Sorry for the long time away! Busy, busy, busy. Let me know your thoughts on this chapter.
SlayerKite0: Thanks for the review! I am pleased you like it. The Republic parts might be boring but I would rather that than have a string of fight scenes roped together by a few lines of text. Basically, I hope that you can put up with it, and at least notice the effort I put into the piece. And HK isn't around for quite a few years yet, sadly.
Luthe: Funny you should mention Darth Shadow…. Glad you liked the story.
Dark Siders: Always happy to talk to a friend of Alice's. That is the reason I write KOTOR, I can do pretty much what I like to make a story I enjoy. I will continue as much as is possible!
T U: Yes, they are married. Revan is appearing soon, and Bastila is too young to have much part for a while. But she will be in it eventually!
Prisoner24601: I thought that Morgana needed a change from the usual…so I made a new home. Still, I think it turned out alright, I think.
Alice: I like describing and making new things. Other writers are content to use what they have…but I am not. If that makes me dull and boring…so be it, but at least I can feel like I have made something. Typos…yes, I know. Everyone has them, but I try to minimise their impact if I can. I try to be interesting, and I know I can count on your assistance.
Ether-fanfic: Glad you liked it, please continue to review!
Lord Satasn: Star Wars is not just for Jedi and Sith, remember the Original Movies? No, there are three main groups I focus on; the Sith, the Republic and the Jedi. The Republic is a vital part, and I do try not to make it boring. I maintain that battles only have use if the reader knows about the build up and result.
The door into the plain room opened, causing the seated man to frown. Normally such a commonplace action would not have caused such a reaction; this time was different though. There was nobody standing by the door and it took nearly half a minute before a visitor entered the room. He looked at the bald headed, tattooed man with a small smile.
"Something interesting Malak?" Revan asked with more than a little amusement.
The disapproving frown deepened. "You said you would stop such displays."
Revan smiled very faintly and waved his hand, the door slid shut with a hydraulic hiss.
"Do calm down my friend. I assure you that I have not been corrupted yet."
Malak glared and then pointedly looked down at his research. The seated man disapproved of such blatant uses of the force for trivial matters. Not just because he had been told thus, but because he fervently believed in the ideals of a Jedi. There were few in the Order who could match such a firm belief in the lightside; Malak was a paragon of the ways of the Jedi. From his simple Jedi robe to his basic underclothes, Malak was the embodiment of humility.
Despite this, three years of close friendship had not rubbed any of this off onto Revan. As his twenty fifth birthday approached, Revan was still the same man he had been six years before, although certain aspects had changed. His calm and collected personality remained, though it was occasionally spotted with bouts of icy cold mood swings. Many of his fellow Jedi considered that this was some sort of deep reaching mental disorder but Revan had never shown anything when he had been examined. In truth, Revan was in many ways the perfect Jedi; he had no vices to speak of and his desire to knowledge as well as his sense of duty made him a great asset. In other ways though, he was an outsider from his peers and the Jedi Masters. He was opinionated, not vocally, but held many strange ideas about topics the Jedi did not usually consider. On top of this, he was proud of, or as some would say, arrogant in his command of the force. It was not that he used his powers wrongly, it was that he used them continually, even for minor things such as opening doors or activating lights. And despite all efforts to discourage him, he persisted. It had one great advantage though: it meant that he had an almost unmatched instinctive command of the force, even if he was no fighter.
"So what have you discovered?" Revan asked to mollify his friend.
Malak sighed and pointed to the notes he had on the table. "All evidence seems to suggest it is somewhere out here near the furthest border with the Sith space. It is a neutral system as laid down by the Treaty of Ithor, probably because no one wanted it."
"Does the system have a name?" Revan asked thoughtfully.
"Xhartque," Malak read the strange word with difficulty. "That is the one laid down here by the explorers."
"Is this right? It says the planet orbits a neutron star?" Revan could not believe it. On the star chart though, it was laid out clearly; the system had both a neutron star and a class five star. It was clear that the planet would be cold despite its closeness to the centre of the solar system. Revan wondered how a planet could even orbit a neutron star but dismissed the question as irrelevant, since he needed to worry about more serious things.
The door slid open again to reveal the worn face of Jedi Knight Mirar Levarne who nodded recognition before closing the door.
"Have we discovered anything?" she asked in a calm, authoritative voice that Revan respected in a way he did no other. As senior Padawan and thus close to their knighthoods, Malak and Revan had been put beneath the same master. It was a good arrangement as it ensured that a very close relationship developed between the three Jedi.
"Yes Master. Malak may have found what we are looking for."
What they were looking for, Mirar reflected it had been a long road to this moment as well as a considerable number of fighting to gather the pieces to this puzzle. This whole mess had started just over three months ago when a Republic search team had uncovered some sort of ancient object in the excavations on the mining world of Ko'cav. It had been given over to the nearby Jedi base on Morlock Four after it could not be identified. The Jedi had in turn sent it back to Coruscant who had passed it on to Mirar Levarne and her two students. After a half dozen missions and deals with many shady characters, Malak seemed to finally have found an answer.
The artefact lay before them, a small black stone disk about three inches wide, slightly raised on top and bottom to resemble a spinning top. Over all the edges and even on the sides were characters marked into the black material. "Although it looked similar to metal or stone, it wasn't. The material's composition was unknown."
One thing that the three Jedi could not fail to notice was a slight aura around the disk. A faint aura of dark power, almost invisible to even the strongest of Jedi. Whatever the device was, it had seen the darkside before.
Malak flipped over the disk to show a series of runes separated by lines. Only a single rune was displayed in each of the boxes that covered the surface of the thing.
"If you look at this, you can see that there is a rune that is repeated four times. Of course, that could mean anything until I remembered something I had seen in the archives similar to this." Malak pulled out a large flat datapad and activated it to show a tablet that was similar despite the obvious difference in condition. The scanned object had had to be reconstructed and looked far older than this disk, but many of the characters were similar.
"But how does this help us?" Mirar asked after examining the two objects closely.
"It wouldn't, if it were not for the fact that some of these older glyphs were translated." Malak showed a second exhibit that had the glyphs at the top and a translation below.
"This was discovered just over a century ago. The language is an ancient dialect of Zahil'li which I was able to translate."
"The race that lived on Dantooine? The ones with the burial mounds?" Revan asked, cutting off his comrade.
Malak gave him an odd look, "And how did you know that?"
"Dantooine is not so far away from my home Malak. And in the archives here I learned about the area around my homeworld. This race's name stuck in my head." The Zahil'li were a long dead race of bipeds from Dantooine. A Republic expedition had investigated tombs and found traces of another, older culture in the ruins. The work had been interrupted by Exar Kun's was, and the research forgotten, except to Malak.
"So what have you found out Malak?" Mirar asked to move things along. She, along with almost everyone else had given up calling the two Jedi anything other than their titles. Even Master Vrook or Master Vandar could not move them from this.
Giving Revan another odd look, Malak compared the two sets of symbols. Finally he looked up. "I have found what these words mean. It's mostly fragments, but what is mentioned here is the 'globes of fire and ice'. Now that really means very little, but reading back through similarly dated messages from the Zahil'li, there are a few references to this place."
"How long ago was this?" Mirar asked.
"The dating says at least twenty thousand years but I am not certain that is right."
"That is five millennia older than the Republic," Revan murmured thoughtfully. "And the disk? Is that later?"
"Hard to say but the symbols are contemporary with these finds."
"I see, but who was it who wrote these symbols? A galactic overlord race?" Revan was quite in his own thoughts now.
"That is not important, what is important is can we find this place? If it is so long ago, any references will be vastly out of date."
Malak nodded seriously. "It is never said where this place is, but several references are given. It seems to have been of great importance to these people."
"And do the locations match up?" Revan asked, snapping out of his daze.
Malak nodded and rubbed his jaw thoughtfully as he brought up a holographic map of the galaxy. "It pinpoints the location, once I have taken star movement into account as on this planet. Xhartque."
Mirar was quiet for a long moment, she was not entirely sure what to make of this whole business. She had expected a dead end but the two Padawans were stubborn, stubborn to the core. Now she had to convince herself and the council to go, and it would not be easy.
"How certain are you?" she asked calmly.
"Until I get there Master, there is no guarantee. It all fits though, the distances once drift is taken into account and the description of the planet. It is worth investigating." Malak was formal as he normally was; he clearly believed what he had said.
"Very well then, we shall go. What are we looking for there?" She was amazed she had not asked herself that question. It was dubious enough evidence even before she considered what the prize was."
Revan decided to speak for his friend, "It makes reference to something called the 'Daemon's Heart'. Other than that, I have no clue."
"Be ready to go then, I will run this over with Master Vandar."
"We will be ready Master."
Two members of the Jedi High Council were available to meet with Mirar Levarne. Masters Vandar and Perinard sat in the small meeting room awaiting her arrival. If she was honest with herself, Mirar was surprised that the two oldest and most powerful members of the council had chosen to see her. She pushed the thought aside as she bowed to them, keeping her face resolute and calm.
"You requested this meeting Jedi Levarne?" Aetius Perinard asked, his odd silver eyes boring into her.
"Yes Masters I did. As you know, we were given a task by the High Council to examine the relic found on Ko'cav."
"And have you made progress in your studies?" Vandar asked in his strangely soothing voice.
"Yes Master, my two Padawans believe they have found out the meaning of the strange symbols. It seems to be a marker towards a world on the outer rim, an uninhabited world near the border with the Sith Empire."
"And how did they work out the symbols? Our research teams on Morlock Four could not decipher those same glyphs." Master Perinard raised one eyebrow as though seeking an explanation.
"They tell me they could not by just looking at the relic. What they did say is that they found something akin to a translator that led them to understand the words."
She must have sounded uncertain because Vandar held out a hand. "Bring them here. We will talk with them directly."
As the Jedi Knight left to collect her students, Aetius looked at his fellow Jedi Master.
"I shall be interested to see how they interpreted the symbols."
"More important is why we are attaching so much significance to this quest. Something about that relic is not right." The diminutive Jedi fell silent as the two men entered.
Revan was wearing a dark blue robe, similar to the one the Master Vandar wore but with a black stripe down the front. Both Malak and Mirar Levarne were wearing the traditional brown of the Jedi Order.
"Padawan Morantine, Padawan Tsrvarn, I hear you have interpreted the symbols?"
Vandar's mind flicked back. The artefact had been found lying in a small fissure of the rock as though it had been abandoned. It was ancient but seemed not a day over a year old. Even after all these centuries, the old Jedi Master had sensed the power of the force in it. His attempts to understand it had been foiled, so he had passed it on to the two young Padawans. Of all of the younger students of the Order, there were few that worked together so well at unravelling a mystery. Revan, as even the Jedi Master was starting to call him, was the more intelligent but Malak was persistent and logical. Together, they formed a team unlike any their own age.
"Yes Master. Padawan Malak managed to decipher the code. If I may?" he asked his friend. Malak was all too happy to obey, he was a man of fewer words than his friend and was not a good person to inspire others with words.
"Looking through the records that we have found Master," Revan went on, "we have found something very interesting. The relic is somewhere in the region of twenty thousand standard years old, perhaps more."
"Are you quite sure of this Padawan?" Master Perinard challenged.
Revan met the disconcerting gaze without flinching. "I am certain Master. The analysis machines could not figure out the exact composition of the artefact but they could when matched with the other pieces. The way we could work out what the glyphs meant is by this."
Revan drew out the datapad showing the tablet with the two languages. He showed them the two before going on.
"The bottom language is one we can figure out. By transposing them up and making sense of the words, we can match them to the relic."
Ah, like the Rosetta stone.
The Jedi Masters nodded, clearly impressed. "I am pleased you sought to discover alternative means to understand this problem young Padawans.
"Thank you Master, though it was Padawan Malak who deserves the most credit. The stone on these tablets has been dated at around twenty five millennia. Since these symbols are not ones known of in the Republic, the relic cannot be less than fifteen millennia as the mining world was colonised about that time. Working from this translation, we were able to use the landmarks near to find a central point. A single location."
"This is interesting indeed," Perinard murmured. "And you desire permission to investigate why this system is being pointed to?"
"I believe it would be advisable Master," Revan said, quite ignoring his Master.
"Then the three of you shall go. There is one thing you might want to be careful of. If it is close to the Sith Empire then there is a chance that it may be patrolled by their ships. You might wish to check with the Republic forces out there before you go in closer."
"I thank you for your advice Masters, we shall follow your words," Revan said. Mirar Levarne glared at the back of Revan's black haired head but made no comment at the usurpation of her influence.
"What is the name of the system?" Vandar asked.
"Xhartque Master," Revan said.
The two Jedi Masters shared a glance. "If that is so, be doubly careful," Master Perinard said.
"During the war with Exar Kun, there were rumours that that system was being used as a base by the Sith. We sent a team of Jedi to investigate, they never returned. A larger force was sent but no enemy was detected and there was no time to search. Be careful, not all dangers are caused by a visible opponent."
Revan nodded, intrigued. "Yes Master."
Padawan Revan walked back swiftly towards his own room. His expression was cold and hard, and showing nothing to those who passed as he strode past them. There was nothing unusual in this however; most Jedi avoided the stern, strangely dressed Padawan who seemed so focussed on another time and place. Eventually, he reached his room and opened the door with a wave of his hand. The Council, his peers, and his Master disliked such blatant uses of the force for trivial matters. Revan did not care; they were most likely envious of his abilities and jealous because he could call upon his powers so much easier than they. Revan closed the door to the room he no longer shared with Malak or anyone else; the room that was solely his.
As his Master had dryly pointed out, the room suited him; everything was lined up immaculately, with nothing out of place. Revan pulled out the pack he had acquired on a mission a year before and pushed his spare robe and his other travelling gear into it. Then, he looked to where his lightsabre sat on the desk, missing the power cell which he always removed so it could not be used against him by an intruder. He had no cause to be so suspicious but he was, nonetheless, a cautious man.
Reaching out his hand, he felt the thrill he always did when he called upon the telekinetic power inside of him. It sounded like a distant ringing trumpet call in his mind, and he wanted to hear it clearer but could not. Always, the clarion call died away, no matter what he did. The thrill of power remained though; he could not see why the Jedi ignored their gifts. The lightsabre hovered over his hand, he grasped the weapon and swiftly reassembled it. He was ready.
Malak was waiting outside in the hallway, the huge man's height like a great statue looking down on Revan. Malak was four inches again over Revan's six feet, a huge man with the strength to match his height, a man who used strength, not subtlety to win.
"You are late," the bald man stated blandly.
"Perhaps you were just early?" Revan suggested lightly, earning a sideways glance from his friend.
"So, what has made you so happy?"
"The thought of finding if our research is in vain. I would also like to find out what this Daemon's Heart is."
"We should be wary as the Masters said, since it is likely to be dangerous. If the relic is anything to go by, then this place is likely to be a bastion of the darkness."
"That is possible. Perhaps the finding of it will promote us to being full Knights."
Malak looked appalled, "I am not doing this because of that reason. I am going and, if necessary, fighting beside you, because it is the right thing to do. A Jedi does not seek power, only justice."
Revan sighed, knowing he had walked into a lecture. "You are right of course. Come, we are expected." Miraculously, Malak said no more, perhaps waiting for the long trip to harass his friend.
Their Master was waiting by their ship, a twenty foot converted fighter and freighter that had been their device of choice for the last few months. It was a sleek black craft originally of naval design that was agile and protected enough for them to escape a dangerous situation. On the side, by the cockpit was engraved a name, Spirit of Ossus in memory of the former Jedi base destroyed in the Sith War.
"We have a departure permit so we should get going," Mirar greeted them and walked up the side boarding ramp. The two men followed, strapping themselves into the rearward seats.
"I have sent off a message to meet with the local military representative to see if anything is happening around this area. We should get there a few hours after the message." Messages were usually only slightly faster than ships because they still replied on hyperspace movement.
"Understood Master. Are you going to pilot?"
"You believe that I am not capable Revan?" she asked lightly.
Revan, for all of his occasional arrogance was still liable to take some comments at face value. Thus he could sometimes not grasp that his Master was not serious, he bowed his head slightly.
"I would not suggest such a thing Master." His accent and formality, slowly going over the years suddenly became stronger.
Mirar Levarne never knew what to do in these circumstances, so she smiled, "No Revan. I was not trying to offend you. It's just, well never mind."
"Yes Master, my apologies."
Malak frowned at the whole display but said nothing.
"Set coordinates for Taramooren," Levarne ordered to Revan who moved into the co-pilot's seat.
"Agreed Master, activating engines."
The ship slowly lifted off the ground, the twin engines flared as the Jedi Temple slowly grew smaller and smaller. Then, under the guns of the Coruscant Defence Fleet and Port Authority, The Spirit of Ossus sped out to the prearranged destination and activated its hyperspace. The ship vanished, it was not missed by the thousands of other ships going about their daily business.
Taramooren was the main meeting ground between Republic and Troiken forces. It was a system with a half dozen rocky and barren worlds which served as a nexus between the three nations; Sith, Republic and Troiken. Although the latter two nations were close allies, diplomacy prevented military forces being stationed in sovereign Troiken territory. The Republic had got around this by spreading the three sector fleets of Admiral Nivelle's Third Fleet along the border of the Republic, a third of which was opposite Troiken Space. Thus, in the event of an invasion and the inevitable call for assistance, the Republic could have substantial forces to defend their friends within hours. It was a good arrangement and many systems such as Taramooren had been set up as combined training and meeting grounds between the two nations. The Third Fleet was considered a prime placement for young officers despite the nearness to the old enemy of the Sith. Troiken was not a large nation; a score of colonised systems and the same again of outposts. It was however, the oldest ally of the Republic, its ships were mainly of Republic design and its crews and soldiers trained in Republic schools and academies. They were, nonetheless, fiercely independent and the Republic was wise enough to know that antagonising their friends was not the path to success.
The main military bastion in Taramooren was a large station orbiting the fourth world, a joint nation place guarded by a Republic cruiser group.
On the bridge of the station, amid the bustle, a communications technician called out to an officer waiting behind him. "Sir? Lieutenant sir?"
"What is it Corporal?" the Second Lieutenant, his black hair uncovered by a cap asked.
"The Jedi ship is just coming in sir. You wanted to be notified when they did?"
"Where are they docking Corporal?" the Lieutenant asked briskly.
"Docking bay six, sir."
"Very well. Tell Captain Vair that I am down there."
"Understood sir," the man acknowledged and picked up his communicator to relay the message.
It was about ten minutes later when Second Lieutenant Julius Solon walked into the docking bay. The last few months had been good for him, he had a good position with copious good company. Already, his mixture of antics and hard work had earned him notice from several senior officers. Now, because these Jedi were here by the direct request of the Order and because they would be going through Troiken Space, Solon was here. He was here to talk to them, give them the information they wanted and then move them on as quickly as possible. The last thing anyone wanted was a band of Jedi getting in the way.
Solon frowned; he did not like the Jedi with their supercilious arrogance and mysterious half-truths. It was true that there were many soldiers in the same mould but at least they were under firm discipline. In short, Julius Solon was not a fan of the Order.
The door opened to reveal the now pressurised hanger bay; electron interface screens were still expensive and not common on stations not in the main concentration areas. Taramooren should have been changed though, but there had been neither the money, nor the will for the refit. Facing Solon was a wide expanse of grey deck on which the Jedi's ship sat silent. He moved forward towards the three figures walking towards him. It had been years since he had met members of the Order, but that impression had been lasting and not exactly positive.
The lead Jedi was a woman, the oldest and obviously the senior of the three. She bowed, "Lieutenant, I am Jedi Knight Levarne."
The voice was slightly less cold than he remembered from his last meeting with a Knight. Solon saluted, "I am pleased to be acquainted with you. I am Second Lieutenant Julius Solon sir." The 'sir' was almost choked off but he controlled himself and tried to sound normal.
Jedi Levarne seemed not to notice, "Lieutenant Solon, we require information as was signalled ahead."
So she was just like the others, Solon though bitterly. "Of course sir, if you would care to head this way. Does your ship need supplies?"
"No Lieutenant," the Knight answered and strode on.
Solon stayed at the rear and unexpectedly, one of the Padawans stayed with him.
"Solon? As in Duke Datus Solon?" the man asked. He had piercing blue eyes and ebony black hair so dark that Solon's seemed bright compared.
"Yes sir. You have the advantage over me. You are sir?" Solon asked, resigned to another round of Jedi arrogance.
"You need not call me sir, Lieutenant. Only those who have rank deserve that. I am Padawan Revan."
Solon, a well educated man frowned, "Ghost? I cannot imagine the Jedi approve."
"They have given up trying to dissuade me, Solon," he said, deliberately using the man's name.
For his part, the Lieutenant was surprised that the formal sounding Jedi was bantering with him. "So where is your destination exactly," he bit off the honorific just in time.
Revan seemed amused. "I am not supposed to tell you. However, since you will be wanting exact details, I shall anyway. Xhartque, right on the border of Sith Space and the void."
Solon was surprised, despite his seeming inability to speak normally, the Jedi was being courteous to him. "We have that place under constant monitoring but we swept it last week just to be sure. There are no large scale forces or ion trails around it, there may be smaller ships coming and going but nothing more."
"That is good," Revan said, thinking hard.
"So, what are you looking for there?"
The Jedi turned a small look on the Lieutenant. "That I cannot tell you. What I will say though is that whether the Sith have been there is of great importance."
Solon nodded, "I was authorised by Commodore Milstidus to have a cruiser group stand by in the event of a large scale incursion. Captain Hetig is awaiting word on the Republic's closest border to the system."
"Thank you Lieutenant Solon. You have been very helpful. I do not think we need to trouble your commanding officer with our concerns. However, we would appreciate somewhere to rest overnight."
"Of course. I will have my second show you to them."
Revan turned back to his Jedi Master, "The Lieutenant says there has been no major incursions for months. Small ships might get through, but only one at a time. We have nothing to worry about."
Levarne was slightly piqued that she had been overridden, but controlled herself. "That is good Padawan. Lieutenant, do we have accommodation?"
Solon, with the air of a diplomat, brushed aside the commanding words effortlessly. "Of course, sir. Ensign, show them the guest rooms."
As Solon turned to leave, Revan put a hand on his shoulder. "Stay a moment Lieutenant if you will," he said as his two companions walked away.
"Of course, Revan. What can I do for you?"
Revan was silent for a long moment, he frowned. "You do not like Jedi. Why?" Solon scowled and Revan cut in before he could make a voluble protest. "I did not and indeed cannot read your thoughts. I see it in your eyes."
Solon sighed, "I suppose I don't really. My reasons are my own."
"We do not support the Republic. That is why, yes?" Revan said distantly.
Solon looked at Revan is surprise and a little anger, "How did you now that?"
Revan stood and looked at the seated man. "Because it is the truth."
Then he was gone, and Solon stared after the retreating man with the ebony hair and the strange robe. Second Lieutenant Solon decided he needed a drink, a large one, so he walked slowly back to his room.
It would take three days to travel the relatively small distance from Taramooren to the shadowy realm of Xhartque. It would take an additional three days by Revan's calculations to reach the right planet. Neither Revan or Levarne had flown anywhere near a neutron star before, and they needed to be cautious of the massive gravity and radiation potential. To the bare eyes, it seemed merely a glowing ball like a star's core without the corona. Levarne put the ship's shields to the highest non-battle level and accelerated forward. Once the course was set they had a few hours with nothing to do but wait. Mirar Levarne called Revan back into the crew quarters, leaving Malak on watch. The Jedi Knight seemed out of sorts today, usually she never showed nervousness before going into danger. And that, Revan guessed, was the reason for her private talk.
"Are you feeling unwell Master?" Revan asked in his patient, formal voice.
His Master frowned, in truth she was not feeling well. Mirar had never considered herself soft, but today she was feeling decidedly edgy. During the long trip where she had had nothing to do but wait, she had finally enough time to think. She had looked at Revan and known that she had failed. She had failed because she had done nothing to help him, not really. He would succeed or fail, live or die by his own choices, not because of her. When she had taken the boy in some eight years ago she could never have imagined that he would be so remarkably unchanged despite her efforts. Mirar suddenly felt very tired, she worried she had not been good enough for her student and perhaps she hadn't.
"Master? What is it?" Her eyes looked up into the stern but also worried eyes of Revan.
"I want you to remember Revan, when I am gone, that you will remember what I have taught you."
He cocked his head to the side, "You see your own death," it was a statement.
Mirar was not quite sure if that was true, though she had had enough dreams recently. If she was honest with herself, she knew that the last dream was a picture of her demise. She felt like shaking her head, but nodded instead. "I suppose I have."
Revan inclined his head marginally, "Yes. I suspected as much. We have an appointed time and place Mirar. I do not fear my death because I cannot change my destiny. Therefore I shall not hold back. The greatest fear a soldier has is not death, but the fear of death."
Levarne looked at her charge, he often said strange things but nothing quite like this. It wasn't that he didn't care about his or the death of others, he just blandly did not see it as important.
"And how would you know Revan?" she asked softly.
"I am convinced of it Master. If I see proof that it is not then I will change my view. All I can do, is do what I can in the time I have."
"I have never seen fate as fixed."
"There is no way to prove either way. Though my belief may be false, I shall cling to it. Do you fear your death Mirar?"
The Jedi Knight looked at him again. "Do not we all?"
"I know that I do," Revan said solemnly. "If you did not wish to come Master…."
"No Revan. It is my duty. Fear leads only to darkness. People resent what they fear and that turns to anger and anger is the flame that starts us down the path to darkness."
"I shall stand beside you as long as I am able Master," Revan said with a strange calm.
"Thank you, Revan." The Jedi seemed to get a grip on herself, "Enough Revan. These thoughts are not worth considering, we must have no doubt about tomorrow."
The younger man nodded, "As you wish, Master." Revan, for the first time she could remember, seemed at a loss. "You are the closest thing I ever had to family, now at least."
Mirar smiled at the awkward words, and reached out a hand to her student. "It has been a pleasure to have you beside me Revan. I know you will not disappoint me, if you keep by the light then you can only triumph."
"I shall not fail," Revan said softly, then left the room. The older Jedi Knight sat for a moment, she had not succeeded with her methods so it would be up to Revan to succeed. She hoped he had the will and the strength to prevail where she could not have. The premonition, a sure sign from the force assailed her, a flashing red line, then darkness. Her eyes closed briefly, then she forced herself upright and moved into the cockpit of the ship. She had an enigma to unravel.
Xhartque loomed before the three Jedi. The great red surface stretched across the planet whilst opposite it was the cold blue shape of the neutron star. It was small, as small as so many other stars in the vast galactic wastes, but it was still different. The odd blue shape was playing havoc with some of the sensors on the Jedi's craft. Radiation and gravity was impossible to determine as they drew nearer, it seemed certain that the planet's surface would be lethal to them. Off to the other side was the comforting shape and light of the other system's star. A class five yellow star pulsed out its corona of light as the ship neared the blasted planet.
"Where are we heading? We cannot search the whole planet," Mirar stated as she slowed the Spirit of Ossus and entered orbit.
"According to the map we have here, there is a strange series of spires ahead. They do not appear to be natural, like some sort of building."
"Good, we will start there. There is a wide area in front of it, I am starting landing sequence."
Mirar was a good pilot, but this was hardly a difficult takedown. They were in a canyon where the walls loomed three hundred feet on either side above them. There was a wide circular area though, blasted from the rock of one cliff wall to form a parade ground like space. Ten thousand men could have ranked up by battalions and yet not been crowded. Before the Jedi, and utterly dwarfing them, was a building. It was built into the rock, and entrances and terraces could be seen right to the very pinnacle. A great door stood at the top of a flight of steps, guarding the way into the building.
To the utter surprise of the Jedi, the air was breathable and not permeated with radiation. Still, taking precautions was wise, so each of the three adventurers wore filtration masks and carried radiation sensors in case conditions changed. Dust lay deep upon the ground, not a vagary of air disturbed the land. It was as though the planet was frozen into stasis and left to decay through the passage of time. The flagstones beneath the Jedi were still solid, showing that nothing odd had happened to disturb the geology of the planet. Before he reached the stairs, Revan looked up to see the strange, cold blue eye of the neutron star above him, then he turned away.
The doors were twice as high as even Malak was tall, and there was no easily recognisable ways to open it. No handles or controls were visible as they studied the surface intently. The doors were engraved with runes and glyphs similar to the ones used on the relic but were so worn down they could not be read. It seemed that something must have caused the erosion; Revan supposed it had to be sandstorms.
"So how do we open them?" Malak asked. He tapped the doors but found them solid.
"I see no obvious way, but there has to be a method, logically," Revan said calmly.
There was a flash of green as Revan activated his blade and drove it into the stone. With some difficulty he cut a few inches before pulling back. "The door is too strong," he stated with only a hint of frustration.
"Wait, think Revan. Consider longer before attacking," Mirar chided gently.
The Jedi Knight knelt down by the doors and closed her eyes. She focussed and controlled her mind until she was directing her full attention at the door. As it always did, the world seemed to blur and appear before her closed eyes. Normally inert matter was like dark shadows whilst living material glowed from within. Now however, there was a barely perceptible skein of misty red before her, evidence of some underlying corruption of the darkness. Mirar fought the temptations of the place, the urge to lose control and draw the power about herself, she concentrated. The door had been built with force sensitive visitors in mind. As she looked at the door, white, glowing lines seemed to appear before her eyes, tracing invisible paths on the rock. After a moment it was complete, two glyph hung circles were visible through her force sense, forming about four feet off the ground. Mirar was not a great force user, she had no where near the durability of many in the Order. Just before she blanked out, she pulled herself back to the real world.
Without regaining her balance she threw herself upright and at the door. Her hands pressed the invisible circles, then she sagged. The doors creaked and rumbled, then they split open. Revan helped his Master upright, holding her until her vision came back.
"Are you alright?" he asked a little more informally than usual, always a sign he was worried.
"I'm fine, Revan, please, let us go on."
The space before the three Jedi was massive. It should have been pitch black but was oddly illuminated with a bluish radiance. If that was strange, then the city around them was unique. It seemed to go all the way to the top of the canyon far above. It was a wonder and none of them had heard or seen anything like it before. It was as if a vast stone metropolis had first been buried underground, then riven with mighty chasms. Revan could not believe that the exterior canyon wall looked as it did, what with so much tunnelled and ground out from the inside of the mountain. A mighty processional way, nearly thirty yards across, would have lead across a vast gulf to a building beyond. The bridge was broken however; sixty yards had been torn from it, far too far to get across. The other side had a wide stair leading up to a plinth like alter. The alter was enshrouded by a blue light, suggesting some sort of force field, guarded the secrets. To left and right, all the way up to the roof was a mass of stone walkways, most broken by whatever had shattered the roadway. It was clear that the only way across would be to play a tense game of chance with the paths. Three doors waited invitingly for the three Jedi, two to the right and one to the left. Mirar had mostly recovered her balance and looked around.
"Something is over there, whatever lies on that must be important. There are three doors, we must take one each but be careful. Can you not feel the power of the dark side here?"
"Should we not stay together then?" Revan asked in a hushed tone.
Mirar looked at him. She wanted to say yes, would do anything to protect her student, no matter how wrong it was. And yet, she could not. They had to learn to fend for themselves in such a situation, for she would not be their Master forever. So she shook her head.
"No Revan, though the taint may be strong, you must deal with it with your own mind. I cannot help you forever."
"Yes Master. Malak, can you not feel the energy in this place?"
Malak nodded. "Yes, it is strong, we must be wary. If what we seek is as powerful as we think, it may be a beacon for the darkness."
"Then be careful, I will go left, go right Padawans. Keep in contact with each other."
"Master, who built this place?" Revan asked in wonder.
"I do not know, but your detective skills served you well. Perhaps we will find a clue on the far side."
"May the force be with you, Master."
"And with you my friends."
Mirar Levarne walked cautiously through the steep passage. Her weapon was held ready but not ignited, she expected to be attacked by something. Light was oddly not a problem, since the walls were set with some sort of power light which gave off a soft blue glow. How it was still working after countless centuries was a puzzle for the Jedi. The scent of the dark side was still around and increasing as she moved on further.
She was in a steeply sloped stone passage that ran up to a forking corridor at the top. Moving as silently as she could, Mirar peered around the corner to see two long passageways stretching off in opposite directions. To the right was the open air but Mirar was not ready for that yet, she wanted to be cautious and learn as much as possible about this place before she charged forward. Heading left, she passed through a long passage set with more of the glow lamps until she reached the end and turned right. The yellowy grey stone seemed full of shadows as she walked along and it took all of the Jedi's willpower not to turn and see if she was being followed.
At last she came to a wide room, almost square and about twenty foot high. The interesting thing was that the surface of the room was actually six feet below her, mirrored on the far side. To the far right, only a few feet below the room was a small crawl way but there was no obvious access to it. On the actual surface of the room, the surface was covered with a green slime, mixed in with stone blocks fallen from the roof. And then, there was the skeleton, a human skeleton. Mirar gaped at it, whoever had built this complex was not human, but here lay a pile of bones with a few scraps of cloth scattered around it. Mirar jumped down and walked across the floor to the long dead body, she had a sinking feeling that it was one of the lost Jedi. Mirar knelt by the figure but after all this time the bone was fragile and crumbled before her probe. The Jedi frowned, surely skeletons did not crumble after only twenty years?
She leant over to look at the scraps of cloth. The movement saved her life, something flew over her head and struck the far wall. Mirar rolled aside and came up with weapon raised. It was no enemy she faced but the room itself. A second jet of some liquid that appeared to be some sort of acid sprayed at her and the Jedi reeled backwards. A few drops burnt through her robes and onto her skin like they were not there. Then, in case her predicament was not bad enough, the two doors closed. With a grinding of stone on stone, the doors slid shut and locked, leaving the Jedi woman trapped inside. The room started to darken as the lights went out one by one.
Revan moved cautiously down the next corridor, it looked like the others but he had carefully marked the places he had been so he would know if he got lost. His datapad he used as a temporary map and his lightsabre, he used as a chisel on the walls. After a half hour or so, Revan came to a turning that would take him out over the endless depths. However, there was an obstacle, a rectangular room with a door faced him. It was open to the sky, a room with no walls or roof. Clearly, this had once been a straight second route across the chasm, but now it served only as a barrier. In front of the door was a statue; alabaster white and strangely shaped. It had a long bulbous head, fishy hands and feet and was covered all over with representations of armour. Revan approached it but as he neared, the impossible happened, it lifted its head. The thing chatted something to him in a mechanical tone of voice but Revan could not understand it. It spoke again, more threatening and Revan knew it was no mere machine but something entirely different. Then, the Jedi remembered the words, perhaps the golem like creature would understand Zahil'li. Revan pulled his translator free and fiddled with the controls; he had thoughtfully entered the language into his machine's memory and now he was thankful for that.
Revan used the translator to ask if it spoke the language he used. There was silence for a moment, then it spoke in an archaic but understandable version of Zahil'li.
"Who are you that uses the language of the slaves?"
"I am a slave to no man," Revan said arrogantly.
The golem seemed to look at him for a moment. "You are unknown to me, creature. What business do you have in the temple of the Black Heart?"
"I came because of this," Revan said and held up a reconstruction of the relic. Mirar had kept the original as it was potentially dangerous to her young Padawan..
The golem made a small chuckling sound. Revan was not sure what the creature was. It couldn't be alive, for surely nothing could have lived here for so many centuries. It was not a droid either because it was clearly animated by more than mere machinery. So what was it?
The golem interrupted his thoughts before he could ask. "I sense the power coming from you. Why did the Masters send such a creature such as you?"
"How did you find me?"
"I was guided to you by the energy you exude, the true power of the Builders."
"The Builders?" Revan asked.
"Do not jest with me, mortal. You know who we are, though I sense defiance in you. So the slaves come to beg aid of the masters, do they?"
"Why would they do that? Who are these slaves of whom you speak?"
"The Empire has many slaves but few leaders. Why are you here? Speak quickly."
"I came, guided by the disk."
"You seek to bow before the Heart? Or do they beg to release it once more? They told me they would return. Are you here on their behalf?"
"I know not of what you speak. This disk is twenty thousand years old." Revan thought for a moment, "Two hundred revolutions of the outermost planet."
Revan knew it was no droid and that the creature knew of the force. Fire blazed in its eyes, literally; it was a terrifying sight to see the white statue turn shadowy grey. The force flowed from it like mist off a winter lake.
"Impossible! We are invincible! The Builders shall never fall!" It turned on Revan who had drawn his weapon, the Jedi belatedly realised that he had said the wrong thing. "They abandoned me here, alone to guard the Heart. They betrayed me but I shall avenge myself."
"Who are you?" Revan asked, wondering just what was going on. The creature's skin was near black, Revan licked his lips as the golem answered.
"Pitiful creature. I am the Guardian of the Heart, the key of our power. You have awoken me where they did not dare. They came and left me here. They said the Heart was corrupting them so they left me here to guard it, they said they would return."
Before Revan could say another word, the creature drew a huge blade, blue-silver and looking as new as the day it had been made. Revan activated his own blade as the mad golem moved in for the kill.
Malak prided himself on knowing what he was doing at all times. Now, however, he was confused. Every time he headed down a passage, he got even more lost. He was certain that the walls were closing silently behind him but he could sense nothing strange nor see anything odd in the stonework. Finally, he came to the end of the passage, he was sure he had been here before. He tried to raise Revan on his comm link but something was blocking the transmissions. There was the faint noise, and the Jedi turned to see his worst fear confirmed. He was shut in. The bald headed man waited for an opponent to capitalise on his weakness, but none was forthcoming. Was he to be trapped here until he starved? Malak knew the walls were solid stone, he could not cut through them without burning his weapon out. Malak was just about to resort to using a demolition bomb when the path before him mysteriously opened again. The Jedi activated his blue blade and walked out of the hallway, into the room at the end. His eyes widened because there were droids before him. A half-dozen skeletal machines stood before him, eyes glowing a sickly red, all had weapons trained on him. The Jedi could not guess what sort, but had no desire to find out. A strange sort of peace enveloped the Jedi, as he relaxed, banishing his fear. The leader of the machines said something in a language Malak did not comprehend. He did not wait for the guns to move up to the killing position; he attacked.
Malak was a good swordsman, not because he was subtle, but because he was strong. He was not a fencer like Revan or a tactical fighter like Valiens Nantaris, he was a soldier. Driven by his iron arm and fierce offensive, his attacks were lethally efficient. The droid leader got no chance to fight before the blue blade had beheaded it. Malak spun right and ducked, the machines were trying to get out of the way. It was the one flaw with all battle droids, presumably even these millennia old ones, they were logical. If there was a chance to hit their comrades, they held their fire as it conflicted with their prime directive. A few could be made to overcome this but not many. Malak lashed out to chop a torso, threw the chassis aside, then bodily slammed another to the ground where it was an easy target.
Malak felt a sharp pain in his side; he had been stabbed by one of the many spiny protrusions on the droid's body. With a roar, the blue blade took another body apart. Then he stopped. Three were left standing and they brought up their guns, opening fire. Malak ducked one and tried to use his blade to parry another. The shock of the impact jarred him, knocking his lightsabre blade almost into his head. As he staggered back, the third machine fired and the blow slammed into the Jedi's leg.
Mirar Levarne resolved not to die in this trap. She smiled grimly as her instincts made her avoid another jet of corrosive acid. She pushed aside her fear and doubt and resolved to do her duty. Quickly, her hands felt for and found a light flare which she activated and threw at the opposite wall. The sharp, spear like tip stuck fast and glowed to reveal the room. Mirar cursed softly, whatever was controlling this room's defences had given up trying to blast her with the acid and now tried to drown her in it. The nearly clear liquid rose from vents in the floor, consuming the slime and bones of the fallen Jedi. Mirar looked around, scrambling onto a fallen block, searching for escape. She had only a few inches before her boots would start to be dissolved. She considered trying the doors but a steady mist of what looked like the corrosive permeated the air and the Jedi had no wish to inhale the killer. Luckily, the Jedi Knight had carried a small breath mask in case the planet had proved unbreathable. Desperately, she put the mask on as the fumes around her started to rise. She needed to escape, but how? Her eyes finally settled on the small crawl space far above her. It was marked with lightsabre marks, evidence that the other Jedi had tried to escape this way. Whether they had succeeded or not could not be told but she did not care. Anything was better than being slowly tormented to death by the corrosive liquid. She had seconds left before the tide reached her, the Jedi acted quickly. She drew her knife, an ordinary steel blade she kept for occasions when a lightsabre was impractical. She threw it; guided by the force, it stuck about five feet above her. It would give her time as she gathered herself, and then, trusting in the force, she jumped.
She caught the knife handle, almost jerking it free but it stuck in the crack. Now she was suspended by a thin steel sliver over certain death. It was hardly reassuring. At least now, however, she had a clear shot at the small ledge over the crawl space. It had been hidden because she had been virtually under it, now she could get up there. Gathering her waning energy, the Jedi Knight hurled herself upwards with the force, catching her hands on the ledge. Hauling herself up, she crawled through the broken vent, and pulled the mask free. Jedi Levarne had escaped.
Revan barely had time to think as he ducked the slicing blade from the golem. He came up with lightsabre ready and countered. The creature parried tirelessly but eventually he missed and Revan drove the blade into its chest. Instead of sparks or even blood, the blade slid off. The Jedi gaped and fell backwards to avoid a scything blow, his weapon ineffective.
Neither fighter spoke as they clashed again. Revan's blade cut again and again past the golem's guard but it no more hindered the foe than an insect. The golem could hurt him though, he had a long slice across the right arm to show that. Revan knew that the creature was tireless, that it would hunt him down, he had to escape. He turned to the door to find it locked. Revan attacked again but the golem seized his hand, ignoring the weapon and squeezed. Bones popped and ground under the hand that felt like an organic vice. Revan managed to contain a cry as the other hand reached for his throat, intent on choking him. The Jedi dropped the useless blade and grappled with the hand; the golem was effortlessly stronger, twisted its grim hold and moved forward. Revan, his end near, relaxed. The power of the force called to him, he decided he had no choice. He did not want to die. The force called to him to fight, to win, to crush this pitiful creature, and the air was thick with the dark tendrils of the dark force. Revan gathered himself and as the ash black hands reached his throat he riposted. The blow was like a giant's fist to the golem. The arm was snatched back and the thing staggered, still gripping Revan's mangled right hand tightly. Revan pulled himself upright as the golem stood, releasing Revan's arm. His limp arm fell to drip blood messily onto the floor, but Revan did not notice.
The golem picked up its blade and brought it down in a killing blow that would have hacked down a rancor. It never landed. Revan held up his hand and seized the sword. Surprised, the creature tried to run the blade back to sever the Jedi's hand. Revan still stared into the golem's eyes, never looking at where his hand should have been cut apart. Then, with one quick movement, Revan threw the blade off and set a crashing invisible strike into the creature. The sword clattered to the ground as the monster recoiled before the onslaught. Revan, nearing exhaustion and collapse from blood loss, sent one final blow into the creature. It stepped back, but there was nowhere to go, only down.
"May my people be avenged upon you, slave," it hissed. Revan was far too tired to notice he had understood the creature's true language. Then it was gone, breaking a walkway far below in its ruin. The Jedi hit the ground, one wrist mangled and the other palm cut open to the bone. The force had guarded him, but not entirely. As he slowly bled, he knew nothing more.
Malak winced from the hammer blow that knocked him back. He did not fall though and remained standing as the machines readied themselves to fire their weapons again. The Jedi ignored his injury and hurled his blade; it spun in a deadly sapphire arc to scythe two machines down. The last was smashed aside by Malak who physically slammed it into the wall, then finished it off with his blade. The droid's shot, from some sort of early blaster weapon, had missed the bone by a half inch, but had still done severe damage to the Jedi. He sighed and covered the burns with salve, bound the wound and hobbled down the hallway and out.
He checked, he saw a body lying just a few yards away, a green lightsabre was still activated on the flagstones. Revan. Malak raced over, deactivating the weapon before kneeling by his friend. The black haired man grunted in pain as Malak jarred his mangled right arm, but at least he lived. The blood had mostly stopped though there was still a lot of it. A few more moments, Malak knew, and his friend would have been lost. The bald man tore open a sterilised bandage he kept and used it to support and bind the wounds.
Revan made not a sound as his friend re-broke his wrist to splint it. The consular looked up at his friend's concerned eyes.
"Thank you my friend. It was too strong."
"What happened?" Malak asked as he tightened the splint. His friend winced and Malak frowned. He saw blood was still oozing out. He had to stop it or his friend would die. Summoning his strength, he poured what power his exhausted mind could conjure into the wound. Revan sighed quietly as the blood clotted and hardened.
"Thank you," he said calmly. He was still in pain, for no use of the force could simply restore such an injury. That would take time, and time was not something they had much of.
"No trouble. What attacked you, Revan?"
"Golem, a creature somehow animated by dark power. It is the guardian. It attacked me." Revan made a half hearted shrug, then relaxed. "Come on, can you raise Mirar on the comm?"
"No answer," Malak said and showed the unresponsive machine to his comrade.
"You have my weapon? It didn't work against the creature."
"It was built to resist them?"
"Perhaps but I think it was far older than the Republic. Come on, let's find this prize and get out of here."
Malak supported his friend, ignoring his own wound but Revan shrugged him off.
"I am fine Hierion, I had nothing to stop the blood loss."
Malak was aghast that his friend was up so quickly and moving. At least the wrist was wrapped, though it would be small comfort if they had to fight once more.
Revan and Malak finally reached the other side of the chasm, gazing back at where they had come from.
"I cannot sense Mirar," Revan said with a slight edge in his voice.
"I'm sure she I fine, come on."
The two Jedi had no time to rest. They had to find their Master, sticking together had been the wisest course after all. It was too late to change anything though, they had to reunite with Mirar.
The great door to the Temple on Xhartque opened. Walking into the hidden city was a man in black robes, his movements illuminated by the ghost light of the dying stars above the planet. He was a tall, good looking man with a pale, hawk like face and cold, blue eyes. The black robe was impeccable in colour, and was fastened over black undergarments. The pendant of the Phoenix, the emblem of the Sith, hung from his neck as he walked along the processional way. At his side was the unmistakable shape of a silver lightsabre hilt, and to one who knew the force, there swirled a dark power about him. He smiled, he could sense his quarry.
Swiftly, the black haired man walked to the centre of the roadway, right to where it fell into darkness. He looked down at the abyssal depths, and smiled. He walked forward, over the edge, but he did not fall. The power of the force was about him as he walked over the bottomless depths, holding him up as easily as he would levitate a stone. Reaching the other side, he walked towards the distant altar.
Mirar dusted herself off and walked along the passages. She was higher than she had thought; down to her right was the altar at the top of the steps. She was just about to begin her descent when she saw the white of bones once more. Knowing it had to be another of the Jedi, she crouched down beside it. This body still had the robe about its shoulders and the bones were firm still. Beside it, and almost lost was a datapad. Mirar crouched down and gently picked up the thin electronic recording device. It still worked and she turned it on and moved to the last entry.
"Kaynard had betrayed us, I should have sensed his anger before we left. The dark side roils in this place, now he has left me. I cannot move much anymore, he wanted to make me suffer it seems. He will be long gone back to the Sith by the time I am dead. It all makes sense now, Parit's death. I should have seen the betrayal but now, I am dying. He has sealed the door and gone back to his masters I wager. Why do I write still? If a Jedi does find this, remember the power of the dark side and let my death have some meaning.
- Jedi Knight Cerin Artvin"
Mirar put it down; so the Jedi had been betrayed? She could see it as likely, so many had turned coats in the Sith War. Now, it had happened again. She looked down to see the Jedi's legs gouged by what must be the mark of a lightsabre. So this Kaynard had betrayed his master and left her to die? She read the passage again, it was not a pleasant thought.
She forgot this as she limped on towards the way down to the altar. She finally came to the wide area with the processional road to her right. He had never realised how large this area was until now. It was nearly a quarter mile across, nearly five hundred and fifty yards of open stonework. She thought she could see Revan and Malak in the distance and made haste towards them. Then, she sensed, only just in time, the new enemy that appeared from in front of her. She was at the foot of the stairs, close to her goal when she stopped.
At the top of the altar was a man. She moved forward, weapon held ready in case she needed to fight. The Jedi Knight was about to call out a challenge, when the tall man turned. Mirar frowned, she knew this man, or at least had met him once.
"Ah, Mirar Levarne. It has been some time," the calm voice called to her.
"Do I know you?" she asked. She was cautious of a trap, and so held her weapon ready.
"Indeed, for we met a few years ago," the Sith stated. "A few years ago over Dathomir, the signing of the treaty," he went on.
"I cannot remember you," Mirar stated, though that was not entirely true. She could remember the face, and the eyes, but not from meeting him. She had seen this man in the archives…and that was distracting.
"I am known as Darth Shadow. I have many names though, child, perhaps you would know me as Quoll Le'vert?" he asked.
The Jedi Knight only just concealed her astonishment, this was the legendary Darth Shadow? Now she remembered meeting him, and seeing him in the archives. Whoever this Sith Lord was, he was unique. Since the time of Marka Ragnos, there had been mention of a Darth Shadow, but most Jedi dismissed it as being a title carried over as time went on. It was only sense, or was it?
"What are you here for?" she demanded, far more certainly than she felt.
"The same thing you are, Jedi," he said and waved to the Heart. "I am here for that. I assume you saw the remains of your comrade, Jedi Artvin?"
Mirar's eyes narrowed. "What do you know of that?" she asked coldly.
"This place has not changed much since I was last here. Kaynard was a good Jedi, but a poor Sith," Shadow stated.
The words sunk in. "You were here?" she asked, clearly showing disbelief.
A small smirk was her answer. "And what of it?" he added. "Time is just a thing. Now, I am taking the heart, it has taken me all these years to think of a way to disable that energy shield over it. You may stand aside, or you will have to die. And that goes for your two Padawans as well, wherever they might be."
Mirar looked at him grimly. "I will not let you take this. The Sith are a menace, and it is the role of the Jedi to maintain order."
"Is it?" Shadow asked. "No, the Jedi tries to police the Republic, but I am a Sith Lord. We are not in the Republic, nor are we at war at the is present time. I think therefore, that it would be wise of you to back away. I do not want to kill you, but I will if you refuse my offer."
"I can't let you do this," she said through gritted teeth and activated her lightsabre. The green light shot out and stood ready. Darth Shadow shook his head.
"Why must humans rush to fight battles they cannot win?" he asked calmly.
"Your overconfidence will be your downfall, Sith," Mirar stated.
"I doubt it, my very young Jedi," the Sith Lord retorted. He held up his weapons, but instead of the red blade she had been expecting, there was a flash of actinic blue that ignited to face the green blade of the Jedi Knight.
Mirar brought her weapon down in a swift cut towards the head of the Sith Lord. Shadow parried her blow and riposted with a slice that nearly disembowelled the Jedi. The battle was fast and furious, but only on Mirar's part. The Sith Lord seemed not even to want to attack, simply defending and feinting.
Mirar locked the blades, but the Sith Lord pushed her backwards so she stumbled at the head of the stairs. As she was off balance, Darth Shadow landed a heavy boot in her stomach, driving her back down the stairs to sprawl in a pained heap halfway down.
The Sith Lord dismissively turned to the altar, examining it for what might power the defence mechanism. Smiling triumphantly, Quoll Le'vert called the power of the force to him, and directed the raw power in a crackling arc directly at the centre of the black stone altar. There was a flash, and the power field faded. The Sith Lord smiled, he had been right all along.
Mirar Levarne got up slowly. She was in pain, awful pain from her chest made every breath an agony. She figured the fall down the stairs had broken a rib, as well and bruising and cutting her all over her body. She force herself up and gripped her lightsabre. The Sith Lord was using his powers on the artefacts, which meant his back was turned. Dishonourable it might be, but the Sith Lord had to be stopped. Even if she did not know what the Heart did, she knew that the Sith getting their hands on it was not a wise idea. She moved up behind him, her weapon ready, then, at the last second, she activated her lightsabre and brought it across to slice the man's back open.
One did not survive as a Sith Lord without knowing when someone was creeping up behind them. And Quoll Le'vert was no ordinary man, he had let the Jedi woman come, let her expose herself, and then he moved. Her vertical slice was easily stopped, and while her blade was uselessly to the side, Darth Shadow used the force to slam her into the wall behind her. As she had cut down, Le'vert had stepped to the side, and he used the wall behind her as a perfect opportunity. The Jedi crashed into the wall, her lightsabre clattered down the stairs, and she could do nothing as the blue blade followed up and stabbed her in the chest….
Revan was running forward, he had finally gained the stair crest, but now he saw disaster. The blue blade stabbed forward once, a gurgling cry and then the Jedi slumped as the sabre was withdrawn. Revan breathed in but showed no reaction otherwise as the Sith Lord turned to him. Malak was still limping forward, yet to reach the stairway, leaving his friend to fight the foe alone.
"So terrible when fools try to be brave," Le'vert said as though he was saddened by the events. His eyes betrayed him though, they showed nothing but contempt.
Revan said nothing but activated his blade using his better hand. "So you come for the Heart."
The Sith Lord cocked his head to one side, the voice had been flat and emotionless. "Of course Siandar. Or should I call you Revan?" He expected surprise or outrage, he was disappointed.
"You may call me either, Sith Lord. It will make no difference to this fight."
Then I will call you Revan. What you shall be if you do not turn aside."
"You killed her," Revan said very quietly.
"Does that make you angry?" Le'vert asked, hoping to tempt his opponent into an ill considered attack.
"I feel nothing," Revan stated in a low voice.
"I expected you to show something at your Master's death."
"Did you? I could not prevent it, so my feelings mean nothing."
The black haired head nodded, he truly did look a little like Revan, though neither would ever admit to as much. "You are wiser than most of your kind. I give you the same choice I gave her, stand aside or die."
"Then it shall have to be my death, Sith. You will beat me I have no doubt but I will not stand aside."
Le'vert was impressed, amused and intrigued by the calm words. "Perhaps you may have made a fine enemy one day, Revan. But now we'll never know, will we?"
No matter how good Revan was, he could not fight the Sith Lord with only one hand. Le'vert pressed the attack and then with a flourish, swept his foe's blade aside. The lightsabre clattered across the ground to lodge near one of the pillars. Revan jumped back, but tripped on a raised flagstone. The move took him under the slice that would have opened his throat. A desperate roll to the side helped him avoid a downward stab though it jarred the broken wrist agonisingly. Revan tried to get up but the Sith Lord gave him no chance, he held out his hand, palm towards the Jedi.
The blow could have been stopped by Revan normally, but now the invisible hand slammed him backward and over the edge. Into the abyss.
Quoll Le'vert looked over the edge but could see no sign, evidently the boy had fallen to his death. The Sith Lord walked to where the Heart was seated. He sheathed his lightsabre and grasped it. Barring a faint tingle, the Sith Lord felt nothing, so he hefted the object and walked down the stairs.
The third Jedi was there, he was a bald headed brute, taller even than the Sith Lord, and easily strong enough to beat almost any man bare fisted.
"Ah, Jedi, I was just leaving," Darth Shadow said calmly.
Malak looked at the Sith Lord, then at his fallen Master, and then to where his friend had been. He activated his blue blade, hissing as pressure was put on his injured leg.
"I will kill you!" Malak said, his anger rising to a dangerous pitch.
Darth Shadow considered fighting the brute, but decided against it, he had the Heart, had slain one, or maybe two Jedi. With a sigh, he set the Heart down and faced the Jedi.
Malak came forward and brought his blue blade down like an axe. Darth Shadow parried effortlessly, and then launched a series of quick slices and cuts to drive his foe off balance. The Jedi was a better swordsman than his two companions, and the Sith Lord did not want to be drawn into a long fight. Using the force he attacked, the hit the bald man with a telekinetic blow that sent him stumbling backwards. Darth Shadow levitated the Heart from the ground, turned and walked away.
"Come back here, coward! Come and die!" Malak roared. The dark residue was making his skin tingle, urging him to chase the coward down and take him apart. Then a voice called.
It was a weak voice from Malak's left, he turned but could see nothing. Moving over and looking down, he saw his friend. Revan was a mess, in an effort to hold on he had grabbed the stonework with his right hand. His lips were bloody where he had bitten down to stop a cry of pain. Even at this time, his pride, rather than the fear of alerting the Sith was the reason. Now, his bloody form was hanging perilously over the pit. Malak deactivated his weapon, then used his brutal strength to lift Revan onto the stone floor.
Once Revan was secure, Malak moved over to where his Master lay propped against the wall. Malak was shocked to hear a slight intake of breath from his Master.
"Master?" he asked, shaking her head slightly.
A tired eye opened to look at her Padawan. "Hierion…I am sorry," she said in a distant voice.
"No, Master, I couldn't get here fast enough. I'm so sorry!" he said. He cursed himself for his slowness, for not stopping Revan charging off.
"This fate was foreordained, I knew I would not come back," she said, her eyes slowly losing focus.
"Master?" Malak asked. "What can I do now? You were all I had," he said in a broken voice.
A small smile touched her blueing lips. "You will be a great Jedi, Malak. Look after yourself, and look after Revan." She gripped the younger man's hand tightly. "Tell…Nantaris…He has made me proud," she gasped out.
"Hang on, Mirar, I can save you," Malak said and reached for a medical pack.
A hand stopped him, it was covered in blood, for although the lightsabre had cauterised the wound, the blood was now flowing out once more. "Leave it, Malak. I know…when it is time." She leaned her head back.
"Master?" Malak asked.
It was too late though, Mirar Levarne was dead, her gentle face fouled by the blood which had spilled from her mouth. Malak leaned forward, his eyes misted and very gently closed her staring eyes. Revan would take the loss hard, he was sure. Of all the Jedi around him, Mirar Levarne was the only one he had confided in. Even that small show of trust had taken until just a few years before the present. Revan now trusted no one but himself.
Malak looked at the ruined body, and then he went to break his friend's heart.
The air, despite being controlled and recycled, was still fresh. The metal walls around Malak were as hidden as possible considering that they were bare metal. The big man still had a slight limp and the leg itself was still bandaged, but it was not a serious injury. They said that in a few days he would be fine to walk properly once more. Revan however, was in a far worse state; it was not his injury though that was the problem. The broken wrist was easily splinted and the cut on the left hand bandaged. It had been the death of his Master that had affected him. Mirar Levarne had been the only person he had taken into his confidence, that seemed to be a rare honour indeed considering he had never told Malak anything personal. In the three years they had fought beside one another, they had been friends but not close beyond that. When Malak had told his friend of Mirar's death, he had expected anger or even some sort of sorrow. Instead, Revan had just nodded; it was like he had known what would happen. He had said perhaps a dozen words on the way back. Now they were here, on Taramooren, recovering their strength until they could return to Coruscant. It had not been an easy trek out of the temple, especially bearing the body of their Master, but they had done it.
Malak knocked on the door to the room, and there was a hiss as it slid open. Malak frowned in disapproval as he walked in to see his friend sitting at a table. Revan was writing something, but when his fellow Jedi had fully entered the room, he waved his hand at the door. The entrance closed again and locked, the bald headed Malak tried to keep a disapproving frown off his face.
"You wanted something Hierion?" Revan asked stiffly. This return to the proper name of his friend was incomprehensible and Malak had no clue how to deal with it. He did not mind either name really, but was now so used to his title that his real name seemed out of place.
"I came to see if you were alright. You have not left this room since we got back four days ago."
"I have had not reason to. I am feeling as well as I did two hours and eight minutes ago when you last checked." The voice was so ordered, controlled, like Revan was running on automatic pilot. Malak had never seen anything like it.
"I was thinking we would leave tomorrow, Revan."
"That is the wisest course," Revan said, not looking up from his work.
Malak knew that going on further would be a mistake. He wanted to keep talking to his friend though; he needed to know why his comrade was acting so strangely.
"Do you think we will meet the Sith Lord again?"
Revan looked up briefly, his face showed nothing but a cold mask. "I believe that it is likely, Hierion. Is there anything else?"
"Do you want revenge?" Malak blurted out. In truth though, he admitted to himself that he wanted to see if he could push his friend into familiar ground.
"No. Revenge will solve nothing. If I get a chance to kill him, then he will die, I promise you that. I will not hunt him down though. What did you want me to say?" he asked, noting the shocked look on Malak's face.
"I don't know. I just… I don't know."
"Go Hierion, I will be ready tomorrow."
"As you wish, Revan," Malak said and backed away. He had to open the door himself, but it closed as soon as he was out. Locked out, just like he was out of his friend's mind. Malak sighed and slowly walked away.
Inside the room where he had been quartered, Revan sighed. He was not angry exactly, he was not even saddened by the whole tragic affair. What depressed him is that he should have felt even some anger or sorrow, but he felt nothing. The training of a Jedi might tell him that emotion was the enemy to rational thought, but he had never believed it. No, it was all in himself, he simply could not muster the necessary energy to feel it. And it was that which was driving him crazy.
The young Jedi stood and stretched his left arm out, his ability to use the force was undiminished, and for that he was grateful. His right hand was encased in a substance the medic had told him would help the bone heal, Revan had had no choice but to believe him. The temptation to call upon the force was ever present; since his defeat of the guardian in the tomb, he had been tempted with the power. Finally, Revan could bear it no longer, he opened the door with a gesture and stalked out into the hallway. Republic and Troiken soldiers scattered from his path as he swept down the hallways, and his gait was steady and strong despite his bandaged hands.
Second Lieutenant Julius Solon was on the bridge when Revan approached him. The soldier was giving orders to the scanner crews, anticipating his departure tomorrow back to Troiken. Solon disliked the border station with its sparse amenities and even sparser excitement. As he turned back to walk from the command centre he saw the Jedi with the injured hand. He had been the most polite of the Jedi and he sympathised with the man's loss so he decided to let the man talk.
"Lieutenant Solon, yes?" the Jedi asked.
"Yes sir, Revan. How is the hand?"
"Better that it was," Revan was making a mighty effort to be civil.
"I am sorry for your loss, Jedi," Solon said. He had been told that a Jedi's Master was like a parent to them, but he had never paid much attention to it. He had never liked the Jedi, and although this Revan was slightly better, he was still cold and arrogant.
"It was her fate to fall against the Sith," Revan said softly.
"She was killed by the Sith?" Solon asked. The Jedi here and on Coruscant had been tight lipped about what had happened, or even why the Jedi had come. This silence infuriated Solon and the station's Commander who had tried to find out what had happened in case it happened again.
Revan was aware that he said something that he should have avoided. Then he considered that the Republic deserved to know even more than the Order did. After all, they would have to fight the Sith eventually. Revan was not sure what power the Daemon's Heart possessed but it could not be good.
So the Jedi nodded, "Yes it was. A Sith Lord named Quoll Le'vert appeared there and attacked us."
Revan saw the man's eyes open in shock. The Jedi's ability to sense emotions told him the soldier was shocked by something he had said. "What is it Lieutenant?" Revan asked patiently.
"I know of this Sith Lord. My friend, he was almost killed by him. He told me about him. Black hair, tall, regal."
Revan nodded, he was surprised though he did not show it. "Yes, that is the one. I know nothing of him."
Solon debated as to whether he should tell the Jedi what he knew. Then he realised that any Cadet knew what he was about to say. "The Sith are controlled by a council of nine Sith Lords. The greatest is the Dark Lord, the ruler who can overrule the others in times of need. Quoll Le'vert is one of them, I assume, or perhaps the apprentice of one of them."
Revan thought about that. It made sense that the Sith had sent a competent man to fetch this treasure. Mirar Levarne was no slouch with a lightsabre and had not scratched the man once.
"I never knew that. They do not teach us much about the Sith."
"We fight them every day out here. It's an undeclared war that's been going on since the last Sith War. Sometimes it flares up, then it dies. The Troiki always have the worst of it. It has been good for a few years but we cannot relax our guard."
Revan learned something else he did not know; Troiki was evidently the name of the people of that state. He felt confused now, like an ignorant man among professors.
"I thank you, Lieutenant."
"It's hardly classified knowledge Jedi," Solon said cheerfully. "Any man with a Republic uniform could tell you that."
"I see. Thank you, I, I must go."
Second Lieutenant Solon watched the man go and frowned; what did the Jedi teach their Padawans these days? Evidently, not much.
Revan seemed to be in a better mood to Malak's eyes on the next day when they departed. Rather than taking the body of their Master back to Coruscant, she would be buried with full honours on board the station. The Jedi would take just her weapon, robe and necklace she had worn back to be interred in the Hall of Remembrance in the Jedi Temple. Now the two Jedi stood as the black metal of the coffin was loaded into a small drone ship set to be decommissioned. The room they were in looked over the planet of Taramooren, a barren world where no men lived. Second Lieutenant Solon was the overseer of the ceremony, commanding the ten soldiers of the Republic Fifty First Infantry Division. Malak stood impassive and quiet but Revan put his injured hand over his heart and bowed his head. If his friend disapproved, he did not mention as much.
"A brave defender of the Republic shall never be forgotten if they held true to the ideals of liberty, freedom and peace." Solon's voice read from an invisible script as the soldiers presented their weapons. The tone was non-committal, almost as though the Lieutenant hardly even realised the words he was speaking.
"May light protect you, Master," Revan muttered softly.
"The final and only dedication we can give such an ally is to consume them in the flame of one of the worlds they stood to protect. May the remembrance of the Republic be ever upon you."
Solon gave the signal and the Sergeant in charge of the cremation stepped forward and activated the controls. There was a hiss, and then the decommissioned ship was fired out of the airlock into space. For a moment it slowly grew smaller until finally, it hit the atmosphere of the planet below. There was a flash of flame, then nothing.
"Burial party, dismissed," Solon barked. The party saluted the now empty airlock and left the deck. Solon walked slowly to meet the two Jedi. "I am sorry, she seemed like a good person."
"She was Lieutenant, but in war, even the best die. Too often they die first. I thank you though."
Malak forced himself to add some words to his friend's. "Thank you Lieutenant. May the force be with you."
"And with you, Jedi. Now, if you will excuse me," he said, saluted and then was gone.
Revan sighed, "What do we do now?"
"We go back to the Temple. We will inter her items in the vault."
"And what exactly did she die for? For an item that we do not know was of any value? For a piece of stone that lured us into that bitter trap? Tell me Malak, why are we standing here?"
"We had to try and find out what was there," Malak explained patiently.
"But we failed just the same. Now she is dead. I should have gone quicker to her aid."
"You would have been defeated the same. And it might have been me alone, or none of us standing here."
"But I could have tried. There was so much for me still to learn."
"You once said your fate was fixed. If this was her fate, and yours, why do you plague yourself?"
"Just because something is set, does not mean I have to like it, Malak. Do you not understand? She was all I had."
"She was our teacher, nothing more Revan," Malak said calmly as they walked back to the hanger. He noticed that his title had reappeared but made no issue of it.
"Nothing more? She was the only person I ever felt close to." Revan sighed and shook his head. "She died for nothing, all because of me."
"You would have accepted an exchange of places?"
"Yes, because it would not be me standing here."
"That is selfish, think of the Jedi Code-" Malak tried.
"Damn the code!" Revan snarled.
"Revan, please be calm," Malak pleaded. "Such thoughts lead to the dark side my friend. What is done is done. Would she want you to throw your life away for nothing?"
The black haired man shook his head slowly, "No, I suppose not. That does not mean that I have to like it."
"You are human Revan, it is natural to feel sorrow and anger. But we are Jedi, we must control this lest it blind us from our goals."
"It is so much more complicated than I thought. The Jedi teach us nothing about this. How to deal with it."
"We must look to each other and the Order for support. Remember the tale of those who fell in the war with the Sith."
"Yes, if only the Council had seen fit to warn us. We found no trace of the dead Jedi did we?" Revan asked, oblivious of what his now dead Master had discovered.
"No, perhaps it was nothing."
"Thank you Malak, sometimes it is just…never mind."
"I am here to help you as much as I can."
"Come on, they will be waiting for us to leave."
Of the two, Revan was the better pilot, but Malak sensed his friend needed time to recover his focus. Besides, Revan was hurt and would not be able to use his right hand for several weeks yet. Malak should have needed time himself, but in truth he felt he did not need it. Was it his Jedi training? Or was it that he had never really felt much for anyone else? Whatever the reason, the bald warrior did not feel especially sad about her passing. As he guided the Spirit of Ossus out of the hanger, Malak thought about how much he had been through and survived as a Jedi, and wondered what fate had in store for him.
The small craft exchanged pleasantries with one of the massive ships that guarded the border station.
Then, once they were safely out of any gravity silhouette, Malak threw the ship into hyperspace. The stars streaked past, the ships jerked back and then they were moving through space towards the next checkpoint. It would take four stops and twelve days to reach Coruscant going at this rate. Taramooren was relatively close to the core worlds and thus the time of travel was small compared with the other trade lanes between the rim and the core.
Once they had their course safely set, Malak relaxed.
"We are locked on Revan. We should be back in two weeks."
The ship streaked on towards Coruscant.
The full Council chamber was an impressive room. It was a room near the very top of the Temple, set with a near uninterrupted view all around. The only thing that obstructed view was the four minarets which had been set at the compass points. The white room was circular in shape with a wide and luxurious balcony surrounding the room so the Jedi could step outside to feel the air and see the stars. For such an industrial planet, the upper portions of Coruscant were not polluted. Learning from bitter mistakes in the past, the Republic had constructed power plants run by what would have poisoned the air in other circumstances. This power was fed into minor, non-critical tasks and played an important role in keeping the planet liveable.
Inside the room was a half circle dominating one side of the room. This was the elevator by which visitors and council members would reach this exalted level. The council members sat facing the entrance; six for Coruscant and the heads of the other six training facilities across the galaxy. Now there was just three Jedi in the room, sitting and waiting. Jedi master Aetius Perinard sat beside Master Vandar. As agreed joint heads of the Order, the two Masters held a great deal of power and were called upon to negotiate with the Republic officials. Perhaps with good reasons, the Republic did not fully trust the Jedi, they would talk only to a select chosen group of the Jedi. The last of the Masters in the room was a good looking, tall and broad man in his forties. Jedi Master Telenoth In'kare was one of the youngest members on the Council, but that did not diminish his abilities. Of all the Jedi, he was the one the Republic most trusted in regards to the Order's position on matters of state. His black hair glinted in the light of the sun coming through the windows and his eyes were a deep hazel. He was a darker skinned man than most of his fellows and well liked by Jedi and citizen alike.
The three Jedi often came to this high room to talk about the affairs of the Order, and this day was like any other to the Jedi.
"I received a message from Admiral Dietal about developments to the south," Master In'kare was saying. Admiral Dietal was the commander of the First Fleet whose area of operations was the mid and inner rims.
"I am more concerned about news of the north. The Sith are moving again, there can be no doubt about that."
"But do they seek to draw us into war? We do not know their motives or reasons. Have we heard from the Republic on this matter?" Vandar asked.
"I have heard nothing out of the usual. It is the view of Admiral Nivelle that the Sith are trying to provoke us. We know that they covert the Wyl Sector which they lost in the last war." In'kare spoke reasonably. He was the man who would know the councils of the Republic best.
"So they will try to cause dissent by provoking a response. They nearly succeeded a few years ago," Vandar added, recalling the minor war three years before.
"So what have you heard from the south, In'kare?" Perinard asked.
"I have heard that beyond the border there are strange occurrences, planets raided and destroyed by an unknown foe. Of the civilians and refugees that try to enter the Republic, most are turned away, but a few are allowed in."
"Has the Republic done anything about this?" Vandar asked in his soothing voice.
"They can't. Those systems attacked are outside the Republic. Even if they were not, there is no reason to suspect a threat to us."
"No reason?" Perinard asked softly. "Is not the fact that an enemy is attacking worlds, however neutral, a future danger?"
"The settled worlds in that area are few. Any enemy will think twice before attacking the Republic. There are two entire Sector Fleets stationed down there."
"Who are these attackers? Vandar asked.
"I am told that it may be survivors of the Mandalorian Clans. At the end of the last war, most dispersed to outside Republic Space. Perhaps some still fight on." In'kare had personally inspected the border areas. In fact, the Republic treated him with great respect, perhaps because he was the only Jedi with any military sense.
"But surely their entire nation was not destroyed? They must have a base somewhere?"
"Not that we have discovered. Once a traveller goes beyond the border there are no mapped areas, no nations. There could be anything out in the wastes of space." The two other Jedi noticed that In'kare referred to himself as past of the Republic. It was an interesting turn of phrase.
"And what of the Sith? The watch cannot be lessened. If given the chance, the Empire will try to expand."
"This is true Master Perinard. The Sith political system is based, fundamentally, on conflict. At the moment they are stable but all it takes is a new Dark Lord and they may decide to fight."
"I cannot believe they have enough resources to think they can defeat the Republic," Perinard said.
In'kare, wiser in the ways of politics, put in next. "They do not need to defeat the Republic. They need only to avoid defeat themselves. If they can fight the Navy to a stalemate, they might get what they want."
Aetius Perinard looked about to object but before he could, the communicator buzzed.
"This is Jedi Master Vandar," the non-human said calmly.
"Master, Padawans Revan and Malak have arrived in the hanger."
"Send them up as soon as they are able."
"Yes Master," the voice vanished, and Vandar put the communicator down.
"We have another matter to discuss. What shall we do with the two Padawans?"
"Jedi Levarne was killed from what I have heard," Perinard said, his silver eyes flashing slightly.
In'kare looked a little disturbed, but he controlled it quickly. "That is sad news indeed. She always was a bright pupil."
"And well liked and respected on Morlock Four," Vandar said, nodding. "That is why we brought her here. To teach Siandar and Hierion."
"Is that their names? Who are Revan and Malak?" In'kare had been away so long from Coruscant that he had never heard of the two.
"They take aliases for themselves. Siandar Morantine calls himself Revan, Hierion Tsrvarn has the title of Malak. They have resisted all attempts to discourage these titles."
"I have not met them. Do they live up to their Master?"
Vandar smiled slightly, Mirar Levarne had been a very close student of In'kare. He had not been her Master but had helped her in the first years that she had been a Jedi Knight.
"Revan is a little unpredictable. His heart is full of doubt and his mind with thoughts that disturb him. He might be a good Jedi one day if he could control his emotions."
"Perhaps that is not the right way of describing it, Master Vandar," Perinard put in. "Young Siandar Morantine, that is his real name, has too little emotion sometimes. In times of crisis, he becomes cold. There are several times when we suspect he killed or coerced but we have no proof. I hope that this is not the first sign of a fall."
"He has a good heart and is very idealistic," Vandar added in defence of the younger man.
"But is he ready to become a Knight?" In'kare asked.
Vandar considered for a long moment. It was a difficult question for the diminutive Jedi Master, one which needed a good deal of thought. On one hand, the Jedi Master considered that Siandar, or Revan as he called himself, was unpredictable. Perhaps he needed guidance, more training and more time to become a fully prepared Knight. There was a problem though, Revan had formed a bond with his Master, one that was unusually strong and resistant. Now that Mirar Levarne was dead, Vandar knew in his heart he could not produce a new Master. Or at least, he could, but Revan would not gain from it. Vandar made his decision.
"I wish to speak to Revan before I make a final judgement. I think though that he has learned all he can as a Padawan. Having him remain will mean finding a Master for him, and considering the bond between him and his former Master, I am doubtful. I am doubtful of whether we would be doing more harm or good."
"You make a good point Vandar. Revan is a brave man, but he is nearly twenty six. If he needed further training then I would not hesitate to assign him a Master. I think though, that he has learned all he can. I do not think he is ready to take a learner of his own." Perinard's monotone voice did not change in volume and pitch through all his words.
Vandar nodded his agreement with the words. "I concur with that. And I think this is the best solution, in time he will gain the experience necessary to become a proper Master."
"And what of the other Padawan? Malak?" the name was a question as In'kare was not certain he had heard right.
"I think that he is an easier case. He does not have the natural command of the force that Revan does. However, he is firm in his beliefs, strong in his conviction and capable of acting on his own." Vandar was quiet insistent as he spoke, showing he had given the matter much thought.
The short black hair of In'kare ruffled in a slight breeze, evidence that the lift was ascending to this high floor. "I think that if he was given a position here as a teacher alongside one of the Masters. Perhaps even in the archives for now. Part of his time of course, the rest training and performing missions for us. The wisdom gained in the library will be tempered with experience in the field."
"I consent," Perinard said and bowed his head. The platinum coloured hair flowed down his face as he did so.
"We will inform the council of our decision," Vandar agreed.
In cases such as this, only three Masters needed to consent. If Mirar Levarne had still been alive, her view was the deciding opinion. This case was not a matter for the full council, though it would be relayed to them in due time.
The elevator door slid open to reveal the two young Jedi. Revan and Malak, both twenty four years old but both possessing much experience, looked far older. Revan's right arm was still splinted and bandaged from the broken wrist he had suffered. Malak on the other hand, had only a light bandage visible through his trousers and was barely limping. The two men bowed their heads respectfully to the three Jedi Masters.
"A good day to you, Padawans. Although I am pleased to see you alive, I am grieved to hear of your Master's death." Aetius Perinard spoke in his calm but still commanding voice.
"My thanks Masters. Perhaps the only consolation is that we helped unearth the Sith plot."
"So the Sith Lord escaped with the Heart?" Vandar asked.
"Yes, a powerful dark side artefact," Malak answered.
"Strange that he should be there just when you are, yes? In all the times in the last hundred years, he happened to choose this day?" In'kare, a Jedi neither Padawan knew spoke thoughtfully.
"You suspect a traitor?" Perinard asked.
"How else can it be accounted for? Someone must have sold out to the Sith."
"One of the Republic officers on the station?" Perinard inquired.
"Or someone closer to home?" In'kare mused.
"Are you saying you suspect a Jedi?" Master Perinard asked, shocked by the thought.
"This is not unknown. Indeed Exar Kun and many others betrayed us." That was Vandar, speaking very thoughtfully.
"We should consider this later," Perinard decided firmly.
"Yes indeed, the Padawans will be wanting rest after their exertions. Is your wound recovering, Padawan Morantine?" Vandar asked. He was hurriedly moving the conversation on so that the thought of treachery would not be remembered.
"It is, Master, the Republic medics said it would be fine in a month."
In'kare, more knowledgeable about battlefield injuries than his two companions nodded. "You were fortunate that the blood veins were not broken. You should recover in time. See Master Alii'sd in the medical wing and ask if she can help." The Jedi had a well known hospital that was run by the ancient Jedi Master Alii'sd. She was a non-human whose deep knowledge of medicine commanded respect.
"I will do that Master." It seemed that Revan thought the meeting was over, because he bowed and looked ready to leave.
"Stay for a moment, Padawans, please," Vandar asked kindly. "I have read your statements that you wrote and sent off at one of your stop points. I was impressed by the humility, the simple display of the facts. Even to one such as I, I see that you have learned much of our ways and of the galaxy. Though I was at first doubtful where your path led, Padawan Morantine, I will not doubt that you have learned much. The way of the Jedi is long and arduous but you have begun well. I and the Council have reviewed your progress and are considering whether you are suitable to continue your path."
Both men understood the elder Jedi's words. Malak kept a stoic silence whilst Revan tried to protest.
"Masters, I do not know if I am ready. I mean-" he was cut off by a wave from Perinard.
"We understand that taking the next step will not be easy. Indeed, we are here as much to council Knights as we are Padawans."
"A Knight?" Malak was astonished.
"A Knight is a Jedi who has passed through the trials and whose Master believes is ready."
"Then that is why she was testing us?" Revan asked with a small smile.
"I am surprised that you saw that," Perinard said dryly.
Revan looked over at Malak who was glaring suspiciously at him. "She did not make it obvious. But she never finished though, did she?"
Jedi Master Vandar smiled thinly, and his large eyes seemed to glow dimly. "As a matter of fact, Padawan, she did. I have here a message, an evaluation in case she did not survive the mission. An appraisal if you like, of her students."
The three Masters had the brief satisfaction of seeing Revan taken aback. The man quickly composed himself but his surprise had been obvious and genuine.
In'kare turned to the shorter Jedi. "And what, Master Vandar, did it say?"
The Jedi Master leaned forward and set the holographic recorder on the table before him, and then activated it. The ghostly blue and white image of Mirar Levarne, about a foot high appeared. She seemed to smile nervously, as though she was not used to using such a machine.
"If you are listening to this recording, then it is likely that I have joined the force. I make this in a desire to help my young students achieve whatever they can. Though I cannot be there in person, I would like to express my opinion. Padawans Revan and Malak have followed every guide I have asked, completed every task set. There is, in my opinion, no more they can learn from me. If it counts for anything, I consider them ready for what lies ahead." The small figure smiled. "If I do not return, my students, good fortune. May the force be with you." Mirar made a gesture and the image faded, leaving four of the room's five occupants surprised.
Vandar was not surprised though, almost as though he had expected it.
Revan was controlling his emotions barely as the image faded. She had meant a lot to him and now she was gone, he did not know how to react.
"So what is your opinion Masters?" he asked dully.
The Jedi shared a look at the depressed tone. "We believe that you have done all that we desire necessary to become a full Knight. You still have much to learn though, so you will not take a learner of your own until we say you are ready." Vandar's voice was almost hypnotic as he spoke slowly and carefully.
"As you wish, Master."
Malak showed a small smile on his normally stern face, "Thank you, Master."
Aetius Perinard stood and walked forward. "With the authority of the Jedi Council and the advice of your late Master, we bestow upon you the rank of Jedi Knights."
"Thank you, Master," Revan said, pleased despite himself.
"Then go and get cleaned up, we shall perform the ceremony in two standard hours," In'kare commanded.
The Padawans bowed and left the room, leaving the Jedi Masters alone.
"Is this the right course?" Perinard asked after a moment.
"The future changes with every decision we do or do not make. I cannot see where it ends, though I think this may be the better course of action," Vandar said gravely.
"I fear you are right. He will be great one day, if he allows himself to be," In'kare said.
"That is what worries me," Perinard said softly, then he rose and head for the door. No more was said; they all shared the same thought.
The ceremony was simple enough, though it was still formal. Once, the Jedi knighting ceremony had been formal, but now it was a simple function carried out in one of the halls. The room was large and airy, with afternoon sunlight streaming in from many windows around the room. Revan and Malak stood in the centre of the floor, the tiles were decorated with a swirling red and blue pattern. They had waited for a good ten minuted but now, at last, the door opened. Master Vandar, together with Jedi Knight Karlian Dorak and an unknown Jedi Master. She was a vaguely humanoid creature in appearance with green skin and a multitude of tendrils hanging down the back of the head. The Jedi smiled and took her place next to Vandar. The small Master was surprisingly quick despite his small height and old age. He moved forward, the dark skinned Dorak taking his left side.
Revan bowed his head, then looked to Dorak. He had met the man who was hoping to eventually become the Jedi Archivist. The soon to be promoted Jedi Knight however, did not like the man. He supposed though that he had to put up with his presence in the ceremony. Perhaps sensing the dislike the younger man felt for him, Dorak smiled, he was an easy going man who followed the code religiously. He had been raised to the rank of Knight the year before, taking joint control of the Jedi Archives at the same time.
"I have consulted with the Council, Siandar. They fully endorse our first decision. It was well that your Master left such a message."
"I did not ask her to, nor would I have done so. I trust her wisdom in this matter. If she sees that I am ready Master, then I will try to fulfil that legacy."
Vandar nodded, the boy was exceedingly tactful, sometimes to a fault. "I sense great pride in you Siandar, let go of this emotion or it will consume you. You connection to your Master was always very strong Siandar. Use that still, though she is no longer here. Draw upon the force for guidance, for what she believed in."
Revan would normally have brushed off such words with his usual polite tact. Something the older Jedi had said though had affected him though. "I will not fail Master. I will not have her memory destroyed by my failure. She trusted me, and I will try to keep that trust."
The green skinned Jedi frowned. She was obviously unused to Revan's strange proclamations. Vandar seemed unmoved though.
"Do not let that oath turn you Siandar," the Jedi Master cautioned.
Revan did not seem upset, just distant and cold. "It is not a promise or an oath Master. I will do what I can to fight for what I believe in."
Vandar turned to Malak who had to look down about two feet to see the Master.
"Hierion Tsrvarn; your dedication to the Jedi Order is well known. We have all seen your calmness, your determination to follow the path of the light."
"I have tried, Master, to follow the lead of the council. I bow to the will of the Masters."
Vandar seemed content with the shorter conversation. He knew well that Malak was not a man for long conversations. Vandar turned to Dorak and nodded.
The younger man unwrapped a bundle he was carrying and put the cloth wrapping aside. Inside were two white sash like objects. The white cloth was woven with silver and blue threat to create a shining mosaic of light as they moved. The green Jedi took the second band and slipped it over Revan's uninjured shoulder and down to hang bright in the sun's radiance. Dorak did likewise to Malak, having to stand full stretch to look the cloth over the tall man's head. The white, silver and azure of the symbols of the Knight contrasted with the dull brown of the robes they wore. Even Revan had been persuaded to wear the traditional robes instead of his blue and black creation.
"I name you, with the authority of the Council, to be Jedi Knights of the Order." Vandar's words were fine and imposing, more suited for a crowd than this small room. It had the desired effect though, the two new Jedi Knights bowed and straightened up.
Vandar smiled very slightly as both men tried to hide their amusement and pleasure. They had earned their right to wear the old fashioned cloth strips. The Jedi Master could only hope that they lived long enough to keep it. Vandar did have to give credit though; Mirar Levarne had done a good job. She had been overseeing the eight trials that a Padawan must pass to become a Knight through the last few months. All of them had been passed successfully, it seemed.
The Master was surprised that Revan had caught on but he knew that he would.
"Now, for what happens now. Siandar; tomorrow you will meet with Master In'kare. He has a plan and a place for you to go. Hierion; you will talk to Master Raalier Lvov, the head of the library." Malak frowned at the words but made no protest. "It will only be to see where your skills will be needed," Vandar said soothingly. Malak relaxed.
"Is there anything else?" Vandar asked.
There was nothing more to add, the new Jedi Knights bowed and left the room.
"I will see that Master Lvov knows all she needs," Dorak said.
"Yes, do that. I will talk to In'kare."
Jedi Valiens Nantaris jumped down from his ship and crossed the landing pad of the Jedi Order's base on Morlock Four. It was a ramshackle little enclave with only a few dozen students and teachers. Morlock Four was a base far away from trouble, in the western part of the galaxy. It was a safe place, for no enemy in the last six hundred years had threatened this small outpost. Around the base was the grassy, forested plains that made up this small, dull world.
Valiens Nantaris was not thinking about the forests or plains, only about his recent elevation to Jedi Knight. The Jedi had acted with great initiative and skill, and had broken up several pirating slavers in the area to the south. Such a move, and his passing of the trials ensured that he was made a Jedi Knight. He smiled and walked down the stairs to his room. It was a wide room, one of the better places to stay at the base, and though he was not on Morlock Four permanently, he had a nicer room than most.
Entering, he activated his holo-communicator. He had a message, from Malak, no less. Nantaris frowned, he did not like Malak, did not like him at all, and the feeling was mutual, he was sure.
"Padawan Nantaris," the voice began. The newly made Jedi Knight smirked at being made a Knight before the bald headed man. "I have bad news. My Master, Mirar Levarne is dead. Before she died, she wanted you to know she was proud of you. May the force be with you," Malak's monotone voice finished and cut the communicator.
Nantaris shook his head in shock, and pain. "No, no, this isn't true," he said softly. He knew it was…Mirar was dead? It was unthinkable that his friend, his saviour…was slain. Sadness broke down the walls of happiness that had arisen. She had been proud of him? That was all he had hoped to do for her, to make her not ashamed for what she had done for him. The Jedi Knight stared at the wall, the good always died first, he thought. He sighed, and went to get a shuttle to Coruscant.
It was a week later. Jedi Malak and Revan walked down the dark stairs to the cavernous room.
With power came responsibility. Unfortunately for the Jedi, it came with a price. The remembrance hall of the Jedi was a series of rooms that held the remains or possessions of those Jedi who had fallen. All Jedi who died in the line of duty earned the right to have a place here. And because they were still lost to the Jedi, those who fell to the Dark Side were also represented here. Though, in that case, their places were marked as such. Mirar Levarne counted in the first group and so would have her most valuable items interred along with so many others.
Seven thousand, eight hundred and nineteen Jedi had fallen in the last half century, when the room's concept was created. That room had been on Ossus and in the panic to evacuate its fall, only the most precious items escaped. Now, those Jedi had been lost physically but their names had been recovered. It was an awe-inspiring, and strangely terrible place. It was cold, dark and filled with shadows that seemed never to dissipate. The room seemed so out of place in the Jedi Temple, but it was here, in the bowels of the building.
Revan followed the Jedi Knight whose job was to watch the entrance and chronicle the contents of the room. It was a large room; sixteen feet high and hundreds of feet long. Many of the places, too many, were taken by the fallen, but there were scores still in every direction. Revan finally reached the destination, one of the small stone shelves set into the wall. The shelves were about a foot long and six inches high; hollow and deep. A small slate lay in each one, bearing the name and title of the fallen Jedi. Revan considered that datapads did have a limited life expectancy and so something solid and real should take their place. Still, it seemed as archaic as this room looked, the dark stone contrasting with the rest of the Jedi Temple. Thirty of these containers ranged from the floor almost to the low, flat ceiling.
"Thirteenth up," the Knight imperiously commanded.
That meant that it was about eye level for Malak and higher for Revan. Malak delicately took the brown cloth robe, folded it and slid it into the hollow stone. The lightsabre followed next. The power cell had been removed but the crystals remained, as it would be an insult to remove them. Lastly, the small, round amulet she had worn about her neck was pushed in.
Malak took the small slate and wrote with great care, "Mirar Levarne, Jedi Knight."
Revan bowed his head, and then looked around at the countless other filled places. Each symbolised a master or student dead or lost, each showed another family that had to be told of the death of their kin. The affect, and the realisation that many more of these spaces would soon be occupied, made Revan shudder. Would he end up here?
The new Jedi Knight turned without a word and stalked from the room, leaving Malak alone with the last of the Knights. Alone, in the tomb of the Jedi.
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