Chapter Seven

Talyc marched to the Grand Arena with Fane by his side. When they reached it, Fane took his hand and squeezed gently. He wished him luck and kissed him on the cheek.
            ‘See you on the other side,’ he said, and left.
            The arena was immense, and filled with tall and wide, rounded pillars. Decorative engravings marked some of the walls, which were all lined with statue busts of who Talyc assumed had been former Jedi masters. High above were seats that fanned out, though he could not see most of these.
            Talyc took a deep breath. He didn’t know why he was so nervous. He felt almost as nervous as he had when he had followed Fane out of the tavern and expressed his true feelings to him. His heart was pounding. He wanted to do well, he wanted to impress the Jedi, he wanted them to approve.
            He realised he already had their approval. He also realised he didn’t need it; Fane had made his choice and had let the Order know it. This had been Fane’s way of telling them he had chosen Talyc and that if they wanted him to choose them, they had to accept Talyc as his partner, even if he did not possess the Force.
            Talyc rolled his shoulders back, bringing them down, letting out one quick breath and shook his arms to loosen them up. Garbed in his armour, his helmet clipped to his belt, he entered the arena. It was empty, but his keen eyes noticed movement up above and he knew many were watching.
            A voice reverberated throughout the arena, as though coming from all around him. It was the voice of the Grand Master.
            ‘Talyc Kandera, you have fought many duels in your life. You have particular unique skills. But if you were to fight a duplicate of yourself, would you be able to defeat your doppelganger and be victorious? Duel now with one who has the same set of skills as you, one who has learnt from you.’
            Talyc saw Knarf emerge from behind one of the rounded pillars. Knarf wore his armour, helmet and all. Although he couldn’t see his face, by the manner with which Knarf moved and momentarily bobbed his head, Talyc knew he was amused. His friend nodded as though to wish him luck. Talyc nodded back and put his helmet on.
            ‘Sorry,’ said Knarf, ‘I don’t want to do this, but your armour might take a few nicks and grazes. I promise to pay for the repolishing if necessary.’
            Talyc’s Second ignited his orange lightsaber and whirled it around in a circular motion. Talyc took his vibroblade out and held it out in front of him, holding it with both hands, bending his knees.
            ‘Come at me, Bes’laar.’
            Talyc jumped as soon as he saw Knarf lift his leg, knowing he would pound the ground. He heard Knarf chuckle. Talyc took to leaping to Knarf’s flank. Knarf turned and struck at Talyc’s mid. Talyc blocked with the vibroblade, and ducked the next strike. He slashed at Knarf; the blade bounced off the armour, leaving a small nick at the knee joints.
            ‘Looks like you might need some repolishing as well, my friend!’ Talyc said.
            ‘I’m due for proper Mandalorian armour anyway,’ said Knarf.
            Talyc bent low and rolled away, coming to a standing position a bit farther than an arm’s length away from Knarf. The two men stood facing each other, studying each other. Talyc swung at Knarf as his friend blocked and cut low. Jumping, Talyc angled himself to strike at Knarf’s back, though he knew it didn’t do anything to Knarf.
            ‘That’s twice now,’ Talyc pointed out.
            Knarf hacked at Talyc’s head. He ducked and blocked but the lightsaber grazed the top of his helmet. He grunted. He was hoping to get out of here unscathed. Then again, Knarf was probably not the only one he would be fighting.
            Talyc quickly bent and rolled towards Knarf, hoping that he would come up behind him by rolling under his legs. The problem was, Knarf did the same. The two conked their helmets together and fell backwards. Talyc couldn’t help but burst out laughing.
            ‘Why did I teach you that again?’
            ‘So that I could adjust the manoeuvre once I’d mastered it and kill Perce?’
            Knarf jumped up a few feet into the air and landed next to Talyc. The clan leader side kicked Knarf to trip him. Knarf cushioned his fall, and he was back on his feet in no time.
            The two duelled a while longer until Knarf powered off his lightsaber and put his hands out in front of him in a show to stop. Talyc took the time to catch his breath. Knarf clipped his lightsaber to his belt and slowly backed away back behind one of the pillars, giving Talyc two thumbs up as he did so. Talyc smiled, though he knew Knarf couldn’t see it, but he knew he would probably sense it.
            ‘A good show of skills,’ Master Herl’unik’s reverberating voice announced. ‘Now what about your skills against the dark side.’
            From the other side, from behind another pillar, walked Shadie.
            ‘Sorry,’ she said wincing, ‘this might hurt.’
            Before Talyc could brace himself, she was sending him a stream of lightning. Talyc lifted into the air and landed somewhere close to the entrance from where he had come in. The cold hot sensation of the lightning crackled through his body.
            ‘Haar’chak, Shadie! A bit of warning next time.’
            Shadie lifted him into the air again, this time choking him, mildly, for he could still breathe; yet he felt the pressure on his throat.
            ‘You going easy on me? Awgro certainly didn’t. Not to mention Relsor and Perce. Oh, I know, you’re going to drain me next.’
            Talyc whipped his vibroblade through the air frantically, trying to reach Shadie, but she stood too far from his reach. She pulled him closer to her, readying her lightsaber. He kicked her in the chest to push her back. She yelped and staggered back.
            ‘Sorry!’ he said.
            He saw her cup her hand to drain him. He began to move in all directions, making it more difficult for her to get a lock on him. He knew the Force sometimes worked like a targeting system, and he knew that he could slow down any effects of the Force on him if he focused on always moving, always changing and improvising. He didn’t plan anything out, knowing Shadie would be less likely to predict his next move.
            Finally, he manoeuvred as any Mandalorian would, as Kelbourn had taught him to, and drew in the berserker power that ran in the Kandera bloodline. He rolled and came up behind Shadie. He kicked her hand, sending her lightsaber flying, and, before she could call it back to her, grabbed her from behind.
            ‘You might be a Kandera, and you might be a Force-user, but you never received Kandera training.’
            ‘Well done, Talyc,’ she said, letting out an amused laugh.
            ‘I hope I didn’t hurt you.’
            ‘You can massage me later, my back hurts. It may or may not be related to this duel.’ Shadie looked at him, turning her head towards him, and smiled gingerly.
            ‘Fair enough.’
            Talyc let go of Shadie and she retreated behind one of the pillars.
            ‘And what about against many others?’ said Master Herl’unik.
            Many Jedi emerged, surrounding Talyc.
            ‘Your goal is to disarm, or to bring them to the ground. Once a Jedi is eliminated, that Jedi will retreat from the centre of the arena. Your goal is to defeat as many Jedi as you can before the time is up. They will use the Force on you, they will use their lightsabers, and they are not your clan mates, so they will not apologise. You have fifteen minutes.’
            Talyc took a few seconds to turn slowly, evaluating all the Jedi. Then he hunched over a bit, levelling his vibroblade with the ground and ran towards the Jedi who stood directly in front of him. She used the Force to push him away, sending him directly into the Jedi behind him, and Talyc crashed into him. Talyc used the butt of his hilt to jab at the Jedi’s hand while kicking him and he fell to the ground. At the same time, he swiped at the female Jedi and rolled towards another, grabbing her hand and lightsaber in the process. Armed with two weapons he used the lightsaber as a shield when the Jedi got too close, and used his vibroblade to attack.
            After downing a few more Jedi, he powered off the green lightsaber and used its hilt to jab at Jedi’s hands as he rolled around, using his helmet to butt heads, keeping constant movement so that he would be less predictable.
            When the countdown was over, only three Jedi remained standing. The others stood up and the large group of Jedi bowed politely, some smiling with what Talyc thought was approval. One of them motioned towards a door that stood on one side of the room, arching through more pillars. Talyc nodded and walked through the threshold and into the next room.

* * *

            The area was dimly lit and there was smoke all around him, making his vision hazy. He readjusted the HUD of his helmet but it would not do. Whatever this smoke was, it was obliging him to remove his helmet. He hesitated, keeping his gloved hands on his helmet and keeping his helmet on his head.
            ‘The smoke is safe,’ Talyc heard Master Herl’unik say. ‘We need to see your face for this part. You have fought well, but how are you when faced with the dark side within yourself? Fears and temptations are but a little drop of what could overwhelm you. How can you manage it all?’
            Talyc nodded and took his helmet off, clipping it to his belt. He sniffed the air; indeed the smoke was odorless and he had no immediate effects from it. If it had been induced with spice of some kind, he would only know later.
            He continued to walk slowly. He heard a voice, similarly reverberating as the Grand Master’s; it was a familiar voice, one he had not heard in a long time.
            ‘Talyc! Talyc! Make me proud, make our clan proud. Our grandfather would want it.’
            ‘Kelbourn.’ Talyc whispered to himself. He recognised where this was from. A recording Kelbourn had made.
            ‘You know, our Jedi friends are all right. They have their flaws, but… Well, they’ve got only one: they’re not Mandalorian!’
            Talyc chuckled as Kelbourn burst into laughter. Talyc shook his head, sobering. The way Kelbourn had been killed was wrong.
            ‘You honour me, Talyc, my cousin, and if ever I’m unable to continue as the clan leader, I want you to take up the mantle. I’m sure you’ll do a fine job. Of course, I still think I’m Kandera’s best leader, but I’m sure you’ll come in a close second.’
            Talyc stopped and closed his eyes. ‘Oh, Kelbourn, I’m so sorry. It was so unfair how Relsor killed you. But you did die honourably, despite it not being in battle, for I know you battled him before your end, as much as you could. I hope I did do you proud. I’m sorry for all my failures. I wish you were still here. I miss you. I always will.’
            Talyc took a deep breath.
            ‘For Mandalore!’ Kelbourn’s voice resonated through the room.
            Talyc nodded. ‘For Mandalore,’ he repeated softly.
            He continued walking and came to a table. The smoke rose and hid most of it, but he could see the bottle of his favourite brandy on it, or what had been his favourite brandy all his life, open and ready to be drunk. Talyc took it, and smelt it. He closed his eyes, breathing in the smell. He also remembered all the ill events that occurred while he had been drunk on this very brandy: his capture, trying to forget Fane, deceiving Fane. Talyc threw the bottle to the ground and heard it shatter as it crashed, the brandy spilling and the smell filling his nostrils a bit more prominently before it dissipated.
            ‘No. No more. I need clarity and focus. I can’t have that if I’m drunk.’
            Talyc realised he was feeling angry with himself. He was heaving. He wanted to hide under his helmet all of a sudden. Reflexively, he put his hand to the helmet and then thought better of it.
            ‘No. I promised: honesty, vulnerability, and expression of all that I feel.’
            Talyc continued forward through the haze. He noticed someone standing in the room afar.
            ‘Who’s there?’ he called out.
            He quickened the pace and came closer. He stopped when he saw Vax.
            ‘Hello, Talyc.’
            Talyc observed Vax as he stood, his hands clasped behind his back. Vax took a step forward, reaching a hand towards Talyc. Talyc took a quick step back. He did not know if Vax was truly here, if this was a vision or if it was real, who else could see it, or if it was just in his head because of the smell of the brandy.
            Vax stepped forward and took Talyc’s hand. It felt as real as anything else.
            ‘How did you?’
            Vax smiled. ‘Imperial Intelligence, remember? It’s okay. We’re alone. When I heard you were going through these trials, I felt compelled to come and find you. I managed to get in and to get the Jedi away from their viewing room.’  He shook his head. ‘You shouldn’t have to do such trials to prove yourself.’
            ‘I want to,’ said Talyc. ‘Besides, this is part of Fane’s commitment to me.’
            ‘Having you do this? Isn’t it a bit unfair?’
            ‘Listen, Vax, I told you that Fane and I–’
            ‘I know,’ said Vax, ‘but I had to try one last time.’ Vax came closer and put a hand on Talyc’s face. ‘I will always love you, Talyc.’
            Talyc gently took Vax’s hand and slowly removed it, giving it a gentle squeeze. ‘I’m so sorry, Vax. I’m sorry I used you. I never wanted to hurt you.’
            ‘Then show me. Show me and heal me.’
            ‘I cannot heal you, Vax,’ said Talyc. ‘You have to heal yourself. As I did myself.’
            ‘Did you, though?’ There was a pause. ‘I thought you had fallen in love with me.’
            ‘I thought I did too, Vax,’ said Talyc, ‘but that was a long time ago. Before I knew what love truly was. It was a young man’s version of love. But true and real love is felt in the entire body and soul. That’s what I have with Fane. Please understand. It does not mean what I felt for you wasn’t real or that it was never love, but my love for Fane is more than any other love I have ever felt for anyone. I’m sorry.’
            Vax bowed his head and nodded. ‘I understand.’ He looked up again. ‘Perhaps one last kiss then?’
            Talyc shook his head. ‘I’ve made a promise. I want to uphold that.’
            ‘But no one can see us, no one will know!’ Vax moved forward, cupping Talyc’s face in his hand again.
            Talyc carefully moved his head back. ‘I will know.’ Talyc took a few steps back. ‘I don’t want to kiss you, Vax.’
            The look of dismay on Vax’s face broke Talyc’s heart for him, for he cared deeply for him still, but caring deeply was different from loving.
            ‘I care about you, but I don’t love you,’ said Talyc. ‘Please, I don’t want any animosity between us. I value you as a person. But it is more like the way I value Knarf now than anything else.’
            ‘You value Knarf more though, don’t you?’ asked Vax.
            ‘Knarf is like the brother I never had,’ said Talyc.
            ‘I messed up,’ Cax said, resigned. ‘I will take what I can have, and if friendship is all I can have, then I will value that as you do.’
            ‘Thank you!’
            Vax turned and walked away, exiting through another door. Talyc looked around wondering how much of this was real or not. It seemed awfully strange.
            There was shuffling and Talyc realised someone was walking towards him: a tall Mirialan woman. His heart dropped to his stomach, but he realised it was not Jassahmi, and he knew Jassahmi was dead. Then another Mirialan woman approached, and another. Half a dozen Mirialan women stood before him, staring at him. They were motionless, hands by their sides, just staring at him. Talyc drew in deep breaths, panting a bit, feeling panic. He backed away, but the women stepped forward with every step he took back.
            Talyc took his vibroblade at hand and held it ready. One of the Mirialans laughed, though it sounded more like a cackle. Another ignited a red lightsaber.
            Talyc held his vibroblade horizontally across his chest as a sign of defence but that he did not wish to engage them.
            ‘Look at us!’ one of them said.
            ‘Do we trigger you?’ another asked.
            ‘Observe what we are!’ said another.
            Talyc kept his focus, though his vision blurred slightly. He wiped the sweat off his face, feeling hot.
            ‘The last time I saw a Mirialan,’ said Talyc, ‘I hallucinated, but that is not happening today. You are all Mirialan women, like Jassahmi, but you are not her. Even you with the red blade, I know you are a Jedi by your stance. You are also all purer and more beautiful than that True Sith could ever be. Your good intent reflects in your expressions.’ He motioned his hand to one of them. ‘The way your lip curls into a mild smile.’ Talyc pointed at another one of the women. ‘And you, your green hue is like the green grass on Tython where I healed from my ordeal.’
            ‘You reassure yourself,’ said the one in the centre. ‘You reframe. Not many can do that.’
            ‘Check in with yourself now,’ said another.
            Talyc checked in with himself. His heart rate had slowed and his breathing was normal again. He nodded to them. He understood the test that had been laid before him.
            ‘Have I passed?’ he asked.
            ‘Only if you managed to feel better,’ said the one in the centre. She smiled as the six Mirialans walked away.
            Talyc sighed in relief. ‘Perhaps just a mild pass then,’ he said to himself. ‘I’ll have to work on that.’
            ‘Talyc, how could you!’
            Talyc looked up to see Fane. All of a sudden he felt confused.
            ‘Fane?’ Talyc stared at him for a moment. ‘What’s wrong?’
            ‘Vax! Again! You promised!’
            ‘Fane, I swear, I turned him down. I don’t know what he’s been saying, but you have to believe me.’
            ‘Well, I don’t!’ Fane crossed his arms. ‘That’s the problem; I never have. I know you, I know how you are, how you get. I never trusted you to begin with. I believed Vax over you on Dromund Kaas. I’m just waiting for the moment you’ll leave me.’
            ‘Fane! What’s going on?’ Talyc reached out to him, taking a step towards him. ‘You’re my man!’
            ‘Are you waiting for the moment I choose the Order over you?’ Fane said, stepping back.
            ‘No,’ Talyc shook his head. ‘We’ve made a promise to each other now. I trust you, Fane.’
            ‘Well, I don’t trust you! And that’s a problem.’ Fane glared at him. Talyc took another step towards Fane. He felt his heart drop to his stomach. If Fane was testing him, he was being rather cruel about it. ‘Should I have let you plummet to your death? Should I have not let my friends be captured by Relsor to save you? Should I let Awgro have you? I might be free then, free to choose my life with no attachments and be able to focus solely on my Jedi duties.’
            Talyc bowed his head, turning it to the side, and closed his eyes, feeling a tear run down his face.
            ‘You are testing me, Fane. But please, this is hurting. You are hitting me in all the places where it hurts the most.’
            Talyc breathed in sharply, shocked, staring up at Fane. ‘You don’t mean that.’
            Fane’s face was one of anger and Talyc thought he could see a flicker of remnant dark side emotions within it. He had never seen Fane this way. Talyc’s breathing became erratic and he felt himself shaking.        
            Fane shook his head, walking away. Talyc called out to him but Fane ignored him and exited through one of the doors. Talyc followed, but the door was locked. He felt himself panic, he felt urgency. He was confused.
            Talyc heard another door open somewhere. He looked up, wiping the tears from his face. He walked to the door and entered the room. There were cushions and meditation mats on the floor. Talyc had never been one to meditate but he figured trying to clear his mind and calm himself would help. He wanted to hurry and find Fane, but he knew he needed to finish the trials before he did that.
            The door behind him closed. He tried it; it was locked. He tried another door at the other end of the circular room. Also locked.
            ‘Very well,’ whispered Talyc.
            He sat down and closed his eyes, feeling all his emotions. He wept a bit, then breathed a bit. He tried some of the things Shadie, Knarf and Fane had advised him to do in the past. He tried things Lian had shown him while healing him.
            Talyc didn’t know how much time had gone by, but after a while, he stood. The door at the end of the room opened and there was a lot of light coming from it. Squinting his eyes to readjust to the light, Talyc hurried and emerged into a large room where stood many from the Jedi Council, including Master Herl’unik, and Lian was present via holo. The Jedi he had sparred with were also present, as were the Mirialan women, and Shadie, Knarf and Fane.
            He heard the servo motion of a droid and looked to the side. Eight-Oh and Supreme Chancellor Emain stood next to some of the Jedi.
            ‘Talyc, how are you feeling?’ Fane asked gently.
            ‘Confused,’ he admitted.
            ‘I must greatly apologise to you, Clan Leader Talyc,’ Eight-Oh said walking towards him. ‘I was given a script with very little room for improvisation. I must admit, I did not enjoy trying to make you believe those things that were being said to you, you must understand. I am but a droid providing what my masters deem necessary.’
            Talyc sighed in relief and nodded. ‘It’s all right. I understand. You look good with your new and improved parts, Eight-Oh. I’ve not seen you since Tython. I’m glad to know it was only you.’
            ‘Only as Cypher Five and as Jedi Fane, sir,’ the droid replied.
            ‘I’m so sorry,’ said Fane. ‘I had to tell them a bit about what had happened but I had no idea how they would be testing you. It seemed like torture, but you needed to feel an urgency to then channel disciplined patience.’ He took a beat. ‘Talyc, I am your man.’
            Talyc took Fane in his arms, tears running down his face, and he held him tightly. It was comforting. Fane pulled away as the others approached.
            ‘I feel ashamed,’ Talyc admitted. He bowed his head.
            The old Miraluka master cupped his chin and lifted his face.
            ‘Do not feel shame for resisting the dark side,’ she said. ‘You were presented with many opportunities to falter, many reminders of past failures, and yet you persisted on.’ She backed away.
            ‘Many who try to utilise the dark side for the light side fail,’ said Master Quar’zun. Fane had confirmed he’d been the Jedi to give Talyc the warning. He’d been stern the previous day, now his face reflected approval. ‘Though some have mastered both light and dark,’ he nodded towards Shadie, ‘it is a feat that is difficult to achieve. And you resisted any urge to do that which would not guarantee you success.’
            ‘Many Jedi who do these trials fail at their first attempt,’ said Master Herl’unik, ‘and they do them to become knights, masters… You have passed, as I predicted you would. You passed with better results than I was hoping, and I had high expectations of you.’
            ‘I did? I mean, I didn’t fail?’
            Master Herl’unik shook his head. ‘Your heart is pure, your conviction honest, your commitments empowered.’
            ‘You’ve impressed us all’ said one of the Mirialans.
            ‘You understand we had to hit you where it hurt the most to test your mettle, to test your ability to resist the dark side,’ said Lian. ‘All Jedi pass trials. You don’t have the Force, and yet you passed in ways even some Jedi cannot. You have an admirable spirit, Talyc. I am so proud of you.’ Talyc smiled.
            ‘Kelbourn would be proud too, I know it,’ said Knarf.
            ‘I still require a massage though,’ said Shadie, smiling, ‘that back clamp thing you did…’
            ‘So how did you two get here?’ asked Talyc.
            ‘With the Sphere, how else?’ said Knarf. ‘We’re due back on Korriban tomorrow. We have a lovely meeting with Lady Gofaylia. It appears the way to her heart is by annoying Lord Void.’
            Talyc laughed. Fane took his hand. He looked apologetic. Talyc shook his head. He suddenly kissed Fane fiercely and he didn’t care who was watching. He wanted Fane to feel all his passion, Force or no Force. He placed his forehead on Fane’s.
            ‘Don’t apologise, Fane. Just be.’
            ‘You too, just be,’ said Fane. ‘And love me.’
            ‘You know I do, so much!’
            Talyc heard many people begin to leave. He cleared his throat, feeling sheepish, as he looked back at the others, who were smiling.
            ‘We have training for you,’ said Master Herl’unik. He looked at Fane. ‘Do you have the prototype?’
            Fane nodded. He took out a small device. ‘Vax gave me this on Dromund Kaas after you’d left. I’m not sure he was allowed to, but it’s the special shield that dampens Force powers and blocks certain attacks. Master Herl’unik would like to study it and train you so that you can learn to use it in the best ways to optimise its efficiency.’
            ‘I guess I’ll have to thank Vax next time I see him,’ said Talyc.
            ‘I’m sure we’ll cross paths with him again at some point,’ said Fane. ‘It seems we have many secret allies.’
            ‘I look forward to my non-Force Jedi-type training,’ said Talyc.
            Master Herl’unik chuckled. ‘Then go and rest, or give Shadie her massage. She’s been going on about it non-stop.’ The Grand Master winked as the others left. Talyc finally felt the relief he had sought during the trials, a relief that came from reassurance and knowledge.
            ‘There is no ignorance,’ he said, ‘there is only knowledge.’

“Trials in the Force” is written by Celinka Serre (2022).

Disclaimer: The Characters in this Fan-Fiction are new and have original names. The story is an original written work. The story is derivative and consistent of Fan-Fiction since it borrows the franchise world of Star Wars. Certain jargon and places, or concepts mentioned, along with the SW Old Republic universe belong to Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney. No characters or story lines from the films are used. No story lines or characters from the games or books are used. A handful of characters from the games may be referenced, but are not the main focus in this fanfic story.  This fan-fiction story falls under Fair Use.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

You might also enjoy other SWTOR fanficsDragon Age Fan-Fiction short stories,  Mass Effect Fan-Fiction, or Stardust Destinies the High Fantasy Fiction series.

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