Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Ch 18

Ayli was alone. In theory that was the natural state for a body in a coffin, but her previous experience with coffins had run towards them being rather overstuffed. In this case, the coffin fabrication machine had objected to packing multiple bodies together, which was fine. They needed as much air as the oversized coffins could provide. But it still felt weird.

Nix’s kiss lingered on Ayli’s kiss, which sort of kept her company, though thoughts of Nix drifting helplessly in a coffin in space did absolutely nothing to calm Ayli’s nerves so she was diligently avoiding them to the best of her ability.

What was stranger than missing her wife – Ayli was having a harder and harder time of thinking of Nix as anything else – was that the presence she’d been saddled with for over a week seemed to be missing too.

Ayli had picked up the red lightsaber before they left Galvus station, which was usually an invitation for the presence to seep in under her skin, but she couldn’t feel even a wisp of it.

“What has happened to my life,” she wondered, glad the silent void she was floating in would keep her words as private as her thoughts.

But were her thoughts private anymore? She’d heard the presence speak in her mind after all.


She’d heard Ravas Durla speak in her mind.

She knew who ‘the presence’ was. Nix’s declaration on waking had confirmed it, but Ayli wasn’t incapable of connecting the basic dots together of “she’d gotten haunted after picking up a lightsaber which had probably belonged to Ravas Durlas” and “Ravas Durla was some kind of Force-user and, from the historical records, Force-users were capable of all kinds of physics-defying, ridiculous things”. That someone who’d inspired a cult of eternal life seekers might have found a trick to stick around for centuries after her death wasn’t exactly a far stretch. 

Especially not with the evidence Ayli had. Granted it was evidence that no one else could perceive and would be impossible to cite in a decent journal entry, but Ayli had learned to deal with the world as it was early on in life and Ravas Durla haunting her was definitely a thing that was happening.

Shouldn’t that have been frightening? Ayli had already had to threaten to lightsaber her own brain to hold Ravas at bay. 

That had been setting ground rules though. 

And Ravas had respected them.

Which might have been because the ghost knew a different approach would work better.

And it had.

Ayli could still feel the desperation that had gripped her hands around the lightsaber blade as she tried to cut through the sealed doors. The coffins had been a mistake. They’d brought too many old memories back. Too many old emotions.

And Ravas had been right there waiting.

She couldn’t control Ayli but she certainly knew how to push her buttons.

“I wasn’t pushing any buttons,” Ravas said, her voice sharp and clear though her presence remained vague and formless. “I was trying to save you from this.”

“Save me?” Ayli laughed, which probably wasn’t a great idea given her limited oxygen supply. “By getting me to go out alone against who knows how many assassins?”

“Six,” Ravas said. “There were six assassins in the medical facility. Outside they had twelve support staff waiting as well.”

“I can’t fight eighteen people. I would have been slaughtered.”

“I can, and you would have been fine,” Ravas said. “You have the passion to be a true warrior. Together there is no one who can stand against us.”

“I don’t want to be a warrior. I’m a historian,” Ayli said, knowing that wasn’t strictly true so she added, “and a treasure hunter,” which added only a slight bit of extra truth to her claim.

“You left not one of the Smoke Wraiths alive,” Ravas said. “Whatever you choose to be, you are a warrior born as well.”

“I choose not to be the plaything of some dead old witch,” Ayli said.

“I was never a witch,” Ravas said. “And the power I offer you is not magic. The Force is a part of you. One you cannot deny.”

“I have never once lifted a boulder with my mind or bent someone’s will to my own with some magic words,” Ayli said.

“If you think that is how the Force manifests in its users, then you need my teachings more than I imagined,” Ravas said.

“Why would I listen to a word you said, much less believe anything you’re trying to teach me?”

“Because you are useless to me dead,” Ravas said. “If you trust in nothing else, trust in the greed you much feel in me. I cannot take your life. You know this because you know if I could take it, your life would be mine already.”

“That’s not helping your case as much as you think it is,” Ayli said.

“I cannot lie to you, you know this to be true as well,” Ravas said. “I can work only with the truth, give you only what you are willing to receive.”

“And lead me to my ruin without me ever noticing,” Ayli knew she was being difficult out of fear and uncertainty. She strongly suspected that both her fears and uncertainties were well founded though.

The flash of rage she felt surge from her from Ravas acted as an unsubtle confirmation of that suspicion, but the weariness which followed a moment later gave Ayli pause.

“Yes,” Ravas said. “I will destroy you. I will lead you to ruin.”

“That’s…it’s not in a same galactic quadrant as persuasive,” Ayli said, perplexed by what sort of trick the ghost was trying to pull.

“I can only be honest with you,” Ravas said. “In my life, I led myself and others to destruction and ruin. Time and again. In my next life I will do the same.”

“As life plans go, that one’s a little lacking, even for a dead lady,” Ayli said.

“It is not a plan. It is an acknowledgement of the inevitable realities of existence,” Ravas said. “I have seen it many times. Striving until failure. Hope crushed into despair. Life reduced to nothing but its bitter dregs. That is our birthright and our legacy. But it is not our ending. I have not let it be and I will not let it be. From the ashes of our destruction, we can find the strength to rise again. If all existence seeks to quench our fire, if the stars themselves turn against us, that is nothing more than a call for our passions to blaze even brighter. In that is our power. Therein is our victory.”

“Okay, nice. There’s the sales pitch I was waiting for,” Ayli said.

“I offer to sell you nothing,” Ravas said. “You have already taken that which was mine. As was your right by the power you possess. You have acknowledged me, as a testament to the strength of your mind. You seek the treasure assembled in my name and I bid you seize it. To claim victory over those who stand against you though, you will need my aid. I cannot deceive you, I can only offer you the wisdom I had gathered for a thousand years. Wisdom you must have. Wisdom I need you to have because it is only through you that I may touch the world once more, and so you must survive. Whatever it takes. Even if that means dealing with something like me.”

“Yes. Very tempting,” Ayli said. “I’ll pass though. There’s not much point trying to save myself, but letting you destroy everything I am and want to be.”

“Even if that is what you will need to do to save those you love?” Ravas asked.

And like the tide rolling back out, Ravas’ presence faded away and Ayli was alone once more.

“Seriously. What has happened to my life?”

Was a probably-already-looted treasure hoard of ancient Phrik artifacts worth all this? From the inside of a coffin which was floating in the pitiless void, it was easy to reach the conclusion that she’d gone hopelessly mad at some point. Talking to a ghost pointed in that direction too. The calm Ayli felt with the absence of Ravas and everyone else told her she wasn’t mad though. She wasn’t even that angry. 

Sure, Sali had set them up as the fall guys for her scheme and now they had assassins and bounty hunters chasing them across the galaxy. Sure, Ravas was probably going to try to a double cross at some point. And, most importantly, sure, she was married to a woman she barely knew. None of that was normal. None of that was safe, or even comfortable. 

It had been Ayli’s choice though to seek haven with Saliandris (and to steal from the Klex in the first place). 

And It had been Ayli’s choice to take up the lightsaber, even knowing it was an ancient artifact, and her choice to hold onto it when she could have tossed it away on Lednon Three and possibly been rid of Ravas’ ghost in the process. 

And, most importantly, it had been Ayli’s choice to marry Nix. The questionable legitimacy of Canto Blight’s marital decrees aside, Ayli hadn’t so drunk when she’d proposed that she hadn’t meant it at the time. And each day she was feeling like she meant it more and more. 

Maybe it was because she couldn’t imagine anyone else going along with the madness that was her life as well as Nix had. Maybe it was because Nix treated her with the kind of gentle warmth Ayli had yearned for since she’d lost her parents. Maybe it was just that Nix was really good in bed? Except, no, it was more than that. Even when they were apart, like say when they were drifting in separate coffins in the void of space, Ayli could still feel them drawing closer together.

There was a loud bump on the side of Ayli’s coffin.

Things weren’t supposed to bump into boxes floating in space. Ayli reached for the lightsaber to defend herself and locked her muscles in place.

Turning on a bright plasma arc in a tight box would accomplish many things and none of them would be conducive to her survival, from burning up all the remaining air, to blinding her, to probably slicing off random body part. 

With a deep breath, Ayli let her fear wash over her and embraced what calm she could. 

It wasn’t much.

Fear had saved her far more often than being calm ever could have.

Then she heard a tapping from the side of of the coffin that had been bumped.

Could she angle the lightsaber blade to burn a hole just through that side? She’d have to plug the hole with the lightsaber’s hilt but it was at least a plan. All she had to do was…

She stopped.

The tapping wasn’t random.

It was code.

A fairly common one.

Used by Ship’s Mechanics when the comms were down.

Are you okay in there? Spelled out in tap and gaps.

Ayli couldn’t help herself.

She started laughing. 

She was still laughing when her coffin was cracked open from outside, but by then they’d all been loaded into Goldie’s cargo bay (which had thankfully also been repressurized) and the others were in the process of crawling out of their coffins as well.

“Thought of some good jokes in your free time?” Sali asked.

“Nope. Was just talking with dead people,” Ayli said, wiping the laughter tears from her eyes and catching her breath.

She turned to help Nix rise from the coffin which had crashed into hers. 

“Sorry,” Nix said. “That was probably weird. I just wanted to know you were nearby.”

Ayli kissed her.

“You never have to apologize for wanting me around,” she said.

“Before the other people who’d like us around figure out what we did, we should be somewhere else,” Sali said.

“Maybe somewhere closer to the treasure we’re looking for?” Zindiana suggested.

“Yeah. Let’s set course for the next trial. Goldie can you plot a course along the unmapped hyperspace route from the Tarventi system once we get there?” Ayli asked.

“If I can pick it up on scanners,” Goldie said.

“I can show you where to find it. Our next stop is the fractured world of Dedlos,” Ayli and Ravas said.

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