LESSONS IN EXILE
LESSONS IN EXILE
A STAR WARS: KNIGHTS OF THE OLD REPUBLIC II Saga by MsFicwriter
LESSON ONE: DEATH
LOCATION: PERAGUS MINING FACILITY
“Did you find what you were looking for, amongst those who are no longer with us?”
I can’t believe it. A corpse is talking to me, having raised herself from a cold metal slab in the morgue!
“I thought you were dead…” My throat is like sandpaper, and as dry as the sand dunes of Tatooine. It’s all I can do to croak these few words, and then “Ftacna. My name is Vera Ftacna.” This strange moniker, with the last part pronounced FTÄCH-na, makes the newly-alive old woman raise her head in confusion.
“For a while, I was much closer to the edge of oblivion than I’d like to be. I did not mean to alarm you.”
Nevertheless, you did, and I’m afraid I’ve wet myself a little! “Had you been sedated while in the morgue?”
“No. Ordinary sedatives, as effective as they can be, did not cause my earlier state. It takes a special sort of mindset, and a tremendous effort of the will, to achieve what I have. Meditate with me for a moment.”
Curious, I sit down on the floor with the old woman - for she is, appearing to be about seventy-five - and fold my legs into a lotus position. “I am Kreia,” she says, “and I would like to explain this process to you. We may need it if we are to survive and escape this place.” How odd! I don’t even know where we are yet.
“Relax, and let your breathing slow. Listen to the space around you, and then let it gradually fade away.”
These cryptic directions make no sense, yet I attempt to follow them. I exhale bit by bit, not expelling the air from my lungs so much as releasing it. My chest contracts, and this feeling is gentle. As I continue breathing, the sensation becomes more and more subtle, until it is as if I have no lungs at all. My body seems to vanish, but my mind floats in midair. It’s distracted, wondering what’s going on and if we’re in any immediate danger. Please be still. I tell myself this several times, but it takes much longer for me to relinquish my mental hold. I try to think of what the Jedi Masters told me long ago: There is no emotion; there is peace. However, these words are meaningless. The darkness and silence are what helps me.
I feel the slightest trace of my head bumping against something, and then all sensation ceases.
There is no pain or pleasure in my body, or reflections in my mind. I’m a shell, a quiet and empty vessel.
::Very good. To the galaxy around you, and every living being, you are dead.::
Kreia speaks. I hear these words within my mind as a faraway echo instead of a speaking voice. It isn’t long before the thought, however brief, disappears as surely as my body has. I am at rest, and all is well. After everything I’ve been through, and the silent grief I’ve borne, this nothingness should be my fate.
Good…dead. Good…dead. Peace. It is the barest flicker of my consciousness, which is no longer in pain.
I want to stay here forever, because I‘m finally beyond all mortal cares. Every trace of suffering is gone.
::I’m sorry, but once again, awaken.::
Truth suddenly rushes back to me, as does cruel sensation. I feel the intensely frigid air of this cursed morgue, and hot blood pounding in my ears.
“Kreia!” I almost bawl. “Why‘d you do that? I wanted to be - “
“It’s not your time. Grave danger lies ahead, and neither of us can afford to visit our own graves now.”
She stands up, and I stammer, “Wait! If I was dead to the world, then how did you bring me back?”
Kreia gives me a small smile. “The talent for resurrection is much more difficult than the one for death, no matter how hard that may be. You have nearly mastered it, but it takes a Master to call one from the void.” After a long pause, she tells me: “I am literally your rescuer, as you are mine. We must continue to do so.”
LESSON TWO: PAIN
LOCATIONS: HARBINGER ION ENGINE AND THE EBON HAWK
“Tell me you’re joking. We are not crossing back into the Peragus facility via the fuel line. That’s insane!”
I want to shake the black-haired young man standing in front of me, his left eyebrow raised skeptically. Does he truly not know how serious our situation is, or is he just an idiot? “I know,” I tell him calmly, like a Jedi Master to a smart-aleck Youngling. “However, it’s the only way to reach the hangar bay where the Ebon Hawk is docked. Force fields are cutting it off otherwise, and this access line reaches around them.”
“All right, but I know I’ll regret this.” Atton Rand shakes his head, as if I’d given him a bunch of homework. Treading carefully, he and I make our way through the ion engine of the Harbinger toward its fuel hatch.
All of a sudden, my right hand fills with excruciating pain, saturating every single skin cell. I shriek aloud as I collapse to the cold metal scaffolding. It’s too agonizing to try and hold my hand to soothe it, so I grit my teeth instead. I can’t breathe, speak or think. The only thing I’m able to do is attempt not to scream again.
“What’s wrong?” Atton blurts out. “Damn it, hold on! It’s only a little bit farther!” In an instant, as abruptly as this wrenching torment came over me, it vanishes. I wipe a flood of tears from my eyes and find that I can stand again. “What happened to you?” My new companion sighs, holding me close to his sweaty frame.
“I…don’t know…but I think that Kreia was hurt badly.” This is the truth, for her image flashed in my mind.
“Huh? How is that even possible, if she’s still back with that Sith Lord who sleeps with vibroblades?”
“I…believe it was through the Force.” Again, this is no lie. I wouldn’t risk trying to talk yet, and having my tongue loll helplessly out of my mouth due to shock, if I were only kidding. “I felt her pain somehow.”
“Look, if that’s really what’s going on, then she’s buying us time we can’t afford to waste. Let’s go, before that mutilated monster gets tired of toying with her and decides to use us for target practice next!” He grabs my arm - my left one, the good one - and practically drags me through the hatch into the fuel line. When we finally reach the Ebon Hawk, after recovering my T3-M4 utility droid, we see that she’s survived.
“Kreia?” I blurt out, unable to hide my surprise. “How in space did you get away from that thing?”
“There is no time. We must leave.” As Sith assassins try to shoot us down, we launch and take flight.
After dodging dozens of fuel-filled asteroids which explode in raging infernos, one after another, we enter hyperspace. I finally have a chance to talk to Kreia, and try to comfort her about her missing right hand.
“Spare your pity. I am here to save you, and not vice-versa.” The frown lines around her mouth deepen.
“Right.” I take a deep breath, feeling slightly insulted. Kreia’s going to think I’m as demented as her recent attacker. “I know that this sounds crazy, but when you lost your hand…” Here goes nothing. “I felt it, too.”
“That does not surprise me, any more than our bolstering one another’s abilities back on Peragus. When one of us uses the Force, it seems the other is aided as well. A powerful technique, but potentially lethal.”
Indeed. “Atton and I were both afraid you’d die fighting that Sith Lord. How did you escape him?”
This time, her tight burgundy lips form a small smile. “Life always has lessons to teach, but some of them may only be learned from sacrifice. My torture earned you time - the time you required to reach the Hawk.”
“Thank you,” I tell her, swallowing hard, “but why did he let you live? I thought he wanted to kill all of us.”
“To his blinded mind, one victim is as good as another. Besides, he could not reach either of you. This Sith considers you a broken Jedi, one that he wants to slay, but I prevented it. He did not let me live; I fled.”
How do I say this next part without Kreia thinking I’m trying to pity her again? “I felt your fear as well as your agony."
“That’s regrettable, yet necessary. Pain is an inevitable part of life, but I should have shielded you from this kind. When I can, I will, because now I’ll be able to see it coming more clearly. Nevertheless, Vera Ftacna…”
Kreia pauses for a long while, filling the port dormitory of the Ebon Hawk with an uncanny silence. Then:
“Some believe, and not only the Sith, that pain is the true purpose of existence. We live to suffer, and thus suffer because we are alive. Without it, our days and nights would be meaningless. We’d spend our time like utility droids, behaving according to our biological programming, not our emotions or intellect. The one who caused a massacre aboard the Harbinger thrives upon such incalculable agony. He seeks to spread his misery to the rest of the galaxy, not so that it might learn wisdom from pain, but hatred and wickedness.”
“I see. Let me guess: the people whom he wants to suffer the most are the Jedi.” Kreia nods. “Since we’re sensitive to the Force, we feel distress more acutely than others do. Also, the more pain he can cause us, the closer that we might come to the Dark Side. I wonder, though: Is it worth the possible price of defeat?”
She pauses again. “He cannot be defeated, only avoided. Torment resurrects him again and again.”
Did I hear you correctly? If that’s true, then how can we hope to save the galaxy? “Who is he?”
“A conqueror, monster, and Sith. His name is Darth Sion, and he has taken the title of the Lord of Pain upon himself. His goal is to make every living being feel his level of anguish. Misery loves company. There are more who cling to pain, but not for the same reasons he does. I am thinking of one in particular.”
The small smile returns. “I shall speak of her later, but for now, do you have other questions for me?”
LESSON THREE: CONSEQUENCES
LOCATION: PORT DORMITORY ABOARD THE EBON HAWK
“I’d like to know what has happened since my banishment, and the end of the Mandalorian Wars.”
“It is not a simple tale,” replies Kreia, “or one with a particularly joyous conclusion. After Revan’s defeat of the Mandalorians at Malachor V, his apprentice Malak turned on him. Betrayal is the way of the Sith, and so this was not unexpected. However, Malak’s victory was. With Revan’s mind nearly destroyed, the new Dark Lord continued to wage war in his Master’s place, inflicting terrible wounds upon the Republic. These wounds are still bleeding, and now we must see if it has the strength to survive without the Order. As for Revan? He was ambushed by the Jedi and captured. Whether he escaped or otherwise, I know not.”
I shudder. The last time I saw Revan was when his glowing eyes issued me one final command:
Jolted out of my reverie, I focus upon my rescuer again. “That was the end of such slaughter on a galactic scale, but the deaths continue. Entire planets were decimated in the course of the Mandalorian Wars, with their inhabitants dead or refugees. It is a horrific burden for any civilization to bear, but who endures it? Those who know that their culture achieves definition in the course of events like these. In peacetime, ordinary folk go about their business, unaware of anything but their own immediate cares. War brings consequences, however. We either find ourselves, or find ourselves lacking. Revan proved it for all time.”
Shutting my eyes, I can’t block out the faces of the dead, or the screams as their lives are extinguished. “The only thing that Revan proved, with me at his side, is that his hunger for battle had consumed him.”
“No. Taught him, strengthened him, yes! It did the same to you, however much you hate to admit it. This is part of the reason why I sought you, for you still have much to learn. Unlike the horrors that you faced as Revan’s general, this new threat is not directed at the Republic or the galaxy at large. It is aimed at you.”
“Why? Because I’m the last of the Jedi?”
“The Republic never was truly important. It is only a shell of government surrounding the Order, just as its teachings are a shell surrounding the heart of man. You see, the true war is not one waged by droids, or warships, or soldiers. Those are only crude physical obstacles against which we test ourselves. The true war is one fought against our own natures, light or dark. That is what shapes and binds this galaxy, not these creations of man. You are the battleground, and if you fall, the entire galaxy will echo your fate.”
I feel hollow inside, like a gutted animal or a droid without its core processor. “I’m not sure I understand.”
“Life is a test. Those such as Darth Sion believe the purpose of life is pain, but it’s not the only purpose. In the Mandalorian Wars, you were forced to confront who you were, and what you were becoming. Once, you had been a Jedi, unswervingly dedicated to the cause of Light and supposed goodness. Over time, and especially once the Mandalorians began to attack the Outer Rim, your devotion was challenged. How could you be good when such evil was being committed all around you, out of control and unchecked? The Jedi Council asked for caution and patience to…assess the real threat, but how could they not see it? When you chose to follow Revan to war, you chose to combat it. Was this a noble act, or a wicked one?”
“In retrospect, I should have listened, and not only because I was exiled for disobedience! When I -”
“Shhh. I feel the unrest within you, and have caught a glimpse of the images that haunt your waking life as well as your nightmares. You are facing the consequences of your actions, and that is good, but there are others who would exploit this. Sion is one of them, as are the other two of these three Sith that hunt us.”
I shake my head, feeling both disgusted and jaded. “All the Sith have hunted the Jedi since millennia ago.”
“You speak the truth, but there is more to what you say. It is a different kind of war our pursuers wage. They are different from Malak in that they have no wish to conquer everything, as he did. Their only aim is to exterminate the members of your former Order, either through murder or conversion. Once the Jedi are lost, then the galaxy is theirs, no matter whether the Sith or the Republic is in charge. Either way, it is the Dark Side of the Force that shall reign forever. Do you wish this? If not, then pay heed to my teachings.”
“I will, Kreia.” I bow my head toward her in a gesture of respect. “I welcome whatever aid you’ll offer me.”
“Good.” She pauses for a bit. “I have one more thing to say about consequences. To ignorant beings, if you choose the right, then you’re rewarded. If you choose the wrong, you’re punished. However, in this galaxy without gods or miracles, who is to define these concepts? Who is to say what’s right and wrong? If you steal to feed your starving family, is that truly a reprehensible deed? What if you save someone’s life, but only to enslave them? Is that a good deed? What I mean to say is that the bounds of good and evil are not always what they seem. The Jedi sought to make things simple, but as you have seen, they are not.”
“So,” I continue, “that means the consequences of our actions aren’t so simple, either.” Kreia nods. “The Council sought to make me pay for what I’d done during the Mandalorian Wars, and I have. Still, I sense that there are some people who believe I haven’t suffered enough, no matter whether Revan fell or not.”
“Did Revan fail, or was it the failure of the Jedi teachings that led to the Mandalorian Wars?” She winces all of a sudden. “That is enough for now, because my wound pains me. I’d see to that fool in the cockpit…”
It has been a while, indeed!
Ok, for what I have read so far, I feel as if this is a little rushed.
Let me explain...
There is so much room for added detail, more dialogue, more [i]feeling[/ii] to the words on my screen. I'm just scrolling line after line and taking into what I read because I have already played the game 20 or 30 times....
Don't get me wrong, I enjoy reading it because its about the best game that I have EVER played! I just know that after reading your other work, this is only the beginning of what you can do.
Don't be afraid to add detail because you might think that everyone has played it so many times that they won't want to read about the Ebon Hawk's interior or a planets landscape. I believe it gives a story, particularly one such as this, more of an in-depth realism especially in the tense of which it is written. To the places and the characters.
That being said, however, I do like the fact of the added words you have put into the dialogue. Gives it a little spice to the reading!
I'll continue to read and enjoy what you post, MsFic, and I hope I haven't seemed harsh at all (it was never my intention!). I haven't played KotOR II in ages, so it is refreshing to read about it once again.
As always, looking forward to more! :)
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