Chapter 3: Descent
The famed room of a thousand fountains was spread out before me but all I could see were bodies, they were everywhere. Most I didn’t recognise, just clumps of a wasted life spread out before me like grains of sand lost in the wind of a terrible storm. We’d put up a fight, that was clear to see, rubble was strew all over the place, almost as casually as the bodies of my friends, colleagues and teachers. My eyes only rarely glimpsed dark mounds of robes, it truly showed that the best fighters amongst us were on the front lines, probably believing even now that they’d soon be coming home to a safer galaxy. I let out a soft sob, letting the tear trickle down my soot stained face. How could I have possibly slept through this slaughter?
The fountains that had stood proud for generations had stopped working this place of serene beauty had been replaced by the grim touch of death and judging from the warmth of the bodies surrounding me the struggle had ended only recently, I could have helped fight! About a pace behind me Andri let out a cry himself. It was not like him to break, usually he was so strong.
It took a second for my anguished brain to compute that the cry was of alarm, not sadness.My moment of weakness had endangered us both. Damn it! I had to stay strong.
Blaster-fire rang through the air, fast and deadly.
By some instinct I threw myself off to the left, hoping a commando roll would absorb most of the impact. Not so however in reality. I landed on my shoulder with a fierce crack. Pain spread through me about as fast as rakghoul disease at a Rodian nudist colony, sending a thick fog over my tired brain.
I knew I was helpless; the hurt was too intense to put up even a faint struggle. All I could do was stare at the three metallic feet of what I now recognized as a Sith war droid Mark II. So much for the foolish notion that I would go down in a blaze of glory. When I was sure that my fate was confined to a blaster bolt to the face, something that sounded vaguely like hyperspace com static whizzed through the air, followed by an ear splitting explosion. Andri was always so much better at manipulating the force than I was, for me to fry the droids complex circuitry from within would have been as difficult as stealing candy from and underfed Hutt, impossible, while the young man I was meant to be teaching made it seem easy.
His blasted habit of saving my life was becoming worryingly commonplace.
We had to move fast, an exploding droid would undoubtedly attract far to much unwanted attention. Andri hauled me up from the jarring coldness of floor with a strong grip. Every movement was a struggle but I was determined not to slow us down. Our heavy footsteps echoed through the vast halls as we stumbled past the many bodies of our friends, spurred on by shouts and *the eventual sounds of pursuit from behind us. I knew they would catch us eventually, I needed to find a place to hide but the once familiar confines of my home were scarred by debris.
My eyes searched with a desperate hunger, I could not die now. The presence of Andri beside me had disappeared. I slowed down and glanced back. Just a few metres behind me he had tripped over face first over the remains of a once grand pillar.
How could he have been so careless? My brain whispered at me to keep on running, to just abandon him to his own fate. Self perseverance took a brief moment to lose a battle of wills with my Jedi beliefs. I ran over to him, nearly tripping over some rubble myself.
I had no time for sympathy
He let out a low groan but regained his senses quickly; rising back to his feet. The sound of pursuit grew ever louder. My feet pushed me forward but yet again I did not feel my padawans presence beside me. I turned around angrily, about to snap. But his demure expression stopped me as he pointed off to his right. I can’t believe I had missed it. It was the quarters of the head librarian, a perfect sanctuary, and I had ran straight past it.
The door closed behind us with a soft hiss that unfortunately did not go unnoticed by the room’s inhabitants. Apparently brief safety was far too much to ask for. Andri let out a huttese curse that not even I knew the meaning of but I imagine that if I searched it up on the holonet I would probably get arrestd.
Before my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room my senses told me that there were three of them, shrouded in the darkness of their cloaks with their sabers in easy reach. Only two of them had noticed us, the other seemed busy cackling as he held his blood red saber to the throat of a withered figure.
We moved with a practiced efficiency that had formed from watching each other’s backs for over a year now. I knew that Andri was ready for the trials of knighthood but I didn’t want to lose him, such a fluid team was too valuable to lose on the battlefield just for a change of titles. He didn’t mind, with him at the tail end of his teens he wasn’t interested in toting around a padawan, he had the talent but not the responsibility. I figured if the treaty got signed I would have to give him up but if we survived this mess I suppose we would still be fighting side by side as the war raged on.
Surprise was evident on both of the Sith’s faces as we cut them down. Sure, I would be pretty surprised if I had turned around from a lovely bout of torture to be confronted by two soot stained figures, both covered in so many bruises it looked like we were pregnant toydarians minus the wings plus coloured blades that whispered of a cauterized death. They both fell to ground like a sack of carbonite but their companion seemed to grasp this quick change with a cold measured brutality.
He turned, nonchalantly holding up his weapon to the neck of a figure I now recognized, miraluka Agnitio Solor, the chief librarian of the temple whom also held a senior position in the ExplorCorps.
“Drop your weapons, Jedi scum,”
Andri glanced at me nervously. I gave a nod, reluctantly thumbing the deactivate switch and dropping the cylinder to the ground with a defeated clunk. Andri followed my example, continuing to glance my way with animal desperation in his eyes as if I could somehow tell him what to do. I had no way of getting out of this. Even if I had meditated for days I couldn’t have formulated a plan that could have got all of us out alive. Then it hit me, no wonder Andri was so nervous.
Before I had even met him he had spent a year under the tutelage of his previous master, a female twilek named Sariea Sekla. She and Andri were about to catch a shuttle home to Coroucant after a successful negotiation on the planet Noitiai Togen. The pair were exhausted, they had just helped stabilize an entire planet that was on the brink of civil war. That’s when a rag-tag group of insurgents stormed the spaceport and started taking hostages. There were far too many to resist, Sariea managed to avoid detection but Andri got captured trying to protect a sobbing little girl whose mother had been killed. The leader of the insurgents had done his homework, he knew that Jedi travelled in pairs and threatened to kill Andri if Sariea didn’t give herself up. She surrendered and was mowed down before Andri’s eyes. Only moments later the republic TacResponse team that Sariea had called hit the spaceport with an EMP and took back the area with no civilian casualties.
So Andri was left on his own. The council sent him to the Manos sector, where I was about to lead a squad behind enemy lines to extract a Sith civilian that contacted us to say that excessive amounts of credits could loosen his tongue concerning the coordinates of the regions Sith fleet. We worked well together, he wasn’t my first padawan and I knew from experience that he would slow me down, at least for the first few months especially considering his grief. I was quickly proved wrong, I had nothing to teach him, indeed he ended up teaching me.
Yet here we were in a situation that was so similar to the death of his master that he was reduced to a nervous wreck with the subtlety of a bantha after a few too many sips of juma juice.
The Sith licked his lips, revelling in the joy that two more would fall to his power on this monumental day
“You are so weak, you know, your pathetic code holds you down. But I can see into your thoughts , you live for battle, don’t you? Really you no different from me, from us,”
He moved his head forward and licked the sweat from Agnito’s neck, clearly relishing every moment.
“Now Jedi, I will make you one of us,”
In a dramatic motion he pointed a gloved finger at me. Just thinking of the absurdity of it all my eyebrows rose into a comical arch of disbelief.
“If you’re trying to convert me to the dark side you should consider laying off the chewing of spice cookies,”
I was trying and failing to make light of the situation however the Sith didn’t seem to hear me, his gaze fixed eerily upon my face. I took a step forward, not quite sure why. I felt dizzy and something warm and comforting seemed to be calling to me. Somehow, collapsing to the floor was right. The voice of reason that had faded into the back of my mind knew that it certainly wasn’t however. I tried ever so briefly to fight it. I failed and collapsed to the floor, seeing only shades of grey. Faintly I could hear Andri’s cry of alarm before I felt no more.
The darkness had made it’s decent.