Sarah woke to a gentle knock on the door, and she opened her eyes. Carth was deeply asleep next to her, his breathing didn't even shift at the noise. She stroked his hair for a moment, relieved that he was finally letting it go enough to catch up on his sleep. It had been hard on all of them, but he'd borne it silently.
She slid from bed, opening the door quietly. Bastila stood outside, a pile of clothing balanced on her palms. "There you are." She whispered. "Get dressed, and meet me at my room. Here...you probably remember how to wear these...if you don't, I'll get it fixed up when I see you."
Robes. Sarah sighed, taking them and nodding at Bastila. "Give me a minute." She said, closing the door and surveying the pile. Had she ever worn these before?
Yes, but you were never that fond of them.
Ah, well, that was good to know. Some things never changed. She dressed, choosing to ignore the plain shirts that Bastila had brought, instead sliding into one of the shirts that Carth had purchased for her, the reddish chestnut with terracotta trim one. It worked well, and she didn't feel quite as swallowed up as the robes seemed to symbolize to her. But yes, it all felt very, very familiar. The pale beige robe swirled around her, an identity, a proclamation...
"Okay." Carth breathed from the bed behind her, and she jerked her head around to face him.
"What?" She asked, uncertainly.
He came up to her, comfortable in his nudity, tilting his head to take it all in. "I can see it now." He said with a smile, resting his fingertips on her shoulders. "You wear it well..."
"Don't tell me you have a robe fetish."
"Nah. I have a you fetish. And you wear those well. I particularly like the shirt...even though I think it might not be entirely correct."
"It's not...incorrect, precisely." She had no idea how she understood that, but she did. This was within the norms, less adherent than if she'd worn it exactly as Bastila had brought it to her, but acceptable nonetheless.
"Good. Good. Glad to hear. Hey, you'll do fine. I have faith in you. Go get 'em."
She nodded, giving him a quick kiss and heading for Bastila's room. "That works." Was the greeting that Bastila met her with, pulling her inside for a quick inspection. "And the rest of it is perfect. You remember this, at least. Here...I wanted you to have this before you got started."
It was a picture, and Sarah's eyes widened. It was the first picture that she'd seen of herself from before. It showed her, and Bastila...here, at Dantooine. She'd walked past this very point just last night, leaving the Council chambers. Bastila was much younger, a young teenager, trying her best to look mature and composed. And Sarah...it was a stranger with her own face, the woman standing with Bastila simply breathed confidence, command, utterly secure in her own skin. "You've come home to us." Bastila whispered, "Please, just keep that in mind. No matter what happens, Sarah. We love you. You're a part of us."
"Thank you, Bastila. Now let's go get this silliness over with." Except it didn't seem like nearly the same level of silly now as it had earlier. Clothing should not make that much of a difference... But it wasn't the clothes, it was what they symbolized. And they were a return...to herself.
"Bastila. You have to pay attention. You know she's going to try to bring you in closer...she has to. Deny her that. Keep her at your range, not hers."
Sarah rolled back onto her heels, waiting. Her training appeared to be training Bastila, none of the focus was actually on her. It was all very, very sneaky...very, very low pressure... She ducked out from Bastila's next huge attack, snapping back with a sudden flurrying push on the younger woman's unprotected side.
This killed Darth Revan? And yet, I could not? Bastila walked away, and I did not? This was easy, it was like breathing. What few doubts she'd had were long since gone, she'd grown up with a blade, a pair of blades, in her hands. I don't believe it.
She stepped into a sharp dance, taking the initiative, pushing Bastila along in front of her. Zhar merely cleared the way, watching, keeping pace, scrutinizing every move that the pair of them made. Sarah could feel everything snap into place, her stance, tight, almost curled, her belly pulled in tight ..taking advantage of her small size. The blade in her dominant hand, forward grip...it was supposed to be the longer blade, but she didn't have the right blades for this. The shoto in her weaker hand, reversed grip, the length of it tight against her forearm... it was supposed to be shorter, easier to keep close.
Bastila grunted, pushing back, attempting to open up an apron of space around her, spinning her training blade deftly, she'd hit Sarah dead in the shoulder, hard, if that came around fully...
Sarah reacted immediately, falling backwards, pushing off of Bastila and flipping in the air, using her offhanded blade to arrest herself... the world yanked out from underneath her and she fell...hard, smack on her shoulder blades, winded and dazed.
"Hold!" Zhar snapped, and Bastila pulled back immediately, rubbing her chest at the point that Sarah had pushed off of her from. "This. This is why you must go through this." He stated, squatting beside Sarah and staring into her face. "What went wrong?"
"There was too much of an arrest." She gasped, trying to sort out of her breathing again. "I stopped too quickly."
"Because you are not fighting with lightsabers. Years of training told you how that was supposed to play out, but it failed. Instinctive. Reflexive. Unthinking. And if this was real, Bastila would have killed you." He extended a hand to her, and pulled her back to her feet. "But it was a beautiful maneuver, right up to the point you yanked your arm out of socket and went down in a heap."
"Thanks. I think." And she'd broken her offhanded vibroblade as well, epic. Her hand stung and burned, and yes, her shoulder screamed in protest when she rolled her arm.
"It would have worked." He offered with a smile, and she stared at him. "It should have worked. I'm confident that your blade skills are still at a certain level of competency... Perhaps it's time we started to discuss replacing those lightsabers you no longer have."
"But..." Sarah shook her head at the idea. "Jedi carry lightsabers. I can't."
"The test in that has always been in the creation of it, Sarah. If you can create one, or both, of yours...then you have the right to. If you can go out there and find your crystal...if the blade will come together for you, then that is how it is. Are you going to cripple yourself just to keep from joining the Order...the Order you've already been told you'll never be good enough again to join?"
Not going to fall for the old reverse psychology trick. That wasn't even a graceful attempt.
He laughed as if she'd spoken it aloud, and maybe, to him, she had. "But I ask you, Sarah. How does this make you feel..." He leaned in, "Never to have them back. Ever again? Making do with vibroblades?"
"There is no emotion."
Lie. An unattainable goal, which becomes a weakness. "There is peace." Another unattainable goal. The only way to have peace is to destroy that which inherently flows through living things... Life is a struggle. It is never peaceful. Peace is a lie. Emotion is a fuel, tempered, it becomes resolve.
He stared at her, "There is no ignorance."
"There is knowledge." All knowledge. Even the dark secrets that the Sith sorcerers ply in... You cannot deny part of it, and then say that there is no ignorance.
"There is no passion."
Passion is part of the joy in living. Without it, we are empty, self denying fools who break ourselves, who strive to become automatons. Passion is just one more emotion. Again, a fuel. A tool. A part of us that cannot be removed, and should not be rejected. "There is serenity." And serenity is the calm through which passion must be measured, honed, valued, controlled.
"There is no chaos."
Hubris at its finest. The universe seethes with chaos, and you think you can deny its very nature? You will never have that level of control, thankfully. "There is harmony."
"There is no death."
Such is the truth. "There is the Force."
"You remember the Code." He smiled. "You remember how to fight. It's there, Sarah. We just need to give it all a good nudge. Now go, have that shoulder checked. You're not as young as you used to be."
Well, he had that part right, at least. She definitely wasn't as young as she used to be.
She was resting on her belly, warm, content, the salty smell of kolto hanging in the air around her. Her face was buried in the pillow of her arms, her back bare. She felt Carth's approach more than she heard him, although he cleared his throat before he rested a hand on her leg. "Bastila said you'd gotten banged up." He said, "And I can see that she's right. What the hell happened?"
"I got a little overenthusiastic during a sparring match with her. I'm paying the price." He remained silent for a long, recriminatory moment, and she laughed. "Say it. You know you want to."
"You're almost old enough to be her mother." He chuckled. "She isn't recovering from not just one, but two major injuries. She remembers being a Jedi. Sarah, you need to take it just a little bit easier on yourself." He sat on the small stool next to the exam table, his face serious, his eyes grinning. She couldn't look that bad, she'd seen him truly worried, and his eyes did not shine then.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I could have taken her, if..."
"If?" He stroked her hair, concerned. Such a nice, nice guy. What had she done to deserve him?
Nothing. Nothing at all.
"If I'd've had a lightsaber instead of a vibroblade."
"Is that a possibility? Replacing yours? I wish I knew more about this, Sarah. I don't want to say the wrong thing here..."
"If I can create one, I can have one. But do I want one?" It seemed like the whole thing was half assed... too many things unsettled. Be a Jedi...sort of. Just enough to not hurt those around her. Did she need a lightsaber for that? If she could, did, make one, what then? That was tantamount to proclaiming herself as a Jedi, but they seemed more than willing to let her do just that. It was confusing, something just didn't quite add up.
"Only you can answer that." He stated, resting his elbows on the exam table and resting his chin in his hands, his face close to hers. "But sister, a Jedi without a lightsaber is like a pilot without a ship. And I hear they're handy for all sorts of home uses... lockpicking, tree trimming, vermin eradication."
She had to laugh in spite of herself. She really did not deserve him. "Thanks, Carth. I needed that."
It took less than a week for Sarah's doubts to be laid to rest. This was not only possible, it was right. It was easy. It touched a still, pure part of her soul...and she wanted, no, needed, that part of herself back. It was what was missing. It's what she had to have to put her pieces back together. She might never, ever be a Jedi Knight again, she just might be too broken for that, but she could mend herself. And that clenched it. She had to have at least one lightsaber, preferably two...
"Where are we going?" Carth asked, watching her bundle together a few tools she felt she might want. She considered telling him that 'they' were not going anywhere, at all... but that voice in her gut, the one becoming louder and louder with each passing day, cut the words off. Take Carth. Take Canderous.
"I need crystals for my lightsabers. Dantooine has a natural source." Her original crystals had come from there... I wonder where they went...
Doesn't matter. You need to craft new ones. To prove to them that you're still capable. To prove that to yourself. A new start, Sarah.
"Ask Canderous if he wants to come with us."
Sarah stood on a slight rise overlooking the Enclave, confused and torn. She had felt that she would be drawn in one, firm, definitive direction. The 'right' way. She was drawn in two completely different directions, and both felt imperative. Carth watched her with concern, Canderous with fascination. But then, the Mandalorians had attacked the Republic to fight Jedi...a terribly inconvenient fact that the Order tended to gloss over.
Both ways. Damnit, no. Things had been going so well... No. She closed her eyes, swaying slightly in the incessant grassland breeze.
Which way, first?
There was a moment of nothing, of peace, and one of the points flashed in her brain. This one, first. Then the other, later.
She nodded, striding towards the now obvious destination.
At first, she doubted the wisdom of bringing Carth and Canderous together, without any other distractions to keep them amused. They picked at each other, pushing each others' buttons. They'd fought each other, for vastly different, cultural reasons... and now seemed willing to fight it out again, on Dantooine, while trailing her.
"I'm a soldier, not a warrior." Carth snapped from behind her, and she gave the two of them her attention again. They respected each other, but they needed this time to get over a War that had marked them both...so that they could work together. It was so important that they all worked together. They had to fit together, seamlessly, if they were to get through what was coming. And the silence and space of Dantooine was a perfect place for that to finally boil down in.
What is coming?
No answer. She was not surprised.
"There's a difference." Carth continued, not backing down to the older Mandalorian. "Warriors attack and conquer, they prey on the weak."
Sarah glanced at Canderous... The Mandalorians' intentions had never been to 'prey on the weak'. They'd intended to draw the Jedi into the conflict quickly. The Jedi had been their intended targets. The fact that the War had devolved into just that, attacks on the weak, could not sit well with them.
"Soldiers protect and defend the innocent. Usually against warriors."
"Nice speech." Canderous replied, and Sarah locked her jaw. This could go very, very badly. "I bet you tell yourself that every night, so that you can sleep. But I accept who and what I am. I don't have to justify it with words, victory in battle is my justification."
Was Carth going to back down? She hoped not, in fact, she'd be damned disappointed if he did. He'd done everything he'd been called upon to do during the War. She knew he slept just fine every night...next to her. He needed to hit back, or Canderous would never respect him. And without respect, this would never work.
"Justification through victory?" Carth's voice rose. "And what happens when you lose? You know, like you did against us?" He stepped closer to the Mandalorian, tilting his head. "I sleep just fine, thank you very much. I guess you could call me...justified."
Canderous stared at him for a long moment, like he'd just met a completely new person, before glancing at Sarah. "I see it now." He stated to her, "Yeah, you're right... Republic. The day goes to you. So...what are we out here for? Has to be more to this trek than culling kath hound numbers."
"We're going to a kinrath nest." She sighed, wondering if she'd stirred up something between the two of them that she shouldn't have. No, this needs to be sorted out now. Here. Before...
Before you entrust your life to them. Before you entrust everything that's coming to them. Everything has to be tight. Good. Or it will all fall apart under pressure.
"You two good now?" She demanded. "No more pissing matches?"
Canderous chuckled, clapping Carth on his shoulder. "Sure thing." He replied, turning away and watching the horizon. "It's getting dark...we should find a place for the night. I'll stay in sight and signal when I find one." He strode away, Carth staring after him.
"Yeah. I'm okay, Sarah. I just... grrrrhhhh." He curled a lip. "It's over, right? The War? Shouldn't I be able to just let it go?"
She glanced at him. No. It's not. "He owns it because it was the greatest time in his life. But you have to own it because it wasn't...but you did what had to be done. And, yes. Own the fact that we won. Every time he gets lippy, smack him back in the face with it. For both of us."
"You were a Jedi." He breathed. "In the War."
Ah, yes. That. "Guess that made me a Revanchist." She admitted slowly. "I defied the Council."
He sighed, turning to her...before he reached out and grasped her shoulders, strong and supportive. "No matter what happened afterward, Sarah... we thank you for that. We couldn't have held the line without Revan's followers. The Jedi who answered our call for help."
"The Mandalorians came to pick a fight with us, Carth. The Jedi. The least we could have done was to give them their fight. I... I became what I did to protect people, not to stand by and wait. That, I am certain of."
So many crystals, clustered and brilliant in the tight cavern. The air was charged with them, the fog around them whispered and hummed. Carth and Canderous, now safely in a detente, stood together just inside of the cavern...covering her, but staying well away from the glowing formations.
They call. They sing.
But none of them felt right. Sarah turned in place, uncertain. She couldn't take them if they weren't right. They were too precious. But she couldn't keep Carth and Canderous cooling their heels, just waiting for more kinrath to come boiling back into their egg chamber. Time was of the essence, but some things shouldn't be rushed.
None of these are right. I'm in the wrong place. I'm a failure. I'm not what I thought I was. They're right. I'm broken. I can't...
Your true crystals are not here. The fact that you are not broken is how you know that. One, and only one, here is good enough until you find the ones you are meant to have. You are looking for something that is not here. Look for what is here.
She moved slowly to one of the crushed kinrath eggs, noting the odd glow it still had, although the hatchling within it was gone. A single crystal shard, and she plucked it from the ooze, holding it up. It glowed suddenly, brightly...and very, very pink, like watered down blood.
"Pink?" She echoed dubiously, and Carth laughed outright...the sound bitten off suddenly, but it echoed in the damp cavern well after he'd tried to stop it. "Okay. Pink it is."
For now. You'll live.
Somehow, Sarah wasn't quite certain about that one. It was time to return, and to find the rest of the pieces from the stores in the Enclave. She knew they were there. She knew just where to find them. She could close her eyes and see them.
The path back was a driven one, and the men with her seemed to sense it. The rest of it had to be there. It just had to be.
Bastila watched Revan return, the older woman's face was set. She could sense that Revan carried a crystal somewhere on her, unset and new...a strong, powerful young crystal. Revan did not pause, moving through the enclave like she knew exactly where everything was, straight into the workshop.
"She found one. I can feel it." Bastila stated as greeting to Carth, and he merely grimaced in amusement.
"She did. Yes. I don't think she's that happy about it, but we were successful." He chuckled, rubbing his jaw. "What color is it supposed to be?"
No. Revan had used a single crimson lightsaber on the bridge of the Coruscate, the color of blood and rage. Dantooine was one of the only sources of crystals that could form in a natural red state...most Sith used artificial red crystals, manufactured. "Blue. Green. Yellow." She breathed in dismay. "But there are many other shades, Carth." Red, orange...
"Such as pink?"
Pink? Revan had pulled a pink crystal? A mix of white and red, worrisome yet encouraging. Bastila would have been more comfortable with several other shades, but things could have been worse. "It's not completely unheard of."
Revan appeared in the doorway, brandishing a dusty, plain wooden box. "I found them! I..." Confusion crossed her face, and Bastila felt it flow through the bond. She was remembering... "Bastila?"
"Let me see what you've got there." Bastila sighed, and Revan surrendered the box to her. Bastila thumbed the catches on the box and opened it...exposing two lightsaber hilt housings. They were masterworks, curved, inset, engraved, and she had no doubt who had crafted them...and who they were intended for. A smaller Jedi, female, who favored a lightsaber/shoto combination. The curves matched that the main hand was supposed to be held forward grip, and that the shoto was meant to be held reversed. Revan had crafted her own replacement set, and left them here on Dantooine... "You made these." Bastila stated, and some of the doubt fled Revan's face. "For yourself, I would have to say. You're the only Jedi I know that could even use these. But you found only one crystal?"
"I found none." She replied, but held out the contradiction to that statement, a pink shard glowing brightly at her touch.
"Ah." Vandar could be damned sneaky, diminutive, silent, when he wanted to be. "Temporary? Yours are not here?" His eyes were locked on the crystal, "Sad. But if that is how it is, then we cannot argue. Pink. Not a common hue."
"For good reason." She muttered, and he simply shrugged.
"The force doesn't concern itself with vanity and preconceptions, Sarah. Those are ours to deal with. If your lightsaber is pink, then it is pink. You have always had a flamboyant edge. This could just merely be a reflection of that. Now, go... you have the pieces. Make a whole."
She nodded, taking the box back from Bastila and walking back into the workshop. Carth went the opposite direction, with a goodbye and a vague comment about maintenance, leaving Bastila standing alone with Vandar.
"Pink." He chuckled.
"Vanity. Preconceptions. Pale red."
His ears drooped slightly at the last phrase, and he nodded slowly. "Indeed, Bastila. Pale red, caught in the middle. Even more interesting that she got a noncommittal response...that is not truly meant to be hers. Whatever it is that is right for her, is not here. Dantooine has one of the broadest range of natural lightsaber crystals available, and the right crystals for Sarah are not here. But I scouted the caves earlier when it became obvious that she was going to be crafting a new saber...and there are red ones growing there. We should take that as a good sign, Bastila. A hopeful one."
"Did she know this was coming? I didn't even know that she had crafted the hilts for an entirely new set. Those were made by her, for her."
"It is possible, Bastila. She often acted on instinct, let her impulses override her training. But no, I did not know that she had crafted hilts and left them here. But you are correct. By her, for her. Everything I saw in that box is over the top...Revan."
Bastila bit off of a curse, and he took her hand. "But Bastila, everything I saw in there is over the top Revan...the Revan I knew once. The Dark Lord of the Sith would not carry a lightsaber hilt engraved and inlaid like that."
"That is just so wrong."
"Or so very right."
I made this. She had no doubts about that, she had doubts about everything else. Had there ever been a point in her life when she could express such joy? Such beauty? So openly and confidently? It was a celebration, an exhibition...and she'd abandoned it here. To wait for now? Had she foreseen a day when she'd be back here, broken, in need of it? She'd made mistakes, somehow she knew that. And the more she remembered, the more she was certain of that. I am a Jedi. I was a Revanchist. I fought in the War. I broke somewhere along the way. But at one point in my life, I was that woman in Bastila's picture. I was secure, confident. At one point in my life, I was able to create beauty and not shy away from it.
She surveyed the hilts slowly, finally removing the longer one and arranging it and the component pieces on the table in front of her. She focused on them, and they levitated into the air, each part aligning with the section it was meant to attach to. Must be created by the force...
It didn't want to. Things were wrong. The crystal didn't fit, it wasn't the right one. She was suddenly exhausted, beyond frustrated, and rested her forehead on her arm... just to close her eyes for a second. She vaguely heard the solid thump as it fell to the padded table in front of her, but it didn't matter.
"The dark side is strong in this place. We will be banished for certain. Is the power of the Star Forge worth the cost?"
"Hey, Sarah. Sweetheart." A voice, wondering and amused, very much real. It cut through the fuzzy, dizzy haze like a knife, she was wide awake, but unable to open her eyes. "Sleepyhead." Carth accused, picking her up, balancing her head on his shoulder. "You going to get her stuff, Bastila?"
"No." Bastila's response was terse, Sarah could feel Carth half turn under her. "I won't be the first one to pick up her lightsaber. That should be for her to do, not me. Wake her up."
"Sarah. Wake up." He sat on the bench, stroking her cheek with his thumb. "Come on..." A thin edge of fear tainted his syllables, the amusement fading. "Sarah. Wake up!"
Her eyes finally shot open, and he took a deep, relieved breath when she met his eyes. "There you are." He smiled. "Bastila wants you awake."
"I know. I wasn't asleep. Er, I was...but I wasn't." That was going to get her put back in a hospital if she wasn't careful...
"You were in a trance." Bastila said, leaning in and staring at her. "Awake but not awake. It happens, but you did it." Pride leaked from her voice, she was doing her best to not grin from ear to ear...
"Did what?" Fall asleep without falling asleep? That was noteworthy?
"Doesn't work. It won't come together." Sarah shook her head, extricating herself from Carth's lap and gazing down at the worktable. There, sitting in pristine glory...a complete lightsaber. She'd done it. It was perfect in her hand when she picked it up, curving exactly as it should. The hilt was perfection...
And the blade was not even close to the bright pink horror she was expecting, based on the color of the unset crystal; the core was golden yellow, with a rosy pink nimbus.
"I don't know. I've never seen its like. We'll ask Master Zhar if the archives mention that hue..."
"Master Zhar. Sarah has created her lightsaber..." Bastila began, and the twi'lek master turned, regarding the three of them curiously. "I'm not familiar with the color of it."
"Vandar has told me that it is pink? A rare color, but not unheard of."
"Well, it's not exactly pink. The crystal is but the blade is not...Sarah..."
Sarah thrilled to the sound of the lightsaber, her lightsaber, igniting in the dim archive room. Zhar's eyes widened slightly, then narrowed, before he nodded. "A dawn crystal. Shining. New. Very fitting, Sarah. Very fitting indeed. I've never actually seen one, but there are mentions of them in the archives, and they often come into the possession of Jedi like you. Those who lose their way, fall, or have had their calling snatched away from them...only to recover it later. A new dawn in their lives."
"Carry it with pride, Sarah. Never forget what it symbolizes. And remember that the dawn ends the darkest of nights."
How very...profound. Sarah nodded, switching it off and hanging it without conscious thought at her side. It felt unbalanced, wrong, to only be carrying one... but it was so much better than carrying none.
"Oh, Bastila. We sent someone out to check that area you spoke to us about." Zhar frowned, "And he has not returned. Tomorrow, you will go see what has happened to him. Take Sarah with you, since she has more than successfully completed her latest test. And for that, I give her my congratulations." He gave Sarah a smile, but as always, it felt reserved. Held back. Somewhat empty, guarded.
I defied you. You won't openly hold it against me, now, because you know I don't truly remember it...but it's there. It's been there with every interaction we've had from the beginning. It's why Vrook spits when he talks to me. You wait and see. Only Vandar forgives. Only Vandar hopes. Vandar, and Bastila.