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.

Author's Note: Well, this is the last, chapter. Thanks so much to everyone who reviewed and gave me the motivation to finish my editing. I hope the ending doesn't disappoint anyone, since it was the most difficult part to write, (hence the delay) and I'm still not 100% sure I go it right.

Chapter 7

A chorus of hate filled the air. Insane throbbing screams, abyssal moans, screeches that writhed and twisted like serpents, whispers thick with the cold cunning of the dark side. Ancient, amplified, and given malevolent rhythm, they rose around Qui-Gon like a garden of poisonous plants sprouting. The multitude voices of the vergence rang out of the cacophony, cruelty, fear, and lust for vengeance that had outlived the beings they had consumed.

Qui Gon gathered himself against the threatening cries, and continued meditating. They where just a distraction, the way his own mind could be if he allowed it to get in the way of the Force and the intuition it gave him.

Suddenly the room fell dark; he was struck blind. Unable to see, Qui Gon cocked his head, listening, as he felt the voices crushing close around him. He felt shadowy presences moving in the Force, as thick as the crowds of Coruscant. He imagined red outlined shapes drifting through the murk around him, sometimes drifting through him. This is not me, he though when the darkness made him shudder. He was a center for the dark side, intimate with it but not a source of it. The cave had not been evil, just a possessed place of weathered stone, and he contained his own spirit of light as well as the demon.

But then he started to feel a profound rending deep inside. He sank deeper into the Force, trying to center, but the dark spirits wrapped around him, not trying to destroy him now, just *tearing.* Qui Gon's senses snapped like threads, and the thing forced him from his body. He began to rise with the phantom voices up into the ceiling of deep space. Fevered and obsessed they worked their way into his brain and grew, and grew, and grew.

Qui Gon fled, unable to help himself, harried, hounded through the void of space. Stars, cold, hard, distant sparks whose light burned him, swept by like dust in the wind. The stillness and life he had practice was a mocking hallucinatory memory now, drowned out in the howl of a rabid beast. The only other thing that remained to him was a bottomless and final emptiness that he loved, and hated, and that drove him on to the deep spaces between the lifeless stars and worlds beyond the galactic rim. This, he knew in his heart, and in time his helpless, punished mind also came grasp it, was the madness that Dark Lords of the Sith came to when they died, as surely as Jedi joined the Force. But he was no child of darkness. These two revelations woke him from the nightmare, began to ease the torment, and slow his cursed wandering. He came back to himself and stopped, anchored in the cords of resonant energy between the stars.

The voices now had faces, bodies. They gathered around him in a thick swarm that blocked out the stars, their faces blank and insentient. Dark Jedi. Darksiders who lived for rage but couldn't touch the force. Light Jedi who had not fallen, but who had left the imprint of their fear and anger in the cave. Kray and Mang standing together, frightened and shadowed.

And then Qui Gon saw himself emerge from out of the massed ghosts, darker and more solid than any of them. His robes were black and hung off his gaunt body. The apparition stared at Qui Gon its narrowed eyes like the raw edges of blued steel vibroshivs.

"Pure Jedi." it growled. Qui Gon didn't know if he was really capable of that tone of joyous contempt, but he truly hoped he wasn't. "You are worse than dark. The darkness disdains you, but it follows at your side. You will not fall, but you bring darkness crashing down on all around you. In time you will see this to be true. You are our storm bringer, Master, and always will be."

"No." Qui Gon suppressed a deep shiver. The apparition lied, the dark side was ever deceptive, but he felt an innate sureness that this lie pointed out a path to a very dark truth. "No. The hate, fear, and anger of others cannot come from me. Everyone makes their own choice. It cannot even come from you. The Force itself has no more darkness than light, sentient beings create it, gather it. Those beings that created you are long dead, and you can not outlive them." Qui Gon spread his arms wide encompassing the many manifestation of the darkness. The figures were fading, the evil melting away like it should have naturally. "This is an illusion, the shadow of a ghost."

The voices were all gone now, the echoes dead, the faces that went with them faded into oblivion. Only Qui Gon's dark reflection remained. "I," it said solemnly, "am very real."

The reflection actually seemed to get clearer, taking on a depth it had not had before. Before it had been the face and voice of the demon, but now it was truly what it appeared to be. Qui Gon's dark side, the potential for evil that lived in him. Qui Gon, his eyes mild and deep, stared into its empty ones.

"You are mine. Come back to me," he said, and grabbed his shadow self hard by the shoulders. It was even more horrible than letting the vergence attack him, touching this cold, dirty, sly, and vicious thing, because it was real, and it was him, and he could become it. But it *was* his and he had power over it. He held on, and he gradually felt it dissolve back into mere potential. A potential he had dedicated his life to never realizing. Qui Gon was exhausted and everything was fading, but he knew his task finished, and he was drifted slowly back to flesh and blood.

Whether he had sleepwalked out to the terrace or gotten there some even stranger way, Qui Gon would never know. But when he opened his eyes he was sprawled out on the flagstones overlooking the desert. The air was cool, the sand far below was dull, dun, gray in shadows, the brightest stars were still shining in the sky, and the sun was just beginning to come up and throw a film of golden light over the cold, rough, gray stone he lay on. Aching from lying out there for at least a night and fighting the demon he gathered himself into a sitting position as more light spilled over the horizon. Truly he didn't know how long he had been there. It could have been the dawn of time in the empty desert and green island. It could be a billion years in the future with all sentient life but him faded away into the clear vast space around him.

* * * * *

Qui Gon stepped off the public transport at Coruscant's central spaceport, and walked home to the temple. All through the day, the color of the temple's surface shifted with the color of the sky, lavender at deep dawn and dusk, gray under clouds, golden in hazy afternoon, and blinding white and silver at clear midday, symbolizing the building's affinity with the light that played over it. Now it was rose-toned in the early sunset. Qui Gon waited for a moment before entering. His eyes wandering up over the shining layers on layers of pyramidal terraces, the graceful, monolithic five towers, the elegant lines of architecture designed to foster quiet contemplation and peace. But still he hesitated, unwilling to enter.

He wondered why. Had he really been cleansed of the demon, or did he no longer feel it because it had conquered him completely? He remembered what the demon had said in his own voice, how it had seemed to mark him as its own. If he walked into the temple right now would he be bringing the dark side into the heart of the Jedi? Never, he told himself. Never. If he had failed and the darkness of the vergence was now a part of him, best go in self imposed exile. But the feeling of being clean of the shadow was so true it was hard to deny. Deep down he was as sure of it as he had been when he awoke from his vision.

Since his knighting, the Temple Master was only the seventh person to sneaking up on Qui Gon completely without his knowledge. "Thank you, Teacher." He turned to see her walking along the sunset-dyed temple wall towards him, staff in hand.

The End