Nov 5 2003 3:03am
"It was ..." the images of the being flashed before Tobal's eyes, and he stopped suddenly.
Blue skin. Vacant eyes, inhumanly thin torso. Claws for hands, muscles that rippled as it moved. Hoofed feet. Fire.
Tobal described the appearance of the being as well as he could, the eyes, the arms, the legs, and the clean motion with which it had killed Mat. The scene seemed to rewind and replay in his head multiple times, each time becoming more and more horrible.
Nov 5 2003 3:20am
Gash shook his head slowly. "That doesn't ring a bell for me," he said, his mouth twitching slightly. It couldn't possibly be... no. It was too much of a coincidence; too convenient. But... a Sith... of that appearance.You know what I have become, father...
"No, it doesn't. Come, let us seek out a librarian."
* * * * *
The librarian was fairly old -- at least sixty, but spry and eager to help Gash. He'd mentioned his name before, but the Jedi Master couldn't remember it; he was always somewhat bewildered by the fact that meeting him meant more to others than their acquaintence meant to him.
Jereka. That was his name.
Gash and Tobal sat around a holocron in one of the dusty, but well-lit rooms of the Great Temple's library. The occasional student paced by, but for the most part it was silent. "I am afraid that that is the last of the datacrystals corresponding to that description, Master Jiren," Jereka said, smiling down at the pair.
"Thank you, Jereka."
As the librarian walked away, Gash continued to order the holocron to flip through the list of species, each with full rotating portraits and physical descriptions. The holocron technology used in the library was a crude adaptation of that used by the old Jedi, but it served its purpose; each holocron was not a full repository of knowledge in and of itself -- as such holocrons were too costly and precious to manufacture in large quantities -- but could be inserted with a small, red datacrystal, with which the library was filled in addition to books and datapads. Each datacrystal was the equivalent of a tome, and the semi-sentient guide within the holocron -- intelligent, but not wise
, as the guardians of actual holocrons were -- could be used to browse and explain the information.
"Next," Gash said, glancing at Tobal. The Shadow Jedi shook his head again. "Next," and again, he shook his head.
"Next," he repeated, but as the new species appeared, Gash knew the answer even before Tobal spoke. Yet another "no"...
He was certain that one of them would be the species Hadul sought, and the niggling suspicion in the back of his mind would evaporate and the Shadow Jedi sent on his way. But the doubt remained...
Nov 5 2003 4:16am
And then, they were done. Jiren pulled the last crystal out of the holocron and set it on the table with an air of finality. Sitting opposite to him Tobal stared blankly at the holocron, as if stunned.
He was not stunned, per say, just simply wearied. He had hoped, futile he knew, to track down the species of being that had confronted him. What he had intended to accomplish by knowing what it was he did not know.
For a few long minutes both men sat in silence, Jiren apparently letting Hadul think. Tobal's mind traced over the events that had led him up to this point here, in the library of the Rogue Jedi. It occurred to him at this point that the query they had put forth to the library at large was not the narrowest of queries. In fact, it was quite broad, they were going by the appearance of a being. The trick Jiren had used on Tobal came to mind then, and how easily the Rogue had deceived his eyes. In the heat of battle, with fear coursing through his veins, the slight tickle that warned Tobal of the deception would have been missed completely and utterly.
"Perhaps," said Tobal after a moment of mulling the thought over, "perhaps the being used a trick similar to what you just on me."
Tobal looked at Jiren, who seemed to nod, before continuing. "I'm sure you heard about the recent battle between several Jedi and a group of Dark Jedi that called themselves the Dark Circle -- it was there that I met this being..."
With brief sentences the Shadow outlined the effort against the Dark Circle, and what his part had been in it. When he came to the confrontation between himself and the being, he stopped. The words at this moment came screaming through his head, fire blazing from the darkness burned them on his consciousness.
"He said, 'You and I, Tobal Hadul, share a connection that cannot be refuted. The same ancestry resides inside of us, and I wish to... test that. Let us see where your values truly lie.' And then he killed Mat. I ran, and as you can see, escaped."
Tobal was silent after this; the recitation of the events of that day was not only painful, it seemed to physically drain him of energy.
Nov 6 2003 3:29am
Gash Jiren was silent for several moments. He closed his eyes, for all appearances going into some sort of trance. Tobal had just begun to think that the Jedi Master had fallen asleep, or died, when he spoke. "The reason you can't find any record of the Sith's species, is because he does not belong to one. Not anymore."
The Rogue Jedi didn't open his eyes. Before Tobal could ask what he meant, he continued. "His name is Xireon. I know him quite well, because, in a way, you might say that I am his father. I am his... creator. His name is Xireon Jiren."
He let this sink in.
"Before turning to the light side of the Force, one of my final acts was to create a being of perfection, or at least what I viewed as 'perfection' at the time, in my twisted way. Using what I knew about genetic replication and the Force, I warped and altered my own DNA, and created a single clone. He was strong, brutal, and remorseless, a Sith Warrior such as the galaxy had never seen.
"In retrospect, I now know his creation was the result of the death of a comrade I particularly disliked, Qual Zaiso, also a Sith Warrior. He died in the line of duty -- if you can call what a Sith does 'duty' -- and I felt responsible. This was both my legacy, and my method of coping."
Gash opened his eyes, and smiled that little smile of his -- the one that bore no mirth at all. "And so Xireon was conceived. He took my last name, despite having never met me. In my haste to flee Ziost, and my Sith past, I never thought to eliminate that part of it. In a way, I am thus very responsible for the deaths he has caused.
"Xireon went on to assist Grand Admiral Thrawn in his second invasion of this galaxy, beginning with the assault on Ossus. Eventually, he became the driving force behind that conquest, his army of Force-imbued Achrions wreaking a havoc I am sure you, like billions of others, witnessed directly or indirectly. I was irresponsible. I wished to pretend as if I had not created him, when I turned to the light side, as if I had not committed any of the evil acts I committed as a Sith. So I ran."
Gash fished a datacrystal from his pocket, inserting it into one side of the holocron. "Show us Xireon Jiren," he commanded, and so that is what sprang forth. In almost every way, the hologram resembled him identically, though it lacked his scars. "But Xireon, like all clones, was a tool, and little else. When I created him, I ensured through genetic manipulation and flash mental imprinting that he was a... perfected version of myself. More intelligent, more cunning, stronger, faster, and the rest of the cliched terms that all maniacs use to describe their creations.
"I'd designed him as a Sith Warrior, that, in the end, I -- as a socercer -- would always possess the deeper connection to the Dark Side, the power to end him. The control. So, indeed, this was something of an innate logical flaw. A being so intelligent, so sentient, could not remain so forever, without gaining a degree of self-awareness about his creation, and his nature as a tool."
Gash sighed briefly, glancing at the hologram. "Show us the Blade of Klain."
A short sword, with a grip filled with jewels, appeared. "I also, in a manner of speaking, created the Blade of Klain, when I used it to kill Recon Klain and resurrect him into a new form. It gained a degree of sentience in this process, and inheireted the cunning and evil of Klain and the spirits of Ziost.
"Xireon, when he discovered the Blade, lost himself in it. He lost himself in the power it offered. Through a twisted ritual, he merged himself with the Blade of Klain. He fully gave into it, absorbing its power, and so sacrificing the form he'd once possessed. He is now a Wraith of the Blade, Tobal, and that is what you saw. An immensely powerful being, who has sunk to the lowest depth any sentient being can sink to. Do you know what that depth is, Tobal Hadul?" Gash asked very earnestly, suddenly starting forward and staring into the Shadow Jedi's eyes, his gaze penetrating.
"No," the man said.
"He has lost himself." He turned back to the holocron. "Show us the last picture available of Xireon." And so, a hologram of the very demon Tobal Hadul had seen during that battle sprang forth.
"When he was injured at the Battle of Ruusan," Gash continued, "he survived only because of his hate, his strength in the Dark Side. He lost the very essence of what made him Asthentian, what made him a member of my species, his white hair fading to black and the glow gone from his eyes. It is referred to on my homeworld as 'noc'tural', or 'half life'. A shortened, cursed, wretched existence chosen only by those greedily attempting to cling to this world, and possessed of the power to fight death.
"Xireon understands the nature of sentience, Tobal. He understands it better than I do, because his entire life has revolved around his coming to grips with his existence. Though his becoming a victim of noc'tural -- and finally being free of the shackles I'd created for him, embracing Sith sorcery -- he came to a very simple conclusion about the nature of existence. Do you know what that is, Tobal Hadul?" He asked again, fixing his piercing glare once again on the Shadow Jedi.
This time, he only shook his head.
"That there is no 'self' at all. That the only thing at all constant is ambition. He values nothing; not himself, not others. Only existence, power, and his lust for more of it." Gash closed his eyes again, sitting back. "This has always disturbed me, because he is born of me, Tobal, and he is only an extrapolation of myself. He is, in a manner of speaking, what I would have been had I not turned from that path."
The two sat for a long while, these sudden revelations stewing about the minds of the two Jedi. Finally, Gash opened his eyes and locked gazes with Tobal. "Xireon said what he did, as I am sure you have gleaned, because you are also Asthentian. Hence our somewhat similar appearances. He wished to see where your values lay. Whether you had come to similar realizations about the nature of sentience. Xireon," he said, almost smiling macabrely at something unknown, "is very interested in the minds of thinking beings.
"I have now told you what you wanted to know. You know what you are. You now know that I am partially responsible for your friends' death, and fully responsible for the creation of the monster that perpetrated it. And you know why he did so. You have every right to feel a certain amount of loathing for me, and I do indeed feel indebted to you. Should you wish to... learn more, all you need do is ask."
With one last earnest look at Tobal -- one that spoke deeply of a man more haunted than he wished to let on -- Gash said, "I am sorry, Tobal."
Nov 6 2003 5:37am
Tobal sat still, his eyes closed, and his breathing slightly irregular. He now knew who the demon being was, his mission was complete.
What to do next, however, was a field of virgin, untouched snow.
To kill was the first thought that came to mind, along with images of electricity, black fire, and death. Certainly, it made sense. The next logical step was to seek out where this Xireon resided, and to kill him.
But was that really the way of the Jedi? Certainly this Xireon posed a threat to the Galaxy as a whole, as Jiren had surmised Tobal had indeed heard the name Xireon before, and of the havoc he had spread. Tobal's education aboard the Corruptor had been particularly intense considering the first three quarters of his life had been spent separated from the 'modern' galaxy, but any school worth its salt taught recent history.
But, although he didn't admit it to himself, Tobal was afraid to think of seeking out this being. He was not only afraid of the being itself, but of the damage that such a mission - driven by revenge - would wreak upon him. He had seen a few Shadows who were on similar missions, they were but burnt out husks, echo's of their former selves. Consumed by their objective they slipped further and further away from the thin line a Shadow walked between light and dark, and eventually, they turned to the dark side completely.
No, no, he didn't want Revenge. What was done, was done. Mat was dead, he could not bring him back by killing Xireon. But the galaxy as a whole would benefit from the death of such a being, with his corrupted thought process and the incredible power to inflict his will upon millions of people.
No doubt the galaxy would benefit -- but was it right?
One of the last things Jiren had said came to Tobal's mind again, as he sat there in an almost meditative state.
"Xireon said what he did, as I am sure you have gleaned, because you are also Asthentian. Hence our somewhat similar appearances. He wished to see where your values lay. Whether you had come to similar realizations about the nature of sentience.
... as I am sure you have gleaned, because you are also Asthentian. Hence our somewhat similar appearances. He wished to see where your values lay...
... because you are also Asthentian. Hence our somewhat similar appearances...
... you are also Asthentian...
...You are also...
Asthentian? Hence our similar appearance?
Opening his eyes, Tobal looked at Jiren. Something was different about the room they were in, and it took him a moment to realize what it was. The light was different, time had passed. Jiren, however, was still there, a sign that perhaps he understood.
"What," said the Tribal, deciding to indeed learn more, "Is an Asthentian?"
Nov 6 2003 6:29am
"The planet Asthentia," Gash said, "resides north of Ossus, near Yavin IV and the Corporate Sector. It was colonized by the Old Republic shortly before the Sith War, after which it was isolated from the galaxy by the destruction of this world and the chaos that ensued. It was forgotten, and its inhabitants -- Chiss, human, Zabrak, and others -- left to interbreed. A number of Jedi were also within that population. Gradually, the isolated world lost knowledge of the Force, and Force affinity became inbred in the world, in the form of most inhabitants having slight precognitive abilities.
"Typically, it is difficult for species to cross, but gradually, through a slow process of more selective interbreeding, they melded. After thousands of years, a single, unique species was achieved." He gestured at himself. "You and I are the result. White, long hair and eyes of red, violet, or," he gave a meaningful look to Tobal, "a greyish silver are characteristic. A greater-than-average number of us also possess a full, developed Force affinity."
This was a rehearsed answer; a basic textbook answer that came naturally to a man who had single-handedly rediscovered his homeworld. On a more personal note, he added, "Have you noticed, Tobal Hadul, that you do not seem to age at the same rate as your peers? An Asthentian lifetime is two or three times longer than a human one."
Nov 6 2003 6:44am
"Not really," replied Tobal. "I have been away from my home-world for only seven years."
He then went on to explain how he had gotten off his planet. He detailed the strange knack he had had for finding the correct feeding spots for game, the ease of which he filled any quota of fish that was in place, and of how quickly his own people had become suspicious of him as he matured in age. Then, he told of the fear that several sudden strange occurrences that he had created generated in the hearts of his own people. He told of the death of two raiders in their village, they died without anyone touching them. The death of his father, a prominent man in the village, and the only one who had gone off-world. And then finally, the hunt.
The hunt, where the people he had grown up with chased him out of his village, and hunted him like an animal. The discovery of a cave while he fled, and a strange mechanical device that had later turned out to be a shuttle. The auto-pilot that had blasted him into orbit, and then, his discovery by the Corruptor.
"... In short, Master Jiren, since I was picked up I have been unable to locate my home world. The shuttle I was found in was sold, I didn't need it, and the Corruptor never bothered to download any information that it may have contained. I know nothing of my species."
Dec 2 2003 1:52am
Gash listened closely. Tobal's story was reminiscient of something; it hinted at something just outside of the Jedi Master's mind's eye, something only partially forgotten. It took him a moment after Hadul had stoppped speaking to realize what that thing was.
"So you remember nothing? No location, or name?" Gash asked. "That places you in a similar position to the one I was in, years ago. Before I knew and understood what I was."
Gash smiled slightly. "Permit me a question. Why do you so desire to learn of your species? What, in Xireon's perverted game, spurred you on even further to discover your origins?
Dec 2 2003 2:17am
The answer to the question seemed rather obvious to Tobal. Why wouldn't one wish to learn more of their species?
"Does not everyone wish to know of their origins, does not everyone wish to be one with their people?" asked Tobal of the Rogue Master.
"I am a stranger here," he continued, waving his hand as if encompassing the galaxy as a whole, "I wish to see my people again, to consult the elders of my council, to see my family once more. I do not wish to be a man without a home, and I do not think this desire of mine is the result of a game created by Xireon."
For a moment he paused again, before finishing, before confessing what had weighed most heavily upon his chest, "I wish to seek recompense for any crime I may have committed those years ago."
Dec 7 2003 6:08am
"It is all the same, then, Tobal. You wish to know what you are, that you might know who you are. Or were." Gash nodded sympathetically. "Everyone wants a home, because your home is a starting point. It makes you who you are. Doesn't it?
"I thought the same thing, Tobal Hadul. I used to be a Sith, as I told you. And I think I believed that finding my home, finding Asthentia, would somehow save me, would some how make me complete and lead me out of the darkness." He chuckled morosely. "It didn't."
Gash stood up abruptly. "You mentioned a crime. I'd like to show you something."