A/N: I do not own the characters or ideas of either the Harry Potter or Star Wars universes. Whatever you see that is not common to those universes belongs to me.
"If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle."
This is what it feels like to be A'Sharad Hett.
You see nothing but the blackness of infinity, an endless, boundless pool of darkness.
And yet you see your father and his fellow chieftains playing "Gaffi Wars" with their children. Like always, the sand people children are partnered with different fathers. After all…what is the fun of playing with your dad? Much more fun to beat his brains in.
Your dad, the greatest chieftain the village has known in several generations—not that that matters to you, a teenager who reviles fate for farming you off on such a poor specimen of a man—is, even to you, a skilled warrior. After all, your brain, as in much of life, is your most important weapon in Gaffi Wars. Even you, who knows all his tricks and seen them all at least once, have to admit he stalks his pray with almost effortless ease, almost blending seamlessly with the dunes.
Finally, it is just you and he. Your partner was taken out earlier, a blow to his knee. You feel the wild, limitless arrogance that comes with youth. Your dad is old and slow: a pushover in other words.
You see him dart between two dunes and hide in another, diving through the sand like a mole. You have him!
A few yards of digging and you know you're right behind him. You jump…
He's not there!
"Good try son," a deep but very caring voice says somewhere close by. Next thing you know, a gaffi stick hits you in the side.
You're dead! Impossible.
The darkness breaks as a sudden blast of blue erupts your vision and sets your nerves on fire. Someone very close by is screaming in pain.
"Wake up," orders a cold voice, born from the darkest reaches of space.
You blink a few times, your head pounding harder than ever before. Your vision is blurry, your hearing not all it could be.
"Where am I," you ask. To your ears, your voice is perhaps ten times too loud for your fragile head.
"Everywhere my young apprentice," whispers the cold voice. "And nowhere." The voice cackles madly, causing your hairs to stand on the back of your neck. The power pulsing in that voice could extinguish the stars and destroy civilizations.
But you still cannot see the man.
"Where are you," you ask, trying to gesture with your arm. But when you move your arm, a chain holds you in place. You tug harder, causing your upper torso to torque.
You're trapped! What happened?
Then you remember. The witch killed your father. The blood red saber clashed with your fathers green, sparks flying everywhere. The man who always bested you in Gaffi Wars, the man whose prowess, looked upon now with a young man's respect instead of a teenager's arrogance, surely can best this witch, who moves wildly with no obvious discipline or skill.
Yet she is besting your father. Your mind screams for you to rush to his aid but your feet are not moving, even as blaster bolts fly and bombs fall.
Then it happens. The red saber locks with green. A powerful thrust, all the power of the witch being thrown in the parry, throws your father off, makes him stagger for a second.
The crimson blade of death pierces your father's chest, charred flesh falling from his back, his eyes losing focus of the mortal plane. The witch giggles and wags her finger at you. Follow me boy…if you can.
She takes off running. You follow, your mind entirely consumed on the pain of losing your father. You gain on the witch, who is still laughing. Rage propels you forward.
Out of the corner of your eye, you see a man stir. Then blackness takes you, until you wake here.
"Where is my father," you ask, tears brimming in your eyes.
There are a few footfalls, slow and methodical, approaching from right in front of you. The person stops in the shadows, preventing you for seeing your captor. A hand, surprisingly well manicured, reaches out from the shadows and unclasps a strap around your chin. The hand retreats and you sense the man looking down.
The room echoes with your scream of pain and despair. You fight with your shackles, the rattling adding to the echo your scream.
From the shadows, your captor chuckles.
"Do not fight boy. Give in. Give in to your pain. It gives you focus…makes you stronger. Can you not sense it?"
You hate this man, even if you can't see him. The Force gives you the ability to see his aura though. Pulsating blackness, almost a black hole in the world. Power is drawn to him, absorbed in his body, and dispersed in waves of Dark power. The aura of the witch who killed your father is nothing compared to this man.
And what is worse, he can control his displacement for lack of a better word. He sensed immediately when you detected his aura. In a display of raw Force power, he buries you in the darkness of the Force, your senses overwhelmed by the onslaught. Death clings to your robes, making them unbearably heavy.
"You see now boy, the power of the Dark side. I can train you to wield this power, bend it to your will. But you must give in to your pain."
You stare straight into the heart of the raging storm, eyes set in stone. "Release me."
The man chuckled. "If I release you, you will kill everyone in this room."
The darkness retreated, giving you the chance to feel the others in the room. They are nothing, insignificant next to the power of their master. Only one matters. The witch is in the room. You can feel her, staring at you like you are a specimen under a lens.
Oddly though, she is not uppermost in your mind. "No. I would only kill you. I don't give a shit about the rest."
The man stares at you for several minutes, the darkness penetrating your body, flowing through your veins. Before you know what is happening, icy fingers squeeze your heart and stab your brain.
"Good," the man says. As he leaves, he laughs manically.
This is what it feels like to be A'Sharad Hett.
Darth Sidious left the boy with his father's remains, his pitiful weeping at once music to his ears and a bane on his sanity.
But the boy's power was pulsing, his aura a hundredfold more palpable then when Lord Tyranus first returned with him. The Dark Side flowed through him like water, his anger and pain removing all obstructions in the currents of the Force in him.
Emotional suffering is having a greater reaction then I expected. His love for his father was truly great. I will use it to break him, bend him to my will. But his physical agony will complete his transformation. That will come later though. All in good time. And it will prove a worthwhile test for Lord Tyranus. He has proven capable of betraying people. Can he betray himself and all his old beliefs?
Yes, this will prove an interesting time for the Sith.
"Oh joy," Harry said sardonically. "I don't suppose there is any way to skip this tomb is there?"
Yoda shook his head. "No, afraid not I am. Important trial it is for you. And one ready for I feel you are."
"Very well," he said, though it wasn't at all well. "I'll follow you're lead."
The pair trekked back towards the academy, careful to avoid the corpses strewn hither and yon. The hike seemed to pass quickly, probably because Yoda was not giving him a history of the tombs they passed. Faster then he wanted, they were at the mouth of the cave.
"Many dangerous creatures, inside the cave they live. Avoid them I would like. Able to hide your presence, both physically and in the Force can you?"
Harry nodded. "I can Master." Harry rapped himself on his head and silenced his feet. Then they entered the cave.
The first thing Harry felt was a sort of vague nothingness, but he felt static in the air. Death was heavy in the tomb, but it was more natural then what he felt on the planet surface. It was not oppressive.
As they picked their way through the cave, Harry felt and heard soft snaps and cracks under his feet. The bones of vermin and large winged creatures broke under his feet. He reached down and picked up one of the bones and examined it, but he couldn't figure out why it fascinated him so much.
Yoda, who hadn't noticed him stop, beckoned him forward. "Stay close my young padawan. Dangerous things in this cave live may yet."
Harry dropped the bone and picked up his pace to reach Yoda, who turned down another path, leading them deeper in the cave. After a few minutes they reached a large clearing with a chasm dividing two sections of the cave. Across the chasm Harry noticed a doorway illuminated by sparkling purple energy.
"Master, what is that?"
"Our objective is that," Yoda said softly, leading Harry towards a bridge across the chasm. Harry looked down and cast lumos maxima. When the ball of light settled, Harry saw rocks and boulders far below on the pit floor. Human and animal skeletons littered the ground as well. Clearly more bridges spanned this chasm but time and war destroyed them. This made him feel abstractly better. If this was the only bridge to ever span this chasm, which would be weirdly convenient.
Three high-pitched shrieks pierced the darkness and suddenly three of the largest bats Harry had ever seen attacked he and Yoda. They were vicious beasts too, swooping gracefully between their lightsabers. After several fruitless attacks, Harry connected his lightsabers, maximizing his speed wielding his blades. After five minutes of being rammed, scratched, and bitten, all three lay dead at their feet.
"What were those creatures," Harry asked, putting his lightsabers back in his belt. He waved his hand over the worst of his wounds, healing them. Later he would take the time to get rid of the scarring.
"Shyracks they are. Powerful hides they have, as seen you have." Yoda summoned his cane and hobbled over the bridge and towards the shimmering door. "Encounter more of them in the tomb you will."
"What can I expect to encounter in this tomb? Who was Ludo Kressh?"
"Encounter what you will I cannot say. Different experiences everyone has. Investigate the entire tomb, suggest I do. Learn more about the tomb and the power of the Dark side you will. As for Ludo Kressh, incredibly wise Sith Lord he was. More about him, discuss we will after you leave the tomb."
Yoda came to a halt a few feet from the entrance. "Come closer I cannot. Venture into this tomb with you I cannot. Meant for one person at a time it is. Your own experience this is."
Harry swallowed softly, looking at the cackling purple energy surrounding the door. Steeling his nerves, he walked through the purple energy. The bolts of energy fluttered around him, a sickly prickling all over his body. This energy was identifying him, reading his body in a way he never felt. Occlumency did not help him at all. This was not mind manipulation; this was something more, something deeper and more revealing.
He stood before the great stone doors, the prickling feeling gone now. For a moment he thought the doors would not open. Then, as he turned to Yoda, the slabs slid apart with a heavy grinding and Harry stood looking down an incredibly long entrance hall. He was reminded heavily of the third task during the Triwizard Tournament when the bushes separated and he was allowed to enter.
He took no more then two steps before the stone slabs slammed shut with greater ferocity then with which they opened. A small light flared down at the end of the hall, a speck that fluttered and flitted across the edge of his perception.
"Lumos." A small ball of light shot out of Harry's hand but it didn't light up much of the hall. The walls to either side were sleek black marble. The light of reflected off the surface, illuminating his face with dancing shadows. He pressed forward.
He was halfway across the hall when his lumos spell faded away. He tried fruitlessly to cast another but the magic of the tomb was not allowing him to cast another spell. Then the fluttering light at the end of the hall went out with a snap.
Two steps later, a flaming burst of light staggered Harry, his hands just barely keeping his head from smacking against the marble. He tried to cast a spell to help his vision but this wasn't working either. He squinted, looking down the hall.
Where before there had been a fluttering ball of light there was now a gigantic ball of fire. Harry instinctively reached for his wand, which he always kept tucked in his right boot.
The ball of fire seemed to be waiting for him to grab for his wand because it shot at Harry impossibly fast. It transformed into the face of Lord Voldemort, the horrible snake eyes staring at Harry.
Swallowing his fear, Harry jumped forward and clapped his hands on his wand. A large beam of ice rocketed forward, intercepting the ball of fire just feet in front of Harry. He stared into the eyes of Voldemort as the fire fought with the beam of ice, inching closer. Harry gritted his teeth and put all his strength into the spell. Slowly—every so slowly—the ball of fire was pushed backward.
Harry walked forward, maintaining the connection, never breaking eye contact. Voldemort looked incensed but this darkness was losing. Then, when he reached the foyer, where he first saw the small ball of light, the fire shot up to the ceiling and exploded with incredible force. Harry pulled his robes over his head and cast a ward under the fabric. The fire blazed above him but nothing harmed him or his robes, save a few minor singes to the fabric.
As the flames disappeared, Harry lifted his robes. Standing in front of him now was Uncle Vernon, though the irises of his eyes were yellow and bloodshot. He was breathing heavily out of his mustache.
In a flash, he advanced on Harry, his nose inches from his face, his raspy breath so heavy Harry could feel his mustache brushing his face. "Set her right boy," he bellowed.
"What are you talking about," Harry asked, bewildered.
Vernon grabbed him by the scruff of his neck and pulled him down off some ledge he hadn't known he was on. Suddenly Harry realized he was standing on stairs and was much shorter. "What's this," he said, struggling against Vernon's grip. This demented form of his uncle gripped his t-shirt tighter, the collar choking him now.
He carried Harry down to a door and, with an incredible burst of strength, threw Harry against the black marble wall, his beefy hand gripping his heart like a vice. "You set her to rights now you freak. How dare you use your abnormality in my house."
Harry kicked his feet, struggling vainly against this monster's grip. "Let me go you bastard." Vernon didn't listen. He shoved Harry, if it were possible, even closer to the wall.
"Do you have the will to kill me Harry," the monster said. "Do you have the power to do what it is you have wanted to do for years? Or are you too weak? Will you run again?"
The pressure on Harry's throat lessened enough for him to breath in a few pitiful, ragged breaths. What sort of magic was this?
The monster cocked his head, as if reading Harry's thoughts. "This is the summer before your third year all over again Harry. You blew up my sister after she insulted your parents. I have abused you for years. The power to kill is within you, even at this young age. The desire is there. But is the will? Will you do now what you so longed to do then?"
Harry had no idea where this was going, but this was some sort of test. But what kind of test was it? And why was he dealing with it now?
Harry looked into the eyes of the monster and shook his head. "No, I won't kill you. I won't throw my life away for you."
The monster chuckled darkly, his eyes gleaming madly. "'Throw you life away.' You've thought of that day many times since. It was the first time you came close to killing another, to throwing off the shackles of weakness that bound you to a hellish life in my home. If you killed me, no one would've blamed you Harry. You know the law, now so long after the day you let me live. As a minor, they would've read you mind, plundered your memories. The mere idea that muggles would put you through so much would be enough to clear you of all charges. Only Dumbledore would fault you."
"But imagine the power you would now wield," the monster breathed excitedly. "Remember the feeling when you killed your first Ottoman warlock. Weeks of torture he inflicted on you and your friends, time wasted as you deliberated the cost of killing. In one stroke, you killed him, saved you friends, and, whether you realize it or not, threw off one of the restraints to your magical power. From that day forward, you were more powerful."
"But that was killing to save yourself and your friends. Kill me and you will unlock the whole of your magical abilities. The bit of magic Voldemort left in you will be unleashed and you will, in short time, become a feared and powerful wizard. Voldemort will die at your hands much sooner. Perhaps even Ginny will be here for you."
Harry listened to the monster but ignored his monologue. "This is a test," he said, still struggling against Vernon's grip. "You are not real. This isn't real."
Vernon tightened his grip and moved his face closer, his eyes boring into Harry's. "What difference does that make," he breathed. "This is an opportunity for you to right a wrong you made so many years ago. With me dead, you're free." The monster leered. "Perhaps when your criminal of a godfather is exonerated, you will live with him. Or maybe you'll kill him yourself, embrace the power inside you even more and become something more then a man."
Sirius flitted across his mind, his smile, his laughter, and—lastly—him falling through the veil. Harry scowled fiercely at the monster Vernon shaking with rage. In a flash, he shoved his wand against its throat and a powerful burst of energy sent it flying backward, bouncing off the opposite wall in a heap. Before it could recover, Harry sliced the air with his left hand and the monster was bound and gagged. Its beady eyes stared at Harry...with amusement. It was daring him to kill him, as he so obviously thought Harry wanted to.
But Harry would not kill the demon Vernon. He locked eyes with the monster and shook his head. "I won't kill you. Your anger, bitterness, and jealously can haunt you until you die naturally. That is a greater punishment then any I can inflict."
Harry said no more, turning away from the demon Vernon and faced the door. He wondered how he would get past. Against his hearts desire he turned back to his uncle, whose eyes were alight with amusement again. Harry flicked his wrist, removing the gag in his mouth. "How do I move on?"
"To move on, you need to kill me. That is the only way to move on." The demon laughed a cruel laugh, what Harry supposed would be Vernon's laugh if his uncle had ever laughed where Harry could hear.
Rage ripping through him, Harry grabbed his uncle by the throat. Now that he was his proper height, he was taller then his uncle. He slammed him against the wall, his hand gripping tight his uncle's throat. He stared predatorily into the demon's eyes for a full minute while the monster laughed.
But Harry found what he wanted. "I won't kill you," he said. "But I will move on." Harry slammed the demon down and, in one fluid motion, sliced open the left side of his body. A small iron key shot out of the demon and into his hand. Harry healed the wound, banished the demon down to the far end of the chamber, and turned to put the key in the wall.
But there was no hole. The wall was solid. So caught up in finding a place for the key, Harry didn't notice that the demon had freed itself. "Come here boy," it bellowed, charging Harry like a rampaging rhino. Without breaking his concentration, Harry flicked his wand lazily over his shoulder. A slab of the floor shot high up and the demon ran into it with a sickening crunch. And when it fell, obviously unconscious, or maybe dead, the wall glowed and a small recess opened. Harry set the key in and stepped back. The recess closed, the green glow fading away. A few seconds later the floor vibrated heavily as a seam came between two slabs in the wall and opened, revealing another long chamber. In the distance, Harry saw more cackling purple energy.
"Lumos maxima tria," he said, and three large balls of energy shot forward, spacing themselves evenly down the hall, rotating slightly, illuminating the hall better then a single lumos. Sometimes you're smarter the second time around.
As he trekked the hall, he noticed out the sides of his eyes that the walls showed something billowing and floating through the light. When he looked to his sides and behind, he saw nothing. It could've been a trick of the light, but given what he saw on this blasted planet, he wasn't inclined to take such an optimistic outlook.
When he passed through the second batch of purple energy, he felt his nerves pinch slightly at different points. The feeling of anger was greater then before, as if the tomb itself was angry with him. But it passed, caused him to immediate harm. The doors opened once the energy had finished its inspection.
He stepped forward and immediately collapsed to his knees, clutching his scar as pain he had not felt since he came to this universe threatened to split his head open. Through the pain, he wondered how this was possible. Voldemort couldn't be here.
He received another shock when a soft, small, infinitely warm hand rested on his shoulder. "Harry," said a voice he still heard in his dreams and nightmares. "Harry, he's here." Ginny sounded terrified, angry, and anxious, all at once.
Harry struggled to his feet. "How," he whispered hoarsely. "This can't be happening."
Ginny looked at him, clearly feeling even more anxious then before. "Harry, what's the matter with you? We can end this."
"That's right Potter," called the high, cold voice of Lord Voldemort. "You can sacrifice your dear, sainted blood traitor girlfriend." He leered at Ginny. "Great pity. So beautiful. It is a pity I will have to kill her."
Harry glared at Voldemort, shoving Ginny behind his back. "I won't let you hurt her you bastard." He heard Hermione and Ron scream from down the hall. Then it hit him what sort of test this was. He had to relive the decision to send Ginny to Hermione and Ron. But what else could he do. He didn't want her to die but if he kept her by his side, the assassin may leave their hiding to kill Hermione and Ron. He also may not be able to keep Voldemort's curses off Ginny.
Before he could make a decision, Voldemort started raining curses, mostly wandless because of the connection their two wands shared, down on Harry. Ginny and Harry started returning fire and defending themselves. Ginny was holding her own but Harry was nonetheless carrying the majority of the battle. If he wanted to defeat Voldemort, he would need to send her away.
Risking death, Harry expanded his senses; trying desperately to feel another presence down the hall he would send Ginny down. Whoever they were, they were in a heavily warded room, which told Harry they were still there. So Harry focused his energy on trying to penetrate the defenses of the room.
He and Ginny dodged and weaved around Voldemort's curses, narrowly avoiding a few by scant inches. Finally, Harry discovered the assassin, hidden behind an upturned stone bed. Just as Voldemort sent a curse—with his wand—Harry waved his hand, sending Ginny tumbling behind him and cast a spell with his wand.
The two spells—Voldemort's a deep mauve, Harry's a pale blue—met in midair. Neither tried to force the bright white center towards the other's wand. Instead, both tried to manipulate it. Voldemort flicked his wand, sending bright gold lightening at Harry. He was destroying the walls of the prison, stones tumbling down from the ceiling and walls. Harry could tell he was trying to get to Ginny though and Harry risked his neck, focusing his energy on keeping Ginny behind him. Voldemort was not ready to kill him yet; he wanted Ginny so that he could make Harry suffer.
For his part, Harry deflected and redirected his energy into the walls to his left. After five minutes, energy broke down the wall and was destroying the exposed cell. Harry took a few steps back, lining himself up with the hall. He still tried to deflect Voldemort's energy into that exposed cell, leading it to destroy the next wall—and expose the cell where the assassin hid.
From behind his shoulder, Ginny tried to send a few curse back at Voldemort. But none of them hit for he would break off his attack with the lightening energy and use it to shield him from the curses.
"Good try little girl," he would sneer when a killing curse struck uselessly on the energy shield. Then he resumed his attack on Harry and Ginny.
Harry didn't let this stop him. He continued to redirect the onslaught on exposing the assassin. Finally, after nearly ten minutes, he sensed the wards on the room fall and the assassin, panicking, ran into the hall. Harry took the next round from Voldemort and sent it down the hall, killing the assassin, leaving him little more then a burned husk.
But this momentarily exposed him to danger. Voldemort broke the connection and sent three killing curses at him. Waving his wand behind him, Harry slid, bending his back until the back of his head nearly touched the floor, sliding under the curses. Shocked by his evasion, Voldemort let down his guard long enough for Harry to blast him away with a wave of fiendfyre.
Harry looked down on the floor, expecting to see Ginny scampering on the floor—he had transfigured her into a ferret to keep her safe. But he didn't see her. She was running down the stone hall, where Ron and Hermione were fighting. He tried to run after her but he smacked into the marble wall of the tomb. This was part of the illusion he could not follow. But his friends were safe, as was Ginny.
Or so he thought. The ferret Ginny had turned back to normal and she was cradling Ron in her arms. He was smoking slightly. Harry's stomach lurched as she looked down the hall, tears shining. They're dead she mouthed and fell into another round of tears. Then, unbeknownst to Ginny, a huge orange curse hit the ceiling above her and Harry watched as a slab of stone smashed her into paste.
"You failed Harry Potter," Voldemort sneered. He had reappeared in the hall Harry was in. Harry looked at him, his eyes flashing dangerously. Voldemort laughed. "Very brave attempt though, if I may say."
Voldemort paced in front of him, his wand dangling in his hand. But he was speaking conversationally. "Your love for the mudblood and blood traitors killed them Potter," he said. "Like in your universe, you were preoccupied with keeping everyone safe. You should've put your body, mind, and soul into killing me. Give into the rage and the hatred. You will be better for it."
Harry was shaking with grief and rage. Even though he knew Ron and Hermione were fine, the illusion was too real. "I'll never stop caring for my friends," Harry spat. "And I killed you in the end."
Voldemort sneered. "Was it worth it Potter? For your great victory, you were rewarded with the loss of your love. And you and your friends were pulled from your universe to this one leaving behind so many other loved ones. Was it worth it Harry Potter?"
From the shadows, another man stepped forward, his face nearly hidden under a raised hood. Harry sensed a spell made the darkness deeper then ordinary darkness because he could not see any of the face save the mouth and chin.
The man stepped up behind Voldemort. "You have great power boy," the man said, his voice infinitely colder then Voldemort's, though not high. Power was drawn to this man, which his body twisted into a pure dark energy. Harry even felt his power being sapped before the illusion of this man.
"Give into your anger and I can make you stronger then any Jedi. Give into your hate and I can show you the greatest secrets of the Force. Give in to the darkness and I can help you attain a power no man has ever wielded." The mouth contorted into a smile. "But you do not have to decide now. Think on it. You and I will meet face-to-face soon enough."
The man walked away, Voldemort on his heels. "I'll never join you, you bastard," Harry yelled. The man laughed an insane, cold laugh that sent chills up his spine until finally, the voice disappeared and Harry found himself back in the tomb. Bright purple energy was flickering down at the end of the hall. Harry swore under his breath. This was getting to be too much.
After the magic finished reading him—perhaps because of what he just went through, the magic didn't feel as invasive or painful—the door slid open and Harry was standing in what had to be the tomb of Ludo Kressh. A door was standing on the other side of the chamber, no energy swirling around it. This must have been the exit.
"It is not time for you to leave," said a young man who appeared behind Harry. Harry turned around but the young man had his hood up, his entire face obscured.
"Who are you?"
"Who I am is not important, not right now. You have faced moments in your past, moments where you could've committed terrible things. Yet you didn't. Why?"
Harry raised an eyebrow. Why was this illusion not attacking him like all the others? "I didn't kill Vernon because the man isn't worth killing. I would not risk throwing away my life for the momentary satisfaction of killing him."
"Why not," the man insisted. "You do not know how your life would've turned out, how much better it may have become." The man cocked his head, his hood twitching slightly. "Are you happy with the way your life turned out?"
Harry was taken aback by the question. It was not one he had ever considered, even to himself. Was he satisfied with the way his life had turned out? "Yes, I'm satisfied," he said defiantly, as if the man would doubt him.
"I am not here to doubt you Harry," the man said softly. "I am only here to help you better understand yourself. And if you are not satisfied with where you life turned out—and I am not quite certain you are satisfied—why not make changes now? It is not too late."
Harry was growing angry. "I have my friends with me. We've experienced so much together that I cannot imagine life without them. And I got to spend time with the love of my life." Harry angrily swiped at a tear on his cheek. "If I had become a murderer, I would've never been with Ginny. I would've lost my friends and the only family I had ever known—the Weasley's." Harry advanced on the illusion. "You ask me if I am satisfied with the way my life turned out. I would not take back one moment of what happened, not even sending Ginny away. I regret that I questioned that decision now. Fate moves in mysterious ways and I cannot understand the consequences of all my actions. I spared her from a terrible fate because Voldemort would not have taken her easily. He would've made her suffer." Harry dipped his head, tears falling on his shoes. "At least this way she didn't suffer."
The illusion watched Harry silently, not bothering him as he cried. "I am sorry to ask you this Harry but you confronted moments in your past and now you must reconcile yourself with the present. It is the only way to prepare yourself for the future. Tell me Harry Potter: do you know why this tomb was buried off the Valley and hidden in this cave."
Harry shook his head. "No, I'm not. What does it matter?"
"Ludo Kressh was a powerful practitioner of the Dark Arts, once the most powerful Sith Lord alive. But he believed the path to true power was honest reflection of oneself. Thousands of Sith and Jedi have trekked this tomb and fallen pray to the horrors it forces them to experience. Some have gone mad and died in isolated rooms off the main path. Others have simply killed themselves rather then face their own inner demons. But most are so insecure with themselves that they question their actions and change them in the tomb. But that is madness and it is against the purpose of the tomb. Lord Kressh wanted the person, be they light or dark, to walk out of this tomb confident in who they were. If that meant embracing the Dark side, that was wonderful because it strengthened the Sith Empire. If they embraced the Light side, that was fine because Kressh wanted to fight the best, most confidant foes. A person who could retain their goodness after this tomb was a threat to the Sith Empire, but they were a worthy foe. Kressh was Mandalorian in spirit; he believed true strength came in beating the best. If you lost, then you picked up the pieces, learned from the defeat, and struck harder the next time."
"Why does this matter now?"
"Because there is a threat moving in the galaxy Harry Potter. I'm sure you've sensed it. I know your master has. What you experienced in the tomb and your responses to the tests will be made known to the current ruler of the Sith. If you are not confidant in yourself, he will see you as weak and move to either kill you or seduce you, so that he may mold you in his image. If you are confidant in yourself, he will mark you as a enemy who must be destroyed."
"So what does it matter? All of this."
"Are you confidant in yourself Harry, in the person you have become?"
Harry nodded. "Yes I am."
"Good. Remember that and you may yet help defeat this darkness." The illusion disappeared, leaving behind a very confused Harry.
Yoda waited for Harry near the entrance of the Valley of the Dark Lords, meditating amid a torrential storm of dark energy. So consumed was he that he didn't notice Harry sit down next to him. It was a few minutes before the storm passed and Yoda realized his apprentice was there.
"Hello my young padawan," he said, blinking a few times, eyes adjusting to the sun. "In the tomb, experience what did you?"
Harry, who was looking out over the dunes, an impassive look on his face, took a deep breath and looked at his knees. "What was I supposed to discover in that tomb master? Why take me here?"
Yoda looked at him, a little surprised. "Develop a deeper connection with the living Force and with yourself, important it is. Help you, your experiences in the tomb they will." Yoda looked over his apprentice very carefully and Harry felt, as he had with Dumbledore and the purple energy in the tomb, that he was being x-rayed despite his Occlumency ability. He didn't fight the sensation though. "Experienced what in the tomb did you," he asked gently.
Harry told him everything he experienced in the tomb, including his discussion with the apparition at the end in chamber with the tomb. As he finished, he noticed Yoda was meditating again. "Master, why does it matter if I am satisfied with how my life turned out?"
"In a new world you are Harry. New experiences and new threats, face will you in your life in the Jedi Order. Fought your dark lord Voldemort because personal your war was. Confront issues of personal satisfaction, pointless it was. To the bitter end, go would you to defeat the man who killed your parents, certain I am." He paused, waiting for Harry to respond.
"Yes master. That is true. I would fight Voldemort until one of us was dead. Why is that important now?"
Yoda sighed, his eyes still closed. "Because while battling Voldemort, still living your life you were. Told me of school experiences. Stop most unfortunately they do, after your sixth year of education. For the next three years, dedicate soul, body, and mind you do to defeat Voldemort. Many experiences of youth, forfeited you did, even if your friends, traveled with you they did. Not the same it was and many terrible ordeals you dealt with. Rationalized them you did at the time: to defeat Voldemort your eventual goal was. Ignored the fact, not living a normal life you were, so consumed by Voldemort you were."
"Such motivation, no longer do you have. The darkness—excuse me, the evil—you face now—the evil all Jedi face—is not personal. It desires the death of Jedi, not individuals, save perhaps a few masters such as Master Windu, Gallia, and myself. But leech the life out of individuals it will if weak in spirit and mind they are."
"I am not weak," Harry said. But again he sounded as if he were trying to convince himself and Yoda at the same time.
Yoda nodded. "Understand that I do. Accuse you of such, I never would. But if not satisfied with yourself are you, then pray on that weakness the evil we face will. Promise you everything your heart desires it will. Rejuvenate the lost love it will, as Darth Plagueis did in his tomb. These promises, broken they are. Lie the evil will, string you along with promises until…until lost yourself you have. No path to take, no truth to seek, pray on this vulnerability they will and bend you to their will. Left all you have is anger, disappointment, and self-loathing. Revenge on yourself you will seek but kill yourself you will not. Seek power you will. The domination of others, mask you own pain it will until lost yourself you have, twisted by the dark side."
"So convinced of yourself you must be, confidant you are in your own character and with the path your life taken it has. Such is the only way to truly defend against the seduction of the dark side. Purpose of going through the tomb of Ludo Kressh that is. Find yourself and commit yourself to the belief that, despite all decisions made, you are satisfied. Unusual experiences you have had Harry," he said, gently resting his hand on Harry's knee and looking at him sorrowfully. "But much to be proud of you do. The love of your friends, still possess you do. The respect of myself and many Jedi you have. And the admiration of Anakin you do. And, despite being removed from the home, love so deeply you do, purged them of a great evil you do. Even if not there you are, living peacefully they are and will continue to do because you not surrender to the evil you did."
He looked at Harry very seriously now and Harry could feel genuine care emanating from him and his words. "On brief experience, proud of you I am. Faced things many adults never face and stood up to them with a bravery all should respect. A great man you are and a great man I am sure stay you will. Satisfied with your life, glad I am you are."
Harry wasn't sure he was all that satisfied, even after everything Yoda said. Sensing his internal dilemma, Yoda chuckled. "If not satisfied with your life, let you go the tomb would not. Either force you to relive more moments it would or drive you made it would, killing you over time. Realize it now you may not. Understandable that is. Deeply unsure of myself I was when left the tomb I did when a young Jedi knight I was. Wiser I am now."
"So does this mean I can't fall?" Harry thought the question sounded stupid but he needed some kind of reassurance. The tomb had him doubting much about himself at the moment, even if Yoda said that was natural.
Yoda frowned. "No, mean that it does not. Fall anyone can, even one as old as I. Expect that I do not. Experienced great evil you have. Much like the son raised in a family of violence, seek to make another experience that pain you do not. Powerful motivation that is to remember oneself." Yoda looked at the setting sun. "Now, time it is to return home. Come, back to the ship we will go."
"Master," he asked as they were walking through the tomb. "Who do you think was the last man in the tomb?"
Yoda paused, leaning on his cane. "Say for certain, obviously I cannot. Yet, understand what I do both about the present and—forgive me for intruding—the memories of the tomb you had, strongly I believe the man, a teenage Anakin Skywalker."
Harry raised an eyebrow. "Why Anakin? And if that is true, why not reveal himself?"
Yoda shook his head and resumed walking. "Again, for certain, say I cannot. However, search your feelings and understand why you will."
"Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt."
Ron felt confined in the Jedi Temple. He had no one with whom to talk or with whom to do anything. It was really rather depressing. Master Windu was busy with the Council. With Yoda gone, he was the most senior Jedi and so needed to see to the day-to-day affairs of the Temple and coordinate with the Jedi scattered throughout the galaxy.
He did understand this was an inconvenience to Ron and apologized to him. But what Ron really wanted to do was go out and do something. Master Windu promised he had a real treat in store for him. He kept going on about how Ron was very special, a breed of Jedi not seen in many centuries and he wanted to develop his abilities. Whenever Ron would ask what he was talking about, Master Windu would tell him to reflect.
It was not all bad though. For starters, Mace Windu was probably the best pure lightsaber warrior in the Order. Yoda was a better fighter, but that was because he was so experienced and so more attune to the living Force. But Ron suspected Mace would be the only one in the galaxy who would give Yoda a good fight.
He gave him guidance on different fighting forms and stances, putting Ron through his paces with dummies, newly minted Jedi Knights, and, lastly, Master Drallig's apprentice Sierra. Sierra was a beautiful young Jedi, perhaps twenty-five with short auburn hair and blazing midnight blue eyes. She wielded two lightsabers (both azure) and was ferocious when they sparred. He dueled her three times so far and had never come close to besting her.
He was also spending a good deal of time with Master Drallig, studying the past military expeditions of the Jedi. Many of the Jedi had fought in wars or skirmishes in the course of the assignments throughout the galaxy. But it had been several centuries before the Jedi led troops in battle as leaders of an Army of the Republic.
He was enthralled with the campaigns of Revan (as a Jedi and Sith) most especially. He was a novice in warfare but he was a natural, this galaxies version of Napoleon. Every battle was fought tenaciously and with such artfulness in their design, he was surprised the Mandalorians lasted as long as they did, especially so being so woefully outnumbered.
The campaigns of the Mandalorians were no less well designed. They knew from the outset they were outnumbered but save for when they met Revan in battle, they were masters of every field. The weaknesses of the Republic forces facing them were exploited with savage exultation. And they knew when and where to strike to maximize the Republic weaknesses in that particular sector of the galaxy.
He was reading about the final campaign of the Mandalorian Wars on Malachor, probing a virtual map of the Malachor system as he read, playing with the model, making the Mandalorian forces change as he changed the plans he read. He didn't think he could beat Revan but it was fun to see what he could've done differently.
"Padawan," called a deep voice from the doorway behind him.
Ron started, nearly sending the holopad off the table. "Sorry Master. I didn't hear you come in."
Mace entered the room, smiling appreciatively. "I didn't think so. I should know better then to disturb you when you're studying Jedi military history. What are you studying now?"
"The final battle of the Mandalorian Wars." He touched the holopad. "I'm going through the Mandalorian's campaign, making changes as I go. I think I've come up with a few ways for them to win, or at least buy time until the colonization forces to regroup and fly to Malachor."
Mace sat down and looked over the improvements Ron made, from the placement of their heavy cruisers to the focus of fighter battalions. He kept his face straight but he was impressed with his apprentice's ingenuity. "You have the majority of the wings pushing towards the gap here," he said, pointing to the heavily reinforced right flank of Revan's fleet. "It would get smashed, would it not?"
Ron shook his head. "This flank is held by Malak. Forgive me, but Malak was an idiot. Were it not for the Star Forge, his reign as Dark Lord of the Sith would've been comically brief. Every campaign he blundered like a charging elephant. Bantha," Ron amended, seeing the word elephant meant nothing to Mace. "Anyway, see how he arranged his cruisers." Ron pointed. "In two 'V' formations, with the lead flanked from behind by the others."
"Now watch their fighters." Ron played with the hologram and Malak's fighters zoomed off, blasting into the ranks of Ron's newly deployed fighters. It looked to Mace like a route. Then he noticed two wings he hadn't noticed before, arranged by Ron along the only cruiser in the region. Ron rewound, seeing Mace staring and the Jedi Master saw a clever deception. The fighters all presented their flanks and had repair equipment attached to their hulls.
"Like I said, Malak was a fool. He wouldn't notice the deception. Once these wings join the battle, they will zoom around his flank. One wing will help decimate his fighters while the other breaks through the cruiser corridor and get in their rear. The Republic cruisers of this age were like crocodiles, loaded in the front but nothing of consequence in the rear. This wing of fighters, equipped with more missiles than blaster ammunition, would have a field day."
"But how would this win them the battle?"
"It wouldn't, not by itself. But this is an important flank because behind it is the Republic armada's communication fleet. They are outside Revan's influence and so commanded by less able admirals. After all, they are not there to fight and only a disaster should put them in peril."
"And this is one such disaster."
Ron nodded. "Absolutely. For it to turn into a route however, Revan would need to break character and disengage his left flank from crushing the small Mandalorian fleet guarding their retreat and send them, as fast as they can move, to protect the communication fleet. This would free up a banged up fleet on the other side of the planet," Ron pointed to the other side of the planet where a three Mandalorian light cruisers and three wings of fighters waited, presumably to protect the line of retreat, "to come round and mount an attack on Revan's fleet in the center. He'd lose just because he didn't crush the Mandalorian fleet and blocked their way of retreat."
"No, he'd let the communication fleet fall. He'd lose contact with the capital but that wouldn't bother him much. By now, he was fed up with the Council and eager to cut them out of the loop without seeming as if he did it on purpose. He'd block the Mandalorian line of retreat…and that is where I am now. Next time I'll see what I can do to break that. I'm afraid I won't be able to though. There isn't enough firepower."
Mace stepped back and eyed his padawan with great respect. "This is incredible my young padawan." Ron blushed, his face nearly matching the color of his hair. Then Mace frowned. "I'm afraid though that you won't be studying this campaign for quite a while."
"Because I've arranged another mode of training for you. I know you've been chafing here, alone without your friends. I am sorry about that. But I think where I am taking you will help prepare you in a better way then I or any master can. You're getting a very rare treat Ron and I hope you'll appreciate it."
"What is it," he asked excitedly.
"We are traveling to the planet Eshan, home of the Echani. You and I will stay there for three years while you learn the ways of the Echani. I will train you in the ways of the Force and continue your lightsaber training as well, but the majority of your training, especially early on, will be on the Echani ways."
Ron's smile slipped. "Why is it important to study the ways of the Echani. For that matter, who are the Echani?"
"The Echani are a society of warriors, not unlike the Mandalorians. They differ in philosophy and strategy though. The Mandalorians are forceful, preferring the strongest, most powerful weapons to subjugate their enemies. The Echani are not aggressive. Fighting, to them, is a way of communication. Your personality is revealed through combat. And they prefer light weaponry and minimal armor." Mace tapped Ron's head. "The mind is as important as the body and you must train both to perfection to reach your potential as an Echani warrior."
"You have a natural feel for war and they will help you refine that ability. But they will teach you a wide variety of skills in a multitude of fields many Jedi ignore or are not even aware of. Your abilities are unlike other Jedi's, despite your strength in the Force. I sense that you are the Jedi to revive the Order of Shadow. But first you need to train and walk the path of a Jedi Sentinel. How does that sound to you?"
Ron's head was spinning actually. "I've never heard of a Jedi Sentinel. What branch is that?"
"Sentinels blend both schools—Guardian and Consular—of teaching and amplify them with non-Force skills, such as security, computers, stealth techniques, demolitions, repair or medicine. And while they are adherents to the Force and all that it can do, Sentinels are not blinded by faith and operate under the philosophy that the Force does have limitations. It is a different path, but it is an underappreciated path. Sentinels, of which there are very few in the Order today, serve as investigators and recruiters. However, the old Order of Shadow has been a lost field, dead for a millennium."
"Since Darth Kaan died and the Sith Order supposedly disappeared," Ron interrupted.
Mace raised an eyebrow. "I did not know you studied the supposed destruction of the Sith."
Ron nodded. "I did, from an intelligence perspective that is. It is oddly convenient that Kaan, the most feared Sith Lord in the galaxy at that time, would kill himself off. I don't think he performed the Thought Bomb people say he did. First, he wasn't powerful enough to do it alone. No one is powerful enough to do it alone. Second, his apprentice—Darth Bane I believe—was gone to the galaxy just before his death. Too damn convenient. I think Bane killed him and embarked on his own agenda. Whatever it is I'm not sure but he was still alive when Kaan died."
"How can you be sure?"
Ron rummaged through piles of notes until he found what he was looking for. He laid the papers out over his desk. "Six separate reports, from different ends of the galaxy, reported temples, supposedly locked forever, being broken into and only feelings of pain and suffering being left behind. That is a symptom of the Thought Bomb. Bane was looking for something and he destroyed the temples after he plundered them for the information he wanted."
"That doesn't explain why you believe Bane is responsible?"
"I thought you'd say that. Well, when Republic forces went to investigate, they found chunks of marble removed from each central chamber, where the rituals were conducted." Ron slid a piece of paper towards Mace. "That is the holocron of Darth Bane that was stolen from the Jedi Temple twenty-five years ago. It was composed of the six pieces of stone he stole from the temples, imbued with the knowledge he stole. It formed a star: five points and one piece in the center."
Ron looked triumphant. Mace couldn't believe the resourcefulness of his padawan. "You've done incredible work here Ron. Few Jedi have examined the mysteries of the Sith and determined that they have not died. You saw that the day you stood before the Council."
"That was what prompted Hermione and I to investigate. She didn't discover much though because she was looking in holopads." He smiled, thinking of Hermione pouring over books, the cute way her tongue sometimes stuck out of her mouth. Mace coughed loudly, bringing him back to reality. "Sorry," he said blushing. "Anyway, I came across the final campaign that drove Kaan into hiding, ultimately to Nar Shadaa. Then I looked the forces that defeated him and the force that ultimately killed him. It didn't make sense for him to employ such drastic measures. He was only driven back, not defeated. And he knew such. He would've also realized someone was betraying him in the Order. Of course he was right. But it was too late. Bane killed him."
"How did you come to that conclusion?"
"In every campaign, just like Malak, Bane threw everything into a battle and hoped for the best. No strategic thought save straight smash. The Thought Bomb is a manifestation of that philosophy and would serve the purpose of killing Kaan but also showing the Sith his strength. It would also, and this is conjecture on my part, set the stage for the one master/one apprentice the Sith seem to operate under today."
Ron paused to breath but not long enough for Mace to ask him a question. "The Sith Lord, whoever he or she is, is the Master and Obi-Wan killed the apprentice. I assume he's gotten another or will in short order. But that doesn't matter. What does is they are the only two Sith Lords in the galaxy. But there are other dark Jedi and people who wield the dark side. The precedent was set, I believe, by Bane. His display of strength in killing Kaan with the Thought Bomb with his apprentice, showed that two were all that were needed to command the Sith. One master and one apprentice. Everyone else is on the periphery, outside of the Sith Order even if they serve the Dark side."
"Mind, I can't prove this but it seems plausible." Ron blushed. "Some of the credit should go to Hermione, who has a better mind for politics then I do."
"You—and Padawan Granger—have certainly done your work and it is unbelievable. It is difficult to say if the Sith work under that system but your reasoning is sound. And you reaffirmed my belief: you have a keen eye for investigation, an eye of a Sentinel." He turned and looked at the time. "Now, are you ready to travel. En route, we'll build your first lightsaber."
Ron smiled, anticipation in his eyes. His own lightsaber.