Chapter 16: Picking Through the Pieces
Ten years after Darth Skuldren’s death.
Kajji XII, among the ruins of Darth Skuldren’s Academy:
The rolling green hills were beautiful. No matter how hard I tried to concentrate on the task at hand, I always kept loosing myself in the countryside. The blazing blue sky, the warm rays of sunlight, and the cool refreshing air, thick with life.
If was so completely unlike Coruscant. No crowds, no noise, and no signs of civilization. And yet there was a battle here. Even a city.
Looking over at the pile of rubble that stood ominously on a small hill to the east, it was impossible to imagine what Skuldren’s academy must have looked like. What remained had been flattened to the very ground. Nothing but rocks.
Slowly I opened myself to the Force. Serene emotions swelled into me, lifting up my spirits, and strengthening my bond with the Force. It was as if the air itself was charged with energy. It made anything feel possible.
Yet it did not tell me what happened.
According to the archives, a sizable task force was sent to deal with the rogue Sith lord who called himself Skuldren. A hundred Jedi, along with a small Republic Fleet, engaged the Academy and succeeded in killing the Sith lord. Afterwards the survivors surrendered and were taken prisoner by the Republic. An after battle report verified that four Sith were seen fleeing after the battle and the fleet confirmed that one shuttle did escape.
But there were holes in the story.
For starters, Darth Skuldren’s body was never retrieved. Masters of the High Council gave sworn testimony that the Sith Lord was actually vaporized by a stray bolt of energy, most likely friendly fire from his own Sith followers, as the weapon was unlike anything in the Republic’s arsenal.
“His body was there one moment, gone the next. We were dazzled as a massive ball of energy pulsed through the very spot where he was, vaporizing his body. Sadly it continued on and three distinguished members of our Order. But I am certain that the Sith died. We actually saw his smoldering arms and legs after the blast…”-Jedi Master Beldo.
The testimony of the members of the High Council could not be questioned. There was no doubt that what they saw happened. But was it real, or simply an illusion? That was the question that was eating at me. None of it added up. No body. No limbs. Not even his lightsaber. And none of his apprentices were accounted for. Plus several Sith escaping off world on a ship.
Looking at the ground today, there were no clues to be discovered. I released my breath as I realized that my trip had already come to an end…
But something moved in the distance. Something small.
My attention was captivated on the spot and quickly I rushed toward it, using a burst of Force induced speed without even realizing it. In moments I was on the spot, but the object was gone.
Where did you go?
“Did the creator send you?”
I jerked around at the small, soft voice that spoke. To my surprise there was an animal sitting by my feet. Its round, black eyes stared up at me and it spoke.
In my shock I suddenly realized that is asked a question.
“Who is the creator?” I asked.
At this, the tiny, furry creature seemed puzzled. Its silky fur shivered between a lush green and a deep mahogany. Amazingly it could change its colors.
“The creator is the one who made me.” It scrunched up its black, wet nose. “Why have you come?”
“I’m looking for answers.” Hope rushed through me, though common sense should snapped me to my senses. I’m asking a rabbit for answers. “Ten years ago, there was a battle here and one particular person that died is of interest to me. I'm looking for information on him and on his death.”
The small creature was quiet. Its eyes never left me, but they no longer seemed to be watching me. Instead the mind behind them was deep in thought.
“I was young then. It was long ago, but I know of what you speak. This man, he is the creator’s master, is he not?”
I couldn’t keep myself from smiling as relief seeped through my body. “Yes, his name was Darth Skuldren. He had many apprentices. Your creator would have been…Xenon.”
Its little black eyes lit up at the name of its creator. “Yes! The creator! You have heard of him.” It hopped around in joy, the excitement literally bouncing out of him. “He will be back soon, you know. Always this time of the year he returns to check on us.”
He will be back. One of Darth Skuldren’s apprentices not only lives, but will be coming here! My assurances in the Force were utterly bolstered as everything seemed to fall into my favor.
“The creator, where does he come to meet you?”
“Come, come, let me show you.” And with that he was off, sprinting across the ground and toward the distant tree lines.
Without hesitation, I followed.
* * *
In the darkness I heard the sound of crunching leaves and snapping twigs. Carefully I stopped myself from reaching out in the Force, and instead relied on my senses.
Someone was approaching.
I sat up from my bedroll, letting my eyes adjust to the darkness. It took a moment to shake away the affects of my slumber. Yet my tired eyes managed to make out a dark figure emerging from the trees and coming to an abrupt stop. In one fluid motion, a blaster appeared in his hand pointed directly at me, a small flash light was attached under the barrel, its beam blinding my eyes.
“Don’t shoot! I’m not here to harm you, I’m only looking for answers.” I hurriedly replied, a tinge of fear shooting through my words.
His aim relaxed a hair and then another shadow appeared from the woods.
“Is everything all right?”
It was a woman’s voice.
“Everythings fine…I think.” Replied the dark figure with the gun.
“Well then why are you pointing a gun at that women? Do you really think that’s necessary.” The woman was slowly defusing the situation. “I highly doubt that the Jedi are still looking for you sweety. It has been nearly a decade you know.”
The man’s aim lessened a little more, then finally he turned off the flash light and holstered the weapon.
He went straight to the point. “Well, what do you want?”
“I was sent by the Jedi to investigate the death of your master.”
“My m…” he stopped, not knowing whether he should pretend to be ignorant or whether he should divulge the truth. The silence was awkward.
The woman went over and nudged him, prodding him to go on. It was enough to help him make up his mind. “Master Skuldren died here on Kajji. There was a battle between us and the Jedi. What more do you want to know?”
“So he did die, it wasn’t a trick.” I paused as I considered this new piece of information. “Do you know how? The archives merely say that a stray blast of friendly fire consumed him in a large energy blast.”
“I wouldn’t know. I only felt it, I didn’t see it. Later, when I came back to the battlefield, there was no sign of his body. I assumed that the Jedi took it.” He began to relax a little, and sat down on a log. The woman joined him, placing an arm around his waist.
It was still too dark to get a good look at their faces, the moonlight only showed so much, but you could still make out the outlines of things. It was then that I noticed that the woman had a pair of wings. At first I thought I might have been seeing things in the darkness, but then I remembered her from the holocron's stories. I decided to plunge ahead with my next question. “So what happened after the battle?”
“You are a Jedi. At one time your people swore to kill me, so tell me this, why should I tell you anymore?” His voice grew firm with no signs of softening.
This was the hard part. “I came across a holocron. A piece from your master’s personal collection. Inside it, he is one of the keepers of its secrets and it has spoken to me. But there are some things it won’t tell me because…it wants me to find the answers myself.”
It was hard to make out the expressions on his face, but I thought I saw a look of shock. “You…do you have this holocron with you?”
I reached into my backpack and pulled out the palm sized cube. With a simple rub of my index finger, the cube awoke and Skuldren’s image appeared before us.
“I see tonight we have an audience. I hope my apprentice has not been rude.” The blue phantasmal image smirked as it spoke to me. Inside I felt soothed to be in his presence again.
“I can’t believe it…master, is it really you?” Darth Xenon leaned in closer to examine the projection.
“I am sorry Xenon, but this is only a specter of what I once was. Death has freed me from some chains but others are beyond breaking. By the creation of man, what I appear as now is limited to the capabilities of this device. Nonetheless, I would ask of you to trust this Jedi, for she has been very receptive to my words and unlike others, she has shown care.” With that, the image disappeared back into the cube.
As I repeated the words in my head, I beamed inside. It felt good, even for some device’s simulated holographic intelligence, to be recognized for my deeds.
“Very well.” Replied Xenon. He turned his attention back at me. “You asked what happened afterwards, so I will tell you…
After the battle the four of us, me, Bacillus, Praxus, and Ziam, all headed out to the Katarri Sector to rendezvous with the others who were still out looking for holograms. We sent out a signal for them to meet us there. When they arrived, they already knew that our master was dead. For just like us, they'd felt it too.
Initially they were in shock. They couldn’t believe that it happened. Iconoclast and Adder wanted to strike back, to hit the Jedi Order at their heart. One of them actually suggested storming into the council chambers and slaying them where they stood. Luckily Ziam talked them out of it. He was the level headed one in the whole affair. It was just like the master said, he was the leader amongst us.
Well Ziam laid out our options. He and Lotus decided that they wanted to rebuild the academy but somewhere more remote and with smaller numbers. Motto agreed to go with them. Bacillus decided that he was going to go off with Cadius, his droid that he traveled with, off on some strange quest they’d talked about earlier.
Adder and Iconoclast sat through, listening to everyone making up their mind while they still had their own dead set on revenge. But Iconoclast’s wife put an end to that. After talking it over with his family, he ultimately decided on heading off into the Unknown Regions. That was the last I heard of them. No telling what they found out there.
On the other hand Adder was lost. He was a warrior through and through, and about the only thing he knew how to do was fight. Thus it wasn’t any surprise when he said he was going to help Dokken in his efforts against the Muulag.
I haven’t been out that way in a while, but last time I saw him, he was still out there fighting with the locals. You might be able to find him on Wallonia. Just ask for him by name, they’ll point him out.
Now Praxus was quiet through the whole thing. Nobody really knew what he was thinking. In fact, he was sort of special since he was Skuldren’s personal apprentice. Ziam and Lotus offered to let him join them but he refused. Everyone started clearing out, heading off in their perspective directions until there was only me and him in the room.
Praxus just turned his goggled eyes at me, and said “I have something I have to do, in time, I might contact you.” Then he left. That was it.”
I was so eager to hear how everyone did, to know what happened to them. It was heartbreaking to only get glimpses of what their fates must have been. There were so many questions. “So you returned to Coruscant, to be with Jina. And somehow you hid from the Jedi all these years…”
Xenon cut in, “it wasn’t that hard. Skuldren taught me how to do that Force sever trick, so I simply cut myself off from the Force. The Jedi couldn’t detect me, even if I walked right up and talked to one.”
“Do you ever see the others?” I asked.
“Yeah, from time to time.” For a moment, he was quiet. “Of course Icono and his family disappeared out into the Unknowns, and like I said, Adder is out there in the Katarri Sector. But Bacillus can still be reached, he’s living on some back water world in the Senex Sector, Mussibir II, I think. Sadly Ziam and Lotus died. The Jedi eventually tracked them down and killed them. I think they got Motto too.”
Almost as an afterthought, he added, “and Praxus did come and get me. It was about five years ago. Said things were in the making and he needed something. I was able to help him out.”
He immediately cut me off, “I can’t say anything more about it. Not even if Skuldren were to come back to life. That matter no longer exists, and that’s that. So…is there anything else I can help you with, otherwise I’m going to visit with my friends then be off in a day or so.”
I shook my head then quickly realized that in the dark, the gesture was pointless. “No, I think I have all I need.” Pausing for words, I grappled through my mind, “I wish you luck, the both of you.”
I got up and left the two alone. I didn’t feel like intruding, but I was eager to be off in search of more answers. So far I had two good leads. Adder was on Wallonia, and Bacillus was on Mussibir II. Yet the real prize would be finding Praxus. Maybe the other two might know where to look.
As I waited for my ship’s engines to warm up, I entered the coordinates for Mussibir II. To my reasoning, it made sense to ask the more level headed one first. Besides, Adder was probably knee deep in some war.
* * *
Stay tuned for the next chapter…The Wizard and the Tin Man