Disclaimer: Any recognizable names belong to George Lucas. I have no special permission to write this story and am not making any money from it.



Chapter 1

"Two dark jedi died here. They fought each other and neither one walked away."

Obi Wan circled the gaping crack in the floor of the ledge with slow, measured steps. His clipped voice sounded curiously blank and his hazy- blue green eyes seemed to see but not see. He did not look into the liquid blackness of the cave. The stones at the edge of the cave's mouth where cold, bare, and seemed to swallow the sounds of the Padawan's footsteps.

"That was over a thousand years ago. Then for five hundred and seventy two years one of the Sith codices was hidden deep down in the cave. Eight hundred years ago a student from Ryloth fell to the dark side. He was attracted to the energy in this place. He lived here until the Jedi flushed him out." Obi Wan looked back towards Qui Gon, who stood a few paces away. "Can't you see it?" He asked, earnestly and a little disbelieving.

Behind him the cliff face reared up for miles above the wide stone ledge they stood on. The splintered, reddish gold stone behind him was covered in hardy, multicolored lichen that thrived on the dry windswept canyon walls. It was splashed across the stones like wild colorful graffiti, gray- green, vivid purple, ash blue, sulfur yellow, or blood and rust red. They gave the air a dusty organic smell that mixed with the scent of sun beaten stone, and the sharp sweet smell of tuffa grass that drifted down from the plateaus.

Qui Gon smiled indulgently at his apprentice for a moment, but his eyes looked as deep and solemn as winter twilight. "No, but I can sense the wreckage of it." He crossed his arms over his chest, carefully rubbing his shoulders as if they ached. "It makes me feel like an old man on a cold night."

They were in the canyonland plains of Ferrio's Southern continent. The vast sea of eerily blue green grassland was so heavily carved with canyons that from the air it looked as if a vast irregular net had been laid across the plains. Rivers great and small, silver, blue, brown, red, and green, flowed through the land like veins. They had etched the towering canon walls out of red rock long ago, creating a tight fitting mosaic of plateau islands and making one county essentially into two.

One was a horizontal country, or rather two horizontal countries thousands of vertical meters apart. This was the plains with their tuffu grass like blue green fur and herds of bounding krishka, or with fields tended by ponderous insectile droids and home to less wild herds of banthas. There was also the web of rivers that were still cutting the canyons deeper. They flashed translucent turquoise blue in the sun as they made there way through the savanna, sometimes forming waterfalls or deep pools. Dunes and flats of rusty sand flanked the rivers, and there were velvety oasis meadows where springs welled up.

Then there was the vertical country; the craggy canyon walls themselves, covered in dry vertical forests and Ferrio cities, worn into pillars, crags, slot canyons, and arches. The canons hung between the lush grassland plateaus that spread over them like a ceiling, and the rivers that rolled under them like a floor.

Between the canyon walls there were sometimes grassy tablelands that were neither part of the plains, the river, or the canyon walls. And everywhere, from the sandy riverbanks to the high ramparts of the canyons, there were ledges, crevasses, and winding caves.

But none quite like this one.

Obi Wan shook himself, withdrawing from the past. "Yoda took me to a place like this once. He called it a test, a dark mirror, a lesson. What I saw there . . . it wasn't pretty," Qui Gon saw him frown slightly, still ashamed at having the potential darkness in him revealed all those years ago. He felt sorry for his sometimes overly driven apprentice. When a master sent a student into a dark side vergence, the student was usually not meant to succeed, but to learn a hard and vital lesson about themselves from the failure, a lesson that might well save them from darkness. He would explain that to Obi Wan tonight, he decided, during the instruction he would need to give about this particular vergence. "but any harm I came to came from myself. I sense nothing different here. A history of hate, anger, and fear, leaving behind malevolent energy."

"But the Jedi here report something that is capable of attack."

"Is that possible?"

"What was one of your first lessons in the force, Obi Wan?"

"That the word impossible is dangerous."

Qui Gon nodded. "Look deeper." He took a low, almost purring tone that had the effect of a meditation bell on his apprentice, prompting him to focus and leading the way into the Force. "Look past your own perceptions. Do not let your expectations obscure the truth."

Obi Wan shut his eyes and focused, all the soft edges in his face tensing in single-minded attention. He struggled to open far seeing eyes, tracing the tangled lines of hate and fear back through the years, the centuries, the millennia. They spread out far like the root of a diseased tree. Obi Wan thought he saw something, a pattern, a whole out of the threads, but . . . . It was no good, the vision slowly but surely fragmented. Coming away from the Force he opened his eyes and stared at Qui Gon. Qui Gon regarded him expectantly, and in a quiet way, pleased.

"I almost saw something more, but it . . . obscured itself, vanishing the moment I looked directly at it. How can I see the whole?"

"Tell your story when we reach the temple. Those who experienced it can best tell us what we are dealing with." He looked around, wary, thoughtful, as if scenting the high winds that washed through the canyons and over the ledge. "I am beginning to think this place may be as dangerous as the Temple Master said it was."

He turned away from the cave and started walking in the direction of the temple.

"Master, why did they send us here?"

Qui Gon stopped. He narrowed his eyes for a moment in thought. "I have . . . experience in such matters." He said pensively after a moment had passed. "Let's go, Obi Wan. I don't like it here."

Obi Wan followed Qui Gon across the lichen carpeted ledge and up the trail a ways to where there transportation, a feline beast of burden called a Kybus, was tied to a sturdy tree. The animals were widely used to navigate the high and remote canyon trails, and none of them would go too near the cave. It was huge and striped, more than twice Qui Gon's height, bizarrely graceful with long gangly legs, an S curved neck, and a tapering reptile-like tail. There was more than enough room for the two Jedi to ride double on its long back.

In a contemplative mood, still searching his feelings about the vergence, Obi Wan began to undo the animal's tether. He tensed and nearly drew his lightsaber as something shoved him hard between the shoulder blades. As he spun around the Kybus craned its neck down to Obi Wan's level and gave him another affectionate nudge with its velvety muzzle, nearly knocking him off his feet.

"Easy. . .easy." He coaxed, shoving it away from him with both hands. The Kybus made a good natured hissing sound and shook its mane. It swung its head around and commenced to enthusiastically lick Obi Wan as though it thought he was in desperate need of a bath.

"It likes you." Qui Gon commented, absolutely straight faced, as his apprentice attempted to fend the creature off.

"I'm so honored." Obi Wan said sponging Kybus drool off his face. He gave the Kybus a look of almost contained disgust before barking a command for it to go down on its forelegs so they could mount. He boosted himself into the saddle as Qui Gon checked the harness, loosening a few straps and buckling others tighter. Once he was satisfied he mounted, took the rains and urged the proud looking creature to its feet. Obi Wan dug his boots into the stirrups and held on tight as Qui Gon guided the Kybus up the steep trail that led to Ferrio's Jedi temple. Although not native to Ferrio, the animals had evolved in the mountains, and were built to climb. It was very sure footed, but its long legs gave it a rolling, swinging gait that Obi Wan supposed was actually rather relaxing, if you took care not to get pitched off.

The Kybus climbed the trail quickly without much encouragement from Qui Gon, as if it was also in a hurry to get far away from the cave. Kybus were not self aware, but they were fairly intelligent as animals went, and one didn't necessarily need to be a Jedi or even sentient to realize that something was very wrong in a place the dark side gathered. And their mount wasn't the only one that noticed the darkness of the place. As they rode up the twisting rocky trail they occasionally passed bantha bone landmarks that the locals had built. Pillars of pale curving-horned skulls had been spiked on tall stakes set on both sides of the trail.

After about an hour the trail cut into the cliffside started to get narrow and then petered out entirely. Qui Gon looked up, scanning the rock face that loomed above them. Not again, thought Obi Wan with resignation as he gripped the leather straps on his saddle even harder.

"Hup." Qui Gon muttered to the Kybus and chucked the rains.

In one huge leap the three-ton animal flung itself and its two riders almost twenty feet into the air and clung to the cliff side. Then, its long limbs spread out across the rock like a spider's on a tree trunk, it began to climb. It looked ungainly, but its flexible paws and hooked retractable claws found a strong hold in even the smallest crevices. Qui Gon steered the Kybus up the wall of the canyon with the exact expression of unfazed concentration you would expect of someone maneuvering a speeder out of a complicated Coruscant traffic jam. The Jedi do not seek adventure Obi Wan thought, looking down past the Kybus's swinging tail to the flashing braided chain of rivers miles below, but sometimes they get it anyway.