The Hunt on Cooraan IV (A Star Wars Fan Fiction)

The Hunt on Cooraan IV (A Star Wars Fan Fiction)

Status: Finished

Genre: Science Fiction

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Status: Finished

Genre: Science Fiction

Houses:

Summary

When a young Jedi padawan is given the location of an ancient artifact on a forgotten planet, a team of Jedi are sent in pursuit in a desperate attempt to prevent their naive student from possessing the terrible power contained within the vessel. Or are they afraid of what's inside the vessel possessing the padawan?
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Summary

When a young Jedi padawan is given the location of an ancient artifact on a forgotten planet, a team of Jedi are sent in pursuit in a desperate attempt to prevent their naive student from possessing the terrible power contained within the vessel. Or are they afraid of what's inside the vessel possessing the padawan?

Content

Submitted: January 22, 2016

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Content

Submitted: January 22, 2016

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**Terms handy to know**

 

Holocron – a cold and heavy object which stores information.  Sith holocrons are in the shape of a four-sided pyramid.  Each holocron is imprinted with the personality of one or more masters.  To activate a holocron, the Force must be focused and engulf the holocron.

Lekku – tails protruding from the head of certain alien beings - Twi’leks and Togrutas.  Lekku serve multiple purposes, including storing fat.  In Twi’lek culture, the lekku are used in communicating via subtle movements of each lek combined with spoken words.  They are highly sensitive appendages.

Flimsiplast – a substance formed into flat thin sheets suitable for writing on.

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This story takes place in the Legends timeline approximately nine-hundred, eighty-eight years before Episode IV: A New Hope.

 

* - - * - - *

 

 

Cooraan IV, a ruinous planet of past conflicts and lost lives.  It is a forest planet - an endless expanse of dense, verdure foliage.  It is a planet forgotten, but once significant to the defenders and oppressors of the galaxy.  The planet shelters several temple ruins, one of which belonged to an exiled Jedi, or so the story goes.  Many lives have perished on this planet; many voices haunt its forested grounds.  Many bodies lay buried here, though none were buried; they were merely left lifeless corpses for the planet to swallow as it slowly recovered its beauty.

The Jedi left this planet nearly half-a-century ago.  They chose to forget it, leave their failures as sad memories of the past.  No Jedi master speaks of Cooraan IV.  No Jedi personnel access the planetary records.  None travel to Cooraan IV.  The planet is as much a ghost as its dead who have returned to the Force.

Now the Jedi have returned.  Now we are forced to remember.  We cannot turn a blind eye to this.

The Jedi are not the only ones who once established temples on the planet’s surface, hiding amongst the towering clusters of lindemor, baccy, perlote, and jarwal trees that blanket Cooraan IV.  The Sith once built their own sacred temples here, constructed monuments and established a base for their operations in the sector.  By the time the Jedi had arrived to set up their own base, the planet was heavily infected by dark side energy, hindering the Jedi’s ability to detect the Sith.  The Sith, of course, knew of the Jedi’s arrival and prepared to take action.

The Jedi had been diligent in dispatching a team to investigate the evil infestation of the planet.  They found the group of Sith Lords before the Sith had organized their attack.  These Sith, it would be discovered, had not been sent to Cooraan IV to serve the mission of their brothers and sisters; they were a renegade bunch who had secreted themselves away from their dark side brotherhood in order to pursue their own agenda for power and control.

It was believed one Sith Lord had created an artifact of terrible power; one said to possess great knowledge which could yield terrible consequences.  The Jedi never found that artifact and the search for it was suspended, eventually abandoned.

Over time, the tale became a legend, a fable passed through the halls of the Jedi temples throughout the outer rim, gradually reaching the ears of masters and padawans in the core worlds.  Over time, the tale was dismissed as nothing more than a myth and was eventually forgotten.

I now know that tale is more than a myth; it is real.  The artifact is very real and has fallen into the hands of a vulnerable, inexperienced padawan; my friend, Arden Galienphas.

 

***

 

Padawan Arden was sent to the planet Nar Shaddaa, commonly known as the Smuggler’s Moon in search of a Jedi informant, formerly a Sith informant we had turned.  Such beings should never be trusted, but the risks are necessary.  This informant trafficked all sorts of information, utterly useless or invaluable depending on your interests and trades.  This informant had come across new information, reliable information about Cooraan IV and the hidden artifact.  He claimed to know of the artifact’s location and the information held within it.

Arden set out for Cooraan IV to claim the artifact before someone else chanced upon it first.  This informant did not favour any one being with his information; others would learn of the artifact and its location by the time the next illegal shipment of spice reached the planet’s spaceports.

Arden sent a quick message to the temple on Coruscant.  The message was fragmented and scrambled.  My master, Carroa Soe, and I were tasked in investigating the matter.  We flew to Nar Shaddaa and tracked down the informant.  We uncovered the slime had been working for the Sith all along.  The coordinates of the artifact on Cooraan IV were correct, but the data he claimed the object contained were false; they were dangerous pieces of information that could have devastating consequences if in less than capable hands.

I did not understand how terrible the situation was Arden had been manoeuvred into, but the trepidation in my master’s eyes informed me the situation was desperate.

While questioning the informant, we were set upon by Sith assassins.  My master easily dealt with both of them – the assassin’s had clearly not faced a Jedi master in some time.  I held my own just fine – I have been in hairy situations before, hairier than most padawans experience their first year of training.  The informant was killed during the exchange, which was of no loss; were he to have refused a peaceful apprehension, he was to be executed.  It is not a favoured method of the Jedi, but at times, it is necessary.

We found the Sith assassins’ ship.  It was fitted with a communications suite capable of intercepting, scrambling, encoding and decoding messages sent inside of a three-hundred metre radius.  We now knew how Arden’s message to Coruscant had been scrambled.  We sent a message to Coruscant before taking off for Cooraan IV in the assassins’ ship.  We could not wait for orders.  When orders did come in, they were to intercept Padawan Arden.  Jedi master Phalaos Karthiss and his apprentice, Maeve-nek Ri’shan would rendezvous with us on the planet’s surface.

I now had a greater understanding of the severity of the situation.  Four Jedi to find and stop a padawan – this artifact was too great an object for any inexperienced force-user to possess.

I grew concerned for my friend, scared of what may happen if he were to be found with the object already in hand.

“Mind your feelings, padawan,” Master Carroa Soe cautioned me.  “Should we encounter further Sith, rest assured they will be better trained than mere assassins.  They will know how to manipulate the fear inside you and turn you to their cause.  Still your thoughts, Jullet,” she said to me.  “Nothing has happened yet.”

“Yes, master,” I replied quietly and removed myself to the ship’s crew quarters where I could meditate in silence.

My master is a wonderful being - a Mirialan from the cold desert planet of Mirial.  She bears many tattoos on her face and hands; a sign of the many tasks and tests she has accomplished in life, such is the way of her species.  She is a kind master, but very quiet.  She rarely speaks and when she does, it is short and quick.  Rarely does she lose her temper.  Rarely is she unnerved.  I cannot honestly know what she is feeling or thinking – she conceals her presence in the Force so deeply that only a highly skilled user can feel her.  I would envy her abilities, but envy is not an attribute Jedi are encouraged to harbour.

 

***

 

The lightspeed jump from Nar Shaddaa to Cooraan IV was not a short one.  It was faster thanks to the modified hyperdrive of the Sith assassins’ ship.  Master Carroa Soe and I knew how fast Arden’s ship would travel; we were closing the gap on him in bounds.  It was fortunate we had been so close to Nar Shaddaa to be given this assignment.

Arden’s master would be informed of transpiring events, but he would not be involved in finding his padawan.  There was too great a risk of emotion consuming him should some misfortune befall Arden.

Master Carroa Soe and I reached Cooraan IV after little more than one planetary cycle.  Master Karthiss and his padawan had arrived several hours earlier.  They had found Arden’s ship in one of the few clearings on the planet’s surface and were now tracking his movements, attempting to locate him.  Master Carroa Soe and I had not managed to extract the exact coordinates of the artifact from the informant before his demise.  We did not know where to look.

The dark side was palpable on the planet, nearly overwhelming.  Even when breaching the atmosphere, we could feel the fog of evil lurking on the planet’s surface, clawing at our minds, attempting to enter our heads.  The tips of my lekku would not stop tingling from the embrace of the foul energy.  The dark side of the Force was strong here and because of this, we could not sense Padawan Arden.

The Jedi council had anticipated this setback, thus had they hired a bounty hunter to track Arden down.  The Jedi were so desperate to find Arden, we hired a bounty hunter.  How pathetic is that?  Where has the honour of the Jedi gone?

“We haven’t much time; Arden’s ship had already touched down before we reached the system,” Master Karthiss greeted my master.  “The bounty hunter is currently closing in on the padawan’s position to the Southeast.  We should hurry to catch up.”

“Right,” Master Carroa Soe nodded.

“What are the bounty hunter’s orders when he finds Padawan Arden?” I urgently interrupted.

Master Karthiss paused before meeting my gaze.  “It knows its orders.”

The pain of dread was apparent in his eyes.

“Come, we mustn’t dawdle,” urged my master and rushed ahead.

Master Karthiss and his padawan, Ri’shan, hurried after my master.

The innards of my gut twisted into an uncomfortable knot.  This situation did not sit well with me.  We needed to find Arden before the bounty hunter did.  Bounty hunters cannot be trusted.

I dashed after my companions, quickly catching up with the group.

We began our race through the forest, calling on the Force to propel us quickly through the dense growth of the planet’s terrain.  We remained bathed in the shade of the leafy ceiling of Cooraan IV’s planet-wide forest as we hurried to find Padawan Arden and the bounty hunter.

 

***

 

Master Karthiss was a gray-green, leathery-skinned Vurk.  He was an honest being.  He could be hot tempered at times, but he kept his temper in check, using it to his benefit – a feat few can accomplish.  His apprentice was a tan-skinned saurian Chistori who was also capable of being rash and hot tempered on occasion, but he preferred to be polite and considerate, and was always mindful of his surroundings.  They were a pairing who complimented each other well and contrasted each other as equally well.

Master Karthiss knew little of the bounty hunter, a reptilian Barabel by the name of Xoras Lo.  The council had directly hired the bounty hunter and tasked it with locating Arden.  My master had heard of Xoras Lo before and the dark reputation that preceded the name.

This bounty hunter, whether male or female, no one knew, was known as a ruthless pursuer.  Xoras Lo would follow any bounty to the edge of the galaxy to seize the reward.  No mercy was shown.  Lo preferred taking a target alive when their fate was sealed with a slow and painful death.  Killing a target was too easy, without challenge.  Although, Lo was known as a skilled assassin.

No being, living at least, had seen Xoras Lo’s face.  It was always concealed behind a mask.  Rumours abound that Lo had been caught in an explosion while tracking a bounty and the inferno had melted the façade of its helmet to its face, and mangled its larynx.  Every lowlife and scum knew they were Lo’s victim when they heard the hunter’s harsh, phlegmy voice.

It brought some comfort to know the bounty hunter preferred taking its targets alive.  Perhaps that was the reason the council hired Lo.  But how well would Lo be able to handle a Jedi?  And with the council so concerned about the artifact, had they given permission to use lethal measures if necessary?

Anxiety tingled my body, growing as the Force propelled us closer to Xoras Lo, and inevitably, to Arden Galienphas.

Master Karthiss led the way to Xoras Lo using a tracker.  We moved quietly, yet as fast as the wind.  Padawan Ri’shan and I struggled to keep up with our masters; we could not manipulate the Force as masterfully as they could.  We remained several paces back.

Rushing through the thick growth of Cooraan IV’s brush, I could feel the dark side’s influence on the planet growing.  My lekku twitched as the sinister energy swelled around us.  The bark on the trees became grayer, the colour of their leaves faded, the bushes and shrubs browned with decay.

A chilling impression grew in the Force.  We were near the site of the Sith temple ruins.  We slowed our speed.

“Be ready for anything,” my master warned Padawan Ri’shan and I.  “Combat may erupt at any moment.”

We nodded.

“Do not trust the bounty hunter,” she warned.

“I don’t, Master,” I responded boldly.  I could feel Master Carroa Soe’s approval emanate through the Force.

“We are close,” Master Karthiss reported.

We broke from our force-run.  Master Karthiss and Master Carroa Soe unsheathed their lightsabers.  Padawan Ri’shan and I followed their lead.

“Come, this way.”  Master Karthiss headed off in a direction with my master close to his side.

The concentration of dark side energy was leading them to their destination now.  Master Karthiss continually checked his tracker, keeping tabs on the bounty hunter’s positon.

I tried reaching out in the Force, attempting to sift through the dense fog of the dark side to find my friend, but was blocked by the overwhelming intensity of energy.  I had never contended with such a powerful essence before.  This task required more of me than what my training had prepared me for.  But I could not give up yet; I had to know how my friend was.

Ri’shan’s gaze shifted to me and back to our surroundings.  He could sense what I was trying to do.  I knew the masters knew as well, but they betrayed no reaction.

I made another attempt, this time stretching out with my feelings.  I could feel my presence in the Force penetrate the heavy buildup of energy, drifting through the forest, passing over a tree-cluttered swamp, reaching the temple ruins.  I closed my eyes, diverting all attention to my presence in the Force, trusting the mystical energy to be my guide.  I felt weightless, as if my body no longer existed, yet I could feel my feet firmly planted on the ground, moving my physical body slowly forward.

My force-presence continued to glide through the forest, struggling to find its way through the foul energy.  The dark side continued to grow thicker, trying harder to stop me from venturing further beyond; I knew I was on the verge of finding my friend.

I stretched my presence even further, expelling all of my power into the Force.  The dark side grew too thick, creating a barrier that prevented me from searching any farther.  I gathered what traces of the Force yet untainted by the dark side I could find, my focus fixed on finding Arden.

A wave of light side energy suddenly washed through my body, invigorating me.  I channeled the energy into a concentrated stream and released it.  I gasped for breath as I pushed my presence into the dark side fog, bursting through the thick haze.  My awareness extended farther than I could have anticipated; Arden had traveled a substantial distance from the temple site.  Had he found the artifact or did it lay buried in the forest?

I pressed my abilities to their maximum, surrendering my mind to the Force, allowing it to control my actions.  The haze of the dark side thickened, obscuring my presence in a dark cloud that compressed against me, threatening to choke me.  I was losing Arden’s presence in the Force.  Something did not want me finding him.

I pushed harder, refusing to be stopped.  I weaved through the plumes of the dark cloud until the silhouette of a figure came into sight.  It looked like a young man in a robe.  Arden!  I drew closer to the silhouette.  As I neared, the silhouette warped into a figure vastly different from the outline of the young man I had first seen.  The robe changed into a tunic, a cape fell past the figure’s shoulders, metal pauldrons adorned each shoulder.  The figure became taller, burlier; its locks of hair were replaced with a head-covering sitting above a crown of cranial horns.  Tendrils drooped from the figure’s cheeks; its hands formed into three-digit claws, and in a set of those claws it held a pyramidal object; something rarely seen since the fall of the Sith Empire, something that contained dangerous information capable of enslaving the galaxy if in the wrong hands: a holocron.

The dark side energy grew as I neared the figure.  The mystical force gripped my chest, tugging at my limbs.  I felt like I could be torn apart.  I continued to move towards the figure, but it was no longer of my will; it was pulling me towards it.  Towards him.  I knew this was not Padawan Arden and as I came ever closer to the figure, his menacing crimson skin distinguishing itself from the crimson clouds of the dark side, his frightening yellow eyes bearing on me, my fear was only affirmed.  This is an evil that had once called Cooraan IV his salvation, a presence not dead, but no longer of the physically living.  This is a being who craves power and will use any means necessary to survive in order to take control of the galaxy and rule the masses.  This is a Sith Lord and the steward of the artifact.

I screamed as the figure lunged at me, swiping at my face with his claws.  My eyes flashed open as I fell to the ground.

“It’s a Sith Lord,” I exclaimed.

The masters knelt on either side of me, taking hold of my arms.

“Calm yourself, Jullet.  It is more imperative than before that we find Padawan Arden,” my master said with calm concern.

“Master,” I stuttered, “a Sith Lord is following Padawan Arden!”

“I know.”

Master Carroa Soe gently placed her hand on my forehead.  Soothing vibrations reverberated through my cranium, calming me.

“Master Karthiss and I could feel his presence through you.”  She explained, “We added our force-presence to yours in order to enhance your ability and help you break through the dark side fog.  We needed to know Padawan Arden’s exact location and whether or not he had found the holocron.  He has the holocron.  Now we must get it away from him before its custodian corrupts his mind.

My heart seized.  Lose Arden to the dark side?  We could not allow that to happen.

“Now come.”  My master helped me to my feet.  “We must hurry!”

With the help of the Force, we sped through the forest once more at an incredible rate, closing in on Arden.

“If we must, we will inflict injury to Arden in order to wrest the holocron from him,” my master warned.  I could tell she was directing her words at me, to prepare me.

“I understand.”

I did understand, and with great reluctance, I would do my duty as a Jedi.

“Where is Lo?” Padawan Ri’shan inquired his master.

“Nearly upon him,” Master Karthiss responded darkly.

 

***

 

We came to the swamp in no time, crossing it in two giant leaps.  Our first jump landed us on the roots of perlote trees, which we pushed off to soar across the remaining swampland into the forest.  Not far beyond the swamp, we set upon a woodland hill where the remnants of the Sith temple stood.  We sped past, blurs against the forgotten backdrop.  The masters knew where Arden was now that they had established a connection with the artifact he carried.  We honed in on his position, his presence becoming more potent to me as we neared him.

Arden and I had always had a strong connection, since we were younglings, but the power of the dark side on this planet had severed that connection.  But I could feel him again now; I could sense much fear in him.  There was no malice in him, but there was something malicious with him, tempting him, intriguing him to give into his darker impulses.  The Sith Lord.

The Sith Lord hid his presence well amidst the torrent of the dark side, however, the more he tempted Arden, the more his presence could be felt in the Force.

Arden was terrified, struggling to resist all evil temptations.  His will was being beaten down.  If we did not intercept him soon, it wouldn’t be long before he gave in to the dark side.  The masters could sense it as clearly as I could.  They did not want to, but Master Karthiss and Master Carroa Soe would harm Arden if they had to.  Retrieving the holocron was the priority.

I could feel Padawan Ri’shan’s growing anxiety as we neared the target; he was afraid we would have to kill Arden.  I was afraid, too.  Master Karthiss was steadfast with his emotions.  He was prepared to do what was necessary, like every Jedi Knight should be.  My master remained invisible in the Force.  I wish I knew what she was thinking, but she had already made her intentions clear.  We four Jedi had accepted what may be our necessary course of action.  May the Force be with us.

“How is it this holocron exists?” Padawan Ri’shan broke the unnerving silence.  “I believed all Sith holocrons and remaining Sith artifacts had been destroyed at war’s end nearly fifty years ago.”

“That is not a completely factual statement,” Master Karthiss replied.  “Many artifacts were destroyed during the galactic purge of the remaining Sith loyalists.  All temples and bases discovered were razed, the objects found inside obliterated.  Alas, the galaxy is expansive, the Sith Empire was vast, and every planet holds many secrets that shall never be revealed.  We could not hope to find and destroy every Sith stronghold, nor all Sith belongings.  We are still searching for Sith sites that may yet house dangerous articles.”

“We preserved several Sith holocrons,” said Master Carroa Soe.  “Holocrons can prove difficult to destroy, in particular, Sith holocrons, as they can be protected by Sith magic.  They are too dangerous to leave buried in a heap of rubble, even more so when it is rumoured that near the war’s end, many Sith infused their spirit inside the vessels.  Their spirits would be too powerful to contend with should they be unleashed, so we have kept what holocrons we have found that are tainted by the spirit of a Sith Lord.”

“Essentially holding the Sith spirits captive,” I stated.

“Indeed, Padawan,” Master Carroa Soe responded. “It is a risky matter for the Jedi to possess these dangerous objects, which is why all padawans and younglings are led to believe all Sith holocrons have been destroyed.  If a Sith spirit were freed from their vessel, they could cause insurmountable damage and corrupt countless minds in a Jedi temple.  Fortunately, the act of binding one’s spirit to a holocron is a difficult and draining task, and as far as we know, no Sith has discovered how to manipulate the device from within.”

“It would seem this Sith Lord is on the verge of freedom,” Padawan Ri’shan noted.

“It is a natural trait for any Sith; to influence the weaker minded and bind an inferior being to their will.  It would be why a padawan was led into this trap.”

Master Karthiss flinched in anger, but it quickly passed and his presence in the Force became one of calm and focus once more.

“Who is this Sith Lord?” I inquired.  “Do you know?”

“He is powerful and cunning,” my master responded.  “Anticipate everything,” she warned.

I swallowed a heavy lump, gathering the mystical energy field around me; building it for the inevitable confrontation.

“Remember,” said Master Karthiss, “Padawan Arden may no longer be your friend.  He may be a slave to the Sith spirit now.”

“Right.”

I furrowed my brow as I tried to think of Arden as an agent for the Sith.  It did not make things any easier to accept.

 

***

 

The sounds of battle ignited the air.  We rushed towards the noise.  Blaster fire and the thrum of a lightsaber, the crack of wood, the thrashing of shrubs and the swishing of foliage; Xoras Lo had found its target.

The environment ahead lit up in flashes of red, the repeating sound of blaster fire rang out as we dashed between the trees.

“Master Karthiss and I will handle Padawan Arden,” Master Carroa Soe stated.  “You and Padawan Ri’shan will neutralize the bounty hunter.  Incapacitate and detain if you must, but try to be diplomatic, padawans.”

“Yes, master,” I responded dutifully.

Padawan Ri’shan nodded.  “Yes, Master Soe.”

“And if Lo will not let the Jedi handle their own business, take ‘em out!”  Master Karthiss had an edge to his voice.  “A bounty hunter will not be missed in this galaxy.”

I nodded sternly.  That could make our task easier, should Lo be unwilling to comply with our diplomatic approach.

“But do not forget,” my master cut in as we neared the battle.  “Xoras Lo is a well-trained, highly skilled bounty hunter and assassin.  Do not underestimate it.”

“Yes, master,” I replied.

Several more metres and we were upon the battle waging between Xoras Lo and Padawan Arden Galienphas.  In unison, connected by the Force, our small band of Jedi leapt into the air, springing dozens of metres high, gracefully passing the last of the ancient jarwal trees before entering a clearing where the two combatants engaged each other.  My thumb hovered over my lightsaber’s activation switch.

Xoras Lo ducked and weaved, dodged, rolled, and flung itself through the air, avoiding the blaster bolts it fired at Arden which he deflected back in Lo’s direction with his lightsaber.  Lo continued to fire volley after volley of blaster bolts while skillfully dodging their return.

The bounty hunter did not appear the lethal figure its reputation suggested.  The despicable being struck an intimidating appearance, perhaps even more so up close, but Lo’s approach to engaging Padawan Arden was amateurish.  I was not impressed.

Meanwhile, Arden deflected Lo’s offensive with more skill, more confidence than I had seen him display before.  He swung, swiped, slashed, and whirled his blade with the precision and speed of a master.  The green beam of his lightsaber angrily hummed as it danced through the air.  It was an unusual sight, a disturbing sight; this was not the Arden Galienphas I knew.

Firmly clasped in Arden’s other hand was an object.  It was a four-sided, flat-bottomed pyramidal object, made of a dark metal, with strange red markings emblazoning the edges of each triangular face; the Sith holocron, the source of Arden’s corruption.  Such a small object was capable of so much disorder.

When the other Jedi and I reached the apex of our jump, we gracefully leaned into a roll, perfectly positioning ourselves for our landing.  Our robes flapped in the updraft as we descended to the shrub-infested floor of the clearing.  Leather wrappings kept my lekku from lifting too high into the air.  Our lightsabers ignited as we neared the ground – four blades of coloured light humming to life.

Master Karthiss and Master Carroa Soe immediately broke off when we landed, deflecting several of Xoras Lo’s blaster bolts as they crossed the grounds, approaching Arden.

Padawan Ri’shan and I closed in on the Barabel bounty hunter, our sabers raised and ready for any offensive.

“This is Jedi business, Lo,” I stated in a bold tone.  “Lower your weapons and let us deal with this our own way.”

The bounty hunter shrugged and lowered its blaster pistols.  “Sure thing, Jedi,” its harsh, phlegmy voice responded.  “I was merely distracting the kid, waiting for you.”

“We thank you for your service,” I said with an undertone of sarcasm.  I did not care if the bounty hunter was being honest or deceitful; I did not trust it.

I could sense Lo’s amusement at my sarcastic remark.  Bounty hunters were always twisted scum.

I could hear my master attempting to reason with Arden, to convince him to relinquish the holocron, but my gaze and most of my attention remained fixed on Xoras Lo.

“Arden, that is too dangerous for you to keep.  Let me take it from you before the spirit residing within it possesses you.”  My master was nearly pleading.  She could sense the hold the Sith spirit had on Arden.

“The holocron is mine,” Arden coldly responded.  “I traveled to this planet, scoured the area, delved into its earth and retrieved this artifact on my own.  I was trusted to find it and now that I’ve found it, you wish to claim the credit for yourselves?  Will you return this holocron to Coruscant or do you intend to destroy it like the others?  Will its information be used or will it be hidden in the bowels of the temple to collect dust like a forgotten relic?”

Arden’s temper was rising.  I could feel that he was losing control; the dark side was rising within him.  The Sith spirit was taking control.

Master Karthiss made an effort to reach Arden, “That is not what you think it to be!  Regardless of what you have been told that holocron is, regardless of what information you have been led to believe is contained in it, that is a Sith holocron containing the spirit of a very powerful Sith Lord; Lord Baarts.”

I could feel the dark side swell with fury at the mention of the Sith’s name.

“I know he is in your mind at this moment telling you we are lying, but you mustn’t listen to him.  You must hand over the holocron, Arden.”

There was a pause, a brief moment where the only sounds were the humming of our lightsabers.

“So you want this power for yourself!  You think you can wield it?  Never!”

My heart sank as I listened to Arden’s words.  He could not resist the manipulations of a Sith Lord; he was not trained to oppose such power.  How could I be surprised that he would succumb to the Sith’s influence?

But Master Karthiss was not ready to give up on Arden yet.

“Arden, please!  Lord Baarts is whispering poisons in your ear.  You should not merit his words with consideration.  He was formerly of Lord Kaan’s Brotherhood of Darkness!  He is evil!  The Jedi collected countless pieces of flimsiplast from his temple following the eradication of his followers.  The information he was privy to, that he has stored in that holocron could be devastating if used!”

Master Karthiss had grown desperate now, as well.

The situation was dire.  I did not want to harm my friend.

“You fear for him, don’t you, young one?” a voice whispered in my ear, though it seemed to spawn from inside my head.

I ignored the voice and focused on the bounty hunter.

“He will be struck down should you not act to save him,” the voice pursued.  “The Jedi are wrong in this; the padawan wished to return the holocron to your council masters; to ensure it returns to the temple safely.  These two Jedi wish to claim it for their own, as so many have sought to do in the past.”

The voice’s tone was soft and smooth, tingling my body with its pleasant sound.  My lekku subtly danced as the voice lulled my senses, seducing me into a bond of trust that I found difficult to resist.  But I resisted.

“Leave me be and get out of my head,” I commanded in a whisper.

Padawan Ri’shan nervously shifted as he heard my words.  The bounty hunter’s head tilted with curiosity as it watched me.

My body trembled as I felt a presence begin to flow through me, occupying my form.  Beads of perspiration accumulated on my brow as I struggled to resist the invisible presence.

“You will not take me, you scourge,” I angrily growled.

The dark side stirred with pleasure.

“Save your friend, young one.  It is what is right.”

“Leave me in peace,” I quietly demanded.

“Peace is a lie, there is only passion,” the voice retorted.

I could feel the alien presence coating my bones and muscles, pouring into my mind.  My limbs twitched.  All sensation slowly faded into numbness; I was losing control.

“Do you think I would sully my honour for your lies, Sith?”

“Honour is a fool’s prize,” the voice further taunted.  “Through strength, you will gain power.  Through power, you will gain victory.  Is that not enticing enough for you, padawan?”

The voice’s words were inviting.  I could sense the truth of its sentiments.

“Do not allow yourself to be manipulated as Arden has!” Padawan Ri’shan warned.  He could sense the invasion inside me.

I snapped from my trance, breaking the chains of bondage the voice had nearly ensnared me in.

“I won’t listen to you!”

My anger was directed at the voice in my head, but Ri’shan turned to face me, his lightsaber held before him in defense.  I could see Xoras Lo begin to raise its blaster pistols.

“The spirit is attacking Jullet, as well,” I could hear Master Karthiss say.

“You will not have me,” I hissed.

“I already do,” the voice smugly responded.

“I will help my padawan, you retrieve the holocron.  Use what means are necessary,” my master instructed.

“You will slay me to claim your prize,” I could hear Arden shout.  “You would slay any Jedi who resisted your command!”

“Arden, that holocron holds no good inside of it!”  Master Karthiss’ temper was rising.  “The knowledge it contains will only bring destruction and enslavement!”

“It contains power,” the voice tempted me.  “Your power.”

My body trembled.  I could not give in, but I could not resist.  My mind was clawing at itself.

“This galaxy needs a ruler!” Arden exclaimed in a tone filled with might and validation.

“Who will rule?” the voice challenged me.  “Unleash yourself, my apprentice.”

I screamed, the hoarse cry of desperation shredding my throat as it exploded from my larynx.  With a thrust of the Force, I catapulted into the air, barreling for Master Carroa Soe and Master Karthiss.  My skull burned as if it had been cut open.  My lekku spasmed as if prodded with a stun baton, my joints were on fire and I felt immense pressure behind my eyes.  A tension was building inside of me; one I would unleash.

Padawan Ri’shan’s cry followed me through the air, “No!”

The Jedi masters faced me and raised their lightsabers, ready to defend themselves.

As I descended through the air, I raised my hand, discharging the power I had been storing with a force-push that threw both masters onto their backs.  I landed lightly on my feet and shot forward, bringing my lightsaber up in a ready positon as I darted across the clearing.

“We will be free of the pain to embrace our strength!” I cried as I brought my blade about in a downward slash.

Arden’s green blade met my yellow blade as he masterfully blocked my attack.  He swerved to the side, redirecting my momentum in the same motion.  I stumbled forward, hastily bringing my blade over my head to block his counter-attack.  I brought the brilliant yellow beam of light back around as I shunted Arden’s saber away.  Our blades clashed together again with a flash of intense white light, the yellow and green beams viciously growling as they grinded against each other.

Shoving Arden back, I swung my blade wide, horizontally slicing at his waist.  As he blocked the attack, I followed through with a tight vertical slice aimed at his shoulder.  Completing the attack without finding my target, I thrust for Arden’s abdomen, but he easily batted my blade away.

A cocky grin remained fixed on Arden’s lips.  His demeanour did not bear any resemblance to my old friend.

“You yet require much training, padawan,” he taunted, his smooth, soft voice reminiscent of the voice from my head.

It only fueled my anger.

My lightsaber danced in a fury as I sliced and swung, then thrust and parried, pirouetting into a violent clash of light.  I swung and struck and sliced with more fury, Arden’s grin growing wider.  His sadistic enjoyment of our engagement only spurred another offensive flurry.

“You will fall, you Sith scum!” I shouted at the opposing figure once my friend.

“Jullet, don’t –“

I threw a hand back, force-pushing my master into Master Karthiss.  They collided hard, falling to the ground in a daze.

“He is mine,” I hollered.

“You are his!” Padawan Ri’shan rebutted, racing towards me.

He violently flew back as I force-pushed him, the wind fleeing his lungs.  His head bashed against the hard ground, driving him into unconsciousness.

“You are strong, but not strong enough,” Arden coldly stated.

“I’ll show you,” I retorted.

I threw myself at Arden, my lightsaber swinging wildly.  I wanted to kill him so badly.  Our actions were a blur as I attacked and he deflected, the holocron securely grasped in his hand.  Arden had never been skilled at wielding his lightsaber with one hand, yet he was a master now that he had given himself to the dark side.  He was no longer worthy of his Jedi lightsaber, no longer worthy of his Jedi robes or his “padawan” title.  No longer worthy of his life.

I struck faster, my manoeuvres more radical, yet Arden countered each one.

We struck at each other, our blades locking together in a test of strength. Summoning the Force to aid in the struggle, I exerted my power into my arms, pushing with my fierce yellow blade.  Arden’s hissing green blade slowly retreated, drawing nearer his grimacing face.  I could feel him call upon the dark side and our blades grinded against each other with equal force, caught in a standstill.

My eyes locked with Arden’s.  I could see the anger and hatred in the depths of his irises.  I could feel the faint glimmer of pride for his strength.  My eyes beamed only hatred for this young man I once considered a friend.  I used to trust him.  I was filled with resentment.

“Are you caught in a losing battle?” the voice taunted inside my head.

My teeth clenched as my temper boiled.

Arden’s eyes suddenly lit with alarm.  With a burst of the Force, he shoved me back, blasting me with another gust of energy that sent me tumbling backwards.  He immediately turned, his face red and contorted in annoyance.

“I don’t think so, bounty hunter,” he sneered as he brought his lightsaber about to deflect a volley of blaster fire.

The attack immediately ceased as Xoras Lo ducked behind a tree.  Two thermal detonators landed at Arden’s feet, the tiny metallic spheres beeping feverishly as their detonation sequences activated.  In the blink of an eye, the devices exploded in a ball of fire and shrapnel.  The explosions tore apart the thick trunk of the jarwal tree the bounty hunter was hiding behind, some twenty-two metres away from Arden.  Arden watched silently, his anger continuing to bubble.

I hit the ground, using the momentum of Arden’s force-push to fall into a backwards roll, ending up crouched on my feet.  Using the Force, I bolted forward.  Arden’s back was turned, his attention diverted; he was open to attack and I would take advantage.

“A foolish attempt,” Arden boldly announced - his back still to me.  “Such an attack may have succeeded when I was yet a Jedi padawan, but now I am a disciple of the Sith.”

Xoras Lo appeared through the resulting cloud of smoke, propelling towards Arden by the Force.  The Barabel bounty hunter clawed at its throat, straining to release the invisible hand that choked off its air.

“For your pathetic endeavour, you have forfeited your life,” Arden stated.

A wet snap rang out and Xoras Lo’s body fell to the ground.  There it remained, motionless.

Arden turned as I brought down my lightsaber.  He threw up his glowing green blade, our weapons exploding with a flash of blinding light.  The lethal beams crackled as they crashed against each other.  I issued a flurry of attacks, driving Arden back in a hurry, but the Force kept his steps sure, his balance staunch.

“And you,” he said as he parried another strike.  “What am I going to do about you?”

My eyes locked on his.  They would not stray.

“Jullet!  Padawan, do not give in to your hate!”

I could hear my master charging towards us, her presence in the Force one of resolution and fear.

“Hate is what will determine the victor of this engagement!” Arden objected as he expelled a burst of Force energy.

I could hear my master slam into the ground, her presence slipping into a state of peace as she lost consciousness.

“It is just you and I now, Jullet.”  Arden’s voice was sadistic.

I fought harder, drawing on the Force to make my movements swifter, my strikes surer, my blows more powerful.  It was clear I could not match Arden’s new level of skill.  I had to beat him some other way.

I pressed my offensive, focusing the anger and frustration billowing inside me into a lethal stream of ferocity.  With every manoeuvre, I tried to realize a follow-through that would catch my opponent off guard, but he defended against each attack, expertly denying my blade its mark.  I could not defeat Arden using Jedi tactics; he knew them as well as I did and was prepared for them.  And with both Jedi masters and Padawan Ri’shan incapacitated, I could not wait for help.  This battle would be over soon.

Arden took the offensive, driving me back with fast attacks.  I retreated quickly.  Arden kept the gap between us small; he intended to end this.  It took all my concentration to anticipate his next move; he cloaked his presence in the Force as thoroughly as Master Carroa Soe did.

The Sith spirit was imbuing Arden with his power, granting him abilities beyond his training, beyond his comprehension of the Force.  I thought the Sith Lord had wanted me for his next disciple, but I was wrong; we are both pawns in his game for control.  I could only imagine what the voice was whispering to Arden at that moment.

I had to forget about the Sith, forget about the holocron and the wonders contained within, forget about my past with Arden and focus on concluding this battle with my life still intact.

I parried Arden’s attacks as best I could and delivered my own offensive strikes.  A few foolish chances were nearly paid for with a limb.  Arden’s movements became quicker, his gaze fiercer.  The Sith Lord was taking over.  He nearly possessed Arden.  I would not be able to force the Sith’s spirit out of him; I did not possess such skills.  I would have no choice but to kill Arden.  That was definite.  And yet it would not destroy the Sith, merely allay the current conflict.

Arden continued to push me back.  The clearing was sizeable, but cluttered with shrubs and uneven ground.  If I was not careful, a trip or stumble could mean the end of me.  I did my best to halt my retreat, create an opening in his attack for one sure blow, but it seemed he knew what I was attempting to accomplish.  I was beginning to feel desperate, as if I was losing control of myself.

“There is only one thing you can do, young one,” the voice spoke inside my head.  “Submit your will.  Call me master.”

I resisted the voice’s compelling suggestion.  It would not pull me under its spell anymore.  I would not fall for its tricks.  Although, the voice was right.  It spoke the truth.  I had to submit my will.

Arden rushed me with a series of attacks; coming in from the left with a diagonal slash, bringing his blade into an upward thrust, twisting the humming beam and directing it into a horizontal cut before spinning it three-hundred, sixty degrees in an attempt to nick my face or knees with the distracting green blur of light.

I defended against each attack with increasing ease.  I breathed slowly, allowing my mind to slip from fear, panic and hatred into a stream of peace; calling upon the Force to guide my instincts and reactions, to take command of my body and show me the path to victory.  Victory required patience.  I patiently waited for my moment to strike.

“Your time is reaching its end, Jedi,” Arden sneered.

The young man I stared down was no longer the one I had known all these years.  His face twisted into an ugly snarl, his eyes were filled with rage, the tips of his irises tinged with red - a mark of one who has fully embraced the dark side.  This young man appeared older now than he had several minutes ago.  He remained invisible in the Force.  I was no longer dueling a corrupted Arden Galienphas, but facing the revived Sith Lord, Lord Baarts.

“It is hopeless to think you will win,” Arden barked.  “Surrender yourself and you will find mercy.”

Again, he was right.  I surrendered to the light side of the Force.  I transformed into a beacon of serenity, drawing in more of the Force’s power and channeling it into a means of defence: the Jedi way.

“Only your anger will defeat me,” Arden taunted.  “Give in to your emotions.”

He was wrong; there is no emotion, there is peace.

“The ignorance of the Jedi has been their greatest enemy and it shall be their downfall,” Arden sniggered.  “It has nearly doomed them in the past.  It will doom them in permanence one day.”

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

Arden struck harder and faster, his blade failing to find an opening.  “I can continue this assault as long as I need to,” he shouted.  “There is only passion and through passion, I gain strength!”

There is no passion, there is serenity.

“With the knowledge contained within my holocron, my apprentice and I can reignite the Brotherhood, stronger and better organized than Lord Kaan’s.  We can bring the Jedi to their knees and unleash chaos across the galaxy once again!”

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

“And it will begin here, with your death, young one.”  Arden’s lips upturned in a sickening grin.

But I was not afraid; there is no death, there is the Force.

I countered another flurry of attacks.  Arden’s movements were wilder, less refined.  He was either growing impatient or getting flustered.  Still, I could not feel him in the Force.

“Give up, Jedi.  The Sith have always been superior in how we plot, how we fight, how we rule!”

Arden was right, again.  The Jedi were noble guardians, defenders of peace.  We were not trained to be warriors; we were not soldiers, but that is the role we had found ourselves in during the wars against the Sith and Mandalorians.  Yet we had refrained from resorting to their sorts of underhanded tactics as much as possible.  But it was their underhanded tactics that had achieved many victories for them.  That was the key to victory.

Arden swung his blade, slashing from the left, deking and rushing in; attacking with a series of hacks, cuts and thrusts.  I deftly batted each manoeuvre away, but held my ground.  I would no longer retreat.

As Arden’s last attack came, I stepped forward, raising the yellow blade of my lightsaber high.  I watched Arden grin as he noticed the opening.  He immediately leveled his blade and thrust it forward.  In one rapid motion, with the help of the Force, I brought my blade down, catching his green blade with my own.  I sidestepped Arden’s blade as I used his momentum to propel him stumbling towards me.  Bringing my blade up, I sliced through the hilt of his lightsaber.  The glowing green beam shorted out as the hilt severed into two pieces.  Raising my hand, I exerted a blow with the Force, pushing Arden backwards while I force-pulled Xoras Lo’s body across the ground, situating it behind Arden.  Stumbling backwards, he tripped over the body, smacking his head as he hit the ground.  Arden cried out in a howl of frustration, but it was not Arden’s voice.

I leapt forward, force-pushing Lo’s corpse away as I landed next to Arden.  I brought my blade to bear at his throat.

“You have reached your end, Sith,” I calmly announced.

Arden continued to hold the holocron, firmly clutched in his hand as if he believed it would protect him, as though it were a talisman.

“That won’t protect you now,” I said, gesturing to the pyramidal object.

Arden took a calm, deep breath.  His eyes beamed with the fury of the dark side.  “You’re right, young one.  There is nothing to protect me; I am vulnerable, susceptible to demise.”

“Yes, you are,” I boldly replied, a hint of anger reflected in my tone.

“Strike and return balance to the galaxy.”  Arden’s voice was dead of emotion.

“It will balance nothing.  Killing Arden will not be rid of you.”

Arden smirked.  “You are more thoughtful than I had previewed.  Your feelings serve you well.  The Force breeds a powerful ally in you.”

“As it does in every Jedi,” I countered, feeling distain towards this manipulator and his incessant tricks.

He appeared even more amused now.  “Tell that to Exar Kun or Alec Squinquargesimus.  The Force is a powerful ally to any who feel it, be they Jedi or Sith.  It is a Jedi’s greatest enemy while also their noblest guardian, whereas the Force is only a Sith’s ally.”

“It will always be my ally,” I asserted.

“Indeed?  Never be assured of what you cannot be sure of,” Arden’s tone was knowing, his words wise.

I kept my blade hovering before his throat.

“You will not kill me this day,” Arden slyly stated.  “You can feel it.  I can feel it in you.”

“I will if I must,” I replied.

A groan sounded behind us; Master Karthiss was coming to.  My attention remained on Arden.

“You cannot.  It is not the way.  The strong rule, the weak are meant to serve.  This is the way it must be.”  Arden’s eyes twinkled with passion.  He believed wholly in what he was saying.  “You are not strong enough to slay me.  You are meant to serve . . . as my apprentice.”

A cloud billowed in my head, smothering my brain, seeping into my thoughts and fogging my rationale.  Was he right?  Was this my path?  Was I not strong enough to kill him?

“I can grant you powers beyond your imagining, train you to achieve a strength superior to any Jedi or Sith who has come before you,” the voice promised.

It was tempting.  So tempting.

“I can make you strong, so that one day, you will be able to take my life.  You will have the authority to enforce peace and justice in every planetary system.”

I would have the power to eliminate the galaxy’s evil.  All I had to do was submit to training.  But I would serve a Sith.  But his vision was grander, more specific than Lord Kaan’s and the Brotherhood of Darkness’ had been; I could feel it.  His ideas were beyond good and evil, light side and dark side; they were worthy of pursuit.  Perhaps.

Arden’s eyes were full of lust, full of excitement.  No, not Arden’s eyes, Lord Baarts.  They were entrancing.

My blade lowered as my conviction wavered.

“Come with me,” Arden whispered.

“No!”

I snapped from my trance, startled by the outburst.  Turning, I watched as Master Phalaos Karthiss soared through the air, the glowing blue blade of his lightsaber raised over his head, ready to strike.

I stepped back.

As Master Karthiss plunged to the ground, bringing his blade to bear down on Arden’s torso, Arden rolled onto his knees and threw his shoulder into the Jedi’s gut.  The breath fled from Master Karthiss.  Arden spun about, snatching Karthiss’ lightsaber from his weakened grip.  Completing his turn, Arden swung the brilliant blue blade, cutting through Phalaos Karthiss’ waist.

“No!” I cried as the Jedi master’s two halves hit the ground.

I swung my lightsaber with all of my fury, all of my anger, all of my hatred.  Arden ducked, bringing his blade up in a vertical swing.  I was engulfed in a searing pain that lasted only a moment, but was quickly drowned by my ire.  In my present state, I was numb to most sensation.  Arden threw his elbow into the side of my face, driving me to the ground.

He stood over me, a satisfied smile on his lips.  “See how weak you are?”

My eyes welled with tears as he turned and walked away.

I struggled to my knees. “We are not done!” I furiously called to him.  “Don’t go!  We are not finished!  Don’t go!  Don’t leave me!”

He slowly sauntered into the forest.  He had nothing to fear.

I reached out for him, desperate, angry, afraid, and that’s when I noticed . . . the stump where my hand would have been.  I blinked the tears from my eyes to clear my vision as I raised my other arm to see the other stump.  I stared in disbelief.  My hands laid on the ground by my knee, the hilt of my lightsaber nearby.  My heart raced.  My body trembled with fear and panic.  I could not accept what I was seeing.  I could not believe it.

I screamed for as long as I could as loudly as I could.  I sat, slumped on my knees, lost.  What could I do?  I had failed.  I had failed myself.  I had failed the Jedi.  I had failed my master. What would come next?

I walked over to the unconscious form of my master and took a seat near her.  I was trapped on this planet, surrounded by the dark side of the Force until she and Padawan Ri’shan awoke.  I was not strong enough to do anything else.  I was only a padawan; meant to learn, meant to serve.

I close my eyes, take several deep, slow breaths and surrender to the Force.  It is in the Force where I will find the answers I am in search of.  It is where I will find peace, knowledge, serenity, and harmony.  It is in the Force where my chains will be broken.

 

END

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Tenets of the Jedi

 

There is no emotion, there is peace.

There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.

There is no passion, there is serenity.

There is no chaos, there is harmony.

There is no death, there is the Force.

 

 

Tenets of the Sith

 

Peace is a lie, there is only passion.

Through passion, I gain strength.

Through strength, I gain power.

Through power, I gain victory.

Through victory my chains are broken.


© Copyright 2017 Jeff Bezaire. All rights reserved.

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