Light and Shadow
Tales of the Jedi
by Paul Danner
Unpublished Tales of the Jedi pinup by Richard Pace
who fall are the most dangerous of all." - line from
a children’s rhyme
the bright red star disappear into the darkness of the horizon. His
thoughts were a jumbled mass, and as the sun vanished so did his hope of
untangling those chaotic feelings... It was always worse at night, when he
had nothing to do but stare up at the endless expanse of black sky and
consider his plight.
He had come
to this world at the edge of the Galactic Frontier to try and salvage his
very soul. The Republic’s Astrogation Survey Team had yet to explore the
planet, so it had no designation. Since he made the discovery, Dray
figured he should also give his new home a name... He called it Vigil.
the verdant forest planet seemed like a perfect place for introspection
and healing. However, its pastoral beauty only caused Dray more pain as he
came to a terrible realization. The idyllic serenity of the environment
served as a daily reminder that such tranquillity would never again be
his... In the past, Dray had been the master of his emotions, but peace
was now merely a fleeting dream.
He fled civilized space in
order to escape his troubles. But there was never any escape, no matter
where he went... Not even on Vigil.
Dray often contemplated
leaving, but to go where? He would merely be hunted down as he was before,
and Dray was tired of running. So he remained on the planet - both his
paradise and perdition....
out a tentative hand, like an infant reaching for its mother. Almost
immediately he experienced the tingling sensation of the Force surging
around his fingertips. A small chill touched the base of his spine with
the knowing caress of an old lover.
and rested himself in the small clearing under a canopy of wide-leaf
arcosia trees. The delicately sweet smell of the foliage drifted through
his nostrils and he drank in the aroma.
cross-legged with his hands folded across his lap, Dray closed his eyes.
The scent of arcosia swept into his lungs. He quieted himself down until
all that remained was the sound of his own breath.
himself up to the harmony of nature... The shrill calls of the prismwings
taking flight conjured up a breathtaking image of the brightly colored
birds streaking a rainbow through the sky. He concentrated on
distinguishing between the soft hoots of the other avians, the snuffling
cries resounding from a hundred species of animals, and the tinny warbles
of the bewildering array of insects.
breathing became slower, more exact, falling into an almost lulling
rhythm. Dray tried to remember the meditative exercises taught to him by
his Master, Ven-Mah Tyrrahl. He had not been able to call upon them in a
very long time.
A sharp pain
nearly cut through his concentration, twisting like a vibroblade in his
never forget that day.
meditation had come to an abrupt end when Yeres Threem burst into the
botanical garden. The Vultan Jedi adept was demanding answers and Dray had
none to give his friend.
twitched as he relived the awful moment.
beyond reason, attempting to kill Dray, but that hardly mattered. Threem
knew the truth and therefore had to die.
For what? a
familiar voice demanded to know. Dray could not identify it, so for the
moment he ignored it.
still hear the clash of their lightsabers, feel the haft of his weapon
vibrate in his hand, smell the horrid cauterization of flesh.
Then he was
standing over the body of one of his closest friends. Dray could still see
the terrible, empty look on the Vultan’s face. Those dark eyes like dull
transparisteel accusing Dray of betrayal long after Threem had stopped
It was the
first Jedi that Dray had killed. It would not be the last...
memories began to flood his mind, threatening to disrupt his
contemplation. Dray took a cleansing breath, let go his focus, cleared his
again and suddenly heard the words of his Master echoing through his head.
Try and you
will always fail. Success is not a goal. It is a conscious decision.
increased his concentration.
characteristic sounds of his adopted planet fell away as he searched for
something else. Sweat beaded on his forehead, matting his hair, and
dripping down his back in icy rivulets. He released his awareness of the
physical body and grasped for something greater.
For a moment
Dray feared the ability was lost to him... No... Wait.
He heard it,
hushed at first but growing ever stronger. The heartbeat of his new
home... The resonant geothermal pulse that warmed the cold rock.
Dray slowly timed his own
heartbeat to Vigil’s, and they became as one. The crude vessel of the body
could no longer contain his spirit. Dray did not fully abandon his
physical form, but embraced it into the whole of his being and moved
beyond. Into nature. He was the rocks, the trees, the animals, the lakes,
the dirt. The world.
It was not
for the stars above, into the galaxy that surrounded him.
very heart of the Force.
He felt his
entire conscious being lifted into a place that words could never
describe. His body was engulfed in flame and then dipped into a vast ocean
of ice. He continued to rise, and as he did he felt his mind begin to
open. It could not fully encompass what he was experiencing, but he knew
he was about to reach a plateau. The most beautiful woman in the galaxy
was wrapping him in her arms and pulling him higher and higher.
abruptly stopped his ascension.
He heard the
rumblings first, the terrible thunder emanating from great stormclouds
clearing the horizon. Then came the lightning, unnaturally violet and
unerringly vicious. The winds roared with fury and nothing could stand
storm tore at the land mercilessly, striking at Dray’s own heart. The sky
that had borne him aloft suddenly released him. Dray found himself
like he had never felt swept over him, chilling his breath even in the
temperate clime of Vigil’s forests.
was coming for him; fueled by fear, rage, hatred. Dray braced himself, but
knew there was no hope of surviving the onslaught.
thunder like no other and Dray thought it was the first strike of the dark
side storm. The anticipated attack never arrived and Dray realized the
jarring sound was not a manifestation of the Force after all.
snapped open and the trance was lost. The dreadful storm was gone as
quickly as it had arrived.
immediately saw the streaking arc of light cutting through the sky; like a
falling star only much closer. Whatever the object was it had just entered
the atmosphere, burning as bright as any sun.
It seemed to
take forever to complete its descent. The flaring object disappeared
momentarily behind the tree line and Dray felt the coldness of a metallic
craft sheltering three lifeforms. He could feel the vital pulse of each
being and for an awful moment, their emotions were also his to experience
- fear, hopelessness, despair. A familiar tingle rippled down Dray’s body
as the dark side began to feed...
there was an explosion so great Dray felt it from over a mile away. The
ground shook as if wracked by a rampaging herd of angry bantha. Dray lost
his footing and rode the rest of the aftershocks flat on his back.
silent once more.
already up and running.
through the last few meters of tangled underbrush, nearly landing
head-first in the impact trench that stretched across the valley.
followed the track, running parallel to it, and estimated the size of the
ship that may have caused the sizable furrow. His heart triphammered
inside his chest as he closed in on the unnatural crater that yawned like
an open wound.
to a halt at the lip of the smoldering abyss and surveyed the situation.
The vessel was some sort of scout craft; too small to be a freighter and
not enough armor or weapons to be a fighter. The ship had split into two
large sections and each half was a raging inferno.
descended the dirt mound and moved toward the fiery remains, keeping one
arm protectively over his face. He made his way over the minefield of
flaming debris to what he guessed was the cockpit. He could see two bodies
completely engulfed. For their sake, Dray hoped they died on impact.
poured off him like rain, he carefully began moving away from the blazing
sure what stopped him... Whether it was a slight tremor in the Force or a
faint plaintive cry. Maybe it was neither; just his imagination riled by
his failed attempt at a meditative trance.
cause, something drew him back to the downed craft. He stepped
closer to the other half of the broken ship and peered into the
conflagration. That’s when he saw her, a young girl no more than seven
years old. Her blond hair was soaked with perspiration, her eyes wild with
fear. The girl’s mouth moved again and again, though Dray couldn’t make
out what she was saying.
He could get
no closer than a few meters because of the raging wall of fire. The girl
could not come to him, her right leg was trapped under a large cylindrical
hear me?" Dray called to her.
The girl did
not answer him. All of her attention was focused on the cockpit. "Mommy!
Daddy!" Tears rolled down her cheeks as she cried out again. "Help me!"
trying," Dray said under his breath. He waved his arms at her, hoping her
eyes would at least track the motion. "Look at me, princess!"
She finally did. The girl was
struggling to free her leg, but succeeding only in getting the limb wedged
don’t try to move, okay?"
slipping away quickly, as measured by the metallic groans of the ship’s
superstructure as it tried to hold itself together. It was a futile battle
against a relentless foe.
Dray had to
make a decision and quickly. "I’m going to help you. Just hang on..."
He cleared his mind and
concentrated on the fiery barrier that stood between himself and the girl.
Holding his arms in front of him, Dray started forward like a sleepwalker
stumbling through a dream.
new victim, the flames licked at his hands, his face, his clothing. But
Dray did not feel the blazing tendrils trying to coil around him. His
entire body shimmered as he absorbed the intense heat and walked through
the boiling barrier as if it were a waterfall.
unscathed on the other side, in the broken aft of the ship. The girl was
staring at him now with perceptive hazel pupils. The fear had vanished,
replaced by confusion.
to manipulate the Force again, this time to lift the heavy cylinder off
the girl’s leg. Dray wasn’t sure why, but instead found himself reaching
down to grasp the heavy machinery. He bent his legs and lifted for all he
was worth. The cylinder screeched in annoyance at being disturbed,
reluctant to release its grip, but with a final grunt of exertion Dray
managed to free the girl from her make-shift prison.
quickly wiped the sweat from his forehead, he considered his actions. The
first method would have been easier, but an unnecessary reliance on the
Force to do something just as easily accomplished with a little sweat. He
had a sudden fleeting image of depraved Sith overlords sitting on their
thrones, using the Force to attend to their every insignificant need. Some
were so bloated from years of inactivity their limbs had all but
whine from above banished the disturbing imagery from Dray’s mind. The
roof of the craft was about to give way and land on their heads.
carefully scooped up the girl in his arms, surprised by how little she
weighed. He pressed her small face against the front of his sweat-soaked
tunic. Turning away from the expanding heart of the blaze, Dray gathered
the Force to shield them both from the smothering heat.
a head of speed, Dray lunged clear of the sizzling mess... Just as the
scorched metal finally collapsed into itself. His thighs ached from the
strain of keeping his body balanced as it ascended the steep pit, but his
arms were otherwise occupied.
Dray continued running in
order to escape the lingering clouds of acrid smoke drifting lazily from
the abyss. His legs gave way soon after and he stumbled to his knees. He
placed the girl down on the cool grass and felt his chest heaving. Dray
had inhaled more than his share of the foul fumes and his body thudded to
the ground, wracked by a violent coughing spasm.
seemed to be an eternity, Dray finally took a cleansing breath. He
greedily drank in another, then another until his respiration was once
again a process free of pain.
on the little girl and to his surprise found her staring right at him. He
unconsciously shuddered... No, more like she was looking through him.
Those blue-green eyes, wise
beyond their tender years, drilled into him like a plasma cutter. "I think
you’re evil," she said matter-of-factly. "Usually I can tell, but not with
you..." She paused for a moment, then frowned. "You saved me. How come?"
Dray’s mouth opened and then
closed as a million thoughts battled for dominance in his head.
The girl abruptly turned
away, staring back the flaming wreckage. "I’m doing it again. My momma
says sometimes I ask too many questions and hurt people’s feelings." For
the first time she actually sounded like a frightened child. "She’s dead
now. So is my daddy."
looked back over at him, tears pouring from her eyes. Before he knew it
her small hands were wrapped around him and his tunic was wet with her
sobs. Dray felt her tiny body shuddering uncontrollably against him and
suddenly he had difficulty swallowing as his throat tightened in sympathy.
He took in a long breath through his nose, quelling his surging emotions.
desperately wanted to tell her everything would be okay, but could not.
That would be a terrible lie. "I’m sorry," he whispered, but the
comforting words sounded hollow in his own ears. They could never be
enough to ease such tremendous pain. "I’m sorry," he said again and held
her tightly until she was all cried out.
sure when she finally fell asleep, but he was near exhaustion as he
carried her back to his camp site. He sat a few feet away watching her
curled up in his bedroll, sleeping soundly considering the nightmare she
had just survived. Before he knew it, dawn had crept over his shoulder.
duty wasn’t really necessary - there weren’t any predators on Vigil that
could pose much of a threat to him - but he performed it anyway.
As he kept
watch over the girl, Dray realized why the girl had such an odd
affectation about her... There was a great concentration of the Force held
within that small frame, yet so untamed and unharnessed he didn’t quite
sense at first. But now... Now he could not help but feel it, drawing him
like a homing beacon.
struck him and he acted upon it before he could even debate the merits or
flaws. He focused on the sleeping form in front of him, summoning up his
considerable abilities. As gently as he could Dray reached out to her
mind, trying to open her thoughts to him. Tentatively he began to probe
the girl’s consciousness, a normally slow process made almost interminable
due to his circumspect manner.
himself, Dray prepared to enter her deep subconscious. That was where a
Force-sensitive being maintained a protective barrier that would prevent
another Force wielder from penetrating his or her inner mind. This
powerful ‘shield’ violently pushed back such an intruder... The stronger
the push, the greater the being’s strength in the Force. It was a
technique often used by Jedi Masters to sense the potential of their
centered himself and stepped across the threshold...
It was as if
someone had shot him out of a proton torpedo launcher, straight into the
heart of a supernova.
Dray let out
a scream so high-pitched his own ears could barely hear it as he was flung
through the verdant forests of Vigil. He cut a green swathe through the
underbrush, his body smashing tree branches to splinters. His stomach
heaved as his flight lasted impossibly long before coming to a jarring end
in a small lake. Dray landed with a hearty splash in the icy water...
Nearly half a mile away from his camp.
there in the water, contemplating what he had just experienced. He wasn’t
sure how much time had passed before he noticed the girl standing at the
edge of the lake. Her hair was a morning jumble and she stifled a yawn
with a hand as she stared at him in bewilderment. "Are you okay?"
was pounding hard, the rhythm beating out a single word that played in his
mind over and over.
name?" he asked her over lunch. It wasn’t the most nutritious meal, but he
had very little left in the way of prepackaged ‘healthy’ rations. He did
his best to offer her a good mix of berries, meat, and an assortment of
desiccated victuals ready-to-eat. Those little silver bags, stamped with
the seal of the Republic, were the bane of every soldier but would always
do in a pinch.
finally replied. "My name is Nova."
pretty." He smiled at her, but she kept a neutral expression.
She chewed thoughtfully on a tranglo berry. "I like this place. It reminds
me of my aunt’s garden. Only bigger." Her eyes wandered for a moment
before settling on him. "Why are you here?"
you can call me Lian if you’d like."
and said: "Did you come here because of your heart?"
an eyebrow, studying the girl. "My heart?"
"I can feel
it. I think it weighs more than my daddy’s ship." A shadow passed across
her face for a moment and Dray thought she was about to start sobbing
again. Surprisingly, she did not. "That’s why I thought you were evil at
first. Because of the things you did." The shadow was back, only more like
a storm cloud now, borne of intense concentration. "Bad things."
words died on his lips. How could she know?
because you told me, Lian. Only I don’t think you meant to. But it was
there..." She pointed a small finger at his chest, right toward the space
his physical heart occupied, but knew that wasn’t exactly what she was
down next to her. "I think you have a very special gift, Nova. Has anyone
ever told you that?"
nodded slowly, but her attention was no longer directed at him. Her eyes
widened, and he felt a twinge of fear run through her. A moment later he
knew why as a subtle pulse vibrated through the Force.
them just before he did and she had no formal training. Amazing, he
thought as he spun a graceful circle. Midway through the revolution, his
lightsaber burst to life with a soothing hum. The golden blade shimmered
like a mirage under the afternoon glare sending ripples of heat down his
emerged from the thick foliage, both dressed in midnight blue jumpsuits.
They advanced with the sinuous gait of true predators. Their movements
were mirrored in uncanny unison and Dray noticed an unmistakable
resemblance. The intruders were brother and sister, probably twins. The
only appreciable difference was hair length, his was shorn and shaven,
while hers was a flowing ebony jungle.
radiated the icy heat of the dark side. Dray could smell it on them with
the bittersweet piquancy of a finely aged roke wine. The male was the
weaker of the two and neither one alone could overpower him. Working
together, however... That was a different story, altogether.
moment, however, they were solely intent on Nova.
evil," Nova said to Dray, her voice strong and assured.
continued to eye the girl, almost hungrily. Dray was summarily ignored.
Considering he was the self-appointed caretaker of the world they were
currently trespassing upon Dray felt that was just plain rude.
Dray said and casually switched off his lightsaber. He nearly smiled as he
noted their confusion.
danced over him and he could feel the soft murmurs of their minds touching
his, prying for information. He allowed them to remain long enough to
sense his formidable power and then banished them with but a thought.
Xash was his name, spoke first. "You are Jedi."
Jedi," his sister said. Sindra’s head cocked slightly as if unsure of how
the adepts for a few moments, deciding on the best course of action. "You
are observant," Dray finally said, "but not too smart." He waved his hand
as if dismissing them from his presence. "Take what you will from the
wreckage of the ship and then be gone from my home."
exchanged a rapacious look - somewhere between a smile and a snarl - and
then Sindra began to laugh. It was an ugly sound full of cruelty. "Our
master wishes otherwise. The girl will come with us." Her face became
serious, the coldness of her visage hardening her beauty. "Stand aside or
" Big words from
little adepts. You are both weak." Dray favored the twins with a hollow
smile and a dangerous hiss. "I smell your fear."
started toward Dray but her brother apparently wanted the honor. "Leave
him to me."
another word, the orange blade of Xash’s lightsaber flashed into existence
and he launched into a furious attack. The first strike, though powerful,
was a bit slow.
side-stepped and delivered a hard, open-handed slap to the back of his
with the impact and quickly returned to his feet. The male adept was
enraged and obviously intent on revenge. He drew back his saber and
started to advance.
displayed the patient smile of a teacher whose student has just made a
fool of himself. Dray winked at Xash then re-ignited the golden lightsaber,
swinging the hilt around at a leisurely pace. The gilded blade finally
extended with a soft thrumming of energy.
Dray’s show of disrespect, Xash lunged forward - leading in with a
blinding flurry of strikes. Dray swiveled with practiced ease, dodging
each attack and countering with his own.
clashed, sparks flying through the air. Xash pulled back and drove ahead
with a quick slash toward Dray's throat.
his blade, catching Xash mid-strike and spinning Xash's saber through its
own momentum. The move spun the weapon right out of the twin's grasp.
Unfortunately for Xash, his right hand was still attached to the handle.
appendage, clutching reflexively to the hilt, fell to the ground.
stared mutely at the stump of his arm, Dray planted a boot in Xash's
chest. The blow toppled the surprised adept and he hit the ground stunned.
his lightsaber, but before he could finish the job something caught his
attention... The sound of Sindra igniting her own weapon.
Dray felt the tip of her blade bite into his back. He ignored the wracking
pain of his burned flesh and quickly followed through on his counter
before Sindra could do any further damage.
parry drove her back, giving Dray some breathing room.
slowly, the deep crimson blade held in a loose two-handed grip.
combatants began to circle.
Dray took a
tentative swipe high to test her defenses. She countered easily. Sindra
was quick, agile, and lithe. That wild mane of hair trailed behind her
like a living thing.
Sindra moved the lightsaber
high over head - the classic first-position of attack. The girl was
a lateral stance - the classic answer. He wasn't exactly an amateur
her blade arced through a downward strike. He parried with a sharply
angled up-thrust. Sindra absorbed his defense and moved into a
counter-parry that nearly disarmed him.
crimson flashed through the night.
back and circled again.
the lead in the deadly dance, delivering an overhead strike that abruptly
became a feint and quickly cut low. Sindra inverted her saber and blocked
the attack, allowing the impact to direct her blade toward Dray's neck. He
parried, driving the tip of her blade downward; she was ready for it and
their blades quickly locked together.
warriors paused long enough to offer one another an almost imperceptible
nod, a grudging measure of respect.
unexpectedly launched into a blinding series of slashes. Dray was hard
pressed to block the flurry, but succeeded. Barely. Their last furious
exchange left his chest aching for air, so he stepped back to momentarily
catch his breath. It cost him.
Instead of taking the
opportunity to do the same, Sindra came at him like a mad howler beast.
Dray found himself forced into an ungainly riposte that became useless
when her vertical downstrike abruptly transformed into a wicked slash that
opened his right shoulder. He winced in pain and stumbled away.
were glowing with hate, the fuel of the dark side. Dray could feel the
power surging through her.
He felt a
familiar, desperate craving surging in his belly. The soft whisper that
had controlled his life the last few years began its soft serenade, but it
had no effect. He was not yet angry and therefore his silky mistress could
not help him...
exploded into another series of fluid strikes that sent him reeling back.
He carefully measured her attack pattern and managed to catch her blade
with the tip of his own. His unexpected parry forced her saber upwards.
Right where he wanted it.
attempted to sweep her left leg out from under her, a move that usually
gave him the upper hand but Sindra's reaction time was better than he
expected. She dropped a hand from her saber, using it to block his
extended leg. An instant later she jabbed her other arm forward, using the
haft of the weapon to smash Dray in the face.
split his lip and knocked him to the ground. Instinct and years of
training allowed him to retain his hold on the saber, which he waved back
and forth to ward off any further strikes.
follow-up attack was not forthcoming. She merely stood over her fallen
opponent silently... Then she began to laugh.
gingerly touched a hand to his throbbing lip, though he already knew it
was bleeding from the sour taste in his mouth. He stared at the crimson
stain spreading across his fingertips and his eyes narrowed to slits.
incessant cackling continued, sending a tidal wave of heat washing through
his body. Dray's insides boiled as if his body temperature had suddenly
risen to a feverish degree.
the intimate whisper again. The silky voice grew louder, thundering in his
ears and echoing through his brain as it infused his body with a burst of
raced as the raw fuel was quickly converted into energy. An ancient
Corellian battle cry escaped his lips and Dray jumped to his feet,
delivering a vicious two-handed swing powerful enough to split Sindra in
the danger, Sindra quickly brought her saber up and deflected the vicious
strike just in time. She staggered under the weight of the brutal
offensive and was forced a few steps backward.
her every move, rapidly closing the gap between them. Dray knew she had
ceased her mocking laughter, but he could not get that terrible sound out
of his head. All he wanted to do was kill her.
What was so
wrong with that? he pondered, knuckles white from his death-grip on the
Nothing, came the whispery voice, growing louder and lovelier by the
moment. Nothing at all.
savoring the blood smeared across his lips. He craved more.
it in his eyes and it obviously frightened her. The tide of the battle had
abruptly turned and she was on the wrong end. "I had you beaten," she said
in a whining voice.
on the past." Dray grinned, an unpleasant sight. "If I were you, I'd be
more concerned about your future. Or the lack thereof."
Sindra was retreating as fast as possible without turning her back on him.
shrill call shook him out of the dark reverie. He was slightly
disoriented, like someone startled out of deep slumber.
back in time to see Xash charging. The wounded limb, severed below the
forearm, was tucked down at the twin's side. Xash snarled as his remaining
hand swung a lightsaber in the direction of Dray's head.
With no time
to turn, Dray lifted the blade up over his shoulder and then down again,
successfully blocking Xash's strike. Unfortunately, it also left his front
unprotected. A bad circumstance for Dray that Sindra immediately attempted
to take full advantage of...
withdrawn herself from saber range, but had a variety of other nasty
tricks at her disposal. One hand shot forward, serving as a focal point
for her power.
for air as his heart began to constrict. He tumbled to his knees, the pain
quickly becoming unbearable. Invisible claws tore mercilessly into his
face twisted into a vile facade and she hissed like a serpent. Her
outstretched hand trembled as if she really held Dray's heart, gleefully
digging in her nails to squeeze out every last drop of life.
back, obediently waiting to deliver the killing blow.
The lightsaber slipped from
Dray's numb fingers and deactivated. He could not find his breath. His
heart skipped, then faltered, and then stopped.
called to the dark storm, begged for its providence. The kind mistress
with the voice of whispery coils answered him. He could feel her silken
breath tickle his ear.
himself to the blinding rage, always seething like a second skin under his
flesh. The hate swirled to a single-minded maelstrom of rage.
And the rage
made him powerful.
fingertips jerked outward and his fury erupted as crackling bolts of
power. Force lightning streaked toward Sindra, enveloping her in a snare
of electrical energy.
She cried out from depths of
her being and sunk to the ground as spidery lances snapped voraciously
jumped to life, the chilling sensation turned to fire, and he was free.
Xash had been watching in
shock as his sister writhed in the dirt, so he was late in delivering the
strike that a moment ago would have beheaded Dray.
It would be
his final mistake.
flat on his back to dodge Xash's belated assault. As the high swing passed
harmlessly above, Dray twisted his head around and gestured at his
nearly a hundred feet before slamming into the trunk of a huge arcosia
tree with a resounding crunch. The body slid to the ground and, if there
was any doubt from the impact, Sindra's shriek told Dray all he needed to
know. The uncanny link all twins seemed to share had been severed like a
string. Xash was dead.
strength coursed through Dray, power given life by the anger that still
burned within. He needed only flick his wrist and the golden saber flew to
him, igniting with a joyous burst.
strides brought him to Sindra and he watched impassively as her body
continued to convulse. Tiny electric charges crackled through her clouded
eyes, across the cavern of her open mouth, and dancing down the rest of
the saber to finish it.
strong and sure, demanded to be heard. Tyrrahl... A Jedi does not kill an
whisper answered and Dray echoed the words: "True."
the blade down and Sindra's laughter finally stopped.
"But I am no
longer a Jedi."
died away and then there was only silence.
from the carnage and saw Nova's face - a mask of absolute horror. He had a
resurgence of pain in his heart for a moment but it disappeared as quickly
as it arrived.
The rage was
also gone, scattered like dust in a hurricane. He was just Dray, breathing
heavily and drenched in sweat. He was tired, hurt, and aching all over.
was something else, too. Something he had not felt in a long time.
his mouth to explain, to say something, but Nova was already sprinting
away into the forest. He started to give chase, then realized he was too
weak. Exhaustion had set in with frightening speed.
physically and emotionally, Dray slipped down to his knees. He glanced
warily at the bodies, at the bloodshed he had wrought. The twins shouldn't
have come here, he rationalized, and the girl is not my responsibility.
tingling whisper became his own voice. Of course not. Why bother going
asked again, this time aloud.
from the nightmare screaming. A thin film of sweat covered his body and he
shivered in the crisp night air.
nightmare was all too familiar. His failure at Tyrrahl's test... The
Citadel of Shadows.
to remember the incident. He needed to think of something else. He shut
his eyes tightly.
himself staring into her face.
It was the
day she learned of his betrayal. She did not believe it at first, refusing
even after she saw Threem's corpse. It had to be a mistake, she said. Dray
could never have fallen from the light. Not Dray. He was the strongest of
all. Tyrrahl had predicted great things of every student he trained, but
Dray... Dray was special.
It was not
until she stood at the door of his quarters that she finally accepted the
truth. For those trained in the Force, the stench of the dark side was one
that could not be washed off or masked with fragrances. Dray practically
exuded the sickly sweet scent from his pores.
silent. The tears in her eyes cut deeper than any word ever could. It
opened up a wound within Dray's soul, and there wasn't the tidy
cauterization of an injury delivered by a lightsaber.
She was gone
before... Before what? he wondered, before he could explain?
There was no
explanation that would satisfy her. He had chosen his path of his own free
Nova, he had started to go after Cayli but those whispers folded around
him like a blanket.
Even now it
twisted his stomach into a sick knot. Waves of nausea took hold of him and
would not let go until his stomach heaved itself barren.
came again as they always did when he relived that night. Usually that
soft purring voice lulled him back to sleep, but now...
He did not
go after Cayli.
That was a terrible mistake.
He lost the only love he had
ever known, ever wanted. The only love that mattered.
For what? he demanded to know
The lady of
whispers answered, wrapping him in her shadowy embrace... Your destiny.
and tossed in his sleep. He recalled one of the first days of his
Tyrrahl sat down on the tree stump, feeling every one of his seventy
years. The old man sighed as he watched the lightsaber haft spinning end
over end through the air. The Jedi Master raised a hand, using the Force
to stop the weapon's progress.
learn patience," Tyrrahl said.
his head in disgust, squatting down to rub the tail of his sweat-soaked
shirt across his forehead. "When you agreed to train me, you didn't say it
would take an eternity to master the simplest of skills."
the building blocks. Without a solid foundation, a house will crumble at
the first storm."
"I ask for
guidance and you give me children's sayings."
become an expert overnight, Lian. Years of study and dedication are
eager to learn. The others..." He glanced at the assembled group of
students in the distance. "Why keep us all together if some can't keep up?
Let me move at a quicker pace."
is only as strong as its weakest part."
shook his head and tried a different tact. "Tell me, when retreating from
a battle would you abandon the lame of your group, the wounded? Leave them
Dray's eyes grew cold. "I
don't run from a fight."
you learn has applications that aren't always apparent immediately. You
must learn to trust. There's too much you don't understand yet."
"If it were
only that simple."
"It is if
you make it so."
shook his head. The impetuousness of youth never failed to amaze him.
There was so much this boy did not know but thought he did. "Beware," the
Master warned, "the dark side offers a quick and easy path, but the
destination is not what it seems. Your impatience in these matters could
prove to be your undoing."
his Jedi intuition, Tyrrahl could tell Dray's attention was focused
elsewhere. Tyrrahl paused mid-sermon and allowed his gaze to wander, until
Master and student were staring at the same thing.
like a dark sentinel atop the jagged cliffs of Monfreen's northern
peninsula, overlooking an ancient whirlpool of water whose great maw could
swallow all but the largest starship. The keep had stood empty for as long
as Tyrrahl could remember and the local lore, usually colorfully
descriptive of such an intriguing landmark, was surprisingly
indeterminate. The aptly-named Citadel of Shadows held no grand tales of
visited the keep only once, stepping inside the monolithic gates with the
fearful eyes of a young child instead of the resolve of a Jedi Master. The
place was teeming with the dark side. Perhaps that strong concentration of
the Force, albeit an evil one, was what drew him to Monfreen in the first
Master willed away the memories. His concern at the moment was not his own
experience with the Citadel.
Dray wore an
expression that both terrified Tyrrahl and excited him. He had seen it
before... On his own face, just before he entered the castle.
proper composure, you may easily find yourself in a dark place where you
do not want to be, with no way out."
gazed back at his Master. "The Citadel."
its pull, have you?" Tyrrahl said, staring at something on the ground.
were drawn once more to the towering spires in the distance. "There is a
coldness there, such as I have never felt. The dark side dwells within."
fought to keep his voice neutral. "You wish to go there?"
adepts prepared to move on to the next phase in their training dare set
foot in that place. It is a dangerous test, possibly deadly if the Force
is not your ally. Do you think you're ready for such a burden?"
afraid of anything."
lowered his head. He silently wondered how many times such an exchange had
occurred between master and student. "Then don't let me stop you."
tightened his grip on the lightsaber's silver haft and started walking.
yourself and you cannot fail."
final glance over his shoulder, Dray nodded solemnly and went off to meet
Dray was still asleep, his pupils dancing to a furious beat behind his
eyelids. His mind refused to recall the incident at the Citadel, even in a
began to take form, familiarly haunting yet at the same time something was
It was night
and he was alone - in his life, in the world, in the galaxy.
emerged from the shadows. Her lightsaber pulsed like a beacon in the
He knew he
should deflect it but he couldn't lift his own saber. He had always been
the better duelist, the best Tyrrahl had ever trained. He might have
easily beaten her, disarmed her... Killed her.
But he could
watched as she swung her glowing blade toward his neck.
was open, but no sound emerged.
stared at the face of his would-be killer. At first he thought it was
Cayli, as it always was.
time it was different; it was not Cayli...
was much older, but the features were unmistakable. It was Nova.
Nova was in
Dray knew it
as sure as he knew his own name. His head was a chaotic swirl of emotions
he could not even begin to count. He had experienced too much in the last
few hours to properly put into perspective.
And he had
little time left to help her.
But did he
gathered a cleansing breath from the cool night air and
began reciting the words
ingrained in his head by Tyrrahl.
The voice of
many whispers responded: A true warrior knows that peace is but a respite
between battles. The sharpest blade is your own fury.
the real power from you. You must take it from them or be forever a slave
to your Masters.
have no feelings. Are you no better than an automaton of the light side?
be imposed on the savages of the galaxy. Only then can true civilization
truly command the Force can escape even death. They make you think you are
weak so they can control you.
Dray let out
a guttural cry... Of anger, frustration, helplessness. He stared up
accusingly at the coldly shimmering stars.
asked for this!" he screamed at the impassive points of light. Momentarily
overwhelmed, he bowed his head. Dray spoke softly, barely audible. "I
didn't choose the way of the Force."
voice answered him. This time it was not that silky whisper. "No, Lian.
The Force chose you. And now you must choose your own way."
He did not
recognize it at first, though he soon realized it was not a single voice
that spoke to him but rather an amalgam of many he already knew: Cayli,
Master Tyrrahl, Nova... And one other that spoke so forcefully he wasn't
quite sure of its origin. Then he knew; it was his own.
shivered inside the small cage, afraid to touch to the shimmering bars of
energy that held her prisoner. Her hands still hurt from the futile escape
attempt a few moments ago.
her captor going about his work, completely ignoring her. The man was
thin, almost sickly, with a ragged cough. His frail form was cloaked in
voluminous purple robes and elaborate jewelry. A ring adorned every
finger, resulting in a insectile clicking whenever he wrung his hands
together. He was bald with a heavily-scarred face and dead eyes. Every
time he looked at Nova with those awful eyes, she unconsciously trembled.
The man was
currently scowling at an obstinate portion of his ship's engine. The
monolithic craft looked too heavy to be spaceworthy.
After a few
moments of tinkering, sparks sizzled through the night sky. The man
erupted into a string of colorful vulgarities as he withdrew his singed
fingers from the compartment. Apparently, he was used to being obeyed.
whirled abruptly, eyes wild as they searched the forest.
think you could hide yourself from me?" he demanded to know.
Dray stepped out of the brush and smiled. His fingers were calmly
interlaced, the lightsaber swinging lazily at his side. "Had I wanted to
approach you with stealth, my saber would have been at your throat as we
speak." Dray glanced at Nova, held in the pulsing cage. He recognized the
prison - a renowned Sith design that worked like an energy vortex. Anyone
held within was cut off from the Force.
his focus back to the man. "You took something that was not yours. I
suggest you give it back."
cackled in obvious amusement. "I am Thannor Keth, Sorcerer of the Sith. I
answer to no one, and especially not to some Jedi whelp."
the same Jedi whelp who just deprived you of your adepts?"
faded. "So it would seem. A shame, really. Xash was mechanically inclined
and my ship is in need of minor repairs." Keth held up a hand. "Perhaps if
you fix the damage, I will overlook your transgressions and allow you to
gestured at the ship's open engine systems with two fingers extended. "You
mean that little part over there?" As he pointed, the systems erupted into
a shower of blinding sparks.
screeched in fury and started toward the burning compartment.
moment, Dray ran to Nova, lighting his saber in mid-sprint. With one
massive swing, he cleaved the energy bars in half and freed Nova. He
jerked the girl to her feet and over his shoulder, slipping away the
lightsaber so as not to give away their position.
battled the flames, Dray and Nova sprinted off into the night.
Nova clung to Dray's neck, her eyes practically lit from within.
going to take me home now?"
as he ran, too winded at the moment to answer.
"I'll do my
said biting down on her lower lip. "But you have to promise not to do the
bad thing anymore."
at her for a second. "The dark side..."
"I'll do my
best," he repeated.
Nova tightened her hold. Dray glanced over his shoulder, hoping his
distraction would buy them enough time to make it to his ship.
bolt of violet lightning lanced through the woods, slamming into Dray's
back. He lost his hold on Nova and both went tumbling to the ground. Smoke
drifted up from the wound and he lay there stunned.
purplish energy crackled from Keth's hands, dancing between his fingers
with the intricate beauty of a spider's web. "You don't know the power of
the dark side!"
pronounced groan Dray slowly got back to his feet, eyes suddenly cold as
he met Keth's gaze. "I am familiar with it..."
the sorcerer for a moment. "Then you must know the futility of your
actions." The electricity calmed for a moment as Keth stretched out a
hand. "All you have to do is give me the girl and I will leave you in
peace. Then it would be for you as it was before all this."
at Nova's bright face and smiled bitterly. "If only that were true," he
sneered. "There is nothing so pathetic as a disgraced Jedi desperately
clinging to that last fraying strand of his morality..." The Sith sorcerer
made a grating, unpleasant sound that might have been a laugh. "This will
be even easier than I anticipated."
pulsed with crackling lightning that writhed down his torso, finally
pooling at his fingertips. "You will now learn the error of your ways."
snap-hiss brought Dray's lightsaber to life. The gleaming gold blade
pulsed with a molten energy as he held the graceful weapon in a two-handed
grip before him. Dray nearly smiled as he said, "Maybe I already have."
and launched a phalanx of lightning from his hand.
his saber up to meet Keth's electrical strands. As the arcing bolts began
to shimmer down the blade, Dray swung the saber around and slashed at a
nearby arcosia tree. The large trunk was thicker than Dray was tall but
the lightsaber, charged with the Force lightning, cleaved the thick bark
in two. The excess energy discharged harmlessly into the air.
a challenge. "If that's the best you can do, I suggest you leave now
before you embarrass yourself."
answered with a guttural snarl. His right hand curled into a claw and
something began to form within the palm. An iridescent sphere of energy
swirled into existence, shining as if Keth had plucked a star from the sky
above. Without a word, the Sith sorcerer hurled the shimmering bolt at
Dray with uncanny accuracy.
Dray swung his saber to meet
the orb, but to his shock the tip of his blade passed right through the
globe of light. Dray was suddenly wracked with pain as the sphere made
contact with his flesh. A thousand voices suddenly screamed with fury in
his head, threatening to split it open.
where he was as pure unthinking hatred washed over him and he began to
drown in a sea of anger that was not his own. He gasped for air, falling
to his knees. He did not relinquish his grip on the lightsaber, but
continued swinging it wildly as if to ward off some unseen foe.
in horror, Nova started to approach Dray, but the unpredictable play of
his saber kept her at bay.
with a bemused expression, his lip curling slightly. "It is over." The
sorcerer chuckled softly as he began to gather his powers for the
his saber, eyes wild, face covered in a sheen of sweat. He had never
experienced such agony before, physical or mental. He had to do something
though, and soon, for Keth was about to finish him off.
the whispery voice that had been silent for so long. You've been a fool.
The only way to defeat Keth is at his own game. Cry out to me again, Dray.
Beg me for help and I will heed your call.
seemed like an eternity, Dray was torn in confusion.
thought, it was the only way... Rage rippled below his skin like a
eyes, burning with anger, fell upon Nova. The girl stood watching him, her
face betraying no emotion.
No. The fury
melted away and for the first time in a long time, Dray felt as if he was
truly at peace. He had made a promise. And he was going to keep it, even
if it cost him his life.
burned with victory as his formidable power took shape. Brilliant strands
of dark side power formed to enmesh Dray. The lattice of energy began to
sever the connection between him and the Force.
feel the strength slowly being sapped from his body. He had already
accepted his fate. Ignoring the sharp spasms wrenching his body, Dray
turned to Nova. With his last bit of energy Dray projected his thoughts
into her mind, telling her to run before it was too late.
She did not move, though Dray knew he had
successfully touched her thoughts. Dray didn't have time to ponder the
situation. His vision was becoming blurred and shades of gray began to
blot out everything else.
like a droplet of water hanging from a rock over the ocean. He was about
to begin that final descent into the endless sea, where his spirit would
seep into something greater, For now though, he hung suspended...
long-awaited fall never took place.
heard Nova's voice calling to him, echoing through him. A resurgence of
power manifested itself and he saw her ghostly image extend a hand to him.
out and when his hand touched hers, there was an explosion of harmonic
brilliance... The celestial illumination of the light side.
returned as a dazzling shield flared into existence to protect him from
With a cry
of agony, the sorcerer was blasted off his feet as if struck by a proton
vanished as quickly as it formed and Dray collapsed. He weakly turned his
head to make sure Keth was no longer a threat... The only thing left of
the Sith sorcerer was a scorched and tattered robe.
looked back, he saw Nova's face above his. Tears streamed down her face as
she knelt over him.
at her and then closed his eyes for what he believed would be the final
thing he remembered was her hands, small and cool, pressing against his
forehead and then he knew only darkness...
Dray awoke in his bedroll, groggy and confused. The first thing he saw was
Vigil's crimson sun, shining high above. His entire body ached but it felt
good to be alive. The next thing he saw was Nova, sitting cross-legged
nearby, watching over him silently.
Dray started to talk, but
already felt her presence in his mind and there was nothing to say. So
they exchanged a simple smile and he went back to sleep.
Dray checked the start-up sequence for the third time, patting the side of
his ship lovingly. He never thought he'd have need of the Lady of Light
again. Dray hoped she wouldn't hold it against him.
He climbed into the pilot's
chair, making sure Nova was secured beside him. He engaged the Lady's
repulsorlift engines and stared out the viewscreen with a mixture of
relief and trepidation as they ascended into the stars.
Dray allowed his gaze to
linger over his adopted home and knew without question he would return to
Vigil one day.
The emptiness of space around
him all at once brought on an attack of nausea. Dray could still feel dark
side poison flowing through him. He knew more than anything he wanted to
return to the light, to be bathed in its warm and tender embrace.
It would not be an easy
journey, but at least he was embarking on the first step.
Ossus. The center of Jedi
learning; where Nova needed to be, to begin the long process of honing her
amazing skills. It was also where Dray would have to confront those he had
He had been lying to himself
when he thought he could move on to any sort of future without first
dealing with his past. As Master Tyrrahl always said, Lies are most
beautiful when the truth wears an ugly facade.
It would be a perilous
journey, even without old friends and loved ones trying to kill him. He
was an exile, one of the Fallen, and he would be hunted every step of the
Dray wondered if Cayli was
still on Ossus, wasn't quite sure if he wanted her to be there.
"She's very pretty."
The voice shocked him from
his reverie. Dray looked at Nova questioningly for a moment, then
"Yes, she is," Dray said with
a faraway smile.
"Do you still love her?" Nova
asked, though Dray was sure she already knew the answer.
His voice was soft and choked
with old emotions given new reign. "Until the day I die."
"Maybe you should tell her
Dray shook his head, smiling
at Nova's earnest response. His mind's eye recalled an image of Cayli and
her unassuming beauty was enough to make his tarnished soul beam with joy
He glanced at Nova and nodded
in thanks, for his new ward had helped him find something he thought was
And at that moment, all was
right with the galaxy.