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[Fic] Descent Into Shadow
Descent Into Shadow
I had been tending a rock garden in the grounds of the Temple on Coruscant, when the low babble of ancient voices, at just the right volume for irritation, finally snapped my self-discipline and set me wandering in search of their source, leaving footprints through the middle of my carefully planned swirls and lines.
I passed through several other gravel patches, ruining hours of suspiciously similar work by several other Padawans taking Master Vrell’s Baran Do Cosmic Philosophy course (BDCP 241). Their glares probably could have melted steel, but I wandered on, concentrating on my ears. Eventually, I came upon two archaic cadavers, more skin and bone than living, breathing creatures. By some quirk which I to this day cannot comprehend, I mistook these two for great Masters of the order, despite their lack of our traditionally plain robes or, indeed, lightsabres. Thinking that I might glean some great wisdom, I sat down and asked them for their advice, still in a daze.
“I never really understood the Force myself – but then, that’s no real surprise. Y’see, I was never actually…’Force Sensitive’ they call it - although over the years I met plenty of Jedi, Sith, and a few who sat somewhere in the middle, even. Perhaps the most important, the one that made the most lasting impression on me was Revan.”
The old man paused, a spluttering, hacking, swampy, scraping cough - of the kind that speaks of tattered lungs worn thin and slowly shredded by long aeons - interrupting his flow.
“Now, when we first met, I hadn’t the faintest idea who he was, and, as a matter of fact, neither did he. Not that we had much time for psychological analysis at that point,”
- at this he paused, a thin smile flickering for a moment on his ancient lips, while his eyes spoke of time-dulled anger –
“what with our ship being about to explode. Later on I felt so angry. I had bundled myself in an escape pod with the Dark Lord of the Sith himself! Watched him, unconscious for days! I could have killed him once and for all.
And I didn’t.
If I’d known what I had later found out, I probably would have killed him before he’d even boarded the ship, but there’s no point dwelling on what might have been. That, at least, I’ve learned since those days.”
“Is this story going anywhere, old man?”
The inquisitor was an equally dusty specimen, but whereas his companion had been worn thin by age, time had hardened this one, toughened him like old leather – tough as the mountainside and just as inflexible. And there was a fire in the black pits of his eyes. A fire of battle and of burning starships, each one, a vanquished enemy.
“My, aren’t we impatient today? Did you get out of out of the starship on the wrong side today, or is that a chip on your shoulder?”, asked our raconteur, quoting another, a light reflected as from some far-off source in all four rheumy eyes.
“Well are you going to get to your point, or are you going to sit here yapping our young friend here to sleep?”
“Well if you’d let me get on and stop acting like an old coot, maybe I would. Now where was I?”
“Pontificating on lost chances.”
“Very funny. Anyway. Of course – Taris! That was where we had landed.”
My ignorance must have shown in my face, as he explained the significance of this world I had never heard of in all my twenty-seven years.
“Of course, you probably haven’t heard of Taris. Heck, even by our time it was hardly of any importance. It was one of the old city-worlds, all high-rise blocks and not so dissimilar to Coruscant-“
“Bah! Taris lacked the class and the decent entertainment.”
“Ha! Very true. Anyhow, it was all high-rise blocks. The rich would live in the tops of the tallest towers, and it got progressively more degenerate, lawless and poverty-stricken as you went down. In the end, Darth Malak’s fleet blew it to smithereens. Killed tens of millions, sent shockwaves through the sector, and also messed with the swoop-racing circuit for years to come.
He – that is, Revan, was Sector Champion at one point, you know…”
“You’re rambling again!”
“If you’d stop interrupting, maybe I’d get there quicker!”
“If you’d stop going off on uninteresting tangents, maybe I wouldn’t interrupt!”
“Fine! So…Revan. In all my time with him, I saw him do terrible, terrible things. He would indulge in petty cruelties, kill, maim, steal, threaten…without pity, without conscience, without any sign of-“
“I’ve been waiting for two hours, but you never did know when to shut up, Carth.”
“See, I told you.”
A woman had walked in on our party. She was not particularly tall, with a worn face, and grey hair done up in a bun. She walked upright, with the aid of a gnarled, twisted staff. She looked across at the other old man, and her eyes narrowed.
“And if you think that’s a license to carry on talking, you have quite another thing coming. Now what exactly are you two decrepit specimens boring our freshly-minted Padawan over?”
“Carth here was just taking an age to explain about the Dark Side.”
“And he’d know so much about that!”
She sat down on a stone bench between the two, and stared at me in silence for a long time, with eyes like diamonds, bright and sharp, as if peering into my soul. And then at last she spoke.
“The Dark Side is not a release. It is not a power to be toyed with, or some gift. It is a self-consuming hatred, and when it comes, it does not come in great ceremony. It will come to you, Padawan, make no mistake, as it comes to us all eventually. And when it does make no mistake. Fear, lust, pride, arrogance, jealousy, hate, anger, these are the Dark Side, and the slightest slip, the merest of actions will start you down that path, and it will forever dominate you. And should you return, it will be all the harder, all the more difficult, knowing what is waiting in the shadows, just how easy the Dark Side is…”
“You both talk too much! Always have done, always will, for what little life you’ve got left-”
“Like you can talk!”
“Well, at least if I die first, I won’t have to listen to you two prattle on any more.”
Bastila made a great show of rolling her eyes and turning away, her smile all but invisible.
“Listen to me, kid. These two are talking nonsense. Revan was never ‘seduced’ by some evil shadow, or any of that hocus-pocus junk they teach here. Revan chose his path. There’s no mystical light or dark to the galaxy, I’ll tell you that much. I’ve travelled more than either of these two, and seen more of both sides of their vaunted Force than they ever will. At this rate, anyway. The Force may be powerful kid, but it doesn’t control you, or anyone. You are responsible for your actions, not some ‘Dark Side’. What you do with your powers is your choice, and yours alone.”
There was a long silence.
At length, Bastila spoke.
“You Mandalorians always were stupid.”
“And you Jedi never could see what was in front of you.”
The spell broke, and I hurried back to Master Vrell, wondering what excuse would get me out of this one and leaving the three decrepit heroes to their bickering….