In a cold sweat, Koril Rys'tihn shot straight up in bed, coughing and gasping as if he had been drowning, and he had been. In his nightmare, he had just relived the most terrifying events in his life, all interwoven in one mentally exhausting hour of sleep. It had been months, even years since those things had happened; why had his mind strung them all together suddenly when he hadn't dreamed about them before at all?
He swung his legs over the edge of the bed as he continued to cough, and his old chest wound ached intensely despite his subsiding choking. Even massaging the thick, unsightly scar did nothing to subdue the pain. Though he had hoped he hadn't woken her, he felt Elena's soft hand on his shoulder.
He shook his head as he ran a hand through his hair. "Just need a glass of water." He added softly after a moment, "Go back to sleep." He stood and stepped around the corner quietly, filling a small cup with some water from a chilled pitcher. The coolness of the water radiated from his throat through his sore chest, soothing it as he continued to drink, though it did nothing for his frayed nerves. The nightmare had sent his mind into a panic, and he knew he'd be getting no more sleep that night.
After waiting a few minutes to allow Elena time to fall back to sleep, he carefully stepped back into the room and grabbed a light robe, slipping it on as he walked out onto the balcony. The night air was cool and stung to draw into his aching lungs, but looking out over the silent midnight landscape that surrounded his home, the Rys'tihn Manor, his mind easily wandered to other concerns.
His nightmare had begun like a perverse memory. His worst, most disheartened inner thoughts were voiced by people he had loved and lost just before he relived the instant they had succumbed to their fates. His mother, who had died six years ago honorably defending her planet from invading enemies, stood before him and told him he had failed her. In his heart, he knew she would have never blamed him, but no sooner had she accused him, she was gunned down by a haze of merciless blaster fire. In this surreal dream, he had been paralyzed by her aberrant allegation, and as a consequence, he was powerless to protect her.
The same thing happened as he saw his queen, Tascit Arosc-Banarecc, accusing him of abandoning her as the Dalon Palace collapsed on top of her. Again, bewildered by her uncharacteristic anger at him, he couldn't react. Another sequence involved Master Noor dying at the hands of a Dark Jedi, but not before he charged Koril with being a worthless partner for Elena since he couldn't even protect himself from a negligible Force Lightning attack. The last vision, though, was what had troubled him most.
He saw himself standing in front of the assembled citizens of Dalon in the Council Hall, and just as he began to address them and inform them of the real mastermind behind the Governor Removals, he saw his guilty father in the middle of the crowd. Though dozens of rows away from him, Koril heard Merli'il's voice clearly as he spoke.
"You are a disgrace and a disappointment. How dare you tarnish the Rys'tihn Royal Family."
Koril leaned on the balcony railing. His father's words echoed in his mind, and he winced as he relived the moment the bounty hunter's spear had hit him. He had woken up at that instant in his nightmare just minutes earlier, coughing and choking as his mind had even replicated the same drowning feeling induced by the severe bleeding the spear had caused. Every aspect of the dream had been exceptionally vivid and real, making it all the more difficult for him to distinguish between his actual memories and what his mind had created.
As far as he knew, he hadn't encountered anything that would've reintroduced those painful memories into his thoughts. Things were going well on Paneau, despite a minor setback a few months ago. A strong showing of navy power had repelled the Huxnel easily enough when they attacked, and they hadn't been heard from since. Aside from a few initial disputes with the new Governors, the weeks had been going by quietly, and he was glad they were.
Hopefully sleeping in his room behind him was his fiancée, Jedi Knight Elena-May Lyran. Not only were they having to plan their wedding that would be taking place next week, but they were also preparing for the birth of their son. Though Elena was only five months along, they were already well prepared, having transformed the room beside theirs into a humble nursery. Being able to do so with little else weighing on his mind had been immensely relaxing. Hardly anything had marred the quality time he and Elena had spent together recently; how had such dark, depressing thoughts surfaced and manifested in his dreams so suddenly?
Lost in his thoughts, he hadn't heard Elena's soft footsteps coming up behind him.
"Koril," she began quietly, "come back to bed." She stepped up beside him, wrapping an arm around his waist. He felt her soft, swollen stomach against his side, but even her slightest touch would've helped to soothe his nerves.
He turned to her and hugged her tightly, kissing her softly on the top of her head. "I'm sorry I woke you."
Still in his embrace, she leaned back and examined his face, her own overwritten with worry. "You sounded like you were in a lot of pain. I wanted to make sure you were alright."
He nodded as he drew in a long breath, looking down to keep her from seeing his wince. He knew she could tell, anyway. "Just...painful nightmares."
Without asking for clarification, Elena gently slipped her cool hand just under the edge of his robe and pressed her icy palm against his scarred chest. Koril smiled wanly. Her chilled touch was comfort enough, but she lessened the lingering pain with the Force. He could have forgotten about anything else...
"Do you want to talk about it?"
Instantly, his pain returned. He didn't want to discuss and therefore relive it, but Elena continued to plead silently. He shook his head.
"I don't want to worry you."
Her response was almost immediate. "And I don't want you to carry this alone again."
Though Koril knew his nightmare wasn't in any way similar to what he had experienced before, he had to admit that telling even just one other person about it had been immensely relieving. A disturbing vision of the future had haunted his dreams months ago, and as disastrous as it was, it was eventually realized just as he had seen it. This nightmare, however, couldn't be tied to his Force sensitivity at all; the people in it were already dead.
"I saw four people who have been important in my life," he began quietly, looking out onto the twinkling horizon. "My mother, Queen Tascit, Master Noor, and my father. And I watched them all die...after they told me how disappointing I was to them, how I had failed them."
"Oh, Koril," Elena said breathlessly as she reached up and stroked his cheek, "you know that's not true."
He lowered his gaze and nodded. "I know, and I know it's just a dream, but the look on my father's face... I...can't get it out of my head."
"Koril, look at me."
Releasing a slow breath, he turned to face her. She gripped his hands tightly and stepped closer to him, gazing deeply into his eyes.
"The only person your father could ever be disappointed in...is himself. He left you a terrible burden to carry, and it wasn't fair to you." Her expression lightened as she continued, revealing a small hint of a smile. "But look what you've done. Paneau has been set right, even after all the damage suffered. You are the king's closest advisor and friend, and the entire planet looks to you for protection and guidance. There's no way anyone could be disappointed in you."
Elena's smile broadened, and Koril smiled, too. Even out on the dimly lit balcony, he saw her emerald eyes sparkle, and he felt her long, silken nightgown gently brush against his skin as it billowed in a calm breeze. He freed one of his hands and placed it at the base of her neck, drawing her even closer as he kissed her sweetly. In five days, they would finally be married, and in a few months, they'd be parents...
Though their lips were still locked together, he felt Elena's body tense against him as she made a small gasp. Instantly he released her and grasped her shoulders, searching her face apprehensively.
"What is it? What's wrong?"
Her brows were furrowed in concentration, but her eyes were unfocused and staring at nothing, escalating his anxiety. When she finally spoke, her voice was hardly louder than a whisper.
"Do your guards normally make rounds up here at this hour of the night?"
Koril hardly breathed. "No."
"Then why are there two strangers entering our bedroom?"
Elena lifted her head and met Koril's eyes, and as their gazes locked, they both realized at the same time their predicament: neither was armed, and they were quickly being trapped out on the balcony.