So, back in the day before The Old Republic mmo was released, I belonged to a RP guild. This is a short story I wrote about my Mirialan Jedi Counselor, Eyan Jai-Suhn. It was the first piece of fiction I wrote with a fast-paced fight scene and also the first time I used the regressive time-jump mechanic to tell the whole story. At any rate, I hope you enjoy it and as ever, I appreciate all and any feedback!
Sudden silence replaced the background hum of activity, distracting Eyan from the news reports he was perusing. He looked up and, even as he extended his senses through the Force, he knew what he would find. Only one thing would have caused both the instant fearful attention of the locals and the flare of tension within his formerly jovial companion. With his senses now fully opened to the Force the Mirialan Jedi could not only see, but feel the Sith contingent that had just entered the Slaughtered Nerf.
Shortly after Ylaina and he had arrived in Aldera, his companion had convinced him to visit the Nerf. Given its proximity to the spaceport, the somewhat-seedy dive was a favourite of not only visiting spacers but also those locals who catered to the needs of the visitors. Eyan would not have chosen to visit such a place, but Ylaina had been insistent and in the end he had given up on dissuading the fiery woman. After three years of working with her he had learned that so long as he had his lightsaber nearby, it was safe to trust her instincts. This one had turned out to be spot on though and there had indeed been much useful information to learn from the patrons of the Nerf.
That was not to say that it had been easy or quick for the two Jedi to become accepted by the regular patronage. The locals were smart enough to keep from performing criminal acts in as public a location as the Nerf, so the Jedi had little cause to intervene in their activities. The locals, realising that the pair weren’t interested in turning them over to the Guardians of Peace without cause, began to largely ignore Ylaina and Eyan’s presence; an attitude which suited the Jedi perfectly fine.
Unsurprisingly, things had changed subtly over the past couple of weeks as news of the Sacking of Coruscant filtered throughout the Republic. This, combined with the way the Sith had been making their presence felt on the planet since the signing of the Treaty, had driven the locals to become a lot more sympathetic to the presence of the Jedi amongst them. Despite the fear the patrons were displaying in response to the new arrivals, Eyan could sense the background hostility and hatred the locals felt for the Sith.
Fortunately, he could also feel the seething emotion building within his companion. Unfortunately, he might not be the only one to sense it. Eyan reached his hand out and gripped Ylaina’s shoulder. “Calm yourself, Red; this isn’t the time or the place.” He spoke softly, subtly keeping his attention on the new arrivals and hoping not to attract the attention of the Sith party. Although it was not the first time the pair had encountered the Sith in recent weeks, Eyan could not dismiss the sudden feeling that something was different about this particular situation.
Green eyes flashing fire, his companion turned to look at him. Her words were quiet yet the heavy, barely suppressed emotions added a bite he was not happy to hear. “After everything they’ve done? After what they did to the Temple…” As she allowed her emotion to rise, so too did her volume. Eyan wanted to curse as his companion’s angry retort drew the attention of one of the Sith. Her head turned and as Eyan locked eyes with the jaundiced orbs, the hateful glare cast him into the past.
*** Six months earlier ***
Breaking stride, Ylaina jumped off of the ground on her left foot and kicked out with her right. Boosting away from the tree in a spin, she brought her paired lightsabers around in a blazing arc of azure light. The manka had no hope as the graceful woman first spun out past its attack and then drove the blades of energy through the frenzied beast. The dead animal continued in motion for a moment before the impact of Ylaina’s attack became apparent as the decapitated head rolled one way and the bisected body separated along another.
While he could have happily watched the graceful acrobatics and efficient blade work of his companion, his combat sense convinced him that his attention would be better spent by focusing on his segment of the melee. As he turned his head towards one of the felines prowling around him, one of the others capitalised on the distraction and leapt at the Jedi’s back. Eyan turned on the balls of his feet, bent at the waist and rotated under the attack, leaving the manka’s powerful jaws to snap shut on nothing but air. The doomed feline had no chance to register its surprise at the evasion before its momentum carried it through the bright blade of the lightsaber thrust up over Eyan’s head.
Returning to one of the defensive stances from his Soresu training, Eyan allowed himself the momentary luxury of acknowledging his feelings of remorse at the necessary death of the feline. If things had gone as he had originally planned, the pack would have at least had a chance at survival. Upon hearing about the unnatural decay of the local flora and fauna, Eyan and his partner had concluded that a Dark Side taint was the probable cause. Perusal of the scant records covering the period of the Sith invasion of Alderaan had confirmed their hypothesis, so the pair had travelled to the region to see what could be done about the problem. Although invisible to the local residents, the two Jedi had instantly recognised the nature of the miasmic cloud of corruption that had permeated the area.
Agreeing that penetrating to the heart of the tainted zone was the best course of action, Ylaina and Eyan had entered into the swamp-like terrain but before they could make much forward progress, the hunting pack had found them. The Mirialan had quickly realised that he had underestimated the strength of the taint. The manka’s exposure to the taint had caused them to not only undergo significant growth but also seemed to have increased the feline’s base intelligence. His original plan had called for the taint to be lessened or preferably neutralised, thereby allowing the local wildlife to return to normal. With great sadness, he had acknowledged that such a plan was no longer viable.
After several attempts at bypassing the pack failed, there had been no other choice left than to draw their lightsabers and allow the manka’s to ambush them. While there had been little doubt concerning the eventual outcome of the fight, the felines’ eerie coordination had consistently kept the Jedi on the defensive. After several minutes of intense fighting, the Jedi had managed to weed out the weaker individuals of the pack. With having opened up the space they needed to go on the offensive, the fight became less desperate and with each death of a manka, it became easier to sense the remainder through the Force.
With only two of the pack left to deal with, Eyan knew the battle was almost over. If he held out against the larger feline currently prowling around him, Ylaina would quickly dispose of the second animal and join him in ending the fight. Deciding to stay on the defensive, the Mirialan prepared himself to receive the final attacks of the giant cat. Reversing the direction of its angry prowl, the manka’s large head turned towards the Jedi and their gazes locked one upon the other. As his cobalt blue eyes met the spiteful, jaundiced eyes of the feline Eyan realised that the beast knew its death was upon it. With that insight came the knowledge that the beast held no fear of its demise, but rather its corrupted hatred demanded that it inflict as much damage as it could before its descent to oblivion. In that instant, Eyan knew hate for the Dark Side that’s very nature could so warp life until it possessed such eyes of death.
The instant passed and with a blink, the spell was broken. The manka roared in defiance and rage, lowered its head and charged.
*** Now ***
With a blink, the past and the present separated and Eyan refocused on the moment. The satisfied grin slowly spreading across the face of the Sith female gave him cause for concern as he was fairly certain that many fluffy critters had seen similar expressions on the faces of predators shortly before being toyed with and consumed. Suspecting that things were going to get a lot worse before they got better, Eyan turned to Ylaina. “Be calm!” he begged his volatile companion. “They desire sport and we must not give it… If there is no emotion?”
When he heard the expected reply of “There is peace.”, Eyan knew he could trust in Ylaina’s Jedi training to help her becalm herself. That freed him to subtly observe the members of the Sith party who, alerted by the female leading them, had turned to look towards the booth the pair occupied. The glee with which they were observing the Jedi dashed any hopes that it was only the woman seeking to make trouble. After several long seconds, the leader nodded and led the foursome to a table between the Jedi and the exit. As unobtrusively as possible and drawing on years of experience, Eyan assessed the troublesome group in an attempt to take their measure.
The two human men were displaying too much false bravado for the Mirialan to consider them more than a minimal threat. From their attire and the way they unconsciously hunched away from their companions, he suspected that they were just a pair of bully boys from the Sith forces who had latched onto a bigger bully to hide behind. The comfort shown in how they wore the holstered, military-issue sidearms indicated that while the pair could probably hold their own against the locals, they held little threat for the two battle-hardened Jedi.
Turning his attention to the catlike grace the lithe massassi warrior’s movement indicated, Eyan acknowledged a much greater threat. A combination of the elaborate twin-bladed sword he carried and the way he positioned his body with regards to the female told Eyan that this was a highly trained bodyguard who was likely prepared to sell his life so that his companion could live. Knowing the Sith reputation for petty intrigue and infighting gave the Jedi an inkling of just how good the bodyguard was likely to be at his profession.
The female member of the group was of the most concern to the Mirialan. Obviously a force user, she stalked with the natural grace of a born predator. It would be of no surprise to find her highly proficient with either the double-bladed lightsaber or whip that were belted to her hips. Given her eager, straining posture, he surmised that patience was not likely a virtue she cultivated. The biggest unknown was her ability to wield the Force. Aside from the jaundice of her eyes there was little corruption to mar her obvious natural beauty. Her aura didn’t seem as potent as that which he had come to associate with the more-powerful Sith adepts. If he had to guess, she was probably only recently promoted from apprentice. Of the four, this one was the most lethal and unpredictable.
After only a few seconds of analysis, Eyan knew enough about the group to know that he was right to be worried. These Sith were out for blood yet it seemed like they were under orders to only defend themselves from attack. If the Jedi endured the hazing without engaging them, the Sith would eventually give up and that left a small window of opportunity to defuse the situation and escape the closing noose. Were it just himself Eyan knew there would be no real danger, but Ylaina had always had trouble putting aside her feelings towards the Sith. That trouble had only gotten worse since the loss of the Jedi Temple during the Sacking of Coruscant and the subsequent cessation of hostilities.
His friend’s emotions seemed to be waxing powerful now though and he was pretty certain he hadn’t seen her this close to losing control since that mess over in Gourda Province two years earlier…
*** Two years earlier ***
His left foot slid out from under him as it tracked across a slimy part of the sewer walkway. Throwing his weight forward, Eyan planted his right hand onto the walkway and shoved off. Curling his body up, he arced through the air to a three-point landing on the adjacent walkway. Learning from his mistake, his companion sidestepped the slime and darted off into the gloom. By the time he had tested his left foot for injury and started moving off, the last of her red hair was disappearing around the turn ahead.
The Mirialan took off after her, jumping across the channel to the other ledge before darting around the corner after Ylaina. He couldn’t let her get too far in front of her, not when she was running with this much anger in her head. He had to be there when she caught up with their quarry to protect her as much from herself as the creature they hunted. To be honest, he wasn’t surprised at her reaction. He had felt something similar when he had first heard about the case.
The first body had been discovered barely a month ago in the Gourda Province, just after the onset of the winter season. Initial investigation deduced that the child had been set upon and savaged by some kind of animal. By the time the body was found, there was little left to identify the remains as belonging to a human at all. Although the system had been unable to match the genetic material to any existing records, the medical examiner’s had placed the child’s age at approximately seven years old.
The nameless child would probably have faded into tragic obscurity had it not been for the discovery of a second mutilated body only days later. Found before the carrion eaters could do too much damage, the remains were complete enough to identify the child as an eight year old missing daughter of a local mechanic. The underlying pattern of injuries was identical in both cases and the two were quickly connected. Fearing that a dangerous animal was on the loose the Guardians of Peace devoted a considerable task force to the case, despite being stretched thin dealing with the aftermath of the Sith Invasion.
Despite the discovery of five new victims, all pre-teen children declared missing from homes, the investigation had been unable to make much more progress than to determine the perpetrator was likely more humanoid than beast. Frustrated, the Guardians of Peace relayed a request for help to the Jedi contingent that had remained on Alderaan after the invasion. As one of the more senior representatives of the Order on-planet, Eyan had accepted the case. Fully expecting the horrors the case would reveal, he did his best to hide the assignment from his younger peers, especially Ylaina. He had grown fond of the fiery human and while he knew she had seen horrors on the battlefield, seeing them after the fighting had stopped was something else entirely and he would spare her from that if he could. Naturally, she held a different opinion on the matter and after one of many heated debates she had even sourly asked “Who died and made you the King of anything?” Eyan had given up on dissuading her from accompanying him after that.
Much to their regret, the pair was initially as stymied as the Guardians. There appeared to be little reason shown in the choice of victim, other than a loose grouping of their homes around the local town. When the next body turned up Ylaina took the failure hard. Eyan tried his best to ease his friend’s pain but met with little success as the case became personal for her. A few more nights passed with little progress and the Mirialan became more concerned with his friend’s obsession as she neglected her own needs in favour of perusing the same records time and time again.
Finally the investigation caught a break after a Guardian patrol chased a suspicious looking individual into the sewer tunnels under the town. The description of the fleeing man fit enough of the profile for Eyan to order the Guardians to cover as many of the sewer exits as possible while himself and Ylaina entered the tunnels to give pursuit. By his reckoning, they had spent over two hours underground before catching a glimpse of the quarry in the distance. Then the pursuit had truly begun.
He was not really surprised that Ylaina had been so deeply affected by the case. Most people would be and even he acknowledged the sickening horror of what had happened. Fortunately the Mirialan had been dealing with the horror of war and its aftermath for a lot longer than many of the Jedi currently on Alderaan and had long ago learned how to deal with the emotional storm such things provoked. That ability was one of his strongest tools against falling to the Dark Side and if he was going to stop the seed of corruption taking root within his friend, he had to stop her from acting upon the turbulent emotions currently holding sway over her.
Both the monster and Ylaina had distance on him now but fortunately he had the Force as his ally. The quarry was no Force-user and Ylaina was apparently too distressed to call upon her training. Reaching out with his feelings, he opened up to the Force and called upon it. A fresh wave of vigour poured through him and the tunnel walls began flashing by as he burst into frenzied motion. There was no longer any doubt in his mind that he would save his friend, especially from herself.
*** Now ***
Remembering how hard it had been to talk Ylaina back from the brink her powerful emotions carried her to, Eyan despaired at his options. The wounds she carried in her heart were too deep and too fresh after losing the Temple that had been her home for most of her life. He suspected the Sith group would not sit around idle for long enough to allow him the time needed to soothe and placate his friend. He would just leave and drag his companion with him if he thought there was any chance the Sith wouldn’t follow and ambush them the minute they were somewhere less public than the Nerf. With no witnesses to indicate otherwise, the Sith would be free to fabricate whatever tale they liked for the benefit of their superiors.
In some ways, it would be easier to just let the Sith have their way and dispose of the threat through combat. Unfortunately, with the Treaty in effect, Eyan could not condone a course of action that would give rise to such severe repercussions as those that had been agreed upon by both sides as the penalty for Jedi assaulting the Sith. Deciding that talking their way out of the trap was about the only thing left he could try, Eyan considered how best to apply his skills as a negotiator to the problem.
Barely had he disqualified the fifth tactic he had considered when one of the bravo’s made a jeering comment. While he noticed too late to catch what was actually said, his companion certainly didn’t. Ylaina was hallway to her feet before he was able to clamp a hand around the top of her leg. “Calm yourself!” he urged her as he pushed her back down into her seat. Turning all his vocal talents upon her and injecting as much command into his tone as possible, he scolded her. “You are no youngling or padawan to let them get to you like this!”
Embarrassed at his tone and words, Ylaina stopped fighting his hold on her. Turning her head towards him, she spoke quietly in a tight voice, thick with emotion. “This. Isn’t. Right.” He wanted to look away from those deep, dark eyes that demanded he somehow make things right. He saw himself damned in the depths of those captivating orbs and he was not sure he could blame her for it. After more than two decades of being involved in open warfare, it was hard to adjust to the new, enforced, peace and many of the younger Jedi were having a great deal more trouble accepting it than he was. Much of his time in the recent weeks had been spent keeping his peers from making mistakes they would regret.
He nodded, his eyes pleading with her to remember her training. “Remember the Code. There is no emotion…”
“…there is pea-“ came the expected reply before the second Sith soldier broke in. “Aww look, her boyfriend is afraid to let her speak with us. He must be scared of her finding out what real men are like!” the other Sith laughed at the disparaging words. Eyan ignored them and hoped Ylaina could do the same. He felt her stiffen in response to the jibe but to his relief did nothing further.
“Yeah, but while she’s entertainin’ us, I’m sure Elizara here would enjoy breaking in a new toy!” The two soldiers laughed as the Sith woman blew a kiss in Eyan’s direction. Face flushing angrily, Ylaina tore free from his grip and shot to her feet, a guttural growl sounding from her throat as she reached for her lightsabers. In a final bid to keep the peace he poured everything he had into that one command, even going so far as to reach out to his friend with the Force in an attempt to break through to her.
“Ylaina!”. His command froze her in place as he had hoped it would, but too late did he realise his mistake.
“Oooh, Yuh-lay-nuh. Pretty name for a pretty lass. How much will you charge to come back to the ship with us?” the first man suggested with a lewd wink.
For a moment there was perfect stillness, as if all activity in the entire universe had suddenly frozen.
Responding to the warning he felt through his connection with the Force, Eyan began sliding clear of the booth as time slowed to a trickle. He had experienced the phenomenon before and some troopers he had worked with had called it ‘fight time’. A mercurial flow of time that kicked in during life and death situations, sometimes hours passed like minutes and sometimes, like now, each and every heartbeat lasted a dozen seconds as the Force flowed through him and his sense became hyper acute.
To one side he saw Ylaina reaching for her twinned sabers, her face devolving into a mask of fury although to his surprise it was aimed at the female Sith and not the soldiers who had been taunting her. On his other side he registered the sudden grin on the face of the woman Elizara at the dawning of the moment she had been waiting for. He saw the flare of panic in the eyes of the soldiers at the Jedi’s fury although he had to admire the speed with which they controlled their flight impulse. The massassi bodyguard was reacting almost as fast as Eyan, already sweeping forward to protect his mistress. He could even see the eyes of several patrons of the Nerf widening as they realised what was about to happen.
Clear of the booth, the Mirialan reached out with the Force, summoned his lightsaber into his hand and activated the weapon. Ylaina was lunging towards Elizara, lightsabers already held out wide in preparation for a killing cross-strike. With further to travel than his companion, Eyan dove after the redhead. He was moving and reacting so much faster than anybody else present that another couple of seconds would see him intercepting Ylaina’s attack and stopping the fight before it could begin. Nobody had to die. He closed on Ylaina, his lightsaber curling around into the path of his friend’s weapons which were only now igniting. His perceptions focused on his fellow Jedi as he denied the pattern fate had chosen for her, denied the very reality of the situation with every fibre of his being.
Deaf to his demands, reality moved on and he ran out of time. The soft, surprised exclamation from Ylaina tore into Eyan’s gut as if it were him that had just run onto the massassi sword now impaling his friend. Even as her suddenly nerveless fingers relaxed around her lightsabers and the twin cylinders deactivated and spilled to the ground, Eyan was diving forward to catch her. He was strong with the Force and well trained. He could heal the wound. She would be fine. She couldn’t die while he still lived. All he had to do was get to her and everything would be fine.
His sudden inability to move perplexed the Mirialan. He couldn’t save Ylaina if he couldn’t reach her yet here he was unable to move. He could feel his arm trembling although he wasn’t sure why. Something was terribly wrong. Everything twisted out of focus as the overwhelming flow of information hit the wave of shock and rebounded within his mind. He blinked as sensation returned to him and he came face to face with the leering Elizara and the angry red lightsaber blade that had locked against his own and checked his momentum. Momentarily freed from the shock, he willed himself past the paralysis that had frozen him solid. He had to end this quickly, before Ylaina ran out of time.
For a moment, his inability to move perplexed the Jedi. He couldn’t reach Ylaina if he didn’t move. Why was his arm trembling? The ithorians senses rebelled on him as he sought to process the overwhelming volume of information. He blinked and came face to face with the female Sith and the angry red lightsaber blade that had locked against his own and checked his motion. He willed himself past the shock that had paralysed him. He needed to resolve this before Ylaina ran out of time.
With the two soldiers in the process of drawing blasters, Eyan knew he needed to manoeuvre into more space. Sliding his lightsaber blade along the blade of his opponent, Eyan leapt a couple of metres to the side, putting the Sith woman between himself and the blasters. The Mirialan saw the bodyguard casually use a foot to push the body off of his sword. As the blade tore loose from Ylaina’s stomach, Eyan could not help but notice how the bright red stain of her blood muted the shine of the silvered blade. His attention returned to his opponent as she twirled her lightsaber around in preparation and, with a grin, stepped in to attack.
Slipping into a Soresu stance, Eyan brought his blade up against the outside of her attack, pushing her strike past him and adding momentum to her follow through. As the second end of her saber swung around, he reversed his own and struck in the opposite direction, stalling her attack and momentum. Before he could capitalise on her weakened position one of the soldiers saw an opening and fired his blaster at Eyan. The bolt was deflected into the floor but the distraction gave Elizara the time she needed to recover and launch another attack.
For several long, long seconds Eyan submerged himself into the flow of combat, giving his all just to defend himself without harming the other patrons of the bar. In a momentary break in the flow of parries and deflections, he saw the distressingly large pool of blood spreading out from underneath Ylaina’s still body. In an instant he knew that he would not win the fight soon enough to help her unless he changed his tactics. Reaching out through the Force he pushed a wave of air at the Sith, leaving them staggered for a precious few heartbeats. Taking full advantage of the reprieve, Eyan dropped his lightsaber, focused as much Force as he could and slammed his hands together.
The focused concussive blast, amplified through the Force, punched outward in a cone and tore through the Sith, launching them violently backwards through the air. Most of the glass in the path of the blast shattered, raining fragments to the floor. Some of the patrons unlucky enough to be caught on the periphery of the blast were knocked to the floor. Ignoring the devastation he had caused Eyan crossed to Ylaina’s prone form, rolled her over and easily picked her up. He could not remember if she had always been that lightweight and frail. Using the force to return his lightsaber to his belt, Eyan fled from the Slaughtered Nerf.
Half a minute and three blocks later, Eyan lay Ylaina down. Lifting her tunic, he tried to inspect the wound but there was just too much blood. He reached out through the Force and sent his perceptions into her body, taking stock of the damage and assessing the necessary approach to save her life. With sickening shock, he realised she was slipping away from him. He poured his all into healing her, demanding that her destiny be changed.
She was murmuring his name, he realised, as his own exhaustion and shock pulled him inexorably back to his own body. He leaned in. “Hold on Ylaina! I can still save you!” he implored her to conserve what little strength she had left. He tried to reach back into her to continue his attempts to heal her, but could feel her using the last of her energy to block him. “You can’t leave me!” he begged, so grief stricken that he almost missed her whispered response.
“Yes, I can...“ She took a couple of shallow breaths before continuing. “The Force is with me and now I must go...” Another shallow breath. “Please don’t blame yourself for this.” She smiled weakly. “You always said my temper would get me into trouble one day.” Her breathing became more laboured and irregular. “You shouldn’t be right so often. You’ll get a big head.” Eyan looked into her eyes as she took her final breath and admitted the truth that both had avoided for so long. “I love you.”
A shudder ran through her body as she died in his arms. He whispered his own truths into her hair as his tears fell. He knelt there for a while afterwards, numb and in shock, rocking her body against himself.
*** Three years earlier ***
Eyan ran through the forest with several other members of the Republic force. He had volunteered to come to Alderaan to stop the Sith invasion and was now leading one of two groups towards a Sith encampment. He had briefly met the Jedi who was now leading the other group. She was incredibly attractive and carried herself well, but was young, in the way that so many of the newer Knights seemed to be these days. She had introduced herself as Ylaina, a human from Coruscant who had known little of life outside the Jedi Temple there.
He had sensed that her emotions were never far from the surface and it wouldn’t have surprised him to discover she possessed a volatile temper. He spared a final thought for her before focusing on the battle to come. Hopefully that temper wouldn’t get her killed. She showed promise.