My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 39

"Well?" Sarah asked, feeling Bastila come up behind her. She'd shed the stinking, charred over robe, but was still wearing her under clothes, waiting for stinky Carth to come join her. Not just a shower here, no, she had access to a deep, hot bathing pool...and she intended to share it with him.

"I think you already know." Bastila stated, sitting on the bench next to the pool. "But they want you to choose the order we visit them in. In fact, they want you to make the decisions."

Lovely. Just fantastic. "Have they forgotten that I have forgotten?" She asked, sitting beside the pool and running her fingers through the water. But then, neither one of them was exactly a good candidate to lead this... surely there had to be someone better? Now that they knew where? But they didn't, really. They knew worlds. Four of them. Huge expanses of places, and she'd seen one of the star maps. It was relatively tiny. Somehow, Revan had found them without relying on well, Revan, and Sarah would love to know how. But they had no other choice but to hope that the visions would keep coming, that Bastila would be able to see them clearly, and that they'd be able to find the next one the same way as they had discovered the first.

"No. They feel that Carth will not follow me any more. That Canderous will never follow me. That you will not remain willing to follow me when your instincts rise. You know that you were the knight, while I am the padawan. And Mission, Zaalbar...their bond is to you and Carth. You are the one that they will follow, as will I. They're no longer willing to ask for military support, except to keep Carth with us. The loss of the Endar Spire did not sit well with the Navy, with Coruscant. Clearing Carth of any blame in that was right, necessary, but that laid the blame on us...the Council here. It took everything we had to hold onto Carth, they want him back."

No. We are doomed to fail if...

"Exactly." Bastila waved her hand as if Sarah had spoken aloud, but then, she may as well have. "Sarah... as much as it pains me, the Enclave here, the Council here is coming under investigation from the Temple on Coruscant. We will be getting no more support than what we have. There will be no other Jedi to lead this...one with your age and experience, but with their memories intact. In fact, if we do not leave Dantooine soon, we may be caught up in the investigation ourselves and be prevented from leaving here."

That cannot happen.

"This is the enclave that trained me. You. I deserve to know why there's an investigation..."

"And this is the enclave that trained Exar Kun. Meetra Surik. Revan. And Malak. Then we lost the Endar Spire and her crew on a task that the High Council was less than convinced of from the beginning. Our track record has become disturbing, Sarah."

"So we run?"

Absolutely.

"Do you believe that we're on the right path? That this is the way to find the Star Forge? And that, whatever it is, it is vital to the Sith war effort?"

Absolutely.

Sarah sighed in disgust. If she could only remember...

"Stop it. You'll just make yourself dizzy and Carth isn't here to catch you."

"You'll catch me." Sarah noted, and Bastila raised a brow dubiously. "You'd let me drown? Hardly. Force bond and all." She covered her face with her hands, taking a deep breath. It just got deeper...every step of the way. Now, her enclave was under investigation? The last thing in the world she needed, wanted, was an examination by the Temple... "What?" She demanded. Something had attracted Bastila's attention, squarely on her.

"Ring?" There was a wealth of something in that single word question. Amazement, shock, confusion. "You didn't have that earlier."

"Carth gave it to me this afternoon." Maybe if she just played it cool, acted like it was nothing, then Bastila would accept it. Anyway, the ring was still encrusted with filth and hardly looked impressive. "He found it while cleaning the Hawk." There. How mundane that was.

"Ah." She waited for the lecture, but Bastila simply nodded.

"Can I see it?"

"I haven't even really seen it myself. It's pretty gunky. Came out of the sub-floor pipe bundle." But she slid it from her finger...although it was reluctant to let go...and passed it to Bastila.

"He could have at least cleaned it first." She chuckled, passing it back, and Sarah studied it. It was difficult to even grasp what it was, what it looked like...yet Carth had been pretty willing to label it as 'nice looking'. And she'd been more than willing to call it 'beautiful', and mean it. Odd. She slid it back on, and it fit perfectly, just like it should. She dipped her hand back in the water, and let it stay there... falling into a less anxious conversation with Bastila while she waited for Carth.

He arrived a little later than he'd promised, still utterly filthy, and Bastila stood quickly. "I'll be going now." She said, unnecessarily, and quickly backed out of the room, shutting the door firmly behind her.

"We make her nervous." He sighed, a tinge of laughter lurking in the syllables. "Nice pool." He shrugged out of the shirt he'd apparently put on just to get here, followed by the rest of his clothing, and he slid in with a contented purr. "Come on in. The water's fine." He breathed, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

She undressed, both comforted and depressed that he didn't open his eyes to watch. He was at ease with his nudity, hers, her proximity, her presence. He didn't look until her pause grew long, as she cataloged and inspected the myriad small injuries that she'd brought back with her.

"You okay?" He asked, and she nodded, sitting on the edge and slipping into the warm water. "What did Bastila want? She felt like she brought bad news..."

"Politics. Jedi politics. Oh, you should probably know that the Council here has taken responsibility for the loss of the Endar Spire. Sounds like the admiralty may be trying to get you back..." And how exactly did he feel about that one? It was so easy to just assume that he wanted to stay with her, to pilot the Ebon Hawk and go chasing Star Forges.

She could feel the sudden swirl of the Force around him, normally it flowed smoothly around him, calm and strong. But occasionally it snagged, caught, eddied in agitation...in those split moments when his slight force sensitivity acted on him. "No, Sarah. This is vital." He breathed. "You. Me. This. All of it. I am where I am supposed to be. But Bastila still felt on edge. Why?"

"The High Council on Coruscant has some issues with how this has been handled. Bastila hinted that the Council here may not be in charge of this for very much longer... this enclave is beginning to gain quite the reputation for its production of dark sided masters...Revan, Malak."

He grumbled, opening his eyes and fixing his attention on her. "Those two were trained here? To think, I used to look up to them as the best that humanity had to offer. Now I'd like nothing more than to put a blaster to both of their heads. Although I suppose that only Malak is left, isn't he? Turned on his own master, not that Revan didn't have it coming. Typical for their kind, I guess." He frowned, an edge of sadness in his eyes. "I told you I'd met Malak before, with the Fleet. I was impressed by him then. He and Revan, they were there for every major engagement during the Mandalorian War, they saved us. But I guess that just shows how much the dark side can change someone."

"Hmmm." She took the soap from the dish and began to scrub off dirt, soot, the stink of sweat and combat from her skin, exposing more beautiful bruises as she did so. "Do you have any clue why they turned? None of the masters here want to even touch the subject." Of course, if they really were producing a fine line of dark sided masters from here, that was probably a touchy subject.

"No. When they left after the Mandalorian Wars ended, they were Jedi. When they returned, they were something else. They came back with that Fleet, and day after day, our forces dwindle. I like to think that they didn't get away with it, though. Revan is dead, and Malak hasn't won. The dark side won't help him."

"What do you know about the dark side?" Sarah herself barely grasped it now... Dantooine's masters changed the subject every time it was even hinted at. She remembered nothing of it from her training. Some information, any information, would be useful. It was like a shadow that hung over everything, and the idea of that just made her feel even more incompetent. How was she supposed to face it when she didn't even get a good look at it? Or was that the trick of it all?

"I...uh...used to think it was a fancy name for something that I see everyday. Corruption is everywhere. People are greedy and stupid and do horrible things. I'm starting to think it's something different for the Jedi, however. That there's this evil watching them, waiting for its chance. I've been watching you. You have this...uh...incredible darkness within you. Some of the things you do disturb me. But it's not just you. It's Bastila. She's so...intense. I don't pretend to know much about the force, but I know evil."

The air in the room seemed suddenly heavy, more than just the weight of the warm humidity from the pool, and Sarah stared at him. "You think Bastila and I are evil?"

"Ah, no." He gave her an endearing half smile, "Of course not. All I'm saying is that when you have so much power, the stakes are higher. I can only imagine the conflict that goes on inside of you. Neither you nor Bastila are fully trained and aware of how to handle your power. I'm just concerned at what might come. I need..." He reached out and squeezed her knee. "I need you both to be careful, okay?"

"Okay." She reached out and rested her fingertips over his heart. "I'll be careful."

Don't make him promises you can't keep.

"So. The admiralty may want me back, and the High Council is suspicious of what this Enclave is churning out. It sounds like we should leave quickly, if we're going to have the opportunity to leave at all."

"Agreed." She'd prefer to not have to openly defy any sort of orders, like ones from the High Council. Somehow she doubted if they'd be quite as willing to get a lightsaber in her hand and get her out of the door as quickly as the masters here at Dantooine had been. In fact, she had an odd reluctance to deal with the Temple at all, it felt bad, like something she'd never get out of, never get away from. Definitely something to be avoided. And he shouldn't have to defy orders from the admiralty, either. He stood to lose so much if that happened...

"Where are we headed?" He asked, pressing her fingers closer... the edge of his wedding rings and dog tags hard against them, the thud of his heartbeat vibrating her fingertips.

"Tatooine." She said, slipping under the water and scrubbing her fingers through her hair. Now that her mind was made up, it was easy to start going through the preparations. He'd tended to the ship, but they needed real supplies. Tatooine. Kashyyyk. Manaan. Korriban... None of them was a truly viable resupply point.

She came up for air. He'd dunked himself, and she waited for him to reappear. "Where do you want to supply from?"

"With an unregistered freighter? Ord Mantell, probably. There's enough of an underbelly there to get lost in, yet enough trade there to get whatever we'd need." He scrubbed his hair, obviously lost in thought...and she knew he was plotting courses in his mind, weighing his options. He would be used to doing things on the up and up, he was a Republic naval captain, not a tramp driver. "Here." He handed her the soap. "You promised to scrub my back."

Yes, yes she had. She soaped her hands and ran them over his back when he turned it to her. He had lost a little weight since this had gotten started, the grooves that marked his shoulder blades were more pronounced. It looked good. Damn...damn...good.

"Later." He chuckled as if she'd said it aloud. "I thought we'd agreed to pick up the pace and get the hell out of here."

"Grrrrh. I'm at least going to finish this bath before you get me back on that ship."

It was luxury, but Sarah knew he was correct. If what Bastila had hinted at was true, the sooner they left Dantooine...the better. She finally pulled herself from the water, wrapped herself up in a towel. He followed suit, and they slipped silently back into their temporary room here. Bastila had come through, leaving another set of clothing for Sarah. More...robes.

"She doesn't get that those stand out, does she?" Carth asked, shaking his head as he slid into a fresh pair of pants. "And I've noticed that she doesn't wear them."

Sarah laughed outright. No, Bastila did not. Oddly, for someone so damned uptight, she seemed to favor an outfit almost as skin tight and revealing as Sarah's racing set was. Of course Carth had noticed...there was so much to notice. She couldn't blame him for seeing the obvious.

"It does seem ironic." She agreed, dressing in the under garments, but throwing the robe over her shoulder. "That the one who remembers being a Jedi doesn't dress like one, but wants me, the one who doesn't...to. Or maybe it's all they have to give away around here." Which was a distinct possibility. But he was right, nothing attracted attention quite like a Jedi. And nothing screamed Jedi more than the robes.

"Let's go let the crew know we're getting ready to leave."


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