Tales of Darth Skuldren
Chapter 1: Introduction
During the end of the New Sith Wars, during the reign of the Brotherhood of Darkness, this tale takes place...
A being of average height stood ominously over a chair. He was clad in dark robes offset by his shimmering eyes. Their grey stare pierced like daggers with an intensity that unnerved the man sitting before him; a young Jedi Knight.
Struggling within his restraints, the Jedi made another attempt at freeing himself. He closed his eyes and brought a blanket of calm over his conscience. Focus. Focus. Nothing. It was no use. Ever since he was captured, he had found himself powerless in the Force.
His captor turned and smiled. “You just don’t give up, do you.”
Pacing in front of the chair, the dark robed man addressed his captive. “I have severed you from the force. It will not return unless I will it. Now please, stop trying to escape, it divides your attention.”
With his black-gloved hands tucked behind his back, the dark robed man turned away. “First, let me introduce myself. I am Darth Skuldren, and you are…?” He paused, waiting for a response.
Begrudgingly, the Jedi cast an irritated glare and replied, “Codal Rayn, Jedi Knight.”
“And what do you think of my home master Rayn?” Asked Skuldren.
Rayn glanced around the room. It was a vast, gloomy library. Rows upon rows of ancient books were neatly stacked on the endless shelves. The room was large but there were no windows, just bookshelves and a solitary reading table. Heavy-duty industrial lights illuminated the green stone floor and black marble walls. A myriad collage of eerie shadows crisscrossed the expanse.
“I asked you a question, my friend.” Skuldren’s voice was calm and articulate.
“Seems lonely. Kind of place that gives you the spooks at night.” Rayn looked back at his inquisitor.
“Yes, it is very lonely. You know I was exiled here by my masters. They presented it as a gift. An old abandoned library of neglected books and several non-functioning holocrons.” Skuldren turned his piercing eyes on the Jedi. “They told me to fix the holocrons and return when I was successful. The answers lie in the Sith texts. But it was all a lie.” His gaze floated off into the distance.
“So what now. Are you going to kill me or torture me or both?” Rayn said these words with a resolute defiance. He would face his destiny no matter what. Even in death, he would go with courage.
“Torture.” The word rolled off the Sith’s tongue and hung in the silence.
* * *
Three days ago Codal Rayne was walking peacefully along an empty street. It was early, the sun was still creeping over the horizon, and the streets were still damp with morning dew. Roe pigeons were scavenging through the garbage, digging for precious morsels of food. Life was thriving. Changing. Adapting.
As he strolled along, he reflected on his mission.
The Jedi Council had formed a task force to deal with a rogue Sith. He and three other Jedi were sent to the Bogdel system to try and find this Sith Lord and put a stop to him.
Right now Jedi Masters Mulser and Wasseur were investigating leads on another planet. That left Rayn and Jedi Knight Vok Quetel among the bliss of this beautiful city. Rolain Maxis was a bustling city and a center for the arts. Elegant sculptures marked every corner, music played over city-run audio systems, and garish paintings adorned the sides of towering skyscrapers.
Rayne and Quetel had been the honored guests of the city since the day they arrived. Day after day they attended banquets and balls. They met with numerous political hosts and chatted endlessly about what the Republic thought of the new Inner Rim Bill. The Jedi took it all in stride. Their mission was elsewhere.
The plan was simple. The Jedi would announce their arrival in the system and would attend as many public events as possible. They wanted attention. Hopefully it would attract the Sith Lord they were looking for.
Rayne remembered being briefed by Master Wasseur; her words were frank. “There is a Sith Lord who has been kidnapping Jedi for some time now. His third victim returned last week. The council has determined to bring him into justice. So far the war has drained the strength of our order. There will only be four of us.”
At the time, four sounded like plenty. Rayne was fresh from passing the trials and had just gotten used to his new title as Jedi Knight. Anything was possible.
Now the gleam was gone. The stories had sunk in. During their journey, he read over the case files on the other three victims. All of them were taken by complete surprise. There was no warning in the Force. In fact, all of the victims noted that while in captivity none of them was able to make a connection to the Force.
In a remote location they were interrogated by a Sith. He talked to them. Talked. When Rayn read that, he was taken back. What kind of Sith would take the time to capture Jedi and talk to them. According to the reports the conversations were varied. Sometimes he revealed details of himself. Sometimes he lectured about philosophy. But one thing was constant. Each victim came back shaken. Visibly shaken.
Whatever was discussed somehow rocked the fundamental teachings of the Jedi Order. It caused the Jedi to question their beliefs. One of the captives was a respected Jedi Master. His mental state after the ordeal was what spurred the council to act.
There was more to this Sith than it seemed.
All of these thoughts flowed through the young Jedi’s mind as he walked down the sidewalk. Listening to soothing music flow from the curbside speakers. Pigeons cooing over their morning meal. Blissfully. Unaware.
* * *
And here he was. Taken by surprise and held captive in some Sith’s library retreat.
And the Force was nowhere to be found.
“You look startled. I would say even pallid.” Toyed the Sith as he continued to pace. A thin, black mustache curled with his smile. “What stories have they told…surely you know?” His eyes paused on Rayn’s face. They were looking for an answer.
Surely he can read my thoughts. Even a padawan could see my fears through the Force. Thought Rayne.
“I’m not going to torture you, not unless knowledge is painful to you.” His black cloaks fluttered as he spun on his heel.
Rayne didn’t know whether to be relieved or not. Sith were natural liars. Right now he couldn’t use the Force to determine one way or another.
“Why do you think the Force was given to us by the galaxy?” Asked Skuldren. His thin lips curled slightly at the corners of his mouth. It was a smirk.
Curtly Rayn retorted, “Enlighten me.”
“Very well.” Skuldren pulled out a chair from a nearby table and sat down. “In the beginning we did not have any supernatural powers, not like today. There were no Jedi, no Sith, no Force-sensitives. Everyone was equal. There was balance.”
Rayne watched the Sith relax comfortably in his chair. It only made Rayn’s discomfort worse.
Skuldren continued, “When hyperspace travel was discovered, everything changed. Soon governments were formed over governments. Thousands of species were traveling the stars and at some point they all came together and formed a galactic government.” Skuldren paused to make sure Rayn was listening. “And as with all governments it faltered. No one had the ability to rule that many people at one time. The amount of force required led to bloody battles of unification and chaos. Political committees had too many voices and no one could come to an agreement, thus the Force was born.” He emphasized his point, raising his brow and sweeping his hand before him.
“You see, the Force was given to us so that we could lead the galaxy out of chaos and into relative harmony. Peace, mind you, is an ideal that cannot be achieved. It is merely strived towards.” Skuldren’s eyes hovered upon his audience.
Rayne picked up the cue. “So you think the Jedi fouled up by passing the reigns of government off to the people of the galaxy. I guess the Sith have it right then. We should all bow down to them and their superior power.” The sarcasm was laid on thick.
“You’re not being fare.” Skuldren frowned. His pale cheeks blushed in the artificial light. “You were right about the Jedi though. But wrong about the Sith.”
That statement unsettled Rayne. He had to stop and think a second. Things were falling in to place. Skuldren said he was exiled here by his masters. His thoughts must have run contradictory with the rest of his peers. To be outcaste in a time of war was pretty bad. What would drive the Sith to get rid of him and yet not kill him?
Skuldren interrupted the Jedi’s thoughts. “The Jedi have one thing right. The darkside is evil and it should be avoided. Lord Nihilus was proof of the dangers of its power. Of all the Sith I know of, he was the only one in the entire history of the order to give himself completely to its will. The hunger of the darkside consumed him until he no longer existed. He became an embodiment of darkness. My fellow Sith do not see the danger. They think they can drink from the dark wells of the Force and control its desires. In time it takes them all.” Silence again engulfed the room.
“So you don’t use the darkside…how did you ever survive training as a Sith Lord?” Curiosity had peeked Rayn’s interest.
Skuldren rose from his seat. He faced the black marble wall before him. A ghostly reflection stared back. “That is another story.” His voice was soft, little more than a whisper. Turning, his gaze lingered on the floor.
* * *
Later that evening, Darth Skuldren returned. He had brought food for Rayn to eat.
“Do not worry, it is neither poisoned nor drugged.” Skuldren assured him.
“I think I’m too hungry to care.” Retorted Rayn. He dove into the food. It was a mix of vegetables, meat, and noodles with a thin sweet sauce.
Skuldren stared off amongst his books. He was lost in thought. “Do you know the secret of lightsaber combat?”
Lightsaber combat. You got to be kidding. Why in all the moons would this Sith Lord want to reveal a combat secret?
“I bet your instructors don’t teach you this…first you must study the use of swords, real swords, not these beams of light.” He revealed a polished and intricately engraved lightsaber, holding it up so that if gleamed in the light.
The handle was long enough to accommodate a two handed grip. A snarled dragon adorned one end while the tail curled around the other. That was where the beam would be emitted.
Skuldren tucked the lightsaber back within his robes. “After that, you must abandon the seven classic lightsaber forms. They are taught only because it is easier to instruct by grouping things into categories. Each form is broken down into movements and sets that are memorized. Half of the battle lies in predicting your opponent’s attack. If you know the sets, you know his moves. Your opponent becomes predictable. Thus you must form your own style from the start. No one will recognize your movements and if they do, they will be surprised when you seamlessly flow in another direction. Your movements must be natural, not segmented. Most Force users spend years trying to unlearn the sets and act on instinct-”
Without warning, Skuldren’s face was slammed against the wall. He fell to the floor from the force of the blow. Slowly he rose to his feet, regaining his composure.
Before him stood three Jedi. Judging from their stance, he ventured to guess that two of them were masters.
Quickly, they acted. Master Mulser freed Rayn from his restraints and gave him a lightsaber. Meanwhile Quetel and Master Wasseur pooled their Force strength together and enclosed Skuldren in a stasis field.
In a matter of moments, the captor had become the captive.
“Please do not kill me. I beg of you to show me mercy.” Clad in his black robes, the Dark Lord fell to his knees and groveled. “There is no cause for a fight,” he pointed off to the side at Rayn, “you see, no harm was done.” His eyes begged as much as the expressions on his face. “I was only looking for some company. It is so lonely out here by myself, ever since my masters abandoned me in exile.” Pathetic eyes deploringly searched the Jedi for sympathy. “I’ll do whatever you ask, just spare me my life.”
Nodding to each other the Jedi Masters came to agreement; they felt truth in his words.
Rayn stood in shock. He couldn’t believe the transformation of the man before him. At one moment his captor was imposing and full of power. He was emboldened to the point that he felt the need to show mercy to his captive. Now this Dark Lord of the Sith stood on his knees begging for his life. Completely powerless. Where had that power gone? Was it ever really there to begin with?
“Codal, can you touch the Force?” Asked Master Wasseur.
Rayn looked down deep within himself and was surprised to find that soothing comfort of the Force waiting for him. “But how-”
“He was using a Sith disturbance device. It prevents a Force user from finding his connection in the Force.” Master Mulser tossed a black metallic device into the air.
Rayn caught it. So this was how he did it. It was all a trick. An imposter.
Master Wasseur raised her voice, filling it with authority, “Alright Sith, it’s over. Surrender your cloak and your lightsaber.”
Reluctantly, Skuldren complied. He removed his flowing cloak and dropped his lightsaber to the ground. The metal cylinder clanged on the stone floor. Gently, he kicked the sword across the room.
“Now you will wear this disturbance band. It will secure itself around your neck, and much like your device, it will render you powerless in the Force.” Cautiously, Master Wasseur approached the Sith and snapped the band around his throat.
Skuldren’s kidnapping days were over.
* * *
Outside a Jedi Consular 5B interdictor-sloop was waiting. Its sleek hull was a new innovation by Alderaan Royal Engineers, famous for their luxury yachts and exotic starships. The Jedi Knights boarded first, Skuldren followed, and the Jedi Masters brought up the rear. On board, they secured Skuldren in a specially installed containment cell. In his cell, Skuldren sat cross-legged in a simple gray tunic. He looked at peace.
The two Jedi Knights stood guard, while the masters piloted the craft. And so began their long journey back to the core. The fate of Darth Skuldren was in their hands.
Three minutes after hitting hyperspace, the two Jedi Knights spontaneously collided in the ancient meeting of the minds. A sharp crack could be heard as their skulls hit. Their bodies thumped to the deck. Meanwhile Skuldren’s cell door opened and the Dark Lord strolled out of his temporary prison.
Quickly he grabbed a lightsaber and headed for the cabin.
The starry, ethereal stripes of hyperspace streaked by beyond the cockpit window. Master Wasseur glanced casually over at her copilot. He was oddly crumpled in his seat, a humming blue bade stuck out of his chest. A disturbing gurgling noise crept out of his throat. Behind him stood a figure dressed in gray. His face was emotionless, his eyes intense.
Instantly Master Wasseur reacted, igniting her emerald-green blade and rapidly striking out at the escaped Sith.
Careful to control her emotions, Master Wasseur fought with a cool, inner calm, but without the Force.
So he could sever Jedi from the Force, it wasn’t a trick at all. That didn’t matter, she told herself. She had trained for many years in lightsaber combat and her skills were something even a Sith Lord couldn’t take away.
For two dramatic minutes of intense parries, slashes, and thrusts, they fought. It seemed to Master Wasseur that the Sith “Lord” was holding back, he wasn’t using the Force to enhance his strength or speed.
With a master’s skill, his lightsaber form was simple and effective. He’s using Shii-Cho, Form I.
Form I was a lethal and competent lightsaber form but it lacked finesse. Master Wasseur sought to end this conflict with an advanced Makashi sequence. Form II’s elegance and superior technique could easily counteract Shii-Cho’s simplicity. She aimed at opening up her opponent’s defenses amid an attack. When the moment was right, she would unleash a surprise sun djem strike to disarm the Sith’s weapon.
Suddenly Skuldren let loose with a double feint, followed by a full thrust with his blue blade. The Jedi Master parried the saber away with a double tap then instantly struck inside her opponent’s defenses toward his hand.
That’s when something odd happened. She looked down and saw the hilt of another lightsaber, its green blade extending into her stomach. Falling to her knees she realized the Sith had picked up both lightsabers from the two Jedi Knights. Now the green blade thrummed in the silence of the cabin. Only now did the aftermath of their battle set in.
The pilot and copilot seats were singed in half. Drop panels hung haphazardly from the ceiling, exposed wires snapping in the air. And there was Master Mulser’s motionless body, hunched over on the deck. His lifeless eyes stared back.
Shutting down his lightsabers, Skuldren sat down in the remains of the navigator’s chair. He looked Master Wasseur full in the eyes and cracked a carnivorous grin. “If you always want to win in a contest, use a wildcard. Surprise works every time. I would tell you more but I’m afraid you would miss all the key points.” His eyes were captivating but felt eerily hungry as he gazed at the Jedi Master.
Wasseur wanted to reply but her voice failed her.
“Ah, you want to know how I escaped.” He rose from his chair. “That disturbance necklace is part of a ritual in the Tucano Cults of Meditation. The irritating sounds and vibrations are used to block out interfering thoughts. It creates a state of pure and utter focus, thus I severed the guards from the Force and escaped.” Coyly he tilted his head, “You Jedi always underestimated me. The reason my masters exiled me was because I was too powerful. I was born with the ability to sever people from the Force with ease. My masters were rendered powerless before me. The only thing that infuriated them more was my refusal to help them conquer the galaxy. So here we are.”
The blackness of space silhouetted his gray form. “There are only two bright possibilities in your future. One would be if I knew the lost arts of Krudesh, the ancient powers of life. I could bring you back from the brink of death or even create from anew. Alas those scrolls were destroyed in the Katarri Wars of Jentel.” He looked sullen; those last words brought him sorrow.
Krudesh. Krudesh. Where had she heard that before…
Regaining his focus he went on, “The other bright spot is that sun over there.” Turning, he pointed out the portside cabin window. “I’m going to crash this ship straight into it at full blast. Of course it will dishearten you to know that I will leave the ship before then, but it may bring you peace to know that your companions will survive.”
He stood and began to leave. Then he cocked his head back as if remembering something. “May the Force brighten your life from this moment on and shine into the depths of the astral planes.”
She recognized it as a quote from a famous Jedi Master who lived long ago, but who…the pain was too much. It clouded her thoughts. Those questions would have to wait.
And with that he left. The clunk of an escape pod shooting off and the tremors of the massive gravity well of the sun were the last things she felt. Sweltering heat struck her with such a force that death was instant. Soothing sounds of harmony took her into the afterlife. All was one, all was knowing, and the story of Darth Skuldren was thus revealed to her.
* * *
Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1782-AZL of the Jedi Archives
Personal Note: These recordings were gathered from Jedi Master Wasseur’s holocron. It was acquired from Skuldren’s personal belongings. This Darth Skuldren could necessitate further research. I shall have to inquire the Jedi Council to lend one of the masters to unlock some of the deeper levels of Wasseur’s holocron, it is unlike any other. Perhaps something of these Krudesh powers can be discovered.
-Jedi Knight Azel Mustar
Tales of Darth Skuldren
“What’s in a Name”
Many years ago lived the Sith Lord Darth Skuldren, the guardian of Sith knowledge. No one in all of history learned as much about the force and its makings as he did. By the time of his demise he had assembled a following of over 10,000 Sith in his own private empire. His library contained the largest collection of Holocrons in existence and included the lost arts of Krudesh. Yet long before these accomplishments he had to earn his place among the Sith. He had to earn his name.
On the dark, cold plains of Heldogi, a young man turned twenty-three. Wind rustled through his cropped brown hair as he stood against the breeze. To his left stood his teacher Darth Cabal. Cabal spoke in a strong voice, one that emphasized command, and one that spoke of years of service on the front lines. As a general, Darth Cabal had earned the respect of his enemies. A jagged scar ran along his left forearm. It was a memento he inherited from a two and a half meter Whipid, whose tusks hung from the general’s neck. Above them sat two cold blue eyes that could burn a hold through your very soul. Today he had a special challenge for his student.
“Look out into the horizon my shadow and what do you see?” Cabal aimed his piercing eyes at his student waiting for his reply.
“I see the path to my future and a lesson that awaits.” Replied the perceptive student.
Cabal’s weathered face cracked a sly grin, “I’m glad you accept it.” Pointing out towards the glooming jungles in the distance, “Your name awaits you my shadow, go and fetch me the skulls of the only creature you have yet to kill on this forsaken planet. Bring me the bloodied trophy of a heldog.”
“My master, it shall be done.”
And with that the apprentice struck out across the plains to the beckoning calls of the jungle. The heldog was not a creature to be underestimated. Big game hunters from all across the Mid Rim quested relentlessly for such an impressive trophy. Few returned with their lives. Heldogs were protected with an unnaturally tough hide. An adaptation that protected them from their natural predators, whom they annihilated. Regardless, their hides were impenetrable. Even lightsabers struggled to pierce their massive hides. Some Sith tried to train the heldogs to be guardians. The result was a slaughter and with six dead students and two dead teachers the academy learned to leave the heldogs alone. Each of the animals had two snarling heads surrounded by a flared mane. Their leathery hides were camouflaged and covered in poisonous barbs. Their bodies were built like nekk battle dogs, but of a greater size. A full grown male stood six meters above the ground. This was a trophy earned in blood.
Upon entering the jungle everything the apprentice had ever read about Heldogi came flooding back to him. His passion for knowledge had its benefits. Nevertheless the most useful weapon he had right now was experience. For the last fourteen years he had been hunting this jungle and this would not be the first time he had encountered a heldog. All of the species on this planet had at one time or another been at the receiving end of his blade. He relished the hunt and sought to make it fair. Using a stone knife crafted from the surface of this sordid planet he engaged his prey. Each time he made sure it knew that this was a battle to the death. Sometimes he would stalk an animal for weeks to make sure it was worthy of the challenge. He was saving the heldog for last.
Three days from here was a system of caves, a place of battle, the lair of the beasts. They didn’t actually live in the caves, but their prey did. Fat, furry quadrupeds that scurried out of their holes to feast on morning flies. During the early hours of dawn the heldogs snatched the furry morsels as they raced back into their caves. Lurking within the undergrowth these massive beasts laid in wait. The apprentice’s first consideration was masking his scent. A set of ratta glands hung from his belt, setting off such a musky scent that the heldogs would smell him coming, but would not register him as a threat. Next he muffled his steps with some soft leaves and twine. As he neared the caves he spied a good lookout point, high atop the caves, yet well concealed by foliage. Under the blanket of darkness he made his bed and slept for the first time in days. Dreams came and went.
They were broken by the shrill whining of lizard monkeys. Eyes filled with sleep struggled to open. Sunlight glared through the jungle canopy. His nose burned from the stench of the glands he wore, but at least they were doing their job. The force was but a whisper to him, yet it was enough. Today would be the day. Sliding out from under the foliage he crawled through the mud on his belly. It was still early, the furry creatures were still gathering the last of the morning flies on their long, sticky tongues. Then it was there. Filling his entire vision with the brown blur of a landslide. A heldog pounced down from above crushing three of the furry runts beneath giant paws. Now was the time to act.
Lunging towards its neck, the apprentice grabbed the heldog’s mane and hoisted himself on top of the behemoth’s back. Protecting himself from the poisonous barbs he used the hair of the mane. Holding on tightly he resisted the thrashing of the beast. Severing himself from the outside world he entered a state of calm. The spirit of battle was with him. Unsheathing his knife he prepared to make the final stroke. Snap. Death swung swiftly from the cutting of an outstretched vine. It was an elaborate trap. Three trees glided down from the canopy and smashed into the heldog’s sides. By stunning the beast he gained enough time to make his attack. Impossibly tough hide made penetration impossible, but by stabbing the animal he could still bruise its major arteries. In a rapid sequence the apprentice hit four arteries in specific order, thus causing a blood clot to shoot through the brutes veins and slam into his brain killing him instantly. With a tremendous crash the heldog fell. Now came the hard part, cutting off its heads. Slowly but doggedly his lightsaber went to the task.
After six days Master Cabal’s shadow returned from the jungles. Covered in blood were two huge lumps being dragged behind him. Cabal laughed and began clapping. His apprentice succeeded in doing the improbable. He had indeed earned his name.
“From now on you shall be known as Darth Skuldren, Lord of the Sith.” The master’s voice boomed in the air. Darth Skuldren knelt before his master. A lightsaber graced each shoulder once and with his master’s nod he rose as an equal. “You have grown into a true weapon of the darkside. Where your force skills lack, your combat skills exceed. You have the talent of a killer and the heart of a warrior. Be careful. Trust and honor are lacking in the Sith. We are not the way of the warrior. It saddens me that the order has been overrun with traitors and that power is now gained from betrayal. Yet miracles never cease. You are a true warrior, one of a dying breed.” The master’s words beamed with pride. For Skuldren, it was the happiest moment of his life.
Cabal again embraced his student and friend, “From now on go forth on your own objectives. Do what you please and let no one stand in your way. The council is waiting for you. They will have an assignment. Part of it will please you. The other half will alienate you. They see you as a threat, they always have. Since they cannot stop you they will exile you. The cowards are too scared to say so openly, so they will hand it to you like a reward. Take it and leave them forever, all of them, the entire Sith hierarchy.” His eyes looked saddened, emotion welled up and his master parted with one brief farewell, “Start anew my friend, If I were you, I’d start my own group of Sith. You won’t see me again. I’m heading out to the Outer Rim. Do a bit of exploring. Let the luck of the stars be upon you!” It was the last time master and apprentice would see each other.
Skuldren went in to the inner chambers of the Sith council. Three Sith Lords stood before him. From the shadows they appeared as glooming wraiths wrapped in black cloaks. Their fear and ambition flooded the force in an unbearable stench. One of the Lords stepped forward, and in a rasping voice “Your title is well earned Lord Skuldren, we have a great faith in your abilities.” The lies rolling off of his tongue revolted Skuldren. He knew that they despised him because of his lack of power in the force. They would have killed him if it wasn’t for his ability of force severing. With that power alone he could bring the most powerful force users to their knees.
“The council has decided to give you your first mission. We want you to take over guardianship of the Sith Record of Ocaron. You will be receiving three holocrons which the Sith need explored. When you can unlock their inner secrets you are to report back to us your findings so that we may elevate you among the ranks of the Sith. Pack your belongings and leave tonight. A ship will be waiting for you in the courtyard. Do not disappoint us Lord Skuldren. That is all.” There was nothing to say, so Skuldren bowed, turned his back and left. He knew he would not return. First of all, it wasn’t expected. They intended this mission to be his exile. None of the Great Lords of the Sith had been able to decipher the three strange holocrons. Their secrets awaited Darth Skuldren. Whatever power locked within them would be his and his alone.
That night he packed his skull collection and his small library. For a Sith, he had quite a few belongings. Through the darkness he loaded his stuff on the ship and bid this planet its due. Ripping through the atmosphere a small ship headed out in to the unknowns. A place where many lessons awaited.
Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1782-AZL of the Jedi Archives
Personal Note: Now we know Skuldren’s master and a point of origin, Heldogi. There may still be some ruins worth investigating. I haven’t found anything on a Darth Cabal. He doesn’t seem to exist in the archives. However, Jedi Master Fulumn unlocked three new chambers in the 2nd holocron today. Perhaps they will contain information on the Krudesh scrolls. Somehow I feel that these holocrons are the key to unraveling the Krudesh mystery. Imagine, the power to create life!
“Taking An Apprentice”
Once I tried to remedy my solitude by kidnapping Jedi. Now I have an audience of Sith pupils. Darth Skuldren commenting on his Sith Academy on Kajji XII.
This Darth Skuldren must be stopped. A Sith Lord who kidnaps Jedi is bad enough, but now he has killed two Jedi Masters and a Jedi Knight. We must find him and quickly. Jedi Master Sederis urging action on the behalf of his slain friend, Jedi Master Yasmein Wasseur, to the Jedi Council.
On a remote planet in Wild Space lies a towering network of fortresses. From the high walls a visitor can see across miles of open rolling planes. A great river rushes through the green expanses to the Southwest. Yet some thousands of years ago there were battles fought and wars ended at this very spot. All that remains is a hollowed maze of a fortified city. But that will not last long. For nearly two years Sith apprentices have been showing up at this isolated retreat. All of them searching for a fabled Sith Master who knew long forgotten secrets about the force. Most of them were met by a feeble old man who told them bizarre tales of how he had slain mythical creatures. They ignored his ramblings and left irritated beyond measure. A chosen few were revealed the truth. The master they were searching for stood before them. If they wished, they could stay and learn. Beneath the ruins was a reconstructed library filled with priceless works on the force. Several barracks were set up for lightsaber training and combat drills. What seemed to be a mass of rubble was really a fledgling Sith Academy. Its ranks were open only to candidates who fulfilled the necessary requirements.
“And what requirements might those be?” they would ask.
“To be a student of the force and a leader of yourself. Those who seek to be a master over the force will find themselves a servant. Those who seek to be leaders over everyone will be overthrown into the grave. Walk the right path and you will go far,” replied Darth Skuldren.
“When can I begin?”
“You already have.” And with that he would show them the inner workings of his home.
Times were well for Darth Skuldren, but just over two years ago he almost met his maker…
The Jedi Council was swayed to take action against a rogue Sith Lord who managed to kill three Jedi, including two masters. A Jedi taskforce was formed and led by Jedi Master Jhung Sederis. Time was of the essence. The Jedi had to act quickly while they knew where the base of the Sith Lord was. If they could get there before he relocated his archives they could take him. Of course this was assuming that there was something still of worth on Ocaron for the Sith to return. It was a gamble Sederis was willing to take. Besides, it was the best bet he had.
Unlike the other Jedi on the taskforce, this was personal to Sederis. Sure they all felt a loss for their fallen comrades, but during these dark times Jedi where dying everyday. Sederis could not keep himself from forming a bound with Jedi Master Wasseur, even though attachment was forbidden to the Jedi. She was a fluid motion of the force and a wind that would not be still. At least, that is how he envisioned her. Secretly he loved her, yet he would not allow himself to act on it. There was no denying that she felt it too, nevertheless, they agreed to remain in the order and to remain friends. Now that she was dead, his passion for her was inflamed. Emotions swirled inside of him. One thing was for certain, if he was going to take down this Sith Lord, he would need his emotions under control. Supreme control.
Unfortunately for Darth Skuldren matters had become complicated. Priding himself as a master planner he had given thoughts to emergency evacuation plans. The library on Ocaron was too valuable to discard, so he had transferred everything to data cards as a precaution. Now there was no denying the even the slothful Jedi would take action against the deaths of their order. Thus he packed his belongings with the assistance of several servant droids and made haste to leave the planet. That was when he remembered the Jedi he took hostage. When the Jedi captured Skuldren he had simply severed them from the force. He had to kill the two pilots and what a shame. The female showed remarkable strength and character, surely she was a master. Yet the other two Jedi he rendered unconscious, leaving one of them to meet his fate as the ship crashed into a nearby sun. The other was still in the cargo hauler he stole off of Nexus Minor. Should he take the Jedi with him as a bargaining chip? Perhaps he could leave him here and try to sooth things out with the order. No, that wouldn’t work. Killing an unarmed Jedi would be meaningless. Best to just leave him on Ocaron. His friends would find him soon enough. Skuldren had more important things to attend to. First he needed to relocate, he also wanted to grab a few old texts out of the library before he left. The loading droids might miss them.
Just as Skuldren disappeared into his library the Jedi arrived. There were eight this time: four masters and four Jedi Knights. In the lead was Master Sederis, his green and gold cloak flowing as he charged. Following behind him was a vibrant palisade of energy blades waiting for action. Darth Skuldren could not detect the presence of the Jedi in the force; his powers were too weak. Caught completely by surprise the Dark Lord was momentarily stunned. Somersaulting through the air Sederis plunged down in a twirling spin attack used in Trispzest, an aerial lightsaber form. Completing the attack, two more Jedi circled around to his left and right. Skuldren was surrounded from all angles. His only reaction was to bow his head in concentration. A red lightsaber ignited just in time to parry Sederis’ flying attack. Yet, not only did his attack miss, but it continued a moment too long in the wrong direction. The Jedi Master’s blade plunged into the shoulder of one of the Jedi Knights. Meanwhile Skuldren unleashed a wild flourish on the other Jedi. Overwhelmed by the Sith’s speed and strength one of the Jedi miss stepped and was split from lower left thigh to upper right shoulder. The odds were changing.
Two Jedi had swept wide paths around the fight in order to cut off any escape, while two more headed straight in. One Jedi Master stood back in reserve. The wounded Jedi managed to get to his feet and pull back out of the fight. Sederis just stood and fumed at the Sith Lord.
“Sederis, come to your senses. Do not let him provoke you. We must stand back and fight as one.” Called Jedi Master Rolande as he waited in check.
Coming to his senses, Sederis began giving orders, “Ven, Cal, close in on the right and left, but stay at arms length.” “Hagan and Galler, stay back and wait for opportunities. Let me try to press the Sith into a mistake.”
Now the Jedi fought with a purpose. Their emotions were controlled and they acted in concert. As one dealt with the blows from the Dark Lord’s offensive, another would press the attack from a different direction. Skuldren would have to divide his attention between defense and offense simultaneously. It would not take long for him to become vulnerable.
In a blistering storm of lightsaber blows the combatants swayed and swung. Overhead chops were met with skillful deflections. Each time the Jedi struck, Skuldren’s blade was there to block it. Orchestrating their blows Sederis would swing high, while another stabbed low. Yet the Sith would contort his body to evade both attacks. Master Rolande held back in awe. This Sith had mastered the defense of Soresu and somehow combined it with offense of Juyo and Ataru. He was a blur in battle and the Jedi could not keep up with him. How could a Sith attain such speed? Was the darkside truly superior to the light? And then the absurdity of that thought brought him understanding. They were all losing their connection to the force. The Jedi were fighting without enhanced speed, aided maneuverability, or guidance from the force.
Master Rolande shouted from the top of his lungs, “He’s using his force powers to sever us from the force! Quickly, we must all attack as one to break his focus!”
With that six Jedi closed in on Darth Skuldren. This would be his end. A glorious battle to the death against a squad of trained Jedi warriors. You couldn’t ask for a better death. But what the Jedi didn’t realize was that Skuldren didn’t need to concentrate in order to sever them from the force. His concentration was merely to maintain his own meager prowess within the force. Of all the hunts he had enjoyed, this was the best. Not even the monstrous heldog could compete with six Jedi warriors. In his head he began a composition, like he always did. He looked out into the battle and scripted every action and reaction. It was a beautiful ensemble, a work of art, and within that second of fore though he initiated his dance of death.
The first to fall was a middle aged Jedi, perhaps a Master. His silver glowing robes were cut in half, from side to side, by a sizzling red wand of destruction. By following through in a half spin he caught a strong blow from Sederis. With some effort Skuldren locked blades and sent Sederis reeling backwards. Swiftly Skuldren pulled around in time to parry a Jedi’s stab. The green lightsaber was rolled to the side and dropped to the ground. Its master was run clean through the throat. Two more Jedi squeezed in for an opening, a dark blue Lepi and a Vodran. Pairs, always in pairs, he thought. As a pair he dropped them to the floor. First he feinted high and swept low with a dual cho mok, cutting off both legs. Then took the other one down by casting their blade aside in a wide arc. He followed with a reversal toward their head, severing it cleanly.
Again Sederis came back more energized and determined than before. Swinging with utter control Sederis managed to keep up with the Sith Lord’s lighting fast attacks. Then an opening presented itself by parrying a sequence of feints. Master Sederis began an exaggerated swing and abruptly stabbed through the Sith’s defenses. Skuldren rolled with the stab, enduring a grazing cut to his left forearm. Master Rolande and the wounded Jedi Knight closed in for the kill. They were shocked to see Sederis fall to the ground from a blow with his own lightsaber. The Sith Lord had managed to pull his opponents blade in a dangerous twist that left Sederis’ twitching body on the ground. In their moment of shock, Skuldren struck out at Rolande. He was fresh still and had plenty of fight left in him. To take him out, the Dark Lord leapt to the side, rolled in an arc, and came out behind the Jedi Master. So swift was the attack, that Rolande never had the chance to even turn his head.
All that was left was a crippled Jedi Master and a crippled Jedi Knight. Amidst the fight Skuldren’s focus began to waver. He was concentrating too much on anticipating his opponent’s moves and increasing his speed. Somewhere along the line the Jedi Knight had been building up a massive amount of anger. As each Jedi fell, the anger multiplied. The Jedi Knight did not want to see his masters fall, so to protect them he would unleash the unfathomable powers of the darkside to bring down this abomination. Crackling flares of electricity flowed out of his hands and into the Sith Lord. Though he was able to catch some of it, small tendrils still managed to wrack Skuldren’s body.
“STOP! Don’t do it. Don’t give in to the darkside. It’s not worth it!” Cried Sederis.
“He has to be stopped! It’s the only way.” Replied the Jedi Knight. His face was illuminated by the bright currents of force lighting. “Don’t you see! The only way to stop these minions of the darkside is to use their own power against them. The lightside of the force is too weak to deal with them.”
Skuldren sat there amongst their debate. They didn’t notice that he was using his power to dampen the attack to nothing more than a light show. He put on a good act to amuse them. Curiosity begged him to see this argument to the end. Would the Jedi give in to the darkside or heed his comrade’s pleas?
“Now I’ll show you what a Jedi using the force can do,” he screamed in a youthful arrogant voice.
Lightning continued to pour out in increasing mass, but the show was over. Skuldren had enough. He pinched the Jedi’s neck bones, picturing the spine as it stretched up into the skull. Using a firm grip with the force he gave a violent twist. Sederis was shocked to see the man’s head spin all the way around. A loud thump echoed in the stillness.
“Now there is only one, a presume you are a Jedi Master?” called forth the calm voice of the Dark Lord.
“You have killed them all. You even killed the one I loved on that starship you broke out of. But I will not loose my control. Even without the force I can defeat you.” His voice was as smooth as the Sith’s. This was a being of supreme focus.
“I would let you leave. You are a worthy opponent. I once heard there is no honor for the dead,” spoke Darth Skuldren. “I don’t doubt your skill or determination, it is equal to that of your love. What was her name?”
“She was both beautiful and honorable. She died valiantly for a lost cause. Do not make the same mistake.” Skuldren backed away a step, shutting down his lightsaber.
There was no reply. Instead Sederis walked forward, both hands holding his saber in a low stance, but with the point held directly at its opponent. It was a rare variation of Makashi. Where Form II was elegant and aggressive, this form, known as Far’totten, was extremely aggressive and swift. It sacrificed defense for offense and put all balance forward in a pressing attack. His strokes were elusive and constant. Skuldren was put off guard. He was slowly loosing his footing. He was on the defensive. Harder and harder Sederis pressed the attack relentlessly. Each dogged attack was followed by three more. One blow slipped past Skuldren’s defenses and nicked his face. Then another grazed his injured forearm. Suddenly the blue blade was jutting for Skuldren’s face, the Sith Lord went to block and the blue blade dropped. With a sharp crack the blade cut Skuldren’s lightsaber into pieces. The blue blade was coming sharply at his throat when it stopped.
“I cannot kill an unarmed opponent, I give you one last chance. You captured Jedi and let them go. That shows that you have some shred of compassion. Surrender. Lay your fate before the Jedi Council. I will defend your case. You would be imprisoned, but you would be alive.” With true heart and compassion Sederis, again in touch with the force, sent feelings of kindness and warmth. Skuldren may be a monster, but it was only a shell. Beneath was a human.
“You should not have stopped,” was the sharp, criticizing retort.
Out of nowhere emitted a short red beam. In slow motion Sederis reactivated his lightsaber and swung to intercept the crimson blade. The blades made contact, crashing in a burst of static charges. They danced around each other, meeting and parting in a series of circles and swings. The Dark Lord fought close and fiercely. He was fighting on a level beyond what he was capable of. He had reached new heights in order to defeat his opponent. Something struck Sederis as odd. His connection to the force was strong and undiminished. What kind of Sith would fight at the end of his very last thread of hope on an equal footing? All his talking of honor was not just a concept, but a belief. Of all the galaxies, an honorable Sith. It would be the doom of the Jedi Order. BAM! A split second of divided focus erupted into a searing blast of pain and heat. A blue blade still glowed in front of him. The red blade was no more. Standing over his defeated opponent, he said his good byes and left Ocaron behind.
…that was two years ago. Now he had a fledgling Sith Empire hidden amongst the stars. This area of Wild Space was seldom traveled. Sith were quietly leaving Kaan’s Brotherhood of Darkness to join a secret sect of philosopher Sith. Yet Kajji needed to remain secret and its members needed to refrain from bringing attention. Still, Skuldren could not shake that feeling he had on Ocaron. He felt confident that he could take on eight Jedi and win. Think of all that would have been wasted and thrown away if he died. A fool wanting one last worthy hunt. No more. Chances could not be taken. One against eight was close. Next time they would send twenty. It was time to take an apprentice.
Excerpt from the recordings of Jedi Holocron 1783-MZK of the Jedi Archives,
Personal Memoirs of Darth Skuldren.
Personal Note: Master Fulumn’s work was a success. This holocron contains the personal memoirs of the Sith Lord. It is only a matter of time before we uncover the Krudeshi rituals. On a side note, this Sith Lord presents a rather intriguing personality. It is no wonder that Master Rayne wanted the holocrons explored.
“The Learning Years”
My master called me his shadow. The idea was to become a reflection of his teachings. Darth Skuldren
Training an apprentice is no easy task. First they must be instructed. Then they must experience. The final stage is refinement and it never ends. After becoming a Sith Lord I waited eight years before taking an apprentice. Part of the reason is that I sought to expand my education to the extent that my mind became its own source of knowledge. This is an elevation of wisdom known to some as the initiation or in the old tongue al’kruul. At that point you can derive a wealth of wisdom from a thimble of knowledge. The other motivation was a Jedi strike force. An old adage comes to mind; there is strength in numbers.
Thus a time came for me to choose an apprentice. At first I thought to train a Sith Marauder or Assassin, so they could serve as a bodyguard. I hand picked three pupils who were skilled in the arts of combat. Each had a name, which in the tradition of the old, I crowned with the title of Darth. First there was Darth Lotus. She was a beautiful female who excelled in the arts of deception and stealth. No one was as naturally gifted an assassin as her. Her training was already far advanced before her arrival on Kajji. My instruction to her was on the finer applications of the force in combat and stealth. Each lesson was thoroughly absorbed and mastered with utter determination. Inside her was a force that drove her to excel. I was extremely tempted to take her as my true apprentice.
Where Lotus was an agent of the shadows, Darth Adder was a frontline soldier. My master would have been proud to see such a Sith Warrior. Possessed by a demon of battle, he fought with tenacity that was without equal. Like Lotus, Darth Adder had also been thoroughly trained. He served six years in the wars against the Jedi. Somewhere along the line he became disgusted with Lord Kaan and left. When he came to me he asked what I could teach him. I told him nothing. His eyes narrowed and he began to turn to leave. Then he hesitated, looked at me suspiciously, and spoke “you know something you cannot teach or possess something you haven’t learned,” a smile crept across his scarred face, “I will learn what I can.” After that I taught him what I knew of the lost lightsaber forms and some of my own insights. To say the least, he was pleased, very pleased.
Darth Iconoclast was exactly what his name implied, a destroyer of previously held beliefs. Of all the Sith who came to my academy, he was the only one to arrive with a family. He had a wife, Nora, and nine children. Somehow the idea caught on and pretty soon there were couples and children all over the school. Then there was the fact that Iconoclast was religious. People have said that the Sith and the Jedi are religions, but I disagree. They are beliefs and they do tend to hold monastic orders, but neither one emphasizes a creator. Inconoclast not only believed that a creator made the universe, but actually used facets of the force to guide individuals and weave the fates of the galaxy. Before long he attained a faithful following of converts, myself included. His charisma was inspirational and infectious. All he wanted to learn was history and the realms of obscure force traditions. The library became his training ground.
These three pupils were strong in the force and skilled in combat. I trained them as a unit, stressing coordination and tactics. No one else in the academy could beat them individually in battle, let alone all three of them. We recognized them as the defenders of our order. To solidify their bond I gave them a quest. On the edges of Wild Space lies an isolated system known as the Katarii Sector. An old friend of mine sent a message hinting to the location of the Krudesh Scrolls. He needed a favor, in return he would help me get the scrolls. My very soul yearned to go off and quest for the relics, but I was needed at the academy. There was so much that still needed to be done. I had no doubt that my defenders could accomplish the task.
With my three pupils gone I was once again left without an apprentice. Fate thus showed me another student. I called him Darth Xenon and he became a wizard in Sith Alchemy. Sith Alchemy had diminished greatly in the Galaxy. Every now and then someone discovers its secrets, yet it is but a demented form of its true glory. The art lies in weaving existence into superior realms. Some Sith have used the force to create minions to do their bidding, while others created weapons of mass destruction. Xenon dabbled in both. By meshing Arkanian methos with Sith Alchemaic tomes he created a unique science of his own. Bizarre creatures served as his retinue and strange spores acted as wonder drugs. He once claimed that with the right medium you could make anything. His personal laboratory was filled with exotic homemade potions. The texts I supplied him with sent him into the upper echelons of his craft. Yet these skills were too specialized for a good apprentice.
Then there was Bacillus, a builder of automaton. In this galaxy there are many droids, but none like Bacillus’. Most droids are built to serve. Bacillus built his droids to exist. Each was completely independent and hardcoded to obey its own will. Through inspiration and ancient manuscripts he discovered a way to create electronic desires. To top it off, the droids were given sentient necessities to make them more lifelike. For example, one of Darth Bacillus’ more advanced projects was Cadius. Cadius was a bronzed robot that appeared to be more of a metallic being than a machine. It held conversations, ate meals, and could reproduce. All of these activities were not programs, instructions, or orders, but desires. Synthetic organs digested food. Specialized components allowed for Cadius to create versions of himself that would grow and evolve. The crowning achievement was its brain, an exquisite hurricane of electronic micro storms that managed to create thought. Hundreds of mechanicals wandered through the academy, all thanks to Bacillus. Still, he was not the one.
Alas came an ambitious, blue eyed young man of impressive height. His shoulder length blonde hair and cropped mustache and goatee made him appear like a Hapan pirate. He sought to lead not out of desire, but out of reflex. A strong will made him a dangerous opponent. When I met him a breeze of inspiration flowed across me, a whim of the force, it spoke “You shall be a tower that leads, a caster of seeds. Jedi and Sith will fall before your blade and an army shall follow behind you. Your will shall be your weapon.” He was destined to be a leader of Sith. I saw no way around it. He was the one to lead the academy when the time came for me to pass. Though he was not the one to inherit my apprenticeship. The force revealed to me a vision, a student who was perfect.
His name would be Darth Praxus, and he would become my shadow. A Sith Lord may train many apprentices, but he usually takes one true apprentice per decade. Unlike the rest, this one is a conduit of the teacher’s philosophy. The true apprentice is molded into a reflection of his master and is forged into a superior casting. Success comes when the student surpasses the teacher. Only then has the master’s work been fulfilled. Praxus was a spitting image of his master. He thirsted for knowledge and welded wisdom like a sword. His blade was as quick as his mind. And most importantly, he was strong in the force. There were many teachings and rituals Skuldren could not perform because of his weakness in the force. This was the one area where his apprentice could take his master’s teachings and rise to new levels. Thus Praxus’ training began.
“The most important element of a warrior is his core being, the soul within, his driving force.” Skuldren paced along a stone pathway. “In battle your emotions will flood your mind and infect your pathway in the force. Unlike the Jedi, we use the living force in its entirety. Nevertheless, there are elements of the darkside that are both dangerous to the opponent and the user. A Sith Lord may weld lightning using the depths of his anger and hatred to fuel it, but it comes at a cost. The deeper you drink from this black well, the farther you plunge yourself into its grasp.” Skuldren approached his apprentice. “There is a trick to it. You can weld its powers without drinking from its depths. To do so takes great strength, control, and most importantly an inner code of guidance.”
“But master, what is this inner code?”
“It is a set of guidelines you must set for yourself. However it is not that easy. You cannot just create them, you must live them. It requires training the mind to accept these new rules as your beliefs. These beliefs are in turn held in such high regard that you would sooner die than break or compromise them.” His black cloaks twirled as he spun around toward his student. “To achieve freedom in the full spectrum of the force you need to set restrictions upon yourself as a set of safeguards. What I will teach you was handed directly to me from my master. It will take time, but it is a necessity.”
“I am prepared to endure the burning sands time, if that is what it takes my master.”
Praxus bowed his shielded head. His armored mask gleamed in the sunlight. Yes, his apprentice was ready. Now he would go through the rights of blooding. The ways of the warrior would be imbued within his soul. Though he could not see his apprentice’s eyes, for Praxus was a Kubaz and wore protective goggles, he could feel the intensity of their focus. They looked ahead into the future and were determined to succeed. Those hidden eyes were more real than any Skuldren had ever seen. Would those eyes one day look down on his dying master in order to assume the mantle of Darth Lord? Perhaps they would stay content and follow Skuldren into a new era of Sith. And yet one day Skuldren might actually get to see those eyes, lifeless and unblinking, as his apprentice is slain by some unforeseen foe. Only time would tell, until then there was much for his apprentice to learn.