Disclaimer: I, of course, do not own Star Wars. I will, however, take credit for my version of the Exile (here named Maiali Tal)—you know, all those things that are outside the scope of the game. And the plot. And anything, again, that is outside the scope of the game. But that's it. Except for my version of the True Sith. I claim those rights, too. I've been working on them for a long time and would like to keep some of those ideas for my own.
A/N: So, this is Part One of an ambitious three part series I plan on writing. And, yes, it's yet another after-the-game-ends story that's being thrown in to the gamut with the rest of them, but I stumbled over a very demanding plot and character a while ago (years now, I think; Maia and my idea of the True Sith have been around forever…) and even when I put it aside to make way for college, humor, and a different fanfic universe, it sort of niggled at the back of my mind like a word you can't remember. So here I go, back to basics: Star Wars dramatics. I hope there are people out there who enjoy reading this as much as I enjoyed thinking it up over the years.
What are we made of?
Are we the forsaken few?
– Ima Robot
She couldn't breathe.
She couldn't see.
She coughed trying to force air into her lungs. Instead, she choked on something warm and sticky. It filled her nose, throat, and mouth. It trickled from her ears. Blood. When she could finally open her eyes it was all she could see.
She was choking, able to push air out but unable to take any in. She wheezed; she moved her head from side to side. The slightest movement was agony.
Another struggled breath; and through the blood, she found oxygen. She gulped it in, greedy for it, unable to get enough. It was done. Finally, it was done.
Maia rolled onto her side, vomiting blood and breathing life. She was sure she could feel herself getting stronger. The Force was calling to her, washing her in soothing waves, giving her the will to keep living. But when she put weight on her sword arm to stand, white pain crashed through the muscles and ligaments; the limb wouldn't support her. She collapsed and curled around it, cringing, breathing.
Taking in a shaky, gasping breath, Maia opened her eyes again. Kreia lay dead barely ten feet from her, little more now than a pile of robes. She saw the fate of her friends flash before her eyes, ghostly impressions burned into her retina, their lives unfolding in front of her, just as she said they would. Their happiness. Their despair. And she was absent from them all.
Her heart pounded in her chest, in her ears.
The months since her return to Republic space began to reel through her mind, a dissonance of laughter and screaming; of playing games and fighting foes. She had surrounded herself with people, something she hadn't done since the end of the Mandalorian Wars. Not people, friends. True friends; friends who wouldn't leave her behind. She had to believe it—she had forced herself to believe it—otherwise she wouldn't have been able to go on. It wasn't her future she was fighting for, but theirs. Finally, after so many years, she could call herself Jedi and know it was truth.
Maia gasped, blood gurgling in her throat and she knew that she was dying. The Force wasn't there to heal her; it was there to welcome her to eternity and take her up in its embrace. She welcomed it.
Fierce battle cries echoed through her mind, now, as did the anguish of knowing she was the last of a dying breed. Her apprentice had too much left to learn and she feared letting him loose on the galaxy with only a fledging understanding of the powers he possessed. But what could she do? Life was coming to an end, her every breath a terrible effort as if there was a leak somewhere in the system.
She feared what enticements the galaxy would hold now that no one was left to teach him, the Council dead. After all of her efforts to rally them and to save them, they were dead, struck down while she had been rendered dumb, mute, and blind by a woman she called Master. It was the first time Maia had felt rage; true, intolerable, intoxicating rage. The first time she had considered the power offered by the dark side. She could have struck Kreia down right there on Dantooine if she had only given in. She could have avoided this whole mess, if she had only given in…
She suddenly understood everything Revan told her a decade ago; she felt that sweet temptation and heard those nothings whispered in her ear. But unlike her beloved leader, she was also able to see the half-truths and false pretenses. Before long, the very thought of the dark side made her sick to her stomach, its promises too saccharine to hold any real lure, and she knew the only way to defeat her enemy was to stay true to everything she believed in. She was Jedi; crusader and champion.
And look where that had gotten her, she thought with a bitter laugh that only made her choke. Barely alive and abandoned in the core of a planet she had destroyed. It was a fitting end; one that would inspire any number of tragedies. One dies. Everyone dies. Ten thousand people die. She had known those years ago when she watched both allies and enemies perish that she would find a grave in the cemetery she had created, she just didn't know it would come this slowly or this soon.
Maia tried to stand again, not willing to give in to giving up. Not yet, though maybe soon. This time not only her arm failed her, but her shoulder and every muscle in her back refused to help her stand. She didn't feel whole, nor did the muscles that made up her torso. They had been cut into a million tiny pieces, each cell crying out in agony, setting her skin ablaze with pain.
She wished for Dantooine. Not the dying planet she left a week ago, but the thriving grasslands of her childhood where she could listen to every ebb and flow of the Force. It sang to her in those days, its melody so sweet she wanted to share it with everyone she came in contact with. A young girl who called herself Revan had listened adamantly, loving Maia, joining Maia. And though Maia was little more than an average student, she sometimes wondered if she had inspired Revan to her greatness, if their songs had created a great symphony that moved all who heard it. Had she been rewarded, then, come the Wars with her commission and her command at such a young age? Barely more than a Padawan, Maia knew she should have stayed behind, but her friend had called to her in a dream and Maia couldn't help but follow.
And there among the soldiers she learned and grew and hardened. She commanded an army. She became the thing Mandalorians feared. But as those around her fell, she somehow remained a beacon of light, shutting out the Force when she ordered the deaths of thousands rather than succumbing to the dark side cacophony that sang in her ear.
She vomited again, amazed at the size of the blood pool she was lying in. It couldn't all possibly be hers. Some of it had to be Kreia's, though she couldn't see the stream that should have been there. That had to be there. Her breath caught.
Maia's heart had cried day Revan went where she couldn't follow. Physically, yes, she could have gone, but what use would it have been? The song had already left her and all she wanted to do was forget the Force and forget what she had been and what she had done. She learned to forget her schooling, to forget her name, and before she knew it, she was ten years older and back in Republic space. The Smugglers' Moon and many planets like it had shielded her during the years she spent forgetting and by the time she heard the whispers of Revan's return, her friend had disappeared again.
Maia, she heard Revan say. Maia, look at what I found.
It was a kath pup, small and mewling for its mother, its eyes still closed. Revan cradled it in her hands, already sinewy and strong though she was hardly more than twelve, petting it and whispering Force song in its ear.
You should put him back, Rae, Maia said. His mum is gonna come look for him.
I killed her, Revan replied, thinking nothing of it. Maia, on the other hand, felt a stab of pain deep in her core.
Alek and I were out in the prairie and she attacked us. Revan shrugged. I found him in a nearby cave.
The masters won't let you keep him.
I know, but he'll have a chance at life even if it's in a zoo. We all deserve that, don't we? His mother chose her fate, but that doesn't mean he has to suffer because of it.
Tears welled in her eyes and flowed down her cheeks, loosening the dried blood and quickening the flowing; the salt stung her skin and the mucus made her already labored breathing even more difficult, but she couldn't stop. The blood in her throat prevented her from sobbing and no matter how much she retched up there seemed an endless supply to replace it.
The world shook as she blinked once. Twice. The ghost images returned and all she could hear was the faint echo of rock falling around her. It was as if someone was watching a holovid on the far side of an apartment, three walls separating her and the screen. She blinked again, the ghosts still there, though somehow more solid. Atton. Mical.
The now dusty air was even more difficult to take in, her lungs gurgling with each inhalation, her breath hitching on the blood. Maia hardly had the energy to remain conscious and she only opened her eyes when she felt arms around her body, lifting her from the hard stone that was supposed to be her grave.
"Don't die on me now, Maia," she heard him say, though his voice seemed far away. "You owe me money."
She wheezed trying to say his name. Atton.
"Don't talk. You're cut up pretty bad," he said, holding her tighter than necessary. She welcomed the security he offered.
Mical appeared in her peripheral and she was vaguely aware of the pressure applied to her throat as he tried to stop the bleeding, breathing somehow easier as he tended to her. Ignoring her student, Maia lifted a hand to touch Atton's cheek, leaving a substantial amount of blood on his already dirty skin. The edges of her vision began to darken as she watched the blood streak down his neck to pool in the shallow of his clavicle. Had there really been that much on her fingers?
All attempts to lift her arm again failed. Her vision hazed over grey.
"Stay with me, honey," Atton said as her head flopped backwards, her neck no longer able to support its weight. Everything was moving in slow motion. "We're almost there."
She wasn't aware they were moving, let alone running. Were she mindful of anything other than Atton, she would see the great stone cliffs crumbling behind them, Mical and Atton barely able to stay a step ahead of the falling debris. Maia lent them her strength, her life no longer important if it meant her friends left this planet safe and alive. They had lives to live, lives she wasn't a part of. Before the confrontation, she had seen their smiling faces. She had heard them laugh and felt their joy despite the terrible day that would follow.
She had felt his lips on hers after so many months of denying him; the feel of his skin.
It was everything she ever needed.
Every breath was a fight as the familiar smell of the Hawk reached her nose. And with every breath she drowned a little more as a small part of her brain heard Atton command someone to get this bird in the air, god damn it. The world rocked again before she was placed on something soft and strapped in tightly, the cold metal restraints biting into her burning skin. She tried to groan and only gagged. Where was it all coming from?
The Force touched her mind and washed through her veins. She felt someone rip open her shirt and shove a tube down her throat. Electricity coursed through her every fiber. Her heart thumped to life.
"We have to get her to Coruscant asap," someone said.
"Onderon is closer," someone else said.
"Honestly," said a third, female, "I don't think it's gonna matter where we bring her. She's lost a lot of blood."
"Shut up, Mira."
Maia opened her eyes, only vaguely aware that she wasn't breathing on her own. Everything felt strange, numb. It was as if her feet were three parsecs from her head and at the same time as if she had no torso separating them at all. Her only consolation was that every breath was silent and easy.
Something moved at the very edge of her vision.
"You're safe now, Maia. That old witch is dead."
"I'll never let anyone hurt you again."
The Hawk hummed around her.
It was so alive.