< deep breaths >
< shuffling, sitting >
< long, deep breath >
This isn’t working.
I’ve been out there for hours – I thought if I practiced some old, familiar Makashi drills, I might be able to quiet my mind. Closing off my senses, losing myself in the form – each feint, each thrust – but no matter, I kept falling into Juyo. I can’t keep my emotions in check… Hopefully I didn’t wake Q’aleane… although, come to think of it, does she sleep anymore? <chuckles> …by the gods, there’s so much about her I don’t know anymore…
< sigh >
But that’s a separate matter entirely. And that’s not what has me up in the middle of the night sparring against flickering, flittering shadows. And I can’t keep hiding from myself like this. It’s not the Jedi way.
But maybe I’m not really a Jedi.
What am I – really?
< deep breaths, then quietly, almost a whisper >
I… I killed him.
I killed Master Tahl. I struck him down… not in defense of myself, but in rage, and anger, and… and hatred.
Of course, Q’aleane keeps telling me – reminding me – that it wasn’t real. That it was only a vision, a simulation. But she doesn’t know, she doesn’t understand…
Perhaps I should start at the beginning, in order for all of this to make sense.
We left Taris early yesterday morning, seeking Sith artifacts on Wayland. After acclimating myself to Q’aleane’s living ship, I decided to spend the voyage in the welcome company of my sister, sparring as we haven’t done for over a year now. It was good to be with her again, feeling her blades and her techniques almost as extensions of my own… it’s hard to explain, but Q’aleane and I have a connection that … well, let’s just put it this way: I haven’t felt entirely whole while we were apart this past year. So to be with her on board this strange, alien ship, crossing swords and catching up, it was both exhilarating and calming for me. I felt at home, and I felt … mostly content. I say “mostly” because Irsin – that is to say, “Roan” – was at the time still an unknown. Apparently, while we sparred, Q’aleane had her ship spy on him, and while doing so picked up a personal recording being created. And that’s when things went downhill for me.
“Roan,” as we found out, was… is… a member of the Sith Order.
I still remember how I felt when she told me – the hurt, the anger, the betrayal… not simply personal betrayal, mind you. I had vouched for “Roan” personally to the Council members, and now come to find out he’s a Sith…
Needless to say, the on-ship meal was… awkward.
“Roan” – oh what’s the use, I’ll just call him Irsin. His name is Irsin Rashos. So Irsin comes to the bridge, and as soon as the food is served, Q’aleane gets right to it … leave it to my diplomatic sister to confront a Sith like that! <chuckles> I guess it’s better than the alternative – I was absolutely ready to kill him – his initial manipulation at my attempt for a connection was enough provocation at the time. However, I must admit, what I heard next took me aback.
Apparently, Irsin was a member of the Imperial Knights, that much was true. However, he was himself manipulated by an outside agent – the man he is now hunting – to kill his Knight Commander for the crime of engineering a plot that had claimed the life of his parents. Truthfully, I cannot imagine the pain of losing a loved one… or, at least, I couldn’t until yesterday…in any case, this act drove Irsin from the Knights, and into the hands of the Sith Order, where he was trained by his manipulator – his master. After ascending to the rank of… Sith Saber I believe it was… Irsin was given information that implicated his own master in the death of his family. Not only that, his master had kept his mother alive all of these years, only to kill her recently in a disgusting display that I imagine is typical of the Sith. Driven by rage, Irsin left his Order on a personal mission and adopted the bounty hunter persona that led him into our present company.
To be perfectly honest, I was torn about this. On the one hand, Irsin is a Sith, and the Sith are the sworn enemy of the Jedi Order. There is enough historical evidence to illustrate the Sith’s destructive power over the galaxy, and here I am eating lunch with one! On the other, Irsin is obviously filled with rage, yet – there is something else. A loneliness, a sadness that speaks volumes about him, and his reaction to the life he has thus far lived. As a Jedi, I cannot ignore such self-deprecating thoughts and feelings. In the end, I deferred to Q’aleane’s diplomatic tendencies – despite a barb from Irsin about my apparent lack of independent thought and opinion, which both infuriated and hurt me… – and we decided to continue to Wayland and confront his master and then… well, and then go from there. I excused myself to my quarters to meditate on the situation, but I could not get one thing Q’aleane had mentioned during the conversation out of my head:
“To the Jedi, you (Irsin) have heretical beliefs, of which I too am guilty.”
After Irsin had returned to his own quarters, I decided to confront Q’aleane about this, and, to be honest, I was slightly unnerved by what she told me.
Apparently, Q’aleane does not believe in the Jedi’s view of the Force. In fact, she doesn’t even believe in our Miraluka teachings anymore, either. Instead of seeing the Force as both Light and Dark Sides, cosmically opposed, or as Ashla and Bogan, creation and destruction both necessary to the universe, she instead believes in what she calls “The Unifying Force”: There is no Light, no Dark. The Force simply is, and nothing more. The Force exists independent of context or intent, and it is the user who determines its application…
I haven’t had time to truly meditate on this new understanding that she somehow acquired from Zonama Sekot – though she intimated that the periods where I felt completely disconnected from her in the Force, which brought me great pain and anxiety, may have something to do with it. But even more shocking was that she would not tell me everything about her trip to Sekot. In fact, she freely admitted that there were things she could never tell me – her twin sister – about her time with the Yuuzhan Vong. I didn’t show it, but I was utterly devastated by this – Q’aleane and I have always been completely open with each other. As I’ve mentioned more than once in these personal accounts, we are like two parts of the same being. Now… now there are things she will not share with me, and it feels like a door being closed between a part of us… and then, with the archway and … and my memories…
< small sobs, then hard, deliberate sniffles >
…No, not yet. I can’t get into that yet. Not yet…
So, as I already said, Q’aleane and I still have much to share – or not – about our time apart this past year, but as we were quickly approaching Wayland, our conversation had to be cut short. I will try to share more with her about Ansion at a later time, with the hope that she will open up to me once again…
Arriving on Wayland, we immediately traveled to the dwelling of the Noghri Maitrakh, to begin our investigation into Darth Sidious’ warehouse. After explaining both our situation and the possible identity of our quarry, the Maitrakh assigned a Noghri named Varukh to guide us on our journey. Varukh set off at a brisk pace, and lead us into the jungle. The trip was uneventful, save for two brief incidents. The first was my almost walking into a youngling Vong amphistaff, which, being outside my Force sight, was invisible and deadly. Thankfully, Irsin and Varukh saw it in time and held me back from its gaping maw. I will say, the stories about the Vong and their absence from the Force do no justice to the experience of blindness I felt at that moment – I have not often dwelled on how my Miraluka sight differs from that of other beings, but it is hard not to notice how different I am when I cannot see something directly in front of me. Regardless… the second incident was much less traumatic, though still sad in its own way. We encountered two species native to Wayland, locked in a battle to the death. Several smaller creatures were attacking a larger, and equally aggressive one – Varukh informed us that not only was this sight not unusual, but that this struggle was being played out between the two species all over the planet. Seeing no need to interrupt what seemed a cruel but typical conflict, we moved along stealthily towards our goal.
Arriving at a newly-forged tear in the side of Mount Tantiss, Varukh informed us that this was as far as the Noghri had ventured before sending word to Senator Thek. Together, we four entered the passage, and made our way deep underground, led by Varukh until we reached some kind of bunker-like structure. Upon opening the door, and checking thoroughly for any sign of traps – or foot traffic – we made our way though artificial hallways before finally discovering what appeared to be a vault. Surely, this is where Darth Sidious kept his Sith artifacts – and, while we were right about that much, we had no idea the price we would pay to discover them… or what awaited us on the other side.
Inside the vault door – already ripped down from its hinges and flung aside – we found an antechamber, at the back of which was an archway emblazoned by runes and symbols that we could not decipher, and blocking passage to the inner vault via a kind of dark energy barrier. Sending Varukh to wait outside the vault entrance, we searched the archway further and discovered a kind of control panel shaped like a hand. Noting the dark energy surrounding the place, Irsin offered to test the controls himself, and Q’aleane and I had no qualms. Irsin placed his hand on the arch, and after only a few moments, he stopped responding to us, seemingly far away, and yet still in the room. Through our Force sight, we could see the arch’s dark energy surrounding Irsin, and suddenly he screamed out and then groaned as in a rage. Q’aleane grabbed Irsin’s arm and pulled him away, and as soon as his hand moved from the arch, arcs of Force lightning sprang from the barrier, striking Irsin and, through him, Q’aleane. After they recovered – seemingly unharmed – Irsin’s initial anger at Q’aleane faded as she explained what had transpired. For his part, Irsin told us that he had been somewhere else, and had physically witnessed the murder of his mother at the hands of his master – though his body had not moved an inch, he assured us that this was utterly real. Q’aleane again assured him that the archway must be using simulations in order to achieve a desired response from the user – in this case, rage and violence. Convinced that he would not give in, Irsin attempted to open the barrier once more, but this time, his reluctance to participate caused another arc of lightning to strike him away from the arch. Perhaps as a means to protect Irsin, or simply because of her self-confidence, Q’aleane then offered to test the controls, attempting to hold onto her consciousness in order to distance herself from the arch’s desired effects. Although my sister also reacted to what she experienced, after several moments the energies binding the archway faded, and Q’aleane passed through unharmed. Immediately after passing, however, the energies returned, and Irsin and I remained on the other side, unable to communicate with Q’aleane. Frustrated, Irsin tried the controls a third time, and after the same cry of grief and scream of hate, his hand moved away, and the barrier dissipated once again – and like before, only for Irsin.
Now I was alone. And what happened when I placed my hand on the controls…
All I can say is that … my mind was not as strong as my sister’s.
I remember being on Bespin. I lifted my head from the ground, fires and explosions raging around me. I looked over to see Q’aleane and Master Tahl lying on the ground, and Navik the terrorist pinned against the back wall of the warehouse. As I stood up to approach the Rodian, however, a piece of the ceiling fell… and landed on Q’aleane… I could feel within my own mind her life force fleeting away, her small body crushed by the debris…
She was dying – there was nothing I could do.
She was dead.
I was dead.
I turned again to look at Navik – I could feel the emptiness in my mind, in my heart. I started towards him, each step kicking away tongues of flames lapping up at me. I drew my lightsaber, the sapphire blade springing to life in front of me. I raised the blade into a deadly shiak position, and pressed it forward towards the Rodian’s chest.
Instead of easily piercing his flesh, however, my blade was blocked by the familiar sword of Master Tahl. My master stood in front of me, a look of disappointment and sadness on his face… just like I remember… deactivating his blade, he simply looked at me and told me that I needed to remember the Jedi Code, that this wasn’t the way.
I stared back at him in complete shock, my mouth open but silent.
< slight sob >
How could he say that to me?! Q’aleane was dead – Navik had killed her… she was gone. A part of me was gone. I was half a person, looking into the eyes of my Jedi Master… my Jedi Father… and all he could tell me was to follow the Code?!
I told him to stand aside, that my sister would be avenged… he shook his head solemnly and told me that it was not my place to deal judgment. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, but I could feel the anger – the rage – building inside of me. I looked at Master Tahl, my face empty and dead behind my visor, and told him that if he would not move, then he never loved either of us.
< sobbing is louder now, building >
In the next moment, I was against his body, my saber hilt pressed hard against his chest, the purple blade piercing both my master and Navik, snuffing out their lives. Master Tahl said nothing, he just kept looking at me with that look… of failure… of disappointment… of utter sadness… then his body slumped down onto the ground as I deactivated my weapon. I looked down… weeping so loudly, so openly for him, for Q’aleane… for myself… when I heard a faint voice in my head … something about granting permission to enter… and in the next moment, I was back in the vault, stumbling forward and crashing into the ground on the other side…
< crying now, loudly >
…I couldn’t contain my emotions anymore, everything was flowing out. I remember someone taking hold of me, and looking up and seeing Q’aleane, but that just tore at my mind, and I shook my head violently, and sank against the wall where she led me. After several moments, I was finally able to collect myself, and Q’aleane tried to explain to me what had happened. It all seemed to make sense, but it was so real… no, it is so real. Q’aleane doesn’t understand… I know it was a simulation, but I now have two memories of the same event – the one I’ve always known, and now this new memory of how things played out… I don’t know how else to explain it…
< deliberate, hard sniffling >
Once I got to my feet and regained what I could of myself, we three began to investigate the inner vault. Inside, we found several artifacts – among them an ancient Sith sword which Irsin claimed, an ancient protosaber which I took for myself, and a large Holocron, which Q’aleane seemed to believe might be related to the legendary Telos Holocron. Before we could discuss our findings further, or even begin to collect them, we heard a voice behind us. Turning, we found ourselves face to face with Irsin’s former master, flanked by several bounty hunters. After confirming his part in the death of Irsin’s family, the Sith master and his hired guns engaged us. Irsin’s initial attempt to grenade his master failed utterly, and almost got himself killed, so we reverted to more… direct measures. I moved in quickly and engaged a bounty hunter, killing him after several direct blows. Q’aleane fended off grenade attacks from the remaining hunters, and Irsin moved to engage his former master, even though they were both invisible – even to me and Q’aleane! No sooner had I finished off the bounty hunter, that I felt a sharp, burning pain and looked down to see a crimson lightsaber tip protruding from my stomach… I remember screaming and calling out for Q’aleane, and then swinging my blade against something that I couldn’t see, hearing a groan out of nowhere, then seeing Irsin appear next to me and strike at the same spot before an incredible Force repulse sent us all reeling… I slammed against a wall and lay there drifting towards unconsciousness… The Sith master said something to Irsin and then… he just left. His final two bounty hunters followed behind, only to be killed by what we later found out was the incredibly lethal Varukh, who had been lying in wait for an ambush. Varukh brought medical supplies and began attending to me, and then Q’aleane administered her Jedi healing arts to me and Irsin. We then collected the Sith artifacts and returned to Q’aleane’s ship, though the trek back to the Noghri settlement was admittedly much more taxing after the battle we’d been in.
And now we’re en route to Taris with the artifacts. Q’aleane is preparing to give our report to the Council, and then we’ll figure out our next move.
Speaking of artifacts, this protosaber’s power pack is completely drained, but other than that, it looks fairly intact. I can’t wait to get back to the Academy, find a replacement power source, and really begin tinkering with this thing! Even if I can get it working again, I’m not sure I’ll use it all that much – I’d have to adapt my style to this tethered set-up – but still, what an incredible find!
…But I digress…
Once I had fully recovered from my wounds, I went to Irsin and told him that I respected his fighting ability, and was glad that he had been there during the battle. I also told him that I was sorry about his parents, and that we would find his former master and make him pay for what he had done. I’m not sure if it helped, but it was the best I could do… I’m still not sure what to make of Irsin, but Q’aleane is hopeful that he seeks redemption from his past, and perhaps we can assist him somehow in finding it.
Then I went to Q’aleane. I had to tell her about what happened at the archway. I told her everything, and she described her own vision to me. She told me – and continues to assure me – that it was only a simulation, and that none of it was real. She even suggested that I contact Master Tahl, if only to see that he in fact lives. I thought – well, think – it’s a good idea, but I just can’t bring myself to see him.
Not after what I did.
Between what happened at the arch and my near-death encounter inside the vault, my mind is filled with questions… concerns… fears.
What if Q’aleane is wrong about the simulation? What if it wasn’t simply a test?
What if it was a vision… a prophecy of what’s to come?
What am I? Am I a Jedi? Is this what I will become?
Q’aleane, my twin sister, is keeping things from me – distancing herself. And now I’ve felt what losing her is like.
Master Tahl… the Jedi Order… the Jedi Code… I’ve always wrestled with the Code and how it fits into my life. Now I’ve seen what its restrictions and tenets can bring out in me.
< sigh… deep breaths >
I should meditate on all of this… I’m just… so drained.
I feel… empty.