A/N: Yes, this is mostly an Author's note chapter, and for that I'm sorry.
I hate, hate, HATE to post messages like this, but...well...I'll just come out and say it:
I...may have a brain tumor, or some other nasty neurological problem that has cropped up over the last week or so. Nothing certain yet, nothing guaranteed, but there's something wrong with my head. VERY wrong. Feels like someone's clamping down on my skull, like my brain's trying to burst out of my temples. Medicine won't touch it, and it comes and goes with the wind. Gonna get it looked at in the coming days, so here's hoping it something minor.
Rise of Skywalker broke me. I genuinely didn't expect for the series to end that way, and its left me in a bit of a funk for some time now. Even before this I was struggling thanks to the crap pulled by Last Jedi and the like. I don't want to say goodbye to Star Wars, I really don't. But I'm not certain I like what the fandom is becoming, both inside and out of fanfiction. We're all so divided these days.
For example, folks are roaring at me for discarding Finn. I HAVEN'T. He's off having his own adventure at the moment, one that will prove pivotal to the events of the story. I simply haven't told it yet.
What happened to the days where we could all just get along? I miss those days.
Now it just seems like we're all trying to tear each other apart?
Don't worry, I'm not giving up. Not now. Not ever.
I'm going to persevere despite this.
I just...need some time.
Alright. Now, then!
Off we go!
Minor timeskip ahead.
Call this a teaser, or what have you, but the game's afoot.
One last thing; read this chapter through to the end, notes and all, or you might be confused.
"You say your parents didn't love you? Tough. I didn't know mine until they were dead. I knew them just long enough to lose them. I like to think they'd be proud of what I've become. But yours? Look around. You kill innocents and throw a tantrum when you don't get your way. Just like now. Yet your folks would gladly welcome you back with open arms. They'd take you back in a heartbeat, sins and all. Do you even realize that? No. You're too blind to see that. Funny how that works, isn't? Life ain't fair kid. It is what we make of it. Well? What say you now? Your armies are dead. Your men are slain. Was it worth it?
WHAT SAY YOU NOW?!"
Visitors in the Dark
Through ruined corridors and twisted forests he stumbled headlong, chasing his enemy. Always so close. Always so far. Sometimes he was close enough to catch him; others, he glimpsed him around a corridor, there for a moment, gone the next. It was, in a word, infuriating. Why couldn't he catch him? His limbs felt slow. Sluggish. Sometimes he glimpsed a familiar whisked face, eyes sometimes blue, sometimes gold. Sometimes it was his own specter he chased. A shadowy figure with an ever shifting visage.
What madness was this?
This was a vision.
It had to be.
Some twisted specter come to torment him in his sleep. His last coherent memory consisted of training himself into the ground and collapsing into his bunk. Not being...wherever this was. His surroundings seemed to shift and ripple like the surface of a lake as he ran, reflecting images of his past, present, and future. The thought made him grit his teeth. If this was just a dream, then he had no reason to fear.
...there you are."
The word emerged as a raspy hiss in the dark.
A golden hand locked around his shoulder and he spun, flinging them aside.
An amber blade ignited abruptly, its searing edge casting a grim light in the darkened corridor. Despite his best efforts to stand his ground, Ren shrank back from the sight of it. No. Wait. That wasn't right. He'd been in a forest, hadn't he? So why was he here? Why did he hear the flick of blaster rifles? Why was he surrounded by stormtroopers? As the fallen jedi looked on in quiet disbelief, he found he recognized the face at the other end of the corridor. But it was all wrong somehow. Those blue eyes were etched into gold, those whiskered cheeks curled into a contemptuous sneer.
Death advanced slowly.
A storm of blaster bolts caromed wildly off his blade, ricocheting back to the errant stormtrooper foolish enough to obey their commander's first and last order.
For that blazing weapon effortlessly intercepted all fire foolish enough to fly his way, sending a fusillade of crimson light streaking through the halls. Wordless and grim, it offered no pity. No compassion. No remorse. No quarter was asked. None given. Its owner stalked ever forward, pausing just long enough to finish off anyone unlucky enough to survive before continuing onward. When a lucky shot struck him in the shoulder, he didn't even flinch; rather, he simply sustained the wound and marched on, uncaring of the injury.
He reached, and world reached with him, ripping blasters from the hands several unlucky troopers.
Another found himself slammed into the ceiling, only to be bisected a heartbeat later.
Those closest to him were cut down before they could scramble for their weapons.
Throughout it all, Kylo stood and watched. He couldn't forget those eyes.
And then they were alone.
"Oh, Ben." the man-Naruto!-mocked him as he stepped over the ruined body of a trooper. "What's become of you? You were destined for great things. Your parents must be so disappointed." No. It was the same man who had felled him on Jaaku, and yet not. Something else. Something more. Something-someone?-wearing his face. He wanted to believe it. He had to. The alternative threatened to throttle him. Dreams couldn't hurt you. Not even a vision of future. And yet this nameless dread persisted as the man continued to circle him, like a wolf stalking its prey.
"What's wrong, Ben?" Still the specter mocked him. "Aren't you going to attack me?"
"Stop." Kylo twitched, a lone muscle jumping in his scarred jaw as he spoke. "Don't call me that."
"Whyever not?" the blond tilted his head like a curious fox. "Its your name, isn't it? Ben, Ben, Ben. Little Ben."
A roar burst out of Kylo as he lunged at his opponent, slamming his saber down at the blond in a vicious series of blows, meant to batter down his defenses and drive him to the ground. The full might of the Dark Side was his ally, coursing through his veins like molten magma to scorch his lungs alongside the arid air. This was his moment. His triumph. His victory. He was certain of it. He'd never been stronger than this; never faster. Even without his helmet to protect his face, he was certain of his victory. And yet.
Every strike found itself shunted aside, batted away with contemptuous ease in spite of all his skill. With each successive strike he found himself forced onto his back foot, pressed back further and further. He may as well have been a child flailing at him with a stick for all he accomplished. His saber weaved a web of light before him, one his opponent cut through with ruthless dispatch, forcing him more and more off balance until...
Finally he struck too high; in a tuck the blond pivoted and thrust an armored boot into his chest, sending him stumbling back before they clashed again.
"You're afraid." his voice rose over the dull roar of their interlocked blades, an exasperated snarl threatening to eclipse all else. "Me? I'm alright with dying. You could even say I've come to terms with it by now. But you? You're terrified." Each word brought with it another clash of their sabers, all the world dissolving into a whorl of color around them. And still the blond pressed him. Mocked him. "I can see it in your eyes. You'd do anything to avoid it. You would sacrifice your own troops, the very soldiers who swore their loyalty to you, just to survive." he leaned forward over their crossed sabers, sneering. "Why, you might even throw away your own arm."
Kylo took all his wrath and shoved, launching his foe down an embankment with a vicious Force Push. His uncontrolled tumble sent him flailing into the dirt. Finally. Finally his enemy has fallen silent. Alas, the tiny ember pride he felt at that accomplishment soon found itself snuffed out as his opponent climbed back to his feet; as those eerie golden eyes snapped up to greet him. Dusting himself off, the whiskered warrior rose back to his full towering height and beckoned him. For a moment, it was almost as if he were seeing someone else, a different man, a different face, gone in an instant.
Then that smoldering saber rose in a snarky salute and his rage clouded all else.
"Is that all your hatred is capable of?" his foe called up at him, making no move to advance up the hill. "I imagine your Master isn't much better." Again, that mocking grin taunted him, mocked him for his every sin, every failure. "What does that say about your precious Supreme Leader, hmm? "I'll tell you. Old. Cruel. COWARDLY! Just like you!" still his voice rose in challenge, laughing as the boy's ears began to burn. "Come on then! Come down here and finish what you started! Or do I have to come up there myself?!"
In a heartbeat Kylo closed the distance between them; surging down the bank. In hindsight, it would've been wise to hold onto the high ground.
Clenched knuckles crashed against Ren's face to crack a tooth and hurl him to the floor.
Even as he struggled to rise, that blazing blade found his chin.
"If you will not learn, then you will be made to learn."
The lightsaber descended with a hiss.
It was a clean cut all things considered; in that Ben-Ren!- barely felt it at first. There was no pain. Only the faintest lurching sensation. One moment he'd been gazing up into that amber blade; in the next, his lightsaber tumbled from his grasp and was neatly snatched up by his opponent. A heartbeat later, that crimson saber joined its autumn-colored twin in a X across his neck. Kylo immediately stretched out his hand in an attempt to retrieve it. Nothing happened. His arms wouldn't respond. In a fit of pique he stretched out with the Force now, but even the Dark Side failed him. All his anger and rage and pain availed him naught. Once more he attempted to claim his blade, doubling down even further.
Only then did he see the truth before him; because his hands hands were gone. No, not gone. They were right there. Lying on the ground, only yards away.
Severed neatly at the wrists, the smoldering stumps simmered silently as he looked on, denying all that he was. Then came the pain. It seized his sensing in a vice, wiping away the shock to replace it with a new emotion, one he hadn't experienced in an age. Fear. Icy fingers rang the length of his spine, bringing with them the whisper of death. This wasn't real, or so he told himself. This couldn't be real. It wasn't. Just a dream. But he felt it. Everything. All of it. His arms howled at him. Ben screamed. Tried to harness his fury and use it to choke the life from the whiskered warrior before him. He failed.
Those golden eyes regarded him stoically. "Turn back, Ben Solo. Or this will be your fate."
With a low roar, the blades scissored into his neck.
And the waking world came rushing back.
A/N: Aaand there we go. I'm not wholly satisfied with this chapter, but its the best I can do at the moment. Heavily implied that this was a vision/nightmare on Kylo's in case anyone failed to notice, so there we have it. One that didn't work out quite so well for Kylo. Rest assured, I have a plan for him; he's not some punching bag in this series. Quite simply put, he has a choice. Man up and face his crimes, or continue to be a brat and meet the consequences of his actions. Time will tell.
So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...
...Review, Would You Kindly?
No previews. Not today.
...fine, just one. Here.
I'm such a softie...
It should have been easy to invade Takodana. To take his revenge.
He'd gotten stronger. He'd fought. He'd trained.
...so why was Ren running for his life?
A tree crashed down behind him.
Oh. Right. That was why.
"GIVE HER BACK!"