The Imperial phantom-class starship touched down near the Kandera bunker. Talyc recognised it as Vax’s; apparently so did Fane, for he fidgeted uneasily. Talyc took his hand to comfort him. Fane nodded, as though acknowledging the reassurance.
Vax exited the ship with a group of Imperial officers. He walked up to Talyc and bowed politely from the waist.
‘Talyc, you look well.’
‘Cypher Five, if you please,’ said Vax. ‘We are here to collect our shipment of beskar’gam, strictly speaking.’ He turned to Fane. ‘Fane, my congratulations are in order. You saved the galaxy and I am very grateful that you both live.’
‘Thank you, Cypher.’ said Fane. It felt weird to Talyc to hear Vax being addressed as such by Fane. He shifted awkwardly, not because of Vax or Fane, but because of the formality of the exchange.
A group of Mandalorians were bringing out a few crates of shipment, as well as carrying out the beskar from the bunker.
‘May we speak privately?’ Vax asked Talyc. One of the officers looked at Vax. The Imperial agent did not heed him. ‘I wish to discuss what happened on Dromund Kaas.’
Fane scowled but he walked away, giving Talyc and Vax some space. Vax motioned Talyc towards the bunker. Talyc recognised the look on Vax’s face and guessed this was a ruse. As they made their way into the bunker, Talyc began talking about his and Fane’s engagement. He saw the officers eyeing them but they did not follow them into the bunker.
As soon as they were in, Vax hurried to a far-end room.
‘Can we speak freely here, are we being monitored?’ he asked.
‘No, go ahead, what is it?’
Vax nodded. ‘First off, is this true, what you just said? You’re engaged?’
‘Yes. I realised that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Fane.’
‘I can’t say I’m pleased to hear it, but I am happy for you,’ said Vax. He paused. The Rattataki’s grey skin seemed paler in the bunker. ‘Listen; given our affiliations with Lord Void, we are being scrutinised and evaluated by Lady Gofaylia. She seems to enjoy…toying with people. She specifically sent me to pick up the shipment. I’m not sure if she’s looking for a reason to end the alliance early and mark you as our enemy, or if she is testing my commitment to the Empire. Regardless, I must keep up appearances.’
‘I understand.’ Talyc pointed a thumb towards the exit. ‘Are those her officers?’
‘No, but everyone has been told to keep an eye on everyone and to judge everyone,’ replied Vax.
‘Ah, yeah, that mustn’t be much fun.’
There was a shuffling sound that quickly stopped. Vax looked around.
‘Are you certain we’re not being listened in on?’ he asked.
‘I’m pretty sure,’ said Talyc. ‘The bunker door isn’t a quiet one. And we can hear your officers inspecting the beskar outside. I did choose good quality beskar for you.’
‘Thank you. Listen, off the record, there is a matter I wanted to discuss with you, and I was hoping Lady Gofaylia would send me here.’ He got closer and lowered his voice. ‘Awgro has put a bounty on your head. Word is, he wants you captured and brought to him so he can kill you. He’s made sure to put this bounty to all non-Mandalorian bounty hunters. One of my contacts got in touch and informed me.’
Talyc took a deep breath and let out a long sigh. ‘It was to be expected,’ he said. ‘No rest, eh! We just fought one major enemy.’ He shook his head. ‘I suppose it’s better to know. And had Awgro spread the word to Mandalorian bounty hunters… Well, most clans would have told me, so I assume he thinks I won’t find out the extent of this bounty.’
‘No, exactly,’ said Vax. The Rattataki got a conspiratorial look on his face. ‘There is something else. He also put a bounty on a woman called Maranna.’
Talyc scowled. ‘Never heard of her. She’s not a Kandera as far as I know.’
‘What little Imperial Intelligence was able to dig up on her was that she was recruited in her early adulthood at the Sith Academy on Korriban. Apparently, she has a Force defect. Word is she simply absorbs everything.’
‘Well, a lot of Jedi master the art of absorption, so I’m not surprised at the ability. I mean some Sith do it too, so she must have it to some extreme for it to be qualified as a defect.’
Vax shrugged. ‘All I know is that she was rejected and hunted as a Sith and was unable to learn the ways of the dark side properly. She joined the Followers of Kromus, though I do not know if she ever knew Kromus or Gourd, or if she ever met Relsor, for that matter. I don’t know what her affiliation with Awgro is either for him to want her dead. I believe he prefers to have her captured but the information about her is ambiguous at best.’
‘That is strange,’ said Talyc.
‘I thought you should know. Perhaps you and your friends can find her, find out what she knows about Awgro that he doesn’t want the rest of us to know.’
Talyc nodded. ‘Sounds good to me.’ He began to turn to go.
Vax caught his arm. ‘Talyc, we never had this conversation.’
Vax took Talyc’s hand and squeezed gently. ‘Live well.’ He let go and walked towards the exit. Talyc watched him leave and was as surprised as he was when he shouted in startlement. ‘Seems we were being listened in on after all.’
‘What?’ Talyc followed and saw what Vax was frowning at. Fane stood in the corridor, blushing and looking sheepish.
‘Well, it doesn’t matter, I suppose,’ said Vax, ‘since you are to be husbands, speaking to one of you is like speaking to the other. Fane, we never had this conversation.’
‘Understood,’ said Fane.
Vax left the bunker. Talyc looked at Fane incredulously, then he reached to take his hand.
‘I’m sorry,’ said Fane.
‘How much did you hear?’ Talyc asked, curious.
‘Almost the whole thing,’ said Fane. ‘I guess I needed to make sure my fears were just fears.’
‘Looks like I’m not the only one struggling to admit my own emotions,’ said Talyc. Fane nodded. ‘Like you said, Fane, as long as we’re honest with each other and ourselves.’ He paused. ‘Are you reassured?’
Fane nodded. ‘I do trust you, I just…’ He trailed off.
‘Fear, and the dark side,’ said Talyc.
‘Yeah. What are we like, eh?’
‘Well, you’re exactly the man I need you to be, no matter what, because you’re my man!’ Talyc kissed Fane and held him in his arms. Something chimed and Fane looked at his datapad. ‘Shadie and Knarf have arrived on Korriban, safe and sound, for now.’
‘Well, there we go.’
* * *
Shadie breathed in the hot air of the sandy planet, feeling the ominous presence of the dark side. The Valley of the Dark Lords wasn’t too far from where they were. She could feel the energy fuelling her. She wished she didn’t need to be in the presence of the dark side to feel better. though she could not deny how powerfully it was helping her already. It was as though she didn’t need to try to absorb it. Relsor had taken a lot from her, draining her light side. Now the dark side was just sweeping itself in, but the light side could not penetrate her natural defences.
Knarf looked around, looking unconfortable, his blue armour gleaming in the sunlight. He took a step back towards the Sphere and into its shade.
‘I feel so exposed,’ he said. ‘And out of place.’ He looked down at his armour. ‘Perhaps I should commission myself some proper Mandalorian armour. This armour served its purpose well when Talyc had it made for me, but I’d rather have something more…orange.’
Shadie smiled at her husband. ‘You’ll be fine. You don’t look out of place.’
Shadie patted the Sphere and it took flight to go somewhere safer. She reached her hand out to take her husband’s hand, and together they walked in silence towards the academy, feeling, sensing, and yet through their hands comforting each other.
They walked up the steps to the academy. A tall imposing figure appeared out of nowhere.
‘Jedi Eidahs!’ she said. ‘Don’t think we Sith haven’t forgotten how you abandoned us. You may have been invited, but you’re not welcome anymore among the Sith. The fact that you’re Mandalorian does not change the fact that you are no friend of ours!’
‘Charming!’ exclaimed a Miraluka as he approached, his lips curled into an amused smile. He was tall, and garbed in long robes that left his chest bare, save for some neck, arm, and shoulder bindings. He wore charcoal-coloured, rectangular eye covers, and his silver-grey shoulder-length hair was well-kept. ‘Mind your manners, Drezhiess. The Mandalorians are formidable allies and it would be unwise to make enemies out of them so soon after they and their Jedi clan mates saved the galaxy and the Force itself. The dark side exists thanks to a Jedi who saved it from utter destruction.’ He inclined his head. ‘Remember, you were ill and bedridden. Thank the Jedi for saving your life from the illness that afflicted you, which was caused by Haar’elso’rothmor.’
Drezhiess made a face but said nothing and walked away. The Miraluka turned to Shadie.
‘Apologies, Darth Shadie. Not all Sith have forgotten your good deeds.’ The Miraluka bowed politely. ‘Storimbu, though many call me Storm.’ He flickered some lightning in his hand and created a dazzling orb. ‘My birth name fits with my gifts.’
‘A pleasure to meet you,’ said Shadie.
‘Likewise.’ The Miraluka man nodded to Knarf, extinguishing the orb of lightning.
‘I was beginning to wonder if I should hide behind my helmet,’ said Knarf.
‘No need, unless you feel you must,’ said Storimbu. ‘You have our respect.’
‘And who does this “our” include?’ Shadie inquired.
‘You may not know us, but we know you, Shadie. You have friends among the Sith, those of us who admire you. We understand and accept the sad truth that you will never return to the Sith Order, and we respect your independence from any order as a Mandalorian, using both light and dark sides to balance the Force within you. And we feel thus because we have learnt the ways of your former master.’
‘Oh, that’s good to hear. I’m on my way to see him now.’
Storimbu lowered his voice. ‘I’m not talking about Usharr.’ He smiled. ‘The Followers of Kromus are many, though Kromus we follow no more.’ He began backing up slowly, inclining his head more, his smile widening. ‘We are keeping an eye on you, Shadie, but do not worry, it is not a watchful eye, but a curious one. We welcome you and hope you enjoy your stay.’
He bowed again and turned to leave. Shadie looked at Knarf; he shrugged but gripped her hand more tightly.
‘I think we’ll be all right,’ said Shadie.
‘As long as we don’t have to go visiting any tombs, I suppose,’ said Knarf.
Shadie nodded, though she had the feeling visiting one of the ancient tombs might be part of what she needed to do to help her. Knarf didn’t have to follow her into the tomb, though, and she probably needed to search her darker side alone, find that which she repressed from the fear of it consuming her. Shadie knew that if she could befriend her darker side in a less fearful and repressive manner, then it might be able to coexist with her light side without overpowering it. The balance she had once sought had tipped to one side, and Shadie knew she needed to rebalance. She understood how much of both she truly was, now that she had lived as a Jedi for so long, and now living as a neutral Force-user.
She looked at her husband and smiled. They would be all right, even here on Korriban.
* * *
They entered the Sith academy. Knarf crinkled his nose. He could sense the watchful eyes of Sith scrutinising them – he definitely needed more Mandalorian armour, he’d sure feel more comfortable in it in situations such as this one. He followed Shadie through the halls to the room where they were to meet Master Usharr. It unnerved him how well Shadie knew the place; he would have hoped she would have forgotten, but he supposed that would be unrealistic of him to expect that.
Usharr stood behind a desk and beamed up at them as they entered.
‘Welcome, welcome, my friends,’ he said. ‘I trust your trip went well?’
‘The trip did,’ said Knarf. ‘I must admit I don’t really like it here.’
Usharr chuckled. ‘You’ve survived worse places. Korriban isn’t as bad as Dromund Kaas, truly.’ Knarf shrugged.
‘My husband would rather we weren’t here,’ said Shadie.
‘I understand. Given the circumstances, I probably would feel a little uneasy myself. It’s not every day your light side spouse requires the dark side to balance out new powers in order to heal a body afflicted from a dark side malady that lingers despite its source being destroyed. I would assume the light side would be enough. I would fear the dark side taking hold of one so passionate as Shadie.’ Usharr clasped Knarf’s hands. ‘Worry not, Knarf, Shadie is in good hands. I will help her to the best of my abilities, but she will need her Jedi training to accompany my dark side training. Nothing in what she requires suggests the dark side should be dominant within her. If you have any concerns throughout the training, don’t hesitate to voice them. I will be happy to adjust my approach if required and if it reassures you.’
‘I appreciate that, Usharr, but I know that Shadie needs this, however it is you need to teach it to her,’ Knarf conceded. ‘I just don’t like the fact that the dark side is needed at all. I don’t like that it can’t be all light side and never an ounce of dark side.’
‘You would prefer a tip off the balance, to one side, as would many,’ said Usharr. ‘But we all know that balance cannot be achieved on one side of the scale. On either side of the scale.’
Knarf sat down and listened as Usharr instructed Shadie and planned out the next few days to evaluate her state and what might be needed to help her. Then they proceeded to test her current abilities. When they were done, Usharr sat down and put a hand to his chin.
‘It appears you are leaking, Shadie.’ Knarf cocked an eyebrow and Usharr continued. ‘The life Force within you is seeping out. Relsor has punctured your boundaries and the holes are many. They cannot be blocked but can be repaired. While they are being repaired, the energy you lose must be returned to you. That energy is needed to fuel you so you can repair your natural Force boundaries.’
‘That sounds complicated,’ said Knarf.
‘It doesn’t sound like good news,’ said Shadie.
‘It is, and it’s not,’ Usharr said, replying to each of their comments. ‘Refuelling isn’t enough. You are losing too much. Stopping it is one thing, but if that energy is being absorbed, which it naturally is, you cannot take it back. Even a non-Force user will absorb another’s energy. It is how the Force flows between all things, but if all you do is emit it and never absorb it back, you just keep losing and never gaining. You must learn to Life Drain around you, without targeting others around you. Life Drain your own energy that has escaped you in order to reabsorb it.’
‘Target Life Drain on energy and not a being, without affecting any beings?’ said Shadie, incredulous. ‘That’s near impossible!’
‘It’s not impossible,’ said Usharr, ‘and I can help you with that part. The repair part…you’ll need a healer for that.’
‘Lian has tried everything he knows, to no avail,’ said Shadie, sounding discouraged. Knarf took her hand to reassure her. ‘We’ve tried everything.’
Usharr smiled. ‘There is one other healer in this galaxy who can probably help you.’ He looked at Knarf and arched his brows.
Knarf pondered for a moment. ‘That’s right,’ he said. ‘Lian’s grandfather is still alive. He healed me after the ordeal with Darth Lahnius. He can probably help you and train you to repair yourself and whatever else you might need.’
‘So Korriban for now, and Ryloth after this,’ said Shadie. ‘Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me.’
“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.