Buffy III - Moving On Up
Buffy twirled the practice lightsaber between her fingers, trying to get a feel for a weightless blade. The device shined a harmless and pale light in place of a true blade, and her small quarters now glowed blood red. The practice saber was really no more than a fancy flashlight in design, but it was giving Buffy an entirely new appreciation for the Sith.
And, she supposed, for the Jedi.
Overseer Dalen had been sure to teach Buffy about the Jedi, followed quickly by why they were to be opposed and exterminated. If Buffy was honest with herself, she’d have made a far better Jedi than the Sith she was trying to be. She kept telling herself that it was her ticket off this world, then back to Faith, and then back home.
There was a knock at her door, which promptly opened. Buffy turned to see Dalen standing there.
“Good. You’re decent. Put that practice saber away and get your war-blade. We’ve been summoned by Darth Arctis.”
Buffy’s eyes widened and she immediately rushed to obey. Anyone with a ‘Darth’ title was among the most powerful Sith in the entire Empire. One did not make it that far through weakness or stupidity.
“Arctis… Why does that name sound familiar?” Buffy pondered aloud.
“Because, Acolyte Summers,” Dalen said impatiently, “he is a member of the Dark Council! In case you’ve forgotten, the Dark Council is made up of the twelve most powerful Sith Lords in the Empire, answerable only to the Emperor himself.”
Buffy’s eyes widened, but she strapped her war-blade to its harness on her back and smoothed out her tunic and pants. “Gotcha. Be respectful, don’t mouth off, caution over boldness.”
“Indeed, Summers. You look smart enough, I suppose. Let’s go.”
Buffy followed Dalen out of her room and walked briskly down the corridors towards the main hall. “Tell me about this guy,” Buffy said. “What can I expect?”
“First of all,” Dalen sneered, “do not ever address a Dark Councilor as ‘this guy’ if you value your life. For this meeting, know that Arctis is pragmatic and intelligent. He values tradition only so far as it supports his own power. He is the head of the Pyramid of Ancient Knowledge; all Sith involved in that field answer to him in some way or another.”
Buffy nodded, regretting it as she got a bit dizzy before heading up the stairs to the second floor of the main hall. She hadn’t even noticed how far they’d gotten while talking. “How many of these pyramids are there?”
“Twelve, one for each Dark Councilor.”
“Gotcha. Do we bow to this g- Sorry. Do we bow to Darth Arctis?”
“It would certainly be prudent to do so, yes. Down to one knee should suffice. Here we are.”
A pair of masked guards in red robes flanked the door. They each wielded a wicked-looking pike that Buffy had been told was capable of taking down a Sith or a Jedi, as could their wielders. The guards stepped aside to allow Dalen and Buffy to pass through, and they did so.
As Buffy passed through the threshold, she was reminded of the guards outside Buckingham Palace, only more likely to kill you if you tried to get them to talk.
Dalen and Buffy rounded a corner into a large study. Shelves full of tomes and datapads lined the walls, glowing crystals illuminated the room, and a pale human man with graying hair sat facing away from his guests, reading over something on his desk.
Dalen bowed to one knee, and Buffy followed suit.
The man who had to be Darth Arctis spent another two minutes reading whatever it was he had in his hand before rising to greet his guests. “Ah, splendid. You’re here. Do stand up, please.”
Buffy rose to her feet slowly, not wanting to offend a guy who could probably swat her without effort. She’d seen Sith with different talents than her shoot lightning from their fingertips, and the sight never failed to bring back memories of Willow’s dark phase. Having been hit with summoned lightning before, Buffy had no desire to repeat the experience.
Dalen stood with his hands clasped behind his back, legs apart, in what Buffy recognized as ‘at ease’ from her time with Riley. Buffy copied his movements.
“I was just reading over reports of your time here on Korriban, Overseer Dalen. You’ve taken some very radical views, to say the least. You’ve advocated for alien blood in the Empire, saying that all those with strength should add that strength to the Sith. You’ve taken many alien apprentices since you became an Overseer, and while some have gone farther than others on Korriban, not one has survived the trials.”
Dalen said nothing. Buffy looked at Arctis but could not read him. He seemed to be sizing up Dalen, trying to get a reaction out of him.
“You were given other, purer students to oversee in the past year,” Arctis continued. “One of them was a favorite of my fellow Dark Councilor, Darth Vengean. Her name was Jorya, and she came from a proud lineage of warriors. You tried to pass her off to Overseer Harkun, telling Vengean that her talents rested in mastery of the Force’s mysteries rather than physical combat. She would have fallen under my domain had you succeeded, Dalen. Is that why you recommended her to Harkun?”
“No, my Lord,” Dalen said crisply. “It was evident that her skill with a blade was sub-par at best, but her power with the Force was great. She would have made a great sorceress had she been allowed to pursue her true talents.”
“But Vengean wouldn’t allow it. She was the daughter of one of his allies, and he promised to bring her under his dominion. She died in the sands of Valley of the Dark Lords, devoured by a pack of tuk’ata. Vengean swore that you would never rise above the rank of Overseer for this slight.”
Buffy had no idea what Dalen could say to that without getting himself killed, but he merely inclined his head and said, “Yes, my Lord.”
“And now,” Arctis continued, moving to inspect Buffy, “you have taken on a student in some ways more radical than the aliens you advocate to teach. This acolyte comes from a world only recently discovered. She has no knowledge of our culture, our history, not even our language. You specifically requested her to be your next acolyte, given that no other Overseer saw a use for her. What is it that you see in Acolyte Summers, Dalen?”
“My Lord, Acolyte Summers is a formidable warrior who shows signs of experience in combat far greater than many full-fledged Sith Lords. Her physical strength, stamina, reflexes, and speed are all superior to other humans, and this is before she accepted the Force into her life. Aside from that, she has a perspective untainted by the Republic’s lies, and I believe that without having lived her life in the Empire, she can view it objectively and change it for the better without the burden of any preconceptions.”
“Indeed,” Arctis said skeptically. “Perhaps she would have made a better apprentice for Darth Vengean. Acolyte Summers,” he said, speaking directly to Buffy for the first time, “you were found on Denova in the middle of a battle between our forces and those of the Republic. Tell me what happened there.”
Buffy looked up and fully examined Darth Arctis for the first time. His skin was unnaturally pale, and his eyes were a strange shade of orange. His hair was white, though he wasn’t balding, and he had a strange scar on one side of his mouth that gave the eerie impression that he was smirking, even without moving a facial muscle.
“Well, my Lord,” Buffy began, trying to remember her place, “I didn’t start on Denova. I was with my friends back home. Home would be a planet called Earth, which I couldn’t tell you where to find. We didn’t have space travel there. One moment, we’re all sitting there and enjoying ourselves. The next, my wacky cousin from England and I are smack dab in the middle of a battlefield on what I guess was Denova. My cousin grabbed a shovel and started beating up some guys in white armor, and I was suddenly bobbing and weaving to avoid laser fire from a bunch of robots of some sort. I got separated from my cousin, and a masked Sith Lord captured me and put me in manacles. I was stuffed in a ship with four, maybe five other prisoners, and taken to Korriban. A bunch of Sith asked me questions, then put me in a cell for a while, and then Overseer Dalen came and started training me.”
“Is that so? Fascinating.” Darth Arctis seemed to be speaking to himself, so Buffy did not say anything. “Most peculiar, and yet I sense no deception from you. It seems that I was right to summon you. Your strength and power are clear to me. You light up like a beacon in the Force, calling out to be tested and forged. And I shall give you that opportunity.
“One of my former apprentices, Darth Crush, is foolishly attempting to unseat me. He is building a power base in what he believes to be a subtle manner, but his ploys are obvious to all who see them. He commands an Overseer here on Korriban who is also his lover: Overseer Falrath. They are currently evaluating acolytes to determine who will become Crush’s next apprentice.
“Dalen, Summers, you will confront Crush and Falrath and execute them for their treason. You are exempt from the normal rules regarding the killing of fellow Sith within the Academy. Do this thing, and you will be rewarded.”
“Thank you, my Lord,” Dalen said, bowing to one knee again.
“Thank you, my Lord,” Buffy echoed, following Dalen’s lead.
“Go now,” Arctis commanded, “and see that my will is done.”
“My study, Summers,” Dalen hissed as soon as they were out of Arctis's office. “Now.”
Buffy didn’t question the Overseer. She followed him to his study, where he unlocked an armoire with the Force and summoned a pair of lightsabers to either hand.
“You’ve been working on this for several weeks,” Dalen said, handing Buffy her own handiwork. “I know it works, but does it feel right?”
Buffy looked at Dalen, wondering at the concern in his voice. Dalen cut a handsome figure with his dark hair, pale eyes, and hale good looks. Buffy had never been attracted to the Overseer, but there was something appealing about his face and voice right now. It was almost as if he cared for Buffy’s well-being.
Buffy didn’t linger on those thoughts, but activated her lightsaber and felt the glowing red blade in the Force. It did have weight of a sort, just not a physical weight. It wasn’t like the Scythe; she didn’t feel a special ownership of this weapon, but she knew that she could do whatever she needed to with it. It was the right tool for the right job.
Only the right job was murder, and Buffy didn’t know if she could take another life.
“Listen to me Summers,” Dalen said, grabbing her by both shoulders. “I know what you’re feeling. I can practically hear your thoughts screaming. You don’t want to kill another soul. That isn’t how things worked back on whatever backwards world you called home, but this is not Denova, it is not Earth. This is Korriban, and we are Sith. We rise on the backs of our rivals, or others rise atop of our own bodies. If you cannot accept this, then I will cut you down right now and take my chances alone. Do you understand what has to be done?”
Whatever Buffy was to Dalen – a path to power, an object of concern, whatever else it could be – he was dead set on making clear to Buffy that the old rules of home did not apply.
She thought about her meeting with Malra and Telran in the tombs, and of her confrontation with Loslar and the twins in the basement. This was a culture of pure Darwinism: the weak would perish and the strong would thrive. There would be no changing that.
Buffy remembered how weak she felt after the Council’s sick test on her eighteenth birthday. She remembered how weak she had felt when Riley had left, when her mom had died, when she was ripped out of heaven, when Tara and even Anya had died. She knew what it was to be weak, and she swore not to be weak like that again.
“I’m with you, Dalen,” she said firmly. Buffy surprised herself at how much she meant it. “Let’s do this.”
“I’ll forgive the informality just this once, Summers,” the Overseer said, but his smile said otherwise. “I’ll lead the way. Back me up. We’ll take them by surprise. Don’t look suspicious in the halls. Tuck your lightsaber into your robe pocket.”
Buffy nodded and did as Dalen instructed, following him through the dark passages of the Sith Academy until they reached an open portal. The room inside was little more than a large recess being used as a makeshift classroom. They took up positions on either side and listened in.
“What about this one, Falrath?” a deep male voice asked. “What makes her worthy to be Sith?”
“Malra knows her place, my Lord,” a rough female voice answered. “She recognizes her betters and serves well. She is not strong enough to be considered for a path to lordship, but there is a place for her in the Empire. Just not as a true Sith.”
“You may be right, Falrath, but I sense great resolve and cunning in this one. Hidden strength, even. Tell me, Acolyte Malra, is Overseer Falrath right about you, or am I?”
“I would be tested to prove my worth, my Lord,” Malra answered.
“Ah, a worthy answer. And you, boy: I sense your lust for this acolyte. What is your name?”
“Telran, my Lord.”
“Do you see a future with a Sith such as this? Perhaps you dream that you will become lovers once you leave Korriban together?”
“The future is mine to create, my Lord,” Telran hissed.
“Good, you know what it means to be Sith. Falrath, you disappoint me. You told me that the one called Loslar was the most promising, yet I do not see a Loslar here. I hear that his family withdrew him, claiming that he was being given assignments unworthy of his station.”
“You are correct, my Lord,” Falrath hissed, and Buffy sensed the female Overseer’s attention shift to Malra and Telran. “He was a known rival of these two.”
“A rival, you say? My reports say he was more of a bully. And his two enforcers, Sappa and Laffa Falos, attempted to forge their task with a false artifact. So sad when pureblooded Sith have to be executed.”
Buffy felt her stomach squirm at the revelation that she’d caused the death of the twin Sith. She reminded herself that this was Korriban, not Earth. The rules were different here.
“These two plotted his death,” Falrath protested. “I know they did!”
“If they did, which has not been proven, then they are true Sith. What would you have me do, Falrath?”
“Kill them both! They dilute the purity of the Sith by culling the strong from our ranks!”
“Oh, at the very least, give them a trial by combat. Acolytes, watch carefully. See how two of your fellows, connected in the Force, fare against a true Sith.”
Buffy sensed Dalen trying to get her attention. She could tell that he wanted to strike at Falrath while she was distracted with Telran and Malra, and Buffy couldn’t deny her urge to put this bitch down.
The snap-hiss of a lightsaber ignited inside the room, and Buffy sensed her two allies making ready to defend themselves.
Dalen charged into the room and stabbed Falrath through the back, landing atop her dead body as it hit the ground.
Buffy followed a moment later, making the briefest of eye contact with Telran and Malra. They said nothing with words, but the Force conveyed everything.
Soon, the bald, red-skinned Sith male was against the wall, lightsaber out, defending himself from an onslaught from all sides. Dalen and Buffy were soon joined by Telran and Malra, and yet Darth Crush held his own.
A wave of Force energy threw the four attackers backward, but they all landed on their feet.
“Acolytes! Defend me!” Crush yelled desperately.
None of them rose to move a muscle. They sensed Darth Crush’s weakness, and they knew he was doomed to fall one way or another.
Dalen rose his lightsaber and moved to bring it down upon Crush.
Before he could block, Buffy pushed Crush’s sword arm away from his body, leaving him exposed.
Memories of what she had done to Caleb years earlier echoed through Buffy’s mind as she gazed upon Darth Crush’s dead body.
Buffy saw an opportunity to establish herself in the Sith hierarchy. “Darth Crush was a traitor, and his execution was warranted by Darth Arctis of the Dark Council. Acolytes Telran and Malra, stay here and make sure the rest of this bunch doesn’t do anything stupid before the proper authorities come in to clean up this mess.”
Dalen stepped in to take command back. “Do as my apprentice commands!”
“Yes, my Lord,” the two lovers said as one before proceeding to get the other acolytes into proper shape.
“Someone will return for you shortly,” Dalen said. “Until then, none of you is to leave this room. Stay. Here. Come, apprentice.”
Dalen strode out of the room, and Buffy followed. Dalen was heading back towards Darth Arctis’s study, Buffy noted.
“I thought that apprentices were only given to full Sith Lords,” Buffy remarked.
“And yet, you clearly heard them address me as ‘my Lord’ back there,” Dalen said with a smile. “You did very well back there, Summers. I do not exaggerate when I say that you are the best student I have ever had the privilege to teach.”
Buffy smiled in return. “I would never have gotten as far as I have without your support, Overseer.” When Dalen looked ready to protest, Buffy added, “You’re not a Lord just yet, remember?”
Dalen chuckled. “We’ll see.”
“Splendid, splendid. The traitors are dealt with, and a new clutch of promising acolytes is ready to follow your, and thus, my lead.”
Darth Arctis did look and sound quite pleased, and yet he still gave Buffy chills.
“Overseer Dalen, for your service to the Empire, you are granted the title of Lord of the Sith, with all the privileges and responsibilities that entails.”
Dalen bowed to Arctis. “Thank you, my Lord.”
“Many Sith,” Arctis said, “choose a new name upon gaining Lordship. Something to symbolize what they have become. What will your name be?”
“Shar Dalen is my name, my Lord. It will suffice.”
Darth Arctis chuckled. “Very well, Lord Dalen. As a Lord, you may now take an apprentice of your own. Do I assume correctly that Acolyte Summers is to be that apprentice?”
“Yes, my Lord,” Dalen said proudly. “Acolyte Summers, you are to be my apprentice. You will learn the ways of the Force under me. Your trials here on Korriban are over, and a new set of tests out in the galaxy proper await you.”
Buffy decided that it was now proper to bow before Dalen. “Thank you, my Lord.”
“And now,” Darth Arctis said, “there is one final matter to attend to.” He pressed a button on his desk. “Send them in.”
Buffy heard footsteps and saw Telran and Malra coming down the hall, bowing at Arctis’s feet when they entered.
“These are the two acolytes who aided you in battle, correct?” Arctis asked.
“Yes, my Lord,” Dalen said. “Darth Crush thought they had potential. Falrath disagreed.”
“Indeed,” Arctis said. “Summers, what do you think?”
Buffy looked Arctis in the eye, and she could tell that he knew about her earlier partnership with them. “They proved themselves useful,” Buffy said as coolly as she could. “They could be worthy assets.”
“Is that so? Do you agree Dalen?”
“It is too soon to say for certain, my Lord, but I am inclined to agree with my apprentice.”
“Hm. Well, I do not agree,” Arctis said. “They have been tainted by Darth Crush’s ideals, and are unfit to live any longer. Kill them, Summers.”
Buffy paled and felt her heart catch in her chest. If this was what the most powerful of Sith were, then she had no desire to be Sith at all.
Telran and Malra clearly disagreed. Their blades were out in an instant, and they were on their feet.
Without thinking, Buffy felt the Force guide her as her lightsaber ignited in her hand and cut through both acolytes in one blow, killing them instantly.
Buffy gasped in shock at her own actions, at what she had done on pure instinct.
Darth Arctis laughed and clapped slowly behind her. “Ah, yes. You have to learn, Summers, that all things are temporary. Your little dalliance with those two could have grown into something too large to control. I had to end it before it started you see? Thankfully, you proved compliant.”
Buffy felt her rage simmer inside her. The cruelty and barbarity of this man was too great to fathom.
“Good, good. I can feel your anger, your rage, boiling just beneath the surface. You want very much to kill me, don’t you Summers? Be truthful, now.”
“I am going to see you rot in hell,” Buffy snarled.
This only amused Arctis further, and he kept laughing. “Ah, this is good. She has a fire in her, Dalen. She will make a truly powerful Sith. Train her well, or risk my displeasure. Go now and seek arrangements on Dromund Kaas. I will give you further instructions once you arrive.”
“Yes, my Lord,” Dalen said. He did not bow before he turned to leave.
Buffy looked at the dead bodies of her two allies – had they been friends? – on the ground, and then shot a murderous glare back at Darth Arctis.
“Apprentice!” Dalen shouted. “Follow!”
Buffy kept her eyes on Arctis, silently swearing revenge. “Yes, my Lord,” she said, following Dalen out of the room.
Dalen did not say a word to her as they walked to the shuttle, and Buffy did not say anything back to him. At one point, he caught her gaze, and Buffy felt something in the Force. What it was, exactly, she could not say, but she felt Dalen’s support in at least one matter.
Darth Arctis, whether by their hands or another’s, would die for what he had done.
I own nothing. To be specific about what is original and what is not...
Malra and Talren: original
Darth Arctis: not mine
Darth Vengean: not mine
Harkun: not mine
Darth Crush: original
Sappa and Laffa: original
Korriban: not mine
Dromund Kaas: not mine
Denova: not mine
Dark Council: not mine
Sith Emperor: not mine
Sith Code: not mine
Tomb of Ajunta Pall: not mine
Tomb of Marka Ragnos: not mine
K'lor Slugs: not mine
Tuk'ata: not mine
I'll take care of the Light Side next chapter. I hope this makes things a bit clearer.
Thank you all for reading. If you like the story, please leave a review. Feedback is always appreciated.
I still need a beta-reader, if anyone is interested.
I hope you all enjoy the story!