The Sith Lords: Part 9

This chapter’s theme is Torukia! Also things ended up being too long again; this thing is yet another chapter longer than it was previously. : P

Part 8

 

Part 9: Hollow Eyes, Blazing Soul

 

Bao-Dur was fully healed from the Sith attack now; after she’d gone to Onderon with Mical, he and Mira had returned to the Ebon Hawk, trusting in Mira’s wilderness skills to keep them alive and uneaten. He’d spent the rest of the time refining Atton’s repairs, and Mira had negotiated with the Mandalorians for more parts for better repairs.

Selyn was happy to see him healthy and busy, but he looked askance at their new companion and called her aside in the garage shortly after they’d gone into hyperspace. “A moment, please?”

“Is everything all right?” she asked, but there was a crease between his dark brows.

He glanced towards the door to the common area. “I don’t know how you do it. Aren’t you bothered by him?”

“Him who?”

Bao-Dur lowered his voice even more. “Mandalore. Traveling with him… It brings back too many memories.” He pinching his lips tightly together for a second, eyes downcast and angry, then took a deep inhale and exhale. “Don’t worry about me, I won’t cause any problems. But if Mandalore steps out of line, I’ll put him out the airlock.”

Selyn glanced in the same direction as well. “He’d probably like to see you try. But I thought you were doing better with Mandalorians? Kelborn and Bralor aren’t so bad, are they? Now that we know them as people.”

“Just because I didn’t want that one man, Kumus, to die of starvation or cannocks doesn’t mean I like them. And you know as well as I that their philosophies – or at least the way they put them into practice – is horribly flawed.”

“I do have to admit that, but this Mandalore seems… more controlled. He speaks of having another Great War, but he’s not mindless. I think you’re overreacting a little.”

“You’re probably right. I guess I’m just not used to the idea of fighting alongside Mandalorians.”

“Mandalore’s no threat to us,” she assured him.

“You’re too trusting, Selyn.” Ah! He’d used her first name. She could count the number of times he’d done that on one hand. He meant what he said, but he was going to trust her. She could have hugged him.

 

She felt Korriban’s pull in the Force as soon as they came out of hyperspace above the planet. The entire planet was barren and lifeless, and at first Atton couldn’t find where to land. Eventually the sensors picked up a lone automated beacon, sending the signal ‘DRESHDAE’ out into space over and over, but the rest of the planet was silent.

“It’s as good a place as any, I guess,” the pilot muttered, taking the Ebon Hawk down through atmosphere towards the mountainous desert region that spooled out below them.

“It’s the right place,” she said, distantly.

He shot her a suspicious look. “That a Jedi thing you’re doing?”

“There’s something in the Force near there,” she said. “…It’s… calling me.” It wasn’t the whispering screams of Dxun, it was more gentle, but compelling. She didn’t think it was Master Vash.

She didn’t trust it, but on the other hand, she rarely felt the Force pushing or pulling her the way others seemed to, not when it came to matters of destiny. Perhaps that was one reason she’d joined the Mandalorian Wars so quickly. Most of the major decisions in her life, she had felt, were hers and hers alone. HK and Kreia had shaken her faith in that belief. Although that wasn’t the Force’s fault. Probably.

But there was something calling to her down on Korriban, and she was going to find out what it was, whether or not she trusted it to be benign or beneficial. It probably wasn’t. This planet had been a revered place for Sith for generations on generations, and the Force was murky here, pressing on her mind like a weight. She wondered how much her students felt it.

Her students were conversing among themselves still when Atton put the ship down in a monolith-filled valley. The source of that siren song was very nearby, and the old ruined Sith Academy, where Master Vash was likely to be, was at the closed end of the valley. While the others deliberated on who would stay and who would go, she stepped out of the ship and into the arid twilight of the Valley of the Sith Lords.

It was completely and utterly lifeless, a fact driven further home by burned and desiccated corpses scattered across the valley floor. There had been a great battle here years ago, before silence had regained its everlasting reign on the place. The only sound was the lonely wail of the wind through the stones, wearing the massive carvings into dust infinitesimally slowly. Her heartbeat was loud in her ears by comparison.

It was a truly dead world.

 

Atton had to come along. He’d never been to Korriban, though he’d heard whispers of it in the part of his life that he wanted to forget, and what he’d heard in those whispers… No way he was letting Selyn out of his sight now. Dxun had been bad enough, with her memories there, and Kreia making him stay on the ship. Here, even he could tell that some kind of doom was waiting to swallow her whole, maybe that ‘call’ thing she was talking about. Maybe the rest of them would get away from the inevitable trap, being only fledgling Jedi as they were, but it wanted her.

And he was damned if it was going to have her.

The silence bore down on them all; the crunch of their footsteps on the stone and gravel seemed horribly loud, echoing from the walls around them. No one spoke. It seemed like it would be bad luck.

Of course Mical had to join them; the brat still worshipped her every step. What was surprising was Bao-Dur not wanting to come with, but whatever. Mandalore and HK just wanted off the ship.

And Visas was with them, of course. She was a former Sith. She probably felt whatever was here better than he could.

The real question was, how much did Selyn know it? She felt something, she’d said so. But she was still walking unhesitatingly in front of them, and what he felt of her spirit felt as serene as ever. Maybe that ‘weight of the galaxy’ thing was a little more obvious today, but that was all.

The valley was tapering to a narrow little canyon hopefully leading up to that Sith Academy, or whatever it was supposed to be. They rounded a corner and were hit smack in the face with a foul smell that made him retch, even in the dry air. Mandalore must have been smirking inside his helmet, although with the way he never took it off, Atton wouldn’t have been surprised if it smelled just as bad in there all the time. Maybe this planet wasn’t completely lifeless, after all. “Ennnngh. What’s that stench?”

Visas extended a hand towards a crack in the rock. “Listen – the wind from the cave tells of great power within, recently awakened.”

“Yes, a great powerful stench,” he snarked savagely, not at all liking where this was headed. Selyn was walking inside. “Whoa! Hey, where do you think you’re going?”

She didn’t answer, of course, only vanished into murky gloom. He hurried after her.

She seemed to know where she was going, igniting her lightsaber to use as a light source… and also to draw anything living here to the sight and sound of the humming violet. Already he could see flapping wings as some kind of mynock-like creatures swooped on her.

Blasters would be louder than lightsabers, but easier to kill them with. Ah, decisions.

HK and Mandalore had already made their decision, since they didn’t have lightsabers, blasting away deafeningly in the enclosed, reverberant space.

Selyn was always ahead of them, no matter how hard he tried to catch up to her. It was like a bad dream, seeing the back of her small straight figure carrying on resolutely in the light of her lightsaber, and then their following group getting mobbed by more shyracks. He thought they were shyracks. They were too big to be mynocks or hawkbats.

And then there came a point, after they crossed a narrow bridge over a chasm one by one, where he simply couldn’t go any farther. She could; he couldn’t.

He tried, of course, but the Force – or something Force-related – was so thick he just couldn’t, his limbs turning to lead the harder he tried. But the others were having as much luck as he was, even the droid. Ahead, she vanished into the darkness, the glow of her saber disappearing around a corner in the tunnel.

He went to sit on the edge of the chasm, brooding, fiddling with his lightsabers. There wasn’t anything he could do now, and it made him feel sick.

Still no one spoke.

Until Mical shouted, and he jumped up, lightsabers blazing, to find the Sith were attacking. Oh yes, he remembered those outfits from the Harbinger. So they’d tracked them to Korriban? Or had they been here all along?

Only one thing was for sure: they couldn’t get past to Selyn. He twirled the orange lightsaber in his left hand. “Bring it.”

 

The Room of a Thousand Fountains was as peaceful as ever, and she strolled through with Alek’s tall, gangly figure at her side. “It’s good to see you again. Dantooine keeping you busy?”

“Yep. Peaceful, but plenty of work to do in the community. You?”

“It’s been a bit quiet here without you and Revan,” she said. “Not that I mind, of course!” She elbowed him in the arm, and he chuckled, rubbing the spot where she hit him.

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about Revan.” His voice lowered, and his expressive dark eyes narrowed. “You’ve heard about what’s been happening on the Rim, right?”

“Yes.”

“Tell me you can’t stand waiting around while the Council says they ‘need time to deliberate’.”

“It’s… yes. I want to help. The death counts are appalling, and every number is another sentient being who had a life to fulfill…”

“Glad you see it our way. Revan’s coming here in a couple days, and she’s going to take everyone willing to go fight.”

“To fight!?”

“Shh! The Masters don’t know yet. She’s going to do a recruiting speech when she gets here, before they can say no and shut her down or lock her away or something. But I thought I’d ask you first, because you’re one of our strongest friends. We could really use you.”

“What a terrifying thought,” Selyn said. “Yes, I will go with Revan.”

Something shifted in the background; the lights dimmed, suddenly? How could the lights dim, when all the light in the Room of a Thousand Fountains was natural light? Alek’s face suddenly seemed pale and sinister. “What are your reasons?”

She blinked at him. “Wait, you didn’t say that last time.” Last time? Had she had this conversation before?

“What are your reasons, Selyn?”

“…The Council was taking too long,” she said slowly. “It was certain that the Mandalorians would win.”

“You should trust in yourself – and in your instincts.” She shied away from him, from the gleam in his eye. Dimly, behind him she saw more Jedi, ones she remembered had been in the War: Cariaga, Talvon, Xaset, Nisotsa. The sight of them disquieted her somehow. It was definitely darker in the room than it had been; the silver sunlight was definitely dimmer. What was going on? “It was within our power to end the war. And the Council sat behind closed doors and debated while planets burned.”

“We barely won the war,” she said, the words dragged from her lips. “And the cost was immense.”

“Without us, the Republic would have been destroyed forever,” Malek said. “The Council’s inaction would have led to destruction greater than any overt act of the Dark Side.” He turned on her with a hungry fire in his eyes. “So if you could do it all again… the real question is, would you? The Mandalorians await on the edge of space eager to crush the Republic. You know how this turns out. Would you do it any different? Knowing what it costs you, knowing what it costs the rest?”

As if she hadn’t spent years hurling that question at herself already. But she didn’t like to say it. “…I would. There was no choice. Even if it was possible to do it again… the cost of doing nothing would be even greater than what we already paid.”

“So knowing all that would transpire, you would still follow Revan and I? Excellent.”

“Revan and me,” she corrected automatically.

Malek didn’t even hear her, it seemed. If it really was Malek. It wasn’t, was it? She wasn’t on Coruscant… she was on… “And now you are all alone. Would you join me now? You didn’t follow Revan and I down our path like the others. Join us. Your journey hasn’t ended yet.” One by one, the Jedi in the background stepped forward to stand with Malek, a wall of unity before her.

Bastila Shan stood on the end. “Bastila? You believed in the Council to the end, you warned us that disobeying would bring disaster.”

Bastial stared at her with indifference as Malek answered for her. “She didn’t join us that day, but in time she came to our way of thinking. And even before then, she wavered, and wondered what would’ve happened.”

“Bastila… you fell? How? Why?”

“It is a familiar path…” Malek said. “There were those who wished to follow you to war, yet remained behind. They came to hate you for the choices they wished to make.”

One clear face sprang immediately to mind, puzzle pieces falling into place. “Atris…”

She was on Korriban. She remembered now. This facsimile of the Jedi Temple on Coruscant was nothing more than a trap fed into her mind by the immense pressure of the Dark Side within this cave. The other Jedi were ones who had been with Revan during the Battle of Malachor, and must surely have fallen to the Dark Side with her.

“Join us,” ‘Malek’ whispered, face filled with eager hunger. “Join us and complete your destiny.”

“No,” she said, a tiny crystal syllable in the great echoing space.

Malek’s face twitched in anger, then smoothed momentarily. “Are you so certain? Every step along the way we did what we thought was right. Perhaps the same path lies before you.”

“No.” She would not fall, not to her past. This was not right.

“Then we shall destroy you, traitor.” Six lightsabers ignited with a snap-hiss, and Selyn raised her own in the sudden darkness.

She couldn’t take on six at the same time, and the cave was so dark it was difficult to see where she could withdraw to where she wouldn’t become surrounded. But if she couldn’t see, she could feel. She raised her hand and flung half her attackers away, leaving her with Malek, Bastila, and Talvon. Her lightsaber hummed and flickered, sparks flying when it batted against the others’ lightsabers.

Her blade slashed through Talvon’s head and he vanished from her sight. Her attackers were as much illusions as the Temple had been, then. They fought with skill; they were probably copied from her mind, with all the strengths and flaws that she remembered. She could not guard against every single attack, and scorch marks appeared on her armour, though their lightsabers did not seem able to truly cut her. But if they did enough damage to her she would probably die.

She cut Bastila’s golden saber in half and stabbed her in the gut, and then she was left with Malek. He was almost seven feet tall and she was hardly five foot three, giving him fearsome reach on her weapon. But Malek, even as an illusion, had no finesse. Revan had often teased him, before the War, on how well she could fight rings around him, although during the war he’d been a terrifying opponent for the Mandalorians, killing many.

But she had already rejected his temptation, rejected the lure of following the crowd, so she would not lose to brute force.

His lightsaber passed through her left arm, rendering it useless with searing pain, but she focused on where he had dropped his guard to attack, pushing through the pain, and her lightsaber passed through his throat. He fell back and vanished into thin air and she was left alone with her injuries in the darkness.

 

Having healed herself, she wandered through chambers that appeared carven in the stone, not created by natural means, until she rounded a corner and came face to face with Amida. “A-Amida! What are you doing here?” No, don’t lose yourself. This is an illusion. The Dark Side wants to trick you somehow.

“Major Lyn! Comm says we’ve lost another heavy droid transport. How can we break through the Mandalorian lines without support? The path is heavily mined! I know we’ve got our orders to press forward, but we’re at quarter strength. We can’t, Lyn. It’s impossible. We need to retreat.”

“We can’t,” Selyn said softly, staring through her. “We retreat, and we lose Dxun. We have to continue.”

“But we won’t help by throwing our lives away to storm the path. Too many Mandalorians, too few of us. We already lost half the men just getting to the path. They’ve got the rest of the company pinned down by the crash site. You can’t possibly ask the troops to go forward.” Amida looked towards her exhausted soldiers, slumped against pillars in the cavern, then turned back towards Selyn, speaking in a low voice. “If you ask us to charge, will it make a difference? Will our sacrifice mean something?” Her tired big red eyes pleaded with Selyn.

“I don’t know,” Selyn said honestly. “Revan might have known. But we won, in the end.” She reached out, a little hesitantly, and put her hand on Amida’s shoulder. “I can’t decide what that means for you.”

“What did it mean for you, Major? Was it worth it, to send us to our deaths?”

No. It wasn’t. “All I knew was there was no choice. If not yours, than another’s. I don’t even know why I am still alive.”

Amida was silent for a moment. “We… we will press forward, if you ask it. The path is mined. If you ask us to charge, there will be losses.”

Selyn smiled and squeezed the hand that rested on Amida’s shoulder. “Not today. Even though this is all an illusion, I’ll go first this time.”

Amida’s face melted into almost-tearful hope. “Oh, thank you, Major. Thank you.”

She could channel the energy from the bombs through herself and away safely. She’d had to stop blaster shots without her lightsaber a few times. Bombs were just bigger.

Didn’t mean it didn’t hurt, as she strode forward, deliberately walking through the forest of proximity mines. She was battered and shaken, and her armour chipped and blackened, but she took the energy into herself, pouring it through her left hand and into the air above her, where it would not burn her. It was exhausting, and when Mandalorian-helmeted men charged her, she had almost no strength left to fight.

“Charge!” howled Amida from behind her, and Republic-uniformed soldiers rushed past her to engage with the enemy.

One by one, the visions disappeared until only Amida was left. Selyn was nursing her hand, but she turned to Amida with a rueful smile. “There was no other path for me this entire time. Not one that would have been less catastrophic. I suppose that makes me rather predictable.” And manipulable.

“But no one could do what you do,” Amida said. “How do you predict the impossible?”

“Apparently by being Revan,” Selyn said distantly. “I must go now. Good bye, Amida. It was nice to see you again.”

 

“You are to be commended for making it this far,” Kreia’s gravelly voice suddenly spoke from the shadows. Selyn didn’t jump, but it was close. She hadn’t felt anything. Probably because there was nothing to feel. Kreia couldn’t have gotten ahead of her. Kreia wore brown, not black. This was another illusion.

“You’ve revisited the dark moments of your past, and now you must face the present.”

“Very well,” Selyn said. At least the cave was nice enough to warn her. “I am ready.”

“Your confusion is natural. The others and I will help you understand.”

“The others?”

There was a shout from the tunnel behind her. Atton’s voice, and she couldn’t help brightening – until she heard his words. “Get away from her! She’s a dark Jedi!” He ran in and placed himself in front of Selyn, between her and Kreia, his arms outstretched protectively.

“Atton, I’ve had enough of your snide contempt!” Kreia growled, igniting a blue lightsaber of her own. Amber and orange sprang to life in Atton’s hands in response.

“Atton-” Selyn began. This was the most obvious test possible, and yet it might prove to be the hardest.

“Hey, what’s the commotion here?” Bao-Dur appeared out of another tunnel, rubbing his eyes as if he had been sleeping, then stiffened in alarm as he took in the scene before him.

“Stay out of this, Bao-Dur!” Kreia cried. “This is a personal dispute between Atton and me.”

“You’re threatening Atton with a lightsaber, and I’m supposed to just stay out of it? No!” And Bao-Dur’s lightsaber joined the glow of the others. Atton shot him a smirk of camaraderie and Bao-Dur nodded solemnly in response. Did they act like this in real life?

“Everyone, please-”

“Master, stay back, we will protect you,” Mical said, striding forward.

“The old witch has gotta die,” Mira said, taking a place beside him.

“She cannot be redeemed,” Visas said softly.

A series of whistles and beeps echoed shrilly through the cave as T3 rolled up, too.

“You would all challenge me?” Kreia demanded, offended as imperially an empress. “You sorely underestimate the power of the Force.”

“Think again, Kreia!” Atton shouted. “Your dark influence will end!”

She couldn’t see Kreia’s eyes under the hood, but she knew the old woman was looking straight at her. “Your ‘friends’ are all arrayed against me. Will you stand for this?”

“I understand,” Selyn said quietly. “You have been manipulating me ever since we met. Maybe even before.”

“You, of all people, would judge me so?” Kreia’s voice was low and terrible and sad. “Am I not worthy of redemption?”

“You’re right,” she said, and stepped out in front of Atton. Her friends – or the hallucinations of her friends – looked at her in frozen silence. “Put down your weapons.”

“She’s still manipulating you! She’s not really interested in redemption!” Atton said.

“I know. But that doesn’t matter.” She gave him a little half-smile. “It may be a predictable, foolish Jedi thing, but if I don’t give her the chance, what kind of hypocrite am I?”

“Then we will go through you to end her ambitions for the galaxy!” Mical cried.

“And that is how I know you’re not real,” Selyn said, smiling through growing tears. “I love you all. Every one of you. You know that. If you were not illusions conjured by the Dark Side here, if you loved me the way I love you, you wouldn’t attack each other. Not even to protect me.”

Six lightsabers and a welding arm swung towards her.

She blocked, too slow. She knew they were not real, in fact, worse than not real: they were monstrous illusions wearing the faces of her friends. But she had grown attached to them all, so quickly since she’d met them, and it hurt her to think of trying to kill them.

Kreia was beside her, futilely attempting to save her from herself.

Three of the lightsabers plunged into her chest and she cried out in agony. All movement stopped, and one by one, they all met her eyes her blankly. “Weak,” said Atton, tonelessly.

“Weak,” Mical echoed him.

“Weak,” Mira said.

“Weak,” Visas said.

“Weak,” Bao-Dur said.

“Weak,” said Kreia. Kreia, too, was facing her now.

The pain in her chest was too great and she fell to her knees on the stone floor. She had fallen into the same trap Atris had in words, underestimating its strength based on her own skill. Here of all places, on the planet that was its stronghold, lulled by the faces of her friends, she should have known better. She would have to kill them all to survive.

She needed to survive. Her real friends needed her. She would kill them… to save them.

How twisted. She sounded like a psychotic person. The Dark Side must love it.

She was on her feet as her lightsaber hummed like an angry krayt hatchling, spinning through the air. Bao-Dur was first to fall, still clumsy with his lightsaber as he was in real life. Mira and Mical were next, their screams sending shudders down her spine and bringing tears to her eyes. She cried out in sympathy, even more so as T3’s electric shock arm hit her leg, almost sending her stumbling to one knee. Kreia had once told her to see all of her friends as tools, to use them to further her journey, and she had refused. If she hadn’t, this would have been a lot easier. But she would have to have had no heart left to do that.

She shouldn’t have taken them with her in the first place. Kreia had said as much, ages ago. Losing them for real would only wound her to the core again. And why did they follow her, anyway?

If she survived this, if she survived saving the galaxy from the Sith, she was going back into exile where she didn’t have to deal with getting close to people.

No, she wouldn’t. That was childish.

She made Force Bonds so easily, when the Force was with her. She loved too easily. But she had always been so lonely, so incredibly lonely. That was perhaps the only thing she missed about the war, was being with people, feeling their energy and hopes and dreams and life. Downtime with her soldiers was an experience unlike any other she’d had before or since, and making so many friends… she sounded like a child again, but people were important to her, even though she was quiet and reserved.

That was one reason why she couldn’t send Kreia away, even if it was true that she was manipulating her. And she had no doubt that it was true. The cave would lie to her if it could, use her own unspoken fears against her, but she had already known this was true; she only wanted to pretend it wasn’t.

But she couldn’t leave Kreia. She craved connection, and Kreia was the one most tightly bonded to her. Even if it was an unnatural, painful bond, and she didn’t always like Kreia’s teachings or the fact that she basically had no mental privacy, it was still comforting to her. Someone was there for her. And Kreia loved her. She had never said so in so many words, and she tried to hide it, but she loved Selyn like a daughter. And Selyn loved her back.

Atton was the last except for Kreia; he charged at her with a hate-filled snarl she had never seen on him before. It’s not Atton, she told herself repeatedly. It was harder to fight him than the others, and not just because he was strong and fast, one blade slicing at her after another.

The real Atton might grumble at her, and pout over the silliest things; he was impatient and rough and prickly, but he was also tenacious and sharp as a tack and made her smile. And he was trying so hard to be a Jedi, for his own sake, not just for hers. He was beautiful, a survivor of a past almost as scarred as her own, someone who did not let the galaxy tell him who he was, even if he was afraid and angry at it often.

She loved him.

It wasn’t a revelation anymore. Sometime since Nar Shaddaa, her feelings for him had settled and deepened without any help or hindrance from her. She wished there might be a chance they could live in peace for a while together, that she could talk to and lean on him a little more, that she could be near him and watch over him.

But she didn’t want to die to a mere facsimile of him. The real Atton would never try to kill her. Not even if he fell to the Dark Side. Because he loved her too. Maybe someday he would say so.

Atton died with a shriek that brought her to her knees more effectively than any of his attacks. But when she looked around, Kreia was gone as well. She had earned a breather.

She put her head down on her knees and tried not to cry for those who still lived.

She was so lonely.

 

The long battle had left her exhausted in mind, heart, and body, and when she stood again, she staggered towards the far end of the chamber before stopping to pull herself properly upright. There was no one to see her, no one to be strong for… except the Dark Side, and acting like she was unaffected by the trials so far might discourage the pull she felt.

Although it probably saw right through that, and was laughing at her.

She was personifying a dangerous thing; the Dark Side had no more sentience or sapience than the Light Side, than the Force in general. But the mindless malevolence felt almost like it was a creature, the way it tried to draw her to itself. It pressed on her mind, weighing down her steps, calling up all of her worst self-loathing, inciting her to anger and despair. And that was without reckoning the trials she’d been through, which only amplified her feelings a hundred times.

No matter what happened, she would not fall. If she allowed herself to believe it even for a moment, no matter how she underestimated the power here, she was already lost. She would rather die than fall. What would that mean for the rest of the galaxy? She didn’t know. She was probably being selfish in thinking so. Maybe it was twisting her like Atris’s black-and-white logic. She didn’t know. She could only hold to what she knew in her heart.

So she pulled herself resolutely to her full height again, and strode onward with a determined step and squared shoulders.

But she was so tired; she couldn’t help swaying to the side several times. Could she make it through the rest of the cave? How many more illusions and tests would it throw at her before it let her go? Before she conquered her doubts and fears, and in consequence, the Dark Side that lurked in her heart? Could she conquer her doubts and fears? Wasn’t that impossible for a living being?

One last corner, down a long descent, and she saw a figure waiting for her in a large, circular chamber with the statue of some long-dead Sith Lord in its centre. She was almost at the end. The figure was cloaked entirely in black and wore a frightening, almost Mandalorian mask. “Revan?”

The figure made no answer, but gestured to one side, and Selyn started as her own pale grey face stared back at her. Her Dark Side doppelganger walked forward to stand beside the phantom Revan, her eyes yellow and scornful.

“Why?” The word came out in a whisper, but it echoed in the dead-silent space. “Why did you do all you did to me, Revan? Why did you send me to Malachor?”

More silence was her only answer.

“Did you hate me that much?” she shouted, tears beginning to flow down her cheeks. She began to pace feverishly across the entrance to the chamber. “You sent everyone there to die, but I didn’t! I went back because I wanted to, because I was sick of what we had become, but you knew I would! You used me to destroy the Council! You manipulated me my entire life, even when I thought we were friends, but even when war came between us I thought you still respected me! We were on the same side, weren’t we? Nothing I have ever done has ever been of my own free will! Why did you do that to me, Revan?”

The Dark Side was cold, so cold, numbing her as she drowned in it. She’d fallen into a frozen lake once, on Serroco. This was the same. Dark waves closed over her head and there was no up nor down, no right or wrong, only the coldness and the hurt in her heart.

“I told myself then that you had no choice in what you did, just as I had no choice to do what I did. Even when I came back and learned that you had fallen, I clung to Kreia’s words that you had fallen selflessly instead of selfishly. But what did it gain you, Revan? What did it gain me? And what did it cost?”

She was falling, falling, and her skin prickled across her entire body. Would she see it turning grey before her eyes? What could save her now?

She had sort of relied on the others to help keep her strong until now, but she had not felt any of her companions since she entered the cave, Force bonds or no. Mira and Mical would be horrified. Kreia would take it in stride. Visas and Bao-Dur would be disappointed in her.

And Atton… Atton would be sad, and resigned, and follow her into darkness. Because he loved her.

She sank to her knees. She could still complete her mission. She could still destroy the Sith Lords with her power driven by the fury and pain of betrayal, with the despair of a hundred thousand lifetimes, with the crushing weight of her failures. It would be easier to give in. Even the thought of Atton only destroyed what was left of her hope. Light Side, Dark Side, what did it matter? Would her fundamental being change so much if she were possessed by darkness instead of light? Did not Revan destroy half the galaxy to save it?

Revan and her doppelganger watched her struggle uselessly. Her head was bowed, her tears were beginning to still.

She was tired, so tired. Despair was all she had, and it felt empty and useless. Its violence had come and worn itself out again over the last few hours, leaving nothing except a terrible empty calm in its wake. Words and rationalizations had no place here. The point of no return was before her, a decision made with her tired, lonely, drowning heart, not with her mind.

“It is such a quiet thing, sometimes, to fall,” Kreia had said once.

But sometimes it was such a quiet thing to rise.

Her head came up; there was no fire in her eyes, but an implacable vulnerability. She’d never desired more power and strength for its sake alone. “I will not join you in the Dark Side, ghost of Revan. You came back, but I will not go. This is where I belong. Korriban, your trap has failed.”

Blue and silver blades crashed down on violet, sending white sparks flying. She felt the Light well up inside her, engulfing her, spilling over, filling her with strength far beyond her own endurance. The Light was cold, too, but it was like a breath of winter air after suffocating in icy black tar. Her opponents moved swiftly, attacking her from opposite sides, trying to trap and pin her.

Revan was as terrifying to fight as she remembered, her technique the best of the best and fueled with the full concentration of the Dark Side. She had rarely been able to defeat her in real life, and that was only in friendly sparring matches. Selyn was outnumbered and outmatched, and she dodged backwards from both Revan and the doppelganger, ducking and weaving until she could find a better angle to fight. Her brow furrowed in concentration as her lightsaber flickered through the air, leaving shining trails in its wake. She had to kill herself quickly so that she could focus everything on Revan. She gritted her teeth and flung out a hand, throwing her double across the room and following with a Force-powered leap.

She gasped as her double’s lightsaber slipped around her defenses and carved into her side, and she was the one who fell to the floor, clutching at her wound. Revan was charging her, lightsaber swinging- No! I will not die here! Don’t fail me now! She pushed determinedly at the Force, healing herself and rolling out of the way back to her feet.

She took a deep breath, centering herself in her new power and swinging at her double, trying to keep her between herself and Revan. Sparks flew with crashing, grinding sounds as attack met parry and counterattack met block.

Her blade cleaved through her double’s arm above the elbow and the figure staggered – and Selyn cut off her head. The body fell and vanished into nothingness.

She had no time to rest – Revan was upon her, driving her back again.

But now she could focus, could focus all of her concentration and love and grief onto this ghost from her past and her future, her feelings crashing over her like a tidal wave, passing through her and onwards, the Force filling her to overflowing. She poured all of her feelings, all of herself into that crucible of light, letting go of it all, and Revan seemed to falter in the face of her onslaught.

The taller woman flung out her hand, and Selyn was sent flying across the room, striking the wall and rolling down to the floor again. Dazed, she turned her head towards the blue shimmer and fought to get her head up, to get her guard up, anything before Revan came down on her like a gothic shyrack. She dragged herself up by the Force, levitating for a brief moment before meeting Revan’s leap with a powerful upswing of her own. Spinning away, she slashed at Revan’s robes; Revan’s blade darted back and forth, feinting, parrying, keeping her dancing away, backing her against the statue. Selyn gathered herself and leaped backwards over it, at least a four meter jump.

Revan simply smashed through it, foregoing finesse and hurling chunks of stone ahead of her. Selyn swept them aside and her lightsaber locked with Revan’s, the two of them circling with blades crossed.

Selyn stared into the black visor, breathing hard. The pressure from her opponent’s weapon and will was relentless. But… Her eyes softened momentarily, and then she blasted outwards with all the power of the Light.

Revan was blown back and away, the spectre melting in the white light that came from her spirit. Even in defeat, she made no sound.

Alone in the cold gloom, Selyn breathed a deep sigh, draining all the tension from her body, tottered, and fell on her face.

 

Waiting was the most boring torture he could imagine. He couldn’t even feel Selyn through the wall of energy that blocked their path. On the other hand, he was kind of glad of it. If he had been able to feel what she was experiencing without being able to help her… He’d been trained once to withstand interrogation, but he didn’t think he could withstand whatever was in there with her.

He tried to smirk to himself, tried to remind himself that it was in there with her, instead of the other way around, but there was too much sick fear in his stomach to succeed. All the meditation exercises he’d been trying had been jack for help. Instead, he paced restlessly, a little way away from the others – Visas and Mical seemed to be meditating just fine, and Mandalore seemed the kind to blow off his head if he annoyed him.

He already had enough trouble dealing with his own mind. Normally he had his past on lockdown; even if he thought about it, it was only fleeting before he managed to distract himself with something else. He had lots of practice at that. But now it flooded his thoughts, worse than when Kreia had gone through his memories like a sarlacc through a sandskimmer; it was forcing him to remember every kill, every bloodstain, every shot deliberately fired at an innocent – and the cool, clinical way he’d gone about every mission for the Sith. What a soulless bastard he’d been. Why hadn’t someone killed him then? He paced harder, trying to wear out the visions with physical movement.

Why did Selyn keep him around? Why’d she believe in him so unwaveringly? It would be better for her if he just left. It would be better for the galaxy if he just killed himself. Except he wasn’t done trying to set things right. It might have been immensely selfish of him, but she was his best chance to do things right for the first time and he wasn’t throwing that away so easily, Korriban.

A faint purple glow from the depths, and he turned eagerly towards the opening. It was her! She had survived!

Her figure was held tall, and her eyes looked straight ahead. She came through the barrier and he almost put up a hand to shield his eyes. She was blinding in the Force; it streamed off her in almost visible, tangible waves of light. “Selyn!” The others echoed his cry, looking at her with the same awe that he did. Well, Mical did, anyway, and Visas probably was. Mandalore and the droid were impossible to tell.

But physically, she looked terrible. Her blue armour was burned and scarred, especially in some ominous spots across her chest, and there were shadows under her eyes. Her stare was alert, but hollow. What had happened in there?

At their voices, she seemed to come back to herself a little. “You’re here.”

“Of course we’re here,” he said, a little gruffly, trying to hide how relieved he was. “You just went waltzing in there.”

He had the feeling she was looking right through him as she turned her serene eyes on him. “I’m sorry. But it’s all right now. I know who I am now, and what I must do.”

“That’s wonderful,” Mical said, smiling at her.

He wasn’t buying it. Was she even really there? Under the blaze of the Force, she seemed so exhausted, so thin. He was no expert, but how much of her right now was the Force, and how much was Selyn? “We should head back to the ship and get some rest. Your Master Vash can wait a little longer. You look like crap.”

“…I am rather tired.”

“What was in there?” Mandalore asked. “Secret Jedi stuff?”

“I’d rather not talk about it…”

She walked with them instead of ahead of them, steady and controlled and utterly calm, like she was in a dream, and he felt ominous shivers go down his spine looking at her.

 

Part 10

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