Smoke rose from the muzzle of the blaster, and the only sound that followed was a man’s body falling to the ground. The four stared down at their fallen brother, and then looked to one another.
“It had to be done.” Flash, the one who’d shot him announced. “He sold us out. He was no longer one of us. He’s dar’manda.” The others nodded in grim silence, and turned then to look at the mural painted on the wall behind them. A depiction of the Mandalorian destroyer god; Kad Ha’rangir.
“We don’t have the time, or resources right now, to deal with traitors any other way.” Rhaige spoke aloud, as if to silence any opposing thoughts, if they existed. “We came for these tablets, and now we need to get them. Zariie, any leads?” He asked, looking to a large warrior with dual blades strapped to his back.
“A bit deeper, and we’re good. Shouldn’t be too far down. Only trouble is that the Zakuul he sold us out to know where we are now.” Zariie said with some concern, looking over a datapad in his left hand.
“Then we move.” Rhaige said to the three Akaan’alor, and they moved as one. Through the ancient Taung corridors, and deeper into the complex. The air grew colder and soon the light of the sun was gone, and the HUDs inside their helmets was all that they had to guide them.
“We’re sure that they’re here?” The youngest of the group, Vi’rra, asked the others. “What if this is just a trap?”
“Then we spring it.” Zariie whispered in reply to her.
“And we show them why we’re the chosen ones.” Rhaige replied, lifting his blaster off his hip, though he left the blade strapped to his back for now.
Cob-webbed skeletons in piece-mailed Mandalorian armor littered the path to their prize. The bodies of those who had tried before them, as evidenced by the numerous sprung traps they’d encountered. Rusted blades that came out of walls. Pits with bodies impaled on the spikes at their depths. They soon came to a wall, with no where else to go.
“Says...it should be right here, but..” Zariie spoke slowly, looking around.
“We can’t go up or down.” Vi’rra said, a finger to her helm as she gazed about for a clue.
“Then we go through.” Rhaige replied, and looked to Flash, who nodded in turn. A hand fell back to the cannister on her belt as four small detonators distributed to her palm. She flung them at the wall, and they stuck to the stone like magnets to metal. A button at her gauntlet detonated them, and the ensuing explosion made it clear that the calculations hadn’t been off.
Through the smoke, the group saw a hidden room beyond the rubble. An overlooking depiction of the Ha’rangir was painted in bright colors above a tablet embedded in the stone. Dried blood encased the walls, and as they stepped inside, the skeletons of Taung masons rested at either side of the formerly sealed chamber, long-dead, having sealed themselves within so that none might uncover the secret.
Rhaige stepped to the tablet, and began to read its etched runes.
“Shogun.” Their leader finally said as he turned to face the others. “That’s where we go. It mentions fortifications set up by the Taung, with enough equipment and ships to outfit a unit. With Manda’lor missing, and so many following him...this might just be what we need.” He began, but before he could finish, the hiss of a lightsaber caught their attention.
The foursome jerked their gaze to the previous room, where between three Zakuul Knights, stood a masked Jedi, who’d been cloaking them with the Force.
“Seems that tracking you lot all the way to Roon paid off.” The Jedi announced, as the Knights ignited their pikes.
Rhaige fired a shot from his blaster into the Jedi’s gut, but the second and third shots were deflected by the lightsaber. Reattaching his gun to his hip, he drew his blade and leapt at the Jedi. Zarrie followed suit, wielding two blades, he leapt at a Knight, moving his arms in a flurry of assault.
Flash launched a grappling line from her right gauntlet towards one of the Knights, and pulled him in towards her, retracting it only so that her left could spew tongues of scorching flames to engulf the warrior in their heat. Vi’rra followed suit, detaching her double blasters and firing a volley towards the last Zakuul, faster than he could deflect.
Flash rose from a crouch and pulled her blasters free. She kicked the burned Zakuul’s helmet off and fired three shots into his face. Zariie had managed to bring his opponent’s pike wide, and then drove his second blade deep into the Knight’s stomach. Vi’rra followed up her assault with a missile to the enemy’s chest, which left a gaping hole for a wound, and this time, the Knight didn’t stand back up.
The Jedi and Rhaige were locked, pushing against one another.
“Surrender to the Eternal Empire. You can be more than what you are.” The Jedi urged him.
“You’re a traitor to your own Order. You think we’d trust you? You have no honor!” Rhaige replied, spitting the words in anger, as the two draw apart.
“I am no traitor. I’m enlightened, mercenary. A champion to the Emperor.” The Jedi raised his blue blade back for a double-handed strike against the Mandalorian warrior, but Rhaige was just a bit quicker -- his blade strike wide, held in one hand, and sliced the Jedi’s hands off at the wrist. A hydraulic-fueled punch gave way to a sickening sound as his fist pushed into the Jedi’s stomach, and his fingers wrapped around the man’s spine. The former Jedi screamed in pain, and Rhaige pulled, ending the threat quickly.
“A champion with no honor is a champion of aruetiise.” Rhaige spat back at the man’s body, before stepping away.
“And now we move. Quickly.” Flash said to the others, moving to grab the tablet from the wall with Zariie. They left the bodies of their enemies to rot with the other dead.
The trip out was uneventful, and once they were onboard their D5-Mantis, they set an immediate course for Shogun.
“What else does it say?” Zariie asked Rhaige as he overlooked the stone slab onboard the vessel.
“Akaan’gaan. The search for battle. It’s an ancient concept...done in the lack of guidance. An Aliit’alor, Chieftan of a Clan, can declare it for his soldiers.” The warrior replied.
“Do you think this secret place even still exists? Who’s to say another visitor to Shogun hasn’t found it?” Flash asked, pulling her helmet free as her loose dreadlocks danced about her shoulders.
“Considering we were the first people in that room since it was sealed...I’d say there’s a high chance it’s still hidden.” Vi’rra offered.
“We won’t know til we get there.” Zariie said, getting up to move back to the cockpit.
“If it doesn’t pay off, then we’ll find something else. With Manda’lor gone for the foreseeable future, our people need guidance. They need something to bring them together. It will be there.” Rhaige said to Flash, who put her hands up in deference.
In three days, they’d reached the ancient planet. Their ship set down upon a sandy landing pad that hadn’t been used in a hundred years, at least, if not more.
What they saw before them, as they slipped down from their ship was enough to make the hardened warriors do a double-take. Half-buried, but still standing, was a the base they’d read about. A hangar with a few dozen fighters inside. Long-empty barracks. Statues to Mandalors of the past. A command center carved into the cliffside to oversee it all.
“Welcome to the Ranov’la’yaim.” Rhaige said to the others, as they spread out, a bit cautiously. “It will take work to rebuild this, and get it functioning again.” He said to the others. And as they explored the facility, they all agreed that it would take a lot of work. A lot of hours. A lot of Mandalorians. The soon came to the overhead watch, looking down on the structure from above gave a better idea of the sheer size of it all. And just exactly how much they’d need to put into it. Still -- from up here they could see that it would be worth it.
“We will need to send out a call. Gather as many as we can. Masons, smiths, tailors, bakers, farmers, hunters. We will need everyone to build this into what it needs to be. With Manda’lor regrouping with so many of our brothers and sisters, it will take time, but with effort we can do it. Akaan’gaan will fuel us and unite us. It will serve us as it did our Ancient Brethren in need of guidance.” He nodded to the others, who left to begin their tasks, as he stood above, overlooking their new home.
Rhaige pulled his helmet free to let the warm breeze of his new home wash over his face. It’s then that he felt it. Red eyes went wide, and he gasped, as he saw something, as if the wind itself carried time on its breath. He saw the facility below restored in its prime, with Mandalorians erecting the statues under the direction of a Taung Rally Master. He saw them fade away, and he saw the sand reclaim what they’d built. He saw their arrival, from his current perspective, and he saw the sand swirl, until an army of young recruits stood below, with the Kurultai Council before them. His strong hands gripped the ledge as what he had seen washed over him.
“Ibic malyasa'yr busa'ga at gotal'ur kebise staab.” He whispered to himself in Mando'a, more sure now than ever, that this was the correct path for him and his people.