Deathly-cold winds swept violently up, down, and across the sides of the volcano. A layer of solid ice several feet thick covered almost all of the huge mountain as a constant stream of hot gases instantly transformed into delicate snowy particulates above the caldera. This was one of the largest volcanoes on the frozen world of Hoth, and it was statistically the most active by far. Naturally, the heat of the volcano's core attracted many of the planet's lifeforms to its dangerous caverns. One life in particular, though, had managed to claim a cavern all its own. Most creatures avoided this particular cave unless truly desperate. Their delicate primal senses could detect what most sentient-life could not: the occupant was one to be feared.
Above the planet, a massive warship from the other side of the galaxy hung in low-orbit. In the brilliant noonday sun, a pack of tauntauns could see the faint triangular outline, but they merely noted it briefly before returning to the lichen they'd been snacking upon. They only took note of the otherworldly-presence once more when several small pinpricks of light floated silently out of the object and began heading this way. Their leader, an old female, led them to the nearby safety and warmth of a nearby crevasse that had been carved into the ice by a volcanic vent. They'd only recently climbed the volcano in an attempt to feed on the lichen fields that sprung up near the warm vents.
The crevasse deepened and widened into a full cavern, a perfect spot for a tauntaun pack to hide. However, an unfamiliar scent filled their nostrils after they'd settled in.
Fear swept across the pack like wildfire before a wave of (unnatural) calm pervaded and soothed their thoughts. The pack leader's own mind rampaged against the calming effect; her will was far stronger than the rest of her pack from her long years of survival in this brutal climate. In the gloom of the cavern, a strange thin humanoid shape took form.
Maybe not? It was too short to be a wampa, but there was a faint smell of wampa coming from this unknown. There was also the faint scent of death. Dead wampas.
Leave. Shelter downhill. Safe for pack.
The strong notion of a better hiding place farther down the mountainside was more than enough for the tauntaun to lead her pack out of the cavern. They quickly disappeared into the cloud layer just beyond the lowest end of the crevasse.
Meanwhile, the humanoid walked to the edge of the cavern and looked up at the approaching twinkles.
Not only were these two words carried by the great cosmic mystery known as the Force, but so were a few powerful emotions...
Laughter echoed throughout the crags and dark rock outcroppings above the cavern. Tauntauns fled, not from the sound of insanity, but from a sense of danger that permeated every inch of this great volcano. Still, the maniacal laughter continued. It was not the laugh of a sane being, rather, the laugh sounded as though it came from one who would seek out the visage of god himself for the sole purpose of spitting into his face. It was the rolling expression of joy of a beast.
Standing atop a rocky outcropping, Mira Albion breathed heavily after a good long chuckle. Behind her, a New Imperial transport ship hovered less than a meter off the ground. Two men in blazing red armor stood at the door, watching their similarly crimson armored Imperial Knight Master finish laughing maniacally at, something? Maybe the weather that threatened to throw her small body to the ground at every gust? They couldn't tell, and they felt almost too troubled to ask. One man, however, overcame his fear and dared to ask, "Will you be ok ma'am?!" His voice raising to be heard over the sound of the wind and engines.
Mira did not turn around, but rather, spoke directly into the minds of her subordinates.
"If I return in twenty minutes, ready the sex dungeon. If I do not return, assume I have been enslaved in a sex dungeon and do not come looking for me. Jordan will be in charge in my absence until I escape the sex dungeon."
The two men had no time to respond, rather, they stood gawking as Mira laughed once more and leapt into the cavern below. Landing gently in the snow by utilizing the intense power of the Force, Mira breathed once more. Her head did not swivel nor turn to look for her quarry, for not only would it do no good, but Mira knew the location of her 'prey.' Reaching out with the power of the Force, Mira pushed a thought into the mind of all who would listen.
So...they'd finally come for her. It'd been over a year since her departure. Part of her had hoped they'd just leave her alone, an old tiger wandering the galaxy to find something capable of killing her honorably, but she'd known that wasn't the way of the Empire. It wasn't his way.
The grizzled commander now probably saw her as a threat to his vision.
Still, to send this animal, this slave to their primitive, bestial nature...this was just insulting.
"Red Girl, you should not have come here."
The cave's inhabitant flipped a small switch on a little crate along the wall. The cave was illuminated softly by tiny flickers of artificial lights that the woman had placed along its walls and ceiling. The effect was a series beautiful cascading prismatic rays through the ice that was met by the dark sheen of the black volcanic glass floor which in turn reflected the light in such a way that it looked as though they floated distantly above a swirling galaxy.
"If you've come to kill this one, know that she shall not make it easy for you."
Her presence within the Force coalesced from the solemn wide-minded aura of meditation she'd been practicing to the cold and dedicated strength and focus of a trained warrior.
The woman known around the Galaxy as
was not going to go quietly into that quiet night that lay beyond within the Force.
There be monsters in the Galaxy...
here was one that had fought them for so long and so well...
Beauty illuminated the cave as Mira stepped inside. Lights danced along the ceiling as if the entire universe itself centered its attention on this very place. Against the backdrop of stars, two orange blades lit up from the hilts of Mira's saberstaff. The orange light flooded into the cave and filled it with the luminescence of a sunset.
The scene was set, and it was fantastic. Yet, Mira could not see any of it. She possessed no eyes to see. Beauty and majesty in the galaxy were lost on her. Instead of light and peace, darkness ruled in the mind of the Imperial Knight. The singular illumination in the darkness of Mira's vision was that of the Judge standing before her; still yet seen only in her mind's eye.
The energies of the Force swirled around Mira, coalescing into her being. Its power was strangely calm, however. No darkness emanated from Mira's being. Rather, a soft and subtle kindness outstretched from her heart. She wanted something from this lost monster. Smiling, Mira finally responded to Von,
"Kill you? Oh no, darling. I've come to bring you home."
Her weapon flew up in front her being, held outstretched and pointing at Von. Nothing more was said, nothing more was needed. The challenge had been issued, and refusal was unacceptable.
"Red GIrl has a strange way of bringing someone home," the woman from the cave answered solemnly as the heavy black robes fell off of her with a simple shrug.
A large unstable beam of reddish-pink energy cackled to life before her, and then the base seemed to explode as a pair of smaller beams arced out to the sides. Hearkening back to ancient times, the formidable crossguard saber, or broadsaber as she called it, had a paired companion on the cave-woman's belt. The dark metallic paint on her phrik gauntlets reflected the brilliant light but dimly all the way up to her elbows. The rest of the light armor glinted here and there but was mostly a muted black.
"Red Girl may be a basic primitive beast, but this one shall honor the old ways nonetheless," Mira's opponent said before flourishing an old duelist's salute at her.
The Judge's stance was simple yet firm with lightsaber readied before her, and she made no move toward Mira after her salute. It seemed that she would wait for her foe to come to her.
The only objective given to Lesh today had been to keep Mira alive. Which of course meant that Mira, knowing this, had left eight minutes prior to the time she told Lesh to be ready at. The Twi'lek had been waiting, frustrated, in the ships docking bay when the transport ship had returned, at which point she chewed off the ears of both of the men aboard. They seemed a little scared when she demanded they turn their asses around and take her back down.
"Lesh, she said-"
"Do I seem like I CARE what she said? Take. Me. Down. The Emperor will have all our heads if she dies." The threat of death seemed to be enough to stir them into action. In truth, the woman only knew that the Emperor would be disappointed. He might fire them, or demote them. Her real anxiety stemmed from personal reasons that she didn't feel necessary to share with them. After all, the threat of death always worked. So far, no one had actually asked Konstantin if he actually would have killed them.
It took them another two minutes to get close to where they had dropped off Mira, and the Twi'lek spent that time gathering the Force around herself, preparing for later. Lesh could see the opening of the cave from where she stood on the edge of the transport ship. She gave a salute to the two men abroad and then dropped backwards off the ship, the drop rope wrapped around one hand. She could vaguely hear a surprised, "Wait-!" but she was already gone, whipping down through the air. If she had aimed properly, she would land right in the opening of the cave.
As she got lower, she realized that the transport ship hadn't gone low enough for her to reach the ground entirely. Instead of waiting, she let go at the end of the rope, dropping the last two meters down to the earth. She landed, one knee bent to the ground, both hands palm down, in the entrance of the cave. She assumed the echo of her landing would have drawn Mira and Von attention, if her gathering of the Force hadn't already announced her presence. Given that, she figured it was safe to call out in annoyance, "Mira, for the Emperor's sake if not mine, would you stop doing that."
Years ago, Mira would have scoffed at Von's insistence on the ancient salute of lightsaber duelists. By the very nature of Mira's blade alone, a double bladed saberstaff, she found no utility in that of honor. Her weapon was made to carve slaughter through thousands of enemies, not duel a single enemy. However, Mira had changed since her days with the Sith. In response to Von, the Echani deactivated one end of her saberstaff and brought it up horizontally in front of her face. There it remained for a split second before flicking down in preperation for this battle.
"At least I know I am a beast. In knowing, I can prevent baser instincts from taking me over. Unlike-"
At that, Lesh's voice echoed behind Mira and almost, almost, startled her. Having been so wrapped up in the moment she did not expect her friend to fall in and join them. Sighing in annoyance, Mira shouted back to Lesh,
"Force damn it Lesh! LET ME HAVE MY MOMENT! I'll be safer next time!""
All the while, the Echani woman did not take her focus off Von for a single second. The woman in front of her was the danger, not the one behind. Assuming Von had made no move to initiate combat, Mira would charge forward now. Her body flowed with the power of the Force, pushing itself through every fibre of Mira's being. Though it's clear purpose was to increase her physical prowess and speed, it also held an underlying desire. Mira was suddenly overwhelmed with the need to protect Lesh.
After all, Lesh had defected with Mira from the Jedi to the Sith. To Von, both Mira and Lesh would be on the same level as vermin. But it was the least this vermin could do to protect her friend.
If she was able to reach Von unhindered. Mira would jab her blade, held in her left hand, forward at Von's right shoulder. It was a weak, probing strike, that Mira was careful to not overextend herself in making. She would keep herself a minimum of a meter's distance from Von in order to be able to retreat as necessary.
Or at least the woman once known as Von Raythe had thought so until another young woman arrived rather haphazardly.
"It seems someone else has little faith in Red Girl's ability to keep herself alive," the Judge declared flatly, "It seems this old lonely woman has company in more ways than one, Red Girl."
The jabs were a part of a deeper strategy from the old warrior, but she didn't figure them to be the key to this fight. Truthfully, some part of her honestly worried about the well-being of this pair of would-be captors/executioners. To Von, they were children playing at war.
But to the Judge, they were fools who would be taught a lesson...or put down like diseased beasts.
Mira's charge was not surprising as the girl had always favored an aggressive posture in battle. What was surprising was the depth of emotion behind it. For the young girl to show such a strong desire to protect her friend over killing her foe was almost heartwarming.
Of course, the girl's desire to protect was apparently overwhelming her reason. Von's blade was already out and in front of her. Mira's blade would need to pass by it in order to reach Von's right shoulder. Thus, all Von needed to do, and therefore did, was shift a foot or so to her own left with a single step and quickly flicked her lightsaber blade to her right.
This action would, in theory, carry it right through the tip of Mira's saberstaff hilt, aka the emitter, and would thus render at least that side of the lightsaber useless...or at least that was the goal.
"I would say it's quite the opposite, actually." Lesh smiled viciously as she made her way further into the cave. Mira's charge allowed her to get within range of the pair, and Lesh kept to about four meters off from them, firmly planting herself between them and the exit. She had one hand on the saber handle at her waist, the other on the hilt of the knife strapped to the outside of her thigh.
Unfortunately, Mira's charge also left Lesh with no real opening to attack Von. Instead she kept the majority of her focus on the two women battling, and let the other little bit examine the rest of the room. She kept her buildup of the Force going for when an opening raised, but as it stood, she knew she'd only get in Mira's way. They fought better together in a wider space.
"I just prefer for her to not go running off when she told me she'd wait for me. She's not so good at telling the truth."
Mira 'watched' Von's movements very closely. The moment Von began her shift to the left, Mira's blade flicked down to her left and away from the pair. As her blade flew down and away from Von's own, Mira shifted her feet to shove her body back. The distance increased between the two women, as Mira originally kept Von at a meter's range for this very reason. Mira's first step set her outside of both of their striking range.
While she smiled, Mira dared not say anything, as she expected Von to increase her aggression at the moment that Mira's blade came down. Therefore, she kept herself ready to move or pull her blade back up as needed. If Von did not attempt a strike, Mira would flick her weapon back up, and finish moving back until the distance between them was two meters.
Non-aggression from Von would surprise Mira more than anything. She always knew the woman to be just as violent and angry as the white haired woman. Truly, the only thing different between them seemed to be the issue of love. Mira had not yet found someone of whom her affections culminated in. But Von indeed had loved, and lost. In Von's specific case it seemed to have loved and lost was not better than having never loved at all.
Once upon a time, the woman known before as Von Raythe would have laughed at Mira's maneuvers.
Attack. Don't attack. Engage. Disengage. The older woman would have told the girl that she needed to make up her kriffing mind before she went into battle. Make a decision. Commit.
Do or Do Not. There is no try.
But that was long ago. That woman was dead. A lost cause not worth remembrance. Now an Idea had taken the place of the dead woman. An Idea felt not the pain of heart ache. An Idea felt not the pain of betrayal.
...felt not the pain of being a person.
The Judge allowed her opponent to disengage. The Red Girl's partner also hung back, though she was drawing in the Force like a little angsty sponge. Knowing the Red Girl, she and...Pretty in Pink were putting on a show in accordance with some sort of sneaky battle plan. It was, in the Judge's opinion, a waste of time and energy. If they had skill, the pair of them could subdue her quickly with an execution quickly after.
...if they had skill.
The Judge dropped to a knee as Mira stepped away, her eyes downcast as she grasped her saber in two hands. The blade easily cut down through the obsidian floor and burned a neat, and slowly expanding, molten hole in the floor.
"If the Red Girl and her Pretty Pink...friend...are going to fight me, this old one only asks that they get on with it."
As she spoke, a low rumble filled the air within the cave from further down the lava tube.
"She would say that her guests do not possess a great deal of time, but she assumes that they're quite capable of figuring that out on their own."
The mountain of fire, it seemed, was waking up from its nap.
Lesh scoffed as she continued her orbiting to the left of Mira’s back. She was still roughly three and a half meters away, given their combined movements and her friends slight retreat. She zoned in on that movement and sped up slightly to get into a good range while she still had the chance to. As Von drove her sword into the ground, Lesh took her chance and channeled all of her Force buildup into a single arc of lightning. She curved it as she tossed it, so that Mira wouldn't fall in its path. The arc spread from her fingertips swiftly in Von’s direction.
It had been a long time since Lesh had actually had to use Force lightning. She’d had to train under a Sith Master that wasn’t Mira in order to properly learn it, given it wasn’t one of Mira’s strong points. Luckily, it was one of Lesh’s. It was, in fact, one of the things that she was the most formidable with. To this day, she’d only missed twice. She hoped that Von wouldn’t make it three.
There was a moment where she could almost hear his voice hissing for her to be better and faster, for her to keep the chain going. His training had been far more brutal than anything Mira had come up with, but then, Xiomar wasn't her friend. Nor had he ever had any intention of becoming it. No, if anything, he was her torturer... Not that she had ever mentioned any of it to Mira. Nor would she. A flash of darkness. A flash of light. Her eyes focused in on the arc of her lightning as she channeled everything she had into it. She only had one shot with this.
Mira was taken by surprise that Von did not follow up with aggression, but she did not allow it to show on her face. Feeling Lesh continue to gather the Force, the white haired woman began to deduce what her intentions were. The instant the lightning began streaming from Lesh's fingers, Mira would step forward and swing the front end of her lightsaber for Von's midsection using her right hand. The swing arced from left to right.
As she moved, she began to gather the Force to prepare to react with speed if Von had anything unforeseen planned to prevent Mira from coming in contact with the former Imperial Knight. Mira's obvious intentions were to make contact with Von the exact same moment that the lightning would have hit her as well. The cave ceiling was fairly high enough to avoid the blade, but Mira prepared to angle her blade down or up if Von attempted to duck or jump over it. The lightning would not be so easily avoided, and would likely arc to make contact wherever Von went.
However, unbeknownst to Von, Mira truly meant her no harm. If for any reason Mira's blade would come to the point where it would pierce or cut Von, the lightsaber would instantly deactivate until it left the danger of hitting Von, where Mira would reactivate it. Mira did not believe in delimbing this monster before her to bring back Von. Mira wasn't even sure she was talking to 'Von' at all, as this being acted and spoke more like a beast than a human.
"You speak like a Barabel barbarian, I wonder if Von still lives inside the husk of a being that stands before me. I hope she does. I'd like to speak with her once more, I'd like to apologize."
Any strategist could calculate the Former Imperial Knight's odds of even surviving this fight were low at best. A skilled strategist would go further to say that Von had placed herself in a truly terrible position as she was facing two skilled Force users in a confined space. Luckily for this particular woman, however, she wasn't either of those things.
This woman was, at least at one time or another, considered one of the greatest strategists in the Galaxy...but that was a long time ago.
Still...this fight was bringing out some lingering spark of that old genius.
The lightning came. The woman almost laughed. All she had to do was...well...fall. Releasing her coiled energy within her body, Von simply fell backwards on her butt, dragging her lightsaber along with it. The result was that the range where Mira's lightsaber would make contact and the Force Lightning would hit was increased by a couple of feet. Because of that, Von could block both hits at the same time by simply flipping her lightsaber through the volcanic glass (which gave way like water) to its original defensive position.
But the glass...the glass...
A quick burst of the Force flowed through Von's toned ass through the floor and then up through the large molten gouges. The result? A molten cloud of reheated magma surged forth out of the ground...and directly up at Mira.
"Red Girl's pleas fall upon deaf ears," the older warrior answered flatly, "The being known as Von Raythe was nothing but an illusion. An illusion fabricated by the blind faith and folly of others. In truth, one might say that the Von Raythe you knew had never existed. Only a facade of pride and vanity."