Knights of the New Republic

Q'aleane's Interlude with Vergere
10:02:123

(Q’aleane, while wearing just the ooglith as a body suit, makes her way very slowly to the command chair on the bridge. She verbally asks the ship to dim the lights leaving the waterfalls running on the periphery of the room and activates the Master Holocron.)

Q’aleane:
Greetings Master Vegere, how are you this morning?

Holocron:
Good morning, Q’aleane. I am well, as always. I surmise from your posture and tone of voice that you, however, have been better?

Q’aleane:
I am… I guess fatigued doesn’t cover it, but it will have to do for now. I am surprisingly well given what I have gone through, I didn’t expect to survive it, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Holocron:
It sounds like perhaps you are. I’d be interested to hear what has transpired since last we spoke. I gathered from our last interaction that you were about to engage in what we Old Republic Jedi liked to call ‘aggressive negotiations.’

Q’aleane:
My goodness, has it been that long since I have checked in…? This will take some explaining.

(Q’aleane fills Vegere in on details of the negotiations with the Clanmothers, her frustration at trying to find something to use, her initial channeling of Allya, her drawing up raw force, the subsequent battles and chases and the final battle, her attempt at sacrifice in drawing on Allya a second time, and Q’ayla’s helping put her back together. She will stop and fill in any details based on questions of Vegere. She will also feed in her holorecordings and the holo copies of the Book of Law, and for good measure since she is in the command chair she will fire up the holo interface and upload all the ship sensor logs.)

(There is a perceptible moment after she’s finished uploading all this data through her various methods, where it’s clear that the holocron’s systems are integrating all the new information and drawing connections.)

Holocron:
Fascinating. I do believe Allya has accomplished something previously unprecedented.

Q’aleane:
Oh? What would that be?

Holocron:
It seems she independently discovered a sort of… middle ground between the techniques of immortality known to the Sith and the Jedi. Or, at least, “immortality” at any rate.

Q’aleane:
Ah, yes… a very… painful middle ground.

Holocron:
From your descriptions I believe it is only painful for one such as you, who is attempting to stand in for her while still living. Allya is not a living being, and has not been for centuries. She has no physical body to contain her Force signature.

Q’aleane:
Fair enough, and I am sure after a few decades I would have learned to cope with having my consciousness spread over the Force imprint of an entire planet, but it is not something I choose at this point to try again. I am actually surprised I even survived the second attempt.

Holocron:
As am I, come to that. I should think it would have been far more likely for you to have lost contact with your body instead – dying, for all intents and purposes, though in point of fact it might be more accurate to characterize it as a permanent out-of-body experience. In your absence Allya might have been able to take up permanent residence in your body, if she wished. If she hadn’t, and no way had been found to restore your Force presence to your body, it would have expired in short order.

Q’aleane:
That was the outcome I most suspected, to be honest. I am glad it didn’t turn out that way though.

(She chuckles slightly.)

I actually think I rather prefer a prolonged period on the embrace of pain to repeating that experience.

(Vergere’s image actually appears to shudder slightly at this remark.)

Holocron:
That, too, is a remarkable thing to learn of you, Q’aleane. To have endured so long on the Embrace, and on your first exposure… I am uncertain whether to be impressed or frightened at such a thing.

Q’aleane:
I am fairly certain looking back on it that both the Master Shaper and Master Vantai had the same uncertainty at the time. Luckily though this time I had my sister to catch me on the other side. It is entirely frustrating to not be able to check in with her… I really should sleep soon, but I have to get some of this out of my head first and try and understand what is going on more or I won’t be able to sleep, at least not well.

Holocron:
As you know I am no stranger to the ways of the Yuuzhan Vong, and I learned much about myself and the ways of life through their unusual methods of teaching. But I was with them for decades, and never remained within the Embrace for more than a pair of days. I’ve no doubt any Shaper you met would be confused about how to respond to such a feat.

And I understand. Well, when you are feeling up to it, I’d advise you to examine your signature in the same fashion as you did to discover Allya’s presence. I have a theory, and it would be interesting to confirm it. Although I should ask – do you know if she survived herself?

Q’aleane:
I don’t, I was hoping you had some insight into that…

Holocron:
From your description of what transpired, it’s very hard for me to be sure. I think there’s a good chance she did, but equally strong odds that what she did to ensure your enemy’s defeat was an act of self-sacrifice. It really depends on too many factors I cannot assess second – or really third- – hand.

(Q’aleane very slowly and carefully shifts her perceptions, making sure to minimize any external stimuli to minimize the feedback loop. As she feared, it does indeed cause an increase to the throbbing in her head – a stabbing discomfort behind her eyes – but it is manageable, and nowhere near as bad as when she first woke earlier. As her perception of the gentle eddies of the Force within Ship fade into the background of her awareness, she focus on the flare that radiates out from the Master Holocron – an oddly isolated signature, unbound to any of the other energies around it. It’s essential nature is strangely at odds with the hologram she can still dimly perceive projected above it – not incompatible, but it’s obvious from this perspective that the projection is only a fractional shadow of the deeper nature of the energies within. Turning her attention inwards, Q’aleane becomes aware of the wellspring of vital energy that animates her form, flowing from the center of her being outward and joining with the currents all around. There is a warmth and iridescence to her signature that is simply absent from the one in the holocron, though there are also ragged edges, almost like that of leaves healing after a partial burning. Q’aleane squints her mental eye, which causes her headache to worsen another notch, and is able to make out a gossamer thread trailing away from her core, retaining its distinct character as it moves through space where the rest of the energies blend and merge. It is immediately recognizable as an identical link to the one shared by the Dathomiri Witches. Q’aleane resists the very strong temptation to dig further and instead slowly refocus on the now, taking the time she needs to re-adjust and sit for a moment before re-addressing Master Vegere after that pause.)

Q’aleane:
Please forgive me for the silence, this is taking longer than it normally would… and is far more painful. Luckily I have had some experience dealing with pain. From what I was able to see two things are clear… I am still very much healing as my vital form is still ragged in places. And two I suspect I am going to confirm your theory in that I am somehow now connected to the pattern that all of the Witches share.

Holocron:
Please do not over-exert yourself, Q’aleane, but I thank you for the data. Yes, that is what I suspected might have happened. It would likely have been almost impossible to prevent, and I doubt Allya made any attempt to try under the circumstances. As a byproduct, this also all but confirms that she did, indeed, survive the ordeal as well.

Q’aleane:
Please, elaborate if you can on your process as I am still… slow… from my ordeal.

Holocron:
Those links you have learned to detect are, despite possible appearances to your senses, nothing like the sort of link you share with your sister, and may sometimes manifest between 2 Force users who go through a shared trauma. Though, I suppose the one you just detected bears some resemblance, in a way.

As you may already realize, those threads are Allya. She has retained her distinctness in the Force by binding herself to her people and her teachings. It’s a frankly remarkable achievement. The Sith learned a means of binding their Force signatures to certain physical objects long ago – it is how they achieve their “Force ghost” immortality, but the binding for them has always been to a single object, specially prepared or uniquely suited to imprinting a Force signature.

The Jedi learned a parallel technique, but it involves establishing a tie with a living being – usually another Jedi. In a way, it’s actually related to the link you share with your sister. Its principal drawback is it lacks the permanence of the Sith technique – at best it can only last as long as the ‘host’ being, and often not even that long, depending on how receptive the living person is to the connection.

But by… distributing her binding in this way, Allya was able to largely escape the limitations of both methods. A Sith ghost cannot leave their binding object – at least usually – and the process of being divorced from the living flows of the Force tends to drive them mad. More so than they already were, believe it or not.

Meanwhile the Jedi method is, as I said, impermanent. To my knowledge, no Jedi was able to transfer such a link to a second host, and without the binding link their unique signature inevitably dissipates into the larger Force before long.

Q’aleane:
That makes sense but raises a couple of questions…

First, and before I ask it I will specify that I have negative desire to experiment at this time – a fact that would no doubt floor my sister – however at some later date do you think I could utilize this link to in some small way communicate with Allya? I find myself increasingly drawn to talk to this unique person for whom I risked sanity and life and regrettably being her conduit offered no time or ability to have a conversation.

Holocron:
Indeed, I believe it will. Forgive what may seem a tangent, but how much do you know about the nature of holocrons? True ones, not just the holographic data recorders you use to store your journals.

Q’aleane:
In truth, not enough… it is something I wish to expand my knowledge on but have not had the opportunity.

Holocron:
I am not surprised. Their construction is an esoteric art, even among the Jedi and Sith.

They are made using the same sorts of crystals which focus lightsaber energies – the sorts of materials best suited to lightsabers all have a crystal matrix which resonates with Force energies, and can actually store such patterns in their very structures. This is why Jedi and Sith ‘attune’ themselves to their crystals before installation – it optimizes the weapon to their particular use, and makes it easier to control the blade in the various ways an adept duelist can.

Essentially the crystal core of a true holocron does the same thing to a greater extent – the reason the personalities of the sages stored in holocrons are so lifelike is because they are using the resonance pattern implanted in the crystal matrix to inform the hologram’s responses, combined with the raw data stored in the rest of the device.

The Master Holocron is functionally identical, but the synthetic crystal that forms its core is an incredibly massive synth-cystal, and so is capable of storing the patterns of many individuals at once. Combined with a similarly generous volume of data storage, and it can hold the collective characters and knowledge of a small army.

Q’aleane:
That makes sense, and would tickle Q’ayla to no end… and it makes me want to try and construct one out of a villip.

Holocron:
Given what Allya has already accomplished, I believe that, should you locate or build a true blank holocron, you could use it to allow Allya to establish a permanent link to the Master Holocron. Once done, you would be able to summon her to it much as you do myself or Bastila, save that it would be her, rather than a convincing copy – presuming she is not occupied with some other urgent matter at the time.

Q’aleane:
That would be… amazing. Other than a Force crystal what would I need to construct a holocron?

Holocron:
By far the most important and difficult to obtain component is a suitable crystal. It is necessary not only that it be large – at least 5 times the size of those used in lightsabers – but it is equally vital that it be completely flawless. The Jedi typically favor adegan crystals, just as they do for lightsabers, but the Sith have proven that synthetic crystals serve the purpose equally well, and it may be easier to obtain the necessary equipment to manufacture a crystal than obtain a natural one from a world like Ilum, which I’m sure today’s Jedi guard as jealously as mine did.

The other components are not dissimilar to what is used to build the processing core of a droid brain, as it happens. Though the Jedi and Sith both tend to construct holocrons in such a way that they may only be activated with the careful use of the Force, to limit their access, that is not strictly necessary.

Q’aleane:
Ok, well that will be a project I think that will be quite rewarding both from a knowledge and an outcome point of view. But back to my other question…. the second question I had involved the witches. I suspect they were, even before now, aware of the link between them; can you review the Books of Law I uploaded and your own knowledge and confirm whether there is some ‘recognition’ of each other? It may factor into some diplomacy I am going to have to do in the near future. In addition, does this mean I can learn to work the Force as the witches do and participate in their group workings?

Holocron:
I can only speculate on those questions – the Books of Law make no direct reference to this sort of thing, save perhaps allegorically. It’s entirely possible that Allya herself did not know she would be doing this when she wrote the original. That said, I think it likely that most, possibly all, of the Dathomiri are not consciously aware of this connection. As you’ve described them, the threads that bind them are exceptionally fine. I’m doubtful that anyone lacking your natural talent as a Miraluka to see the Force would ever learn to notice them. It’s harder to judge how much a shaman might be able to detect, but from what you’ve indicated, the act of becoming a Nightsister apparently severs this link to Allya, and correct me if I’m wrong, but I do not believe there is any history of a Dathomiri who is not a Nightsister becoming a shaman, yes?

Q’aleane:
From what I have heard, you are correct. Do you have any theories concerning this most recent entity we have been fighting? It definitely seems to have the ability to possess others and Allya was apparently holding it in its current vessel when Irsin and Q’ayla slew it, but I am curious as to its nature. It took Yevra for a time, and almost possessed Q’ayla too, if she hadn’t fought it off. I would sleep better knowing or at least having some reassurance that it is likely gone for now.

Holocron:
I cannot be certain, of course, but I think it likely the entity is gone. I can’t really guess with much certainty what it was from what you’ve been able to report – I suspect Allya will be able to tell you more – but I think it quite likely it is permanently defeated, unless Allya faltered at the last moment.

Q’aleane:
OK, well I have to rest some. I have a large task ahead of me convincing not just the Clanmothers but Irsin and Q’ayla of the wisdom of re-purposing the Praxeum out from under the Jedi… and I think that would be better accomplished with some nutrients and sleep and without the headache I am currently experiencing. Do you have any further advice before I go, or anything you would benefit from having clarification on?

Holocron:
Not at this time, though I am eager to hear of the results of your future efforts to communicate with Allya. I suspect you will have no trouble participating in their rituals, from a technical standpoint at least, going forward, so repeating your summoning efforts should be easier this time, when you’re up to it. If you are interested in counsel, however, I would urge you to approach your idea for the praxeum here with care. Not so much with the Dathomiri – I believe you are likely to have earned their respect and gratitude from your work here – but with the galaxy beyond, and most especially the Jedi. If your incarnation of the Order bears any resemblance to mine, while they may not take overtly hostile action against you, they will nevertheless view an attempt to set up a rival organization with deep suspicion. If you do not plan to dismantle or repurpose the existing Jedi first, I would suggest you keep your own activities in this matter secret for as long as possible. The Jedi are already on alert for the maneuvers of the Sith, and they tend to be overzealous in such matters at the best of times.

Q’aleane:
My intention isn’t to be overt, simply to secure an agreement of intent and begin marshalling what will need to be marshalled to make it work. In the short term, the only overt action would be that the Clanmothers remain reticent to the Jedi’s desire to re-establish the Praxeum.
I do have one question that occurs though: If we do create the Allya holocron/focus and it is ‘absorbed’ into the Master Holocron like the others, would the original we constructed continue to work like the other holocrons did and would the master function as a conduit for Allya as well? This could have some bearing on my Diplomacy.

Holocron:
Hmm. It… may at that. I am already operating on highly theoretical ground here – I cannot overemphasize how unprecedented Allya’s status is. Were she using a technique similar to that of a Sith ghost, the answer would be no – the binding could not be transferred to a new object at all, so constructing the holocron would be largely pointless, save it would be possible to create a standard holocron engram. But Allya’s uniquely distributed nature may well allow her to establish a binding to both your new holocron and this one. The only reason I initially suggested constructing a new one is concern about the existing data in this device – I am fairly confident that Allya would not be able to establish an imprint without risking significant data loss, since she would not be able to differentiate encoded portions of the crystal matrix from blank ones, while the systems onboard here can.

Q’aleane:
Is your thinking that once you absorb the imprint for all practical purposes it would serve as an anchor similar to the Books of Law except far superior? You said she has ties to not only her people but her teachings, so in effect that imported imprint would be her teachings… In fact if I were stronger right now I would wonder if there wasn’t a link to the copy of the Books of Law contained in the datastore already.

Holocron:
Essentially, yes. Since a holocron matrix can encode a Force signature to a far more accurate extent than other materials, I think it would serve as an excellent anchor for her awareness, should she choose to focus on it, and since it could contain her full signature, it would not require a gathering of sisters to manifest her consciousness fully. Honestly, I do not fully understand how she has bound herself to the Books of Law – it is clear that many of the copies extant on the planet are much too recently produced to have been available for her to bind to them when she died. I have never heard of binding a Force signature to ideas before, so I genuinely cannot guess how far that extends. Likely you would be better able to assess that than I, given your perceptions.

Q’aleane:
Maybe after I sleep. Thanks again, Master Vergere, but it is time I eat.

Holocron:
Of course. You should rest and recover your strength.

View
Restoring Q'aleane
10:02:123

As the waves of emotion, fear, concern, love, anger, frustration and pure confusion wash out of Q’ayla in waves, these appear to suddenly take on a more corporeal form.

It takes Q’ayla but a moment to understand the grave error of releasing such a dark maelstrom of emotions into this metaphysical plane. Just as a large rock can cause waves in an ocean, the waves of emotion seem to for a moment atomize and disperse the water worlds around her. This has the rather unfortunate secondary effect of leaving Q’ayla in the unenviable state of plummeting through a chaotic, watery mess. The sudden dispersal of the “ground” beneath her sends her into a free fall. Her fear spikes in perfect rhythm with another sudden crack of lightning, the storm filtering into this vast spacial construct growing in intensity. There is nothing around her, nothing to hold onto, no offered hand or convenient ledge to stop her fall.

So fall she does, for what feels at once like a moment and an eternity. As she passes through the remnants of the water worlds, she catches many different kinds of thought and even occasionally feeling. Each one seems to incorporate a portion of her sister, a memory, an analysis, a theory, a hope, a fear, almost as if her sister was spread thinly throughout the galaxy in chunks. At first she is able to take in the various elements of her sister that she sees in the undulating worlds around her, whether visually or audibly. Then panic sets in fully and she braces for the sudden stop, her eyes squeeze shut, she waits. Waits.

Then she is standing once more. It is much like a dream of falling, and the sudden jolt of consciousness that precedes the end. Q’ayla almost trips over herself but just manages to keep her feet. Looking around, she can still see the fluctuating masses of water around her, now beginning to re-form into the perfect circles she saw when she first arrived. Yet this place seems unaffected by whatever she had done to her sister’s mindscape. It appears almost as the normal Q’aeleane mental world writ small. The surface is flattened, similar to the surface of the lake and she and several figures now stand on it.

There are two notable differences to this mini-lake. The first catches her attention at once: she perceives the image mirrored in the lake at her feet, from the point of view of her sister, that moment during their battle with Master Darach in which Q’aleane had summoned Allya’s spirit into her body. As she places the image in the narrative of the battle, Q’ayla realizes that it is probably the exact moment in the battle when her sister made the decision to act. As she looks at the image, extreme feelings of concern and fear for Q’ayla and, perhaps surprisingly, only slightly less extreme versions for Irsin wash through the link. It seems that whatever else has been going on, Irsin’s presence has been growing on Q’aleane in a significant and unusual way. The image was strangely ghost-like, like a holoprojector that had played the same recording one too many times, yet it remained clear enough to discern all manner of detail.

But that is not the only thing that Q’ayla discerns from this lake. Though she cannot see it, she knows the rancor from her nightmares is lying in wait. As she “stares” in fascination and perhaps fear, she is left with a strange impression that she had caught echos of in the past, that the rancor isn’t an alien to this realm but that it has always been there, under the surface, waiting. It is everything she can do to smother the terror rising in her, yet still the storm twists and spirals in the vast space above. An errant strike of lightning elicits a surprised yelp from Q’ayla, but quickly she presses down on that feeling more.

Forcing herself to ignore the rancor, or at the very least the idea of the rancor, Q’ayla’s attention is suddenly drawn to a group of figures standing on the lake with her, ones who were not present a moment ago… or had she just not noticed them? Shaking her head of the thought, she approaches. They quickly resolve into recognizable visages and as she examines each one, an imprint echos through her link.

The First Figure

The first is a very recognizable and a little flattering representation of what appears to be Q’ayla herself, in what is quite recognizable as the garb and manner of Ashla. Not the Ashla of their recent incursion into the realm of the force, but the one burned into the imagination of a Miraluka child, the embodiment of compassion and all that is right with the force. As Q’ayla looks at this image, she feels coming off of it an echo of what Q’aleane feels for her sister. And with that feeling, a memory that seems like an eternity old but really only only occurred a week ago. It was a portion of [[Session 16 – Q’ayla & Q’aleane Interlude | an encounter with her sister on the ship]] and while re-living it from the point of view of her sister, Q’ayla is able to fully grasp the import of something Q’aleane said at the time, “But that wasn’t… well, let me put it to you another way. While we were growing up, I looked up to you. You say I was an exemplar of what it meant to be a Jedi. To me, you were the exemplar of what it meant to be a person.”

A feeling of longing to feel things the way others do washes over Q’ayla from the image.

And then it begins to shift. Images flash, possible futures playing out from that point in the battle. Billions of possible actions and outcomes, all with a common thread. All based on the premise “what happens if Q’ayla gives in fully to Bogon in order to win this battle”.

As these wash over her, other memories filter though. She sees through her sister’s mind all the anomalous outbursts, the darkening of her aura and the anger that Q’ayla has been exhibiting since their landing on the planet.

As the billions of different outcomes resolve over time, they start well enough but always end in fear taking over. She sees her mirror self kill Q’aleane and Irsin a billion times, no matter how understanding or careful either are, they always trip up and trigger mirror Q’ayla’s fear and eventually one has to die to protect the other. Shortly after the pain that the death causes forces Q’ayla to kill the other.

Along with these, she watches the beautiful visage of Ashla twist and distort until what is left standing in front of her is almost stereo-typically sith. In the eyes of the mirror Q’ayla, she sees echoed the faces of Darth Vader and hundreds of legends from the Jedi past of force users destroyed trying to protect those they loved.

At the end of this experience, the figure calmly and without emotion simply speaks in Q’aleane’s dispassioned voice, “Baseline Analysis, result: Fear”. And ceases to respond.

Q’ayla feels again that familiar fear that has been her constant companion in life, and the storm of light above rages on.

The Second Figure

Q’ayla’s perception is then drawn inexorably to the second figure in front of her. This one appears to be extremely recognisable as her sister. She has that look of someone who has seen beneath the veil of the world and is beginning to understand it in a way that few if any ever have, the quiet beauty of understanding on the face of her sister.

The memory and feelings that wash out of that image are those of a conversation Q’ayla was never personally party to, but was recounted to her later. It was her first conversation with her mentor Master Vantai . As she experiences this memory as her sister, Q’ayla in stunned as she actually experiences, briefly the beauty she saw in the patterns above the living planet. Not as she herself would experience beauty but the awe and beauty her sister sees in the patterns. Her words “I wonder if that is how the force is on a larger scale, the collective connected will of the universe made manifest. Maybe the Yuuzhan Vong created a will of their own, their own unconnected pattern and the force is still learning that there is a separate collective will living among it.” echo through her mind.

Quite disconnected from her own experiences with the Master, she briefly experiences the quiet support and acceptance echoing from this memory’s Master Vantai and is struck by the simple truth coming from her sister… this is the first person aside from Q’ayla herself that even began to understand and accept Q’aleane for who she was, not who they wanted her to be.

As with before the figure shifts. Images flash, possible futures playing out from that point in battle. Billions of possible actions and outcomes, all with a common thread. All based on the premise “what happens if Q’aleane gives in fully to Bogon in order to win this battle”.

As with before, other memories filter through. These focused on feelings of alienation, otherness. She experiences first hand what was going through her sister’s mind that day in the camp. The memory of Q’ayla and Irsin’s reaction to feeling how Q’aleane felt, their fear, anger and lack of understanding echoed back at her. The utter betrayal that stemmed from her faulty assumption that her sister actually understood her. The fear and anxiety that these two people who she deeply cared about were connecting at a level she was incapable of even understanding and were going to leave her soon.

As the billions of different outcomes resolve over time, they start well enough but always end in empire and dominance. The universe ends up shackled. Q’ayla and Irsin end up shackled. Q’aleane devotes her life to ridding the universe of emotions completely. In some of the possible futures, she succeeds only to fall to despair and die by her own hand, others Q’ayla and Irsin are able to get free and intervene. The outcome is always the same, either by her own hand or by those she loves, Q’aleane is dead and the universe is horrifically scarred.

The figure twists into a parody of understanding, she watches as her sister’s image turns into a mirror of Darth Sideous, darkly cowled with eyes that speak of dominance and control. These echo the multitude of legends in the Jedi of those that fell to the dark side trying to make the world saner than it is, or even to just be understood.

At the end of the experience, the figure calmly and without emotion simply speaks in Q’aleane’s dispassioned voice, “Baseline Analysis: result: Dominance”. And ceases to respond.

Q’ayla recognizes the thrill of victory, of dominance over a foe. It feels like the end of each encounter she has had in the jungle these past weeks, when her opponents were sundered from her sight. Now the storm begins to change; thunder roils throughout the mindscape, deafening and terrible, yet this is lost on Q’ayla as she hesitantly approaches the third figure.

The Third Figure

Q’ayla’s perception is then drawn inexorably to the third figure in front of her. This one appears predictably as an idealized version of Irsin. She feels echoing from quiet, calm, strong feelings of protectiveness. None of the rage Q’ayla knows is there shows in this figure. Q’ayla realizes that this Irsin is how her sister sees Irsin’s potential and his true self. She senses a feeling of trust and even caring directed towards the image that comes over her link.

The memory and feelings that wash out of that image are flashes from hundreds of conversations and observations as far back as the first day they met. Images of Q’ayla talking about, glancing, curious about and even angry at their Sith companion. Impressions of Q’aleane’s feelings and understanding wash over Q’ayla and she realizes how much her sister saw as far back as the first day they met. She sees the patterns and dance as observed by someone who knows normal human behavior as an outside observer.

She can almost feel Q’aleane’s amusement at seeing something so obvious while the two danced around the topic for so long. She also feels the simple joy that she feels watching how close the two of them have gotten. Finally she catches a small twinge of regret, sadness and absolute certainty that she will never experience such a relationship.

Slightly differently from before the figure morphs into two and two sets of images flash, two sets of possible futures play out.

The first alternate maps from the premise “What happens if Irsin gives in fully to Bogon in order to win the battle”, the second “What happens if both Irsin and Q’ayla give in fully to Bogon in order to win the battle”.

The feelings and memories that filter through are based on momentary flashes of observations on Irsin when he lost control, on Q’ayla when she let her rage take over and ultimately on the one experience that Q’ayla can still feel causes Q’aleane severe distress when they both first let everything go and sparred on her bridge.

As the billions of different outcomes resolve over time, as before they start well enough but resolve to two possible outcomes.

In one, Irsin proves the worth of the Sith through his actions and it colors the path to come. The movement becomes more about making a saner Sith order, but always the foundation crumbles. Some or all of them become Sith Lords, in others they fight among themselves to try and redeem each other only to cause death and misery.

In the other, Irsin and Q’ayla dive into the darkness together. At first nothing has changed but over time Q’aleane becomes more and more an outsider to them and eventually they view her as a threat. Killing her causes the rage in Q’ayla to explode and over their new stronger link transfer to Irsin. The universe burns. Not just a world, but thousands of worlds, billions of sentients die in the purging flame of rage that will not be sated.

The first figure twists and becomes what looks like a hybrid between Irsin and Q’ayla scarred and tattooed with a visage of hate, crimson sabers drawn in an attack. This figure calmly and without emotion simply speaks in Q’aleane’s dispassioned voice, “Baseline Analysis: Hate” and ceases to respond.

The second figure twists and becomes what looks like a hybrid between Irsin and Q’ayla as a walking charred corpse, complete with the smell of burned flesh… its visage contorted in pain. This figure calmly and without emotion simply speaks in Q’aleane’s dispassioned voice, “Baseline Analysis: Fury” and ceases to respond.

As Q’ayla watches the images of hate and fury twist herself and her love into broken nightmares, the storm changes once more. Instead of a torrent of water from those impossibly dark clouds, fire begins to rain throughout the mindscape, unbearable pressure and heat, and it is then that Q’ayla is forced to look away. The emotions roiling inside her are simply too much, and she presses her eyes shut.

It needs to stop. She needs it all to stop. Frantically she begins searching her mind for the right “switch” to rid herself of the Dark Side she feels in her being, while knowing that no such switch can possibly exist. Instead she lights on [[Session 16 – Q’ayla & Q’aleane Interlude | a conversation she had with her sister many nights ago]], in which Q’aleane imparted to her a way with which to deal with her emotions. It seems foolish and impossible all at once, yet it is all she has. Without realizing it, Q’ayla’s body is borne just off the ground, taking a seated, meditative pose that could only be a reflection of her sister. In turn, she begins to examine each of the emotions that the figures represented.

“I feel… fury and hate.” She begins to enumerate the reasons for those feelings, but catches herself. No. This is not the way. Instead she begins again.

“I feel fury, and hate inside me.” And with some considerable effort, Q’ayla releases those emotions. Not in a manner of repulse as before, but instead like letting them drain off of her like droplets of water into the lake below. The storm’s fire begins to ebb, though she does not notice it. Instead she has moved onto the next emotion.

“I feel…” she slows, searching for the right word. “Arrogance. A domineering arrogance and apathy for life.” The acknowledgement hurts, but Q’ayla does not allow herself to feel the hurt now, and instead turns it too into water to fall lakeside with her emotions. The storm begins to quiet.

“…”

“I feel afraid. I am so very afraid.” This emotion grips her tight, has always been there, and perhaps always will be. Yet at this moment it cannot be. It cannot stay, the embrace must end. It feels like hours flow by until finally Q’ayla can feel the fear drip and pool around her, slow but sure, until finally she releases it into the lake. The ripples on the water below her stretch out forever in all directions, but finally the lake is still, and with it the storm clouds above have dissipated and vanished from the mindscape. At this moment, Q’ayla has never felt more like her sister, a notion that is not lost on her. In fact, such a realization seems to bring to life a mental impression of Q’ayla, internal and invisible, but there nonetheless. It is a comfort, much in the way the sight of Q’aleane is a comfort, and she begins to speak with it quietly.

“So. What do we know?”

“We are in our sister’s mindscape, and yet there is no sign of her.”

“Are we absolutely sure of that, though? I’m not. So I ask again: What do we know?”

“Well, first, since this is Q’aleane’s mental world, she must be present. Second, this lake—”

“Yes, the lake! I’ve been here before, or at least a version of it.”

“Please don’t interrupt me.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

“Apology accepted. Now, this lake is familiar, true, but it’s different. Changed. We’ve seen the image, the moment from our battle. It’s frozen there, in the singular instant of Q’aleane’s choice to channel Allya. Doesn’t this all seem familiar to you?”

“I’m not sure ‘familiar’ is the right word, but I get what you mean. I know I’ve seen something like this before, back at the academy library. A ‘shatterpoint’. From here, we saw all of the billions of futures that Q’aleane pictured and considered as a result of her actions. Of our actions as well. This was Q’aleane’s shatterpoint, and so…”

“That’s right, now you’re catching up to me. If this spot, this moment, was the shatterpoint, then that means…”

“…All of this, this entire sea of stars, is Q’aleane.”

“Good. A promising hypothesis.”

“Thank you.”

“But we’re not done yet, are we? The knowledge of what’s happened to Q’aleane isn’t enough to bring her back. There’s something else at play here.”

“Yes, I feel it too. In the moment right before I began to fall. Inside all of the water worlds around me was… me. I’m not sure what that could mean, apart from maybe Q’aleane recognized me?”

“I think it’s more than that. Think about it: The lake we’re sitting over right now, what is it filled with?”

“The rancor?”

“Yes the rancor, but what is the rancor?”

“It’s… well, it’s not actually a rancor. I know that now. It’s… darkness. The darker side of Q’aleane’s emotions, just below the surface.”

“Almost there. But remember the storm? We were affecting change in that, weren’t we? And we also transferred a great deal of emotion into the lake. Same with the figures in front of us. Each represented a particular emotion, as well as where each would lead us in the future. Taking all of this together, it stands to reason that…”

“…This world, this lake, represents Q’aleane’s emotions.”

“That’s right. And now take it a step farther.”

“Then that means that each of these worlds must be some part of my sister… yes! That does make sense! When I was falling, I saw things in the oceans, parts of Q’aleane. Thoughts, memories, speculations and theories, experiments, and now… yes, now emotions too.”

“And yet we wield a great deal of power here, whether we know it… or like it. What does that tell you?”

“It tells me… that Q’aleane can’t differentiate us one from the other? Q’aleane thinks I’m her right now?”

“I believe so, yes. This space remains frozen at the moment of the shatterpoint. At first, Allya suffused her spirit with Q’aleane, and Q’aleane was Allya for a time. Now Q’aleane is Q’ayla, and she doesn’t know how to stop this from happening.”

“This is… a lot to take in.”

“Indeed.”

“So then. What do we know?”

“In order to bring Q’aleane back, we have two goals. First, we need to bring together the disparate parts of our sister. Remember, there’s only emotion here, no reasoning or comprehension of logic and fact. That must be elsewhere in the mindscape.”

“And then once we do that, our second goal is to make Q’aleane understand that she is her own person, and that the moment of her shatterpoint has passed.”

“Correct. We believe that will be enough to restore our sister.”

“We believe… We hope.”

The Last Figure

Q’ayla’s eyes open. As she looks at the figures arrayed before her, now twisted and distorted by the possible future, she notes that despite her initial viewing of them, all of them seem to wear the face of Q’aleane, not just the one starting as her sister.

_Then she glimpses behind the figures a new one in the distance – she is looking at a mirror of herself across the lake: Q’aleane, younger now but exactly as Q’ayla remembers her, seated in exactly the same manner as her, facing a mirror of water from which her own reflection is speaking with her. The similarity is not lost on Q’ayla as she finds footing on the surface of the lake once more and approaches her sister, listening and seeing and sensing.

This new figure is more familiar in some ways. It is of a far younger Q’aleane sitting in her traditional meditative pose in front of a mirror of water using a form of meditation that she has heard her describe before where she speaks with herself to work out ideas and options. It does not respond to any outside stimulus and appears to be a re-play of an earlier conversation.

“I can’t resolve the possibilities… we need something more or we are all going to die.”

“That seems consistent with the information and analysis so far.”

“I can’t let that happen not after coming so far.”

“Agreed, but what tools do we have left?”

“Raw Force?”

“No, we haven’t been able to study or come up with a way to control it, if we even could raise it up like we did before we couldn’t control it long enough to do something with it to help and we would certainly die before doing any good.”

“And the previous analysis holds even if I am dead, regrettably.”

“With slight variations, but yes.”

a pause in the conversation occurs and two memories fold into Q’ayla’s consciousness echoing from the figure.

The first, Q’aleane is recording a personal holo recording from a simpler time, before Dathomir, one she had not shared with Q’ayla… Q’ayla perceives her recording the whole entry but the memory comes into stark clarity at one point in the memory… It is clear this is what the figures are dwelling on.

“No matter how many treaties I mediate, bridges I build, alliances I form… it is not people like me who get remembered by history. Its people like my sister who secretly burn with the light of a thousand suns who cause great things to happen. People like myself, we are just here to make sure that the great things that happen are beneficial to those that we love. We are the finesse.

“Death, yet the Force.”

In the second Q’ayla sees and feels a Q’aleane far more familiar now, except she can feel the pain, fear and drain that the past weeks have been on her sister. Q’ayla can feel the migraine Q’aleane walks around with from having to contort her perceptions. The fatigue and frustration eke out of the image, any joy in the acts of discovery greatly overshadowed by the desperate nature of their course and the desire to just sleep.

As before Q’ayla see her record the whole entry but a certain passage of it comes into severe clarity

“We finally unified the clans and have a solid plan to move forward. In part, my task is done. I am not a leader, nor am I a fighter, although I have done both. My skill lies in seeing the web of connections and moving the strands to a goal. I have helped facilitate the historic reunification of this planet through diplomacy, curiosity and my skill in the force (along with a whole lot of desperation). That is my strength. Now we get into areas where Q’ayla and Irsin have their strength. Irsin from what I have seen is a tactic strategist of the highest caliber. My sister, whether she knows it or not, is a leader and a great warrior. It is becoming time for me to step back and support them in the same way they have been supporting me.

“I find I am glad. I have been pushing myself too hard of late and it is starting to wear on both my body and my mind. Stepping back will help me get a handle on myself again.”

after dwelling on these memories for but a moment the conversation continues

“They have to survive, this movement is about them and people like them.”

“Agreed, they need to be the examples for others like them to know they have another choice.”

“You know we won’t survive.”

flash of pain, the memory of having her entire self stretch so thin and over such a distance washes through the link

a flash of fear, anxiety and utter determination to never feel that again…

“That is a given.”

“She will never know.”

a moment of profound sadness passes between the two Q’aleanes a single clear tear falls in one and a tear of blood from the other

Q’aleane’s memories of all the times you risked your life to save or protect her wash over through the link intermingled all the memories of the conversations recently where you voiced your desire to sacrifice yourself to save either her or Irsin pain

“She will never know.”

“*So be it.*”

with those words you feel the determination and utter knowledge, not just born of love or fear or other emotion but borne of those and the complexity of analysis of billions upon billions of variations and options explored in an instant

for the first time you think you truly understand in some small part how truly scary this mind in which you currently sit is, and how truly alien it is

a lone, somewhat amused thought occurs through the link, briefly that you sense isn’t from the replay, almost absently, “I bet she will even be annoyed at me for acting without thinking, if she only knew”

“*They, will survive*.”

Q’ayla understands in a moment the totality of what she just witnessed is the fraction of a second in the mind of her sister at the exact moment she decided to channel Allya.

The mindscape has gone eerily quiet. Strangely Q’ayla notices out of the corner of her mind that all the figures have become statues, echoes of the past, save one. The child Q’aleane staring at her mirror self, tears ever so slowly and quietly falling, holding her knees to her chest and staring at herself not responding but strangely breathing as if she were alive and there. Q’ayla doesn’t feel Q’aleane’s full presence from that figure, it seems to be a small echo, a self-deterministic thoughtform abandoned by a psyche stretched so thin it doesn’t even have enough will to even remember it is there. A profound feeling of aloneness comes off that thoughtform. An aloneness borne from an existence where even her own thoughts are too distant to access, let alone any perception of the world or others… locked in the moment of a single thought that would almost certainly result in her death. Locked in the moment of a single regret, not being able to share with her sister how much she means to her and how much she and her new love will mean to the world. Locked in a moment of certainty of sadness that she will die alone and unloved and even her other self, her sister will be angry and reject her. Gone is the galaxy shattering intellect, insight or ability to analyze. Truly this feels more like a lost child clinging desperately to the smallest shred of hope as if it were the universe itself, and for this child in a real way, that tattered hope is the universe.

To say she seems unaware of Q’ayla’s presence seems an understatement of galactic proportions.

Through this version of Q’aleane, Q’ayla experiences more of her sister’s emotions: The love, care, and affection she feels for Q’ayla, but also the exhaustion, fear, and frustration of recent weeks. Q’ayla witnesses the selflessness her sister shows for her and Irsin, for the galaxy at large, at her own expense. She sees just how alien and foreign Q’aleane views herself in relation to others, even in relation to her own sister. The knowledge breaks Q’ayla’s heart, yet the emotion does not take hold of her, falling instead to the lake at her feet. Oddly enough, she views her own thoughts and feelings on the face of the younger Q’aleane. No longer the stoic, brilliant woman she has become, but a frightened child lost and alone. Q’ayla calls out to her:

“Q’aleane? Q’aleane I’m here!”

Yet the words evaporate into the space between them, and Q’aleane still does not notice her standing there. Q’ayla’s own reflection speaks to her again.

“Remember, this Q’aleane is pure emotion. She won’t recognize you that way, she can’t.”

Q’ayla nods to herself. She takes steps towards her sister’s emotional shell, and passes the liquid mirror. Now Q’aleane does notice her, and there is terror in those child-like eyes. Q’ayla stops herself a moment, hands raised in a completely non-threatening way. Q’aleane does not run, so she takes another step. Then another. The fear is still plain on the child’s face, and though she’s clearly trembling, she does not run. Finally, Q’ayla comes around to kneel behind the young version of her sister. She does not speak, for this moment is not for words. Carefully, so very slowly, she brings her hands to Q’aleane’s shoulders. The child tenses, a look of fight-or-flight washes over her face. For a split-second, Q’ayla fears she’s lost her sister, yet the moment passes and the child does not run. They stay together in this way for a time – minutes, hours, days? – but ever-so slowly Q’ayla is able to draw her sister into a full embrace. Still she does not speak, but all of a sudden, there is a faint sound from her…

It is a simple thing. A pattern of delicate tones, forming a familiar melody from the past. The song has words, though even Q’ayla isn’t sure of them anymore. In any case they are not needed right now. Only the music itself, only the emotion of it. The lake is a place of emotion, this Q’aleane is emotion itself. To reach her, Q’ayla draws on her greatest strength – and at times her greatest weakness – her own emotions. Yet these are not of the Dark Side. There is heat in the song, but it is not hate and fury. It is warmth, the kind felt under blankets before sleep, or at the bottom of a soup bowl on a frigid evening. The warmth of affection, and belonging, and yes, love. The love of two sisters bound together by the Force, floating through the cosmos inside a mind, inside a ship, inside a galaxy.

Q’ayla hums and sings. She holds her sister tenderly.

She loves.


The sisters sat a long time bound in the simple act of love borne from and creating their bond. Slowly, Q’ayla detect a subtle shift in her environment. The song she had been sharing with her sister has begun to resonate throughout her surroundings. She catches echos of it coming from the water below her and from other worlds of water further away. It is almost like her surroundings have all begun to sing with her.

Slowly, several of the nearby water worlds start to come closer and eventually merge with the one the sisters are sitting on. As this happens, the nature of the lake the sisters now share slowly changes. Gone are the images of future possibilities, gone is the moment of sacrifice, gone is the mirror. Slowly the lake becomes deeper. With it the rancor slowly recedes, further below but still making its presence known.

As things settle for a moment, and the lake ripples with the song, Q’ayla becomes aware of a new presence watching. Despite holding the child Q’aleane, she senses and eventually sees approaching a new image of her sister. This time a slightly older Q’aleane… still young, barely in her teens but starting to show more of the sign of the woman she would eventually become. The ever curious eyes projected where there should be none. The searching gaze that seems to peer into the very nature of everything around her. Not yet tempered by the pain of the Master Shaper, without the control and confidence she had gained in the last few years.

Q’ayla finds these eyes locked on her and the child Q’aleane… piercing but seeming to lack recognition.

“Why are you here? How do you know this song? Do you know my mother? She used to sing us this song… no one else I have ever known has even heard of it. Who are you?”

With these questions blurted out without even a breath, a pause comes over the new Q’aleane’s face… a moment of confusion or maybe recognition. A final question comes out barely as a whisper, but this one carries the echo and weight of this entire place with it. The question almost feels palpable in its asking.

“Who am I?”

She stops, her face conveying so much more than the questions asked. It is a face that Q’ayla recognizes all too well. It is a face of curiosity tinged with fear. It is the expression Q’aleane would use when she was afraid of what the answer to a question might be but was drawn so strongly to know and understand that the fear could do little to stop the inquest. It was a face that almost always bore a subtle piece that few if any other than her sister could recognize. That piece is the understanding that deep down, this Q’aleane almost never asked a question before she already knew the answer. Somewhere in those eyes and in that searching face, the answer to the question also peered out. It is a face Q’ayla hadn’t seen in years, long ago sacrificed to the need for control. The need to not let her Masters know just how much she knew or worse, how much she NEEDED understanding.

In Q’ayla’s arms, the child Q’aleane seemed to cling tighter, caught up in the emotions of her sister’s love and tinged with fear of what is going on. Face stained with tears, the child quietly sang, echoing the song even as another part of her stared in inquest.

The questions come quickly, a kind of desperate need to know from this ‘new’ Q’aleane, yet Q’ayla has seen this look on her sister’s face before. The face of knowing even while asking. It was something for which her sister always had talent. Understanding. To her own inner reflection, Q’ayla ponders this version of her sister. If the child in her arms is Q’aleane’s emotions, then surely this one must represent her natural curiosity, that sometimes insatiable need to know and understand everything around her that has been both invaluable and – in more recent times – more than a little dangerous too. Nevertheless, Q’ayla’s emotions remain calm, still more like Q’aleane than herself in this moment. She smiles warmly at the teenage version of her sister, and as her singing stops, her voice carries that warmth out into the air between them.

“Hello there. My name’s Q’ayla. My mother taught me this song too, a long time ago. As for why I’m here, well I’m… looking for someone.”_ Her smile widens to a grin._ “And by the looks of it, ‘who you are’ is someone who might be able to help me.” Q’ayla looks down at the child in her arms and smiles, places a soft kiss on her forehead, then pats ripples into the lake to the side of them.

“Here, come sit with us. Come sing with us.” And without another word, Q’ayla rejoins the child Q’aleane in their song, carrying the melody in a round as the music reverberates throughout the mindscape.

Even as this ‘new’ Q’aleane moves to comply and sit, it is clear that she can not let go of the thread of thought.

“Q’ayla… that name has encoded engrams that lead nowhere… but it must be my name, must it not?”

The concept of sitting is quickly abandoned as she begins to circle her sister.

“All is here, here is me… that must make me a thought manifestation, which would make you a thought manifestation. But primary analysis is muddy, there is too little data… I can’t access previous analytical iterations, why? What am I missing? Why can’t I remember?”

She stops mid-thought staring at her sister and her self with a look of bemusement…

Q’ayla is struck with a memory of Q’aleane pulling apart their parent’s terminal while still barely a toddler trying to figure out how it worked… options, analysis all falling to naught due to the simple lack of context that would help her put it together… a context she was far to young to even begin to have. A pleasant memory as the toddler took apart and put together the broken terminal in thousands of different combinations with an almost giddy expectation, that look of bemusement clear even that young.

She is also struck by another memory, not quite as pleasant, of an only slightly older but still barely out of diapers Q’aleane with the same look of bemusement as she examined a dead herd beast trying to figure out how it worked… again not being able to let go of the analysis despite lacking the context that would allow her to succeed. A memory that ended with her mother intervening right before Q’aleane cut into her own hand, half muttering something about comparative analytical methods with a living prototype.

Once again, the song abates, and Q’ayla falls silent beside her still-singing companion. It’s striking how familiar all this is, but more than anything it has a dream-like quality to it. Parts of her sister she’s seen in memories – the emotion, the curiosity, the drive to analyze and understand – but all without that connective tissue. The context. For a moment Q’ayla is unsure if providing that context will even be useful here, but she decides it’s likely not a good idea to jump in head first. Instead she simply engages Q’aleane in the conversation.

“Well no, not exactly,” she begins, her voice still warm and even. “Q’ayla is my name, yes. But it’s not yours. You are Q’aleane. Q’aleane Ren. And you’re right, you are a thought manifestation, just as this little one is.” Q’ayla brushes a hand through the child Q’aleane’s hair reassuringly. “But I’m not like that. I’m your sister, and I’m here because you and I are connected. Always have been, even way back when we first heard our mother sing this song to us. Even I’m not sure about all the details– that’s more your thing than mine. But what I do know is that I need your help to piece together this puzzle. This puzzle that is you.”

“Not me… but all here is me, isn’t it… and sister…”

The word ‘sister’ is almost whispered but with it comes an almost imperceptible shift in the environment. The word starts to almost echo and as the final echo dies, Q’ayla suddenly realizes that the air has become quite a bit more humid, right before being submerged briefly by a deluge caused by another world impacting. The feeling passes so quickly that it is hard to be sure it actually happened, neither Q’aleane reacting to it but it is clear something happened because the lake begins playing out a memory.

Two sisters, now much older, sitting together in a side meditation room. A stolen moment between tasks given to them to prepare them for their respective journeys. The look mirrored between the two sisters show both eager anticipation and fear as well as more than a little sorrow.

In the memory, Q’ayla had just finished telling her sister of her fears and excitements of being assigned to Ansion. As the memory plays out, the littlest manifestation of Q’aleane still curled in her sister’s arms echoes the words.

“Don’t worry little-sis, they wouldn’t separate us and send us on missions if they didn’t think we were ready. But I am going to miss you.”

The memory pauses at that point with a much rarer look on the memory-Q’aleane’s face… it was the look of quiet support and love that she shared only with her sister.

Q’ayla of course remembers the memory after that point, how the conversation devolved into a giggling version of the oldest argument in the two sisters’ arsenal… one that almost got them discovered before they hurried back to the busy work the masters were trying to keep them doing to prevent just this meeting from happening.

The second Q’aleane seems to have paused, processing new data, trying to piece together the concept of an other in this world that is supposed to be just her.

“That’s right,” Q’ayla continues, taking the teenage Q’aleane’s earlier sentence to its conclusion. “Everything here is you, Q’aleane. Except for me. I snuck in here, looking for my big sister, but it took me a while to realize that you were all around me. All these worlds, seemingly without end, stretching out above us and around us–” Q’ayla gestures to the remaining water worlds still floating in the ethereal plane. “They’re parts of you. Memories, ideas, contexts for everything that makes you you.”

Now Q’ayla seems to sink back into the ’Q’aleane Mode’ that she keeps finding within herself here. “From what I can tell, as each world is brought back into the fold, you re-discover more and more of yourself. Like that memory we just saw.” Q’ayla giggles quietly, remembering how they rushed away from one another, through the hushed library, before the Archivist discovered their laughing fit. “I’ve gotten us this far, but…” She looks from one Q’aleane to the other. “Like you said, this place is supposed to be yours. I think we’ll need to work together from here on out.”

When the teenage Q’aleane looks up, a different look on her face shows and it seems like her entire mannerism has shifted. She walks over to Q’ayla and at first Q’ayla thinks she might be reaching for her but instead her younger self reaches up and as they touch they seem to shimmer for a moment and then Q’aleane stands there, seemingly the same age as the memory that just played out, but with a much younger, much more vulnerable look on her face. Q’ayla watches with astonishment as the child Q’aleane disappears from her arms, coalescing into the slightly older version of her sister standing in front of her.

“This is progressing well,”

her inner reflection comments with some satisfaction.

“I am afraid, will you stay with me, no matter what?”

She reaches out her hand to Q’ayla and Q’ayla realizes a look of hesitancy that indicates she truly isn’t sure if Q’ayla will actually reach back.

Though she notices the unsure look on her sister’s face, Q’ayla herself doesn’t hesitate for even an instant. Her hand glides up and slides into Q’aleane’s, entwining their fingers together. She smiles warmly, with that same reassuring quality she knows her sister needs right now.

“Always, Q’aleane.”

As the sisters’ fingers entwine, several things happen at once.

First, the lake upon which they are standing seems to fail to hold their weight and both sisters plunge into the depths. Right into the open maw of the rancor. Q’ayla begins to panic as she and Q’aleane descend into the lake, but remembering the storm from earlier she steels herself and simply squeezes her sister’s hand tightly.

Second, the environment shifts significantly. They are no longer under water, no longer in the maw of the rancor, in fact it is difficult to tell if they are even physically anywhere. Soon the sensation of falling fades, but wherever she is now, Q’ayla can’t be sure.

Third, a memory seems to impose itself… Q’ayla feels and senses the memory as if she was Q’aleane but she can still sense her self and the other Q’aleane at the same time.

As she looks around she realizes that the void in which she seemed to find herself wasn’t actually a void. It is a strange sensation to see only herself and Master Zatoq despite having the sensation that there was another and that there were objects she couldn’t see. Not even the normal background Force existed. A voice comes from out of the void.

“You have finished with your preparations, I see. So you understand, for us pain is a way of clearing the mind and teaching things that cannot otherwise be taught. Every shaper goes through what you are going to go through, you are in no physical danger. You can stop it at any time, you need only say ‘stop’, but know if you say that the test will end and you will learn no more from the experience. Do you understand?”

Q’aleane replied simply with a nod, quietly.

“Yes, Master Shaper.”
“Very well… while you are settled in the device, I want you to meditate on a simple question, one that should be easy for one such as you to answer… ‘Why are you here?’”

The memory seems to pause in that moment. When Q’ayla realized that she was now ‘experiencing’ Q’aleane’s memories from Zonama Sekot, she audibly gasped and squeezed even tighter, but otherwise stayed quiet. Q’ayla remembers that Q’aleane was unwilling to share all of her experiences from that place, and while she understood why, she couldn’t deny her own curiosity. Perhaps she’s more like her sister than she thought…

Q’ayla feels rather than hears her sister’s manifestation ask simply… “Will you stay with me this time? I am not sure if I can go through this again.”

When she hears Q’aleane’s voice in her head, she nods and says at almost a whisper, “Yes. I’m here.”

As the memory begins to play again, the question ‘Why are you here?’ begins to echo through the twins’ shared brain. Slowly at first Q’ayla starts to feel. It begins as mild discomfort, the kind of thing one notices when one is a novice and has been sitting too long in one position, but slowly it builds. After a short while the pain begins to reach the level Q’ayla once knew as unbearable. Even having experienced a ‘professional’ torturer does not prepare her, as whatever contraption she now finds herself in seems designed to cause pain in the most efficient way possible. She finds her eyes that don’t even work still hurt. The statement ‘You can stop it at any time, you need only say ’stop’’ joins the echo of ‘Why are you here?’ but is instantly dismissed like an errant thought during meditation. If it were not for the sensation of herself and the other Q’aleane, Q’ayla knows she would be lost in the feeling, but bringing her awareness to herself and the other lets her gain distance from the pain, allowing her to observe it without losing herself to it.

Nevertheless, whatever self-control Q’ayla has been able to maintain up to this point is now quickly slipping away. She’d heard Q’aleane and Vergere both speak of the Vong and their adherence to the way of pain, but even her time on Ansion could not have prepared her for this. The teenage Q’aleane feels her sister’s hand – no, her entire body – trembling with terror as they float together through the abyssal lake. Not only because the Vong’s torture reminds Q’ayla of her own experiences, her own pain. But because all the while, in the many moments when Trasa and Desvin were abusing her and she felt Q’aleane blink out in the Force, Q’ayla never imagined that her sister was going through the very same thing, half-way across the galaxy, strapped to this… thing!

It is quite literally everything Q’ayla can do to not fall apart right now, and it is only because she knows she must maintain control over herself and her emotions for Q’aleane’s sake that she’s able to.

As Q’ayla’s thoughts go to the time when she felt Q’aleane blink out, her awareness returns to the memory. She realizes that she now has distance from it and can describe (in horrifying detail) what is going on in the memory but doesn’t have to feel it as if it is happening to her. From this new perspective she observes at what is apparently an accelerated rate what Q’aleane went through. She feels her sister fighting the pain, trying all the meditative techniques she knows (a few Q’ayla didn’t even know existed) and every time the embrace adjusts. She feels her try to reason her way out of it, and every time the embrace adjusts. She feels her try Force technique after Force technique on herself, on her surroundings. Q’ayla feels her inventing new ways to meditate, new ways to heal and every time the embrace adjusts. Eventually she starts to give in to the pain… as she experiences this Q’ayla notices her watch her connection to her sister fade. She watches as she claws desperately to that thread before it is finally stripped from her. Q’ayla notices her left alone in a void with nothing around for her to see, no one’s thoughts but her own pain-filled ones, left only with pain. Q’ayla feels her twin observer tremble and cry. She realizes that before that loss everything else was simply a puzzle or a battle to be fought. Losing her connection with her sister was truly the first time Q’aleane was actually hurt by this experience.

The memory pauses as she crumbles in herself crying.

Finding herself outside the physical sensation of the memory, Q’ayla inhales sharply and sighs with some amount of relief… though not much. She can’t feel the physical pain any longer, but somehow observing Q’aleane from the outside, watching each and every moment of her sister’s struggle is so much worse. Trasa’s torture was wild and sadistic, but the Vong’s was cruel and efficient. Every time Q’aleane found one avenue to deal with the agonizing pain, the device simply found another way to harm her… or so it seemed at first. As the memory continues, Q’ayla’s inner reflection speaks to her:

“You do realize what you’re seeing now, yes? Your sister isn’t feeling the pain of this, not really. Not like you would have. To her, this is just another equation, or problem to be solved with her intellect.”

The realization leaves Q’ayla awestruck, but that feeling soon passes as she watches in horror the ‘sight’ of Q’aleane’s connection to her winking out of existence in that one singular moment. The most precious thing that binds the two sisters together, finally ripped away from Q’aleane. If anything, this is the true torture, and that fact is reflected in the teenage Q’aleane’s reaction. Q’ayla follows her down, wrapping her arms around Q’aleane, holding her close.

“Hey, hey… Q’aleane I’m here. Just like I promised. It’s alright, it’s just a memory. It was real then, and the feeling is real now, but I am here with you. Your Q’ayla, your little sis. Look at me, please…” Q’ayla sets aside her visor and it floats away in the ether. Her eyes, here no longer twisted by the Dark Side, are pale and clouded, but filled with love.

After what seems like an eternity, Q’aleane looks into Q’ayla’s eyes and they both seem lost in each other for a moment. When the moment passes, the memory resumes.

Q’ayla watches as Q’aleane gives in further and further to the pain and how that pain eventually causes her to reach deeper than she had ever reached. She watches [[Session 6: Journal for Q’aleane | the final moments of discovery and realization]], and she feels her marshal her will, re-forge the connection to her sister and step off the contraption. Q’ayla feels the sensation of the waiting ooglith connect with Q’aleane and join with her, the pain of the connection barely registering compared to the pain she just went through. She sees the life and power around her as her sister learns to see what the Force has previously hidden. Q’ayla hears the exchange with the Master Shaper… both in the memory and echoed in her twin. She finds herself drawn again into the memory fully.

“Why are you here?”
“I seek to understand.”
“Understand what?”
“Yes.”
“Then come with me and we can attempt to understand together. Master Zatoq is waiting, he has been worried you have been silent for a week.”

After rejoining Master Zatoq, she walks with the Master Shaper and Master Zatoq to find food and much needed rest. Q’aleane finds herself approached by an acolyte.

The acolyte first bows deeply to the Master Shaper, then surprisingly the acolyte bows almost as deeply to Q’aleane, and finally the acolyte quickly bows ever-so-slightly to Master Zatoq. This startles Q’aleane enough that she scarcely hears what the acolyte says, not that she could understand it being in the guttural Yuuzhan Vong language. Master Zatoq looks at you knowingly but poses a question you sense he already knows the answer to.

“You look startled by something, what is it?”
“I was surprised that the acolyte seemed to award me such respect.”
“Ah, Master Shaper, perhaps you could explain, I find myself similarly curious.”
“Yes, well… you see the ordeal you just went through is one normally only Shapers do. The embrace is used by others, of course, but never quite at that level. Most Shapers can only deal with a short time, some of the best can survive for hours. Over time and practice their tolerance and understanding grows. Master Zatoq here I think made it up to a couple of hours last time, wasn’t it?”

A shudder seems to come over Master Zatoq.

“Yes, quite.”
“Well, you see…”

Q’aleane senses, despite the cultural divide, that the Master Shaper is uncomfortable with something.

“…the only people to ever walk off like you did usually become Master Shapers… that level of pain, it leaves a… mark of sorts that we can see. They know you aren’t a Master Shaper, but you will find you have earned a measure of respect amongst us that no outsider has ever gained.”

Taken aback, Q’aleane pauses for a moment to consider and then says simply…

“I hadn’t even thought of stopping after the first few minutes…”

In response, both Masters eye Q’aleane strangely as they shepherd her to get food and rest.

The memory seems to fade further away but Q’ayla is left with the impression of what followed. For several weeks, Q’aleane remained with the Master Shaper, learning their language and as much as the Master Shaper was willing to share of their lore… Despite her introduction, the Master Shaper ended up being a kind soul in which Q’aleane finds a connection. She, Master Zatoq, and Q’aleane spent days talking about the Force, the Yuuzhan Vong, and everything in between.

The memory of her statement, “I hadn’t even thought of stopping…” seems to echo. Q’ayla also realizes something that Q’aleane doesn’t seem to have put together. Not even the Master Shapers ever stayed on the first time. It took time to build up the tolerance and understanding. She was probably the first to ever do so.

“Just when I think you can’t be any more amazing…”

Q’ayla’s voice trails off as the memory concludes, and she slowly shakes her head at the realization that her sister had done something truly remarkable. Was Q’aleane even aware that she had managed to endure something that perhaps no other Yuuzhan Vong ever had? Ever? It seemed unlikely to Q’ayla, for she knew her sister did not often dwell on such accolades. For Q’aleane, the curiosity and the pursuit of understanding were often enough, though Q’ayla’s thoughts do dwell – just for a split-second – on Q’aleane’s still unknown bargain with Bogan…

“I hadn’t even thought of stopping…”

Shaking the thought away, Q’ayla looks to her sister. “Q’aleane, are you alright? I know how hard it must have been to re-live something like that.” Without waiting for an answer, Q’ayla embraces the teenage Q’aleane in a warm, enveloping hug.

Q’aleane seems to take a moment to enjoy and return the hug. She seems non-verbal for now although Q’ayla is starting to sense discreet emotions from her again. Q’ayla realizes that the sense seemed to return at the same time the memory reforged the connection between the two sisters. She suspects that the memory of that act caused an echo of that act to occur. Briefly riding the echo of Q’ayla’s thought about her sister’s bargain with Bogan… she hears a coherent thought/memory:

“I guess five fundamental world view perception changes in one day was too much to ask….” along with a feeling of amusement.

The twins quickly find themselves in another memory.

As the recollection clears, Q’ayla is struck with something from the memory:

“No doubt she has asked you not to deal with me… and no doubt Irsin has asked you not to deal with her… it is strange how protective we can all be at times.”

“You weren’t wrong, Q’aleane,” Q’ayla says shaking her head into her sister’s shoulder. “I did ask him to spare you. And just like he said to you, there was nothing for it.” She chuckles mirthlessly then. “We certainly can be protective at times, sis. It’s because we love each other, even if I don’t always show it.”

Coming off the previous memory from Zonama Sekot, it surprises Q’ayla less than she thought that her sister’s bargain would be for more knowledge. More understanding of the worlds around her, of the galaxy and the Force. That is truly Q’aleane’s path to the Dark Side, if ever there is one. Again, the words echo in Q’ayla’s mind…

“I hadn’t even thought of stopping…”

“Q’aleane, do you remember what you said to me, the last time we really had a chance to speak? Before everything that came after, everything that brought us to this moment in time and space?” Now Q’ayla holds her teenage sister at arm’s length, once again staring at her with her warm, clouded eyes. “You said ‘Just remember we are in this together, whatever we decide.’ I didn’t forget, Q’aleane. That’s why I’m here. To help you back to your feet, so that we can continue walking forward together. No matter what knowledge we gain, nor what abilities we draw from ourselves… nor the costs they demand from us, we have to be there for one another. Always and forever. You remember that too, okay?” She seems to be willing her sister to remember, to understand the love and devotion she has for her.

Something about the touch of Bogan and the talk about doing things together mingle together in the worst way. Before Q’aleane realizes what happens another set of memories intrude, the first the memory of sharing her emotions with both Q’ayla and Irsin and their reaction… the way it made her feel alien again and for the first time alien to her sister. Then [[Session 11 – Irsin & Q’ayla Interlude | a memory]] that while not new to Q’ayla is new based on its perspective and her feeling what her sister felt. And then finally, and most horribly, a memory that Q’ayla senses even Q’aleane thought was locked away for good.

Despite the fear coming off her sister, Q’aleane seems to hold desperately onto Q’ayla as she experiences these memories again.

The sisters cling to each other as the memories play out. Experiencing these from her sister’s perspective – not only physical but emotional too – is startling and somewhat disorienting for Q’ayla. She sees now the pure intent of her sister’s choice to deaden her and Irsin’s emotions, as well as the strong unexpected reaction Q’aleane received after being rebuked and insulted by them. Now again the campfire, a scene which will never leave Q’ayla’s mind nor her heart, but seen through Q’aleane’s eyes. The twinges of envy in each moment that Irsin reached her, or helped her to understand some truth of her relationship with the Jedi Order. Or when they kissed for the very first time—

“But it’ll have to be something really bad to make me forget the fact that you just kissed me after I threw up in the jungle.”

Q’ayla stifles a nervous giggle, still overwhelmed by the experience unfolding before her. She sees that single, solitary tear slip down her sister’s cheek, remembering that it was this very moment Dathomir used to make its desperate gamble and almost drove Q’ayla to suicide. The pain and shame of that washes over Q’ayla, thankfully melting off of her into the lake below. Finally, the scene shifts to something that Q’ayla doesn’t recognize, apart from descriptions she’s been given by her sister after the fact: The night Q’aleane ran off into the jungle and encountered the giant rancor. For the most part, the philosophical underpinnings of this experience don’t resonate with Q’ayla nearly as much as the sense that she gets from her sister, that Q’aleane, in that moment, in all of these memories, doesn’t feel like a person. That she feels alien, even to her sister. It’s a crushing feeling, punctuated by the trembling shaking of the teenage Q’aleane holding tight to Q’ayla’s arm. As the memory continues, all Q’ayla wants to do is hug her sister tight and reassure her of her humanity, of her sense of belonging, of her place in the galaxy. Yet she cannot pull her vision away from the appearance of the rancor and… of herself?

Q’ayla sees herself standing there in the jungle. But how? How was she there? She was dreaming then, dreaming of… of the rancor. Q’ayla’s eyes go wide, suddenly question upon question begins filling her head in a very Q’aleane-like way, it’s everything she can do to hold off the maelstrom of curiosity flooding her mind. As the memory ends, she begins searching her own thoughts for something quieter, something comforting. But most importantly, something she wants to share with Q’aleane. Eventually she finds it, and Q’ayla focuses on that moment. A moment which she’d always wished Q’aleane could have shared with her…

The dark abyss in which the sisters are floating changes once more, this time the first view is of the night sky, filled with bright bands of stars and views of far-off planets and their systems beyond. But not the blood-red sky of Dathomir, this is somewhere else entirely. It is well after dark in the Tasbir camp, and Q’ayla is sprawled out in the warm grass, joined on either side by her new Alwari friends Kiruu and Nazay. Though they’ve spent the hours after the banquet in excited conversation, now the three are enjoying some quiet contemplation. Q’ayla stares up into the unbelievably clear, starry sky, admiring the utter beauty of the galaxy. Life as a Jedi does not often allow for such musings, especially in the middle of a dangerous diplomatic mission. But right now there isn’t a Jedi padawan lying in the grass. There’s just Q’ayla. And in that moment, though she is surrounded by newly made friends, there’s only one other person her thoughts are dwelling on:

“It was you, Q’aleane,” Q’ayla whispers to the teenager holding her arm. Her voice is soft and filled with love. “The one thing I wanted in the whole galaxy was to lie there in that grass with you and watch the night sky. You are more than my sister, you are my best friend, Q’aleane. Look at all of that, the stars and planets and systems… all I’ve ever wanted to do is go to those places together, with you, and help people. It’s not enough to do it on my own, sis. I need you in my life, because you are so, so important to me. You are not an alien, you are not so foreign to me. You are my sister. My big sister who is the most intelligent, most brilliant woman I have ever met.” The smile blooming on Q’ayla’s face halts a moment. “I know I’ve hurt you, and sorry doesn’t begin to encapsulate how I feel about that. I never want to hurt you like that again, because that was me, not you. Please believe me, Q’aleane…” The last comes in a desperate whisper, as Q’ayla holds her sister close.

Q’aleane seems to just sit in the moment for a long time, enjoying the embrace of her sister and enjoying the memory of friendship, borrowed. Finally she looks at her sister with love and just a hint of mischief. Q’ayla gets a mental impression, not words, her sister has not integrated quite to that point yet, but an understanding through their link.

{I always wanted to share the galaxy with you, but I need you, just this once to see it like I do now.}

Slowly, the memory starts to alter, as the sisters look out to the galaxy of stars, their perceptions now shift. Q’ayla realizes that she is starting to touch a few of those ‘fundamental worldview perception changes’ her sister has started to make in the last month.

At first she becomes aware of everything around her at a new level, it is difficult to explain even to herself but she senses the Force differently than she had, it reminds her of how everything looked after her sister’s ordeal on Zonoma Sekot, what her sister thinks of as ‘Vongsense’. As that begins to gain definition and mix with her normal Force sense, she senses the interactions and swirls and eddies that form when the two co-mingle. She begins to get lost in the primal dance between the two forces. Eventually she notices in the sky that the stars are now different, instead of being stars she now sees the tapestry and holes where the light of the Force seems to stream in from across the gap. Looking over at her friends she sees them as stars in that tapestry, their beings acting as lenses and filters to the power of the Force streaming through. Suddenly her awareness focuses outwardly and she sees everything around her through this lens, the constant stream of Force being altered, adjusted, focused and filtered through countless holes in that tapestry. Her awareness focuses outward even further and she perceives the whole of what she now sees is Dathomir as her sister sees it, the threads of connections between the residents, the pattern that she comes to understand is where Allya had hidden for so long until her sister saw her and brought her forth. Apart from the memories she’s experienced in this place, the closest Q’ayla has ever been to this sort of perception and awareness was at the moment that her bond with her sister deepened, and for a time the two shared all their senses with one another. It truly is like being lost in a sensory overload. The very way in which Q’ayla is able to interact with and understand the universe is changed on such a fundamental level that it leaves her in a state of shock.

As she feels her mind shutting down from nothing less than a critical excess of data, she slowly finds herself descending again to her normal level of perception, though a subtle ghosting of what she just… saw? Understood? Still lingers at the periphery of her awareness. Just under the surface she can almost sense the beauty and complexity that she had just witnessed. In her sister’s eyes, Q’ayla once again senses through their link:

{You see, I am alien now. But I think I am becoming ok with that, as long as you are here.}

Q’aleane then goes back to resting in her sister’s arms. Q’ayla is left with the impression that her sister is slowly returning but is leaving the driving up to her. She senses that if there is anything she is curious about, her sister seems willing to share while this strange dream is still winding down.

Q’ayla feels through the bond with her sister that silent, wordless expression. “You see, I am alien now.” She hugs the teenage Q’aleane tighter, though a series of questions floats to the top of her mind and she can’t help but give it voice:

“…When? When did this happen, Q’aleane? Or has it always been like this for you?”

Q’ayla senses her sister contemplate the question, break it apart and reform it. She senses instinctually that the question can’t be answered atomically and that Q’aleane was instead breaking it apart into questions she could answer.

The first she answered through a series of memory fragments, stitched together:

The first time, she saw someone using the Force… she was barely a toddler, the context of the situation long forgotten. She lay hidden, watching the Force play across her perceptions and watching the patterns swirl and interact. Her undeveloped mind fascinated with what she saw and the beginnings of patterns forming in her own mind.

Early in her training, when she saw Master Ixlis working some subtle manipulation of the Force, doing so quietly enough that the rest of the younglings noticed nothing. Seeing her attempt to duplicate the patterns she saw, and coming close. Close enough to draw the Master’s attention. His expression complex and unreadable.

Watching the swirls of the Force interacting with the unseen void over Zenoma Sekot, her whole being caught up in the interplay and patterns at work.

Meditating on a single Yuuzhan Vong biot with her Vongsense, looking through her growing senses and beginning to truly understand its nature and what it could be used for, learning to shape and impose her desires on that biot and helping it to grow into what she needed.

Flashes from Dathomir, her brain forced into overdrive to survive seeking out understanding of not just what they needed, but what she needed to truly understand.

A memory of drawing up the raw Force of the universe, even briefly, right before passing out from doing the impossible. The memory of the beauty of the thing her last memory before she loses consciousness.

As these and other memories filter through, it becomes clear that a part of this has always been there. She has always viewed the universe differently, the boundaries others saw, the impossible to understand always seemed like unnecessary fictions to her. The understanding that no one has ever been able to understand something simply meant that it was all that much more important that she do so. Q’ayla senses the familiar distrust with people telling her she is too young or too inexperienced.

Those memories flow into the second part of the answer, this one a more coherent singular memory:

As Q’ayla looks around, it takes her a moment to place where this memory is located. Q’aleane is young and the library she is hiding in is not on Taris. After a moment, she realizes that this must have been during one of their rare trips to Coruscant.

She observes the master archivist leaving a closed room in the back, one that Q’ayla didn’t notice last time she was here. One that she notices now through Q’aleane’s eyes appears to have been made to be difficult to notice both in its unremarkable form and through the Force. She watches as Q’aleane waits minutes before slowly making her way to that door.

At the door, Q’aleane duplicates a complex, multi-layered Force projection that she draws from her memory of earlier in the day. It is clear as she is doing it that had anyone else tried, part or even all the mechanism would have remained and the result would have almost certainly brought the archivists running. Her ability to mimic Force patterns seems to have been sufficient to the cause this time as the door unlocks and opens. Entering and closing the door behind her, Q’aleane waits minutes just observing, hidden in case she was discovered.

As she waits she makes a mental inventory, there appears to be a large section with alcoves filled with holocrons of every shape and size, some radiating eerily with the Dark Side, whispering forbidden secrets and promising power. Other alcoves filled with more ‘sensible’ holocrons both of living Jedi and those long gone. When Q’aleane finally moves, Q’ayla notices her sister walking an entirely different path, towards the back, where in a smaller section she is surrounded by books and ancient scrolls. It is here she watches her sister dive in and read in that way that only one blessed with an eidetic memory can do, skimming volumes of data and processing it later. Q’ayla watches as she dives into the history of long lost worlds and long lost histories following a thread that only she could see. Finally she finds what she is looking for in a series of fragments about the long lost Je’daii Order which changed into the Jedi order almost 26,000 years before the Battle of Yavin.

The final book, this one read in a more traditional fashion, her attention hanging on every word, was a treatise on the Force.

It spoke of the Force in a different way. In a way that echoed sympathetically with the patterns already forming in Q’aleane’s brain. It spoke of the danger of denying or hiding a part of something, it cautioned that denying understanding only gave power over the ignorant, it shared the knowledge that to truly understand one must understand everything about a thing, not just the parts that we like of that thing.

As the memory fades on the reading of a passage at the end, Q’ayla hears her sister actually speaking the words, not parroting a memory but with conviction and knowledge and immediate existence. Those words signaling more than anything that her sister had integrated back together:

“Emotion, yet peace.
Ignorance, yet knowledge.
Passion, yet serenity.
Chaos, yet harmony.
Death, yet the Force.

bq).There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no fear; there is power.
I am the heart of the Force.
I am the revealing fire of light.
I am the mystery of darkness
In balance with chaos and harmony,
Immortal in the Force."

Watching the flashes of Q’aleane’s memories from early life through mere days ago, Q’ayla finally understands the difference between her and her sister’s awareness of life and the Force that surrounds and binds life together. It’s not just the difference in their emotional intelligence, or her sister’s splendid ability to remember and memorize every little detail of her life. It is the very nature of how Q’aleane views the galaxy around her, through the Force as Q’ayla does, and yet utterly different. And it’s been like that their entire lives. It’s clear that Q’ayla herself doesn’t fully comprehend the breadth and depth of this difference, but she’s certainly much closer now.

The implications of this answer affect Q’ayla on a somehow even deeper level, since it also answers a question she had chosen to not yet ask, but one that has weighed on her heart for weeks now:

“When did Q’aleane stop believing in the Jedi Code? When… did she stop believing in our Miraluka ways?”

_Q’ayla had been certain that the change had come about during her sister’s time on Zonama Sekot, and particularly after experiencing the memory of the Embrace of Pain. But with this final memory, that theory had proven utterly, completely false. It had been much, much earlier than that. Now Q’ayla sees that this deviation happened when they two were very young, possibly even before their time as padawans. There is so much philosophical and emotional depth to this memory, and Q’ayla is unable to manage and even come to terms with everything she senses and feels in this moment._

Q’aleane’s piercing gaze falls on her sister with an almost whimsical mischievousness. “Does that answer your question?” A beat later, Q’ayla finds herself being hugged like she had never been hugged before.

“What happened? Are we all alive?”

Whatever attempt she begins to make to order her mind is quickly forgotten with the sudden realization that her Q’aleane has become whole once more. In response to the welcome, warm hug and her sister’s mischievous question, Q’ayla lets out a gleeful laugh.

“We are alive— although you look much less worse for wear in here!” She squeezes Q’aleane tight, perhaps a little too tight, but she can’t help it. Her sister and her best friend has returned to her. “I think I’d better try and explain while I’m still in this place, because I’m more than a little sure that you’ve rubbed off on me in here…” Q’ayla braces for what will likely be her last ’Q’aleane Mode’ explanation for quite some time, then proceeds to enumerate the many experiences she has had in the mindscape since first entering the water worlds.

“Yeah, the problem is that Allya is fundamentally spread out across all of Dathomir, hiding in the patterns. In order for her to take over, someone had to take her place in holding that pattern together.” A look of pain and memory flashes over Q’aleane’s face… “I had hoped to never have to experience that again, I didn’t think I would survive it a second time… having myself spread out that far was not… pleasant.”

“But what of the battle, is Irsin ok? Did we win? Was Allya able to help?”

“I can’t even imagine,” Q’ayla says with a shake of her head. “But at least as far as the battle is concerned, it was worth it. We stopped whatever was creating that undead army and holding Master Darach hostage. Irsin is okay, he’s sitting with me on your bed while I’m in here with you. And it was because of Allya that we were able to succeed as much as we did…” Her voice begins to trail off on the word ‘succeed,’ as though the very sound reminded her of something she’d rather not say.

“What? What’s wrong? Are the Clan Mothers ok?” The last seems to be said with unexpected emotion. Q’ayla senses that Q’aleane has a much deeper emotional connection to the Clan Mothers than perhaps she even realizes.

Q’ayla nods. “Mostly, yeah. Barukka was injured pretty badly after she lost Allya, but she’s going to be alright. Jothelle and the other mothers seem to have made it through without issue. That’s not it, it’s just…” As a now-instinctual reaction in this place, Q’ayla begins to feel the emotions that are most surely still roiling inside of her, but these outward expressions slip off of her into the lake, so that her words come out strangely empty.

“Master Darach is dead. Allya bound the entity to him and we killed him where he stood. Later we found Yevra’s body. She’d been turned into one of the undead and collapsed when the entity was destroyed, along with the rest.”

“Were they recovered? What about the daughters?”

Q’aleane sits down as the surroundings resolve to a more familiar expression of her inner world. Q’ayla notices one interesting change. Above the lake the night sky appears as it did in her memory of Ansion.

Q’ayla nods solemnly.

“Yes, the ship recovered their bodies when we were all brought on board. While you and I were healing, Irsin took their remains and gave them a proper burial down in the jungle. He said he’ll take us there if we want.” In response to the other question, Q’ayla shakes her head a bit, trying her best to piece together what happened to the Dathomiri daughters.

“As for the daughters, things didn’t go so well. I think you’ll need to have Irsin explain exactly what happened, but apparently the Nightsisters had a pretty advanced ship hiding in the mountains. It took off shortly after the battle ended and flew right into orbit, where it split into a half-dozen or so copies of itself, each with matching transponders and unique hyperspace trails. Irsin was able to track the trajectory or each of the ‘ships,’ but we’re not sure at all which one of them Zethira and the Dathomiri children were aboard.” Noticing a bit of the emotion that her sister seems to be expressing for the Dathomiri, Q’ayla approaches and sits down in front of her, mirroring her posture.

“I’m sorry, Q’aleane.”

Q’aleane just nods a bit as she takes it all in.

“Well, that is going to be… damn, we just can’t catch a break.”

She sighs and closes her eyes for a moment before opening them again with a renewed appearance of clarity.

“Ok, I am going to need to ask you to help me with something that you probably are not going to like… but we don’t have a lot of time and I suspect when I physically embody I am going to have to pay the piper… what I did no doubt will come with a cost at least physically. We need to move fast to lay some ground work. I know you have no love for this place, neither do I but we need to accomplish something that will help solve three problems we have. The first problem is that Dathomir is a nexus, and the problems here are going to echo further than just here. We need to establish some sense of order to help counteract the pattern of corruption and chaos that have taken over. This is a bit hard to explain but trust me when I say it is critical.”

“The second is we need someplace to act as a refuge and to work out of especially as our separation from the Order seems almost guaranteed at this point. The third is the Dathomiri need something that can prevent the cycle of Nightsister flare-up that dominates their society. What I want to do is leverage what little capital we have with the clan mothers to take over the Praxeum and turn it into a place of refuge for all Force paths. I have some ideas on how to make it work and keep it safe but if we don’t move now the opportunity will be lost. It doesn’t mean we need to stay here long, in fact I think we need to be looking for the Nightsisters and the daughters in the short term and of course holocrons in the long term… but it means some more diplomacy and having a tie to this place.”

Q’aleane is not wrong, her sister seems visibly taken aback by what she hears. At first when she responds, Q’ayla’s voice has regained a measure of its usual emotion.

“You want us to stay here? On Dathomir?”

But Q’ayla takes a deep breath, and whatever else she was going to follow up that question with drains off of her into the now-familiar lake. For now. When she continues on again, her voice is much more measured.

“As to the rest, I’m not sure you’ve thought this through, Q’aleane. The Praxeum doesn’t belong to us or the Dathomiri. It belongs to the Jedi Order, we came here to re-establish it for them. Whatever you’re thinking, the Jedi aren’t going to abandon Dathomir just like that. They’ll come here, and things could get even worse once they do. If you’re worried about finding a place of refuge for us once… once we leave the Order, I do actually have an idea about that if you want to hear it…” This time it’s Q’ayla who gives her sister a smirking smile.

This actually elicits a chuckle from Q’aleane.

“Technically the Jedi Order can’t own anything on Dathomir without the consent of the clan mothers. Dathomir is independent. If the clan mothers grant the praxeum away from the Jedi Order, they could protest but as I said, there are ways to ensure its safety. The clan mothers are much more powerful than the Jedi assume and there is a fourth problem that I think I can solve that would help the solution by calling in some friends among the Yuuzhan Vong to help provide security. As for choosing another refuge, I would love to hear what you have in mind but regardless of what refuge we choose, we do need to do something here lest the corruption here spread. I didn’t want to talk about this much before when we had other things on our mind, but understand the where we went when we spoke to Bogon was not Dathomir… the spread of the corruption goes far beyond this planet. However Dathomir is a nexus, so it affects and is affected by that other realm more strongly… a small act here such as establishing neutral ground for all Force paths will have an over-sized outcome. But anyway, what was your idea?”

Q’ayla raises her arms, gesturing to the night sky that would now be familiar to Q’aleane from her sister’s memory.

“Ansion, of course. I have more than one friend on the planet government, and if we decide we need to be even more discreet, I’m sure the Alwari in the Tasbir tribe would welcome us with open arms. It’s in the Fel Empire, Q’aleane, the Jedi have almost no jurisdiction there. And if we’re no longer Jedi ourselves then, well, we’d be nothing more than simple travelers. We’d have to adhere to Imperial law, but with Irsin’s help I’m sure we could fit in easily. He was an Imperial Knight, remember? Then from there it’d be come and go as we please!” Q’ayla lowers her arms and folds them across her chest, clearly pleased with herself for her idea and its underlying logic.

Q’aleane considers the idea for a moment. “The idea has personal appeal and would make an excellent personal fallback position… however the things that make it appeal most also make it unsuitable to solve some of the other problems.”

“One, it being in the Fel Empire means that it can never be truly independent. The Jedi would never be comfortable coming there and unless we can make a home that is truly neutral then we will end up having to go down the path of Vergere… which I would rather avoid… I think that we can reform all the Orders without destroying them, but it requires a truly independent place. Dathomir is beholden to neither side.”

“Two, Dathomir is a place that Force users are drawn to because of its connection to the Force. I can only think of a couple of other places with a similar draw and they are all firmly under Jedi control last I checked.”

“Three, we have an opportunity to have sanction by the government not just of our presence but our mission. Allya had similar goals to us and that will appeal to the clan mothers. With their help, this can flourish without the need for us to constantly keep it on track… which is fortunate both because I want to get off this rock for a while and because we have other things to do.”

“And finally, Ansion isn’t a nexus, not in the same way. What I saw on the other side disturbs me in ways I haven’t had a chance to talk to you about because we had more immediate pressing matters, but we need to do something about that lest the galaxy burn… this is one of the few places we can plant a seed that could make a dent in that. It is a great idea sis, and I think having a personal refuge on Ansion would be awesome. I just think we need to do this too and we have a very small window to do it and do it right.”

Q’ayla visibly deflates a little, having failed to dissuade her sister from dealing with Dathomir for any longer than is absolutely necessary. With some resignation and another deep breath, she nods to Q’aleane.

“…Alright. At this point I’m more than sure that you have a better idea of what’s going on than I do. But can I make a request? Can we wake you up first, sis? I think if we’re going to be doing more on Dathomir, Irsin should hear about it from you too. We’re going to need him, whatever it is we have to do here.”

“Soon, I am just worried if we don’t talk about this I won’t be able to when I wake up. I am not sure what physical effect this has had on me… I may not be conscious long.”

Q’aleane sighs feeling her sister’s emotions about Dathomir.

“Trust me when I say I understand how much you want to get off this rock… I do too. What I am talking about here is planting a seed, getting buy-in politically and getting the ball rolling. I have no intention of staying and finishing the job right now… it will take too long and the initial preparation steps can be done without us being present… in fact it would be better in some ways if we weren’t here, Force knows I need to get away from this planet for a while, I can’t imagine how much Irsin and you want to get off this rock. We just need to plant the seed for now… then come back after a while and water it… eventually we might need to spend more time here but it won’t be for a while… these things take time.”

“So in the event that you’re not able to speak with Jothelle and the others, what do you want me and Irsin to do?”

“That’s hard… the easiest would be if you could somehow bridge for Jothelle so that we can speak in my mind like this… I suspect you could bring in Irsin pretty easily and I suspect with Jothelle’s help you could bridge for her as well. I suspect I will be able to maintain some consciousness, the big thing is if I am fighting consciousness I might not be able to handle other things like talking to Irsin about this so I guess, just know what I am trying to do and help me… I don’t have anything specific I can ask you or tell you to do except just be there for me.”

She pauses for a moment, the weariness of the past few months catching up to her…..

“And if I haven’t had a chance to really say it, thank you sis… I don’t think I would have come back if you hadn’t been here. I know this must have been a strange and hard experience… I do love you, even if I am a bit of an alien.” The last part is said with love and more than a little self-deprecating humor.

Q’ayla chuckles, some of her own weariness fading for a moment. “Yeah well, since we’re twins, I guess that makes me an alien too. We’ll just have to be content with being aliens together.” Her laughter fades, but a warm smile remains. “This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. I don’t know what I’d do without you Q’aleane. And don’t worry too much about what happens after you wake up. I may not always know what you have planned, but I’ll always be there for you. I’ll handle talking with Irsin, and once things calm down outside, I’ll see about bringing Jothelle here so you can explain yourself to her in person, okay?”

Slowly, Q’ayla slides from her seated position to standing once more on the lake. She extends her hand to her sister. “Now then, come on. Let’s go greet the day.”

“OK…” Q’aleane pauses long enough to give her sister a long hug. “Let’s do this.”

View
Q'aleane Is Out Try Back Later
10:02:123

As Q’ayla opens her mind to her sister’s, her awareness seems to flee and then return to you after what seems like an eternity.

She finds herself completely surrounded by what feels like it could be water; at first it feels very comforting as there is no light, no sound simply the sensation of floating. Eventually her mind rebels at the thought of not being able to breathe and after what seems like an eternity, she finds her way to the surface only to discover she is still not breathing.

Somehow not breathing somewhere where it should be possible to is less jarring however and she quickly adapts.

As her eyes adjust it becomes clear that water is all she can see for as far as she can see, water and the stars above. A darkness pervades so deep that it makes the darkest night of her youth bright in comparison.

Whether she swims for hours, dives only to eventually get disoriented and sputter back to the top, shout at the night or any other action, the result is the same. Several hours pass, or at least they seem to.

One part of her mind knows with certainty that every second of those hours passed and felt them acutely. Another part of her mind knows with certainty that she has only been in here for mere seconds. Which part is correct is difficult to discern.

Either way, after that period of time/not-time, a glow seems to erupt around her. It seems to last several minutes and during that time the stars seem to wink out of existence.

It reminds Q’ayla of a trip she took with her sister and their master to Dac in their youth. One evening as the sun set, the sun seemed to dip below the horizon and for a brief period of time the universe seemed to be lit only by the light filtering through the ocean. This appears to be a brighter version of this, as if the ocean in question had no sediment, no coral, no ground to pollute the light as it filters through.

Just as her brain seems to come to terms with the idea that she is on the dark side of a water planet without even a core, the sun it orbits suddenly winks out of existence again and the stars return. This repeats several times in the space of a half hour (or is it scant seconds) until finally quieting once again to stars.

From Irsin’s perspective, Q’ayla’s body seems to unconsciously react over the course of several seconds. At first, her muscles seem to tense, and there is even a perceptible quickness to her breath as though something is wrong, but just as quickly as it begins the rhythm of her breathing returns to normal. After these initial reactions her body returns to normal, the danger appearing to have passed.

Inside her mind, Q’ayla is disoriented, confused, and troubled. Her sister’s mind looks far different than it did last time. What was once a lake that Q’aleane would sit upon idling her time in meditation has become a vast, planet-sized ocean. There is no shore, no bottom, nothing but water and stars. More troubling is that there is no Q’aleane either. Try as she might, Q’ayla cannot see her sister anywhere inside her own subconsciousness. She calls out into the vast empty space:

“Q’aleane! Q’aleane— where are you?!”

She waits, treading the endless waters, for any response from the other side.

For long seconds after Q’ayla calls out, nothing seems to happen and darkness prevails. However following that darkness more light flashes for several minutes.

During one of the longer flashes, a detail occurs to Q’ayla. Her sister’s meditative lake has always been mirror dark. Even in the rare cases where her world has been lit, seeing into the depths of the lake has been impossible. This water world however seems clear. Knowing her sister this could be a meaningless sign of her current mental instability and lack of ability to marshal the focus to create her world properly; or could have deep significance.

Regardless, several more attempts to call her sister simply result in the same reaction. Bursts of light in the darkness seeming to come from a sun on the other side of the planet.

Q’ayla calls out for her sister again, then again, but seemingly to no avail. With each new burst of light her attention is drawn more and more to the source of the light. It appears to be the only visible thing beyond the bottomless depths and far-off star field. When Q’aleane doesn’t respond to her latest call, Q’ayla decides to take action.

Despite the knowledge that this light is likely many, many miles away from her, she begins swimming as hard as she can, hoping that if she can reach the light she may find something there, some hint to what’s happened to her sister…

As Q’ayla begins the long, arduous swim she begins to experience the same odd mental dichotomy that she experienced earlier, only more acute. It takes her only a few minutes to go hundreds of miles although her brain registers that time as many many days. If asked Q’ayla’s answer to the question ‘How do you feel’ might be to expound on how tired she was. However despite this, no physical aches actually seem present, only the mental imprint that she must ache after all she just swam so far.

This strange mental gymnastics dominate Q’ayla’s thoughts for a while until she is shocked out of the reverie as she realizes that over the horizon a satellite of some sort appears to be rising. Glimpsing it as she can only periodically, due to the flashes, it takes some time before she realizes it is another water planet she estimates as roughly the same size as the one she is on. As she proceeds she notices more of these come out of the horizon as her angle progresses.

By the time she reaches a half the way to the “equator” of this strange water world, she can pretty clearly make out dozens if not hundreds of these worlds, all lined up in what appear to be rows. Below this plane of planets, she can barely make out another plane of these.

Taking a moment to process what she sees, Q’ayla realizes that something is fundamentally wrong with her sister’s internal world.

As she slows up her swimming, Q’ayla’s legs keep treading the calm waters. The silence is punctuated by drips and splashes as she raises her arms, holding her hands out in incredulity. Abruptly, she slams them back down creating a crashing, rippling wave around her.

“Son of a bitch !” Irsin notices a slight gritting of the teeth, a quiet grunt.

As the random flashing continues to illuminate her surroundings she desperately attempts to examine where she is, and what exactly is going on inside her sister’s head. It isn’t just one more planet— there could be thousands of them, all around her! As best she can tell they all look identical, completely made of liquid with no difference in tint or color, and nothing at all like landmasses visible. And yet these planets aren’t behaving like planets at all. They don’t appear to be moving, spinning, or orbiting each other or anything whatsoever. They are simply there, stacked in rows and columns, ordered and … still and …

At this thought, Q’ayla stops for a moment, trying to remain as still as she can while keeping herself afloat. Living in the silence as her mind begins to grasp something.

Stacked and ordered.

Ordered. Now that does sound like Q’aleane. Perhaps her sister’s subconscious isn’t nearly as chaotic as Q’ayla had at first thought. But what do thousands of water planets have to do with Q’aleane? Unless…

Q’ayla thinks again, and then starts looking frantically around as she shakes her head in disbelief. She realizes that she has seen something like this before, and in Q’aleane’s mind.
“No … no it can’t be …”

The image comes back to her in an instant— the lake; her sister sitting, meditating in the center of it, surrounded by thousands and millions of water droplets. Q’aleane calming the maelstrom, ordering her mind, setting right what is wrong inside of her. And she’s doing it again now. Except this time…

Q’ayla is inside one of the droplets. She is treading water inside one of millions of identical droplets floating in space, silent and still.

“How can this be? How can I be inside one of these things?! Either I’m microscopic, or Q’aleane is…”

The thought of a giant Q’aleane towering over a bull rancor, fingers outstretched and roaring at the top of her lungs gives Q’ayla pause. Then she giggles a bit before returning to the moment.

“Okay, I think I know where I am now. So now what? I assume Q’aleane is out there somewhere, but how am I going to get to her like this?!”

Q’ayla is unsure about the degree to which she can control both herself and her surroundings here. How much power does she really have inside her sister’s subconscious? Or would it be better to leave this place for now, return to Irsin and tell him what’s happened before trying to enter in a different “place?” She weighs both options for several minutes before deciding to stay and see what she can accomplish on her own. She feels like she’s close to a breakthrough, but further testing is necessary.

“Gods, I sound like Q’aleane. This place is rubbing off on me.”

Q’ayla begins to take deep breaths, trying to quiet her mind and keep herself calm. Her legs continue to tread water, but other than that she is still. She attempts to find a meditative place through which she can alter this space. After several moments (it is both years and minutes to her) she is able to center herself. Taking one last deep breath, she reaches out with her mind, willing the space to readjust, to return to a state of normalcy. She hopes that either she will grow or the water will shrink and she will find herself inside the lake with her sister near.

That is the hope, at least.

As Q’ayla’s breathing and mind quiets, she quickly realizes that changing the world to match her would be extremely difficult. A spark of inspiration hits as she realizes that adjusting herself to the world would be the same. A brief realization that this is a Q’aeleane train of thought flashes through her consciousness.

Slowly as she meditates she feels herself being pulled like taffy… a not entirely pleasant sensation… Q’ayla manages to maintain focus and calm and continues to grow until her brain just can’t take it anymore.

Before she opens her eyes, Q’ayla finds herself focusing on how she feels. Even with her eyes closed it feels like she is too large…. she commands her toes to wiggle and it feels like miles away and seconds later her toes wiggle. As she opens her eyes, Q’ayla fights a sense of vertigo as she seems to be standing on a plane of water “planets” the size of large animals.

As she gets the vertigo under control, she realizes she is fighting with the perception that she is a giant standing simultaneously on surface of two of these water planets and the conflicting perception that she is nothing but a mouse in this larger world around her that is starting to but not quite come to form.

As she looks around, she finds herself crossing her eyes to try and blur the world together, almost like she was looking too closely at a display or printout. She is still too small, stuck seeing the parts without being able to focus on the whole.

As Q’ayla loses herself in thought, she catches herself as she begins to follow habit and tries to move. The delay between her thoughts and her motions seem to vary based on how far she is from herself. Her legs begin to move before her feet and she momentarily begins to lose cohesion teetering between falling over and falling apart.

As she re-establishes her equilibrium and refocuses at understanding the world around her, she realizes two things. First is she must be on the right track. Second is that if she continues to even exist at this state, she will tear her mind apart. The idea of growing larger at all creates an instinctual revulsion that threatens to dislodge her calm and focus.

Within moments, Q’ayla has allowed herself to return to her “normal” size; that is, she is once again a mite floating in a drop of water the size of a planet. She lets herself float down deep into the water, trying to shut out everything as her mind struggles to return to normalcy in the wake of her experiment. After several moments she opens her eyes again and swims back to the surface.

This recent turn of events is unfortunate, and she is not pleased.

“Dammit, Q’aleane I’m trying to help you! Gods, you make me so angry sometimes! How many times has it been, that you’ve allowed yourself to almost die?! Do you have any idea what that’s doing to me?!”

“Do you have any idea what all of this has already done to me?!”

Q’ayla can feel the rage building up inside of her. She doesn’t care. Her thoughts focus on the lost Dathomiri daughters… instead of being with Jothelle, or hunting down Zethira and the rest of her Nightsister bitches, she’s stuck in a tear drop floating inside her sister’s broken mind!

“There’s no time for this, Q’aleane! You hear me?! ENOUGH!”

Irsin would have already begun to see the dark veins pulsing to the surface of Q’ayla’s face and neck, down her arms and along her fingers. He wouldn’t need to see behind her visor to know the swirling clouds of fire in her eyes. Tapping into her emotions would reveal a shockingly familiar rage. He might try to rouse her, to take her away from whatever is causing this, but if he’s noticed the changes in her body, he’s already too late to stop her mind…

bq.This reality isn’t real, and I’ve had enough of these games…

Q’ayla thinks to herself. Then, without further hesitation, she breaks the surface of the water, leaping from liquid to empty space effortlessly. She curls herself into a ball in mid-air, drawing in all of the rage and pain within her. She focuses those feelings to a fine point, hearing in her mind the words spoken to her by Bogan, remembering the power lying hidden in her potential…
“I will not hide like an insect in here any longer, Q’aleane… I will find you and I will save you. Now reveal yourself !!!”
Q’ayla’s body snaps outwards as she releases the pent-up essence of her power and emotions. Her purpose is etched— no, burned into her being, going beyond will itself to break free of her sister’s shattered subconsciousness and discover Q’aleane’s true location and rescue her from this madness.

The words “reveal yourself” echo through the alien landscape and instead of fading over time seem to grow in intensity until they become nothing but a roar coming from every direction.

The sudden and violent reaction around her momentarily stuns Q’ayla as she struggles to resolve the many changes occurring.

Externally lightning seems to arc throughout the space between the water planets. Despite the increase in light, the space somehow becomes darker. The water planets seem to begin to lose some cohesion starting to take on the shape of an amorphous blob instead of a perfect sphere.

As this chaos begins to erupt around her, Q’ayla becomes aware of her own thoughts. A strong feeling of imbalance begins to grow in her. Instinctively she reaches out physically for balance, and finding nothing there adopts a familiar seated meditative pose. The familiar physical configuration prompts an immediate transition into the start of a meditative state. A part of Q’ayla’s mind begins to reach out for balance and center. Even as this part of her reaches for balance she realizes her anger is still burning brightly. The duality leaves her in a fight for her sanity unlike any she has ever experienced before.

As she struggles with the conflicting thoughts, for a brief moment, she notices her own reflection everywhere. It is almost as if the entire mindscape becomes a house of mirrors. Although the shape doesn’t change and she knows it doesn’t make sense for her to see herself in each of the water blobs, she does nonetheless. The feeling passes quickly but she is left disquieted as something about the reflections nags at her thoughts even as she struggles to remain coherent.

She can slowly feel her mind beginning to shatter as a scream replaces the words echoing through the chaotic landscape.

View
Aftermath
10:02:123

The companions finally located Master Darach, who was possessed by whoever or whatever has been behind sll of Dathomir’s recent ills. Confronting it, they fought against a myriad of foes and tricks – enraged beasts, animate corpses, and raw Force power. Finally, Q’aleane managed to contact Allya and serve as host for her spirit to manifest and contain the entity possessing Darach. This enabled Irsin and Q’ayla to engage it in direct combat, and, when they slew Darach, guarantee that he would bring it down with him in death.

With their task achieved, Allya left Q’aleane’s now-unconscious body, hopefully before doing her permanent harm, and Irsin and Q’ayla both collapsed in varying degrees of exhaustion and injury. Irsin, being the least badly hurt, soon scouted the area to make sure the immediate threat was past, and in so doing discovered the corpse of Padawan Yevra a short distance away, apparently felled in mid-run, her body bearing indications of having been transformed into another of the undead monstrosities that have infested the jungle in recent days. He has not, as yet, shared this discovery with Q’ayla.

Perhaps 15 minutes after ending Master Darach and the entity that controlled him, everyone’s coms began to chime with a request for contact from Jothelle. They are told that the tide of the battle turned quite suddenly a short time ago – the thousands of undead monstrosities all abruptly collapsed to the ground, and what had been a desperate fight for survival on the part of the Dathomiri became a route against the handful of actual Nightsisters. A handful who had been near the rear have so far escaped capture or slaughter, and are being pursued, but the main battle is over. Jothelle’s forces, being warned of the ambush, and initially having the support of Allya, were able to avoid devastating losses at the start of the fight, but things began to turn against them when Barukka suddenly stumbled and found herself alone in her body again. She reported that Allya had jumped to Q’aleane somehow, but that was all there was time for during the fight. The tide of battle began to turn against the Dathomiri at that point, and they suffered significant losses before the undead ceased being a problem. Barukka was badly injured, and remains unconscious (though they think she will live), so Jothelle doesn’t know exactly what happened, and has called to learn if the companions know. Jothelle is relieved that Q’ayla survived, and wonders if Q’aleane is also all right.

At last report, Zethira, if she was not truly the being possessing Darach, remained unaccounted for – she had not been seen either by the companions or the Dathomiri who were serving to engage the Nightsister forces. There has also been, so far, no sign of the stolen children. Jothelle has sent scouts to try to locate the entrance to the Nightsister stronghold, however, which presumably lies nearby in the mountains somewhere.

Q’ayla is seated on the ground next to Irsin, her back against the massive tree that had held Master Darach. Her body is consumed by exhaustion and pain, her mind by all that has just transpired. With her sister once again indisposed, however, she tries her best to fill in. “I’m so happy to hear your voice again, Jothelle. I think we can shed some light on things, though not as much as Q’aleane might, but she’s out of commission at the moment. In a way, we all are. Anyways, here’s what happened…

“We encountered Master Darach here in the jungle, and were immediately set upon by the walking dead. Their forces were bolstered by the arrival of rancors, but we were eventually able to defeat them all, forcing Darach… or whatever he had become… into the melee. It was at that point that Q’aleane spoke with Barukka to enlist Allya’s help. We… we didn’t fully consider what it would do to you and your sisters… I’m so sorry for that."

She pauses for a moment before continuing, suddenly a little light-headed.

“Once Allya arrived, she gave us a choice: using her power, she could affect the possessing entity by either limiting its power temporarily or binding it to Darach’s body. There was a chance that… we feared that whatever it was, it might escape the battle if we didn’t…”
A deep breath then, mustering strength.

“Master Darach is dead. And if there is any justice the thing that took him is dead as well. It’s my guess that its death would account for what you experienced on your end. The walking dead seem to have been linked to it, and without the host’s power, they can no longer persist.
“For the time being, I’m not sure how helpful we can be to you. Even if we weren’t in our present condition, we’re several days walk from the ship, and as long as Q’aleane is unconscious we can’t summon the ship here. I wish there was more we could do…

“…But I don’t want to keep you, as I’m sure you have far too much going on where you are. Please let us know if there’s anything we can do, or if you have any updates on the search. We’ll do the same on our end—

“Oh, and Jothelle: Please let us know if there’s a change in Barukka’s condition."

With the com conversation complete, Irsin turns his attention to trying to see if he could contact the ship over coms. He has no idea if this would work, but he knows there’s med beds in there, and if either of the sisters needed medical attention the ship is the fastest way to get it to them, with the imminent threat of supernatural awareness of all flying objects being grounded by super TK now apparently averted…

As they finished their conversation with Jothelle, two things happened: they heard a burst of momentary static over the channel with her, and what sounded like a shouted profanity of some sort, and a couple heartbeats later, a distant sonic boom. The jungle canopy around them was too thick to see anything, but it sounded like an airborne vehicle moving at high speed to both of them.

Back on the com again, Jothelle yells, “What was that?” and in the background could be heard a number of other voices, too many to make out anything clearly. Jothelle swears again, but her mouth is clearly not close to the com pickup now. Efforts to regain her attention are momentarily unheeded, but after about a minute, she comes back on properly, “I have some bad news: it looks like the Nightsisters must have had an escape plan. That was some kind of ship taking off and heading for orbit. We have nothing that can follow, obviously, so if you can’t pursue them, I think Zethira just escaped, and probably with our daughters.”

Irsin tries hurriedly to find a way to contact Q’aleane’s ship with his regular com gear, but he quickly realizes that he’s never needed to reach just the ship before – he’s always contacted those on board via private com codes, and everyone that might answer is currently sitting beside him. He’s got no idea what frequency to use, so he’s reduced to trying to make a general broadcast and hoping the damned thing will respond. He codes the message with every kind of emergency signal and SOS he can think of, including the information that Q’aleane is injured and unconscious in the hopes that maybe it can parse the message – he has no idea whether it can or not – their current location, and both the Ren sisters’ private codes, hoping something will catch the ship’s attention and get it to respond.

After what seems like an age – Q’ayla is starting to wonder if maybe he isn’t getting enough range, and if perhaps he could boost the gain if he cannibalized her and Q’aleane’s coms, and is just about to ask him to try it – though the chronometer assures them it is hardly more than a couple of minutes, Irsin’s broadcast receives a non-verbal acknowledgement of receipt. The signal seems to be coming from the right direction to be the ship, but there’s no way to be certain. Just in case, he leaves the emergency broadcast going. Another century later – or five minutes, as the chronometer insists – the canopy above is whipped about violently, and they can make out a bulk of a ship through the trees.

As Q’ayla floats up towards the sky, she can’t help but smile. Irsin had done it; somehow, he had summoned the living ship to them, and they weren’t out of this fight yet. Not only that, but up here she was away from the jungle, away from everything it represented to and recalled in her. Finally, she could leave this hell behind. Unfortunately her smile is short-lived; as her head turns to the side she can see the mutilated body of Master Darach floating up with her, and her eyes go wide— her stomach churns, and she is forced to look away. She does not notice the mysterious fifth body.

Irsin and Q’ayla feel themselves lifted into the air, and see that Q’aleane is as well. For whatever reason, Master Darach’s corpse, decapitated head and all, is also drawn up through the trees beside them. Once they all clear the trees, they can see that a fifth body is being drawn up as well (Irsin recognizes it at once as Yevra’s corpse. Q’ayla isn’t able to do so without closer examination). they are all, living and dead, deposited in the cargo hold. Q’aleane remains unconscious through this. As far as they can tell, once they are all inside and the cargo door has closed, the ship remains stationary.

Q’ayla feels the cool metal surface of the cargo bay against her back and neck, and the sounds of the planet are blotted out by the steady thrumming of the ship’s engines. She barely has time to reorient herself when she sees Irsin sprint by, heading for the cargo hold doors.
“Irsin, wait! What about Q’alea—”

The doors slip open and closed and he is gone.

“Dammit.”

Once the doors are closed Irsin immediately heads for the bridge and punches the keys to activate the manual flight controls.

Q’ayla rolls to her front and pushes up off the ground to her knees, still aching and bleeding from battle. Rising to her feet she takes a moment to balance herself, then heads towards the door as fast as she can manage. As the doors slide open she turns back to Q’aleane’s unconscious body.

“Don’t go anywhere.”

A few moments later she’s on the bridge, dragging herself towards Irsin who is now at the controls of the ship, angling it into orbit. He must sense her presence, because he just about barks a command at her:

“Sensors.”

She nods somewhat wearily, managing a “Right,” before moving to another console and activating the ship’s sensor suite. She knows that they’re looking for a ship, so identifying its ion trail would be the way to go. And seeing as there aren’t any other ships currently flying around Dathomir, it should be simple to find Zethira’s ship.

At first, Q’ayla is elated at how easy it is to locate the ion trail of the escaping ship, but her excitement quickly turns to dismay: the readings seem to indicate that while a single vehicle launched, it quickly divided into three, and she can find no way to distinguish between them – all three appear to be identical, and they each are charting drastically different vectors – only one can be tracked at a time. Given that their quarry already has a lead of almost 10 minutes, a wrong choice will make it highly unlikely they can catch the ship before it makes the jump to hyperspace.

“Uhh… Irsin?”

_Q’ayla’s eyes dart across the sensor grid; she feels more confused and angry by the second.

This can’t be right. What is this? One ship splitting into three identical ships leaving three identical ion trails?! Not any ship I’ve ever seen before, but obviously one built for just this kind of escape— gods damn you, Zethira!!!

“I don’t know how to tell you this… I can see the ship here, but then it splits up and there’s three of them! They’re all going in completely different directions, and they’re all identical to one another! We’re going to have to pick one, and if we don’t hurry we’re going to lose them for good when they make the jump to hyperspace— but which one is it?!”

Her fists come down hard on the edge of the console as she looks over at Irsin in frustration— he’ll know what to do, he just has to!

Irsin growls and pulls up the sensor readout on his console…he punches a few keys, trying some variations that Q’ayla hadn’t thought to yet but still can’t seem to find any way to differentiate the craft from one another.

“BLAST these damn Nightsisters must be getting help from the outside.” Without any obvious decision process, Irsin swings the ship around to follow the ship which had split off to the right, and he hopes they guessed right to find Zethira. He would make her pay for everything they’ve gone through.

As they escape the atmosphere and pickup speed Irsin’s hands clench so hard on the controls that his knuckles begin to look pink…

As they track the signature out of the atmosphere, they see it’s course heading straight out of system, and are just in time for the sensors to pick up the telltale signature of a hyperspace jump ahead. Preliminary analysis indicates the destination is likely Ord Cestus, only a short distance from here, galactically speaking.

Just as Irsin is about to punch the coordinates into the navicomputer to follow, however, Q’ayla notices something on the sensor readout – elsewhere in the area, at various orbital positions above Dathomir, there were FIVE other hyperspace jump signatures detected at roughly the same time as the one Irsin is tracking. Their current position doesn’t allow them to determine where they all went, but judging from their different locations, they likely all had entirely different destinations. It might be possible to establish where each was headed if they check them all now, before the ion trails dissipate, but if they follow any one of them right away, it will be too late to follow any of the others later. And if they delay here long enough to catalog the initial destinations of each, they will almost certainly lose too much time to keep following, if the real ship is planning a course designed to lose pursuit at trade hubs.

“What the…?” Irsin mutters “How can there be six jumps for 3 ships??” He shoots Q’ayla a searching look, and seeing his own anger mirrored there he pauses and forces himself to take a deep breath. Anyone can be found. He spent a lifetime hunting for one man. It would be more important to find a starting point for each ship, than to follow one which was in all probability a decoy.

Bellowing in frustration Irsin whirls the ship around and calculates a flight path where all 5 jumps can be cataloged and analyzed. He queues up the necessary computer analysis programs and fumes in disgust as he begins pacing about the bridge.

Q’ayla stares at the sensor grid in front of her in disbelief. As she notices the ship moving to a central location and stopping, she whips her head around to see Irsin stepping up and away from the controls.

“Wait, what are you doing? Why are we stopping?! There has to be a way— we have to go after them!”

She is so exhausted, and her body feels like it’s just been chewed up by a rancor (it almost was), but right now finding the kidnapped Dathomiri feels like the most important thing in her life. She cannot fail at her duty. Not again.

Irsin whirls on her “You think I don’t know that?! You think I don’t want to get back at the people who put us through all of this? You think I don’t want to find them and show them my frustration?!” He is breathing heavily, his face contorted with scorn. Then he continues, his voice deadly soft,

“I will find them. I will hunt those murdering, cowardly, bitches to the ends of the galaxy. And to do that I need to know where they go. Haring off after one ship which is almost guaranteed to be a decoy when we can get a readout on all 6 won’t do anyone any good. Least of all us.”
He turns his back on her, still breathing heavily.

She thought she knew what would happen when she challenged him. She thought her own anger and desperate frustration would rise to meet his rage. She was very wrong.

His roaring voice and the disgusted, hate-filled look on his face broke her down like a branch over the knee. As he ranted at her, she was again that little girl being reprimanded at the Academy. She had stepped out of line, and he was putting her back in her place. A part of her – a tiny one – resented him in that moment, but that flame was quickly snuffed out in her mind and in her heart.
“…”
She tries to reignite her anger, to rail against him and fight for her duty, but the overwhelming feeling of weariness coupled with the knowledge – deep down – that he is in the right defeat her. Instead, Q’ayla slowly walks up to Irsin and gently rests her forehead in between his shoulders.

“…”

“How long is this going to take? I need to go and tend to Q’aleane… and do something with Darach’s body.”

Irsin’s shoulders stiffen a little, but he eventually sighs, and says in a tight voice,

“We’ll need to move about to each point where the ships left the system and take the necessary readings. It will probably take at least a half hour, maybe more. Certainly plenty long enough for them to lose us on the other end before we can get after any of them.”

He then lays a hand on her shoulder briefly as he turns and walks away to check on the progress of the first analysis.

Q’ayla watches him turn away, and her shoulders sag a bit as his hand moves off of her. Turning, she moves back towards the lift door.

“If you need me, I’ll be with my sister.”

She enters the lift and takes it down to the lower level, leaving Irsin alone on the bridge.


After considerable flying around in the orbital vicinity of Dathomir, scanning, and course-plotting, Irsin is able to establish a rough idea of what has happened, though it doesn’t help determine which course Zethira (presumably) took in her escape. As best as he can tell, the ship was outfitted with a set of 5 (at least) drones designed specifically to have identical ion and hyperdrive signatures to the main vessel. Almost as soon as it launched from the surface, the ship fired off 2 of them, which each took different vectors to orbit. Once in orbit, 2 of the signatures plotted hyperspace coordinates immediately, while the third split off into 4 before each one left the system as well. There is absolutely no way to tell any of them apart, and there isn’t even a sure way to tell if the two that left the planet and didn’t split first (one of which they were following initially) were decoys – it’s entirely possible one of those was the real ship, and one of its decoys was designed to split up to further confuse things. The only possible way he could have been sure which was the real one was if he’d been in close enough pursuit to have a visual on the thing as it was leaving. Since they weren’t, and since the only orbital satellite that might have been able to record the departure was destroyed weeks ago, he’s got no way to narrow things down from here.

He can confirm with reasonable certainty that the one they were after at the start was headed for Ord Cestus. The other signature that didn’t split a second time made for Botajef, also close by. The other four seem to be going to Mandalore, Bandomeer, Borgo Prime, and Shaum Hii. Botajef is about as far as the others mentioned before. Mandalore is farther, lies on no major hyperspace routes, and is technically not a part of Republic space. The last two are both farther still, but can be reached somewhat more quickly because both lie on nearby major hyperspace lanes – possibly even soon enough to arrive close to the same time as their quarry, if that’s where they went (though only for one, of course).

With the exception of Mandalore, all are mid-tier trade hubs in the region, and thus likely to have quite a bit of traffic in-system, making it difficult, if not impossible, to track a particular ship after any length of time. With respect to Mandalore, Jedi are accorded respect as powerful warriors in Mandalorian territory, but are granted no extra-legal powers, and not considered representatives of the Alliance unless granted that status specifically by the Senate or Triumvirate. The companions could enter their space, but would be considered private citizens only by Mandalorian authorities. And, incidentally, doing so without prior authorization from The Rens’ superiors would most definitely not be viewed well by the Jedi.

After confirming these findings, Irsin goes off to find Q’ayla and check on the status of Q’aleane. Where they go from here isn’t a decision he can make on his own, especially with the sisters still anchored to their Order. His gut tells him that the real ship was one of the three which split later, and that of the other three destinations, Mandalore is the most likely destination for someone fleeing the Jedi or Republic Justice, but he has no proof of this.

Still on a slow simmer about the situation, though not quite as explosive as it had been, Irsin trudges over to the lift and makes for the cargo hold…


As the doors to the cargo hold open, Q’ayla is greeted by a fetid odor that, in her current condition, threatens to quite literally knock her out. Somehow she is able to keep her feet, though she does emit a loud groan as her face contorts and she waves a hand in front of her face as though that might disperse the smell.

It does not.

Entering, she sees that Master Darach’s body is still dripping some vital fluids, even as his severed head rests comfortably against his side. Shuddering at the sight, she turns to the wall just inside the door and removes the med-kit, bringing it with her to Q’aleane’s prone form. Kneeling down next to her sister, Q’ayla opens the med-kit and begins to remove the items she will need to determine Q’aleane’s condition.

“With any luck, you’re just out cold like before. Nothing more serious than that, okay sis?” she says to herself as she activates the first scanner.

Thankfully, it appears that Q’aleane is mostly fine. Apart from some relatively minor injuries suffered during the battle – and the fact that she is unconscious – her sister seems to be in “good” health. Using available supplies from the med-kit, Q’ayla is able to repair Q’aleane’s injuries, but try as she might she cannot wake her sister. For anyone else, Q’ayla might become panicked and overly concerned, but after everything that has happened on Dathomir, the idea of Q’aleane unconscious has become so routine that she simply slides down into a seated position next to her sister and sighs deeply.

Q’ayla slowly begins to re-pack the med-kit before returning it to its place on the wall. As she is crossing the cargo hold back towards the door, she finally takes notice of the second – well, third if counting Q’aleane – body on the floor. She looks over at the corpse, and for several moments her mind refuses to recognize or acknowledge what she’s looking at. Perhaps her body’s exhaustion is overtaking her mind.

Her dropping the med-kit crashing to the ground and letting out a tired, desperate cry as the reality of the situation dawns on her suggests perhaps this is not the case.

As Irsin returns to the cargo bay, he finds Q’ayla weakly bounding across the room towards the remains of the Padawan Yevra Pyne…

Muttering an oath under his breath Irsin dashes forward to try and catch Q’ayla before she reaches Yevra. Snatching her mid-bound, he holds her back from the tortured corpse of the once dedicated and vulnerable padawan, and pulls Q’ayla away from the gruesome sight.

“Q’ayla! Q’ayla, listen to me. There’s nothing you can do to help her. She’s gone. She was long gone before we even defeated Darach. I’d have warned you if I’d known the ship had grabbed her body also. Listen to me! She collapsed dead, just like all the other corpses when Darach and the thing inside him was defeated. Understand? Like all the other corpses Q’ayla. She was already gone.”

Q’ayla is scrambling across the floor when suddenly Irsin’s arms are around her waist and he’s lifting her up, up into the air and away from the horrid remains. Her arms claw and reach out towards Yevra—

“No! Stop, let me go, she needs me! Yevra! NO!!”

—inside, everything that has built up throughout the long days and nights on Dathomir is finally bursting out in white-hot rage mixed with utter despair.

“No— I said let me go! Irsin, stop!”

She can hear his words pouring into her mind, and somewhere in there she knows that he’s right. The rest of her doesn’t care.

This can’t be happening.
Not Yevra too.
Yevra was supposed to be alright.
That was the bargain…

He’s turning her in the air so that she can’t look at the awful desiccated corpse, and she’s still fighting against him, trying to squirm out of his grip. There has to be something she can do— some inner power she hasn’t tapped into yet. There must be more of whatever Bogan had promised her! She just needs to get to Yevra…

Irsin keeps talking, keeps injecting the truth into the madness overtaking Q’ayla, and after several minutes they’re both down on the cargo-bay floor, and her fists are slamming into the cold metal again and again as she cries out in furious anger, hot tears sliding down from her eyes. The silence of the room is punctuated by screams of rage and loud, despondent sobs. In a deep place in her mind, Q’ayla thinks she hears something like words ringing, and they act to fuel her fire:

You are weak. You are pathetic, Jedi.

Once again she has failed. Once again her weakness has cost her.

“Q’AYLA REN! GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF!” Irsin’s patience suddenly fractures as his voice cracks like a whip through Q’ayla’s wailing sobs of rage and despair.

“You are better than this. Stronger than this. I’ve seen it. She was a life who mattered to you, but she was only one life!. We saved thousands today. We did what the bloody Jedi -” The word comes out laced with scorn and derision, " – couldn’t. In fact they only made it worse! You can and must pull yourself together. We have a job to finish. And the sooner we finish, the sooner we can be after those responsible for this mess. There are people on the planet who need to know those murderous whores escaped. And your sister needs medical attention. Blasted gods you need medical attention!"

The stream of words comes flooding out, Irsin’s voice just short of a bellow the entire way, hoping to break through Q’ayla’s incoherent cloud. Irsin’s words lash out like thunder, cracking into Q’ayla’s mind, but they are soon swept up in the maelstrom that is consuming her. She has completely lost control of herself at this point, and her screams and cries continue unabated as she slams her fists against any part of Irsin she can find; against the floor; even against herself. Soon her hands are bloodied and bruised, yet she does not stop.

He is breathing heavily by the end, and only then does he realize he has pinioned Q’ayla’s arms behind her in a hold designed to prevent her from moving, and her back is arching on the edge of pain from the hold. He pulls back hard— too hard, in fact, and she lets out pained cry even as she continues to struggle any way she can. He lets up on the pressure slightly when he realizes this, and mutters so softly in comparison to a moment ago that Q’ayla almost doesn’t hear him. “I’m sorry…”

How dare he keep me from Yevra?! I must be able to do something to save Yevra, and Irsin won’t let me! I won’t be weak now, not now when there’s so much power inside of me, enough to help Yevra! He won’t stop me!

Irsin has of course noted Q’ayla’s pale skin, as it has remained that way for most of the day. Now, however, he sees further change as her back arches and her face becomes a twisted visage of pain and fury: deep perceptible lines begin to manifest on her pale skin like veins of darkness. Irsin would know these lines well from his time on Kesh…

At the same time, Irsin begins to feel something like a tightness at his throat. Initially it seems to be the result of his shouting, and though he doesn’t stop yelling, it begins to feel more acute, like something he’s most certainly familiar with—!

He pulls back on Q’ayla, his words ignoring her attempt to attack him, and she screams again – the loudest one yet – and then begins to quiet. Still sobbing, still rigid in defiance to him, but quieting now. He can see on the back of her neck, her arms, and her side darkening spots on her clothes and skin where wounds have reopened, and as he finishes his speech and realizes what’s happened, he lets up on her and finds that she has now also fallen into unconsciousness. The deep dark veins on her skin are fading fast, her body has gone limp, and her head is now slumped forward.

She is now finally, terrifyingly, silent.

Irsin lowers her to the floor, grimly but carefully letting up and checking her pulse and breathing to ensure she is alright. His thoughts racing on self-recrimination for losing his temper and potentially exacerbating the situation, he begins to methodically clean up the scene. First he loads the sisters onto a cargo carrier and brings both to their rooms where they can be more comfortable, and get the attention they both need. He carefully loads each one into a bed, and configures the automated systems to provide necessary support and monitoring tools on both. Once he is sure they are both stable and being seen to, he configures a patch of the readouts on both to his personal computer, so he can monitor them remotely.

With that done, he takes a moment or two longer to stare down at Q’ayla in the medical bed. He is worried, guilty, angry, frustrated, bitter…but more than anything ashamed. After a moment or two he turns sharply and returns to the bridge. From there he pilots the ship down to the planet, contacting Jothelle on the way.

Inside Irsin is a turmoil of emotion, but his voice comes out calm and steady, almost militaristic.

“Jothelle, this is Irsin. We were able to track the escaping ship into orbit, however from there the ship split into 6 separate ion trails, presumably using some kind of automated drones to lay false trails. Q’ayla and Q’aleane are both now resting to recuperate from the fight with Darach and whatever spirit possessed him, and I’m on my way back to the planet to perform last rights for the fallen from our battle. Are you or your people in need of any immediate support? Otherwise I will finish that and check in with you again once the sisters have regained consciousness.”

“We have the situation in hand here for the moment. Are Q’aleane and Q’ayla all right? If there is anything we can do to aid you in their care, you need only ask.

“We will have to discuss Zethira’s escape soon, if she cannot be pursued now. She must not be allowed to escape with our children!

“My scouts have located the Nightsister stronghold in the mountains. I am transmitting the coordinates to you now. Meet me there once you are able, I gather there may be material there we will all find of interest. If we are lucky, perhaps there will even be clues about Zethira’s intentions from here, that may lead us to her destination.”

“Understood. I was able to map the 6 destinations the ion trails took before their hyperspace jumps. If we can match this up with intelligence gathered from their camp perhaps we can figure which of the destinations is real vs. decoy. We have no intention of letting them escape from this mess without paying for their crimes.

“The Ren sisters are stable, resting in the med bay here on the ship. I believe they will both make a full recovery, but they both may need time.

“I will make short work of my duties here and meet you at the stronghold as soon as possible. Irsin out.”

After breaking contact Irsin lands the ship near where they took off and heads back to the cargo hold. He uses cargo tools to carry the corpses off the ship and then pile together a cairn of flammable materials, placing the bodies on them. This is takes a couple of hours, even with a lightsaber to speed the process of kindling collection, and he periodically checks on the vitals of the Ren sisters to ensure they are resting peacefully.

He uses a welding torch to light the pyre, and stays long enough to ensure it doesn’t spread beyond the area he set it up. Then he returns to the bridge and sets course for the stronghold Jothelle sent him….

Irsin is able to perform the tasks he must, but upon arrival at the Nighsister stronghold – an impressive, if gloomy, cave network that has been extensively modified by sentient hands, and appears to be very old, from what he can tell – when he disembarks and is greeted by Jothelle and some of the other Dathomiri, he finds he simply is not up to the task of understanding what they are trying to tell him. Finally, after several minutes of confusion, he’s forced to admit his exhaustion. he asks them to gather and organize what they can, but that the battle has left him too weary and injured to do more for now. Without the Ren sisters either, he can think of no reason not to take some time to rest himself. He excuses himself from the witches and return to the ship, setting the link he’s established to the medical gear in the sisters’ rooms to wake him if there is any change in their states, and finally collapse onto his own bed. He considers attempting to enter a meditative trance to heal himself, but the idea of ordering his mind enough for the proper state of mind makes him quail, so instead he activates his own bed’s medical gear. He’s asleep before the scanner is even fully deployed.


More than 9 hours later, Irsin emerges from unconsciousness, still sore but in much better physical condition now. Checking his readouts, he sees that both Ren sisters remain as before, though their physical conditions are much improved. Q’aleane appears fully healed, as far as the machines can tell, though she remains still. Brainwave patterns suggest a state of deep sleep, only a few degrees short of a coma, though the history of these scans implies a slow improvement there as well. It is impossible to guess, however, when she will awaken. Q’ayla, much more badly injured physically, seems to be sleeping more normally, though her injuries are not yet fully repaired. The gear indicates she should be in reasonable physical shape again within another hour, though, again, it is hard to say when she will wake if left to herself.

Realizing he is ravenously hungry, he makes a meal for himself. He’s still stiff and sore, so he does so slowly, and much of the hour waiting for Q’ayla’s healing to finish is consumed by that, and then cleaning himself up a bit. With that done, he goes to check on Q’ayla again, and within a few minutes, the medical equipment indicates its job is finished. he considers waking her, but remembers how her skin looked before losing consciousness, and the pressure against his throat, and decide to give her a little more time. Even sleeping, her face is no longer as serene as he remembers it, either. There are lines of stress he doesn’t think he’s seen before, even discounting the grime from the days in the jungle.

Finally, after waiting perhaps 40 minutes, Q’ayla begins to stir. He braces himself, unsure what sort of state she’ll be in when she wakens fully….

Q’ayla awakens slowly, as one might after a very, very long sleep. All of her movements are sluggish; her head turning from side to side, her arms and legs carefully stretching out, testing their limits. Her hands reach up to her face and feel for her visor, but not finding it she simply rubs over her face for several moments. As her hands fall back to the bed, she looks and sees Irsin standing a ways off, watching her. It’s then that she realizes that she’s in her room, lying in her bed. Her brow furrows as she presses her mind to catch up. She looks to him, and he can see in her eyes those swirling red and orange clouds that haven’t left for days. Her skin remains pale, but no longer has dark veins running over it. For better or worse, she looks “normal” again.

“Ugghh… what happened? How did I get here?”

Her voice comes out ragged and tired, but it has lost its edge from earlier. She finds it difficult to continue right away, coughing a few times and breathing heavily as she collects herself.

“The last thing I remember is… going to check on Q’aleane and then… and then…—!”

She tries to sit up abruptly, a hint of her prior intensity returning, but lingering pain and weariness wash over her in an instant. She clutches the sides of her head, groans, and falls back to the mattress.

“Ahhh… uggh… Yevra…no…”

Irsin steps forward when it becomes clear that Q’ayla isn’t going to immediately lose it again, and speaks in a soft voice, “Shhh, it’s ok. Rest now. How are you feeling?” Irsin strokes her hair gently, hoping to keep her calm.

Q’ayla’s breath comes quickly, her eyes closed tight as she waits for the wave of vertigo to pass. Once she feels ready, she opens her eyes to look at Irsin and for a brief moment there is a hint of a smile on her lips, yet it soon dies away as her expression becomes tired and empty.

“I feel… ahh… like hell, Irsin.”

She goes quiet for a moment.

“I don’t even know what to say right now. You… brought me here?”

Irsin nods, “Yes I brought you here after you passed out. You were quite injured, and needed rest.

She seems deeply uncomfortable, and through their bond Irsin can sense that it isn’t so much physical discomfort, although obviously she isn’t at one-hundred percent yet.

“I… I’m sorry, Irsin. For before. Forgive me. I lost control of myself, I just… Yevra.”

“Gods, not Yevra too…”

“As for Yevra…it’s tragic. It appears she died sometime after we left her, no easy way to tell how. Then she was evidently raised as a zombie as the other corpses had been. Her body was left behind when the entity in Darach was slain, the same way all the others were.”

_Irsin pauses then, gauging Q’ayla’s reaction. Even though her eyes are becoming wet, her expression seems to be hardening rather than cracking. As Irsin describes the likely circumstances of Yevra’s death, Q’ayla stares up at the ceiling, not wanting to meet his gaze. Her head slowly shakes back and forth, this time not in denial or anger but in resignation. Her face remains hardened and empty of emotion, though several tears do leak out and down her cheeks.

He presses onward, “I made sure she got proper last rites. Both her and Darach. I didn’t want you to have to deal with that.” In truth Irsin mostly didn’t want the sight of her body to trigger another outburst, but that didn’t make his comment a lie…

Just as she’s closing her eyes to try and blot the tears from her vision, she hears Irsin mention giving Darach and Yevra their “last rites.” Her eyes snap open and she stares up at him. Her mouth opens as though she might speak, but she forces herself to let him finish. Once he has, she swallows whatever it was she was going to say or do, and takes a long, deep breath. She pushes herself up off the mattress and carefully turns herself so that her feet are on the floor and she’s sitting with Irsin directly in front of her. She takes his hands in hers and looks up at him, and her expression is… complicated.

“I would have very much preferred to have been there for that. In the Jedi Order a funeral is a time and place to find some measure of resolution, to begin to accept the loss of one’s friend, mentor, or fellow. To deny that is… disrespectful. Apart from that, Miraluka have their own prayers and rituals to honor the dead…”

It almost seems like she might lose her temper again, but she closes her eyes for several seconds and then comes back to the moment.

“…But I understand why you did what you did. And I’m happy that Master Darach and Yevra received any sort of last rite in this place. Thank you for that, Irsin.”

Her thumbs are now grazing the tops of his hands, and she gives him a weak smile that is nevertheless filled with tenderness.

Irsin nods, understanding.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to deprive you of that…if you like I have marked the coordinates. After we investigate the stronghold Zethira left behind, we can say goodbye before leaving this world behind.”

Irsin checks the readouts on his wrist momentarily.

“I’m glad you’re doing ok. Your sister is in good shape, but still not conscious. There’s nothing physically wrong with her…”

_He trails off, the implied question hanging in the air:

Do you know what may be wrong this time?

Q’ayla gives Irsin a look that says, “How should I know?” and then pushes herself up into a standing position. She gives herself a look-over, and while Irsin is correct in saying that she is “doing okay,” her whole body feels sore and she looks and smells like she just crawled out of a sarlacc’s belly.

“Gods, I need a shower… and a good drink. Can you give me some time to pull myself together? Then I’ll go in and check on Q’aleane and see if I can reach her through our link. My guess is channeling Allya like that probably took way too much out of her. She’s lucky she’s alive… this whole mess has cost a high price…”

She grazes a hand over his shoulder and starts to move towards the refresher, only stopping to place a small kiss on his cheek on the way by.

Irsin, realizing he too hasn’t had a shower in quite some time, grasps her hand briefly on his shoulder, preventing her from immediately leaving.

“I know this has been hard. On all of us. Our goals don’t change though. We’re still in this together.” Though the sentence is a statement, there’s a searching questioning quality to his gaze that wasn’t there before the fallout of the fight with Master Darach. He’s not sure who’s he’s trying to convince, her or himself.

He then kisses her briefly in return and lets her go as he turns, “I think I’ll make a run through the refresher myself. I’ll meet you in Q’aleane’s room?”

For now, there are no answers in Q’ayla’s eyes save the twisted clouds of darkness that appear more vibrant than ever. In response to Irsin’s last question, he sees her nod just before she disappears into the refresher.


Once inside, it takes Q’ayla several minutes to pry herself out of her clothes; covered as they are with dried mud, dried blood, sweat, and gods know what else, she’s tempted to just burn this outfit rather than take the time to clean it. She steps into the shower and gasps with quick breaths as a stream of hot water splashes against her hair and back. Turning around, she leans her forehead against the shower wall and closes her eyes, allowing the water to pour over her from head to toe.

She stands there for five minutes, then ten, then more— in her mind, she replays the events of the day, recalling details of the battle. A particular moment springs to mind: she was about to be crushed to death by that rancor, but something happened… something saved her. Was it Irsin? Had that been his bargain? He seemed different afterwards, and she would have to ask him about it before too long. Certainly she had tapped into her own inner power… what was it exactly that she had done?

Beyond the battle, she thinks of their failure at stopping Zethira’s ship and saving the Dathomiri daughters, her outbursts in the cargo bay, the sight of Yevra’s mangled and decaying corpse lying beside her uncle’s…

She begins to cry but stops herself— No, she still needs to tend to Q’aleane, and Irsin mentioned something about searching the Nightsister camp. There is still work to be done. Later, once everything is taken care of, then she will allow herself the time to grieve for Yevra, for Master Darach… even for…

And what had Irsin said just before he left?

“We’re still in this together.”

He didn’t seem as sure as he once was. Something had happened to them – all of them – out there. Q’ayla places her hands against the sides of her head; it’s all too much to think about right now. Opening her eyes, she forces herself to clean her body until it’s more or less back to normal. Then, exiting the shower, she dries herself and dresses in fresh loose clothing. Leaving her room, she crosses the bridge to her sister’s quarters, hoping to find Q’aleane alive and awake and full of answers.

Because Q’ayla needs her sister right about now, more so than perhaps ever before.


Irsin leaves Q’ayla’s room feeling unstable. Part of him wants to just lash out. To express his frustration at the events of the past weeks, in as violent and domineering a way as possible. He’s not even sure how that would play out, especially not with Q’ayla on the precipice of her own meltdown. He has the distinct impression he has, in one day, gone from clawing his way slowly out of the murk of his past, back to teetering on the edge of losing all perspective and sinking down to never rise again. The worst part is that he isn’t at all sure which side of the situation is the preferable one anymore.

He hadn’t realized how much grime was caked on him until he finally started stripping out of the clothes in his own room. Saving the outfit might well be an act of futility, but he wasn’t exactly rolling in spare clothing, and couldn’t afford to just write them off. He stepped into the refresher and sluiced away the dirt and blood, and god knows what else. He scrubbed over and over and over again, trying to rid himself of the feeling that something on him would start crawling and kill him while his guard was down. He had seen enough horrors to last a lifetime on this planet, some of which he’d perpetrated himself. And no matter how many times he told himself that it was just something about this place, he couldn’t shake the feeling that it had felt right to put down Darach like the animal he was.

Shaking his head, Irsin finally stepped from the shower, nearly raw from scrubbing. He dresses in his heavier robes as they are the only ones which are clean, and heads for Q’aleane’s room, head still full of turmoil and doubt.

View
Session 24
...Is the End?

9:2:123 ABY

Following a brutal assault by the denizens of Dathomir’s lethal jungles, doubtless at the command of their faceless enemy, the companions debated furiously. The bound and still-unconscious Yevra was very nearly slain during the battle while they were engaged, and all agree that they can no longer afford to be slowed by the burden of transporting and defending her. After protracted discussion, it was agreed that the best that could be done was to keep her restrained, and conceal Yevra as best they could. To that end, the trio hollowed out the shell of a still-ripening ruhba fruit and secreted her within. Hoping that will be sufficient and knowing they can do no more for now, the companions press on to their final destination….

View
Session 23
...Is the Beginning...

8:2:123 ABY

All has not gone according to plan. The young padawan Yevra lies bound and unconscious, her mind shattered, perhaps irreparably. And yet the companions dare not release her, in the event that the malignant entity that possessed her – and attempted to do the same to Q’ayla Ren as well – will return and assault them again. Clearly, their presence, and their movements, are no longer hidden from their enemies, and it is unclear how much of their plans have thus been thrown into disarray. Fortunately, Q’ayla’s near-possession, after Yevra had been subdued, was not a total disaster – the being that touched her mind did not escape entirely. The young Knight can still feel a trace of its cancerous presence, like a flickering beacon in her mind. Hopefully, the companions can use that to their advantage, and extract victory from this desperate situation still….

View
Session 22
The End...

6:2:123 ABY

The Ren sisters and their companions have landed. Soon, they will have at last located Master Darach and, they hope, the lair of the Nightsisters. Their allies, the gathered clans of the Witches of Dathomir, united at so much effort, march toward this shared foe even now. And, as if the threat were not already reason enough, the deceitful Zethira, Clanmother of the Nightsisters, struck a cruel blow in the abduction of 16 of the Dathomori’s precious children, among them Jothelle’s own niece. With any luck, the kidnappers fled to the Nightsister enclave, and the children will be recovered before long….

View
Session 21 - Irsin & Q'ayla Interlude

(Irsin kneels alone in his quarters, his forehead beaded with perspiration, dressed in a pair of loose fitting pants and no shirt. Around him, virtually every object in his room not attached to the bulkhead spins through the air in an elaborate pattern. The objects seem to chase each other, dance around each other soaring through the air ducking and diving. His face is set but not straining. This is clearly something he has practiced, both the pattern and the tempo. His brow furrows slightly as the pace of the swirling quickens, and one corner of his mouth twitches in a half smile as he adds one more object than he has done before)

(Q’ayla exits the lift and heads in the direction of Irsin’s room. She arrives at the door ready to knock, but pauses with her hand just before the door. She opens her mind to Irsin, taking note of his emotional state— she feels determination, concentration, satisfaction. She lets her hand drop, knowing that he’s likely in the middle of something. She takes a step back from the door and turns as though she might leave. Her hands move to her veil, and she adjusts it yet again – almost taking it off but deciding against that – then she forces her hands down and stretches her arms down at her sides. She looks back at the door, then turns in the direction of the lift… finally after minutes of indecision, she walks back to the door and, hesitantly, gently knocks on the door)

(Irsin almost doesn’t hear the soft knock at the door, focused as he is; when the sound permeates, however, the objects in the room all freeze in place and Irsin opens his eyes)

Irsin:
Yes?

Q’ayla:

Irsin?

(Irsin seems startled to realize that it’s Q’ayla, and notices for the first time her presence on the other side of the doorway. He seems suddenly frazzled and the objects in the air all seem to clatter to the ground at once as he realizes he’s sweaty and half dressed when she’s coming to see him. The noise to Q’ayla sounds like he’s kicked everything in his room off the shelves at once. He scrambles around his room trying to put everything back in place, some of it using the Force, others with his physical hands. He calls out hurriedly, sounding out of breath)

Irsin:
Just a minute!

(Q’ayla leans her ear towards the door after calling out to Irsin, and the sudden crashing sounds coming from his room cause her to jump back from the door— she barely stifles a quick yelp. When she hears him call out again, she approaches the door again, this time even more hesitantly)

Q’ayla:
Is… everything all right in there? Are you okay?

(Irsin is running around his room cleaning and straightening up. He finishes putting most things away and goes to open the door before he remembers that he’s not fully dressed and starts to groan. He unlocks the door letting Q’ayla come inside)

Irsin:
Sorry about that, I was practicing and…

(He trails off as he gets a look at her. His brow is still glistening and his red skin and tattoos stand out in stark contrast to her simple but stunning attire. He doesn’t seem to be sure how to respond. She’s standing in the doorway with a quizzical look on her face. She shifts slightly to look past him into the room for a quick moment, then goes back to looking at him— an advantage of her veil is that he can’t see her looking him over as she speaks)

Q’ayla:
…and I interrupted, didn’t I? I’m sorry. I shouldn’t just assume you’re sitting around doing nothing, right?
…But I can come in, right?

(She gives him a sly smile and shakes her head a little at the whole situation. He seems to sort of shake himself and comes back to his senses a bit)

Irsin:
Yes! Yes, of course. Please, do come in. I was going to say that I got a bit ahead of myself it seems, I lost control of the spiral, had to clean it up.

(He eyes her up and down a bit more boldly than he normally does)

From the looks of things I should go clean up. Can I offer you a drink before I step into the refresher?

(She looks a little confused at first)

Q’ayla:
From the looks of things…?
Oh— you mean me?

(She laughs a little)

Oh, this…
…well…
…no, no, I’ll get something for myself, why don’t you take care of this?

(She punctuates the questions with a playful jab of her finger against his chest. He laughs easily, leaning down and kissing her briefly)

Irsin:
As my lady commands…

(He says this with an elaborate bow before stepping into the refresher and closing the door. Q’ayla walks around the room a little, occasionally kicking into something still grounded from Irsin’s exercise. She picks up a stray soldering tool and sets it down on his desk in a place that at least looks appropriate)

Q’ayla:
Say, do you have any more of that Red Dwarf?

(She calls out to him over the sound of the refresher; then, quieter and more to herself)

I think I may need one…

(Spitting out a mouthful of water he calls)

Irsin:
Yeah there’s enough for a few more drams, try the top drawer of my desk.

(She nods at him, or the direction of the refresher at least, then moves to his desk, opening the top drawer. As predicted, the bottle of red liquid is inside, and as predicted, it is running a little low. She removes it from the drawer and then begins scrounging around for glasses; thankfully, they are more easily discovered. She sets the bottle and the two glasses down on the edge of the desk then walks back towards the refresher)

Q’ayla:
You mentioned “the spiral”— were you doing Force exercises? I really am sorry for disturbing your meditations, by the way!

Irsin:
Yes it was an exercise my old Imperial Knight master taught me.

(He seems to pause for a moment, and Q’ayla feels a small spike of regret before he smothers it)

Most on Kesh thought it ridiculous and a waste of time, but I have found few things that help me focus my mind as well as it, while stretching my limits in the Force… without say, destroying the room around me.

(He mutters to himself)

At least, usually…

(She looks back over the room)

Q’ayla:
Oh, I don’t know, the room looks pretty much the same to me!

(Her tone is teasing; however, Irsin can tell in their bond that Q’ayla is actually a bit of an emotional melting pot at the moment— genuinely happy, terrified, excited, panicky, spunky. Under all of that, though, he senses something below the surface, but it’s difficult to define)

—Kidding!

So the Sith allowed you to keep performing your Knight meditations? I’m surprised at that; I figured they’d want to drive that out of you…

Irsin:
Oh I don’t know, I’m not sure “let” is the right word—

(The refresher switches off mid-sentence and his voice seems too loud for a minute)

I suppose it would be more accurate that most didn’t know I used it. I kept it mostly to myself, but the masters disapproved. They can’t watch you all the time though…

(There’s a rustle of cloth as he towels off, and then dresses, his voice muffled as he pulls on a shirt. Shortly after, the door opens)

So how about that drink, eh?

(She smiles when she sees him, a big toothy grin, and she rushes over and gives him a quick kiss before hurrying to the desk. She picks up the Red Dwarf bottle in one hand and the two glasses in the other and holds them up to Irsin)

Q’ayla:
Got’em! Here, why don’t you pour? I don’t want to use up all your drink.

(She holds the bottle and glasses out to him; he laughs)

Irsin:
I’ve barely touched the stuff since our last night with it. What’s the point of having a thing if you don’t enjoy it?

(He takes the bottle and pours both glasses to a healthy level, emptying the bottle)

We’ll be off this rock soon and I can get some more anyway.

(He raises his glass to her)

So what’s the occasion?

(She holds her glass, looking at it for a bit)

Q’ayla:

Hmm…
How about… the eve of battle?

(Her face scrunches a bit at that)

No, no… that won’t do…

(Suddenly, her face brightens)

What about us?

(She gently taps the glass against his)

Here’s to us.

(He nods and drinks deeply from his glass)

Irsin:
As good a toast as I’ve ever had.
So…

(He seems to hesitate)

…is that why you’re all dressed up?

(He clearly wore the nicest clothes he has, a simple but well-kept tunic, trimmed with silver, and matching pants. She smiles)

Q’ayla:
Is that what I am?
This isn’t really fancy…

(Even though her tone remains bright, she seems genuinely sad at that)

No… I, uh… I mean, yeah, I got “dressed up” to come and see you. It’s just that… you know, tomorrow is— that is to say, we’re going to be…

(She’s fumbling through her thoughts; remembering she has the drink in her hand, she shuts herself up and occupies herself with a somewhat long draw)

Ahh, that is good stuff… So… uh… you got dressed up too, huh? If only there was someplace other than jungle to go out to on a night like this…

(She’s only doing mildly better by shifting the conversation back to him. He studies her both through their bond and with his eyes, trying to pierce something)

Irsin:
You’re nervous… why are you nervous? Are we not comfortable with each other yet?

(She looks away from him, blushing)

Q’ayla:
No… it’s not that…
It’s just…

(She takes another quick drink)

Come on— you’re putting me on the spot!
This isn’t easy, you know? It’s different thinking about it— talking about it with you right here!

(She walks up to him and rests her forehead against his chest with a thud)

I am a Jedi, after all…
…what would I know about this kind of thing?

(He seems confused, trying to puzzle out what she means for a long moment, then something seems to cross his face)

Irsin:
Oh!

(He seems taken off guard at first but quickly recovers)

Q’ayla… you know I don’t expect you to do anything you aren’t ready for…

(She nods into his chest)

Q’ayla:
I know…
I know.

(She takes a step back, sipping back the last of her drink, before walking to the desk and placing her glass on it. She stands with her back to him)

It’s just…
…I don’t think I can afford to—
That is… I don’t think I can wait any longer.

(He can feel her pressing down on that emotion just below the surface, willing herself to embrace the happier emotions)

I… I took a long time getting ready tonight. I don’t know that I’d call it “dressed up,” but I did want to look nice for you, Irsin. I’ve been thinking a lot these past few days, and I—

(She’s not exactly sure how to put the words together)

I… want to… be with you, love.

(He nods slowly seeming to understand. Finishing his drink slowly and deliberately, he sets the cup down on the table next to him. He comes up slowly behind her, resting his hands on her shoulders and speaking softly behind her)

Irsin:
I want you to know that tomorrow won’t change anything between us. Nothing is going to take this away from me. Nothing. I have worked too hard— fought too long. Looked too much, trying to find something that made sense, something that made me feel alive again. I’m not giving it up. Not for the Fanged God himself. If I have to spit in his eye and cut out his very heart…

…I will not lose you. Not even if you seek to try and lose yourself.

(He speaks with a heat and a fire that she has rarely heard from him, at least directed at her. His love and his emotion are coming off him through the bond in waves, powerful and steady. He means it, every word)

I love you, and I will always want to be with you. Always.

(She turns around and buries herself in his chest, wrapping her arms around his waist)

Q’ayla:
I love you too, Irsin.
It’s just— I…
I had… this whole thing planned out in my head…
I wanted tonight to just be about us
I wanted everything to be perfect
Look—

(She leans back from his chest and brings her hands up to her veil. She unclasps it in the back and lets it fall to the floor between them; she looks up at him, and her eyes look perfectly normal— not filled with the dark side, or even swirling clouds. Her irises are a pale blue color, like a summer’s day. Everything seems perfectly normal)

—see?

(Her emotions are roiling; the feelings she’s buried are starting to bubble. He smiles at her, knowing how hard this must be for her to maintain)

Irsin:
Q’ayla, it is about us. And it is perfect. I can’t imagine a more perfect night— me making a fool of myself, you being as beautiful as ever. But you don’t need to force it to be perfect. It just is. It doesn’t need to be choreographed. It just is.

And so are we.

(Tears start to well-up in those new, blue eyes)

Q’ayla:
But…
…I want you to have this.
This Q’ayla…

(She closes her eyes tightly, forcing a few new tears down her cheeks; when she opens her eyes again, they’ve returned to their “normal” state, swirling yellows and reds)

Not this
Not this one…
Or… I… tomorrow…

(She slams her eyes closed again, and brings her hands up to her face quickly and deliberately, wiping away her tears somewhat aggressively. She opens her eyes again – they have not changed)

No.

(She takes a deep breath)

No. Tonight isn’t about all of that. Not about tomorrow, nor the next day. Tonight is just tonight. And it’s just us. Regardless of what I give out there, I want— no, I need to… with you here. I owe you that much, at least, Irsin.

(Irsin takes a slow breath, and pulls her close against him)

Irsin:
I wasn’t saying no. I wasn’t pushing you away. I was trying to help you see how priceless each moment is. If there’s one thing that the Sith know, and the Jedi don’t seem to…

It’s that it matters to live for now. This moment. This time. Right now, it’s important. It’s more important than anything else because it’s real, it’s immediate, it’s present. Living for tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that…

It’s an illusion.
It’s a maybe.
It’s a hope.

Now is the only thing that’s real. Now is all that matters. I’m not letting you go. Now now.

Not ever.

(He tilts her head up so he can look into her eyes, and he doesn’t so much as flinch)

You hear me?

(And he lowers his lips to hers, trying to crush her doubt and self-recrimination in his embrace. Q’ayla opens her mouth to respond but is immediately caught up in a passionate embrace; she actually lets out a muffled yelp of surprise before melting into Irsin. After several moments the kiss ends, and she keeps looking at him)

Q’ayla:
It’s funny… I’ve always been good at living in the moment. At the academy there was always some task to focus on, some class or debate or discussion going on, something to train on, you know? In fact, as far as the future was concerned, I only ever considered being a Battlemaster. But ever since I met you and Vergere, and we all came to this place…

I can’t stop thinking about what’s going to happen in the future— will we all die here? And even if we don’t, what waits for us when we leave? What will happen with the Jedi? With the Sith? With our quest?

And…

…I find that I care more about the future because, for the first time in my whole life, I actually feel like I have a future. Something beyond myself and the Order. I have you. And I think about what will happen to us in the future. I care about you so much, Irsin, and I want to keep you safe. I never knew I could care about someone like this, and be so passionate about keeping them close to me.

…I don’t know how you still manage to live solely in the moment, love…
…Sometimes I wish I could go back to that too.
But I just don’t know anymore… life has changed me. More than I ever thought it would.

(He smiles, a brilliant, true, full smile, and his expression carries with it the peace of understanding)

Irsin:
Ahh but don’t you see, Q’ayla? I live in the moment because I have you. Because the thought of missing one moment, of letting a breath pass that I don’t appreciate, take notice of, and cherish when it occurs, it’s intolerable. I can’t let any moment go by without living it, because tomorrow it might all be gone. Even without this blasted planet, without everything we face tomorrow, we live dangerous lives. This I have learned over and over. We walk a knife’s edge every day, between complete victory and crushing total defeat. At any moment we could find we aren’t as strong as we thought we were, we didn’t prepare as much as we anticipated.

It could end, at any time.

For this I am at peace. I have no regrets. I might regret some actions I have taken, in the past, but I long ago gave up the pretense that I’d ever be able to undo those actions. What is done is done. And if I spend all my time thinking about what may be, what could be, I will fail to live and enjoy what is.

Life has changed all of us. If you asked me a few months ago whether I thought I’d be in love with a Jedi? I’d have laughed at you. If you had asked me fifteen years ago if I thought I’d end a student of the Sith? I’d have challenged you for the insult. Nothing happens as we plan, but every moment is worth living…

…experiencing…
…internalizing…

…even the painful ones. Otherwise the lessons they teach cannot be fully learned.

(When he mentions laughing at the idea of loving a Jedi, Q’ayla laughs a little, keeping the wide, toothy smile and nodding in understanding. Throughout, though, she seems totally enthralled by what he’s saying, as though he’s imparting the great wisdom of the galaxy to her. When he finishes, she wraps her arms around his waist and pulls him close, turning and resting her head on his chest. She speaks quietly, and thoughtfully…)

Q’ayla:
…Why couldn’t you have been a Jedi Master, Irsin?

You can imagine how much I’ve been thinking about my time at the academy lately… and it seems to me like Master Tahl and all the others, they were speaking over me— to the me they were sculpting in their own image. But you…

…you speak to the real me. The me I’ve always been. The me I’ve had to keep hidden from them, because that me wasn’t right. I’ve been spending so much time worrying about what will happen out there tomorrow… I fear I haven’t been appreciating all of these moments in between…

Whatever happens out there, whatever choices we make, we’ll still be ourselves afterwards. Changed? Maybe. But I’ll still be Q’ayla, and if you’re willing to love that Q’ayla too…

…then it doesn’t matter. I’ll be okay.

(She leans up and kisses him tenderly)

I don’t want to have regrets. I don’t merely want to accept life as it comes. I want to be at peace. And I want to be with you, Irsin.

(When she mentions the idea of him being a Jedi Master, Irsin raises an eyebrow with an odd mix of amusement at her and something else… annoyance towards the order? Contempt? Whatever it is seems to fade quickly. However, near the end of her speech, as his smile slowly returns and he holds her happily, his body suddenly stiffens and his face becomes a mask almost as though he was slapped)

Irsin:
Peace is a lie.

(The words come to his lips, unbidden, but he seems unable to prevent them from coming out)

Passion is what brought us together, not peace. Our path forward isn’t about peace, but life. Life is inherently violent. Flashing. Burning brightly. I want to be with you Q’ayla. But not for peace. For life, for passion.

(Abruptly he seems to realize what he was saying and lets any next words die on lips, falling silent. Then slowly and quietly, without the edge that had crept into his voice a moment before)

Are you afraid of your passion?

(She feels the change in him just before he speaks, and she moves to head to look up at him. As he speaks, though, her expression changes— where she was finding some measure of contentment, now she seems concerned, or perhaps just confused. They stare intently at each other as he asks the last question, and she’s caught off guard. Her mouth opens to speak, but it takes her a moment to form the answer)

Q’ayla:
I…

…Sometimes, yes.

(Almost urgently he asks)

Irsin:
Why? What are you afraid of?

(Her eyes shift, breaking their gaze momentarily)

Q’ayla:
I’m… I mean… I’m afraid of what I might do because of it. Of what I’ve already done because of it.

(He seems to shake his head slightly)

Irsin:
But look at what it has also brought you? Every terrible thing in our lives isn’t as a result of our emotions. Emotions are just how we respond to them— how we react, learn, and gain strength from the trials we endure. We cannot fear the future anymore than we should live for it. Right?

(She nods slightly, looking down)

Q’ayla:
You’re right. I know you are. And, regardless of what has or will happen, I am a passionate person. I’ve just never been able to embrace that. I’ve been acting for so long that sometimes it’s hard to remember which is real.

(He seems to relax, as though he was afraid he would hear something different)

Irsin:
I know it is hard to let yourself embrace that which makes you strong and unique when you have been told your whole life that it is wrong. But you can’t let those fears control you anymore. They aren’t your own, they were someone else’s and they were forced upon you. Now is the time to stretch your wings, and rediscover who you really are.

And I will be there every step of the way to help.

(She raises her eyes to him again, and there’s warmth in them)

Q’ayla:
Thank you, Irsin.
Truly.
I can’t promise that I’ll be able to let go of all of this all at once. I won’t lie— there’s still a part of me that’s terrified about the immediate future. But I’ll do the best I can. That’s all I can ever promise…

…But right now – tonight – I’m living for the moment. This moment here.

(She releases her hug and wraps her arms up around his shoulders)

Now… I guess the only question is… are you going to let this moment go to waste?

(She smiles at him— at once mischievous and loving, nervous and excited. He grins broadly right back before bending down to fold her into another embrace, one he doesn’t intend to release anytime soon, and says)

Irsin:
Not in a million parsecs.

(As things progress between them, Irsin, with a flick of his hand, reaches out with the Force and turns off the lights)

View
Session 21 - Q'aleane & Q'ayla Interlude

(Q’ayla exits her room, heading for the lift down to the lower level. She seems so inwardly focused that she doesn’t notice her sister sitting in the center of the bridge until she’s almost reached the lift. She stops just before heading down, pausing to look at Q’aleane for a long moment. After a few seconds, she opens up her mind to her sister, tentatively looking in on what’s going on inside but prepared to leave if it’s something personal or private)

(In Q’aleane’s mind: Q’aleane appears to be pacing on top of the lake in her mind, in the distance, three and four targets pop up suddenly and she throws something at them and they crash and disperse… In their place more pop up in odd places and sizes and in random intervals. She appears to be up to six or so independent targets. Q’ayla gets an overwhelming sense of “Bored Now” reverberating through the mindscape. Despite that feeling of boredom Q’aleane appears to be engrossed enough for right now not to notice her sister)

(Q’ayla suppresses a small laugh when she sees her sister apathetically destroying targets over the lake. She looks from Q’aleane to the lift, then back again, then again; finally, she steps aside and, leaning against the wall, she slides to the floor, settling herself. With some effort, she allows herself the calm and concentration necessary to enter her sister’s mind. Once she feels comfortable and stable in there, she stands on the periphery, watching again for a moment as she adjusts before speaking)

Q’ayla:
Why do I get the sense that you’re… what’s the word I’m looking for… bored?

(For a brief moment it is as if eight Q’aleane’s all notice Q’ayla at the same time… some of them feel like the mental equivalent of a kitten… one of them feels like her sister is normally, and one of them feels like… nothing Q’ayla has ever felt before… Q’ayla doesn’t sense any hostility from any of them, just intense driving curiosity. After a moment the feeling passes and it feels as if all of them have merged into one, the feeling of Q’aleane dominates, the kittens all but disappear, and the final one appears to acquiesce. At the same time she notices that the lake calms and the tension seems to drain off of Q’aleane into the lake. She turns to Q’ayla)

Q’aleane:
Hey sis, don’t normally talk to you like this… what is up?

(A fragment of Q’aleane appears to worry for a second and check the ship to see if something is going wrong, then re-integrates. Q’ayla moves as though to speak, but hesitates then pauses until things feel right again)

Q’ayla:
Don’t worry, everything’s fine. I was on my way down to the lower level and thought I’d check in on you. I can’t believe you’re bored after all this, Q’aleane. Wasn’t piloting the ship for almost six hours exciting enough for you?

(She makes a sly smile. Q’aleane sighs and seems to… well, ‘plop’ is the best word… down. For a moment it seems like she’s going to dunk in the water, but she doesn’t)

Q’aleane:
No, not really. Hell when we are flying it is almost too normal. Sort of like running after you have caught your second wind… you are kind of aware of what is going on around you, enough to know where you are going and how to avoid things but not really enough to keep me occupied. It might be different if I were piloting normally, but the mental link makes it… different.

(Q’ayla walks to the edge of the lake, leaning over to peer into the water. The phrase “When you gaze into the void, the void gazes back” springs to mind. She gets a momentary feeling like earlier, of a deep, deep pool of Q’aleane… but not Q’aleane. For a moment it seems to act as a dark mirror showing back to Q’ayla what Q’aleane sees when she sees her. She gets the overwhelming feelings of affection, worry, and amusement that she can sometimes feel coming from Q’aleane, but quite a bit… stronger than normal. Q’ayla nods slightly at this before sitting cross-legged on the edge of the shore, just to be safe)

Q’ayla:
Alright, so dangerous piloting doesn’t excite you. And we’re far from the Clanmeet now…
So what do you want to do? We’ve got one more night before… well… before we get where we’re going. Let me guess? You want to try something that’s never been done with the Force before, right?

(She leans her chin against one of her hands, but the smile she wears is not mocking but warm. At the mention of playing with the Force, Q’aleane’s eyes almost light up— in the corner of her mind she can almost see an image of a prism and the beginnings of an idea… after a moment, though, it kind of drains away)

Q’aleane:

No… not really, that would be a bit dangerous and I know you are worried about that. Besides, playing with those energies is probably not on the table for a while… I just don’t know what I should be doing right now.

(Then, almost wistfully)

In the academy it was all so easy… always something to think about.

(Q’ayla nods with a similar sense of nostalgia)

Q’ayla:
You’ve got that right…
If we weren’t going on assignment, we were in class, in training, doing homework, meditating…

(She seems like she could go on and on, but trails off)

You miss it.

You’re going to miss it, aren’t you?

(Q’aleane seems to ponder that for a while… absently tracing patterns in the water with her finger… the ripples go out but eventually calm)

Q’aleane:

Yes and no. To an extent it is like remembering something that was good at the time… But I was already starting to ask questions that made some of the masters distinctly uncomfortable. I imagine that is, in part, why they sent me off to Zonama Sekot… kind of a way of channeling me along the path they thought was most healthy. And they were right in a way… but I don’t think going back now, even if I could explain away the changes in us, that it would be the same. Chances are the questions I would ask now would only get me in more trouble.

Q’ayla:
Never mind the fact that I’d have to tell them about everything that’s happened here, right?

I’ve been really struggling with the idea of not going back— of deserting the Order after we leave Dathomir. In the past few days, though… I don’t know, it’s like it’s not so bad anymore. It might even be better for everyone that way, you know?

(She gently glides a finger over the edge of the water, keeping her eyes on her hand and not on her sister. Tracing the water, several things seem odd about the experience. At first, Q’ayla has trouble even detecting that there is water there at all… kind of like floating in water that is body temperature… The density of the medium is at the same time lighter than she would normally expect water to be… almost smoke like, but it reacts more like a much denser liquid would, like oil. Perhaps the most puzzling is there appears to be an odd echo effect through the link as she does it. It is ill-defined and hard to pin down but it is almost like what Q’ayla is tracing is echoing back to her through Q’aleane. When she looks at her sister, if she is aware of it she isn’t letting on. Q’ayla pauses her tracing briefly as she takes in the strange new sensations; she looks at Q’aleane but doesn’t read anything on her face. She decides that the feeling is sort of nice in its own way, and then continues to traipse her finger into the lake.)

(Q’aleane giggles slightly)

Q’aleane:
Can you imagine the debriefing? “Oh, by the way, everything you know about the Force is wrong and I can prove it…” “Oh and sorry about that, but we kind of had to talk to the embodiment of the Dark Side as the other two were being kind of dickish and we needed to figure out a way to save them from themselves… well themselves and that fourth weird one…” “No I am not insane…”

(Q’ayla lets out a laugh)

Q’ayla:
They would never believe you on that, sis!
If they didn’t kill me— us outright, they’d definitely lock us up, that’s for sure. And imagine Master Tahl’s reaction…

(Through the link, Q’aleane can sense something in Q’ayla’s mind, underneath the mirth that she seems to be putting up as a front. Talking about the Jedi seems to be eroding her confidence, however, so she changes the subject again)

But anyways, back to what I was asking before— I mean it, if you want to try one of your experiments tonight… as long as it’s relatively safe at least… I’ll try it with you. I won’t be mad, I promise. We don’t know what’s going to happen out there tomorrow, and I want to do this with you, Q’aleane. It’s your passion, and I’ve been wrong to keep you from it.

(Q’aleane seems somewhat taken aback at first…)

Q’aleane:
Well in a strange way I am not sure I can right now. The only thing I have been able to come up with involves… well you know how color can be two different things? Like when you paint on a piece of white paper and add more and more colors, it never gets back to white… but if you combine a bunch of different colored lights you end up with white… I am wondering which that green power is more like? I am suspecting it is more like the latter as we were only able to get through the barrier to help Barruka with all of us and our different energy signatures. But if I start playing with that line of thinking, chances are good I may end up unconscious… which would be a bit detrimental to our current plans to say the least…

(The last part is said with more than a little self-depreciating humor)

Other than that I got nothing… and I am not even sure why.

Q’ayla:
Well that doesn’t seem like you at all— you’ve always got a lot of things going on all at once. Are you not feeling well? Maybe all this flying about is tiring you out more than you realize?

(Q’aleane seems to ponder that for a bit)

Q’aleane:
No not tired, just frustrated. It’s like we have set these things in motion and yes, we have accomplished a lot with very little, but right now… I am still not sure it is enough. And I don’t like the options available to us to deal with things if they go bad.

(She seems to want to say something but is reluctant. Q’ayla looks a bit uncomfortable, and shifts a little; she untucks her legs and comes up onto her knees, sitting back on the backs of her legs)

Q’ayla:
Well, we’re definitely better off with Allya’s help, that’s for sure. If not for that, we’d probably still be arguing with the clanmothers. And don’t forget… we’re not out of options yet. No matter what comes.

(Q’aleane sighs)

Q’aleane:
Okay… I need you to promise me something.

I have been making an effort to avoid doing these experiments because it may end up hurting you. I need you to promise me something for the same reason. Do not give into him. He may be a god to our people, but even they warn of him. And all the legends across all the worlds I know of all say the same thing:

“Do Not Trust.”

We are stuck working with him for a time. We have all accepted that in our own way and we will all have to help each other out of those pits when we are done. But if you… with our connection… I am not sure …

(Q’ayla sighs)

Q’ayla:
Q’aleane, don’t…
Please…

(Q’aleane can feel whatever her sister is trying to hold down inside of her tremors once, then again)

I’ve made up my mind about this, sis. You’re not the only one who’s tried to talk me away from this. You’d be surprised how insistent Irsin can be…

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this, dealing with this for days. After the past two nights I— I just…

(She sighs again, her head hangs)

…I’ve accepted this Q’aleane. I’ll do what I have to do to get us out of here safely. And I’m trying to hold it together tonight, not just for me…

(At once, Q’ayla realizes that the underlying awareness of the place has become focused on her again… there is no emotion attached to it, just awareness of attention being paid)

Q’aleane:
I need you to listen to what I have to say.

Do you realize how much it is taking me to keep from attempting to summon that energy again? I have never been that reckless. But here it is. And I am resisting it because of the damage it could do to you.

You haven’t thought this all the way through. Remember what happened when I tried to enter the Spirit Realm alone? This isn’t a case of if you go down, you go down and I am there to pick up the pieces. I am not saying don’t accept some of the power, I am saying don’t dive into the hole head-first. Because if you do, you will drag Irsin and I down with you. And neither of us will be able to help you through to the other side.

If you need to accept some of his power, fine. We all have… but don’t dive in head-first and think you can do it all yourself with his help. We are all in this together and if we all take a portion of the burden than maybe, just maybe, we will be enough ourselves on the flip side that we can help each other…

…But if you try to shoulder it all yourself… well you saw what it almost did to me until I realized I was hurting you.

(Q’ayla recoils a little from those words, almost like a child being scolded. It would be a reaction familiar to Q’aleane from their days with the Jedi)

Q’ayla:
I… I wouldn’t hurt you, Q’aleane. At least, I wouldn’t hurt you intentionally. And I don’t want to hurt Irsin, either. I just—

(That feeling inside Q’ayla is starting to spike)

I just don’t know what’s going to happen! I have no idea what we’re going to face down there, and what I’m going to need to give in order to keep us safe! I don’t want to hurt anybody, Q’aleane, but I will not stand by and let us all die just because there’s risks involved! You didn’t hear Bogan— you didn’t hear those words!

“You are not strong enough to stop them.”

“You are not strong enough to stop them!”

And then I’ll be all alone! And there’s screaming and death and panic and pleading! And I’m all alone! All… alone…

(She’s having a hard time staying connected to this space; her concentration is starting to falter. Q’aelene reaches out with her mind and stablaizes the link… Q’ayla feels a sense of power coming from the lake… not power like the kind that would burn or kill or maim, power that gets unleashed, but the kind of deep-rooted power that is content with being right where it is like a tree by a river… it is clear that Q’aelane doesn’t even know that it is there. She just reacts instinctually)

Q’aleane:
You… are… not…. alone.
And that is my point.
The only way either of us will ever be alone is if we give into the fear that we will be alone. Oh I heard Bogan’s call…

“You are not powerful enough, you don’t know enough… Give in and be a conduit for power you can’t even possibly imagine… You want to know how the universe works, I will tell you. It is all there just reach out and grab it.”

But he lies. Remember that… every time he says, “Do this thing or something bad will happen.” The one thing throughout history, across cultures, across eons… he lies. If he is telling you that you need to be strong enough to stop them all by yourself or you will be all alone… think about it… think why you would need to stop them by yourself to avoid being alone…

We are here to help each other. If either of us gives in completely, we all fall. We need to be strong enough to know when to stop.

(Q’aleane can see her sister taking deep breaths, trying to hold herself to this space. Q’ayla is visibly trembling, and her sister isn’t exactly sure if she’s comprehending properly)

Q’ayla:
Q’aleane… you don’t know…
You haven’t seen…
You haven’t seen the things I’ve seen…
It’s all going to come true…

(She words come much slower, more deliberately)

It already has once…

(Almost as if on cue, the space around the two sisters begins to shine and distort, and the scene of the lake seems… replaced, perhaps, with a very different scene… A massive, familiar looking rancor is holding Q’ayla, squeezing her, breaking her body down. Q’ayla coughs blood and gasps, at the edge of death. In front of her is Q’aleane, standing quietly, staring at her dying sister, tears of blood streaming down her face)

These aren’t just nightmares, Q’aleane…
I know that now…
And if I don’t do what Bogan has asked of me…

(The scene changes once again, this time to a clearing in the jungle. The sounds all around the two seated sisters is almost deafening— screams, the clangs and buzzes of weapons, battle cries, death cries. All around them death is being dealt, and Q’aleane can see Q’ayla dying over and over and over again, each time dispatching one more assailant before being killed again; sometimes, Q’aleane sees herself dying, sees Irsin dying. Finally, in the end, Q’ayla stands alone, screaming impotently and railing against a horde of Nightsisters. Her companions are dead, and soon so is she— the scene snaps and flashes back to the lake, but Q’ayla is reeling on the shore. These scenes are as real as anything else Q’aleane has ever experienced, even as she knows that this is a subconscious, mental place)

You…
…don’t…
…understand.

(Echoes of the scenes continue to play out, fragments of shadows playing a macabre play above the lake. Q’aleane appears to concentrate for a moment… instead of the normal drain into the lake the lake seems to take form, the form of a familiar giant rancor rises through Q’aleane, merging with her and swallowing the images whole. In a blink the rancor, the images, all of it dissipates and falls like water into the lake. In but a moment the lake stills… there is nothing left in the clearing but peace… Quietly, Q’aleane speaks)

Q’aleane:

You don’t understand.

I almost lost myself because I listened to him. Not in the Spirit Realm, but before that. In the end only my connection to you let me survive. And you have to remember: The rancor didn’t kill you. I subsumed the rancor.

(There is meaning behind that word that Q’ayla feels but doesn’t fully understand)

If we hadn’t been connected, I would have been lost. These images he has been showing you are lies. Is there going to be a battle? Sure… just like there was a rancor. But he twists things to make his way the way you embrace. This is not me saying this, this is taught in every culture that has a name for him. He is the deceiver… he twists words to his favor. Unlike the Jedi, I do not think he needs to be avoided at all cost. But like the Dathomiri I too believe that to give in wholly to him is to destroy everything. Even our connection.

(Q’ayla is quiet for a long time; she seems to be trying to regain herself after the outburst. In the link, Q’aleane can sense her sister again pushing those feelings and thoughts down, deep down. After some time, she speaks again)

Q’ayla:
I don’t know, Q’aleane…
I just don’t know.
I don’t know what to believe anymore.
I’ve been trying so hard to hold myself together with this. For myself, for Irsin…
I need to just keep it together for a few more days…

I won’t do anything reckless, sis. Or at least I’ll try not to. But I don’t know what’s out there waiting for us. I want to promise you, I really do.

But I can’t.
All I can promise is that I’ll try to be my best. And hopefully that will be enough, you know?

(Q’aleane walks off the lake and embraces her sister)

Q’aleane:
That is all I can ask… that is all you asked of me. Just remember we are in this together, whatever you decide.

(She looks at her sister meaningfully with those last words… her eyes betray her true meaning… communicating more than words what she means… She truly thinks that if Q’ayla were to go down that hole, she would axiomatically have to go with her and she is trusting Q’ayla to make the right decision)

(Q’ayla embraces Q’aleane and listens to her words. She nods at what her sister is trying to convey, and something else seems to come back to her)

Q’ayla:
Wait… what do you mean about the rancor? Bogan came to you before the Spirit Realm?

Q’aleane:
Who do you think it was in that nexus of darkness during that night out? He evaded the question when I asked him but were it the other, he would no doubt have used that fact to his advantage and pointed out it was the other, not him. I can think of no other it could have been.

Q’ayla:
That… hadn’t occurred to me. In my nightmare, the rancor was a very different thing…

(She shakes her head roughly to get the thought out)

I’ll think about what you said tonight, Q’aleane. You know you mean the world to me, right? It’s a fine line I have to walk between saving and hurting you, I know that. Promise me that you won’t hate me if I falter, okay? Promise me…

(Q’aleane cocks a mischievous smile)

Q’aleane:
All I can promise is that I’ll try to be my best… and hopefully that will be enough, you know?

(There is a sense of affection in the phrase, not maliciousness. She sits back down with obvious fatigue)

Dealing with those emotions was draining you know… not used to it… to be honest I am not even sure what that rancor was. But I do know I’m not bored anymore…. just tired.

(Q’ayla lets out a breathless laugh)

Q’ayla:
Well, at least you’re not bored anymore… I guess I’m good for something!

Oh, by the way… You don’t happen to have any fancy dress clothes or makeup, do you? I never really asked since you got back from Zonama Sekot…

(Q’aleane looks up with an odd tilt to her head)

Q’aleane:
You were headed to spend time with Irsin when you ran into me, weren’t you? I’m sorry for detaining you with my broken brain… literally.

(She chuckles at that)

Let’s see what we can piece together, I can at least do your hair… not sure what I have in the way of clothing that doesn’t just scream Jedi… But who knows, between the two of us we might be able to piece something together. We should probably switch back to physical form— chances are you probably have one hell of a charlie horse.

(Q’aleane sits back down in the middle of the lake in a mirror of the form she is in in the physical world and begins to drift back; Q’ayla senses she is doing it slowly to give her time to transition back less abruptly than she normally does. Q’ayla concentrates hard, bringing herself out of the mental space and back into the physical. As Q’aleane comes out of her mind, she’ll find Q’ayla seated up against the wall near the lift; she’s wearing her strapless dress from Ansion and the matching veil, and her hair is let out long like her sister’s, and seems to be shining and smooth. She picks herself up and stretches a little, getting her bearings)

Q’ayla:
Don’t apologize, sis…
…I came into your broken brain, you didn’t force me…

(She smiles warmly)

Yeah, I don’t really have anything other than this, and honestly, I wouldn’t know where to begin… but I feel like I need to be with him tonight. You know, before…

(She trails off, but keeps her head up all the same)

Q’aleane:
Well I am not sure what I can do to add to that… it looks like you have the outfit covered. I didn’t know you had a dress like that— where did you get it? … Wait… you can tell me some other time, go… spend time with him.

(She smiles…)

I will go get some sleep…

(Q’ayla smiles, crosses the room, and gives her sister a big hug)

Q’ayla:
…Thanks Q’aleane. I love you. Sleep well, we’ve got a big day tomorrow.

(Letting her go, Q’ayla heads for the lift, continuing to adjust her hair and clothes nervously as she goes)

View
Session 21 - Q'ayla Ren's Journal

{Holocron…GetDateTime=02:02:123ABY;19:35}
{Holocron…AccessQRAvatar=F}
{Holocron…AccessJournal=T}
{Holocron…BeginNewRecording.act}

(As the holocron activates, Q’ayla is exiting the refresher after having showered. As she begins sorting through her clothes, she starts to speak)

Well, we’re on our way. The Clanmeet is over, we’ve made our plans, and now it’s time to finally end this.

Even though in the beginning, I was pretty against the whole idea of the Clanmeet, especially based on my interactions with the Dathomiri up to that point, I’m actually glad it happened. Ultimately it was a really positive experience for me; on the one hand, I got be a Jedi again, even if only briefly; at the same time, watching these women, who traditionally are not allies or even necessarily friendly to each other come together… unite… like that, it was just…

It felt good. It felt really, really good to be a part of that. It’s just too bad that all of it came under such grave circumstances…

There’s a part of me that actually didn’t want it to end. I know, crazy, right? Me, sticking to diplomacy instead of action? It’s true, though. Up until this point, all I’ve wanted to do on Dathomir is find the Nightsisters and end their threat. All the talking and maneuvering to get the clanmothers on our side was so… boring. And yet, as we walked up into the ship this morning, I couldn’t help but turn back to the Praxeum and just stare for a moment.

I wish it didn’t have to end. I wish that Q’ayla could just stay there, talking, helping, making connections with women who I initially couldn’t stand, and now am honored to know. But we’re on our way now. And soon I’ll be helping in a very different way…

(Now dressed in her nightclothes, Q’ayla pauses at her dresser for a moment, her head hung low; with a quick shake she seems to force herself back into motion, and she climbs into her bed)

Let’s not dwell on all of that, okay? Not yet, at least. I’m too tired for that, and I need my sleep— please, Ashla, no nightmares tonight.

Who knew flying a ship for hours on end would be so tiring?!

(She laughs lightly, beginning to wrap herself in her sheets)

Alright, before I pass out, here’s the plan: In five days, we have to be in position to move on the Nightsister’s stronghold so that we and the Dathomiri army catch them in a pincer attack. To do that… well, that’s where Yevra finally comes in. During each day, we’ll fly as low as possible, following a somewhat erratic north-northeast pattern to try and mimic indigenous wildlife— hopefully, that will keep the Nightsisters from noticing our movements. Each day, we’ll take breaks so that Yevra, using her crown, can try and pinpoint the general direction of Master Darach. After a few days of that, his location should be easier to find, and we’ll have an idea about where we need to position ourselves for the battle ahead. Q’aleane, Irsin, and I are taking shifts piloting the ship… and I’ll be honest, it’s been a while since I’ve flown a starship. I had almost forgotten how tense it can be – especially this kind of flying – and how exhilarating it can be. In the end I had a lot of fun taking us just above the jungle canopy… but gods am I tired now…

I don’t even remember the last time I went to bed this early. But if I make it through the night, all the better. I need to be my best now for all of them…

(She sighs heavily)

Goodnight, Q’ayla…

{Holocron…StopRecording.act}
{Holocron…SaveRecording"02:02:123ABY;19:55".act}


The Second Night…

I am standing in a clearing filled with chaos. There are bodies strewn about the ground, contorted and still in the grass. A fetid stench burns my nostrils, burns into my brain. Every breath I take is maddening, amplified again and again by the screaming.

Screams of battle… war-cries and oaths…

Screams of death… pleading and calling out for loved ones in the darkness…

I see my allies fighting beside me. Q’aleane is the eye of the storm— manipulating the chaos, protecting us from the winds of battle. Irsin is a vornskr, hungry and turned loose— his blades carving and his face filled with a fierce determination. Spreading out, we engage new foes, women with elaborate tattooing and eyes consumed by an eerie green light.

At once, our weapons meet. There is no emotion behind the eyes of my enemy, but I am filled with passion and intent. We dance our dance, twirling and lunging; it is beautiful and terrifying in the same instant. But soon our song is done, and I strike the killing blow. As the young woman tumbles to the ground, her gaze remains fixed on me. For one second, there is pure rage in those eyes, and then suddenly there is terror and panic.

I do not move. I stand. I stare.

She does not move. She lies, twisted. She stares.

I feel a sharp pain in my back— no, in my stomach.

No. Everywhere.

I look down to see the blade slide effortlessly out into the air in front of me. A shower of my lifeblood sprays onto the still-staring face of my enemy. She does not flinch.

I flinch. I groan. I drop my weapons. I sink to me knees. I scream out as the blade forces itself back through me, giving me permission to face the ground. Giving me permission to die.

I hear my loved ones call out.

I plead— “Oh gods… Ashla… Bogan…”

I call out in the darkness— “Q’aleane! Irsin!”

Each breath I take is madness, amplified by my screams. The fetid stench of death is in my body and my brain.

I can see the blades of grass caressing me, but I do not feel caressed. In my mind, I hear a voice, but it is not comforting…

“You are not strong enough to defeat them.”

There is only darkness now. Darkness and silence.

And I wake up.


The Third Night…

At once, our weapons meet. There is no emotion behind the eyes of my enemy, but I am filled with passion and intent. We dance our dance, twirling and lunging; it is beautiful and terrifying in the same instant. But soon our song is done, and I strike the killing blow. As the young woman tumbles to the ground, her gaze remains fixed on me. For one second, there is pure rage in those eyes, and then suddenly there is terror and panic.

I do not move. I stand. I stare.

She does not move. She lies, twisted. She stares.

Something in my mind screams and I whirl around, bringing my sabers to bear against a blade thrusting in at me. The face behind the blade is blank as well, her eyes still glowing in the chaos. She cuts in, and the dance continues unabated. The tempo is different now, but we adjust, and adjust again. When our song is done this time, there is no gaze for me to meet, her head simply tumbles to the ground, striking dirt just before her body does.

I look about, ready for the next assault. Then I cannot breathe. It is a simple thing, like turning on a switch. One moment, I am alive, I am the fight. Then I am dying, impotent in the maelstrom surrounding me.

I drop my weapons. I fall to my knees. I gasp. I sputter. My eyes are wide. My mouth is wider. My hands are frantic and panicked. I can hear my heart in my ears. It thumps wildly. I cannot hear my loved ones calling out to me.

My heartbeat is fainter now. Fainter still. I sink to the ground. My hands are weaker now. The sound of my heart is interrupted by a loud crack. My tongue lolls. I feel myself hit the ground, but am not aware of it.

There is no smell. I cannot plead or scream. I cannot see. I can only hear the voice inside.

“You are weak, girl.”

—Something in my mind screams and I whirl around, bringing my sabers to bear against a blade thrusting in at me. The face behind the blade is blank as well, her eyes still glowing in the chaos. She cuts in, and the dance continues unabated. The tempo is different now, but we adjust, and adjust again. When our song is done this time, there is no gaze for me to meet, her head simply tumbles to the ground, striking dirt just before her body does.

I look about, ready for the next assault. Again my mind screams; instinctively, I extend my left arm, and my saber flies out away from me. A few seconds later, I turn my head to see it impale another woman, standing off in the trees. Her hand is outstretched, gnarled and vicious, but her eyes are wide now. As I recall my weapon, her body disappears into the tall grass at the edge of the clearing, the light gone out of her surprised eyes.

I see a warrior barreling towards Q’aleane. With both weapons raised I charge in, putting myself between my sister and her would-be attacker. She does not turn around. She does not have to. I am there for her. I beat back this woman, attacking on all cylinders, pushing with everything I have.

She realizes her mistake. She crumbles before me. In the end there are only pieces left.

I turn to see Irsin far from me. He is fending off multiple assailants. He is fighting and winning, and then suddenly he is losing.

I stare at him. I watch my lover succumb. There are six now.

He is still fighting.

He is dying.

I reach out towards him. I call out to him, my loved one. My scream is cut short.

Suddenly my vision is twisting, turning, tumbling. It shakes against… the ground?

I do not feel anything. I cannot move. My eyes grow wide the moment I see my body tumbling to the ground next to me. This is only seconds. Then I am gone. It is still long enough to hear the voice…

“You are weak. You are pathetic, Jedi.”

—She realizes her mistake. She crumbles before me. In the end there are only pieces left.

I turn to see Irsin far from me. He is fending off multiple assailants. He is fighting and winning, and then suddenly he is losing.

I want to help him, to call out to him. I take two steps before my mind fires and I duck, turning around in a tumble as a blade whirls through the air above me. Now facing my enemy, I reach out with the Force and send her hurtling into the treeline. Over the screams, I hear a wet crunch, and I know her light has died out in the jungle.

I turn back to Irsin. There is no more Irsin. I see him sink to the ground under a mob of foes.

I turn back to Q’aleane. There is no more Q’aleane. I see her hand reaching out to me before limply falling to the dirt.

I am alone. I am surrounded. I am alone.

I am war-cries and chaos. I am fetid death. I am screaming mad.

But I am surrounded.

I am surrounded. I am killed. And, as the voice reminds me…

I am weak. I am pathetic. I am not strong enough to defeat them.

And I wake up.


{Holocron…GetDateTime=05:02:123ABY;21:50}
{Holocron…AccessQRAvatar=F}
{Holocron…AccessJournal=T}
{Holocron…BeginNewRecording.act}

(Q’ayla is sitting at her desk, wrapped in a bath towel. She dries her hair with another towel, and seems to be taking her time in doing so. After several minutes, she discards the hair towel and, opening a drawer in her desk, produces a brush. She places the brush on the desk, runs her hands through her hair a few times, then brings the hair over her left shoulder. She takes the brush and begins, slowly and carefully, to draw it through her hair.)

Tomorrow’s the big day.

Heh. I remember the last time it was the night before a big operation. Back on Ansion. Nazay had just gotten back from Cuipernam, all of our plans were settled, and we needed only to wait until the next day to begin our mission. My team, Nazay’s team, and Kiruu’s team all stayed up well into the night talking, laughing, telling stories— you know, that kind of stuff. Eventually, though, the rest went to their beds and it was just me, Nazay, and Kiruu sitting around the fire. By then, we weren’t really talking anymore. Just sitting there, at times looking at the fire, at the stars, at each other. But we didn’t really talk at that point. It was so different from the night of the banquet. And even though what we were about to do was risky— no, dangerous, that night under the stars, I felt so at peace. Surrounded by my new friends, in awe of the trust we had already placed in each other, dwarfed by a night sky filled with the light of stars and moons…

…I felt at peace.

(She raises the brush up and begins drawing it down again and again, tenderly guiding it through her hair)

I don’t feel that way tonight. Not exactly, at least. Which isn’t to say that our mission has gone badly— on the contrary, things have gone really, really well so far. We’ve nailed down the general area of the Nightsister base. Beyond the eastern border of Dathomiri territory lies a great mountain range, and in the jungles on the other side of those mountains is where we believe Zethira’s clan… and Master Darach… await. Yevra has done as well as we could have expected, and hopefully there aren’t any lingering effects of her using that crown over and over again. Q’aleane, Irsin, and I have done great with getting the ship where it needs to go— in fact, I did really well today! Q’aleane thinks I may have saved us a few hours even! For someone who doesn’t fly starships on a regular basis, I have to say I’m pretty proud of myself! All in all, there isn’t much to complain about on that end of things…

No, that’s not why I’m feeling this way tonight. This feeling is personal. The past two nights have been… hard. I couldn’t bring myself to recount the nightmares I had in my journal, which is why I haven’t recorded anything since we left the Praxeum. But I’ve have been thinking a lot the past few days, about a lot of different things. I’ve been thinking about everything that’s happened since we arrived on Dathomir. About Q’aleane, about Irsin… about Vergere’s quest, about the Jedi Order. Too many things to think about, if I’m being honest. So no, I’m not feeling at peace tonight. Rather, I’d call this feeling…

acceptance.

It comes from two things: first, these nightmares I’ve been having, and second, my interaction with Bogan. The nightmares appear to be at least partly prophetic in nature, and lately they’ve begun to focus in on what happened between me and Bogan in the spirit world. It’s as though they’re aware that the moment of action is coming fast. They’re reminding me of the bargain I made, and what that bargain will do for me and those I care about— and what that bargain will ask of me in return.

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with Q’aleane and Irsin about these nightmares and what they might mean, as well as our time in the spirit world. They’ve given me a lot to think about, but I don’t think they truly understand the magnitude of what transpired in that place. Irsin I can understand, because I don’t know exactly how spiritual he is. I know he speaks of immortal gods and the Fanged God, but we haven’t exactly talked theology all that much. So I could understand if he didn’t grasp it fully… but Q’aleane…

(As the brush reaches the end of her hair, Q’ayla sighs and pauses a moment before continuing to brush)

Q’aleane should know. Obviously she doesn’t believe in our Miraluka ways anymore, but she should still remember them. I mean, I’m not supposed to believe them anymore either, but that was one thing I wouldn’t give up for the Jedi. My beliefs have always been guiding principles for me, and I couldn’t let go of them just because the masters said they were wrong. They’re not wrong for me. So yeah, Q’aleane should at least remember them. And she should understand why this is so important to me. I stood before one of my gods, and I asked him how I could make sure that we all got away from Dathomir intact. This, this bargain, this power hidden inside me, is the answer to that question. I cannot ignore it, I will not ignore it— I’ve seen in my dreaming eyes what will happen if I ignore what Bogan has offered to draw out of me… I’ll be alone. Truly alone. Dead mentally and then physically…

Do I like the idea of giving up… I don’t know how much of myself… to see this bargain through to the end?

No… I don’t like it. But that’s not the point. Sacrifices have to be made so that all of us can get off this planet safely. And I’m willing to give of myself for that. Always. Q’aleane is my sister, and I love her in ways I can’t even begin to describe. And Irsin—

…Irsin…

(A warm smile spreads on Q’ayla’s lips as she says the name)

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for Irsin. I might not have said that a few months ago, but things have changed in such surprising and amazing ways so that now…

…I love him so, so much. And I know he loves me too. He loves Q’ayla— this Q’ayla.

I’m perfectly fine with the idea of sacrificing myself – this Q’ayla – if it means my loved ones will be safe in the end. But that acceptance isn’t without a measure of regret. In my own way, I’ll be taking something away from Irsin: Me. Hell, I don’t even know if Irsin will still love me after all this is said and done, because I don’t know who I will be after it’s all over. And knowing that this Q’ayla is so precious to him, my heart aches to know I’ll be hurting him so.

That’s why… I have to cherish what little time I have left with him.

(With her hair now shining and smooth, Q’ayla sets the brush down on her desk and stands, walking away towards the refresher. After several moments, she starts to walk out again, her Ansionian dress and veil in hand, but she stops herself at the mirror, turning her head to look at herself intently)

…Hmm, let’s see… Yeah, that’s it. Normally, I would never think to use this little trick. In fact, I still chastise Q’aleane for using it all the time. We’re Miraluka, and there’s nothing wrong with how we look. But for tonight… just for tonight… I think it can be okay. For him, it can be okay…

(Turning away from the mirror, she continues on back into the room, removing her towel as she does. She dons the dress and veil, but again she seems to be taking her time, careful to not disrupt her hair, painstakingly adjusting her clothing into place. It seems to be at once difficult and incredibly important to her)

Of course, I won’t talk about all of this with Irsin tonight. We’ve already had that conversation many times, and I don’t think there’s anything left to be said. I accept what these next days will bring, and hopefully he can forgive me and love me when it’s all over. No, tonight, I just want it to be about us. I’m—

I’m…

I’m going to do something that I never thought I’d do in my entire life. I’m terrified, insecure, and inexperienced in so many ways when it comes to this. But I’m also not totally ignorant. I know what this will mean for him… for us. And, before I’m completely changed, I want this. I want him. If I’m willing to give myself away so that we can all be saved, there’s no reason I can’t give myself to Irsin first. He deserves that much— he deserves more than that, but that’s all I can give. I don’t have alluring outfits or fancy cosmetics or anything like that. This— what I’m wearing right now, is the fanciest thing I own. I’ve done what I can with this—

(With a hand she indicates herself)

—hopefully he’ll be happy. I just want to see him smile, laugh, and let go of all the hurt he has.

Tonight will just be about us.

Tomorrow we can reclaim our burdens and take them with us into the jungle, hopefully for the last time.

(Walking to the mirror again, Q’ayla gives herself a final once-over. Then she takes several deep breaths before walking to her door, deactivating her holocron as she leaves.)

{Holocron…StopRecording.act}
{Holocron…SaveRecording"05:02:123ABY;22:55".act}

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