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View - #6: Lake of Apparitions

This entry was co-written with Inyri

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The Dark Lord traced his ancestor through the thick mist. Around them, faces pierced up from beneath the lake. A great variety of expressions were represented: some apparitions appeared peaceful; some sorrowful; some angry; and some were evidently suffering. As they tracked through the water, Iradox found himself stopping several times, recognizing apparitions flowing beneath the surface. One particular face caught his attention, causing a ripple of rage to rush through his veins. Noticing that Iradox had stopped again, Atrum turned.

You have no time, he warned. If you wish to see her, you must prioritize.

For an instant, the words sounded like faint echoes to the Dark Lord’s ears. Then cold self-control steeled his nerves. He turned away, musing that it was peculiar how the Sith monarch had gone from being his jailor to a supportive voice. But Atrum was right; the last thing Iradox wanted was to waste this opportunity just to mock Darth Derriphan – the false prophet had cost him enough already.

They continued for an eternity that stretched on for but a second. Then Atrum paused and pointed. The Dark Lord stepped up beside him, following the indicated direction with his infernal gaze. At the sight of the face lurking beneath the surface, he felt his heart pounding faster:

Her deep red pureblood features looked almost unchanged since the last time he had seen her true face, save for the effects of age. A lack of jewellery somewhat softened her appearance, though the healed holes from a series of large piercings still dotted her nose. Faint scarring, a jagged pattern that looked like a mass of lightning, marked the right side of her jaw and spread down what was visible of her neck. Her hair, thick and raven black, was cut to barely shoulder length and slicked back.

The Dark Lord lowered himself to one knee. He reached out a hand, only to have his palm come up flat against the surface of the lake; the dead separated from the living by the very fabric of existence. Iradox gritted his teeth, as his presence rippled with defiance: He cursed fate, cursed the Force and the universe itself.

“Vayne,” he called out.

Incandescent golden eyes snapped open at the call. With what appeared to be a started gasp, she rushed up to meet the surface of the lake. The ghostly visage peered out in silence for a moment, looking over Iradox with a mixture of confusion and disbelief.

"Thulan?" Her voice, oddly strained, was hesitant and unsure.

The Dark Lord cleared his throat, feeling oddly human in this moment. “Yes,” he managed. “I…” A pause followed, only to be broken by a deep inhalation. “I do not have much time. There are things I need to tell you and questions that I need to pose.”

Vayne's gaze still moved over Iradox, taking him in.

"You've grown old. I knew you of all people would survive... You didn't come here for me?"

It was less a question, more an assertion.

"Iradox, you're better than that. Tell me you're not risking yourself to talk to me."

Anxiousness filled her voice, and a hint of something else: Part anger; part disappointment; but predominantly worry. As her eyes finally locked with his infernal hues, her expression betrayed genuine care for the Dark Lord leaning over her.

“No,” Iradox found himself saying. “My presence here is more… circumstantial, alas I am indeed taking the time to speak with you, and I will not depart until we are done.” His voice sounded with the weight of authority, obtained through years of leading his own power base since he had left the Sith cult, left her…

"You should go, but I know you won't. I... I can't say I don't want you to stay." A pause ensued, in which Vayne continued to gaze deeply into Iradox's eyes. "Say what you have to." Her voice was quieter. "Just don't lose yourself to this place."

The Dark Lord steeled himself and began: “Firstly, you should know that the false prophet has paid for what she did to you: Her own followers turned on her, tearing her to shreds. I have since then systematically eradicated all traces of her legacy. The cult is gone; fractured as the imbeciles that made it up, scattered absent someone telling them what to do and think. However, I found your datacron, and I want you to know that you did not die in vain: I possess a greater power base and more knowledge than Derriphan ever did, and I have not forgotten your purpose - I will see the Empire and Sith preserved.”

A mixture of emotions played over Vayne's face. A frown, deepened as the Dark Lord went on, but was followed by the hint of a smile. Her gaze remained locked with her former Master's throughout. She paused for the briefest of moments before voicing a reply:

"You've achieved my goals, and more completely than I hoped to." Her voice, less strained as she spoke in quieter tones, conveyed a degree of satisfaction. "I only wish I could have seen it. Thank you."

Out of habit, Iradox strained to keep his expression stern and his emotions concealed. Then realized what he was doing and stopped; allowing the sorrow, satisfaction and longing to color his features.

“I am sorry I abandoned you. I needed to see my house restored, but it was meant to be with you.”

Vayne's smile faltered at that, her eyes finally breaking contact with his infernal gaze.

"I forced your hand. I was young, stupid, I thought I knew better." Her eyes met his again. "I wouldn't have been able to give you an heir. Perhaps it was... perhaps we each had to take our own paths. That you succeeded only brings me happiness."

She smiled again, though it was more forced; her words tinged with regret.

Iradox felt a jerk inside his chest, something both breaking and snapping into place. Suddenly he understood why he had grown so obsessed with acquiring knowledge about what had transpired in the cult after his departure; it had not just been for the sake of vengeance and closure.

“Do not permit hopelessness to grab hold of you,” he said in an imperious tone, suddenly the Sith master addressing his former pupil: “It is the nature of Jedi to accept the will of the Force; to accept fate. But we are Sith; we bend reality to our will.”

"We do." Vayne's agreement was flat, passive. Her tone changed, her voice raised. Instead of the strain her voice had carried previously, it gained an odd distortion that made it clear and powerful. "It's too late for me to correct my mistakes, Iradox. I can only acknowledge them. I forged myself into a Darth, I commanded the Force."

For a second a semi-transparent image of Vayne's helmet rippled over her face. The bright red slits denoting her mask's eyes remained over her natural golden eyes like an afterglow, fading away as her voice returned to it's quieter, more natural tones. "Now the Force has its revenge. Such is our fate." She looked stern, for a moment, but the expression didn't last. "You wanted to ask me something, I'll answer but we have to hurry. You've been here too long."

“Do not be so certain.” The Dark Lord glanced upwards, at the ethereal landscape now raging with dark side energy because he had acted: Because he, his followers and his allies had enforced their will upon the Force itself. “Fate is not as invincible as one might think.”

His infernal gaze snapped back to her. “Tell me about Sungsa-Lek and his scepter. I found it broken on the Jiass’jen. I need to repair it. Where on Voss does the spirit reside?” (HoD: The Voss Campaign)

"Of all the things you could need..."

Vayne closed her eyes. Now she looked weary, almost as if she had aged years in an instant. "I wasn't present when that... thing was reawoken." Her distaste for the item in question was palpable. "He can be found in a ruin, not too far from the capital. It lies between the capital and their so called Shrine of Healing, to my knowledge." Once again she looked up at the Dark Lord. "Be careful with that relic, be careful with anything to do with that world, Iradox. There are forces at work there beyond anything either of us could hope to control."

A slow smile crept across the Dark Lord’s lips. “Tlaena… If only you knew the things that has transpired since we parted. But I will tell you later.”

He stood up.

“Do not permit the Force to dissolve your personality. As long as you retain that, you are not truly lost.”

The ghostly Sith looked surprised, but also pleased. A genuine smile emerged, though she didn't allow it to last. "This existence is a test of my endurance, but a test I intend to beat: I will not be denied my own self; I'll be here." Although the words were spoken with finality, Vayne lingered at the surface for a moment. Still quiet, she spoke once again, this time without any pretense or concern for her image; she finally spoke entirely as herself: "I will miss you, Thulan. Please be safe... we'll meet again."

With that, she sank away into the lake once more, eyes closing shut as she again became still.

“Sooner than you think.” the Dark Lord mused. Then he turned back to the Sith Monarch, his gaze ablaze with renewed purpose. “Time to go.”