There was a flash as gnarled fingers of lightning scraped across the air above Estle City. It was a humid afternoon, darkened by the many shadows cast by the overbearing inkiness of storm clouds.
Sat alone in a small cantina somewhere in the Capac ring, Maaks sat nursing his third drink and he was not happy at all. He knew that there were a handful of Miraluka within the Brotherhood but he had never met with another. Now he was set to not only meet another of his kind but attempt to get him to trust him enough and to eventually join the ranks. Or kill him. It made him think of abandoning his contract altogether.
He scowled, sitting his glass down slightly too firmly than he should and gestured over to the barkeep. The fat, oily man waved effeminately, his attention clearly glued to the raucous gentlemen at the bar.
Covering himself in his modest black cloak, he sulked, going over brighter days on Alpheridies and remembered the faces of his family. He had left home at the same age of his target, escaping what he thought was a placating, routine-filled life suited to his fisherman father and housewife mother. They would never understand his desires. He felt a shiver of guilt then and it infuriated him.
He allowed his irritation to seep out through the Force, creating a rather perfect imprint of his hand against the flimsy metallic table.
He did not turn his head, the black bandage sufficiently indicating his Miraluka heritage and lack of sight. He could see perfectly well, however, the turned heads of the unnecessarily loud patrons, heard quite well their vexation in how they could not comprehend one so small to have such a quick temper and tasted their emotions as they shifted from carelessness to anger.
He thought of his Gods then. Ashla, who would try to reason with his compassion, whispering lessons of wisdom and peace within his mind to soothe his rage and then Bogan, who would merely smile, his expression crazed with the instincts of life.
He did not stand as they waltzed over to his table, confident in their intoxication. He did not utter a single reply to their insults, nor their advances or the chorus of laughter at his expense. He waited.
Maaks sucked in an abrupt breath, however, when one of the bulkier idiots slapped him over the back of his head. He laughed, maybe out of surprise, but it curdled into malice without a second.
Surprisingly, it did not become a brawl. Maaks was young, capable and far quicker than an average being of whatever species and with his abilities the fight did not last long. Emotion was his fuel, but every action was performed with fluidity and confidence. The Erinos did not allow ‘wildcards’. Every inch of Maaks’ psyche and body was indented with regiment and control. When he broke an arm, he’d move on to the face, when attacked from behind he would not struggle, only tear his assailants ligaments and break free.
After he had broken all their jaws for speaking badly about him he apologised profusely to the Barkeep for his temper and gave him a generous amount of credits and then left before someone else pushed him over the edge.
The ground shimmered amber beneath the eclipsing sun, silver flashing across the sky in protest as the light won against the storm.
He sat in a lotus position beneath the warring weather that exemplified Maaks’ internal struggle. It was the path he had chosen, to dance about the line between the favour of his Gods and to be his own creation. It was freedom that spoke to him the day he left his home. His life was happy there, his family good, honest people that he admired and loved. It simply was not enough to subdue the ache he felt for experience, for the new and fascinating. The Force was with him from birth, it moved around him like air, the tiniest vibration meaning life. To be born Miraluka felt like it was a message to live as his desires guided him to do.
His mind swayed back and forth around his own musings and the slight information he had about his objective, his brother Miraluka. Perhaps his own feelings were mirrored by that of this potential recruit. Maaks had been brought to the Brotherhood with an action of kindness, taught by one with similar values the ways in which to control his own destiny, to make of it what he wanted.
This one had not had his advantages.
He decided there and then that it was the Force showing its hand, guiding him to his duty and reminding him of his connections and origins to his past. He would help this adolescent, Brotherhood or no Brotherhood.
-Four days later-
The Tome’tayl, a gift from his occasional employer Dash Kuatir, hovered over a mainland port with military precision, touching down in a small farmed clearing. The locals were less than pleased, but the modified Gauntlet-starfighter had a wicked set of weaponry that would frighten off even the most curious of folk.
It wasn’t his intent to show off or cause any unrest within the community, simply a rather obtuse message to his target: I found you.
The walk to the nearby settlement gave him time to attune his senses through the Force. It was peaceful and warm, the fields scented with the naivety of nature and the farmers worked through the earth, giving a pleasant quaintness to the scene. Unfortunately, pleasant or not, a crazed Dark Jedi would quickly change the tone when wandering about aimlessly, looking for ways to prove himself as the most powerful idiot on the planet.
Selen, in all its glory, was still not the most developed of planets. Its capital, Estle, was a beautiful city embedded with all the bells and whistles of the age, refined further by its masterful leadership. There were, however, many simple villages and towns that existed on the planet that flourished without the use of technology. It was expected of the peaceful Selenians who turned to agriculture and architecture to make their living, but this made finding someone with ease quite a difficult thing.
Fortunately, the small harbor town, Gal’ade, had one or two holonet transceivers and through his sweep of the planet had stumbled across a report. It had come from one of the many DIA operatives acting as an official of the Selenian Government. The report indicated some outburst of suspicious behaviour in the locals with them spouting superstitious nonsense. It was a long shot, but it was plausible that they had mistaken the effects of the Force for trickster spirits and demons.
Upon his arrival at the honest-looking residential district, he was met with a rather blasé show of avoidance. He placated their suspicions with sweet smiles and did his best to keep his head down. The road down to the ship harbour was cobbled and wide, allowing the quaint buildings either side to open to a beautiful view.The sun layered the top of the sea with gentle sparkles that danced with the waves and the Galerian relished the warmth. It was a fond change from the petulant coolness of space and the stale air of the Citadel. He almost felt relaxed.
His accommodation was in a cosy little street not far from the fields on the corner of the only crossroad build into the town. Bracing himself for some soppy theatrics, the Miraluka swung his cloak from about his shoulders, tucked it under his arm and walked briskly into the establishment.
His broad smile fizzled as he regarded the proprietor. She was sweet, she was old and she was blind, or at least half so. He coughed, finding some humour in that he had managed to find at least one other blind person, though he had hoped that that person would be his target.
“Yes, yes, come in! Welcome to the Flashing Wave!” she cackled, waving him over to her worn desk.
“I-I’m here for a room for the night. Would you possibly-”
“Oh-ho-ho-ho! That sounds like the voice of a young man approaching! My-my-my, I haven’t had many dashing young scallions to take care of for quite a while! Oh, it makes me think of sparkling moments in my youth- I may not look it now but I was a right good looker when I was your age! Oo dearie, you’ve got me all a flutter!”
She wavered emphatically, covering her mouth in shameful glee. Maaks was ghastly silent.
“Now, I can give you a rather lovely sea view room, it just overlooks the tops of the bluewood trees in the yard over and how about a lovely evening meal? Yes, yes, I have some lovely dried delicacies that we can enjoy together over a nice glass of wine-”
“Oh! No-no, that’s fine! I don’t want to be any trouble-”
“I simply won’t take no for an answer sonny! Good food for good young men like you-” she smiled, reaching out to touch his face and gracing the bandage across his eyes. She stopped for a moment, a deep frown creasing her brow and then springing into recognition.
Maaks stepped back, not knowing how to let her know he was blind himself, at least in a way.
“Well that’s a surprise! Fancy running into another of you! I thought you were him for a moment, the poor beggar, but you sound quite a bit older than him!”
The room became icy.
“Another? Where? When did you last speak to this ‘other’?”
A brief exposure to the Force eased her tongue and subdued any more outbursts.
“The little lad! He was in here not two days ago, begging for food bless his little soul. Of course I gave him some bits and bobs from the pantry and gave him a nice hearty meal to fill his tummy. Poor thing was skin and bone! I even offered him a room but he said he had somewhere to go- fancy that!-”
“I’ll take my room now. I do not require any food, thank you.”
“O-oh...” She nodded, finding a key and handing it to him. Out of politeness, he bowed his head to his patron and swept from the room.
The night was still against the shoreline. A lack of streetlight cast the town in blue as it faced the peeking moon, Boral. Creaking insects wandered without intent, blurring their sounds against the natural swaying of the tide.
All was quiet in the minds of the inhabitants, the breeze spinning mists on the edges of the fields and the forests. It was peaceful, with most of the residents asleep and the rest drinking amidst candlelight and friends.
Moonlight pooled about the Knight as he lay fully clothed on his bed. His breathing was long and slow as he discarded his worldly senses one by one, strengthening his connection to the Force. His mind’s eye was ablaze as it peered over the town like a spectre, searching and waiting for his prey.
Something was watching him.
He noticed it from the moment night made its fall. A tiny vibration through the Force just barely active as it seemed to buzz within a few meters. Maaks had attempted to focus in on the signature but it was too quick to get a clear glimpse of it. He resigned himself to leave his eye unbiased, letting his impulses cool and his instincts take over.
In truth, he couldn’t sleep. It was a strain on his nerves to feel such responsibility to a complete stranger, especially one who was probably volatile. He had never had to go all softly-softly on in direct confrontation before, as it was usually him versus ‘highly experienced individual with bigger guns’. Could he do it? He was met with a wave of insecurity. If his attempts to coerce his target went wrong, if there were no longer any words that broke through or smiles that disarmed him, could he take a life? He cursed inwardly, pushing his responsibilities into the furthest reaches of his mind.
There was a flicker. Dazed by the change, Maaks re-attuned himself to his senses and dreamily meandered over to where he thought the signature was. Nothing. He woke slowly, straining against the distant meditative state and looked again. Sound shook his awareness, forcibly inverting his stretched mind back to its original state as he sat up. His sight returned.
The debris from the building next door shattered against the ceiling of his room. He sprang to his feet, grabbed his cloak and saber and was thrown to the wall from the next impact, caving in one of the walls. The Force returned to his control and with relief he swooped up and out of the wall’s opening. Another impact, this time far too close for comfort as it shattered the ground around it, pulling Maaks backward by his cloak and shredding it.
His heart was screaming with every beat as he pushed the light from about him, smudging his form. Then he ran, discarding his cloak to avoid yet another impact. Fortunately, the buildings were not too different in size and shape, but each crumbled under the thunderous force of the assailants attacks. The Galerian did not bother to retaliate, only forced his legs to move with every breath. Now he knew where his attacker was, but most likely it was not reciprocated. That was what he hoped for, at least.
The attacks were continuous and unabating. Not quick enough to target one who was aided with the Force but if he were to stop, even for a moment, it would be completely lethal. This boy, making his claims as a Jedi of the Dark way, actually seemed to have some talent. He allowed this thought to distract him with an inkling of pride, even as he avoided being imploded.
The closer he got to the target, the harder it was to avoid. The boy’s signature was all over the place but it couldn’t be from his movements. The flashes and tendrils of crimson that surged from his his every assault were almost organic. Something was very, very wrong.
Maaks refocused his thoughts, coming close to the end of the buildings. Untying his eye bandage, he took his final step and leapt. Then he opened his eyes. He no longer needed to bend light about himself as it was simply gone. Blackness filled area with a great hunger, sweeping over rooftops and rushing into the spaces within the nearby forest. Of course he had not forgotten that his opponent was a Miraluka, in fact he used this skill for its most base attribute: its ability to cover a medium sized area. Using the Force for a Miraluka- especially a technique derived from the Dark Side, was like watching a smoke bomb bloom into wispy shreds of red. At the very least, it would be distracting.
The implosions abated, but just for a moment. He took out his lightsaber, holding the handle as tightly as he could as he leapt over undergrowth and discarded rock. The terrain got steeper; he needed to be faster. It was a long shot, but he thought it would be obvious to the half-trained idiot that if he seemed to be slowed down in any way that it would encourage him to follow. He had had higher ground when he was breaking everything around him, so Maaks figured that he would try to do the same.
The Erinos broke out of the forest, coming to the beginnings of a neighbouring valley. A rather wicked looking descent smothered in greenery. The darkness abated quickly and the Arconan recovered his breath, intensely trying to instill his reserves with some desperate energy. Adrenaline surged through him, his every muscle pulled tight in suspense as he scanned the perimeter.
Something blurred in front of him, the Force guiding his hand as he brought his shining silver blade to block the aggressive citrine one. His opponent towered over him, teeth gnashing in primal fury. Maaks threw him back, focusing on destroying his guard and keeping the lanky Miraluka off balance. They moved in a fierce rhythm, Charn’a displaying fairly adept skill with a saber that at times took the Arconan by surprise. The only difference was confidence. The child was wielding a lightsaber with some surety, but not to its full potential, his emotions clouding his judgement
They pushed off of one another, each eyeing the other with caution.
Any confidence within the Galerian evaporated. He merely froze, a chilling fear prickling along his spine as the works shimmered out of view. Miralukese is perhaps the strangest of languages, not in its forms and grammar but in its delivery. It was words, both spoken and written, alight with the Force. In it, held the emotions and intentions of those that spoke with it, both taking away and adding to it as a language. You could not lie in Miralukese, not really. The Miraluka as a people were kind, compassionate and believed in balance. They wore their heart on their sleeve and this boy felt everything.
Fear, regret, accusation.
It had been many, many years since he had heard that term. Back then, they had been protectors, guardians and guides for those with an exceptional relationship with their senses. For a Dark Jedi however, or at least a Miraluka claiming to be so, they were absolute oppressors. There had been only a handful of foolhardy Miraluka so vocal in their dissension to the dark before they were silenced, the stories of their disappearance shrouded in rumour.
Bile began its ascent to the back of his throat, burning aside the cool realisation that this was beginning to get completely out of his control.
”Brother, I am not of the Luka Sene.” His allowed his intentions to curl about these words, watching as it visibly sank into the taller youth’s face, ”I am like you, one dedicated to the Dark. I mean you no harm.”
Confusion flashed over Charn’a’s face, his Force sight flashing more intently over Maaks’ form. The Galerian sighed, knowing what the other would see. His alignment within the Force was conflicted, his ongoing meditations done to keep balance and therefore control. Even after his time spent in the Brotherhood, it was difficult to break old habits.
The boy raised himself to his full height, a few inches taller than that of Maaks, peering past his nose. Charn’a was almost skeletal, his face and limbs long, giving him a deathly appearance beneath his brown, ragged clothing. The Arconan was fighting exhaustion, the barriers of night pushed to their limits as the glare of dawn approached.
The distraction did not last for long. The Dark Side of the Force permeated the area in oscillating crimson, suffocating and full of dread. Charn’a was sobbing, his shoulders heaving as if it was difficult to breathe. Maaks held his saber low, the thumping in his ears growing louder as the surging of the Force sent ongoing warnings to go off in his head. Then the boy started laughing. it was small at first, his sobs echoing down the chasm below until his mouth curved into insanity. He began to slash at nothing, wildly and without direction, his cackling growing louder and louder.
It was sad in a way, but only for the loss of naivety that youth must possess to grow. The Force had taken it from Charn’a the moment he began to trust in the dark side and dabble in things he could not understand. It should have been a hard lesson for him, but without someone to guide him back from the deep end it consumed him. Maaks knew this and he had lived it and so it fell to him to do something about it.
So, he caused fear to grow in the boy’s heart and watched as it turned him against his own connection with the Force. The sobbing returned, his face showing his age as he slashed vigorously, attempting to defend himself from unseen spectres.
The Knight took his chance, rushing in low and grabbing Charn’a’s saber hand and pulling him off balance, smashing the pommel of his own saber into his neck. Maaks released a flurry of consecutive blows to his sternum, solar plexus and groin, then attempted to push him to the ground in an armlock.
The Force cried its protests and exploded out from the boy like the scream of some ancient deity. It tore through the Galerian like shrapnel, slicing through his skin and clothing and throwing him some distance from the cliff. His head lolled against something hard, his lightsaber discarded as he struggled to stay conscious. The cataclysm continued, however.
Charn’a struck out against everything he saw, rock and earth sent flying, discarded by the boy’s panic. Slowly by surely, the Force overwhelmed his mind and he broke the very cliff on which he stood.
The final expulsion of Force energy was so encompassing of the boy’s talents that it was palpable, shading the area in the deepest red until it erupted and he fell.
The boy made no sound as he plummeted and nor did Maaks. The thunderous echo dominated the scene anyway, the Force casting judgement against its abuser.
The ground cradled his body without dignity, the silent descent of falling rock becoming his grave.
Maaks had failed him and now he was dead.
It was too much. He broke off his senses, letting the still blackness wash over him. He questioned his every action, contemplating any angle that could have worked to allow him to help the lost Miraluka, calling out to the Force for guidance. It was just too much.
There was only silence.
So, he just screamed, something he had never done before into the Force. He threw his fury, his loss and his guilt all into the void, hoping for some semblance of a reply.
His Gods were ever silent as the sun bloomed into view.
Wow. Simply, Wow, that's all I can say.
Contract Grade: Superior 4pts
Wow. Maxi, where did this come from? This is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I think I've read in my DB career. Your attention to detail in describing the scent, the smell, the essence of the world and space in which your character operates is something that typically only veteran writers really capture. You let us see into your characters mind and make him a part of the plot and create characters around him that help drive the story forward.
There where a few points where your grammar faltered, and some typos are abound, but I was so enamored with the overall piece that I can overlook them. I'd reccomend having an proof reader if you didn't have one, and if you did, well, bop them over the head for missing the small errors
Seriously, I can't say enough nice things about this. I love the ending, how it's built up and up and comes to a final resolution of the underlying theme of the entire story - how will Maaks handle the outcome, success for failure.
In the future, I would work a little on tightening up your action. It's very vidid and well described, but it got too....flowery, for my taste. The combat should be a bit more technical, I think, and really show where they are standing as they fight, and duel. I kind of felt like I got a more "spirit" of what was going on than a true description of the moves and manuvers that the two Dark Jedi use at the end duel. On the other hand, I love how you wrote the brawl, it was unique and descriptive and I enjoyed reading it.
Keep up the good work Maaks. Seriously, Dash needs to watch his back.