Q’ayla descends the ﬁnal few stairs leading to the landing. She stares out across the mass of people; dancing, laughing, singing. Crowds pressed against each other, moving in undulations with the heavy bass shaking the ﬂoor. Her gaze moves away from the crowds, looking for tables and booths.
Looking for him.
When she ﬁnally spies him – still unaware of her – she’s able to spend a few scant moments taking him in. He’s seated at a small, intimate booth, looking around casually at the energetic activity overtaking the club. He seems to her then like the eye of a storm; so calm, so collected.
“So serious,” she thinks to herself with a wry smile spreading across her lips.
He’s dressed in a light-grey suit; it pairs wonderfully with his hair and skin. It matches his eyes. She’s so accustomed to seeing him in dark, heavy armors that she can’t help but stare— of course, that’s when he sees her.
A slow smile spreads across his face and, across the sea of people, her smile goes from wry to excited and warm.
Q’ayla descends the ﬁnal few stairs leading to the club ﬂoor. Making her way towards him, she hears a few cat-calls from various patrons of various species and various genders. This doesn’t concern her, not really. As a Jedi, she’s used to investigating cantinas and clubs, and is equally used to the people and their drinks. And besides, while they’re all looking at her, she’s looking only at him.
“Hi Irsin!” she says with a grin on her face as she ﬁnally reaches his booth. He stands and, she notices, takes a moment to run his eyes over her.
“Q’ayla, you… you look amazing.”
She blushes, looking down slightly. And it’s then that she notices for the ﬁrst time her clothes. A strapless black dress, noticeably shorter and tighter than her usual style, and adorned with a deep-red pattern. Curiously, she attempts to place it— of course! It resembles Irsin’s facial tattoos; curved, tribal-like markings that stretch the length of the dress’s sides. Completing the ensemble is a pair of open-toed black heels. Still blushing and smiling, she reaches her hand up to brush her hair back, and feels an elaborate earring— something else new and unexpected.
She ﬁnishes this cursory inspection in only a few seconds, then joins Irsin in the booth.
Sitting there with him, as they order drinks, Q’ayla realizes that the shifting lights and thunderous sounds of the club seem distant now. It’s as if the world has retreated away from them, leaving them to their privacy.
She also realizes that she wouldn’t have it any other way.
As drinks come and go… and come and go, they talk of everything. His life, his past; her family, her Jedi upbringing; adventures they’ve both had over the years. And this is only the beginning. So many details come to light, and Q’ayla cannot contain the— not excitement, perhaps. But happiness, and contentment. They are connecting in ways she’d only dreamed of; it is as if they now know everything there is to know of one another. They are open and honest, and the connection between them seems to grow in a matter of hours now instead of months.
After the third round of drinks – or is it the fourth? – their conversation turns to a more intimate place. Irsin’s hand is on hers, and her other hand brushes against his cheek, gently tracing the tattoos that mirror her dress, and they speak tenderly in hushed voices. As he turns his head slightly and begins kissing her ﬁngertips, she giggles and draws her hands away, looking at him with nervous longing. He slides over closer to her in the tiny booth, and wraps an arm around her shoulders. He leans in towards her, his eyes closing slowly.
She closes off her vision, anticipating his warm embrace.
His lips brush up against hers.
She is paralyzed.
Q’ayla is paralyzed.
She opens up her vision to the Force again, but the club is empty now. Still and silent as death. It doesn’t take her long to discover that she is in fact no longer in the club – no longer sitting in the booth with Irsin. Irsin is gone. The booth is gone. The moment is gone.
The feeling of loss and regret passes quickly as she looks down at herself and discovers not a little black dress, but instead her Padawan uniform.
Suddenly, the world seems a much smaller place. A place she thought, with panic beginning to wash over her like a summer sweat, that she would never see again.
Looking up, Q’ayla sees the four stone walls of the cramped, dank room. A room somewhere in Cuipernam. A room far from home.
“Irsin!” she calls out. “Irsin, help me! Please!”
Silence shakes her like a deep bass rhythm – one only she can hear.
It does not last long. The impact comes from empty air, a quick, heavy blow straight into her face. Her visor takes the brunt of it, but it quickly deteriorates and crumbles into her lap, the pieces bounding to the ﬂoor. She can already feel her face begin to swell… just as it had before.
It was happening again.
Through the pain, Q’ayla struggles to hear it. The laugh. She does not have to wait long. The shrill cackle, mixed with a groan of pleasure, ﬁlls the deathly silence of the tiny room. She knows that Trasa will appear in front of her, waving her taozin amulet with giddy, sadistic excitement; she is therefore terrified when the woman’s voice ﬁlls her ear from behind.
“No… this isn’t right. This… isn’t how it happened! Irsin, please! Help!!” Her voice is strong, but it’s betrayed by her trembling body.
“Irsin? Help you? Irsin’s not going to help you, you bitch! He’s mine.” Trasa’s voice is a mix of derision and cruel satisfaction, dripping into Q’ayla’s mind like a honeyed poison.
“No… no! You’re lying, Trasa! He’s not like you, he doesn’t need you, and he doesn’t want you! He’s changed, I know it!”
Her head is suddenly whipped back, and the metal chair-back slams into her.
“Oh no? You think he’s changed? You think he’s some kind of righteous Jedi now?! Ha!” Trasa’s laugh once again ﬁlls the room. “You don’t understand anything, Q’ayla Ren. You haven’t learned anything!”
Q’ayla tries to turn her head to the side to get a look at Trasa, to see her and make her real, but just as she catches a glimpse of blue skin and red eyes, another blow slams into her stomach. She lurches forward, coughing and choking. She vomits up nothing but bile— there’s nothing left in her, she remembers. As she groans loudly and spits on the ﬂoor, her scalp becomes like ﬁre as her head is wrenched back by the hair.
As the form of her abuser— her torturer shifts into view, Q’ayla releases a deep sigh.
“Yes, this is right. This is how I remember it…” she thinks as bile runs down her chin and neck. “It was just a trick… she wasn’t behind—”
The form materializes from nothing. There is no taozin amulet. There is no blue skin, no deep, hateful red eyes. No Trasa.
She is gutted.
“Noooo… no… no…” Her head shakes weakly as she stares into his eyes. They pair wonderfully with the grey stone of the room. Tears well up from deep inside her, her heart pounding in her chest.
Her scream breaks his stillness; his hands snap into a readied position, fingers spread. In the next instant, a blinding purple light screams from him, digging into every part of her body. She attempts to defend herself, and finds her limbs bound fast to the chair. She has no defense against him; the lightning tears into her clothes and flesh, rending both with a high-pitched squeal.
Q’ayla screams in agony as the lightning invades her. From somewhere else, she can hear a twisted moan of pleasure; Trasa is drinking in her suffering.
The torment continues on unabated for several minutes. Finally, his hands drop slowly to his sides, the lightning dying out. Q’ayla continues to scream for several moments afterwards; her voice is almost completely gone now. She takes shallow, painful breaths. She feels her heartbeat – slow, labored, barely there. Her head sags forward, slumping against her chest.
“… … … Ir— … Irsin—”
She struggles against weariness and misery, finally managing to raise her head up to meet his unfeeling gaze. She forces several tortured breaths before continuing.
“…Irsin… you don’t have to do this. You’re… a good… person… better… than this. You’re better than Tras—”
The last word is abruptly cut off, along with the rest of her air. Her eyes and mouth widen; instinctively, she tries to bring her hands to her throat, but they remain impossibly still. Staring up into his face, she can see the intense concentration there even before he raises his right hand – the thumb and index finger curved in a cruel gesture. She gasps, wretches, croaks against his power. Keeping her dead eyes on him, she tries desperately to reach him, to plead for her life—
The pain intensifies as his only answer. Bright flashes pop in her vision, and Q’ayla can barely keep her head level as it forces itself back, arcing her against the chair-back. As her vision begins to break down, her head lolls forward again. Using every bit of strength she has left, she stares into Irsin’s cold eyes, and forces words past her dying lips.
“… … … forgive… … … you… … …”
His eyes intensify their look, and she watches as grey becomes the orange-red of the Sith, and then simply a deep, dark Chiss-red.
His face twists into a sadistic snarl.
Q’ayla hears several small cracks in her throat—
—and the pain is already subsiding, though barely. Breathing is painful, almost impossible. Through the dark haze clouding her vision, Q’ayla can see someone standing behind Irsin – rooted in place. Unmoving. The voice sounds familiar though…
Irsin turns to face her sister, an eyebrow raised in sinister curiosity.
“YOU HAVE TAKEN MY SISTER AWAY, IRSIN. MENTALLY AND EMOTIONALLY. ENOUGH!”
Irsin simply stares at Q’aleane. Neither makes moves toward the other. After several moments in silence, Q’ayla hears a faint noise.
It’s not Trasa’s, though. It’s deeper and unfamiliar. She would not have recognized it as his if she did not see his shoulders beginning to shake as the laughter intensifies.
Irsin is laughing at Q’aleane – loudly.
Suddenly, Trasa stands next to Irsin, appearing out of the darkness. Her head is resting on his shoulder, her hands wrapped around his arm. Her laugh erupts from her, once again shrill and filled with sadistic pleasure. Their bodies shake in unison; the red markings on her black dress mirror his dark face and armor.
The laughter continues on, echoing off the walls, even as Trasa and Irsin begin an intimate embrace. Q’ayla’s strength has left her, she cannot even turn away from it.
She sits there, watching the man she loves couple with the woman she hates. And waits to die.
Q’aleane doesn’t move or say a word. She is utterly still, and staring intently at Q’ayla. There is no emotion in her face.
When Q’ayla breaks her sister’s gaze and looks back at Irsin and Trasa, she is horrified to see their bodies literally combining— morphing, changing. Massive clusters of muscle tear through the two coupling bodies, disintegrating limbs and torsos. Melding the two into a single being. A giant being.
The walls of the tiny room explode outwards as the rancor that was Irsin and Trasa stretches itself into its full majesty. Q’ayla and Q’aleane somehow remain in place. Though she can’t see much anymore, Q’ayla notices that this is not the grassy plains of Cuipernam outside the torture room.
It’s the dark-red jungle of Dathomir.
The rancor appears to ignore Q’ayla, instead bending forward and releasing a massive roar into the face of her sister. Q’aleane stands firm, her face is stone. She makes no move against the rancor, instead staring straight into its massive eyes. The rancor’s head tilts to one side – it’s surprised perhaps? Then, turning at the waist, it notices Q’ayla still broken and beaten and dying.
She sees its massive, clawed hand reaching for her. She has no defense. She is helpless.
In the next moments she is flying into the air, the beast’s hand around her and the chair, making them one. The rancor turns back to Q’aleane now, Q’ayla in its grip. As Q’ayla tries desperately to speak – to tell her sister to run – Q’aleane’s voice booms across the jungle clearing:
“YOU HAVE TAKEN MY SISTER AWAY, IRSIN. MENTALLY, EMOTIONALLY, AND NOW PHYSICALLY. ENOUGH!”
The rancor stands up straighter, tilting its head back. Its roar is like thunder shattering across the silent world. As Q’ayla shudders against the noise, she feels a sudden rush of pain strike out through her body.
The rancor’s grip is tightening. Her mouth opens wide, but no screams come. Her throat has been destroyed, and as she hears several cracks of bone, she realizes that the rest of her will soon follow. The pain is excruciating, and she feels herself fading, when there’s a loud pop in her ears, accompanying the loudest crack of all. The pain turns off like a light-switch, and through her labored breaths, she can feel the warmth of blood spilling out of her mouth, splotching the rancor’s immense clawed fingers. The beast wrings his hand, still squeezing, and bends down as if to show Q’aleane its murderous work.
Q’ayla’s head falls to one side, and she finds herself staring into her sister’s face for the last time. She takes solace in that never-changing visage – so calm, so collected. But just as the darkness overtakes her, she sees something— something amazing.
Q’aleane is crying.
Tears stream down her face, though she says nothing at all. The clear streams of tears wind down her cheeks and fall into the grass. Then, as if not incredible enough, the tears darken and deepen, turning now to… blood?
Q’aleane is crying blood.
The last thing Q’ayla sees – and feels in her mind – before death finally claims her, is her sister’s Force aura, always neutral and even, melt away into darkness. A darkness that overtakes Q’aleane.
A darkness that screams out of her towards the rancor. Towards Irsin. Towards Trasa.
Towards them all.
Q’ayla wakes suddenly, jerking forward into a sitting position. Sweat pours down her face, and her body shudders with quick, shallow breaths. She looks around, trying to get her bearings. Gradually, she remembers the jungle, and the camp. The fire’s last wisps of smoke signal its death.
Her gaze passes over the clearing, until she spies Irsin. He is asleep near his gear, thankfully still unaware of her. She’s able to spend a few scant moments taking him in, grasping for any kind of comfort from the nightmare, before she realizes the terrible truth.
Q’aleane isn’t there, watching over them.
Q’aleane is gone.