Averting attention had always been far too easy for Deft. Imperial transponder codes, too easy to attain, to forge… or have forged. “Commander Derivan, you have permission to proceed to sector 478. Please sir, do be careful, it is a savage world.”, the comm officer pleaded.
“Thank you for your concern officer, it is duly noted.”, Deft arrogantly replied as he steered his Oppressor towards the planet. The small clearing was easy to see through the lush vegetation. He would owe the Captain for yet another favor. It was of no true concern to him however, he already owed him far more than he could probably ever repay.
The lush surrounding vegetation violently shook as he touched down. Switching off the power, the whine of the generator slowly quelled, Deft stepped from the vessel, wearing only his robes under a black cloak, wielding his newly crafted lightsaber.
The visions were weaker now, more distant. His thoughts were clearing. He began his trek through the dense jungle. Somehow, even after all this time…. Yinchorr felt inviting.
The rocks around him hovered carefully in place. “You must feel it move within you.”, the small pyramid shaped holocron had instructed. The instruction was efficient. He was coming along quickly. The rocks began to swirl around him… slowly at first, then gradually faster…. and faster still, until they were but blurred images of themselves. Deft’s eyes closed with a cold determination as his head lowered slightly, focusing himself. The air seemed to hiss as the rocks spun violently around him.
Images flooded his mind. Pale blue eyes, familiar, cold, callous. “You drove her away.”, the voice hissed. Pale blue eyes, calling to him distantly. “Why didn’t you come?”, the new, softer voice implored. Pale blue eyes, exploding into blue flames. The flames faded to green. Deft felt himself pulled across the galaxy. Dathomir, a famliar place, once, home.
The elder stood over the cauldron, her arms flailing in the air as she spoke her incantation. Spinning on her heal, her cold green eyes met with Deft’s. “You only think you have won Deriun.” All he could see were the eyes. All he could hear, the roar of the flames. But no longer were they the Elders. Rosalyn gazed back at him. “Why have you foresaken me?”, her pained voice begged.
A gentle hand reached out to him…. but he couldn’t grab it, couldn’t hold it, touch it. It slipped, further and further into the darkness.
*CRACK CRACK CRACK*
“GASP!”, The rocks had flown wildly out of control, and found themselves crashing into a nearby tree, the sound, pulling Deft from his vision. Even now, none of it seemed to make sense. He had come here for answers, but was only finding more questions.
Training had been difficult. The holocron seemed to guide him with exercises intended to push a man beyond humanity. Deft yawned as it rambled on about running with the force, he had no interest in learning to be a coward. This wasn’t helping the way he had hoped. He threw holocron in his pack. I’ve had enough of that. His red saber ignited, and he rushed off into the woods.
For a fleeting moment, Deft succumbed to his youthful urges. As he ran through the foliage, he cut down branches, nicked rocks. Faster and faster, leaving a wake of mild destruction in his path. The trail of smoke and destruction, came to an abrupt halt. Deft stood, silently, watching out over the open field he had come to.
“I do”, the words rolled so easily off of her lips. Deft had honestly never thought he’d see her again. The day she married Martyn,
“My dear, I would never allow such.”, the words caused the air to stiffen, silent for a fleeting moment, “If we were to wed, it would be because we love each other.”, Deft stepped in, kissing her for the first time. The kiss, her hands at his back….. they burned. Seering pain raged through him, coursing through his veins. He dropped to the ground, in utter agony. His scream echoed through the empty field. Then, he saw her, shackled to a grate, dangling over a flame, flickering between green and blue hues. Was this a vision of things to come? The vision changed as quickly as it had appeared. Rosalyn and Boden stood in the purple fields of Dantooine, together. Boden grasped her hand. The pain was becoming unbearable now, he could almost feel his flesh melting from his body.
Sleep….. it was the only escape. Deft’s worn body, and torn psyche, collapsed to the ground, saber in one hand, and a small purple Corellian flower in the other.
“Soon, my dear Aklin…. very soon indeed.”, the woman’s cackling echoed in Deft’s mind as he awoke. The rain fell on his face, but the soft touch of rain could not alleviate the pain he felt. He touched his back, the memory of the agony still with him. How long had he been asleep? How long had he been lying here? For a brief moment, he looked at the flower in his left hand, before tucking it safely away, wrapped in a piece of paper, in his pack.
Through the foliage, he sensed something. Something nearby. Something, strong. He made his way cautiously, silently, through the jungle. His head peaked around a large tree to see it. As he stood in the entrance, he could sense something. It clouded him slightly, and for the first time in days, he was not thinking of the visions he had been having.
Something was tuggin at him, something from deep within himself. This was the reason he had come here. This, was the reason he had journeyed so far. Why, he did not know, but something inside of him verified the uncovered truth. Something inside, told him that this was where he needed to be.
Just inside the cave, he saw him. The hooded figure turned away from him, looking deeper into the cave of which he occupied. Who was this man? How could he have gotten here? Yinchorr was blockaded to all non-Imperial personnel. Even then, only the Imperial Royal Guard, and their hopeful trainees ever really came here.
As Deft slowly enterred, time no longer existed. Space but a fleeting human assumption of distance. Everything, always, was right here. Such power, such depth, Deft had never felt before.
“What is this place?”, he spoke out to the hooded figure. Anticipating to startle the man, his responce was far different than what he would have anticipated.
“This my young friend, is your future…. and your past.”, the eerily familiar voice stated.
The figure stood silent, gazing off into the distance as he approached. Then, as his footsteps brought him ever-closer, the man finally turned. The Emperor’s visage, torn, weathered. Deft had never seen him like this before. “Deft, now you shall see.”
There was no possible explanation for this. Deft knew it to be implausible for the Emperor to be here, and yet, here he was. Was he hallucinating? What manner of trickery was this? He turned to glance back at the entryway, but it was no longer there.
Everything went foggy for a moment. His mind, his thoughts, even what he was seeing. When his eyes returned to where the Emperor had been standing, they did not meet his, they met…. theirs. Before Deft stood the four women he had ever truly loved. Yvaine, Lelu, Nydari and Rosalyn. In unison, they looked to him with pleading eyes and said, “You have abandoned us Deft…. why?”
“You were the only man I ever loved, and you left me in your pursuit of power.”, Yvaine looked at him, her slave collar still attached, her subtle blonde braids gently caressing her tender neck where the collar had caused bruising. “Without you, I couldn’t go on.”, her voice callously stated as she slapped him.
“You never understood Deft, you never listened.”, Lelu said, her soft black hair blowing gently in the growing angry breeze, “I left you, because you had no time for me.”
Nydari’s gaze met his now, her cold callous blue eyes cutting through his soul. Deft heard not her words, he could feel what beat in her heart. He had taken her son, and for that, he could never be forgiven. “Deft, you never came for me.”, her eyes begged for a reason, “You gave up so easily, so much for love I guess.”
“You left me to die on Dathomir.”, Rosalyn’s words made little sense, “You allowed the Nighsisters to have their way with me.” Her inviting red hair still bore the subtle trace of a helmet.
Deft could not help but wonder, was he able to speak with them now…. because they were all dead? He dropped to his knees, sobbing, the situation too much for even him, to handle.
The incessant yelling stopped, all was quiet. Deft took control of himself once again, regaining his composure. Slowly, he raised his head to see the horrid depiction. All four of them…. lie dead before him. Their bodies broken, twisted lumps of flesh that once held a vibrance for life he fed off of. Now, empty vessels.
The Emperor once again stepped forward. “What manner of treachery is this?”, Deft implored, “They cannot be dead.”
“There is no treachery here, only truths within yourself.”, the Emperor explained, “What you see, is a mirror of what lies deep within you.”
Deft knelt before the four corpses, and then, they came. From the shadows they stepped, each armed differently, each, having a different reason for being there. Those reasons, were the women lying before him.
Percy, the insecure boy, placed a gentle hand on Yvaine’s head, brushing her flowing blonde braids away from her green eyes. Then, turning his angry, jealous gaze to Deft, he unsheathed his blade.
Noldat stood over Lelu Orion, his eyes never waivering from Deft’s, this had been a long time coming. His pistol unholstered, and prepared to slay his sworn enemy.
Wraidth shed a gentle tear as he touched Nydari’s soft blue lekku one last time, unsheathing his sword, he snarled at him. “I would have cared for her as you never could.”
Finally, Boden. Deft stood mildly perplexed at the sight, as Boden’s eyes filled with rage and tears stared callously at him over Rosalyn’s torn body. No words were spoken, but Deft did not need to hear them, he knew why Boden was there. However, was this a depiction of the truth…. or a vision of his own paranoia manifesting itself?
In unison, their voices echoed through the cave, “We loved them as you could not. We cared for them, where you would not. In return for this, you destroyed them in your own lustful search for power.”
Deft had no words. No charming way of explaining away the mishaps of his life. No intelligent responce to dissuade the anger and hatred in the room. He allowed his anguish to take hold. His saber ignited, the crimson hue echoing off of the walls, the color only amplified the tension. The hum of the weapon, requesting bloodshed.
Percy was the first to charge, and the first to drop. With a gentle flick of the wrist, Deft tore through the young man’s weapon, and his flesh. His now lifeless body, fell ironically parallel to that of Yvaine’s.
Noldat opened fire, and Deft’s saber found the blaster bolts of it’s own accord, deflecting them haplessly into the cavern’s walls. His rage focused inward for a fleeting moment, and manifested itself in a bolt of lightning, sending Noldat to the ground in a lump of mangled and burned Rebel flesh.
Wraidth did not hesitate, his scythe had cut Deft before he even had a chance to focus his attentions on his assailant. Blood dripping from his left shoulder, the open wound stinging with agonizing pain, Deft did not cringe, but found new purpose in it, new, unadulterated fury with which to wield his lightsaber. For his treachery, Deft cut him down to size, removing the better part of both his legs, just above the knee. As he lie there, helpless, Deft stepped forward to end his suffering. Wraidth’s head made a gentle stop at Boden’s feet.
Both men stared at each other cautiously. Boden’s indigo blue saber reverberating off of the walls, creating a purple hue as it mixed elegantly with the crimson of Defts that had already resided there.
Their blades met for the first time, held against each other, the sounds became almost deafening as they sparked and slid along one another. Deft arrogantly spun with his blade, driving Boden backward. With a kick, Deft pushed him even farther back as the green bolt erupted from his off hand.
“Show me the truth.”, Deft asked of Boden’s mind as he invaded it aggressively. The trick he had learned from the Nightsisters might just prove useful.
Boden dropped to the ground, clutching at his head in agony. Yet still, Deft felt no battle, no conflict for the right to attain the knowledge he sought. Now Deft knew, this was not real. With a cold, calculated slice, Boden was no more.
A soft voice invaded the newly created silence, “Deriun?”
“Deriun, is that you?”, the voice called to him. After all these years, her soft voice still sent chills down his spine. He turned to face her.
“I no longer go by that name…. mother.”, his cold callous stare met hers.
Still adorned with rags, and carrying several collars in her hand, she snarled at him, “Nonsense, now get your things, we have to pick up some more goods this afternoon.” ‘Goods’ was her more humane term for slaves. The idea that anyone could try and tone down what slavery was with simple verbage still sickened Deft.
A swift backhand caught Deft off guard, his head cocked to one side partly, stopping midway as if to declare resistance. “You heard your mother boy, get ready.”, his father said angrily to him.
As he stood there, looking at his parentage, something inside him snapped. It was all so much clearer. It all made sense. These people, they were nothing but pawns in a much larger game… a game, Deft now played. A game of power. They were little more than cattle, to be done with as he saw fit.
Wraidth’s scythe hovered in mid air, both his parents stood there, confused at it’s sight. “So boy, you think you’ve finally become a man? You think you’re going to use that blade to kill us?”, his father nervously taunted, trying to play on Deft’s insecurities. Insecurities that died long, long ago.
“No father, I have no intentions of such.”, a cold grin formed on Deft’s face as he called on the strength of the force, “She is going to kill you.” The blade hung still in the air before his mother, “Take the blade woman, and dispatch him.”, Deft said coldly with a slight hint of triumph in his voice. Her confused and shaking hand took hold of the hilt, she hesitated as she drew it back, “Let go your rage, allow the blade to find it’s way.”
“This is ridiculous.”, his fathers fearful expression made it quite apparent that he did indeed realize that this was no jest, “Woman, put that damn thing down and go get the slaves cleaned up.”
“Now.”, Deft uttered but one word to reinforce his statements, his hand barely moving to send his message clearly, reinforced by the dark side within him.
The blade moved swiftly, cleanly. From his shoulder to his nether regions, it made it’s cut. A gentle red mist hung in the air, spackling her torn dress of rags. She dropped to her knees in front of her now lifeless spouse. The blade hit the ground, the sound of the metallic clang echoed through her soul as she realized what she had just done. Tear filled eyes looked to him, “Why Deriun? Why would you make me do this?”
“Because I can.”, he said simply. The scythe flew true, of it’s own volition, through her, pinning her ten feet in the air against the wall. Her last breath escaped, the gentle death rattle the only sound now heard in the cave, quickly replaced by the sound of her blood dripping on the floor.
A cackle broke out from behind him as he callously stared at his now dead mother. “Good…. good.”, the voice with satisfaction, “You have done well, Lord Aklin.”
He turned to face the voice, and again met eyes with the Emperor, his sinister grin filling the room with a cold warmth. “I do not understand, how can this be?”, his confusion showing on his face imploringly, “What is this place?”
“This place is a mirror of your own inner self my friend.”, the Emperor placed a hand at Deft’s back, walking with him casually, “It is a nexus for the Dark Side which all Jedi must at some point face.”
“So this is a test?”, Deft’s question had already been answered in his own mind, he needed his answer to be validated however.
“You could say that. I prefer to look at it as a decision rather than a test.”, the Emperor chuckled.
“I see.”, Deft turned to face the Emperor again, “I came here, I thought, to find answers.”
“My boy, I am not here to give you the answers you seek.”, he coldly stared at him, “I think you already have those answers within yourself.”
Deft had so many questions to still be answered, “And how is it you are here?.
The Emperor smirked at him, “I am not here.” With that, the Emperor vanished, and Deft found himself standing again in the entryway of the cave.
It was not long after that Deft found himself sitting at the foot of his Oppressor contemplating his existence. What was all of this for? What lessons were to be learned? Why was he doing all of this? For the Emperor? For himself? Where had it gotten him? The Emperor had always promised him, one day he would understand, but perhaps, even the Emperor, could not foresee what was to come.
His subspace com erupted with authority. Deft could sense it. “Yes my Lord?”, he said, knowing exactly who it was.
“I sense you have done well Lord Aklin.”, the cold feeling of triumph was apparent, “Now…. you understand.”
“Yes….. I do.”, he replied, his tone uncaring, indifferent. A short hesitation hung in the air before he proceeded, cutting the Emperor off as he begun to speak, “I understand that I have grown tired of your meddling old man. And perhaps…. a change is indeed needed.”
The Emperor’s sudden rage could be heard as Deft simply deactivated his com and boarded his ship. Activating the radio aboard The Subterfuge, he quickly contacted Tovina, “My dear, I think we need to have a little discussion.”
Deft knew now what he sought, and being subservient to Palpatine was no longer fitting for him… he was better than that… stronger. The time had come for Deft to take what was his…. by force. For the Emperor had indeed twisted him to the Dark Side as intended, though, perhaps he twisted a bit too hard. Perhaps…. now it was Deft’s turn, to twist back.