And here's Chapter 16.
"Ungh", Jayden groaned as he picked himself up off the floor of the cave, "You alright?'
"Yeah, I think so," Aeriss replied, "It's really dark in here. Who knew a sky bison hated being underground so much?"
Jayden stood up and brushed himself off before igniting one of his lightsabers. "Yeah, poor Appa. Between that wolf bat attacking, and that torch dropping against his foot though, I can't say I blame him."
"Not to mention those travellers and that awful music they kept playing." Jayden added.
"C'mon, they weren't that bad" Aeriss chuckled.
"I've heard gundark shrieks that were more settling."
"What's a gundark?"
"Oh, nevermind. You're better off not knowing."
Using the blue glow of his lightsaber for light, Jayden walked over to the pile of rocks and debris where the tunnel used to be. He placed his hand against the wall and closed his eyes.
"I wonder if anyone got hurt in the cave in." Aeriss said.
"No, they're okay." Jayden replied, eyes still closed.
"Yeah, Aang used airbending to push Sokka and the hippie musicians out of harms way. They're stuck in the other tunnel. Aang, Katara, and Appa are safe on the other side of all this debris."
"Then we should be able to move these rocks and get back to them, right?" Aeriss asked as she started moving some of the rocks and debris.
"No." Jayden said flatly, as he opened his eyes. "The rocks and debris are too thick and too loose. Any attempt to move them, either physically or with the Force could cause the tunnel to cave in more."
"Great, so we're stuck." Aeriss said, putting her hands on her hips. "Only way to go is forward, then."
"Yeah, but this cave is a labyrinth, if we wander along aimlessly, we may never get out."
"Okay, Mister Wizard, can't stay, can't go, what do you suggest?"
"Not sure, but I do have an idea. Here, hold this, and don't touch the blade to anything, especially me, or yourself." Jayden said as he handed her his lightsaber.
Aeriss took it carefully in her grasp, noting the soothing hum and vibration of the deep sapphire blade. "What are you going to do?" she asked as Jayden sat down crosslegged on the floor, with his back toward the caved in debris.
"I'm going to attempt an old arcane use of the Force that I read about in my studies at the Jedi Temple, known as Force Sight."
"Yeah, it's a technique of projecting one's spirit out of the body. During times of war, Jedi would use it to scout ahead, down a trail or hallway. In essence, they could walk about unhindered and unseen by the enemy. They could see where enemy combatants were laying in wait to ambush them, find traps and perils, all while their body was in a safe location."
"Sounds handy, so you're like a ghost, and you can basically run on ahead and find the way out, then we can just walk right out of here." Aeriss surmised.
"Yeah, sort of, though I wouldn't really be a ghost, per se."
"Ghost, spirit, what's the difference?" Aeriss asked as sat down crosslegged a short distance from Jayden, being careful of the still humming lightsaber blade. "You said I can use the Force too, right? So, teach me. If we both do it, we can explore twice as many pathways and find the exit quicker."
Jayden smiled in the sapphire light, "Whereas I appreciate your enthusiasm to learn, I can't teach you this."
"First of all, because I'm not even sure I'll be able to accomplish it, and if I can't perform or master it, I won't have the slightest clue how to teach it. Second, I read that it takes a great amount of concentration, and without proper training in meditation and quieting your mind, I'm afraid you wouldn't be able to do it. I wouldn't want to give you an impossible task to start with, after all. Third, and most important, it comes with a dangerous risk. If I remain separated from my body for too long, it may become impossible to return, and without a spirit, the body will die. This is why most Jedi only used it for a short period of time before returning. Unfortunately, unless a find a way out quickly, I may have to remain for a while. Otherwise, we would only be able to move as far as I've seen, and there's no telling if that would be in the right or wrong direction. But I promise, if I can master this technique, I WILL teach it to you, when you're ready. Understand?"
"Yes, Master." Aeriss replied, begrudgingly.
"I detect a hint of sarcasm in that."
"Not at all." Aeriss smiled.
"Now, to do this I need complete concentration, and silence, if you would be so kind." Jayden said, closing his eyes.
"What's the magic word, Master?"
Jayden raised an eyebrow and opened one eye, "Please?"
"Fine, but only since you asked nicely." Aeriss replied with a mischievous grin.
Jayden closed his eye and breathed a fake exasperated sigh, "Keep an eye on my body while I'm gone, 'kay?"
"Well, that'll be an odd change of pace." Aeriss said as she slid herself backward to recline against the cave wall.
Realizing she was referring to the way they met, Jayden smiled and let himself sink into the Force. As he let his breathing slow, he focused on expanding his force awareness outward in a single direction. As he pushed further, he felt a slight tug on his consciousness. Determined, he pushed forward and suddenly felt himself standing. Opening his eyes, he saw the cave in a strange yellowish glow. Somewhere off the distance he heard a ringing, like a bell, but its pitch raised and lowered in waves. He turned around and saw himself stting there in a meditative pose, Aeriss was relaxing against the cave wall off to his body's right, turning the lightsaber hilt over in her hands.
So this is what an out-of-body experience feels like, Jayden thought.
Turning back toward the tunnel ahead, Jayden started walking, slowly at first, but picking up his pace as he became accustomed to moving about in his spirit form.
Upon coming to a fork in the tunnel, Jayden pondered which way he should try first. I wonder if I could try both, he thought. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on seeing himself standing in front of him. To his surprise, when he opened his eyes, he saw a mirror clone of himself. Well that was easier than I thought. Jayden's vision, however, seemed split, like he was staring at twin display screens on the bridge of a cruiser. Shrugging it off, he and his clone set off down opposite forks, looking for a way out.
Back at the cave in, Aeriss turned the still lit lightsaber over in her hands, wondering at it's sleek lines and craftsmanship. I wonder when or if I'll get one of these, she pondered. She relished in the hum of the blade and slight vibration of the hilt, the sound and feel were soothing somehow to her. All the while, she was keeping an eye on Jayden's meditative body. He was sitting in the same pose he had assumed shortly after they had met, crosslegged with his hands resting, palms up on his knees. She remembered thinking before, that he had looked rather handsome, for a pervert. Though, he had explained himself, and she somehow felt no reason to doubt him, however crazy his Force-thingy explanation had seemed. He still looked kind of cute in the deep sapphire glow of his strange light sword's blade. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed him twitch, involuntarily. She watched him for a minute, and when it didn't reoccur, she shrugged it off and went back to her musings.
Another fork. Another split. Jayden kept searching every possible exit strategy. His senses seemed dulled in this state, and he couldn't seem to use the force for much of anything. Probably straining enough just to use Sight, he thought. He was hoping to catch a whiff of fresh air, but his sense of smell seemed to be lost. How long have I been at this? he wondered. Ten minutes? An hour? Time seemed to stand still, a day passed in a second, and a minute took an eternity. Another fork. Another split. With each new iteration, his vision split again, becoming a veritable kaleidoscope of images before his eyes, each similar but different. Doing his best to keep track of each of them, he pressed forward. Images came and went, split and joined together as different iterations of himself split or met up again in the vexing labyrinth of tunnels that made up this giant cave system.
Back at the cave in, nearly an hour had passed. Aeriss had started to notice more twitching from Jayden's body, it was becoming more frequent. Quietly, because he had politely requested her silence, Aeriss rose to her feet and strode over to him. She held the lightsaber up so she could get a better look at his face. Large beads of sweat were forming on his forehead and running down the sides of his face. She gently placed the back of her hand against his forehead. He's burning up! she thought.
Quickly but quietly, she searched the ground for a couple of large rocks. Finding two that would work, she placed them next to each other and used her hand to dig a small hole in the dirt between them. Once she had accomplished that, she set the pommel of the lightsaber in the hole and leaned the hilt into the crook between the two rocks, effectively creating a stand. The light sword stood well enough on it's own, if at an angle, so she released her grasp on it.
She hurried over to where she had left her satchel on the ground and quickly retrieved her water pouch and a medium sized patch of cloth. Returning to where the she had left the light sword, she used its light to help her see to pour some water onto the cloth to dampen it. A little water splashed over and dripped onto the glowing blade, sizzled and turned to mist instantly. She allowed herself a brief second to wonder at the sight, before rushing over to Jayden's side with the damp cloth in hand. She wiped the sweat from his brow and laid the cool damp cloth against his forehead.
"Listen here, Mister Wizard, I know we just met, and I know you can be a peeping tom at times, but I'm not eager to watch you die either. If you don't come back, I swear I'm gonna find a way to reverse haunt you, so you better not die on me, Master."
Aeriss gasped and covered her mouth, realizing she'd broken her promised silence. I hope that didn't break his concentration. She stared at him for a moment, but he seemed unaffected, so she continued to pat the damp cloth against his forehead.
A long distance away, Jayden felt as though he were going in circles despite knowing he had taken every fork and tunnel and hadn't been in the same place twice. A week had passed in the last two minutes and this second felt like it could last all month. That distant ringing still drifted into his ears, though his auditory receptors seemed to be on vacation. As he stopped to ponder a moment, a voice drifted into his ear. Soft and sweet, melodic even. It seemed familiar somehow, not like an old friend, but a new aquaintance. He strained to hear the words being spoken, but they seemed out of reach. At last, a few of them sounded a bit clearer, "You better not die on me, Master."
Master? Who's master? Why do I know this voice? Jayden wondered to himself. He caught a hint of concern in the voice and that troubled him. But why?
Suddenly it came rushing back to him, Aeriss!
Jayden suddenly remembered his purpose in this cave, though how long it had been, he couldn't tell. Turning on his heel, he and all his iterations rushed forward frantically searching for the exit, any exit. He had to find a way out! Tunnels split and merged faster than he could keep track, but still no sign of an exit. Doubt crept into his mind, followed by fear. Soon, his primary spirit fell to his knees. If he could have had breath as a spirit, he'd be out of it. Doom seemed to sink in around him.
Back at the cave in, Jayden's body began to convulse and shake violently, rocks started moving around him as dust and dirt sifted down from the ceiling.
"Jayden? JAYDEN?" Aeriss nearly screamed.
Quickly but carefully, she laid Jayden down onto his back, and straightened out his crossed legs. His body shook violently and even began to rise off the floor. The ground was moving underneath him like a minor earthquake. The rocks she had set up as a stand for the lightsaber moved apart, causing it to fall. It sliced cleanly through a large rock, that just so happened to be in it's path, leaving slightly orange glowing edges.
Aeriss tried to hold down Jayden's arms to no avail. She chose instead to throw her entire body onto his in an effort to still or quiet his convulsions.
"Jayden, you need to come back now. You've gone far enough. Come back. Rest, we'll try something else. You hear me? Jayden?"
In the yellowish glow of Force Sight, Jayden felt more in the dark than ever. Staring at the floor, on his hands and knees, he tried fruitlessly to make sense of the tunnels and the cave. When out of the darkness, came another voice. This one older, familiar, like a long lost friend from a distant memory.
"Lost, have you become, Young Padawan?"
I know this voice, Jayden realized.
"Yoda!" he exclaimed, as he looked up, straight into the visage of the wizened old Master. Or a Force apparition of him anyway.
"Hm, Hm, Hmmm," Yoda laughed, as only he could, "Young Jayden, happy, I am, to see you alive."
"Master," Jayden said, bowing his head. "Alive, yes, but I don't know for how long. Aeriss and I are trapped in a cave, and I can't find an exit."
"Aeriss? A friend, have you made?"
"My... Padawan, Master." Jayden stammered, "Forgive me, I know it's against the Jedi code for a Knight such as myself to take on an apprentice. So very much has happened, Master, I can't even begin to tell."
"A Padawan," Yoda laughed again, "Yes, much has happened indeed, Young Jayden. Strong, you have become in the Force."
"It's this planet, Master, It's awash with Force energy."
"Stronger, you must become. If to train an apprentice, you wish."
"Great trials, I see in your future, Young Jayden." Yoda laughed again and seemed to ponder a moment, "No Code, have you broken. Confer on you, the honorary rank of Jedi Master, I do."
Jayden's jaw dropped open, to the amusement of the diminuitive Jedi before him.
"I'm honored, Master, and I thank you, but a title does me little good, if I don't survive to use it."
"When lost in darkness, ones becomes, Look to the Light, you must."
"But Master, I've tried that and I..."
"No, Try not. Do. or Do not. There is no try. May the Force, be with you, Young Jayden."
With that, the image of Yoda faded away. Jayden found himself reaching out to take hold of the small Jedi, but his fingers found no purchase. "Master!"
Jayden stared blankly at the spot where Yoda had seemed to stand only a moment ago. Was that a vision? Was he really here? Trans-galactic Force communication? Jayden's spiritual head hurt trying to comprehend it. The spot where Master Yoda has stood still seemed to glow amongst the darkness of the tunnel. Curious, Jayden pulled himself up and strode over to the spot. It was lighter than the earth around it. Lighter. Light!
Looking around quickly, Jayden spotted the source of the light, an opening in the wall of the tunnel. Big enough for a human to maybe squeeze through. Most assuredly, a human with a lightsaber, Jayden thought. He turned quickly and with inhuman speed launched himself back in the direction he had come.
Back at the cave in, Jayden's body suddenly stopped moving. His convulsions stopped, the rocks around him fell to the ground, and the ground stopped shaking. Aeriss pushed herself up off of him and looked into his face. "Jayden?"
She put her ear down near his mouth to listen for breathing. Nothing.
She pushed back again, taking hold of Jayden's shoulders, giving him a gentle shake.
"Jayden? Don't do this to me. Come on now. I was only joking about the peeping tom thing. Come back to me, Jayden. Who's gonna teach me about this Force thingy? Sokka? Aang?"
Aeriss leaned down and covered his mouth with hers, attempting to blow air into his lungs. She had seen a man do this to a child he had pulled from the river. The child had recovered, Why shouldn't it work this time? She placed her hands over Jayden's chest and pushed down hard, one, two, three, four times. Covered his mouth and blew again.
"Come on, Jayden. Don't die on me, Master."
Quickly retracing his steps, his various iterations met and collected one by one as his kaleidascope vision cleared to a single image. As he rounded the last turn, the scene before him took him off guard.
There lay his body, on his back, with Aeriss laying on top of him. His lightsaber lay a short ways away, with two sides of a rock laying on either side of the blade, smoke still rising from them.
"Jayden?" Aeriss was saying, "Don't do this to me..."
She actually cares, Jayden thought to himself.
"I was only joking about the peeping tom thing..."
WHAT PEEPING TOM THING? Jayden exclaimed, though only to his spirit self.
And there before his very eyes, her lips met his. Jayden might have blushed had he had the ability. So it's technically a form of resuscitation, but still, he thought to himself.
He walked over to where she and his body lay and looked down at her. "Hey, don't take this the wrong way, but I think I'm falling for you, Aeriss." With that, he turned so that his feet were roughly aligned with his body's and let his spirit fall backward toward his body.
Suddenly, Jayden's eyes opened and he sat straight upright, sending Aeriss backward a bit. Letting out a long and loud gasp for air, he coughed and hacked to get his breath back.
"Oh thank heavens," Aeriss sighed in relief, as she waited for him to regain his composure.
Coming around briefly, Jayden turned to look at her in the sapphire glow, "So, what's this peeping tom thing you mentioned?"
A look of genuine shock came over Aeriss face, "Wha.. whaddya' mean? You were unconcious. I mean, I didn't say anything like that!"
"Right, and Bantha's fly! Wait a sec, Appa's similar to a bantha, scratch that, nevermind." Jayden said with a wide smile on his face.
Aeriss smiled back, "So, did it work? Did you find a way out?"
"Yeah, yes I did."
"Thank heavens, I don't think I could go through that a second time, and I'm not so sure I wanna learn that one now." Aeriss admitted out loud.
"Yeah, we can talk about it later though. I think I know where I messed up, but no matter, long story. Let's get out of here." Jayden said as he stood up and retrieved his lightsaber.
"Agreed," Aeriss said as she collected her things, and they made their way through the tunnels, following Jayden's Force insight.
Somewhere far away, in a darkened room, in a great ivory colored tower, an automatic door whooshed open and closed. A dark complected man with a commanding but serene presence strode in and sat down across from a dimuitive green being with an incredible presence in the Force.
Master Windu looked upon the face of his oldest and wisest friend, and swore he saw a smile on the Jedi Masters lips. When the diminuitive being opened his large green eyes, Mace noticed that they glistened more than usual, as though tears were threatening to fall.
"Is everything alright? You seem a bit shaken, Master Yoda." Master Windu said in his deep bass voice.
"Spoken with Knight Sorne, I have."
"Jedi Knight Jayden Sorne? How? I thought he was far beyond our reach." Master Windu said incredulously.
"Strong in the Force, he has become."
"We're talking about the same Jedi aren't we? Jayden Sorne? The young man who barely passed his initiate trials because of his meager Force abilities? The one who somehow managed to learn and master all seven forms of lightsaber combat, but had difficulty performing a simple prediction test?"
"Yes. Deep in Force meditation, he was. Very deep. The planet, awash in Force energy, he said."
"Well that may explain his deepened connection to it. What else did he say?"
"Felt more, than hear, I did. A purpose, he has found, and a Padawan."
"A Padawan? Jayden? A teacher? But he's only a Knight!"
"Confer on him, the honorary rank, of Jedi Master, I did, until return, he can."
Master Windu shook his head, "You've always had a soft spot for the special cases, Master Yoda. If you believe he is ready, I will support it, but I'd like to see for myself."
"Understand, I do. Happy, I was, to see him alive."
Well, this was fun to write. But there's still more to come. Stay tuned, and May the Force Be With You.