Author's notes: My friends, the fanfic "Veil of Shadows" is hereby officially over. I would like to thank each and every one of you for reading and reviewing the fic, the ones who read it from the beginning for their support throughout this last year, the ones who discovered it recently for their enthusiasm about it. To name you all would take a list longer than the chapter, which I'm sure you're all eager to read, so I won't even respond to the reviews this time.
This response makes up for that, I think (hope), so thanks for everything. The ANH quotes were indeed the fool quote and the Force quote, though part of that was picked up from JK III: Jedi Academy. Paytah means fire, which suited the Zeltron quite well. The name Aminta meant Protector or Protected in Latin. I got the idea for borrowing it from Phantom in the Opera thanks to Kreia´s quote about hearing the Force sing – Aminta Shari means Protected Singer and I thought that suits the Exile.
I have changed my decision and you may still submit votes for the Exile's gender, if you like. I will not be doing another KotOR I fanfic – at least not one that is about the whole in-game story. My Revan remains the one introduced in this fic.
The KotOR II story prologue is in the works, but I'm going on vacation tomorrow, so you'll have to wait till the 20th of July to read it. I will work on future chapters however, and make the final choice about the Exile's gender.
Again, thank you all for your support. I seriously hope you enjoy this chapter and that you don't mind the ROTJ reference I made right in the first scene. Think Obi-Wan and Luke on Dagobah. I hope my characters have been realistic up till now and that they are even now. I will probably be doing intermezzos for KotOR II as well, telling the Exile's life story, just as I have told Revan's now, so expect a comeback of Revan, pre-jawless Malak and maybe even Bastila and Carth.
Until then, kudos and May the Force Be With You.
X X X
I walk this empty street
On the boulevard of broken dreams
When the city sleeps and I'm the only one and I walk alone
My shadow's the only one who walks beside me
My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating
Sometimes I wish another man would find me
Till then, I walk alone…
Green Day, Boulevard of Broken Dreams
X X X
"I believe in the forgiveness of sin and the redemption of ignorance."
Adlai E. Stevenson Jr.
X X X
X X X X
It was truly over, but the celebration waiting to greet the heroes of the battle had to wait some more.
For almost an hour now, Revan remained sealed in the medical room of the Ebon Hawk. Not that she needed medical attention, but immediately after they were safely away from the doomed space station, she left the cockpit and barricaded herself there without a word of explanation.
The reason was in fact very simple – she knew that she would probably cry and while she trusted the others, she instinctively forbade herself from showing such weakness. She didn't sob. Beating down sorrow was never easy, but she had gained that skill through practice and was able to generally get over it. Strangers or close allies, she was easily able to dispose of both, without mourning. Today was different. Today, she had lost someone she had known her whole life and would entrust with it without a second thought. A strange emptiness filled her at the thought that now; finally, she had ended her past. The final link to it was gone.
In the end, you belong neither to the light, nor the darkness. You will forever stand alone.
Now she was alone.
There would be no more counting upon the fact that there was someone ready to back her up, no more way of supporting herself, soothing her conscience by remembering that there was someone out there who knew her, really knew her, though he might not understand her as much as he wanted to. She had never given him that chance.
The regrets were many, Revan realized. It was true that she hadn't realized just how much he had meant to her before losing him. Malak was simply… Malak. He would always be there, she had come to believe, always, whether with her or against her, but he would always be a presence in her life, a constant companion of her thoughts. Her friend, with his sharp eyes, innocent heart that had grown bitter, her companion, who always stood by her side. Her enemy, who attempted to thwart her cause simply because he didn't know just how much was at stake.
The illusion she had created was simply too perfect – so perfect, in fact, that it became reality. All had learned to believe in it. And Malak, believing he was acting in accordance with that illusion, proceeded to the next logical step.
And she hated him. She hated him for his stupidity, for his simple-mindedness, for his inability to grasp the complexity of the strategy she had devised to save them all.
And she learned that she hated herself beyond anything else, with a great passion, hated her own arrogance, her manipulative nature, but, above all else, hated all the many details that set her above and apart from all others. The very fact that she had been chosen – and she knew she had been chosen – to save the crumbling galaxy was crushing her under its full weigh. She wasn't even halfway there and she had already lost the only creature she had held precious in the entire galaxy.
Her eyes closed on their own accord as she imagined what her life might have been like, had she never left the Jedi. She and Malak would have fought in the war, for certain. It would eventually come to them and it would be won. But they would simply be two of many Jedi, not great leaders of the people of the Republic. Perhaps they would fight their way up in the ranks of the Jedi, but not as much as they had done by outright rebellion.
Then, they would return to their lives as Jedi. Helping people, saving lives, living in self-sacrifice… and perhaps, one day, when they would have matured enough, they would have realized that there was no more point in ignoring the attraction which she now knew to be mutual. One would have cracked and admitted their feelings, but also added the words about the necessity of letting such things go… and then their lives would have gone complicated.
Revan couldn't imagine life without the Force. She couldn't imagine leaving the Jedi for the sole purpose of taking their relationship further, perhaps sharing a home, founding a family…
It was too selfish in her eyes. And there would be no rest in that. It wasn't her destiny to sit idly and leave things to others.
But then… if it was the will of the Force that she was here, now, was it the same will that had carried Malak onward to his destiny – the tip of her blade? Was the slaying of Malak part of some kind of test of devotion she had to face before being able to advance forward? If it was, it was cruel. Whatever crimes Malak and she had committed, neither deserved having to face such a thing.
Yet… she lived on, wretched, broken, surrounded by people and yet alone. For the first time in years, she faltered.
Life was a boulder weighing her down, am endless torment, her destination still out of reach, no matter how she struggled. What was the point of living when she had no "why?" and "with whom?"
But it was a lie, she knew. Malak was wiser than she, she realized. Where she would walk, she couldn't bring anyone else. Not even him, her faithful shadow.
The darkness where she would have to venture.
For now, the galaxy was temporarily stabilized. Of course, the "Sith" had won, in a strange way – perhaps not on the battlefield, but economically, they had. the Republic was weakened by the ongoing struggle and it would take some time before the outlying outposts would be informed of the defeat of the fleet at the Star Forge. It would take long years for the Republic to recover and reestablish itself, but perhaps it was for the best. The arrogance of it was too great at the moment.
It was better than allowing Malak´s followers to take over. After all, the Sith were based on an ideology that required a strong leader – without a leader, the lesser ones would turn their bickering into battle, their squabbles into war, and the whole structure would collapse under its own colossal weigh.
And leave she would, for it was needed. Whether it was to save the galaxy or only to further her course down the path to death. She would leave, eventually.
And one day, be it in a week or in many years, she would meet Malak again, allow her heart to open up and pour out all her woe, her concern, her love – all that she had been killing inside her all her life. And in the embrace of the Force, she would finally be allowed to rest, content, peaceful… loved.
Revan wiped her eyes with the sleeve of her robe a moment before the door to the room she had retreated into opened. Mission managed to slice it, with the help of T3-M4.
"Finally!" The Twi´lek wiped her forehead. "Don't scare me like that anymore, Revan!" She could only nod, looking at the girl with fascination. Happiness seemed a foreign concept to her now. "Anyway, they're waiting for you outside. They've organized a parade in our honor!" Mission bubbled.
"Does Dodonna have a squad of soldiers ready to arrest me?" Revan wearily asked.
"Bet she would like that!" Mission giggled, "But no. Master Vandar – that little green Jedi – managed to convince the Admiral not to arrest you. Besides, Carth and Bastila pretty much backed him up. Not to mention that the soldiers would be vaporized before they would say 'Pazaak'." She paused for a moment. "What happens now? To us, I mean."
Revan glanced at her with some surprise. "You're a hero now, Mission. There's nothing to worry about. You'll find that plenty of people will want to offer you a job or, better yet, a home."
"There is no place where I wanna be other than here." Mission solemnly said. "I wanna stay with you." Silence. Revan had never considered the implications of that. "I never had a family, not really – Griff can't be considered that, I guess. But with you and Big Z, I feel I have one. I'm no Jedi, but I can see something's troubling you. I don't wanna wake up to find you gone, Revan. So whatever you wanna do, don't do it. I won't let you go, Dark Lord of the Sith or not."
Unknowingly, the girl had guessed what would eventually have to happen. "Don't concern yourself with the future now." Revan said dismissively. She stood up and replaced her mask firmly, fastening it beneath her hood in a routine fashion.
Mission frowned for a moment, but she said nothing as she hopped to her feet and followed Revan out of the ship, where she had to stop abruptly to stop herself from running into the cloaked figure, who was now facing a tall uniformed woman and a miniature alien with pointy ears. Behind them, in an almost military-like line, stood several Jedi Knights, each giving the robed figure cold looks, despite their obvious attempts at indifference and beating down the reflex of whipping out their weapons. In the background, the soldiers were preparing an award ceremony.
Vandar chose to break the awkward silence by smiling kindly.
"I am glad to see you alive and well, Revan." he said, pointedly ignoring the tension. "Our mission," He glanced at the Twi´lek with an amused twinkle in his eye, "has been successful. The threat of the Star Forge is no more." No response came, so after a second, the Jedi Master chose to ask the question he knew Revan would find inappropriate. "Have you finished yours as well?"
The woman seemed to show no response once more, before a deep voice with a mechanical edge to it spoke. "Apparently. And it may please you that Malak´s conscience seemed to have caught up with him in the end. Or it might have been the side-effects of a lightsaber piercing his stomach. I suppose we will never know now."
"Enough of this." Dodonna interjected, her self-control finally breaking. "Revan, your crimes against the Galactic Republic are so numerous and serious that even for one tenth of them, the Republic courts would sentence you to death immediately. To this very moment, I'm not certain of your intentions."
"Don't worry – I'm a complicated person." Revan noted coldly, but more quietly than she usually would.
"However," The Admiral continued, ignoring the remark. "After your actions today and having the testimonies of Carth Onasi and Bastila Shan, both respected among the Republic officials, along with the assurance of the Jedi that they will monitor your activities and properly hand out punishment, I may yet be able to convince the Senate to grant you amnesty."
"The proposal, generous as you surely think it is, is hereby rejected." A hush of whispers passed around them – how could Revan refuse such a bargain?
"You still have a place in the Jedi Order, Revan." Vandar quietly noted, "After what you've done for us today, even the High Council agrees that you may return. You have secured yourself a seat among them, even, I believe. If not immediately, then in the next few weeks, you will earn it, surely. Why do you refuse if the only alternative is imprisonment or death?"
"You see only one side of things." The robed figure replied calmly, "What good is a position among those who view me with suspicions and who I view with contempt? There would always be a barrier, even if these instincts would be overcome. In any case, it doesn't work well for either side. I will come, however. But I don't want to be part of the Jedi Order anymore. All I require and ask for is access to the archives. If I get that, I will cooperate. I need to do some research and in case Coruscant hasn't changed while I was gone, the Academy still has the largest library on the planet."
After a brief silence, Vandar chose to nod with slight uncertainly, clearly wondering what information she needed. "That doesn't conflict with the Republic's terms, I believe. Admiral?"
Dodonna shook her head, her frown lifting a bit when she saw that Revan was choosing to cooperate. It still seemed slightly suspicious to her, despite an attempt to comprehend any possible reason for this and see if it was just another complicated plan… or if it was what it seemed to be – a simple compromise, because there was no other way to resolve the situation that would satisfy both sides.
"It seems acceptable." She turned to Revan. "The Senate might want to hear your testimony, however." A bitter mockery of a smile passed through her face. "You are still to be awarded the Cross of Glory for your achievements in this conflict."
"If it has to be." Revan replied before shifting her attention to Vandar once more. "One last thing. I wish to speak with my old Master, Arren Kae."
"But… you don't know, then." Vandar sighed, "Master Kae is dead, Revan."
"Deception I can understand, but outright lies I cannot. I must speak with her. Where is she?"
"After her exile, she followed you to war, as you know. Master Kavar was the last one to have seen her, I believe. She was slain in the final battle, to our knowledge."
Revan paled distinctly, not that anyone saw it, with the exception of Bastila – now in her usual attire – who was standing nearby and felt something close to a shiver pass through her.I must hurry…
The now officially redeemed Jedi pushed her way through the crowd and took Revan by the hand. The masked face turned to her with little surprise. "Master, might I have a word with Revan before we begin the ceremony?" Bastila asked Vandar timidly, not letting Revan go.
After Vandar nodded, Bastila felt a gloved hand snake its way into hers. A somewhat outraged look appeared on Dodonna´s face as the robed figure firmly but not fiercely led the young woman away.
Revan clearly knew the paths, so Bastila chose to follow obediently, without question. Once they reached an unfamiliar beach, Revan sat down on one of the larger rocks near the shore. Bastila did the same. The stones happened to be the remains of a broken Rakatan statue.
"Please remove the mask, Revan. It makes me nervous." The hooded figure did so, but no sign of a smile was upon her face. "I… don't know where to start. I wanted, first of all, to thank you properly. I'm not completely sure I fully understood what you meant to teach me, but you have shown me that seeing the galaxy in black and white is wrong."
"Then you have learned your lesson." Revan interrupted softly, "You have seen all the sides of the Force and managed to form your own opinion. Not as a Sith, or a Jedi – you are beyond single-minded views now."
"I believe so." Bastila nodded, "I have chosen my own path, but managed to find a way to remain true to myself. Thanks to you."
"The choice was yours. Once you shall see all I see now. You still have things to learn, Bastila, but now, you see the universe with experienced eyes."
"I sense a disquiet in you. Is it because of… him or something else?"
Revan sighed, "Things have gotten complicated. And I am short of time."
"What are you talking about? What is going on?"
"The knowledge would endanger you. And there are places where you cannot walk, but I must go there. That counts for you too, Carth."
The Republic pilot emerged from behind the remains of the statue with a frown. "I told Mission stealth isn't any good against the Force." He muttered, receiving an amused glance from Bastila. "But I'd also like to know what all this is about. You can't go, Revan." He calmly said. "I won't lose you. I can't."
Revan stood up and walked towards him, placing a gloved hand on his shoulder. "You are a good man, Carth. And strong. While I cannot see the future, I know that you will fight many battles and win them. the Republic needs you, to stay strong. You and Bastila will be needed. And I need someone I can trust among the Jedi and in the Republic army. I need you two to keep the Republic strong… until I return."
"Return from where?" Carth demanded, "We need you here, Revan."
"No, you don't. I will give you specific instructions and if you follow them, you will manage without me." she smirked slightly, "Besides, I'm not exactly itching to become Darth Step-mom for Dustil."
The joke managed to conjure up a faint smile on Carth´s lips, but Revan adverted her eyes from both of them. Then, she turned on her heel and walked back to the celebrations. When she was gone, Bastila and Carth looked at each other, easily able to read each other's thoughts.
They wouldn't let her go.
X X X
The arrival of the Republic fleet went almost completely unnoticed on Coruscant. The entire galaxy eagerly awaited the arrival of the Ebon Hawk and, primarily, its captain. All over space, there was an enormous headline that Lord Darth Revan had returned and became an ally of the Jedi to pursue a common goal. The biggest news was that Revan apparently single-handedly crippled the Sith Empire… for good. No one understood why, but no reporter was satisfied with the recording of the award ceremony, where Revan, hooded and cloaked, masked and silent, accepted the Cross of Glory with the enthusiasm of a dead fish that would be soon eaten by a hungry Selkath and clearly showed that the piece of metal meant about as much as that fish to her.
But an ever-growing mass of reporters waited in front of the building of the Republic Senate, where Revan was to meet the Supreme Chancellor personally and, apparently, address the Senate. When the Ebon Hawk landed nearby and the loading ramp went down, the mob almost fell silent with anticipation. The stories of each crewmember were advertised throughout the galaxy the moment it was official that the Sith were defeated. How the journalists got hold of them, no one knew. Probably thanks to some greedy Republic soldier.
First came the Wookiee Zaalbar, right behind him hopped the Ruthian Twi´lek Mission Vao, who smiled brilliantly and waved at the wildly cheering crowd that took pictures. They didn't stop even when an elderly man they all recognized as Jolee Bindo placed hands on her shoulders from behind, like a protective parent would. Quite the contrary.
"Fame after twenty years on Kashyyyk, Jolee. Wow." Mission giggled.
"Bah. Two months later, you'll be spelling your name to a Rodian bouncer in a cantina, reminding him how you once saved the galaxy, kid." Jolee scoffed.
The tall hunter-killer unit that came afterwards seemed to be calculating just how much ammo it would take to shoot each and every meatbag in the radius of a mile and, against all odds, T3-M4 seemed to be almost willing to calculate it itself, though the droid beeped chirpily.
Two alien female Jedi, Yuthura Ban and Juhani, followed, behaving almost like a royal guard would, and right behind them was would-be-Admiral Carth Onasi and Bastila Shan, who was more timid than usual. They seemed to be in the middle of a quiet conversation, but put on practiced smiles quickly.
And then came Revan, closely followed by Canderous Ordo, rumored on the holonet to be the last of the Mandalorians. The trademark armor he wore was certainly a bold fashion statement. All of the reporters tried to get closer to get their questions answered, but with a fully functional lightsaber on display, Canderous on her left and HK now on her right, many reconsidered. Both the Mandalorian and the droid were only too happy to show their heavy Mandalorian-issue weaponry they proudly carried.
Revan walked into the building, the only sound she made being the echo of her footsteps and the swishing of her cape. Her masked and hooded face allowed no one to see any features. The interviewers launched themselves at Shan, Onasi, Bindo, Juhani, Ban, Vao and Zaalbar, out of which only Bastila, Carth and Mission answered some of their questions. It wasn't enough for the reporters.
After Revan left the Senate, their need for answers had been sated, at long last. Someone apparently bribed someone to get the security recording of Revan´s speech to the Senate, and the Senators were more than willing to give their opinions of Revan, the situation and the verdict. While some were doubtful, it was clear who had the upper hand in the debate. The voice was deep, melodic and echoing. All fell to its charm. Even the Jedi Council submitted the day after that.
Revan proved victorious yet again.
X X X
Several months later, a frantic-looking Yuthura Ban was running through the corridors of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, searching for several specific people.
It was early in the morning, Coruscanti time, and she had gone to Revan´s chambers for her usual sparring lesson. While Revan wasn't a member of the Order anymore, she often instructed the more skilled Knights and Masters in Sith ways and how to defy them, for unknown reasons. She claimed to be bored, but truthfully, she was still preoccupied with research and other duties, even so long after the Battle for the Star Forge.
Naturally, her former traveling companions were first in line for aid and counsel. Bastila, Jolee and Juhani Yuthura managed to contact through the com system, but she had to search for the others. When she came to the chambers, the lock was deactivated. But what was worse, the occupant of those chambers was gone. All that remained was a small holoprojector.
When the entire group finally assembled in one of the vacant training chambers, Yuthura placed the machine into the middle of the circle they formed. Of the former crew of the Ebon Hawk, only Canderous and the two droids were missing. The Mandalorian had disappeared shortly after the award ceremonies on the Rakatan world, but it was rumored that Revan remained in contact with him.
The life-sized image of Revan flickered slightly, but then smiled.
"Greetings, my friends. I apologize for my rushed departure, but you would only try to stop me or talk me out of this. The day I had been preparing for is here. I have finished my research and I am leaving known space. Be assured that I will return, but it might take very long. Where I go, you cannot walk. I have taken HK-47 and T3-M4 with me, along with the Ebon Hawk. Do not fear for me. But I have one last task for each of you, a final greeting, you could say, because I can't be sure if all of us will meet again.
Canderous already has his instructions. Zaalbar – I know you are angry with me for deserting you like this, but you wouldn't help me here. I know it's not within my power to release you from your life-debt, but there will be other times to fulfill it. I have learned a great deal of your people and they have lived up to my expectations in every way. There will come a time when their strength will be needed to battle a nuisance greater than Czerka. Return to them and take your place as a leader of the Wookiees."
"Take care, Great One." Zaalbar growled in response.
"Mission. Until the very end, you never ceased to surprise me. At first, I had no idea why I agreed to take you along, but you have proven to have skill beyond your age. You showed me many things about family I haven't grasped before, and for that, I thank you. I would prefer if you went with Zaalbar, but you're your own person. But if I ever catch you dancing in a cantina, there will be hell to pay, kid."
Mission smirked faintly, but the concern spilled across her face immediately. "You won't. You won't." she whispered.
"Juhani, I have told you before that you have potential. I have watched your struggle against your instincts and your level of newfound self-control gives me a right to be proud. Continue down your current path and you will find that soon, many humans will respect you more than their own."
The Cathar smiled, nodded, clearly fighting back tears. "Thank you… goddess." Juhani had never quite forgotten the sight she viewed as the image of gods on Taris, though she never spoke of it.
"Jolee. Your 'couldn't care less' mask fell pretty quickly in the Temple, old man. Babble all you want, but you're a Jedi. An unorthodox one, but a Jedi nevertheless. I hope that you make it into the Council, Master Bindo." The holo-Revan bowed ironically. "Someone has to teach them a thing or two about reality."
"Heh, for you, I'll do it, kiddo." Jolee noted with a chuckle, though his sadness was obvious.
"Yuthura. Your remarkable progress has made you a student I would have been happy to take on as my own, if I had the time. Be assured that I am critical when picking students I want to train full-time, so I expect that that is the greatest praise I can hand out. I hope I have taught you a thing or two about the ways of the Force. Rely in it, not on anyone else, and you will achieve your goals."
Yuthura nodded obediently. "I'll miss you, Revan."
"Carth, remember that I never promised you anything. Tell Dustil that if he keeps up, the Jedi will have an expert among them soon. I expect to see the record of a Jedi Knight Dustil Onasi when I return. I am trying to protect you all this way. And while I would be interested in seeing the future development of our already complicated relationship, duty calls." Revan shook her head. "And we never even got past the first date."
Carth never said anything, simply continued looking at the shimmering image with a strange mix of accusation, longing and gratitude.
"Bastila. I assume you sensed my unrest long ago. Not even you would be able to help me. Our bond remains… but please don't attempt to seek me out. For now, I have to go alone. Remember what I told you, what I showed you and what I taught you, and you will become great among the Force users of the galaxy."
Bastila, tears rolling down her cheeks, had the same emotions in her eyes as Carth. She too remained silent.
The next words were meant for everyone. "I shall miss you and think of you often. Until we meet again," Revan bowed slightly, "May the Force Be With All of You." The Jedi greeting surprised some, but the holo faded quickly, leaving a silence in the room.
Finally, after a few minutes, "She is really gone." Bastila whispered. "I cannot sense her."
"What do we do now?" Mission piped up.
"There's nothing to worry about." Carth solemnly said, "I saw this coming. T3 has instructions to return for help to the Republic or the Jedi or, better yet, us. I had hoped she would take the droids."
"Good thinking, sonny." Jolee patted the Republic pilot on the back. "Now, can we go have breakfast? My stomach is killing me." But his concern was clear.
The group slowly parted and left for various parts of the Jedi Temple – Mission kept the holoprojector for now. Only Carth and Bastila remained behind, each in deep thought.
"So… what happens now?" Bastila whispered, "Do we just… wait?"
"No. We have orders. I'll go back to the Republic HQ and try to calm them when they hear of this – you should go see the Council about it."
"I shall do that. Will you contact me afterwards?"
Carth nodded. "Of course. Take care, Bastila."
"You too, Carth."
And, for a time, they parted ways.
X X XFin