[FIN] Star Wars: Incarnation of Evil
Original thread for comments can be found here: Star Wars: Incarnation of Evil
Significant changes: Riebe Sothe is now Reibé Vailar and the title of the story is set, never to change again.
Tanith Vessa is dead. The young Jedi could scarcely believe it. In an instant, his former master was at his side.
"Jast?" the master said quietly. "Jast, are you alright?"
The young Knight stood slowly from where he'd been crouching over a blackened spot in the dirt. Slowly, the darkness there faded.
"She..." Jast stammered.
"Vessa?" the master questioned. Jast nodded and stared at the lightsaber in his hand. The master tried to take it from him, but Jast's grip tightened around it, crushing it completely.
"Anything that was hers should be destroyed," he growled, glaring at his former master.
"Was..." the master murmured. "You mean she's dead? Where's the body?"
"Gone," Jast answered, returning his gaze to the floor. "So deep was her corruption that when she died, her body disintegrated."
He turned abruptly and left the large building he'd been in. Kirnam Vanzin, Jast's former master followed after him, still pressing him with questions.
"You killed her, Jast?" he asked. Jast nodded.
"She underestimated me," he answered. "Tried to toy with me."
"You are angry," Vanzin noted. Jast hesitated.
"I am angry with myself, Master Vanzin," he finally answered. "I was weak. I didn't give her a chance to surrender."
"She wouldn't have," Vanzin offered helpfully. "She would have forced you to kill her."
"Maybe," Jast agreed, "but I allowed my anger for the loss of Tarika to get the better of me."
"And I sense you are a better Jedi now for what you have done," Vanzin said. "Do not trouble with the past. It is over. Tanith Vessa is dead. Once more, at least for a little while, the galaxy can live in peace."
Jast nodded and the two Jedi headed for their ship.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"Tanith Vessa was a formidable woman," Vanzin told his audience, the Jedi Council. "As beautiful as she was deadly. She led the Sith for three years, always evading our grasp and gathering information from us by seducing our students. She had a powerful grasp of the Dark Side of the Force."
"We know all this," one of the masters said wearily. "What is your point in mentioning it?"
"I am here to suggest that my former padawan, Jast Kevannis be given the rank of Master for killing this woman," Vanzin answered boldly. The Council was shocked to silence.
"Master Vanzin, this is not something we can allow," one of them finally said. "Jast Kevannis struck Tanith Vessa down in anger. We all sensed it."
"Knight Kevannis will never make Master," another agreed firmly. "We were considering exile for him, but since he did scatter the Sith, we will not go this far."
Master Vanzin nodded, knowing there was nothing he could do to change the Council's mind.
"Of course, Masters," he said, bowing. "I shall leave you to your business."
With that, he made his departure.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
The Dark Side of the Force was angered by the loss of its most loyal tool. The woman, Tanith Vessa had been struck down by a lucky Jedi... but luck was about to return to the Sith. At her death, Tanith's body had completely disintegrated, flowing into the Force with her life-energy and her Darkness. That Darkness was very angry now.
Slowly, in a small, poorly lit room on Korriban, tiny particles swarmed together. Blackness flowed around the assembling particles and soon the room was filled with a thick, black fog. From the center of the fog came an inhuman scream, a scream full of rage and pain. Sith students gathered, startled, but curious to know the meaning of this unnerving noise.
The screaming stopped and the students took a step back. The door opened and Tanith Vessa staggered out, pale, dripping wet, and furious. Her blonde hair was plastered to her face and neck, but her dark blue eyes blazed with a near unnatural fire that caused the students to take another step back.
For several long moments, they stood there, staring at her in astonishment. She stared back, her rage building. Finally, she managed to speak.
"Lightsaber," she rasped. "Where... is it?"
"Lady Vessa," one of the older students said, stepping forward slightly. "Our masters were unable to retrieve your lightsaber as it was destroyed..."
In less than a second, Tanith's right hand was wrapped around the young man's neck. "Destroyed?" she snapped. The boy choked, unable to respond. With a yell of rage, Tanith threw the boy effortlessly toward the opposite wall and he hit it with a sickening thud before dropping lifeless to the floor.
"Where are your masters?" Tanith snapped. When none of the students answered, she screamed, “WHERE?"
Jast Kevannis bolted awake, eyes wide. It was a nightmare, he tried to tell himself... nothing more than his conscience playing tricks on him for killing Tanith by anger. But the logical part of his mind couldn't accept this.
Tanith Vessa was alive and she was very angry with him.
Six months earlier...
"Kevannis!" The voice was sharp and startled Jast out of his thoughts. "Understand that, when you face Sith, you face death. In light of that, you cannot be daydreaming so constantly."
Jast frowned at the speaker. "I'm sorry Padawan, but I don't know your name." He stared at her for a moment before continuing. "I was instructed to wait here until my dueling trial-master should arrive."
"Your dueling trial-master is here," was the quick reply. "My name is Reibé Vailar."
"Is this some kind of joke?" Jast demanded incredulously, getting to his feet and approaching Reibé. From his height of six feet, he towered over her by nearly a foot. "You can't be more than seventeen!"
"Run my name through your head until you understand," she told him, staring directly into his eyes and somehow managing to be intimidating, even from her short height. Jast did as he was told and took a step back.
"Sith Hunter?" he gasped. She nodded.
"Their leader," she agreed. "Lesson number one; never underestimate your opponent, no matter what they look like."
"I am sorry, Hunter Vailar," Jast said, bowing slightly. "As I have never seen you before, there is no way I'd have known..."
"You should be sorry for yourself," Reibé interrupted. "That you were arrogant enough to assume I was nothing more than a student."
She circled him slowly. "How are you with a blade?"
"One of the best," Jast answered immediately. "None of the other padawans can..."
"Begin," Reibé cut in. Before Jast quite understood what was happening, he found himself flat on his back, a burnt-orange lightsaber blade in his face. Shaking her head slowly, Reibé deactivated her saber and reached out to help Jast stand. He refused the hand, calling on the Force to spring back to his feet.
"Lesson number two; always be on your guard," the Sith Hunter told Jast. He laughed.
"What, I'm still learning?" he retorted. Reibé looked at him disapprovingly.
"A person is never done learning," she answered. "Even I, after 300 years of constant training and fighting. I'm sure there are things I can learn from you."
"I doubt it," Jast was quick to say. Reibé merely smiled.
"Everyone has something to offer," she said. "What are you good at, Jast?"
"Dueling," Jast answered immediately. Without a word, Reibé activated her saber once more. Jast switched on his blue saber and attacked. They sparred for a few moments before Reibé spoke.
"Lesson number three," she said. "If you can surprise your opponent, do so."
With that, she activated the second blade of her staff, cutting at Jast's legs with it while blocking his sideward slash. Surprised, he jumped up and back, avoiding her blades entirely. Before he had time to recover, she was on him again, saber flashing at him almost too quickly to catch. Still trying to retreat, Jast barely managed to deflect the majority of her blows. The ones he missed singed his clothes, proving exactly how much control this woman had.
Suddenly, Jast, tripped and lost his grip on his lightsaber. It skittered away across the hard floor and Jast again found himself staring at a burnt-orange blade. A few moments passed and Reibé still kept her blade in his face. Finally, she pulled away and again offered her hand to him. Again, he leapt to his feet, calling his lightsaber to his hand as he did so.
"Understand this," Reibé told him, "you will not likely find yourself in combat with one as well trained as I am."
She attacked slower this time, allowing Jast the time to consider her attack strategy and counter it. Then, she surprised him, deviating from her former strategy and attacking him in an entirely different way.
"Lesson number four; be prepared for anything," she said. "Don't get so caught up in routine you don't see your opponent's movements have changed."
"Reibé!" a voice called from the door. She turned.
"We are needed?" she asked. The man at the door nodded.
"Tanith Vessa," he answered. Reibé groaned and hurried toward the door, deactivating her lightsaber and hooking it to her belt.
"Schutta won't give up!" she growled, rushing out the door.
"Did I..." Jast called after her.
"You pass!" she yelled back to him, already out the door. "You pass!"
Moments later, Master Vanzin entered the room to find Jast sitting at its center, staring into nothing.
"I passed," he said quietly as his master approached him.
"Sith Hunter Vailar has a powerful voice," Vanzin chuckled. "The entire Temple knows. Congratulations... Knight Kevannis."
"Kevannis," a voice called. Jast turned. It was a stranger, a Sith Hunter, Jast assumed by the small patch on his cloak. It had a white 'S' curled around a white 'H' on a black background.
"What is it?" Jast asked the stranger.
"Our leader wishes to speak with you," the man said.
"Lead the way," Jast agreed, nodding. The man turned and led Jast out of the Jedi Temple to a waiting speeder. Reibé was seated inside. The other Sith Hunter bowed to her and stepped aside, letting Jast into the speeder.
"Take a ride with me, Kevannis," Reibé said after nodding to the other Hunter. Jast observed that the man was not getting into the speeder with them. This would be between Jast and the leader of the Sith Hunters alone. Slowly, Reibé pulled the speeder into traffic. Just when Jast was settling in, Reibé forced the speeder into a dive.
"My blackened stars!" Jast exclaimed, gripping at the side of the speeder and planting his feet firmly on the floor to prevent himself from falling forward and out of the speeder.
"The stars are not yours," Reibé commented, "nor are they blackened... though I suspect Tanith Vessa wouldn't mind much if they were."
"You know then..." Jast murmured, turning to stare at her. She nodded.
"I know," she agreed. "All of us Hunters felt her return."
The speeder straightened out and skimmed along the street. Then, abruptly, Reibé stopped it and hopped out, falling lightly forty feet to the ground. Jast Stared at her for a moment before following.
"Your fall was a little choppy," Reibé told him as he landed in a crouch next to her. "Try to refine it a little next time."
"Where are we?" Jast asked, choosing to ignore her words.
"In troubled times, the Sith Hunters gather on Coruscant," Reibé answered. Then, she looked over at him. "These are troubled times, Kevannis."
She led him through a door nearby and he glanced back in time to see three other speeders glide down to hover by theirs and three humans dropped out of them and followed Jast and Reibé.
"There were once ten of us," Reibé told Jast. "Two were killed as we escaped from the Sith for the first time. One was killed when the Sith discovered a way to use our genetic alterations against us. One was captured, tortured, and killed by Tanith Vessa."
"And that leaves..." Jast began.
"There are six of us remaining," a new voice said. Reibé opened a door and allowed Jast to enter. She came in behind him and closed the door.
"Jast Kevannis," she said, "I want you to meet my two closest friends. The one who spoke is called Craig. The other is Jokemaster."
"Code names," Jast pointed out.
"Strider Flamehart," the taller, black haired man said. He had blue eyes and stood at around six feet tall. The shorter one also had blue eyes and black hair, but his face was a bit friendlier than Flamehart's.
"I'm Jokemaster," he said, grinning slightly. Reibé looked at him reproachfully.
"Alright!" he exclaimed, throwing his hands up in surrender. "Jack Bauer."
"Just entering, we have Aysana Veila, Cannus Bensch, and Biral Corvan," Reibé said. Jast turned to greet the newcomers and Reibé told him, "We are all aware of you."
"Let the council begin," Flamehart said solemnly. Reibé nodded and took a seat, gesturing for Jast to do the same.
"We have invited Jast Kevannis to this council because he is the one that killed Tanith Vessa the first time," Reibé said.
"Agreed," the other Sith Hunters said in unison.
"Kevannis," Reibé said, turning to Jast. "Tell us your story."
Jast nodded and leaned back in his chair. "My encounter with Tanith Vessa was one of tragedy..."
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
One week earlier...
My former master and I were sent on a mission to investigate theft on a border world, or rather, how common it was. We were sent there with another Master, Kalara Teer and my best friend, Tarika Tayblin.
"You seem distracted, Jast," Tarika observed quietly. Jast nodded.
"Something doesn't feel right about this mission," he told her. She brushed her curly reddish-gold hair out of her face and stared at him with her pale green eyes. Slowly, she blinked and nodded.
"You feel this is more than just the locals stealing from one another," she said.
"The Dark Side is here, Tarika," Jast said boldly. "Can you not feel it?"
"We all do, Jast," Master Vanzin interrupted. "It's why the Council sent two teams instead of one."
"The Sith are behind this, aren't they?" Jast asked quietly.
"We saw a Sith raider leaving just a few minutes ago," Kalara Teer agreed.
"I put a tracer on it," Vanzin said. "But we ought to split up. Jast, you and Tarika should stay together. Master Teer and I will split up. We'll have three groups looking everywhere. If Tanith Vessa shows up, we ought to face her together. Understood?"
"We'll keep our eyes open, Master," Jast agreed. "Let's go, Tarika."
We spent three hours searching the city and then Master Teer called for assistance. Tarika and I arrived just in time to see Tanith Vessa thrust her lightsaber through Kalara's chest. Tarika screamed and Vessa turned to us.
"Well, well," she said. "Jedi children? I was hoping for another Master, but..." She shrugged as if to suggest there wasn't much she could do about it.
"There is no emotion," Tarika murmured, seething with anger at seeing her master cut down so easily.
"There is peace," Jast completed, putting a hand on her shoulder. "You don't have to give in, Tarika."
"I already have, Jast," Tarika answered quietly. She looked up at him.
"Please," Jast pleaded, knowing that his words would be ignored, even if he admitted, "I.. I love you, Tarika. Come with me."
"Peace is a lie!" Vessa shouted. "There is only passion!"
"Sith lies," Tarika snapped. "I've had enough!"
"Tarika! Don't!" Jast shouted, but Tarika had already leapt forward, drawing her harsh yellow lightsaber while calling her master's blue saber to her other hand. Vessa's single dark blue blade deflected both of Tarika's and, faster than Tarika could gasp, the dark blue blade was driven through her stomach.
"Oh, how I love stomach wounds," Tanith remarked as Tarika tried weakly to remain standing, one hand draped over Tanith's shoulder. Tanith took a step back and Tarika groaned, falling to the ground.
"What now, boy?" Tanith asked, switching her lightsaber from hand to hand. "Are you going to try stopping me too? Or will you just let me go?"
"Letting you go's not an option," Jast seethed. Tanith laughed and used the Force to seal off the entrance to the building, closing them in.
"You'll have to catch me first," she taunted. Then, she vanished, but Jast heard her laughter and footsteps rushing up the stairs.
I took my own lightsaber, and the lightsabers of Tarika and Master Teer and chased Tanith Vessa all over that building and then up to the roof. She continued taunting me, calling me a failed Jedi for having loved and now for attacking her in anger. I fought back... I was the only one of the three of us who'd managed to give her a run for her money, but I was getting tired. Methodically, she rid me of my own lightsaber and that of Master Teer, which left me using Tarika's.
"Anger is all I have left," Jast snapped. "You took everything else!"
"I wonder what your master thinks of being considered nothing," Tanith retorted. Jast said nothing, but redoubled his efforts to strike her down. They sparred in silence for another moment longer. Then, Tanith said, "Goodbye, Jedi."
She drove her lightsaber down hard on his and they locked. Suddenly, Tarika's blade shattered and Jast went tumbling backward, the hilt skittering away across the floor.
"Didn't see that coming, did you?" Tanith taunted as Jast struggled to his knees. Suddenly, everything hurt.
"Can't give up," he murmured.
"You've already failed," Tanith pointed out, coming to stand directly in front of him. "You may as well give up."
Summoning the last bit of strength and anger he had in him, Jast drove his head into Tanith's stomach, propelling her backward. Startled, she lost her balance. Jast ripped her lightsaber from her hands and, as she hit the ground, he pounced, driving her own lightsaber through her stomach. She choked and gasped as the blade burned through her.
"What?" Jast growled. "Don't you like stomach wounds?"
Coughing slightly, she gave him a weak smile. "Would've... looked better... on... you..."
Jast stared at her, suddenly realizing why he'd beaten her. Before he had much time to consider it, her eyes closed slowly and the Dark Side of the Force reclaimed its loyal servant. Her body disintegrated and scattered and a powerful wave of the Force washed over Jast.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
"It pulled me into reality," Jast told the Sith Hunters. "I had nearly fallen to the Dark Side. It's what Vessa wanted."
A heavy silence filled the room. Then, Reibé shifted.
"We will take a recess," she said quietly. "Come back in half an hour."
“Your success in killing Tanith Vessa has taught us two things,” Reibé said when Jast and the other Sith Hunters had come back to the circle of chairs. “But before I get to that, you need to understand something about the Sith Hunters.”
“We are warriors,” Aysana said quietly. “Taken captive by the Sith three hundred years ago, we were genetically altered and in some cases cybernetic enhancements were added. We age approximately one year for every thousand and have been constantly training and fighting since we left the Sith.”
“Thank you, Aysana,” Reibé said. Turning to Jast, she said. “You defeated Tanith Vessa when one who had three hundred years of training could not. That tells me our friend was arrogant and cocky and so are we. We are back to training, Kevannis and we want you to train with us. Vessa will be stronger now, having returned from the dead. She will be more than she was.”
“When does our training begin?” Jast asked.
“It begins here,” Reibé answered. “Now. The Jedi know you will be with us for the next three months at least. They have given their permission for you to be here.”
“Then let us begin,” Jast said firmly.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Lady Vessa,” a young Sith warrior said cautiously, entering Tanith's workshop. He ducked to avoid a Force-propelled scrap of metal hurled in his direction.
“I'm busy!” Tanith snapped. Her back was to him and she was hunched over a workbench, her face nearly touching whatever she was working on and her blonde hair was uncharacteristically in a simple ponytail, draped over her left shoulder.
“Oh, you'll like this interruption,” the young man said. Sighing, Tanith straightened and turned to face him.
“What is it, then?” she asked, sounding more like a bored teenager than a 29 year old Sith leader. She caught sight of a dark blue crystal in his hand and her eyes lit up.
“Yeah, that's right,” he said, nodding. “We found another shard of the type of crystal you had in your old lightsaber...” He hesitated for a moment. “It'll work, right?”
Tanith took the shard and examined it closely for a moment. A wide grin spread over her face and she nodded.
“Oh, I was trying to synthesize another,” she explained, glancing over at the workbench. “But you... oh!” She excitedly threw her arms around him. Startled and a little nervous, he flinched and returned the hug. Tanith pulled away, taking the dark blue gem to the workbench and resumed her work. The young man stared at her back for a moment before turning to the door.
“Oh, one more thing,” Tanith called, still working. The young man turned.
“Yes, Lady Vessa?” he asked.
“That... display,” she said, turning again to face him. Shaking her head solemnly, she went on, “Never happened. Right?”
“Of course not, Lady Vessa!” the young Sith warrior exclaimed, blushing slightly. He bowed and left, allowing Tanith to return to her work.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Jast opened one eye and glanced around the room. He and the Sith Hunters had been sitting in the same position for nearly three hours, sharing their knowledge of the Force through a Force link that connected all seven of them. They learned from him and he learned from them.
We have shared, learned, and taught. The voice was a combination of all of their voices. The day is over. The night comes on. We need rest.
“Then let us get it,” Reibé spoke aloud. She rose slowly. “Jast, come with me.”
Jast followed her out of the room. “The connection,” he began.
“I know,” Reibé interrupted. “It's still there. It will be until you leave us.”
We intend to fight Tanith Vessa with our one joined mind. The inclusion of one who defeated her once already will help us. We see her weaknesses. We see her strengths. Together, we can defeat her.
“Together, we will defeat her,” Jast said aloud. Reibé nodded.
“Yes, we will,” she agreed. They left the building and jumped up to the speeder they'd left hovering forty feet above the ground.
We will gather again in the morning to begin the physical practice of our knowledge.
“Where do we go now?” Jast asked Reibé. Before she answered, he said, “Don't say. I know. I am joined to you.”
We scatter. Two go to Reibé's apartment. The rest scatter as normal.
The rest of the trip was spent in relative silence. The comfortable droning of seven different trains of thought remained and Jast fell asleep to it. When they reached Reibé's apartment, her train of thought nudged Jast out of his sleep and he followed her in.
We sleep now. Re-gather in the morning.
Again to the droning, Jast fell asleep. Three hours later, Reibé also slept.
A lightsaber blade came to life, lighting Tanith Vessa's face with a red glow as she stared thoughtfully at its owner. She seemed almost bored as she regarded the young man who'd agreed to be her sparring partner... a foolish decision, but the fool wouldn't know that until it was too late.
“What is it about a red blade you Dark Jedi love so much?” she asked, turning slightly to remain facing the young man as he circled her. “It's not a very pretty color, you know.”
A sneer came to the man's face. “Pretty?” he scoffed. “It's not meant to be pretty! Red is the color of blood.”
“So?” Tanith inquired, now sounding even more bored than she looked.
“So, blood is something we like to shed!” the man explained, raising his saber and charging at Tanith. Quicker than he could react to, she used the Force to nudge his saber slightly to the side, completely missing her. Then, just as fast, she wrapped her right arm around his waist, lightsaber pointed in toward his side. A cry of pain echoed in the large dueling arena as a deep blue blade pierced the man's side and came out the other.
“That we do,” Tanith whispered in his ear. She deactivated her saber and kicked the dying man to the ground, watching as his lightsaber skittered away from his dying hand. “That we do.”
Clipping her new lightsaber to her belt, she turned to the sole spectator and smirked. “I guess it works.”
The young woman smiled. “Just as well as you'd expected, I see.”
Tanith shrugged. “He desperately needed that lesson,” she suggested. “So unfortunate it had to be his last.”
“That sort of lesson wasn't your last,” the girl pointed out. Tanith shook her head.
“No, it wasn't,” she agreed. “And that is why the Jedi will not survive.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“You are not focused, Kevannis,” Reibé scolded, shaking her head solemnly. They stood with the other Sith Hunters in a large, empty room, lightsabers active. Jast held his hazy yellow blade at the ready and nodded.
“Forgive me, Hunter Reibé,” he said. “Any thought of Tanith Vessa reminds me of Tarika. It is too much.”
“Clear your mind,” Reibé told him. “We begin again.” Turning to address Craig, she said, “Brother, if you don’t mind?”
Craig nodded and announced, “Initiate random attackers, multiple skill levels.”
Suddenly, the room was not empty. Several adversaries flashed into place and Reibé spoke. “When we face Vessa, we will enter into combat with one mind. Fight as one. We join now in preparation.”
We are joined. We have one mind, one voice.
But one of them had a separate voice. Jast announced firmly, “Include simulation of Tanith Vessa. Set her to watch…”
The voices began to agree and all of them began to speak in unison. “… as her supporters battle us. When we finish with them, Vessa will engage.”
“Commands confirmed,” the computer announced. “Multiple voice patterns in accordance. Vessa will remain spectator until followers are disabled.”
“Begin,” they ordered. Vessa’s followers sprang into action. The Sith Hunters and Jast remained connected and began the fight. They dominated the room, destroying their opponents before they had a chance to react. As they spun, flipped, and engaged the ‘grunts’, as Jast called them, Jokemaster noticed and pointed out to the others that Vessa was nowhere in sight. But when her Dark Jedi followers were destroyed, she entered the room through a holographic door.
“My, my,” she remarked coolly. “I hadn’t expected you to get this far.”
“We did not come to talk,” the Hunters and Jast told her in unison. “We cannot let you remain in power.”
“This I know,” Tanith said, nodding slightly. “But a little chat won’t kill you.”
“A little chat will separate us,” the common mind said through seven mouths. “It is what you want. It is what we will not allow.”
And just as she had when Jast fought her the first time, Tanith Vessa laughed and announced, “Well, you’ll have to catch me!” With that, she slipped out the door behind her.
We follow her as one…
“Hey, there!” Reibé yelled angrily as Jast broke the connection and sped off in pursuit of the holo-Vessa.
“End simulation,” Craig sighed at the same time. The simulated walls and dead bodies faded away, leaving Jast and the Hunters in a large, open room. Annoyed, Jast deactivated his lightsaber.
“How can we hope to succeed when you end the sim every time we get to her?” he demanded.
“How can we hope to succeed when you run after her, hot-headed because she killed your girlfriend?” Reibé shot back. “If we’re going to succeed, this can’t be about revenge, Kevannis.”
“Revenge?” Jast exclaimed. “I already got my revenge. I killed Vessa the first time, remember?”
“But your strike did not leave her dead forever,” Craig countered. “Therefore, you feel your revenge has come undone.”
“Don’t deny it, kid,” Jokemaster added. “The current companionship you find yourself with have had three-hundred years to fine tune our senses to this sort of thing.”
Jast said nothing, which was further confirmation of what the Sith Hunters had already sensed. Reibé sighed.
“Alright, Kevannis,” she said slowly. “As you know, we have updated the Tanith Vessa program with as much extra power as we believe she has gained by returning to life. When you have lost the simulation enough times to recognize your foolishness, let us know.”
With that, the Sith Hunters filed out of the room. Just as Reibé approached the door, she told the system, “Initiate the Vessa program. When Kevannis utters the words, ‘I give up’, end the program.”
“And what if I defeat her?” Jast demanded. The Sith Hunters laughed and Reibé stepped out of the room. The door slapped shut behind her, leaving Jast Kevannis alone with a simulation he was sure he could beat.
The first time Jast fought the Vessa simulation, her eyes narrowed in recognition. Then, she laughed and approached, lightsaber still clipped to her belt.
“I know you,” she said pleasantly. “You’re that lucky Jedi kid who killed me not long ago.”
Jast drew his saber. “I called on my anger, seeking revenge. You won’t find me so impulsive this time.”
“Oh?” Tanith chuckled, raising an eyebrow. “Well, you won’t find me so foolishly arrogant this time.”
“You calling yourself arrogant?” Jast wondered, smiling. “Come on, already. We both know you hate my guts because I managed to do something that even a three-hundred year old couldn’t do. I killed you.”
Tanith’s dark blade sprang to life. “How can I hate you?” she asked. “You didn’t kill me. You gave me new life.”
Startled at this revelation, Jast didn’t even see her strike coming and in seconds the simulation reset itself. Ten tries later, he had gotten no further. Still determined to win, he tried a different tactic.
“If you can’t beat ‘em,” he said, shrugging slightly as Tanith glared incredulously at him. He assumed she knew the rest of the saying.
“Join them,” she completed, confirming his assumption. “The Sith have a form of the phrase also. If you can’t beat them, join them... until you can.”
And she ended his holographic life without a second thought. Finally feeling defeated, he muttered, “I give up.” Instantly, the simulation ended and Reibé entered the room.
“Now you see why it’s so important for us to work together,” she said. Jast nodded slowly.
“Yes, Master,” he grumbled, refusing to look at her.
“I am not your master, Jast Kevannis,” she told him sharply. “Do not say it again.”
Feeling very childish and uncooperative, Jast sneered and in an attempted innocent tone, he wondered, “Mother?”
Reibé was not amused. “I am not your Master, not your mother, not your aunt, cousin, grandmother, or caretaker. Bar training and age, you and I are nearly identical.”
“I’m a man,” Jast objected, still being stubborn. Reibé used the Force to slam him into the wall behind him.
“You’re a childish brat,” she snapped. “You thought you could defeat a woman you killed once before. Now that you’ve failed, you throw a fit and evade the contact we’ve worked so hard to build with you.”
Jast glared at the floor, but said nothing.
“Jast, look at me,” Reibé ordered. When he did not comply, she slammed him against the wall again. “Look at me!”
Obediently, his eyes rose to meet hers. Then, tears formed and he collapsed. Reibé allowed him to settle to the ground and went to him, taking his head in her lap.
“I know what it’s like to loose a person you care so much about,” she said softly. “There were once ten Sith Hunters. We were a family. I was their mother, in a way, but we never referred to it as such. We were all brothers and sisters. Now, only six of us remain. Four times, I’ve had to deal with loss.”
“It’s different,” Jast whispered. “I loved her.”
“You still do,” Reibé reminded him. “And while Tanith Vessa took her from you, you cannot let her loss take your logic, your mind. If you do that, none of us will survive and Vessa will achieve what the Sith have desired most for as long as I can remember... galactic domination.”
Jast closed his eyes, seeking to calm his emotions. Slowly, he opened his dark blue eyes. “We can’t let that happen,” he concluded. Reibé shook her head in agreement.
“Let’s rejoin the others,” she encouraged. Together, they stood and left the room.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Over the next week, the Sith Hunters and Jast continued to train. Thanks to several more long discussions with Reibé, he was able to let go of his anger and desire for revenge. Finally, he allowed himself to let go of his rage of loosing Tarika and realized he had been angry with himself more than with Tanith. If only he’d been quicker to attack, perhaps he could have saved her life. Now, he realized he could not have done anything different.
Meanwhile, Tanith was learning better how much power she really had now that she’d come back to life. The Dark Side surrounded her, keeping her safer than any protection might come close to. If she got shot, the Dark Side healed her before she could fall to the ground. If she broke an arm or a leg, the Dark Side corrected the shattered bone in a matter of seconds. With a surprised laugh, she realized there was nothing she couldn’t do.
With that realization, she decided it was time to move against the Jedi... and the Republic.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
When the Sith Hunters learned of Tanith’s increasing movements on the Outer Rim, their training and testing increased in both time and intensity. They had to be ready. After a month of testing themselves against the more powerful Tanith Vessa program, they felt as if they were getting somewhere. Then, reports came in of Vessa walking through a literal firestorm of blaster bolts and coming out the other side unharmed. Disturbed, the Sith Hunters altered their simulation to include this strange behavior and began to realize that killing the Dark Lady would not be an option.
“We must come up with another option,” Aysana said during one of their many discussions. “If we cannot kill her, there must be another way to end her rampage before it’s too late.”
“The Sith are getting altogether too powerful,” Cannus agreed. “With an invulnerable leader...”
“Everyone is vulnerable somehow,” Reibé snapped, agitated. “Even Tanith Vessa. We just don’t know how.”
“I’d give anything to see her in action before we have to face her,” Biral murmured, glancing around the table at her companions. Craig shook his head thoughtfully.
“We may not have that option,” he said. “She’s moving Coreward at an increasingly rapid pace. We can’t observe and train for much longer.”
“Judging her current rate of conquer, she’ll be to Coruscant within three months,” Jast observed, looking over data of Vessa’s recent conquests. “The Jedi are growing increasingly agitated, realizing they can’t do anything about it.”
“Cut off the head, the snake dies,” Reibé muttered. “What’s her weakness?”
“Look...” Jast murmured. He had found a holo-recording of the previously discovered feat of walking unharmed through a hail of blaster fire. He watched in partial horror as Tanith was struck by several bolts. She staggered slightly, but regained her balance and pressed forward. As quickly as her skin was singed, it repaired itself. Blast after blast slammed into her, but none of them left a lasting mark.
“The Dark Side,” Reibé whispered, staring in awe at the playback. “It’s healing her, repairing any damage done.” A slight shiver ran through her. “There’s nothing we can do against that...”
“Isn’t there?” Jokemaster asked mysteriously. Craig gave him an odd look and returned his eyes to the playback. Then, something like understanding flashed across his face.
“If the Dark Side heals her,” he murmured. Then, the flash crossed all of their faces and they whispered in unison.
“... then she must be separated from it.”
Tanith Vessa made a frighteningly bold move. For so many months, she had focused her attacks on the Outer and Mid Rims. But with a suddenness that could not have been expected, her full fleet descended on Coruscant. Unable to stand against her, the Republic soldiers did what they could to flee. The Jedi attacked, but many were killed. The Sith Hunters emerged from their training and joined the battles. Only by their intervention were the Sith armies repelled.
But Tanith Vessa herself was unstoppable. She swept into the Senate building, destroying offices, killing Senators and ending her rampage in the Supreme Chancellor’s office only moments later. There, she sat, almost as if she wanted to negotiate with the Chancellor. But he knew better.
“Why don’t you just kill me?” he wondered tiredly.
“I want the Sith Hunters to see their full failure,” Tanith answered. The Chancellor seemed puzzled.
“The Hunters?” he clarified. “Not the Jedi?”
“The Jedi also,” Vessa answered. “But the Jedi Knight responsible for my initial death is with the Hunters now... Jast Kevannis, or so I hear.”
“You may take over now,” the Chancellor said bravely, “but like all evil leaders, you will fall.”
“Evil?” Tanith wondered, sounding genuinely surprised. “I’m not evil... just focused on a goal... a goal of peace, something the Jedi don’t allow by continually attacking the Sith on sight.”
“If I tell you where the Sith Hunters are now, will you leave me alone?” the Chancellor wondered, hoping maybe he could bribe this woman. She smiled slightly.
“Tell me,” she answered.
“They’ve taken up defense of the Jedi Temple,” he said. “Defending a small group of Jedi children who could not escape your Dark Jedi armies. They’ve set up an impassable blockade in the Council meeting room.”
“And Kevannis is still with them?” Vessa demanded eagerly. At the Chancellor’s nod, she grinned... and thrust her saber through his chest. “Thanks!”
As he collapsed, lifeless to his desk, Tanith Vessa left to find the Sith Hunters.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“We aren’t prepared for this,” Jast said quietly. Reibé smiled faintly.
“If we were ready for everything, nothing would be a challenge and life would be dull,” she told him. The Hunters stood in a semi-circle, wrapped around the children and other Jedi they’d managed to rescue from the oncoming waves of Dark Jedi.
“But can we really do what we’ve planned with Tanith?” Jast pressed, concerned. “She doesn’t use the Force. The Dark Side is using her... and it will do whatever it takes to continue, don’t you think?”
“That’s why we have to catch her as soon as she enters this room,” Reibé answered patiently. “She will suspect nothing. The Dark Side will suspect nothing.”
“She is coming,” Aysana whispered softly. “The Dark Side approaches.”
“Be ready,” Reibé urged.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Tanith Vessa walked casually up the steps of the Jedi Temple and went inside. As she passed her Dark Jedi troops, they snapped to attention and then dropped to their knees, bowing before their Dark Lady. But she ignored them all, gliding eagerly into the lift and impatiently punching at the button for the highest floor, the Council’s meeting room.
The door slid open and Tanith stepped through. She stared at the Sith Hunters and Jast in their little half circular formation for a moment. Then, she took a step back and sent a powerful blast of Force energy at them. Overcome, the Hunters and Jast flew across the room, slamming into the tall windows behind them.
“No!” Tanith screamed. “You will not take my power from me!”
“You’re stronger than you used to be,” Reibé remarked casually, picking herself up from the floor. “But you can’t kill us.”
Tanith shot her a devilish grin and extended a hand in Biral’s direction. The woman’s eyes widened as pain consumed her. Her mouth opened in a silent scream and the other Hunters combined their powers, thrusting Tanith directly through the doors behind her. Biral dropped to the ground lifeless and her body disintegrated into dust. Reibé stared at the door for a moment. Then, she looked down at what remained of her old friend. Slowly, her right hand closed into a fist.
“This ends today,” she said softly. But within the unified mind, the words were screamed by all six remaining combatants. Under their combined power, the doors crumbled similarly to the way Biral had died. Tanith Vessa was nowhere to be seen, but the Hunters knew exactly where she was. And it was to the Room of a Thousand Fountains they went.
We are Hunters. The hunt has begun. The prey is afraid of us. We will use her fear against her.
They swept into the Room of a Thousand Fountains, not at all surprised to find Tanith Vessa standing defiantly at its center.
“I can kill all of you with a series of thoughts,” Tanith growled, but though she sounded dangerous, she looked terrified.
“We can remove the Force from you,” the Hunters replied, undaunted. As one, they closed in on the Sith Lady. She took a step back and drew her dark blue saber.
“I won’t let you...” she whispered.
To her mind, the Hunters spoke, You can’t stop us.
And the sparring began. Tanith fought with an intense focus, intent on retaining her power. The Hunters fought with a grim determination, each of the six struggling for a physical connection with their opponent to further enhance the speed at which they could separate Tanith from the Force. Sabers flicked this way and that and, one by one, each of the Hunters tried to get a hold on Tanith. Jast managed to get close, but Vessa took a swipe at his arm, severing his left forearm when he could not retract it quickly enough.
“You were lucky once,” Vessa sneered, turning to face him, momentarily forgetting the object of the fight. “You can’t be lucky again.”
At that moment, she felt a hand on the back of her neck. Startled, she tried to turn, but Jast dove for her feet, tripping her and sending her crashing to the ground. As she struggled to regain her feet, the Hunters dove, tackling her to the ground. Every lightsaber that had been in use during the fight went flying in every direction. Reibé positioned herself at the Sith Lady’s head and stared down into her eyes.
“Please don’t,” Tanith whispered, begging, pure terror filling her eyes as she looked up into Reibé’s unfriendly eyes.
“You deserve every moment of agony we can give you,” Reibé answered. The Hunters channeled their energy together and Reibé placed her left hand on Tanith’s forehead. A near-inhuman scream echoed in the Room of a Thousand Fountains and Tanith Vessa squirmed in pain, eyes squeezed tightly shut as the Hunters worked to remove her from the Dark Side.
The Dark Side is working to take her spirit with it, the Hunters realized suddenly. At that realization, they altered their focus slightly, intent on keeping Tanith’s spirit with her body while completely removing the Force. The scream increased in both volume and intensity. All nearby plants shriveled and died and the fountains turned black. Then suddenly, an immense shockwave rippled outward from Tanith Vessa’s body and she went limp. The scream ended and the Hunters were launched forcefully away from the limp body. Slowly, the stood and re-gathered.
“She is unconscious,” Reibé said softly, “but she is still alive.”
“That’s what we wanted,” Jast murmured, just as he collapsed, the pain of his severed arm finally catching up with him. Reibé turned to Strider and Jack.
“Pick them up,” she said. “Take them to the infirmary.” Turning to Aysana, she said, “Inform the Republic and any remaining Dark Jedi that the war is over.”
“If we say Tanith was killed, her allies will not believe us,” Aysana pointed out.
“They would have felt the shockwave,” Strider answered, lifting Jast from the ground. “Your announcement will only confirm their greatest fear, even if it isn't quite true and send them running.”
As Aysana left to do as she’d been told, Jack carefully picked up the unconscious woman, almost as if suspicious she might still be capable of something. As they made their way toward the infirmary, Aysana’s message rang out through all of Coruscant, bringing encouragement to the Jedi and the Republic and sending the Sith scrambling to escape.
Five years later...
Dark, straight hair framed the young woman’s face, lightly brushing her shoulders. She sat, back against the wall in a booth in the corner of a small cantina. Her face was completely devoid of emotion, but her clear blue eyes betrayed the feelings of fear and discomfort. When a man dressed in a dark cloak, hood drawn up sat down across from her, she tensed slightly.
“What do you want?” she asked softly.
“You lost your power,” the man answered. “I can get it back. But it’s your choice. Either you agree to reclaim your position or I kill you.”
“That was an unwise threat,” the woman said. “Since my... awakening, I have gained protection.”
“Protection?” the cloaked figure snorted. “Wonder what they’ll say when they find you dead at this table...”
He stood and opened the cloak just enough for her to see the blaster hidden there. And that’s all he had time to do. Without warning a dark blue lightsaber erupted from his chest, hilt planted firmly in the palm of a young former Jedi, now wearing a dark leather tunic and dark trousers with black boots.
“I’ll say it ain’t happenin’,” he growled softly. To the woman, he inquired, “This fella botherin’ you?”
The woman smiled slightly. “Not anymore. Thanks.” Just as quickly as it had been revealed, the lightsaber, which had once belonged to the woman was deactivated and the young man placed it on his belt.
“My pleasure,” he said. “Shall we go?”
The woman nodded and the odd pair left the cantina immediately, the stares of all the patrons following them as they left.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“What I don’t understand is how he knew who I was,” the woman said as they boarded a small cargo vessel. “That’s what scared me the most, really... not so much that we were being followed.”
“They’re bound to attempt tracking the movements of their former leader,” the man answered. “The greatest surprise to me was that they actually found you. But quite the relief they didn’t expect me.”
The woman nodded, slipping into the cockpit as the man trailed behind. The ramp slid shut behind them and the woman collapsed, shivering fearfully into the man’s arms. He wrapped his arms protectively around her.
“Oh, Jast,” she whispered. “That was far too close for my comfort.”
“I’m here,” Jast Kevannis answered softly. “And you have my word: so long as I live, you will never be alone.”
“They almost had me, Jast,” the woman murmured, tears flooding her eyes. “If they had, I just... I don’t know what...”
“Tanith,” Jast whispered, putting a halt to her words. Slowly, she looked up into his eyes. On his face, there was an encouraging smile. “Be strong. I will never leave. Never.”
Tanith Vessa, once a Sith Lady took a deep breath and buried her head in Jast’s chest. “I needed that,” she murmured, her voice muffled.
“Be strong,” Jast encouraged again. “Come on. We’re leaving Corellia. Let’s try someplace a little less... crowded, shall we?”
Tanith nodded. “What about Naboo?” she wondered. “Is it still Sith occupied?”
“Not since last year,” Jast answered. “It’s perfect.”
And the little ship rose from a landing pad in Coronet, rising up into the air and aiming for space.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“Five years,” Reibé said softly. “I’d never have guessed it would have gone so well.”
“What, Vessa and Kevannis?” Strider chuckled. “When he gave up his Knighthood under the guise of joining us, I knew his intentions.”
“So did I,” Reibé retorted. “I just never thought of... well, that.” She gestured forward to where the former Jedi and the former Sith Lady stood, hands clasped together... with a priest or minister of some religious denomination behind them.
“Got me there,” Strider murmured, an amused grin spreading over his face. Jack chuckled softly.
“They do make a good couple,” he pointed out. “Though her blonde eyebrows do sorta stand out against her dyed hair...”
“Jast said something about hair dye being for head hair, not eyebrows,” Aysana said. “Didn’t Tanith’s eyebrows fall out once or something?”
“And they did grow back darker after that,” Strider commented thoughtfully. Suddenly, each of the speaking Hunters felt something remarkably like being flicked on the forehead... hard, and Jast shot a short glare in their direction. Reibé rubbed her forehead and muttered, “Never should’a taught him that...”
The wedding continued to drag on and just as it was ending, as Jast leaned in to kiss his bride, Jack leaned to Reibé and whispered in her ear, “Will you marry me?”
Reibé flushed bright red and turned to Strider. “Uh, Strider?”
“Ssh!” the other Hunter whispered back. Jack tugged on Reibé’s long braid.
“Hey,” he murmured. “Answer the question!”
“Strider!” Reibé hissed, jerking Strider’s head around to face her.
“What?” he demanded quietly, glancing forward to the newlyweds before looking down at his old friend.
“Jack, just... he, umm... just, yeah...” she nodded toward the kissing couple. And Strider couldn’t help himself; he laughed out loud, but was quick to stifle it. Nevertheless, the laugh awarded him another ‘Force flick’ to the forehead.
“And she hasn’t answered!” Jack complained to Strider.
“You did ask at an awkward time,” Strider pointed out.
“So?” Jack shrugged, indifferent. “I asked. She should answer.”
Panicked, Reibé fled the room, followed by the curious eyes of everyone else in the chapel.
“Told you it wasn’t a good time,” Aysana whispered to Jack.
“Umm,” Tanith murmured uncertainly, looking up to Jast for help.
“Weird Sith Hunter business,” Jast whispered to her. “Let’s leave them to it.”
In a hurry, he guided her out to the awaiting shuttle that would take them to a tiny house on a lake of Naboo. When they were gone, Strider turned to Jack.
“While I understand why you did that, you certainly picked the wrong time,” he scolded. “The focus is supposed to be on Jast and Tanith... not you and Reibé.”
“She knew that,” Aysana agreed. “Too bad you didn’t pick up on it.”
“Well it’s not like I’ve been to many weddings in the last three hundred years,” Jack complained. “How’m I supposed to know what’s acceptable and what’s not?”
“Jack.” It was Reibé’s voice. She reentered the chapel, standing just inside the door. “Come with me.” It was an order and significantly startled him. Obediently, he followed. As he left the chapel with Reibé, the other Hunters began bickering about what would happen.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“What was all that about?” Tanith demanded once the shuttle came to rest before the little house. “Back there at the chapel?”
Jast chuckled and finished setting the shuttle’s autopilot to return to Theed once he and Tanith had disembarked. “That was an attempted proposal,” he finally answered, standing from the pilot’s chair and putting his arm around his wife. “Like I said... weird Sith Hunter business.”
“A proposal?” Tanith exclaimed. Jast nodded.
“Don’t try to understand,” he suggested. “How the Hunters can think of one another beyond brothers and sisters after three hundred years together is far beyond me.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
“How could you have said something like that?” Reibé demanded once she had led Jack to a small room and shut the door behind them. “I mean... just... what were you thinking?”
“Thinking maybe I should’a started with ‘I love you’...” Jack muttered.
“I can’t say yes,” Reibé went on. “You caught me so off guard. I mean, during the middle of somebody else’s wedding?”
“Hey, I waited for the end!” Jack objected. “They were kissing!”
“I just...” Reibé stammered. She stumbled over a few more words before again coming up with, “What were you thinking?”
“I was thinking I love you, alright?” Jack snapped. “That’s what! And I thought maybe you felt the same way.”
Startled, Reibé stared at him. Slowly, quietly, she asked, “You... what?”
Softer, Jack answered, “I love you. It’s taken me this long to really understand that. I couldn’t just leave it alone now...”
“Could you maybe have waited like...” Reibé muttered, “... oh, just maybe ten minutes longer?”
“No,” Jack answered. “But I could ask again...” He dropped to his knees in front of Reibé and withdrew a small box. Opening it, he revealed a thin, silver band. “Reibé, I love you. Will you marry me?”
All the color drained from Reibé’s face as she stared at the man kneeling before her. And softly, she whispered. “Yes.”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
That night, Jast and Tanith snuggled together by a fire in the fireplace of their little honeymoon house. Their heads rested together, Jast’s just slightly on top of Tanith’s. Both of them seemed perfectly content to stay there forever. Then, Jast smiled.
“You told me you were twenty-nine,” he said softly. “But you told me to hunt around inside your brain for the past you’ve forgotten.”
“And I’m not twenty-nine?” Tanith giggled.
“You’re twenty-three,” Jast answered. “Three years younger than me... not three years older.”
Tanith laughed. “Well we got the three years right anyway,” she said. “What prompted you to do any searching now?”
“Just getting to know my wife,” Jast answered. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Not at all,” Tanith replied. “I just wish I could know your secrets too.”
Jast put a hand on Tanith’s forehead and closed his eyes, stealing Tanith away through his memories. He took her through his Jedi training, his pain of loosing Tarika; even his feelings after killing Tanith herself.
“Jast,” she whispered.
“No secrets,” he interrupted. And the tour of his past continued. He shared his initial fear after feeling her return and how quickly it was replaced with the need for vengeance a second time. They went through his training with the Sith Hunters and how, in simulation she had defeated him time after time; how once Jast finally gave up, Reibé gave him good advice about letting go of people you cared about.
“That was when your thinking of me began to shift,” Tanith observed aloud.
“When I no longer saw you as an object deserving of death,” Jast agreed. As the images continued, Tanith observed the changes in Jast’s opinion of her. At first, the changes were slight; he still viewed her as someone who had caused great damage to the galaxy that could not be revoked. But gradually, he came to respect her. And slowly, respect became like, and like became love. The memories continued until they came to the day, only weeks ago that the strange cloaked man had threatened Tanith and had been killed by Jast. As they watched the man collapse at being stabbed through the chest, the memory froze as it was.
“When he gave you that choice,” Jast said softly, “what were you thinking?” Immediately, he sensed fear from his wife and he held her tighter. “I’m here,” he whispered.
“I...” she stammered. Images flashed uncalled through her mind and Jast picked them up. They were thoughts of a return to power and complete domination of the galaxy, but as quickly as those thoughts surfaced, they were kicked away, replaced with a sense of firm refusal.
“I’d have made him kill me,” Tanith finally answered. “The power he offered is destructive and I want no part of it.”
Jast’s memory continued and he led her through the days following the stranger’s death, coming to the present. The stream of memories ended and Tanith snuggled in closer, as if cold.
“Thank you,” Jast whispered. “Now I truly know my wife.”
Slowly, Tanith relaxed, finally happy she had gone along with what Jast had done. As he did, she truly felt as if they knew one another. And that was a better wedding gift than any physical gift a person could give.
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