This was a challenge piece I wrote for the kfm Fear challenge a while back. I really enjoyed how it came out and it's actually fairly important to the plot of Anamensis (well slightly less confusing if you read this). For those of you that don't know, Kel Algwinn is the one on Korriban that you can set to the Jedi (or turn him into Yuthura for prestige).
There is no emotion; there is peace. That was all well and fine, but at the moment, cowering behind an old seat in a converted bunker– he would have loved some actual advice. There was plenty of emotion – namely being scared shitless of the two Sith Assassins who had been hunting him down for the past three months.
Kel Algwinn had had better luck as a Sith.
Peace is a lie. There is only passion. Nope, no help there either. Kel wrung his hands together as he tried to make himself appear small, so they wouldn't detect him. The knocking came – he had a bizarre out of body moment as he wondered when they became so polite.
How did he get here? He was just a bright kid from Alderaan who liked reading datapads. Uncle Olic once said that Kel had a temper. Was that why he went to the Sith? No. It was because he was curious. Kel had always been curious, too curious to fit in. His family had suggested the Jedi. That was smart, Jedi were peaceful.
But Jedi had taken him from Alderaan. One of his cousins – made him dark and twisted, ruined him.
He had met him once, before he was… before he was what he became.
He was playing with a toy. It was shapes and blocks. Everyone around him was sad – he wasn't sure quite why, but he could feel how sad they were.
Especially the tall one. His sadness was thick and tainted the air around everyone. They called him 'cousin.' Kel thought that he was his cousin too, but he wasn't sure. His Na'an was sick, she coughed a lot – didn't play with him when they visited. Everyone was quiet.
Kel wanted to play. Why would no one play with him? The tall one, his cousin, had a friend. His cousin's friend didn't look sad – she looked, worried.
Kel wondered what there was to be worried about. There were toys around and there were books. There were enough people to play – there were no problems at all. Kel looked at his toys, he wanted to offer his cousin to play with him. His mother shushed him before he could ask.
"Jedi don't play, young one."
Alderaan was a place of artisans and poets, not Dark Lords. Of course that thought had never occurred to Kel. He wasn't a Dark Lord; he was the kid in the back of the class at school. But he had never really taken the time to think it through. He wanted to connect with the Force, he wanted to be something – he wanted to be noticed.
Kel wanted power. He wanted to be like his cousin.
He wanted to be Malak.
Of course on Dreshdae he was just a kid with a stolen lightsaber. The way he got it should have been his first sign. It was thrilling and powerful to pull it from dead hands, but some part of him that he kept tucked away was disgusted.
Real death wasn't like it was in books. In plays. In lyric poems. Nothing artistic could explain the way life gripped on for the last moment until it was wrenched away and destroyed. Left nothing but a gaping hole.
He'd gotten into the Academy because of Malak – he'd left because of Revan. It was terribly ironic when he thought of it, which he hardly did. When he became a Sith he never thought of Alderaan – that was in the past.
Kel couldn't think of cold winter air and his sister's warm smile as she brought him some food. He couldn't think about the things he never should have done. The things he never wanted his Ma'an and Da'an knowing. He loved the power, but he also feared it.
And so he found people to hide behind, stay out of sight. Drift along and hope they'd forget who he was. Shardaan was the worst – he was the bad end of the spectrum. Kel didn't want to admit it, but he had always been the good. The group had catered to Mekel, Dustil and Selene at first. Lashowe could sweep her way in anywhere and Shardaan just liked pushing in.
Shardaan had made him taste lightning more times that he'd like to remember. Lashowe had riled anger in him so deep that it caused ripples in the Force. Mekel had cut him down so he felt like an insect. Dustil had used him as a stepstool and Selene had barely given him the time of day.
They were the closest thing to friends he'd ever had.
After Revan – after the Sith – after everything, there were only four. He'd never understood why they all went to the Jedi. It was the natural choice for Kel – Revan had asked him to do it. Who was he to argue with someone who'd easily prodded him into spilling his fears? Someone who could blackmail him if he stayed?
He hadn't expected Lashowe, Dustil, and Mekel to come along. Being a Jedi didn't seem like their thing and the fragile strings that attached them from Dreshdae should have been gone by then. They weren't.
Mekel lasted four and a half minutes before leaving. Lashowe lasted longer. Dustil was knighted at the same time as Kel.
There was still a darkness in the former Sith's eyes – it would always be there.
"Seems like they're giving these out like party favors," Dustil muttered under his breath.
Kel stared at him, his hand still shaking from the new lightsaber placed there. "You're being pessimistic."
Dustil frowned. "Maybe. Or maybe I know when things are looking this nice they fall to hell."
They both turned as Lashowe Starn smiled and sashayed away from them, her new Knight's robes clinging to her curves.
Kel hadn't seen any of his… his friends for a year now. Running away from the constant threat of your extinction cut down time for short visits. Not that they were the type to sit down and chat about their problems over tea.
He never knew how he made his way up to the jungle moon of Dxun. It had been half luck, part Force, and some stupidity. He thought following in Master Zez-Kai Ell's wake would help him hide – it had just brought more attention to him. Kel traveled away again, trying to follow each of the Masters who hadn't died on Katarr.
After a day on Onderon there were five Dark Jedi on his tail, thirsting for blood. They were much more powerful than he'd encountered before.
Kel knew the numbers five against one wasn't good. He still fought – what else could a former Alderaanian scholar turned Sith turned Jedi do?
He brought it down to two against one, but he couldn't do much more than that. Lightsabers, rain, beasts, and lightning – it was all too much. These last two were connected somehow, they could find him, sniff him out. It was terrifying.
The next morning Kel almost lost them by hitching a transport to Dxun, but soon enough the Force told him they were on the hunt again. As they grew close, he felt every dark memory he had blocked, every sensation touched his skin.
They knew him. They knew how to destroy him.
Kel never could decide on one thing, but he knew he didn't want to die.
Thick mud caked on his boots and his legs were soaked up to his knees. The rest of his body was just soaked in sweat from the constant humidity. He had been walking for days with the barest amount of food to sustain him. The survival tactics he'd learned long ago were geared for the desert, not humid jungle worlds. Preparing to survive on the surface of Korriban when he ran was much different than trudging though the Dxun. Vines covered everything and his breath was coming out in raged pants, as he kept moving.
He knew there was an old weapons bunker around here. There had to be, he'd checked the map three times before ditching it – he wished he had thought to erase it, but the cold trickle of death creeping behind him was too distracting.
Besides, obviously by his career choices, he was never one to think things over.
Kel was too involved in his thoughts to see the sword come at his neck. ""Aruetyc runi solus cet o'r"!" a strong, but feminine voice barked at him.
Kel ignored the panic trying to take over him and said calmly. "I can't kneel with a blade at my throat, can I?"
A woman stepped out. She was wearing battered and piecemeal Mandalorian armor; it didn't fit over her enlarged stomach. "Basic trash. But you know the mother tongue?"
Kel paused to lick his lips. "I'd nod, but there's still metal on my throat."
It slowly lowered and Kel turned to see another blonde, this one shorter, and not pregnant. "Tol ne kadem, Nydra."
The pregnant woman nodded and held her stomach possessively. "You are not the ones we are looking for – who are you Troch who knows Mandalorian?"
"Kel Algwinn," he said, trying to keep his hand close enough to his lightsaber without seeming suspicious. "Who are you looking for?"
"The red ones. They hunt our kin, so we hunt them," Nydra was fierce. "If you help us fight them, we'll let you live."
A month and a half had been spent with Nydra's clan. She was of Ordo, she had said. The name sounded vaguely familiar, but the only Mandalorian who hadn't been in a cage when Kel had met him was- well Kel figured that was too much of a coincidence.
There was Nydra, Nerien – the nonpregnant one who had almost sliced his throat – two younger children and one babe. They were all that was left since the clans had split. Kel felt… he felt something. He wasn't sure if it was anger, remorse, regret, or kinship.
Conversing in Mandalorian with them had not been that difficult, Kel had learned in school – both on Alderaan and in Dreshdae. He would have studied more on Coruscant, but they were watching him closely enough as it was.
It was tough seeing them this way – alone. Women were clan, but they were not warriors. They were left on their own after Revan had spread them out they were without a leader. Not that Nydra wasn't strong enough to be a leader on her own.
Nydra was strong… and scary. Kel didn't know if she was going to feed him or kill him every time dinner rolled around. The others wouldn't talk to him at all, though they gave him grudging respect as he held his own – they went up against quiet a few beasts and Kel put his old knowledge to good use. He may have looked meek, but one didn't get into the Sith by writing poetry.
Kel could hold his own.
Nerien watched him. She would never help him with anything, she would just watch. Kel would feel her brown eyes on him, blaring holes into the black of his head. Sometimes he'd almost trip just to catch something – to see if he could get her to smile.
He learned quickly that Mandalorians, rarely, if ever, smiled.
"Teach me," Nerien said shoving the datapad into his hands.
Kel stared at it, the light of the fire beside them reflecting off the screen. It was a status report on Mandalorian activity, dated four years ago. Kel blinked, wondering how she had gotten a hold of this and when there was Mandalorian activity four years ago. "Teach you what?"
Nerien huffed and rested on her knees. "Read. Teach read. Basic trash."
Kel stared at her for moment, "You understand basic fairly well… it shouldn't be too hard to teach you to speak it. Or read."
She nodded. "Now."
Kel cleared his throat and began to read from the datapad. Nerien frowned and moved closer to him so that their shoulders were touching. Her eyes were intensely staring at the datapad – and Kel had to use every bit of self-control to read from the datapad and not stare at her.
Kel tried not to think of Nerien now. Tried not to think of the Mandalorians whom he had grown to- to something for – that were hiding him from 'the red ones.' The Jedi Assassins, the hunters, the plague that was coming to finally take him.
His heart was pounding against his chest as he tried to make himself as small as possible. He could hear them talking. Nydra sounded pissed. He had almost turned over the entire pot of food once and she'd been irritated – he did not want to see pissed.
"We don't care about you – give us the Jedi," they hissed in unison. He could feel their blackness – the deep void that wanted to swallow him whole.
The thing was he couldn't fight back with anything he had learned. Kel couldn't throw an ancient lyric songbook at them and he couldn't fry them with lightning; they just absorbed all the Force near them. He couldn't talk them down and he definitely was not going to try and redeem them.
Some Jedi Knight he was, cowering behind an old chair, while two women and a few children protected him.
"There is no Jedi – and if there was we'd skin you and bring him your carcass, you runi'toun Kun kin!" Nydra wasn't exactly subtle.
Kel desperately wished they'd leave. He could feel the air heat around them - they were preparing something. "We need you alive to answer," they said, "Your unborn child – is of no use."
There was a sword near him. There always was here. Couldn't go four feet without tripping over one of the Mandalorian weapons. He still had his lightsaber. But they could dodge lightsabers. It would be what they expected.
Kel closed his eyes and used the only lesson he'd ever been taught that could apply.
He leaped over the side of the chair and charged.
And he fought like a Mandalorian.
The lightning had struck Nydra in the chest, but thanks to her armor and Kel's quick moves it had missed her stomach. Kel felt battle rage, not that sick surrender when he felt that dark place inside of him call for more, but that simple unadulterated passion that caused nothing but power in his arms and strength in his soul.
Kel didn't feel the attacks. He wasn't using the Force – and the Assassins looked, if anything confused. He only had to get to one of them. His sword slid through the left one, sending blood all over their red robes and his makeshift armor. He made sure they were dead, yelling with a primal rage and terrifying strength he didn't know he possessed.
And then they were dead and Kel was standing over them, holding a blood drenched sword and his own life.
"Kel…" Nerien's voice broke through after a long moment. Her eyes were hard, but proud. He moved to her side. Nydra was gripping her chest, her face white with pain.
And then there was no more threat and Kel let the Force surround him pouring healing into the tall Mandalorian. She breathed sharply and stubbornly ignored Nerien's help to get to her feet.
It was a quiet hour as Kel took the bodies outside. He left them for the zakkeg – their bones would crunch in the large creatures teeth and Kel would never have to think of them again.
When he came back inside the children were in the corner acting out the events that had happened with Mandalorian glee.
Nerien and Nydra stared at him. Their faces filled with Mandalorian composure.
Nerien stepped closer to him, her blonde hair plastered on her face. "Kel... we want to," Nerien struggled with the words; she still didn't like speaking in basic. "Borne you." Her eyes were intense and her mouth almost turned in a smile.
Kel had to try and rack his brain for the meaning. The closet thing he could think of in basic was... adopted. "You do?"
Nydra nodded and rested a hand on her stomach - she looked better now. "Kelborne." She said with the finality of a leader and a woman. "One of ours now."
Kel never knew at that moment, why he chose what he did. The hunters were dead – he was free to go where he wanted. But something tugged at him, something primal and real. He belonged.
When the Mandalore came the next day – he knew he had made the right choice.