Elations rushed over Alex. The Force hummed from V as he stepped back and bowed. His joy intermingled with a small undercurrent of hesitation. Alex laughed lightly as she took in her newest student. She could practically see the questions forming in his mind. “Don’t thank me yet.” Her eyes shifted back to the atrium. “I push my students and I will test your limits.” Her voice was not harsh. It was just the truth. She protected all of her Padawans, but you could not grow in comfort. The path of the Jedi was not easy, and they needed to learn to survive it.
Slowly, Alex reached into the Force again. “You know they don’t keep me chained to Yavin?” A small smile ran over her face. “The Council must lead by example. That same applies to me. Our responsibilities will take us across the galaxy, and you will learn as we go.” She backed away from the railing and held up one finger. “But there are no special privileges. You will be treated as all other Padawans.” She knew taking V as her student would expose him to greater danger, but she felt he could handle it. That was the path the Force wished for them. She would keep him safe, and he would grow to me the Jedi she saw within.
The mention of the Sith caught her attention. “There are no easy answers. The Force has both Light and Dark. We are beings of the Force and so both are always within our reach…and there may be times that Darkness calls to you.” She stepped towards the railing again. “And we will face that challenge together. I will teach you to feel without letting that poison take you. We can accept our pain, our desperation, our anger while still walking in the Light…so no…you will not become like her.” Alex had faced those challenges head on. Above Byblos she had sought Stolas with a singular hate. Anger had driven her to invade Asminys mind. She could show V the right path.
Thankfully, Alex didn't receive his question harshly and pointed out that her position wouldn't be a hindrance to his training. At the mention that there wouldn't be any special privileges afforded to him, an actual smile lit up his face, "I wouldn'texpect anything less." It was evident that the Echani sought the challenge wholeheartedly, knowing full well that if he took the easy path, it wouldn't better him or help his brother in any way. There would have to be sacrifice on Vren's front but it would be nothing compared to what Kairos had given up.
When it came to his second question and truthfully told him that it could be a possibility, Vren realized he would have to remain vigilant of his own control. It was always easy to believe that you were in control until the galaxy had a funny way of throwing a wrench in that plan and proving you wrong. It was comforting that if he did draw to it or vice versa, he wouldn't be alone and would be able to correct course with Alex before it was too late.
While Alex assured him that he wouldn't become like the woman from long ago, Vren still kept it tucked in the back of his mind that he would have to remain true to his path despite temptations, even with the observance of the Grandmaster. The ability to feel has been something that vacated the young padawan for months and he was eager to be able to return back to what he was used to.
But after hearing everything, Vren pushed off the railing and faced toward Alex. "Then..." The padawan would bring both his hands together before bowing once more, this time slightly deeper, "I gratefully and humbly accept your offer to become your student, Grandmaster." There was a light at the end of a tunnel, the Echani able to see a small shaft of it and letting him know he was on the right trail.
When he straightened his posture, the rigidness evaporated from him as his hands dropped as well, returning to his young ways after finishing the pseudo ceremony. Despite it being in the dead of night, eagerness played at Vren's voice as he spoke, "Well, what should I do first? I'm ready to begin anytime I can." It was as if he had been rejuvenated and could run for miles if she deemed it necessary right then and there.
The future remained cloudy but every so often, a small shimmer of the path became clear. Alex could see that shimmer shinning brightly before them. They were meant to walk this path together. V was the student she was meant to find. The young Padawan seemed to share that sentiment. She could practically see the tension melting from his body. “Good.” Alex was tired but oddly she shared V’s excitement. “It is still the middle of the night.” She laughed softly. “I’m staying up, but you will need your rest.” Her voice brooked no argument.
“The Temple is home, and it is safe. You know better than most that the galaxy is not.” Alex’s eyes swept around the room. This was home…but not for long. “There is very little I can teach you within these walls.” The smile on her face grew slightly wider. “Get some rest and pack your traveling bag. We are leaving first thing in the morning.” She gestured for V to get going.
“Pack light. I don’t bring an entourage and we each carry our own bags.” Alex cocked her head to the side for a moment. “And you never know where we will end up.” She folded her arms across her chest. The path becoming firmer beneath her feet. “I expect you well rested and not a minuet late.” She could remember her days as a Padawan. Excitement had often gotten the better of her sleeping habits. Now it was duty that stole her sleep. What she wouldn’t give for the opposite. “This journey will change both of us for the better. I can feel it.” A small bloom of hope sprung to life in her chest. It had been so long since she felt that spark. It was easy to forget the future when she was so focused on the present. Teaching was a reminder of that future.
When Alex pointed it out, it seemed to dawn on Vren that it was still in the middle of the night. Being caught up in the prospect of being her student, it was forgotten she had first come there to discover who was stealing books from the library. At the mention of her staying up still, his mouth opened to counter that he could too but she quickly told him to get his rest and he shut it to not press his luck.
Vren knew better than most what type of dangers the galaxy held, about how it was cold, calculating, and able to chew someone up and spit them out with no care. With a nod after her gesture, he backed up a couple of steps, "Yes, Master. Alright, I'm going. I guess I'll see you here at dawn?" Before she could even answer his question, Vren would place one hand on the railing before vaulting over it and dropping to the first floor. With the help of the force, he landed softly and barely had any impediment in his step as he made his way to the door, his excitement not letting him halt for a moment.
Finally, it felt like tangible progress was being made. There was an etched-out path for him that he wasn't finding along the way but one that was already there and presented to him, structured and efficient. The Echani wouldn't rush out of the room but stepped out quickly as he lightly slapped his knuckles against his opposite palm.
In his haste to leave in order to get sleep and pack, Vren realized that he hadn't actually asked where he was supposed to meet Alex. Because of that, he just decided to fall back on what he said that night and would meet her at the library at dawn. The Echani would be dressed in his typical plain outfit with his jacket as he wasn't the type to really wear the robes in the first place. A bag would be slung across his back with a single strap, it almost packed to the brim with an assortment of items as there hadn't been any specification about where they were headed.
Vren just took his place by the door and leaned back against the wall, his arms crossed over his chest with one of his feet hiked up and pressed against the wall as well. The Echani was actually quite patient and while he waited, he would simply just wonder what his first lesson would be. His progress was already slightly behind and the reason why he snuck into the library in the first place, making him curious what his Master would choose.
V was gone before she could speak another word. Alex let her smile linger. She missed this part of life. The Morellian Jedi had not truly realized how much until the deal was done. She told herself all Jedi were her students but in truth that meant none really were. She let out a happy sigh. This was right. Walking a few paces away she went to tidy up the books left behind. Her fingers linger on the dark volume. The Force spoke clearly in her mind. Her eyes lost focus as her thoughts cast backward. Asminys sat bound in his cell, his face a mask of pain. Alex stood staring at him. Her eyes cold. Her purpose clear. Hints of a darker soul rippled at the edge. Drow had been with her that day. Alex’s partner in the shadows. She looked to her left, but it wasn’t Drow standing there.
Alex dropped the book and stepped backward. She saw clearly now the tendril of possibility. V was drawn to forces of the mind. Those forces that boarded the Darkness. Alex had walked that very same line. A careful balancing act between the light and dark. She walked away because the temptation had grown too great. In that moment, her resolve hardened. V needed her…perhaps more than either of them knew. The Grandmaster put the books away and returned to her quarters.
She did not sleep.
There were a host of other matters she needed to attend. Eventually, she packed her things to meet V in the library at dawn. The Force brushed aside her weariness. She could survive on that for a few days if needed. To her surprise, V beat her to the library. “Well…this is a first.” She chuckled.
“Come on, I can’t fly my ship out of the library.” Alex led them towards the Puddle Jumper. There would be no extravagant travel aboard the Liberty. “Care to guess where we are going? I’ll give you a hint…it’s not far.” She did have a plan to get things started. V needed to learn control or risk the alternative.
Vren hadn't slept much as well. The most he achieved was a few minutes before his eyes would just snap open, his mind running rampant with ideas of training with the Grandmaster. Each attempt would result in a different lesson being taught to him and an image of him utilizing it when he was older. The entire night would be a swing between those two states until he finally left for the library.
When Alex arrived at the entrance and made her comment, the Echani just gave a light shrug as a response as he was naturally an early bird as well. With a push off the wall, he joined the woman by her side as they went to the hanger to find her ship, his youth able to brush aside his tiredness much easier. With the opportunity given to him to guess, his golden gaze flicked downward to himself as he thought to himself.
At first, he believed they would have gone to the training ground but with the inclusion of the ship, Vren didn't really have an idea where they were heading, even with the hint that it wouldn't be that far. "To be honest, I don't really have an idea." The Echani didn't know Yavin enough to guess correctly or if it wasn't even on the planet. "Throwing out my one guess... a specific training ground or area?" It was a reflection of the martial experience and lessons he received when he was younger.
Arriving at the hanger, there was one ship that was prepared for take-off and he assumed it was theirs. He wasn't a pilot or mechanic but even from his distance, he could sense a difference between the craft he was staring at and the one he had flown briefly, Zed. It was strange but he could feel it. Either way, Vren walked toward the ship with hands in pockets, waiting to see if Alex would reveal their destination.
“Close enough.” The landing ramp lowered at a wave of her hand, the inner locks flipping with the Force. She tossed her pack into a bin and motioned for V to do the same. Alex took a deep breath. This ship had been her home for decades before returning to the Temples. Even now, the smells of ship set her at ease. She sauntered her way to the cockpit. The Temple Guard has prepared them for takeoff at her instruction. There were some benefits of her position. A few flips of the switches and they were ready to go. She called back to V. “Come take a seat and buckle up.” Once her Padawan was seated, strapped in, and ready, Alex would lightly lift the shuttle off the hangar floor to race into the Yavin air.
The Morellian Jedi sat silent for a few minutes while fiddling with the navigation system. “Our Order is much different than that of the Old Republic.” Her eyes stayed forward. “Before Rey, the old Jedi would turn away students they thought too old or too attached to the past. We’ve smartly corrected those errors.” Alex piloted almost without a second though.
“But…most still find their way to us as children or come from happy homes with families who know their children as special.” The Order remained a collection who did not always understand the pain of the galaxy. “You and I, and all those like us, are the exception.” She turned her head slightly to look at V. “We’ve known pain and suffering before we ever set foot in a Temple hall. It makes us different.” Her raised an eyebrow slightly. “Not bad…not better…not worse…just different.” The nav was beeping at her slightly. “We must face that pain least it consumes us.” The trip truly was extraordinarily short. “I waited too long and nearly made a mistake I couldn’t take back.” One of the mountain ranges of the upper jungle came into view. A makeshift landing pad rested halfway up one of the tallest peaks. She set the shuttle down lightly and hit the button to lower the ramp. “My mistakes will be your lessons.” She unbuckled her harness and trudged onto the mountain.
Vren remembered the last time he was the pilot of a ship and he gratefully took the co-pilot seat. With practiced ease, Alex pressed buttons and flipped switches as she prepared the ship before taking off smoothly. As they sailed through the sky, the Echani listened while his gaze flicked amongst the stars, his mind wandering to Kairo as his thumb pressed against the tattoo on his wrist.
Vren had heard very few stories of the Old Republic but had heard the legend of Rey. With being locked on Eshan for most of his life and especially his section of the city, tales of Jedi were echoed for only a few days before another story took its place. Rey and her achievements lasted longer than that span but it was about the only knowledge he knew of the Jedi despite what he was being taught lately.
At Alex's words, Vren simply replayed them in his head as he understood what she meant. They and those like them were the exceptions because it was much easier to be drawn back into that dark place, one where people have lost themselves and who they were. At the memory of his brother's kidnapping, he remembered the fear that pumped through his veins, the anger that boiled underneath his skin as he couldn't do anything but be still and quiet. The Echani had wondered what he would do once he found the people responsible.
At the tail end of that thought, Alex told him she almost made a mistake she couldn't have taken back and the words made the hairs on the back of his neck stand up. Before he could answer, the ship had honed in on a mountain range and quickly descended. Alex landed the craft gracefully before the two of them exited out onto the mountainside.
As they navigated up the path, Vren's gaze flicked to the trees and then toward his Master, "What was your first mistake?" Her use of the word was plural and he wondered how many lessons there would be. Was it something she had done after she had learned of Maxims death? The Echani's curiosity usually led him to ask more questions but he bit his tongue most of the time as they walked.
Alex remained silent. She let the sounds of the mountain surrounded the Jedi while they walked. The path wasn’t far, but it was steep. Fresh air filed her lungs. “We captured a Sith Lord above Byblos.” More accurately, Sevrin and Vahn had taken Asminys. She’d imprisoned Manat…both had escaped. “Asminys.” The beast had been missing for some time, but the legend remained. “He was held by the Sector Rangers at a black site. I had the pleasure of speaking with him.” Alex turned to look back at V. She paused on the path for a moment. “I was chosen for my skills in exploring the minds of others.“ Her eyes spoke volumes.
Her talent was one of the very books V had chosen. “I was always careful to respect the boundaries of other’s thoughts…but I grew frustrated with Asminys.” Alex turned to continue up the path. Again, she let the silence hang for a moment. “We had lost so many to the Sith…he refused to give us the answers we sought…” Silence again. After a few moments the path opened into another clearing. A flat space of rock and gravel extended around them. From this high, they could see miles and miles in any direction. Alex slowly walked to the center. “So, I took them. I speared his mind and ripped from it that which I needed. A choice I will forever regret.” She folded her arms and fixed a stare on her Padawan.
“You want to learn the skills that will help you find your brother or bring his killers to justice. You will need this…but you must learn control.” Her voice remained even as she spoke. “You must not repeat my mistake. For there is a boundary we cannot cross.” Alex had never used her talents in that way ever again. “Read my mind.” She lowered her mental walls ever so slightly and waited.
His master began her explanation of what her first mistake was. As she spoke more, it was a path to him that even he could sense that she still regretted to this day. Vren's thoughts then went to the library, the book that had drawn his attention from the rest. Alex told him the powers that book contained was the very one she had tried to use herself. The picture of how that power was dangerous and could lead to the dark side was growing clearer and clearer.
It was unsettling to the padawan that some part of him was drawn to the book. That out of all of them in the library, the books that had called out to him had been that one. Was he destined for that same path she treaded? While Vren understood the regret that lived with his master, his mind couldn't help but think about one aspect of her story. "But what you have gotten from his mind was used to help the Jedi? Was it not? Is it really a mistake if you used the information to save others?" The Sith had committed countless atrocities with the skulls of their victims piling each day. Should it really be regretted that she had pierced this Asminy's mind in order to save countless others?
The pair arrived at a clearing, the Echani's bright golden eyes scanning each direction around him. Being used to the city life, to be able to lay eyes on such a spectacle of nature always took Vren's breath away. His home had been a metal and concrete jungle, one that he found out turned out to be more deadly than he imagined.
But when they stopped, Alex finally shed light on what they were doing there and her request made his gaze whip to her. "You want me to read your mind?"Vren wasn't confident, his abilities in the force shabby at the very best, especially with the idea of peeking into someone's mind. "Alright..." The padawan hoped him doing this wouldn't result in his master turning brain-dead but he turned to face her either way. With a soft inhale, the Echani would close his eyes and reach out to the force, the action taking a moment until he felt the strands all around him.
But in front of him stood a beacon and that was Alex herself, the force flowing within her freely and almost radiating off of her with him paying attention then. It put an actual perspective of how powerful she was and eased his worries he would do any harm. With a soft push through the force, Vren would reach out toward her mind with invisible fingers as used them to push past her defenses and slip into her head.
V’s mind reached for her. Good. She let the tendrils of his thoughts seep past her defenses. Alex allowed him to feel her regret…her pain when faced with what she’d done to Asminys. That was all her would feel. With lightning quick force, her slapped V’s mind away, to send a shock wave up the bond. Her walls locked tight, and she leveled her gaze at him. “Again.” Alex clicked her tongue. “Less hesitancy and more confidence.” Her barriers lowered slightly…they would not be so easy to pass this time.
“Push past the barrier…don’t tip toe through…come at me.” She folded her arms and waited. A deep breath of mountain air filled her longs. She talked while V worked. “There is a price to everything that we do. The Force is a gift, but it is not free of consequences.” Alex knew that idiom too well. The first half of her life had been paying those consequences. “The Sith are willing to pay any cost…suffering? Fine. Pain? Not a problem. Death? Easy. Their soul? Even easier.” She kept her eyes on him.
“We must hold to a higher standard or we little better than the forces we oppose.” The Grandmaster had been brought low that day. She’d dragged Drown down along with her. “I learned information from Asminys that we needed. Information I’ve used to keep people safe. The price was too high, and it is a price I never should have paid…a line I never should have crossed.” She shook her head slowly. “I took the easy way out because I was hurting, and I was frustrated. Now, it’s forever easier for me to make that choice again.” Her words sung in the air for a second. “Easier for me to walk a path from which I might not return. That was the price I paid.” Her voice echoed for a moment. “Now break through.” She clicked her tongue again.