A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
As the vastness of space stretched out before him, Lord Vader could only think of the coming mission. A few days ago, someone had attempted to take his master’s, the Emperor’s, life. It was a plan by a petty band of rebels led by one surviving Jedi named Barrak Soran. The rebel’s plan had failed, and their forces on Corusant were wiped out, but Soran had managed to escape much to the emperor’s displeasure. The Emperor had contacted Vader wanting him to do what he did best, eliminate the foes of the Empire. As per his master’s request Vader tracked Soran across the galaxy, and took his flagship, The Executor, to the planet of Xophobos IV, where below one of the last remaining knights of the Jedi order awaited with nowhere further left to run.
As he stared down at the green planet though, something felt strange. Vader had not become the master he was, without utilizing the power of the force to its full potential. There was something on Xophobos IV, and it wasn’t just a lone Jedi. Vader reached out with the force, but could not sense his quarry. Instead he felt overcome with something much stronger. It was if the planet itself was speaking to him, telling him to stay away, warning him not to set foot on the planet should he meet his doom. It was as if the very planet was alive.
A powerful force user can be intune with the forces of nature. They can hear the rocks speaking, and fell the life pulse of any planet if only the reach out with the force to touch it. For Vader, as a Sith Lord, he commanded the force, and bent it to his will. This gave him more power than any Jedi could have ever possibly imagined. Even Obi-Wan who had bested him in their last encounter, could in no way rival the power that he now possessed. His rage fueled him, and the pain he felt in every waking moment only served to further amplify his power. Despite this power though, he had a hard time pushing back the power he felt emanating from Xophobos IV
“Lord Vader,” A man wearing an Imperial uniform had approached Vader, disrupting him from his meditation. The man short, and his thin frame would have suggested the man a weakling, and unfit for the Empire, but the markings of the man’s uniform signified the ranking of Fleet Admiral. In the Empire, appearances can be deceiving. Even a feeble looking old man can be even more dangerous that the highest trained soldier.
“What is it Fleet Admiral.” Vader said not hiding the scorn in his voice.
“It’s the information we have on Xophobos IV, and the traitor Barrak Soran.” The Fleet Admiral held out a datapad to the Dark Lord, which he only glanced down at, and then back out the viewing window of the Executor’s bridge.
“I am already aware of anything you might possess on the traitor.” Vader said coldly, “Tell me what information you have on this planet though.”
The Admiral nodded, “Xophobos IV is an anomaly in this system sir. Considering the distance from this systems star Xophobos IV should be covered in ice like it’s sister planet Xophobos III, but for some reason the planet has been able to maintain an atmosphere, and largely the planet is teeming with organic life, thus it being identified as a forest world. A century ago settlers had attempted to colonize the world, and harvest its resources for the old republic, but the republic lost contact with the settlers a short time after. It was believed that due to the planet being so close to the outer rim of republic space at the time that the settlers were simply wiped out by pirates or slavers.”
Vader did not respond to the Fleet Admiral’s last comment, but something was telling him that pirates or slavers had not wiped out those settlers, but that was of little consequence. The past mistakes of a few hapless colonists would not happen to him. The Empire had a vision that needed to be realized, and so long as there is a single Jedi left standing to threaten that vision Vader would be there to see the threat squashed beneath his heel, despite the dangers he might face.
“We tracked the traitors shuttle, and we believe he has landed somewhere in this area” The admiral said pulling out a holodisc which showed a miniscule holographic model of the planet below. A small section of the planet model was blinking signifying the sector in which they believe Soran to be.
“Blockade the planet admiral, be sure nothing leaves. Send down the droids first, they will give us an idea of where we will find the Jedi.” Vader commanded, but the Admiral seemed unconvinced that Vader’s command was the best choice of action. Vader could sense his doubt. “You do not agree, Admiral?”
Suddenly the Admiral looked fearful, and a sweat began to break out across his brow. The tales of Vader’s wrath were numerous throughout the Empire, “It’s just that…Lord Vader would it perhaps be better if we just bombard the planet? We have the traitor cornered; surely he could not escape our cannons?”
“Understand this Admiral, we are dealing with a Jedi, and the powers of your petty machinations are insignificant compared to the power of the force. This foe is not to be underestimated.”
“Understood, Lord Vader.”
“Good, and Admiral, do not question my orders again. The next time I will not be as forgiving.”
“Yes, my Lord.” The Admiral bowed and backed away from the Dark Lord as quickly as he could, and began barking out orders to have the scouting droids get ready to be sent down to the Planet. Vader turned back to the planet, and reached out with the force again. Sure enough the planet was still pulsating with force energy. He could not sense Soran, but he could feel small pockets of energy seemingly all feeding into one great source and then feeding that energy back out again in an endless cycle. Perhaps one of these pockets of energy was the rouge Jedi Soran.
Vader was almost certain that the droids would not find Soran, but perhaps if the Jedi had allies down on the planet, one would slip up and be spotted by the droid. Vader was certain that he would have to eventually descend down to Xophobos IV. He wanted to discover for himself what mysteries of the Force the planet possessed.
High above her the Goddess Ivy could sense the coming darkness. The forest of her home spoke to her, frightened like little children.
“Goddess, please protect us. We are so scared.” Ivy heard them whisper. From her seat atop a fallen log, which had been fashioned into a comfortable throne, Ivy held out her hand as a nearby vine seemed to reach out to her, and wrapped itself gently around her palm, caressing her emerald skin.
“Do not worry my babies.” She cooed, “I will not let anyone harm you.”
“What of the lost ones, Goddess?”
“Now my children, you know that they pose us no threat.” The Goddess let a wry grin show, “The Master Jedi Soran has promised to respect our wishes.”
“Indeed, I have.” The voice came from the entrance of the grove in which the Goddess had taken up residence. The Goddess looked sharply in the direction of the intruding voice to see the Jedi she was just speaking of.
Soran, a human, stood tall, a rugged scruff adorning his chin, and sunk in eyes suggesting a lack of sleep. His robes were ripped and scorched in several places, and yet his slicked back dark hair always seemed to have sustained the least damage, despite the fact that rest of him looked as if it had dealt with one of Ivy’s more dangerous children.
“My, My, Barrak, you look as though you have been through it. What brings you within my domain? I thought we had concluded all our…” Ivy paused searching for the appropriate word, “negotiations.”
“Yes well.”Barrak coughed, “I assume that you have sensed the coming dark presence?”
“I have.” The Goddess replied, wanting him to get to the point.
“A very dangerous adversary is coming to this planet, in search of me. I’m needing all the help I can get. I know within your grove there is a cave containing several crystals. I brought my apprentice, Sha Kaffan, her to ask your permission to enter this cave so he can construct his lightsaber and officially join the Jedi order to help prepare him against this coming darkness.”
Ivy noticed by the man’s side stood a young boy. He could be no older than maybe fifteen years. His yellowed skin and facial tattoos marked him as a miralan.
“You want me, to allow another one of your burning swords of light to be forged?” Ivy snorted crossing her arms, “You ask much, Jedi?”
“Then perhaps you can help us fight?” the apprentice blurted out, “Master says you are very powerful in the force, and I can sense it too. You could be of great…” The Jedi master smacked his apprentice in the back of the head, letting the apprentice know his master’s displeasure. The Goddess Ivy began to laugh.
“I like this one, Barrak Soran.” Ivy stepped down from her throne and over to the Miralantian boy, where she took hold of his chin gently. “You are quite the outspoken little one aren’t you?” Ivy smiled, before the lovely face transformed into a scowl when she suddenly tightened her grip, and her red nails tore into the apprentice’s cheek causing him to wince in pain as blood began to seep from the scratches. “Know this before you speak again Sha Kaffan, I do not fight your battles. Now you will not speak to me again unless I permit it understand.”
Sha Kaffan nodded, barely managing to do so.
“Good.” The goddess said before letting him go, and then landing a backhand across his left cheek and causing him to tumble to the ground. She turned back to Barrak, “I will permit him to build his so called instrument of initiation, you just be sure to keep to our agreement Barrak.”
“As you wish Goddess, you have my word that no plant life will be harmed.”
“Now I want to hear it from him.” Ivy motioned toward the boy still on his knees cradling his wounded cheek. The boy breathed heavy, anger in his eyes, but more so from fear of the being who had just humiliated him. He kept quiet not wanting to say anything.
“Go on boy.” Barrak said to his apprentice.
“I swear no plant life shall be harmed.” Sha Kaffan muttered. Ivy nodded in approval, and with a wave of her hand the vines and leaves in the grove began to move revealing nearby an entrance to the cave that Barrak and Kaffan had come in search of.
“Now go,” Ivy said, “I am sick of the sight of both of you.” Barrak took up his apprentice and the two of them headed for the cave entrance. As Barrak passed the Goddess, a fleeting glance was shared between them, and when he finally disappeared with his apprentice into the darkness of the cave she smiled, hardly noticing how a small vine began to slide its way up her arm to her palm where it bloomed into a beautiful violet flower. She observed the delicate flower twisting it this way and that before finally placing it behind her ear where is accented her red hair, and returned to her throne where she began to rest her mind preparing it for whatever the future might hold.