Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 04/25/2012

Ode to the Sith

He moves with a purpose,
exuding strength and might,
eyes looking onward,
toward the enemy in sight.

No fear in his heart,
just a whisper on his breath;
a curse to his opponant,
in his eyes, is only death.

His anger rises swiftly,
on his concious, no remorse,
just a hunger for the violence
as he calls upon the Force.

His hand goes for the crimson blade
that rests upon his hip,
his fingers spread, as lightning bolts
rip from his finger tips.

He feels the fear around him
as the conqured try to flee;
he hears the screams of anguish,
but ignores the tearful plea.

He continues his assult,
they will die or they will yield;
a testament to power
for the empire he will build.

He moves among the fallen;
living legend, walking myth;
all hail to the Emperor
and bow before The Sith!

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Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 03/18/2012

Dantooine part 13

The ride to the mountains was long and uneventful.  As the countryside sped by around me, I tried not to get nervous about what was to come.  Find the shrine and retrieve what is there.  That certainly wasn’t much of an instruction. I only hoped that the coordinates were precise enough to get me to the cave entrance, but that would be too easy.

The sun was sinking low in the sky when I stopped at the base of the mountain.  I looked up at the towering pile of rock with a frown.  A jet pack would come in handy about now.  I hoped against hope that I could find the cave entrance before sunset. It would be damn hard to locate in the dark.

I climbed over a few low boulders and scouted about, looking for a path deeper into the rocks.  It all looked the same. Rocks and brush, trees and leaves.  I sat down on a small ledge and closed my eyes. The Jedi were a strange bunch with all of their rules and tests. Why did I even want to be one?  Until today, I doubt I ever would have admitted it, but I wanted this for Aiden.  I wanted him to be proud of me. I wanted to be able to stay with him, even if I had to care for him in secret.  I also wanted to belong to something. I had been on my own for so long, I missed being part of a clan.  I wondered if those reasons were the right ones to be doing this for. I hoped so.

Just as I started to open my eyes, I heard a distant sound; the sound of running water.  I stood up and carefully made my way toward it. By the time I reached the source of the sound, the sun was almost gone, the stars one by one beginning to peek out from the darkening sky.

Nestled behind a large cliff, was a narrow waterfall. I squinted into the darkness, trying to tell how high the water fell from, but I couldn’t make out the top.  I skimmed across the mounds of rocks and jumped across a small crevice. The water poured into a pool, its impact against the surface causing a fine spray of mist to hit me in the face.  I lit a small glowlamp and eased my way down toward the bottom of the falls. I don’t know why I needed to get to the pool, other than I simply felt drawn to it.  I held the glowlamp out before me, as I eased into the pool.  I stayed close to the edge, in the shallows and waded toward the cascade.  I shivered in the thin robes. The water was cold and the slight breeze of the night made it that much cooler.  I stopped just before the falls. I held out the lamp in hopes of seeing through the rippling waters, but there was only reflection. I felt as if something was calling to me, pulling me to the other side. I took a deep breath and stepped beneath the wall of water.

I sputtered and coughed, wiping the wet strands of fiery hair out of my eyes. It took a moment for them to adjust. The glow lamp once again before me, I could make out the entrance to a cave.  My heart leap in my throat, I had done it I had trusted in the Force and it had led me where I needed to go! It gave me a new batch of encouragement. Maybe I could do this.

I stepped into the dark mouth of the cavern, my eyes slowly beginning to make out the walls in the darkness.  I stepped carefully and remained as quiet as I could, not certain of what creatures called this place home. The slightest step, the tiniest of pebbles scattered by my boots seemed to echo loud enough to wake the dead.  So much for being stealthy.

The cave seemed to go on forever on a single path. It twisted and turned, rose and fell, but never branched off. I found that to be a bit strange. I would have made it more confusing, to keep people from finding the shrine.

“This is too easy.” I whispered into the darkness.

No sooner had the words escaped my mouth, I hit a wall; literally. The path just ended. I reached out my hand and ran it along the jagged edges of the stone wall. The glow lamp gave me enough light to see that it was solid and stretched across the entire path.  I pressed my head against the coolness of the rock. Me and my big mouth.

 

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 02/23/2012

Dantooine part 12

I tried to clear my mind during the night, but I was like a youngling; full of excitement for her first off planet trip. I wanted to rest, but I couldn’t. Thoughts of what might await me kept working their way into my subconscious.

Close to dawn, there was a knock on my door.  I opened it to find a package. It was long and sort of bulky.  I stooped down to pick it up, glanced around at the empty hallway and quickly carried it into the room. I sat on the bed and opened it.  Inside, there was a set of clothing very similar to the ones I had seen the initiates wearing in the courtyards, there was also a training saber. A small folded piece of parchment fell to the bed as I removed the package’s contents.

Na’sha,

No armor can go with you. The council sees this as a way to gauge your abilities; a test to your character and resolve. A Jedi must be able to solve problems alone and face dangers without the protection that armor provides; A Jedi’s armor is the Force.  Please accept these gifts as a token of our friendship. They have served me well in the past. May they serve you well, and may the Force be with you, always.

Master Syndraa

I couldn’t help but smile at her thoughtfulness.  The more I learned about that woman, the easier it was becoming to leave Scrapper in her care. She was good and kind and he was going to be lucky to have her as a teacher.

I frowned at the clothing and saber. This was not my kind of attire. I had been in armor for as long as I could remember.  The Mandalorians had taught me that a good set of armor and a good blaster could get you out of most any danger, now these Jedi expected me to go out into the unknown without either one.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I knew that Aiden was counting on me, but what did I want? Did I really want to learn this stuff or did I want to stay the way I am? The more I thought about it, the more uncertain I became.  Aiden had said to me that the Mandalorians had taken me from my family, killed them and forced me to learn their ways. I knew in my heart that it was true, but they had raised me, had been good to me, regardless of how I had been obtained.  I realized that even though I did most of the things a good Mando should, there were a few things that I felt differently about and I knew that my having the Force was a big difference.  I wanted to explore this newly discovered talent. I knew that Aiden was right; I had been given a gift and I should learn how to make use of it, but the question remained , could I learn this and still be a Mandalorian or would it somehow change me into something I didn’t even recognize?

 

The sun was making a spectacular entrance into the sleepy planet, when I stepped out into the main courtyard in my new outfit.  I had never felt more naked, more vulnerable and yet, in a way, it was quite freeing.  To my surprise, I saw Master Syndraa and Scrapper walking out to meet me.  I smiled as Scrapper reached for me and hugged me tightly. He looked up at me with a sleepy smile.

“You look pretty, Buir.”

“Thank you. You look quite handsome in your robes as well.”

I looked up at Master Syndraa. “Thank you for these clothes and for bringing Scrapper out here to see me off.”

She nodded her head slightly. “There is no need for thanks. You are one of us, Na’sha. Perhaps by seeing yourself dressed this way and by completing this mission for the Council, you will begin to see that for yourself.”

She sent Scrapper off to speak to some of the other padawans that had begun to wander out into the morning light. I stood with her and felt such a calming sensation at her closeness. I felt more of a connection to this woman than I had to any other being in a very long time. I was already seeing her as family, someone I could come to, that would listen and understand.

“I am afraid. I feel like I am losing myself.” I looked into her warm eyes, hoping she understood.

She nodded and reached for my hand. “You are not losing yourself. You are finding a part of yourself that has too long been hidden. Once you find this part and free it, then and only then will you be whole.” She smiled. “The Force does not take away from who you are, it adds to who you will become.”

I could only nod.  She seemed to have a way of making things clear, a way of putting things into perspective. I started to believe that she may be right. I would always have the heart of a warrior, the teachings of survival and honor that my Mandalorian family had taught me, but now I would have a new skill, something to strengthen me as an individual, something to make me even more of a survivor.

“Thank you for your words, Master. You always know just what I need to hear.”

Master Syndraa laughed. “With you, it is not so difficult. Your needs and fears show in your eyes. I am glad I could be of help, child.”

I frowned. “I guess I need to work on hiding my feelings. I wasn’t aware I was so obvious.”

“It is part of your charm.”

“I just can’t help but wonder if I can do this. Even if I pass their test, I don’t know if I can live up to their expectations or if I can follow all of their rules. There are some things that I don’t agree with.”

Master Syndraa nodded her head and led me more away from the courtyard. “Let me walk you to your speeder.”

“Na’sha, there are some things that even I do not agree with. Unfortunately, I do not make the rules. As it is, the council cannot control your every thought or action. As Jedi, we can only do our best to uphold our beliefs and to obey the rules as best we can. Some Jedi are more independent in their ways, like Master Aiden and like I am sure you will become, but we are still Jedi.”  Master Syndraa looked around before continuing. “Once, I felt the same as you do. I too, had a secret love.”

My eyes widened. “How did you…?”

“Relax, child. I do not believe that anyone else knows. I disagree with the council on the issue of love. I believe that love gives us something to fight for, a goal. It makes us stronger, not weaker. True, we do need to keep our emotions from clouding our judgment and causing us to lose focus, but I do not believe that we are whole, if we have not loved.”

I was too shocked at Master Syndraa’s words to even speak.

“Na’sha, do not let your emotions keep you from your tasks and do not let your love overcome your sense of duty when the stakes are high, but do not give up your love.  You and Aiden are good for each other. You will both find a way. There is always a way.”

I nodded. I couldn’t believe what she had just said. I never would have thought she had such an independent streak. I gained even more respect for her in that moment, if that was at all possible.

“Now, go. Complete the task set out before you and come back to us victorious. May the Force be with you.”

With that she walked away.  My head was spinning from all the thoughts running through it. I took a moment to clear my head. I knew I needed to focus on the task at hand. The rest could wait until I returned. She had given me hope where my feelings for Aiden were concerned and she had given me a new view on everything else. I consulted my map and mounted my speeder. I knew that this wasn’t going to be easy, but I now felt that it was worth the effort.

Here goes nothing!

 

 

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 02/10/2012

Dantooine part 11

For the rest of the day, Scrapper chattered excitedly about becoming a Jedi. I smiled and listened; silently praying that his life as a Jedi would be all that he imagined it would be. By nightfall, Scrapper was led away by his new master to spend his first night in the padawan quarters. A knot formed in my chest as I told him goodnight. It was in that moment that I knew my heart had claimed him as a part of it. No matter what the future held or where our paths led us, we were forever connected.  Aiden approached me in the corridor, as I slowly walked to my chambers. I swiped my hand across my face, as a tiny teardrop trickled down my cheek. I refused to cry.

“Where is Scrapper?”

“He is in the padawan quarters.”

“So that is why you look so depressed. You are going to miss him aren’t you?”

“Is it that obvious?”

“Yes.”

Aiden smiled as he joined me in my walk.

“We will be able to leave as soon as the supplies arrive and Scrapper has a wonderful life ahead of him, you should be happy.”

“I am. It just seems that people are always dropping in and out of my life. No one stays for very long.”

“Things are always changing. It is the way of existence, but each person that touches our lives, makes our journey richer; gives the breath in our bodies meaning. We are better people for meeting them and we carry them with us always.”

I raised a brow. “Sounds like attachment to me. Thought the Jedi frowned on that.”

“Not attachment, compassion. If we do not have compassion for our fellow sentient beings and even for the creatures of the universe how can we call ourselves Jedi? To be Jedi is to help and to serve. How can we do that with no compassion? We would be without soul or purpose. “

I pushed the button on the door panel as we reached my room and we stepped inside.

“You are very passionate in your beliefs, Aiden. Don’t the Jedi frown on passion too?”

Aiden chuckled. “You are full of questions this evening.  My interpretation of that is this: you do not need to let your feelings and passions rule your decisions.” Aiden’s eyes took on a more serious expression as he spoke.  “Emotion has a way of distorting things, warping them from their true shape. If you allow your emotion to rule your actions and decisions, then you are more likely to fail in your endeavors. You leave yourself open to distraction and loss of focus. Losing focus can cost you your life, or in some cases; your soul.  I have emotions and passions just like any other man, Na’sha; I just choose to keep them where they can do no harm… that is the life of a Jedi.”

“It seems that the life of a Jedi is so focused on helping others that you risk losing yourself.”

“Is that how you see it? Na’sha, in the short time that we have been traveling together you have rescued a man’s daughter, took down a swoop gang, chased a Sith and took in an orphan. Not once have you rested or taken a thought for yourself. Your actions are no different than ours. You have just been conditioned to be biased against our beliefs. You are the strangest Mandalorian that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.” Aiden sat down on the edge of the bed and tilted his head. “You look at yourself and see an armor clad warrior; I look at you and see a bright and fearless woman fighting to remain what the people who raised her, told her that she should be; instead of embracing what she knows in her heart that she could be.

Before all that he had said could sink in, there was a knock at the door. I walked over and pressed a button, allowing the door to slid back. A golden droid stood in the doorway.

“Yes?”

“Excuse me, madam, Master Zhar Lestin requests you bring Master Aiden and meet him in his office.”

I turned to Aiden and back to the droid. “We will come immediately.”

Aiden stood as the droid departed.  I looked at him nervously.

“What do you think he wants?”

“I don’t know, but let’s not keep the man waiting.”

I tried not to fidget as we waited in Master Lestin’s office. It was mere minutes before we were called in. I cleared a lump from my throat. I hoped it was good news.

The Twi’lek master stood near a low window overlooking the main courtyard. He turned as we entered the room. Aiden and I bowed. Master Lestin returned the bow and spoke.

“I will not keep you long, my friends. I know that the hour grows late, but there is something that we must discuss.” Master Lestin placed his hands behind his back and walked across the room. “The other Masters and I have decided that we need to test your skills and your ways, Na’sha. We have devised a test for you.”

“A test, Master?”

The Twi’lek Master nodded. “Indeed, one that you must take alone. “He handed me a small scroll, rolled tightly and sealed with an official looking mark. “All of your instructions are inside, along with the coordinates to the test’s location. When you return we will be able to see your path more clearly. Now, go and rest. You leave tomorrow.”

The walk back to my quarters was a blur; my mind was swimming with thoughts about the test. Once inside my room, Aiden and I opened the scroll. It was a map of the more mountainous region of the planet. The note simply read: Find the secret cave entrance to the Jedi shrine and retrieve what you find there.

I looked curiously at Aiden. “Couldn’t they be more specific?”

“No. It is a test. You will know what to bring when you get there. Just be focused and let the Force guide you. There are certain to be dangers, you must be prepared.”

He walked toward the door.

“Wait, aren’t you going to stay with me tonight?”

“No. You need to meditate. Clear your mind of thoughts and worries that could get you killed.” He stepped close to me.  “Come back to me safely, cyar’ika.” He placed a soft kiss on my lips and disappeared out the door.

I stepped over to the bed and sat down. Clear my mind? Yeah, like that was going to happen.

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 01/19/2012

Dantooine part 10

The sun shone brightly in the prairie sky, as I impatiently paced outside of Master Syndraa’s chambers.  Scrapper had been in there for what seemed to me like hours. I wondered what she was doing. I had wanted to go in with him, but the look on Aiden’s face as he had stood beside me, held me back. I knew that I was already being over protective and I needed to let go. I remembered Master Syndraa’s words from earlier in the morning.  She was right, I knew, but that still didn’t make all of this any easier.

“Na’sha, would you please sit down?” Aiden asked, as he calmly leaned back in on the chairs lining the hallway.

“Sorry. I just wonder what they are talking about.”

“Well, stop being nosy. It is none of our concern what is said. It is between the two of them. If they want us to know, they will tell us. You have to learn to be patient!”

“Patience is not one of my strong suits.”

“That much is obvious.”

The door to Master Syndraa’s room slid open, just as I was about to reply and out stepped Scrapper. He smiled as he saw us and ran over to give me a hug. Master Syndraa motioned to Aiden, who walked over to her and the two of them spoke for a moment.

I smiled at Scrapper. “Did you have a nice visit?”

“Yes, buir. She is a very nice Jedi. She gave me cookies.”

I couldn’t help but laugh. “Cookies? Well, I guess that does make her a nice Jedi.”

Aiden walked over to us and ruffled Scrapper’s hair.

“Well, now we will go have some lunch and then off to the Council chambers. They have agreed to speak with me about Scrapper.”

I looked at him with a curious expression. “What about us and the mission?”

Aiden shrugged. “I do not know. I will ask them if the opportunity arises.”

“They need to tell us something, Aiden! We can’t just sit here forever, while Sinka gets away.”

“Na’sha, be calm. I know that we need to get going, but we have only been her for a few days.  For all we know, she may be stationery herself. We have to be patient and wait for the Force to show us our next move.”

“I am running out of patience. We don’t need to sit and talk, we need action!”

“I agree, but you must let us handle this. If the Council feels all of this emotion running through you, they will never let me train you. Please hold off on the ranting until we get our answer and are back on the ship.”

I mumbled but agreed to try to restrain myself. I just couldn’t understand what was taking so long.

After a quick lunch, I kissed Scrapper on the forehead and wished him luck, as Aiden led him toward the Council chambers. I wandered through the enclave and spotted Dak staring out at the scenery.

“Hey.”

“Oh. Hi.”

Dak smiled and waved an arm out in front of him toward the prairies. “Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?”

I tilted my head and gave the landscape a good look. “I guess it is rather beautiful.”

“Yeah, it is a lot more beautiful than the lower city of Taris. I have just never seen so much open space. It is so peaceful here.”

“It is peaceful, or at least it would be if I wasn’t so worried about what is going to happen to us and to Scrapper.”

“Come on, Na’sha. This is like a mini vacation here. Just forget about stuff and enjoy it while it lasts. I imagine that by the time this is all over with, we are all going to wish we were back here, watching the grasses blow in the breeze.” Dak laughed. “Even Shorcuk is happy. He is down in the training area watching the padawans spar.”

“I guess you are right. I do need to lighten up.”

Dak turned to look in my direction. “Hey, there is Aiden and the boy.”

He waved both arms in the air, signaling them over to us.

Scrapper ran to meet us, wrapping both arms around my waist. “Buir, they said I could be a Jedi!”

“That is wonderful!” I squeezed him tightly.

Aiden smiled. “He was so impressive, that they didn’t take long to decide. I think that it also helped that he already has a potential master.”

I looked at Aiden quizzically. “Who?”

“It seems that Master Syndraa wishes to train him. She told the Council that she had felt drawn to speak to you and once you told her of Scrapper, here, she knew why the Force had led her to speak to you.”

I sighed with relief. Master Syndraa’s words came back to me about how the Force can bring people together. She had been right. The Force had led me here to find him for her to train. I felt the knot in my stomach loosen a little. He was going to be a Jedi. Parting would be hard and I would miss him terribly, but he would be well taken care of. It was one less thing that I had to worry about.

“That is not all of my news, Na’sha.”

“There is more?”

“Yes. I had the chance to discuss things over with the Council. They have decided to help us on our mission.”

I leaned back against the low, stone wall. “Thank the Maker!”

“They said that it will take a few more days to gather the resources, but when it gets here, we will fully stocked and on our way. They are even providing us with better ship.”

“What about Na’sha’s training? Are they going to allow it?” Dak asked.

I felt a lump in my throat and butterflies in my stomach as I waited for Aiden’s answer.

“They are still considering it. They want to see us again before we leave. Maybe they will have an answer for us then.”

I felt let down. I had so hoped that they would have a quick answer. The waiting game was killing me, but they agreed to help us and Scrapper was going to have a bright future. Two worries down, one more to go.

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 01/07/2012

Dantooine part 9

The next morning, I awoke early, sliding carefully out of the bed and hoping not to wake Scrapper. I looked at him for a moment, curled in peaceful slumber and donning my usual attire, quietly slipped out of the room. It was barely daybreak; only a few droids scuttled down the corridors. I made my way down the hallway and out into the main garden. The sun was just rising as I made my way over to one of the benches, near a trickling fountain.  So many things were on my mind as I took in the scenery and yet I felt a strange sort of calmness overtake me as I sat. I could easily understand why the Jedi loved their meditation gardens; they somehow made everything seem better with their quiet beauty.

I closed my eyes and leaned back against the low wall surrounding the area. I let out a long sigh, wondering what was going to happen next. Were the Jedi going to help us in our mission? Were they going to allow Aiden to train me in the ways of the Force? Did I even want him to?  What about Scrapper, was he going to be alright when I leave this planet?  So many questions and yet there were no discernible answers.

“Forgive me, Padawan, I do not mean to intrude, but I sense great distress within you. Would you like to talk about it?”

I opened my eyes to find a beautiful Togruta standing a couple of feet away from me, a worried expression spread across her lovely features.

“I am not a padawan and I am not sure that talking will help me.”

I felt such power and peace from her; it flowed from every fiber of her being, giving her a commanding presence that added to her immeasurable beauty. Her montrals rose and slightly curved above her head; her long striped lekku fell across her shoulders and down to her waist. The Togruta moved to sit beside me, tucking her robes about her and smoothing her head-tails as she did so, arranging them artfully in her lap.

“Forgive me. I felt the force in you and merely assumed you were here to train.  I am Master Syndraa Kaah.”

“I am Na’sha Tal-i.”

“Ahh. You must be the visitor that I have heard some of the other Jedi talking about.”

I sat up a little bit straighter. “Talking?  What did they say?”

“I do not make it my business to spread gossip.  It was nothing of a terrible nature, merely that you were here seeking the help of the council against a possible Sith threat. Is this mission what has made you so worried?”

“That, among other things.”

“I am here if you wish to talk.”

“I am just worried about Scrapper.”

“Scrapper?”

“Yes. His true name is Gallen. He is a small boy I met while making the trek to the crystal caves.  He is an orphan and he has grown attached to me.” I rubbed a hand over my face.  “Oh, who am I kidding? I am just as attached to him. He is smart and funny and brave.  He is the perfect little boy, but he wants to go with me and he can’t. It would be too dangerous out there. I would always be worried about him.”

“He has no guardian?”

“Not really. I brought him back here with me. Aiden thinks that someone here would train him.”

“I see. He has the Force then?”

“Yes.”

Master Syndraa looked thoughtful. “It seems that the Force has brought the two of you together for a purpose.  Perhaps, he is meant to train here. Perhaps, if you had not arrived here to find him, his talents would have never been discovered. Sometimes the Force leads us to others. At first, we may not see the reason behind it; it sometimes takes another person to put it into perspective for us. This child was surely meant for you to bring to be trained.”

“Do you really think that the Force brought us to each other?’

“I do. The Force’s ways are mysterious ones and though we study it for a lifetime, we may never know all of its secrets; yet about this, I feel very strongly.” She leaned over and placed a delicate, red hand against my shoulder.  “You are still very distrustful of our ways, maybe of us, as Jedi in general.  Do not be. We are your family. We share a bond greater than any other; the Force.  It chose each of us for a different reason and it will serve us well and allow us to help others if we will only open ourselves up to it. I sense so much frustration, worry and impatience within you. Those things will only hinder your journey in the Force. “

I listened to her in silence, her voice a soothing melody in my head.  She smiled at me and gracefully rose from her seat.

“I want to meet this boy of yours. Have him sent to my chambers later this morning, if you will. I have duties to attend to at the moment, but I do hope that my words have given you a measure of peace.”

I smiled and nodded, rising to stand at her side. “They have, Master. If the Force wants him here, the Council will say yes to his training and I will have less to worry about.”

Master Syndraa looked pleased. “As for the rest of your worries, all will play out as the Force wills it to be. There is no need for distress. “

We bowed to one another as she started to walk away. She stopped for a moment and turned to me once more. “A word of wisdom if you will accept it; the smallest drop of peace and understanding can calm a sea of chaos and distrust.”

With that, she walked away, leaving me to finish my musings and prepare myself for whatever the day would have in store.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 12/20/2011

Dantooine part 8

Scrapper and I rejoined the group. No one seemed at all surprised over the young salvager’s appearance.  Aiden walked over to the youngling and ruffled his hair affectionately, a slight twinkle in his eye as he glanced in my direction. I noticed Scrapper shudder as he looked over at one of the kinrath bodies lying motionless on the ground. I gently touched his shoulder.

“Now that we are all here, let’s get going before any of those kinrath sneak up on us.”

Scrapper seemed fascinated by Shorcuk and who could blame him; Wookiees are a wonderful species. The youngling looked up at him in awe, eyes round at how tall Shorcuk was. Usually, Wookiees are not overly friendly with strangers, but there was something about this kid that made you like him right away. I nodded to Shorcuk and received a series of growls and whines. He knew what I wanted. I wanted him to keep an eye out for our young companion.

“You stay close to Shorcuk, ok?

“Yes, Na’sha.”

I fell into step with Aiden.  The glow of his lightsaber casting shadows on the cavern walls as it lit the pathway.

“He really seems to like you, Cyar’ika.”

I couldn’t contain a small smile. “I like him too. I just wish that he had stayed back at the salvager camp. This is no place for a youngling.”

“You will have to get use to this kind of reaction from people. There is something about you, something that makes you special. People are attracted to you; they want to follow you and be your friend.  You bond very easily with people. It is a good quality for a leader to have and a good quality for a Jedi.”

“I am not a…”

Before I could finish my statement, Aiden raised his hand for me to stop. I could feel him reaching out with the Force, searching for something.  The others stood a few feet behind us, silently awaiting instruction.

“The crystals are just ahead. I sense at least ten kinrath lurking about. They are guarding their eggs. We must be extremely careful.”

I turned to the others. “Be ready to fight.”

I pulled out my blaster pistol and made ready to follow Aiden. There was a tug at my arm.

“Don’t hurt them, Na’sha.”

I turned to see the worried expression on Scrapper’s face. I glanced at Aiden and then back to him.

“They will attack us the moment we enter their nesting ground. We will have to defend ourselves. It is the only way to get to the crystals.”

“You don’t have to kill them!”

Before any of us could react, Scrapper had scurried ahead of us and around the corner. I felt my heart jump into my throat! Those creatures would tear him to ribbons!  We ran after him. My heart thudded as I ran, praying we would reach him in time, dreading the sound of his screams if we didn’t.  If he survived this, I was going to kill him!

 

None of us were prepared for what we saw as we reached the kinrath.  Scrapper stood in the center of the cavern, the creatures all in front of him, against the far wall. He didn’t turn his head, but spoke to me.

“Na’sha, you can look at the crystals now; they won’t hurt you.”

I looked at my companions and back to Scrapper. I was completely confused. Aiden took my arm, leading me forward, Shorcuk and Dak remained close to the entrance, weapons ready.

“Aiden, what is going on?”

“It seems our little Scrapper can speak to creatures. I knew that I felt a touch of the Force in him, I just didn’t know it was that strong.”

“He has the Force?”

“Yes, I thought that maybe you had felt it, too.”

“I wasn’t looking for it.”

“You should always look for it. We will discuss this more later. Let’s get a crystal and go. I am not certain how long he can hold them.”

I looked over at Scrapper. I could hear him speaking softly to the kinrath.

“Scrapper, are you alright?”

“Yes. They won’t hurt me. Look at the crystals, Na’sha, aren’t they beautiful?”

It was only then that I stopped worrying long enough to look around the cave. The space was filled with hundreds of crystal stalagmites jutting from rocky floor.  The light from the glowlamp and Aiden’s saber caused the crystals to sparkle and send beams of rainbow light throughout the room.  The kinrath had made their nests in the center of the crystal formations, the large eggs nestled amongst them, protected by the hard gems.

I stepped over to a small outgrowth of lavender colored crystals. I stooped down close to them, slowly reaching out to run a gloved hand over the smooth surface. Aiden walked over to me.

“What do you think?”

“They are lovely, Aiden. This one feels different to me though.”

“Tell me what you feel.”

“It feels warmer, tingly. I can feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. Do you feel it?”

“No. That is something only you feel. It is how you know that you have the right one, Cyar’ika. It isn’t about the color, or the size or shape of the crystal, it is ones connection with it through the force that matters.”

We only spent a short time in the cave. We were not sure how long Scrapper could keep the kinrath calm and we didn’t want to risk endangering his life. We took what we had come for and slowly walked toward the spot where Dak and Shorcuk waited.  Scrapper slowly backed away, stopping to gaze at a small cluster of green crystals. Aiden walked over to him and I saw him stoop over and take one of the green shards. He patted the youngling on the shoulder and walked back to us. Scrapper was the last one to leave the cavern room. We walked quickly back up the paths and out into the fresh air. The sun was getting lower in the sky and I was more than ready to get back to the enclave.

As we approached the salvager camp, Scrapper spoke up. “Na’sha, will you stay the night with us in the camp?”

“No, Scrapper, I need to get back to the enclave.”

“Well, can I go to the enclave too?’

“I think you would have to ask your guardian.”

Scrapper hung his head. “I don’t think he would care if I was gone.”

“Why do you say that?”

“He didn’t want to take me in. They drew straws. He lost. They didn’t want to leave me to die, but they didn’t want to care for me either. I don’t want to go back, Na’sha, I want to go with you.”

I stopped and knelt down beside him. “I like being with you too, but it is too dangerous out there where I am going. I am after some really bad people and I wouldn’t want to see you get hurt. It is much safer here with the salvagers.”

Aiden stepped over and stooped down with us. “Is there a problem?”

“Scrapper doesn’t want to go home.”

Aiden thought for a moment. “How would you like to come back to the enclave, then? I feel the force in you and I am sure that the council will want to train you.  You are still very young and will learn fast.”

“I have the Force?”

“Yes. That is why you were able to control the kinrath like you did.”

“I never knew why I could do that, I just always have.  I don’t want to stay at the enclave though, Master Aiden. I want to go with Na’sha.”

“I know that you do, child, but it would not be safe. Just come with us to the enclave and we will talk more there.”

“Yes, Master Aiden.”

 

The walk to the enclave was quiet. We were all tired and I couldn’t stop thinking of how I was going to get Scrapper to stay behind.  The enclave was silent. The pathways through the courtyard were dimly lit and most of the Jedi had gone to their rooms. Aiden, Dak and Shorcuk went to their rooms and left Scrapper to bunk with me. I had a feeling that he would have put up a fight if I had not let him stay with me. He was very stubborn.

I tucked him beneath the covers and lay down beside him, smoothing his hair out of his eyes as he yawned.

“Thank you for letting me stay with you, Na’sha.”

“You are welcome. We are going to have a long talk tomorrow about your future. Now get some rest, little one.”

“Ok.”

I snuggled down and closed my eyes.

“Na’sha?”

“Yes, Scrapper.”

“How do you say mother in your language?”

“Buir.”

“Thanks.”

“You are welcome. Now go to sleep.”

“Ok. Goodnight, Buir.”

Now how was I going to sleep?

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 11/25/2011

Dantooine part 7

The entrance to the cave was a gaping hole, spiraling down into the dark unknown. I noticed Dak shiver and Aiden pull his cloak tighter about him as we made our way into the cavern and for once, I was glad that my armor protected me from the temperature drop. Dak lit a glowlamp and Aiden ignited his lightsaber to light the pathway. Shorcuk took the rear, bowcaster at the ready for whatever danger was waiting around the next corner.

We walked slowly, observing our surroundings. The cavern walls were jagged and the light from the glowlamp bounced off of the rocks, casting shadows around the cave and pushing back the darkness. I pulled off a glove and ran a hand over the left wall, feeling the slight dampness of the stone. The coolness of the air hit my fingers, causing me to be swift in returning the glove to its rightful place.

We kept silent, hoping not to attract the attention of the kinrath. The path was long and eerily quiet; the only sound was the scuffle of our boots along the stony floor. I kept close to Aiden as we walked; the hum of his blade a familiar comfort in the darkness.

Aiden put up his hand for us to stop. I could hear the distant sound of many feet, scurrying along the pathway. We inched forward, taking care as we rounded the next corner. A few feet ahead, I could make out the insect-like shapes of the kinrath; I could see the tall, golden brown bodies and long spindly legs. The clicking sound of their feet along the rocks, made me shiver. I loved all kinds of creatures, but the insectoids species group was not my favorite.

They seemed to notice our presence almost immediately and started to move in our direction. Aiden plowed ahead, saber raised high, as the kinrath approached. I pulled out my blasters and took aim, shooting into the midst of the group.

“Look out!” Dak yelled as he blasted a kinrath that had sneaked in beside me.

I quickly turned and added my blaster fire to his, making quick work of the creature. Aiden sliced through the remaining three in a matter of seconds and walked toward us.

“Is everyone alright?”

“Yes.” Dak answered. “It didn’t take long for them to spot us.”

I nodded. “They are blind but they sense things through heat signatures. It would be hard to hide from them.”

Aiden lowered his lightsaber. “I had forgotten how quickly they can move. We have to be careful. On top of that, they have a poisonous gland in their faces that they use to kill their prey. We were lucky that the Force was with us and we saw them first.”

“They are a hive animal.” I said. “They live in groups and each group has a matriarchal female. The closer we get to the crystals the more there will be of them. They like to nest in the clusters of crystal formations.”

Dak looked at me, a stunned expression on his face. “How do you know all of this stuff about them?”

“I like creatures and I guess when you like things you tend to remember what you are told about them.”

“You never cease to amaze me, Na’sha.”

“Well, I am more than just armor and blasters.” I teased. “Let’s get moving before some more of those things sneak up on us.”

We had only walked a few more feet, when Shorcuk made a low growl, deep in his throat. I motioned Aiden to stop.

“Shorcuk hears something behind us.”

“Yes. I have sensed someone following us for quite a while now.”

“Why didn’t you say anything?”

“It isn’t threatening.” Aiden looked at me. “Don’t you sense it?”

“No.”

“Try. Close your eyes for a moment and open yourself to the Force.”

The others kept watch as I did what Aiden asked. I thought that I sensed something for a fraction of a second, but then it was gone.

“I can’t get a grasp on it, but there was definitely something.”

“Good. At least you are trying.” Aiden thought for a moment. “Why don’t you take the glowlamp and head back around the corner? We will wait for you here. I don’t sense any danger from that direction, so you will be fine.”

I looked at him curiously, reaching for the glowlamp that Dak held out to me. I wondered what was back there. I moved quickly, but as quietly as possible around the corner and back down the path that we had previously walked. I caught a glimpse of a shadow, in the lamp’s glow as something darted behind a rock. I stopped and tried once again to feel out the source of the shadow through the Force. The presence felt slightly familiar to me and I gasped as I realized I knew it.

“Scrapper?”

There was silence from behind the rock. I took a few steps closer; hand on my blaster just in case I was wrong.

“You can come out, cyar’ika. No one is mad at you, I promise.”

A small figure slowly emerged from the shadows and walked slowly toward the light. Scrapper held his head down, as if afraid of being scolded.

“What are you doing here?”

“I wanted to come with you. Please don’t be mad, Na’sha.”

I bent down and motioned for him to come closer. He stepped up to me and continued to hang his head.

“Look at me.”

He slowly raised his eyes to mine. “Please don’t make me go back. I can help.”

I sighed. “It is dangerous here. I thought you and I had a deal.”

“I am sorry, Na’sha. I just wanted to come along.”

“I know.”

I shook my head. I really didn’t think he should be allowed to stay with us, especially after the kinrath that we had just encountered, but I also knew that I would worry for his safety if I allowed him to venture back toward the camp alone. Scrapper smiled at me. I think he must have known that this time, he had won out.

“Ok, let’s catch up to the others, but you have to promise to stay close to me and do exactly what I tell you to.”

I stood up and Scrapper stepped forward, wrapping his arms around my waist. “I promise.”

Somehow, I should have seen that one coming.

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 11/15/2011

Dantooine part 6

The camp was much larger than it appeared at a distance. Several salvagers had obviously decided that they stood a better chance of being noticed by wandering travelers, if they banded together. The tents and structures were close together and every available storage space was fully utilized.

I glanced at the tables laden with items more than likely picked from some ancient structure, now crumbled into ruin. Crates and boxes were stacked haphazardly near the tents, their contents unknown. Dak and Shorcuk wandered over to a row of tables piled high with scraps and parts that must have been acquired from wrecked speeders; there seemed to also be an abundance of droid parts. Aiden stepped toward a pile of artifacts. The camp’s occupants moved to and fro, tidying things and watching us intently. We appeared to be its only visitors. I slowed my pace and mulled over some blaster parts scattered across a low table.

“See something you like? An upgrade perhaps?”

I looked up to find a pair of deep, green eyes staring into mine.

“Ahh… I am just glancing around; seeing what kind of things your camp has to offer.”

The green eyes belonged to a small boy, with dark, matted hair and an unkempt appearance.

I smiled at the youngling. “Aren’t you a little young to be a salvager?”

“I am ten.”

The boy wrinkled his nose at me and made a face. I couldn’t help but laugh.

“My mistake, that is indeed very grown up. What is your name?”

“I am Gallen, but most folks call me Scrapper; what is your name?”

“I am Na’sha. It is a pleasure to meet you.” I leaned across the table. “So, Scrapper, where are your parents?”

“I don’t have any parents; mine died when I was three. Some of your kind came through and raided our home. I was playing outside and hid. These salvagers found me and here I am.”

He rubbed a cloth across one of the blaster parts as he spoke, looking far older than his ten standard years. He told the story without emotion and I couldn’t help but wonder if he had learned to hide his pain or if he had been so small at the time, he had simply forgotten it over the years.

“I assume that by my kind, you mean Mandalorians?”

The boy looked at me with those piercing eyes. “Yes.”

“Well, I can promise you that no harm will come to you or these people, not by my hand.”

“I know.”

“You do?”

“Yes, there is a Jedi with you. There wouldn’t be a Jedi with you if you were bad.”

I giggled at his answer. He seemed to be a very intelligent and observant kid.

Aiden chose that moment to join us. “Did I hear someone mention a Jedi?”

“Yes you did, Aiden. My new friend, Scrapper, here, said I couldn’t be a bad guy because I have a Jedi with me.”

Aiden turned to the boy. “Well, you are right. She definitely isn’t bad.” He reached out to take the boy’s hand. “I am Aiden.”

We spent a while longer in the camp, my companions looking at merchandise and me talking to the boy. I just couldn’t seem to pull myself away. For some reason, he intrigued me.

“My friends and I are exploring and I was wondering if you knew of anything worth looking at around here?”

“Sure there are lots of places; ruins of an old Jedi temple, crystal caves, lots of stuff.”

“Ruins?”

He nodded. “I heard some of the salvagers say that the ruins have been here so long, that no one remembers a time when it was anything more than a pile of rocks.”

“That all sounds interesting. We are planning to visit the caves today if we can. What do you know about the ruins I saw over in the distance?”

“Well, not much. Hal, he is the man who takes care of me, told me that the ruins in the grove are tainted by the darkside. The Kathhounds there are much more fierce than usual. We don’t go there. The other ruins belonged to a group of people who use to live here.” He seemed to think for a moment.”Can I go with you to the caves?”

“I don’t think you should. Aiden says that it is dangerous. Besides, your guardian may not like that idea.”

“I can take care of myself, besides; he is usually drunk by now. He will never know I was gone.”

“I do not want to put you into any kind of danger. I really would like you to stay here. I will stop by on my way back through here and say goodbye, I promise. Is that a deal?”

“I guess so.”

“Great.”

I ruffled his hair and gathered the others. We made our purchases and moved toward the edges of the camp. I looked over my shoulder in search Scrapper, but the little salvager was nowhere to be seen. I sighed. I really liked that kid. He was a survivor, a little warrior. Maybe I saw something of myself in him. Part of me wished that there was something I could do for him, some way to help him develop his potential, but I knew that the mission I was on was dangerous and the life I lead isn’t the kind of life to involve a youngling in. Still, I knew in my heart that he deserved so much more than a drunk guardian. Aiden stepped close to me and placed a hand on my shoulder as we walked.

“He will be fine, cyar’ika. He is not some homeless animal you need to rescue. Trust me.”

“You are right I know, but I just can’t help but worry about him.”

“You have a big heart, Love. It is one of your best qualities.”

I smiled and followed him up the path toward the caves. I knew I couldn’t help everyone I came across, but if I couldn’t help one small youngling, how did I expect to defeat the evil I was chasing?

Posted by: Natasha A. Morea | 10/26/2011

Dantooine part 5

As we walked out of the enclave and into the grasslands, the thought crossed my mind that perhaps the Mandalorians the old woman had spoken of, were the same group that I had met when I found Vel. If so, we were going to have quite a fight on our hands. They hadn’t been entirely thrilled when I talked Vel into following me. My vode or not, they were very violent and hard headed.

I shook the thought away and picked up my pace, falling in step with Aiden, who was walking ahead of us.

“Where are we headed, exactly?”

Aiden smiled. “Must you always know where you are headed?”

“Yes. I like to know what to expect.”

“I thought that I would take you to the Crystal Caves while we are so close.”

“Crystal Caves?”

“Yes. At the heart of every lightsaber, is a set of crystals the resonate to produce an efficient, powerful blade. Some crystals produce various colors or contain unique abilities. The crystals grow in certain caves on a small number of planets. Dantooine just happens to be one of those planets. I would like you to see the crystals as they look in nature. They come in several colors and shades. It is quite a sight to behold and not one that many are lucky enough to see.”

“I bet they are beautiful.”

“Indeed, but don’t think that getting to them will be simple. The passageways are steep and dark. Kinrath are frequently found in and around the caverns and they tend to make their nests very close to the clusters of crystals. So not only are the caves beautiful, but filled with dangers.”

Dak stepped up and caught the tail end of the conversation.

“Dangers? Great! There goes our leisurely exploration.” He shook his head. “I don’t believe that either of you are happy unless you are battling something. Why are we always seeking out the dangerous stuff?”

I laughed. “A little confrontation is good for the soul, good for growth; it is the Mando way of life.”

Dak turned to Aiden. “And what about you? Aren’t Jedi suppose to be peaceful?”

“Yes, Dak, but we also need to practice, hone our skills and if danger places itself in the path that I have chosen to take, then it is up to me to remove it. We can not allow danger or evil to cause us to deviate from the path we have chosen. We must be strong, steadfast and willing to fight.”

Dak seemed thoughtful for a moment and sighed. “More of that cryptic Jedi stuff, huh? Well, I guess I never really thought of it that way before. I have always thought it best to veer away from trouble, but I think I understand what you mean now.”

Aiden smiled and patted Dak on the shoulder. “If you always steer yourself from trouble, you deprive yourself of experience and eventually, when the time comes and trouble can not be avoided, you will not know how to handle it and will be defeated. Though the peaceful solution is the ideal solution, it is often not the most easily achieved or the most readily available. Practice, focus and always be prepared.”

I listened as Aiden spoke and marveled at the wisdom of his words. He was such an excellent teacher and his presence demanded respect. It seemed that the longer I was with him, the more I realized just how much I still had to learn about him. There was so much more depth to his beliefs and so much more truth in his teaching than I had previously thought. Watching him with Dak was giving me a whole new outlook on what is to be a Jedi.

We kept on the lookout for trouble as we walked. The planet might look peaceful, but it was fraught with dangers, like kathhounds, and a occasional graul, not to mention all of the mercs and salvagers, who were known to become a bit violent. With all the ruins and forest areas on the planet, who knew what was out there!

We crossed a small bridge overlooking a winding stream. A herd of iriaz stood, necks and heads gracefully bent to sip from the babbling brook. One of them raised it’s head and turned to stare at us. It seemed to know that we wished it no harm and it went back to drinking. I wanted to stand for a moment and just watch them, but I didn’t need to allow myself to be lulled into the serenity of the landscape. That was a good way to get yourself killed. Nothing is ever as quiet or serene as it may appear. Danger can attack you from the least likely places.

We moved at a steady pace and soon found ourselves far away from the enclave. I could see some ruins in the distance, off to my left and I felt a strange sense of darkness about them. I shivered. My dark mood was broken by Dak.

“Look over there.” Dak pointed to a camp a short distance away, nestled at the base of a hill. “Must be a salvage camp; let’s take a look.”

Aiden looked at me and I nodded. Why not? You never know what you will find in camps like that. It could be worth taking a peek. As we made our way toward the circle of tents and buildings, I glanced over my shoulder at the distant ruins. I was secretly glad to be moving in the opposite direction. Something wasn’t right about that place. The feeling I got was one of darkness and confusion. Part of me wanted to ask Aiden about it, but part of me knew that there was more there than I needed to get myself into at the moment, so I kept the thought to myself and followed the others into the camp.

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