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Light met dark like a crescent moon. The being had some merit to what he was saying, or communicating. The draw was full, but he seemed to be resisting it. But for what reason? Why did he keep such a temptation so close and claim that it held no power over him? 

 

“Why?” Corán shook his head doubtfully. “Why would you keep such a temptation though. You dangle this temptation in front of you saying its balance, but that thing has power over yo-” 

 

Corán’s silver blue eyes went wide for a moment and his jaw slackened. Beyond Shadows? He took a sharp intake of breath, then set his jaw. His eyes flittered up to the horizon, where the star was giving way to dusk, and the mountains were cut like teeth against the fading horizon. A thousand sharp teeth that stretched from horizon to horizon. There was no balance when the daylight gave way to night. And if this was the path to go back beyond shadow, Corán would take it. 

 

He smiled warmly and reached with a hand towards the sabre. He touched it with one finger and the clear blue eyes rolled back into his head and the force moved heavily. And they saw it as one. 

 

Three cloaked beings carried a wooden casket filled with broken saber hilts like men carry a body to the grave. They walked heavily, each barely carrying the burden as tears marked their harrowed faces.

 

Three great beasts mauled a young woman with the stars of heaven’s field on her brow. Her blood as thick as gelatin, staining the grass a satin black. 

 

A field of grass covered with bodies of young Jedi, tattered standards blown in the wind. A thousand toothed smile that stretched imperceptibly from sky to sky. 

 

His mouth moved to form words he did not speak. His finger slipped from the handle and he slid back onto the bench of fallen oak. His eyes staring into the dusk as the light of Adega Prime and Adega Besh fled into night. He shivered as he regained his strength to speak again. 

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Aidan looked up at the hopefuls Sandy had pointed out, stifling a chuckle.

"Uh, not really. Believe it or not, most of my youngling training was conducted by my grandmother and Master Kirlocca. I was never officially part of the Order, my parents were careful to not allow the Order to dictate the future of their child. Which makes sense, the Jedi often take children that show potential simply so they don't learn the wrong way, but they're still taking kids from their parents. Mom was the Grandmaster, at least for a bit, so it was easy to get others who might disagree to back down."

Aidan reached out in the Force, gripping at the fork on his plate, trying to poorly get a bite of food to his mouth, eventually managing. As he finished the bite, he continued.

"And then I ran away. The next actual training I had was with the Imperial Knights many years later. Most of what I know is more...instinctual? It's certainly not the orthodox methods of either the Jedi or the Knights. Maybe my last name carried weight somewhere it shouldn't. I feel like I've been in a lot of situations I wasn't really prepared for, and I've had to unlearn a lot of adapted habits."

He took another bite, this time using the fork in his hand instead of the Force. His gaze returned to the hopeful, still struggling at their task.

"Maybe I should have been put through that kind of stuff. I don't know. I'm really starting to understand how I don't know a lot of things I thought I did. It's getting easier though, I think."

 

He paused, reflecting, before a sly grin crept across his face.

"You never told me much about your apprenticeship. What was the worst thing they made you do?"

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Their food arrived, handled by a nervous apprentice that looked positively shocked that they had to serve important Jedi other than the normal crew of archaeologists. Sandy let out a hearty laugh as she watched Aidan use the force to manipulate the fork around his plate. She tried to copy him for a moment and succeeded in smashing the glass of water so that it soaked her lap. She grabbed a napkin from the table as she blushed a bright red and continued laughing. The thin white lines that appeared on her flushed face marked where the real worst parts of her apprenticeship had been. But she had moved past that, and though the scars from the trauma were there, she was the stronger for them. 

 

She was thoroughly embarrassed however, telekinesis was one of her strong focuses, but she shook it off as she had devoted very little concentration on the task. And it had left her with a soaked tunic, which was not all that bad of a thing even as the heat of the day began to dissipate into dusk. 

 

“The worst thing I had to do when I was an apprentice was deal the constant ill temper Master Adenna had. She reminded me so much of my mother who I had run away from to escape! She taught me very consistently though which was nice if a bit rigid.” She took a bite of her food, which tasted so much better than anything the ship had produced for the last few days. “Well Aidan, you are a very competent force user. I would be lucky to fight with you beside me whenever we face off against the Sith. You have come so far.” 

 

 Was that too over complimenting? Probably. But they had both come so far since Kashyyyk. Since that damned beach. Her eye caught the apprentice who put down two mugs of Caf in front of them before beating a hasty retreat. She took a sip and put the mug back down, looking at her food then back up at Aidan. They had always talked about work, mission stuff, past memories. And there would be time to talk about that, there would be time to talk about her scars and everything, even if was now. But she wanted to be sure. 

 

“How are you feeling Aidan? Like beside Knights, beside Frond, this mission all that. Like how are you feeling inside? Are you okay?” She quickly regretted cutting so close to the point like she was pointing something was wrong and quickly clarified. "Like not that I see anything wrong, or that my Jedi sensors are going off, but I just worry about you and want to make sure you are alright." 

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Sandy's question caught Aidan off guard. In all the time that he'd spent since joining the ranks of the Imperial Knights, he hadn't done much self reflection or care...except when he ran into her before their mission on Nar Shaddaa. That was probably the thing that kept drawing him back to her instinctively, she allowed him to be himself. Encouraged it, even. No other member of either Force order treated him that way.

"I...don't really know. I haven't thought about that much; I guess I've kind of just been going with the flow of things. It feels like I'm doing okay, but it's more like I'm finally figuring out who I am. Who I want to be, and more importantly, who I'm comfortable being. And it's a slow process that's just starting, but any kind of progress is okay, right? So, uh...yeah."

There was a long awkward silence as he didn't really know how to follow that up. He'd appreciated her asking, but when it came to small talk Aidan always fell a little short. As he finished his food however, he felt a sort of pressure building up in the back of his mind. A familiar feeling, but not a great one. It was hard for him to even localize it, but it was unmistakable: a sudden surge in the energies of the Dark side, at the perimeter of the Temple grounds near where he was moments ago. If he had felt it, likely others would have too.

"I think we should check on Frond sooner rather than later. Like, now."

 

Leaving the rest of his plate, he stood up from the table, waiting for Sandy.

"I might have seriously underestimated Frond's problem."

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Frond listened to the boy’s quandaries. The intricacies of the force were difficult even for the aged Neti to fully comprehend and he had spent most of his life immersed in just that; dwelling on the force itself. Mix with that his particular vernacular, which Frond knew was different from those of everyone around him, and he knew trying to communicate anything concrete would be a struggle at best.

 

Before he could even try though, the boy reached out and touched the hilt of his weapon. Frond has been lost enough in the discussion he did not even have time to pull it out of reach.

 

In an instant his vision was clouded and he stood beside the boy overlooking a foreign landscape. He could feel it through every molecule of his body. The hopelessness he felt inside at the prospect of what he had to do, had come full strength. The dark clad robes, the shattered sabers, the coffin.

 

And then the scene before them shifted and three unrecognizable monsters, grotesque and murderous, shadowy apparitions complete with claws and fangs and a hunger that could be felt in Frond’s own guy, leapt from the shadows and attacked a young woman. 

 

A chill raced down Frond’s back and he heard it. It echoed within his own soul, not audible to the ear, but heard in his very heartwood; A dark hungering laughter. The Neti shuddered, his leaves rustling as if a mighty wind had blown through them.

 

And as the laughter bounced about Frond’s mind the scene shifted again and they stood overlooking a war torn battlefield. Overhead loomed a Cheshire smile. Frond knee that was where the laughter had come from and he knew it, as if seeing the face of an old acquaintance long thought lost. The darkness was palpable, he could taste it, and still the hunger remained.

 

And just as suddenly, they were back in the clearing on Ossus. A flurry of wind had whipped about Frond and Corán but had since returned to an eerie calm. Trees did not sweat, but Frobd could feel sap oozing from several weaker pores across his body where the stress of what he had just seen literally forced it out of him. All around him leaves had fallen from his cloak and head. Those that remained looked wilted as if they had not seen the light of the sun in weeks; their edges starting to curl.

 

All Frond could do was slowly blink as he pushed the saber back into the knothole of his chest, hiding it well away from the boy as he turned his eyes to look at him in wonder. What had the force been doing?

 

Staring in awe at the gaping boy for a moment, Frond’s eyes tried to seek out Tobias in the gathering shadows, His chest cavity sealing about the weapon, reaching out with his mind to find his friend. This only serves to cause him to wince in pain as a sharp crack of snapping wood echoed across the clearing. Frond himself let out a slight cry as he felt a stab of darkness drive deep into his mind as sharp and true as the vibroblade the sithling had skewered him with on Garn.

 

inhaling deeply, the Neti tried to call upon, to gather up, whatever bits of the light he could to drive off this latest attack. He had to be strong enough to resist! He had to keep the balance! He was a servant of the force and it had given him a task. He must not fail! Frantically the tree tried to branch out with his mind, grasping for the light that echoed from the grass, the trees, even that which rode upon the wind. This onslaught of darkness would not overcome him.

 

And then, Frond tumbled over, another fallen tree in the forest, his mind adrift on the tumultuous waves of the force unable to maintain consciousness. As he fell, a flash of yellow light burst through the nearby trees in the fading light of the day. Where his humanoid form had been, now lay a great tree.

Edited by Frond
Dumb autocorrect

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Trushaun took few steps away from the alien, looking him over. She had taken him by surprise and now... it was awkward. One habit she couldn't break it seems was that she always managed to make someone feel awkward. Scolding and reminding herself to practice her basic more, refocusing her attention to what he was saying. 

 

"Dis-urbance? No..." She shook her head, a subtle pulse of blue followed her veins up her beak; it was amusement. Her voice took a curious note, as she held up a finger to preemptively silence him before she thought the next part through. "Sssage Barreeen Doh...? Ohh.... Order, not plant-t." There was a slight whistling that came from her- the young female was giggling, in her own alien way. A slight pulse of embarrassment influenced her Force presence. 

 

Standing up straighter, she clasped her hands behind her back and paced to the side once again. "Jedaii... POWer no. Jedaii abiiiility yes. Siit-t-thhh power, not-t-t Jedaii." She knew it wasn't a Sith power, Force Lightning. Lightning was an elemental force, a natural occurrence throughout the galaxy. Several Jedi were known to have used the ability so that was not where she was put off. How this Kel Koon said it was another thing. Associating Jedi with Power- while the thinking was more in like with it being called an ability. It was power certainly, but a Jedi should never call what they can do just by saying power. It was so much more than just that label. Was he a Sith spy? Or was she just overthinking it and he was just caught up in his excitement of what he had just done?

 

"Master Sandy Sarnaa? Here on Ossusss?" Her eyes sparkled with excitement- her few memories of Sandy were positive ones- one of the first Jedi Trushaun had ever met. Someone the young Fosh looked up to, this Kel Koon @karyu128 was probably a skilled Jedi then, and merely was just excited on what he had done. 

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"The Baran Do sages are a group of force sensitives native to my home world of Dorin. Although I left them in order to become a Jedi...So you like plants huh? You'd probably get along with my friend, Frond. He's a Neti, or a big old walking tree as I'd like to call them." Then she admonished him for his use of the word power.  "Ah, I see. You'll have to forgive me. The sensation of using that ability felt so overwhelming that I just couldn't help describing it as anything else." As they spoke Kel noticed that some of the Fosh woman's feathers changed color. When she was questioning him they were a green color, but after he mentioned Master Sandy, She gained an excited look and they shifted to a bright orange. So green appeared to be curiosity and Orange was either excitement or happiness. "Yes, Master Sandy is here. Although you could say the circumstances are less than ideal. We've just arrived from Gala where we encountered some undead ghouls. We managed to escape mostly unscathed, But Master Tobias used some strange ability and now he's being treated here at the temple. So now we will have to complete our mission without him."  @Trushaun

Edited by karyu128

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She kept her eyes on his face as she reached for another bite of the delicious bread that had been served as an Hors d'oeuvre to their main course which was just now coming to an end. She was very glad the Imperial Knight was beginning to find himself, to get beyond his father’s legacy. It would be a painful next few weeks very likely, as this mission would take them very close to the older Darkfire’s steps. Sandy regretted it, and was about to say something of an apology when she felt the dark side stir on the verges of her consciousness. It was subtle at first, then burst to life like a dark storm. 

 

The bread turned dry in her mouth as the force echoed throughout the archaeological dig site, dashing upon the two of them like a dark wave. Without her even trying or knowing, her long handled sabre was in her hand and the plate of food left half eaten. She struggled to swallow the mouthful of bread for a moment before she achieved it and leapt over the table to join Aidan. She wiped at her mouth with her sleeve as she began to run towards where they had left the tree like being. The very place the darkness was beginning to disappear from. 

 

“I was so foolish dismissing your concerns like that!” She cursed at herself as they rounded the dig site to see the tree tumble over like its roots had been cut from underneath it. 

 

Sandy dashed forward and picked up the dazed youth, hurrying him away from the fallen Frond and into the arms of his master who had also come running along with half the active Knights and Masters in the digsite. When the child was in safe hands, then she knelt beside Frond and placed her hand furtively on his bark, reaching out with the force to find him inside his shell. 

 

“Frond? Wake up friend. It’s alright. We are here.” 

 

What had happened? 

 

She looked around for the sabre Aidan had spoken about but could not find it. But inside Frond she could sense the tinge of darkness. 

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Trushauns' eyes went wide with the revelation of Kels last statement. Sandy was here, so was Vos. She had great respect for both of those individuals- but to hear that Vos was injured was a little shocking to her. Granted he did walk around with a cane, but he was a Jedi he could draw upon the Force and with the Force- all things were possible. 

 

Something else the Kel'Dor said made Trushauns' non-existent eyebrow raise. A living tree??? She would need to investigate that certainly. "Jedaii t-t-trails soon for K-kel K-koon?" She was curious, he was strong with the Force- and there was a sense about him that he was on several paths at once. Many things were on this Jedi's mind... and if he was, she might just give him a gift to help @karyu128 along the way. 

Edited by Trushaun
meep

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Emptiness. Frond’s mind was drifting through a void. He could not see anything, because there was nothing to see. There was no pain, no desire, there simply was nothing, absolutely. What had transpired with his physical body was lost to Frond. He simply existed amongst the nothing, a part of nothing, equal to and nothing more and nothing less than the lack of all that surrounded him.

 

And then, after moments and years and every time span in between, something pulsed. It pulsed in the distance with a dull flash lightning in a thunderhead. It pulsed all around Frond a glow that burst forth and vanished as if something had slammed into an invisible bubble enveloping Frond and the nothingness that surrounded him.

 

Thump.

 

Thump.

 

It pulsed again and again, each consecutive burst stronger than the last. It may have continued this way for eternity, but something else interrupted it. A darkness seeped in around the cracks, filling the void with an inky cloud that grew and grew but never took up the entirety of the emptiness.

 

And then, suddenly, there was pain, and Frond became aware. His trunk ached. His branches tingled. He sensed that Sandy was near; but that was all. As his mind regained his conscious state it was assaulted again by a spear pointed charge of darkness that seemed to slam into his psyche with a thump and flash of lightning quick mental pain, again and again.

 

The Neti lying on the ground in his natural state, twitched; his trunk rolling ever so slightly, his roots quivering in the air, and the leaves that formed his half-crushed canopy rusting of their own volition.

 

Still, Frond fought on. His mind grasping for the slivers of light that he could feel. Aiden, Sandy, Tobias, the naturally balanced world around them all. He pulled at anything he could in an effort to stem off the surge of dark side energies awakened by the young Corán’s simple touch; surges of energies that emanates from within his very being and attacked his very soul. This much call and power he had never felt from the crystalline structure within his weapon before; the only time it had even come close was when he was actively engaged in combat. Then, and only then, did the dark crystal’s hunger grow and reach forth on the firey limb of plasma that was his blade, seeking to devour all that it could.

 

As this realization hit Frond, there was little else he could think to do. The weapon was activated by his own touch and mind. The saber linked as an extension of his own body. His mind now ensnared by the onslaught of dark side desire. And in that moment, as he tried to fight off the attack, he did one small, simple thing. He turned it on.

 

In a moment, the charred smell of Smokey wood began to emanate from his body as a massive beam of yellow-orange white-hot molten plasma erupted within his own body, carving a home where he physically could not. A trail of flame and electricity courses along the blade as it raced out into the air, driving from Frond’s body, to the air, to the earth, where the surface of Ossus fizzled and spit in retaliation and the entry point. Then the hilt slid from the self-made hole and fell with a plop on the ground, deactivating itself as it felt Frond’s touch leave it.

 

Then, lying there on the scorched grass next to the giant tree-formed Neti, the blade sat, calling out on the waves of the force for someone worthy to wield it’s hunger.

 

Frond lay there, unmoving. The onslaught lessened by the physical removal of the dark-side cyst he had carried for years. Yet still, the darkness clawed at his mind as it panted for relief.

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Being an apparition had its advantages; he could go where physical bodies could, attach himself to someone and even enter visions with someone. There were pros and cons to doing all that though. Whether or not he wanted to, sometimes his fleeting control over his doppleganger could be swept up in stronger Force currents. Like the one he had just been swept up in right as the apprentice that preceded him touched Frond’s saber. What had resulted was not a fun ride. Darkness was rolling in just like a storm cloud, much like when Ossus reached a certain orbit around its sun which resulted in heavy fog for a few weeks each year. While still physically in the medical wing, his mind had no choice but to ‘go with the flow’. 

 

However, he was a Jedi Master- or at least an equivalent. All things were possible with the Force- and he reached out to take control of this situation. Preliminary steps had been taken before the apprentice had kicked the vision off- and now there was more of a spectacle than Tobias would have liked. It was time to nip this in the bud- start it before an avalanche of actions and movements were beyond his reach. While the realization that he shouldn’t intervene was on his mind- he knew what he needed to do. 

 

Ikky, one of the PIT droids on his ship, was there watching all of this- Frond on the ground, the moving tree twitching a little. His lightsaber a few feet away. While the PIT droid couldn’t see Vos, as he was an apparition within the Force, it heard Tobias’s order of retrieving the saber. 

 

Sandy, Aiden, Frond and the other apprentice were before Tobias, his profile giving off a radiant green glow that only the living could see. A stern expression on his face, he spoke in a cold tone. “Ikky, walk two meters to your seven o’clock.”

 

The droid obediently moved to the indicated position, holding the saber. Tobias had just done this to two crystals previously and it crippled him. Now he was about to go even further and destroy this crystal while he was still in bacta recovering. Audibly, Vos sighed with a long drawn out groan. He couldn’t destroy the crystal here, he needed to touch it. He followed up with another order. “Report to the medical wing, bring the saber to me. Then report back to the ship.”

 

The droid ran off in the direction of the temple, ignoring everything around it. 

 

The apparition pinched the bridge of its nose, and flares of orange wove into the green radiance. “How are those two?” Tobias questioned, crossing his arms. There was nothing he could do for them in this state, other than check in on them. His face displayed his annoyance and irritation. A product of the strain it was putting on him to act in this capacity. The Gala incident had purged him of his darkness, and now here he was about to do the opposite. Deep down he knew he had to try and help Frond- no matter the damage right now; A Jedi’s life is sacrifice… the old saying rang in his head.

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How did everything spiral this far outside her control? 

 

Sandy distracted her mind with the effort of putting away her sabre and reaching out with the force, sending a tendril of energy towards Frond. Reaching, looking, trying to find what had possessed him, but she could find no reason other than a vague feeling of shadow and struggle within the Neti until the sabre sprang to life deep within. IUt started as a smell, then a white hot yellow beam came shooting out of the Neti and it caused Sandy to cry out in surprise. 

 

She immediately switched over from her combat mindset to one that she had also trained extensively on, Healing. The sabre came loose, and not knowing all there was about Neti biology she clapped her hand over the hole from which the blazing sber had come. She applied pressure with one hand and with her other hand she pointed to one of the Masters that had been summoned by the darkside presence. 

 

“Medical team. Now.” 

 

A pit droid of all things scooped up the sabre from beside her as she struggled to staunch the flow of red-gold sap that was now thoroughly coating her hands. She gave it a glance and a curse as she saw its familiar markings. It would have to be dealt with later, for now there was a much more pressing matter at hand. She let her emerald green eyes flitter closed as she felt the pulsing of the sap against her hands. The Neti was in dire straights, and with a wound channel as big as a lightsabre, and with bacta likely ineffective on plant like beings, it was now up to the force to save him. 

 

She steadied her breathing and let the force flow through her, gathering it in her palms, pushing it slowly through her hands into his body. It was strange, an alien form that worked very differently than a human form. She concentrated, finding the Neti’s own healing cells, and filling them with the force, accelerating them, finding the gushing central core and beginning to seal off the internal wound. Stopping for the moment, the loss of sap that would end the tree like being. She next touched his mind, letting him know that she was there and to calm whatever was troubling his mind. 

 

There would be questions to be answered, but for now avoiding his death was the top priority. Sabres and apparitions be damned. When the medical team had arrived, she had mostly stopped the internal bleeding and stabilized him for transport. 

 

She stepped beside Aidan as they walked with the medical team to the medical wing and looked at her sap covered hands. 

 

“I….” 

 

She turned her tired eyes on the Imperial Knight

 

“...I failed him.” She hung her head grateful for the lack of eyes that would be looking at her in the momentary show of weakness to her friend. Her head snapped up at the presence of Tobias, and her eyes hardened slightly as they entered the facility, trailing the medical team. She made sure the Neti was well situated in the medical ward before she sat down beside him and wiped at the sap on her hands with a rag covered in medical alcohol. She smiled wanely at Aidan and then leaned in next to the Neti. The sabre would come next but for now she needed to check on him. With permission from the orderly she reached out with the force.

 

“Wake up Frond.” 

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Trushaun straightened as if a bucket of cold water was poured over her body. Eyes flashing with a resemblance of 'What in krif just happened??' Something had just happened on the grounds just outside the temple, in one of her favorite groves. With being in touch with the vegetation around the area she was naturally attuned to disturbances. There was a sense of urgency and a calling to her. She couldn't occupy herself with the Kel'Dor now, she rummaged in her satchel and produced three vials of liquid. Two clear, one purple. She closed the gap between her and the alien @karyu128 and pressed them into his palm. The clear ones were for healing, the purple was for pain- if he needed them. 

 

"Useeee well, Forsssse be you." She stammered out, impatient of sounding out the words correctly. Spinning, she started to make her way to the medical wing. Her home away from the plants and nature she fit in so well with. Her commlink chirped just as she exited the room. "Trushaun." She identified herself in a way of greeting to whomever was calling her. "Feel it, yessss. On w-way." turning the corner and heading out of earshot. 

 

As she left there was no noise of her feet hitting the floor, or even a rustle of her robes as she sped away. Something that spoke to her dexterity. As she reached out to the Force towards the medical wing, she felt a piece of nature being moved into the wing. Curiosity will be sated here soon...

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Frond’s body lay there twitching, having reverted to his humanoid form as the blade of his weapon cleaves him open; an innate response to trying to lessen the damage, when in fact, it made it work. By the blessing of the force, Sandy was there to try and stem the flow of life-giving sap that courses through the woody interior of the Neti’s body.

 

Even as he lay there, his mind wracked with the onslaught of darkness stemming from the dark side oriented device and the crevices of his own psyche, Frond felt the gathering presence of Jedi around him; even if he could not tell who they all were.

 

As the light grew and the darkness faded, Frond’s mind finally drifted off into what others might call sleep; his body devastated and his mind exhausted. He knew nothing of being picked up from his fallen place amongst the wilds and carted to the medical bay. He didn’t know anything. His mind, however, bolstered by the powerful company about him, was finally able to rest.

 

...or so it should have been; but there, amongst the calm, the darkness pushed back, a voice range out to Frond’s very essence, a voice he recognized. It was the voice of his master, Sandy Sarna.

 

With a flicker of his eyelids, the Neti looked up, bleary eyed and withered, not entirely sure of where he was. All, he knew was that for the first time, he felt at peace. The darkness still nestled in his core, but held at bay by the strength of good.

 

And as he sighed a relief, Frond felt it, his saber was still there. Not within the cavity carved into his own body; but nearby, nearly smothered by the forces of light. Still Frond could sense it’s hunger waiting and biding its time.

 

with a rustle of leaves, Frond reaches a tendrilled hand out grabbing the arm of whoever happened to be closest and whispering

 

”Sunlight drives back night

Bathed in light, body withers

Nightfall approaches”

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It was overwhelming, the temptation laid at the feet of Aidan. Aidan thought he knew darkness, but nothing quite as powerful a focus as this had ever presented itself, the longing and hunger from the dropped lightsaber whispering sweet nothings in his ear. He wanted it so badly, or did it want him? Either way, he only realized that he had taken several steps closer to the saber only after a Pit droid scooped up the saber, scampering off with it. Momentarily rage flashed across his thoughts, everything he'd ever wanted was just at his fingertips and now it was lost. But were those his thoughts? It took a few seconds, but Aidan eventually managed to shake his head free from the influence the saber had tried to exert.

So that was the power Frond had been fighting against...and he'd almost given it to Aidan. It seemed to have a will of its own, attempting to manipulate things to its benefit, and it nearly succeeded. Aidan shuddered at the thought of what would have happened had he actually taken the saber from Frond instead of reject it out of sheer chance and misunderstanding.

As they walked back, Sandy remarked how defeated she felt over the ordeal, remarking how she failed Frond. Aidan remained silent, but reached out to her, reinforcing and bolstering her. Aidan wasn't sure if they had failed or narrowly succeeded or what had happened, but it was clear their trials and tribulations on this mission weren't going to be nearly as straightforward as he thought.

As Frond spoke to Sandy, Aidan remained silent. He tried to help once, and stuck his foot squarely where it didn't belong. There were others present who could handle things far better than he could, and he was more than fine with letting them handle things. He still felt badly, but that would subside with time. Nothing could erase what had happened, they could only move forward and pick up the pieces. Sandy could use his help with that. She doubted herself, but she also knew far more than Aidan did. And he doubted himself, but he knew that mistakes happened, and what mattered was how he'd recover.

All they had to do now was push forward. This was supposed to be a short stop on Ossus, but it had turned into so much more. While Aidan was concerned with finishing their task for the Empress, common sense said the Eternal Vigilance could wait, as if the Jedi hid it well then it would probably be waiting wherever it had been left.

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When the fosh woman asked about the trials, Kel took a moment to think. Ever since the war broke out, he hadn't thought about anything outside of that. Was he even ready for something like the trials? From what he's read at the Felucian temple archives, the trials were quite rigorous and deadly. Heck, that described his experiences with the war and this mission perfectly. Perhaps he had set foot on the path of the trials long ago.

 

his musings were interrupted when he felt a surge of darkness filled with hunger, desperation, and pain from somewhere outside the temple. His brow raised in shock as he realized that he had felt this darkness before. Something had happened to Frond and yet again he wasn't by his side to help him. The fosh woman handed him a set of medical vials before leaving to what he assumed to be the medical wing. Kel Followed the woman who had now identified herself as Trushaun, to the medical wing. There he saw Master Sandy tending to Frond as he laid in bed. "Frond..." Kel couldn't help but curse himself at his friend's injured state. He noticed the wound which looked as though it were left from a light saber was at a very odd angle. Almost as though it had been self inflicted. But Kel knew that Frond couldn't have been driven to thoughts of suicide so soon after returning to them. So what the kriff happened here? So kel pulled up a chair and sat by Frond's bedside opposite of their master, and asked the obvious question. "What happened?"

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That sabre was a curse upon the whole group of them. Sandy gave it a glance as the Pitdroid held it up to his master, then looked back at Frond, still reaching out with her mind to give him reassurance. It was nice however to feel the reassurance of Aidan touching her mind as well, it bolstered her, raised her spirits from the self doubt that she could feel gnawing at the edges of her consciousness. That confident spirit overwhelmed her need to self doubt and she gave Aidan a thankful smile. She could feel his own struggle over the sabre and that darkness, and hoped that he could feel how proud she was of him. 

 

Frond grabbed her arm and she turned back to the Neti. He was speaking in riddle again which was by far the least helpful thing she could experience at the moment but she interpreted it the best she could. She could feel his longing for the sabre and it disturbed her. 

 

“Give up on the Sabre frond. It will be destroyed, it is too dangerous to us and you. Frond I need you to tell me if you have been infected by whatever that-” She pointed to the sabre. “Has infecting it.” She placed her hand on top of his. “We are all here for you, to help you get through this, but the desire to leave it behind must come from you alone.” 

 

She turned to Kel who had asked a question about what happened. She gave him a reassuring smile.

 

“The Darkside surrounds us, even when we least expect it Kel. It is never to be tempted with, ignored, or encouraged. It is a dark seed that we should never give an opportunity to take root.”

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Frond’s eyes slowly swept the group around him, resting momentarily on Kel. A slight smile crossed his face at seeing his fellow apprentice. Reaching out he grasped the Kel Dor’s hand. 
 

“The darkness looms nigh

Impossible to balance

Call out the daylight”

 

Looking towards his young master, Frond closed his eyes, reaching out in the force. He could feel her worry and concern. If only he could make her understand. Still . . . The darkness had tried to overwhelm him. Was the force really that unbalanced? Had they reached the tipping point already? With his mind awash in the protective cocoon of the light side of the force, bolstered by the guardians all about him, he slowly nodded  and gestured towards the wooden chunk of wood across the room, his saber hilt waving his hand as if to dismiss the item from his memory or sight.

 

”Waves break ashore

Each grain drawn back towards the sea

Return to the source”
 

Trying to lift himself out of the bed, Frond collapsed back against it with a crash, his woody weight betrayed by the solidness of the collisions. Frond let out a wheeze of pain. 

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There were medical personnel around Frond, as well as Sandy and a young human boy with dark hair. On the table in the examination room was a tree- not an ordinary tree a living one... a Neti? The two other Jedi in the room; Knights Arrie Haylem and Trista Nivelle were present. Having worked more closely with Knight Nivelle, Trushaun approached her. Giving a brief rundown of what all had gone on. Since the Neti was more closely a plant- and Trushaun's master was off-world at the moment she was the ranking naturalist at the temple. Considering how rare their services were called upon here- no one anticipated she would need to help with a matter like this. Idly, she looked around for Vos as Kel had said he was here. Since the bacta tanks were in another room she surmised that he must be there. 

 

Now to matters at hand. Nivelle rattled off a brief synopsis of the issue- some dark side artifact burned a hole to escape the interior of the Neti, leaving the massive hole in his chest. While the creature was a tree and not quite in danger of bleeding out- there was a circulation issue that would cause anything trouble. If water, blood, sap, or whatever did not travel through its body to give nutrients to the limbs it would be further injured or even crippled. 

 

Well, it was time to repair the wound. It would be tricky to get the nodules to heal past the burnt area. Much like with a lightsaber wound the affected area was cauterized. They would have to cut the burnt area away for this to work… and she had no idea how to anesthetize a tree…

 

There was a way to dull the pain, at least… in theory. She fished around in her satchel and found the correct vials. Idly, she glanced at the medical charts. She selected the vials with great care, this was an experiment- but one that had some research done on it. Holding the vial up to the light she counted the seeds in the container. Normally these were offensive tools that she used, but today was another matter. Silax for the circulation problem and rapid growth so his system could return to normal quickly, then Crataegus for rigidity and possibly some miscellaneous perks with the thorns. However that was for discovery later on, now it was time to save her charge- this living tree- this sentient tree. 

 

The tree had just said something to Sandy, on the other side of the bed, something Trushaun barely caught. Barely. Mulling the broken speech pattern over in her head as she prepared- did he only speak in natural poetic metaphors? Interesting… Placing a stool by the table, she climbed up the three steps and placed her claw onto the creatures arm. Displaying just a slight hesitation, Trushaun exhaled sharply in short breaths. “F-f-f-frond?” She inquired in a voice laced with awe and care. Through the Force she sent thoughts of peace and calm to him. Patting his arm, she looked over to Sandy quickly, nodding in acknowledgement. Wishing she knew more of what was going on, she shrugged it off- some times you had to brush aside the mental status and focus on what was in front of you with a patient. The more immediate concern, really. 

 

Since her basic was still rough, she flooded her Force presence with images of a tree seedling growing- a new beginning, new life, something brand new to the universe. 

 

~~

Then there was another body there, as if out of thin air. With arms folded in front of him Tobias spoke to her patient. “Frond, rest now- close your eyes and go Beyond Shadows. Let Trushaun, Jedi Nivelle and Haylem help you. I wish to speak with you and Shadows would be a good place to have our conversation- trust me.

 

Tobias let a sly smile cross his lips then turned to Sandy with a more serious facial expression. “Jedi Sarna, I’m over in the bacta wing- so is Fronds lightsaber. Let them work, I want to talk to you and Aiden- and you too, Kel.”

 

Nodding, the appearance of Tobias disappeared as simply as it had appeared. 

~~

 

Trushaun looked at the Jedi Master- then back to Sandy- then to Frond. They were ready to get down to work, or at least she was. She’d wait until they were gone and Frond was in his trance before she started to tend to the wound. At the back of her mind she was a mix of emotions and thoughts; her time spent on her homeworld healing the trees after the blight- her time in this very medical wing with various medical problems she’d assisted with- honing her skills as a naturalist. She was ready for this latest challenge.

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The stirring of the force in the Neti did not fully leave him, but he seemed resolved to try. She could feel a swell of pride in her chest as he dismissed the sabre, a living part of himself and let it go. It was the first step, a step that was necessary to leave the darkness behind. Her eyes welled up with involuntary tears for a moment before she blinked them away, wiping at her eyes with the hem of her tunic sleeve. She looked at Trushan and gave her an appreciative smile as well. 

 

“I am so proud of you Frond.” 

 

She leaned down and gave him a firm and loving hug, before backing off to let the medical team give him another look after he collapsed. She listened to Tobias’s apparition, glanced at Aidan then back at Frond. Her emerald eyes narrowed. Who was he to continually interfere like this? She grasped his hand again. Rebuking Tobias’s command, Sandy spoke loud enough for the group of apprentices and Trushan to hear. 

 

“Do not go back where the shadow’s lie Frond. Rest in reality, not in the lair of shadows. I will return.” 

 

She beckoned to Aidan and with an air of agitation strode into the bacta chambers, where a Jedi medic was staring at the pit droid holding the sabre. She dismissed him with a wave and rushed forward. Reaching out to the force to ask Aidan for help should this fail. The sabre was of the darkside, dangerous, and Tobias could easily be influenced by it or anything 'beyond shadows' again. Frond had released it, so she did what she through was right. With a flick of motion, her sabre sprang to life in her hands, casting a stark white light over the lines of tanks. Acting out of a stern feeling of righteousness she twitched her hand, avoiding the poor pitdroid and cut through the branch like sabre and crystal with ease. The tip of the sabre gouging a furrow from emitter to base, fusing the cadmium battery and blasting the sensitive crystal to smoking pieces. There was a small force fed explosion that knocked them back, but the sabre was as dead as any branch cut off from a tree. Charred and smoking, devoid of life and darkness. She extinguished the saber and looked up at Vos's tank where he still floated. 

 

“What is it Master Vos?”

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Had his head not been wrapped in bandages- his face would have displayed his...displeasure and frustration at what his former apprentice had done. Both in the operating room and right here in front of him. While his eyes were bandaged over- he could see with the Force. He also felt the pressure wave- through the tank. Then, a hiss and snap, crackle, and at the end- a pop. The current swirled around him and the bacta drained away.- a crack in the glass from the pressure wave from the demented crystal. 

 

Barely recovered, Vos sank to the bottom of the tank as the bacta spilled out. Gravity and oxygen wreaked havoc on his body. The wounds he had suffered from Gala had split his skin open where his circulatory system laid under his skin. The oxygen and his nerves  in those areas met like old enemies once again. His joints and bones also met acquainted themselves with the gravity of Ossus. They too started back up on their arguments and disagreements once again. Tubes and wires connected to Tobias sagged with him- his breath mask, intravenous medications- more than a dozen wires across his bare chest also followed him to the floor. 

 

As the safety measures started to react to the loss of container integrity- the cylinder retracted, leaving Vos exposed completely and the bacta to spill out into the floor drain. His Force Aura was a torrent of rage- he was pissed. He was angry at first after the stunt Sandy just pulled- but the repercussions of her actions resulted in his entire body being saturated once again with crippling pain. Involuntarily his body started to tremble, and then began the coughing. Blood shot out in little spurts around the part of the mask covering his mouth. Wearing nothing but medical pants- with shaky hands he tried to prop himself up to at least crouch onto his knees. The pitdroid moved forward to help his master, which Tobias accepted with some reluctance. More coughing- and a groan of pain that quickly became a bellow of pain as he maneuvered. As he knelt there, being held up by his droid, his trembling hand moved to pull off the mask. The droid beat him to it and removed it with a subtle grace of his master's discomfort. The inside of the mask was wet with frothy, bright red blood. 

 

A smaller cough, and Tobias’s chest heaved with trying to calm himself. If his aura was anything to go by- he was calming down but he was still very angry. Not touched by the dark side- but still angry. He sucked in a few breaths to try and settle himself out as a red drop of blood trickled down his chin. Gritting his teeth- he looked, at least aimed his bandaged eyes to Sandy, and through his clenched teeth he grumbled slowly. 

 

“Jedi Sarna. After you have found the Eternal Vigilance- you will report back to Ossus where we will go over- in great detail your actions not only here, but previously. Grandmaster Alluyen will be informed of all this... after I am back on my feet."

 

A gasp of pain escaped his lips and he spat as his muscles tensed across his body. Inching forward about to lose balance- the droid held him up with a three digit claw on his chest where the engraving of his skin wasn’t too prominent. Bacta dripped from his hair which was pulled up into a sort of beehive atop his head, but even that was chilly. Everything hurt, he just wanted to cry and whimper inside his world of darkness. 

 

“I was going to have you and Aiden help me purify the crystal- I was going to talk to Frond in a realm where he is familiar- and there is no pain there while he was tended to. But you did not trust me, Jedi Sarna. Me- of all people. Your actions here- are just…” His voice had been rising, despite gritted teeth and an appearance of strength had risen and fallen in a flash as he finished his sentence. “... are just disappointing…”

 

Silence permeated the room as the energy drained out of Tobias as his presence flooded with sadness. He hung his head as if looking at his forearms through the bandage around his eyes. The wounds were starting to well up with blood once again. His body was still attempting to recover from the ordeal on Gala and this little incident was going to set him back quite a bit. 

 

“Ikky, go find one of the Jedi from earlier- I’m going to need… some….help......”

 

Blood started to pool around his body, turning the area around him to a little pool of red. The spasms and coughing caused the trenches in his skin to re-open ergo why he was now bleeding. In some ways, he missed his old body which already had scars on it- it was a pity this new one had been a blank canvas. The droid had run off in another direction leaving Vos to try and support himself with just his right fist against the ground. His head still hung and his nerves still lighting up his brain with pain receptors but he had to say this next part before the medics came into the bay. 

 

Taking a cautious deep breath in a few stages- “If you have what you need to find EV- then take my ship and be about it. I doubt neither Frond or myself will be in any shape to come along.” 

 

And there wasn’t any room for arguing- as more and more of the trenches in his skin started to break their membrane and let the red blood dribble out. Three medics rushed into the room- not running but quickly walking along. Grabbing him from under his arms, they manhandled him over to another pod quickly. The third medic started to pull the medical devices around and plug them into a different terminal. As soon as they sat him down, they started to wrap his body with a bandage that had a layer of pain medication that activated upon warming to a body temperature. Since Tobias was now being wrapped head to toe in the bandage- he was feeling pretty good- but that was the meds talking. There were ways a Jedi could dull pain, there were ways around even pain and bleeding that he knew- but the Force came to him in waves- and the struggle to stay conscious throughout the ordeal had taken most of his strength. So he let himself be moved like a sack of tapatoes. It was so easy to go back to the dark side and give into his anger- but Gala had changed him… and he wasn’t interested in giving into his anger. The medics talked to him, all he did was grunt a yes or no to them, and into another bacta tank he went, a new mask attached to his face, and there he floated and drifted back off to… another dream… the house by the lake under the mountains, as a childs voice called to him- and there she was in all her beauty- his wife and her dark hair, her sly smile. 

 

Then he was out- dreaming of that place.

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As the injured tree took in the conversations and instructions about him, all he did was nod his head in understand. To go Beyond Shadows, the only home he ever knew; it would be a welcome release. Sandy’s instruction however, gave the injured Neti pause even as the strange bird-like creature set about working on his injury. To go Beyond, would be to risk never returning to the present realm, the reality he had taken an oath to help balance. 
 

Steeling his mind in agreeable with Sandy, his retort was simple enough that it needed no words. No. He would stay.

 

Even as his mind hardened, cocooning itself with the added boosting of lig side power, Frond could still feel the subtle calling upon the echoes of the force. The crystal desired to be released. It hungered for destruction, if Frond was but strong enough to grant it. Still, Frond lay, a fallen tree, refusing to heed the call. He was not strong enough in his present state and he would not allow the darkness to overcome him. He was a being of balance, cosmic balance, and for now, the light needed him.

 

As the medications began to take hold in Frond’s severed wound, the ancient Neti closed his eyes, withdrawing from the world around him, turning his attention within to his own mind and soul. There he remained, silent whilst Trushan worked. Silent, that is, until an explosion echoed across the force in a shockwave. Frond’s eyes shot open and he lurched upwards to a seated position on the table, his wooden body groaning and popping in resistance. He did not care. 
 

And as soon as it had come, it was gone. The avalanche of dark side hunger vaporizing into the ether. His saber, was gone. A part of his body, gone. With it went a piece of Frond himself. He could no more lose that weapon, than could a being of flesh and blood lose a hand. That weapon had been a part of him, his blade upon which to quell the masses of gathering darkness.

 

Even as Tobias’ pain and anger oozed across the force waves, Frond met it in turn; his sense of hopelessness at the state of the galaxy and all that was in it rebuffing the advancing emotional energies.

 

Closing his eyes, Frond remained where he was, seated, the medicines running through his wounds. 
 

“Ride upon the winds 

A soldier no more am I

Darkest tides rise, fall.”

 

He murmured, his lips barely moving to form the words as he mourned all that he had dedicated himself to. Mourned in a deep sense. Sadness that radiates from his very pores. Sadness at the state of affairs in the cosmos and at his inability to do anything in it. He had been called and in seeking to do what he believed the force willed, he had failed and lost a part of himself. 
 

‘Rolling forth and back

Never the same, muddied swirls

The Force shines through all’

 

Opening his eyes, the Neti offered a weak half-hearted smile to Trushan in thanks. Then glancing down at his wound and the medicine pooling within he scowled in concentration. With a creek and a crack the wound slowly closed in upon itself. It was not healed, but it was contained.

 

“As birds roost in trees
Mysteries swirl all around

Neti can shape shift”

 

He offered as a way of brief explanation to the bird-being.

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Might-t-t-ty t-t-treesss fall when ssssick-k. Frond healthy. Frond ssst-t-tand t-t-tall.”

 

While just a touch irritated at Frond for closing up the wound on his own, she marveled at this creature. This specimen, this individual, was remarkable. Hopefully the Silax took to his structure and there wouldn’t be any side effects. Part of her wanted to journey with him, just to see if there were any changes.
 

Frond have pain?” She tapped a talon to his chest with gentleness and care; as if he were a delicate flower instead of a mighty wooden warrior. 

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