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Felucia - Jedi Temple


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Orpheon focused on what the new Jedi was telling him. He had become adept at reaching inward and touching the Force, so that is where he took the basics from. Reaching inward he once more let the storm course through his veins. He could feel the lightning rushing through him, almost like recharging his internal batteries. He felt more refreshed, energy returning to him after his trek through the jungle. Every so often, he felt something blocking that flow of energy. Calming himself and continuing his focus, his pushed through each block, letting it gather to be pushed out in as a natural exhale. But that was not what happened. 

 

As the storm coursed through him and gathering the darkness, it was brought back to the eye of the storm. The Chiss warrior felt the darkness building in his storm. The lightning striking at the center was changing. The white-blue bolts became scarlet red tears in the storm. Sweat began to bead on Orpheons brow as he continued to gather the darkness within himself; the darkness that was the virus. As he watched the scarlet tears erupt inside, he watched as the the hooded figure once more emerged. The eyes within the hood began to glow red. Streaks of light coursing through, each streak coinciding with a scarlet bolt of lightning.

 

"Yes! Continue to feed me. Sin-eater!"

 

After several moments, the red lightning began to once more fade to the previous white-blue. The storm began to calm once more and the lightning orb returned to surround the hooded man. The virus had been purged from his system, but at what cost. Opening his own crimson eyes, Orpheon stared ahead and watched as Sandy drew the poison from the child in front of her.

 

"This is beyond what I have done before. I have never been much of a healer. My whole life, my talents have lay in.....well, the opposite direction."

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Sandy let her green eyes linger on the Chiss’s red eyes, her mouth set into a small frown. Not disappointment by any means, but one of concern. As she laid the child back onto the medical cot, she let her concerns be fully known. 

 

“A full purge of the darkside is a dangerous act. Sin eating even more so. Darkness is a natural part of life, and though we may desire to purge it with a holy fire, I would recommend releasing it. I do not know your training or your background, but you do not bear the uniform of an Imperial Knight and do not have the support system to go toe to toe with the darkside in such a way.” 

 

She said this with little reproof, she was not scolding the man, but merely warning. “Now let us venture further into the mire of this planet. There is another village up the dirt road. Another refugee camp. And from the scouting reports, likely just as filled with death.”

 

They walked as the medical speeders began to pack up, and it was not much longer than an hour until they could smell the next village. Rot. Decay. Death. And the dark side. “Stay beside me.” She whispered as they walked through the undefended gate wincing as the full smell of the place hit her nose. Bodies lay strewn and bloated on the dirt paths between the clustered houses. She reached into the force, searching for those telltale signs of human consciousness, and found a small cluster towards the center of the village itself. The signs were confused, almost tainted and not the same as the girl before. These were more alive. 

 

And in the village they found a troupe of the survivors. Dancing in a great circle around a fire. Laughing like their lives depended on their mirth.

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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The force moved through the planet, its silent and still eddies becoming rushing streams of power. Stained power, corrupted power, and to everyone it touched, it whispered. The sick and dying screamed and shouted at their dreams of terror and those who had not yet succumbed could feel their hope recede, and the voices that one normally suppressed as a conscience, spoke almost audibly in their ears. 

 

“Kill yourself.” 

 

And some did. And those that did not waited for the voices to speak again, seeing some divine revelation in the whispers. It was the darkside, and it drove some mad. 

 

Rebel Alliance peacekeeping medics, having newly come to the planet were not immediately susceptible to such voices, but they creeped on the edges of their subconscious. And to the Jedi Knights, they could feel the visceral stirring of the force. A directed stirring. And the unnamed evil sought them out. With every tap into the force, the voices found a path in. 

___________________

 

For those in the Village of Antra-Xerxi, life had evolved in a different way. The plague had hit heavy here, leading to the death of the majority of the adult population. Their bodies still lay rotten where they had fallen, slowly eaten by the jungle predators and scavengers. And those that were not, were burst upon the ground. Their bodies the victim of the jungle heat and gases of decomposing organs. 

 

But for the children of the village. The voices had protected them. Guided them to the fire. And when the voices spoke, they danced. A dance of death. A dance of passion and unguided rage and mirth. Their feet could not sustain them for much longer, and the circle was wet with blood. But still they danced, driven by the possessing force. A danse macabre. 

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Leena was relieved at the arrival of the strange Jedi-aligned droids. She was not aware the Jedi even had access to such . . . war machines, and it concerned her. Their odd vernacular and discussions amongst themselves though made her ponder. They were not like the faceless marching masses of other droid contingents and security forces she had seen or read about.

 

With the help of the droids, a small but well-stocked bastion of healing was completed by the end of the afternoon. The Jedi and Rebel medics soon began carting in the sick and dying, taking advantage of long forgotten cool dark corridors to stack the dead until they could be buried or burned. Speeders, wheeled carts, pull behind wagons, whatever could be found was utilized to bring in those who could not be treated where they were found. Amidst all the organized chaos, Leena could be found, garbed in a protective suit of white atop her white Jedi Healer robes. 
 

All around her, Leena could feel the force. It roiled like an invisible tempest all around them seeking any crack to wear and break down. In it, the young Healer was a stalwart lighthouse. Innately she broadcast a wave of soothing light all about her, with half her mind concentrated on delving into the source of the mysterious pathogen, the rest of the majority of her mind sought to ease the suffering at hand while feeling out the tendrils of darkness that broke their defenses and driving them back.

 

The girl was not a sin eater or an exorcist, but as a Jedi healer, she was pure of spirit. In that purity lurked an innate aversion to the darkness. It was a trait she had nursed and nurtured since she was a child; one that had been recognized and honed by the Circle of Healers. Here in the furthest reaches of Felucia, Leena was subconsciously grateful, even as she felt the toll wear on her. 
 

Moving from bed to bed, inspecting new arrivals and offering encouraging words to patients and healers alike, Leena sought out any and all force users in their ranks. She encouraged them to stand against the darkness as it pressed in. The more they could spread out the burden, the longer they could work without being overwhelmed. Together, they were stronger.

 

Looking up as she degloved after attending to a particularly sick patient whose boil covered body had begun bursting, Leena paused. Where was her apprentice? She was not used to having one and he had been pushed from her mind in the hustle and bustle. He should have been back a while ago with Master Sarna.

 

Checking her comlink, Leena frowned. No missed messages. She felt the force, it surged darkly. She could practically taste it as it clawed at her consciousness. She was a trained Jedi and she felt the exhaustion. “What have I done?” She pondered aloud with a hint of shock and fear in her voice as she registered just what potential danger she may have sent the untrained Chiss into.

 

Slipping out of her hazardous material getup, Leena rushed for the exit. Flagging down a passing droid who was carting a pile of infected clothing away, Leena explained that she had to go out for a time to find some wayward Jedi. Not having a firm grasp on the force as a mechanized being, the droid confusedly nodded, “roger roger.”  
 

Leaving the temple, Leena found an unattended hoover bike. Reasoning that it was of little use to transport the sick, Leena commandeered it so as to seek out Orpheon and Sandy quicker.

 

Gliding through the jungle at break-neck speed, Leena frowned. She did not particularly enjoy the thrill of dodging death as she zipped amongst the trees and over the undergrowth. The force led her, averting certain fiery crashes several times due to a supernatural reaction or instinct-based twist of the controls. Free of the relative safety of recently erected fortress of light at the temple, Leena felt the full crushing assault of the sickly dark side that permeated everywhere. It took everything she had to keep the bike in one piece and not be overcome by the ethereal forces of evil.

 

Surging forward, Leena’s body tired as time wore on. Charging deeper into the jungles, Leena finally felt it, felt them: Orpheon, Sandy, someone or something girded in the light side standing against the onslaught of evil; even as evil swirled like the embers of a great dark fire all about them.

 

Tearing into the village, the hum of the speeder’s engines broke the silence as the odor of decay reached Leena’s nose. 
 

Slowing to an idle at the village’s abandoned entrance, Leena called out, one hand drifting towards her saber hilt, unsure of what waited within the raging tidal forces of darkness that obscured everything.  “Helllllooooo! Is anyone here? I am a Jedi, here to help. We have a camp set up to treat the sick. I am here to help!”

 

 

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The Transient Plunder dimmed and listed as it rocketed out of hyperspace above Felucia, her pilot's control over the vessel lapsing as he faced the sudden onslaught of dark influence. The ship's engines sputtered for another few moments out in the deep black. Flickering against the reinforced hull of the old Wayfarer.

 

Then, as quickly as it had stopped, the Plunder lurched forward into motion. The old ship's engines burst into scintillating blue as they carried their payload forward, rapidly approaching high orbit. Shortly, the craft's coms flared to life on a series of nearly-forgotten frequencies.

 

"This is the Transient Plunder to Republic and Jedi forces on Felucia. I've been sent to assist on behalf of Knight Silan."

-

Jackson flicked his comms unit off and waited for a return, flexing his fingers anxiously. It already didn't feel like things were going well down below, and he was no healer. Not by a longshot. His talents lied firmly entrenched within machines and their ilk, even despite his efforts thus far. The way his mind visualized and internalized things had always made it difficult to freely manipulate the force, something which he imagined was required when it came to the healing arts. More so when the last few times he'd tried, he ended up half starved and with a couple of odd tumors to show for the effort.

 

Dealing with nebulous waves of dark side energy on the other hand, he was quite accustomed to. He had been doing it nearly constantly for the past three years, after all, and the oppressive flavor of iron that he could taste with his parietal lobe was almost comforting in its familiarity. The on-again Padawan knew that would probably be a point of contention for... whoever he was supposed to meet down below.

 

Regardless, Jackson figured he might as well be productive while he waited. The Plunder's various sensors and scanners, the vast majority being salvaged and restored or aftermarket upgrades, hummed to life and focused on the jungles below. He had been to Felucia before, on a few occasions, and it was always interesting to see what was lurking just below the planet's surface. To get a glimpse under the topsoil and muck hiding evidence of battles-long-past. It was easy for the human to get lost in his own senses while exploring those sorts of areas, as he quickly demonstrated by pulling his ship up just in time to avoid turning into a wet crater in the hot mud.

 

The Padawan would be taking a much closer look at the surface than he'd been planning, in the end.

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Orpheon stood and watched as the would-be survivors of this community ritually danced around a fire. He watched as their raw and bloody feet left crimson imprints after each step. Yet the joy in their eyes hid the pain they must be feeling, and none of the slipped in the slightest in their ritual. His own face was a mask of confusion and non-understanding. He had seen a lot of things in his travels but this was the strangest and by far the most disturbing. He just could not understand how these children could dance this way, raw and unbridled joy while the burst forms of their parents lay on the ground mere feet away, rotting and decomposing on the jungle floor.

 

"What is this?"

 

One hand moved to the grip of his sword, and the the inching towards the pistol at his side. He knew not how these crazed children would react to their presence. Killing a child was something he did not desire to do, but unfortunately if things took a wrong turn, that may be what he would be called upon to do.

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One of the Jedi Knights on the surface near Master Sarna lifted his comm and snapped a reply back to the new arrival. 

 

“Copy that Transient Plunder, please find Master Sarna at coordinates I am transmitting now. May the force guide you through the jungle.” 

 

He dialed a quick transmission to the shuttlecraft, and then sent a notification to the Jedi Master that she had another apprentice heading her way. 

 

__________

 

That news at least brought a grim smile to the lips of Sandy Sarna as she stood on the edges of the village. She waved to Orpheon to keep his distance, and she stepped forward towards the shuddering circle of maniacs. Their dance continued unabated even as she took another step, and then another until she had nearly reached them. Then she took a breath, tapping into the force, and was nearly overwhelmed with the stench of the darkside. It was tasteless at first, disguised in the rank air of decay that permeated the rest of the village, but then it turned to almost a thick bile in her throat. She nearly stumbled back but then let her inner calm overcome it. Another breath, and she had expelled the shadows from her. Then she truely tapped into the force, pulling it through her like a screen, eliminating the darkness with each breath. Stretching her presence about her until it touched the first dancing child. 

 

He screamed in a terror that caused the dance to grind to a halt. All eyes spun unto Sandy and Orpheon. Half lidded eyes, sightless eyes, and some had been clawn from their sockets. Leaving dark voids that saw without seeing surrounded by long dried blood.

 

But there was one that did not flinch away from the presence of the Jedi Master.

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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This one was not human, though he seemed it. A fat and plump young man, or at least he had once been before the darkness had taken him. His eyes were bloodshot, and his movements languid and delayed from days of thirst and decay. 

 

“He calls to us Jedi. Can you not feel him? His embrace?” 

 

But he spoke no more and collapsed on his face in the center of the bloody circle. 

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Leena sat atop the humming bike. The silence of the jungle behind her as eerily out of place as the seemingly deserted festering death-pot before her. Yet, on the force, glimmering like a beacon of hope amongst the storm-ravaged waves of darkness, she felt Sandy and Orpheon. They were here, somewhere . . . but where?

 

Suddenly, unsolicited by the Jedi Healer a single blood-curdling scream pierced the heavy humid still air. It had come from somewhere in the village. Revving the engine of her speeder bike, Leena shot inwards, only her innate reliance on the force, bred from years of study and dedication, kept her from careening out of control. 
 

The gravitational forces pulled at the Mon Cal’s body as she almost placed the speeder on it’s side coming about a particularly sharp corner; well, sharp at top speed. She nearly put the speeder into the side of a thatched hut as she pulled hard to keep just that from happening. As she looked up, the girl had to forcibly jam on the brakes with all her might, nearly sending the bike toppling end over end in an attempt to avoid crashing into the throng of people that suddenly seemed to have materialized in the village-center.

 

Sitting atop her craft, Leena caught her breath. Her entire focus had been on not crashing as she tried to fid the others while not being consumed by the darkness. For a moment she sat, centering herself in the force as her ragged breathing slowed and she reestablished the mental bulwarks she carried against the call of darkness. Here, those long-established defenses were being put to a great test. Finally stopping to scan the scene before her, Leena’s eyes lit up at the sight of her comrades. “Orpheon! Master Sandy! Wherever have you been?!”  

Leena hopped to the ground, her knees momentarily buckling beneath her before she regained her bearing and lurched forward towards her apprentice. She felt his hesitancy and concern. “This is not natural. The force, the dark side, is at work here. Remember to keep yourself aligned with the light. A Jedi uses their weapons for defense, not attack. These are not our enemies even if they attack us. A greater evil is their unseen puppet-master.” The Mon Cal too felt the urge to keep her weapon close. Usually she had a band of armed soldiers or warriors to keep the minions of evil at bay while she worked to diagnose and mend. It was not so this time. This time it was 3 Jedi amongst the crashing storms of darkness. They would need to rely on one another and the force.

 

Then the boy collapsed. Leena barely shot a glance at her militarily-minded comrades. She knew they would protect her. The healer leapt forward towards the fallen fat one, her hands a blur as they worked to roll his body over and assess what was going on. It did not take long. “Dead.” she spoke aloud, even though it didn’t need said. It was all she could muster before the clawing hands of the others began frantically clawing and scratching at the Mon Cal Jedi, their circle closing in about her. 

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The Transient Plunder's engines roared as it raced through the murky fog hanging about Felucia's surface. A distinctly Wayfarer-shaped tunnel trailed behind the ship as it went, hurrying along to the latest of its urgent destination. Its pilot hummed to himself as he rapidly zeroed in on the co-ordinates he was given, and then pushed his craft into a steep dive. It was somewhat of a risky maneuver, given that he was standing on the edge of his transport's newly opened hangar. His enviro-suit would help him take some of the Gs he would get once he pulled up, and with any luck so would the Force. He'd decided to go ahead and risk a little experimentation while he was in the presence of at least one practiced healer, to see if he could dampen some of the harsh deceleration. And if not, well... The mag boots built into his suit would make sure he didn't sink himself down into the mud.

 

Meanwhile, down below, the sound of approaching engines was likely getting louder and louder as the transport screamed towards the center of the village. It came in from an angle, the ship being far too large to safely skim the rooftops, what with the surrounding vegetation, and barely even slowed it briefly dipped above the mob of children.

 

Jackson held an arm out as he passed, reaching down as far below as he could to offer a helping hand to the lone Jedi beset by the corrupted kiddos.

 

------------

 

Leena threw her elbows about as she flailed in a less than idle Jedi-esque fashion. She was hesitant to draw her teal saber against these children, regardless of what power was compelling them. 

 

The force flowed within the Healer. It was all that kept the overwhelming fears that clawed at her heart from driving her to a catatonic state. She immersed herself within it’s current, trusting that somehow, there would be a way out. The force would show her the way.

........
It was then, over the din, that the throb of engines interrupted the silence of the jungle and the chaos of the clearing. Leena’s eyes darted upwards as she pushed against the slobbering lips of a gnashing, blackened face. Standing at the gapping maw of the craft was a man, a Jedi?

 

Reaching out a hand, Leena bent her knees and jumped. She caught the extended hand offered her. With a run and skip along the exterior hull of the ship, Leena rolled to a landing inside the ship. Scurrying towards the edge, Leena looked back down at her apprentice and  friend.

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Sandy did not move, though there was a significant threat, these were innocents. Not matter what they were possessed by there was no way she would draw her lightsaber, so she would need to find another way. She drew in another breath of vile air, and let her eyes fall completely closed. She took another breath, letting the force fill her again, and she could feel the strength leave her legs as she began to pull at the force, to direct it through her. 

 

There was pain now, pain from the harsh crash of her knees onto dirt and cobble, but she was not in danger. Leena and the others were getting away, and distraction enough for this horde. Another breath, and the force was so thick in it that she could barely hold the breath in. She forced herself to speak, her thin lips forming the words slowly as she touched every tired and diseased mind. 

 

“Sleep.” 

 

It was a desperate measure. For whatever had possessed the children would not easily give up its control. But she dove past that control, letting calmness and peace penetrate where there had only been decay. One by one the children dropped where they stood. Some into stuporous sleep, some giving up their decayed bodies forever. 

 

But that other presence did not go away. If anything it was heavier than before. As if the Jedi had finally caught its attention.

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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The last child left standing did not collapse, for she had been here the shortest, instead she simply gazed from one jedi to the next. Her eyes seeing little through their mess of tears.

 

“Grandfather? Where did you go?”

 

The child howled in a scream of terror. 

 

“Come back!” 

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Leena watched with concern as she and her apprentice were separated yet again. Being new at this whole training dynamic she was not sure, but it did not feel quite right. ‘Oh well, at least she has Master Sandy to watch her’ she mused to herself before her attention was swiftly diverted.

 

The plummeting ship that had been her rescue jerked upwards to avoid a collision with oncoming high-standing flora. This sent the healer tumbling backwards into a bulkhead as the shell of the hangar banged shut before her. Any concerns she had were momentarily forgotten as the girl shielded her head with her arms against the forceful tumble.

 

As the ship leveled out higher in the sky, Leena carefully stood up. She used the same bulkhead to now steady herself. Looking around, Leena noted her rescuer, a force-user and a Jedi by the feel of him. She half-smiled at the man as her thoughts drifted from the stranger to her comrades down below. 
 

“Just in the nick of time I’d say. Thanks for the save, uh . . . whoever you might be? Did the Jedi send you to help with the plague? There are two more Jedi back in that village.” Leena pointed back out the hatch where she had boarded haphazardly minutes before. “It might be kinda tight, but I bet you could land this,” Leena glanced about at the heavy visible wear and tear of the vessel as she paused momentarily, fine ship just inside the village perimeter. When I was coming through at breakneck speed I saw what looked like an open area. Probably a spot they were clearing for a couple new huts or something. My friends are down there and need our help. The dark side is strong here and something is very wrong. Will you help me help them so we can help these people? Oh. By the way, my name is Leena Kil, Jedi Healer.” Leena stuck out her hand to offer a brief handshake as she smiled at her fellow Jedi. The force flowed about the young woman like a warm tidal surge of light and energy keeping the encroaching darkness at bay.

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The Jedi pilot leveled his ship out and sighed to himself, the noise coming across as a whisper of static through the speakers attached to his polarized helmet. He may have been cutting it a little close with that dive, not quite sure whether he'd be scooping the rooftop off a building or two on his way back up. It had been a mildly taxing exercise in remote-controlling his ship. The effort was familiar at least a familiar one however, even if it was a little draining.


"Jackson. Knight Silan sent me, after picking me up out in the deep. Supposed to link up with one of you to finish training." He explained simply and shook her hand, though only after a few moments of hesitation. "You are... very bright." The newly re-integrated Padawan squinted at her through his helmet, himself not much of a beacon of anything. In fact, now that he had pulled out of his dive he was distinctly hard to pin down through the force at all, having withdrawn and dispersed his force presence back into its typical nebulous, fade-into-the-background form as it busily manipulated a handful of the ship's systems.


"Should head over to the actual exit. Ought to be ready to land by the time we get there." The Jedi's words were simple and to the point, and he wasted no time making his way through the organized chaos of his ship's hangar module.  "Mind your step. Few things in here that are slightly volatile to the touch. Haven't gotten around to pawning it all off yet, since Kadi picked me up in the middle of a run."

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The last child gave a cursory glance to the Jedi then ran off towards the deep forest, screaming for her grandfather. She was not a fast runner, and she was tired but she soon ducked into the forest and disappeared. 

 

“He will rebirth us. Remake us, return this world to what it once was.” One of the sleeping children mumbled. And a voice cut through everything, carried by the force itself. A voice of ichor, a voice of rot, a voice of entropy. 

 

Come no further into our domain 

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Leena smiled. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance in such a dynamic fashion Jedi Jackson,”  she replied cheerfully sidling alongside the man to get a better view out the viewscreen.

 

The healer nodded at the idea of being ready to deploy. “Sounds like a good plan. Once you join me we’ll go find my apprentice, Orpheon, and Master Sarna. They were in a bit of a sticky spot when you pulled me out. Another light sider would be great. Just make sure you steel yourself against the ravaging tidal surges of darkness that seem to bathe this entire world.”


Leena turned and gingnerly wove her way through the haphazard interior of the ship. It really did look like it had been hauled from a scrapyard. The Healer pondered briefly if Jackson might have had an natural force affinity for the mechanical. How else did he keep this bucket of parts together. 


Reaching out across the tumultuous waves of the force as they churned beneath the grindstone of darkness, Leena felt for her comrades. They were still ok, mostly. Elsewhere, she felt pinpricks of the light that stood as sentinels against the onslaught. She poured the energies of light that bubbled within her chest outwards, strengthening the strands of light throughout the area, their energies mingling to force the darkness back inch by inch.

 

The Jedi tripped only once as the ship’s velocity suddenly changed. She caught herself with a hand on the bulkhead and kept going until she got to the exit.

 

As the ship settled on the ground between the huts and thatched structures, Leena heaved. Her muscled strained as the latch on the exit squealed in rusty resistance before swinging open with a thud against a thatched wall. “Woo. Nothing like cutting it close.” she reflected as she squeezed herself out onto the narrow patch of dirt betwixt the building and the ship.

 

With lightsaber in hand, Leena shimmied along towards the end of the ship. On the ground, the darkness surged even stronger. Catching sight of Orpheon and Sandy, Leena waived Jackson forward, shouting at the group as the child took off into the underbrush. “She is sick. Don’t lose the girl in the jungles!”

 

Scurrying after, Leena did not wait to see if the others followed, only drawing to a sudden stop when it became obvious the girl had vanished and the disembodied voice thundered through the air.

 

Falling into a haphazard defensive position that clearly indicated Leena was more comfortable in a lab or with the force than a lightsaber, the Healer held her deactivated hilt at the ready. with a deep breath, the Mon Cal called out into the shadows, her every word surging with light sunlit power, “Release your hold on these children. You have no quarrel with them. If you seek something, present yourself. We will deal; but this,” she waived her hand back towards the village, “is wrong. I will halt my advance, but so will you.” 
 

An aura of righteous energy hummed about the Jedi. The force sent calming waves out into the immediate area, driving back the darkness and soothing the ravaged world about her in a protective shield of purity.

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The Children are the life of their parents. Parents who tamed the wilds. Silenced the entropy. For cultivation. We cannot let them survive. 

 

The sickly sweet scent of rot was everywhere now, permeating from the roots of the trees themselves. The crop fields that were planted only a month before. From the bodies on the ground, maggots swarmed up from the dirt, eating, consuming the rotten flesh and dried blood. 

 

We will claim the children. We will claim their generation. We will return them to the dust.

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The Human Padawan had little difficulty in navigating the packed confines of his ship, always seeming to find the quickest way around or through scattered pieces of salvage or racks of parts. Were he a few feet shorter he likely could have passed off as a fairly competent Jawa, for all that the insides of the Plunder resembled those of a sand crawler's.

 

He let the more experienced Jedi take the lead off the ship, stumbling a little in the dirt as his mag-boots found no purchase on the festering earth. It had been a while since he had set foot on solid ground, though he was quick to readjust and follow Leena into the foggy fungal jungles. Every now and then the distinct snap and a brief flash of dim rust, or perhaps bronze, revealed one of the things the derelict Jedi had been working on in his free time; honing his skills in specifically targeting twigs and the random stems of foliage with trakata, apparently. Every time he missed, it was an easy enough job to simply try again with the other side of his blade.

 

"Don't think we're gonna be finding her again. Not right now, anyways. Little turbulent still." Jackson observed, voice modulator crackling slightly from the moisture inevitably collecting in its output holes. "Not very good with... people. Unfortunately. Much less the sick. Forte lies a little more with machines and circuits, if you hadn't guessed already." His admittance was quiet, not wishing to interrupt anything important anyone else mighty have to do or to say.

 

The longer they trekked through the mud the dimmer the young Human Jedi became, in the force. He was still there, but gradually fading. Morphing into a piece of the background as he unconsciously used his sensitivity to hide, the darkness around him steadily disintegrating as it was harvested and incorporated to make his disguise more effective. In any other place it might have slid unnoticed, but the spot lamp of Light that Leena shone wherever she stepped was throwing him off. It took time for the transition to complete, but when it did the result was more of a stark grey than oily black, or radiant white. If anyone cared to watch, the same process kept going on repeat, each time with slightly different aspects and subtle changes to it as it began to adapt. It was particularly similar to the way that AI learned and evolved, with lots of trial and error. A brute force method of scrolling through every possible option before settling on the one that worked the best, and in this case it settled on a gradient. The side of Jackson facing the healer blended more with her light while the opposite did the opposite.

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Leena sighed. Her shoulders drooped slightly. She had hoped that it would not come to this and that some semblance of an arrangement could be reached to avoid further injury to the world and her inhabitants. Deep down, however; Leena knew the darkness would need purged. That was a task beyond one healer. That was a task for the Jedi as a whole. Regardless, Leena had a duty, one many would consider sacred.

 

Turning to the others, Leena queried for their thoughts. “Destruction of a world can be wrong. Taking children for any sins of their parents is wrong. This world is still lush, but there is a darkness that festers here.  It is not wrong to cut this cancer out. Any ideas on how we can find the children before this darkness takes them eternally?”

 

Leena felt queasy at the thought that this dark entity sought to purge an entire generation of children. If this was a sickness, it had taken root deep. It would not be easy to purge. It would take a coordinated effort. Only once the cancer was removed could true healing begin here. For now, they had to seek out the source of this blight, a sentient source no less; that would make it more difficult. They had to find it, negating as much damage as they could along the way.

 

Wringing her hand about her hilt, Leena’s suctioned hands popped and clapped with the movement. Hesitantly she returned the weapon to her belt. This was a job not for just the Jedi but the living force. Inhaling deeply, Leena turned her focus inward. She reached for a deep seated sense of inner peace and light in an effort to center herself, to feel for the strand of guidance that would call them from within the chaos and guide them forward.

 

Opening her eyes, Leena extended her now free hand before her, light radiating forth like a spotlight into the dark undergrowth. 

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Sandy slowly stood from where she was kneeling and sighed. She was tired, and it showed on her face, in her walk, and in the slight slump of her shoulders. She had been here for days, surrounded by the endless death, breathing the contaminates, and finding little success. But that voice was something new. It was the voice of those whispers she had felt in the back of her mind since she had arrived, was it the voice of the forest? No, because it was familiar. It was the same voice she had heard on ruined planets since she was a little girl. But never before had the words been this clear. They had been clear in the maw as well. 

 

What had the Togorian said on Thalassia? 

 

She couldn’t remember, the trauma had broken those memories into irretrievable shards. The memories stirred in varied levels of opacity, the most harsh of the abuse so bright and clear, while the small things seemed to be seen through a fog. 

 

She shook her head. And slowly walked to Leena. She placed a hand on her shoulder, and nodded. 

 

“We must find the voice. It is not the forest, it is a someone or a group of someones.” She could taste the smell of rot on the back of her tongue. “This is something ancient and malevolent. The darkside has lain here for an eternity, undisturbed even as we built a temple on its threshold. There is little wonder that it has finally woken up.” 

 

Danger flashed down her spine as Leena Tapped into the lightside of the force and Sandy, almost as a reaction brought her lightsaber up. And all around the darkside began to flood. 

 

"Apprentice, get back to us now!"

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In the fruitutious earth the darkside began to fully manifest. The thickly overgrown forest seemed to shudder as beneath every root and stem bugs and maggots began to appear. A skeletal arm found skeletal shoulder, and a long dead beast found form again. Joints bound by writhing masses of humid worms. It was not much larger than a nek battle dog, and perhaps that was what it once had been. But it shambled from the overgrowth, its old teeth still sharp. 

 

But in the village behind the Jedi, the skeletal remains of its inhabitants began to come to life. 

 

And deep in the forest, beyond the sight of the aquatic jedi but within sight of the apprentice, the little girl raised her small hands over a great pit dug in the heart of the forest. 

 

“Save us Grandfather.”

 

She whined, tears streaking her already dirty face. 

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Leena tensed as she felt the twisting writhing darkness of the world about them. As her beam of light traced across the dense jungle before them, it fell on the rot-assembled undead creature. The Jedi Healer paused for a moment as she processed what she was seeing. All about them it seemed as if the darkness was manifesting itself in a strange display of twisted life.

 

Shooting a glance from Sandy to the skeletal worm-bound, Leena realized that the newest member of their group, the gray-in-the-force Jackson had somehow become separated from their group. Leena felt the tinge of stress and frustration welling up inside her chest. Orpheon was here with them. He was her apprentice. She felt an inexplicable sense of duty to see that he was taught and not left to face the darkness alone. Sandy was here as well. Leena knew that of all the Jedi she knew, Master Sarna was one of those he trusted the most to stand against the tidal surge of darkness, lightsaber in hand. Did either of them even know Jackson was here on the planet? Her ship-wielding rescuer did seem to possess an odd ability to be  sensory-depriving in the force. If it was an inner darkness, innate ability, or struggle to find balance, Leena did not know. Regardless, she could not leave their fellow lightsider to face the darkness alone either. Turning from the spectral beast, Leena locked eyes with Sandy and nodded towards Orpheon, “Stay with Master Sarna. Help her as you may.” She spoke to her apprentice before closing her hand and plunging the area about them back into the perpetual shadows of darkness. Turning on her heel, Leena reached out for the sliver of light that she could still feel from Jackson.
 

She felt Orpheon. She felt Sandy. They were close. In the distance, she could feel the base camp back at the temple. Dotted throughout the sea of growing darkness were sparks of light. They just needed nurtured, fueled, and they could grow and drive back this dark entity. Leena did not have the ability to fuel this idea; not alone. First though, she needed to help one of these sparks, Jackson.

 

Feeling the Jedi, Leena set off at a run into the undergrowth. She followed the call of the goodness she felt in him. The force was her guide. She ran. Her footsteps fell millimeters from danger as each footfall landed on a solid root or bare patch that had yet to be infested by the writhing masses of darkside spawn. Like in surgery, erring in any direction could prove lethal. She let the force guide her. Like a lithe fish through the waters, Leena cut a spearpoint of light into the darkness plunging towards the solo apprentice. She did not stop until she came to a halt at his side regarding the single young girl before the massive and decidedly out of place pit.
 

Leena watched as the girl raised her hands. She felt the tidal crash of darkness erupt with that single gesture. The Healer could feel the girl’s raw emotion. She could sympathize. The world falling to chaos around her was akin to when she had watched the beginning of Mon Cal’s fall to darkness. She had been ill-prepared for that. This time, the outcome would be different. Feeling Jackson’s spark of goodness in his chest, Leena fueled it, drawing on the light side within herself. Exponentially they grew until a sphere of goodness seemed to radiate about them both, a shield against the waves of darkness and their tendrilled ilk.   

 

 

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Jackson narrowed his eyes at the child  as he took in the sights, and promptly decided to keep a close eye on The Pit. "This can't be good..." He mumbled to the mist. He was getting a pretty bad premonition about this whole venture, and it was forcing him to concentrate on not regressing into old bad habits. His exosuit was protecting him from the outside world but he had little in the way of force defenses aside from his camouflage and one other potential stopgap.


The Padawan's illusion swirled and flung itself away as Leena's touch began to disintegrate the darkness it was holding on to, forming a brief bout of turbulence in the ethereal winds around them. The tendrils quickly reformed themselves anew however, wasting no time as they began collecting and forming a complex barrier before him. Bloome's boots slogged slowly through the black mud as he moved to interpose himself between Leena and the pit, acting as a more physical barrier than a simple aura of light.


"I can cover you if you grab the girl, we just have to make it quick! I'll try to hold a barrier down over that hole but no promises that it'll end up helping anything!" The barrier began to advance, its wielder pressing on and forging his path through the darkness. He didn't waver in his push, funneling the last few wispy remnants of darkness into his barrier as fuel. Jackson had been in the void of deep space for a long time in his absence, more than he probably should have, and that time had come with a qualitative change to his willpower. It had to, lest he fall prey to the Wraiths and other such horrors lurking in the dark, or to the malaise laying heavy about ancient battlefields and silent graveyards. The new exposure of his undisguised aura betrayed one of the wounds of such a dramatic change, as it clashed against Leena's light. There was little spark to be found in him anymore, burned and fizzled into the cold grey of determined durasteel.

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A blast of hot air gushed from the deep pit, causing the girl’s hair to fly in a whirlwind about her grimy face. The ground shook as she called out. As she begged. The pit was breathing. 

 

Grandfather!

 

The plea was primal, the scream of a child who wanted to be protected from the fearful dark. The monsters under a bed. And the pit answered. A spew of hot air brought forth a flood of toxin laden air that began to fill the area. As the beasts and vermin began to move faster. This would be a hard thing to close indeed. 

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Her blade moved swiftly as she cut the beast in twain then with w second strike cut it apart. The pure white blade of her lightsaber cutting bone with ease filling the air around her with the harsh smell of burned bone and ozone. 

 

She reached out to the Apprentice in the force and felt his determination. He was holding himself well. As a jedi should. No fear, only the force. She smiled. Then let the force flow through her and into him. He and Leena would not be alone in this fight. She could vaguely see other animals approaching, but her blade was steadfast, and Orephon likeways. 

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Leena felt the surge of darkness as it swarmed against her force-powered barrier of light. She frowned as she felt the steely gray of the nearby apprentice buck at the touch of light. It was something she would want to address, but not here; not now. She kept her focus on keeping the planetary surge of evil at bay. Here she held a pocket of light, one that was was more than just light. It was an energized barrier of the force, of purity, of goodness, light, and power drawn from the living force that bound them all together. 
 

Driving her hands forward, Leena nodded in response to Jackson’s suggestion; pushing the vibrating energized aura further beyond until it enveloped the screaming child at the edge of the pit. The blast of dark energy raging against the light as they ravaged one another in a tearing clash of light and dark, good and bad, right and wrong.

 

Leena pushed against the darkness with each step. She drove the storm of darkness back until she was close enough to the terrified girl. She felt the child’s fear. It was something she had felt many times before in the safety of the medical ward. It was fear of the unknown, the fear of an uncertain future. With a touch of her hand, Leena channeled some of the fiery light side energy from the aura about them into the girl, compassionately overwhelming her delicate systems and with a touch, render her unconscious. It was a Jedi healer trick used to numb the body and mind without the need for medications and their side effects, to place the patient in a state of peace while deeper healing practices could be brought to bear. In this case, it was done so as to pull the girl literally from the brink of danger and death. As the child’s form went limp, Leena wrapped her in her arms, pulling her away from the pit.

 

As Leena’s use of the light was diverted, the darkness surged pushing against her shield and throwing itself fully against that of Jackson’s. Leena moved back away from the hot blast of dark air from the pit, pulling the slack girl with her through the muck. Seeing Sandy and Orpheon materialize from the undergrowth she nodded at the darkness belching pit.  “I have her! Lets end this thing!”
 

 

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Jackson pushed on till the end, the mantle hanging from his shoulders fluttering and waving as its owner stopped somewhat perilously close to the edge. He barely felt when the girl was subdued and even less when Leena took her and fled, so focused was he on winding a tight latticework around the pit. Once it was in place he began to fill in the gaps; weaving the force through his framework in alternating directions. The Jedi took a deep, visible breath, and the barrier plunged downwards.

 

The Padawan had been around long enough to know that just plugging a hole was a one-trick pony, and buried horrors always had a way of resurfacing. The Pit being case in point. The only real way they would ever be rid of it was to destroy it. They had to rip it out by the roots, purge the infection that it carried.

 

Well. That was one philosophy, at least. Bloome was somewhat of a data-hoarder, having dedicated an entire stateroom on his ship to storage for such things, separate from the rest of his scrap. If it were up to him they would uncover the source of the miasma and contain it, in the hopes of it being a holocron or something similar, though the decision wasn't his to make. Instead he would be doing what he said he'd do by plugging up the hole, all the while searching for the exact source. With some support they might be able to completely contain and extract the thing, and decide what to do with it once it was no longer posing such a significant threat to the planet.

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The Force filled with a sudden and frightful scream of pain. A scream that cut off as suddenly as it came. All around them the machinations of the dark side fell away. Skeletons shuddered and fell to ash, maggots drooped and wilted like dying flowers, and the stench of decay blew away in a brisk breeze. The power at work here had seen its doom, it was too weak to confront the full power of three jedi knights. It would bide its time…

 

And perhaps in the course of galactic events it would show itself again. 

 

But for now, Felucia was free

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Leena knelt, cradling the shaking child against her chest. She looked at the others with a solemn nod of understanding and assurance. It was over, for now. The cancer still lingered and would need carved away. Not today though. Today had enough. Today they had beaten the darkness back.

 

————————————

 

Back at the Temple, Leena moved from bed to bed aiding the assortment of healers and medics who were giving their time to helping nurse the residents of the world back to health. The darkness had taken a toll and many children were left orphaned by the darkness. Had the Republic still existed, they would have stepped in to help ensure that those who had lost everything were given a fighting chance, every t to get back on their feet and their lives moving in a positive direction. As it was, such tasks fell to the goodness of volunteers the galaxy over, some by their time and skills, others through their credit accounts funneled through countless donors and fronts to pay for the aid that could not be acquired freely.

 

As she worked, Leena heard snippets about the ongoing chaos amongst the cosmos. More so, she felt it in her heart. It was like a subtle constant ache that pulsed with the flow of pain and life throughout the galaxy. The Living Force was strong here and it flowed freely in the healer’s heart. She knew she had to help.

 

After seeing that her apprentice had safe transit back to the Jedi Temple, Leena joined a group of rebel sympathizers and departed into the stars to lend aid where it was needed most.

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As the machinations fell around her Sandy could feel the sudden release in the force, as if a fist had let go of her heart. Though the tiredness, the heartache, and the headache persisted. They were no longer aggravated by the darkness of the force. To say to the planet was cleansed was not true, but that hunger, that evil desiret was gone. And it left no trace except for the hundreds and thousands that had strangled in its foul grasp. 

 

She took a breath and marveled That she did not need to cleanse the air as it entered her body. Though it still smelled of the rotting jungle It was clean, she had never smelled something so nice. She felt a smile creep across her lips. Then she deactivated her lightsaber and went looking for the Apprentice.

 

"Jackson?" 

 

She called out until she found him. She gave him a grateful smile.

 

“You did very well, you used your training and your wits to free this planet from evil.”

 

She placed her hand on his shoulder.

 

“You have earned the rank of Jedi Knight. When we get back to the shuttle I will transmit your new rank to the council. And Jackson, I am very proud of you.”

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