The Silent Maiden
"Get out," The voice was a bit muffled and interspersed with static, but the authority in it was clear. "Get out before it blows!"
Kylin's hologram flickered out. Sion paused the feed to rewind. Finding images of Kdan Kylin had not been easy, and in fact, without the Force he would never have even found this one. Holograms were very good at transmitting images of real objects, but they were bad at transmitting images of other holograms, and in this one Kylin's holographic figure was so blurry it was completely unrecognizable as a humanoid, let alone a specific Jedi. Throughout the feed no one had ever referred to her by name, making it almost impossible for anyone to identify her.
He knew it was Kylin, though, despite having never heard her voice before. Only she could exude that…essence, even through a holo-recording.
"All enemies on the eastern wing taken down, that way is clear. Kind of odd though, not that many people there."
"Where are you now?"
"We're in the control room."
"Any sign of the leader?"
"Negative. It appears the commander of the fleet escaped through one of the pods right after we finished navigating the eastern wing."
"Bring up the viewscreen."
Kylin's image turned off as the soldier complied. "Forwarding the feed, General."
"Got it." There was a pause, and then, "Get out. Get out before it blows!"
Silence blanketed the room, and this time Sion did not rewind. Kylin had seemed a different person in this recording, and yet it was not that much of a stretch. He had looked into intelligent eyes that night, seen a young woman who had as much defiance in her as any worthy Sith, and though heavily wounded and fractured, she held herself together with an integrity that Sion had never seen before.
She was very small.
Sion could probably break her bones with his bare hands alone, even without the Force. She was pretty, but in a flower-like way, delicately built and with features more befitting of a palace than a battlefield. Large solemn eyes framed with ample lashes, skin smooth and young, hair coiled with modest clasps with some hanging loose to her waist in soft silken streams. At the time she had been wearing a simple dress that accentuated all the more delightful parts of her form, her thin waist and thin frame and long thin neck. How odd, that the galaxy should produce such fragile life-forms, so weak and easily broken. Normally Sion would have been disdainful; the Sith despised the weak most of all, but then the girl's presence lit and suddenly he felt…
Not a large star, or even a bright one, but it was beautiful, and so was she, and this was something he never expected to behold. Now that he felt her, sensed the soft touch of her aura, he had to have her, and the need was all-consuming.
He had to have the Exile.
Sion had to appreciate the irony. Here he was, obsessing over the Jedi Exile when merely days ago he had been scoffing at Nihilus, who was obsessing over his Miraluka girl. The Force worked in mysterious ways.
It often puzzled sentients, why the Dark Side was so easy to fall to. The Light was safety, security, warmth, but to those like Sion, it was a shiny covering that wrapped a greater, more profound truth. There were those who dwell on the surface and only see its colors. In the day, so much is shown, and so no one cares to investigate further. Song, music, joy, all lead to complacency, and there was so much clamor, so much nonsense, that even with the truth in front of one's eyes, one never sees it.
The Dark Side is pain and anguish, but with it was something more than mere power. The universe is a mighty thing, and holds many secrets. It is in the night that most plots are conducted, and those who hide away during the day come out under the cover of the moon. The galaxy is a large place, but only some of it is filled with stars. The rest is encased in shadow, and different energies work there. That is why the night is so profound; it resembles much of the universe, and only without the sun in its glory can one see the stars beyond and behold the universe in all its celestial wonder. Light is noise, interference. Only through darkness can one truly see.
That sight…that knowledge, is worth all the pain and agony, the destruction and devastation. The Dark Side is not benign, but neither, really, is the Light. It surrounds those who follow it with a promise of false safety, but lights always go out—candle flames flicker out of existence and stars die. In the end, it is the darkness that prevails, so if Light cannot even sustain itself, how can it sustain those who bask in it? Those who embrace the dark know this, know that what they feel, what they see, is the realm of existence in its rawest form, undecorated by life, love, or superficial joy. Through this they are strengthened, made wiser. That is the ultimate gift of the Dark Side.
Yet for all the truth, the Jedi Exile is a beautiful thing. She is pure and untainted, and within her resonated a kind of song that Sion could not help but hear. Here was a child, born as grey as the rest of them, who had been immersed in the violence that was war, wallowed in the emptiness that was pain and suffering, and yet remained completely untainted by it all. There was nothing false about her, no skeletons to hide. She sent millions to their deaths and was willing to grieve, to mourn for them. It was absurd, amazing. He had no idea how such a sentient could exist.
The universe is a harsh place. No one survives it unscathed. Even the Exile, with all her power and beauty, had suffered her share of wounds. How then, did she seem so whole, so complete?
He tried to meditate, but his thoughts would drift, and he would see her as she was that night, eyes defiant and filled with inner light. She was small, but she was hard to defeat, even without her Force-sensitivity, and when he felt that spark of return, felt her spirit…
What do you want her for? Darth Traya's voice sneered in his mind, and he could see the old hag, in her dark robes with her hood covering all but her grey lips. Do you think she would ever agree to be with one such as you?
Perhaps not. A whole war could not bring down the Exile. He certainly cannot pull her away. She was willing to give up the Force, and perhaps that was where her strength lay. Keep away from what the Force showed, its song and its visions, reject its false promises of guidance and wisdom. See the world through eyes unhindered, ignore the empty whispers and listen to the silence. There might be something there to be heard.
What do you see? He wondered. Are you relieved, to be apart from the rest of us, the rest of the galaxy and its currents? Does the quiet calm you? How do you let go of something as demanding as the Force?
For the Force is demanding, and takes as much as it gives—nay, takes more, takes loyalty, when it only gives what it likes. Even the Sith are not blind to that, yet despite all this they need the Force, need it to live, to have a purpose. In the Force, destinies are woven, and choices clearly displayed, with their consequences clear. To give up the Force is to be lost, to be forced to explore without aid.
In this, Jedi and Sith are one and the same: they are both afraid.
The Exile might be too, but she could bear the fear.
What do you hope to do? Darth Traya's voice sneered again. What do you hope to obtain? You are but a fool, and all you know is Pain. What she knows, what she has seen, is more than you can ever comprehend.
Darth Traya always talked too much, but what made Sion hate her even more, was that she always spoke the truth.
"I don't like it," Said Reddon Marr, "I don't like how they all just flock here. Darkness surrounds the Jedi, and follows where they go. The sooner they leave, the better."
Visas looked up from petting her pet feline, a creature that was soft and fluffy and absolutely lovely to cuddle.
"But Jedi are noble, Papa," She called out, "They're not going to endanger the rest of us."
"I never said they would do so intentionally," Her father replied, sighing, "But it is no matter now. They are here, and more of them are flocking here. Let's hope they leave before anything happens."
Her pet was purring, and Visas hugged it to her, smiling as she continued to stroke.
"Visas?" Her mother called, "I think the laundry has finished drying, can you bring them inside?"
"Of course, Mama," She called out, lifting the feline and setting it gently on the ground. It chirped and brushed against her leg, but Visas stepped apologetically away.
The sun was shining brightly on this side of Katarr, and Visas felt her face warm as she stepped out of the cottage. She could not see the laundry, but the Force told her when to stop and how high she must lift her hand to capture the flapping cloth. Some of it was still damp, so she let them hang a little more. She collected the rest and brought them into the house to fold.
"I forgot that there's a deal in the Ket'at store in town," Said Reddon when she entered, "I really want those vitamins. Adasti? I'm heading out."
"You know you're not supposed to fly the speeder with those eardrops, Reddon!"
"Yeah, but the deal expires today and I'm going to have to fly the speeder anyway."
"They're just a bunch of vitamins, Reddon!"
"It's sixty percent off!"
"You don't even know if there's any left at this point!"
"Right, well, no harm in trying."
"Visas, go with your father! Fly the speeder so he doesn't take it into his head and pilot it into a tree!"
"The eardrops aren't that bad," Reddon grumbled.
"Let's not take any chances, Papa," Visas laughed, setting the laundry basket down to take her father by the elbow, "All it takes is a dizzy spell at one of those turns and then the sixty percent you're trying to save goes to paying for your life. Mama! I left some of the clothes outside because they were still a little wet, but I brought most of them in already!"
"Thank you, love! Fly safely!" Her mother called out, while her father headed out of the house, still grumbling.
The trip to town was uneventful and short. Reddon bought all of the remaining vitamins, which was not much at this point. He was still pleased that he took advantage of the discount, however, and whistled happily as they left the store to return to the speeder.
"You're incorrigible, Papa," Visas laughed at her father's antics.
"Yes, well, the money we save here goes into your education, so you should be grateful!" Her father teased.
"I am," Visas smiled.
"And what do you intend to do about that, kid?"
Something flickered at the edges of her senses, and the Miraluka turned her head to focus better on the source. It was…something very bright, very pure and beautiful, and she was abruptly filled with the longing to be close to this source, to get to know and befriend whoever this was.
"Atton, I was merely pointing out the situation."
"Yeah, well, we don't need you to point anything out, thanks. We did fine on our own for all these years, you think all of the sudden we suddenly need you to point out the obvious?"
Coming closer, Visas noticed that this source was flanked by two other individuals. One was unremarkable, with a clean aura but not very bright and glowing. The other, however, was…slippery, hard to grasp and read, yet undoubtedly wrong, dissonant, blurry, and almost…sinister.
The men had stopped talking, and she sensed the bright aura approach. Whoever it was halted, and Visas took a moment to study it. Human, female, relatively young but still older than Visas herself. Within the layers of light, a seeping wound that had yet to close. Seeing it, with the Sight of all the Miraluka people, almost made Visas feel as if her own heart were pierced.
"Hello," She greeted in Basic, "I am Visas Marr. How do you do?"
"Visas?" Reddon called, and she sensed her father tense at the situation.
There was a moment of silence, and then the slippery aura approached. Visas wanted to shy away, but the bright aura remained as she was, and the Miraluka was not sure what to make of this.
"Er," The slippery one began awkwardly, sounding much more timid and contrite than he did when he was sneering at the dim one, "Hey, um, sorry about this, my wife doesn't speak out loud, she uses sign language and…yeah. I'm Atton Rand, this is my wife, Svana Rand. This is…going to be really strange, but she's asking if you wouldn't mind coming with us…?"
Visas tilted her head. "Svana Rand." Something about the name sent a pulse through her, and the Force urged her to follow the bright one, the fair one. "I need to take my father home. Would you like to come with us?"
Atton muttered, "Really? Are all Miraluka this trusting? Ahem. Well, Svana's offering…all of you to come join us. On our ship." He then apparently turned to Svana, "That didn't sound creepy at all."
The Force was churning strongly, however, and even before Visas could agree, her father was already saying, "Yes, of course. My wife is at home, however. It's only a short distance from here."
"Uh, good, because…we don't have much time, apparently."
The dim one had approached as well. "What's going on?" He asked Atton.
"I have no idea, but Svana's worried," And indeed, the fair aura did seem to tinge with urgency. A soft hand grasped Visas' own and pulled gently. "She wants us to fly the ship over to the Marr residence and pick up the mother, and then get our butts off Katarr."
"Where is your ship?" Reddon asked.
"This way, sir. My name is Mical…"
Svana was still holding on to Visas, but it was then that the Miraluka felt a terrible wave of—Fear, anger, darkness, death, hate, sickness, hunger, hunger, hunger—
The Force screamed. Visas felt her knees hit the ground. Svana's arm tugged her back up again and another hand pushed at the small of her back to urge her into a run.
"Svana!" Atton yelled, "Get to the ship! Kid! Hurry up! Get to the ship!"
The Force was twisting, and the rocking waves made Visas absolutely nauseous. She suddenly lost the sense of where the ground was and only Svana's support kept her upright. Her feet slammed against some metal incline and the sun's rays disappeared as she ducked until a shelter. Around her, she sensed life somehow dissipating, like sugar dissolving in water.
"Papa!" She cried out, still sick but terrified, "Papa! Where are you!?"
Atton was cursing, and Visas felt his arm grab her and shove her further inside. "Kid, hurry up!"
The Jedi, what is happening?
"Get the engines started, Svana! Here, I got him—" She sensed Atton leave her side and her father approach, but his Force signature was incredibly faint, as if he had suddenly aged several decades.
"You go fly!" Mical was shouting at Atton, "Get this ship off the planet! I'll handle this! Sir, I need you to breathe,"
"What's happening?" Visas choked out, surprised when her voice emerged as a sob.
Mical did not answer. With a shudder, the engines came on and she sensed the ship they were on lift off the ground.
The world was spinning. It was tainted, the shadows of the Dark Side permeating its waves. Like a whirlwind, it was meshing everything together, sucking at the life energies of all life around her. Amidst it all, Svana's aura remained that bright, shining beacon, and Visas struggled upright and staggered to the woman to grab on to that anchor. Nearby, she sensed Atton do the same, and moments later, Mical had joined them, grabbing on to the woman both physically and through the Force.
The ship faltered. Svana did not acknowledge the rest of them, and she felt the lean muscles under her hands strain as the human woman yanked at the controls to direct the ship. The Force was still howling and Visas could only clutch as tightly as she could and hope she would survive the ordeal. They spun, the ship dropped, then yanked up again with the turbulence, before smoothing out.
Around them, the Dark Side stretched out to capture them, but there was a pulse of energy below, where the Jedi had convened. The black shadows fell back to address the Jedi, and they were free.
The Force quieted quickly, to a low, troubled murmur. Visas found herself shaking, teeth chattering audibly in her mouth.
"What in the galaxy was that?!" Atton exclaimed, sounding hoarse, as if he had been screaming with the Force. Visas realized that her own throat was dry as well.
A sweet voice, clear and melodious like a song, echoed through their minds along where they had all attached to Svana.
I do not know what that was, but that was the work of a Sith, She said solemnly. Visas could feel her arms and hands move with the words. We are not out of danger yet.
The Dark Side was a strong, engulfing presence behind them, distracted as it was. Visas found her body to be locked in position, and struggled to let go of Svana's arm. She felt the woman squeeze her own in reassurance, before returning her attentions to the flight.
"The Sith aren't supposed to be able to do that!" Atton was exclaiming, "Was that Revan? Because he certainly wasn't able to do that three years ago!"
"That did not feel like Revan to me," Said Mical.
"Was it Sion then?"
No. Svana's voice was troubled. That was someone else entirely. We have not encountered this Sith before.
"Please tell me the Jedi have some trick they can use against that."
There was an ominous silence.
"The Miraluka—" Mical suddenly yanked away from their group. Visas lifted her head in alarm. She could not sense her father.
"Papa—" Though her body felt stiff and uncoordinated, she managed to spring to her feet and stagger to where she sensed her father last. "Papa!"
"Sir, sir? Sir!" Mical acted quickly, dashing across the room to fetch some supplies. "Atton! I need your help!"
"What now?" But Atton arrived.
"I need you to push on his chest, quickly!" Mical cried, "Injecting epinephrine—go!"
Atton pressed into her father's chest. The Force was terribly silent where her father should be, and it seemed like years and yet seconds before Mical told Atton to stop, told Visas that he was sorry, and Svana was gathering the Miraluka girl into her arms, as the same silence of her father descended where they left Katarr far behind. The shock of it all was too much, and Visas sank into the older woman's arms, her mind giving out like her planet's.
"So what would have happened if we hadn't been there?"
The Sith would have taken her. She is strong, and particularly pure in the Force.
"For all their talk of hating the Light Side, they do seem particularly drawn to it," Mical's voice sounded further away than the other two. Or one?
There was a horrid emptiness as Visas woke. Svana's aura was bright and solid, and through the Force, the Miraluka reached for it. The human woman accepted her mental touch with warmth.
She is awake.
"Huh? Oh. Hey there, you had a bad shock. Kid! Get your rear end over here! She's awake!"
Atton, Svana sounded disapproving.
"Yeah, that's never going to happen. Kid, hurry up!"
"I'm here," Mical sounded a little long-suffering, and his aura flickered with the slight hints of annoyance, which he quickly suppressed as he turned his attention toward Visas. "How are you feeling?"
Visas opened her mouth, noting that her jaw and tongue felt unusually weak. Her voice was equally faint when she spoke. "What happened?"
"A Sith attacked," Atton said after a distinct pause. "He used some kind of Force technique. He was probably there for the Jedi, but…"
"K—Svana was somehow able to withstand the onslaught," Mical informed Visas, "She managed to shelter you, me, and Atton."
Visas was quiet for a moment. "Papa is gone."
So was her mother. So was everyone on Katarr. Visas realized that this human trio had saved her life, had tried to save her parents. Her emotions twisted within her. Dead silence on Katarr, where she grew up all her life. No life, no movement, no thoughts. Just…emptiness.
Did she feel empty, or was she feeling so much that she had gone numb?
"Did you know this would happen?" She asked in a voice that resembled a droid's.
No, Svana's thoughts rang sadly, even as Atton appeared to translate for her, "No, we didn't. Svana had a suspicion—" I had a premonition that something bad would happen if I did not go to Katarr—"That something was coming for Katarr and we had to go there, but—" But I did not know what it was— "That was all we knew." Atton did not translate what she said next. I saw you in the vision, and when I saw you on Katarr, I had a strong urge to take you away from the place.
Visas understood, somewhere in the back of her mind. It was the same feeling that urged her to trust in these random strangers, the same feeling that urged her father to follow them into their ship. The Force was an unyielding guide sometimes, and rarely deigned to disclose its reasons until the right time.
She knew there were more questions she should ask, more answers she should demand, like why her, why Svana, what horrible Sith technique could wipe out a planet, how the four of them managed to survive such a thing—but she suddenly had a strong urge to vomit, and cold sweat broke out over her skin. For the first time in her life, she was all alone.
She heaved. A bowl was placed for her, and Svana hugged her tightly, moving her veil out of the way.
I am here, The fair woman promised, We are here. We will take care of you.
Visas reached up to squeeze a wrist and clung on tightly as she retched.