A young woman beings her path down the Dark Side of the Force.
The Legends of Darth Skhorrn
Part I: Scorn of the Jedi
Alek-Kith Irimore looked around the surface of Malachor, an ashen wasteland. She was standing in the center of a crater; at least, that's what it looked like during her landing. In the distance, jagged mountains encircled the valley she now stood in. For miles around, the surface was barren, save for one feature: the pillars. They jutted out of the ground like titanic stakes, as though a god had tried to plunge them into the heart of the planet. Maybe that had been what killed it.
Death emanated from this place. It was almost perceptible to Alek-Kith through the Force. Though the planet remained still and arid, she could feel waves of death rising from the ground around her like steam from a geyser. The Togruta slowly crept toward the nearest "geyser". It was rising in front of one of the pillars. From a distance, the pillars appeared to be some kind of rock formation. However, upon closer inspection, Alek-Kith could see that there were carvings upon the rockface.
Something about the passage on this one called to her. She could hear whispers in the Force. It was trying to tell her something. She got closer, hoping clarity would come if she could understand the stone carvings. A longing formed in her. She traced her hands over the writing on the stone, the voices getting louder in her mind. Suddenly she stopped. Her hand hovered over a passage she could not read, but understood to be important; for the voices repeated one phrase with clarity:
"Scorn of the Jedi. Scorn of the galaxy. Scorn of the Jedi. Scorn of the galaxy."
It was as if Alek-Kith stood in a vacuum. All the air had been sucked out of the area. The Force continued to whisper to her. She sensed that if she touched this passage, what looked to be "Skhorrn iv tave jidai, skhorrn iv tave plejada" it would open the way for her. Then there would be no going back. She closed her eyes and took one breath. She slowly exhaled and opened her eyes, resolve set in her gaze. She reached forward and touched her fingers to the carving.
Red light sprung from the area her fingers rested on. It cracked its way down the pillar like a bolt of crimson lightning to the barren surface. The ground cracked with red light and began to fall away. Alek-Kith used the Force to carry her up and back in a graceful flip. Landing gently, she walked to the edge of the hole that had just opened up. All she could tell was that there was a chasm beneath the area she stood on, but she could not see the bottom nor gauge its breadth. Falling would be ill-advised.
Alek-Kith climbed into her starfighter and lifted off. But she wasn't going far. Angling the nose so she had the opening in her sights, she fired the laser cannons at it until the hole was wide enough for her fighter to slip into without trouble. Once she was in, Alek-Kith turned on the floodlights. What she saw stole her breath yet again.
A massive temple stood beneath Malachor's surface. It bore a resemblance to a Sith holocron: pyramidal in shape, yet ornate and intricate in its design.
"So the rumors were true," she whispered to herself. Alek-Kith circled the temple, searching for an opening or landing platform. But whoever had built this place had not meant for a ship of any kind to land here. She would have to set down on the ground. But she could not easily find a landing spot. Where the surface of Malachor was barren and smooth, the terrain down here crested in waves. It looked like an entire sea had been frozen in carbonite during the middle of a storm. And among the waves, there were shapes. It was difficult to make out, even with the aid of the floodlights.
Alek-Kith spotted an area smooth enough to land on, barely wide enough for her fighter's landing gear. With great care, she set down on it and climbed out of her cockpit. Using a handheld lamp, she looked around at the shapes she could not identify from the air. Seeing one hunched over in the dark, she hopped down and slowly crossed over to it. She came close enough to determine its shape: it was a person. Or had once been a person.
What lay before her now was an ashen husk; like the ground beneath her, this being had been frozen over in what must have been an instant. The Togruta woman stretched out with the Force, trying to determine if there was any life left in the statue that lay before her. But there was nothing. Circling in front of it, Alek-Kith searched its features for any kind of identifying markings. But all color and patterns had been washed over by whatever substance now covered the whole area.
But Alek-Kith could not shake the sense that she needed to find out who this had been. They had died on their knees, arms crossed in front, hands clutching their sides, as if injured. Shining her light on the husk's gut, she saw that the tunic they had been wearing was ripped several inches above the waistline. They had indeed been injured. Looking around, she saw that there were hundreds of statues in similar conditions. Not the exact pose, per se, but in the middle of movement, indicating they had all died simultaneously and frozen with the environment instantly.
Alek-Kith searched for any identifier she could, but found nothing. Feeling she needed to move on, she turned to walk toward the temple. But after two steps, her foot struck something that shifted. Crouching down, she discovered a lightsaber at her feet. She picked it up with her free hand and studied it under the light of her lamp for several moments. It was a simple design: black body with black grips toward the top and bottom of the cylinder, vertical silver lines running the length between grip sections. The emitter was slanted in a straight cut. There were two buttons, a small red one in the back, in between two of the grips; and the other in the front, larger and black.
It was this button she thumbed to switch the saber on. The crimson blade seemed to crawl to life, the hum low, almost gurgling. This lightsaber had clearly not been used in some time. Switching off her lamp, Alek-Kith now used the light from the saber to illuminate her path. Bodies everywhere were frozen in battle. What she found peculiar was that anything made of metal was left untouched by the catastrophe that had enveloped all living tissue and fabrics. Masks, lightsabers, and armor plating all lay uncovered. There was a coating of ash on it all, but unlike the skin of the people here, the ash could be brushed off the metal.
Alek-Kith studied many of the bodies, all of whom had lightsabers either in their grip or near their final resting place. There were many designs. Most were the standard single-blade like the one she now wielded, but others were different. Some hilts were extended in length with emitters on either end, meaning two blades could be used. Others were the length of staffs, yet had only one emitter for the blade. Alek-Kith had heard of pikesabers but had never actually seen one. Yet the most surprising design she found was that of a cross.
The hilt itself was similar to most Jedi lightsabers. It had a silver finish with a ridged grip section in the center and a copper neck. But the thing that stood out was the emitter section. There was the standard opening for the blade, but running parallel just beneath it were two similar emitters on both sides. As far as Alek-Kith could see, there was only one button, located front and center of the hilt. Unable to restrain her curiosity, she pressed the button to activate it.
Verdant blades sprang out of all three emitters. The main one stood tall and thin, while the two on the side were shorter and wider. Alek-Kith thought of the benefits of such a design. Increased protection for the hands against attack, while offering some small offensive capability in close quarters. She was tempted to take both sabers. But she was not trained to use such a weapon. And she did not have time to learn to compensate for the side blades. There was work to be done and her fighting style was already perfected.
Alek-Kith deactivated the blades, their green light disappearing from the surface around her, leaving only red. After placing the cross-guard saber back where she had found it, she found her way to the foot of the temple. Looking up, she was in awe of its sheer size. It was like a mountain unto itself, hidden beneath a valley. She could barely make out the ceiling of the chasm that sheltered everything around her.
She began walking along the outside of the pyramid. She needed to find the entrance. If her information was correct, the temple held many secrets and artifacts, not the least of which was a Sith Holocron. Eventually, she found the doorway. But there was a problem. There was no discernable way to open it. No handle, no motion detector nor keypad. The entrance itself seemed to be a huge slab of rock that would rise when activated. Alek-Kith searched frantically for the hidden mechanism to lift it, but could find nothing.
Frustration gave way to aggravation, and soon Alek-Kith was furiously slashing away at the door with her newly acquired lightsaber.
"Open, damn you!" She shouted with each strike. But the blade made no impact, left no mark. Screaming with hate, Alek-Kith swung the saber so hard she threw herself off balance and fell to her knees, dropping the weapon. It deactivated and clattered on the ground. Fighting tears, Alek-Kith began beating the rock with her fists. She bashed it until her hands bled and her knuckles broke. The pain was nothing compared to the failure that threatened to swallow her up; the last victim of Malachor.
"I have not come here to be denied now," she said through gritted teeth. Grabbing the lightsaber, she tucked it into her belt. Lifting one leg so that she knelt, Alek-Kith placed both hands on the ground, palms up. She curled her fingers inward, as if grasping a large knob in each one. She gave her grip anger. She gave it hate. She gave it pain. Years of it. She gripped the base of the rock with the Force and began to lift her hands, straining to pick them up. Planting her weight on the bottom of her feet, she began to rise, bringing her hands, and more importantly, the rock, off the ground.
"This is not my grave. I am not like them." Alek-Kith strained to speak, but it was important that she do. "The Jedi fight for peace, but it is a contradiction; a lie." She now stood in a low crouch, her back leg extended, all her weight being borne on her front leg. Her hands strained to hold the door, but she didn't let it drop. "They deny themselves their passions, but passion is the birth of the Force!" She groaned as the rock lifted higher. "Passion gives birth to life, which creates the Force."
The stone reached its full height, there was enough room for her to walk under it. It was heavy, and should she lose concentration, it would crush her. But there was another one, blocking her path. She strained under the weight of the first stone. She thought of what she had learned about the Sith: there was always a master and an apprentice. That must be what was needed to open the doorway; one to wield the stone, and another to take it. Power. It was a metaphor for power.
"Only the powerful are deserving of life! And I will be powerful!" 'Letting go' with one hand, she reached out and began 'gripping' the next one. As she struggled to lift the new obstacle, the previous stone began to descend on her. It felt like she was trying to lift an entire planet with each arm. Though the second stone rose shakily and slower than the first one had, it rose nonetheless. The first stone was bearing down on her, and she had to crouch not to be crushed by it. She ambled towards the growing opening, and when she was clear of the first stone, she let it fall.
Now free to lift the second stone with all of her concentration, Alek-Kith cursed in her native tongue when she saw there was yet another door. She made her way toward the third rock, never loosening her grasp on the one threatening to crush her. When she got to the new barrier, she crouched down, as she had when she began lifting the initial door. Extending one arm to its full length, she reached the other one down and shifted half of her concentration to the next one. This one was heavier than the others, and Alek-Kith felt like she was going to break her entire arm lifting it. But she focused on the pain in her shattered knuckles, the strain in her arms. She used her pain to give her anger, and her anger made her stronger.
Alek-Kith Irimore yelled with rage as she lifted the third stone. Not even waiting for standing room, she crawled underneath it when it rose high enough. Letting go of the second rock, it crashed down and sent dust plumeing over Alek-Kith. She coughed and teared up, and for a second, her concentration lapsed. The stone above her jerked downward, but she caught it barely in time. Crawling on her knees, Alek-Kith crept forward inches at a time, all her focus devoted to the weight bearing down on her shoulders. Even though she lifted the weight with the Force, she was not strong enough on her own. This, she understood, was why the Sith worked in pairs. If she had a master, or even a learner of her own, she would not be about to get crushed.
But there, ahead. There was not another stone blocking her way, there was light. This was the final barrier, and all she needed to do was shoulder it just a little longer.
"I will be strong, and I will achieve victory!" Alek-Kith swore through clenched teeth.
She pushed past the fear, past the fatigue. All she needed was ten more feet on her knees. The stone descended onto her actual shoulders. Nine more feet. The weight of the temple and all of Malachor itself forced her to bend, but she would never allow it to break her. Eight feet. The stone held in place, but it strained against her and the Force. She didn't need it to rise, she just needed it to stay where it was. Six feet. She was getting closer. She could feel the change in the air: stale and unmoving. That temple had not been opened in time untold, the atmosphere therein a stasis of its own kind. Four feet. She was close enough now that she could make if she lept. Pouring all her spiritual strength into pushing the stone, she put all her physical strength into her legs and jumped for the opening.
Alek-Kith cleared most of the distance, but the stone slammed down on her right leg, demolishing it. She screamed in agony, hands grabbing at her thigh. Breathing hard, she felt the lightsaber in her belt. There was only one thing that could be done.
"I will be strong. I will achieve victory." She gasped out, barely above a whisper. Taking the lightsaber in hand, she pressed the activation button. The red blade crept along, growling softly. Alek-Kith brought her one free leg up to crouch on and pointed the lightsaber at her pinned knee.
"In victory, I break free." A simple flick of the wrist pushed the saber through her leg, severing it completely. Again she screamed, but it died down and became a primal growl in her throat. Taking a kolto patch from her blet, she bandaged the wound as best she could. It wasn't surgical or precise, but it would do for now.
Alek-Kith backed away from the stone on her hands and one good leg. She turned to observe the corridor she was in. Several halls divulged from the main foyer. Unsure of which direction to go, she called upon the Force. It guided her left, toward a hall with black markings lining the walls. But the Force also guided her to the door she had just escaped. She felt the need to retrieve her leg. Alek-Kith couldn't fathom what use it would be. Even if it hadn't been eviscerated by the stone barrier, it couldn't be reattached.
But the Force would not relent. For whatever reason, she would need her severed leg in this temple. Sighing with contempt, she once again curled her fingers, reaching out with her anger, hatred, and pain to lift the behemoth. It groaned like a beast being wrested from its slumber, stone grinding on stone. She lifted it just high enough to see the tattered remains of her lower right leg. Grabbing it with the Force, she yanked it out as the stone dropped again. Her disembodied limb flopped onto the ground, bloodied and broken in every way possible. Having nowhere else to put it, she slung it over her shoulder and pulled herself up; she leaned against the wall to support her weight, the broken remains of her leg dragging along the wall, leaving a trail of blood.
Listening to the Force, Alek-Kith limped through the halls of the Sith Temple. The air had been stale and musty when she cleared the entryway, but it got worse deeper inside. It was as if the Dark Side gave it its own atmosphere; heavy and putrid.
The stone walls bore carvings similar to the pillars on Malachor's surface. What the writing said, Alek-Kith couldn't know, for she could not read or speak the Sith language. Everything she knew of the Sith, she had learned from her cellmate on the prison barge Crimson Bedlam. He was an Aqualish named Emba who had served in the Mandalorian Wars and the Jedi Civil War. He had told her amazing stories of the Sith in battle.
Emba recounted many experiences fighting the Sith. He spoke of their red lightsabers that clashed with the green and blue of Jedi, yet had sometimes shattered the Jedi sabers without even touching them. Some claimed that lightsabers used special crystals that could channel the Jedi's Force. But according to Emba, the Sith's Force was stronger. He had seen them use it to strangle men without laying a physical hand on them. Or shoot lightning from their fingertips.
The other prisoners had chided Emba, calling him a liar. He was a pirate, after all. But Alek-Kith knew there was truth in his words. Though she had never seen what he had, she could feel it in her bones that he had been telling the truth. He had seen the Sith's power, and it was power she wanted for herself. She had lived on the Crimson Bedlam for most of her life, for her family had been arrested for conspiracy to commit treason; despite the fact that Alek-Kith had only been seven at the time, it didn't matter to the fledgling Republic. They needed to make an example. Even though there had never been any proof of conspiracy or treachery.
So Alek-Kith spent the first seventeen years of her life in prison. Her parents were killed by the guards and thrown in the food processor. She was forced to eat ration bars made from her own parents' bodies. It had filled her with hate beyond anything she had ever felt before. And when the guards came for her, not to kill but to violate, she had called out with her hate and imagined choking them with invisible hands, the way Emba had described. To her shock and their horror, they had actually began to choke. Alek-Kith realized she had the same Force the Sith had, and it gave her power. She would not be weak like her parents. She would be strong.
As the guards clutched at their throats, seeking to claw release from a stranglehold that was not there, she took one of their code cylinders and opened the cell she and Emba shared. She grabbed him by the collar and demanded to know where the Sith made their home. The Aqualish had been too afraid to tell her. So she dragged him out and showed him the guards, dead on the floor, still clutching for breath that would never come.
"Malachor! The Sith are on Malachor!"
"Where is it?!" She demanded, using her real hands to choke him.
"My ship has the coordinates! My starfighter! The Republic destroyed my freighter when they arrested me, but the coordinates of every planet I ever visited are backed up in my starfighter's navicomputer! It's impounded on Sluis Van!"
Alek-Kith let him down. "Come with me," she said as she picked up one of the guards' sidearms. She set it to kill and marched straight for the bridge of the barge. Along the way, she killed anyone she saw in her way, guards and prisoners alike. Some she blasted, others she choked with the Force just to test herself, see how strong she was.
When they got to the bridge, Alek-Kith had blasted every member of the bridge crew except for the captain. She made him call the Warden and signal him to come to the bridge. He arrived a few minutes later. Seeing the crew all shot, he turned to run back to his quarters where he had a panic room, but Alek-Kith stood in his way, blaster aimed between his legs.
"This is for my mother," she said as she pulled the trigger. The warden screamed like none of them had ever heard someone scream as he fell to his knees.
"This is for my father." Alek-Kith aimed at his elbows and fired. He huddled on his knees and looked up at her, mouth askew, dumbfounded. She slammed her foot against his chest and knocked him on his back.
"This is for fun." She shot both of his kneecaps and he screamed some more. "And now this," she made a half-fist and pointed it at the warden, "this is for me." The Warden gasped as his wind-pipe clamped shut. He tried to clutch at his throat, but his useless arms would not move to his aid; not that it would accomplish anything anyway.
Emba and the captain watched in horror as the warden turned red, then purple, his eyes bulging out, his bloated tongue wagging back and forth. Alek-Kith stared at him with laser-focused eyes, all the hate that had been building in her for seventeen years pouring out through her clenched fist and into the throat of the warden, who had been the direct cause of everything terrible that had ever happened to her. When they heard the snap of his neck, they all knew he was dead.
The young Togruta girl shifted her steely gaze to the captain. He quaked with fear and begged for his life. It was true, he had always been kind to her on the rare occasion she saw him. But she did not intend to show him mercy, for he had done nothing to save her parents nor punish the people responsible for their murder. She dragged him by the back of his collar to an airlock and threw him inside. Sealing it shut, she looked with cold indifference as he scrambled to get up and pounded on the door, begging for release.
"You are hereby released from duty aboard the Crimson Bedlam, Captain." Alek-Kith said and pressed the button that opened the airlock. The captain was ejected into the cold vacuum of space without a sound. She turned to Emba, who trembled. "Set a course for Sluis Van. I need your starfighter."
She had disposed of Emba as soon as they located his starfighter on Sluis Van. But she had not immediately made her way to Malachor. First, she sought out a teacher. She needed someone who could show her how to fight as the Sith did, but no one knew where the living Sith were.
So she went to Dathomir. She had heard rumors of the Nightsister clan, Dathomiri witches who used dark magic not dissimilar to the Sith's Dark Force. And they often used their skills as assassins for hire. They would prove adequate teachers until she had real Sith power.
Two standard years later, Alek-Kith limped down the halls of the Sith Temple. Now she was in the heart of Sith power, and she wasn't even sure if she would find anything useful here. Obviously it hadn't done the Sith who once lived here any good. But the Force had called her here for a reason, that much she could feel, just like she could feel Emba telling the truth all those years ago. It was ineffable, but she just knew it like she knew her own name.
And the Force called her down this specific hallway. It felt like it ran the length of the temple, but in reality, it must have only been a hundred meters. Alek-Kith could faintly make out a large chamber at the end of the long hallway. There was some sort of altar there, illuminated by a cone of red light that shone through an opening in the ceiling.
Reaching the end of the hall, Alek-Kith angled down to crawl on her hands and one knee, now that the room opened up. As she drew closer, the whispers that she had heard on the surface told her that what she saw was not an altar, not exactly. Twin pillars sat on opposite ends of the main table, which was shaped like a trapezoid, with the back being far longer than the front. It had glass windows built into the sides and tabletop that glowed red. There was an inscription on the face of the table in the Sith language.
"Leidimas forge." Alek-Kith ran her hands over it, and heard the whispers say "armor forge". There was an inscription below the name: "Pyktis. Sethi. Xela. Kraujas. Tegu temias buti tave ingredients kia forge tave leidimas tave jen\' garthaz uud nuo tu." She traced her hand along the words, but the Force would not whisper the translation to her. It seemed she would have to figure this out herself. Placing her dismembered leg on the forge's surface, she studied the table some more.
It looked like there was an opening in the center for something to go into, or maybe come out. Seeing no visible mechanism for opening it, she remembered her failed attempts to open the entrance to the temple. It had been the Force, the Dark Side, that finally made it yield to her. She would need that again. She needed anger.
Alek-Kith had plenty of anger. Anger that she had been raised in prison for crimes her family didn't even commit. "Pyktis," the whispers said. She repeated the word, and the forge began to hum with life. The red glass began to throb with light. Amazed, she searched with the Force for direction.
Hatred. She needed hatred. And she had it. She hated the warden for allowing the guards to torment prisoners. She hated him for killing her parents. She hated the captain for turning a blind eye to it. But most of all, she hated her mother and father. Because of them, she had to endure years of despair and fear. She hated them because they had not been strong enough to save themselves or her. Hated them for promising that things would get better one day, only for her to have to eat ration sticks made from their corpses the next.
"Sethi," came the whispers. Alek-Kith spoke it out loud, and the forge hummed louder. The throbbing light increased in frequency.
When opening the door, Alek-Kith had broken her knuckles on the stone. She would need pain. She laughed bitterly at that thought. She had more than enough pain. Everything that had happened on the Crimson Bedlam, all the training on Dathomir, breaking her knuckles, right now it all paled in comparison to her leg being crushed or being forced to cut it off. "Xela."
Upon speaking the word, the opening in center slid apart. A silver bowl rose out of it. One of the windows on the side of the forge showed a figure with a ceremonial knife in one hand and blood dripping out of the other into the bowl. Blood was the final ingredient. Alek-Kith looked at her destroyed leg resting on the table. This had been why the Force told her to retrieve it. That forge needed a sacrifice. But she would not give it a few drops. No, she had the fortitude to cut off her own limb. She would sacrifice the whole thing.
Alek-Kith picked the leg up and tried to place it into the bowl. But it would not fit as it was. So she had to fold it. It had been broken and crushed in so many places that it folded unnaturally. Blood pooled on the bottom of the bowl. "Kraujas."
With the final ingredient spoken, the bowl descended back into the forge. The light from within raced now, the humming a low roar. Alek-Kith focused everything she had on the forge. She gave it all of her anger, hate, and pain. She poured it all in and chanted with the whispers.
"Pyktis. Sethi. Xela. Kraujas. Forge nun zo tool iv tave jen\' garthaz kia shroud nun sulig nuyak enemies ir fetiz naile je\'as savimi. Evita zo shroud iv tave jen\' garthaz."
The pain in Alek-Kith's right leg spiked. She cried out and almost collapsed, but she would not risk interrupting whatever was happening. She braced herself on the forge with her hands and repeated the chant. Eventually, the humming died down, as did the light from the forge. The center opened again, only now instead of the bowl and leg, a single mask rose in their place.
Alek-Kith wasn't sure what she had expected, but it wasn't this. The bulk of it was dull gray in color, but there were silver flourishes in a semi-floral pattern. There were vents on the lower "jaw" and below the nose. The lenses for the eyes were dark and angry looking. Maroon stripes ran parallel to the center of the forehead down to the brow above the lenses. And another maroon stripe ran down the center of the mouth, from the bottom of the nose, angling down to the bottom of the "chin".
Alek-Kith picked it up. It was heavier than it looked. And it seemed to hum with a smaller portion of energy the forge had been humming with when she was chanting. But when she placed it on the glass of the forge, the mask was still. Picking it up again in one hand, Alek-Kith braced herself against the armor forge and placed the mask over her face. There was a strap in the back that snapped together around her head tails to secure the mask, perfectly adhering to the shape of her head.
As soon as it was on, Alek-Kith felt strengthened. A wave of dark energy rolled over her, cascading throughout her body. Overwhelmed, she collapsed on top of the forge. Looking out through the mask, she saw her reflection in the glass. To her surprise, she could see her eyes in the glass. They glowed yellow. Blinking to clear her vision, when she focused again, the glow was gone. It must have been a flare on the reflection, she thought to herself.
Alek-Kith hopped back to the hall to make her way out of the temple. She wasn't sure what all had happened, but she could sense her time here was done. She followed the blood trail left by her dismembered leg along the wall back to the entrance. She noticed that there was an indentation in the wall where a holocron would fit, but she didn't have one, and even though she knew one must be here, she was in no shape to find it. But it didn't matter. She felt stronger since putting on the mask.
Leaning against the wall, Alek-Kith gripped the stone door with the Force and lifted. She was shocked at how easily it rose. Shambling across the way, she was able to lift the middle door with ease as well. In no time at all, she had passed through all three barriers.
"The Force shall free me," she said. The mask altered her voice, it was deeper and more menacing. She reached out with the Force and felt a pikesaber nearby. Pulling it to her, she limped along with it under her arm, a makeshift crutch. Alek-Kith eventually made it back to her starfighter and climbed in. Rising out of the hole she descended through earlier, she paused in front of the pillar on the surface. She discovered the lenses on the mask had a zoom feature, which she used to look at the carvings one last time.
"Skhorrn iv tave jidai, skhorrn iv tave plejada."
"That's it. That's what I will be. Darth Skhorrn."