(NOTE: The first word in this story's title is intentionally misspelled! It takes place in the time of STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC(tm), when a certain Force-user on the planet Tython meets a mysterious hunter--and her match...)
CONFESSIANS OF A JEDI CONSULAR
An Old Republic Tale by MsFicwriter
RECONSTRUCTED JEDI TEMPLE, TYTHON, 1400 HOURS
"Padawan Yllari?" asked a timid Jedi Youngling, acting as a page. "I believe Master Yun wants to see you." The boy, who couldn't have been any older than eight, smiled and bowed at the waist. He was a little out of breath. I returned his grin as he turned to leave, wishing we could talk for a bit. Alas! This was not to be, for we both had our own errands to complete. Who knew how many indoor miles that this little one had yet to run? The Jedi Masters said it helped build their stamina and agility, but in this case I doubted their wisdom. Surely Younglings were yearning for more advanced tasks that would accomplish this same goal! However, I wasn't about to take it up with the Council. If they want pages who aren't droids, let them have them,
I thought wearily. There are bigger battles to fight, and have been ever since the Sith Empire sacked Coruscant. We had to rebuild our Temple here, and so far they haven't reached us. That could change at any moment, though...
Fending off a shiver down my spine, I sought out my Master.
"Yllari!" he called amiably from a room nearby, beckoning me inside. Ever since I'd been as young as the page I'd just met, Jedi Vanguard Yun Xiaolin had addressed me by my last name. Naturally, I was not so informal with him, for he had much to teach me. When I had first begun my Jedi training, I had nearly been assigned to one of the Masters who was a Consular, like me. However, the Council had decided that I needed a strong yet gentle counterbalance to my wisdom. Meaning that I needed to learn as much about fighting as healing and meditation, of course, and Yun was second to none in certain combat arts. We had taken to one another like a father to a daughter, even though I'd been taken from my own family when I was only a year old.
I bowed to him as the Youngling page had bowed to me, only lower. "Good afternoon, Master Yun," I said, blushing a little because I thought I was late.
He seemed to sense my thoughts. "You're right on time! Listen: there's something I haven't been telling you, at least not yet. I wanted to be sure that my suspicions were true, and not simply manifestations of my own feelings being projected outward. Do you understand, Padawan?"
"Not entirely, Master," I answered, my brow furrowing. "What's this about?"
"A slight disturbance in the Force. It seems minor, but also sinister, and therefore I don't wish to ignore it. I believe it is centered in and around a particular cave in the Groves of Reflection. You remember it, don't you?"
"You don't mean the kognath cavern, where we've been collecting certain Force-sensitive gems to use as focus crystals?"
He nodded. "I most certainly do. As you know from personal experience, the kognath, nearly-sentient cousins of the kinrath present on other worlds, have never been aggressive toward us as we've attempted to harvest the crystals we seek. As long as we don't destroy their egg caches, even inadvertently, the kognath are as docile as domesticated gizka!" Master Yun shook his head. "Lately, however, this hasn't been the case. Even Jedi Knights who are especially sensitive to these creatures and their ways have been attacked!"
"Could the lives of these kognath be tied in some way to the gems we've been trying to collect?" I had another thought. "If so, I believe we should stop doing so. There comes a point in the life of any ecosystem where if a certain aspect is thrown out of balance too much, everything within that ecosystem suffers."
"You may be right," Master Yun said, putting a finger to his lips. "However, I want to test your theory. Padawan, would you be willing to venture out into the Groves of Reflection and investigate the cavern?"
"Of course, Master," I replied, "and I'll be careful."
"Exceedingly," he warned. "The largest kognath, including its massive queen, have mandibles and stingers that are both venomous. Their jaws cannot only pierce flesh, but crush bones between them. I would not have you risk your life unnecessarily, so keep to the outskirts of the cavern, where the weakest gems are--the ones that are used to color lightsaber blades, not focus them."
I nodded. "I shall do as you say, and return as soon as I've learned anything."
With that, I set forth for the Groves, one of my favorite places for meditation. There was a fountain directly in their center, from which I drank and refreshed myself from time to time. Secret fortified springs, I was told, replenished the fountain's water supply and purified it. The Force certainly ran through these springs, if not to a potent extent. The Force sustains all things, even the humblest.
When I had almost arrived at my destination, I stopped dead cold. Near the yawning entrance to the cave that my Master had mentioned, there lay a long shadow spreading across the grass. Producing it was a tall, reptilian humanoid, stretching and flexing his muscles. A Trandoshan, one of the most powerful and vicious species in the galaxy, was here
of all places!
I had to proceed carefully. Softly in Basic Tongue, I said, "Greetings. I mean you no harm. I only wonder: are you planning on going into that cavern?"
The Trandoshan, startled, flashed a derisive glare at me. "None of your business, Jedi,"
he said, with the final word pronounced as a cold sneer.
"There are poisonous kognath in there." I pretended he hadn't insulted me.
"I know. That is why I am here. Slaying them will help me earn crucial jagganath pointss,"
he continued with a hiss. "The Scorekeeper shall be revered."
My mind was suddenly jolted by a troubling question: "Are you the first of your kind that has come here to do so?" If the answer was no, then the mystery of the kognath and their aggressiveness was definitely solved. Still, why did I wish this not to be the case?
The Trandoshan fixed me with an indignant look, as if I were accusing him of murder. In a Jedi's most technical sense, I was, since the kognath were cognizant creatures.
"What you truly mean to ask, guardian of peace," he said pointedly, "is if I am only one in a long line of scaled adventurers who seek glory rather than honor! I am not. I came to this magnificent world because of its...unsettling power, and the subtle stain upon it. If the venomous insects in that cave are the source of this stain, I wish to eradicate them. The Scorekeeper is pleased not only by the hunt itself, but by the motivation for it."
I remembered something from my Archive studies. "Your people worship her, correct?"
"Yesss. Our people earn our lives, kill by kill, and not simply our living."
He continued glaring at me. "If you do not interfere, I will not hurt you. Follow your path, Force-ssensitive, and I will follow mine. Understood?"
"Indeed," I replied slowly, "but--perhaps we could compromise. Cooperate."
The Trandoshan raised a scaly brow. "How? What do you propose, whelp?"
Keeping my budding anger in check, I answered, "There are certain crystals in that cave which we Jedi have been trying to collect. My Master is also trying to find out why the kognath who live there have been acting so aggressively as of late. They never used to attack us before, when we came to gather these gems for our lightsabers, but now they do. Why? Here's what I was thinking. If you will help guard me against the kognath, especially the largest ones, then they're yours to fight. I only want to study the crystals, which might provide some clue as to these near-sentient insects' hostile behavior."
He let out a gentle hiss, closing his one eye in the process. "Hmm. Agreed. The kognath are mine, and the crystals are yours. This only stands, however, as long as our accord is not reversed."
His gaze was hard. "I kill."
Fine with me, if what Master says is true...
"All right, then. Let's move."
The Trandoshan and I pressed forward into the cave, scanning for kognath nymphs along its rocky outskirts. There were none, but soon we both heard scampering sounds from deeper inside. With nimble efficiency, my unlikely companion picked them off with clean headshots from his hunting rifle. I was more than a little impressed, because kognath have very tiny heads! They were aggressive, every one. Kognath usually did not attack unless their eggs were being smashed...What in the Force was going on? I glanced around me. As more nymphs threw themselves at us, attempting to bite and sting whatever parts they could reach, I let him take the lead in our assault. Focused and driven, it seemed it would be ages before he'd ever tire!
Suddenly, he held up his left hand. "Ssstay here,"
he directed sharply. "I'm going in deeper. Are these the gems you sought?"
I nodded. "Good. There's something up ahead, possibly the larger drones and queen. I'll try not to step on their eggs, because that might cause all of them to attack at once. Not even I can handle that."
Turning away from me, the Trandoshan brandished his hunting rifle and forged ahead. I was torn. On one hand, these WERE color-based crystal formations, so I was staying where Master Yun wanted me to. On the other hand, what if the Trandoshan were heading into greater danger than he'd expected? What was more important: my near-total safety, or the totality of his life? Nervously, and against my better judgment, I followed him further into the dank and glowing depths of the cave.
The gems that I now saw were the foci,
the crystals we used to augment our lightsabers. Kognath egg clusters were interspersed with them, however, and so I had to be incredibly careful where I stepped. Up ahead, I dimly sensed that the hunter was attempting this as well. My muscles tightened...
I heard him cry out, with an exclamation between a sibilance and a roar, as the queen of the kognath charged. Her form was absolutely colossal, and her servants the drones lunged forward behind her. The Trandoshan was clearly startled, and so I clearly decided to help him! As he tried to riddle the female insect with blaster-shot holes, I staved off the drones. They were incredibly hard to fight, even with a lightsaber. Poor us! Here we were, one searching for honor and the other for truth, about to meet our end at the hands of enemies who couldn't even talk. What ignominy!
All of a sudden, I heard a sickening crunch
as the gargantuan jaws of the queen kognath crushed the hunter's left forearm. Howling in pain, he crumpled to the floor of the cave, shattering eggs and focus crystals alike. Horrified at what had just happened, I gently tilted the queen's head toward me and tried to communicate with her mind using the common and sustaining link of the Force.
To a creature or animal, spoken words have no meaning. Still, I sensed the queen's all-encompassing fear, and not only of the adventurers (scaled or not) who had attacked her! I closed my eyes and projected an aura of calm, hoping to soothe her. It did, if only a little. I folded my hands in front of me and kept meditating, relaxing so that the queen would see that I was no longer a threat. I hoped that the Trandoshan would follow suit. If he stood down during this moment of silence, all would be well. If not...!
Visions began to flow across the surface of my stilled mind: first of softly-glowing gems in rainbow hues. Then, this peaceful cave, where the kognath scampered about and basked in the joy of their existence among the crystals. Suddenly, darkness, falling--I was plunging through a great abyss. I landed in water, ice-cold, and the breath was utterly knocked out of me! Lying on my back, floating and looking up, I saw a distinct blue-black vapor rising in tendrils, like smoke, from the water. This vapor was foul. It reeked of damp, decay, and blood. The stench of iron and entrails was unmistakable.
In the next vision, I heard feral screams reverberate throughout the cavern. Far up above the water and its mysterious pollution, countless kognath nymphs and drones were falling dead around the queen. The focus crystals, which had once been blindingly transparent, were becoming filled with this blue-black gas, one by one. Once a single crystal had become "infected", so to speak, and changed color, the others around it began to turn. More kognath perished as the infection spread, if only in the gems...
Suddenly, the queen tore her consciousness from mine, and I was jolted awake. I couldn't believe it! Instead of standing up, I was lying on the floor of the cave, as I had been doing in the water in my visions! I turned my head to see the Trandoshan curled up and lying on his side, trying not to move his crushed forearm. In a flash, I stood up and rushed to his side. He was breathing heavily, and I knelt down and spoke to him:
"I'm going to get some help. My Master will know what to do, better than I. I can heal minor wounds, but that--left forearm of yours looks shattered."
he rasped uneasily. "No! What if the queen attacks again?"
I had forgotten this. "Here's what I'll do," I told the Trandoshan. "I know how to speak to Master Yun through the Force. I'll send him a message to come here immediately, and in the meantime I'll stand guard and try to ease what pain I can. Yes?" He nodded slowly, and I penetrated the Force with a distinct cry for aid. I sensed Master Yun sparring somewhere far away, and I spoke.
Master! I need your help. There is someone else wounded in the cave...