The Shadow Defeated By Love
The dark blue limo drifted to a stop at the main doors of the transit center, and the younglings poured our. "Thank you, Lieutenant Karath. Luck on your new assignment."
"I don't have a new assignment." The man said sourly. "Captain Dodonna was reassigned. I'm staying here to work for her replacement."
"I am sorry for bringing up a sore subject, sir."
"Not your fault. Best go."
"Yes, sir." He turned. Heading in no doubt on the track of the others. He found Revan and Malak standing with Bastila between them. "Where's Marai?"
"We came in as the entertainers mentioned something called the Shadow Defeated By Love. She went that way right before she came out." Revan said, jerking her thumb toward the center of the room
Before he could ask, he heard soft intro music. In the center of the large circle of viewing people, he saw a figure in street clothes, a stick held forward as if it were a sword, and a blindfold. She looked like...
Atris had downloaded the music and videos of the opera from the net, and stood blindfolded, visualizing the ballet as she had seen it as the intro swelled. The brave girl travels into the deep woods alone. She looks around, for even being brave does nothing to stop you from feeling your fear. The monster had killed her brother, and wounded her father, she would gain her vengeance or die trying.
She heard the cry; the wailing scream of the monster, then she turned. It knelt there, blade at it's side, the other arm covering the face. The head came back, and again it gave a mournful howl. Atris wondered who was howling. It wasn't on the recording, she was sure. Maybe Rasa had programmed his synthesizer. The monster turned, and the girl's blade already at en garde lowered, the howl came again, a sound of horrible loss, followed by the soft cries of weeping.
She approaches slowly, ready to fight, but her blade drops lower as she approaches. It is a man, she realizes, a man seeming struck by madness. She raises her blade to end his agony. The creature looked up, and his blade slaps out, rising to his feet fluidly as she backs away parrying strike after strike until his blade strikes hers from her hand and she screams, backing away. He moves slowly, like something from a horror video.
The girl turns to flee, and her pursuer is a blur of movement, just suddenly in front of her. She gives another scream as she stumbles to a stop, but it is almost drowned out by the gasp from the audience. Over and over again she dodges away and he is always there, always ahead of her. He is a blur, long wild hair flying around him as he moves, playing with his prey.
The girl fell in the middle of the forest, winded at last. Her chest rising and falling so hard in her terror. She holds an arm out in a silent plea as if to ward him off, as he stalks around her before stopping again where she can see death coming.
She dodges as the blade comes down where she was kneeling. She is back on her knees a meter away, holding out both hands, wordlessly entreating the man trapped within, and leaps up to dive over the blade as he tries to cut her in half. She rolls to her feet, backing as she dances away her arms held as if to a lover, and the monster follows, his own feet joining the impromptu dance she has begun. Again he strikes, and again; yet she stays ahead, her dance drawing him after like a moth following a candle. She sees her sword, and dives, rolls, taking up her sword again; and the monster freezes as she does.
It is trapped by her movements, caught in the spell of her dance. She knows she can strike it down, because part of it wishes it can die. Wants to die so desperately that she know he will not stop her. But she yearns in her heart to redeem the noble warrior reduced to this monster. She bends down, the sword gently laid on the ground. She stands weaponless, but not defenseless, for she has the power now. Her arms again lift, woman calling to the part of man that is animal, but the part every woman yearns to hold, possess and conquer. She dances side to side, the creature clumsily following, and as she does, she comes closer, the creature merely following her movements so it is she now pursuing him. Then her hand touches the arm with the sword, her other delicately taking it away and discarding it. He still follows her dance, trapped in his mindless fury as she now leads in a circling dance, drawing closer, yet closer, his sword hand now laid upon her waist, his other caught in her right hand as her own left rests upon his shoulder as they pause.
The monster's hands flex, not angrily, but as if he is feeling his hands for the first time in a long period, holding her to him firmly but gently. Now the monster begins to lead in the dance, the girl following, their motions becoming joyous and free. He pulls her to him then lifts her effortlessly and they freeze, her arms extended upward, looking down into his eyes. He lowers her and her hands catch in his hair.
Atris froze, but the music compelled her to lift on her toes, and press her lips to the other as she should as the music ended.
In dance there is one shining moment. When the audience has been drawn in, when all they can see is the picture the dancers have created in symbiosis with the music; and the real world no longer exists. For that timeless moment the real world is the dream, and is content to wait for them to return. There is a moment of dead silence as they return to their bodies, and all that remains then is first a deep breath in relief, then thunderous applause. Atris pulled back from the kiss, her hand pulling the blindfold free.
Marai looked at her as the applause threatened to bring the entire building down. She leaned closer, and Atris stopped her. "Ever since you told me of it, I have wanted to dance this dance." Marai whispered.
Atris shoved away as a veritable hail of credit chips landed around them. "Not enough to actually follow through with it." She hissed through her smile.
Marai caught her hand, whirled her into a hug which drew shouts and more applause. "So you ran away without even explaining?" Marai whispered. "We need to talk."
"If I was not worthy of your attentions before, there is nothing else to discuss."
Marai let her go except for one hand, then extended her other arm. "Bow, Atris, we have to thank the audience!" They bowed, then again. Atris let go of Marai, and both waved a hand toward Rasa for renewed applause, then bowed to each other.
"Fine." Atris hissed. "I should have enough to go home, you have the time it takes before my flight leaves to talk." She turned, and stormed off, followed by Marai. She found a section of the huge room that wasn't packed with travelers, and glanced at her chrono. "You have ten minutes."
Marai looked at her, then closed her eyes, and sighed. "I'm not sure how to say this."
"By opening your mind, then opening your mouth and letting your thoughts become words."
Marai chuckled. "All right, here goes. Have you ever been frightened, Atris?"
"As a child I found things that I fear. Spiders, having insects crawl upon me. I grew out of it."
Marai laughed out loud. "I remember someone screaming for an hour after she saw a Tsarid spider just a few months ago."
"I did not say it was in an instant!"
Marai's smile vanished. "When I found what Kashin Dra meant, what you had done meant in relation to it, it scared the hell out of me." She wiped her face. "Everything I have heard about my mother's actions makes me think that the only intelligent and selfless thing she did was when she abandoned me. I have met so many younglings at the temples who had it even worse to know that this group right here," she motioned toward those she had come with, "had more love in their lives than the average among us.
"So think. That is what I came from; a woman from all accounts who was too young to have a child but was stupid and had one anyway. That threw me away like trash rather than grow up herself and learn to be responsible. A woman that as a parent could not be trusted with a pet!" She thumped her chest. "What make you think I would be any better? That I could marry and support another? That I could raise a child with the love they would not only need but deserve?" Her sentence end in a plea.
Atris wanted to reach out, to hold the one she knew would be her mate one day. But she understood speaking from fear, whether she admitted it or not. She had been terrified when she had found she had love that could reach beyond Kashin Dra. But at the same time her heart had leaped at the challenge.
And been spurned.
"One that has been through Kashin Dra has been formed in the fires of Echana herself, by her own hands and in her own forge where she made us all. But those ones were made special, for her own great work in the universe. Their soul has gone to the brink of damnation, looked into it, and returned. Such a person can not fail in life afterward, their greatest fears and trials are behind them. The only way they can fail is if they do not take the chance."
"I know that from reading about the Echani, Atris. But I am not sure in my heart that I could grow into what you think I am." Marai turned. "I don't know that I ever will be what you want me to be." She looked down, shaking her head.
"I didn't say I would fail, but that I might. And I will not bind myself to someone only to fail us both. I know you feel that I have rejected you, but I reject myself more." She turned. "I ask for time. We have spent two decades between us learning to be Jedi, and we are still not done with that. Can you..." She sighed. "Until we are knights, until we have proven ourselves, I ask you to wait, to let me grow into what you would wish."
Atris sighed, then stepped up to the other woman, lifting her face to kiss her gently. "Until then."
Kavar looked up as Atris and Marai returned. He noticed the clasped hands, the looks Atris gave the older girl. He wasn't sure about what was happening, but he'd figure it out eventually. Before him the Twi-Lek boy who had introduced himself as Rasa had made five piles of credit chips. Not all were the same size, because there were coins up to 20 credits in value, and they were stacked accordingly.
"We have 1100 credits thanks to that last dance, Atris. That means you have 220 credits."
"No." Atris knelt, touching the two girls on the shoulders. "It means all of you have 1100, enough to go without putting more than two in stasis." She caught Rasa's shoulder. "Wake the others before you talk with the Hutt, don't let them become slaves. Please. I have a very bad feeling about that."
"As long as I live, Atris." He clasped her own shoulder. "May the Force be with you."
Atris got her bag, and they went down the stairs to the tram station. They climbed in as the train arrived.
"It's two stops over to-" Kavar felt danger, and turned. The chop shop boss, followed by Childers came into the car.
"Only one to eternity." The boss snarled. "Where is it."
"Don't give me that! One of you took it out of my office!" He drew a blaster, his hand shaking so hard with fury that Kavar wasn't sure he could hit anything.
Kavar spoke in the tone of someone dependent on the good will of someone who had no reason to have any. "It would help if you would tell us what we took, so we know if we did."
The boss almost howled, holstering his gun. "Childers, do it, kill them."
"Boss, they're just kids-"
"Jedi kids! Do you think they won't talk? Kill them!"
Childers sighed, drew his blaster, then smartly conked his boss on the head. The man looked at him confused, and Childers hit him again. This time he fell. Childers looked at them, holstered his pistol, then walked over. "One of you jacked his magazine."
"Magazine? Malak was reading one." Kavar reached into his jacket and pulled it out. He stared at the cover, where a blond human in only enough clothes to avoid being arrested was smiling out at the reader. It was marked with the symbol to say near human races and some aliens that humans might consider attractive were also revealed in graphic detail. Kavar glared at the boy as he handed it over.
"Personally I read this for the articles." Childers commented, flipping through the pages until he found a sheet of foolscap. "So does the boss, but he also likes to jot down his distribution lists as he does." He folded the paper, and slipped it into the boss' pocket. "Though their centerfold this month was well worth further examination."
"Isn't she?" Malak enthused. Why she was holding..." He looked at the others. "And the article about Alderaan's immigration policy was thought provoking."
Childers didn't answer, he merely hoisted the man onto his shoulder. "Just get home, kids."
"What about you?" Revan asked. She motioned toward the man on his shoulder. "Aren't you going to be in trouble?"
Childers smiled. "I was looking for a job when I found this one." The train pulled up and stopped, and he walked out. A moment later, the train went on. The kids climbed out at the next stop, walking down from the platform. Across the road was the garage, and they walked over. Kavar knocked, and a solenoid clicked as the door opened. The Fantom sat there looking as if all that had happened tonight was a wash and wax.
"Great." Kavar said. Now... An elevator dropped down, and a large man stepped from it. He wore the ear and hair rings of an Onderon Beast rider.
"You the owner?"
"Yes sir." Kavar pulled out the pile of credit chips.
"Fine, seventy credits will cover it."
Kavar froze. "Corlos said it was fifty."
The man looked at him impassively. "This is Grygar's, not Corlos's garage. I buy the parts, and I said it was seventy."
"Oh we are so hosed." Malak moaned.
Bastila walked past the others, toward the huge man. She stopped, and he looked down to glare at her.
"Are you named after Grygar, the legendary hero of the Beast riders?" She asked.
He stared at her for a long moment. "Yeah, kid, I was."
For the first time, she didn't correct the speaker. "Grygar was the first beast rider, if I remember the story correctly. He found a Brantarii egg that had fallen from it's mother's nest. As he took it home to eat, the egg cracked open. He pulled it out, and the young Brantarii looked into his eyes, and formed the first bond. He named that Brantarii Mugi." She looked down at her doll.
"My father told me all of the legends of Grygar when I was little. Of how he brought the beast riders and the people of Iziz back together, and his gentle manner convinced even the daughter of the city-king that they were good people. But some in the city wanted the Beast riders to stay outcast and enemy. So they attacked Grygar. Mugi fought at his side, and as Mugi killed the last of them, that man killed the noble creature." She hugged it, and the doll growled as if in anger.
"But it was like Mugi was a part of the Grygar's heart. When he lost his one true friend, he no longer cared about life or people, or even the princess who had given him her heart. The city people began to fear him, and the king, though it saddened his heart, asked Grygar to come to a meeting, and there he was going to kill him. Grygar knew his fate, but he came. But others of his tribe were searching desperately for something to save him.
"When Grygar came, he did not resist when they disarmed him and brought him to the throne room, for if such a wicked thing must be done, the king refused to give an order. He would take it upon himself. So he stood, his sword raised as the door was flung open, and Grygar's brother came in, leading his own daughter Sahsti, who was only my age.
"Sashti walked to her uncle, standing between him and the king, and handed him the egg she herself had gathered for her own Brantarii. She said these words." Bastila took her doll, and held up in offering. "She said, 'To heal your heart, my uncle, you need this more than I'."
They all stood there, none more stunned than Grygar. He looked at the offering, then at the girl. Then he reached out. As his fingers closed on it, the doll seemed to purr in welcome. "I used to have one of these, a long time ago." He stroked it, and the doll really did purr this time. He looked at Bastila.
"My mother is really good at 'lectronics. When I told her that he always sounded mean, she adjusted the programming chip. He will always sound the way that will make you feel better. I named him Mugi."
The man looked at the gift. "And your father told you about the end of that story."
Bastila looked down, then went on in a small voice. "I lied. My mother told me the stories. I call her my new mother because she tried so hard to make me happy before they sent me away, though I knew she is the one that convinced my father to let me go so I could grow to my true potential. When Grygar held the egg, it opened, and the young dragon bonded with him. He named it Mugi, and the new dragon healed his wounded heart, and he lived happy for the rest of his days."
Grygar looked at it for a long moment, then set it down. Kavar snatched the keys that the man threw at him. "Take the car."
"But the money."
"It's not important." He picked up the doll again as it made a sound as if questioning. "This is."
The ride home was silent. Kavar parked the car, and they went down to the younglings quarters.
"That was really nice, Bastila."
"Had to." She sighed. "The Jedi who brought me here told me I have to break all ties with my family. That is the last tie to my father. To my mother." She sniffled. "I miss them both. I want to see them." She looked up as tears flowed down her cheeks. "But I can't."
Marai knelt, hugging the girl. A moment later the other two girls were also holding her. "We'll always be there for you, Bastila. We may be light years away, but we're family, and we're more of a family after what happened to us tonight than we would have been being born in the same house."
"Count on it, kid." Kavar said. She looked at him for a long moment, then just nodded.
"Time for bed." Revan yawned. One by one they went off, and Kavar turned off the lights in the common room. He walked down to the left, and returned to him room. He had just started undressing when his com link bleeped.
"Could you come to my rooms, Padawan?" Nomi asked.
"At once." He pulled on his robes, and headed further up the building. Nomi Sunrider was at her desk, looking at her monitor.
"I was just wondering what this was about?"
He looked at his own face as he and the youngling took off with the car.
He explained everything.
She nodded, then turned back to her desk. "That will be all, Padawan."
"No yelling, or telling me that Jedi don't do something, master?"
She turned back. "You had to help one of the younglings in need, and everything else just happened along to that goal. I do think you should have monitored them better in the fraternity house, but anyone can slip. So no harm, no punishment. Oh, and in the morning go down to the archives and gather the files I marked. Captain Dodonna has gained that much."
"And Kavar?" He looked back. "Well done on your first solo mission."
"I wasn't solo, Master, we all worked together to succeed. But thank you."