The Empire's grip is firm across the galaxy. Sheev Palpatine, the Emperor of the Galactic Empire, and his subordinate, Darth Vader, rule the galaxy with an iron grip. Under immeasurable numbers of stormtroopers, planets are subjugated and policed. The threat of the Imperial fleet, containing vast numbers of Star Destroyers with the firepower to turn the surface of a planet into molten slag, keeps most planets firmly under the Imperial thumb. Sinister dealings run almost unopposed in the Empire as those with Force sensitivity are forcefully taken from their families, never to return or heard of again. This period is known by many as the Dark Times.
Yet despite the domination of the Empire, individuals rebel.
Here's the story of one who would soon come to rebel.
Planet: Verdanth. Year: 8BBY
The trees were always giant, reaching up to at least a hundred feet in the air. Their branches were so entangled one could easily walk across with their full body weight in certain areas. The wildlife under the jungle canopy contained few predators, mostly herbivores and the rimebat that was a major export of the planet. The flora of the jungle was beautiful and bountiful. Many trees produced fruit in the limbs. He loved the noreages the most when he bit down on them and they burst in his mouth with their delicious flavor. He picked one as he hopped from branch to branch. He felt the rush of the wind on his face as he climbed them nimbly. He'd only been doing this for a year, but he quickly latched onto the activity, though his mother worried about him every time he did it.
Small creatures would move out of his way or run from him as he freeran through foliage. He stopped at a large branch located forty feet from the ground to rest and snack on his fruit.
"Delicious! I should bring one back for Mom," he thought, taking one and keeping it close.
He perched himself down on the large branch to munch on the fruit as it ran down from the corners of his mouth. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and looked up into the rays of the sunlight obscured by the leaves. Nearby, an insect that resembled a millipede, crawled past his thigh. He used his free hand to pick it up, feeling the scores of tiny legs on his hand before putting it down on the other side of his position. When he was finished eating the fruit, he kicked his legs in the air and listened to the sounds of nature around him.
"Oh, I'd better get going so Mom doesn't worry," he thought.
He stood back up on the branch and jumped down towards the ground. Before he touched the ground, he clapped his hands and a small pillar of rock rose to meet him. He landed on it gingerly and used the correct motion just like the holorecorder and his mother had shown him to bend the pillar of earth back to where it had originated, placing him on the same level as the ground.
He stood at 4'1", his clothing apparel consisting of brown and green homespun fiber material and other clothing material. His footwear consisted of leather boots wrapped in cloth bindings around his shins. His black hair, slightly curly when worn straight, was now tied up into small dreadlocks that went to his ears. His skin was a copper-red shade. One would think he was human unless they looked at his face. White facial marking angled around the frame of his cheeks and into the interior in a pattern similar to his mother and outlined his hairline if one pulled his hair back and two small diamond patterns on his forehead above each black eyebrow. His eyes were two different colors, one green as grass and the other as blue as the sky. He began to run back towards the town, fruit in hand, where he had been raised since he could remember.
He felt the wind on his face as he raced through the undergrowth, jumping over large tree roots and puddles. He could feel everything around him. When he first felt it he was afraid. The thought of feeling every living thing around him would terrify any child. His mother put his mind at ease with her wisdom the way he always remembered.
"We're all connected Zephyr. The Force is all around from from the largest creature to the tiniest life. Even the rocks and stones you tread on are a part of it. Don't let it scare you. Let your feelings guide you."
He froze when he heard the growl of a predator and stopped dead in his tracks. A large creature, all black fur with piercing orange eyes, small black protrusions dotting its spine and measuring up to sixteen feet in length. It resembled species of the big cat with razor sharp protracting claws. Its head was slightly bigger than the dynamics for its body as its two canines extended out of its mouth even when its jaws were closed. Such was the shadow cats of Verdanth, known for attacking in the dead of night when its fur gave it natural camouflage. It could also attack in the shadows underneath the trees and climb into its branches to ambush prey from above. There was almost no way to detect it until it was nearly on you and the last one would see were its orange eyes and its small roar as it sank its teeth into its prey.
The creature fixed him with a piercing gaze, studying him. Zephyr stood there, unmoving and not wanting to make the wrong move. Their eyes seemed to gaze into each others through the distance. The shadow took a step back, eyes still on the boy. Both of them remained unmoving for a full minute, the only noises coming from the landscape around them. To Zephyr, it felt like he had been standing there for near an hour before the shadow cat turned its eyes away from him and continued on its path. Zephyr watched it leave until the beast was lost from sight. He took a deep breath, deciding to use the branches instead. Even as he scrambled up the tree, he failed to notice that the shadow cat was watching the hybrid child from a fern a distance not too far away. However, its gaze was not that of sighting prey and considering its options. It was more curiosity at observing his movements.
As if to watch.
The town of Kyso was small, fitting in less than four hundred permanent beings. Despite its small size, it provided a rest stop for spacers and other space-going voyagers. The town was populated mostly by Bothans and Duros, but other species were present. A few Humans, a Twi'lek, a score of Sarkans, and single or couples of five other species: Nagai, Pantoran, Kyuzo, Zelosian, and curiously enough an Umbaran. Near the spaceport was a mechanic shop where the spacers could get repairs for any speeders or parts of their ships. The mechanics were also used whenever appliances or household systems. The shop employed about ten mechanics, all of them skilled to various degrees. None was more skilled than Kura. She was the only Togruta on the planet as far as she knew, but she was the highest skilled mechanic in town and possibly elsewhere.
She was currently working on a speeder bike that was malfunctioning. She worked on it solo as it was a model none of the other mechanics had any skill with. It had been several hours but she was reaching completion.
"Almost done. Just install the cooling rings," she thought in her mind.
She chuckled to herself as she struggled to slip them on.
"He probably could have done this in his sleep," she thought, a smile playing on her lips.
The third ring was slipped on followed by the last and the whole set of four were bolted on to the cooling unit. The process took over ten minutes and when she was done her hands were black with oil and grease and her brow covered in sweat. She got a rag to wipe her brow off and went to a sink after placing the wrench down.
"Done already Kura?" said the owner of the shop named Falun Ko, a Duros.
"Yep, everything should be good to go," said Ahsoka as she turned on the speeder.
It came to life and hummed better than ever. When it was dropped off it had sounded like a beat up podracer.
"I would say I'm surprised, but that would be a lie," said Falun, knowing that she could handle near anything that came across her way.
"You flatter me too much Falun," said Ahsoka.
"It's true, you are my best mechanic," said Falun, eyeing her handiwork and nodding in approval.
"I had a good mentor," said Ahsoka.
"They must have been quite the mechanic," said Falun.
"He was," she thought.
"Falun, you can quit fawning over her," said another mechanic named Jax, another Duros and brother to Falun who was calibrating a landspeeder.
"I'm admiring the handiwork. Plus, I'm married," said Falun.
"Mmhmm," said Jax.
"Anyway, as always, good work Kura," said Falun.
"You're welcome Falun. Any other things that need to be worked on?" said Ahsoka.
"Think that's it on work orders for now," said Falun.
"Alright. I'm gonna go work on an exhaust pipe in here. Saw it spewing out steam and thought it'd be a good idea to patch it up," said Ahsoka.
"You're a lifesaver," said Falun, smiling with appreciation.
"Plus, I'm married," said Jaz in a mock voice of Falun.
Ahsoka laughed as the Duros began to argue back and forth between each other to go fix the pipe. She had been working here for years now and saw her coworkers as somewhat of a family. In this town, everyone more or else knew about each other. Some came for a new life, like she did, others for opportunity on the untapped planet's resources. All had secrets, but Ahsoka knew she held a secret that set her apart from everyone else.
She was a Jedi and her son was Force sensitive.
"Well, that's true to a point. I was a Jedi, but then I left. Not sure if I should call myself one now," she thought when she found the pipe and began her work to repair it.
It seemed so long ago when they had first came to the planet. Now, Zephyr was eight years old going on nine in a few months and she was approaching twenty-seven. Yet, despite the love for her son, she couldn't help but the feel the still hollow space in her chest. It had been more than eight years since Taran's death. Even now, the thought of it still saddened her.
"I wish I could turn back time and relive our memories, even the bad ones," she thought.
She felt closest to him when she was working on parts and other mechanical contraptions, remembering how much Taran loved to work on them. She also felt him close when...
She smiled and stopped working on the pipe.
"You know you can't sneak up on me," said Ahsoka.
"Aww, Mom," said Zephyr as he stepped out from behind a corner with a smile on his face from being caught.
Ahsoka laughed as she knelt down and hugged her son. She noticed during the hug that he was holding on to something.
"What's that you got in your hand Zephyr?" said Ahsoka.
"I brought you a noreage," said Zephyr, holding the fruit out for her.
Ahsoka took it and smiled down at him.
"Thank you Zephyr, but where exactly did you get it? Last I check these are found only in the canopy level," said Ahsoka, crossing her arms and giving him a look any child knew when they disobeyed.
Zephyr, now apprehensive, looked down to his feet and wrung his hands behind his back. It was his thing to do when his mother caught him doing something he wasn't supposed to do.
"Um, well, I..." said Zephyr nervously.
Ahsoka could sense the nervousness coming from him and shook her head as a small smile appeared on her face.
"How many times have you told you not to go climbing unless I'm there?" said Ahsoka.
"A lot," said Zephyr quietly.
Ahsoka sighed, placing her free hand on his hair.
"We've talked about this Zephyr. I don't want you going out that deep into the forest by yourself," said Ahsoka.
"I know Mom, but I like the forest," said Zephyr.
"I know you do, but I worry about you when I can't see what you're doing," said Ahsoka, her eyes locked with his as her hand went up to his chin and and pushed upwards to have him look her in the eyes.
His multi-colored eyes met her blue ones, his blue eye matching her own perfectly.
"Now please promise me, don't go back out there without me again," said Ahsoka.
"I promise," said Taran.
Ahsoka looked at both of his hands to make sure he wasn't crossing anything.
"I know you're restless. You were just like us when we were younger," said Ahsoka.
"You and Dad?" said Zephyr.
Ahsoka nodded. A small smile played on the boy's face.
"How about this? We can go out there once I'm done patching this pipe up," said Ahsoka.
"Really?" said Zephyr, his excitement rising.
"Really. Besides, we have to do our lessons," said Ahsoka.
Zephyr was nearly giddy with joy as he took a seat nearby and watched his mother work. He carefully looked over every individual action she did as she made the repair. It had always intrigued him and he had shown early interest in it. She even taught him a few small repairs and he learned them readily. She knew he would have a penchant for mechanics, taking after his father in that regard. Every move she made, he analyzed and would remember it later. It took her only ten minute to patch the pipe, wiping her brow and rubbing some of the sweat and grime from her hands..
"Ready to go?" said Ahsoka. Zephyr nodded his head vigorously.
Laughing softly, Ahsoka and Zephyr walked out and into the main repair area of the shop.
"Oh, hi there Zephyr. Didn't see you come in," said Falun.
"Hi Mr. Falun," said Zephyr, waving to him.
"You didn't?" said Ahsoka.
"I did," said Jax, still hard at work.
"And you didn't say anything?" said Falun.
"Brother, we all know who he is, plus he gave me the universal signal that he wanted to sneak up on his mother," said Jax.
The two started to bicker again as Ahsoka and Zephyr left them, walking out into the street. The town was a collection of wood, stone, and metal materials. A single dirt road went down the middle where all the buildings were located. Most of the denizens lived here in the town itself, but a few lived away from the spaceport and into the forest itself. Ahsoka and Zephyr lived in one of such homes nearest to the jungle where the trees made a seemingly impenetrable wall. Their building material was made of an amalgamation of different materials just like the other residents. The mother and son walked side-by-side as Zephyr talked excitedly about what had happened out in the jungle. Ahsoka listened to his every word. Even though her son was excited about his events, Ahsoka was worried greatly, especially when he mentioned shadow cat. However, Zephyr seemed to have not minded the predator and even Ahsoka was slightly confused that it just turned and left him alone. She had never encountered a shadow cat that didn't attack anyone unless it was already full from a previous meal.
"It sounds like you had an eventful day Zephyr," said Ahsoka.
"I did Mom," said Zephyr happily.
They made it to their home, Zephyr opening the door first to let his mother in and closing it back when she was inside. The inside of their living room was modest with a wooden couch with soft comforters on it. A holoprojector was on the small table in front of the couch. There kitchen was to the left of the living room separated by a doorway that led into the inside. The kitchen itself had a stove and a food processor, which was rarely used as the forest provided abundant food for nourishment. To the right of the house were the bedrooms. When they had first arrived, there was only one room but Ahsoka and a few others had expanded it when Zephyr had gotten old enough to sleep by himself. Zephyr set her tools and other equipment beside the door to her room as Zephyr waited patiently inside the living room. She came over to him with a smile on her face.
"So where do you want to practice little guy?" said Ahsoka.
"Can we go outside?" Zephyr said excitedly.
Ahsoka chuckled, knowing that was going to be his answer.
"Sounds like a good idea," said Ahsoka, beginning to walk to the back door with Zephyr in tow behind her.
They walked through the perimeter of the forest, going deeper and deeper. Zephyr looked around at the foliage around as leaves, ferns and trees of all different shapes, sizes, and species fanned out all around them. They had traversed this path hundreds of times, but he still found himself affixed to their beauty every time. Ahsoka always lead the way to the clearing that they were heading to. It was only a half mile away from their home. In the middle of the clearing was a fallen tree trunk not fully on the ground beneath with moss and vines covering it, a stream running underneath its trunk. The clearing had direct lighting from the sun overhead as here there was no canopy to block it. Rocks of all different shapes and sizes were plentiful around the area as well, some natural and others the result of bending.
Ahsoka took a seat on a small patch of grass and sat down cross-legged, Zephyr following suit in front of her. They always started off their training sessions doing meditation. For Ahsoka, it was as easy as breathing. For her son on the other hand...
He was rocking back and forth with his eyes closed, a little ball of energy. He was ready for the lesson and found his excitement for learning more about the Force outweighed his determination to meditate alongside his mother. Still, he tried to maintain his composure. However, the excitement and anxiousness was getting to him. It was his favorite part of the day. Ahsoka noticed this as she opened one eye to see her son fidgeting.
"Always so eager," she thought.
Smiling, she opened her other eye and stood up.
"I guess we can save the meditation for later tonight. Someone seems very anxious," said Ahsoka.
Zephyr shot up to his feet, eyes opened, and waited for whatever his mother was going to do next. Ahsoka stretched out her hand and willed the Force around her. A stone the size of her hand levitated into her grip.
"The Force is all around you. Feel its energy around you and every living being around you. Can you sense it?" said Ahsoka.
Zephyr closed his eyes again. All around he could feel and in a sense see the Force around him like the waves of a sonar device. Some waves were small, like those around the smallest lifeforms. Others were larger. His mother left off the strongest wavelengths from around her showing her strength in the Force.
"I can feel it," said Zephyr, eyes still closed.
"Take this from me then," said Ahsoka.
Zephyr stretched out his hand, willing the Force. The rock in Ahsoka's hand trembled before it slowly rose and went towards Zephyr. The stone floated slowly in midair as it embarked towards the child. He turned his hand as the stone was only a foot away and let it drop down into his hand. He opened his eyes when he felt the weight of the rock in his hands. He smiled, a smile his mother shared.
"He's getting better with each coming day," she thought.
Their lessons continued much the same as Ahsoka tested his current strength in the Force. She had him levitate objects and feel for the living Force all around him as well as the fundamentals of the Force as a whole. Zephyr was a quick learner, even more than he knew. He took to each lesson with enthusiasm and a quest for learning that seemed to only increase everyday. Though he was ecstatic and his youth betrayed his immaturity, he managed to carry on with his mother's instructions. If he hit a snag, he kept trying hard regardless until he could get it right to some degree. Their bending lessons were a little one-sided as Ahsoka wasn't a bender herself. However, she understood the core values of bending. She coached him as she watched him bend the ground beneath them into various shapes to test his mind.
"When you bend, you can't just move the earth. You have to sense it, feel it, and mold it to your desire," Ahsoka mentored.
Zephyr was shaping a piece of clay into a shape of his choosing. He was concentrating on applying his mother's words to his current work as the clay moved around in circular motions. He seemed in deep thought of what he was going to form as the clay changed into various shapes and designs. At one point, a shadow cat was being formed. At another, a starship he had seen come in days before. Ahsoka could sense his frustration as he tried to pick out what he wanted to create. She walked over to stand behind him.
"Zephyr, stop for a moment," said Ahsoka.
Zephyr did as he was told and turned towards her.
"What's bothering you?" said Ahsoka.
"I...I don't know what I want to make Mom," said Zephyr, still looking at the clay with an unsure look.
"Don't think about it. Go with what you're feeling. Beings think, but the Force says do," said Ahsoka. "Don't let it serve its purpose; let it guide you."
Zephyr nodded and looked back at the clay in his hands.
"Don't think; just do," he thought.
He closed his eyes and imagined. He felt the Force calling him through his mind, guiding his actions. Ahsoka watched as the clay levitated in his hands, coming to a stop before it shaped. Ahsoka didn't know if he was intentionally constructing it or he was letting his inner emotions guide his actions. The clay morphed until a figure began to form. Ahsoka watched with a curious expression until her eyes widened in surprise. The clay had formed that of a man. Its hair formed, followed by its facial features. The torso melded together to form a body with clothes. The clothes proved simple in design as the legs were formed, followed by the feet clad in boots. The hair began to twist and turn until it formed into locks and the facial features were sculpted until one would think they had known the person intimately.
The clay had formed the image of Taran Cyneran.
Zephyr slowly opened his eyes and looked down at the clay sculpture of his father he had just created.
"Father," he said softly.
The both of them stood there in silence for a time until Ahsoka walked over to him and hugged him. He dropped the clay and wrapped his arms around her, burying his head into his mother.
"I know. I miss him too," she said softly.
"The lion turtles granted the people the power of bending," said Zephyr in perfect Yanyu*.
"Excellent," Ahsoka replied back in Yanyu.
"It's all thanks to you Mom," said Zephyr in Togruti.
"Even better," Ahsoka replied back in return, smiling at him to which he beamed back. "Now on to Huttese."
Zephyr groaned. After their lessons with the Force came formal lessons. The town did not have a school for the children so all of them were taught by their parents or other adult figures in the community. Ahsoka preferred to teach Zephyr. For now she was teaching him the grammar and other language skills of other languages, teaching him how to read and write in Basic, Togruti, and Huttese. He was doing well in all except Huttese, its articulation and grammatical structure causing him problems. The language lessons usually took the span of a few hours.
"Come on, it's only a few sentences you have to say," said Ahsoka.
"Like what?" said Zephyr.
"Do you understand what I'm saying?" said Ahsoka in Huttese.
"I think...I do...sister?" Zephyr replied.
"Mother," Ahsoka corrected.
"Mother," Zephyr said, groaning again before letting out a yawn. Evening had already settled on the planet and they had been going at it for some time.
"Someone looks like they're ready for bed," said Ahsoka.
"Not...tired," said Zephyr while trying and failing to stifle a yawn.
"Yes you are young man. Come on, get ready," said Ahsoka.
Zephyr stood up and went towards the bathroom to shower and brush his teeth, his mother not too far behind. The process took over thirty minutes for the both of them to finish. Zephyr wore a light fabric for his brown shorts and white shirt that was cool and allowed his body to not heat up due to the temperature of the planet. Ahsoka wore a simple white tunic that stopped at the top of her knees. In her son's bedroom, Ahsoka tucked him in. Though he was old enough to do it, she still did it regardless.
"There you go, all ready for bed," said Ahsoka.
"Mom, I'm almost nine years old. I can tuck myself in," said Zephyr.
"I know," said Ahsoka, ruffling his hair.
"Mom!" said Zephyr in mock protest before his mother began to tickle him.
The pair laughed as mother tickled her son before their antics settled down. Regaining his breath, Zephyr looked up at his mother.
"Mom, can you tell me a story?" said Zephyr.
"About what?" said Ahsoka.
"About... you and Dad on one of your adventures," said Zephyr.
Ahsoka thought about it. She had told him plenty of stories over the years and knew he was well-versed in most of them.
"Let's see. A story I've never told you about," said Ahsoka as she pondered on it.
"I got it!" she said, reaching into the top of her shirt to pull out her necklace with the green crystal. "Did I ever tell you how your father got me this necklace?"
Zephyr shook his head.
"I wasn't there, but he told me what happened. He and...Anakin, they went to the planet Dathomir. He wanted to get me something special for my birthday. While they were down there, they ran into a clan of Nightsisters," said Ahsoka.
"Nightsisters?" said Zephyr.
"They're witches who focus on the dark side of the Force," said Ahsoka. "They also captured your father and Anakin."
"Captured? But why?" said Zephyr.
"Apparently they disturbed one of their rancors dwellings. They captured both of them and gave them an ultimatum: either to slave away or end up marrying their leader," said Ahsoka.
"Marry their leader? What did Dad do?" said Zephyr.
"He ended up knocking her out with a bowl and tried to escape," said Ahsoka.
Zephyr laughed at that and even Ahsoka let out a light giggle thinking of the visual imagery of the encounter that seemed so long ago.
"But that's not even the best part. They were going to kill your father and Anakin and put them into an arena without their lightsabers against a very big rancor named Grom," said Ahsoka.
"But Dad and Anakin were Jedi! Even without lightsabers they can handle anything," Zephyr interjected.
"True, but listen to the rest," said Ahsoka, causing Zephyr to listen in patient silence.
"So they were to be executed by the rancor and they fought it. Your father used his bending while Anakin got their lightsabers. However, instead of killing it he thought of a better idea. He used the Force to convince the rancor to attack the Nightsisters instead," said Ahsoka.
"He convinced it?" said Zephyr.
"The Force allows you to reach out to sentient and non-sentient beings and can either help you manipulate them or convince them otherwise," said Ahsoka.
"Can I use that ability?" said Zephyr.
"In time," said Ahsoka.
"So...what happened after Dad 'convinced' the rancor?" said Zephyr.
"While the rancor was rampaging they escaped and made it back to the Resolute. Once their, your father gave me the necklace he had found in the sand while fighting the rancor," said Ahsoka.
"Wow," said Zephyr in awe. "Dad did a lot of amazing things."
"He did," said Ahsoka, thinking back on it fondly before a sad smile appeared on her face.
"Do you think one day I can have adventures like that?" said Zephyr.
"Let's hope not. We were at war at the time. Right now, the last thing I'd want for you to do is to be in danger the way we were," said Ahsoka.
"But I want to go out and see the galaxy," said Zephyr.
"In time you will, I promise," said Ahsoka, coming up to kiss his forehead. "Your safety is my highest concern every day."
Zephyr was quiet, bristling with more questions, but the look on his mother's face told him he'd get more of the same answers. There was only so much his mother was willing to tell him. If there were questions he had asked before, she responded she would tell him when he was older. He didn't know what the answer was, but he could only assume that it was because he was too young to understand. Still, it didn't stop his curiosity.
"Mom, can you tell me something else?" said Zephyr. Ahsoka nodded.
"How did...how did Dad die?" said Zephyr.
Ahsoka was dead quiet. Zephyr was afraid he had went too far.
"I'm sorry Mom, I-"
"No it's fine. I know you've always been curious, but you have to wait until you're older," said Ahsoka.
"Zephyr," Ahsoka said firmly. Zephyr saw the look in her eyes. There was a resolve there that meant she wouldn't budge from her answer, yet there was also an element there he had seen before whenever his father was mentioned. Even now the sadness was still there in Ahsoka's eyes.
"Yes Mom," said Zephyr.
Ahsoka kissed the top of his head.
"I will tell you what happened when the time is right," said Ahsoka. Zephyr nodded slowly.
"Goodnight, and I love you," said Ahsoka, kissing his forehead before standing up to leave the room.
Zephyr laid down and turned on his side as his mother left the room. She turned off the lights, looking back at him as he prepared to rest before closing the door.
"Can I really tell him when he's old enough?" she thought sadly, walking towards her bedroom.
Once inside, she didn't bother to close the door. She laid down on the small bed which she alone slept. The first night she had been able to sleep in the bed by herself was painful, knowing that there was no one there for her to share warmth with, hear his breath as they slept, or feel the security she felt when his arms wrapped around her before they went to sleep or sometime during the night. There was nothing but herself lying there. She slowly closed her eyes, willing sleep to come in and to take her away from the reality she was in. If it was like most nights, she wouldn't dream and everything would be alright. On rare occasions, a pleasant dream would find her. On more common occasions, the nightmares hit her. They dealt with the part of the reality she knew would haunt her for the rest of her days.
Losing the man she loved.
Here it is, the beginning of my next story. Sorry it took so long. A-school is hitting the ceiling running and I really only have time to type on the weekends. Still, I'm glad I took my time with this to flesh it out and give it some good quality. Hope to update soon and review your initial thoughts.