[FIN]Broken Wounds Heal
This is my fic Broken Wounds Heal. It is set during the Clone Wars and tells of two friends struggling over the death of another. Some references are made to my other fic Heart of the Guardian.
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Chapter 1: Death and Dying
It was a calm and somber day at the starport of Azure. It was a day that carried mixed emotions that varied in intensity. Obi-wan Kenobi stood at the landing platform watching a silver casket being loaded upon an Avalonian freighter, The Sojourn, to be taken to Coruscant. Inside the casket was the body of a long time friend and one he had loved, Jedi Siri Tachi. Siri had died from mortal wounds in the battle at Azure to protect an advanced codebreaker from falling into Separatists hands. They had been vastly outnumbered until Master Ashira-Li appeared and prevented the fall of Azure. Ashira used an unconventional strategy that forced the Separatists to retreat but not without inflicting pain on both sides.
For years Obi-wan kept his feelings a secret and detached from himself. When Siri died, he allowed himself to feel emotions of loss and sorrow. He was also feeling rather angry with Ashira for her not being there to wish Siri farewell and silently cursed the Avalonian ways of death. Obi-wan had long known some of the customs pertaining in general to the Avalonian way of life having been exposed first hand to it when he was still a Padawan and had even gone through a coming of age ceremony. He just didn’t understand why Ashira wasn’t there for usually Avalonians wished farewell and would sing of the accomplishments made in life by the deceased. He didn’t know that she was there, silently watching and mourning.
Jedi Master Ashira-Li Starlighter stood in the shadows of a parapet overlooking the scene below, with a stoic look that didn’t betray her feelings but inside, she was feeling a void within her. Coming from the Avalonian system, she had been instilled with the warrior codes of Bushida while completing her Jedi training at the hands of Master Yoda and rose to the level of Jedi Knight at a rather young age. When the Clone Wars began, she had been given command of clone troopers and of one of the largest armies ever conceived, the warriors of Avalon, which included the Jedi that resided there. Her abilities and daring maneuvers earned her the nickname, “Light of Courage,” and promoted a positive image of the Jedi and the Avalonians in the eyes of the Republic. She was at Azure because of her willful nature that brought her at odds with the Jedi Council.
Against the instructions of the Council, she took three legions of Avalonian troopers and headed for Azure. She had insisted that Obi-wan, Anakin and Siri would be outnumbered but no call of distress had been sent. The Council believed her to a certain degree but this was one time that they thought her judgment was flawed except for her old master, one who knew her better than most of the masters. Knowing that it was grounds for exile, she set off but took her own people to avoid a needless entanglement concerning the clones. She herself led the fighter brigade amidst the barrage of fire from the ships down to the port to fire upon the droid armies. She took a hit that forced her land and from the ground, coordinated lines of attack while attacking on foot. She had tried to avoid heavy casualties but she knew that war always carried a terrible price and one was Siri Tachi.
Ashira had known Siri Tachi and in fact had trained her in the initial training of a Jedi along with Obi-wan so she felt a connective bond between her former pupils. The bond between her and Obi-wan had been strengthened after a journey that led her through the lost tales of her ancestor Revan. Most importantly, Obi-wan helped her reestablish her connection to the ways of the Shi-Cho Jedi, the way of Bushida and to herself; things she had cut herself off from after she disobeyed the Council the first time and went to war. Siri had remained close to the point of being sisters and she never missed an opportunity to teach them both new combat techniques that were taught only to the most skilled of Avalonian warriors. When Siri died, a void had filled her inner being, like when one cuts themselves off from the Force, a feeling she knew all too well.
She was standing in her position watching the casket being loaded and sung the traditional songs and one that she composed that reflected her feelings. She sang so softly that her words were carried off into the winds. Ashira accepted death as a natural part of life and knew that a warrior greets each day as if it were his last. It conflicted at times with the Jedi Code, one that she followed as true as she did Bushida and it drove her to seek isolation. From her parapet, she could sense that Obi-wan was angry at her for not being there and it bothered her. A part of her wanted to go down there and just be there but she felt it was not right and remained rooted to her spot. She was concentrating on the scene below that she didn’t seem to notice a shadow coming up from behind.
Andros Korin was a Jedi that Ashira had met when she returned to Andorra to rebuild the Shi-Cho order of the Jedi after reestablishing her connection. She had trained him and his twin brother in the ways of the Jedi and taught them how to improve their connection to each other. Standing at six feet, he was the classic height of the Avalonian people and a devotee to the old principles of Bushida. He and his brother were devoted to Ashira simply stating that she was a natural leader though they kept their true reasons to themselves. He was one of her appointed generals and head of intelligence in conjunction with General Bronc Chun from Andorra over the troop from Avalon. Andros had been in command of one of the ground units driving back the Separatists from Azure and had been present when Siri died. Though he didn’t know her except through the circumstance of war, he respected her as a Jedi and he too mourned when she died. He had come to give an intelligence report that he had received that day and was coming up behind Ashira, his robes flowing gently behind him.
As Andros got closer Ashira kept staring down but said softly, “Andros, if you want to be less noticeable you should restrict your breathing a bit more.”
He smiled knowing that she was attempting to hide her feelings from him and replied, “You know as well as I that you can sense a person behind you before they get it into their heads.” Seeing that she was intent on remaining silent, he continued, “You want to be down there don’t you?” and he placed his hands on her shoulders.
Ashira made no movement to shrug them off but continued to look down, “I trained Siri and we fought together. When I felt her die I…It is the way of things. Death is a natural part of life,” she explained more to herself than to Andros.
Andros knew that she was struggling for control and let her continue, “Bushida says that a true warrior must choose death when faced with life or death and not to recognize one’s ambitions, making life immaculate along the way. Siri was a warrior but a Jedi, a guardian of peace…how could the code and Bushida make sense?”
Andros thought for a moment before crafting his reply, “I don’t know. I wasn’t brought up with the Jedi Code as you were and I don’t possess a heart as big or caring as yours. Miklos and I come from a warrior family,” he had taken his hands off her shoulders and stood besides her looking down as the casket was finished being loaded on The Sojourn. He continued, “Besides, I think it is evident that one should honor one’s accomplishments in life. Siri was a Jedi as you say. It would be best if you remember what you had as fellow Jedi.”
“Perhaps you are right but I don’t think Obi-wan understands fully and Anakin understands even less. Being here, I feel like I betrayed him, just not being down there. I just couldn’t justify between the Jedi Code and Bushida concerning life and death. I’m asking you, as a friend, am I making too much of this?”
Gently Andros replied, “You have a concern for life. You would spare a Sith Lord because you do not believe in killing your prisoners. You follow Bushida to deal with physical pain and in the discipline of swordsmanship. You are a great Jedi and one of the Shi-Cho Handmaidens; you strive to balance between the two codes. It is difficult and yet you survive the tempests. No, you have a right to question what you have been taught to believe.”
Ashira drew her gaze from below to face Andros. She smiled a grateful smile, a natural smile. Andros smiled back and said, “There’s the face I remember from training.”
“Yes. You are right but I can’t shake my mind from the strong feelings that are pulsing through from below. I still feel as if I should go down there but I know that something will just make an already bad situation worse.”
Andros didn’t say anything but tucked the conversation into his mind using a technique that he had learned. Something in her voice made him think that she was feeling more than what she let on. It didn’t surprise him really that she had kept it hidden. He knew that if she wanted to, she could sever herself from the Force almost at will or mask her true capabilities behind a more mundane face. He was just as good at concealing his thoughts and kept them under a blanket of surface mundane ones. Instead he said, “Maybe, but he just needs to understand that some things are best if one is not present. I know he knows a bit of our way of life but he wasn’t born into it or had a lifetime’s training in it as you have. Time will smooth out events. It is what the Force wills.”
“Yes,” and resuming her role as the general she stated, “I sense that you came up here for more than just talking about death and dying. Has a report come in?”
Andros caught on that they needed to get to business and responded, “Praesitlyn is secure just as you ordered General. The troops are following Order 672 so as not to alert the planet. If what you predicted may come to pass, they are ready to provide the necessary backup for Republic forces.”
“Good and what of Miklos on Rendili?”
“Everything is going well. We just received an update as to the condition of the fleet and the team you sent in,” and they turned to walk into the building.
Chapter 2: Tricks and Orders
General Miklos Korin was leading a reconnaissance team into a system already occupied by the Separatists. He was one of the generals appointed by friend and mentor Ashira-Li to command the group of warriors involved in reconnaissance and covert operations. Occasionally, he directed troops in battle and did so upholding the principles of Bushida like his brother but drew more closely to the principles of the Jedi. Most of his missions involved scouting of potential threats from the Separatists.
Of all the missions assigned, this one was the most dangerous and daring, the business on Ugnaught was more of a rescue mission than recon. His lieutenant, a young Jedi Knight from Belos named Secura and the most reliable person he had met since the war started nearly two years ago, was watching his back. She had saved his butt more than once and on Ugnaught, she narrowly saved him from becoming one of General Grievous’ casualties while trying to rescue captured Jedi. Secura was a devote follower of Bushida and was willing to face the most fierce of the Separatists, namely Grievous, if given the chance.
This particular mission had them scouting Rendili, the home of critical shipbuilding operations. It worried the Republic that they had joined the Separatists willingly but Commander Ollin Trask of the home fleet defenses had not yet decided whether or not to pledge allegiance. It was Miklos’ job to infiltrate and determine which way the commander would sway. He was to send the information to General Starlighter. She would then relay the information to the Jedi Council on Coruscant though he suspected that the Council did not authorize some of these missions and he was surprised at her daring. He kept his opinions to himself unless he felt the need to state them and keep to the sworn oath of loyalty that he and his brother pledged. It really wasn’t hard to get infiltrated and it was feasible because he had a small crew.
His crew had gotten themselves jobs as part of the fleet at various jobs depending on their talents with Miklos as an aide to the commander and Secura as a communications and security officer on the bridge of the flagship. Miklos would gather information that the commander would give him concerning the Separatists or anything about the war and would pass it to Secura. She was to pass the information along a coded data stream that would be virtually undetected. Full detailed reports he would code himself directly to Ashira. He sensed that she could find even the most mundane of tasks full of information. He didn’t question but rather watched as all children are taught and learned even though they were a distance away.
On this day, it was different and Miklos and Secura could feel it. It had started with the change in the usual routine in debriefing. The fact that the commander mentioned that a visitor would be visiting but one not ‘officially’ with the Separatists sent a warning signal down Miklos’ spine. What disturbed him more was when the commander held him up after debriefing, “Michal, I have something on my mind. Do you mind if we talk about it?”
Miklos knew better than to refuse and gave his consent and allowed himself to be guided down the corridor to the commander’s private quarters. He asked, “What is it that you need me for sir?”
“As you know about our visitor that will be arriving soon. I need you to make sure that head of security has all possible measures enabled but that is not really what I want to discuss with you.”
“My main concern is that I’m being spied upon. Now I don’t know who it is. Maybe our visitor is trying to check out our operations or it could be the Republic.”
“What would you have me do sir,” Miklos responded. He had begun to feel uneasy that they might have to pull out.
“I want you to find out who it is, if there is one. I can’t afford anyone not authorized getting into the locked databanks especially with the war going on.”
“I’ll do my best sir and keep you updated.”
“Good well, attend to your duties and feel free to involve the security officer. I hear that she packs a mighty strong punch.”
“Yes sir,” and Miklos saluted and left to attend to the normal duties that he had during the day. Miklos felt uneasy that the commander was suspecting something. He sensed that the mystery visitor was the key behind it and wondered if it was an attempt to root out all the Avalonians involved in the war. He tried not to dwell too much about it as he sent a coded message for Secura to meet him in his quarters after evening debriefing. Somehow he got through the day at his normal duties and preparing to establish his ‘team’ to hunt down the spies.
Later in his quarters, he had changed to a simple tunic that was similar to a Jedi tunic but looked more civilian, in terms of Avalonian dress. He was studying a datapad with a copy of the latest orders from Ashira when he heard the familiar soft knock at the door. Putting the datapad down, he opened the door of his quarters to find Secura dressed similarly in a simple tunic. He quickly ushered her inside and checked to make sure no one was around and double-checked with his Jedi senses. When he was finished, he closed his door and sealed it, an indicator not to be disturbed, and went to speak to Secura.
Secura herself had been feeling uneasy that day. In fact she sensed that something was about to change their situation there on Rendili. She waited in an at ease position as Miklos began by giving the report update from Ashira, “The General has instructed us to continue giving her information and to give urgent news immediately.”
“Yes commander. I sense that today was not normal, excluding the war.”
“That is true Secura. I believe the commander suspects that there are spies within the fleet. He as asked me to assemble a team to seek them out. Well, he said that head of security would be appropriate.”
“Why would he have reason to suspect? No one has blown their cover by carelessness.”
Looking into her dark eyes, Miklos replied, “I sense that it has to do with the visitor that is to visit the fleet within a few standard days. This reeks of something that is dark side in nature.”
“Should I relay this to the General on the special coded channel or the usual?”
“The special. I’ll try to fix things so that it will force attention away from us. That should buy us enough time to receive instructions and find a way to pull out.”
“I’ll get on it right away sir,” and Secura made her way to the door. Miklos stopped her with a gentle grasp on her arm before she touched the lock. His soft brown eyes gazed into hers as he said gently, “Be careful, there has been enough death in this war.”
She looked at him and replied, “I will. I always make sure my tracks are covered,” and she turned towards the lock again but not before he placed his hand under her chin and lifted it to give her a kiss on her forehead. She left with a smile to send the coded data stream.
Sitting on a chair within a darkened chamber, a dark figure was pondering while reading a datapad. His trusty pet, a small draigon, lay next to the chair looking asleep but was alert and ready to defend his master with his life. The draigon did not stir when the door opened and a young lieutenant stepped in very frightened. The lieutenant made the respectful salute and said, “My lord.”
The dark figure, hidden by shadows replied in a rather deep voice, “Are all the preparations made?”
“Y-yes milord. The fleet is in position per your instructions and are prepared to make the jump into hyperspace.”
“Good. My shuttle will be ready by tomorrow for our ‘meeting’ yes?”
“The final checks are being run as we speak,” the lieutenant was trying not to tremble.
“You have done well lieutenant. Leave us and make ready.”
Saluting, the lieutenant replied, “Yes Lord Dragus,” and he backed out, relieved that he didn’t have to be in Dragus’ presence anymore.
Lord Dragus leaned down and began to stroke his draigon. He smiled to himself as he talked to it, “All is going as planned. I’m surprised Lord Sidious hasn’t discovered our presence. Maybe it’s because we have a tendency to hide behind doubt and in the shadows.”
The draigon began to growl in pleasure and Dragus stood up and walked to a desk. The draigon raised its head and watched its master with an intent look. Dragus continued, “Soon Dooku will learn of us through the fleet commander. I’m sure that any of her undercover teams will be discovered by the time we arrive and soon we shall have the revenge on the blood of my ancestors against the one who defies even the Jedi,” and Dragus began to laugh at the prospect of his carefully laid plan coming to fruit. The draigon gazed at his master intently for a moment more then put his head down to sleep.
Secura was worried, both about the impending investigation that could expose the team and what had transpired in Miklos’ quarters. Miklos was never one to share his emotions, something he learned from the Jedi and he never spoke much of what happened after their last encounter with General Grievous. She tried not to think of it but her own feelings kept invading her thoughts. The many missions the General had sent them on, she grew to have feelings for Miklos. Until now, she had never known what he felt in return. She was glad but worried that this sudden change could make him careless but then she remembered that he was not like his brother. She said to herself, “Keep on the mission. The General is counting on us.”
She began to program the report hidden on her update datapad to fit into the coded data stream signal that she developed. She knew the General was on Azure and had access to the codebreaker there so she encrypted the signal with a simple code. Checking to make sure there were no holes, she sent it through the emergency signal so that it would make its way directly to the General. When it was sent, she carefully wiped any trace of the data she had sent and destroyed any chance of recovery and made it look like it was a system failure, just in case the investigation had any reason to suspect the local communications. That done she sighed, “I hope we will make it out of here alive.”
The communications tower at Azure was a little crowded as Obi-wan, Anakin and Ashira-Li were standing there to communicate with the Jedi Council on Coruscant. The meeting was going fairly well considering the ripple of intense emotions circulating about the room. Ashira was working hard using the Force to make sure it wasn’t visible to the masters. She gave her report that she had just received from Secura, “The fleet is still in an indecisive mode but there is suspicion that this ‘visitor’ they are receiving may change the commander’s mind,” she deliberately left out the fact that the team may be in danger.
Master Yoda replied, “Sense a darkness do you?”
“Jedi Korin does feel dark ripples and sensed that the atmosphere is about to become charged. He reported that the fleet is performing all sorts of special requests.”
“Hmm. Danger approaching it is,” Yoda replied.
Master Windu seemed to be pondering what she just reported and chose to respond with, “Do you feel that the recon team is in any way to be compromised?”
Ashira considered lying but knew that from the looks of the masters that she was in enough trouble. Instead she replied, “The commander is suspicious of espionage, more so now that they are expecting this ‘visitor’. The team is on standby until I can send orders to pull out. I can assure you that Miklos is of sound judgment and will inform me of any problems and if he feels that they are about to be compromised.”
“Discuss this we must but not long,” Yoda responded.
“I agree,” Master Windu seconded.
The rest of the council decided that a discussion was in order. They had come to trust Ashira’s word and were willing to give her the benefit of a doubt when it came to her men. When the vote was completed, Master Windu said, “Then it is settled. Obi-wan, your apprentice shall return to Coruscant while you remain while we deliberate the situation. This session is ended. Ashira, remain.”
Obi-wan didn’t seem to care what was going to happen but Anakin was suspicious. He had noticed Master Ashira’s face and thought he saw the tinniest bit of knowing dread. It was by chance that he caught it at all as she hid everything from everyone. After he and Obi-wan left the communications tower, he doubled back with an excuse to go back. He stood silently outside the door and listened to the conversation that was going on.
“Your actions at Azure while commendable went against the instruction of this Council,” Master Windu was speaking.
“Yes my masters. I went knowingly and willingly.”
“It is good that you know this. In normal circumstances, you would have been exiled but seeing how that we are at war, it is not the time for this. Instead you will remain where you are and try to determine what is going on in that visit with the fleet at Rendili. You will take action after consulting with us. Find out if there is any connection with Count Dooku.”
“Yes master. Jedi Korin is reliable.”
“Good. We didn’t want to say this on record but we think it is best that the team stays in for as long as it can. More information is needed to determine the intentions of the fleet.”
“Yes master,” and Ashira ended the holotransmission. Anakin couldn’t see her face but thought that he could discern her mood, one of despair. He didn’t know however that it was not the rebuke that caused her to feel this way but something else.
The council sat in silence until Ashira’s image disappeared from the scene. Master Yoda gave a small, unnoticeable sigh for his old Padawan. Master Windu was the first to speak, “Much defiance in her. A constant problem.”
Master Ki-Adi-Mundi had been silent through much of the debriefing. He decided to speak, “Defiance is not what I sensed in the young Jedi. Something else, a wound maybe.”
“Hmm. Clouded her thoughts and feelings are. Impossible to see,” Yoda added.
“Her defiance has been a constant problem in the Order. She tends to follow her personal feelings than what has been instructed for the greater good,” Master Windu voiced.
“Out of loyalty to principles of her people, Bushida,” Ki-Adi-Mundi replied.
“Yes, a struggle more and more common among the Avalonian Padawans. The first she is but not the last,” Yoda added.
“Still let us hope that this assignment reminds her of where her duty lies.”
Chapter 3: Dreams
Ashira didn’t say much as she walked with a steady step to the debriefing room on her ship, the Ebon Hawk, where Andros would meet her and Obi-wan after they saw Anakin onto a ship headed for Coruscant. Anakin had tried to say something to her but she indicated that she didn’t want to talk, not at least until they reached the docking area. Before boarding, Anakin leaned close and admitted, “I heard you speak to the other masters, Master. I apologize, it was not my place.”
Normally a comment like that would have caught her off guard. Giving no clear response in her face, she said, “Anakin, you are not my Padawan. I do not punish curiosity but I caution it.”
“Why didn’t you say anything in your defense Master?”
“A Shi-Cho Handmaiden accepts responsibility for every action taken. I had a choice and I made it. That should be enough for you. You better get on board.”
Seeing that he wasn’t going to get anything further, Anakin said, “May the Force be with you,” and turned to leave.
Ashira watched him board and was thinking of why she responded with a mantra of Bushida. It was rudely interrupted by Obi-wan who replied, “At least you don’t encourage him with your example.”
It was a hurtful comment. Not showing any emotion, she gazed with a steely look into his eyes and turned to walk to debriefing. She sensed hostility that had been carefully guarded, and it was directed at her. She simply decided to ignore it and when it was necessary she would speak. She left Obi-wan a few paces behind her and he felt rotten about what he just said and stayed the distance she set. He thought he recognized one of her methods for dealing with anger towards a person but didn’t see that she was hiding the hurt. He knew he couldn’t justify his behavior toward her and wanted to wait for the opportunity to apologize. He knew that she tried to keep younglings and padawans alike from disobeying the counsel but he was just angry that she hadn’t been there and began to blame her for Siri’s death.
Andros didn’t have to look twice when he saw Ashira and Obi-wan walk in. She was good but not that good when she had been hurt emotionally. He said nothing as he took his place by the strategic map and readied himself for briefing. Ashira slipped right away into her role, “Where is blue group situated?”
Andros, knowing that she was serious replied, “They have readjusted their position to keep in accordance with the target.”
“Target, what target?” Obi-wan asked.
“Target refers to whom we are watching, that is all we are to do,” Ashira replied while looking at the map and entering notes into her datapad, “The teams that are stationed out here do nothing but watch. That is how the council is able to get updates on planetary situations.”
Obi-wan was slightly baffled and perturbed by her abrupt manner. He also felt his temper rising, something that she was good at. He tried to calm himself and responded, “What do these teams consist of?”
“Jedi? That’s nearly impossible, there aren’t that many of the order.”
“Avalonian Jedi. Due to relative isolation, they have grown in number so that is why. Also many are tribesmen and Bushi warriors, all skilled in reconnaissance. Now Andros this is what the council has given us…”
Obi-wan became irritated that she just abruptly cut off like that and almost didn’t hear what she was saying, “…Miklos says he can keep them off their backs for some time. I don’t know how much longer they can hold out if my suspicions are correct.”
“What Master Ashira?” asked Andros.
“That one of our own is betraying the Republic and joined the Separatists.”
Not much was said except to give instructions and explain the positioning which was really vast. It consumed so much time that it was dark when the session ended. Ashira had barely enough time to send a reply to Miklos telling him to evade discovery. She went to her quarters not saying anything to anyone but left behind Andros and Obi-wan. Not accustomed to this coming from her, Obi-wan watched her leave and asked Andros, “Why is she so blunt? It’s not in her nature at all.”
Andros decided to indulge and replied, “War does that to a person, especially if they have the responsibility of commanding thousands of troops.”
“Well, well she was almost spiteful when speaking to me and you, like she was angry.”
“Probably something happened today that changed her mood. Earlier she was quiet, withdrawn; like she is when sharing something. Come I need help in locking this up,” and Andros said no more.
Obi-wan had no choice but to accept that. He knew he had hurt her feelings but didn’t know how bad. He was also frustrated with the speaking in circles Avalonians tended to speak in. He resolved to be more civil and examine the source of his own feelings as he locked the security computer.
Miklos received his reply and heaved a sigh. He didn’t like where this was going but he trusted that Ashira was not doing this willingly. She would have had them pull out with an excuse for leave or something and then have them return. He sensed that she was doing the Council’s bidding in order to make up for what happened at Azure. Looking at his information, he then destroyed his orders in the manner that Secura used on the data stream codes she sent. Presently his thoughts returned to Secura and what he did in his quarters the other night. She was to come again tonight to receive the General’s orders and relay them to the rest of the team. He went to his quarters to await her arrival.
Secura has similar feelings of apprehension mingled in with hope when she entered Miklos’ quarters. He greeted her in the usual manner and explained the orders that came from Ashira. She was not disappointed but worried. She had sensed Miklos agitation and was concerned about what was to happen. He didn’t show what she had sensed and instead began to adopt the calm that he had learned as a Jedi. She asked, “The usual method in relaying the orders to the rest of the team?”
“No. I’ll deliver it myself. What I need you to do is to encode the order in datapads and secure it with a fractal encryption code. With the security increased I need to give some time for the internal communications to get less suspicious.”
“What of communicating through the Force? I know some can only send subtleties but there is really no information left behind.”
“No good. I have, and the General, suspect that the ‘visitor’ is one of our own and could be one trained in the Jedi arts. I may be wrong but usually the General’s suspicions prove to be right. So will you do that?”
“Will it be safe for me to just hand you a bunch of datapads on orders or something?”
“Since you are chief of security and this is related to the espionage problem, it should work. It’ll look like I’m giving warning for inspection. It will be done at random so that it shouldn’t attract attention,” then Miklos drifted off and looked in the direction of space.
“What is it?” Secura asked.
“A disturbance, frustration, coming from my brother but its not his own. It’s probably nothing and there is nothing I can do about it while I’m here,” he then looked at Secura and asked, “Why did you decide to come to war?”
The question took Secura by surprise and she wasn’t sure how to answer or answer at all. Looking at Miklos she could see that he had become fatigued, mostly with the war. They had been on missions for the last two years, since the war began with barely a moment for rest. She also thought that the General had the most difficult job of answering both to the Council and the Lord Governor. She did not voice this however but instead chose to answer his question, “It is our duty as Avalonians to help the Republic and we are supposed to watch out for the Jedi. Why do you ask this?”
“It’s just that this war is tearing the Republic apart. It will kill the Republic more so than the Mandalorian wars over four millennia ago. I went to war because of my loyalty not to our home but to the General. She saved my brother and I from a life that would have killed us and for that, we owe her our lives.”
Secura thought about it for a moment before replying, “As any would have been proud to do. Still I ask why are you speaking of this now?”
Looking at her, he realized that now was not the time. He indicated that he was done discussing it by replying, “I have spoken enough. What matters now is that we prepare to dig in and expect the worst if it comes to be.”
Secura took the cue and bid Miklos a goodnight and left his quarters. Miklos stood there silently cursing himself on his weakness not to admit his feelings. She was curious but also worried that this change in his manner might make him careless. She went to her quarters to bed for the night and gave herself to uneasy dreams of the impending visit. Miklos in the meantime had completed a special message for the general, one that he knew she would get considering the link she access to. Miklos then went to sleep.
Ashira-Li was in her quarters gazing at the sky from the window. She felt sad that she had been abrupt but the main concern was her troops. She did not like what the Council had in mind with her recon team. She gazed at the sky almost as if something would fall out of the sky. Miklos had sent a message and she confirmed her receipt. She also picked up uneasy feelings at this meeting and feelings that hinted at something felt towards another team member. She was to well aware of that feeling and she was not concerned with it. She lay on the pallet and continued to gaze at the sky, almost as if she sensed something was coming.
The battle was going on the ground. The dead, the wounded, and the dying were everywhere. A deep dark shadow came backed by a huge army on the top of a snowy mountain. Below lay the city, waiting to be taken…
Miklos woke up. He rubbed his eyes and thought that it was just a dream. He was not completely sure and decided to relay it to the general when it was safe. He went back to sleep, or at least tried to, unaware that Ashira dreamt the same thing as did every Avalonian Jedi.
Chapter 4: Search and Destroy
Lord Dragus was on the bridge when his ship docked at the spaceport. He was welcomed aboard by Commander Trask, who informed him that Count Dooku would be arriving later to hear his proposition concerning a carefully laid plan. Miklos recognized Lord Dragus and hid himself among the ranks so that Dragus would not have a chance to look at his face. Commander Trask was beside himself as he was saying, “My lord, everything in your quarters have been readied to your specifications and we hope that you are going to enjoy your stay.”
Miklos slunk behind listening to Dragus, “Excellent. Have your suspicions been confirmed? You know about what I told you.”
“Not yet but I have a top officer working on that with chief of security. If we find any trace of a traitor, they will be ‘taken’ care of.”
Miklos chose to make himself noticeable and walked in a manner to make himself noticed by Trask. Commander Trask took note, “Ah here is my special aide Lieutenant Michal Koros. He is the one in charge of the investigation.”
“Really? I hope he is adept enough to seek what we are looking for.”
“I always follow orders,” Miklos replied. He kept his gaze down so as to seem subservient to Commander Trask.
Pleased, Trask said, “Our meeting will be held tomorrow at 1000 hours, the way that was agreed upon. You may go Michal.”
With a salute, Miklos turned smartly on his heel and went as if he intended to go to the command center. He instead went to go find Secura and told her in a hushed whisper, “Be on the alert. We may have to pull out. I’ll notify the general.”
Ashira-Li hid her tiredness the same way she hid everything else from everyone. Her recent communication revealed what she had long feared, that her own people were divided and the dream she had the night before confirmed it. She had a determination in her step as she went to the communications tower, anxious to contact the masters. She was met by Obi-wan whom she greeted with a civil reply. Obi-wan thought she was still angry with him and he decided to accompany her to the tower.
Once inside she activated it and her end revealed Masters Windu and Yoda. Biting back her nature she spoke, “I have received a transmission from the team. Jedi Korin reports that the visitor is one called Lord Dragus, a former Jedi. I also have word that Count Dooku will be arriving shortly. I have a strong feeling that some plot is about to be unleashed.”
“Do have any information as to specific details in mind?” Master Windu asked.
“No master. They are keeping things under wraps. It’s strictly ‘need to know’ basis but Jedi Korin won’t be able to get inside. I suspect that there are others that are going to be there but no one will speak of it.”
“Suspect danger do you?” Master Yoda asked.
“Lord Dragus may recognize some members of the team. That is most likely the reason why the fleet had been put on alert for espionage. There may be a risk of hitting a system close to us, possibly an attempt to disable my people due to the support we give to the Republic,” then taking a breath she said, “I believe they should pull out.” Ashira-Li had stressed the last part. She did not know how long Miklos could keep up the act and chose not to voice that.
“Have the rest of the team pull out but Jedi Korin should stay. He is close enough to find out what is being planned. It is a risk that must be taken,” Master Windu responded.
Yoda looked at his padawan and saw that she was in two minds about it. She would never leave one of her people in a position to risk getting caught especially if it was an adopted brother. She respected all life and it was something about her that made the other padawans respect her and want to learn from her. She was a natural leader and she knew it for she tried to discourage the younglings and the padawans from listening to her instead of the masters, no matter if she was right or not. He saw that she was going to obey, at least in part. Knowing her, she would add in something extra when she relayed the message to Miklos. Obi-wan spoke, “If this is right master, we cannot afford to lose the Avalonians. They provide the rear defense for the Republic.”
“I agree,” Yoda said.
“Obi-wan, go to Avalon, the closest planet to the Republic and advise them of the situation,” Master Windu said.
“If I may Master Windu, the whole team should be pulled out,” Ashira-Li said.
“Miklos is strong in the Force and a skilled Jedi. Find a way he will,” Yoda said, warning her.
“Ashira, go to the station outpost near the system,” Master Windu said. He had guessed right that she would do something.
“Yes master. I will inform Miklos immediately of your decision,” and Ashira ended the transmission.
Setting the signal to Miklos, Obi-wan spoke, “I know that face. You are going to defy the council yet again.”
“No. I am giving him his instructions and leave for the station, exactly as the council instructed,” she replied.
“I know that face better than you think. First chance you get you’ll head for Rendili.”
“I obey the council,” and she finished sending her message.
“I know my place. Do you know yours?”
The question was like a dart through her heart. She was not about to give Obi-wan the satisfaction of seeing how it hurt her. She left but at the door she turned, “I was expelled before and still am,” and she walked away. A storm was beginning to wage outside.
Miklos received her reply. He gazed at it but did not say anything. He knew her hand was being forced. He would do what he had to and try to make it out alive. He scanned the stars and heaved a sigh. He then put on a look of determination and strode out of his quarters to inform his team that they were to pull out.
Ashira-Li was in the quarters that had been issued to Siri when they came to Azure. She had come in through the vents because she did not want anyone to know that she was in there. She had spent hours after Siri’s death in there, just meditating and feeling for her presence. As she stood in the center of the room, Ashira-Li was drawn to a small panel that was hidden in the wall. Feeling along, she managed to trigger the panel to open. Inside was a treasure that Ashira was surprised to see.
Ashira-Li knew that the Belosian Handmaidens, specifically the Haida tribe and the fiercer of the warrior women, had adopted Siri. She was surprised that Siri kept that part of her hidden and began to rifle through the contents in a methodical manner. She found something that had been sent recently and realized that was why Siri was on edge before she left for Azure. Written in the tribal language of the Lordes tribe, it was summoning Siri, or a representative to the enclave for training. Apparently Separatist forces, unofficial ones, had invaded Belos or suspected of criminal actions. Not sure of what to make of this, Ashira-Li packed all the contents of the panel into a container and went back through the vents to her quarters. Once there, she thought about the dream she had the night before and made a connection that it involved Belos. It made sense considering that Belos had the larger body of able warriors. Ashira decided to think on it in her sleep and went to bed.
Obi-wan had looked everywhere on the spaceport the next morning for Ashira to apologize and ask what she meant. He kept searching until his fighter and the Ebon Hawk were prepped for launch to their respective destinations. He felt angry with her for her manner and was angry with himself for not apologizing. He was frustrated that she could detach herself from everything and yet still care. He did not notice that she was watching him as he walked to his fighter. He departed without so much as a farewell.
Ashira was wondering why she was so stubborn herself but, like everything else, she pushed it away from her mind as she boarded her ship with Andros. She did not say anything as she warmed up the engines. Without informing the council, she left a small contingent at Azure to provide security and to alert of any further attacks. The rest she dispersed to surrounding systems so they could provide reinforcements. Andros, sensing her mood, did not say anything until they made the jump into hyperspace.
“Something wrong?” he asked.
“Just the fact I am leaving a brother in a dangerous position,” she replied.
“He’s my brother too.”
Ashira-Li turned to face Andros and smiled. She replied, “I know.”
A sleek shuttle docked in the port and a hushed silence fell about the people. Count Dooku had arrived and he was most anxious to meet this Lord Dragus who expressed interest in joining the Separatists and had a plan to immobilize the biggest threat to them. Lord Dragus was most pleasant towards Dooku as they were shown into a secured room. Miklos had not been invited to attend but he had been ordered to prepare the room. He did ‘prepare’ the room and was in the ventilation shafts, just in case plan A failed.
“I understand that you wish to join us,” Dooku was speaking.
“Assuredly Count Dooku. Let’s just say that I have a vested interest in where the Republic is heading,” Dragus replied. He was laying hints that he was aware of Dooku’s association with Darth Sidious.
Dooku picked up on it and replied accordingly, “Excellent. I received word that you had a plan?”
“Yes, involving the biggest threat to our forces, the Avalonians. To be more specific, the warriors of Belos. If we could make sure they don’t interfere, the Avalonians wouldn’t be in a position to aid the Republic.”
“Interesting,” Commander Trask interjected. He was familiar with the Avalonians in general, particularly the senator who had a considerable amount of enemies against her.
“How would this work?” Dooku asked.
“Simple search and destroy. I already have landed troops on the surface and we will engage in a method most consistent in their nature,” Dragus replied, referring to the codes of honor that the people followed. He was rather pleased that it would work and he relayed the plan while the patient ears of Miklos were waiting and listening.
Chapter 5: Reflections
The station was actually a rest point for cargo ships making trade runs to the Avalonian system. It originally was built as a research station but problems of timing supply runs to provide equipment proved difficult and it lost that status. It wasn’t much to look at as Ashira-Li directed the Ebon Hawk to one of the landing ports. Andros thought nothing of it himself and was wondering why the Jedi council would want Ashira-Li to come here. His first thought was that it was a means to see if she would follow orders. He was right on that count but it was also due to the fact that she could easily mobilize defenses as necessary. The council could not deny that she was gifted in leadership though she often insisted that it was not the case.
Ashira-Li said nothing as she powered down the ship and made to exit. She was not willing to say anything but she knew that Andros would always be there. She was just concerned for Miklos because if what he said was true, then his life and any of the other teams could be placed in jeopardy and she was determined not to let that happen. She made her way to the administration office where the administrator was poring over reports of the station with another individual. When she and Andros were announced, they both looked up. For the first time, in a long time, Ashira dropped her camouflage and revealed and expression of surprise. The second person was none other than Obi-wan who had stopped for a respite from traveling as was often recommended by any traveling the lanes to Avalon.
Miklos was hurrying towards the main hangar bay. He kept looking behind him to make sure no one was following but he kept sensing that someone was on his trail. He worked meticulously as he made his way to where the Rendili fighters were kept. Alarms were blaring indicating an escaping prisoner. He found the bay with the fighters and selected one that he had access to. As he started the engines, soldiers of the fleet were rounding the corner carrying heavy weapons that were intent on blowing up an unshielded fighter. With a quick speed and agility, Miklos activated the guns and fired, not to kill, but to buy time to escape. His cover was blown and he had to retreat. He recalled how he had gotten the vital information to discern the plans that Lord Dragus had in mind only to be discovered by Dragus.
He was sitting in the ventilation shaft listening to everything being said. Lord Dragus was speaking, “I already have a group on Belos causing starvation to the strongest of the warriors. They have blocked the main source of food for the hunt. They are too proud to ask for aid from the governor and they cannot survive long on the city dweller’s idea of food.”
“So we starve them into defeat?” Commander Trask asked.
“To attack with arms, they will fight back and our cause will be lost. They fight with the strength of three clones for each warrior when their blood gets up,” Dragus replied.
“Brilliant maneuver, Lord Dragus, but as to the details…” Dooku began.
“Something I will not explain at the moment for we are being watched as we speak,” and with a swipe, he used the Force to pull away the grating, revealing Miklos in his Jedi attire.
The commander was shocked and said, “Michal?”
“Not Michal but Miklos and a Jedi to add to that,” Dragus explained, “You have been under surveillance for quite some time, by the Jedi.”
“I trusted you!” shouted Trask and with uncontrolled rage pulled out his blaster and shot at Miklos only to miss. Trask then hit the alarm to indicate that a spy was on board and needed to be captured, preferably dead.
Miklos managed to get the engines started. With death defying stunts, he managed to break loose from the automated gunfire and head for space. He was pursued by the main fleet ship firing at him in an attempt to turn him into space dust. Miklos hoped that he would be able to make the jump into hyperspace alive and in one piece.
Obi-wan did not say anything but waited until the administrator finished giving her report to Ashira-Li. He had been rather awful that he had not resolved the bad tension between him and Ashira. She had done nothing wrong except to help when she knew she could. He had no reason to be angry with her but the ugly thoughts intruded every so often. Even when they were younger she always kept herself apart from everyone else but still gave all of herself to the younglings and the padawans. She always made time for him and Siri, teaching them still, not Jedi techniques but lessons in life. Sure they were from the Avalonian way but they always seemed to fit in their lives. He remembered this and felt bad. He tried to catch her eye during the meeting but she avoided his gaze.
Ashira-Li felt remnants of anger towards her and she decided to tread carefully. She avoided Obi-wan’s gaze as she listened to what the administrator told her. Belos was starving and they had been for four months. The migrant tribes that depended on the kataran and the deer for food during the yearly cycles were becoming sick and destitute. She remembered her last time on Belos when she left the Jedi before because she disobeyed. She felt the need to go and help and she suspected that was why Siri’s tribe was calling to her but she resolved to obey the council this one time.
The assessment was over and Ashira double-timed out of the administration office and disappeared around the corner before Obi-wan could catch up to her. Obi-wan was frustrated and he wanted to voice it but it was not needed. Andros pulled alongside him and said, “A rift will continue to grow if you don’t fix it.”
“How can I when she keeps walking away?” Obi-wan asked.
“Why would anyone want to talk when they sense anger bordering on hate?” Andros posed.
“I don’t hate her. I was angry,” Obi-wan admitted.
“You still are,” Andros replied. Seeing that Obi-wan was going to protest, he continued, “I suggest you try the vivarium. The gardens are quite soothing,” and he continued to his quarters to work. Andros smiled to himself because he knew how Ashira loved the gardens, their soothing presence and how it made her willing to talk.
The vivarium was one lush garden that supplied the necessary food supply for the station. The lake that supplied the water was peaceful and was the place that Ashira-Li chose to sit. She sat near the edge of the lake in a position comfortable to gaze at her reflection. She was staring at herself and she remembered things she wanted to forget.
She faced the council, painfully looking at Masters Windu and Yoda. Avalon had been saved and Lady Argonon had been placed under arrest for treason to the Avalonian system and was going on trial for her crimes. She had disobeyed willingly and knowingly and she was going to accept responsibility. She looked at Yoda, nothing discernable on his face. Master Windu was speaking, “You have disobeyed the council and yet, due to the current circumstances we cannot settle this issue now. When we return to Coruscant, your disobedience will be dealt with accordingly.”
Ashira remembered that she was surprised at the decision but accepted it like a proper padawan. She was completely caught unawares later when she overheard the council by accident. She had been wandering the hall and the passageways of the palace. She came to a hidden door behind the staircase and she heard the council talking.
“She has become increasingly defiant in the last few years, letting her emotions get ahead of her,” Master Windu was speaking.
“Struggling she is to find her place she is. One foot in the Republic and the other in Avalon,” Yoda replied.
“She puts her own feelings before the concerns of the Jedi and the Republic. I would keep her at the Temple and not allow her to go on missions until she understands that the choices she makes must be for the greater good.”
“An exceptional student of the Force and a hidden and unusual talent; she’s a natural leader. Sense she can when she goes too far.”
“No good will come of it if she can’t learn control,” and the council walked down the hall. Ashira fought back tears that threatened to rise. Even a Jedi cannot always hide the feelings of the heart. She knew what she had to do and she went to do it. She left behind everything, including her lightsaber that she had built, in the manner which one chooses exile. She landed on Belos only to find that Qui-gon Jin and Obi-wan Kenobi would be looking for her to bring her back.
Ashira was looking at her reflection. She said to herself after a sigh, “I will never pass for a Jedi in the eyes of the council. Could it be that I am not meant to be one?”
She did not see Obi-wan come up behind her. She continued to muse, “If I were truly myself, I would disgrace the Jedi and break my family’s heart. When will I see and show who I am inside?”
She was had undone her braid and was stroking her dark hair to give it its sheen. She still did not see Obi-wan nor noticed him until he gave a little clearance of his throat. She glanced up and seeing that it was him, turned away. She kept her face away and tried to turn her whole body away. It was one time where she was letting her feelings of pain roll off and one time she could not control them.
Obi-wan watched her movement and sensed her hurt. He slid into a seated position beside her. He tried to smile at her but she kept her face turned away. He looked around trying to figure out what to say when he noticed a Judan blossom fall beside him. He remembered how Ashira once explained to him and Siri the meaning behind this tree that was mentioned in much of the Avalonian poetry and shown in the art. He spoke softly but loud enough for her to hear, “There are beautiful blossoms on the Judan trees here, more so than the ones growing on the surface. Look,” and he pointed to a small bud, “One is late. When it is ready, I am sure that it will be the most revered of all.”
While he finished his sentence, he did something extremely bold. He took the blossom that he saw and fixed it in her hair. He was surprised at what he did and hoped that he had not stepped over his boundaries. Ashira felt the movement of her hair and turned to look at Obi-wan. They locked eyes and she smiled pensively and he returned it. She was proud that he remembered the Judan blossom but surprised that he would attempt to use it as a metaphor. The fact that he addressed it to her was enough and she felt his anger melt away. Andros had been watching from afar. He was pleased for he knew things as well and hoped that they would come to pass. Ashira and Obi-wan continued to look at each other as if thinking of what to say but they were interrupted.
A siren was sounding from the docking bays: ship was inbound and it was badly damaged. Ashira, forgetting the blossom was still in her hair, quickly tied her tail and asked while looking, “What is that?”
“It sounds like it is from the docking bay,” Obi-wan replied, and he got up to follow her.
“I guess we better find out. Our help may be needed,” and Ashira took off towards the hangar bay and Obi-wan followed, noticing that she had not removed the blossom.
The hangar was in a general uproar over the arrival of a rather beat up fighter ship but it was surprisingly in tact. Ashira-Li and Obi-wan arrived just as the counsel to the Lord Governor arrived having heard the alarm from his quarters. He was there to escort Obi-wan to Avalon. He did not recognize Ashira and brushed her off when she asked what was going on.
Seeing that she was rudely brushed off, Obi-wan was going to voice his disapproval when she held him back. She motioned to a better position to see who was being pulled from the fighter. As they got closer, she let out a gasp, “Miklos,” and stepped to help.
He was alive and his injuries were not bad. That much was clear but he was sapped of his physical strength. Looking at the ship, she guessed that he used ever bit he knew of the Force to keep it together. She watched as the medics took him away while he was saying that Belos was in danger and she noticed the governor’s counsel speaking to the administrators and Obi-wan.
Chapter 6: Duty
Ashira-Li inched her way closer as the governor’s counsel was speaking, “This is outrage! All who are being called must report quickly by emergency order: General Tsu, Admiral Yi, Master Jedi Kenobi…”
Ashira was flabbergasted. It undermined her authority as commander of the troops but she knew that her father did what was best for the people and did not think about it any further. She watched as the officers being called stepped forward to receive their orders. She thought it foolish to go to Avalon when Belos was threatened. The governor of Belos had to be notified to mount a defense. She had enough when Obi-wan’s name was called.
Striding purposely, she interrupted the governor’s counsel, “You can’t do this right now. Belos must be notified to mount a defense.”
He snapped at her, “Silence,” then looking at Obi-wan said, “You would do well to teach your comrade to hold her tongue in matters that don’t concern her.”
“I have as much right,” but was ignored for her pains. The other officers brushed her off as well. They did not know her and thought her to be a troublesome woman who had poor manners. The governor’s council continued down the list and handing out orders and ignoring her. Ashira-Li left and double-timed to check on Miklos who, in the meantime had been stabilized. Obi-wan decided to leave having not been pleased with how she was treated nor how she approached the situation. He decided to go to his quarters by way of the medbay.
Ashira saw to Miklos who told her that one of their own had betrayed them all. She insisted that he rest and not worry. She told him that she would send for his team so they could regroup. She headed towards the small room that she, Andros and Obi-wan were to share for their meals. Along the way, she saw Obi-wan practicing saber techniques. She hid so as not to be seen and watched. She left and later went to report to the council what had happened.
Later it was just her and Obi-wan eating. She had poured some tea and was silent trying to keep her frustration inside. She was swirling the contents in her cup when she said, “Pure nonsense. You shouldn’t be going to Tyan-yu.”
Obi-wan replied, “Why is that?”
“Belos needs to mobilize a defense. If we don’t, there won’t be any armies to defend the Republic.”
“And you want to go and disobey the council once again just to prove that you are right, like at Azure when you were so right?” Obi-wan’s temper was starting to flare.
“And you will let millions die just to obey the council?” she countered.
“I will do as I was instructed for the greater good…”
“So you will do nothing?”
“I know my place. Maybe you should have learnt that a long time ago then maybe Siri would have still lived.”
The words sent a shock through Ashira’s heart. She turned and walked with all the dignity she could muster out the door. Stopping at the door she stopped and said just loud enough for him to hear, “Either way, the same would have happened. I had to try.”
She left and disappeared down the corridor. Andros walked in on a stunned and angry Obi-wan and a still warm cup of tea. He did not have to look twice to know that something was not right. He did not say anything but ate his meal in silence. He thought to himself, Time will work on its own accord. The Force works as it wills.
Ashira was not seen by anyone, nor could anyone find her. She had hidden near the lake in the vivarium and sat staring at her reflection for the longest time. She remembered instances where she was rebuked for questioning when she was young; the first time Master Yoda caught her singing to the padawans and other things that did not adhere to the code. She looked up to see Obi-wan cross to his quarters but he still seemed to be angry as he went in. Ashira again looked at her reflection and saw Siri when she was alive and when she died. She knew what she needed to do, no what she had to do.
Most of the station was asleep when she went to her quarters. She pulled out the letter to Siri and read it carefully she also noticed the blossom that Obi-wan had put in her hair and gently took it out. Placing the box with the other things and the blossom on the shelf, she opened a drawer and took out a small black lacquer box. She opened it and pulled out a small tube. Undoing her hair, she then squeezed in a methodical manner throughout her hair. She ignited her lightsaber and breathing a calming breath, she brought the blade close to a lock of hair she held in her hand and moved it down as if brushing her hair.
Having done that, she looked at her reflection and selected a small lock and left it undone. The rest she braided leaving a pattern of dark and golden streaks. The smaller lock became a smaller braid. When she was done, she opened a cupboard and selected an outfit and discarded her Jedi robes that she folded neatly. She attached a different lightsaber to her right side and in the left, she fastened a blade that no one had seen before. Taking one last look at her reflection, she picked up the letter, a datapad and the blossom and left her quarters.
She stopped first at Andros’ quarters and quietly slipped in. He was sound asleep, worn out from worrying about his twin. She smiled as she left the datapad in a place where he would find it and left as quietly as she had entered. Obi-wan’s quarters were pretty much the same when she entered. She placed the blossom nearby and gazed at him. She whispered, “I’m sorry,” and left.
The hangar was nearly deserted as she selected a small fighter type and R4, her special droid, injected himself as her astromech. Glancing back, she then swung herself into the cockpit and started the systems. She took off from the station and plotted a course for Belos. No one noticed her absence until the next day when Andros found the datapad.
Lord Dragus directed his ship to a small encampment deep in the forest. It was tricky landing but a skilled pilot could land there. Landing without a problem, Dragus exited his ship and began to walk towards the command post, totally ignoring the commander that greeted him. He said in a low and menacing voice, “Dispense with any pleasantries commander. I need to know of the situation right now. My contact is interested in any updates.”
“The Haida tribe is still holding out and the smaller ones have made for the cities. Our ‘defenses’ are holding up and all is going as planned,” the commander promptly replied.
“Excellent. Prepare for mobilization against the Deladron. We shouldn’t disappoint the governor.”
“Yes milord. Orders are being carried out per your instruction.”
“Good. All is proceeding as I had foreseen and she will pay for the price of performing her duty.”
Dragus waved off the commander and went to the special quarters for him to meditate and make his plans. Once inside, he walked to a strange altar and kneeled in front of it. He bowed deeply while saying, “My honorable ancestors, soon our family will have its revenge on the family who sentenced us. Our honor will be avenged and she shall fall.”
Andros woke up feeling something was not right. He looked to the table next to his bed and saw the datapad. He picked it and began to read, “My trusted friend, I cannot let Belos nor any other of our people suffer any longer and I must atone for my actions of the last few days. I entrust you with the operations of the teams; you are a member of the Head. I trust that you will guide your actions with a firm hand and a steady heart. As always, your friend, Ashira-Li.”
Shocked as he was, he realized she did what was best for everyone. She needed to be alone and in that solitude, help her people. It was then that he remembered that Obi-wan and the council might not see it that way. He knew it was wrong but he made the decision to not mention anything about her being gone. He left to go to the Ebon Hawk to initiate the protocols on the droids and make sure that everything looked as if she were there but preoccupied. He ran into Obi-wan who was getting ready to leave for Avalon.
Obi-wan had found the blossom and thought that Ashira meant to apologize for her behavior. He had been looking for her all morning when he ran into Andros. He asked, “Have you seen Ashira?”
Thinking quick, Andros replied, “She is in her quarters communicating with the recon teams. She doesn’t like to be disturbed.”
“I see. I just wanted to say that I was sorry for what I said. You will mention it will you?”
“Of course,” Andros replied.
“Well, I’ll be going. Duty calls,” and Obi-wan left for his fighter.
Watching his retreating figure, Andros thought about the lie he just told. He sighed and replied so softly that no one heard him, “Yes it does,” and he hoped that Ashira was alright.
Chapter 7: A New Home
The forests of Belos were exactly as how Ashira remembered them, lush and green, but she also heard the echoes of suffering, the starvation of the tribes. She brushed them aside to give final instructions to R4, “Take the fighter back and do what Andros tells you, alright?”
R4 warbled a reply and took off to return back to the station. Ashira watched as it lifted into the sky. Putting the hood up on her cape, she made her way through the forest. She headed towards her adopted family’s home; the family that gave her the name Fa Jun-la. Upon arriving at the gate, she was greeted by Zhor, her adoptive father. It had been close to ten years since she last saw him but he greeted her as if she had been there all that time.
Suppertime was spent catching up on her life with the Jedi. She brought about the conversation as best as she could when she was asked by Zhor, “Daughter, you have changed your hair, why?”
Respectfully she replied, “I was going to live in the cabin near the Daranka River. I need some time away from the Jedi because I… I feel lost.”
It was the truth but not all of it. Zhor could sense that there was something else but decided not to press the issue. He knew that she was too independent and proud to allow herself to show her true feelings. He had seen her when she greeted the Jedi that visited years before and when someone close to her died. He recognized that feeling of pain of a death. Saying nothing about it, he replied, “Alright Daughter. The trails are clear and I suspect a ‘friend’ of yours will want to go with you.”
He was referring to the wolf that she had rescued from the hands of men who bred dogs for fighting. She named him Daranka, meaning “wise one,” a peculiar name for a wolf but one that he answered to. Almost as if he had heard the word for ‘friend,’ Daranka appeared and made a beeline to Ashira. She greeted him with a hug and rubbed his head and gave him a pat. She smiled at Zhor and asked permission to leave in the morning, a request to which he agreed.
Andros was nervous for he had never really faced the Jedi council of Coruscant. He used a Jedi exercise as he said hello to his brother who was doing much better. He continued the exercise all the way until he walked into the communications room. Composing himself, he transmitted his image to Coruscant. The image he got in return was just Yoda and Mace Windu. He spoke calmly, “Yes Master Yoda, Master Windu?”
“Where is Jedi Starlighter?” was the first question posed by Master Windu.
Andros began, “She is not here my masters. She had some matters concerning…”
“There she is not,” Yoda stated, “Gone she is. Hidden from sight she is.”
“What do mean Master Yoda?” Andros replied, trying to keep up the pretense.
“Left she has,” was the answer.
Rather stunned, but not showing it, Master Windu countered, “So she disobeyed the council yet again?”
Andros had no choice but to admit that she was not longer on the station. He explained that he did not know where she might have gone being that she could have stated one thing and meant another. Yoda rescued him from bearing the brunt of disapproval by saying, “A necessary action it is. Help she must where she is needed.”
“And what of her disobeying the council?” Master Windu asked.
Andros spoke calmly and low, “She may have disobeyed but her loyalty has never wavered. She has never been wrong concerning the war. Do you doubt her now?”
Both masters looked at Andros intently as if debating on how to reply. Instead, Master Windu asked, “Do you have an idea where she may have gone?”
“Belos. The tribes are starving and there have been some skirmishes involving the Separatists. She may have gone there to help but I doubt you could find her easily. There are many places she could have gone.”
“Wait we will until we hear,” was the solution from Yoda.
The trail to the cabin was steeper than how she remembered it as she clambered up. Running alongside or scouting was Daranka who went with her. The tramping gave her time to think of the discussion she and Zhor had:
The gardens were still beautiful since the last time she had visited as she sat on the bench near the lake. Zhor joined her with a smiled and to enjoy the sunset. He spoke first, “You can’t always run when you feel that you are responsible. You must face it.”
“Siri was a sister and I came because I could not bear the pain of the echoes of the suffering people anymore; I have to help.”
“You know where to look?”
“Daranka will guide me.”
Zhor nodded in understanding and got up to go inside for the night. He paused and said, “Be careful when greeting the tribes. Things are bad and their patience is rather low.”
No questions were asked for none were necessary. He knew that she would seek out the answers. She had changed her appearance so as to be non-recognizable to anyone else she came in contact with. She smiled at the last words that Zhor had told her before she left and continued up the hills and through the forest.
The cabin was just as she remembered it. It was surprisingly well kept considering Zhor had not stayed there in years and no one stayed there except to rest and move on. She liked what she saw and began to unpack the pack she had lugged up. The cabin was made fit to stay in short order. Daranka kept a sharp eye as she trudged through bringing in firewood and water from the river.
It was dusk by the time she got something to eat and even that was small but filling. Making sure everything was clean, she sat down in a chair by the fire and began to look over what she had taken from Siri’s room. She first examined the datapad with the summons to return to Belos due to the fact that the tribe was starving and an unseen threat was threatening them. She noticed that the date was older than the report she received on the station. She realized that Belos had been suffering longer than what the Jedi knew. There was no specific location as to where to meet so she assumed that Siri already knew where to go. Placing it aside, she picked up another datapad that was encrypted. A good one to boot. Ashira decided that it was probably personal and that there was nothing of interest so she decided to set it aside.
Far away in a village, a strong and proud woman was sitting with her niece and sisters and her own daughter. They were speaking of the current situation of the tribe. There were those that wanted to move to the city to survive and there were those that wanted to stay for they had lived on that land for millennia. The main problem was the fact that they were starving. The herds had failed to return and hunting the smaller game had become scarce. The young woman listened with the patience that had been instilled in her since childhood. She said, “We have lived and cared for the very land that we here and now sit upon. Our herds have not returned and we are starving and we do not have the strength necessary to give aid for when we are called into service. The cities hold death for us as well as here.”
“We must leave. At least we have a better chance of getting food to the children before we lose them,” one of the sisters replied.
“If we leave, we may lose the children anyway. Besides, someone has made a new home. The winds have spoken it,” the woman replied. In response, the other women fell silent to listen to the winds. She continued, “Hope has arrived.”
Chapter 8: Visions
Miklos was in good spirits and feeling better that day and insisted on getting up. In private, Andros told him that their sister had left possibly for Belos. Miklos was immediately worried, “Dragus will be there. He plans to starve the tribes; it will be an easy defeat.”
“You may be right, but it is too late to tell her. Besides I believe there are other reasons for her departure,” Andros responded.
“You may be right brother. She has not been the same since Lady Argonon,” Miklos replied and motioned for Andros to walk with him.
They walked towards the vivarium for a time in silence until Miklos was sure that they would not be overheard. He said in a low voice, “Our sister has a wound in her heart that must be healed. The vision we all had of the fire and blood was more likely what is needed to repair that wound. She has to find her way. You must have seen this.”
“We all did have the vision. The information you have provided makes me believe that Belos will be crippled first and then the rest of our people so that the Republic will be in danger,” Andros replied.
“More likely it is revenge for a transgression done so long ago. One of our own betrayed us,” Miklos said. A silent understanding passed between them. One way or another, wounds had to heal in order to keep the Republic strong.
Obi-wan was thinking of the curious behavior of Andros when he took off from the station. Even though he had grown up with Avalonian double talk and poetic metaphors, it was still difficult for him to catch the plethora of emotions and meanings behind the words. He brushed these thoughts aside when the Lord Governor of Avalon greeted him at the spaceport. He had met the governor before and felt slightly comfortable with the formalities. They walked to the balcony that overlooked the main courtyard where public announcements were made. Lord Governor Rowan Starlighter was showing his age as he spoke, “As you know we are in danger of being crippled. That means that we will not be able to aid the Republic at all if we are broken. This trouble that is brewing on Belos is odd and expected.”
“Lady Ashira said the same thing and that Belos should mount a defense,” Obi-wan replied.
“Probably months before now. She was always gifted as Master Yoda explained to her mother and I long ago,” Governor Rowan replied with a tired smile.
“What do you mean months in advance? She just started insisting that we mount defense three days ago,” Obi-wan asked confused.
Willing to indulge with a friend of his daughter’s, Governor Starlighter explained with a bemused smile, “You must not know her as well as you thought or she has gotten better at hiding what she knows. The reason I say months is that she has more likely seen it months ago she just hasn’t said anything about it.”
“Why not? Certain things could have been avoided…” Obi-wan began.
“Like death of those that matter in our lives,” Governor Starlighter, “Not everything is meant to be saved, just acknowledged. She probably has changed a few things but in her own way; subtle suggestions maybe?”
That started Obi-wan thinking about certain things that Ashira had done whether it was a warning or a piece of advice. He had been invited into the subtle customs and intrigues of the Avalonian mind. He listened past the physical words that the governor was telling him to get to the core of the meaning as they were leaving the balcony. They had walked from the balcony to the halls that led to the gardens. Governor Starlighter indulged on the family a bit as only deemed proper by his people. When they had reached the gardens, Governor Starlighter turned the conversation to business, “It has disturbed me that one of our own has betrayed us. It has happened before but this is aimed at personal revenge. I need you to go to Belos and help Governor Gisan organize forces for direct assault.”
“What of the starving tribes?”
“Gisan will do what he can but the tribes, particularly the women are stubborn in receiving help from the cities. I suspect there are a few who know how to talk to them.”
The first few days were getting reacquainted with the land. Ashira spent most of the days exploring with Daranka and remembering her days at the academy on Andorra. Daranka did most of the hunting while Ashira spent the time practicing the dance meditation that she had learned from Master Shang-Li long ago. She had met a few tribes but they were always moving in the direction of the cities. Her heart always bled when she saw how the children were and tried to give them some dried meat that she had stocked. The tribes that were moving were grateful and would talk to her but it always seemed that they were hiding a secret. It perplexed Ashira that they couldn’t voice it to her but she remembered that many didn’t remember her when she last came to Belos and they probably didn’t recognize her.
The evenings were quiet with her gazing at the stars and stroking Daranka. She would remember when she first tamed the wolf and first pet him and she would smile. Other memories were not so pleasant; they brought pain. One such was when she was teaching Siri and Obi-wan how to read the stars like her people. She remembered that Siri had asked how can one be sure if that was what the stars were saying. They had shared a laugh when Ashira responded in a serious face that the Force willed it. They were happy times but they were sad memories. Ashira ended up reading Siri’s journal and learned how Siri felt of her. Siri wrote: Ashira has become like an older sister; always watching out for me. She does the same for Obi-wan though I think there is a lot more going on.
I learned how to read the stars, a new and different concept. Ashira is so patient even with the other padawans and bad tempers that come about. She also has a sense of humor but I won’t tell the masters that. The star reading is a way in which the Avalonians can tell when danger is coming and it is through the Force!
That evening was different after reading a bit of the journals. Ashira had an uneasy feeling but at the same time it was tugging feeling. Thinking that it was something that she ate coupled with the strange sights of the animals making strange noises that day, she decided to turn in. As soon as she fell asleep, she had a dream; unaware that the leader of the tribe she was seeking was having a similar one.
Ashira was standing on a rocky beach. She saw him, the wolf Daranka running past her. She saw another person running after him, a girl her height and age. She followed them both until they came to a ledge where Daranka was standing. He looked at them both and then stared down. There were the missing kataran and the herders who took care of them. Strange men dressed in black were beating the herders and the herders were fighting back.
Moira Landstar, queen of the Haida tribe, was dreaming of the white wolf. She had reminded the tribal council of the legend and reminded them of the hope on the winds earlier. There was much despair that some of the families had decided to leave for the cities. There was little to do but wish them well. Moira had went to sleep with determination to try again. Her daughter was sleeping in her spot in the hut when she went to sleep.
Her daughter Lilah was running after a white she wolf and a male wolf. She followed to where they were going and came to the ledge near the echoing canyon. Both wolves gazed down to the herds of kataran grazing. Men in black were beating the herders but they never gave up. Moira watched as the two wolves ran down to join the fight. The white wolf disappeared but a woman of strength and beauty appeared. The women ignited a blade like that of the Jedi and started to force back the men in black.
Moira woke up. It was the strangest image that she had experienced in her years as the queen of the Tribe. She vaguely recalled such dreams happening from her own mother’s descriptions. There was no denying that the legend of the white wolf would once again come alive. She had no doubt that the wolf would come and that the woman she saw would be the one to find the kataran. She went to where her daughter was sleeping and rustled her up. When her daughter was fully awake, she gazed at her and said, “Lilah, you are the one who will find the white wolf. In the morning you will go and find it.”
Her daughter looked at her with a wide-eyed expression. She didn’t say a word but rather nodded, saying that she would obey. Lilah knew her mother strongly believed in the strength of the land but she wasn’t so sure. She thought that the time for stories was over. Hope couldn’t be found in stories and myths but in reality and the will to make a better life. She did not voice her feelings about this but kept silent. She would do as her mother asked and seek out the white wolf even though she believed that there was no such person.
Chapter 9: Fate and Coincidence
Miklos and Andros were having a hard time of it. They had been trying to keep the troops from figuring out that Ashira was not there. They were successful in part that they always were careful to say that orders were relayed from their adopted sister. Andros was worried about the command but more so about his sister. Miklos was concerned as well but not just for her safety but her state of mind. They never talked about it unless it was heavy on their minds. Miklos was the first to bring up the need to inform Obi-wan. Andros refused to point blank only because he knew more than Miklos on certain details. After that, Miklos never brought it up again. He was certain that his brother knew something and decided to let him run with it.
Reports to the council on Coruscant were draining in of themselves. The whole council was never present, only Masters Windu and Yoda. They never demanded to know if she had made contact but they were concerned. Andros did suggest that he contact anyone she might have known on Belos to find out. Yoda, concerned for his old padawan said that it would only incite anxiety and that was something to avoid in these troubled times. The last meeting ended the same as always with Andros and Miklos asking each other what to do. It also differed in that Anakin would be arriving to help.
Dragus was observing the valley below at the herds of kataran. His face had a grin of pleasure. Count Dooku was with him looking at the herds. Dooku was the first to speak, “How much longer will it be? My master is becoming impatient.”
“The only tribe standing in our way is the Haida tribe. The queen Moira Landstar is too stubborn for her own good. She poses no threat as her leadership is starting to crumble. Commander Trask is moving his fleet into position to begin the siege of Belos. Soon Belos will fall and all hope of Avalon having a strong backing for the Republic will be blasted into oblivion.”
“Yet you are hiding something.”
“Who says that nowadays? What I do in the process of conquer in private is what it is , private. Besides, I am not sure you want to know who a specified target is.”
“More likely not. As long as it doesn’t interfere with the general plan.”
“It won’t. The herders are becoming weaker in their daily beatings. The only way to ruin a perfectly conceived plan is if somehow Moira’s precious white wolf blows up that wall,” and Dragus directed Dooku into the conference room to iron out details and explain certain roles to be played.
The day promised to be a pleasant one as Ashira motioned for Daranka to get on the raft. They were going to attempt to take the raft downstream to see if any of the tribes were remaining. For Lilah, she was seeking out the white wolf. Her mother had painted a seal on her and told her that if she looked for the wolf, he would guide her. So here she was traveling along the river, following the weaverbird that had appeared. She wasn’t sure if she should dare to believe or not but that changed as she neared the waterwheel at the old mill.
The rapids were not easy to navigate and only got harder as Ashira fought to keep it steady. She tried to keep Daranka calm when a sudden rush of water overturned the raft spilling them both into the river. Daranka was able to keep his head up and began to swim towards Ashira to help her. Ashira was struggling, trying to make it to shore when they were both swept over the waterfall. Daranka was the first one to surface.
Lilah saw the wolf struggling in the river and ran down the shore trying to keep up with its struggling form. As she neared the waterwheel, she saw the wolf go under. Following the current, she noticed a woman sticking her head out of the water and pulling herself to the shore. On the silky beach, she collapsed and fell unconscious. Lilah was stunned that she didn’t know whether or not to believe it. Her instincts took hold as she pulled the girl away from the water and tried to dry her off.
She built a fire from the local brush and burned a special plant that gave off a sweet smell to clear the lungs. Lilah began to sing a song that her mother had taught her and the one that she learned from the healer woman. She looked at the sleeping girl who was sweating out her fever. For a long time, she was looking at her. She could not decide whether or not to believe in the legend of the white wolf. She saw the change however and decided that the spirits if the earth and sky still sent signs to the people. She was willing to believe in the power of the legend but she was unsure whether or not this girl would be the one to find the kataran herds. If her mother said it would be so, then she would believe.
Ashira drifted between the dream world and the real world in her bout with fever. At one point she was sure she heard a gentle voice singing. She opened her eyes slightly to see a young woman looking at her and singing while feeding the fire with a sweet smelling plant. She breathed in a smell that went straight to her lungs. Closing her eyes, she drifted into a restless sleep. She dreamed dreams of her memories. She saw them as if they were real and had a hard time waking up to end them. It was a restless night until she finally fell into a deep sleep.
The next morning, Ashira awoke to find herself on a small canoe heading up one of the small forks of the river. She realized that the woman she saw the night before was real when she saw her paddling the canoe. Taking care of her position, she asked her, “Who are you? Where am I?”
Lilah wasn’t sure on whether or not to respond. Taking a chance, she spoke, “I gave you your life back. You will meet my, mother, the leader of our tribe.”
Trying to collect her thoughts, it dawned on Ashira that the woman might mean the Haida tribe, Siri’s tribe. Trying again to be pleasant, she responded, “I thank you. May I know who you are?”
“Lilah, the princess apparent.”
They said nothing more until Lilah beached the canoe on the rocky each where her tribe was settled. Lilah jumped out immediately while Ashira took her time to absorb her surroundings. She paid attention when Moira approached and asked her daughter, “You have returned. Who is this that stands before us?”
“I bring the white wolf, Mother,” Lilah responded.
Moira had recognized the strange woman as the one from her dreams. She asked the woman, “What is your name?”
Ashira responded, “Ashira-Li Starlighter. What do you mean the white wolf?”
“I saw the change Mother,” Lilah voiced, “The wolf went under the water, she came back up. There is no doubt that this is the person that we seek.”
“Wait. No one changed into anything. The wolf is my friend. He is the hunter,” Ashira spoke a bit confused as to what they were meaning.
Moira saw this woman did not know that the spirits of the earth and sky sent her here. She spoke softly, “You say the wolf is your friend. He must have guided you here. You have been chosen to help the tribes of Belos from their suffering. You will stay with us,” and she beckoned Ashira to follow her.
Ashira followed Moira into the main hut where she was motioned to sit. Moira sat across from her. She studied Ashira carefully putting the name with the face. She had heard of Ashira and here she was meeting her for the first time. Moira smiled at Ashira and said, “I know this is a source of confusion but I will try to explain to you. For many months all the tribes have been starving for the herds of kataran have not returned from the mountains to graze. We of the Haida tribe believe in the spirit of Nekang, the white wolf, the one who can locate the herds and guide them to the people. Nekang also guides our people. We believe that Nekang has returned to us in you.”
“How can that be? I am just a Jedi who doesn’t belong anywhere,” Ashira countered.
“You make friends with the wolf. You ran the paths he ran. How can that not justify who you are?”
“Coincidence milady,” Ashira responded. She wasn’t normally skeptical but it didn’t seem right.
“Young one, there is a fine line between coincidence and faith. Most of the tribe has lost their faith. I hope you don’t lose yours particularly if it is what you call the Force Master Jedi.”
“I…I just don’t know if that I am the one you should be placing your faith in. I came here to find the tribe of my sister and inform them of her death.”
“Who is this sister? We may know of her tribe.”
“Siri Tachi, a fellow Jedi Knight,” Ashira replied with a slightly deflated tone.
Moira knew her for she was the one who had sent for help. She spoke in a gentle way, “Another of our sisters has walked the road to the Great Beyond. May she go in peace.”
“I am sorry,” Ashira responded.
“There is no need. You have courage and the loyalty of the wolf. You are who Nekang is. Someday you will see this. For now, you will stay with us. In the morning, we will show you to the trading post so you may contact your friends. You will sleep in my house. Sleep well Nekang. Remember, there is a fine line between coincidence and faith,” and Moira left Ashira to think.
Ashira didn’t know how long she stayed in the hut but she did remember that someone brought her something for a meal. She had accepted but ate little. She ate just enough to appreciate the gesture but left enough to feed the children. She then laid down on a deer hide near the back of the hut and fell asleep, thinking about what Moira said about faith and coincidence.
Chapter 10: Danger and Choices
Obi-wan was patiently waiting outside the office of the governor of Belos and wondered if anything could be done for Belos. He had arrived to see what the governor wanted him to do but was met with a chaotic feeling. He tried to ignore it by remembering his last time on Belos when he and his former master Qui-Gon Jinn were there to find Ashira. He remembered the trees and in particular Fa Zhor’s estate. He thought that maybe he would go there when he was finished. It had been over ten years since he saw him last and he felt that some catching up was needed.
Governor Gisan was in two minds. He wanted to mobilize the troops but he had to somehow get enough food to the starving tribes that lived near the city Sheng Xin. His closest friend and advisor kept telling him to worry about the whole planet and not just the starving tribes. He said that it was about time that they started living in the current century. Gisan didn’t believe in that and it was because of his beliefs that kept him getting reelected as governor of Belos. He showed nothing of his concern when he greeted Obi-wan, “Master Jedi, it is good that you have come though I am not sure of what you can help us with.”
“Governor Starlighter asked that I be of any help that I can,” Obi-wan replied.
“That is good. I need to concentrate on mobilizing the fleet and getting food for the tribes that are starving and I don’t know where to begin. I received a transmission from a Jedi Korin that one of our own people is leading this against us,” Gisan replied rather tiredly, “Though I am surprised that Lady Ashira wasn’t the one to send me the transmission.”
“Perhaps she is more concerned about other locations though that wouldn’t be like her either,” Obi-wan agreed. He thought about her behavior the last few days, even weeks. The more he thought about it, the more he noticed that Ashira’s behavior had been changing for years but the change was so subtle that no one, not even the masters noticed it until now. He also thought about what Governor Starlighter said about her knowing things but not saying anything. He pushed those thoughts aside and concentrated on what Gisan was saying, “True but I am sure she has her reasons. Now to the business getting the tribes fed. I have been trying to convince Moira of the Haida tribe to let me help her. She however is convinced that the white wolf will come to help. As much as I have faith in her, I am afraid her faith will debilitate the Haida women and eventually they will cease to exist.”
“Perhaps I could go to convince her to accept aid,” Obi-wan ventured. Somehow he got the subtle probing from the Force that was the path he was to take.
“Perhaps she will listen to a Jedi but I must warn you that she is very proud and not used to asking for help,” Gisan gave his consent. He continued, “If you go, it will give me time to mobilize the fleet. Even if we get food to the tribes, we will not have enough to deflect the possible armada that the Separatists would send us.”
“I will do my best. Perhaps we may find the cause of the starvation in the process,” Obi-wan replied.
“Then let the gods go with you Master Jedi. I can only hope that some relief will come.”
Andros was pacing back and forth wildly debating a great decision. He was technically not under the authority of the Jedi Council on Coruscant but he respected their judgment all the same. The reports were coming in from Secura and the other teams that Dragus is mobilizing a huge fleet to launch against Belos. How and when was the question and it was maddening. Even if he could draw all the forces from the other planets, it would take too long to mobilize and he was angry that his sister was not there to think things through like she always did.
When he thought those thoughts, he calmed down and realized that he was not directing his anger at the right source of it. He stopped his pacing and took deep breaths to calm himself and the idea came to him. He was in the middle of thinking this through when the door opened and Miklos and Anakin, newly arrived, walked in. Focusing his attention on the current situation he welcomed Anakin, “Glad to see that you made it Skywalker.”
“The Council sent me saying that you might need help in managing the troops. I have to ask though, where is Master Starlighter?”
Miklos answered, “She is attending to a matter concerning the Belosian fleet.”
“She is doing what she needs to do. Right now we need to organize reinforcements on a standby alert,” Andros interjected drawing attention away from the fact that Ashira wasn’t there. He continued, “One of our own people has betrayed us and has joined the Separatists. He has some grand scheme to take out Belos.”
“If he takes out Belos, there goes the bulk of the Avalonian forces,” Anakin replied.
“Exactly. Governor Gisan has a reasonable fleet given the current state of events but they are not enough to hold out against a full-scale assault. However we don’t want to alert Dragus that we know which is the reason for this form of mobilization. We will not use clones but our own people. Anakin I want you to take command of the Mikkadoan fleet and Miklos will cover Andorra. The main post will be on Avalon and I’ll assign General Chun to the Aztlan fleet. You will receive orders when confirmation on his movements is clear. Alright?” Andros looked at the both of them.
Anakin nodded and Miklos just blinked his understanding and guided Anakin out. Once outside, Anakin asked, “Is there something wrong? Andros seemed out of place.”
“War is one of things that preoccupies the mind. I suggest you not worry about it except what you are to do. These are dangerous times that we live in now and we can’t afford to let things happen that could produce serious repercussions for the Republic,” Miklos replied. He hoped that was a sufficient response for Anakin as they went to prepare for their departure to their respective fleets. He was amazed at his brother’s plan. It was exactly something that Ashira would have come up with. With his thoughts on his sister, he hoped that she was fine and safe, at least in her own sense of the word.
The trail was discreet as it led to the small trade town of Reed Moat, named for the Reed Moat Bridge. Ashira-Li noted the store and other basic buildings of the town as she went to the message office. She needed to send a transmission to Zhor to let her know she was all right and where she was. It was her intention to return to the cabin seeing that she didn’t believe in the legend of the white wolf and dismissed it as a fairy tale. Moira had respected her decision but she gave that hint that she knew what would happen.
Ashira was thinking of that when she went to the message office. She noticed along the way a small family of tribespeople huddled near the supply depot trying to stay warm. She stood there staring at the family for a while when she was startled by Dragus’ right hand man, Tarkus, “Sad isn’t it? They have no food and are being forced towards Sheng Xin. They are starving.”
“I’m sorry, who are you?” Ashira asked.
“Tarkus. I run the food line for the people. Are you new here?”
Not fully trusting him she replied, “Just passing through. I got lost along the way and the Haida tribe showed me the way.”
“I see, well carry on,” and Tarkus watched as she entered the office.
After sending her message, she went to the store and try to buy food for the Haida tribe. She selected foods that were easy on the stomach and that wouldn’t make the tribe sick. The owner gave her trouble when he learned of her intention for the food. She would have gotten into a fistfight if Tarkus hadn’t interfered and said to let her buy the food. He even offered to pay for it. Ashira still didn’t trust the man but was courteous and thanked him. She bought a middle-sized draigon to carry her purchases, which included a gift for Moira and Lilah for their hospitality. On the way back to the tribe, she met the family and gave them some food for the journey. Tarkus watched her as she left. He had no doubt that she was the one Dragus was looking for and he went to sent a transmission to Dragus telling him of his find.
Ashira didn’t expect a welcome back to the tribe but she was anyway. She unloaded the food and said that it was for them. The people were surprised that she went to such a great length to procure food that wouldn’t harm them. She left them to unload the draigon while she took the gift she had for Lilah and Moira and went to find them. She found Lilah near the river washing clothes when she approached and said, “I want to thank you for what you did. This is for you,” and she held out a small bundle.
Lilah opened it to find a shawl. She asked, “Why?”
Rather perturbed at the question Ashira responded, “To thank you for saving me and I thought that you might like it.”
“Like a noblewoman,” Lilah responded, “I gave you your life back by singing the songs of healing. The proper way to thank someone would have been to accept your calling as Nekang.”
Ashira was not one to push it at the moment so she left the bundle next to Lilah and walked away not saying a word. Lilah was surprised that she didn’t speak back. She thought that maybe Ashira was weak in that she backed down from a fight. Lilah noticed that Ashira had left the shawl there in its wrapping. She picked it up and tucked it amongst the other clothes that were dry. It was a pretty shawl.
Ashira found Moira at the corral where the draigons were grazing. She approached respectfully and said, “Lady Moira, I came to give you this as a thank you for your hospitality,” and she held out a box that contained some rare herbs for medicine.
Moira turned to find a woman bowing her head in a humble position. She saw that this woman was proud but respectful. It stemmed from a desire to be agreeable to everyone within the best of her abilities. Moira picked up the box and said, “You are always welcome here Master Jedi. Why have you returned?”
Moira had given back Ashira’s respect and it gave her courage to look Moira in the eye and answer the question, “I want to help. I want to help you find the kataran.”
Moira smiled and nodded. She had known that Ashira would return. The spirits of the earth and sky were never wrong. The Force works as it wills. She may have been a believer in the old ways but she knew of the Force. Jedi before Ashira have come and sought refuge with the tribe. Some how Moira knew things would come together. She responded to Ashira, “Then you will become one of our sisters. The choices you make from here on will determine your path,” and together they walked to Moira’s hut.
Chapter 11: Training
The night was full of energy as it had been for the past two days. During that time, a dance was held to summon the spirit of the wolf so as he could be a guide for the tribe’s newest sister now called Nekang. Ashira-Li was dancing with the dancers, feeling rather out of place those last two nights since she hadn’t danced in a tribal dance since the year of the Sang. She kept looking at Moira and Lilah with a look that said, ‘I can’t do this.’ They both encouraged her to continue trying. Ashira was getting frustrated because she couldn’t connect and she was beginning to tense up which was a bad sign. It was Lilah who finally said, “Relax, remember the Jedi way: Calm, at peace.”
Upon hearing those words, Ashira focused on the rhythm and followed the other women dancers and began to concentrate on the rhythm. She reverted to a meditative exercise that old Petronius taught her long ago where she removed her mind from her physical body and imagined that she was in the room of a thousand fountains. She could hear the water pouring into itself and the calming lull it produced. The rhythm of the drums fell in sync with the lull of the water and she began to revert to her comfortable state when she practiced saber techniques. Her form and body began to flow and bend gracefully.
Moira was watching the change in her pose and movement. She was amazed at how quickly Ashira could adapt so quickly, much more quickly that her other warriors. Moira also watched her daughter’s face to discern her mood. She was all too well aware that Lilah didn’t believe in fairy tales, she never had since her brother died from a killing illness. Yet she hoped that Ashira would some how open Lilah’s eyes to see that it never hurts to have faith. She was thinking these thoughts when she heard the wolf call.
The wolf called again and Ashira turned around. She cocked her head to listen once more. When she heard the howl, she said, “That’s him.”
Moira then said, “Go then. Find him.”
Ashira then took off running into the forest. Running lightly she whistled her call for Daranka. She was stopped short when a wolf jumped out that was not Daranka. It stared at her with its yellow eyes and began to growl menacingly. Ashira kneeled to the ground and just looked it in the eye, showing no fear and not backing down. Moira had followed Ashira and saw from a distance the confrontation between the angry wolf and Ashira. Ashira was paying no mind except to the wolf and was whispering in her people’s language, “I am here, you are here. We don’t want to hurt each other. Back down, back down.”
She was saying this gently yet so firmly that the wolf backed down. It lay on the ground and whined slightly as if to say, “I surrender.” It was then Daranka showed up and walked up to Ashira and licked her on the face. The other wolf was shy about approaching but overcame it with Daranka’s eagerness to see his friend. When both wolves were near, she petted both of them and spoke soothing words in her language. She then stood up and both followed her back to where Moira was waiting. The second wolf ran away when she saw Moira. Ashira watched and nodded as if in understanding. She then turned to Moira and said, “Here is my friend, the wolf.”
Dragus was pacing back and forth pleased and yet angry at the turn of events that he had received from his point man Tarkus. He had anticipated that she would have come to the aid of her people but he never expected that she would walk amongst the very people that he was trying to destroy. Still this turn of events was not damaging enough to his carefully laid out plans to wipe out the effectiveness of the Avalonian people and get his revenge upon the family that had wronged him.
He walked to the balconies to watch as again the hassled herders tried to fight their way to the bulkheads that were sealing their herds in. He wondered why they were so persistent even though they ran the risk of death. It was something that would be discovered and his one weakness that would ultimately be his end. He watched with a bemused grin and chuckled as the kataran herds were getting worked into frenzy as some herders were trying to calm them down while others were trying to storm the bulkheads. He thought about how long will the herders last through this campaign. He then left to go give instruction to ground troops to begin their march to the capital, Xao Lin.
After Daranka arrived, training was relatively easier for Ashira. It was as if he made her happy. The truth of the matter was that she was close to him but also that he seemed to know her feelings and responded accordingly. The other wolf Ashira befriended would show up when she went on her romps through the forest to learn of the trails and practice. Lately, she had been paired with the nephew of Moira, Lardonis, as it was nearing his time to come of manhood.
Ashira found that many of the ways that they were teaching her were similar to what old Petronius and Shang-Li had taught her all along. She remembered when she joined the recruits to defend Belos when she was seventeen but as an ordinary Shi-Cho Handmaiden. She listened with the same attentiveness she gave to Petronius, Shang-Li and her Jedi masters and followed by example. Through this manner, she learned new ways and improved the old ones and in so doing, ended up looking nothing like the woman that arrived in the village.
Moira watched Ashira’s progress and noted the change in her demeanor and appearance. It was as if Ashira had allowed her newfound talents and strengths to change her. Her personality was there but it was masked by the face of Haida women. The other women of the tribe noticed it too. Ever since Ashira joined, they were willing to stay and fight. They believed that this little woman would help them just as much as Moira did and helped in whatever way they could.
The days passed into weeks and Ashira was nearly ready. The last thing that remained was for her to receive her symbol as a warrior and a huntress. It was a private affair so Moira used her hut to give Ashira her mother’s bow. Moira had Ashira sit across from her and said, “Nekang, in the tradition of our people, it is the woman of the house that gives the blessing of the hunt. Here I give you the bow of a great warrior,” and she handed Ashira the bow.
It was an exquisite one with the personal touch of animal fur on the wood. Ashira looked at it but said, “I can’t. It is not rightfully mine as I am not a part of your family.”
Moira was impressed with Ashira’s sense of honor and respect and responded, “I insist. When you go on the hunt, Lardonis will go with you.”
Chapter 12: Unexpected Visitors
The next morning was the last day of training for Ashira before she was to go on the hunt to search for the missing kataran. Lardonis was to show her how to relax in order to allow a better killing range with the bow that Moira had given her. She awoke sensing that something was going to happen but she didn’t voice it. If anything she went by one rule: if it wasn’t clear enough when she first received it, then she would not worry about it. That’s the way it was with all her visions, something that Master Yoda understood when she first told him about it. She smiled at her memory of her first vision as she got dressed in the warrior clothing that Moira had given her. Today was definitely going to be different.
The morning routines were passed as usual with a light breakfast since Ashira had given up trying to eat regular portions. A bad habit but she felt her nerves too frazzled and high strung to eat properly ever since she began her training. She had lost some weight but her body was slightly more muscular and hardened. In a sense, she lost the girlish face she had when she arrived and replaced it with a woman’s face in every sense of the Belosian way. After breakfast, she and Lardonis set out for the forest with their bows in hand. They were heading for the target and practice glen on the other side of the river.
Obi-wan had forgotten how easy it was to control the prized Saluki stallions but his fears were assuaged when he started heading for Fa Zhor’s estate on his way to see Moira Landstar of the Haida tribe. It came back easily as he remembered how it was Ashira who taught him and Siri to ride even though she had never ridden herself. He reflected inwardly how she always was there to help no matter how simple or mundane it was to her. Immediately he felt bad for he knew that all she ever did was try to help; she gave more of herself to others without any thought of reward. He felt bad because they had parted on such bad terms.
He was thinking of what he would like to say to her as he approached the estate. He found Fa Zhor in his usual spot, sitting on one of the numerous stone benches under the Judan trees. He approached respectfully and addressed him, “The years have kind honorable Fa Zhor.”
Fa Zhor glanced at him with his gray eyes. He smiled slightly as he replied, “You know you don’t have to be so polite. You’re not a Belosian boy that’s coming to call on my daughter.”
The comment made Obi-wan want to blush. He cleared his throat slightly before replying with, “I just came to see an old friend.”
“And you want to know if she’s been here,” Zhor replied. He glanced at Obi-wan and felt amusement at the faint blushing he was seeing. He continued, “To give you an answer without having you to ask it, she has been here and she has left. To the cabin near the river. Perhaps she is still there.”
Rather uncomfortable at the sudden knowledge, Obi-wan was silent for a moment. He then spoke, “I was on my way to meet with Moira Landstar. I just wanted to stop by.”
“I see.” Fa Zhor wasn’t blind as his adopted daughter and the Jedi before him was. He decided to not call Obi-wan on it. Instead he replied, “The Haida tribe is somewhere near the river. You might want to start from Reed Moat, a small outpost town five clicks south along the river.”
Zhor turned to look back at the lake. Obi-wan took that as his cue to leave and he backed away with a respectful bow saying, “Thank you for your time.” He turned to walk back to where his stallion was.
Before he reached it, Zhor called out, “She misses her friends. She’s just too proud to admit it.”
The target was straight ahead, not moving. It was minding its own business, without a care in the world. The wolf watched from a distance, eying her prey. Moving swiftly and silently, she inched her way closer. The target was in her sights. She drew back slowly and struck.
“Wow. I have never seen anyone move like that to get close to a target without so much as a peep.”
Ashira looked at the target she had just hit. It was about a good ten feet away but the shot had been made at an obscure angle. She just stared at the arrow that marked the killing shot for a long time. Her normally amber eyes were clouded as if she were thinking. She was actually remembering those that she had killed in various battles she had fought. Killing was so easy but how do deal with it was something else. She almost lost her train of thought but she heard the comment Lardonis. She responded, “Jedi reflexes. Remnants of the Jedi Watchmen.”
“I don’t think so. The way that you moved and the way you shot, it’s as if you had shot a bow before. Strange,” Lardonis replied.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Ashira replied and looked at him in the eye. She gave a look that told him to drop it. No way did she want to talk about her time spent on Andorra and the excessive training she had growing up. Too many painful memories even though some were good.
Lardonis, seeing that, changed the subject. Instead he opted to help her with long range shooting. He showed her how to follow her target and lead it a bit before taking the shot. He also made her shoot while there were distractions going on. He sensed that she knew a lot of these things but she preferred to forget it and allow him to teach her. He was amazed at the progress she made and thought that it was because of her Jedi training but he saw that she must have had at least some Bushida training.
The day seemed to drag on and Lardonis decided that there wasn’t much point in training Ashira anymore. He could see that she was a capable warrior. He considered that Moira had requested this because Nekang needed it, mostly to deal with memories. After watching her shoot from long distance for what seemed like the thousandth time, he called it a day and led her the way back to the settlement. He decided to ask, “Why do you want to gain Lilah’s respect?”
“She saved my life and I behaved badly,” was the answer.
“She is like that with anyone who is an outsider. Haida women respect battle, not kindness,” he said.
“That and she has suffered loss through the starvation,” Ashira replied.
“How did you know that?” Lardonis asked.
Ashira tapped her slim index finger to her temple. It was her way of saying that it was her Jedi senses. She rather liked Lardonis and sensed that he just wanted to help her. She smiled and began to speak in Avalonian to which he eagerly responded. She spoke of the old tales of the Jedi that existed long ago, particularly when Avalon joined the Republic. If anything, she knew how the young warriors loved to hear the legend of Kirabaros, the Heart of the Guardian. She should know, because she used to tell bits and pieces to the younglings. Mostly it was the pieces that conveyed a lesson, lessons that adhered to the Jedi Code, at least the code that Kirabaros lived by.
They passed the clearing where Daranka was playing with his friend. When they approached, both stopped and began to follow. Ashira held a piece of the jerky that she liked to munch in place of a regular meal out in her right hand. Daranka took it gently and ripped half of it off. The other half, she offered to the other wolf which she accepted gratefully. Ashira felt slightly better than she had since she arrived. She continued to tell of tales as they walked towards the settlement.
Governor Gisan was pacing on the platform very perplexed. He had sent Jedi Obi-wan on one of the Saluki stallions to speak to Moira. He had known the woman for years and hoped that Jedi diplomacy would convince her to at least accept some aid. He was pacing for another reason. He had been asked by Jedi Korin to stand at full alert for possible attack. He was wondering how in the Four Winds his people were going to survive an attack. True that the other governors were ready and on alert themselves but they were not composed mostly of tribesmen who were dying because their diet was being compromised. He was in despair over the whole affair when a soft voice sounded from the shadows, next to the draigon statues. “Hello Gisan.”
The governor turned to see an old friend. He replied, “I thought Amshrey would not get involved Selene.”
The woman stepped out to reveal a woman clad in black, similar to the garb of the Haida women. She had bright blue eyes and dark auburn hair and possessed a body that could be lethal. She replied, “That may be the official position but you and I both know that loyalties lie strong. Besides, we are helping because of her.”
“Yes, because of her and who she is.”
“I fear that reasons such as this would provide an unnecessary burden. She has had enough.”
“Perhaps but she is of a long line of stubborn women.”
“I hope you are right, Selene.”
The settlement was bustling with the normal activity of preparing for the evening meal as Ashira and Lardonis approached. There was a small crowd gathered near Moira’s hut and there was talk circling through the camp. Mostly jabbering about a visitor. Lardonis thought it was the one who would come by with supplies and argue with his aunt. Ashira couldn’t figure out what the excitement was all about. As they got closer, she found out why.
Lardonis saw the male Jedi and thought that maybe he was here to help too. He turned to say something but the look on Ashira’s face was enough to realize that she knew the Jedi there.
Chapter 13: Acquaintance and Brooding
Obi-wan had somehow managed to find the Haida tribe settlement from the direction that Fa Zhor had given him. He was even more disturbed that Zhor had implied that he was looking for Ashira. Sure he was surprised that he found out that she had come to Belos but did that call for a joke at his expense? He pushed that aside in his mind as he addressed Moira who seemed to regard him merely as a houseguest. He realized that she was treating him in her terms of respect so he put up with it.
Another commotion sounded from the direction of the river. The girl who was introduced as Lilah walked up to a woman who looked strikingly familiar and a young man. Obi-wan was curious for he thought he recognized the wolf but before he could get a better look, it was gone with another off into the forest. The woman was what had his attention. He thought to himself, She’s about her height but… He couldn’t quite place his finger on it. Moira caught him looking and said, “That’s Nekang. Another one of our sisters.”
“Nekang?” Obi-wan was familiar with the term but he never heard it used as a name before.
“Come. We will discuss this at the indaba,” and Moira motioned towards Nekang to follow.
Andros had never before met the governor of Avalon but he had heard of him. He tried to hold his agitation in check as he made his way to his office. The agitation mostly stemmed from the fact that he had to run things and there was a huge battle that would be coming soon and he was at wit’s end. He had no reason to be that way for when he entered the office of Governor Starlighter, he was greeted with a sense of calm.
The office was like a sanctuary in a world of chaos. True it resembled closely to that of a library but there was a calm about it that could make a person want to hide there forever. Andros had a brief moment if that was why Ashira liked to hide from people but scratched the thought since she never really went home at all. He was thinking this as he was examining one of the shelves when Governor Starlighter’s voice broke in quietly, “I find that books are much better than idle play.”
Andros turned quickly. Upon facing the governor, he bowed politely and began, “My Lord, I…”
“I know. The fleet is mobilizing and we are ready to go on your say so. I can see why she left you in charge. You seem capable.”
That loosened up Andros and he began to make polite conversation.
What in Force is going on? Ashira was pacing off near one of the paddocks. She had been wondering if the Force were playing a joke on her or something. She had just gotten through the last meal she would have before setting off for the lost kataran herds. She gave no indication to her true identity as she listened to Obi-wan try to persuade Moira to accept aid from Governor Gisan and she inwardly squirmed when Moira refused. She wondered briefly if Moira was putting too much faith in the whole business of myths and legends. A voice startled her, “I used to think the same thing when I was called Kirabaros.”
She turned to see the familiar blue silhouette of a Jedi. Peering at it, she could make out the traditional robes from the academy on Avalon, and he stood a head taller than she. Dark hair with two stubborn locks and the eyes that looked surprisingly familiar, much like her own: golden amber. She asked, “Who are you?”
“Kirabaros, though I thought that you would have guessed that by now.” The reply sounded like something she would say.
“Eventually.” Ashira was rooted to her spot and she thought that she had to stop connecting with dead Jedi. She changed her tune and asked, “Why are you here?”
“You wonder if legend has any place here in a time of war. I admit that I felt the same when I fought in a war long before your time.”
“I can’t help but wonder if Moira is being foolish about this. The starvation I can’t bear and I feel lost.”
The figure just smiled gently. He replied, “I know it is hard to let go of someone you have lost. As well as others I have known. What you have to decide whether or not you will let it consume you.”
“You make it sound so easy but it is not.” Ashira shook her head sadly. She moved to one of the huge boulders resting next to the fence and sat on it.
“Since when is anything in life meant to be easy. It wasn’t easy to fight against my friend but I had to in order to turn him back to the light. Things like that never leave you but they can be made bearable. You just have to find your way.”
Ashira was listening but she noticed that Obi-wan had exited Moira’s hut and taking a walk. She had a bemused smile on her face for she recognized that posture. Funny how old habits die hard. She looked back to where the figure was standing only to find that no one was there. She smiled briefly and thought about what had been exchanged. Lately she had many more of the ghosts of dead Jedi appear, giving her advice. She didn’t mind for she knew most of them but this last one felt familiar, like he was family. She shook her head and took a deep breath and sighed. She reverted her gaze up to the stars and began to study them. She felt saddened at a memory but she smiled realizing that it was one of her funnier memories. She needed that feeling for tomorrow would be the start of a long day.
Andros sat in the pilot’s chair of the Ebon Hawk preparing to launch the defense against Dragus and his troops. The word had come that the sieges had begun, particularly of Xao Lin and Sheng Xin. The skies above had ships that threatened to shoot anything that tried to leave. He was thinking of his conversation with Governor Starlighter and the plan that he was about to launch. He gazed out the window at the stars. Brooding was not in his nature but ever since his sister came along, he found himself doing that more often.
Miklos was doing the same thing in the co-pilot’s chair. He was thinking more in terms of the amount of lives that may be lost. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something was supposed to happen but when and where was the question. He didn’t share it because he wasn’t sure and he was taking a leaf out of Ashira’s book in that it had to make sense in order for it to be voiced.
Chapter 14: The Hunt
The morning sun rose as it did each day but there was a wave of fog. The Haida camp stirred with a different feeling and with good reason, Nekang was going on the hunt. Moira awoke to find that Nekang had already left with everything for the hunt. She didn’t smile but frowned at this. She said nothing about it except to Lardonis who was slightly put out that she left and Lilah who showed nothing on her face except concern. To Obi-wan she said nothing for she highly suspected that he was the cause of Nekang’s behavioral change. She was at a standstill when Obi-wan inquired about her and she was speechless at how to answer.
Deep in the forest, Nekang was making her way towards one of the rocky ridges. She was following Daranka who was on the trail of something and they had been at it since early morning. She had left without saying anything mostly because she didn’t want anyone harmed at her expense. She would rather have her take the risk; something that she couldn’t make Moira understand. Another part was that she feared only one thing truly and it made her uncomfortable. So she took Daranka who came willingly with his new friend and they set off together.
They were walking through when a blaster shot rang out. Nekang’s first reaction was to drop down for cover. When another sounded, she realized that it wasn’t her they were shooting at. She followed the sounds, her boots softly treading over the ground. She came to another clearing ringed with burnt and dead stumps. The brush was thick so it wouldn’t be difficult to hide in it. She saw someone hanging by their legs and being tormented at by some rough looking men. They were attempting to grab their captive. Nekang narrowed her eyes and crept through the brush.
Dragus was pleased. He had received word that his quarry had left but even better, a Jedi was following as well. He recalled the ritualistic motions of preparing for the hunt. This truly was going to be a hunt, if she made it that far. His eyes drifted back to the table where his choice of weapon was resting. He picked it up and hooked it onto his belt. He began to absently pet his draigon who growled pleasurably much to the slight displeasure of Dooku who was gazing at the herds below.
The chime sounded and Tarkus entered the room that was overlooking the enclosure of the herds. He gave a salute and said, “All the security elements are in place and forces are ready to begin bombardment.”
“Just make sure this plan succeeds,” Dooku responded.
“It will. Even if they manage to repel our forces, they will be broken.”
“What do you mean?” Dooku asked slightly confused. He knew full well that the Avalonians were a vital defense but what Dragus was saying was not making any sense.
Seeing that, Dragus gave the order to begin bombardment and invasion. Tarkus left to carry out the order. Once they were alone, Dragus spoke, “You are confused. That is natural more likely because you have forgotten the mind set of the Avalonian people.” Dragus made sure he had Dooku’s attention before continuing. “I said what I said because the true strength of these people lies not in their military strength but in specific individuals.”
“And who are we after if not the military?”
“An old friend. Someone who impressed you the last time you met. Though I might say that her powers improved a bit since then.”
The realization dawned on Dooku. “Lady Ashira?”
Dragus nodded with a sadistic smile. “She is important yes but I think as well as a few others. Luckily one is dead already and two more will soon be there.”
“You sound as if you know who they are.”
“Break the backbone and you break the heart. Now time to prepare for the hunt,” and Dragus made a motion for Dooku to step through. “She is the heart, they are hers.”
The wolf was eying her prey with amber eyes. She slunk through the brush of the forest quietly. This was like another practice round, only this time she was freeing two captives. There were two she was hunting and they were clear in her sights. The taller of the two was reaching up to slash the smaller of the two who was spitting out some choice words. The wolf’s prey was laughing as if it were a big joke. The wolf poised ready to attack, crouched and struck.
The two men that had captured their foes fell forward, dead, each with an arrow sticking out of their backs. The two captives hanging upside down looked at them. The female looked at them with a slight surge of pride. The male looked more surprised but quickly hid it as he tried to reach his lightsaber. Out of the brush a voice sounded, “For a Jedi, you sure have a way of getting caught.”
Nekang appeared and cut the ropes holding them. She had a bemused smile as they fell, the girl landing gracefully. Obi-wan took a while to get his bearing and stood to face a short woman with dark brown hair that was tinged with thick blonde stripes. She stared with intensive amber colored eyes and had a posture that boasted that of a soldier. In her right, she held a bow and on her waist, she bore a sword, more likely a katana. The small dagger that she had used to cut the ropes, she replaced in her boot. Obi-wan thought she was familiar, especially her voice. He glanced at her neck to find a ruby red stone dangling from a chain. He dismissed it as not being Ashira for, if anything, she had a distinct pendant. He spoke, “Thanks.”
The girl who had found him spoke, “Thank goodness you found us Nekang.”
Nekang spoke quickly, “We’re getting close. From the looks of this, the herds are near by.” She gave a shrill whistle that brought Daranka running. She looked at Lilah and spoke in the Haida language. She told her to go back and to tell Moira to mass near the viewpoint. She also mentioned that she would have Daranka lead her to where she was. Before she left she also wished her good luck.
Lilah nodded and picked up her fallen bow and headed back to the settlement at a run. She made no noise as she ran. When she had left, Obi-wan asked, “What did you tell her? I tried to tell her to leave and she refused.”
With a click at the back of her throat, Daranka started sniffing. Nekang started to follow and motioned for Obi-wan to follow. She replied, “She answers to no one except her sisters.”
Obi-wan listened to the richness of her voice and recognized it. He had to keep taking double takes because she was different than when he last saw her. Sometimes he wasn’t sure if it was her. He decided to try and get her to talk. He asked, “And what of you?”
“I do what I am asked. Right now I am on the hunt to find the herds. Someone has betrayed us. An outsider wouldn’t know how to starve the tribes into weakness.” Her voice was firm, much like that of Moira’s when she was adamant about her position.
“An outsider? Would that include me?”
“You are a Jedi but not one of our own. Avalonian Jedi understand that some things must be done in order for other things to occur. They understand the will of the Force.” Nekang was busy keeping an eye on Daranka that she vaguely left her tongue unguarded and betrayed her nature, the one that Obi-wan was familiar with. She then cut him off with a sweeping motion of her hand.
They had come to a ridge. Daranka was onto something as he led Nekang to the edge. He was perched on a rock and he looked down. Nekang and Obi-wan followed his gaze. Below was a sweeping valley dotted with hundreds of kataran beasts. They were ringed by the mountains on three sides and along one side was a massive bulkhead. Nekang nudged Obi-wan’s arm and pointed, “That’s why the kataran herds have not returned. Someone has built a huge bulkhead.” She stopped when she saw a few of the herders being beaten by some abnormally tall men. Even though she couldn’t hear the cries and the jeering, she could sense it on the air.
Obi-wan stole a sideways glance at Nekang. He saw the harden lines soften. Underneath, he saw the familiar girl that he had grown up with. He looked back down at the scene and then nudged her gently saying, “We should go.”
As quickly as her face softened, Nekang regained her determination and turned away from the ridge. She spoke in the warrior dialect to Daranka, telling him to find Lilah. After he took off, she picked up her bow, slung it on her shoulder and led the way down the ridge. This was one hunt that the wolf was going to follow through with.
Chapter 15: Spring the Trap
Sheng Xin looked like a sleepy town when the first of the Separatist forces approached the city. In the skies above, the battleships loomed like the black cormorants silently waiting to unleash their deadly arsenal. Governor Gisan was in the middle of giving a confirmation of orders when the first bombardments struck. The explosions rocked the palatial residence and sent debris flying everywhere. There were shouts in the streets as Dragus’ men came running at full speed with their weapons draw.
Out of the chaos came a voice of calm, “Now we fight.”
Gisan turned to see Selene of Amshrey walk double time out of the room with her blade drawn. She was joined in the foyer by a few hundred of her toughest warriors. Together they led the charge out to meet their enemy. The volley of fire and deflection began in both the skies and the ground.
It was quiet within the compound that nestled near the bulkhead that was imprisoning the kataran herds. It was so quiet that it was unnerving and would have shot bolts of fear down the spines of inexperienced warriors. Though that feeling was there, Nekang and Obi-wan pressed through the compound hiding amongst the various crates as cover. They made their way to the bulkhead and pressed their backs against it.
Nekang spotted the two guards first. She fitted her bow with two arrows like she did when she rescued Lilah and Obi-wan. Silently she drew back the sinew with an amazing amount of strength and released. As quickly as she let go, the two guards slumped over dead. Nekang and Obi-wan dragged them out of sight and Nekang policed them, finding some small grade explosives. She pocketed them, not saying anything about her behavior. They stayed low and headed towards the entrance to the command center. Obi-wan didn’t see Nekang leave behind a small bag, hidden between some crates.
The tunnel that led to the command center was guarded with two guards like the bulkhead. Nekang again took them out with the same deadly precision as the previous two. By this time Obi-wan was feeling uneasy. He voiced it in a slight whisper, “I sense a trap.”
Nekang gazed at him with her amber eyes and replied, “Then I guess we spring the trap.” She turned and entered the tunnel, guided only by the lights lining the side.
Obi-wan had no choice but to follow. He followed, trying to keep up with her swift movements. Oh this is going to be easy, he thought with the slightest hint of sarcasm. He didn’t hear the gentle chuckle coming from Nekang.
Dragus was waiting on the command deck watching the monitors. He had seen her and the Jedi enter the tunnel. He didn’t see the things she did before they came to the tunnel. He just stood there watching as they approached the security room, well, the supposed security room. He didn’t know if the girl was too clever or too dumb but he was surprised that the Jedi was just following her.
They were at the door. He watched as Nekang pulled a small kit from her belt. He was amused that she was resorting to what scoundrels and smugglers used. Still he had to give her credit for even bothering to learn. He thought to himself, Just like the rest of her family. He watched as she selected her tools to slice into the security panel. Her slim fingers moved with precision as they had been trained her whole life as she played with her wires. She finally opened the door. Once inside, she will find a surprise.
“Bingo,” Nekang muttered as she finally opened the security door. She was amused that Obi-wan was shocked that she had sliced into the terminal in the first place. She watched as the door opened to a room that was virtually unguarded. She frowned slightly at the scene before her. Something wasn’t right.
To her left Obi-wan was watching her back. He said softly, “Something’s not right.”
“Of course it isn’t. Drop the weapons both of you,” a voice sounded.
Nekang slowly stood up leaving everything on the ground where she left it. She turned to face a dozen or so warriors pointing various blades and blasters at the both of them. She motioned to Obi-wan to hand over his saber. She looked at the leader of the group square in the eye and said, “So, is this the welcoming committee or is this the part where I tell you that we are here to stop you?”
They laughed at her. The leader said, “Charming to the last. As much as I would like to press a blaster to your pretty little head, I am not going to deprive my superior the pleasure of torturing you for his own pleasure. Cuff them.”
Obi-wan and Nekang found themselves being cuffed from behind. It was a scene that would repeat itself later but then again, it was a sure way to get inside. Obi-wan was rather annoyed but Nekang was calm. Her face betrayed nothing as they led the both of them up a flight of stairs.
The forest was full of life, at least how it seemed to the many guards of the compound who were patrolling at the outer perimeter. They brushed this assignment as a cushy one considering that the local tribes didn’t resist. How could they when the main portion of their diet was captive? That alone would make them careless in their duties for they had no clue that they were being watched.
The forest was watching them with hidden eyes. The eyes were always watching, never moving. They would move when the time was right. Right now they were waiting to lure their quarry into a trap. One that would allow for a bigger plan to happen.
Chapter 16: Revelation and Relief
The command platform overlooked the enclosed kataran herds as they rustled trying to find more room to move. Shouts could be heard from below as the herders themselves were attempting another escape and throwing a few choice words towards their captors. Dragus smiled as he faced the door to wait for his long sought quest. Dooku had gone earlier to take care of some urgent matters but he would return to meet the one whom he had a healthy respect for even though they never saw eye to eye. He was surprised at what he saw.
The Jedi was to be expected since she was the one who suggested that the Avalonian people work with the Republic and the Jedi. She, however, was different. Instead of the little girl that he had seen once at the table, he saw a slim and hardened woman. She possessed a deadly grace about her and yet ethereal beauty. Her eyes had a fire to them and yet he could see the scars of war in them. She walked with a defiant look about her with nothing betraying her true state. Dragus looked at her with peculiarity and thought with pleasure at what he had in store for her. He was also amused at her scouting for potential means of escape. He watched as they were shoved not too warmly into the room.
Nekang was not thinking Dragus’ thoughts but thinking of possible means of escape. She took note of her surroundings without seemingly to do so by keeping her face straight ahead. Outside she appeared to be the calm general that the Republic saw, their “Light of Courage.” Inside, she was thinking of the fine mess she had gotten Obi-wan into. As always she thought of others before herself, a trait that had gotten her into trouble so many times and brought her near death as well but it saved many others. She forced her thoughts and emotions deep down when she and Obi-wan were shoved in front of the traitor. The first word out of her mouth was, “Sangtahut.”
Obi-wan recognized the word but not the meaning. It was one of those things that were never spoken about. He surmised that it was bad judging by how the Haida woman next to him said it. He watched as their captor smiled at her with a sinister grin and replied, “Charming as ever I see though I see that time has given you a rather foul mouth.”
He knows her? I know she looks like Ashira but she’s different. The thoughts were running through Obi-wan’s head.
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” came her reply. “Time here has a way of making the sand wash away.”
“Still hiding behind one of your masks I see. When will you learn that you cannot hide forever?”
“You hide behind one as well I see. And here I thought you were being honest with us.” Nekang gave a set face hiding her humor.
“You think this is a game? Maybe you will think twice when you have suffered as I have, young one.” The reply was disturbingly calm. It was unnerving that Obi-wan could see the Haida woman’s stern stance drop slightly.
She replied with an equal calmness, “You dream delusions of grandeur. I have no idea of what you speak of.”
“Really? Are you willing to put the fragile trusts you have built on the line?” Dragus eyed her with a deep look. He dismissed his guards and they left to wait outside. He walked up to her, and, with his long right index finger, he stroked her right cheek. She moved her head away and he grinned at her and returned to the table he had been standing near. He picked up something.
Obi-wan watched as their captor came close to the woman and stroke her cheek. He felt a sudden urge of anger at him. He chided himself and told himself that it wasn’t his friend; she was just a Haida warrior. He watched as he went back to the table and pick something up. Whatever it is, it can’t be good, he thought.
Almost as if he had heard the Jedi’s thoughts, Dragus spoke, “It seems that your companion thinks highly of you, maybe a hint of jealousy?” The brief flash on her face was enough for him to go on. He addressed Obi-wan, “Let me tell you about your companion here.”
The battle was raging at Sheng Xin on the ground and the space battle wasn’t going too well. There had been a delay for reinforcements and the Avalonians were suffering. Andros was watching from the cockpit of the Ebon Hawk as he guided the ship in between the armada that had laid siege to Belos. He watched fighters being blown to bits left and right and sighed his frustration, “Blast. Where are you Skywalker?”
Anakin was just arriving when Andros said that aloud. He called over the comm, “Did I miss something?”
Andros replied, “Yeah. You missed the part where we’re supposed to send this fleet packing.”
There was a chuckle over the comm as Anakin responded, “Well I guess we better get started.”
Andros watched as he saw squads of fighters soaring through space firing in attack formations that boasted of a dance. He felt a surge of pride at his people’s abilities to be able to adjust to any situation by making their movements flow as one. It was a lot better to watch it when you saw it with ground forces. It turned into a dance of deadly grace for survival. Even the practice sessions showed it. He should know because he watched Ashira practice with the older apprentices and they were hard pressed to keep up with her. He wondered where she was now and if she were handling things well.
“Now I am sure you are aware of the many roles that our people play in the Republic Jedi so I will spare most of the details,” Dragus began to taunt. His conversation was directed towards Obi-Wan but his intent was driven at Nekang.
“If this is going to be a history lesson, I would rather you spare us the pleasure of sleeping,” Nekang interrupted. “If you are trying to intimidate me, it won’t work. You’ve let your past dictate your actions and it rules you.”
“And yours doesn’t. Tell me, did you not feel the pain of a thousand deaths as you watched men die? Did you not send your men to die in a foolhardy quest to rescue three people and one of them died anyway? Did you not sentence a respectable family to a life of exile?”
Nekang began to falter from her strong stance. The memories were coming back and she didn’t want to give Dragus the pleasure of seeing her break down. Obi-wan was confused by the questions. It was as if Dragus knew the woman and it was obvious she recognized their captor from the way she was faltering in her gaze. He asked, “Nekang what is he talking about?”
“Nekang is now?” Dragus responded. He was looking at Nekang directly. He smiled and continued, “So you have adopted yet another name to your plethora of disguises. It is fairly obvious you haven’t told the Jedi your little secrets. Well now is your chance to tell him. You can tell him who is responsible for Siri’s death Lady Ashira.”
It seemed as if time stopped right there. Ashira was flooded with the memory of her dreams and visions. They melded with her memories of the many battles she fought, her main one at Azure. She heard the screams in her ears, the war cries but worst was seeing Siri, dying. She forced it down and instead reached out beyond the walls of the facility. She latched on to the surroundings and leveled her head.
Dragus had moved towards Obi-wan and was still talking, “Oh yes. Your friend sees all and tells all. She knows all the inner working s of the Republic better than you think. She is no better than a senator.”
A strong feminine voice responded, “You think so? Then how is this Dragus: Your fate will be that of the evils vanquished in the days of Kirabaros and your death will be nothing more than a trickle in the vast pool that will join you.”
All of a sudden, an explosion sounded right outside the room they were in sending up debris.
Chapter 17: Battle for the Herds
After the dust settled, Ashira jumped to her feet. While waiting for the dust to settle, she had been picking the lock on her cuffs with a hairpin she had tucked in her mouth. Now that she was free, she moved towards the door where she took out the guards. By the time she came back from retrieving the weapons that had been taken from her and Obi-wan, he was on his feet and giving her and odd look mingled with a slight scowl. She ignored it as she used his lightsaber to release him. Saying nothing, she shoved his lightsaber into his hands and turned tail to run towards the bulkhead.
Once out of the tunnel, they were greeted by Daranka who barked a warning just as one of the men fired with a blaster at them. Ignoring the danger, Ashira ran low towards where she left her charges. Obi-wan tried to follow but was pinned by the blaster fire. He heard through the Force, Stay put padawan. He knew that it was Ashira. Judging by the way that she had called him padawan even though he was a master, she meant business. He watched as she narrowly missed being hit as she went to the crates where they had hid before.
Ashira made it to the charges and began to lay them. She noted that the blaster fire was no longer being directed at her but away. She knew that the tribe had come and were laying attack, well at least part of them. The rest were on their way towards Sheng Xin to help Miklos. She had sensed his arrival with ground troops but never sent anything through their connection. As she was setting the charges, her thoughts drifted back to her decision to defy the Council and follow Obi-wan, Anakin and Siri to Azure and the visions that accompanied it. They seemed to give her an immune response as she finished the charges. With a deep breath, she set the detonator and ran back to the tunnel.
The explosion that followed collapsed what was left of the observation deck and opened the bulkhead. The only sound heard of was the sound of stampeding katarans followed by their herds on their draigons heading for the valleys. There was still blaster fire coming from Dragus’ men but a steady retreat, a retreat heading towards the Sheng Xin. Ashira watched until she caught sight of what she was looking for: Dragus slinking off on a Saluki stallion. She narrowed her eyes and prepared to run into the midst of the herd only to be held back by Obi-wan grabbing her arm. He asked, “What do you think you are doing?”
Looking at him in the eye she replied, “Fixing my wrongs. What do you care?” She took off into the middle of the running herds that miraculously avoided trampling her. She gave a shrill whistle and a Saluki stallion came up to her. She mounted it and followed with the herd leaving a dumb founded Obi-wan with Daranka who cocked his head at her departing figure.
Lilah saw Ashira leap on the stallion and take off after Dragus. She took it as her cue to tell the warriors to head for the city. It was part of the plan that Nekang had come up with and presented to Moira before the Jedi arrived. She followed Nekang as she followed Dragus to a small hangar where there was a shuttle waiting for take off.
Tarkus had survived the blasts but was badly wounded in the process. He had managed to get out of the compound and head down the path that led towards Sheng Xin. He began to shout for reinforcements. Dragus knew that Ashira would have something planned and compensated by having reinforcements blocking the pass to stop the herds just in case the bulkhead blew. He called into his comm and was able to get a message through before he was trampled to death by the katarans.
Lardonis was leading the warriors behind the katarans and saw Tarkus get trampled. He felt little remorse for the man but gave the prayer for the passage into death anyway. He didn’t ride much further than that for right near the river bend; there was a huge army of Rashikians. He called for a halt and everyone even the herders stopped. It was a large army that they were going up against. Lardonis stared at them and he knew that there weren’t enough of the Haida women and the rogue male warriors that stayed with them but he knew that they would fight to the end. It was the Bushida way.
Lilah came up beside him and glanced before them. She spoke, “I guess Nekang didn’t figure on this.”
“Maybe she did. You know her and you’ve heard of her reputation.” Lardonis was still watching the Rashikians as they pulled out their blades.
“Mostly through Mother.” Lilah was watching the same thing as Lardonis. She thought about what her mother said about coincidence and faith and thought about the private conversations she had with Nekang. She then said, “Mother was right. She is Nekang for now the herders are free.”
“I see you finally believe in the legends,” Lardonis said.
“I just only hope that Nekang has come to terms with it. I fear she is only using this as a means to end her pain.” Seeing the look on Lardonis’ face, she explained, “Her emotional pain. She still feels guilty about one of our sister’s death.”
There was no time for Lardonis to respond as the Rashikians began to charge. The katarans were restless and began to charge. The Rashikians and the tribesmen ignored them as they charged forward. Lilah pulled out her bow since she was better at shooting and fitted an arrow. She urged her draigon forward as Lardonis pulled out a blade and charged. It was all part of the plan that had been conceived ever since Nekang came back. Lila though was more worried about the planner than the battle plan. She only hoped that Nekang would remember who she was.
Selene was exhausted but she was thrilled at the fact that they were driving the besiegers away. It also helped that Queen Moira sent some of her warriors to help along with herself. The thrill of the hunt rushed through her veins as she swung her blade. Gisan once attributed it to her Mandalorian genes. It wouldn’t be surprising since she was descendant from a Mandalorian who married an Avalonian about four thousand years earlier. From there, they started to populate the planet Amshrey together with the Shreyites and the planet joined the rest of the Avalonian planets.
Selene, at the moment, was battling a rather large brute and enjoying every minute of it. She didn’t waste her energy on fancy moves but rather concentrated on making him frustrated by simple movements of dodging. She would avoid the large swings of his vibroaxe and counter with firm strike on the arms with her katana. He finally got frustrated and careless and allowed her to gain the advantage and ram him with her blade. Now that her blood was up and the enemy was heading towards where there was another battle in the distance. She shouted, “Forward on!”
Baring cuts and the katarans running through the forest, it was hard to tell the numbers. Still the tribesmen led by the Haida women pushed forward all utilizing the art of Bushida. Lilah had long abandoned her bow and took up a blade. She managed to find the sheika who was holding her own with her loyal right hand man. Things were looking good somewhat and they were driving the Rashikians back. All looked as if were well and they would reclaim their planet.
Suddenly a cry sounded from the east and everyone looked to see more warriors coming, Rashikians. Right behind them was the other half of the Haida women and the Bushida warriors. There were also the warriors from Amshrey. The tide was starting to turn. If only things were going as well in the space battle.
Chapter 18: Confrontations
The battle was intense as the droid army mercilessly fired upon the Republic forces or rather the Avalonian forces. She could hear the battle cries and the cries of death from the transport that brought her to the surface. She briefly wondered if anything would be different but she knew it wouldn’t. All she could do was try. She smiled in a grimace at the thought of her telling that her reason for her disobedience was because of three people, one whom she was trying to save.
The transport dropped to the ground and she jumped out drawing her special lightsaber. She was greeted by one of her generals who gave her a brief rundown of the situation. She nodded and called for the charge forward. The troops rallied behind her and followed as directed fire. It was going to be a long battle.
The memories accosted Ashira as she followed Dragus on the stallion. As much as she tried to remain objective over everything, Siri’s death prevented it. She still blamed herself and still couldn’t face anyone connected. She forced herself to speak to the twins but she wanted to hide from the Jedi. It didn’t help that her nightmares made it worse. Still she brushed it aside and swallowed the pain as she had been taught when she followed Dragus to one of the old transport bays.
Dragus was making his way to one of the shuttlecraft that would head possibly to Coruscant or another planet for him to hide. He didn’t care just as long as he got off. Things didn’t go as they were planned but the pendulum had started to swing. It would only be a matter of time before she would break and the Avalonian forces disintegrated. He was in the middle of clearing out the last of the obstacles when a voice sounded behind him, “Sangtahut. Betrayer. Murderer.”
Dragus turned to find his bitter enemy. He smiled at her with a sadistic grin and replied in false despair, “Oh no please. Have mercy I beg you. It is the way of the Jedi to value all life.”
“Traitor. You would betray your own people just to kill me,” Ashira replied. Her voice was oddly hollow.
“I would do worse, even be behind the attack that killed your Jedi friend, which I did by the way, if it meant killing you. You, the prodigy of the Onasi family, though you do have a bit of his traits as well. Tell me, before you decide to do away with me, did old Petronius ever tell you about me?” Dragus had moved towards some canisters. He knew what was in them and hoped to be able to use them as a distraction.
Ashira gazed at Dragus with her amber eyes, almost as if boring right through him. She knew everything about the Jedi Revan and her descendants; she was one of them. Petronius had told her everything as she grew up in the Jedi Temple, swearing her to keep it a secret. When Dragus mentioned the ‘his’ she was confused but brushed it aside. She was more interested in this person who admitted to killing a Jedi just to get to her. Forming her words carefully, she responded, “I know that you are a traitor to your rank and your people and such are banished to the farthest reaches of space.”
Dragus chuckled at her. It was apparent that she had no clue so he decided to indulge slightly. He replied, “I am the last of a long line of honored warrior aristocrats. For many years my family served our people with honor. It was our duty to honor that had us stripped of rank and all the honor we ever had. All because of the ‘great’ Kirabaros.” He saw the look of confusion on Ashira’s face and smirked at her. He continued, “Kirabaros discovered a plot to murder the Jedi Revan and her Hutt spawn children. Claimed that we were behind the plot.
“Kirabaros never knew what was good for him, always butting in on business that wasn’t his. Funny thing was that we were to kill the one who brought misfortune to our people and in the end we were the ones banished. From that point on a blood oath was sworn to rid our people of the taint to our heritage.”
“Taint? Surely you must realize you are the taint.” Ashira was confused and she tried to hide it. She sensed that this conversation was heading somewhere and it was not going to be pleasant.
“The ‘taint’ is the fact that Kirabaros’ own son bonded to the daughter of Revan,” Dragus retorted. “You are the taint. Your mother was easy to get rid of because she was careless. Either that or she loved you too much. You have proved very elusive, hiding in the Senate and in plain sight. You can’t imagine how long I have dreamed of this moment. Now I can be rid of you and our honor restored.”
Ashira just stood there calmly absorbing the information like a sponge. She knew the stories of Kirabaros and how he helped restore the good relations with the Republic. She knew what it was like to be disliked so much that assassination attempts have been made. That bit was not new to her. As to finding out that she was in some way related to Kirabaros himself, that was new. It was something that she was going to have to drag out of Petronius since he was from that time and knew the reasons for the secrets. What disturbed her was that the man before her was so driven by hate. She just stared at him with an inquiring look before replying, “What kind of honor is that you speak of by murdering those that had no part in those events?”
“You know full well the roots of honor. They run deep.”
“You disgrace honor. You even disgrace the value of honor set by the Mandalorians,” Ashira retorted.
“Mandalorians?! They have no sense in etiquette in the rules of war. How dare you compare us to them!” Dragus was clearly getting angry and he nearly forgot about what was in the plasteel cylinders.
Calmly Ashira replied, “At least they know the meaning of the word loyalty.”
In flash, Dragus flung what was in the containers at her. Ashira ducked out of the way to avoid what appeared to be an acid like substance. She watched as it burned the durasteel floor and almost had her head chopped off with the sudden rush that Dragus gave. By some miracle of the Force she twirled out of the way and brought up her katana to meet the blazing red blade of Dragus’ lightsaber.
Obi-wan managed to catch a ride on a stray Saluki stallion and head in the general direction that Ashira had taken. He was still reeling from the surprise that the Haida woman was Ashira. He had suspected because she couldn’t hide all her tendencies, especially her kindness and compassion to all life forms. Even though he didn’t understand completely Avalonian reasoning, he knew he had to make amends. When she spouted her last words, he knew what Andros had meant about healing the rift.
Daranka was at his heels as they followed in the direction Ashira took. They were running at a neck breaking pace when they were cut off by a woman with golden brown hair and grey eyes. She looked at them both and asked, “Where are you going Jedi when there is battle ahead?”
Obi-wan looked at her for a moment before saying, “I am not heading towards Sheng Xin. I’m going to help another Jedi.” He maneuvered the stallion to go around but again she cut him off.
Selene was curious about the Jedi who was going after the other. For all she knew, he was going to harm her. She was itching for a fight but her rationality kept it in check. She replied, “There is no Jedi that headed that way. If you do not state why you are heading this way, I will have no choice but to fight you here.”
Obi-wan swallowed the frustration that was rising. He vaguely remembered the last time he came to Belos but with Master Qui-gon. That time, they claimed to not know who Ashira was until he spoke the name Zhor had given her. He tried again, “I am trying to reach Nekang. I sense that she might be in trouble.”
Selene relented slightly but didn’t move. She asked, “Why is it that you fear her life may be in danger?”
“I may have caused her anger because I blamed her.” It was an honest answer and it shamed Obi-wan to say that.
“Why do you want to follow her?” Selene asked again. The Jedi was honest but some things had to be put out in the open.
“To help her. To save her from herself.” It was a strange answer and Obi-wan wondered why he said it. If Ashira were there she would have teased him about growing up with an Avalonian and still not being able to interpret the hidden meanings. Obi-wan wanted to chuckle because at one point, she had called him and Siri hopeless cases in understanding the finer subtleties of the Avalonian language, not counting the various dialects. He kept the memories of those pleasant times within as he watched the young woman in front of him.
She possessed the same deadly beauty that Ashira had gained. Judging from her muscle structure, she had been in combat quite a bit and looked as if she enjoyed it. She bore a tattoo on her left upper arm in a intricate design and stared at him with iron gray eyes. Selene regarded his answer. It wasn’t the one that she hoped for but it was a start. She replied, “I see. You are aware that Nekang has to face that which has hounded her since her coming of age, are you not?” She didn’t wait for an answer as she continued. She frankly didn’t care at that point. “Follow me and I will show you the way. One question I want you to answer: how far are you willing to go into this battle?”
Obi-wan looked at her in surprise. He decided against spouting out a Jedi-like response. He decided to say the truth. He replied, “To stay by the side of a comrade and a friend.”
“Good enough,” Selene replied and took off.
Obi-wan followed behind her until he caught up with her. He asked, “What do mean?” Seeing that he wasn’t going to get an answer he tried a different way, “Can you at least tell me your name?”
Chapter 19: Heat of Battle
“Masters, we have engaged the enemy. We have strong reason to believe that one of our own has betrayed us.”
“Certain are you, Jedi Andros?” Yoda asked.
“Yes. They have been countering our aerial maneuvers with the same precision as the Avalonian fleets. I can be certain that they are Rashikians or mercenaries.”
“Then one of our worst fears may be realized. We may lose the Avalonian fleet,” Master Windu replied.
“Not necessarily,” Andros replied, “I have received word that Jedi Miklos has engaged the ground forces and they are pulling back. Also we have been able to break through the space defenses and take out the enemy fighters. Besides, she won’t give up…”
Andros thought about the communications that he had sent to the Council on Coruscant. Surveying the space battle, he could see that the enemy fighters, a mixture of rogue Avalonians and Commander Trask’s fleet, were becoming desperate with the exception of the few battle droids that had been sent by Count Dooku. He caught sight of Anakin’s fighter and three heading at him at an angle he couldn’t possibly see from. He said, “Anakin, three from above.”
Anakin’s fighter pulled up at a steep angle and did a graceful flip to bring the three round about in front. Andros watched as Anakin took out the three fighters with the deadly accuracy that gave him his reputation with the Republic. Andros heard over the comm, “Thanks.”
Anakin’s mind was on the space battle. In the beginning, they were faring badly because the enemy seemed to have the upper hand. He figured that it was just as Andros told him, that someone turned against them. He felt a slight anger at the traitors but he remembered that this was not really his fight. The only reason he was giving it his all because of her, Lady Ashira. His master was down there too fighting but something about Lady Ashira that inspired a sort of loyalty though she tried to discourage it constantly. That and she was like a mother to him since she watched out for him. Little did he know that it was a result of a promise she made to his mother when he left Tatooine. Then she was Senator D’Avignon.
He was jerked out of his train of thought when Andros warned him of three fighters coming to attack him. He pulled his fighter up in a steep vertical and then looped back around behind the three and took them out. He was grateful that Andros was watching his back. He liked the elder Jedi and his brother. They were opposites of each other but when they were put together, they made an interesting combination. Anakin raced his fighter through the hordes of fighters. Behind him formed a small vanguard of Avalonian fighters, Belosian. If anything, Anakin knew that the Belosians fought like there was no tomorrow.
Straight ahead was a huge cruiser ship. It was the command vessel of the enemy fleet. Anakin knew that their main quarry wouldn’t be there but if they could take out the main ship, the enemy forces would have to pull back. Andros agreed with that course of action and was maneuvering the Ebon Hawk into position. The stock freighter was out maneuvering the best the droid and Rashikian army had to offer and was blazing away at the gun turrets. They headed for the main control and observation deck firing everything they had.
The ground forces were unrelenting and seemed to have gotten a second wind with the arrival of Miklos and his troops. They charged in full of zeal with the healers running to take their positions with the others. The first lines of warriors charged with blades drawn. Bringing up the rear were the archers volleying their arrows ahead. Their angles were carefully calculated since the retreating forces were being met by the Haida women and the other tribes, full force.
Miklos met up with Moira who informed him that her people were bunching up the last of the enemy. The droids that were there were nearly piles of scrap. Miklos nodded his acknowledgement and continued to fight. The dirt clung to his skin and he could smell the blood in the air. To be honest he didn’t want to know who had died and who had grievous injuries. To him the war was a distasteful thing that haunted his mind at times. He knew that it haunted his sister. There were nights when he would pass her quarters and hear her whimper in her sleep. Fighting there in that battle, he felt as if he were exorcising those demons for her or rather making it one less battle for her to dream about. He put on a brave face and plunged ahead.
He didn’t have to go far for once they crossed into the valley near the Haida encampment, they came across the herders and their allies. Seeing that they were outnumbered, the Rashikians and Outcasts surrendered. They knew that they had signed on to a fool’s battle, even those that were in the space battle overhead. When this was over, they would be sent back to the far reaches of the Unknown Regions, with some heading for the Outer Rim to wait again until another war happened, at least for the Outcasts, the equivalent of mercenaries and bounty hunters. The Rashikians would go back to plotting to take over the system, a feat that was impossible since the last great campaign decimated their numbers four millennia ago.
Miklos watched as the enemy surrendered their weapons. He figured that the old ways that have stood for over a thousand years still maintained a precedence even with the scoundrels. He figured Ashira to be right when she once said that in spite of everything, Avalonian people always adhered to honor. It didn’t matter that they had blasters and speeders and the like, it mattered what a person could do without it. Thinking of that, his thoughts were diverted to Ashira. She was still out there somewhere and he couldn’t sense her at all. It was as if she had cut him off from her mind through the Force. Either that or she cut herself off.
Moira noticed Miklos staring off, not really paying attention and went to him. She followed his gaze out towards the mountains. She didn’t say anything for a moment. Seeing that he still wasn’t paying attention she said, “Nekang freed the herds but I think that this battle is far from over.”
“She cut me off and more likely my brother too,” Miklos replied. How he knew she was speaking of Ashira, he didn’t. He just needed to say something for he was disturbed.
“How does that saying of yours go? It is the will of the Force.”
The sparks flew and the heat increased as Ashira clashed her blade with Dragus’ lightsaber. She didn’t care at the moment how he managed to learn how to use a lightsaber. What did matter was that she disarm him and take him in. Her blade was smoking from the heat from the repeated clashes but she wasn’t worried for the blades were made to withstand the power of a lightsaber. That was what made them famous throughout the Republic though it took the equivalent of a Jedi Master to be able to wield them effectively. Dragus swung low and she blocked. Impressed Dragus said, “Impressive. I didn’t think you were strong enough to stand against me, much less with a master’s blade.”
“You’ll find that I’m full of surprises,” she retorted and swung and parried against his lightsaber. She relied on the Bushida techniques that Petronius had been training her since she could hold a lightsaber. Deep down, she knew that it wasn’t going to be enough but she let her heart take over.
Dragus countered her moves with relative ease. He thought that she was toying with him by just using the Bushida formations. He wanted to see her use all of her skills since he had heard from Dooku about her abilities. He decided to taunt her, “Bushida formations? Can’t you do anything better?”
Ashira recognized the attempt. She wearily retreated slightly and gazed with a semi-bored expression at him. That made him angry of course and he came at her harder. She countered by reacting faster, so fast that her limbs seemed like a blur. They kept at it until he hit her across the face with a backhand that sent her spinning. He grabbed her from behind only to be given a kick to the face. Ashira backed away and held her position. She said, “At least the old ways hold up in combat.”
“We’ll see,” he replied and charged. Again they clashed with much more heat than the previous clashes. Miraculously they avoided the acid spills from earlier as more smoke filled the air as they clashed. They actually neared the edge of the hangar and it was standing near an outcropping. At one point, they turned away from the edge and headed back in. Dragus could tell that she was faltering and used the opportunity to knock her blade away. As he did, he sent out Force Lightening straight at her.
Ashira’s senses were not dulled from all the fighting. She rolled out of the way just as the lightening struck the ground leaving a scorch mark. She gained balance in a crouched position and was ready for the next round that Dragus sent her way. She imitated the way Yoda had done when he faced Dooku at Geonosis and channeled it through the Force. She couldn’t hold it however as a sudden burst sent her back towards the edge where she hung on. Her first thoughts were that she was in a good fix. She looked up and saw Dragus looking at her. He was grinning at her and he said, “Now I will avenge the family honor,” and he raised his lighted lightsaber.
Chapter 20: Battle’s End
Dragus was about to deliver the blow to end Ashira’s life when he was abruptly shoved aside and into a series of canisters. Taking advantage of the opportunity, Ashira placed her right foot on the wall and gave a push to send her up. She landed to face the last person she expected to see. Her expression was that of surprise providing a good distraction to Dragus who unfortunately couldn’t take it as he was struggling to get his cloak off. He had been sent into several canisters of the same stuff he tried hurling at Ashira. The other problem was that the stuff landed on critical beams supporting the structure and it began eating away at the beams.
Obi-wan saw her look and could tell that she didn’t expect any help. He looked at her and said, “I don’t know about you but I think everyone deserves a fair chance to fight.” He smiled at her.
Ashira just stood there, not comprehending any of it. She was so used to coming to the rescue herself that she never thought that anyone would do the same for her. The only thing that she could squeeze out of her mouth was, “Why are you here?”
“I thought you would need help. I…I also thought that we should make things right between us. When this is over.”
“I don’t hate you. It is not the Jedi way and I know that you never do anything to intentionally harm another. Whatever Dragus said there in that room, he was trying to break you, much like I did with my anger.”
Ashira looked at Obi-wan with an expression that mingled relief with sadness. She was snapped out of it quickly when she raised her hand and Force Pushed Obi-wan out of the way of some falling beams. She summoned her katana and in one continuous motion, she sent it flying where it lodged itself into the chest of Dragus. She watched as he dropped his lightsaber and slumped over dead, the expression on his face. He smiled at her as he died with a knowing look. His darkened eyes bore into hers as he slumped down. Before he died, he asked in Avalonian, “Will you choose our way or the Jedi way?”
Ashira just stood and looked at him, oblivious to the acid melting the beams and weakening the structure. She calmly walked over and pulled the blade out and stood over his body just looking. Her mind felt blank but she was caught in one place in time giving her a dazed look. She sheathed the blade but continued to look at Dragus’ body.
Obi-wan noticed the failure of the structure as he got to his feet. He had watched her reaction and the motions she took to kill the one who betrayed her people. He heard what Dragus had said and saw her respond by just standing there. She didn’t move when the first of the beams began to fall so he ran and grabbed her by the arm and dragged her just as more of the beams began to fall.
Daranka was waiting or them outside with the stallions. Selene had left after showing the way. To her way of thinking, some battles had to be fought by the people who started them. As soon as Obi-wan emerged dragging Ashira with him, Daranka bounced up and ran up to meet them. Ashira was still looking at the hangar with that same look she had when she killed Dragus. Her amber eyes seemed to look right through all the debris, past that to some place beyond and it worried Obi-wan. He had never seen her look like that before so he walked up to her. Placing a hand on her left shoulder he asked, “You alright?”
Ashira turned to look at Obi-wan. Being shorter than him she had to look up at him. Her face, upon seeing him, contorted into a sad expression, mingled with fear. She backed away slowly to get away. She whispered, “I’m sorry.” Turning, she walked up to a stallion, mounted it and took off, leaving Obi-wan standing there wondering what happened.
Looking down, Daranka just looked at him with a curious expression. It looked as if the wolf were asking him, ‘What did you do?’ The nice thing was that wolves don’t talk but just reflected their feelings. Obi-wan just looked at the wolf that was staring at him. He looked at him and said, “What?” He then sighed and said, “I guess it’s not over, this battle I mean.” He then mounted the stallion to head back to the Haida encampment hoping that Ashira would have gone there.
The remainder of the fleet was being pushed back as Anakin and Andros led the troops through the enemy fire. They stood down around the same time Ashira killed their leader, almost as if they knew that their leader was dead. Anakin and Andros wouldn’t find out until later though. Andros thought it an interesting phenomena but his reasoning took over: their was no honor amongst thieves, at least in the sort that were hired.
Andros watched as the enemy stood down and issued their surrender. Anakin was amazed. He just didn’t understand the reasoning behind Avalonian thinking nor their concept of loyalty. The enemy fighters then just took off and headed towards the Unknown Regions. Andros didn’t give the order to follow. There was no point to it. Andros sighed and said, “Enemy is in full retreat. Stand down. How goes it Brother?”
“Enemy has surrendered,” Miklos replied.
“Alright. All troops land on the surface,” Andros replied.
“Are you sure about that?” Anakin asked. “They could come back.”
Andros had forgotten that Anakin didn’t know about the Outcasts and the Rashikians like they did. He replied, “Yes I’m sure. They won’t be coming back for a long time. Land your fleet Skywalker.”
I wonder how Ashira was doing, Andros thought as he brought the Ebon Hawk around for a landing. He felt her cut him off but just before he called for troop landing, he felt a surge of shame and fear from her. That was what worried him. She had never shown that around anyone nor had he felt it before. He hoped that she was all right.
Chapter 21: New Beginnings
The encampment was lively with the troops and the tribesmen mingling a few days afterward. Though they had their differences, they always stood by each other. That was the scene that Obi-wan saw when he made his way through the encampment for the umpteenth time trying to find Andros, Miklos Anakin, anyone that wasn’t from Avalon, at least in terms of being Jedi. Actually he had been trying to find Ashira who seemed to be avoiding everyone lately.
This was the third day of rebuilding of the cities and quenching the fires that raged through them. It also happened to coincide with the festival celebrated yearly, the Festival of New Beginnings, as was translated. That was the reason for the celebration going on in the Haida encampment. It seemed better to hold it there since there were less memories of the ravaging done to the cities and the medicine healers claimed it to be a good location. So the great bonfires and the indabas were set up to allow for dancing and the retelling of the old stories. Looking at it, it looked as if the war never reached Avalon.
Obi-wan was walking through looking when he found Miklos and Andros with Anakin being detained by the Bushida warriors that guarded the capital city at Xao Lin. They were demanding a detailed account of the space battle that had happened. It was something the Jedi would have discouraged, the reveling in the battle and the victory. The Jedi way was to calmly accept that which had come. The Avalonians didn’t see it that way.
Though it was strange, the Avalonians believed that by sharing tales of exploits, they were sharing knowledge. They believed and saw, in the case of the Elders, that battles repeat themselves though under different circumstances. Whereas the Mandalorians saw the glory, they saw the lessons within them. It also gave a sense of appreciation for those that gave their lives willingly in battle. Combined with their philosophical teachings that were similar to the Jedi teachings but differed in areas that would have probably given the older masters a heart attack, it produced a people who saw something in the smallest of things. It also produced people that were annoyingly perceptive. Though they were different, Obi-wan and a few other Jedi understood beyond the level of diplomacy because they grew up with it. Because she taught it to us, he thought as he turned away to let the three tell their tale.
Passing more indabas, Obi-wan gave up and decided to walk to the paddocks. Daranka had been feeling depressed because he couldn’t find his master. He perked a bit when he saw Obi-wan and trotted to meet him at the fence. Obi-wan saw him and gave him a pat and a rub on the head and leaned against the fence to gaze at the river. The wolf just lay at his feet and whimpered slightly. “You miss her don’t you?” Obi-wan asked the wolf. “I do too and I feel like an idiot for being angry at her. You know she is guilty of nothing except for trying to do what she thought was right.”
“Kind words Master Jedi. I hope she has heard them herself.” The voice was soft in the darkness. The figure moved into the light to reveal Selene.
Obi-wan didn’t turn but instead replied, “You planning on following me everywhere?”
“Just coming to tell you that the Council called. They want you to report in the morning.” Selene turned to leave when she stopped and said, “By the way, she doesn’t want to go back.”
That produced the desired result. Obi-wan turned to face Selene and asked, “What?”
“Ashira-Li doesn’t want to return to the Jedi. What is so hard about that?”
“That is not like her. She has always faced the Council’s judgment like how one of your Bushida warriors faces death.” Obi-wan was confused and surprised at this development.
Selene was not moved by the reaction. She hated being the messenger even more than disliking her gifts to sense through emotion. She was even more annoyed that the Jedi in front of her didn’t get the big picture. She responded with more calm than she felt, “That may be true now but maybe that has changed and she has her reasons.”
“Reasons like the fact that I have broken her by shunning her when she did nothing to deserve it. Or how about the fact that she may be blaming herself for Siri’s death when she had nothing to do with that?” Obi-wan matched his composure with hers. He was clearly tired of the mental games that Avalonians played. It made them worse than the Jedi in certain situations. “Tell me if I am wrong.”
Selene looked thoughtfully for a moment. Her Mandalorian half wanted to draw her sword and start a fight. Her Avalonian half stayed her hand. She responded, “I don’t know but maybe you should ask her.” She turned and walked away.
“I would if I knew where she was,” Obi-wan called back. Seeing that he wasn’t going to get an answer he turned back to face the river. He knew he was going to have to tell the Council.
“What do you mean she won’t be coming back?” Master Windu’s face looked rather surprised a bit but he recovered his composure quickly.
“I can only tell you what has been told to me,” Obi-wan responded. It had not gone well at all. First had been the usual business of reporting that the siege of Belos had been ended and the one who coordinated the attack was dead. When Obi-wan mentioned that Ashira-Li wouldn’t be returning, it filled the room with surprise though from Miklos and Andros, it was a mild surprise.
“Disturbing this news is yet to be expected,” Yoda replied. “Feels she does that she must leave but why? Harder to answer.”
“Do you have any idea what may have led to this decision?” Master Windu asked.
“No Master.” It was a lie but Obi-wan was uncertain if he even knew that was the truth. “It was a surprise when one of the warriors spoke to me.”
“Find her you must Obi-wan. Question her, we will.”
“The others will return to Coruscant,” Master Windu added. “May the Force be with you.”
“Yes master,” they all answered in unison.
They left the main hold of the Ebon Hawk to head towards the loading ramp. Anakin sensed that his master wanted to speak to the twins alone so he hurried away. He was slightly disappointed that he wouldn’t be going to find Master Ashira but he could see that it was probably better if Obi-wan did. They knew each other since they were younglings themselves. He only hoped that it wasn’t true what Obi-wan said about her not wanting to go back to the Order.
“You both are not surprised that she would refuse to return to the Temple.” Obi-wan was asking the twins.
“We don’t know her true reasons but we understand to a degree why,” Miklos replied.
“Then maybe you could explain,” Obi-wan retorted.
“That is not our reason to tell,” Miklos responded.
“More of that ‘have to ask her’ reasoning? You know for once I wish you would stop the verbal circles. It can be frustrating.” It wasn’t an angry response. Rather it had a ring of defeat in it.
“You don’t know what it’s like do you?” Andros replied softy. “To know what it’s like to walk by her quarters and hear her whimper because of nightmares. To watch her wander the halls late into the night looking for something that can’t be found.” Andros looked at Obi-wan who was gazing at him with a look of surprise. He continued softly, “She is merely trying to make a new beginning for herself. Maybe you should too.”
Chapter 22: Broken Wounds Heal
Three days passed since the Council sent for Andros, Miklos and Anakin and three days of trekking through the forest back to the cabin that Ashira went to stay in. All that was there when Obi-wan went through it were the datapads that she had left behind, a made bed; virtually a spotless home. Obi-wan was immediately drawn to the datapads and went to sort through them. Daranka went out to the surrounding area, sniffing out the familiar sights.
The first datapads that Obi-wan glanced at were the journal entries of Ashira from the time that Siri had died to the day before she left the cabin. The entries were in Avalonian and in a strange poetic form. Rusty from lack of use, Obi-wan took a few hours to get through all of them. They were worthy of an artist if they were painted in the poem paintings the artisans liked to do. One went:
The willow tree dances on wind
As the river crosses the bend
The time nears of danger felt
The darkside cinching its deadly belt
They were short and verse like, at least the ones that reflected daily activities or the anticipation of battle. The ones that described battle were a little more lively and had more of a hardness to it. It bordered on the craving for violence. Such as:
Smoke clouds the valley plains
Where upon the enemy is slain
Blood seeps on deadened life
Rise up now and take up strife
It was late afternoon by the time Obi-wan finished all of the entries by Ashira before he started on the next pile, which turned out to be Siri’s. He wondered why Ashira would have Siri’s entries briefly but didn’t dig deeper. He figured that it was more for comfort and just scanned through them. The encrypted one got his attention. Looking at the attempts made to break it he figured that Ashira was curious but not too curious.
Peering closer at the encryption code, he recognized it from when he and Siri were kids. They used to send notes to Ashira encrypted the same way. They were things that they didn’t want to get into the hands of the masters. Why Ashira didn’t recognize it made Obi-wan realize that she must have been completely out of it. He entered the codes and opened up the entry. He read it slowly and found out everything.
“I often wondered if you blamed me. I’ve had plenty of people doing that lately.”
“No I don’t. Why would I blame someone who has been a sister to me?”
Ashira looked at the blue outline of Siri Tachi. For a brief moment she thought how pretty she looked under the Judan trees that were in bloom now that the Festival of New Beginnings had come. After defeating Dragus, she returned to her Belosian home and prepared to live a new life. She decided to leave the Jedi because she felt nothing was left to be had there. She was standing at the bridge overlooking the creek in the gardens after being there for a week when she sensed Siri’s presence. They had been talking for a while, just watching the creek. “I would. There were times I wondered what would have happened if I had just obeyed the Council but I know that the same result would have happened anyway.”
“But you know that it was this Dragus who had done it.”
“He may have been the hand but I was the one who arrived too late. I am much to blame.”
“For what? Trying to rescue me? You know better than anyone that a Jedi’s life is sacrifice.”
“Yet the Council doesn’t tell you how much it aches when the bond you share is severed, at least not accurately.”
“Our bond did this to you?”
“The emptiness did,” Ashira gave a slight smile. She started walking towards the roses and other flowers were growing. Her favorite, the jasilyn was fuller this year. She plucked one of the blossoms and held it delicately and gazed at it thoughtfully.
“Yet you have survived. I suppose it is true that the Avalonian people have a heart strong enough to last until the end of time.”
“Where did you hear that?”
“You said it. When we were kids. Right around the time after you met Xanatos on Bandomeer.”
“I remember Bandomeer. Both times. Funny how things come full circle, well I should know better. Everything exists in a delicate balance, even the Force.”
“I remember that lesson. It’s a good one. That is why you must go back.”
“Don’t start on that,” and Ashira turned sharply.
“How can you ignore the fact that you play a big part in the events to come?”
“If I don’t play my part, then they won’t come.” The response had a sarcastic edge to it.
“Look, I know you won’t be happy. If anything, there is one thing holding you back from completely moving on. I know this and I was surprised that you encouraged it in spite of your own feelings but that reflects your giving nature. Besides I knew my time was near. Now it’s time for you to pick up the broken pieces.” Siri’s image faded from view and Ashira was left alone to gaze at the creek.
The thoughts sifted through her mind as she moved to sit on one of the stone benches nearby. Her amber eyes gazed at the silver sheen that was the surface of the water and watched when the weaverbirds swoop down to catch a meal or bathe themselves in the shallow end. She felt a sense of ease but she knew Siri had been right and that was the only thing that weighed her down and that brought regret. She was so deep into her musings that she didn’t hear the footsteps that came up from behind her. She didn’t realize that the person was behind her until a familiar voice spoke softly, “The water is gentler this year. Perhaps because it is a time to start anew.”
Ashira closed her eyes and opened them again slowly. She replied with equal softness, “It is time for new beginnings but old wounds must be healed before that can happen.” She then turned to look up at the one person that she wanted to speak to the most.
Obi-wan saw the same women he met at the Haida encampment but she possessed a gentle grace that had been absent before. In fact it hadn’t been there in a long time. Her outward appearance was different in that she had permanent highlights and she was thinner and more muscular but she was the same person, a caring one. He knew that she was hurting still so he approached the situation carefully. He replied, “What wounds are so terrible that they remain open in light of new beginnings?”
“Anger, distrust, masks; everything that I did.”
“You did what you thought was right. No one can ask more than that.”
Ashira motioned for him to sit beside her. Mostly it was politeness but also she remembered the plotting they used to do especially when she ‘fixed’ the training droids. Obi-wan sat to her left and waited for her answer. He watched as she held the jasilyn blossom and how she avoided eye contact for the moment. He waited until she replied, “What does one do when they have one foot in the Republic and the other in Avalon?”
It was a difficult question to answer. Obi-wan couldn’t answer it so he changed the subject. It was risky but he had to come out and say it. He gazed down at the ground and replied, “I don’t blame you. I was hurting at what happened at Azure. I didn’t realize that you were hurting too and for that I am sorry.” He glanced at her to see her response. Her posture gave him the courage to continue. His gaze reverted to the water and he said, “I know about your feelings now. A friend of ours pointed me in the right direction and I understand.”
The silence that followed was unnerving and Obi-wan began to wonder if he had said the wrong thing. He was about to get up and leave when a small hand patted his right hand. It was a gentle one like when an adult pats a child but held much more meaning. For the first time after he had sat beside her, she glanced at him and just smiled. He relaxed and just sat with her as she said softly, “I’ll return to the Council. There are some things I have to talk to Petronius about.” She then spoke in Avalonian, “Nelae ah te hah.” He just smiled and responded. They continued to talk much like how they did before, mending the wounds that the war had caused them both.
Chapter 23: Forgiveness to the Future
“Dragus is dead my master and the Belosians have defeated us.”
“Yes I know. I foresaw that she would. She truly is powerful as you described Tyrannus.”
“What of the Rendilian fleet, Master? After this the Commander and his fleet will return to the Republic.”
“A necessary loss. As long as she heads the largest armies, more will flock to her.”
“She is not the same.”
“Yes…I can feel it from across the galaxy. Dragus had his use after all. It will be all the more easier to bring her to the dark side of the Force.”
“She will resist. Her will is too strong to be broken that way.”
“The first steps have already been taken. The war is exacting its toll and she will fall if not now, then later.”
It was a quiet evening as the sun set slowly over Belos, excluding a warmth that stretched as far as the eye could see. The river near the villa flowed towards it as if to fuel it to continue its never ending cycle of rising and falling, guiding it to the unknown. The unknown, a point in time that not even the young woman standing at the bridge could foresee given her many talents. She stood there, dressed in the traditional wear of a Belosian noblewoman with her waist length hair trailing down her back, just gazing out as if trying to see what the future held. She was so intent on looking at the setting sun that she didn’t see the robed figure until she heard a light whisper in her right ear, “How do you feel?”
Not leaving her gaze she replied, “It explains a lot. I never would have thought of it; Kirabaros being my ancestor.”
“Knowing who you are is a good thing but that’s not what I meant,” he replied.
“It’s part of it though. For a long time I never knew if I could be as loyal to the Jedi as to my people; I have one foot in each world and it is difficult.”
A smile played on her lips. She replied, “At least I have this to run to after the berating from the Council.” She turned to face a pair of blue eyes that looked at her with a cross between a frown and amusement. Relenting a bit she replied, “I know that I have a place in both worlds but to obey one or the other, it’s not who I am.”
“Maybe that’s why the Council wants you to stay here for awhile until your next assignment.”
“Maybe.” It was an uncertain response. Still there was a benefit to it. “At least you get to keep me company though I am afraid we are too old to be playing tricks on people and Jedi Masters to boot.”
The robed figure let out a slight chuckle remembering the scrapes they used to get into as children. He sighed as he thought about everything that had transpired and the possible ‘whys.’ He noticed that she had turned to face the sun again. He couldn’t help but ask, “So are we ok?” In so doing he fastened a Judan blossom in her hair just as he did at the station before the confrontation.
“To an extent. Only the Force will tell.” She replied softly. It was the truth and it hurt to admit it but she was right. Though they had talked, it takes time to cope with the repair. The bright side was that they could walk amongst a setting that put them both at ease. She sensed though that it was not what he wanted to hear so she added, “I think though that our time here has mended things. Belos has that way of doing that. That is why it is called the ‘Land of Forgiveness.’”
He just smiled at her brief stint with history. Growing up with an Avalonian had its perks and she was one of them for she never missed a chance to point out a different view of the galaxy. He could understand better how similar the Avalonians were to the ideals of the Jedi and could see her confusion. He often berated himself for not seeing it before but always told himself that she had forgiven him, at least he thought so. She never said it fully but her manner towards him indicated that she had. Thinking of these things he said, “So you forgive me then?”
“Already did.” She was smiling a little shyly but maintained her composure facing the river. She changed the course of the conversation by asking, “So, what’s the betting on how long we are stuck here though I think the Hawk is up for a good run.”
Shaking his head slightly, he responded, “I’m not going there with that one. Besides you gave your solemn oath that you would stay put. Isn’t it part of an Avalonian’s honor to keep their word?”
She scowled slightly when she turned to face him again. She replied imitating Zhor’s voice, “I see you’ve learned how to invoke the honor system of the Avalonians. We’ll make you into a warrior yet.” She then smiled to let him know she was teasing him.
He looked at her bemused. She looked happy there among her people. He briefly wondered if it was wrong that she had been forced to live on Coruscant all her life. He pushed that aside when he caught her frowning at him slightly, as if trying to read his thoughts. He then said, “Keep staring like that and someone will push you in.” He motioned to the river.
She smirked and said, “Don’t try it, flyboy.”
“You forgot already? I called you that because you don’t like flying,’ and she smiled a sweet innocent smile. It was taunting him with her hidden meaning, You try that and I’ll do something worse. It was something she did when the younglings tried to play a joke on her.
Knowing what she was saying he let it drop and instead diverted his gaze to the stars that were now starting to show. He said, “So you forgive me but what does the future tell?”
She gazed at the forming stars and used a familiar phrase, “Always in motion. What was there yesterday has changed today and will change again tomorrow.”
Making a bold move, he trapped her against the railing with both his arms on either side. He was still looking up at the stars as if trying to see harder. He looked with a puzzled frown and said, “I can see the war ending but not the actual outcome.”
She had been surprised by his sudden move and had tensed a bit. She then allowed herself to relax. She gazed up and saw what he saw but she saw the actual outcome. It saddened her and she knew that she would have to act quickly once she returned to Coruscant. She didn’t say anything about that but said, “I see it too but as to what happens, only our actions will bring us there.” She then lowered her head to follow the river as it fueled the future and placed her hands on the rail of the bridge. She then felt a gentle touch on her hands; a slight caress that stopped and the hand remained on top of hers.
He left his hands on top of hers and just followed her gaze. He said softly, “Then I guess we let the Force work as it wills.” He was surprised when her response was that she leaned slightly back into him. She said nothing but continued to watch. He thought for a moment. Time would do them both a great service and they had that until they were sent for and he wanted to gain her trust again. He just stood there with her watching the river flow towards an unknown destination but off into the future. He vaguely remembered her once saying that only the journey one takes is written, not the destination. The destination was the future though what it would bring would depend on if the wounds had been healed enough. That was the real destination.
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