Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Ch 39

Neither the Goldrunner’s shuttle nor the N1 Starfighter were exactly in one piece when the touched down on Praxis Mar but they did touchdown as opposed to the hard “lithobraking” maneuver the Goldrunner had clearly employed.

“Zin!” Sali called out as she leapt from the N1’s cockpit and ran towards a new port in the Goldrunner’s side which was less an addition and more a subtraction of some rather necessary hull plates.

Nix didn’t race out of the shuttle to join her. She could tell Zindiana was fine, if rather annoyed at the damage she was in the process of repairing.

Ayli was the one Nix was concerned about and, as Nix had more or less expected, her wife wasn’t present.

“Mom!” Goldie said over the shuttle’s comm system. “I’d say it’s good to see you, but Sister Zin had my external cameras offline.”

“I can see why,” Nix said. “How are you doing otherwise?”

“My datacore is fine. My body is, uh, less so,” Goldie said. 

“Anything still degrading?” Nix asked. She was concerned about Ayli but Goldie was still in peril too and of the two at least Ayli could still move on her own and hadn’t, yet, been shot full of holes.

“Nope. I’m forty one percent through a full system diagnostic and the Stage 1 checks for critical systems or spill over failures came back clean already.”

“Nice work getting everyone here safely,” Nix said, proud of her mechanical daughter.

“That was mostly Ayli’s flying,” Goldie said. “My deflectors are so weak.”

“Goldie, my dear, you shrugged off fire that’s repelling capital ships,” Nix said.

“It took more than a shrug,” Goldie said. “And most of it just didn’t hit me.”

“Most isn’t all, and from what I can see we should be able to have you airborn against a day or two, less if it’s an emergency and we rush it.”

“It’s not going to be an emergency is it?” Goldie asked. “I think I’m kind of done with emergencies for a while.”

“We’ll see,” Nix said, smiling at Goldie’s honesty. Putting a brave face on things was all well and good but being open about your limits was much more important in the long term. “Where did your other Mom go?”

Nix shouldn’t have needed to ask that question. Since opening herself to the Force and acknowledging her interaction with it, she’d been able to feel it more clearly than ever before. Her sense of Ayli’s presence was sharper than anyone else’s, even when they were separated by an ocean of stars.

Praxis Mar was different though.

Praxis Mar was a murdered world. In an age past, it drowned in despair and it’s inhabitants had been drawn down into madness and desolation on a scale that Nix could not fathom. The horror of that time was so distant that it couldn’t really touch her. No ghosts remained of the peoples of Praxis Mar, but the planet itself, the rocks and the sky still held onto the wailing hatred and empty sorrows. 

Nix knew Ayli was somewhere on the planet. Even somewhere close, but everything around her had been twisted for so long it was like walking through an eternal fog.

Of all the world’s they’d visited, Praxis Mar was the only one that could have been home to Children of the Storm, and to Ravas Durla before them.

“She went to the temple,” Goldie said. “The one at the top of the volcano we landed near.”

Nix glanced up to see the mountaintop wreathed in smoke and the glow of its inner fire.

Of course that was where Ayli had gone.

And where she was going to have to go too.

“Can you have Sali work on getting your long range scanners online?” Nix asked. “We kind of need to know what’s happening with the two fleets up there. If the wrong one wins, I’ll need to get your data core out of the ship before they land.”

“You’ll be back?” Goldie asked.

“We both will be,” Nix said.

“It doesn’t seem too safe up there.”

“It’s not, but it’s why we came here, so…”

“So we want to loot the place before we leave!” Goldie said, with exactly the inflection Sali would have used.

“In a manner of speaking, yes, yes we do,” Nix said. “That said, if we’re not back in a day, get Sali and Zindiana to patch up your main drive and head out of here to someplace where the Preservationists and the Klex won’t find any of you okay?”

“You know that’s not going to happen,” Goldie said.

“If we’re not back in a day, you’re not going to find us here at all,” Nix said. “In which case, listen to Sali.”

“And save my own hide?” Goldie said.

“What? No. Get revenge!” Nix said. “Which will require saving your own hide, but, you know, after that, feel free to take them apart, the Klex especially.”

“Okay. That I could maybe do,” Goldie said.

“Good. See you in a few hours then,” Nix said, entirely unsure if she would.

She needed to be on Praxis Mar. She knew that. What she needed to be there for however, aside from supporting her wife, was just a little unclear.

Sort of like the air was as she began to climb the slope of the volcano.

Nix reached out to the Force, trying to sense if an eruption was imminent but all she could sense was overwhelming misery. Part of her ached in resonance with the long buried pain the land still bore, while another found the unnecessary agitation annoying to the point of inducing a low grade rage the longer she dwelled on it.

So she stopped.

Getting angry at a mountain wasn’t going to help her. The rocks might remember the terror of the fallen, but they were long gone and there was nothing Nix could do that would change their fate or make it better. 

Sometimes things just sucked and the only thing to do was keep moving towards the things that didn’t.

“You’d think after waiting this long, I’d be able to sense where she is,” Kelda said. “But this place is just as miserable as it was a thousand years ago.”

“I didn’t expect to see you,” Nix said, sparing a glance over towards the translucent old lady who was walking beside her.

“I thought you could use some company,” Kelda said.

“And you’re worried about Ravas,” Nix said to which Kelda gave a small chuckle.

“I think ‘worry’ doesn’t quite cover it,” Kelda said. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this day, and I can’t foresee a thing about how it will all turn out.”

“We’ll bring your girl back to you,” Nix said.

“There’s no way you can see that in Force. Not here,” Kelda said.

“That’s true. We’re still going to bring her back though.”

Kelda was silent for a long moment while they continued climbing.

“I hope so,” she said at last. “It’s hard to believe after all this time, but I hope so.”

“Good,” Nix said. “Hope’s what we need here.”

“That’s not going to be enough. Not on its own,” Kelda said.

“Hope’s Step 1,” Nix said. “Steps 2 through whatever involve knocking some sense into your girl and stabbing whatever wanna-be terror has taken up residence in the temple up there.”

That got a full throated laugh from Kelda.

“You and her would have been such good friends if you’d been born earlier, or she a lot later,”  Kelda said.

“Still time for us to be friends,” Nix said. “Especially if she can do what you’re doing now.”

“If you can break her free of the chains my Ravas is wrapped in, we’ll both be able to find serenity in the Force,” Kelda said. “This may be the last time you and I are able to speak in fact.”

“I should ask you a thousand questions then but you’re not going to be able to answer any of them are you?” Nix said, lifting herself over a boulder to find the broken steps of a path up the mountain.

“A lot of them are probably questions you’ll need to decide on an answer for yourself,” Kelda said. “But ask away and I’ll answer any that aren’t.”

“Okay, well, let’s start with the big one then,” Nix said. “What’s the real story between you and Ravas. I’ve picked up bits and pieces from you’ve both said, but I want to hear your side of it.”

“That I can tell you,” Kelda said. “Ravas and I were Padawan’s together – Jedi trainees – from when we were little. She was my best friend, and my closest confidant, and, eventually, the woman I fell in love with.”

“Something happened though, didn’t it?”

“I suppose that’s obvious. If we’d lived our lived our lives together we wouldn’t be here would we?”

“So what was it? What drove you apart?”

“It was me. Or her. Or the Jedi, depending on how you look at it,” Kelda said. “The short form is that the Jedi did not allow Padawan’s to engage in romantic relationships with one another.”

“Wait, they took in a bunch of kids and told them ‘no falling in love’? And that worked?”

“With varying degrees of success.”

“Why? I mean why would they do that? That sounds insane.”

“To help maintain balance,” Kelda said. “You’ve felt how strong the Force is when it flows through you. And you’ve seen how destructive it can be on a psyche when you draw from the Dark Side.”

“Love is not part of the Dark Side,” Nix said. “So far, love is the only thing I’ve seen that can keep people from falling down into the Dark Side in fact.”

“That’s my hope,” Kelda said. “But love isn’t all fluffy and joyful feelings. The Force amplifies us, meets us with the voice we call to it in. Drawing on it out of love can be incredibly strong, but that strength can turn love into obsession, especially among those too young to know the difference.”

“So you can’t risk loving at all if you’re a Jedi, or a Force user in general?” Nix asked, certain that wasn’t true, and determined to prove it false no matter who claimed otherwise.

“Some thought like that,” Kelda said.

“But not you.”

“I wasn’t quite quick enough with that revelation though,” Kelda said. “And I didn’t see what the threat of being broken apart was doing to Ravas until it was too late.”

“She left you, didn’t she?”

“That’s not what she would say. She would tell you that when I chose to take the tests of Knighthood I was choosing the Jedi Order over her. When I gave them my vows, she would say that I was swearing myself to another. And she would not be entirely wrong.”

“But you didn’t see it like that did you?” Nix asked. “You saw it as possible to have both.”

“I told myself I did,” Kelda said. “And I would have fought for Ravas. But she didn’t give me time. The night I passed my final test, the night I swore my oaths, she was gone. I’d spent my life striving to become a Jedi Knight and in the moment of my triumph, everything felt like it had turned to ashes.”

“What did you do?”

“I tried to be the best Jedi I coud,” Kelda said. “I filled my time with training, and helping others. I spent years building a life for myself to stand on the wreckage of the one I’d imagined I’d have. The one I was going to share with Ravas.”

“And that wasn’t enough,” Nix said, seeing for the first time all of the things she’d tried and failed to fill her own life with.

“It did. Sometimes. To some extent,” Kelda said. “There was always a Ravas shaped hole in things though. A few things filled most of it. A few people really, but the ones I stayed close to wound up creating their own spaces in my life, which left Ravas’s empty once again.”

“That’s why you hunted her down.”

“That’s why I sought her out,” Kelda said. “It took a while, and I wasn’t planning anything more than to talk with her. To ask her to forgive me.”

“Would you have left the Jedi Order to be with her then?”

“At first I thought I could bring her back into it,” Kelda said. “But eventually I saw that wasn’t going to happen. Not for her, or for me. And so I left. Even before I found her.”

“That’s why you came here alone.”

“Not my brightest idea, I will admit now.”

“But a necessary one. You had to come to her before the process she and her master were working on was completed.”

“I needed to come to her a long time before then. As it was all I succeeded in doing was preventing her master from absorbing her life and staving off his own death by the days she had left to live.”

“How did you do that?”

“Quite simply,” Kelda said.

“With the Force?” Nix asked.

“I used my bare hands,” Kelda said. “And all of the strength the Dark Side would give me.”

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