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Saga - OT The Shadow Lands (Book 4 of Journey into Darkness) Rebels AU

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Vialco, Sep 9, 2018.

  1. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Chapter One

    A jet-black starfighter reverted realspace, it’s matte-black hull all but disappearing from sight in the black empty void. It’s pilot adeptly maneuvered the controls and sent it rocketing forward, the huge Novaldex engines firing at full power. Ahead of it loomed a large red planet, it’s surface covered in huge swathes of deep crimson forests and wide, magenta deserts, both so vast that they were visible from orbit. In the far eastern reaches of the northern hemisphere rose a wide expanse of mountain ranges, appearing as a series of raised brown bumps from the visibility of orbit.

    As the pilot brought his ship down into the atmosphere, he reflected over the tense confrontation he’d left before coming to this world.

    “You lied to us, Ezra!”

    Hera’s voice was high-pitched with an undertone of disapproval and betrayal.


    “You told us that supply ship was deserted.”

    Ezra met her pale green gaze unflinchingly.

    “I knew you wouldn’t want to risk it if I told you the truth.”

    “So you just lied? How can we trust you anymore?”

    A look of disappointment crossed Hera’s face.

    “Ezra, do you see what you’re becoming?”

    Ezra felt the now-ever-present rage beginning to stir beneath the surface of his thoughts.

    “What I’m becoming is effective. I got you fifteen crates of proton bombs! You wouldn’t have any if it wasn’t for me!”

    Hera drew back at the naked anger in Ezra’s voice and Commander Sato spoke up.

    “Commander Bridger, we are grateful for your assistance. Do you have anything else for us?”

    Ezra turned to the greying officer.

    “Not right now, Commander. I’ll be in touch soon.”

    Sato gave him a curt nod, then placed a hand of Hera’s shoulder and drew her away, speaking to her in low tones.

    Ezra watched them go, and then turned to Rex, Sabine and Zeb who were standing behind him in the briefing room.

    “Kid, I don’t care how many proton bombs or anything else you get for us,” Zeb bellowed angrily, “If you yell at Hera like that again, I’ll-aggh.”

    The Lasat’s sentence ended in a cry of surprise as Ezra raised a hand towards, curling it into an arc. Zeb’s body began to rise up from the floor, caught in Ezra’s Force grip.

    “What’re you doing-ackkk!”

    Zeb’s hands went to his throat, clutching in vain at the invisible power that was slowly squeezing his windpipe closed.

    Ezra’s scarred face twisted into a look of pure hatred.


    “I am so sick of everyone telling me what to do!

    “Ezra!” Sabine cried out, “Ezra, you’re killing him!”

    She grabbed his arm and shook his violently.

    “Ezra, stop!”

    The young man whirled on her and glared at her, his deep blue eyes glowing a sickly red-rimmed yellow on the edge.

    Rex made a shocked noise at the sight and Sabine took an involuntary step back. Then, her eyes narrowed in determination and in a swift motion she brought up her right hand and punched Ezra in the nose as hard as she could. A sickening crack sounded in the air and Ezra staggered backwards in pain, his hand going up to his face as a hot jet of crimson blood sprayed from his nose.

    Zeb abruptly crashed to the floor, released from Ezra’s Force Choke as the young man’s concentration vanished.

    Ezra stumbled back and tripped over one of the briefing room’s chairs to land flat on his back. Clutching at his bleeding nose, the young Rebel lay on the ground, his hands pressed to his injured proboscis. After a few tweaks, he managed to re-set his broken nose. Swiping at the steady dribble of blood, the young man looked up and found himself staring down the gleaming muzzle of a WESTAR-35 pistol.

    “Get up Ezra,” Sabine ordered, “And keep your hands at your sides or I swear I will stun you.”

    Staring at the weapon’s emitter tip for a long moment, Ezra lowered his hands to his sides and slowly rose to his feet, blood dripping freely from his nose.

    “Start walking,” Sabine ordered, gesturing with her free hand towards the briefing room exit.

    Ezra blinked a couple times, both from the pain in his head and from surprise. The scarlet and ochre faded from his eyes, returning the twin orbs to their natural electric blue color.

    “Where am I going?” he managed to ask in a shaky voice.

    “Landing pad,” Sabine replied coldly.

    “I don’t care how much good you’ve done for Phoenix Squadron. You’re leaving Chopper Base right now.”

    Ezra remained silent, his eyes going soft with remorse.

    “Sabine, I…”

    The Mandalorian girl held up a hand.

    “I don’t want to hear it, Ezra. I really don’t. I’ve been making excuses for you ever since you came back. But I was fooling myself.”

    She clicked the safety off her pistol and tensed her finger behind the trigger.

    “So, you can leave right now, free and clear. Or I can stun you and drag your sorry carcass to the brig.”

    Her hard gaze bored into his.

    “Your choice.”

    Ezra swallowed hard for a moment. Then he turned towards the door and started walking. Sabine followed right behind him, keeping her blaster trained on the small of his back.

    It was a long, silent, awkward walk to the landing field. They both got several questioning glances from Phoenix Squadron personnel on their way there, but Sabine waved them off, insisting she had it under control.

    Once they reached Ezra’s jet-black A-wing, Sabine stepped back and pointed at the open cockpit.

    “Get in,” she said coldly.

    Ezra didn’t comply, instead staring at Sabine with a remorseful expression.

    “Sabine, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to-”

    “Shut up, Ezra,” the Mandalorian retorted sharply.

    She glared at her long-time friend with anger and more than a bit of hurt in her expression.

    “Get in and get lost. Don’t ever come back here again.”

    Ezra swallowed hard and then, with sadness clearly visible in his eyes, he obeyed, climbing into the cockpit in silence.

    “I’m sorr-” Ezra said, trying one more time to apologize.

    “You tried to kill Zeb, Ezra!” Sabine shouted, “Just because he was telling you off.”

    She took a few steps back to get clear of the A-Wing’s liftoff.

    “You need to leave and not come back for a long time.”

    Ezra nodded once and began the liftoff procedures, the canopy closing with a click. The repulsors whined and the ship rose up into the air. Glancing at Sabine through the transparisteel, Ezra spoke softly into her mind.

    “You’re right, Sabine. I don’t what I’m becoming. Tell Zeb I’m sorry.”

    The A-Wing rose into the sky and rocketed away, disappearing from Sabine’s sight within seconds. Once it was completely gone, Sabine let out a deep sigh and her shoulder slumped. A single sob escaped her throat as the black curtain of Atollon’s night fell on the coral mesa.
     
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  2. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    It's great to see you back and continuing this riveting series! This installment is off to a very intriguing start with Ezra (I know it's him! ;) ) on his way to this strange, unnamed, very red planet. I had guessed Mustafar at first, though the terrain doesn't seem to quite fit; my next guess was Crait, but I wasn't sure about that either. Or is it somewhere entirely different? That's my guess by now. And what will he do there? And do I sense some actual remorse from him? [face_thinking]

    And wow, that is some flashback! Ohmigosh, what a hair-raising series of events! :eek: The situation is really far gone if (a) Ezra is trying to kill his faithful big-brother figure Zeb (I've always been partial to the big purple lug, so that was a moment that really caught me) and (b) Sabine has to punch him in the face to stop him from doing so. (Again, this is the kind of thing that might warrant some kind of little content warning for violence at the start of the story.) I have give Sabine kudos for decisive action, though, because in addition to saving Zeb she may have contributed to saving Ezra as well. At least for the time being she seems to have gotten him to apologize for his actions, and that's a start, I suppose—though I also fear it may be too little too late. [face_nail_biting]

    Well done, once again—keep this intriguing story coming so we can see how things pan out and if those words of apology will bear fruit!
     
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    How heart-breaking and riveting! You know it broke Sabine's heart to have to do that but she had to draw the line of right /justice and loyalty. And ZEB! :eek: I, like Findswoman hope the remorse Ezra feels is only the beginning and not too little. [face_worried] =D=
     
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  4. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    The unnamed red planet is about to get a name in the next chapter here. Mustafar is still Vader's stomping grounds in this era, so that's probably the last place Ezra wants to go. Ezra certainly has crossed a line by trying to kill Zeb. I saw that scene as a mirror of Anakin choking Padme on Mustafar. The Dark Side can drive it's users temporarily mad with rage and hate, and that anger usually finds an outlet in extreme violence.

    It definetely broke Sabine's heart, but she's a trained Mandalorian warrior. She's not going to just take someone attacking her friend lying down. Ezra feels remorse, but it's not something he wants to acknowledge, as that would mean realizing that the path he's on is the wrong one.

    Thanks for reading and staying interested during the long hiatus!
     
  5. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Chapter Two
    Ezra brought his fighter low into the crimson world’s atmosphere, diving for one of the thick forests on the sprawling lowlands. A barren clearing lay in sight below, a bare patch where the thorny trees seemed to halt, as if afraid to encroach.

    Landing his fighter in the center of the circle, Ezra popped open the canopy and hopped out of the cockpit in a high leap that brought him to the edge of the clearing. Looking ahead at the narrow, twisting path between the trees that lead to his destination, Ezra doffed his black flight helmet and rubbed his nose tenderly.

    He’d had a chance to apply a bacta bandage to his bruised nose during the flight to Dathomir, but the thing still stung intermittently.

    There is no pain where strength lies

    Maul’s teachings echoed in his mind and Ezra shook his head to clear his thoughts. He couldn’t afford to have any doubts in his mind when he faced his Master. Drawing on the Force for strength and calm, Ezra drew himself up and strode down the path, weaving between the gnarled trees and razor-sharp bushes. After nearly a quarter of an hour, the path opened up on another clearing that stood before a towering series of statues. Made from the same reddish stone that was everywhere on Dathomir, the effigies were vaguely feminine, all with upraised hands. Resting on their open palms was a great stone barrier upon which was emblazoned a gaping mouth.

    When he’d first set eyes on the structure, Ezra had been awestruck, but now he merely strode towards the slit between the statues that led into the towering structure. Making his way through the dimly lit antechamber, Ezra followed the sloping floor as it led further downward until it came out on a vaulted, dimly-lit cavern.

    The cave stretched wide for hundreds of meters in every direction, with the only illumination coming from widespread, shallow pools of a strange liquid that glowed an alien green in the darkness and a handful of fiery-orange orbs that were mounted on dark stone pillars. Striding swiftly through the cavern, Ezra made his way to a large domed building that stood at the far end of the cavern, surrounded by one of the eerie tarns.

    Ezra ascended the stone steps of the building and crossed the threshold into a stone hallway that curved around the entire building. Moving further ahead, Ezra came to a gaping doorway that had been carved from the living stone of the dwelling. Steeling himself, Ezra tried to summon his anger to draw the Force around his mind in a protective barrier, but he found his rage was eluding his grasp. Ever since Sabine had hit him and snapped him out of his rage-blind haze, he’d been unable to bring himself to feel angry again.

    In truth, he admitted to himself, he felt ashamed. Ashamed that he’d lost control of his anger and attacked one of his best friends. In the depths of his heart, Ezra was afraid that he was losing control of his powers as he had on Fort Anaxes years ago. But then, he’d had Kanan to help guide him through the experience and bring him back to himself. Now, he though, staring ahead at the darkened doorway, he had a different teacher. One who wouldn’t be so tolerant of his weakness.

    Taking a deep breath and drawing the Force to him without anger or hatred, Ezra strode through the dark entrance, his confident stride belying his inner conflict.

    Stepping into the main chamber of the building, Ezra entered a dusky, sunken chamber that was lit only by a handful of the same gloworbs he’d seen outside. Situated in the center of the room was a long, narrow, stone table. An octet of high-backed chairs surrounded the table, with three at each side and one at each end. Only one of the high seats was occupied however. At the far end of the slab sat a lean, hooded figure, hunched over a shimmering crystal sphere that glowed with an inner amber light. Garbed from head to toe in matte-black robes of a strange cloth, the figure didn’t seem to notice Ezra as he entered the room, but as he approached the head of the table, the hooded form abruptly straightened up and fixed him with a piercing look.

    “Ah, my apprentice,” Maul hissed in a sinister voice, “Welcome home.”

    Ezra felt the first burst of anger at that comment. His home was on the Ghost. Not in this abandoned cemetery of a village. But he knew better than to say that to his Master. Instead, he bowed his head in a gesture of respect.

    “Thank you, Master,” he said in what he hoped came across as respectful. He could never tell what Maul was thinking, even after spending three months with the former Sith Lord.

    “I trust your mission was a success?” Maul asked in a soft tone.

    Ezra unbent his head and nodded.

    “Yes,” he said, reaching into the small pouch at his hip and removed the head of the Super Tactical Droid he’d decapitated on Agamar. Extending his hand, he held the object out to Maul, who reached out with his bare red-and-black hand and took it.

    Running his fingers over the metal, Maul stared at the droid’s dead eyes for a long moment. Then he abruptly stood up from his seat.

    “Come, my apprentice,” he said with a hint of triumph in his voice, “Let us see what secrets our departed friend had in his head.”

    Maul stepped around Ezra and exited the room, moving so smoothly and evenly that Ezra would never have known that his Master’s lower half was mechanical, had he not already seen it with his own eyes. Following his Master, Ezra and Maul exited the dark lair and made their way back outside to the larger cave. Heading to a large outcropping that was far from any of the lakes, the pair came to another table. This one was lower and made completely of metal with a full hologram projector built into the base.

    It was one of the few technological aspects of their headquarters, one that Ezra had helped Maul install in his first week as Maul’s apprentice. Maul threw his hood back as they came to the analysis table, revealing his scarlet-and-onyx features in the sickly light of the cavern. His face was alight in a rare look, which Ezra had only ever seen on him once before, in the Holocron Chamber in the Malachor Sith Temple. It took him a moment to realize what it signified.

    Triumph.

    Placing the head on the table, Maul deftly connected one of the analysis cables to the back of the mechanical cranium. All at once, the droid’s eyes lit up and the holo-table began to hum as it’s main processor began to sift through the data. Maul manipulated several of the controls with his slim fingers and images began to appear above the table and vanished just as quickly. This continued for several minutes, though none of the images made any sense to Ezra. Suddenly, the sequence froze on one image, that of a vast, rectangular space station, orbiting around a gaseous planet.

    “There it is,” Maul said, his voice almost a whisper.

    “There what is?” Ezra asked in bafflement.

    “The key,” Maul replied, his voice almost reverent.

    Ezra felt a spike of impatience. Both the Sith and the Jedi had a tendency to speak in cryptic words and he was sick of it.

    “The key to what?” he demanded.

    Maul turned to face him and Ezra felt a moment of trepidation as he stared at his master’s nightmarish face. Maul’s ochre eyes bored into him and Ezra began to fear he’d overstepped.

    But Maul simply grinned, displaying surprisingly white teeth.

    “The key to our victory,” he said simply, leaving it at that.

    When Ezra was opening his mouth to ask for more details, Maul raised a finger to forestall him.

    “All in due time, my apprentice.”

    Ezra subsided, his anger starting to resurface at his master’s condescension. In this way, Maul was even worse than Kanan had ever been. Both Master’s had always held back knowledge from their apprentice until such time as they deemed they were ready.

    “Now,” Maul continued, his eyes still boring into Ezra.

    “What became of your secondary objective?”
     
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  6. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ah, Dathomir, of course that would be where Maul has his little hidey-hole! Great job with the descriptions of the red stones, the statues, the gloworbs, the glowing green pools, etc.—all of that brought me right back to the Dathomir episode of Rebels. It's interesting to see Ezra increasing in at least some awareness of where he's headed and what the implications are; Sabine's blow seems to have gotten the message across (though of course it's still sad that it took a punch in the nose from one of his close friends to get said message across. The fact that Ezra instinctively bristles at Maul's "welcome home" also seems to be a hopeful sign—he's on his way to seeing clearly again where home really is. Color me very, very curious about what this "key to victory" might be that Maul found in the brain of the tactical droid—and here too it seems like a good sign that Ezra realizes that Sith are just as annoying as Jedi when it comes to cryptic talk! (Looks like that's something he won't be able to escape no matter which path he chooses! :p ) But I'm even curiouser as to what Ezra's "secondary objective" was to have been—and whatever it was, I have a sneaking suspicion that
    (a) he failed in it and (b) Maul's reaction to that fact ain't gonna be pretty.
    The plot's thickening, and the suspense is coming fast and furious... can't wait to see what's next! :D
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2018
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    VERY happy that Ezra still thinks of the Ghost as home. :)

    Like Vader with Palps, the subservience isn't complete. [face_thinking] The road to redemption is not as closed as one might think. :D Curious as to what the secondary objective is. =D=
     
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  8. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    When you don't have anywhere else to go, you run for home. For Maul, that's always been Dathomir. Sabine's blow definitely shocked Ezra, but he's not back to his old self quite yet. Maul's "key" will be elaborated on in future chapters, but let's just say it's important. As for Ezra's secondary objective, you're about to find out what it was.

    The road to redemption is never truly closed, but for Ezra, it's certainly a difficult path to follow. The secondary objective is about to be explained.

    Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the next chapter!
     
  9. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Chapter Three

    Knowing that this was the moment of truth, Ezra gathered all his willpower-Force energy, anger, determination-and met Maul’s gaze unflinchingly.

    “A complete success,” he replied in a confident voice.

    “Phoenix Squadron accepted my offer and joined me on the mission. They came away with a full supply of proton bombs, as I had promised.”

    He squared his shoulders and straightened up to his full height.

    “I sowed the seeds for future cooperation and an eventual alliance. Just as you asked.”

    Maul’s eyes continued to drill into Ezra’s and the young man felt Maul’s Force presence pressing against his mind, slithering along his mental shields, searching for a crack. Summoning all of his power, Ezra bolstered his mental defenses and continued to meet Maul’s terrible gaze.

    “I completed my mission,” Ezra continued defiantly.

    Maul said nothing and just continued to stare at his apprentice.

    Ezra shifted his shoulders uncomfortably, feeling his defenses straining under Maul’s scrutiny.

    Finally, Maul spoke in a light voice.

    “And what of your friends, Ezra? Did you enjoy seeing them again?”

    A flash of guilt and shame burst into Ezra’s mind and he relived that awful moment of choking Zeb.

    The searing, red haze of rage that had crept over him.

    The sight of Zeb writhing in mid-air, clutching at his throat.

    Rex’s anger and Ezra flinging him against the wall without touching him.

    Sabine’s horror at his actions.

    The feeling of her fist against his nose.

    Anger. Pain. Blood. Shame.

    Suddenly Ezra was back in that moment, sitting in his A-wing’s cockpit, his nose aflame with pain and the hot, wet glimmer of tears in his eyes, staring down at Sabine.

    “You’re right, Sabine. I don’t what I’m becoming.”

    Ezra could see the last sight of Sabine, standing on the landing deck, staring up at him with a mixture of sadness and determination on her face. He felt a stab of sorrow in his heart at the sight…and then that stab became a surge of frigid horror as he saw someone else beside her. Standing next to Sabine, a malicious grin on his demonic face, was Maul.

    The Nightbrother’s fiery yellow eyes gleamed with triumph and he stared directly up at Ezra and began to laugh. The mocking, evil laughter filled the cockpit and assailed Ezra’s very senses and in the back of his mind he wondered how he could hear Maul’s voice through a space-tight canopy.

    The entire scene fell apart at that moment and the distant sight of Sabine and Chopper Base vanished into darkness and Ezra found himself on his knees, staring a dark, rough stone floor. But the dark laughter remained, a deep chuckling that still filled Ezra’s ears.

    Blinking away hot tears pricking at his eyes and ignoring the pain in his hands from the rough stone, Ezra braced himself and stood up. He was still in the Dathomir cavern, standing before Maul. His Master had a cruel smirk on his terrifying visage.

    “Well done, my apprentice,” Maul remarked, amusement saturating his every word.

    “Very well done. You almost hid this from me. Almost.”

    Ezra couldn’t say anything. His mind was still reeling from reliving the painful memory. He could feel his face burning with shame and the tears were still lurking at the edges of his eyes. Clenching his fists at his side, Ezra refused to let them fall. He would not humiliate himself any further. Blinking them away, the young man stared defiantly up at his Master.

    “It had nothing to do with the mission,” he said after finding his voice. His words sounded weak to him and he could hear his voice cracking.

    “Indeed,” Maul replied, surprising Ezra by agreeing with him.

    “Your Commander Sato will not take issue with your angry outburst. Not when we can provide him with more materiel for his war.”

    Ezra blinked.

    “Then-why did you…?” He stopped mid-sentence, not sure what to say.

    Maul just smiled and then began to walk to the center of the cavern, where a low stone altar stood. He gave Ezra a small Force-tug to indicate he should follow. Ezra obeyed and once they reached the altar, Maul turned back to face his student.

    “You tell me, apprentice.”

    He began to stalk around Ezra in a wide circle, his loping prowl reminding Ezra more than anything of being hounded by a Loth-wolf.

    “You attacked your friend,” Maul continued, his voice suddenly coming from everywhere in the vaulted grotto.

    “Why?”

    Ezra thought about it for a moment, trying recall what had set off his fit of rage against Zeb.

    “He…made me angry,” Ezra replied slowly.

    “And?”

    “I felt so angry,” Ezra went on, “I couldn’t…. control it.”

    Maul stopped in front of him and looked at him again.

    “And?”

    “I lost control,” Ezra said in sudden realization.

    “I was so angry and I lashed out and it was so instinctive…” his voice trailed off in renewed understanding.

    “I lashed out with the Force.

    At Maul’s encouraging nod, Ezra went on.

    “I’ve gotten so used to utilizing my anger to draw on the Force and strike out with it that the lines between feeling anger and using blurred and I attacked the source of my rage without thinking….”

    His voice trailed off again.

    This time, Maul finished his sentence for him.

    “And that is the importance, my young apprentice.”

    He gestured about the cavern with his long arms.

    “The Dark Side is the source of our power. It only comes to us through anger. We need our rage to open the door to that great power.”

    He pointed a finger at Ezra’s chest, jabbing it right at him.

    “The rage you feel is becoming a natural part of you, and that is good. You can draw more and more easily on that power. This is the way to becoming strong. But…”

    He raised the finger in warning.

    “There is a lesson that all who use the Dark Side must understand, a lesson that far too many never heed.”

    He abruptly loosed a snarl and curled his hand into an arc.

    Ezra was jerked off his feet into the air so rapidly he didn’t have any time to react. An invisible vise clamped down on his throat, so hard that he gagged. Pain exploded from his throat and he tried to take a deep breath only to find the air wouldn’t enter his lungs. He stared at Maul in horror as his Master curled his hand into a fist and choked his apprentice with the Force.

    Black spots began to form in Ezra’s vision as his body began to suffer from oxygen deprivation. Summoning all the Force energy he could, he threw it at Maul in a concentrated burst. But his Master was ready for him and had already raised his other hand and resisted Ezra’s attack, barely budging his stance.

    “This is the lesson,” Maul said in an exacting tone.

    Ezra’s lungs burned from the lack of air and he kicked his legs helplessly in the air.

    “Pain, hate and anger are the pathways to power. But above all, control is essential.”

    Maul clenched his fist tighter for a moment and Ezra felt the pressure on his throat tauten so hard he thought his neck would snap. And then it was gone, as suddenly as it had appeared.

    Maul’s hand opened and Ezra dropped to the floor with a thud. Lying there, he gasped like a Dathomir scalefish out of water. Taking deep, desperate gulps of air, he inhaled precious breaths of oxygen, thinking that he’d never felt anything so sweet before.

    A hand darted down to grab his chin and he found himself staring into Maul’s horrible face.

    “Above all else, control is key. Control your fear, control your anger, save them for when you need them. Otherwise, they will become your masters and you will become their servant.”

    Maul released him suddenly and Ezra’s head dropped back down to the hard stone floor.

    “And that, my apprentice, will cost you very dearly. As it did me…”

    His voice trailed off and left the cavern completely silent save for Ezra’s quietening breaths.

    After several long minutes, Ezra managed to roll onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, his chest rising and falling slowly. Maul loomed over him and, to Ezra’s surprise, extended a hand, presumably to help him up. Containing his shock, Ezra reached up to take it and Maul hauled his apprentice to his feet. Ezra swayed on his feet, still dizzy from the lack of oxygen. Maul placed a warm hand gently on his back, steadying him until he could stand on his own.

    Ezra took a few more painful breaths before looking back up at Maul.

    “I…” he trailed off, not sure what to say. At a loss for what to do, he fell back into old habits and dropped to one knee.

    “What is your bidding, Master?”
     
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  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow... =D= Intensely gripping & vital "lesson". [face_thinking]
     
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  11. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Thank you! I was trying to draw a very drastic comparison between Sith training methods and their Jedi counterparts. A Jedi Master would calmly explain to their apprentice what they had done wrong. The Sith prefer to impart lessons in the most painful and vicious way possible. It's their way of ensuring that the lesson sinks in. Not a very humane or gentle method, and definitely not what Kanan would have used. But it certainly got Ezra to listen and learn. But Maul isn't done teaching quite yet. He'll have another lesson to impart in the next chapter.
     
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  12. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow! So now I know what that secondary objective was, and it surprised me a bit at first, but doesn't so much now that I think about it some more, because it really is the very manipulative sort of thing that Maul would do—one of the nastiest things about him in Rebels was the way he was constantly manipulating the Spectres and their associates into working with him. There's a kind of "so close, yet so far away" feeling with Ezra here: it looked for a bit there as though maybe he was starting to break free of Maul's grip, because his moments of remorse about his encounters with Zeb and Sabine did seem sincere—but then Maul of course promptly quashed that with his vicious "teaching techniques." :eek: :mad: So, it's OK for him to do to Ezra what Ezra nearly did to Zeb in order to make some sort of point about "control," is it? Double standard much? [face_annoyed] I guess in a way I don't blame Ezra for reaffirming his obedience to Maul, because what else can he really do at this point—but good gosh, I can only imagine what kind of "lesson" Maul has in store for him next. [face_nail_biting] And I keep wondering, of course: what will it take to break Maul's hold on him? Or will the hold be broken at all in this universe? Will be very curious to see, either way. [face_thinking]
     
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2018
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  13. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    The thing with Ezra is that he essentially wants to have his cake and eat it too. He wants to have his friends back, to have them not hate him. But he also wants the power that he knows the Dark Side can give him. This is a kid who lost his parents at the age of eight. A kid who had to fend for himself on the streets as a powerless beggar. Maul's point was basically that Ezra can't let his anger control him. He can't afford furious outbursts like the kind he had against Zeb. He can't lose control the way Anakin did on Mustafar. Maul's point was that there's nothing wrong with Ezra using his anger to attack people, he just can't do it in a fit of rage. The ironic thing there is that Ezra's missing the point. Using the Force to choke anyone is wrong. As it is, this kid's been told that it's okay for him to Force Choke someone, as long as he's making a conscious decision to do so.

    Maul's next lesson is actually going to take Ezra to the next stage of Dark Side corruption. Ezra's already dove too deep into the black ocean that is the Dark Side of the Force. He dove so far, he's hit the ocean floor, so to speak. That's where he is now, swimming in the inky black depths. Maul's going to teach him how to stay down there. How to breath in the depths and use it. The next lesson will actually be a bit more academic and slightly more entertaining that this chapter was.
     
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  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Ah ha, now I really am scared! :p
     
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  15. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Chapter Four

    “Rise, apprentice,” Maul said.

    Ezra did so.

    “You have crossed a threshold with this latest trial,” Maul said in an instructional tone.

    “You are ready to become a true Dark Side warrior.”

    Ezra looked at his master as he stood in front of the stone altar.

    “How do I do that?”

    Maul smiled and in a single swift motion, withdrew his lightsaber from his belt, extended it towards Ezra and ignited it. The crimson blade blazed to life with a snap-hiss and stopped a centimeter from Ezra’s throat. The young man froze in place, shocked at being placed in near-mortal danger by his master twice in mere minutes.

    Compelling his eyes to look away from the iridescent blade hovering near his already-injured throat, Ezra moved his gaze to Maul’s saber hilt. A matte grey cylinder of longer length than Ezra’s, Maul’s saber was not the cobbled-together blade that he’d employed against the Inquisitors on Malachor or against Ezra on Viszla Keep 09. Apparently, his master had built a new blade while Ezra had been away on his most recent mission.

    “Tell me, apprentice,” Maul said conversationally, as if his lightsaber wasn’t a hairsbreadth from skewering his apprentice.

    “Do you know why my lightsaber is red?”

    Ezra forced himself to relax, telling himself that this was just another one of Maul’s intense lessons and that he wasn’t a centimeter away from death.

    “I…don’t know, Master,” he replied.

    When Maul merely arched an eyebrow at the unsatisfactory response, Ezra tried to formulate a better one.

    “I-I know that the kyber crystals are what determine a lightsaber’s color,” he said.

    Maul gave him what passed for an encouraging nod between Master and Apprentice.

    “My first lightsaber was blue,” Ezra continued, “But when I made my second one, I used the same crystal and while I was attuning it, it somehow turned green. But I don’t know why…”

    He’d wondered about that when he’d forged his current saber, mere weeks after the disaster at Malachor. But Kanan had already retreated into himself at that point and Ezra had never had a chance to ask his Jedi Master why the kyber had shifted color.

    “Another deficiency in the Jedi teachings,” Maul shook his head in mock disappointment.

    “Listen, my apprentice, and learn.”

    He flicked his free hand and Ezra’s lightsaber leapt off his belt and flew to Maul’s side. Hovering in front of the Nightbrother, Maul twitched his fingers and Ezra’s black-hilted lightsaber began to come apart in front of his eyes. The emitter ring and activator plate came off first, dropping to the rocky floor with a light tinkle. Ezra bit back a protest at the unceremonious dismantling of his weapon. The hilt casing came off next along with and the power cell and in a few seconds Ezra’s lightsaber was lying on the cavern floor in pieces. All that remained in the air was a small thumb-sized green crystal that shimmered in the dim cave with a strange inner light.

    “You say that this crystal was once blue, Apprentice?”

    Ezra couldn’t nod for fear of cutting himself on Maul’s ignited saber.

    “Yes, Master. When I first received it.”

    Maul raised an eyebrow as if to ask where Ezra had received it from. Then he shrugged and continued with the lesson.

    “And when you assembled this lightsaber, it became green?”

    “Yes, Master. But why did it change color? How can a crystal just change like that?”

    “Because, Apprentice, the kybers are, in their own way, alive.”

    Ezra’s eyes widened at the revelation.

    “The Force flows through the kybers, and it resonates inside them. When a Jedi attunes a kyber to make their lightsaber, they bond with it and create a partnership with them. This bonding turns the crystal a certain color. In your case, you must have already created a bond with your kyber when you first received it, as it was already blue.”

    Maul’s gaze hardened, “But this is not the way of the Dark Side. The Dark Side does not ask. It takes.”

    The kyber began to revolve slowly in mid-air as Maul studied intently.

    “In order to force the crystal to serve your needs and only yours, it must be bled.”

    Ezra gaped at his master.

    “But-the crystal isn’t alive,” Ezra protested, “How can you make a rock bleed?”

    Maul gave an exasperated sigh and flicked a finger at Ezra. The emitter guard of his blade leapt up off the floor and rocketed past Ezra’s face, scraping his right cheek along the way. The young man winced at the graze and felt Maul’s displeasure in the Force.

    “I just told you, apprentice, the kybers are alive, in their own way.”

    With an exhalation, Maul deactivated his blade and placed it back inside his robes. Calling Ezra’s crystal back to his hand, Maul stepped closer to Ezra and placed it in his hand.

    “Feel it, apprentice. Hold it in your hand and feel it.”

    Ezra did so, folding his palm around the kyber and closing his eyes. Stretching out with his feelings, he began to sense a faint pulse of life inside the crystal. Like a strangely soothing song that was so quiet he could barely hear it. But it was there nonetheless, a pleasant tune that was at once familiar and alien to him.

    Opening his eyes, he looked back at his Master.

    “I do feel something.”

    “Good,” Maul said with a note of satisfaction in his voice.

    “The kyber is bonded to you already. But that is the Jedi way. As you grow stronger in the Dark Side, this bond will not serve. For the kyber to truly serve you as a Dark Side warrior, you must bend it to your will.”

    Ezra’s grip tightened on the crystal until it’s sharp edges cut into his palm. His pulse quickened at the thought of becoming a full-fledged Force-Wielder. He would finally have the power he’d been seeking for years. The power to destroy the Sith and their Empire.

    “How do I bleed the kyber?” Ezra asked.

    Maul bared his white teeth in what Ezra thought was meant to be a sincere smile, but still came across as rather frightening.

    “You will need to pour your anger into it. Your rage, your pain, and your hate. You must turn those emotions into Dark Side power as I have shown you and then force it into the crystal until it bleeds a bloody crimson. Only then will it serve your will.”

    Ezra nodded, “I understand.”

    “Beware,” Maul warned, “The crystal is currently alive with the power of the Light Side. You will need a great source of Dark Side energy to shift its orientation and turn it dark.”

    Ezra frowned and glanced around the cavern.

    “You said that this place is strong in the Dark Side. Can’t I do it here?”

    Maul shook his head.

    “This place is strong in the Dark Side, but the energy is too attuned to the power of the Nightsisters. It will be…ill-suited to bleeding your kyber. Fortunately, there is another world known to us that is attuned towards more, shall we say, conventional Dark Side power.”

    Ezra looked at his master in bafflement.

    “I don’t know any other worlds that are strong in the Dark Side,” he said.

    Now Maul’s smile grew ghoulish and Ezra could feel the Force ripple with his amusement.

    “Oh, but you do, apprentice. In fact, you know this world quite well. It’s the very place where we first met.”

    The blood drained from Ezra’s face and his voice became a horrified whisper.

    “No…. not there.”

    Maul’s laugh was cruel and high and echoed off the cavern’s high walls.
     
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    A very compelling update & details about crystals and bleeding them. =D= Twisting them to make them dark :eek:
     
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  17. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Thank you! It's the next logical step down the dark path that Ezra is walking. What did you think of Maul's brutal training methods? With the Sith, every moment can carry potential danger.

    Brownie points if you can guess where Ezra's going in the next chapter.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
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  18. Antaus

    Antaus Jedi Padawan star 1

    Registered:
    Oct 4, 2018
    I've only read chapter one so far, and I haven't read the other three books leading up to this, will need to. Nevertheless it's very good. Actions like this are very out of character for Ezra, and it makes me curious as to what happened that brought him to this point. When I have more time I'll have to read more. I like your writing style because it's not over kill with the descriptions, but there's enough there for me to get a picture what's going on in my head. Keep up the good work.

    As to guessing where he's going next, total shot in the dark here, but Dathomir is red.
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2018
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  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Another shiver-inducing "lesson," and that's putting it lightly... and what a harrowing image, of kyber crystals being tortured and bled like living things to serve the rage of the dark side! :eek: And it makes sense, in a way, as an extension of the fact that they are kind of sort of alive. (I'd be curious to know if the bleeding is your own fanon, or if that's taken from somewhere in the established lore.) And oh no, I think I know exactly which planet Maul is talking about as an ideal place for bleeding the crystal:

    Malachor.

    And if I'm right about that, things may be approaching critical mass for Ezra! Will he or won't he "dive in too deep"? On the edge of my seat... :eek:
     
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  20. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Thanks for reading. Yeah, these actions are out of character for the canon Ezra. But this Ezra used the Sith Holocron for six months, after which he fell under Maul's direct tutelage. All that can change anyone. Thanks for the feedback on the descriptions, I try to give just enough detail for the reader to be able to visualize what's happening. I believe that all writing should be descriptive to a point.

    The bleeding is actually canon. We see it in the recent Vader comic series. It's where I got the idea from, as a matter of fact. As for where Ezra is headed, you're right on the money! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this next chapter. It's the last one in this particular story.
     
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  21. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Chapter Five

    The shifting blue-white tunnel of hyperspace fell away to reveal the inky-black void of realspace as the jet-black A-wing returned to reality. Hanging in space directly ahead of it was a large grey-white orb that steadily grew larger as the starfighter approached it. Behind his dark flight helmet, Ezra gazed at the growing white orb with a mixture of anticipation and fear. He’d had nightmares about this planet on and off for almost a year now and the last time he’d been to this planet, it had been the worst day of his life, where he’d lost very nearly everything.

    The A-wing’s huge Novaldex engines carried it into Malachor’s atmosphere swiftly. Ezra knew from his last trip that the constantly swirling white clouds that surrounded the planet could disrupt sensors and he stretched out with the Force instead, sensing the path down towards his destination. Recalling the route, the Phantom had taken in on his first trip, Ezra had no difficulty bringing his A-wing down through the clouds and into the lower atmosphere. Within a few minutes he could see his destination below him on Malachor’s desolate rocky surface.

    Protruding up from the stony exterior of the planet was a single wide crater with a slate-grey surface filling the entire interior. Clustered around the center of the depression in a circle stood an octet of dark stone pillars, surrounding a jagged hole in the crater floor. As Ezra drew close, he could see that the pillars were scorched and charred with some of them broken in half and other so badly withered that they were barely standing. Much of the crater was showing evidence of serious damage, no doubt, Ezra knew, from the massive explosion that had destroyed the Sith temple buried beneath the basin’s surface.

    Bringing his A-wing down through the gaping entrance between the pillars, Ezra descended beneath the surface of Malachor. As his ship dropped into the sprawling underground Sith complex, Ezra glanced around the vast subterranean chamber. Much of the squat black structures that were scattered across the cavern floor appeared exactly as they had on his last visit, over nine months ago, seemingly untouched. The tall pyramidal Sith temple that occupied the center of the subterrane was decidedly not.

    A towering, four-sided pyramid, the Sith Temple had once been a smooth, dark edifice with numerous intricate patterns emblazoned across its surface in blood-red inscriptions. The explosion that had taken out the Temple’s primary ignition chamber had blasted apart the triangular point that had occupied the summit. The four sides of the Temple were sporting deep black scars that had all but obscured the once-fine engravings on it’s walls.

    Jerking the yoke forward, Ezra brought his A-wing down to rest at the edge of the flat scorched base that once housed the Temple’s ignition chamber. After doing a quick scan to confirm that the air in the cavern was still breathable, Ezra unbuckled his crash webbing and popping his canopy, Force-leapt from his acceleration couch to the charred surface of the Temple’s apex.

    Landing lightly on his feet, Ezra glanced around his blackened surroundings. The dark stone of the Temple summit was cracked and fissured in many places, with shards of crimson crystals and golden circuits scattered everywhere. Picking his way through the debris, Ezra made his way slowly to where the ignition keystone had been. According to Maul, it was the locus for all the Dark Side energy in the complex.

    As he drew closer, Ezra opened himself fully to the Force, extending his senses to encompass the entire pyramid. He could sense the innate power of the place almost instantly. The Force in the entire cavern was dense with dark power, thick and malignant and potent, but the blasted remains of the summit was practically choked with it. Ezra could feel the Dark Side power circling around him, whispering in the ancient voices of the Sith that had fought and perished at this site millennia ago.

    Peace is a lie, there is only passion.

    Ezra shook his head to try and rid himself of the disembodied murmurs, but they persisted.

    Through passion, we gain strength.

    Ezra felt the Dark Side beginning to course through his veins, almost involuntarily. He shuddered violently at the sensation. He hadn’t realized it on his first visit, but the Dark Side of the Force was so strong on this planet that it nearly dominated the Force around it, like a cloud of black smoke, so thick and dark it blocked the Light from view. It had come to his aid in his fight with Seventh Sister on the Temple’s lower tiers without him even knowing, letting him hold his own against an opponent that had easily bested him in previous encounters. But even the unknowing aid of the Dark Side hadn’t been enough to aid him against Darth Vader in the ignition chamber.

    Ezra flinched at the memory of the all-too-brief fight with Vader and how he’d been so easily bested by the Dark Lord. Unarmed and helpless against the Sith Lord’s fury, Ezra had only barely avoided a swift and painful death thanks to Ahsoka’s timely intervention. He balled his gloved hands into fists at the humiliating memory and felt the Dark Side swell around him, responding eagerly to his anger. He forged swiftly ahead, using the latent energy around him to shove obstacles and debris out of his way. The ruins of the keystone obelisk were scattered around a wide black circle, the long, narrow structure having exploded into several pieces. As he stepped to the very center of the summit, Ezra spotted a dark humanoid shape lying near one of the larger obelisk shards.

    Turning towards it, he took a few steps away to get a closer look…and gaped in horror.

    The figure was an adult Togruta female. A very familiar Togruta female.

    Ezra stared in horror at the blackened, dead form that had once been Ahsoka Tano.

    The Torgruta’s fair orange skin and blue-white montrals were black as pitch, as were her once-blue eyes. She was lying prone on the floor, where she must have been when the Temple’s main weapon had misfired. As Ezra studied her closer, his jaw going slack from dismay, he saw a small, hand-sized hole in the fallen Torguta’s chest.

    A wave of fury rose in him, consuming his grief and burning it to molten cinders. Vader must have done that, he thought. The last he’d seen of Ahsoka before the Temple door had come down, nine months ago, she’d been locked in mortal combat with Vader. Ezra had since learned, from both Rebel Intelligence and Maul, that Vader had survived the encounter. That meant Vader had dealt Ahsoka her mortal wound before escaping the explosion and leaving Ezra’s friend to be flash-burned by the unrestrained kyber energy of the Temple.

    Ezra’s anger swelled from a roaring fire to a raging inferno. He felt his hands and legs shaking from the hatred coursing through his veins. It was always the Empire. The Empire and the Sith. The former had taken his parents and the latter had taken his friend. They’d taken everything from him and he’d been too weak to stop them. Vader’s mocking words echoed in his mind.

    Your master has deceived you into believing that you can become a Jedi.

    The tempest of anger writhed and thrashed about inside the young man’s body. Ezra felt as if every cell in his body were aflame with a wild energy that he could barely contain. His vision began to glaze over in a crimson haze as it had on Atollon and he felt so angry that he thought he might explode and he opened his mouth and loosed a single, furious scream of rage.

    “Nooooooo!”

    It was as if a concussion bomb had detonated on the Temple summit.

    The shockwave of Ezra’s anger exploded outward, hurling shards of black stone, scarlet crystals and golden wires in every direction. The sheer force of the rageful outpouring threw everything on the Temple summit towards the edges. Ahsoka’s burned corpse was caught in the whirlwind of dark power and went sailing over the edge of the apex. The debris littering the zenith went flying in every direction and Ezra’s parked starfighter trembled on it’s landing skids, nearly following Ahsoka’s body into oblivion.

    “No!” Ezra shouted in dismay as he watched his friend’s mortal remains disappear from sight. Yet another casualty of his inability to control his power. All of the anger drained out of Ezra in a moment and he dropped to his knees, tears welling up in his eyes. Cursing himself for being so weak and losing control yet again, Ezra balled his hands in fists and tried his best to blink away the signs of his weakness.

    He wasn’t weak, he told himself. He was strong. He would get even stronger. He would crush the Sith and the Empire. He would save the Galaxy and show his friends that his way was right.

    “I’m not weak!” he bellowed at the top of his lungs, shouting into the black empty void of the desolate cavern.

    Rising to his feet with renewed determination and focus, he strode to the very center of the singed platform. Standing at the cynosure, he withdrew his kyber crystal from a hip-pouch on his utility belt. The small green crystal still shone with a soft inner light that seemed out of place in the smoky darkness of the Sith Temple cavern.

    Holding the gem in front of him, Ezra raised it into the air with a mental command. The stone hovered in the air above him, still shining with a pinprick of inviting emerald light, alone in the all-consuming darkness.

    Thinking back to his hatred of Darth Vader and the Empire, Ezra summoned back the world-crushing fury of a few moments ago. Focusing on the crystal floating in front of him, Ezra called the Force to him, feeling it rush into him with a hot torrent of power. His limbs began to tremble again with the sheer amount of energy flowing into him. Calling on all that power, Ezra brought it to bear on the levitating kyber and hurled all his rage and hatred at it.

    The crystal vibrated under the force of Ezra’s rage, shaking as if in terror, and then it unleashed a blinding wave of emerald light. The wave hurled Ezra off his feet and sent him flying a half-dozen meters to land on his back on the hard stone floor. His limbs aching from the impact, it took Ezra a moment to sit up straight. Rubbing the back of his head, he looked up…and saw an impossible sight.

    Standing before him was a familiar figure. With light skin and brown hair tied back in a small ponytail, the figure was a man. He was clad in his customary yellow vest and grey trousers. His light blue eyes were staring directly at Ezra with warmth and his fair features were curved into a gentle smile.

    “Hey, Ezra,” said Kanan Jarrus.

    Ezra gaped at his lost mentor, disbelief and longing welling up inside him.

    “Kanan!” he shouted in incredulity.

    “You’re here!”

    Kanan smiled down at him in that gentle, caring way that Ezra had missed so much these past nine months.

    “I’m here, Ezra,” he replied warmly.

    “You’re not alone anymore.”

    He extended a hand down to Ezra and the young man took it unhesitatingly, letting Kanan pull him to his feet. Giving into months of hoping and wishing, Ezra leapt towards his teacher and enveloped him in a crushing embrace.

    “Oh Kanan, you’re here. You’re really here!”

    The Jedi Knight returned his apprentice’s embrace with a smile, patting him on the back affectionately.

    “Of course, I’m here, Ezra. I’d never leave you. You’re my responsibility.”

    Ezra just hugged his mentor, relaxing in Kanan’s comforting embrace. He felt safe for a moment, as if all his worries and cares had lessened. He didn’t have to face the Galaxy alone anymore. He had his Master back.

    Kanan hugged Ezra for another moment, then gently released him.

    “Come on, Ezra,” he said, “Let’s get off this rock. Hera and the others are waiting for us back home.”

    Ezra smiled at that thought, then hesitated for a moment.

    “I don’t know if they’ll want to see me,” he admitted shamefully, “I’ve done some bad things while you’ve been gone.”

    Kanan shrugged, his blue eyes alight with optimism “We’ll make it right, don’t you worry Ezra. There’s nothing broken that can’t be fixed.”

    Kanan began to head for the edge of the platform where the Phantom was parked. After a moment, Ezra followed him and they left Malachor behind for good. Before Ezra knew it, they were back on Atollon and he was standing on the landing pad of Chopper Base where he’d left an angry and melancholy Sabine mere days ago.

    Hera, Zeb and Sabine were all standing there, looks of concern, welcome and resentment on their face. Ezra slowly approached them, his head held low in shame and guilt. He felt Kanan pat him on the shoulder and give him a single reassuring squeeze.

    “They’ll forgive you, Ezra. That’s what family does. Just say you’re sorry and mean it.”

    Coming to stop in front of his adopted family, Ezra managed to raise his head up and looked them in the eye.

    “I…I’m sorry,” he said, his cheeks coloring in embarrassment and remorse.

    “Hera, I’m sorry I lied to you. I’m sorry I yelled at you. I was wrong.”

    The green-skinned Twi’lek smiled and drew Ezra close, enveloping him in a maternal hug.

    “I forgive you, Ezra,” she said softly in his ear, rubbing head in the familial Twi’lek fashion. Letting him go after a minute, she gave him a gentle shove towards Zeb.

    “I think there’s someone else who really deserves your apology, though.”

    Turning towards his adopted brother, Ezra swallowed hard, a solid lump forming in his throat. He resisted the urge to look back at Kanan for reassurance.

    “Zeb,” he began, “I…I can’t say anything that makes what I did to you right.” He took a deep breath and bowed his head in a Lasat gesture of submission.

    “All I can say is that I’m sorry and I won’t ever do it again.”

    He felt a solid fist slam into his shoulder and he almost fell to his knees. Awaiting another blow, he kept his head down, but when none came, Ezra looked up. Zeb had a grudging smile on his purple-furred face.

    “Don’t let it happen again,” the Lasat said with a frown on his face but a faint smile in his eyes.

    Deciding that was the best he was going to get from Zeb, Ezra turned to the last person on the landing field.

    Sabine was looking at him with a smile on her olive-skinned face, her pale purple hair framing her beautiful features. Her brown eyes were alight with warmth and affection and she stepped towards her friend.

    “I hoped you’d come back to us,” she said with love in her voice. Ezra took that as an invitation and stepped forward to wrap Sabine in a gentle embrace.

    “I’m sorry, Sabine,” he said apologetically, “Sorry for everything.”

    Sabine’s lean form rested against Ezra’s muscled body.

    “I forgive you, Ezra,” she whispered against his chest, “I forgive you.”

    After a long moment Ezra let Sabine go. As he did, he felt a warm hand on his shoulder and turned to see Kanan smiling at him, his light blue eyes filled with love and pride.

    “I’m proud of you, Ezra,” he declared, “You’re becoming the man I always knew you could be.”

    Ezra blushed and smiled at the warm words of praise. Kanan just beamed and looked fondly at his apprentice, his blue eyes shining in the bright midday Atollon sun.

    Ezra stared at those bright eyes and couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen Kanan smile like that. Not since before Malachor and the disaster there. Not since the day Kanan had lost his sight and retreated into himself and abandoned Ezra.

    His sight…

    Ezra suddenly gazed sharply at Kanan, examining his face and seeing no sign of the horrible injury that Maul had inflicted on his Master. No scars, no burns. It was as if Kanan had never been blinded at all.

    A frigid tendril of suspicion blossomed in his stomach and he glanced around at the rest of his family, then back at Kanan.

    “Kanan,” he asked slowly, not really wanting to hear the answer.

    “How did you get your sight back?”

    Kana kept smiling as if not really having heard Ezra’s question.

    “What are you talking about, Ezra?”

    Ezra heard Hera approach from behind him.

    “Ezra, Kanan never lost his sight.”

    “Yeah, kid,” Zeb said, stomping up, “You’re talking crazy.”

    The levity vanished from Ezra’s face, an unspoken dread taking it’s place.

    Turning to the last person on the pad, he said “Sabine, tell me this is real,” he said.

    “Tell me you found a way to heal Kanan’s eyes and this is all real.”

    When his friend said nothing, Ezra looked at her with desperation.

    “Please!” he begged, “Tell me this is real! Tell me I can come home and we can be a family again!”

    A look of sadness crossed Sabine’s face and she stepped forward, reaching up a hand to stroke Ezra’s cheek.

    “I’m sorry, Ezra,” she said dismally, a look of gloom marring her lovely features, “But you can’t go back. You can never go back.”

    A cold wind swept across the landing field and dark clouds formed above, obscuring the sunlight from view and plunging the entire landscape in a cold, grey twilight. Sabine’s body began to fade into nothingness and before Ezra could say anything else, she had disappeared completely. Gaping in horror, Ezra spun to Hera and Zeb. The Twi’lek and Lasat looked at Ezra with sadness, their physical forms beginning to go translucent.

    “No!” Ezra shouted and made a grab for them, his hand going through their fading forms as they disappeared completely.

    His face twisted in fear and denial, Ezra whirled to face Kanan, his features pleading and desperate.

    “Kanan!” he shouted, “Please don’t go. Don’t leave me alone.”

    Kanan grew very still, his face going grey under the darkness of the field. His features became grave and mirthless and his bright eyes grew cold and dull, the color fading from them completely until they were a pair of sightless white orbs gazing out at Ezra with cold accusation.

    Ezra’s breath caught in his throat and he stared at his teacher with a look of utter horror.

    “You did this to me, Ezra,” Kanan said in a cracked broken voice that barely sounded like him.

    “You trusted Maul on Malachor. You let him join us. You’re the reason I’m blind.”

    Ezra’s mouth dropped open in complete shock.

    “I…didn’t mean for it to happen,” he tried to explain.

    “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen. Kanan, please don’t go!”

    Kanan’s body began to go translucent as the others had, his form going pale and grey as the Atollon sky.

    “You did this to yourself, Ezra,” Kanan said, his voice sounding distant and hollow and without another word, he vanished into nothingness.

    Alone on the landing field, Ezra fell to his knees in dismay and as he braced himself against the cool permacrete of the landing field he felt the wind pick up around him. Shutting his eyes, he let out a scream of anguish and remorse that echoed across the desert. Suddenly the gale ceased and all sound faded away from his ears.

    Opening his eyes, Ezra rose to his feet and looked around. The sky was black as space and his surroundings were as silent as a crypt. He was still on the summit on the Malachor Sith Temple.

    Staring ahead, he saw a glint of green in the inky darkness of the cavern. Striding ahead, he looked down to see his kyber crystal, still shining with it’s mysterious inner light. As it vibrated on the floor, Ezra gazed down at it and abruptly realized that the harrowing vision he’d just experienced had been generated by the crystal.

    Fresh fury exploded in his chest and with flick of the Force he brought the gem up to drift in front of him.

    “You did this!” he shouted at the glimmering kyber, rage filling his heart and dark Force energy trembling in his hands.

    The kyber remained silent but it’s light flickered wildly as Ezra brought his power to bear on it again. Remembering it’s reaction the first time he’d tried to subdue it, Ezra reached out with his right hand and seized it. Closing his fist on the stone, Ezra summoned the Dark Side to him, calling up all of his anger from his heart and using it to draw the Great Energy to him.

    The Temple summit began to tremble from the sheer amount of power being summoned from around it. Ezra went even deeper into the Force. He could feel the lingering malignant energies around him, remnants of the Temple’s superweapon blast and the latent power that suffused the cavern.

    Drawing on his hatred for Darth Vader, the Empire, and, secretly, Maul, Ezra drew all that power into him. His body began to tremble from the sheer amount of energy that was coursing through it. Taking all that power, Ezra began to focus it, commanding it to do his bidding. Slowly, surely, it began to obey, heeding his will.

    Bending all his thoughts on the kyber in his hand, Ezra began to force the great energies he’d summoned into the tiny stone. The kyber vibrated furiously in his tight grip as it tried to resist the dark power being poured into it. The soothing song that the had been the crystal’s pulse became a horrible screech of pain. The kyber throbbed in agony, screaming at the alien power Ezra was forcing into it.

    Shaking so hard it almost leapt out of Ezra’s palm, the kyber let out a single, final shriek of pain and a wave of scarlet energy exploded outward from it, bathing the entire cavern in crimson light for a moment. The energy threw Ezra backwards again, but he refused to let go of the crystal even as it burned his hand with the backsplash of it’s transformation energies.

    Ezra landed a dozen meters away from the summit’s center, falling hard on his backside. Wincing in pain at the impact as well as the searing pain in his hand, the young man took a moment to gather himself before rising. He felt incredibly weary from the exertion.

    The light had faded from the cavern, returning it to the near-impenetrable darkness that was its natural state. Standing up with an effort, Ezra looked down at his hand which was covered in angry red burns. Slowly, he opened his fist, afraid that the kyber was still capable of resisting and might try to escape him after all his efforts. His fears were unfounded, and resting quiescently in his palm was the same coruscate crystal he’d come to Malachor with. But where the crystal had previously shone with a soft inner green light, it now gleamed an alluring, warm red.

    Glancing down at the blood-red jewel in his hand, Ezra Bridger allowed himself a fierce, jubilant grin of triumph.
     
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow, I was so utterly chuffed as I read the reunion with darling Kanan! [face_dancing] [face_love] I didn't know how it happened, but I was still thrilled! Until ... ack! Now there really is no going back, is there? [face_love] For darling Ezra. :( He won't let his guard down like that again.
    That was some vivid description of a fierce bending of the crystal! :eek: :( Yikes, you can almost feel the pain of the twisting process. I have a feeling it's a one-way street, too. [face_thinking]
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
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  23. Vialco

    Vialco Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    Mar 6, 2007
    Thanks! I have to admit, it came out a tad more intense than I had initially planned. When I read what I'd written, I almost went back and revised it to make it a tad less violent. But, I decided to keep it the way it is because it conveys the true impact of what Ezra's doing in that scene. Only the Sith and their Dark-Side minions actually bleed a kyber crystal to make the resulting blade red. On a trivia note, Kylo Ren tried to bleed his crystal in the sequel saga, but he did it so clumsily and crudely that the crystal cracked in the process which is why his blade looks serrated.

    As for the faux reunion, I'm reminded of one of a song by one of my favorite artists:

    "I thought it was magic. But it was only an illusion."
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2018
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  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow, this is all kinds of goosebump-inducing and trippy all rolled into one! Malachor has always had that eerie "never quite sure if it's real or a vision" quality to it, and you really get that across here with this series of visions that aren't totally just visions... or maybe they are... or something in between. Ahsoka's corpse definitely seems to be more than just a vision—and whoo boy, if that's her fate in this AU, that definitely has some serious implications. :eek: Of course the crux of it all is the sequence with Kanan and the other Spectres, where it looks for those few bright moments as if all is forgiven and Ezra's back to his family again—until he notices that one small, all-important detail about Kanan's eyes. And that's when it becomes clear that all of this has been generated by the Force, and the crystal, as a way of testing him—and, more specifically, as a way of gathering and concentrating his anger in preparation for bleeding the crystal. (The crystal almost seems to be seeking its own bleeding here, in an odd sort of way.)

    So yes, now I too wonder if Ezra really and truly has passed the point of no return. And what about Maul—what new horrible trials will he have in store for Ezra after this point? Because I'm going to guess he still does... [face_nail_biting] Keep up the fantastic suspense!
     
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