Chapter 7

Parting ways

Rahasia and Shen had been kept at the Enclave until their fathers arrived. Of course, when the fathers arrived, a brawl threatened. However, the Jedi were no strangers to hot blood and old feuds, and the children held their ground with the stubbornness bred into them. Playing to both men's pride, and the fact that their children had already made their decision, the howls of "My child won't marry your child!" soon broke into a bidding war over where to hold the wedding!

In the end, the Enclave was decided upon as the site, as it was neutral ground. Indeed, there had been little joy recently, so any small blessing was gladly welcomed.

Of course, Kairi, Carth, and Bastila were there as official witnesses. Carth and Kairi particularly welcomed the sight, even if the wedding was bittersweet in the wake of Casus's death. Casus, however, was being remembered as a hero now - his notes on the Dantooine ruins copied to the Jedi archives.

The rest of the Ebon Hawk crew was there as well. T3-M4 was happily put to use serving drinks at the reception. Canderous was on his best behavior. Weddings were a serious affair among his people, especially ones that tied together feuding clans as to make both stronger.

Surprisingly enough, one of the guests was Elsie Montagne. She came on the arm of Samnt Dolar, one of the Matale guards. Apparently, she had run off in grief over the droid and crossed the Matale fence near his patrol route. He was about to shoot her as an intruder, but realizing it was a distraught woman, instead took her home. A widower himself, he was glad for the company.

A local custom among the farmers was to serve wedding pastries to all the guests. Out of them, five had objects baked inside. Superstition held that the five objects told the future of the ones who found them. Elsie's pastry held a silver charm, indicating she would be next to wed. One of the Sandral servants found a button, indicating he would soon welcome new life. Indeed, it did seem to be the case, seeing his heavily pregnant wife. Third was a gold charm, indicating wealth. One of the visiting farmers got that one. Master Dorak almost cut his teeth on a polished piece of wood - foretelling a good education.

When Kairi bit into hers, she felt a small stone in her mouth. Spitting it out, she gazed at it. It was one of the local cave crystals - a soft blue one. She held it up to the light, wondering at how it seemed to glow from within.

Shen smiled as he caught Kairi examining it. "Ah, yes, Lady Jedi. The crystal means that you'll count your wealth in friends."

"A piece to a puzzle," Kairi explained, showing the information downloaded from the Star Map to Vandar, Vrook, and Dorak. "An incomplete Star Map was in the temple, as was an ancient droid that spoke of a race called the Builders. It was able to confirm Revan and Malak's visit years earlier. It also mentioned something called a Star Forge, though what it is…we don't know."

"This may be the source of the Sith fleet," Bastila elaborated. "If they were able to find a weapons plant, an ancient alien one, it could explain much about the strange design of their ships."

Vandar looked up to address them, and they knelt in respect for the diminutive Master. "You both have done well in discovering the Star Map hidden in the ancient ruins, but there is more we must ask you to do against Malak and the Sith. We know that victory over them will not come through martial might, but through cunning and strategy. Therefore, the Council has a mission for you."

Dorak explained. "I've consulted the archives in an effort to discern the nature of this 'Star Forge,' but all my efforts have been in vain."

"Still, we are in agreement," Vrook told Kairi. "The Star Forge must be found. Revan and Malak sought it out when they began their tragic fall. It is surely a powerful tool of the Dark Side."

"The Star Map in the ruins showed you four planets, but it was incomplete in that it did not show you the location of the Star Forge itself. We believe that there are Star Maps like it on other planets, pieces of the larger puzzle. Find the Star Maps on Kashyyyk, Manaan, Tattooine, and Korriban and we believe they will lead you to the Star Forge," Vandar said.

"I'll do as you ask," Kairi answered.

"The Jedi numbers have been ravaged by Sith assassins and defections to Malak's cause, but we recognize the importance of this mission. If we sent a company of Jedi Knights to aid you, it would surely draw the attentions of Malak, and doom your efforts to failure."

"We're to undertake this task alone?" Bastila asked.

"No," Vandar stated. "Secrecy is our best defense against the Sith, but we would not be so foolish as to send you alone. The bond you share may be the key to unraveling the mysteries uncovered by Revan. Juhani has asked to accompany you as well. After long consideration, we have decided to grant her request."

Kairi smiled, glad that she would at least have another familiar face coming along. Action would be a good thing for Juhani, giving her time and distance she could use in order to regain faith in herself.

"Juhani nearly fell to the Dark Side," Vrook said stern as always. "Perhaps her presence will serve as reminder to you of the dangers present in that path."

"After weighing our options, we have decided not to repeat the mistake we made in using the Endar Spire. A Republic military vessel is a tempting target, and there are too few to spare, even for this mission. The Ebon Hawk's repairs are complete, and the hyperdrive is faster than anything we have."

"What about the crew?" Kairi said.

Vandar said, "They are welcome to accompany you, if they wish. Their skills and talents will be useful, I am certain. Remember that secrecy and discretion, however, are key to this task. The true nature of this assignment must not reach Malak's ears."

"We will not fail you," Bastila said.

"Leave when you wish; the sooner, the better." Vrook said. "The longer you wait, the stronger Malak becomes. But first a warning: the Dark Side's lure is strong and difficult to resist. It fear this mission to find these Star Maps may lead you down an all-too-familiar path."

"The fate of the galaxy may be in your hands, Padawans. We pray you are up to the challenge. Go now, and may the Force be with you."

Juhani, having rebuilt her lightsaber and assigned a change of robes, approached the Ebon Hawk with determination. She had discussed this with Belaya and meditated on it for long hours before summoning enough bravery to petition the Masters. She had expected to be turned down. It surprised her when her request was granted.

However, there were...complications.

The loading ramp lowered, and standing at the top of it was a powerful-looking human man. He had a small cannon strapped to his back, and his sleeveless shirt bared his tattoo. Juhani recognized the symbol.

"Mandalorian? What are you doing here?"

"That's 'Canderous' to you. What am I doing here? I own half the ship. That's what I'm doing here. What about you, Jedi? Could ask the same thing."

Her voice lowered, and her blood began to boil. "I am assigned to the mission led by Bastila Shan. The Jedi have commandeered this vessel."

"Not really," Canderous said. "But they asked...nicely...if they could use it. Since I'm between jobs, I figured 'why not?'"

"You've no stake in this. Your kind has no loyalty to the Republic or the Sith," Juhani argued.

"True, but I fought for the Sith as a boy, when Qel-Droma had us by the shebse. The Jedi and the Republic handed those shebse to us twice. Might be interesting to fight for them this time."

She sniffed with contempt. "Merely a glutton for blood. The galaxy would be better off had you all died."

"And maybe the galaxy doesn't need your kind, either. Now, I'll make this simple – I was here first, and I ain't leaving. Live with it, or turn tail and head back to your Masters."

Juhani briefly imagined shoving her lightsaber through his gut, but took a deep breath instead and muttered the Code. No, he could accuse her of a lot of things, but she would not accept being called a coward. She marched right up the loading ramp and past him.

Carth sat in the Ebon Hawk's cockpit, running some pre-flight checks and tests on the systems. The door to the cockpit slid open and Bastila walked in, sitting in the co-pilot's seat.

"Commander, what are you still doing here? Aren't you going back to the Fleet?"

"I wish," he said, eyes still on the readout. "But Admiral Dodonna and Master Vandar cut a deal. Remember that I was put on the Spire as a liaison between the Jedi contingent and the Republic fleet. Looks like I'll be continuing that assignment."

Bastila folded her arms. "I'm surprised, given your low opinion of the Order."

"Did you even pay attention on the Spire? Considering recent history, the Fleet's no more willing to put blind faith in the Jedi than I am."

"You're a spy," Bastila said accusingly.

"Republic liaison officer...and ship's pilot. Am I thrilled? No. Am I going to carry out my orders? Yes."

"Kairi will no doubt be delighted."

He shook his head in disbelief. "She's coming? Don't...don't they have to train her?"

"If things were any less dire, she'd be spending several years training under one of the Jedi Masters, but I fear that won't be possible. The Force Bond between us will be needed to trace Revan's footsteps and find the Star Maps. I won't lie. The fact that she has received so little training could have dire consequences for her - and everyone around her. Thankfully, she's exhibited a degree of compassion and self-control up to this point."

Carth sighed, leaning back in the chair. "I worry about her as much as you do."

"Master Zhar?"

He looked up from his paperwork to see Kairi in the doorway, and he quickly gestured for her to come in. Kairi walked into the room slowly, looking around his quarters.

"It seems like so long ago that I first came in here," she said.

"And so short a time as well," he said.

"The Hawk will be ready in the morning. I just came to say goodbye...and thank you. It can't have been easy to train me."

Despite it all, Zhar had to smile. "Kairi, you have taught me just as much, and no matter how far we will be apart, the Force will connect us as it connects all things. We will see each other again, it is only a matter of 'when.'"

" more thing, Master. You don't have to talk about it if it's painful, but you did mention that you trained Revan. You also said you saw something of Revan in me."

A sad smile crossed Zhar's face. "An insatiable thirst for knowledge, and the strength of a Ryloth heat storm…That was Revan. I see that strength with the Force, the hunger for knowledge." He stopped, looked her over again, and then said, "But in training you, Kairi, I see much that is not Revan."

"Such as?"

"Even as a Jedi, Revan would not have become involved with the Sandral and Matale feud unless directly ordered. You did. While Revan would have probably brought Juhani back to us, it would have been as a prisoner. Revan would not have held Juhani's hand and walked her to judgment."

"What was Revan like? Not how strong in the Force, how skilled with a lightsaber, in tactics, or training...but as a person."

Zhar paused. For a moment, he was confused, as though he didn't know how to answer. His lekku curled a little, as he pondered how best to answer.

"Revan was a Jedi, in every sense of the word. Forever seeking more to learn, forever studying the Force, embracing the detachment and rationality that the Order cultivates. There was no passion, except love of the Force and love of duty; in every way, the pinnacle of what we sought to cultivate. Yet, there was always something at work in Revan, a void that could not be filled with knowledge, skill, or noble acts."

"What kind of void?" Kairi asked.

Again, Zhar had to think. "Looking back, I'm not certain how well I knew Revan. I'm not sure anyone ever really did. Perhaps Malak, but there was distance from even him. There's so much that I would have done differently. But...I cannot change the past, only attempt to learn from it."

He got up from his chair, and took Kairi's hand in his own. Pride and regret, hope and fear, joy and worry...For a moment, the Jedi mask had fallen, and Zhar was another man. "No matter what, Padawan. I will not regret training you. May the Force be with you in your quest."