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Redeadk

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re: In the Beginning ((Part of Jariel's Backstory))

Year: 28 BTC

Padawan Jariel Shemesh listened to the soft padding of his footsteps as he walked in utter darkness. He listened carefully to the echoes they made, the Force sharpening his hearing, enabling him to “see” where the walls were. He was walking down a narrow corridor...suddenly the echoes changed, and he nearly walked into a wall. The corridor veered to the right sharply. After pausing to still his heart and catch his breath, he followed it, more cautiously than before. A great deal depended on his ability to navigate this maze wisely. He was nearly at the final stage of his Trials.
After a number of sharp turns and a deceptively slow curve, the corridor opened out onto a large, dimly lit, stone platform. As Jariel's eyes adjusted to the light, voices called out from the darkness surrounding the platform:

“Orphan! Nobody! Your mother and father died before they could name you. Who are you, little boy?”

“Fool! Mistake! Your rage will be your undoing! Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

“Who are you?”

Straining to ignore the voices, Jariel walked deliberately into the centre of the platform and knelt down. The voices kept calling.

“You are nothing! How can you know where you're going if you don't know where you're from? Littly boy, who are you?”

“Your rage gives you power. Feirce lion, why are you helpless against your past? Use your anger, it will - ”

“No.”

Silence fell.

The hairs on Jariel's neck began to stand up. From the edge of the platform emerged an impossibly muscled version of himself, anger, fear and rage cascading off him like a waterfall. His skin was darkened and covered with scars, and even they seemed to pulse and ripple with dark strength. Jariel looked into those baleful, broken eyes, and saw what he could become.

“I have what you have always wanted, little boy: freedom from our past. I can teach you. I can give you real strength. I can give you real freedom.”

Jariel fixed his eyes on his double's. It was the only way to remind himself of the truth of what he was.

“I know you. I will not become you. You are a wound. The Force will heal you.”

The double snarled at him, igniting his lightsaber, “I am your strength! You cannot be without me!”

“My ally is the Force”

Jariel ignited his saber just in time to block the crushing blow his Anger dealt him. The blue and red sabers sparked against each other, and Jariel felt his blade being forced quickly towards his throat. He lept away, understanding that this battlle would not be won by brute strength. His double rushed at him, roaring savagely, Jariel dodged and ran to the other side of the platform. His double laughed, a great booming, violent laugh that sounded just a little like despair.

“You cannot run from me, little boy. I will dog your footsteps wherever you go.” He advanced slowly. “I could be your ally, your tool. I could lead you to greatness and power that you have not even imagined yet...”

Jariel wiped sweat from his brow. His strength was flagging. If he did not find a way to beat this soon, he would give in. The temptation was nearly too much already. He closed his eyes and tried to remember Master Khelen's last words to him. Jariel, your ferocity is not your strength. The Force is your strength. When the dark nature in you calls, call on the Force to strengthen you. Endure. Resist your anger, and it will flee from you.

Jariel smiled. His Master was wise indeed. He let go of his efforts to resist the slippery words of the darkness inside him and allowed the Force meet it. Blow after blow he deflected, dodged and redirected as the Force flowed through him and simply absorbed all the fury of his Anger. When there was nothing left, the raging double was nothing more than a shadow, struggling to lift his saber and gasping for breath.

“You...have...not...finished...me...”

Jariel smiled as the double's saber clattered to the ground, “The Force has disarmed you. Disappear.”

And the shadow was gone.

*****

Jariel opened his eyes. His robes were drenched with sweat, but his breathing was steady. He was still kneeling in the middle of the the stone platform, surrounded by darkness. Where to now? He stood slowly, feeling his saber on his belt. He had never used it. A smile crept onto his lips. He was nearly there. He walked around the edge of the platform carefully, listening to the echoes. On the third circle, he noticed that the stone felt ever so slightly different under his feet at about two o'clock. He crouched down and tapped the stones with the butt of his lightsaber. They sounded different too...heavier. Standing up, he faced forwards, and walked off the edge of the platform.

Suddenly, everything was well lit. He was standing on the beginning of a stone bridge, and the Jedi Council were at the end of it. His Master was with them, smiling.

“Well done, Jariel.”

*****
That night Jariel plumbed the depths of the Force in the Tranquility Spire, searching out his weaknesses and allowing the Force to flow through the gaps in his character. He wondered that night if the Force really was as impersonal as his Master had taught him. It did not bother him then though, because his mind was set on the man he wanted to become. The Knight he wanted to become. In the deep watches of the night, seemingly alone with his breathing, he glimpsed the riches and sorrows of his life to come, as though through a glass darkly. He felt a burgeoning sense of destiny, and for a moment was afraid, as though he was about to be thrust into a series of events that he was nowhere near prepared for. He stilled his mind. His ally was the Force, through trouble and joy.

The following morning he entered the Hall of Knighthood, outwardly calm, inwardly excited and nervous. The Council, his Master, Khelen Temril, among them, stood in a circle, barely visible in the darkened chamber. Jariel walked into the middle and stood facing the Grand Master, breathing deeply so as to calm himself. The Grand Master intoned the ancient opening words of the ceremony, welcoming him and all the Masters present,

“We are all Jedi. The Force speaks through us. Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed.”

The surrounding Masters ignited their lighsabers, the dim hum echoing through the chamber. Jariel noticed the very beginnings of a smile tugging at his Master's lips, and felt his nervousness melt away. He knelt before the Grand Master, and felt the heat of his saber hover over one shoulder, and then the other,

“By the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee, Knight of the Republic.”

Then, so suddenly that Jariel would have flinched had he still been nervous, the Grand Master's saber whipped over the back of his bowed head, severing his Padawan braid. It fell by Jariel's left hand. He gazed at it for a moment and thought, Today, I have become a man. Picking it up, he stood, bowed to the Grand Master, and walked in silence from the Hall, Jedi Knight Jariel Shemesh.
Redeadk

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re: In the Beginning ((Part of Jariel's Backstory))

During the next two months, as Jariel, studied, trained, and meditated, he could not shake the feeling that arose in him during his night in the Tranquillity Spire. He felt unready, unprepared...but for what? At first he was convinced that it was simply the knowledge that his character did not yet match the model of the Knight he knew he could be, but as he meditated on this feeling it became clear that the Force was showing him something else. He had been taught to live in the moment by Master Khelen, but somehow he instinctively knew that the connection between every moment and those before and after it was extremely important. As he meditated he began to understand that the Force connected past, present, and future, and illuminated those connections to the one who listened well. He knew that his feeling was connected with something in the future, though he still could not say what. What did did know, with frightening clarity, was that it would break him if he was not ready. Then, one night as he knelt meditating by his bedside, he saw it. Great waves of fire sweeping from world to world, burning and conquering the far flung reaches of the galaxy. The presence of a hatred not known for three hundred years. He had no sleep that night.

Early the next morning, Master Khelen came to Jariel's quarters. “Jariel! Walk with me.”
Jariel fell into step beside his old Master, saying, “News from the Outer Rim?”
Khelen looked at him strangely, “The Sith have returned, and are laying waste to the Aparo Sector. How did you know?”
Jariel shook his head, “I didn't, but...last night I had a vision. I saw the destruction of world after world by this...this presence so full of hate it made me retch...”
Khelen's eyes widened, “You are gifted indeed, my former Padawan. You did not seek this, but the Force has granted it to you. We will speak of this later. For now, we go to the Vigilance.”
“The Vigilance?”
“Yes, we've been commissioned by the Council to accompany the fleet being sent to meet the Sith. I hope you have been as disciplined in your training as you were before your Knighting.”
“Yes, Master Khelen.”
Khelen smiled. “You are my equal now, Jariel. Though you may still learn many things from me, I expect to learn as many from you. Please, call me by my name, not my title.”
“Yes, M-...Khelen. Thank you. Even as an equal, you do me a great honour.”
“I'm sure you will repay the favour in due time. Another Master and former pupil have been assigned to the Vigilance, one Master Ti'iko, and his former Apprentice, Jedi Consular Soraya Chasidah. She was Knighted on the same day as you. Do you know her?”
Jariel shook his head, “The name sounds familiar, but you know how single minded I am. I could have passed her a hundred times and not seen her if I was thinking about training. ”
Khelen chuckled and nodded fondly, “Indeed. Your discipline will serve you well in what we're about to face.”
Jariel's face grew solemn, “And face it we shall. I suppose that this makes us brothers in arms, doesn't it Khelen?”
“Yes, my friend. Yes it does.”

The Vigilance was a Hammerhead class cruiser, not a particularly pretty sight, but the backbone of the Republic fleet. As the two friends walked up the boarding ramp, Jariel was awed by the sheer size of the thing. It had enough heavy ordinance mounted on its front to take on a whole fleet of fighters. Jariel had read about space battles and how Jedi had won or lost them though the Force, but now the feeling of stepping on board a capital class ship with the responsibility of a Jedi Knight daunted him. Khelen must have sensed his feelings, because he turned to him and said, “The most important thing for you to remember for this mission is that listening to the Force will keep us all alive. Remember what your trial taught you. Remember what I have taught you. Listen well, and when the Force guides your actions and thoughts, do not ignore it. This will test us all.” Jariel hid those words in his heart. With them, he felt prepared.

*****

I remember that journey well. I spent most of my time in my room, meditating, trying to stay in touch with the promptings of the Force. For hours I practised my saber forms and found that they enabled me to focus far more than sitting still or kneeling did. It's a practise I continue to this day. Through them, I was already engaging in battle with the hatred we would meet as we journeyed through hyperspace. I could feel it, a wound kept open with festering resentment and blind, hateful fury. What on earth would meet us when we arrived at the Tingel Arm? We expected support from the worlds on the Outer Rim, but there had been very little direct contact with them for decades prior to the Sith Invasion. Khelen was very uneasy about the confidence the Republic Admirals and the Council placed in an essentially inactive relationship. I wish he had been wrong.
When we jumped out of hyperspace, it took minutes for us to realise that we had calculated very, very badly. Belkadan, Serndipal, and Ruuria sent out their fleets, but not to fight the Empire. They surrounded us and decimated our fleet. It was brutal. And terrifying. I was only a lad, the only death I'd seen was from old age. If it hadn't been for Khelen's advice, I probably would have died. In fact, I gladly would have, if it would have meant he lived.

*****

Smoke filled the corridors, and bodies littered the bridge. The Vigilance was heavily damaged and retreating, struggling to fly with one of its engines out and two others on the way. Suddenly, the lights went out. The ship had been disabled. As the emergency lights flickered on, one of the crew on the bridge gave a panicked cry, “We're going to be boarded!”. A Sith ship, carrying a boarding party, was drawing alongside flagging cruiser. Jariel looked to Khelen, “Why would they send a boarding party? Why not just destroy us?”
Khelen looked sadly at his friend, “Because this kind of hatred enjoys slow deaths, Jariel.”
Jariel nodded, his face grim. “Let's go and meet them.” He started to walk, but Khelen stopped him.
“Wait! Where are they?”
Jariel closed his eyes, reaching out with his senses, “Docking port...and the engine room. Good call. Where are Master Ti'iko and Soraya?” He turned just in time to see them heading towards the docking port with a squad of troopers.
Khelen signalled to the remaining troopers on the bridge, “You five! With us. Show me why the Sith should fear you.” The troopers responded with a warcry, and Khelen looked at Jariel. “For the Republic!”

As they made their way back into the bowels of the ship, Jariel could sense the seething hatred that waited for them. He struggled to maintain his calm, for this was the first test of his training outside of the cloistered halls of the Jedi Temple. Khelen glanced at him, “Don't be afraid, Jariel. There is no death, there is the Force.” Jariel steeled himself and nodded. Then, suddenly, battle was upon them. An explosion blew out the door they were just feet away from, sending them and their troopers sprawling, and blaster fire began to pour out of the opening. They were badly outnumbered. One trooper never even made it to his feet. The rest scrambled to cover behind storage boxes as Jariel and Khelen ignited their sabres just in time to deflect the barrage. As they retreated, they counted sith troopers, “15...20...25...30...”. They fell back behind the storage boxes with the troopers. Jariel looked grimly at Khelen, “What are our options?”
Khelen looked to the troopers, “We can win this if we're wise. There's nowhere near enough space for them to use their number to their advantage. The corridor is too narrow. While they're clustered like this, a few well placed explosives will halve their strength easily.” The troopers nodded and began lobbing stickies. Khelen was right. Within two minutes the Sith troops were down to 15 and disoriented. Khelen grinned savagely, “Now, ATTACK!” Two armed troopers came out of cover and started pouring carbine fire into the remaining Sith ranks, with the others providing cover fire. Jariel and Khelen leapt into the fray, easily dispatching those not cut down by the carbine fire. The troopers cheered, and their spirits were high until one of them was wrenched from his cover and slammed with a sickening crunch into the remains of the door at the end of the corridor. Jariel realised with a jolt of fear that this was the true test. Two red lighsabers appeared in the doorway, the owner of one smiling maliciously as he drew it slowly across the trooper's chest. The screams were harrowing. Khelen called to the three remaining troopers, “Fall back! This is our fight.” They did so willingly, retreating back through the corridor towards the bridge.

Jariel held his ground with difficulty as the Sith advanced. One reminded him almost of the vision from his trials: impossibly bulky and heavily armoured, he seemed to breathe violence and hatred, underlaid with wounds and despair. He almost pitied him. The other was slighter, wielding a staff saber, and Jariel could not sense her nature other than the layers and layers of deception used to hide it. He looked to Khelen, who nodded slightly. Then they charged.

*****
I remember much about that battle. I remember I was more scared than I should have been. Seeing a real life version of what I was fighting not to become was no easy thing. I remember we started off winning. Khelen danced rings around the Inquisitor, and I had the task of facing the Juggernaut, I held my own for a while, just. What I remember more than anything else was the feeling of having that kind of hatred attack me. It was like my Trial, but a thousand times worse, because it was real and not just a projected fear. All the terrifying detail, the snarl of his breathing, the stink of death on his hands, the rage and violence embodied, truly embodied. And it was trying to kill me. Worse, he knew the potential in me to be like him.

*****
The clashing of lighsabers left an acrid, burning smell in the air as Jariel and Khelen began their deadly dance with the Sith. Khelen quickly gained the upper hand against the female Sith, driving her back through the ruined door into the engine room, putting her on the defensive. While she was outmatched by the Master duelist, her expertise lay elsewhere. Retreating back along the the metal bridge in the engine room, she smiled as Khelen ran onto it towards her. Sheathing her lightsaber, she sent lightning burning from her fingertips. Khelen managed to raise his guard, just, but struggled to move forwards under the dark energy trying to destroy him. Sneering at the Jedi's attempt to defend himself, the Inquisitor laid one hand on the metal rail. Suddenly, the metal bridge was alive with electricity, and Khelen sank to his knees as his body was wracked with the current.

Back in the corridor, Jariel was barely managing to hold his own against the Juggernaut. The strikes of his that did connect seemed to have no effect, and the fury of the Sith's blows took all his strength to deflect. He knew he could not last alone. Suddenly, his senses were clouded with pain. It was as if he had grabbed a power conductor with his bare hands. Then he heard Khelen's cry of pain from the engine room and realised what was happening. Jumping away to evade an overhead slash that would have cleft through the hull of the vessel they were flying in, Jariel bounded through the door to the engine room and pulled as many of the storage crates into the doorway behind him as possible. Hoping his blockade would last the seconds needed, he ran to the bridge to see his former Master on his knees, still blocking lightning with his lightsaber. Jariel could feel his resolve weakening, and leapt to the other side of the bridge, landing behind the Inquisitor. He staff was ignited to meet his blade in time, but the distraction was enough. Jariel brought blow after blow hammering down, and Khelen joined the battle from behind. The Inquisitor managed to block their sabers simultaneously just once, but the duelists were too fast. Whipping their sabers away from her guard, they struck again with deadly precision. She was severed at the waist and neck.

Khelen was breathing heavily, and leaned on the metal bars of the bridge for support. Jariel looked concerned, but Khelen waved him away. “Don't worry, my young friend. It will take more than that to give me pause. We don't have much time.” He heaved himself upright, “We need to take the battle to the corridor. This is an unwise place to fight.” They moved towards the door, Khelen limping slightly. Jariel was too immersed in preparation for battle to tell how badly he had been lying. They got to the door to find it still blocked by storage crates, and Jariel frowned. “This is strange. Why hasn't he -”

An oval section of the wall of crated exploded outwards. The Sith had cut his way through and waited, using the shrapnel of the explosion to throw the Jedi off guard. Jariel pushed Khelen out of the way and blocked the Juggernaut's saber inches away from his face. He laughed quietly. “I see the anger in you, little Jedi. Why don't you use it?” Jariel rolled away and helped Khelen up. “Your strength is nothing compared to the Force.”
The Juggernaut laughted louder, “The Force is my weapon, and I will crush you with it!”
Khelen stood, igniting his saber, “And that is why you have already lost.”
Once again Jariel and Khelen danced, but this time they both struggled in the face of the raw power of this Sith. Time and again they only just blocked in time, only just escaped death, until the Sith grew frustrated and threw all of his force into a blow that knocked Jariel across the bridge and into the wall behind it. Everything went black.

*****
I can still see it like it's happening before my eyes. When I came to, Khelen was on the bridge, having been knocked to the floor under a crushing strike from the Juggernaut. I tried to move, but my limbs wouldn't respond. Khelen was lifted, choking, over the long drop into the engine core. The Sith turned and looked at me, noticing that I was awake. “See where peace has led your Master, whelp.” Khelen looked at me with eyes full of something I still don't understand, and mouthed, “There is no death....” Then he was gone, lightsaber thrust through his chest, and dropped like rubbish into the core. I let my tears flow freely and the Sith relished his seeming victory. For Khelen's sake, I let my anger go, and trusted in the Force.

*****
Jariel stood, shaking off the shock to his limbs as the Juggernaut ran at him, snarling and breathing murder. Remembering the advice of dear Khelen, Jariel evaded the Juggernaut and ran back to the corridor. The Sith followed, laughing, “Do you think you can run from me? I am the nameless fear that will end you!”

Jariel stood at the mouth of the hole in the storage crates, ready. The Force surrounded him like a shield, flowed through him like liquid light. His bones felt as steel and his saber more part of himself than ever before. When the Juggernaut came, he expected to find a frightened child. Instead, he found a Jedi Guardian. Jariel matched him blow for blow, allowing the Force to quell his doubts and fears, enveloping the rage that attacked him just as it had during his trials. The Sith knew nothing but rage and violence, and so continued to exhaust himself against the Force in Jariel. Where before his blows bent Jariel's guard like reeds in the wind, now they rang off like a vibroblade against a ship's hull. More and more the Sith raged against an immovable wall of the Force, and more and more gaps began to show. Jariel chose one, and struck. The Sith flew back, roaring, a hot orange mark searing his breastplate to his skin. He stamped, snarling at the pain, and struggled to block Jariel's steady, ever more forceful strikes. But seeing the Sith in pain had awakened something in Jariel, a temptation to see this hateful man suffer for the pain he had caused. Slowly, anger began to creep into Jariel's blows, and the Sith saw it. Now, Jariel was dancing an much more dangerous dance. Here, there fate was worse than death.

*****
I nearly lost it. I came so close. I just wanted to see him suffer for killing my closest friend. He knew it, and tried to draw me into it. “Your Master was pathetic. He begged. I could see it in his eyes – he was afraid.” It didn't matter that they were blatant lies. They were designed to make me angry. For a time, it worked. I nearly struck him down in rage. But then Soraya came.

*****
Jariel snarled as he rained down blow after blow on the laughing Sith, willing him to silence with his lightsaber. They struggled, their sabers locked, Jariel pushing the Sith's slowly downwards, growing more and more angry each second he was not dead. Something happened inside him then, as though he reached the edge of a great firey lake, that if he jumped in, would burn him and all he fought forevermore. He roared, “WILL YOU NOT DIE!?”

“Jariel!”

It was as though the Force had slapped him. He jumped away from the Juggernaut, shaking himself. Who had said his name? A body appeared next to him, holding a green staffsaber and looking piercingly into his eyes. “Do not let your anger get the better of you.” And then the Juggernaut attacked again. This time though, Jariel kept his discipline. The Sith had exhausted himself, and could not stand against the Force flowing through Jariel. He thrust wildly in an attempt to finish Jariel quickly, but Jariel sidestepped behind him and cleft him, head to hip.

With the Sith finished, Jariel kneeled down, exhausted and grieving for Khelen. Tears began to fall again, until the body with a green saberstaff lifted his head to look at him. “Jariel. Let me help you.” It was Soraya, the Consular stationed on the ship with them. He had not seen very much of her at all, but as he looked into her eyes now, he was transfixed. It was as though just looking at her brought him nearer to the Force. He nodded mutely, and sat still. She examined his head, which was bruised and bleeding from being flung into the wall during the fight. Holding her hands just touching the wound, she allowed the Force to heal him. He sighed, closing his eyes and smiling. “Thank you.”


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re: In the Beginning ((Part of Jariel's Backstory))

Good stuff, Redeadk. You really have the knack for writing. I could see and feel everything you were talking about. And I really liked how you intigrated ideas from our Christian faith into the wording and story.


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