Flames and smoke began to emerge from the airspeeder. My insufferable fellow twi'lek (and unfortunately, for lack of a more flattering way to put it, my boss), Captain Kit , found himself yet again a magnet for trouble. He was closest to the vehicle, and as the ensuing explosion hurtled outward, Master Aquil moved to interpose himself between the captain and the impact.
The Crystal Cave of Dantooine, used for centuries by the neighboring Jedi Enclave in the construction of their lightsabers, collapsed, and the very earth gave way beneath us all.
Relieved though I was to execute an injury-saving somersault as I hit the ground, I had little time to glory in it. I was alone. The air was cold. Phosphorescent strips of mineral dimly lit the dank cavern. There was no response from the comlinks, and the Dark Side of the Force so shrouded this place, that telepathy with my Cathar padawan Frridder Hsk or with Master Aquil proved impossible. I could only hope that I was not the only survivor.
I knelt, and tried to remember my days as a youngling, when Solon, Ahdekta and I would clear out kinrath in this place.
The stone and gravel floor of the cave crunched beneath our feet as we entered, the afternoon sun waning behind us. We were eleven and inseparable. Ahdekta, the oldest of us, was nearly twelve.
"Someone remind me; why are we doing this again?" asked Solon.
Ahdekta sniffed the air, and scuffed at the ground with her big toe. She always went barefoot ever since she'd gotten back from the year she'd spent on her home planet of Shili for her Rite of Passage. She came back...different. That was to be expected. But what really puzzled me at the time was her decision to eschew any further training as a Jedi Guardian and to focus more on the path of the Consular, saying she was tired of competing with Solon and I for Kavar's favor. She had also started spending a lot of time under the personal tutelage of Master Kae. "We're doing it so the padawan candidates aren't disturbed by any real danger when they go through theirJedi Initiate Trials." She paused briefly. "And before you ask, they sent us in particular because we're the best there is at what we do."
Solon shook his head. "I hate it when you do that."
Ahdekta smiled coolly, and turned to me. "How about you, Blue?"
I grinned, and ignited my lightsaber. "Red, I was born ready." We were so cocky then. But we all jumped when we heard someone clear their throat behind us.
Master Kharr chuckled softly. "And where are you younglings going?"
After getting over his shock, Solon smiled warmly at the giant Cathar, and bowed, fist to palm. Ahdekta rolled her eyes. I waved to him enthusiastically.
"Master Kharr. What a surprise. What brings you here?" Ahdekta inquired, dryly.
Kharr raised an eyebrow and smiled. "Oh, I think you know the answer to that, Ahdekta. You have not been entirely...forthcoming...with your companions. An oversight due to your excitement, I'm sure. I just want Solon and Alora to be aware of what they may be facing."
Ahdekta frowned, but Solon smiled. "She told us about the kinrath, Master Kharr. We can handle ourselves."
Master Kharr shook his head. "No. The latest batch of kinrath were cleared out three days ago. Quiet your mind, Solon. And see."
Solon nodded. He grew still, and for a few moments, his eyes glowed a bright blue. My mind was filled with the image of a very dark, but empty cave, the end of which was filled with millions of Force Crystals.
Ahdekta growled. "Must this always be about them? Even now, on my special day?"
I rubbed my forehead in confusion. "I don't understand. If there's nothing there, why did you ask us to come?"
"Because," answered Master Kharr, "she is afraid. And that is understandable. Nothing is more frightening than the unknown. "
Ahdekta stood firm. "A Jedi knows no fear! Master Kae simply gave me permission to bring them."
"That explains the how, but not the why." Master Kharr sighed. "So be it, Ahdekta. But allow me to impart some advice to your companions."
He gestured to Solon and I. Ahdekta turned and knelt facing the cave. He put a giant paw on our shoulders and spoke again. "When the cave is devoid of life, the void is filled with the Dark Side of the Force."
"Ah, so this is Ahdekta's trial then? We should leave her to it," said Solon.
I said, "But if Master Kharr is correct in saying she is afraid...we should help her. She's our friend."
Solon grimaced. "Your friend perhaps. She merely tolerates me. And now she's dragged us unwittingly into her Initiate Trial. We could get killed, or worse, fall to the Dark Side."
"Or perhaps," intoned Master Kharr, "this is also your Initiate Trial." He looked past us then, and back at us. "I don't have much time, but know this: much can be learned from a confrontation with the Dark Side. But don't believe everything you see. And...you will face only what you take with you."
He held out his paws. Slowly, I put my lightsaber into one of them. Solon gasped, but then steeled himself and did the same.
We had to run to catch up with Ahdekta, who had begun her stride into the cave, weapon drawn.
The earth rumbled just then, a deep booming sound reverberating through the rock.
My hands were still, my breath cool, my vision sharp. I smiled as I remembered Master Kharr's words. "Only what you take with you," I whispered under my breath. I (only somewhat reluctantly) holstered my lightsaber, got to my feet, and let the Force guide my steps.
After a few meters, I was stopped suddenly by the sensation that Frridder was trying to reach me. I felt, but didn't hear, one word: "Alive?" It was like feeling a whisper on your skin. So my padawan was alive. Well, thank the Force for that. I tried to reply to her, but the Dark Side of the Force seemed to swallow the air around me...
I saw before me a spacious room, ornately furnished like some kind of temple. A hooded figure stood in the center of this room. The sense of the Dark Side was even stronger in there. I shivered, but spoke firmly. "Who are you?"
There was no reply.
A vision. It is only a vision. And yet...
Another figured appeared, and I could not help but speak his name aloud. "Solon." The sound I made was like a sob. It smacked of weakness, of sentimentality, of attachment. I didn't care.
The near figure to me removed its hood; I was shocked to see my own face.
Solon spoke. I should not have been surprised to hear the coldness in his voice. "False to the end, my love. Trapping me, hurting me, using me. While you stand by, doing nothing. So apt." He drew his lightsaber.
The other me drew her own weapon. Suddenly I forgot that it was a vision and so drew my saber as well, but I did not attack. Despite myself, I called out to Solon. " I was never false to you. Never."
Solon cried out, "You abandoned me! Left me to my enemies!" He struck the other me with his lightsaber. She stumbled, grazed. I felt the graze, too.
So many thoughts raced through my head: Wait a moment. Did he hear me? Is this pain real? This is unlike any vision I'd ever experienced before. And like a wounded animal, I struck at Solon, knocking him to the ground with the Force, and again I called out to him. "Our men would have died if I'd gone after you!" It didn't matter to me if he couldn't hear those words. Maybe I needed to hear them.
Solon swiftly kipped to his feet, whirling toward his new attacker. His lightsaber pointed right at me, deadly and assured. He was fast, confident, better than I remembered. For a moment I thought I saw him smirk.
I spoke softly. "I died when he took you from me, Solon." But I wasn't stupid. I used the Force to push him across the room from me. Even as I pushed him away I tried to placate him. "I'm so sorry."
I'm bad at this.
Solon recovered quickly, and used the Force to slam me against the wall of the cave. I moaned and bit my lip, despite myself. Ahh, just like old times. Solon growled, " Not as sorry as you're going to be, Alora."
We stood at opposite ends of the room for what seemed like an eternity, staring, panting. My pendant flickered like wildfire. Suddenly, I saw him sweep his hand out in front of him and make a "come at me" gesture.
I could never resist that.
I again tapped into the Force and sprung across the room to meet him. But at the last moment, instead of swinging my saber, I reached out towards him with my other hand. I had to know.
Solon slashed viciously at my outstretched hand."What was that? A peace offering? From you? Don't make me laugh."
Is this what you want, Force? I shook my head sadly. "I love you, Solon." And then I finally struck at him, cyan meeting marble white skin.
Solon charged, maddened with anger, and I struck at him again.
Horrified, I watched as Solon faltered, my lightsaber impaled through his chest, then fell to his knees. He grasped me by the shoulders as he stared down at his wound.
Sweet Force! I haven't felt his touch in so long. Why now?
His breath grew ragged, and he lifted his face. And he could see. Hot tears stung my eyes as he whispered into my ear, “They're using me. Please...save me.” then finally, he collapsed, and was still.
I screamed, "No!" and threw myself onto his body.
But Solon's body faded from the room, leaving behind only an old ragged cloak. Something seemed to protrude from its edges. I tentatively reached at the cloak. Underneath it lay a Force crystal, different in color from ones I've used before. This one was...violet. The same color of Solon's old saber, before it was destroyed on Rodia. It felt alive, not native to this place. A Hurrikaine crystal perhaps? The gates on the eastern wall opened. I picked up the crystal, got to my feet, took one last look at the cloak, and walked toward the gate.
I shook my head. It was a vision. Just a vision, powered by the Dark Side of the Force.
But did that make it any less real?