Chapter 6: The First Blade
“When the sword of rebellion is drawn, the sheath should be thrown away.” - John Singleton Copley
Please note, there is a VERY minor reference to a panic attack at the beginning of this chapter, so if this is likely to upset or trigger you in any way then please skip to the first set of asterisks and read from there instead! You won’t miss anything super important as what happens during that part will be referenced again (in a less triggering fashion) later on in the story anyways
“Let’s send the ex-Sith with a known bad temper and essentially NO people skills on a diplomatic mission to a group that already kinda hates Jedi. This can’t POSSIBLY go wrong” - the Jedi Council, prolly. (Silly Jedi ) XD
A portion of the dialogue is paraphrased from the in-game convos, but I did cut out some unnecessary parts/switch the words around to some different characters in some places just to try and keep the flow a bit!
Small subscript numbers indicate instances where I have further expanded on personal headcanons, please scroll to the appropriate number in the further authors notes at the bottom of the chapter to find out more!
Sleep was not particularly restful for Aria, but she did her best. The bad dreams returning were expected, that happened when she hadn’t had a drink or a hit in as long as she had. She wasn’t entirely sure how it had happened, perhaps it was because she had used so much more of the Force in the past three days than she had in five years prior to it, or maybe it was Qanarr’s tutoring, or both.
Whatever the cause, that night when she slept, Aria was surprised to feel that thread of Force energy pulsing through hers once again (1). Truthfully, she had only tugged on it slightly, amazed that it was still there at all after such a long time apart. She certainly had not expected that tug to garner a response of any sort, and least of all the jolt of surprise that fizzled its way through every bone in her body, followed by an eerily familiar voice breathing her name in disbelief.
In her mind’s eye, Aria saw a brief flash of those deep brown eyes looking into hers, pupils dilated in shock, before the Jedi apprentice sat bolt upright in bed, one hand clutching her heart while the other frantically fumbled for the lightsaber under her pillow-
Until she realised, there was no saber there, because this was Tython, and she hadn’t ‘proved herself’ to Qanarr yet. Dazed, Aria cast about the darkness of her sleeping quarters in a desperate attempt to find something to ground herself before the screaming started. She tried to move her legs, found that in her thrashing about she had caught them up in her sheets, and as she tried to twist them free, ended up dumping herself rather unceremoniously onto the hard marble floor. Pain blossomed across her temple as her forehead ricocheted off the bed frame.
That’d do it.
Aria lay there on the ground, breathing heavily as she frantically tried to kick the covers off her legs as one hand flew to her head to check it at the same time. She could scarcely focus through her panic enough to be relieved at not feeling the sticky texture of blood under her fingertips, blinking through the misty haze of tears as her breathing matched the tempo of her frantic heart.
“No, no nononono, n-no n-no!” Aria screwed her eyes shut, her heart rate jacking up again as yet more flashes of the Mirialan's face flickered through her consciousness. The apprentice exhaled one long, continuous breath, her head flopping back to rest on the floor behind her. Almost an hour, maybe more, passed until the shaking and the tears stopped.
Did they really just connect, even from so far away? Had the bond not broken when she thought it did? Did Vano know she was still alive? Did the Dark Council? Her father?
“J-Just a dream...it w-was just a d-dream…”
The more she said it, the more Aria was convinced it was true. When she managed to return herself to bed, she didn’t see the Mirialan again. Perhaps, she had imagined it after all...
Aria was nursing a steaming mug of kaff from the temple’s cantina by the time she joined Qanarr in the meditation chamber once the sun had come up. As she crossed to stand at the desk by the far wall, the Cathar Jedi raised a wary eyebrow and twitched an ear at her as if to say 'really, already?'. Aria simply snorted under her breath, sipped from her mug and muttered.
“It’s not what it looks like. I er...I fell out of bed, and...hit my head. I’m still waking up.” She realised how ridiculous it sounded when she said it. Ironic, considering that this time it was in fact the exact truth.
“As you say.” Qanarr’s whiskers twitched, and she gestured to the map of the Jedi Training Grounds currently spread out on the table in front of them. “The riddle was rather a tough one to crack, but I think I managed to find something that could point us there.” she tapped a point on the parchment delicately with a claw. “This here, is the ruins of Kaleth. The name means “sanctum”, it’s the remains of an ancient fortress, here when the first Jedi Order was set up.”
The Jedi's brow knit together in a frown, “Evidence my Master collected suggests that Kaleth was destroyed in an ancient battle, but...by what, and the question of this “first blade”, still remains a mystery.”
“Well, I can only think of one blade a Jedi would wield?” Aria pointed out, peering at the map over the rim of her mug. The observation drew an amused chuckle from Qanarr.
“Good deduction, but I fear lightsabers had yet to even be invented at that time.”
“Okay…” Aria drained the last of the kaff and set down the mug, leaning forward to brace her hands on the table as she thought. “Then what about other weapons, is there any sort of armoury up there?”
Qanarr traced a line along one of the pathways depicted to point out the area she was talking about, responding.
“We have found several old weapons in one section of Kaleth, but so far nothing that seems as if it's this “first blade” we are looking for.”
“Guess that’s where I’ll start, then.” Aria shrugged, rolling her shoulders as she straightened up again. A soft “hnn” of affirmation, and the Cathar laughed again,
“To think I had planned your training so carefully, but of course the Force would intervene... as it always does. Finding the Fount of Rajivari, and stopping Nalen, is clearly a far greater test for you.”
“Oddly, I find this preferable.” Aria admitted with a smirk of her own. “The other training would have bored me.”
“Of that I have no doubt. Now, go and see what you can find of this “first blade”, call me at once if you find anything.”
The speeder service didn’t run all the way up to the old ruins, apparently there were droids in the area which made it far too dangerous to get anywhere near the ruins, so she would have to alight at the closest camp the Jedi had made and continue the rest of the way on foot. At least it was closer than Kalikori village was to the Flesh Raider territory, so she couldn’t complain too much. Despite being abandoned for thousands of years, the pillars that formed the entryway stood strong, though they were now chipped in a few places and overgrown with various creepers. The droid sentinels that stood watch beside them looked no better. Their armour plating was so rusted it was now an unattractive, dirty brown colour, their hinges creaked as their heads turned this way and that as they kept watch. Each carried an electroblade of similar fashion to the training blade Aria herself held, she fancied she would have next to no trouble in going toe-to-toe with them.
Dampening her footsteps, Aria was able to sneak right up to the pair of guardians before they noticed her presence, giving distorted shrieks of alarm as they raised their blades to strike at her, and in doing so leaving their midsections entirely vulnerable. A well-placed horizontal slash left both droids as no more than smoking chassis’ on the ground as Aria strafed around them to enter Kaleth ruins.
“Alright, old weapons, first blade…” Stars, this place was huge. Memories of Dynamet General on Taris came flooding back, and Aria felt embarrassment boiling in her gut. She’d walked right past the most obvious clue because she had been paying more attention to cutting apart enemies than she had actually looking for it in the first place.
This time she would not make the same mistake. Or, at least, try not to. Perhaps, there was an easier way to do this…
Centering herself, Aria tapped into the Force and honed in on the two words; First blade....
If it was made by the Jedi, it was a reasonable assumption to think this blade would have some sort of Force signature that would give it away, wherever it might have been hidden. That the Jedi hadn’t thought of this approach themselves, in all the years they’d apparently been trying to find it, amused Aria to no end. Typical Jedi arrogance! She snapped herself out of that particular tangent of thought as she felt a suspicious pulse in the Force energies around her. Tracking it to its source, Aria found herself standing not too far from the entrance, facing a stone that at sideward glance had seemed to be nothing more than another boulder.
But the way the Force shifted around it, there had to be more to it than that. As she pulled herself back down onto the living plane, Aria stepped towards the stone and squinted at it. Yep, just a big rock. Aria’s frown deepened, and she took another step closer to the stone, using her palms to scrape away the layers of moss that had accumulated over it. That was when she felt, rather than saw, the runes that had been etched into it. The rock had clearly been here for centuries, because the carvings were almost illegible, even if they had been in a language she could understand.
“Show respect. You stand before greatness.” the grating, mechanical voice that suddenly spoke to her right nearly made Aria jump out of her skin.
“Sithspit!” she spat, wheeling around to face it. Her wide eyes studied the droid for a moment, the same model as the guardians she had felled to enter the ruins, but apparently more sentient, for this one did not charge at her with a weapon drawn, only seemed to regard her carefully as it continued to speak.
“The first blade. I guard.”
“The first blade is here, behind this stone?” Aria clarified, lip turning upwards in confusion. “Why guard an antique like this for so long?”
“The first blade.” the droid repeated, almost sounding...proud, by its words, if droids were capable of such emotions. “From this beginning. Lightsabers came. Millennia have passed, only hilt remains. Only disturbed once.”
“Was it Rajivari that came?” Aria asked, folding her hands calmly in front of her as she looked at the machine. She surprised herself by how nonconfrontational she was being, but if it was willing to talk to her then there was no reason to turn it into scrap metal.
“Yes.” the custodian nodded, “He proved worthy, I permitted him to take it. Later, returned it.”
The Padawan peered past it at the stone again, deciding to try her luck.
“If I promise to return it when I’m done, can I have this hilt?”
“To take the hilt, must prove worthy.”
That wasn’t entirely unexpected, and any trial the Jedi could have thought up would pale in comparison to the ones she had already undertaken in her youth.
“Alright.” she agreed, crossing her arms. “Tell me what I have to do, and I’ll do it.”
The droid regarded her carefully for a moment, its head tipping from one side, to the other, as if it were scanning her or running some sort of diagnostic. Aria tried her best to keep still and not do anything that might interfere with the readings it was taking.
After what seemed like an eternity, the droid finally spoke again.
“The Weapon Master left challenges. Here, in Kaleth. Training Droids. To test his students. Find them. The hilt of the first blade awaits.”
The task seemed straightforward enough, so she nodded her agreement, promising to return when she had done as the guardian asked.
Luckily, she managed to avoid any further confrontations with the other guardian droids by simply skirting around the edges of the ruins, keeping her back against the crumbling walls as she edged awkwardly sideways and moved further in. Once again, she was floundering around blind, not really certain what precisely to look for, but with a little luck on her side, managed to be in the right place, at the right time. Aria found herself staring at one of the sanctuary’s inner walls, at the large oval-shaped panels that jutted out from the wall itself. Like the stone that concealed the first blade, the carvings were faint and required careful squinting in order to make out, but were clearly of a similar language. This had to be the place where the training droids were hidden, now it was a simple question of calling them out.
Aria had a hunch, stepping towards the first stone, she reached out and let her palm rest flat against the runes, then closed her eyes and channelled the Force into it. As she expected, the stone seemed to vibrate in response, giving off an audible, low hum that steadily grew louder, until the Padawan was compelled to retract her hand and step away from it, just in time before it shattered down the middle and an even larger droid ambled out of the resulting opening.
Here we go, then. Aria smirked silently to herself, diving to her right to avoid the blaster fire that rained towards her.
Pain shot along her left leg as some of the shards of broken stone pierced through the thin fabric of her leg-guards and broke through the skin, but she gritted her teeth and channelled the sensation, using it as a crutch to propel herself back to her feet once more, blade in hand, and into an overhead leap. It let out a familiar shriek of surprise as Aria’s training blade arced right through the middle of its head, the rest of the chassis giving a few more involuntary twitches as it released the static in its circuits, before falling to the ground in a smoking heap.
Aria’s feet hit solid dirt barely a foot behind it, wiping a few droplets of sweat from her temples and pausing to survey the rest of the room she had found herself in.
“One down, two to go.” she muttered to herself, eyes settled on the two stone tablets identical to the one she had just activated.
She stood once more before the custodian of the first blade, although this time noticeably more fatigued, and sporting a small, oozing gash on her forehead to tell of her progress.
“Telemetry is received.” the guardian droned proudly at her. “All droids report your battle performance. Satisfactory.”
Aria couldn’t help but feel offended at the word choice, barely suppressing her snort as she looked at the droid.
“My skills are more than ‘satisfactory’, thank you.”
The guardian merely shrugged back at her, waving its arm towards the stone.
“Telemetry does not lie.” as the droid took its leave and began to walk away, the stone trembled and, like the ones which had held the training droids, split in half down the middle.
When the dust had cleared, Aria reached out and caught the hilt as the Force propelled it into her hand, flipping it over to examine it in the sunlight. ‘Ancient’ seemed like the understatement of the century, if used to describe this blade. It really looked as old as Qanarr had claimed it was, and in fact, it didn’t look as if it could have held a kyber crystal at all, let alone the emitter that most lightsaber blades were projected from. It was far from useless, however, the entire hilt appeared to be engraved with some sort of hieroglyph-like script. It was almost similar to the engravings she had seen on the sides of some holocrons as a child.
Fishing her miniature communicator out of her pocket, Aria dialled Qanarr’s frequency, staring at the three-quarter sized image of the Cathar Jedi as she accepted the call.
“Master Qanarr, I found the hilt. The guardians of the ruins claim it's a proto-saber made by someone called the ‘Weapon Master’.” it was difficult to hold the projector in one hand and the hilt with the other, so Aria quickly abandoned her awkward attempts to hold it up where the Jedi could see it and instead verbally explained. “The hilt has a lot of carvings on it, almost like it was used to store data.”
Qanarr’s whiskers twitched in surprise, her brow furrowing for a moment as she thought over the implications before whispering.
“Of course, “the first blade points the way”. Rajivari meant that quite literally! Bring the hilt back to the temple, there’s no way you’ll be able to access its data out in the field.”
Aria was beginning to get the suspicion that the Jedi Council were watching her like hawks. At least, on Korriban, she could be certain she was being watched. The Jedi, on the other hand, gave her no such indication, and yet they seemed to have an unnerving habit of being exactly wherever she was heading, whether it was Qanarr on Taris and Nar Shaddaa, or a Council member on the landing pad as she arrived on Tython...
Now there were two Jedi Masters waiting in the corridor that led to Qanarr’s personal library. Aria wasn’t quite sure what to make of it, so she simply stopped, and did her best to bow politely.
“Hello again, Padawan. I’m glad to see you well.” Master Bakarn was the first to greet her, returning the bow. “Master Syo Bakarn.”
“Yes, I remember you.” she nodded. “You greeted me on the landing pad.”
“Interesting, protocol was never such a big focus on Qanarr’s curriculum.” the other Master spoke next, scrutinising Aria a little too much for her liking.
“Meeting a member of the Jedi Council in person is a difficult thing to forget, sir.”
“This is Master Jaric Kaedan, another of the Jedi Council.” Bakarn sighed heavily, his hands clasped together behind his back. “Qanarr told us about Nalen, the Pilgrim.”
Kaedan was the next to speak, a scoff of derision to his tone as he uttered the words, looking down his nose at the Padawan before him.
“Qanarr is claiming that ‘the Force is guiding your training’, but that is baseless.”
“So she keeps telling me, too.” Aria admitted, “I’m not sure myself, but so far it does seem to be helping us along.” That was a suitably neutral reaction, at least, they didn’t seem to be reacting negatively to it.
“She thinks that finding Nalen, and having a bit of luck finding a few artefacts means you are ‘destined’ to find the Fount.” Kaedan scoffed in disbelief, shaking his head, “First she brings that Trandoshan back into the temple, and now this? It’s getting worse by the day!” he looked across at his fellow Master, as if for confirmation.
Syo’s face, however, was still pensive and unreasonable.
“What do you make of Qanarr’s claims, Padawan?”
I think she's full of shit, too. Aria tried her best to keep the smirk from her features and respond in an equally measured tone.
“Master Qanarr’s my teacher, it’s not my place to question her.”
“Indeed, that is our responsibility.” Kaedan huffed. A little more helpfully, Syo explained.
“The Council have decided not to interfere, we will respect Qanarr’s assessment. For now. But I worry for the paths it could lead you down, be mindful of your own safety, Padawan, and not just Nalen Raloch.”
And with that, they were gone again. She folded her hands politely and gave the two Masters a bow as they passed her, then stepped into the room where Qanarr and Qyzen were busy waiting, the Cathar apparently rather animated over something or other she had discovered in Rajivari’s holocron.
“- don’t you see, it will solve that silly debate once and for all!”
“Careful. Qanarr is old, soft thing. Do not over excite for this thing.”
“Don’t worry, Qyzen, I’m not quite ready to just yet-!” Qanarr broke off and waved Aria back towards them. “Ah, Aria, you’re back! What did you find?”
Aria held out the hilt and let the Cathar take it from her to turn it over in her hands.
“Is it a Jedi habit to ambush me and back me into a corner?” she muttered absently as she did. Qanarr’s head snapped up to look at her in concern.
“Master Syo and Master Jaric were waiting for me outside.” Aria pointed over her shoulder at the alcove. “They wanted to talk to me about all...this.”
“I specifically asked them not to distract you.” Qanarr huffed a sigh, instead turning her attention to the hilt. “Now, this hilt...look at this, the power cell chamber...lightsabers definitely started here.”
“There’s a lot of etchings on it, too.” Aria pointed out. “Seems like too many to be a coincidence, especially since they render it useless as a destructive weapon.”
“You think it’s encoded data?”
“Why else would they spend so much time carving these runes into it? There was a stone, too, that it was hidden behind, with similar carvings.”
“It must have more information than first appears, then.” Qanarr concluded, chewing her lip. “While you were gone, Qyzen and I deciphered the second clue in Rajivari’s holocron.”
She was going to have to go back into the Flesh Raider caves. Aria’s nose crinkled in distaste.
“I just washed the smell out of my robes, Qanarr…”
“I know.” the Cathar chuckled in amusement, her whiskers twitching with the movement. “But this is the only way to the Fount. It’s where the first Jedi Council was ever formed.”
“Alright….Alright, I’ll go.”
“I know this cave.” Qyzen told her, his large head tipped to one side as he tried to study the small human woman with his good eye. “Will go ahead, make clear path. Meet you there, small hunter.” without waiting for either woman to answer, Qyzen was out of the door.
Aria couldn’t help but smile.
“That’s appreciated, Qyzen, thank you. I’ll catch up to you.” she promised.
“I apologise for Qyzen being so abrupt, Padawan.” the Jedi Master offered. “He’s very...single-minded, when it comes to his hunting.”
“I don’t mind. I welcome his help.” The Trandoshan, she liked. He was straightforward, down to earth. He didn’t mind roughing around if it meant getting things done.
This cave had a much higher ceiling, thankfully, which Aria hoped was a good sign that some crazy hermit wasn’t about to try dropping it on her karkin’ head. And there were Flesh Raiders here, which meant that Nalen had not been here yet. They were easy enough to cut through, the beasts had a particular fighting pattern and once Aria had figured that out it was like going through the motions in a training room: feint right, uppercut, duck, training blade through eye socket.
She was breathing heavily by the time she managed to fight her way through to the altar at the middle. Three symmetrical stones, about five feet tall each, with a singular eye symbol carved into them, stood proudly arranged as the backdrop to a pile of much more haphazardly-thrown lanterns. As Aria stepped forward and began to examine them, she heard Qyzen’s familiar guttural growl from behind her.
“Flesh Raiders are dead?” he sounded almost...impressed. “Hm. They are strong, healthy. Worth many Jagganath points (2), but hunted many Flesh Raiders on way here, so will allow you points, this time, small hunter.”
Aria had no idea what he was talking about, but she figured it would be safe to assume it may offend the giant lizard if she openly declared as such.
“That’s very...gracious of you?” she thanked him instead, trying her best to sound more sincere than befuddled.
“I see is no understanding, so I will tell.” Qyzen snorted, apparently amused rather than angry (thank the Force). “For Trandoshans, hunt is life. To make honourable kills, earn Jagganath points. All tallied by Scorekeeper.” He swept his arms around proudly, as if to indicate the world and everything in it. “She sees all. Greater score, more points, is greater standing with Scorekeeper.”
Finding nothing of worth on the stones, Aria instead turned back to the Trandoshan at her shoulder, dusting off her hands.
“Sounds like a worthy contest. You must have a great many points, Qyzen.”
The Trandoshan preened under the compliment, his sharp teeth exposing in a grin.
“Many. But Score is meaningless to outsiders.”
“Nevertheless, I’m glad to have you as an ally.” Aria chuckled, gesturing to the stones behind them. “What do you think of this? The clue’s supposed to be here but I can’t seem to find anything unusual…”
Aria sidestepped out of the mercenary’s way as he stepped up to the carvings, his head tilting.
“Hmm...do smell something. Strange.”
“Strange how?” Aria prompted, her forehead crinkling in thought as she looked around them nervously. Qyzen considered the question for a moment, then reached out a three-fingered hand to point at one of the heaps of bones to their left.
“Bones, there. All old. And all in pile. Too deliberate. Not Flesh Raider way.”
The Padawan tilted her head curiously, snapping her attention to the pile he had indicated.
“Hmm. You’re right, it’s far too neat isn’t it?” she muttered, half to herself. As Aria knelt down and began shifting them away, one layer at a time, Qyzen knelt beside her and did the same on the other side of the pile. It was more difficult than it first appeared, the bones were so old and well-gnawed that they were unbelievably brittle, and many of them fell right through her fingers as soon as Aria touched them.
The work paid off, however, when they revealed the ancient pedestal that had been concealed beneath the bleached-white skeletons. Aria’s attention was immediately drawn to the hilt-sized compartment in the front panel. She lifted the Kaleth hilt, levelling it with the alcove and squinted.
“Is right size?” Qyzen asked, turning his head to meet her gaze.
“I think so.” Aria answered. One way to find out.
Before she could push the hilt into the pedestal, however, they were interrupted by a trio of Twi’leks skidding to a stop behind them.
“Thanks for getting here so fast, Jedi!” the female in the lead crowed, “Those Flesh Raiders didn’t stand a chance!”
Slowly, Aria inched herself around until she was standing facing them. Never leave your back exposed to an enemy. One of the first lessons her father had ever taught her, and she wasn’t going to forget it now. She couldn’t be sure what they intended, and therefore, it was safer to assume they were foes over allies. Aria had seen the woman who had spoken, back in Kalikori village when she was still looking for Nalen.
“Allia. I was hoping Nalen would come himself. We have things to discuss, like how he tried to drop an entire cavern on me.” she answered flatly, her grip tightening on the hilt in her hand.
“Nalen was here.” the Twi’lek huffed indignantly, raising her chin in a bid to appear more domineering. “He told us to wait here for you, said you’ve got something he needs to get to the Fount of Rajivari.” Allia’s eyes flicked down to the hilt in Aria’s hand, and the Padawan stiffened, quickly holding her hand out to pass the hilt to the mercenary beside her. The request was unspoken, and Qyzen took it without protest.
“I’m not giving you ANYTHING that’s going to help Nalen.” Aria hissed.
“Then...I’m sorry, really sorry. You were helpful to us, but if it comes down to you or my village…” Allia continued, for a moment casting her eyes downward in regret. “I’m sorry.” she repeated for the third time as she raised her eyes to Aria’s once again. The tension hanging between them was so thick Aria could almost feel it, dancing over her skin like little sparks of Force lightning.
Qyzen had been largely silent up until that point, but he let out a quiet, uneasy grumble as he looked between the two parties.
“Small hunter, should not fight these.” he pleaded with her. “Are only soft things, no honour or points in killing them. Will not raise hands against them.”
“I’m not asking you to, Qyzen.” Aria responded, her voice level, but firm. She didn’t get a chance to say anything else, before the Twi’leks set upon her with their electroblades raised.
She reacted on instinct, the Padawan didn’t even have time to draw her own blade, but she didn’t need it. She ducked underneath two swings, surging upwards to grab hold of her opponent’s hilt and yank it from his grasp in time to cut through the second attacker to her right. As Allia attempted to push through what little defences she had left and give her an uppercut to the jaw, Aria’s hand shot out and grabbed hold of the Twi’lek’s throat. “You shouldn’t have listened to Nalen, Allia. Now, you’re not the only one who’s sorry.” she muttered, sharply twisting her wrist.
The Twi’lek’s eyes blew wide as her neck snapped in Aria’s grip like a toothpick, and without preamble the Padawan dropped the limp corpse.
“Don’t tell Qanarr.” she muttered to Qyzen, who remained where he had been standing in somber silence, finally breaking it in order to pass the Kaleth hilt back to her and allow Aria to activate the recording. A bald-headed man dressed in simple white robes and a ribbed jacket appeared, his voice a long-suffering drawl as he recounted the events that occured.
“Here, in this cave the founders discussed the future of our Order. And I, Rajivari, listened, while they crippled it...arguing for mediocrity!” Rajivari became angry, his eyes blazing with conviction as he sneered. “I’ve made my plans, with my army of dark sons I will purge these fools while they chatter!”
“And that was how they were cast out, into Sith Space, to find Korriban.” Aria mused aloud to herself.
“Only my apprentices and I will survive, from Kaleth we will mold the Jedi into what we deserve!” eerily, the hologram seemed to be able to find and lock onto Aria’s eyes. “If the hilt of the first blade was returned, then we succeeded and you must follow, seeker. Follow the path to the Fount, it is time.”
Rajivari’s image disappeared, and in its place there now projected a bizarre co-ordinates map, the likes of which Aria had never seen before. Qyzen took in the frown on her face, and voiced Aria’s own thoughts.
“Is strange map. If path is there, I cannot see.” he grunted, tilting his head first one way, and then the other, before giving a defeated shrug.
“Yeah, me either.” Aria admitted, heaving an irritated sigh. “Bloody Jedi, can never give a straightforward answer and just tell us where something is, can they.”
Qyzen let out a short, throaty chuckle, and placed one hand gently on the Padawan’s shoulder.
“Is old thing. Qanarr knows much of these, should bring back to her.” he pointed out.
Aria turned to leave, only to be quickly stopped as Qyzen called out.
“Wait! Here. First blade’s hilt, must not forget. Would hate you to suffer Qanarr’s wrath.”
Grinning sheepishly, she took the offered item and tucked it into her pocket.
“Well remembered, Qyzen, thank you.”
Qanarr was unhappy, even before Aria had stepped foot into the antechamber again. The Padawan froze in the doorway, recognising the voice of Nalen Raloch as the Twi'lek swore revenge for the deaths of Allia and her companions. Her blood turned to ice as the Cathar Jedi’s amber eyes snapped up from the hologram to glare at her accusingly.
“You killed them?! How could you?!”
“Hey, they came at me first!” Aria protested as she shuffled out of the doorway and into the room. “It was self defence! They tried to take the hilt!”
“Qanarr. Is alright.” she was surprised to hear Qyzen jumping to defend her, given that he hadn’t exactly supported Aria’s actions.
Her mentor sighed heavily, shaking her head as she muttered.
“Alright, let me see these co-ordinates, I hope they were worth it.”
The trio crowded around the star map as Qanarr plugged the data from the hilt into the projector, frowning as they tried to make sense of it. Aria absently traced a finger along the two points in the projection and muttered.
“...this second one could be Tythos Ridge, right? If you think about it the same way a climber would.”
Qanarr considered the point, nodding.
“Yes, that would line up with this first coordinate perfectly. Well done, Padawan.” the Cathar’s enthusiasm was short-lived, however. “But that doesn’t explain this last co-ordinate, here.” her finger hovered over the third, empty space. “We can’t triangulate the Fount of Rajivari without it, and yet we don’t know where, or what it is. It could be anything, a rock formation, for instance…”
“Hmmm…” Qyzen rumbled thoughtfully. “Have seen formations like this on hunts, could scout waterfall caves. Try to find.”
“Should I go with you?” Aria offered. “With two of us, the search would take half the time.”
The Trandoshan shook his head, however.
“Stay. I know caves, will be faster searching alone.” he dipped his head politely to the Jedi as he backed out of the antechamber, rumbling. “Scorekeeper watch over you.”
While they waited for Qyzen to return, Aria and Qanarr were left to puzzle over the parts of the map they’d already uncovered, for any details they might have missed. After several long moments of silence, Qanarr’s hand shot out to point at a message, written in very small script, in the bottom corner of the hologram.
“Padawan, look at this. There’s a warning, here, perhaps?”
Aria leaned forward to squint at it as Qanarr read the message aloud. “The Fount of Rajivari has mechanisms for intruders, only those who know Rajivari’s path will walk through unscathed, to gain his wisdom.”
“That can only mean one thing...traps.” Aria muttered grimly.
“Indeed.” Qanarr agreed. “But having knowledge of Rajivari’s ways should protect you, or so the message says.”
Aria considered the implications of this, and before Qanarr could suggest sending her back out there, she pointed out.
“You said Rajivari fell to the Dark Side, yes? Therefore, Rajivari’s path would involve knowing how and why a Jedi would fall?”
Qanarr made an uneasy noise in the back of her throat, but nodded.
“In theory, yes.”
“So, I’ve walked on the Dark Side.”
“Perhaps a little too recently.”
“Alright, mom.” Aria rolled her eyes. “My point is, I should be fine...so there’s no need to waste energy running around looking for more clues when I probably already have everything I need right here.” the Padawan tapped her temple, and raised an eyebrow promptingly.
Qanarr was unsettlingly quiet as she leaned on the edge of the table, the Cathar Jedi’s gaze almost seeming to be somewhere else entirely. It was as if she hadn’t even heard Aria speaking…
Concerned, Aria snapped her fingers as loud as she could, hoping to garner her Master’s attention.
The Cathar jumped in surprise, her head snapping around to meet her apprentice’s gaze.
“Ah, yes…” she answered, still half distracted, “Yes that should do it. And once Qyzen brings us the last coordinate-”
She trailed off, noticing the time on the chronometer in the corner of the projector. “Wait. How long were we working?”
“A good hour, maybe two,” Aria shrugged, having no idea of the exact time.
“Qyzen should be back by now.” Qanarr’s tail twitched uncomfortably.
“I think it’s a bit soon to worry?” Aria reasoned gently, not at all comforted by the sudden and drastic change in her Master’s behaviour. “If anyone can take care of himself, it’s Qyzen. I’m sure he’s fine.”
“No, no...Padawan, you don’t understand. Qyzen is never late!” Qanarr insisted, shaking her head. “Please, you must go and look for him. He mentioned the waterfall caves, didn’t he?”
“I think so, yes.” Aria nodded slowly in confirmation.
“If he’s managed to find the last coordinate, you two can make your way to the Fount.” Qanarr concluded, letting off an angry hiss as Aria at first did nothing but stand there and blink, dumbfounded. “What are you still standing there for, go, GO!”
Having been caught on the wrong side of Qanarr’s anger recently, and not wishing to test how far the Jedi might be willing to take it, Aria quickly backed away and held her hands up in an appeasing gesture.
“Alright! Relax! I’m going!” she placated.
“May the Force be with you both!” Qanarr called after her. “I think you may need it!”
Further Author’s Notes
Any KOTOR enthusiasts amongst my readers might know what I’m getting at here. Yay for Force bonds! Don’t worry if you don’t understand, or it doesn’t quite make sense, I will do my best to expand upon it further as the story goes on!
“Jagganath points” being essentially equivalent to “karma”, Trandoshans believe in collecting these points for their goddess, the Scorekeeper, and the more points an individual has, the more successful they are in life.