Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Ch 40

Ayli’s journey was at an end. On the steps of the temple, she knew she’d arrived, at last, at the spot she’d been searching for, the place she’d been meant to be, maybe for her whole life.

Before her, gleaming doors of untarnished metal rose high enough to fly the Goldrunner through them. As blocks of Phrik, their value was enough to bankrupt a star system. As cultural artifacts they were worth even more. As barriers however their weight made them a solidly impassable obstacle.

Ayli felt the currents of the Force flowing through like a crashing river. A gentle wave of her hand and the colossal slabs of metal swung inwards gracefully.

They barred the path to outsiders, but Ayli was meant to be here.

That was not a comforting thought, but from what Ayli could sense nothing about the Third Temple was intended to be comforting.

Inside the Great Hall beyond the doors, columns carved from the bones of some gargantuan creature were intricately carved with scenes which summoned visions of conquest and strife. Adornments of gold, and platinum were plentiful, with highlights done in Phrik wherever certain characters appeared.

Ayli could have spent days, weeks, years even investigating and cataloging the work which had been done and all the styles is appeared in. Thousands of people, at least, had been part of the Temples creation, and as much as it was focused on expressing and amplifying the dark tangles of Praxis Mar’s history, the work done also told the story of those who’d shaped a living thing from a dead world.

Those years of investigation could not begin until the past was laid to rest though.

The past which took the form of Ravas Durla.

Or rather, the body Ravas Durla had once worn. 

Something else had taken up residence in it.

Something which stood at the far end of the Great Hall.

Something which bore a red lightsaber that was the twin of the one in Ayli’s hand.

“Beware,” the ghost of Ravas Durla said from beside Ayli. “That is not what it appears to be.”

The body moved like a puppet, drawing its limbs up into a formal dueling salute with the saber before gesturing for Ayli to begin the engagement.

“What is it then?” Ayli asked, igniting her lightsaber because whatever stood before had to be defended against.

“A violation,” Ravas’s ghost said. “That is supposed to be rotten away to dust by now.”

“Is that why you’re still here? Because your body is mystically preserved?” Ayli asked, starting to circle as the animated body approached her.

“I am here because of my power in Force,” Ravas said. “It was my choice to deny death. It was what I traded my life for in the end.”

“Doesn’t seem like we’ve reached the end of your story just yet,” Ayli said, growing concerned over how precisely the animated body was matching her movements.

“It never shall,” Ravas said. “Our plan to achieve immortality of the body were interrupted but my spirit it eternal.”

“I’m not sure your plans for your body were as interrupted as you think,” Ayli said.

“That is not me,” Ravas said. “But they are powerful in the Force. Let me in. Let me guide you. You will not be able to stand against one such as this.”

“We’ll see about that,” Ayli said.

When she struck, it was without thought, trusting in her instincts, in the Force, to guide her blow.

The crash of the lightsaber blades shocked Ayli out of the moment of clarity she’d begun the fight in.

In an instant, she was backpedaling, parrying blow after blow from her enemy’s blade.

“Do not be a fool!” Ravas cried over the clash. “Together we can destroy this abomination and claim dominion over this place.”

Ayli didn’t have any interest in being a planetary governor. Most of the one’s she’d met, Sali included, were corrupt and had targets the size of a large moon painted on their backs at all times.

She saw an opening in her foes defense and lunged forward to take it.

Ayli wasn’t a duelist, and the Force was so twisted by the Dark Side within the Third Temple that falling for a fatal feint had been all but a given. She sensed that even as the crackling red blade descended towards her neck.

It was too late for her by then.

Any burst of speed she could have managed would have been matched by her foe.

Any telekinetic push she could have used to deflect the blade would have been too weak even if she’d had enough focus to summon one forth.

The only thing her enhanced senses gave her was a lingering moment of understanding as death reached out to claim her.

And was stopped.

“It will kill you!” Ravas said, her ghostly voice hoarse with effort as her hand caught the red blade and held it back from harming Ayli.

Ayli shoved her foe back and brought her blade out in posture to maximize the distance between them.

“Together,” Ayli said. “We can do this together without you taking me over. I don’t have to be like you.”

“We are the same,” Ravas said. “Everything you hate in me, you will find in yourself. In everyone. Drop the lies. Stop pretending to be what others would have you be. Your anger is your strength. Your fear is your guide. Stop holding back on what you are, or you will die here, and I will be unavenged.”

“Vengeance?” Ayli spit the word out. “How is this about vengeance? Everyone you ever knew died centuries ago. There’s no one left to get any vengeance on!”

“People have not changed,” Ravas said. “People never do. The Jedi are not gone, only diminished, but their plague will cover the stars once more.”

The animated body took the offensive, and Ayli’s chance to answer.

Despite how its movements stuttered and swayed, the animated body’s offensive was far from mindless. One moment it clobbered Ayli with an overhand blow backed by enough strength to crack one of the nearby bone columns and the next the body was weaving its lightsaber through a complicated series of tight maneuvers where the point of the blade was constantly seeking out Ayli’s hands.

More than once Ravas had to step in and deflect the body’s lightsaber from skewering Ayli and each time the ghost grew thinner.

“I cannot do this much longer,” Ravas said. “We need to work together.”

“No!” Ayli screamed, pushing herself backward with the Force to herself roam to breath.

It didn’t work.

The body was as adept with the Force as Ayli was and launched itself into a series of flying attacks no matter how far or in what direction Ayli fled.

Which proved Ravas was right.

Ayli couldn’t win this one.

Maybe if Nix was beside her? Together they might be a match for the monster that had claimed the Third Temple.

Or not.

Ayli glimpsed a vision of the monster using them against each other. Feinting attacks on one to leave the other open. In an instant Ayli saw Nix being cut down or cut apart a hundred different times.

So it was good that Ayli was alone. Better that Nix was safe. Even if it meant Ayli was going to die. Especially if it meant Ayli was going to die. That was the last thing Nix needed to see.

The futility of the fight began to sap Ayli’s speed away. Why try so hard to put off an ending which was a foregone conclusion? Why fight when the outcome was inevitable.

Because Nix would see what happened.

The thought shocked Ayli back into motion. She was able to picture Nix coming upon the pieces of a corpse which turned out to be someone all too familiar.

Ayli’s blood ran cold. Nix had never seen anything like that. And Ayli knew she never should.

But that wasn’t the worst image that came to Ayli. The picture of herself dead was far less terrifying than the image of Nix finding a woman who she thought was Ayli but whose movements were those of the puppet before her. With how drenched in the Dark Side Praxis Mar was there would be a moment of recognition, followed by one of relief, followed by betrayal and confusion and agony.

“Why is it doing this?” Ayli gasped out, fleeing faster than she had a moment before.

“Through you it can get to me,” Ravas said. “Through you it can leave this place.”

And it would. Ayli saw that too. A creature in an unaging body, powered by Ravas’s hate and Ayli’s own connection to the Force.  No one she knew would survive it.

“Do it,” she said. “It can’t end like this.”

“YES!” Ravas screamed.

Ayli had expected a vast change to wash over her, or to feel supplanted in her own mind, but joining with Ravas was nothing like that.

All that changed, at first at least, was that she felt stronger. So much stronger. So many burdens and fears she hadn’t known she’d been carrying fell away leaving only a roaring confidence.

The animated body came at her again and she blocked its strike without effort and the roaring grew in her ears.

Extending a hand was all it took to blast the body back, crashing it into a pillar hard enough to send the whole thing tumbling down.

The body rose without hesitation, but Ayli was the one leaping in for a flying attack, a feral snarl tearing from her lips and she smashed blow after blow into the animated body’s faltering defenses.

It tried to give ground like Ayli had, but she was not about to let it flee.

It didn’t deserve to live. Not with what it had intended to do to her. Not for what it had done to Ravas’s body.

Yes! Focus on that! Ayli heard a voice as distant as her heart saw. This is your birthright. All of your scars were earned in service to this. Every wound you’ve born was to show you how much deeper this rage can go.

The voice should have sounded like Ravas, but it didn’t. It was a new voice, familiar and yet one Ayli was sure she’d never heard before.

Or never let herself hear.

Because she’d been weak.

Because she’d been afraid.

Because the world had hurt her and she hadn’t dared try to hurt it back.

As though that would do anything to stop the world from taking from her again and again and again. She had to play by its rules but it could change the rules, or ignore them, whenever it wanted to. There had never been anything fair in her life, but with the power she felt coursing through her, Ayli could change that.

The animated body tried to slip past her guard, using it’s superior skill to overcome the overwhelming might Ayli was tapped into.

But with Ravas’s gift, Ayli was no longer the inferior duelist.

Evading the body’s attacks was effortless in a breathtakingly familiar manner.

She had fought this person before.

Many times.

She knew their tricks even though she couldn’t yet tell who they were.

They’d taught her everything they’d known, every dirty trick, every cheat, every ruthless stratagem. But that was not everything that Ravas knew. She’d trained with so many others. And learned so much on her own. 

And was just as capable of making mistakes as Ayli was.

The animated body’s attack was one Ayli only recognized after the fact. A subtle reverse her master had favored when he was pressed. 

It wasn’t a killing shot, or even a maiming one, which made it all the more difficult to defend against. The barest touch of the body’s lightsaber against Ayli’s left arm was enough to knock Ayli’s blade out of her hand and send her skipping back.

Disarmed, but far from helpless, Ayli felt a red rage brighter than the saber’s blade rise in her as lightning poured forth from her hands to burn the animated body and burn it and burn it some more.

In the distance, a voice called out but it was drowned out completely by the roar of the lightning. 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.