"…You have to understand that it was a time of great uncertainty. We just learned that Darth Revan was back with an armada. Every Jedi that went with him was... lost, corrupted, and as dark as their Master. And then there was you. Many thought you were a spy."
―Jed Master Kavar
I've been told that I am death: the death of life, the death of the Force, the death of the Jedi. I'm simply the bones and skin of a body vacated.
I've been dead since Malachor. My soul just hasn't realized it yet.
Now, what I embody I take to the Jedi Council to face the ones that would condemn me. They summoned me, summoned death to their chambers, and I willingly bring it to them. They may believe that I come because they called, but I come for a different reason, a different person.
My master, leader, lady of death. That last one is a personal title of hers I whisper in my mind.
Revan sits across from me in the cantina as time slinks past. She's disguised herself as an Omwati 'cause if the Jedi knew who I was meeting with, there'd be hells to pay. She died her skin a light blue through a process I didn't ask about, a wig placed immaculately over her dark brown hair, covering it with wisps that look like ethereal feathers. Her red-scored irises are enclosed in deep blue contacts, making them swim and sparkle with intelligence. With a form fitting tunic hugging her normally obscured figure, I can't help but admire her. She is beautiful.
I'm also disguised, though not as elaborately as she is. I can't have as much fun with my wardrobe when my meeting with the Council is too close to be switching identities around. A rough jacket and dark pants thrown over my Jedi tunics were enough to hide the visible fact that I'm a Force-user. And if someone from the Order recognized me they would think nothing less of me than they already did…and that I was sitting with an interesting new friend.
I smirked at the word. Friend. Revan didn't mind keeping company with me; she often flirted with the embrace of death, so my presence, or rather my lack of presence, did not disturb her as it did others. Ever since Malachor, since the crushing wave of a machine wiped off any desirable life from that planet, I simply haven't…existed. My physical form is true enough, a little worse for wear from the war and a little bit of dark side side-effects, but I am no ghost. I bleed like anyone else.
To put it plain, I am a void. I am the absence of the Force, which is quite a contradiction if life is the Force, but the fact remains. I exist and yet I exist without the Force. So what am I? I am that which remains without life, which walks without true motion, which talks without breath to guide it.
I am death.
A smile crept over my lips, and I knew it had the opposite effect of that happy expression. Revan took her gaze from her absent wanderings and turned to me, taking in my Krayt Dragon smile—all teeth with dead eyes—and tilted her head to one side. The pressure of her gaze sent my stomach writhing into knots. My back shivered with anticipation.
She leaned onto the table, keeping her forearm from resting in a questionable stain, her robe sliding down the smooth skin of her arm. "I don't have much time to waste here so I'm going to make this quick." I watch her eyes skirt around the tavern, knowing that the Force filled in anything she couldn't catch with sight. "The plans I outlined for you in the holo-recording were brief, but that was all I could get to you while I was out of the system. We only get one shot at this, so tell me now if you're still unclear about your part in this."
I nodded absently, just watching her lips move and her chest rise and fall with her breath—that sweet, life-giving breath. She furrowed her brow at me, sensing that I wasn't really paying attention. She had given me instructions previously so I knew the role I was supposed to play and how she wanted me to work it: the supplicating, not too dark, not too light attitude that would give the Council just enough reason to keep them from Force-kicking my butt out of their chamber. It made me sick pretending to crawl back to them, to sit in their chamber and have them stare at me like at test subject gone wrong. But I would do it for Revan. Only for Revan.
Something twanged inside my head, a painful itch, just behind the eyes like a vibroblade nicking my cornea, and my head twitched involuntarily. Revan was holding her fingers in a tiny pinching gesture. I smiled and chuckled, holding up my hands in surrender. "I'm listening. My mind just tends to wander, y'know?" She didn't look too amused so I settled back into my seat and crossed my arms over my chest, trying to focus on what she thought I had missed the first time around.
"I don't want you messing this up, Koen." Revan waited until I had grunted acknowledgment before she continued. "This is supposed to be in-and-out. When the masters call you in they're there to condemn you, nothing else. They want to look upon their broken creation, give some kriffing rant on your actions, then…well," she paused, "that's where things get hazy. And that's when you need to pay attention." She said this without removing her gaze from my eyes, her voice rising no louder than a lover's whisper.
I loved every minute of it. All this drama, all the intensity, it was enough to make my heart hammer combined with Revan's intoxicating scent, her breath drifting to me speaking of the dance of life and death, the two intertwining planes of existence. I shivered and licked my lips, nourishing the dry flesh with saliva. "I get your plan. Go in, listen, get out. Nothing that I can't handle." I gave her a cocky smile. "I was a general, remember? I took on lots of your sticky little challenges while under your service, all harder than a simple recon."
She narrowed her eyes.
"I can handle it," I repeated emphatically.
"You better hope you can…" she let the statement trail off without any unnecessary emphasis, allowing me to envision all sorts of savoury things that she would do to me if I failed. She leaned back against the booth seat, never taking those sparkling eyes off me. "All I want is the Masters' reaction. I don't care about the look on their faces, the spouts of 'wisdom' they choose to impart to you. All I want to know," her eyes grew stormy and distant and my breathing quickened, "is their final judgement. Their verdict on a lost Jedi."
Something stuck in my throat for a second, and I swallowed hard to get rid of it. "Yeah, of course." I shrugged and cricked my neck, the sound of disjointed clicking making the hairs on my arm rise. "It's not like ignoring those Jedi is gonna' be hard. Dogma's fine, but it's a damn bore when you've heard it all before."
I grinned and leaned onto the table, lowering my head to better stare into Revan's perfect blue eyes. They held such life about them, such being, such power…She pulled away from me, holding my gaze with a cold passion, her anger a star in her chest that fuelled those eyes—and suddenly I couldn't pull away. I just wanted to stare into eternity and let those eyes lead me into darkness…
I listened to my breathing rushing over the table, watched her nostrils flare just so, inhaling the breath from my body. I shivered again.
"This is serious, Koen. No mistakes, no distractions. It's important to the war." She stopped when she saw I didn't care about greasing the war's cogs and tried to think of something here that did matter to me. Revan sedately placed her hands into her lap and said coldly, "It's important to me, personally."
I nodded. That wasn't some admission of her feelings. Oh no. That was pure calculation. Depending on what I told her tonight, the galaxy would be shaped in its wake. I shrugged to cover the strange feeling in my gut. "I get it. Have I ever let you down before?"
"No. But this...this is important."
I could feel it more sharply now, a thread of something so small that if it twisted to the side it became invisible and yet so strong that it held the weight of some part of destiny—if you believed in that kind of thing.
Well, death wasn't without its own defences.
I nodded to the door and tried to smile glibly. "I should get on with it, then."
Revan let her head rove to the side, staring into a future I could not see. "I'll be waiting."
I could feel the members of the Jedi Council bristling as I walked down the hall towards those double doors. They thought they were prepared for me, gathering their frowns and measures of pity for poor old me who had drifted down the wrong path. I could bear the brunt of their scorn and whatever they had to say. It's not like I wasn't used to it by now. My only little conundrum with facing them was whether to be the repentant Jedi that Revan probably preferred me to be, so as not to rankle the Masters, or…to be more of myself.
Perhaps a blend would have to do.
The metal doors opened silently to admit me without my touch, a view of the predictable circle of chairs for the masters visible down a set of steps. Ooooh, and a big vertical rock in the center of the floor. They were changing things up, those wacky Jedi. Other than that, a large bank of windows that echoed the curve of chairs let in late afternoon light, parched clouds clinging to their places in the sky as Coruscant chewed into the skyline like a block-toothed machine. The rest of the room was plainly decorated. Jedi don't indulge in extravagance…except for the lavish materials that the plain decorations were made out of.
I consciously let my hands dangle by my sides. I was really tempted to cross them over my chest but thought that might be construed as hostile…which would be the right assumption. So I let them hang, my head bowing a little bit. Just a little. From what I could see, there were only a few empty seats, the other chairs occupied by Masters that I knew and—
Well, look what we have here.
My eyes roved around, acknowledging the Masters politely but not overtly sucking up, and then I let my eyes settle on Atris. Just looking at her was enough to get her rankled. I noticed her fingers tightening on the armrests, her shoulders pushing back, her eyebrows pulling together at the middle.
She and me…well, we coulda' been something back in the day. Before I left for the war.
I saw the Force shimmering like a heat wave around her. Remember Atris, there is no passion, there is peace.
I kept my face composed, body language serene as she seethed. I turned my attention to the rest of the Masters all gathered in their safe circle of Light-loving peace. Their circle of judgement. They were looking at me very intently, worriedly silent, and I started to wonder if they were sensing the death I held in my wake when my very favourite Master, Vrook Lamar, decided to start my trial.
"Do you know why we have called you here?" The gruff abruptness of his voice grated against the light aridity of the room.
I wanted to retort with some acid remark, or maybe something rather subtle and well-devised, but Revan didn't want me to make a fuss. Just the humble Jedi act then. I lowered my eyelids against a glint of sunlight and gave them my answer. "I came here to answer for my crimes on Malachor V." Yeah, that was good. I just said the facts, nothing rude or sickly sweet.
They didn't seem to hear me though, and Kavar, my old duelling buddy, started in on his piece. "As Revan summoned you, so you have come full circle to return to the Jedi."
Oh yes, returned. But not to the Jedi.
"Why did you defy us?"
I swivelled my head to look at the new speaker. It seemed like all of them wanted a piece of me. Why couldn't one of them talk and the rest throw in their bits when they felt like giving me a verbal lashing? They were growing more and more melodramatic by the year.
Apparently it was Zez-Kai Ell's turn to question their little lost Jedi. That man had always reminded me of a crazy, blind hermit I had met on Coruscant in the under-levels. They both had similar taste in clothes and hair styles.
"The Jedi are guardians of peace and have been for centuries. This call to war undermines all that we have worked for."
Really Zez? I thought in order to guard something you have to raise your sword in its protection. There isn't ever going to be peace from war unless someone's willing to fight for it.
I think the masters were pretty sure that they had me cornered in their web of logic and knew that I'd come back as a wounded soul seeking repentance. I could see pity itching in their fingers, digging at their eyes, anxious to crawl into me and rot out my heart…all but one. Sweet, sweet Atris.
Her lips tightened into a thin line, spite and arrogance lacing her words like poison."Is Revan your master now?"
You bet your black blood, Atris.
Atris continued on despite the obvious answer. "Or is it the horror that you wrought on Malachor that has caused you to see the truth at last?
The horror that I wrought? How about the horror of your betrayal? When the people screamed for peace and justice and you sat there blind and deaf to their pleas? What about the death that caused, you heartless harpy?
I was getting sick of this. They sat there, arms grasping the chairs like statues griping their foundation, spines stiff as any self-righteous Jedi ought to be, looking down from their power at a man lost from their golden path and needing a firm hand and a shove in the right direction. I felt my cheek twitch before I could control it, and I spoke with slightly more venom than I had intended. Death was getting tired playing these foolish games. "If you seek to punish me then get on with it."
The masters recoiled visibly, their shoulders shifting backwards, heads tilted just so. I could feel Atris gloat in justification of her hate for me. Sith spit! This isn't what Revan wanted.
Hermit man decided to thrust through the silence, his voice sounding a bit constricted, like a dense fog had spread its way down there and pushed uncomfortably on his throat. "Know that there is no turning back from this judgement."
This judgement? What judgement? They hadn't talked about any punishment with me yet….
And then I got it.
It was so clear now. I almost laughed in hysteria as it hit me. They never intended to hear me out. Not really. All they needed was for me to show up, sniff my Force essence, decide it smelled like the rags of a Jawa who'd been playing in the innards of a trash compactor, and declare the sentence before I could protest. I confess, I didn't think they'd have had the guts to do something so underhanded. Maybe they had learned something from the war.
Sunlight flashed at the edge of my vision, and then the room darkened visibly, a passing cloud blocking the light from the windows. The pillar that stood in the middle of my execution ground threw its shadow at me like a blade, and the master's eyes were hidden in black circles that hung under their eyebrows. This was my tomb and the masters the spirits left to torment me for eternity. But death was my domain. They couldn't touch me here.
I parted my lips to finally speak my piece when Lonna Vash cut me off. What she said took what was left of my expectations and smashed them against the transparisteel window.
"You are exiled, and a Jedi no longer."
The room was stripped of air. Silence took on a new meaning for me then, a lack of anything moving or breathing or existing. Like me. I had to admit I never saw exile coming, but that didn't mean I was shocked into numbness. I was angry. I was very angry. I felt the washes of heat running over my body like rain lashing the floating cities of Kamino, my eyes locking onto Vash like they could pull back those words from the room. She blinked.
Revan was probably not going to like this. Not like I hadn't tried though. The Jedi hadn't even given me a chance.
Vrook rustled on his chair, the shadows in the room persisting like a visible plague floating through the air. "There is one last thing." He nodded at my belt, a quick gesture of dismissal. "Your lightsaber. Surrender it to us."
And here was the final disgrace. The symbol of both a Jedi and a Sith. I was supposed to hand it over meekly I suppose, but I don't operate like that, and like I said before, I was very angry.
Moving as I pleased, I strode to the pillar, pulling my lightsaber off my belt and igniting it simultaneously. It buzzed to life as searing hot as my body burned. I punched it through the rock. I felt it drift all the way through and then released the activation hold, whirling away from them all, from their astonished faces, their contempt, and their judgement, and stalked to the door as the cylinder fell from the hole. The sound of the metal clattering against the floor was the only noise and noisy it was. The shock and repugnance from the masters pushed me along, daring me to try something else so that they could do something worse.
Worse? They had exiled me! When in all the history of the Jedi had you heard of something like that happening? And what had I done to deserve this? Lots of Jedi had gone to war and fought for Revan, but I, returning as the Council ordered, was the only Jedi to return to them and their response was to kick me out?
The wisdom of the Jedi Masters had failed long ago, but I didn't think that they had turned into complete fools.
I flung the doors open with the Force, the resulting wind thrusting my robe behind me. I didn't even turn around as I left them in their chairs, staring at my retreating back, their hushed words following me down the corridor as though they thought I couldn't hear them.
"Much defiance in that one."
"You were correct, Kavar. When he was here, I felt it. It was as if he was not there, more like an echo."
Kriffing right. Too bad I couldn't have given you a real taste of the echo I can leave. My treat from Malachor. You judged Death. Know that ye too shall be judged…
I met Revan as I was coming down the steps from the Jedi Academy, the sky flushed with sunset. She still had on her Omwati disguise. Gorgeous. She joined up with me, striding across the beige stone of the walkway, brushing the white feathers of her wig back from her neck as her blue eyes searched my own.
I shook my head, and the passions of what I had experienced flared anew inside me. "You're not going to like this."
Revan canted her neck, the corners of her lips turning down slightly, continuing to walk with long, measured steps, heading towards the base of a giant statue dedicated to some great, sage Jedi. She looked thoughtful perhaps, but not surprised. "They did something unorthodox, didn't they?"
"Yah, actually," I laughed caustically. "They decided my services were no longer needed in the Jedi Order."
Her eyes flashed, glinting in the dying sun's callous, red glare. "They took your status as a Knight?"
I stopped walking and swallowed quite deliberately to wash the hate from my mouth before I spoke again to my lady of death. "They took my status. Period."
Revan furrowed her eyebrows, glaring at an event she hadn't predicted. She spoke very slowly and surely, as if every word was a stone dropping into a shallow pool. "What did they do to you?"
I shrugged shakily, a half smile, half snarl twisting my lip. "They exiled me."
Revan stood very still and closed her eyes, her clothes being persuaded into movement by a light coil of air. Her lips opened and parted in a whisper that barely registered in my ears. "So that is their verdict. There is no grace for the fallen." Her eyes opened again, the light in them flickering and dying as the sun was wrested into night. "If there is no chance of redemption for those who willingly return to them, than mercy will be sparse to find for Jedi who plead with me when their Order burns."
Shivers rippled on my skin. Revan focused her gaze on me for one moment, one moment that opened up the furnace that served as her heart, giving me a hint of the power that coursed through every cell in her blood; then, she walked away. With her back to me, her gait heavy and decisive, she walked into a Coruscant night that never slept, and I was pretty sure that whatever I had done here today had determined the course of this galaxy.