“Quite A Story To Tell” Short Story
The silence in the room was heavy, until Master Satele placed a worn cup on the table with a soft thud. Steam rose in steady wisps from the fragrant liquid inside. Aryn Leneer sat awkwardly, her hands in her lap as she stared at the drink.
“This tea comes highly recommended from General Daeruun,” Master Satele offered.
“Thanks,” Aryn warmed her hands on the sides of the cup. “I take it that means it’s good?”
The quiet returned, and the former Jedi Grand Master remained standing, her eyes slowly searching Aryn’s face. It made her nervous.
“You can sit too, you know,” Aryn said.
“I prefer to stand,” Master Satele countered. “But,” she continued as Aryn frowned, “if it makes you feel more comfortable, I will sit.”
Master Satele pulled out a chair, and Aryn took a sip of the tea she’d been offered. It was good; really good. And, unexpectedly, it soothed her nerves a bit.
“You probably don’t know much about what I’ve been up to after… after I left the order,” Aryn began.
“I have heard a few things.”
“Right,” Aryn took another long sip of tea. “We live on Dantooine--Zeerid, Arra, and I. We have a farm. It’s peaceful.”
“It sounds wonderful.”
“It is,” Aryn replied. “We don’t see a lot of trouble. So when something is wrong… you notice.”
Another sip of tea; if nothing else, it gave her time to steel herself. Now or never. She had to say it.
“Darth Malgus came to Dantooine.”
The Jedi’s steady gaze didn’t so much as waver. Aryn didn’t expect the notoriously calm Master Satele Shan to cause a scene, but it was unnerving to see no reaction at all. She might as well have said it was starting to rain.
Aryn continued, “I could sense that he was coming, so we got ready. Zeerid locked down the farm, took Arra somewhere safe--”
“And what did you do?”
After Master Satele’s long silence, her question was so sudden that Aryn thought she might fall out of her chair.
“I… I went looking for him. Followed his trail to the only place on Dantooine a Sith Lord would be interested in.”
“The enclave…” Master Satele said, barely above a whisper.
Aryn downed the rest of the tea. She wasn’t sure if it was the drink’s calming effects, or that Master Satele’s stoic veneer seemed to be cracking, but she finally started to feel some confidence in reliving what had happened.
In the same way she could sense Malgus approaching Dantooine before he arrived, Aryn could feel the powerful Force energy radiating from the abandoned Jedi Enclave before it came into view. But as her speeder raced across the grassy plains toward the crumbling ruins, she could sense something else coming from within, a strong presence, entwined with the enclave’s aura, corrupting it…
Aryn maneuvered the old bucket of bolts behind the biggest blba tree she could find and parked it in the shade of the leafy canopy. She thanked the stars for Zeerid, who had put a brand new power cell in it the day before. No chance of getting stranded out there.
She kept her eyes on the entrance to the ruins as she fixed her lightsaber to her belt. The weight of the weapon--and of what it meant to carry it--had become unfamiliar in the many years since she last wielded it. Fending off unruly kath hounds and the occasional thief on the farm didn’t require such a sophisticated weapon. And honestly, she expected--hoped--to never need the lightsaber again.
As she watched the ruins, minutes passed without any sign of movement. Whether Malgus had already accomplished what he came for and fled, or whether he was still inside, Aryn couldn’t be sure. There was only one way to find out.
There were many ways to get into the old enclave, but Malgus, brazen as he was, probably wouldn’t hesitate to stroll right through the front door. Aryn didn’t feel particularly brazen, but she would do the same.
She stumbled into the shadowy enclave from the brightness of midday. Her eyes adjusted to the enclave’s dark hallways quickly enough, but she still kept her hand close to her lightsaber’s hilt while everything around her came into focus. If she was going to do this, she’d do it carefully. She reached out through the Force, but she couldn’t sense anything out of the ordinary--at least, nothing felt different from what she’d been feeling so far. And if an ambush was coming, it would’ve happened by now.
Aryn turned and surveyed the area around her. From the few points of light that filtered through the cracks in the ceiling, she could make out great hulking chunks of fractured stone. Who knew what they might have once protected in here, before they came crashing down centuries ago; now, they only blocked intruders from reaching many forgotten areas of the enclave.
Her gaze settled on one end of the gloomy hallway. A curtain of dust, dancing in a sliver of sunlight, hung in front of an opening so dark, it could only mean that it led further inside.
As Aryn carefully picked her way over the debris littered across the stone floor, she couldn’t stop thinking about the irony of what was happening. How many Jedi would have given their dueling arm for the chance to be here? And here she was--an outcast, a failure--stumbling through the darkness of one of the Jedi’s best kept secrets.
She kept her pace slow. No telling what sorts of things decided to make their homes in here, and from the rustling she heard when she got too close to the walls, she didn’t want to find out. As for what the Jedi left behind, traps, alarms… that was an even bigger mystery.
It didn’t take long before the steady, but faint, sense of Malgus’s proximity suddenly flared up and hit her like a wave. It was almost unbearable as it knocked the air from her lungs. Not only was Malgus still inside the ruins, he was close.
In the murky dark, she heard him before she saw him. The telltale sound of a crystal sparking, igniting a lightsaber’s blade. She slammed her eyes shut and raised her arms over her head, summoning the strongest Force shield she could muster in the little time she had. But the blow never landed…
And there was nothing there when she opened her eyes, only brief flashes of red lighting up the walls in the distance. Whatever Malgus was fighting down there, it wasn’t going down easy.
Aryn picked up the pace. Each of her echoing footsteps was drowned out more and more by the sounds of Malgus in combat. Metal crashing against stone. Humming energy slicing through circuitry. She pulled her own lightsaber from her belt and held the pad of her thumb against the activation switch.
She reached the end of the hallway, where the mouth opened up into a cavernous stone room. She could see the entrances to other corridors scattered around the outer wall. And in the center of the chamber, a commanding tower of might, a shadowed silhouette shrouded by the dark side of the Force… Darth Malgus.
His back was turned, and Aryn ducked behind a jagged section of the tunnel wall before Malgus had the opportunity to spot her. Crouched down in her hiding place, she watched as formidable combat droids--the Jedi’s defenses were still active, after all these years--crumpled like they were made of sackcloth. The droids were swift and brutal, and she couldn’t tell where they were coming from, but it didn’t matter. He ruthlessly cut each of them down just as fast as they came online.
Nothing was slowing Malgus down. With each effortless swing of his lightsaber, each crushing blow from his fist, she could feel it: he was just as powerful today as he had been when she last saw him, decades ago. Back then, she could hold her own against him, but now… there was no way she could defeat him. Not alone.
Slowly, Aryn moved to head back the way she came, bent low and out of sight. But when the small rock she disturbed with her foot clattered loudly--too loudly--across the stone floor, she realized that Malgus’s battle was over. The echo of stone bouncing against stone was deafening, but not as much as the silence that followed.
Aryn froze, except for her hand twitching around the hilt of her lightsaber. She shut her eyes and willed every muscle in her body to be as still as the rock that surrounded her. Her ears strained, but she couldn’t hear anything over her pounding heart.
The sound of searing electricity tore through the air as Malgus’s lightsaber blazed to life. Aryn waited, shallow breaths ticking the seconds by as she weighed her options. If she attacked from this position, the surprise could give her the upper hand. It’d be the hardest fight of her life, but she would be damned if she just let the Sith Lord take her down.
Aryn pushed the breath she’d been holding through her teeth and tightened her grip on her lightsaber until her weathered knuckles turned white. She pushed the soles of her boots firmly into the dirt…
And she ran.
Without looking back, Aryn sliced her arm in an arc behind her, knocking several of the larger stones down into something that resembled a barricade. She thrust her lightsaber’s hilt in front of her as she ran and hit the activation switch, and the blade illuminated the darkened space.
Fighting Malgus would always be a gamble. There was a small--but almost negligible--chance she might win, but Aryn learned from a very young age to trust in her own feelings. And with every fiber of her being, she could feel that if she faced Malgus now, she would never see the sunlight again.
The same sunlight that shone like a beacon at the end of the tunnel.
She stopped suddenly when her feet hit the soil outside the enclave ruins. In the distance, next to the tree where she’d hidden her speeder, a figure was jumping off his own vehicle. Aryn sheathed her lightsaber and ran toward the tree with every bit of strength she had left.
“Aryn!” the figure called out as she entered the shade of the blba tree.
Before she could stop herself, her body collided with Zeerid’s, her arms wrapping tightly around his shoulders.
“What are you doing here?” Aryn asked through her attempts to catch her breath.
Zeerid’s bearded face softened into worry at Aryn’s urgency. “I came to help you. Not like I needed much convincing, but Arra said she’d never forgive me if I let you do this alone.”
“How’d you know where I was?”
“I had a hunch Malgus might be after something in this place.”
“He’s in there. I think…” Aryn swallowed. “I think he knew I was in there, too.”
“What? Is he following you?” Zeerid’s hand flew to the blaster at his hip as he scanned the entrance to the ruins.
“I don’t know,” Aryn replied. “But we’re not sticking around to find out.” She swung a leg over her speeder and started it up, its engine rumbling to life.
“So, what do we do?” Zeerid asked as he climbed onto his own speeder.
Aryn faced the ruins. Malgus’s presence, his pain, his anger, his power… she could still feel all of it so strongly outside the sturdy walls of the abandoned enclave. To defeat him, they would need the only people strong enough to oppose such a force. Unfortunately, the people they needed probably wouldn’t be too happy to see Aryn.
“We go to the Jedi. They’ll know what to do.”
“Are you sure?” Zeerid asked.
“No. But what other choice do we have?”
“I wanted to fight him.” Aryn tilted the empty cup back and forth, rolling the bottom along the wooden tabletop. “Maybe I should have. But deep down, I knew--it was going to take more than one ex-Jedi to stop a monster like Malgus. So, once I got Zeerid and Arra somewhere safe, I came here. I came to you.”
Master Satele’s bright blue gaze remained steady throughout Aryn’s story, but now, just for a moment, Aryn thought she saw something like amusement as the Jedi narrowed her eyes.
“I am glad to see that as you’ve matured, you’ve learned to let a cooler head prevail.”
Aryn folded her hands in her lap and gave a curt nod. Whether Master Satele was offering good-natured ribbing or genuine criticism, Aryn had no desire to be reminded of why she withdrew from the Jedi Order.
“I could feel Malgus’s anger, his frustration, but there was more. It almost felt like he was… confused. Like he knew what he was searching for, but he couldn’t find it.” Aryn sighed. “That’s all I know. I would tell you more if I could.”
“It’s all right. You’ve done well, Aryn. Thank you.” Master Satele stood and crossed to the opposite wall, her back to the room.
“So,” Master Satele began. “How should we handle this?”
Aryn furrowed her brow. “Why are you asking me?” she replied to Master Satele’s back. “This is Jedi business now, and you’re the last person I need to remind that I’m not a Jedi anymore.”
Master Satele turned to face her, her passive expression easing into understanding. “You’re not the only one who relinquished their ties to the Jedi. My role--my place--in the order isn’t what it used to be. If I am being truthful, it’s been different for years, really. But we will all have our parts to play in this, regardless of our standing in the Jedi Order.”
A wordless moment passed, but before Aryn could respond, a cool, clear voice rang out from the door to their meeting room. A young woman with bright red hair leaned against the door’s frame, arms crossed.
“Satele, Sal-Deron asked to see you. When you can spare a moment.”
“What fortunate timing,” Master Satele replied. “There is someone I would like her to speak with.”
The young woman barely spared a glance at Aryn before she turned and left the room.
Master Satele gestured toward the door, her gaze on Aryn once again. “Let’s go together. I know Master Sal-Deron would be very interested in hearing what you have to say.”
Aryn stood and walked a few paces toward the door. “Just ‘Satele?’ Since when are you so informal with other Jedi?”
“Syl is… a complicated student. I try to choose my battles wisely when it comes to her. It seems to help...” Master Satele ushered Aryn into the hallway, closing the door behind them. She walked to the right and motioned for Aryn to follow.
“I mean it when I say things have changed, Aryn, the Jedi Order and many of us with it. Others hold the responsibility that once was mine, and I need you to tell them your story before you return to your family.”
The two walked on. “I understand that the Jedi aren’t what they used to be,” Aryn began. “But things… can’t be that different, can they?”
“Oh, yes,” Master Satele replied, serenely. “But change is one thing that the Jedi have always been familiar with, no matter how hard we fight it. And after all that you’ve shared with me today, I feel that more change is yet to come…”