Author's Note: Many, many thanks to my awesome beta-readers JediRevanOnasi and Tallboy Dave. Reviews are appreciated! If you have any suggestions on what should occur in the next few chapters, please drop me a line; I'm a bit low on ideas myself.
Chapter 2: Partings
Morning had come quickly. The Elder shamans had left before dawn to initiate the ritual to opening the force barrier, a tedious ceremony that involved quite a bit of monotonous chanting. By the time Yuthura, Carth and Mission arrived at the Temple courtyard, the shamans' perseverance had paid off, and the barrier was moments away from deactivation.
"The force field will not stay open for long," said an Elder droid, translating the guttural Rakatan language into the more commonly understood Selkath tongue. "Once it disappears, lose no time in entering the Temple. Remember also that you must deactivate the barrier again upon reaching the Temple Summit, or else you will not be able to exit from the Temple."
"We understand," Yuthura replied. "And thank you, for all you've done…we owe you our gratitude."
"Be careful," the droid advised as sparks began to fly from the translucent energy field. "Revan may or may not have defeated the Dark Jedi inside the Temple, but regardless, you must be cautious."
"We shall," Yuthura assured the shamans. Behind her, the barrier flickered twice, and then disappeared.
"It is open," the droid announced, and Yuthura, Carth and Mission began running toward the Temple entrance. "We will be waiting for you back at our settlement. Good luck, and stay safe."
"I can feel the presence of life here," Yuthura announced as soon as all three were inside the Temple. "I'm not completely sure what that could mean, but it's coming from up there ― " she gestured to the heavy door that stood in front of them, " ― and that is where we must go."
It did not take the companions long to find that the door could not be opened. Mission's usually peerless security skills failed to bypass the lock, and even Yuthura's lightsaber did little more than make a dent in the seemingly impenetrable metal.
"There's got to be another way to open this thing," Carth said in exasperation, watching his blaster bolts ricochet quite dangerously off the door's surface.
"If Yuthura's right, and Juhani and Jolee really are on the other side, then Revan must have opened this door when he was here," Mission offered. "If we walk around a bit, maybe see what Revan left behind…maybe we'll find out how to open this thing."
Carth considered the idea, but Yuthura was already grinning in approval. "It's not the most precise of plans, but it's the best we've got at the moment," she said. "Let's get to it, then!"
The air in the Temple was unexpectedly invigorating. A fresh breeze whispered through the passageways, its sea-tinged scent chasing away the musty smell of millennia of history. It was almost peaceful. But it was not long until the party began to notice the first signs of Revan's presence: broken droids and Sith corpses littered the ancient stone floors in every direction. Looking away from the carnage, Yuthura glanced over at Mission, noting the stained bandages that still snaked around the girl's body. She and Carth had planned on leaving without the injured girl, but Mission had managed to wake up barely a minute before they left the settlement, foiling any plans of leaving her behind. Smiling, Yuthura wondered vaguely whether the younger Twi'lek sincerely wanted to help find the missing Jedi, or if this was simply another adventure for her. Either way, she respected the girl's courage and tenacity; no doubt her wounds still bothered her.
"Y'know, there's something I've been wondering, Yuthura," Carth said suddenly, shattering the tranquil silence that filled the Temple. "How exactly did you get here…to the Rakatan homeworld, that is? I mean, this place isn't exactly a popular tourist attraction, if you get my meaning…it's not on a single Republic map I've seen."
"I was with the Jedi strike team sent in to help Revan defeat Malak," Yuthura answered plainly, not looking at Carth or Mission.
"Care to elaborate?" Carth said before he could stop himself. "Not to pry or anything," he added hastily. "I'm just a suspicious person in general…ask Mission."
Mission giggled softly beside the soldier, but Yuthura did not reply. When the Jedi did finally speak, long after Carth had decided she wasn't going to answer, her voice was filled with weariness and resentment, as if calling up memories she would much rather have forgotten.
"A few weeks after I came back to Dantooine, Master Zhar decided to send me to Coruscant," she explained. "He said that the Jedi Masters there would be able to continue my training. Not wanting to disappoint the Masters so soon after my return, I agreed, and a ship promptly carried me away from the planet. Little did I know that was the last I would ever see of the Enclave, and of the Masters who had taught me so much.
"I felt the disturbance in the Force shortly after the ship entered hyperspace. It was a subtle thing, like an echo in the recesses of space, but I felt it. Without the guidance of the Masters, I didn't know exactly what to make of the disturbance, so I tried to ignore it. But a vague feeling stayed in the back of my mind, a feeling that something inexplicably horrible had just happened.
"Upon reaching Coruscant, I could tell that something was definitely out of place. Even before I set foot in the Jedi Temple, I could feel a great deal of anxiety coming from its hallowed hallways. None of the Jedi actually informed me of what had happened, but the few words I'd managed to overhear told me everything I needed to know. The Enclave destroyed. The Masters…Master Zhar, Master Dorak, Master Vrook…gone…"
Yuthura trailed off, her voice heavy with pain. Mission stared at the ground as she walked, and Carth opened his mouth to reassure the Jedi, but nothing came out.
"I…I'm sorry for bringing it up, Yuthura," the soldier finally muttered. "It must be a painful memory for you to recall."
"The Jedi Temple was a very different place than the Jedi Enclave had been," Yuthura continued, completely ignoring Carth's feeble apology. "Everything seemed much more serious ― much more focused. I knew no one there apart from Master Vandar, who had managed to escape the fate the Sith had planned for him, and I was grateful for his presence. He did not chastise me for joining the Sith, as I'd almost hoped that he would, and that only served to further my guilt for leaving the Order, and my sorrow that I would never again see the Masters who'd trained me as a Padawan.
"Coruscant introduced me to a completely new set of Masters, each with his own teaching style. Master Kavar, Master Atris, Master Vash, Master Zez-Kai Ell ― they were all very capable Masters, and all had great insight into the Force, but for some reason, I was never as comfortable around them as I had been around Master Zhar and Master Dorak. Master Vandar was the only one there I felt truly comfortable opening up to, and he helped me every step of the way. He taught me to confront my fear and quell my anger, and he was utterly supportive when the Masters promoted me to a Knight. I know now that I would never have made it through the training had Master Vandar not been at my side, and I truly owe him my utmost gratitude.
"Master Vandar soon informed me that the other Masters had a 'special mission' for the Knights; apparently, Revan had sent the Council a message with the location of the Star Forge, asking for help to defeat Malak. Of course, no one at the Jedi Temple knew of Revan's fall to the dark side; I'm not certain they even know now. Thus, they agreed to send a strike team of Jedi to assist Revan, and I volunteered immediately, hoping to amend for my mistakes in the past. I was to be sent in as a scout, to verify the location of the Forge as well as make sure the circumstances were all right. We all knew that this was an especially crucial mission, but upon seeing my resolve, and at the prompting of Master Vandar, the Council agreed to entrust me with this mission.
"Yet I failed." A noticeable tone of bitterness crept into Yuthura's voice with those words. "Excited at the prospect of redeeming myself, I did not heed the Council's advice to be cautious, instead flying toward the Star Forge as fast as my starfighter could handle. Upon arriving at the Forge, my engines unexpectedly began to malfunction. I know now that it must have been caused by the same disruptor field that caused your Ebon Hawk to land here; Revan must not have disabled it yet. Thus, I was forced to land my fighter on the surface of this planet, and by chance, the landing spot I picked happened to be right outside the Elder settlement." The Twi'lek sighed quietly. "Had I arrived at the Forge just moments later, the communications on my starfighter would still be working, and a dozen well-trained Jedi Knights wouldn't be flying blindly into certain disaster. Had I listened to Master Vandar's advice to be patient, I would ― "
Yuthura broke off suddenly, and in the next moment her lightsaber was ignited and ready in hand, filling the hallway with a shade of azure. Mere seconds later, a Dark Jedi appeared from the shadows and leapt at Yuthura, lightsaber pointed at her chest. Yet before the weapon could strike, the Dark Jedi came to an abrupt halt, staring at the Twi'lek in disbelief.
"Yuthura?" the Sith gasped, her eyes wide. "Wh-what are you doing here?"
If Yuthura was at all surprised to see the Dark Jedi, she did not show it. "Why, hello, Sabria," she said almost nonchalantly, and both women sheathed their lightsabers. "Quite an interesting place you've landed yourself in, if I may comment."
"So I take it you two know each other," Carth said with a raised eyebrow, still not trusting himself to put away his blaster. Yuthura laughed lightly in front of him.
"This is Sabria Voran," she explained, gesturing to the Dark Jedi. "She and I were fellow students at the Sith Academy before Uthar became the Master. Sabria graduated not long after I arrived, and I'm surprised she still remembers me." She turned back to the Jedi. "So, will you let us pass? Or will you attack us like you Sith always do? I have no time for idle chat."
Sabria seemed confused, and more than a little unsettled. "You…you're a Jedi," she muttered, as if just noticing Yuthura's robes and lightsaber. "But how? You were such a promising Sith…"
"That's a story for another day," Yuthura replied dismissively. "But the important question right now is this: will you let us pass, or won't you?"
The Dark Jedi hesitated. "Well, I guess it can't really hurt," she finally replied, though she still seemed tentative. "All my commanding officers were murdered by the last group of Jedi who came down here, so there really isn't anyone who can punish me…anyone alive, that is." Sabria sighed. "All right then, you can leave. But don't go bringing pieces of ceiling down on my head, got it?"
Yuthura smiled wryly, and nodded. "Agreed. Thank you, Sabria," she said as she turned and began to leave.
"You're welcome," Sabria replied, and her voice became suddenly different. "Have a fun trip!"
Yuthura spun around just in time to block the Dark Jedi's lightsaber, which had obviously been intent on taking off her head. Noticing Sabria's surprised expression, the Twi'lek took advantage of her hesitation to stick her blade in her adversary's gut.
Sabria's eyes widened in disbelief as she looked down at the lightsaber protruding from her stomach. The Sith stood for a few moments longer before collapsing, the weapon still imbedded in her body.
"I…I don't understand," Sabria coughed weakly, staring up at the triumphant Jedi with fading vision. "Y-you used to be so weak…I could defeat you so easily. H-how…?"
"There is no emotion, there is peace," Yuthura whispered, answering the Dark Jedi's incomplete question. "I have turned back to the light, and I am sorry it is too late for you to do the same. Goodbye, Sabria."
In one fluid motion, Yuthura bent down and pulled her lightsaber from Sabria's body, and the Dark Jedi died to her next stroke.
Even with the lack of time, Mission was insistent on giving Sabria a 'proper burial', and the next few minutes were spent arranging the dead Sith's body among her possessions. By the time the trio had managed to reach the Rakatan computer and unlock the gate, nearly an hour had passed, despite the fact that Revan had left them with a very evident path and noenemies. Working quickly, they retraced their steps and arrived back at the Temple entrance, where the force field had already reactivated itself.
"The presence of life is growing stronger," Yuthura informed the others as they trudged up the steep ramp toward the Temple's summit. "I am almost certain that your friends are still alive; the life signs do not strike me as those of Sith."
"That's good news," Carth replied, nodding as he turned the corner toward the entrance to the summit. "But how do ― "
An older Jedi stood between the companions and the entrance, a yellow lightsaber blazing in one hand. The man was bald, with dark skin and a short, graying beard, and his face was twisted in a clearly exaggerated expression of hostility. Blinking, Yuthura, Carth and Mission stared at the ridiculous sight for a few moments longer before they all burst out laughing.
"'Arrr,' Jolee?" Carth said in between chuckles. "You've been spending a bit too much time on Kashyyyk, if you ask me."
Jolee Bindo looked almost sheepish as he sheathed his lightsaber. "Hey ― I have to find some way of scaring away those Dark Jedi that keep prowling around here," he said, laughing in spite of himself. "Besides, it's not like I've had anything else to do up here for the past day or so."
Jolee glanced around at each of the companions in turn, his eyes falling on Yuthura as he noticed her for the first time. But if the elderly Jedi was at all surprised to see a former Sith apprentice among his friends, he showed no sign of it.
"So…turned away from the dark side, have you?" he asked the Twi'lek, still staring intently at her. Yuthura nodded, and then shifted uncomfortably under his gaze. "Smart lass," he said, finally looking away from her. "The Jedi ideals might not be perfect, but they're noticeably less violent than their Sith counterparts."
"I'm glad you're all right, Jolee," said Mission with a nervous smile, "but where's Juhani? Is she okay?"
Jolee's cheerful expression grew grim, and the smiles among the others slowly faded. "She ― " he began, but broke off with a sigh. "Well, you'd better just follow me."
Jolee led Yuthura, Carth, and Mission to an isolated corner of the summit, cast in shadow from the Temple's numerous pillar-like structures. Juhani's motionless form lay in the shade; the Cathar's eyes were closed, and she did not seem to be breathing. One of Jolee's spare robes covered her body, a testament to a particularly cold night.
"She's been in and out for the past few hours," Jolee explained, his voice unusually quiet. "Judging from the wounds, Revan or Bastila must have managed to get her in the chest with a lightsaber. I wanted to bring her to the Elder enclave as soon as I could, but I didn't dare risk it with all those pesky rancors running around. There really wasn't much I could do, apart from keeping her away from the cold. She was hurt too badly for me to heal her, and even medpacks didn't make a difference…"
Yuthura bent down toward the wounded Cathar. "She is still alive," the Twi'lek confirmed after a few moments, "but just barely. I do not know how much more we can do for her at this point, but we should get her back to the Elders as soon as we can. Perhaps they know of some way to…"
Yuthura broke off as Juhani stirred faintly from below. The Cathar's eyelids slowly fluttered open, and she glanced around at each person standing above her.
"Mission…" she murmured. "Carth, Jolee…" She paused upon seeing Yuthura, as if not quite sure exactly what to make of the Twi'lek.
"Save your strength, Juhani," Jolee said gently, kneeling next to her. "We'll get you back to the Elders, and from there we can help you treat these wounds.
"I…I am too weak," the Cathar replied after a pause. "I shall not survive past the day…I am certain of it."
"No, Juhani," Carth maintained. "You're coming with us. We can't do anything to help you here, but the Elders will help you once we get back to their settlement."
Juhani shook her head. "Please…you would be wasting your efforts," she said. "My passing will not be long now…and taking me to the Elders will not delay its coming. Besides," she added vaguely, "this is as good of a resting spot as any…it has a beautiful view."
"Juhani, please…" Mission pleaded, tears in her eyes.
The Cathar smiled wearily. "Do not weep for me," she told them. "Because of you, the last few months have been the best times of my life. You have all been so kind…so forgiving since we first met in the grove outside of the Jedi Enclave, and I have learned so much since then. You are my true friends…and I am only sorry that I did not express my appreciation until today."
There was a moment of silence before Juhani spoke again. "Do not harm Revan," she said, her voice fading slightly. "He is an honorable man…always dedicated, encouraging, and thoughtful of others. He…he was the kind of person I'd always hoped to be, and he should not be blamed for his actions."
"But ― but Revan's turned to the dark side!" Mission protested, holding back her weeping. "He said he'd conquer the galaxy! He attacked you and Jolee, and ― and he even ordered Zaalbar to kill me!" At that memory, the girl's tears returned twofold.
"He is not at fault," Juhani explained with conviction. "It is Bastila. I do not know the reason…but Revan is always different around her…has always been different. Bastila has a connection with Revan that is difficult to explain…and for that reason, she has an unnatural power over Revan that even he cannot elude." For the first time, anger could be heard in Cathar's voice. "If you eliminate her influence on Revan…then I promise you, Revan shall recognize the mistakes in his actions."
An unsettling moment of peace swept across the Temple as Juhani paused again, the silence broken only by her own labored breathing. Then the Cathar spoke one last time, her voice noticeably weaker than before.
"I…I do not have much time left," she whispered faintly. "Mission…please take my lightsaber. It…it is of no real value, apart from a memory of…of the times we've shared. And perhaps…perhaps it will even serve you in combat sometime in the future." Seeing the tearful girl pick up the weapon, Juhani turned to the others. "Jolee…Carth… take care of yourselves. I shall miss you all," she added with a sigh.
"The darkness…is coming," the Cathar continued. "But please…promise me one thing before I go. Do not harm Revan; he…he can be redeemed, I am sure of it. Please…if you disregard everything else I say, do this one favor…for me."
"We promise," Jolee replied firmly. "If there is even the smallest chance for redemption in Revan, we will stop at nothing to bring him back to the light."
"Then I shall…rest peacefully," Juhani said with a smile. "Goodbye, good luck, and…and thank you." The Cathar sighed, closed her eyes, and spoke no more.
"Farewell, Juhani," Carth said softly. "May the Force be with you."
As much as they wanted to comply with Juhani's last wishes, the four companions could not bear to leave her body in the Temple's summit. Thus, they headed back toward the Elder settlement with a heavy load on their shoulders, but even heavier hearts. The walk back was a miserable, albeit silent affair, interrupted only by Mission's sniffling and Jolee's occasional comment that somehow lacked the humor it usually contained. Even Yuthura, who had barely known the deceased Cathar, seemed despondent, likely reflecting on the deaths of her own masters.
That night, the Elders held a traditional Rakatan funeral ceremony for the Jedi. Juhani's graceful form was placed on a decorative altar, and the entire tribe of Elders gathered around it to pay their respects to the fallen warrior. A torch was then passed around the circle, and each person placed his hand over the flame for a few moments, symbolizing the pain toward Juhani's passing. The companions promptly agreed to take part in the tradition, but soon found that their grief was too strong to be expressed in symbolism ― the flames seemed merely lukewarm, and the pain was trivial.
When the torch had completed its revolution, the lead Elder shaman used it to light a fire in the Cathar's now-cold flesh. Carth, Mission, and Jolee watched in silence as the form of their capricious Jedi friend slowly disappeared in the flames. After Juhani's body had completely lost its shape, the Elders gathered up the ashes and cast them into the wind, and the last remnants of the Cathar vanished into the dark horizon.
A rather lively feast followed the solemn ceremony, but none of the companions could find heart to eat apart from Jolee, who had spent the last day and a half without food or water. They watched with increasing disgust as the reptilian aliens enthusiastically devoured various plants and animal parts, seeming to have forgotten the reason for the feast itself.
"I think it's about time we left this place," Yuthura muttered absently as she watched a group of Elders tossing food at one another.
"What?" Carth asked.
"I think we should be leaving this world soon," the Twi'lek clarified. "It's not helping us if we stay here any longer, and it's definitely not helping the Jedi Knights who are probably now dead from their mission to the Star Forge."
"Can all four of us fit in that starfighter of yours?" Jolee questioned, looking up from his meal.
Yuthura glanced over at her damaged but still useable ship. "I think we can," she replied. "Three of us will have to squeeze in the back seat, though."
"I'll pilot," Carth volunteered immediately, jumping to his feet. "Come on, then. What are we waiting for?"
"Now?" Mission asked incredulously, but Yuthura was already talking to the Elder leader, and Carth was halfway through powering up the fighter's engine. Waving a cursory goodbye to the aliens, Mission, Yuthura and Jolee leapt into the back seat of the ship, and Carth lowered the access hatchway. The companions gazed toward the surface as the figures of the Elders shrank, and then disappeared altogether in the evening darkness. Soon, the Elder settlement was no more than an invisible speck on the turquoise sphere of the Unknown World, and the Star Forge loomed ahead of them, looking as malevolent and deadly as ever.
"So, where to, Yuthura?" Carth asked, leaning back in the pilot's seat.
"Dantooine," Yuthura replied. "I have some unfinished business to take care of there."
The soldier looked surprised, but did not argue with the Twi'lek. "Hold on tight, then, everyone," he said to the others, pressing a few buttons on the console in front of him. The roar of the hyperdrive soon filled the cockpit, and the starfighter promptly vanished into the chaos of hyperspace.