Leon stared at the ceiling of the dark room. A ghost of some kind appeared before him when he was with Ahsoka and took the form of someone he met back on Hoth. Thalia was a beautiful woman who happened upon Leon when he was on Hoth along with Ahsoka, Anakin and Obi-Wan she informed them of the Separatist base. Her nomadic people were captured by the Separatists and she asked the Jedi to help her save them it wasn't an easy mission, but it was over within a couple of hours and according to Obi-Wan one of the quickest he had ever been on. After the mission was over Thalia's people offered for the Jedi to join them in celebration during which Leon noticed Thalia was Force-Sensitive and gave her a basic understanding on how to use the Force so she would be able to protect her people should trouble ever appear again.
And now a ghost appeared to him taking on her form and voice crying for him to help her before it vanished. He did not sleep well that night too many thoughts and scenarios ran through his head on what could have happened. Did the Separatists attack Hoth again or did something else? Thalia's people could have moved to a new world and something could have happened to them then. Whatever it was he wanted to help, but he had no way of knowing where she was and even if he did would the Council let him go?
"Dammit what do I do?" he thought. He had tried meditating hoping that he would receive a vision on where she was or at least of clue to help him, but nothing.
He stood up there had to be something, anything he could do and whatever it was it definitely wasn't lying around all day. Ahsoka would be just as lost as he is, Anakin would be willing to help, but he would probably try to talk to him about Ahsoka again a conversation he didn't want to have at the moment. That left Master Kenobi, standing in front of the Council Chambers he pushed the doors opened and quickly locked eyes with Obi-Wan as he spoke with Master Yoda.
Leon calmed himself as he spoke, but it was obvious something was weighing heavily on his mind, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I must speak with Master Kenobi".
Obi-Wan bowed to Master Yoda and walked over to Leon, "Is something wrong young one?"
Leon groaned, "First off please call me by name. Secondly yes there is something very wrong and I need to talk to you in private".
"Very well follow me then".
Obi-Wan led Leon to the meditation chambers which remained empty most of the time only seeing use when younglings or newly appointed padawans were practicing meditation.
"So what's on your mind?" the wise master asked him.
Leon leaned against the wall, "Do you remember the girl we met on Hoth, Thalia" Obi-Wan nodded, "In my room last night she appeared to me. Some kind of spirit almost like a ghost it appeared to me and took her form and her voice…She was in pain and crying for me to help her".
Obi-Wan hummed, scratching his beard, "That's troubling. We haven't received any word of the Separatists around Hoth again".
"Maybe her people aren't on Hoth anymore" Leon suggested, "Remember they are a nomadic people they move from place to place".
"That is true" Obi-Wan admitted, "So this spirit did it say anything else?"
Leon shook his head, "No she just kept calling my name and crying for help" he looked away, "Master I'm worried. The sound of her voice, she was terrified of something when she was calling out to me. I can just barely sense it, but something bad is about to happen we have to help her".
"I understand your concern Leon, but until we know more we cannot just commit any of our forces to investigating".
"Then what should we do?" Leon asked trying to remain calm, "What if it's not just her? What if her people are in danger again? As Jedi we cannot just sit back while they are being threatened by something".
He was right, but so was Obi-Wan even if there were people in trouble they had to be careful and find out exactly what kind of trouble. Going in without proper information could cost more lives than it could save and there were already too few Jedi in the galaxy.
"Leon you have to think clearly on this. Clear your mind and meditate on it. Once you know more we'll go from there, but until then there's nothing we can do".
Leon took a breath Obi-Wan was right if they didn't know anything then there was nothing that could be done. The padawan closed his eyes and slowly fell into a sitting position; it had been a long time since he last meditated in this room. He slowed his breathing and locked away the outside noise blocking all other thoughts in his head.
He saw her; Thalia was running away from something. Her outfit was torn and she was bleeding heavily from her arm and the side of her abdomen. Whatever was chasing her made a loud roaring sound and thundering footsteps as it ran after her. Focusing on the surroundings he saw a diversity of brightly colored large plants. He immediately recognized the unique flora they could only be found on a single world in the entire galaxy.
"Felucia" he said jumping to his feet and looking at Master Kenobi, "She's on Felucia".
"Are you sure?" Obi-Wan asked him.
Leon nodded, "I recognize the plants I saw they can't grow anywhere else".
"Alright then I will talk with Master Yoda and we'll come up with a plan from there".
"Master Kenobi" Leon stopped him, "She's my friend…I want to help her".
Obi-Wan nodded and returned to the Council Chambers to consult Master Yoda leaving Leon on his own. Felucia was a beautiful world with plants that grew to the size of tanks and small manors, but even such a world had its dangers. Leon knew the plants he saw were indigenous to Felucia, but past that he knew nothing and the roaring he heard in his vision unsettled him greatly. In the archives Leon searched through every known species that calls Felucia home the list of native species was short only consisting of Felucians and a strange plant known as the Yerdua Poison-Spitter, but the list of immigrated species was must longer.
"It can't be the Gossams or the Twi'leks" he muttered to himself, "Whatever I heard was much bigger. An acklay? No that can't be it either they make more of a shrieking sound...Sarlacc? Can a sarlacc roar? Do they even make noise? It definitely wasn't a sarlacc even if they could make that sound Thalia wouldn't be running from something that can't chase her".
When the next species appeared on the screen in front of him his eyes widened and he felt a cold curtain fall around him.
"A rancor?" he muttered, "That's just perfect".
"What is?" a voice asked from behind him.
Leon looked over his shoulder to see Ahsoka walking over to him, "I think I managed to find out what system Thalia is in, but there's a problem" he showed her the picture of the rancor.
"What is that thing?" the Togruta padawan asked with a disgusted look.
"It's called a rancor" he told her.
"That's a rancor?"
"Apparently" Leon sighed with frustration.
"I've never seen one before not even a picture".
Leon slowly nodded his head with a crazed and annoyed look in his eyes.
"I've heard about them though" Ahsoka said, "They're supposed to be really dangerous even for a Jedi".
Leon growled through closed lips as he stood up, "Of all the creatures in the galaxy".
"So where is she?" Ahsoka asked following him out of the archives.
"Somewhere on Felucia in the Outer Rim, hopefully we'll get there before she's killed by something".
Leon returned to the Council Chambers to find Obi-Wan waiting for him. Leon stopped in front of him waiting for the answer he was hoping to receive.
"Master Yoda has given you permission to head to Felucia in an attempt to find Thalia, but as a precaution I am to go with you. Felucia is a dangerous place unlike any other you have visited".
Leon spoke in a sarcastic, impatient tone, "Yeah so I've heard acklays, sarlaccs and rancors oh my".
Obi-Wan crossed his arms, "You are to follow my instructions to the letter on this one understand? I understand you're worried about your friend, but it will be my job to keep you safe while we're there".
"I get it" Leon said, "Orders received and understood now can we go? The more time we spend here the less time we have to save Thalia".
"Very well we'll meet in the hangar in half an hour and take a shuttle to Felucia".
As Obi-Wan reentered the Council Chambers Leon looked to Ahsoka, "Ahsoka can you take care of Grun until I get back?"
"I'd rather go with you" she said, "You tend to attract a lot of blaster fire and I'm worried about Master Kenobi's safety".
He answered in a fake arguing tone, "I'll try not to get him killed thanks for worrying about me". He gave her a light slap on the shoulder before walking away stopping in mid when she called to him.
"Leon. Come back alive alright? There's something I want to talk to you about".
He nodded to her and waved as he walked down the hall. Opening the door to the hangar he walked over to Obi-Wan who was talking to a group of five clone troopers. When he walked over to them the clone with the lieutenant's insignia on his shoulder greeted him with a familiar voice. It took Leon a moment, but he recognized the voice and the name that went with it. It was Lieutenant Edge one of the clones who helped him infiltrate and destroy General Grievous' ship during the space battle above Dantooine. Leon returned the clone's greeting and looked to the other clones around him even with their similar faces and the helmets covering them he knew it was the same team he was with that day.
"Looks like we got the team back together eh?" he smiled at Edge.
Edge nodded, "It's been a while sir I heard you were injured during the bombing of Senator Amidala's office. Good to see you're still kicking".
"Thank you Edge. Will you and your squad be coming with us?"
"Yes sir. General Kenobi is taking us along with you just in case you run into any trouble".
Leon raised an eyebrow to Obi-Wan, "With respect Master Kenobi I am not Master Skywalker trouble doesn't follow me".
Obi-Wan cracked a small smile, "While it's true that no one can cause trouble quite like Anakin, Felucia is still a dangerous place and we can never be too careful".
Leon followed Obi-Wan into the shuttle with Edge and his squad behind them. Obi-Wan and the clone pilot Chip took the two pilot seats while Leon and the other clones sat in the back. When the ship powered up Leon sat in the corner and crossed his legs and took a deep breath before closing his eyes to meditate. Edge watched Leon while listening to Chip and Obi-Wan exchange a casual conversation as the shuttle took off. Once clear of Coruscant's atmosphere Chip began entering the coordinates for the Felucia system before giving Obi-Wan the all clear to activate the hyper drive. The ship's hyper drive engine hummed loudly as Obi-Wan pulled back on the lever and the stars around the ship stretched out in a cascade of lines as the ship jumped forward in a flash vanishing from sight.
As the clones in the back began checking their gear they exchange small talk amongst themselves their voices slowly becoming drowned out to Leon's ears as his meditation became deeper.
Thalia was standing in the center of some kind of village and people could be heard screaming around her as a creature roared loudly. Thalia looked up as the ground shook her arm and lower abdomen still bleeding, but a defiant look in her eyes as a large shadow towered over her. Thalia took a deep breath and a serene wind began circling around her causing her white hair to be swept up by the current. She closed her eyes and reared back her injured arm the air around her circling faster and faster as a large brown leathery hand reached out for her. Opening her eyes Thalia threw her arm forward realizing a massive Force Push with enough power to cause a soft booming sound with it.
The enemy she was facing roared loudly as the Force attack hit it and sent it stumbling back. Rearing both of her arms back she channeled the Force energy within her and aimed both of her hands at the creature's legs unleashing another booming Force Push forcing the massive creature off its feet. The creature roared again as its legs were forced out from under it and it hit the ground with an earth shaking impact. While the creature was grounded Thalia closed her eyes again and held her arm out to the giant before her. She slowed her breathing as her tired arm began shaking reaching out with the Force and touching the beast's mind. The creature let out a low growl as it pushed itself back to its feet and stared down at her. Thalia opened her eyes and looked right into the eyes on the monster before her ignoring the numbing pain in her body she stepped toward the creature and moved her lips speaking silent words to it.
The creature let out another low growl as it turned around and walked away from the village eventually vanishing into the dense forest and its thundering footsteps fading into the distance. When the monster was gone Thalia fell to her knees and planted her hands into the ground to catch herself. She was still bleeding and completely exhausted, but at least the threat had passed now. Sitting on her knees with her legs in a V pattern behind her she leaned back and braced herself with her arm as a tall figure shrouded in a dark cloak approached her.
Leon awoke from his trance feeling a light tap on his shoulder. Baron the clone medic was standing next to him telling him they had arrived on Felucia. Leon rose to his feet rolling back his shoulders following Obi-Wan and the clones off the shuttle. Leon stayed back with the clones while Obi-Wan asked around for information on Thalia thankfully she had been through and they pointed them in the direction she went warning them of the dangers of the jungle.
Edge looked down at Leon, "So who is this person we're looking for sir another seppie?"
Leon shook his head, "No she's a friend who's in trouble".
Boulder grinned under his helmet, "She your girlfriend Commander?"
Leon smirked at the clone, "One of 'em".
Boulder began laughing, "One of 'em? How many you got?"
"Three so far" Leon answered as Master Kenobi came back to them.
He told them that the villagers had seen Thalia she was in their village yesterday and she headed into the jungle in search of something. According to the villagers it was the mating season for the local rancors so the jungle was particularly dangerous for now. Thankfully rancors aren't that bright and their large size makes them slow on top of it all they don't have good eyesight so as long as they're careful the monsters shouldn't be an issue that was Leon's thoughts anyway.
It didn't take long after they entered the jungle to hear the mating calls of the rancors and many of them sounded close. According to the villagers there was an old cave near a place called the Rancor Graveyard a cave that had a bright light within, but no one had even dared to venture inside due to a bull rancor which claimed the area around the graveyard as its territory. Fantastic, that word drifted from Leon's lips carried by a sarcastic tone. A bull rancor that was all they needed normal rancors were dangerous enough, but a bull rancor was far more aggressive and much larger.
While traversing the dense jungle Leon continued to wonder why Thalia would come to a place like this and even more why risk encountering a bull rancor over lights in a cave that's when something occurred to him. Lights in a cave when he thought of that something immediately popped into his head a cave of lightsaber crystals like the one he fell into on Dantooine. He placed his hand around his chin as they continued walking, that wouldn't make much sense though. Caverns of lightsaber crystals only formed naturally on Illum and Dantooine the lights in this cave must be something else.
The deeper they went into the jungle the more noise they heard from the local fauna the rancors were still a good distance away, but there were other dangers besides them. Thankfully Obi-Wan had a good sense about him and was able to detect if they were approaching anything large or dangerous allowing them to take another route to go around. Five hours after they entered the jungle they finally arrived at the Rancor Graveyard, a large site with massive skeletons littering every corner. Since they were in the bull rancor's territory now Leon suggested they hide in the tall trees above them providing them protection in case the rancor finds them and giving them a good vantage point for the whole area.
The five clone troopers aimed their weapons at the branches and launched extension cables using their wenches to lift themselves into the trees while Obi-Wan and Leon used the Force to help them scale the massive tree by jumping from one branch to the next. Reaching a safe height Chip, Edge and Leon used their binoculars to scan the surrounding area for any caves they could find. Edge found a strange thermal reading on his scope and zoomed in spotting something that looked like a cave entrance.
Reporting it to the others they were interrupted when a bellowing roar reached their ears. Below their vantage point they could see it the bull rancor was standing below them making it's mating call close enough to almost deafen them. The monster was too close for them to climb down without being seen if they could distract it somehow then maybe they could make it.
"A plan a plan" Leon muttered to himself, "My kingdom for a plan".
Obi-Wan turned to him, "What?"
"These trees make a great hiding place, but what good are they if we're trapped in these…" an evil smile crept across his face, "Branches. Master Kenobi I've got an idea".
Leon jumped to a higher branch with Obi-Wan following him, "So what is your plan?" he asked Leon.
Leon activated his lightsaber, "We cut this branch down and use the Force to throw it in front of the beast. They're eyesight is pretty bad so it'll be attracted to the sound more than anything".
The Jedi Master tilted his head, "That could work".
"Only one way to find out" Leon said swinging his weapon downward cutting through the branch and grabbing it with the Force before it fell.
Obi-Wan helped him and threw the branch to the side catching the bull rancor's attention. The massive rancor ducked down and turned its head surprised by the sound of the branch falling. The beast sniffed the air before walking over to the fallen branch each step it took shaking the ground.
"And there's my window" Leon said jumping back to the branch below where the clones waited, "Alright guys let's do this".
Despite Obi-Wan's order for him to wait Leon ran to the end of the branch and made a long jump with the Force propelling him. Aiming the Force at the ground as he landed he softened his landing taking a quick look over his shoulder to check the bull rancor which was still occupied with its mating call. Stopping near the entrance of the small cavern he felt a faint energy from inside it faint, but dark. Activating his lightsaber Leon stepped inside the cave feeling a growing heat the closer he moved toward the back. The light became brighter until the source was found.
"What is this?" he wondered staring at stone structure about the size of a table with a pile of burning stones inside.
"It appears to be some kind of furnace" Obi-Wan said catching up to him, "I sense a dark energy in this place".
"I sense it to" Leon said deactivating his weapon, "This furnace is blazing. What do you think it was for?"
"Hard to say" Obi-Wan answered looking around the small cave, "I don't see any furnishings so no one was living here. Maybe whoever was here was using the furnace to work on something".
"Like what?" Leon wondered approaching the furnace in spite of its intense heat. The heat around the furnace created a shimmering illusion to Leon's eyes, "Work on something? What could be important enough to risk running into a rancor?"
That's when he remembered his vision of Thalia that roaring he heard in the vision was definitely a rancor, but was it really her that was out here? Why would she be? Something caught his eye a gleam in the pit of the furnace. He squinted his eyes staring into the center of the burning stones and raised his hand picking up the gleaming object with the Force and hovered it in front of him.
"This looks like a lightsaber crystal" he said showing it to Obi-Wan.
"Oh my" he muttered upon seeing the crystal, "Well that explains a lot. Someone was using this furnace to create synthetic lightsaber crystals".
Leon stared at the red crystal, "Who would make a synthetic lightsaber crystal? More importantly why?"
Obi-Wan gazed at the crystal sensing the dark energy in it, "It appears to be incomplete maybe a first attempt. If I remember my history correctly many Sith used synthetic crystals in their lightsabers, the red lightsaber isn't exactly the mark of a Sith, but red is considered the color that represents power. Synthetic crystals contain more power to them and do allow a stronger lightsaber to be constructed".
When the crystal cooled Leon placed it in his pocket, "I can understand using them to construct a stronger lightsaber, but it sounds like a lot of effort. Why not just get one from the crystal caverns on Illum?"
"I'm not sure" Obi-Wan answered, "Maybe the Sith are so desperate for power that they'll take whatever small bit they can get. Or it could be because naturally formed red crystals are extremely rare, only appearing on your home world Dantooine actually. Maybe the Sith use red crystals because it symbolizes power that actually makes sense if you think about it".
"If you say so Master" Leon took one last look at the furnace, "Thalia used the Force in my vision, did she come here to make synthetic crystals?"
"Well I don't see anything that would indicate Thalia being here. Now that I think of it why would she be here?"
"Assuming she was here how would she have learned to do this?" Leon asked him remembering when he taught Thalia how to use the Force before they left Hoth maybe she came here to make a lightsaber. The question still remained how or where would she had learned to create a synthetic lightsaber crystal?
"Sir we've got company" Baron whispered as footsteps echoed from the mouth of the cave.
"Ventress" Obi-Wan muttered sensing the presence approaching them.
He turned around activating his lightsaber along with Leon as Ventress revealed herself to them, "Well Ventress we meet again".
Ventress moved her eyes from Obi-Wan to Leon and then to the clones in front of her, "I've no interest in fighting you today Master Kenobi I merely came here to see if the rumors are true".
"What rumors?" Obi-Wan asked her keeping his guard up.
Ventress walked toward them ignoring their active weapons and approaching the furnace, "The rumors that Count Dooku has a new apprentice".
"I thought you were his apprentice" Leon said, "Or did he grow tired of having an assassin that rarely succeeded?"
Both Jedi could feel the rage in the assassin, but she calmed herself, "He betrayed me and tried to have me killed. I will have my revenge" she turned to them, "We will not fight this time, but should we meet again Jedi the same will not happen".
After Ventress left Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber and began thinking on what she told them, "So Dooku has a new apprentice, could it be Thalia or is this a coincidence?"
"Either way it doesn't matter" Leon told him, "We've found all we can here and this place is starting to make me uncomfortable".
Obi-Wan concurred taking the lead as they left the small cave and Felucia's sun was starting to set. It took them five hours to get here from the village and would probably take them longer to return as with many planets in the galaxy things only became worse in the dark. Seeing no point in delaying the seven man formation quickly moved out returning to the massive tree where they hid with no sign of the bull rancor anywhere.
"Think its sleeping?" Chip asked.
"Doubt it" Coins answered, "Probably wondering around somewhere let's try to not be here when it gets back".
"That's something we can all agree on" Obi-Wan said to them leading them past the massive tree overlooking the rancor graveyard and back into the jungle.
The think foliage and flora around them made the atmosphere somewhat claustrophobic as they ran through thankfully many of the creatures seemed to have left the general area leaving them a clear run back to the village. During the trek back to the village Leon continued to think of possible reasons why Thalia would come here to make a synthetic crystal and if she was Dooku's new apprentice. Dooku was well known for being able to manipulate others and could be forcing Thalia to be his apprentice somehow.
"Maybe that's why she contacted me" he thought, "She's being forced to do this. If Dooku somehow found out about her and he's forcing her to be his apprentice that would also explain why and how she knows how to make a synthetic lightsaber crystal. Thalia…"
They finally arrived back at the village being met by several patrolling guards telling them that the village curfew was in effect. The guards asked them to leave if they had finished their business or to rent a room at the inn if they had further business before returning to his post.
Obi-Wan looked down at Leon, "Leon I'm sorry, but we have nothing more to go on".
Leon sighed and looked at the ground, "I know. I just hope she's alright wherever she is".