A/N: As always, thanks to those helping me write and plan out this story and checking it for continuality and logic errors.
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Hopefully, all the little mistakes have been found and removed.
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Current Date: 1 year until the Invasion of Naboo
Knightly Diplomacy 2
"I must admit, when you asked for a private meeting without anyone else, I was curious as to why," Hara Adasca said as she leaned back on a sofa in the quarters assigned to Adascorp. I sat on a sofa on the other side of a small table that separated the two couches. "I can say that you being forthcoming and, dare I say it, blunt about wanting to understand my company's requirements for these talks wasn't what I expected." She chuckled at some private joke.
"I've dealt with Jedi before, you know, as has Adascorp. Until you, the pattern they've followed is predictable. Manipulable. Allow them to mumble on about how the Force guides their actions, how it seeks a path of balance, and you'll normally be able to come out of the negotiation with more than you'd expect. You, however, are a refreshing if confusing change. Initially, your understanding of how negotiations such as this worked was limited – understandable due to your age and training – but you have seemingly figured out the key fact that all negotiators know: Everyone is out to get more than they deserve or expect. That I would see a Jedi of all people learn that lesson on this pitiful backwater is an unexpected delight to what has so far been a rather dull negotiation."
I chuckled as I took a sip of the water I held in my hand. "Not all Jedi spout such jargon, though I will admit that many do seem to meditate for hours, if not days or weeks, before deciding on what to do." That drew a smirk from the Arkanian noble. "When I was travelling here, I had hoped to quickly get everyone to see that each party wasn't suitable for handling the entire contract. I had expected everyone to know that and work from a common ground."
Adasca chuckled and replied, "It's understandable for one so young to have overestimated your abilities and underestimated the tenacity of the negotiators here."
I nodded in agreement, "Yes, it seems like this is no easy task."
Adasca continued, "That's why the opening sessions of negotiations like these may seem trivial, but they are crucial for gaining a measure of understanding about any new faces at the table, including an independent arbiter. This way, when the real negotiations begin, we are better informed about our competition and their strengths, vulnerabilities, and other relevant factors."
I laughed along with her. "Yeah, I'm sure I looked like bantha fodder." I was glad when she had the grace to not agree with me verbally, choosing only to nod. "Thankfully, after some soul searching, and, I'll admit, some meditation, I realised I was out of my depth and reached out to a friend. She's a rising star of a politician so she understands a little of how all this works and offered me some advice, hence this meeting."
Hara leaned forward. "Then I must offer a thank you to this friend. Though I am surprised you asked for the meeting during the celebration. I'd have thought Princess Miraj wouldn't let you leave her side for anything bar sleep."
I looked up at the ceiling and sighed. "She has been quite insistent that I accompany her during the week. Thankfully, King Medes understands that my purpose here isn't to serve as his daughter's escort. Though it seems several members of his court, specifically the younger males, appear not to understand this."
Ever since the banquet several days ago, Miraj had gone out of her way to not only ensure that I was escorting her family around, but that she was on my arm. I'd been dragged to various cities all over the planet, forced to sit through some of the most mind-numbingly dull arse-kissing speeches that I'd heard this side of the Senate and at every meal, been her first and last dance partner. And on those moments when she didn't drag me around in public, she kept asking when I could begin instructing her on how to use the beskad Dred Yomaget had gifted her.
While I wasn't enjoying Miraj dragging me around like some new trinket to show off, nor Master Ti's amusement and comments about my new friend, it hadn't been all bad. Miraj continually asked for my opinion, which made me think there was an opportunity. After a little research on Zygerrians, it was apparent they respected power and strength – something that helped explain why King Medes had taken a long look at me when we'd first met and accepted me as the negotiator – and since it seemed Miraj felt I was powerful, I took my shot. Plus, with a new quest, Changing Fate [Miraj Scintel], generated and accepted, I had a plan in place.
It was a long shot, something the Interface agreed with by making the quest B-rated, but since the penalty was only turning a potential future slaver into an enemy or seeing her die – along with a small loss of XP – it was worth trying. If I could pull it off, then I would potentially have a new ally in the Outer Rim; one that would one day control a sector connected to two major hyperspace lanes and near Sith, Mandalorian, and Mon Calamari space. Yes, I'd not had any dealings with the Mon Cala yet, but I did plan to visit them and examine any fledgling starship industry they might have.
"Yes, they do seem to be acting incredibly territorial toward the princess, which might be why she's making sure to keep you close." Hara takes a sip from her glass, one filled with the local nectar wine. "Still, with you coming here today, something I expect you shall do with the other delegations; I hope that the pace of our talks will accelerate. While I expect them to take time, I do hope to return home before the year is up."
Hara was taking a shot at me there, yes, but it was one I deserved. Trying to dive right into the negotiations without getting to know the various delegations and their needs beforehand had been a foolish move. One that wasted all the time we had before the celebration paused the talks. In hindsight, it was obvious I should've reached out to the delegates on the first day, but as always, hindsight was a bitch.
"If they do, I suspect King Medes will request Master Ti take over the talks. Which is something I believe you and the other delegates would prefer."
Hara swirled around her glass, watching the wine as it spun around inside without ever spilling out. "I admit that the Togruta would've made for an easier read to begin the negotiations. While I haven't dealt with her personally, Adascorp has, and she is well-known enough that details of previous talks where she was a leading figure are available for the right price. I am still confused as to why the Jedi felt you should lead instead of your master."
"She isn't my master, per se, just the senior Jedi on this mission," that made Hara's brow rise. "The High Council felt I should lead the talks, which to any who don't understand the Force, could seem an illogical choice. However, as much as it can confuse other Jedi as well, from the decisions they've made regarding my friends and me, they often make the correct call." That was grade-A bull, but it was the same basic spiel I'd given to Ce Serd and Hego Damask when I'd spoken to them earlier today.
The IGBC had been the first group I'd spoken to, simply so Plagueis wouldn't know what to expect from my request for a private discussion. Hara, and through her, Adascorp, was the second delegate I'd spoken with and so far, the requests and demands were logical.
As I had half-expected beforehand, the IGBC had a baseline requirement for accepting any part in the combined contract of having the controlling financial stake. They could manage that with ease as none of the other delegations could match their size and financial power. They also wished for favourable tax breaks and trade status for a select list of companies under their direct control for the length of the contract. Those were all reasonable, while their request to be the Zygerrians' first port of call for financing for any future projects over the next one hundred years was a smart one as it guaranteed them a place at the next negotiation table without having to jump through any hoops placed on them by the Zygerrians.
One thing that wasn't directly stated, but seemed to have been implied by Ce Serd, was that the IGBC didn't want direct control of any particular section of the contract – outside of financial sections – merely requesting that companies under their control were brought on board in every sector as a junior partner at a minimum. I felt I could get the others to agree to that, but since I still had to speak with SoroSuub and Mandalmotors, I hadn't implied it could be done, merely that I would consider it.
Adascorp's redline – not that they called it that – was controlling interest in all sections of the contract that dealt primarily with medical and bioengineering elements, and at least junior interest in any section where those two areas were mentioned as secondary requirements. They also wanted to be the first port of call for any new contracts dealing primarily with medical issues with the promise that such deals would be profitable for both parties. Like the IGBC, those requests felt doable and made logical sense given their company's fields of expertise.
The biggest surprise of Hara's requests was for a subsidiary of theirs to serve as at least a junior partner on any terraforming efforts that the contract specified might be enacted if the initial half of the contract was completed on time and under budget. That wasn't taking a step too far outside their supposed comfort zone, but it would give them expertise in the field which I assumed they'd use in future to take control of similar agreements with other galactic sectors.
Their other requests, such as being made favourable trade partners, becoming the supplier of Zygerrian medical products to the wider galactic market and minor – between five and ten per cent – stakes in several local companies with interests aligned with Adascorp, should be doable. Though the request for minor stakes was something I'd have to speak directly with King Medes about.
With those details in mind, and having estimates of what SoroSuub and Mandalmotors would consider redlines, I felt the talks, once they resumed, should progress much faster. It would still take considerable time as there'd be a lot of haggling over the smaller details, but much of the final contract would be split along company interests with only minor overlap. Or so I hoped.
"Since the workings of the Jedi are a mystery to me, I will have to take your word on the matter." Hara leaned back and took another sip of her glass, seemingly finishing it. "I prefer to place my faith in science, facts, and figures." I nodded in agreement, as I could understand that logic. Even after eight years of interacting with the Force, it still confused the hell out of me at times.
The Force might have a plan for the galaxy as a whole, but it was indecipherable to me – and others, I suspected – not least as the Force wasn't alive in a way most would understand. Oddly, I was fine with that as I had little interest in understanding its plan, nor, at least fully, knowing what it was. So long as its goal, whatever that truly was, wasn't diametrically opposed to mine, I was happy to let it do what it did. Hopefully, it would agree and never work directly against me.
My vambrace beeped just as an attendant came over and refilled Hara's glass. I sighed as I saw who the message was from, and what it was about. "My apologies Lady Hara, but it seems Princess Miraj has once more requested my presence."
Hara laughed gently as the attendant moved away. "Of course, of course. While I would have enjoyed speaking with you further, it wouldn't be wise to insult the daughter of our host. Nor deny the young princess the pleasure of an admittedly handsome young Jedi such as yourself."
I nodded in acceptance of her comment, especially the hint that she found me attractive. Like much of this talk and the times around the negotiating table, I felt that it was designed simply to unbalance me and allow her the upper hand. It was something the delegates all seemed to do instinctively, and I found myself unwilling to take anything they said at face value.
"I suspect that once the talks resume, her interest in me will shift. I am, to be blunt, nothing more than a new bauble for the princess to be enamoured with until her interest passes." I placed my glass down on the table and stood. "Thank you for allowing me this time to smooth out the issues you and your company have with the current status of the talks," I said as I extended my hand to her.
She rose to meet me, and as she did, I gently took her hand and brought it to my lips, kissing the back of it. "It was my pleasure. I am grateful for you doing so, and now understand our positions. I look forward to seeing the talks accelerate once they resume," she replied with a smile.
"As do I, my lady," I added as I released her hand. As I turned, one of her assistants stepped toward a door. They'd guide me from the room, much as they'd escorted me in.
While I disliked these talks, as the finer points of business negotiations were about as much fun as taking a lava bath on Mustafar, I accepted I had to endure them. The discussion I'd just had with Hara, along with the one I'd had with the IGBC and those to come with the other delegations, would move things along. And once I was free of this, I'd be able to focus on next year and the invasion that would occur.
I moved to one side, letting the thrust from the Zygerrian attacking me miss so badly that the gap left was big enough that I could fit Miraj into it. The male was skilled enough to at least adapt to that, and started to shift his momentum. The blade curled in the air as it shifted direction and came at me, though, by the time it did, I'd already leapt clear. The Force propelled me further than otherwise possible and I landed with ease about five metres from him.
"Stand still!" That snarled demand came from Dist Traldal, my impromptu opponent as he gnashed his teeth in anger at missing yet another attack. "Fight back!" He added as he rushed toward me, his latest attack piercing nothing but air as I glided around him.
"Why would I do that?" I asked as I slid back from a light slash aimed at my thigh. He thrust forward again, his anger unbalancing him. This time I didn't pull back, moving to the outside of his arm and driving my elbow down on his arm, just above his wrist. He stumbled but retained the grip on his blade even as I shoulder-checked him and he moved away, struggling to keep his balance.
If I'd had my beskad out, I could've easily removed the arm if I'd wanted, which would've ended the duel, though calling it that was overly polite to Dist. Or I could've drawn blood and scored one of the three points needed to win this little exhibition. However, as with the last six times I'd landed a strike against him since we'd begun, I hadn't drawn my blade, only using my body to land a blow. Each time, that had angered the Zygerrian further, which was my intention along with showing everyone how dreadfully outmatched he was.
I sensed a lingering sense of displeasure from Master Ti at this duel taking place, which had started when I'd accepted Dist's challenge. Given her love of unorthodox combat, she seemed relaxed about my taunting of Dist. Or at least I felt she didn't mind as there'd been no hint of anything whenever I commented on his inability to strike me.
Off to one side, I could see Miraj and others watching, the princess cheering every time Dist missed, which seemed to inflame his rage more than me making him miss. Miraj had insisted I take this challenge, even though Dist and his friends – though most seemed to be enjoying watching him flail – had interrupted my training session with Miraj. I'd been teaching her some basic velocities that worked with a beskad when they'd arrived and Dist had begun stage-whispering comments on my teaching and skill. I'd let them go as a quick use of Observe had listed him as a Low threat at best, but Miraj hadn't. She'd responded that I was far beyond his slight skill with a blade, and when Dist had challenged me to prove that Miraj had accepted on my behalf.
As Miraj explained the rule to me – either draw blood three times or get your blade into a killing position without doing so – she'd imparted more information about my opponent. Dist came from a semi-important family with his father being the duke of a major city on another continent. He, like the other males in his group, was jockeying for Miraj's hand to improve their status and that of their family.
This might've been something that actually happened in canon, but I'd never know. Plus, Miraj disliked Dist after he'd done something she wasn't willing to comment on, and wanted to see me defeat him badly. I felt she hoped that my doing so would end his attempted courtship of her, though I hoped this didn't increase her interest in me.
Yes, I had the quest linked to her, but I didn't want her to get the wrong idea about why I was tutoring her. While I'd yet to let her use her blade against anything more than air, she listened intently and took every criticism I offered without complaint. That was a good sign, and I expected this duel, which hadn't generated any quest since Miraj had accepted it before I could, would further help improve her opinion of me. Though Force help me if her physical interest turned into anything more than a teenage crush. I didn't need to deal with more of that.
Nor the growing desire I could sense from the few female Zygerrians in the room. The males seemed conflicted, not enjoying seeing one of their number being soundly handled by me, but also enthused; probably as they felt Dist being embarrassed here today would remove him as competition. There was some worry as well and all that made sense. Zygerrians were a predatorial species and believed that 'Might makes Right'. Yes, I might be an off-worlder and a Jedi, but I carried myself like a warrior, and as they were seeing now, could back it up.
I turned my attention to Dist as he regained his balance and turned toward me once more. His face was marred with rage. Rage that he was unable to fulfil as for the five minutes this duel had been going on, he'd not even managed to slice my robes. If I wanted to, I'd already seen four moments where I could've drawn my beskad and ended this duel, but even without the quest linked to Miraj, I'd have drawn this out. His overall attitude and behaviour in the brief time I'd known him had soured my opinion of him and I wanted to ensure he understood he was nothing more than an insignificant footnote on a backwater planet.
Dist swung low, aiming for my knee. The move was slow; sloppy. However, I had no interest in pointing out his flaws, preferring to exploit them to further his humiliation. I lifted my leg with plenty of time remaining to avoid the swing and then brought it down sharply. Sparks erupted as the blade screeched against the floor. His shoulder tensed, planning to pull the blade free and attempt to unbalance me, but I was already airborne before he could move.
As I sailed over him, the Force taking me higher than I could otherwise do, I let my foot trail behind. A resounding crunch echoed around the room as my heel collided with his face. I landed with ease, the striking foot sliding behind me as I dropped low, adopting a rather dramatic pose. Dooku would chide me from here to Coruscant for the unnecessary flamboyance of the landing, but it served its purpose.
I stood and shook the foot that had struck him. "One," I called out loudly and clearly as Dist lifted a hand to his face. As his eyes flickered in anger as he saw the blood on his hand, I tapped the sheath of my beskad, making it abundantly clear I'd scored without the need for a blade.
As I'd expected and hoped, that enraged Dist. After another loud snarl, he rushed toward me, his blade lifted high above his head. The strike was so pathetically predictable that even a Youngling just starting to use the Force could avoid it before it landed. Hell, I could've avoided that in my old life even before I'd joined the military.
The wild overhead slash missed badly, and even as he struggled for balance, he yanked his arm back, forcing the blade into a wide, almost uncontrolled slash. I smirked as it sailed harmlessly between us. "Stop cheating!" He snarled as he brought the blade around, slashing again even as balance further eluded him.
"How exactly am I cheating?" I asked as that slash again cut through only air. I added to his rage by slapping his arm as it flew past, and smirked as he stumbled away, barely avoiding face-planting into the floor.
Dist's head whipped around, his free hand having been forced out to stop his fall. "You're a Jedi! All you do is cheat!"
I laughed at that. "Dist, let me be clear. I'm holding back. My lightsaber is resting over there," I pointed toward Master Ti who was holding the weapon for me, "nor am I using the Force against you." I extended my arms and smirked. "The fact that with me holding back, you can't even cut my robes… That reflects more on your lack of skill than any abilities that I possess that you don't."
Dist snarled and once more charged. I could see the thin line of control he held over his animalistic nature was slipping, which was exactly what I wanted. Yes, the angrier he got, the more uncontrollable he'd be, but it would ensure his reputation would be shattered among the Zygerrians. I didn't want this duel to somehow blow up on me and whenever I returned here to discover he'd somehow risen to rule. No, I needed him embarrassed so badly that no one would consider him worthy of any position of power ever again.
Dist's arm surged forward, attempting to skewer me with his blade. Though like every attack he'd tried since this duel had started, I was able to avoid it with ease. "I mean, I haven't even drawn my blade, and already I've made you taste your own blood. This fight was over before it began, you are simply too blinded by your rage and ego to see it."
A flick of his wrist had the blade's tip race toward my wrist. Wanting him to fully commit to the attack, I pulled my arm back at the last moment. As the blade sailed past, and he rotated his arm to arrest the weapon's momentum, I grabbed his wrist. Sending my forearm up into his elbow and wrenching his blade out of his hand before reversing my momentum as I spun him around and over my shoulder.
"Two," I proclaimed as I saw his arm. The expensive-looking clothing he'd been wearing was cut and a deep gash had appeared near his elbow. Dist lifted the arm, the wound dripping blood onto the hard floor, and then, with rage dominating his thoughts, leapt at me.
Without the Force, those claws would've struck my face. Zygerrians were stronger and faster than baseline Humans. However, with the Force providing only moderate boosts to my reflexes and sight, I could pick out small cracks in two of his claws and see the veins in his hands as they surged toward my body.
I leaned back and turned, ensuring his claws wouldn't strike me if my next action failed. It didn't and I easily gripped one of his arms. I shifted my rear leg and pulled on the arm. The shift in position, which took place within a second, caught him off-guard, and as his feet left the ground, I rotated my shoulders.
He landed face-first on the ground even as I maintained my lock on his arm, and a crunch echoed around the room as I drove my foot into his jaw. Seeing his body twisting, trying to get his free arm around for a strike, I rolled over him, keeping a grip on his arm. His body twisted awkwardly as I pulled the arm behind his back, and I smirked as I heard the shoulder pop.
Before he could shift around, I let go of his arm with one hand and drove the elbow from it down into his back, a faint crack just reaching my ears as my joint crashed into the back of his ribcage. I then pushed the arm I was holding down and stepped back. "Three," I called out as he turned, blood flowing profusely from his earlier broken nose and merging with a trail coming from a shattered eardrum.
That meant the duel was now over, but the bloodlust in Dist's eyes made it clear he no longer cared. Rage surged from him in waves, consuming any control he'd once held. My hand drifted to the hilt of my beskad as he spun round, grimacing as he tried to move his dislocated arm, and then leapt at me, his good arm leading his body. Yet before he could reach me, he stopped in mid-air.
"This fight is over," Master Ti called out loudly as I saw her walking toward us, one hand extended out from her body, aimed at the floating Dist. "Accept your defeat and learn from it." With that, she lowered her hand and Dist dropped unceremoniously to the floor, groaning as he came down heavily on the dislocated arm.
I turned and offered Master Ti a nod of thanks, yet as I did the Force rippled with a warning. I pivoted, returning my attention to Dist, part of the blade of my beskad coming into view as I moved to pull it free. Dist was closing fast, his face contorted by fury as his working arm rushed toward my face. At this range, I knew I had no choice but to remove his hand to avoid another set of facial scars. Yet, as the beskad slid from its sheath, Dist tumbled away to the side; slammed into by a blue bolt.
"Enough!" I turned from him to see Miraj holding a DH-17 pistol, smoke rising from the barrel as she aimed it at the downed Zygerrian. It took a split-second for me to realize that the bolt wasn't lethal as she continued, "Dist Traldal, you are banished from my presence and these royal grounds!" Dist hissed on the ground, which made Miraj narrow her eyes. "Leave now before you embarrass your house further and force me to speak with my father about their position of power!"
After a few moments to regain his senses after the stun blast, Dist blinked in shock at her threat and slowly moved, showing impressive resilience to a stun bolt. I didn't understand much about the power dynamics of the Zygerrian people, but if things were even semi-close to what I know of feudal-styled societies, kings and queens often removed power from lower families over trivial issues. Dist's attack on me was far from that, and it seemed the young princess knew this, and that the threat of his family losing influence and power would be enough for Dist to withdraw.
Dist snorted in anger and spat blood at my feet even as his eyes narrowed as he glared at me. For a second, I wondered if he wouldn't take the warning, but he did. Without any look at the armed princess, he turned and stalked from the room, his good hand cradling his damaged arm. A small group of Zygerrians rushed to help him, including one female. She reached out to him, but he snarled and slapped her hand away hard enough that she stumbled. Instead of following Dist out, the female snarled at Dist's retreating form and then turned. As she marched back to the other Zygerrians, fire in her eyes, I turned to Miraj and smiled.
"My thanks, princess," I began as I walked toward her even as she holstered the small pistol. Now that I knew it was there, I could see how she'd hidden it, and why she'd need a holdout blaster. "Sadly, it appears Dist has yet to learn to control his more... aggressive nature."
Miraj smiled as her eyes found mine and I sensed a spike in her desire and arousal. "No, it is I who should apologise. You and Master Ti are guests on our world. Dist Traldal has always been… overly sure of himself. Safe in the knowledge that his father's influence allows him much leeway. He often duels what he considers easy opponents or rivals, and goes further than needed to prove his superiority." She stepped closer, a hand coming to rest on my forearm. "Today, he learnt that he isn't the duellist he believes he is." Her eyes drifted down, though thankfully to my beskad and not my groin. "Still, I had hoped to see you use your blade today. Or at least your lightsaber."
I smiled as my eyes darted to Master Ti moving slowly toward us. "A Jedi only draws their lightsaber in combat if left with no other choice, princess. As for my beskad, Dist was never a threat, not until it appeared he might lose control and give in to his baser instincts." Miraj almost purred as I said that, and even without the Force, her desire was easy to see. "Even then, doing so would only have served to prove how unworthy he was, and possibly embarrass him to a point he might never learn from today." Behind Miraj, I saw Master Ti give me a slight nod of possible approval. "However, if Master Ti permits, we could spar with our lightsabers as it has been some time since we'd trained. I should warn you, princess, that the spar would be as one-sided as the duel you just witnessed; with me taking the role of Dist."
"Padawan Shan is widely recognized as one of the Order's most exceptional young duellists, yet he is correct in stating that he has not yet attained the level of skill required to challenge a Jedi Master." A smile danced on Master Ti's lips as she spoke, and I knew that while offering me a compliment, she was also driving home just how far I still had to go. Which was fucking annoying as my skill with the first six forms were at least in thehigh Professional range, yet I felt as if I was still missing something. It was almost as if the Interface was somehow limiting what I could do with a Lightsaber and the Force, but that just had to be a trick of my mind. "Still, he has defeated several Jedi Knights in spars; something few Padawans are ever able to claim at such a young age."
"Master Ti is kind with her words, but I'm still far from challenging her or Master Dooku." that drew a tinkling laugh from Master Ti. "I hope with time and experience I might one day be able to do so. However, I fear it might take decades to achieve that."
"It is good to have goals, Padawan, and I am glad you understand what it will take to achieve that goal. To think otherwise… can lead to embarrassment, as we have just witnessed."
"I hope that before the negotiations are concluded I might observe a spar between Jedi," Miraj said slowly, her hand still resting on my arm, a slight edge to her tone that likely came from being ignored for a few moments. "However, for now, I wish to return to my lesson."
"As you wish, Princess," Master Ti replied with a bow before turning to me. "Once the lesson is concluded, please return to your chambers, and contact me. We must review today's negotiations and determine which areas to discuss tomorrow." I nodded in agreement, glad to finally see the talks not only resume but get somewhere.
It'd been a week since we'd resumed the talks, and with me now armed with ideas of what each party wanted, it hadn't taken long to work out a basic schedule. Each day brought progress, though some of it was minimal. Still, armed with an understanding of what each delegation wanted from the talks at a minimum, and what they hoped for, I had the wiggle room I needed to lay out the general areas of the massive contract the Zygerrians were offering and know roughly how each delegation would regard those areas.
Things were still slow going, but so long as there were no major setbacks, I felt we could be concluded in around a month. Though I was now in the odd place of wanting to keep the pace slow. I'd started making what felt like genuine progress with Miraj – something shown by Dist risking a duel with me – and if the talks progressed too rapidly, then I might struggle to leave enough of a lasting impression on her to have anything more than an outside chance of success at her linked quest.
That said, I wasn't going to purposely sabotage the talks simply for a possible future benefit. No, given the choice, I'd choose to leave this system as soon as I could. Time was slowly turning against me as the starting gun towards the Naboo conflict was, at best, not much more than a year away and I needed time to prepare for that.
"Arrgh!" I growled in frustration as the doors to my assigned quarters slid shut behind me. Stomping toward the small sofa, I threw my robes on a nearby chair and sunk into a comfortable seat.
Since resuming the talks, everything had been going decently. Yes, there had been some days where barely any progress had been made due to vibrant discussions over the finer details of a certain section of the contract. For example, yesterday had revolved around the distribution of processed food from a colony about two lightyears from Zygerria, centring on where the food should be sent, which companies and sub-companies should be used, and the exact nature of the division of control. It was a minor thing, but with the size of the contract, even something like that could take hours, or in yesterday's case, a day, to sort out.
However, today was the first time that negotiations had ground to a halt. Vundu Plast had wanted to reopen the discussion on control of the local manufacturing of cargo vessels for several mining operations in remote systems. This had been sorted weeks ago, with Adascorp and Mandalmotors agreeing on a joint venture, yet Plast wanted to renegotiate to gain SoroSuub full control of the venture. That made no sense since there'd been no hint at the time it had come up, nor when I'd spoken to her privately about SoroSuub's requirements for a shared contract. And then, when the other companies rejected reopening the matter, Plast hadn't let the matter go, threatening to reopen every part of the contract already agreed upon. The impasse had dragged on all day, until, in the late afternoon, with hours still available in the day but no progress on anything being made, Master Ti had suggested we retire for the day and return tomorrow with cooler heads.
I really hoped whatever bugs had crawled up the Sullustan's arses left as if this continued tomorrow, I knew my temper would begin to fray. Hell, if it kept up for more than a few days, I'd consider suggesting to King Medes that he remove them entirely from the talks. Yes, that would force some elements to be reopened, but gaining consensus from four groups was easier than doing so from five.
"Ah!" I slapped the sofa's arm, hearing it creak at how hard I'd smacked it. "Why do they have to be so kriffing stupid?!" I raged to the empty room. It wouldn't offer a response, but there was something therapeutic in yelling out my frustrations over these talks. It wasn't the Jedi way of handling things, but it worked for me.
After some time, with my rage slowly calming, I sat up and poured myself a glass of mando papuur'gal Dred Yomaget had gifted me with a case of and I'd found myself enjoying a glass each night to take the edge off. Now, I'd have preferred some Ne'tra Gal, but Master Ti had been adamant that I didn't need hard liquor in my quarters. Until today, I'd been fine with that, but right now I could do with a few stiff shots of something stronger than wine.
I tilted the glass back and grunted as I realised I'd downed the whole thing in one go. I leaned forward to refill the glass, only to stop. Getting drunk was tempting, but even though I could easily clear the hangover and other effects of the alcohol, I was sure Master Ti would sense if I became inebriated and I'd rather not have a talk tomorrow about being mindful of excess. Not to mention, however unlikely it was, there was a chance that getting drunk would somehow make Dark Side Masking slip. It was in the high Master range, meaning it seemed to be enough to fool even Master Fay, but no power was fool proof.
Thus, with a growl of frustration, I placed the glass back on the table and then stood. I began pacing the room, trying to drive the anger over SoroSuub's odd behaviour from me. My eyes lingered on a jug of water, and I considered spending some time working on Inanimate Conversion, as I'd done on some other evenings, but decided against it. Given the mood I was in, it probably wasn't wise to consider changing water into anything else, as the urge to create a poison that worked on Sullustans held some appeal.
Instead, after lifting various objects in the room closer to the walls with the Force, I moved into the cleared space and began moving meditation. Alchaka wasn't yet Maxed out, and I had no need to refresh my FP, but I'd long since started doing this as a way to unwind and centre myself.
My body moved around slowly, taking its time to draw out the moves and velocities of the half-dozen styles of fighting I knew. My eyes closed and I tempered my breathing, getting into a calm, steady rhythm. Like always, the air around me felt as if it was reacting to my movements, and I soon felt something which I believed to be the Force begin to not only sense my movements but mimic them.
Time slipped away as I let my mind clear, gliding around the room with the Force as my only companion. I felt the eddies of the Force shift around me as I moved, brushing against my skin and providing a calming, relaxing presence for my turbulent mind. Letting m….
"…we're not afraid to die for a worthy cause."
I stumbled forward, the voice floating to me through the Force disturbing my thoughts and forcing me out of Alchaka. I blinked, remembering where I was, and whose voice that was. "What?" I muttered as I realised that I'd somehow heard Master Giiett through the Force. His words sounded fatal, and I felt a hand clench around my lungs, which only increased when a small red blinking dot appeared in the corner of my vision. With a sinking feeling in my stomach, I opened the notice and groaned.
Changing Fate (Giiett)
Loss of an ally on the High Council.
"Fuck." The word slipped easily from my mouth as I stepped back and slumped onto the sofa and stared up at the ceiling. Giiett was dead, but I didn't know how or why. This might've been the canon event that had killed him, or something else brought on because of my existence. Either way, he was gone, and I'd failed the quest linked to him. As bad as it sounded, this helped highlight the flaw I'd made early on at the Temple of accepting every quest offered by the Interface. Still, that was secondary beyond learning how and why Giiett was dead.
I stood and strode for the door, pulling my robes to me with the Force. They slipped over my shoulders as I stepped into the corridor and my arms were inside them as I reached Master Ti's door. I pressed the buzzer, and a second later the door slid open.
"Something is wrong, Master," I said, cutting her off. She frowned and stepped back, allowing me access to her quarters. "I was meditating, using Alchaka to clear my frustrations from today's talks," I began as I walked into her small sitting area, which was a mirror of mine, even down to most of the furniture being close to the walls. "I was forced out of it when I heard a voice in the Force, one I kno…" My words trailed off as I turned to face her and saw she wasn't wearing her robes. Or much of anything for that matter. All that she had on were undergarments that were akin to skin-tight workout clothes that did nothing to hide the shape of what lay underneath. Putting that from my mind I continued. "I heard Master Giiett's voice. . . " I said trailing off as I felt my throat clench slightly.
The slight frown she had deepened. "Might I ask what you heard him say?"
"We-" I paused slightly, clearing my throat" We're not afraid to die for a worthy cause," I repeated slowly. "I, I think he might be dead, Master."
She shook her head and stepped closer. "I find it highly unlikely both that a member of the High Council is dead, and that you sensed it and I did not." She slipped past me and as I turned, my eyes drifted lower, taking in the way the shorts she wore hugged her arse. "Still, I will contact the Temple to confirm if anything is amiss. First, however, perhaps you might explain why you believe you sensed the death of a Jedi Master when I have not?"
"I…" I licked my lips and raised my eyes to her face as she turned and settled into her sofa. I took a moment to consider how I wanted to explain this to her. I knew Giiett was dead, but I had no way beyond the Interface to confirm that. Getting my thoughts in order I sat, though not on the sofa next to her but on a seat nearby. While I knew nothing would happen, being close to her in her current state of undress was a situation I'd like to avoid.
I watched, trying to not fidget in agitation as Vundu Plast added her seal to the five copies of the contract. Hara Adasca, Ce Serd, and Dred Yomaget had already added theirs, but until Plast and King Medes added their seals, I wasn't going to hope the negotiations were over. It'd been a little over a month since the celebration for Miraj's ascension to heir to the throne, and the talks were finally, barring anything insane, done and dusted.
After Plast attached her company's seal, she stood. I moved forward and collected the five copies of the contract, which rather amusingly were actual paper cover pages for the digital contracts and walked toward the royal table. Around me, various cameras flashed, and drones buzzed, recording this moment for news reports across the galaxy and records in the Senate archives.
"Your Majesty," I said with a slight smile as I slid the documents in front of him. He smiled back as he picked up the royal seal and I moved to one side, granting him the spotlight. I watched, my relief at this mission almost being finished growing with each document he affirmed his seal upon. He paused at the final document and looked at the cameras, reporters, and various assembled dignitaries from across the sector and beyond. "With this seal, Zygerria and her tributaries enter a new era. One in which, with the help of the corporations gathered here today, and the work of the Jedi to my left, will lift our sector from a remote outpost of the Republic in the Outer Rim into a major centre for trade and commerce for centuries to come!"
As he affixed the seal to the final document, the gathered crowd, myself, Master Ti, and the delegations burst into applause. While ours were reserved, the crowd was much more enthusiastic about it. In the corner of my vision, a small blue dot appeared, signalling the quest linked to this mission was complete. The quest's name – Knightly Diplomacy – hinted at this having something to do with me becoming a Jedi Knight, but nothing in the description, objectives or requirements backed that up.
I had to close my eyes for a moment as the flashes from the various cameras and drones drowned the area in light. I strained to keep smiling as even with my eyes closed, I could see the flashes going off and as I slowly opened my eyes, I had to resist an urge to slap away two drones that had floated too close to me.
I turned away as the flashlights dulled and blinked, trying to clear my sight. A hand came to rest on my shoulder, and I turned back to see Medes standing close to me. "I am wise enough to admit that when I was first informed you would be leading the negotiations I was… uncertain about it," he began, a wide smile on his face exposing most of his sharp teeth. "Yes, you carried yourself as a warrior should, and bare the scars of previous hunts, but I had little understanding of how you would perform at the negotiating table."
I bit back a chuckle. "I was even less sure of that than you, your majesty. However, the High Council and Master Ti had faith in me to complete the talks, and I was reluctant to let that faith be misplaced."
Medes laughed, sounding like a relaxed lion and he patted my shoulder. "Yes, it seems they saw something that neither of us did. At least not at first." He turned slightly, removing his hand from my shoulder. "A great warrior doesn't always make a good leader, which is why even great leaders surround themselves with advisors wiser than themselves." He glanced past me, in the general direction of Master Ti. "If I might be so bold, our sector has been without a Jedi since the reign of my father." He looked at the gathered crowds for a second. "We Zygerrians are a proud people, disliking outsiders interfering in our affairs and telling us how we should behave." I slapped down an urge to comment about them used to be a slaving empire as he continued. "However, after your help, I find myself open to the idea of the Jedi returning to the sector."
I lowered my head. "I'm sure Master Ti and I could add some backing to such a request, your majesty." Even as I replied, I suspected he had a certain Jedi in mind and while that would make convincing Miraj easier, it would leave me trapped at the very edge of the galaxy, unable to influence events as the drums of war began to sound across the Republic.
"Ha!" Medes took a half-step back and seemed to examine me. "From what Master Ti has told me, only Jedi Knights and Masters are allowed to be assigned as sector guardians. I wonder how much longer I should wait before submitting my request?"
I smiled and bowed. "You honour me, your majesty," I said before rising, taking the time to fine-tune a reason to reject his offer. I couldn't turn him down flat as that would insult his race and position, and I didn't want to offend him as there was a chance that I might be able to use Miraj and her people in the years to come. "However, I haven't given much thought as to what I might do whenever the Council deems me worthy of promotion. I suspect I will have several more years, at least, to consider that."
Yes, Knightly Diplomacy by its name alone hinted I was close, and I had a quest to become a Jedi Knight before Padmé became queen, but if I pulled that off I'd be an outlier. Most Jedi weren't knighted until their mid-twenties, though exceptional cases did exist, something proven by Mace Windu being made a Master and given a seat on the Council at an age many were just becoming Knights.
"True. Still, I hope that when they see the wisdom in promoting you, you might consider returning to our sector. Even if you aren't assigned here, many in my court, and family, would be disappointed if you forgot about us." He turned and made me do so as well until we saw Miraj talking with her mother, Master Ti, and Hara Adasca.
"For the most part, I have enjoyed my time on your world, your majesty. Far more than I initially expected I would," I said slowly, watching Miraj try to keep her boredom with whatever Hara was discussing from her face. "However, a Jedi goes where the Force and the High Council guides them." As I continued, Miraj caught us watching, and a smile came to her face. Her mother and Master Ti turned to see why she was suddenly smiling, and upon seeing us, both women smiled as well. "Still, whenever I am knighted, if the position is still unfilled, I will meditate on the matter and ask the Force for guidance."
Medes chuckled deeply. "That is all I can ask. I understand the… temptation of exploring the galaxy, of challenging yourself against worthy adversaries and proving yourself superior, or discovering about how much you still have to learn." I nodded and my mind drifted back a few weeks.
Back then, Miraj had finally convinced Master Ti to allow me and her to spar with our lightsabers. And when it was time for the demonstration, Miraj corralled not only the rest of her family but the delegations and other prominent figures into watching. As I'd warned Miraj, Master Ti had won, though she had gone easier on me than in the Temple; almost as if she found it amusing to see Miraj's interest in me.
Afterwards, Medes had asked to spar with Master Ti herself. Again, Master Ti had won with ease, though Medes had done well enough to land a blow on the agile Togrutan Jedi. Rhork had also challenged Master Ti, but instead, she'd suggested I spar with him and perhaps demonstrate some Mandalorian fighting styles.
Rhork was older and more experienced in the Mandalorian martial arts than either I or Bo were, and I refrained from using the force, thus it had been my loss. Thankfully, neither of us emerged with anything more than some mild injuries that healed in a few days – bacta and the Force helped there – and no delay to the negotiations was required.
"Your majesty," Medes turned as his Prime Minister, Ardis Crelat, approached. Crelat leaned in and whispered something into Medes' ear.
"Yes, yes," Medes said as Crelat pulled back before he turned to me. "Forgive me, but my duties as head of state require my attention. I hope we might return to our conversation at the closing banquet?"
"Certainly, your majesty," I replied with a bow. As the pair walked away, I turned, hoping to slip away and read the quest completion notice. However, just as I reached a spot where I could disappear for a few minutes, I sensed someone approaching.
I turned to see Ce Serd. "Representative Serd."
"Padawan Shan," Serd looked around, "my congratulations on bringing the talks to a successful conclusion. The contract, while not one I had hoped for, is one all parties can profit from, and provided we all are forthright in our dealings, improve cooperation between the IGBC and the other corporations. Even the Zygerrians gained more from the deal than they might otherwise have."
"I did what I could, Representative," I replied slowly, wondering why he was seeking me out. He appeared nervous, and I was concerned Damask had returned. "And I'm looking forward to returning to Coruscant and the Jedi Temple."
"Yes, I too am looking forward to returning to my home." Again, Serd looked around, and an odd expression came over his face, one that had my hand drift toward my lightsaber. "However, before the closing banquet, I have been asked to pass a small token of esteem and thanks from Magister Damask. Both for you successfully completing these talks and for your actions in saving him several years ago on Mandalore."
"While I'm honoured the Magister is happy with the completion of the talks, and is grateful for what happened in Keldabe, as a Jedi, there is no need from him to provide a reward." That and I was reluctant to take anything from Plagueis as, even if it was a seemingly innocent gift, it was a gift from a Sith Lord.
Serd smiled. "The Magister predicted you might say that. He requested that I be clear in saying that this is more a thanks for your actions on Mandalore than these talks. To quote him, he wouldn't be alive today if not for your quick and decisive actions in Mandalmotors tower. Additionally, he was quite insistent that I was to deliver this token of his esteem to you regardless of the outcome of the talks."
I sighed softly and nodded as I accepted the praise. There was little it seemed I could do that wouldn't have me accepting Plagueis' gift. Yet I had to wonder what his angle was. When he'd arrived on Zygerria during the celebration of Miraj's birthday and ascension to the position of heir to the throne, I'd expected he, like Dred Yomaget, would remain until the end of the negotiations. However, after speaking with me a half-dozen times during the celebrations, he left before the talks resumed.
Ever since his arrival, I'd been on edge. Hell, even with him leaving I'd stayed concerned. I knew he and Darth Sidious were monitoring me, but I hadn't expected Plagueis to do so publicly. From the light research I'd done – I'd avoided delving too deep into the Hego Damask persona on the off chance it was monitored by the Sith – I'd discovered that until his appearance on Mandalore, Damask had become something of a recluse. Hell, even since then, there was no record of him moving in public. At least not until his arrival on Zygerria.
Even that would likely not become public knowledge as, apart from myself, Ce Serd, and King Medes, I was led to believe that no one knew he was on-planet. If people did, then there was a chance they'd link me to Damask as I'd been at both known locations where he'd been in the last few years. That would generate confusion for sure as if I didn't know he was Darth Plagueis, I'd be confused by the interest he was showing in me.
"What happened that day on Mandalore was beyond my control, though me being there was the will of the Force," I replied, hoping he'd pass on my words directly even as I once more cursed the insanity of me having to 'save' a Dark Lord of the Sith. Well, better to call him a Banite Sith as King Adas had been quite insistent that neither Plagueis nor Sidious were worthy of being called Sith Lords. The memory of his anger when I revealed how the Sith in this era were behaving brought a cold shiver, as it did every time I remembered it. "Any thanks regarding my actions that day should be offered to it and not me."
"Yes, quite," Ce said, clearly uncertain of how to respond to my remark about the Force being responsible for Damask's survival. "Still, the Magister was insistent that upon completion of the negotiations, I inform you of his token and arrange delivery of it to your vessel, which I have already done." He paused and looked around before leaning closer. "On that note, several members of the IGBC board are curious as to how your Sekotan vessel survived while every other known one, for lack of a better term, died."
"I can't go into details regarding the matter, Representative," I replied slowly. "The matter is one your board should discuss with the Jedi High Council and Senate directly if you wish to know. While I am aware of the reasons for the death of most Sekotan ships, I'm under instruction to not speak about it to non-Jedi." That wasn't technically true, but I'd rather not have the Sith looking into the bond I shared with my ship. They might well try and use that bond as a way to manipulate or control me or even hurt Raven: which was something I'd never allow. Plus, as a bonus, I could stick it to a bunch of insanely rich bankers by simply having something they couldn't. "As for the token. Since the Magister has already arranged for its delivery to my vessel, it appears there is little I can do but accept it graciously. Please pass along my thanks for it and a reminder that as a Jedi I don't require gifts for doing what I do, to the Magister the next time you speak with him."
Serd nodded. "Certainly." With that, he moved away, yet my thoughts were on Damask. This gift had to be some sort of trap or ploy. Possibly it might even contain a tracker so he could monitor my movements. Yet, there was little I could do about it for now. The idea of accidentally spacing it did occur, but that might raise more suspicion than placing it in a sealed container in Raven's cargo hold. No, I knew I had to hold onto it until I next ran into him.
Though I did wonder if I would as, going by canon events, I felt he had to die before, or not long after, the invasion of Naboo and Palpatine's ascension to Chancellor. Yet something that kept me up at night whenever I wondered about the steps the Sith would take after Naboo was the thought that because of my presence, Sidious might not be able to kill his master as he had in canon, which was frankly terrifying.
Dealing with Sidious alone in the war to come was concerning, but add in Plagueis and things felt exponentially worse. Two fully trained and experienced Sith Lords was something I doubted the current High Council could handle even if they engaged them twelve to two. Yet somehow I might well have to do it alone, or at best, with Anakin by my side…
I was pulled from that spiral of despair by someone grabbing my arm. I blinked and looked down to see Miraj was trying to pull me. "Come on," she said with a smile that didn't reach her eyes. "The banquet is about to begin."
I allowed her to lead me this last time to the banquet hall, ignoring the amused look Master Ti sent me as I was led past her and Miraj's mother Radej, who wore a far more tender expression. As we moved, I saw several Zygerrian male nobles glare at me, but I ignored them. None had dared try anything since I'd demolished Dist Traldal, and I only rubbed in their ineptitude by smiling at them as we moved past.
I took Miraj's hand into mine, making their glares intensify, and the princess gasped before smiling up at me affectionately. It might give her the wrong impression, but this would likely be the last time I saw her for years, so I felt showing a hint of extra closeness was a risk worth taking.
I eased back on the engines as Raven slowly lowered toward the landing pad in the Jedi Temple hanger I'd been assigned. As I touched her down and powered down the core, I could feel Raven in the Force. She wanted to fly again, to dance among the stars, to prove she was built for it more than any other vessel.
"Soon," I murmured as I ran my fingers over the console, drawing a colourful display from the organic sections as Raven responded to my touch and comment. "I doubt we'll be here long, and even if we are, I'll find the time to let you fly." A gentle, pleasant tingle echoed in the Force from all around me.
I couldn't help but smile at how comfortable I felt talking to the semi-sentient starship. If I'd been told before the voyage to Zonama Sekot that a year later I'd share a bond with such a vessel, I'd have laughed in their face. Yet, much like with Fenrir, though the bond was massively different, it felt entirely natural to share a connection with Raven. As if she was, in a way, simply another part of me.
"Are you ready to depart, or should I leave you two alone?"
I looked over at Master Ti as she sat in the co-pilot's chair, a soft, friendly smile making clear she was simply teasing me. She might not share the same connection with Raven as I did, but she enjoyed being onboard the sentient starship. Master Ti had remarked that Raven reminded her of Felucia where she'd spent considerable time. Though when she had mentioned that I sensed some faint wisps of regret from the Togrutan Jedi. I was curious, but unless she wanted to bring the subject up, I wasn't going to pry.
"I'm glad to be back, Master. While the talks were interesting, they weren't something I'd enjoy having to engage in regularly."
That drew laughter from Master Ti as she stood. "Yes, you certainly aren't built to be a Jedi Consular. Still, after some early stumbles, you handled your role excellently. The final agreement was one that everyone seemed, if not pleased with, then accepting of, and I dare say you left a lasting impression on Zygerria. Or at least their future monarch." I cringed at further teasing about Miraj even as the doors to the cockpit opened as she approached them. Fenrir lifted his head from the corridor outside, and as I stood to follow Master Ti, he did as well. His tail wagged wildly, making clear he was looking forward to getting off Raven.
"Yes, you can go and stretch your legs, but we're back in the Temple," his ears drooped slightly, and the tail slowed. "So, no biting anyone," I added with mock seriousness. He whined at me before making a sound that was a cross between a scoff and a bark. He then turned and bound away, making for the central area and then likely the exit ramp.
Master Ti paused as Fenrir bounded away and waited for me to catch up to her. "It still confuses me at times to see such a large, battle-bred beast act no different than a domesticated animal," she began as she resumed walking. "Especially one larger than a Kath hound."
"While Fenrir is comfortable being on the Raven, he dislikes being cooped up," I explained as we reached the central area. "Still, I'd give him a few hours, more if he can find a quiet spot in the Room of a Thousand Fountains or one of the gardens before he'll return to the Raven. Outside of those places, and being near a few other Jedi, he no longer finds the Temple as comfortable as he did before Zonama Sekot."
"Sadly, that is understandable. Tuk'ata are bred for battle, so after the trials you faced on Zonama Sekot, it is hardly a surprise the serenity of the Temple offers little respite to him. While he is certainly calmer than I'd expect from a predator that has killed, much like you, he appears to prefer to roam rather than place down roots."
"That's true. And I think he worries that Master Yoda might try to ride him," I added, which made her laugh as we reached the door leading to the exit ramp. "Or some brave Initiate trying to impress their friends."
"The idea of Grandmaster Yoda riding Fenrir around the Temple, while highly amusing, is nothing more than a rumour that will never occur. Though I do believe Master Yoda has, perhaps, encouraged the idea to help others grow more trusting of Fenrir," Master Ti explained as we reached the ramp and I saw Simvyl there. He gave us both a nod but made no move to follow us from Raven as we left. "As for the Initiates, I don't believe their clan minders would permit them close enough to even consider it. To say nothing of Fenrir's reaction if any came too close."
"Yes, Master," I replied with a chuckle as we exited the starship and saw a small gathering waiting for us. Fenrir was there as well, leaning happily into Fay's arm as he stood beside her. The fact that Fay now had to bend her arm upward to scratch Fenrir under the chin was a clear indicator of his size increase in the nearly two months we'd been gone. From the way Fenrir was leaning into her touch, and bushing his shoulder against hers, I don't think he minded the change in her arm position.
With Fay were Masters Windu, Piell, and Dooku, who we greeted by bowing. "Masters," Master Ti said to the High Council members. "I am pleased to report the negotiations, while taking longer than expected due to several unforeseen events, were successful."
"Yes, the Chancellor's office has already relayed a message from the Zygerrian Prime Minister. He expressed the gratitude of the government and royal family for your work in the negotiations," Windu's gaze shifted to me as he replied. "Indeed, they were most impressed with your performance, Padawan. Even hinting that they might be willing to allow a Jedi Watchman to return to the sector for the first time in nearly thirty years."
"An unexpected reward, Master Windu," I said, glad there was no mention of Miraj's affection toward me.
"The Council is also grateful for your work, and we will require a full report in a few hours. Until then, we and Master Ti shall leave you to catch up with your Masters." I gave a nod of thanks, and then a smile to goodbye to Master Ti, which she returned before joining the two Council Members as they walked away, heading not for the exit but toward another ship at the far end of the hangar.
"I have reviewed the final settlement you achieved," Dooku began, jumping straight to business without even a greeting. Though after years of training with him, I expected nothing less. "It is an acceptable agreement that appears to have pleased all parties."
"I suspect the lure of billions of credits had much to do with that, Master," I countered with a smirk, "but, thank you." Dooku tilted his head a fraction before it turned to Fay. "Master, I do hope spending a few months within the Temple wasn't too troublesome."
Fay laughed softly, which was what I'd hoped for. The sound was one I found myself missing whenever she wasn't around as it always calmed me. "Thankfully, it wasn't. While I would prefer to let the Force guide me as it needs, sometime in the Temple has allowed me to reacquaint myself more with old friends, and perhaps, make several new ones." Her smile grew. "And for once, I didn't have to concern myself with worries about your safety."
"I don't go looking for trouble, Master," I mock-whined in reply, which made her smile grow, and drew a scoff of amusement from Dooku.
"No, but the Force does seem to guide you into situations that, shall we say, test you before you are perhaps ready. Far more so than it does with other Jedi." I nodded at Dooku's reply.
"Speaking of which, if I might ask, how goes your special project? Has it reached the point where you are able to return to the Temple?"
My Masters shared a look, one that further grew Fay's smile and brought the faintest hints of one to Dooku's expression. "The project continues, though I do feel progress is being made slightly quicker than I had anticipated. While Komari is far from ready to be brought to the Temple, or anywhere where temptations might exist, I feel comfortable leaving her alone for a short time. Still, once I have attended to some personal matters within the Temple and the Senate, I will be returning to help her progress continue."
I felt myself frown. "If I might ask, what business Master?" I could understand wanting to catch up with myself, Fay and others within the Temple, but I was concerned he would seek out Palpatine when he mentioned the Senate. Plus, I was slightly annoyed he was returning to deal with… her, instead of returning to further my training.
"As I said, they are personal matters. However, I am willing to discuss them after your debriefing with the Council." The hint of a smile grew into a full one, which felt slightly unsettling to me. Dooku rarely smiled, and while this one reached his eyes, and there were faint hints of pride from him, there was something he was keeping from me which had me on edge.
"Until then," Fay cut in, "perhaps you might like to speak with your friends?" Her smile had also grown, and there were murmurs of joy and pride from her radiating within the Force. "I believe that before I arrived here, I saw Padawans Keto, Bykys, and Wezz heading toward the Room of a Thousand Fountains."
I forced down my confusion and worry at the odd behaviour of my masters. "Okay," I said slowly, figuring I might learn more from my friends than my masters, who had decided to be oddly secretive today. "Fenrir," I called as I took a step away from my Masters. He opened his eyes and whined at having to leave Fay's scratching, but after a second, did so and plodded over to me. "What do you think? Should we head to the fountains and meet our friends? Or perhaps you'd prefer a trip to Master Jocasta in the Archives?" While there were a few things I wanted to look up in preparation for Naboo, those could wait.
Mimicking what several masters did, Fenrir's head tilted to one side as he thought on the matter. He then barked once.
"Fountains it is," I said with a chuckle and rubbed him on his neck. Fenrir started moving toward the hangar exit. I followed along after giving my masters a nod of goodbye. As I moved, I saw Simvyl had exited Raven and was speaking with several technicians employed by the Order to maintain the small fleet of vessels used by the Jedi.
I walked toward the door, hoping that my friends might know what my masters were hiding, though I did wonder how Serra would react when I told them about Miraj. Or how much Sia-Lan might tease her. Perhaps it might be enough to finally convince Serra to make a move. I knew she wanted to take the next step, as did I, but I was still doing as Bo suggested and letting Serra set the tone. Though there would come a point where I'd stop doing so and take control.
"The Council has reviewed the report submitted by Master Ti, the one given to the Senate by the Zygerrian Prime Minister, and your oral report," Windu said as I stood in the centre of the High Council Chambers. I'd been here for about thirty minutes now relaying my account of events on Zygerria, though I made no mention of Hego Damask. "On behalf of the Council and the Senate, I express our gratitude for how expertly you handled your first mission as a negotiator."
I nodded in thanks for the compliment, even as I silently prayed to the Force they'd never ask me to do it again, and hoped this meeting would end soon as I'd promised Serra and Sia-Lan spars. Yet, as I looked around the chamber once again, I was once more drawn to the fact that all twelve members of the Council, including Eeth Koth who'd replaced Master Giiett, were present. Oh, four of them were only here via holocall, but it was odd to see all the Council present for a debrief. Or at least it was for the few debriefs I'd had with the Council so far.
"Question, I have." I shifted my focus to Yoda. "Related to the talks, it is not. Sense Master Giiett's passing you did, while others did not." While there was no direct question, it was easy to spot it in his tone.
I took a second to compose myself. "I was meditating to clear my thoughts after a rather stressful day, Master. The talks had been derailed by one of the delegations, and I was… annoyed. While meditating, I… I heard his voice. The words he used; sounded final. Fatalistic. With that, and a faint sense of something changing in the Force, I went to Master Ti. I admit barging into her room was perhaps unwise as I should've taken the time to compose myself and thought more about what I'd felt. However, I was sure what I'd heard and felt was true."
"Sadly, it was," Windu began as the room suddenly felt less relaxing. "During your time away, there was an incident involving a species called the Yinchorri. During this incident, which involved a small force of Yinchorri breaching the Temple's defences, several Jedi both here and near their homeworld were lost. Master Giiett gave his life in the Yinchorri system so that others might live."
I was shocked to hear the Temple had been breached and could almost see Dooku's frown upon learning that. When I'd spoken with my friends, they'd mentioned an incident in the Temple, but no more than that so hearing what had happened was shocking as, from the lessons I'd received, the Temple hadn't been invaded in millennia.
"To hear a connection to Master Giiett you had, surprising it is. That while on Zygerria you felt his passing, more so. Speak later on this, I wish."
"Yes, Master." Ever since the night that I went to Master Ti, I'd been preparing for this conversation with the Council. I had reasons for why I'd been able to sense Giiett's death lined up, all I could hope was that Yoda would believe them.
"Returning to your mission," Windu said, drawing my attention back to him. The hint of a smile on his face was oddly disconcerting, as was the rising sense of amusement I sensed in the room, and it had me on edge. Now, I doubted anything bad was about to happen, but seeing Windu seemingly pleased with my actions was an odd turn of events. "With it completed, and the Zygerrians, the Senate and the other involved parties satisfied with the outcome, the Council is happy to consider the mission a success." He leaned forward, the smile now coming freely to his face. "Which allows us to move onto other business."
He took a moment, looking around the chamber. "When you first arrived at the Temple, we had reservations about admitting you into the Order. With the records on the ship you arrived in as proof, we accepted the authenticity of your claim to be from a time nearly four thousand years in the past. However, your name carries weight in the history of the Order." He paused for a moment as I swore I felt the Force shifting around us. "Your great-grandparents are names that even now, thousands of years later, are known, both inside and outside of our Order. Your niece, several times removed, would serve as Grandmaster of the Order during one of our darkest times." Windu leaned back in his chair. "Many, including myself, feared your age and close connection to Revan made you a risk to the Order, as he was before he was redeemed. However, with each passing year, while you have shown a tendency to approach problems in unusual ways for a Jedi, you have held to the core of what it means to be a Jedi. Therefore, it is the decision of this Council, that you be raised to the rank of Knight."
I felt my mouth slip open as I heard his words. I'd wondered about when I'd be knighted, and the quest name for the Zygerrian mission had certainly hinted I was close, but I hadn't expected that to happen now. "But… the Trials?" I stammered out, wondering why the Council hadn't made me sit one or more of the five trials they usually gave to prospective Knights.
"Due to your experiences over the last several years, from the beginning of the latest Mandalorian Civil War, through your trials at the hands of the Bando Gora, the war on Zonama Sekot where you fought to defend innocent settlers from a terrible, invading force, you have time and again displayed the ideals that our Order holds dear." That came from Oppo Rancisis. "You have protected innocents and faced down dangers that would break others when placed in impossible situations. And through it all, you've upheld the tenets of the Jedi Code."
"While normally we would request a Padawan to complete several, if not all, of the trials under our supervision, these moments you've faced have challenged you in ways the Trials could not," Plo Koon added. "They have pushed you further, harder, and faster than many could survive, and you have proven your abilities are beyond doubt, worthy of promotion." He paused and looked down. "My only regret is that Master Giiett isn't here with us physically to witness this moment. He was your most vocal supporter from before you even became a Padawan."
I lowered my head, sharing in the grief of Giiett not being here. I knew he and Plo Koon had been friends, and it seemed Koon missed Giiett greatly.
"Your ceremony of knighthood will take place tomorrow," I turned back to Windu as he spoke again. "However, you should be aware that all prospective knights are required to spend a day in solitude in the Halls of Knighthood. There, you shall meditate on the Force, and if you are fortunate it may grant you glimpses of possible paths you might walk. You may head there when you are ready, and once your time of meditation is finished, you will be escorted to us. Until then, we leave you in the care of your Masters."
"I… Thank you, Masters." I bowed deeply, trying to rein in my excitement at being knighted. Windu offered me a genuine smile and nodded before I turned to face my masters and Master Ti.
"While I have only spent a short time with you, may I be the first to congratulate you," Master Ti said slowly, her smile matching Fay's. Dooku was smiling as well, though it was more reserved, as I'd expect of him even in a moment like this.
"Thank you, Master Ti. I… I hope we might work together on a mission again at some point, though preferably not negotiations as complex as the Zygerria talks."
Master Ti chuckled. "I look forward to that time." Fay reached forward, placing a hand on my shoulder and as a group, we moved toward the chamber exit.
"Master Ti, please remain. There are some matters, wholly unrelated to the Zygerrian negotiations, that we wish to discuss." Master Ti stopped, and after giving me a final smile and nod, turned back to face the Council.
We exited the chamber in silence, the Council waiting until we had departed to speak with Master Ti. As we entered the antechamber, I saw Fenrir bounding around. It seemed my joy at being knighted had been sensed by the tuk'ata and he'd been excitedly waiting for our exit.
I braced myself as he bounced up to me, petting him happily as Fay started speaking. "From the first day we met, it has been clear to me, to us, that the Force has a path laid out for you. While your ascension to knighthood means our time together will be diminished, we have little doubt our paths are forever intertwined."
"I… thank you," I managed to get out as I blinked to keep back tears of joy and dealt with an overly excited tuk'ata. "To both of you. I couldn't have… have done all this without you."
Dooku came closer, for once unconcerned with the behaviour of Fenrir, and placed a hand on my shoulder. A smile that looked entirely out of place but at the same time made perfect sense, brightened up a face that often seemed dour. "It is we who should be thanking you. Before your arrival, I was disillusioned with the Order while Master Fay was content to keep her distance from the Order and Temple; secure in the belief the Force would guide her as needed. Through you, we have both found a path forward, even as the darkness grows denser around us with each passing day."
"Together, and with others helping us, we will do what we can to guide the Order and Republic through the dark times ahead," Fay added in. I kept my mouth shut, not wanting to voice insincere opinions regarding the Jedi and the Republic, nor hint that the two, as they currently were, might be beyond saving. I wasn't going to mar this moment, and the celebration of my knighthood, with such a discussion.
"Come," Dooku said, his hand helping to push me toward the elevator.
I walked toward the elevator, Fenrir bounding around me with my masters at my sides. Fay laughed as Fenrir leapt over a seat, his excitement at my joy clear to see.
Now, there were still a few steps to go in the process to be knighted. As Master Windu had stated, I needed to spend a day in silent, private meditation, and I wondered what, if anything, the Force might show me by way of visions.
However, that, and the ceremony that came after was all that needed to be done. And by the end of tomorrow, I would be the newest Knight of the Jedi Order. And with that, I would have the freedom I needed to start preparing for what was to come without worrying that Fay or Dooku might be looking over my shoulder.
I knelt and looked around the Hall of Knighthood near the top of the central - and tallest - spire of the Jedi Temple. There was only one point in the spire, and indeed all of the Temple, higher and that was the Pinnacle Room. From what I knew, the room held some of the oldest and most sacred texts in the Order. Supposedly, some even dated back to the Order's founding on Tython.
Currently, the hall was empty save for me, meaning the next twenty-four hours were going to be quiet. Which was helpful as during this time, I was meant to meditate on my time in the Order so far, and what the future might hold. According to the Jedi Path, text which I'd read cover to cover when first given a copy but had barely opened since as I remembered it perfectly, there was a chance the Force might offer glimpses of potential future paths. However, given I rarely received visions – the last being the one I shared with Anakin that I was still trying to fully decipher – I doubted I'd be granted such glimpses. While the Force had worked me into its plans for balance, I felt there was still a disconnect between me and it.
Still, a day alone would allow me a lot of time to simply think about my plans. Not just for Naboo, but for the years after, as while I knew the fight with Maul was going to be hard, I believed I'd win. Otherwise, what was the point of even trying?
Shadows swirled around, blanking out all the senses. Yet, as time passed, the shadows seemed to shift, to pull back. Faint, distant sounds started to echo around, though it was hard to be sure what they referred to.
The shadows continued to pull back until a figure came into view. While they had hair pulled back in a simple band that went down just beyond their neck, the way the figure moved made it clear they were male. Something that was confirmed as the image shifted, granting sight of his face.
A scar ran over one eye, though it hadn't cost him his vision and pale green orbs stared back from within the shadows. Around him, shapes moved, and sounds echoed.
The man strode forward, a stylized helmet in his hands. While his eyes were pale, an unquenched fire burned within them. As he stopped at the edge of a platform, more figures could be seen.
The assembled horde stretched as far as the shadows allowed, lined up row upon row, all armoured as the man. The man closed his eyes, taking in the sense of anticipation. He could feel their desire, their lust for the battle that was about to come. A lust he shared.
His lips moved, an indecipherable murmur escaping them, yet to the assembled masses, those words demanded complete attention. Emotions in the crowd waxed and waned as the man spoke, his words manipulating their feelings like a conductor leading an orchestra.
Rage, lust, desire, finality. All these and more sensations rise from the crowd as the man continued to speak. The man ended his speech, fury swirling around his final words. A hand rose, and a distant sound came from a single point in the crowd. Within seconds, the crowd is chanting the same sound, clenched fists raised high. The sound the horde chanted is the same one the man used to finish his speech.
The man looked out over the chanting crowd, taking in all he saw. As the chanting continues, shapes move behind the man. A dozen figures emerge from the shadows, like the man and the crowd, armoured from neck to toe. Some wore their helmets, and others, like the man, carry them under an arm. Some carry weapons in their hands, a few seem to be of species different to the man. Yet all stand behind him, ready to follow his commands. To die if he so deems.
The man raised an open hand, and the crowd, as if gripped by magic, falls silent. Yet the fury, the lust for combat burns within them like the fires of a million, million stars. The flames of rage dance with the man's words, granting rhythm to the beating of their hearts; the pulsing of their blood.
All know this sound in their soul. It was the drums of war, calling them to battle once more.
The man's face twisted, disgust rippling over it. The crowd feeds on this, on his demand to end whatever it is that disgusts him. He pulled something from his belt, and a shaft of light, radiant with a superluminal light, the core dark enough to swallow the light of a star rose into the sky. Behind him, the figures raised their weapons. Some shine with light like the man's. Others glint as light catches the rippled metal of their making.
The crowd joined in, weapons of every kind and shape rising, thrusting upwards in time with the man's words. A tidal wave of fury, of terror, of power not seen in centuries, grows. The man stopped; silence fell over the gathering.
The man lifted his helmet, sliding it over his head. Behind him, those carrying their helmets mirror the action. With the blade of white and black still held aloft, a single word emerged from the now helmeted leader.
As the crowd chanted the word, the shadows closed in, devouring the scene until nothing remained.
The shadows swirl, pulling back once again. A figure can be seen pacing. On his back, a cloak swished about with each step, each turn the figure made. The shadows pull back further, and new figures could be seen. Their faces not quite coming into view as they waited nearby. Some were sitting, others standing, and all waited and watched the man as he paced.
The man's form was tense and tight. As if the slightest touch would cause him to explode. His hands were clutched behind his back so tightly they appear almost ghostly white.
Concern, confusion, fear. All these sensations and more radiated from him as he paced. The figures nearby shared these feelings, though it was diluted. Their focus was on the man, and not whatever had the man on edge.
Mid-stride, the man stopped. His body snapped around as a new figure stepped from the shadows. Their face was hidden, but they were covered in bright white light as if they were an angel sent to speak with the man this day. Murmurs came from the new figure, and the man's emotions shifted as if a switch had been thrown.
The fear, confusion, and concern were gone, replaced now by a delight that could bring life to a barren moon. With joy that would bring warmth even in the depths of deep space.
The man lifted the new figure, catching them off-guard, and twirled them around, showering the angel-like being in his joy. A second later, the man lowered the figure to the ground even as the others in the background stood. Their joy mingled with those of the man's.
The man took off at pace, carried by the desire to find the source of his delight. Around him, figures and objects flew past; not staying out of the shadows long enough for it to be clear who or what they were. He extended a hand, and the shadows in his way parted, bending to his will.
A new figure came into view. They were resting on something. A bed. Their face was hidden even as the vibrant green orbs of the man locked on them. Around the new figure, their hair, dark like chocolate, rested. Like a tree about to flower with life. The man reached forward, a hand coming to rest on the figure's cheek, which they leaned into.
The new figure shifted. They raised their arms, holding something small, precious within. The man reached out slowly, the bundle, along with the figure, the source of the man's joy. As he took control of the bundle, a faint, distant whimper echoed from it. The man's joy took flight, blinding all nearby and forcing them to share in his disbelieving delight.
As he held the bundle to his chest, one hand moving near it, the figure, in a feminine voice, uttered a single word.
As the word was spoken, the shadows closed in, consuming the scene.
The shadows swirled once again. Crackles could be heard as they started to shift, and slowly two beams of sunfire came into sight.
The beams, one black, and one red, crashed into each other. Sparks flew everywhere before they pulled back. The black beam moved; the red shifted as an odd hiss could be heard. As the beams clashed again, and the figures wielding them became clearer, the hissing continued, providing a steady, terrifying beat to the movement of the beams and figures wielding them.
The black blade was being wielded by a figure in armour, a cloak billowing behind him. He leapt back as the red blade thrust forward. Between the blade and the man, the shadows swirled, rushing toward the red blade. The figure holding it, taller than the man, swiped an arm and the shadows settled. This new figure was draped in a cloak that covered their entire frame, though it was now clear the odd, rhythmic hissing came from this figure's head. Or from a strange glinting strip that seemed to cover the lower part of the figure's face.
As the man landed, the figure thrust forward a hand. Long, skeletal fingers pointed at the man. Ripples of corrupted power raced from the fingers and the man blocked them against his blade. Letting the darkness within it suck the power inward.
The man copied the figure's gesture, and crackles of red built up around his hand before racing, darting like bolts sent by a god, toward the figure. The cloaked figure leapt and spun, and the red bolts slammed into the shadows; making them erupt like a volcano.
The figure rushed at the man, the man at the figure. Their blades blurred as they moved. Sparks flew as they crashed and collided with each other. The dark figure pulled back and spun.
As they spun, they shrunk, the hissing slowly fading away. As the spin ended, the figure was now smaller, barely a third of the man's height. Their blade had shrunk with them, turning a comforting green as well.
The man hadn't changed, the stance and midnight blade ready for the new challenge. As he stepped forward, the now much smaller figure leapt. They went higher than the previous figure had, sailing far over the man's head.
The smaller figure bounced around, seemingly using the very shadows to redirect their motion. The man slashed at the air as the figure flew by, sometimes to defend the short green blade as it swirled around the figure, other times trying to swipe the figure from the air.
Red rage surged from the man's hand, slamming into the green blade. The small figure slid back, but they held their ground; their blade countering the rage cascading against it. As the rage died, the figure rushed forward.
The man backpedalled, their black blade swirling around to create a shield of darkness against the piercing storm of green. The man pivoted, an arm extended and the shadows behind him raced forward, forcing the small figure to retreat, to dance between the onrushing shades.
Behind the fight, sparks of colour shot past. Red, green, and yellow spears flew in all directions as shifting shadows moved around. Sometimes a spear struck a shadow, and new cascading colours rippled out from the strike. Yet even as the strikes came faster, as the ripples grew stronger, the combatants only had eyes for each other.
As their blades met once more, a brilliant bright ball of blue erupted, revealing the man's now darkened red eyes and the craggily green skin of the figure. As the blue light faded, the pair disengaged and moved back.
The small figure leapt into the shadows, and once more their form shifted.
They grew taller, dark robes covering them, and their blade once more turned red as it extended. The newly altered figure cackled with almost unhinged delight as the man rushed at them. Two pools of twisted, deranged yellow glared at the man's once more green orbs.
The red blade moved, flicking, slashing, prodding with dizzying speed. The man darted, shifted, blocked, and deflected as the air between them turned black with highlights of sickly red that never slowed, advancing with all the inevitability of time.
Two pairs of hands extended; blue twisted spears slammed into enraged black bolts. As they collided, a sick, warped laugh echoed around them even as the shadows closed in, engulfing the image.
The shadows pulled back as a man fell to his knees. An object fell from his hand, bouncing off the ground.
Over him, a spear of purple stood ready. Behind it, around its wielder and the man, blasts of colour, spears of energy, green, red, yellow and blue erupted like fissures of a volcano. As if the world around them was dying in a pyrotechnic display of unrivalled magnitude.
The figure with the purple blade stepped back, leaving the man. He stayed there, kneeling as the colours illuminated the unmoving figure. Shapes shifted in the shadows, brightened at random moments by streaks of colour that raced back and forth. Around the larger shifted shadows, smaller ones buzzed, like mayflies dancing before a light.
The purple blade vanished, the figure wielding it stepping back into the shadows. The man sighed, remorse and regret overriding the pain he felt. Around him, explosions erupted, some of the flames catching his cloak, setting it alight.
A klaxon sounded as a disembodied voice echoed out. "Abandon ship!"
Once more, the shadows shifted, and two figures came into sight. Though this time they weren't facing off, but instead walking hand in hand. Male and female, both in armour, walked forward. Around them, other figures could be seen, providing a guard as they walked, though details of the new figures stayed hidden in the shifting shade.
The pair reached a set of steps and walked up together, their movements in perfect rhythm.
As they reached the top of the stairs, the man stopped and guided the female to another figure, another man. The first man stepped to one side, his joy and delight having grown at handing the woman, his blood, off to another.
The female and the new man turned to each other, interlocking their fingers as cloth coloured black and bearing a blurred symbol, was placed over their hands.
In one voice, they spoke. "Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar'tome, mhi me'dinui an, mhi ba'juri verde."
I slumped forward, blinking as the Force released me from my trance. My hands reached the ground, stopping me from headbutting the floor. "Whoa," I muttered as I looked down at the tiles, my eyes shifting to my vambraces. I blinked in shock as I realised that I'd been in meditation for nearly sixteen hours.
The Force… had given me visions, though not in the same way as I'd experienced before. No, these were more like snippets. Of possible futures? I shook my head to get my thoughts straight.
They had to be possible futures as they couldn't all be the same future. Yes, I'd been in every vision, the green eyes and black lightsaber seemed to confirm that, but there'd been enough variance that the odds of even most of them coming true in the same timestream was… unlikely.
While it was possible I would fight Plagueis, Yoda, and Sidious in that order, or that I might well end up fighting all of them in another order, the idea that I'd have to wasn't comforting. I still felt I was a long way from being able to hold my own against someone on Master Ti's level, never mind a Dark Lord or Jedi High Council member. It had felt for over a year now that there was some sort of block on my abilities, at least when it came to using a lightsaber. While I had a few ideas as to why this was, I hadn't yet managed to push beyond it.
Another thing that stood out in the duels was that, while I'd used lightning against all three, and had clearly been wearing beskar armour in all of the instances, my eyes had been resoundingly red when fighting Yoda. Meaning I'd been drawing liberally on the Dark Side, at least in that moment, if not as a matter of course. I didn't deny I would probably have to do that against any of them, but I wondered what could possibly make me so willingly call the Dark Side forth to take on the ancient Jedi Master.
The defeat against Windu was one I didn't understand. Not because I didn't feel Windu could beat me, but for how much it reminded me of Darth Revan's fall against Bastila. Was the Force warning me that I risked heading down the same path he had, that I'd attempt to save the Republic by conquering it?
The clearest vision, which might well mean it was the most likely to occur – though that might just be me misconstruing things – was that of me leading an army. One comprised heavily of Mandalorians and a few other Force users. When added to the vision with Windu, it further suggested my path could potentially be similar to Revan's.
I shook my head, pushing thoughts of what my future alone might be and turned them to those that showed my glimpses of what I might have. Of seeing my wife, or lover, give birth to a child. To my daughter. That brought a smile to my face. I hadn't given any true thought to having children, though if I survived the wars to come, it was likely I'd have some. But feelings, experiencing the moment my daughter was born, and then giving her away in marriage. I'd be holding onto those visions for some time to come. Though any being who showed interest in my future daughter, whenever I might have a child, well, they'd better be ready to prove themselves a million times over before I let them marry her.
I shook my head, clearing my thoughts. The Force was granting me possible indications of what the future might hold. I hadn't expected that to be the case yesterday, but since I still had around eight hours to go, I wanted to see what else, if anything, the Force might offer up.
Now, I wouldn't place faith in them coming true, but having hints of what might be would, I felt, be useful. I may see something, like the birth of my daughter, that I would be willing to work for. Or in the case of the vision involving Windu and me dying aboard a ship as a battle raged around us, to avoid.
However, the one thing I wouldn't do was expect any of them to come true without me doing anything. As Master Yoda often said: Always in motion, the future is.
I walked into the hall, a single shaft of light illuminating the centre and the tiled symbol of the Jedi Order. Once I reached the light, I knelt and then the lights extinguished. I placed my blade in front of me, resting at the point where the wings bent inward toward the stretched northern tip of the star I was kneeling on, yet I knew I wasn't alone. I could sense movement around me through the Force, and a moment later, a circle of lightsabers ignited with me at the centre.
The blades elevated until they illuminated the faces of those surrounding me. Directly in front, I saw Master Windu, his dark skin bathed in the purple of his blade. To his left, were the diminutive forms of Master Yoda and Yaddle. To his right were Dooku and Fay with Fay's face lit by the green light of a lightsaber, one I suspected was borrowed.
"Cameron Shan," Windu's voice echoed around the chamber stopping me from seeing the other Council members that encircled me. "We are all Jedi. Through us, the Force speaks. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real." As he spoke, Dooku walked slowly, solemnly toward me. "Today, by the right of the High Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee, Knight of the Republic."
As Windu finished, Dooku's blade flicked out. I felt the heat from it as it raced by my ear. Yet, what touched my shoulder wasn't the burning pain of the energy weapon, but something else. The object slid down my chest and into my hands, letting me see it was my Padawan braid.
Windu lifted one hand from his lightsaber, extending it solemnly toward me, as my lightsaber floated up, lifted by the Force. "Take up your lightsaber, Cameron Shan, Jedi Knight. And may the Force be with you."
Barely able to keep a smile from my face, I reached out with my free hand and gripped the hilt. Dooku stepped back and I ignited my lightsaber, letting the familiar, faint roar of the krayt dragon pearl echo around the silent chamber. The dark core of the blade drew in the faint light in the room even as my face was bathed in the cool, white light of the edge. I stood and lifted my lightsaber to the same position that the others held theirs, Dooku having stepped back to reform the circle of Masters around me.
I could feel the faint sense of pride and joy coming from my Masters, though there was no hint of that upon Dooku's face as it was as stoic as ever. Fay wore a gentle smile, one mirrored by Yaddle and Yoda while Windu's expression was closer to Dooku's. A second later, the circle of lightsabers around me was extinguished, with my blade quickly also depowered. Before the darkness could linger, we were covered in strong, white light.
I looked around and saw the other Masters in the circle all seemed happy about my knighting. Even detractors such as Saesse Tiin and Even Piell seemed pleased about my new rank. Yet for the faint sensations of relief and acceptance I felt from the Council, my focus, my senses, were on my Masters as they stepped toward me.
"Masters," I said solemnly, lowering my head to Fay and Dooku.
Fay's smile grew and Dooku scoffed gently. "We are no longer your Masters, Cameron. There is little need for such deference," Fay commented as she extended her hand.
"So long as I draw breath, you shall remain my Masters, Master," I countered. Fay's smile grew wider upon hearing that even as Dooku stepped forward and rested his hand on my shoulder.
"Cameron, while this is a joyful day for you, it is also one for us. Before your arrival in the Temple, I had considered myself finished with teaching Padawans after what happened with Komari Vosa. Master Fay has gone longer than I've been alive without training Padawans." Fay nodded at that, not remotely bothered by any comment on her age. "Yet, despite our beliefs that our time teaching had ended, the Force had other plans. Just as you were drawn to the Temple by eddies of the Force working across time and space, so too were we drawn back here, sensing a shift within the Force that called out to us. While you have many years left before whatever path the Force has laid out for you is completed, it has been my pleasure to serve as your Master on this journey."
"I hope this isn't where our paths fully diverge, Masters. While I'm overjoyed to be knighted, I know that for all I've learnt, far more remains to be discovered."
That made Dooku smile and earned a nod from Fay. "Yes, the trials of a Jedi, of any with a strong connection to the Force, never truly end. Even decades later, I see now the Force still has a role for me to serve. As it has for Master Fay. Even after learning more about the Force and the galaxy than either of us may ever know, there is still much she has yet to learn. All Jedi experience new moments that reveal the wonders of the Force even after decades or centuries of life."
"All that has changed is that now, the Council sees what we've known for several years. That you are ready to learn without supervision," Fay added as her hand came forward and touched my chest. "While we will forever remain with you, the path you must now walk is one laid out for you. It will continue to intersect with our paths, of that I have little doubt, but the path is yours alone to walk." Behind her, I saw that the Council members, and others including Master Ti and Astaal Vilbum, Caretaker of the Council of First Knowledge, who were standing in for the missing High Council members, had started to move away. "Today is the moment your journey as a Jedi, as a servant of the Force, truly begins."
I smiled widely and nodded at her words. While I had reservations about the Jedi Order and the direction I knew it was heading, for today, I wanted to simply enjoy the moment of proving that I could become a Jedi Knight.
As I turned and started walking quietly with Fay and Dooku toward the exit from the hall, I saw a blinking blue notice. That, I knew, was for the quest Knight before Queen, as I'd beaten Padmé to the relevant ranks. Padmé was still serving as the elected Princess of Theed, though I knew it wouldn't be long until she was made Queen.
She'd turned thirteen not long after I'd turned sixteen, which was why I'd sent her the lightfoil before heading to Zygerria. While Ars Veruna was still king of Naboo, and the next expected election wasn't for another three years, Padmé would be queen by this time next year. I didn't know how or why Veruna would step down, or call an early election, but I knew he would lose. I hadn't done anything, at least as far as I knew, to alter Padmé's career arc and from what I'd heard on the Holonet, she was leading protests against Veruna and the Trade Federation.
Doing some quick mental maths, I would now be at about 10,000XP, far short of the 36,000XP needed to reach level 30 and the next update to the Interface. Level 30 was going to be important. Not just because I'd get a new Player Power Point, but because it would bring into effect the last update to the Interface. Or it would so long as I hadn't been lied to back when the Interface had last updated.
A gentle hand on my back from Fay, as we reached the door, drew me from my thoughts about the near future. As we exited the Hall of Knighthood, I smiled, planning to, for today at least, live in the moment and enjoy the fact I was a Jedi Knight at sixteen!
"Stop that!" I snapped out with a sigh as Sia-Lan bowed after I'd finished speaking. This was the umpteenth time that she'd done that today, the day after my knighting, as I'd spent time with her and our friends. As normal, we were sparring, but because I was a Knight, we could use a private sparring room, allowing us some privacy from the other members of the Order.
Of course, ever since my knighting, Sia-Lan, Darihd, and others had enjoyed teasing me by bowing after each pointer or piece of advice I offered. At first, it'd been amusing, but now, a day later, it was rapidly going from tiresome to downright irritating. Which was probably why Sia-Lan was one of the few still doing it.
Of course, my admonishing Sia-Lan was exactly what she wanted. "Yes, Master. Sorry, Master," She replied, punctuating each use of the word 'Master' with another bow. Though even without the extra bows, her tone made it clear she was far from sorry.
Her behaviour drew laughter from those in the room with us which only grew louder as I sighed loudly and ran a hand down my face. As my fingers lowered enough to see her again, she smirked and turned to walk away. My eyes drifted low, and an idea came to me.
My other hand twisted and my lightsaber flicked out. As it contacted her, she jumped, spun, and grabbed her arse. "H-hey!" She whined out, her eyes wide.
"What? You were misbehaving, and as your current Master," I emphasised the word as I twirled around my lightsaber – glad I'd not turned it off after our latest sparring match and that it was at a lower-power setting for training. "It's my duty to discipline you whenever I feel it's warranted," I smirked as I flicked the blade toward her, making her scurry back to avoid it clipping her chest.
"B-But..." She stammered as I waggled my eyebrows. Her cheeks darkened as her eyes scanned the room, looking for help from our friends. Sadly for her, most were laughing at how I'd turned the tables on her. "I…" Sia-Lan spun there, realising she'd lost, which gave me another sight of her arse as she scampered away. While her chest was the more impressive view, I did enjoy watching her leave almost as much as I liked seeing her approach.
Before she'd reached a bench with some other girls or could give them a piece of her mind for their lack of support, I heard a lightsaber ignite. I turned and saw, as I'd expected, Serra had stood and was moving toward the sparring circle. While things between us hadn't moved on much, she had confessed that she was oddly fine with me having fucked Bo. Plus, from what I'd sensed from her – and discovered from Observe – she was curious to hear about what we'd done and was interested in doing the same. Though she hadn't yet made an outward move to confirm that.
"Eager to lose again?" I asked as I turned to face her, twirling my lightsaber as I moved. "Or perhaps you enjoy looking up at me?" I added with a smirk. That made her cheeks redden and her eyes darted to Sia-Lan as our friend sat, twitches of jealousy easy to read on Serra's face.
"No," she stated as her focus returned to me as her grip tightened on her lightsaber. "This time I plan to win… Master." I slid into an opening stance, trying to not let my thoughts linger on how when she'd said Master, there'd been a spike in her excitement and desire. While it was a small thing, it helped settle my resolve.
If she hadn't made it clear she wanted something from me within a week, I was going to force the issue. Yes, Bo had suggested letting Serra make the first move, but I frankly wondered if Serra ever would. Yes, I was a Knight now, but this had been lingering between us for far too long. It needed to be brought into the open and dealt with, one way or the other – and I knew which way I wanted it to go – so it didn't cause us issues going forward.
My biggest issue was finding a way to get her alone, and by that, I meant away from the Temple, for long enough that things could be discussed. While Fay and Dooku had been generally fine with me leaving the Temple unaccompanied at times, or making it seem I was free to go where I wished, most Jedi weren't so trusting of their Padawans. No, calling it trust was wrong. They were concerned that a Padawan who'd grown up in the Temple their entire life wouldn't know how to handle Coruscant. After seeing how fucked things were below the shiny surface – and even on the surface – I could understand the reluctance of other Jedi. Still, that posed a problem as it was difficult to do anything in the Temple.
Now, to be fair, the Jedi were, if not relaxed, then generally understanding of Jedi having short, physical relationships; which is how they regarded what I had with Bo. They weren't exactly wrong about that, even if there'd been moments where I'd considered leaving the Order to keep what I had with Bo going. Still, when something happened between me and Serra, it would be clear to all that it was more than just a physical relationship. And that was where the Order would have a problem.
Thus, I needed a way to get her out of the Temple without us getting into trouble. I had a few ideas on that, but as Serra stepped closer, and ignited her second blade, I pushed them aside. While I knew I'd win the spar, Serra would push herself to the limit to score any points she could.
Hoping to put her off slightly, I let my eyes wander over her frame, which was no longer half-hidden by her robes. While I sensed hints of delight and desire from her, there was no outward reaction to my gaze. Well, unless you considered the azure blade thrusting toward me.
"I admit that, when you mentioned seeing the Holocron Vault, I had momentarily forgotten about this particular holocron," Dooku commented as I set a familiar Force storage device down on the table in front of us. "That said, I can understand why this one would be the first you wished to view."
I looked at Dooku and smirked. "Yeah, I have unfinished business with this one," I commented which drew a smile from Fay. The pair stood just behind me in the private room just off the Holocron Vault where Knights and Masters could view a holocron. The room allowed a Jedi to view almost any holocron – there was a restricted wing that only High Council members or certain other Masters could enter – in privacy. Well, from all but the High Archivist or members of the High Council.
Still, this was as secure a place as there was to view a holocron. The only downside was that I couldn't use it to acquire certain holocrons by placing them into my Inventory. I'd been recorded removing this holocron, so until I found a way to hack the security system, any idea of borrowing a few was off the table. Plus, I doubted Dooku, who I felt would support such a plan if I reasoned it logically, would need time to examine my plan and spot the flaws in it.
I raised my hand over the holocron, closed my eyes and reached out with the Force. The holocron shone brightly within the Force and carried a semi-familiar presence within. I pushed forward gently, using the Force to activate the device, and then, when I felt it react to my touch, I pulled back my hand and opened my eyes.
The holocron glowed as it drew on the Force to power itself and I watched as the gatekeeper of this particular holocron, Satele Shan, appeared.
"Greetings, fellow Jedi. May I ask your name?" the gatekeeper asked.
As when I'd last spoken with this gatekeeper, she frowned. "And who was your mother?"
"Jedi Knight Ressa Shan."
Satele's head tilted to the left. "And what is your rank?"
I couldn't help but grin as I replied. "Jedi Knight." Up until now, everything she'd said was the same as the first time I'd been brought before this holocron. Back then, she'd said that my being a Padawan was insufficient for whatever was held on the holocron that no one seemed to know about.
The image flickered and I felt the Force subtly shift within the holocron. "Rank sufficient. Access granted to level one secured files." I felt my Masters take a step forward, as curious as I was about what the holocron was about to reveal. Though I did wonder how many ranks of secured files the device held.
For about half a second the holocron went still as the gatekeeper image vanished. When it returned, the image of Satele appeared older, and less rigid. "Greetings Knight Shan. I am Satele Shan. Once upon a time, I was Grandmaster of the Jedi Order. I am also, from what glimpses the Force has granted me of your path, someone born long after you, yet from a time long before you currently inhabit." Satele shook her head and chuckled. "Even now, having spent years considering what I've seen, I struggle to fully understand what has happened. However, that is an effective way to describe how the Force behaves."
I couldn't help but smirk at that description as the Force truly was beyond understanding for if not all, then almost all beings in the galaxy.
"However, while the peculiarities of the visions granted to me continue to confound me even in my later years, what does not is that somehow, someway, the Sith survived until your time. I cannot say if the Sith you face now are descended from those I dealt with during my life, or if they are a new element that discovered older teachings and restored the Sith, nor can I offer any direct help. Anything I might leave for you in a specific location would struggle to survive the ravages of time. However, what I can provide is this."
Satele's image vanished, replaced by a map of the galaxy. As I watched, the map rapidly zoomed in, pushing past various worlds, from Ossus, through Mandalore, Onderron, and even Coruscant until all that remained was the Deep Core. Several systems blinked, drawing attention to them, though the only one I recognized was the Empress Teta system, as that was where Serra's family came from.
"During my time, a world of great significance to the Jedi, one central to our very foundation, was rediscovered deep in the Deep Core." At this, a point, as close to the actual core as one could get without likely being inside the radius of whatever existed there, started blinking. "While this map, and the detailed hyperspace routes, are no doubt invalid due to both stellar drift, and the shifting gravitational eddies of the Deep Core, this was the location of Tython as last plotted before I placed this holocron in the Temple Vault."
Even as she finished speaking, I spun to look slack-jawed at my Masters. "How?"
Tython was the homeworld of the Jedi, and their precursor, the Je'daii dating back to before the founding of the Republic. Back when the Rakatan Empire was the dominant galactic power. From what I'd read about the planet, it had been lost several times over the last twenty thousand years due to the shifting gravitational forces in the Deep Core, with the last known visit there during the New Sith Wars, over a thousand years ago.
"I…" Fay paused, her shock at what Satele had just revealed apparent on her face. "Satele Shan was one of several to rediscover Tython over the millennia. It was even said that, after she stepped down as Grandmaster, she retired and died of old age upon the planet's surface."
"Records from before the New Sith Wars are incomplete," Dooku said, taking over from Fay and doing a much better job of masking his shock, though I could still see the small signs that he was caught flat-footed by Satele's revelation. "This map, while as she says, is inaccurate now, is far more complete than any remaining ones in the Temple. Or at least any that I have discovered." He stepped forward, gently scratching his chin. "These stars," he pointed at some of the blinking points around Tython, "if we plotted their current positions, and thus determined interstellar drift, we would have a rough map for reaching Tython."
"Yes, it would be possible," Fay added, a fire coming to her eyes. "By using short hyperspace jumps in a suitable starship, and letting the Force guide you, I believe we could rediscover the planet."
"Wouldn't that take forever?"
Fay chuckled. "Perhaps not that long, but several years I suspect. Even with the Force to guide someone, hyperspace in the Deep Core is incredibly unstable. Often, routes from one star to another require replotting on a monthly, if not weekly, basis." Fay held out her hand, and I felt the Force react before the holocron turned off. "This knowledge… I suggest we limit it to ourselves and only discuss it in the most secure of locations, such as the Raven. With the rising threat of the Sith, a threat few dare acknowledge is possible, never mind believe is close if we could rediscover Tython… We may have a refuge for the Order if the darkness grows too strong."
I looked at the holocron, finding it hard to argue with Fay's words. Tython was, bar having to rediscover it, an almost perfect refuge from the plans of Sidious. While I had faith I could stop him, and prevent the rise of the Empire, having a backup plan; one that would protect the history of the Jedi – though without their narrow-minded dogma if possible – would be invaluable.
While I doubted that I'd have the time to do this, from the look on Fay's face, I suspected she felt drawn to the mission. I wouldn't stop her from trying, though a part of me was worried that if she did this, then I might never see her again. The idea of losing her, of never seeing her again and not knowing what her fate was…
I shook my head once, clearing that worry.
It wasn't set that she'd attempted this, not now at least. If she did, then I planned to spend time with her before she did, so that if the worst should happen, I'd have more memories to hold onto.
After all, I'm still alive, but you are dead. I remember you, so you are eternal.
5 years after starting this story, and 8 years in-story, Cam is now a Jedi Knight. I never expected the story to take this long to reach this point - never mind reach the prequels) but it has. It's been a great journey, yet even now, Cam is only just exiting the beginnings of his adventures in this galaxy.
Also, "Mhi solus tome, mhi solus dar'tome, mhi me'dinui an, mhi ba'juri verde" translates as "We are one when together, we are one when parted, we will share all, we will raise warriors".
As always, this story is crossposted on Questionable Questing and Archive of our Own.
And now Royal Road, though I'm working on posting a few chapters per day and it hasn't yet caught up with posting here.
You can find me (and the backroom team who help with this) on Discord at:
Story Discord link: /UM89QfyQk3
Secondary Discord (for general chaos/Gamer stories): /wd3tUYWVCd
Regardless if you join the discord or support my writing, I hope you enjoy the story and suggestions, valid criticisms, and ideas are always welcome.
And of course;
May the Force be with you. Always.