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Felucia - Jedi Temple


handofthrawn
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Jackson felt himself lurch and tumble downwards, rapidly turning from his controlled search into rapid free fall as his resistance suddenly dropped to nothing. A cool grimace formed on his face as he furthered himself in his search-and-capture trance, cutting off more and more of his physical distractions order to do so. The reinstated Jedi could still feel the scream echoing through his bones as he chased after its source: clawing and dragging his way through the planet's crust in a desperate struggle to reach it in time.

 

 

Then it was too late. He had gone too far and overextended himself to too great a degree, and the resulting snap as all of his neglected senses caught up at once. It was enough to send his formerly floating form crashing hard into the purified mud below. Some brief, murmured curses and 'this isn't over's were had before Jackson stood and turned to regard Sandy. And the hand she rested on the heavy weighted mantle wrapped about his shoulders.

 

 

"It isn't gone. Not for good. I can still hear it out there, like an itch deep in my brainstem. I haven't freed anything. Just delayed it, for however long it takes to get stronger."

 

 

Heavy, ponderous engines roared and screamed as the Plunder drifted into the clearing through the fog: summoned by its master, no doubt. The newly minted Knight's faithful companion hovered in place for a moment as it reoriented at slow speed, then let out a grand sigh as it touched down and lowered its hangar ramp.

 

 

"Can take my ship. Kind of cliche to say, but..." Jackson boarded and leaned against his favorite patch of bulkhead, holding an arm out. "She's a little more put together than she looks. And I've got a long range transmitter you can use. Used to use it to intercept distress beacons."

 

 

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The customized needle ship, a vessel of Squibian build and designed, somberly sliced through space as it dropped from hyperspace.

 

A brief relay of their intents and purpose was all that was needed to gain access to the growing presence on the world about the Jedi temple. The Squibs were known associates of Leena.

 

Within the hold of their ship, the fallen Jedi lay in splendor as only Squibs could muster. Their glow still present, albeit dull, Leena’s healing crystals were arranged carefully about the downed Jedi. Interspersed between them were treasures and mementos of immeasurable value; to the Squib.

 

As the corvette settled down outside the temple, they were met by a delegation of Jedi, many of them adorned in the white robes of the Circle of Jedi Healers, masters of their craft. With a nod to the Squibs who carefully transferred Leena’s body to an antigrav stretcher, the leader of the group, a wizened Kurtzen male, offered a few soft words of comfort and thanks. The girl’s body was whisked away by the white-clad Jedi into the temple.

 

Inside, Leena’s body was transferred to a state-of-the-art surgical suite. Hushed whispers abound in the room as the expert hands examined the fallen form of the Jedi Knight. After several minutes, a trio of healers left the room.

 

One of these healers returned minutes later with an array of exceptionally large healing crystals. Positioning them about the room, several other healers worked to purify and mend the wound through Leena’s chest. Each meditated in the force, one strengthening the other as the whole room glowed with healing power.

 

As they began, the other two healers had gone throughout the Temple seeking other Jedi, healers or no, Masters, Knights, Apprentices, and Hopefuls, any Jedi whose spirit was dedicated to the light; they were each invited to join the hushed healers in meditating on the force to try and discern it’s will. If they could, the Healers sought to recall Leena’s spirit from the Netherworld of The Force.

 

Silence reigned as each member meditated on the truth of the force, of the Jedi Code, as they bound themselves to one another in a healing aura that swelled out above and beyond the confines of the temple. The powers bolstered the healing of anyone it touched even as it was focused within the room that contained the fallen Jedi Knight.

 

For three days and nights a stream of Jedi made their ways into and out of the room. The most dedicated of them, the Master Healers, and anyone with a dedication to see the ritual through never left. For three days and nights the force radiated. The crystals glowed with the energies that they absorbed and amplified. The room was the focal point of these energies.

 

Very carefully Leena’s wounds closed covered in fresh scar tissue. Moment by moment life seemed to return to the room. The girl’s color flushed as blood began to flow once again through her veins. After three days, the Jedi Knight’s eyelids began to flicker.

 

Slowly, Leena sat up. She had been clothed in a fresh robe, her modesty preserved. Slowly she looked around confused at what she saw. Still, the force flowed strongly about her and it was a warming comfort.

 

Looking down at her chest, Leena saw the pink scar tissue in the center where the Sith’s saber had impaled her. It was soft and tender to the touch; but it was her. It was living. It was real. It was Leena.

 

“Where am I?” she asked cautiously.

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Sandy watched as the newly knighted Jedi climbed into his starship and within a few moments disappeared into the atmosphere, then headed to hyperspace. She had not known him long, but he had performed admirably, and was a good tribute to all of his prior masters.  Some of which had long departed the galaxy. That sober thought brought Sandy Sarna’s thoughts back to her own past, to Aidan. She smiled wistfully, saying a small prayer for his good health and the future of their relationship. Then she looked down to her torn and bloody robes, and the tunic that had been worn for days on end in the murky heat of the jungle forests. 

 

And she needed to write her report. Which for some reason grossed her out more than her dirty robes.

 

_______________________

 

Grandmaster, I write you this report with some degree of urgency.

 

The plague (See attached photos and virology page) that was reported here has subsided. However, that is the only good news I have to report. The disease originated from some dark side entity which when confronted fled before we could capture or damage it. It has left a wake of destruction in the refugee populations that have settled alongside our temple, with casualties of up to 90 percent of some villages. The plague itself bears some resemblance to the outbreak seen at Mon Calamari that opened the path to the sith conquest of that world. Some residual digging through our archives here point to something locked behind top secret clearance. When I accessed the documentation it referred to something called the ‘chaos gods’, which I find myself most unfamiliar with. If you find time in your schedule, I would like you to come to Felucia and to help me identify the cause of this malady. 

 

Yours in friendship, 

 

Sandy Sarna. Jedi Master

 

_______________________

 

Finished with her writing, she let herself touch the force and felt another familiar presence. 

 

Leena?

 

Sandy tied back her still wet hair, slipped on a lightweight tunic and shorts, and went in search of her friend.

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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It took several hours of explanation from the healers in attendance, along with a hearty warm meal and a meeting with her Squibian companions before Leena could even begin to grasp what had happened to her on Trualis. Darth Mavanger, The Sith temple, the duel, the rain; it all came back to her in flashes. They were not a chronological screenplay of what had happened. Still, she understood something of the matter.

 

Scraping the remnants of some sort of locally sources stew from her plate, Leena licked the spoon dry before depositing her plate, bowl, and cutlery in a bin in the base’s cafeteria.

 

Walking out into the warm sunlight of Felucia, Leena felt the rays of the planet’s star streaming down through the cracks in the canopy. It brought a smile to her face. She ran a finger along the fresh scar tissue in her chest. It was still sensitive. Exhaling, Leena reached out on the force. She was grateful to be alive again, chosen by the force to continue her work in it’s service, the service of a Jedi Knight. Yet it was different somehow, a prt of her heart had been tinged by the dark blade of the Sith. It was a wound that could not be healed physically, it was a darkness of uncertainty. If she had been doing the right thing, how had she been killed.

 

Leena questioned herself in countless ways as she walked the worn stone perimeter of the temple, the sun pressing down. Had she done something wrong? Was she not in touch with the force? Did something divide her from it, a wedge of unseen darkness? Had she not dedicated herself to her training enough? Should she have studied the forms of lightsaber combat more? Maybe it would have kept her alive? But what about all the lives she had saved? The hours spent pouring over the most forgotten and obscure healing texts from across the galaxy, studying the applications of the force to heal and not destroy.

 

Leena walked, her mind roiling as she pondered what she could have done, should have done; in the battle, in life. She second guessed everything. Even the force that flowed around and through the healer so naturally reflected this. She had looked death in the eye countless times, held the hands of the dead and dying, fought to deny the reaper. Yet here she was, touched by the very thing she stood against. She had been detached, professional, surgical. The blade of the Sith had cut that all away. It had touched her now, deeper than she had ever allowed it too.

 

And as she walked, she thought. She barely looked where she was going beyond where her next foot would fall. She nearly ran into Sandy Sarna, drawing up just short with a breath of surprise. 
 

Oh! Master Sarna!” she stammered. “I’m sorry. I was not paying attention. I, well, nevermind. How are things here?” she asked, desperate to turn her mind and any discussion away from her ravaged mind and hoping the master did not sense the turmoil the girl felt.

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If Mon Calamari were capable of flushing, Sandy had no doubt that Leena was doing her best to suppress one. The force, though usually a calm pool, was rippled with the deep waves of doubt all around the jedi knight. Sandy reacted in the way she knew best. She threw her arms around the Mon Calamari and gave her a loving hug. The younger woman always had the harsh scent of the ocean air around her, and for a girl who had come from the slums of an arcology world, Sandy found the scent relaxing and refreshing. When she finally broke the embrace she looked straight into her eyes. 

 

“Doubt is a natural part of life Leena. To deny it is to deny yourself.” She gestured to the bench beside them. “Tell me everything from the beginning and spare not a detail. However harsh or ugly it may be.”

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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Leena winced. The Jedi Master had not taken her bait. Why should she have? Would Leena have done so? She doubted it, but then again she doubted herself. Maybe she would have been the fool.

 

She did not resist as the slightly older Jedi master pulled her into a tight embrace. Even as she stood there rigid for the moment the act started to soften something within until Leena found herself gingerly, hesitantly, returning the gesture.

 

Glancing to the bench, Leena pondered it a moment. Her muscles ached to move, to work out their restless energy. Being dead for the better part of a week and coming to to find yourself alive and not in some great beyond, life after life, had a strange effect on the sinews of one’s body, not to mention their mind. So placing a hand on the bench, Leena leaned shifting her weight from one foot to the other as she began to speak.

 

She was hesitant at first, but as her tongue got moving she found it was easier to speak, even about the areas where she questioned her judgement. She spoke of the call of the force and of finding herself on Kessel of all places alongside a band of rebels, how she felt a part of them because they were so much like the countless soldiers she had patched up in her short life. Leena told, somewhat sheepishly of agreeing to go along with the rebels to Trualis, wanting to help but being unsure of facing off with the Sith. She told Sandy about going to surface, challenged by Darth Mavanger and of dueling him in the rain outside the crumbling temple. She talked about the battle, what she could remember of it, of not wanting to fight, going so far as to cast her saber away to prove the dark sider’s hubris and foolishness. Through it all, Leena spoke of the force, how she felt it guiding her, protecting her even as the Sith’s blades were repelled by it’s power. And as she spoke, Leena got excited and frustrated. Frustrated that she could not remember. Excited to tell of the power of the Living Force. Still, she fought to hold back her wmotions, because in it all, left unsaid, Leena could not find the words to vocalize how the force could have failed her that day.

 

When she spoke of dying, it was with as little detail as possible; only telling of the dark warrior’s saber being plunged through her chest as she showed Sandy the scar. 
 

Leena spoke of what lay beyond, a serene sense of peace, oblivion, and a strange knowledge of painlessness wrapped in a warm unseen embrace. As she repeated this several times, the girl began to calm, although the knot in her chest remained, unspoken, what had she done wrong? Why had the force failed her?

 

She talked about the strangeness of awakening to her own body, of life flooding back through her deadened limbs, of the peace that accompanied the return; the chaos of it muted and salved by the presence of so many force users and the radiance of the light. She hinted at how she could barely stand to remain in such a warmth, needing to get out, to move; but she stopped short of saying it was because she felt like the force had failed her and somehow it had been her fault. She had done something.

 

And before her prattling rush of words came to cease Leena let slip one question: If the force had failed her and she had failed the force, “Why? Why did I come back? Why did it bring me back?” The girl looked at Sandy, tears welling in her eyes. She did not know and unlike all the other times she did not know when she knew she could count on the force, she did not know where to turn.

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Sandy sat in silence, letting the younger woman's words and feelings explain the whole of the short time they had not seen each other. In a way they had both died and had been reborn. She listened and placed her pale and freckled hand on top of the Mon Calamari’s. She extended her presence to let her feel that she had many of the same thoughts in the past. 

 

“You did not fail the force, and nor did the force fail you. I reject that feeling. A fight against the Sith and their evil is not an easily won war. Many Masters have failed harder and even fallen in their quest.” 

 

She hesitated, letting her thoughts coalesce into something that she could express without blabbering on. 

 

“You were brought back because you have not yet fulfilled the force’s desire for you. Or at least that is the traditional saying.” This was always a dangerous aspect of the Living Force. “Not to say it directly controls you, we all have conscious choice, without it we could not be alive. But I would say you have not left your complete mark on this galaxy Leena. Or at least this appears to be the will of the force. Question it, doubt it, that is what makes you who you are. But you must come in time to accept it, that is the path of the Jedi. We accept the limitations of ourselves and our knowledge. Something brought you back, perhaps it was love for your friends, perhaps it was a desire to finally rid this galaxy of evil. You must find that thing, and embrace it.”

 

She smiled wanly, "Now let us get something to eat so we can face the day with energy." 

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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Leena nodded as she listened. A weak smile crossed her face. It felt good to not be rejected when she was feeling such a thing was deserved. The girl felt like a failure, even if Sandy said she wasn’t. Still, the master’s words offered encouragement and Leena let it flood her soul like a soothing balm.

 

At the mention of food, the Mon Cal’s stomach gargled audibly and her hand flew to it instinctively. “Ugh. You will have to excuse me Master Sarna. I just came from the cafeteria. Coming back from the dead really takes it out of a body. But I’ll happily come with you while you eat! Maybe after that I can go find a practice room. I think that my lightsaber skills could use some practice; especially if we have to keep fighting the Sith all over the galaxy.” 
 

If the force had brought her back for a reason, Leena wanted to be sure she’d live to fulfill it. The force would be her guide. She would serve it. She had heard the call of the Sith and did not want to be found wanting again. The force was her ally, her protector; but it gave her the tools. It was up to her to put them into practice.

 

As the duo wandered towards the cafeteria, Leena smiled, her old bubbly self popping through. 

 

“Did you know that the force can absorb lightsaber blows and NOT wind up getting a limb chopped off? she asked excitedly.

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Sandy inclined her head in acknowledgement then walked with the girl to the cafe, grabbing a quick bite to eat and doing her best to hold back a grin as her companion slowly slipped back into her self confidence. 

 

"Tutaminis is a powerful tool, if dangerous to the user. I used much the same technique at the reactor on Scarif. Though not as direct as absorbing a lightsaber blade. Let me show you something that might help aide you from ever getting within range of the deadly blade of a Sith Warrior.” 

 

She motioned to Leena to attempt to strike her with a fist. She held out her own hand and summoned the force to aid her. On the first strike she formed a shield, much akin to the type she had used on scarif to protect the party but incredibly localized. She flung it up in front of the young woman's fist then threw it forward. Though it did not stop the blow itself, it greatly slowed the attack. As if the girl was striking through jelly. 

 

“This conserves our power, and allows them to waste theirs. Distance is our ally.” She took another bite of salad, and gestured for Leena to strike again. This time letting a tendril of the force form another fluid force field and lightly tapping Leena’s solar plexus with it. Not enough to knock the wind out of her, but to demonstrate that she could have gone much farther. 

 

“Defensive play is the Counselors greatest advantage. But that does not mean we let them attack without a countering offense. We do not try to kill our enemy, but we must subdue him. Killing is the last and most evil of our tools, which you already know. Knocking the air out of a Sith Lord’s lungs is enough to pause a fight long enough to disarm or subdue them. Sometimes.” 

 

She grimaced and took another bite.

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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Leena chuckled as she hesitantly made a fist and swung it haphazardly at Sandy’s chest. Suddenly she felt the flow of the force envelope her fist. It was if a thick goo had enveloped her hand and was forcing it to slow. The more she pushed, the harder it seemed to move. “Huh.” she raised an eyebrow in surprise and wonder. It was more an obstacle than a shield, but Leena had no doubt it had it’s uses. She could already see where such a skill would have been of great use in her last skirmish with the darkness. She shuddered as she thought about it. Being struck with a lightsaber , even if the bulk of it’s power had been dissipated in flashes of soft light, was less than pleasant.

 

Leena redirected her focus to Sandy who was still speaking. She did not hear all her words though, the shock of an invisible wave of the force grazing her abdomen catching her off guard.

 

“Well then,” Leena responded pondering the information she had just been shown. “I wish we didn’t need to do all this. Why can’t we just live in peace? We are Jedi after all! I’d rather help the sick and dying. Barring that I guess I’d prefer keeping our guys in the fight.” Leena looked down at the saber hilt clipped to her waist. “We are Jedi, not soldiers. Combat shouldn’t be our first option. If it comes to that, then, like you said, death is the last option of the last option.”  She spoke these last words with an air of confidence as she reassured herself of the same as she spoke.

 

Leena inhaled deeply, drawing the calmness of the air and the temple about them inwards allowing it to nestle within her soul before exuding it out exponentially from her very pores. Even if she was not quite sure of herself, Leena knew the benefits of force meditation. She was a whiz at it. Even as they spoke Leena subconsciously exuded gentle tidal surges of light as she regained her focus on the light. She still had doubts, but Sandy had reminded her of some of the goodness that was the force. Away from combat, in familiar surroundings, Leena felt comfortable. She felt safe.

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Kadi was glad to be back on solid ground. She's spent the last few months cooped up in a starship, with nothing but recycled air and durasteel floors for an environment. It was refreshing to be planetside, even on Felucia. She could feel the Dark Side here. It pervaded the very nature of the planet, the trees and wildlife slowly falling to its corruption, even as the Jedi tried to cleanse it. She was familiar with the planet- she had found her Acklay, Juro, as a hatchling here. Even as young as he had been, he'd been dangerous. She smiled fondly. He was roaming the wilderness of his home right now, but she could feel him through their bond. He would come if she called. She had spent weeks herself outside the temple, meditating and doing what she could to cleanse the land, but she was no consular, not like those that were training.

She recognized one of them immediately- Master Sandy Sarna, a well known and respected Master. The other, she didn't recognize immediately. She leaned against the entrance to the cafeteria, smiling as she watched. It was good to be among other Jedi, even if she spent most of her time as far from civilization as she could safely manage.

 

“I wish we didn’t need to do all this. Why can’t we just live in peace? We are Jedi after all! I’d rather help the sick and dying. Barring that I guess I’d prefer keeping our guys in the fight.”

 

Kadi blinked at the Mon Calimari's words. It wasn't a rare sentiment to be heard, even amongst the most skilled fighters of the order. No one enjoyed taking lives, being pushed into battlefields. She stepped out of the doorway then, interjecting.

 

"If I may, Master Sarna?"

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Sandy opened her mouth to respond and heard another unfamiliar voice interject, she spared a glance and gestured to the newcomer to join them at the cafeteria table. 

 

“Knight Kadi is it?” She flashed a welcoming smile, “This is a vital debate, and strikes to the heart of our current ecumenical movement within the Jedi Order. I will respond first with a story then you may interject as you see fit.” 

 

She let her eyelids flutter closed as she began to bring many bad and horrendous memories to the surface of her mind. It was her job as one of the Jedi Council to answer this question, and hopefully Knight Kadi would agree, but if not there would be much to learn here.

 

We live to serve the people of this galaxy, we live to protect them and to heal them. While some Jedi, especially those that departed our order in the Imperial Schism of several years ago, believe that we exist as a sword to cut through the Sith, that is not the truth of our order.  We exist as both the last bastion of conscience and the last sword to defend the galaxy. We do not exist to serve the Republic, the Alliance, or to Democracy itself. All of these things are Anathema to our mission. They hinder our mission, for they put us above the people we serve. We heal first, but in the course of our service we must also defend the People. For the power of the Darkside is that of gods, it corrupts and maims, it consumes all before it. And the People are most vulnerable to it. Look at this plague we fought here on Felucia.”

 

Or to the cradle of slavery on Thalassia. That she did not say. 

 

“Innocents were defenseless before its wroth. Do you believe this Darth Mavenger will stop if he gets the chance to seize it all? Does anyone? Power corrupts, and it will corrupt him and those that follow him until they are creatures that they themselves would not recognize. I saw it in the eyes of some of the Darkest Lords while I was an apprentice. They became paragons of their sin, leaving their humanity long behind.”

 

She could feel the tinge of emotion behind her voice. 

 

“You have been given this gift of power, Leena. All of us here have been given that gift, and it is our great dignity to use that power for the defense of what is good and right and defend the people. You have an affinity for healing, but in the last moments of resort I have no doubt you will need to draw your saber again to defend those that you love. And you will do this by instinct because you love and you live to serve the people. I am not saying that you must make a habit of killing or to even kill, but you must learn to fight. For in time you will need it.”

 

She sighed.

 

“When I was a very young teenager I had much the same approach as you, and when it came time for me to use my powers and my blade I could not.” She shivered at the thought. “And I was broken for it. I nearly lost my soul because I did not have the desire to see my convictions through. I failed the men on my strike team and I failed myself. Many people that did not need to die, are no longer alive because I did not have the training or the conviction." 

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Several hours later, Shippy McShipface popped out of hyperspace.

 

On board the old Barloz-class freighter’s bridge, Armiena stared blearily at her sensor readouts over a mug of caf, anxiety carved into every wrinkle of her war-lined face. Of all the nightmares that could have plagued her future, a potential resurgence of the Chaos Gods was one of the most unwelcome. A Sith or even an Arach’tar was still a living creature, a being that could be communicated with and killed if necessary. A Chaos God, on the other hand… it was difficult to say what they even were, or even what matter composed their flesh.

 

Hence the ysalamir that was dozing in the ship’s cargo hold. Even if she couldn’t slay one of those creatures, presumably even they were present within The Force and were influenced by the vile lizards just like any other Force-User.

 

Already, a half squadron of her Wolf Spiders had arrived in system and were drifting in their pyramidal landing craft. Two more were on the way, having been forced to relocate from more distant systems. If the Chaos Gods were involved--worst case, Nurgle, who had taken a fiendish delight in bestowing gifts to the most malignant of the Sith--it was possible that a system-wide quarantine would need to be established. Their numbers would be entirely insufficient to enforce such a blockade--and their talents laid primarily in destroying targets, rather than intercepting them and convincing them to land.

 

“Go idle around the Leth-points. No shooting unless by my order,” she commanded the battle droids, receiving six cheerful acknowledgements in return. During the entire descent to the planet, Armiena kept her eyes closed and tried to calm her mind. It was entirely possible that she had overreacted. It was also entirely possible that sitting at the furthest periphery of an ysalamir’s influence had set her on edge.

 

Even still, when her ship touched the planet’s surface and rocked forward on the hangar complex just outside the Jedi Temple, Armiena observed over the nose of her clunky old freighter that there were few organic beings manning the hangar deck. Most of the external duties, it seemed, had been taken over by droids.

 

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Kadi listened solemnly as Sandy spoke, nodding to affirm her identity. she rested her weapon against the wall, taking a seat at a comfortable distance from the two, leaning against the table as she listened. It was in the other Jedi's words that her wisdom was revealed, and it was apparent, even only just meeting her, why she was granted the rank of Jedi Master.

 

"You speak with wisdom, Master. I do not have the personal experience that Master Sarna does, but I have made my own peace with this conflict. I think of it like a tree, but it may do you better to think of the Force like a living body. When you are treating a gangrenous limb, you may do your best to heal it, to save that limb and relieve it of it's pain. But no matter what you do, sometimes the best course of action is the removal of that limb. It will never be pleasant, nor should it ever be, but we do it so that it does not spread further. That doesn't mean you whip out a butcher's knife though- an improper amputation may only worsen the problem. If we fight or kill the Sith with aggression or anger in our hearts, then we take their darkness unto ourselves, and the rot festers at the heart of our order. While there should always be an attempt at healing, at redemption, it may not always be possible."

 

She closed her eyes, tilting her head back as she breathed in the air of the Jedi Temple.

"Breathe in. Look around at the people you've helped. Walk the ground that you've healed. Let it strengthen your resolve so that you know in your heart whether to do violence upon your opponent is the right thing to do. But once that decision is made, don't waver. Don't hesitate until the battle is won, or avoided."

 

She exhaled, opening her eyes and sitting up.

 

"I don't think we've met yet. Master Sarna has already introduced me, I'm Kadi. If you ever see me with an Acklay, that's Juro. He looks mean, but he's a sweetheart."

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So the old pretender comes to play. And she has grown so much. 

 

We chose rightly Grandfather. We could not have revealed ourselves so early. 


Be silent. The Galaxy continues to spiral to destruction, and in that chaos we rise for the Gate is unlocked and the eye is opening. We will show ourselves elsewhere in time. 

 

A dark presence touched the edges of Draygo's mind, then disappeared without a trace. 

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Leena pondered the words in silence for a few minutes before she opened her mouth to respond looking from Kadi to Sandy. “Of course you are right. How can I stand for what is right and true if I allow evil to persist unchecked. Still, we cannot fight evil with lighter shades of it. We must remain fully in the light in all that we say and do. That is easier to say than do sometimes. Even well intended actions can have dark outcomes.” she thought about what had happened back on Mon Cal the last time she had been there. “The dark side is a wiley foe and it is against that that we fight. Not against mere mortals.”

 

The girl turned and for the first time since setting out on her walk offered a genuine smile to Kadi. She extended her hand in greeting.  “Hello Miss Kadi, I am Jedi Knight Leena Kil, a member of the Circle of Healers.” Lowering her voice, she whispered, “Does Juro roam the temple freely?” a look of genuine concern flitting across her face at the idea that such a fearsome creature might disturb the patients healing within or the younglings studying by it’s mere presence.

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The thought of an untamed acklay waltzing about the youngling quarters made Sandy’s eye twitch, but before she could focus on the problem she dismissed it. A foolish fear, this young woman was trustworthy, and though she had not met another naturalist since the Cerean master she had grown under at Gala. She looked back to the Mon Calamari and patted her shoulder. 

 

“Do not put your cares away so easily, though commendable, these are cares and concerns that should be a part of your life because they make you who you are. Accept your concerns, and you will find yourself a Master of the Order or healers. And Leena…” She cocked her eyebrow and grinned. “Let us practise a bit on your combat. I want to see if there is anything else I can help with. ” 

 

She gestured towards the entrance. “And Miss Kadi, you and Juro can join us.”

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Calix Meus Inebrians

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"A pleasure to meet you, Leena. I hope you can teach me more about healing some day."

 

She let out a quiet chuckle at their concern over Juro's presence, shaking her head.

 

"There's no need for worry. The Force binds us, and I can feel his presence wherever I am. He is free to come and go as he pleases, but Felucia is his home. Right now he's..." she closed her eyes, reaching out in the Force. She could feel the tether that tied them, a warmth in the current of the Force.

 

"He's nearby. Probably just finished hunting. But even when he's in the temple, he wouldn't hurt anyone unless I asked him to."

 

She glanced at Master Sarna at the offer. "I'll come along, thank you- I'm not sure if the temple is large enough for Juro to participate safely though."

 

She followed Sandy and Leena, hanging back a comfortable distance, her weapon resting on her shoulder. It was rare for her to be near other Jedi for long- her path often led her to solitude, long weeks spent in the wilderness. It was a peaceful life- she remembered growing up on Dantooine, how often she's just start walking for days on end. Thinking back on it she was foolish- under supplied and with no ream form of navigation, she was amazed she never ended up lost. Older now, she knew the Force had guided her path in those moments, and it had led her to the Jedi.

 

They were good. There were a few bad apples- what organization didn't have their share of unsavory members? But overall they were a force for good, healing people and worlds that the rest of the galaxy wrote off. She loved this life- she wouldn't trade it for anything. To be a part of efforts like Scarif and Felucia- that's what she wanted. The Sith wanted to destroy, to corrupt, to burn entire populaces for their free will. She couldn't stand by and watch that happen.

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Leena smiled at the others. Of course the doubts were not gone, but to dwell on them was futile. She had faced the darkness, on Scarif, on Felucia, Coruscant, Mon Cal, and more and never found the force wanting. It had been facing another being, corrupted by the darkness, that had caused her to stumble. She had even thrown her lightsaber aside in hopes of saving him. It had been futile and as much as she could not stand the idea, there was truth to the statements her two fellows were speaking. She, they, had a responsibility as Jedi. Sometimes that responsibility called on them to purge the darkness. Unfortunately, that was rarely pretty and while Leena succeeded in one aspect of it, direct physical combat was another area of that same purging. The same side of the same coin. It was why she carried a lightsaber. She was a Jedi.

 

“I’d like that very much Master Sarna.” She responded at the offer to practice. To try and develop and hone her abilities outside the presence of a clawing darkness would be akin to treating a wound that was not imminently seeking death or to practicing a new technique in the lab so as to better serge her patients. It was something of a familiarity to the Mon Cal, and in that she took some comfort, even as they entered a large training hall and she rolled her deactivated saber hilt in her hand. She looked down at it, her mind flashing back to how she had thrown it away in her battle with Darth Mavanger, how only in the last moment had she activated it. She shook her head, returning her focus to the present. She could not change the past, but she could shape the future by her action now, in the moment.

 

Inhaling deeply, Leena embraced the force. The calm goodness that was multiplied by her fellow Jedi. She let it flow through her, pushing the bulk of her concerns from the forefront of her mind. She flicked the switch on her saber and a teal pillar of light materialized with a energized hiss, it’s power dulled to a training level. The girl focused on the blade itself, holding it at her waist, ready. “Please teach me. I only know the basics.” 
 

She felt the force deep in her soul. It’s purifying energies warmed her and comforted her. She exhaled. The force was her ally. Even if she did not understand it’s will. She was a servant of the force. And still, something lingered. Staring at her saber, Leena knew, hoped, she could do this.

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Her own lightsaber came on with a definite snap and it's pure white light came to mingle with Leena's steady blue.  She lifted the blade high so that It was at a steep angle beside her right ear. She spared a glance for Kadi, then charged right at Leena. She was no expert swordsman herself but she knew how the sith fought. 

 

"They come in a relentless attack. Not unfocused not a wild strike but precise. They focus their wild and their anger into brutally Strong blows."

 

Though she was not striking to hurt these were very real weapons and she began relentlessly strike at the young Jedi Knight. Blow after blow, using the force to guide their speed and precision. 

 

"I Cannot demonstrate their powers, for I cannot carry that evil inside me. But know that they will be equally as brutal. A flying knife, a bolt of lightning, the scourge of fire. Now create distance and use those techniques I showed you in the cafeteria." 

 

She charged again.

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Leena was surprised at Sandy’s sudden surge forward, recoiling backwards in surprise, her lightsaber cracking with the collision of their two weapons. It was a clash of force-fueled instinct as the girl’s body naturally recalled the learning she had in basic lightsaber combat from earlier in her training. It had been ground into her along with other Jedi younglings during those aspects of their traditionalist Jedi upbringing.

 

Leena heard the master’s words and tried to listen as she renewed her focus to her task at hand: in this case, literally the saber in her hand.

 

Placing her second hand on her hilt, Leena moved to try and deflect the onslaught of blows, stepping backwards with each swing of Sandy’s saber. Her mind raced, trying to calculate the unfolding battle that was before her. She barely could keep up with the flurry of precision strikes, the force was her only saving grace. It whispered to her. It moved with her. Before she could think. Before she could comprehend. It was the force.

 

Leena felt it flowing through her. It was almost like she was on the front lines again, tending the wounded as they were rushed inside their makeshift field hospital. She had to feel, not think. Be in the moment and allow her instinct, training, and the e force to guide her. This was not that though; and with each blow she faltered less, but gave way bit by bit.

 

Then as Sandy swung, her white saber clashed with Leeba and sent it swinging wide in one hand held tightly, leaving the Healer exposed.

 

Leena felt the flow of the force, the surge of it’s power as it urged her along with Sandy’s words. Bringing her free hand up, Leena called upon the force, thickening the very air before her into an invisible form of gelatinous consistency to catch the next blow, flipping over in a backwards somersault , landing out of range of the Jedi Master.

 

Leena’s feet hit the ground and she canted her head to regard Sandy. This was training, but she assumed like the medical field, one trained to the real thing. So she stood for a second before sweeping her hand in a open-handed slicing motion towards Master Sarna’s feet, a surge of telekinetic energy seeking to take her fellow Jedi’s feet from under her.

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𝖙𝖍𝖊 𝖍𝖆𝖗𝖛𝖊𝖘𝖙 𝖇𝖊𝖌𝖎𝖓𝖘

 

A small shuttle, one of many, appeared in the space over Felucia. By design, there was nothing particularly eye catching about this ship: it was simply one of many that blended into the mix of relief ships coming to offer aid to the victims of the plague that ravaged this planet. The ship's idents proclaimed it as one of the many seemingly neutral planets that had been trying to get through these tumultuous times without attracting the attention of either side of the galactic war. Its pilot made no mad dash to the surface, but instead went along a leisurely path down to see what good they could do for those outlying areas that were suffering the most.

 

Felucia wasn't Onderon nor was it Nar Shaddaa or any of the other host of heavily inhabited and rigidly controlled planets in the Galaxy. Taking advantage of the relative lack of centralized authority, the shuttle headed away from the fairly small number of population centers until it honed in on one of the smaller, remote settlements. As soon as it landed in a small clearing near the scattered houses and fungal farmsteads, its ramp opened and dark figures emerged.

 

Qaela disliked wearing full armor, but in this case, it seemed prudent due to the remaining affects of the plague. Imperial Intelligence wasn't completely sure what the status of the plague here was so all would come prepared. Her armor, a matte black, was sealed and her air supply heavily filtered. The commando platoon with her also wore the same armor so that the only thing distinguishing them from her was the fact that she had her black spear strapped to her back instead of a rifle.

 

"Fan out, secure the village," she commanded, though the words came through harsh and mechanical. Fear would be their tool today. She preferred to take the population intact and force them to serve, but she would be satisfied by sterilizing this place of sentient life should they not prove useful.

 

Along with the platoon of commandos, scores of small hovering probe droids shot out of the shuttle like spores, scouting the area from along the fungal tree lines and reporting any anomalies. This place, once secured, would serve as the launch pad for hundreds or thousands of Sith who would come once the main invasion began. Until then, Qaela's objectives were to establish a ground presence, secure as many nysillin farms and crops as possible, and ascertain exactly how prolific the plague was so that the main invasion force would be better equipped.

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Shippy McShipface was not what most spacers would call a “happy ship.” A happy ship would have been fled with little momentos, a copilot or astromech droid, perhaps an argument echoing from its cockpit, and clutter all throughout the common areas and a vrelt’s nest of crosswiring in the walls. McShipface boasted a small armory, a mutilated battle droid that hung like a macabre scarecrow in her workshop, and an entire wing of the ship that had been vented to vacuum and was unfit for sapient habitation. She was a silent ship in hyperspace.

 

For a moment, however, Draygo could have sworn that she sensed a stowaway on her ship. That was not quite the right word--Armiena had yet to play host to an uncontracted passenger, but she understood that those wayward souls were more desperate than dangerous. More dangerous to themselves than their hosts, certainly. But for a second, the veteran Jedi experienced an unsettling instinct that someone--or something--was watching her.

 

“It’s alright! I’m a Jedi, you don’t need to be afraid!” Draygo heard herself shouting towards the cargo hold even as she donned the reassuring weight of two lightsabers and a light blaster pistol. An altogether unpleasant memory of nearly shooting her own mother forced her hand from that weapon, however. The Jedi stalked the ship’s corridors for a few minutes, shouting similar reassurances to a potentially terrified passenger. After two similar reassurances, the pervading sense that something altogether wrong was watching her with amusement caused the veteran Jedi to retreat to the cargo hold and haul an ysalamir onto her shoulders. A faint sensation of claustrophobia immediately befell her like a leaden brick in her stomach, but if one of them was exerting some influence on this world…

 

A personnel carrier waited for her use at the base of her freighter, manned by one of the hulking Sentinel droids. The little vehicle was nearly required to reach the Jedi Temple on Felucia, which was a highly inconvenient location to reach. The underground facility was situated nearly two kilometers away from its hangars, and those two klicks were an uphill hike through unpaved jungle on a terminally humid world. Even as the pervading burden of claustrophobia was causing her to make small talk with its taciturn pilot, Armiena soon doffed her robe and was tugging uncomfortably at a sweaty collar. The carrier’s pilot answered only in monosyllables, and the Grandmaster soon closed her eyes and hoped that the brick of nausea in her stomach would subside after setting foot within the Temple.

 

“Oh! Grandmaster! Oh! Ah. Thank you, I appreciate it.” Cried an verbose Miraluka just within the subterranean lobby, who observed that Draygo was studiously maintaining ten meters of distance from him. “Master Sarna sent word that you might be coming. She’s on the second level, in the sparring halls. All the way in, turbolifts on the right, take the right walls, left… and--”

 

“--Thank you, I know it. Listen, I need a briefing on the contagion that’s hit Felucia--if you wouldn’t mind…”

 

Crestfallen but not in a position to deny the Jedi Grandmaster vital information, the blinded Miraluka clutched to Armiena’s forearm and recounted all of the symptoms observed and quarantine procedures that the Felucians had attempted. Airborne transmission seemed certain--the casualty rate in many communities exceeded ninety percent. It often started with a cough and febrile shivers, sores and focal swelling, blood in sputum and vomit, hemorrhages from the mucus membranes, pulmonary collapse… and most spectacularly, its victims attracted vermin and insects. 

 

“Thank you. Just--about face and go forward about ten paces.” The pallor in the Grandmaster’s face had begun to turn sickly. She stood just within the sparring hall, within sight but well out of the ysalamir's range of the two dueling Jedi.


__________

 

A Wolf Spider battle droid was capable of engaging fourteen targets at any given moment. Every six seconds, it could launch two semi-armor piercing rounds at supersonic velocities, each capable of knocking out the shields of an assault shuttle and punching clean through the armor of a corvette. With multiple rounds in flight at any given moment, each droid was in effect a no-fly zone for any spacecraft larger than a starfighter. On the ground, it was eight-legged death on the slower Imperial walkers and a terror to infantry. In the orbital bombardment role, it struck like the hammerblow of a god--albeit a minor one, and perhaps one after having enjoyed a bit too much mead the previous night.

 

It was not, however, equipped with programming to conduct aerospace traffic control.

 

One of the six Wolf Spiders orbiting Felucia had detected the descending shuttlecraft. Mildly perturbed at having encountered a target for which it had not been programmed with relevant rules of engagement to interact with, the droid then consulted with its brethren over a radionics channel concerning the proper course of action. Those other five droids had similarly limited civilian experience within their memory banks--the only sitrep concerning a scenario that even remotely approached this dilemma was when one of their brethren had spent four years drifting in the debris field resulting from the battle for Centerpoint Station. There, a half-functioning Wolf Spider had used the last of its batteries to calculate and transmit a safe course for a crippled Y-Wing. Even this was not quite applicable to the spacelanes of a remote world where a viral contagion was in effect.

 

The next node on what they collectively agreed to be their proper chain of command was the central computer of the Jedi Temple. The kilometers of processors at the core of the temple possessed a trim, businesslike personality, breezily waving aside the electronic bellows and demands for proper rules of engagement against an unknown vessel in this system. It frankly believed that directing combat operations at this moment was a bit of a waste of its valuable computing time, as the next thirty seconds of its busy schedule were entirely occupied by calculating protein simulations in search of a potential vaccine against the contagion. It transmitted its brief instructions to the six battle droids, who followed them to the final exacting bit.

 

One of the droids transmitted an unencrypted series of instructions to the descending shuttle craft, advising its pilot of a number of precautions that they would be able to take against the disease. Those instructions were entirely in text, all the better for the transmission to penetrate the planet’s atmosphere and reach its target without loss of potentially critical data.

 

Caution: viral contagion in effect.

Reported casualties exceed ninety percent in some localities. Repeat: in excess of ninety percent.

Airborne transmission is probable. Transmission by fluid exposure and aerosolized droplets confirmed. Recommend patient contact only with droids and personnel with vacuum-tight suits.

Symptoms include fever, chills, shivers, cough, swelling and sores in particular in the vicinity of major blood vessels, difficulty breathing, hemorrhagic fever,  cardiac arrhythmia, loss of renal function, blood in sputum, vomit, feces, urine, nesting by vermin, auditory and visual hallucinations, short-term memory loss (this list went for somewhat longer). Death typically is the result of loss of pulmonary and cardiac function.

Recommend ten day quarantine of all personnel who experience unprotected contact with patients or contaminated fluid.

Have a nice day.

 

That last touch had been debated on for nearly two seconds by the battle droids--it had not been specified by the central processor of the Jedi Temple--but they eventually agreed, despite the predilections of their personality matrices, that they were functioning as personnel of the Jedi Order at the moment. A trace of courtesy was required for optimal performance.

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What are we harvesting?

 

The telekinetic blow slapped into Sandy’s legs right above her ankle which threw her legs out from underneath her in a very effective strike. Sandy flipped forward, using whatever momentum she had left to throw herself into a somersault away from the Mon Calamari. She kept her saber outstretched away from her, and flipped herself back up into a crouch. She snapped the lightsaber off and gave the other woman a hug. 

 

“Well done! See it's totally possible to do, though I bet it will be harder in an actual fight with the Sith.” 

 

She turned and bowed deeply to the Jedi Grandmaster, and mother of her long time love interest. 

 

“Grandmaster, I am so glad that you have come.”

 

But there was something else here now, some other malevolence that she could not identify, distant but persistent and she raised an eyebrow to Draygo.

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𝖗𝖊𝖑𝖎𝖊𝖋 𝖍𝖆𝖘 𝖈𝖔𝖒𝖊?

 

 

Ensign Turgin smiled at the uncoded response he received from the Rebel's automated defenses from behind the console of the drop shuttle. It was actually quite nice of the Rebels to warn them, especially due to the plague. There wasn't a great deal of specific information about the plague, but it at least confirmed that the thing was airborne. He sent a response back along the same channels.

 

Warning received and appreciated. Our mission here is to offer medical assistance and conduct further research in hopes of discovering better treatments for this plague. We have deployed twenty-one field medics in full hazmat suits to offer assistance to outlying settlements that likely have not received prior medical assistance. Be advised, have also deployed medical probe droids into the area looking for solitary dwellings with possible victims. They will also scan the area for viral or bacterial traces of the virus. We will be moving from settlement to settlement offering assistance.

 

Do you have further information on areas with current medical assistance operating? Would like to make sure we offer assistance only to areas not yet reached by medical services to prevent redundancy and reach as many of the infected as possible. Please alert any security forces in the area of our presence and intent so they are not alarmed by our probes or movements.

 

It was a risk, they knew, in directly alerting the Rebel's security, but Qaela had decided it was best to not look like they were hiding. Anyone trying to avoid the planetary defenses would likely invite further attention, same with them deploying scores of probes in the area without letting anyone "know" what their purpose was. If local forces believed these were for medical purposes, they may not view them as a threat, at least, not until they took a very close look. Even a casual flyby here would show a bunch of beings taking samples, though even that wouldn't be easy with all the smoke he saw rising from the village as commandos burned the bodies. They would have to land and go into the various buildings to really figure out what was going on and by then, it would be too late for the Rebel scouts as they wouldn't survive to report back.

 

Outside the shuttle, things were a slight bit less relaxed. This was a small settlement, but news of the shuttle landing spread quickly. Though they expected to encounter some victims of the plague, even the hardened Sith commandos were slightly taken aback to see the scale of the losses. Though the place looked to hold between 750 and a thousand beings, there seemed to only be around 200 to 250 survivors remaining alive, and most of them seemed to be in a state of shock. It was immediately clear that they would need to progress to a more cautious approach so five of the commandos returned to the shuttle to acquire flame throwers so they could deal with the bodies.

 

Instead of blasters, the commandos wielded scanners and medical instruments, testing the air and recording everything possible from fungal spore content to the local atmospheric composition, anything that would help the Empire know the optimal conditions for farming and growing nysillin should the High Council decide to export production. Samples were taken of several bodies discovered before they were incinerated, though there was some halfhearted objections from the locals. At the outset, it looked like they were here to do just what they said when approached by the locals: offer plague relief. Yes, their armor was fairly scary looking, but these were tough times and a war was on, plus Felucia wasn't exactly known as a pleasant resort park.

 

Just in case the locals didn't buy the initial stories, the commandos carried with them local jamming fields and set them up around the settlement to prevent any sort of alert going out. Most of the vehicles in the area were slow farming craft, but the few speeders were guarded by commandos who turned away anyone approaching warning both that leaving the area could expose them to the plague or, if it was already present here, could spread it to their neighbors. Several didn't seem to like that, but that was where the armor and assault rifles on their backs came into play. Most seemed all but defeated by the plague and were in little condition to oppose the incursion, even if they may have objected to the treatment of their dead.

 

The Sith took no chances with infection: anything that looked like a plague victim was treated with intense fire. Samples were taken from several and holo-recordings took note of what happened, but all faced the flame. Structures with the infected dead found in them were torched as well, though it seemed that some had already been burned by the locals trying to stem the initial outbreak.

 

Qaela stood back, overseeing the situation and using the Force to quell the more suspicious and skeptical of the villagers. Several didn't like what they were seeing, but it was easy to manipulate their minds to accepting what was happening. The Dark Side simply hummed here on this planet and Qaela decided that should the opportunity arise, she would seek to assert her influence here. There were just so many delectable opportunities here with how the Dark Side seeped through everything. Not to mention all the chemicals and potions that could be created from the flora and fauna that were native here. It was delicious, positively delicious.

 

At last, the perimeter was secured and the time came to gather in the harvest. Qaela approached the old male that seemed to be what passed for a mayor or local leader here and, with more than a subtle touch of the Force, convinced him it was beneficial for him to gather all of his people into the largest building in the area. The building, some sort of warehouse for the crops, was big enough to clearly hold two hundred or so beings. With the apparent cooperation of their leader, most beings began to assemble, though some grumbled about it. Those that were a bit slow to move were encouraged by the commandos, though there was no need for anything more than a few helpful shoves with assault rifles. These simple folk were no fools: they knew they couldn't fight even a score of armed soldiers.

 

As they arrived, each being was scanned for signs of infection before being separated into various silos. Should one prove to be infected, they would not expose the entire village. These beings knew how to grow nysillin, so they would be a valuable resource for the Empire and were not to be wasted. Even a hundred of these farmers could teach ten thousand Imperial replacements if brought in, so it was imperative that the survivors be kept alive.

 

Once everyone in the settlement was in the warehouse and secured in various silos, a fact confirmed by both the probe droids and a quick search with the Force, it was time to reveal the villager's fate. Relaying her words via small speakers placed in each of the silos, Qaela said, "Those in the cities have abandoned you to your horrific fate. The Jedi whom those in their glittering towers sought to protect their interests have left you simple farmers to your own suffering. They tended to their cities and factories while ignoring the plight of the small villages.

 

"The Empire regrets that we were not able to come to your assistance before now, but we could not risk a devastating confrontation with the Rebels and their Jedi puppets that would have caused more harm to you good people than good. I am Mistress Qaela Darksong and I bring news that the Empire has heard your cry and will answer it. While the Rebels struggle to provide resources to fund their pointless war, the Empire has resources aplenty to spare and the generosity to share them even with those under the control of our enemies. Just as we spent time and resources to come to the aid of Mon Calamari as it suffered a similar plague and brought order and medical relief to those beleaguered people, we do so here as well.

 

"In my wake, the Empire will be sending medical personnel to tend to any of you who are recovering or infected. After them will come engineers with resources to help rebuild and even expand your village. You will soon become the overseers of thousands of new settlers all wanting to learn from your wisdom how to grow nysillin. You need not fear for your future for the Empire will see to it that all who assist us will be rewarded with a portion of all of the profits of all of those that you teach. We come to expand, but not at your expense."

 

Her voice hardened slightly, "Make no mistake: the Empire is here and means to take this planet so that it will no longer assist our enemies. Change is coming and any who refuse to accept this change will find themselves in a poor place. I have no desire to destroy and waste such precious resources as you all are, but resistance will not be tolerated. If you do not wish to accept my generous offer, then I shall find a village that does. Join us and we will tend to your wounds, care for your orphans, and help you rebuild even stronger. Oppose us and we will finish what the plague started.

 

"The choice is yours."

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The old model cargo freighter slipped out of hyperspace slightly behind the transports of Qaela’s. The large cargo containers, much like the darkside itself, carried a ruthless cargo behind a nice and cheery exterior. Painted in the white of the galactic medical standard, the starship Calliope joined the dozens of other medical frigates and supply convoys towards the spread out villages that surrounded the Jedi Complex. With a burst of well piloted engines and repulsors, the freighter settled down at one of the abandoned villages a few miles distant from the edge of the Temple’s shield. 

 

Telperien the Golden, heir to the line of Ar-Pharazon and the Coven of Nightsisters knelt at her Master's feet. Her voice was soft as the ranks of dark cloaked sisters prostrated themselves behind her. 

 

“My Lord, your victory awaits.” 

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The village leader shook his head in protest. Out of the mouth of evil only came the spattering of lies. 

 

“Why would we bend the knee to you when the Jedi have been nothing but helpful? They came here, they came to all of the small villages. Take your evil and leave. Run back to your masters lap.” He gestured to his daughter who fumbled with her comm link. 

 

He raised his cane towards the nightsister. 

 

“We came to escape your particular brand of filth. Your empire destroyed Coruscant and you destroy everything you touch. You may kill us here, but you will not win in the end.” 

 

He looked to his young daughter who was still trying to use her comm link to call for help from the temple to no avail. 

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Qaela sighed in genuine sadness. She despised waste, but there was nothing to do about it. This one was stubborn, but there would be those who submitted. "They came here?" She gestured her arms around her, though most couldn't see her, their leader could. "If so, then the carnage that my men are cleaning up is testament of their failure. I hear no offers of rebuilding, though it is doubtful that the scattered Rebels have the capacity to do so even if they desired it. I am saddened that you choose to reject the Empire's hand of friendship, but I respect your decision."

 

She gestured to two of the commandos and said, "This one needs to go into isolation for the safety of the entire village. I will not see them all infected with the same sort of insanity that he suffers, nor will I doom all here for the foolishness of one."

 

The two pulled the older man apart from the rest of the pod he was in and his daughter's arms. They ignored any cries of anger or fear: these were beings in no shape to offer resistance. "Rest assured, I have great mercy," she continued. "He will not be harmed so long as he does not cause problems or resist the Empire. Simply disagreeing with our authority is not a crime punishable by death until thoughts become actions against the Empire. His property and authority is stripped from him, though: all that he owns now belongs to the Empire, to be distributed among those here who decide to join us."

 

She addressed the rest, "Each of you must make a choice: swear to the Empire and reap the great bounty we offer or side with our enemies and lose your property. I am a Master of the Sith, one conversant with the Force and I despise lies. Do not seek to lie to me for I will sense it and push those who falsely claim allegiance with a righteous fury. Each of you may decide where your loyalties lie."

 

She would let them make their decisions for democracy had its value even to the Sith. Should enough of the village swear allegiance, then they would assume the land and property of both the dead and those who remained loyal to the Rebels. If too few swore to be worth dealing with, then she would sterilize the entire village and move on to the next. Hopefully, those would be more amenable to her offer.

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Kadi turned to face the new arrival, smiling as she saw who it was. She offered a respectful bow. Watching the short sparring lesson from Sandy had been interesting. It was unfortunate that one couldn't truly be prepared for a Sith's fighting style without having faced them before. From what she gathered, they had both had such an experience. She was thankful that she lacked it.

 

"Master Draygo. It's an honor."

 

As she did, she tilted her head. There was something here. Something new on Felucia. The world was aching for something, like an addict reaching for a drug. It was faint, but it tugged at her senses. had it not been for her countless months spent with the nature of this planet, the time she had spent learning of its scarred history through the trees and the air, she would have missed it. She couldn't place exactly what was wrong. Was it another plague? A new beast? Was the Dark Side returning to the planet, despite their best attempts to cleanse it? Whatever it was, even though it only faintly touched her senses, it was appalling. She straightened herself, looking at her compatriots.

 

"Somethings wrong, masters. I can't place it though."

 

Instinctively, she called out to her bond, warning Juro to stay close. It was reassuring to feel him there, but he was clearly disturbed as well. Whether that was due to her own concern, or if he could feel it too she didn't know. Her grip on her weapon tightened, and she took a deep breath.

 

"I'd like to head out. See if I can learn anything else, with your permission."

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Leena offered a warm smile as she embraced Master Sarna. She continued to appreciate the Jedi Master and the wisdom she offered. Clipping her now deactivated saber to her belt, she released her fellow Jedi as she sensed the presence of the grandmaster. 
 

Turning, Leena offered a slight bow of respect for the leader of their order, her warm smile trying, and failing to revert to a stoic appearance. The grin still tugged at the corners of her mouth and played across her eyes. “Grandmaster. It is truly joyous to have your presence among us.” 
 

And as they stood, four bastions of light, Leena frowned. She was not a naturalist, not as in touch with the natural world all about them as Kadi; but she was a healer, a Jedi trained to find the slightest malfeasance of darkness within a body, the ticking time bomb of destruction within a ward of sick and injured. The force flowed through her, the light amplified as it passed from her very pours back out into the world around them in a soft invisible aura of light that sought to strengthen, energize, heal and protect all who were encompassed by it’s soothing waves. Yet buffeting against it was more than the worldly darkness of this place, more than the darkness that irradiated a battlefront hospital fraught with killers, killing, and killed. No, there was something else, something different, something dark, something strange yet vaguely familiar. It was a presence far off that seemed to tug at the doubts she  sought to control. The Healer could feel them as if they were pricked by a pin. They struggled to surge forward, contained by the girl’s confidence amongst her fellows and knowledge knowing she possessed the ability to fight the darkness in medicine and in combat. Yet it was there, it’s tendrils touching the waves of light, a disturbance that rippled across the forests. 
 

And Leena frowned. She nodded along with Kadi. “A darkness ripples in the very air masters. If I may, I will recuse myself to the sick and injured, tend their wounds and stand stalwart against this fog that may seek them harm.” Leena inhaled, her eyes turning to Sandy with a nod as she focused her mind, reaching out to the others, to bolster their own reserves and seeking to push back against the first lapping tidal crests of darkness. 

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