FINALLY! I have just now completed my epic that I started in 2009 starring Mara Jade and Jaina. I know there's probably not many that are going to read this; there hasn't been all through this story. I don't even care anymore. This will be my last fan fic of any type for a while. Trying my hand back in originals for now. I feel I've exhausted all the stories from Star Wars from my brain as I could squeeze. I placed this last chapter inside it's own thread becasue the old thread contains only partial chapters from the move. If you want to start from the beginning, the full story can be found here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/6367387/1/AghartaSo on with the end of the show. And as always, enjoy and review as you see fit.AghartaChapter 13: Post Mortem "I know where she is," said Jaina about the location of the spirit girl's corpse. Her revelation eased her immediate family and friends but the Mahra members were still skeptical about Jaina's claim. Trust was at least achieved with Jaina's familiarity with the mysterious spirit. The mystery continued when the fiery symbol of Qiilura on the far wall suddenly disappeared. All four generators instantly turned back on shedding the mess hall with bright light once again. The Jedi present could not just feel the elation of the crowd with the seemingly end to the strangeness. They could see them breathe out their relief. Yet, it wasn't quite over. Since Mara could now see the walls that had once been engulfed in flames, she gazed at each side with concern. "Look at the walls," she exclaimed. "There's no smoke after the fire." Lando looked closely at one of the walls. "There's no scorch marks. I can't smell anything, either." Trogan remarked after examining a wall himself, "It's like the flames never happened." Luke suggested, "It was an illusion forced upon us." Mara uttered, "Mighty big scale of an illusion to make over a hundred beings see it." Luke shrugged. "That's why I don't think we're dealing with something natural." "More like supernatural," said Lando. "This whole thing is getting weird." "Getting weird?" cried Trogan. Mara addressed her niece. "It's almost like she understands that you know where she's buried." "Aren't I the lucky one?" There came a series of beeps and a click as the exit door slid open. The Mahra members started frantically towards the exit. The crowd shortly formed a bottleneck at the door. Family members lifted their small children out of the way for their safety. Krun Li could see this problem growing soon and he edged his way into the crowd to the open exit. "One at a time, please. We will all leave here eventually. Just stay calm." A Mahra male snapped at Krun Li, "We're not listening to you anymore." The remark stunned Krun Li so much that all he could do was watch the members leave the mess hall silently. One small hint of hope came in the form of Ristina Tai'lor telling him, "It will be all right. Jaina will find her." "I hope so," uttered Krun Li. After Ristina disappeared around the exit, Krun Li still held his head down. Soon, the last of the members left and the Mahra leaders and the Jedi remained. Luke came over to the Spirit Leader, who exhaled and said, "I've lost them." Luke calmly stated, "Nothing is lost that cannot be found. There may be a chance to end all of this." He turned to his niece. "Jaina, where are we going to find her?" She turned to Trogan and said, "Get the water skiff ready. We're going to Neekro island." Since the skiff only allowed five passengers and the pilot, Lando volunteered to go back to the Falcon with Han and Chewie. He added that he had had enough strange adventures for one day. Croaga also elected to stay behind citing that he would be needed to oversee the members. He also told Krun Li another personal reason. "This is your journey. You began this settlement so many centuries ago. You should be the one to end it. I was and always have been but a mere follower. I shall stay and tend to our members. I'm sure the events of this morning have left them shaken." "A good idea," said Krun Li. He put his hand on Croaga's shoulder. "You are more than a mere follower, my friend. You are a loyal representative of this religion. I may have provided the initial ground work but you supplied the conviction. Perhaps someday you may have a chance to lead them." Before Croaga could question Krun Li's cryptic message, Krun Li released his hand and proceeded to the skiff at once. Jaina, Mara, and Luke were already in the skiff with Trogan at the controls. After Krun Li entered, they began their trip back to Neekro island. The trek was as long as expected with such a slow moving vessel. They eventually reached the same shore where they landed before at the height of the noon sun. Luke climbed out and surveyed the land. He noted the hint of a survival hut at the edge of the trees. He raised his hand to shield his eyes from the bright white sun. Mara saw where her husband was looking and said, "That's where Seria Rayne made her home here." "She stayed inland away from the main predators. Smart." Jaina explained, "She mostly stayed around here. She was led away to the site of the lava bed." "By a disguised gurlanin," supplied Trogan. Jaina replied, "I'm not so sure now. Not after what I saw this morning." Trogan scoffed, "Don't tell me Seria was visited by a ghost." "Why not?" Jaina shot back. "Is it any less conceivable than flames burning on walls without smoke or damage? And when you think about it, it couldn't have been a gurlanin." She addressed Krun Li. "Wouldn't the wild gurlanins here show Seria something threatening from her memory? Like the one did that attacked Mara as a vornskr. Seems to me that a young girl wouldn't be very intimidating." "Perhaps. The wild gurlanins here were without direct source of food for centuries. That's the reason why you don't see or hear any creatures here. It was...one of the reasons I sent those girls here when they claimed to see Agharta." His head looked down at the dark sand. "I am ashamed to say that I used their wild nature against the girls." Mara finished his unspoken thought. "And no one at the compound suspected. They thought the girls went missing." Krun Li nodded. "They eventually came to the conclusion that the girls perished at the hands of the gurlanins. They just didn't know where." "A perfect cover," said Jaina sourly. "I am not proud of my actions. I wanted to protect the image of myself as the Spirit Leader." "At any cost," added Mara. Trogan spoke before Krun Li could acknowledge. "Shall we press on? The less time on this island the better I feel." "Sure," said Jaina. "This way." She indicated the pathway that she and Mara cleared previously. They started following her. Krun Li asked, "Where exactly are we going?" Jaina exclaimed from the front of the line, "You should know." They trudged along the path that Jaina and Mara created on their last trip to Neekro island. Luke noted the lack of wildlife and pretty much any other life along the way, just as Krun Li said. He asked Krun Li, "Why hadn't the wild gurlanins leave the island?" "You have to realize that these were the ancient gurlanins. Some were over two thousand years old. Very primitive. They neither had the desire nor the means to leave." They finally reached the clearing of black smooth lava rock. Luke looked on with childhood amazement. Mara figured he hadn't seen many volcanic areas such as this one on Tatooine. With all of Luke's Jedi teachings and wisdom, there were still hints of the boy inside before he left his home planet. Mara chalked that up as another reason why she loved him so much. Jaina pointed out to her uncle the half skeletons hanging from the tree limbs. "This is where the settlers were tortured." Krun Li admitted, "A sad day in our history." Luke looked at his niece. "But this isn't where the girl was tortured." "No," she replied. "I'm not certain exactly, but I have a feeling they did something much worse to her. Come on, down here." She beckoned for them to follow her down the hill past the lava bed. As they carefully eased down the hill, Jaina motioned to what was on the ground. She recited the spirit girl's words. "'Spot the fresh flowers.'" On the ground amidst the green grass were several small blossoms dotting the hillside. Their petals had a bright yellowish tint. Mara noted, "'Yellow is the code'. They look like lyris blossoms." "Probably similar," Luke said. Trogan said, "The first clue. Guess you were right, kid." Jaina stopped at the bottom of the hill where the land leveled out. She looked up and repeated the other phrase from the spirit girl. "'Mark of the land hides my nature.'" The others joined her from behind and saw before them the large post stuck in the ground with the symbol atop it. The symbol of Qiilura. The same one they all saw in fiery form inside the mess hall. Krun Li said, "That would definitely be the mark of the land." Luke questioned, "What would be her nature?" Jaina responded, ""More like where is her nature. 'Less than the soil.'" Mara nodded. "Under the ground." Trogan chuckled humorlessly. "Sorry, kid, we didn't exactly bring shovels." "We don't need them." She turned to face Trogan. "We have the Force." "Honey," Mara began, "what makes you think she's still buried under there?" Luke added, "The body would have disintegrated over a thousand years." Jaina countered, "Why would she show us this symbol? The flowers. The hints at being underground. No, I believe she led me here for a reason. I feel it, Uncle Luke." "But Jaina, finding a body intact under there would be-" "Impossible? I thought we were supposed to take that definition out of our minds. I thought if we felt something strong in the Force, we followed it. No matter what the consequences were. The Force chooses for a reason. Isn't that what you said for all those years at your Academy, Uncle Luke?" Instead of showing his shame for doubting his niece, Luke simply smiled and uttered to his wife, "Seems you taught her well." "We taught her well." He nodded. "All right. Where do we start?" Jaina looked around the area for a moment. The ground looked hard and black. There were no flowers or green grass here. It may have been difficult to dig through the volcanic rock without a digger droid anyway. Much like it would have been centuries ago. How would the ancient gurlanins have buried her? Jaina looked back up the hill to where the lava bed was. The terrain would have been different back then. The bed may have been closer. And more shallow. The gurlanins then didn't care to bury their victims. At least, not intentionally. She turned to look back at the post where it dug into the ground. "Maybe she was buried naturally." "What do you mean?" asked Krun Li. "The post," she eventually said. "We have to pull up the post. It might be hard because the volcanic rock has been compressed for a millennia." Luke exclaimed, "Then the three of us shall work together in the Force." He glanced back at Trogan and Krun Li. "You may want to stand back a bit." He edged closer to the post and his wife followed him to stand at his side. Jaina did the same. All three then concentrated deep in the Force and directed it at the post. The wooden post started to shake at first. A rumbling from underneath began. The ground around the post started to split. The post was then lifted out of the ground slowly making the ground break around it. The post rose out of the earth with gradual resistance. Volcanic rock spilled out into a circular pile around the rising post. It kept rising seemingly without end. The area around it was crumbling into a pit surrounding the post now. Upwards the post went into the air. For several minutes this continued, making them all wonder how deep this piece of wood went into the ground. Finally, there was a point where it became harder to pull the post out with the Force. A huge burst of black rock spewed out and Jaina spotted something on the post. "There! Look!" Jaina stopped concentrating on the Force to point at a large lump of something attached to the pole. She came to the edge of the small pit that the raised post formed. Luke and Mara continued to use the Force to angle the pole down on its side. They rested it parallel to the ground. The strange lump was now more accessible to examine. Luke and Mara ceased their control of the wood in the Force and came up alongside Jaina. Krun Li and Trogan came up behind them. "What is it?" asked Trogan. With her keen eyesight, Mara focused on the lump's form. The top was a small rounded piece that extended to two small limbs curled up at its center. Two longer limbs came out of the main section and were folded against the thick wood. What was particularly eerie was the surface that covered the lump. It looked to be the consistency of tough leather, like an ancient jacket protecting it from top to bottom. Mara knew that it wasn't a jacket. It had been, at one ancient time ago, human skin. Mara stated what was now obvious to the others. "That was a body." Krun Li scoffed. "That's impossible. A corpse could not retain its form after a thousand years." Jaina replied, "Unless it was preserved in compacted volcanic rock." Luke agreed. "It was mummified." Trogan shook his head. "I don't understand. Why didn't it dissolve in the lava?" Jaina glanced at the hill again to the lava bed hardened over time. It was several meters away where lava could flow down and stopped when the land became level. Right where the post stood. She explained, "This area wasn't the direct source of the lava. There would have still been extreme heat but the concentration of lava was less down here. Enough to let the gurlanins do what they wanted to her." Krun Li seemed almost afraid to ask, "What did they do?" After Luke realized what Jaina was saying, he replied grimly, "You said they showed the members what they did to her when she was barely alive. Her body had been exposed to the extreme heat. She would still be alive. After their...display...they tied her to this post...and left her there." Mara gasped, "Oh, sweet Tarkin's Ghost." Jaina finished, "She died slowly from the heat." Krun Li stared solemnly at the mummified corpse of the small girl that he made into a Mahra goddess. A small sliver of glistening moisture fell from his eye. "This was her sacrifice." Luke came over to the Spirit Leader and touched his arm. "How ironic that a gurlanin shed a tear over a horrific act performed by its own kind." "We may be non-human, Jedi, but it does not mean we are immune to emotions." Effectively avoiding Krun Li's emotional response, Trogan asked, "So, how did the body reach that deep inside the ground?" Mara shrugged. "A thousand years ago this level of land would have been considerably lower. All of the layers of volcanic rock built up over time." Luke completed her thought. "Sending her body down with it. Buried under the rock and compacted to preserve it." Jaina kneeled down to be at eye level to the corpse. Her voice almost cracked when she asked, "How did she endure that torture?" "I didn't," said a new voice from behind them. All of them did a quick about-face to see the figure of a young girl. Blonde hair flowed down over her shoulders that was covered in a white gown. It wasn't as blinding as Jaina remembered it. The girl's form was semi-transparent but it glowed. Much like a Force ghost. Her voice was no longer an echo. It rang of her true voice. She stood before them almost in anticipation of their reaction to her. Jaina had to speak first. "Just so we're clear, we can all see her, right?" The others nodded in turn. The spirit girl spoke again. "I remember the pain. I will always remember it for eternity." There was a distinct Coruscanti accent to her voice. In addition, Jaina realized that she was speaking in sentences rather than in riddles. Was this all because her corpse had been freed? "We saved you," cried Jaina. "Your body was trapped." "Yes. You have released my body from the ground. Although, I have yet to be freed. Until it dissolves into oblivion I am bound to this world." "Everyone has their problems," said a stunned Trogan. Before they could comprehend her words, she moved like a cloud over to Krun Li. He looked upon her as the tragic heroine that she was. She spoke to him. "I remember you. You and another tried to protect me. You were strong to go against your own kind. You even became our same species to comfort us. And you created my myth and made me your goddess. I am honored that you transformed my story into your faith." She paused a moment before continuing. "But you also formed a prophecy that allows only yourself to share my glory." "I...I know," he answered weakly. "I am so sorry. We tried to save you. We were not strong enough." "The gurlanins were too great in numbers. There was no way the two of you could have stopped all of them without dying yourselves. Despite your efforts and good intentions, they did what they wanted to do with me." Luke approached the spirit girl and calmly asked, "What happened to you?" The girl began. "My family was from Coruscant. I gather you figured that out from my voice. They were so loving. They found out early in my childhood that I had strange abilities. I could move objects with my mind. I could anticipate events before they happened. And I remember that within myself I could sense my parents feelings." "You had Force potential," surmised Luke. "Yes. My parents realized this but they did not want me taken away by the Jedi. They didn't want that life for me." "We don't do that anymore," bemused Jaina. The girl gave a laugh. "I understand." She looked at Luke. "I also sense that you are familiar with my parents' intentions." "Your insight serves you well." The girl continued. "My parents caught word of a settlement here on Qiilura and we came here. They changed their lives all for me. But, the gurlanins soon found out about my power. They considered it a sacrilege against their own gods. They misunderstood." "We had no knowledge of the Jedi or their Force then. It was so foreign to us. A few of us wanted to know more about it and understand what it was. Most of our clan did not." The girl stated, "And they did what most species do when they come across things they don't understand. They destroy it. It started with killing human and alien alike. They hoped to scare them off. They were killed instantly in the lava bed up there. When they found out about what I could do, they saw me as a threat. I was only ten standard years of age. First they took my parents. They tortured them before they were murdered. They thought that would weaken me. I remember how to be strong as my parents taught me." Krun Li said proudly, "A tribute to their upbringing of you." "Perhaps. When the gurlanins learned that my resolve was strong, they captured me. My body was subjected to the heat of the lava. But it did not touch the lava as the others had. I was hovered over it. It wasn't enough to kill me. My skin cracked and boiled but I was still alive. Barely. I still remember the pain even after a thousand years." Mara breathed out in a half whisper, "Oh, you poor child." The girl went on. "I was inches above death when they took me away from the pit. They showed my half burned body to the settlers as a warning. When they were finished with their display, I was brought back here. Instead of exposing me to the lava bed directly, they brought me down here and tied me to this post. It was hoisted up and into the ground with me on it. At that time the lava bed up the hill did not flow down here. But there were fissures. The heat was still there. A few hours exposure and I still would have survived. But they left me there. I died slowly. And yet they still left my dead body hang on the post. They never took me down to bury me. They knew that was a human tradition. And there I stayed for a thousand years. My body was eventually buried under centuries of molten rock. Deeper and deeper it went under. The pressure above was too great. I was preserved seemingly for eternity." Jaina spoke in a weak tone, "That's why your...essence, soul, whatever you call it...that's why you could show yourself to those girls over the years. You were trapped here." "Yes. My attempts were in vain. Only small children could understand. Adults did not believe. No matter what species. Even some of the girls themselves did not understand. When they tried to explain that they saw me, people did not believe them. Some went mad. Others took their own lives." Mara figured, "You befriended Seria Rayne." "Yes. She was also in turmoil. Her parents had just perished. I presented myself as a friend to her. We played together on the sand. She never wondered why she couldn't touch me. She needed a friend. She reminded me of myself as a child long ago." Trogan questioned hesitantly, "But you still look like a child." "My physical appearance is as I was last alive. My mental state has grown for a thousand years." Mara asked her, "Why did you show her the lava bed?" "I tried to explain myself to her. I told her the truth and showed her that I was no longer on her plane of existence. I gave her images of my death. It was too much for her. She went mad. And she left. I thought then that all my hope was gone. I projected that feeling across the area." "That was the sense of helplessness I felt when I first got here," cried Jaina. "Yes. For the longest time, I called for help and failed. Until now. You understood like no other, Jaina." "It took someone with the same Force ability to do so," said Luke. "Ironic that up until now no Jedi had ever set foot in your compound," said Mara. The spirit girl said, "I tried to get your attention. At that time my body had still been trapped. My powers were limited." "Powers?" asked Trogan. "I could enter dreams and allow myself to be seen in the living world. I possessed control over things of power." Jaina repeated, "Things of power. Power sources? You were responsible for our black out that first night." "Which you thought of as a natural act." Mara snapped, "Shutting down a lightsaber wasn't natural." Luke asked, "How did that happen?" "Simple," the girl replied, "I shut down its power source." Luke said frankly, "Knowledge of lightsaber structure is very limited. How did you learn of it?" It was the first time the girl had given a sinister smile. "I had a great teacher. One whom you had called Master one long time ago." Luke thought on her words and said, only half believing, "Obi Wan?" "He also taught me how to appear through the Force." "Incredible," Mara whispered. Trogan neared the girl and stated, "You also shut down the generators in the mess hall this morning." Krun Li added, "And created fire that spread on the walls." The girl gave a knowing smile. "I needed an act that you would consider to be less natural. It was needed to gain your attention." "Mission accomplished," cried Trogan. Jaina said, "You gave me the hint to find you here." "As I knew you would figure it out." "So now what?" asked Mara. "What is there to do now?" The girl spoke sadly. "As I said, my former body has been freed. But my spirit stays because of it. Not for long. As you can see, my remains are starting to crumble into dust." They all looked at the mummified corpse on the post. It was, in fact, starting to disintegrate . Jaina was the first to cry out, "Look! It's falling apart." "Why is that?" asked Trogan. Luke answered, "It's been exposed to the air. After centuries of being compacted deep without oxygen, it's now being dissolved from sudden exposure to it." The girl stated sadly, "It is almost time for my final journey." Jaina came up to the girl and said, "I am so sorry for what happened to you and for what is happening to you now." "Don't be. It is because of you why I can speak clearly to you now. You have my gratitude for releasing me. I should have known it would take someone who possessed the same powers as I once did to understand the horrors I faced." "I've lived through some horrors of my own already. Nothing like yours, though." "Humble as always," the girl said. "Thank you, Jaina Solo." Jaina shrugged. "Hey, it's what Jedi do." As if on cue, the ground beneath them started to rumble. "What was that?" asked Trogan. "The same thing we felt in the mess hall," said Mara. The girl spoke again. "You must leave this island quickly. It will soon be no more." Krun Li looked at her incredulously, "Why are you doing this? Why are you destroying us?" "It is not I who is responsible. It is the price for my freedom. And the only destruction will be this island and not the mainland." The ground shook now and Jaina had to balance herself. Just like my dream. She looked down at the ground and it already was starting to crack. "The post! It was deep in the ground under volcanic rock for centuries. It somehow prevented the fault line from caving in. Now with the post gone..." She didn't have to finish her sentence. The rock where the post had been was now being broken up from below. There was a thick release of steam that erupted from the ground. The intense heat was immediately felt by all. After the steam slowed to a calm mist, a glint of bright glowing orange emerged from under the rock where the post once stood. Mara cried, "You don't have to tell us we've overstayed our welcome." Luke exclaimed, "We have to get out of here!" Trogan and Jaina complied, but before Jaina started up the hill she stopped. She turned to the spirit girl to nod her farewell. The girl bowed her head in return to honor the young Jedi. Jaina then turned and ran up the hill. Mara and Trogan ran up with her. Luke began up the hill but noticed Krun Li stood motionless before the emerging chaos. Luke called out to him, "Krun Li, we have to go!" Krun Li did not budge but said, "You do. I must stay." "And become a martyr of your own mistakes?" "It is my atonement." The spirit girl floated toward him. Her transparency was more evident with her remains being dissolved slowly by the lava. Luke swore she was becoming brighter. She addressed the Spirit Leader. "I realize that my attempts to reach out for help were foiled by your actions. You punished them for seeing me." "I thought that only I could help you. Why did you not come to me? I would have understood." "Would you? Though you have been in human form for such a long time, your species will never possess what humans are capable of." "What?" "Something that is a part of human emotion. A power that is greater than even the Force itself. Younger children seem to grasp it better than adults." "But I have been human for a long time. So long have I been that I cannot go back. When gurlanins stay in one form for too long it prevents their muscles from reforming. Why cannot I understand? What is this that is part of a human." She smiled cryptically again and said, "If you have to ask then it does no good to simply tell you. It has to be experienced." The lava oozed out over the pit and onto the post. The girl's corpse was now engulfed in the super heated rock. The girl's image began to shine even brighter and become more transparent. She started to fade away. "My journey is finally at an end. I have time to tell you that despite your actions, I am still honored that you made me your goddess. I absolve you. And now, farewell." As she was fading away, Krun Li cried, "Wait! I have to know. What is your real name?" "You already know it. I am forever now. Your eternal, as you named me." Her words faded away as did her image. There was a brightness surrounding where her image once stood. She no longer had form within the pure light. When the light faded, she was gone. Krun Li softly uttered, "Farewell, Agharta." Luke looked at where her corpse was. There was nothing there but a pool of glowing lava. It oozed slowly toward them and the ground shook even more violently. He grabbed Krun Li's arm. "Come on, we're going." This time, Krun Li went with Luke up the hill. The black hardened lava at the top was now cracked in places that glowed bright orange. They ran quickly over the lava bed and then through the woods. The ground beneath them was cracking and separating in places at a high rate. There were crevices that were formed in various areas around them. Luke and Krun Li ran as fast as they could. Luke spotted one large crevice ahead of them. He concentrated in the Force to help him to jump over the gap. When he landed he neglected to realize that the gap was widening. Krun Li jumped as well but his footing only barely caught the opposite side and he slipped. He held out his hand and caught the edge at the last minute. Luke peered over the edge and cried out, "Give me your other hand!" "I cannot! It's too late! Save yourself!" "Afraid I can't do that. Just try and lift your other arm to me. I can pull you up." Krun Li did try and raise his other arm. As soon as he did, the edge where Krun Li was holding gave way. Krun Li lost his holding and he started to fall into the wide hole with glowing hot lava waiting for him. He was prepared to meet his fate. It did not happen. To Krun Li's extreme surprise, he was suddenly hovering in mid-air. He then started to rise up and out of the hole. As he rose, he saw Luke with his hand held out and eyes half closed. He landed safely on the solid ground next to Luke." Krun Li gasped in disbelief, "You...you saved me." "Yes, let's get going. We don't have much time." He turned but Krun Li grabbed his arm. "Why did you do this? After all I have done against your family?" Luke gave a shrug and casually replied, "Hey, it's what Jedi do. Let's go." They both continued to run through the trees and eventually came to the small beach. Jaina, Mara, and Trogan were already in the water skiff . They saw Luke and Krun Li emerge from the trees and Jaina yelled for them to hurry. They reached the skiff already starting to drift away from the land and climbed in respectively. Trogan sped off at top speed. All of them watched the spectacle of Neekro island sinking into the water through a bed of molten lava that had been dormant for a millennia. The trees caught fire and burned quickly as they fell into the lake. There soon was no longer an island. Only an underground lava bed took its place. The glow of the lava still was evident underwater as it seemed to move toward them. "Can't this thing go any faster?" Jaina cried. "It's going as fast as it can!" yelled Trogan. Mara watched the lava under the water. "It won't be fast enough. It's spreading." "It will stop," said Krun Li calmly. "How do you know that?" asked Trogan. "Because she said so. And I have faith in her," replied Krun Li. Sure enough, beneath the water the molten lava's glow diminished and cooled. It soon stopped flowing to harden over time. The skiff went forward towards the shore of the Mahra compound. All were silent in an eerie memorial for Neekro island. And Agharta. As they approached the compound, they noticed all the Mahra members converged near the shore. Obviously, they had all witnessed the demise of Neekro island even from this distance. Croaga stood nearby watching as Trogan eased the skiff on the shore. Krun Li could already sense hostility towards him coming from the crowd. He let the Jedi and Trogan go ahead of him and hesitated. Luke saw this and came up to him. "What's wrong?" The Spirit Leader said at once, "You must take them. Take them somewhere away from here. They do not deserve my leadership." "Yes, they do. You've made your mistakes. Now you have to live with them. That is all they want to know." "But I betrayed them." "Maybe. But if you let them go now you will never experience what Agharta told you about. I think they'll surprise you." Krun Li nodded and walked passed Luke. The members all stared at him without a word. He let out a long breath and addressed them. "Members of Mahra, as you have just witnessed, Neekro island is nothing more than a piece of molten rock underwater now. It was a sign that our troubles have ended. Another chapter begins. Before we can move on, I must admit a few things to you all. I have done a great disservice to you. The myth of Agharta did actually happen. Croaga and myself were witnesses all those centuries ago. We were gurlanins then. We were confused at the violence that our own species displayed. Therefore, by helping this poor young girl, we were cast out. We became human to comfort them. Our efforts proved to fail upon her death. But her soul survived yet was trapped. She reached out to those who could help her. She could do so only to young girls. Because of our faith in Agharta, the girls thought they were seeing their goddess. This was both incorrect but yet so right. There was a spirit of the young girl who was tortured to death and her parents murdered by gurlanins. I was selfish when only young girls over the years claimed to have seen her. I went so far as to banish them to Neekro island where wild ancient gurlanins still lived. Some girls survived. Some did so without their sanity intact." He found the face of Seria Rayne looking on in the crowd. He gave her a smile and a nod of reassurance. Then he frowned. "Some girls did not survive, whether it was by gurlanin hands or their own. I punished those girls for saying they saw our goddess, Agharta." He paused before stating, "I was a fool for keeping the idea of Agharta to myself. Ironically, it took a young Jedi to allow me to see that. I will be forever haunted by the fact that we had never allowed a Jedi set foot on this compound. It was a Jedi who freed the girl's spirit and set her on her final journey to the afterlife. She is now our true light. Our eternal. Our Agharta. I now no longer want to keep her to myself. I want to share her bravery and sacrifice with every one of you. If you cannot see myself as a leader who can do that, I will understand. But hear this...I am truly sorry for my actions and I will bear my mistakes. You deserve a better leader. Therefore, I will stand down as your Spirit Leader." The crowd was deadly silent for the longest of time. Suddenly, a voice cried out, "No!" It was Edyn Tai'lor. He brought himself to the front of the crowd before stating, "We already have our Spirit Leader. Flawed as he might be, and perhaps less human than we first knew, he is still our Spirit Leader. Now his title has literal meaning. He helped the spirit of the girl who lived as a human but endured as our goddess. He has apologized for his actions. Shall we make him pay for them forever?" The members grumbled their answer. It was positive. Edyn went on. "We voted for joining the New Republic. Now we must vote on who leads us." Slowly the crowd murmured and then became louder. They all soon chanted with joyous glee, "Krun Li. Krun Li. Krun Li." Edyn came up to Krun Li, who was both smiling but stunned. Edyn reached out his hand and said, "It seems unanimous. You are our Spirit Leader. Guess that means you're stuck with us." Krun Li reached out and shook Edyn's hand and Edyn brought him closer to him in a hug. The crowd all cheered. They switched their chant to yell out, "Agharta! Agharta!" After Edyn let go and returned to the crowd and his family, Krun Li turned to Luke. "I know now what power she meant. I believe I just experienced it." "Good. Then I can do this officially." Krun Li looked confused before Luke addressed the crowd. "Members of Mahra, in light of your Spirit Leader's actions today, and your honorable gesture displayed just now, I see no reason not to announce this now. Welcome to the New Republic!" The crowd cheered again. And they would cheer for years and generations to come. Eternally. On the Jade Sabre - eighteen hours later Mara entered in the code sequence for their next destination. She waited patiently for the navicomputer to calculate the coordinates and she then set the Jade Sabre into hyperspace. Soon the molted star lines became the blue tunnel of the alternate existence of hyperspace. She got up from the pilot seat and headed towards Jaina's bunk to tell her of their new destination. That had been undecided ever since they left Qiilura. Her niece had been exhausted. Mara had never seen Jaina so tired. She didn't pretend to be surprised why. Jaina deserved a rest. It wasn't all because of their adventures at the Mahra compound, which was now to renamed the Mahra Sanctuary. Compound still held a militaristic tone that the Mahra members never possessed. Luke had stayed on Qiilura to help supervise all the changes that were planned. An official spaceport. A proper irrigation and plumbing system. An oversized compactor for all of Trogan's junk collection. The New Republic would hire technicians and maintenance workers of all types to help bring the Mahra into the modern galaxy. Yet, before all of that could happen, Krun Li and Luke had to meet with gurlanin leaders in the Qiilura capital of Imbraani. Luke had to convince them that the members of the Mahra Sanctuary would be separate from Qiilura civilization, but also a part of the New Republic. It would not be considered an outpost, but an embassy of the New Republic. Leia had been scheduled to meet with the same gurlanin delegation to discuss further talks of allowing the Mahra to join the New Republic. Mara hoped the creatures were as understanding and open as Krun Li. He may have been a gurlanin in the disguise as a human but he showed very human traits at the best possible moment. Mara reached the open door of Jaina's bunk. No, her niece's rest was not totally from just the Mahra mission. It was from the long series of events that preceded it. For the past two years, the poor child had to become a grown up too fast. Just as Mara herself had. Yes, she deserved a break. They both did. She saw Jaina stirring in her bunk. Wide awake. "Mara?" "Who else?" She said in half jest, "Care for a bit of lightsaber training?" "No!" Jaina emphatically cried. "I'm staying in bed for at least a month. I'm going to borrow one of Threepio's phrases and shout out, 'No more adventures!'" "I'm sure he'll appreciate that." "I felt the hyperdrive kick in. Where are we headed?" "Thought we could do some training on Zeltros." Jaina lifted her head up from the pillow, half smiling. "Mara, there's nothing on Zeltros but vacation resorts. It's known to the galaxy as the Party planet." "Exactly." Jaina's smile was in full bloom now. "What could you possibly teach me there?" "Only the most basic of Jedi mantra. A Jedi must act when calm, at peace with the Force. Emphasis on peace." "I like that plan." "Thought you would." Mara took a beat before stating sincerely, "I want you to know how proud of you I am." "Proud for going insane after seeing a ghost?" "Proud for saving that ghost. I don't know if I'm ready to believe in the afterlife yet. The girl did have the Force." "And she knew Uncle Luke's Master." "And there's that. It would explain how she could be seen. Regardless of anyone else's doubt, you helped her anyway." "Same as you would have." "I'm not sure. I don't have you and your mother's compassion." "You may surprise yourself, Aunt Mara." "Maybe. And maybe I will become the apprentice to your Master in that area." "Or you could teach it to someone younger even. Much, much younger. Like, oh, say an infant with bright blue eyes. Or brilliant green ones." She smiled and raised her dark eyebrows at her aunt. "Stop it. That's a discussion for another time. And with my husband." Mara changed the subject as she could do so well. "It'll be another ten hours until Zeltros. I'll let you sleep." "You mean so we can party in the many nightclubs there." "I am not letting you drink anything but azure milk or juri juice, young lady." Mara paused and smiled. "But there is gambling allowed. Even for teenagers." Jaina sat up and asked, "You are going to challenge a Solo at gambling? You are brave." "I'll take my chances. I know how the Solo family loves to hear the odds. Now, go to sleep. Again." Mara started to shut the door but Jaina looked like she had something else to say. "Aunt Mara, why did the Mahra members accept Krun Li so quickly? After all he did to them." Mara thought a moment and replied, "They believed in him despite his faults." "Is that what belief is? Faith?" Mara breathed out. And remembered. "Luke told me once that belief is knowing that something is true. Faith is knowing something is true when no one else does. Simple, I know." "It answers my question. Maybe that's the problem with the Jedi of today." "What?" "They don't have faith in the Force." "Perhaps." "Sometimes I think most of the galaxy see the Jedi as being too religious. My own father thought that way at one time." "Then he believed. And then his faith in you and your brother grew over the years. And it's always growing, no matter what you do." "Is that the same faith that Uncle Luke has in you?" Mara smiled and replied, "Oh, yes. One and the same." "Good." Mara gave a quick sigh. "Now, is that enough soul searching for one night?" "There's the Mara Jade I know and love." Jaina sat back down in her cot. "Wake me up when we get to Zeltros." "I will. Sleep well, Jaina. You deserve it." "Thanks. I will." THE END!!