Sunday, December 24, 2006

Dreaming Dark and Light

Vaaro was certain the Tusken would not come to this place, tucked away as it was in an area considered haunted by the raiders. Even so, Jeht had insisted they make their beds in the basement, a much more defensible position with a single hidden exit to the surface and a narrow entry door from the upstairs.

So here he was, sleeping while Vaaro and Maya took turns keeping watch and preparing dinner. Not that he was resting well. Ever since he'd been here, now four nights in a row, there had been nightmares whenever he closed his eyes.

Sometimes, the images were of his own life, such as fighting that Sith assassin woman and being stabbed on her twin blades. Or pulling his saber from the cleaved face of his best friend, fury at the man's blithe admission of murder surging through his soul. In every dark dream, pain and hatred, anger and violence their only common links.

Sometimes however, like in this tumultuous moment, the dreams were not from his memories. Where these came from, he had no idea, nor could he recall them clearly upon awakening. This one he would remember though, since it involved someone he knew. A good friend, a sparring partner, and a fellow ally in the company of a man who had apparently betrayed them both. Remembering this man would have been a fond happenstance...

...had Anakin not been trying to kill him.

The fellow Jedi looked so different, face twisted in rage, one side lined in a deep scar. His saber was merciless, only held away from his flesh by Jeht's desperate own. Only it wasn't Jeht's. The lightsaber he wielded in this nightmare was blue-white, not violet. He was also fighting in a style completely opposite of his own. There was so much motion, so much running and so many acrobatic moves. It was a beautiful style, not that he had any time to appreciate it.

Who was he supposed to be? Who's life was he living?

The battle raged on amid a backdrop of steel and fire. The setting, wherever they were, was volcanic, the heat oppressive. As deadly a combatant as Anakin had apparently become, the blistering air was itself an enemy. His robes, light in color, were a blessing in this place. Jeht's black ones would have been another strike against him. With his old friend moving so quickly and filled with such a murderous fury, the odds did not need to be stacked any higher.

He was moving now, taking the fight outside. He was evenly matched against Anakin, his moves mirroring the others more often than not. They were almost identical in form and power. Even the Force did not deem to favor one over the other. Each time he would push, Anakin would as well and the energies between them dissipated or throw them both backwards equally.

Not that he was helpless by any means. The Force was with him so strongly! His speed was phenomenal, even greater than his own waking abilities. He could jump so much farther, run so much faster, and his skill with a saber was peerless.

In that instant, Darrus stopped letting the fear and panic of the dream overwhelm him. This terrible vision, fighting a friend, was also an opportunity. Perhaps all of his dreams these long nights were something other than self-inflicted torture. But what then? And why here? Why now?

The moment he started watching the battle with a critical eye, like a student rather than as a terrified participant, things changed. He calmed his mind and the combat began once more. He say the first clash of sabers, the accusations, the words that made little since. Who was Anakin talking to? Who was he in this dream? Anakin's master had been Obi-Wan Kenobi, one of the greatest of the Jedi Knights, but Kenobi was lost at the Battle of Jabiim.

Had his friend taken a new master? One he now fought with so hatefully? In any case, it was obvious the Dark Side had Anakin firmly in its grasp. So much to clear to him as the dream played out, it was almost as if he was being shown these things. He watched as the battle passed from courtyard to inner halls to control rooms filled with corpses. Each one struck down by a light saber, probably Anakin's own.

But they were all Separatists, so perhaps this was a CIS stronghold and Anakin had cleared it out? That would have made him a hero, but the mood of the battle was nothing like that. This all felt like a murder scene and a brutal one at that. Whatever happened here, it was far more complicated than Jeht first suspected.

Over and over, the moves of the battle played out in his mind. He watched, felt, as each stroke resolved, each blow was parried, and each dodge executed with perfect timing. Such skill, such consummate grace. It was a wonder to behold now that he was learning instead of trembling and cowering in fear.

"Fear leads to the Dark Side." Yoda's voice was clear in his thoughts, the aged Master's advice as timeless now as it had been when he was a youngling on Coruscant. Darrus had been so focused on not feeling hate lately that he'd completely forgotten that rage wasn't the only dangerous emotion. Anything that takes a Jedi from his inner control had to be kept in check or each the Dark Side could take over.

Just as it apparently had in Anakin. No wonder this Sith Lord Darth Vader he'd read about had been able to kill his old friend. This out of balance, Anakin would have been no match for the Jedi slayer. Jeht felt a touch of sorrow at the thought, something that echoed strongly in whoever he was watching this battle through. This dream was filled with regret; whoever he was now was both deeply fond of Anakin and heartbroken at this turn of events.

Again and again, the cycle of events reeled through his mind's eye. He saw the woman, the golden droid, and the rivers of lava. He heard the fury in his old friend's voice, relived the words until each one felt like it was truly being directed at him. In a way, he became the figure in the dream. It took a hundred turns of the wheel but the moves became second nature. The combat began to flow instead of jar. He anticipated each swing, a dance of death that could only end in one inevitable outcome. His death or that of his brother, Anakin.

At the end of this pass through the nightmare, the scenes did not return to the beginning. Instead of restarting when he leaped onto the blackened shore and turning to face Anakin, the battle finally continued. He felt himself warn his former padawan. A position of higher ground was a great advantage for a Jedi if an opponent had to jump to attack. During a leap, even a Master was exposed and vulnerable because of the limited ability to maneuver. He knew this. Anakin knew this.

And yet still he jumped. With dire regret, Darrus made his strike. His lightsaber cleaved the air between them, then passed through both of Anakin's legs and his lead arm. Flesh gave way to pure energy, severing effortlessly. The battle was ended; Anakin was finished.

Darrus looked down at his friend, his former student. No... that wasn't right. They had trained together, but the fallen Jedi had never been his padawan. Those emotions, that connection, belonged to the true source of the dream. His bond with the person's life he was sharing began to slip. The dream was ending.

Lessons learned.

"May the force be with you. Always."

---------

Darrus shifted in his sleep, eyes slowly opening. Who had just said that? Where had that voice come from? And why was it so utterly familiar? It was like he'd just said it to himself.

"Darrus?!"

That wasn't his voice or the other one from his dreams. This one was feminine and familiar for as understandable reason. Looking up, he saw Maya's concerned face above him. "You're awake!"

She ran a cool washcloth over his brow once more, smiling though worry creased her face. "Are you all right? How do you feel?"

Darrus leaned up, trying to sit. His body was as weak as a baby womprat, but in every other way he felt fine. Better than fine, actually. He felt alive both inside and out. His mind was awake and aware in so many wondrous ways. The Force was flowing through him stronger than before. He was exhausted past the the point of collapse, yet he was being sustained by an energy greater than any he'd experienced.

"Of course, Maya. I am fine." He wasn't lying. Drained yet filled to overflowing, he felt as if he could fly. Then it hit him. His voice...

"Darrus! Your voice!"

He was no longer rasping; it didn't hurt to speak. He was still quiet, almost whispering, but the sound was smooth and untroubled. For the first time since Geonosis, there was no pain in his words. He reached up and touched his throat. The scar was still there, but only on the outside. Beneath it, his neck was almost completely healed.

And then he had no freedom of movement. Maya's arms were a warm straight jacket, pinning him entire as she hugged him enthusiastically. "By the Maker, Darrus, I thought you were lost! You've been asleep for so long!"

He struggled to get his face free of a very soft, indelicate place, almost blushing as he realized what was nearly smothering him. "How... mmmph.... how long?"

Maya pulled back, also embarrassed. She reached for a bowl of broth and a spoon as she answered. "Almost three weeks now. You were comatose, twitching, burning up with fever. I did everything I could."

His mind reeled. Three weeks? Why would he sleep for tha...?

Then he could not question things further; the taste of warm soup, the frantic ministrations of a worried woman, and a spoon shoved almost down his throat became his entire world.

3 comments:

Tarek said...

Interesting that Darrus didn't know that Obi-Wan wasn't lost at Jabiim, considering the timeline; the actions of Obi-Wan and Anakin as a team were well publicized by the Republic media, and surely Darrus would have received dispatches about the Battle of Coruscant and how Obi-Wan and Anakin saved the Chancellor.

I guess there was some long-term memory loss?

August said...

Actually, it's more a statement of how much of a bubble the Chancellor was keeping around Darrus.

After the Battle of Jabiim, where Palpatine almost lost Anakin as well, he decided to keep his back up apprentice option (Darrus) as isolated as possible from the rest of the War as he could.

Thus, Darrus was put on deep space missions, the media filter/cut off was installed on the Maelstrom, and even his own clones were instructed to keep him ignorant of any events the Chancellor didn't want him to know.

Essentially, Darrus didn't know Obi-Wan was alive because Palpatine was grooming him in ignorance. And it's a sad commentary of Jeht's loyalty to Palpatine that he let it happen.

Tarek said...

Ah, now that you explained it, I remember hints about that in the web articles.