"He is a fool, Exile. He has nothing to give you, and even fools such as he are not ignorant of that. He cannot survive the trials that await you, and you know this as well as I."
Her last words. Kreia, Traya, whoever she actually was, she had spoken the truth, and shattered my hopes for the future.
"And know this, Exile. His love is not the kind that lasts. It will wither and fade, just like him, and leave you unable to do what you must. I am sorry, for being the messenger if for nothing else."
When the Ebon Hawk flew in, just as the planet was falling apart, I just wanted to hide. Let the ship, let you, fly away, find a bed in the Academy, and curl up and wait for the planet to take me with it.
But I just couldn't do it. You pulled me on board and flew away, leaving her, Kreia, betrayer, master and friend, behind to die alone on a doomed planet. And me, all I could do is collapse in the cargo room.
To be honest, I can hardly remember what happened next. The few days after Malachor were a blur of generals, senators and businessmen, all wanting to meet the hero. Thanking me for killing a friend and mentor, handing me awards by the dozen, praising me for being played for a fool, placing on me no blame for anything I did.
Not even for Vrook, Kavar or Zez Kai-Ell. I acted blindly, and it cost them everything.
So, I tried to forget, but how could I? The past few months had been full of adventure and excitement, and the usual method could no longer work. After all, alcohol is a toxin of sorts, and my Sentinel training never could differentiate between alcohol and arsenic.
Long story short? I was depressed. I was in love with a man who I knew must stay behind. And I was sober.
So, I tried to lose myself. The reason you couldn't find me the last few days was a result of that. Old habits die hard, and I was losing myself for all those years between the Mandalorian War and Peragus.
I found a nice little cantina, in one of the Docks modules. Lots of spacers playing Pazaak, and more than a few playing Dejarik; as good a place as any to lose myself in. Simple games, no stakes other than a handful of credits, complex enough to take my mind off of everything, for a little while at least. It was all I wanted, or so I thought.
It was two days ago when something odd happened. I was about to look for my next opponent, when this man came and sat down at my table. Dark skinned, bald, goatee and a pair of the worst sunshades I had ever seen. Not that they wouldn't do the job, but that they were the ugliest thing I had ever seen, and this I say with no attempt at humor. Looking back, it was as if he was hiding behind them, that anyone wouldn't see him but those shades.
"Are you blind, old man? I am alre-" I began, perhaps a little too curt but certainly justified. All I wanted was a simple game, after all.
"Yep," he cheerfully interrupted. "Sorry, but this is my favorite table. My name's Jolee. How are you?"
I just stared at him for a few moments. As I've told you, there are no coincidences when it comes to the Force, but this one just seemed a bit too much. "Jolee Bindo?"
You don't know him, and for that you should be thankful. He was in and out of the Order before I was even born, but he became a legend in the Jedi Temple. He risked expulsion to do good for those who needed it. He fell in love, married, and trained his wife to be a Jedi. Then she 'fell' and he couldn't, wouldn't stop her.
He couldn't kill the one he loved, and she went on to kill many more Jedi. And the Jedi Council wanted to promote him for it, saying that he learned his hardest lesson already. And so he left the Order. He helped Revan in the Jedi Civil War, long after that. He was never the most noble of Jedi, but certainly one of the best.
Anyway, he sighed and, far too theatrically, snapped his fingers in disgust. "Damn. I was hoping to lead you on for a while. Us old people never get to have any fun. Yep, Jolee Bindo. And you'd be that exiled Jedi, Narra?"
No coincidences, indeed. And he was about as subtle as I've heard. "Yes. I did not know there were any Jedi left."
He sighed again, this time more real, and then looked about for a waitress. "Always with the Jedi. I'm not a Jedi and I haven't been one in a long time, back when the Order was more than a mockery or a corpse. Why do you kids keep calling me a Jedi? It's not like I don't have enough problems..."
"Alright, alright, so you're not a Jedi. Please don't talk me to death. I just mea-"
"Oh, right, talk you to death. Another original comment by the kiddie pool. Ah, waitress!" he said, finally spotting a tiny girl carrying a tray. "A Tarisian ale, please, and use the change to buy yourself the other half of that shirt!"
I was overwhelmed by his attitude, his charming, casual, friendly manner. I had heard about how he acted, but this was a bit beyond how I'd pictured it. It was as if he were trying his hardest to not act like a Jedi while still resonating as 'good'. "If I may get a word in, why are you here?"
"Felt like coming here. Haven't seen another Jedi in, oh," he, again theatrically, checks his watch, "a few days. Got lonely."
"So there are others still alive?" I asked, hope rising in my chest. If there were others, then maybe I wouldn't have to leave...
"Yep. They call themselves Jedi too, wouldn't you know it. So why are you drinking fruit juice?"
"... the sugar high. It is not that bad really," I grinned sheepishly, knowing what, exactly, he would ask next.
"And you're not drinking alcohol because...?"
"Sentinel," I replied, simply, knowing that he could easily make the connection. I was starting to realize something about Jolee: He was much smarter than me, and likely well prepared for this meeting.
"Hah! Wouldn't want to live like that, let me tell you. Bad enough being blind."
"Wait, didn't you see the waitress?"
"My eyes may not work, but there are other ways of seeing," he said, in a tone that would be sage-like if it weren't so, well, theatrical.
"Force, you too? Let me guess, 'My eyes have atrophied from lack of use.'"
"What? Oh, no, not at all. No, I suppose they stopped working on account of that bit of Force Lighting I took back in the war."
I shuddered at the memories. The Sith use Force Lightning not because it's potent, but because it blinds you with pain. And to aim it at someone's eyes... "Do your eyes still hurt?"
He sighs. "Well, now they do, thank you very much for mentioning it," he grumbled, raising a hand to his temple, wincing from some unseen, and likely imagined, pain. And, still, a hint of a smile played out on his face, as if he'd gone through this a thousand times before and loved every minute of it.
"Why are you here?"
"Because you are. Heard of a Jedi wasting her days away in a bar. After I got over the irony of it, I figured you needed someone to kick your ass into gear. So, what's your problem?"
"Its... I... You are not making this easy..." I mumbled.
"Alright, how about I start you off. Ran around the galaxy, saved a few planets, whole lot of lives, killed some evil Sith Lords and now you don't know what to do next?"
I gaped at him. To reduce everything that I had endured into something trivial. And that he was right only made things worse.
"No, not exactly. I know what I must do next. But..."
"Ah. Can't take anyone with you, and there's someone you want to take." At Narra's shocked look, "What, I can't do my homework? Would it surprise you to know I know about Kreia?"
I just sighed and raised a hand to my forehead. "Sadly, no. I long ago stopped being surprised at these 'coincidences'. I would assume Revan told you?"
"Yep, back before he left. So, who says you can't take anyone with you?"
"Well, Kreia, myself, the fact that Revan himself went alone..." I said, ticking off the names on my fingers.
Jolee's face hardened, his voice seemed harsher, and he seemed to be glaring daggers at me. "Don't give me that 'Revan himself' kath crap! He's just a man, damn it, and I won't have you treating him like a god!" he nearly yelled. After a few moments, he did calm some, but still seemed much more tense than before.
"... Kreia told me that Atton could not survive the trials that I must undertake. And this was no guess, she was seeing the future through the Force."
"Ah..." he nodded sagely, this time forgoing the theatrics, "Atton's the boy you're so smitten over?"
"Hardly a boy."
Jolee shrugged. "If you're younger than me, then you're a kid. I'm old, damn it, and I'll call people what I want." He took a sip, enjoying my chuckle, and then continued. "Tell me, have you ever heard of the Three Oracles of the Miranu?"
I shook my head, noting to myself to ask Mical if such a thing exists.
"Well, it's a bit of a long story, so I'll try to be quick. This planet, far on the outer rim, had these three force users. Not amazingly powerful, but strong in one area: Foresight. They could see the future through the Force. Pretty impressive feat, if you ask me, but each of them had their own take on it.
"One of them saw the future and found it unending, immobile, and decided to answer any question asked honestly and precisely. I've personally labeled him the Dull Oracle.
"The second saw the future and found it dark, but still changeable. She didn't always tell the truth, but instead she told people what they needed to hear in order for the best result. The Goody Two Shoes Oracle, so to speak.
"The third saw the future and found it pliable, and he liked what he could see. He told people what he wanted them to know, manipulating events to how he wanted them to play out. Anyway, to make a long story short -"
"Too late..." I muttered, grinning at his sightless glare.
"Eventually," he continued, "he would go on to rule the whole damn planet, and probably could've conquer the galaxy if he had hyperspace drives."
"The Sith Oracle?"
"Hm, not too bad a name. I've always gone with the "Scary, Evil Oracle", but I'm not a very good storyteller."
"I'm sure," I said, sarcasm dripping from my voice. "So, why bring it up?"
Jolee gives another sigh, not acting any longer. "Look, whenever anyone hears about oracles or prophecies or any other damn fools predicting the future, they always think 'Oh, wow, he must be telling the truth! No way he could be lying straight out of his flux capacitor!'"
"So you're saying that I shouldn't trust what she said? You think she was lying to me?"
"No, damn it." He paused. "Well, maybe. I don't know. I never really met Kreia. Heard some horror stories, but the point is it's like any other prophecy: It was written or said by a person. Don't give them more credit than they're due. Heh, they all damn near say 'Oooh, I see the future! Dance for me! Dance!'"
I snickered, and a flash of a smile appeared on his face before retreating to his mock frown again.
"Oh, quiet you, I'm not here for your amusement!" His voice softens, and I could swear that I could feel his gaze soften as well. "Just do what you want to do, kid, what you think you have to. Don't let Revan or Kreia or your little boy toy tell you anything different. The only reason why you've gotten this far was because you trusted yourself."
"My track record has not been very good thus far," I added grimly, as all of the dead of the past month flashed through my head.
"Bah, then learn from your mistakes," he said, dismissively. "And how many of them were from listening to other people instead of listening to yourself?"
"You do spot the irony here, I hope."
"Hard not to," he said, smiling.
"What about what happened to your wife? You listened to yourself and no one else an-"
"What happened to me isn't what will happen to you. You're not me, Atton isn't Nayama, and there isn't an Order to disapprove." I could tell that this was something he did not want to discuss, something he'd very much rather me leave alone. But I... I had to know.
"Do you not regret what happened?"
His face falls, and for the first time I see a real frown on his face. It was the face of a broken man, or at least the face of one who broke a long time ago. "I've made a lot of mistakes in my time. Made a lot of good decisions too. Live as long as I have and you'll find out that, yes, bad things sometimes happen. Do I regret marrying her? No. Do I regret not stopping her when I had the chance? I still don't know, even after all this time.
"But I learned a long, long time ago that this," he gestures around the room, indicating the various drunks and mourners, "does nothing. It doesn't make you feel any better, and it certainly doesn't make the dead feel any better. You made a few mistakes. Misplaced trust, a few blind eyes turned, nothing new to anyone who's ever lived.
"Right now, you don't want to do anything. Just sit there, keep drinking, and wait for all your problems to be solved. Play simple games with simple folk and hope that the 'verse doesn't fall apart around your ears.
"So get over it," he curtly finished.
"You heard me. I spent twenty damn years belly-gazing. I lost my wife, lost my faith in the Council and the Code, and I went off to the biggest forest I could find to pout. I don't know what you should do, but I know this isn't it.
"So, what are you waiting for? You have a ship. A pretty good pilot if you choose to use him. Oh, and HK-47 saying "Die Selkath Die" will open up that navi-computer for you."
At my expression, he added, "Our stop on Manaan didn't exactly end well. Or start well. It's another long story. Anyway, all I know is this. Revan is going to need help, even if he won't admit it, and you're stronger than any other Jedi alive. Sorry, kid, but the job falls to you. So get already!"
And, well, I 'got'. I had HK unlock the navi-computer, bribed a few techs to speed up the Hawk's repair and went shopping for food, clothes and things that go boom. And then I started writing something that turned out to be far too long. Sorry.
Oh, I did see Jolee again. That whole conversation happened last week. I'm sorry for not telling you before now, but I had more thinking to do, the real kind this time. He's going to drag as many Jedi as he can find out of hiding, kicking and screaming if need be. He'll need help, and the rest of the crew will help him, I know that. But, as for you?
Atton, I do need your help. But I will not force you to help me. Make your own decision. Everything that happened since Paragus will seem like nothing next to the trials that await me. You will need to be ready for almost anything. The Ebon Hawk lifts off in two days, and I hope that you will join me.
He throws the datapad onto the table next to Narra, and says, "What, you really thought it'd take me two days to decide?"
And, tears in her eyes, all she can do is smile.