My Pillar, My Beacon

Chapter 73

Sarah was good at waiting. And time was a luxury they really hadn't had much of on this trip... time to keep working with Dustil, time to repair the Hawk, time to recover from what had come before this. The only issue was to work with Dustil without attracting attention...she could sense that the Star Forge was aware of her return. And of course Bastila had to sense her proximity. She couldn't hide from either of those. But did Malak? If he did, why wasn't he here?

He feels safe on the Star Forge. Safe from me.

Probably. She opened her eyes, staring at the sky laid out above her. The breeze blew in, the birds sang and the surf churned. It would be a paradise except for that dark undercurrent and the attention she felt just on the edge of her perceptions. It watched. It waited. It wondered. And it welcomed her back.

Malak is a fool if he feels safe while in its grasp. He thinks he controls it. He's wrong, it controls him. That was the part he was missing... She trailed her fingertips in the sand, the hammock she rested in swaying languidly when she shifted her weight. The trick to this was to remain open to the Force, to listen to it, to feel through it, but not to speak through it. She had to know when...if...the Fleet was coming. She couldn't move too soon, and moving too late would be a slaughter if the Fleets did come.

They're coming.

She flipped the hammock over, falling out of it onto her knees, catching it in her hand before it fell on top of her. Her sudden flurry of motion brought Dustil's attention to her, he was moving before he even knew why. He'd been cautiously speaking with Carth, delicately feeling his way back into a relationship with his father...but now he was moving to flank her, hilt grasped in his hand. "What is it?" He demanded, his dark eyes searching the edges of the sand.

"The Fleets. They're coming. I sense... No, that's not possible." That ripple she felt had to be the Republic Fleets. She could feel their approach, their living crews, and she could feel the Jedi Master with them.

"What isn't?" Now Dustil's gaze was locked on the pristine blue vaulted sky above him. "What's gone wrong now?"

And he sounded so much like his father in that moment that she wanted to laugh outright, but held it in. That father right there, also staring at the sky, his blaster at the ready. "I sense Master Vandar." She finally spoke and Carth's expression blurred into puzzlement.

"He's dead, right? Or did Karath lie to us on Leviathan? The Dantooine masters aren't dead...or aren't all dead?"

"I don't know. All I'm certain of is that I sense Vandar and the Fleet with him." If the Enclave's masters had survived, then was this still under their control? Vandar knew. He understood. There would be little to explain to bring him up to speed. This was partly his doing. "But they're coming." And that meant she had to move and move now. "Dustil. Canderous. Kit up, we're headed out. Carth, Mission...last checks on the ship." She couldn't be trapped here when it all went down. She was the only one who could face Malak on the Star Forge. Vandar couldn't do it. He could not deal with the Forge, he couldn't handle Bastila. Only Sarah could. And only Sarah was permitted to end Malak's life...it was her burden, her duty, her last gift to the man who had once been central to her life. He deserved it and she was going to give it to him.

"On it." Carth agreed, striding towards the Hawk to fall into step with Canderous as the Mandalorian headed for his gear. It was time to move. To do. One step closer to the end of all of this. She nodded to Dustil, it was time to get their hands dirty again. One more trial by fire for him before she flung him into the depths of the Star Forge. One more time to take a look at him and the last chance to make that final decision...did she take him, or did she not?

In the end, you'll have to do this alone. But before then, take all of the help and support you can get. Learn from your previous mistakes.

How was she supposed to learn from her 'previous mistakes' when she wasn't allowed to remember them?

"What's the matter? You look...and feel...disturbed." Dustil stood on her left, exactly where he would be if they were in combat. And he was starting to sense her emotions without her pushing them towards him, letting him know them, taste them, to where he could recognize them and know who they came from. He was learning so much, so quickly... but was it enough, quickly enough?

"The Force tells me I am supposed to learn from my mistakes. But I don't remember making them in the first place. How am I supposed to learn from that?" It was rhetorical, of course. How would Dustil understand what she didn't? Or was that it? Others could know what she wasn't allowed to anymore? They could hold her secrets for her?

"Ha." He chuckled. "So it's true that you don't remember being Darth Revan. Interesting. You broke through your programming, but still don't remember your past. So what is holding that away from you? The Enclave's programming? Your injury? The Force? Yourself? What do you actually remember?"

"Very, very little." Now that she understood that what she had thought that she remembered was false, there was very little that was actually hers. "Just flashes. Like trying to remember a dream that's fading fast. I don't exist." I'm not real.

He tilted his head, his expression closed. "You certainly exist to my father." He finally stated, his voice firm. "He loves you. Which means I have to ask...how much of that is real?"

"I'd say most of it is. At first, no, but I was in bad shape then. You do desperate things when you're dying and you've got someone struggling to keep you alive." And she'd done it twice. "I'll do my damnedest to get him out of this, Dustil."

"Out of this..." He waved randomly at the beach, flicking his fingers up towards the bright light of the Star Forge. "Or this?" He brought his fingers down to point at her. "I support one. But the other one will tear him apart, and do you no good either. If you make it out of here, you're going to need him. And he needs you."

"I know. When this is over, I'm done being Revan. In any way." That would feel better if it felt right, but it simply felt empty. She wasn't allowed to shed that identity. Somehow it was still all a part of her, just compartmentalized and held away from her. Waiting, waiting for later. What could be coming later that she would need that...more than needing it now?

So many questions, so few answers. She sighed, smiling when Canderous reappeared out of the freighter, in full gear. "Let's go knock heads." It was easier when she was, when she could just let her instincts rise and flow with them.

"As you wish, master." Again, Dustil managed that with a graceful mix of deadly seriousness and gentle joke. "Whose heads will we be knocking?"

"Sith." Thankfully the academy at Korriban taught its students that other students were a threat and a challenge and she didn't feel the need to convince him to go in after a whole bunch of Sith studying here, at Lehon's Temple. "And probably droids."

"Sith and droids, eh?" Canderous had come within earshot. "Gotcha. If we run into both, I'll hit the droids. You two hit the force users."

And that definitely sounded like a plan. She almost felt sorry for the Temple... almost. She had been the one to open it in the first place, who were they to try to deny it to her? They were interlopers. Thieves. They denied her what was rightfully hers. All of this was hers. Not Malak's.

And it was time to go get it back, even if just for a little while. Otherwise the incoming Fleets were doomed, they would have led them to their deaths. The Republic couldn't lose entire Fleets here and still recover, especially without Bastila. If Sarah couldn't bring the field down, it all ended here and now and that would take all of her options with it.

She began the climb towards the Temple, flanked by Dustil and Canderous. The sandy path rose into the hills and she noted large prints, damaged palm trees. Rancor. What an interesting thing to import to Lehon, around the vicinity of a dark sided Temple. Tarentatek. There was no other reason for it. She knelt, spreading her hand in one of the tracks thoughtfully.

"Which is it?" Dustil asked and she stood, dusting her hand off on her thigh.

"That particular one is still a rancor." The Sith had the raw materials, the source species and an unlimited well of dark side power, but did they have an alchemist up to the task? "We've been here for days. If there were tarentatek loose here, we'd have seen them by now."But they could be contained in the Temple. Just more things to kill if there were, she'd seen Dustil take them on without a pause or bobble, and she honestly had more faith in Canderous's ability to kill them than she had in Carth's...and Carth had done just fine. "I'm guessing they haven't found an alchemist able to create them. Yet."

"There's no one that I know of on Korriban who even seems close to being capable of such a feat. The whispers at the Academy pointed at you as being capable of that, master." Dustil's gaze was measuring, but she shook her head. She didn't even have to try and push for that answer to come.

"I am no alchemist. I am no Sith sorcerer." She had spent her adulthood doing one thing and one thing only, going to war, not delving into the deep arts of the dark side. "I am a general..." They reached the top of the path and looked out over the Temple beneath them.

It was majestic, just like so many other things that the Builders created. Everything that they touched seemed to vibrate with an undeniable darkness. Brilliant. Mad. Arrogant. Dismissive. Corrupt. Wasted. And those words resonated deeply within her. I was all of those things. I...

"Hey!" It was difficult to tell who moved first, who moved the quickest, but a split moment later she was dangling from Canderous's grip on her left arm and Dustil's on her right arm. "You okay?" Dustil demanded, his brows drawn together tightly. He sounded just like his father, which was probably the reason why Canderous laughed outright, the sound muffled and echoing under his helmet. "I mean, um...master?"

"I'm fine. I just...hit the wall." No, she hadn't hit any wall, she'd looked into a mirror. And she didn't like what she'd seen there. "It happens sometimes."

"Right." He didn't sound convinced, but then he wasn't privy to so many things. Canderous had seen her buckle before, it was nothing new to him. "So, we just walk right in? Can't you sense the ritual?"

What ritual? Sarah focused on the temple laid out in front of her. Oh, that ritual.

"You mean the ritual to keep everybody but me and those with me from using the main door?" That must be a real pain in the ass to the Sith living and studying here. It didn't keep them out, or in, but it did mean that they had to come and go by shuttle. "You would have thought that they'd have worked that one out by now. And no, I don't remember why it's there." It was definitely a ritual beyond her abilities, she had not cast it. She wouldn't even know where to begin. It wasn't Sith, either...at least not...

"Don't." Canderous had not let go of her yet, and seemed quite unwilling to. "Not here. Not now."

Great. Now instead of her Jedi padawan babysitter, she had a Mandalorian veteran babysitter. But he was correct. This always happened when she wasn't able to run with it. And she had few doubts that was purposeful. Exactly as intended. She was only allowed to remember, to know, enough to get the job done. Hopefully. She rested her fingertips on the back of Canderous's gauntleted hand, giving him a slight smile. "I'm fine, ori'vod."

"Good. Go kill shit. That is why you brought me."

"Indeed."

The good thing about a door that didn't open was that no one was expecting people to come through it. It really was as simple as walking up to it and opening it. Beyond, a hauntingly familiar expanse, a place she'd seen in multiple dreams forged from snatched memories.Home. No, she'd never really had one of those, but this was someplace where she'd felt comfortable. Secure. Involved. In control.

The wrong sort of in control. By then, you were already in trouble. You were in control of them, here, but you'd lost control of yourself. At least now, although she was off balance, reaching for herself and far from secure, she was in a better place than she had been back then. She just had to keep telling herself that. It was the truth, she knew it.

"Droids." Dustil snapped, rousting her out of her momentary reverie. "We doing this quietly?"

"No. We aren't." Malak would know they were here the moment they brought the field down, but if she'd timed it correctly, he'd have no time to move against her. If she hadn't, then it wouldn't matter how much noise they made here, how many reports came in. "Light 'em up."

"As you wish, master." He jumped into a sprint, the Mandalorian watching over his progress down his sights. Watch him, get his measure. He's going in with us.

She gave chase, charging down the middle of the foyer. Four droids, no problem. There would be more, so she couldn't just sit back and let him do all of the work. Complacency was a terrible thing, especially since all of the droids in the Temple had just gone on alert status.

"Hah!" Canderous bellowed, "Keep left. I'll clear right. We have more incoming."

Of course they did. And they'd better knock them down before they had more, and before they had living, breathing Sith bearing down on them.


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