Welcome to Tython
Litrosh stood outside the private chambers of the Jedi Grandmaster, Satele Shan, forcing himself to take deep breaths and use the Force to calm his rattled nerves. Fear invites the Dark Side, he told himself. There is no emotion, there is peace.
Turning slightly to look over his shoulder, he asked, "She said nothing about what she wished to discuss?"
His escort, the young man named Gray whom also happened to be Shan's apprentice, shrugged and said, "I didn't ask. Just go in- she didn't seem like she was mad at you or anything."
Drawing a small amount of comfort from those words, the blue-eyed apprentice raised his hand and knocked lightly on the door. The metal obstruction retracted quickly, giving the Padawan a clear view into the room as he stepped through. It was simply furnished with a small bed, a desk that held a holoprojector and some kind of locket, a single lamp, and a bland-looking rug. Some might have called the furnishings Spartan in their functionality.
Kneeling in meditation on the rug was middle-aged woman with brown hair that formed into a few braids falling neatly around her head. Her skin was a fair shade, and when she opened her eyes to look at them, he was slightly interested to notice that they were a shade of blue similar to his own. However, whereas his eyes were dark and clear by nature, hers' seemed to be darkened and clouded over by the many years of war and destruction she had seen in her youth.
"Greetings, Padawan," she said, her voice soft yet strong. Gesturing to the spot in front of her, she added, "Please, be seated."
Litrosh obeyed swiftly, even as the door closed behind him. Once he was kneeling in a similar pose to the master, he said, "Good evening, Master Shan."
"I sense your trepidation, though it is slight," she replied, her eyes boring into his. "You do well not to let it cloud your judgement, young one. Few your age can claim to have such a handle on their emotions."
"My first master was very adamant that I gain control of my insecurities from when I first began training," Litrosh told her. "Ever since he left me in the care of my teachers on Naboo, I have strived to maintain confidence in my abilities. Of course, it then becomes a balancing act so that I do not let confidence breed arrogance."
"A struggle that every Padawan must conquer if they can hope to become a Jedi," Satele nodded sagely. "You seem to have a very firm grasp on our core principles and how they should apply to your life."
"Thank you, Master," Litrosh said with a slight bow, relaxing a bit. So far it seemed as though he had not been summoned for a reprimand.
"You are wondering why I summoned you, yes?" Satele asked him. When Litrosh nodded that he was, she continued on to say, "I heard that you were the one who confronted the corrupted Jedi that was leading the Flesh Raiders' attack on our people. I felt that conflict in the Force- I wanted to see how it had affected you."
It took Litrosh a moment to find his voice, but when he did, he asked, "You… wanted to make sure that I was okay?"
"To put it crudely, yes," Satele replied with a small smile. "I know from Master Grandeeney's medical report that you are physically sound, but I wanted to speak with you concerning the matter of your mind. As I'm sure you know now, taking a life affects the living Force- and the one who does the killing."
Litrosh nodded, thinking on his words carefully before he made his reply. "It was unsettling in the moment, I admit," he said. "However, I did not kill him intentionally- it was merely by circumstance that his life ended. I decided to take that as a sign that it was the will of the Force that his journey end there."
"You seem calm in the aftermath, but a Jedi must enter battles just as peacefully," Satele reminded him. "Were you able to do so?" She was watching him very closely now, so he knew that he had to be completely honest with her- this might end up being one of his trials, he realized.
"I was," he nodded. "Though not on my own."
"How did you achieve this peace of mind, then?" the Grandmaster asked him.
"The Jedi that came with me into the fields, Levy?" Litrosh answered. "Before we confronted the man, we were fortunate enough to have a brief moment of respite that allowed us to commune with the Force together. Had we not been given that chance, I may have had a much harder time keeping a clear head in the battle."
Satele's eyes narrowed slightly for a moment, and Litrosh had a sinking feeling that he might have said something wrong. "You communed in the Force together?" she repeated.
"Yes, Master," Litrosh nodded quickly, wondering what her interest was.
"You have no prior history with Jedi McGarden, do you?" she asked him. He replied that he did not. "Hmm…"
"Have I done something wrong, Master?" he asked after a quiet moment.
"We have found out many students beginning to form attachments with one another when they meld with the Force in such a manner," the Jedi Master said with a slight frown. "Yet I sense no such attachment between you and her."
"Attachment?" Litrosh repeated, eyes widening in shock as he realized the implications of their actions. "Far be it, Master!" he added quickly. "I made an oath to become a Jedi, which I intend to honor in every aspect of my life!"
"Calm yourself, Padawan," she chided him gently. "I believe you. I simply find it strange that two Jedi with no prior history could commune in the Force so easily with no emotional attachments, not to mention without any trace of the Dark Side of the Force."
"Y-Yes, Master," he stammered, forcing himself to breathe more deeply and evenly.
When she sensed that he would be open to conversation again, Satele asked him, "Have you been assigned a place to stay while here in the Temple?"
"No, Master," he said with a shake of his head. "I was told that my quarters would be assigned to me by my new master. Because of the invasion today, I find myself lacking either."
"Then I shall be sure to rectify both by tomorrow evening," the Jedi told him. "The rest of the council will want to debrief you tomorrow at noon, so for tonight, Gray will share his room with you. Get some rest- you've earned it."
"Thank you, Master," Litrosh said with a seated bow. When he rose, he asked hesitantly, "If… there's nothing else, Master?"
"Only a suggestion on my part," Satele replied with a small smile. "The Jedi Code forbids emotional attachments, yet many of us here in the Order have found good friends among our peers. I suggest that you spend your morning becoming familiar with the Temple in good company."
"I'll be sure to do that, Master," Litrosh said as he rose to his feet. Bowing once more, he said, "Thank you for your concern."
"May the Force be with you," the Grandmaster told him. Then, in an almost reverential tone, she added, "I sense a great and noble destiny ahead of you, young Litrosh."
At that, Litrosh finally cracked a smile in the presence of the esteemed master. "A Jedi does not seek greatness," he replied. "I'll be happy to serve my days as a peacekeeper, Master."
"Be that as it may," Satele told him, fixing her steely blue eyes on him in a way that sent an uncertain shiver down his spine, "Our destinies are what the Force wills."
He said nothing in response this time. At first he had thought that she may have been joking, but now he realized that she was serious- almost deathly so. Suppressing another shiver, he exited the room, wiping at an itching sensation on his forehead. Only after he had brought his hand down did he realize that it was cold sweat.
"Hey man, you okay?" Gray's voice nearly caused him to jump out of his skin as soon as the door closed behind him.
"Eh?" he gasped, confused for a second. When the other apprentice raised an eyebrow at him, Litrosh shook his head to clear it before answering, "Erm, yes, I believe I'm all right."
"Sure…" Gray said slowly. "Look, she's my master, okay? I know she can be kinda intense sometimes."
"Kinda?" Litrosh repeated with a questioning inflection that bordered on incredulity. "It felt like she was staring into my future just by having a conversation with me!"
"My master has been known to do that from time to time," Gray shrugged. "You get used to it eventually."
"No ya don't, it's creepy!" The two of them turned to see Natsu, Lucy, and Levy walking toward them from down the hall.
"Natsu, calm down!" Lucy said in a loud-hushed voice. "People are trying to get some rest!"
"Why are you two here?" Gray asked, his mood souring.
"Lighten up, Gray," Levy said with a reassuring smile. "I just wanted to make sure Litrosh had somewhere to settle for the night. Since Natsu actually sleeps pretty well on the ground, he offered his bed to you for the night, if you want it, Litrosh."
"I'm actually here cos I wanted Levy's help on some readings I'm doing to prepare for my upcoming trials," Lucy explained.
The apprentice was touched by their generosity, and he replied with a smile and the words, "That's very kind of you. I was actually wondering about where I would stay tonight."
"My master told me that if you didn't have anywhere else to go, you can use my place," Gray said noncommittally. "I have patrol of the Temple Grounds until midnight, so I won't be in your way."
"Haha!" Natsu laughed unexpectedly. "Good luck tryin' ta sleep in his room! He keeps the thermostat down to somewhere between Hoth and Ilum!"
"Better than your room," Gray replied, his brow furrowing deeply in annoyance. "You keep it hotter than Mustafar and your snores are impossible to tune out!"
"Guys!" Lucy said with something close to panic. "Erza sleeps in this area! I do not want to wake her up!" For some reason, this seemed to shut Gray and Natsu up instantly.
Litrosh looked at Levy quizzically. "Did I miss something?" he asked, making sure to keep his voice appropriate to the late hour.
"Erza is something of a rival to those two," she grinned with a whisper so that even the others wouldn't hear her. "She's one of the Temple's top fencers among the apprentices, and neither one of them has ever been able to beat her in practice."
"Interesting," Litrosh mused. "Maybe I'll see my way to getting a few tips from her in the art of the sword." He was about to add something else when his own body interrupted him with a large, unexpected yawn. "Sorry," he mumbled as an apology, his aching limbs practically demanding that he rest now.
"Don't worry about it," Levy told him. "We've all had a long day- I could use some shuteye myself." Turning to Lucy, she said, "We'd all better get to bed- mind if we meet up for breakfast tomorrow? I'll help you with the readings, then."
"You got it," Lucy grinned. Turning back to the boys, she said, "Natsu- Litrosh needs a place to crash. You gonna help him with that or not?"
"Huh?" the salmon-haired apprentice asked, in the middle of staring down Gray. "Oh, yeah, I guess. If he wants."
"Gonna go spend the night at Natsu's, then?" Gray asked, finally pulling back from butting heads with the other apprentice.
"Well, yes," Litrosh answered neutrally. "I'll be taking Natsu up on his offer. It seemed the more logical choice since he offered freely, whereas your master likely gave you an order."
"Well, you're right about that last part," Gray sighed as he rubbed the back of his neck. He didn't need the Force to know that he had a long night ahead of him, and continuing this argument would simply waste time and energy he was going to need. "Well, if you change your mind, I'm in that room over there." He pointed to a door five rooms down the hall. "I'm off, guys. Gotta go make sure we don't get eaten in our sleep." With a dry chuckle, he walked off, hands in his pockets.
Once he was out of sight, the others gestured for Litrosh to accompany them to another wing in the Temple. As he began to follow them, he asked, "May I ask something about Gray?"
"Sure," Lucy replied casually.
"Is he always so… uptight?" the younger apprentice asked. "I mean, I understand keeping to the Code- I've even been called a stickler for the rules myself, but he just seemed… cold."
"He's not always like that," Levy assured him. "He and Natsu just don't see eye to eye on a lot of things, so he tends to be a little stiffer whenever they're close to one another, or when he's meeting new people. You just got unlucky enough to catch him in a moment where he had to deal with both."
"He doesn't like you, Natsu?" Litrosh asked curiously. "Why?"
"Cos I always stomp him in practice sessions, that's why," the salmon-haired apprentice grinned.
"I think you might have hit your head fighting those Flesh Raiders earlier today," Lucy said dryly. "The overseeing instructors almost always end up having to call their matches in a tie. It's pretty surprising since Natsu mastered the Juyo form."
Litrosh nearly tripped over in surprise when he heard that particular tidbit. "I'm sorry, did you say that he has actually mastered the most advanced of the lightsaber forms?" he asked, almost incredulous.
"Hell yeah, I did," Natsu grinned back at the newcomer. "Master Makarov actually appreciates havin' a student that can swing a sword without almost choppin' his own head off."
"But does he appreciate a student with a pride problem?" Litrosh remarked softly with a faint grin. He was beginning to have an idea of why the student of the Order's Grandmaster had taken a disliking to the spunky apprentice.
"Hey, no Jedi's perfect!" Natsu exclaimed.
"Yet we must strive to reach perfection nonetheless," the newcomer replied sagely. "There is no doubt, there is only duty."
"Sixth line believer, huh?" Levy asked over her shoulder. Litrosh's eyes registered surprise, so she shrugged and added, "I read stuff. Though I gotta say, I'd always heard it as, 'There is no contemplation, there is only duty."
"Really?" Litrosh asked, his surprise going further. "I'd never heard it that way before- my first master, Precht, always said it how I recited it."
"Wait, your first master was Jedi Knight Precht?" Levy asked, stopping and turning to face him with wide eyes.
"Well, he didn't get the chance to teach me much, but he was the one that brought me to the Order on Naboo," Litrosh told her. "He left me some holorecordings of lessons that he believed were essential to the life of a Jedi, and I've always taken them to heart."
"Dude…" Natsu said, his eyes also wide. Lucy looked similarly stunned.
"…Yes?" Litrosh asked, confused by their reactions.
"Your first master is considered a legend in the Order's archives," Levy told him excitedly. "He was a survivor from the Temple bombing on Courascant. It was actually mostly thanks to him and Master Orgus that as many Jedi survived as they did."
"Really?" the younger apprentice asked, curious. "I've never heard of his involvement in the Temple's Fall, nor seen any records."
"It's something I was reading the other day," Levy told him. "I was in a section of the library that's only allowed for fully qualified Jedi, since I'd never been there before. Part of a text I was reading was a complete record of the Jedi that survived the bombings, and their level of involvement. Seems like his actions weren't made public knowledge."
"Why? What did he do?" Litrosh asked as they began walking again. He was aware of a curiosity arousing inside him that he had not felt in a long time, which somewhat puzzled him. He had never sought to learn about his first teacher, simply choosing to honor him as the man that had introduced him to the ways of the Jedi.
"There were three Sith Lords in charge of the attack on our people," Levy told him. "Darth Malgus, who killed Master Ven Zallow, Darth Angral, who dueled Master Orgus, and Darth Adraas, who was defeated by Master Precht. He almost killed the Sith, but he apparently he decided that rescuing the younger Padawans took precedence. He managed to incapacitate Adraas, then led a large group of younglings to safety- he was a hero."
"Amazing," Litrosh marveled. He'd had no idea that his first master had been so instrumental in the battle that nearly wiped out the Jedi, much less saving its next generation. Looking directly at Levy, he asked, "If it's alright with you, I would like to know more about what history says of him- could we perhaps meet to discuss it in the morning over breakfast?"
"Sure, I'd be happy to," Levy said with a smile. "I'm always glad to share history with anyone that wants to listen- Lucy here is also quite the historian."
"I wouldn't say that," the blonde apprentice said as she held up her hands. "I'm nowhere near your level."
"History is boring," Natsu huffed. His face suddenly lit up with a mischievous grin before he said, "Hey Litrosh? How about a sparring match in the morning? I heard you're supposed to be awesome at combat, so I wanna give it a shot at kicking your butt tomorrow."
"Well…" Litrosh said hesitantly slightly taken aback by Natsu's sudden request. "I have to be debriefed by the Council at noon tomorrow, but time willing, I suppose I could have a practice match with you."
"What, why won't there be time?" Natsu asked, looking slightly affronted.
"Hey hothead, he just asked Levy to tell him more about his old master," Lucy sighed, exasperated by her friend's forgetfulness. "You know, the one that disappear-" She stopped herself and flushed with embarrassment.
"Lucy, it's fine," Litrosh reassured her. "I know he's gone- I accepted that a long time ago. No need to act like it didn't happen." His calm reaction surprised her- then again, he wouldn't be here ahead of his age group if he hadn't learned to control his emotions so well, she reasoned.
"Hey guys, we're here," Levy told them as she stopped in front of a set of doors.
"This your room, Levy?" Litrosh asked.
"No, I sleep in a different wing with the other Jedi," she replied. "This area is for apprentices."
"This one is Natsu's room," Lucy told him. "I'm a few doors down."
"Wait, then why did you come with us?" Litrosh asked the blue-haired consular. "You should be getting some rest- you worked just as hard as I did today, and Force knows I need some sleep."
"I just wanted to make sure you got settled in alright," she grinned lightly. "We were assigned partners for the day, after all. Wouldn't do to leave my job half-done."
Litrosh grinned back at her, feeling a small surge of camaraderie. "Thank you, Levy," he said gratefully. After a brief pause, he added, "All things considered, I'm glad of how today is ending."
"What makes you say that?" Lucy asked.
"Well, I suppose I'm used to other apprentices treating me differently," the boy shrugged. "And the masters are always paying extra attention because they consider me a prodigy… It's been nice to be treated as an equal comrade. I had forgotten what that felt like."
"Heh," Natsu chuckled. "We're not big on formalities in this group, so don't worry about it. You seem like a good guy to hang around, so that's good enough for me."
"Yeah," Lucy grinned in agreement. "To be honest, when I heard you were coming here, I expected another Gray."
"Nice to know that my reputation precedes me," Litrosh sighed. Suddenly letting out a large yawn, he murmured, "If it's all the same to you guys, I'd like to get some sleep."
"Oh yeah, sorry," Lucy said. "Goodnight, Litrosh."
"You as well, Lucy," he replied. Turning to Levy, he said, "Goodnight, Levy."
"Sleep well," she said as she turned around to walk away. Over her shoulder, she added, "Night, Lu. Natsu, don't wake him up too early, 'kay?"
"Yeah, yeah," the other boy said dismissively.
Lucy bade Natsu a good night before walking away, quickly disappearing into her room, even as Natsu turned around and opened the door to his own quarters.
The first thing Litrosh noticed was the heat- Gray hadn't been exaggerating by much, he realized, it was easily eighty or ninety degrees in the place. This might take some adjusting to, he thought. Then again, he, like all other apprentices, had been trained to rest in virtually any environment, from extreme cold to boiling heat- he would be fine.
He followed Natsu in the room while the other apprentice pointed at various features of necessity- like Satele's living area, the place was devoid of just about anything that did not serve a strict function. "Bathroom's in there, leave my desk alone, you can take the bed, and I'll be here on the floor." He pointed to a thick carpet in the otherwise sparsely decorated room.
Litrosh quickly noticed the contents of the desk that Natsu had mentioned, intrigued to see several components that seemed as though they could become a pair of lightsabers, though he did not see any crystals that would power the devices.
"I thought we weren't allowed to construct our lightsabers until our trials were finished," he remarked, despite his rapidly increasing fatigue.
"My master has a different take on how the trials should proceed," Natsu said as he lay on the ground, hands behind his head. "Says that this is my test of patience."
"How so?" Litrosh asked as he removed his boots and outer tunic.
"I'm better at breakin' stuff than I am at building 'em," the other apprentice muttered sourly. Apparently it was a sore point for him.
"Sorry," Litrosh yawned. "I didn't mean to be rude." He lay back on the bed, adding, "Thank you for letting me use this, by the way."
"Don't mention it," Natsu said with a grin. "G'night, Litrosh."
"Goodnight," his temporary roommate said, asleep almost before he had finished the word.
The cold vacuum of space once again welcomed his fatigued mind. Just like in his previous dream, he was standing on what seemed to be a large asteroid, though this time he appeared to be alone. Looking down at himself, he was slightly surprised to see that he was wearing the tunic of a Jedi Knight, complete with a two-handed sentinel-styled lightsaber, just how he would have constructed it.
"Is this supposed to be some fragment of my future?" he wondered aloud. "Seems to be a recurring theme."
"That depends on your choices," a familiar voice said, startling Litrosh enough to make him jump back as he turned around to see Levy, of all people, standing not ten feet away from him. Seemingly unperturbed by his reaction, she added, "Many Jedi find their destinies in the stars."
"You are… not Levy," Litrosh realized. "Who are you?"
"I am your future, Litrosh, that much is certain," the blue-haired girl replied, ignoring his question. "Our destinies are bound as one, for better or worse."
Litrosh's eyes narrowed as he replied with a stiff tone, "The Jedi believe that the future is forever in motion. Nothing is set in stone, and anything that tells me otherwise is in contrast with my beliefs."
"So that automatically makes it wrong?" the vision of Levy challenged him. "Your beliefs determine the black and white of the galaxy?" He paused, her words troubling him. Seeming to sense this, the girl pressed on, saying, "Faith without reason is simply madness."
"There is no doubt, there is only duty," Litrosh retorted. "If I doubt the Code, then everything I have spent my life working towards has been for nothing. I will not yield to negative suggestions like these."
"The truths of the galaxy are not so cut and dry as you would have them," the vision replied.
"Yes, they are," Litrosh retorted sharply. "Right is right, wrong is wrong. The Light is peace, the Dark is destruction."
The apparition smiled a smile that sent chills down Litrosh's spine. "Tell me then," she nearly whispered as she walked towards him. He tried to back away, but found that his feet would not move for some reason. When she reached him, she lay small hand over his heart and asked, "Why do people wait for the dark of night to rest?" When he failed to answer her, she added, "If the dark is truly so bad, why do people choose the night hours to sleep and recover from the things that they've been forced to do in the light?"
Litrosh's jaw clenched- he didn't know if the Light Side was testing him or if the Dark Side of the Force that was gathered on Tython was causing this, but it was testing his patience either way. "I will not yield my ideals," he said defiantly. "Nothing worth doing is hidden in the dark, but displayed for all to see in the light."
Levy flinched as if struck, retreating a couple of paces while she looked at Litrosh with hollow eyes. "The Force is truly strong with you," she said, though he couldn't tell if she was disappointed or satisfied when she said it. "A great destiny awaits you, that much is certain, Litrosh. And I will be there to see it- one way or another."
The boy woke up gasping, sweat running in rivulets down his face. He looked around, quickly noticing that the first rays of Tython's sunlight were streaming in through the window. Natsu was sound asleep, snoring obnoxiously from where he lay on the floor, seemingly ignorant of the fact that his temporary roommate had just suddenly arisen from what could have been described as a nightmare.
Litrosh wiped the sweat from his brow, and shook his head before pressing it into his knees while rocking back and forth, trying to assuage a headache. By the stars, I wish I knew what was going on! He thought heavily. Does everyone on Tython have dreams like that?
He'd never had a problem with nightmares before, but ever since he had come near Tython, it seemed as though it was going to become a regular occurrence- something he hoped against. Maybe my new master will be able to help me sort this out.
Moving quietly to the bathroom, he turned on the sink and splashed cold water on his face, trying to dispel the grime from his brow. As he applied soap to his skin, he thought to himself, Maybe the Force is warning me to stay away from Levy? Master Shan seemed to think that our connection was unusual, and if it is, perhaps further time spent with her would be unwise. The thoughts troubled him, for if this truly was the case, it would mean alienating the first genuine friend he'd had in some time.
That notion alone was enough to make him do another double-take. I call her 'friend' so easily, yet I have known her for less than a full planetary cycle, he thought as he scrubbed his face dry with a towel. Perhaps Master Shan is right to warn me of such connections…
Shaking his head tiredly, he muttered, "I hope to the stars that I'm just overthinking all of this." He suddenly realized that even though he had washed his face, the scent of the dead on his garments was not helping his thoughts clear up. He had been too tired to notice the day before, but now he realized that he was going to need a set of replacement clothing- his current wardrobe was covered in sweat, Flesh Raider blood, padawan blood, some dirt, and the outer tunic that he had tossed aside before going to sleep was undoubtedly even worse for the wear.
He turned on the shower as he tossed aside his shirt, hoping for a peaceful meditation while he washed away the memories of yesterday. I suppose I'll have to ask Natsu if he has a spare set I can borrow, he thought absently as he stepped into the shower without bothering to check the temperature of the water.
A second later, Natsu was awoken by a loud yelp when Litrosh discovered just how hot his host he preferred to make the water. The salmon—haired apprentice Jedi bolted up into a sitting position, a large grin on his sleepy face. "Gotcha, Gray," he cackled softly as he rubbed his eyes.
He was about to go back to sleep when he heard a soft set of knocks at his door. "S'open," he mumbled just loud enough for whomever was on the other side to hear him. The metal door retracted to admit Lucy, who had a fresh set of laundry in her arms.
"Morning, Natsu," she said as she walked in. Looking at the empty bed, then noticing the sounds of the shower running, she asked, "Litrosh is early riser, huh?"
"Eh?" Natsu asked, his eyes opening wider as he looked around his room and finally realized that he had made a mistake with the shower. He shot to his feet and dashed into the other room, shouting, "Sorry, man! I didn't mean to leave it that hot! Well, not for you anyway!"
"Were you planning on inviting or kidnapping someone else to put in this heat trap?" Litrosh asked, slightly annoyed. He had managed to cool down the water to a more reasonable temperature, though his skin was going to be red for some time, he knew.
"Uh… no?" the other boy stammered unconvincingly.
Litrosh raised an eyebrow to convey his disbelief before deciding to let it go and ask his comrade, "Do you happen to have a spare tunic I could borrow? I only have what I brought with me, and those clothes are hardly appropriate to wear in their condition."
"Good thing I got ya covered!" Litrosh's other eyebrow went up as he recognized Lucy's voice. "You're a medium size, right?"
"Yes," he called back before looking at Natsu, somewhat surprised and confused. "Does Lucy usually come to your home at this hour?"
"Yeah, usually to wake me up since my alarms never work," Natsu shrugged casually.
"You mean cos you keep breaking 'em?" Lucy interjected. Without waiting for a response, she said, "I'll leave the clothes on the bed for Litrosh. I figured he could do with a spare set, so I went to see Master Horologium a little while ago."
Litrosh was once again touched by another apprentice's kindness. "Thank you, Lucy," he called out. "I'll be out soon."
"I'll give you some privacy," the blonde apprentice said, and it sounded to the boys like she was leaving. "Before I go, I just wanted to make sure that we're all still meeting for breakfast, right?"
"Sure," Litrosh answered before he remembered the vision he'd had. Mentally cursing himself, he decided to just go along with the course before him- it would be more than rude now if he suddenly decided to retract his acceptance of the invitation, or just not show up.
"Kay, I'll go find Levy and we'll meet you guys in the dining hall," Lucy replied just before she left, apparently unaware of the mental summersaults Litrosh was hurling himself through.
"Hope you're hungry, cos the food in the Temple is actually awesome," Nastu grinned brightly.
"Er, yes, food sounds good," Litrosh said, his voice shaking slightly with uncertainty. "Listen Natsu, I need some time alone to meditate- I know it's your room, but could you…?"
"Huh?" the salmon-haired boy asked. Then he seemed to remember where he was. "Whoops, sorry man!"
About fifteen minutes later, Litrosh found himself in the dining hall of the Jedi. It was a large, round room on the second floor of the building. Most of the tables were filled with Jedi and Padawans alike despite the early morning hour, though each group seemed to favor their own set of peers during their free time.
There were a few exceptions to this social setting, though Litrosh noticed it seemed to be mostly Padawans getting ready for their final trials that were seated amongst the fully-fledged Jedi. Case in point, he noticed Lucy waving to him and Natsu from the smaller table that she and Levy were occupying. The blonde apprentice had a half-eaten breakfast in front of her while her best friend had barely touched her food, focusing instead on the holo-document in front of her.
"Good morning," he said as he approached the table.
"Hey, Litrosh," Lucy said with a large smile. "Did you sleep well?"
"I did, and thank you very much for the clothes," he answered. "I was wondering how I was going to get a new set.
"Master Horologium is the man to see about uniforms and all that," Levy said almost absently, still lost in her texts.
"I got the grub!" Natsu proclaimed as he approached with two steaming bowls of porridge. Sitting down, he said, "Hey Levy, Lucy."
"Good morning," they said in unison.
"Thanks for getting that," Litrosh said to the salmon-haired apprentice as they sat across from the girls.
"No problem," Natsu said before digging into his breakfast ravenously.
"You'd think that he hadn't eaten all week," Litrosh commented dryly.
"He's always like that," Lucy chuckled. "I can't blame him though. Mirajane- the Jedi that does the cooking- is the best at what she does. Her apprentice, Kinana, is also pretty good."
"Interesting," the newcomer mused. "Back on Naboo, it was regular staff that prepared the meals for us."
"Just Jedi here," Levy said as she closed her holo. Finally making eye contact with Litrosh, she flashed him a smile as she added, "Sorry about that, I was catching up on the readings I wanted to get done yesterday."
"Not a problem," Litrosh smiled back, though it was a bit uneasy for him. The memory of his vision the previous night still disturbed him greatly. "I would imagine a Jedi's time is better spent studying than satisfying the curiosity of an apprentice."
The girls raised eyebrows at him. "You doing okay?" Levy asked him.
"Not entirely," he admitted as he jabbed at the porridge in front of him, eyes downcast. "I've had a couple of vivid dreams since I came near Tython, neither of them pleasant ones." Looking back up at the others, he asked, "Is that a common occurrence on this planet? I've never had dreams like them before."
"Not that I'm aware of," Levy said with a slight frown, though she leaned closer over the table, obviously intrigued. "What happens in the dreams?"
Litrosh briefly hesitated, wondering how much he should tell them. He thought it might be better to talk to a Jedi about this, then remembered that Levy was a fully qualified Jedi Consular- this kind of thing was right up her alley. "I've seen two people in these dreams," he finally said. "One I have no idea who it was. The other was someone… familiar to me."
"I'm guessing that the people alone aren't what disturbed you?" Lucy guessed.
"More what they had to say than anything, though the first one to appear was a Sith," he replied in a lowered tone. The others froze in place at that. Ever since the war thirty years ago, everyone had been on edge, waiting for the Empire to make the first hostile move. Just mentioning a Sith Lord among the younger generation of Jedi was enough to greatly startle them.
Natsu was the first one to find his voice after that. "So did ya have to fight him?" he asked.
"The dream ended as he attacked me," Litrosh muttered, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
"Was that what troubled you, or was it something he said?" Levy asked, concern written on her face.
"Yes," the apprentice grinned wryly. "He offered me a chance to know my future- of course, I would have to give myself to the Dark Side if I wanted to see it."
"Why would a Sith Lord target you, though?" Lucy frowned. "You've never had to tangle with them, so there's no way you could have made any enemies with someone in the Empire, right?"
"No, but it could be Darth Adraas, now that I think about it," Litrosh mused aloud. "I suppose it's possible that he sees me as a target since my first master caused him a good deal of humiliation."
"Makes sense," Lucy muttered, her frown deepening slightly. "Sith are experts at looking for revenge, even when their reasons are a stretch."
"There's one other thing that struck me as odd," Litrosh said. "Just before I woke up, he said something that I can't make heads or tails out of."
"Wha's that?" Natsu asked through a mouthful of his porridge.
"He told me to 'kneel before the dragon of Zakuul," Litrosh replied. Looking directly at Levy, he asked, "Does that mean anything to you?"
"Never heard of it before," Levy said with a negative shake of her head. "I can do some digging though, see what turns up. I'm sure something will come out."
"I appreciate it," Litrosh said, finally turning his attention to breakfast. His eyes widened slightly in surprise as he took his first bite. "This really is very good," he said appreciatively.
"Told ya," Lucy grinned.
It was almost as though sampling the food reminded Litrosh of how hungry he was. He had eaten last night after getting to the temple, but those had been ration bars- packed with sustaining nutrients, but lacking any kind of flavor. He quickly dug into the bowl, eating with great gusto, almost rivalling Natsu's speed in finishing his breakfast.
"I might have to back for seconds," he grinned, feeling a little better with a hot meal in him.
"I'll do it!" Natsu said eagerly, snatching up the eating utensils. "That way you guys can get started with your boring stuff, then we can go fight." With that, he was gone.
"He really wants to fight me," Litrosh muttered, bewildered by his peer's eagerness.
"His enthusiasm and persistence are commendable, at least," Levy said. Then, wishing to get back to the original topic, she asked, "What about the second dream? What happened then?"
"Like I said, someone I know appeared this time," Litrosh replied, his frown returning. "They tried to convince me that some of my beliefs are flawed. While they didn't come right out and say it, they seemed to imply that the Light Side of the Force is not the path to follow."
"Strange," Levy murmured. "Has this person ever shown any signs of doubt in the Jedi Code?"
"Not as far I know," Litrosh said with a prompt shake of his head. Of course, he hadn't known Levy for long, but one, he was deliberately keeping that part of his dream to himself, as not to frighten the others. Two, when he had communed in the Force with the Jedi, he had sensed no trace of darkness in her spirit. So according to what he knew, he was telling the truth.
"Who was the second person?" Levy asked.
Blast, the young man thought. He didn't want to lie directly to them, but again, he wanted to avoid startling them. "I'd rather not say," he finally admitted. "They are… a friend of mine, and I don't want them to fall under suspicion because of a bad dream."
"Litrosh, dreams are sometimes visions from the Force," Levy said seriously. "This could be a warning."
"I know, which is why I'll keep an eye on them myself," Litrosh said calmly. "Right now, all I have is a dream. That's hardly enough cause to put them under scrutiny from the masters."
"He makes a good point," Lucy agreed. "The masters are always saying that the future is in motion, and nothing is certain. Also, it could just be a bad dream."
Levy nodded, though it was with reluctance. "Just… promise you'll talk to your new master about this, okay?" she said. "Or us, if it happens again."
"I will," Litrosh agreed quickly. "You have my word." After a small pause, he decided that he'd rather put the subject behind them, so he asked, "What did you manage to find on my old master?"
"Oh yeah, that's why we met up here in the first place," Levy realized, smacking herself on the forehead with embarrassment. Pulling up her holo-documents again, she said, "I wasn't able to find much more than what we already knew, just some records of his involvement in the war against the Empire. Sorry I couldn't dig up anything else…"
"It's no problem," Litrosh said with a slight smile, waving the matter aside. "You didn't have to do any of that in the first place, so you have my gratitude for even trying." Inside, he was just a bit disappointed, but it wasn't anything of great consequence. An idle curiosity, nothing more.
However, he was struck by another thought to keep the conversation going. "Why don't you tell me about your masters?" he suggested as Natsu came back with more food. Perfect, he thought. Now he could listen and eat at the same time.
"Well, my master is Leeha Narezz," Levy said, apparently volunteering to go first. "She also survived the war against the Empire, but she wasn't there during the Sacking of Courascant. She and I both have an affinity for mechanics- she taught me everything I know about building machines."
"What kind of machines?" Litrosh was curious.
"Well, her favorite creations are a trio of medical droids that she calls the Meedees," Levy answered. "She also likes teaching them everything she can about the Force and Jedi philosophy in general." With a slightly wry grin, she added, "She's got a theory about droids, but it's not too popular among the Jedi."
"What's that?" Litrosh was even more intrigued now.
"Master Narezz believes that droids can become Force-sensitive," Lucy answered with a grin. "Sounds crazy, but I'm not exactly opposed to the idea myself."
"Interesting," Litrosh mused aloud, surprising them both when he didn't outright reject the idea. "What's her basis for this theory?" After he spoke, he went to eat his second helping of breakfast.
"Well, you know how in some cases, droids develop personalities of their own if they go long enough without a memory wipe?" Levy asked. When Litrosh nodded his understanding, she continued, "Those droids also usually live past their 'life expectancy', so that got my master to thinking that maybe the Force has a hand in keeping these droids active for longer than we might expect."
"Hmm…" Litrosh mused through a mouthful of food. It's certainly not impossible, he thought. Though I can see why most Jedi would reject the idea. Swallowing, he said, "An unorthodox thought, but I can see where she might get that. Maybe someday I can meet her in person to discuss the particulars."
"I'm sure she'd like that," Levy grinned brightly. "It's not every day that she gets to meet somebody not immediately ready to shoot down her theory."
"Of course," Litrosh nodded with a small smile of his own. "Though you did mention that you also have an affinity for mechanics. Do you specialize in something different?"
"Heck yeah she does!" Lucy grinned. "Levy here is the best in the Order at repairing and tuning lightsabers. Even Master Caeden- he's on the council- came to ask her for help on improving his sabers' design."
"Wow," Litrosh said, suitably impressed, though Levy seemed embarrassed by the praise. "Perhaps I'll have to ask for your help when I design my own saber."
"Nope!" Levy said cheerfully, surprising Litrosh. Seeing his look of confusion, she said, "I help people with their lightsabers after they've built it themselves and can get it working. Each Jedi's lightsaber is something that they should make on their own with the Force guiding them. I don't wanna interfere with that process."
"She won't budge on this one," Natsu said sourly. "I asked her to help me with mine, but she won't!" He pouted a little bit, which made the girls laugh.
"Hey, I especially can't help you since Master Makarov said it was part of your patience trial," Levy giggled. "You're on your own, buster."
"Rrgh…" Natsu grumbled.
"Master Makarov sits on the Council, right?" Litrosh asked. "What is he like?"
"One of a kind," Lucy grinned. "He's pretty strict with Natsu since he tends to get out of hand, but he loves teaching younglings in his spare time. Treats them like they're his own children. Though I've never seen him in action myself, apparently he's one of the Order's best Jedi in combat, even at his current age."
"How old is he?" Litrosh asked.
"Eighty, I think," Natsu answered this time. "A lot of the kids he teaches call him 'Gramps', but he hates it when I do that."
"Actually, Litrosh, you and Master Makarov have something in common," Lucy said, her eyes lighting up as she realized something."
"He was actually the first student trained by your old master, Precht, after he became a Jedi Knight," she told him.
"Hey, maybe Gramps can tell you more about your old teacher," Natsu said, his eyes lighting up excitedly. "I'll bet he's got all kinds of cool stories to tell!"
"Perhaps," Litrosh nodded- the idea was appealing to him. He filed the thought away for later before turning to Lucy and asking, "And you, Lucy? Who is your master?"
"My master is Syo Bakarn; he's also on the Council," Lucy replied.
"The Quiet Healer?" Litrosh asked with surprise. "The Wise Son of Corellia?"
"That's him," Lucy grinned. "He's the kindest and wisest Jedi I've ever met. He used to be a real pro on the battlefield, but he decided that he didn't have the stomach for it. So, he changed to focus his efforts on healing others. He and Master Grandeeney- the Jedi that took care of you at the infirmary yesterday- are pretty good friends. Her apprentice, Wendy, takes lessons with me sometimes since she's becoming quite the healing prodigy."
"So is healing your specialty, Lucy?" Litrosh guessed.
"Actually, no," Lucy said with a shake of her head. "I specialize in using the Force for more subtle purposes."
"Lu prefers to avoid fighting by using the Force to pacify hostiles," Levy explained. "She's also really good at moving undetected by using the Force to erase her presence from other people's senses."
"You'll have to show me some of those techniques sometime," Litrosh said, impressed again. "I'd like to be able to have that kind of advantage if I ever have to go behind enemy lines."
"Sure, if we ever have time," Lucy nodded. Looking around, she said, "Seems like the Flesh Raiders' attack has stirred up the Order quite a bit, though. Not sure how much free time we're going to have in the days to come."
"No war lasts forever," Litrosh shrugged. "If we can even call this a war."
"If there are more Dark Jedi than the one we fought, it might turn into one," Levy said with a frown.
Now there's a sobering thought, Litrosh said silently as he finished the last of his breakfast, his stomach finally satisfied. We can't really afford another war right now- not with the threat of the Empire hanging over us, not to mention the fact that we're still trying to build up our numbers.
"Okay, can we go fight now?" Natsu demanded. "I can't take much more of this depressing crap. I need to get up and do something."
"Sure," Litrosh sighed, resigned to the fact that Natsu was not going to stop pressing the subject matter anytime soon. "I'll oblige you with a match- but only one match. I have to present myself to the council at noon."
"I do too," Levy remarked. "I guess they want a full account of what happened yesterday."
"Makes sense," he said. "I suppose we'll leave you to your studies then?"
"You kiddin'?" Lucy grinned. "I'm gonna watch this match! It's been a while since Natsu's had a new opponent, and since Levy told me you're pretty good with a vibroblade, I'm even more interested to see which one of you is better."
Litrosh eyed her suspiciously as they all rose from the table, asking, "Is there some kind of wager going on that I don't know about?"
"Wha- no!" Lucy sputtered. "Just curious to see, that's all."
"Maybe we should make a bet on this," Levy chuckled.
"I thought we discouraged gambling," Litrosh frowned as they made their way through the dining hall.
"Discouraged, not forbidden," Natsu grinned.
Why do I get the feeling that I've made a horrible mistake? Litrosh wondered.
Five minutes later found the group standing before a Jedi Master named Liam Dentiri, who was in charge of the training grounds that lay on the outside of the temple. He was a middle-aged man with deeply tanned skin and dark eyes that regarded Litrosh with interest. Dentiri worked closely with the Order's Battle-master because he was in charge of teaching padawans how to lead troops in battle, so it was only natural that he take an interest in Litrosh and his battle capabilities.
"So, what's the deal today, Dragneel?" he asked Natsu shortly, turning to the boy.
"Need one of the dueling grounds for a match against Light here," he replied with a toothy grin, missing the annoyed look that the other boy shot him for getting his name wrong.
"Did you push him into this?" the Jedi demanded, his eyes narrowing.
"I agreed to the match of my own accord, Master," Litrosh said before Natsu could reply. "As an aspiring master swordsman myself, I'd like to see how I compare to such an alleged warrior."
"Much as I don't want to admit it, there's nothing 'alleged' about Dragneel's skill in combat," Dentiri said heavily. "Makarov knows how to train a warrior, I'll give him that."
"Oh, is Natsu a student in your course?" Litrosh asked curiously.
"Hah!" the master scoffed. "Do you honestly think that Dragneel could lead a team of soldiers, much less an army?"
Litrosh shrugged in response; the answer to that was fairly self-explanatory. However, Natsu seemed to get riled up at the thinly veiled insult. "I can lead just fine!" he protested. "People just have a hard time keeping up with me!"
"Part of leadership involves recognizing your crew's capabilities and limitations, not just your own," his friend said evenly. "Seems to me as though your mentality is more suited for that of a lone wolf fighter."
"Can't argue with you there," Lucy grinned. "Natsu's pretty hot stuff when it comes to combat, just not so much when it comes to making a plan."
"Hey!" Natsu cried, offended that his closest friend was agreeing with someone else against him. "Have some faith in me, would ya?!"
"We both have faith in you, Natsu," Levy said with a gentle smile. "Just in a different way than you want, I guess."
"Rrgh…" the pinkette sulked.
"So, may we use these grounds, Master Dentiri?" Litrosh asked the overseeing Jedi respectfully. "We won't be too long- I hope."
"I have a class of padawans coming to use lot five in an hour," Liam replied as he indicated an empty dirt area. It was situated by a small river, where one could see some consulars meditating in the cool water further upstream. "Until then, feel free to use the space- just don't go messing with the training drones, you hear?" He gave Natsu a pointed look, to which the young man grinned crookedly.
Deciding to avoid another exchange between the two of them, Litrosh bowed his head in a gesture of gratitude and respect to the older warrior before walking toward the designated spot. The others swiftly followed him, but he waited until they were out of earshot of the teacher to ask, "Why does Master Dentiri dislike Natsu so much?"
"I trashed all his drones by myself," the other boy laughed merrily.
Raising an eyebrow at Levy, Litrosh waited for a more detailed explanation. "The point of the drones is to practice team maneuvers against multiple opponents in the field," she explained. "Natsu here went and activated all of them at once, without telling anyone what he was up to. I think that secretly, Master Dentiri was more upset that Natsu beat all of his droids without needing a team to help him than the fact that he used the equipment without permission."
"He's rather proud of his creations, then?" Litrosh guessed.
"He and Master Narezz shared similar interests," Levy nodded as she answered. "Though she preferred to pursue the medicinal applications of droids, he prefers the combative path. Still, they both put a lot of effort into their work."
"Ha!" Natsu laughed as they reached the edge of the training area. "Can't have been that much effort- those things hardly put up a- gack!" He collapsed in the dirt as Lucy delivered a chopping motion to his neck, rendering him briefly insensate.
"Moron," she huffed, annoyed. "I think he completely missed the Jedi etiquette and diplomacy program sometimes."
Litrosh looked a little askance at the two friends and asked aside to his blue-haired companion, "Is Natsu actually any good in a fight? He should have dodged that."
"He is- Lucy just knows how to shut him better than anyone, except maybe Makarov." She laughed a bit as she spoke. "He'll be up in a minute- better use the time to pick out a practice blade." She gestured to a small rack that held a few different types of sparring gear. There were a few blades of varying length, and a couple of saberstaves that were held on the small armory.
Litrosh's eyes scanned his options briefly before going for a two-handed weapon with a three-foot blade. Testing the weight briefly, he nodded and muttered, "This'll do nicely."
"You prefer longer reach, huh?" Levy asked as she eyed the weapon closely. "The vibrosword I lent you was a little shorter than this, both in blade and handle."
"I've practiced with a few different blade types, but I've always felt it best that I be able to reach my opponent before he can reach me," Litrosh replied quietly, his brow furrowing in concentration as he wondered what kind of weapons Natsu would pick.
The others had mentioned that he had mastered the Juyo form of combat, with was typically a dual-wielders' style. Not to mention that he'd seen the beginnings of twin lightsabers in Natsu's room the previous night, so it seemed reasonable to assume that he would try to use the twin saber style. But will he use two true swords, or a single blade assisted with a shoto? The blue-eyed apprentice wondered as Natsu shot to his feet, rubbing his head as he was forced to listen to a lecture from Lucy. His frown deepened as he continued, Maybe he'll use two short swords? I also need to know which hand he favors… Will he use a reverse grip on one, or maybe both of the swords?
The combination of weapons and the way that Natsu held them would be crucial to how Litrosh could plan his defense. Litrosh had dueled against all sorts of styles, so he had a solid pattern to fall back on for each combination that he came across- he just needed to know which one. Back on Naboo, he would have already known who he was fighting and exactly how to counter them, but out here on Tython, everyone was new and unfamiliar.
This will be a breath of fresh air if nothing else, Litrosh thought as he stepped away from the armory to let Natsu by, who was grinning widely at him. Monotony breeds stagnation, and stagnation, complacency. Both things are anathema to Jedi. He stopped walking when he reached the opposite side of the dirt area, with the river running behind his back.
"Good luck, Litrosh!" Levy said with an encouraging smile. Giving her a small nod and smile in return, the young apprentice returned his attention to Natsu, who had taken up a ready stance, weapons in hand.
Litrosh quickly took in everything about his opponent in the span of a half-second. Standard Juyo form, twin blades, both full-length, and held in standard position. Looking at Natsu's face, he added, Looks relaxed, carefree almost, but not in a negligent way- he's holding those weapons as if he knows how to use them. He's not afraid in the slightest.
The last part was new for the boy with dark hair and blue eyes. Most matches he'd had back on Naboo were had with people that had fought him before, their eyes filled with apprehension at what was sure to be a new set of bruises. Natsu's eyes showed no traces of that fear. His master might make a Jedi out of him yet, he thought with a wry grin as he gave Natsu the Jedi fencers' salute, then settled into a Soresu stance, the defensive form he'd mastered- and favored to a degree.
I'm facing a virtually unknown element in Natsu, he reasoned to himself. All I know about his style is that it's fast, aggressive, and rather unpredictable. My best bet is my defense form- I'm nowhere near mastering the Ataru, and even if I had, it'd be a close thing to match his dexterity. I'll have to try and wear him down…
"Wait just one moment!" an elderly, cracking voice rang out before the two of them could begin. They group turned to see the Jedi Sage Grandeeney approaching with her small apprentice, Wendy in tow. Once she was close enough not to shout, the elderly Jedi frowned at them all with piercing blue eyes and panted, "Don't you all know… you need a proper Jedi… to oversee unscheduled matches?"
"Er, Master?" Levy laughed half-heartedly. "I am a Jedi. I could've refereed the match."
"Mmm?" Grandeeney cocked her head at the small Consular. "Oh, did you pass your trials so soon, dear?"
Levy let out a small groan of disappointment as she let her head drop. "Yes, Master… I passed two weeks ago."
"Oh, then I'll be happy to let you referee the match," the elder Jedi smiled warmly, apparently unaware of the embarrassment she had caused her younger peer. "But if it's all the same to you, we'll stay and watch. If one of you are injured, it will do Wendy some good to practice her healing skills."
"Are you essentially using us as practice for your apprentice?" Litrosh asked, slightly offended.
"Ah, don't sweat the details," Natsu grinned as he winked at the younger apprentice, who smiled back brightly at him. "Wendy's done this a few times now, and she's really good at it!" Litrosh cocked his head at the girl and reached out with the Force to sense her potential, surprised when he encountered a sensation akin to a bright light that is shone directly in one's eyes. He recoiled instinctively from the strength of the Force signature.
She seemed to notice his attention, because she looked curiously at him before waving shyly with a small smile. "H-Hi," she said, her voice soft, even for a child.
"Hello there," he replied, a slight tremble in his voice. "The Force is strong with your apprentice," he said, his eyes a little wide as he looked up at her master.
"Ah, so you noticed her potential?" Grandeeney asked with a raised brow. "So quickly, too… I thought you were an interesting one when you were brought to me for healing yesterday, but this is a further surprise."
"Er-hem!" Natsu said loudly. "Can we fight now?!" He looked a little put off, Litrosh thought as he resumed his own stance.
"Sorry about that, Natsu," he apologized. To Levy, he said, "I'm ready."
"Cool," she said as she strode over to the side of the arena, an equal distance away from the two of them. "I want a good, clean fight. The losing conditions are as follows; being knocked out of the area, being rendered unconscious, or conceding the match. No head strikes, and no Force blasts- Natsu."
"I only did that once!" he shouted in protest, but he was ignored.
"If you're both good to go, then the match can begin… now!"