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Jaina Jade Skywalker

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About Jaina Jade Skywalker

  • Birthday 05/27/1991

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  1. It was like something from a fever-dream of years past. The simultaneous dread and thrill that filled her as the massive beast winged over the Onderon wilderness recalled her youth among the rank and file of the burgeoning Sith Empire under Lord Ar-Pharazon. The tether that had sunk its barbs deep into her soul had never been dislodged, much as her earliest teachers among the Jedi had warned her. The old adages had proved true, but to the unlikely Jedi Master, the omnipresence of her own selfish and violent tendencies served as a useful reminder that she wasn't above the lure of what was simple or easy. And to her, it had never been about dominance or exhibiting her own prowess, or even recognition: the single greatest lure of the dark side that whispered seductive promises to her soul insinuated the power to control the fate of those whose souls, whose lives had up until now been bound to hers. Perhaps the severance wrought by the alchemical poison had ruptured the last remaining lifeline that kept her from plummeting down the bottomless freefall into darkness. And yet, she clung to the words of the Dark One that had recalled the tribe to which she had pledged herself: your kind. Her kind. They were her people, the Jedi: flawed, striving toward an unattainable perfection that embodied harmony and goodness, those to whom the galaxy looked amidst oppression or chaos. Always falling short, and always getting back up to try again, they would be the hope that would stand again and again after being knocked down to foolishly wage the wars that might bring peace. But the vision that she had seen unfolding in the eternity within the Grey Oracle's mind was enough to sway her, even as her mind began to regain some of its former clarity--sharply assisted by the quivering nearness of the Dark Lord's weapon pressed nearly against her skin. Jaina's empty stomach turned as his susurration tickled her ear. She had no clever retort, no challenge to lay at his feet. For the duration of the flight toward Onderon's civilization, silence reigned. Whether by Exodus' own hand, or by some unknown force, she would bear witness to the destruction of her people. Unless she, the harbinger, could see in the vision a way to turn the tide.
  2. The roar of the massive beast woke Jaina from a slumber that traversed the tale of her memories. The healing trance was too short to render her capable to continue her fight, but when the focus of her eyes centered on the outstretched hand of the Dark Lord, the stubbornness of the Jedi Master won out over her wounds. "Come to gloat, have you?" she said, closing her eyes once more and tracing the dominating figure of the massive beast with her senses. Pushing herself to her feet, Jaina winced against the throbbing pain in her abdomen and the thick red color that infringed on her eyesight. The Dark Lord's mount was unstable at best, a creature as turbulent and untamable as the Spider himself. It was simply an unsuspecting victim that had fallen into the Spider's web, and, just like every other puppet that he held tightly by a string, the mutant drexl would do its own version of Exodus' dance. Taking the gauntleted proffered hand in hers, Jaina hoisted herself atop the massive beast, attempting to downplay the shooting pain that ran through her freshly healed wounds as she saddled herself in front of her mortal enemy. Obsessively, she shielded her thoughts as much as she could manage, but even so, it seemed a futile exercise given the temporary insanity she had just experienced. As she ground her teeth together and gripped the beast with her knees, attempting to manage the pain that was sure to erupt as she was jostled during the drexl's flight, Jaina added in a soft quip over her shoulder with a hoarse voice that required clearing her throat several times before it would even consent to produce sound, "You know, if you're planning a second round, I'd prefer you stab me in the back and get it over with."
  3. Life spilled out of her, not in droplets, but in waves. Each furious beat of her heart meant to preserve her by carrying oxygen to the farthest cells in her body speeded her demise instead. And Jaina's heart was racing out of all control as the massive ship descended, a sleek vessel of oblivion and nothingness. For indeed, even as it wreaked its vengeance on the last of the drexls overhead, Jaina could sense no sign of Raynuk aboard. As listless as she had been during her convalescence on Corellia, floating in a womb of bacta, here she was floating once more. The rivets and cables made of spirit and blood that had connected her to Raynuk, to Andon, to Tirzah had evaporated as easily as morning dew. The anguish of her soul wrought the storm overhead that now washed her in sanguine mud. The artery within her where her life and Raynuk's had been sewn together for their mutual survival had been ruptured. Her mind was still hazy with the fog of the Rage that pulsed through the jungle, but in a flash of icy clarity, she knew that the fight for survival had not abated with the silence of the drexls. The Dathomiri apprentice's healing was rudimentary and twisted. It had halted her from careening out of control toward imminent death, but much more was needed if she were to survive this long enough to bring a reckoning on the galaxy for what had occurred here. And it would start with a simple and crude fix. Floodlights from the Ravenhammer's landing sequence disrupted the thick and oppressive cloud of darkness, and Jaina had one more light yet to add to her surroundings. The matte obsidian of her lightsaber's hilt flew like a projectile through the tumultuous dark, and as it made contact with her palm, she pressed the emitter casing against the stab wound in her abdomen. Gritting her teeth together, she activated the saber, cauterizing the ruinous hole that her abrupt nephrectomy had left behind. A throaty scream was cut short by viscous blood that welled up in her throat, silencing the melody of Jaina's voice. Her hand trembled on the hilt of her saber, but held it in place long enough for Jaina to be sure she had slowed the blood loss. The aroma of her own seared flesh caught the turbulent breeze, and the nausea loosened her grip enough that the hum of her weapon hissed into silence. Rolling to her side, Jaina coughed violently, copper taste filling her senses. The pain added another layer of clarity to her sluggish thoughts, and as her eyes refocused, the first thing she could truly make out in the increased light was the violet glint of the apprentice's eyes. The Heart of Rage was calling its subjects hither. Jaina had led the way, the Witness who would hold fast to her breath long enough to face the nexus that had nearly destroyed her. The apprentice who had trailed after her; Raynuk, who would always come for her; and soon approaching, the final eclipse to the light that she represented. It seemed that she could not even face oblivion in peace. "No," she murmured weakly to the girl who ministered to her, fussing over her injuries. Another cough expelled another mouthful of blood, and Jaina's throat was clearer. "No, child, use your strengths. More will come," she croaked, her eyes flicking to the skies. And she would be ready. From the essence of the planet itself, Jaina began to draw strength, as her eyes slammed shut to focus. Gathering within her the threads that wove the very fabric of the Force, she brought the ancient might of the Jedi to bear. From the new growth of wild jungle foliage, she accelerated the repair capacity of her own cells. From the pulsing strength of the massive predators, she regained the faculty of her primal instincts. Her mind whispered to the captive planet that tolerated the existence of the aberration, trading secrets with the renewing spirit of Onderon. Warmth and light came at her beck and call, filling her pores with the tingling newness of regrowth. The Sith poison that had nauseated her to her core, that which had driven her to insanity, warred with the new intrusion of cognizance: it dug its claws to her psyche, a slithering leech of the spirit. Her trembling hands stilled, her heartbeat slowed, the strains of the music of the galaxy filled her mind as the breeze rushed past her. The paralyzing fear, the panicked rage: her emptiness gave way for a new dedication, a new mission which seized her as the planet cried out for the breaking of its bonds. Strength filled her sinews as she lay, tattered and ragged, stained by blood and Onderonian soil and drexl saliva, her appearance belying the depth that she had cultivated over decades of labor and eternities in the aether. Instructed by the most skilled of Jedi healers across a generation of mystics, she washed herself in the eternal evernew of the Force. When the King of the Sith arrived, he would find a Jedi Master in her place.
  4. The sky had a million tiny gashes in it, all splattering the stratosphere’s iridescent blood across her face. Jaina struggled to open her eyes, but they were somehow crudely sewn shut, and all her straining against the sutures would not admit a shred of light. Her neck was immobile, screws stabbing through the left side and roughly woven into her tendons and bones. Spindle-legged spiders crawled up her legs, but her limbs were dipped in hardened lead and she was not strong enough to lift them. Dozens of them sank fangs into her skin, as if in choreographed procedure, and Jaina found herself wondering if she was destined to mutate into a spider herself. Tremors ran through her flesh like an electrical current, but she was certain she did not feel an ounce of cold. Her right hand was the only extremity that seemed to be operable, and it was shaking so uncontrollably that she wasn’t sure if it could even move in a linear enough fashion to locate her face. Excruciatingly, with more focus than such a task ought to have required, clammy and trembling fingers found her eyes. The crude sutures she expected to feel vanished, and gave way to the soft flesh surrounding her eyes--necrotizing, most likely--but she peeled their lids apart anyways. A forest of bioluminescent vines had erupted surrounding her while she slept, and the longest ones hung down far enough from the canopy overhead to tickle her skin. The weight of the dead beast across her abdomen constricted her breathing, and when she managed to lift her head far enough to lay eyes on the creature, horror twisted in her gut. Maggots and other larvae crawled across every discernable surface of the kath hound, gathered so thickly that the beast seemed to be moving of its own accord. Visceral repulsion seized her. With a heavy gasp, she sat upright. Whimpering in disgust and desperation, she pushed at the beast with her right hand, wretchedly scrambling to get out from underneath it. But her legs refused to cooperate and her left arm was limp and useless at her side. But the Force was not so silent now. Instinctively, Jaina thrust the heel of her hand toward the corpse of the beast. The bloodied mass of pale fur flew through the surrounding vines, blinding her with the phosphorescence the movement awakened in the darkness, but she was able to move to sitting. Her head pounded, and a fresh wave of hot, sticky blood washed down her arm. Looking sideways at the deep puncture wounds on her arm, easily visible through the mangled remains of her pilot’s jumpsuit, her nausea got the better of her and Jaina lurched forward, retching uselessly. Not a single ounce of the poison would let go its hold on her system, and dimly, she realized she could not remember the last time she had eaten. Pressing the remains of a tattered sleeve to her lips, Jaina turned her attention to her legs, as though willing them to gain circulation. “You need help,” the soft voice came from the darkness. It was a statement of fact, and there was no pity, no urgency in the girlish voice. Standing there, mere meters away from her, was Jaina’s daughter. Tirzah’s curls hung lank and limp as raindrops followed them like miniature highways, dripping rhythmically to her shoulders or the ground below. The cadaverous hollows of her eyes did little to mask the girl’s obsidian-black irises. She was horrifically emaciated. The wide-eyed preteen had vanished into this haggard, gaunt urchin with murder in her gaze. “Tirzah?” Jaina began, her voice hoarse and rasping. Blood seeped between the fingers of her right hand as she pressed it as firmly as she could into her injured shoulder, but she knew it did little to stem the blood loss. “Are you all right? How did you get here?” “Why did you come here, to the Heart of Rage?” she said without mercy or recognition, ignoring Jaina’s question entirely. Her head tilted quizzically--but too far for comfort, giving her the appearance of a zombified marionette. “Tirzah, I was coming here, coming for you--how did you get--” her voice trailed off uselessly as the girl’s question sank in. And she finally saw it. Behind Tirzah, in the distance on the far side of the clearing, through the brilliance of the vines, she saw it. A massive orb of crimson and steel, pulsing with the heartbeat of the jungle, bolstered by the necromancy of the Sith Sorcerers whose marks were made here. The poison coursing through her blood seemed to call out to it. This. This was the thing that Darex had called upon her to destroy. This was the reason the Sith advancement had to stop. Some crepuscular hand seized her heart and tightened its grip, and Jaina found herself short of breath. What was this power that had the Jedi terrified enough to mobilize an offense force alongside a provincial government? Curiosity eked out of her marrow itself. She had dropped everything at the call of the Jedi Master, telling herself that she was doing her family a service by throwing in her lot with the forces that had come to oppose the Sith expansion. You’re not paying attention, the slithering whisper arrived in her mind in the voice of the Dark Lord Exodus. The knife’s edge had tilted toward darkness, and she had plunged headlong into it without a moment’s thought, lest she be accused of inaction. Maybe it was the poison talking, but the nexus of dark power felt uncomfortably like home. Like a moth to a flame, she found herself drawn inexorably toward it. It promised more power than she could contain, a strength with which she could extend her hand into the aether and recall her daughter. It alluded to new depths of understanding, a control in the Force that would leave her no longer at the whim of the tides of the mysterious energy. Praying no longer to gods benevelent or cruel, her fate in her own hands at last. Forming the current of the future to her will, at last securing safety for her family. At last, carving out a world in which she could have all that she wanted. All that she wanted. It could start here, it could start now. She could reach out and take it, grasp the beating rage that surged through the veins of the very earth she stood upon. The air around her vibrated with the hum of its power. With quivering lungs, she breathed it in, electricity snapping and crackling between her fingertips. Weakly, she stood to her feet, and took a cautious step toward Tirzah, testing her balance. The hooded teenager stepped back to mirror her. She lunged with a hand outstretched to seize the girl before she could disappear entirely into the darkness of the Onderon jungle. As her hand found Tirzah’s arm, the girl’s face turned into a wicked sneer, her lips peeling back from her jaw in a flourish of oozing ichor to expose massive fangs as long as her fingers, spines sprouting from her hooded skull like Twi’lek head-tails. Her flesh turned a sickly green, her eyes hardening into red jewels. The twitching body of the drexl before her sprouted three intricately crafted arrows from its bosom, masterfully aimed to bring down a monster. Staggering back in horror, she pressed a hand to her lips. The scent of her blood had invited them. The taste of her fear had lured them. The tantalizing allure of her conquests had promised the beasts a meal worth their time. The drexls had come. Pressing her back into the hide of the fallen creature, she kept unsteady feet beneath her long enough to spy some other creature dressed in the form of the Spider’s apprentice, scanning the skies with an arrow at the ready. It was only then that Jaina realized the throbbing in her shoulder had quieted. The girl must have followed her out here, trailed her into the wilderness, and it had been she who brought down the creature from the sky. Unless she, too, was an illusion of the darkness. A growing fury rose like a flash flood in her mind, until Jaina’s eyes contained only fire. With a sudden clench of her fist and accompanying growl, she snapped her dislocated shoulder back into place. The tangle of vines disappeared as the wide berth of drexl wings cut swaths through them as easily as if they were made of smoke. The pulsing of the Heart of the Jungle was loud in her ears, and instinctively, she reached into the inner sanctum in the place within her where she knew she would find the Sith Warrior, that place that would amplify the battle rage gathering within her skin. But he was gone. Frantically, she looked back and forth between her hands, the crackling energy of the Force passing between them. No, the Force was no longer silent. Distantly, she could sense that he was alive, and even nearby. She had assumed that the familiar connection would return once the Force whispered to her again... ...but in that place where their lives had been knit together on the other side of mortality, that central artery that kept them both alive had fallen still. Heart sinking, Jaina reached for the only hope she had left. For years, she had floated in the resentment of solitude. From the first moments of her rebirth, her heart had roamed the galaxy crying out his name, a shout into the void, culminating in the shattering of glass in her adoptive brother’s library as her ultimate pain would no longer be silent. With the least satisfying farewell, she had at last seen the glimmer of emotion in his eyes as he spoke of her to Emily. It was the only promise of his love she had to cling to, the only memory save the very existence of her daughter that testified to the everlasting love he had promised to her. In her greatest need, he had been silent, beyond her reach, severed from her sight and from her heart. So used she had become to knocking on a door that wouldn’t open, pinging a channel that would never respond, that up until now Jaina had refused to even approach the door. Even his return had been too good to be true, a phantom that might evaporate if she let go for even an instant. So she had tried not to hold on. She had become a Jedi Master, a servant, a general. Because clinging too tightly to the hope of being a wife and a mother had cost her everything. But as she allowed herself, at last, to shout her need to Andon, she knew. With ecstatic joy like the dawning of a sunrise over the water, she knew. With the crushing vacuum of pain, a gravity well forming within her heart, she knew. He had been there, in every moment, straining against the walls of eternity to carve his way back to her. He had made the natural order of the galaxy bow in order that he would find himself at her side once more. And like a fool, she had seen only his absence, only her grief. Only now did she understand the pain that hid behind the earnest affection in his eyes. Only now, that he was beyond her sight or recall, only now that the vows that they made to one another had been cloven by a force beyond her control, all her bonds shattered, did she truly understand. Andon had seen it all, and endured the fires of death and eternal torment in order to create a galaxy in which they might be reunited. And now she had lost him. Relief and bereavement mingled in the tears that rushed down her face, washing wide-open eyes that were fixated on something in an unseen world. Eternities away, the crystal that contained the color of her eyes burned white-hot and shattered. The Dark Lord had created her anew, a pariah without family or ties to be trapped by, an endless wellspring of power, a conduit of the Force absent responsibility. Hatefully, painfully, she had gotten her most silent and secret wish. Surrounded though she was by the teeming life of the forest and the nimble fingers of the Spider’s apprentice, Jaina’s heart was at last utterly free and utterly alone. With a primal scream that rivaled the ferocity of the encroaching beasts, Jaina unleashed a lightning storm into the heavens. Ozone burnt as her rage spiraled across the night sky, illuminating the bones of the nearest creature as she stopped its great heart from beating. Clouds gathered overhead, and the rain increased, as though Jaina’s sudden shock had defibrillated the heart of a storm overhead. The heavy beat of wings was illuminated by intermittent flashes of lightning, as the spirits of the trees came to life about her and the clearing was filled with the taunts and brays of her own demons. As the corpse of her first kill fell to the undulating earth below, Jaina’s saber found her hand and snapped into venomous action. She plunged the sword into the softest point of the beast, in the skin beneath its wing, to ensure her rage had done its work. A screech behind her alerted her to the presence of another, and she spun to face it. Method and precision were left behind her as the stifling heat of the jungle breeze pushed her hair back from her face. Slashing at the beast, she caused it to rear up on its haunches. It took a swipe at her with a massive claw that she severed at the elbow, carving through its armored flesh like durasteel and eliciting a howl of pain from the creature. Diving into a roll that sent needles of pain spiking through her already injured shoulder, Jaina brought her saber up within the belly of the drexl. The sizzle of cauterized flesh met her ears, and the screech of pain from the collapsing behemoth faltered into nothingness as she punctured its diaphragm. It is yet undone, the familiar hiss of the Heart of Rage whispered to her. Free yourself and live. Freedom. That is why she had come to Onderon, the fight she had taken up, the mantle on her shoulders. For the sake of freedom, she had put herself in chains. At long last, she would cut herself free from every bond, and forge anew only what served the hope of freedom. Slicing one of the massive tusks off of the drexl’s slack jaw, Jaina drove it into her abdomen as her storm continued overhead, driving the hungry beasts to ground. A nauseated laugh erupted from her lips as she drew it from the wound, red and dripping with her own blood, and reached her hand into the crevasse she had created. Within her, something gave way as she fell to her knees, her own blood reddening her exposed arm, and her hand slid out from the surgical opening she had made, clutching a small dark red object, irreparably bruised by her iron grip. A dozen surgeons on Corellia would have been heartbroken to see what had become of all their efforts to save her life with the organ the girl Raia had created within her adopted father. As the storm quieted above her, Jaina lay once more in the grass, the damaged kidney clutched in her hand as she attempted to push it into the dirt beside her, a seed that would never germinate. All of Onderon might have heard her, but Jaina’s steady laughter, that forced wave after wave of blood through her wound, was for herself alone. The Dark Lord’s poison had done its work.
  5. The return of her saber brought marginal comfort to Jaina, and as she stumbled down the seldom-trod path that led out from the walls of Iziz, into the relentless unforgiveness of Onderonian bamboo, it was something like a security blanket against the encroaching darkness. In the wilderness, there was only the savage impartiality of nature and nature’s law: no motive, no leading, no intention, simply the will to survive. An urge that she herself was feeling in spades. In some ways, it mirrored the infinite chaos she had seen in the Force reflected through the Grey Master’s supernova of an exit from mortality. Dark and light in their infinite dance: the endless circle of new birth and violent death, the vicious fauna that had been banished from the populated center of Onderon at the beginning of the planet’s recorded history served as an example of the neutrality and chaos of the Force. She hadn’t expected the craven violet-eyed girl to return her weapons, and truly, she barely dared to question why. The light-attuned crystal in her saber protested loudly against the rapidly declining cogency of her senses, and her hand tightened around it all the more, clutching it to her chest as though it might serve as an anchor or a beacon to give her some clarity as to how she might dig herself out of the pit into which she had been thrown. Her whip, however, betrayed her. The sordid crimson threads that spiraled out from her innermost being, threading vines of depravity through her veins one by one, called to the ancient spirit imbued in it as it trailed limply from her other hand. Its chant grew louder and louder within her, until it reached its final fever pitch: a primal scream that joined with the braying of the drexls overhead to sing her the requiem of her impending sacrifice. With staggering footsteps, she darted further into the bamboo forest, toward the pulsing heart of darkness that demanded her presence. Hands waved at phantom cobwebs wrought between boughs, as if to clear away the fog that crept up from the searing poison welling in her gut. The sweltering humidity settled over her skin like a thick blanket she couldn’t kick off in the dead of night. Her heart beat a tribal rhythm in her ears that grew tenfold with each passing moment, every footfall increasing the distance between her and any hope of getting offworld. But there was something that she needed to see in the depths of the jungle, some revelation that the Force was pulling her toward, and as truly as she knew her own name, she knew that the path to her future lay through this one narrow gate. Finally, the endless jungle gave way to a circular clearing that she estimated to be nearly fifty meters in diameter, through which a muddy, gurgling stream slithered. The increased pounding of her heart served as the steadily mounting pressure gauge for her being. It’s here, I know it is, she thought desperately, with still nary a clue what it is she searched for. I just have to find it. Breathing took all of her focus. Threads of panic grasped at her ankles like thick and dauntless seaweed, weaving a net in which to entangle her. Her elevated heartbeat had circulated the poison all throughout her body in a manner of moments, and as the chills began to set in and Jaina fell to her knees in the soft embankment, relinquishing her hold on consciousness, she reflected vaguely that the last time she had fallen asleep had been in the safety of her husband’s embrace… --- I awakened in ice… As though she was falling, and the impact jolted her awake, Jaina’s body spasmed, returning her abruptly and immediately to a consciousness she did not want. The flora around her had disappeared into the dim of evening, and through the thick foliage overhead she found that she could not get her bearings. She pushed herself to sitting, her skin moist from the settling dew, and the world slipped out from underneath her. Her stomach turned, and she repressed a nauseated lurch--gravity was upside-down. As though in slow motion, she extended a hand to the rich viridian bed in which she lay, expecting the scent of sweet grass to settle her as she pulled up a bruised handful. The noxious fume of ammonia flooded her sinuses, and Jaina coughed raspily, tossing her fistful of greenery aside. It may have been her imagination, but she could have sworn that in her forceful exhale, some winged creature was expelled from her lungs. It’s not real, she reminded herself, delving into the Force to center her, to speak truth to her, to massage the poison from her system on the cellular level. But in the gathering gloom of the planet as it turned its face away from the star Japrael, the primal and vicious curiosity that filled the clearing around her was no illusion, no hallucination. The beasts of Onderon, renowned for their implacable ferocity, had found her at last. The air around her seemed to shudder, and time could not decide whether to go forward or backward, as Jaina struggled to find her footing. The unmistakable tremolo breathing of massive hulking kath hounds disrupted the stillness. They had her surrounded--or was there only one of them? Hateful burgundy eyes glowed from every corner of the clearing, yet somehow their light did not relieve the encroaching dark. Slowly, painstakingly, she moved her hand toward the saber that hung on her belt, wrapping shivering fingers around the comforting warmth of its hilt. Without explanation, she knew: she must not make a sound if she wanted to live. And then she saw them. Pale white, glowing with the fervor of life. As vibrant and true as they had been when Jaina first laid eyes on her on Tython. Tirzah’s unseeing eyes peered from behind the hounds, vengeance written in her very essence. ...afraid of being burned by the fire… Then Jaina’s veins ignited. A wild scream that she could not suppress erupted from her lips as liquid fire began to pulse through her at the molecular level. And the carefully balanced blade tipped toward death. A snarl erupted as the first of the hounds sprang toward her, and Jaina hesitated no longer, audibly gasping to distract her from the pain as she yanked the saber off her belt and ignited it in one swift motion, leaving the head of the beast smoldering on the toxic grasses beside her. Immediately, she regretted the ability to see. No fewer than a dozen hounds filled the clearing. The one who bore Tirzah’s eyes was massive, bristling, a long, jagged scar running down one side of its face, sundering the pristine pale fur it bore. And while they had initially approached her with curiosity, the death throes of the decapitated beast at her feet left no room in their simple minds: she was a threat, a predator, an invader to be repelled. Her arms shook uncontrollably as she brought her saber to bear, terror beginning to seize at the edges of her consciousness. Her muscles refused to respond to impulses from her brain, commands falling flat, and with increasing fear and frustration she began to pivot desperately on one foot, batting away the cautious advances of the beasts that were looking for the best way to avoid the brilliant beam of her weapon. And then they changed. Their fur melted away like liquid metal, revealing skeletal faces full of jagged teeth in rows, exposed vessels pumping acidic blood that was sure to melt her just the same if she came into contact with it. Steam rose from their backs as the rainforest began to pour out its tears on Jedi and beast alike, and Jaina found her breath coming shallower and shallower as the branding iron in her veins left its mark. She grasped at the undercurrent of the Force she knew must run through these beings, desperate to stabilize herself, terrified panting all that her lungs could manage. But the Force was silent to her. Her arms were limp and weak, barely able to hold her saber. Jaina fell back into the place where she knew there would be safety, that shuttered sanctum where her bond to Raynuk was tethered. Where even if the Force abandoned her, her own tie to his life would remain as long as she was living. But there was nothing. ...and so I ran until I could run no longer. One step back. And another. And another. Jaina’s breath came only in terrified sobs as the hounds grew closer, and larger, their breath like the stale blast of hateful wind on Tatooine, saliva dripping off of their fanged teeth as though they had prepared for her a baptism. Her danger sense was silent, but the menace and cruelty written in each creature’s eyes told her all she needed to know. She was truly alone. She would not outrun them. She could only outlast them. With a scream of panic, and terror, and rage, she threw herself at them in a violent lunge, giving way to the only thing that made sense in this world that was upside-down: survival. Molten-metal fingers barely managed to keep a hold of her saber as they charged at her. She fell into rote movements, practiced thousands of times, in the hollow absence of the Force that gave purchase to her craft. One hound fell with a yelp and a snarl as she plunged her saber through its shoulder blades. Another lost the lower half of his jaw as his open maw collided with the violet light. Each swipe of her blade was accompanied by a guttural growl, as if the sound of her own voice was the only reminder that she was, truly, still living, in this jungle devoid of the Force. Spinning on her heel, she fell backward into the soft earth as she turned just in time to avoid the snapping teeth of one of the hounds that had managed to circle around behind her, and a quick swipe downward relieved it of its head as well, joining the growing pile of furred bodies around it. Two others hesitated in the growing dim, the red of their malicious eyes turned on the havoc she had caused already. Two dozen daggers in her left shoulder elicited another scream in earnest as Jaina’s blade slipped from her fingers. The massive pale hound had seized her, its jaws inexorably clamped through her flesh, dragging her along the soft earth. Instinctively, she clawed at its face with her right hand, searching, groping, scratching at its eyes in order that it might release its hold. With sobbing gasps, she dealt blows without purchase as the hound shook her violently, as it might worry a prey animal. Her left hand was limp at her side, unable to reach the whip she had coiled at her belt. It refused to respond to her calls into the Force, as though she had gone mute and deaf, utterly senseless within her supernatural abilities. The left side of her body tingled with acute pain, the loss of feeling almost a relief as the pain ebbed with any sensation she had left. Not like this, something deep within her whispered. With an almighty howl, she wrenched her body sideways, tearing ligaments and muscle on the creature’s teeth as she managed to wrap her weak fingers around the handle of the whip and pull it loose. A haphazard flick of her wrist sent the coil winding around the massive hound’s neck, and with all the strength she could muster, Jaina yanked. It was little more than a distraction for the hound, but it was enough. The clamp of its jaws loosed with surprise, and with the added mobility, she swiveled toward the beast, plunging her finger into the bright white eye of her daughter. With a yelp and a howl of pain, the hound released her, and she collapsed into a heap on the ground. Unbearable searing pain filled her left side as she braced herself along her right forearm, crawling toward where her saber had been dropped. The snorting and snarling of the beast subsided, and Jaina dared not turn for fear of what she would see. Clammy fingers met cold metal in the frigid grass. She rolled onto her back, determined to meet the remaining eye of the beast. And with a telltale snap-hiss, her violet blade burst into flaming life, as the pounce of the last remaining kath hound caused it to impale itself upon the Jedi weapon. Time went out of existence as Jaina lay in the grass, sobbing, the body of the massive hound laid across her abdomen, vaguely aware that her lifeblood itself was draining into the ground beside her.
  6. Whispered warnings from her danger sense were overridden as the striking violet eyes of the Spider's apprentice stepped toward her. She bore Jaina's weapons, and a familiar air that anomic aphasia refused to let Jaina place with words. In a moment, Jaina could have stretched out her hand, brought her saber to bear, and resisted the torment she knew awaited her in that which the girl offered to her. As the iridescent flask pressed against her lips, Jaina's hand lashed out. Tightly, her fingers clamped around the girl's extended arm, prepared to struggle for her life against the poison that was certain to overcome her as it had overcome the others. It was inexorably coming closer, and fear began to tighten her throat. Steady. His voice halted her in her tracks, commanded her muscles to still. He was here, in the flesh, on Onderon. At his own peril, Raynuk had come for her. This sacrifice that the Dark Lord had orchestrated for her would be a test of her own strength and will, of her reliance on the Force itself. But it was also a test for him: she had no delusions, this Exodus almost certainly could sense the strength of the bond that tied her soul to his. Raynuk's presence here dragged him into the spider's web just as surely as she was caught in it. You shouldn't have come, she thought sorrowfully, as the first of the viscous red liquid passed her lips. Some whisper from eternity spurred her forward, allowed her a sage acceptance of the moment that she did not fully understand. It was no inner darkness that whispered to her, but the intangible leading of the Force itself, that fragment of infinity that whispered orders to her, such that she might balance the chaos. But first, she must become it. A trial by fire, by blood, by darkness. Unblinkingly, she met the eyes of the dark apprentice, and wrapped her own hands around the fractal vessel as though determined that she ought not to leave a single drop in the flask. The flames that had curdled the skin of the Grey Master before her eyes proceeded in rank and file down her throat, flooding every millimeter of her esophagus with searing pain. For all she knew, she was metamorphosing into something, something stronger than her corruptible mortal frame--a drexl, perhaps, or a tarentatek, with the way her breath came and went like fire. It was oddly disembodied, as the already red-tinged sky of Onderon deepened to burgundy. Her fingers could no longer process the sensation of touch, and the flask slipped from between her hands, as she stumbled back from the apprentice, doubling over with her hands on her knees, her disheveled braid tumbling over her shoulder. Squeezing her eyes shut even more firmly did little to quell the excruciating pain erupting in her mind, to the sound of her own heartbeat. Uncontrollable nausea overtook her, and for a moment she thought her body itself would reject the Dark Lord's offering. A scream of high-pitched nothingness rang eternally in her ears, and Jaina could not seem to remember how to breathe, how to move. Panicked hyperventilation began to set in as she gasped for breath, her shoulders shaking unrelentingly. Jaina, came a whisper of memory from a moment that never occurred. I would have followed you. Andon's longing was palpable. She had barely opened her mouth to call out to him when another voice filled her mind, confusion, and remorse flowing in Raynuk's tone. Can you... see me? How long before we’re asked to use this bond like a weapon? her own mocking tone rang in her mind. NO! she screamed into the Force, her hands over her ears, wresting the power of the Force from nothingness to quench the terror that seized at her insides with cold, unforgiving claws. The poison had birthed a drexl within her, mewling and squealing and clamoring for her memories as its first meal. Then, all was quiet. Slowly, inch by inch, she stood to her full height. The flames had subsided within her, giving way to embers whose destructive power she did not underestimate for even a moment. Letting her hands fall to rest quietly at her sides, she opened her eyes. The Gates of Iziz stood before her, and at last, Jaina understood. Her sentence was no better than the Grey Master's. Eyes sharp as daggers rested on the apprentice. "My weapons," she said hoarsely, extending her palm. It required tremendous exertion for her to maintain control of her faculties, and control through the Force to consciously suppress the reaction that threatened to burst out of her at any moment from the firewater which she had imbibed. "Please." I awakened in ice, afraid of being burned by the fire, and so I ran until I could run no longer. But when the fire melted me, and I became real, all that it became to me was the warmth of life. Images flashed in reverse and the whispers grew louder, a twisted highlight reel of her memories, and Jaina knew, as they progressed, amidst the taunting eyes of the Grey Goddess: This test would claim her life.
  7. Unnatural faces took shape in the flames that leapt higher as they hungrily devoured the bodies of the fallen: the Grey Master and the proverbial thief crucified at his right hand. The eerie words rang in her mind, branded indelibly, as she struggled to reconcile the pressing demand of eternity with the slow pendulum of time. It was almost as though the seconds slid by, ticking loudly in her ears, as the funeral pyre called her inward. Mesmerized by the lapping of flames like waves, transfixed as though in a trance, it seemed to Jaina that for just a moment, her mind was intertwined with Aryian’s, and like fingers grasping one another desperately over a vaulted precipice, he was slipping away. Then he was gone, and all her mind could process was the distant sound of screaming. Reality seemed to warp and fray around her as her mind struggled to catch up to the present moment, reticent to release the insights and infinite truths that she had seen and witnessed, the confirmation of all that she had held in her soul from time immemorial. The eternity that she beheld through shared eyes did not reflect her likeness, as the vision Andon had shown her professed. Pinpoints of starlight grappled with encroaching darkness, held it at bay, and went nova for all their trouble. The crushing weight of the dark seemed to plunge her into amnesia, and light and order evaporated in the face of the inevitable natural chaos. Darkness that had ebbed for a moment as eternity unfolded before them flowed with a vengeance from the Dark Lord Exodus, filling every corner of her mind, the grievous wound in the Force with the sudden and horrifying deaths of the two men before her rendering her paralyzed. As the eyes of one who lived a lifetime underground might strain to adjust to a brilliant light, the illusory Master of the Jedi grappled with her senses, demanding from somewhere deep in her mind that she regain control of her faculties in the situation. It was the voice of the Dark One himself, speaking her name through those hateful lips, that shattered the barrier in her mind, his commandment requiring her attention. To consume the poison that had trickled down the bodies of the sacrifices before her? It was a desolate price to pay for her own release. She barely kept at bay the need to lash out, to destroy the unholy thing before her, to seek retributive justice for the men that now gave their atomic construct up to the metamorphosis of fire. Small fingers wrapped around her forearm, and like a lamb led to the slaughter, Jaina’s feet moved of their own accord, her eyes wide and her mind reeling against all that she had seen. Such things were not meant for mere mortals. Turn now, and invite ruin. So she kept moving, placing one foot before her to maintain equilibrium, dimly aware she was being led away from the fortress toward the outskirts of the city, the part of her that was still Jedi screaming desperately into the Force for those she knew would be listening for her unmistakable voice.
  8. Light entered her cell with a vengeance that split her mind asunder, the neurons angrily straining against the suddenly added burden of sense perception. Clad in the raiment of daylight illumination, the figure of this velvet-adorned demigod proved no less intimidating than his consequential presence had indicated. Those flashing green irises lost none of their brilliance with the addition of starlight; indeed, it rather accented them, the eerie luminance they gave on their own taking on another level of sinister in the startling anti-dim. Heeding the Spider’s command, her faltering footsteps trailed after him into the glow of day in Iziz. The city bore little recognition to all that she had seen in holovids: crawling with troopers bearing the Sith insignia, the skyscape itself formed to the will of this man that she had little choice but to obey. She’d take her chances with the deadly King of the Dark, if it were the alternative to dealing with the hordes of his overeager minions. Something in his demeanor had shifted, however, at the sparkling touch of Raynuk’s mind within her soul. With little idea of the fate that lay at the center of the spider’s web, the steps that carried her forward were nearly meditative in their precise rhythm. The path that they walked drove spikes of dread into Jaina’s heart with every step, just like the fragmented bone in her leg drove further into the muscles which failed at the task of holding her steadily upright. All around her, the stench and decay of death was punctuated with the flaming wreckage of the overhead battle. Dejected prisoners of war, familiar faces from the Coruscant temple, surrounded her, pleading for the hope she could not give them. She was no savior, and she was not here to rescue them. With the roar of militant footsteps behind her and before her, she took her place in the grim parade into the center of Iziz. Curiosity filled the milieu of emotions pouring through the Force, and she could not bring herself to meet the eyes of those who dared her to answer to their desperate hope. Her place at the right hand of the Dark Lord’s processional bore an uncanny familiarity, a frighteningly comfortable recognition. In truth, it was startling how confident she felt, clinging to the mercy of the Emperor of the Sith, falling comfortably into his shadow as he glided along the gauntlet of his worshippers. Gazing out over the crowd, she almost missed the halt and consequent greeting that escaped the silver tongue of the Dark Lord as her quizzical outreach was rejected by the unforgiving emptiness of the ysalamir’s blister. Turning her eyes upward to the first man greeted, she could not keep the horror and regret off her face as she beheld him, broken of body and feeble of spirit: Aryian, who had halted her fearful departure on Kashyyyk, in the effort to focus her attention on the peace generated by gathered servants of the light. What twists and turns had brought him to become a martyred prophet? At the mercy of the horde, all she could feasibly do was exactly that which the crucified captive asked: bear witness, and pray with all yearning that the Force would not allow this magnitude of darkness to rise unabated, unrivaled. Perhaps all she was ever meant to do was to serve as some sick kind of galactic historian, chronicling the glorious victories and tragic failures that she watched firsthand, never to offer peace or understanding to those who tore at each others' throats from birth until the last fateful swipe of their enemy's saber marked the end of their fruitless lives. Perhaps that was why her steps had taken her here. I will bear witness. What had she done, across the years, within the halls of Kings and Emperors, within the hearts of Demigods and Celestials, but bear witness? She had been the sole survivor of massacres, the protege of paragons, the student of megalomaniacs. All of them, lacking wisdom, lacking foresight, lacking understanding. For all their power, they failed, every last one of them, by underestimating one another. They had one thing in common: all of them managed the same betrayed look as their eyes beheld her face in the moments before death. And she, who walked the fine knife’s edge between light and dark for decades; she would bear witness to their folly. A sudden outburst from the man in a Galactic Alliance uniform beside Aryian gave her a name for the Dark One, as his desperate challenge dared death to come more swiftly. This broken man, cut off from the Force, had no recourse for the wrath he invited. He was dead already, and she knew it as well as this Exodus, whose smug confidence remained cool, even clinical. Then his eyes turned to her, and her dread grew tenfold. The lids of her hazel-green eyes slammed shut like blast doors in explosive decompression. I will bear witness, she repeated to herself as his hateful question fell on her ears, demanding her admission to her greatest secret. I will bear witness. The roar of the crowd shrank to a murmur, and even the unearthly braying of the drexls overhead could not quench the clarity that silenced her fear, the echo of the Force within her mind that whispered the future to her. Her path, that which she knew she must take, seemed at odds with the self-sacrifical code of the Jedi. Death had been promised swiftly to the bloodied Darkfire, and the Alliance soldier would not survive. What, then, would her death gain them all? The emerald tint of her hazel eyes grew all the brighter for being echoed in the Dark Lord’s as she returned his redoubtable gaze. “I will bear witness. My friends give their lives freely to shield others from the darkness, and I am not naive enough to believe that such terms are free from conditions.” Her voice was quiet, and there was no defiance, no customarily feisty overconfidence in her manner. “I am no paragon. I have no interest in standing against the dark. I chose my path freely, but that is because I have walked the dark as deeply--maybe even more deeply--than those who you trust.” Her heart pounded in her ears as she looked back toward the empty place on the wall, that which practically had her name emblazoned above it. She smiled regretfully, the searing pain from her leg pulsing within her mind, illuminating the outline of the mark of Slaanesh etched into her forehead. It was a warrior’s gaze that met Exodus’ eyes when at last she looked back to him, as though she could see her very life in his hands. “This is a fool’s choice, Lord Exodus,” she said in a low voice that almost bore tones of sultry. “If you want me dead, there is little doubt in my mind that I cannot prevent such an outcome.”
  9. The world before her was painted in enough color within the hallows of her mind itself that Jaina had no need to subject her corneas to the indignity of searching for the light that would not come. With every step that he took toward her, this Darkest One brought to bear on her psyche a kaleidoscope of charcoal black as rich as Kuatian caf. The carefully cultivated seething within him was as multivalent as the most thickly woven web. This was not a man given to evil tendencies, a casual criminal whose habits were supported by situational degeneracy. His every breath rang with the truth of depravity, of carefully calculated movements, a Master of Dejarik facing her across the board. Here, the Sith put their best piece forward, a gambit of whose repercussion she was not unaware. Here, there be monsters. Here, there was no need to open her eyes because light was not permitted to exist. And yet, here she was, a glistening spark of starfire, perforating the fabric of reality by her presence amongst this level of hell. His breath like silk cascaded across her cheek, bearing words like poison under the guise of a scent that reminded Jaina of twinfruit or spiced wine. But she, the woman who walked dauntless through the halls of four Grand Masters of the Jedi and four Dark Lords of the Sith; she, who had managed to hold the hand that had disrupted creation, could find within herself neither remorse for those who had lost their lives willingly in the name of the galaxy's protection nor intimidation at the hand of her captor. But nevertheless, she would choose her words carefully. "Citi ir apgalvojuši, ka ir dievi. Vīrieši, katrs pēdējais." The haze of dusky emptiness was at last graced by the fiery hazel-auburn eyes that clashed with his sickly emerald like lit sabers in the penumbra, laden with more curiosity than defiance. "What it is that makes you different?" It was no challenge, nor a request for proof: there was obviously something about this man that set him apart from the Emperors and Dark Lords of Jaina's mixed history. There was no way of knowing what, exactly, he wanted from her, or why he had spared her to begin with. But since a man such as this did not trifle, she was here for one of three reasons: to extract information, to make an example of, or for the pure sport of her company. Her very presence among such captors did not serve as conclusive evidence to the outcome of the battle: such a high-ranking target would, in fact, fetch more unsavory attention than Jaina herself was prepared to admit or acknowledge. Perhaps, having obtained her in their strategic move, the Sith had withdrawn. Alternatively, having lost her, the Jedi themselves may have withdrawn to cut losses. Her self-deprecating smile faded into a weak grin as the initial shock ebbed and the throbbing of her leg would no longer be dissuaded, so given was she to shielding her mind from the particular investigations of this enigma. Swallowing felt like rubbing sandpaper up and down the insides of her throat, and she added, "If you're offering room service, I wouldn't say no to a nice Corellian brandy." From across an indeterminate distance, Jaina's carefully constructed defenses were assailed: not from without, but from within. The darkness that called to her had echoed throughout her soul, reverberating with enough strength to awaken the bond that had lain dormant. And from across the length of distance, an unexpected reply rang with enough force to rattle her concentration. Dažreiz tumsā ir draugi... For the first time since Jaina had returned to herself in the confines of this cell, she was truly afraid. Mephitic recklessness melted off like the early morning cloud cover in early Alderaanian spring. Despite herself, damned be her self-made promises of strength and resolve, she found herself reaching through the adumbration for the reassurance of the celestial mind that was dead set on her. At the hand of this Dark One, this woman who had everything and nothing indeed had much to lose.
  10. Lungs screamed for air as vacuum absorbed her into peaceful oblivion, the ejection mechanism of Jaina's XJ7 betraying her into the arms of cold, welcoming, indiscriminate death. It was a fitting punishment for her deceit, nature's retribution for betraying the desperate yearnings she had shouted into the Force. The stars winked out one by one as shadow encroached on the titian light filtering through the blast shield of her helmet. Even commanding her heart to still and her circulation to quiet, the sparkling spots of oxygen deprivation began to take over her faculties. Reaching through the Force, filtering through the detritus and active vessels around her, she looked for an anchor point by which to pull herself back towards the Alliance ships, hoping to make a hangar before vacuum got the better of her. Momentum began to gather through empty space, a surreality that Jaina's body seemed reluctant to process, when a flicker from her danger sense alerted her. TIE fighters seemed so much smaller from the cockpit of a ship that could obliterate them as easily as breathing. The starfighter clipped her leg, catching her in its flight path and sending her spinning towards the opposite panel. Struggling for equilibrium, she cursed under her breath, exerting the Force with a push of her hand towards the TIE's engines. The blackness of vacuum won out as her head made contact with the undercarriage of the starfighter's fuselage. Quiet. Cold. --- "Darex asked me, I have to go." "What am I supposed to tell him?" "Don't tell him anything, he'll find out for himself. It's not like I can keep this from him. But he wouldn't understand. That's why I have to go, now." A parting glimpse of her ship, bearing her live husband and deathly child, showed a flicker of the conflict that poured out from within Jaina as the Coruscant skyline began to dim. The battles of this galaxy he perceived to be beneath him. He had fought through a celestial plane Jaina yet did not understand in order to be with her. She, who remained one of his last living ties to the galaxy as Jaina perceived it. But she was a Jedi Master, and her word given to her Order was her bond. Until she could better grasp the balance between family and duty, for the first time that she could remember, she would lean on the side of duty. It did not escape her thoughts that even shooting at the ships of her enemies could be friendly fire, and a twinge of hope sent through the bond that stretched across time and space knocked at the shuttered gate. The call had come, and Jaina would go to fight. --- Cold. Quiet. Noncompliant lids refused to part company, and a slow, trembling hand snaked up to touch the back of her head. Her helmet was gone, and her hair was matted with sticky particulate dried blood that crumbled as she traced her fingers across her scalp. A thick metal collar hung around her neck, but she did not feel the telltale emptiness of the ysalamir's kiss. Ironic, that they bothered with a collar such as this one, without stripping her of the power that could free her. An oversight that she would use to her advantage should it come to it, but for now, the steady alert humming like an engine in her gut gave the impression that while danger surrounded her, volatility could be avoided with careful maneuvering until she could get herself out of here. Where was here? By sheer strength of will alone she peeled her eyes open, and was greeted with nothingness. The resemblance between the maw of her subconscious to the unyielding blackness of her surroundings was uncanny, but this was no netherworld of the Force, no alternate plane of reality. If it were, everything wouldn't hurt so much. Atgriešanās... The hateful whisper refused to come with the dignity of soundwaves to pierce the air. The aether that called to her innermost being bore none of the good will nor the permeating regret that Raynuk's desperate cry had offered or engendered. But the steely bond to Montar's being remained quiet, and she did not hear with his understanding, not this time. By virtue of her youth at the hand of the Grand Vizier to Lord Ar-Pharazon himself, the language had been seared into her mind with the telling lash of a cruel master's patience. Rocky wastelands saw her blood and sweat as she struggled silently to do the bidding of the master whose dreams of her greatness had been the only thing sparing her from an untimely end. She had repaid him in kind for the strength he had afforded her, for the one lesson he had succeeded in teaching her. Betrayal comes from anywhere. The fractal presence that filled the air around her, that tested her with parlaying glances and the patience of a lunging predator who knew his prey could not evade him, was a thousand times more deadly than Bishop of Battle, though kin to Madness he had been. The hissing allure of familiar darkness tied a line around the same hook that had always found its mark. Heady and powerful, it threatened to whisk away all she had worked to build, with the simple whisper: return to me. The only light here was that which she had brought with her, and even with as strong as she was, it was dangerously dim. He was not to be trifled with, this man who watched her assessingly from nothingness. Steadily, she pushed herself up on scraped palms to sit with her back to the wall, reaching for the Force that granted grace to her movements, even with her leg throbbing from where it had made contact with the TIE. A chill brought on by her movements told her that flight suit was torn and tattered, but no thought to her own modesty would have her back down from evaluating this new threat that watched her from the shadows like a tomb-dwelling laigrek waiting to strike. She had no way of knowing whether they could see her, but she did not possess the strength of will to pierce through the darkness to illuminate the situation. In that regard, she would have patience. But if they were waiting for her to open the discussion, she would not disappoint. "You know, Sith holding cells really have improved in quality since the last time I was in one. The last one was full of water and the corpses of my friends, so I'll call this an upgrade," she began nonchalantly, closing her eyes and leaning her head back against the wall. With a self-deprecating smile, she added in the Sith tongue that sprang too readily to her lips for her liking, "Es neesmu svešinieks tumsai."
  11. First off, well paced, both of you. This was a truly enjoyable read, and, whether or not it is hereditary, you both have a riveting knack for unique, interesting, and maybe even absurd character concepts. Most of the time, something I take issue with in duels is their pacing, and people trying to cram far too much action into each post. You both scaled and paced beautifully, each post detailing actions that gave each other adequate time to respond and making it a fun volley to read through. Now, to get into the details. A medical droid, no matter how evolved and advanced, would be hard-pressed to keep up with a seasoned warrior that thrives off of instinct and bloodlust. (Or in this case, religious indignation at the existence of such an abomination.) However, the setting seems to even the playing field a bit, as they're on Query's home turf. A nod has to be given to the descriptive language that was both multifaceted and in-character. Using the kind of vocabulary that each character would employ definitely added to the overall believability of the setup. The Tusken's initial strike is straightforward and in keeping with the passionate warriorhood of his character, and Query does well to both react and take the kind of damage that would be inflicted with such a strike. Query's counterattack does an appropriate amount of damage to the Tusken, whose reaction time is believable. I also have to commend both of you further for your fabulous acceptance of the damage dealt. Rruror'rur'rr's description of the effect that his injuries have on his focus and ability lends credence to the next actions he takes, including the need to lean on the wall for support due to the surgical slice in his leg. The one issue that I took with the final round of posts was when Rruror'rur'rr (frighteningly I spelled that correctly from memory) spelled out the effect of the final charge by Query. Attempting contact with the hope of sending your opponent towards an electrical panel is one thing, writing that the attempted strike was redirected easily and without regard to the laser scalpel that, in theory, would have sheared through the Tusken's weapon as easily as flesh, seemed the only component in this duel that didn't quite belong. Query played along well, though, using the arcing panel as a weapon rather than a death sentence. All of that being said, here is my ruling:
  12. Jaina's return to consciousness was slow and hazy. While she was dimly aware of the stirring of her husband beside her and his subsequent departure, she clung to the momentary peace and buried her face into the softness of the pillow, absolving her eyes of the burden of their work and letting the dark rhythm of hyperspace continue for a little while longer. The oaky scent of Andon's hair seemed to fill the shreds of wakening, and there was a peace in the Force that seemed to whisper that all would be put to rights. The hope that she had sought fruitlessly and shouldered as a bond of her soul now came easily, a glowing contentment that eked out of her every pore. Space itself seemed less cold now that he had returned. Like a feral jungle cat, she stretched sleepily, gracefully, willing herself to conquer the task of waking and determined to set about making caf before their landing on Coruscant. As her feet hit the cold decking, she crossed to her small closet, but a feeling that something was out of place halted her, and she did a double-take at the seal on the hidden wall compartment. It was closed, but not entirely, suggesting that Andon must have divined its existence--how, she had no way of knowing, but neither was she surprised--and a sudden catch in her throat choked her to tears. How many sleepless nights had she returned to that compartment, desperate for a reminder that he had existed beyond a distant memory? How often and how fondly had she buried herself in the scent of him, torn in every decision, soothed by the reminder that he had trusted her and it was worthwhile for her to learn to trust herself? And now the mementos she had kept had exhausted their sentimental purpose, returning to a practicality she had long determined to be impossible. A calm that she had long attributed to getting lost in the eternal waves of Chadra tides settled into her bones, and a secret smile she could not suppress crept its way onto her face as she dressed and moved to the galley to obtain her requisite elixir. Clutching the steaming mug of caf between both hands, she ducked through the doorway to the cockpit, and what she saw gave her momentary pause. Tucked under the central control console, a pair of tall tuskcat slippers slumped lazily sideways, as if they had gotten bored waiting for her. The quiet smile became wistful as she pulled them over her bare feet, the residual chill of her toes dissipating into the furry warmth. The barrage of emotion that came with the simple act was halted by the proximity alarm, which startled Jaina enough that she nearly spilled the caf into her lap. Glancing over her shoulder to make sure that neither of the ship's other occupants had been witnesses to her maladroitness, she toggled the hyperspace lever, and the Traitor's Hope hiccupped out of hyperspace. The tunnel of stars came to an end, letting them out at a familiar sight: the grey and neon ecumenopolis of Coruscant, hanging poised in nothingness, clad in the sheer negligee of its shimmering planetary shield. All things considered, it didn't take altogether too long to break their way into the atmosphere, following the never-ending queue of ships toward the familiar destination where her computer readout told her she could find Skye. So much history had happened here... ...but it was not the time for reminiscence. Tirzah was waiting.
  13. Leaning her forehead against his chest, irrespective of the persistent grease that still marred her features, Jaina willed her questions into silence for the space of a moment, simply to drink in the truth of what he said: whatever the past had held, whatever lay beyond in their future, he was here, now. That hope alone had been enough for her to cling to in the past: it would certainly be enough for the present. Curling her fingers around his, she exhaled the anxiety that rested on her shoulders, releasing the strife and accusation that welled up within her. There would be time enough for explanation and understanding, time enough to mine the depths of what he had endured to make his way back to her, time enough for her to share the wounds and triumphs of her months without him. Gratitude surged in her heart: for now, the moment would be enough. Turning over in her mind the name that he had given as the cause for his inexplicable and selective amnesia, a familiar vision sprang unbidden to recall, striking chill to Jaina’s bones and sending shivers up her spine that she could not attach to any logical source. Irrespective of the grease smeared across her garments, she pressed unconsciously close to Andon, desperate to soak in his warmth. Her mirror image stared back at her from the aether, half solemn and kind, half malevolent and fiery. An open palm extended on one side, on the other, a vengeful fist, the entity that bore her face snarling and soothing, carrying within her the extremes that Jaina herself had explored so fruitlessly. This, then, was the Grey Goddess. The barbaric mistress that bore her features had robbed Andon’s mind of her memory. The thought was ironic in its cruelty. As with all things, though, she needed a reason, in order to still the churning of her mind. “What is she? And how do you know she won’t do the same thing again? And why, out of all the galaxy, does she have it out for you?” Exhaling shakily, she looked back into the security of Andon’s features. “I don’t--it’s just--I don’t think I can survive losing you again.” He took a breath and held it for several moments, a look of contemplation on his face concerning how he was going to word the miasma of revelation contained behind his gaze. “She is an Anathrope… a being of instinct that has gained sentience and will through the ages. She is old, very old, and has learned to covet.” His lips found the crown of Jaina’s head and the kiss of her husband fought against the trembling dark that threatened to undo the moment of solace she had just called her own. “She is not like me, like what I have become. There are few beings that carry my lineage.” Hazel-gray eyes became momentarily distant, as if remembering an encounter from a previous life. Andon turned his head, occupying the same space against the bulkhead that held Jaina’s own vision captive, as if he, too, was able to see the visage of the Goddess bearing Jaina’s face. “She came to me one night, wearing your face.” Andon’s voice became cold. “She offered herself to me in your form, asking for my allegiance in return. What she did on the Dejarik Board was but the first step in the greater legato of her maleficent symphony. She desired me to be the Commander of her Legion; an army of some kind. I declined and she saw that which was intimate and sacred be stripped from me.” Andon’s hand roamed up and down Jaina’s back, the warmth of his touch waning the ache and chill that was trying so desperately to claim her. He stood in silence, almost as if allowing Jaina a moment to process all that he said. All the while, his gaze bored into the image of the Goddess. “You don’t have to be afraid of her anymore. I have eclipsed her in the hierarchy of the… unnatural.” The hand of her husband rested along the back of the Jedi Master’s head, tenderly stroking her hair. “She can’t harm what she is running from in fear. I’m surprised the echo of her visage is even here, knowing that I intend to kill her.” He exhaled in the direction of Goddess and the haunting image of the entity faded away, as if he had banished it from his presence. “My life is yours.” Warm fingers wiped away the tears that clung so desperately to Jaina’s cheeks. “The only place for me now is by your side.” There was a vibration of strength that seemed to emanate from his words as he spoke, and though she had no grounds on which to base the tales he spun or the claims he made, her heart reverberated with the truth of his admission. He had pledged his love to her already, what seemed like entire lifetimes ago on Corellia. Somehow, the simple promise he made ran deeper than that. Andon Colos, the boy she had watched grow to manhood, the man she had followed into masterhood, the master who had gained a modicum of power that she had no metric through which to comprehend, was transfigured before her. The shell of mortality seemed translucent, belying the true nature beneath. There were lifetimes within him she had yet to know, and the challenge of searching them out awakened a fire within her. The lineage into which he had been grafted promised the power to change the course of the galaxy, if only it could be grasped, and yet-- And yet, he offered his existence wholly to her, putting aside all other pursuits. Through all the ages of time he had seen across all the universe, in all worthwhile endeavors, she had been his dream. To say the thought was humbling was overwhelmingly understated. Her hands trembled within his, and as she tipped her chin back to meet his gaze, she couldn’t restrain a musical burst of tremulous laughter at the amount of hyperdrive grease that had transferred from her matted hair to his face. There were no words she could offer to match the promise he had made, but the glimmer of sincere love that shone from the depths of her eyes as she brushed fruitlessly at the grease on his features with the increasingly filthy rag bespoke the resonance such a pledge earned within the core of her being. The cloth fell from between her fingers, and she was pressing her palms to his cheeks, reaching for his lips with her own, the soaring demand of her soul to be as close to him as possible echoed in every imaginable expression of every molecule of her body. There was no more time for words. The demand of his embrace lifted her into the air as her form molded to his. The lips of her husband lay claim to hers, and there was an intangible aroma that suggested that the desperation in his kiss did not capture the depth of his desire. The weight of his form pressed her against the wall, and in the haze of his yearning, she swore that they had departed from the life support corridor and had arrived in the Captain’s quarters. She did not remember walking through any entrance to either section of the ship; it was almost as if they had merely passed through the wall and arrived within the room. It did not matter, for the demands of Andon’s longing had enveloped her beyond the point of contemplating such things. She ran her fingers through the shaggy locks of his hazel brown hair and the smile he rewarded her with stripped the room of any further distraction. She lost herself to Andon’s touch, for at this moment, the quietude of his whisper awakened a nature within her that had been kept stilled and quiet, relegated to the forgotten parts of her past, the irreclaimable darkness of loss. The boundless ocean of the celestial’s adoration led her into the private refresher room. Their cloaks were discarded, along with the need for any further words within this stolen moment. There were only instinct and steam to keep husband and wife company, now.
  14. Had it been anyone else who set their hand to the control of Jaina’s pride and joy, she would have relieved them of the privilege of having hands at all. In this case, however, the Traitor’s Hope had responded to Andon as a friend from distant memory, and the old girl hurtled into hyperspace. “Skye has her, on Coruscant,” she managed finally, as the gas giant of Yavin disappeared into blue oblivion behind them. “Emily and I followed the trail to Nhagathul, but the planet itself was gone when we arrived.” The weight of her admission brought a flush of shame to her cheeks, but she said nothing of the sense of failure that consumed her soul at the abandonment of that mission. “How can you see her, where I can’t?” Her gaze met Andon’s, hesitantly at first. He stood before her robed in cloak and mystery, a being on many levels that was entirely foreign and alien to her. Yet, simultaneously, his very essence felt like approaching home after a long journey, that was previously thought to have no end. Her husband, no matter how far removed from what he was, could still make Jaina feel the warmth of sun-kissed sand from their youth on Chad. She searched the depths of hazel-gray eyes for answers, furrowing her own brow as the scar upon his face tightened with the change of his features. He was serendipity with a lopsided grin, and he made her heart feel things she had not dared to experience in these long years alone. Andon turned his head, staring through the steel of the bulkhead, almost as if he could see the tapestry of hyperspace weaving before him in evanescent threads of transpatial matter. As her question hung in the air, a smolder of haunting loneliness whispered outward into the depths of space from the deepest recess of his aura. It was easy to forget that this god-like being before her was still reassuringly human beneath the surface of all his wonder and ability. Having found whatever he was looking for within the currents of hyperspace, Andon’s gaze rested upon Jaina once more, as only a husband could look at his wife. For the first time in what felt like decades, she could trace an ache of sadness along the lines of his features: imperceptible, to anyone but his wife. “I can see many times and places, beyond what I could before.” His voice was dangerously soothing and easy to get lost within. “I couldn’t for a long while, but I have traveled to many worlds searching for you both. I finally found one that could grant me the ability to see you. That is why I’m here.” An answer so simplistic, but drowning in the weight of substance and understanding that was surely too impossible to ever be real. Her Traveler of many times stood looking at her, as Jaina turned her back and recused herself to fix the hurt of her ship, overwhelmed and confused by the quantum insinuations of his words. --- Wedged into the small space in the hyperdrive access bay, Jaina found herself hanging upside down by her knees, covered in grease, tinkering with the alternating sequence module. Andon’s cursory metaphysical repair job had been effective to spur the machine into its function, but synchronized with her ship as only a true pilot could be, Jaina had abandoned all else to the task of moving through the ship and tweaking what she could to her own likings and specifications. The comforting hiccup of the hyperdrive, sterilized and removed by the Solaris techs who had retrieved it from its paralysis in deep space, had returned as a result of the cult’s plasmic abuse, as suddenly--and possibly as destructively--as Andon’s return into her life. If she built walls of the Force around herself, stifled her senses to the brilliance of the beacon of his presence on the ship, it would almost be possible to imagine that it had all been a dream. The life she had built for herself in his absence seemed to ring hollow, and yet, she could not excuse herself from the burdens she had chosen to shoulder. If there was a chance to rescue Tirzah, did she not already have permission from Darex to pursue it? She had given up hope once her daughter had gone beyond sense of recall, but now the haunting whisper of the nursery rhyme that echoed on a Netherworld battlefield seemed to ring through the corridors of the Hope, sticking in her mind, replaying over and over to a bereaved soul. Had she been wrong to turn from the hope of family to shoulder the burden of the Order? Was she wrong now for tending to her family, believing in the hope of a real reunion, instead of returning to Felucia and pulling her weight as a member of the Jedi Council? She could not, would not, allow the galaxy to crumble on her watch. The Force demanded balance, and her work was endless, her spirit tireless. But such questions seemed too large to hold in her thoughts or in her heart, so Jaina’s mind centered on the task at hand. Solder here. Splice there. Hydrospanner to the alluvial damper. That was easier than addressing the chill she felt at the core of her being. The return of her husband had brought a weighty joy to Jaina’s soul: not the elation of a butterfly-ridden gut, a child’s vain imagination, but an inspiring hope that bore conditions. Once again, it was possible to build the future of which they had dreamed as children. But it bore none of the naivete of her girlhood, the innocent eyes that hoped for the redemption of all things. Reconciling the disparate strands of their pasts into a cohesive future was sure to require intensive labor. In various ways, he had tried to show her where he had been, why his mind had been robbed of her very essence. His words were nonsensical, and yet spoke truths of eternities searched and uncovered. Up until now, she had barely allowed for the things he had been telling her to be the truth. How could he have formed galaxies around her image? More importantly, if his hand directed eternity, why now? Why here? Why her? The answers she imagined were not ones she wished to know. Her curiosity ebbed, hindered by an unspeakable force, something she refused to bring into the light. Why had her apprehension precluded her desire to see? Raynuk. Of course it was Raynuk. The bond that united them had gone still. What used to pulse with comforting presence, the encouragement of understanding, was now a vacuum of silence. Respectfully, he had given her space to reunite with her husband. And she had felt the need to hide him from Andon, to conceal the importance he held in her life, to guard against the animosity that had always existed between them. How could she reconcile the fervent affection she felt, for this man whose very existence was tethered to hers, with the reality of her heart’s desire materializing before her, her estranged husband who could at last breathe her name in recalled whispers? How could either of them ever understand how she needed the other? A stray spark from the fusion of superheated metal landed on her wrist, jolting her out of her musings. Reflexive application of the healing warmth of the Force melted away the prick of pain before it could fully materialize. Pushing up the face shield, she righted herself in the bay, pausing for a moment as the blood rushed back out of her head and pulsed to her extremities. Assisted by her supernatural abilities, she lifted herself gracefully to the grated deck plating above. The curiosity that burned within her at his return simmered under her skin like the spark that had singed her, and the impulse to shield the knowledge of the existence of the unspeakable bond she bore within her paled in comparison with her desire to understand. The hum of sabers was detectable from within the repair bay as she followed the anchor of his luminosity through the corridors, moving past the swirl of Emily’s presence--something she would be glad to have Andon’s assistance with--and came upon her husband, bent over the life support systems in the corridor off the cockpit. “It’s like you’re not even real,” she blurted out without preamble, her eyes filling with confused tears that she had been withheld by the sheer wonder of his reentry into the galaxy in which she lived. “In some moments, you’re the man I remember, and in others, you’re this demigod, this thing, and I don’t understand at all where you’ve been, what you’ve seen, what you’re talking about. I don’t know if Emily’s right, and you’re just something brought back by the Cult to torment and distract me, but I have to do what no one else seems willing to do in this kriffing galaxy, if I’m the best person they could find for the job, and I still don’t know why you weren’t there for Tirzah, and what anyone could have done to you to make you leave everything you ever cared about and forget me entirely, and, and, and why the hell are you messing with my ship?” Angry tears spilled out over her flushed cheeks, the Jedi Master trembling in her pain as she stood silhouetted in the doorway, no longer willing to be assuaged by ethereal promises, as much as she was desperate to believe them. The measure of her self-control was slipping, her walls slowly crumbling as she strained and yearned to grasp what he had shown her, exerting her control over that which she could reasonably call her own.
  15. A gentle pressure on her niece’s arm was all the acknowledgment Jaina could find it in herself to give. For the briefest flicker of a moment, the pain of her great loss was superseded by the reticence to appear before Emily in her current state. The comfort she had offered what seemed like mere hours ago was being paid to her in return, and it did as much for her as it likely had for Emily: which is to say, not much. The whispered reassurances did spark a question in her mind, however, and as Jaina stood, turning to face Andon silently, not bothering to brush the falling tears from her cheeks, her eyes searched his for the answers she needed. Stepping past Emily, her hand brushing her niece’s shoulder affectionately, she fell into Andon’s arms, pressing her face against his chest. “Can you find her?” she whispered. The thought had no relevance to the whereabouts of her body: Jaina knew that the girl’s corpse was tucked away in Skye’s care. Looking up to meet his gaze, in the boundless depths of the infinity contained inside Andon’s eyes, she searched for the hope she had dared not ask for. Tell me that we can put it all back together, her heart pleaded, not caring whether or not he heard her. For her part, she wasn’t even sure if she was referring to the ship, their tentative reunion, or Tirzah’s life itself. Maybe all of it. Her broken heart, exhaling pain and determined beyond anyone’s assistance to do the right thing, was asking a question she had dared not ask anyone for fear of the answer. Wounded eyes begged for a reason to endure. Bid me to do the impossible, and I will.
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