An even longer time ago, in a galaxy just as far away...
Cipher Nine’s Phantom stalked around Ilum in stealth whilst they awaited news of their target. Crystyl leant forward over her command console and stared out at the planet, almost as though she might spot a ship visibly before the Phantom’s sensors detected anything - though she knew that would never be the case. It was not long however before their patience paid off as their detection grid beeped into life. Ensign Temple virtually leapt from one seat to the next as she worked her way around the bridge consoles to assess the incoming data while Crystyl watched patiently, admiring the young Ensign working at her finest. After verifying her readings, Ensign Temple turned to Crystyl whom she knew to be watching her every move as if assessing her capabilities, "single vessel climbing from a Republic outpost. Configuration is BT-7 – it’s a Thunderclap sir." Crystyl’s face lit up, she recognised the name of the Thunderclap through notoriety alone since very few still used them. She knew who the ship belonged to and they had no business in this sector that she could fathom, "Intercept course Ensign."
Crystyl didn’t need to wait for confirmation from the Ensign before turning to hit the internal communications channel and addressing the rest of her crew, "Scorpio – prepare for combat manoeuvring, Kaliyo – take out their hyperdrive the instant we’re out of stealth." Crystyl turned and looked ahead with anticipation as the Phantom veered down towards the planet below and a distant speck quickly grew into the recognisable form of the Thunderclap. The Phantom swept around and behind the Thunderclap remaining undetected right up to the moment Crystyl was waiting for, "...NOW!" she called out to her entire crew who all leapt in action in perfect unison. The Phantom entered a tight barrel roll as the stealth field deactivated spinning them up and over the Thunderclap before the manoeuvring thrusters kicked in to lurch the rear of the ship end over nose giving Kaliyo a perfect clean shot at the Thunderclaps now exposed hyperdrive – and a single shot was all she needed allowing the Phantom to quickly return to stealth and manoeuvre more gently to a safe location away from their last seen position. Crystyl looked out with pride at the crippled vessel and made a mental note to commend all of her crew for their flawless actions.
Havoc Squad were busy going about their usual post mission business as their ship rose from the planet’s surface whilst Dee-Anne had been sitting in the briefing room trying to console the grieving Lendaria. Not knowing the words to offer someone in Lendaria’s position, Dee-Anne could only sit with the mourning Sith and rest a reassuring hand on her shoulder. It was Lendaria who first broke the silence when she looked up at Dee-Anne wearing a confused expression, "Did the Masters know what would happen? Did they know I would find my mother here only to have her torn away moments later?" Dee-Anne could not answer Lendaria’s questions, but she could offer her own words of consolidation now, "Only the masters can know that. What I can tell you is that however little I have understood of their instructions at times, they have never steered me wrong. I trust in their wisdom absolutely." Lendaria appeared more reassured that Dee-Anne expected her to be from the smile she offered in return for Dee-Anne’s comments. Lendaria opened her mouth to speak more of the Masters but before she could get a word out, the entire ship was rocked by a powerful explosion.
Waking up amidst a sea of smoke and sparks, Lendaria assessed her surroundings and found an equally groggy Dee-Anne lay on the floor next to her. She looked further out into the central chamber of the Thunderclap towards the sound of distant voices echoing through the smoke which carried an eerie red glow through the now darkened ship interior set by the emergency lighting within the Thunderclap. Drawing her lightsaber to better view her surroundings, Lendaria stood and held the black-green blade out in front of her as she made her way through the smoke and up towards the cockpit – the flickering blade providing a sharp green contrast to the dimly lit red smoke.
She entered the cockpit to find Elara Dorne unhurt and working quickly in her efforts to restore the ships power, "What is our status?" she called in from the doorway. Elara didn’t break pace for the conversation, "Hyperdrive is offline, emergency generators spooling up." Lendaria stepped closer now and peered out into the deep black of space, "What happened – a collision?" Elara froze for a moment, "No... We were attacked, a stealth vessel if I had to guess." Subconsciously Lendaria commended their unknown foe in such a well executed takedown, "If you’re right – they’re still out there. What can I do to help?"
Elara gestured towards a control panel towards the rear of the cockpit with the intention of giving instructions but before she was able to get a word out, both women were almost knocked off their feet as the ship suddenly lurched sideways and began gently coasting in a new direction. "No! A tractor beam! Lendaria, man those weapons – I’ll try to turn us far enough to give you a shot before it’s too late." Elara was cut short when Lendaria gently placed a reassuring hand on her shoulder, "The wise warrior knows when to stay his blade." Elara turned and looked squarely at Lendaria, "Just what kind of Sith are you exactly?!" Lendaria smiled back "I know it is difficult but do not hasten into a fight that we cannot win and trust instead that all will transpire as it is meant to." Elara found it difficult to do as Lendaria suggested, but could not deny the wisdom behind her words. As she studied the young Mirialan for a moment she looked into Lendaria’s eyes and could clearly see that she was her mother’s daughter, "Very well Lendaria, I will gather my team at the airlock to greet our would be captors – I suggest you bring Dee-Anne."
Having successfully docked with her newly captured ship, Cipher Nine prepared to board the Thunderclap. Drawing the blaster rifle from behind her back, she stood sharp to attention at the door while the pressure was equalised on either side. A final hiss of air rushing by confirmed that the seal had been made and the doors slid open. Through the smoky interior Crystyl could clearly make out several figures of both humanoids and droids. Following her instincts as always, Crystyl felt that the Thunderclap’s occupants did not want to harm her and were more scared than anything else; so she raised her rifle over her head and called out towards the smoke filled room, "I know how this looks but I bear no ill will to the crew of this ship." The moment’s silence which followed eked out an eternity for Crystyl until she saw some movement. A bright golden dualsaber lit up through the smoke on one side of the Thunderclap’s occupants quickly followed by a single black-green blade on the other side, both casting dancing shadows through the smoke as the blades flickered. The silent standoff continued with only the gently hum of lightsabers echoing around the room until a voice carried over from the middle of the room, "Then why have you attacked us, Imperial?"
Crystyl was impressed that she had so quickly been identified as Imperial – most likely from the distinct upper class Imperial accent she spoke with thanks to the upbringing she received in the private school at her mother’s behest, "I know you are transporting a Sith traitor. Hand her over to me and we will leave you to your journey." Elara scoffed at the Imperial’s response to her challenge, "And how exactly do you suppose we do that with our hyperdrive blown out?" Crystyl considered this scenario from her earlier calculations. It was true that kaliyo’s shot was so good she really had crippled this old ship, and that reflected poorly on her negations now, "Look... The Sith who is travelling with you is responsible for hundreds... possibly thousands of lives lost on both sides of this war – she must be taken before the Dark Council to answer these charges. I cannot deviate from my objective, but I can promise you that once the Sith has been delivered into custody on Korriban; I will personally transport the rest of you back to Coruscant – you are already aware that my vessel uses stealth technology so you know that I can deliver on this promise. Unfortunately, I can offer you nothing more than my word on this; it is up to you if you choose to accept it or not."
Another deathly silence fell over the room as everyone appeared to wait for someone else to speak up first. The apparent stalemate was eventually ended by Lendaria when she powered down her lightsaber and stepped forward, "I accept your terms Agent. Consider me your prisoner and deliver me to the Dark Council. But know that if you go back on your word; I will not rest until I reap vengeance upon you." Crystyl nodded and stepped to one side, clearing the walkway through to her ship. As Lendaria began moving towards the airlock Dee-Anne intervened and grabbed her arm, "Don’t do this Lendaria, there must be another way." Lendaria smiled back at Dee-Anne whilst gently squeezing Dee-Anne’s hand before pushing it away from her, "Fear not Jedi, this is the way fate has transpired for us. You must trust in the Force." Dee-Anne cocked her head to one side, and Elara cracked a smile – safe in the knowledge that she was not the only person who found Lendaria to be an unusually enlightened Sith. One by one they all fell into place behind Lendaria as she led them aboard Cipher Nine’s ship. Crystyl had Scorpio stay behind with Kaliyo to effect repairs on the Thunderclap’s systems, and to the surprise of her guests she had Ensign Temple make them all comfortable with food and refreshments in the Phantom’s briefing room during their journey to Korriban.
Having docked at the orbital station – not wanting to draw unnecessary attention from Korriban’s populous – Crystyl took a shuttle directly down to the private landing pad at the rear of the Sith Academy. Opting to leave Havoc Squad on board her ship, she travelled with only Lendaria and Dee-Anne for company. As the shuttle made its descent, Crystyl couldn’t help but study the curious pair and the strangely uncomfortable body language which read between them but resisted the urge to probe beyond her mission parameters. With Lendaria and Dee-Anne up front, the three women disembarked the shuttle and made their way towards the council chamber. After stopping to explain their presence to one guard, the rest were prepared for their approach and all lined the corridors with rifles and saberstaffs at the ready. Dee-Anne shared an uneasy glance with Lendaria as they approached the sealed door to the council chamber. Few Sith had ever seen beyond the doors threshold and even fewer Jedi, Dee-Anne felt an odd combination of trepidation and honour at being counted amongst those few.
The door to the council chamber was quickly drawn shut behind the group as they entered the dimly red lit room. Knowing they were being herded towards centre stage the three of them continued hesitantly forwards, noting the high and overbearing thrones which aligned either side of the chamber and each began to let their imaginations run wild with horror stories associated with the Dark Council and what gruesome events may have once unfolded in this grand chamber. As they neared the centre of the room a figure approached from the opposite side clad from head to toe in one long black robe. Crystyl knew this was not Darth Marr and surmised that it was most likely another member of the Dark Council, "Cipher Nine escorting Lord Lendaria into the custody of the Dark Council at the behest of Darh Marr, accompanying her is the Jedi Dee-Anne; a co-conspirator." She announced at the shadowy figure.
The Sith took a step forwards towards Crystyl’s group before addressing them and now stood directly under one of the brighter central lights in the room, "Congratulations Crystyl, you have exceeded all expectations. But please, let us drop the formalities of titles; I think we both know that it is hardly necessary for you and I to converse." With each word the Sith spoke, Crystyl’s eyes grew wider and her jaw slowly fell agape, "I... no, it can’t be!" The Sith lowered the hooded robe to greet Crystyl with a broad smile – one she had not seen since she was a little girl – that of her mother - Kuci,
"Hello, my dear sweet Crystyl. It has been too long." Crystyl suddenly found herself in that rarest of circumstances: one which she had not previously calculated in her mind, but also one she had dreamt of for almost as long as she could remember. Kuci stepped forward and embraced Crystyl tightly, as the two of stood with their arms around one another Kuci whispered into Crystyl’s ear, "Words cannot express how proud I am of you my daughter, nor can they express my sorrow at how long it has taken for this day to arrive. I love you Crystyl." Upon hearing those words Crystyl’s eyes began to water – since the day she had been sent off to the private school in secret as a young girl; she had longed to be reunited with her beloved mother, but it had been so many years she had all but given up hope. Yet now here she stood, once again in the arms of her mother who Crystyl couldn’t help but notice looked exactly as she remembered her to – though she quickly dismissed the thought as an incoherent memory from so long ago, "I love you too, mother."
Kuci stepped back from their embrace and looked between her two new guests. Her gaze quickly falling upon Crystyl’s Sith prisoner, "Lord Lendaria" She announced almost as a summons. After a quick sideways glance of reassurance to Dee-Anne, Lendaria stepped forwards towards Kuci and knelt before the powerful Sith, "Master; I am pleased to report that my mission to Ilum went exactly as you foretold." Both Dee-Anne and Crystyl stood awestruck – neither of them having had even a slight suspicion that what appeared to now be unfolding in front of them could ever have been the case. Kuci smiled down at Lendaria and encouraged back her to her feet with a gentle touch on the shoulder, "You have performed admirably my apprentice, even in the wake of your mother’s demise – for which you have my deepest sympathies." Lendaria cocked her head to the side slightly, "So you did know that she would die there?" Kuci shook her head before turning and pacing around the chamber, "Lendaria, remember what I have taught you about the fluidity of the Force in its infinite possibilities. Even I cannot predict the future with such certainty... That being said, your mother’s death did appear likely from what I envisioned. But take solace – young one – in the knowledge that Major Storrm is now one with the Force and rejoice in the fact that for however short a time it may have been, you did experience that which your heart desired above all else: to have your mother back in your life." Lendaria smiled with the memory of that moment when she first laid eyes upon her mother back on Ilum, "I do Master, thank you."
Allowing her Jedi guest to continue in silent observation for the time being, Kuci turned her attention back to her daughter, "Now Crystyl, I know you have many unanswered questions. But first tell me; do you recall the day I had to send you away?" Crystyl nodded silently, unable to form words in Kuci’s presence since she found herself feeling like the scared young girl who once clutched to the leg of her mother’s robe to shield herself from Dromund Kaas’ storms. "I am pleased my daughter. You will recall then; how I told you that the day would come when you would rise above your station and take your place at my side. Crystyl... That day is now upon us." Crystyl’s eyes widened once more, though she could still find no words to offer her mother. Kuci reached out and brushed Crystyl’s hair to one side with her fingertips, smiling gently with the thought that after so many years her daughter still tried to use her hair to cover the cybernetic implant visible over her right eye. "Crystyl, it is time for us to remove this implant which you loathe so much. Now as difficult as this may be to hear for you my daughter; I must tell you that you are Force sensitive – you have been since the day you were born, perhaps on some level you have come to suspect this already. I had to give you this implant when you were still a baby in order to suppress this in you."
Crystyl’s brow furrowed as what Kuci was telling her started to sink in, "Why would you do that to me mother? You know I spent my entire childhood feeling I was a disappointment to you because I wasn’t Force sensitive!" Kuci could see the tears swelling in her daughter’s eyes and quickly moved to embrace the girl once more, "I am truly sorry my Princess – had there been any other choice I would have taken it in a heartbeat. You have no idea how much it pained me not only to hide your true nature from you, but then to see you suffer in silence all those years because of it." Crystyl pulled away from their embrace just far enough to look Kuci in the eye, "Then why mother?" Kuci stared back into her daughters big brown watery eyes, "Because you needed to stay pure my child; had I allowed your true nature to be known you would have been taken away to the Sith Academy at a very young age, and growing up in that place would have corrupted you beyond measure. Doing what I did allowed me to keep you safe from such corruption and ultimately led to you being the person you are today: The finest Imperial Intelligence has... or had to offer, and more importantly with the purest of hearts. But now my sweet daughter with your life in the Intelligence Service behind you, it is time for you to begin anew... as my apprentice." Crystyl still struggled to believe what her mother was saying, yet somehow deep in her subconscious she knew that it was all true. After a moment’s contemplation, she knelt before Kuci and took her hand, "I am yours to teach mother. It will be an honour to learn from your wisdom." Kuci smiled with a mother’s pride once more – a feeling she had long forgotten the sensation of – as she encouraged Crystyl back to her feet, "Come then my daughter. Let us remove this implant and set you on your destined path." Before departing Kuci turned her attention back to her existing apprentice – Lendaria, "Apprentice, please see to our guest. We will convene in my private chambers shortly.", "Very good my Lord." Lendaria bowed her head briefly before turning away with Dee-Anne in tow.
Kuci’s private chamber was a marvel in Dee-Anne’s eyes; never before had she seen such a diverse collection of obscure ancient artefacts and writings – many of which in languages she had never even seen. Lendaria watched with a playful smile as Dee-Anne wandered the room admiring all that befell her gaze, "Quite the collection isn’t it?" Dee-Anne turned to face Lendaria who remained seated at a central table sipping at her drink, "I’ve never seen anything like it! These artefacts – some I recognise the styles, like Rakata. But many of these are completely foreign to me. Has your master taught you about them at all?" Lendaria rose to address Dee-Anne’s question, taking a more formal posture with her hands folded behind her back, "Only one: the relic which she sent me to retrieve on Ilum." Dee-Anne blinked a few times in quick succession as her mind traced back, "Of course, I can’t believe I almost forgot about that. So what is the significance of it?" "Perhaps I could answer that for you..." Kuci announced as she entered the chambers, "...But first, allow me to re-introduce you to my daughter, Crystyl." Stepping aside she gestured with an open hand back towards the doorway behind her.
Crystyl entered and stood proudly at her mother’s side, allowing Lendaria and Dee-Anne to take in the full extent of her makeover; from the way she now parted her hair at the front to accent the absence of her old cortical implant down the flowing black and purple robes which clearly took inspiration from Kuci’s own style, right back up to the protrusion of a Cathar Honour Sword over her shoulder. Both of the girls were rather surprised by sight of a would be Sith without a lightsaber, and Crystyl could seemingly read their surprise, "It actually makes a lot of sense when you think about it..." she opened whilst casually drawing the impressive blade from behind her back – allowing the dual blades to slide out to their open position with a smooth metallic clink, "...considering that I’ve worked with blades during my entire life as an Imperial Operative, I think this makes for a rather fitting choice: True to the style of the new with distinct undertones of the old." Neither Dee-Anne nor Lendaria could pick fault with Crystyl’s logic and both girls acknowledged her wise choice with a subtle nod of the head.
Kuci stepped forward towards Lendaria and held out her hand with an open palm, "Now about this relic which piqued the curiosity for you girls..." Lendaria pulled the carefully wrapped relic from her pack and placed it into her masters waiting hand. Kuci studied it for a moment before gently removing the rags, "...And there it is. My, it’s been a long time since I laid eyes upon this, never did I expect that I would one day be holding it in my hands." She held the relic up to better observe its features under the light. What Dee-Anne saw in Kuci’s hand was a rather unremarkable battle-weary face mask – not unlike those worn by the Mandalorian’s she had encountered, only this one was clearly a lot older and had seen a great deal more action than those she could liken it to. "So what is the significance of this... relic?" she asked as Kuci continued to study it, taking in every detail and blemish with a curious fascination, "This mask once adorned the face of a powerful Jedi who was driven to madness by the Emperor. I duelled with this Jedi a long time ago and defeated him before he escaped into the Force. More recently I came to understand that he was needed in order for the Force to find balance, and so have spent years searching for a way to bring him back: This relic – his mask – will allow us to do just that... this will allow us to complete the ritual that will return Darth Revan, and through his return the splintered factions of Force users across this galaxy will again be united as they once were!" Kuci turned her attention towards her daughter, "Crystyl, as my daughter and my apprentice I am trusting you to safely deliver Revan’s mask into the hands of Darth Arkous. He is a Revanite and can perform the required ritual; assist him as far as necessary in order to complete this goal then return to me.", "Yes mother, it will be done." Crystyl replied with a respectful bow, "But what of Dee-Anne? Since we now know that Lendaria is also your apprentice I know she is where she belongs. But Dee-Anne does not belong on Korriban, and I still have Havoc Squad aboard my ship – the Republic unit that was commanded by Lendaria’s mother – Storrm – on Ilum, and I am still under oath to return them safely home."
Kuci considered her daughter for a moment, admiring the headstrong commitment to honouring her word, "It would seems that fate is conspiring in our favour then, since I also have a guest who is due to disembark for Coruscant." Each as surprised as the other to hear this; Crystyl, Dee-Anne and Lendaria all looked around one another in the vain hope that someone might know who this new guest may be but of course, none did. Entering as though on cue from a door at the opposite end of Kuci’s private chamber, a figure appeared and promptly approached the group. Coming further into the light, the figure clearly had short bobbed hair in a deep red shade and wore what looked like Jedi Knight garbs, "Dee-Anne, it would be my absolute pleasure to see you and your guests from Havoc Squad safely back to Corscuant." "
Dee-Anne squinted in an effort to make out the face of this person who expressed such familiarity with her, until the figure stepped chose enough to be seen clearly, "Master?!" she could not believe that her new master – the one which had set her along the path which ultimately led to where she now stood – was here... on Korriban. "Yes Dee-Anne, it is me: Aeoni. I know this is a lot to take in, but... perhaps it would help for you to understand that Kuci is my twin sister." Dee-Anne’s eyes grew wide as her mind desperately worked to comprehend the magnitude of this situation.
Allowing her apprentice a pause for thought, Aeoni turned her attention to Kuci, "Sister, I see you have another new apprentice." She teased, Kuci smiled back before turning her gaze upon Crystyl, "Aeoni this is my daughter, Crystyl – your niece." "Oh but of course! Crystyl I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to finally look upon you with my own eyes after years of listening to your mother speak of you with such pride. It really is nice to see you back home at last; you tell me if there is anything you need now won’t you?" Crystyl thanked Aeoni with a smile and a respectful bow of the head allowing Aeoni to turn her attention back to Kuci, "And I trust Lendaria was successful on Ilum also, seeing how Dee-Anne is standing here next to her?" Kuci’s eyes seemed to glisten slightly as she revealed Revan’s mask to Aeoni who tentatively took it in her hands, "Wow... I only knew him briefly after pulling him from the Emperor’s prison, he talked about this mask when we... ahem, that night. But to see it for myself now it seems so... unremarkable." Kuci smiled as she took the mask back from Aeoni and handed it to Crystyl, "Go now my daughter, it is time to meet your destiny as the architect of our future. Set in motion the chain of events that will ultimately bring peace and tranquillity to this galaxy."
Aeoni moved to Crystyl’s side and wrapped her arm around the young woman’s shoulders, "Come now Crystyl, I will collect your guests at the orbital station and the walk with give us time to talk." With Dee-Anne following close behind, they made their way out of Kuci’s chambers leaving Lendaria behind with her master, "So my Lord, what happens now?" Kuci considering the rapidly maturing apprentice in front of her for a moment and marvelled at how much of herself she could see in Lendaria at times, "Now we wait. Even once Darth Arkous completes the ritual to bring back Revan it will take considerable time for the Revanites to gather enough strength to confront both the Empire and Republic at the same time." Lendaria cocked her head to the side, "Master, you speak of the Revanites the same way you speak of the Empire and Republic – as though you are not a part of their movement – why is that?" "I think you already know the answer to that question my apprentice." Lendaria narrowed her eyes as she stared into Kuci’s bright golden eyes as though the answers may be hidden there, she felt she could almost see Kuci's eyes glowing. Just as the young apprentice was about to give up in confusion she felt something – a resurgence through the Force – and in that instant, her eyes grew wide with wondrous possibility as the truth of her Master, herself, the family, their involvement with the Revanites, and so much more all came flooding into her mind. A wry smile formed across Lendaria’s face with the truth written all over it, "I understand Master." She spoke with the upmost respect as she knelt before Kuci who placed a reassuring hand on her apprentice’s shoulder. Kuci smiled proudly down at Lendaria, "Come; there is much to be done."