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(L,F&E 55) To Jedi or Not to Jedi

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Community Content > Fan Fiction
(L,F&E 55) To Jedi or Not to Jedi

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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 11:57 AM | #1
It was a fairly uneventful day, and truth be told, Istara liked that. After all the ups and downs her life had taken, both in the past and more recently, to be able to sit and be still was a good thing. As long as she didn’t think too much. Case in point…

She grunted as her focus left her and she fell. Luckily it was only about a third of a meter, but her backside still made a loud smack as it hit the floor. She groaned as she opened her eyes. Around her she saw the items she had been levitating fall to the floor and she reached out with the Force and caught most of them before they hit the floor to make noise. She put the back where they had been and her eye caught on one in particular. She tensed as she realized it was a painted picture of a mountain that showed in the distance of her window. She sighed and stood up. Her quarters were Spartan, just the way she liked them. Basics only. Bed, desk, chair, terminal, and the few movable items in her quarters were mostly solid objects for practice in exercises like she had been attempting. She sighed. Some days it just seemed that no matter what she did, she couldn’t focus herself. This was such a simple exercise, why couldn’t she…?

She broke off that line of thought fast. For a Force user to get angry uncontrolled was a bad thing. But instead of ignoring it, she blinked and then pulled her anger out and examined it as closely as she could. With her revelations of her past, she was, well, if not accepted, then tolerated by the Jedi. And the Jedi were kind to her, Yeri in particular. Istara’s mouth arced in a smile as she contemplated the aged Jedi healer. Yeri was such a good being. Acerbic, judgmental, and at the same time, kind, gentle and compassionate. And she had all the give of a rock at times. She shook her head and glanced at her chrono. It was time. There were certain things she didn’t like about learning, but… She stood up, picked herself up off the floor and walked to her door.

As always, Anya was there. The Jedi was the closest thing to a friend that Istara had at the moment. Oh, she was kind to the other students and they were polite to her. But the full fledged Jedi were aloof. Standoffish. And Istara could understand. She was a monster, a killer. Someone who had slain Jedi. Of course, she had slain Sith too, and she had really been a different person. She hoped so anyway.

"Hello Istara." Anya smiled as she came close. “You ready?”

Istara made a face. “As ready as I am going to be. Lead on.” Anya gave a small smile of commiseration and started off. Istara followed.

After a moment, Anya spoke quietly. “How did it go?” Istara grimaced and Anya sighed. “Give it time Istara, you can’t expect to get everything right the first time.”

Istara slumped a bit. “That is just it, Anya. I can’t focus. If I can’t manage such simple exercises without falling on my shebs… Well…”

Anya nodded, her expression thoughtful. “Well, what is distracting you?” Istara shrugged. They walked through common areas and the brown robes forms around them nodded to them. Istara nodded back politely. She was actually heartened by the fact that everyone seemed to be polite. It comforted her. She had grown up in a very formalized and polite environment. After all, when one was surrounded by bloodthirsty warrior monks, one acted very polite, or one died. Anya led Istara towards the training wing and handed her a training lightsaber. Istara took it and controlled a wince. She didn’t like lightsabers. Anya looked at her.

Istara sighed. “I don’t know what is distracting me. I think…” She broke off as she considered. Then she shrugged. “It’s that blasted mountain again.” Anya stared at her. They ahd talked a lot, Anya and Istara, over the last few weeks, and Anya had heard a lot, probably more than Istara should have said, but it fet good to talk to someone who didn’t have an agenda. Well, she didn’t have an agenda besides making sure Istara didn’t go nuts or escape.

Anya shook her head slowly. “Mount Haklah? Why would that place bother you? I have been there, it’s just a mountain.”

Anya stopped as Istara froze in midstride. The former Bladeborn's voice was soft. “You have been there? Was there anything odd at all?”

Anya shook her head. “Nope. There were a few ancient ruins, probably from a house. Nothing else. No deep caves, no nothing.” Istara blinked again and then shrugged. It didn’t make sense. But then again, not a lot of her life recently made sense at all. They entered the training wing and Istara sighed as Anya led her to the usual room. As they entered, Istara looked around, but nothing had changed. It seemed that training rooms were the same the galaxy over. Bare walls, nothing to get underfoot, nothing to get in the way.

Two dozen students of various levels of skill practiced nearby and the training master stood aloof in the near distance. Close enough to see everything and to be able to instruct. Far enough away to be out of the danger zones of partly trained lightsaber wielders. Istara always felt…odd in the room. Not bad, just odd. Part of it of course was the lightsaber. She really didn’t like lightsabers. Anya took her place by the door and Istara bowed to the training master, who returned the bow.

Istara ignited her saber and started her sequences. They were basic, for warm up only, and Istara took a bit of pleasure in something in her life that was the way it had been. She lost herself in the mechanics of the movements, and then she stopped. Something had changed. She opened her eyes and froze. Another being had entered the training room. Jedi Master Farrah watched her with undisguised contempt. Istara blinked, focused on her breathing and continued her warmup. After a few minutes, her limbs were loose again and she was moving well. Eventually, the training master came by and she respectfully stood and waited for him to speak. Instead of instructions however, he jerked his head towards Master Farrah and Istara felt her guts clench.

She looked at the training master and her voice was low. “This is a bad idea.” He inclined his head fractionally in agreement, but then nodded towards Farrah again.

Farrah approached, lightsaber in hand. “A Sith who doesn’t want to fight? Well, I guess even cowards have their place among the Bladeborn.” Istara felt her blood immediately boil, but then acknowledged the anger and let it fall away. Istara bowed to Farrah, who returned it.

But Istara hooked her blade to her belt. Her voice was calm. “Fighting me is a mistake, Jedi Master Farrah. Fighting me cannot bring back what is lost.”

Farrah just sneered. “You know nothing, Sith. I wish to see what skill you have with a blade.”

Istara sighed. “You have observed for the last week, through the window.” Her head inclined towards a small window set high on a wall. Every day, Istara had felt the simmering resentment of the other woman from that area. “You cannot match me blade to blade.” Farrah’s saber ignited, but Istara didn’t move. She felt the training master’s disapproval, but he didn’t move to intervene. That told Istara that he was under orders and her heart sank. Farrah didn’t approach, just waited, saber ready. Istara shook her head.

Farrah sneered again. “Liar and coward. Well, I can’t say I am surprised.” Istara slumped. She was stuck. The training master wouldn’t interfere, Anya was of lower rank. The younger Jedi was watching Farrah like a hawkbat though. “Draw Sith.”

Istara shook her head. “If you wish to judge my skills, I cannot gainsay you. But I will not fight you with a lightsaber.” She looked to the training master who blinked and then nodded. A small smile appeared on his face and he nodded towards a group of weapons racked out of the way on the wall. A small gesture by Istara and a staff floated to Istara’s waiting hand. She bowed to him, and he returned it. Then she assumed a stance and bowed to Farrah, who looked surprised.

Then the other woman snorted. “A stick?” The derision in her tone actually bolstered Istara. It was so like…She squashed her feelings and assumed a ready stance.

The training master spoke quietly. “The staff, or quarterstaff, is an ancient weapon, but still a highly effective weapon to this day. And that quarterstaff is made of cortosis lined durasteel, so you won’t be able to slice through it.” Somehow, the cold, clinical words also conveyed disgust at Farrah, who flushed a bit.

She shook her head. “I don’t want any advantages.” At that, the training master laughed. A merry sound.

“You actually think you have an advantage?” He looked at Istara who bowed her head. “Same rules, no injury, no death.” Istara nodded and moved to stand opposite Farrah who snorted.

“You are going to trust her not to kill?" Teh arrogant jedi exclaimed. "After what she did?”

Now the training master actually scoffed at Farrah. “I would like to see you fight a bounty hunter that way…”

He broke off as Istara raised a hand. “I will not kill.” Her quiet words silenced the hall. “I made a mistake when the flames hit me, and a life ended because of my mistake. I will not kill.” She repeated calmly. The training master bowed to her and she bowed back, before turning to Farrah and bowing before resuming her ready stance. The other woman looked nonplussed. “As you wish, Master Farrah.” She stood and waited. But only for a moment as Farrah attacked.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 11:58 AM | #2
For the first few minutes, neither opponent seemed to have an advantage. Farrah’s speed was countered time and again by Istara’s speed. Add to that that Istara could strike with any part of her weapon, as Farrah discovered when Istara moved fluidly and body checked her with the haft of the staff. Her lightsaber grazed Istara’s arm, and several intakes of breath were heard around the room. Training duels ended with any injury of any kind, but the other woman seemed not to notice. Istara danced back as Farrah landed and attacked again. This time, the woman moved more cautiously. Istara’s eyes held Farrah’s as the woman moved in again. This time, both combatants moved cautiously, dancing and feinting. Istara didn’t attack, content to defend herself. Farrah on the other hand, after receiving a knock upside the head, was more cautious.

Farrah spoke as she circled. “Very good, Sith. One would almost think you a Jedi with the detachment you are feigning.” Istara blocked her attack and didn’t respond. So Farrah attacked again. This time, she received a strike on a leg that had her stumbling for a moment. “Fight me!” The woman said derisively. Istara’s eyes narrowed as she backed up a step. Her blocks were still perfect however, not Shi-Cho, but very, very close.

When Istara spoke it was quiet. “Did the Bladeborn touch you with anything? Or was it all in the mind?” Farrah stumbled for a moment again, but Istara didn’t press her advantage.

Farrah snarled. “What would you care?” But whatever she was going to say was stopped short when she saw Istara’s eyes glistening.

Istara’s voice was quiet and matter of fact, but sad. “I know about rage. I know about hate. I know about grief. I know…” She backpedaled as Farrah came in with a sizzling series of slashs, and was pressed to defend herself. But then she continued. “I know about the Dark Side. I know its seductions, I know its promises. So I know when one is teetering on the edge.” Farrah attacked again, and Istara jumped clear. Farrah pressed her advantage, but Istara set her feet and didn’t move from her spot. The Jedi was obviously getting frustrated.

Farrah shook her head. “You know nothing.”

Istara sighed and then everything stopped as she threw the staff away. “Perhaps not.” She stood and waited as Farrah charged. A cry came from behind them as Anya started towards the fight, but Istara’s eyes were on her opponent. Farrah’s eyes were on Istara and her blade came down. But Istara wasn’t there! Two fluid movements and Istara was inside Farrah’s guard, then Farrah was wheezing on the floor, clenching her stomach and Istara stood, the other woman’s lightsaber in hand pointed at her. Istara brought the saber back up to ready position and bowed to Farrah. “Good fight.”

Farrah snarled at her. “I know what you are, Sith. Go ahead, cut me down.” For a very long moment, no one moved or spoke. Then a sigh went around the room as Istara deactivated the saber and extended it to Farrah. Then…

<A bit later>

Istara blinked. She had been in the training room. How had she gotten to the healer’s wing? Around her, the soft sounds of medical equipment were clearly audible. She shook her head and groaned when that small action made a supernova go off inside her head. A worried voice came to her ears. “Istara?”

She smiled as she turned her head slowly to face Anya, who sat beside her bed. “Anya?”

Her voice was soft, but she focused as she had been taught and the pain receded. Funny that the same techniques were taught to both Jedi and Sith, for the exact same reason. Only the goals were different. Sith were taught to ignore pain to keep fighting. Jedi were taught to ignore pain so they could keep going.

Anya smiled at her. “You will be okay. We were a bit worried when you didn’t wake up right away.” Istara blinked. “How do you feel?”

Istara snorted. “Like I have shockboxer inside my head. What happened?” Anya touched the side of Istara’s head and the pain receded further. Istara smiled her thanks. Healing was something she had never learned much of, but now she was determined to.

Anya grimaced as she sat back. “Master Farrah hit you with a Force punch, after you defeated her. You hit the wall hard.” Istara slumped. “She is in a bit of trouble for that.”

Istara shook her head and smiled as the pain didn’t come back. “Not her fault. I shouldn’t have lowered my guard. Any of my old instructors would have beaten me to within an inch of my life for such a stupid lapse.”

Anya shook her head. “We are not Sith, Istara. She was over the line. Both goading you into a fight and her choice of methods. Not to mention violating the rules of dueling.” Istara blinked at that and then blinked as Anya motioned to the reclining woman’s arm. It had a bandage on it. “Training duels end when one party is injured. You were, she didn’t.”

Istara shook her head. “It wasn’t a training duel to her.”

Anya slumped. “I know, but we can’t have her chopping you to bits. Or you beating the snot out of her, no matter if she deserves it.” Istara surprised herself with a laugh at that.

But then she frowned. “She doesn’t deserve it. She is lost, and can’t find her way back.”

Anya blinked at that. “What do you mean?”

Istara shook her head. “I am still figuring this out. But… I think I know what happened to her. She changed, right? A lot?” Anya nodded. “Then I have to help her.”

At that, Anya’s eyes went wide. “Istara…”

Istara just lay back in her bed. “I have to help her. I think I know what happened to her.” She repeated quietly. “And I don’t think you know do you?”

Anya shook her head slowly. “She is in a lot of hot water right now.” But Istara sat up, ignoring the complaints her body made. “Istara…”

Anya sighed as Istara moved her legs off the bed. The former Bladeborn's voice was quiet, but controlled. “I can help her.” Anya sighed deeply and extended a hand, which Istara took. She assisted Istara to rise and then stepped back.

The Jedi shook her head slowly. “If you can help her, that is a good thing. But if she attacks you…”

She broke off as Istara grinned sourly. “Isn’t that why you are here?”

Anya surprised herself with a snorted laugh, but then nodded soberly. “I have a bad feeling about this.”

Istara nodded. “Yeah, me too…”
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:03 PM | #3
<Two hours later>

Farrah sat in the comfortable chair in her quarters and tried to think. There was nothing in the room to distract her, but she couldn’t seem to get her thoughts to go in the direction she wanted. And that annoyed her. She was better than this. It was so hard. Between the buzzing in her head and the rampant emotions flying through it, she was torn almost in pieces. But she knew what she had done. What she couldn’t figure out was why. It hadn’t been a training duel, it had been a fight. She detested the Sith in general. And the Bladeborn in particular. She hadn’t known a lot about the Bladeborn before her abrupt introduction and humiliating defeat. She could still recall with exacting clarity, the woman’s scornful laugh as she battered Farrah unconscious. Now of course she knew more. She had wanted to test the woman’s, Istara’s, skills. Not kill her. Did she? Istara wasn’t the one who had hurt her, killed her friends. So why was she so…angry? It didn’t make sense. But she couldn’t focus on the anger. It wasn’t always there. Her thoughts came to an abrupt halt as her door opened. The guards outside hadn’t moved. But standing in the doorway was a black furred form.

“Master Melan.” Her voice was quiet and his was not much louder.

“Master Farrah.” He entered and the door hissed shut. “Have you reflected?”

She nodded, but her face held bafflement. “I do not understand. I wanted to test Istara Andal, not kill her. I remember everything, but…” She broke off, unsure.

Melan looked at her, his large eyes expressionless. “But?”

Farrah sighed. “But I was not… I don’t know…” She shook her head savagely. “I wouldn’t hurt someone in a training duel. And I wouldn’t strike when they lowered their guard. The duel was over… Why…?” Her voice was worried now. “If I can lose control in such a fundamental way, am I fallen?”

"I don’t know. " Melan sighed. “You have cause for your anger. Your grief. Can you step beyond them?”

Farrah shook her head minutely. “It doesn’t…. I can’t… It doesn’t make sense. It is my anger.” She blinked as the door hissed open again and a quiet voice was heard.

“No it isn’t.” Farrah felt the blood leave her face as Istara entered the room. The former Bladeborn took a position beside the door, far enough away not to threaten, but close enough for… what? “It isn’t your anger.” Farrah recoiled a bit from the calm words. She fought her emotions back and Istara spoke again. “There is no emotion, there is peace, don’t fight it, let it pass you by…”

Farrah shuddered as she struggled with her emotions and then, with a sigh, let go. Suddenly, she felt better. “Wha…?” But then she focused on what she felt and stopped short. “Oh my…”

"Master Farrah..." Istara nodded. “This is very important. When you fought this Bladeborn did he or she touch you with a crystal?” Farrah nodded, but then shook her head.

“Yes. But before they could do anything, my Padawan broke it. They… he… She killed my padawan. He had no chance against her. And she just cut him down like it was nothing.”

"I see." Istara nodded. “I don’t know for sure how it works. I was never really interested. But it is one of Ravishaw’s ‘toys'. I heard a lot about him while I was a Sith. It doesn’t take much. From what I understand, all it takes is physical contact and time.”

"But..." Farrah stiffened. “Then why didn’t they do it as I lay unconscious? They hurt me.”

Istara shook her head. “I don’t know.”

"I might." Melan spoke up. “From what I have been able to determine, the subject has to be conscious and aware for it to work.” Farrah’s eyes went wide. “So when you fell unconscious, they were upset. So they took it out on you. And the rest of your team. And a few minutes later, the Republic response team arrived.” Farrah nodded slowly. The heavily armed team of Republic Special Forces had driven the Sith away, only to find most of her people killed, some in horrifically cruel ways. Her Padawan had survived for an hour, only to die of a poison that had apparently been on the blade that had cut him down.

"That makes some sense." Istara nodded. “Where did it touch you?” Farrah touched her left temple and Istara looked at Melan who looked… unsure.

When he spoke, it was slow and careful. “Istara thinks she can help you.” Farrah stared from one to the other. “But that requires she touch you.” Now Farrah’s eyes were drawn to Istara’s and she started a bit. Was the woman crying?

When Farrah spoke, it was as careful as Melan’s words had been. “Why?”

Istara met her eyes and Farrah blinked as she saw iron determination behind those glistening eyes. “I won’t leave anyone to him and his scum.”

Melan made a noise and Istara looked at him. “If you open your mind, what happens?” He asked. Farrah’s breath caught. She remembered what Istara had said in the Council chamber about being taken and not being able to do anything about it.

Istara's quiet words confirmed Farrah's fear. “I get attacked again, and I don’t know if I can hold him out. If that happens… Don’t let me become a threat.” Farrah’s eyes flew to Melan and her blood seemed to freeze as she saw his lightsaber in hand, but his eyes were on Istara.

Farrah choked out words. “Wait… I…”

"Master Farrah..." But Istara was moving slowly towards her. “I can help you. He wants me more than he wants you.” At that, Farrah saw deep into the other woman, and her guts seemed to clench.

As awful as her own fear, anger and grief were, this woman, this poor, poor woman… Her eyes burned. “No…”

But Istara was close now. She reached down and took Farrah’s hands in her own. The grip was gentle but irresistible. “It will be all right, master Farrah…”

Istara reached for her head, but Farrah spoke softly. “Call me Toli.”

Istara nodded, touched her gently on the temple and then…

<Somewhere>

Fahha came to herself cringing. She knew where she was, but the plain that lay before her wasn’t gray. No, this was all greens, vibrant and filled with life. Then she heard it again, the laughter she had tried to forget. A female form appeared in front of her, laughing.

“Come my dear. Soon this will all be over.” The black garbed form reached for her and she couldn’t move, couldn’t fight, couldn’t do anything except watch as it came nearer and her eyes were drawn to the glint of crystal in the specter’s hands. But then…

“Get away from her!” Suddenly Farrah could move and the black garbed form staggered back a few steps as another form appeared nearby. Istara. But this was a VERY different Istara. Her lightsabers glowed silver and the armor… It was also silver and Farrah inhaled sharply as she recognized it. The black garbed form recoiled, but then laughed again.

“Well, well, well… The master will be pleased. Two for the price of one.” Again, Farrah felt her limbs freeze and she cursed silently as the black garbed form approached again, only to meet a Force punch from Istara and get thrown back. “Sharlina, you know better than that…” The woman threw back her cowl and Istara flinched back.

“You… It can’t be you. You are dead…” The brown haired woman smiled, but it was an evils mile and Farrah felt a chill crawl up her spine. She tried to fight, tried to break the bonds that held her, but she couldn’t do anything as the Bladeborn who had killed her Padawan and hurt her attacked Istara.

For a long moment, the two combatants circled each other. Lightning fast thrusts and feints were parried or dodged. Then the black garbed form attacked, the ancient Sith sword humming as it cut through the air in this strange place. Farrah blinked as Istara stumbled. Something was wrong, the woman NEVER stumbled in a fight. Istara managed to keep the other woman at bay, but her forms were getting visibly sloppier as Farrah watched, unable to do anything else. Then she flinched as Istara took a solid kick wand went flying. She landed badly and lay there stunned. The black garbed form smiled at Farrah. Farrah flinched again from the expression, almost a lust…

“Don’t go anywhere dear, I’ll be right back…” She strode to where Istara was clambering to her knees now and then was flying herself. Istara was back on her feet and attacking before the other woman landed. They were evenly matched. Then another black garbed form appeared nearby and laughter boomed around the strange scene.

“I knew it wouldn’t take long. Hello Sharlina, ready to serve me?” In answer Istara turned off her sabers, but the man just laughed. “Not this time, girl…” The female in black was moving again and Istara dodged away. But the two of them were boxing her in. And Farrah couldn’t help.

"Jedi." Suddenly a kind female voice came to Farrah’s ears. She stared wildly around, but there wasn’t anyone nearby. “This is your mind, it is yours. You rule here. Not them.”

Farrah blinked and then suddenly, she was free and somehow, standing beside Istara. Both black garbed forms stopped in their tracks. Farrah’s voice was cold with its usual touch of arrogance as she spoke. “Begone.” Both black forms vanished and Farrah turned to Istara just in time to see her collapse. “Istara! Stay with me…”

Istara’s voice was muffled. “You have to go back… leave me here… I… Setie…” Farrah looked at Istara and felt something. Something muted by distance. A friend in pain. No, not a friend, a sister!

“Let’s go home Istara.” She gathered the shuddering woman in her arms and they both vanished from the plain.
My stories in order:
Love, the Force, and Everything Discussion thread here

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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:05 PM | #4
<A day later>

Istara sat at her desk and sighed. She just couldn’t get her focus back. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong. She sat back again and tried to clear her mind, but it just kept buzzing. No matter what she did, she couldn’t seem to get her thoughts to still. On the plain, she had felt Setie’s pain. That had distracted her enough that the impossible woman had beaten her. If not for Farrah… Istara shuddered a bit. Even now, the laughter was in her head. She calmed herself, releasing her fear, anger and regret, and finally her mind quieted.

Again, she felt the tug at her heart, the pull of her sister. The mark she had placed on her sister a lifetime ago, had it really only been a couple of months? It felt like years, a lifetime. Istara snorted silently. In a very real sense, it had been a lifetime ago. She had a new life here… sort of anyway. In their own way, the Jedi were kind. She had always been told that kindness equated to weakness, but she knew better. Some of her former kin were incredibly kind. She bit back a sob as the pain hit her again. She couldn’t go back, not now. And if she left Tython without learning how to defend her mind, she would ultimately face a lifetime of horror. She stood up and grimaced a bit as she stretched. Somehow, while she had been helping Farrah, she had fallen hard and landed at just the right angle to break her wrist. Pain was an old friend however and she used the focus it gave her to move beyond it. Her door chimed and she sat up straight. She wasn’t expecting anyone. Anya had business to do, and she was denied drill until her wrist healed. And even with Jedi healing, that would take at least a day.

“Enter.” The door opened and she shot to her feet as Master Farrah entered. The woman looked…awful, as if she hadn't slept. “Master Farrah…?” her voice was hesitant.

Farrah smiled wanly. “Hello Istara Andal. We need to talk.” Istara hadn’t seen Farrah since she had returned to her body crumbled on the floor. And then Istara stiffened. Farrah had called her by name, that was a first. And the woman’s tone, while still arrogant, was almost kind. Almost.

Istara moved towards the small chiller in her wall. “Can I get you some water, Master Farrah?” Farrah smiled thinly and nodded. Istara poured two glasses and would have picked up both except Farrah frowned.

“Don’t stress the wrist. I can get that.” The glass floated out of her hand and Istara nodded slowly. She picked up her own glass and moved to sit on her bed. Farrah leaned against the wall and took a long sip. Istara took a drink herself, trying to figure out how things had changed and why. Farrah met her eyes and spoke quietly. “I don’t think I will ever like you. But what you did… You knew going in that he would come after you didn’t you?” Istara nodded. “Who was she?” Istara blinked but then sighed. It would come out sooner or later anyway, and at least Farrah was asking somewhat politely.

“She was... Someone I knew. She died in battle almost five years ago. Her name was Jainine.” Farrah blinked in astonishment.

“Jainine Korr, Nia Korr’s mother?” Istara didn’t answer and Farrah nodded. “Keep your secrets. What I need to know is this. Will she come after me again?”

Istara slumped. “I don’t know. I don’t know how you got us out of that. I… I was beaten. I got distracted and they took advantage.”

Farrah nodded slowly and moved nearer the bed. “Your sister is in danger.” It wasn’t a question, but Istara nodded anyway. “What did you sense?”

Istara sighed. “Pain. And an overwhelming feeling of the Dark Side. Almost as if…” She broke off, horrified. She shook her head, trying to dispel the feelings that surrounded her. Farrah flinched back.

Farrah's voice was sharp, but gentle at the same time as odd as that sounded. “Istara, calm yourself. Tython is as secure as anywhere. What did you sense?” Istara shook herself but did as instructed.

When the former Bladeborn spoke, it was quiet and calm. But underneath lay fear. “The last time I felt that kind of thing was in the presence of the Emperor.”

Farrah stared at her. “You… have met… the Sith Emperor?”

She was trying not to sound disbelieving and Istara surprised herself with a laugh. “Yeah, and I very nearly soiled my pants.”

Farrah stared at her and then snorted. “Almost anyone would. I don’t want to know…” Istara stared as the older woman laughed. It was the first time she had seen Farrah laugh, and it was a marvelous sound, happy and carefree. It chased her dread away. Istara found herself smiling. “Better… Ah, Istara… I am sorry. I have been a jerk.” Istara nodded and Farrah snorted. “You were supposed to say ‘no you weren’t’.”

Istara looked up and the Jedi was smiling. Istara shrugged. “I…” Farrah sat down beside her. For a moment, Istara shied away, but then she forced herself to relax. If Farrah wanted to hurt her, the Jedi master could, easily. Farrah waited until Istara had relaxed before speaking. The Jedi met Istara’s eyes and there was a twinkle in them.

“I think we can trade something. You need to learn how to protect your mind better. And I would like to learn some better fighting techniques.” Istara’s eyebrows rose and Farrah raised a warding hand. “I think we can help each other.”

Istara shook her head slowly. “Master Farrah, I am not a Jedi.”

Farrah nodded. “I know. But… I do know what you are. What you will be if no one interferes.” Istara stared at her and Farrah sighed. “I am not an easy teacher. I am on my best behavior because I am apologizing.”

Istara snorted. “And here I thought easy was not for Jedi. And Sith find easy boring. But… I am neither…”

Farrah nodded. “I know. What say you then, Istara Andal?”

Istara looked the other woman in the eyes and saw something there she hadn’t before. Worry, compassion, determination and understanding. She stood up and then, in a graceful motion, bowed formally. “I would be honored.”
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07.01.2012 , 12:07 PM | #5
<A few days later>

Istara hurt in a number of places and she was completely exhausted. But she hadn’t felt this good in a long, long time. She lay on her bed and continued the exercises that Farrah had taught her. As she did, she smiled a bit. The Jedi was still cold, calculating and more than a bit on the arrogant side. But she was also fair, and a much better teacher than Istara herself was. It actually comforted Istara that Farrah was the way she was. There was nothing hidden in the other woman. Farrah gave her stability, someone who didn’t have an agenda. Someone…

Istara snorted and focused on her breathing again. She focused her thoughts on her body, seeing each corpuscle of blood move through her veins. If she could keep her focus tight, there was no space for anyone to break into her mind. And right now, that was the most important thing. She still felt odd things from time to time through the link she had from Setie. So Setie was still alive. The girl was a survivor, no question. She wondered briefly if Ravishaw and his shadowy cohorts were hunting Setie as well and then shook her head. There wasn’t anything she could likely do about it if so. She lost herself in the timelessness of Force.

<not so nearby in the Enclave>

“No.” The word came flat and cold and more than one of the listeners flinched back from Farrah’s word. The Jedi Council chamber went still as the female Master strode towards the door.

Master Melan shook his head. “Farrah…”

But when the human turned back at the door, even he flinched from her regard. When she spoke it was cold and clear. “I have ‘another point of view’ now, Master Melan. If you want to brainwash this woman, you can do it without my help, and you better not let Yeri catch you.” More than one Jedi master flinched anew at that. Yeri had no patience for people who endangered her patients.

Melan shook his head again. “Farrah, no one is trying to ‘brainwash’ her.”

Farrah turned to face him and folded her arms. Her stance, her face, all spoke of disapproval. “You are attempting to coerce her, by means of mental manipulation, to your own point of view. If that isn’t brainwashing, I don’t know what is.”

Another voice spoke up as Master Ashla Ti sat forward in her chair. “Master Farrah, we are trying to turn her from the Dark Side, you of all people…”

She broke off as Farrah's eyes flashed. When Farrah spoke, it was calm, clear and conveyed disgust. “Lie to anyone else as you wish, Seer. Do not lie to me.” She pointed a finger at the Togruta. “You know what she is.” She waved towards Melan. “So does he.” Now she waved to the rest of the room. “Do all of you?” She met the eyes of each one in turn. None spoke and then she sighed. “Fine…” She turned to go.

Melan tried again. “Farrah, be reasonable. She is a threat.”

Farrah turned back and now her eyes were sad. “How many of us are not? If we compel her, against her will, what does that make us?”

Melan shook his furry head, the Bothan’s eyes were just as sad. “I know Farrah, but what choice do we have?”

Farrah shook her head slowly. “So you would act preemptively, because she may become a threat.” Her voice was sad now.

But Melan shook his head. “There is no ‘may’ about it. She will become a threat, unless we head it off.”

But he flinched back as Farrah actually snarled at him. “Did you learn nothing from what happened with Jina?” Everything went still in the room. Jina Darkstorm had been one of the brightest stars of the Jedi order, her lightsaber skills had only been matched by her understanding of the Force and her compassion. The Council had shared visions of horrors in her future and had tried to circumvent them. Only to have the woman flee and vanish so thoroughly as to be untraceable. Even the seers hadn’t been able to find her.

"Jina..." Melan sighed. “No, we did not handle that well, but come on Farrah, you were here for it. You know…”

"Yes, I know." He broke off as Farrah sighed. “I was wrong. We were wrong. What we did spurred it on. Tell me I speak an untruth, seer.” This last to Ashla Ti, who shook her head slowly.

When the seer spoke, it was careful, considered. “Indeed. The visions are becoming clearer. And you know Istara is in them.”

Farrah nodded. “Yes, I do. But if we drug her... Or mentally manipulate her, how is she going to react?” Farrah sighed deeply. “I know I wouldn’t react well to that, what about you?” She looked around the chamber but none of them would meet her gaze. “I will not be part of this.” She started towards the door again and then tensed when it didn’t open. She didn’t turn to face the council. “Are you going to drug me into oblivion too?”

More than one of the council flinched back from her cold tone. Melan finally spoke. “Master Farrah, the council has decided that Istara Andal is a danger. She must be dealt with. With compassion and care.” Farrah turned back and more than one of the council members stiffened as they saw the pain in her features.

“So you will strip her of the Force.” None met her eyes and she shook her head slowly. “You need a unanimous vote. And you don’t have one Melan.”

The Bothan Jedi Master nodded slowly. “Understood. We will seek other alternatives. You understand you cannot speak of this to her.” Farrah nodded, her face a mask now, her Force sense hidden. “Farrah…”

The arrogant female spoke with all her hauteur. “I understand you want to break this woman and discard her. I understand that you do not want the future you and indeed, many of us, have seen to come to pass. I also understand that you are making a serious mistake. You underestimate Istaral Andal at your peril. She is trying to learn our ways. She is trying to be a good person. If you take that from her, take the good from her, what do you leave?” More than one of the Jedi looked at each other and Farrah turned back to the door. This time it opened.

After she was gone, Melan slumped in his seat. “She is right. We need to find another way.” Ashla Ti looked at him and Melan shook his head.

The seer's voice was worried. “Master Melan, do we continue the food the way it is?”

Melan nodded. “It seems to help. To keep her calm anyway. I just hope she understands.” Ashla Ti slumped and Melan nodded. “Yeah, me neither…”
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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:10 PM | #6
<In the quarters Istara was assigned>

Istara sat in meditative posture but she couldn’t get her mind to focus. She opened her eyes and again, her view was draw to the open curtains and the mountain in the far distance. She shook her head slowly. This was ridiculous. It was as if something was calling to her. But that was also ridiculous. She had never been to Tython. Matter of fact… She blinked.

No Bladeborn had ever been to Tython. They were forbidden it of course, the Jedi Enclave on planet making it such a bastion as to be nearly impregnable to Dark Force users. The few assaults that had been made by various Sith Lords had been repulsed, fairly easily by all accounts. But… She thought back to her earliest training. She shook her head slowly. The Bladeborn were forbidden to come to Tython. Absolutely, totally, by Imperial Decree no less. That didn’t make sense. Not that any decree of any kind would have stopped her from seeking help for the girl she had hurt. She had seen Lara a few times since arriving and the girl seemed happy now. Surprisingly, Lara had found an aptitude in the Jedi Service Corps. The Agri-Corp of all things. Coming from a girl who had sworn up and down she was never going to have anything to do with farming again, that was a bit of a shock. But Lara seemed happy. Now if only Istara could emulate her. But she felt melancholy.

So many changes. She had been studying with Farrah for less than a week, but she had already learned a lot. About a whole lot of things. Aspects of the Force she had never had any interest in suddenly were open to her. She focused on healing and divination. Yeri had encouraged her to learn about healing and Nolikas, after some persuasion, had instructed her as well. But… She bit back a sob. She liked Raven. The girl was so… Her door chimed for admittance and she blinked and stood. She sensed Farrah oh the other side of the door and the Master was… unhappy.

“Enter.” She called and the door opened. Farrah came in her face a mask. Istara immediately went to get water for both of them and Farrah smiled slightly.

“Would you be up to take a walk?” Something in Farrah's tone... Istara froze in the act of pouring and then finished. She took one glass to Farrah and kept the other for herself as she contemplated the aspects of that seemingly innocuous question. She sipped as she focused on what Farrah had said and then stiffened just a little. Why would Farrah want to talk out of the room? It wasn’t as if Istara went anywhere unobserved.

She shrugged. “I would like that, Master Farrah. Should I call Anya?” Anya was still technically Istara's guardian, keeper, what have you.

Farrah shook her head. “She will meet us.” At that Istara’s eyebrows rose, but she forced them back down. Something was wrong. Very wrong. Farrah smiled although there was little humor in it. “She is packing us a lunch and Ina is coming. We all need a break from training.” At that, Istara felt her insides freeze. Farrah was just as demanding in training as Istara was. For her to suggest taking a picnic of all things…

Istara nodded slowly, but her mouth quirked up just a bit. “I would be happy to. I get a bit tired of four walls.”

Farrah nodded. “Dress warm.” Then she laid her glass down and was gone. Istara stared after her and then sighed. She went to her closet and started leafing through the robes she had been given. She picked out a set of warm ones and started changing.

What has gotten into her?

<Twenty minutes later>

Farrah led Istara to a section of the Enclave she hadn’t seen before. Indeed, no one sane would let a Sith, even a partially rehabilitated one, near speeders and other means of transportation. But the mechanic in charge of the garage took Farrah’s requisition and handed her the keycard for a speeder. Istara could only follow as Farrah led them towards a large airspeeder. Istara blinked as Anya and Ina came around the vehicle. Both were carrying bundles. Istara moved to carry some of the burden and Ina smiled at her. She smiled back. Without a word all four of them entered the speeder and Anya took the pilot’s position. After a few moments they were airborne.

A few minutes later, Anya spoke. “We are clean.”

Farrah relaxed, but Istara tensed. “What?” The former Bladeborn asked quietly.

Farrah shook her head and spoke just as quietly. “We need to talk to you. As long as we stay close, I can shield everyone from detection and prying. Istara, we need to talk.” Istara nodded. “The Council has been drugging you.” Anya jerked a bit and the speeder jumped in the sky. The Jedi shook herself and resumed flying carefully. Ina looked from her master to the other Jedi, her face a mask of concern. And the face she turned to Istara was worried.

But Istara just smiled. “I know.” Her voice was rueful. They all stared at her. “It didn’t work. I have a very high tolerance to drugs and toxins. Comes from fighting among the Sith.” Farrah stared at her and then shook her head. Istara just sighed. “I don’t blame them, they needed the reassurance of me being calm. And truth be told, I think it might have helped. At first anyway. I needed the calm.”

Farrah shook her head again. “When Master Yeri finds out, there is going to be hell to pay. She doesn’t take kindly to that sort of thing. To my shame, I voted for it at first. But… I cannot now in good conscience allow them to do what they want.”

Istara froze as Farrah’s tone registered. Sorrow. “What do they want?”

Farrah shook her head slowly. “To them, you are a threat.” Istara stiffened. “A potential danger. So… They want to neutralize the threat. Calmly, compassionately. But thoroughly.”

Istara shook her head slowly. “You cannot mean what I think you mean.”

Farrah nodded sadly. “They want to strip you of the Force, permanently. And then sequester you in the Enclave. They think they can protect you from Ravishaw. They are wrong. I know how badly they are wrong, but they won’t listen to me. I have been ‘corrupted’ by you.” This last was in a humorous voice that was somehow totally serious at the same time.

Istara’s voice was scared now. “Why?”

Farrah laid a gentle hand on Istara’s. “It’s all tied up in the history of the Bladeborn.” Istara blinked. That she hadn’t expected. But Farrah was talking again. “Did you know it began here?”

Istara was sure her eyes were the size of dinner plates at that calm revelation. Her voice was hushed when she spoke. “No… No I didn’t…”

Farrah nodded. “It was more than twenty thousand years ago when a series of conflicts began on this world, conflicts that would later be known as the Force Wars…”
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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:13 PM | #7
<Ten minutes later>

The small speeder was utterly silent except for Farrah’s calm voice. Istara sat, her mind whirling as she listened to Farrah. “…and we really don’t know a lot about the whole thing. Much of the history was lost when Tython was devastated. But… One item that was remembered was an order of warriors who fought for Ashla, what we call the Light Side. Warriors who fought with honor. Warriors who called themselves a title that translates as ‘Born of Blades’.”

Istara recoiled as if struck. She shook her head slowly. “You… cannot mean… what I think you mean…” Instead of answering, Farrah handed Istara a datapad. After looking at the Jedi Master for a long moment, Istara activated it. Her jaw fell open as she saw what was on it. “Oh… My… god…”

Farrah nodded. When the Jedi spoke it was sad and old. “So many records were lost. So many things that shouldn’t have been forgotten were. But this survived.”

Istara shook her head slowly and the datapad fell from nerveless fingers. She shook her head. “This… I was always told that with the Force nothing is impossible, but this… this stretches the limits of the probable to the breaking point.” Farrah nodded. As the pad lay face up on the floor of the speeder an image was displayed. A small being in ancient armor. His long ears and brown skin proclaimed who he was. Trugoy, current Grandmaster of the Bladeborn. And the date of the image was over fifteen thousand years in the past. “He is old, but… He is not that old…”

"Istara..." Farrah shook her head. “This is only the most recent image. I have found others.”

"This is not..." Istara exhaled as if punched in the gut. “He is not immortal… He can be hurt…I have see him bleed.”

"I am sorry, Istara." Farrah nodded. “We don’t know what happened. Or why. We don’t know how he has lived so long, or if he has… What we do know… is that the mountain you have seen in your visions is the last place he was listed as being on Tython.”

"I..." Istara licked her lips. “This is… well, thin doesn’t begin to describe this information.”

"Yeah." Farrah sighed. “I know. Which is why our ‘picnic’ is going to be at the ruins on Mount Haklan. Whatever is there is drawing you, breaking your focus. Whatever it is, you need to face it.”

"I know, but..." Istara buried her head in her hands. When she spoke it was small and lost. “I am scared of what I will find.”

Farrah laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. “I know.”

<Thirty minutes later>

Istara helped the Jedi set up the picnic before moving away from them. This place was odd. There was nothing. No noise, no insects, no animals. Nothing. It was as if the whole planet was holding its breath. She looked around again. The ruins stood nearby. What looked to be the foundations of a large house sat in the middle of a small clearing. But she didn’t feel anything nearby. The Force was present, but… It was muted. The trees that surrounded the small clearing were alive and bright, but… muted as well. She heard Farrah calling her name, but that as well, was muted. She walked towards the ruin and stopped in mid stride as something appeared in front of her. The female Twilek form was composed of blue energy. And it held a sword of the same blue energy, but it wasn't a lightsaber!

You!” The spirit screeched as it moved to attack. Istara dodged the the insubstantial sword's attack and then tensed as the spirit drew energy in to strike her with the Force. But before the spirit could attack a voice called out.

“Runta! Cal Jek!” The spirit stopped in mid attack and Istara blinked as the female force ghost vanished. Another blue form appeared before her and Istara relaxed, just a bit, as she saw the concern and compassion on the other’s face. In life, it had been a male human. “Greetings Istara Andal, long have we awaited you.”

"What?" Istara blinked. “You have waited for me?”

The ghost nodded. When he spoke it was sad. “You have to forgive Runta, she has taken the worst of this… half life. We have been here for a long time. And to see someone affiliated with the betrayer, well… It’s enough to drive anyone over the edge. Unless they were already there, like me...”

"What do you mean...?" Istara felt her blood congeal in lumps throughout her body. “The betrayer?” Her voice was quiet.

The spirit nodded again. “You know him as Trugoy. I am Frab, last guardian of the Conclave of the Bladeborn. Welcome, Istara Andal, to our hell…”

<A long, long ways away>

The small brown form of the Grandmaster of the Bladeborn stiffened from his meditation with a shiver. As if someone had walked over his grave…
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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:17 PM | #8
<Tython>

Istara sat in the middle of the ruin, her eyes half closed. The Jedi, after making sure she was okay, had retreated leaving her to sit. They couldn’t see the spirits that surrounded the sitting woman, but they could feel the Force buzzing now, as if in anticipation. It was almost physically painful, the sheer power that radiated in this small ruin. Istara sat as if blind to it. Only the tension in her shoulders showed her true feelings. None of the spirits spoke. She could see at least a dozen of them now.

She shook her head slowly. “I do not understand.”

Frab, the one who had greeted her, spoke calmly. “We know, and there is not time to explain everything. Even now, your pathway twists. So many directions, so many choices. So much pain. Ah, child…” Frab’s voice was sad. “I am sorry. There is so much I want to say, so much to relate, and no time…” Istara looked at him and Frab sighed. “We… We have been here for so long, waiting.”

Istara blinked. “For me?” Her voice was incredulous.

"Yes and no." Frab nodded but then he looked thoughtful. “Not necessarily for you. Not until you arrived on Tython. But we knew that sooner or later someone would come. Someone had to. To hear, to understand.”

"I..." Istara shook her head. “You say you are Bladeborn, but you… I have never heard of… I…” She broke off. Frab didn’t speak and Istara sighed. Then, she changed her stance. From sitting, to kneeling. When she spoke, it was formal, precise and in an ancient language. All three Jedi stared at her but did not interfere. <Guardian, teacher, I seek understanding.>

Frab’s ghost nodded. <What we can give you, we shall. Ask.>

Istara took a long minute to think before speaking. <The Bladeborn Order that I knew is not the only one. Ravishaw’s sect, horrific as it is, is another. Yours is a third…> She broke off as Frab shook his head.

The guardian's voice was soft, but clear. <We are all Bladeborn. Different facets of the same crystal. Or different sides of the same stone.>

Istara nodded. <You were the founding… the origination…>

She blinked as Frab shook his head again. <Many beings came together on this world to find a better path. Scholars, historians, teachers, diplomats, warriors. Some of those warriors founded the Order, and that was centuries before my birth. We studied the blade, to better focus ourselves. Not for the pursuit of power. To use the powers we had been granted to defend, never to attack.>

Istara blinked at that. <Would that make you Jedi then?>

Frab shook his head. <No. The Jedi Order came later. We follow Ashla, what you call the Light Side.> A murmur went up around Istara. It sounded like a chant. She stared around and all of the ghosts were singing. It felt… good… She lost herself in the chant.

<Outside the ruin>

Farrah stood with Anya and Ina, watching as Istara sat singing, surrounded by Light Side energy. Suddenly, it was as if a bright light had appeared inside the ruin. None of them could look at Istara and then, as suddenly as it had appeared, the light vanished, leaving Istara sitting alone. She finished her song, and then slumped. Farrah moved a step closer, and Istara nodded to the Jedi Master.

Istara sounded tired, but she held herself upright in her kneeling pose easily. “It’s done… I…” She slumped again. Farrah moved closer, still wary, but nothing impinged on her senses. Istara sighed. “There is a cave nearby. I need to go there.” Farrah’s eyebrows rose, but she just extended a hand to help Istara to her feet, and then she blinked. The horrible scar on Istara’s arm was gone. Now the skin was pale and whole. Istara looked at her arm, smiled a bit sadly and nodded.

“What happened?” Farrah asked quietly.

Istara sighed. “I know what I have to do now. And no, the Council won’t like it…” Farrah blinked at that, but nodded slowly.

<A few minutes later>

The mouth of the cave was a dark blot in the gathering twilight. Istara stood before it and tried not to curse. It wouldn’t help matters. Anya was upset and Farrah was worried. Ina had elected to remain with the speeder.

Istara spoke softly but clearly. “I have to go in alone. I am sorry… But if any of you come in… Nothing will happen. I have to do this… alone…” Anya looked at Farrah who sighed and nodded. Both Jedi looked at Istara who nodded, relieved, but then Anya released her lightsaber from her belt and extended it to Istara who froze.

Anya's voice was worried. “You may need it.”

"Thank you, but..." Istara looked at the woman she called friend now and shook her head slowly. “Anya, what I face in there… Cannot be fought with a lightsaber… But I thank you.”

Anya surprised herself by giving Istara a hug. The older woman returned it, and then, squaring here shoulders, bowed to both Jedi and entered the cave.

Anya stared after Istara and then turned to Farrah, worry written all over her face. “What will she find in there, Master Farrah?”

Farrah shook her head slowly, and spoke sadly. “Her destiny…”
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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:20 PM | #9
<Inside the cave>

Istara had entered slowly. It was not unheard of for animals of various kinds such as Nexu to make their dens in caves after all, but nothing attacked her. And after the small entrance, the cave opened up quite a bit. But there was nothing to show it was anything other than a cave. She sniffed at that thought. After twenty thousand years, almost anything manufactured would be… She froze in place as something caught her eye. A symbol she recognized. She nodded to herself and bowed formally to the small symbol that was inscribed on the wall. Then she spoke in an ancient language, one that was defunct, supplanted by more modern adaptations. Except among the Bladeborn.

<Loyalty> She turned on her heel and, yes, another symbol was inscribed across the cavern. She moved in front of it and bowed to that one.

<Duty> She felt something twist inside her as she spoke, but she turned again to the next symbol.

<Honor> Now tears were falling, but she ignored them as she continued the ancient ritual.

Three more times, she found a symbol and bowed to it. Loyalty. Duty. Honor. Respect. Vigilance. Prowess. The core precepts of the Bladeborn Order that had trained her. But then, she stopped cold. Another symbol was visible. She blinked at it. This was odd. That wasn’t one that she knew. But… She did… somehow. She bowed again.

<Humility> Something snapped inside her and she turned on her heel, seeing other symbols.

<Courtesy.> Again she bowed.

<Valor.> And again.

< Service.> She was breathing hard now, but controlled it. She turned away from the last symbol and stopped. The symbols had ended, and there was a bare wall. There was something missing, something… off. Then she nodded. She knelt in formal position in front of the wall and spoke softly.

<Sacrifice.> As soon as her voice had quit echoing, a rumble shook the cavern. She tensed, earthquakes underground were no joke at all, but the ceiling remained stable. The rock in front of her split open and a wave of dead smelling air rushed past her. She concentrated on her breathing as the air that had been trapped behind the hidden door for thousands of years rushed out. After a few minutes, the air stopped rushing and she rose to her feet slowly. As she entered, she heard the door close behind her, but her eyes were on what was in front of her.

It was… a tomb. Or a mausoleum. Mummified bodies lay as they had fallen, preserved through time by the sealed environment. Their uniforms and armor were foreign. Their swords were not. All were marked with a symbol she recognized. One that had adorned her own swords. Istara shook her head slowly as she pressed deeper into the facility. Then she stopped in mid stride. Two swords lay near a door. Small swords. Just about the size for a small brown being to use comfortably. They were both broken.

Oh Maker… No…

She entered the room and bowed her head. Inside was a scene of devastation. Bodies lay every which way, all showing wounds from small swords. Tears fell as she walked through the cavernous room. At one end, a dais rose a few feet over the floor. The chair on the dais held a crumbled form. She stopped, drawn by something. And then, she knelt. A female voice came to her.

<Welcome home, daughter.>

She didn’t rise, and her voice was steady when she spoke. <I didn’t know. I…> She broke off unable to continue.

The soft, gentle voice spoke again. <Rise, daughter> She did, and met the eyes of the glowing form of the ghost that now sat in the sole chair on the dais. <There was no way you could have.> Tears were falling now, both physical ones from her eyes and insubstantial ones from the other.

Istara's voice was husky when she managed to speak. <What must I do?>

The ghost smiled gently. “We can use Basic if you wish.” Istara stared at her and she grinned. “Not much else to do, stuck in here for so long. But to learn things.” Istara couldn’t help it, a small laugh escaped her control and her face colored, but the ghost just smiled. “Seriousness has its place, child. But don’t overdo it. Everyone needs to laugh. Emotion is a fact of life. To deny it is to deny life itself.”

Istara nodded. “What must I do? To make this right? I am Istara Andal and I will make this right.”

The ghost sat upright from its slouched position. Through it, the body that bore its face could be seen, barely. “Is this truly what you wish?” Istara nodded silent and the ghost sighed. “So be it. I am, was in life anyway, Lania Potaras, last leader of the Conclave. Until the betrayal. I was the first to die.” Istara stiffened. She knew what she had seen, who had done this. The ghost shook her head. “I didn’t believe when they told me he had fallen. I didn’t trust my subordinates, and we all paid for my lapse in judgment.”

The sorrow in the ancient woman’s words had Istara biting back tears. “He is a consummate liar. You just… believe… what he says.”

"indeed." The ghost nodded, and her own eyes glistened with unshed insubstantial tears. “I can see he hurt you. I am sorry for you.”

Istara nodded slowly. “The betrayal of me, I can understand. Those who follow the Dark are called to betray one another.” The ghost nodded. “I might forgive that, but he hurt my sister… That I cannot forgive.”

The ghost shook her head. “Beware vengeance, Istara Andal. I sense the dark of Bogan in you, but also the light of Ashla. You stand on the line between the two. As did we. And this…” The ghost indicated the strewn bodies that lay all around. “This is what comes of vengeance.”

Istara nodded. “Not vengeance. I know that road. And it only leads to pain. But justice. For the fallen, for my sister, for myself. For the people he has deceived. For the beings I called kin for so long. For you…” She knelt again and this time she spoke in the old tongue again. <I seek understanding.>

A sigh came from the dais. <Then you know what you have to do, daughter.> Istara nodded silently. <You have my blessing to attempt the Trial, Istara Andal. May Ashla guide you on your road.> A loud rumble came from nearby and Istara looked up to see a door opening. She looked back at the dais, but the ghost was gone. She bowed formally to the corpse in the chair.

<I will honor the Code, Revered Mother> Then she stood and walked towards the door. As she did, a voice came to her.

“Istara, no!” She turned to see the insubstantial form of the man she had loved hovering nearby. Her face was impassive as she stared at him and he flushed a bit.

Her voice was cold. “You knew.” It wasn’t a question. Idjit bowed his head. “All this time, all these lives, all this pain and you knew!” The anger in her voice pushed him back a bit.

“He threatened you. He said he would wipe your mind if I told you. To preserve his lies. I… I had no choice.” Istara felt all her breath leave her body. “You know what he can do.”

Istara blinked at that. Then her expression hardened. “This has got to stop.” Idjit looked at her and then, formally bowed to her. She stared at him. Then he was gone. She shook herself, squared her shoulders and walked into the open door.
My stories in order:
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kalenath
07.01.2012 , 12:27 PM | #10
She hadn’t really known what to expect. But whatever she had expected, this wasn’t it. The room was an arsenal. Ancient slug throwing rifles and pistols were racked near the door, but she ignored them. No, what drew her were the swords. They were beautiful. Elegant, and deadly. No frills, no ornamentation. Pure function in steel. She reached out to one to test the balance and then blinked.

Wait…

She slowly withdrew her hand and focused her mind. Why would they have an arsenal as part of a Trial? A temptation. A strong one for one who lived by the sword. She smiled as she opened her eyes and spoke softly.

<No.> The room around her vanished, leaving nothing but bare walls. But… No door. She wasn’t done then. She knelt on the floor and waited. It could have been seconds, or years, but a time later, a voice came to her.

“Hello.” Istara looked up to see, herself. She blinked. The other her wore robes that were vaguely like Jedi attire and carried a sword at her waist. There was a peace about her that called to Istara.

Istara nodded politely. “Well met.” The stranger knelt down before her and nodded back. Istara smiled at the other her. “I assume there is a dark version of me showing up shortly?”

The other woman shook her head. “The only way you are getting out of here, is by defeating me.”

Istara felt the blood leave her face as she considered the other beings words. She shook her head. “I will not fight you. You… I… I cannot do that again. Not again…” The last time she had faced the Trial… She had forgotten. It had nearly driven her mad to cleave herself in half.

The voice of the other was gentle still. “No one said you had to fight me.”

"What...?" Istara looked up at the other woman and there was a small smile on her face. Then Istara’s face cleared and she laughed, a sad sound. “Oh. I am truly an idiot at times.”

"Ah, well..." Now the other Istara laughed. “Everyone is at times.”

An ancient board game appeared between them. One Istara knew well from her time in the Bladeborn. Istara spun it so the other her would have the first move. An honorable choice from the stronger opponent, and the stranger smiled. It was a short game. They were evenly matched. But then, Istara realized something. She could win easily by cheating, or by using other dishonorable tactics. She looked at the board, and then at her opponent. Then, without a word, she resigned the game.

The other Istara smiled widely. “I am well defeated. Honor is more important sometimes than winning.” Then, she vanished. Istara blinked at that. She stood up slowly, ready for anything. Well, anything except…

You!” She spun to see who had shouted at her and stiffened when she saw Ona standing there. The Bothan held a sword and her face was mask of fury. Istara tensed. When Ona raged, which she didn’t very often, everyone in the Bladeborn, from Grandmaster on down, stepped carefully. She was a treasure and a menace. The Bothan snarled at Istara. “You liar!”

Istara bowed her head without a word and knelt. The Bothan’s blade cut through the air nearby, but Istara didn’t move. A slap from the blade hit her on the head, but while her ears rang, she was still alive. Istara spoke quietly. “I didn’t know. I lied, by omission. So, yes, my fault. My blame. My…” The flat of the blade came again and she bit back a cry of pain as she felt her lower left arm break, but she kept talking. “I am at fault. I nearly killed my own mother, and for what? So people could use me as a pawn. They lied to me, used me and then threw me away. I will not be a pawn again.”

"No..." The voice of the Bothan came again. Now it was calm. “No you will not. Duty or Honor, one of the hardest, most bitter choices known. You chose duty. And for that…” The sword whistled again, and Istara didn’t move. But instead of a strike, the flat came down quickly, on each shoulder and then on her head. “You are a true knight, Istara Andal. Rise, and face your next trial.”

When she rose, the room was empty again. Her left arm hung limp, but she ignored it. Then she stopped. She froze solid and tears started falling.

“No…” She darted to the small still form that lay nearby and turned it over. But she knew before seeing what it was. Setusna’s face stared up at her, the eyes unseeing. “No, no, no, Setsuna…” On some deep level, Istara knew this was a test, but she didn’t care. Here was her sister, slain. “I failed you. Everything I tried to help, I hurt. Every time I tried to make things better, I made them worse. Oh, Setsuna, please… forgive me…” She buried her face in her sister’s cold shoulder and wept. A soft voice came from nearby. She looked up to see the form of Mama Lizard standing there.

“Come away, Issstara. Come away.”

Istara shook her head. “I can’t. I can’t let her go. She is all I have left. She is all I am now. All I wanted was to help her and now…”

The Barabel spoke softly. “Thisss isss not your doing. This isss not your fault. You were deceived, betrayed and hurt. And then you were thrown away. Do not trust your eyesss. Trussst your heart. If I taught you nothing elssse…”

Istara nodded slowly and released the small still form and stood. “My heart deceives me. I see good where there is evil, and evil where there is good. I do not know how to see clearly.”

The Barabel smiled a bit sadly. “You have been betrayed. But you do sssee clearly when you allow yourssself to. Sssee then…” Istara blinked as the room suddenly flooded with light. When she could see again, the body and the Barabel were both gone. Standing where the Barabel had been was a small brown form with two ignited lightsabers in hand. She nodded to him and then ignored him.

He spoke. “This is how you repay my generosity. My indulgence. My training , my teaching and my care. With betrayal.”

She met his eyes and stood firm. “You are one to talk of betrayal.” Her words were calm, clear and considered. Her arm hung limp and she was unarmed, but he stepped back from her. She didn’t press her advantage.

He shook his head. “It wasn’t that clear cut. There were choices to be made. Things that had to be done.” Istara just looked at him and wonder of wonders the Grandmaster of the order she had trained in, an always imperturbable face, flushed. She waited and he spoke again. “I made mistakes, yes. I thought I could control my anger. And I failed. My Order, my friends, and myself. Just like you.”

Istara nodded. “One difference between us. I didn’t lie to people because it was easier. I lied to people because I didn’t know any better. And I will fix my mistakes, even if it costs me my life.” She didn’t move as he approached, blades held high. He swung, but then, a blade was in her hand deflecting his attacks. It sang in her hands as if alive. Bones grated in her broken arm, but that didn’t matter. The sabers seared her flesh, but that didn’t matter. She danced, spun, parried and thrust. Every attack he made, she deflected, but she didn’t attack, content to defend herself. He left himself open on several occasions, obvious and not so obvious traps, and Istara didn’t take them.

“Come on, girl, fight. Make this hard!” He chided as he scored a line on her leg, but Istara stepped back.

Istara's voice was calm, clear and matter of fact. “I will not be you. I will not be so self absorbed, so arrogant as to throw people away because it is expedient. I will not lie to people who love me because I don’t want to face the pain of their anger.” Each new sentence drove the small brown form back. “And I will not obey orders blindly ever again, because the ones over me must be wiser than I.” At that, the brown form faded out. The room was clear once more. But the sword remained. She stared at it. It was… beautiful, pure function given form. No frills, no ornamentation. Nothing to say this was anything other than a weapon. but what a weapon... Then she looked at her left arm. Instead of a broken bone poking out of her flesh, a tattoo was visible. A stylized sword. She laid the sword gently on the ground and knelt before it. She spoke to it.

“I am Istara Sharlina Andal, Darkness and Light reside within me. I walk the path between them, between evil and good. To defend, to protect. To maintain the balance. <Loyalty. Duty. Honor. Respect. Vigilance. Prowess. Humility. Courtesy. Valor. Service. Sacrifice. I am Bladeborn.>” She bowed her head again and the Force rang about her like a bell.

<A LONG ways away>

Trugoy came out of his meditation sweating.

“After so long, drat… I had hoped not to have to kill her…”

<Ever further away>

Ravishaw cursed as his power rebounded back on him. “Dratted girl. Oh well, it will be so much sweeter to break her now.” His laughter began a crescendo as he reached for the cringing from before him again and started sucking the life force out of it again. “If harder, and I do like a challenge…”
My stories in order:
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