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Beyond - Legends I, Warrior v. 2 (Post-NJO AU, Tahiri-centric, updated 11/12)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by MasterGhandalf, Jan 2, 2010.

  1. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 7

    Aug 31, 2004
    Awesome update. =D= Like the summing up of the various theories of what the nature of those artifacts are. Looks like they're about to get some answers.

  2. Robimus

    Robimus Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Jul 6, 2007
    Still loving Hassk and Tahiri.=D= Keep the updates coming.
  3. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    AN: Sorry for the unplanned year-long hiatus- it shouldn?t happen again! There?s not a whole lot left, so I hope to wrap this up in the next month or two. Thanks for everyone who?s been patient! If anyone still wants to be on the PM alert list, let me know.

    Chapter 18: Embrace of Pain

    Keenah awoke with the sudden realization that something was wrong. Rising, she wrapped her robeskin around herself and exited her quarters, ignoring the warriors and shapers who saluted as she passed until she made her way to the bridge. There she found Commander Akhi Lian pacing like an angry predator behind the pilot, who was oblivious beneath his cognition hood.

    ?Commander,? Keenah demanded when she was close enough to be heard. ?What has happened??

    Akhi Lian rounded on her, glaring. ?The Master,? he said slowly, ?has issued an order that we are to change course. We are no bound- against my better judgment- towards the ruins of Yuuzhan?tar.?

    ?Yuuzhan?tar?? Keenah demanded in shock, mind rushing. That was where they had dispatched Hassk and his band of mercenaries to retrieve the final artifact, the one created by the man the infidels called Emperor- apparently a title comparable to Supreme Overlord. The planet was also under heavy Galactic Alliance guard- why in the gods? names did the Master want them to go there.

    ?He said only that the object of our quest was in danger,? the commander told her. ?He said that we must go there at once in order to secure our prize. I am to have a group of my best warriors prepared to make planetfall- and you are to be ready as well.? He scowled and shook his head. ?It will please me when we can end this skulking and use of Jeedai sorcery- and yet he speaks for the gods, and so I must obey.? The commander?s tone, though, said that aforementioned obedience was given very reluctantly.

    ?I see,? Keenah said, her thoughts whirling. ?Return to your duties, Commander. I must meditate and seek the guidance of Yun-Ne?shel. Inform me when we have reached Yuuzhan?tar.?

    The commander saluted as the priestess turned and departed. ?As you say, Eminence,? he said softly, but there was a hard edge to his voice.

    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Tahiri looked around with interest as she, Corran, Jaina, and Ziil were led into a cavernous room within one of Coruscant?s now-crumbling skyscrapers that had apparently been refitted into an impromptu audience hall. The effect, no doubt intended to be grand, came off more as a parody of the throne room of Emperor Palpatine, Supreme Overlord Shimrra, or any other powerful despot than anything actually impressive. Guards lined the walls, but they were underdwellers with crude blasters and vibroweapons who fidgeted nervously, rather than coldly professional Red Guards or Slayers, and no attempt was made to conceal the rust-stains across the walls. A metal chair sat at the other end of the room, and on it was a gaunt man who stared at them with feverish eyes.

    A black pyramid was clutched tightly under one of his arms.

    ?That our artifact, do you think?? Jaina asked the other two Jedi; Corran nodded once.

    ?Yeah,? he said. ?Looks like it could be a holocron, but knowing Palpatine it could just as easily be something a lot worse.? He glanced at each of the younger Jedi in turn. ?Don?t draw your sabers yet, but be ready if you have to. This could turn nasty real fast.?

    ?Got it,? Tahiri said, and Jaina nodded. Together with their escort of underdwellers they approached the makeshift throne; up close, the man on it looked even more visibly ill. Probably someone with just enough Force ability to make the artifact work, Tahiri thought, and not enough to keep it under control- and now it was eating him out from the inside.

    When they reached the throne, Corran stepped forward. ?Let me guess,? he said. ?You?re the boss around here.?

    ?I am,? the man on the chair rasped, then gave a short giggle. ?I am Jadek Hunner- Lord Jadek Hunner- and these are my loyal followers.? He leaned in close, a half-mad grin spreading across his
  4. aalagartassle

    aalagartassle Jedi Master star 4

    Jan 11, 2011
    excellent writing. add me please.[face_praying]
    I'm only up to chapter 5 and can't wait to keep reading[face_hypnotized] , alas have got to go to work.:oops:
  5. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Chapter 19: A Mirror Darkly

    Vua?sa?s Rage came out of darkspace into the edge of Yuuzhan?tar?s gravity well (Keenah would not think of it as Coruscant; that world had perished under sacred shaping, and the infidels were fools if they thought it could be reclaimed) with all warriors tense and volcano cannons at the ready. The infidels were here in force- not enough to seriously challenge a full battle group, perhaps, but more than sufficient to the task of destroying a single coralcraft- and while the Master claimed that he had a plan for dealing with them, the warriors still stood ready to face battle and death if the gods demanded it.

    Keenah glanced over at where the Master sat in the center of the bridge, clutching one of the artifacts they had captured and coughing quietly beneath his hood. Master Shaper Kizin Qel hovered behind him with his adepts as they fretted over him, while Akhi Lian and his warriors seemed to be trying to do their best to ignore him and the stench of rotting flesh that emanated from him. Keenah herself ran her hand over her lightsaber where it hung from her sash and kept her gaze fixed straight ahead. In her bones, she knew that today was going to be a turning point; she just wished she knew how it would turn.

    Through the bridge?s transparent forward-facing membranes she could see two of the abominable infidel craft approaching, training weapons on them. Akhi Lian was shouting orders and his warriors were scrambling to obey, but Keenah?s attention was on the infidels and the Master; she was barely even aware that she was murmuring a prayer for Yun-Ne?Shel to deliver them under her breath.

    ?It is? time,? the Master rasped, waving the Shapers away and straightening up as much as he was able. He clutched the artifact tightly in both hands, and Keenah could almost see his eyes gleam yellow beneath his hood as his whole body was wracked with effort. Then, suddenly, he gave a terrible cry and the priestess could feel the Force burst from him in waves, like a dark sun.

    At first, nothing seemed to change- and then, suddenly, the infidel ships turned away from the Yuuzhan Vong craft and reoriented on each other. Even though Keenah had been told what would happen, she could still barely believe her eyes as the infidels opened fire on one another. The Rage passed through the blockade unharmed.

    ?It is as you said,? she whispered in awe. ?They attack each other and ignore us. But why??

    ?I have? clouded their thoughts,? the Master rasped, his voice and breathing even more labored than usual. ?They each believe that the other craft? is a Yuuzhan Vong warship and that we are an infidel shuttle. The effect? will not hold them for long now that I am no longer? concentrating on it, but it should last long enough? for us to reach the surface- and if we are lucky, they will be too? damaged to pursue.?

    ?A useful trick,? Akhi Lian said reluctantly, stepping forward. He hesitated for a moment, then snapped his fists to opposite shoulders in salute. ?Perhaps your Jeedai ways do hold some value.? But I still do not fully trust you. The words hung in the air, though they had not been spoken aloud.

    ?Are your warriors? prepared?? the Master asked.

    ?They are,? the commander replied. ?We are locked on to the Sekotan energy signature and shall land nearby. When we do, my warriors shall disembark. You are certain we will find the artifact there??

    ?The Force? does not lie!? The Master snapped. ?You will find the artifact, and you will find Jedi- I do not know which, or? how many, but they will be there. You must? take the artifact from them. Do not? fail!?

    ?As you say,? Akhi Lian said, though his expression was still dubious. ?And you are certain you wish me to take Eminence Keenah with us? If the Jeedai are there, it will not be the proper place for one of the priest caste- and certainly not one sworn to the Modeler.? Or maybe you don?t want to share your glory with someone who isn?t from the warrior caste, Keenah thought.

    ?She is armed? far more mightily than you? Commande
  6. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Chapter 20: The Final Piece

    Vua?sa?s Rage made the jump to darkspace as soon as they were out of Yuuzhan?tar?s gravity, and only then did Keenah allow herself to relax. Their mission had succeeded, they had the final artifact, and the Jeedai had no way of pursuit now. Soon, the Master could restore himself to full strength, and then he would lead the Yuuzhan Vong once more on a crusade across the galaxy.

    Still, she found that she couldn?t get the duel with the Jeedai girl out of her head. She had heard of the infidel who had been half-shaped into a Yuuzhan Vong before- she was of particular interest to Keenah because of the goddess she followed, and more strongly once the priestess had acquired the ability to touch the Force herself- but she hadn?t expected to meet her here, in the ruins of Shimrra?s capital. The battle itself- the first time Keenah had ever faced another Force-user- had been exhilarating. Part of her longed to engage in such combat again, while another part feared that she had stepped beyond the bounds of her caste?s responsibilities. One thing, though, was certain- Akhi Lian was furious with her.

    The commander paced back and forth on the bridge like the great beast for whom his vessel was named, glaring death at anyone who stepped too close to him. His armor?s leg had ceased twitching, enabling him to walk normally again, but he was plainly enraged that an infidel had gotten the better of him in however minor a fashion. Some of the subalterns had wondered (behind his back, of course) why he hadn?t killed both Hassk and the pathetic Shamed One who?d been guarding the artifact and let it be damaged or destroyed as a worthy trade, but Keenah thought she knew. The Master would reward a failure of that magnitude only with death, and Akhi Lian?s pride would never allow him to accept that from the hand of an infidel cripple.

    Finally, he wheeled on the priestess, cloak of command flaring dramatically behind him. ?Explain this to me, Eminence,? he growled, the absolute bare minimum of respect in his voice. ?Why, when my warriors find themselves faced by three Jeedai, does the one ally I possess who can counter them focus her efforts on the least of them while her comrades perish??

    ?The Jeedai Who Was Shaped intrigues me,? Keenah replied in an even, cold tone. ?And surely, your warriors will be welcome by Yun-Yammka for having perished in glorious battle against Jaina Solo and Corran Horn, two of the most famed warriors among the infidels??

    ?I do not have the warriors to throw them away in battle, no matter how glorious!? Akhi Lian roared. Across the bridge, warriors turned towards their commander, shock written across their features to see him address one of the priest caste in such a tone- but some of them seemed to be approving, as well. ?And for what?? he continued. ?Useless trinkets! I have endured you and your infidel Master?s mysticism, but no more. We shall do as we should have done from the beginning- find the rest of our race who remain scattered across the stars and shape them into an amphistaff to point at our enemies hearts!? His eyes narrowed dangerously. ?And we will rely no longer on Jeedai sorcery.?

    Akhi Lian raised his hand and his amphistaff slid into it, stiffening itself into a spear. Pure rage was written on his face- his humiliation in the battle on Yuuzhan?tar, combined with cycles of resentment and uncertainty towards Keenah and the Master, made him furious and gave him strength, but they also made him rash. Keenah did not draw her lightsaber as the commander charged towards her- instead, she raised one hand, palm out, towards him, and he was seized in an invisible grip and flung against the yorik coral wall. The other warriors stared in shock as their leader hung there, pinned, and Keenah tightened her grip to hold his head erect and block air from reaching his mouth. Only Akhi Lian?s eyes moved, still hateful, but also afraid. No warrior liked being helpless before something he could not see or fight.

    ?Listen to me very carefully,? Keenah said, approachin
  7. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    AN: Transferring the final three updates from the temp boards. Note that the formatting on previous posts is currently wonky; to see the rest of the fic in full, go here:

    Chapter 21: The Lands of the Dead
    Korriban hung in space before Tahiri's eyes, an ominous grey disk against the backdrop of the stars. Even from this distance it was obvious that something was terribly wrong with this world; just from looking at its sickly color, she could imagine the vast expanses of barren plains, broken by jagged mountains and abandoned fortresses, the only life hideous perversions birthed by the dark art of Sith alchemy. Somewhere down there, she knew, was the center of the corruption- the Valley of the Dark Lords, unholy burial ground of millennia of Sith, steeped in their evil. Jacen Solo believed, as had his teacher Vergere, that the Force had no true dark side, that evil came only from within, but here, at least, Tahiri knew that they were wrong. This world had a malevolent life- or mockery of life- all its own.

    "This is the place, Tahiri Veila?" Ziil asked from beside her. "This is the world called… Korriban?"

    "Yeah," Tahiri said softly. "Consider yourself lucky today that you don't have any connection to the Force, Ziil- very lucky. I can feel it from all the way up here, like it's waiting for us."

    "Tahiri, Jaina, you there?" Corran said from the comlink. "According to my sensors, the Vong ship is already on its way down. It looks like it's heading straight for the Valley of the Dark Lords. Whatever they're doing, it's going to be soon."
    "I still don't get how they even found out about this place or the artifacts," Jaina put in. "Tahiri, if you say that female you fought had the Force, I believe you- and I certainly know it's possible- but how would she have known enough about the Sith to come here?"
    "She wasn't just some fumbling amateur making it up as she went along," Tahiri said, thinking back to the disturbing encounter. "She'd had training, and that means she had a teacher. Remember what the Bothan said about his own ships being tricked into firing on each other? Keenah was strong, but I don't think she had the kind of fine skill to pull something like that off. My guess, her teacher's on that ship too, and whatever's going on here, it's their show." Suddenly remembering the dark-cloaked figure that had haunted her visions, the young Jedi suppressed a shudder.

    "So we've got not just a ship full of Yuuzhan Vong warriors plus a priestess who can use the Force to deal with, but a Sith wannabe too?" Jaina asked. "This isn't going to be easy, and we don't have time to get backup. This thing is going down now. Anyone have a plan?"
    "We land near the Valley, check out what they're up to, and then figure it out from there," Corran said. "At least with only one ship, we don't have to worry about air support once it's landed. See you both planetside."
    "Make it up as we go along?" Tahiri muttered as she keyed Memories to aim for a landing near the Valley while avoiding the coralcraft's direct pathway. "My favorite kind."

    # # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Keenah stepped over the beast's still-twitching remains and then turned her gaze to the world around her. Everything was grey and dead- the sullen clouds overhead, the jagged, lifeless rock, the ominous temples. Everything except for the small pack of glossy black predator beasts who had foolishly attacked the group of Yuuzhan Vong warriors that had descended from the craft that now perched on the Valley's rim. The creatures had fought well, but they had quickly learned the folly of their ways.

    "Tuk'ata" the Master rasped; Keenah turned to see him emerge from the ship in a litter borne upon the backs of four Shamed Ones; a number of pouches containing the artifacts dangled from its sides. "Sith hounds. That is… the creatures' name. Set here by the ancients… to guard their resting places. They will not… bother us again, I think."

    Commander Akhi Lian approached from among the gathered warriors, his amphistaff still slick with a tuk'ata's blood. "Master, what is you command?" he said, saluting- though his respect was still grudging, there was fear in his voice as well. For some reason, that bothered Keenah.

    A warrior should fear nothing, yet the commander fears my Master… fears me. Can this really be the gods' will? Swiftly, she buried her thoughts. Despite what she had seen in the artifact, she must not doubt. She could not, or they had come to this horrible place for nothing.

    "Commander," the Master said, "you and your warriors will remain here… in the Valley. Someone is… coming. I can sense them. I must not… be disturbed."

    "What about you?" Akhi Lian asked. "Are we to leave you undefended, then?"

    "Priestess Keenah will… accompany me." The Master hissed, impatience fraying his already-raspy voice. "Do as I command! Do not question me again!"

    Akhi Lian looked affronted, but he saluted and stepped back among his warriors, motioning them to form a semicircle around the nearest tomb, with the Master and Keenah behind them. The cloaked figure studied them for a moment, nodded, and then motioned for his bearers to begin taking him up the winding path towards the tomb's entrance. Keenah followed close behind.

    She did not know how long they walked that dismal road- the distance wasn't long, but it seemed like cycles. Neither of them spoke, but as they walked Keenah felt a growing sensation in her mind, a familiar presence- it was the Jeedai girl, the One Who Was Shaped, she was certain, and her two companions. They must be the ones the Master had sensed as well- but surely even they couldn't fight their way past the Rage's entirely complement of warriors. Not until it was too late…

    Finally, they came to a halt before the entrance to the tomb. The building was an immense and elaborate construction of grey stone and spires, built into the very wall of the Valley- how far it went underground, Keenah could only guess. The Master's bearers sat him before its immense gates, and he rose unsteadily and gazed up at it, almost as if he knew this place- but that was impossible. He had told Keenah that he had never been to this world before. Slowly he stretched out one bandaged hand and planted it on the gates, and the whole galaxy seemed to pause for an instant before they swung open. Within was only darkness, and a floor that seemed to slope steadily downward.

    Keenah stared into that abyss for only a brief moment before she turned away, looking out over the Valley. There, on the other side, she saw a number of figures moving, setting something up; she shaded her eyes and saw clearly now that it was a group of other Yuuzhan Vong- it must be Kizin Qel and his shapers, but what were they doing.

    "The master shaper had… an experiment he wished to pursue," the Master said behind her; Keenah spun to face him. He had seated himself in his litter once again and the bearers had turned it to face her; he regarded her with his hands steepled before him. "I saw no harm and… gave him my blessing. Now I must… go within. The hour of my restoration is at hand! You shall remain here… my student, and watch and wait. If any manage to make it past our… honored Commander, you shall be my last… defender."

    Keenah glanced up at the looming building, heard again in her mind the ghastly voice of Darth Sidious, and then spoke. "Master, do not do this," she said. "The powers of this place do not serve our cause or our gods. There must be another way to make you strong again so that we can finish the gods' work, but I do not believe that you will find it here. Let us leave!"

    The Master's eyes narrowed. "I am disappointed in you… Keenah," he rasped. "I had thought that you… were strong enough for this. I see now that you… have much to learn. Stay here and watch, and do not… question me again! We will speak on this further… when my strength is restored." He motioned for his bearers and they lifted him up onto their shoulders and carried him down into the darkness of the tomb.

    Keenah stood there and stared into the darkness for some time, before turning back to face the Valley and drawing her lightsaber. The Master had tasked her with standing guard and that, at least, she could do. None would pass.

    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Tahiri crouched along the rim of the Valley and lowered her binoculars. "Looks like the warriors are gathered around one specific tomb down there," she said to her companions. "Probably a couple of dozen, and they look like they're on guard. We can't fight that many, and it'll be hard to sneak past. Anyone else got any ideas?"

    "That's not all," Jaina said, pointing further down the Valley. "Looks like more Yuuzhan Vong down there, setting up… something. I don't recognize it."

    "Let me see," Tahiri said, bringing her binoculars back up and looking in the direction Jaina had indicated. "Shapers- definitely shapers. That biot they're planting looks vaguely familiar, but I can't place it off the top of my head." Momentarily withdrawing into herself, she reached into her Yuuzhan Vong memories- Riina Kwaad had been a warrior, but the template for her personality and memories was Nen Yim, a Shaper. Maybe Tahiri had the knowledge of what they were up against buried somewhere inside… yes. "They're taking samples from the planet's crust- that biot is digging down deep under the surface and consuming samples to be stored inside its body for later study. Harmless enough… anywhere else. Here, though…"

    Tahiri let her voice trail off, but the others were able to finish the thought well enough. If the biot dug deep enough, it could easily pull up some long-buried Sith treasure or weapon and unleash it on the galaxy again, or possibly even become infected itself.

    "Well, it looks like whatever the Vong are here for, it's in that tomb," Corran said, "but we can't let the Shapers take anything offworld either. I've got some charges in my fighter- they' can probably take care of the biot, but someone will need to plant them. I'll do it."

    "I will go with you, Slayer of Shedao Shai," Ziil said suddenly, and all three Jedi turned to regard him in mild shock. The former Shamed One looked rather taken aback at the attention, but then took a breath and continued. "I was often used by Shapers to perform menial labor for their damuteks. I am familiar with how they operate."

    "Ziil- are you sure about this?" Tahiri asked. "I mean, we're not going to force you to fight or die for us…"

    The Yuuzhan Vong smiled. "I we succeed- then it will be a glorious victory, and if we fail… if we fail, I will have died fighting beside the Jeedai."

    "Thank you, Ziil," Tahiri said, then added softly in Yuuzhan Vong, "may the gods watch over you."

    Corran paused for a moment and glanced to both Tahiri and Jaina, nodding once at each of them, before motioning Ziil to follow him. The two males made their way along the valley rim towards the Shapers, and soon were out of sight.

    "Looks like you and me get the tomb, then," Tahiri said finally. "Whatever's going on in there, it needs to be me to confront it. I can sense it."

    Jaina nodded. "I understand. So I guess that means I get you in. I think I can manage that." She gave a wicked smile.

    "All right, Jaina," Tahiri said, "you're planning something. What exactly have you got in mind?"

    Anakin's sister just shook her head. "I'm Jaina Solo, the embodiment of Yun-Harla, a twin, the Sword of the Jedi, and the Slayer of Tsavong Lah. I'm going to go down there and introduce myself, and see what happens."

    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Jaina slowly made her way down the rocky slope of the Valley of the Dark Lords, heading straight into a mob of almost certainly homicidal Yuuzhan Vong warriors, and briefly considered that this was quite possibly one of the most insane things she'd ever done. Of course, the fact that it was only possibly was perhaps an indication of the kind of life she'd lived, but she didn't let herself dwell on that for long. Right now, a friend was counting on her.

    The first Vong who saw her approach shouted a warning to his fellows, and even from a distance Jaina could see them raise their amphistaffs and level the venom-spitting heads at her. "Wait!" she called. "Do you know who I am?"

    "You are an infidel!" a warrior barked in harshly accented Basic. "Why should we be concerned with your identity!"

    "Because I am the Other Twin!" Jaina called, using the Force to project her voice and make sure these bloodthirsty morons got the message. "My name is Jaina Solo! Jacen Solo is my twin and Anakin Solo was my brother. I am the Trickster. I slew Tsavong Lah in single combat, and faced the Slayers in the throne room of the Supreme Overlord himself. Kill me from a distance if you want to, strike me down with poison- even with my lightsaber I can't block it all- but is that the much vaunted courage of the Yuuzhan Vong? Tell your commander that I will fight him myself, one-on-one. Will he face me like a warrior? Or will he hide behind his men like a coward?"

    Jaina didn't know how the Yuuzhan Vong mind worked the way Tahiri did, nor was she as familiar with the details of their religion as Jacen, but she'd faced more of their warriors than she cared to count during the war, and she certainly knew how they thought. They were recklessly brave, ruthless to a fault, and proud- and no doubt that pride was enough for their commander, whoever he was, to resent being a lackey for that Force-using priestess and whoever her teacher was. In that case, her words ought to have been just what it took to goad him into action.

    Of course, it was possible that he was that rare commander who was confident enough in himself to see through her barbs and order his men to open fire- but Jaina was the daughter of a gambler, and she was willing to take that risk.

    And it looked like she was right. The warriors were muttering among themselves, and then one stepped out from their midst- big, even by warrior-caste Vong standards, a cloak of command streaming from his shoulders. He paused to hand his baton of rank to a subordinate and receive a full-length amphistaff in return, and then stepped out onto the Valley floor to face Jaina. "I am Commander Akhi Lian," he growled in passable Basic. "I am surprised to see the Trickster come to fight so openly, but I will relish the opportunity to crush you in honorable combat, Jaina Solo."

    "Bring it on," Jaina said, igniting her lightsaber and letting the purple light wash over her face. But that's where you're wrong, big guy. I'm not really fighting you- we're putting on a show for your men, and by the time they realize what's going on, it'll be too late.
    I hope. Tahiri, it's all on you now. May the Force be with you.
    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Tahiri circled quietly behind the warriors as they formed a circle around Jaina and their commander. Jaina'd been right- the commander had been unable to resist the bait dangled in front of him, and now the warriors' attention was completely focused on the spectacle unfolding before them. A not-inconsiderable part of Tahiri wished she was fighting by her friend's side, but she knew that Jaina was doing this for her. She needed to reach the tomb and stop the priestess and whoever had trained her from doing whatever dark thing they'd come here to do, or this was all for nothing.

    Swiftly, Tahiri began to make her way up the path leading towards the tomb. Soon she could sense the strange doubled Force-presence that was Keenah, as well as something else- something old and terrible, yet naggingly familiar- that lurked nearby. Concentrating on those presences alone, she was able to put the oppressive darkness of Korriban from her mind and slowly draw ever upward.

    Finally she stopped at the base of the grandiose tomb, resting place of some ancient, forgotten Lord. Quickly, Tahiri's gaze was drawn to the great doors that stood at its base and were now thrown wide open, and tunnel leading down into seemingly infinite darkness. A humanoid figure stood before it, clad in the robeskin of a Yuuzhan Vong priestess, the hilt of an organic lightsaber in one clawed hand. Keenah.

    "Come forward, Jeedai," the priestess called. "I can sense your presence. Have you come to continue our duel?"

    Tahiri stepped forward and ignited her own saber. "Here I am, Keenah. I'll fight you if I have to, but I'm here to stop whatever plot you and your teacher have brewing. Whatever's going on, I'd figured it would be inside the tomb, though. Don't tell me a Yuuzhan Vong priestess let herself get left out here on guard duty?"

    Keenah snarled and bared her sharp teeth, but quickly regained her composure. "My Master wishes only to test my faith," she said, igniting her blade as well. "You shall not pass, Jeedai girl."

    "I'm going into that tomb, one way or another," Tahiri said. "So if you're not ready to fight, get out of my way." The priestess only smirked, then lunged forward. Lightsabers met with a hissing crackle and the two females spun beneath the dark sky, striking and parrying, neither able to gain advantage over one another, their blades making splashes of color that stood out dramatically against the cold grey land and sky.

    "You fight well, infidel," Keenah finally said. "I can believe that there is Yuuzhan Vong in you. Why do you persist in fighting for the infidels? Are you so weak that you cannot see the righteousness of our cause? No, I do not think so- you are not a weak person. What is it then?"

    "I chose my side," Tahiri said, parrying Keenah's strike. "I am human and Yuuzhan Vong, but I'm all Jedi, and I will fight to protect my people from a war of aggression and conquest."

    "But how can you not see that this is the gods' will?" Keenah asked. "You were shaped by them even as I to bring the Force to the Yuuzhan Vong- it is obvious. Why do you resist the will of the gods? Why do you resist destiny?"

    "Destiny?" Tahiri whispered, her mind flashing back to the vision Anakin once had of her. "The Jedi believe that the future is always in motion. The Force can guide, but we chose our own paths. But you don't sound like you're trying to convince me so much as convince yourself."

    "The gods' cause is righteous, the Master is their chosen," Keenah said softly, as though repeating a mantra. "Their will is infallible."

    "You know what the gods are, Keenah?" Tahiri asked. "The gods were the living consciousness of the world of Yuuzhan'tar, and when the Yuuzhan Vong turned to war and conquest millennia ago, the gods turned away from them, and cut them off from the Force. I know this because I heard it from Sekot, Yuuzhan'tar's child. You're not fighting for the gods, Keenah, you're fighting to keep the Yuuzhan Vong in the state that caused the gods to reject them. Your Master, whoever he is, may have told you he's some kind of prophet, but he's not. He's using you, just like Onimi used Shimrra and his court."

    "No," Keenah whispered, eyes wide. "You're lying. You have to be. You're lying!" With an inarticulate scream of rage, the priestess lunged forward, lightsaber raised. Tahiri rolled onto her back and ducked beneath the blade, then caught Keenah in the stomach with both her feet. The priestess went flying, barely righting herself in time to land. She raised her saber to the defense as Tahiri charged forward, and the two blades locked briefly once more. Then Tahiri twisted her wrist, and Keenah's lightsaber was torn from her grip and went tumbling to the ground nearby. The priestess stumbled back into a crouch, and looked up to see Tahiri's saber pointed directly at her face.

    "Do it then," she spat. "You are victorious. Kill me, so that I may at least go before the gods with dignity."

    For how long they stood there in silence, Tahiri did not know. A part of her wanted to take Keenah's head off her shoulders, felt that it was the only proper way to treat a fallen foe, but finally with a sigh she deactivated the blade and slipped it into her belt. "No," she said. "I'm a Jedi, and I won't kill an enemy in cold blood."

    Keenah looked up at her with wondering eyes. "I do not… understand," she finally said.

    Tahiri shook her head. "I didn't think you would," she said. "But this is something that I hope you will understand- whatever your Master is up to, it's evil. I don't know what he told you, but the Sith don't serve anybody's gods- they only work for themselves, and their only god is power. Whatever he's planning, it's going to be bad for everyone- I've seen it in my dreams. Tell me what he's doing, and where he is, Keenah. Please."

    Keenah was silent for a long moment, but finally she nodded. "There is truth in your words, infi- Tahiri Veila. I think I knew in my heart what he was for some time, but I wanted to believe that he was god-chosen- that I was. He is within the tomb, with the artifacts. He is ill, but intends to use the power of this place to restore his health. When he does, I fear he will be stronger than either of us combined." For a moment there was a flicker of some emotion in her eyes that Tahiri couldn't place. "I will not help you fight him- part of me still believes he is a prophet of the gods, but if so, he will not need my help to vanquish you. Pit yourself against him, Jeedai, and we shall learn whose side the gods favor."

    "I intend to do exactly that." With a final glance at Keenah to make sure the priestess wasn't about to stab her in the back, Tahiri squared her shoulders and descended into the dark maw of the tomb.

    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    The passage sloped ever downward, and there were a number of side corridors, but the main path was straight and broad, and there was no doubt that it lead into the heard of the tomb. Tahiri lit her saber once more and held it up so that she could see in the darkness, and by its light she saw that she passed countless mosaics depicting the Sith in their dark glory. One figure in every image towered over all others, and she knew it must be the Lord who was buried here. Finally, however, she emerged into a vast chamber that was lit by torches, and she stopped in shock.

    The chamber was immense, lined with pillars, and at its heart was a statue of the Sith Lord, and before the statue was an altar. In front of the altar lay a yorik coral litter, surrounded by the bodies of four Shamed Ones, and positioned in front of it was a ring of Sith artifacts, the centerpiece of which was Palpatine's black pyramid. Between the litter and the artifacts stood a figure wrapped so heavily in dark robes and bandages that Tahiri could make out nothing of its features. It seemed to be shaking with the very effort it took to remain upright, and from it wafted the stench of rotting flesh.
    "Let me guess," Tahiri said when she found her voice. "You're Keenah's Master."

    "The same," the figure rasped. "I know you… girl. I saw you in my dreams, and I remember you from… elsewhere. But you are too late. The hour of my triumph… is now."

    "Oh, I don't think so," Tahiri said. Once again she was struck by the nagging sensation that she knew his Force presence, but it was too badly distorted by the darkness to tell for sure. Leveling her lightsaber at him, she leaped forward, preparing to strike- only to be seized in an invisible vice-like grip and slammed back against one of the pillars. Her saber dropped from nerveless fingers and Tahiri struggled but was unable to escape, pinned by the Master's power.

    "You cannot stop me," the Master hissed. "No one can stop me… not now!" The robed figure raised both of its hands, and the artifacts before it began to shake, then one by one all save Palpatine's shattered. Tahiri gasped as the foul energy escaped from within its confines- she could feel it pressing against her- but as soon as it was there it was gone, swallowed up into him. The artifacts and Korriban's own dark power were feeding him strength know- even as Tahiri watched his body straightened beneath the robes, and the stench of him subsided. He tore the bandages from one hand, and she could see what appeared to be normal, healthy human digits, and he laughed- the laugh was muffled and cold, but naggingly, almost horrifyingly familiar. The Master laughed until he was double over, facing away from Tahiri, and then slowly, deliberately he tore away his hood and facial wrappings.

    "I remember you now," he finally said, his voice young, male, strong. "As I now remember so many things that I thought I had lost." Dusting off his robes he turned to face her.

    "No," Tahiri whispered in horror as she saw that face, impossibly, horribly familiar. "No, this has to be a dream… it can't be happening…"

    "It is no dream, believe me. I am very, very real." The Master smiled a too-familiar smile. "Hello, Tahiri," Anakin Solo said. "It's been a long time."
  8. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Ignore this.
  9. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Chapter 22: Sum of Their Parts
    Corran and Ziil crouched beside an outcropping of rock near the edge of the Valley and watched as the Shapers surrounded and examined their biot- which looked to Corran's eyes like the mutant offspring of a tree, a sarlacc, and a Mon Calamari squid- as directed by a tall figure with a writhing headdress. That one, who had to be a Master Shaper, looked irritable and kept yelling at his subordinates, but at this distance the Corellian Jedi couldn't make out the Vong language well enough to tell what was going on.

    "Can you tell what's going on?" he whispered to the Yuuzhan Vong at his side.

    Ziil nodded vigorously. "The Master Shaper- whose name I believe is Kizin of Domain Qel- is not pleased with his Adepts' process. He wants the samples more quickly, but the yeerhan'cha- the stone harvester- is having difficulty with this rock. The Adepts are prodding it to work faster. Kizin Qel wants to have the samples by the time someone called the Master is ready to leave."

    "The Master- another Master Shaper?" Corran asked.

    Ziil looked confused for a moment, then shook his head. "Forgive this humble one his mistake in the translation, Slayer of Shedao Shai. The word he used in my language is different than the word for Master Shaper- maybe "teacher" or "instructor" would be a better word. I am not used to using a tizowyrm; the fault is mine."

    "Forget about it," Corran said. "Teacher- that's probably the guy who taught that priestess how to use the Force. You think he's anywhere around here?"

    "No," Ziil said. "The Shapers do not seem to think so, at least."

    "Well, that's good, at least. Now, if I'm remembering what I know about Shapers right, the Master Shaper's probably very dangerous, but the Adepts aren't. If I take this Kizin Qel down, then I should be able to plant my charges and get clear before this thing blows." Corran patted the pouch of charges he'd taken from his X-wing.

    "That plan sounds like it should work most excellently, Slayer of Shedao Shai," Ziil said. "I am honored to be with you this day."

    Corran sighed. "Look, Ziil, I'm sure you've heard this from Tahiri already, but cut it out with the worshipping of everything we say or do. We're Jedi, not gods, not prophets, and we don't want worshippers. Think for yourself, don't wait for us to do it for you. And for this, try and stay out of my way." If Ziil at all found the Jedi Master's words contradictory, he didn't say.

    Corran pulled himself up over the rock and ignited his lightsaber in a silver flash- but before he could move forward, something long, thin, and sharp thudded into the rock beside him. He ducked as two more barbs struck, then looked up; the Master Shaper stood not far away, and the barbs were the hideously extended fingers of his grafted hand.

    "Foolish jeedai," Kizin Qel spat. "Did you really think you could sneak up on us without our knowledge? We are Shapers, the most favored servants of Yun-Yuuzhan- why, our servants' sense detected you as soon as you arrived here!"

    Corran glanced over his shoulder to check on Ziil, but the Shamed One had vanished- as, he realized with a start, had his pack of charges. Just great, the Jedi thought irritably. Not only did he cut and run despite all his big talk, but he took my best way to destroy that thing with him!
    "Look," he said out loud, "I know you don't have any reason to trust me, but this planet is toxic in every sense of the word. Shut your biot down and leave- I'm not sure what a bunch of Sith rocks would do to a Yuuzhan Vong, but I doubt it'd be pretty, and if you're really unlucky, you'll hit a tomb."

    "The Shaper Caste does not fear peril in its quest for knowledge," Kizin Qel proclaimed grandly. "Your infidel lies will not sway me."

    "Figured that wouldn't work- you mad scientist types are all the same, no matter what galaxy you're from- but it was worth a shot. Now we do things the hard way." Corran leapt back to his feet and sprang forward, lightsaber raised. At the sudden attack, Kizin Qel yelped and leaped back, but brought his other hand up and all eight implanted figures shot out as barbed whips. One of them caught Corran around his leg, the barbs digging painfully into his flesh, while another wrapped itself around his saber hand. The Master Shaper gave an almost deliriously pleased giggled and hoisted Corran into the air.

    From his vantage point, Corran could see the biot pulsing above him as it dug deeper and deeper into Korriban's crust, while at its base a half-dozen Shaper Adepts gathered to watch the fight between their Master and the Jedi, no longer paying attention to their work- as a small figure crept up the biot's back, pausing as it went to plant small objects along its flesh. Well, well, Corran thought. Looks like Ziil knew what he was doing after all. He allowed himself a tight smile.

    "What is so amusing?" Kizin Qel demanded. "You are at my mercy, infidel- oh, but I can't wait to dissect you- and there is nothing left you can do. I have triumphed!"

    "Oh, I think I've still got a few tricks left," Corran said, twisting his lightsaber in his hand even as he pressed the activation stud forward. The blade shot out to twice its ordinary length, neatly slicing the Shaper's tentacle-finger as it did so. Kizin Qel yelped in surprise as Corran brought the saber down with his now free hand and cut his foot loose as well, then charged forward once more. The Master Shaper was a formidable foe, but this was probably the first real battle he'd ever fought; seeing the Jedi who had escaped his grasp and taken his fingers bearing down on him, he froze. Corran tackled him to the ground and brought his lightsaber across in a single clean cut; two shaper hands landed on the ground beside their owner, who now stared up at his opponent with terror in his eyes. So much for the vaunted courage of the Yuuzhan Vong, Corran thought. Guess it's easier to embrace death when you're a blood-crazed warrior rather than a scientist who just barely realized he was beat before it happened. Before Kizin Qel could speak or recover enough to pull some new trickery, the Corellian Jedi switched his lightsaber off and slammed the hilt into the side of the Shaper's head. Kizin Qel collapsed into unconsciousness.

    "Ziil, now!" Corran shouted. A moment later, the Valley rim was rocked with explosions as the biot died a fiery death, collapsing in on itself as the Adepts scattered. The Jedi turned to see Ziil hurrying towards him.

    "Did I do well, Slay- Corran Horn?" he asked, almost sheepishly.

    "Yeah, kid," Corran said. "You did good." Now let's just hope Tahiri and Jaina are as lucky…
    # # # # # # # # # # # # #

    As a child, Tahiri had been famous- or perhaps infamous- among her fellow Jedi trainees for her incessant talking. After her shaping and the integration of her personalities she had become quieter and more introspective, but still was rarely without a quip or observation. But now, as the Master released her from his Force-grip and let her slip to the floor of the ancient Sith tomb, she found herself completely at a loss for words.

    "It's been a long time," Anakin said. His voice, his face, his smile- all were as Tahiri remembered him, save for the eyes. They should have been blue, but instead were a toxic red-yellow, the mark of one who had travelled far down the path of the dark side. "I'm sorry about attacking you, but my… illness harmed more than my body. It clouded my mind, too, and I forgot you." He smiled, and it was Anakin's smile, and yet… not, as if he'd carefully practiced it for a part in a holodrama without really understanding the emotion behind it. "I think you know a bit about what that can be like. But I remember you now, Tahiri, and the Force has brought us together again. We can be again what Master Ikrit promised we would be- a whole greater than the sum of its parts."

    Finally, Tahiri found her voice. "Who are you?" she demanded.

    An expression of shock and hurt crossed Anakin's face. "Tahiri, how can you ask that?" he said. "I know it's been years since we've seen each other, but I didn't think you'd forget someone who was your best friend- and more than that. It's me, Anakin, remember?"

    "I know who Anakin is," Tahiri snapped; in an instant, her lightsaber flared back to life and its point was at his throat. "I knew Anakin better than anyone, except maybe his parents and Master Skywalker, and he meant more to me than anyone. But I also know that he died on a worldship above Myrkr years ago. He and I had a bond in the Force and I felt it severed; I saw his body, and was there when they cremated him. Your sense in the Force is wrong too; you look like him, but you don't feel like him, not quite. So since you can't be Anakin Solo, I'm asking you again- who are you?"

    The Master sighed and stepped back so that he now stood beside Palpatine's relic. "I should have known I couldn't fool you for long," he said, though there was a regretful quality to his voice. "You're right, I'm not the Anakin you knew, not quite. But I'm not not him, either, if that makes sense."

    "I don't understand," Tahiri said, not lowering her blade.

    "I had hoped that you of all people would be able to understand me, but perhaps I do need to explain further." He crossed his arms and paused for a moment before continuing. "You are right about one thing, Tahiri- Anakin Solo, the original Anakin Solo, died above Myrkr destroying the laboratory where the voxyn were born. You will remember that you recovered the body, but before you did, the Yuuzhan Vong had it for some time- long enough, in fact, for some of its genetic material to be extracted and sent to Master Shaper Yal Phaath. The hidebound old fool would never have dared to use infidel DNA in his precious projects, but one of his subordinates, Kizin Qel, wasn't so old fashioned. He'd heard of what Mezhan Kwaad had tried to make of you, and thought the idea had potential, but that Master Kwaad's mistake was attempting to overwrite an existing mind with Yuuzhan Vong thought. Far better to implant as Yuuzhan Vong personality into an empty shell."

    "You're a clone," Tahiri whispered in sudden realization. "Anakin's clone. You don't act like a Yuuzhan Vong, though, so something must have gone wrong. What happened?"

    "I'm afraid Kizin Qel overestimated his abilities," the Master continued. "Humans and Yuuzhan Vong are surprisingly similar for species that evolved in different galaxies, but the differences are there, and it took him years to grow me into anything close to an adult form. In time, he was recruited to join a heretical projected headed by an acquaintance of yours, Nen Yim, and from there he was shunted to another projected headed by the priest caste- Keenah and her mentor. They were to explore the nature of the Force, and they were sent to an ancient world nearly as steeped in Sith power as this one- Ziost. Kizin Qel brought his prize specimen along. And there, beneath the surface of Ziost, the other half of me waited.

    "Milennia ago, the Sith Empire was one of the dominant powers in the galaxy, and its rulers were obsessed with immortality. Kajan Res, the Lord buried here, believed that after his death he would return to one day rule the Sith and through them, the galaxy. He wanted his most trusted warriors at his side. In a vault beneath his palace on Ziost he sealed their souls into crystals to await his rebirth, when he would call them back to life. The call never came. The Sith Empire collapsed, Lord Res never managed to return from beyond the grave, and one by one his warriors slipped into Chaos, save for one. Agran Kall, the commander of Res's forces, a dark side warrior of no small talent, survived the millennia, waiting.

    "Keenah and her mentor found the palace when they landed on Ziost and retrieved the crystal. At that moment, half a galaxy away, Jacen Solo destroyed the monster named Onimi, and that battle sent shockwaves through the Force. The crystal was destroyed, the released energy slaying the senior priestess where she stood and seeping into Keenah's body, while the spirit within sought refuge in the only nearby living thing that could touch the Force and had no will to resist."

    "Anakin's clone," Tahiri breathed. "That's what happened to you- with the Force and Anakin's brain to work with you could access his memories, but his body was strong enough in the Force to keep itself from being overwhelmed completely. Neither of you- Anakin or the Sith spirit- were strong enough to take control, so you ended up melding together." She laughed bitterly. "Of course, a Shaper-cloned body wasn't designed to hold that kind of Force power. Physically and mentally, you just couldn't hold it together- literally."

    "Very good," not-Anakin said. "You're right about what happened to me; I remembered how to use the Force, since both my lives had been trained in it, and I had Anakin's knowledge of what had happened in the galaxy since Agran Kall was sealed away, but I didn't know who I was, and my body was decaying out from under me. I needed power, and advice from a true master of the dark side, to save myself, but fortunately I knew that the most powerful Sith Lord in history died only decades ago, and I had a bevy of fanatics on hand who would do whatever I asked, so long as I convinced them I was a prophet. Pathetic creatures; Keenah was the only one who had real value, and she's failed me too, now, or you wouldn't be here having this conversation with me."

    He smiled then, suddenly, almost alarmingly. "But all that's in the past. I'm not the Anakin you remember, true enough, but if everything I've heard about the Jeedai Who Was Shaped are true, you're not really the Tahiri I remember either. I may be as much Agran Kall as Anakin Solo, but you're as much Riina Kwaad as Tahiri Veila. And that's good. We can understand one another better than anyone else in this galaxy ever could. You are alone, Tahiri, an outcast among both Yuuzhan Vong and humans, but you don't have to be. Come with me. I have Anakin's strength and Agran Kall's knowledge, and you have influence among the Yuuzhan Vong- together, we can rule both the inhabitants of the galaxy and its invaders! Think of it, Tahiri! Together, we can do anything. Join me!"
    Tahiri was still for a moment, drew a deep, shuddering breath, and then spoke one word. "No."

    "No?" the Master asked, his tone genuinely surprised. "Tahiri, whatever else I am, I am part Anakin in more than looks. You were my best friend for years- in the end, I loved you, and I thought you felt the same for me. Why turn your back on me? You want to be with Anakin again, you want to belong somewhere again as more than an idol or a freak? I'm your only chance!"

    "It doesn't matter what you look like or what memories you have," Tahiri said. "Where it counts, you're not Anakin. He spent his life determined to avoid Darth Vader's destiny, but you've embraced the darkness. I don't know if there's enough of Anakin in there for you to be saved, and if there is, I'll take you away from this place and straight to Master Skywalker. But as for your offer- never. I will never betray the Jedi, never turn to the dark side, never embrace the destiny Mezhan Kwaad intended for me, no matter who's selling." Tahiri faced the Master with her eyes narrowed. "I certainly won't for a monster that comes wearing the face of someone I loved."

    From everything she knew of Sith, Tahiri expected the Master to be angry, to blast her with lightning. Instead, he only shook his head sadly. "I was afraid you'd say that," he said, "but I needed to ask. I wanted you by my side. But if you won't come willingly…" Anakin's clone knelt suddenly and picked up Palpatine's black pyramid from where it sat by his side. He closed his eyes and Tahiri could feel him focusing his will on it, and then the dark power surged and a figure emerged from the artifact.

    He was ghostly and transparent, and he'd died in the flesh years before she was born, but Tahiri knew that withered visage and ghastly grin, had seen it on more Holonet documentaries and Academy lectures than she cared to count. Emperor Palpatine himself, or at least a shadow of him, now shared the tomb with them.

    "You wanted payment in return for your wisdom," the Master declared. "You told me I'd know when the time came, and I do. Like Lord Res before you, you desire immortality, a return to the world of the living, and that I can give you. The girl before you is young, strong in the Force- her body is yours." He looked past Palpatine towards Tahiri. "I hope you believe me when I say that I'm truly sorry it has to be this way."

    "I would have preferred a male host," the shadow of Palpatine said, "but this girl will be sufficient. The price is paid. At last, I shall fulfill my creator's destiny and live once more!"

    The shadowy image flowed forward, and Tahiri struck with her lightsaber, to no avail. All of her Jedi and Yuuzhan Vong combat training was useless against this… thing… before her, and if there was a Force technique to repel it, it wasn't one she knew. The ghostly image stretched out a gaunt hand and placed it on her chest, and then it sunk in, deeper, until the chill darkness reached her heart….

    # # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Lightsaber met amphistaff with a sizzling clash beneath the grey skies of Korriban as the Yuuzhan Vong warriors watched their commander do battle with one of the most famed of the Jedi among their people. Akhi Lian was huge and powerful, his body sheathed in virtually impervious armor, his strength driven by the fierce pride and zeal of his race. Jaina was tiny in comparison, small and slight, but with the Force and her training on her side she was agile enough to evade her foe's blows, and in her hands was one of the deadliest melee weapons in the galaxy. The two combatants were fine examples of their two martial traditions, and to those watching the fight they seemed close to evenly matched.

    Jaina ducked and rolled as Akhi Lian's amphistaff sailed past her head and struck the ground near where she stood, its edge, now hardened into a blade, slicing the rock cleanly in two. Striking out with her saber, she caught the commander along the leg, scoring a long burn in his armor, but doing no more harm. The shell of the Vonduun crab was thick enough to repel all but the most determined blows even of a lightsaber.

    Akhi Lian towered over her, and Jaina rolled between his legs as he prepared to strike again, leaping to her feet behind him. The Yuuzhan Vong spun, murder in his eyes, but before he could strike Jaina raised a hand and focused her will on the ground beneath his feet. The Force responded to her call and the stone buckled, sending the commander stumbling, but as he fell he reached out one hand and caught Jaina by her arm, dragging her to the ground with him. He pulled her within inches of his face and bared his sharply pointed teeth, but the Jedi only smirked at him before punching him squarely on his flat nose. Akhi Lian roared more in surprise than pain and let go; Jaina focused the Force against the ground and blasted herself away from him, rolling back into an upright position out of his reach. She could see the Yuuzhan Vong standing as well, blue-black blood dripping down his face. His species' expressions could sometimes be hard to read, especially for warriors who had their own faces remade to be more fearsome, but he seemed to be smiling.

    "You fight well, Jeedai," Akhi Lian said. "It will truly be an honor to kill you."

    "Oh, don't gloat yet, Commander," Jaina taunted, smirking. "Tsavong Lah thought the same thing, and, well… you're no Tsavong Lah."

    "I may not be warmaster," Akhi Lian spat, "but I am still warrior enough to finish you."

    "Really? Because I would have thought that all the real warriors would have been at Coruscant- excuse me, Yuuzhan'tar- when we were there taking it back. Instead we find you out here, a year later, doing what? Babysitting a bunch of shapers and priests, looks like to me." Jaina smiled darkly. "Face it, Commander. The only reason you're here is because you got a job no one else in the warrior caste wanted."

    "Silence!" Akhi Lian roared, charging forward. He struck Jaina with his armored shoulder, sending her crashing to the ground with her lightsaber spinning away and landing on the rocks. Jaina groaned and looked up to see the fearsome armored figure towering above her. "Where are your bold taunts now, infidel?" he demanded. "Your mockery ends here."

    "Now see," Jaina said, "there's still one thing left you have to learn- when you think you've got the Trickster at your mercy, that's when you should be most afraid of her." The commander's amphistaff struck down, but Jaina was no longer there when it landed; rolling quickly away, she pulled herself up into a crouch and leapt into the air. Her lightsaber flew from where it lay and landed in her hand just as she spun over Akhi Lian's head. The blade ignited in violet fire and the commander's eyes widened in surprise for an instant before Jaina landed lightly behind him.

    Akhi Lian's head hit the ground a moment later, an almost comical expression of shock still written across its features. The commander's body remained standing slightly longer, then buckled forward and lay still.

    Jaina stood and turned to face the assembled warriors who now regarded her with a mix of rage and awe. "Well," she said, "anyone else interested in trying me?" She raised her lightsaber before her in mocking salute.

    Before any of the warriors could respond, an explosion rocked the Valley; out of the corner of her eye, Jaina could see the shapers' biot crashing to the ground in fire. The warriors stood in silent rage for a moment before one- a subaltern, Jaina thought- stepped forward.

    "The Jeedai has deceived us!" he shouted in Basic, no doubt for her benefit. "She was merely distracting us so her companions could sabotage our shapers' work. Kill her!"

    Once more, the poison-spitting heads of dozens of amphistaffs were pointed directly at Jaina, and this time, challenging the commander wasn't an option for getting out of it. This, the young Jedi thought as she, raised her blade in defense, is not going to end well…
    # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Tahiri stood in the heart of a vast, dark space that she recognized in an instant as her mental image of the interior of the worldship above Myrkr- the place where Anakin had died. Here in this shadow place she had fought a desperate battle against herself that had led to the two halves of her being- the old Tahiri and Riina- to combine together into the person she now was. And now she had been forced here again, and this time the ghostly image of Emperor Palpatine hung before her, his insubstantial hand buried in her chest.

    "Give up," the wraith hissed to her. "Why do you resist me? Why resist the inevitable? You are not strong enough to hold on for long. What are you, child? Not a human, not a Tuskan, not a Yuuzhan Vong, and certainly not a Jedi. You are nothing…"

    "I am a Jedi," Tahiri gasped, though speech was difficult. "I was trained by Master Skywalker… he Knighted me… the Force is with me…"

    "The Force is with only those who have the will to master it," the Emperor said. "What will do you have? I can see your heart, your very soul, and you can hide nothing from me. You should have died here, on this ancient ship, years ago. Only one person could ever have cared for you, and he died here. Your friends shrink from you, never knowing if an enemy lurks within you. The Yuuzhan Vong either hold you in contempt or venerate you falsely- for what have you done to merit veneration? Be a victim in a madwoman's experiments? You are part of many things, Tahiri Veila, but you are all of nothing. And how can nothing hope to resist my will?"

    The shade of Palpatine sank deeper into Tahiri's body, and she felt as if his tendrils were reaching throughout her, consuming her identity so he could take what was left for himself. Just give up, a tiny voice whispered in the back of her mind. He's right, you should be dead. Let him end you. At least then, you'll be with Anakin again…

    At the thought of Anakin's name, Tahiri remembered the Master, that perversion that wore Anakin's face, and emotion surged through her, not rage but determination. The pride of her heritage- all her disparate heritages- awoke within her, and with it the determination that she would not die here, would not be defeated by this horror, and that she would defeat the creature that had unleashed him.
    Tahiri knew that she was far from the greatest Jedi of the Order, far from the goddess the Shamed Ones wanted to make of her. But for now, none of that mattered, because someone had to stop the Master, and she was the only one who could.

    Reaching up, she seized hold of the Emperor's ghostly arm and began to push him back.

    For a moment, something that might have been fear flickered in Palpatine's yellow eyes. "It is not possible," he whispered. "How do you find the strength to resist?"

    "You don't get it, do you?" Tahiri asked. "You think my trials broke me down, but they just made me stronger, made me who I am. I'm not a sad little girl whose will you can just break, and I'm not a bloodthirsty Yuuzhan Vong warrior who'd be easy prey to your temptations, either. I'm the best of both my selves, or at least I try to be, and you're the one who's nothing but an old ghost desperate to grab hold of what you lost. You're not even the real Palpatine, just a nasty little trick he left behind. You want to know who I am? I'm Tahiri, daughter of the Sand People… of the Jedi… of Domain Kwaad… I am greater than the sum of my parts… and I want you out of my head!"

    With all of her power in the Force behind her, Tahiri tore the Emperor's hand from her chest. Palpatine shrieked and fell back, and the image of the worldship around them shattered, replaced by the slightly less dismal one of Lord Res's tomb. The shadow of the old Sith Master now twisted in apparent agony above the black pyramid before giving a final ghastly shriek and dissolving into mist. The pyramid itself shuddered a moment longer, then burst into a rain of glossy fragments.

    The Master stared at his ally's fate in openmouthed shock. "How-?" was all he had time he had to whisper before Tahiri leapt forward and tackled him to the ground. Reaching up, she placed each of her hands on the side of his face and then pressed his forehead to her own. If there was any of the Anakin she knew in there, she had to try and find it, make contact. Mustering all her will, she reached into that part of herself she'd once shared with him…

    And then she was blasted off of him. Rolling to her feet, she stood and saw the Master apparently at war within himself, doubled over and clutching his head while mouthing curses in Basic, Yuuzhan Vong, and what must have been the old Sith language. Finally he straightened up and opened his mouth wide… while another image of Anakin overlaid itself on him. This one was translucent and glowed blue, but its eyes were not yellow, and its face was at piece, not contorted in madness.

    "Anakin?" Tahiri whispered in awe. Had she somehow managed to draw his spirit back into this body? Was it even possible? "Is that you?"

    "Tahiri," Anakin said, and the ghostly image smiled even as the flesh-and-blood one beneath it writhed in helpless rage. "Yes, it's me. You managed to put enough of your strength into our bond to let me manifest myself in this body, but I can't stay long. I've been dead for more than three years and I've had to move on, and his will is horribly strong."
    "Anakin," Tahiri whispered, tears at the edges of her eyes; she didn't bother to wipe them away. "I was just trying to awaken enough of you in him to weaken him, maybe turn him against himself… I didn't think…"

    "It's okay, Tahiri," Anakin said. "I'm at peace now. I can't come back completely, but to have a chance to talk to you one last time is something I never imagined I'd have until you passed on as well. I wish I could have been there for everything you went through, but you met your challenges and overcame them- I've never been prouder to have been your friend, or to have loved you." A spasm of pain crossed the ghostly face. "I'm sorry we don't have longer."
    "I'm going to have to kill you, aren't I?" Tahiri whispered, her mouth dry.

    Anakin nodded. "I will hold him for as long as I can, but he can't be allowed to escape. He's strong enough that who knows how much damage he could do before he was stopped. In a moment, he'll force me out, and when he does, you know what you have to do." A glowing, ghostly hand reached out and touched Tahiri's face; it felt like a cool breeze. "Don't be sad. They're both wrong, you know- the Sith think death is the enemy, and the Yuuzhan Vong think death is their friend, but the truth is, there is no death."
    "There is the Force," Tahiri finished the last line of the Jedi Code and found herself smiling through her tears. "I love you," she said.

    Anakin's ghost gave a lopsided grin and for a moment he resembled nothing so much as a younger version of his father. "I know," he said. "Now, Tahiri!"
    The young Jedi stepped forward called her lightsaber to her hand, planting its emitter firmly against the Master's chest. The glowing image of Anakin wavered for a moment, seemed to whisper "goodbye", and then was gone. The Master groaned at his departure and refocused his eyes on Tahiri.

    "You will pay for that," he snarled; there was nothing of Anakin in his face now. "I will destroy you, and then…" His voice trailed off as he looked down and saw where his enemy's weapon was positioned.
    "About what you were going to say?" Tahiri asked. "I don't think so." Before the Master could respond, she pressed the activation stud. She heard the distinctive snap-hiss and then the blade burst from the middle of the Master's back. His eyes widened in sudden horror, and then the life dimmed out of them as she pulled the saber out of him. The body slumped to the floor of the tomb- and then vanished in a burst of blue-white flame.

    Tahiri turned and ran as the raw power of the dark side filled the tomb. She barely made it to the corridor she had descended before the flames dimmed and receded, but even as she did so she heard a hideous rumbling all about her. The entire tomb was collapsing. Drawing on all her powers of Force and body, Tahiri forced herself to run as fast as she'd ever run before, the sound of falling stone echoing behind her. Finally she thought she saw the sickly light of Korriban's sky ahead of her- and then the entire floor gave way beneath her, and Tahiri found herself plummeting into darkness.

    Someone caught her, not with arms but with the Force. Tahiri could feel her body be hoisted up out of the pit and then out of the tomb entirely and under the broodingly overcast sky. She hit the ground with a muffled thump, then turned to look at her rescuer.

    "Well, Jeedai," Keenah said. "I take it from the fact that you are here and the Master is seemingly buried beneath this rubble that the gods favored you rather than he in your struggle." The priestess regarded the Jedi for a long moment, her expression unreadable. "And that means that I have a rather important decision to make."

    # # # # # # # # # # # # #

    The Yuuzhan Vong surrounded Jaina, their eyes cold and weapons raised. She kept her saber raised before her, eyes tracking down the line of warriors looking for some weakness she could exploit. Even a Jedi couldn't take this many, and though it was possible she could escape, her odds of doing so looked decidedly low.

    So, she decided, it was time to change the rules. As quickly as she could, she reached into her belt and pulled out her comlink. "Cappie, now!" she shouted.

    The Yuuzhan Vong paused, seemingly uncertain of what to make of the apparently meaningless words- and then fire rained down on them from the sky. Jaina's x-wing swooped low through the Valley, firing into the mob of warriors, killing some and forcing the rest to take cover. The fighter landed beside its owner, and Jaina used a Force-assisted leap to reach the cockpit and pull herself inside.

    "Thanks, Cappie," she said to her astromech, who beeped happily in response. Smiling coldly, Jaina took manual control of the X-wing and lifted it off the ground with weapons primed to face the warriors who now clustered on the Valley floor. Some looked determined to face their deaths with honor as they bought time for the others to flee back to their own ship and even the playing field.

    Jaina growled in frustration- she didn't like the idea of firing into unprotected beings on the ground, even if they were Vong- but before either party to make a move, a thunderous roar echoed through the Valley, far louder than the detonation of Corran's charges had been. On the ridge above, the tomb that the warriors had been guarding shuddered and began to collapse in on itself. While it did so, all seemed to stand in limbo, the warriors pointing and shouting in what looked like almost religious horror, while Jaina herself was consumed with fear for her friend. Finally, the destruction subsided, and shortly after two figures appeared on the path that had lead to the tomb.

    Both were female, one a tall, black-haired, heavily-tattooed Yuuzhan Vong, the other a slight golden-haired human, and to Jaina's surprise they were walking together, not in any apparent conflict. The Yuuzhan Vong- who must have been that priestess, Keenah- stepped forward and began to address the warriors at length in their language, and whatever she said, it had a dramatic effect, with many of them going to their knees and others screaming in what sounded like disbelief and rage.

    Jaina activated her comlink. "Tahiri," she said into it, "what's going on down there? What's she saying?"

    "Keenah is telling the warriors that the gods have withdrawn their favor and that they should surrender," Tahiri said, her voice sounding determined, but with something that sounded almost sad beneath the surface. "It's over."
  10. MasterGhandalf

    MasterGhandalf Jedi Knight star 3

    Oct 25, 2009
    Epilogue: I, Warrior
    "… after that, there's not much to tell, really," Tahiri said to Master Skywalker. "Most of the warriors, adepts, and acolytes surrendered when Keenah told them too, and she helped us subdue some of the troublemakers. Jaina contacted the Alliance fleet and they sent a Mon Cal cruiser to escort the coralcraft to a moon on the edge of the Unknown Regions, where Sekot will send representatives to take custody of them. Ziil went with them- I imagine on Sekot they're already telling stories about how he fought beside the Slayer of Shedao Shai to defeat Kizin Qel the Mad Master Shaper." She spread her hands. "Then we came back to Ossus to report to you."

    Master Skywalker was quiet for a moment as he seemed to take everything in. He was the first to whom Tahiri had told the full story of the Master's true nature and how she'd defeated him, and she found herself wondering nervously what he'd say. Finally, he just shook his head. "We probably should have seen something like that coming," he said, "but it's still hard to believe that the Yuuzhan Vong actually managed to clone Anakin- and I don't think anyone expected a Sith spirit to possess the body." He looked directly at Tahiri. "And speaking of spirits, I'd like to talk with you more later about what happened when Anakin- the real Anakin- manifested through the clone's body. I've seen plenty of Force spirits before, but never anything quite like that."

    "It was him," Tahiri whispered. "For a little while, at least, the real Anakin was there. I think it was an effect of our bond, but beyond that, it's as much a mystery to me as to what really happened there."

    "Are you sure you'll be all right?" Master Skywalker asked, looking concerned. "To have to kill someone who looked exactly like the person you loved and to see his spirit just before you did it can't have been easy."

    "I'll be fine," Tahiri told him. "I made my peace with what happened to Anakin when my old selves merged together- seeing him again was hard, but like the Code says: there is no death, there is the Force. I'll make it."

    Master Skywalker put his hand on her shoulder. "You will," he said quietly. "Is there anything else?"

    "One more thing, actually," Tahiri said, standing and walking over to the door of the Skywalkers' dwelling. "I brought someone with me who wanted to meet you. I think you'll be interested to talk to them."
    Master Skywalker stood as well, looking intrigued, as Tahiri opened the door. A tall woman in heavy brown robes with the hood up stepped inside. She looked around briefly as if to make sure that she and the two Jedi were alone, and then reached up two taloned hands and pulled her hood back, revealing a face that might almost have been human were it not for its slate-grey skin, flat nose, and intricate network of tattoos and scars.

    "You are the Master Jeedai?" Keenah asked.

    "I am," Master Skywalker said. "You must be the priestess Tahiri told me about- the one that can touch the Force. I'd actually been hoping to talk to you- I only know of one other member of your species who had the Force, and he died fighting my nephew. I would like to hear your story."

    "I am a member of the priest caste, a servant of the gods' will," Keenah said. "Twice I thought I had found a conduit to that will, but both the old ways of my people and the ways of the Sith failed me. Both fell before the Jeedai." She paused and drew a deep breath, as if what she was about to say was extremely difficult. "I believed I was chosen by the gods for a special destiny. I was wrong. I surrender myself not to your Galactic Alliance or to the world called Zonama Sekot, but to the Jeedai, for I still seek the will of the gods. Perhaps it is your way that will finally help me find it."

    # # # # # # # # # # # # #

    Tahiri sat in the cockpit of Memories of Yavin, using the Force to balance her lightsaber on the tip of one finger as she stared out the viewports at the landscape of Ossus, a planet that had been brutally damaged but not destroyed, not broken. Like me, she thought.

    Ever since her integration- or even before that, since her shaping- Tahiri had been plagued by a single question: who am I? A human raised by the Tusken Raiders and a Jedi who had almost become a Yuuzhan Vong, it was difficult for her to sort out anything close to an answer. But now, thinking on it, she thought she knew.

    She was a warrior. Not a Yuuzhan Vong warrior, driven to fight for the gods' glory, but an indomitable spirit, someone driven to fight for her friends, her beliefs, and her own identity because someone had to. She was someone who had been tried terribly, but had emerged from her trials as someone strong. Maybe Anakin's vision of her was still her destiny, but she didn't think it was any more than becoming a second Darth Vader had truly been his. She had chosen to reject the false Anakin, the Master, and though she might falter, she remained determined to reject the dark, to fight against it.

    Tahiri flipped her lightsaber into the air and caught it, hanging it on her belt. She didn't know what her future held in store, but for now, she was determined to face it and survive. It was who she was.

    AN: Wooo! I'm so sorry this ended up taking over three years to write and publish- blame me working on other projects for fanfic and elsewhere, getting distracted by having the EU raise my hopes with Fate of the Jedi only to disappoint again (it's still better than LOTF, but that's not saying a whole lot), and various other things. Anyway, I'm so glad to finally be done, and I hope I did Tahiri (and Corran, Jaina, and the other canon characters) justice. I have plans for a longer series set in this AU, albeit with a broader scope and more a sequel to the NJO as a whole than this fic, and I intend to begin posting it soon. Thanks to everyone who stuck with me during this unintentionally drawn-out tale!