Greetings, gentle reader, upon this Friday blog time. Today, in lieu of a og post, I thought I’d share a little vignette I wrote recently for my SW:TOR Sith Lord.
Enjoy. Or don’t. Whatever.
It was chill enough for the trooper’s breath to mist before him; a visible cloud of vapour that gave away just how heavily he was breathing. But then, he had been running for quite some time. Dawn had barely stopped its slow creep over the horizon and the sky was still grey with only a suggestive tinge of gold to suggest that the sun was rising.
Not that it mattered much. Sunrise over Corellia did little to warm the coldness that seemed to accompany the devastation to Trooper Margon’s place of birth. Since the endless conflict and shellings had rendered the place a network of craters, unstable buildings and brick dust, sun did absolutely nothing to lift either its appearance or the spirits of those who still clung onto it with patriotic stubbornness. Corellia was, after all, their home world.
Grey, was the best word Margon had ever found to think of how he saw his home. It was also how he saw his life. No colour anywhere. His young wife and infant daughter had died during one of the endless air raids that had devastated an entire hab quarter, killing thousands in the space of a few short hours. Margon had never forgiven himself for having been offworld when it had happened.
Since then, he had been stationed with the reserve militia on the planet, dealing with threats from those who sought to continue raiding Corellia of its richness for themselves. Margon had fought countless Imperial troops, even a few rebel Republic ones and he had always come out unscathed.
But the scene that had taken place at the barracks that morning, in the cold moment where the world had held its breath before another dreamless night had ended, had been unlike anything he had known or trained for.
* * *
Barely an hour earlier, Margon was been sleeping. Or at least whatever it was that passed for sleep these days. Plagued by nightmares, the young trooper rarely got a full night’s rest any more. Thus it had been that he was awake during Last Watch.
That his planet had come to this; the day divided up into military-style chunks of time when they were forced to stare into the endless grime of their own streets waiting for attacks that sometimes never came. Margon had long gotten into the habit of volunteering for Last Watch because it was easier than sleeping had become.
It was a cold night; a patina of frost rimed the streets and the barrel of his rifle. Margon stood, a cigarro in his mouth, taking occasional swigs from a hip flask. Corellian rum. Not the best brand to be sure; a trooper’s pay wasn’t exactly going to net him the five star liquor, but it was warming enough. The rules on alcohol were relaxed enough that he could sip at the warming, fiery liquid and stop his bones from freezing.
There was no liquor in the known planets that could have stopped his blood from curdling as the howl first reached his ears. It was a terrible sound; a nightmare scream dragged from the very bowels of hell. Margon dropped his hipflask and raised his rifle into the night.
‘Who goes there?’ The words were barked out, only a slight shake to his voice giving away the sudden fear that crept through him.
There came no reply. Three other troopers joined Margon in aiming the barrels of their weapons into the shadows. Something shifted slightly and the shadows began to coalesce into a solid shape, hunched over. Margon peered. It looked like some kind of animal; a hound with a prominent spine running in ridges down the curving back. Certainly the growling that came from it was animalistic.
‘Feral hound,’ grumbled one of his two companions. ‘Just shoot…’
The shape unfurled and something was thrown with inhuman strength across the gap between it and the troopers. The projectile landed with a sickening wet slap against Margon’s shoulder and then rolled to a stop on the ground a few feet away from the troopers.
His eyes automatically followed the object and seconds later he re-experienced the burning of the Corellian rum as it was violently projected from his mouth by the full force of the instinctive vomit reflex at the sight of his commanding officer’s severed head staring sightlessly up at him. The rest of the body followed seconds later.
‘Shoot it! SHOOT IT!’
Wiping the vomit from his face, Margon turned to fire at the creature in the shadows. Shots rang out in the ruined street, several ricocheting from the walls and zinging into the emptiness. But the creature that must surely have done this, the thing that had committed such an atrocity had gone, vanished with alarming speed into the cover that the ruined buildings afforded it.
‘I can’t! It’s not there!’ Margon took a few running steps forward, his heart beating painfully against his chest. His weapon sketched a wide arc in front of him as a little more daylight began to seep into the blackness, but he could see nothing.
It was then, and only then, that he realised there was no other sound apart from that of his own breathing. Moments later, that single noise was joined by a dark chuckle; a throaty laugh that seemed otherworldly. Margon became certain in that instant that whatever had killed his commander – and now apparently his companions – was most certainly not a hound.
I could just run, thought the trooper wretchedly. I could just run and never look back. Maybe… it won’t follow me. Maybe it doesn’t want me.
Instinct screamed at him. Run! Run, you fool! and yet he did not. Something else, some other curious primal urge made him turn his head to stare at the previously unseen attacker. Immediately, Margon regretted it.
A nightmare made flesh stood behind him, slightly silhouetted against the sliver of rising sun that made its way through the gaps in the buildings. Six and a half feet at least, the shoulders were so broad as to be exaggerated. The armour, crimson and black with silver detailing, was unlike anything Margon had ever seen. An artificial metallic spine ran down the ridge of the armour’s backplate giving the humanoid creature a terrifying aspect. A full face-helm obscured the thing’s features.
In one hand, it held the headless corpse of one of the two troopers who had joined him on the Last Watch. In the other, it held a weapon the like of which Margon had seen only rarely. A slim hilt with a slowly burning tongue of flame, red as the blood that now ran in rivers from the barracks, from the pile of corpses that this creature had engendered.
A lightsaber, thought Margon, a second of childish wonder causing his eyes to open wide. How…
The monstrous humanoid reached up a hand and tore off its helm. A shaven head, an all-too-human face and eyes.
The eyes burned into Margon’s face as though committing every detail about him to memory. And they were terrible eyes. They had the colour and intensity of amber flame, an orange hue that was somehow more animal than human. The left side of the man’s face was a mass of scar tissue that pulled one side of his mouth into a permanent sneer. The other half was marked by a tattoo that was worked intricately across the flesh of the cheek and eye. It was a man, then, but not the kind Margon had ever encountered.
He’d read about them, though. He knew what it was.
‘Sith.’ He whispered the word into the chill morning.
The scarred face twisted into a mockery of a smile and Arcarius Getharion, tasked with the destruction of this group of rebels, bowed deeply, threw down his penultimate victim before bounding towards the last with another feral howl of berserker fury.
That had been when Margon had started running.
He stopped now, leaning against the wall, his breath coming in short, painful gasps, tears running down his face from both his exertions and the sheer terror that filled his being at the thought of what was coming to get him. And it would get him, he had no doubt at all.
What he didn’t know was why.
Margon leaned against the wall, unable to run any further and wept in fear of his impending demise. He wept and he waited.
He waited. And he heard, or so he thought, a whisper in the dark. The words meant nothing to him and he pressed himself up against the wall as though willing it to swallow him up.
The sun came up, finally, although it was hardly worth the effort and Margon lived still. Hardly daring to believe that he might have been spared, he cautiously prised himself away from the wall. There were sounds. Voices. He could hear voices. Other troopers, he realised and eagerly, his limbs renewed with energy, he made his way towards them.
Everywhere, death. Everywhere evidence of the big Sith warrior’s passage. Each death – and there were upwards of twenty of them – had been uniquely different. Some had been decapitated cleanly, obviously with the blade of a lightsaber. Others had ragged stumps where heads had once been, implying that they had simply been physically torn off. One had been cut into two uneven-sized chunks of flesh. It was a vile scene of slaughter. But Margon was past throwing up.
‘Trooper Margon!’ The commander, a young-looked Lieutenant hurried over to him. ‘You’re still alive!’
‘What happened here?’
Margon looked around at the growing pile of corpses and felt nothing. For those who had once been his brothers and sisters-in-arms, he felt no grief, no sense of aching loss. All he felt was the weight of the burden that had been placed on him; a burden that had arrived as a whisper in the night. Finally he understood their meaning.
Always leave one standing…