A/N: I really have no excuse for how long this has taken. Mostly it was a lot of rewriting, it took a long time to get this where I wanted so I hope it is worth the wait! Thanks for sticking with me, there is one shorter chapter after this to tie it all off. Enjoy!
"Just great," Kyle complained as he looked out over the city. One missing Jedi and a small group of Sith on a planet occupied by billions and the only lead he had was the location of the spaceport Jaden had checked. Throw in the general credibility of eye witness account and this was going to be easy.
Just as he was deciding where to head to first his comm. link began to beep softly.
"Yeah?" he spoke into the small device.
"Glad to hear your voice Kyle, did you miss me?" Jaden's familiar voice replied.
"Good to hear yours, I've been trying to contact you, what happened?" he asked.
"Zarek's goons got the drop on me," Jaden began.
"Are you alright?" Kyle's voice betrayed his concern.
"I'm good, they didn't do a very good job of holding me. In fact if you'd like specific directions to their place…" her voice trailed off. Kyle swore he could hear her grin.
"Keep talking kid, I'm on my way,"
A small cloud of sand flew into the air as the fighter settled down on the desert surface of Ruusan. Towering rocky walls surrounded them on all sides but the light, and the heat, still beat down on the fighter. Rosh's knowledge had only got them as far as the planet, their landing site and the valley itself were unknown to him. But the Force had got him this far and even now he could feel it like a gentle pressure directing him. He hoped he wasn't fooling himself.
"Not much to look at," he said as he popped the cockpit.
No response, Arnaia had been oddly quiet for most of the trip. Despite not being able to sense her he could feel her slipping away. He'd have to move it, they where running out of time.
"Arnaia," he waited until she glanced in his direction. Hoping she was taking this in he continued, "We need to get moving."
A nod and nothing more, her eyes were glazed as if she wasn't seeing him anymore.
Gently he helped her out of her seat and onto the ground. Rosh glanced around once more at their surroundings and then put all his hopes, and trust, in the Force.
Jaden surveyed the room below her. One guard was monitoring the security system, Zarek must be stretched thin.
In one quick motion she kicked the air duct grill loose and dropped behind him. Before he could respond she had him in a headlock, a small application of the Force and he was out like a light.
Jaden relieved him of his weapon, a small gun, and turned to the security system. Flicking her comm. back on she contacted Kyle.
"I'm in," she said as she tapped a few keys in front of her. "Don't forget to wipe your feet on the way in."
"Try to sound like you're enjoying this less," Kyle muttered, "I'm ready."
On one of the security feeds she watched the door slide open as Kyle appeared. This was beginning to feel almost too easy. Was this really Zarek's main base or just a brief stop?
"Alright, there's a small gathering of people on the far side of the complex. There is also seven guards walking the halls and four with stationary posts. I can't see Zarek or any of his saber wielding friends so-"
Before she could answer the system shut down. Visual feeds, the steady beeps of the system even the lights all flicked off and went silent.
"Kyle?" she asked.
No response, just static. They were being jammed.
It was a trap.
"Are you seeing this?" Rosh asked Arnaia quietly as he stared in awe at the Valley of the Jedi.
"Yes," she said in the same hushed tone.
Giant statues, faces of the Jedi lost all those years ago, emerged out of the rocky walls. Silent faces staring at the new intruders.
"Can you still feel them? Arnaia asked him.
"Kyle set them all free when he first came here," Rosh told her. But he knew he was edging around the question. The spirits may be gone but something still lingered, a presence, maybe nothing would ever truly wipe free the horror of what had happened here. "Come on," he said finally, "the meditation crystal should be at the other end, that's what will restore the Force." Rosh took her hand and gently pulled her forwards again.
Despite their time limit Arnaia moved slowly now, staring at the statues. Rosh had to wonder if she was seeing something in her current state that he wasn't. He had to fight the growing sense of urgency and resist pulling her along.
"Well you two are certainly taking your time," a mocking voice spoke up.
Standing ahead of them, between them and the crystal, was Tavion.
"Hey Kyle," Jaden nonchalantly greeted her former mentor as she was brought into the center room where Zarek sat seemingly at ease in a high backed chair in the dim and bleak room.
"Jaden, nice to see you again," Kyle returned in the same tone.
"Well getting captured, again, does have its perks," she grinned.
"If you are both done with your comedy routine," Zarek interrupted, "the false bravado doesn't fool anyone. You are now in the heart of my defenses, I have your weapons." At this he held out a hand to accept the two metal hilts from one of his Dark Jedi. "And your padawans will be running into a trap."
"You sent Tavion after them," Jaden said as everything came together. They had been outmaneuvered, he had planned all of this. Bad enough that she and Kyle where here but Rosh and Arnaia? "What do you want with them?"
"The boy is unimportant, his role in this is simply to turn if Tavion feels like giving him the offer or to die. But the girl, she is unique, a true find," Zarek explained to them.
"She's also dieing," Kyle glared at him.
"Perhaps but there are methods of stabilizing life forms for study," he waved dismissively. "Right now you should be more concerned with your own fates."
Jaden glanced at Kyle. He didn't meet her gaze. Instead his eyes flicked to different places in the room.
"I think it's clear that you are both unlikely to turn," Zarek continued, "perhaps with a lot of time… I seem to have a talent for turning the most reluctant individuals to my cause. But I think in this instance keeping you both alive is a larger risk then I'm willing to take."
"So are you filling us in for our own benefit or do you just like the sound of your own voice?" Kyle asked dryly.
Zarek smirked and turned to the three Dark Jedi gathered beside him. "Kill them both."
"Tavion!" Rosh tried to push Arnaia behind him but she wouldn't budge. He reached for his lightsaber with his free hand, holding it ready.
"Really Rosh, I don't see why you even bother," Tavion taunted as she moved closer. "You know you can't beat me and it looks like you're already too late to save you're friend."
"Stay back," Rosh warned her as he activated the blade.
"I'll make you a deal Rosh," Tavion had stopped now, "Zarek wants you're friend, I think she's more trouble then she's worth. Hand her over and you both get to live, resist me now and I'll make sure you join the other Jedi that died here.
"Not going to happen Tavion," Rosh said firmly.
"Shame," she sighed. And then she attacked.
Three red blades hissed into life ahead of them.
Kyle didn't wait for them to make the next move. He slammed his head backwards, connecting with the man behind him with a sickening crunch.
A second behind him Jaden dropped low and kicked the legs out from under her captor before sending a surge of the Force towards Kyle's cuffs.
They dropped to the ground before the three Dark Jedi were around him. Blocking his view of Jaden. He focused, Jaden could look after herself.
He'd been in worse situations. In the panic they had forgotten they still held two sabers, they were all he needed.
Kyle stretched out his hands and caught the two silver hilts, igniting the blades in time to block the incoming attack.
Rosh stepped forward and met the attack. The two blades hissing angrily as they locked.
Tavion tried to force his blade back, force him to step back closer to Arnaia.
Rosh deactivated the blade and rolled, neatly missing Tavion's lightsaber and coming back onto his feet behind her.
He pressed the attack, forcing her to pay attention to him, forcing her away.
A look of surprise seemed to flicker over her face.
Rosh had to push his advantage.
As he thought that, Tavion stepped back. The Force tightened around him and he felt himself being thrown through the air. Reacting quickly he flung out his free hand, feeling the Force, using it to slow his descent. He hit the ground, rolling in time to block Tavion's attack.
She bore down on him, forcing their locked sabers down towards his body.
And then she was thrown off him, currents of electricity rippling over her.
Rosh was on his feet in seconds.
Arnaia had stepped towards them, a hand raised and pointing at Tavion.
"Arnaia don't!" Rosh called to her, a feeling of dread rising. If he saved her from death would he lose her to this? "Get to the crystal!"
A shriek of rage warned him of the attack. He had just enough time to once again get himself between Tavion and Arnaia. But now Tavion knew Arnaia was still a threat, she wasn't toying with them any longer.
Jaden hit the ground before she could deal with her own cuffs, landing heavily on her shoulder. She kicked out as he drew his gun, the blow landing on his hand and forcing him to drop the weapon. She kicked it away before rolling to the side and back onto her feet.
Jaden's shoulder throbbed with pain but she pushed it aside. She had no time for it.
Neatly sidestepping the charge of her captor she followed up with a knee to his gut, stepping back to let him hit the floor.
Despite carrying weapons the surrounding guards paused before coming at her. Jaden used the time to quickly focus on her own cuffs, enjoying the moment of satisfaction as she heard them hit the ground and her arms were once again free. The guards began to back away.
Her satisfaction didn't last long. Striding towards her, lightsaber in hand, was Zarek.
Kyle's world had focused on the constantly moving attacks. Blocking, sidestepping, constantly moving to avoid the three opponents. Waiting.
There it was. In that moment he rolled under an attack, coming up to swipe his lightsaber through one of the Dark Jedi. Kyle didn't have to wait to see if the attack was successful.
Moving quickly to avoid the next sweeping attack from his remaining opponents he got to his feet, catching sight of Jaden and Zarek-
"Jaden!" he called out.
Tavion's furious wave of attacks kept Rosh on the defensive, every time he thought he'd broken away it was because Tavion had leapt after Arnaia, blocking her path to the crystal. Rosh would have to sprint to get their in time, to get between them and then it would start again. He was constantly moving backwards, constantly being headed towards a wall. A dead end.
"No outs this time Rosh," Tavion hissed at him.
He wouldn't accept that. He couldn't. But he was almost in the corner, and she knew it.
A victorious grin spread across her face.
Rosh risked it. He gathered the Force to him and he leapt. He felt himself fly over her head, out of reach of Tavion's blade.
He landed on his feet, turned to face her and was kicked to the ground. His saber hit the ground.
Tavion stalked towards him. She had done it. She was going to kill them both.
"Goodbye Rosh," she raised her lightsaber.
"Drop it," Arnaia's voice was clear and firm, Rosh's lightsaber clasped in her hands, activated and pointed at Tavion.
"Do you think you can kill me in time to save him?" Tavion taunted, her eyes locked on Rosh.
"I know I can," Arnaia answered.
Tavion's victorious expression began to fade as doubt settled in.
"You're broken girl, you won't have the speed," Tavion said.
"We can find out if you like," Arnaia replied.
Tavion spun to attack her.
Arnaia dodged the blow and lunged forward.
Tavion's gasp seemed to echo in the Valley as she dropped her lightsaber in shock.
Arnaia stepped back now, Rosh's lightsaber still stuck in Tavion's chest.
They watched in silence as Tavion drew in sharp breaths, a glare of utter hatred focused in their direction. Slowly the breathing slowed and the emotion faded from her face, and then she was dead.
"Are you okay?" Arnaia dropped to the ground next to Rosh.
"I was going to ask you the same," he said sitting up, "That was…" his voice trailed off as they looked at Tavion's body.
"Yeah," Arnaia agreed. There weren't any words, not yet, to describe what had just happened.
"I didn't even see you get to the crystal," Rosh said as he started to get to his feet.
"I didn't," Arnaia said.
Jaden heard her name being shouted. A moment later the familiar shape of her lightsaber hurtled towards her outstretched hand.
"It seems you've evened the playing field," Zarek said calmly.
"Maybe a little," Jaden said before attacking.
The blades locked with an angry hiss.
They held them for a moment, the lights illuminating their faces as they tried to force the other's defense away.
The clash of sabers rung out from Kyle's own battle.
A surge through the Force shoved her backwards, forcing her out of the deadlock. Zarek was at her instantly, allowing her little time to regain her stance and block the attack.
Jaden held the only for a moment before pushing forward again, stepping into dangerously close proximity to Zarek.
It had the right effect, the closer quarters surprised him, allowing her to keep on the offensive.
Suddenly he forced himself forwards, pushing her off balance again. Turning her own tactic against her.
Jaden felt a presence behind her. She switched off her saber and ducked to the side.
Zarek quickly spun to face her again, not noticing what she had.
Kyle's blade dug into his arm.
"It's over Zarek!" he said.
Zarek didn't even cry out in pain as the limb dropped to the ground. He called his saber to his remaining hand and turned to face them again.
"You will not destroy me here!" he yelled before charging.
Kyle blocked the attack and Jaden rushed in.
Zarek pulled back in time to block her, pulling back to strike out.
Jaden easily parried the blow as Kyle pushed back in again, his saber driving towards a killing strike.
Zarek pushed the strong blow aside. Again he pushed an attack.
Jaden stepped in, forcing his focus back on her. He couldn't last.
A moment later he made his mistake. Driving to strongly at Kyle.
Jaden lunged, easily driving the saber through him.
Zarek's expression turned to one of surprise before he tumbled to the ground.
He stared angrily at them from where he lay before his face twisted into laughter. The sound filled the now empty room.
He said nothing else, the sound trailing off as the last dregs of life left him.