Star Wars: Treasures of the Force – Ch 41

Nix entered the Third Temple at a dead run. She’d taken one little side trip and it had almost cost her everything. Worse, it had almost cost Ayli everything.

In the center of the temple, standing between two shattered pillars of bone, Ayli writhed in place, a voice that was not her own growling defiance to the entire world while bolts of lightning crashed around her.

“We’re too late,” Kelda said, placing a translucent arm in front of Nix to hold her back.

“Like hell we are,” Nix said and strode through Kelda’s arm, leaving the blue Force ghost behind in favor of the blue living woman in front of her.

Ayli whipped around to face Nix the moment Nix’s foot touch the temple’s floor. The lightning exploding from Ayli’s hands surged as Nix looked into eyes gone red and yellow.

“Ayli,” Nix said, halting in place so as not to provoke Ayli further. “It’s me, you’re okay, I’m here for you.”

Ayli screamed and a thousand other voice screamed with her. 

“She can’t hear you,” Kelda said. “The Dark Side holds the dead of Praxis Mar bound here and she’s drowning in them.”

“Not just her. Both of them. They’re both drowning in there,” Nix said, diverting a torrent of Force Lightning away to ground out on the temple’s columns. “Ayli and Ravas. They must have joined together when they got here.”

“Then we’ve lost them both,” Kelda said, sagging in a defeat that she’d been denying for a thousand years.

“No. We haven’t,” Nix said. “Ayli’s still alive, and Ravas isn’t gone yet either. We’re going to save them both.”

“You can’t,” Kelda said. “The Dark Side has them now. They were too powerful before for you to fight alone and they’re far stronger now. You have to leave us. I didn’t bring you here to watch you destroy yourself. You saw what became of me. That can’t be repeated.”

“I saw, but they haven’t,” Nix said, pushing step after step through the lightning storm. “And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. What you did is amazing.”

“It won’t matter to Ravas, she’ll never forgive me,” Kelda said. “And Ayli won’t understand.”

“Don’t underestimate my wife,” Nix said. “Or yours.”

“Ravas was never…”

“Then we should be working to fix that,” Nix said, and began striding forward again, pushing through the arcs of Force lightning with little more than her own brand of faith to guide her.

Nix felt a sharp ping from the Force and ducked without questioning why only to watch a glowing red lightsaber fly over her head and into Ayli’s outstretched hand.

The lightning died away as Ayli entered a guard position Nix had never seen her take.

“What? They can’t be in control,” Kelda said. “They’re too lost to the Dark Side.”

“They’re still in there. That’s the women we love.”

“No. It’s not. They can’t see who you are,” Kelda said, “Or do you think either of them would be holding a lightsaber on you like that.”

“Ravas might. I think I still scare her a bit,” Nix said, holding her hands up to show she wasn’t threatening them.

“No! Stay back. They will kill you!” Kelda said and Nix felt a Force pull dragging her backwards, which seemed to confuse Ayli/Ravas as much as it did Nix.

“Let me go Kelda,” Nix said. “And trust me. I know what I’m doing.”

“You can’t,” Kelda said. “You don’t know the Dark Side like I do. You haven’t felt how powerful it can be. How much it can distort who and what you are.”

“It hasn’t distorted them,” Nix said. “They’re still in there. And they’re still fighting. I can feel them. Can’t you?”

“You can’t trust your feelings here,” Kelda said. “This place is a nexus of the Dark Side. The whole planet was is a barrow mound and there is nothing but despair and misery here. Anything the Force brings you is the Dark Side whispering your destruction into your ears. You have to leave. You’re the only one who can still escape this.”

“I am not going anywhere,” Nix said. “Not without Ayli. Not without Ravas. And not without you.”

“Please! Can’t you see what they’ve become?” Kelda said. “Look at them, not with the Force but with your own eyes. See what they are.”

Nix relaxed and let Kelda pull her back. Ayli/Ravas started to tremble either in rage or sorrow at the gesture.

“I do see them,” Nix said, laying a hand against Kelda’s ghostly face. “Look at them through my eyes.”

“I will not join with you,” Kelda said. “You do not need the power I could offer you. It won’t be enough to change this.”

“I don’t need power,” Nix said. “I just need you to understand.”

“I understand that what you see is impossible,” Kelda said. “Once you start down the path to the Dark Side, its shadow will dominate your destiny forever.”

“Kelda, look at them,” Nix said. “Looks at them and tell me what you see.”

“I see two souls lost in a maelstrom of sorrow,” Kelda said. “I see the woman I loved swallowed in the monstrous rage from which I cannot save her.”

“And neither can I,” Nix said and started walking forward again.

“What are you doing?”

“Helping them find themselves,” Nix said. “I want them back, and I believe that’s what they want too. More than anything.”

“The Dark Side has twisted them. All they can want now is destruction.”

“In this moment, maybe,” Nix said, watching as Ayli/Ravas drew up their saber once more, ready to strike the instant she was in range. “But do you know what’s true about rage, and fear, and sorrow?”

“They can consume you.”

“Only for a time,” Nix said. “And then they fade.”

She crossed the point of no return and Ayli/Ravas leapt forward and Nix caught their blade with the Force. Voice whispered to shove the blade back to her attacker, or take it away, but Nix ignored them. The Dark Side wasn’t always the most subtle or clever part of the Force.

When Ayli/Ravas tried to pull back, Nix held tight, taking one more step to bring herself no more than a hands width away from her wife.

“I’m here,” she whispered. “I’m not going to leave you. However long you need, I’m here for you. Both of you.”

Ayli/Ravas screamed once more, but made no effort to bring the lightsaber closer. The scream continued long past where Ayli’s lung capacity should have been exhausted, but eventually, it did end.

A long silent moment held everything in stillness until at last Ayli sagged, dropping her head and drawing in a long, shaky breath.

“Come back to me,” Nix said. “I know you can.”

Blinking, Ayli raised her head. Her eyes were still red and yellow but there was an awareness there which had been missing a moment before.

“Nix? What? Why are you here? You can’t be here,” Ayli said.

“There is nowhere else in the galaxy that I would rather be,” Nix said.

“It’s too dangerous,” Ayli said. “Wait, what happened. Where did the body go?”

“What body?” Nix asked.

“Ravas’s body. Something was possessing it, and it almost…”

Nix didn’t have to guess what a possessed Ravas body had been trying to do.

“You drove it off,” Nix said, making the best guess she could. It would have been easy to say that there was no body, that it had been a hallucination induced by the Dark Side, but there was an undeniable presence in the Temple with them. 

Whatever else had happened, Nix didn’t believe that Ayli and Ravas had been driven to the state there were in by a simple illusion.

“” Ayli asked.

“You and Ravas did it together,” Nix said.

“We…oh, wait, what did we do?” Ayli asked. “What did we do to you.”

“Nothing. I’m fine,” Nix said.

“No. No you’re not. We were trying to kill someone. Trying to destroy them. That’s why I’m holding my lightsaber. I tried to kill you.”

“Are you sure about that?” Nix asked, letting a teasing smile play across her face.

Ayli frowned in confusion, her expression clearly saying ‘how is this time for joking’?

“I’m in mid-swing right now, and you’re holding me back,” Ayli said. “Nix, you have to get away from me. I’m…I’m too dangerous.”

“Bantha puddu,” Nix said. “You overloaded on channeling energy from the Dark Side. You didn’t have the first inkling of what you were doing, and yet you still managed to stop yourself from doing any harm to me.”

“I didn’t stop anything,” Ayli said. “You did!”

“All I did was buy you time, and let you feel my touch,” Nix said. “There isn’t the slightest chance that I could have held you and Ravas and the entire Dark Side might of Praxis Mar back if you’d wanted to hurt me.”

“I…I can still feel it though,” Ayli said. “Every horrible thing that was done here. Every joy at the horrible things I wanted to do. I can’t get away from that, and I don’t know what it’s going to make me do.”

Nix dropped her hands, releasing Ayli, who dropped hers and the lightsaber she was carrying.

“Your thoughts? Your feelings? They don’t control you,” Nix said. “We’re not dominated by what we feel or think. We get to choose, always, even when our thoughts and feelings make it difficult, and you’ve chosen, again and again, to be someone I feel safe with.”

“I am so scared,” Ayli said. “I could hurt you.”

“You will,” Nix said. “I’ll hurt you too. We’re people, and people are, by and large, idiots, both of us included.”

Ayli gave a rueful little laugh at that.

“It’s not a question of us never hurting each other,” Nix said. “It’s a question of what we do about it. Do we change and grow so that we don’t repeat that mistake, do we pretend it never happened, or blame the person who got hurt? Or do we keep repeating the injuries and expect the other to accommodate our need to hurt them?”

“I…I did this because I thought I might hurt you,” Ayli said. “I saw your horror at finding me chopped to pieces, or…or what might happen if the thing that was possessing Ravas’ body possessed mine instead.”

“That was the Dark Side showing you that,” Kelda said, appearing at last at Nix’s side.

Ayli, or rather a certain ghost who’d taken up residence within Ayli recoiled, but Ayli froze in place before Ravas could properly free.

“This is a trap,” Ravas said, speaking through Ayli, though it wasn’t due to the medium that the words sounded uncertain.

“It never was and never will be,” Nix said. “You need to come with us. There’s something you have to see. Something I don’t think you’ve let yourself remember for a thousand years now.”

“You want to destroy me,” Ravas said.

“Never. I never wanted that. I…” Kelda said and broke off, pain creasing her face as she stared into Ayli’s eyes searching for something.

“Take my hand,” Nix said. “You’ve run away from this for long enough. It’s time you saw the tomb.”

“I’ve seen my tomb countless times,” Ravas said. “There is nothing for me there.”

“Not your tomb,” Nix said. “Although we’ll need to check that too. Unless I miss my guess, that’s where we’ll find your body.”

“It was here though,” Ayli said. “It tried to kill us. It was holding her other lightsaber.”

“I’m guessing when you two blew up at it, the lightsaber wasn’t much help,” Nix said. “You both would have been serious about destroying it, unlike with me where you weren’t really trying to hit me at all.”

“Was that true?” Ayli asked.

“I…I don’t know,” Ravas said. “When we entered the trance, I was as lost in it as you. But perhaps. I felt something. Someone I knew. I think you might have sensed her too.”

“I wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t,” Nix said.

“I’m so sorry,” Ayli said.

“I’m not,” Nix said. “It’s hard to have any doubts about someone who can throw off a haze of Force Madness just because you said a few words to her. I would never have wanted to test you like that but, wow, did that make me feel special.”

“You are a strange woman,” Ravas said.

“She reminds me of someone,” Kelda said.

The scowl on Ayli’s face was purely one of Ravas’ doing.

“If not my tomb, then what tomb here could matter?” Ravas asked.

“Your guardian’s,” Nix said and led them out of the temple as the presence within continued to stalk them.

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