Revan stood before a brittle, decrepit-looking stone door built into a wall of rock deep inside the gullet of a cave. Sheltered from the oppressive heat and sandstorms of Korriban, she stood with an infrequent trail of burned and dismembered shyracks, flying predatory beasts native to this dark planet, leading behind her out to the cave's entrance. Inactive, her lightsaber was still clutched in her right hand, ready to be used again on the slightest notice. Few people alive were more wary of this place than her.
This place, dubbed "the shyrack cave" by unimaginitive Sith archaeologists, was familiar to Revan. That fact was not one which she liked. On her journey to find the Star Forge years earlier, she had been brought to this same place while infiltrating the Sith academy there. She remembered that the trek into this forbidding place had led to the safe escape of a small group of repentant Sith, a fight with a savage beast called a terentatek, and a lot of dead shyracks. The latter achievement was just about the only thing which that visit to Korriban had in common with this one, Revan mused. Incidentally, she also recalled very distinctly that the last time she had set foot on this planet, she and her friends had explored every nook and cranny of this cave network.
So where had this ancient-looking stone door come from in the meantime?
Revan had been drawn to this planet in the first place by a series of visions of this cave. She felt herself, as though in a dream, wandering through the stuffy, winding tunnels. Over and over again. Every time she slept, she saw them. Sometimes Carth and the others were with her in the vision, as they had been when they were trying to find the Star Forge. Other times, however, she was with different people, and... doing things she didn't remember doing.
During one of these irregular visions, she had seen this same door. For some reason, she couldn't clearly recall who exactly was with her. Were they other Jedi? Or Sith? More importantly, was this vision a sort of metaphorical representation of something important, or another memory of her past self resurfacing? She had experienced both kinds in exactly the same way with an irritating rapidity since the end of the war.
She would have to be on the alert, even more than usual. To her recollection, Revan had ventured into at least four Sith tombs in her lifetime. All of them had come close to killing her.
This looked very much like it would be her fifth. She could practically smell the dark side within, as though it was leaking out through infathomably small cracks in the door.
Cooing unenthusiastically, a small waist-high utility droid that stood on four wheeled legs behind and to the right of Revan made a clicking sound, producing a beam of white light which it swept in a zig-zagging pattern over the door. The droid did this mostly for Revan's benefit, since she, unlike the droid, could not see in the dark. As far as it knew, anyway.
After a few seconds, the droid's light blinked out, and since Revan had not seemed to hear the first time, repeated its comment with a bit more emphasis added.
Gently shaken out of her reflective state, as friends often caused her to be, Revan inclined her head. "You've never complained about dark, scary underground places before, T3."
T3 chirped back, testier than usual.
"No, it's not worse than Taris," she argued. "It's much too dry for you to rust down here."
"Interjection," came a voice from behind and to Revan's left. "The conditions down here are more than enough to make me glad I wasn't with you the last time you were here. Master."
"Well, you only have yourselves to blame for coming here a first time," Revan said, turning her head to regard the door again. "You were free to remain on the ship."
Had it possessed a face, the dull, redish-brown bipedal droid that held a blaster rifle in one hand might have screwed it up in dismay. "Protest," HK-47 said indignantly. "If my memory banks serve me correctly, you ordered us to accompany you down here, Master."
Revan took a few steps forward, smiling privately. "Since when do you two have to do everything I say?" she asked.
To her surprise, neither droid bothered to come up with an answer. A temporary silence crowded the chamber again. Deciding that there was little else to gain standing outside, Revan waved a hand, and a ripple spread through the Force like a pond. With an aggravated grinding sound, the door slid into the ceiling and locked into place. Dust and particles of sand drifted from age-old hinges.
Revan studied the top of the doorway, using the Force to inspect the door mechanism. She had a private suspicion that the huge slab of stone would give way and crush her the second she walked under it. After a moment, she felt relatively safe from such an event and let her gaze drift downward. She shuddered and instinctively hugged herself, as though a large pocket of cold air had unexpectedly wafted out through the opening.
There had been no actual change in temperature, however. What Revan felt was the tug of the dark side.
She looked down. A fog that she hadn't noticed before, a deep, near-black purple in color, had appeared and now clung low to the floor. Though it was thin enough that Revan could easily see the floor through it, the fog looked heavy, swirling lazily like gigantic ocean waves, almost as though frozen in time. Tiny lines of a brighter violet light cracked and sizzled noiselessly within the fog. It all had a hypnotizing sort of effect; just looking at it made Revan want to look at it more, to drink in the otherworldly sight, to explore the secrets of the abyss, but she managed to tear her gaze upward.
A long stone corridor, its walls covered with unreadable runes and carved symbols, stretched far ahead. Despite the apparent lack of any visible light sources, the walls reflected dark gray light that was tinted a forbidding blue.
Revan slowly walked forward and leaned with her right hand against the doorframe. The needle-width strands of light flickered and passed through her legs and feet, unhindered. HK and T3 had appeared next to Revan without her noticing. The former droid was staring, motionless, down the ominous corridor. The latter was practically hugging her leg, its disc-shaped head swiveling to regard her, then the corridor, and then her again.
Revan felt as though she had tunnel vision for a brief moment. This place was calling to her. The dark side was calling. All its powers and secrets... but also its mysteries. Particularly the mysteries of her. She had seen this place in her visions. They couldn't have led her to this place, only for her to turn away at the last minute, no matter how much Jedi cautioned each other to stay away from Korriban and other tainted places. There was a good chance that she had been inside this tomb, or whatever it was, during her time as Darth Revan, in the parts of her memory which had not yet returned to her. Still, this place was not like the others.
"That wasn't a door," she said softly. "It was a threshhold."
And she had opened it.
She had to cross it.
HK-47 was the first to break the silence. "Advisory: We should proceed with extreme caution. I can detect no threats as of yet, but..." The assassin droid trailed off, glanced mechanically at Revan as though she might finish his sentence for him, and then continued. "As a meatbag would say," he added slowly, "I have a bad feeling about this."
"I will," Revan said with a deep breath. "You two are staying here. I need to go in alone."
T3 rolled a foot back from Revan's leg and immediately twittered in protest. HK turned his armored chassis to face her directly.
"Warning: Master, need I remind you that every single time you are compelled to do something alone, your life comes very close to-"
Revan stopped leaning on the doorway as she cut the assassin droid off. "I know, HK," she said irritably. "But neither of you will be able to help me on this one."
"Objection: Master, if you are insinuating that my-"
Revan turned to regard the pair of droids. "It's not like that, okay? This isn't a shyrack nest, where all you need to worry about is ammunition. It's a Jedi thing. Whatever's inside, I'm supposed to face it alone. It's nothing against either of you, I swear."
"Statement," HK began, then added a sort of burst of static that resembled a sigh of resignation without finishing his statement. He and T3 backed away, past the fog, and stopped.
Her tone softer, Revan said, "Really, you don't need to worry about me. I'll be able to handle it. I'm telling you, just wait here. I'll be fine." She turned and started to walk down the corridor.
In his peculiar dialect, T3-M4 chirped a query at Revan, reminding her of something she had just recently said regarding the importance of what she told them.
Revan stopped for a moment and spoke over her shoulder, briefly flashing a grin at them. "This time you do. Really, don't worry about me. I'll be back soon. I promise." She resumed walking.
HK-47 and T3-M4 turned their backs to the threshhold and moved, one walking and the other rolling, a few yards away, and stared out at the cavern they were to wait in.
T3 murmered something.
"Answer: Yes, of course she has done more peculiar things than this. All meatbags have."
HK paused for a few seconds, and then made an addition without bothering to announce its grammatical function.
"I do believe we both already know that very, very well."
Inside the hall beyond the threshhold, Revan heard a deep, resonating sound as the heavy stone door slammed shut behind her. She continued walking without breaking stride.
Whatever was within this place, she had the Force with her. It would do.
The room was lit by the same ghostly bluish-gray glow that pervaded the hallways. The floor was a surface of smooth, dusty square tiles. At the four rough corners of the room, which was somewhat wider than it was long, were openings in the rock that led down to an unseen depth, such that the walking space seemed like a diamond-shaped platform suspended over a black chasm. A blocky structural anomaly resembling a support pillar stuck out from the walls above each of the holes and traveled from the ceiling straight down. From faraway places unseen, shrill, animalistic cries – made by shyracks, no doubt – floated to Revan's ears. Other structural anomalies cluttered much of the rest of the walls. A dull gray fog drifted around the occupants' knees.
Distracted by more black-purple mist hugging the doorway, Revan only hesitated for a few seconds before stepping through. Behind her, the ancient stone door slid down and locked into place with barely a sound, seeming to have a greater respect for the nerves of visitors than its cousin further up the hall. Revan took three steps inside, swept the room with her eyes to count the number of doors – there were three, not counting the one she'd just entered through – and crossed her arms as she took in the scene in front of her.
The room was currently being inhabited by a congregation of a dozen or so men and women of varying species, all dressed in robes, tunics, and armors of the Jedi Order. Out of the corner of Revan's eye, she thought she saw enigmatic shapes of dark gray and brown ripple across the floor for a brief instant; similar shadows of a deep blue that seemed more organic and less threatening than the room's interior illumination randomly faded in and out near the ceiling, as well. Ignoring them, Revan strode forward. She knew what was going on.
More visions. Manifestations of the Force, often conveying metaphorical meaning of some kind. Revan had experienced many before – sometimes she had spoken with the apparitions, while other times her visions ended with violence. None of them had proven harmful to her before. But here...
Here, in the heart of darkness that was Korriban, Revan would have to be careful. She let the Force flow into her and relax her. She reached out to the beings before her who were not there; as usual, they felt vibrant with the Force, significantly more so than real life forms tended to. Despite the presence of the dark side, she sensed no harmful intent from the visions. This made her suspect that this experience would turn out to be another memory floating from the darkened tunnels of Revan's mind into the light. Hopefully, she would recall something of importance here, or at least begin to.
Revan eyed the robed figures, whom she knew had to be Jedi. But not united ones, it seemed. Eight of them stood in a cluster at the center of the room, while the rest formed a circle around them. This wasn't a Jedi assembly; it was a confrontation. Members of the two groups moved their mouths as though speaking and gestured with their hands, but they sounded barely as audible as whispers to Revan's ears, and their movements had a lethargic, slowed quality to them. Intrigued, Revan scanned the scene more closely, knowing that she had seen – and perhaps even remembered – this before. Among the Jedi gathered in the center was a tall, muscular man with a firm jaw. Bald, the man was clad in gray garments with plates of brown armor protecting his torso and shoulders, and a high collar.
Nodding slowly to herself, Revan studied the ring of Jedi, which seemed to be composed entirely of older Jedi. Among them, she soon recognized a balding human with a hard expression and a commanding presence: Vrook Lamar of the Jedi High Council. Other faces in the gathering were familiar to Revan, but she didn't bother to search her memories for names. Instead, she gave the entire scene a once-over again. Aside from Malak, Vrook, and a few other of the recognizable figures, most of the spectres were completely motionless, frozen in time while the rest appeared as though underwater. And those flickers of color Revan kept seeing – those ripples of gray and brown below her, and cold blue above – were they, perhaps, the sands of a lonely beach and the accompanying waves of a sea, and the sky of a distant planet at dusk?
Overall, the whole tableau looked to Revan like nothing so much as a scene from a play that was missing one of its stars. The actors were rehearsing while they waited.
Revan slowly stepped toward the middle of the scene. Before her second step, she suddenly felt a breeze – a cold, gentle wind that swept over her from a recess in her mind. The air smelled fresh, intoxicatingly so, not nearly as stuffy as it had been a moment ago. Meanwhile the walls seemed to be wavering ever so slightly, as though slowly being transformed into a gaseous substance.
As Revan neared her fellow actors, the ripples of color around her intensified, and suddenly she was walking across patches of firm, brittle sand. She firmly pushed her way past two members of the Jedi ring and saw that the overlay of a planet's sky – a blackening cerulean expanse dotted by just a few stars – now loomed in front of the ceiling, mostly obscuring it, but still allowing the stone to show through in places. The voices of Jedi around her became louder, clearer, and the population of the scene seemed to be thawing out of their stasis, their movements growing richer and more fluid, more authentic.
A few more strides took Revan to Malak and the other Jedi in the center. The walls still bent and warped, but this was difficult to notice on account of the image of rolling grassy hills on one side and ocean on the other being superimposed over them.
As Revan came to a stop, Malak put on a brief, thin smile and moved next to her left flank. The cluster of Jedi stared outward at the ones surrounding them with looks of indignation and even anger, in a few cases. Their opponents matched those expressions with masks of determined focus and authority.
Revan could hear Vrook Lamar speaking to her, and his words were rapidly regaining their sharpness and audibility. Square-shouldered, she turned to the right and faced him, but even as she did so, her eyes wandered about her newly-transformed surroundings. She could feel words and names, images coming back toward her conscious mind.
"...gone on far enough," Vrook was saying. The Jedi Master stood erect with his hands clasped behind his back, and his gravelly voice demanded the minimum tribute of a begrudging respect. "The Council has no desire or grounds upon which to punish you or your followers, Revan, and it will remain that way if you cooperate with us."
Revan's eyes expanded and her thoughts oozed out through speech without her entirely realizing it. "I remember this... This place is Cathar. Where the crusade began."
"While we are confident in the well-meaning behind your investigations," continued Vrook as though Revan had said nothing, "the Mandalorians are not a threat significant enough to warrant Jedi involvement in another war, especially not at the strength we're at now. On behalf of the Jedi Council, I order you and your followers abandon your efforts and disperse."
The breeze felt heavy. Fitting, considering the spirits that Revan and her followers had been in. She knew what was going on. Shortly before the Jedi Order had joined the war, Revan and her most trusted followers had embarked on a short trip to find evidence that they could use to gather support for their cause among the Jedi. Like Vrook had just said, the Council was saying that the Mandalorians were nothing special, not as dangerous or as important as they were being made to look. So, Revan needed to find proof that they weren't. Proof regarding the magnitude of blood they had spilled. The search had led her here to Cathar, but the Council had followed. Revan and her followers would either be forced to disband or face the Council's judgement, which was likely to be a mandatory assignment, deliberately tailored to keep them away from the war for a while.
Revan turned this information about inside her head. Now that the context of her vision had been established, she realized that she had seen this vision before. When exactly that was, she couldn't say, but that wasn't important. Why was she experiencing it again?
Following Vrook's proclamation, silence reigned for a few long, tense seconds. It was dethroned when a grating voice that dripped with defiance spoke up. "You want us to abandon our duty as Jedi?" Malak said incredulously. "We are doing nothing wrong. If the Council does not believe that these marauders are a true threat, then we will prove it!"
There was another way in which this vision differed from ones she'd had in the past: here, she seemed to be capable of exercising full control over her actions, rather than reliving a past event. She decided that the best course of action was to participate in the vision appropriately, rather than question its presence. The reason she was seeing this again would be revealed in due time on its own; these types of things always were.
Just play the part, she told herself.
"Malak is right," Revan said, reaching back into the past to her old self, trying to imagine her frame of mind as it had been back when this confrontation actually occured. "This is undue. You aren't giving us a chance."
"You've overstepped your authority, Revan," Vrook said evenly. "The Council has its own resources to put to use in evaluating the extent of the Mandalorian threat. You have no business carrying this out under your own direction."
"Authority means nothing to justice." Somehow, Revan knew that she had spoken those precise words those years ago.
"We are not here to debate with you again, Revan. We are here to to ensure that our Jedi – especially our strongest – are doing what they are meant to do."
"We are meant to do what's right!" Malak barked. "What are you doing? Holding back your followers, slowing our attempts to save-"
"Enough, Malak," Revan said with an irritated wave of her hand. "I can speak for myself." What was the point of this? If she was not merely an observer, but a participant in this vision, then it only made sense that she was supposed to do, say, or experience something that hadn't happened in the original history.
"You always did follow only your own path," Vrook said bitterly. "What are your reasons?"
Revan's eyes narrowed for a second. She didn't remember Vrook saying that – and now that she knew she had seen this already, the original scene was rushing back to her with impressive detail. Here on Korriban, it seemed that the boundaries of the original were being set aside. Revan was now being asked about herself. She looked back on what she could recall of her former life. Since Rakata Prime, quite a few memories had emerged. While they tended to lack context, she could easily draw bridges between the various scenes with the help of some research via historical archives and other indirect methods. In this case, however, Revan didn't need those. She only needed to look within.
"I had to do this," she said slowly, carefully. "The Council was taking too long. The Republic needed someone to act." She paused for a moment to regard the Jedi she stood with, the ones who followed her. "You would not, and I knew that I could. The Jedi Order could, if someone would lead them."
"So you did," asked Vrook. "You took a greater risk than even the Council could imagine. We knew that the Sith were out there somewhere, but we never guessed they would come from you."
"Life is risk," Revan said, digging deeper into her own mind. What had she believed, those years ago? "And doing nothing was the worse one. I could end the war. We had the power. I had it. I knew I did."
"And look what it led to," Vrook said, his tone darkening. He made a long, sweeping gesture with his arm, and for a few seconds the surrounding landscape flashed back and forth between itself and a new image – the image of a sky that screamed with agony as the planet beneath it was rent apart by artificially-harnessed gravity. Yet, at the same time it was also a panorama of formerly vibrant, golden fields – fields of a planet that had once harbored scientists and thinkers – being burned away by turbolaser fire. Even so, it was simultaneously the thickest crowd of beings the galaxy had ever seen, all of its members soldiers of the Republic, fighting and dying as beings clothed in shadows struck them down with glowing swords of scarlet light. Again and again until only the shadows were standing.
And then it was gone, and the veil of false reality around Revan returned to the surface of Cathar. She felt like she had been sleeping within a star's core, and someone had awakened her with a bucket of liquid nitrogen. As her disorientation rapidly faded, she noticed that she, along with the rest of those present, had been moved away from the shore and now stood in a water that stopped halfway up to her knees. It felt lukewarm, conspicuously lacked any tide, and barely rippled from their small movements in it.
"The road to darkness always is paved with good intentions," Vrook said calmly. Revan looked at the man and couldn't help but be stung by anger. "The same applies to you," she growled back. "Your intentions were perfectly noble, but you still let planets burn while meditating and analyzing the threat. You wanted to wait for the war to come to you – I went to it and ended it."
Revan regreted the anger, however, for she suddenly felt silly for letting words strike her, especially words from a figment of her imagination. Still, Revan wasn't speaking to Vrook – she was speaking to herself. Perhaps that was the reason for this: she was here to find herself and what she believed about this moment in her life.
"End it, you did. But at a heavy price, Revan," the aging Jedi Master replied grimly. "The Republic and the Jedi are weaker than they have been in some time. I would consider whether it was worth paying, if I were you."
"It was," Revan said immediately, confidently. "You can't condemn me for something I did years later. It may have been against the rules for me to take authority, but my goal was to serve the Republic," she went on. "What you ordered us to do – to wait and let more people die – was not a service to the Republic."
Vrook's eyes narrowed and a scowl dug its way into his face. "Such arrogant self-confidence reeks of the dark side. You trusted yourself over the collective wisdom and judgement of the Order."
Malak suddenly spoke up. "Arrogance?" he said accusingly. "You would label us arrogant when you are the ones here to arrest us for proving you wrong? We are the ones who have scouted, seen the brutality of the Mandalorians. You refused to accept our testimony even when we were serving the Republic! The Council and your kind were always the ones in real darkness."
"I did not begin this crusade for myself," Revan insisted. "I did it because I had no choice. I came here because the Council left me no choice. And here..."
Bidden by an obscure inclination which had likely been dropped into her mind by the Force, Revan gazed down into the water. Resting slightly buried in the sand below was a face, a face that had seen battle and that had belonged to two people. A face that had been forged out of Mandalorian iron and painted black and red – their colors for justice and vengeance. The face of an empire. The face of a Sith Lord. Her face. Her mask.
The mask of Darth Revan.
"...here we found all the proof we needed," Revan finished, her tone softening, becoming more distant as memories stirred again. Regaining her composure, she looked around herself as she spoke and raised her voice, addressing everyone there. "You pinned us here and told us that the Council's patience was at an end. All seemed lost for my cause, until we found this." Stretching forth a hand, She indicated the mask that lay motionless underfoot. "I... picked it up. Held it up so I could examine it. And as soon as the light struck it-"
Revan looked up. She saw the Cathar in their hundreds, thousands, terrified and despairing, fleeing from burning homes and forced to move in a certain direction by men and women encased in full body armor, herded by occasional blaster shots and coerced by impervious military presence. Revan saw them being driven into the sea. When a group of a few dozen had been brought out to a sufficient distance, they were gunned down without haste. And again and again and again until the planet was empty of them.
Revan saw the extinction of a species in progress – a species being extinguised by cruelty and boiled away in the sea by unspeakable hatred. She also saw the leader of this massacre standing nearby, clad in the yellow armor of a Mandalorian Field Marshal, flanked by several of his warriors. Revan saw another warrior – a woman in full battle armor, so her species was undetermined – standing before the commander, speaking out in protest. And Revan saw her riddled with laser fire and thrown into the dead sea with the Cathar.
The image faded and Revan found herself bent over the mask sweating prolifically and breathing through her mouth. Straightening herself, she said, "We all saw what had happened. What the Mandalorians had done, and that it was so horrible that the Force itself would show us that we needed to put an end to it."
Malak appeared at her side. "You donned that mask, Revan," he remarked, sounding as though deep in thought. People in Force visions were almost always so realistic. "You said that you were taking up her cause."
"That's – that's right," Revan said. "Its owner may have been an enemy, but she knew that this butchery was low, even for them. She tried to stop it and payed with her life. So I took the mask to remind me why I would fight. It was to fight this evil."
A disgusted voice replied to her. Vrook had moved closer, leaving the circle to address her more directly. "Don't delude yourself, Revan. You cannot hide from what you once were. Your downfall came from the same place as Exar Kun, and even those before him. Desire for control, lust for power."
Revan was about to speak, but Malak interrupted her. "That power was rightfully ours to take and wield, old man! We were the ones brave enough to use it. Your Jedi were afraid and held themselves back, too weak to embrace the conflict and the victory within your grasp. We were right to turn against you."
"And fight us? Fight the Republic?"
"If it would make the galaxy strong."
"Stop it," Revan upbraided, her patience weakened by Malak's persistent interference. "He's not talking to you. This is my vision."
"You are right, Revan," Vrook said after a moment. He glanced down at the mask, shaking his head. "It was within the Order's power to end the war. But blindly rushing into it brought the galaxy into the grip of the dark side, and that was far worse than if you had allowed the Council to address it."
Revan noticed that the cluster of Jedi she stood with seemed to disperse a bit and were now spread out more evenly within the circle. Aside from Malak, another Jedi stood at her flank – a man about Malak's age, equal to her in height, dressed in gray robes. His gray eyes stared with mounting rage at Vrook and the others. He looked familiar, but Revan couldn't attach a name to him just yet – perhaps he was a metaphor, a personification of so many Jedi who had followed her, always eager and sure of themselves.
Vrook continued speaking. "So if you had to do it all again, the important question is would you? The war is out there and planets are burning, and the Council seems apathetic. You know how this turns out."
That was true. Revan did know how it had turned out, and she had to admit that Vrook had a point. She didn't know exactly why she had turned to follow the dark side. Maybe it had been a mistake to enter the war. An eerie feeling enveloped her; it was the same thing she had felt on Kashyyyk while searching for the Star Map – deep in the Shadowlands of the forest planet, Revan had encountered a computer which her past self had installed near the artifact that would help guide her to her ultimate destination. Built to ensure that only Revan herself could access the Star Map, the interface had given her a series of hypothetical situations and asked how she would deal with them.
Revan had answered the questions as the old Revan would – with cold pragmatism that the Mandalorians were suprised to see used by Jedi. For example, when told that a city of hers was about to be attacked, she had answered that she would allow it to happen, and then use public outrage of the resulting deaths to increase support for herself. She remembered looking back on those prompts later, after her mission's completion, and feeling repulsed by the thought that this was her, that she would actually do this and had done it many times already in the wars.
But Revan knew that she hadn't commanded the war like that from the beginning – making any sacrifices necessary, no matter how cold, to ensure victory. At the beginning of the crusade, she, Malak, and the others had fought as Jedi. But something changed at some point, and they had learned to answer the Mandalorian brutality with a darkness of their own, darkness in the Force. Had there been no avoiding it?
Vrook went on, "Would you do it any different? You know what it cost the galaxy, and you've only begun to understand what it cost you after you put on that mask."
It was a hard question, but Revan considered another one: why had the Council forced her hand like this? It hadn't even been that hard to prove the magnitude of the Mandalorian threat. It was almost as if the Council had been playing dumb about the issue.
Was it possible?
Revan started thinking out loud. "When the Order learned about the genocide here, it was enough to convince the Order that we had to help the Republic. I practically had half the Jedi Order rallying under me – because I had brought this to light. And even the Council was convinced, so the Jedi Order entered the war. But the Crusaders – those I commanded – were the ones fighting in the thickest, on the front. The rest of you, the Jedi who believed in the Council's urgings of caution, most of you stayed behind us. You fought in the smaller campaigns and battles, defended supply routes, brought relief and medical supplies to the wounded.
"For that, you weren't nearly as enthusastically supported as me. So many Jedi, especially the younger ones, wanted to fight. I was a born leader and I built up a reputation as a hero – everyone wanted to serve under me. Every step of the way, you warned against the kind of war I was fighting, but you couldn't oppose me with anything more than words without turning the Order against you. I established myself as an authority equal to but separate from your own, because I was the one who had proven the Mandalorians were dangerous, I was the leader, I was the hero who was beating them back.
"And you, the Council," Revan said. She had given thought to this matter before, but lacked certain bits of information – or awareness of certain bits – as well as time, in many cases. Now, however, things were starting to come together. "You were telling the truth when you told us that you were evaluating the threat yourselves.
"You knew that I was right, didn't you? And at first, I didn't quite know that you knew. This wasn't about whether the Mandalorians were actually a threat – you were trying to find evidence of how dangerous they were, just like I was. In a way, this was about power after all. That's why you arrived here at the same time as us - you had to find this evidence before I did, so that you could rally the Jedi against the enemy yourselves and direct the Order's involvement without the danger of leaving it to me - the charismatic, inexperienced wild card."
"Hypocrites!" Malak roared, his fists shaking. "You wanted to begin the war as well, but only as long as you controlled it, controlled us!"
"History has proven the Council right," Vrook replied. "We could have won the war, and won it without leading half the Jedi Order into the dark side!" He was not quite shouting, but Revan could see Malak's anger visibly spreading. Jedi gritted their teeth and narrowed their eyes. Hands drifted to and rested on lightsaber hilts.
"But I failed the Jedi Order, as well," Vrook said, now sounding more genuinely angry than irritated. His voice was heavy with regret, as well. "I could have prevented all of this if I had stopped you all right here!"
The Jedi at Revan's flank – the one who wasn't Malak – spoke up, his voice shaking with disgust. It was a delicate, polite voice that didn't sound used to rage. "Now it comes out. It's always been a power play. We were all Sith from the beginning. We only didn't know it."
"No, we weren't," Revan gasped, breaking away from the cluster to stand between it and Vrook. The water beneath her felt only slightly thicker than air. "The Council wasn't. The Jedi Crusaders weren't." At this point she turned to regard Vrook. "Even I wasn't, not yet."
The revelation – or perhaps recollection – of the Council's true intentions in regards to the Mandalorians, while intriguing, was not the point of this vision. It was to answer Vrook's question: would she do it again?
Every eye was trained on Revan. She felt completely and utterly alone.
"I know I've done terrible things," she began. The breeze abruptly picked up and seemed to be trying to push her off-balance. "And I admit that I fell under the sway of the dark side. How could I deny it? I may not remember exactly why I did it, but whatever the reason, I came here to Cathar to do the right thing - and I began the crusade to exact justice and defend the Republic, as we Jedi swore to. I have regrets, but this day isn't one of them."
Revan reached an open hand downward and her will reached farther. Slowly, a death's mask in the image of blood and obsidian was gently lifted out of the water, dripping quietly, and hung in the air before her for a moment. It was a mesmerizing sight. Normally it would have reminded her of the old Revan – Darth Revan – but here on Cathar, it represented a past self before a shadow was cast over the galaxy and over her. It was the Revan who was pure, a Jedi by any measure, following a heart that was neither poisoned by the teachings of the Sith nor haunted by the things those teachings had driven her to do.
It represented the Jedi who Revan would prefer being to the Prodigal Knight she was called now.
The mask drifted into Revan's gloved hands and she lifted it toward her face, as she had so long ago in a more innocent time. The right words, the ones she had used the first time, flowed out of her. "You knew that you didn't have to do it," she said, as though addressing the soul of the Mandalorian to whom this mask had first belonged. "You knew it was wrong, but no one listened. I don't know your name, but I take up your cause. I will bear your mask, until..."
Mere inches away, Revan's hands trembled and hesitated. Had this really been for the best?
Yes, she decided. This is who I was. And she was glad that, on the whole, it appeared to be who she was now.
She now saw through the tint of a black visor. "Until there is justice."
Revan then found herself alone in a long-abandoned, desolate room behind a shyrack cave on the planet of Korriban, her hands empty and her clothing dry. The lighting had returned to that oppressive blue tinge, and the rejuvinating breeze had given way to the dusty air that grated her lungs. The vision had ended, and she was left with her thoughts. Those two groups of Jedi had been on the verge of killing each other. Yet all it had taken to resolve the vision was a speech. One speech.
Revan wished she could laugh. If only the real world was that easy.
Nevertheless, she had learned a bit more about herself, so Revan felt sure that what she had just experienced was a step in the right direction. Now all she needed to do was take another. She started toward the door opposite the one she had entered through. Unbidden, it opened before she could reach it, revealing another corridor identical to the last one, except it was darker, bathing the ceiling in an inky carpet of shadows. The hallway ended at a door identical to the last one. Revan didn't slow down.
Halfway to the door, a ripple in the Force indicated that a life form was moving behind her. She listened with the Force for a signal of thought, something to read. Her will reached out for a second and returned holding a very simple, instinctive feeling.
Revan wasn't alarmed. She had been in this spot countless times before, so the lone shyrack that bounded silently through the air toward her was no cause for concern. Making a ninety-degree turn to the right, she drew her lightsaber and swung upward, bisecting the animal in a burst of turquoise lightning. The weapon was deactivated before the shyrack's pieces reached the ground. Hoping to escape the all-too-familiar stench of scorched flesh, she quickly resumed walking.
The Force gave Revan pause as she neared the door – she could sense a lot of movement on the other side. Not willing to walk into an ambush, she opened herself to the Force and poured her thoughts into the room ahead, feeling the boundaries of its walls. Presently, an image began to form inside her mind, as if a holocam in the room was feeding itself directly into her brain. As the hazy mess of brown and gray began to take on clarity, she hoped that the room wasn't full of shyracks.
The image became crystal clear. The room was rectangular. The entrance was near the right corner of one of the long ends; an exit was at the reverse spot on the opposite wall. Clean-stripped skeletons, most of them humanoid, lined the walls along with occasional piles of what appeared to be shyrack waste. Speaking of which, the room was filled with the animals, dozens of them. A few were flapping aimlessly about, but most were sleeping on or skittering across the floor on pairs of clawed belly-mounted appendages that served as legs.
For a moment, Revan considered retracing her steps and trying one of the other doors, but she thought better of it. There was no more reason to believe that those paths weren't dead ends than there was in this case; likewise, the chances of those rooms being similarly infested were just as high. Until she saw a reason to believe otherwise, she decided that she might as well continue.
Dispelling the image of the room, Revan drew in a breath. With that simple action, she drew on the Force, as well. It was an easy thing for her to channel; she was like a sieve, and the water pouring through her was this power. In the blink of an eye, her view of the world was subtly altered. Although nothing appeared different to the naked eye, Revan's senses now transcended such limits. She could see the Force running in dark currents through the hallways and feel the energy that gave life to the horde of shyracks within that room ahead.
Revan waved her hand and the door slid open, grating but obliging. A flutter of activity spread through the room. Some of the shyracks started nudging their slumbering fellows awake, while others slowly took to flight. Before any could start to focus their senses on her rather than the movement of the door, Revan sent them a command through the Force: Don't see me.
It was not literally a command in words, of course; had it been, it would be innaccurate, since shyracks didn't possess eyes. Rather, what Revan performed was a different sort of mind trick. Many Jedi were capable of sensing the intent of animals, but it usually took a special knack to get them to do what you wanted them to. Most did not think complex thoughts, instead getting by on base urges and instincts. But because the Force flowed through them as much as it did through sapient beings, they could be manipulated with similar ease; all it really took was a different approach. Still, the established control was a fragile bind that was easy to break for most.
Revan had never before used beast control on such a large number, but there was always a first time.
For a first time, it seemed to work rather well. Most of the shyracks were aroused from their previous inactive state. Some flapped curiously about in the room, but most of them felt content to crawl about on the ground, sniffing in the general direction of the door. Several flew out through the new opening, forcing Revan to duck. She moved slowly into the room. She may have been able to fool them all for a time, but a false step – a step on top of a sleepy shyrack, for instance – could easily ruin her concentration and break the illusion.
Revan could sense the shyracks scrabbling about the room as though every particle of air was an extension of herself that transmitted the sense of physical contact. Thus, it was easy to plot out a path to walk in her mind's eye, but the animals were constantly moving over it. Twice she had to pause or duck in order to avoid a head-on collision with a shyrack, before she had even gotten halfway to the next door.
Revan started to sweat. It was a strenuous task to keep the shyracks' collective attention diverted away from her. As more and more movement up ahead disrupted the course she had plotted, she was required to expend more and more energy on revising it, making her control over the shyracks' perceptions weaker and weaker.
The door was only about seven paces away now. Revan thought she might make it when her left boot caught on something which was lifted up with her next step before sliding off. An annoyed nattering sounded below her, and Revan felt the shyrack rear back in confusion. The beast made a half-hearted lunge forward and snapped with sleepy jaws at where her leg had been.
To avoid the bite, Revan had to double the ground she covered with her next step, which bumped her forcefully into the side of a passing shyrack that squawked in surprise. Revan's field of control whiplashed back into her skull and the room abruptly became much noisier. Its occupants, which were now fully aware of her presence, sounded quite hungry.
There were only seconds to react, and neither door was close enough to reach without conflict. A mass of winged shadows took to the air in a blur of motion and came for her in a frenzied rush. Focusing the Force within her, Revan squeezed it into a tiny microscopic bubble of energy and held it tight until the last second. At the last second she let it go, and a blast of telekinetic energy tore the air and sent shyracks thundering bodily into the walls and ceiling, snapping bones and breaking wings.
As shyracks fell flailing by the dozen to the floor, Revan lunged for the exit. Several of the flying beasts who had been far enough away to avoid the brunt of her attack made blindingly fast dives at her head, using their clawed legs to sweep at her. However, Revan could be more than just blindingly fast when she wanted to be, and she wanted to be very much.
The door opened by itself before Revan could reach it. She spun as she leaped through, and a clap of blue-green thunder sliced two pursuing shyracks to pieces. She extinguished the lightsaber as she landed and slammed the door shut. Thinking she must have gotten some extra dust, or shyrack drool or something on her, Revan brushed random parts of her tunic as she continued down the next hallway. She slowed her walk when she noticed more of the purple haze hugging the bottom of the next door.
Revan was frankly surprised at how little this tomb, if that was what it was, seemed to be able to throw at her: a vision where she hadn't even needed to fight anyone and a couple dozen shyracks. She had expected something more lethal.
The room Revan had stepped into as she completed this thought sported a bottomless chasm running horizontally across it, swallowing up about a third of the room's area, but with a solid-looking bridge allowing passage to the other side. Presumably, this was the result of a peculiar sense of aesthetics held by the designers of the place, and evidently by most of the building designers of Korriban. Revan herself had never been much of an architect.
Unlike with the previous chambers, this one's ceiling was at least a dozen feet higher than normal and composed of jagged, uneven rock, as though the builders had lost interest in maintaining the status quo of smooth stone with skillfully-carved runes at the advanced elevation. Several gaping, meter-long cracks in the surface cast twin shafts of dim, sterile yellow light from one side of the pit to the other. Billions of particles of dust were floating sluggishly about, illuminated by the shaft of light. A third crack, perpendicular to the other two, cut the bridge across the room in half.
There was no sign of life inside. Revan headed for the bridge as a tingly sensation in the back of her head started to form, so slowly that she didn't even notice it for a few paces. Abruptly, the far wall started to ripple with colors and shades of light that weren't its own. In a similar manner to before, the room started vanishing in random places and giving way to a completely different scenery, as though Korriban was an illusion, a false layer of reality that was being peeled away. As she stepped onto the bridge, Revan felt her face being met by a hot, damp wind, and before she knew it, she was walking in a grassy plain with a range of mountains lining the horizon. Battallions of red-garbed Republic soldiers were standing in formations on either side of her, and a personal shuttle sat parked near the back of the formations.
Revan was walking toward the shuttle and therefore couldn't see what her troops were facing, but she knew already. A few kilometers away was a minor Mandalorian base – an outpost, really – nestled in between three small mountains. She wasn't walking alone, either.
A man about Revan's height with short, curly brown hair and wearing the face of a particularly imperious diplomat was walking briskly with Revan, speaking in a respectful, refined tone. Before bothering to listen to the words, Revan glanced at the man and recognized him as one of the Jedi whom she had seen in the vision of Cathar. Sorting through the words attached to faces in her emerging memories, Revan found a name. Voren Renstaal, a personal friend before the Jedi entered the war and one of the first to join her cause.
Revan blinked and realized that the face was actually associated with two names. The second was Darth Voren, the title she had given him when she'd appointed her six apprentices – the most cunning and brutal of her followers – at the beginning of the Jedi Civil War. Voren had been the last one of those six to die before Malak.
Now the dead man walked with Revan again, dressed much as she herself had been as a Sith – black robes accompanied by several thin sheets of armor over the torso. The only thing missing was the mask. After Malachor, Voren had taken to wearing a mask like Revan's own, except a completely featureless reflective black plate.
Voren had been a shadow of Revan in more ways than one.
"...all in position," Voren was saying, "as are our Jedi. They're waiting to move in on your order. And as you can see, our shuttle is already waiting."
Numbly, Revan sorted through the details of this place and occasion. It was Althir IV, the site of a battle not long before Malachor V. The Mandalorian outpost here was one of the last targets before she would attack their main stronghold in the region. The outpost possessed a shield preventing bombardment. Ergo, she needed to send someone inside to get rid of it, ideally Jedi. Meanwhile, the troops would attack from the front, distracting the Mandalorian security. The Jedi could get in, neutralize the shield, and get safely away before the base was leveled by orbital bombardment.
The Jedi, specifically. They would be coming back, for they were skilled and loyal to Revan.
The troops, however, were specifically loyal to the Republic. Revan's evaluation of them, focusing on the most experienced and respected of them, had determined that. Therefore, they would not be coming back.
Only Revan and Voren knew that the perimeter defenses were enough to rip the soldiers apart, and that the subsequent bombardment would finish off any survivors. Considered by the Althir system task force to be an unexpected loss, it would help Revan. It meant one less unit that needed to be killed later. Additionally, their deaths would weaken the resolve of her Jedi just a bit more, moving them closer to vulnerability to the dark side.
Revan shivered and her walk slowed as she remembered. These men and women had been just objects to her, numbers. Resources. Assets or threats. Once she had embraced the dark side, this became routine for her. Commanders, Jedi, entire companies and fleets that she decided would not follow her to the Sith legacy would be conveniently killed in the Mandalorian Wars, their deaths feeding the darkness that filled the galaxy, which in turn would corrupt those under her that survived.
Revan remembered a lot of the Mandalorian Wars. She had done this sort of thing many times, each massacre more grievous than the last and leading up to the grand finale at Malachor.
"Is something wrong, Master?"
Voren's words brought Revan back to reality. Well, back to fake reality. The tainted Jedi Knight was eyeing her with a bit of concern. Revan didn't look at him. Moments ago, she had chosen to do as she'd done the first time and stayed true to herself. This time, however, the self which she was proud to call her own was not compatible with the original history.
The dark side had triumphed on Althir IV once before. Even if this wasn't actually Althir IV, she wouldn't let it win again.
Now bearing the strength to do so, Revan stopped and studied Voren as the man curiously followed suit. She observed a yellow tint in his gray eyes. That feature was her handiwork, a visible sign of the dark side that she had sown in him. "There's been a change of plans," she said in a clipped tone. "There won't be a bombardment. We're leading these men and we're taking this base."
With that, she turned and marched toward the front of the company, where the officers would be situated. Clearly taken by surprise, Voren rushed after Revan and appeared to her right. "What are you talking about?" he demanded. "Everyone is deployed, and-"
"I said there won't be a bombardment. I'm not sending these men to die, not again."
Voren grabbed Revan by the shoulder, but she shook him off. "What do you mean?" he hissed, keeping his voice low so that the men wouldn't hear. "The battle plan is completely prepared. What is wrong?"
"The only thing that's wrong," Revan fumed, "is that this actually happened. This was murder and betrayal. These men trusted me, trusted the Jedi."
Voren's voice was firm, and his argument seemed to rely on objective facts. "These men are supposed to die, Revan. We can't possibly have enough to take this outpost. You told me yourself."
"I was wrong."
They came to the front of the formation. The Republic troops stood silently like droids, barely even moving. Revan stopped and turned to regard the man who had served under her, and the two stared each other down for a few seconds. Voren's face showed only the slightest tinge of anger. His gray-yellow eyes were slightly widened and he nervously pulled at his gloves, fidgeting. He was confused, almost a little frightened by what he had just heard.
Revan looked at him and felt herself struck as though with a battering ram by the supreme, frigid wrongness of what she saw in Voren. He looked like nothing so much as a man who was being given orders that violated his conscience – like a soldier who had been told to kill a surrendering enemy, for instance. He felt that something was wrong with the person who had given the order, felt certain that he was being told to do something that is unsound and contrary to what is right.
Revan was repulsed by the man's certainty. Voren was a Jedi, and this Jedi had come to believe that deliberately sending soldiers to death for consolidation of personal power was right. That this was really the right thing to do. For Revan, the worst part of it all was knowing that Voren hadn't become this way on his own – she had known him far too well before the war for that to be possible. No, he believed this was right because he had been taught – taught by her.
The Republic had trusted the Jedi Crusaders, the Jedi who were fighting on the front lines to bring down the invading Mandalorians. Their trust was repaid with treachery a thousand times over.
"Revan, you are our leader and I will follow your orders, but you must see that this is impossible," Voren said, sifting the disbelief from his voice and instead relying on a tone of sobering objectivity. "This unit can't possibly take the outpost, probably even with Jedi. What do you hope to accomplish with this? What difference will it make?"
"This isn't about the battle," Revan replied bitterly, glancing off at the Mandalorian facility and taking in its gunmetal-gray armored exterior, the dish-shaped shield generator at the top, and the gun towers circling it. "Or even about surviving. It's about making amends. Or trying to, at least."
"You can't prevent what you've already done, Revan," Voren said, suddenly breaking character. "These men are dead, and their blood helped to refine you and find yourself. Remorse will only drag you down into the darkness with them."
"They can't possibly be as deep as I already am," Revan half-muttered, her voice low.
The two were silent for a moment. The air was heavy and damp. The soldiers, dead by what seemed an eternity, stood mindlessly at attention nearby. Finally in a resigned voice Voren said, "You can't help them, Revan. Trying to do so will only harm yourself."
Whatever doesn't kill me...
"This already happened. There is no escape."
There was no escaping Taris, either. Or the Leviathan. Or Rakata Prime.
"You gave the order and these men died. This is who you are."
Revan looked at the lightsaber in her hands and turned it this way and that, as though looking for a crack or other sign of damage. "Not this time, it isn't," she said. "I'm leading this advance, and you're leading it with me."
What she was seeing and doing wasn't real, of course. Revan had no illusions about that. But if she couldn't do the right thing when it was a vision, how could she trust herself to in the real world?
It was stupid, completely illogical, but Revan didn't care. She wouldn't just tell the men to pull back. In reality, every last one of them had died here, sacrificed on the altar of war. In this return to that day, she would put herself on that altar alongside them. They deserved whatever shred of honor it would provide.
Wearily, Voren nodded and said, "As you will have it, my Master." Turning, he headed to the nearest squad leader, who was standing at the front of the formation. His lightsaber burst to life in a scarlet flare, immediately drawing the man's attention. Voren began barking orders, but his voice was unintelligible, as though he was a great distance away.
Feeling possessed, as though not totally in control of herself, Revan marched toward the base as the world around her pulsed and twisted once again, and within seconds she closed the distance, as though time had leaped forward a few minutes.
Light – flashing bolts of red and green – assaulted her eyes with dazzling, blinding speed. The cacophany of battle – screams of pain, shouted orders, and the random discharge of energy weapons – beat against her, and the air stank of blood, smoke, and ozone.
After an instant of fear, Revan let herself sink into the Force, and anything resembling anxiety melted off of her like wax. Even back in the Mandalorian Wars, one part of the Jedi Code – there is no passion, there is serenity – had applied for her when she was in the thick of combat. She stretched out, and the position of every soldier in the vicinity was made crystal-clear, as though highlighted with a great luminosity beyond anything a conventional scanner could give.
As was their custom, the Mandalorian unit stationed here, seeing that they were not faced with an immense army, had charged out to fight them man-to-man. Honor and the thrill of battle was clearly placed before reason, for there was little in the way of cover for either side. Aside from a few small hills, wreckage of small, discarded war vehicles, and other odds and ends, the fighting took place in a wide-open plain. It was insane to attack like this, with no vehicle support.
The enemy had already closed in, and the battle was reduced to a mad, random slugfest, a frenzy of military reflex and precision. One side would be wiped out, soldier by soldier.
Revan moved forward in a methodical advance, dividing her immediate surroundings into the squares of a grid within her mind and assigning a priority to each one, taking the number of friendlies and hostiles into account, along with whatever other tactical factors were present. Picking a spread of squares ahead of her, Revan would sweep them of Mandalorians as needed, focusing on whichever ones her troops were weakest at.
Almost without fail, Mandalorians would drop or holster their blasters and charge Revan with vibroblades when they neared. She could feel the pride in each warrior's heart, bursting with relish at the mere chance of fighting a Jedi before she cut them down. They attacked and counter-attacked, blocked and feignted, but the Force gave Revan every advantage she could ever need. So far, the battle was as easy for her as walking. She knew that every step she took was one over a burned or bloody corpse, but there was nothing to do but take another one. Keep moving.
Revan took a breath as she observed the next few rows of her imaginary grid; they were empty of hostiles, and her troops were running and limping forward. The Mandalorians were falling back to their gun towers, which were not very far away anymore. Standing just under nine meters tall, they were unimaginitively-designed four-sided structures, sporting four anti-infantry repeating laser turrets at the top. The guns protruded from slits in the walls just large enough for troopers inside to give supporting fire.
Several dozen Mandalorians crowded around each tower. Their comrades had stacked what appeared to be supply crates in small clusters to provide cover. Some fired leisurely from around the crates while others lobbed fragmentation grenades over them, relatively safe. Revan and her men had no such luck.
Coming under thicker and thicker fire, the Republic troops were reduced to crouch-running and crawling, hoping to reduce their profile. Grenade explosions intensified, periodically forcing Revan to leap clear. Her men off to the right were faring little better. Among the chaos, she could see a black-clad figure spinning and whirling with frolicsome grace, clearly enjoying the fight.
Revan glanced behind herself. The plain was carpeted with bodies. She decided that there was no need to look that far back. Fighting to keep her stomach from churning, Revan continued moving ahead. The Force guided her lightsaber, keeping her safe from the rain of enemy blaster fire, but this tower was too well-defended. The troops were getting shredded. She needed help.
Reaching into the Force, Revan sent a message without words rippling outward, a summons. She risked a glance to the right and saw Voren bounding like a trained dog toward her position, a shadowy blur against the backdrop of battle. At the edge of the Mandalorian position, he took one final leap and landed like a canonball among a squad of enemy riflemen, scattering them like ragdolls with a repulsing blast of Force energy. Some Mandalorians around him spun instantly to focus on the sudden breach in their security while others turned their heads in distracted alarm.
Drawing more deeply into the Force, Revan started for the nearest enemy position of cover, which consisted of four supply crates, two stacked on top of another two. From the gun tower above, two separate streams of emerald fire swept back and forth across the battlefield. Revan's troops dutifully ran to take advantage of the weakness Voren's attack had created, even as they were cut to pieces by the turret fire from above. Several Mandalorians ran out from behind Revan's target with vibroblades drawn, but too late.
When she had closed to within seven meters, Revan raised a hand and let out a breath. A sound like a thunderclap briefly eclipsed the storm of blaster fire and the Force hit the four crates like a fist, hurling them in different directions, slamming into and crushing nearby Mandalorians. She waded into the six blade-wielding soldiers that had rushed her.
Revan's lightsaber form of choice was, as it had been back then, the one called Juyo; relying on intense personal concentration and focused channeling of emotions, as well as heavily demanding on the user's command of the Force, it was a style of both fury and grace. It had always appealed to Revan, being an unpopular style that relatively few Jedi practiced. With Juyo, she worked wide, sweeping chops and long, reaching thrusts into her attacks. She seldom attacked with anything less than a killing strike. She fought with elegance, but didn't make a fuss out of it.
The Mandalorians attacked at once, two striking at opposite sides of her while the rest ran around to flank her. Parrying the left one's swing and side-stepping out of the other one's range, Revan siezed the man with the Force and pulled him forward, impaling him on her blade. A simple sweep to the right cut through the second Mandalorian's upper torso. Spinning, she faced the remaining four and let the Force fight for her. Every place they hacked at Revan, her lightsaber was there first, even with the occasional need to deflect blaster shot away from her back. With a few flashes of turquoise lightning, her challengers were in pieces on the ground.
Turning back to regard the tower, she observed that Mandalorians were still crowding around its base as green and red bolts of energy spat mercilessly from its head. The repeating turrets swept back and forth, and more and more bodies fell around the tower.
Laser fire started to fill Revan's vision more and more. Pausing, she stared up at the tower.
She was a Jedi. It meant nothing to her.
Raising one hand, Revan burrowed with her will into its duracrete foundation, feeling microscopic fissures and cracks in its walls and running invisible feelers across the things inside – floors and walls, stairs, small crates, machinery. Her body felt somewhat distant, as though she had outgrown it. She could feel the tower like she was holding it in her hand.
When Revan felt a second extension of the Force, one similar to her own, wrap itself around the structure, she recognized it as Voren's and made a pinching gesture with her thumb and index finger. The building immediately shuddered and roared in protest as an unseen force throttled and violently shook its foundations, as though to tear it from the earth and into the sky.
The Force thundered like a river through Revan and out of her hand. It was an intoxicating feeling. She could perceive several cracks start to run up the walls of the tower. In a few more seconds, she and Voren would be able to snap its neck like a twig.
Before this could happen, however, Revan saw a blur of fluctuating green light, emanating from the tower and tearing holes in the ground, swing toward her. She reached with a second grip for the turret, but before she could crush it, the emerald fire swept through her with impersonal precision, cutting diagonally through her right arm, torso, and shoulder with blinding pain.
Mindlessly, Revan fell back like she had been pushed over. When she landed, however, she felt her back collide against a hard, slightly curved stone surface, rather than grass and dirt. She also noticed that she was staring up at a crack in the ceiling through which a horizontal line of stifled, frustrated sunlight fell.
She didn't hurt anymore, either, and she was in one piece.
The vision had ended, and Revan was lying on the bridge, breathing heavily as though she had been plucked out of the middle of that battle, which she had been. Her limbs felt slightly unresponsive, drained, but it was nothing that couldn't be walked off. She sat up, got to her feet, and blinked dust from her eyes. Unlit, her lightsaber was still in her right hand. It was practically glued to her.
She'd done it. She'd "won" the vision, if indeed it was something that could be won. Yet aside from making her feel a little better, Revan wasn't sure what it had accomplished. Hoping that it could all be pieced together later, she headed for the next door.
Revan couldn't help herself. She crouched and reached with her left hand. The object that had arrested her attention was a lightsaber hilt that lay abandoned on the outskirts of a pool of blood. There was a lot of it – it looked like about as much as the average human could hold. It looked not quite human, though – more black with a deep reddish tinge than a straight-up red.
Glad that she was wearing gloves, Revan wiped some of the red off of the hilt with her fingers. Its casing near the emitter shroud was smooth, chrome-like, and the opposite end had a black, ridged hand grip that made the hilt feel firmer in her hand than her own lightsaber did. She'd seen this kind before; it was a design favored by Jedi practitioners of the fifth combat form, whose fighting style emphasized staying on the offensive in a duel.
She thumbed the activation switch, and the bloody floor was cast in a cold violet illumination. Nothing in the room stirred.
Revan stood, deactivated the weapon, and placed it on her belt. Its owner, most likely a Jedi, was certainly dead, and she didn't want to think about where his or her body was, or about why he or she had been here. Having the blood-dampened hilt on her belt made Revan feel uncomfortable, but an odd part of her seemed to be feeling that she had to hold onto it. So she would, at least until the end of this tomb.
Revan's stride was slow as she stepped through another blanket of violet-black mist into the room. A single doorless hallway opened on the wall to the right. Aside from its shape, which was more of an equal square than a rectangle, this chamber was very much like the first one in the tomb, with a sort of support pillar extending from the blackness of a well-sized pit in each of the four corners. One unique feature was a statue of a robed man, arms crossed, towering over the rest of the room in the far left corner and staring balefully down with dead eyes. Standing in the middle of the room with its back to Revan was a slender black-robed figure.
Upon first seeing the figure, Revan compiled a mental list of what it might be, if it wasn't merely another vision. Clearly, it was a Force-user; she could sense power churning inside the person, but its alignment with the light or dark side was hidden from Revan. Still, a Jedi seemed unlikely, as not many were left in the galaxy. And what about the lightsaber Revan had found? Could this individual possibly know something about whoever it had belonged to?
The figure was now only a few meters away. Somehow Revan didn't feel like this was another vision. The room was still here; she saw no colors or images from other times or places materialize.
When Revan had closed to one meter, the figure abruptly turned, as though cued by something invisible. Revan stopped and her mind went blank, feeling as though a switch inside her brain had been flipped.
It was Bastila. She looked better than Revan felt; her robes were well-kept, not a single brown hair on her head looked out of place, and her clean face lacked any sign of the difficulties she must have traversed just to enter the tomb. She wasn't exactly smiling, but looked pleased to see Revan. All of this was puzzling; why and how was she here on Korriban? Revan had taken no one but the two droids with her on this excursion. What's more, nobody else was even supposed to know about her being here in the first place.
"Revan. I'm glad you finally caught up," Bastila said. She sounded as pleasant as she looked, which was confounding. Who in this galaxy could be on Korriban in this place and have this demeanor? It was an inconsistency with how Bastila had looked the last time Revan saw her.
"Caught up?" Revan asked blankly. Bastila had been waiting for her? "How did you even find me? Did the Council send you for some reason?"
Dimly, Revan thought to herself, That isn't possible. The Council can't possibly have sent this person here. That was an odd choice of words, though – this person. Even as she mulled this over, however, Revan became aware of a slight, dull ache in her forehead.
"I wasn't sent by the Council," Bastila said sedately. "I'm here to help you through this place. And its visions."
Visions. Something isn't right. Something isn't possible.
"But how did you find me?" Revan asked. "Nobody else knew I was here."
"You're not as perfect at hiding your trail as you think," Bastila said with not a small hint of amusement. The explanation was plausible, Revan supposed, but a tiny scrabbling in the back of her head told her that it wasn't correct, that it couldn't be correct. Incidentally, her head still hurt.
Bastila may have been dodging the question or... something, but Revan decided to let that slide for the moment. "All right," she said slowly. "What do you know about this place?"
"I know about how the dark side is putting you through trials. It's so strong here that it manifests itself through visions. Up to this point you've been seeing parts of your past; soon, though, I fear you will have to face the present." Bastila looked more serious now, always willing to focus herself on a task.
This can't be happening, Revan thought. But why can't it be happening? What's wrong with this picture? "I don't understand," she said flatly.
"That's why I'm here," Bastila said. "To help you with that."
Revan shook her head irritably. It had to have been years since Bastila spoke this cryptically and unhelpfully. This wasn't right. Bastila wasn't being herself. But it's worse than that, a part of Revan added. It didn't clarify how it was worse than that, however.
"How?" Revan asked.
"Bastila, get away from her! She's a Sith!"
The sudden appearance of the third voice was so abrupt that Revan actually jumped. Bastila's eyes focused on something over Revan's shoulder and her right hand moved to the lightsaber on her belt. The last traces of her half-smile evaporated.
Revan turned and saw Carth alone in the hallway she had come from, stepping through the crackling mist at the bottom of the doorway. Clad in the orange jacket he was almost always wearing when off-duty, he held a blaster pistol in two hands, his aim squarely focused on Revan. His face displayed intense focus and determination. When Revan's eyes focused on the man, he slowed his pace cautiously. He looked as serious as he'd ever been in his life.
Before Revan could ask what the hell was going on and why she hadn't sensed Carth's arrival, Bastila grabbed her by the arm and pulled, placing herself between Carth and Revan. Carth's aim wavered a bit. Her voice was firm, clipped, and almost a little polite. "Carth, you don't know what you're saying. There's nothing to be concerned about."
Carth's glare softened and his eyes twitched. "Nothing to be concerned..." He trailed off and paused for a moment, as though being hit by a disarming revelation. After a few uncomfortable seconds, during which Revan strangely couldn't think of anything to say, Carth growled, "She's gotten to you, hasn't she? I should have guessed that you'd be the first one she'd fool."
Bastila's patient, obliging disposition gave way to a certain degree of venom. "Carth, I've had enough of your meddling. You will leave now." The audible snap-hiss of a lightsaber followed her order, and two blades of scarlet – not yellow, like they were supposed to be – cast the room in a deadly light. Evidently considering Bastila a more immediate threat, Carth shifted his aim from Revan to Bastila.
Revan winced. She felt like she had been trying to speak, but failing. It felt much harder than it should have. Stepping to the right so that her view of Carth was unblocked, she said, "Bastila, calm down! What's going on!?"
Bastila threw a glance over her shoulder. She started to speak, but Revan cut her off. "What's happened to you, Bastila? Neither of you were like this the last time..." But when had the last time been, anyway? Revan felt like she had been on Korriban for so very long. She thought hard and felt certain that she'd last seen Bastila on Coruscant. She was in the Jedi Temple – the Room of a Thousand Fountains, actually. They were talking about-
"Hey, what's the commotion here?" came a deep voice from the left. Revan looked to see Jolee Bindo entering from the hallway there, looking much the same as she remembered him, in his customary simple brown tunic. Revan felt her head start to pound more prominently. Now Jolee was here? It wasn't possible, it was becoming less and less-
"Stay out of this, Jolee," Bastila said quickly, as though trying to control the direction of the conversation. "This is none of your concern."
Jolee's lightsaber sprang to life, adding its emerald light to the room. "Sure," he said frankly. "You holding my friend at lightsaber-point is just outside my circle of concern."
Revan tried to reach within herself for the commanding disposition that she remembered having for so long, but it felt distant, like a story about somebody else. "Everyone, put away your weapons!"
For a full three or more seconds, nobody said anything; Carth and Jolee glared at Bastila and Revan, while the former woman kept her lightsaber ready. Revan, an individual who almost always had something to say, found herself at a loss for words. What was this? Was everyone going insane?
A mechanical whirring sound reached Revan's ears, and she observed T3 come rolling out of the darkness next to Carth. In a second he came to a halt, his retractable blaster mount extended from his dome-shaped head. The droid was nattering so furiously that Revan didn't have time to comprehend it.
Bastila spoke up condescendingly, not sounding like the person Revan knew. "The three of you would challenge us? You sorely underestimate the power of the dark side."
Everyone was going insane. Revan brought a hand up to steady her head. She felt as though a spike was being driven through it. She clamped her eyes shut for a moment, and when they were opened again the room was much more crowded. Without any prior indication of additional arrivals, such as the sound of footsteps, Canderous, HK-47, Juhani, Mission, and Zaalbar had spontaneously appeared in a half-circle with Carth and the others, facing Bastila and Revan with their weapons drawn.
The buzz of lightsaber blades filled Revan's hearing, but she could still take in Carth proclaiming, "I don't think so, Bastila. We're on to you now. If we have to take you down with Revan, then we will."
Bastila turned respectfully toward Revan. "Our 'friends' do not seem to be so accepting of us anymore," she said bitterly. "Will you stand for this, Revan?"
"No, I won't," Revan shot back. "What is happening? Do you all seriously think I've returned to the dark side?"
No, I haven't. It isn't possible. This isn't possible.
A voice from the circle came to Revan. "Do not try to deceive us again," Juhani said, anger simmering within her. "We all can sense how entrenched the dark side is in you. If we don't stop you now, then we will all be doomed." It sounded so not like Juhani that Revan couldn't describe it. She looked at the walls and observed with a sort of detached horror that they were no longer solid – the stone was warped, vaporous as though submerged under water; despite this, Bastila and the others seemed to be in sharp focus. Worse, Revan could see rippling lines of blackness spreading across the room like cracks in a mirror, as though reality itself was being broken and torn away to reveal a terrible nothingness just underneath the surface. Where was she? The Ebon Hawk? Korriban? Somewhere else?
Bastila's voice brought Revan's eyes back to her. "Revan, will we defend ourselves or not?" There was such anger and self-righteousness in her. Revan hadn't seen that, or her with a red lightsaber since the Star Forge. Despite the madness of the situation that seemed to corrosively eat at her will and ability to think, despite the unholy burning sensation in her head, Revan was able to reach deep inside and wrench a rational question to the forefront of her thoughts, the most pressing question she could think of. "How can you all be here now, at the same time? It isn't possible..."
It isn't possible. They aren't just not themselves. They aren't here at all.
Revan felt a sensation like something snapping just behind her eyeballs. She blinked and the walls were back to normal and her head no longer hurt. The sudden realization burned her. It was a hypothetical situation, one in which she was expected to make a choice.
More to the point, they were all just visions.
And they had actually fooled her for a minute. Repulsed by that thought, Revan backed away until she struck the wall behind her. She barely felt it. "It's not real," she said to herself. She had to get the words out to calm herself down. She hadn't seen it coming – the vision had been so seemless that it had dulled her mind like a dream, something none of the previous ones had done. "It's all just a test of some kind."
Bastila now turned her back to Carth and the others to face Revan directly. "What do you mean?" She sounded genuinely confused. Revan felt that the mere thought of explaining the situation to a vision was ridiculous, but she decided to give the visions the benefit of the doubt. "You all think I've become a Sith again," she said. "And that Bastila went with me, and I'm here because you want me to choose whether to redeem myself or not, and either way I have to kill at least one person I care about."
"Sacrifices have to be made, Revan," Bastila said patiently, as though this was up for debate. "Nobody knows this better than-"
"Stop it," Revan barked, taking a step forward. She felt immensely inclined to lash out at the visions and tear them nonexistent limb from nonexistent limb, but kept her temper. "Not every resolution to a crisis requires a sacrifice. But there's something more important to address." She took a second to compose her thoughts. Like with the previous visions, she was really talking to herself, digging to find her own beliefs.
"You got me to cooperate with you before, when I revisted the past, but it isn't going to happen here," Revan said. "I'm not going to play your game this time. You are all free to disappear now, if you want. Either way, I'm moving on."
Carth spoke up. "Really?" he sneered. "You're the last person I'd expect to run away from a hard decision, that's for sure."
"Or from a fight," Canderous put in.
"I'm not running away from a decision," Revan snapped. "This situation will never happen, so there's no point in pretending it will. We'd never be at our throats like this, not after what we've already been through. You're only trying to torment me at this point."
"Don't be so stubborn, Revan," Bastila chided. "There's always something to learn from a situation like this."
"No, there isn't. You're all just visions. It doesn't matter what I do."
"So you will do nothing?" Bastila asked indignantly. As she spoke her next words, the woman's eyes suddenly took a distant, glazed look. "Apathy is death," she went on. "Worse than death, because at least a rotting corpse feeds the beasts and insects."
Revan visibly shuddered, as though the words were a blisteringly cold breeze that sucked the warmth out of her body. Those words sounded eerily familiar, like she had certainly heard them before. If so, however, it had not been from Bastila; they were far too poetic for her. It was as though someone from Revan's past – her past self? Or a teacher, perhaps? – had spoken through this vision of Bastila.
Wherever the piece of advice had come from, it seemed to have an extraordinary effect on the others. In perfect unison, Bastila, Carth, Jolee, and the other visions all lowered their weapons, but didn't holster them, and their various expressions of concentration melted into looks of complete detachment. After this was done, the copy of Carth spoke in a very matter-of-fact voice.
"Apathy is death."
As did the others, one by one.
"Apathy is death."
"Apathy is death."
Zaalbar made a short proclamation in Shyriiwook, as did T3 in his own distinctive speech pattern. Revan didn't need to listen to know what they said.
"Apathy is death."
"Statement: Apathy is death."
"Apathy is death."
Knowing what was going to happen, Revan held out her lightsaber, and a shaft of turquoise energy burned with those of the visions.
Bastila screamed the words at Revan. "Apathy is death!"
In unison, the entire party charged, except for those armed with blasters, who held back and took aim. Making a Force-assisted lunge to the left, Revan slammed her elbow into Jolee's gut, arresting his advance and forcing him back a few steps. As Bastila and Juhani changed course to intercept her, Revan focused her Force sense on the three duelists' signatures, tapping into the threads of the universe and how they connected to each of them. Gathering the metaphorical threads into a single mass, Revan squeezed, and Jolee, Juhani, and Bastila all froze in place, imprisoned in shimmering violet outlines of Force energy.
The stasis would only hold for a few seconds, but it would give Revan a chance. It was a good thing, too, because Zaalbar was directly in front of her by this point. The enormous Wookiee made a vicious overhand chop with his vibroblade. Ducking, Revan was able to avoid the full force of the blow as she blocked it, but the impact still shook her bones and took one hand off of the grip on her lightsaber. Before he could attack again, she swept her blade upward, cutting horizontally through Zaalbar's waist. Revan observed as she stepped back, deflecting a laser shot from Carth, that the Wookiee's body and weapon promptly dissolved into nothingness.
Revan was not surprised that the apparition of Mission seemed to take no notice of her Wookiee friend's demise; the young Twi'lek wordlessly advanced toward Revan, firing away with her blaster pistol. Side-stepping to avoid a concentrated barrage from the two droids, Revan focused on a properly-angled shot from Mission; the Force twisted the position of her blade slightly, and she only just acknowledged a small, smoking dot between the Twi'lek's eyes before she, too, vanished.
Warned by the Force, Revan ducked, and a shot from Canderous' rifle blasted a hole the size of her head into the wall next to her. Revan found it exceedingly difficult to defend herself from blaster fire from both the front and the rear, so without turning, she fell back a few steps toward Canderous. Switching to a backhanded grip on her lightsaber, she stabbed behind herself. Her blade found its mark, and Canderous specifically did not fall dead to the ground.
Carth, T3, and HK-47 were now strafing around Revan, hoping to surround her again. As they did so, she observed that the sparkling currents of energy she had wrapped around Bastila, Juhani, and Jolee had faded, and the three were now retreating a bit to recover their strength. Advancing, she used her opponents' blasters as weapons of her own; three deflected shots made short work of T3, and another two grazed Carth's left arm and shoulder. A sweep of Revan's lightsaber bisected the other droid, and a telekinetic blast hurled the last blaster-wielding enemy into a wall, breaking what would have been Carth's spine, had it actually been Carth. The vision disappeared before it could even reach the ground.
Juhani, Jolee, and Bastila were on Revan now, but Revan had a strength they didn't: genuine anger.
Revan was furious. Her mind had been violated by the dark side; it was trying to twist her mind, make her doubt her friends, as well as her own strength of will to resist its lure – as though she hadn't already. She would not let it best her in an imaginary duel.
Gesturing with one hand, Revan caught Jolee off-guard in a powerful Force grip and wrenched him into her blade, where he immediately disappeared. Juhani made a passing hack at Revan's side, which she parried. Sandwiched between Juhani and Bastila, Revan fed her righteous anger into the Force; her speed multiplied, she found it an easy but exhilarating task to deflect their attacks, one after another. She doubted that a fight against the real Bastila and Juhani would be nearly so easy, but didn't care; she wanted only to sate her fury.
Juhani was a skilled fencer. Preferring to stay on the offensive in a duel, she favored the fifth form of lightsaber combat and took advantage of her ambidextrousness, changing her sword arm seemingly at random to distract her opponent. As such, Revan had some difficulty finding a chink in her defenses at first. In fact, there really wasn't one; it was simply a matter of breaking through.
Finally, Revan had had enough. After making a feint at Juhani's torso, she took a long step backward and spun, moving closer to Bastila than her defense was ready for. As Bastila fell back, Revan swung from left to right, and the emitter of one end of Bastila's double-bladed lightsaber tumbled away in a shower of sparks, its blood-red blade winking out. Revan followed up with a vertical strike aimed at Juhani that vertically split the Jedi's skull in two before she dissolved.
Turning again, Revan met Bastila's counter-attack, and their blades locked. Bastila's face was no longer blank; she now looked unendingly frustrated and desperate, as she had on the Star Forge years earlier while under the influence of the dark side. Forcing her back, Revan kept the two lightsabers in contact and made a long, circular sweeping gesture that twisted Bastila's damaged hilt out of her hand. The lightsaber went flying and Revan heard it clatter against the wall and floor, out of her sight. Extending her palm, she struck Bastila with an invisible fist, driving her back against the wall.
Revan held her blade ready and advanced unflinchingly until Bastila held up her hands and cried, "Wait!"
Revan waited, her cloud of rage pierced by the pleading and terror she heard in that voice. Still, she was determined and held her blade ready, in case it was a ruse. At the same time, she knew that it could only be a ruse; however, as with before, Revan felt that she needed something that looked like another person in order to explain herself.
"Please, Revan," Bastila said. "Don't do this. You're a Jedi. You can forgive..."
Revan did her best to stay rational. "You're just a vision," she said, shaking her head. "A trick. A manifestation of dark side energy in this place trying to corrupt me. It doesn't matter what I do to you." Revan said it and believed it. There wasn't anything to learn from this vision; it had been the pure, malicious, warping efforts of the dark side, and nothing more.
"Please, Revan. Please think of what you're about to do to yourself. Just moments ago you did the right thing when you relived Althir. You saved some of those soldiers..." Bastila was straining to speak at this point. Revan saw tears on her face, and a part of herself tugged at her to wipe them off.
"And you've saved Bastila Shan before, when she needed you the most," Bastila went on, her entire body quaking. "And I need you now. Can't... can't you do it again?"
Something inside Revan snapped.
She hadn't saved any of those troops. She hadn't because it wasn't real, and neither was this. Still, that experience had still been a helpful one to Revan. But when whatever was creating these visions had decided to bring the people Revan loved into them, to pit them against her...
This tomb had crossed the line.
Revan's will formed a giant invisible vice that pinned the shivvering, terrified apparition to the wall, and her next words were clear in the stale air.
"You're not Bastila."
With a fury that eclipsed what she had poured into the fight, Revan raised her lightsaber and brought it down with such force that she felt she might have pulled a muscle. The turquoise fire sliced a glowing line into the stone wall and down through the last vision's neck-
And "Bastila" was gone before Revan could blink.
She stood there staring at the mark in the tomb wall for some time. It was the only lasting indication that there had been a battle here at all. Revan was alone again, her memories confined to the interior of her skull. Her friends – the real physical versions of them that actually existed – were elsewhere in the galaxy.
Revan had had enough of this place. It was time to finish the expedition.
Revan had heard it said that above all things in existence, maintaining control over the self was the most difficult task. It seemed no more evident than here.
Revan had taken her time traveling down the next empty corridor while she tried to center herself and make sense of the last vision. She had told the apparitions that there was nothing to learn from them, but already she was having second thoughts. Revan had absolutely refused to go along with the test once she realized what it was. Her logic – that such a situation could never occur – had made sense at the time, but seemed flimsy in hindsight. Who was to say what was or was not definitely going to happen? Maybe it had been a legitimate test after all.
Then again, what reason was there to think that the lesson in it was to be found in the situation itself? Maybe it was just supposed to make Revan start considering difficult situations in general.
Worse yet, Revan had lost her head for just an instant at the end. When she decapitated the illusory Bastila, she had very much been focusing on the negative parts of the situation – most prominently the sense of pain, of her mind having been trespassed by the evil power in this place. Thus, her focus on that pain had indeed given way to hatred, hatred without guilt. That, Revan knew, was dangerous. Even if she had been right about the vision not serving any potentially constructive purpose, she had been wrong about what she did not mattering. What she did would always matter; whether the situation was real or a mirage, how Revan reacted to something would always reflect what she had inside – and possibly also affect that inside, as well.
If that vision had been a test, then Revan had to admit she couldn't imagine how she'd succeeded in it.
Dark mist clung to the bottom of the door to the next room. Revan took some modicum of comfort in the assumption that the next vision couldn't be as bad as the last. Her lightsaber was in her hand as the door slid open.
The room beyond was definitely a crypt. Dominating its center was a slanted structure of carved rock that was undoubtedly a sarcophagus. Two pikes, forged out of a black metal, protruded from the floor on either side of the sarcophagus, and another cloud of dark fog swirled like a black hole between them. A square hole in the ceiling cast a soulless light down onto two dark figures standing in the center of the mist.
Revan barely heard the door slide shut behind her as she stopped and beheld the two. One stood just behind the other's shoulder, as an apprentice stands behind the master. Revan's gut churned slightly as she identified the figure in front.
It was herself, robed and masked as the Dark Lady of the Sith had been a lifetime ago. Revan noticed one thing out of place, however. Along with a lightsaber hilt, there was a sword resting in a black sheath on the doppelgänger's belt. Revan couldn't recall having ever carried such a weapon while a Sith.
The other one was a well-built man about her height, dressed in traditional Sith robes and a hood that cast a shadow over his face. Revan studied him and found his appearance far too generic, too common for her to attach a name to without seeing his face.
The two visions regarded Revan in complete silence. Revan suddenly felt overexposed, as though she needed something to hide her face as well. Taking a few steps closer, she said, "What do you have to show me?"
There was no answer. The two visions barely moved, but Revan wasn't as bothered as she might have been on another day. Whoever the hooded man was, neither of the two were friends of hers – something she could take some comfort from. Taking another step, Revan observed that her garments suddenly felt a bit stiffer, different somehow.
She looked down and blinked in a sort of dull surprise. Her tunic and inner robe, which had previously been dark blue – the traditional garb of Jedi Guardians – were now black, a color from her past. Revan looked to the vision of herself as though to ask for an explanation, but before she could form any words the phantasm began to turn transparent, eventually fading away into nothingness.
Revan's gaze immediately shifted to the remaining vision in time to see the crimson blade of a lightsaber burst to life in the dead air. The figure charged and made an overhand chop at Revan's right shoulder, the same sort of opening attack that Malak would have used. Revan barely needed to think to bring up her own lightsaber to block the blow. To her relief, it was still turquoise – she had expected her blade to have turned red to match the theme of her clothing.
Shrugging off the blow, Revan took a defensive posture, deflecting and counter-attacking without giving ground, testing her opponent's defenses and trying to get a sense of his style of attack. Always methodical, she would try to frame the style of a previously-unencountered enemy before looking for a weakness.
The hooded man evidently cared less for grace than Revan; unlike her, most of his attacks were two-handed, and he didn't spin or twirl nearly as much as her. Instead, he waded slowly into Revan's defenses like a tank, blocking and parrying with little bravado. Incorporating only the occasional thrust or quick stab, his fighting style seemed to make use of both the Soresu and Djem So styles of combat; both the former's focused style of acting as an impenetrable wall of defense and the latter's aggressive method of always following up a block with a counter-attack were evident to Revan.
The man was strong and perceptive; while he blocked with impressive speed, he only stopped Revan's blade at the last possible instant, making his sphere of defense a very tight one, no larger than it needed to be. No defense was unbreakable, however.
Deciding that she knew all she needed to, Revan broke a saber lock with a Force-assisted shove, sending her enemy back a step. Pressing the advantage, she drew on her skill in Juyo again and felt the Force sing through her arms and blade. She made two blindingly fast strikes, one at each of his shoulders; they visibly jarred the grip on the unknown dark-sider's lightsaber, but he kept his balance as he fell back. He gave ground slowly as though deliberately, until another step would have him walking up the ramped front of the sarcophagus in the middle of the room.
The sparking, malevolent fog swirled and festered as Revan dueled with her anonymous enemy, not quite knee-deep in it. As she did so, she felt the darkness in the Force around her intensify, as though the mist was a physical manifestation of its power. It beckoned her to draw on it again, a black tendril reaching for her. It brushed against Revan in her mind's eye and she recoiled, the image of a blue-green lightsaber slicing through Bastila's neck still near the forefront of her thoughts. She couldn't let herself give in again.
Revan's internal struggle to control herself unintentionally weakened the strength of her offensive; seeming to sense this, her opponent made a sweeping horizontal swing at Revan's neck. She blocked, but the sheer force of the blow sent her stumbling off to her left.
Turning her stumble into a roll, Revan put enough distance between herself and her adversary to regain her balance before he followed up his attack. Ducking under a quick slash that might have taken her head, she felt a sudden sense of obscure urgency. Her left hand tingled. Reaching to her belt, she drew the lightsaber she had found earlier, and its violet glow joined the clash of scarlet and turquoise.
Revan had only used two lightsabers a few times before. Since pure physical strength had never been her highest priority in a duel, she did not regard the reduced power in the blows of dual-wielding combat as a major disadvantage. She instead channeled more and more of her power into speed; amplifying the rapidity of her blows, she decided, might be the way to penetrate this enemy's defenses.
It appeared to be effective. Frustrated, the dark-robed man quickly abandoned his two-handed style, focusing on enhancing his own speed to withstand the onslaught. His attacks changed to thrusts and other, more rapid maneuvers, ones Revan found less taxing on her power to deal with. She felt her fatigue start to melt away and gave more and more of herself into the fight. Real or not, this enemy couldn't keep up his defenses forever.
With a double-strike so fast that her arms blurred in the air, Revan struck at her opponent's side and head. The man threw himself backward and spun, a desperate black mass. Revan saw two pieces of smoldering black fabric fall and sensed that her attack hadn't found its mark. The dark figure spun before she could press the attack, and his red blade thundered uncomfortably close to Revan's face.
The violet blade of Revan's borrowed lightsaber vanished as the weapon's emitter clattered to the floor, sparking. Dropping the rest of the hilt, Revan counter-attacked, and the two locked again. They strained against each other, and Revan observed that the man's hood was no longer pulled over his face.
Revan immediately knew that she had seen the man before. His unnaturally white skin and burning yellow eyes suggested heavy exposure to the dark side, but something told her that those two features did not belong to the actual him. His hair was black and his face was twisted into a frustrated, resentful sneer. It also had a sort of reluctant, world-weary quality to it as well, as though his soul was many years older than his physical body was.
As their lightsabers flared between them, Revan spoke through gritted teeth. "Who are you?"
The man looked insulted. "My name is Jorus," he growled.
"Why are you here?"
"To stop you."
Revan noticed that Jorus was holding his lightsaber with one hand. She then felt a horrible, stabbing pain in her gut – a stabbing pain because that was exactly what it was. She looked down to see the black shaft of a sword blade protruding from her stomach, its hilt in Jorus' other hand. Before the pain fully registered, Revan thought, It cheated. The vision cheated.
Then letting out an agonized gasp, Revan felt blood dampen her robe and her knees gave way. Her fingers, suddenly feeling very far away, failed to hold onto her lightsaber as she fell onto her side. Jorus let go of the sword hilt, letting the weapon stay half-buried in Revan's flesh, and took a step back. His lightsaber rested in his grip, pointed toward the ground, seeming to swallow the entire world in its bloody light.
Involuntarily shriveling up, Revan oddly felt her eyes drawn to the sword itself. Tiny slivers and ripples of darkness seemed to pulse around it, as though it was alive with the dark side. Its obsidian hilt was ridged, but the end of it was jagged, as though it had been significantly longer in the past, and then was snapped off from the rest of it. Revan swore she knew what this sword was, but her thoughts were arrested by a horrible icy sensation that was spreading outward from her wound.
Her breath feeling more and more distant, Revan turned her head and stared dully up at Jorus. He met her gaze and his expression softened a bit, now less malevolent and more purely determined.
"What you've seen," he said, "I will never allow."
With that he disappeared, much faster than the previous visions had. With him, so did the sword and the terrible wound it had inflicted. Revan's robes returned to their proper color, the pain was gone, and she was alone again.
The sparking, writhing fog in front of the sarcophagus arrested Revan's eyes; for a moment she just lay on her side, staring at it as though she had been asleep and was just waking up.
Revan stood very slowly and approached the mist, stopping just before another step would have put her in it. She studied the ramped door of the sarcophagus, noting the elaborate symbols and pictographs carved into it. She could sense a simple locking mechanism within. She considered opening it for a moment, but decided against it. What could she possibly find within but an ancient corpse drenched in more filth and evil, perhaps buried with an artifact or two that dripped with corruption? Revan already had one of those; she didn't need another one. Let the Jedi Order come and destroy them. In due time, they would.
She needed a way out. Reaching out to the Force again, Revan probed the room, hoping that she wouldn't have to backtrack the whole way, through more shyracks and visions. After a moment, her senses traced the outline of a hidden door in the wall behind the sarcophagus. Behind it lay a passage that went out a short distance and then took a u-turn, seeming to lead straight back to the entrance.
While Revan didn't know why someone would place such a thing in a tomb, she found herself utterly unable to care at this juncture.
Revan waved the door open, but didn't venture through immediately. Thoughts, ideas, and speculations were floating to the forefront of her mind. Jorus, the man she had just seen – she knew who he was. A Jedi Knight, one of her generals in the Mandalorian Wars. Her only Jedi that survived Malachor who didn't become a Sith, but instead went back to the Council to be judged.
Where Jorus was, Revan didn't know. So why did she see him here? This last vision had not been anything like a memory. Nor had it seemed to have anything to do with the present. Could it, in fact, have been showing her a possible future?
Revan considered it. It seemed like the only possible explanation, unless the vision was completely meaningless. But there were too many unexplained factors. First of all, Revan knew that Jorus, for a reason that she either didn't know or didn't remember, had somehow lost his connection to the Force after Malachor. Therefore, it didn't make sense that he could duel her in the future.
And that sword. Revan knew she had seen it, and seen it very recently as well. A midnight blade that seemed to pulse with shadows. It was also linked to Korriban, somehow. She felt distinctly that she ought to have been able to recognize it immediately, but decided to file the matter away for later.
Before she could begin thinking about something else, Revan felt the world around her start to feel distant, like she was half-asleep, and in her mind's eye, she saw not the hallways of a tomb buried on Korriban, but rather a series of well-lit corridors and doors, cold and gray. Blood-red lights on the doors and walls added a bit of aesthetical variety as dark-robed figures silently prowled about.
After a few seconds, the image faded. Whether it had been the past or present, Revan couldn't tell, but she recognized the place. It was a fortress, a Sith academy of some kind on Malachor V. She had yet to remember anything else about the place. Her head burned with questions. The vision of herself, the vision of Jorus, the sword, and now Malachor.
What was the point of all this? Revan had started out convinced that this venture would lead her to some answers, but now she felt like there was nothing except more questions to answer. Even the first two visions seemed absurd, like she had learned nothing she didn't know already.
But in her right mind, Revan knew that it hadn't really been a waste. It may have left her with more questions, but that was nothing new, and she now had two new leads: Jorus and Malachor V. Should she begin a new search for this man from her vision, or explore another heart of darkness from her past?
The more Revan tried to consider the question, the less she felt that this was the best place to do so. She needed rest. Just get out of here, she told herself. Get to the ship, get off Korriban. Figure this all out somewhere else.
It hadn't been pleasant, she concluded, but at least she was moving forward.
Revan opened a palm. Her lightsaber floated to her hand and she placed it back on her belt. She dusted herself off and was about to enter the passage back to the cave when she noticed a piece of charred metal on the ground.
It was the remains of a lightsaber. The one she had found in the puddle of blood. The real lightsaber that had been cut in two.
By a vision.
She stared at the broken weapon for a moment to see if it would vanish. It didn't.
Revan's face was creased by a glare, but it faded as she headed into the dark hallway ahead. She had many things to be concerned about. That lightsaber was not one of them.