Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Bonus Ch 4

Across the still cooling volcanic stone, a man tattered robes walked. The air was poison and the sky still choked with ash, but death and darkness walked beside the man rather than pursuing him.

They didn’t have to pursue him. Not when they’d caught him so long ago.

“Sapient life signs detected within twenty yoms ahead and thirteen yoms below the surface,” the Survery Drone which hovered above the man’s shoulder said, indicating a spot in the churned up ground ahead of them.

Paralus Stahl regarded the spot, reaching out with his senses to pinpoint the life the drone SRV0 had found. 

Detecting one life on a barren world would have been easy anywhere other than Praxis Mar. By rights the Force in the only living beings on the planet should have stood out like a star shining in a empty sky, but Praxis Mar was special.

A skilled practitioner could use the Dark Side to cloak their thoughts, their plans, and even their presence. It took effort, effort Paralus found irritating at best and dangerously distracting otherwise, but not on Praxis Mar.

Hiding came so easy on the dead world, that even Paralus’ mastery of the Dark Side was barely enough for him to pick up the small cluster of sapients who’d been buried when the buried when the land quaked so badly that giant sections of it flipped over and buried the old surface deep underground. 

Barely enough was still sufficient though and for these sapients that would suffice.

Lifting his hand, Paralus forced his fatigue into annoyance and fanned the flames of that into the anger which in turn gave him the strength to lift the intact remnant of a fallen starship from its earthen tomb.

He waited a moment after setting the ship down, feeling the Beast of Praxis Mar stirring at his command over the power which only the Beast held dominion over.

They were two of a kind, the Beast and he, which in the Dark Side made them the deadliest of enemies.

The Beast had deeper worries than Paralus though. It had roused itself from a millenia long slumber when someone had introduced a plague to it. One single, tiny voice had spoken and an idea had been shared. A dream of the future given to the spirits trapped in Praxis Mar’s endlessly gravity well of hate. A hope in hell.

It would not stand.

To corrupt a world as pure as the masterpiece that was Praxis Mar was an unforgivable transgression against that which was incapable of forgiveness in any form.

For the time being however, the Plague of Hope served Paralus’ needs quite well. Let the Beast roar or flee or try as it would to encyst the whisper among the damned spirits. It would have success or it would not, but either scenario would not reach its resolution before Paralus had obtained what he desired.

“What happened? Was it another earthquake?” the speaker was one of several who’d exited the fallen starship.

Paralus stepped into the shadow of the Dark Side with no effort at all, leaving only SRV0 behind. With his senses expanded, he was still able to sense the life of those he’d ‘rescued’, paltry though it was, and hear their words both spoken and implied.

“That didn’t feel like an earthquake,” their leader said.

He was different from the rest in only one aspect. Of them all his mind was the most twisted by hate and fear. The fool wasn’t strong in the Dark Side because he could conceive of nothing of value outside of himself.

“Because it wasn’t,” Paralus said, stepping out of the shadows between the small group and the remains of the ship which had sheltered them through a cataclysmic upheaval.

“Who are you?” one of the men said, a blaster in his hand faster than any of his comrades.

Paralus was no longer one who could be harmed by blaster fire, but he took the weapon from the man’s hand anyways, removing the illusion of authority conveyed by the weapon lest the conversation they were about to have proceed from the wrong basis.

A second, slower, member of the small party drew his blaster in response to Paralus’ taking the first man’s blaster.

So Paralus shot him.

He could have made it a wounding shot.

Could easily have simply disabled the man, and if Paralus had any intention of allowing any of them to survive there might have been a reason for him too.

But the people before him were all dead men walking. 

One of them would leave of course. Whichever seemed to fit Paralus’ needs best. Whether it would be accurate to say that unlucky soul would be ‘alive’ was a matter of debate though.

With a freshly produced corpse however there were other possibilities.

Before the man’s spirit could join with the great flow of the Force, Paralus reached out and caught hold of it. The spirit was weak, debased by a life teetering on the edge of the Dark Side without committing to the hunger for carnage it possessed beyond the occasional acts of cruelty which it hadn’t been afraid it would be caught and punished for.

It was an unworthy offering at best and an insult at worst, but Paralus offered the spirit to the great maelstrom at the heart of Praxis Mar. With the Plague spreading despite the Beast’s efforts, the planet could not refuse the first infusion of new pain and suffering it had received in centuries.

Another man, slower and dimmer than the rest had drawn his pistol while Paralus had been busy offering the first corpse’s spirit to Praxus Mar. The man’s courage carried him the precipice of pointing a deadly weapon at a foe, but hadn’t leaped him past the point of hesitation to where he could fire it.

Seeing that a more profound demonstration was in order, Paralus pulled the man himself forward, grasping the man by the throat when he came in reach.

Paralus could have drawn from the near endless well of horror Praxis Mar offered but with the planet struggling already that would have ill suited his aims. Instead he dumped a few of his own select nightmares into the man he held aloft at arm’s length.

It was a technique which carried substantial risks, but only if the victim was able to overcome the terror the nightmares held. The man in Paralus’ clutches had delighted in inflicting terror too much to deny its power and that opening allowed far too much of Paralus’s power to crash into him, destroying the man’s mental defenses and his mind with them. With nothing left in him to resist, the man’s body followed next, shriveling up into a wasted husk as the Dark Side consumed everything within him.

“Shall we continue?” Paralus asked, fully prepared for the extent of entire company’s self preservation instinct to prove to be the equal of one of the rocks which lay around them.

“What are you?” the leader of the group asked, gesturing his minions to stay back and keep their weapons holstered.

“An excellent question,” Paralus said. “And one I shall not be giving you the answer to.”

“What do you want then?” Darsus Klex asked. Paralus read the man’s name and recent memories out of idle curiosity and to confirm his suspicions that Klex would be the most suitable host candidate of the men present.

“One of you,” Paralus said.

“For what?” Darsus asked.

“To serve me,” Paralus said. There was no point in lying and playing with his victims was one of the few entertainments Paralus had left.

“The Klex Cartel serves no one but its own.” Darsus seemed to think this was an inviolate rule of the universe, though Paralus could hear in Darsus’s words the true undercurrent that the Klex Cartel really only served  Darsus himself.

“Useful,” Paralus observed to no one except himself. “Having a Cartel would be a new treat.”

“You ain’t having anything you freak wizard,” one of the other men said.

Paralus considered killing him as well, but the joy of that wore off quickly. Also presenting all of the spirits to the planet at once would yield a better bounty. So the man got to live. For at least a few moments longer.

“You don’t know where you’re standing, do you?” Paralus asked.

“Praxis Mar,” Darsus said.

“An answer but an incomplete one,” Paralus said. “Can you not feel the despair which chokes this world. The millenia old, unending hatred still bound in its soil and sky? Are none of you the least bit aware of the potential which lies beneath your feet?”

“We saw the potential this place has when it tore itself apart and swallowed our ship,” Darsus said. “Is that why you want us to serve you? Because you can control that stuff if we help you? That’s fine, but what’s in it for me?”

It was the question of someone who was deeply confused. Someone who didn’t understand the danger which was wrapped around them. Someone who thought they could trick themselves out of the fate which awaited them solely because they were obviously the center of the galaxy.

Someone who was sufficiently twisted up into themselves that they would make, if not the perfect host, an eminently suitable one.

“Power,” Paralus said. “Or a miserable death. Depending on your point of view.”

“I’ll serve you,” one of the other minions said.

Paralus ignored him. All that one had was fear, which would have been useful enough in a pinch but Paralus had been called to Praxis Mar but a gaping need in the Dark Side and by the opportunity it represented. He wasn’t about to settle for ‘useful enough’, not when there was so much work to be done, and people who might be worth destroying for a change.

“None of you matter,” he said and with a wave of his hand dispatched the chaff, breaking each of the necks as easily their gurgles and death rattles broke the silence of the empty world.

Darsus Klex began to retreat then, even his monumental self absorption yielding to the obvious fate which awaited him if he stayed.

Of course on a dead planet, there really was nowhere for him to retreat to.

Paralus stepped into the shadows and appeared in front of the fleeing Klex.

“Submit,” Paralus said.

“Go to hell,” Darsus said.

“Where do you think we are?” Paralus said.

“I said go to hell!” Darsus finally pulled his blaster and Paralus let him fire it, each bolt passing harmless through Paralus’ ghostly body.

“You wish to leave,” Paralus said. “Submit.”

“You’re not going to kill me,” Darsus said.

“No. I am not,” Paralus said. “I don’t have to.”

“I’ll make it out here.”

“No. You won’t. Your fleet is gone. Your family destroyed. You have fallen and you will die in failure and ignominy. In a day you will be forgotten, lost in the emptiness of the galaxy, unmourned, and bound here forever as all who die here are.”

“No.” There was no certainty and no defiance in Darsus’s voice, only the last desperate dregs of disbelief.

“You will leave behind those who did this to you. Wensha. They will suffer no vengeance at your hands and their lives will be peaceful and rich, with no thoughts for you except laughter in the odd moments they tell the stories of the Cartel they cast into ruin.”

“No,” Darsus said though in his eyes was the growing belief in Paralus’ words.

“No?” Paralus asked. “That is not how you wish things to be?”

“No,” Darsus said, anger mixing with acceptance to produce exactly the terrible resolve Paralus required.

“Then submit,” Paralus said. “And together we shall rise and burn the stars themselves to undo the makings of the ones who were here. The ones who sinned against you.”

With eyes alight with soul destroying rage, Darsus Klex reached forth his hand to become something far darker than he’d ever imagined.

One thought on “Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Bonus Ch 4

  1. dreamfarer Post author

    Welcome to the end of Book 1 of Chronicles of the Force! Our finale bonus chapter gives a small peek at the enemy that awaits in the next book.

    Before that begins however, Storytreader will be taking a nice vacation for a couple of weeks.

    New chapters will resume on Tuesday July 16th with the next chapter of “Two Hearts One Beat” followed on Thursday by the first chapter of Chronicles of Force, Book 2 – “Mysteries of the Force”!

    Stay frosty!


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