedi.

“It’s nice to finally meet you face to face,” the mage stated. “I have followed your exploits on this world for some time.”

“There hasn’t been much to follow,” Daneel replied. “But I must assume you are the man I was told I would find here.”

“You would be correct,” the mage nodded. “You might know me today as Mikkial, but in my youth I was called Maktai…and I must assume you have many questions for me.”

“Indeed I do. For starters…was she correct in stating you no longer follow the code of the sith?” Daneel asked.

“No…nor do I follow the jedi code. I have found that both are as inaccurate as saying the sky is always blue,” the mage said with a smile. “I strive to live by an undefined code that exists somewhere in between the others.” He waved his hand at their surroundings. “There is so much life here on Azeroth. There is peace and happiness, but there is also death and strife. The majority of the beings on this world struggle just to stay somewhere in the vast middle in between. Those that fight on either the light or the dark crush those in the middle. It was true of our own galaxy as much as it is true on this small world.” He looked back at the jedi. “There comes a time when one from either extreme will see this truth and make a choice…to prolong the suffering of the masses…or to try and alleviate that suffering.”

“To give up the light or the dark and live in the gray,” Daneel said. “Is that what you did? Leave the dark?”

“I did when I realized that the natural flow of life is gray,” the mage replied leaning back in his chair. “Is the wolf dark for eating the rabbit? Is the rabbit for eating the grass? Both are hunting and consuming other living things in the Force…and yet both are acting in accordance with their natural instincts. They both consume, defecate, and that in turn is consumed by other living creatures…and when those defecate it fertilizes the soil for more life to spring forth. And for the one who might save the rabbit from the wolf…what happens when the wolf dies of starvation? The act of saving the life of the rabbit was light minded, but the result was dark for the wolf.”

“The natural cycle of life,” Daneel continued. The mage closed his eyes and nodded. “All are neither light or dark…they are just living.”

“And then there is this war,” the mage said after a moment. “Leaders on both sides fighting for light and dark reasons. The common man, woman, and child crushed in the onslaught…and yet powers darker than any imagined guide them all as puppets.”

“Then why not champion the light if there are powers so dark acting so on this world?” Daneel asked.

“But there are powers of light acting on this world,” the mage countered. “They have fought and sacrificed in each war this planet has suffered through…and yet the cycle continues. So I chose to help those in the middle.”

“By helping those in the middle you are in fact acting for the light despite your desire to use semantics to say otherwise. The act of helping others in need is the way of the jedi at its core,” Daneel offered. “Your example of saving the rabbit while an act of light having dark consequences is a paradox that all must face when deciding an act of interference. One must weigh the greater good when making such a decision.”

The mage leaned forward. “And you would be right. I believed you were a champion of the light, but I had to be sure this world had not affected your judgment.”

“This was a test?” Daneel asked. “Why?”

“It was,” the mage replied seriously. “I know the Jedi Order’s views on relationships. We searched your ship for clues to who you were. You were a grand master of the Order. We found that you were named Barsen’thor of the Jedi Order…and only three others in the entire history of the Order have been named such. That title carries great responsibility and expectations. And yet you love a sin’dorei woman…even live in a home together as a couple. Some of us had…doubts.”

“And yet you know my history of trying to broker a lasting peace between the Alliance and the Horde.”

“Many in history proclaimed to be peacekeepers when in truth they were laying the foundation for their own rise to power and domination. We had to be certain.”

“And?” Daneel asked.

“You are indeed the Barsen’thor…of this I no longer have doubt,” Maktai replied. “You still follow the light despite your departure from the jedi code. This was something that led to the First Great Schism millennia before the Second. Some believed that to follow the light one had to put aside all emotions while others believed emotions were the key to gaining strength in the light. Fear, anger, hate…these are all powerful emotions that embolden the sith. Would it also not stand to reason that emotions like love and compassion also embolden the jedi? I have come to believe this is indeed so…and I see in you that you believe this way as well.”

“Are you saying you truly no longer believe in the sith philosophy?” the jedi asked.

“I believe somewhere in the middle, in that I was telling the truth. Your unspoken mentor, Revan, was right about a great many things. And while I never had his experiences I have come to the have the same outlook on life and the Force.”

“How do you know of Revan? The only thing I had aboard the ship even mentioning him was a holocron he had given me. It was lost in…”

“The crash? It was not,” the mage answered. “That same day after you left with your friend…my friend searched the ship. The mage’s invisibility spell was good, and if Selene had not already been there to see the wreckage we would never have found the holocron or the two other datacrons. The Force was with us that day, and she spirited the three items from the wreckage before the sun rose the following morning. We have followed you ever since that day.”

“I had thought those…destroyed…like so many other things,” Daneel said quietly. He then looked up to the mage. “So if you have known about me this entire time then why all the secrecy? Why not just come to me from the first day?”

“You saw Varok’s recordings. You know just how unstable the man had become over the centuries. And you know of the devastations this world has suffered through in the past few decades. While we welcomed your arrival we could not simply stop our endeavors. There were villages to rebuild, crops to resow, orphans to house, and so much more. We have come to see Azeroth as our home, its people our own, and so we feel compelled to help those who need it and heal the world when it is hurt. For this world is very much a living thing.”

“The planet is alive?”

“I believe it to be, yes,” Maktai answered. “It is why the Force is so vibrant here, and also feels different than any other place in our travels. Certainly you have felt the difference in the Force as well?”

“I have,” Daneel answered leaning back in his chair. “And the thought of a living planet is not as strange as you might think. There are…indications…that there exists or existed perhaps two similar living planets in our own galaxy. But I have thought the source of the difference in the feel of the Force was due to the presence of arcane energies.”

“Perhaps,” Maktai replied also leaning back in his chair. “But that can be a discussion for another time.”

“To which you still have not answered my second question,” Daneel stated. “Why reveal yourselves to me now?”

“Because something has come up and I need your help,” Maktai answered. He leaned forward again and Daneel joined him. He lowered his voice to just above a whisper. “When we left Varok many of us also turned from the sith way of life, but there have been a few of us, mostly purebloods, who had returned to their old ways. There is one in particular that in recent months has begun to surface. You see…we had always remained in the shadows on Azeroth. Even the greens never exposed themselves to the natives of this world if they could avoid it. Now this new war has given one sith the inspiration to begin her own campaign for dominance.”

“Where is this person and why wait until this war? There have been many on this world since your arrival thirteen hundred years ago.”

“She did not come to this world,” Maktai replied. “She was born here.” He looked to one side and then another. “She is a Force wielder as we are, but in her little cult she has gained many powerful mages and warlocks. What they plan or what they hope to achieve I have not uncovered yet.” He slipped a paper from his sleeve and handed it to Daneel. “They are calling themselves the Order of the Sith’ari.”

Daneel studied the parchment the mage handed him. On it was only a symbol, but one he was familiar with…it was the symbol of the sith. “Perhaps she seeks to rebuild the sith with inhabitants of this world. Has she actually done anything beyond recruiting?”

“No and that is what worries me,” Maktai replied. “And if she is doing as you think she is then she is waiting for something to happen before she acts. It might be something as simple as bolstering her numbers of her cult, but it might be something else entirely. I just do not know.”

“So you want me to find and stop her before she can enact whatever her plans might be?” Daneel asked.

“No…I want you to build the Jedi Order on this world,” Maktai replied.

“What? Why?” Daneel exclaimed. A few birds nearby flew at the sudden outburst. He lowered his voice. “That seems highly absurd. This world already has many organizations that are on the lookout for dangers to Azeroth.”

“But none have the experience that you have,” Maktai countered. “You have fought the sith…fought and won and survived. If she is rebuilding the sith on this world…”

“With…as you said…mages and warlocks. This should have been presented to a body like the Kirin Tor, or the Cenarion Circle, or the Earthen Ring…”

“None of them are equipped to deal with a sith,” Maktai replied.

Daneel sat back and looked at the mage who was once sith. He cocked his head to the side. “If this danger is so great then why have you not acted before? Why come to me to do this when you could have done something yourself? What are you not telling me?”

Maktai looked down at the table. “I…cannot. It must be you.”

“Why? If not you then why not one of the others?” Daneel asked. The mage said nothing. “Just how many of you are there left?”

“As of today…only me,” Maktai replied. “And I am too old to face her.” He looked at Daneel and feebly smiled. “I had hoped Selene would be the one, but she was determined to her fate. I could not stop her. All of the others have passed from this world into the Force. Only I remain. Yes, I look young, but that is a deception…an illusion. While our lives are extended on this world…from the different energies or whatever reason…we live for centuries as will you, but we are not immortal.” He leaned back in his chair. “I am dying.”

“But you said this sith was born on this world. That means you had families. Are there no other children that could do this?” Daneel asked.

The former sith shook his head. “She is the last. There are lineages on this world, but they do not know they come from us. My own descendant lives in Dalaran. But she knows nothing of her heritage or that her ancestor from five centuries ago was my own child.” He shook his head. “No…it must be you that stops this woman from following through with her plans.”

“Then I will stop her,” Daneel said as he began standing from the table. He looked down at the mage. “But I will not start a Jedi Order on Azeroth. Not only because there are no other Force users here, but this planet does not need a Jedi Order. I will instead work with those that already champion the cause for peace and the rebuilding of this world.”

“And I cannot change your mind about that?” Maktai asked. Daneel shook his head no. “Very well. I will spend my remaining days here in this city should you ever decide to talk again. And may the Force be with you.”

Daneel nodded and left the mage sitting alone at the table. Maktai looked after the jedi for a few moments in silence. “I was hoping he would see our way of thinking.”

“It was your hope, Maktai, not ours,” a hollow woman’s voice said to his right. He looked beside him as a ghostly form appeared next to him. The woman looked like a night elf. “He will do what the jedi have always done. He will hunt her down and kill her as they have with all the sith they have come across.”

“That is not for certain,” a man’s voice said to his other side. This ghost was a pureblood sith. “I do not sense our daughter is in mortal danger from this man. He will try to turn her back to the light first. I can only hope she will listen.”

“In either case your daughter is not the only Force sensitive left on this world. There are other children…other descendants…even if they know nothing of their heritage one or more could discover their awareness of the Force. A new Jedi Order could help them from making the same rash decisions as your daughter,” Maktai added. “Perhaps he might change his mind.”

“Doubtful,” the sith replied. He disappeared.

The woman looked at Maktai. “It is times like this I wish you had never forced yourself upon my mother.” The mage bowed his head in shame. “And worse is that you lied to him. The mage studying in Dalaran is not your only descendant on this world. You have sent him after the other. Your own granddaughter.”

“I regret what I did to your mother,” Maktai said looking up. “But I never regretted having you.” A tear began to fall down his cheek. “You look so much like her…”

“And yet you still killed her,” the apparition replied angrily.

“That was over six hundred years ago,” Maktai replied. “I have tried to change and right many wrongs since then. Can’t you ever forgive me?”

“No,” she replied as her visage dissolved. “I will never forgive you, father.” Maktai sat alone weeping.

 

Demira and Kitali walked towards the boulder near the base of a mountain. Behind them was the mage’s red speeder hovering near a tree. The more they talked about the horrors that could be revisited on Azeroth the more determined they became in finding out if such a thing was possible. Demira suggested they return to the hidden sith base, and Kitali was eager to join her sin’dorei friend. The mage removed the glamour revealing the secret door. She walked up to the keypad and punched in the code as she remembered Daneel doing when they first found this place. The door opened with a quiet hiss. Unlike the first time she had been to this base Demira did not conjure a torch. The jedi had reset the base’s automated systems to activate the lighting when the sensors detected anyone entering an area. They stepped into the corridor and the door closed behind them. After a few seconds of darkness the lights activated. The pair continued walking until they reached the large central room. Demira stopped and tried to remember which tunnel led to the lift. Kitali whistled beside her. The mage looked back at her friend who was staring in amazement.

“Any dwarf or gnome would die if they saw this place,” the pandaren said. “It would be like an unimaginable dream of theirs come true.”

“Well, we won’t have to worry about any of them dying here. We don’t plan to let anyone else know about this place,” Demira replied next to her.

“Oh? So does that mean after we find what we are looking for you will have to kill me to keep the secret safe?”

“No,” Demira replied with a giggle. “I trust you to keep this to yourself.”

“No worries about me telling anyone.” Kitali walked forward another step and turned to face the mage. “So what are we looking for…exactly?”

“I’m not sure. I’m hoping to find something in here that tells us if they brought any of that cloning stuff down here from that ship.”

“And where is that?” Kitali asked waving her hands in the air. “I know Daneel has shown you how to use some of this stuff, but it’s totally alien! I mean…can you read the language if you find anything to even know if it’s the stuff we are looking for?”

“This was your idea, Kit,” Demira replied crossing her arms over her chest.

“Well…maybe it was…but we were kind of tipsy when we decided to come here.”

“That’s no excuse.”

“It is for me…and I’m sticking to it,” the pandaren stated.

“Well…it did seem a good idea…wait…wait right here!” Demira turned and ran back down the corridor.

“Where are you going?” Kitali shouted after her. “You’re just going to leave me here?”

“I just remembered I have that translator thing that Daneel made for me. It’s on the speeder. I’ll be right back.” Demira shouted as she ran down the corridor.

Kitali stood looking down the corridor as her friend disappeared in the distance. She narrowed her eyes and took in her surroundings. Unable to resist the temptation to explore a new place she walked towards one of the other corridors. The lights ahead flickered on, and she stopped in mid-stride. Lying on the floor about twenty feet ahead of her was the body of a woman with red skin. “Demira!” she shouted. “Demira! Get your bony *** back here!”

 

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A New Threat

 

Daneel left Stormwind confused. Maktai was clearly posing as a mage in the city, and he had his own agenda in telling Daneel about the cult operating somewhere on Azeroth. He looked out the side of the tram car. He had decided to take the transit from the capitol to Ironforge and then from there buy a griffon ride north. He kept thinking back on the strange conversation with the former sith. The test was most confusing to the jedi especially since it really did not test anything. Were all the sith trapped on Azeroth from that era just a little crazy? Was it the long lifespan causing them to lose touch with reality? Granted the elves lived long lives, but they were also accustomed to such an existence. The sith were not at all used to living more than a century as was he. Would this also become his fate? Living so long that you began to lose focus…the mind constantly wondering due to the barrage of experiences that kept piling up over time? He shook his head to drive such thoughts away. It had to be the affect of living that lifetime in secrecy. The man had to have lived with different personas during his life on Azeroth. Perhaps all of those began to blend together over time…lie piled upon lie piled upon lie…until the mind simply could not distinguish what was real and what was not. Daneel had already avoided that trap by making himself known from the very beginning. He would not have to live changing one identity for another…he would be Daneel the Jedi for as long as he lived and that would be accepted by the people of this world.

The tram arrived at the Ironforge and Daneel walked off his tram car. Just outside was a male night elf waving to him. Daneel approached the man. “Hello,” he said to the stranger.

“I was hoping this was the route you were taking,” the elf stated. “Come with me, please. We must hurry.”

Daneel hesitated. “Do I know you?”

The elf stepped closer and leaned down to whisper in his ear. “It’s me…Zharn. I am using an orb of Kitali’s that changes my appearance.” He leaned back up. “Something has happened and we must move quickly.”

“What has happened?” Daneel asked the orc in disguise.

“I can tell you on the way, but we must hurry.” He turned but the jedi still had not moved. He took a deep breath. “Demira has been hurt, and I have come to take you to her. Now move! This way!”

The two ran through the city to the main entrance leading outside. Zharn headed west from the entrance towards a small cluster of tents about half a mile away. Daneel ran behind him keeping the taller being’s pace. They reached a red tent and stepped inside. A gnome with a scruffy beard greeted them. Beside him was a portal.

“It’s about time you got here, I can’t keep this portal open forever,” the gnome stated.

“I thank you greatly, my old friend,” Zharn said to the mage.

“I remember what you did for me in Northrend,” the smaller being replied. “This is nothing compared to when you saved my life.”

“Still…I am indebted to you,” the orc replied. He was still in disguise as a night elf. “If ever you need me…all you need do is ask and I will be there.” He turned to the jedi. “This portal leads to your home. I apologize for the deception, but given the current state between the Alliance and Horde this was the best solution.”

“I am indebted to both of you,” Daneel replied. With a nod he entered the portal to stand just outside the back deck of the home he shared with Demira. Standing in the back door was Kitali…and she looked disheveled.

“We went to the base,” Kitali said as he ran towards her. “We thought we might find something…”

“Where is Demira? Is she ok?” Daneel asked. As he got closer to the shaman he noticed some cuts and bruises on her arms. “Demira!” he shouted into the house.

“We found this woman,” Kitali kept trying to explain. “She was lying on the floor dead.”

But Daneel did not catch the first part about finding a woman…all he heard she was lying dead…and his heart started racing. “DEMIRA!” he screamed as he shoved his way past Kitali into the house. “DEMIRA!”

“I’m in here,” she called out from the living room.

Daneel dashed in to see her lying on her back with her left leg bandaged and propped up on pillows. He knelt beside her and looked frantically at her face and along her body to her leg and back to her face…his hands following his gaze. He touched her cheek and then wrapped his arms around her burying his head in her chest.

“I’m ok,” the mage said as she wrapped his head in her arms. “I just hurt my leg is all. I’m fine.” He tightened his embrace without saying anything. She looked at Kitali who had followed the jedi into the house. “I think we might have overdone it.”

“Those warlocks in the base tried to kill us,” the pandaren replied. “I don’t think we overdid anything.”

The jedi looked up at Demira. “What warlocks? What base?”

“We went to the sith base by the mountain,” Demira replied calmly and quietly. “We were talking and thinking and decided to check on something. When we got there Kit found the body of Selene….and then these warlocks attacked us. They were in the base.”

“And get this,” Kitali added. “One of them was a night elf. I have never heard of a night elf warlock, but she was there commanding demons like the other two.” She walked over to a chair by the couch, sat down, and sighed deeply. “I thought you said that woman took some ship and killed herself.”

Daneel looked at the shaman and nodded. “I saw the ship leaving orbit through a telescope. Her last message was that when she eliminated all of the tainted sith she would pilot the ship into the sun thereby destroying herself along with everything else.” He looked back at Demira. “Are you sure you are all right?”

“I’m fine. A few cuts and bruises but I’ll live,” Kitali replied.

“I’m ok,” Demira whispered to the Jedi.

Behind them Zharn walked into the room. He was back to looking his normal orcish self. He looked at Kitali and smiled. “I think I will be owing favors to several gnomes before the end of my days,” he said with a chuckle. He looked down at the jedi and mage. His smile waned as he looked at Kitali. “I think we might have overdone it.”

“Not you too,” Kitali protested. The orc started to say something as she put her hand up. “Shush! Not another word! Just go get me some ale or wine or something with some kick to it.”

“As you wish, hon,” he replied with a grin. He turned and left the room.

“I love the big guy, but sometimes he just drives me crazy,” Kitali said with a sigh. She looked over at Demira and Daneel. He had seated himself on the floor next to the couch and now held the mage’s hand. “Ok…so maybe we did overdo it a little. I’m sorry we worried you overmuch like that. It’s just that whole thing really freaked me out.”

“You are both safe and alive and that is what matters most,” Daneel replied with a squeeze of Demira’s hand. “Just what were you two looking for in that base?”

The two conspirators looked at each other and grinned. At that time Zharn reentered the living room and handed a goblet to Kitali. He sat on the ground next to her and placed his hand on her leg. He looked up at her and smiled. She sighed, then smiled, and then leaned over to kiss him. She looked back up to see Demira and Daneel staring at them. She rolled her eyes and took a drink.

“When did that start?” Demira asked.

Kitali placed the goblet on the arm of the chair she was sitting in. “So Demira and I were talking about these clone things and how bad it would be if…”

“Don’t ignore me,” Demira interrupted. “When did the two of you become a couple?”

“Months ago,” Kitali replied with a wave of her hand. “We were wondering how bad it would be if someone got a hold of that stuff that makes them and tries to recreate someone like Deathwing.”

“Months ago and you just happened to forget to say ‘hey, Demira, Zharn and I started seeing each other romantically.’”

“Um…we were attacked by warlocks, Demira. Hello? Priorities?” the shaman replied with a sigh.

Daneel got up and stood by the window looking out the front of the house. The other three looked at him and stopped their conversation. It was quiet for a few moments. He turned back to face them…his brow furrowed. “You said you found Selene’s body in the base…how long had it been there?”

“Wouldn’t say very long,” Kitali replied. “There was no smell, but also no blood.”

“And this night elf …are you certain it was a warlock?”

“She had dark blue skin…almost reddish in some light,” Demira added. She narrowed her eyes almost following the jedi’s thoughts. “What do you know that we don’t? What did the old sith tell you in Stormwind?”

Daneel reached into a pouch on his belt and handed a parchment to Kitali. “Have you seen anything like this before?”

She looked closely at the symbol and shook her head ‘no’ as she handed it to Zharn. Upon seeing the image the orc gasped. He looked back at the jedi. “I have seen this symbol before,” he stated.

“Where?’ Daneel asked.

“Near Mt. Hyjal,” Zharn replied. “We were fighting some cultists in the area and one of the strangely dressed one’s had a parchment like this amongst his possessions.”

“And was he also a warlock?”

“A mage.”

“What is it?” Demira asked. Zharn handed her the parchment. She looked at it. “Isn’t this the same symbol that was on that ship?” she asked the jedi.

“It is,” he replied. “I met with Maktai in Stormwind. He was posing as a mage in that quarter of the city. He’s a little eccentric, but he did tell me some things that I believe are connected to your attack at the base.” He sat back next to Demira and held her hand again. “Seems that he is the last of the original sith that came to this world thirteen hundred years ago. But some of them had children…families. Most alive today have no idea of their heritage or relation to the sith, but he mentioned there was one who was trying to revive the sith here on Azeroth. They are called the Cult of the Sith’ari. He also said they are waiting for something and only recently became active during this current war between the Alliance and the Horde.”

“So what was one doing near Mt. Hyjal?” Zharn asked.

“Probably recruiting. This cult is not comprised of Force sensitives like me, but built with members who are mages and warlocks.” Daneel scratched his chin with his free hand. “There was no cloning equipment in the base, and the ship left two weeks ago. If they got to the ship…then why return?”

“Could there be other places where they could make these clones?” Kitali asked.

“The white lab!” Demira exclaimed. “Remember the one vid we watched? The lab was white and not gray like the one on the ship!”

“They’re looking for the location of the other lab,” Zharn concluded. “They were searching the base for information where the other might be.”

“But if they got the ship…then why would they need the lab?” Kitali queried. “I mean…didn’t you see loads of this stuff on it? If this Selene person was the one dead at the base then she didn’t fly the ship…which means they probably got it…and if they have it then why need another lab on the planet?”

Daneel looked at the others. “Who says they actually got the ship?” They looked at him in surprise. “Maktai asked me to start a new Jedi Order on this world, but I refused saying this world not only did not need a jedi order but that there were no other Force sensitives to begin such an order with. The Earthen Ring, Cenarion Circle, and other bodies serve in the same capacity as any order I could start, and they are most in tune with what this planet needs. His response was to tell me that he had hoped Selene would have done this, but she refused because she was committed to her plans that she outlined to me and Demira. It was her refusal that caused him to ask me.”

“You think she might have changed her mind?” Demira asked. “Went to the ship, set its course, and then returned to Azeroth?”

“It would explain why the Cult of Sith’ari would be looking for the other cloning facility,” Daneel answered with a sigh. “But all this right now is conjecture. Without that shuttle I don’t know how to even search for the ship and determine its true location. If they got it and not Selene, then it would still be somewhere in orbit. If Selene did set the autopilot then it should already have been destroyed in the sun. Using a simple telescope could take years to search for it even if in a geosynchronous orbit and that’s assuming it’s still up there.”

Zharn sighed loudly making them all look at him. “I swear I am going to owe favors to the gnomes even when I am roaming this world as a spirit after death.” He looked at the jedi. “I think I know someone who might be able to help with that.”

“Is it something mobile?” Daneel asked. “Something that can be brought here? I would like to search that base to see what those warlocks were looking for.”

“Oh…I would say it’s mobile,” the orc answered with a grin highlighting his tusks. “Highly.Mobile.”

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The small gnome compound in Northrend was just perfect for someone like Windi Weathergear. Since she was a young girl Windi dreamed of one day flying higher than the dragons themselves. What better place in the entire world than in the very country where the dragons lived could she come and learn exactly how to accomplish such a feat? She stepped out of her tent and pulled her coat tight. Today she would conduct the first test of her newest invention. She walked the length of the base towards what appeared from a distance to be a tower with a cone roof. She smiled as she got closer. The other gnomes paid her no attention as they tinkered away on their own inventions and projects. She would show the world today that the past forty years had been worth every minute and effort she put into her dream. As she got closer to the tower her smile widened as the two smaller towers to each side of the main one came into view. There was an entrance slightly higher than her head for the main tower with a ramp coming down to the ground. She stopped at the bottom and looked up to the top. Today she would make history and beat those goblins over in Area 52. Today her dream would become reality.

“Looks good, Windi,” she heard a male voice say behind her. “Think you’ll ever finish it?”

The gnome turned around and beamed at the orc behind her. She ran to him with arms wide. He kneeled down just as she embraced him. “Zharn! Did you come to see me off? But how did you know today was the day?”

“I didn’t,” the orc admitted. “I came to see you, but are you telling me this is ready?”

“Yeppers,” she replied. “I was just getting ready to start the test. You want to come with me?” She beamed at him. “You can join me in flying higher than the dragons!”

“I suppose…” he started, but she let go of him and ran up the ramp. She turned and waved for him to follow her. He shook his head and smiled. The tower, while tall for the diminutive gnome, was actually only two stories high. She disappeared through the entry. “I suppose I am,” he chuckled starting up the ramp after her.

As Zharn got close to the entry she poked her head around the corner. “How did you get here if you don’t mind me asking? I thought the Alliance and the Horde were fighting again.”

“I actually came here to help out a friend,” Zharn said as he ducked through the door. “He had a specific need and I thought of you.”

“I mean how did anyone let you into the compound?”

“I just showed them that little trinket you gave me a few years ago. Apparently that was all the proof they needed that I was a friend and not a foe…or a rival spy.”

“That’s good,” she said walking to a ladder. “I know those goblins are friends of the Horde, but they will never get their rocket off the ground.” She started climbing the ladder and stopped about five rungs up. She looked at Zharn and furrowed her brow. “I think it might fit you.”

“What might fit me?” he asked as he reached the ladder.

“The spare helmet, silly,” she replied with a giggle. “Going higher than dragon’s means we have to take our own air. It runs out the higher you go, or didn’t you know that?” She started climbing again looking up but talking back down to the orc as he began to climb. “If it doesn’t I have other air bags that might work.”

Windi reached the top and climbed into another room beyond Zharn’s view. He continued to climb and heard her rustling around above. She was also talking but he could not understand what the gnome was saying. At the top he poked his head up and saw her running back and forth between two chairs. She stopped and looked at him.

“Come on, we haven’t got all day,” she said. “You sit in this chair on the left. It’s bigger but still might be a little snug for you.” She hopped into the right chair and fastened belts to hold her in the seat. “I’m going to retract the ramp and close the door down below.” He climbed into the seat she indicated and strapped himself in. She was right…it was tight. “Take this,” she said handing him a green bladder. “It’s got the air I mentioned. When you feel yourself getting short of breath use it like you would if going under water.”

“How can we see where we are going?” he asked noticing there were no windows in this room.

“Like this,” she answered flicking a switch beside her arm. The room tilted and Zharn found himself looking straight up. His stomach lurched. “When we get high enough I’ll pop the roof panels and we can see outside. It’ll be the most awesome-ist thing we have ever seen!” She flicked another switch and he heard a loud roar coming from just outside. “Lift-off in ten seconds!” she tried to yell above the roar.

“Ten seconds?” the orc yelled back. He had a plan to help the jedi, but now he realized he had gotten into something much more than he bargained for. Last time he had seen Windi she was just beginning to build this rocket. He knew of the project in Area 52, but that was not even close to being finished and they would ask too many questions. He had hoped Windi had a way to see to the stars that she could fly to Eversong Woods, but now she was actually going to take him into space. “Are you sure this thing is going to work?” he yelled.

“Three…two…” she counted. “OOOOOOONNNNNNNEEEEEEE!!!!!!!”

Zharn was slammed back into the seat towards the ground. The roar outside grew deafening. He strained to look to his side because he could not turn his head from the pressure. Windi was next to him smiling and staring straight ahead. She was actually excited, but he began to feel sick. He thought he might vomit, but with the pressure pushing down on him he was afraid it would never come out. He was going to die in this chair next to a crazy gnome in a crazy contraption trying to help a crazy friend. He was supposed to die in battle fighting an enemy of the Horde…or of Azeroth…but not like this.

Suddenly the pressure stopped as did the roar outside. He tried to take a deep breath…he had been holding it since she yelled one…and couldn’t. He reached for the bag she had given him and brought it to his mouth. Air…precious air filled his lungs. He looked over at Windi. She was smiling through a helmet with glass in front of her face. She pointed up as she flipped a switch with her other hand. He looked and the top opened. He never noticed the thick glass before with runes etched along the edges, but he saw now that the metal roof peeled away to reveal a black night full of stars. He looked back over at the gnome and grinned as much as he could with the bag to his mouth. But instead of focusing on her he looked at what was behind her in the dark night. Lit up was a triangular shape about an inch long with what appeared to be tiny dots coming out of the bottom towards the planet below them. He pointed for the gnome to see. She followed his finger, and then looked back with complete disappointment. She pulled up a pad and wrote something on it. She handed it to Zharn when she finished writing.

“Not fair! I was supposed to be the first one up here,” the note read.

He took the stylus from her and wrote a message back to her. “Those are what my friend was trying to find. We need to get to him ASAP!”

“Why?” she wrote back. “They got here first…so it doesn’t really matter now.”

“No…we are in danger. Can you get us back to Eversong Woods with this thing?”

“Yeah, but I don’t see the point now. We are not the first one’s to get this high,” she wrote back.

“Please, Windi, just get us there,” he replied.

She handed him the stylus back with her response and started manipulating the controls. The ship turned away from the other and back towards the planet. He looked down at the tablet. “Sigh!” it read. The cabin began to get hot, and he looked up to see flames along the glass top. He took the bag from his mouth and found he could breathe…but not deeply.

“Did you expect this?” he asked.

“Umm…not really,” she replied as she lifted the visor on her helmet. “But we should be ok. The runes are in the glass for some extra magical protection just in case. I just hate that someone else got here first.”

For the next minute the cabin got even hotter. Sweat beaded down the orc’s face. He again began to think he would die, but now that he had an answer for the jedi he would never live to tell him he had seen the ship. The rocket lurched, and he looked up to see blue sky ahead of them…and the ground. Instead of the pressure now pushing him back against his seat, it was pulling him forward…and down. The straps strained to hold him up.

“This is it,” he whispered. “Of all the crazy things I have done this is the one that will get me killed. And if I don’t die from this…Kitali’s going to kill me for getting into this mess in the first place.”

“What was that you were saying?” the gnome yelled beside him. “I didn’t catch all of that.”

“I said can you land this thing?”

“Oh sure, I’m getting ready to deploy the chutes now.”

“Chutes? As in…” he was interrupted when the whole rocket jerked. It swung around and now instead of looking down at the ground coming at them he saw two huge parachutes above them. He winced as he saw a variety of cloths and patchwork that made the chute. Where some of the different patches were stitched together he saw holes.

“We might be a little off from landing in Eversong Woods,” Windi stated next to him.

“By how far?” the orc asked.

“Maybe a hundred…maybe two hundred miles,” the gnome replied. “No big deal.”

He felt the ship hit the ground. It struck with enough force he chipped a tooth. The parachutes deflated and covered the windowed roof. Zharn brought his hand up to his nose and pinched the bridge. “Kit is sooo going to kill me when I get home,” he said to himself.

“What was that?” Windi asked him. “You’re going to have to learn to speak up!”

 

Daneel approached the door to the mountain base. Behind him were Demira and Kitali. Demira still had a slight limp because of the injury to her leg, but she insisted on joining the jedi when he returned to the base. She wanted answers as much as he did. The door itself was still open, and Daneel stopped when he saw the white body sprawled across the opening. He knelt down and examined the corpse.

“That’s one of the demons the night elf was controlling,” Kitali said from behind. “Never seen demons like it before, but I never saw a night elf warlock, either.”

“This is not a demon,” Daneel replied shakily. “This is something much worse.” He looked back at the two women. “Were either of you bitten or scratched by one of these things?”

“I was scratched by a lot of things…”Kitali started.

“I mean by one of these specifically?” the jedi yelled. Both women were taken aback by the man’s tone. “Were you bitten?”

“I honestly don’t recall,” the shaman replied. “A lot was happening…”

“What’s wrong?” Demira interrupted.

The jedi didn’t answer instead jumping into the base and running from their sight. They looked at each other and did their best to follow him. When they got to the large main room they could hear the lift already ascending to the upper levels.

“What’s gotten into him?” Kitali asked the mage. Demira shrugged her shoulders. “I don’t like this. I’ve never seen him like that before and I purposely try to get him mad sometimes. Have you ever seen him like this?”

“Never,” Demira answered. “And he knows you try to make him mad…he usually just laughs it off.” She started walking towards the lift. “This is also more than mad, Kitali. Something is worrying him.”

They arrived at the lift just as it returned to the main floor. The door opened and they stepped inside. The last floor the lift had been to was the top floor. Demira punched the controls to take them to the same floor they hoped Daneel had gone to. It seemed to take forever to the two women for the lift to reach the top. They looked at each other nervously. The lift stopped finally at the top floor, and as the doors opened they heard things crashing in the room beyond. With a trepid look at each other they started walking towards the main hanger.

“How could you be so foolish?” they heard the jedi yell. They walked to the end of the corridor to see chairs and tables flying around and crashing into other chairs and tables and walls…like they had walked into a violent storm. They stepped back from the opening as a speeder flew by just missing them. Off from the center of the room where the computer stations were stood the jedi. His robes were flapping around him, he was looking upward, and the only thing not moving in the room was the computer terminal directly in front of him. Some objects sparked as their electrical connections were ripped and shredded in the jedi’s telekinetic maelstrom. A speeder exploded into flames as it crashed into the far wall. “Do you realize what horrors you have unleashed on this world? On Kitali? On…D-D-Demira?” he screamed. He looked down at the terminal. “I will kill you all for what you have done!”

“Daneel!” Demira tried to yell above the chaos. He turned to look at her…the expression of anger on his face changed to deep sorrow and then into rage. “Daneel…what’s wrong?” There was a sudden flash of light and she covered her eyes. Demira looked back after a few seconds…and he was gone.

“What happened? Where did he go?” Kitali asked beside her. Demira didn’t answer. She ran across the room as objects simply fell after the jedi’s disappearance. She reached the terminal Daneel was standing near. Kitali caught up to her. “What is going on, Demira?”

“He was reading something on this that upset him a great deal,” Demira replied quietly.

“Well…what is it? What does it say?”

“I don’t know,” the mage replied.

“Plug in that translatey thingy,” the pandaren pleaded. “He said something about horrors unleashed on the world. We don’t need any more unleashed horrors…we’ve had our share and then some.”

Demira reached into a pouch on her belt and removed the small device. She found a connection port and inserted the device as Daneel had shown her before. The view on the screen adjusted, blinked off, and then returned to life with the wording now written in the common tongue which she understood. She scrolled through the wording and images displayed on the screen. After a moment she sat down in a chair and slumped her shoulders.

Kitali looked at her with a worried expression. “Well? What did it say?”

Demira did not look up at her friend. “That creature is not a demon. It’s something called a rakghoul.”

“What’s that?”

“It was once a person,” the sin’dorei replied after a moment. “These sith created the rakghouls thousands of years ago according to the computer.” She looked up at the pandaren. “After a conflict in their galaxy called the Hundred Year Darkness a sith named Karness Muur created a talisman that would change people near him into mindless creatures he could control thus making them his personal army. But some could resist the talisman so he changed it into a plague that was spread by the bite or scratch of a rakghoul. His army would infect more who would themselves turn into rakghouls thus building his army. He was killed by the other sith who were jealous of him and the talisman was lost.”

“Do these sith here have it?” the shaman asked.

“I don’t think so if Daneel’s reaction is any indication. He knew what that thing was by looking at it which means he’s seen them before…” her voice trailed off.

“What then, Demira? What made him so angry?”

“We were scratched, Kit. We’re going to turn into one of those things,” the mage replied quietly. “It says here that it takes anywhere from six to forty-eight hours to transform.” She shuddered in her chair. “There is no cure from this, Kit.” She stared back at the terminal. “We’re going to change into one of those things…”

“Demira.”

“Then the only way to save us is to kill us. No wonder he is so upset. And we’ll spread the disease to others like the Scourge…”

“Demira.”

“I don’t want to turn into one of those things, Kit. I don’t want to die…like that…”

“DEMIRA!”

“What?” the mage asked looking back at the shaman.

“You said the change happens within two days…we were here four days ago…we are not going to change into one of those things,” Kitali answered. “If we were then it would already have happened.”

Demira looked back at the terminal then back to Kitali. “You’re right. It said a slow mutation with bleeding and skin color changes. But we have had none of those symptoms.”

“And Daneel doesn’t know it’s been that long because we might have forgotten to tell him that,” Kitali added. “He’s thinking the same thing you were.” They looked at each for another moment. “Where did he go do you suppose?”

Demira’s widened. “He used that technique that brought him here…the dangerous one he said he would never use again.”

“The one like a portal? But to where?”

“He might have gone back to his ship hoping to find something we hadn’t scavenged,” Demira replied She stood up and cast the spell to open a portal. In the air before her the portal opened revealing the crashed ship on the other side. “Step on through, Kit.”

 

Daneel appeared just outside his ship that had crashed on Azeroth not quite three years before. He had used the Force-folding technique he said he would never use, but at the moment his thoughts were on the rakghoul corpse back at the base and what he feared was happening to Demira. He ran to the wreck and crawled inside making his way to the medical bay on the lower deck. He could save Demira if the cure was still aboard, but time was of the essence. The plague would have begun the transformation almost immediately. He was certain Tharan Cedrax had kept the vaccination they procured on Taris in the medical bay. He searched the cabinets and nulentropy containers in the bay, but none of the vaccine could be found. He then tore through the ship looking in every crevice and container still not scavenged by him or Demira over the past three years. Near the back of the cargo hold he finally found some of the hypo’s labeled with the vaccine. He examined all six left in the crate…all destroyed in the crash. He leaned back and howled in anguish. His love was doomed and he had nothing left to help her. He stood up and threw boxes and canisters against the bulkheads and floor grating. His emotions churned in anguish, fear, pain…and into rage. The sith had unleashed the most vile plague he had ever witnessed. They had unleashed it on this world and infected the one woman he had come to love more than life itself. Anger boiled inside him. He could not save her…the vaccine was gone. She was going to change into one of those monstrosities and he was powerless to stop it. He climbed from the wreckage and stared at the open sky. Demira was lost…their friends would be lost…and soon this whole world would be lost…nothing left but mindless beasts devouring each other…and anger grew inside him. He looked back at the ship…a reminder of his hopelessness. He lifted up his arms and reaching out with the Force he picked the ship from the ground. He lifted the wreckage until it was ten feet in the air…loose parts and debris falling to the ground below it. With a visible jerk he slammed the ship back into the ground with such force that the impact kicked up dirt and dust clouding the area. An explosion rocked from inside the ship from a container or canister still inside with combustible material. He didn’t care any more. He would find the sith and stop them from harming anyone else. He would find them and kill them all. But he needed to find where they were…and there was one man he was certain knew where to begin searching. He brought his hand before his face…and through the Force folded space and time to his target.

 

Demira and Kitali emerged from the portal just in time to see the ship slam into the ground. Daneel stood before it only a second as an explosion came from inside the wreckage and then blast a section of the cargo bay. The two women fell to the ground instinctively trying to avoid any debris from the carnage. They looked up to see a bright flash…and then Daneel was gone again.

“W-w-w-what was that?” Kitali exclaimed. “Did he just slam that thing into the ground?” Demira nodded and coughed beside her. Kitali stood and waved her hand before her face trying to clear some of the dust and smoke from her view of the ship. “Just how powerful is he?”

“Very,” the mage replied. “Our house used to be on the other side of the valley. He moved it to where it is now.”

“How?” the shaman asked.

“With his mind,” Demira replied. “He did it using only his mind…and the Force.” She looked at the pandaren. “I’m scared, Kit. I’m scared he thinks I am going to change into one of those things and it’s making him fall.” She wrung her hands. “He’s falling and I don’t know what to do to save him.”

“I don’t understand,” Kitali said. “Falling into what?”

“The dark side,” Demira whispered. She looked worriedly at the shaman. “The Force has a lot to do with light and dark…and those as I understand them are tied to one’s emotions. Compassion and love are light, but fear, anger, hatred are dark. For people like Daneel the Force augments those emotions…it can change them…dominate them.”

“So where did he go?” Kitali asked. “If we are going to save him then we need to get to him.”

“I don’t know,” Demira replied. “I simply don’t know!” She fell to her knees and started crying. Kitali knelt next to her friend and hugged her. “I can’t lose him, Kit. I can’t!” she sobbed clutching to Kitali’s arms. “What am I going to do?”

“You can save him,” Kitali said calmly and quietly. “As much as he loves you and you love him all he needs to see is that you are not turning into one of those things. Once he knows you are safe he’ll come back to you and the light.” ‘Whatever that is,’ she thought to herself. Last thing she wanted to do was project her doubts onto her friend because she still could not grasp all the complexities of the Force or how it worked. The light and dark she could grasp, but how one could switch to one or the other simply by their emotional state was beyond her comprehension.

“You think so?” Demira asked looking up with tear filled eyes.

“Yes,” the shaman replied. “He will come back…to you.” Demira looked down again and rubbed her eyes. “Back at the base you said you were sure these people did not have that talisman thing. What makes you so sure? I mean…it might help us figure out what is going through Daneel’s mind right now. Like why he came here first.”

“Well…the computer said the talisman created the rakghouls. These people have been here at least a thousand years, but Daneel knew what that thing was just by looking at it.”

“Right,” Kitali said.

“That means he has seen them and not just in historical references…he’s actually seen them.” Demira looked up at the pandaren.

“And if he has seen them…then that would mean the talisman is still in his galaxy if it’s what makes these things.” Kitali looked up. “But how can you be so sure? The ones he has dealt with could just as easily have been there since then because of the scratches and biting that causes it to spread.”

“True and I had thought of that,” Demira answered. “But the other reason I thought to come here was that if they still had rakghouls in his galaxy then they might also have a cure. The computer said there wasn’t one, but it’s also old information and out of date. He might have had some of the cure on this ship.”

“And judging by his reaction he didn’t find it,” Kitali stated. She looked down at Demira. “Hon, where would he go next? Assuming he might be trying to find a cure to save you.”

“I don’t know,” Demira replied with tears welling in her eyes again. “All of the stuff from his world is either here or at home, and I know there is nothing mentioning ‘rakghoul’ back at the house.”

“Then let’s head back to your house,” Kitali said as she released Demira and stood up.

“But what if he isn’t there?” the mage asked.

“Even if he isn’t there it’s where we should go. There are apparently no answers to be found here otherwise he would have stayed,” Kitali answered. “So back at your home we can sit and think about where to go next. Plus Zharn might be returning with hopefully some good news.”

Demira nodded and stood up. She cast the spell opening the portal, and then the two friends stepped through.

 

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Daneel stood before the blast door that was thirty meters tall and sixty meters wide. Maktai had not mentioned this had once been a hanger, but what other reason for having a door this size? The tunnel leading to this cave was barely wide enough for him to walk upright in, so the use of the hanger had been abandoned perhaps centuries ago. However, the man’s dying breath indicated this was the last known base besides the one in Eversong Woods. He reached out through the Force and sensed some of them inside. He would get his answers one way or another, and he would have his vengeance. He spread his legs apart and reached out with both arms towards the door. His hands clawed at the air as he stretched his mind towards the door…grasping it with the Force…and he pulled with everything he could muster.

 

Demira and Kitali stepped through the portal to the mage’s home she shared with the jedi. To their surprise there stood a man with blue hair standing near the front door. Both recognized Kalecgos of the blue dragonflight. He stopped his arm from his mid-knock on the door, lowered it, and smiled at the two women. Kitali haphazardly smiled back, but Demira was so distraught she could manage only a small wave. The dragon’s smile waned as he realized something was bothering the mage.

“Perhaps I have come at a bad time,” he said.

“That’s the understatement of the year,” Kitali retorted. “I’m going inside and getting something cold and strong to drink. You want anything, Demira?”

“Just some water,” the mage replied quietly. Kitali passed Kalecgos and walked in the house. Demira looked at him and tried to smile. “A lot has happened since last I saw you, Kalecgos.” She motioned for him to join her as she began walking around the house to the back deck area. He followed in line beside her. She wrapped her arms around her waist. “How did you find this place,” she asked.

“Remember when you filed for membership in the Kirin Tor? You had to give us a location where we could find you,” he replied with a smile. “But I sense that is not what is bothering you. Where is Daneel? I actually came here to speak with him.”

“I don’t know where he is,” she replied. Then for no reason she could explain she told him of what had happened at the base four days earlier…then the return that morning to find the rakghoul and the jedi’s sudden outbursts. Kalecgos’ eyes widened as he heard of the recent events. When they reached the deck he sat in a chair as she stood still hugging herself while telling him about the information on rakghouls she had gathered from the base’s computer. She looked at him as she reached the part in her story about the destruction of the wrecked ship. “And so we came back here thinking we might have some idea of where to look for him next.” He said nothing…just looked at her. “I suppose this is a little too much to believe,” she said.

“Actually…after what Daneel did in Dalaran I have come to believe a great many things I did not before,” the dragon replied. He leaned forward onto the table he had sat next to and steepled his fingers under his chin. “And I agree we must find him soon.”

“We?” They turned to see Kitali standing in the rear doorway and holding a mug. She walked over and handed a goblet to Demira. “Does that mean you want to help us?” she added.

“I do,” Kalecgos replied. “I have seen a fraction of what I think your friend can do…and that was quite a lot.” He looked at Demira. “Daneel has a tremendous amount of power that I now believe he holds in check, but if he has become emotionally strained as you suggest…” his voice trailed off.

“Then he might just unleash his full potential,” Kitali said completing the dragon’s thought.

“I do think that, yes,” he replied still looking at Demira. “And I believe you are the key to calming him down.”

“That’s what I told her,” Kitali added. “He’s reacting this way because he thinks she is going to turn into one of those things. The problem is…how do we find him?”

“I would suggest we start by finding this Cult of Sith’ari,” Kalec said. “If it were me in his position…that’s where I would go.”

“But he got that information from the fake mage in Stormwind. And as you can see I can’t really go there to find out what he told Daneel,” Demira stated.

Kalecgos stood and walked away from the deck and into the open area behind the house. The two women watched him and started to follow. In the blink of an eye he changed from his human form to that of his real self…an immense blue dragon. He curled his head back to look at them and smiled. “Come with me, Demira and we will find your jedi friend.”

“Will this even work?” Kitali asked. “I mean…she’s still a blood elf and the Alliance isn’t too keen with her people.”

“With me she might be taken as another dragon just in elven form,” Kalecgos countered. “And at any rate I can protect her should plans go awry.” He looked at Demira. “What do you say?”

“I say I’m going,” she replied as she stepped forward to climb onto the dragon’s back. “I have to try…whatever it takes I have to try…for him.” Both the dragon and Kitali knew to whom she was referring.

“Good luck,” Kitali said. “I’ll stay here and wait for Zharn. If you find Daneel and turn him around we’ll still have that ship to find.”

Demira nodded and wrapped her legs around Kalecgos’ neck. With a leap they were airborne and higher than she thought he could reach in a short time. The air should have been cold this high up, but she was neither cold nor short of breath. She imagined the dragon was responsible for her lack of discomfort. His scales glistened in the light in varying shades of blue. The blue dragonflight were the ones responsible for magic in the world, and this one in particular had been their Aspect before the fall of Deathwing. The fact that he was helping her now was not lost on Demira. Kalecgos’ willingness to help her indicated that the importance of what was happening to Daneel went far and beyond her personal feelings, but even as she rode on the back of one of the greatest dragons in the world…her personal feelings for the jedi were all she cared about.

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People were running through the streets of Stormwind in panic. There were several fires belching smoke in the air, and one of the walls around the canals had collapsed. Demira and Kalecgos took notice of the chaos as the dragon touched down in the mage quarter of the city. Guardsmen were struggling to keep order. The mage and dragon looked at each other in confusion. Finally amongst the yells and screams they made out the word ‘earthquake’. Having a singular goal the pair ran to the base of the mage tower and as they reached the main entrance the ground shook beneath them. Both maintained their footing, but an elderly mage near them fell to the ground. Demira rushed to his aid. The old man looked at her with widened eyes.

“A blood elf in Stormwind?” the man asked.

“A couple of dragons more like,” Kalecgos stated behind her. She looked back at him and he gave her a quick wink. Perhaps posing as a dragon was a good idea after all considering what was happening in the city. “We came here looking for someone, but it seems there is more happening in the city than we realized.”

“Haven’t felt anything like this since the Shattering,” the mage stated. He looked from Kalecgos and back to Demira. “Couple of dragons you say? What do you want here?”

“We are looking for a mage named Mikkial,” Demira replied. “He has some…information… the flights are interested in.”

“Do you know of this man?” Kalecgos added. The mage again looked at the blue hair of the dragon. He then looked at he glowing green eyes of Demira. “Do you know him?” the former Aspect repeated.

“You must be a blue dragon,” the mage stated pointing at the blue hair of Kalecgos. “But why would you choose to look like a blood elf?” he asked Demira.

“Why not?” she replied.

“Horde aren’t welcome here in Stormwind,” the mage answered.

“The petty squabbles of you mortals have never really concerned me,” Demira replied to the mage. She looked back at Kalecgos and shrugged her shoulders. Turning back to the mage she said, “Do you know where I might find this Mikkial?”

“I meant no offense,” the mage said. “Just seems an odd choice of appearance is all.” He pointed to a row of buildings behind them. “I think that fella you are looking for owns a coffee shop down that street. At least that’s the only Mikkial I know of.”

They thanked the mage and left quickly in case he started to ask more detailed questions. So far the ruse was working, but the added chaos of the earthquakes didn’t exactly make them the center of attention. As they reached the entrance to the only coffee shop down the street the mage indicated the ground shook beneath them again. They looked at each other, and with a shrug of their shoulders Demira opened the door to the shop. Inside the place was in disarray. Chairs had fallen over, pots and pans littered the counters over which they had hung, bits of broken glass littered the floor, and from the level above they could smell a stench both knew well. They found the stairs to the upper level and cautiously climbed up to the second floor. Following their noses they came to a small bedroom. Opening the door they found the body lying on a bed. He had been burned, but oddly no other part of the room showed fire damage. Demira took a step closer and looked at what had been a middle-aged man. She looked back at the dragon.

“We’re too late,” she said…her voice beginning to crack. “We’re too late.”

“Could he have done this?” Kalec asked. Demira shook her head and buried her face in her hands.

“The jedi did not do this,” they heard a woman’s voice say from the far side of the room. They both looked to see an apparition of a night elven woman. Beside her was a red skinned man, and both were wearing plain robes similar to what Demira had seen worn by the sith. “Your friend has not yet fallen completely to the dark side.”

“Who are you?” Kalecgos asked. “What are you?”

The man looked at the dragon. “We are descendants of those who came to your world.”

The woman looked at Demira. “We are the ones born on this world, but not of this world.” She pointed to the dead man. “That was my father.”

“Your father?” Demira asked quietly. “Was he…”

“Sith? He was,” the woman replied. “He came with the others. When he saw my mother he was enraptured by her...so he took her…and made me. After I was born he killed my mother in fear that I would be…corrupted…by the ways of this world.”

“What happened to him?” Kalec asked.

“I happened to him,” the woman replied looking at the former Aspect. “I unleashed what remaining power I had before he could rain destruction upon our daughter, but it was not enough. Now you are the only hope left for saving our child.”

“I don’t understand,” Demira stated. “Save your child?”

“A mile east of the city you will find a gorge,” the man said. “That gorge comes to an end pointed towards the city, but hidden in that nearest end is an entrance to a tunnel.” The house shook as another tremor shook the city. Demira and Kalec struggled to maintain their footing, but the two ghosts remained unchanged. “At the end of that tunnel you will find your jedi friend.”

“Stop him,” the woman added. “Stop him from killing our daughter.”

With the last plea both vanished. Demira and Kalec looked at each other. They nodded to each other and went back downstairs and out of the shop. There were no answers in Stormwind…only more riddles. But they had another place to look…a gorge. Once they found themselves a large open area Kalecgos changed into his normal form. Demira climbed on his back and he leapt into the air. The gorge was not hard to find and they landed nearest the edge as the apparitions had described. He changed back into his half-elven form, and the pair climbed down to find the entrance to the aforementioned tunnel. Again the ground shook beneath them as they reached the open entrance. They looked at each other coming to the same conclusion…Daneel was down there. Before the dragon could protest Demira was running into the tunnel desperate to find the jedi. He ran to catch her, and finally did when she stopped about a half mile in. The tunnel opened into a larger cave some two hundred yards across. In the middle stood the jedi and he was looking at an enormous door. His legs were spread and his arms outstretched before him. He jerked back and the ground shook again. They tried to maintain their footing. This time they could see the strain on the door as it bulged towards the jedi. Kalec noticed the door was firmly placed into the bedrock in such a fashion even the dwarves would have marveled.

“Daneel!” Demira yelled. “Daneel, I’m ok! I am not going to turn into a rakghoul!” He did not look at her. The tremor stopped and the jedi’s arms relaxed. “Did you hear me? I am not going to turn into a rakghoul.”

“You were scratched,” he said coolly still avoiding gazing in her direction. He brought his arms close to his chest. “It is only a matter of time.” The air before him began to churn.

“I read what was on the computer,” Demira shouted. “It says six to forty-eight hours for the transformation. I was scratched four days ago. I am not turning into a rakghoul!” The air churned faster and started to glow before the jedi’s hands. “Daneel! Please…don’t do this!”

“I must,” he replied. The glow grew into a ball of energy and continued growing larger and larger. “For what they have done to you…I must make them pay.”

Kalecgos’ eyes widened as the energy built up by the jedi grew in size. Already it was over ten feet in diameter and still growing. He realized that the jedi had been trying to break down the door for some time and was the cause of the tremors wracking the city above them. As the ball grew he began to feel the charge in the air around him, like during a lightning storm. The ball was now over twenty feet in diameter and still growing.

“Daneel, please stop this!” Demira pleaded. She ran up to the jedi and reached out to his shoulder. “Please! Come back to me! Please!” Daneel continued to look straight ahead at the large door…his Force attack growing over thirty feet in diameter now. “PLEASE!” she screamed. “I need you! Please, Daneel, do not do this…for me!” He still did not look at her. “I love you, Daneel. I need you to come back to me.”

He looked at her. She was crying with both hands gripping his shoulder. He reached out with the Force…reached out and sensed no plague within her. He looked back at the door and the telekinetic wave he was building which was over fifty feet in diameter now. He took a deep breath…and dropped his arms to his side. The wave collapsed to nothing as he released his breath. The attack…was over. He fell to his knees, and Demira followed kneeling beside him. He looked at her and touched her cheek.

“I…am sorry,” he whispered. “I…”

“I understand,” she said embracing him. “I am ok. I just want you like you have been.”

“You don’t understand, Demira. I almost…”

“But you haven’t,” she whispered back. “You haven’t.”

“No,” he whispered. “You saved me from myself.” He hugged her tightly. “You saved me.”

“I hate to break up a good reunion,” Kalecgos said interrupting them. “But just what were you trying to do? Bring down the entire city?”

Daneel looked up at the dragon. “Actually…that was exactly what I was going to do.”

Kalec swallowed hard. “How could you think of doing such a horrific thing?”

“I wasn’t,” Daneel admitted. “I was blinded by my rage. All I could think about was killing the six people behind that door.” He looked at Demira. “I was so certain I had lost you to the plague. I went back to the ship to find the cure we had gotten from Taris, but the vials were all destroyed and Tharan had made no copies…no records of how to reproduce the vaccine. I could think of nothing else but getting vengeance against those who had taken you from me.”

“But you haven’t lost me,” she whispered. She looked at him. “Have you…come back…to the light…and to me?”

“I have come back to you,” he replied. “And the light, but I now have a deeper understanding of what Revan meant to walk the path of both the light and the dark. It is a path I walk now in between.” They stood up still embracing. He looked at the dragon. “To answer your unspoken question, no, I do not intend to continue this path of destruction. Both you and Demira have stopped me from falling further down that path.”

“Ok…I’ll accept that,” Kalec replied. “I have seen similar failings in mortals before. I am just glad we averted disaster…again.” The jedi nodded. “I have a question, though. Demira told me about this disease, and judging by your reaction it must be very bad. Just…how bad are we talking about here?”

Demira looked at the jedi. “It’s the talisman…isn’t it. It’s on this world.”

“It’s not on this world,” Daneel answered. “About three hundred years a go a group of people called Mandalorians searched for the talisman on a planet called Taris. Taris was a planet-wide city.”

“What is that?” the dragon asked.

“The city encompassed the entire land area of the planet. Imagine if Stormwind existed from sea to sea with no countryside around it. Nothing but city and water. That was what Taris was like.” The dragon whistled. “They found the talisman and all but one turned to rakghouls. The one had control of the talisman found on Taris, but soon afterwards it was lost again. Nobody knows what happened to it. No…the talisman is not on this world.” He looked at the dragon. “But to answer your question it would be like the Scourge all over again, but this time with no Lich King to lead them, no pattern or organized war as before. This time just complete and utter chaos with no end in sight. Just a bite or scratch from one of them would turn you into one…and it would go on and on until there was no person or beast left on this world. The disease is not limited to a particular species…so even the dragons would be susceptible to the plague turning into rakghouls as well.” He looked at Demira. “I saw this on Taris, and then on Tatooine, then on Kaon, and finally on Ord Mantell. On the last planet there was a scientist who had weaponized the plague and unleashed it on Kaon for revenge. When I saw the corpse at the base…and you had been scratched…all those places I saw all over again only happening to this world…and I envisioned you turning into one…I lost all control.”

“But she isn’t turning into one,” Kalec interjected. “So is this perhaps different? Not spread by bite or scratch?”

“Now that I am thinking clearly…it might be,” Daneel admitted looking back at the door. “My last clear thought before hearing Maktai’s dying words were something about the base being the testing grounds for some experiment of theirs and coming here to find answers and perhaps a cure. And then the Force ghosts of his daughter and her husband appeared. They claimed something…I don’t remember now.” He started walking towards the door holding Demira’s hand as she walked beside him. “I recall…they said something about recreating Muur’s vision. That it was that which Sargeras sought when he approached the sith in the first place…he wanted a rakghoul epidemic on this world.” He stopped and faced the other two. “I remember now. The woman was pleading for her daughter’s life. She asked me to spare her daughter who is the leader of the Cult of Sith’ari. They had started it centuries ago, the two of them, in the hopes of reviving their sith heritage. But their daughter took the sith teachings to the dark side. She read and studied the works of Karness Muur. She was fascinated by what the old lord had accomplished. She later learned that Lord Varok had already made such an amulet after they had arrived on this world.” He looked at Demira. “That was why he was in the white lab room here on the surface…behind that door. He created the amulet with the other sith lords just after their arrival. Each of the reds used ancient and dark alchemy to transfer a part of themselves into that amulet. But they made one flaw…what was the flaw…I don’t recall…” his voice trailed off.

“Go ahead and take a moment,” Kalecgos offered. “This might help us divert a disaster. Believe me when I say nobody in their right mind would want another Scourge on this world.”

Demira squeezed his hand. “We saw them also. They told us to plead with you to spare their daughter.”

Daneel looked at the door and walked a couple more steps. He was now less than ten feet from it. “I remember…it was limited…they collected people to test on, but it did not work on any of them. The talisman of Muur changed humans into rakghouls almost immediately, but those sensitive to the Force and of other species could resist it, so Muur reengineered it into a plague. But Varok…couldn’t replicate Muur’s work here on Azeroth. No matter what he did he could not make the virus work. Blood elves, night elves, humans, dwarves, none of them would turn to rakghouls. So he closed the lab…they gave up on the research. Until they began to turn green.” He reached out and stepped closer to the door until he touched it. He looked at Demira. “It was his daughter who was first…that’s what the ghosts revealed to me.”

“The first to turn green,” Demira added.

Daneel looked at her and shook his head. “Not just green…she turned into a rakghoul…or at least had the signs before he killed her. Her mother never knew the truth until she left with the others.” Daneel looked back at Kalecgos. “The amulet only works on green skinned sith. That was the flaw. His daughter’s change drove the man insane. So instead of working on improving the plague and the amulet he became obsessed with trying to save his daughter. When the others, led by Maktai, grew tired of trying to live up to their promise to Sargeras they left Varok and decided to live out their lives. They had families, but always there was the fear of that amulet. The ghosts managed to break into this base and steal the amulet and buried it. When their daughter turned to the dark side, she sought the relic and tortured them until they told her where they had buried the amulet. Then she killed them, and they have haunted Maktai ever since blaming him for their daughter’s fall.”

“So was he telling the truth when he said he was the last?” Demira asked.

“I do not know,” Daneel answered. “They mentioned nothing of the others who left with Maktai. Only that she in particular blamed him for all her family’s woes and had finally enacted her retribution.”

“You said you heard his last words,” Kalec stated. “What were they?”

“’I am sorry, Tareesha.’”

“So now that we know that the rakghoul plague can only be spread to green skinned sith…”Kalec started.

“We need to find that ship,” Daneel interrupted. "Because I think the daughter got to the surviving greens first and converted them.”

“But there were what, only sixteen…seventeen left?” Kalec asked. “Going by what Demira told me.”

“They were at the base looking for the shuttle,” Demira concluded. “They want the labs from the ship.”

“They already have the ship would be my guess. They were looking for something else,” Daneel said. “They want the cloning facilities, but there must be more that they need to enact their plans.”

“But why?” the dragon asked.

“Because with the cloning facilities they can recreate more rakghouls and grow their own army,” Daneel replied.

“And then she can fulfill their promise to Sargeras by unleashing that army on Azeroth.” Demira said.

“How many can she make?” Kalecgos asked worriedly.

“Millions,” Demira and Daneel answered together.

 

 

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Pursuing the Cult of Sith’ari

 

Daneel sat in meditation on the far side of the cave away from the door. He wrestled with his feelings as he contemplated just how close he had come to destroying the city full of innocents above. Her touch and her voice had stopped him, and the absence of the plague within her had granted him a momentary sense of clarity, but still lurking in the depths of his soul was the horror of what could have been. He struggled to purge the image of Demira transforming into a rakghoul from his mind, but the more he tried the harder it was to not see her change…and the despair he felt he would lose her still gripped his heart. Rationally he knew she was safe, she would not change, she was Demira the sin’dorei mage and not a creature mindless and diseased. He reached out further to the Force to calm his emotions, to push away the negative thoughts and fears, to allow his rationality to come to the forefront of his mind and to find the inner peace he knew was there…somewhere.

Closer to the huge hanger-sized door stood Demira. Her arms were wrapped around her stomach as she bit her lip in concentration. With eyes closed she stretched out through the Force as the jedi had taught her. Beyond the door she could sense six living beings. What they were or their sensitivity to the Force she could not tell, her abilities were just not strong enough to distinguish beyond they existed. Her brow furrowed as she tried to reach further. The base was enormous spanning almost as wide as the city. Ironically the dwarves and gnomes who built the tram from Stormwind to Ironforge had never found this base as they tunneled, but they had come close…very close. Had the engineers of that project dug twenty feet deeper they would have caved the roof on one side of the base. What she was looking for she just could not find. Surely there was another entrance to the base besides the giant door before her, but she could not sense any tunnel or indication of another entrance. She opened her eyes and sighed deeply. She just wasn’t strong enough in her Force abilities to find what she was looking for. She turned her heard to look back at the jedi seated with his legs crossed and hands steepled before his chest. While she knew Daneel was more than capable of finding what she searched for, the last thing he needed was interruption of his meditation. Demira did not need to the Force to know he was still struggling with his emotions and the price he was willing to extract for his vengeance.

Kalecgos emerged from the tunnel entrance to her left drawing the mage’s attention. He smiled politely and walked towards her. He had left after their initial conversation to check on the city above. While he was gone and before she had tried her Force search of the base, she had thought of sending the dragon away. Behind this door she was certain were technologies he had never seen. Although Daneel had never spoken such Demira was convinced Azeroth was not ready for any of the advanced tech the aliens possessed. This feeling she carried since that first day she and the jedi had found his wrecked ship. While she knew some of the tech, like nulentropy containers, would prove very beneficial, even the most seemingly benign technology in the wrong hands could lead to disastrous results. She knew it was why Daneel destroyed every lightsaber after he fought a green sith on this world. As the former blue Aspect drew closer she was still tempted to send him away from this place. As old and wise as the dragons were she wondered what he would do if faced with the wonders she knew lay inside the hidden base. Could he resist the temptation to use whatever he found? Could he keep secret the advanced technology from the rest of the world including his fellow dragons? She needed to be certain before she allowed him to accompany them into the base for she knew he would insist after all that had happened and what Daneel had revealed of the Cult of Sith’ari’s plans for Azeroth. It was his world as much as it was hers, and he would naturally want to protect it from danger if possible. He walked up beside her and looked at the door. Demira frowned as she knew she would have to decide soon whether to let him stay or not.

“Things are somewhat returning to normal in the city,” he said to her. “The only permanent damage I found was a small wall near one of the canals had collapsed, but otherwise nothing was damaged and nobody was hurt.” He walked towards the door a few steps. “Some of the citizens are claiming the Horde is responsible for the tremors.”

“Did you tell them anything?” Demira asked.

“No. They don’t need to know what happened down here, nor do I think any would really believe me if I had told them the truth.” He stopped after walking a couple more steps. He turned to face the mage. “I realize now I should never have doubted either of you before today. After all of my experiences with the younger species I still have much to learn about you. Just when I think I have seen everything you still surprise me with wonders I never thought possible from people so young.”

“And if some of those wonders needed to remain secret?” she asked trying to feel how much the dragon would accept from younger species.

“I swear I will not tell anyone what happened here today. Daneel’s reputation is safe with me,” he replied with a nod towards the jedi still meditating.

“He has deeper concerns right now than his reputation,” she said. “I mean…if you were to see even more wonders…some perhaps potentially dangerous…could you keep them secret? Could you refrain from telling even other dragons about such things?”

“What other things?” Kalecgos asked.

Demira walked past him towards the door. His gaze followed her as she stopped and placed her hand on it. She didn’t turn to face him. “Behind this door I believe are marvels of technology I dare say you never imagined possible. Wonders…as you would call them…that could make life for people so much easier, but if fallen into the wrong hands could be the most deadly thing possible.” She turned her head to look at him with her hand still on the door. “Could you keep such things secret? Could you resist even telling the other former Aspects of what you would see behind these doors?”

“If it poses a danger to Azeroth then I must tell them,” he answered.

“That is not what I asked,” she replied. “These technologies must be kept secret from everyone including the other former Aspects. I have seen wondrous things, Kalec.” She nodded towards Daneel. “His people traveled from planet to planet in ships. They have the ability to store food in containers for indefinite periods of time without even the slightest worry of spoilage. His government ruled over millions of worlds like Azeroth…millions of worlds with trillions of people of all kinds of races and in harmony and peace for over a thousand years. Can you imagine that, Kalec? Can you imagine such a scale of existence?” He said nothing, but the expression on his face told her he had not. “Where he comes from they have such marvelous technology that life would seem simple, but it is not. With all the good technology they have they also live in tumultuous times. His people were at war, Kalec…a war that spanned all of those worlds and where millions of people died. Some of those planets were completely destroyed. Completely. You saw what happened to Theramore…you know what a single mana bomb can do.” He nodded his response. “Now imagine if there had been ten of those at one time…or a hundred…or a thousand…or a million. His people have that kind of power, Kalec. The ability to not only kill every single living thing on a planet, but the power to reduce that planet to rubble. Can you…a dragon of immortality…a being of immense power …can you imagine power on that scale? I cannot and yet I have seen some of these things. He has shown them to me and me alone. That city-wide planet he talked about before? I tell you now that city does not exist. A single man wanted to kill another that was hiding in that city, and so to ensure he killed that one person he leveled the entire city…the entire planet…killed millions of people to get just one. Today that once great city is a wasteland. Can you imagine that, Kalec?”

“Why do you ask me these things” he asked quietly.

“Because I have to know if you can be trusted.” She walked over to stand just in front of him. “I have to know that the technology inside that base will never reach the hands of a single individual on Azeroth. I have to know that no other person besides the three of us will ever know what lies in that base. Because if just one person with bad intentions ever gets their hands on that kind of power…” her voice trailed off. She looked down at the ground. “He has never asked me to hide this technology because he never had to. I know for a fact that if someone like Garrosh Hellscream could get hold of that kind of power…Theramore would seem small and insignificant next to what they could unleash.” She looked back into Kalec’s face. “I have to know…can you keep such things secret to keep Azeroth safe?”

After a moment the dragon looked at the mage, then at the door, then at her again. “I said before I should never have doubted you in the first place, Demira. I will not make that same mistake again. I swear to you that I will tell no one what I see here today…not even the other Aspects. What I see here today I will take to my grave whenever and wherever that may be.”

She looked at him and squinted. She tried to read him through the Force but couldn’t. She would have to accept his word or not. Demira took a deep breath. This decision was hers to make. If he insisted on going inside the base despite her intentions…should he break his promise…she was truly powerless to stop him. He was the quintessential being of arcane power. She cocked her head to the side. “If I asked you to leave…would you?” she finally asked. “Could you just leave after all I have told you?”

“I admit I would always be curious,” he replied without hesitation. “But as I said I have come to not doubt you anymore. And with the conviction of what you tell me I believe that I must keep your secret. You are right in the kind of power you describe I would not believe possible from the younger species.” He turned to look at the meditating jedi on the other side of the cavern. “But with what I have seen him do both in Dalaran and here…I cannot say the kind of power you describe is impossible.” He looked back at the mage. “Yes, Demira…blood elf mage and friend of the jedi…I would leave if you asked me to. I would do that for the safety of Azeroth and all her people.”

Demira studied him…his body language. After a moment she sighed. “I will not ask you to leave, Kalecgos. And…thank you…for believing me…believing in us.”

“So…should we get him and go inside?” he asked as he started to step towards the jedi. Her arm on his stopped him and he turned to look at her.

“He needs this time alone,” she said quietly looking at Daneel. “He…struggles…with what he almost did…with what he feels now.” She looked at the dragon. “I can sense his pain still churning inside him.”

“Sense?” Kalecgos asked. He looked at the mage then back at the jedi. “He has been teaching you…hasn’t he. Teaching you to use this Force.” She nodded. “That’s why you don’t visit the Sunwell. You use this Force.”

“Most of the time,” she admitted. “The Force is energy like arcane energy. I can harness and manipulate it most of the time just like the arcane before, but it’s much more potent because it is generated by all living things. It’s not limited in availability as arcane energies are…as long as there is life there is the Force. The same cannot be said of the arcane. I still use spells like any other mage, but I cannot conjure things, though, as with arcane energies.” She looked at the jedi. “I also have learned some of the techniques he uses. I’m not near as proficient as he or even close to his power level, but I know enough to understand the struggle he faces now.” Demira looked back at Kalecgos. “I’m no jedi nor will I ever be. And there are times I still use arcane energy. I can never use both at the same time, however. He seems to think most mages could learn to use the Force, but he believes few would even attempt to learn how because they are accustomed to arcane energies. And someone like you would never be able to use the Force.”

“Because I am a blue dragon and thus part of my very essence is arcane?”

Demira nodded. “That green skinned sith in Dalaran could never have killed you with his Force attack. That arcane part of you would have repelled it no matter how much energy he put into the attack.”

Kalec nodded and looked back at the jedi. “So how long do we wait?”

“Until he is ready,” Demira replied.

 

Daneel stretched out to the Force allowing it to flow through him. His breathing was calm and steady. His body began to float inches above the ground as did rocks and pebbles around him. He thought back to his first teachings on Tython by his training masters. He tried to clear his mind of thought and emotion. He sensed the world around him. The cavern that existed deep under the city of Stormwind. On the other side of the cavern there stood Kalecgos talking to Demira. She was probing him…asking him questions that made both uncomfortable. He reached out further to the rooms beyond the doors. He felt the six lifeforms on the other side. He felt the Force flow around each one and each one coursing with arcane energies. Suddenly in his mind he found himself in a room. Twelve pureblood sith stood before an alter on the ship in orbit over Azeroth. Atop the alter was a golden amulet with red and green jewels in the center, and from each of the twelve mists of purple energy flowed from them to the jewels. They were chanting something in a language he did not understand. There was a flash and then he opened his eyes. He was back in the cavern for a blink and then he was on the ship high above in orbit. Before him as he stood on the bridge was the sun through the viewports. He heard them banging on the doors at the far end where there was a barricade. A shuttle streaked across the viewport. He felt her presence on the shuttle running for safety. The ship was heading towards the sun…and he was at peace knowing she would live and their world was safe. He focused on the mage as the vision ended. She was standing next to the dragon as they both looked at the door. He closed his inner eye to once again stretch out to the Force allowing it to flow through him. The vision had brought him clarity. He would tell her of the first part but not the second. He knew what he had seen, and he would spare her the pain of knowing what he now knew.

 

Kitali had greeted Zharn upon his return to Demira and Daneel’s home. He told her all that happened with his trip with the gnome, Windi Weathergear, into space in her rocket and seeing what had to be the sith’s ship high in orbit over Azeroth. Instead of being angry with the orc as he had feared, Kitali was proud of the man and embraced him. She told him all that had happened since he had departed. The strange creature at the base, the jedi’s reaction and subsequent breakdown, and then the arrival of the former Aspect of the blue dragons made Zharn question just what they had gotten themselves into. He reiterated to Kitali he did not regret getting involved with their friends, but he was worried now the problems they were facing were greater than they had imagined. Using his observation and how Demira described the ship to her, Zharn and Kitali decided to scout for the possible base the cult was using with the ship. Kitali left a note for the couple on their hearth. The two climbed onto their mounts and left in search of what they hoped would be the secret Cult of Sith’ari base.

At the harbor north of Silvermoon they charted a goblin ship to Northrend. About a day out from the northern continent they happened across an uncharted island. It was small with a volcano near the eastern side. After coaxing the ship’s captain to stop and investigate, which required several mentioning’s of possible treasure and loot, the vessel set anchor about a half mile from the western shore. The couple climbed into a raft and rowed to shoreline hoping to find something. Except for some birds flying in the small timber near the base of the volcano there was very little sign of life. Zharn secured the raft to a fallen tree once they reached shore, and as he turned to say a word to Kitali the goblin ship exploded raining debris in all directions leaving little left of the vessel to actually sink into the waters. Both dove for cover in the tree line, and from above they heard a roaring whine. Looking up they saw a ship with fin-like protrusions from each side and the top. It flew over their heads, and as they watched it flew to the top of the volcano and then dropped inside. Kitali looked at the orc with a wide grin. They had found the base.

 

Demira stood before the giant door for what she felt was the hundredth time. Daneel had spent two days in deep mediation. During that time she had scoured every inch of the cavern trying to find a way into the base. The blue dragon had left after the first day, but returned just about an hour ago. He was looking at the door as well just as perplexed as she was. There just was no other way into the base, and she threw her hands up in desperation.

“How can anyone be so stupid as to build a base with only one way in or out?” she exclaimed.

“It’s actually quite sound if they built this as a last refuge,” Kalec said beside her. “Assuming they had enough supplies they could wait inside indefinitely.”

“From what I have seen these sith are not that smart, Kalec,” she retorted. “For starters they entered into a deal with Sargeras. Then they try to recreate some relic from their past and fail at it. The leader’s daughter dies and drives him insane, so what do the rest of them do? Nothing! They hide out and after centuries decide to finally leave him. Centuries Kalec! It took them centuries to make any kind of decision! And when they do make a decision…it’s to keep doing what they had been doing…hiding!” She turned and walked to the door to kick it. “Just what was their purpose here? I’ve known they can be powerful. Daneel mentioned they waged a war in his galaxy and brought his government to the brink of destruction. But these…these sith are nothing like he describes. They are not the schemers and thinkers that Daneel has dealt with. These couldn’t even figure out how to fly their own ship that brought them here!”

“Then what about this Cult of Sith’ari?” the former Aspect asked behind her. “They sound to me like a very potent threat if we do nothing.”

“It’s led by a child born on this world,” Daneel said behind them. Demira and Kalec turned to see the jedi walking towards them. She ran to him and embraced him. He hugged her back and looked at the dragon. “In my galaxy the survivors of the Great Hyperspace War found their homeworld that was lost for centuries. They rebuilt themselves with one goal in mind…revenge against the Republic and the Jedi. They prepared for over a thousand years until they were certain they were ready to enact their revenge.” He looked at Demira. “These sith came from a time just after that war where they were running in fear for their existence. When Sargeras approached them they were already in hiding. Once they came here and things did not work as they had planned they resorted to what they knew…they returned to hiding as they had been when Sargeras found them. But their children born on this world…they never knew the fear of being hunted to extinction. The few that were aware of their heritage were free of that fear for they never had seen a jedi or been to other worlds. Azeroth is their home and always has been. I believe this cult leader possesses some pride of what the sith had been, and she is trying to recreate that glory on this world.” He then told them of his vision of the twelve sith in ritual as they transferred a part of their essences into the amulet.

“So this amulet is the key to their plans,” the dragon said after hearing the jedi’s story. “We find this amulet and the danger should be over.”

“Don’t forget the ship,” Demira reminded him. “If the clone did not get to the ship and the cult has it as we think they might, then it plays I think an even greater role in their plans. With the replication of these creatures they can still unleash an army even without the amulet. I mean…she’s already created at least two rakghouls…who knows how many more she has?”

“But you killed at least one of them,” Kalec countered.

“But if she has the ship and the cloning facilities she could already have many more,” Demira replied.

Daneel walked to the right side of the door and stopped. He did not face the other two. “We do not yet know enough.” He reached out and ran his hand along the edge of the door. “I think we might find some answers behind this door.”

“But how do we…” Demira started. She stopped as the jedi withdrew his lightsaber and ignited it. He plunged the blade into the door and slowly cut a large rectangle from about just above his head to the floor and just wider than his shoulders. The metal glowed hot and melted where the green blade had cut. After he finished Daneel stood back from the door and extinguished the blade. Demira looked at him and then the door. “That didn’t work,” she said. “You cut the door, but not all of the way through. We still cannot get inside.” His answer was only a smile, and then he reached out with one hand and pushed through the Force. The metal where he had cut strained and then flew into the base leaving a hole in the door. Demira shook her head and walked up next to the Jedi. “Show off,” she said with a grin.

“Are you impressed?” Daneel asked with a smile.

“A little,” she replied.

Kalec walked past them towards the hole. In passing he remarked, “If you two are done flirting I think we have a base to investigate.” Then he walked through the door into the base. The mage and jedi quickly kissed and then followed the dragon. Inside they found the remains of a hanger with a shuttle wrecked into the far wall. The hull was scorched from blaster fire. The left side wall was cluttered with debris and wreckage apparently from when the shuttle had crashed into the hanger. On the right side was a door leading into another part of the base. Everything was covered in dust, but from their position by the door was a trail of footprints left by those they had sensed earlier. The trail led to the door on the right. Daneel held is lightsaber ready and led the way. Demira whispered to Kalec to erect an arcane barrier to protect him from what they might find inside. At the door Daneel paused and turned to face them. He brought his left hand to his face and indicated quiet. He walked through the doorway into a corridor about thirty feet long ending at a lift. They walked cautiously to it and stopped. About ten feet down the lift had jammed in the tube. It was tilted and had not seen use in years. To their left was an access ladder that ran down the length of the tube and out of their sight under the lift. The dust had been wiped clean from the rungs. Daneel swung his leg over and began to climb down. The others followed. The space by the lift was tight, and being that Kalec was larger than both Demira and Daneel he could not fit through the opening as the other two could. With a whisper he climbed back up and kept watch at the top. The mage and jedi continued to descend into the tube for another four levels after confirming each of the levels before had not been used…the dust was undisturbed. Below the fourth level the tube was submersed in water, and the couple concluded they would find nothing further. The entry to the fourth level was mostly blocked with debris, but the dust had been cleared by people climbing through a small opening barely tall enough for a gnome to walk upright. Daneel reached out through the Force. He sensed the six beings further in, and he turned to face Demira. He whispered for her to stay behind. She shook her head, and with a pleading expression he asked her again to stay behind. With a sigh she relented.

He turned and crawled further into the room. His feelings were still in too much turmoil to place the mage in danger so soon, and thankfully she relented hopefully realizing why he had asked her to stay behind. For twenty feet he crawled though a tunnel created by a fallen wall and broken chairs, cabinets, and tables. He came to a turn and crawled another thirty feet. He started to hear voices as he neared the end of the tunnel. There was a faint light flickering at the end where someone had erected a torchlight in the room beyond. He could smell the smoke from the fire.

“There’s nothing here,” he heard a gruff voice say in the room ahead of him. “The mistress told us to look for it here, but there is nothing here but garbage.”

“Just keep looking,” a woman replied. “It has to be here somewhere.” He heard a couple additional voices grumbling indistinctively. “Hey! She said it’s here so it must be. She hasn’t been wrong so far.”

“There is always a first time,” the first voice replied. He saw the owner come close to the entrance. It was a goblin wearing a black hoodless robe. “I’ve always had a nose for this and I am telling you there is nothing here but junk.” The being turned and left Daneel’s view. “I say we leave and tell her we couldn’t find anything here.” He heard a couple of voices mumble agreement.

“We can’t return without what she sent us for. You remember what happened to the last bunch that failed?” the woman responded. “I don’t feel like dying because you developed a cough.”

“It’s dusty!”

“You’ll be dusty when she finishes with you,” the woman retorted. “And I won’t let you leave. Any of us return empty handed all of us gets fried.” There was more grumbling at that.

“Then I say we leave entirely. Why go back? We just leave and go back to where we came from”

“There is no going back to our old lives,” the woman replied. “Once we joined up there is no leaving. We keep looking until we find it. That is the only option.”

“Says you,” the goblin said. “I’ll take my chances.”

Daneel heard a scream as light flashed near the end of the tunnel. Something sounded like a crash and then there were a few more flashes. He saw a sin’dorei collapse near the entrance of the tunnel and a few more screams. Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth, and she looked at Daneel’s face. She tried to point with a shaky, bloody finger, but a flash of lightning struck her in the back ending her life before she could say a word. There was another crashing sound and then the death gurgles of another being. After a few seconds of silence he heard small footfalls coming towards the fallen blood elf.

“Nobody tells me what I can and can’t do,” the goblin said. Daneel saw him step near the dead woman and kneel next to her body. “Especially you,” the goblin said to the corpse. He looked towards the tunnel and spotted the jedi crouched a few feet from the entrance. “****!” the goblin exclaimed as he scampered from the tunnel.

Daneel quickly crawled from the tunnel into the room. He saw the goblin duck through a doorway at the other side. Littered on the floor were the bodies of a human man, two gnome women, and a male dwarf. With the sin’dorei woman near his feet that counted as five of the six he sensed in the base. The torchlight he thought he saw was actually a campfire set in the middle of the room. It had been ransacked with crates broken and their contents scattered along the floor. Some had documents, a few holocrons or datacrons, and data discs. Very little else remained in the room. He heard a door slam in the distance, and began walking to where the goblin had exited the room. He found a corridor about twenty meters long with several rooms to each side. The room at the end of the corridor was the only one with a shut door that he could see. He walked slowly knowing the goblin had closed himself in the last room. As he passed each room he noticed all had been ransacked similar to the first near the now non-functioning lift. As he got closer to the closed door he heard crashing coming from behind it.

“I won’t go back,” the goblin’s muffled voice came through the door. “Tell her I’m dead…tell her I wasn’t here…tell her anything!”

Daneel stopped before the door and stood to the side. “Tell who?” he said through the door.

“That night elf *****!” the goblin shouted. “What she wants is not here! I won’t go back! Just tell you found us all dead!”

“What’s not here?” Daneel asked coolly.

“You know…the crystal,” the goblin replied. “She wants it to fight that jedi that came here. But it’s not here! There are no crystals, gems, or any jewels here! Just paper and words!”

“Why would she need a crystal to fight me?” Daneel asked more to himself.

“To…wait…you’re the jedi?” the goblin queried behind the door. There was more crashing from the other side. “****! You are that guy? Oh ****!” Daneel heard more crashing. “I am so ****ed!” There was a moment of silence. “Um…Mr. Jedi…are you here to…to…kill us?” he heard the goblin ask just on the other side of the door.

“Why would you think I came here to kill you?” he asked.

“Because…because she told us that the jedi always want to kill sith. And you are the jedi she was talking about. So…um…are you…here to kill us?”

“You are a goblin not a sith,” the jedi replied. “And what she refers to happened centuries ago.”

“But I am sith,” the frightened goblin said behind the closed door. “We said the words and she told us we were now sith. And the jedi are the enemies of the sith. They hate us for what we are.”

“And what is a sith?” Daneel asked. He knew the goblin really didn’t have the answer, but he wanted to find out what the cult leader was teaching her underlings. “What words did she make you say?”

“The words? Um…peace is a lie, there is only passion. Through passion I gain strength. Through strength I gain power. Through power I gain victory. Through victory my chains are broken,” the goblin replied. There was silence.

“And those are all the words she had you say?” the jedi asked. He noticed there was no mention of the Force in this version of the sith code. The reply was more silence. “What do those words mean?”

“What do they mean?” the goblin repeated. “I…um…never wondered what they mean. I just know that when she has everything she needs then we will take over all of Azeroth and reward us who follow her with riches beyond our wildest dreams.”

“I am guessing she rewards you well if you do not fail. Am I right? But what does she do to those that do fail her?” the jedi asked. “If you couldn’t find this crystal she sent you here for then what would she do to you?”

“She unleashes lighting from her fingertips is what she does,” the goblin replied. “But only two have ever failed her. The others who succeed have money, power, love slaves…everything they want.”

“You have seen these riches yourself? Is that why you follow her?”

“I haven’t seen them personally. No one has. Those who she deems successful she sends to her stronghold where they are forever safe from the jedi.”

“What was this crystal she sent you here to find? Why does she think it will help her fight me?”

“She told us it’s vital to making a weapon. A weapon which only she can wield against a jedi,” the goblin answered. “But it’s not here!”

Daneel turned from the door and began walking slowly back down the corridor to the lift. So the leader of the cult was looking for a crystal to construct a lightsaber. What the goblin described as punishment for failure was Force lightning, so the woman was Force sensitive. The fact that the code she made her cultists learn made no mention of the Force told the jedi she was either withholding that power for herself or she had not found any other Force sensitives. He leaned towards the latter. As he reached the door to the final room a blast of arcane energy struck him in the back. He turned around to face the goblin who had apparently regained his resolve. The mage stood looking at the jedi with his hands before him preparing another spell.

“If I kill you then she will reward me,” the goblin said. “Even if I failed to find the crystal killing a jedi should more than prove my worth to her.”

“She did not tell you everything about the jedi,” Daneel replied taking his lightsaber from his belt. “Like how arcane magics have no effect on me.” He ignited his blade. The green glow filled the dark corridor. The goblin stared at the blade humming at the jedi’s side. “I assure you this is a battle you cannot win,” Daneel continued. “Back away now and you will live.”

“He won’t live anyway,” came a voice from the darkness of one of the side rooms. The goblin shrieked as lightning poured into his body. “The mistress does not reward failure of any kind.”

The mage’s body slumped to the floor. From the shadows emerged a woman with red skin. Daneel recognized her immediately. “You are dead,” he said quietly. “Your body is at the base in Eversong Woods.”

“There is a body there, yes,” the clone of Selene replied. “But that one was a failure.” She wielded no weapon. Daneel extinguished the blade of his lightsaber and placed it back on his belt. The woman scoffed. “Such noble jedi sentiments. Unwilling to fight me with your blade because I don’t carry one?”

“I do not need one to face you,” the jedi replied. He took a deep breath. “I see the cult has found the cloning facilities.”

“Tareesha needed someone to keep these whelps in line,” the clone replied with a scowl. She raised her arms towards the jedi. “And with you out of the way she can complete her plans to dominate this world.

Lightning sprouted from her fingertips towards the jedi. He raised his arms before him; hands open with thumbs and index fingers touching. The lightning arced to his fingers and dissipated into his hands. The clone looked at the jedi in bewilderment. She opened her mouth to speak when the lightning shot back at her from his hands. She writhed in agony as the electricity coursed through her body. She slumped to the floor as the counter-attack ended. Daneel walked over to his fallen foe; her body scorched from the rebounded attack. She looked at him with short rasping breaths.

“There are more of us,” she said weakly. “You cannot stop us.”

“What happened to the original Selene clone?” the jedi asked standing over her. “Did you kill her?”

The clone laughed with a cough. “Tareesha needed the ship,” it replied before collapsing in death.

Daneel slumped back against the corridor wall. Events were unfolding with schemes he had not thought of. The sith child had harnessed the power of the cloning facilities aboard the ship in orbit. She was making an army of clones from the stored genetic material. He thought back to the room full of Jaina Proudmore clones, and he gasped. With the material of the native specimens Varok had collected this new sith could replace key members of Azerothian society. Proudmore was not the only person of notoriety the sith had been tracking. He stood and turned towards the room with the entrance to the lift. Standing a short distance away was Demira. She had climbed the rest of the way down the ladder and was looking at the body of the clone on the floor.

“She looks like the other one,” Demira said quietly. She looked at Daneel. “I saw what she did to the goblin…how she attacked you. When you didn’t come and didn’t come I got nervous and decided to find you.”

He walked to the mage and embraced her. “I did not mean to worry you.”

She looked back at the clone’s body on the floor. “Things just got really complicated…didn’t they,” she stated. She looked up at his face. The answer was written all over it.

 

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The Rescue

 

Kitali blew hair from her eyes as she leaned against the trunk of a tree. A few yards from her Zharn hid in the same manner. He looked at the pandaren and grinned. Behind them were several warlocks and their minions scouring the small timber. Zharn swung his mace blindly in the air. It struck an imp running between his tree and Kitali’s. She flashed him a smile and reached for a totem from her pouch and placed it on the ground near her feet. Closing her eyes she called upon the spirits of wind to blow the warlocks back from their position. They answered her plea as a gale-force wind struck the warlocks knocking them over. A couple were caught in a twister and carried far from sight. The two remaining warlocks hugged the trunks of trees as the winds continued to assail them. The orc smiled and withdrew from his hiding place. Calling on the spirits of lighting; he asked for, and received, a few bolts to strike the remaining attackers. Within seconds the warlocks were electrocuted along with their minions.

“We can’t stay here,” Kitali yelled above the howling winds. “This island is too small for us to hide on and there are surely more of them in the volcano.”

“I’m open for suggestions,” the orc replied. “With the goblins at the bottom of the ocean I don’t see a way of leaving this island.”

She looked to their left and just a hundred yards away was their raft still tied to a fallen tree. She stood and began running. “Follow me,” she said not looking back.

“You can’t be serious!” the orc exclaimed as they neared the raft. “Where are we supposed to go in that? And hide from that airship should they decide to follow us?”

“Just take off your shirt,” the pandaren said as she began untying the knot of the rope.

“I don’t think this is the time…” the orc started. Kitali glared at him causing him to stop in midsentence. He dropped his mace and shield to the ground. “Ok…but I don’t see how my shirt will help out.” He handed the pandaren his shirt leaving his heavily muscled chest bare.

She took it from him with only a second’s hesitation. She turned back to the raft and untied the rope. “We need a thick branch,” she said as she worked on the raft. “Make that two branches. Sturdy ones.”

“I think I see what you are up to,” Zharn replied as he turned back to the woods. He ran off for a few minutes while Kitali pushed the raft towards the waterline. He returned with two branches…one about three feet in length and six inches thick, the other about two feet long and four inches thick. She took the two and with the rope began to fashion a cross. Zharn grabbed his mace and shield and threw them into the raft. Kitali finished with her work and climbed aboard. Zharn pushed the raft into the water and then jumped in almost capsizing the small craft. He grabbed the oars and began paddling as Kitali sought a way to fashion the cross to the raft. Behind them more warlocks appeared from the base and started running towards the shore.

“You need to hurry, Kit,” Zharn said as he rowed. “Pretty soon they’ll send that airship after us.”

“You keep rowing…I’ll worry about that airship,” she replied. She secured the cross to the bow and then stretched Zharn’s shirt over it. She brought a totem from her pouch and set it on the floor of the raft. “I’ll see if the winds will help us again,” she said as she closed her eyes. After a moment the winds picked up. The shirt billowed becoming a makeshift sail, but it was not entirely effective. She tried to secure the bottom sides of the shirt to keep a more open shape to catch the winds, but the attempt was unsuccessful…it just was not enough. “It’s not working,” she said. “I don’t know what we can do.”

Zharn said nothing as he pulled the oars inside the raft. He reached into his pouch and closed his eyes. Kitali stared at the warlocks on the beach as they screamed and hollered at the retreating pair. Then she heard it…the whine coming from the top of the false volcano. It rose from the top and slowly turned towards them. They were doomed. This raft was not going anywhere fast and now it was in the open water easy to see. Like ducks in a pond the airship could take its time before finishing them. She watched in horror as the ship came closer. She did not notice the skies darkening or the whispering of the orc in the raft with her. The airship closed the distance, and as it soared over the shoreline lighting struck from the clouds at the vessel. It lurched, but still kept coming. More lighting struck the ship. Kitali covered her eyes as the flashing intensified…more and more lightning struck the airship…each thundering impact upon its hull was deafening…until she heard an explosion. She peeked through her hands to see the ship wreckage raining debris upon the warlocks on the shore who were now scrambling for cover. The bulk of the fiery craft landed on a few of them. Kitali whooped as the greatest danger was past…the ship was destroyed. She looked at the orc who was smiling. She leaned over and kissed him passionately. When their lips parted the orc was still smiling.

“That may be the sexiest thing you have ever done,” she said coyly.

“I’ll be sexier if I can find us a place to hide. I am sure that was not the only airship they have, and the spirits cannot always answer us like they have today,” he replied. His smile waned. “As much as I want to relish this moment, we are not safe yet.” He looked back at the island. “We should try checking the side with the volcano. There might be a cave or someplace with more cover.”

She returned to seriousness knowing her lover was right. She looked down and padded her pouch. “Then we can use this thing I grabbed from Demira’s. It’s one of those talking devices she uses with Daneel.”

“You stole from our friends?” the orc accused with a smile.

“I borrowed it,” she replied innocently. “In case we needed to contact them. I’ve seen her use it at their house. It was on the mantle next to the note I left. I wrote that I was bringing it with us.”

Zharn smiled as he began rowing the their small craft towards the other side of the island. “Now that kind of thinking is what I call sexy,” the orc said.

“But I am not taking off my shirt,” she replied turning to watch the shoreline for more of the cult’s forces.

“Not fair,” Zharn replied. “I wanted some eye candy too.” She glared at him as he smiled and rowed. “What? You get to see me all bare-chested and I don’t get the same from you?”

She shook her heard and looked back at the shore. After a moment of silence she looked back at the orc. “We survive this I’ll take off more than my shirt for you, hon.” She looked back at the island and smiled as she was certain they were moving a little faster.

 

Demira and Daneel rejoined Kalec and then the three of them left the base. Once back outside in the gorge Demira opened a portal to their home. While she did that Daneel collapsed the tunnel sealing the base and everything inside. True to his vow with Demira, Kalecgos then placed a glamour on the fallen debris to make it look natural as the rest of the gorge. The couple said their goodbyes to the dragon after telling him what they had found inside the base. He thanked them for the information and reiterated his pledge before they parted company. Demira and Daneel emerged from the portal and walked into their home. It was night outside and the stars were shining brightly. The couple decided to retire for the night as they were both exhausted. The next morning they awoke and while Demira prepared their breakfast Daneel sat on the couch perusing some of the data discs he had salvaged from the Stormwind base. Demira brought him a plate filled with bacon, two eggs, and some toast. He took the plate from her while still browsing at the portable terminal on a small table.

“Find anything useful?” the mage asked as she sat in a chair with her own plate filled similar to the one she gave the jedi.

“A lot of the data is corrupted,” he replied. “What I can gather from these is that the sith had found a planet and was hiding when they found some strange alien technology.” He looked at Demira as she was eating and listening to him. “What is described here almost sounds like lost Rakata artifacts and machinery.”

“Isn’t that the ancient civilization you mentioned that enslaved another race after a bloody war across your galaxy?” she asked between bites. He nodded back to her. “And this stuff they found was still working?”

“Appears that way,” he replied sitting back on the couch. “One thing that has bothered me since we went up to that ship was where did they get all of that cloning equipment? Warships of that time period wouldn’t have carried that kind of technology with them. So where did they get it?” He leaned forward and pointed to the computer screen. “But reading this I understand how they did. It was on this planet they were hiding on…it’s old Rakata tech that they found. Along with something called an Infinite Machine…but it doesn’t say what this machine actually does and I have never heard of such a thing before.”

“It doesn’t say or they didn’t know?” she asked.

“It doesn’t say with what I can retrieve,” he replied. “It might be in the corrupted files, but either way I just don’t know what it is or what it does. But if it is Rakata in origin then it’s most likely something very powerful.” He sat back on the couch again. “If it’s similar to the Infinite Engine Revan created then it would explain how they were able to make these bases and the cloning facilities.”

“What is the Infinite Engine?” Demira asked as she stood from her chair. She walked to their kitchen. “Is that something like the engines on your ships?”

“Something more complex. The engine Revan built was small…about the size your hand if I remember the spy reports correctly. It would create whatever you needed provided you gave it enough energy. That could come from anything…plants, animals, dead bodies, water…anything could serve as fuel for this thing. But the one he made was small so it couldn’t make much.”

The mage walked back from the kitchen and leaned over the back of the couch with her head next to his. “So if they found something similar, but older and bigger it could make the facilities for the sith,” she concluded. “And the materials for their bases.”

“It would explain a lot,” the jedi added. “But it’s not the main danger we need to think about right now. Right now it’s the cult and their plans.” He turned his head to hers. “I think that…”

He was interrupted by a beeping coming from their bedroom. Demira sighed as she straightened and walked to the bedroom. After a minute she returned holding Daneel’s holocommunicator. Her brow was furrowed as she looked at the jedi. “Why is this thing beeping?” To her shock for a brief second a three dimensional image of Kitali and Zharn appeared above the device. She dropped it on the floor as the image ceased. “What was that?”

“Is this working?” they heard Zharn ask. They both looked at the holocom lying on the floor. Part of the image was lost in the floorboards, and Demira hurriedly picked it up as the image faded again. She was about to the activate the switch on the side when the image reappeared.

“I thought you said you knew how this thing worked,” Zharn’s image stated.

“I said I’ve seen Demira use it…” the Kitali image was saying when it faded yet again.

Demira thumbed the switch. “Kit? Kit can you hear me?” she shouted. “Hit the red button on the side of the thing.” Daneel was now standing and had walked up next to the mage. “Kit?”

“Demira? Can you hear me?” they heard Kitali say. “Is this thing really working?”

“Hold it up in front of you,” Demira replied. After a few seconds an upside down image of Zharn and Kitali appeared above Demira’s device. “Turn it over,” she said. The image rotated until it was upright if still slightly slanted to the left. Zharn was holding the device. He was not wearing a shirt, and Kitali was next to him with bare shoulders and holding something over her chest. They appeared to be in a cave. “Where are you guys?”

“We found the base,” Kitali said with a wide smile. Daneel sat back on the couch and began punching keys on the portable computer. “It’s on this island about a day from Northrend.”

“What base?” Demira asked. “The base is under Stormwind. We found Daneel there and it was mainly deserted.”

“I saw the ship when I flew into space,” Zharn answered with a tusky grin. “It was over this area, and we hired a goblin ship to bring us out here.”

“And there are cultists here, Demira. Warlocks and they had this airship that blew up the goblins, but Zharn destroyed it,” Kitali added.

“Wait…Zharn went into space? You saw the ship? The sith ship?” Demira asked.

“Cut off the communication,” Daneel said from the couch. “Tell them to turn off the holocommunicator…now!”

“But…why? They saw the ship,” Demira protested.

“The sith can track their signal! Cut off the communication!” he stood and stopped as the image shifted above the holocommunicator. Two blood elves stood behind their friends. There were some indistinct voices, and then the image blurred and faded.

‘KIT! ZHARN!” Demira yelled at the device. “Answer me! Kit!”

“They’ve been captured,” Daneel said as he sat back down and punched keys on the terminal again.

“But where are they? And there is another base?” she said excitedly. “How are we going to find them?”

“I started tracking their signal when I realized it was them,” the jedi answered. “That’s how I found the sith’s tracking signal. I am trying my own trace to see where it came from.” He looked at Demira. “As long as the sith device is still active I can collate their location.” The terminal beeped and he looked back down. With a sigh he fell back into the couch. “They cut off the device. I have a general location, but that is still over one hundred kilometers in radius.”

 

The lead blood elf grabbed the holocommunicator from Zharn’s hand and threw it to the ground. With an exaggerated step she crushed the device under her heel. Her partner was holding a staff aimed at the couple sitting half naked in a cave not far above the shoreline. With a wave of his finger he indicated for Kitali and Zharn to stand. They did not move as a third party entered the cave entrance behind the two sin’dorei. At the sound of a snap and hiss the leader turned as a red blade cut through her chest. The mage with the staff wheeled around to see his partner’s body fall to the ground just a second before his head fell to join it. The couple stared in disbelief at the red skinned woman wielding the double-bladed lightsaber. She extinguished the blades and looked back outside.

“You two…get dressed,” the woman demanded. “They’ll send more once these two fail to report back in.”

“Who are you?” Zharn asked. The woman wore a black two-piece robe that left her toned midriff bare. She did not look back at them.

“She’s a clone!” Kitali answered. “She looks just like the body that Demira and I found at the base by their house.”

The woman looked back at the couple. “I am a clone, but not the type you are thinking of.” She turned back to look outside. “I was hunting the last two greens when they were intercepted by these people. I have been hiding and studying them for the past week.” She looked back as Kitali finished putting her shirt on. Zharn was standing next to her holding his mace and shield. “We must hurry. This is not a time for fornication.” She walked to the entrance and peered down the small trail that led to shore.

“We were not fornicating,” Kitali protested. “We were just trying to dry out our clothes.”

“His body says otherwise,” the woman replied not looking back. “The trail to the shore looks clear. Hurry!” She left the cave not waiting for the couple.

Kitali looked at Zharn who was wearing a sheepish grin on his face. “Just what did she mean by your body saying otherwise?” She looked down and then back at his face. “Really?” She left to follow the sith out of the cave sighing as she walked ahead of Zharn.

“In my defense you did have your shirt off,” Zharn replied.

They followed the sith woman about a hundred yards down the trail where she stopped by the edge of a cliff. She looked back at them. “Can you both swim?” They nodded back to her. “Jump into the water here. Swim down about twenty meters and you will find another cave entrance. Swim into it for another hundred meters and you will arrive into an air filled cavern. I will stay behind until I cannot see you and to make sure we are not followed. I will then meet you in the underwater cave.”

“What’s a meter?” Zharn asked.

“Just look for the cave entrance straight below,” the sith urged. “Jump in now before the reinforcements arrive to find out what happened to the other two.”

Not waiting Kitali jumped off the cliff into the water. Zharn shrugged his shoulders and jumped in after her. They swam for about sixty feet before they found the cave the woman told them about. They looked at each other and began to swim into the cave. About a hundred feet in Kitali’s lungs were burning from the lack of air. She stopped and looked at Zharn…fear written on her face. She gulped and an air bubble escaped her mouth. Zharn swam up to her and grabbed her face…her arms were moving franticly. He pulled her close and looked into her eyes and smiled. He held up a finger and with his other hand reached down into the pouch at his waist. He pulled out a bag and showed it to the pandaren. He gave her a reassuring smile as he brought the bag to her lips. She closed her eyes and breathed deeply from the bag and relaxed as her lungs filled with precious air. She opened her eyes and looked at the smiling orc. He gave her a slight nod and with his eyes motioned for her to continue swimming further into the cave. Kitali smiled around the bag and turned to swim the rest of the way. After she was ahead of him by a few yards he followed. His lungs were on fire, but he would not let her know his discomfort. He swam this way for another hundred and fifty feet…Kitali still several yards ahead of him…when he could hold his breath no longer. Black spots blurred his vision, and with a last push forward with all of his strength he surged forward before opening his mouth as blackness overtook him.

Kitali emerged from the water into a dark cave. She took a fire totem from her pouch and placed it ahead of her on the ground. It illuminated the small cave that was round…almost too round to be natural. She could not see the other side. She climbed from the water and looked back for Zharn. After he had not appeared for another minute she began to worry. She was walking back into the water when his body surfaced face down a few yards away.

“Zharn!” She screamed as she swam to him. Turning him over she noticed he was not breathing. She brought him to the edge of the water and laid him on his back. “Don’t do this to me, Zharn,” she cried as her eyes welled with tears. She placed her hands on his chest and began pumping his lungs. “You can’t leave me like this.” After another minute he gasped and spat water. She turned him on his side as he expunged more water from his lungs. He coughed and looked at her and smiled. “Why did you do that?” she asked quietly. “You had the air bag.”

“And I gave it to you,” he said. He reached up to touch her cheek. “You needed it more than I.”

“You could have died,” she whispered.

“And I would have gladly if it meant saving you,” he replied.

She said nothing as she embraced him with tears running freely down her cheeks. They held each other in the dark cave for what seemed like hours when the sith woman appeared from the back of the cave. They looked up to see she was completely dry…she had not swam to the cave. She looked at the couple and then walked to the left side of the cave and sat on the floor. She breathed deeply then looked at the couple staring at her.

“I am certain we have not been followed and should not be discovered for some time,” the woman finally said. “And I am sure you have several questions for me. For starters I am assuming you are associated with the jedi and his mistress?”

“You could say that we are close to Demira and Daneel,” Kitali answered. “But just who in the hell are you?”

“You may call me Selene as that is the only name I have ever had,” the woman replied. “When last I saw the jedi I told him I would hunt the last abominations of my race and he would never see me again. I had almost accomplished that task. Only two remained and I had tracked them to a cave not far from the Dark Portal.”

“So it was not your body we saw at the base?” the pandaren asked.

“No,” Selene replied. “These people call themselves the Order of the Sith’ari, but they are no sith. They are a cult like many others on this world.” She stood and began pacing the room. “They apprehended the two remaining greens before I could complete my task, but I followed them to this place. Once here I learned they had procured genetic material from Varok’s daughter and had already begun producing copies of her. But they are accelerated and live only briefly.”

“How briefly?” Zharn asked as he sat up. “And what do you mean by accelerated?”

“They are using facilities in this place,” the woman answered still pacing. “The clones are created mature and with partially functional memories, but the facilities here are faulty. The clones are capable to use the machinery and technology based on their memories, but because they are created at a mature level they age within days. After forty-eight hours the cells start to break down and the clone expires.” She stopped and looked at the couple. “This place…this facility…is no island as it appears to be. It is a manufactured facility based on ancient alien technology. The original piece as near as I can tell was small,” she said holding up her fist. “But it replicates rapidly depending on what energy it is given. My…father…and his associates intended to place this device on this world, but it was lost in the ocean centuries ago. They believed it irretrievable until the woman that leads this cult found it by accident about fifty years ago. Since that time she has been adding to its energy source to mask it as an island.” She began pacing again. “The faulty clones were using the few shuttles here to reach the ship…the ship I intended to destroy. Now she has access to cloning facilities that are much more elaborate and sophisticated. She intends to use it to make more greens.”

“Do you know what she intends to do with these greens once she has created them?” Kitali asked.

“No,” Selene replied. “Once they got the two captives up on the ship they have not returned to the surface. But I hear rumors from the natives that are part of this cult. They say she is creating an army on that ship. Some believe the tale, but others are skeptical. You see…none of them have actually seen the ship.” She stopped and looked at the couple. “Only the faulty clones have been used to pilot the shuttles. They had only three left until this morning when you destroyed the one sent after you.” She smiled. “The rest have been wrecked or lost as the clones piloting them…expired.” She began pacing again. “Until your arrival I had planned to pose as one of the clones and steal a shuttle to the ship in orbit, but that has now changed.”

“How so?” Zharn asked. “What would our arrival have to do with the change in your plans?”

Selene stopped pacing and looked at the orc. “There has been no contact with the ship for two days. That shuttle is still up there as is their mistress. And after your destruction of the shuttle they sent after you they have only one left. Without orders from their mistress they will not send it to look for you…or anywhere else for that matter.”

“How did you find out about all of this?” Kitali asked. Selene looked at her incredulously. “I mean…you may look like the other clones, but if the cultists are not running the show while their mistress is missing…then who is?”

“Clever,” the woman replied with a grin. “Nobody is running it. Despite their leader finding this place fifty years ago, the cult here itself has only been around for the past year. With this world existing in tumultuous times, the people she recruited were desperate for any kind of salvation they were offered. And she made sure she enlisted no one with any kind of leadership capabilities. She has sole power over their actions and movements and controls them through their fears like a true sith would, but again she is no sith.” She started pacing again. “The clones do not have the mental capacity to lead in her absence or the longevity as is well known amongst the cultists here otherwise I could have tried to take it over. Infiltration and information gathering has been easy, but to get to the real answers I need to get to that ship, and time is running out for me. I can only hope the jedi arrives soon.”

“Why?” Zharn and Kitali asked together.

“Because I am dying and I want to see this through before the end,” Selene replied.

 

Daneel and Demira arrived at the coordinates he had traced from the sith signal. They flew in a two-seater speeder they quickly procured from the base near their home. They found nothing for the first two hours as Daneel reached out through the Force searching for their friends. He finally connected to their presence, and as he guided the speeder to where he felt them they saw the island, but it was moving. He set the speeder on the shoreline near the base of what appeared to be a volcano. Walking along the waterline they found a wrecked raft. Stretching out again through the Force Daneel surmised the couple was somewhere under the water. He took two rebreathers from his pouch and handed one to Demira. Together they swam into the waters for about thirty meters before finding an underwater cave. Looking at each other and with no other lead they swam into the cave. About a hundred meters in they came to the small area where there was air. Searching the area they found signs where there had been three people in the cave. They followed tracks in the dirt to a corridor near the back. They walked another hundred feet to a door. Daneel touched the keypad, and it opened to reveal a room similar to those found at the base near their home. On one side were several beds, and in two of those beds was Zharn and Kitali sleeping. Near them sitting on a third was one of the red skinned Selene clones. Upon seeing the jedi and the mage the clone stood. Demira tensed, but Daneel’s hand on hers stopped her from acting further.

“So you are not dead as we had thought,” the jedi said.

“How can you be sure?” Demira asked beside him.

“Yes, Jedi, how can you be so sure I am who I appear to be?” Selene asked.

“You are wearing a lightsaber,” the jedi replied. “If the cult leader is searching for crystals to make one, then it’s reasonable to assume none of her clones would have such a weapon.”

Demira relaxed as the clone smiled. Kitali and Zharn stirred from their slumber. The couples embraced relieved to find the orc and pandaren alive. They turned to the clone who again told her story to Demira and Daneel. The pieces began to fit in the jedi’s mind. The Rakata facility, the Infinite Machine, was indeed the island they were standing in and was functional, but the sith really had no knowledge of how to make it work. They lost it or control of it at some point. Once in the ocean it had an unlimited supply of energies to pull from and self-replicated in much the same fashion other Rakata facilities like the Mother Machine on Belsavis or the Star Forge Revan had found centuries ago. Sometime later after the Infinite Machine had grown to something close to its current size the woman, Tareesha, found it. Recognizing what it really was she seized control, but since her ancestors really did not understand the technology she didn’t either. True to sith fashion she hatched her schemes anyway arrogantly believing she could control it. When that plan failed she then had gone to the base near their home to get the shuttle and fly to the ship in orbit as it had the coordinates programmed into its navicomputer. Once she had the ship she would have access to the more functional cloning facilities Varok had used for centuries and could then begin using the amulet on clones created from the two remaining greens Selene had not killed. He surmised that the island cloning facilities were recently ‘manufactured’ to make use of the Selene genetic material to operate the shuttles and technology thereby allowing her to run her new cult and keep any true power from them. But because of the short lifespan of the clones created on the surface it was not sufficient to create the lasting rakghoul army Tareesha wanted to unleash upon Azeroth. He explained his theory to the others.

“Then we need to destroy this place,” Demira said after the jedi finished. “It’s as much a danger as the ship is.”

“But how can we do that?” Zharn asked.

“I have a plan that can work,” Selene answered. “First we need to get these two out of here. The fewer people involved the better.”

“How do we do that?” Kitali asked. “We don’t know how to use any of this stuff.”

“The speeder Demira and I used has an autopilot. You can take that back to the base near our home,” Daneel replied. He looked at Selene. “What is the rest of your plan?”

“You need to get to the hanger from the outside and secure the shuttle. Demira and I can enter through the base and reach the core to overload it and destroy this place.”

“Us?” Demira queried.

“Yes…us,” the clone replied. “I pass easily as one of the clones, and you as a blood elf mage can disguise yourself as a cultist. We get to the core which is about one hundred meters below us. I have had a chance to study the machine enough to know there is a self destruct.” She looked at the jedi. “I think at one point the Rakata built this thing as a prison, but since my father and his cronies got hold of it that purpose changed. But the self destruct is there as part of its original programming.”

“Why?” Demira asked.

“Because if the prisoner were to escape then the facility would be destroyed thus also killing the prisoner. I have seen other facilities with similar fail-safe’s,” Daneel answered. “This could actually work.”

“And with the shuttle we can then reach the ship and destroy it as well thus ending this farce of a cult,” Selene added. “And the legacy I want to destroy.”

 

Kitali and Zharn had been loaded into the speeder and set for home. Daneel traversed the side of the volcano to reach the hanger that was near the summit. Selene and Demira proceeded with their part of the plan into the facility. The interior was much different than the other bases. Where they had smooth walls and some decorations, this place was largely open with catwalks and open staircases and felt more industrial. Amongst these were what appeared to be large assembly lines, but none of them were operating. Everything was metal and had an oily look to it, but the mage noticed what she touched was very dry. They came across several clones like Selene. Many had blank stares, but some were more lucid taking in everything around them. One stopped the pair on their descent into the heart of the base after seeing the lightsaber on Selene’s belt. With a quick Force push Selene sent the other clone over a railing and into the seeming abyss of metal and grid work. No one seemed to notice the falling clone as she screamed past one level after another until they were silenced by her impact at the bottom. Finally the two women reached a section of the base that actually resembled a room. Demira gaped as it was filled with flashing lights and banks of computer terminals. Selene walked before her and directly to a section of terminals on the far left side of the room.

“This is the main computer hub of the facility,” the clone said to the mage. “From here I can set the auto destruct on a timer allowing you time to meet with the jedi and get the shuttle. Use those lifts over there. They should take you straight to the hanger,” she said pointing to the far side of the room.

“Ok,” the mage replied still amazed at what she was seeing. “Then we can fly to the ship…wait…you said time for me to reach the shuttle. Don’t you mean us?”

“I mean you,” the clone stated as she punched codes into the computer. “I am not coming with you. This was always a one-way trip for me.”

“Look, I know you said you were dying, but you can still come with us…”

The clone turned to face Demira. For the first time she noticed blood seeping from the corners of the clone’s eyes. “I don’t have that much time,” Selene replied. “In fact once I hit this final command you will have to kill me.”

“Kill you? I don’t understand?” Demira stated backing away from the clone.

“I am turning, Demira,” Selene said. “I can feel the change happening inside. It's been happening slowly for the past few days.” She fingered the control. The panel began beeping and strange icons began scrolling on the viewport above it. “The countdown has begun. You have twenty minutes to get to the shuttle. Now do what must be done!”

“I…can’t,” the mage replied. “I can’t just kill you.”

“You…must…before it’s…too…late…” Demira saw the woman’s fingers transform into claws. Her teeth grew to fangs, and her skin paled before Demira’s eyes. “Do it! Before I…” Selene began to spasm. Demira stepped back from the creature transforming before her. Its eyes glowed orange and a green haze poured from the pores of its skin. The once skinny woman bulged into something hideous and grotesque. It stopped moving, and then she heard a cracking sound. She closed her eyes for only a second, and when she opened them before her stood a creature like the demon the night elf controlled at the base…a rakghoul. The pale white skin glistened in the flashing lights of the room. Black claws adorned it hands and feet, and over its overlarge nose was a single black eye. Without thinking she reached out and pushed through the Force. The creature was hurled to the nearest bank of computers and over. Demira turned and ran towards the lifts. She heard the creature crashing machinery behind her, but she dared not look back. She reached the lift and activated the door. She could hear the creature coming closer. The door opened and she ran inside the car hitting the control panel as she passed. She turned to see the rakghoul coming closer and reaching out just as the door closed. The lift started moving up, and Demira let out the breath she was holding.

 

Daneel stepped through the door leading into the false volcano. Surprising to him was instead of an actual rock climbing he found a very traversable trail leading from the base to the hanger access. Once inside he walked a corridor filled with closed doors. As he neared one he stopped having felt a tremor in the Force. He approached the door and slowly opened it. The room beyond looked like living quarters but with more extravagant and luxurious trappings than those at the base in Eversong Woods. He stretched out through the Force searching for the tremor he felt, and located it in an adjacent room. He walked cautiously to that door and opened it. Inside he found an alter much like that from his vision. Atop it was the amulet and he felt the ripples of dark side energies coming from the artifact. He walked close and upon further examination noticed there were eleven gems set in the center, but there were settings for twelve. He thought back to the vision of the twelve sith pouring their essences into this amulet. One crystal for each sith, but where was the missing crystal and whose essence did it possess? However, this was a question to answer later for there was a plan in place and a timeframe. He took his lightsaber from his belt and ignited the blade. He raised it over his head and brought it down upon the amulet. There was a blinding light in the Force as the essences were released with the destruction of the amulet. Eleven voices cried out in terror and pain. Some tried to strike at him as they passed into oneness with the Force, but he was unfazed. He listened to them scream into oblivion as he tried to ascertain genders and comparing the count with those in his vision. There was one woman missing by his count…the missing crystal. All of this happened within seconds of his blade contacting with the amulet.

The jedi left the room satisfied the amulet was destroyed. Tareesha could not use it to make more rakghouls on this world. He headed back into the corridor and towards the hanger. As he entered the bay a lift opened on the other side. Demira came running out and upon seeing the jedi ran to him and embraced him. Her body was shaking and he held her close.

“Where is Selene?” he asked quietly. She looked up with tear filled eyes. “Demira?”

“She…she…changed,” the mage stuttered and then collapsed into his arms again sobbing. “I want to leave this place.”

Daneel picked her up and carried her up the ramp to the lone shuttle in the bay. At the top he hit the contact to raise the ramp and close the outer door. Inside he found a passenger seat and set Demira down. She was still sobbing, and Daneel could only guess what had happened. The green part of the clone had been affected by the amulet still in the base. Demira had seen the transformation of the woman into the creature…something he had seen before and was sometimes still haunted by. He kissed her on the forehead and moved forward to the pilot’s chair. As he sat down and looked out of the viewport he saw cult members coming out of other lifts. Orcs, blood elves, gnomes, dwarves, humans…they were all scrambling out of the lifts to escape. He punched the controls to power the engines, and within a few seconds the shuttle lifted from the hanger. Once clear of the summit he shifted the trajectory of the shuttle and banked towards home and the sith base in Eversong Woods. Behind them was a blinding light as the Rakata Infinite Machine exploded. This part of the plan had been a partial success. The loss of the clone to the rakghoul plague was devastating...they could have used the help of Selene up on the ship.

 

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