I swear, this planet—
Ugh… this planet is death.
I see it now, Bogan: you rule here. What’s happening on Dathomir is your work – Yevra’s brutal injury, the Skybowl massacre, the ambush in the clearing… even what happened to Shado. I can see why the Jedi would want to re-build the praxeum here – as a point of light – but is it even possible to stem the tide of darkness I feel pressing in against me on all sides?!
Master Darach’s holocron called this place a nexus… it said that Dathomir itself could draw its inhabitants to the dark side. But it said it would be a slow process. That we needn’t worry as long as we don’t stay too long. But after what’s happened in the past two hours… maybe it was wrong. Maybe Dathomir corrupts more quickly—
Or maybe… it’s just us. Just me. Maybe the planet is just amplifying what’s already there.
“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never to attack.”
“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never to attack.”
“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and def—”
It’s… true, though. A Jedi doesn’t use the Force to attack, but to protect and serve others. That’s not the problem.
…It’s just that I can’t really be called a Jedi anymore. No matter how much I try to be better, no matter how much I want to deny it… No, I’m just Q’ayla Ren. A killer.
A cold-blooded killer.
That’s all you are, Q’ayla, and that’s all you’ll ever—ugh—
(heavy breathing; sounds of walking, then sitting)
(deep sigh) It isn’t the first time I’ve killed. I killed that terrorist Navik on Bespin, and I helped ‘kill’ the assassin Xora… I’ve killed bounty hunters, and I’ve killed rakghouls. I even killed a Sith Master masquerading as a terentatek. I’m not a youngling when it comes to dealing death – so why is this time so different? Why?!
(more heavy breathing)
…These weren’t innocent… not all of them. They attacked us first. We were only defending ourselves. Right? But… what about the last ones? When I… lost control. It’s not so unlike Bespin… Those people – out there in the clearing – they were helpless against me. I had already defeated them. Why wasn’t that enough?! Why did I have to kill them?!! I’m just making the same mistakes – failing again – aren’t I? I saw Q’aleane wounded during the fight, Irsin too. I was hurt badly… but that doesn’t excuse it. They were just lying there, barely conscious. And I stretched out with my blades and snuffed them out – ended lives as though they meant nothing. And… in that moment… they did mean nothing.
Oh Ashla, what is happening to me? What am I becoming?!
And… even if those deaths were similar to Navik’s, Shado’s was something else entirely. I listened to what Irsin said just before I killed Shado, I really did. He told me that he didn’t want me to “betray my ideals.” As I nodded absently, all I could think was, “I already have betrayed my ideals, Irsin. What’s one more death in the face of that?” So I pressed on, and struck Shado down…
…I couldn’t even commend his spirit to you properly, Ashla – or even you, Bogan! He wouldn’t tell me the name of his clan, not even for that! Is this what we’re becoming?! Jedi who can’t even connect with sincerity and compassion to a slave?!! I’m not sure what Irsin did during our interrogation, but I could sense Q’aleane reaching out to trick his mind, to make him more pliable to questioning. But it didn’t work – not this time, sis! We underestimated his training with the Force… thinking we could simply control him, because that’s all he’s ever known! How are we any different from the women who bound him in the first place?!
And then, how Q’aleane simply cast him aside… he wouldn’t give us information, and said he wanted to die, so why not give it to him, right? Is that what we are taught to do as Jedi?! I certainly don’t remember that lesson! A Jedi respects all life – even if that life doesn’t respect itself. I even tried to reason with her, to make her see that bringing him to the Bright Sun clan might give him a chance at a better life. She didn’t care – she had already completely written him off. She was absolutely certain he’d simply kill himself or walk out into the jungle and never return… and how can she be so sure of that?!! She doesn’t know anything about him or his clan. And haven’t the Bright Suns emancipated slaves before – how would this be any different?! She says that without his leg, he’s as good as dead – but wasn’t Yevra taken to Aurilia to have a prosthesis installed? Why couldn’t Shado receive the same treatment? The bottom line is: we don’t know what would have happened. All we know is that we – I – killed him because he wasn’t useful to us. And… (sigh)… how can I expect Q’aleane to look to her Jedi teachings in a situation like this? She’s just a Jedi in name only now, isn’t she?! I’ve even been given a glimpse – against my will, again – of how Q’aleane processes emotions. It was emptiness, like a void in my heart… Ashla, I hope I never feel that way again. But it doesn’t explain or excuse this!! In fact, if I had to compare her… her callousness to someone right at this moment, it would probably be Irsin – a Sith!
At least I can somewhat understand him. He told us he doesn’t want to return to the Sith, but he fights every day against a way of life that he had to … endure for so long. To Irsin, Shado would’ve appeared weak and pointless. His death wouldn’t change anything – and, in fact, it would keep him from betraying us to his clan. Like Q’aleane, he’s ignoring the baser value of life at stake here, but at least I know why he’s ignoring it. Hell, it’s taken him this long to see us as anything other than Jedi out to manipulate him – Shado would literally mean nothing to him. But I couldn’t let him do it. He does seem to be fighting against his Sith instincts – sometimes more than others – and to strike out against a helpless captive… it would have driven him back into that place of mistrust and survival-at-any-cost. Plus, we just found out that he has … flashbacks… this time of his mother’s ‘death’ at the hands of Grale. He lashed out at our attackers in some kind of blood frenzy – even my loss of control paled in comparison – and it was all we could do to keep him from killing Shado outright after he found him alive with Q’aleane. Irsin… is still such a mystery to me. But I care about him. I want to keep helping him, protecting him – even as I find myself needing the same from him – and I saw this as an opportunity to spare him the senseless death of another.
But he was right… of course he was. He said… I can still hear him so clearly…
“The first time you take a life in cold blood…it changes you.”
And he was right. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever done before. I keep seeing Shado’s face – defiant and resigned, staring up at the heavens – the image keeps slashing into my vision, and my stomach churns. This wasn’t self-defense against a skilled and aggressive foe… it wasn’t even like snuffing out a defenseless foe who had been beaten. No. This was an execution. An execution demanded by callousness and a lack of respect for life itself. An execution… demanded by the dark side. And not only did I betray my ideals by not forcing the matter of Shado’s survival – I killed him myself! Justify it however you like, Q’ayla: You were the only one who cared about his life, so who better to take it from him?; You had to protect Irsin from himself – you had to try and save him a little bit more!; You were outnumbered by the opinions of those closest to you— it doesn’t matter!! You killed a slave – a person, another living being!!! You. Killed. Him.
(more heaving breathing)
…With remorse? Yes – my heart aches for him. To commend his spirit… it was as much for me as for Shado.
Nevertheless, the deed is done. There’s no going back now – I’m changed. Irsin’s right about that. This will haunt me forever – and everything I do as a Jedi from here on out will be tempered and diminished by it.
…And, I will own up to it. When – if – we make it out and report to the Council, I will tell them of Shado. Even if Q’aleane doesn’t think it’s important, I will tell them. Let them do to me as they will. I have shamed myself and my Order to a degree I didn’t think was possible – even for me.
(deep sigh, then several moments of quiet)
But… it doesn’t do for me to stay out here all night. I can smell the beginnings of a fire, which means ‘camp’ has been set up. I want to talk to them – especially Irsin… Ashla I need him right now – but I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ll just take the first watch and let them sleep… I’m sure I won’t be getting any rest tonight anyways.
With the morning, we have to find Master Darach, finish his mission… if that’s even possible, and then get far, far away from this forsaken rock.
And I’ll never look back… except in dreams.