A/N: This is the result of a title challenge ArgenteusDraco, wordswithout, and I are participating in. Although it is not at all essential for you to have read my prior work to understand this one, a few characters have their origins elsewhere. Master Kell and De'Shar first appear in 'The Alternate Saga', while Cy first appears in 'Rebellion', which chronicles her relationship to Luke. This story hypothetically takes place between the founding of the Jedi Academy and the Akanah Pell incident.
Star Wars: Infinity in Your Hands
The Jedi are flourishing again. A message has come to Master Luke Skywalker at the fledgling Jedi Academy on Yavin IV; M'rytlil, the so-called Planet of Resurrection, has decided to join the New Republic. Its viceroy requests that Master Skywalker be its first official visitor.
Rumors say that the Force shows the dead to the living on M'rytlil. Luke seeks his mother. He travels with his apprentice Cy-Raxx Neirharmn, Master Corran Horn, Master Kell, and De'shar, a representative of the Republic's government.
They have been given coordinates to land on M'rytlil, but neither escort nor communication arrives from their contact as they orbit the planet…
"Being a soldier and official observer seemed too cruel for you," said Kell from the co-pilot's seat, good-natured amusement lighting up her dark eyes. To smile she opened her mouth, baring sharp fangs. Her people, the Lizz-Sur, were descended from crustaceans and had become an intelligent, proud people with orange scales, retractable claws at their wrists, forked tails, and dragon-esque heads from which two thin antennae sprouted. Kell spoke not through her long mouth but through gills. "So you became a lawyer?"
"It's called a barrister," replied the Pho Ph'eahian beside her. Her wide ears were perked, while her four blue-furred hands rested on the control board.
"Or a leeching mynock," joked Kell.
They smiled, each in their own way. The two had worked together once before and disliked each other immensely, but the relationship had improved into one of respect and humor with the occasional emotionally charged, possibly armed spat. Here again Kell served as a Jedi and De'shar as a political liaison.
Four ships cut through the white clouds of M'rytlil. One was De'shar's Pheahia, a box-shaped but comfortable craft for up to seven passengers and two crewmembers; the others were X-Wings, one painted entirely pine green and one sporting the incredible Death Star kill insignia. Inside the third starfighter, Cy Neirharmn focused on guiding the ship downward, relieved to no longer be left entirely alone with her thoughts, hyperspace, and the silver Yavinese crystal in her pocket. She had felt claustrophobic and stuck, when she thought about her mental state at all. The Jedi Academy had been paradise for a time, and then adjustments got harder as they targeted emotions which were more and more integral to what she thought of as herself. She felt stuck between human and Jedi, soldier and peacemaker, child and adult, warm life and freezing space.
A mossy, green grass carpeted the plains around the spacedocks. The docking facilities had been recently constructed, and sat like surreal gray water lilies on a green sea. There were no walls with splash dampeners, so Luke and the others had to remain in the ships for a few moments while wind blew the radiation of their passing out to the mountains.
The Jedi Master propped his hands behind his head.
The welcoming party of Reeras, the natives of M'rytlil, were standing the appropriate distance away, waiting to welcome the Jedi to the Planet of Resurrection.
When the oxygen-rich air had returned to normal, Luke shut down his ship completely and exited, unfolding the ladder from its hatch beside the cockpit. After him the others exited also, and stood together. Cy's short, tawny hair ruffled in the breeze; she pulled her hood up. Like Corran she was dressed in unassuming white clothes beneath the brown cloak. Luke wore a black version, while De'shar and Kell wore spacer's jumpsuits.
Luke knew general Reeran customs; when the two groups met he shook the blue, seven-fingered hand of the one wearing deep blue robes. The Reera's thin, mostly humanoid bodies were supported by three legs, the rearmost limb acting as a tripod leg or a prehensile tail depending on the situation. Thin, flat tendrils hung from their crested heads, widening to form a natural skirt from their waists to their knees. Each of a Reera's two eyes had two honey-colored irises, over which lids closed far more often than a human's did.
Master Skywalker shook the leader's hand and tried to meet the eyes which had only briefly opened to peruse him.
"Greeteengs," said the first of the Reeras in accented Basic which put a low screech in for the e sound. "The plains were ours, the skies were ours. Part of the Magic place is yours."
"Thank you for allowing us to experience your world."
"I am Tlun, first-rank viceroy." Luke knew that first-rank meant second-in-command.
Another Reera stepped forward to speak to De'shar, who through the bud computer clipped into her ear conversed fluently in its language. The two groups walked across the grass, the mountains growing swiftly nearer, arms of bare rock enfolding them until a narrow canyon separated the plains from whatever landscape lay beyond. The Force hovered over the hidden area, peaceful and pristine. Luke gently noted his companions' emotions: Corran and Kell, alert; Cy, nervous; De'shar, deep in negotiations, economic statistics, and culture-specific laws.
"You may pass alone through heere. Your weapons are an aspect of the Magic in your culture, we have been told, so you may keep them with you. Know too that I have protection from attack, and you do not know what it is. We will set up houseeng comfortable to you near the portals…at which you descended."
"'Port', it's called," said Corran. "Thank you again."
Like the former Correlian Security officer, Luke watched the two silent Meeras. One, he knew from the prior arrangements, was the second-viceroy's secretary, who recorded the event with its memory and the electronic recorder-eye clipped to its loose shirt. The second, along with others unseen, were bodyguards.
The second-viceroy said, "You are the first Magic users to come to this world; before the Old Reepublic faded away our contact with it did. Quietly into the void…Rarely can our people detect the Magic. It is eeger for you?"
"Yes," said Luke; he raised his head and looked about as if for the Force incarnate.
The Jedi and De'shar emerged from the narrow pathway into a sunny vale, like a very large park ringed with low, jagged mountains. A the base of these series of steps or empty canal locks made of a bone-colored stone were set into the ground, like strange artistic relics of the planet's past.
When Luke stepped out of the shade, water rushed down the steps from an unseen source. Crystal clear, it flowed babbling to itself on either side of the wide valley. Off of the main, horseshoe-shaped course it flowed around obstacles or through looping tunnels, sometimes appearing to run against gravity, surreally flowing up into the mountains. The Force sang inside Luke's head, babbling wordlessly like the stream, awash with joy and freedom. The Jedi found themselves wandering off in separate directions, almost meditating with each step taken across the verdant grass.
The Force led Luke and Cy to the edge of the water. It distracted him with beauty—the stones like perfectly carved vertebrae beneath the water, bittersweet memories of Endor and Leia, white waterfalls where a stone had broken, Cy's hand brushing against his own. He could almost feel the coolness of the water, the molecules between the surface and the air, the iron core of the world. He could almost feel the pleasantly cool water against his face. As he closed his eyes that sensation left him, replaced with barely a transition with the pure Force, empty of event or affiliation, beyond any individual, any individual concern…
Suddenly he fell forward. He flung his arms out but caught himself up to his wrists in swift water. It threatened what remained of his balance—his reverie was shattered. Cy dashed to the edge of the water and grasped his arm before he could collapse further, his shoulder dipping toward the rushing stream, trying to use her weight to pull him back--
In his next conscious moment De'Shar was leaning over him, her eyes serious and sober. "This place is doing something to you!"
"I know." He replied. "And it's affecting me the most. The Force presence here is strong…" He sat up and walked, returning to near the center of the valley. The others gradually gathered around him. Corran too was partly staring into space, but Kell nervously swished her orange-scaled tail back and forth.
"Don't go into trances on me," said De'shar firmly from beside Luke. "We're here to understand what the Force does on this planet that will affect relationships with the New Republic."
"And find my mother," Luke murmured. He knew his father now—knew more than he had ever imagined. His only impressions of the wife of Vader, though, were a knowledge which since his earliest memories had been missing from his heart. Leia's few words confided to him on Endor and Leia herself were the only additions the war had gained him. No records existed concerning his family name anymore. He had never speculated about her as much as about Anakin. He had been a pilot. She…surely the spouse of a Jedi would not have been like the farmers' dusty wives on Tatooine. He said, "It's almost as if this place is tainted, but with the light side instead of the dark."
"It's compelling," said Cy.
"Almost too much so," replied Kell. "As if we're being drawn into a trap."
Cy nodded, her thought flicking back to her own ruminations on trust. She had fought for the Rebellion from just before Hoth to after Endor, moving from teen-age to adulthood during the turbulent war. On Endor she had asked Luke about love, to which he had succinctly replied that he had already gone through far too much emotion.
Then her name had come up for Jedi candidacy. During her time at the Temple she had grown closer to Luke, but the challenging adjustments involved with going from mundane Jedi-admirer to Jedi apprentice were unsettling her.
"I don't think this place is suspicious," said Corran. "It's amazing…even I can feel the definite lightside…aura you were talking about."
Luke looked around. The mountains met against at the far side of the vale, at a darker area that looked like a rock fall or a cave. It would not take long to walk there. "Let's explore a bit…."
Cy still expressed wide-eyed nervousness as they walked onward. She looked small and defenseless next to Kell. But she would occasionally glance at her Jedi master, reminding him of how she could vivaciously smile as she did more than she thought she could, or brim with the profoundly sad combination of awe and impossible goals. She would still occasional finger the storm crystal which should soon become the core of her lightsaber. He needed to talk to her soon about that delayed project.
He did not dwell on that. The shaded part of the valley was revealed to be a cave mouth, a tunnel topped with curling vines and more stone walls guiding water. A leisurely waterfall or vertical lake above the cave mouth split to become the streams to either side. The Force lay like fog inside the cave. Luke thought then that saying one was 'feeling' the Force was not an accurate description; it was really like the memory of a physical touch.
He made sure no one in the party objected, and then stepped onto the sandy floor of the cave's cool mouth.
Without warning six presences blossomed into existence in the cave simultaneously with six people, their bodies completely concealed by red and black suits. Their helmets were composed of two sections, a shell-shaped faceplate covering to their cheeks and a round upper part with black goggles. Ragged red capes dragged behind them. Their intentions were neutral to Luke, but they carried vibroblades and unsheathed them as they menacingly ran out of the cave.
De'shar and the Jedi spread out. The Pho Ph'eahian and Cy aimed their blasters—"Don't hurt them," shouted Luke, for the benefit of the strangers as well. "We don't know what they are!"
The first armed stranger met Kell. Without prelude she moved faster than it did, sliced open the armor across its chest, and stepped out of the way of a return attack. Her green lightsaber buzzed. While De'shar pumped ineffective stun bolts into the second enemy's chest Luke saw the first's armor gape open, revealing nothing but the rust-colored lining of its back plates.
The armor was uninhabited.
Kell leapt over her fallen foe, retracted her lightsaber and descended on the suit of armor plodding toward De'shar with her wrist-blades outstretched. Four inches of keratin stabbed between the ties laced tightly over where a humanoid's spine would have been.
Luke had his own opponents by now—two, their vibroblades in efficient guards. He Force-pushed the weapon out of the first one's hands and decapitated it. That move continued into a downward strike at the second's head, but his green energy blade was met with its enemy one. Cortosis—Cy screamed, and Luke cast his awareness over the rest of the group as he ducked his foe's clumsy return strike. Corran fenced with his attacker for a few moments before cutting through its hand and hilt. Cy indeed shouted as she dodged the suit of armor which had gotten too close too quickly, but then she slammed a high kick into its sword-arm and shot it point-blank between the neck and chest armor. It would fall. Luke stepped behind his foe and sliced it in two.
When Corran withdrew his silver lightsaber from a suit of armor's chest plate all of the animated armor was incapacitated. Luke could feel them in the Force powerfully now simply as packets of energy—prearranged challenges for visitors in the vale to puzzle or burn through. It was almost as if they had been calibrated to be slightly difficult to the people they encountered.
"It seems that the Force doesn't want us to go in there," Luke said worriedly. He trusted that even De'shar could get that impression from the attack, but saying it kept a bit of his disappointment and resentment at bay. He was certain that the cave would throw more statuesque enemies at them if they tried to enter again. His mother could be alive in the cave, and he would not enter.
Corran looked at the ground. No footsteps—Corran had taught Luke do to useful things such as track. "Someone could have sent them, entirely independent of our purpose here." He scanned the mountain as if dark Jedi were about to emerge from the crags.
"That is possible," said Luke, "but the Meeras said no Force-user had been here for a very long time."
"True, but they also said there were few to no Force-sensitive Reeras who could detect hidden Force users."
Luke nodded. "I can't sense any living presence in there. Keep looking for proof of that possibility."
"Maybe we should ask the Reeras what they've gotten us into, said De'shar angrily.
"They might not know," Luke replied. "But we can ask for their help." He felt disappointed. The Force had given him an overflow of sensation, and then no response to his searching except to symbolically shut the door. He almost welcomed the opportunity to leave which the excessive weirdness had given. If this was not the time…couldn't he survive that? Couldn't he survive being so close?
As they walked back to the Meeras, Kell and De'Shar loudly discussing first-contact morals in the background, Luke moved to Cy's side. In their thoughts each asked the other whether they were all right.
"You need to work on your lightsaber," said Luke.
"I know," she replied. Can we discuss this later?
He nodded. "I think I've been told to stop looking for my mother for a while," he said in soft, grim tones.
She smiled. "Just for a while. They didn't try very hard to kill us."
He smiled at and with her, but knew that the rare joy they felt at the prospect of adventure and battle had faded too much with experience to ever touch him the same way again.