The jungle of Ajan Kloss was nothing like home. The gentle comforting hum of sublight engines was replaced by the chirping of avians and howls of mammals. Instead of engine grease and ionization, the only scents sneaking through Xakaia's helmet filter were those of dirt and biomatter. Still, the solitude of the unfamiliar jungle was much preferred to the inhabited temple of the Jedi, filled with people. The thought sent a shudder through her as the images of their alien faces filled her mind.
Stopping her trek at the top of a small cliff overlooking a rushing river below, Xakaia sighed. She had yet to reflect on the events of the past few days, the memories too painful for her to even think about with so many unfamiliar faces around. Taking a seat on the precarious ledge, the Ubese's eye was almost immediately drawn to the scarred patch of pale skin still visible through her damaged survival suit. Her mind still couldn't quite wrap itself around what had happened, how her flesh had simply closed up, knitting itself back together before her very eyes.
Was that what it was to be a Jedi? She still wasn't quite sure. At first she had thought that having the magic of a Jedi made her one, but it seemed that perhaps there was more to it than that. Whatever it meant, it was clear to Xakaia that she was not a Jedi, at least not yet. How could she be a Jedi if she couldn't even replicate what she had done on her parents ship. She stared at her gloved hand for a moment through the visor of her helmet before thrusting it forwards as she had before, willing the magic to make itself work. Nothing, just like the last few times she had tried. Maybe… maybe she wasn't a Jedi after all.
Hal lingered along the tree-line, content with watching the Ubese hold her hand out in vain, attempting to recapture the magic that still alluded her. He'd felt it too. When he let the Force channel through her wound, he'd felt a spark within her, a presence that he hadn't detected previously. The pirates had mentioned a Ubese Jedi, but to Hal's knowledge, there weren't any Ubese within the Order's ranks. That meant that she'd used her powers before, but couldn't seem to recreate what she'd once been able to do. The girl was Force-sensitive, there was no doubt about that... but she was not a Jedi yet.
As much as he wanted to reach out and help her, Hal was hesitant. First of all, she was a Ubese - a notoriously xenophobic race. The fact that he'd dared to touch her skin was probably a grievous affront, but it wasn't like he'd had a choice then. He had a choice now though. Hal had no responsibility to take care of her - she was free to leave Ajan Kloss, rejoin her people, roam the galaxy once more. Sure, she'd never be able to properly harness the power within her, but the Force was often a curse as well as a blessing. And would he even make for a good master? He was one of the freshest Knights in the entire Order... but the longer and longer Hal deliberated, the more he realized that there wasn't much of a choice in the matter after all.
"That's not how the Force works." Hal said, emerging from within the jungle. He was wearing the same garb as before: a matte poncho that bordered the fine line between casual and formal wear for a Jedi, with his lightsaber hanging freely from his belt. "But I can show you how to use it."
The Jedi's words were the first indication Xakaia had of the man's presence as he stepped out of the jungle. She cursed herself for not noticing him sooner, her head so wrapped up thinking about the Jedi's magic. She eyed his lightsaber through her visor, the only weapon the man wore, yet a potent one. Had their positions been reversed she would have… no, the Jedi was not her enemy, couldn't be her enemy if she wanted any hope of understanding their strange magic. Not that she could have leveraged any advantage of stealth without a weapon, naked as she felt being completely unarmed on an unfamiliar world. She continued to stare at him as she considered his words, his offer. Humans used so many words.
Slowly, Xakaia came to her feet and stepped away from the cliff edge, never truly facing away from the Jedi out of habit. Looking at him, then back over the cliff, she once more thrust her hand uselessly out over the expanse. "Pirates on ship, magic." She croaked as she tried her best to convey what had happened in basic, her helmet's voice modulator enhancing her scratchy voice loud enough to be heard. Turning her hand towards the Jedi, she thrust her palm out at him with similar results. Nothing. "Jedi here now, no magic."
Letting her hands fall, she held them palm up, staring at them for a moment before once more turning her attention back to the jedi. Jedi magic. You teach? Motioning to the Jedi and then herself as she tried to elaborate somewhat. She understood basic well enough, functionally enough, but spoken Ubese was a simple language comparatively which made it difficult for her to translate. "I Jedi. I pay? The question made perfect sense to her. The hideous Jedi had a skill that she wanted to learn, and Xakaia had… well she didn't have credits. But with Jedi powers it wouldn't be too difficult to pay the man back... She hoped.
Hal processed Xal's words silently. The girl may have been struggling to speak Basic, but she'd communicated her plight effectively - every Force user had once felt her frustration. To have the Force flow through you, to have its energies use your body as a conduit, connecting you to something far greater than yourself... there was no greater euphoria, and no greater disappointment when you found yourself unable to recapture its power. Hal could only imagine the frustration and confusion she must be feeling at the moment.
The language barrier between them would make this lesson even more difficult than it would've been otherwise. Hal knew that the girl was cautious of him - he didn't need to be a historian to realize why the Ubese hated Jedi - but she would have to take a leap of faith, as he once did, if she was willing to learn. "The Force isn't magic." Hal finally explained. "It's an energy, a tension, that binds everything in the universe together. Some beings are more attuned to it, like me... and like you." He gestured towards himself with his hand, then towards her. He didn't need the Force to sense the conflict within her, but hopefully she could push past her doubts. "Close your eyes, reach out with your mind, and breathe - what do you feel?" Hal let the muscles in his face relax, and as he closed his eyes he inhaled deeply, allowing the sounds and smells of nature to overwhelm him. The air Xal would be breathing would be filtered, almost synthetic, but the premise was the same.
As a Padawan, Hal was annoyed by the vague, repetitive doctrine preached by his elders, but as he grew he began to appreciate the wisdom in their words. It was easy to view the Force as merely a power, in terms of Light and Darkness, but it was infinitely more complex than that. "Just breathe..." Hal intoned again, and with his mind he reached out and 'sensed' Xal's presence in the Force. The girl had potential, that much was clear... but would she be able to overcome the trappings of her past? That remained to be seen.
Xakaia listened intently as the Jedi began his explanation, seeming to completely brush past the idea of any form of compensation for the lesson. Foolish of him in the mind of an Ubese, doing something for another without pay. But the Jedi was not an Ubese, his ways beyond Xakaia’s comprehension. Regardless of how foolish he seemed to her, Xakaia yearned to learn more of this… Force, as he called it.
At first, the idea of closing her eyes in front of one she might have called an enemy repulsed the Xakaia. But, as she watched the Jedi do as he preached, allowing the tension to leave his face as his mind turned elsewhere, Xakaia’s resolve grew. Slowly, she closed her eyes, peaking through them once or twice at the Jedi before deciding she could trust him for the moment. Her breath slowed as she let her mind settle.
And then she waited. She breathed as the Jedi had, and nothing happened. She tried to imagine the jungle around her, visualizing it in her mind as she remembered it, to touch it, before exhaling with a huff of frustration. One last time, she forced her mind to settle. Breathe… just breathe. Just breathing, no thought. Nothingness. Nothing but an inkling. A tickle.
A tickle that grew as it wormed its way into her awareness. She could feel.... Something, something outside of herself. Something alive. A tiny speck of life wiggled and wormed its way through the dirt beneath her boots. That awareness grew, slowly as she continued to breath. The roots, she could feel the roots that spread in a tangle through the moist jungle dirt and the insects that lived among them.
”I feel…” Her voice trailed as she squatted down, her gloved fingers digging through the moist dirt. Pulling the life form from the earth between a forefinger and thumb, Xakaia could barely contain her excitement. ”Worm!” The hoarse whisper was amplified to an exclamation by Xakaia’s mask as the earthworm wriggled between her fingers. Watching the worm move, feeling its lifeforce connected ever so faintly to her own, Xakaia placed it on her palm carefully.
”How?” She looked back to the Jedi with her head cocked in question. The feeling was gone, her connection once more severed as she lost focus. Staring down at the worm once more as it crawled across her gloved palm, the realization slowly dawned on her that there might be more to this Force than pushing pirates and healing wounds.
Through his mind's eye, Hal felt something blossom within the Ubese. The nature that surrounded them was sensed as a dull, pulsating glow, with the worm and other lifeforms representing tiny pinpricks of light each, but Xal... the spark that Hal had sensed within her had become a fire. The Force flowed through all living things, but she had been suppressing it, perhaps out of doubt or out of fear. Not anymore. Now it flowed freely through her, and Hal could sense her like a beacon of light amidst the surrounding grey. To witness the Force awaken within someone... it was an experience he wouldn't soon forget, even as the flame faded away into nothingness once more.
Hal exhaled as he completed his reverie, locking his pale blue eyes with the girl's visor. "Like I said earlier, the Force, it's not magic." He explained. "Life creates it, just as the Force lives within all of us. We are more than just this crude matter - Xalkaia, a Jedi doesn't own the Force no more than you own that worm. We protect life. We protect the Force. And we do that by learning how to use its power." A part of Hal resented how he merely repeated the same vague platitudes that his master had once intoned to him, but having witnessed what he'd just seen, the Knight could only now appreciate the truth within those words. It was easy to forget that the Jedi were aware of a universe far greater, far more beautiful and more profound than the rest of the galaxy could possibly understand. That they fought for more than just the lives of a certain few - that they fought on behalf of all life. That was the true duty of a Jedi Knight. "You can leave this planet, go back to your normal life even... or you can join us, and become a Jedi. The choice is yours."
Meeting the Jedi's gaze with her own, Xakaia considered his words. The Force was not magic, but life. Looking down at the worm in her hand as it wiggled helplessly in her grasp, the Ubese had a brief thought to squeeze the helpless creature until it popped. She refrained though, the Jedi's words on her mind as she poked the worm with a finger.
"Protect life?" The concept was strange to her, the only life she had ever been concerned with protecting was that of her and her parents. Everybody else… was the enemy. Or so she had thought. But the worm, even in its helplessness, had shown her something new. Something magical. Even if it wasn't magic. Carving a place in the dirt out with her fingers, she gingerly placed the worm back where it belonged before smoothing the dirt over it. "Protect life" She whispered with a nod as she stood to face the Jedi, her new teacher, once more.
Xakaia would visibly tense up as Hal laid her options before her. Go back? Thankful for the ever present helmet as she felt her face grow wet, looking down as her hand subconsciously reached for the scarred flesh still visible in the hole in her vac-suit, a flood of painful memories coming with it.
"Can't." Her hand moved to her decorative belt buckle, carved with her clans emblem. Pulling the buckle free, she stared at it for a moment, her thumb running over the sign of her family. Without warning, she would turn and huck the buckle out over the chasm, where it would fall and splash into the roaring river below to be lost forever.
"Nothing to go back to. I Jedi now." Her quiet voice choking up slightly as she nodded once more to Hal. "Teach me to be Jedi."
As Xalkaia dropped her clan's insignia into the abyss, Hal felt her last ties to her home, her heritage, fall with it. This was likely the most significant decision of her entire life, and she'd made it with only a moment's hesitation. To face the hardships of an uncertain future, to place her trust in a man she'd only recently met - Hal couldn't help but be impressed by her resolve...
It was then that he felt a wave of doubt crash down upon him - not from her, but from within himself. It threatened to overwhelm him. A moment ago, he'd been so confident, so steadfast in his beliefs, yet the moment he was faced with this responsibility, his mind went blank. What came next? What was he supposed to say now? How could he teach Xalkaia to be a Jedi Knight when he was barely one himself? How was he going to teach her how to use a lightsaber?
"Teach me to be a Jedi."
The young Knight took a step forward, then another. With each step, the right words failed to come to him. All he could do walk forward and hope that the right words would come eventually. In desperation, Hal thought back to his own Jedi Master, who all those years ago in the Outer Rim, had imparted this wisdom to him.
"Many say that failure is the greatest teacher, but there are those who refuse to acknowledge their failings, and there are those who are consumed by them. The most important role of a master, therefore, is to acknowledge failure, and then move on, and to teach their students how to move on. Only then can they truly learn."
Suddenly Hal understood what his Master had meant. He would fail in teaching Xalkaia - more than once. The path ahead would not be easy. He would have to overcome his own demons, his own recklessness, his hatred, his ego, so that he would not impart them onto her. Likewise, she would have to learn to embrace the Order, her new future, just as she had learned to reject her past. And maybe they wouldn't be able to... but the real failure was not trying at all. She had already moved on. It was time for him to do the same.
"I will. I promise you, Xalkaia, you will become a Jedi." Hal said solemnly, standing before her on the cliffside now. After a moment's hesitation, he placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her, but also so that she could feel his presence in the Force. Where once there was confusion, there was clarity. Where once there was doubt, there was strength, and resolve. After a few moments, he withdrew his hand and gazed into her visor. "It won't be easy - for either of us - but you've already done the hardest part: take the first step. Not many beings are brave enough to do what you've done today, and you've proved yourself to be a skilled warrior."
Attached to his hip was his lightsaber hilt, but when Hal reached into the recesses of his cloak, he withdrew a smaller, shorter hilt than the one he used onboard the pirate ship. "This is a shoto - a short lightsaber, sorta like a vibroblade, but a bit more complicated." He held the hilt out in his outstretched palm. "And now it belongs to you."
Maybe the most belated post ever lol. If you wanna continue this, Xal can take the blade and we can see where things go from there. If it's been too long and you don't want to, don't worry about it, just DM me.