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All Roads Lead to Yavin...

Posted on Fri Aug 10th, 2018 @ 2:37pm by Amare & Bomoor Thort & Thane

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Massassi Temple grounds, Yavin 4
Timeline: Follows "Trial of a Lorrd" series
Tags: Yavin 4, Massassi Temple, YA-series, light freighter, Silver Sigil, Rift Jedi, Zam Kessar, padawan, Fosh, shoto

ON

The wild, ancient forest of Yavin 4 braced itself for the oncoming storm. The first earthbound droplets from the unstable atmospheric front fell upon the scattered remains of the Great Massassi Temple, and the Red Raptor parked silently nearby.

To those who were not aware of the moon's history, it was hard to imagine that many great temples used to dot the landscape before the Yuuzhan Vong saw fit to destroy them in their toxic crusade against the galaxy. The large moss-covered slabs of stone were all that remained now of this particular temple.

It was atop one of these stones that Bomoor now sat, eyeing an agitated Thane who was staring into the darkened sky, "I sense she is not far off now," the Ithorian stated, while also being keenly aware of how long they had already waited.

The pale-skinned man remained silent, preferring instead to continue his stoic vigil alongside his Ithorian companion, stormy eyes turned upwards to the swirling clouds high above. The occasional glancing of early precipitation pattered on the heavy leather greatcoat he had opted to don for the return of his prodigal apprentice.

And as sure as Bomoor has promised, his own senses piqued, and Thane's eyes were drawn to a far quarter of the sky, where only the occasional bolt of lightning sliced by silently. Now piercing through the dark skyward haze was the sound of a new arrival not native to the legendary forest moon.

The grey spacecraft descended from the mist, being narrowly missed by another stray bolt as it came into view. It initially angled to land in the temple clearing but instead avoided a collision with the Raptor and flew over it at a perilously low height. It gradually reduced speed as it looped around and came to a hovering halt. It hung there in mid-air, one Corellian-crafted starship facing the other. Both ships were close enough for their occupants to see into each other's cockpits, but the grey ship had all of its lights--save for the faint ambient lighting from its controls panels--off, and it was different to see who was inside without the use of special optics. Thane and Bomoor, however, didn't need to see inside in order to sense exactly who it was that came from the heavens.

Bomoor sensed the slight ripple in Thane’s emotional wall as he sighted the ship with his own eyes, knowing his apprentice was on board. The Force Bond the two former Jedi had unintentionally formed on Ossus allowed Bomoor remarkably clear glimpses into Thane’s being. However, the Caanan already had some practice resisting the tug of the Bond when it was attached to Berry and these glimpses into Thane’s mind were few and far between. Still, Bomoor already knew that there was a far greater emotional weight tied to his new apprentice than their former Velusian companion.

The Öetragan dropped down from the stone slab and came to stand just behind Thane, watching the ship’s landing procedure. The vessel itself was relatively unmodified, aside from some faded aurebesh paintwork lettering around the rim of the ship, which had evidently peeled and charred with the heat of multiple re-entries. It spelled out the name ‘Silver Sigil’.

The grey freighter's thrusters gently lowered it down as its landing gear deployed. Its touchdown, however, wasn't exactly perfect as it made contact slightly at an angle causing one gear to land first before the other no doubt making its pilot feel a bit jostled by the awkward landing.

Thane and Bomoor watched silently, unfazed by the awkward piloting of the craft. There was a moment of calm, while they awaited for the newcomer to depart the ship, with the only sound being the growing pitter-patter of raindrops onto the leaves around them.

A loud depressurizing hissing of internal air preceded the lowering of the Sigil's starboard side boarding ramp followed by careful descending light steps. The petite figure that appeared was enshrouded from head to toe in black; a black cloak, black tight-fitting cloth bodysuit, and short black boots. It stopped at the bottom of the ramp and turned its head to the left slowly to reveal the haunted face whose pitch black eyes would bear witness to two faces they hadn't seen in two long standard weeks. Surrounding those dark alien eyes was the youthful light blue face of a woman showing an expression somewhere between indifference and a resentful scowl.

To Thane, the Nautolan appeared older and sterner, wearing a grim visage that made her seem an entirely different woman than that which they had left on Lorrd those weeks ago. More than that, there was a discrete menace to her presence, a smouldering intensity that he had only briefly glimpsed within her before. Now, there seemed to be a thinly-veiled veneer of sharp decorum covering this development of character.

It was promising, although he wondered at if he had lost the woman he had sent, and at what had happened to result in this.

Coda halted her advance in front of Thane while keeping her silence ironclad for the moment. She stared hard at Thane with a marked appearance of antipathy and hatred for a moment, her hands concealed by the sleeves of the billowing cloak that was too long for her arms. She then wordlessly bowed her head to him and lowered herself to one knee and lift up her arms to let the sleeves fall to her elbows and reveal her twin prizes to her master: in her right hand was Thane's old lightsaber fully assembled, and in the other hand was yet another saber, only this one slimmer with a chrome finish along with small angled black strips of metal added to the hilt to improve one's grip on the weapon. Thane's apprentice had returned with proof that her journey involved a fallen Jedi.

Thane regarded the two proffered hilts with an almost blank expression, punctuated only by the quirk of a dark eyebrow. Overlooking his own former weapon, he claimed the slimmer, unfamiliar one and rolled its weight around in his hand for a second, judging its heft before igniting its blade.

A bright yellow-green energy beam sprung forth from the hilt with a sharp snap-hiss, emitting a higher pitch than the weapon he was more intimate with. Thane angled the blade with a gentle twist of his gloved wrist, finding the blade, shorter than the average lightsaber's, definite and precise. Before he spoke, the only sound that could be heard beyond the gentle rustling of the trees and the growing droplets of rain was the distant call of a native Howler, which was soon answered by several of its kin and rivals.

"You did not construct this," her Sith master observed simply, both as a practical and intuitive observation, although he noted the blade did not resist his command in any way as his old weapon had before he gifted it to Coda.

"True, but modified to my desires," Coda explained with a cold tone in her voice as she raised her intense gaze up to her master. "The Fosh padawan was an exceptional craftsman and very kind to me. I did not take pleasure in slaying her." She rose to her feet and added, "Her master, however...that man was a fool and deserved his fate." A rolling thunderclap in the distance followed as an eerily well-timed accent to her uncharitable report.

Thane's eyes widened reflexively at the confession, the reasons being more than twofold. The death of Jedi had never been his desire, and although he had turned from the Order, he took no pleasure in Coda's reality, or the part he had played in bringing it to pass. He winced his eyes shut as he felt his friend's heart sink, almost as if it were his own, let alone his own selfish fear of sudden exposure. The distinction in feelings was still difficult to grasp, even as the pair grew more accustomed to their own shifting existence together.

Bomoor was shocked at Coda’s words. She had killed two Jedi; one a padawan, no less. He could sense a greater strength in the young woman than when they had parted, but also a newfound sadness, “Coda…” he began, suddenly finding his anticipation for her arrival turning sour, “The powers you have learned… they should not be used to do harm…”

Coda turned and regarded Bomoor with intense focus, but the restrained bitterness she displayed towards Thane melted in seconds upon locking eyes with the Ithorian knight. She approached him up close, bowed her head in reverence, then smiled warmly and threw her arms around him in a tender embrace. She didn't care if he returned it, she just needed an outlet to let the emotions dwelling and aching in her heart to breathe free out of the cover of the darkness that was slowly consuming her. It saddened her to know she could never show such raw kindness to her Sith Lord, but Bomoor was anything but a Sith, and she loved him just for being himself.

"I missed you, my friend," she said to him softly in their embrace, and then added in whisper, "You're the best of us. Don't lose yourself like we have." She hoped that by "we", he would know she meant her and Thane. She pulled away gently from Bomoor, her expression hardening back to its darkly demure contentiousness, and regarded Thane for a few seconds before turning away. She had no intention of making her master jealous in any way, or coming between their friendship, but if her hug with Bomoor had that effect, so be it then. Jealousy was a fine catalyst for anger, and that suited the dark side just fine. She deeply envied the closeness between the two for some time, and wanted to feel a bond just like it.

For a moment, the former consular had accepted her embrace; the warm and hopeful woman he met on Nar Shaddaa was still there but she seemed to be playing a role. Toying with the darkness, without understanding the morality tied to it. He reached his own arms out and grabbed her shoulders tight, “You have not lost yourself, Zaracoda. I am sorry if I failed to prepare you for your trials but you are not the first padawan to embrace the anger that comes with being left alone for the first time. It is true, we are not Jedi but we must still aim to do good in this galaxy, not leave it in darkness.”

Bomoor turned to Thane, who still stood calmly to the side. Coda seemed to be taking on the role of Dark Jedi for his benefit, “We cannot teach only the Dark Side, Thane. Do not tell me that completing the task is all that matters. You know we are better than mercenaries.”

The aspirant Sith watched Bomoor's sad eyes searching his own with a difficult resignation, which in turn betrayed the conflict within himself. Thane almost felt like he were standing on trial before his old companion for Coda's actions as if he had committed them himself.

Perhaps, he considered mutely, I have.

The heir to Caanus was the one, after all, that had taken it upon himself to effectively be Zaracoda's formal master, and then to teach her in the ways of the Sith - at least in the form he felt they should take. Had Bomoor taken on the role exclusively, he doubted any Jedi would have found there way to the Force prematurely.

He also thought on the effects his and Coda's decisions were having on her being, especially as he considered the cool enmity she had cast at him since arriving on Yavin. Thane had chosen the young Wolph to be his Sith apprentice because of the traits she embodied, of how her development as a person and a Force user could serve a greater good and a vision he was beginning to behold for the wider galaxy.

If she had become a creature spurred simply by a hatred for him and who murdered without regard for the person or reason, like the much-maligned Sith of yesteryear, then he had maybe already failed in his quest.

"I am sure there is much more to the tale than first meets the eye, and that Zaracoda did what was necessary to reach us here today," Thane said firmly, but carefully, trusting his own words to be true. A half-smile crept across the corner of his lip, and he tried to add a degree of kindness to his words as he looked at the former slave of Nar Shaddaa. "You have done exceptionally well to be here now."

As the drizzling rain began to evolve to a light shower with small wind gusts, a little blue and gray coloured A2-series droid rolled down the Sigil's ramp, spotted its new owner, and rolled effortlessly along the rugged moistened dirt to stop by Coda's side. It bleeped a warning to her that a dangerously strong storm front was almost upon them, and they needed to leave shortly or be forced to stay and ride it out.

"The storm is gaining strength, masters," Coda reported to her human lord and Ithorian friend. "Shall we depart? My A2 here can help me match your course and speed."

Thane looked up the greying sky, letting several heavy drops of rain spatter against his pale skin. Even though the breeze and temperature had been pleasant whilst he and Bomoor waited, the forest storm was refreshing and reminded him of home, even if the vegetation was not quite as vibrantly-coloured. For a brief moment, and not for the first time, he wondered if he would one day be able to summon or dismiss his own storms. He wondered if he would ever do that with Bomoor.

"To whom does that ship belong to?" He asked, looking back down again, taking a few steps passed Coda to regard the YA-series vessel. It was newer and sleeker than the Raptor. Thane knew it to contain several luxuries not found on their own antiquated freighter, but it did not quite have the charm or rugged practicality of their pilfered smuggler's ship. "Really, I mean." He did not have the time nor patience for coy semantics after Coda's Jedi revelation.

"It was registered to someone named Zam Kessar," she answered as she removed the hood of her cloak to take in more of the quenching moisture. There was a welcome room temperature warmth to the rain, and a level of natural purity she hadn't felt or tasted from any water she'd be in contact with in years. There was something truly special about this strange moon beyond its storied history. She thought about returning to it someday on her own and explore it some more. "I did not have time to research him. There's an encrypted database referencing that name in the ship's computer. A2 has the decryption key. I just haven't been able to crack it yet."

After throwing a concerned glance to Bomoor at the mention of that name, Thane struggled to suppress a subsequent scowl for his apprentice. "Have your machine download the database and then wipe everything from the ship. Destroy the computers and their components, if need be." The Caanan looked back to the grey ship, fascination twinkling along with concern in his glistening eyes. "We do not need the leader of the Rift Jedi paying us heed any more than Quellus' Order."

He elected to hold his questions on how Coda obtained the ship back for the moment. It appeared his young Nautolan friend had perhaps crossed more than one nature of her Jedi during her time away from the Red Raptor.

"When you left me to die, a herald of the dark side tested me in the desert on Lorrd," Coda confessed to Thane, greatly disappointed in her master's fear of the Jedi. A bright scorching flash of lightning cut a swath across the sky, Coda unperturbed by the crashing thunder that followed. "It told me in a dream that power requires sacrifice. I have sacrificed for you, and I will do it again if I must. And Bomoor...how much has he given up fighting by your side? These Jedi are beneath you--both of you! I saw power beyond anything I could imagine when you destroyed Cabal, master, and Bomoor did something amazing to break the Thaalda to save us. If the Jedi come to hunt for us, let them come. I will not let them hurt either of you. I will not lose another family ever again. I desire more than anything to have the power to protect you. I am willing, master. Teach me, and I will fight them all by your side. They will learn to fear you, to fear us. Axion, the Jedi...all of them."

While Bomoor was not entirely at ease with Thane’s outwards acceptance of Coda’s actions, he was somewhat relieved that his friend shared his concerns regarding the involvement of the Rift Jedi. Coda’s words were emotive, but she still had limited knowledge of the tense history that resulted in the splintering of the once-golden Order. This anger at the Jedi and even against Axion: was it really her own?

“Axion will have his day to answer for the choices he has made,” Bomoor stated, looking towards the Nautolen but almost staring through her, “As will the misguided ones within the Jedi, but it does not give us the right to avoid answering for our own actions along the way. But, as Thane says, you have not yet told us the circumstances you have encountered and how you came to be in the possession of a Rift Jedi ship.”

He stepped away from the group and began to walk towards the Red Raptor, its rusty red hue subdued in the dark blue hue of the moon’s current light, “Come, let us depart for now. We will find a suitable port for your new ship, once you have scrubbed its systems. Then you will tell us your tale and we will share our own.”

Coda stood in place and let her gaze fall to the ground suspecting that her emotional diatribe likely made Bomoor think less of her. She suddenly felt ashamed of her words, but she knew in all her hearts that they had to be said. Between the desert, and her brief time in Lorrd City only further reinforced her darkening cynical view on life. The city was almost like Nar Shaddaa all over again, only prettier, cleaner, and predominantly human. Now she wondered how Thane would respond for having stood up to him a second time.

Left you to die, Thane spat the pathetic words within his own mind, his ire with the petulant young Force user rising.

"We will not be docking this ship," he decided. "Instead, once the files have been downloaded, destroy all trace of it. We have no need of an additional ship and we are not without the finances to get another if we really needed it. Once the machine has finished downloading the files and is on board the Raptor, it will transfer its files into G2 and then serve as spare parts for it. One astro is more than enough for us."

Coda's A2 droid started shaking and letting out little warbles of fear at Thane's declaration.

Not waiting for a response, Thane continued, "And your training will continue in earnest, I assure you; your power is already growing inexorably and I have every admiration for what you have done for me in the past and for your talents in surviving the trials of Lorrd, and indeed reaching here as you have. However, we must be sure that your powers do not outstretch your sense or understanding. We are not murderers or thieves - we do what we must to survive and to develop. You have done the former, but you are only just starting to do the latter."

Thane was firmly aware of Bomoor's presence as he spoke to his apprentice. There was a great deal more he wanted to discuss with Coda. Despite himself, he had been pleased to see her when she stepped off of the Sigil, even if that misguided feeling was quickly swept aside by the hostility she was showing him.

Trademark Sith hostility, he was sure, if Bane's teachings were anything to go by.

"Do what you need to do and then meet us back on the Red Raptor. Your quarters are prepared and there is warm food waiting for you." He held his gloved hand out, letting the rain bounce off of the leather garment. "We will stay planetside until this rain eases, I think. And, when we're ready, we will discuss what happened between Lorrd and here."

Thane turned to Bomoor, who both seemed to share a glowering, perhaps knowing, expression towards each other, but both then sidled away from the Nautolan and back towards their own ship in the downpour, each probably confident they knew the other was going to have very different conversations with the young Wolph in the coming hours.

Not for the first time, Thane wondered just how many lives he was corrupting through his choices - and how many more.

They left Coda alone in the torrential downpour, monsoon winds slashing across the open field where the ships were parked. She had half-expected Thane would demand the scuttling of her new ship; it was a gift for him to do as he pleased, she reminded herself. When she turned to go make preparations to carry out her orders much to her own chagrin, she had an ominous feeling as she turned back in time to see Thane boarding the Raptor with Bomoor.

It was a very bad feeling...

TBC

 

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