Descent Into The Dark

Timeframe: Approximately 300 years before TPM
Characters: Yoda, OCs
Genre: Character Study, Action, Drama
Keywords: EU/AU
Summary: Shortly before Yoda becomes a permanent fixture on the Jedi Council, he is a middle-aged Jedi Master in the prime of his life. Many of the rules that the Jedi live by have not been instituted or are not enforced. Yoda is a free-lance Jedi who visits his home world regularly. He knows about the dark side only from his studies of the Jedi Archives and his early training. This is a story of how Yoda comes to learn the power of the dark side. It's a story of loss. It's a story of redemption. It's a story about the power of fear.
Disclaimer: Lucasfilm owns all the rights to Star Wars. I don't. No infringement is intended or profit to be made by me.

Chapter 1

A Life Worth Saving, Part I


Lithe, compact muscles pulled and stretched in perfect synchrony beneath the green leather that had been baked to a perfect dark hue under the binary stars over the previous week. Among his species, he was the epitome of the physical specimen. His point seven meter frame, though diminutive to most other species in the galaxy, was above average on his world. His large pointed ears, now set slightly back to support the flow of his movements, were extremely appealing to the opposite sex.

Fine beads of sweat were coalescing to form rivers of coolness that flowed through the sinewy channels of his well-formed physique, only to fall to the soft earth, discarded and forgotten as he raced beneath the hot suns. Each ridge in his arms was like a finely made rope of strength. His phenomenal physical stamina was obvious when one saw the shirtless creature's abdominal muscles flex and strain with his graceful gait. His large, bulbous eyes were striking emerald pools of serenity that seemed to have infinite depth. And atop this magnificent creature's impressive form, like a crown worn by the great kings of millennia past, was a flowing mane of hair that billowed behind him in a sea of glittering silver.

This was Jedi Master Yoda.

Yoda ran with a speed that few of the best athletes on his planet could ever hope to achieve. Three pointed toes on each foot alternately gripped and released the earth to propel the Jedi Master forward with such regularity that the motion itself became a symphony. He loved the feel of the earth beneath his bare feet. He loved the gentle sound they made as gravity demanded that he not fly from the surface of the planet each time he left it.

The wind was his friend. It brought soothing coolness across his powerful frame. The more rapidly he dashed, the sweeter the gentle song of the breeze became to his voluminous ears.

As he raced beneath the morning sky, the twin suns rising slowly above the tree-shrouded mountains ahead, Yoda was at peace. He could feel everything in the Force. The ground welcomed his every step with the warm embrace of a long-forgotten lover. The trees sang songs of praise to his every stride while providing him slight protection from the stars' powerful rays. The rocks sat solemnly in awe of his unyielding will.

The wind was his friend. But the Force was his ally.

The river ahead was nearly a kilometer across. It roared with turbulent waters that crashed down the two hundred meter waterfall in a torrent of white-foam spray. Yoda surveyed the scene with a wry smile. His morning jog was not complete. No small trickle of water was going to stop him. Not today. Not ever.

Yoda prided himself on his reluctance to call on the Force except when necessary. Far too often, he had seen his fellow Jedi use the Force for such casual things as lifting heavy objects rather than relying on their physical strength. It made the Jedi weak, he believed. To Yoda, the Force was a friend you called upon to help you achieve what you could not alone. If one abused that friendship, then that friend may fail to lend a hand when assistance was most needed.

For the first time in days, Yoda decided to call on his friend's aid. He visualized the trees on the other side of the flowing water. He extended his senses to feel the flow of the river. He searched the waters for purchase and found the group of rocks midstream with practiced ease. Calmly, the Jedi Master breathed deeply, preparing to vault himself in a Force-aided leap atop the tiny island.

He was now rapidly approaching the bank of the river. Unconcerned with his proximity to the deluge, he drew the Force into him and wrapped it around himself like a warm blanket. He reveled in the tranquility. He smiled broadly with genuine joy as he reached the precipice and began his flight.

"Master Yoda! Master Yoda! Master Yoda!"

The blanket of tranquility was suddenly ripped from the Jedi Master.

Yoda abruptly found himself tumbling gracelessly into the rushing stream. As the water engulfed him, Yoda mused at the providence in his decision to go without his normal Jedi attire on his morning run. Slightly annoyed, he extended his arms and legs and began his swim back to shore in graceful strides that would make the famous Mon Calamari swimmers applaud.

Within moments, Yoda stood on the bank of the river, his hair matted like silver clumps of vine across his tree-green chest and arms. Staring out from beneath the argent bangs that hung in his face, Yoda searched for the intruder that had dared to interrupt his morning meditations. He had the uneasy feeling that he knew only too well who it would be.

Running toward him, at less than fifty meters away, was the only person Yoda knew that managed to find a way to aggravate him at every turn. In point of fact, the creature was not so much running as he was feverishly hobbling at his best possible speed using a small twist of wood as an aid.

Yoda felt a frown draw itself across his face like a lightsaber through duracrete.

Calling on the Force, Yoda settled into the calm it brought him and casually began to pull back his hair. In the several additional moments it took the ancient creature to cross the divide between them, Yoda retrieved a small band from his pocket and tied his mane into its customary ponytail.

By the time the half-meter-tall elfin creature had arrived, Yoda was calmly standing on the river bank with his hands folded behind his back as if he had been waiting for the newcomer's arrival all day.

"Master Yoda!" the creature panted desperately, leaning heavily on the stick as if its strength was all that kept him on his feet. "Master…Yoda…!"

"Hear you I do!" Yoda snapped, far more harshly than he intended. He considered apologizing but knew that the offense was already lost on the bombastic politician. "My name, yell no more! Or wake the forest, you will!"

Yoda laughed to himself as the interloper scanned the woods with widening eyes as if expecting some dark horror to rip through the trees and devour them both. The Jedi Master decided to do nothing to assuage the annoying old creature's unwarranted fears.

Instead, Yoda passively watched the politician frantically try to catch his breath. Yoda had often found that he never really mastered Jedi patience when it came to dealing with the unusually diminutive migru.

"What do you want, Taru?" Yoda said finally. "Interrupt my peace lightly, you should not. On fire, the village is not, hmm?"

A look of shock erupted on Taru's face followed by the apparently slow realization that Yoda did not really believe that the village was indeed ablaze. Indignation replaced shock.

"Minister Taru, call me you should!" the politician replied. His face grew serious and he pointed the piece of wood at Yoda. He seemed to consider poking Yoda with it for a brief moment and then apparently thought better of it. Instead, the point stopped just shy of touching the Jedi Master's taut stomach. "A respect for authority, always lacked, you have!"

"Perhaps…," Yoda replied calmly. "But answer my question, you have not."

All outrage seemed to leave Taru as he was suddenly alight with glee.

"Yes!" he shouted. "Forgot, I did! The celebration! Started it has!" When Yoda didn't seem to join him in his excitement, a look of exasperation came over Taru. "The celebration, Master Yoda. Forget, you could not! In your honor, it is, after all!"

Yoda tried his best to stop imagining what Taru would look like suspended from a branch of one of the taller trees along the path to the village. He considered Taru for a long moment before answering.

Yoda had not forgotten at all. In fact, the Jedi Master had been steeling himself for the unpleasant business that he had been hoping he would have managed to avoid. After what likely seemed an eternity to Taru, Yoda nodded in resignation.

"Forget, I did not," Yoda answered somewhat testily. "Hoped, I did, that if arrived I did not, go away this nonsense would."

Taru burst into a series of cackles that only managed to irritate Yoda further. He patiently waited for the laughter to subside. When it became clear that this was unlikely to occur in the foreseeable future, Yoda interrupted.

"What so funny, you find?"

Taru suddenly stopped laughing and blinked in surprise at Yoda with bulbous brown eyes. "Kidding, you were not?" he asked innocently.

Realizing that it was best to move things along, Yoda forced a smile. "Too easy, you are you. Join you, I will. Get this over with."

Taru immediately began to giggle again as he turned toward the beaten path back to the village.

"Minister Taru," the old politician corrected. "Remember this, you must, when meet the other Elders you do."

Yoda shook his head resignedly and tried his best not to frown.

It was going to be a long day.

The music and cheers reverberated through the trees in a harmony full of joy and celebration. Hundreds of migru were gathered in the village square, standing on either side of the main dirt road yelling and screaming with glee as the parade of younglings marched by in perfect lockstep.

The younglings' faces were rigid with intensity. They didn't smile. They all wore the same garb—dark brown strips of cloth with a hole for their heads and a strip of maroon vine-chord tied around their waists. All were shoeless, as was customary of the migru and they all had their hair tied in a tight topknot. They were the very model of simplicity. There was no individuality evident—no necklaces or trinkets; no unique tying of the topknot; no special way of wearing their overcloaks; and no variation in facial expression. They were the best of the migru younglings.

Yoda sighed and stifled a yawn.

Each of them was auditioning for the role of Yoda's personal assistant. Every year, for the past two thousand years, a new honoree was selected by the Tribal Council as the Migru of the Year. Nominally, this individual was chosen from among the top political and economic powerhouses in the community. As somewhat of a prize, one youngling was given the opportunity to become that great migru's aide-de-camp. With this selection, the youngling would usually be groomed for the enviable opportunity to become a cleric in the Tribal Council. A mere hundred years of dedicated effort after that might earn that youngling an actual seat on the Council—the highest honor a migru could possibly hope to attain.

The tradition was the most anticipated event on the forest planet of Migruna III. Migru from all over the planet traveled for days to be at The Choosing. Prime Village was always abuzz during this time of year and the local vendors worked doubly hard to capitalize on the influx of migru visitors.

The most popular item for sale was, of course, the stilt. Almost a thousand years prior, Yoda had learned, one very enterprising migru farmer had built an empire from the sale of stilts. It seemed that his fellow migru were rather fond of playing tall for a while. At the parade, as many migru walked on stilts as didn't.

The Prime Village Drummers pounded the drums incessantly and the String Group plucked away in perfect unison on their three-stringed vonglen. It was all giving Yoda a headache. His chin was resting on his right hand, his elbow firmly planted on the arm of his wicker chair that was almost at the same height as the Prime Minister's. Yoda struggled to keep the lack of interest he felt from showing. He wasn't being very successful.

"Pretend, at least, you could," Prime Minister Gandol whispered to Yoda, leaning down. It was hardly necessary since Yoda's large ears could hear him whispering from a hundred meters away. "For you, this celebration is, after all. The Choosing, a great experience it can be. When your age, I was, great pleasure I took in selecting an apprentice." Yoda turned sharply and glared at Gandol. Gandol simply smiled at Yoda's reaction. "Aide. Aide. I know, I know. Worry too much, you Jedi do, about words. Focus on meaning, you should. The essence of communication, this is."

Yoda's softened and a smile tugged on the corners of his mouth, in spite of himself.

"Wise, you are," Yoda grinned. "A great Jedi, you would have made." After noting Gandol smiling at the comment, Yoda sat straight in his chair and faced Gandol with a mock-stern look. "For you only, pretend, I will."

With that, Yoda looked out into the crowd of younglings who were marching along the main road, about to perform The Passing ceremony. Any moment now, the entire brigade of children would turn their heads simultaneously toward the Delegation of the Chosen that was made up of previous honorees and members of the Tribal Council and they all sat stodgily on large platform built into the ancient tree in the very center of Prime Village.

The main road passed by the Gathering Tree and every road in the village connected to it. In fact, the entire network or roads and byways on the planet were all connected in some way.

Yoda smiled at the thought.

No migru lived on the other large landmass that comprised the bulk of dry land on Migruna III. Millennia ago, they had explored the other continent in the hopes of discovering new resources and possibly even undiscovered migru. All they had found was death. Most of the explorers died during the trip itself, which took several months in the wooden ships they had built. The rest died when the predatory Astaaks—a large carnivorous reptile—descended on them. Migru bedtime stories almost always involved some fantastic tale about escaping the jaws of a hungry Astaak.

Of course, using the available technology they received through trade with other planets, the migru had been able to explore the region safely and found little of value. Although some migru on the Council recommended exterminating the Astaak threat and settling on the other continent, it had been decided that this would go against some of the most fundamental beliefs of the migru.

The migru believed only in killing to save a life.

They lived uncomplicated lives, converting the forest trees into abodes for shelter and farming those very same trees for their sustenance. While the migru seemed to be willing to eat just about anything, they particularly enjoyed the delicious taste produced from the pungent sulfur-smelling boiled bark of the bending tree, which got its name from its tendency to bow its trunk almost to the ground during the winter months.

Wealth was measured in terms of artificial trinkets owned. This had not always been the case, of course. After the visitors arrived in their shiny metal ships and wanted to barter, however, the migru were hooked. They were intensely fond of small lights and enjoyed shining them at night. The space travelers tried desperately to trade using what Yoda referred to as "credits" but the migru had no use for them. As such, the space travelers settled on providing new and better shiny trinkets for the migru businessmen. Every migru worked hard to own a glittering bulb of some sort—preferably one that changed colors. Oddly, for reasons that the migru could never really understand, the space travelers visited frequently and were only interested in the useless green stones that the migru often found near the mountains.

This worked out well for the migru, who learned how to use some of the metal tools they received in trade to mine more and more of these stones from the mountainside. The vast majority of migru worked in the mines. The rest farmed the trees for all kinds of tasty bugs that were quite popular with bending tree bark.

Yoda cringed inside as the entire brigade suddenly snapped all their heads in perfect unison and looked directly at him. Even though he had prepared himself for the event, he still found it immensely disturbing. He wasn't exactly sure what it was that bothered him the most—the fact that this was all being done for him, or the fact that they thought that this was something he'd find impressive.

Jedi celebrated individuality and Yoda was no exception. The idea that he would have to select one of them to work for him for a year was too distressing to even truly consider. But he had given his word that he would play along. When all their heads snapped forward again as they completed their march, Yoda shivered with disgust.

He was just about to break down and tell the Prime Minister that he just couldn't go through with this when he caught a small irregularity in the brigade out of the corner of his eye. A youngling, no older than sixty, Yoda surmised, was jumping up and down near the back line of the unit instead of marching along. She seemed to be trying to see over the heads of the slightly taller candidates in front of her.

Yoda stared at her with wide eyes when she seemed to notice he was looking at her and she broke into a massive grin. She began waving at him enthusiastically. Yoda frowned when he realized that his hand seemed to be waving back at her entirely on its own. He quickly pulled his arm down to his lap and looked around uncomfortably to see if he was noticed. Satisfied that he hadn't been, Yoda looked back at the young girl and noticed that she continued to hop up and down but now she was looking ahead and seemed to be jumping to the beat of the drums.

"A perfect choice for you, she would be," Gandol's deep baritone whispered next to Yoda's ear. "Full of energy, she is, but very trainable." Yoda looked at Gandol in surprise. Gandol seemed to laugh at this. "Become Prime Minister by accident, did you think? See everything I do. My gift, that is. Call her for interview, I will."

Yoda marveled yet again at the eleven-hundred-year-old Prime Minister who didn't look a day over eight hundred. Yoda had met Gandol nearly five hundred years before, when Yoda first returned to Migruna to learn about his planet.

Gandol was just a Minister then but he had clearly been the most intelligent migru on the Council. He was the only one who didn't try to barter for Yoda's lightsaber and had taken the time to show Yoda around the planet and teach him their customs. He even explained to Yoda how the two Jedi Masters had come to the Council and requested permission to take him to Coruscant for training. When Yoda had asked about his parents, Gandol had been gentle in explaining how they had died in one of the first mine collapses. He even showed Yoda the location where their ashes had been spread. The Jedi Master had never forgotten Gandol and counted him as the only real friend outside of the Order he had in the galaxy.

"Thank you, old friend," Yoda replied.

"Of course, Yoda," Gandol replied. The brigade had finally come to a halt and the younglings spread out into a large circle. All the spectators immediately gathered around the circle, most of them on stilts. Others climbed the nearest trees and looked on in anticipation.

"What new nonsense, Gandol, have in store for me, do you?"

Gandol stared at Yoda with obviously genuine surprise and blinked several times before apparently coming to realization that Yoda really had no idea.

"Forget, did you?" Gandol grinned mischievously.

"Forget what?"

"An exhibition, promised us you did!" Gandol announced.

The memory rushed back to Yoda and he found himself smacking his head with the palm of his hand. "Joking I was!" Yoda tried to explain. "Against Jedi teaching it is!"

"Tell them." Gandol pointed at the gathered crowd. "Waiting on you, they are. Understand they will, I'm sure."

Yoda noticed the impatient looks on all the migru gathered. Without question, the most fascinating light on the entire planet was attached securely to Yoda's waist. They were all waiting to see Yoda ignite his blade and perform for them. The moment Yoda began to consider addressing the crowd and apologizing profusely, he immediately had the disturbing feeling that should he do so, he might find himself fighting for his life against a very angry mob.

"Do it, I will…" Yoda said finally through gritted teeth.

"Excellent!" Gandol grinned.

Yoda stood up and walked to the edge of the platform, twenty meters above the ground.

As he leapt from the tree, he yelled back at Gandol. "But like it, I will not!"