- Posted On: Feb 27 2022 8:26pm
This broadcast is a declaration of war. Not of war between myself and any government, or between my military and theirs. This is a war against those who would cause a continuing, devastating war to continue.
I hereby declare war on Force Users everywhere.
The Azguard are, by nature, an amiable and naive people. They lived for countless millennia in peace and contentment, only the war-filled tales of their mythic past and the fleeting dangers of incidental mishap hinting at another, dire aspect of the Azguard people.
By chance, they ventured into the broader galaxy some few years ago, and discovered there danger and threat not seen by an Azguard in hundreds of thousands of years. In the past decade, the Dire Azguard of their mythic past has become more and more the reality of what it means to be an Azguard. War, and the threat of war, and the preparation for war have gobbled up the childish innocence of an age now passed.
In the face of these many dangers, the Dire Azguard has shown himself boldly, and without apology. Among those marked most deeply by war and sacrifice, the Dire Azguard seems to have banished the naivete of that past age, leaving a bitter and cynical rump of a once hopebound individual. It is the way of the Azguard. Whether a fluke of evolution or a product of carefully tended design, the Dire Azguard arrives to shield the Naive Azguard from harm, and the more frequently the Dire arrives, the more dominant he becomes.
More than a decade after their arrival onto the galactic stage, the reawakening of the Dire Azguard has transformed Azguardian society. They have built foundries, and factories, and shipyards, and defense networks, and war fleets. They have assembled armies and navies and complexes full of strategists and tacticians and intelligence analysts. They have founded a Coalition of the Devout, peoples from worlds and species the galaxy around, dedicated to the grim and thankless task of defying the Darkness, of shining a Light.
But what now? If the Dire is what awakens when an Azguard is threatened, then what might awaken when life itself is threatened?
For the Force is life, and those who Use the Force are servants of life itself. To threaten them, is to call forth the Vision of Darkness, the end of all things.
* * *
His name was Rashad, and he contented himself with the knowledge that his every act, large or small, was a fulfillment of prophecy. Like all Azguard, he was raised in the knowledge that a Vision of Darkness loomed on the horizon, an inevitable showdown in which his people and their gods would stand together in the defense of life itself. Like all Azguard, Rashad toiled so that on that day, the Light would shine, and the Darkness would be dispelled. What lay beyond that apocalyptic convergence no Azguard knew. The gods themselves did not know.
The gods themselves could not know.
Rashad was like his people – and like his gods – in this way: beyond the Vision of Darkness lay the Great Unknown.
But Rashad was not like his people, and he was not like his gods. No, he was one of a kind. He was special. He was so special, that three days before Artanis Daz'Da'Mar issued his Declaration to the galaxy, Rashad boarded a rather unassuming civilian transport and took a budget trip out of the Azguard System.
A week later, he found himself on the planet Meris III, shuffling through the dank streets of a run-down colony town. He stomped through the puddles from a recent rain without a thought, seemingly unaware of his surroundings as his bowed head concealed closed eyes. At length, he made a sharp left, walked directly into the brick wall of an abandoned building, and . . .
His head bounced off the brink and he tumbled backward, falling into a muddy puddle. “By Yunos!” he exclaimed. “It's solid!?” Without a thought of his surroundings, Rashad planted both of his hands into the mud on either side to steady himself and stared straight at the brick wall. “Amazing!” he cried into the empty alleyway. “You amaze me! I have come to answer your questions,” he announced to the wall.
He waited several seconds, his consternation growing, and finally he decided to reach up with one muddy hand and pull back his cowl, exposing his Azguardian features. “Please, time is of the essence. We must not delay any longer.” He rose to his feet, robes soaked in dirty water, a muddy hand print slightly squished by the way his cowl rumpled around his neck.
“This isn't how this happens,” he said, voicing the words as the shadow of doubt began to creep over him. He pressed his hands against the wall, pushing gently at first, and then with all his might, but the wall would not yield. “This isn't how this happens!” he exclaimed, distraught. “You let me in! You have to let me in!”
Stumbling backward, he stepped into the puddle again, the splash splash of his two feet catching his attention, causing him to look down. “This isn't . . . this isn't . . .”
“May I help you, traveler?”
Rashad jumped with surprise, turning around to find a small human woman in simple garments looking up at him, concern evident on her face. “It's you,” he whispered.
“I'm who?” the woman asked, seemingly surprised by his response.
“You're her. The woman of my dreams.”
She laughed, then covered her mouth with a hand. “You're a little tall for me,” she said, sounding more amused than distraught.
Rashad the Azguard didn't register any of that. “You help me save the galaxy,” he said.
“Who do you think I am?” the woman asked, any sense of playfulness gone from her voice.
He was taken aback by the question, suddenly confused. “I don't . . . I don't . . .” he trailed off, searching his mind, searching his memory, searching, searching . . .
“Perhaps you're lost,” the woman suggested, gesturing back down the alley toward the still-lively heart of the town. “Would you -”
There is no Dire Azguard lurking within Rashad. He does not survive danger by reliance on ferocity. He has no need to. “I am Rashad of Azguard,” he said, his voice weak and thin. Even so, his hunched posture straightened, his jittery limbs stiffened, and his flighty eyes fixed firmly on the young woman standing before him. “Within me dwells the last spark of Quex, God of Foresight and Memory.”
“Perhaps you need a little more help than directions can give,” the woman mused.
Rashad reached out a hand and she pulled away, but he was fast, too fast for her. His hand passed through hers, revealing that she was merely a phantom. “You are an Adept of the Current,” he said, eyes still fixed on her. “A practitioner of Immersion.” He looked away and she dissolved, his eyes searching out for something yet unseen. “You weave illusion, and you conceal truth. You . . . you . . .”
His focus fixed on an empty point a few meters down the alleyway. “You are Akanah! You are master of the Loom!”
They were no longer standing in an alleyway. The room was dark, and damp . . . and crowded.
“You have the sight,” a woman gasped, all of her companions looking to her with as much surprise as she looked to him. “Even when you couldn't see it, you walked the path into our home.”
“You deceived me, for a time,” Rashad admitted to the woman responsible for the illusion. “But I deceived you, too.” The edges of his mouth curled into a faint smile. “While you mused at the oddity of Rashad the mortal Azguard, I lurked beneath the surface, concealing my true self.”
“Quex?” she asked, genuinely uncertain.
“Quex was slain four hundred thousand years ago,” Rashad said. “I am the latest in an unbroken chain stretching back through all those many generations. Like my forebearers, I carry the last spark of his divine Light, the Sight with which he peered into the future and the past. It is not an easy burden, but I bear it gladly.”
“For its power?” she asked.
“For its hope,” Rashad corrected her. “Its hope, which brought me to you. Its hope, which stirred me to this place before the poisoned words of Artanis Daz'Da'Mar spoke his curse against us. Its hope, that sees the hope of others, and guides me to them.”
“We cannot be what you are hoping for,” Akanah said. “The Fallanassi do not interfere in the affairs of others. Not anymore.”
“But you will,” Rashad said. “I have seen it.”
* * *
From: To Curse the Darkness
Lando leaned in, deathly serious, the tension building palpably. “I have a vision, Vekkis, of a Great River running through the whole galaxy, whose current will sweep up the hunted and outcast, and carrying them to safety beyond the sight of any nation or army.”
“A Great River,” Vekkis mused. It had a certain ring to it, he had to admit.
Lando Calrissian didn't like the Commonwealth. It was too . . . clean. For a man of refinement such as himself, one might expect him to quite enjoy that quality of the Commonwealth. But tibanna gas mining was a dirty business, so was night-side mining on Nkllon, and deep-sea mining on Varn, and any of a dozen other ventures that had made him his fortune. Come to think of it, arms manufacture and sale wasn't a particularly clean business venture either, though for entirely different reasons.
The business interests of Tendrando Arms served as a good enough excuse for this little trip to Etti-IV, though, so at least there was that. He had made a big show of securing the penthouse suite in each of the three most prestigious hotels in the city, then quite publicly landing on the exclusive landing pad attached to the most expensive of those three. It had been over half an hour now, sitting alone in the otherwise vacant room. The lights had cut on automatically when he entered, but had shut themselves off after a couple of minutes without detecting any significant movement.
So Lando sat, in the dark, waiting. Truth be told, he was starting to doubt himself a little. And his boots were getting a little . . .
Halfway through pulling his right boot off of his foot, the lights kicked on. “Don't mind me,” the familiar voice said. “I didn't mean to interrupt.”
“Luke, you old so and so!” Lando exclaimed, hopping to his feet and turning to regard his old friend. “Bring it in, bring it in!” he demanded, holding his arms out wide and walking toward the Jedi Master, his one untied boot clomping a little awkwardly.
The two embraced, Lando's warm smile holding firm until they had parted again and he got a good look at the younger man. “I was starting to think I'd imagined the whole thing.”
“You could have made it a little easier for me to get to you unnoticed,” Luke said, gesturing to a nearby chair.
Offering him a seat, in his own hotel room! Lando returned the gesture, and the two men started for their respective seats in unison. “I wanted to make sure you'd see me coming.”
“Lando, I called you here.”
He shook his head, smiling again. “I'm not used to dreaming things that come true.”
“It's important we aren't seen together,” Luke said.
“This Dominion business,” Lando said, his disposition souring. “That 'Declaration' of theirs.”
“Lando, I know it's a lot to ask, and I know you've made a point of avoiding galactic politics since the fall of the Republic, and -”
Lando held up both hands to slow the Jedi Grandmaster down. “Tendra and I are already working on something, but it's early stages and we're not sure we've got the resources to pull it off by ourselves.”
“Working on something?” Luke asked, surprised. “Already?”
Lando cracked that trademark smile for the third time in as many minutes. “Hey, it's me!”
* * *
“. . . Go to the Jedi; now more than ever, they need uncompromised allies. Go to them.”
“Wait!” The commander shouted, Ethan already halfway out of the door. “What if we aren't enough?”
The Praetorian Guardsman cracked a smile, his first deviation from perfect soldiery in all his time here. He tossed something at the Gotal, stepping through the door. “Call us: we will answer.” And then he was gone.
Commander Doc-Tel spent a brief moment looking at the commlink, finally pocketing it and tapping the communicator on his desk. “Patch me through to Command, priority one.”
Across the galaxy, one may find many elite and famed martial institutions. The Antarian Rangers are not one such institution. They had been, once, long ago, but the Great Purge had not culled the Jedi alone. Little remained of the Antarian Rangers in the wake of Palpatine's reign, and the subsequent years of warfare and political instability had prevented such a small and contentious organization from reemerging onto the public stage.
But with the formation of the League of Nations and the nominal protection from Imperial reprisal that that organization had provided, the last surviving members of the Rangers had dared to find one another again. On the planet of Antar IV, a crusty cadre of war-weary survivors and their rosy-cheeked band of new recruits had raised for the first time in decades the banner of the Antarian Rangers.
Now they had to prove that it still meant something.
Commander Doc-Tel worked the mechanisms on his office safe with great care, at length producing a commlink from the safe's otherwise empty interior. Holding the device close to his lips, the old Gotal Ranger whispered into it: “A man once gave me this and bade me call in a time of need. The Dominion seeks the destruction of the Jedi, and we will stand against them. We will not be enough. Can you help us?”
* * *
From: Varn, World of Wonder
Official Diplomatic Transmission
From: Department of Foreign Affairs, Unified Republic of Varn
To: Citizens and Residents of the Planetary Body of Naboo
Cc: All Planetary, Regional, and Galactic Government Entities of the Galactic Coalition of Planets
All citizens and residents of the planet Naboo fleeing in response to and seeking refuge from the unlawful and immoral invasion of that planet by forces of The New Order of the Galactic Empire, are hereby granted political asylum in the Unified Federation of Varn. In accordance with the dictates of the Constitution of the Galactic Coalition of Planets, all member states of said Coalition are hereby bound to uphold this decree, and upon request of any concerned party present, to safely convey them into the jurisdiction of the Varn government.
To relevant parties, both now beyond the reach of the Galactic Empire and yet within its grasp: all Coalition ports and outposts are hereby duty-bound to see you safely to Varn space, where your protection will assured by the Varn Planetary Defense Forces and the Ministry of the Interior.
Come to us, and we will shelter you beneath our outstretched arms.
It wasn't exactly a . . . good plan. Well, it was a “good” plan, but it wasn't . . .
The government of Varn had gotten ahead of itself, so now thousands of random folk were stumbling their way to Varn, and then promising that they were actually from Naboo, and really, really needed the protection and generosity offered by the capital of the Cooperative. And what did all of that mean?
It meant that the Cooperative Defense Force had to babysit a bunch of hoodlums while some pencil pusher somewhere decided what new rolls of red tape they'd drape over this little corner of the planet to turn it into a “special protected zone” or an “autonomous enclave” or a “Medium Term Resettlement Center” or somesuch bullshit.
And it meant soldiers had to police civilians for contraband.
“You didn't take the sword?” The fancy-pants officer asked, not bothering to distinguish between the two troopers flanking the old man.
“We . . . thought . . . I'm sorry, General!” One of them reached for the sword . . .
“Hold on!” the general shouted, holding up both hands. “Get out of here. Get!” He shooed the two troopers away and waited until the military tent's self-sealing flap closed behind them. “Have a seat,” he said, gesturing to the empty seat next to the old man.
“I'd prefer to stand,” the old man said, halfway through the general's crouch to retake his own seat.
“Well,” he muttered, freezing in place for a moment before deciding to remain standing as well. “We really can't have you walking around the camp with that thing, you know?” He gestured at the sword.
“It's a family heirloom,” the old man replied.
The general stared at the man for a long moment, but the old bastard seemed completely unfazed. Oblivious, almost. “You know, the Coalition has never presented itself as the successor of the New Republic; its never made any kind of claim to their authority or . . . legacy.”
“What does that have to do with me,” the old man asked.
“Well, despite that, we do have what is perhaps the most comprehensive database of New Republic records anywhere in the galaxy.”
“Which includes a great many of its records from Palpatine's Empire.”
“And even the Old Republic.”
The man shook his head, utterly unimpressed.
“Well,” he made a show of picking up a datapad and dropping it back on his desk, “the problem is: when we ran your DNA in processing, we got a hit.”
“It's not a crime in the Coalition to be an enemy of the Empire,” the old man said.
The general smiled, genuinely amazed by this old bastard's nerve. “Well that's the thing: this wasn't a hit on the Imperial database. It was older than that.”
The man shrugged. “That makes sense. I'm old.”
The general chuckled, but he wasn't amused anymore. He was starting to get angry. “You're an enemy of the Republic, Gray Paladin Ink Davaan. You are considered extremely dangerous, and are to be killed on sight, as authorized by Grand Army of the Republic Contingency Order 66. Now how about that.”
“Should I draw my sword,” the old man asked. “Would you like me to put on a show?”
“How the fuck did you end up here, man?”
“I was hoping someone interesting would find me,” he said. “I should have learned better by now.”
“Oh, I can be interesting,” the general said. “I can be very interesting.” He didn't even believe it himself, once he heard it out loud.
“I can leave if we're done here,” Ink said, turning for the exit. “I can find my way off-world.”
“My name is Lee Prine,” the general said. “I'm not here to process refugees.”
“What are you here for?” the old man asked, not slowing down as he worked the seal on the tent.
“I'm here to recruit Force Commandos.”
The survivor of the Great Jedi Purge quit fiddling with the fancy-pants piece of gear and returned his attention to the younger man. “You're going to find shit-all in these rejects from an abandoned Jedi temple.”
“Force Commando” was a stretch, that's for sure. The Dominion had issued its Declaration against Force Users, though, so things were getting serious. It was more important than ever to both maintain the secrecy of the program, and prepare competent Force users for whatever lay ahead. The Dominion was targeting Force sensitives for a reason, and Ink Davaan was committed to preventing another Purge.
So he found himself on Sundari, surrounded by the remnants of a government that had hunted him for the majority of his life. A Jedi working for the Empire . . . it was about as close to blasphemy as a man like Ink could imagine. But there they were, the tattered remains of an Imperial propaganda scheme, survivors of the Reaver invasion of the Imperial Borderlands. Some dumbass in the Cooperative had apparently decided to let the local Imperials retain formal control of the planet, even after a Cooperative action against the Reavers secured the world and its brother, Garos IV.
Whatever. He wasn't here for empire building or destroying. He was here to recruit Force Commandos. And with Jedi Corpsmen across the Empire fleeing like rats from a sinking ship, a win here could set the stage for something far, far larger. So Ink Davaan drew his cortosis sword from its scabbard and motioned for the pair of spry young Corpsmen to advance. “Come and see, what an ally the Force can make of you.”