The Force's Shepherds

Chapter 147

Thoughts of Fallen, Fearless, and Fell

The Force was quiet. Not peaceful, just quiet. Mace could not feel anything. The currents were dulled, blurred, murky. Although, this was nothing new for him. This was how the force had been since the last days of the Clone Wars. This was what the force let him see since the Fall of the Jedi- nothing but shadows and uncertainty.

He used to take comfort in the Force during a time that now felt like a lifetime ago. The Jedi Order always taught him to rest in the force. To bask in the peace and certainty it could give him. Now, as he attempted to find that same level of peace, it eluded him.

As the minutes dragged on, and the Force remained silent, Mace could feel his patience deteriorating. The temptation to grasp the force, to strangle it with his will so that it would give him something, anything, was strong. Yet, he found himself incapable of doing so. Perhaps it was the old teachings of Master Yoda still lingering in his heart and mind, reminding against such bold impatience? Perhaps it was simply a defeated spirit snatching the desire to cudgel the force into executing his will? Even on this, Mace was uncertain.

Nothing had been certain. He thought, eyes remaining closed, The only certainty anymore is the enemy, and what must be done about them.

The Sith: Sidious, Vader, and that whelp of a girl Ragana; they needed to be destroyed. Their blight needed to be purged from the galaxy once and for all. He did not delude himself into thinking such actions were justice. Even the greenest of Padawan's would see through such an excuse.

His bloodlust was pure, righteous vengeance. He could still feel the cries, shrieks, and wails of his brothers and sisters in the Jedi Order dying during those fateful days in the wake of the Republic's downfall. They echoed out to him in the force still, Their blood screamed for some sort of justice. While he would be unable to deliver them justice, Mace knew he would avenge all of them. One way or another, the Sith would die. The failure of past masters to wipe out their dark virus would not continue with him.

That single-minded focus caused something strange to occur in his thoughts. A sudden, spat of clarity rushed through the force, eliciting a quiet gasp from Mace Windu. What he saw was terrible.

A city with white walls was being invaded by the Empire; then absolutely annihilated in the blink of an eye by an orbital bombardment. Force, it didn't even look like the city had any sort of defenses against such a vicious slaughter. Civilians screamed in terror as death rained down from above. Great craters yawned open like chasms in the earth from where turbolasers broke the land apart. Through all of the terror and death filling the Force, Mace sensed something else.

His vision warped, and he witnessed a clashing of lightsabers within a palace. A blue and red blade hacked at each other, but it was clear to his trained eye that the blue one stood no chance. Its technique was raw, amateurish, unrefined. The red saber, the saber of a sith, was brutal and efficient. Their fight was over in mere minutes, but blue saber did not die.

A red saber moved in and saved it, puzzling Mace Windu. This saber moved with elegance, like a dancer tiptoeing their way atop a great stage. Unlike the blue saber, there was a purpose to every stroke. Every slash and stab was meant to disable the other red saber's wielder. As the two scarlet blades clashed, Windu heard something peculiar: deep, rhythmic, artificial breathing.

It grew louder as the duel dragged on, and slowly Mace began to realize something. The blue lightsaber had fled, and the red remained; not in an attempt to win, but in an attempt to buy time. It's wielder, a sith in their own right, knew it would lose, and did not mind. They were willing to die so that others might live.

Strange…

"Oh, I agree."

The vision warped as a voice entered it, one that Mace did not recognize. In the blink of an eye, the savage battle had been replaced by a palace sitting in the middle of a desert. Standing on a balcony was a figure wearing an indigo and gold coat, with a hood drawn over his head. The Dark Side of the Force radiated off of him like rays from a brilliant sun, powerful and unstoppable. Unlike the dark side that Mace was familiar with, thanks to ilk like Count Dooku and Sidious himself, the dark side pulsing from this figure felt alive. It did not feel restrained or controlled. It felt unbound, as if it were in its natural element.

"I also find it curious that Equus would so willingly throw his life away." The figure continued, turning his shadowed head to look directly at Mace. Ruby eyes pierced Mace's mind, and he found himself frozen in place, "So uncharacteristic for a man like him. Although… he was once one of your kind, so I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised."

One of my kind?

"Yes," The figure continued, "A Jedi… that is what you used to be, right?"

Anger flared within Mace, I still am!

"Oh? Do you really believe that? Even from where I stand, far from you, I can see a truth that you are blind to, even though it stares you in the face." The figure drew closer to Mace, and beneath the hood, Mace could see a youthful face topped with white hair.

That youth was a mask. Mace knew that no one so young could hold such power in the Force. This being in front of him held ancient power the likes of which could barely be understood.

A hand brushed against Mace's scarred cheek, making him freeze.

"You are a broken

thing, aren't you?" The figure said, a false sympathy entering his voice, "A shell of what you once were. Perhaps, you desire to be whole again? To feel power in its entirety once more?"

Mace's Jedi training spoke in his mind, but unlike before, it did not shout. It whispered.

I don't desire power.

The figure let out a mocking laugh and shook his head, "Who lied to you? Only yourself. How else can you destroy your enemies without greater power?" The figure knelt in front of him, crimson gaze locking with Windu's scarred visage, "When we meet, perhaps I'll give you that power. Of course, I'll require something in return… but that should be no problem for a man with such goals as yours."

The vision rippled, and the figure chuckled.

"Until next time, Mace Windu."

A gasp shot from Mace's lungs and his eyes flicked open, revealing his sparse room within the Alderaan royal palace. Standing in the doorway of his room, sleepy green eyes staring at him, was little Nah.

Mace uttered a sigh and ran a hand over his eyes, "Don't you know how to knock?"

"I did, but you didn't answer."

He gave Nah a weary look, "That typically means I don't want to be disturbed."

"Your aura said differently." She retorted, her voice still that shy whisper that had greeted him so many months ago.

"Aura, you mean the Force?" Mace grunted as he rose to his feet, knees creaking as he stood.

Nah shrugged as she stepped further into his room, her arms clutching a book to her chest, "Aren't they the same?"

Mace's lips thinned, "Apparently."

"So what was it?"

Mace gave the strange girl a weary look, but it failed to impact her. Nah had to be one of the most stubborn beings he had ever met or one of the most naive. Perhaps even both. Although, Kjelle did warn him against calling her such things. Apparently, the girl did not take kindly to being considered childish; stubborn and naive fell under that umbrella for her.

"Nothing important." Mace dodged, hoping to end her line of questioning before it could begin. He glanced over at the clock beside his neatly made bed, "Shouldn't you and Kjelle be joining Yarne for breakfast?"

"Shouldn't you?"

Now Nah earned a dark glare, one that she did not shrink from. A heavy breath puffed from Mace's nose. He moved towards the door in an attempt to get by Nah, only for the small girl to step in front of him.

"You didn't answer my question."

"I'm on my way to breakfast now." Mace droned.

"Wrong question."

Mace pinched the bridge of his nose. No amount of patience or longsuffering had prepared him for dealing with a child that did not know the meaning of privacy. Force, he somewhat wished Nah was still unconscious just so he could have a moment of peace. Ever since she awoke from her forced slumber a couple of months ago she had been badgering him with questions non-stop. Thankfully, none of those questions involved the Sith named Ragana, who turned out to be an old friend of Nah's. Kjelle did say that Nah would be crushed if she learned their old friend had tried to kill them, and Mace didn't want to deal with the fallout of that.

"It was a vision. Now do you mind if I-"

"Of what?" Nah interrupted, her long ears twitching beneath her green hair.

By the Force, this little girl! Mace felt his hand squeeze into a fist, which he quickly relaxed, but not before Nah noticed.

"I see…" She muttered, her gaze downcast and ears drooping a little bit, "Forgive me for intruding."

"Nah, wait-"

She turned and left, not paying Mace any heed anymore. Right as he was about to go after her and offer some sort of apology, the commlink of his belt chirped, causing a frustrated growl to rush from his lips. Quickly, Mace retreated into his room and shut his door, turning on the commlink as the door clicked closed.

"Tano?"

Normally, Ahsoka would've rebuked him for using her real name over the comm. He half expected her to hiss at him for doing so right now, but frankly, his patience was already thin. Between the strange vision disturbing his thoughts, and Nah's incessant questions, he could feel what little control he had slipping. Yet, instead of scolding him, Ahsoka Tano asked him a question.

"Master Windu, I hope you're ready for some company."

Mace furrowed his brow, confused, "What happened? What is forcing you to come here?"

"I found him."

Mace's heart stopped beating in his chest. He could feel his hand holding the commlink trembling. Ahsoka did it. She had found Master Kenobi. Another powerful Jedi lived. One that could help Mace in his goal to destroy the Sith and their vile Empire.

Perhaps today was going to be a better day than he thought.


The reports coming to Flavia over the past few weeks were disturbing, to say the least. Letters and messages poured in from all corners of Regna Ferox, and the cities of Ylisse warning her of the arrival of strangers from the stars. At first, she dismissed it all as utter hogwash. While she knew of one person from the stars, that being the Ylissean General Ben Kenobi, she doubted that an entire army of them could have descended from the cloudy skies.

Then one of her advisors made a disturbing point to her. None of the reports were coming from Ylisstol. Themis, Southtown, the northern Ylissean city of Nixtas; all of the messages were rushing to the Longfort, and subsequently Arena Ferox, from there. Ylisstol was silent, and with such a monumental event underway, Flavia assumed that Exalt Chrom would have at least sent a small missive informing her of the situation.

But when nothing came, her concern over the situation grew. In the following weeks, she heard reports from along the longfort of soldiers in white armor poking at the defenses. Never outright attacking, but always moving too close for comfort. None of them bore swords, spears, axes, or even bows. Nevertheless, Flavia made sure to order Raimi, the commander of the Longfort's forces, to act with caution in regards to these strangers moving along the Longfort.

For a brief time, she thought that they were part of the Fell Dragon's brood. That the beast was truly back, and he had summoned forth an army of new Risen to tear apart Archanea. It seemed like the most logical conclusion for her, certainly more likely than an army appearing on boats that flew through the sky.

All of her assumptions, all of her beliefs, came crashing down now, as the doors to her throne room in Arena Ferox opened, and a Ylissean Knight she knew well marched in. His armor was scorched and dented. His normally well-groomed, brown hair had grown unruly, with frost clinging to the tips. A gash that had begun to scar over lined his right cheekbone, and he walked in with a limp. Nevertheless, the knight held his head high, and Flavia's respect for him grew because of it.

"Sir Frederick?" Flavia began, rising from her fur laden throne while what few advisors and guards she had, "What is-"

"They're not far behind." Frederick gasped as he stopped halfway to the throne, dropping to a knee on the fur carpet that ran up to the throne, "We need shelter. Ylisstol has fallen and-"

"H-hold on!" Flavia barked, her eyes widening at what Frederick said, "What do you mean Ylisstol has fallen? Where are Chrom and Sumia? What happened?"

"I can explain later, but we need to hide." Frederick gasped before looking back to the palace entry.

Flavia's gaze followed his eyes, and she spotted a motley group of Ylissean Shepherds standing in the doorway. Most of them were the children from the future that came warning of Grima's arrival, although she did see that mad mage Henry, along with Lon'qu, Princess Lissa, Virion, and Olivia among their ranks. None of them looked well. Frost had sunk into their faces. They all looked like they could use a hearty meal and a warm bed. Exhaustion lingered on in their eyes, giving Flavia the impression that they had been traveling non-stop since whatever caused them to flee struck.

She wanted to ask more questions, but Flavia also saw the quiet desperation in Frederick's gaze. The Knight looked terrified, and that greatly concerned the mighty Khan. If he said they needed to hide, and that he would explain things later, then she would hold him to it.

"You there!" She snapped to one of her guards, "Get them into my private quarters. No one is to go in or out without my say so!"

A relieved gasp left Sir Frederick's lungs. He motioned for the others to get inside the throne room. All of the Shepherds rushed after him and Flavia's guard. In their mad dash, Flavia noticed Princess Lissa holding Chrom's daughter, Lucina, in her arms. The poor little girl looked terrified, and on the verge of tears. Strapped awkwardly to Lissa's other arm was a silver shield that looked far too unwieldy for her petite form. Before Flavia could get a good look at the shield, the Shepherds disappeared through the doors behind her throne.

As soon as they entered the private living space of Arena Ferox, Flavia's steely demeanor returned. She turned her attention to one of her advisors.

"Get a message to Raimi at the Longfort. Inform her that I want a sortie sent to Ylisstol at once. Make sure she has a letter with my seal so that there aren't any misunderstandings with the Ylisseans. We need to figure out what-"

A deep rumble sounded through the air, causing Flavia to grind to a halt in her orders. Her brow furrowed. The rumble became a long, constant roar, crescendoing louder and louder as a sharp whine joined its deafening chorus.

Her guards shifted nervously at their posts. Their hands kneaded the shafts of their lances as all eyes turned to the still ajar doors that led to the Feroxi throne room. Flavia found her hand wandering towards her blade for a moment.

As quickly as the roar appeared, it ended, A dull whine echoed through the Arena's cavernous corridors, joining the wind that whipped through the large, exposed areas that looked out to the town surrounding the Arena. As the whine died, footsteps sprinted towards the throne room. One of the guards assigned to guard the base of the Arena was rushing towards her.

When the guard reached her, he dropped to one knee, bowing his head low. He was shaking, but not from the cold. No, Flavia knew what caused his trembling. Fear; plain and simple. The thought made her blood boil a bit. What in Naga's name could cause a Feroxi to become so unnerved! Not even a million-man army managed to do such a thing.

"M-my Khan, th-there is-is-"

Flavia growled, cutting the stammering guard off in his rambling, "Spit it out, damn it!"

"Something landed in the Arena!" The guard cried, "Soldiers in white stepped out of its belly, and they were led by some man wearing a grey uniform. They wish to speak with you."

Flavia arched an eyebrow. Just what the hell was going on?

"They want to speak to me, eh?" Flavia replied. The guard nodded. Flavia folded her arms, "Well, tell 'em to get the hell up here then. They want to speak to the ruling Khan, then let them come before the throne."

The guard paled, as if such a request was a death sentence. But one harsh glare from Flavia sent him scrambling out of her throne room to deliver the message. As he disappeared down the corridor beyond the doors, Flavia exhaled, turned around, and marched back to her throne.

She sank into the warm furs atop the stone seat, letting out a content sigh as the furs combined with the blazing fire from the throneroom's immense hearth warmed her bones. Despite that warmth, she could not help but feel uneasy.

Too many strange, unknown occurrences were taking place. First the sudden silence from Ylisstol, followed by the frantic messages from other Ylissean cities through the Halidom. Then Sir Frederick, the Shepherds, and their extremely disoriented, even terrified, state. Last she checked, almost nothing terrified that band of Ylisseans. Hell, they faced down a Mad King and a Conqueror without nary a fearful cry or a whimper of concern. If what the future children said was true, then they would have also stared down Grima himself without shaking in their boots. Yet now, of all times, they were afraid?

And something strange has landed in my Arena. Flavia scowled as she folded one leg over the other, her hand tapping impatiently against the armrest of her throne, That can't be a coincidence.

Footsteps echoed from the corridor. Unlike the previous guard, these footsteps were sharp and purposeful. Each click sounded unhurried and relaxed. Then, rising from the stairwell at the end of the corridor like skeletons rising from the grave, were men in strange white armor. They were covered head to toe, with the only defining feature on any of them being the strange grimace and lidless black eyes in their white helmets. All of them carried a peculiar black stick instead of a sword or spear. Hardly the most intimidating thing in the world, but Flavia also had the sinking suspicion that those "weapons" were much more than they appeared to be.

Leading the soldiers in white was a man wearing a crisp, grey uniform. Red and blue badges adorned his left breast as he approached. His hands were folded behind his back, posture perfect, chin up with an air of snootiness radiating from him.

Great… Flavia sighed, One of those.

The strange group paused a few feet from her throne. Their leader in grey glanced at Flavia, perhaps a bit surprised that she did not appear intimidated. On the contrary, Flavia projected ease and indifference as she lounged on her throne.

"Are you the leader of this… place?" The man in gray asked, voice nasally and filled with some disdain as he glanced at the Feroxi Lancers flanking Flavia's throne and standing guard near the throne room door.

"This place is the seat of the Khans of Regna Ferox." Flavia replied, her voice sharp, "Be best for you to keep that in mind, Sir-"

"Captain Chadic, of the Galactic Imperial Navy." The man in gray briskly replied, his icy eyes matching Flavia's disapproving glare.

"Oh, a Captain huh? Really?" Flavia sat up in her throne, "Looks to me like you're a glorified messenger boy," She saw his cheeks redden and had to smirk to herself a little bit. Apparently, the Captain was easy to upset, "Well, go one. What business have you here?"

Captain Chadic took a deep breath, "I am a representative on behalf of Admiral Wimbledon and the Empire. They have ordered me to approach you in an attempt at negotiations, for the betterment of both of our societies."

"Betterment?" Flavia tilted her head to the side, "May I ask what exactly that would mean, boy?"

The Captain bristled once again, but kept his diplomatic demeanor, causing Flavia to scowl. This man was not a straight talker. He was no Feroxi, and certainly not a unique foreigner like Exalt Chrom. That meant he could not be trusted. Anyone that needed to fluff up their words in order to be liked was either terrible at their jobs or hiding something. In the case of diplomatic conversations, one party hiding something from the other often led to less than savory outcomes. Outcomes that Flavia was not about to allow in her throne room.

"The Galactic Empire wishes to assist your people in advancing towards a better society. We have technology, systems, wealth, things you could need to become more civilized-"

"Civilized?" Now it was Flavia's turn to bristle, "Careful what you say, Captain Chadic. We Feroxi may not be the prettiest of folk, but we haven't been barbarians in… in…" She glanced at one lancer, "When was the last time we were barbarians?"

"I believe the Valmese called us that last year." The Lancer replied.

"Ah, right. So about a year then." Flavia shifted in her seat, "Been turning over a new leaf now, but that's beside the point."

"And what point would you have exactly?" Captain Chadic asked, his voice coming out much too close to a sneer for Flavia's liking.

"That you have landed in the middle of my home, entirely unannounced." Flavia shot back, her voice filled with a sharp commanding edge that made the soldiers behind Captain Chadic stiffen, "Then you have the nerve to walk into my home and call me and my people uncivilized."

"I-I never called-"

"You certainly implied it." Flavia snarled before Captain Chadic could finish his response, "Hell, through all that, you haven't even bothered with proper introductions. Do you think you're that much of a king shit? Or are you that much of a pompous oaf?"

"Pompous oaf!?"

Flavia let out a mocking laugh at his offended reaction, "Apparently, I'm right. Otherwise, instead of crying out like some whelp at an insult, ya would've marched right up to my seat and given me a good punch to the jaw." She rose from her seat and stepped down the stone steps leading up to her throne, "Now then, before you continue with your proposal, I have a question for you."

The Captain did not reply. Instead, he glowered at the taller Khan as she approached him. Behind him, his soldiers shifted their weight from one foot to the other. Khan Flavia's lancers, meanwhile, lingered closer to their Khan, their grips on their lances tightened the closer Flavia drew to the Imperial Captain.

"What happened to Ylisstol?" Flavia asked.

The Captain gave Flavia a puzzled look, "What?"

"Ylisstol." Flavia repeated, "Are you daft, or do you not know the important cities on this world?"

The Captain blinked, "You mean the city that resisted and housed enemies of the Emp-"

Flavia raised a hand, silencing him. Her brown eyes glared at him, boring holes into his. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw his throat bob. A thin sheen of sweat built on his brow, beneath that ridiculous hat he wore as part of his uniform.

So what Frederick said is true. Flavia thought, rage building up in her, Ylisstol has fallen.

Flavia turned her back and folded her hands behind her back, almost mocking how the bastard of an Imperial Captain had entered her throne room. As she did this, she gave a subtle nod towards one of her Lancers.

After a couple of steps, Flavia uttered a heavy breath.

"One more question for you, Captain Chadic." Her shoulders relaxed and her breathing turned even, "Before you and your leader destroyed Ylisstol, did you give them the same offer?"

Captain Chadic uttered a nervous sound, "Well, of course we did. Those idiots-"

Flavia did not give him a chance to finish. Her sword shot from its sheath like a bolt of lightning in a storm. With a flash of steel, followed by a wet squelch, the officer stiffened where he stood.

A thin stream of blood beaded across his throat. A second later, and the small stream grew into a scarlet tide. Finally, his head slid from his shoulders, rolling along the floor towards Flavia's boot.

Captain Chadic's soldiers didn't have time to react. Flavia's Lancers pounced, spears slipping in and out of the gaps in their strange armor like hot knives through soft butter. There was a brief, sharp bang, followed by a crimson bar of light whistling past Flavia's ear as she glared at the slaughter. She had no idea what was fired at her, but she could see who fired it.

The only surviving Imperial soldier just tried to kill her. Thankfully, her lancers knocked his weapon out of his hands before the soldier could get off a second shot.

Flavia snarled at the soldier as one lancer speared his lower leg, sending the sod to his knees before the Khan.

The soldier trembled in front of her. Harsh breaths and pained whimpers slipped from his white helmet as Flavia glowered down at him. With a huff, Flavia reached down and wrenched the helmet from the soldier's head, revealing a young woman with tanned skin and bright, blonde hair. Purple eyes looked up at the Khan, terrified.

Khan Flavia momentarily locked eyes with the woman before looking at her guards, "Go take care of whatever thing they came in. Destroy it if you have to."

The Lancers nodded and rushed out, leaving the Khan alone with the bodies, and the lone survivor. When Flavia returned her attention to the Imperial soldiers, she saw her trying to subtly reach for one of those strange weapons they carried.

"Ah ah." Flavia flicked her sword beneath the woman's chin, freezing her in place, "None of that."

The woman, to her credit, lost whatever terror had been in her eyes when she had been wounded. Now she glared up at Flavia, violet eyes glowing with defiance; something Flavia could appreciate.

"You will fall too." The soldier snarled, her teeth bared at Flavia, "The Empire rules all. No one can stand against the Emperor. Especially you backward heathens!"

Flavia's brow furrowed, "Well, I must say, I take offense to that. We aren't heathens."

The tip of Flavia's blade sank into the woman's throat. A shocked, gurgling sound left the soldier's lips as blood spilled from her neck and lips. One of her hands flailed, grasping at Flavia's sword and tearing up the black material that covered her fingers. Within seconds, she sank to the ground beside her fallen comrades, her life's blood pooling beneath her.

"We're barbarians."


The Force grew curiouser and curiouser. One moment, the Hierophant found himself quietly looking over Plegia's capitol, basking in the warmth of the slowly rising desert sun in a rare moment of peace. The next moment, he sensed a presence observing him. Of course, he could have ignored said presence, but it was always much more fun to toy with anyone who thought they could observe him undiscovered. In this case, it was a former Jedi far away amongst the stars that saw him through the force.

Former Jedi was, of course, the most important factor to the Hierophant. Former put a lot of possibilities in the Hierophant's mind. It meant that this particular powerful Jedi could be manipulated, controlled, possibly even turned. After all, if what he sensed was true, then the Jedi Master had already forsaken the path of the light. He sensed vengeance in the scarred man's heart and knew that such a thing could be easily twisted to suit his purposes.

The Heirophant folded his hands behind his back as he stood in the doorway of his balcony, eyes closing as a warm ray of sun slipped kissed his face and bare chest. Beyond the little disturbance he felt from the force, thanks to Mace Windu's strange appearance, it was a rare peaceful morning. The Fell Dragon within him was quiet, as was The Son. Although, perhaps that was more due to his stern warning to both of them the night before, rather than them wanting to be silent.

A soft moan emerged from his chambers behind him, causing a pang of lust to surge within the Hierophant. He flicked his eyes back to his bed and spotted the naked woman wrapped in thin, indigo sheets, still slumbering behind him. Her black hair curled atop the pillows and lay in lazy waves around her head as she rolled over, eyes still closed.

"Enjoy yourself?"

A heavy, irritated breath left the Hierophant's lips.

"You did order us to be silent until morning." The Son sneered as the Hierophant stalked into his room and slumped onto the sofa across from the unlit fireplace, "Did you enjoy reveling in your victory?"

"I was hardly reveling." The Hierophant mumbled, "We have won nothing yet. We merely watched our enemy be defeated by another, but they are not destroyed. We know this."

"So you will stop being inactive and-"

The Hierophant snarled, "I am not being inactive. I am being patient. Clearly, that is a virtue you lack." He drew in a deep breath as he kept his voice quiet, "All good strategies require patience. Traps are never useful when they are sprung prematurely."

"And the trap you speak of hopefully involves us getting off this rock to find our vessel?"

"Of course." The Hierophant mumbled as he used the force to float his spellbook from his bookshelf to his hands. Once in his grasp, he started thumbing through it, "My spies report that this Galactic Empire has already taken Ylisse, and they've sent an envoy to Regna Ferox, which means that we are next to receive a visit."

"You mean my morsel is the next to receive a visit."

The Hierophant paused in his skimming, a dark look passing over his face.

"He is the King, after all."

"A king who is only alive because I let him live." The Hierophant growled, "And if my mother had not been so stupid, she would be ruling by my side, not him." He absently turned a page, "He proved to be far too weak in the end, and only serves as an effective figurehead anymore."

"Does that mean I can eat him soon?"

"Perhaps."

A knock sounded on his door, causing the Hierophant to flick his wrist and unlock the door. The sound of the door unlocking and creaking open caused his concubine, the dark mage he had spared so long ago, to stir. She wrapped the sheets around her body as one of the Hierophant's loyal deadlords entered. One that, if he did not hold such enormous power over her, would've likely been upset by the presence of another woman in his bed.

"Yes, Anguilla?"

The manakete deadlord's red eyes glanced at his concubine, before turning their attention to him.

"King Validar requires your presence. A strange messenger has arrived."

"And the trap is set."

The beast chuckled darkly within the Hierophant's mind as he closed his spellbook. Once he set the tome to the side, he used the force to open a chest and call his more formal clothes to him. Once dressed, he donned his indigo and gold coat and threw the hood over his head.

"Must you leave so soon?" His concubine, Asha, asked.

The Hierophant paid her no mind as he marched out, following Anguilla into the sunbathed corridor beyond his chambers. Their footsteps clicked against the sandstone floors as they marched down a set of stairs towards the Plegian throne room. Once they reached the doors to the throne room, the Hierophant paused by the doors, using the force to sense what lay beyond.

He detected no force sensitives within the throne room. All he sensed were maybe half a dozen new life forms intermingled with the usual palace guards. Although, one thing he did notice was the distinct absence of Validar from his spot upon the throne.

A sly smirk formed on Anguilla's lips, "I thought you would want to handle this personally."

"So you lied to me?" The Hierophant growled.

"Perhaps a little." Anguilla brushed his shoulder and brought her lips to his ear, "But do you care?"

The Beast and Son both chuckled in his mind, telling the Hierophant all he needed to know regarding the answer to Anguilla's question. Perhaps Anguilla was not in the wrong. This way, he could speak to these outworlders without Valider foiling his plans with incompetence. Besides, it would be easy for him to play king for a little while. Good practice for when he eventually declared dominion over the entire world.

With that in mind, he tossed the hood from his head, stood up taller, and shoved the doors open. His confident stride carried him towards the throne, a gilded seat with an indigo cushion that he sank into with relaxed ease. Once he sat, he caught a glimpse of the outworlders for the first time.

Half a dozen soldiers in white armor stood before his throne. In front of them were a pair of soldiers in black armor with longer weapons than the white soldiers. Standing between the two soldiers in glossy black armor was a man with crows feet lining his eyes and faint laugh lines on his pudgy face. He wore a gray uniform with a strange hat atop his head. Orange, blue, and red buttons adorned the left side of his chest; no doubt a symbol of rank. From the Hierophant's cursory glance, he deduced that the man was in his fifties. From how soft he looked, this man also never knew any struggle in his life.

Let's see if he is both soft and stupid.

"Welcome," The Hierophant began, his hands resting on the armrests of the throne, "My name is Robin, and you are?"

The elder man executed a perfect bow, pleasing the Hierophant.

"Admiral Ericur Wimbledon of the Galactic Imperial Navy, and it is a pleasure to meet you, your majesty."

"I think I could get used to this."

"The brown-nosing is always enjoyable."

"Why haven't I eaten my morsel yet?"

Shut up, both of you.

"Well Admiral, I'm glad that we are meeting on amicable terms for the moment." The Hierophant folded his legs and leaned back against the throne, "Tell me, what brings you before me?"

Of course, he already knew. He had seen evidence of the Empire's desires and intentions not long ago. Ylisstol was nothing but ashes, and he likely had this admiral to thank for it.

No, not this one. The Hierophant brushed against Admiral Wimbledon's mind and noticed that his soft appearance was much more than skin deep, By my name, I could break this fool with a thought.

"He certainly doesn't have the willpower to order the annihilation of a city."

"A shame. I wanted to thank the one responsible."

"I'm sure you will soon."

"Well," The Admiral began, "as a representative of the Galactic Empire, and therefore the Emperor; when we discover a previously uncharted world it is standard procedure to make contact with whatever government is established on that world."

"In order to start relations, I assume?"

There was no need to assume. He already knew. Combing through this fool's thoughts was like taking a walk through the palace gardens. Easy, without threat, and mind-numbingly boring. However, it needed to be done. This buffoon of an admiral would make a useful tool.

"W-why yes." The Admiral replied, surprised by the Hierophant's response, "I am hoping that there will be no problems with such a thing. My envoys in that nation to your north are certainly having problems of their own since they haven't reported back yet."

"The Khan killed them."

"Quite a stupid decision."

"Yes, it was. But her nerve is impressive."

"I don't believe there will be any hindrances to the formations of a diplomatic relationship, so long as there is sufficient give and take from both of us." The Hierophant replied, an amicable smile on his face. He rose from the throne and stepped down to the Admiral, one hand outstretched to him, "A shake so that we may begin in good faith?"

Admiral Wimbledon continued to look gobsmacked. Nevertheless, he shook the Hierophant's hand. Upon grasping the pudgy admiral's doughy hand, the Hierophant allowed the dark side of the force to pour into Admiral Wimbledon. As it shot through the man's veins and mind, it cackled with delight at being allowed to infiltrate a mind as rich with information as this one. Images of the Empire, of the forces orbiting the planet, and of the capabilities of the soldiers with Admiral Wimbledon flooded the Hierophant's mind.

"So weak."

"This one is, but whoever destroyed Ylisstol is not."

Fortunately for us, they took the strong one away and placed this idiot in charge instead.

The Hierophant let go of the Admiral's hand. The fool did not even realize that his mind, and all of its secrets, were now the Hierophant's. He would receive the impression that negotiations were taking place on an even playing field. In reality, this admiral had fallen into his trap, and soon he would be able to spring it so that he could finally search for his vessel.

"Then we will be whole again."

The Hierophant swept to Admiral Wimbledon's side, placing a friendly hand over his round shoulders.

"Please, you must be hungry after such a long journey. I think it is only right that we negotiate after enjoying a taste of Plegia."

"Plegia… so that is what this nation is called?" Admiral Wimbledon replied as the Hierophant led him towards the royal dining room.

As they walked that way, servants scrambled to get a message to the kitchens. Their master's breakfast would need to be much larger today. Potential new allies had arrived, and the Hierophant planned on fully taking advantage of them.

And chapter! Alright, I think we've covered most of the angles with these "interlude" chapters, so to speak. We've gotten an update regarding Mace Windu and the crew on Alderaan. Another update about surviving Shepherds and the state of Regna Ferox (any shepherds that weren't in that scene are likely still alive btw, they just aren't part of Frederick's little group), and we get to see the Hierophant start to sink his claws into the Imperial commander sent to oversee the planet.

Now, I still don't think this is my best work (I really try, but some chapters just don't feel as good to me, however I usually can't think of anything else for them). One thing I am learning about this story though, is that it is going to be damn near impossible for me to cover every single angle and maintain my sanity/avoid future burnout. I'll do my best, but I think the best thing for this story will be to focus on the main plot/main crew (that being Ben Kenobi, Morgan, and Robin's story; because those are the three with the most significance in the grand scheme of things). We will still get glimpses of the other stuff going on in the periphery, but it'll be more like how I did these last three chapters rather than full blown arcs- updates rather than massive stories that derail everything else going on.

Anyways, with that little bit of explanation out of the way, it's back on to the main plot! Let me know what you all think of this chapter! As always, I hope you all enjoyed it! Have a nice day!
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