The flight had been extremely difficult. Not only was the stolen freighter from Treyas Academy threatening to disintegrate while in hyperspace, but her soul felt sick, and Exile had been fighting the temptation to turn back and defy the council once more, this time in the form of choosing love over everything else, much the same as during the Mandalorian War.
But no, she had trudged on, knowing deep within her heart that she had to follow Revan once more, this time into the unknown regions to face and unknown threat. It didn't matter that the command to go forth had been given by the treacherous Kreia, it was truth and it was necessary.
It was the fate of the entire republic that rested in her hands. The fate of Telos, Dantooine, Nar Shadaa, Onderon. Her friends, they too depended on her. Visas and Disciple, two of the Jedi, they needed her to survive. So did Bao-Dur and Mira, even the little droid T3.
And most especially, Atton Rand.
He didn't know—how could he—that she needed to leave for his sake. He too was a Jedi now, and therefore an even greater target than before. Plus, in order to save him, she couldn't let him love her. Leaving immediately after burying her ghosts at Malachor V was the only way, as she too needed to be saved from him, as she loved him too.
That brought her here, to a seemingly uninhabited planet lightyears from the nearest Republic world. It was a relatively hospitable planet, no poison gas and rocky crags like Malachor V, no refugees living in squalor as on Nar Shadaa, and no mercenaries or jealous generals, like Dantooine and Onderon. In fact, there was simply no human or alien life here, on the planet she designated Enso IV, as it was the fourth planet in a ring around a rather large star. It was populated just by deciduous trees and fertile valleys—according to the slightly disjointed sensors about the small ship.
Exile was definitely happy to be out of that vehicle. The days long trip to Enso IV, the first hospitable planet she found, was quite uncomfortable. She was cramped in the cockpit, as the rest of the ship smelled as though a bantha had given birth and no one forgot to sanitize it afterward. Plus there was no one with her, something she hated to admit that she had gotten used to.
During her long exile, the woman was alone all the time, and she enjoyed the solitude. It gave her a chance to reflect on her crimes, the atrocities committed for the Republic. She could consider her future, where the Force would take her, now that she was blinded to it.
But everything had changed with just one single person. Waking up on Peragus had been the turning point for everything, first the recovery of her Force sense, and then meeting Kreia, who had become her mentor until betraying her and everyone else on Dantooine, just to validate herself and teachings.
It was a pity, as the old woman was truly powerful and could have done so much good had she only allowed herself to come back to the light. But no, Kreia had chosen destruction over life, and the Exile had been forced to kill her.
That memory was difficult to think of, but standing on Enso IV was a calming experience. The sun was half-hidden behind fluffy white clouds, and the gentle chirp of small birds flitting around the trees wafted through the mild air. It was unlike any world she had ever been on; it was completely unspoiled by human hands.
But there was something else. The force was strong here, and it was untainted by the darkside. Life was abundant, from the birds and small mammals scurrying around everywhere. It was as though she was home, even though the woman had never been here before in her entire life.
"It's beautiful," she murmured softly, running her fingers through her dark blonde hair, which had come lose from its ponytail. For a moment she considered taking off at a dead run, for the sheer joy of it, but the woman's pragmatic side kicked in and she decided against it, choosing instead to settle herself down on the ground and stare at the wildlife around her.
Casually she dropped her weapon to her side and laid back, knowing that the double-bladed silver lightsabre was within easy reach should the tranquil peace of the place be broken. "Truly beautiful" the woman repeated, her silky voice carrying across the wind.
"Yes, it is," a feminine voice responded, as the familiar hiss of a lightsabre resounded, and a shimmering violet blade found its way to her throat. "Now. Who are you, and what do you think you're doing here?"
The Exile closed her eyes, then re-opened the bright blue orbs. There was a look of pained confusion on her face, as she had not felt anything at all wrong, had not felt the presence of another. Yet here she was, with a lightsabre to her neck, with her only consolation being that she felt no trace of darkness in her assailant—or even her assailant at all.
Taking in a shallow breath, the Exile considered reaching through the Force for her lightsabre, but decided against it, knowing that whoever this was, to be able to conceal herself completely in the Force, was not someone to take lightly. "I am merely an exile," she breathed out, not daring to lie. "Here to figure out what is hurting the Republic."
The lightsabre retracted from Exile's neck and she allowed herself to breathe somewhat easier, though the long silence was slightly nerve-racking. Peace…peace.
"I see," came the reply, after several long seconds. "Stand up."
As ordered, the Exile stood and turned slightly, smoothing the non-existent wrinkles of her Jal Shey advisor armor, taking care not to let her hands come close to the twin blasters. She shook her head slightly to get her blonde locks out of her face, then turned to look at the other woman.
Tall, long black hair. Piercing green eyes. Jedi robes and two lightsabre's, the violet one, along with another held loosely in the woman's other hand. There was something oddly familiar about the way she stood, and then it hit he.
A pained look crossed Revan's face, but a warm smile quickly replaced it. "That name no longer has any meaning to me," she said gently. "But it will do. Now…that doesn't really answer my question. Who are you?"
The Exile blinked a few times, then crouched down to grab her lightsabre. "I served you, during the Mandalorian wars. And then I returned to the Jedi." She stood back up, and replaced the sabre to her hip. "Who then exiled me, because they have nothing better to do with me."
For a moment Revan looked at her, then smiled again. "Ah. General Cora Delone. I didn't recognize you…it has been far too long."
"Eh, the council might say differently, but hey, we never were their favorite people." There was a glint of amusement in the Exile's bright blue eyes, matched by the bemused gleam in Revan's green orbs.
Chuckling softly, Revan nodded and offered the Exile her hand. "No, I can't say that we were. But at least things are working out now. Sort of. But tell me, Cora, why are you here again?"
She sighed. "Kreia told me that I had to go here, that I had to follow you in order to fight the ancient Sith threat, that what you and Malak did during the Civil War was nothing compared to what might come. Yeah, I realize that old hag wasn't the most trustworthy of people, but I feel as though this is where I need to be."
"You may remember her as Darth Traya."
"Traya." There was no mistaking the anger in Revan's voice, anger that not even the most trained Jedi Master could fully push away. "How exactly does she equate into all of this?"
This…is going to be a long story. Better condense things, the Exile mused. "Well, I was on my way back into known space, to talk to the Republic. My ship was attacked, and I guess that Kreia, aboard the Ebon Hawk, managed to rescue me…but then Sith showed up, I was knocked out, woke up on Peragus. I had to deal with a buncha stuff there, including being oggled and referred to as the "half-naked Jedi," but then we blasted off on the Ebon Hawk again, went to Telos, helped the TSF with some things, handed Czerka's butt to them, met Atris, was reminded why I can't stand her, headed to Dantooine, where I remade my lightsabre, the one Atris stole from me, helped out there. Also ran into Master Vrook, which was unpleasant as always. Oh. I also picked up some more people. First there was Kreia and Atton, both of whom I met at Peragus. Then there was Bao-Dur, Disciple, and Visas, the latter two who joined up on Dantooine. Then on Nar Shadaa Mira joined the crew, and of course, there were the droids. Oh. And Mandalore. We defeated Nihilus, the former master of Visas, right after Kreia killed the remaining Jedi Masters. So then we headed to Malachor V, where I had to fight Sion and then Kreia, but then Kreia's little academy busted up, and the Ebon Hawk again saved the day. But since Kreia told me to leave, I had to find another ship and leave everyone behind, to find you and figure out what exactly's going on."
Revan remained completely still, blinking only once or twice during the Exile's long-winded explanation of the events that had led her here. And as the story continued, Revan's mind quickly filed everything away in her mind. It had so many parallels to her story. The companions gained throughout the quest, a struggle to restore identity. Very similar indeed.
"You talk a lot, General. Much more than I remember."
The Exile looked at Revan, then gazed down to her feet, and once again glanced up. "I was alone for so long, didn't really talk to anyone. Then when I met everyone, I wanted to talk, but didn't get much of a chance. Sorry if I'm speaking too much."
Revan shook her head, ignoring the black strands of hair falling into her eyes. "No, you're fine, General. I actually know how you feel, but come, let's go someplace else. You look exhausted, and I really would like some more details."
Nodding, the Exile glanced at the small freighter that had carried her here and smiled. "I didn't exactly sleep in that thing. If people thought the Ebon Hawk was in disrepair, they should see that."
"The Ebon Hawk? Junked up? Hah. I'm sure," Revan replied with a snicker, knowing full well the looks people tended to give the ship. Few could truly see past the scuffed up exterior and slightly faulty hyperdrive to truly appreciate that vehicle for what it was worth. "Though it seems pretty ironic that it managed to get to you."
Again the Exile nodded. "Yeah…but stranger things have happened."
The two walked in silence for several long minutes after chuckling at the Exile's comment, each going to their own thoughts. Revan's mind wandered back to the first few days of her own self-imposed exile, as her green eyes wandered over to the Exile, wondering for a moment if she too had left behind someone she loved, as Revan had left Carth Onasi, and subtly stretched out her mind to the Exile's
And meanwhile, the Exile's thoughts were on the man she left behind. His eyes, his shaggy hair, the way he would always drop everything to play pazaak with her. Sixteen, oh, I've got a plus/minus four card. Excellent. Hmm. Twelve. Sixteen. Eighteen. Okay, a plus one ca—damn you Atton! You and your plus three.
She didn't even realize she was playing pazaak in her head until she looked up to see Revan giving her a very strange look. "You were trying to read my mind," she said flatly, willing herself not to get angry.
"Yes, I was," Revan replied, jutting out one hip and letting her arms fall to her side in her typical pose. "But don't get mad, it was curiosity driving me, nothing else. But I have to know. Pazaak? Why?"
"Because that's what he taught me."
An arched eyebrow was Revan's only response.
"You see, Atton taught me to play pazaak in my head, that way no one could get in. It's a defense mechanism that works somewhat through the Force. That if someone wanted to get in my head…I would be safe with him, playing pazaak." Her last words were strained, and it didn't take someone with Force sensitivity to realize the pain in her voice.
Revan did note it, and she offered a smile. "You love him, don't you?" she asked calmly, trying her very best not to betray her own feelings for Carth. That was a wound she was not willing to open up again.
"Thought so. But hey…at least you'll be able to return to him someday, if nothing goes wrong." Revan smiled. "I mean, what are the chances of things going bad with two of the best Jedi ever?" A wink was added at the end of that statement, as she tried to lighten the situation.
The Exile managed a wane smile. "You're right, I guess. But you can go back to yours too, you know."
What?Revan blinked. How does she know about Carth? I figured that by now, five years later, he would hate me, never want to see me again. "No. He's moved on. It's been five years."
"He told me to tell you that he's waiting for you, Carth did," came the quick response.
Again Revan blinked, suddenly reminded of so many things. The victory aboard the Star Forge, the ceremony, the moment he first kissed her, and their teary farewell. "Really," she murmured, pausing just long enough to shake her head. "I see…"
Things were getting very interesting.