(There’s a knock at Q’aleane’s door.)
Q’aleane? You in there?
(The door opens.)
Sure, c’mon in.
(As Q’ayla enters she sees Q’aleane in a meditative position on her bed with her holocron, ridiculously expensive holocron/computer interface she seldom uses at all – let alone to its full potential – and the Master Holocron in front of her.)
Oh, sorry— am I interrupting? I can come back. I just wanted to see how you’re doing.
(Q’ayla stands in the doorway hesitating to enter.)
(Q’aleane looks at her quizzically, then down at her stuff, as if it takes a second to realize why Q’ayla thought she was interrupting.)
No, I was just going to do some research, nothing that can’t wait.
(She telepathically moves the chair over so Q’ayla can sit opposite her without her moving off of the bed.)
Please, come in.
(Looking closer at Q’aleane, Q’ayla notices she is wearing only the ooglith and her lightsabers.)
(Q’ayla enters the room, moving to the chair and sitting down, her legs tucked up underneath her.)
What kind of research? Anything I can help with?
No, nothing really. I was just curious about Dathomiri hunting culture. A lot of warrior- and strength-driven cultures use hunting as a way of proving strength. I also was going to try and convince our friends (she glances at the Master Holocron) to give up any information they might have in the restricted sections on the Nightsisters, in case there is something about the binding that we can use.
(She seems like her old self, looking confident, but when mentioning the hunting culture Q’ayla noticed that she was having the ooglith extend over her hands and back almost absently, something she has noticed her sister do when distracted by something she is trying to get a handle on.)
Well, I’m not sure about the Master Holocron giving you anything, but as far as hunting goes, I think any Dathomiri would be humbled by the rancor you… brought down? … Speaking of which, how are you doing with all that? Are any of your memories returning?
(Q’aleane seems distracted while answering the first question – almost quoting from rote some notes Q’ayla seems to remember from a data entry studied at the Academy)
Well, Palpatine is known to have had a fascination with the Nightsisters, being one of the two major dark side cults he utilized to forward his aims. I am hoping that in Palpatine’s original holocron section there might be some information. As for my memories…
(She pauses as she looks inward)
I can only really remember one bit and it is not that helpful since there is no way it could have actually happened.
…What do you remember?
(It’s clear she wants to know, yet there’s something apprehensive about her question.)
(Q’aleane clearly is uncomfortable with this line of questioning and pauses awkwardly – a rare sight – before answering.)
Well, I remember the bit which I think corresponds with the part of the holorecording where I get hit by a branch… I think. I could bring it up if you want…
(She is clearly stalling a bit.)
(Q’ayla tilts her head slightly at this strange behavior coming from her sister, then shakes her head slightly.)
Oh no, that’s alright. I remember the holorecording bits. I meant more about why you were out there in the first place, or what could have possibly happened between you and that rancor…
(Again, there’s something unspoken here)
But I’m sure your memories will return with time.
(Something about Q’ayla looking at her triggers a subconscious response and as Q’aleane continues it seems something “auto-corrected” and she is back to rationality.)
I am being foolish. In the holo, you see me turn around, well I remember very clearly that when I turned around, the rancor was killing you. Which makes no sense given you were hours away and nowhere near the rancor at the time.
(Q’ayla realizes that given the timing it would have been at that moment in the holo that Q’aleane started weeping.)
(Something changes – quite abruptly – in Q’ayla when you mention the rancor killing her)
Wait— what did you say? The rancor was killing me?
(She untucks her legs; her feet come to rest on the floor. She goes to put her face in her hands, then realizes she’s wearing her visor. Taking it off, she places it in her lap before rubbing at her face with her hands for a moment. When she looks up again, there are the beginnings of tears in her eyes. She runs a hand back through her hair and looks at her sister.)
How… how is that possible?
What is going on with this planet?!
(When Q’ayla starts tearing up, she notices Q’aleane’s energy shift slightly. After she’s done talking, Q’aleane reaches over and lightly presses at the bridge of Q’ayla’s nose between the eyes. Q’ayla can almost hear the audible “boop” her sister used to make when they were kids and she did this to try and distract her from being sad. She hasn’t done it in years after Q’ayla complained at how un-Jedi-like it was.)
Well obviously it wasn’t killing you since you are here and were not there.
(She has something of an impish tone when saying that, making it clear she knew what Q’ayla meant.)
But I agree, this planet definitely has issues.
I just remember seeing you nearby, distracted by something and the rancor charging you. That’s the last I remember, well and the first. Other than that it’s just going into meditation and waking up in rancor brain.
(Q’ayla releases something between a short laugh and a sigh when Q’aleane presses her nose.)
(She keeps a smile for a few more moments, then becomes pensive again; her gaze moves around not really looking at anything.)
Maybe… could it have been our new link? I mean it’s the only explanation…
It can’t just be coincidence— only the Force.
(She seems to be somewhat frantically trying to reconcile many things in her head.)
(Seeing her sister’s confusion, Q’aleane’s demeanor shifts further back to her old self, completing the journey as it were…)
There could be many explanations as to why I would hallucinate. But I sense you are talking about something else?
Yeah… that night at the camp, I had a really bad nightmare.
(Her mouth moves a little at first without words, as though she’s considering what to say)
…I don’t usually have them, you know?
But this was so intense.
And… I was back— I mean, in the end, there was an enormous rancor… and then you were there. And the rancor… killed me. And as I died, you started crying— then your tears turned to blood! And then… how did it go?… Oh yeah— and then just before I woke up, your Force aura exploded out with dark energy, consuming everything there was.
(She’s shuddering a little at the remembrance, as if some measure of the intensity lives on.)
(An expression that is all too familiar to Q’ayla passes over her sister’s face when she mentions the rancor killing her. After a moment it passes, and it appears she is looking inward.)
I see… I might have a question for our resident Sith. I wonder if someone or something caused this to happen to fuel something else. Whatever it is, it would be very, very dangerous.
(She pauses, contemplating things.)
(The thought of Irsin being connected to this seems to make Q’ayla quite uncomfortable.)
Irsin? You think Irsin knows something about this? I mean, this isn’t a Sith technique, is it?
(She calms herself again)
At first, I thought it was just a bad dream. But there was some lingering sense… of pain, maybe? Or distress? (shaking her head quickly) I don’t know what it was, but when I saw you weren’t keeping the watch, I started to get really worried.
And then… when we found you out in that jungle with a giant rancor… it was just like my nightmare. I mean, the rancor wasn’t as big in real life, but it did seem strangely familiar to me… and, of course, your tears of blood.
(She looks up at Q’aleane again, pleading for some kind of understanding)
You don’t think the Nightsisters are manipulating us, do you?
(She looks down again)
…this cursed planet is already doing enough.
(After asking about Irsin, Q’ayla sees her sister look inward again; from past experience she knows she heard the rest but that it will take a few seconds for Q’aleane to catch up as she was deeply contemplating something.)
Irsin? No, I doubt he has a motive to do anything like this, and it would require a much greater connection to the land than he has… no but I want to talk to him about some theory questions. I know Sith can sometimes tap into emotions or energy from others and I don’t have a good enough understanding of the theory to see if that is what is at work.
The Nightsisters? Maybe. But I am thinking something else. This planet has a dark effect naturally. How such a thing could come about is something that scholars have theorized about quite a bit.
But I am wondering if there isn’t some will at work. Using the dark energies it has to manipulate things to the end of releasing and incorporating further dark energy.
Basically I am wondering if something isn’t manipulating us, the dark sisters— everyone.
(Q’ayla shakes her head, as though her effort to make sense of things has come up short.)
I don’t understand… what I do know is that we can’t stay here much longer. We need to find Master Darach and get him and Yevra off this planet. That poor girl…
(She shakes her head again)
I can only begin to understand what she’s going through. She seems better now that she’s on the ship, but her recovery is only just beginning. The sooner we can get her and her Master off Dathomir, the better. After that, well…
(She trails off, but there’s a lot hanging on that “well.”)
(After hearing Q’ayla say “I don’t understand,” a look comes over Q’aleane that seems to almost will her to understand. Not “normal” teacher mode Q’aleane, but something she feels is important.)
Okay, say you are something like a plant that eats insects. You need the nutrients from insects to grow. Consequently, you create an environment that is appealing to insects. You use the nutrients to grow bait that draws the insects, giving you more nutrients. So let’s say for the moment the plant is the planet, and instead of insects it feeds on traditionally dark energies – things like fear or anger. The bait it uses to draw these energies out are things like uplifting the most frightening creatures on the planet so they are more intelligent and even more frightening – the rancor. As it grows stronger it starts manipulating the energy directly. It draws in Jedi and other Force-powerful users. It feeds them enough so they grow strong and then feeds off their terror, anger, etc. In short, I am wondering if her master didn’t just get caught in the trap, not realizing what had baited him.
(She comes up for breath.)
(Q’ayla’s brow furrows; she’s really trying to grasp the concepts.)
So Dathomir itself… err, or something else on the planet, may be manipulating us all? Could it have anything to do with the dark side “nexus” you mentioned in your holorecording? We didn’t find any trace of something like that, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there before.
Maybe…. I wish I could remember more. But consider the incident rate of medium to strong Force users in the native population. They have more per capita strong Force users than we do and our species evolved to see via the Force. Why would that be?— It’s not intrinsic in their species, since they are just offshoots of existing species. Along with that, why would rancor evolve here to near sapience and nowhere else in the galaxy? Of all the species on this planet to evolve that way could you pick one more terrifying or more useful in eliciting terror? I mean it’s just a theory, but it fits. It could even “naturally” have evolved from something far smaller, but feeding as it does and growing it could now be powerful enough to encompass the whole planet, or is the whole planet depending.
Either way I want to get off this rock.
(Q’ayla nods in agreement. She stays quiet for a moment – indecisive – before speaking again.)
Q’aleane, can I ask you something?
(Being in her analytical mood, the question seems to confuse Q’aleane.)
Yeees, I think so. What is wrong?
I… I know that for you, the Jedi Code doesn’t hold a lot of water anymore, does it? And I… well, I’ve been thinking that maybe the only reason you’re still with the Order is because of me. When we get back to Taris – if we get back to Taris – I’m going to have to tell the Council about Shado. And what I did to him. I know you and Irsin think it needed to be done, and aren’t concerning yourself with it anymore.
But I am.
I don’t know how the Council will react— what they’ll say or do to me. And… I find that there’s a part of me that doesn’t care what they say or do.
(Realizing she’s rambling…)
I— I guess what I’m trying to say is: I might not be part of the Jedi Order for much longer, and I don’t want you to be disappointed in me. You know, for not making it to Battlemaster and all of that. I just… I’m not sure that it’s the right path for me…
…maybe it never really was.
You were always so much better at being a Jedi than me. And I’ve tried, I really have. Every day. But… with everything that’s happened recently… maybe what I really need is a new path.
A new beginning, you know?
Anyways, I’ve wanted to tell you about this for a couple of days now, but there hasn’t been the time.
(She looks up at her sister intently)
Please don’t be disappointed in me.
Why would I be disappointed in you?
The Jedi Code is good but I think it has been changed over the years. Did I ever tell you about the time I snuck into special collections?
(A very peaceful look comes over her face.)
(Q’ayla’s mouth opens incredulously, a sly smile spreading across her lips)
I’m not surprised, though!
(A small snicker escapes from Q’aleane)
Yeah, I never did do well with being told I can’t do something.
Well at any rate, there was this short paper labeled “Meditations on the Force.” I am not sure who wrote it, just that it was very, very old and literally on paper. It had a version of the Jedi Code I had never heard. It made far more sense to me than the one we were taught and I suspect it might be closer to the original. Instead of ‘there is no such and such, only such and such,’ it went as follows:
Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.
That to me is what the Jedi Order is about – and should be about.
If that puts me at odds with the Council so be it. But I really have little desire to suffer their meaningless scorn.
I think my mood was a bit darker than usual on the planet or I would have tried to convince Shado to live, but that being said… why bother telling them when we know what they are going to say?
You’re right, I do think I know what they’re going to say. And I don’t want to tell them for their sake, but for my own. I feel that I did Shado wrong by not respecting his life, especially after all he suffered as a slave.
Yet there’s a part of me that can see where you and Irsin are coming from on this. And I want the Council to know that I don’t just see things in black and white like they would have me; life is filled with grey. If they want to throw me out of the Order for that – like they did with Alema – then so be it.
But I’m getting tired of hiding, sis.
I want to be me again.
And maybe the only way I can do that is to just be Q’ayla, and not a Jedi.
I think you are right – I should have respected his life more than his wishes. However, why do you need someone else to tell you that? You already believe it, why seek the validation of those you believe are wrong? Or let me put it another way: We go to them and they kick us out, they learn nothing. We go to them and we confidently assert our belief that they are wrong and give them reason to reconsider their beliefs— maybe, just maybe, in a few years they will look back and reconsider their position and possibly learn and grow from the experience.
I agree though, I think it is time that we no longer claim the title or the burden of what they call Jedi. Instead we take on ourselves the mission of peace that the Jedi should be doing.
(A warm smile spreads across Q’ayla’s face.)
I would like that.
It’s not our job to make the Council understand. We can be out there, doing good in the galaxy. Let them figure it out for themselves; or not.
The three of us can do a lot of good, without having to guard ourselves against a code that tells us not to be ourselves. And who knows— maybe finding the grey holocrons will give us enough to help other Force users who have gotten lost?
I think I just hope too much that they will shift their path and cease harming the cause they purport to represent. I am thinking of simply sending them a message with the code I just told you about and the statement:
“We choose now to walk on our own in the Force to those places you choose not to walk, for peace’s sake. We choose to embrace that which, though it sometimes makes peace difficult, is the only thing that makes peace worth having. Peace without emotion is meaningless, just as the Force out of balance births only conflict and repression. Yours in the Force always, the Ren sisters— Knights no more.”
You’re sure you wouldn’t rather tell them in person? I mean, if only for respect’s sake. They did raise us after all…
Maybe I’m being too sentimental. Heh… I would be too something, wouldn’t I?
I just hope we’re making the right call on this, Q’aleane.
But I… these feelings I have… my heart tells me this is the right path for me.
(She smiles then, perhaps to herself more than anyone else? She runs a hand through her hair, looking back up as she catches herself.)
I am torn; on the one hand, I acknowledge the desire to tell them in person. On the practical side, it makes things difficult. In the Jedi Academy, they are the law. They could try to impound our ship, take our sabers, or any number of things that could cause it to be difficult to get out. Given we do have a precious resource – the Master Holocron – to protect, I think we might consider practicality over our desire to show the appropriate respect.
(She looks somewhat quizzical and pauses a moment, shifting as she does to a different tangent altogether.)
Can I talk about something that has been bothering me a bit?
I have observed you and Irsin changing someone’s emotions. Making someone more peaceful, including each other. Yet when I do it, you both get angry at me. It feels… upsetting and unfair. (She is rambling a bit now) In some ways, what I do is more fair, I don’t change any emotions – the emotions are still there when things wear off, it just gives a period of peace from them… I really don’t understand why you both got so angry at it.
(This has actually been in the back of her mind this whole time, and it kind of pours out. Q’ayla could swear she sees Q’aleane on the verge of tearing up.)
(Q’ayla quickly reaches out and takes her sister’s hand in hers, stroking it gently.)
Hey… Q’aleane… no, no. You misunderstand. I’m not angry at you for what you did back in the clearing. It was… unexpected, to be sure, but I’m not angry.
You and I, we… we experience emotions differently. At least, in our normal states of mind. I’ll admit, I always thought you were just more stoic than I, but now I know better. You experience emotions on a different level than I do, and for different reasons. I’m not used to how you normally feel, so the sudden expression of that inside me came as a shock. I do wish you’d give me some more warning before you do stuff like that (still smiling warmly to make sure Q’aleane knows she’s not scolding) but I’m certainly not mad at you for doing it.
You were just trying to help.
I’ve been trying for years to emulate your emotional state when I’m in my “Jedi” persona, but have you noticed how bad I am at it? This is the same kind of thing. Irsin and I just experience emotions differently.
And Irsin… he might have been angry at you initially, but he already explained why. When he was having the flashback about his mother, he’s used to feeling a certain way about it. It’s not productive – especially since he knows it’s just a flashback – but he can’t help it. He needs to feel grief and anger at the loss of his mother – even when he’s not losing her; not really. To have his emotions purged from him, I think it felt like he was betraying her and her death.
I’m sure he’s not upset with you anymore, though. And you both explained yourselves fully, I think.
You were just trying to help. We all do that. It shows that we care. And I’m glad that you care enough about Irsin to try to help him through something so difficult and so foreign to you.
(With one hand, Q’ayla reaches a finger up and hesitantly ‘boops’ Q’aleane on the bridge of her nose, then laughs a little.)
(Q’aleane seems a bit lost in thought…)
I hope Irsin gets better. We need to find his mom. I think breaking with the Jedi should give us more time to help him deal with his past.
A part of me wants to leave now, but we really need to help the Jedi master first. And I am totally out of ideas on how to proceed.
I hope Irsin gets better too… we do need to find Grale, and soon. With any luck, Doone’s device will lead us right to him, but I’m not sure how much more Irsin has to do with it first.
As for Master Darach, I think we’ve got as good a plan as we’re likely to get. Barukka must know something about the Nightsisters, and with Yevra’s help, we’ll find him and put an end to this… somehow.
(A sort of nervous calm takes hold of Q’ayla when she talks about Irsin. Despite her emotional state, she seems to be shifting a bit in her chair. She sits back and tucks her legs underneath again, then runs a hand through her hair, fiddling with one of her braids.)
Did you happen to reach out into our link at all when you were meditating that night at the campfire… or is that time lost with your other memories?
The last thing I remember is setting up the fire pit and sitting down to meditate while I waited for Irsin and you to get back.
Well… heh… gods, listen to me…
Listen, I don’t have any experience with this kind of thing, but I don’t want you to feel… I don’t know, not needed or, awkward or, —gods…
…I think there’s something going on between me and Irsin.
(She’s already starting to blush before she says it)
I kissed him, Q’aleane.
(She puts her face in her hands, shaking her head, and when she looks up again, she has a girlish grin on her face)
And he kissed me back.
(Even as she’s grinning, she looks up at the ceiling and starts shaking her head again)
Master Tahl did not train us for this… I have no idea what to say or do.
He must think I’m a complete idiot…
But I wanted to tell you, sis. You’re my best friend – not to mention, my sister – and I’ve never really had the chance to talk about guys with you.
It’s not going to be awkward between us now, is it?
(Q’aleane actually laughs a bit.)
Why would it be awkward? I knew you guys were going to kiss months ago.
I doubt he thinks you are a complete idiot. He is probably just as confused as you are. I don’t get the impression he is any more experienced at this than we are.
(Q’ayla laughs, surprised)
What do you mean you knew?
You guys have been awkwardly pursuing each other for the last month or so. Just neither of you realized it.
(There is an amused smile on her face.)
We have not!
I have to admit, there was something… a kind of connection… that I’ve felt for some time…
I feel like such a fool— not even able to recognize… love… when it comes up and smacks me in the face.
And I wouldn’t be so sure about Irsin’s inexperience. I certainly made an ass of myself trying to kiss him. But when he reciprocated, I could tell… he’s been with people before, I’m sure of it. He didn’t say anything – of course – but I could tell.
Now that you mention it, when we were looking for Alema in the undercity, and you said something about “the crazy things people do for love,” I could have sworn I saw… something… come over Irsin for just a second. Like he was remembering something.
(She shakes her head slowly)
I don’t know. But I’m glad that things aren’t weird between us.
Because I care about him, Q’aleane. I find that I care deeply about him.
And I’m so relieved that you understand.
(She smiles warmly at her.)
Don’t worry about it, from what I am led to believe being the last to know is normal. I think not having the same emotional experience gives me a unique perspective sometimes and makes some things show up a lot easier from contrast.
As for experience, he might have been with others, but in some ways he is less experienced with relationships having an emotional connection. After all, think about growing up Sith and what kinds of relationships that would create.
As for understanding, I wouldn’t go that far… but what I lack in understanding is more than made up for by the fact that I am happy you are happy, and I think the only way this would be awkward is if I happen to listen in at just the wrong time.
(Her impish voice implies that she is actively trying to get her sister to blush with that statement.)
(It has the desired effect – Q’ayla goes a deep red)
(She can’t control a rush of laughter.)
Okay well, enough of this, I have research to do… go spend some quality time with Irsin.
I promise I won’t be looking.
(Q’ayla untucks her legs, stands up, takes a couple of steps to the bed, leans over, and hugs Q’aleane tight.)
Love you, sis.
(She lets go, then heads towards the door. As it opens, she stands in the doorway for a moment before turning back)
Don’t study too hard— and remember, I’m just across the hallway if you ever need anything. Or, you know, just to chat!
Feel better, Q’aleane, and don’t forget to get some rest.
(Q’ayla walks out the door, and it closes with a whoosh behind her.)