(End of the Great Galactic War)
I walked nervously beside my Master as the Imperial solders marched down the hallway past us, their helmets sending the internal scream 'Enemy!' through my head, even though I knew it would soon be otherwise thanks to the Galactic Senate.
My Master sighs beside me, hearing my thoughts, and wraps her arm around my shoulder comfortingly. Her Jedi robes rustling slightly as I instinctively leaned into her.
"What did I tell you young one? Have you forgotten so soon?" She chastened lightly.
Actually, I had.
Feeling a little guilty I glanced over into Masters blue eyes, knowing she sensed it when she playfully scoffed at me. Her sudden smile bringing out the wrinkles along her mouth and eyes that told of her aging; Her greying hair pulled into a simple dark bun atop her head.
"Now Calese, we just got off the ship, how could you have forgotten your Masters words so fast?" She tried to do a mock frown, but it quickly went back to a light filled smile.
My heart fluttered as I gave a tentative one back, the disappearing troopers forgotten easily as calming peace flowed over from my Masters side of the bond. An effective distraction only my Master could pull off.
"Of course not Master." I replied solemnly before my voice took on a playful edge. "Though... I had forgotten how many wrinkles you had. I mean, I'm shocked. They've grown."
We came to a stop as she bursts into coarse laughter, my Master never being the one to care about her image in front of others when it came to me, drawing the attention of a few Alderaan officials coming up the hall.
They simply glance at us curiously as they passed though, the hall once more becoming empty of others as they turned the same corner the Troopers had moments prior.
She playfully poked my arm with her other hand as she stopped laughing, smile firmly in place. "It's called aging Padawan, and you'll soon be sporting wrinkles and a spunky Padawan yourself! Just look at how old you've gotten!"
I rolled my eyes playfully before pulling away, crossing my arms in a joking pout.
"I'm fifteen, Master. Hardly as old as you."
Yep... fifteen. Far older than what was normally approved of in the Order. But the story of my origins had left the Council to grudgingly accept my Masters request of training me, if only out of weary hope. Though for what I wasn't certain, but sometimes they'd give me these weird looks, like they were waiting for something.
Probably waiting for my grades in class to increase, honestly. My scores weren't the best. Dismal, even. But I understood why most outsiders wouldn't guess me that young. I was tall for my age, and sported the lean muscle that spoke of the rigorous physical training my Master taught me to uphold, making me look much older. Seventeen, to be exact. If the repeated shocked remarks of others were anything to go by.
Warmth from our bond pulled me from my thoughts as she put her hand on my head and smiled at my remark. "Hmm, I suppose not."
I opened my mouth, fully intent on joking back when I suddenly stilled, my Master stopping as well with a frown in question. But I couldn't focus enough to address her concerns. The Force was chiming in whispered warnings all around me, distracting me from our verbal spar as I glanced behind us a little worriedly. More Imperial troopers were coming up the hall behind us, and a small spike of fear went through me at the sight of them.
I didn't like being here.
Not at all.
"Master, why are we even here?" I quickly looked down, pulling my gaze from the Troopers as I realized what I had just asked, embarrassed by my fear. "I mean, I understand the importance of peace, especially now, but why us? Why did the Council send us specifically to Alderaan as well?"
She removes her hand from my head and squeezes my shoulder lightly as the troopers walk past, one of them muttering "Jedi scum" in passing, making me flinch.
"Do not think badly of the Council young one," Her voice was quiet, sympathetic, yet stern. "I understand you aren't ready yet, but I need you here."
I was about to voice my concern over the feeling I had in the Force when she pulled me into a hug, surprising me. Her light floral scent reminding me of flowers back home as I breathed it in.
"I need you where I can protect you." She whispered against me. "And I could not protect you if I left you at Coruscant. Do you understand?"
Worry and an edge of fear coursed through our bond from her at her omission, something I've never felt from my Master before. I frowned as she continued.
"I do not trust this whole Treaty idea. The Force is screaming at me in warning, but I cannot defy the Council and the Senate' s wishes for peace, so I must do what I must, and keep you close. It's the only way."
The Force? So she felt it too?
Stiff shoulders relaxing I hesitantly hugged my Master back, confused by her words slightly but enjoying the sensation none the less. The fierce protectiveness that I sensed from her. Even though I knew it wasn't something that was allowed lightly.
"...Master, I think I understand... but... aren't these feelings against the Jedi code? I thought..."
She hugged me closer, her feelings pouring into me from the bond. My eyes widened in surprise. Like an open book, nothing was hidden. What she felt for me, It felt... It felt like love. My hands tightened on her robes.
….Love? It couldn't be though. That was against the Jedi ways. We weren't supposed to feel love this strongly, as if...
As if I was a daughter to her.
"Stay strong for me Calese," I felt her smile softly. "You will be able to leave soon, I promise."
The Force echoed like a chime in my head at her words. I could tell it was trying to tell me something, but I wasn't sure what. Filled with the sudden feeling of foreboding that I couldn't place, I pulled back from the hug and looked up at my Master in worry, not quite letting go as I still grasped her robes tightly.
"...Together?" I could hear the edge of a new fear within my voice, sending it wavering slightly. Though I didn't understand why. I internally frowned, unsure as to why I would be feeling fear in such a way over her words alone.
Why was I so afraid all of a sudden?
I hadn't payed much attention to it before, but even the Force had felt different since we got to Alderaan. I could feel it clearly now, making me wonder how I had blocked out such a strange feeling for so long.
It was all rather... unusual.
….Did the presence of the Empire alone influence it that much? Or was there something else?
Something that sent my internal alarms screaming at me to run, even though I knew to do so would look bad not only for my Master and I, but the Order itself, just as the talks for peace were finally under way?
Unaware of my confused inner thoughts my Master simply smiled warmly, putting my unease to rest within moments as her own worry and fear disappeared from the bond.
"Yes Calese. Together."
Later that day after everyone had gathered on Alderaan from both sides, the negotiations for the Treaty of Coruscant began.
We were all escorted to a large grand conference room. A large oval table with elegant high backed chairs lining the sides was at its center. Showing clearly the separation for those who would soon sit there.
My Master and I along with several other Jedi Masters and the Senate representatives were the first to arrive. I looked around the room in awe as my Master directed me over to the wall behind the row of seats on the left. I had to admit the entire room was beautiful. In that, "They're clearly rich and love to show it" kind of way.
But I still admired it. I usually never saw things this extravagant, being in the Order and all.
Gaze quickly shifting back to the other Jedi Masters as they began falling in line by the wall, I quickly got into position alongside them as the representatives seated themselves in the chairs directly in front of us, already beginning to talk quietly amongst themselves about strategies.
We were told by the Council before leaving that we were to stay in the shadows and not interrupt unless needed to, and to be ever watchful for the Empire's deceit. I honestly didn't think I would be able to do that without obviously staring at them though, so I was going to leave the subtle parts of our mission to the Masters.
They were Masters for a reason, after all.
Speaking of... Curious, I glanced to the other Masters from under the hood of my robe as I shifted into a more relaxed position beside them, my Master standing at my other side quietly as I did so.
The other Masters had their hoods up too. I frowned, finding that odd.
Were they told to do so as well? Like my Master had told me?
Sensing my thoughts that I had unknowingly broadcasted their way they turned to me and smiled warmly. My cheeks flushing red in embarrassment instantly, and I quickly threw my minds shields back up with a mental 'Sorry' their way for staring. My Master was clearly amused by my slip up though, I could feel it through our bond, which didn't help my face at all.
Thank the Force she had me put my hood up.
Calming my mind I focused on the people from the Senate in front of me. As I watched the last of them settle down, a plan clearly decided upon among them, the Empire arrived.
I shivered from the rush of cold that entered the room as the doors opened with a resounding clack, shrinking back unconsciously as mummers from the other delegates immediately started up. Many of the delegates from the Empire were looking across the room in disdain, clearly unsatisfied, the one in front more so than the rest.
"Ah, seems we are made to be fashionably late." He said with a sneer. "Guess there's no helping it, lets get this over with. I have more important matters that need attending."
As the Empire's people sat down in the chairs across the table, three figures robed in black went to the shadows along the wall behind them, mirroring the Jedi Masters beside me, their hands clasped in front of them in an aloft manner.
I frowned as I watched them from under my hood, unable to see beyond their shoulders, but finding myself filled with great curiousity to do so.
Who were they?
Startled to hear my Masters voice in my head I glanced over to her, just as her hand quietly went to my shoulder and tightened.
"Keep your face and presence hidden. Let the force shroud your mind, just as I taught you." Her face looked grim under her hood, her lips forming a tight line. Confused I glanced quickly to the other Masters to see similar expressions across their faces as well.
I was worried by the expressions they wore, but immediately did as I was told and lowered my head, shrouding myself more thickly in the Force and only letting my Masters presence come through our bond as I reached out and touched her troubled mind in question.
"...Who are they, Master? Are they Sith?"
I was beginning to suspect they were, but I had never meet one in person before. My Master had always kept me away from the front lines, claiming I wasn't ready.
The hand on my shoulder simply tightened all the more as her voice came into my mind. "Yes, and no, just keep your guard up my Padawan."
She suddenly went silent in my mind as she lowered her arm, and no matter how much I tried to ask more, she just gave me a firm refusal to answer. A quiet blankness in my mind that was like an unmoving wall. Leaving me to sign and turn my attention to the table as negotiations began.
On and on they went, about the politics, the planets, the military, yada yada, I just zoned them out after what seemed like hours. Things seemed to be heating up and nothing had been agreed upon yet. It was all honestly rather boring too me. I was way more interested in the mysterious figures that radiated power behind the table I was currently stuck looking at.
Though I had silently promised my Master not to, it was extremely hard not to take a peek.
Licking my lips I glanced to my Master and the others beside me as the voices droned on. The urge beginning to become overwhelming. All of them seemed entirely focused on the people at the table and the black robed figures behind it. I quickly looked down as my mind began to race, careful not to let anything slip down the bond to my Master.
They weren't even looking or paying attention to me in the slightest, so couldn't I just take a quick peek?
If the robed figures were mirroring the other Masters as well, then they wouldn't even notice me either. A small smile came to my lips at the thought. Today would be the day I was glad to still be a Padawan, cause everyone would overlook me. I was no threat or concern, after all.
Letting out a small breath I stilled my body.
I wanted to look. I had the means to find out who could make my Master worry so much, and I was going to use it. I raised my head slowly, watching the robed figures bodies slowly come into view. With a quick thought I focused entirely on the one in the middle, a man judging by the looks of it, and raised my head completely into view of his.
Yellow eyes looked directly into my teal ones.
Everything stopped. it was if the whole world fell away, and all there was was his form clad in darkness, and his yellow eyes.
He smirked, and my mind seemed to stutter as realization dawned on me.
I was looking into his eyes. He saw me. We are looking at each other, and this whole plan of mine to go unnoticed failed.
Suddenly dark tendrils surrounded my mind, pressing against it, and everything went cold. I shivered as I felt his mind surround me, the sensation of even my Masters bond fading from my mind as the room turned to darkness. Only we stood in this dark nothingness, and the dark certainly wasn't my friend. I winced in pain as those dark tendrils began probing along my mind, pressing sharply, eager to get in. I gritted my teeth against the sensation, one thought projecting itself with my determination.
I wouldn't let it in. Not ever.
A dark chuckle sounded in my head at that thought.
"So you're human. I couldn't tell before with that hood of yours on." His deep yet velvety voice held contempt and amusement as he smirked. "It's a pleasure to meet such an adorable little Padawan."
I froze. Every thought of fighting fell as I saw an image of myself projecting through my mind from the man before me.
Standard Jedi garbs, my cloaks hood pulled firmly over my head, yet hiding nothing of my light skin color, teal eyes widened in shock and fear, and the few viewable strands of dark brown hair cascading down the side of my face.
Trembling I hastily releasing my fear into the Force as I pushed back at those tendrils, doing my best to keep them out of my mind. Yet a part of me couldn't help but feel I was in way over my head on this one. But even so, this was the enemy my Master fought with all the time, I couldn't lose to him. I didn't want to shame her. Calling on the Force I thought I saw a faint glow begin to build around me, but I ignored it and focused on him.
"...You are talking to me within my mind, just like my Master can." I started stubbornly, curious to know how. "Why is that?"
His eyes narrowed as he seemed to study me, tilting his head to the side curiously.
"Oh, you are gifted as well." He suddenly smiles, his eyes glowing brighter in their power. "Hmm, you seem much more open-minded than the pathetic lot around you. How 'bout we make a deal?"
I hesitated, brow bunching in confusion.
A… Deal? With a Sith?
I frowned, my Master's teachings of their trickery echoing and warning me not to respond. Yet I was unable to stop myself. "Why would I-"
I never got the chance to finish.
Suddenly I screamed and grabbed my head as I fell to my knees. Pain piercing through my skull. The cold darkness flooding in as his mind tore open mine.
I whimpered at the feeling as his form was swallowed by the darkness, reappearing directly in front of me. Jerking back on instinct I tried to pull away as he crouched down smoothly, but found myself unable to as he lifted my chin, forcing me to look into his eyes as my arms fell to my sides sudden motion sending my hood falling back as and revealing the long braid that the strands before had escaped from.
I couldn't look away. Couldn't...
My fingers twitched helplessly as my strength was pulled into the nothingness around us and went into him, pain easily replacing it within my body.
...What was he doing to me?
Panic budded anew within me.
"You see, young one," He began calmly, eyes never leaving mine. "I have this knack for connecting with minds. Especially those with such a weak defense as yours. It was just too... tempting, to resist after our eyes met. You just seemed so... eager."
I wanted to look away so desperately as his eyes gleamed with something I couldn't understand, his smile looking all to much like a predator baring its teeth in that moment.
"Tell me child, did that master of yours teach you to use such a weak shield?" His eyes took on a mocking pity look as something in my eyes must have answered for me. "Ah. How shameful. You won't get far at all around those like me with that kind of shielding technique. You should find someone else to teach you before it's too late. Someone... better."
I gritted my teeth together and glared at him, my anger overriding the pain he was sending through my mind.
"You don't know anything about my Master! She's not weak, and neither are her technique's!" I snarled. "Take that back!"
There was a moment of considering silence from the man, before he simply grinned. "Hmm, no, I think not."
I wasn't aware of it at first, but the darkness around me turned my anger over my Master into rage, giving me the strength to push the pain away enough to grab his arm that held me in place. His voice seemed to echo throughout my mind and I couldn't make his out from the voice of the darkness whispering to me as well, but I heard the laughter, and it fueled my rage.
"Shut up shut up shut up! Get out of my head you Sith spit!"
I struggled to jerk away to no avail, his hand keeping a firm hold on my face as he laughed heartedly. That laugh of his being more terrifying to me than the pain he caused.
"Well well, you certainly didn't learn that from your master." His chuckle echoed through the dark, and my mind, almost like the darkness was laughing with him. "Hmm, yes, I think I would rather like making a deal with you. What do you say? Your masters life is such a small thing to bargain for, no?"
I stop struggling in shock as my eyes widen. What? What did he mean by that?
Did he want to kill my Master?
A light suddenly flashes into existence behind the Sith, sending the darkness away screaming in fury as my Masters' voice seemed to echo out from within it.
I looked to it in surprise, my eyes watering at the bright light after seeing nothing but the darkness around us for so long.
"Wake up, please! You must wake up Calese!"
...Wake up? I was asleep? But that would mean...
He had already entered my mind completely. He's been in control this entire time.
My attempts to keep him out were useless.
He was just playing with me.
I realized this with dawning horror.
...Was I even still in the conference room from before?
Distantly I hear another voice murmuring from the light as well, but my attention was drawn back to the Sith as he glanced behind him and sighed in apparent annoyance, irritation making his hold on my face tighten enough to bruise.
"Our fun is over it seems. Guess we'll have to resume this conversation later."
His turns back around as I wince from the pain, his glowing eyes peering into mine once more as he smiled down at me, almost threatening to consume me with the sheer depth of his hatred I gleamed from their surface.
"Remember little one, your anger gives you power. When we meet again, I expect you to use it. Who knows, maybe you'll actually stop me from killing your master."
His purring voice echoed through my mind as the light pulsed before letting out a blinding flash, consuming everything and chasing back the darkness completely, sending me into the blissful warmth of my Masters bond as the man disappeared.
The world swam back into my vision groggily, everything blurry as I struggled to look around and make sense of where I was.
I had the dim feeling I wasn't alone, but I couldn't even ask, my tongue felt like lead in my mouth. In fact, my whole body felt heavy. Confusion clouded in, leaving me to shift hazily within my own mind.
Why was that?
Well, at least it seemed like I was on a bed. That was nice at least.
A mans voice suddenly interrupts my groggy thoughts.
"It seems we were able to reach her this time. It must have been the will of the Force."
The sound of a woman's sob could be heard afterwards, and the man sighed.
"This is why we don't get attached. You could have very well ruined all peace negotiations with that outburst back there. What were you thinking, accusing the Sith Lord like that?"
I turned my heavy head as much as I could to the side to look for the voice just in time to see a blurry man put his hand on the shoulder of who I could only assume was my Master, sitting on the bed edge of the bed beside me.
She was blurry as well, but I thought I could make out tears on her face.
It was all I could do to blink helplessly as they continued talking about me.
"I-I couldn't help it! You saw what happened! He was doing something to her!" The woman hung here head as if remembering, the man shaking his head in response.
"No, I saw your Padawan fall unconscious after things started heating up in there. Padawans aren't exposed to being in the same room with three powerful Sith Lords and such negativity on a daily basis in the Temple. All of that energy could've easily made her pass out. You could just be over-thinking this, Shala."
I saw my Master stand as she let out an angry sound. "Don't you dare do this to me. Not you too, Andar!"
My vision was clearing, and I could finally see her clenched fists as she stared the Mirillian down.
"You didn't feel what I felt! Our bond was forcibly blocked with the Dark Side only moments before she fell unconscious! I heard him laugh through our bond, Andar! As she was finally coming away from the Dark Side that surrounded her! You think that was over-thinking on my part, too?!"
She glared daggers at the fellow Jedi Master, daring him to deny our bond.
I wet my lips, finally able to move somewhat as I tried to speak up, my tongue still feeling like lead.
I didn't want them fighting, this wasn't right.
The man frowned at her and folded his arms, never once breaking eye contact. "Calm yourself, Shala. I don't deny your bond. If you felt it then there is truth to what you say. But we must be cautious with this. We'll ask them to launch an investigation, and keep her at the Temple for a couple months."
She gaped openly at him. I could feel her helplessness through our bond. "Ask them to lead an investigation?! On a Sith Lord?! The Empire would never do that!"
The man simply sighs and hangs his head in resignation.
I could clearly see the bags under his eyes now, which makes me question how long I'd been out, and how long they'd been watching me.
"That is all we can do at the moment. Your outburst earlier had all the Delegates kick us, and the Sith, out of the conference room." He rubbed at his left eye tiredly with the palm of his hand. "For Force sake, Shala. You drew your lightsaber. Do you know how badly that could have gone? We're lucky all they did was kick us out."
My Master deflated at that, sighing as she released her emotions into the Force.
"No... You're right." She sat back onto the bed heavily. "I shouldn't have done that, I-I lost control of myself."
The man frowns in concern at this and looks back up to her, placing his hand back on my Masters shoulder.
"That doesn't sound like you Shala. Are you okay? You should go see the Council if somethings bothering you that deeply. Let someone help."
My Master stands tiredly at this and smiles to the man in thanks. "You're right, of course, I'll have my Padawan seen by the Council as well then. To make sure the Dark Side doesn't have any lasting effects on her."
He nods approvingly at this and smiles. Clearly glad to see her making logical decisions once again.
"Good. Then I'll leave you and your Padawan here for the night. The first ship leaves back for Coruscant tomorrow evening, you should both head back there first. Me and the others can keep an eye on those Sith Lords for you."
As they walk to the door and say goodbye I stare at the ceiling numbly.
Something was bothering my Master that deeply? Why didn't she tell me about it?
Maybe I could've helped...
I slowly sit up, already gaining function back a little bit ago, but not possessing the will to interupt the Masters at the time as they talked.
Honestly I was too shocked by my Masters outburst, and the news of what her previous one caused, to say anything.
She almost ruined the Treaty for my sake...
That was a worrying thought.
My Master came back into view of the bed and froze in surprise before rushing back over to my side, pulling me into a hug as she flopped onto the bed beside me. Warmth and relief pouring off her in waves as I hugged her back.
"Calese, oh how I was worried!" She pulls back a little, looking me up and down. "Do you hurt anywhere? Don't be afraid to speak up Padawan, I'll heal your pain for you."
I smile a little sadly at that, realizing she must've felt some of my pain through the darkness. That man allowing her too through our bond to cause her pain as well.
"No, no, I'm much better now, it's just..." I bite my lip a little, my Master frowning in concern as I did so. "Master... Why are you not well...? Is it because of those warnings the Force has been giving you...?"
She shook her head firmly, not giving me time to organize my thoughts and say more.
"That isn't something for you to worry about, Padawan. It was my error for letting it get to me so much, you just focus on developing your mind shields better." She pulled me back into a hug. "I know you heard all of that between me and Andar... I'm sorry. We'll leave tomorrow."
She pulls back once more and smiles at me. "We both need some much needed rest, that's for sure. This week has been full of new experiences for the both of us."
I give a small smile at that. "Yes, it has."
Then I remember his words.
"Master, that um... that... Sith Lord guy..." I swallowed. "In my dream, he said he wanted to make a deal with me, and... and take your life."
I glance down at the end, unable to meet her eyes. Ashamed of being so easily played with by him.
My Master was silent for a moment before pulling me close once more, sensing my inner shame over the matter.
"Don't ever feel that way, Calese. He had a strong ability to connect to minds. To block my bond with you was no small feet."
I felt determination build from my Master through the bond before she speaks again.
"I'm not easy to kill either, Padawan. He'll have to do much more than wave that fancy lightsaber around to take me down."
She strokes my hair as I begin to quietly cry into her chest, my small laugh hiding none of the sadness or worry I was feeling from my Master.
"We will leave tomorrow and be done with that man, my dear Calese. I'll never let him near you again. I swear it through the Force and back."
I drifted back to sleep quickly like that, in her arms, aware of her using the Force to help me sleep and protecting my mind, yet unable to stir myself enough to care as the Force chimed urgently in warning again.
I felt safe.
What could the Force possibly have to warn me about?
I sighed within my mind groggily, content to drift away in my exhaustion.
...I'll just ask Master about it in the morning...
With that final thought echoing dimly in my head, I slept.