New Alderaan was become close to a second home for Alex. The Morellian Jedi Master was dedicated to turning Max’s dreams into reality. When she had started, it had all been about grief. Her sadness spilling out from her at every turn. Her journey here slowly became something different. As Alex grew into the Jedi Master he had known she could be, her purpose on New Alderaan shifted. She no longer wallowed in that pain. Instead, she sought to honor his memory. The Temple on New Alderaan would be the ultimate testament to all Max stood for. Alex promised him she would see this dream become true and she intended to keep that promise.
So, Jedi Master Alexandria Thayless Voran was on New Alderaan again. This time she was not at the Capital but in one of the surrounding small villages. Her reasons for being here were just as troublesome as all the events that had unfolded with Sevrin. Children were going missing in the hills. Over the past few days 5 kids from the town had vanished without a trace. The President himself had reached out for aid. Disappearing children in the night felt very much like in Jedi Order wheelhouse. Alex had agreed without hesitation.
She had sent the call to others in the Order to join her outside the town. Alex’s strength in the Force was growing, but she was not without need to aid. The Order was a family. She treated it like a family. This was one challenge she would not tackle alone. Her mind was deep in the Force, stretching across the planets surface. Searching….searching. She felt not a single hint of the children. Where could they have possible been taken? What use could they serve? As far as she knew, the children were ordinary, with no hints of the Force. She needed help. So she waited.
Yvain had travelled much of the galaxy within his time in the Jedi Order but New Alderaan was a first. He had spent some time on the original planet when he was a Padawan and can even know, remember the pain of the planets destruction through The Force. Like a flame suddenly extinguished, the empty cold quickly taking its place. Though not up to its original's beauty yet New Alderaan was quickly catching up, it was an overall happy planet, one filled of bright futures and dreams.
But like most places there was always some sort of darkness hidden beneath the surface and this one happened to be with children going missing. The venerable Jedi Knight had a fondness for children, he had spent much of his time before the Clone Wars and since his return to the New Jedi Order seeking out force sensitive children across the Outer Rim. So when Jedi Master Voran sent out a call about missing children he quickly answered it.
Yvain walked through the village as fast as his small legs could carry him, he would smile and nod a greeting to all those who met his eye in the village, he had always been a happy fellow and even in dark times such as these, the people of the village needed to see a smile. He spotted the Jedi Master at the edge of the settlement, The Force was flowing around her like a river, Yvain could feel that she was reaching out searching for the children. His one major affinity was his sensory abilities through The Force, that is what made him an excellent recruiter in previous years, but he assumed that the Jedi Master at least for now had this covered.
Waddling up beside the Jedi Yvain looked up into her green eyes he smiled. "I assume, no luck Master Jedi?" He turned to face out into the fields beyond and took a deep breath of the fresh air. "Disturbing, this is. Children disappearing, taken. Foul, I am glad I am here. Four hands make light work. Yes." Yvain let her think upon that for a moment before continuing. "Shelter and Food, the Children need. Perhaps look for that first?"
The Light hummed in her senses. Alex felt Jedi Yvain before she saw him. She did not know the diminutive Jedi Knight personally but of course she knew of him. He was one of the few Jedi older than she was and bore a striking resemblance to the wise Masters of eras past. Her eyes fluttered open, a smile spreading across her face. “Jedi Yvain, thank you for coming.” She shrugged for a moment. “Nothing…not even a ripple in the Force.” Her smile faded. “If the children had run off on their own, I would have thought they would have stayed close to the village.” The Force continued to hum around them. She was searching, always searching.
“But I’ve sensed nothing. As far as I can feel, no Force sensitive children were taken, which makes this even more strange.” Alex sighed. “This part of New Alderaan is supposed to be safer…but I fear what we may find if we are able to locate the children.” The Governor’s reach was long and terrible. However, the despot had mostly remained contained within the Capital. They were far from those city streets now. “I suggest we search the surrounding hills, although I’m not sure we’ll turn up much.” Her voice was soft for a moment. “Frankly, I’m hoping our arrival was noticed and if the children were taken, their kidnappers are nervous. Nervous people make mistakes.” Alex clicked her tongue and set off down the hill.
The truth was their arrival had been noticed. A Jedi Master and small Jedi Knight were not a common scene in the outskirts of New Alderaan. Even now, they were being watched, but who remained to be seen. The Jedi would not continue their investigation unabated, but they could not know how soon obstacles would appear.
"Hmmm, yes. I do stand out a little." He replied with a chuckle before following the Jedi Master down the hill. He hoped Master Voran would understand that his little legs meant he could not walk as fast as she and he was not up for running yet. Yvain was in pretty good shape and with The Force as his ally he could move quickly over even tough and dangerous terrain but at this moment in time he would prefer to save his energy for when he needed it most.
"Ideas, do you have? On who would take the children? Anything similar happened?" It was strange for children to go missing on such a pleasant planet, one created completely out of positive intentions. This wouldn't be amiss on backwater worlds or the metropolises were children were but a number, but out here on New Alderaan it seemed strange. They had reached the bottom of the hill, there was a small rise ahead of them before a thicket of trees blocked their view. That would be the first place to look, the kidnappers would head into the trees as soon as possible to gain cover from anyone who would randomly walk by.
Reaching the edge of the thicket Yvain jumped up onto one of the low hanging branches near the edge, he scanned the woods for any kind of disturbance, from something as simple as a footprint to a broken branch. He surveyed the area for a few minutes before he spotted something, hopping across the branches he landed on the ground next to it. A small blue button, he picked it up showing it to the Jedi Master. "A clue perhaps? This way they have come, I believe."
Alex kept her strides short. She did not want race ahead of her smaller companion. “I’m all out of wisdom and brilliant ideas.” Unfortunately, that was close to the truth. “When I first heard the news, I assumed they were Force sensitive children being taken. It would not be the first time the Sith or other dark forces sought use those children to their own ends…but from what I can tell not a single child exhibited Force sensitivity.” She blew out an exacerbated sign. “Nothing similar has touched New Alderaan. These appears to be completely out of the blue.” Alex turned to regard Yvain. “Which makes this entire situation extremely difficult and frustrating.” She was a Master of the Force. The keeper of her own mind and emotions but this was grating on her soul.
Luckily, Yvain seemed to turn the tide. With surprisingly alacrity the Jedi jumped onto a low branch, spotting a small blue button on the ground. Alex spent down and gently took the button. Her mind flooded with images. The children running…no…being dragged through the thicket. They didn’t scream. They went willingly? Threats? Pain and anger hummed in the Force. One last image. A cave in the surrounding hillside. One thing she was certain of…“They have been taken, Yvain.”
Her lips formed into a frown. “I can’t quite see where. A cave, I think, in the surrounding hills.” That was all she was able to tell. “I don’t what has them, but the children went willingly, shaken by some terrible fear.” The Force clicked in her head. “We don’t have much time.” It was almost as if she faced an internal clock, slowly ticking down. They raced against whatever feeling was building in her chest.
Yvain rubbed his chin as she confirmed there suspicious, it was a troubling fact. Child theft was a terrible sin, though he could not call himself completely sinless, he had done things almost as similar when looking for Force Sensitive children for the old order. Though his cause had been more righteous, those children would go on to become Jedi Knights, defenders of the Galaxy and The Republic, or was that just a lie he told himself?
"Cave hmmmm, makes sense." He walked the surrounding little area, one to look for clues and the other to allow his mind to process. "Then little time we should waste then." He replied looking around, he needed more height. As before he bounced up into the trees around them though this time going higher heading to the canopy. Popping his little green head through the leaves he looked around. Behind and to his left was the village, following it clockwise was an open valley leading to a number of other small thickets like this. To his right however hills led away to the horizon.
Landing on the earth next to the Jedi Master he pointed in the rough direction of the hills. "Master Voran, that way hills are." He said a small smile on his face, for he had hope in both them and The Force that they would succeed.
She continued to be amazed by Yvain. Alex knew the Force gave them all incredible gifts. Still, it was rather spectacular to see the small Jedi bound up and down the trees. He landed beside her with a resounding thud. Alex gathered the Force around herself. She ran her tongue across her teeth. “I know you’ll keep up.” The Force filled her body, fueling the dash towards the hills. With the aid of the Force, the two Jedi were able to cross the terrain quickly…stopping just a few hills before the cave.
Alex slowed, expecting Yvain to have followed. Her mind reached out again in the Force and again she felt nothing. That seemed impossible. The Jedi Master closed her eyes and extended her mind. That was the difference. She literally felt nothing from the cave. It was as if it did not exist. Her frown deepened. “Something is wrong, I can’t feel the cave.” She tracked quickly up the hill, cautious as to not be seen.
Her eyes could not make sense with what her mind felt. “I can see it, I know it is there…but it rings silent in the Force.” She shook her head. She was old, but Yvain was much older. “In all your years have you ever seen such a thing?” There was no easy explanation, and she knew they would only get answers one way. Her lightsaber sprang into her hand. This was all very likely some kind of terrible trap. That did not mean the children were not still in dangers, that did not mean they were not needed. Strange Force cave or not. Alex planned to find out just exactly what was being hidden from her senses.
Yvain was about to make a quirky comment when the Jedi Master launched off ahead of him, The Force powering her body forward. He let out a sigh before pulling The Force within himself as he started running after the senior Jedi. Where she made long strides moving over obstacles with grave, Yvain hoped jumped and slid across the terrain as the moved towards the hills and the cave.
He caught up to Master Voran as she slowed near to the possible cave, he had not yet reached out with The Force so when she made her comment about her not feeling the cave he was confused more than worried. Following her up the hill Yvain reached out with The Force himself, small tendrils of power spreading around him. He pushed the most to the front, towards were the cave visibly was, but yet he could not feel it through that mystical power the Jedi controlled. "Disturbing this is." He said sitting back on his haunches as he rubbed his chin. "I have not see this no. But I have heard. The old temple had recordings of such things." He paused for a moment as stretched his back. "The Force hides from unspeakable things. Things it does not enjoy, death, destruction, agony." Pulling his own lightsaber from the clip on his belt he looked up at the Jedi Master. "We must hurry."
He kept the blade unlit as they headed over the final crest and towards the cave. Moving to his left he tried to keep the sun behind him to the best of his ability. The darkened vision of whoever was in the cave would struggle with light from Aldera, it was disturbing for the old Jedi for he could not see what was in the cave nor feel it. He felt truly blind as he approached, looking over to the Jedi Master next to him he said quietly. "We must be careful and quick, time without The Force hurts all living creatures. Jedi especially."
It was all tales and histories he had read whilst a young Padawan and Knight but he could not shake the dread that these were true and what was to come would hurt his soul.
Alex’s frown depended. She was nearly a century old and had never encountered such a feeling. It was only more concerning that Yvain expressed the same. Between the two Jedi there was nearly half a millennium of experience. They had encountered most of what the galaxy had to offer. Alex could only imagine what horror could have escaped both of them all this time. Yvain was right, they needed to act quickly. She walked quickly beside her fellow Jedi. They neared the entrance to the cave. A deep breath and the Light burst alive in her soul. Alex shinned in the Force like a beacon. There were no half measures to be taken. Her full strength was brought to bear.
“No matter what happens, the children come first.” The pit in her stomach sank lower. She stepped into the cave and the sensation that settled over her was terrifying. A heavy blanket seeking to whisk the Force away. It took every ounce of her willpower to stay focused. Her indigo blade snapped to life in her hand. She had never been one for stealth anyways. Sounds from deeper in the cave reached her ears…wailing they could not hear before. A thick overlay surfaced against the cries. Chanting. Her face hardened. What had they walked into?
Alex walked deeper into the cave until it narrowed into a slim hallway. The cries grew louder as did the chants. There was another section to the cave, one just beyond the hall. She began to walk down forward, she could see the flickering of flames against the stone wall. A wave of pain and suffering assaulted her senses. She nearly lost the Force again…it was almost as if it did not exist around them. The cries grew louder, the suffering surged, and Alex nearly faltered.
The cave was as foreboding to him as any battlefield he had witnessed, Yvain had watched thousands of clones die but none of it felt as painful as walking into that cave. Like the master beside him Yvain coated himself within the Light of The Force, the empty void of the space around them ripped at their veils like vicious dogs. He gritted his teeth as he walked slowly alongside his colleague, it was like walking on hot coals pain ripping through his body as he went.
Yvain had blocked out the chanting and the screaming the effort off moving through this dead place taking all that the old Jedi could muster. The walls became more refined as they walked further along, this was no longer a natural occurrence this had been hand carved, made for a specific purpose. He stopped as he felt his colleague almost stumble in front of him, holding out his hands he poured some of his withheld Force power out to steady her. Yvain had long since been a crutch for those around him, from Padawan's up to Council members and he would be one for the Master beside him.
He tried to pull a comforting smile across his face as he looked up at the women. "I am here, as is The Force." Yvain said pointing at the women's heart and then his own. "We find the children through this."
Yvain was by her side. Alex felt an odd comfort in the diminutive Jedi. He somehow knew just what to say. There was wisdom in age, and clearly still more she needed to learn. The Morellian Master nodded slowly. “Yes, we are not alone.” She steeled her heart and walked forward. The tunnel ended at the end of a steep ledge, stairs cut into the side of a massive underground caldera. Alex and Yvain now stood at the very top of those stairs. The Force still felt impossible wrong. Missing in some important way. An inescapable wrongness began to sit on top of that feeling.
They could see into the bottom of the caldera. Flames leapt in a circle with robes figures chanting as they moved rhythmically. Alex could see the children. They were laid out on alters in the center of the flames. Runes glowing beneath their bodies. What in the name of the Force? That powerful feeling of wrong grew stronger. She could see tendrils of life being sucked from the children…drained…as the chanting grew more powerful. Their vibrant souls being diminished. No.
Alex resisted the urge to immediately lead into the center of the caldera. A younger version of herself may have made that mistake. She was not so foolish. The children were in terrible danger, but some time remained. At least enough to try and make it down the stairs without being seen. Alex pushed the Force around herself and Yvain, dampening their footfalls. She nodded at her fellow Jedi and began moving down the stairs. Whoever was down below was so focused on the ritual, they had not yet noticed the Jedi. She had no idea how long that would last. They were undetected…for now.
He kept the smile on his face as she looked down at him, though if he was honest with himself he felt fake for having it. All his soul could do was be torn apart by the negative Force energy around him, a small tear even slipped out as he walked behind the Jedi Master.
Reaching the staircase, the vision in front of him nearly separated that soul from his body. How could one do this to children, to pure innocence, they had done nothing yet live their young lives and for that they were being punished, no sacrificed for some nefarious means. Yvain readied his lightsaber he was ready to jump in, he had sat idly for to long and felt as endless children died through The Force. He had felt Knightfall, felt Alderaan, Hosnian, Kijimi all those countless deaths and he could do nothing, what little Force energy he had left he built within himself and was about to leap in when he felt Voran's manipulation of the mythical power.
She wished to have secrecy, to get further before they unleashed there surprise. Although without a heavy weight on his heard Yvain nodded and agreed. The stairs were cut from the stone in haste, rough edges and big chunks were missing from the walls, near the bottom the little green Jedi hoped up and grabbed hold of one of these ledges so he was at the head height of the Jedi. With a lowered voice he pointed around the room. "They drain their Force Essence, I am worried if we stop them they will still try to kill them. We must attack as one, disable all we can and protect the children. I shall take the far side." If she agreed he would scramble a little further up the wall before readying a Jump to the other side.
The further they crept down the stairs, the worse the feeling became. Alex could feel the pain begin to creep past Yvain’s defense. Her own strength wavered the closer they came. Her mental walls scaled high…it did not matter. The waves of anguish crashed against them again…again…again. It was almost too much to take. The only thought that kept Alex moving forwards was freeing the children. If she felt this suffering, what must they feel. She nodded to her companion when they reached the bottom. “Agreed. It is our best chance to protect the children.” She watched Yvain scramble up the wall. They would need to time their assault carefully.
The cultists were so involved they had not noticed the Jedi or perhaps they didn’t care. To Alex, it did not matter. Her strength in the Force was undeniable. She brought every ounce forward. Her heart and soul filling with the Force. Darkness unlike anything she had felt before pushed against the light. Not the Darkside but something deeper, more perverted. A kind of manipulation rarely seen throughout the galaxy. Alex’s mind reached for Yvain. They needed to act as one.
The Force continued to build within her. The moment Yvain was in position and link his mind, she would strike out. Sent a massive wave of the Force hurtling towards the cultists. Alex was still in control. A piece of her, deep down, wished the cultists gone from this life…but Max had taught her better. She did not kill. That cost was too high. Her only goal was to render them indisputably unconscious. Alex could only hope the two Jedi could muster the necessary strength together.
He was about four meters up the wall, it was not a massive height but would give him the ease to launch himself across the room. He felt The Force materialise around his companion, she was ready to move and so he prepared himself. Pulling The Force within his little frame he enhanced the stands of muscle within his body, with his left hand grabbing hold of the wall his right ignited his green shoto lightsaber. As the snap-hiss was heard around the room he called to Master Voran through their link.
Shoving himself off from the wall, he sailed across the room The Force guiding his twisting frame as he went. The Force wave from the Jedi Master neatly guided under him as he came upon two of the cultists near the far side. Twisting his body Yvain spun his lightsaber cutting clean through the necks of the two assailants. He rolled to a stop a few feet past their limp bodies, unlike his fellow Jedi, he had no problem killing those who had done wrong to the innocent.
Turning he looked across the room the cultists were breaking from their gaze and two were heading towards the children knives in hands...
Yvain moved and the Force burst forth from Alex’s outstretched hands. Several of the cultists when slamming into the walls, slumping against the floor with a resounding thud. Death blossomed in her senses…her eyes flicked to see Yvain liberate heads from bodies. A very small frown tugged at the corner of her lips. She knew not every Jedi shared her sentiment. It did not change the poison taste in her mouth. Alex had been foolish to assume Yvain held her same ideals. Max would have checked beforehand. A stray though invaded her mind. Did the cultists really deserve to live? Alex banished that thought in an instate. She knew better.
Her mind returned to the task at hand. Two cultists moved towards the children with knives. It was as they feared. The cultists did not intend to leave the children alive. The Force filled her body again. Alex’s mind lashed out. Not one muscles was moved as her thoughts pierced the cultists. Their defenses were weak in comparison to the Jedi Master. The Darkness within their thoughts threatened to overwhelm her, but the Light in her heart was strong. One word raced across her thoughts. Sleep. An urge so powerful the Eternal himself would be unable to resist. The Cultists fell in a heap before the alters. Alex quickly surveyed the room. Two cultists racing up the stairs on the opposite side of the caldera.
“Yvain!” She pointed. The small Jedi Knight was closer, the significant uses of the Force taking their toll on Alex. This place made reaching the Light difficult and her strength was wanning from days searching the planet for signs of the children. They could not let a single cultist escape and they needed to know the truth of their actions. Who were they and why had they done such unspeakable things? Dead bodies couldn’t talk.
Yvain was panting, not from the exhaustion of movement but the sheer will it took to keep standing in such a place. The Jedi Knight spotted the fleeting cultists Voran had pointed out. Gritting his teeth he held out his hands and pulled The Force into outstretched arms. As the ritual had ended, some of the Living Force had seeped into this horrid void giving Yvain just enough energy to be able to grip the fleeing beings by the legs.
They both fell with a thud, cracking their upper bodies against the stone stairs. Luckily for them he had not bound their arms so they were able to save themselves from the worse of the hard stone, but it still would have hurt and one was crying out in pain from a large slash on his arm. The Jedi needed answers and someone needed to answer for these crimes, he was unsure if those Voran had dealt with were alive so he kept the pair now floating back to the centre of the room alive just encase.
As Yvain plopped them down he held his still ignited lightsaber close to the two cultists. "It would be wise to stay still." Looking to the Jedi Master he gave her a small smile, hoping that the little internal light it would give her would help in this void of The Force. "Master Voran, I will leave them to you, I will see to the children." With that he deactivated his saber placing it back on his belt as he went to the nearest child.
It was over. With a crack, Yvain put a stop to the fleeing cultists. Alex let the tension seep from her chest, returning the smile. It was a small comfort among all the darkness. She nodded again before headed towards the last conscious cultist. “We should get them out of here as quickly as is safely possible.” Her mind stretched towards the children. They were alive but many of them extremely weak. She did not know if they all would survive the journey from the cave. Whoever these cultists were had done lasting damage. Alex’s face became a serene Jedi master as she approached the cultist.
“Who are you.” The cultists laughed, blooding dripping from his broken teeth. “You already know Jedi…the Sith have come to Alderaan.” Her hair swayed as she shook her head. “No, they haven’t. There’s not a red blade among you…” Alex quickly looked around the caldera again. “And the Sith Order would have put up a better fight…tell the truth.” She did not want to touch the cultists mind. She could feel the film of darkness gathering there. She was certain these were not Sith. They had fallen far too easily. They wielded some portion of the Force but with little training or skill.
Another horrible laugh. “We are bigger than you will ever understand.” Alex was too slow to react, the cultist chomp on something in his mouth and immediately began convulsing. She could feel his life draining away in the Force. As he died, horrible tendril of Darkness burst from his chest, reaching into the hearts of all the remaining cultists. To her shock and horror, in a matter of moments they were surrounded by the death…and she was powerless to stop it. Alex spun, searching for the children. Luckily, they seemed unharmed. Just as a small measure of hope began to form, the caldera shook. “We need to go.” Hopefully Yvain had managed to at least get a few of the kids moving.
"Come little one, up we go." Yvain said to the second child as he helped the young girl sit up. The first another young girl stood beside him. She was shaking like a leaf, the Jedi had given her his lightsaber to hold. The ignition switch firmly locked by The Force to stop any accidents. Holding the weapon of the Jedi had seemed to calm her a little which was good. "Take each others hands." He said to the pair as he moved onto the next child.
Yvain helped the young boy up as the darkness exploded from the dying cultist. The pain of The Force itself being ripped apart by death send a shiver down the Knights spine. The ground shook and the three standing children screamed, awaking the closest to him. There we three left unconscious in the room, "Voran, you grab those two." He said pointing to the children closest to her, as he gathered his remaining strength and lifted the final one with The Force. "Follow me children." He replied though in obvious pain, the wound in The Force was tearing the little Jedi apart from the inside as he made his way to the base of the stairs.
She reached out with the Force again. Alex worked quickly, wrapping the two young children gently in the Force. She felt the same pain as Yvain. The Force wound gripping at both Jedi. They both fought through the growing discomfort because they had no choice. Alex fought to put a smile on her face. “Come on, kids. Just a few steps and we’ll all be home.” The Two Jedi lead the group of children, up the stairs, through the tunnel, and out of the cave. All the while Alex pushed calm into the Force around them. Panicking impressionable minds would do them no good.
By the time they exited the cave to breath fresh New Alderaanian air, she was exhausted. Alex carefully put the two children she held in the Force on the ground. “Gather round everyone.” She kept her voice light, her smile present. “Stay close...help will be here soon.” The Jedi Master pulled a com beacon from her pocket, activating the device as she set it on the ground. Alex quickly turned to Yvain. Speaking so that only he could hear here. “The town is sending emergency personnel to take the children to the nearest hospital.” Her smile slipped for a moment.
“I would say we have a mystery to solve but…I’m about one heavy breeze from toppling over.” Her exhaustion was bone deep. She could only begin to imagine how the smaller Knight felt. “Rest first and then cult hunting. That was beyond anything I have read in the Archives.” Darkness on a troublingly deep level. The kind ordinary Sith did not possess. The cultists felt old, the kind of old that was truly dangerous. New Alderaan had a terrible secret and she intended to uncover it.
The walk out of the cave could not be described, it was all encompassing pain, yet mixed with the relief of every step brining them closer to the outside world, to The Force. Alexandria led the group of walking children whilst Yvain followed behind, the little girl with his lightsaber seemed to fill with confidence with every step, that was good. She could help keep the other kids sprits up.
The sight of the outside world, the slowly setting sun was pure bliss to the little green Jedi. A smile cracked through the agony on his face and all of them sped up with freedom in sight. Lucky for all the clearing beyond the cave was clear no more cultists stood against them, though Yvain wondered if there was if the two Jedi could even muster the strength to fight them. Alexandria placed the two children she carried down in the centre and Yvain added his next to them. As the child touched the grass Yvain let out a large exhale of breath and collapsed backwards onto his bum.
He let out a small smile to Alexandria as she spoke, Yvain had a strong spirit it had severed him well through his exercise but in Master Voran he saw some true strength, one that the Jedi will sorely see in the future. "Well I have already toppled Master Voran." He said with a chuckle whilst pointing at his seated form. "I have heard of wounds like this before, but that was in the old temple archives. I doubt they have lasted this long." The little girl pattered over to him and gave him back his lightsaber. "Thank you, you were very brave today.""I want to be a Jedi one day.""Well maybe one day you might." He replied a smile on his lips as he could feel something inside her, the beating heart of The Force.