|Jihad Trilogy: Crimson Mountains
Author: Matt Guthrie PM
Sequel to Blood of Innocents. There's a Blood of Innocents summary inside in case you haven't read the prequel. The fight for religious freedom on Kamme, the planet of my creation, moves to the mountains. Also, an OC and an obscure canonicial character fall for each other. T for intense, sometimes bloody violence and mild language. This one's more diverse than the prequel.Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 13 - Words: 22,760 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 08-16-12 - Published: 04-11-12 - id: 8014992
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hi girls/guys. It's Matt again, with my longest Jihad Trilogy chapter to date. This one's around three thousand words long. My chapters in all of my projects almost never reach that length. I'm very pleased with the end result.
And for those of you who might not be familiar with Star Wars terminology, Seth did not almost say the b – word at the end. He was about to say, "bantha". I don't think the b – word we all know exists in the Star Wars universe.
I saw the Avengers in theatres of Saturday. All I have to say is his: I've never seen a single movie that was anywhere near as breathtakingly awesome as that one. You guys absolutely should go see it when you get the chance. If you've already seen it, then see it again. It's that good.
Enjoy the chapter.
Seth opened his eyes slowly. He craned his neck to the left, then to the right. Every inch he moved caused him pain. No wonder I'm in a medical facility. Again.
He was lying down on a rather uncomfortable bed in a small, white – walled room. A sink, counter, and durasteel chair were the only other articles of furniture in the room. Even with just those three things, the place felt cramped. The only cure to the claustrophobia induced by these confines was the mirror hanging from the roof.
Seth stared at it for a while and saw what bad shape he was in. His chest was marred with one gruesome cut that had a large patch of synthflesh over it, and several smaller cuts and bruises. His face was also cut in a few places. These injuries were not as gruesome as he had sustained when he fell through the escape pod windshield the day he arrived at the planet, but they hurt worse. He felt as though someone had just crashed a hovertrain on top of him.
"Have you had enough?" He asked himself. "Are you dead yet?"
"No, you're very much alive." Darra replied as she entered the room and sat down at the chair, pulling it closer to the bedside. "How do you do it?"
"Survive all these falls. You keep nearly getting yourself killed. But you always seem just fine a few hours later. How do you do it?"
"I don't think I do the surviving part on my own." Seth began. "I guess my survival and sheer dumb luck is really the Force's way of telling me that there's more I need to do here. If I were meant to die any of those other times, I would have.
"As for the being okay just a few hours later, I do that on my own. I use the force to heal myself from minor injuries like broken bones. I can't heal myself from anything life – threatening. If it gets to one of my organs, I'm likely dead. But I didn't take any organ damage, so I'm fine."
"He's alive!" A shrill voice could be heard from just outside the room. Seth recognized it immediately.
"Oh no, not her!" He groaned as seventeen – year – old Leari Pitki, the General's daughter, came into the room. She beamed at Seth and practically threw herself on top of him.
"How did you survive that fall? Do you feel better now?" She bombarded him with questions as Seth groaned again.
"Um…Yeah, it's good to see you, too." He croaked, doing his best to make himself sound less annoyed than he was. He turned to Darra and pleadingly whispered, "Help me! Please!"
Darra was visibly irritated with the interruption, and was more than happy to oblige. "Get off of him. He's still recovering." She told Leari. The General's daughter ignored her. Did she just hug him tighter? "Really, get off of him. He broke a lot of bones in that fall. Besides, I think your father wants you to check in on the other wounded soldiers.
"Huh? Oh…Right, I forgot." Leari blushed furiously and left the room in a hurry.
"So I see you've made a friend." Darra observed on a somewhat snide note.
"Uh…She's not my type." Seth replied. He changed the topic quickly. "Where are the others?"
"Masters Niitterro and Kenobi are both in the city right now. Anakin's with them. The other three, including my master…" Darra's face fell. "They're missing in action."
Seth was immediately hit with a very strong pang of sympathy for her. He understood that Soara was basically the mother Darra never knew. He had always been somewhat envious of the fact that they were as close as they were. His own master tended to leave him behind on most missions, and hardly even spoke to him. He was largely left to himself, which sometimes could be nice, but often only served to make him feel lonesome.
"She'll be back, Darra." He said, placing a comforting hand on her shoulder. "Don't stress yourself out too much. The last thing I want is for you to end up like me."
Darra nodded in understanding. She knew exactly what Seth had gone through over the past decade – Emotional hell. He had lost his entire family, as well as his first master, who had been like a father to him. She, on the other hand, had not yet dealt with that sort of trauma. At least for now, she was one of the fortunate ones.
Lache entered the room at that time. "Oh, there you are." He said to his sister. "Are you ready to go?"
"Go where?" Seth asked, getting up from his bed and tugging on a tight, black, long – sleeved shirt.
"I was going to show my sister around the cities. Henles is showing the others around, but I wanted to give my sister the tour. She and I have a lot of catching up to do. It's been fourteen years, you know." He paused. "But you're welcome to come along, too, if you can walk."
Seth walked across the room with little difficulty and no assistance. "Well…I can walk."
Lache's sunken brown eyes seemed to bulge out of their sockets for a moment. "How did you recover from that fall so quickly?"
"I can use the force to heal myself from injuries as long as they're not life – threatening. It's very practical, and a lot quicker than, let's say, a few hours submerged in a bacta tank." Seth explained.
"What I would give to be able to do that…" Lache said distantly. He had always been in awe of the Jedi, and was more than a little giddy when they first showed up on the planet. "Anyway, we need to get going. I'm supposed to check in at the barracks in Tamniemi at 22.00 hours."
The three of them spent much of the rest of the day touring the twin cities of Marahti and Tamniemi. The Jedi were going to need to know their way around both if they wanted to properly defend them. The cities were laid out much more simply than Seth and Darra expected.
Marahti was the most industrial of the cities, and as such there were factories just about everywhere. The acrid smell of smoke hung in the city's air, which discouraged the city's population. Lache explained that only a few thousand people actually lived there. Most of them were factory workers and foremen who received little income for back – breaking, and in the case of the foremen boring, work. They lived in the diluted housing district of the city in the north. The bulk of the remainder of the city was made up of undeveloped land.
Tamniemi was slightly more appealing. It featured an upscale downtown district in the very center, with suburbs at all four of the city's corners. The military academy was on the eastern side of the city, facing in the direction of the Cleansing's territory. The north, south, and west areas of the city were all made up of slums – Stomping grounds for the warring human and Twi'Lek gangs who ravaged the city from within little by little. Seth was shocked to hear that gangs could be senselessly killing each other over turf when there was already a violent religious jihad going on.
"We need to meet those gangs and convince them to focus their attention on the Cleansing." He said. "I don't understand how they could possibly get their priorities so inverted." Darra nodded in agreement, swallowing a spoonful of soup. They were having dinner at a casual restaurant in Marahti's downtown area.
"Pitki's tried that." Lache replied. "They never listen. In fact, they…"
"Are you three ready for me to take your bowls?" The waiter asked when he arrived at their table. Lache turned to Seth and Darra to see if they were finished with their food. When they handed their empty bowls and spoons to the waiter, Lache followed suit and paid for it with forty – five lappalli – the native currency of Kamme. "Thank you sir. Have a nice evening." The waiter said courteously.
"My pleasure." Lache replied, getting up from his seat at the booth and making his way out of the restaurant. Seth and Darra followed him.
"Thanks for buying dinner for us." Darra thanked her older brother. "The soup was really good."
"Yeah, thanks." Seth agreed.
"Glad you liked it. It's the best soup you can buy on a tight budget like mine."
Lache hopped into his civilian snowskimmer – A vehicle very similar to the military ones, but with a lower top speed and no built – in guns. Darra took the front passenger seat while Seth got the back to himself. Lache turned his vehicle on and saw that it was 18.30 hours.
"I've still got some time before I need to go to the barracks. You want me to show you one more thing before that?"
"Sure, why not?" Seth replied.
"We'd love to." Darra added in agreement.
"Okay then. Close your eyes and don't open them until I say we're there."
The two Jedi – in – training looked at each other, shrugged, and closed their eyes. A short period of silence passed before Darra asked Lache a few questions.
"Where are our parents, Lache?" She asked him. "Do you know?"
"I haven't had any contact with my parents in four years, Darra. Not since the day before I left Alderaan."
"Why, what happened?" She asked.
Lache hesitated to answer. "I don't want to talk about it right now. Sometime later, I'll explain it to you, but right now, I'd rather not. Family problem." He pointed over his shoulder to Seth. "He doesn't need to know."
"Hey, I heard that." Seth said casually. He seemed somewhat indifferent to the knowledge of Lache's old domestic situation. He understood that it was likely none of his business, so he did not press.
Darra did not press the topic any further, either. Instead, she just sat back, kept her eyes closed, and thought. She found herself thinking about what Seth told her at the medical center. The last thing I want is for you to end up like me. He's hardened by everything he's been through. It haunts him and he's hardly ever happy. Who can blame him? But he cares about me and doesn't want me to go through any similar trauma. I love him, he's so…Wait, did I really just think that?
She continued to think about this for the rest of the ride. She tried to convince herself that she did not love him that way, but could not seem to do it. She kept remembering the other night in the tent, when Seth had comforted her after the massacre at Kokka. Darra had seen horrible atrocities – Arson, vandalism, infanticide, merciless slaughter, and other terrible crimes that she had only heard about in limited detail before that night. It had been like living in a nightmare from which she could not wake up.
But Seth had talked to her, and encouraged her to carry the memory of the dead by fighting to defend what was left. He also told her something that she had never been able to get out of her head: "And everything you saw tonight, I'm not going to let happen to you. I swear upon my father's grave that none of it will happen to you." Those words gave her a feeling of security that nobody else had ever given her. Not even Soara, who was like a mother to her. Maybe I really am falling for him.
Eventually they arrived at their destination. "Okay, you two can open your eyes now." Lache said to the two padawans.
Seth and Darra opened their eyes and were amazed by what they saw. On top of the plateau upon which they stood was a staggeringly tall obelisk made of thick durasteel. It reached out to the skies, towering hundreds of meters over the heads of the many people around it. The square base seemed to gradually get thinner until the corners all converged at the very tip of the structure. Several verandas could be seen on the outside.
"The Obelisk of Hope," Lache began. "Was built several decades ago by some of the planet's most brilliant architects. This was when the Cleansing got started and began with riots rather than all – out warfare. The Obelisk was built during these difficult times to represent hope for a better future. A generation after its completion, things have gotten worse."
"But you still believe that things will get better, right?" Darra asked him.
Lache remained silent for a while. An expression of determination formed on his roughly square face. "Yes. I do believe. I vowed upon arriving here that I would do everything within my power to help make things better for these people, and I don't intend to go back on that promise."
Seth walked over to a mural that was painted onto the left side of the obelisk. It depicted an elderly man with long, gray hair and a fuzzy beard standing on top of a mountain. He was clad in the standard, tan and brown robes of a Jedi. His lightsaber remained clipped and deactivated to his belt. A small plaque in front of the mural was engraved with the following text. Inside this monument lies Polaris Socrates Kothrys. A.K.A. Polaris the Wise, aged 66.
"My great – grandfather was buried here?" Seth asked in bewilderment. "But he was a Jedi. Jedi aren't buried. They're cremated."
"Actually, Polaris' dying wish was to be buried here. He died on this plateau in combat with a young Cleansing sergeant. He wanted to be laid to rest among the people he had saved several times throughout his life. He loved this place." Lache explained. "I can show you to the casket, if you want."
"That'd be great." Seth replied.
Lache, Seth, and Darra all entered the obelisk. Lache led them straight ahead down a brief corridor and into a dark room that was completely barren except for Polaris' casket. The casket was relatively long, made to accommodate Polaris' tall form of nearly two meters. It was made of polished wood imported from Kashyyyk. A small podium at the head of the casket was engraved with Polaris' name and lifespan.
Seth placed a hand on the smooth, wooden casket. He never expected to be at his great – grandfather's grave. He had heard that he was a very wise and noble man – He had read records in the Jedi Temple library about him. Polaris had been very different from his son and grandson.
Polaris left the Jedi Order somewhere in his late thirties to be with his wife and to protect the Kammeans. Shortly after he departure, his son, Orion Cassius Kothrys, was born. The infant was discovered to have a connection to the force and was taken to the temple for training.
However, Orion turned out to be a very dangerously tempered fighter who had failed his training and fallen into darkness around his late teen years. He served a stint in a Coruscanti detention facility before breaking out. He was killed at the age of twenty – six, but not before fathering a son, Julius Attila Kothrys, Seth's father.
"Do not worry, my ancestor." Seth spoke softly. "I will not allow myself to end up like your son, my grandfather. I swear to you I will do whatever I can to make this planet that you loved a much better place for the survivors."
The next several moments passed in stoic silence. Seth's face was drawn into the look of absolute determination that Darra had gotten so used to at times like these. He had made an oath to his deceased great – grandfather, and he had no plans to go back on his word. Seth was not one to do that.
"So…We're on a bit of a time crunch now, so we should probably get back to the city." Lache said.
"Right. Let's go." Seth agreed, opening the door and motioning for Lache and Darra to proceed before him. Before he himself left the room, he cast one last, meaningful look at Polaris' casket. I know you would be ashamed of the decisions made by my father and grandfather. I won't go down their path. I promise.
By 21.30 hours, Lache had dropped them off inside an apartment complex, in front of a door labeled 409. "409 is considered to be a lucky number on this planet." He explained. "We usually reserve rooms with that number for Jedi assigned here."
"We appreciate it." Seth replied.
"Yes, thank you." Darra added.
"Glad to hear. Now I need to get to the barracks in half an hour if I don't want kitchen duty tomorrow, and the traffic is terrible this time of the night. I'll see you two tomorrow, hopefully." Lache gave his sister a quick hug and left.
"Yeah, we'll see what we can do." Darra replied. But Lache did not hear her.
Seth and Darra walked through the door to see the interior of the place where they would temporarily stay. They saw that it was strikingly similar to the apartment in Meekku where they had stayed their first night on the planet. There were two small bedrooms, each with its own refresher. The kitchen was adjacent to the bedroom on the right, and there was a veranda opposite of the entrance to the apartment. The only difference between the two apartments was the addition of a small anteroom next to the veranda that had a couch in it and not much else.
"Oh, you two are back." Seth's master, Kammean native Lija Niitterro, was there to greet them. "What did you find out about the cities that we don't know?"
Seth and Darra told her everything. They mentioned the poor living conditions of the workers in Marahti, and they discussed the gang situation in Tamniemi. The latter seemed to be their main concern. That was especially true with Lija.
"We need to visit the slums tomorrow." She said. "We need to make them realize how wrong their priorities are."
"Yes master." Seth agreed.
"But right now, we all ought to get some sleep. Darra's staying with me. Seth, I'm giving you a choice between staying with Obi – Wan and Anakin or taking the small anteroom."
Just like her to send me away as if I'm some kind of inconvenience. "I'll take the anteroom. I generally prefer to be alone."
"Suit yourself." Lija replied simply, leaving for the bedroom on the right.
Darra yawned next to Seth. "I'm going to bed. Good night."
"Yeah, good night." Seth returned.
However, neither one of them moved at first. They just stood there in the entrance, staring at each other. Then, suddenly, Darra wrapped her arms loosely around Seth and kissed him on the cheek.
Seth's mind went into a state of shock. For about a minute after Darra left for the bedroom she was sharing with Lija, Seth was unable to speak, or even move. He could only stand there, staring blankly at the wall. What just happened took much longer than it usually would to sink into his mind.
But soon, he snapped out of this trance and realized that he probably looked like an idiot just standing there with his jaw gaping open. With an annoyed grunt, he left for the anteroom, wondering why he suddenly felt as though he could take on the galaxy's entire population of rancors with his bare hands.