The group of Jedi stumbled out of the Sphere. Lian struggled to move forward but insisted he could walk. Fane joined Shadie to hold him up.
‘I’m fine, I can walk,’ said Lian. He stumbled forward, dropping to one knee and cursed in Huttese.
‘You don’t have to prove anything to us, Lian,’ said Talyc. ‘I’m sure if this Sith thinks you’re worthy, it won’t have anything to do with your strength here or lack thereof.’
Lian looked up at the Mandalorian and smiled. ‘I appreciate…’ He felt a pang of pain and grunted, clenching his teeth.
Shadie put her hand on the door, and Lian saw it roll into the wall. He had heard much about this place, yet never realised how heavy the dark side felt here, nor how dim it was. He hoped it would not alter his being. And yet, however strong the dark side was here, Lian did not feel stifled by it; whatever his fears, it seemed to allow for his light.
Everyone hurried through each chamber and Brenum pushed the top of a sarcophagus. The platform began to descend, turning slowly, as had been described to Lian before.
Brenum pressed his lips together. ‘I should never have agreed to help rid the atmosphere of starfighters,’ he said. ‘My place was by your side and I failed you.’
‘No one has failed me,’ insisted Lian.
‘If anyone’s to blame,’ said Fane, ‘it’s me. I just don’t get it! I’m supposed to be able to be immune to Relsor’s stasis attacks. Now another Kloh will die because of me and my inability to–’
‘Fane!’ Lian put sternness in his voice. ‘Stop that right now. You and I were meant to work together within the Force, but you are not ready to defeat Relsor and that is not your fault.’ Lian had a bit more strength now, but he knew it wouldn’t last for long.
‘I can’t even connect to Relsor without you, Lian,’ said Fane solemnly.
‘That’s because the Force connects us; that does not make you weak,’ replied Lian.
Trylia tended to Lian’s lekku; she had mended it in the Sphere. Though he still felt the wound tingle painfully, it was a lot less intense than it had been prior to their flight to the Crypt.
‘The wound has stopped bleeding but it’s still raw,’ said Trylia. ‘Shall I change the bandage?’
‘No,’ said Lian. ‘Remove it. I want your Sith friend to see me as I am, in my full vulnerability.’
They arrived at the bottom level and helped Lian to the chamber where sat the ancient Pureblood Sith.
* * *
They all stood before the Sith, Fane and Shadie helping Lian stand. The Sith stood from his throne and looked at Lian.
‘You bring me someone who has not passed the trials,’ he said.
Fane looked up at him. ‘He doesn’t need to. We did, and we brought him.’
Shadie placed a hand on Fane’s shoulder and nodded, mouthing, “It’s okay.” Fane looked back at Lian, he looked pained, and every now and then he let out a moan or groan.
‘Stand on your own so I can evaluate you, Jedi,’ said the Sith. ‘Who are you and why have you come here?’
‘I am Jedi Master Lian Kloh,’ said Lian, struggling to speak. He placed a hand to his stomach and staggered towards the throne and fell on his hands and knees. ‘I’ve come to trade places with you. Grant me immortality, I shall give you freedom from this prison and take your place as Guardian of the Crypt.’ He moaned gruffly.
‘And why should I grant you this honour, you who have not passed any trials, you who possess no sign of darkness within you? Your light side may desecrate this place entirely.’
‘I respect that it was created from the dark side, but in the Force exist both the light and the dark,’ said Lian. He crawled forward a bit and then fell in pain, onto his stomach.
Fane started forward and Shadie put a hand to stop him. ‘Let him be evaluated.’ Fane shook his head; he didn’t like this. He felt pressed for time. He looked at Knarf, who usually was one to feel such emotions, but the man seemed calm.
Lian managed to prop himself up a bit, leaning on one arm, yet breathing heavily.
‘I am a healer and I have been healing the Force. I am the only one able to deflect Relsor’s malady, or at least part of it, able to prevent him from creating illusions. If I die, then he has already won.’ Lian paused, panting. ‘I have been healing the Force, and from this focal point, I can continue my work and heal the Force in ways that I cannot as a mortal being. I can use the Crypt to reach the entire galaxy. I can heal the Force and ensure that Fane,’ Lian looked back towards Fane, ‘succeeds when he confronts Relsor to destroy him.’
Lian grunted in pain again and fell back onto his stomach. ‘Please,’ he said, breathing heavily, ‘I won’t… last much longer. Kill me, let me die, or grant me immortality, but decide quickly.’
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