Kyo

Star Wars: The Old Republic

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The sun was shining brightly, easily breaching the clouds over the sky of the metropolis planet of Coruscant. Among the vast skyscrapers of Republic City lay the Jedi Temple, a large square building with four towers and a central spire, with landing bays at each corner and steps leading up to the temple from all four sides. A cloaked woman walked up the grand steps of the Temple’s main entrance, the path flanked at either side by golden statues of of ancient Jedi known as the Four Masters. As she approached the large doors a pair of Republic Troopers stood in her way. She tiled her hood slightly to reveal her smooth, blue-skinned face that was calm and serene.  

 

“Ah, General Ven, pleasure to see your return†came the muffled voice from behind one of the trooper’s helmet. As he stepped aside and the robed woman passed by them both without a word. She entered the temple and continued down the large hallway that lay within. The golden décor was grand and full of history. Although this great hallway was quiet with only a few people wandering around. It was a sign of the times. With a war in full swing many Jedi were out in the field, doing what they could for the Republic. Only scholars, teachers and the younglings remained.

 

The woman stepped in to an elevator that immediately began to ascend with a gentle humming noise, climbing the heights of one of the four towers. The elevator stopped at a floor and another robed man entered. A tan skinned Zabrak with brown hair tied back in a ponytail, and three horns protruding from his forehead. The woman lifted her hood from her face to reveal her unblemished skin, completely smooth and hairless. A pair of lekku protruded from the top of her head, strapped together behind her with a set of golden bands. The man smiled as he recognized the Twi’lek Jedi.

 

“A Miss Ashara Ven, you have returned from the front then?†he said with a smile.

“Master Rozahn.†Ashara replied with a polite nod of her head. “It is good to see you.â€

“And you. Although…†Rozahn’s glance moved over the white plastoid armour that was showing under Ashara’s robe. “Do not think me rude to say that your outfit does not suit you. I’m so used to seeing deep within the archives, not strutting around in battle armour.â€

“It is hardly a fashion statement.†Ashara replied. “I have only just returned from Taris. We are trying to regain a foothold there but…nature has ravaged the planet over time. Very dangerous. Although it keeps me away from the real action, at least it felt like I was doing something good.â€

 

“Well, now that you’re home you can return to your comforts, eh?†Rozahn said with a soft smile. “You surely deserve as much.â€

“Comforts are not a luxury we can afford in this time, Master Rozahn.†Ashara responded. “I will only be here a short while and then I will return. I may not enjoy this sort of thing but it’s what we need right now.â€

“How very noble of you.†Rozahn said with a soft nod. “Perhaps while you are here you can stop by the trials. Some of the younglings are very promising. You never know, perhaps one might catch your eye.â€

“I doubt that very much.†Ashara assured the Zabrak. “I'm afraid I am not the right person to teach young minds.â€

 

“If I recall…your mastery of The Force is quite the thing.†Rozahn continued. “Control is something many of the younglings lack. You would make an excellent teacher I am sure. And you know all to well that if you continue to wait, the Council will make a decision for you.â€

“If the Council chooses it then I will obey.†Ashara replied. “But not before.â€

“Hah! Very well Miss Ven.†Rozahn said with a warm smile. “At least come along to the Trial, there aren’t many of us here at the moment. It would help the younglings if there was a better turn out, you know?†Ashara gave an audible sigh.

“Very well.†She relented. As she reached her floor Ashara took her leave of the elevator and continued down the hallways, the balcony looking out on to the same great hallway she had entered below.

 

She turned in to a small corridor and followed through it, passing banners and holograms spouting various musings of times past. Eventually she found her own chambers and entered. Her room was small and minimalist, with only a bed and a few personal effects inside. As the blast door shut behind her she removed her robe, unstrapped the plastoid covers from her arms and legs, and finally unbuckled the chest piece as well. She removed the lightsaber from her belt and placed it on her bed. She sifted through the small cupboard to find fresh clothes and changed in to a purple tunic with fine golden designs in the pattern, which had longer sections covering her front and back of her legs. Underneath she wore simple, black leggings and a pair of knee high, brown boots.

 

Ashara sat herself at the foot of her bed with her legs crossed and closed her eyes. The silence was comforting. Even when she had found time to herself on her travels, she was always distracted by the ambient noise, the humming of a ships engine, troopers bragging and bickering, tears and laughter. She closed her eyes, trying to meditate, trying to compose herself. "There is no emotion..." she told herself. "...Only the Force." Ashara focused on her own breathing, slow and rhythmic. By meditating she was able to go deep within herself, and ease all pain and stress that she had absorbed from her recent journey. However she found Rozahn's words penetrating her mind. He had spoken truth, if she did not choose a padawan then soon enough the Council would decide for her. She did not feel ready to train another, she had so much she had yet to teach herself. 

 

When her eyes opened she realised that hours had passed her by. Yet all around her was the same, an empty room with no personality to it. She had found little need to hold on to possessions, and spending her life in service to the Jedi Order meant this room was rarely her home. She stood up from the ground and stretched her body. No doubt the Initiate Trials would be starting soon. She had agreed to spectate and she was not one to go back on her word. She picked up her lightsaber and her robe as she went out of the door. Perhaps this would be interesting after all. 

 

 


 

 

Inside the Training Centre Ashara met with a few of the other Jedi who had made an attendance. Among them was Master Rozahn, but also a human man and a Nautilan woman. Rozahn was quick to greet her. "Miss Ven, so glad you could come." He said with another warm smile. "This is Krem Havar and Master Dessa Ro." he said as he gestured to the Human and the Nautilan respectively. 

"Pleasure." Krem said and gave a nod her way, but he remained still with his arms folded. 

"Pleased to meet you Miss Ven." Dessa Ro said with a short bow. 

"Please, call me Ashara." she replied with a smile. "So are you both here to find new padawans?"

"That all depends on what we see." Krem replied first. "The first trial is about to begin. The initiates will be tested on their knowledge of the Jedi Code. Not very exciting I grant you. I'd be surprised if any of them fail at this point."

 

"I had memorized the code by the time I was five years old. Unless standards have slipped I'm sure they will all do well." Ashara assured. 

"After that they will be tested on their discipline." Krem continued. "That's when it gets interesting. They need to show competency with the First Form, and show their understanding of the balance between attack and defence. I hear they will be duelling each other."

"That seems...a little harsh." Ashara admitted. "All I had to do was run a simulation with a visor."

"Times are tough, we need to make sure they are ready." Krem replied. 

 

"I'm most interested in the third trial. An Initiate must show willingness to meditate, and show that they move with The Force, and do not fight it stubbornly like a rock." Dessa Ro chimed in. 

"They save the most challenging for last." Ashara nodded. "It has always been common for younglings to struggle with control. I assume because it's not as exciting as swinging a stick around."

"They can daydream all they like when we end this war." Krem added. "It might not be right...but we need guardians, not scholars. I'll be picking who ever kicks the most butt out there."

 

Ashara sighed inwardly. She felt this Jedi Knight, Krem, was a bit of a fool. There were plenty of his type. Not all Knights were as stringent on their training methods, and those who were physically adept were still capable of passing the trials to Knighthood. Ashara looked out to the children standing in the training area, waiting for instruction from their trainer. All of them were in their early teens. A terrible age, she thought. Never had she found herself feeling more lost than at that time in her life. As sad as it was to say, she expected very little of any of them. 

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The rays of the early morning sun slid across the sparsely decorated room. They danced across a row of simple beds, each immaculately folded and well kept, until the last bed in the line on the right-hand side. A figure rolled over, groaning as she did so and then resettling.
"Dax! Daaaax! Dax Arandel!!" A young Togruta girl with bright red skin and short horns called to the sleeping figure, and then after a minute she sighed and leant over the sleeping girl and shook her violently, "Waaaake up!"
"W-what?" Dax groaned, blinking the sleep from her bright red eyes. "What's going on, Taka?" She asked, yawning, "I need to sleep..." She started to turn over but Taka grabbed her and shook her shoulders, pulling her back into the world of the waking.
"It's the Trials this morning!" Taka yelled into Dax's deep green-skinned face - a product of her Mirialan race. Along with her bright red eyes, long shaggy jet black hair and a line of black diamond tattoos dotting across the underside of her right eye in a geometric line - she stood out from a crowd.

 

A moment passed, and suddenly Dax's eyes shot open, "OH!" She yelped, leaping out of bed, kicking her sheets out of the way. As Dax ran through to their shared bathroom, Taka lifted her arms up to the heavens and shook her head, "Look at this, your area is so untidy, I don't know how anyone finds anything in your mess. Don't you care?!" She rested her hands on her hips as Dax dashed back into the room and began getting changed into her initiate robes.

"I care!" Dax grumbled, throwing her long messy black hair out of her face, "Just... not as much as you." She added, almost as an afterthought. When she was dressed and looking a little more presentable - thanks in no small part to Taka - the pair left their communal dormitory and made their way for the rooms given over to the Trials this year. 

 

"I need food..." Dax groaned, as she shook her head to pull herself out of her drowsy state.
"Here." Taka offered her a small roll, which Dax took and ate with just two bites - thanking Taka with a mouth full of food which visibly repulsed the Togruta girl, though both of them laughed as they finally found their way into the Trials room after several minutes of walking as quickly as they could without running. There were already a dozen or so other initiates waiting inside. A couple of them were from the Bear clan - their clan - but most were from competing clans.

"Late again, Arandel?!" One of the kids chided, clucking his tongue. His name was Baan, a human boy with blonde hair and a cocky strut. Dax had never liked him, and she wasn't afraid of letting him know - today was no different.

"E chu ta, Hutt-spawn!" Dax retorted vividly, Baan's face turned red and he growled at her but as he opened his mouth they heard footsteps and all the initiates turned to see a group of Jedi walk into the room.

 

"Good morning, Masters!" The teenagers said in unison, each of them bowing in their own way. Dax quickly scanned the group for a Mirialan, but saw none. It was unusual, perhaps even unheard of, for a Mirialan to be apprenticed to anyone but their own kind. That was the one condition that their people demanded in giving up their children to the Jedi order. This observation concerned Dax. Without a Mirialan Jedi Knight present, she wasn't likely going to become a Padawan this time. 

"Good Morning, younglings," Ashara replied with a short bow of her head. "Are you all prepared for the trials?"

"I was born ready." Dax replied. Taka suppressed a laugh and Dax gave her a sharp jab with her elbow. They exchanged a glance with one another that said a dozen different things and then quickly returned their gaze to the Jedi and waited patiently.

"Really?" Ashara replied with mock surprise. Then as she continued her tone became short and less than amused. "Overconfidence is dangerous. Equally, so is underestimating your tasks. I hope for your sake that your words aren't hollow, young lady."

"I..." Dax turned to look at Taka who had a finger to her lips with an extremely amused expression, "Uh..." Dax passed her gaze back to the blue-skinned twi'lek Jedi and nodded, half-muttering, "Yes, Master," as evenly as she could muster.

 

"Okay then." Ashara gave a soft sigh and forced a small smile. "If I can give you all one piece of advice..." She addressed the group but her eyes were fixed on Dax. "Control. It is your greatest ally in all instances. It is where most younglings struggle. If you master control, the rest will follow."

Dax licked the inside of her teeth and folded her arms, "Well i'm ready." She replied, raising an eyebrow. The other initiates seemed to agree, as they nodded their heads and a quiet muttering spread through the students, though she noticed that they were standing notably apart from her. Even Taka had taken a step away and flashed her an innocent 'do you blame me?' face.

The sound of clapping pulled the initiates' attention away from the Jedi, "Thank you for those encouraging words, Dax Arandel, but the time for words has passed, and now it is about proving your ability." The trainer, a middle-aged human woman called Vash, walked up to the group of nervous teenagers. She brushed a strand of bright red hair from her face and surveyed their faces with a keen eye. "While I can test you, it is the Masters present that ultimately decide on who is worthy of becoming a Padawan. So do your best, and show them what you can do! The first test is very simple, I want each of you to recite the Jedi code, and infer it's meaning."

Their first task was over quickly and relatively easily. Most of the students were able to explain the meaning - or at least their reasonable interpretation - of the code. When it came to her turn, Dax had to think for a moment to recall the correct line that came after the last initiate's explanation, "There is no chaos, there is harmony." To which she explained that chaos was one of the root causes of conflict and strife for anyone - not only Jedi. But she also added that harmony was particularly important to the Jedi way of life, as everything was in moderation and control, and harmony was an important part of that. Her instructor seemed pleased with her answer, but Dax couldn't help but recall the chaos she had left her room in on a regular basis and wondered if that counted as true 'chaos', if so she was glad the instructor hadn't seen her bed.

The second trial was one of lightsaber combat. Dax stretched with a confident grin on her face, and Taka didn't need to ask her what that meant. Out of the Bears, Dax was their best duellist. Tied only with Baan, which was one of the reasons she disliked him so much. Because lightsabers were understandably dangerous and could kill both their opponent and user, the initiates were handed out training lightsabers which, as Vash explained, "Won't kill or maim, they'll just sting and leave a bit of a br--" As the words left his mouth, Dax turned her training saber on and gently whacked it against Baan's bare shoulder. The boy yelped and recoiled, leaving a smirk on Dax's face, but an extremely disapproving look on Vash's face. Baan mouthed a curse at Dax, and she stuck her long tongue out at him in response and then Vash was calling out pairs. She was so busy hoping that she was going to fight Baan, that Dax didn't consider her other possible opponent.
"Dax and Taka." Vash called out.

 

The two girls looked at one another painfully, though Taka looked far more upset at the prospect. They were the last to be called for their duel. Dax had had to watch Baan absolutely destroy his opponent from the sidelines. She would have loved to wipe that smirk off his face, but she had to clear that thought from her mind as she entered the small arena to face Taka.
"You have one minute to score three hits on your opponent." Vash explained, "Present your lightsabers." Both Dax and Taka raised their sabers, "Flourish." And they did so, each of them quickly assuming their stance, "Begin!" Vash stepped to one side and immediately Dax was on the offensive. She knew Taka's weaknesses and wanted to exploit them by fighting aggressively. However, she was also sure that Taka knew her own short-comings and sure enough, Taka immediately went on the defensive. She weathered several blows and as Dax raised her lightsaber to bring down a powerful vertical slice, Taka nimbly darted her training saber into Dax's collar bone.

Repressing her discomfort and the shock of being struck, Dax quickly recovered and resumed her offensive, but this time she was aware of Taka's nimble attacks and each time she tried to attack, Dax would knock her blows aside. Very quickly, Taka was unable to block or dodge any further and Dax quickly managed to get two strikes on her before she raised her guard to block the third. The pair circled one another, bruised and tired but as they charged into the centre of the arena, Vash put her forefinger and thumb to her lips and whistled, calling it to a close. Dax and Taka came together in the centre and hugged before they turned and stepped down from the arena. Dax wasn't really sure how she felt about fighting her best friend, they'd duelled before but it hadn't been quite so serious as that. Taka looked a little uncomfortable as well, which she was pleased to see, if she was being honest. At least neither of them liked to fight each other. Dax thought to herself and smiled, she imagined Taka would have rather she'd fought Baan as well.

"Yes, yes, very good." Vash muttered, checking her list, "That's everyone, now, on to the third trial." Once Vash had finished explaining what they had to do, Dax swallowed nervously and shook her head.
"Okay, I might as well just go back to my room..." She muttered to herself, but Taka laid her arm around Dax's shoulder.

"Hey, don't give up just yet, you pretty much showed the Masters that you're the best duellist here," Taka smiled at her warmly.
"You still hit me though, that means i'm dead. Sort of." She returned, a slight 'huffiness' in her tone.
"The best of a rubbish bunch, then." Taka replied, and they both laughed quietly.

The third trial. The initiates had to show their willingness and ability to meditate and understand the flow of the force. Dax was well aware that this was the area she was most lacking in. She had never been a very patient, or meditative person. In fact, the time she disliked most in the day was meditation. The other students would sit down and close their eyes and go to a different place. But all that happened to her when she sat down was she could hear the minute shuffles and scrapes of the things around her. Feel the wind on her skin, the sun on her face. Hear the chatter of passing students and even the beat of her own heart. It was all incredibly distracting. As the initiates all sat down, Dax gave one last look to Taka who had already closed her eyes and to Dax's great surprise, she looked like she was levitating a foot off the ground! Oh, how she wished she could do that, and in fact, for a few moments she wondered if she could forcibly levitate herself off the ground, but discarded that idea when she figured that a Jedi Master had to be able to tell the difference between meditative levitation, and forceful suspension.

 

Sitting down, Dax closed her eyes and tried to tune the world out. For a few fleeting seconds, there was darkness and silence. Then her senses attuned to her environment and suddenly it was a cacophony of noise. Shuffling, coughing, breathing. She could hear the hushed whispers of the Jedi Masters as they talked amongst themselves while they inspected the other students. Strangely, however, it was their words that pulled her away from the rest of the noise. She was desperate to hear what they were saying. She reached out, trying to concentrate and she began to catch little snippets of their conversation.
"--is a shoe-in--" 
"--don't think--only one this time--"

"--is her?"
"Okay, initiates!" Vash's voice pulled Dax from her snooping, for which she had to let out a long, deep breath as though she'd forgotten how to breathe while she was meditating. That's all she needed - to be carted to the care wing. Death by meditation. She almost laughed, if she was going to die, it wouldn't surprise her if it was by that. "That's all we need. You will all be called upon tomorrow morning and informed individually of your assessment, and possible acceptance into Padawan training. You have the rest of the day to yourselves, well done!" Vash began to clap, and the distant sound of gentle applause followed from the Jedi Masters. It seemed that whatever happened next, was out of Dax's hands. She hated it, but at least she had the rest of the day off, so...

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"Well that Baan kid certainly cleaned up." Krem side with an impressed smirk. "I know who I have my eye on, that's for sure."

"All of the students have performed well" Dessa Ro agreed with a nod. "There are a few who have caught my attention."

"Well you can have your pick, I want Baan. He's a good fit for me, he'll be a great Jedi." Krem replied. "What about you, Ashara? anyone catch you eye?"

Ashara took pause, unsure of how to answer the question. After a moment she cleared her throat. "None of them." she replied firmly. 

"Seriously? Are you looking for some kind of prodigy or something? These kids have potential." Krem argued. 

 

"Now Krem, Miss Ven has her reasons and they should be respected." Master Rozahn interjected. 

"Thank you, Master Rozahn." Ashara replied. "I think I will take my leave now. Ashara gave a soft bow before turning on her heel and leaving the training hall. She made her way to one of the many meditation chambers that were built inside the temple. The room was dimly lit and empty besides a single cushioned chair in the centre. As the blast doors closed behind her the room fell deathly silent. These rooms were designed to completely block all outside noise, so that a Jedi could meditate in a truly quiet location. Ashara sat herself on the cushion and crossed her legs, laying her hands over her lap and closing her eyes. 

 

Once again she focused on her breathing, although this time she felt calm wash over her more rapidly. Her thoughts began to wash away and her memory of the day faded from her mind. For a moment she felt a wondeful sensation of warmth and light and then, slowly, images and sounds began to infiltrate her mind once more. But they were not of the present, they were from a long time ago. A time where she was young, and free of responsibility. A time where she was as naive as the children she had witnessed in the trials. 

 

 


 

 

Ashara was much younger, only about 16 years old. She was dressed in the clean, cream coloured garb of a Jedi Padawan, and her lekku were unbound, with a leather head piece strapped around her forehead. She was sat on her knees, peering deeply at the man before her. He was in his early 40's, with short brown hair that was swept back making him look quite dashing along with his stubbled beard. The man had olive green skin and his face was decorated in geometric-shaped tattoos. His eyes were closed as he sat in deep meditation, while his padawan stared at him intently, waiting for his eyes to open. However, young Ashara's patience was thin and finally she relented, lifting her finger and poking him gently on the nose. "Boop!"

 

"Tch!" the Mirialan man said as he made a soft jerk at the sudden invasion of his personal space. He opened his eyes to reveal their light purple hue. At first he scowled at his apprentice, but momentarily it softened, and he gave a begrudging smile. "Your supposed to be meditating, Ashara." he said with a sigh, "I highly doubt that poking my nose will help you become one with The Force."

 

"We've been meditating for three hours!" Ashara protested. "I'm bored. Can we go break a few training droids? I want to show you how much better I've gotten."

"Ashara in two long years you have already shown master of Shi-Cho and are well on your way to mastering Shien. You have already proven you are a more than competent duelist. Where you are lacking is in here" her Master poked her forehead with his index finger. "Without mastery of the Force your proficiency at combat is fruitless."

"Oh come on!" Ashara said as she flopped on to her back and lifted her legs in to the air. "I can push stuff, and pull stuff. I think I even mind-tricked that Rodian spice merchant we met on Tattooine. I've pretty much got the important stuff down, Master Ko"

 

"Oh really?" Master Ko replied, rolling his eyes. "So you can conceal yourself from sight using The Force?"

"Well..." Ashara paused. "No, but-"

"Can you hear The Force whispering in your ear? Guding you to your destiny?"

"No..."

"Can you make yourself faster? Can you make your skin strong and reslient? Can you expel your body of toxins?"

 

"Alright!" Ashara snapped. "Okay...I get it. I'm no good at this stuff." Ashara sighed and turned her gaze from Master Ko, a sadness in her eyes. Ko shook his head and gave another soft smile.

"Do you know why I took you as my Padawan, Ashara?" he asked.

"I'm guessing it's not because I stomped those other wimps in the trials, huh?" she replied.

"While that was amusing, no, it is not the reason." Ko stood up and reached out to Ashara, pulling her to her feet to face him. "The Force guided me to you. It took me in it's hand, just as I hold your right now, and it lead me to you. Through meditation I saw many things that are still to come, and most importantly I saw you. You have so much potential, and you will be a truly wonderful Jedi. That is the path that has been chosen for you, just as it is mine to guide you."

 

"I don't feel like I have a destiny." Ashara replied. "I made it where I was because I chose it."

"Ashara, every gesture, no matter how small, has a huge effect on the world around us." Ko explained. "One day you will understand. Even something as simple as poking an old man on his nose and disturbing his meditation can make a huge difference. After all, would I be telling you all this if you hadn't?"

"I guess not..." Ashara said, looking down at her feet. Then she looked up at her Master and smiled. "Thanks, Master Ko!"

 

 


 

 

Ashara's eyes opened once more and she was alone in the meditation room once more. She had been alone for many years now. Had her solitude came at a price? Where was the kind hearted young woman that she once was? She sighed and shook her head. "Zhen Ko, you old fool..." she said to herself. "Even now you can't help but guide me..."

 

Getting up from her cushion Ashara composed herself and left the room. She made her way through the grand halls of the Jedi Temple and found herself in one of the four towers, stood outside the doors to the Council of First Knowledge. She gently pushed open the door and stepped inside. Inside she was greeted by the familiar face of Master Rozahn who served as a member of this Council. With him were 3 other Masters, one of whom was present via holonet communication. They turned to face her and Master Rozahn ushered her in.

"Miss Ven, come in please." he said as he waved her over. "We were just finishing up. Is there something I can help you with my dear?"

"Yes...yes there is." Ashara replied hesitantly. "It's about the Initiate Trials. Has a decision been reached?"

 

"Why yes, of course." Rozahn replied. "Are you keen to hear the results, or do you wish to come and see during the official announcement."

"I only wish to know if the Mirialan passed. Dax I think her name was." Ashara said as she stood with her arms behind her back. 

"Dax Arandel." Rozahn clarified. "Hmm...she did pass, yes. A good thing too, she is getting of age. It is a shame that she will not likely become a Padawan."

"Can I ask why?" Ashara asked. Rozahn looked at her solmenly, and shook his head. 

"No interest has been shown in her. Without someone to train her further, she will no doubt become a member of the Service Corps."

 

"What if..." Ashara hesitated again. "What if I were to show interest? May I take her on as my Padawan?"

"Well...I am glad you have finally taken that step Miss Ven. I am sure that we can make some sort of arrangement, I-"

"It is not possible, Master Rozahn." came the response from the Council member over the holonet. She was a stern looking woman, she looked to be in her fifties.

"Master Corvana...I think that-" Rozahn tried to protest but Corvana cut him off once more. 

"Dax is a Mirialan, Master Rozahn. She can only be trained by one of her own species." Corvana explained. "It is a tradition among her people, and not one I am willing to break so easily."

 

"But...there were no Mirialan Jedi at the trial." Ashara said. "If that is the case then she never stood a chance of becoming a Padawan. How is that fair?"

"We cannot meddle in her destiny. This is how it should be." replied the third Council Member. "We do not normally get involved in the choosing of a Padawan, but I am afraid that this is not acceptable. There will be no further discussion on the matter."

"But Leiana, Ashara is a very talented-"

"Her talents are not in question!" Corvana chimed in again. "In this case I am afraid it does not matter. The answer is no, Miss Ven."

 

"I..." Ashara paused, staring at her feet again like she did when she was a young girl. "I understand. I'll take my leave. Thank you." Ashara gave a sigh and turned around, leaving the Council Chamber. Well, that was that. That was what she got for making snap decisions. She resigned herself to what she had always knew. She was not meant to teach others. 

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Stepping out of the shower, Dax towel-dried and changed into a fresh set of robes. It had been a long day. She let out a deep sigh and smiled despite how nervous she felt. Alright, she thought to herself, you could have done better, Dax. But you didn't do so bad. Anyway, if she'd really wanted to, she could have overwhelmed Taka pretty quickly, and chosen not to allow her to land a hit, but then she was concerned that the Jedi Masters wouldn't take Taka seriously, and her friend had worked so hard to become a Padawan, plus Taka wasn't messy and disobedient the way she was. As she was pulling on her boots, her little communicator - no larger than a badge pin - beeped, alerting her to an incoming message. Pressing the badge's button, she immediately heard a familiar voice, though it was unwelcome.

"Hey loser, they kick you out yet?"
"Baan..." Dax shook her head, "What do you want, Baan?" She asked, exasperated.
"Nothin', just saw how relieved you were when they said you weren't duelling me, is all."
She heard laughter, and the snickering of other boys in the background, Dax felt like losing her temper but she took a deep breath and shook her head, "I'm hanging up." She said at last, and hovered her finger over the power button.

"Wait." Baan said quickly, "I've got two of those sparring sabers, want a match?"
"Where'd you get two sparring sabers from? Master Vash is gonna lose her mind when she catches you." Dax shook her head but still, she smiled. She had to admit, she was kind of impressed. And the idea of finally knocking that guy down a peg interested her immensely. 
"Like it matters, i'll meet you on the landing pad, in the east wing?" Before she could answer, he cut the connection. Letting out a deep breath, she threw the communicator onto her bed and sat there for a few minutes, arguing with herself. On one hand, she couldn't just run off and start playing around with sabers - even training sabers - it was against the rules. On the other hand, when had that ever stopped her before? Then again, she was on the eve of becoming a Padawan... maybe. But then, Baan's face when she beats him...

Quickly leaping to her feet, Dax left her room and made her way towards the east wing. It took a few minutes to get there, a little longer than she'd expected actually, as she'd met Master Vash on the way there, and had to hastily dodge her attempts at small talk, saying she was keeping a friend waiting. A 'friend', she chuckled as she walked. When Dax finally walked out onto the landing pad, the afternoon sun was setting in the sky. Thousands of transports flew by all around them, but nobody was paying any attention to the two young Jedi initiates standing on the landing pad.
"I knew you'd come," Baan grinned, tossing a lightsaber through the air. Dax caught it without effort and felt it in her hands, she frowned. As she opened her mouth to ask a question, Baan interrupted her, "--you know you're going to lose, right? I'm the best duellist in the school."

"And Hutts have wings." Dax muttered, holding out her lightsaber to face Baan.
 

Baan ran towards her, crossing the gap between them in a matter of seconds. He leapt into the air, momentarily blocking the sun from view as his lightsaber ignited into a brilliant emerald green. Dax quickly rolled out of the way and ignited her own training saber. It was a bright blue. She barely had time to examine it's colour however, as Baan's saber swung around and she deflected it in the nick of time. Their lightsabers clashed and sparks flew out, accompanied by a crackling sound she had only heard when watching the Masters put on a performance. When the Masters used real lightsabers to duel. Real lightsabers.
"BAAN!!" Dax screamed, as she realised the thing she was holding in her hand was a real lightsaber. Baan whirled around and slashed at Dax's face, she leapt back as the light danced in front of her eyes. A moment later, and she'd have lost her head. 

"Stop it Baan! We could kill each other!!" Dax yelled, trying not to get angry.
"Oh please, as if you could ever land a hit on me!" He laughed and pushed forwards, attacking several times, hoping to find an opening in Dax's defence, "I just wanted to see what the real ones were like, they're so much brighter, aren't they?!" Baan yelled out over the sound of their lightsabers crackling and hissing as they met and the two young Jedi initiates pushed against one another. 
"I'm not going to fight you, Baan..." Dax snarled, and leapt back, knocking the boy's lightsaber away from her. It gave her just enough time to clear a gap between them. She deactivated her lightsaber and stood on the platform defiantly. Baan started to advance, angry at her refusal to acknowledge him, but as he lifted his lightsaber, a voice coolly sliced through the roar of the transports and the howl of the wind.

"Baan Tanruk." Master Vash held out her hand and Baan's lightsaber was ripped from his grasp and flew into Vash's waiting grip. She studied the lightsaber for a moment and then deactivated it, placing it on her belt, beside her own. She walked up to the two initiates and studied each of them, her gaze piercing, so much so that both of them had to avert their eyes. "Hand me that lightsaber, Dax." She held out her hand and Dax silently walked up to their teacher, she opened her mouth to explain but Vash quickly held her hand up and gave a look that said 'Don't even try', and then jerked her head to imply they were to leave. Dax began to leave, and Baan followed. But as Baan passed Vash, she put her hand on his shoulder. Dax turned and looked back, "M-Master Vash, it's my fault too, I--"
"The council have called for you." She said quietly, an unreadable expression on her face, "Go on now. You, however..." She looked to Baan and started speaking to him, but whatever was being said was whispered. Only for his ears. 

 

Feeling stupid and irresponsible, Dax fled the landing pad and ran towards the council chambers. Why had she been summoned? Wasn't she told she had the rest of the day to herself? She pushed open the big double doors and saw several other initiates inside, including Taka, who gave her a smile and a little wave. Dazed and confused, Dax half-waved back and cautiously stepped inside as the doors closed behind her.
"I-I..." She started, noticing that all the Jedi Masters were present. Dax looked for explanation from someone, but nobody amongst the other initiates seemed to know what was going on. A few minutes passed, and Master Vash walked in.
"Master?" Dax asked, frowning. Baan was nowhere in sight.
Vash paused to look at Dax, went to walk on but something stopped her, she turned and walked up to Dax, "Baan has been expelled." She said simply, she then studied Dax's shocked expression and nodded, before walking away.

"Initiates! You have been gathered here as you few are the ones we have considered to have the most promise," Said the Jedi Master, a Rodian with dark blue skin named Dao'sha, "You have each passed the trials and your Masters have selected you as Padawans. This is just the beginning of a long and happy journey, one full of adventure but also of responsibility and hardship, I am sure each of you will perform your duty to the utmost. May the force be with you." He bowed to the initiates and then stepped forwards, as did a dozen other Masters. Each of them walked up to a student and greeted them warmly and began to talk. A minute passed and Dax watched the Masters and initiates match up until at last, none were left.

"M... Master?" Dax called out to the room, looking around, but nobody answered. She watched Taka talking to her new Master, and then looked back out across the room. Where was her Master? She rubbed her thumb and forefinger together nervously as she waited as patiently as she could.

Eventually Master Rozahn approached Dax, a solemn expression on his face. "Dax." He said as he rubbed his hands together, lingering on what he had to say. "This is not an easy thing to say but...unfortunately you will not be able to become a Padawan today."

"W-what...?" Dax shook her head, tears began to well, "I... I... didn't I pass? I did, didn't I?" She asked desperately.

 

"Yes child you did indeed pass the trials." Rozahn replied, clearly disappointed with the outcome himself. "However the trials only mean you are ready to become a Padawan, but you must also find a Jedi Knight who will train you. At the moment that isn't possible... there is no one to train you."

"But..." She couldn't believe it. Dax closed her eyes as she tried to think, "But I passed, and..." She held her hands out as though this would help her to make him understand. He had to understand. If he understood, then everything would make sense. "I passed... so... so why... why isn't there a Master for me?" She swallowed, and tried to slow her breathing using the methods she had been taught since she was five, when she'd first arrived in the temple and began her training.

 

"I am sorry, child... truly I am." Rozahn replied. 
"The child asks a valid question, Master Rozahn." Ashara approached Rozahn, standing at his side, but her gaze on Dax. "Why isn't there a Master for her? Do you care to explain?"
"Well, Miss Ven..." Rozahn looked a little flustered. "We have already explained this--"
"Not to the child you haven't." Ashara interrupted him. She inferred her next words to Dax. "Young lady, tell me honestly. Why do you want to become a Jedi?"
Dax felt the gaze of the two Jedi on her and she felt like she was going to pass out. "I... i've always wanted to be a Jedi..." She muttered, but her answer seemed insufficient to them, and so she reluctantly continued, "... I don't have a lot of memories of my childhood... but... when I was four, my mother took me to watch a holo film. I'd never seen anything like it. We didn't have a lot of money, but it was my birthday. Then she took us out for Ta'chek..." She paused when she saw the expression on their faces, "Uh... a dessert?" She half-grinned and then continued, "We were walking home, when a man stopped us, and told my mother to give him everything she had, when she refused, he picked me up and started to run... I just remember screaming and...." She stopped and laughed, "Then he ran right into this funny-dressed man, who waved his hand and told him to put me down, go to the nearest law enforcement and turn himself in, and he just... did." Now Dax was laughing, wiping away the tears, "I asked him who he was, he just said, "I'm a Jedi." I knew I wanted to be like him. I wanted to help people like he helped me. It's stupid..." She sighed and bit her bottom lip.
 
"It is far from stupid, young one." Ashara replied. "To help others is very admirable. You have proven today that you are ready for the next step, but it is not the Jedi that hold you back from taking that step. It is-"
"Ashara... I don't think--" Rozahn tried to protest.
"Master Rozahn... you were sympathetic when I asked you if I could take this child as my Padawan. Your hands were tied by the rules and tradition of the Mirialan race. However, I feel this decision lies with Dax. Can you say you would still be able to refuse, should Dax want this for herself also?"
"Well...I suppose not." Rozahn said with a tiny hint of a smirk. "I don't normally condone skirting the rules but... once again you find me sympathetic."
"Good." Ashara replied, before continuing to address Dax. She bent down a little so she was at eye level with the young girl. "Dax, it is tradition that Mirialan Padawan are trained by Mirialan Jedi. There is no one here right now who can fulfill that requirement. There may be in the future, and if you wish to wait then of course you shall. However, would you like to be my Padawan? Before you answer, know that this is your choice, little one."
Her mouth hung open in astonishment, "You mean, the entire reason I wasn't going to become a Padawan--" Dax glanced at Rozahn before looking back to Ashara, "-- was because of a tradition of my people? I'm not even on my home world! I was raised here!!" She yelled incredulously, putting one hand on her hip and pointing the other at the two Jedi, "I'm a Jedi first, a Mirialan second." She sniffed and then let out a deep breath, focusing her gaze on Ashara, "Yeah, i'll be your Padawan." She rested her other hand on her hip and waited.
 
"I see." Ashara replied. "Please do not think me dismissive of your people. The Mirialan... their beliefs are something I understand. Know that I will endeavour to teach you as a Mirialan would, to the best of my ability. With me you will have to work your hardest, I do not tolerate anything less than your best. Will you give me your best?"
"Yeah, i'll give you my best." Dax nodded and grinned, "But I don't really care about all that Mirialan destiny crap, just teach me everything you know, make me into a great Jedi. That's all I ask." Dax shrugged, as if what she asked for was nothing special and then crossed her arms, a lop-sided grin on her face.
Ashara raised her hairless brow, standing her full height again. "Very well then. You will return to your quarters and pack your things. Say your goodbyes to your friends tonight, we will be leaving at dawn tomorrow. You will probably be gone from this Academy for a long time. I will come and collect you in the morning." Ashara turned around and walked in the opposite direction, with Master Rozahn walking alongside her, however she stopped and turned to Dax briefly. "Oh and one more thing. I will not tolerate disrespect of the Mirialan belief. Whether you choose to believe it or not, you do have a destiny, as do we all. I cannot make you believe that, but you will respect those that do. Now, run along."
Dax bowed to Ashara and Rozahn and then walked towards Taka, "Destiny? ... poodoo." She muttered, grinning as she joined her friend in celebrating the start of their new life.

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Ashara and Master Rozahn found themselves standing at the edge of the upper floors, fazing out over the main hall of the Jedi Temple. Ashara leaned on the barrier and looked out ahead, lost in thought for a moment. Rozahn gently put his hand on her shoulder. "You caught me rather off guard there, Miss Ven." he said. 

"Master..." She went to explain herself but Rozahn cut her off. 

"You have done a great thing for that child. You have given her a future." Rozahn said with a soft smile. 

"I...apologise, for how that went." Ashara replied. "I did not intend to trick you or back you in to a corner. I had accepted the decision the Council had made, or at least I thought I did. I acted to quickly and for that I am so sorry."

 

"Do not worry yourself, Miss Ven." Rozahn said encouragingly. "I will deal with the rest of the Council. They will not approve but I will see that this decision is not undone. Master Zhen Ko would have done the same."

"Master Ko would have been welcomed as Dax's trainer. Unfortunately even with this decision I will shoulder the burden. I do not want the Council to take responsibility for this should the Mirialan people object."

"Ashara the Mirialan are not barbarians, we can approach this diplomatically." Rozahn reassured. "I am sure we can approach this diplomatically. Although if they request anything from you, I would advise you accept their conditions. Within reason."

"Well we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Ashara said with a heavy sigh. "Forgive me but I must rest. Making snap decisions like this...I'm not used to it. It is...taxing, to say the least."

"Very well, Miss Ven" Rozahn said as Ashara went to leave. "Although if I may ask, where do you intend to take young Dax? I heard you say you were leaving Courscant."

"I will train him as my Master trained me." Ashara replied simply. "Good night, Master Rozahn."

 

 


 

 

The next morning Ashara made her way through the corridors of the initiate dormitories, paying little notice of the slack-jawed stares she received from the Bear Clan initiates who passed her by. Finally she stepped in to a small room that was shared by a few initiates. Standing over an untidy bed, Dax was busy packing her things to leave. 

"Dax." Ashara said, announcing herself. "Are you almost ready? We need to leave soon."

 

Kneeling over the side of her bed, Dax picked up a holo projector and turned it on. Blue light projected up from the little disc in the palm of her hand until she saw a miniature holographic version of her friend, Taka. She was a few years younger than she was now. "Turn it off, Dax. This is dumb..." She said, shaking her head.
"First day of lightsaber training, think you're ready?" Dax heard her own voice.
"I think i'll beat your ass." Taka goaded her. Dax smiled, but pressed the off button and the recording fizzled out mid-conversation.
"I'm ready." Dax replied to Ashara and turned to face her master. Though her hair remained as unruly and uncut as it had ever been, a long braid had been woven into her hair on the right-hand side - the sign of a padawan, "Where are we going?" She asked.
 
"Patience, you shall know soon enough." Ashara replied. "Come now, walk with me."
Ashara and Dax left the quiet confines of the dormitory and came out on to the main hall, where they walked down the centre, great golden pillars on either side of them. "Dax" Ashara said to her young Padawan. "I want you to remember the lessons you have learned here. It is easy to forget this life when you are away for so long, seeing so many new things. The principles taught here must guide your path. Do you understand?"
"Yeah. Don't forget things. Got it." Dax replied with a smile.
"Good." Ashara said finally, and the pair walked in silence as they left the Temple and emerged out on to the bright, sunny morning on Coruscant. Cars flew overhead and people wandered along the bridged walkways connecting each of the larger structures within the city. Whereas many travelled by car, Ashara had decided for them to walk on this occasion. 
 
"So tell me, Dax." Ashara spoke once more as they walked. "Do you have goals in mind for your future? Aside from carrying out the duties of the Jedi Council, we are allowed to seek our own paths. I myself am a Consular. I spend my life seeking knowledge and refining my understanding of The Force. Often that can mean visiting ancient temples and ruins, and sometimes it means spending months researching in the Archives. Often it is simply long periods of meditation." Ashara could almost feel her Padawan's heart sink at the prospect. "I will train you as only I know how. However, you should have your own goals."
"I..." Dax grinned and shook her head, "I don't think i'm gonna be a Consular, thanks." She stretched and put her hands behind her head as they walked, "Y'know, I think I just want to help people, I want to be where the action is."
 
"A Jedi should never seek conflict, Dax." Ashara warned. "While it is a worthy endeavour to want to help others, we must always proceed with caution. Sometimes helping people means making difficult decisions, and in many cases you won't be thanked by many. Not that you should be looking for praise either. My point is...a lot of the time it is better to help by walking the quieter, less exciting path."
"Yeah..." Dax thought for a moment, "Well, i'm not looking for conflict, just... conflict resolution."
"Well I suppose you are still young yet. There is time." Ashara replied. They then continued on in silence once more, which continued all the way to the spaceport. 
 
They walked through the large corridors and passed the guarded checkpoints, Ashara took care of the procedures so that they could travel out of Coruscant. After everything had been checked and approved they finally go inside an elevator which took them down in to their hangar. They emerged in a giant, open spaced room of grey metal, with Republic banners decorating the walls. And in the centre of the Hangar was a Corellian Defender-Class Light Corvette. The starship was specifically designed to be used by the Jedi, and this was Ashara's personal ship. Sprayed a bold red and white, the starship was built for a small crew, with guns mounted at the front and two large engines at the back. "This will be your home from now on." Ashara said to Dax. "At least while we're travelling."
"Whoah..." Dax's impressed whistle echoed around the room, "Only transport I ever took brought me from Mirial to Coruscant, and that was just some old rust bucket. I guess I can get used to having my own room." She grinned to herself as she stared up at the ship.
"It is a small vessel, but it has been furnished so that it is slightly more...homely than your average starship." Ashara said as she walked up the walkway to the ship. "Come along, I'll show you around."
 
They entered the starship together and emerged in a main hallway. The room was a light gray, with blue lighting along the ceiling. Ashara gestured to the orange strip lighting across the steps directly in front of them. "Up front is the bridge. I expect you to learn to pilot this ship, as well as understand each of the roles required, manning the guns, taking care of the engine." Ashara gestured behind Dax, to the raised area behind the steps they had came in. "There is a HoloNet room through there where we can communicate with other Jedi, or perhaps Senators on occasion. There is also a table lounge there where you can relax." Ashara pointed to her right, "On your left is the escape pods and. On the far side there is a board room, although It is not in use very often, and on the far right is my bedroom. Below deck is the cargo hold, engine room, and your own room." Ashara paused for a moment. "Your room is quite minimalist I'm afraid. I did not anticipate having someone on board quite so soon."
"I'm used to minimalist. It'll just be nice not having to share a room for once..." Dax looked around the ship and then muttered to herself, "... old socks and fart." Then she walked up into the bridge and looked at the consoles that held a hundred different buttons. "What's this big button do?" She asked, and pressed it immediately.
"Secondary cannons primed." The computer's voice acknowledged.
"Oh, ah--" Dax pulled her hands back into her chest and looked at Ashara sheepishly.
 
"Well clearly you have a lot to learn if you are to become a pilot." Ashara said with a sigh as she entered the bridge. "Thankfully I do have some help around here besides you."
"Good morning, Ashara" A tinny voice declared from behind her, as a protocol droid walked up the steps, it's body made of silver metal. "Oh we have a guest. I am X24K, endentured service droid to Ashara. Pleased to meet your acquantaince."
"Hello X2" Ashara said with a soft smile. "This is Dax. She will be joining us from now on, as my Padawan."
"Excellent. It get's pretty boring around here. You don't talk very much, Ashara." X24K replied. "So. Dax. I hope you speak more than your Master."
"Endentured?" Dax laughed so hard she snorted as she breathed in, "Yeah..." She raised an eyebrow as she looked the droid over, "My teachers in the temple would probably tell you I talk too much."
 
"Well lucky for you telling you to 'shut' up' is against my programming." X2 replied. "Ah, the droid life. You cannot beat it." he added in a sarcastic tone. 
"I found X2 when I was investigating a death stick dealing ring on Nar Shadaa. They toyed with his programming a bit, as you can see. I was going to fix him but...I've grown fond of him."
"Those guys were pretty rough, I will not lie." X2 said. "Although they did have better conversation than you, Ashara."
"Anyway..." Ashara said, ignoring the droid's comment. "X2 looks after the ship. He keeps it clean, well maintained and fully stocked. He's also an excellent co-pilot. He can teach you as much as I can about flying this ship."
 
"Well I make a lot of mess, so that'll keep you busy, at least." Dax replied, looking at the droid. Then she picked up her bag and walked past X2 and down a flight of stairs and along a metal gantry. She passed a couple of doors and at last, found her room. The door hissed open and she stepped inside. Minimalist was an understatement. There looked like a hastily put together bunk on top of what had been a desk, and a lamp. There was nothing else. Just dark grey walls, however, there was one point of interest. Dax approached a viewing port beside her bed and smiled. That'd be great to look out of when they got into space. She placed her bag on her bed and sat beside it, letting out a deep sigh and looking around the room. "Okay, i'm bored." She muttered, after just a minute or so, then stood up and left to find out what her Master was doing.
 
"Good, you're back" Ashara said as Dax entered the bridge once more. "We're about to take off."
Ashara stepped over to the holographic terminal which showed a map of the known Galaxy. "I'm setting coordinates for Ilum." Ashara said as she keyed information in to the console. "It's far off in the outer rim and away from any conflict. It's also a sacred place for Jedi. When we get there we will begin your training, and if you know anything about Ilum I'm sure you will have guessed." Ashara turned around to face Dax again. "You will construct your first lightsaber using the crystals found on Ilum. It is a tradition within the Order, one that I did as a Padawan as well."
"Awesome." Dax said simply, a lop-sided grin spreading across her face.
"Okay, now go sit over at that console." Ashara instructed. "You can help me take off. Once we're in space the computer will take care of the rest. But don't touch anything unless I tell you to."

 

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"That's probably a good idea..." Dax replied, thinking about how the first button she'd pressed had almost blown a hole in the hangar. The engines of the starship whirred to life as Ashara ran her fingers over the buttons and controls as though the ship was an extension of herself. Dax watched quietly, pressing the occasional button when she was asked. Finally, the engines roared as the ship lifted from the ground, and after receiving clearance, their ship carried them up out of Coruscant's atmosphere and into the blackness of space. Dax hadn't been in space since she was a small child. Her first experience had been confusing and upsetting, as she had left her parents and world behind to explore a life unknown to her. Yet these were not the feelings that came to her as she gazed upon the millions of lights dashed across the void. She felt awe and wonder. Ashara pulled a handle up and the ship's hyperdrive engine ignited and in a matter of seconds the ship dropped out of hyperspace and was realigned to descend into Ilum's atmosphere. "What's down there, exactly?" Dax asked.

"Crystal and Ice." Ashara replied simply. "The planet isn't very habitable."

"So then why do we even have a temple there?" Dax replied with a frown, "I mean, I get it, the crystals power our lightsabers, but... couldn't we have just mined them out and put a temple down somewhere, I don't know... tropical?" She shook her head dejectedly as the ship lowered into the atmosphere and what she saw was a strangely serene ice planet, devoid of any immediately apparent life. In the distance, partially covered by mist, she could see the Jedi temple.

 

"The planet is brimming with force energy." Ashara explained. "That,  along with its historical significance to the Jedi Order, is why we come here."

"Seems like a great load of nothing to me..." Dax muttered, as the ship lowered onto the large flat area of ice directly in front of the temple. As the engine died, the two Jedi stood and left their seats and as they approached the exit, the gantry lowered into a ramp that touched to the frozen ground of the planet's surface. Immediately, a rush of cold air hit them both, but it didn't seem to do much for Dax, she looked at Ashara and smiled, "Not much colder than the average day on my homeworld. Pleasant, really." She stepped out onto the ice and then stopped immediately, "Uh, Master?" Dax questioned, pointing ahead of them. As the mist began to clear, they could see a figure slowly approaching them. Soon the mist had cleared entirely and their welcoming party stood before them.
"Greetings, welcome!" The man stood before them was human, looked as though he was in his late sixties, had a long wispy white beard and hair tied up into a knot. One of his eyes were permanently closed by what looked like a lightsaber scar. Aside from the scar, he was quite ordinary, at least on first glance.

 

"Hello," Ashara said with a respectful nod. "I'm Jedi Knight Ashara Ven, and this is my Padawan, Dax Arandel."

"Oh hello, hello..." The man replied, smiling. Dax grinned in confusion as the trio stood in silence for several seconds.
"And you are?" Dax asked at last, prompting the old Jedi.
"Oh, I am Jedi Master Raella, I am the custodian of the temple... are you here to teach your Padawan, Knight Ven?"

"Indeed." Ashara replied. "Dax is here to construct her first lightsaber, and also to focus on her meditation in order to commune with The Force."

"I see..." Master Raella turned his singular gaze upon Dax, "Well...?"

"Well... what?" Dax asked, frowning.
"What are you here for?!" Raella asked.
"Well--" Dax opened her mouth and stopped, looking to Ashara for explanation. She looked back to Raella, "I came here to get a lightsaber..."

"Nonsense." Master Raella replied, frustration in his voice. "Come along then, i'll give you a room where you can make your precious weapon."

 

As Raella led them towards the temple, Dax turned to Ashara, "Master...?" She asked with concern, "He's..." She wanted to be delicate, but frustration got the better of her and she shook her head irritably, "He's not like any other Jedi i've ever met, he's just..." She trailed off.

"Be respectful, Dax." Ashara whispered. "Wisdom comes in many forms. Do not be so quick to dismiss it."

"But don't be afraid to speak your mind, either." Master Raella yelled back at them. Dax's cheeks turned a lighter green as she realised that the old Jedi had overheard them and a wave of embarrassment washed over her. Raella did not say another word until they reached the doors of the temple. "Here, it is your home as well, for as long as you need it." After a quick pause, Raella opened the enormous double doors, "But don't need it for too long." He added, as an afterthought. Muttered something to himself and then led them inside. The temple was incredible, it seemed that everything possible had been carved from the ice of the planet and done so so expertly that much of the ice appeared almost as glass.

"This is amazing..." Dax remarked, her crimson eyes wide open in awe as they darted everywhere, taking in every little detail, constantly distracted by each new intricate facet of the temple's construction. "How long do you think it took to build this?!" She asked, calling back to Ashara.
Before she could answer, Raella barked, "Too long! Too long..." Then he walked up a flight of stairs and pointed, "There. You can use that room."

"Apologies Master Raella." Ashara piped up. "Dax is my student. I mean no disrespect but I have my own way of doing things. I will teach her how I was taught, and before we even begin to consider the construction, Dax must first find her own crystal."

The old Jedi moved his lips without speaking, and after a long silence, waved his hand as though he was dismissing them and wandered off, no doubt to tend to his own affairs. Once the old Jedi was gone, Dax let out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. "He needs to get out more."

"Solitude can often make one... misunderstood" Ashara replied, "When you commune with The Force for long periods of time, it can often make interactions with others seem a little trivial and distant."
"So why aren't you like him then?" Dax asked, confusion clearly in her voice and on her face.

"I have not spent anywhere near as much time communing with The Force." Ashara replied. "I am but a Knight after all. In this sense I still have much to learn myself."

"I think i'll leave communing to special occasions." Dax replied, as they walked further into the temple. At the far end of the main hall, there was a flight of stairs, equally carved from ice as the rest of the temple. Ashara led Dax down in silence. They walked for what felt like an eternity, as much of the light from the sun no longer seemed to penetrate the cavernous ice caves below. Soon, they were almost in pitch black. Dax had to carefully feel her way down each step. "I'm surprised these stairs aren't littered with bodies, frankly." Dax muttered to herself. A few minutes later, a little light flickered up from below. As they descended, the light grew in intensity. But it was unlike the clear yellow light of the sun. This light was a mixture of blues and purples and greens. At last, they were almost at the bottom of the stairs, when the side of the wall opened out into a huge underground hall. Pillars of ice, roughly hewn from the walls, were dotted by jagged pieces of crystal, the source of the illumination.

"Am I supposed to take one of these then?" Dax asked, touching one of the crystals as she passed a nearby pillar.

 

"Your crystal most likely lies ahead." Ashara explained. "To find your crystal, there is a trial."

"More trials?" Dax groaned, rubbing her forehead. "Okay, what do I have to do?"

"The path ahead will seem simple at first, but as you go deeper the caverns split off in to many." Ashara explained. "You are to go ahead, alone. You must find your crystal, and before you ask, no I cannot help you, nor can I tell you how you will know which one is right for you. Each Padawan's trial is different, you will have to find a way to overcome it. Also..." Ashara looked back the way they had came. "When the sun sets the temperature will drop incredibly low. The entrance to this cave will be frozen in ice. You must return before that happens."

"Super." Dax replied enthusiastically, but her expression looked closer to that of a person getting ready to have a tooth pulled. "I guess i'll see you when I come out then..." She added, and then started down the path.

"If you are trapped in here, there is nothing anyone can do for you. You won't be able to exit until the sun rises again. Ilum's night lasts around 19 days. You must work quickly," Ashara said as she walked back the way they had came. "Remember, A Jedi is The Force made physical. Let it guide you. Good luck."

 

Dax held out her arm in front of her, but could barely see an outline. Only the faintest light existed in the tunnel. It was just enough to make her acutely aware of herself without actually allowing her to see anything ahead of her. But she couldn't stop. She had to keep going, and find her crystal, before it was too late. She continued down the path until a fork in the tunnel appeared, which she only noticed at the last second. Dax cursed to herself, but was glad she hadn't just walked into the wall like an idiot. She stood staring at the two paths for a little while, but she could definitely feel it getting colder. "Okay Dax, make a choice just... pick a tunnel..." She paced back and forth, looking down each option. "Okay just... feel it out." She muttered to herself, and closed her eyes. A few minutes passed and eventually she shook her head and sighed, the cold air visibly exhaled in front of her. "Fine, left." She added to herself, thinking she was starting to sound like Master Raella. She took the left path.

 

"I should have taken the right path." She muttered, after what felt like an hour. She had been forced to make a similar choice over a dozen times, and now she wasn't sure of anything any more. She had made so many choices, and been trying to keep track of them all, but at last she had given up. She had no idea how she was going to get back now. Her only option was to press on. Dax felt the chill on her arms and face, her nose and lips were stinging. It had to be very cold down here for her to notice that at all. She knew that her time in the tunnels was likely on a short fuse, and so she picked up the pace. At first, she started quickly walking, but before she knew what was happening, her walk turned into a jog, her jog turned into a sprint, and suddenly she was careening down each path, making snap decision one after another. Without warning, the path ahead of her vanished. Dax loosed a string of curses across a variety of languages (as cursing was the only thing she seemed to pick up from other languages besides basic). She tried to slow herself, but found the icy floor beneath her feet gave her little traction.

 

There was only one option now. To throw herself fully into the jump. As her feet reached the edge, she instinctively called on The Force and leapt through the air. Soaring far beyond any normal person, but the ground didn't seem to be within sight. For a few terrifying seconds, she was in flight, frantically searching for the ground that should appear beneath her, but nothing came. Suddenly her flight turned into a free fall, and she loosed a scream that echoed as she fell. "Come on!" She yelled into the darkness, "Pull yourself together!!" She snapped, and realised that something was quickly coming up on her, she twisted in the air, leant back and found her back sliding against the wall. Quickly, the wall sloped and seconds later she flew down a chute. If she'd been just a few seconds later, the landing would have been far more sudden, and at best she might have broken both her legs. She quickly thanked her training and then refocused her attention on the chute. She could feel the open air around her, she was no longer in a corridor. She was in a large cavern, and below her the light was almost blinding.

 

She reached out with her hands and feet and held the sides of the chute, hoping to slow her descent, but only managed to mitigate the smallest fraction of velocity before she flew over the edge of the chute and out into open air again. This time however, her drop was quite short and she landed with an uncomfortable ringing sound echoing in her head. She tried to pull herself up but found herself sinking as she did so. "This whole room is full of crystals!!" Dax cursed and tried to right herself amongst the unsteady piles without triggering an avalanche, but she had barely started to make sense of her surroundings when she heard a terrible roar. The sound carried clearly into the cavern and made the tiny hairs on the back of her neck raise in response. "Okay, no, nope. No." Dax pulled her feet free and then carefully stood up on the crystals and quickly ran down the crystal scree at an angle, holding one arm out over the crystals to help her balance. As she reached the bottom, a pile of crystals followed her but she was unharmed. Another roar, several crystals on the upper-most peaks trickled down the side in response to the creature's angry call.

 

"Come on, hurry up..." Dax muttered to herself, looking all around her. Then she saw it. A large, brilliant coloured green crystal lay at the top of the pile in front of her. It was beautiful, remarkable even. No other crystal in the room seemed to come close. Dax quickly ran at the pile and began to scramble up to the top. Another roar, but this time it seemed so much closer. She was at the top now, and reached out to grab the large green crystal, but as her fingers reached out to touch it, she hesitated. This didn't feel right. She couldn't put words to it, but she knew something wasn't clicking into place for her. Her hand recoiled and she realised she was breathing very quickly. Dax had to slow her breathing, tune out the sound of the approaching creature, whatever it was. She tried listening to the sound of her own breathing. Slowed it until it was almost white noise to her, and then she felt a pull. Dax reached out, and her hand sunk into the pile of crystals and a moment later, she felt something and instinctively grabbed hold of it and pulled it out. A second passed and she opened her eyes to see a small, rather plain looking sky blue crystal. "Yes!" She laughed, holding the crystal up in the air, "What do you think of that you miserable monster!?" She yelled into the tunnels surrounding the cavern. There was no response. Dax slowly slid down the side of the crystal pile and walked up to the nearest entrance, she could feel a breath of wind coming from it. As good a place as any, especially as she had no idea which way was the right way back any more. Instinct had brought her this far. Was it instinct?

Quickly - but not so quickly that she would be the victim of another pitfall - Dax ran down the tunnel, leaving the light of the crystals behind her. Darkness soon enveloped her, but not for long, very quickly she saw light up ahead, just around the next bend. She had been confused by the silence of the creature, but her confusion had been replaced by elation as she turned the corner and was almost blinded by the light of the hall she had left. But her elation quickly evaporated when she almost crashed into a wall of ice. She'd found her way back, but it was too late. She was trapped. Shaking her head in disbelief, Dax thumped her fists against the ice, but it was solid. She thought she could see the still figure of Master Ashara on the other side, but when she yelled out, there was no response. She couldn't hear her. No matter what she did, no matter how loud she yelled, Ashara didn't respond. "... notice me...." She cried, tears welling up as she banged her fists against the ice. "NOTICE ME!!" She screamed, pushing up against the ice and finally resting her forehead against it.

 

She closed her eyes and tried to calm down, feeling the rough crystal in her palm and focusing on how it felt. Taking a deep breath she turned from the wall and took a couple of steps away from it. A second later, she whirled around and pocketed her crystal. She took one last, long breath, brought her arms back and reached out. Not with her arms, but with her senses. The seconds dragged by, and at first she thought she felt nothing. Then something grazed her senses and she brushed up against it, letting it flow through her. She could feel it enveloping her and building up like it was going to burst. She channelled that feeling and thrust it forwards and the wall of ice in front of her exploded outwards, shattering into a thousand pieces. She was back in the hall, and on the other side, waiting patiently, she saw Master Ashara.

"So you decided to carve your own path... literally." Ashara said as a greeting to Dax, a hint of a smirk across her face. "Do you have anything to show for it?"

Dax reached into her pocket, pulled out the crystal and opened her palm to show it to her Master, "Y'know what's funny, I thought the trial was showing me fear and confusion and..." She shrugged, "I thought my trial was back in those tunnels, but I think I realised what I was afraid of when I reached that wall." She smiled to Ashara and threw the crystal up into the air and snatched it as it was mid-flight. "So..." She began, raising an eyebrow, "Can I make my lightsaber now?" She held the crystal up to her Master with a grin.

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Ashara put a hand on her hip and examined Dax, who had freshly emerged from her trial. Quickly she was beginning to understand that Dax lacked the depth required to assess her experiences and articulate them fully, either that or she was just deliberately difficult. Either way, it seemed that she had grasped the concept of the challenge in her own way. Indeed, finding a suitable crystal was not the challenge, rather the journey that transpired. Young Jedi would learn courage, patience and understanding. Ashara admitted to herself that Dax had achieved those things, and so she deserved to at least try to construct her lightsaber.  â€œVery well.†She said finally. “Follow me.†

 

Ashara took Dax back through the temple until finally they reached an oval room, lined with work benches. On each bench there were various hilts, grips, wirings and a variety of other items, some tiny and hard to distinguish. Ashara stepped in to the room and ushered Dax in. “There are plenty of parts here to construct a sturdy lightsaber.†She explained. “However, each lightsaber is different. You must consider how you will build yours.†Ashara held up her hand, and her own lightsaber emerged from beneath her robes, pulled to her hand by the invisible Force. On closer inspection her lightsaber was constructed with a clean, silver metal. It’s central grip was constructed of tan leather that was wrapped and bound tightly around the metal. Her hilt was longer than most lightsabers, and had an emitter on each end, indicating a dualsaber build. 

 

“The crystal you have chosen allows The Force that travels through you, to travel through this weapon. Just as a Jedi is an extension of The Force, the lightsaber is the extension of a Jedi.†Ashara said as she held out her hand, and her lightsaber hovered in the air. Then, slowly, all of it’s pieces began to part from one another, each holding in place, the same distance from one another, all waiting to be joined together again. “You must know where every piece goes. Consider weight and balance, consider how different types of focusing crystals will react with your own.†As she finished speaking, Ashara’s lightsaber reconstructed itself, and slowly fell back to her hand. She ignited it, glowing beams of green emerging from either side with buzzing screech, before settling in to a gentle hum. 

 

“So…alright.†Dax replied, looking down at the little blue crystal in her palm, What’s the first step?†She asked and then concentrated. The sky blue crystal slowly levitated into the air and hovered a few inches above her hand. Ashara extinguished her lightsaber and pocketed it, examining Dax’s blue crystal. 

“I honestly can’t help you on this one either. You should know the fundamentals from your initiate training at the Academy. There are several options at your disposal, but you should choose which is right for you. Use The Force, let it guide you as you construct the lightsaber.â€

 

“Fine.†Dax sighed, letting the crystal drop into her open palm. She crossed the room and looked around, then sat down at one of the workbenches. After a few moments of uncomfortable shifting, she stood back up again and paced around until eventually (and quite suddenly) she collapsed to the ground in a sitting cross-knee position. Placing the crystal on her lap, Dax let out a deep breath and a mutter of annoyance before she laid her hands on her knees and closed her eyes. Slowly, the crystal in her lap lifted  into the air in front of her, and she scrunched her face up in concentration as she sensed the room for the pieces she needed. She had a picture in her mind’s eye of Ashara’s lightsaber, and wanted to mimic it as it’s appearance appealed to her. 

 

The various parts of her lightsaber began to interlock and she let a smile touch the corner of her lips as she felt the weapon forming before her. But as she finished the skeleton of the lightsaber, she found the more intricate pieces difficult to manoeuvre. Soon, she found herself unable to push an energy modulation circuit into place and frustration quickly overtook her thoughts until she could no longer concentrate. Suddenly, her lightsaber frame, along with a dozen other pieces, collapsed to the ground like metal rain. Dax opened her eyes and threw her hands up to the skies as she stood up, “Oh!†She growled, “I can’t do it, it won’t listen!†She pointed at the lightsaber accusingly as though it would reply. 

 

“Don’t be silly. You have trained for this.†Ashara replied, her voice stern but encouraging. “This is just like at the Initiate’s Trial. In fact, it’s easier because you can take as much time as you need.†Ashara sat herself down facing Dax, positioning herself so that they were mirrored. “I am quite accustomed to long waits in silence. The only one who remains impatient is you, the materials are here, they are ready. You must ready yourself. Your heart is willing but your mind…†Ashara took a deep inhalation of breath, closing her eyes. Her voice became calm, and slow. “…your mind is scattered, constantly distracting itself with doubt, fear and worry. Remember; there is no emotion, only peace.†Ashara took another deep breath. “Your fear is what allows you to fail. Your doubt is a barrier of your own creation. The more you fail, the more your fear and doubt grows. You must release yourself from them...there is no passion…†Another deep breath followed. “…only serenity…now…try again.†

 

“Easy for you to say…†Dax muttered back at her Master, but sat back down regardless. Cricking her neck, Dax closed her eyes and repeated, “No emotion, only peace…†She let out a long sigh and resumed, "Only peace..." she repeated, like a mantra. She reached out with The Force, and lifted her lightsaber off the ground, and then the rest of the remaining pieces. After she was sure she had everything ready, she let out a growl as though she were cautioning her lightsaber to comply, and then began to move the pieces into place. For a second time she found herself unable to push the circuit into place, but as she found greater force unable to prevail, she attempted to turn the circuit and wiggle it in, millimetre by millimetre until at last, it fell into place.

 

Dax felt as though a great weight had been lifted from her shoulders, and with a bemused expression she slowly formed the final pieces of the lightsaber into place and locked the cover panel on the side. Opening her eyes, Dax saw the lightsaber hovering in front of her. It reminded her of Ashara’s lightsaber, as though it was another weapon made by the same person, but it was also uniquely hers. Unlike Ashara’s lightsaber, the handle was curved to facilitate the use of the Makashi fighting style, a suggestion that Master Vash had made to her in training, to take advantage of her race’s natural flexibility. “I did it…†she muttered, raising her brow in surprise as she looked to Ashara. “I have a lightsaber!†She yelled, and leapt to her feet, holding the weapon up to the ceiling in excited victory. 

 

Ashara stood up, folding her arms, a soft smile on her face. “Impressive.†She said to Dax. “Well done. You have completed the first and most important task that all Padawan must experience. As your Master I am proud of you. Now, how about we get something to eat. Afterwards you can head to bed. Meditate on your experiences before you go to sleep, and you will realise things that are impossible to see in the moment. Then, in the morning…†Ashara turned around to leave the room. “…I believe there are some old training droids somewhere around here. In the morning we can see how your lightsaber does in a combat simulation.â€

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Attempting meditation the night before had done little to quiet Dax's thoughts. Her mind was still a whirling tempest of concepts and feelings all vying for her attention. For now, she'd just have to push them out of the way as best she could and concentrate on the day ahead of her. Once she had washed and changed into clean robes, and had something to eat, Dax left her room and met up with Ashara in the courtyard just outside of the temple. She was pleased to find when she asked her Master where they would be training, that Ashara had said 'outside'. The cool temperature didn't bother her, in fact it felt like home, plus it would mean she could train harder without working up a sweat. She could handle hot temperatures, there had been more than a few warm nights on Coruscant. But even so, she didn't think her race was very well suited to the heat.
"I'm so ready for this," Dax said to herself, as they walked out into a snowy courtyard, away from the troops and that cantankerous old Jedi. She pulled her new lightsaber from her belt and twirled it in her hand before assuming her stance.

 

"Okay." Ashara began to explain the exercise, "These training droids are salvaged Imperial Battle Droids, they have on-board shield generators, wrist-mounted blasters and have vibroswords equipped. Their lasers won't kill you, of course."

"Alright." Dax replied, "Sooo... what? Can I trash them?" A brow raised expectantly alongside a mischievous smile.

"I'd prefer you keep them as intact as possible, so we can repair them." Ashara replied, "But, yes, if you must."

"I'll try not to break your toys." Dax replied with a smile, and turned to face the droids. For a few seconds nothing happened, and then suddenly the droid on the far right activated and immediately raised it's right arm and began firing. The blaster fire was constant, and had Dax been without her Jedi reflexes, she would have been hit immediately. She rolled out of the way, and in a whirling flourish, ignited her lightsaber and knocked one of the blaster bolts aside, sending it hurtling into the atmosphere. The lightsaber in her hand felt light, and yet it took more dexterity to wield than her training saber. Because of the handle, it also handled differently, but it was more comfortable for her to hold as well. She quickly knocked aside two more blaster shots and - getting cocky - she leapt forwards and tried to knock another shot away from her, but missed by an inch. The blaster bolt grazed her arm and Dax let out a loud yelp and dropped her lightsaber. The moment her hand released the lightsaber handle, the ignition button deactivated and the harmless weapon sank into the snow.

 

"Geez!" Dax brought her arm up and licked the burn that was forming, then bent down and picked up a handful of snow and pressed it to her green skin. She was glad she hadn't worn her full robes, as the sleeve would likely have been torn. "That hurt!!" She barked, staring down the now deactivated droid.

"Sloppy." Ashara replied. "Real enemies won't wait for you to lick your wounds. If you lose your lightsaber in a real battle you risk your life. Start again."

 

Releasing a pent-up sigh, Dax picked up her lightsaber and walked away. Her pride had been hurt more than her arm, and when she turned back to face the droid, she went on the offensive without pause. The droid began firing, and she activated her lightsaber, knocking each shot aside without slowing, she raised her lightsaber and brought it down on the droid, quick as lightning. The shield activated, however, and her lightsaber crackled along the outside of the opposing energy field while the droid attempted to swat her aside. Leaping back to avoid the strike, Dax quickly ran back at the droid, raised her lightsaber as though she was going to strike again and the droid raised its arm to swat her aside once more. This time, however, Dax leapt clear over the droid, turning mid-air as she landed behind it. She threw out her hand as she landed, using The Force to knock the droid down into the snow and then before it could pull itself back up, she landed on it's back and plunged her lightsaber into it's core, disabling it. Straightening up, she brushed a stray strand of black hair out of the way and muttered something about 'feeling better', then deactivated her blue lightsaber.

 

"Better." Ashara replied. "You rely too much on your eyesight, though. You need to listen to your other senses. Here... put this on." Ashara pulled a length of cloth from inside of her robe. "Blindfold yourself." Ashara pushed a button on her console and three more droids activated and made their way to the makeshift arena. "Three enemies this time. Use The Force to see them. Or is that too much of a challenge?" A small smirk appeared on Ashara's face.

Dax shot her Master a dubious glare as she took the strip of cloth and tied it around her eyes. Darkness enveloped her world, the quiet howl of the wind surrounded her. She quickly activated her lightsaber and heard the sound of blaster fire ahead of her. She dodged to avoid the first barrage of shots before spinning her lightsaber around to catch several more, she heard one of the droids take a step towards her and she knew exactly where it was then. As it fired, she deflected the shot back at the droid, and heard the metallic hiss as it powered down. But the other two droids were still firing, and while they were stationary, it was harder to gauge where they were coming from when their blaster fire seemed to echo around the courtyard and become drowned out beneath the wind.

 

Feeling the heat of a laser blast to her right, Dax quickly leapt to one side as several more shots reached her location. That was too close. She couldn't just rely on her physical senses though. Reluctantly, she had to admit that Ashara was right. She held her lightsaber in front of her with both hands and waited, reaching out with The Force. She could feel Ashara's life force like a beacon, and as she reached out further, even Master Raella's lifeforce was blinding, inescapable. She could feel other life forms around her, many of them tiny insects or strange mammal-like creatures. But the droids did not have quite so bright a life force. But she knew, however, that The Force was a part of everything. She heard their blasters resume firing and she began deflecting their shots, moving towards them. With each step, she sensed a little more. But then suddenly, it was as though she had had an epiphany. The two droids stood before her lit up like a pair of roaring starship engines. She quickly ran towards them, used The Force to knock one into the other, and ran her lightsaber across the top of them, separating the pair into halves.
Dax pulled the strip of cloth down from her eyes and tried to slow her quick, shallow breathing. "That was amazing," She whispered, "I've never seen The Force quite like that before... never so strongly."

 

"The Force is our true power, and its possibilities far exceed a simple lightsaber." Ashara replied sagely.  "You are learning many lessons here in quite a short time. This was a worthwhile trip after all."

Dax nodded to herself, thinking quietly in an altogether uncharacteristic manner, "This place is still stupid." She replied, sniffing. But after a moment she added, "But, yeah, I learnt a lot here. Plus, I got this." She placed her lightsaber back on her belt and tapped it gently like a well-behaved pet. "What's next, Master? Would you like me to tame a rancor?" She asked, putting a hand on her hip as a cheeky grin spread across her face.

"We can maybe save that until tomorrow." Ashara replied with a soft smile. "Why don't you go study some of the holocrons here? The Jedi of the past have many things they can teach you."

"What's a bunch of dead Jedi gonna teach me?" She muttered, leaning back and cricking her shoulders, "They're dead. They weren't so hot."

"Because they died far older and wiser than you, my Padawan" Ashara replied. "Now off you go, stop stalling."

 

 


 

 

"Hello?" Dax called out, her voice echoing into the temple. "Helloooo?! Master Raella!!" There was no response. Dax let out a sigh, he was probably asleep somewhere, recovering from breakfast. She scratched her head and was just about to start wandering around the temple to satisfy her curiosity when she felt the presence of another person.
"Oh, sensed me at last, did you?" Master Raella asked her, his frown adding an extra layer of wrinkles.
"I..." Dax scowled, "It's rude to sneak up on people."
"I did not sneak, you were simply deaf." Raella replied, raising a bushy eyebrow.
She shook her head but decided to let it slide, much as that annoyed her, "My Master wants me to look over some of the Jedi holocrons."
"Oh..." Raella muttered, "Why?!"
"Because i'm a stupid, ungrateful, waste of a Padawan, and I need to learn things, that's why." She said sarcastically.
"Oh. Very well." The old Jedi relented, and at first she was pleased with how easily he had given in, but then realised he had accepted that description of her without question or correction. As he turned, she stuck her tongue out at him, and followed.

 

Master Raella led Dax down a flight of stairs and into a room with a very high ceiling. The room stretched on for an age, and was filled with shelves upon shelves of records, texts and Jedi holocrons. "There," Master Raella pointed out across the seemingly labyrinthian records, "Go mad."

The old Jedi Master's comment made Dax's face light up but she had to suppress her laughter until he had left. Once he'd gone, however - and she'd quickly vented her amusement - Dax found herself strangely curious of what these old records might hold. She walked up and down the records and picked a shelf at random and walked down it. But then she looked across the various marked holocrons to seek anything of interest.

"Starship blueprint, history of the blah blahblah, nothing..." Dax muttered to herself, "Manual of Force Healing, boring." She passed one of the holocrons and then quickly came back to it and read the description, "Account of the Jedi Purge by Jedi Master Meetra Surik." She picked up the cube-shaped holocron and threw it into the air and caught it with a smile, "Cool." Then looked around the archive for a little space.

 

"Okay..." Dax said to herself, holding the holocron in front of her, "Activate holocron..." Nothing happened, "Turn on holocron?" She asked, frowning and then unnecessarily shaking the little cube. Dax shook her head, she'd wished she had listened more to her teachers. But then a distant, foggy memory came to her. Something about using The Force. It couldn't hurt. She placed the cube on the ground in front of her and reached out with The Force, and the moment she attempted to move the holocron, it activated, "Oh!" She gasped. The room was suddenly bathed in deep blue light, and the appearance of a young human woman with short hair stood before her. Her skin, hair and garments were all tinted blue by the hologram light.

"I--" Dax started, but the hologram cut her off.
"--I am Jedi Master Meetra Surik, my Jedi Knights and I were responsible for defeating the Sith Lords guilty of instigating and enforcing the Jedi Purge. A galaxy-wide event intended to exterminate the Jedi Order. The Purge was led by Sith Lords Nihilus, Traya and Sion. They scattered the Jedi Order, and hunted us for years."

Suddenly the woman vanished and was replaced by a scene of a large battleship firing enormous cannons. Their firepower was terrifying, even as a hologram. Dax watched as dozens of tiny ships blinked out of existence, and then suddenly Meetra Surik returned.
"That's horrible." Dax said quietly, as the hologram watched her in silence, "What happened afterwards?" She asked.
"You are a Padawan, you do not have access to that information." The hologram of Meetra Surik replied.

"I... well maybe i'm not, did you think about that?" Dax crossed her arms irritably.
"You are a Padawan, you do not--"
"--alright, alright!" Dax snapped and huffed air from her nostrils. "That's all." The hologram vanished, and the room's light returned to normal. Dax picked up the holocron and held it in her hands for a few moments. The Sith had really tried to wipe out every Jedi? She knew the Sith were misguided, and while she'd heard stories, she'd never realised they could be such monsters. Seeing those ships destroyed, unable to defend themselves. There were no prisoners, no terms of surrender. Only death.

 

In the end, Dax spent several hours down amongst the records, checking the occasional holocron and listening to a Jedi Master or Knight give her an insight into a piece of their history, or an explanation of a Jedi technique. Eventually, however, she fell upon a holocron on the fighting style she had wanted to learn - Makashi. She excitedly pulled the holocron from it's resting place and, like the others, activated it using The Force. The now familiar blue light bathed the room once more, and once again, an interactive hologram likeness of a Jedi stood before her.
"Oh, not you again--" Dax moaned.
"--I am Jedi Master Meetra Surik."
"Didn't you have anything better to do than record holocrons?" Dax asked irritably. The hologram remained silent, "Fine!" Dax snapped and licked the inside of her teeth to distract her from her irritation, "Show me how to fight using Makashi." She asked, as politely as she could. 
"Makashi, also known as Form II, The Way of the Ysalamiri, or The Con--"
"--no just show me." Dax asked, rubbing her brow impatiently.

 

The standing hologram of Meetra Surik switched instantly, and she was standing before Dax, holding a lightsaber in the ready stance of the Makashi form. As the hologram of Meetra began performing the moves, Dax pulled her lightsaber from her belt and activated it, beginning to mimic the movements of the hologram teacher, even as the woman's voice still churned out information.

"Developed for the purpose of lightsaber-to-lightsaber combat, to address the failings of Form I." Meetra continued, "Makashi is the most duelling-centric lightsaber form. Relying on precision and efficiency over Shii-Cho's wild, sweeping motions, Makashi allowed an initiate to defend herself against an opponent with minimal effort, while placing a heavy focus on avoiding disarmament. Makashi is elegant and focused, and is based on balance and footwork to outmanoeuvre opponents. Fluidity and economy of motion are relied on, rather than strength. Overall, the form was at its peak when engaged in combat against a single enemy duellist."
"Awesome." Dax grinned, and continued to mimic the hologram's movements. Her flexibility and agile movements were perfect for this, and she took to it quickly. She wasn't the strongest amongst the Padawans, that honour went to Baan, but--
"Baan," Dax whispered, shaking her head. "Tch! Dammit Baan, you idiot." Her thoughts moved from Baan to her friend, and she wondered what Taka was doing. She hoped her friend was having a better time than she was. Locked up in an old library, getting talked down to by half-mad Jedi and snooty holograms alike. Actually, she supposed that Master Raella would have liked Taka a lot more than her. At that moment, she heard footsteps coming down the stairs, and so she deactivated the holocron and placed it back on it's shelf.

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Ashara emerged from the hallway and folded her arms so that her hands disappeared inside the sleeves of her robe. She gave Dax a smile that suggested she was impressed with her Padawan. "You've been down here for quite a while." She said to Dax, "I thought you would have given up hours ago. I actually managed to get in the first decent bit of meditation since I took you as my Padawan. So, did you learn anything useful?"

"Most of it's a load of old rubbish." She replied, and after a brief pause, she looked off to one side, "I suppose there's a few things of interest down here."

"Perhaps only a few for you, but this place, like many other archives of the Jedi Order, is full of useful lessons." Ashara replied. "...I never wanted a Padawan. Children are naive, and yet think they know everything. A disturbing trait to say the least. Yet here I am, trying my hardest to show you as much as I can, in the hope that you will become a greater Jedi than I."

 

"Yeah, well..." Dax began, her tone a little snarky, but something seemed to change her mind and her tone along with it, "... thanks." She muttered.

"It is I who should be thanking you." Ashara corrected. "I was not forced to take you on. I saw something within you, and so far you have done nothing to prove me otherwise. You still have a lot to learn, but you are doing so quickly. Some Padawan take weeks or even months to construct their first lightsaber. You did so in but a day. However...pride will either make you lazy, or overly ambitious. That is why I will keep pushing you, never letting you become idle in your endeavours. Already your goals are taking form, even if it is only to learn a new lightsaber form."

 

"Oh, you noticed that, huh?" Dax grinned and shrugged, "Well, Master Vash told me that there are two things that are a greater threat to the Jedi than anything else, she said, "The Sith, and yourself, and at least you can 'saber the former"," Dax laughed, "I guess I just wanted to be ready, if I ever met a Sith. Plus, it looks like it was most suited to me."

"You should hope you never meet a Sith." Ashara replied. "It is a terrible thing to embrace the Dark Side. The Sith wield great power, but at a terrible cost."

"But Master..." Dax paused and frowned, she had used that title before but it had never come out quite so naturally as it had then. "... but... I know, i've seen some of what the Sith have done, it was... monstrous. But aren't many of the Sith originally Jedi?" She shook her head, "I don't understand, why do so many Jedi become Sith, i've so rarely heard of Sith becoming Jedi. Why do we have to be in opposition?"

 

"I don't have the absolute answer for that one." Ashara replied, "However, perhaps most obvious is our conflicting ideologies. The Sith value passion, emotion, and conflict. They believe that conflict forces one to become better, to evolve and grow stronger. Strife brings meaning to their victories, and they feast upon such dark emotions to grow stronger. They fail to see that the question is not how to become stronger, but rather should we. The Sith pay a terrible price for their power. That is why it is so easy to become Sith, but not to become a Jedi."

 

Ashara paused for a moment, choosing her words carefully. "Sometimes you may find our code to be strict and uncompromising, but it must be so. Jedi do not even get to indulge in love. Yet it is a powerful and wonderful feeling, do not think we cast it away out of fear or condemnation. It is a sacrifice, one we must make to stay true to ourselves. We are gifted with the knowledge of The Force, and if we squander that gift...then we are no better than the Sith."

 

"I don't think love, or passion or emotions need to be cast aside. I don't know if I can do that, or if i'd even want to, but... I don't think it's right to seek conflict just to make yourself stronger, at the expense of others." Dax sighed and shrugged, "I think there has to be a better path, if we're even capable of it."

"Many have shared your views on that." Ashara replied. "And they have fallen to the Dark Side as a result. The forbidding of love is necessary. When people think of love...they think of the happy moments. However...what of loss and suffering? Can you imagine what losing something so important could do to a Jedi? It twists their mind...the pain and anger leads to hatred. To the Dark-" Ashara stopped in her tracks, swaying on the spot, lifting her hand to gently clutch her forehead as if in pain. 

 

"Well, I feel how I feel. But I would never do--" Dax watched her Master's strange turn, "Master, are you alright?" She stepped forwards to put her hand on Ashara's shoulder and then something strange pulled her away. She started to feel queasy, like someone was gripping her stomach and squeezing it. "I don't... feel very..." She looked around, confused, but her concern shifted to Ashara, who seemed far worse. Dax reached out and gripped Ashara's shoulder, looking for answers as much as anything. Ashara took a deep breath, finding strength enough to regain her composure. 

 

"There has been a disturbance in The Force...you have sensed it too." Ashara said finally. "This is not good, Dax. A feeling such as this can only mean...Sith approach Ilum."

"Sith are coming here?!" Dax choked back some bile, "I'm not strong enough..." She shook her head, trying to clear it.

 

Ashara, ignoring her Padawan for a moment, took her holo-recorder from her belt and switched it on. As it scanned her form she spoke into it. "This is Jedi Knight Ashara Ven, This is a call to all Republic Vessels in range. The Empire have launched a strike on Ilum, I repeat, The Empire have launched a strike on Ilum. Please send all available fleets immediately!" Ashara then closed the recorder and turned to her Padawan once more. "Dax, I am afraid this is not a fight we can win. It is too risky to wait for the Republic Fleets to arrive with reinforcements. We must escape, and hope to fight another day. Quickly...sweep the halls of the Temple. Evacuate all civilians, there are many who cannot defend themselves. You must lead them to safety."

"Evacuate them where?!" Dax was almost shouting, "T-they won't listen to me!!"

 

"Dax...I know this is difficult. This goes far beyond any training I could possibly give you at this point." Ashara admitted. "But I believe in you. You told me that you wanted to become a Jedi to help people, well this is that time. Round everyone up and lead them to the the tunnels in the East Wing. Follow them and you will reach a secluded edge. I will take the front entrance and clear a path to the ship, I will bring it round to get you. Dax...you can do this. The Force is strong in you."

"A-alright." Dax looked around at the temple, for a moment, unsure what she was going to do, then a fire lit inside her, "Be careful!" She yelled, and then ran as quickly as she could towards the temple.

 

Ashara let out a heavy sigh, and then headed off on her own, pulling her hood up over her head. She went at a sprint along the main hallway of the Temple, and as she reached the entrance, she found Master Raella waiting for her. The old man had a sombre look in his eyes. "Master Raella, we have to leave." Ashara cried as she reached him. 

"This Temple is my home...I won't let those scoundrels desecrate it!" Raella replied indignantly. "If it's a fight they want...then I will see they find it, and they shall regret it!"

"Master Raella..." Ashara sighed

"Enough, child." Raella replied. "The enemy is already at our doorstep. Let's take the fight to them, and with any luck we will see you and your Padawan out of this alive." Ashara went to speak, but found herself lost for words. Eventually she simply nodded. Master Raella walked out ahead of her, his blue lightsaber igniting as the noble old Jedi walked out in to a blizzard of snow. Ashara took a moment to compose herself and then she followed. 

 

Outside the peaceful courtyard had become a battlefield. The few Republic forces stationed at the Temple were bunkered down, desperately trying to hold back the approaching Imperial Troopers, as blasts of red and green lasers flew through the air. Ashara held out her hand and her lightsaber flew into it, igniting immediately. She took two steps, before the blaster fire reached her. Then she went forward in a flurry, spinning her dualsaber, deflecting the blasts away from her and back at her enemies. To her right, Master Raella was doing the same, his composure as rock hard as stone as he expertly deflected the blasts. 

 

Over their heads an Imperial drop ship cut through the blizzard, two dark figures standing at the open side. The ship lowered, and the figures descended before the ship had touched the ground, landing with a soft tap on the floor. One was dressed in an elaborate set of robes, with armoured shoulder guards, and a high collar that went up to his chin. The Sith's skin was a brilliant crimson, and tendrils hung from his chin. His eyes were as red as his skin, and his head bald. He was a Sith not only in name, but in heritage. A race known now as the Pureblood Sith, natives of Korriban. To his right was a thinner, gaunter young man. A grey skinned Rattataki, completely hairless with pale white eyes, and tribal tattoos etched across his head. 

 

"The Jedi have come to play." The pureblood sneered. "Do not fail me Djara. We will end these pitiful creatures, and lay waste to their precious Temple."

"Yes, Master" The Rattataki, Djara, replied. "I will bathe this world in their blood." 

"Good, feed on your rage, my Apprentice." The pureblood said finally. And then each of them ignited their lightsabers, beams of brilliant crimson illuminated through the blizzard. 

 

Ashara did not waste any time. Harnessing The Force she sprinted at incredible speed, deflecting blaster fire as she went. The first trooper who neared her went down from his own blaster shot, deflected back at him. She was on the next, ducking low and spinning, bringing her lightsaber up and through his chest, before moving onwards, leaping and vaulting over a shattered wall, making a bee line for the Sith. She sensed Master Raella alongside her, his attention drawn to the pureblood. Ashara locked eyes with the Rattataki, and the Sith leapt towards her, aided by the Force, holding his lightsaber aloft in both hands. As he closed on her, she brought back her free hand, stopping her sprint, taking a breath. Then in one swift motion she pushed her hand forward, and The Force moved with her, blasting the Sith in the air and sending him crashing backwards in to the snow, but far from defeated. 

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Sprinting towards the temple, Dax leapt up the stairs in a single bound and used the momentum of the ice to carry her across the threshold. As she entered the temple, she saw republic troopers running in all directions. Dozens of civilians milled around in the centre of the temple, unsure what was happening or what they should do. The loud whine of a starship engine settling outside the temple galvanised the republic troopers. They quickly ran towards the entrance, though a couple strayed from the group.
"Hey!!" Dax yelled, but the deserters were ignoring her. She sprinted after them, quickly running them down. Dax leapt over the troopers and landed in front of them, crossing her arms with a furious expression on her face, "I said 'Hey!', you druk!!"
"The Sith are coming, our fleets aren't going to get here in time! If we stay here, we're doomed!!" The trooper started to push Dax aside and she grabbed his arm, twisted it around behind his back and swept out his legs, knocking him to the floor.

"There are people in this temple! And you're responsible for them, so do your droyking job and buy them some time!!" She picked the man up off the floor and pushed him back, and for a moment he was unsure what to do. His comrade glanced from him, to Dax and then ran towards the front entrance. After a moment's hesitation, the trooper nodded and followed his fellow trooper. Shaking her head, Dax turned her attention to the panicked civilians who had gathered in the centre of the temple's main floor.

 

"Hey! Are you all alright?!" Dax asked, as she ran up to them. Their responses came in a tsunami of panicked questions. For a few seconds she was overwhelmed, trying to understand what they were all saying. She could hear the starship's engine dying down and the march of imperial troops. Dax tried to drown out the noise generated by the civilians and focus. She reached out with The Force and saw hundreds upon hundreds of imperial troops, marching towards the temple. Blaster fire exploded behind her and Dax knew there was no more time left. "Enough!" She barked, quieting the civilians panic almost immediately, "Panic later, follow me!!" She yelled, and to her great surprise, the crowd quickly followed her down the tunnel towards the east wing.

 

"Go go!!" Dax yelled, the imperials were gaining on them. People couldn't move fast enough. They weren't going to make it, and the republic troopers were all likely already dead. She could feel the imps running down the tunnel after them. Sometimes they were so close that she felt blaster fire from behind her just barely miss as they turned a corner. Within minutes the tunnel opened out into a large cavern with a wide open front, used as a natural ship's hangar. She quickly looked around for available ships, but there were none that would carry the civilians into space. She would have to wait for her Master to send their own ship.
"What are we to do?!" One of the civilians screamed.
"Stay calm!" Dax snapped at the man, "Help is coming..." She added, but she couldn't feel the approach of the starship. She had been so distracted by sensing for the ship, that it wasn't until she felt the barrel of a laser rifle press into her back that she realised the imperial troopers had caught them. The civilians gasped and backed away, holding their loved ones close to them.

Her upper lip curled into a snarl and Dax shook her head. She guessed this is what it was probably like for Master Raella, when sensing with The Force, you had to be careful not to lose sight of the world around you. Looking to the future, meant your mind wasn't in the present. She would have to be mindful of that in the future - if she had a future.
"On the ground, Jedi scum..." The trooper pushed his rifle into her back as his comrade searched her.

"Found it." The other imp added, pulling the lightsaber from her belt. Dax fell to one knee and put her hands behind her head.

"Command?" One of the imperials touched the side of their helmet, presumably a communicator. "Yes, we have a group of civilians here. A Jedi child, too." There was a moment's pause, as whoever was on the other side gave them their orders. "Understood." He replied, and the two troopers raised their rifles.
"They're unarmed!!" Dax yelled back at them. She could sense their intent, and knew she had to act. Now or never. Dax quickly leapt up and back-flipped over the head of the nearest imperial trooper. She reached out and yanked the lightsaber from the other trooper's belt using The Force and instantly ignited it and charged the two soldiers. 

They opened fire, but had only enough time to shoot once. Dax effortlessly deflected their rifle lasers into the ceiling of the hangar, whirled around and sliced the first trooper's gun in half with her lightsaber and kicked the man so hard in the chest that he flew back into the far wall and crashed into it, knocking him unconscious. She turned her attention to the second trooper but the man fired at close range and Dax had no time to redirect the shot, she blocked it with her lightsaber and what happened next was unlike anything she had been expecting. She imagined seeing the blaster laser travelling back and hitting the trooper in slow motion. She imagined hearing the man's scream as he died. But the truth was the laser pinged from the man's rifle, to her lightsaber, and back into his chest, in less than a second. His startled cry was quickly cut short and he collapsed like a marionette that had had their strings cut. For a moment Dax's mind couldn't register what had just happened.

She stared at the man's body and looked around the hangar, there were no other troopers here yet. They had just been scouts. She turned to the civilians and wandered over to them, deactivating her lightsaber and replacing it on her belt.
"What are we to do, Jedi?!" One of the civilians asked, "The ship?!"
"Just..." Dax held her hand up and shambled over to a shipping crate and used it to support her, she felt dizzy with guilt and nausea. She had pictured disabling droids and disarming opponents dozens of times, run hundreds of simulations with her training saber. But nothing like this. She had not prepared herself for what it would be like to take a life. She had never expected to do it so soon, or so unintentionally. She doubled over and emptied her stomach onto the ground and stumbled back, disgusted with herself.
"She's just a child..." One of the civilians muttered.

"I'm a Jedi." Dax corrected the woman irritably. She didn't care if they were right or not. She had to get them to safety, but the ship was nowhere in sight. They were sitting ducks, perched at the edge of the hangar. "Things couldn't get any worse..." She muttered to herself.

In response, a dozen imperial troopers marched into the hangar and opened fire. "I'm an idiot!" Dax yelled, as she ignited her lightsaber and deflected the first barrage of laser fire. The troopers were steadily advancing, and more were slowly emerging from the tunnel. It was becoming more and more difficult for Dax to deflect every laser blast, she had taken to just widely deflecting them in any direction in front of her, no longer carefully redirecting them. She just hoped that none of them would hit something explosive, or ricochet and hit a civilian. They didn't have much time, soon she'd be overwhelmed and then her, and the civilians, would be cut down. "Any time now, Master..." She growled, knocking several more blaster shots out of the way. 

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Rising from the snow covered ground, the Apprentice Djara sneered at Ashara, pacing around her, his eyes fixed on her form. "Your spirit to fight on is useless, Jedi" he snarled. "The fall of your people on Ilum is imminent. You are vastly outnumbered...and your fleets far from reach."

"Must you begin running your mouth already?" Ashara replied. "I have found discussion with your kind to be particularly fruitless."

"So you would rather have a quick death?" Djara replied. "I am feeling somewhat merciful today, so on this occasion I will allow it." 

"I have no intention of dying today" Ashara replied before going at sprint. She closed in on Djara and brought her dual saber upwards to deflect his downward slash, turning on her body to move round him, and bringing her dualsaber forward again to deflect another blow. The pair clashed in a flurry of blows, the humming and screeching of their weapons travelling through the snow. With an angry yell Djara lunged forward with a wild horizontal slash and Ashara leapt back with an acrobatic flip, landing and thrusting her hand forward for another Force Push. However this time Djara was prepared, letting out a chilling scream, powered by The Force, counteracting the blast. 

 

Meanwhile Master Raella faced off against the Sith Master, holding his lightsaber up over his shoulder, with his free hand out-stretched in the Soresu form. The Sith Master approached with a slow but purposeful stride, a wide grin across his face. Then as they came within arms length he struck, unleashing a furious display of precision strikes, each artfully deflected by the Jedi Master. The Sith Master lunged forward with a joust and Raella stepped nimbly to the side, the red beam of the lightsaber only grazing his chest. He swung his lightsaber downwards at a diagonal angle, but the Sith Master leant backwards, narrowly avoiding the blow, bringing his lightsaber up and to clash with Raella's. He lifted his leg and struck a powerful kick the the old Master's chest and sent him crashing through the snow. Raella rolled along the power, before leaping to his feet once more. 

 

"Your body betrays you, old man" The Sith Master called out. "You are weak."

"My body may be old and tired." Raella replied. "But my ally is The Force, and a strong ally it is."

"You will see just how strong!" The Sith Master cried, as he held out his hand and lightning crackled in to existence, shooting across the gap striking Raella in the chest, causing him to seize up under it's relentless assault. The Sith Master advanced slowly, as Raella fell to his knees, gently moaning in pain from the electricity coursing through him. 

 

"Master!" Ashara yelled out. Djara too advantage of her distraction and advanced, but Ashara was still too quick and deflected his strike, swiftly kicking him in the chest, sending him tumbling away with the power of The Force. She ran to Raella, hurling her dualsaber at the Sith Master, it's green beams hurtling through the air, causing the Pureblood Sith to stop his assault and dive out of the way. He scrambled to his feet as Ashara's lightsaber found it's way back to her hand. She reached Raella and pulled him to his feet. "Are you alright?"

"Do...do not worry about me." Raella replied. "The fight is still upon us." He ignited his lightsaber once more, and with a deep breath he drew energy from The Force, and sprinted forward. 

 

He launched an offensive flurry on the Sith Master, forcing him to keep defending himself. Ashara joined the fight and the Sith Master was caught duelling them both, frantically trying to deflect their blows and quickly growing tired. As victory began to loom, Djara returned the the fray. The young Apprentice came to his masters aid with a powerful Force Push, kncoking Ashara backwards and having her tumble through the snow. She got up to face him and ran forward, but the Sith through his lightsaber at her. She leapt in to the air, her body twisting over the hurled blade. Djara so his opportunity, and held his hand aloft, catching her in the air and holding her there. Ashara gasped as she felt the tight grip of the Dark Side crushing her throat, stopping her from breathing. With his free hand Djara summoned his lightsaber and approached her. "Foolish of you to let your guard down like that, Jedi." He said with a smirk. 

 

Raella tried to break free from his fight with the Sith Master, but alas he could not shake his foe. He helplessly watched as Ashara's life began to dwindle away. Djara was within arms reach of her now, his lightsaber gripped tightly, prepared to strike her down. With a sudden burst of energy, the old Master let out a pained yell, slashing furiously at the Sith Master, who was caught off guard by the sudden display of force. He jousted at Raella's neck, but the Jedi ducked and bypassed his opponent, thrusting his lightsaber backward at his hip, it's blade penetrating the Sith Master through his torso. He removed it switly and the Sith fell to his knees. Raella wasted no time, sprinting for Djara with his lightsaber poised to strike. 

 

Djara turned and delivered a swift roundhouse kick to Raella's head, sending him to the ground with a thump. Wasting no time with gloating, he brought his lightsaber down on the old Master, snuffing out the last of his life. In the turmoil he had released his grip on Ashara and she dropped to the ground. Paused in the her moment of sorrow, she lingered on the last sensation of Raella's energy disappearing, becoming one with the Force. She took a deep breath, trying to find peace. However in doing so, her senses travelled further, and she felt the panic of her young Padawan. 

"Dax..." she whispered to herself. She pushed her finger to her ear, activating the communicator earpiece embedded inside. "X2...come in, please."

"Ashara!" an alarmed robotic voice echoed in her ear. "Are you all right? It sounds like there is a war going on out there."

"X2 listen to me...start the ship. Take it round the side of the Temple. Find the secluded hangar...find Dax."

"Are you not coming, Ashara." X2 asked her. 

"Just go!" Ashara cried finally, ending the communication. 

 

Djara and the Sith Master had had turned their attention to her once more. While the Sith Master was gravely wounded, he yet lived. She was unsure if she could take on both of them at once. The Master's control of the Dark Side was incredibly strong, and his Apprentice, while young, was fuelled by his rage. She stood up, igniting her dualsaber as the distant roar of her ship's engine echoed through the air. Djara eyed her like a hunter would it's prey. His Master slowly walked towards them. "What are you waiting for, Djara?" he replied weakly. "Kill her! Strike her down and claim my victory!"

 

"No, Master." Djara replied. "The victory is mine." Without warning he swung his arm out to the side, his lightsaber cutting through his Master's head, ending his life and his body collapsed lifelessly to the ground. Ashara did not flinch, but inside she felt a deep sorrow. That was what it was to be Sith, to cruelly murder your own Master in his moment of weakness. All for their own glory and passion. From what she understood of the Sith;s way, it meant Djara was the Master now. She could sense the thrill of his personal victory empowering him, making him far more dangerous than before. With one last deep breath she advanced on him, and for once, her future was clouded. 

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The Imperial troops were flooding into the cavern hangar now, Dax deflected all the blaster fire she could, but she couldn't block it all any more. She heard a scream as one of the civilians fell and she tried to suppress her feelings. She wanted to rage at the soldiers for their actions, but she knew it would bring her no happiness. Everything she had been taught told her that that was the path to the dark side. But still, she felt it. A stray laser shot flew towards a child at the outer edge of the group, and Dax had to summon The Force and run. She could see the laser bolt flying towards the child, it was going to hit her, it was too late. 

Dax started running, summoning The Force to aid her. She had already seen the child's death a split-second before, and had to stop it. She reached the child in the nick of time, and rolled out of the way of the laser, but it still nicked her arm and she let out a cry as she fell. She had to ignore the pain, bury it deep down in a place her mind couldn't find. She helped the child to his feet and picked him up in one arm, deflecting laser fire with the other. The boy looked up at her and she could see her own expression as a child when she had been saved by the Jedi, reflected in his face. Dax gave the boy to his mother and turned her attention back to the Imperials, "Group up behind me, I can't hold them back any more!!" She yelled, and the civilians bunched up behind her, hiding behind the whirling blue lightsaber that was deflecting a near-steady beam of laser fire now. It was too much, too many shots were still getting through, she had to sacrifice the civilians, or herself. Several more shots passed through and Dax was grazed several times, she ignored it. Finally, blaster fire bit into her stomach and Dax gasped. But it was not for the reason she was expecting. The pain was excruciating, but suddenly she felt something horrible. Worse even than when she had sensed the Sith. It was like witnessing a bright, beautiful light being snuffed out and it instantly brought tears to her eyes. Had Ashara fallen? Dax fell to one knee, but refused to fall.

A minute later, the roar of engines behind her signalled the arrival of their ship. She could hear the walkway lowering and the civilians quickly flooding into the ship. Just a few seconds longer, she had to stop the blasters for just a few more seconds. She heard the last footsteps running up the walkway and immediately Dax turned and summoned The Force to leap far and wide, landing part-way up the walkway as it started to close. She deflected a couple more shots as it closed and finally deactivated her lightsaber, casting the walkway into shadow for a few seconds. She could hear the panicked whispers of the civilians, and her own short, raspy breaths. Dax looked down at the wound in her stomach and touched it gingerly. Wincing, she cursed. She would have to get that seen to and soon, or she wouldn't be up for much longer. But not now, she had other plans. If Ashara was still alive, she had to save her.

 

"Move it, droid!" Dax barked, as she stumbled into the bridge. She had to hold herself upright using one of the seats.
"Oh, Dax, I see you are injured. That must hurt like a--"
"Get out of that chair!!" Dax took a step towards the droid and collapsed to the floor, suppressing a scream.

"You need medical care, I shall ask that morose medical droid to take care of you..." X2 got out of the his chair and helped Dax to her feet, but as soon as she was upright she pushed off the droid and stumbled forwards into the pilot's chair and started pressing buttons. 
"We are to leave the planet, Dax?" X2 asked, scanning the group of injured and fearful civilians.

"Nope." She replied, putting her hands on the controls and pulling the ship back up into the clouds. "We're going back."
"I would advise against it, and Ashara is capable of deactivating Sith. Why, one time--"
Dax started pressing buttons and X2 walked up beside her, "Dax Arandel, you are inept at piloting this starship. This is a bad idea."

"It's okay, X2. I already know the button I want to press." She muttered. The ship's engines roared as she flew over the temple, she looked out of the viewscreen and saw not hundreds, but thousands of Imperial troopers flooding the sacred Jedi grounds. Her eyes wandered over the battlefield, if that was what it was. It was more of a massacre than anything. She saw dozens upon dozens of bodies, republic troops and more than a few civilians. Then her senses redirected her to another scene. She saw a robed form lying on the floor, the head detached from it's body. As the ship approached, she was able to tell it was not Ashara, but then she realised it could only have been Master Raella. She had not been expecting it, but she felt the tears falling from her eyes as she descended towards the battle. He had been an irritable, difficult, stupid old man. But he was a good man, and a great Jedi. They had no right to end his life in such a way. His head separated from his body like that, it was barbaric. 

 

Dax bent down, wincing in pain as she stretched out and pressed the large button she had hit once before.

The computer's voice echoed out with familiarity, "Secondary cannons primed."

X2 looked out of the viewscreen as Dax brought the ship to a stationary hovering position, "The Apprentice has become the Master..." X2 said simply, and Dax knew what that meant. She had been told this sad truth many times before. More barbarism.
"He can have his Master..." Dax muttered, aiming the ship, "He's not having mine too!!" She yelled.

Holding the trigger down, the ship opened fire. Enormous bolts of blaster fire exploded from the ship's cannons, scorching the ground between Ashara and the Sith approaching her. Both combatants leapt out of the way but Dax continually redirected the cannons at the Sith, forcing him back over and over again until there was a significant distance between her Master and that creature. She saw the Sith's snarling face as he looked up at the ship in unashamed rage and she smiled back at him then centred her guns on the Sith once more and fired. The Sith turned and leapt as far as he could, and in that instant, Dax sent the ship overhead. X2 lowered the walkway and Ashara leapt inside. A few moments later, Dax heard Ashara enter the bridge and she pulled herself out of the pilot's chair. Tears were streaming down her face, and she clutched one hand to her wounded belly, the other still clung to her deactivated lightsaber. She took a couple of steps towards Ashara, and then fell forwards.

 

For a brief moment Ashara's face expressed worry for Dax, but it disappeared as she centred herself. There was no time for such feelings right now. She moved to Dax and caught her before she hit the floor, picking her up and putting her arm over Ashara's shoulder. "Come on, you need to walk with me." She said, her voice soft and calm, before turning to X2. "Get us out of here, now."
 
Ashara took Dax down the steps of the bridge and across the corridor of the ship, leading her in to the med bay and lying her down on the bed in the room. She began sifting through the drawers looking for something and returned with a med pack and a small injection gun, with a vial full of green liquid. "Hold still." She said, before immediately pressing the needle end in to Dax's arm. "That's an adrenal stim. You'll feel a little dizzy for a minute." she said calmly. "Now lift up your shirt."
"Ah..." Dax scrunched her face up as she peeled the bottom of her robe away from her belly and saw the wound underneath. Dax thought it looked pretty bad, "... I couldn't save them all, I wasn't strong enough..."
"You did more than enough." Ashara replied as she took the Kolto from the med pack and began to apply it to Dax's wound, trying to be gentle so as not to hurt her too much. "You should never have been in that situation in the first place. Given the circumstances... you exceeded my expectations."
"I think that means you did good, kid." X2 interjected.

Dax smiled at X2, but it didn't make her feel any better. "Master Raella..." Dax was barely able to say his name, "I felt it." She said, her tone even but her gaze staring off into space, "When he died, I felt it..." Her face scrunched up as fresh tears fell.
"Those sensations will only grow stronger as you become stronger in The Force." Ashara explained. "Do not view it as a burden. Master Raella has transformed in to The Force. Do not mourn him."
She nodded, and while she understood, and wanted to believe, she couldn't help but keep picturing his crumpled, headless body. Lying there in the snow, with that sneering maniac standing over it. "What do we do now..." She muttered, looking down at her covered wound. She pulled close her robes, putting aside her mild annoyance at seeing a burn hole in them. A thought resurfaced, "That Sith... i'd been told Sith will kill each other, but I didn't realise it was so..." She shook her head, unsure of what word had to finish that sentence.
 
"That is what pride and ambition do to a person." Ashara replied. "I sensed much pain and anger in him." Ashara thought for a moment on Dax's other question. "We have suffered a terrible loss today. Ilum is the most sacred place to the Jedi. The future has become... clouded. I would like to resume your training, but I feel the actions of the Empire will call us to a more pressing engagement. It is... not what I would have liked for you."
"I feel pain and anger..." Dax replied, "Does that weaken me, Master?" She asked. "I can't forgive the Sith for what they've done..."
"It does." Ashara replied, her voice a little pained to admit it. "Pain and anger are easily felt, Dax. You must learn to remove such things from yourself. It is hard... but it is necessary. To forgive one who does not deserve it... that is a truly enlightened thing. The ability to do that is what makes a Jedi."
"I see..." Dax replied, "Thank you, Master." After a minute's silence, Dax perked up a little and wiped the tears from her eyes, "I'm glad we saved so many, and... and that you are safe." She paused and then grinned, "Can I admit to being a little happy at seeing that Sith's face when I opened fire on him?" She laughed.
"Well you just did." Ashara replied. "Just be careful. Now get some rest."
A floating droid hovered over to the trio, "Are you in need of assistance?" It asked, in a monotone voice.
X2 walked over to it, "Go away, shoo!" He pushed the medical droid back, "You are a bore, Ashara should have you melted into scrap." Dax smiled at the interchange between the two droids and laid back onto the bunk and closed her eyes.

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Leaving Dax to rest Ashara made her way to the HoloNet room. When she entered it was filled with the civilians Dax had saved, over 20 of them. She gave a soft sigh. Her ship wasn't really built to hold so many. She cleared her throat before addressing them. "Excuse me, everybody." She began. "I know you are all very tired and scared right now. I need to speak with the Republic authorities right now. So you will all have to clear this room. If you go find my droid he will find you somewhere suitable to stay for the moment." her voice was calm and polite, but it left no room for question. Slowly but without complaint, the civilians left the room so that Ashara was alone. She closed the door behind her and stepped up to the console, patching a call through to the Jedi Temple on Coruscant. 

 

As the call went through, a hologram of a man about her height materialised before her. However he was clearly not human. His skin was wrinkled, and his face and eyes were covered by a antiox breath mask and a pair of protective goggles. Around his jaw there were small black tusks sticking out. The Kel Dor Jedi's form was instantly recognizable to Ashara, however, and she gave a short bow to the man. "Grand Master Zym." She said as she lifted her head. Zym gave a her a nod back. 

"Ashara, you're alive. That is good to see." Zym said "Fleets have arrived at Ilum, but our forces are already spread thin across the Galaxy. I am afraid this does not look good. The Senate are holding an emergency meeting at the moment. I've sent the rest of the Council in my stead, I wanted to speak to you personally. What happened down there?"

 

"I am afraid there is not much to say." Ashara replied. "The Imperial Fleet came out of nowhere. We didn't stand a chance. Master Raella and I tried to fight them off as best as we could but..."

"I know. I felt it from here." Zym replied. "He was a good man. A bit...off, at times. Still...he will be missed."

"I do have some good news." Ashara said. "I have about 2 dozen civilians aboard my ship. It's a little crowded, but I would like to get them to safety as soon as possible."

"Fantastic work, Ashara." Zym commended. 

"It is my Padawan who deserves the credit." Ashara replied. "She...is resting at the moment. She took a blaster to her stomach. She'll be fine."

"Quite a test The Force has put on her, in that case." Zym said with a sagely nod. "I am glad she has passed. Very well, there is a civilian transport en route to Courscant not far from you. I'll send the coordinates to your ship and let the Captain know you are on your way. You can drop your passengers off with them."

 

"Thank you." Ashara said with another bow of her head. "Shall we return to Coruscant afterwards for a full debrief?"

"Not yet." Zym shook his head. "I'll need more time, what with this Senate meeting. However...we may have a lead. Our intelligence network is already on to something. I'd like you and your Padawan to go to Ord Mantell. I'll be in touch before you arrive."

"Grand Master..." Ashara said apprehensively. "I think Dax might need some time to rest. She has witnessed a lot...and she was not prepared for entering a battle. We were supposed to be training her in a safe place. I don't want to endanger her again, not so soon."

"Worrying for your Padawan is admirable." Zym replied. "However, I am afraid our resources are spread thin. I need someone with your skills, Ashara. If you would rather leave Dax on the transport she can return to Coruscant. Although...no training you give her will ever be as effective as the real thing. She could learn a lot from this."

 

"She is...cocky. Emotional." Ashara replied. "I worry that she is not ready."

"Hmph!" Zym seemed quite amused by the comment. "I seem to remember a cocky young Twi'lek who was very similar. I wonder how she would have felt if Master Zhen Ko had excluded her from travelling with him. Hmm?"

"...Yes, you're right." Ashara replied. "I'll make my way to the transport and await your instructions."

"Good. Until then, Ashara." Zym said finally, and then his hologram disappeared. Ashara let out another sigh. She wished to be alone right now. Sadly this wasn't possible. She had guests, and a lot to do. She left the room and made her way to the bridge where X2 was waiting. 

 

"Those passengers sure can whine, Ashara." X2 said as she stepped on to the bridge. "You would think they would be more grateful at having their lives saved."

"They are scared, X2." Ashara replied. "Try to show a little understanding."

"I am not programmed to facilitate fear based responses." X2 replied. "It would be somewhat counter-productive for a droid to get in a panic, don't you think?"

"Fine." Ashara replied, too tired to argue. "There should be coordinates coming in. Set a course and keep in communication with the Captain of the civlian transport. Let me know when we're on approach."

"Roger, roger." X2 replied. 

"Pardon?" Ashara asked. 

"I do not know...it just came to me."

 

 


 

 

"Dax..." Ashara said as she gently shook her Padawan's arm to wake her. "Dax...you need to wake up now."

Blinking the sleep from her eyes, Dax looked up at Ashara with a confused expression, "What's happening?" She asked, trying to pull herself up.

"We're boarding a Republic Civilian Vessel." Ashara explained. "We'll be stopping briefly to re-supply. We should probably get you cleaned up and in some fresh clothes as well." She added.

"I'll get changed." Dax replied, and stood up. Her wound still hurt, but the Kolto had clearly helped a lot, at least she felt mobile enough to move on her own. She took a deep breath and walked back down towards her quarters, down the stairs and past the engine room. On her way there, she received endless stares and strange expressions from the civilians they were transporting. She couldn't make sense of their expressions, she'd never seen anything like it. Instead, she focused on getting back to her room and changing. Once she was in a fresh set of clothes, she returned to Ashara, once again passing the gawping civilians on her way. "This feels weird." She said to Ashara, commenting on their new passengers, as she sat down in a chair beside the pilot's seat.

 

Ashara sat in the seat next to her and began pushing buttons on the console. "This is Jedi Knight Ashara Ven requesting clearance to dock." She said aloud. A moment passed and then a voice echoed through the bridge. 

"This is Republic Wanderer Class Vessel Mesmer. You are clear for landing, I repeat, you are clear for landing." Ashara began to steer the ship in to the large cruiser's docking bay as they approached. the side of the vessel. They passed through the shielded docking bay and into the hangar, before gently descending, until they touched the floor. After a moment Ashara opened the exit and allow the ramp to fall down. 

"Come on then." Ashara replied as she got up. "We won't be stopping for long so say what you have to say." She put her hand on Dax's shoulder and gave her a soft smile. Then she made her way off of the ship. 

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"What?" Dax frowned, holding her side as she stood up and followed her Master off the ship. The civilians followed them down the ramp as several republic troopers tended to the wounded, and others led the group away to be checked for injuries and situated with quarters or given a hot meal. Dax watched the group of people leaving, and a strange feeling came rushing to the surface. Before she could stop herself, she blurted out, "Wait!" She yelled, and the various men, women and children stopped and turned to face Dax and Ashara. She looked up to her Master unsure of what she'd first intended to say, but looking back at their faces now, she found only one thing she could voice. "I-I'm sorry." She muttered, then said it louder, "I'm sorry. I didn't save everyone... if you lost..." Tears welled up in the corners of her eyes, "... it's my fault, so..."

Something moved through the crowd, and they parted slowly to let it through. When it emerged at the front, Dax saw a young girl, no older than six. To her surprise, Dax saw that she was a Mirialan. The little green-skinned girl stumbled up to her and Dax instinctively looked back up at the civilians to scan the group for her parents, but she couldn't see anyone else that was like her or the little girl. She felt a tugging at her trouser leg and looked back down, the girl was asking to be picked up. Dax bent down and the little girl wrapped her arms around Dax's neck and the Padawan lifted her up so that they were eye level. Then the girl reached into a pocket and pulled something out and grabbed hold of Dax's braid. A moment later, she released it and squirmed to be let go. Dax gently placed her back on the floor and the little Mirialan girl hurriedly rejoined the group before they walked into the ship, without a word. Dax held her braid out in front of her and saw that the girl had tied a number of dark green beads to it.

 

Letting out a deep breath, Dax clicked her tongue off the roof of her mouth. Her first mission hadn't turned out anything like she'd imagined. But despite what had happened, she'd learnt a lot, and felt stronger for it. Maybe a little smarter. She turned to Ashara and gave her a weak smile before walking back up into their ship. Once they'd departed, Dax slipped into the chair besides Ashara and sat quietly for a few minutes. It'd be nice to return to Coruscant and maybe sleep in her old dorm. The co-ordinates for their hyperspace jump was keyed in but Dax noticed that they weren't the coordinates for Coruscant. "Uh, Master, where are we going?" She asked, frowning.

"Ord Mantell on Jedi Business. " Ashara replied. "I won't know the details until we reach orbit, and then Grand Master Zym will contact us. If you like you can go back to Coruscant on that civilian transport?"

Dax made a face that looked as though she was considering it for a moment and then laughed, "Mm, no i'm fine right here, Master. And anyway, what's 'Jedi business'? We're Jedi - we're always business. What are we doing exactly?" She asked, frowning.

"I just told you as much as I know." Ashara replied. "Perhaps you should listen more carefully."
"I was listening..." She muttered, crossing her arms and pouting.

The ship entered and quickly left hyperspace. There before them was the planet Ord Mantell. She'd never been there before, and then she irritably reminded herself she'd never been much of anywhere before. She opened her mouth to say something when a chime echoed from the HoloNet room. Dax flashed Ashara a quick look and then both Master and Padawan made their way there. As they closed the door behind them, the form of Master Zym appeared before them. He looked over both of them with an unreadable expression.

"Grand Master Zym." Ashara nodded to the Jedi Master.
"Hi," Dax added, smiling and half-waving.

"Ah, so this is Dax then." Zym replied. "Nice to meet you, Padawan."
"He knows my name." Dax said, grinning at Ashara. "What's that thing on your face for?" She asked curiously.

 

"Perhaps you should have paid attention during your lessons." Zym replied. "I'm, sadly, not contacting you for a nice chat. Have you reached Ord Mantell?"
"Yes, Master Zym." Ashara replied
"Good. Then you should land at Fort Garnick and liaise with Korren Alek. He's an Intelligence Agent under cover. You should probably wear more suitable clothing, and hide your lightsabers. Jedi won't be a welcome sight where you are going. " The HoloNet faded and Dax let out a short huffy noise.
"We're not the only ones." Dax muttered to herself, though she didn't really mean it. She just wanted to vent, and perhaps, have the last word. "Do we have other clothes, Master?" Dax asked, looking at her Jedi robes, "I don't think I brought anything else..."
"I'm sure i can find something of mine that will fit you." Ashara replied. "Let's go have a look in my room shall we?"
"Fantastic." Dax replied, regretting having said anything.
 
Ashara led Dax into her quarters and immediately, Dax was struck by how different it was in here. Although it was just as sparsely decorated as her own room, it was completely different. The lighting was less invasive, there was a large double bed, a wardrobe and even a small cushioned area for meditation. It was actually quite pleasant in here, compared to the bright lights, humming engine noise and hot temperature of her own room. Ashara handed Dax a bunch of clothes, she rifled through them and picked out a few of the better looking items. Once she was changed out of her Jedi robes, she looked at herself in the mirror. She was now wearing a pair of black leather trousers and boots, and a black long-sleeved top. Over it, she wore a full-length white coat with a large hood on the back. She pulled a pair of goggles on and used them like a hair band to keep her hair out of her face. "Not bad." She mused, and thought she might just keep the goggles on in future if it kept the hair out of her face. "What about you?" She asked.
 
Ashara changed in to a pair of tight-fitted, dark blue trousers with black pouch pockets on either side. She wore knee-high black boots. Her long sleeved jacket matched her trousers, hugging her form, with black rubber padding over her abdomen and her shoulders. She completed the outfit with a pair of black gloves and a thick, metallic belt. Finally she removed the clasps from her Lekku, letting them hang loosely at either side of her shoulders.  "I suggest you find a place to hide your lightsaber that is discrete but easy to locate." Ashara said as she pulled a pair of blaster pistols from her wardrobe. "This is more appropriate. Use this when we are undercover. Also... on Ord Mantell I am not your Master, or Ashara. Just call me Ven."
"Neat!" Dax replied, taking the blaster pistol and examining it excitedly. Then she reluctantly gave her lightsaber one last look before she hid it inside her coat and slipped her blaster into a holster and attached it to her hip. "So what do I get to be called?" She asked, "What about something mysterious, like..." She scrunched her face up in thought.
 
"I am a known Jedi." Ashara replied.  "Ven is a common surname for Twi'leks. It won't seem strange here. You, however, shouldn't have to worry about anyone knowing who you are." Ashara left her room, leaving Dax watching her leave with an astonished look on her face.
"... lame!" Dax called out after her. "Lame!!" She repeated and followed Ashara out. She walked onto the bridge and then sank dejectedly into the chair beside her Master as their ship lowered itself through the pink-haze of the atmosphere and down to the planet's surface. The engines roared as the ship banked and slowed to rest on a landing platform and Dax quickly got out of her seat - wincing slightly as she reminded herself it would be a little while before her injury had totally healed. Both Jedi stood and left their ship and immediately Dax was met with a wave of heat and she winced. "Eugh!" She grunted. It was so hot that the city around them looked hazy. She could feel the sweat beading on her skin already. "I immediately don't like this place..." She muttered.
"This isn't a vacation, squirt." Ashara replied uncharacteristically, before adding, "Sorry, just getting in to character."
"I like that better than the real you." Dax muttered, and licked her dry lips. "Geez, who put that there?!" She snapped, looking up at the brilliant white sun that looked like it was a stone's throw from the planet's atmosphere. Dax irritably kicked the dirt in front of her and then followed her Master off the ship. "Should have grabbed a hat." She grumbled, and pulled the goggles over her eyes.

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Ashara made her way in to the shade of the hangar with Dax following alongside her. They were greeted by a Republic trooper in full plastoid armour. "General Ven." He said with a salute. "We were told you would be coming. Arrangements have been made to keep this hangar secure." he said, his voice sounding tinny from the helmet he wore. "Outside of here the Republic Forces have no knowledge of who you really are. So don't expect them to follow orders. As far as they are concerned you're just another smuggler passing through."

"Excellent, thank you." Ashara replied. "Where can I find Korren Alek?" 

"Korren is in the Avilatan's Rest. It's a Cantina here in Fort Garnik." The trooper replied. "He'll likely be with some of the smugglers he works with, so he won't approach you directly."

"I understand. I know what to do." Ashara said with a nod. "That will be all, thank you."

"Good Luck, General" The trooper said with a salute and Ashara walked off with Dax. 

 

"If he's not going to approach us directly... what does that mean exactly? How do we make contact with him?" Dax asked, frowning.

"Presence is very important in such circumstances." Ashara replied. "If we talk a big game, heads will turn. We must merely provide an opportunity for Korren Alek to approach us without it seeming suspicious. Hush now, let's get a move on." Ashara walked back out in to the hot sun and in to the streets of Fort Garnik. While there were a few Republic Troopers around, their presence was drawfed by the amount of civilians. As well as the locals there were also a few Rodians, Cathar and other species walking the streets. Some stood in corners, talking in hushed whispers to one another, while others sauntered down the street talking openly, with little care to who heard them.

 

Ashara and Dax entered the Avilatan's Rest and were greeted to cool air, and a dimly lit room. Music was playing and neon lights lit the Cantina, with a variety of people sat at each booth discussing whatever underground business deals they had. Ashara ignored them and ehaded straight for the bar, leaning over the counter to catch the barman's attention.

"Old Trusty." Ashara said sharply. "Neat." She added before turning and looking at Dax. "And some Bubblezap for the kid."

 

The Barman served the drinks to them and Ashara sniffed the glass, taking in the aroma before taking a sip. She found the drink to be quite putrid, but she certainly showed no outward signs of it. She eyed up and down the bar casually, noticing that she already had a few eyes on her. It was fairly typical in such places for people to be interested in a new face. She took another sip of her drink before locking eyes with the barman again. "You seen a guy in here going by Endo? That chump owes me money." She asked.

"Endo?" The barman replied. "Can't say I have. You don't mean Endo, as in, the Endo, right? The one who smuggled Hutt cargo in to Coruscant? You're kidding right?"

"That's the guy." Ashara replied. "That bum didn't know what hit 'em when I showed up. Good for business though, let's just say he's not the one running for the Hutts any more."

"Right...well sorry but I-"

"Forget it." Ashara interrupted. "Go do your thing."

 

She had made sure to speak loudly, and sure enough it wasn't long before a Rodian approached her, leaning over the bar next to her. "Toogi, Twi'lek." The Rodian said, his tone quite friendly. 

"Hi chuba da naga, wermo?" Ashara replied, her voice filled with contempt for the man. 

"Haba uba canya kee chay choba." The Rodian replied. 

"Jesko na joka." Ashara replied, shaking her head. "Run on back to your keeper. I don't talk business with low-life scum."

"Me dwana no bata." The Rodian said, insistently. 

"You heard the lady, Gureb. Buzz off!" Another man interrupted their exchange, and the mere sight of him seemed to send the Rodian running off. Ashara turned to see a middle aged human man, slim and dressed in a grey tunic and black trousers. "Apologies about the riff-raff. They just don't quit."

"Nothin' I'm not used to." Ashara replied with a shrug. "Let me guess, you didn't just come over here come to my rescue, right?"

 

"You're sharp." The man replied. "The name's Korren Alek. I overheard you talking earlier. I might have some work for you."

"Oh yeah?" Ashara replied, draining her drink. "I'll tell you the same as I told the last guy. I don't talk to low-lifes."

"I can assure you I'm not on the same level as Gureb." Korren said with a smile. "I work with Anvar Sh'dook. You know of him?"

"Yeah, I know him." Ashara said as she turned herself around and leaned her back against the bar. "Let's talk somewhere private. The name's Ven. This here is Dax." 

"Oh...a kid." Korren said sceptically as he looked at Dax. 

"That kid is the best slicer I know." Ven replied. "And she's small, she fits places I can't. Comes in handy, trust me."

 

"I'm small." Dax replied irritably crossing her arms as she looked at Korren, "That's what I bring to this outfit, apparently." She muttered, and turned her attention to what the bar patrons were drinking. A rainbow assortment of drinks. Liquid, gas and energy-based. Dax looked down at the drink in her hands and took a little sip. "Fruity." Her face lit up, but then she realised she was supposed to be in-character, "Yeuch!" She made a melodramatic hacking sound and stuck out her tongue, but as they left she quickly swallowed the contents of the glass before following.

 

 


 

 

Korren led Ashara and Dax to a secluded warehouse filled with cargo and transports, with various crew members at work, moving cargo around and checking stock. Korren did not address them and Ashara followed his lead, walking alongside him as they walked up a ramp and on to the next floor. There they entered a modest room with a long table, and some desks at the side. Once inside Korren closed the door and they were finally alone. Korren held out his hand to Ashara and smiled politely. "General, I apologise about earlier. Needs must I'm afraid." he said apologetically. 

"It's fine, I was already briefed." Ashara replied as she shook his hand. "Are you sure we can speak freely in here?"

"Of course. My employer, Viidu conducts his business here. He wouldn't stand for any surveillance." Korren said. "Oh and...apologies to you too, Dax was it? I wasn't informed there would be two Jedi coming."

"Well you maybe need to improve your information brokers, then." Dax muttered, looking around. "'Cus they're not doin' much for you."

 

"Manners, Dax." Ashara scolded her Padawan before turning to Korren. "So what's the situation here? This mission came about rather suddenly, so I don't have all the details."

"Of course." Korren said with a nod. "I work for a man named Viidu. As far as smugglers go he's pretty honest. Still not a fan of the Republic sticking their nose in, so I have to stay in cover. You don't have to worry about him, his operations are pretty inconsequential, but he gives me an in. I heard about the assault on Ilum and I think there is a connection here on Ord Mantell."

"Very well." Ashara replied. "Please go on."

"This planet is going through a bit of a power struggle. The Government still officially ally with the Republic, but there's been some pretty shady stuff going on. A lot of civilians are losing faith in their Government, and the Republic. It's small at the moment, but there group are calling themselves Separatists. They don't want to be a part of the Republic any more. There are mumblings of revolution."

 

"That is troubling." Ashara said as she folded her arms. "Yet I still don't see the connection."

"Well when factions like this rise up they are rarely organized at first. However the Separatists are a different story. They've already taken control of a small colony. Word around the streets is they've been working with a woman called Layette Rhone. She turned up round about the time the Separatists started making a ruckus. She keeps a low profile but people around here have been around the block a few times. However I've been in Intelligence for a long time and I know a spy when I see one. She's an Imperial Agent, I've got no doubt about that. She's probably here to aggravate the Separatist movement and cause problems for the Republic. Background checks on her are pretty scarce, but she's had dealings with Darth Viscerus. He lead the assault on Ilum, I believe you tangled with him."

 

"He lost his life, to his Apprentice." Ashara affirmed. "This information seems shaky though. Viscerus is dead and it's not uncommon for an Imperial Agent to work for Sith Lords."

"True. But according to our intelligence Viscerus has been pretty quiet for a few years now. Up until the Operation on Ilum he's kept his head down. If you want to get to the bottom of this you will have to capture Layette Rhone. She's the only lead we have."

"Very well." Ashara replied. "I assume it's not as simple as walking up to her doorstep."

"She's went dark, keeps a low profile. The only way to get to her is to infiltrate the Separatists. You're an off worlder so there's no chance they'll take you as a supporter. However we can pose as a neutral party. Hence the smuggler routine. Viidu is currently off getting information on a shipment of Republic weaponry that's being stored a few miles from here. The Republic are aware of our plan but we have to make it look legit. We'll steal the weapons and then smuggle them in to the Separatist base. Once we're in you can find Layette, sound good?"

 

"Better than nothing." Ashara replied. "How long do we have?"

"I have a meeting with Viidu tomorrow." Korren replied. "Until then you should go get some rest. I'll talk you up to Viidu. He's a bit slow to trust but if I vouch for you he'll be on board."

"Excellent." Ashara replied. "In that case we'll be off."

"I'll be in communication soon." Korren said with a nod. 

"Come along, Dax." Ashara said to her Padawan. "Let's get something to eat and find a room to stay in. You can work on your meditation until tomorrow."

 

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