On the Side

by DocDelray

Chapter 3: The Life of Traycn

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The dark of night and solemn silence had settled upon the city of Canterlot as a lone figure watched the quiet streets from on high. Princess Luna looked over the sleeping city below her from the perch on her tower as a cool breeze teased at her short, kempt light blue curls. Against the dark of night, the deep blue of her fur and feathers made her appear almost invisible save for the reflection of the moon upon her cerulean eyes. She listened contently to the sound of her city sleeping all around; it was a rest she knew her people needed after all that had happened.

Looking over her shoulder, she spied the onyx-colored plates of her armor, fashioned in some haste to give her an edge against the off world invaders. This memory of course brought forth the one who had crafted them for her: the monolith known as Traycn. She had only known the creature for but a few days, but felt she had learned much about him. He was a beast, even amongst his warrior brethren, whose prowess in battle was equaled only by his endless thirst for it. Clad in deep red armor, he appeared to be more akin to a full company of her finest royal guards than a single being. The seemingly-endless weaponry that had been at his beck and call, built into his armor and body… there was no challenge he was not prepared to face. From the shadows of the night she could remember his sharp, piercing golden eyes and the ruthless hunger that lay bared behind them and the jagged scar that cut down the front of his face through deep green scales.

A pain entered her neck as the memories of their first meeting returned to her. The unrelenting hate and anger that seemed to push him forward against the onslaught of her gravity spell. Unconsciously, she held her breath as she remembered the metallic digits as they clamped tightly around her neck; how effortlessly he hefted her form into the air before slamming the side of her face into the stone floor of the ruins, and the fear that chilled her blood as his words spitefully slipped into her ears before his commanding officer stepped in to restrain him. Had she not been of hardier stock than a normal pony, she was certain he could have killed her.

But the brute had redeeming qualities; his skills as a warrior and craftsman were without question. After sizing her and the young ponies under her charge, he was able to craft for them battle armor from suits confiscated from the men they had taken captive. Her armor had fit to near perfection and served her well through the brief campaign to save her world.

The battle upon the Deathwatch frigate had been a truly eye-opening experience for the princess. Traycn’s brutality had been brought to its fullest as they fought side by side. Her heart began to race in excitement as she reached out and ran a hoof along her armor’s chest plate; a few small singes still clung to it from blaster fire. She knew that, had she met the beast during Equestria’s war torn days centuries ago, she would have seen him as a worthy challenge: a rival, friend, perhaps even in some strange way that only warriors could understand… a lover.

It had been shortly after the battle for the frigate that she had so foalishly trotted into Teth’s waiting arms. Held captive for the remainder of the invasion, she had learned the fate of ogre known as Traycn from his comrades, his brothers. Kad had told her of his last stand against overwhelming odds outside the castle’s walls. He told her of how Traycn stormed the enemy line and sacrificed himself to wipe out a force of fifty men. Luna remembered how her heart broke at the sight of the blackened crater where had met his end. In all her long years she had not met any like him; a kindred soul that called to her from the fields of war.

A few tears came to her eyes as she let herself wonder through her mind. If only. If only she had been there and had not been taken captive by Teth, and if only she had been at his side when they attacked the castle. She could have saved him; with her skills and her magic they could have torn their ranks asunder. Her musings were broken at the sound of a vase crashing to the ground from within the castle. Quietly, she slipped from her room to investigate.

As she silently trekked the halls, the sounds of voices could be heard bouncing off the darkened walls around her. Under her breath, Luna cursed the loss of so many of the royal guards and her sister’s reluctance to accept Fett’s offer to supplement the losses with her own forces. If they had the numbers, then whoever she was nearing would not have ever been able to slip inside.

Following the sounds of conversation, she found herself outside of the throne room. She could hear them just beyond the doors and could finally make out specifics about their voices. “Oya ner vod, ‘nother good shot!” a familiar male voice cheered.

“I told ya I could hit that target vod!” the second voice slurred out between fits of laughter.

Those voices: she knew them very well. Quietly, she nudged the door open to find a pair of humans laughing and falling over one another upon the dais. In the dim light of the throne room she could make out details of these men.

One clad in what looked to be a jacket of faded brown material; the rest of his form was dressed in dark grey pants lined with a number of pockets and a pair of well-traveled boots, as well as a simple white shirt. He was sprawled haphazardly against the steps, a half-empty bottle in his hand. His head was topped with a sloppy mess of hair that looked to be between blond and graying. In the light of the moon she could make out the dark blue of his eyes.

The other fished around in a small crate left at the foot of the stairs until he triumphantly raised a fresh bottle over his head with a happy cheer. In the low ambience around him his dark skin looked to blend into the night, save for his bright flicker in his brown eyes and the bull’s eye etched into the side of his head. Like his companion, he wore a similar mix of military and casual clothing; the main difference being the long dull-green coat draped around his body. Laughing happily, he took a seat beside his friend before uncorking the bottle and taking a long drink from it.

A smile crept across Luna’s muzzle as she knew these humans; though the majority of her time spent with them they had been clad in the armor of their kin. Pushing her way through the doors, she strode her way towards them. “Kad and Kell Skirata, I must say, I did not expect to find thee at this late hour,” she happily greeted the pair. “Least of all, breaking into the throne room.”

Ca’tra!” the pair greeted her in unison happily, their arms opened wide as they motioned for her to join them.

With a soft smile she made her way to the pair of warriors, heartened greatly by their jovial greeting. “I still wish thou wouldst tell me what this pet name thou hath gifted to me means.”

Snickering, Kell tossed a bottle in her direction. “We promise it means something good,” he reassured her with a goofy smile.

A blue aura easily plucked the bottle from the air and floated it before the princess of the night. She could smell the strong scent of the spirit within. Now closer to the pair she could also see their cheeks flushed red and their eyes glassed with joy as they swayed against an unfelt wind. Not wanting to disappoint, she took a long drink from the bottle before passing it back. The swift burn and unusually sharp, sweet taste flooded her mouth and throat bringing a tint of red to her own cheeks.

“I trust thou did not break into Canterlot castle simply to indulge in a few drinks,” she stated in a questioning tone before stealing another long drink of the strong ale.

Kad chuckled a bit as he motioned towards the throne. “We thought he’d get a kick out’a the idea.”

Her gaze followed his motion and found a small metallic object resting upon the throne. Carefully, Luna ascended the stairs to examine what lay upon her sister’s seat of power. Its features became clearer and slowly more familiar to her as she found herself staring into the empty black eyes of a skull. Though humanoid in appearance, small factors set it apart; most importantly though was the metal alloy rather than bone that made it up. Several opened bottles of liquor had been placed around the skull along with a few other random offerings ranging from a half-eaten candy bar to a hoof full of credits.

Though any pony’s first reaction to coming face to face with a skull of any kind should be to cringe in terror, all Luna could do is stare into the eyes in wonder. Though the owner’s eyes had long since been removed she swore she could still feel them staring into her. In her heart she could tell who this way that laid before her, “Is this…”

“Traycn,” Kad answered her before taking another long drink from his bottle. “Traycn the Red Demon,” he said proudly as he raised his bottle towards the skull with every title he recited. “Traycn the Clanless, Traycn the Unstoppable, Traycn the Feared . . . Traycn the Last of the Taung Reborn.”

“And now,” Kell added, snickering, “Traycn the very much dead.”

Despite his inebriated state, Kad could easily feel the unease and confusion growing in their Alicorn friend. “We missed you at his funeral, so we brought it to you!”

Luna looked back at the drunken warriors as she fought to find a way to put her emotions into words. Deep down she had wanted to be there, for her chance to say goodbye, but her guilt refused to grant her the leave. A hand resting upon her back drew her attention away from the warrior’s only remains to find Kad standing beside her. “Ya shouldn’t blame yourself, Ca’tra; he died well, like a Mando’ade,” he spoke soothingly to her.

Luna looked upon the skull once more before brushing a wing gently across its cheek. “I know thou doth speak the truth, Sir Kad, yet . . . the guilt doth taint me for my rash actions.”

Kell stumbled his way to her other side and draped an arm around her neck, leaning heavily into her for support. “Yeah, well, not osik we can do ‘bout that now,” he pointed out before stealing his bottle back from the dark blue aura around it. “He died in a way all of us would be so lucky to go out: a huge ball’a fire with’a ton of screaming enemies for company! Oya Traycn, verd lo kyr’am!” Kell happily cheered for his fallen brother as he raised the bottle in salute before downing another long draw from it.

Oya manda!” Kad cheered in return before taking another drink himself.

Luna had no idea the meaning behind the words they spoke in their native tongue, though the pride and joy in every word brought a smile to her face.“I wonder if thou wouldst do me an honor: tell me of how you met.”

With a playful smirk Kad took a seat beside the throne. “That’s a long story, yer’ highness; ya sure ya wanna hear it?”

Taking a seat on her haunches beside the drunken knight, she magically lifted one the bottles beside Traycn’s head, “We have all night.”

“Well then,” Kell added as he took the spot beside her with an impish smirk, “as far as anyone really knows, it all started on a dirty lil’ ball called Geonosis,”

The overwhelming sun of Geonosis beat down upon the red sands of the admittedly ugly planet. Scores of beings from around the galaxy had converged upon this world for the grand gladiatorial expo. Thousands of the galaxy’s hardened and hungry warriors trekked to the red planet to spill their blood and the blood of many others. The endless cheers of the crowd spurred these bloodthirsty warriors on and on through pain and fear of death.

Amongst the crowd, several armored figures made their way into the arena to enjoy the show. “Oh c’mon, Torb, there ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little blood sport,” a far younger Kad Skirata reassured his Chiss friend.

“I prefer my entertainment of a far more sophisticated nature, Skirata,” the unscarred Torb complained as his comrade nudged him along with the crowd.

Kell, then in his mid-twenties, strolled along behind his brother and team mate with a small figure sitting atop his shoulders happily. She was a small Twi’lek girl of dark blue hue and bright violet eyes clad in simple yellow dress. Kell happily sang along with the tune the little girl belted out.

“Kell’ika,” a Twi’lek woman clad in Mandalorian armor called after him. Her skin was a sky blue with detailed markings running down her leku. Deep green eyes narrowed on the human just ahead of her. “I wish you wouldn’t teach my daughter those drinking songs.”

Kell smiled from ear to ear at her chastising. “You worry too much, Dawn; not like our little Luna’s gonna grow up to be a drunkard because she sang along with her buir.”

Luna canted her head to the side. “Sir Kell, I had no idea thou had a family of thine own,” she said with a hint of playful joy.

Kell gave his slowly emptying bottle a somber glare, “Did, long time ago,” He gave the bottle a quick drink. “That’s a whole ‘nother story though.”

As the four warriors and one child took their seats, the assembled horde cheered and chanted all around them for the fights to begin. The small Twi’lek girl, Luna, remained happily seated on her human caretaker’s shoulders as she started to join the chants. Kell couldn’t help but chuckle at the girl’s enthusiasm; it made him proud how she was already starting to become quite the little warrior.

An excited hush fell over the crowd as a portly humanoid figure strode through into the middle of the massive arena. Holding his arms wide he addressed the masses, “Ladies and Gentlemen!” His voice echoed across the loud speakers placed throughout the stone works, “Welcome to Geonosis, and the finals of the Warrior God Competition!”

Cheers sprang up from the crowd at the announcement. “We have seen the greatest, the deadliest and the most ruthless killers the galaxy has to offer this past week. Now it all comes down to this: only one of our six remaining contestants will leave this planet alive, blood soaked and probably broken, but alive!”

As more cheers sprang up from the hordes of beings the announcer waved his hands to calm them again. “Our first warrior is by far the most surprising. Hailing from parts unknown, this bloodthirsty killer has survived every trial placed before him and defeated every foe, to the death! You the people have named him the Mandalorian, and I’d say he’s lived up to the title thus far!”

With a motion to the side of the arena, a large gate slowly opened to allow a large hulking figure to stride through into the open. Tall, strong, and covered in a random assortment of armor, he reveled in the sounds and shouts of honor and glory the people thrust upon him. In one hand he carried a large blaster cannon hoisted unto his shoulder and at his side a vibro-axe.

“And his opponent-” The announcer stopped midsentence as one of the locals flitted down beside him and whispered something into his ear. The man looked more than a little shocked at whatever he was told and quickly corrected himself. “Uh, ladies and gentlemen, it seems we’ve had a slight change in program. It appears we will be having a man versus beast competition!”

Confused murmurs rose up from the stadium, however Torb seemed more interested in what was being said over his com. “Interesting, it would appear that there is more here at work than a simple schedule change.”

The eyes of his comrades now upon him, the Chiss continued to divulge information. “Our countryman down there has been set up to lose this fight it seems,” he pointed out casually. “My com has been picking up our friend down there and his manager talking; I think you’ll want to hear this, Kad.”

Slipping the com-bud into his ear as suggested, Kad found himself listening in on the conversation as well. “Sorry friend but I’m afraid this is the end for you and I,” sneered the voice on the other line. “See, you’ve been costing me too much money and making too many people upstairs angry with all your wins. So now, I gotta take you out. No hard feelings, though.”

Etyc hut’uun,” snarled a deeper voice from the other line. “When I finish this animal you set upon me, I will find you and beat you to death with your own severed arms!”

Luna was visibly angered by the actions of his manager. “The cretin,” she snarled out between barred teeth. “Tell me his fate was not delivered too quickly.”

“He got what he had come’in,” Kad assured her, “before that though we had ta haul sheb down there an’ give’em a hand. See, he was about to go up against on’a the biggest, nastiest critters known throughout the galaxy…”

Kad, Kell and Torb raced towards the bright light at the end of the long tunnel. They could hear the cheers of the crowd and roars of beast their fellow verd was being forced to fight. The thick metal of the gate leading into the arena was quickly removed with a swift cut from the Knight Errant’s saber allowing the group to spill out onto the field of battle. Several confused shouts rang up from the crowd as these new warriors invited themselves to the fight.

In the distance they could see the lone warrior now armed solely with his axe, ducking and dodging the swipes of a massive bipedal creature with a thick, rough, greenish hide. Its long gnarled claws tipped a pair of arms that were longer than the entire body reached and scrabbled to snatch up the tiny metal incased morsel. Its face was a flattened mess of sharp teeth that emitted a loud angry roar with every missed chance.

“Rancor, are you freaking serious!?” Kell blurted out at the sight of the monstrosity.

“I wouldn’t stress it vod,” Kad reassured him, “between the four’a us this’ll be a slice of uj cake,”

“I’m just disappointed by the whole cliché of it vod.” Kell said wryly, “But there’s just one hitch in your plan bro, all we got are side arms and your glow stick.”

“An’ here I thought ya loved a challenge,” Kad snickered in retort.

From behind them they could hear the angry shouts of the local security, “Kad, go help our new friend,” Torb quickly barked at him, “Kell and I shall hold security at bay.”

“Copy that.” The young knight took off at full speed towards the embattled warrior just ahead of him. “Verd,gar nayc-“ His words stopped midsentence as the man he sought to help spun on his heels with a swing of his axe in Kad’s direction. The knight narrowly avoided the attack as he allowed himself to fall to his back, his momentum carrying him away.

Luna could do little stop her fits of giggles at this. “His first reaction was to try and kill thee?”

Kad did what he could to keep a straight face between the giggling princess and his brother’s own boisterous laughter, “Can’t blame the guy too much, I DID come run’in up from behind ‘em whilst he was fight’in a damned Rancor.”

Eventually regaining her composure, with no help from the ale she had been drinking, the princess managed to calm down enough to stop her snickering. “What happened next?”

With a smile the knight continued his story, “Well, after some talk’in to whilst fight’in off both him an’ the Rancor, I managed to convince ‘em we were on the same side. Now all we had t’do was kill a big angry monster that wanted to eat us like foil wrapped candies.”

Kad and Traycn exchanged a knowing look between each other, despite their masks each knew what the other warrior was thinking. They were going to kill this monster so they could kill the man who set it after them.

With all the speed his body and the Force could provide, Kad rushed in towards the roaring beast. From his perspective, the Rancor’s movements slowed to an agonizing crawl as it swatted and reached for him. The massive appendages were easily ducked and dodged as he sped forward. The Force wielder came to a sliding stop as he ran between the legs of the monster.

Looking back towards his comrade he saw him already moving into position within dangerous reach of the Rancor. A smirk twisted across Kad’s face as he dug deeper into the Force and reached out towards the behemoth. He felt his influence grasp it tightly at the legs before wrenching back towards himself with all of his might. He could feel the pain of trying to lift something so massive course through his entire body as he pulled at the creature.

His efforts were rewarded though as the monster gave a surprised roar as its feet were dragged out from under it. Flailing its arms uselessly, the Rancor fell forward towards the waiting warrior standing the ever growing shadow.

Sneering from ear to ear, Traycn hefted his axe up to his shoulder and steadied his stance. The warrior made no move to get from under the toppling beast but instead let out a guttural roar that rang out over the Rancor’s. He poured every ounce of his rage and anger into his arms as he took one mighty swing. The axe blade cut deeply and true, aided by the forces of gravity, splitting the creature’s neck as it seemingly crushed him.

The cheers and jeers of the crowd fell silent for a moment as stadium as a whole held its’ breath. Suddenly something stirred within the Rancor. Thick blood began to gurgle from the monster’s mouth before a something violently forced its’ way through the teeth of the fleshy prison. Traycn strolled from the Rancor’s mouth drenched in thick ichor, his axe in one hand and in the other an unidentifiable piece of organ. With a triumphant roar he raised both into the air forcing out similar cheers of glory from the crowd.

Luna was absolutely enthralled with the story. “Huzzah, a grand victory indeed!” She cheered the warrior’s past achievements.

Kad couldn’t help but snicker a bit at the sight of an intoxicated princess Luna. Her eyes were happily glassing over as a hint of red started to shine past her navy blue fur. The normally well kempt sky blue mane atop her head was starting to fray. “Yeah, that was our boy Tray,”

Kell tapped the side of the metal plated skull with his nearly empty bottle of ale. “Eeyup, Traycn was truly a living legend.” With a wide grin he looked back at the princess, “Ya should’a seen the turn out when folks heard he was really dead this time!”

“I can only imagine,” Luna said with a sullen smile, “but sadly, mine own guilt would not permit me attend out of shame that, had I not rushed off to Tia so recklessly, he would be alive.”

Her somber mood was shattered at the feeling of Kad’s hand atop her head mussing her mane, a sign of comradery she was not used to yet still welcomed, “Ya ran off to save your sister, your vod, there ain’t no way Tray’d hold that against ya.”

His words began to fill her with confidence and tugged a far warmer smile across her face. “Please, tell me of the festivities I missed.”

On the far west side of Canterlot stood what was once considered the most run down and shadiest taverns in all of Equestria, The Limping Mare. It had always been a stark contrast to the white gold city’s reputation for beauty and elegance, however the owners had always kept everything just up to code preventing even Celestia herself from finding a legal way to remove it. During the battle for Canterlot the building had gone untouched by the occupying forces who simply assumed the grubby building had been abandoned. This small saving grace meant it was one of the only businesses that didn’t get raided, meaning they stood to make a tidy profit off the misfortune of their neighbor; most importantly, they had plenty of booze. All of these factors came together for one very important thing, this all meant that the surviving members of what had been Epsilon squad had a place to give their fallen friend a “proper” send off.

After receiving Princess Celestia’s reluctant blessing, a large number of Mandalorians descended upon the grimy hole in the wall. A small number of ponies had come to pay their respects, mainly survivors of the royal guard who felt they owed the monster for opening the gap needed to save their beloved princesses. Twilight accompanied by her friends and brother had made it a point to show up as well. Beyond those who were expected to show regardless, a number of rough and less than reputable looking types had made the long journey to see for themselves if the rumors on the holo-net were true. Finally beyond everyone and everything that had piled into The Limping Mare, at head of it all, set upon the bar was Traycn’s grinning metal plated skull.

It wasn’t long before the sounds of conversations filled the room as ponies and aliens alike mingled and shared a few trade stories about the warrior. Drink after drink had been bought as the tip jars began to overflow with a mixture of credits and bits. Well wishers and those whom actually knew him made the effort to approach the skull and give their parting messages before moving on to find more ale.

Kad watched as the room ebbed and flowed, sensing the storm of emotions saturating the air through the Force. He watched as a pair of red faced stallions stumbled their way up to the skull to give it a shaky yet stoic salute before slurring out their thanks to him. A group of Protectors Kad recognized as members of a small group called the Salamanders, cheered him on for a past favor that saved their lives. As predicted, Twilight Sparkle made her sullen approach to stand before Traycn’s only identifiable remains, several tears streaming down her face as she spoke softly to the warrior. Kad let out a sigh as he withheld the ever present urges of any father to comfort the girl, he reminded himself that she had family, she didn’t need him.

As he continued to scan the room he slowly began picking out his brothers in arms. Kell led a number of warriors and even a few ponies in Mandalorian drinking songs with a bottle in one hand and his free arm draped around the ever bubbly Pinkie Pie whom seemed to learn the tunes very quickly. Torb kept his distance from the crowds choosing instead to occupy a far corner while nursing a bottle of red ale. Arkanna hadn’t known Traycn for very long but had made a point to show up. A certain golden coated mare staying close to his side was clearly saddened by the loss of their comrade. All present save for one, Zex. The former doctor turned field medic had vanished shortly after the fighting died down.

Kad couldn’t help but laugh a bit at all of this. Traycn had always said his death would be celebrated the galaxy over by all those who feared him. If only there was a way to show the monster who wrong he really was. Pushing himself off the wall he’d been helping keep propped up, Kad made his way to the bar. Using the bottom of a bottle as his gavel, the Knight struck the bar-top as he called out for the crowd’s attention.

With all eyes on him, Kad began to address the crowd, “Friends an’ family, both new an’ old. We are here tonight on this tiny orb to wish our dearly departed brother a fond farewell. Tray’d always told me, ‘Alor’ad, when I die, destroy my body,’ Welp, looks like he did that himself!” Kad gave pause to allow the laughter stirred from the crowd to die down before continuing, “The thing about Traycn was, when ya first met ‘em, folks tended to think he was some sort’a blood thirsty monster. When ya got to know ‘em, ya learned that your first impression was right, Traycn was in every way a cold blooded heartless killing machine. Even before he lost the majority of his body to battle after battle, he was still the Red Demon. But this wasn’t a bad thing, an’ I don’t just mean ‘cause he killed for us, it meant he didn’t try to hide who an’ what he was. He knew he was monster, he knew he was the thing nightmares were made of, but he never hid it, never tried to make ya think any different. He was the purest form of honesty I have ever known an’ I will always respect that ‘bout ‘em.”

Kad placed a hand on the skull as he spoke directly to it. “Tray, I always hated you, probably just as much, or more so, than you hated me. But ya made life interestin’, an’ I will miss that buddy. When I’m cold an’ dead, I’m gonna come find you, an’ we’re gonna settle up.”

The dark coated Alicorn gave Kad a playful nudge. “Thou art far more articulate than thou wouldst lead others to believe Skirata.”

It was hard at this point to tell if the red in his cheeks was from all the drinking he’d done, or the princess’ chiding. “Well, when you’re up in front’a military hearin’s a lot ya tend to get a knack for standin’ up in front’a folks an’ talkin’.”

With a happy chuckle Luna proceeded to drain what ale was left in her bottle. An act that gave both warrior brothers a moment of pause as they watched in surprise and admiration as she finished it off with ease. With a happy sigh she tossed the bottle away, gifting her with the surprisingly pleasant sound of shattering glass on marble, “I wonder, brothers Skirata, wouldst thou continue to honor me with tails of our dearly lost comrade?” She asked with a hopeful smile, “I wish to know more about his adventures, the trails he faced and the enemies he vanquished. Wouldst thou honor me with this humble request?”

The pair shared a smirk as Kad motioned towards the cooler left at the bottom of the dais. “If we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna need more ale.” He stated happily as he took hold of it within the Force and dragged it up to them.

With a happy snicker, Kell started nudging his brother’s arm, proceeded to repeatedly probe him over and over again. “Vod, vod vod vod vod, tell’er ‘bout the battle on Sargolla.”

Kad’s face lit up at the idea. “Hah, now that’s a good one!”

Sargolla, a normally unimportant yet industrious world had managed to draw the attention of forces far greater than their own. A cache of ancient Sith artifacts had been found deep in the untouched jungles of the simple planet, a discovery that had drawn the attention of a power hungry Sith lord.

Seeking powerful lost treasures, his forces invaded the world and quickly overwhelmed the planet’s defenses. Victory and full subjection of the planet seemed assured, until the local rebel factions managed to scrape together the credits and nerve needed to make a call that would change this fight in their favor. A call was put out to Mandalorian space asking for help in return for a rather generous sum of credits. When the call was answered they didn’t expect the answer they received.

The Sargollan people had expected to see a liberation fleet fill their skies, to see columns of Mandalorian troops marching through their streets. Instead they received four squads of warriors and a reassurance that it was all they needed.

Among the contingent of warriors sent to do battle on Sargolla, Kad Skirata and his Epsilon squad had been handpicked for the mission. Despite their record of high collateral damage and borderline insubordinate behavior, they were one of the few teams with not only a Force user but also experience fighting Sith. It didn’t take long for them to endear themselves to the hearts and minds of the freedom fighters and strike unrelenting fear into those of the Sith invaders.

Kad and his team had adopted a number of the freedom fighters, taking them in as unofficial Mandalorians. Taking them on lightning raids and guerrilla assaults from the dense jungle, dealing much needed moral boosting blows to the enemy. Blows that the man heading this campaign took a great deal of notice of and wanted stopped

They trudged carefully through the smothering heat of the jungle all around them. Reports from spies and recon teams said there was a supply column moving through the area. If Kad and his boys could take that down, it’d set a new bar for the other teams as well as cut off arms to the capital. Everything about this target seemed on the up and up, but why did Kad’s stomach still feel like a ball of angry ice?

As they made their slow advance the worse that bad feeling got. There was a pressure in the air that he just couldn’t pin down but he knew it wasn’t anything good. As they reached the edge of the clearing where the supply column was supposed to be, Kad was hit with a realization that this was a trap, as well as a sniper’s blaster bolt that knocked him off his feet.

A sharp painful fire filled his chest and lungs as the world became a hazy blur of blaster bolts and explosive rounds. Kad found himself struggling to breathe and unable to sit up, he could feel that something was wrong with him and would learn much later that the blaster bolt had caused his lung to collapse. The more he breathed and tried to fight back the pain the worse it seemed to get as he struggled to keep conscious.

Through the haze a presence made itself known to him through the Force, a dark and hateful presence that seemed to be moving towards him. In moments a dark clad figure stood over top of Kad, a young human adorned with black and red facial tattoos. A blood thirsty sneer parted his lips as he ignited the lightsaber hilt in his hand. “My master will reward me for ending your life, mongrel.”

Before his threat could be made good on, a roaring crimson hulk slammed shoulder first into the Sith assassin. With a swift blow to the smaller human’s chest he was afforded several feet of breathing room as Traycn stood between this enemy and his comrade, “If anyone is going to kill him, it will be ME!”

His challenge made clear, Traycn drew the beloved vibro-axe hanging from his side and began his charge anew. The Sith warrior could scarcely believe his eyes, this single being was beneath him yet it sought to fight him as if it was his equal. Sneering in annoyance he motioned towards the careening behemoth to simply flatten his wind pipe and be done with it. To his shock and horror it was clearly not going to be that easy.

Traycn felt the invisible crushing force like a vice on his neck pressing down on him. He would not let this stop him. Rage filling his body in the absence of oxygen he closed the gap swinging the sparking axe blade towards his opponent’s head.

Cursing under his breath, the human was forced to roll away, lest he lose his head. Affixing a death glare on the heavily armored giant, he couldn’t help but sense an overwhelming smug sense of satisfaction coming off the Mandalorian. Traycn, wishing to share his small victory with his opponent, tapped the area of his helmet where his chin would be. Taking the hint, the Sith reached to his chin and found his hand coated lightly in blood.

His anger now boiling over, the Sith darted in to unleash a series of expertly aimed blows on his enemy. Though Traycn’s own fighting style was far more simplified and direct, his vibro-axe was able to intercept and deflect the attacks. Those that were missed were easily soaked by his thick beskar plates.

From his spot on the ground, Kad could see the fight as it raged back and forth. The exchange of blaster fire between the dark armored Sith troopers and the lightly clad rebels had become nothing more than back ground noise. Through the blinding pain he could see the differences in their styles, while the Sith was far more elaborate and stylized, Traycn was tempered by true, no holds-barred fighting. Though he lacked the same fluidity of his opponent, the massive Taung had one thing on him: raw, unbridled power.

As the sparking axe head of his weapon smashed through the thick trunk of a tree, the human deftly dodged out of its way. But he found himself being blindsided by thick metal plated knuckles catching him on the jaw. His vision blurring momentarily, he realized there was no end to this physical assault. Breaking away from him, the darksider jumped out of Traycn’s reach to give himself breathing room, a respite that Traycn was in no mood to allow. Charging in once more, the Taung warrior found himself rushing into a wall of the Force made manifest in the form of bolts of dark blue lightning leaping from the Sith’s finger tips and began to dance painfully over the warrior’s body.

Traycn roared in frustration as his pace slowed to a determined trudge. Every step brought unrelenting pain and suffering through every nerve ending in his body. His helmet began to fill with the scent of burning flesh as he pressed forward. Raising his axe high in the air, he brought it down with one swift motion to cleave his enemy.

The head of his weapon buried itself deep into the soft loam, Traycn’s iron grip on it holding fast and solid. However, the arm itself stopped short of his elbow where a mix of charred metal and flesh would have connected to the rest of Traycn’s body. The Taung warrior briefly regarded the smoldering stump that at one point had been his right arm before returning his attention to the Sith. His Sith opponent’s bright red saber illuminated the hateful smirk on his face as he savored what was surely to be the changing moment of this pointless exchange. How right he was.

In the span of a heartbeat, Traycn gripped his opponent by his arm and tugged him violently towards him before slamming his helmeted head into the bewildered Sith’s face. This was but the opening blow, stunning the darksider before the true onslaught began. Quickly grabbing the enemy by the back of his head, Traycn began slamming him repeatedly into the thick Mandalorian iron that incased his head.

After several blows it was impossible for the Mandalorian brute to tell the difference between the blood smearing his visor and the blinding rage driving his movements. Growing bored from his prey’s lack of movement, he let the barely breathing Sith drop to the ground. With an annoyed grunt he retrieved his prized weapon before returning to the Sith warrior struggling to remain conscious. Behind his visor he sneered from ear to ear knowing that this whelp before him could feel every bit of his intentions through the Force. With his remaining arm he hefted the axe into the air before letting gravity and his own full strength to plant his blade into the Sith’s chest.

Traycn took a moment to enjoy the sight of his handy work before returning the axe to his hip. Around them the fighting still raged on. Epsilon and their pet rebels were easily holding their own and carving through the Sith troopers.

Kad stared up at the mass of red armor and into his blood stained visor. “Ya know,” He spoke between labored breaths, “If ya really wanted me dead… Now’s your best chance,”

Traycn turned this point over in his head for a moment. He was right after all, he couldn’t even stand up. All it would take is one swift blow to end his life. Snorting in annoyance he grabbed Kad by his armor’s collar and hoisted him up to lay across his broad shoulders. “There is no honor in killing you now.”

Kad coughed out in pain as his seared lungs fought against his rough treatment to fill with air, “Heh, I never knew ya cared so much Tray,” He snickered out before his comrade began marching back towards their extraction point.

Luna smiled softly to herself as she stared up at the skull resting upon the thrown, “He was a being of unshakable honor,” Luna said, “I saw his hatred for thee, Kad, when we called the swamp lands home for a time. To kill thee was his greatest of goals, yet when left at his mercy his hand was stayed.”

“That was Tray, your highness,” Kell remarked with a snicker, “He was brutal, uncompromising and unrelenting, but he was bound by a code of honor that he refused to break at all costs.”

“Tray was one in a million.” Kad stated sullenly.

“Hah, literally,” Kell wryly commented with a knowing grin as he nursed his ale.

As the night progressed, Luna found herself lost in the tales of glory and honor; the sweet taste of ale from worlds far flung from her own teased her senses and mind. She happily allowed herself to be whisked away by her companions for the evening as the continued to oblige her request. In time the ale trickled away to nothing as the night and sleep sought to claim the three of them.

Rays of morning light cut away the darkness that had infested the castle itself as the sun made it’s now natural climb into the sky. Celestia made her way through the slowly stirring halls of her castle as the early rays trickled through the windows. Though she no longer held power over the skies above her world it was hard to break the sleep cycle she had become accustomed to for well over a millennium.

As she neared the throne room she braced herself for the daily drudgeries of the royal court. Celestia was a monarch who truly loved her subjects with her whole heart and soul, but this did little to silence her dislike of more tedious duties. There was always some noble or pony with too much money and time looking to move ahead by gaining the say so of Equestria’s princesses. But now that they had to deal with aliens amongst the court, things had taken on a new level of annoying in her eyes.

Nearing the massive double doors she noticed a pair of guards arguing back and forth with each other. “You go in there and take care of it,” One hissed at the other.

“I out rank you,” The other bit back, “Now get in there and fix this before-“

“Ahem,” Celestia cut the guardspony off; causing them to both jump before quickly turning to face her, standing stock still.

“Y-your highness, a pleasure to see you up and about, have you had breakfast yet, I hear the chef is preparing a delicious meal of-“ The stallion’s words were cut off once more as Celestia raised a wing to his mouth to silence him.

The princess regarded both a critical stare. “Guards, why do I get the feeling you’re both hiding something from me?”

“Nonsense your highness,” The younger of the two responded quickly, “It’s just that, well, the repairs to the throne room are taking far longer than expected and the masons have caused quite a mess.”

Celestia looked between the pair of forced smiles before pushing her ways past them both and pushing the door open. To her surprise, she was met with a bit of resistance and the sounds of glass being rolled about. With an annoyed, grunt the white Alicorn entered the throne room finding hooffools of discarded liquor vessels strewn about the room. The scent of ale permeated the room despite the gaping hole in the side of the wall the still remained half finished.

What drew her attention most of all was the sight upon Equestria’s seat of power. Upon the dais was a pair of humans that had become rather infamous to her in such a short time, Kad and Kell Skirata, snoring beside each other. Beyond them however was a far odder sight. On the throne itself sat the soundly sleeping form of her sister Luna. Several emptied bottles laid strewn about her position as the smell of intoxication still clung to her. In her forelimbs however, pressed tightly to her chest was a metallic object that she seemed to cradle. As Celestia looked closer she felt herself pull back in slight revile as she realized what her sister held against herself, a metal plated skull.

Next Chapter: Child's Play Estimated time remaining: 2 Hours, 17 Minutes
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