Based on the original computer game developed by House of Tales
(Author's Note: This is a preview of the fan fiction piece that Litofsky and I are going to co-author soon. I hope to do my friend and comrade justice. The first quote is from the PC game I mentioned in the byline. Enjoy!)
There is a moment when life extinguishes. Just like that. The flick of a switch. The push of a button. My ears hear. My eyes see. And I'm alone...
Vrook Lamar gazed at us solemnly. "Do you know why we're here, Padawans?"
"For sparring lessons, Master," someone next to me answered. From his voice--low, growling, and somewhat resentful--I could tell that it was Malak. Granted, he was not the best in combat practice or any other area of his studies at the Jedi Enclave, but his tone suggested some hidden anger that was perhaps misplaced. If he were frustrated with himself for not being able to best any of the Masters, even with a training saber, then he should use this opportunity to watch, listen and learn. However, upon glancing toward my fellow student, I slowly realized that his feelings ran deeper than this.
Our Master stared at him. "Precisely, Malak. What is sparring, to a Jedi?"
"A way to hone one's skills in combat, which is a tool, not a weapon."
Recitation didn't suit him well. Even though this was the correct answer, as taught to us by Vrook himself, it didn't satisfy the one standing before us. It was Malak's tone, more than the statement itself, which caused Vrook to furrow his brow and continue: "And why should we only use it as a tool?"
"Because we follow the ways of peace," said a soft voice. Lightly accented, with the texture of red velvet, it could only have come from one person: Padawan Bastila Shan, easily the most talented Jedi among us students. Her extroardinary capabilities with the Force had been documented from an early age, and word had it that she had an innate proficiency for Battle Meditation. If it were true, she would soon eclipse all of us. Not one person in a century, or even a millennium, acquired the fortitude and the gift
needed to turn the tide of any conflict. If Bastila succeeded, what was to stop her from vanquishing the Sith once and for all? If she failed...she would be a Jedi, albeit a lesser one. Malak, for one, smiled. Anything to shut Vrook up!
"The ways of peace." Vrook sighed heavily. "Many a Jedi has failed to learn and internalize this simple truth, being eager to vanquish their foes without knowing exactly why their enemeies are enemies. The Jedi are not warriors, although they take lessons in the ways of combat. They are not soldiers, although they are certainly trained to fight. They are peacekeepers, first and foremost. Remember that. If you don't, all we've taught you is for naught."
Someone else spoke: "Sometimes, to ensure peace, we must prepare for war."
The voice was quiet, understated, a stalwart male's. Something stirred within me, a mixture of admiration and something else--a little like greed. Was it mere annoyance or jealousy that drove me to look at Revan the way I did then, with a glance of withering contempt? He was right, of course, but Vrook was also right. Revan seemed distant from the rest of us at times, as if the things that he was learning were beyond the scope of our potential. I hated that in him, but it also drew me toward him with an unmistakable pull.
"Indeed, Padawan," Vrook said, "but we must not use the tools of war and the tools of peace interchangeably. Otherwise, who will be able to tell the difference?" He squared his shoulders. "Enough talk. We have spent enough time trying to ascertain the purposes behind sparring. It is time to begin." He looked from student to student, gauging all our strengths and deficits with a single flick of his eyes. Whom would he pick to begin the sparring matches?
"Dvyx." My bowels suddenly tightened and turned to water at the same time. My surname rhymed with fluke,
as I was sure this chance was not, and yet it had a guttural intake of breath, almost a hiss, at the end. Vrook and Kavar were the only two Masters who had truly perfected this pronunciation, and I sorely regretted that the one speaking to me had studied it so well. From Kavar's mouth, this greeting was a blessing. From Vrook's it was a curse.
I raised my head. "Yes, Master?"
"Come here." Slowly, with heavy steps, I ventured forward into the center of the Enclave courtyard. Flying birds, give me speed. Summer breeze, give me calm. Heat of sun, give me warmth. Clear blue sky, give me focus...
Vrook unsheathed a training lightsaber from a hilt on his utility belt: a green single-bladed one, as the Consulars often used. He himself used a saberstaff.
I wanted to shout. Two blades against one? You have an advantage that I haven't yet learned how to counter. Withdraw your weapon!
Yes, I wanted to challenge him and correct his mistake, and yet I knew that the error would be mine if I backed down. Thus, I bowed to Master Vrook. He was trying to teach me something, to push me harder and further.
"I will be using the Shien form today," he announced. "You may choose yours."
I did--Form II, known as Makashi--and our surprise sparring match began.
Heat. Intensity. Anger and whirring blades of light. I can't beat him! What makes him think I'm worthy of this fight, and what makes me think I have the skills to respond to his new tactics? He's using moves I've never seen before. This is a travesty--Master against student, not a match between equals! He knows I'm not that skilled at sparring. Why me? Why now? If he wants to make me better, then he's failing. I'm failing. If I were any more skilled, I'd--
Dvyx! Focus! Use what you have learned--vanquish me!"
Still, I couldn't. Sweat was beading on my face in hot teardrops, and I knew it would only be a matter of minutes before I was forced to yield. My fellow Padawans were watching me, as were Masters Zhar, Kavar, Vandar and Dorak. If I lost, I would be humiliated. I should have turned Vrook down...
Suddenly, I locked eyes with the one Padawan I'd least wanted to see in the midst of this harsh trial. Revan stood perfectly still, perfectly calm, absorbing my reactions like a cloth absorbs water. What was he doing or thinking? If he were wise, he would avert his eyes and start chastising Padawan Malak, who was trying to get his attention via making immature, near-obscene gestures. If he had any sense, he would ignore me and the certain defeat I was facing.
Yet he didn't. Revan just kept staring, and...
There. There it is. The secret to Master Vrook's defenses lies in the fact that he is leaving parts of his body unguarded for brief moments, and very few of them. One--two--three! Look how shocked he is! He can't believe that I'm actually starting to catch on to what he's doing. Tysyacha Dvyx, of all Padawans, the weakest next to Malak in the sparring ring! Now, strike--
It was over. Master Vrook gave a roaring shout of pain, leaping back in anger and anguish. My training saber had left a deep diagonal burn slashed into his right arm. His dominant hand, once firm and iron-strong, was now trembling.
"What was that,
Padawan?" he hissed. "I yelled at you to cease, that the sparring match had ended in a draw, and did you listen? Hardly! You kept whirling and attacking, not paying any attention to the fact that I had duly thrown down my blade! Are you a fool, Dvyx? Have you been listening to the Sith? That was the best, and yet the worst, performance that I've ever seen from you. What possessed you--this ferocity? I fear it's more than that."
Shocked, I reeled from the blow of his words, and then I knelt and wept.
"Good. Think well on what you've done. We will discuss this later, Padawan."
He retreated to the safety of the inner Enclave, and the other students stood and stared. None of them knew what to say, least of all the three closest to me: Revan, Malak, and Bastila Shan. One slowly approached me.
"I'm sorry," Revan said gently, kneeling down beside me and taking my hand.
I shook my head. "It's not your fault. I should've contained my aggression."
"Many have fallen in sparring," he replied, "but you're the only one of us who has even come close to besting Vrook. When I looked at you, I wanted to help you. I never thought...I never thought I'd have such an effect."
"What effect?" I scoffed, but I kept on crying. "You did nothing to me."
"Are you sure?"
His eyes. They knew the truth. It was time for no more lies from me.
"You...At that moment when I thought that all was lost, when my despair and my frustration were about to overwhelm me, I glanced at you and I saw--I don't know what I saw. Ambition. Power. The strength to overcome all odds." Pausing a minute, I continued, "Combined with my own weakness and my desire to win at any cost, I started attacking Master Vrook after he'd yielded. You're not to blame, Revan. I am at fault, and I'm the only one--!"
Yet I knew it wasn't true. The Force had bound us together in a split second.
Through almost going blind from desperation, I was finally made to see.
"Master Vrook will soon recover," Revan said. "If you like, we can go back inside and help him tend to his wounds in medbay. After that...I'd like to show you something. Something that will help you contain your emotions, use them to greater effect and for the greater good. Master Kreia has been teaching me some techniques that are beyond the scope of our usual studies. They are not of the Sith; they are fully of the Jedi. Would you like to learn them?" I nodded, accepting Revan's arm as he helped me to stand.
As we entered the Enclave once again, I heard Master Kavar lead the rest of the Padawans in the recitation of the Jedi Code. It was an exercise, I knew, to remind us all what we were here for. I repeated its words in my mind:
There is no emotion; there is peace.
There is no ignorance; there is knowledge.
There is no passion; there is serenity.
There is no chaos; there is harmony.
There is no death; there is the Force.
Which words were truer--the former thirty-six, or those solitary two?
I could not deny it--all
were true, but which ones would seal my fate?