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The Lion, the Shadow, and the War Room

Posted on Sat Aug 11th, 2018 @ 2:27am by Rusasha Djehuti-Lahan & Rynseh Lahan & Zenarrah Sozo

Chapter: Chapter V: Unbound
Location: Lahan Residence, Coruscant
Timeline: A few days after "In Search of Blood"
Tags: Nubian, star skiff, Coruscant, Nar Shaddaa, Loren, Quellus, Sotah, Thurius, Templars, Damask Hul, Descent, Force drain, barsen'thor, consular, Makashi, Niman, Juyo

ON

The Jedi Master had waited over three years for this day. From his vantage point he had a wide oversized view of the terrace below, the well cared for exotic garden that occupied the terrace, and the landing pad at the other end. When his sharp, green feline eyes spotted the bird he was searching for, he knew it was time to make his move.

"The Force is still strong in you, Zen," he observed quietly to himself. "And my Rusasha...even stronger." He turned in time to see one his Jedi aides enter his private command center to inform him of the expected arrival. "They are almost here, I know. Gather the students and dismiss them for the day. The battlemasters will continue their Templar training until I return from my expedition. May the Force be with you, Raum."

Raum, a young Kel Dor recently promoted to Jedi Knight bowed and quietly departed from his Master Rynseh's sight. The Cathar turned back to the view of the landing pad just in time to get a clear visual of the incoming chromium-plated star skiff that he sent for his visitors. As the skiff drew closer, he frowned at what he sensed coming from one of the two passengers on board. It confirmed what he feared, but almost fully expected.

For all her strength, her spirit remains as weak and vulnerable as ever, he thought with regret. He always knew he should have done more to train her on the spiritual and mental aspects of being a Jedi. He was an old war veteran, however, and he placed most of his focus on martial prowess. That, he knew, was a mistake.

He moved to the doorway and into the corridor where Raum was, then turned and went through another adjacent door leading outside to the pad just in time for the Nubian-built skiff's arrival. He then descended the short flight of steps from the observation deck and strode along the path through his immaculately cared-for garden just as the boarding ramp lowered from the twin-engine skiff.

His daughter, Rusasha, was the first to descend and spot her father. Ryn could see she was a well-dressed and beautiful young Cathar woman now, but in his heart she would always be that innocent little cub that leaped into his arms the first time they met. Rusasha's face was glowing with tremendous joy as she ran up to him. Outwardly, however, Ryn did not return Rusasha's enthusiasm for their reunion; he remained as impartial and stoic as ever hoping that it would remind her of the proper conduct among the Jedi, especially those with forbidden blood attachments.

It did not greatly perturb Rusasha's heart to see her father standing as firm and patriarchal as always; the leader of the pride was expected to be always so, but she wished that for once they could just have one little moment of father/daughter affection. Even seeing him for the first time without any fur or hair aside from his long golden locks on his head didn't bother her; she was just grateful to the Force for letting her have more precious time with her dad.

Stopping just short of hugging him, Rusasha put down her slim travel bag, clasped her paws together against her chest and bowed to him. "Fa...--Master Lahan, I have returned from my quest," she reported to him as if they were nothing more than master and apprentice.

"Indeed you have," Ryn said with a curt nod. "And where is Zenarrah Sozo?" He looked up and saw his old friend staring at him in disbelief at the bottom of the ramp. Ryn returned the stare with a mask devoid of expression, but full of anticipation. "You have done well, Ru. Zen and I have some things to discuss. Go inside and wait for us. We'll be along shortly."

Rusasha turned back to glance at Zen, deeply curious about the history between them, then nodded gleefully to her father, retrieved her bag and went towards the luxury residence.

Zen managed several reluctant steps towards the motionless Ryn before stopping to regard him further, her mouth agape in bewilderment. She shook her head after a few more seconds and spoke, "They said you perished."

"I did," Ryn calmly affirmed in his grizzled baritone voice. "I went into sepsis, my heart stopped, and I saw the face of the Light itself...and it brought me back. I still have a lot to do."

Zen took another tentative step further. "You look...well, all things considered," she offered, still in shock having not seen him without fur on his face since the tragic incident on Balmorra which claimed the lives of several other Jedi, a group of elite Republic commandos, and almost ended Ryn's own life.

Ryn chose to continue their reunion not with words, but rather an extended paw of friendship.

Zen stared with uncertainty at the warm gesture of acceptance. She wondered if he knew, or was trying to sense what she had done in recent times, but then Ryn was never a man of ulterior motives when it came to matters of honour and fellowship. There was never any secrets betwixt the two of them. She always knew she could trust him, and so walked up and did as they had done so many years and many times before: grasped him at his forearm as he did the same to her; a warrior's handshake. She felt the old tuft of tawny fur still there having been protected from the fire by his battle gauntlets at the time, and it prompted a feeling of nostalgia; a little bit of the original Cathar still there. She stared into his large green eyes and saw the same ardent intensity in them just as she remembered. Those terrible second degree burns did nothing to take away the bright luster of Ryn's gaze, or the way those big dark pupils had a way of cutting right past your own eyes, as if he could effortlessly see directly into the soul. If Ryn had been a Nautolan, she would have kissed him right there on the spot.

When she released his forearm, Zen saw that Ryn continued to hold out his paw to her. She looked up at him again, and saw him gazing down at her hand, normally sky blue, but was now glowing red. She gasped and looked away in absolute shame.

"Take what you need," Ryn told her, a measure of disappointment in his tone, "and no more."

She turned back to him and saw his permission given with a nod. She slowly reached out to his paw, and was shocked when he swiftly seized her hand with an almost crushing grasp. Zen knew she didn't have long to sate her inner eldritch hunger, and closed her eyes to draw from the Jedi Master's essence as much as she knew how.

From the observation room, Rusasha narrowed her eyes focusing on what was happening between the two out on the landing pad, but she couldn't see much with her father's back to her from her point of view, but she did barely see something creating a red light between them. She headed back outside to get a better view, concerned with what was going on.

A low, rumbling growl escaped Ryn's lips as he held firm under the consuming draw of the dark side. He could feel with each passing second his anger rising, his contempt smoldering, and his grasp weakening under the stress of the pull on his life-force.

He was in control of the transfer, however, and of himself and his emotions, but it took him back to a nightmarish moment in his past. He had seen her drain people in combat before which often was accompanied with an expression of zealous delight and borderline ecstasy. One of the men on the Republic commando squad on Balmorra had described Zen's actions as being akin to a wolf, especially when she violently charged at a hostile tango on all fours like a wild beast. He never forgot that pounce; it was very pre-modern Cathar in the ancient tribal sense, and she even bit down on the terrorist's neck in spite of having always been a dedicated herbivore. When he had seen the blood smeared and dripping from around Zen's mouth that day, he knew without a doubt he saw the very core of the dark side looking back at him, mocking him with the face of his most trusted young friend. His every instinct told him to kill her right then and there, to put her out of her torment and misery. It was only the Jedi Code which held him back, and he instead chose to calm her and bring her back as best he could to the light. That decision had saved his life for it was a redeemed Zen that pulled him out of the fiery wreckage after the weapons factory had exploded.

There was no pleasure on Zen's face this time, however. Ryn saw her knees buckling, her face wincing as if in serious pain, and there were tears slipping from her eyes.

"That's enough!" he snarled at Zen as he pulled and swept his hand away. He watched her fall to her knees, sobbing and completely overcome with the influence of the sinister curse that drove her to feed on others like a ravenous vampire.

Ryn took a half-step back and knelt on one knee in front of her. He reached over, placed the palm of his other paw under Zen's chin and gently lifted her gaze up to meet his. "That will be the last time I ever indulge the darkness in you. You've tamed and controlled it before. You can do it again." After a pause, he moved his paw away upon seeing Zen's nod of understanding whilst she wept in front of him. He looked up and sensed whom it was standing behind him. "I told you to wait for us inside."

"I felt the darkness in her on Nar Shaddaa," Ru confessed to her father. "And later aboard the transport vessel I confronted her on. She saw the anger and darkness in me, and treated me like a friend, and she showed compassion in spite of my foolishness."

Rynseh rose up, regarded his daughter, and placed his large paws on her slender shoulders. "I am sorry I deceived you..." he turned and looked down at Zen, "...both of you. You believed me dead for so long. I will never do such a thing to either of you again. Rusasha, you will always be my daughter. That will never change."

He happily embraced his only child, a precious life created by accident in Ryn's youth in the heat of passion, and it came with a high price. Nevertheless, Ru surpassed most of his expectations since he took her in to the Reborn Jedi Temple under her adopted tribal surname, Djehuti. The alias was intended to keep their blood relation a secret from all except the Grand Master, Jundal Quellus, who was greatly displeased at the time, but ultimately agreed to allow little Ru into the Order due to her very young age and considerable Force potential.

For Ru, to be in her father's arms was the moment she longed for years to feel, and her own tears were set free. "I love you so much, father."

"And I you, my little barsen'thor," he said warmly to her in return.

After a tender moment, they released their hug and Ru asked, "I've heard that name before when I overheard Masters Sotah and Thurius discussing the history of the Jedi," Ru said, looking up quizzically at her towering father and wiping her tears aside. "What does it mean?"

"It is a Cerean word," Zen said on Ryn's behalf, still knelt upon the metal deck of the landing pad. She imagined herself in Ryn's position someday soon, embracing her own daughter the same way. "It means Warden of the Order."

Ryn silently offered his hand again to help Zen up, but she shook her head and made herself stand on her own. "Thank you, but you have shown me more compassion than I deserve. I have to find the strength to fight my war within, master."

"All heroes need help now and then," Ryn shared his wisdom. "Never be ashamed to accept aid where you can get it. That is why I called you here to Coruscant. I need your help, Zenarrah."

"It is good to share your company again, Ryn," Zen said, "but I'm sorry. I have to venture out and search for Zaracoda. I lost track of her on Nar Shaddaa. I feel she's still out there. She needs me."

"If you help me find Knights Bomoor and Thane," Ryn offered to her, "I will scour the galaxy to help deliver your child back to your arms. Of this I swear to you my most solemn oath."

Zen recognized the names, especially the Ithorian one. "Bomoor...Bomoor Thort? Thurius' padawan?"

"Former padawan," Ryn corrected her. "He is...was a Jedi Knight."

"Master Loren went to go look for them," Ru said, deep concern lining her youthful face. "She never came back. Nobody knows what happened to her. I'm really worried. I was going to ask the Council for permission--"

"You have it," Ryn cut in. "I am on the Council now."

"It's about time they promoted you to Master," Zen said, proud of the Cathar's achievement.

"I never asked nor cared for it," Ryn admitted with a shrug. "It is what it is. Well now, our quests are threefold then. Let's go inside. I will give you a tour of our new home and we will discuss preparations for the journey ahead."

As he led them away from the landing pad through the garden, Zen couldn't help but notice the lavish real estate; the ornate fountains, the gorgeous exotic tropical plants around them, and of course the high-rise penthouse structure before them.

"It's not like Quellus to be so generous, even for you," Zen noted.

"Every credit for this place came from own accounts," Ryn said. "I was a busy man during my convalescence. I put my lessons from my friend, Senator Del'ren-Bok, to good use. He taught me much of what I needed to know to invest in the markets. Quellus looked the other way when I took a look at the Temple's ledgers and cut most of the waste out of the budget. Younglings don't need jump-boots, and spacecraft mechanics don't need expensive ten-in-one hyperspanners when the older tools get the job done in the same amount of time."

"I don't suppose you also managed to buy a starship with your new money-making powers, hm?" Zen queried with a wry grin.

"Better than that," Ryn replied as he ushered them into his personal command center. "Hul gave me the Descent."

"Damask Hul?" Zen asked with exasperation, squarely focused on Ryn and not the assortment of fancy electronics and holoviewer in the center of the room that captured Ru's playful awe and attention. "You're colluding with that weasel again?"

"Necessary evils in small doses," Ryn quoted to her, a bit of wisdom that Zen scoffed at.

"You're even starting to sound like him," Zen pointed out, crossing her arms against her chest.

"It's easy to trust someone when they saved your life," Ryn said with a slow nod to her. He let that one sink in, and he saw its profound effect on her as she lowered her guard and her arms.

"Touche," Zen said shaking her head with a soft chuckle. "Your verbal Makashi is as sharp as ever, I see."

"You're damned right about that, old friend," he said with a grin. He then gestured to the holo-display. "We leave tomorrow evening to trace back to where my contacts say where Thane was last spotted." He pointed to a tiny blip on the projected star chart.

"Nar Shaddaa..." Zen breathed in disgust.

"Yes, it's also where you were last spotted cutting a swath through some of the Hutt's most trusted contractors," Ryn pointed out.

Zen's face was flushed with embarrassment. "Y-you know about that?"

Ryn nodded. "For Ru's sake, I will not get into the details, but I understand why you did it. However, I do not approve of your methods one bit. You got sloppy. It at least explains why the dark hunger came back to you. In any case, it's likely that if Thane was there, so was Bomoor, and the Red Raptor."

"I did manage to find out which landing bay they lost track of Zara," Zen said, "but there was far too much hostile activity there for me to investigate. I chose to leave the planet when I sensed Zara's presence had left it behind. She could be anywhere in the galaxy by now."

"We'll find her, Zen, I promise," Ru said with an assuring smile.

"Thank you, Rusasha," Zen returned the smile with a grateful nod.

"I don't think it's a good idea for Ru to come with us," Ryn said.

"What? I don't understand, father," Ru was incredulous. "You said I had permission to look for Loren. She told me to stay behind too, and yet she is not here with us. I cannot abide losing yet another master to the unknown."

"You are a padawan," Ryn tried to overrule her. "And it's not your place to ques--"

"Question your wisdom on such matters?" Ru finished for him. "And how is it that in all your financial success you didn't even bother to check that I passed my trials and became a Knight?"

"Your skills are promising, but your lack of experience is unsuitable for knighthood," Ryn shot back. "Those bleeding tender-hearts like Sotah are growing too complacent and lenient with our traditions. I will not have my daughter going into this cruel and ruthless galaxy unprepared!"

A lithe blue hand placed itself firmly on Ryn's broad shoulder. "Her power in the Force exceeds both yours and mine, Ryn," Zen said calmly and confidently. "I've continued her training. She is not a Shadow, however, as Loren influenced her to be. She is a Sage; a true Consular. Her combat skills are a bit rough, but she is ready. She even shows promise in the seventh Form."

Ryn turned with a scowl at Zen, but then eased his bitter expression when he saw the beauty of the light side return to his Nautolan friend's aging face.

"You taught her Juyo?" he asked. "That Form is..."

"Forbidden?" Zen finished for him with a knowing smile. "Maybe for fools like me, but she has her father's force of will. She will need to further develop her skills in Niman, but I think she can manage Juyo without fear of dark corruption. Regardless, her strength is not in the art of battle. I have formed a Force bond with her, and I see boundless love in her heart. To leave her behind is to deny the galaxy another beacon of light. Having a ship, going out there, making things right...that's what we should be doing. The Jedi are nothing if we just sit around and let the galaxy waste away into darkness."

Ryn turned to Ru who gazed back at him with a hopeful look in her bright green eyes. Ryn could see every bit of Ru's mother in those blazing emerald orbs; all the beauty, all the bravery, and all the joy and love of life. He sighed and relented with a nod. "Very well. We will seek our wayward souls...together."

END

 

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