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"Beings believe what you tell them. They never check, they never ask, they never think. Tell them the state is menaced by quadrillions of battle droids, and they will not count. Tell them you can save them, and they will never ask—from what, from whom? Just say tyranny, oppression, vague bogeymen that require no analysis. Never specify. Then they look the other way when reality is right in front of them. It's a conjuring trick. The key is distraction, getting them to watch your other hand. Only single-minded beings don't join in the shared illusion, and keep watching you too closely. Single-minded beings are dangerous. And they either work for me, or they don't work at all." ― Chancellor Palpatine
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The planet of Skye was well known for its sweeping landscapes and rocky highlands, boasting an enormous number of wildlife preserves. If you were to travel North however, away from the equator and towards the Northern pole the climate changed rapidly, a cold chill piercing both the earth and sky. As the soil hardened and the tundra unfurled, even farther still were the Canaitith Mountains. Named for the highest among their peaks, the Canaitith Mountain Range was a brutal landscape, dotted with small caves and underground caverns below, the surface was hardly hospitable. Snow could be found covering the higher peaks year round, scrappy brush just barely managing to cling to life both due to altitude and the sheer chill of the polar winds.
High above the landscape of Skye, having just entered the atmosphere, a solitary shuttle made its way towards the Canaitith Range. Aboard, a collection of souls, each belonging to the Supreme Leader. Some were younger, some older, though all had sworn their allegiance to the Order of Ren and to the unquestionable will of the Supreme Leader. This was but a step upon their journey. Nestled deep within the Canaitith Mountain Range was a collection of buildings, a facility secreted among the many snow covered peaks and valleys. Cut off from the outside world it had been and remained the perfect place to train initiates, children and youth selected at young age to join the Order of Ren, and Disciples. Even Knights were known to make appearances to learn from the masters housed at the initiate academy.
::Arrival in ten minutes. Prepare for descent.::
The voice cut through the darkness of Castor's mind, his eyes snapping open. The Disciple of Ren had been meditating, he found the exercise particularly helpful in making long trips much shorter, at least by perception. Calmly withdrawing a small datapad from a small inner pocket, he scrolled through the list of wards. The Order of Ren had been busy, recruiting from places that surprised even the senior Disciple of Ren. Soon these would be his brothers also, provided they survived the training and could be taught the ways of the Order. He looked carefully at the names, memorizing each one as they prepared for landing. Rising from the small seat, Castor stood, one hand reaching up to a small hand hold as he looked to the seats and read off their names.
"We will be arriving at the initiate academy shortly. This is the first step upon a greater journey, a point from whence your actions will now be guided by the will of the Supreme Leader. Belonging to the Order of Ren is more than a simple association, it is a brotherhood, a commitment of body, mind, and soul; there are no half measures."
Castor let his eyes rest for but a moment on each of the members in the shuttle. They would gain the title of Disciple shortly and more likely than not he would be called upon to guide them in their new roles.
"You may leave your belongings aboard. We will be taking this same shuttle upon our departure."
Turning back to the front, Castor retook his seat in anticipation of their landing. The nose of the shuttle dipped and the craft began its descent to the surface. As it dropped towards the earth, high winds buffeted the ship's hull, turbulence shaking the occupants. Castor himself had only been to the academy a handful of times though he knew as much about it as anyone. While officially housed at the Bastion of Ren, the archives were one of his favorite places to frequent. Centuries of knowledge compiled and stored within its walls. Ranging from current events to histories nearly forgotten, there were also many references to the teachings delivered at the academy complete with a current list of instructors. Over the course of their visit they would meet several Masters, Castor only hoped that the new joins would give them the respect they deserved, or else what befell them would likely be quite unpleasant.
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The shuttle came in low over the peaks of the Canaitith Mountains, the high pitched whine of the engines lost in the howling wind. The frigid wind blew snow and ice alike through the mountains, a testament as to the inhospitable climate and unrelenting weather of the region. Even within the large hollowed out hangar cut deep into the surface of the mountain housing the initiate academy the air was cold enough for breath to be seen. Small puffs of steam could be seen as the small cadre of figures stood silently, their robes disturbed only slightly by the howling wind outside. They waited patiently, hoods drawn up to protect against the cold.
The shuttle came in low, its large frame filling the small hangar entrance as it nosed its way in. The familiar sound of engines amplified as it entered fully, blast doors began closing with a hydraulic hiss barely audible. In a few short moments the shuttle had deployed its landing gear, engines powering down. Standing silently as they had been before the figures reached up in unison, removing their hoods. A collection of Knight instructors led by an elder man, his age deceiving. Years of Dark Side use and rigorous physical exertion had left his flesh weathered, skin tainted by the touch of Dark Side corruption. It wasn't anything drastic but an educated force user would immediately recognize the dark shadows beneath his eyes, the creases at the corners. Master Kadar was one of the most prominent bladesman of the Order, his assignment to the initiate academy fitting. While his days of expeditionary work for the Supreme Leader were over, he was no less formidable an opponent, years of honed skill burned into his body, so much that it became more of an instinct. Stubble fresh with frosted condensation from his breath he waited.
With a loud hydraulic hiss the boarding ramp descended, the first among its occupants to emerge, Castor. Long strides brought Castor to within a two meter distance of the Master before he bowed at the waist, a gesture of respect. The sound of the howling wind was drawn silent as the hangar bay doors closed, a muffled boom signalling the seal. As the sound of automated service droids whirred, Castor spoke.
"Master Kadar, it has been too long since we crossed blades, perhaps we can amend that soon." Motioning to his rear he gestured to the new joins. "I have brought several initiates to be joined with our order. They wish to become Disciples of Ren, at least that is what they say. As is custom I have brought them here, to be initiated."
Master Kadar narrowed his eyes as he cast his gaze on the small collection of stragglers behind the Disciple. A strange lot, he mused. His face as cold as the very mountain they now occupied greeted the strangers as he appraised them silently, one by one. Turning back towards Castor he spoke, his footsteps carrying him past each one of the initiates.
"Perhaps we should give them a tour of the academy, give them a firsthand look at what they desire to become?" He chuckled at that. "I believe you remember the way to the reception hall Disciple?"
Castor's demeanor nearly cracked. Did he remember the reception hall? Numerous memories burned in the Ren's mind, phantom pains of former bruises and cracked ribs at the hand of the blade master had engraved a permanent memory of 'the reception hall'. He was loathe to return to its confines for any duration of time though he would humor the Master of Ren. With a silent nod he half bowed as he once more took the lead of the initiates.
"This..." He spoke. "...is Master Kadar, the master of blade here at the academy. Perhaps one day he will teach you all as he has taught countless others, including myself." Motioning towards a small door on the other side of the hangar he continued. "Follow me if you will."
From where he'd made his way behind the group, Master Kadar watched, still analyzing them. A small gesture with a raised hand and the half dozen or so Knights of Ren followed behind the group. His eyes followed the senior Disciple, memories of their many spars briefly filling his mind. He had sparred with the disciple many times, his skill with a blade superior compared to many of his peers though that was not what had drawn the Master to the Disciple. Castor Ren had since moved on, living and training primarily at the Bastion, the very epicenter of the Order of Ren, but he had left his mark on the Master; but had the Master left a mark on the Disciple? That had yet to be seen. Picking up his feet, Master Kadar stalked after the small group headed for the small door.
Passing through the small entry, Castor ascended a set of winding steps carved into the stone. Smooth, worn down by many feet traveling up and down the staircase he nimbly moved from step to step. Sputtering torches lit the darkened passageway, the flames flickering as each warm body passed by on their way to the top. It took the small group a full five minutes of walking before they emerged from the stairway up into a small lit cavern, the walls lined with dry, dark wood. Here the howl of the wind could be heard, a low whistle through the walls and the warmth of the stairway faded. They continued on, passing out of the rock and into the halls and rooms of the academy. Wooden rooms and modules clung to the side of the mountain here, surprisingly secure despite the precarious view. This portion of the academy had been built with an ancient aesthetic but the actual materials were anything but. Anchored securely and insulated from the cold these rooms and halls were safe from the frigid climate and inhospitable landscape, here however there was something more sinister at work, its power piercing and all pervading... the power of the Dark Side. As the small group traversed the halls, young men, boys, and girls were seen, their dark uniform robes marking them as Initiates. As the Disciples passed their eyes widened with wonder but as the Knights of Ren came into view their gaze shifted, looking down towards the floor. Such was the reverence taught to them by the Masters here at the academy.
The group slowed as they approached an ornate wooden door, larger than the rest. Castor paused before its face, the power within calling out to each of the souls now before it. With a step forward the Disciple grasped the handle of the large door, pushing it inwards. He knew what awaited them but it still managed to surprise him. The room was octagonal in shape, a wide berth of small backless chairs with cushions surrounding and looking in on the recessed floor. Nearly forty meters by forty meters the room boasted a large sparring area. On the far side of the room an array of racks held weapons from every conceivable corner of the galaxy ranging from durasteel swords to strange bladed and chained weapons of every shape and size. On several other racks were held weapons obviously boasting energy blades. In the center of the room stood Master Kadar. Almost as a reflex Castor's eyes traced to the rear where the Master had seemingly been following them. To no surprise, he stood not there with the handful of Knights but indeed in the center of the room. Clad in a form fitting tunic, the Master's eyes were alight with a fire Castor had not witnessed since his initial days at the academy. The Disciple knew what came next but he kept his mouth shut, ushering the new initiates forward and taking his place behind them. With a booming voice, louder than one might have expected Master Kadar spoke, addressing the small gathering.
"Here is where many of you will train and master the art of many weapons. It is fundamental among the Ren that we are versatile, a tool with many purposes for any tool with but a single purpose is weak and will be cast aside. Here you will sweat, bleed, and toil as you master yourselves. Contrary to what you may believe, the art of swordsmanship is less about blade work and more about discipline." Master Kadar paused, looking slowly from initiate to initiate. Looking towards Castor he voiced an open question to the initiates. "Which one of you can recite the classic mantra of the Jedi Code?"
A strange question perhaps, considering the Knights of Ren practiced the arts of the Dark Side but Master Kadar posed the question genuinely. Silence filled the air as Castor slowly but surely made his way towards the weapons racks. It had been a silent prodding but he knew the touch of the Force and recognized the will of Master Kadar well. Kadar narrowed his eyes as he awaited a response, curious as to whom would speak up first if any.