Aaellu was a female Human who lived on the world of Farrow in the Unknown Regions during the reign of the Eternal Empire. Born to one of the largest native tribes, the peaceful Yhjanda, Aaellu was banished as a child when her connection to the Force manifested, in accordance with her people's strict beliefs.
Without her tribe to support and protect her, Aaellu was forced to adapt quickly to survive the dangerous wilds of the planet, using her physical skills, natural strength in the Force and the power of the Dark Side to become a master of her new environment. During her exile, she slew a Kell dragon and received a distinctive scar from a Scazz.
Over a decade after her banishment, the outcast was present when a Zakuulan vessel touched down in the wilds. Aaellu followed the group and witnessed the moment they awakened a menagerie of Sithspawn and beame pawns for an ancient spirit. The possessed Zakuulans began a campaign of terror against the local tribes which eventually ended when Aaellu defeated the spirit's host body and destroyed the artefact to which the ancient Sith traitor Darth Taer had bound herself, sending her into Chaos in 20 ATC.
Not long after, with the help of her AI companion Cherek, Aaellu launched the abandoned Zakuulan's vessel and charted a course for a planet known as Coruscant, arriving in the lower levels of the galactic capital a few months before the fall of the Eternal Empire.
She sold her transport to a local ship dealer and spent over a year exploring the strange metal world with Cherek as her guide to the modern galaxy, eventually running foul of the Black Sun gang in 23 ATC, who forced her to flee through the Works to the ruins of the Jedi Temple, where she remained in hiding until a Sith defector – Benjamin Lambert – tracked her down at the request of the SIS Chief Frank Ped, who believed her to be a Jedi.
The two Force users parted ways but were reunited again when Aaellu was running out of money and left Coruscant for Corellia, taking Benjamin up on his offer of assistance to begin living with him and his children – Alucia, 'Little Ben' and Acina Lambert – on Tyrena.
Over the course of 24 ATC, Aaellu began to develop feelings for Benjamin, and though she felt sure those feelings were mutual, she didn't act on them for a considerable length of time as he already had a wife, Darth Aivela. The friends indulged in a drunken night together, but Benjamin put an end to any ideas of a relationship the following morning.
This affair was reignited, however, while the pair were hunting an artefact on Yavin IV, and through an Imperial poacher compound on Hoth, a rescue mission aboard the legendary Gray Secant and witnessing the destruction of a lost star system at the hands of an ancient Gree machine.
With Benjamin and Darth Aivela holding two of the Four Bound Spirits, the Republic assembled an attack group to assist in finally stopping the Dark Lord's sinister schemes. The fleet, led by Master Oteg, engaged the Harrower-class dreadnought of Darth Madré on Jum Tarra, giving Aaellu and Benjamin the opportunity to sneak into the castle Aivela was using via a network of flooded mining tunnels. Aaellu discovered a Lightsaber crystal that bonded with her while navigating the ancient caves.
Aided by Benjamin and Isla Ahnkett, Aaellu confronted Darth Aivela, her apprentice Lord Sera Artofen and a Sithspawn – a winged Kimogila – named Sammatra. Thanks to Isla's intervention, Benjamin was able to kill his estranged wife and retrieve all four of the mysterious ancient artefacts, while Aaellu manipulated Sammatra into severely damaging Darth Madré's flagship before killing the beast, disabling the castle's shield generator in the process and securing a victory for the Republic.
Following the conclusion to the campaign against Darth Aivela and her experimentations, Aaellu and Benjamin – the latter now wielding a collection of immensely powerful artefacts – teleported to Aaellu's homeworld, where Benjamin used the orbs to transform the barren moon of Idlanna into a tropical paradise. At the height of an intimate moment, the orbs activated and fused the couple's minds together temporarily, giving Aaellu access to all of Benjamin's memories – including the wealth of experience in battle he had earned over the decades.
Come first light, Yhjanda will be your tribe no longer, the village, your home no longer. You will be as the beasts; wild and dangerous, prospering or perishing on the strength of your skills alone. You are banished, Aaellu of Yhjanda no longer. Henceforth, you are of Tainted Blood, nameless and shunned by all but the Gods themselves.
—The Shaman of Yhjanda, declaring Aaellu an outcast.
Born in 1 BTC on Farrow, Aaellu was the third eldest of the fifteen children of Kuaem and Shaiilla of the Yhjanda Tribe. Aaellu's life in the tribe was uneventful until she reached six years old, when her strength in the Force became evident through her talent for psychometry. Her ability manifested after her mother handed her her spear to hold, causing the young girl to see memories relating to her mother's past hunts, which she revealed to those present, oblivious to the consequences.
Unfortunately, the Yhjanda tribe had ancient – and strict – rules on the role of Force users in their society, and those rules were not tolerant. According to tribal law any and all Force users were to be exiled from the tribe and the village before the next sunrise, never permitted to return and stripped of the protection of tribal law, meaning members of the tribe could kill them without any repercussions, if they felt so inclined.
Despite her young age, there were no exceptions to the law. Aaellu was given supplies to help her get started in her new life alone in the wilds outside the village and after bidding an emotional farewell to her parents and older brothers, Aaellu departed shortly before dawn, stepping out of the main gate into the deep snow of Farrow's relentless winter. It was known, albeit not said aloud, that Aaellu would not survive, being both so young and being cast out in the middle of the planet's most unforgiving season.
Aaellu was clever, though, and combined with her developing powers and senses – along with her psychometry ability – she was able to evade winter predators and uncover hibernating wildlife, sparing those that hibernated in groups until she found a solitary creature which provided her with not only shelter, but food and warmth as well. Only small, Aaellu could survive for some time on a single kill and, ironically enough, was able to hunt without having to fight thanks to the season.
She simply allowed her senses to guide her to simplistic auras of the creatures hunkered down in the hidden nests and caves buried beneath months of snow, killing her prey with the spear her mother had gifted her on her departure.
Surviving her first winter, Aaellu went on to develop her physical skills and Force powers in the more forgiving seasons, becoming uniquely adapted to her environment and a strong Force adept capable of taking on any of the native predators. She was particularly skilled in powers that related to her surroundings, such as Alter Environment and Consitor Sato, and developed a limited ability to hide her presence to make it harder for both predators and prey to detect her.
Despite her strong bond with the natural world in which she lived, as Aaellu grew up she came to resent her family and her tribe, her loneliness and isolation twisting her view on the people who once meant so much to her and shifting her alignment in the Force. She became what the wider galaxy referred to as a Dark Jedi, though to Aaellu there were no 'sides' to her power; she simply used her anger to motivate and drive herself forward.
Dark or not, Aaellu had mastered her environment within a few short years, becoming feared by some members of her former tribe after she was observed hunting and slaying a Kell dragon single-handedly using her bow and a tamed phillak. Following her victory over the almighty beast Aaellu became smug and overconfident, convinced of her own superiority over her former tribesmen and the creatures of Farrow.
She began to disregard smaller creatures as beneath her skill, leading to her becoming lax with reckless in her hunts. It was when she encountered a lone Scazz that her arrogance was punished. Not taking the small creature seriously, she was caught by surprise when it attacked using an indirect route rather than rushing straight for her, a mistake that nearly cost her an eye.
As luck would have it, the creature's claws fell short of hitting her eye, leaving a painful trio of claw marks that permanently scarred her face. Aaellu was humbled by the experience, taking the lesson to heart and never again underestimating an opponent, beast or otherwise. Although she was infuriated at the time, she quickly came to be thankful, believing the mark on her face was a blessing from the gods.
Final Battle of the Great Hyperspace War
Strangers from the sky...
—Aaellu, on seeing the arrival of Zakuulan forces.
Shortly before the apparent death of Valkorion in 16 ATC, Aaellu – aged 17 – witnessed the arrival of a Zakuulan scout vessel on Farrow. Fascinated but wary, Aaellu chose to observe the group, following their movements from afar and tracking them to the Black Mountain of Kutahhroht, which they ascended without hesitation, the tribal teenager following them up to the summit, where the entrance to the Cursed Steel Caverns – an ancient Sith battleship – was situated.
The entrance was blocked by an impassable gate, the only indicator that there was something beyond it being the small, jagged holes in the metal, through which the wind screamed noisily. The tribes of Farrow believed the caverns were haunted by vengeful spirits due to that very sound, spirits who would unleash devastation on the world if they were disturbed. Regardless, the travellers were unafraid, using strange devices to destroy the door and enter.
Aaellu – tempted by the prospect of defying her old tribe's beliefs and too curious to simply walk away – followed them inside.
Although she couldn't understand their language, she quickly deduced they were searching for something. Their search ended when they reached the bridge, however, as the group tripped a security system, powered by the still-active secondary reactor. That security system reactivated the ship's main reactor, restoring power to the ship and unlocking the containment systems in what – unbeknownst to Aaellu – was an ancient Sith lab dating back to the Great Hyperspace War.
This activity also disturbed a dormant Sith spirit who did something to the Zakuulans, causing them to shriek in pain without any sign of what was causing them such distress.
Finally listening to her instincts, Aaellu decided it was time to make a hasty retreat from the caverns, rushing past hundreds of unfamiliar creatures that were groggily recovering from their lengthy imprisonment. Restoring power to the ship had unlocked the main doors and activated strange walls of light that blocked off the corridors Aaellu and the strangers had used to navigate the cavern's interior, forcing Aaellu to find a new path out.
In doing so, she came across a chamber housing an ornately decorated metal rod that radiated Force energy, enticing Aaellu enough that she decided to steal it before making her exit. When she did, she was temporarily gripped by visions of the rod in use millennia earlier, a shadowy figure wielding it to tame the same monstrosities she'd passed on her way out of the ship.
Confused, frightened and overwhelmed, Aaellu fled, deciding to ruminate on the mysterious vision somewhere safer.
—Aaellu, to the Command Rod, while trying to control a phillak.
Shortly after her exploration of the Cursed Steel Cavern, Aaellu left Yhjanda territory, making the lengthy journey west to trade with one of the more open-minded tribes, stocking up on supplies for the coming winter and not thinking any further on the strangers from the sky. That would change on her return several months later in 20 ATC, at which time she found her home had changed.
Alien beasts roamed the once peaceful lands, eviscerating the local species and causing a dramatic and unsustainable shift in the ecosystem. Her old tribe had been suffering immensely under the assaults of the new creatures, their bows and spears proving almost completely useless against the much more lethal additions to the food chain. Visible changes to the landscape were also present, the creatures having cleared out large swaths of trees to prepare space for their sinister nests and the aliens eggs they spawned.
Aaellu met the aggressive arrival of the beasts with her an unyielding hostility of her own, burning the nests wherever she found them and pushing her skills to the limit against the creators' of the nests. She discovered almost immediately that the creatures were faster, stronger and had much thicker hides than the native animals, shaping Aaellu's develop as she was forced to instinctively develop her Force powers to overcome the specific challenges presented by the monstrosities, which led to her gaining an understanding of how to imbue her weapons with the Force.
During a particularly fierce storm three weeks after her return, Aaellu was caught out in the open and was forced to take shelter in a small cave that reached into the hillside. At the rear of the cave was a metal structure, similar to the material the Black Mountain was made of, and one which Aaellu was familiar with. Now, however, the structure had changed, shifting from an impassable wall to a small chamber, though she found nothing of interest inside.
Taking shelter for the night, Aaellu was awoken a few hours later when a monstrous lizard clambered in through the opening, not noticing her at first. When she fired an arrow, however, the creature spotted her, though the arrow bounced harmlessly off its hide. Aaellu was forced to dive out of the monster's path as it charged, scrambling desperately to get out of the cave and into the open, where the storm continued to rage.
She quickly realised the creature was too fast for her to outrun and climbed the nearest tree, loosing several ineffective arrows down on her foe. Worryingly, the beast was intelligent, chomping through the tree to bring it down when it became clear it couldn't climb after her.
Aaellu reached for her spear – strapped to her back – and thrust it towards the creature as it moved to kill her, realising too late that it was the strange rod she'd taken from the Cursed Steel Caverns, not her weapon. Nonetheless, the rod worked, albeit in a way Aaellu hadn't anticipated.
On seeing the rod, the creature slowed to a halt, doing nothing and allowing Aaellu to take the sharp end of the rod and fatally wound the beast without any resistance, running her weapon through its eye socket.
The following morning, Aaellu sought out a herd of the native phillak to test the rod, practising for several hours before – incredibly irritated by her repeated failures – her anger was enough to activate the device and seize the mind of one of the creatures, causing the others to scatter in panic, sensing something was wrong.
Experimenting with the rod, Aaellu learned that the rod could be used to control the minds of animals, creating a powerful telepathic link between the rod and the targeted creature. The wielder of the rod could then relay telepathic commands of their own, allowing them to control their target using the energy of the rod, rather than depleting their own.
Her use of the rod had the side effect of giving her a unique insight into how the Force flowed through animals, via the connection that was formed between the rod and the phillak, allowing her to hone and ultimately master her ability to connect with animals through the Force.
Give us the rod!
—A possessed Knight of Zakuul, to Aaellu.
Unbeknownst to Aaellu, the Zakuulan forces she'd last seen in the Cursed Steel Caverns were actively trying to find her, tracking the power signature given out by the artefact. A method that became increasingly effective the more proficient she became with the rod.
Eventually, she was located and attacked and unsuccessfully attempted to use the rod to take over their minds. When her spear was cut in half by the unfamiliar weapons the strangers wielded, Aaellu was forced to run.
She spent the weeks that followed trying to stay ahead of her pursuers, many of whom were tribesmen and women who had pledged themselves to the new arrivals. Through them, she learned that the Zakuulans were avatars of a vengeful goddess, Darth Taer, and had begun sacking the villages to gather recruits to serve in her cult – along with sacrifices.
Those sacrifices were to be offered to Taer on the Black Mountain of Kutahhroht as fuel for her resurrection, after which she would ascend to the stars to consume the benevolent gods worshipped by the people of Farrow. Once successful, her followers believed she would usher in a new age, and that they would be rewarded for their role in her ascension.
To combat the threat to her home and the deities she revered, Aaellu started exploring sites where the strange metal structures could be found, hoping they – like the others – would be open now that the Cursed Steel Caverns had been disturbed. Initially, she found little she could use, mostly uncovering scraps of illegible information from computer terminals she didn't know how to use until she encountered Cherek, an AI unit installed in a piece of one of the many fallen ships littering Farrow's surface.
Using what was left of the fragmented ship's systems, Cherek had been scanning the area as its programming dictated, detecting an unfamiliar language and recording it for translation before assembling a distress message that the natives could understand – if they had the technology to receive it.
Through the ship's speakers, Cherek communicated with Aaellu in her own tongue, exchanging information. Through her, it concluded that its Sith masters were dead, and in return Aaellu learned that the Black Mountain was actually a Derriphan-class battleship, and the various ships on Farrow were part of a small Sith research fleet that had deserted rather than face defeat during the Great Hyperspace War. She also learned of the Sith as a culture, as well as the Jedi and the Galactic Republic, discovering that there were thousands of other worlds beyond the stars.
Cherek learned that the Sith defectors were gone, aside from Darth Taer, who Cherek knew – from the ship's automated systems – had to have died centuries ago. With no superiors to receive orders from, Cherek had no objectives, but was compelled by its programming to protect itself from deactivation or destruction. Cherek asked if Aaellu would save it if it guided her through the process of downloading its software onto a portable disk, and she agreed on the condition Cherek would help her stop Darth Taer from destroying her world.
Programmed to serve living Sith, not dead ones, and knowing she was a descendant of the Sith of old, Cherek found her condition acceptable – that same day, it led her to a portion of the ship that'd broken up during the crash, helping her to find and repair a prototype bowcaster that fired concentrated electrical shots of incredible – and unstable – power.
Sadly, Cherek had to be inserted into a working terminal for Aaellu to speak with it, making their partnership somewhat impractical. To mitigate that issue, Cherek suggested killing and robbing the Knights of Zakuul serving Darth Taer, believing they could use their equipment to build a makeshift, portable system that Cherek could plug into to communicate with her on the go.
Using the rod as bait – which Cherek confirmed couldn't affect sentient minds – Aaellu prepared an ambush, using Cortosis samples stored on another fallen vessel to disable the enemies' lightsabers. Without their technological edge, Aaellu was able to use the local creatures to massacre the Zakuulans, stripping their technology and – through Cherek's instruction – fashioned a system that they integrated into the helmet taken from the leader of the group.
Two weeks later, with Cherek able to see and hear everything Aaellu saw and heard (as well as being able to communicate with her via a speaker inside the helmet), the team agreed it was time to act before Taer could accomplish whatever her plans truly were. To that end, Aaellu gathered up her gear and rode a phillak towards the Black Mountain of Kutahhroht, lacking the cultural knowledge to be nervous about facing someone possessing the title of 'Darth'.
The Last Death of Darth Taer
You will die here, if you resist, and for what? Pride? I've no interest in you or this meaningless world, so just give me what's mine, let me finish my work and then... I'll leave you and the planet in one piece."
"You do not tell me what to do!
—Darth Taer and Aaellu, via Cherek.
Aaellu scaled the Black Mountain to reach the Cursed Steel Cavern, sneaking past the bulk of Taer's cult members and dispatching those she couldn't avoid, having to kill two members of her own tribe before she reached the bridge, where Darth Taer waited, possessing the body of the last of the Zakuulan Knights.
Through Cherek, Aaellu was able to speak her native tongue while her companion spoke the Basic translation through the vocabulator in its helmet housing. Darth Taer told Aaellu she was impressed that someone from such a primitive background could provide such worthy opposition, offering her the position of her apprentice, if she wanted it, though admitted she wasn't surprised when Aaellu said no.
Impressed though she was, Taer refused to abandon her plans and demanded that Aaellu hand over the Command Rod, or she'd take it by force. Aaellu responded with a simple 'no', opening fire with her bowcaster, which Taer blocked easily. At Cherek's suggestion, Aaellu fled as Taer started to close in with her host's lightsaber pike in-hand, jumping into a turbolift shaft and quickly climbing upwards, towards the top of the ship.
Cherek had sliced the ship's computer systems remotely to download a floor plan and damage report for the downed vessel, allowing it to map out a series of potential routes and guide Aaellu out of the ship through a fracture in the hull, directing her onto the very top of the fallen battleship where a storm was raging, uncharacteristic for the time of year.
Darth Taer followed, believing she had Aaellu cornered on the 'summit' of the Black Mountain. Aaellu, however, had planned to lure Taer out into the storm from the start. Using her ability to control her environment, she attracted the electrical discharges of the storm towards her, using her bowcaster and the energy-absorbing battery that made it so unique as a lightning rod. The casing of the bowcaster was built to prevent electricity from passing through it and into the wielder, while the battery was capable of holding the immense power brought into play by the storm, supercharging the prototype well beyond its tested limits.
As the weapon began to tremble with unstable power, Aaellu lowered the weapon and aimed it. Darth Taer, realising she no longer held the winning hand, rushed to strike Aaellu before she could fire, almost reaching her before the tribeswoman could line up a shot with the weapon, violently vibrating in her grasp.
But up close, the shot was easier to make, and before Taer could land her blow Aaellu pressed the trigger, releasing an atomising bolt of unstoppable electrical energy that disintegrated Taer's host completely, forcibly ejecting her spirit. Aaellu was also hurt by the blast, the force from the shot breaking her arm, burning her fingers, cracking her ribs and projecting her along the length of the hull.
Aaellu almost slid off the rain-slick warship, but saved herself with a grappling hook fired from the makeshift launcher fixed to her wrist, commenting that Cherek – who had helped her fashion the launchers – had saved her life again, to which he pointed out that it was in his best interests to keep her alive. He also explained that – now that Taer was defeated – he had important information from Taer's personal logs, explaining that among the journals concerning her many alchemical experiments were files concerning the Command Rod she'd wanted back so badly.
According to Cherek, Taer had placed a spell on the rod, binding her spirit to the device so that as long as the artefact persisted, so would her essence. Though he admitted the ways of the Force were beyond his comprehension, he had information in his memory banks from the Great Hyperspace War that confirmed the inexplicable power was real, unlikely as it seemed to the AI. Thus, he advised that she destroy the rod, ensuring Taer could never harm her people again.
Reluctant to give up her favourite toy, Aaellu nonetheless agreed with his assessment, determined to eradicate the Sith – for whom she'd developed a unique hatred – from her world. Before leaving, Cherek helped her sabotage the primary reactor, setting off an evacuation alarm so the cultists fled in fear before the detonation split the ship apart, destroying the Black Mountain and ensuring any remaining horrors were killed before the naive cult members woke them up.
Once the deed was done and Aaellu left, she sought out the Zakuulan vessel, abandoned by the explorers after they'd been commandeered by Darth Taer. For two weeks, Aaellu was tutored by Cherek to learn how to pilot a starship in and out of a planet's atmosphere, eventually using the salvaged vessel to travel to a volcano several hundred miles east. She bid farewell to the phillak mount that had served her so well in her fight against Taer, wishing it well before setting off for the volcano, where she set the ship to hover over the crater.
Taking one final look at the one of a kind artefact that'd helped her learn so much, Aaellu closed her eyes and dropped the rod from the boarding ramp, noticing afterwards that she 'felt' that Darth Taer was dead when the rod sank beneath the lava, unlike when she'd fired the killing shot on the Black Mountain.
Content she'd done all she could and eager to escape her exile and seek out challenges amongst the stars, Aaellu left Farrow's atmosphere and set course for Coruscant, determined to seek out the enemies of her ancient ancestors in the hopes of joining them in and lending her skills to hunt down any other Sith who might one day dare to threaten her home.
Relocation to Coruscant
Such strange... trees? Or... are they mountains?"
"No, they're buildings. Houses, businesses, warehouses. Like the huts in your village, but far larger.
—Aaellu and Cherek, regarding the towering structures on Coruscant.
With Cherek's help, Aaellu managed to fly the Zakuulan vessel to Coruscant and descend to the lower levels to land, avoiding the scrutiny of the more rigorous security on the surface, per Cherek's recommendation. The AI had, obviously, never visited the Republic capital, but knew enough about it from the time of the Great Hyperspace War to advise Aaellu on what she could do to avoid trouble. Initially, she needed to pay the docking fee, trading items found aboard the ship to cover the costs. Her next objective was to find a buyer for her ship, since without credits she would be unable to eat.
Aaellu argued that she could hunt her food, and wouldn't need to trade, but Cherek explained that there was no wildlife on Coruscant, a revelation Aaellu found incredibly upsetting. Nonetheless, she was quick to adapt, using Cherek's language and social skills to find a second hand ship dealer who was willing to purchase her stolen transport, supposedly offering her a better deal than he normally would, since a Zakuulan ship was worth a lot more than any other while the Eternal Empire was occupying the galaxy.
Cherek guided her through the process, making sure she was given the agreed amount while checking the currency for any sign it might be counterfeit, though the dealer seemed to be honest enough. With a small fortune tucked away in her rags, she was free to explore the largest city in the galaxy, with Cherek teaching her the dos and don'ts of galactic society. Aaellu spent the next three years on Coruscant, growing increasingly accustomed to the oddities of the modern world, aside from an incident where she was arrested for climbing one of the towers on the surface in 21 ATC.
Unfortunately for the primitive explorer, in 22 ATC she made the mistake of crossing the Black Sun gang and was forced to go on the run, hiding out in the works, although she enjoyed being able to hunt again, finding the area filled with Cthons who were consistently hostile.
In 23 ATC, Aaellu was tracked down by the Black Sun, assisted by a man who seemed to be a Jedi Knight. Realising they were going to find her, she decided to keep moving through the works to try and lose them, eventually emerging in the ruins of the Jedi Temple and hiding there when she realised her pursuers were keeping up. When they did arrive, Aaellu sensed the Jedi searching for her and prepared herself for a fight, only for the Jedi and his companions to turn on the Black Sun gangsters, killing them all.
With her pursuers dead, Aaellu was hopeful but confused, choosing to remain in hiding to be safe. The Jedi, however, clearly wanted to speak, and when he didn't leave Aaellu finally decided to accept his offer of conversation, even though Cherek advised against it.
The Jedi introduced himself as Benjamin Lambert, and his alien companions as Cerys Odé and Damascus Lambert. He explained that he was looking for lost Jedi on behalf of the Republic Strategic Information Service, yet now that he'd located Aaellu he realised the rumours of her being a Jedi were wrong, sensing the Dark Side, though he speculated aloud that she'd never been a Jedi, fallen or otherwise.
She asked him what he wanted with Jedi, to which he explained that the man who sent him was interested in finding Jedi separate from the Jedi Order and bringing them back to the Republic so they could help in the war against the Sith. Aaellu asked why he didn't know where his fellow Jedi were, if he was a Jedi, but Benjamin explained that he wasn't a Jedi; he'd been a Sith – known as Darth Enigmus – but had defected from the Empire to help the Republic, and was now neither a Jedi nor a Sith, much like herself.
When she questioned if he intended to stop her – Aaellu being aware that Jedi policed other Force users – he was confused as to why she thought that, since he wasn't a Jedi and how she used the Force was – as far as he was concerned – her own business. In fact, Benjamin offered to help her, with Cerys tending to a cut on her arm while the Sith-turned-non-Jedi helped teach her to refine her ability to hide her presence, spending an hour walking her through the technique until she understood the difference between going unnoticed by animals, hiding from Force users who could actively sense other beings and tricking others into sensing what she wanted them to sense.
Before leaving, Benjamin gave Aaellu his contact details, and though she'd never had any cause to buy a comm of her own she understood what they were used for. He told her that if she ever needed help she should give him a call, as he was keen on helping Force users outside of the main religious groups, believed both the Jedi and Sith contributed little beyond endless war.
Aaellu and the trio parted ways amicably, with the Black Sun losing track of Aaellu thanks to the unexpected turn of events. Unbeknownst to Aaellu, the meeting with Benjamin in the temple ruins was an event which would have a dramatic impact on her future.
A Helping Hand
Welcome to the tourist hotspot of Corellia.
—Benjamin, to Aaellu, regarding Tyrena.
Thanks to Lambert's intervention – and his betrayal of the Black Sun – Aaellu was given some space to breathe, the gangsters not bothering to seek her out again while she was on Coruscant, though she maintained a low profile and stayed clear of their territory all the same.
Despite that boon, years of living exclusively on the money made from the sale of her ship – along with the cost of replacement parts for her bowcaster, grappling launchers and the occasional success of local pickpockets – was gradually depleting her available funds. Cherek informed her that, based on its calculations, Aaellu would run out of credits within a year if she didn't find a regular source of income.
With no ID, no experience and with her Basic still a little rusty, Aaellu decided she would need help to find a more sustainable lifestyle. Though reluctant, a few months after her encounter with Benjamin, she decided to invest in a comlink and use it to contact the former Sith and ask him for help. By the time she made the call, Lambert was living on Corellia in the waterside city of Tyrena with his children, and although he wasn't able to travel at the time he invited her to join him on Corellia, if she didn't want to wait for a pick up.
Because of her background, Aaellu was eager to retain her independence as much as possible, travelling to Corellia on her own using public transportation. Benjamin met her at the spaceport, welcoming her to the city famous far and wide for its Gold Beaches, though he jokingly commented that Aaellu didn't strike him as the kind of woman who enjoyed sunbathing. Cautious at first, Aaellu mostly listened, allowing Lambert to talk about the city and the attack that took place on Corellia during the war, along with the newly constructed Meridian Complex, which he seemed to be impressed with.
Eventually the pair arrived at the apartment building Lambert lived in – Tyrena Heights – and took the turbolift to the top floor, where they were greeted by his son and daughters, Ben, Alucia and Acina Lambert. Aaellu also learned that Benjamin was married when he explained that his son had been named by his wife when he was missing for a while and that he wasn't a narcissist as it may have seemed. He explained that his wife was working 'elsewhere' for the foreseeable future.
Ben, known as Little Ben in the family, warmed up to Aaellu immediately, greeting her with an enthusiastic hug, and Acina – though very young – seemed to like her too. However, Alucia, quieter and more reserved, was distant, both in body language and in the Force, even voicing her opinion that Aaellu was 'smelly', a not entirely baseless accusation due to her primitive approach to hygiene.
Irrespective of Alucia's immediate distrust, Benjamin assured her that her trust issues stemmed from preexisting trauma and said Aaellu was welcome to stay in the apartment as long as she needed, clarifying that she would be sleeping on the sofa, as they didn't have a spare bedroom.
Over the next few months, Aaellu received additional training from Lambert, primarily in meditation and channelling methods to improve her efficiency and effectiveness when using the Force. In exchange, she offered to 'protect' his children whenever he needed to work away from home, becoming their warrior-babysitter. In time, Aaellu actually began to grow fond of the children, even Alucia, who remained distant and wary of her until the attack on the Meridian Complex.
Visiting Coronet at the time of the attack, Aaellu was with the children when the attack began, becoming separated during the chaos caused by the peripheral damage from the attacking fleet. While trying to find each other, both Aaellu and the kids encountered Imperial soldiers whose shuttles had been shot down before they reached the facility.
Thankfully, due to their father's training, Alucia and Ben were able to evade the troops with the help of the family's pet Nexu Quill. Thrust into another dangerous situation, a fearful Alucia reached out through the Force for her father, allowing Aaellu to sense her and reach back, assuring her help was on the way and ultimately finding and reuniting with the trio, saving them from the Imperial soldiers who were firing on them and preventing the troops from reaching the battle taking place at the Meridian Complex. They escaped the fighting and reached a safe area, where Benjamin eventually found them, thanking Aaellu for protecting his children.
Even though the day had been a nerve-wracking and unpleasant experience, there was a silver lining; Alucia began to trust Aaellu, admitting that she was scared Aaellu was there to replace her absent mother. A fear Aaellu was quick to dismiss as pointless, as a person could only have one mother.
This was a mistake.
—Benjamin, to Aaellu.
Over the course of 24 ATC, Aaellu began to develop stronger feelings for her mentor. Though she felt sure her feelings were reciprocated, she didn't express them openly out of respect for Benjamin's commitment to his wife, the tribes of Farrow having social rituals similar to marriage that were seen as sacred. Aaellu resented the situation, though, believing that as his wife was actively serving the Sith, she didn't deserve Benjamin's affection.
It was only in 26 ATC when Benjamin worriedly confided in Aaellu regarding his concerns about his wife – Darth Aivela – and her increasingly unethical experiments into fusing Sith alchemy and technology to create a new breed of Sithspawn that Aaellu's desire overruled her moral compass. Not knowing what to say to cheer him up, she suggested they hunt criminals in the local area to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Tyrena, an idea Benjamin agreed would help distract him for a few hours.
By this time, Benjamin had hired his wife's half-sister, the aspiring young journalist Sarna Ordina, as a babysitter, primarily to free him up to train Aaellu properly. As such, they were free to depart for the evening, walking through the rougher areas to attract thugs and gangsters who would see them as easy pickings.
The pair were – as intended – targeted by muggers and violent brutes who were prowling the alleyways looking for trouble, recording the confrontations so that the local police could arrest them after Benjamin and Aaellu had subdued them, the former Darth insisting that they avoided killing them to maintain a low profile and avoid the authorities taking too much of an interest in their efforts. Benjamin had, briefly, been accepted as a Jedi Padawan under a Green Jedi, but said Jedi had disappeared without explanation, leaving Benjamin to learn Jedi techniques via alternate means.
Sadly, that placed him in something of a legal grey area – Jedi were generally allowed to dispatch criminals and move around freely without the same expectations an ordinary citizen had to deal with, and though Benjamin looked and acted like a Jedi, his official status was unclear and, thus, he preferred not to make too much noise, much as he seemed sure his on-off employer in the SIS would bail him out of any trouble with the law.
Regardless, he believed that the criminals didn't deserve to die – not in this instance at least – and could turn their lives around if they were scared enough to experience an epiphany, claiming that he knew criminals who were good people, when it mattered most. Obviously, Aaellu was keen to impress him, so reigned in her own black-and-white view on the situation, ensuring she fired only low-power shots to incapacitate rather than just kill.
After an hour or so of empty streets, the pair decided to give up the hunt, retiring to one of the city's many bars to wind down for the evening. They drank for a couple of hours, singing along to the music playing at the bar as they became increasingly drunk. By the end of the evening the pair had roused most of the bar's patrons into song, leaving to a cheerful chorus and in good spirits themselves.
Outside the bar, while Benjamin was trying to find his comm to call a cab, Aaellu – unused to drinking – ambushed him with a kiss, catching him by surprise; yet her romantic assault wasn't rebuffed as she'd feared it might be. Awkwardly commenting that they should probably just walk back home, since it was late, Benjamin was quiet for the remainder of the journey. Aaellu, in contrast, was inspired, the fact that her kiss was returned encouraging her to press the issue while it was on their minds.
Once they were home and Benjamin tried to bid her goodnight, she kissed him again, slowly this time, giving him a chance to object. He didn't, however, and things escalated from there, teacher and student sleeping together despite Benjamin's marital vows. Before they fell asleep, he stated outright that they shouldn't have acted on their feelings, to which Aaellu responded by saying she had no regrets.
The following morning, Aaellu accompanied Benjamin on his daily trip to Coronet, to a restaurant where he always ate breakfast. They discussed what had happened, and in the cold light of day Benjamin insisted it was a mistake and neither of them were in their right minds. Though he didn't blame her – and readily confessed his own feelings – he told Aaellu of the guilt he felt at betraying his wife, despite her own moral decline. Additionally, he apologised, pointing out that he was her mentor, her teacher, and exploiting that relationship was morally wrong, made even more questionable by the sizeable age gap between them.
Aaellu disagreed, strongly, and Benjamin's constant insistence that what he did was wrong upset her immensely, as she held a much more romantic view of the events of the night before. Benjamin's insistence frustrated her enough that she angrily stormed out, walking around Axial Park for the rest of the day as she tried to plan a way to sway him.
During their argument, Benjamin had mentioned their 'cultural differences' as one of the reasons their relationship should remain as it was the day before. Unable to change to age gap, Aaellu – undeterred – decided she would embrace his culture in an attempt to woo him. To do that, she asked Alucia to help her shop for fashionable clothing that would let her pass as a regular, Core Worlds civilian, not mentioning that her sudden interest was in pursuit of her father. Given Alucia's previous concerns about Aaellu's role in her family, the displaced tribeswoman couldn't fail to spot the irony.
With a little additional help from the HoloNet, Aaellu adopted the common grooming habits of most modern women, started wearing modern clothing and learned to apply makeup, certain she would win Benjamin over by changing to accommodate his preferences. Since both Benjamin and Aaellu had avoided each other the day after their spat, he hadn't seen her new look when he sent her a message inviting her to join him on a trip to Coruscant, where he was to report in to his handler, Frank Ped, who had finally received approval and funding for a special project that he wanted Benjamin to lead.
Letting him know to fly the ship to the apartment balcony to pick her up, Aaellu boarded the Little Sparrow with a renewed sense of excited optimism.
Competition on Yavin IV
What the hell was that about? You do know what would've happened if you'd attacked those Sith don't you?"
"I would have got the orb!
—Benjamin and Aaellu.
Benjamin made a point of not commenting on Aaellu's drastic change in appearance, filling the time it took to reach Coruscant with idle chatter about Project Petrichor, Frank's new initiative. When they arrived and reported to the Senate tower, Frank provided even more details about the project, explaining that he'd recruited Force sensitives who were pro-Republic, but not aligned with the Jedi, to work as flexible operatives for a variety of assignments.
Aaellu met the two newest additions, Isla Ahnkett and Zhavi Waverunner, who were present for the opening briefing that would officially kick off the project. Zhavi and Isla were sent to rendezvous with another member of the project on Corulag, while Benjamin and Aaellu would be following up on a lead on an archaeological site on Yavin IV, far from the documented sites such as the Great Temple and the Temple of Sacrifice.
They had reason to believe that the site contained an artefact of similar origin to one Benjamin had recovered two years prior on the unremarkable jungle world Dronim Major. That artefact was incredibly powerful, seemingly capable of generating limitless amounts of energy and, as such, could not be allowed to fall into the hands of the Sith Empire.
The pair wasted no time setting off for Yavin IV, but for Aaellu, there were more pressing issues looming than some ancient relic. En route, she argued with Benjamin, asking if he planned to ignore her forever. He tried to dismiss her complaint, saying it wasn't a good time to discuss it, but she wasn't familiar with or interested in the concept of professionalism. By the time they arrived, they were still arguing. Immediately after setting the ship down atop a ruin stood in a jungle clearing, Aaellu marched off the ship in a huff.
Little did they know, however, that the Empire had reached the ruins first; not long after landing, the stone platform the Little Sparrow rested upon was destroyed from below when several detonation packs were set off in unison, dropping the ship – and Benjamin, still aboard – down into the buried temple interior. Thankfully, being inside the ship meant Benjamin was unharmed, and when he answered his comm he instructed Aaellu to continue on while he looked for a way out of the ruins, although he stressed that she shouldn't engage until he'd caught up with her.
Aaellu had other ideas.
Charging ahead to find the main temple before Benjamin, Aaellu – armed with Lexi's old lightsaber – encountered a rage rancor, which – thanks to her familiarity with beasts both big and small – she defeated without too much difficulty before proceeding, finding the entrance to the underground temple; guarded by Tavion Wyntoq, a Rattataki Sith apprentice. Thanks to Benjamin's training, combined with her advanced environmental control abilities, Aaellu was able to outperform her opponent, severing her hand before stabbing her in the chest to kill her.
The entrance to the temple led Aaellu out to the cliff face overlooking the ocean, where she found a scrap of torn fabric from someone's clothes. Touching it, she saw the Sith who'd arrived before them moving around the cliff and rappelling down to a platform below. Following their footsteps, Aaellu descended just as the Imperials had, finding a small entrance built into the rock face which led her into a series of tunnels. Those tunnels brought her out onto a rocky spire she'd seen from the cliff, just off the coast.
She followed the path around the stone island until she reached the entrance – the true entrance – to the temple, venturing inside and catching up with the Sith party – led by Sera Artofen – in the main chamber. Ignoring the fact that she was outnumbered four to one by the Sith alone, Aaellu was preparing to rush them and steal the artefact until Benjamin – hiding his presence once he'd realised she was trying to complete the assignment solo – caught up with her and talked her into leaving with him, saying they were too late and couldn't hope to defeat the Sith and their troops.
Fleeing as the Sith noticed their presence, the duo took an alternate route back to the ship to avoid the Sith finding them, jumping into the ocean and swimming for shore. When an Imperial vessel descended to the island after they'd escaped, the pair relaxed, confident that the Sith were not interested in pursuing them, giving Benjamin time to scold Aaellu for her recklessness.
Aaellu retorted that she could have recovered the artefact, but the argument rapidly broke down to unveil the true cause of the tension between the two. Benjamin admitted to being frightened when he'd worked out Aaellu was trying to get to the artefact before him, and said that while he felt an intimate relationship was the wrong path for them, he still cared, deeply, for her.
She echoed the sentiment, using a clumsily phrased metaphor about how love was like gravity, drawing those who felt it together, yet pointed out that he'd not seen his wife in years. Aaellu boldly stated that Benjamin did not love her, not anymore, and likewise, Lexi didn't love him either, or they would have been drawn back to one another before now.
He rejected the idea, halfheartedly, and Aaellu told him she wanted him to be happy instead of waiting for a woman who wasn't coming, which he could be with her. Benjamin, clearly struggling to reconcile what he wanted and what he thought was the right thing, said that she might have a point and that maybe they could see where things went, but that she needed to stop trying to impress him or she'd end up getting hurt or killed.
Additionally, he pointed out that as nice as her new look was, he liked her as she'd always been, being herself, unconcerned with what other people thought of her. He didn't want her to be like everyone else.
The pair kissed, though they didn't linger long once their argument died down, Benjamin knowing from experience that Yavin IV was filled with vicious wildlife, wildlife that was probably far more active in the dead of night. Tired, soaked, but in better spirits, the couple made their way back to the ship, waiting till morning to use the Force to raise their fallen vessel and depart the jungle moon.
"There was nothing you could do.
—Benjamin and Aaellu, regarding the murder of Cerys Odé.
In spite of their failure on Yavin IV, Frank was optimistic, highlighting the fact that the intelligence pointing them to the temple came from intercepted Sith transmissions, so it was always a likely possibility the Sith would reach the temple ruins before them.
He was keen to press on and focus on winning the next round rather than regretting past failures, the presence of Sera Artofen on Yavin IV confirming that her master and Benjamin's wife, Darth Aivela, was after the artefacts and allowing Frank to identify potential leads more easily by keeping an eye on her known allies and associates, who were few in number.
One such lead was a small, isolated operation on Hoth, led by Attrice Vhenn who was, like the late Tavion Wyntoq, an apprentice of Lord Dratine Rhonjenvyn, who was, in turn, known to have met with Darth Aivela several times over the last two years, suggesting they were working together.
The Imperial presence in that particular area was fairly new but due to the limited resources in play on Hoth the Republic hadn't been able to establish the nature of the operation yet, although there was regular ship traffic which suggested something was being moved to or from the planet. Aaellu and Benjamin had the simple task of finding the operation, shutting it down and recovering any intelligence they could find.
Cerys Odé, Benjamin's Twi'lek friend and his pilot during his time as a Sith and beyond, joined the pair when they departed Coruscant, wanting to get off-world and back in the pilot's seat for a while. She remained aboard the ship at the orbital station while Benjamin and Aaellu descended to Aurek Base on the surface.
Using local transportation for as long as they could, the pair were eventually forced to continue on foot, ignoring warnings of an incoming blizzard. Aaellu promised she could get them through it, which Benjamin conceded would cover their approach nicely. Naturally, once they were away from the well-travelled paths Republic forces used daily, they began to notice the wildlife was more abundant, spotting a pack of pantran whitefang watching them from afar.
Initially, Benjamin wondered why they weren't attacking, since they were clearly interested in them. Aaellu explained that they didn't want to compete with the pair of larger creatures that had been following them for the past mile, surprising and impressing Benjamin, who hadn't sensed them while focusing on resisting the effects of the weather. Once they reached a narrow pass of ice, where the wind was blocked and the visibility was better, they waited for the creatures to catch up.
Two towering wampas stomped into the pass after them, at which point Aaellu reached out with the Force, forging a strong connection with the predators through which she calmed and befriended both of them at once, conscripting them as bodyguards and fascinating Benjamin with the ease at which she managed it.
Reinforced, Aaellu and Benjamin eventually reached an isolated volcanic region where it became clear the Empire was exporting wildlife samples – likely for experimentation. As reported, it was a small operation, and with the blizzard raging around them activity was suspended until the conditions improved. Sensing their arrival through the Force, the woman in charge, the Sith Pureblood Attrice Vhenn, raised the alarm.
Aaellu moved to deal with the soldiers as they left the shelters and prepared to attack, and despite Benjamin's concerns she asked him to trust her, encouraging him to let her fight without him while he engaged Attrice, duelling her above one the lava rivers flowing from the central volcano. The Pureblood was bested easily, being only an apprentice, while Aaellu was able to use her wampa companions to divide the Imperial troops, forcing those that weren't killed to retreat with their wounded, disappearing into the blizzard.
Together, the Force adepts broke open the cages trapping the wampas and whitefangs, tossing the cages, ships and equipment into the lava before demolishing the shelters, ensuring that any attempt to restart the operation would be costly. Regrettably, though, they didn't find any data they could use to identify or undermine Aivela's other projects.
With the blizzard not showing any signs of abating, the pair used knowledge Aaellu gleamed from her connection to the wampas to find a concealed cave, taking shelter for the night while their hulking, furry guardians watched the entrance.
The pair slept together again, though this time Aaellu surprised Benjamin by performing the Yhjanda Fertility Chant, a customary ritual chant that the Yhjanda tribe believed increased the chances of conception. What Aaellu didn't know, however, was that the chant was a throwback to the days when the Sith – dwindling in numbers – ruled Farrow and was, in fact, a form of Sith magic. This magic worked with the alchemically altered biology of the Humans of Farrow, increasing their already high fertility rates, though the chant only had an effect when recited by a Force user – and it only affected those who could trace their lineage back to the Sith traitors of Farrow.
Benjamin, sceptical that the chant was anything other than a tribal custom, said nothing, though did question why she would want children so soon. Aaellu explained that on Farrow having large families increased social prestige, as the more a pairing propagated their bloodline the more they would – through their children – be providing for the tribe, long term.
Regardless of his opinion, Benjamin didn't object, and by the morning he'd forgotten all about the chant and was focused on their trek back to Republic territory. On the journey back along the Republic supply line leading to Aurek Base, Benjamin received a call. To the couple's surprise, the caller was a Sith Lord, Dratine Rhonjenvyn, and she appeared on the other end of the line alongside a badly beaten Cerys.
Taunting him and telling him that he made a mistake taking Tavion – the apprentice Aaellu killed on Yavin IV – from her, Dratine executed Cerys over the comm in cold blood, using the Force to drain her life energy, promising that she was just the first victim of Dratine's wrath.
By the time they got back to the orbital station, a crowd had gathered around a security cordon. Benjamin and Aaellu's SIS clearance got them through, where the former Darth was horrified to find Cerys' body, mummified by the effects of the draining effects of the Dark Side.
Benjamin carried her to the ship, ignoring the protests of the security personnel who wanted to preserve the crime scene, and then departed Hoth, returning with a heavy heart to Coruscant.
Exploring the Gray Secant
We will reach the Sith Lord. She will feel suffering for this."
"I know, Aae, I know. Just wish I didn't have to avenge her at all. I was just a kid when we first met... she didn't deserve to go out like this.
—Aaellu and Benjamin, at Cerys' funeral.
Cerys had left her home world decades earlier and never returned, but Benjamin couldn't think of anywhere else to hold the lifelong spacer's funeral other than Ryloth. Gathering her close friends – even managing to reach her husband, Darsun Odé, in the Empire – for the ceremony, a location was chosen just outside Cerys now-abandoned family home, with a local man leading the service.
Though heartbroken, Benjamin kept his emotions in check, and after the funeral Darsun helped cheer up Alucia and Little Ben, who were taking the loss of their 'auntie Cerys' hard. Darsun also apologised to Benjamin, saying he should have kept in closer contact with him to keep him informed about what was going on in the Empire, though Benjamin dismissed the thought, saying none of them could have seen Rhonjenvyn's spiteful attack coming and that Darsun himself had lost more than any of them.
In an attempt to cheer everyone up, Benjamin got Fred to agree to give the group some time off, gathering them aboard the Little Sparrow and flying to a quiet, tropical world to enjoy a week on a beach. Isla and Damascus joined Benjamin, Aaellu and his kids, though Zhavi and Kassie Kaadara, the pair now an item, didn't join the others, choosing instead to follow up on a lead from Isla's brother in the Chiss Ascendancy which led them to Zakuul to find a thief.
Once the rest of the team returned to work, they were briefed on a distress signal brought to their attention by a representative of the Gree Enclave, originating from outside charted space. The signal had only been detected by the Enclave, not the Republic, which made more sense when Frank revealed the name of the ship in question; the Gray Secant. Benjamin explained to Aaellu that the Gray Secant was an automated vessel that was created and deployed by the ancient Gree to study the worlds and species it encountered, normally impossible to locate while in transit due to the advanced technology that made it impervious to modern scanners.
The last time the ship had been spotted was on Ilum several years earlier, where Republic and Imperial forces participated in several combat research scenarios in the hopes of acquiring Gree technology in return.
That such an advanced vessel was sending a distress signal was very strange. Frank agreed, trusting the pair to find and board the Gray Secant, establish the situation and resolve it, emphasising that there was a lot of pressure on them to get it done quickly.
The situation was no stranger than it sounded when they had the Gree vessel in their sights, though the presence of a Gage-class transport went a long way to explaining why the ship had called for help. Bizarrely, the Gray Secant wasn't sporting any visible damage, and despite being stationary appeared to be fully operational. Cherek pointed out that the Imperial ship was broadcasting a complex signal that couldn't be deciphered by the Sparrow's systems, suggesting the Empire had a device on board that had somehow forced the Gray Secant to stop and let them dock.
Permitted to dock in one of the ship's hangar bays, Aaellu and Benjamin began making their way through the ship, certain pathways being locked while others were unlocked, the Gray Secant seemingly guiding them down a certain route. Along the way, wall compartments slid away to reveal manufacturing droids that presented them with Gree armour, which Benjamin speculated the ship had fabricated specifically for them, given that the suits were a perfect fit.
His theory collapsed somewhat when they came across Imperial troops using Gree shield technology against them, and even more so when they entered a large chamber occupied by an enormous combat analysis droid. Together, the pair managed to work out how to disable the shielding and defeat the droid, passing the scenario and causing the droid to become inert. The far door of the chamber opened, permitting the pair access to a deeper section of the ship, where they came across a familiar face.
Attrice Vhenn, the Pureblood they'd encountered on Hoth, was waiting for them, ambushing them with a Gree stasis weapon. Benjamin was frozen inside an energy field, forcing Aaellu to duel the Sith – armed with lightsabers of Gree design – alone.
Thankfully, Benjamin hadn't held back in training Aaellu. After a lengthy and intense battle, Aaellu managed to surprise the Pureblood, getting behind her and running her blade through the Sith apprentice's back. Once she'd finally worked out how to free Benjamin from the stasis trap, the pair were guided to a final chamber, one which contained a Gree artefact that Cherek identified as a high-tech Star Map. Taking the map, the Gray Secant's security droids were deployed, yet made no effort to stop them from leaving, instead converging on the Imperial docking tube.
As Aaellu and Benjamin launched the Little Sparrow, they saw a number of small explosions lighting up on one side of the Imperial transport. By the time they were ready to jump to hyperspace, the transport had stopped transmitting the strange signal and had pulled away from the Gree vessel, retreating to – presumably – avoid being boarded by more defence droids, allowing the ancient Gree starship to jump to lightspeed and escape.
Aaellu wondered aloud why the droids hadn't been sent sooner, to which Benjamin confessed he wasn't sure. Cherek speculated that the signal had overwritten the ship's security protocols which, in turn, had been overwritten by their removal of the map.
Rather than let the aggressors escape with the map, the Gray Secant had called for help, handing the hidden treasure over to its saviour instead of risking further attacks that would interrupt the Secant's primary objective. The AI was quick to point out that it was purely a theory, however.
Irrespective of why the Gray Secant had taken the actions it had, the pair returned to Coruscant with the map – and the good news. They spent most of the return journey trying to unlock the secrets of the mysterious map, only to find it was just as secure as where it'd been hidden.
Time Travellers of the Gree Enclave
This is very amazing."
"It's... yeah, not sure there's a better word. Amazing. Definitely.
—Benjamin and Aaellu, on seeing the effects of the Gree temporal device up close.
With the help of the representative from the Gree Enclave, Aaellu, Benjamin and Frank were able to activate the star map, a map which revealed a lost planet hidden within the dense Archeon Nebula. Resigning himself to handing the mystery over to the Gree people, Benjamin was surprised when the representative requested that he and Aaellu head to the world and recover scanning data for the Gree to study, claiming that it could be dangerous and would require the skills of proven 'Black Bisectors'.
Handed a Gree scanning probe, the pair stopped for lunch before heading back out, arriving in the Archeon Nebula a few days later. When they reached the coordinates provided by the map, they discovered something truly remarkable.
Two of the moons orbiting the planet were in the midst of colliding with one another, a head-on impact with cataclysmic implications for the entire system, not least the planet they were investigating. The pair would have fled the system immediately if not for the fact that the collision was immobilised, the devastating impact glowing in the distance locked in position, frozen in time like a three-dimensional painting.
Initially the couple just observed, wary about getting any closer to the impossible phenomenon. But that couldn't last, and eventually they begrudgingly agreed that they needed to land or leave, and neither of them were the type to turn tail and run from a dangerous situation.
The swampy world itself was unremarkable, the only point of interest being the Gree structure they'd come to investigate, some sort of temple bunker. Unguarded, getting inside the temple was easy enough, yet even with an open entryway the pair noticed a suspicious lack of wildlife or encroaching vegetation, the metal unblemished and pristine as if it wasn't abandoned at all.
Which wasn't entirely out of the question, as they soon came across an energy wall barring their path, meaning that the facility still had power regardless of its age. The wall was immune to their weapons and only opened when they attempted to utilise the map they'd recovered on the Gray Secant, the device doubling as a key to disable the facility's systems. Once inside, they discovered a vertical shaft leading down so far into the ground that they couldn't see the bottom.
Aaellu, impatient to leave the strange world, leapt into the shaft, immediately discovering that the gravity was regulated inside the corridor, slowing her descent to a safe speed, prompting Benjamin to follow after her.
What lay at the bottom was a hauntingly quiet, pitch black chamber with a few feet of water covering the floor, confusing the couple until, with a metallic groaning, that confusion shifted to concern as a massive, serpentine Gree droid lunged at the Force users, pressing them into a disorienting battle in the darkness. Fortunately, by working together and exploiting the benefit of a waterlogged arena using Force lightning, the lovers were able to destroy the ancient sentinel.
On the machine's destruction, a pedestal rose from a hidden compartment in the floor, breaching the water and revealing – glowing against the dark backdrop – another of the lost artefacts. This time, the glowing elemental orb was connected to a complicated piece of Gree machinery, and Aaellu asked if Benjamin thought the orb was stopping the explosion of the moons orbiting the planet.
Benjamin told her he'd hoped she wasn't thinking that too.
Yet, regardless of their concerns, they had no choice but to remove the orb, deactivating the Gree machinery and resuming the paused doomsday clock. The structure began to shake violently, driving home the need to move quickly, and as they fled they noticed the lights were beginning to lose power. They entered the artificial gravity shaft – the direction changed now that the orb was disconnected – and made their way out to the entrance, discovering that they'd been followed when they got there.
Unbeknownst to the pair, they'd drawn the attention of a Jedi Shadow, a dark-skinned Human man who Benjamin didn't know. He instructed the pair to hand over the artefact, to which Benjamin politely refused, stating they were with the SIS and that the artefact was their mission.
Unfortunately (though to neither Benjamin's nor Aaellu's surprise), the Shadow wasn't interested in anything other than taking the orb, though he had no idea the artefact fused with the person who claimed it. He demanded that Benjamin reveal it and hand it over without attempting any tricks.
Benjamin reiterated that the Republic sent him to claim the orb, but the Shadow said only Jedi had the training and discipline to deal with powerful artefacts, inevitably leading to Benjamin pointing out that he'd been dealing with ancient artefacts and lost technology all his life. The Shadow soon resorted to threats, warning the pair that he'd take it by force if necessary, and Benjamin gave him an ultimatum; move, or be moved through.
Predictably, the Shadow engaged, relying on aggression to try and overpower Benjamin and clearly not expecting him to be so competent with a blade, nor put up such a strong defence. The former Sith, having mastered Soresu, was able to withstand the assault, letting the Jedi tire himself out before changing forms and launching his own attack, overwhelming his opponent's defences and slashing a crippling slice through his kneecaps.
As the Jedi – suddenly a lot more interested in peaceful negotiations – attempted to surrender, Benjamin cut his head off, commenting that nothing annoyed him more than Jedi self-righteousness. Pressed for time, the couple resumed their mad dash back to the ship.
The pair reached the Sparrow as the atmosphere began to ignite, the heat and the light becoming almost unbearable as the planetary apocalypse entered into its pivotal moments, giving the pair precious few minutes to launch and leave the atmosphere. But, as fate would have it, they were fortunate; aside from stress on the rear shielding, they made it out of danger without taking any serious damage, leaving the dead Jedi to be incinerated along with the Gree fortress, the only evidence such a remarkable place ever existed being the data recorded by the Gree probe.
Thrilled to be alive and with both the data and the unexpected boon of retrieving the final orb, Aaellu and Benjamin returned to Coruscant in higher spirits than they'd been in since Cerys' untimely demise.
Sith Divorce Proceedings
Assault on Darth Aivela's Castle
I come with you. This is not nego- nego-... it is decided."
"You're not going to listen to any rational argument I make against that idea, are you?
—Aaellu and Benjamin.
With two of the supposed four orbs in their possession and the remaining two believed to be held by Darth Aivela, Frank called everyone together. Spies in the Empire had forwarded intelligence that indicated Aivela was consolidating her forces at an ancient castle on the uninhabited world of Jum Tarra, even convincing the elderly Darth Madré to move her dreadnought into a defensive position above the castle.
Jum Tarra was outside of Imperial space, so either Aivela was concerned about the prying eyes of her rivals or – as they all believed to be more likely – she was baiting the Republic to move against her, thereby exposing the rest of the artefacts. Given how powerful a single orb was, the group assumed that all four of them working in unison would confer abilities beyond anything known to history – letting the Sith obtain them would mark the end of the Galactic Republic.
Zhavi, Damascus and Kassie argued that Benjamin should remain on Coruscant rather than risk the orbs, but Frank, Aaellu, Avexiss and Benjamin himself all agreed that the only way they could defeat his estranged wife and the orbs she wielded was to use the orbs they possessed against her. Khruukunu, Benjamin's Felucian ally, agreed, expressing his belief in his friend, reminding everyone that Benjamin had trained Aivela and knew her strengths and weaknesses.
Examining scans of the temple taken long before the war, Benjamin proposed that Republic forces engage Aivela's troops at the main entrance to allow him to sneak in through the lower levels, via the surrounding forest. Aivela had never been particularly strong in the Force, nor was she a master with a lightsaber, so Benjamin was certain she would let her lackeys and monstrosities do the fighting while she waited for her opportunity. More than likely she would expect him to sneak in and take her on alone.
Aaellu, hearing that, insisted that she accompany him, as Aivela wouldn't be expecting her. He argued that bringing a woman who was, for all intents and purposes, his mistress to confront his wife would only make her a target, but Aaellu made it clear she was going with Benjamin whether he approved or not, and so he relented.
The team agreed that Aivela would run if she saw the battle turning against her and that Benjamin was the most experienced (and equipped) of the team, having the best odds capturing or killing Darth Aivela and retrieving the artefacts.
Coming to a general consensus, albeit with some concerns from some of the team, Frank told the group to remain ready to move, suspecting that the military arrangements wouldn't take too long to confirm. In fact, it took little over twenty-four hours for Frank to get the support needed to carry out their operation on Jum Tarra – before long the Petrichor team were aboard a Valor-class cruiser, where they were introduced to Fleet Admiral Oteg, a Jedi Master who would be directing the naval portion of the attack.
While en route to Jum Tarra, Aaellu and Benjamin spent some time together, discussing her joining him before agreeing to forget the mission until they reached the planet. When they did, they waited for the battle to begin before deploying, jumping from the ramp of one of the troop dropships to avoid arousing suspicion by taking a shuttle directly to the forest. Wearing jet-assisted flight suits, the pair descended into the forest, immediately encountering stone golems patrolling the area.
Moving silently amongst the ruins to avoid a confrontation, the pair had little trouble slipping past the simplistic sentinels, only to be ambushed by cloaked Hssiss. Benjamin was pinned to the forest floor, a fallen branch the only thing standing between him and the fatal poison on the Hssiss' fangs until Aaellu leapt in and severed its spine.
Luckily, there didn't seem to be many of them, and once they knew to be on alert for stealthy attacks they were better prepared moving forward. Eventually, however, they came across an obstacle they hadn't anticipated when they'd planned their infiltration; the old mining tunnels that would take them to the underground castle entrance had been flooded since the initial survey of the planet.
Both Force users knew how to hold their breath for an extended period using the Force, but the distance they needed to travel was considerable, making them both nervous. Benjamin pointed out that they would move faster through water than they would have climbing, though admitted it would still be challenging.
Deep within the tunnels, the pair discovered that the abandoned mine was a crystal mine, the caves completely filled with naturally occurring, luminous Force crystals that illuminated the way forward, making their progress easier and quicker than they'd expected. They were still relieved when they broke the surface of the water and inhaled the frigid air, the caverns gripped by an unnatural cold, made all the worse by their waterlogged clothing.
The temperature wasn't the only challenge. Wampas, mutated by Sith alchemy, attacked them frequently as they made their way towards the castle, each of them sporting unnatural crystal growths. Although they were keen to get out of the cold, Aaellu sensed something down a narrow pathway, a calm but strong calling that she felt compelled to look into even with time against them.
When she squeezed her way through the tight confines of the crystalline path, she entered a glittering grotto where a single, unassuming crystal drew her attention. Benjamin commented that he'd heard that, on rare occasions, a crystal could bond with a Force user, connecting with them to become a mirror of their connection, an extension of themselves. He added that it would make a perfect lightsaber crystal when she decided to make her own weapon.
Pocketing the crystal, Aaellu believed it was a sign of their coming victory and the pair hurried onwards with a renewed confidence. Once they reached the lower levels of the abandoned castle, they were set upon by a pack of mutated varactyl and, eventually, a tulrus, positioned on a bridge that connected the lower levels to the base of the castle proper.
Once the mutated bull was defeated, the couple were inside the castle, bypassing the majority of Aivela's forces who were defending the front gate. Not all of them, however. Anticipating Benjamin's arrival, the main passageways in the castle had be blocked off by the more elite fighters at the Darth's disposal. The first of those elite fighters were the Sith Tark Jaggentire and Tharah Odé, supported by Kara Regent, her second in command Skyell Ottazen and the rest of her section of Imperial troops.
Benjamin and Aaellu agreed to split their focus, with Aaellu killing most of the soldiers while Benjamin kept Jaggentire and Odé busy, managing to take the Twi'lek out of commission with a non-lethal series of debilitating slashes. Jaggentire was on the back-foot without his companion, but before the duel could conclude one way or the other Aaellu – having sensed a connection between Skyell and Jaggentire – held her weapon to the trooper's throat, forcing Jaggentire to surrender his weapon or watch his lover die.
Unwilling to sacrifice the Rattataki soldier for his master's scheme, Jaggentire handed over his lightsaber, which Benjamin promptly destroyed, telling him not to intervene any further, promising that they wouldn't be so lenient again if they did.
Shortly after their battle Oteg contacted Benjamin, warning him that he was pulling back his vessels to avoid losing them unless the duo could disable the castle's turbolasers or the shield generator. The castle's defences – coupled with the Harrower above – were putting too much pressure on Oteg's ships. Benjamin agreed with the decision, telling Oteg they were close to their target and that he shouldn't take any unnecessary risks.
The next guardian was a welcome surprise for the pair; Lord Rhonjenvyn, the woman who'd murdered Cerys. Aaellu stepped back at Benjamin's request, Dratine being a skilled sorceress, and after exchanging threats with one another the Sith Lord attacked by summoning dark side tendrils, reaching for Benjamin with lashing ropes of annihilating dark Force energy.
To fight back, Benjamin was forced to use an ability he'd learned of through a recovered Jedi holocron, though never performed; Force Light. The blast of pure light Force energy cost Benjamin a significant portion of his energy on account of his largely balanced approach to the Force. Regardless, his own strength in the Force combined with the augmentation of the orbs was enough to destroy the attacking tendrils, defending Benjamin from their lethal grasp and weakening Dratine as they were vanquished. Equally weakened by their opening moves, the bitter enemies resorted to their lightsabers.
Younger, but less experienced and more focused on fighting from afar using the Force, Dratine didn't last long in single combat. Benjamin managed to slide his blade through her shoulder before projecting her out of a window, leaping after her into one the castle's many abandoned gardens. Aaellu joined him, and the pair were struck by the same idea of how best to avenge Cerys' death now Dratine was at their mercy.
Combining their powers, the couple took command of the inert plant life in the soil underneath Dratine, using the Force to spark and accelerate the growth of weeds and vines to ensnare the Sith Lord, slithering down her throat and burrowing into her organs, merging her with the plants to create a symbiotic link between Dratine and the flora that bound her.
Cocooned, Dratine was dragged down beneath the dirt, buried alive and kept that way thanks to the plants interwoven through her body, ensuring she would have decades to ruminate on the misdeeds that had led her to her sinister grave.
I'd heard you were bedding some dim-witted neanderthal, but I didn't realise she was so... I honestly can't think of the word to describe your... plaything. Scruffy? Unwashed? Your standards have slipped considerably since your defection, my dear husband."
"Your slug-headed wife is sounding very jealous.
—Darth Aivela and Aaellu, to Benjamin.
With her army busy on the ground level and her guards defeated, Darth Aivela was cornered in the throne room.
Whatever confidence Aaellu and Benjamin entered the room with evaporated instantly when they saw the final guardians the Dark Lord of the Sith was employing to protect her. Her apprentice and partner in biological crime, Lord Artofen, and – far more worryingly – another of her creations.
A winged dragon so large it filled the room and loomed over all those present within. Benjamin recognised what the creature had been – a Kimogila from the planet Lok – but told Aaellu it was considerably larger than anything that occurred naturally, and that they didn't have wings.
Aivela greeted them as they approached, stating straight away that she was aware of Benjamin's affair before making a number of barbed comments directed at Aaellu, which the tribeswoman responded to with goading rather than letting Aivela rattle her, claiming the Dark Lord was jealous and asking her why, if she was such a powerful and important Sith, she too weak to hold on to what was hers.
Enraged, Darth Aivela, Lord Artofen and the dragon, Sammatra, moved to attack, prompting Isla Ahnkett – using her talent for stealth to bypass the front line forces – to dispel her invisibility and leap at Artofen, determined to avenge a friend of hers that the Sith Lord had killed on Voryle. Benjamin, similarly, leapt at the dragon, seeing it as the greatest threat, but Aivela yanked him out of the air, commanding Sammatra to kill Aaellu. Though Benjamin attempted to launch Aivela from a window, she pulled him again, dragging him out with her and isolating them both in the castle gardens below.
Meanwhile, as Isla fought Artofen, Aaellu was faced with the prospect of battling the single-minded determination of the colossal dragon. More agile, the Force adept managed to avoid the creature's initial attack and get on top of it, stabbing her blade downwards into its head only to find the hide resisted her blade completely – Sammatra shrugged her off.
When Sammatra lunged at her again, Aaellu pivoted to one side, dodging the beast's snapping jaws before thrusting her blade into its eye, blinding it on one side and enraging the beast. In its fury, it destroyed much of the walls and ceiling before attempting to drench Aaellu in acid projected from a pipe in its throat, forcing her to leap out of the ruined throne room, plummeting into a free fall towards the front gate of the castle far below.
Guiding her descent with the Force, she fell through a swarm of Imperial starfighters, managing to collide with one of them to save herself from the fatal fall.
The pilot, realising she had a passenger clinging to the hull, broke formation and ascended rapidly to try and shake her off. Before the pilot could try another tactic when her initial attempt failed, Aaellu gripped the pilot with the Force, keeping her immobilised to prevent the fighter from changing course. Locked in position, the pilot was unable to do anything but watch as her ship climbed higher and higher, rapidly approaching the underside of the Harrower stationed above the castle.
Sammatra, obedient to a fault, followed, flying up in pursuit. Aaellu waited until the last possible moment before letting go of the fighter, the ship exploding as it struck the dreadnought while Aaellu fell back towards the battleground – and Sammatra, still flying up after her.
Powering up the Gree energy shield and activating the more powerful lightsabers she'd acquired on the Gray Secant, Aaellu used the Force to accelerate her natural descent, increasing her speed more and more as she fell directly towards the open maw of the approaching beast. She flew down Sammatra's throat, lightsabers-first, and carved a number of fatal wounds through the dragon's soft innards, though lacked the power to burst through the alchemically enhanced hide.
Trapped, Aaellu could do nothing until the dragon – dying – fell from the sky, crashing down onto the castle and destroying the shield generators in the process before finally falling still. Aaellu struggled out of Sammatra's insides, cutting her way blindly until she clambered – somewhat dishevelled – from the creature's mouth, just in time to watch as Benjamin, Aivela and Isla fell from the sky, diving after the hypergate portal the Darth had installed in the throne room, and seemingly thrown from the summit since in a bid to escape.
All three made the jump in time, Isla disappearing last, just seconds before the stone arch collided with the bridge over the canyon below, shattering it and deactivating the portal. Aaellu could do nothing but watch and wait, praying that her lover would return from wherever he'd been transported to alive and well.
The Four Bound Spirits
Isla took the orbs and vanished. I don't know where, or why, but she's gone."
"I will speak of this to our friends. We will be finding her soon, I promise it.
—Benjamin and Aaellu, after Darth Aivela's death.
Once the battle concluded and Darth Madré's Harrower fled the planet, Republic forces got to work securing the site and apprehending enemy forces who'd survived the day. Aaellu and the other Petrichor agents were recalled to the ship, where Aaellu was contacted over the comm by Benjamin. He told her that Darth Aivela was dead, but that all four orbs had been taken by Isla during the confrontation, after which she'd started acting strangely and quite literally disappeared.
The others, present for the call, agreed that they needed to find Isla quickly, with Zhavi and Damascus being asked specifically for ideas, being her former and current lovers, respectively. Damascus had no idea why she'd taken the orbs, so had no idea where she would go, either, whereas Zhavi, distantly affected by the orbs Isla held through their Force bond, was able to tap into their link and discern that she was on Voryle.
Knowing that, it dawned on her what Isla might be up to, and she asked Benjamin if the orbs could – in theory – resurrect the dead. Benjamin suggested that the orbs would be almost limitless in their potential, so restoring life would likely be possible, though he couldn't imagine whether it'd bring the person back as they were or create some sort of vegetative abomination. Zhavi didn't share her suspicions openly.
Nonetheless, they were sure she was on Voryle and, intent on retrieving the orbs, made a hasty departure for the industrialised world. Once they'd passed through the invasive customs checks that were standard practise on the weapon-free world, the group had little trouble locating Isla, who was sat by a stream in Voryle Recreational Park, the orbs resting beside her.
The Chiss revealed to her companions that she had needed time to process the experience of merging with all four of the Four Bound Spirits, explaining that she'd seen everything that had happened, was happening and would ever happen in the galaxy, a process that had dazzled and confused her.
Though she lacked the biological capability to process or retain any of what she'd seen, the visions had stopped before too long, allowing her to think normally. Feeling she had a limited amount of time before the orbs would completely destroy her, Isla had transported herself to Voryle, to the cemetery where Bibi Jotto was buried.
Granted divine abilities, Isla had no difficulty raising Bibi's coffin and exhuming her remains, using the four orbs to regenerate Bibi's cells, undoing the decay, restoring function to her organs and tearing her essence from the Netherworld of the Force to reawaken her, dazed and confused. She'd remained unseen, ensuring she'd been successful before moving to the park, where she'd ejected the orbs, knowing that if she continued to try and hold them they would destroy her.
Isla told Benjamin the orbs were all his, although she warned him that the experience was overwhelming.
Unfortunately, someone had to carry them. As the strongest and most experienced member of the group and having carried two orbs for an extended period of time without any ill effects, Benjamin was the best suited; he took each orb in his hand, one after the other, bracing as they glowed brightly before dissolving into his hand until – illuminated with the unimaginable power he was hosting – Benjamin stood before the group, all the artefacts finally under his protection.
It took him several uneasy minutes to adjust, warning Aaellu away when she tried to reach out and place a concerned hand on his arm. Eventually, though, the power settled, altering the chemical makeup in his irises to change their colour from a rich green to a distinct gold, a biological marker that indicated a successful synthesis. It was at that moment that Benjamin spoke up, saying he felt confident that he could hold onto the orbs safely for the foreseeable future.
Aaellu and Benjamin returned to Coruscant to report the concluding chapter of the operation to Frank. Zhavi and Kassie returned to Corulag and Isla and Damascus remained on Voryle, the Chiss wanting some time to recover before reporting for duty once more.
After reaching the capital and getting Frank up to speed, the aged veteran congratulated the pair and thanked them, telling them that his peers and superiors had been sceptical about the initiative for some time, yet now, because of their elimination of Darth Aivela and the horrors she'd been creating – many of which had been gifted to other Sith and deployed against the Republic army – his doubtful colleagues had been thoroughly humbled. He ordered the pair to take some time off, telling them they'd earned it.
Sadly, Benjamin didn't share everyone else's sense of pride and success. His wife, whatever she had become in his absence, had died, and his children had lost their mother. Aaellu kept her distance while Benjamin arranged and attended her funeral, believing it would be inappropriate for her to join her partner and his children when they buried Lexi at her family home on Ord Mantell.
Once the funeral was done, however, Benjamin was keen to move on with his life, leaving the children with their grandparents while he – using the orbs – transported himself and Aaellu, aboard the Little Sparrow, to a new location, instantaneously. He told Aaellu he had an idea for a special gift he wanted to give her.
Queen of the Lifeless Moon
We can live here. Build it to be whatever we want. King and queen of the moon."
"This would make me happy.
—Benjamin and Aaellu on Farrow's moon.
In orbit above Farrow, Aaellu didn't recognise her homeworld or it's three moons. Benjamin encouraged her to reach out with her senses, towards the planet, augmenting her senses using his newfound power to show her the planet through the Force; the innumerable oscillations of life energy that made the world what it was, from the smallest insects to the mightiest behemoths.
Once Aaellu detected familiar sensations with Benjamin's help – and he confirmed her realisation – Aaellu was amazed that the orbs could transport across the galaxy not only the couple, but their ship too. Benjamin told her that it was important to him that he didn't abuse the orbs, stating that he was merely the caretaker of the artefacts until he could find a way to seal them out of reach of mortal hands.
He added, however, that it was also important to him that the people he cared about were happy.
While he didn't want to disturb the way of life for Aaellu's primitive people, he confided that he would like to retire from the wider galaxy and the constant warfare in the near future. To that end, he intended to transition Magenta Sparrow Innovations – his old company that was left to his wife when he was missing in action, but was now his again following her demise – into the infrastructure of a new colony on Farrow, far from the eyes of the local tribes, replacing the small mining operation his wife had partially constructed in his absence.
There, he would welcome in refugees and Force users wanting to escape the narrow-minded fanaticism of the Jedi and Sith, providing a peaceful sanctuary where they could raise the children. Aaellu, having kept it to herself while they were dealing with Darth Aivela, felt compelled to reveal that she believed she was pregnant, though Benjamin said he knew already, the orbs heightening his senses to such a degree that he could feel the separate trio of lives nestled inside her Force signature.
She was surprised – but pleased – to learn she was having triplets and, likewise, Benjamin admitted that he was surprised the fertility chant seemed to have worked – or surprised at the remarkably odd coincidence if it hadn't. Aaellu apologised for not telling him sooner, justifying her decision with her fear of how Benjamin would take the news whilst fighting a campaign to bring down his estranged wife and mother of his children.
Benjamin assured her he wasn't upset though he did tell her she didn't need to hide things from him. He trusted her, and wanted her to trust him, to which she assured him she did. She told Benjamin that she loved him, eliciting a confirmation that he felt the same and that, even though he was saddened by Lexi's death, he wouldn't change the past if it meant risking her presence and affection.
She asked him why they were visiting Farrow at such an odd moment in time, prompting Benjamin to lead her to the cockpit and set the ship down on the surface of the smallest of Farrow's moons, Idlanna.
Idlanna was a barren, rocky world, yet as the ship touched down in an empty area of flatland grass began to grow like wildfire, followed swiftly by flowers that sprouted out of nowhere, then trees and bushes, followed by water that leaked up through the fresh soil and began to pool in the bumps and dips in the ground, taking off on its own to begin carving pathways that swelled into gentle, trickling streams.
Aaellu watched, mouth agape, as the dead world blossomed into a lively paradise before her very eyes. An act of divine creation that made the ability to teleport a ship completely unremarkable in comparison.
Such was the power of the orbs that Benjamin didn't even need to concentrate on the task through meditation, taking Aaellu by the hand and leading her out of the ship as the atmosphere began to strengthen and take on a healthier colour.
It took some time before Aaellu could bring herself out of her state of child-like wonderment, fascinated by the landscape taking shape around her. When a rocky spire cracked its way out of the ground to create a small waterfall into a pond below, Aaellu questioned how such a feat was possible. Benjamin admitted he didn't really understand it himself, pointing out that he was learning as he went, but believed the orbs – working together in unison – could manipulate matter at a sub-atomic level, altering the very fabric of the galaxy to shape it the wielder's will.
He stated that he didn't intend to experiment too wildly with the orbs outside of the moon, conscious of the fact that the orbs were not toys, nor was the power they conferred something to be taken lightly. Still, he believed that the power could be used for good, starting with bringing life to Idlanna.
While the orbs breathed life into the moon, spreading out from their position like a benevolent virus, Benjamin asked Aaellu to produce her lightsaber and the bonded crystal she'd recovered from beneath the castle on Jum Tarra, levitating both items alongside his own lightsaber.
Able to create a world without conscious thought, forging new lightsabers for the pair took only a moment; he fashioned an ornate, curving lightsaber for himself and – with her crystal at its heart – crafted a tribal-inspired blade with a Kimogila motif for Aaellu. Both weapons sported powerful white blades, a symbolic statement to distance themselves visibly from the two major Force using groups.
They spent several days enjoying one another's company, during which time their developing Force bond was augmented in dramatic fashion. Due to the intensity of the passions the pair were indulging in and the complete relaxing of their mental defences in one another's company, the pair unknowingly overextended, connecting their minds and – in doing so – allowing the power Benjamin was housing to flow into Aaellu like water breaching the wall of a dam, creating a loop of Force energy.
With both lovers fused with the orbs at the same time, their minds and essences were merged together via the artefacts, leaving them as a single entity; the only thing still separating them as individuals were their physical bodies. This had the shocking – and life-changing – effect of transferring the vast entirety of Aaellu's memories to Benjamin, and Benjamin's memories to Aaellu in return. Both Force adepts absorbed the experiences of the other and, in addition, were able to see, hear and feel what the other saw, heard and felt, while still perceiving the world through their own senses.
This perfect synchronisation was only temporary, however, and the power of the orbs returned to Benjamin once the pair regained their self-control. Though she was no longer infused with the energy, the Force bond between the two had been reforged into an incredibly strong connection, and she retained all of Benjamin's memories alongside her own, giving her decades of knowledge and experience – as well as a more intimate connection with her partner – in a matter of minutes. In addition, Aaellu's ability to understand, read and speak Basic became as flawless as her mother tongue.
In the aftermath, Aaellu's eyes blazed with the same golden aura as Benjamin's, a permanent marker that she had successfully fused with the Four Bound Spirits.
Wanting to stay longer but not wanting to leave Alucia, Little Ben and Acina with their grandparents too long given recent events, the couple decided to return to Republic space after three days away. Leaving the newly revitalised Idlanna behind for the time being, Aaellu and Benjamin returned to their life in the Core Worlds, not knowing what the future held now that the threat of Darth Aivela – both to the Republic and Aaellu's relationship with Benjamin – had finally been dealt with.
You left us!"
"We were with you the whole time sweetheart. You really think we'd leave you?
—Alucia and Aaellu, at the Shrine of Healing on Voss.
Returning to Tyrena, life was calm for the next few months. The war continued, but for Aaellu and the Lambert family the fighting was over for the time being. The children had time to grieve, supported by their father, Aaellu and their aunt Sarna, who was staying with the family after losing her part-time job.
Wanting to get the kids out of the house, Benjamin promised to take them off-world one weekend to let them train somewhere other than Corellia. The location he chose was Voss, transporting the children and Aaellu to the tranquil home of the Voss Mystics, where they continued their lightsaber and Force training along the Old Paths.
Through their bond, Aaellu sensed Benjamin reaching out and guiding an injured commando to their location as they watched the children spar. Naturally, the children rushed to the aid of the wounded Voss without hesitation once he appeared, but when they turned to Aaellu and Benjamin for advice, they couldn't see them, Benjamin having cloaked them from sight with the Force.
Given no choice but to deal with the situation on their own, Little Ben was able to heal the worst of the cuts inflicted by the Mawvorr that attacked the commando, but not fully, necessitating proper medical attention. Using the commando's local knowledge to guide them, the duo escorted the injured man back along the paths to the nearest safe haven, encountering another Mawvorr along the way.
As they prepared to engage, Aaellu – still hidden from sight – nudged at Alucia's mind, planting the thought that there were other ways to pass the creature without fighting. Guided by that thought, Alucia used the Force to connect with the creature, calming it and convincing it they were best left alone.
Eventually, they made it to the Shrine of Healing, where they transferred care of the commando to the legendary Voss healers. Interested in the Voss healing ritual, the pair asked if they could observe, and though the mystic was unsure about entertaining the curiosity of two off-world children, the commando welcomed it out of gratitude for their help.
Benjamin, Aaellu and Acina revealed themselves at this point, congratulating the pair on a job well done. Alucia complained that they'd been left to fend for themselves, though Aaellu explained that they were with them the whole time, ready to step in if they were in any real danger.
They sent the pair off further into the shrine with the healer without them, telling them they'd done the work, so the reward was theirs alone. Aaellu and Benjamin waited outside, learning afterwards that the twins had actually helped in the ritual, offering their own strength to help heal the injured commando as part of the unique healing process employed by the Voss. Tired and hungry, Benjamin and Aaellu took the twins to the cantina in Voss-Ka for lunch, then perused the local markets before the group teleported home.
Aaellu took Alucia out shopping for a few hours that afternoon, and in the evening the family settled in to watch holomovies and eat takeaway food, falling asleep where they sat. None of them were aware that Lexi's restless spirit watched them as they slept, unable to move on but unwilling to reveal herself to the family she'd abandoned.
The next week, while eating breakfast in Axial Park, Aaellu and Benjamin were approached by Tessa Elwood, an advanced replica droid created by Lexi using the same combination of technology, alchemy and sorcery that she'd used to create her mutated creatures. Unlike her Sithspawn, however, Tessa was mostly mechanical, and was created as a proof of concept in Lexi's pursuit of mastering evolution.
Since she was never deployed as a weapon, Tessa's life had revolved around Lexi, who was – for all intents and purposes – her mother. Lexi's death had been a severe blow to her, and while she tried to brief Benjamin about the legal situation surrounding his wife's estate she broke down, prompting Aaellu to comfort her. Tessa eventually composed herself and requested that Benjamin visit Magenta Sparrow Innovations headquarters on Lok as soon as possible to deal with a number of lingering issues relating to the takeover.
Wanting to get the legal formalities out of the way, the couple departed that night via conventional travel, meeting with a number of Benjamin's old friends aboard the company flagship, the Outreaching Hope. There, he shared his plans going forwards, explaining how he – as a Republic operative – couldn't permit the status quo to remain in place. Company products would be sold to both faction as before, but MSI would no longer be exclusively selling weapons and military equipment to the Sith Empire. Instead, that exclusivity would extend to the Republic.
More than that, however, Benjamin intended to scale down the company and transition it into the infrastructure for a hidden colony on Farrow, creating a safe haven beyond the borders of the known galaxy where they could live outside the galactic battlefield. He invited his friends to join him as and when they wished in the venture.
He admitted that it would take time to organise and build, and in the meantime he intended to continue helping the Republic as best he could, but ultimately he believed that the Jedi and Sith fed into each other – they could not be changed or fixed and each faction inevitably birthed the other. Aaellu, while agreeing with the points made, was simply happy that Benjamin was shifting his focus to prioritise their life together, rather than the war.
After spending a few hours catching up with his old friends, Benjamin and Aaellu spent the evening at the company headquarters near Mount Chaolt on the surface of Lok, a stop-off point for travellers looking for food, fuel or somewhere to stretch their legs whilst travelling the Outer Rim. They didn't stay long, though, and after charging Tessa with the day-to-day running of MSI, Benjamin and Aaellu travelled back home to Corellia.
My tribe won't welcome me back."
"I've seen your memories, Aaellu, remember? Your tribe's beliefs... they're all up here. I have a brilliant and cunning plan, don't you worry.
—Aaellu and Benjamin, discussing the prospect of returning to Farrow.
Less than a month after their trip to Voss Benjamin put the idea of visiting Farrow – properly – to Aaellu, believing it was only right that he meet her parents. Aaellu protested and was quick to point out she would not be welcome amongst her former tribe, yet Benjamin assured her that – with knowledge gained of her culture when their minds fused together – he had a scheme in mind to ensure she would be accepted by her people again.
Sceptical as she was, her exile was still a sore spot for Aaellu. A promise that Benjamin could somehow reverse the decision made all those years earlier was enough to convince her to agree to the trip.
Taking the Little Sparrow, the duo set course for the Unknown Regions, descending upon Farrow less than a week later and setting the ship down in the wilds, far from the view of the local tribes. The pair disembarked into the bleak winter landscape of Farrow at Aaellu's request, the former resident wishing to spend some time reacquainting herself with her home before travelling down to the village.
With Benjamin collecting firewood while Aaellu – heavily pregnant – remained inside the cave that once served as her home. In the early hours of the morning, Aaellu and Benjamin ventured out to hunt for supplies, knowing that their modern winter apparel would not help ease the tribe's suspicions. Though pregnant, Aaellu was keen to hunt after so many years away and, despite her long absence, quickly remembered her old skills, using her bow – left in the cave when she'd departed Farrow – to take down a number of flutterplumes.
The pair encountered a vrake in their hunt, the creature charging them before Aaellu loosed a perfect shot that passed through its eye and into its brain, dropping it less than a meter from where she stood. Benjamin did not intervene, despite his lover's condition; by this point, the pair trusted one another – and their skills – implicitly.
Together, they spent the rest of the day using Aaellu's bushcraft knowledge to skin and prepare their kills, using the vrake hide and flutterplume feathers to fashion apparel more in keeping with the tribal aesthetic the following day. Aaellu made herself a new spear using metal stripped from one of the smaller Sith vessels nestled all over the mountains, able to craft a powerful durasteel spear thanks to the modern equipment she now possessed.
When they reached the village of the Yhjanda tribe, they were met with just the kind of hostility they'd been expecting, the watchers on the main gate threatening to riddle them with arrows if they came any closer before demanding they state their business. Aaellu stepped forwards and proudly declared her name in relation to the tribe, at which point she was warned that she was not welcome and should turn back, reminding her she was no longer protected by tribal law.
Aaellu protested that, in accordance with the aforementioned tribal law, she was there to exercise her right to challenge the decision to exile her, her only right as an exile and a right she could exploit just once. After some unseen deliberation, Aaellu was granted access, along with Benjamin, who – as an unknown visitor – had no express law forbidding him from accompanying her.
Once inside, Aaellu was confronted by the unforgiving chieftain, Junzanni, who made it quite clear that the single day she had to make her case would be a waste, as he had no intention of permitting her to return.
Nonetheless, the couple were permitted to remain in the village until the time allowed by tribal law had elapsed, giving the outcast time to return to her childhood home, where her parents – Kuaem and Shaiilla – were already waiting outside, alerted to her presence by other members of the tribe. They were glad to see her alive and well, believing she'd died after being cast out, though agreed with Junzanni that Aaellu's visit would end in failure.
Benjamin chose this moment to intercede, stepping forwards and asking if the chieftain would be bold enough to expel the lover of Sooshamtook, using the Force to create a realistic illusion of a star levitating above his palm, startling her parents into silence. Aaellu immediately realised what Benjamin was doing, unsure if it would work but making no effort to undermine his plan, finding the trickery both understandable and amusing.
Her parents lowered their heads in respect, believing Benjamin was Sooshamtook, one of their deities, just as he'd insinuated. They explained that tribal law required a great act that benefited the tribe to such a degree that any damage Aaellu's 'magic' might inflict upon the tribe later would be balanced, ensuring that the task would be incredibly difficult – if there was even such a task available.
Given that Aaellu was heavily pregnant, her parents feared that even attempting any task would lead to her death.
Returning to Junzanni with her parents, Aaellu and Benjamin learned that the chieftain had a task in mind already. A large beast had been terrorising the world for years, and though it rarely left its nest it was responsible for dozens of deaths across all the tribes of Farrow. It was the single unifying threat that all tribes feared – killing it would not only spare the Yhjanda tribe, but also earn the tribe great respect from its neighbours, which in turn would cement relations for decades to come.
Aaellu vaguely remembered the creature from her youth, though had never seen it at any point. Benjamin, however, was reading the minds of everyone present, and from their minds he recognised the beast as a krayt dragon. Instead of simply telling Aaellu, he used the Force to conjure up another illusion, creating a ghostly image of a krayt dragon in the air, terrifying the chieftain and the villagers who had gathered to sate their curiosity.
Leaning into his assumed role as a god in Human form, Benjamin proclaimed that slaying the dragon was a task Aaellu clearly could not perform in her current state. To his surprise – and horror – Aaellu objected before he could continue, telling the chieftain she would kill the beast to prove her worth. Benjamin tried to talk her out of it, pointing out the obvious dangers that were present in normal circumstances, never mind the additional challenge provided by her pregnancy.
She insisted, however, that her condition would not hold her back, and that tricking her way back into the tribe was not what she wanted. Aaellu was determined to prove – to herself and the tribe – that she was greater than those who had denied her her home and her family as a child.
After making it clear to Benjamin she didn't want him to try to help her from afar using the orbs, Aaellu set off alone, heading out into dark and the snow to find the krayt dragon's cavern. She enlisted the help of a local furred reek to power through the driving snow quickly, eventually reaching the cavern and venturing inside.
Waking the dragon from its slumber with a targeted Force call, Aaellu made a fighting retreat to lead the creature out into the open. Realising she would need to get close to land a serious blow, Aaellu had her reek charge the dragon, sacrificing it to leap into the air and onto the head of the lunging dragon, distracting it with a number of arrows fired into its massive eyes. When she landed, she buried her spear – her lightsaber bound to one end – into the dragon's head, twisting her weapon and pushing it deeper and deeper as the dragon thrashed around wildly, trying to throw her off.
The dragon fell before long, however, and aside from some minor injuries, Aaellu had killed her third dragon, returning to the village a champion of her tribe and her world. As she entered the village, her former tribesmen lowered their heads and took to their knees.
Even her parents knelt in reverence when she returned to their house, though she ignored them, focusing on the only one not kneeling – Benjamin. She noticed that Benjamin, through their augmented bond, had sustained identical injuries to her, with his nose bloodied and a clean cut running along his jawline. Regardless, he was in high spirits, and Aaellu, riding on a high of her own, grabbed him and kissed him; declaring that she was claiming her parents' home for the night, leaving them to find alternative accommodation while she spent the night with her partner.
The following day, the tribe pulled together to organise a celebration in the evening, the hunters going out en masse to provide for a grand feast. During the day, while the tribe doted on them, one of Aaellu's brothers, Shamto, returned from a trade expedition to a nearby village, greeting his long lost sister with a great deal of enthusiasm.
They exchanged stories from the time since they'd last seen each other, with Shamto being one of the few villagers to learn the truth about the world beyond Farrow's skies from Aaellu and Benjamin. In the evening, the trio attended the celebration, with visitors from nearby villages joining. A number of hunters had stripped the krayt dragon's carcass, claiming every bit of its mortal remains for food, crafting and trophies. The bones of the creature were incorporated into the structure and ornamentation of a new house that was being constructed, the largest in the village, which was presented as a gift during the celebration.
The chieftain also declared that, henceforth, there were would be an annual winter festival to commemorate the slaying of the krayt dragon, a move that Benjamin quietly commented proved that politics were as much a basic sentient motivation as food, water and shelter.
After participating in the celebration, Aaellu and Benjamin settled in for the night, with Aaellu saying she wanted to stay and give birth on her home planet. Benjamin agreed that it seemed appropriate, and that it would make a welcome change of scenery for the kids, in addition to providing an exceptional opportunity for them to experience a different culture.
Bringing Little Ben, Alucia and Acina to Farrow, the family settled into their new home and enjoyed the simplicity of tribal life through to the new year.