27. The place was not difficult to find; the Dark Side exudes from it like a seeping black ooze. Kenobi all but balked at the entrance, and even I must admit that it is better not to face such a place alone. A topical vergence in the Force is not a phenomenon entirely unheard of; there have been many reports of such locations in remote areas, on far-flung worlds. But it is a rarity, and not something often encountered in any single Jedi’s life. Ilum is such a place, one where the balance of fundamental principles is delicate, but resolved in favor of Light. There, Light contains and surrounds Darkness. The famous visions that afflict seekers within the Caves are bounded by luminous walls, rooted in wisdom, in self-knowledge. Here, though…. This place is Dark. “Do you need help, master?” Kenobi’s clear voice echoes in the chamber beyond, but the overtones do not mask his characteristic hint of mischief. This crevice is narrow, and my shoulders are not. My companion barely fit through, and he is more compactly built in general. But that does not mean I require assistance. “I can manage,” I tell him, making sure to infuse the reassurance with stern authority. Don’t you even dare to think it, my friend. And I wriggle through, somehow or another. Force knows I had to fit into many a tight spot as old Yoda’s apprentice. His rule of thumb was this: if he could manage it, so ought his Padawan to be able. If I ever complained of having grown too tall for some exercise or obstacle course, I would always be informed that my own fault, was that. Kenobi rubs at the back of his neck, as though massaging away an incipient headache. It will only get worse as we proceed, but forward we must go. “One more cavern, I think,” he says, gazing round the dimly lit vastness. Sparks of light are reflected in the buried crystals. “The last cave had far more ithyll than this… “ He turns a slow circle and then points to a shadow in the back wall. “Over there.” We proceed slowly, reluctance dragging at both our footsteps. I raise my mental shields high, aware of the subtle influx of wicked suggestion, of hot passion. Beside me, I feel Kenobi tense, both physically and in the Force. We push onward, resisting the invisible barriers, the prickling mental invasion. The second passage is yet narrower. A child, or one of the skinny Feorians, might squeeze through here - but few others. “All right,” I sigh. “I surrender.” Peering through the jagged crack, I glimpse the splendor of the chamber behind. Limpid pools glitter beneath a crystal fretted roof. The magnificence of the treasures growing in inverted castles and towers, impossible mineral clouds filling the dome of this subterranean heaven. The price of a small planet is contained herein… and something else. I move aside, and Kenobi squints into the murky cavern in his turn. His shoulders twist in revulsion, and he steps back again, inhaling slowly. I can see perspiration beading at his temples. “How far in did your Padawan go?” I ask, amazed. The Feorians I can understand; they are none of them Force-sensitive. But that a child with little or no training could withstand the sheer intensity of this place… I can hardly believe it. “All the way – he was standing inside that last cavern. He showed me, master. I’m sure he was here. He described the feeling it evokes very accurately… though he didn’t convey the strength of the Force here.” Impossible. Yet true. That sums up the Skywalker boy nicely. I will meditate on the implications later. For now, we must complete this unpleasant task. “I don’t feel the presence of any particular sentient or other life form, do you?” He shakes his head. “The jabuur-weki doesn’t appear to be home,” he remarks, favoring me with a fleeting, wry smile. Another indication that the creature doesn’t truly exist? Or simply that it walks by night, and only returns to its lair in daylight hours? “Blast,” I mutter. “I’d like a better look at that inner cavern.” Kenobi gathers himself, and then exhales. “I can fit through,” he decides, eyes wandering over the fissure’s uneven length, assessing. “Unfortunately,” he adds. I nod. A Jedi does not turn back from a difficult task, and he is a Knight of the Order now. I watch as he sheds his cloak and squirms his way into the crevice, sideways, sucking in a deep breath as the rock presses painfully against his ribs. A minute or two of determined shimmying, and he’s managed to cram himself an impressive distance into the narrow aperture, like a cephalopod squeezing into a bottle. He stops, and unless I’m mistaken, he utters a very colorful phrase under his breath. “Well?” It is humorous. From this perspective, at least. He grumbles something else – but it ends in master, so I let it slide. He’s going to have some pretty bruises when this is done, anyway. “You could teach a Twi’Lek dancing girl a few moves,” I observe, teasingly. The Force flares with suppressed chagrin, and he writhes his way into freedom, grunting a bit as he escapes the crushing confines of the opening. I can hear his boots splashing in the water underfoot as he moves across the cavern. “This is the place,” he calls back to me. I wait outside the ragged threshold, listening to the drip of moisture, to the soundless growl of menace reverberating in the Force. Product of fantasy or not, the jabuur-weki has indeed chosen a suitable lair. I can see how this place might have worked upon the imaginations of the impressionable young Feorians, how the dark vergence might even have inspired visions of a nightmarish monster… “Look for a source,” I call into the echoing chamber beyond. I can just make out the glimmer of Kenobi’s tunics, reflecting the dull light of the ithyll crystal. His skin looks as pale as the blanched cloth. The Dark fills the cave, overflows it. The center of the vergence must be contained therein. And then I feel it – like a blast of icy wind in the Force. A presence, a knot of energy without name or form, a shadow coagulated from other clotted shadows. My saber’s blade leaps to meet the challenge, Light rising to greet the intruding Dark. And I pivot on the spot, eyes straining through the gloom to see what lurks in the space beyond, descending from the surface back to this secret tabernacle beneath the frozen earth. Impossible, yet true. The jabuur-weki has returned.