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Old 08-28-2006, 06:07 PM   #2
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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.

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