Xar Runis' BIO

Chapter One: Dark Awakening

I awoke in total darkness, lying on what felt like some kind of mat.
I lay there, stripped to the waist, waiting for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. I felt pain, in my right shoulder and along my side. Funny, I was sure that my arm had been blown off in the explosion.
I could hear a faint roar; it was the roar of a ship's engines, I realized. I stood, searching around blindly along the wall with my hands, and found the outline of a door. Following the edge, I found a small button that was probably used to open the door. I touched the button, and, to my surprise, the door slid open sideways. Stepping through the doorway, I emerged into a dimly-lit hallway lined with long red glowlamps. I looked down at myself, and saw with shocked horror the scars all along my shoulder and side. Hideously black, and interlaced with thick webs of white scar tissue, it ran from my right biceps up and across my shoulder, over my right breast, and down several ribs. It seemed to spread across my back, as well. I shook my head to clear it. At least my arm was still there. I would have time to deal with it later.
I cautiously walked down the hall, until I entered a large room with transparisteel viewports lining the far wall, starting near the floor and rising to the ceiling two and a half meters overhead, then curving to provide a skylight above, as well. Space filled the view outside, though few stars were visible, wherever this was. The room was mostly empty, save for a few control panels, and a thin, plush mat covered most of the floor.
"Welcome," said a dark voice full of mirth. "And so begins your nightmare."
"Who is it?" I asked, looking around for the source of the voice.
"I am Jedi Master Runis... And I am your destiny."
There near the corner, stepping out of the shadows was a black cloaked figure, hooded to where the darkness covered his face.
I sighed aloud, relaxing at the sight of the person. "A Jedi Master. Did you heal me? I am eternally grateful. If there is anything I can do to repay you, just tell me. I am the Prince of..."
The black cloaked figure laughed heartily, not at all a pleasant sound, but more like cracking duracrete. He threw his hood back, revealing a once handsome face now marred with age and lined with scars. He wore a close trimmed beard, white, along with short-cropped hair. I could not guess his age, as the Force had surely slowed his aging.
His face wore a sardonic grin. "Fool... I have no use for money. You have something else I want."
"What is that?" I asked hesitantly.
"Your life," he said.
Then the horror of my situation hit me, as I realized who I was talking to. The dark cloak, the ominous voice, the hate in his eyes. A dark Jedi Master!
I took a step back, bringing my hands up in front of me. "But... Why would you go to all the trouble to heal me if you are going to kill me?"
Dark Jedi Master Runis shook his head slowly. "Ignorant whelp," he snorted. "I see that I have my work cut out for me. It has taken me long to develop my ideas; I will not simply give them away to anyone. However, you have great Force potential, perhaps the strongest I have ever seen. You will be the first student, but you will also be my finest. I promise you that."
He smiled. "Now, it is time for your first lesson."
He reached a hand toward me, and everything went black.

Chapter Two: Survival

I woke in darkness again, only this time on a cold metal floor. I got to my feet, still remembering the strange dream I had had last night. Being injured in a battle, and being captured by a Dark Jedi? It was almost laughable. Yet it seemed so real...
I started to feel around for the light switch, when the floor beneath me promptly split in two, dropping me straight down into empty air. I fell for what seemed like ages, though probably was only mere seconds. My feet hit ground, blistering sand that promptly gave way beneath me, throwing me on my back. I blinked my eyes to recover my momentary blindness caused by the bright world around me. Immediately I felt like I was roasting. The dry air around me felt like an oven. I scrambled to my feet. As I looked up, I saw Runis' ship hovering above me, looking like a raven over its prey. The ship turned on its axis, the cargo bay doors swiveling closed, and I could see Runis in the cockpit, laughing down at me and waving. I shouted up at him, cursed at him, but he only laughed harder. Then Runis turned away, and the ship rocketed off into the sky at full burn.
I watched until the ship faded to a tiny speck in the sky, then finally vanished altogether. As I looked at my surroundings, I repressed an urge to scream. Sand, great hills of sand, lay as far as I could see in every direction.
Runis, that cold-hearted dog, had dropped me on a desert planet with no provisions. Worse than killing me outright, he had left me to die of sunstroke. And even if I did find shelter, then it would be dehydration. What had he said before, about keeping me alive? He had obviously lied.

An hour later, maybe two, I knew I was going to die, and soon. I was nearly at the point where I was too weak to walk, and my tongue felt like a ball of cotton. Sweat had poured out of my body until no more was left. I had walked since Runis had dropped me off, and had seen no sign of anything but endless sand, everywhere. No village, not even a small cave. The ship had not returned. As I rose upon one more hill, hoping against hope that there would be an oasis, a city, anything but barren sand. But there was nothing but a sea of bright yellow in all directions. Exhausted, I collapsed, and it was all I could do to breathe as I rolled over and over down the sand dune. I finally stopped, lying stretched out, feeling death coming inexorably upon me. My exposed upper body was on fire from sunburn, and my sweat, long since evaporated, had given way to dry, cracked skin all over my body, especially my lips. There weren't even any birds out here, waiting to eat my soon-to-be rotting flesh. It would be a silent grave, unknown to the rest of the galaxy. I didn’t even know what planet I was on. Definitely not Varnus. There were no deserts like this.
I turned my head to the side, waiting for the end to come, when I saw a cave made of rock jutting up through the sand. I closed my eyes. Wait, a cave! I realized. I opened my eyes again, and it was still there, jutting out of the side of the dune. I struggled to gain control of my body, knowing that this was my only chance for life. Ever so slowly, I rolled to my knees and crawled over the sand towards the cave. Upon reaching it, I ducked into the mouth, which was large enough to accommodate me comfortably. I noticed that the cave extended on into the distance out of my line of sight. I was able to feel the change in temperature almost immediately. It was significantly cooler in here, but I knew that unless I found some sort of liquid for my dehydrated body, all the coolness in the universe was not going to do any good.
I rested there for a moment to regain some of my strength before venturing on into the dark recesses of the tunnel. As I crawled in deeper, the temperature continued to decline. The tunnel was deeper than I had expected, and I kept on crawling, forward and down. A few moments later I started to hear another sound besides my breathing, and I stopped to listen. It sounded like the dripping of water into a puddle. Even more, the ceiling of the cave had risen to where I could stand. Feeling sudden hope, I rushed through the remaining distance, went around a corner, and ran right into the back of what felt like a large, hairy beast!

A tiny shaft of light from above gave just enough illumination to see the black beast in front of me. The creature turned, snarling, enraged that something had dared to disturb it. I stared into an ugly dog-like face with large fangs and terrifying eyes. It had matted black hair all over its body, and its breath smelled like sewage. It reached for me with large, dagger-like claws. I screamed, turned, and tried to head back toward the entrance. But the creature moved, barring my way. Its claws slashed out, and I cried in terror and pain as a gash opened up diagonally across my chest. I staggered back and hit hard rock wall behind me, blood dripping down my chest. I had been backed into the corner, I realized, unable to get around the creature's bulk. I flung out my arms in a desperate attempt to ward off those dreadful claws.
"Stop! Stay back!" I screamed, knowing the creature could not understand me. It was all over...
Then the creature suddenly stopped short of tearing my flesh, and it's eyes glazed over. It’s breathing stopped. It stood there, like some figurine in a museum. Not bothering to wait for it to come out of its stupor, I started to move around it. The beast still blocked my way out, and I didn't dare touch it to move it, so I went around its other side, toward the sound of the dripping.
Indeed, when I rounded the corner, there was a trickle of water coming out of a crack in the stone wall, gathering in a small pool below. The creature must have been drinking there when I disturbed it. But what was it doing here? Unable to withhold my parched throat with life-giving water before me, I knelt down and gathered some of the water in the tiny pool with my hands. I tasted the water cautiously, listening for any sound from the direction of the beast.
The water tasted pure, and cool to my parched throat. I began greedily drinking more, though I was careful not to consume the water too quickly. My thirst satisfied at last, I sat back and collapsed in a heap on the cool stone floor, exhausted.
I slept, disturbed by dreams of being tortured by an insane Dark Jedi and being chase down an endless tunnel by the huge beast. I awoke the next morning to newfound pain all across my skin, the results of far too long in the planet’s unforgiving sun. The gash on my chest burned even worse. Though it I surmised it treatable with modern medicinal techniques, I had none available, and pus was starting to leak out already. I had to get help. After another drink from the pool, I ventured over to attempt my way past the beast.
The creature was still crouching there, though now with lifeless eyes. I pushed it bodily to the side, squeezed past as best I could, and made my way back out to the entrance of the cave, hoping to try and find something to eat before it became too hot outside. It must have been a couple of days since I had last eaten, and I was famished.
However, searching the immediate area around the cave proved a waste of time, and I returned to the cave when the heat began to rise. I supposed that I could try to eat the beast, but that thought did not appeal to me very much. My only option, I reasoned, was to wait for some small animal to come for water and then I would have kill it and eat it. I would eventually have to leave the cave, though, for barely surviving here was not living at all. And my wound was getting worse. There must be a fertile valley somewhere on the planet.
I slept again, then when I awoke, I exited the cave and discovered I wasn’t to die here, after all. Runis’ black ship was already resting on the sand in front of the cave. The Dark Jedi had returned!
I was enraged. How dare that slime abandon me here!
The ramp was down, and I resolved to get things over with right there and then. I would not be treated in this way. I would kill Dark Jedi Master Runis. I ascended the ramp.

Chapter Three: The Beginning

I ascended the ramp, into the bowels of the ship known as the Nightmare. As I made my way into Runis' observation room, I saw him. He was sitting behind a large, elaborate wooden table, with a veritable feast in front of him. Fruit sat in golden bowls, sauced meat rested in plates, and a pitcher of some kind of liquid stood on the table, small beads of water condensing on the sides. My mouth began watering, and my stomach rumbled rather loudly, but I pushed the thoughts of food away. I stormed over to the table, as Runis was taking a bite out of a delicious-looking fruit.
"How was your little adventure down there?" he asked smugly, in between chewing. "Did you enjoy it?" He gestured at the food in front of him. "You may have some, if you will acknowledge me as your new master.”
I snarled, the rage filling up inside me. "How dare you!" I screamed. "You left me for dead. Now I am going to kill you!"
Runis just chuckled.
"You cannot expect to get away with treating people like that!" I leaned over the table...
Runis' eyes met mine, and suddenly I felt myself being thrown backwards by an unseen force. My back hit the floor, hard. Grunting, I stood and started toward him again.
 "You, killing me?" Runis' smile was not amused. "How are you going to do that? Oh, I'm sorry, you're too busy to answer... You can't breathe."
An invisible hand grabbed my throat, and suddenly I felt as if all the air had been knocked out of me. I grabbed my throat, trying to take a breath of air, but I could not. My head spinning, I sunk to my knees, feeling an unseen weight pulling me down toward the floor.
Runis was looking at me as though contemplating whether or not to let me live. The image of him started to swim... I knew I was blacking out. "This was just your first lesson," he mused. I couldn't see him, but his voice came though clearly. "It was not unexpected. You shall learn, in time. I should say, you handled the beast well. Using fear, you unknowingly lashed out with the Force, though not for any true purpose. You didn’t know what you did, but the magnitude with which it was sent, aimed directly at the beast, was enough to effectively cease its brain waves. No, you have too much potential to waste. I shall break you, no matter how long it takes. You shall live."
Just as total darkness began to envelope me, the grip, and the weight stopped. Air flooded into my lungs. I breathed sweet, life-giving air in the first time in what had seemed like an eternity.
"How... How can you do this?" I managed feebly.
Runis' voice had returned to a lighter tone. "You will learn in time, my student. We shall start by making your body strong, and teaching you simple tasks with the Force. My powers will heal you when you are injured and make you able to endure far more than a normal man. Then we shall go on to more advanced exercises. You are fresh and young, and already you use the Force without knowing it. But you will learn a different way to wield it than by fear and anger. Those emotions blind you, leave you open. There is a long road ahead for you, but in time, you will become what I envision you to be, the greatest Jedi of them all. The one to exact my revenge on the Dark Brotherhood and my enemies among the Jedi." I looked up, and saw him standing now, basking in the glory of his vision.
"But one thing at a time," he said in a coaxing voice. "You must be hungry. Come, bring a chair, and dine with me." His laughter echoed throughout the ship.

The training began, and went on for months like this, for what seemed like years. I went through challenge after challenge, training in many harsh environments. His promise was that when my training was complete, I could revisit my homeworld, to see my family, and my fiancée. When I did well, Runis rewarded me. When I did not, I learned from my mistakes. Runis was a hard master, and I paid dearly for every mistake. My scars grew in proportion to my knowledge. I learned quickly to do my best to learn and obey, but in my mind I plotted revenge. I would get away from him.
Runis wanted revenge, as well, against the Jedi. Light and Dark, all the same, for as he saw it he had been wronged, in some way he would not reveal completely to me. I did not share his philosophy, but I had no choice but to obey. He gave me detailed profiles of his enemies, training me for one purpose: assassination. I learned many intellectual studies in addition to the grueling physical trials. I learned new languages, including the rough, violent-sounding tongue called Crinn that the ship’s controls were written in, using the Force to enhance memorization techniques. And above all, I learned to use the Force, to manipulate in every way Runis knew how, to grow in strength and power. If he held back his ultimate plans, he still entrusted me with his vast stores of knowledge. Still, a pity for him that he didn’t foresee the plans I was making for his own demise. Or perhaps he actually did. That fear kept me obedient, for the time being. Runis kept telling me he wanted me to become something more than a Jedi. Runis had discovered a secret, though he would not yet tell me what it was. I would keep my eyes and ears open for my opportunity.

Chapter Four: The Struggle

I awoke with a start, throwing off the light cover over me in my thin sleeping pad. It was dark. It was always dark in my cell, in my so-called room. I sat up and rolled off the pad.
Another horrible nightmare, filled with taunts and torture by my dark master. Runis had me take care of a Planetary Governor the night before. One of Runis' enemies, someone who did not agree with his "ideals". Granted, the governor had been unfair to his subjects. Many Imperial Governors were, so Runis said. I had barely gotten out of that one alive. The bomb had gone off at precisely the right moment, but somehow security had found me trying to escape. Guards chased me up to the roof of the palace, as smoke rose in towering columns from the top floors of the building. Then out of nowhere the Nightmare swooped down, and a chain ladder was thrown down to me. I had to climb up as the ship lifted off into the atmosphere, even as guards shot a hail of blaster bolts that flashed nearby.
That had essentially been my last test, said Runis. Although he had constantly tested my strength and abilities, I had passed my “final” test – killing someone in his name. Then he promptly sent me to my room for the night.
I’d had enough of his lies. There was no way I would let this go on forever. But, I realized, at some point in my training I had decided I wanted to learn all I could about the Force and about the teachings Runis had discovered. I wanted to be the best I could be. Runis rarely gave complements, but he said I could already defeat any of the other Jedi whom he considered his enemies, his ‘betrayers’. "The others are inferior to you," he kept on saying. "They have nowhere near your level of training or discipline. Nor do they know our secrets."
I wondered what he had planned next. I knew I would have to continue to bear the training, continue killing his enemies, until I had learned everything I could from Runis. And then, when the time was right, I would kill him, too.
Suddenly the door rushed open sideways and blinding light filled the small room, silhouetting a tall, dark figure. I raised my hand to shade my eyes from the light.
"Good morning," the all too familiar voice spoke.
"Is it morning already?" I asked, coming to my feet.
"Yes, and I have a surprise for you. Follow me." Turning, Runis walked down the hallway toward the observation lounge. Since I had slept in my dark jumpsuit, I followed quietly. Bathing was a luxury I was only sometimes afforded.
Once in the lounge area, Runis went over and sat down in his chair behind the desk. I went to the seat in front of the desk, where my briefings and lectures usually took place. Runis sat there, rubbing his short white beard with his fingers, seemingly in deep thought. I watched him expectantly.
Finally Runis leaned back in the chair, and looked at me. "You did well last night. You have proved your skill to me, and that you are capable of any task I give you. Your training is complete. You are now ready to begin your mission. You are now able to kill my enemies in the Dark Brotherhood.” He folded his hands together. “We shall begin immediately. I have learned that one of my old betrayers is still alive and at large. We must act quickly.”
"What?" I asked. "Wait a minute! I thought once the training was over, you were going to let me go visit my homeworld first. To see my fiancée..."
Runis shook his head. “I'm afraid not. Not for some time. Before you kill my enemies, you're going to need a lightsaber."
"I already have lightsabers...” I gestured to the case in the wall, holding half a dozen training lightsabers and others from fallen Jedi, many of them Runis’ enemies. He had been busy over the years, himself. They were encased behind transparisteel, though, to prevent me access outside of a mission.
"You call those toys lightsabers?” Runis snorted. “No. You will have a weapon to rival those during the ancient Sith wars. You will have to travel to many planets to gather the necessary materials, and you may modify it according to your wishes. I will show you where to get the resources. But first, here; let me show you something."
Runis reached down into a drawer. When he brought out his lightsaber and laid it on the desktop, my breath caught. I had never seen such a weapon. It was jet black, made of some glossy material I could not identify. It looked almost like rock. Spike-like projections extended from the side like branches, curving forward toward the focal point. They must be placed according to his grip, I thought. Otherwise it would be very awkward to handle. The lightsaber ended in another sharp spike at the end. I had never seen its like before. It occurred to me that the saber looked a lot like Runis' ship, the Nightmare. I wondered if they’d had the same designer.
I reached my hand toward the lightsaber, but Runis' voice made me stop halfway. "Careful. The end is tipped with one the deadliest poisons known. It causes death very quickly. I wouldn't touch it if I were you." He stood up, and started around the desk. What good is a poisoned tip in a lightsaber? I wondered. Oh well, I should not argue with good fortune. I stood and started to follow Runis.
"Come, I'll tell you where you must go, over a feast of a breakfast, to celebrate the completion of your training."
My training is complete, I thought. That was all I needed to hear. I didn't feel so powerful, but then, against Runis' standards I didn't really know if I could judge my strength. Maybe nobody would measure up. But still, I had to try. For the past months I had been holding on, waiting until the end of my training, waiting until I could return home, to see Illiana… I decided I would make my move now.
After we had walked halfway to the door, I spun and, opening myself to the Force, drew the lightsaber from the desk. It whisked through the air into my hand. The instant it touched my palm I swung it, point first, towards were Runis was standing. But Runis was much faster. I was hardly begun my turn when his backfist hit me in the face, exploding stars before my eyes, sending me staggering back.
I gathered my wits quickly and backed away from him. Runis was looking at me angrily. Surely he had anticipated the move. I started to activate the lightsaber... and froze. I couldn't find the switch. I looked at the handle, and could not discern any difference in the design that was an ON switch. "What the..."
Runis grimaced.  "I'm the only one who can activate that lightsaber, you fool. This is not your first escape attempt, nor your first attempt to kill me. I may be getting old, but I can still best you."
Runis slowly started walking toward me. "Do you think I won’t kill you, even after all this time training you? I can start over. What good are you if you aren't totally loyal to me?"
I scowled at him in hate. “Your training 'methods' are supposed to inspire loyalty in me? You truly are insane." Then, something snapped inside me, and suddenly realized that if I did not escape, I faced either death or slavery under Runis for the rest of my life. For that matter, death was the more preferable of the two. And Runis looked happy to oblige. It was now or never.
I launched myself at Runis.

Almost immediately I slammed into a wall of air. Runis raised his hand towards me, and without warning a blanket of continuous, steady pain enveloped me and traveled throughout my entire body. At the same time, I felt an invisible hand grip my throat. My windpipe closed; I could not breathe. My strength waned immediately. How was Runis doing all this at once? Using the Force abilities I had, I tried to fend off the attacks, but only succeeded in lessening the effect slightly. Though I knew most and maybe all of Runis' skills, many years of experience had made him more adept at manipulating the Force. He also had a small advantage in power, as I had discovered before. I could not afford to give up, though. I struggled to stay on my feet. Breathe, have to breathe. I concentrated on loosening the grip on my throat. The pressure eased, but the pain going through my body increased. Trying to breathe and grunting in pain weren't compatible actions. Stars flashed before my eyes.
I had to get to Runis. I started walking sluggishly toward him, step by step, ever closer. He had apparently dropped the wall of air to expend more energy on his attack. I had made it to within two meters of him when Runis decided he did not want me any closer. His eyes narrowed, and he made a fist with his outstretched hand. Suddenly, though it did not seem possible, the pain and the pressure all increased. I could not move any further. The pain was excruciating. I tried to cry out, but my throat was closed. My lungs were burning, and my brain felt like it was going to explode. My attempts to fend off his attacks were useless, and this time Runis wasn’t letting me go. I knew then that I was going to die. Die, without ever escaping this slavery. Without returning to my home world. Without seeing my family or my fiancée again. Gripping the lightsaber in both hands, I slowly raised it over my head. My fingers were in the handgrips, around the spike projections. My vision blurred, and I could no longer see Runis clearly. The lack of oxygen was suffocating me. I didn't think I was close enough to hit him, but I had to try. When I tried to bring the handle down again, I felt a tendril of air wrap around my arms, freezing them in place. I gripped the saber with all my might, my body shaking forcefully, my consciousness fading fast. The grips didn't exactly fit my hands, and the edges cut into my fingers. That pain was like a caress compared to the agony surging through my body. Blackness crept around the edges of my vision. My ears were ringing, but I could hear Runis laughing, now. I wouldn't give in; I would die fighting. I gripped the saber as though I could channel the pain and force upwards. My hands wrenched the handle, twisting it. Surely it would break under the pressure. Suddenly there was a click, and the top and bottom portions of the handle turned in my hands. For a second my vision cleared, and I saw the spike at the bottom blast out of the handle. The spike flew toward Runis and embedded itself in the man's chest. Then everything seemed to happen at once. Runis gasped, dropping his hands. The pain and pressure also ceased, and without the restraints of the Force, my knees buckled, and I fell to the floor. Runis grabbed at the dart, half of it embedded in his chest.
"How..." he rasped.  "I... didn't think you knew how to..." As I struggled to my feet, Runis grabbed the end of the spike with both hands, and grunted with effort as he tried to pull it out.
The pain in my muscles and nerves remained, but were fading. The spike slowly came out, fell from Runis' hands to the floor with a cling. Blood covered it, but I could still see a green substance beading on the tip. The poison must have already be doing its work. Runis' breath came in gasps, and he backed away from me, toward the far corridor. Back on my feet, I followed him steadily. I had to finish him. The poison alone might not kill him. Runis was an excellent healer; he might be able to detoxify it. As Runis backed away from me, I felt something through the Force. I could feel Runis' anger and hatred toward me rising, matching and blending with my hatred for him, building into a Force Scream. It was an involuntary response caused by his intense emotion and hatred. He'd lost control, and was reverting to his old learning - the Dark Side of the Force.
My head started aching. I knew if he released it, it would probably knock me unconscious. It was strange, seeing Runis, who was usually calm and with uncanny control over his emotions, falling from his philosophy to his early training. His emotions though the Force were almost palpable. He had taught me not to let emotions blind me, unlike other Dark Jedi. In his final moments that ideal had faded. Now his raw, unbridled emotion reached for me, threatened to overwhelm me. But my hatred for him was even stronger. I sent all that raw emotion toward him, filling him, and unconsciously I knew I was using the Force on him.  Our emotions seemed to intertwine, harmonizing, and I felt his presence there stronger than ever before. To my eyes, he glowed full of red light, like a sun, and tendrils of that sun reached out to touch me, fill me, granting me new power and making me aware of his thoughts, his emotions.
I followed Runis into the passage. He was still stumbling back from me, breathing heavily. I thought I felt him concentrating inward with the Force, probably trying to heal himself. Noticing where we were, I smiled. Runis had started growling, his voice slowly rising as he lost control of the rising Force Scream. I moved in on him threateningly, and he backed up against the closed door of the ships’ airlock. I had him. Using the Force, I hit the button to open the airlock. The doors rushed open. Feeling them open behind him, Runis' eyes went wide with realization. As he began to move towards me, I ran forward and threw a kick straight into his solar plexus. I heard something crack as Runis cried out and was knocked back into the airlock chamber. I slammed my fist into the control, as Runis rebounded off the far door and launched himself at me, screaming now. The doors slammed shut just as Runis reached the door, and he rammed into it, pounding his fists on the durasteel. His face was right up against the small viewport in the airlock doors. He stared though at me, his breath condensing on the viewport. Then he screamed. Energy waves reached out for me through the Force.
"Take a walk, Master," I said, and hit the cycle button even as his attack threw me back. Almost before the airlock doors were open, Runis was pulled, screaming, out into the void of space, where he vanished from sight. I breathed out a breath it seemed I had held for hours. It was over, finally over. I was in shock; I was sure the knowledge of what I had done would not sink in until later. I turned and started back down the corridor. I had no idea how long it took Runis to die. What killed him first, whether it was the poison or the cold of space, or the depressurization, I may never know. I do know what happened next, though. Runis floated out in space, away from the ship. His scream was wasted in the void, but his energy was not. I could imagine his body flash-freezing, his breath sucked away, being disintegrated from the inside out. It wasn't a pleasant way to die. His heart stopped beating, and his body stood frozen. Lightning pulsed out of Runis' body, out of his fingertips, out of his eyes, arcing out into nowhere, and his body exploded with energy. A massive shockwave spread outwards in all directions. The wave of energy hit the rear of the unshielded Nightmare, knocking the ship forwards with tremendous force. The deck surged beneath my feet, and suddenly dropped away. I was thrown on my face into the lounge, slamming against the deck and knocking my breath out of my lungs. The whole ship shuddered under the impact, and the lighting flickered off and on. Lightning lanced across the outer hull of the Nightmare, rebounding over and over again due to the reflective surface of the ship. Sparks flew from several of the panels. The ship was shaking tremendously, rattling all the objects on the table and desk and elsewhere. Glass objects fell from the shelves, unknown fortunes in credits being destroyed as the artifacts Runis cherished were shattered. I saw the purple shockwave pass by through the floor-to-ceiling windows. Then something hit me through the Force. A sense of pure Force power filled me stronger than I’d ever known, accompanied by a sense of intense pain at the same time. My mind and body both ached. I looked down at my hands, and saw Runis’ hands. Then images flashed before my mind, of things that I had never seen or experienced myself.  Was this a result of Runis’ Force energy exploding around me? I couldn’t believe how powerful he had been. I saw massive, bipedal monsters in black armor, gazing at me with terrifying eyes. I saw worlds that I had never visited, wonders I’d never knew existed. Images of people and places that didn’t make sense flew through my head. Then I felt power course into me, filling me, then suddenly vanishing as though it had never been. The images faded, and I realized I had collapsed to the floor as the deck shuddered beneath me. Finally the energy wave outside passed, fading into the distance, and the shaking stopped. The ship stood deathly silent, drifting quietly through the void. Outside the viewports, the stars made a dizzying display as they swirled past the windows. The ship must have been spinning. My eyes caught the spike lying on the floor, surrounded by a small pool of Runis' blood. I realized I still held the lightsaber handle in my hand. Trying not to look at the windows, I rose and stumbled toward the bridge. On the way I tossed the handle back on the desk. Once inside the cockpit, which was only large enough for two, I sat down at the main computer and ran the ship's diagnostics. Runis had coded access, but fortunately he had taught me most of his passwords and codes. With a little work I got in. Also, some of the language of the readouts was in the strange, cryptic script called Crinn that Runis had taught me. Still, flying the Nightmare was no problem for me, as I had gotten flying experience on the few occasions Runis had let me pilot the ship.
I was worried that the ship had sustained major damage during the fury of the shockwave. My fears were relieved by the results, though. The engines had sustained only minor damage, and the ship's systems were still operational. One of the most important systems, the hyperdrive, was undamaged. Without it I could never have left my position in deep space. Using the ship's stabilizers, I stopped the ship's spinning motion. Then I set the ship on standby and set off to attend my next concern: I was still aching all over, my muscles, my bones, everything. Some of my joints were a little hard to move. A tingling moved down my nerves.
I made my way to the Nightmare's sickbay. I extended the wall cot, lay down, and ran a scan on myself. The computer revealed no serious damage, but recommended a lot of rest and prescribed various drugs to assist nerve repair and regeneration. I had it mix the prescribed elements, injected the mixture into my arm. Next I stopped by the galley. Indeed, it seemed Runis had planned on a true feast. Meat and fruit of various exotic kinds were stocked in the refrigeration area. Nothing was prepared, of course, since I always had to do the cooking. Well, I wouldn't have time to make it now. I grabbed some ration bars and returned to the bridge.
I accessed a star map of the current area, and compared it to a plot of the galaxy to locate my position relative to the rest of space. I already knew what my first destination would be. I plotted a course back to my home planet, on the edge of the Outer Rim and the Unknown Regions. Varnus. The computer revealed that it would be a rather long trip, so I would have plenty of time to rest during while in hyperspace. I fully intended to. In a few days I would access all the ship's records and information, travel to those planets Runis had hinted at, and assemble an awesome lightsaber. It was going to be an eventful few months. But for the moment, as I set the course in and engaged the hyperdrive, I only had only one thing on my mind. I was going home.

Chapter Five: The Search

Varnus System
1500 hours
Planet Varnus
Gone, all gone, I thought. I sat slumped over the controls, as the Nightmare streaked out of the planet's atmosphere, headed nowhere, anywhere but where it was now. My hands were shaking, I could not see clearly; unshed tears tried to burst out. Outrage and hatred threatened to consume me. I knew if I lost control, I would not be able to stop. I would probably kill myself. But, since I felt like dying anyway, what did it matter? Only a small part of me was able to hang onto a thread of control, of sanity. Otherwise my emotions, which I had been trained to hide, would throw me into some place that I could not escape. Useless, all useless. What is the point in living now? All the torment, all the suffering, for nothing now. I dared not look back at the planet shrinking in the distance behind me.
They were gone. My family. My mother, father, brothers, sister, and all the rest were all dead. I hadn't seen them in nearly two years. Now I would never see them again. They would all have thought me long since dead. No wonder Runis hadn’t wanted me to return. The place where I had been born was a ruin. Everyone I had held dear was nowhere to be found.
And one other, the news that had hurt just as much. My betrothed. Beautiful Illiana, her hair as red as our sun, her beautiful green eyes like deep pools I could stare into forever. I would never find another like her. I would never be able to love anyone else.
I had set the Nightmare down on a clearing that was close to the Palace where I was born and lived most of my early life. Situated at the center of the capital city of Vectur, the beautiful Royal Palace had been a prime target during the bombardments. I strode down the ramp, still wearing my sweat-stained, black jumpsuit. Disbelief at first was all I could feel, but then I shut off all emotion as Runis had taught me. I could not possibly think straight now. I had to find out what had happened, then digest the details later in their grueling reality.
I could still see clearly in my mind the ruined palace that had been my birthplace. The crumbled walls, the blaster marks, the looted furniture and tapestries. Only destruction remained. The city around was in shambles, the gaping skeletons of buildings no longer inhabited. The populace had relocated to the outskirts of the city, trying to salvage what they could from the devastation. Amazingly, there was one member of my family left that I found. I knew I was uneasy admitting that fact. Uncle Aron had been in disagreement with my father, and throughout my life lived like a hermit many kilometers away from the palace. After the battle, he had returned to the palace, and after running out all the looters had taken the job of storing away the remaining valuables and family belongings. He had restored some of the lower chambers and made an abode for himself there, storing what he had gathered with him. It was there that I met him again. As I was approaching the main entrance, he came out to greet me.
My uncle remembered me. He had been surprised, to say the least. Aron, a tall man, was my mother's older brother. He had approved of her marriage but had disagreed with my father on the way he ruled the planet. Finally Aron could not remain in the palace any longer. Instead he moved to the precipitous Bakal Mountains. His strength and cunning had helped him survive on his own, but it had aged him. After returning, he still had the strength to establish his abode in the palace, but now his hair was gray with age. Aron took me into his rooms and related the whole story to me, from what happened after I left, to the arrival of the Imperial exploration party, then the Rebel Alliance. The argument, the standoff… And what had happened next.
The destruction of the planet had not been an intentional order, more a mistake. All the more reason for my anger, though. The Rebels did it, in the heat of battle. To think that they had absolutely no regard for what they did, other than their precious "cause".
At first I was so overcome with grief I couldn't speak for a couple hours. Then my grief turned to anger, and then hatred against the Rebels. Aron helped to calm me though, preventing me from my wanting to run off in a suicidal attempt to kill all the Rebels.
Over the next few days I grew closer to my uncle, through our shared tragedy. He had a way of speaking with me, of understanding, which made it easy for us to be friends. I finally shared with him in brief what had happened to me under Runis. He accepted my story without a word, then when I was finished, he said, “I cannot understand everything you have gone through, nor the power you say you have attained. But I believe this has all happened for a purpose, and that you will be able to use your abilities for good.” I just nodded, not wanting to voice my depression, my doubt that what Runis had done could ever come to good. For one thing, the only thing in my heart then was vengeance.
Then once, while in his study, over a cup of tea, he showed me his meager collection of treasures scavenged from the palace ruins. "This is all I could find that belonged to you. An ornament made of some unknown metal, harder than anything we had seen before." The object was only about four inches in diameter, and was curved into the shape of a dragon-like creature, called a sauron in our Varnusian legends.
I had stood in what had once been my room. The window's once lovely view now only revealed destruction. The bombardment and the ensuing riots that occurred after the Battle of Varnus had taken their toll on the whole capital city of Vectur. Fingering the ornament, I still could hear my father's voice when he had first given it to me. "Here, I want to give you something special. It is an alien artifact, ancient. It was discovered in ruins that date back before our histories began, during some ancient war far beyond memory. This artifact has  been handed down through the family for generations. Whatever it is made of, it is harder than anything we have come up with so far. Guard it well. Someday it might be useful to you."
"But how could it help me, dad?”  I had asked.
"I do not know, son. But someday you will, I promise..."
My hand tightened around the artifact.
I returned to the Nightmare dressed as the Prince of Varnus, my cape swirling in the wind behind me. Ragged people, survivors of the destruction, watched me in awe, to them a royal visage in full splendor. Whether anyone knew me or not, I do not know. Aron watched me from the palace wall. Stopping for a moment, I held up the artifact and studied it. I reached out with the Force, into the artifact, searching. I had sensed that the object had some kind of Force reaction before, but had been reluctant to reveal my abilities to my uncle. The artifact started to smoke.
After a moment, I released the Force, and made my way back to the Nightmare.

I had regained control of my emotions, having released enough of it for now. First, I checked my position and stabilized my course. Then, I started delving into the ship's computers, which contained a wealth of information on Runis' experience and travels. The first thing I would do would be to construct my lightsaber. I pulled the ancient sauron artifact from my pocket, studied it for a moment, then tossed it onto the console. That, melted down and reformed, would be the internal framework for the saber, which would hold the crystal. It would provide an incredibly stable and almost unbreakable base for the rest to be built upon.
It took a long time to go through the ship's files, and even then I had barely scratched the surface of all the data they held. It was then that I realized just how much Runis had kept from me. I was very selective in my search, though; I knew what I was looking for. Runis had a list of planets where I could get the components to make my lightsaber. One world in particular held my interest. Not only did it contain one of the most crucial components, but it was also where the Nightmare had been produced. The legendary Crinn. I had never found any trace of their existence outside the ship's computers and what Runis had taught me of their language. I realized that few non-Crinn must have ever found their world. Somehow Runis had found it while traversing through the Unknown Regions, and not only lived to tell about it, but acquired a ship of such quality that even through thirty years of wear and use still looked good as new. If Runis could be on friendly terms - which he was with few - with such a xenophobic race, perhaps I could follow his footsteps there as well. I ran a search for the location of their home world. According to records, few Crinn ever left their home, despite their high technology level, and those that did were considered renegades, never revealing their true nature. The computer's database came up blank. So... that was how Runis had covered his tracks. He was probably the only one who knew the exact location of their home world. I requested more information, and after sifting through piles of useless data, found a document showing that the Crinn held genetic similarities to the Barabels. The key to finding out the location of Crinn would be on Barab I. There was nothing to delay my journey. As I set in a course to the Barab system, I asked the computer to call up all the information available on the Barabels. From what I knew of them, they were very fierce and devoted to tradition. If I was to find the secret location of Crinn, I had to become as friendly as possible with the Barabels. After the course was laid in, I pushed forward on the hyperdrive controls. My homeworld, Varnus, was behind me. The past was behind me, in the past. Now there was only the future. I did not look back.

Barab System
1900 hours
On approach to Barab I
I looked at the dark world through the viewport in front of me, the sphere silhouetted in front of Barab's red dwarf sun. The planet grew larger as I got nearer. I was approaching from the night-side, hoping to avoid unwanted detection. From the shipboard records, I learned that Barab I was the refuge of spice smugglers and other criminals, and also served as a hunting ground for sport hunters, but otherwise received little galactic travel. It was unlikely they would see my black ship, mostly due to its stealthy design that absorbed scanners’ signals.
The Nightmare entered the planet's hazy atmosphere. The Neotronium armor did not heat up as other metals did, so the ship remained relatively cool on the outside. I cut back on my speed as the ship plunged through low-lying clouds, and I used the sensor console to determine my distance from the surface. When the altitude hit five hundred meters, the ship shot out from under the cloud cover, and I could barely make out the surface through the haze below. I brought the ship down under radar levels, and flew above the surface, looking for a landing site. It would do no good to land out in the wilderness, hundreds or even thousands of miles from civilization. The Barabels' government was organized into a clan system, and that was another thing to worry about: finding a non-hostile clan to speak with. There were large cities for the non-Barabels, and that was what I was looking for, but as there were no maps of the planet onboard, I had to rely on the scanners to find a large energy source, something impossible from orbit due to the hazy, radiation-bathed surface.
I flew above the surface for quite a while, studying the landscape. From misty jungles to wind-blasted barren stretches, I could not find any sign of life. Suddenly, though, I saw a tall structure rise before me in the middle of a wasteland. It looked almost like a huge gothic-looking stone structure. As I got nearer, my scanners read large energy signals coming from within. I decreased my speed. This might be where I could find my answers. Then a burst of static came from the commlink, and a throaty voice said, "Attention unidentified vessel, identify yourself or be destroyed!"
I hit the comm, replying, "This is Xar... uh, Runis, aboard the Nightmare, requesting permission to land."
The voice replied by bursting out laughing, almost a growl. "Fool! You have approached the stronghold of the great Nkrishag clan. Prepare to..." The voice was interrupted, and I overheard what seemed to be an argument in Barabel. As the stronghold loomed in front of me, so I slowed my speed considerably. Then a new voice addressed me.
"You may land. Set down on landing pad number two. We will send a party to meet you. Come unarmed."
"Thank you. Commencing landing procedures." I wondered, though, whether they really expected me to come unarmed.

The ramp of the Nightmare slowly swung down from the bottom of the ship, spouts of gas shooting from the vents in the side. I stood waiting for it to descend. I would not let them think I was in a hurry. Before coming to the ramp I had put on one of Runis' cloaks, and had retrieved one of the lightsabers from the storage room. Runis had always kept the lightsabers of the Jedi he had killed, and I had trained with some of them. Finally, I had several Neotronium-metal throwing knives that would be able to slice through Barabel armor like parchment. Although Barab's atmosphere was breath-mask suggested, I wore none. I would not reveal any weaknesses.
I strode down the ramp, my cloak swirling in the wind behind me. As I reached the bottom, I saw a party of Barabels, in black or dark gray-scaled armor, their natural protection. They wore little else, and bore no weapons, save their teeth and claws. I had read once that normal people will go out of their way to avoid Barabels, and only the fiercest individuals will go near them. I wondered what they would consider someone who sought them out at their homeworld.
One particularly tall Barabel came toward me. He seemed to be the leader, as he had some sort of colored decoration around his arms and lower legs. His slit-pupil eyes widened when he saw my face without a breath mask, but recovered quickly. He probably did not think someone from another species would notice the gesture. I could sense the wariness of the group though, through the Force. I knew I would have some explaining to do.
"Who are you, human trespasser? And why do you bare the name of Runis? You are not he who betrayed us, though we are prepared to fight you if your intentions are as his. Why have you approached our world?" His eyes narrowed to slits themselves, and I saw that though they were prepared to fight me, there was some apprehension about them too. What had Runis done? I decided that the truth would be best. A race of honor would never respect one who lied.
"My name Xar Runis, now,” I said. “I have taken that name because my homeworld and true name would only remind me of what has been destroyed. I was captured and trained by Runis. He taught me in his methods and skills, but I do not share his views or ideals. I was not aware he had done anything to the Barabels. Who are you? And where is it that I have landed?”
The Barabel straightened. "I am Garum, clan leader of the mighty Nkrishag Clan. Now we are the leading clan on our world. Normally, for violating our laws and approaching our chief stronghold, you would have been killed by now. But, since you are a Jedi..." his voice implied he was sure I was, "...then our laws still hold. Jedi are respected and held as honored guests on our world."
"That is what I was hoping. I am here to request information, in fact, directions, to..."
Garum snorted. "Directions! Why would you come to us for directions?" But from something in his voice, I could tell in his eyes that he already knew. How was it that even this clan knew about Runis and his travels? What kind of influence had he made? What had he done?
"I was sifting through the data on Runis' ship, and a name kept coming up. I am looking for the location of Crinn."
The Barabels behind him overhead, and started growling in their native tongue to one another. I could sense anger from them. Garum stood with what seemed to be a knowing expression.
Suddenly a Barabel with dark scales and dark orange eyes burst forward and snarled. "Interloper! You speak of forbidden things, and..."
Garum turned abruptly and gestured sharply with his clawed hand. "Be silent, Ziknid!" Turning back to me, he said, "Please forgive my nephew Ziknid, Jedi. He is still young and does not control his tongue well." Seemingly in thought, he mused, "He has not yet made the journey of passage. I can see an opportunity for him." Snapping back to the present, he addressed me. "But we tarry here. Your control is impressive, but you must be in pain by now. Come inside, we have much to discuss." Indeed, my lungs were burning, but I was keeping control of the pain with the Force.
"I would like that." Turning, I retrieved the control rod from my pocket, and shut the hatch of the Nightmare. Then, turning back to the Barabels, I followed them into the interior of the fortress.

As it turned out, things were not as simple as I had anticipated. Garum agreed to reveal the location of Crinn, but he required something in return. To prove my skills as a Jedi. The Barabel clans were divided, as always, but now the inter-clan relations were stretched thin, and war seemed a real possibility. Garum, chief leader of Clan Nkrishag, convened a meeting of all the clans at the fortress. To my intense horror, I would be the negotiator. As the Jedi of legend were reported to have done, I would settle the dispute between the clans and prevent a bloody war. No, things were not turning out as expected. But I was willing to do almost anything to find the Crinn, so I accepted.
I talked long in the Barabel meeting chamber. The Barabels were arguing, and it seemed they thought yelling was the best way to get their point across. But in the end, it seemed my lineage and my lessons from my father saved me. Since the meeting was over land boundary disputes all across the world, and the growing influence of outsiders, I devised a simple method of settling the land dispute and providing them with a unified way of opposing outside influence. To me, if the Barabels wanted to keep themselves separated from the rest of the galaxy, it was fine with me. Once the negotiations were over, I was heralded as a great Jedi diplomat, and was invited to a feast in celebration of the agreement. I accepted, and during the meal asked Garum if I would be allowed the location of the Crinn homeworld. He agreed, albeit reluctantly, saying "Honored Jedi, you will always be welcomed on our world. Your actions have perhaps counteracted the methods your teacher used to gain this knowledge. But, because of this, I must ask you, please do not go to the homeworld of the Crinn. We do not wish for you to die. The Crinn, they cannot be trusted. You put yourself in serious danger."
"Nevertheless, I must go," I replied firmly. “My mission takes me there next. But thank you for your warning.”
"Very well. Then, first I have one more favor to ask you. My nephew, Ziknid, has to make the journey of passage to one day become a clan chief. He needs transportation offworld. Can you take him to the Zynar system, two light-years away?"
"I would not mind it," I replied. "What must he do there?"
"He must kill a Zynar Dragon using only his teeth and claws. Thank you for you kindness. Please, stay with him during the trial. If he wins, return him to us, and if he dies, please bring his body back to us."
"I will do it. And I will always regard the Barabels as friends."
"And we you. Now I will give you the coordinates of Crinn. But with them I must give you a warning: Not even we Barabels approach Crinn. The Crinn are related to our own species, but they are twisted, evil. The story of their origin is forbidden to be told. They never travel off-world, and they are considered monsters by most species. The only non-Crinn, Jedi or otherwise, to ever approach their homeworld was Runis. I know that you have decided to go. Please, take utmost care."
"I will. And thank you,” I replied sincerely.
I returned to the Nightmare with Ziknid, and took him to Zynar. There we became good friends, and he returned victorious with his dragon's tooth. Afterward, Ziknid declared a life debt to me for what I did for him on Zynar, but that is another story...

Crinn System
800 hours
On approach to Crinn

The Nightmare sped into the Crinn system, the exotically beautiful red and purple Lavarian rift - which hid the system inside a temporal distortion - silhouetting the ship from behind. The ship sped toward the gray planet, bathed in purple light from its star. Crinn, according to the scans, was a Terran-type world with more land than water. As I came into orbit, I couldn't make out much of the planet itself. Thick haze and fog visibly obscured the surface. It was not unlike Barab I, to the eye at least. But it felt different. I was getting strange impressions though the Force, things I couldn't quite pinpoint.
Now in orbit, I hailed the surface for a response. Unlike my approach to Barab, I wanted to announce my arrival clearly, knowing that being Runis' only student and flying his ship would grant me passage. I just hoped the Crinn didn't have a grudge toward him as the Barabels had.
"I repeat, this is Xar Runis, requesting landing clearance and coordinates."
The commlink clicked, and a scratchy, evil-sounding voice spoke so clearly in Crinn that I jolted and almost thought someone was right there in the cockpit with me. I had learned the  Crinn tongue under Runis, but never actually heard it spoken. The words were clear, simple, and full of malice. “Die, foreigner!"
"What the... Ah!" Suddenly something burst from the cloudcover of the planet and shot by my ship so fast I could not make it out. A trail of smoke and air spiraled in its wake. Whatever it was, it had been bigger than the Nightmare. "Reload!” said a voice in Crinn.
"Whoa, wait a minute! Let me explain! I am the student of the Jedi Runis! I am in his ship, which you built! I just want to find out what is going on here."
"All you will find is death. Fire again!"
"No, wait! I..." I was cut off as I hit the throttle to maximum and was slammed into my seat. If they had a weapon that could fire at me from orbit with that speed, I had to get below its range. In desperation, I called on the Force and began speaking in Crinn, the words sounding too harsh and foreign for my tongue. "Listen to me for a second! I need your help!" The ship plunged into the clouds. "The Barabels told me where to find you. I have this ship, and Runis' lightsaber. I need to know what is going on."
The ship was plunging almost straight down, and I fought to try to bring the nose up. After I spoke, immediately there was a pause over the commlink, and I began to level the ship off. As the clouds fell away, I could see a sprawling city below me, buildings that looked too advanced for a race that lived in total isolation. There were factories, too. Lots of them. And something else. A huge cylinder set on a rotating platform, barely visible through the haze. It looked like a thousand-meter long gun. It had to be what had fired at me.
The same voice came over the commlink, only any malice that had been in it before was replaced by a voice that was trying very hard to sound friendly. "Welcome to our beautiful world, Xar Runis. Please land at the following coordinates..."

As I descended the boarding ramp, I sincerely wanted to turn around, blast off, and fly as fast and as far away from the Crinn as I possibly could. The lone figure that greeted me was a scene out of the nightmares that had been plaguing me for months, ever since I had seen the images from Runis’ mind. The creature before me was over two meters tall, with smooth black armor plates covering its body. Its appendages, including two sets of arms, ended in terrifyingly sharp claws, and its mouth was a mass of sharp teeth. Spike-like projections of various lengths came from its back and limbs. The most frightening part of all, though, was its eyes. Staring from its low-riding, almost neck-less head, the eyes seemed dead. I could not see any pupils. I swallowed bile in the back of my throat. There was no doubt in my mind now who had built the Nightmare and Runis' lightsaber.
"Uh, hello. I am Xar Runis."
"We know that." Its voice was like scraping metal in Crinn.
"Okay. I need your help. I need to find out some things."
"You will learn all you wish, and more, in time. Your presence here is proof that you will be given a chance to survive and be respected, something we consider of no race as a whole. First, though, you will be tested to see if you are worthy of the knowledge that you seek. Come."
"Great, more tests," I muttered under my breath. I followed the Crinn down the landing pad ramp, the Crinn's clawed feet clicking on the metal.
"Interesting city you have," I said. "Detailed structure of the buildings. I have never seen the like. And the giant weapon."
The Crinn was obviously trying hard to sound friendly as he talked, but ended up failing. “You will not see them anywhere else. You wonder about our weapon? There," he said, pointing with one of his left arms to the massive gun on the platform visible off in the distance above the rooftops. "We use mass driver technology. We equip our ships and vehicles with them. They are not energy based, like blasters, and they fire at such velocity that they go through many targets before stopping. That is our largest gun ever made," he said, gesturing. "It is powerful enough to destroy any of your warships easily, with its long range."
He looked down at me. "Now, a warning. Do not ever say the name of the race that you mentioned earlier. They are… inferior. We kill any of them we meet. If you say their name again, you will be killed, too."
"Oh, you mean the Bar...ah, that race." The Crinn turned to look at me. "Okay, I will not mention them. So what is your name?"
"Kreen. I am the chief military officer of this city."
We entered a large, open, columned area made of white stone. There Crinn were walking around, going about their business, seeming not even to notice my presence. Kreen led me through the columns into an arena-type area at the end. As I descended the stairs into the clearing, I saw a party of Crinn standing there. What was hard to believe was the variety in the spikes protruding from the Crinn's bodies. Long, short and shaped differently.
Kreen approached the group. "Here he is," he said, speaking in basic for my benefit. "He is ready for the test."
"Then let it begin," said another Crinn. "Take off your robe," he told me. I complied, asking, "Why?"
"With one hand the Crinn pointed to the other end of the arena. A huge Crinn was approaching me at a fast pace. Holding a lightsaber handle in one of its lower limbs. I swallowed.
"Is he force sensitive?"
"No, he is strong." The Crinn around him laughed, not a pleasant sound. "You must defeat him."
The Crinn warrior drew up to me, and taking a breath, roared at me, then yelled something I couldn’t recognize. Its face looked like all teeth. Then it ignited its lightsaber, a blue-white.
The Crinn who had bee speaking turned to me. "This is your test. If you defeat our warrior, you will receive what you ask, and more. And if you are wondering, that lightsaber belonged to the last Jedi who visited our world and was tested."
"Thanks for the encouragement." I brought out my lightsaber and ignited it, itself being taken from a defeated Jedi. Mine had a green blade. "All right, you big nerf ox. Come and get me." I spun away from the Crinn towards the center of the arena. The warrior was hot on my heels. Once I reached the center I abruptly stopped, turned, and rolled out of the way as the Crinn's swung his lightsaber down where I had been into the ground. I came up in time to block another overhead blow from the Crinn. The force of the blow was staggering. I stood and began blocking untrained but powerful swings of the lightsaber by the warrior. The Crinn swung right and left, overhead and diagonally, and I kept blocking, being driven back. I decided I had to turn the direction of this battle around. Blocking his blade and shoving it to the side, I dropped to one knee and swung the blade across his midsection, but the Crinn moved back and the blade only made a shallow cut through the armor across his middle. Roaring in pain, the warrior swung downwards, and I sidestepped and knocked the blade down with its own momentum. The Crinn barely ducked under my return swing, and swung at me from the side. I stepped back and blocked, then spun my blade in a circle around his. His grip on the handle faltered, and I brought his blade up and swung downwards toward the handle. The Crinn could not move in time, and the blade sliced through his lower hand. The warrior screamed, and would have lunged at me, but I had my blade at his chest.
"Finish him," said the voice of the Crinn commander.
I stood, looking at the warrior, and my in my calm knew I did not have to kill him. "No," I said, and deactivated the saber. Immediately the warrior opened his chasm-like mouth, and reached for me with his upper limbs, but I was ready. I dived into a reverse roll behind me, then springing to my feet, threw a Force-enhanced round-kick into the side of his face, knocking his head sideways, and then the body followed it to the ground. Teeth fell on the sand in front of him. I looked up at the Crinn gathered at the entrance.
"You have passed the test,” they said.

I spent a number of days learning about the Crinn and their technologies, sleeping in my ship and bringing datapads full of information with me to upload into the computer system. The Crinn were not reluctant to give me their information, but did so with a cruel sense of humor. I was more than uncomfortable there, and wanted to leave as soon as possible, but at the same time wanting to learn as much as I could.
"We will make modifications and improvements to your ship," Kreen told me that day. He was surrounded my technicians and science officers. Your ship is still good, but we can update it to once again be finer than anything else in space."
Once he sent the technicians to work, he took me into a manufacturing facility. There I learned what the Crinn production specialty was: Weapons. “We use an armor called Neotronium, which we have only found on our world.” I nodded in understanding. “We have modified it to make it the strongest armor we have yet seen in the galaxy. You have examples of it onboard your ship."
Reaching down, I retrieved a piece of Neotronium in my hands. The piece was bigger than my hand, but was much lighter than a comparable piece of quadranium or even plasteel. "Truly superior," I said. "May I keep this?"
"Of course. For whatever use you can think up with it." He laughed. I had a purpose, though. This would form the outer handle of the saber, so it would be almost indestructible.
Kreen then led me deeper into the facility, into the technology research section. That was were they developed new weapons, and little else.
Kreen said, "Since you are one of the few non-Crinn in the galaxy to visit our world, we will supply you with all you need, so long as you do not reveal the location of our home." He gestured around the room, which was full of oddly shaped edged weapons. "You may have your choice of any of these items in this room, as well as our weapons testing facility, which we shall enter next." He picked up a black holding bag from one of the boxes, and handed it to me.
I walked around the room, choosing variations of knives and daggers, many behind glass cases. With all Kreen's talk of taking what I wanted, his expression seemed to darken with each additional weapon I took.
Once my bag was almost filled, I followed him into a ranged weapon testing facility, where Crinn were firing weapons of all shapes and sizes at targets of various distances. The sound was almost deafening. Mass drivers of enormous size were being hefted by two sets of arms, firing rounds half the size of my head. Still others were testing rapid-fire mass driver weapons. Kreen led me over to the side, where yet other weapons were on display behind the cases. I could only figure that they were for potential buyers to review before deciding whether to produce or not. There I saw two weapons that would play an important part in my future. I pointed to a long barreled weapon, and Kreen brought it out of a case, and presented it to me. He almost had to yell over the noise. "This is a high powered rifle. It has a precise hit at over two kilometers."
I smiled, and held out my hands. The Crinn reluctantly gave the weapon to me.
"Thanks," I said.
He then led me to another case with only one weapon inside. Inside the case was an open black fabric pouch that had on one inside flap a polished, shiny metal gun that looked different from all the rest. Inside the other flap in separate slots were several round balls of the same substance, and what looked like a sight and other attachments for the gun. Kreen reached in and brought it out, closed the lid on the case and set the package on top of it. "Now, I want to show you something special. We are very proud of it. We have for decades been producing large mass driver weapons, but miniaturization has always been difficult. But now, at last, we have a working model of such a weapon that can be fired in one hand." Pulling the gun from its pouch, he held it up to the light. With a flick of his wrist-equivalent he ejected the clip in the handle so it hung down, and removing four of the projectiles from their slots he placed them inside the clip. "The cartridge can hold up to fifteen bullets. Here, I will give you a demonstration." I followed him over to an empty shooting stall. Holding the gun in his lower, more delicate hand, he took careful aim and pulled the trigger. The chamber recoiled backward as the bullet was projected from the barrel, accompanied by a pop as the projectile went supersonic through the air. However, the bullet had long since hit the center of the target even before the chamber recoiled back. Only a thin wisp of smoke tracing the bullet's path from the barrel to the target and the hole in the center dot of the target were evidence that a shot had even been fired.
"Let me see it," I said. Kreen handed the gun to me. I took a stance, and aimed as Kreen had done, except balancing with my opposite hand. Time to see how fast she could let off rounds. I pulled the trigger three times in rapid succession. Each time the gun let off a round into the target. The gun hardly wavered in my hand as I fired. I dropped my arms and stared in amazement. The bullets had gone not just through the target, but through the back wall also. I looked down at the gun in my hands in awe. "I like it," I said.
Kreen replied by laughing in that evil, knowing Crinn way.


The Crinn let me leave their world in peace, and I carried many of their secrets in my ship's databanks, encoded into the Crinn language. I also had the means to access most of Runis' private records. Finally, it seemed I knew where I was heading. First I set out in search of components for my lightsaber. I traveled to several worlds, gathering some unique materials I needed. I linked in an AI computer system made from the droid black market, which would allow me to make necessary diagnostics and repairs, and also allow me to adjust the blade of the saber easily. On the planet Lenias III I acquired the outer shell of my saber, made from the organic fibers unique to that world. The handle would be sensitive to my touch, responding only to the shape and contour of my hand. It would also help disguise the saber in case it was scanned; the saber would not look complete. I also balanced the blade for throwing, a skill Runis had taught me.
Then, finally all I had to get was the crystal. I knew exactly what I wanted. The fabled Zentrasi Star, a beautiful, large yellow illum crystal that was kept in maximum security on the planet Zentrasi. Only the finest crystal would form my blade, and that would be it.
My training under Runis proved to be invaluable. During the dead of night, I silently approached the museum where it was held, and made my way to the roof. Then, hanging down from the ceiling skylights, I tossed a smoke pellet into the room, the smoke cloud revealing the otherwise invisible security lasers. Then, reaching out with the Force, I ripped the transparisteel cover off and drew the crystal to me, avoiding the lasers. Then I pulled myself back up and made a hasty getaway before the alarms went off.
I took the crystal to one of the best jewelers in the Empire, where he sliced off several perfect sized pieces from the Star to use in my blade, for a hefty price. My blade would actually use five of them, to strengthen the blade and to adjust the width, length, and intensity. I had a few extra sliced off as well. The remaining crystal was still larger than my fist and probably worth a fortune. I safely stored it in a security box, for my future retirement...
After weeks of work I finally completed the saber. It was the most beautiful lightsaber I had ever seen. I trimmed it in gold and engraved my name on the inside, my true name, not the pseudonym I had taken after I found my world devastated. I tested the blade, and was pleased to find that it went clean through a chunk of Neotronium armor. And with the adjustable features, I would have an advantage over any opponents I faced.
With this task completed, I set about accomplishing my main goal, first of all, vengeance upon the Rebellion for destroying my world. It was a simple matter. The Rebellion was evil, and I had to help stop them before they devastated more worlds like mine. I joined the Imperial Navy and began my training as a starfighter pilot, taking on the callsign Sauron, like the fabled Varnusan dragon. I was put into active service shortly after the famous Battle of Hoth and the scattering of the main Rebel forces. I served for a few years, eventually becoming a Squadron Commander under the Chiss Grand Admiral Thrawn. Thrawn impacted me in a way few ever could. His brilliance and his code of honor inspired me. The way he led was exemplary, and rarely duplicated among the Empire. I served him passionately, and during that time was able to fly with another of his Squadron Commanders, Maarek Stele. Stele and I became friends and comrades, and in him I found someone I could relate to, someone who shared my desire to end the Rebellion and restore justice and order to the galaxy. But eventually, when we heard about Endor, I decided not to follow Thrawn into the Unknown Regions. I could not see how doing so would help to eliminate the Rebellion that continued to grow like a plague. Instead I rushed back to the Inner Rim, to find it in total chaos. Depressed that the Empire could lose in such a way, and with my revenge incomplete, I left the Navy, and wandered through the Outer Rim for a year or two; I don’t fully remember. During that time I used the fortune I had saved and stolen through the years and established my own trading company and archaeological research foundation. Somewhere along the line I had caught Runis’ inane love of relics and ancient artifacts. However, while in Minos Cluster I heard about a new unit forming, part of the Imperial Remnant, and decided to make inquiries into it. It was a surviving Imperial faction, with big ideals to retake the galaxy and correct the mistakes made during the Empire. They also harbored a secret force of Dark Jedi, calling themselves the Dark Brotherhood, after the old order Runis had wiped out. Interested in learning more, and seeing this Dark Brotherhood for myself, I soon I joined up with this Imperial Remnant, to resume my mission against the Rebels and to learn even more about the Force. Again I flew as a fighter pilot, during which time I was reunited with Alyx Misnera, another Varnusian and a man who had been in my royal guard when I was only a child. We both joined the refounded Dark Brotherhood, discovering that this time around, the Dark Jedi were each attached to different Houses, smaller subunits meant to inspire more loyalty amongst one another. Sith and Krath, they called themselves. I knew I was a match for most of them, but I never could have anticipated how much my life would change, again, after joining House Ar’Kell and meeting the members within.  It is in the ranks of Ar’Kell that my story continues…

The End of

Xar Runis’ Autobiography

Copyrighted and Written by Joshua Ausley

Next: Begin the Ar’Kell saga with “Betrayal: Ar’Kell’s First Mission”