Arc 2 Chapter 15

Anaïs was not ready for what happened in the weeks that followed the loss of her new friends, and her meeting of Senara.

Nothing.

Well, not nothing, but ever since she'd become a Padawan, she'd always been doing something. Her misadventure in Fabrin, training on Uphrades, her mission on Noonar, even the long string of attacks her Master had carried out on dozens of planets with nothing more than the Force as his guide, it was a constant drumbeat forward, always pushing her to find the limits of her ability and surpassing them, always doing something.

Now?

Now, things still happened, but at a fraction of the pace they'd happened with Master Lucian.

It was a fact that she was, actually, somewhat thankful for. She was a Jedi, and being a Jedi meant doing what needed to be done, but it wasn't until her third week of schooling that she realized that she'd finally stopped feeling tired.

That lethargy hadn't stopped her, had become her new normal, and she hadn't even realized she was tired until she crashed one night, and slept half the next day, thankfully one of the days without any classes, and awoken feeling better than she had in months. When she'd mentioned it to Senara, the white skinned girl had given her measuring look.

"You, you have been busy for a vhile, no?" she questioned, and the Padawan nodded. "Then you are resting. Is natural. The life of a Jedi, you are always moving from task to task, yes?"

"We follow the Force and go where we're needed," Anaïs had shrugged.

Senara tilted her head. "And you are needed here?"

Was she? the Padawan thought, but, reaching out to the Force, for that vague prod that said 'do this', it was silent. "No. I'm here to learn," she'd finally replied. "But the last couple dozen planets, yes. They all, they all kind of ran together," she admitted, not having had time to even get a feel for the places they'd gone, before Master Lucian would send a message to someone, or attack something, or sometimes nudge an asteroid with the Force just so.

The other girl had smirked, "Then it sounds like, vhile you might not be needed here, here is vhere you needed to be."

The days had progressed, and Anaïs' studies had continued, though not as smoothly as she had hoped or liked. The Mages of Bhoyaria had a. . . different way of approaching the Force, and one she was slowly, very slowly, starting to understand.

Jedi asked for the Force's assistance, reaching out to it like it was a trusted friend. The Force would, in turn, like a trusted friend, help the Jedi who called for its aid. From what little Lucian had described of them, the records an Initiate could access from the Temple archives lacking, to say the least, Sith demanded the Force do what they wanted, imposing their hate upon the universe and contorting the natural order with their rage. The Force would respond in kind, taking all it could in payment, like a resentful slave looking to depose its abusive master. To the Padawan, the two approaches seemed complete opposites, yet, by viewing a third way, Anaïs had understood the commonality the Jedi and Sith shared.

They both viewed the Force as alive.

Jedi and Sith viewed the Force as a living thing, with a will of its own, to be either helped or subverted, or, in Lucian's case, reflecting the will of its user, and thus still having the characteristics of life that the user themselves possessed. To the Wizards and Wizardesses of Bhoyaria, however, 'Magic' was not alive, any more than electricity was, or gravity. It merely was a thing that existed, and, in that way, was reliant upon the user to use correctly, with no impetus of its own.

To a Jedi, if they failed in a technique, they were obviously not ready for it, and so the Force, trying not to harm them as they would not want to harm others, denied them it. As such, a Jedi would need to practice, increasing their understanding and skill until they were proficient enough to use that technique correctly, then the Force would allow them to do what they were attempting.

To a Sith, if they failed a technique, they were obviously not ready for it, and so the Force, like the enemy it was, denied them it. As such, a Sith would need to practice, increasing their hatred and skill until they were strong enough to impose their will on the universe, and make the Force give them the power to do what they were attempting.

But a Bhoyarian Mage?

They did not reach out with a welcome hand, or a bludgeoning fist, they attempted their technique with a practiced grasp. If they failed, then it was because they were not good enough to use it yet, because they lacked the focus and skill, and their failure was no fault of 'Magic' itself. As such, getting angry at 'Magic' would be as absurd as an artisan getting mad at his tools for 'making' him fail.

The locals imposed their will on the universe, demanding it to be as they wanted, but there was no malice in it, but neither was there any kindness, and, in so removing their emotions from it in a way the Jedi only claimed to, had managed to make an art something more akin to a science.

It was something she was starting to understand, but calmness, serenity, it was an emotion, of a sort. If you were at peace you were content, happy, trusting in the Force to guide you, and those were all emotions, despite what even Master Yoda had claimed them to be.

However, emotions could still affect the Bhoyarian's uses of 'Magic', she'd seen that in her elementalism class, when a girl had used the Dark when trying to call fire into existence, making the flame she had created something alive, and hungry. It was in many ways akin to something a Sith could create, but it had not been what the girl had wanted. But it was not treated as a moral failing on the part of the girl, but a failing of skill, to be corrected next class, where she was able to create a small fire that was devoid of Light or Dark.

Mages did not use emotions, good or bad, they used instinct, a feeling they used to understand what element they were conjuring on a deep level. Once they knew steel, or stone, or wind, or water as they knew themselves, it would, theoretically, be easy to call it forth, or manipulate as Wizard or Wizardess wished. However, using the Force that way was so incredibly antithetical to how Jedi approached things, that Anaïs was having a lot of trouble, not able to work with the elements the way the Mages could at all.

The Padawan was worried how her teachers would react, as she was completely incapable of doing what the instructors in her practical classes asked for, but it hadn't been an issue. Professor Fatsani, in her Elemantalism class, would walk by her as she struggled, maybe offer a few words of clarification if she had a question, but let her be.

Jabari and the others tried to help, but a few quiet conversations during class, with Chiku's hateful eyes upon them, were not enough to help her understand an entirely different way of using the Force, based on concepts that were common sense to them, but alien to her.

However, Anaïs had a lot of time to talk to Senara, meeting with her every day after class.

"My vey of using the 'Force'?" the girl had asked, repeating the Jedi's question with a small smile.

"You don't have to tell me the way you use it, if you don't want to," the Padawan had quickly reassured the other girl, which just caused the white-skinned woman to chuckle.

"Do not vurry, Anaïs," she had reassured the blonde girl. "I had not expected a Jedi to wish to know my people's veys. But you are not a normal Jedi. Are you?"

The Padawan had told the other girl that the Force User thought she was not that different than others of her order, and Senara had shaken her head, not believing her in the slightest, but talked about her way of using 'Magick', as she called it, regardless.

Senara and the others of her tradition used codified spells, like the Mages, only they used spoken incantations instead of the formed circles they utilized on Bhoyaria. More than that, Senara's order called upon 'spirits', in reality members of her sisterhood that had died, but remained attached to this existence instead of becoming one with the Force.

It was something the Sith had been noted to sometimes do, dying when they still had a strong enough desire to stay, fighting the natural order of things, remaining trapped where they died until they were suppressed, or their spirits excised and made to become one with the Force. It was more a story that was told in the Temples to underline how incredibly unnatural the Sith were, and something that had caused Anaïs a moment of instinctive fear of her new friend when revealed.

However, a Jedi was not ruled by fear, and Anaïs had let the near-instinctual panic fade, even as Senara, noting the Padawan's reaction, had waited, watching, asking what the matter was once Anaïs had calmed. When the Jedi had explained the issue, the other woman had merely nodded.

"Yes. Zat is a thing dat can happen," she agreed easily. "When it happens, ve make sure her spirit finds peace."

Senara's order, which was apparently made up entirely of women, did not discourage attachments, just the opposite. It was that attachment, when one of their sect died, that would keep the spirit of the dead Force Adept around, able to lend its aid to assist those they cared about in life, and their Sect as a whole.

"Calling upon zem is not something that vould be of use to you," the white-haired girl had offered, almost apologetically. "You have no people to lend you aid like I do." A playful smile graced her lips. "Den again, if you joined my sisterhood, zey would velcome you, and come to your aid. It iz not blood zat binds us, but tradition, and family."

Laughing, Anaïs had shaken her head. "Thanks, but I don't think the others of the Order would like it if I did that." Not to mention what Master Lucian would say.

The Force Adept had taken that with the same laid-back attitude she approached everything. "Your loss," she offered, continuing to explain how her system worked. Incantations were needed, at first, but as the Adept's skill increased they were needed less and less, until only the call for assistance was required for things a person could not do themselves, and, for the Masters of their sect, even that was rarely needed.

"Oh, like the circles here!" the Padawan had exclaimed. At Senara's inquisitive look, she'd added, "The circles here are concentration aids, not truly required to make their, um, 'magic' work. They're not 'internal', at the highest levels, but not needed at all. Oh," Anaïs had hesitated, "the Headmaster had asked me not to tell anyone else that, but I think he meant the other locals?"

"I had zought it might be something like dat," Senara had nodded. "Yes, like ze circles here, it iz an aid, not a requirement."

When the Jedi had asked for a demonstration, the Adept hadn't hesitated. Going out to one of the practice areas, this one bordering the forest that laid at the edge of the school, Senara had held her staff out, closing her eyes as she concentrated.

"Sisters, hear me. Sulig tave spirit iv natura, natura sekleti isauga. Tapti', natura, ir aid nun!" she called. Bright green sparks, the color and luminsity of the Jedi's own saber, sprang from the end of the Adept's staff and swirled down into the ground.

In the Force, Anaïs could feel her friend working, the technique completely at odds with the Bhoyarian method, subtle instead of blunt, but still doing something in the Force. Additionally, the Jedi could feel not just Senara working, but a great many somethings manipulating the Force as well. Focusing on them, the Padawan sensed other Presences, almost whispers on the wind, but with a distinctly feminine quality to them.

In the Force, she could feel the other Presences sensing her in turn, hesitating, before becoming slightly more detectable. They were hazy, but definitely women, most with white skin and markings like Senara, but in different patterns. However, not every one was deathly pale, or even humanoid, though they were all distinctly female.

In the physical world, the 'spell' took effect, and, in an instant, roots shot up into the air a dozen feet away, forming a cage around a target that would be hard to avoid without a Jedi's forewarning. The twists of wood looked organically formed, as if they had merely decided to grow that way, and, if it weren't for their strange placement and Anaïs having seen them grow, she might have thought they were natural.

The Force Adept let the 'spell' fade, and the ghostly Presences faded with it, though several seemed to give the Padawan friendly, welcoming smiles as they did so.

Senara herself smiled, gesturing to the target. "A demonstration. As asked. I am good enough to not need ze strength of others, or the calling, for something small like zis."

Again, the Adept worked in the Force, with a fraction of the strength she'd wielded a moment ago. Once more, bright green sparks fell from the end of her staff, and dropped through the ground. A half-second later a smaller cage of roots burst up, still quickly, but with less mass and strength.

"And den, the Wizardess way," she had said with a smirk, gesturing, a four-layered circle of green light forming, the same color as her 'spells' created, but, sensing it in the Force, her technique couldn't be more different.

Looking beyond the physical, Senara's first two uses had been subtle, hard to detect and would have probably taken Anaïs by surprise. Using the Force this other way, the Jedi could clearly see the other girl reaching out directly to the ground, willing the wooden roots into being before growing them upwards, into a cage which had an unnatural sameness to it, each root tendril having reached up and twisted around in exactly the same way as all the others in the cage, in a manner that clearly indicated its artificiality.

It was still fast, fast enough to take a normal person off guard, but with how the Force had practically shouted what it was doing, she'd be surprised if it caught any but the newest Initiate flat-footed. It also took a fraction of the time to cast as her first 'spell', and, if she had to guess, took a fraction of the concentration.

"Huh," Anaïs had remarked, having not seen something like this up close, and with time to sit back and just observe. "That's not how the Jedi version works at all."

Senara had blinked, mildly surprised. "You know how to do zis?"

"No, but I've seen it," the Padawan had disagreed. "But. . ." She reached out, taking a calming breath as she tried to recall exactly what she'd seen a few years ago, when a visiting Master had talked to the Initiates about the Agricultural Corps, and how the Force could be used to help others by creating food and medicine in abundance.

The technique, Plant Surge, was something that a Master could use to call an entire forest to their aid but was something that the Agri Corps used at a much, much lower level. It was not something that Anaïs had ever attempted, but, if not now, when?

The first two wooden cages still held traces of the Force that Senara used to form them, which the Jedi knew she would have to fight to do anything with, but the third, despite being created from nothing but the Force, was, ironically, lacking in any additional presence in the Force, to all purposes as natural as if it had grown that way.

As such, Anaïs reached out, like she would if she wanted to lift or twist the roots with Telekinesis, but instead of gripping it, sent her own Presence into the wood, making it a part of her as her own body was. It felt. . . odd, and she could feel the technique slipping, but instead of rushing, or trying to patch with pure power, something that Master Lucian was still having to remind her not to do, she relaxed, doing what she wanted even more gradually.

Gently, she asked the roots to move with her, and they did, opening the cage as if she were opening her own hand.

Pulling herself out of the roots, blinking her vision clear of seeing the Force itself, Anaïs felt tired, but accomplished, and felt her energy slowly returning to her.

"Slow," the Force Adept remarked critically.

And, just like that, the moment was over. "I think it's not bad for never having tried that before," the Padawan shot back.

Senara's eyebrows raised. "Truly?" Anaïs nodded in confirmation. "Impressive zen. But different. Hmm." The white-skinned woman reached out, trying to copy what her friend had just done. The Adept's Presence, not as formed as the Mages, moved clumsily, and had barely touched the wood before it fell apart, snapping back around the girl. "And harder den it looks," she smiled, looking back to the Padawan.

"If it were that easy, Jedi wouldn't need to train all our lives," Anaïs shot back, getting a smile and a nod of understanding from the other girl.


SWPP


While Senara was more than happy and willing to talk to the Jedi about her people's way of using the Force, even if she insisted on calling it 'Magick', the other non-native students. . . weren't.

In fact, they did their best not to talk to the Padawan at all.

Given how homogenous the native Bhoyarians were, all of them humanoids with dark brown skin, it was easy to find those that stood out. A few of those she approached had actually been born on this planet, but several others had not. All of them, however, had zero interest in talking with her.

After over a dozen failed attempts, Anaïs had mentioned her problem to her only friend on campus, and the Adept had just given the Padawan a disbelieving look. "You do know zat you are a Jedi, yes?"

"Really, I hadn't noticed," Anaïs riposted, before wincing, having been slowly founding out that, over the last few months, she'd managed to pick up some of her Master's less pleasant qualities as well as his techniques, like his predilection for snarky rejoinders. "Sorry. Yes, I am in fact, a Jedi. But why would that matter?" the Padawan had asked. "We're Guardians of the Republic. If anything, that should mean the others would be more friendly."

The Force Adept had given her friend a narrow-eyed look, as if trying to determine if Anaïs were being serious or not. "You. . . you do know Jedi steal children, do you not?"

"What!?" the Jedi sputtered. "No we don't!"

Again, Serana gave the blonde girl that narrow-eyes stare. "You Jedi, you do not, you know, Yes?" she said slowly, making a vague gesture with her hands. Anaïs nodded, not really knowing what she meant, but guessing. "Then vhere do new Jedi come from?" she questioned, as if the answer was obvious, and Anaïs realized that her guess had been wrong, but understanding what her friend was referring to know.

"We take in Force-sensitive children, to help them train their gift for the good of all," the Padawan put forward, repeating what the Temple had told her.

"Take," the white-skinned girl echoed.

Anaïs frowned, stressing, "Take in. It's an honor to be a Jedi, and parents want their children to reach their potential! We have training cruisers, like the Crucible and the Gatherer, that make regular trips around the galaxy to accept those who have the capability of joining the Order. We don't steal children, Serana."

The other woman had given the blonde a considering look, before nodding once. "I believe you would not do such a thing. I believe you have been told Jedi do not do zis. Can you speak for every one of your Order?"

"Can you speak for yours?" the Padawan had shot back.

"No. And my Sisterhood iz smaller," the Adept answered easily. "You are not ze first Jedi I 'ave met, Anaïs. You listen. Think. Question. But ze other woman?" Serana shook her head. "She was arrogant. Thought herself right in all things. She did not even know I was zere. She did not take any children, but she was quick to manipulate ze minds of others. I wonder, all of ze parents who gave their children to your Order. Were any. . . helped, to make zat choice?"

Anaïs wanted to say no, that of course they never would, but she remembered some of the Temple Masters, and their attitudes towards non-Jedi, and of Master Halrol, and she hesitated. Master Lucian, would he do that? She didn't think he would, but. . . would he? If a child's parents were users of the Dark, he might kill them himself, and bring the children to the Temple, dropping them off without a word. It would actually be completely in character. Or maybe he'd do something entirely different. She was never really sure with him, and had feeling she wouldn't be anytime soon.

Thinking of the issue of kidnapping, though, while she could be sure that her Master's intentions would be righteous, in line with the base tenets of the Order, even he readily admitted that there were other Jedi who had, not Fallen, but 'strayed from the path', to put it delicately. Would one of them, seeing a child strong in the Force, decide that it would be in the greater good of the galaxy if they 'brought them to be trained', regardless of what those deaf to the Will of the Force might say?

. . . Yes. Yes they would.

"Oh by the Force, some Jedi steal children," Anaïs whispered, eyes wide at the realization. She could even see how. A subtle enough Mind Trick could, even after it faded, leave the victim believing that what they did was their own idea. Unless there was another Force Adept there to see what the Jedi did, after a few weeks, there would be no trace of any such twisting of the mind. And Jedi Knights, let alone Masters, were supposed to act rightly, in accordance with the Will of the Force. If a Jedi came with a child, and claimed their charge was given over voluntarily, who would suggest otherwise?

After all, everyone knew the Jedi were above reproach, even she had thought so. While the reality, well, as she'd seen the day she'd become a Padawan, the reality of things had shown her that they were merely human, so to speak, and they had their own black banthas amongst the herd.

No, if Jedi knew of where a Force using Sect lived, there would be some that would want to swoop in and take the children away to 'train them correctly'. Hell, she had wanted to do that very thing to the Bhoyarian neophytes, the ones that had not yet chosen a foci, even though she would not for a number of reasons, their age being well past the cutoff first and foremost.

Serana gently patted the Padawan on the back. "You really didn't know," the white-haired girl commented sadly. "Zat is why they do not want to talk. Zey do not want you to know where they are from, and do not want you to take ze knowledge from their heads."

"We can't just take. . ." she started to deny, but she'd seen Master Lucian do just that thing. It was to the Force-Blind, but would that technique, whatever it was, be harder to use on Sensitive, or easier? "You talk to me," the Padawan pointed out, wondering if she was about to lose another friend, having started to get used to the other girl's company. They shared no classes, but, more than helping in the Anaïs' studies, the Adept had an oddly comforting presence these past few weeks, despite her blunt manner.

Rather than take offense, Serana just smiled. "It vould be amusing to see ze Jedi try and take our children. I do not believe dey would survive ze attempt. But others are not as. . . subtle as my sisters and I."

Frowning, Anaïs turned the idea over in her head. "Kill them? That's. No. No, you'd be right to do so."

The Adept lifted an eyebrow. "You would turn your back on ze others in your Order?"

"No, they would've already turned their backs on what the Order stands for," the Padawan disagreed. "If they would be stealing children, not allowing people to join willingly, but making them? That's, that's slavery, and I would help bring them to justice. Take them before the High Council, if possible, but if they refused to surrender. If they refused, if they'd try and hide what they'd have done, then they'd have already Fallen, and I would grant them mercy."

Serana gave Anaïs an appraising look, nodding. "Good. Perhaps Jedi are not vhat I first thought."

"Wait, if you thought we were, I don't know, kidnappers, then why did you come say hello?" the blonde asked, confused.

The other woman gave a one-shouldered shrug. "Even if you were, I have no children yet. And it iz as I said, I was where you were. It sucked. You looked like you needed a friend, and how could I zink of myself as better den you Jedi if I did nothing?" she asked with a small smile, showing Anaïs that the Adept was joking.

"Well, thanks for needing to be superior," the Padawan teased the other girl in return. "So, how 'bout you show this 'lowly Jedi' how the heck you make that 'grow more wood' thing works? It looks easier than making it from nothing but the Force itself."

Serana laughed, "It iz. I am not sure 'ow your Order does it, but ze locals do it zis way."

Shaking her head, Anaïs sat back, and paid careful attention to her friend's explanation.