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Dark Side of the Dragon (a DA/SW crossover) [On Hiatus!]

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((A Dragon Age/Star Wars crossover.))

CHAPTER I

Marian Hawke and her three comrades sat in shadows at the edge of a trench. Large, mountain-shaped stone jutted from the cavern floor, giving the four questers considerable cover.

Legions of darkspawn assembled at the bottom of the trench. Each wore scant armor on their corpses. Their blacksmiths forged the pieces from grainy obsidian, giving an aura of rawness to the pointed shoulder guards, guantlets, and grieves. They waved their swords and shouted praises to a draconian oddity on a platform; the archdemon, their god.

“So this is what it means to be a Grey Warden,” Hawke muttered. “They really should’ve put this in the brochure.” And in a more embittered voice: “Duncan. Into what madness did you force me?”

Morrigan shrugged. She rapped her nails on her bladed staff. Feathers and fangs decorated the weapon where the rough wood joined with the curved silverite. “Keeping the true nature of the Wardens a secret. ‘Tis not surprising. Tales of legends are far more enticing than the grim reality.”

“That’s the archdemon?” Their dwarf grunted. “Baw. I crap things bigger than that."

Hawke wrinkled her nose. "Thank you for that colorful image, Oghren. I’d say the edge of your axe is about the width of its neck. One good swing should do it.”

“By 'axe’ you mean my -”

“Stop right there, dwarf,” Morrigan said.

“Hold onto hope,” Leliana whispered into Hawke’s ear. She sat closest to the Warden. Her leather armor creaked as she leaned in and kissed her on the lips. “We’re wearing down, but we can push through the dark.”

“Can we?” Hawke looked at the state of herself. The rounded lip of her one shoulder pad was already chipped. Her waist was freed for movement, covered in thin chainmail, while the breastplate was light. The armor at this point, though, strained her muscles. She had walked this far into the Deep Roads, far into the Dead Trenches. The grit and sweat on her skin thickened over these weeks, chaffing; she felt increasingly uncomfortable. 'Add anxious onto the list of nasty feelings.’

- - -

Codex Entry: From the Journal of the Whills (19:5) …

And so it came to pass that Hawke, Leliana, Morrigan, and Oghren escaped the notice of the archdemon, but encountered the old god’s minions by the dozens on their journey through the labyrinth. Among these enemies was an ogre, once again the height of a grown man, armed by muscle and a pair of long horns upon its head.

Hawke, being a rogue, took a place at its posterior, slashing away with dual blades. The ogre would turn to swipe at the pest, but Hawke would vanish, only to appear again and slice at those bulky thighs.

Leliana, a rogue herself of the archer sort, stood on a rock a safe-enough distance away and fired flaming arrows at the ogre.

The dwarf, sturdy and strong, taunted the beast at its front and took the worst of the hits.

Morrigan shot icy spells at darkspawn. She froze two, dodged swings from the surrounding grunts, then used melee attacks to shatter the frozen; repeat.

The party reached its destination at the Anvil of the Void. The forge was on a stone outcropping, surrounded partly by a river of molten lava. There they met Branca the Paragon, who sought to use the power of the Anvil to forge golems. But there were golems already waiting within, already forged ages ago; and Branca had found the magical rod with which to control them.

Oghren, who was Branca’s former lover, pleaded for her to cease with the insanity. She was too far gone, and used the rod to make the golems attack. Hawke and company fought past them to Branca.

The Warden slashed the Paragon’s throat, took the control rod, and told the golems to take a leap.


- - -

“Does anyone else hear ominous marching in the background?” Hawke twirled her daggers. She stood with the others at the center of the outcrop, surrounded by shattered golems, dead dwarves, and random rocks. Lyrium veins glowed to illuminate the areas outside the magma-light. “Where’s it coming from?”

Leliana pointed to a crack in the wall. “From there, I think.”

“How many more sodding golems do I have to carve through?” Oghren’s axe blade stuck in the ground at his feet. Hawke worried he may leave it there and allow himself to die when more enemies arrived.

Morrigan leaned heavily on her staff. “That lyrium. Can anyone else feel the vibrations from it?”

They turned to stand in a tight circle, facing outward, shoulder to shoulder. 'Do we have it left in us to fight our way back to Orzammar? I have my doubts. But mother and Bethany need me. I at least owe them a last effort.’

The marching drew closer. Metal on stone. And then it paused. The party held their breath for a few moments until an explosion of light and stone which issued from the breech. They snapped from their exhaustion, filled with shock and anticipation for this unique enemy.

Roughly human-shaped somethings in sleek armor marched out of a new entrance, three units wide. Their heads seemed to be melded to the tops of their torsos, and their limbs were strangely slender.

'Eliminate Republic Forces.’

'Prioritize Jedi Commander.’

'Roger Roger.’

“What the fudging hell?” Hawke shook herself. “Scatter to your positions!”

Leliana went for the nearest high place, while Morrigan went to stand off to the side. Oghren growled and took his axe up again.

The front three stepped aside for the next three, and within moments their numbers threatened to overcome.

Leliana fired an arrow at one. It made a 'clink’ sound and bounced off. Hawke side-stepped and lowered to a stoop, preparing to rush between their flanks.

Several enemies opened fire at once. Bolts of light shot from their arms, aimed at Hawke and the others. One bolt grazed Hawke’s gauntlet. The Warden dropped her dagger as a burning sensation pulsated from the wound. The dwarf fell onto all fours. Leliana toppled off her rock. Morrigan, however, had erected a magical barrier and deflected the cascade of bolts that had come for her, but the mage was nonetheless thrown back.

Hawke tossed down a smoke bomb and grabbed Oghren’s shoulders, dragging the dwarf backward toward a row of boulders that could serve as concealment. “Morrigan. Follow.”

They found Leliana on her back, breathing rapidly and grasping at a hole in her shoulder. Hawke ripped away the leather there while reassuring her that all would be well. “It’s burned shut. Can you move your arm?” The red-head whimpered as she bent her elbow.

“They missed anything too important in there.” Hawke kissed her.

She then looked to Oghren. It turned out that the bolt had been slowed by the blade of his axe, and moreso by his armor. He refused to take off the front plate.
“I ain’t got time to bleed.” He lowered his head and sighed. “I know the legends of the golems. These could be some weird design from Carradin, but those weird metallic crossbows, glowing bolts? Pssh. By the sacks of my ancestors.”

The strange golems kept put, but fired at the cover, chipping off chunks. Smoke and dust spread in the air.

Morrigan tapped Hawke’s damaged gauntlet. “And what of you?”

Hawke grabbed her own wrist and cautiously tugged. Dull metal scraped at burnt flesh. She grimaced and forced onward until the gauntlet was off. She threw it down and examined her forearm. A small, blackened slice tainted her flesh, but nothing extreme. She bled from the cut where she had dragged the metal toward her wrist. “And that was without my rabbit’s foot.”

“What do we do? They overpower us.” Leliana caressed Hawke’s hand. “We accomplished what we came here to do.”

“It’s no good,” Hawke answered. “We have to fall back.”

Morrigan moaned and touched her forehead. Her staff, beside her, rolled over on its own; then again, back and forth. “That thrumming. I don’t -”

Hawke clicked her tongue. “Is that lyrium finally getting to you? I always understood the stuff to be a little dangerous, but I don’t know what this is about.” She frowned at the staff. “As I said, we need to escape. With you, preferably.”

“I can feel it inside me,” the witch said. She snatched up her staff and sat up, eyes widened and muscles flexed. She was filled by a phantom vigor.

Hawke cleared her throat. “Thank you. The way I see it, we can make for the exit and use grenades to block a passage out of the Deep Roads.”

“Wait,” Morrigan said.

“Now what?”

“This may sound odd, but… I can see our probable actions and the possible repercussions.”

The crisp blasts of the projectile weapons suddenly stopped and the enemies marched again.

Hawke scowled. “More specific, less cryptic, would be nice.”

Morrigan stared intensely at the Warden. “I can see what’s about to happen in our battle with these constructs.”

“From witch of the wilds to prophet. And here I thought I was supposed to be the special one.”

“Jest if it pleases you, but be ready to act.” Morrigan climbed up the cover and thrust out her staff. Lightning sprayed from the tip. “Command the dwarf to go berzerk.”

Hawke stood and rose up on tip-toe. She saw the electrical bolt fork, hit several of the constructs, and branch off to fry others. Their march was halted for the present moment. “Oghren. Go do your thing.”

“Gladly.” Hawke watched Oghren round the rocks and rush the first construct to lower its arm to aim. He swung down at the offending arm and chopped it off. Sparks sputtered from the wound. While his axe blade pointed down, he pushed at the ground with his foot and rammed his shoulder into the damaged enemy, making it trip backward into one of its partners. The dwarf whirled about and raised his weapon again.

“Be ready to throw your dagger,” the witch called down to Hawke.

“Oh, are you the leader now?” Hawke crawled up the rocks to beside Morrigan, readying her weapon.

A few of the metal things stopped and turned toward Oghren. He held the blade horizontally, drew it far back to gain some momentum, and swung at a midsection. SHRAAK! The blade was stuck. He gave a tug, found it to be quite wedged in, then looked up at the still-standing enemy. “Oh crap.”

Hawke threw her readied dagger.

The blade hit. Oghren covered his face with an arm for a second, and lowered it to see the hilt of a dagger sticking in the construct’s head. The enemy fell and the axe handle slid from his hands. He looked over his shoulder to find Hawke. She winked at him, then slid back down to Leliana. In fact, the things were starting to move again, turning and firing at nothing in particular. Glowing bolts exploded on the floor and ceiling. A few were close to hitting Hawke and Leliana.

Oghren placed his foot on the fallen foe and pressed down, pulling the handle with his bulky arms. The axe came free.

Hawke picked up Leliana and ran for the forge exit, Morrigan and Oghren running after.



Last edited by Harrold Andraste on Sat Jul 04, 2015 4:26 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Interesting opening to a most unexpected crossover. Plus, it's really nice to see someone not make a joke out of Stormtrooper accuracy.

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SilverDragonRed wrote:Interesting opening to a most unexpected crossover.  Plus, it's really nice to see someone not make a joke out of Stormtrooper accuracy.

I'm happy you found it interesting. Smile

Please stick around for future updates. Also, feel welcome to share suggestions or criticisms.

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CHAPTER II

"Sloth came to me last night while I dreamt. It informed me that explorers had stumbled upon the hidden place in the Deep Roads. Why should hapless wanderers find what I've failed so long to find? I fear my master shall contact me soon... giving an ultimatum." - Journal Scrap

At Soldier's Peak...

Avernus sat at his experiment table in a drafty fortress chamber. Chemicals bubbled in beakers and slid through tubes, dripping into flasks. He sprinkled lyrium dust on tissue samples to test the reactions. The flesh let off the faintest puffs of smoke. He then opened a satchel, poured herbs into a mortar and ground them with a pestle.

A strange dread spread through his stomach. He paused in his work, set down the supplies, and closed his eyes, reaching his feelings outward. There was a disturbance. That brand of dark could only come from one source.

Avernus rose from the table, cursing under his breath. "Blasted tyrant, find some patience." How the mage hated to be interrupted during his experiments.

He approached a stone platform and knelt down on the steps. Runes filled by long-dried blood covered both platform and its steps. The old man tapped his staff on one of the runes and mumbled an incantation. Ahead, a blue flame shot from the flagstones and began to materialize into the bust of a cloaked figure. Underneath the hood was the lower half of a corpse-like face, perpetually scowling.

"Master Sidious. The Federation's crash site has been compromised. Someone has discovered the old droid battalions in the Deep Roads."

"Yes, I know." Disgust tinted the scratchy voice. "I felt it. I trust you know who's responsible."

"Orzammar's Legion of the Dead, perhaps?" Avernus kept his head and eyes inclined down. "I regret that their identities elude me at present."

"Simple cave-dwellers discovered the Trade Federation droids and miraculously survived? No, this is something much more."

"I can send my demons to find and kill the perpetrators, along with any dwarf who speaks too freely." A weak offer, he knew, but anything to buy himself more time.

"No. You will do nothing." There was a definite finality in the Sith's tone. "Your incompetence has already cost me enough. Your main goal was to find the crash site. And year after year you failed. I fear my confidence in your abilities may have been displaced."

The Grey Warden mage swallowed, feeling his blood run colder than before.

"This forces an acceleration in my plans," Sidious continued. "I'm sending Lord Vader to contain the situation. Prepare for his arrival."

"Of course." Avernus tried to keep his voice steady. He made himself to finally gaze up into the shadowed, hateful eyes of his master. "My deepest apologies. I shall ---"

Sidious vanished. The blue flames flared, then died, leaving the man alone in his chamber.



Last edited by Zeal of Pentaghast on Wed Jun 03, 2015 6:31 pm; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : I fixed a reference to a now dropped plot point from a previous draft. "Century after century" has been changed to "year after year".)

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CHAPTER III

Hawke, Morrigan, Oghren, and Leliana at long last stepped onto the main bridge leading to the village of Lothering. Several dead bodies of what looked to be peasants were cut open and lying at random spots in front of them.

Sten, a qunari in plate armor, walked onto the bridge at the other end to greet them. A couple Templars followed the taller warrior.

The two groups stopped in front of each other.

"You returned," Sten said.

Hawke tilted her head back and met his stoic stare. "Nothing like a romp through the Deep Roads to keep you fit. Trust nothing happened while I was gone?"

"There were some... incidents."

A Templar, standing off to the side, gestured to Sten. "Your qunari has a talent for understatement. We must've had at least four groups of undesirables to pass through here. We managed to turn away the first three, but the fourth just wouldn't take 'no' for an answer." He waved a hand at a mostly-decapitated man on the ground. "Well, you can see the results."

"Oh." Hawk slapped Sten congratulatory on the arm. "I hope they weren't just over-enthusiastic salesmen."
Oghren huffed. "Oh, for the love of. Blood puddle soaked into my boots."

One of the Templars scratched the back of his head. "Uhh... they were bandits. Most likely. Anyway, we took care of them."

Sten gave a dissatisfied grumble in response to that.

"Again with the grunty face," Hawke said. "I guess you have something to say, Sten?"

"I'm trying to understand human reason. He said 'we' when only one person contributed anything of note."

Hawke chuckled.

Morrigan crossed her arms. "Can we move this along? I do hate the idea of spending the Blight standing on this bridge."

Their company parted ways with Sten and the Templars for the time being and tracked across an open field to a homestead. Two women treated injured villagers at the front of a cabin.

Leandra, gray-haired but striking for her age, sat beside the village elder and assembled elfroot poultices.
Hawke motioned for the others to stop. "Mother?"

Leandra looked up. Her face went from weary to astonished. The woman got to her feet and rushed over to Hawke. Mother and daughter embraced.

"I'm so glad you're OK. When your friends told me you were going into the Deep Roads to fight darkspawn, I lost a lot of sleep."

"It's OK, mother, I'm fine. How have things been going here?"

Leandra sighed. "Horrific. Wounded keep piling into the village faster than we can treat them. There seems to be no end to it."

"I have one more to add to your list." Hawke looked to Leliana. The red-headed archer had slowed them down on their journey back from Orzammar, needing frequent rest stops and bandage-changing. "Lels. Stay here and let my mother see to you."

Leliana, pale in the face, nodded.

Bethany, carrying an orange-hot iron in one hand, stepped from the hut. The young woman was dressed in mage robes, and took after her mother's features. Oblivious to the arrival of her sister, she went to a man sitting against the wall and lowered to her knees. "Stay still, and I'll do all in my ability."

Everyone watched silently as Bethany pressed the iron on the man's leg wound. The screams must have reached all the way to Ostagar.

Hawke walked to Bethany and waited until the task was done.

"How are you, Bethany?"

The mage perked up and all but jumped at her sister. The next hug was even tighter than the last.

"This is repetitious," came Morrigan's voice behind. "Are you trying to induce vomiting?"

"Whatever," Oghren chimed in. "I'll let you all get better acquainted. I'm going to the tavern."

"You'll undoubtedly be sorely missed," snapped the wild witch.

Bethany shook her head and then addressed Hawke. "I'm doing as well as I can without being able to use my magic. Thank the Templars for that."

The door to the hut slammed open. And out stepped Carver.

Bethany abruptly became occupied by her work, walking to an injured villager.

'Uh-oh," Hawke thought. 'Here we go. What did I do in my past life to deserve such a brat of a brother?'

"You're finally back," Carver said. He was what Hawke would consider to be an attractive man, though the constant frowning would make him age faster than he should. Right now he was dressed in peasants' tunic and breeches, not much standing out. "Took you long enough. What have you been doing this whole time?'

Hawke groaned. "Nice to see you, too, brother. How many of these villagers are injured as a result of your stupidity? Oh, silly me. I skipped the platitudes. How are you doing?"

"Fine, thanks." Carver stood in front of her and puffed out his chest, probably without knowing it. "Make jokes. Does this look like a joke here right now?"

"Standing in front of my right now, most certainly."

"Glad to see you're having fun with the Blight. Refugees haven't stopped pouring into Lothering for days now."

Hawke straightened. "If you're definition of 'fun' is fighting to the death with darkspawn in the Deep Roads, then I've been quite the rascal. If you want to be more helpful, Carver, try listening instead of complaining. Go help our mother and sister, why don't you?"

Carver all but stamped back into the cabin.

"And they say home is where the heart is."

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CHAPTER IV

Hawke and Morrigan neared the side of the fenched-off tavern Dane's Refuge when they noticed a horse-drawn wagon coming from the opposite direction. Two dwarves sat at the front. The older, bearded one waved, and pulled on the reigns, coming to a stop. "Warden! Warden!"

Hawke stopped and sent a glance of empathetic annoyance to Morrigan. "Oh, wonderful. Yet another friend-to-be. Go on, Morrigan, we can catch up later."

The witch didn't hesitate, and made for the small bridge into the heart of Lothering.

The dwarf rode past them and turned into a stretch of grass between the back of the tavern and a small wheat field. He climbed down and motioned for the Warden.

His attire was standard, but clean. Exhaustion lined his face as he turned to the Grey Warden and witch. "I found you at last!" He spread his arms, relieved.

The second, younger dwarf, went to stand beside the first. He had short hair and a clean-shaven face. He smiled and rocked back and forth on his heels.

"Oh, introductions are in order," the older dwarf said. "I am Bodahn Feddic. Merchant and entrepreneur extraordinaire. This is my son, Sandal."

"Hello," Sandal said.

Hawke scratched her head, not sure how to respond.

"Maker's breath," Bodahn went on. "I thought I'd never catch up to you at this rate."

"There are a lot of people looking for me," Hawke said. "I hope this isn't some outstanding debt or something.

"No, mam, of course not. I noticed the insignia on your armor, which happens to be the symbol of the Grey Wardens.

"Feel free to get to the point any time now." Hawke kicked impatiently at the ground.

"I found something in my travels, and... I think it best a Grey Warden examine it." Bodahn walked to the back of the wagon, Hawke at his heels.
Bodahn pulled back a leather canvas to uncover... a dead body in strange, white armor and black under-armor. Beside this was a stray Templar breastplate, scorched in spots.

The breastplate of the former warrior was shattered near the heart, and dried blood stained the edges of the crack. The eyes on his helmet were almost two right-triangles, the slender ends pointed at the center, the far ends curving out a bit. A black strip at the brow gave the mask a masculine quality. The mouth was a gentle frown. The jaw line jutted outward, ending in two circular grooves at either side of the chin.

'Where the hell did this come from?!'

"I was on my Denerim," the dwarf explained. "When I found two Templars arguing heatedly with the poor soul you see here. Then things went violent."

"Well, the Templar breastplate doesn't give good prospects for the direction of this story."

"Sadly, yes, they fought. The Templars moved forward like they would with any situation like this. He began to shoot. Not with arrows, bolts, or anything I've ever seen before, but it was very effective against the Templars."

Hawke remembered back to the sleek golems they had encountered at the Anvil of the Void.

"I didn't see much of what happened," Bodahn said. "Because I was hoping he just didn't see much of me. I guess they finished off each other, as it were."

"This is all fascinating, but you brought this to me... for what reason, exactly?

"I don't know. You're a Grey Warden. I assume you know about things like this." He dragged the Templar piece from the wagon and set it on the ground at their feet. "These belong in the hands of a Warden more than I."

Hawke and Bodhan lifted the body from the wagon and set it down.

"Where's your entrepreneurial spirit?" Hawke glanced around to make sure nobody else noticed. "I'm sure you could sell these at a high price."

"If only that were the case," he said. "But I only sell something if I know what it is. Oh! I almost forgot." He climbed onto the wagon and reached deeper into the canvas, procuring some sort of device with a handle and barrel. He held it out to her.

She took it, curious. Instinct told her it was best to make sure the opening was pointed away from anything she might like.

"Anyway," he grunted as he climbed back out. "I wish you luck in your ventures. Farewell."

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CHAPTER V

The Super Star Destroyer Executor dropped out of hyperspace and into orbit around the planet Thedas. Shaped like a spear-head, and possessing weapons capable of destroying civilizations from thousands of kilometers away, the carrier was a major flagship in the Galactic Empire; flagship to Sith Lord Darth Vader. Two smaller ships of similar design appeared behind. In each of the three space-faring omens was an army of stormtroopers in many varieties, plus TIE-Fighters, landside walkers, and speeders.

Commander Cassandra Pentaghast, dressed in her plain Imperial uniform, stood on the bridge of the Executor and gazed out the viewport at the greenish-blue orb. She had her hands behind her back, and her feet set flat and shoulder-width apart. Her chin was elevated an inch, her well-defined jaw jutting a bit. Thick black eyebrows pressed down on her eyelids. She had paid special care in combing back her short, inky hair and gelling it to stiffness; and she had personally ironed her uniform, flattening out all wrinkles, then trimming all loose fiber strands.

An officer walked cautiously to her side, holding a datapad. "Commander, ma'am. Here's the report you requested." Cassandra noticed his voice was much softer and higher in her presence than when he was with his fellow, lower-ranking officers. "The probe droid assigned to the advance scout found data pertaining to the Warden's party."

"Show me," she said. "I will inform Lord Vader personally."

She turned ninety-degrees on her heel, put her legs closer together, and marched from the bridge. She stepped down a set of stairs to a wide blast-door, and pressed a few buttons on the control panel. Lord Vader preferred to keep his meditation chamber close to the bridge, in the event something relevant happened. The woman had always admired his business-oriented mind, and his readiness to throw himself into action. This chamber was his only 'personal quarters'.

Cassandra stepped inside. Personal quarters, indeed. The place was austere at best, clinical at worst. The black orb-shaped mechanism at the center of the room was the only thing noteworthy other than some hard benches off to the sides. The orb's petals opened... and she found herself automatically going to even fuller attention. 'Keep your voice firm. He hates the signs of pathetic subserviance the others show me out there.'

She saw a scarred, bald head before mechanical arms lowered a helmet to hide it.

Darth Vader rotated about in his chair. His skull-like mask pointed up in her direction, always stoic, always judging. She could all but feel his bulbous eyes burrowing into her consciousness.

"Yes, Commander?"

"Lord Vader, I believe we've found the location of the Warden's party."

"Good work, Commander. Make ready and deploy your scouts. I want to know everything about the surrounding area."

Cassandra nodded, heel-tapped, and turned to walk away. Static sounded in the room. He had uplinked the screen comm. She paused and looked back over her shoulder, unsure if he wanted her to witness the conversation to come.

Avernus' image was on the screen. The old man looked as though he hadn't slept in a week, and his wrinkles were malforming his face like a rotten fruit. His robes were elegant enough for a mage, and he held himself with respectability; why, she could never guess.

"Ah, Lord Vader," the mage said in his low voice. "It's a pleasure, sir. I'm sure you'll be happy to know that I have my minions scouring high and low for the Warden.

"That will no longer be necessary," the Dark Lord answered. "Recall them immediately. We've already pin-pointed the Warden's party. I don't want any foolish actions by your creatures to endanger my plans."

Avernus seemed confused for a moment, then nodded. "Of course, sir. That's actually quite impressive that you found them so quickly." The last line was as though to himself.

"An action only required due to your lack of competence. It seems as though as the Emperor's doubts in your usefulness proved to be well-founded."

"I'm terribly sorry, milord. Tell me what I must do." His words were rote. Cassandra understood that Avernus was already resigned to what awaited.

"You'll continue to do nothing. We'll discuss your future in the Empire when I arrive."

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CHAPTER VI

The Imperial shuttle's side wings folded upward to point at the top fin's tip as the craft landed in a flat, snowy clearing. The ramp lowered with a hiss. Cassandra marched down the ramp at the head of a stormtrooper squadron. She stopped several meters ahead of the ramp and turned back to face the exit, the troopers moving to either side.

Darth Vader walked down. His steps were heavy and evenly paced.

Cassandra moved out of his way and followed at his right shoulder. They traveled toward the opening of a trench path. The dozen troopers came after, two-by-two.

"Our targets are still in Lothering," she said. "They're stationary for the moment, but I'd recommend attacking now before they have a chance to flee."

"In due time." Snowflakes gathered at the edges of his lens and mouth-grill. His black cape flowed in the cold breeze, and his boots crunched ice and pebbles. Cassandra felt oddly effeminate beside her tall, outfitted superior.

They took the winding path to a set of snow-choked stone steps which led to a portcullis in a high wall.

Vader's steps slowed only a beat when they ascended the steps. The group paused at the gate. The Dark Lord, whose finger had been clasping the front of his belt, reached out a hand toward a tower to the side. His fingers slowly closed. There was a cranking noise, like rusted chains and gears, and the gate began to rise. Vader led them through the gap into the courtyard of a stronghold. A main castle and other smaller buildings crammed the walled area.

The ground ahead shifted in many places. Burrowing animals? Frozen dirt and rocks broke from the frozen stretch. Skeletal arms appeared, then heads and torsos. What could only be reanimated corpses climbed from the ground, covered in broken plates of armor, rotting flesh. They carried bows and swords. Cassandra held back a gasp, instinctively stepping closer to Vader. She counted more living corpses than they had stormtroopers with them. A few of the nearest creatures began dragging their feet at the intruders, raising their blades. Some in the back notched arrows in their bows.

"Destroy them," Vader ordered. The steadiness in his voice filled the Commander with confidence that this was something he understood. Something to do with the Force, she knew; that mystical energy he often spoke of.

The troopers spread out behind them and opened fire at the closest sword-wielders. A few of them staggered back when hit. The head of one blew open like a rotten fruit. Some that were hit still continued on in their sluggish gaits.

The archers shot arrows at the troopers. Most the arrows bounced off. One trooper grunted as his blaster fell to the snow. "Right in the barrel! No mind. I have an extra."

The white-plated soldiers charged past Vader and Pentaghast, taking a more aggressive approach. Blaster bolts filled the air. Corpses dropped. An enemy stabbed his blade into the vulnerable shoulder of one trooper. The injured man cried out and back-handed the enemy off its feet, dislodging the metal tip. Blood dribbled from his elbow, but he improvised by firing his blaster in one hand.

A corpse swung the flat of its blade against a trooper, who was immediately stunned. Another slashed behind the man's knees. He fell. The two corpses stabbed down repeatedly as the trooper convulsed.

The battle drew to a close. They had lost one man. Two more were injured, but ready for more. Vader simply motioned for them to follow and made a path over dead bodies and through pools of black or red blood, heading for the steps leading to the castle's front entrance.

A couple troopers went and tugged at the handles to the wooden doors. The slabs groaned open.

More skeletons awaited them in the entrance hall, though were fewer in number than before. The blaster smoke soon settled in the air. Cassandra blinked and looked around. Against the walls were shelves that held potions. A few tables had burned-down candles and empty goblets. Wooden boards barricaded one hallway out, but there was a second, closed door at another wall. She saw a parchment attached to the wall by that door, and walked over to read it aloud. "Statement of Defiance. On these grounds, virtuous men stood against a tyrant. They stood defiant and stood for freedom. And they died." What followed was a long list of names, such as Captain Melo, the Black Ferret, and Chair-Thrower Lopez.

She glanced to Vader. "Sounds almost like Rebel propaganda."

The Dark Lord's head was tilted back and his thumbs were hooked at his belt again. "Avernus will soon be added to their number."

"That wizard is responsible for the skeletons?" She had suspected, but hadn't known for sure.

"His grasp of the Dark Side has grown strong in these many years on Thedas. He is able to bind all manner of creature to his will." He seemed to snap out of his reveree. "We must travel through many rooms and hallways to his tower."

"Avernus! Bastard's betrayed us."

"He's merely delaying the inevitable."

The door led to another, plain chamber with two more doors. One led to barracks, a dead end. The other led to a room divided in sections with spiked, wooden fortifications. This stronghold had seen a battle in these rooms and halls since last it was occupied by people. The air smelled of death and dust. They were going for a set of stairs when Vader stopped and held out a hand in front of Cassandra. She stopped, curious.

Two black puddles formed on the floors. What looked like molten magma bubbled up... and then tall, slender figures made of that hot liquid exited from the floor. They opened their mouths and roared, sending a stench of brimstone.

Troopers fanned out and began to open fire. The demons, however, absorbed the blaster bolts, and only became more agitated. They slid across the floor and lashed out with their long-fingered hands at one soldier each. Claws scraped against armor, leaving charred streaks. The troopers fell back somewhat, more surprised than hurt yet.

The demons lunged at their enemy and tried to bite down on them. One caught the shoulder of a stormtrooper and wrapped its arms around him. The white armor began to bubble and melt. The man cried out as the demon claimed him as prey. His comrades focused their fire on the demon, but the blaster bolts kept being absorbed. The demon squeezed with arms and jaws, and the trooper finally fell to his knees, screaming.

The second demon attacked a trooper in similar fashion. Five fired at one demon, four at the second.

And then... the first one, rising up from its now dead prey, began to fall apart. The floor sizzled where the molten sludge rained. The thing reared back and cried out in what could only be described as agony. Were the blasters finally working?

A trooper rushed to the second demon, who was trying to bite through its victim's helmet. He slammed the butt of his blaster into its head. This made it pause in its attack. He did this again, and again, and then the demon let go and jumped at the offender. The trooper abused the trigger of his blaster at point-blank and the demon fell apart before it could grab him, splattering onto the man's armor.

Two more men gone. Nine left.

"Solution," a man said. "Shoot them til your trigger breaks."

"No." Vader leaned his head down to take in the sight of the ghastly puddles on the floor. "The Dark Side of the Force is their destruction. But you are to keep occupied those we encounter ahead."

"That was you who killed the creatures, Lord?" The woman wiped sweat from her brow.
Vader motioned for them to move onward.

The group passed through a library, more hallways and rooms. Everyone was hyper-alert for more surprise attacks, but their last battle had been with the two demons prior to the library.  When a trooper opened a third-floor door, cold wind blew into the room. They walked out into open air atop a rampart, a tower at the far end. They came to the tower door and entered a small room. Cassandra first noticed a potion bottle on a table against the far wall. She and the troopers searched around the room. She came to a chest in the corner, and ordered a man to blast open the lock. She bent at the knees and looked inside.

The chest was filled with thick, leather-bound tomes and loose notes. The woman took out a book and flipped through some of the pages. They were filled with cursive writing and diagrams. She saw a lot of ingredients for potions and rune designs for rituals. She set the book down and sifted through some of the loose notes to find much the same. It looked that Avernus was trying to perfect a single category of potion, something to do with 'blood rage' or 'blood thirst'. He often wrote about his test subjects and the many uses to which he had put their blood.

"Let us move," Vader said.

Cassandra stood and nodded, brushing her hands on her pants. The Commander would return after the battle to have all the tomes, notes, and potions confiscated for later study. Even though she felt out of her league when dealing with Force-sensitives, she knew the value in the power that Vader expressed. If Avernus was an expert in the Dark Side, she would see to it that his knowledge benefited the Galactic Empire.

They traveled deeper into the tower, reaching a long, barren room. She knew they must be close to their destination. Darth Vader stopped in front of the next closed portal. Puddles blossomed on the floor... well over a dozen of them. Avernus had saved the worst for last. Demons emerged from the floor. The nine stormtroopers began to open fire, alternating between targets. The creatures pushed themselves across the floor, slashing and biting at the troopers, who would skirt out of the way.

A demon sped toward Vader's back.

The Sith turned around and raised his hand, flexing his fingers. He used the Force to raise the demon, squeeze its throat, and then slam it into one of its ilk. A red aura radiated from Vader. His breathing became raspier. The demons began to scream as their bodies bubbled and burst. The door behind Vader cracked and gave inward.

Cassandra kept as far from the action as she could, standing with her back to a corner.
Vader turned again and strode into the next room.

Cassandra saw a flash from the threshold and heard the crackling of lightning. Maybe there was something she could do to help. Anything. She felt they were being overwhelmed. The demons in this room were lurching and falling apart, splattering their bodily contents on storm troopers. Six managed to break off and follow Vader, running out of sight, while three burned alive before her eyes.

The Commander took a deep breath and rushed through the portal. Prison cages hung from the ceiling, lined the walls. Square pits were in the floor, torch poles at their centers burning. At the opposite side was a raised platform.

Vader had stopped at the center of the pits. Bolts of lightning branched across the vicinity, covering the flagstones, frying troopers. But the Sith had erected an invisible barrier, making the electricity yield away from his body.

Avernus stood atop his altar on the platform, staff held high, firing the lightning from the crystal at the top. He was an old, frail man, but his call over demons and the Dark Side were something to behold.

The mage ceased his attack, panting.

Vader thrust out his hands in front of him.

The wooden platform started to crack and splinter apart.

The altar under Avernus' feet fell through. The mage jumped and spun in the air, landing between the destroyed platform and his enemy. He fired another cascade of lightning.

Vader waved his arm to the side and diverted the lightning. Not just that. He made the lightning curve back to its source.

Avernus clenched his staff and shook with concentration, trying to push back the bolts. He stopped his attack again, but the lightning somehow remained.

Vader moved both arms in a sweeping motion and sent the residual electricity straight into Avernus.

The old man's skeleton shown through his flesh for a few seconds... and then he collapsed.
Darth Vader walked to the fallen foe. He lifted Avernus by the throat with the Force.

"Which of your recorded studies are relevant?" The deep, reverberating voice was thick in malice. "Where is the prize alchemical concoction?"

Avernus's voice sputtered through the firm hold. "You'll --- never --- know."

Vader closed his hand into a fist. There was a cracking sound and the old mage went limp. Vader flung him away.

The twelve stormtroopers in their company had perished. The mage's lab was now a wreck. Burnt, shattered wood littered floor.

"Commander, tear this place apart until you've found those notes."

"Aye, aye, milord."

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Not sure if you were attempting it, but the Assault on Soldier's Peak had a feel reminiscent of Tanative IV.

Keep up the good work.

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SilverDragonRed wrote:Not sure if you were attempting it, but the Assault on Soldier's Peak had a feel reminiscent of Tanative IV.

Keep up the good work.

That classic battle did serve as inspiration! Smile

Thank you, sir. I shall try. *salutes*

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