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Before - Legends [SWTOR] Enantiodromia

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by arkham618, Oct 18, 2020.

  1. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 16b

    “The cries of the terentatek seem to be growing more distant,” Maphis observed. “I think we can safely climb down, now.”

    Alina stirred in Maphis’ arms. She’d begun to doze at some point during the day and was momentarily alarmed at her incaution. The man beside her was Sith, after all, and thus her enemy. The fact that he’d been unexpectedly accommodating since the cave, had even risked his life to help her and Yuli, didn’t change that fact. Did it? Alina touched fingers to lips as she pondered the second kiss. And what had that been about? She found her mouth involuntarily curling into a faint smile at the recollection and cursed under her breath, the smile quickly inverting into a vexed frown. What’s that bloody Sith playing at? Alina leaned forward, loosing herself from Maphis’ grip, shimmied along the branch a few centimeters, folded her arms, and stewed.

    Maphis bemusedly stared at the pilot’s back, eyes lingering on the strands of auburn hair that had come loose from her regulation braid, then shrugged. He glanced down at the forest, which spread out beneath the great tree like an emerald ocean, waves gently rippling across the canopy with each lazy zephyr that touched its surface. Here and there, the sea parted as upthrust rock pierced the canopy, or coursing water cut channels through the crowding growth. The Sith scanned the vicinity, searching for the place where he’d parked his fighter.

    There! Perhaps 1,600 meters distant: the uppermost step of a stone terrace, mottled with greenery, down which fell a complex sequence of waterfalls, at the base of which sat the lake where the crashed Republic shuttle had come to rest. Maphis cursed his luck. The circuitous route he and the pilot had been forced to take to evade the terentatek had cost them significant ground. Six hundred meters in a forest crawling with monsters might as well be 1,600 kilometers.

    Maphis glanced at a chronometer discretely woven into his sleeve. He and Alina were critically short of time. The fighter would self-destruct in only a few hours. To compound their troubles, the sun was already dipping toward the horizon. It would be dark soon.

    The Sith extended his hand and gently placed it on Alina’s shoulder. “Come,” he insisted, “we really must go. There’s no time to tarry.” She surprised him by not shrinking from his touch. Maphis heard the pilot sigh, watched her shift on the branch to face him. Her face resolute, Alina drew her blaster and looked down.

    “All right,” she replied, “let’s go.”

    Maphis smiled appreciatively at the pilot's doughtiness. Then he tilted sharply to one side and slid off the branch, eliciting a startled gasp from Alina, who reached for him as he fell. Black robes billowed around the Sith as he plummeted toward the earth. At the last possible moment, Maphis arrested his fall with a cushioning kinetic blast that sent leaves and twigs scattering.

    Alina gawped, then shouted some indiscernible rebuke from high overhead.

    “Jump!” Maphis replied, unperturbed by the faint abuse raining down on him.

    Alina said something unintelligible.

    “Come on, jump!” Maphis repeated. “It’s all right, I’ll catch you!”

    There was a long pause. Maphis watched as Alina shimmied toward the tree’s axis and gazed down with an obvious look of trepidation on her face. Slowly, carefully, she stood, bracing herself against the trunk, closed her eyes, muttered, and leapt.

    Alina screamed as she fell. “You damned, bloody Sith, if I survive this I’ll kill–” She yelped as her descent abruptly slowed, then stopped a few meters above the ground. Maphis stood nearby, his hands outstretched, gingerly handling her with invisible fingers. “–you!” Alina angrily finished.

    Maphis released the pilot, and she struck the ground with an undignified oof.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2021
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  2. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Apologies for the overlong delay.

    ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ---- ----

    Part 17

    Maphis quietly slunk through the forest, hunching low to minimize his profile, darting from tree to tree as his senses strained for signs of terentatek. Alina followed a few paces behind, carefully watching the Sith for indications of danger.

    The forest was eerily quiet. The only audible sounds were of distant terentatek, but the quality of the beasts’ cries had changed at some point during the day. Gone were the hungry growls and furious roars that had terrorized the forest since the humans arrived on the planet, replaced instead by shrieks of pain and...fear? Maphis was mystified at the transformation. Had the creatures started preying on one another for lack of plentiful quarry? His pondering was cut short by the sight of a hulking black shape among the trees.

    Maphis ducked, signaling with his hand for Alina to do likewise. She instantly crouched beside him, peering round his shoulder at the looming bulk of a terentatek, mere meters away.

    “Grife!” Maphis exhaled, angry with himself for not spotting the beast sooner. It’s nearly on top of us! How did I not sense it until now?

    Maphis quickly recomposed himself and assessed the situation. The terentatek was quite large, with long, glistening tusks and a lustrous carapace. A bull, perhaps? From its vantage, the creature would easily spot the duo if they tried to sneak past. Indeed, it was a small miracle it hadn’t already noticed them.

    Seeing no way around, Maphis steeled himself for a fight. Perhaps he could cripple the terentatek with a surprise attack, slow it down enough that he and Alina could sprint past it to safety. Maphis faced the pilot and silently gesticulated with his hands, communicating his intentions with crisp gestures. Apprehensively, Alina nodded and drew her blaster, prepared to support the Sith as best she could. Maphis reached for the lightsabers at his belt, gripped their hilts, stood and prepared to charge.

    Alina grabbed Maphis by the arm. “Wait!” she shouted. The Sith hissed in surprise and stared disbelievingly at the pilot, shocked at her imprudence.

    “Are you out of your mind?” Maphis rasped.

    “Look,” Alina persisted, pointing at the terentatek. “It’s so still. And quiet. Is it even breathing?” On a hunch, she picked up a rock and hurled it at the terentatek. Maphis winced as the projectile struck the creature’s hide and clattered into the underbrush. The terentatek didn’t move.

    Surprised, Maphis experimentally levitated a rock of his own and hurled it with much greater force at the bull. It ricocheted with a loud crack, but the terentatek remained still.

    Maphis ignited his lightsabers and began cautiously inching toward the still, silent behemoth. As he drew closer, he noticed several deep gouges in the creature’s carapace. Circling around in front of the terentatek, he saw that it was slumped over, eyes glazed, cradling with one gnarly arm a pile of gory entrails that had erupted through a gash in its abdomen. The terentatek’s other arm, severed at the elbow, lay meters away in the brush. The air stank of blood and feces.

    The terentatek was quite dead.

    “Grife,” Maphis whispered as Alina trotted up beside him.

    “What did this?” the pilot inquired, her eyes transfixed by the gruesome sight.

    Maphis gestured with a lightsaber. “The edges of the wounds are cauterized,” he observed.

    “Yuli?!” Alina gasped, the question tumbling unbidden from her mouth.

    “It would seem so,” Maphis replied. “Whatever has snapped within the young Jedi’s mind has unleashed a torrent of violent emotion. He’s unconsciously drawing on that emotion to drastically increase his power.” Maphis further surveyed the carnage. “As a Sith, he’d have been trained to harness such feelings and constructively channel them. As a Jedi, however, he was instead taught to suppress them at all cost.” He looked at Alina, a hint of genuine concern on his face. “If his Jedi training has failed him, I suspect he is woefully unprepared for what he is experiencing right now. There’s no telling what he might do in such a state.”

    Alina fiercely shook her head. “You’re discussing him as if he’s some depraved monster,” she objected. “I refuse to believe that’s the case.”

    Maphis shrugged. “What you choose to believe is your business,” he replied. “But Yuli is no longer the padawan who fled with you to this planet. He has changed, and you’d best heed that fact.”

    Alina cast down her eyes and contemplatively stared at the ground. “Yuli is not lost,” she finally, defiantly spoke. “He’s confused and frightened and despairing, but he is not lost.” She pleadingly met Maphis’ gaze. “You made a promise,” she said. “Do you intend to keep it or not?”

    Maphis sighed. “As I said, I will help the Jedi to the best of my ability.” He considered Alina for several long heartbeats. “But if it comes to a choice between us and him–”

    Alina closed her eyes, knowing the words that implicitly followed. “Please don’t let it come to that,” she entreated.

    Maphis’ eyes narrowed and his mouth tightened. Fists clenched, he turned away from the pilot without replying and piercingly stared into the forest. Fresh shrieks issued from the hazy green depths, as distant, unseen monsters died beneath a hateful crimson blade. Maphis unclenched his fists and stared at his tense fingers for a long while. Then his gaze drifted back to Alina.

    “I’ve already made my choice,” whispered the Sith, almost inaudibly. “The Jedi will have to make his own.”
     
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  3. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    The end of this sounds almost like Maphis has fallen in love with Alina.
     
  4. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 18

    Maphis and Alina carefully inched their way through the forest, coming every so often upon a fresh terentatek corpse. The extent of the devastation surrounding the slain beasts overawed them. Trees were gouged and splintered, rocks scored and shattered. The monsters themselves were in dizzyingly variable states of gruesome dismemberment. Everywhere, the stench of blood and bile and excrement filled the air.

    Maphis supportively held Alina as she retched at the sight of two terentatek cubs, barely man-sized, chopped into numerous pieces.

    “We can’t stop,” Maphis urged. “We must go on.”

    Alina recomposed herself and pressed forward.

    After what seemed like a small eternity, the pair emerged into a clearing, rushing water cascading down a gentle incline before them. The stream poured over a precipice some scores of meters away: the waterfall that fell into the lake near where the Republic shuttle had crashed!

    Maphis glanced upstream, toward the stony promontory where he’d parked his fighter. The stream crashed down from the heights in a series of steps, gray waters, flecked white with foam, coursing toward him, falling again and again amid splash and spray.

    The Sith pointed. “There’s my ship,” he informed. “Atop that rise. If we follow the stream, we’ll arrive at the summit.”

    Alina wiped her sweat-slicked brow and gazed in the direction Maphis had pointed. Indeed, atop the nearby ridge, she spotted the starkly angular silhouette of a spacecraft, perched atop a jutting cliff. Her eyes refocused more closely, however, and spotted several figures, sloshing and splashing upstream of their position. One human, several others less so.

    “Yuli!” Alina gasped.

    The Jedi was engaged in an ecstatic dance of artfully-dealt death. Terentatek bore down on him from all sides as he stood in the midst of the stream, roaring and slavering with unbridled hunger, heedless of the presence – or the fates – of their brethren. Yuli, the air about him rippling with malevolent energy, lunged and slashed at the beasts with his murderous crimson blade, severing limbs, spilling bellies, invisibly grasping and rending bodies with the Force. Terentatek dissolved in their tens before the enraged padawan, and the stream flowed a red so dark it was almost black with their ichor.

    Maphis stopped and stared at Yuli, awestruck by the power he witnessed emanating from the young Jedi. Alina also briefly paused, stood for a while...and then ran directly toward the padawan.

    Reaching Yuli, Alina collapsed in the water, which flowed around her, soaking her uniform and drenching her auburn hair, which limply hung about her face. More terentatek swarmed upon the bank of the stream. She ignored them.

    “Yuli,” Alina implored, in a voice so low it was barely audible above the rushing water. “I know you grieve the loss of your Master. I grieve him too. But what you’re doing is wrong!” Her voice gained volume and intensity. “Vir would weep to see you acting this way. He’d want you to escape. To survive. To return to your Order and carry on its mission.”

    Yuli, his hand outstretched, crushed the shell of a charging terentatek, which he’d levitated several meters off the ground. The creature fell in a disheveled heap to the water, violently spasmed, and died. He turned to face Alina, his eye, flecked amber and red, boring into her huddled frame.

    “Vir was weak,” Yuli replied. “He allowed himself to be injured in the crash, and that left him vulnerable. He died because he lacked the strength to preserve himself against the myriad threats on this planet” Yuli’s face darkened terribly, and Alina found it difficult to meet his gaze. “Vir warned me that a Jedi’s life would be full of loneliness, suffering, and sorrow.” Yuli grimaced. “He led me to believe such an existence was bearable, that a Jedi could reconcile himself to such loss.” Tears began to stream down the padawan’s face. “But it wasn’t true. I feel the loss of him, deep within my heart, and–“ Yuli choked. “–and it’s the most unbearable thing. The most painful thing.” Yuli looked at Alina with a plaintive eye. “I can’t–” He choked again. “I can’t–”

    Alina slowly rose and moved through the water toward Yuli, who stood immobile, shaking in the midst of the stream. She cupped his face with her hands and spoke. “It’s hard, I know. Bur Vir loved you.” Yuli’s eye violently jerked to meet hers. “And I know he wouldn’t want you to die here.” She smiled at the padawan, whose hostility melted away beneath her gentle gaze. Yuli lowered his lightsaber and began to weep, his eye tightly clenched. “Please,” Alina continued, “leave with us.”

    Yuli stood deathly still for a long while. The evil aura about him thrashed and flickered, then subsided. Finally, he opened his eye. The amber and red flecks were gone. “Okay,” he replied, grasping his head with one hand. “Okay.” He glanced about, saw the terentatek swarming upon the shore. “That’s easier said than done, however,” he somberly observed.

    “Indeed it is,” Maphis interjected, arriving beside the pair. He fixed Yuli with his eyes. “We work together or we die, Jedi,” the Sith curtly proffered.

    “Very well,” Yuli agreed.

    As monsters closed in all about them, the trio formed a triangle, facing out against their common enemies, backs facing one another, weapons readied. As one, they moved through the water, edging toward their destination.

    The terentatek bellowed and charged.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021
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  5. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Sorry I did not reply to this sooner. I wasn't sure how exactly to respond to your inference, but I will say, Maphis' feelings are definitely powerfully steering his actions, and they are...very strongly focused on a certain individual in his immediate company. Is it love? Would a Sith admit as much? The feeling, whatever it is, is inducing Maphis to risk his own life for the sake of something other than himself. He rationalizes it as the honorable fulfilment of a pledge, but is that just a convenient excuse?
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2021
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  6. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 19a

    The trio hurried upstream, leaving behind them a steaming circle of broken terentatek bodies.

    Maphis could not help but regard Yuli with suspicion. Though Alina had seemingly calmed the Jedi, he could still feel the intense emotions seething beneath the padawan’s facade. Fear, anger, hatred, but also shame. That last one troubled the Sith. While aggressive feelings could be drawn upon to increase one’s power, shame was insidious and would subtly derange the Jedi in unpredictable ways. And there was something else, roiling and thrashing inside the padawan, which Maphis could not readily identify. Something primal. A deep and insistent yearning.

    Maphis made sure to place himself between Yuli and Alina as they sloshed shin deep through the water. Behind them, more terentatek emerged howling and slavering from the forest. They instantly set upon the corpses of their fallen brethren and began to feast.

    “Is there no end to these monsters?” Alina exclaimed. “Where are they all coming from?”

    “They’ve probably been breeding for centuries,” Maphis replied. “In the dark recesses of this planet. Terentatek can hibernate for decades. When suitable prey presents itself, they swarm.”

    “Suitable prey?” Alina inquired, huffing as the incline steepened.

    “Force-sensitives,” Yuli answered, his voice steely and his mouth set in a hard, thin line. The Jedi sniffed. “They can smell the Force on other living things.” His eye, queerly glinting, settled on Maphis. “The taste of a Force-sensitive’s blood is like sweetest nectar to them.”

    Maphis studied the Jedi. Noted the padawan’s blood-stained robes. Thought back to the horrifying massacre in the forest, just after the ritual.

    No, this apprentice was not in control of himself. He was ravenously hungry. Maphis’ mind raced. Why then has he not attacked me?

    Yuli continued to gaze at the Sith, coolly regarding him from a perilously small distance.

    The three humans rounded a bend in the stream and saw before them a rocky promontory, abutting the watercourse. Atop it, the Sith’s fighter.

    Grife, Maphis realized, he wants the ship! If he stays here, he’ll eventually slay all the terentatek. But if he escapes off-planet, there’s a whole galaxy full of Force-sensitives he can hunt! With a mighty effort of will, Maphis suppressed his astonishment. Yuli continued to look at him with one hooded eye.

    Maphis shifted his gaze to Alina, who trudged beside him, oblivious to their true predicament. I promised her I’d do everything in my power to help the Jedi, Maphis agonized, but if I keep that promise, a monster will be unleashed on the galaxy. No matter what I do in the next few moments, Maphis realized, a pall of sadness crossing his face, I’ll hurt her.
     
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  7. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 19b

    Maphis grabbed Alina by the arm and yanked her closer, placed his lips millimeters from her ear, and whispered “Run!” The pilot, surprised, stared dumbly for an instant, then her eyes widened, spotting something past Maphis’ shoulder, and she shouted in alarm.

    Maphis pushed Alina hard, sent her stumbling away, ignited his lightsabers and crossed them over and behind his head, where they caught Yuli’s weapon as it arced toward him. The blades flashed and sparked as they pressed against one another. Maphis heaved upward in order to momentarily throw off Yuli, ducked and whirled to face the Jedi, brought up one saber to catch the next blow, thrust with the other at Yuli’s torso. The Jedi leapt back, clear of the blade’s reach, and fell into a low, predatory crouch, then stood and began to pace while still facing the Sith. Like an impatient beast.

    “Yuli, what are you do–?!” Alina exclaimed.

    “I said run!” Maphis interrupted. “To the ship. Now! I’ll follow as soon as I can.” Maphis did not wait to insure that Alina obeyed his command. He rushed at Yuli, blades whirling in a corkscrew of varicolored light. Yuli deftly deflected Maphis’ blows as Sith and Jedi spun round one another, their weapons humming and snapping. Alina briefly hesitated at the mesmerizing sight, then turned and ran, her tired legs bearing her up the rocky incline toward the angular Sith fighter, squat and black, at its summit.

    Below, the terentatek finished stripping the carcasses of their dead and turned their blood-slicked faces toward the promontory, where tiny, distant figures danced amid bright streamers of red and green and blue. They stood and howled, hurled themselves through the water, rushing toward the combatants, drawn by the scent of the Force.

    Alina ran until she felt her lungs would burst, dropped to her knees, panting, beside the Sith fighter’s fuselage. She turned back toward the base of the incline, saw Maphis still battling Yuli. The Jedi extended one hand, and the air around the Sith weirdly distorted. Maphis crossed his blades and dug in his heels as he was flung backward, his boots gouging shallow troughs in the loose soil. He recovered an instant too late. Yuli dashed toward Maphis, feinted high, and then slashed low at the Sith’s injured leg, catching it with the tip of his blade. Maphis yelped and went down. Alina gasped.

    Yuli towered over the Sith, glowering down at him with his one, baleful eye. An eye once again flecked amber and red. Wordlessly, Yuli reached out and levitated Maphis a few meters off the ground, left him suspended for a brief moment, and then savagely flung him up the slope. Maphis struck an upthrust stone column and landed with an agonized groan, his head lolling. Yuli doggedly approached the Sith, levitated him again, made ready to hurl him even farther up the slope. Toward the fighter. Toward Alina.

    He doesn’t want me dead, Maphis apprehended. Not yet. He needs me to access the ship. Maphis glanced over his shoulder at the stone column. He’s going to be sorely disappointed. The Sith spun in midair, hurled one of his lightsabers at the column, slicing through it at the base. With his freed hand, he yanked hard at the rock with the Force, toppling it, and then flung it through the air at Yuli. The Jedi predictably bisected the massive projectile with his lightsaber, but Maphis had counted on that. Dropping painfully to the ground, he caught the glowing halves of stone and set them spinning, so that they smashed into one another and shattered into numerous smaller pieces. He then pulled with all his strength, arresting the shards’ momentum, flinging them back toward Yuli, who was forced to turn and face them. Yuli attempted to deflect the hail of projectiles, but several of them struck him, hard, and he was knocked flat on his back.

    Maphis bolted, limping as fast as his broken and burnt leg would allow. Behind him, Yuli released a blood-curdling, bestial roar that was soon answered by similar roars farther down the incline. Maphis briefly glanced backward, saw Yuli, his robes slashed and freshly bloodied, slowly stand as a small horde of terentatek barreled up the path behind him. Yuli’s lightsaber flashed crimson, and the Jedi bounded toward Maphis at inhuman speed. Maphis summoned the last bit of his power and catapulted high into the air, his trajectory carrying him the last few dozen meters to the fighter. He landed hard, and his injured leg, not yet fully mended, snapped. Maphis screamed.

    Strong hands, Alina’s hands, pulled Maphis up and pressed him against the fuselage. Maphis slapped a recessed panel with his hand and a mechanical voice addressed the pair from an external loudspeaker. “Pilot recognized. Awaiting command.”

    Maphis gasped and his vision swam. “Open canopy,” he barked. “Begin takeoff procedure.” A loud clunk issued from the canopy, which rose and slid back to expose the cockpit. The fighter thrummed and whined as its engines rapidly spun up. “Designate new pilot: Thrain, Alina. Lieutenant.”

    A lance of red light flickered across Alina from somewhere atop the fighter, scanning her from head to foot. “Personnel not recognized,” the mechanical voice intoned.

    “Emergency override: Mern, Thesh, Senth, Aurek, 1, 1, 3, 8. Execute!”

    “Acknowledged. Personnel recognized. Privileges transferred.”

    “That’s it,” Maphis exhaled. “The ship is yours. Get us out of here.” Alina nodded, then surprised Maphis by kissing him.

    “For luck,” she explained. Then she clambered up the fuselage and dropped into the pilot’s seat, began furiously jabbing buttons and flipping switches. The whine of the fighter’s engines grew more shrill, and the craft shuddered and rose several decimeters off the ground, then stopped, hovering in place.

    Maphis steeled himself against the pain in his leg, turned and grabbed a handhold on the side of the fighter. Gritting his teeth, he pulled himself up, planted his good foot against the fuselage. The fighter rose several meters as Alina pulled away from the promontory. Maphis reached for another handhold. Alina engaged the autopilot, leaned over the lip of the still-open canopy, and held her hand out to Maphis. The promontory receded beneath them.

    Alina’s eyes went wide and her mouth opened, speaking words that were lost to the roar of the fighter’s engines. She pointed with her proffered hand, and Maphis followed her finger with his eyes. Saw Yuli, sprinting up the incline, reach the cliff’s edge, and leap. The Jedi hurtled through the air on a parabola that brought him directly alongside the fighter. Lashing out with one hand, Yuli grabbed Maphis by his broken leg and clung to the Sith as his body violently whipped and dangled beneath him.

    Maphis’ scream was drowned by the wind and the tremendous noise of the engines. He fought against the urge to retch, desperately clinging to the fuselage as Yuli latched on with his other hand and began pulling himself up the length of Maphis’ body. Maphis feebly tried to shake the Jedi loose, but couldn’t risk losing his grip on the handhold. Yuli pulled himself up almost even with Maphis, glared into the Sith’s eyes...and savagely bit him on the neck, tearing loose a chunk of flesh with his teeth. Maphis screamed again, in surprise and fear as much as pain, and watched horrified as Yuli savored the blood dripping from his lips. The Jedi grinned predatorily, his teeth stained red.

    There was a sudden flash, and Yuli’s shoulder erupted in a gout of burnt cloth and skin. The padawan looked briefly confused. A second blast struck in quick succession, near Yuli’s armpit. Maphis, seizing the opportunity, viciously smashed his forehead against Yuli’s nose, which trailed scarlet as the Jedi lost his grip and began to fall.

    Maphis watched Yuli plummet toward the promontory below, a look of shock and dismay painted on his bloody face. He landed hard amid a mob of shrieking terentatek. The Sith averted his gaze, looked up, saw Alina, a smoking blaster in her hand, tears streaming down her face. He reached up to her and she grabbed his forearm, pulled him into the cockpit, and eased him as gently as she could into the co-pilot’s seat.

    The canopy slid shut, locked into place. The fighter rocketed skyward.
     
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  8. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    16–19a: Caught up at last! Looks like what I feared might happen has happened: Yuli isn't just Yuli but has some of the terentatek in him, too, and as Maphis rightly notes, saving him really and truly looks like it will unleash some pretty devastating destruction on the rest of the Galaxy. A definite dilemma—but it's encouraging to see that Alina's words to Yuli seemed to have a good effect and at least calmed him for a bit. There's some Human left in Yuli yet, so I'm holding out hope!

    19b: Yes, this climactic battle scene gets its own paragraph and commentary! I can only imagine what it must be like for Alina to be watching Maphis and Yuli duel like this and not be able to help either of them even though she by now is rooting for both of them, in a way. Am I right that I see Yuli basically leading an army of terentateks? And that a little later, both he and Maphis are battling each other hanging off the side of the fighter while it's in motion? And, best of all—that it's Alina who saves everyone by blasting Yuli back down to the surface? I guess I am not surprised that she, the "neutral" party of sorts, ended up being the deciding factor—I liked her from the start—but, again, given that Yuli started out as her friend, it must have been very painful for her to do that, and I don't blame her for crying. (And I imagine she's also crying for the fact that the Human didn't win out over the beast after all. =(( ) So now she's in the unenviable position of having to escape the planet with a former enemy while leaving a former friend behind to be taken over by the beast within him—man, that really is rough, to say the least. But it looks like the story is not over yet, and there may still be some developments that change everything! So, keep it coming, and keep up the great work! =D=
     
  9. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    As always, I'm grateful for your continued interest and support. Your feedback has encouraged me to keep writing, even through creative dry spells, and now, almost a full year later, the story is finally reaching its conclusion. Thank you. And I hope the ending satisfies.

    Hmm. I didn't intend to create the impression that Yuli was leading the terentatek. He hates the creatures and wants them dead. And the terentatek have no loyalty even to their own, as evidenced by the fact that they feasted on their own dead. Should I rewrite that segment to make it more explicit that he and the terentatek are separate, if related, threats?

    I always intended Alina as the everywoman, who provides a grounded third-party perspective on the conflict between Jedi and Sith, Light and Dark. I wanted her to be understandably stressed and alarmed by the titanic clash of forces around her, but also tough and pragmatic in a pinch. I hope that's come out in her characterization. Ultimately, she had to be the one to pull the (literal and figurative) trigger, because Maphis couldn't.
     
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  10. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 20a

    The farmer concluded his story, sad eyes fixed upon the hearth. Though he had withheld the most gruesome details from his children, he had not sugarcoated the account, and he could see that they were deeply troubled.

    Maya's eyes brimmed with tears in the firelight, and Benji stoically bit his lower lip. The children did not move or speak for what felt like an eternity, and the farmer silently cursed himself for subjecting them to such a heady and bitter tale.

    Why had he done it? It was as if some terrible urgency impelled him.

    It was Maya who finally broke the silence. "Papa," she whispered, her delicate voice barely perceptible above the crackling fire and the howling wind. "Did the Jedi – the padawan – did he die?"

    "I don't know, sweetheart," the farmer honestly replied. "He was never seen again after that day."

    "And the pilot?" Benji inquired, his voice cracking as he struggled not to sob. "What happened to her?"

    The farmer glanced at his wife, who stood at the entrance to the living room, arms folded about her waste, studying him with a pained but sympathetic expression on her face.

    "She flew the fighter into orbit of the planet," he replied, "where the craft was captured by victorious Republic warships." Maya and Benji looked up as he spoke the words, their eyes suddenly hopeful.

    "So she–" Benji began to ask.

    "Survived?" The farmer continued to gaze at his wife, wholly absorbed in the mesmerizing contours of her lovely face. "Yes. As did the Sith."

    Benji frowned, but Maya only stared at her father with piercing blue-gray eyes, and with a simple gesture that both shocked and humbled him, touched his cheek with her tiny hand. "What happened to the Sith?" she asked, simply, and tears began to stream unbidden down the farmer's face. He shook with barely-contained emotion, and Maya hugged him close and buried her face in his chest.

    "The Sith," the farmer replied, "was taken prisoner. Interrogated. Quite harshly." He wrapped his arms around his daughter. Bronzed arms, marred here and there by puckered electrical scars. "He bore the pain, however, and did not betray his oaths. When the Republic military could get nothing of value from him, they sent him to a detention facility, where he remained for the rest of the war."

    Maya whimpered, and the farmer drew her closer, kissed her head.

    "In the solitude of that place," the farmer continued, "the Sith had ample time to think. To reflect on all that had happened to him and all he had done, and to consider what he truly wanted from his life." He wiped his face with a soiled sleeve. "He was helped in this by the pilot, who corresponded with him whenever her duties allowed–" He again glanced at his wife. "–her letters buoying him through interminable days of confinement, as drugs coursed through his veins to dull his powers. When the war ended and he was finally released, she met him again on a neutral planet, far from the Empire and the Republic. There they found peace together, and there they remained."

    Benji stared uncomprehendingly at his father, while Maya fiercely clung to the farmer, openly weeping as the significance of his words washed over her.

    A sudden, deafening toll of thunder violently shook the domicile, and the front door exploded, peppering the foyer with debris. The children screamed as the lights in the house flickered and went out, leaving only the glow of the fire to illuminate the living area. Gaffer yelped with fright and fled into the kitchen, claws frantically skittering on the tile.

    Heavy footsteps thudded down the hallway from the ruined entrance, and a cowled figure, swathed in sodden rags, emerged from the shadows, a swollen satchel dangling from one hip, a menacing metal cylinder from the other. The figure stood, still and silent, regarding the farmer and his family for a long while.

    A sickly-sweet odor, like overripe fruit, permeated the house, and the farmer nearly gagged at the smell.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
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  11. arkham618

    arkham618 Jedi Master star 1

    Registered:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Part 20b

    "You are Maphis Arrak," the intruder finally spoke. It was not a question.

    The farmer's wife gasped in alarm, started toward her children, halted when the intruder raised his hand, palm outward. With his other hand, he pulled back his cowl, revealing a pale face cut from brow to chin by a milky-white scar, a misshapen nose at its center. He glared at the woman with a single, baleful eye.

    The farmer stood, carefully lowering his daughter to the chair he had just vacated.

    "I am," he replied, bluntly.

    Benji angrily screwed up his face. "NO!" he blurted. "We are the Serbanish family. My father's name is Thaddion!"

    The farmer turned to face his son, grief-stricken at the boy's bewildered expression. "My darling child," he explained, "my full name is Maphis Thaddion Serbanish-Arrak. I am he whom the stranger seeks."

    Benji fumed, unwilling to believe his father's words. "But–" he objected. "But that means–" Maphis watched as the boy struggled with the unwelcome news. "That means you're a–"

    "Sith?" the intruder completed, turning to face the boy. "Yeeesss!" he hissed. "Your father never told you, I see." He snorted. "No matter. It is irrelevant." He refocused his gaze on Maphis. "You know who I am." Again, his words were not a question.

    "I do," Maphis answered. "Yuli."

    The intruder visibly shook, as if hearing his name for the first time in years.

    "So you haven't forgotten," Yuli quietly rasped. His eye darted to the farmer's wife. "Nor you, Alina?"

    "No," Alina nervously replied, her eyes never leaving her children. "I haven't forgotten."

    "Good," Yuli replied. "Then you must know why I'm here."

    Maphis and Alina both looked at him now, surprised and uncertain.

    "No," Maphis replied. "I have no idea why you're here. Why disturb us, in this remote place, after all this time?"

    Yuli glowered at Maphis. By way of explanation, he unslung the satchel from his waist. It slouched to the floor and spilled forth a confusion of rattling objects. Maphis examined the contents, saw a congeries of severed terentatek claws and lightsabers in almost equal proportion. All stained and scored, as if from years of grinding against one another.

    "I killed them all," Yuli explained. "Every last monster on that forsaken planet." He grinned, maniacally. "And when they were all slain, I seized a scavenger ship, come to sift the leftovers of battle, and continued my hunt throughout the galaxy."

    "There are lightsabers in that pile," Maphis observed. "Of both Sith and Jedi make. How do you account for that?" Even as he asked the question, though, Maphis already knew the answer.

    "They're all monsters!" Yuli bellowed in reply. "All of them!" He gesticulated wildly. "They all hunger for the same thing. All of them are threats to the galaxy. They all deserve to die!" Maya and Benji cringed at the violence of Yuli's words, and Maphis bristled.

    "Is that why've you come?" Maphis demanded. "To extinguish my 'threat' to the galaxy?" He positioned himself between his family and Yuli. "I renounced the Sith, relinquished the Force! I've lived here in peace for years, as a farmer. I am no threat, to you or anyone else."

    Yuli's nostrils flared. "Lies!" he shouted. "There is no relinquishing the Force. No denying its power." He reached for the cylinder at his hip. Maphis recognized it: the work of his own hand, from half a lifetime ago. The lightsaber ignited, added its crimson glow to the ochre light of the hearth fire. "Fight me, now, Sith," Yuli demanded. "Let's finish what was started all those years ago!"

    "No," Maphis replied, simply.

    "What?" Yuli answered, uncomprehending.

    "No," Maphis repeated. "I will not fight you."

    Yuli blinked, his eye fixed on Maphis. "You won't fight?" he bemusedly inquired. "Really?" Yuli's words dripped with poison. "We shall see." He shot out his hand, and Maphis lifted off the ground, a sickening sound like grinding pel nuts emanating from the farmer's throat. Maphis futilely grasped at his neck as he hovered in midair. His vision began to blur and fade.

    "You leave my papa alone!" A fierce little voice pierced the darkness threatening to engulf Maphis, and the invisible ligature around his neck suddenly eased. Maphis flopped to the floor and gasped, greedily gulping down breaths of air as he struggled to regain his feet. His vision presently cleared and as Maphis looked up, he beheld his greatest fear splayed out before him.

    Maya had heedlessly thrown herself at the former Jedi, pummeling him ineffectually with her tiny fists. Amused, Yuli grabbed the girl by her shirt collar and lifted her bodily off the floor. Behind Maphis, Alina stifled an anguished cry and grabbed Benji, pulling him back as he prepared to charge after his sister. Maya, grunting angrily, continued to futilely punch and kick at the intruder.

    Holding Maya aloft, Yuli glanced at Maphis, a wicked smirk on his face. “One of your brats, eh? You and Alina certainly haven’t been idle.” He shifted his gaze to Maya. “Be still, little one, or I’ll dash your brains out on the wall.” Maya, suddenly cognizant of the danger she was in, stopped struggling and stared back at Yuli, her little brow furrowed, lower lip trembling.

    “She has spirit, like her mother!” Yuli laughed, harshly. Then his eye narrowed and he pulled the girl closer to his face. Curiously, he sniffed at her. The faintest whiff of overripe fruit wafted past his flared nostrils, and Yuli’s eye widened in surprise. “More than spirit,” he hissed, looking back at Maphis. “She has the stink of the Force on her.”

    “No!” Maphis cried.

    “Hah!” Yuli delighted. “She is so puny, I wouldn’t have suspected.” He tightened his grip on the girl, and she squealed as he spun her round and slung her beneath his arm, facing her father. “I don’t usually partake of children, Maphis, but if you refuse to fight, I’ll have to satisfy myself with your daughter instead!”

    “Yuli, let her go!” Alina pleaded.

    “Silence!” Yuli savagely retorted. “This is between me and the Sith.”

    Maphis slowly stood, glared at Yuli across the room, his body, backlit by the fire, preternaturally still despite the fury boiling up inside him.

    “Benji,” Maphis commanded without taking his eyes off Yuli. “Go to the master bedroom. Underneath the bed you will find a plain wooden box with a hinged lid and a latch. You’ll know the one when you see it. Fetch it and bring it to me.”

    “Papa?” Benji anxiously inquired.

    “Go,” Maphis calmly replied. “Now.”

    Alina loosed her grip on her son, and the boy hurried out of the room.

    Yuli nodded. “Good,” he commented. “I’m glad we’ve come to an understanding.” Slowly, he set Maya down on the floor, roughly patted her on the back. “Go to your mother,” he commanded, and Maya, sniffling, rushed past Maphis into Alina’s arms.

    Benji returned moments later with the box.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
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  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ah ha, back to the story’s opening frame, and I think I see how it fits together and who is who! Very intriguing “full circle” here, and it definitely tracks with how the story (that is, the one the farmer / Maphis is telling) ends. And I have a guess as to who might be showing up at the door, too… looking forward to seeing how it will all come together in 20b! :cool:

    (Edit: I see 20b went up right as I was writing this comment, so look for a separate comment to that one soon!)

    And gosh no, you don’t have to rewrite anything! I think I might just have been not understanding the scene in question quite aright. But some kind of bond or kinship between Yuli and the terentatek does seem to be present, that was my main point. :p
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2021
  13. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Me again—apologies for the double post. I guessed the visitor’s identity right, but wow, that wasn’t how I was expecting this reunion would go at all! In fact, there are a lot of things in the way the story is wrapping up that I wouldn’t have expected back when I first start the story—like Maphis actually reforming and ending up with Alina. The conforntation between Maphis and Yuli here is almost like the early ones between them in this story, but with the roles reversed. Of course, reversal is kind of what enantiodromia is all about, and I almost wonder if the cycle isn’t about to start all over again here, given what we now know Maphis has suppressed over numerous years. And I wonder if my guess is right about what’s in that box…? [face_thinking]
     
  14. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017

    I do believe he's in love! or Love at first bite?

    I'm really enjoying this story! (I'm on Part 11)
     
  15. PlanetSmasher

    PlanetSmasher Jedi Knight star 2

    Registered:
    Mar 14, 2017
    Dark Side ritual yielding Dark Side results....

    It's too bad that Yuli was affected more by the creature's violent nature than by his master's steady and calm wisdom.