Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 1 - Knighted

The afternoon sun shone down on the Jedi Temple. The smiling faces that surrounded them only added to the brightness. Bastila Shan, Juhani, Jolee Bindo, and Evrue Pell had returned, and nearly every young Jedi who could sneak out of their routines met them on the landing platform. Even a few older ones joined in the cheerful spectacle, jeering their welcome and congratulations. Although news of their actions in the war and aboard the Star Forge had not yet gotten out on the news feeds, gossip spread quickly among the Jedi.

A young boy with a padawan braid tucked behind his ear jockeyed up to Ev's side. “You're Darth Revan?” he asked in half-wonderment, half-disbelief.

Ev chuckled and spread her arms wide, “Do I look like a Dark Lord to you?”

The padawan did not have a chance to respond.

“Shoo, shoo,” an elderly Arkanian woman pushed her way through the crowd, “Get back to your duties. They have a meeting with the Jedi High Council presently, and I cannot allow you to detain them.” She had only one hand.

Only a few of the younger Jedi looked disappointed. Most of the rest shot excited glances at the quartet before breaking away.

“Now, that's better,” the Arkanian said, smoothing the sleeve of her robe over the stump where her right hand had been not long ago. “Welcome back to the Jedi Temple. I am sorry about all that.”

“Master Anika!” Juhani exclaimed in recognition. Anika Epiere had been part of the Jedi strike team that had assisted them aboard the Star Forge. In that battle, she had lost not only hand but her padawan. The pain of the ordeal still showed, etched in the lines of her face.

“It was no trouble at all,” Ev said for all of them.

“I'm glad,” Anika replied with a repressed smile, still smoothing at her sleeve. “Now, it is my understanding that it is been quite a while since any of you have been at the Jedi Temple.”

“'Quite a while'? Heh!” Jolee laughed dryly, “Try fifty years.”

“As the temple is vast, I have been sent to guide you to the council chambers,” Anika continued, ignoring him.

“Thank you Master Anika,” Bastila said calmly, “Please lead the way.”

Even as Anika led them off the landing platform, the young Jedi still watched them curiously from wherever they could without incurring the Arkanian's scolding again. Ev smiled slyly and winked at a knot of young initiates. They erupted into giggles and whispers, still staring. The quartet of Jedi did provide an interesting sight.

Among the four returned heroes, only Juhani wore typical Jedi robes, and even hers were a brilliant rust red color, trimmed with blue. Bastila had returned to the pale yellow bodysuit armored with leather that she had favored all her days as a padawan. Thanks to her skills with battle meditation, she had always thought herself special and dressed to match it. The petite, dark-skinned Evrue Pell draped herself in a long white robe with a leather armored bodice. The whole outfit, save for the coloring, was distinctly reminiscent of Darth Revan. Though she admitted it to no one, she probably like it that way. Jolee, of the four of them, was the only one dressed in the favored beiges and browns of the Jedi, and he was the only non-Jedi among them. The loose tunic and pants he had worn since Kashyyyk were hardly styled after Jedi robes, but their colors certainly were. Old habits died hard.

More fascinating than odd appearance of the unlikely quartet were the tales and speculations that were being told around the Jedi Temple. It was common knowledge even now that the Sith were disorganized and on the run. Whispers carried the story that Darth Malak was dead as well, but Darth Revan was not, as they had been led to believe. In fact, it was Revan who killed him, assisted by the famous Bastila Shan, a little-known Cathar Jedi, and an old hermit who could use the Force as well as any Jedi. How could any of that be possible—save for the heroism of Bastila Shan?

As Master Anika took them into one of the great pillared halls of the temple, Ev let out a low gasp, “Stunning. Imposing. I should expect nothing less from the Jedi.” Stretching out, it seemed, as far as they eye could see, were grand polished pillars of at least three colors of stone. They strode in a straight aisle between them, unseen eyes from within the maze of pillars on them all the while. Ev hardly needed to reach out to sense their intense curiosity.

“Jolee, you said it has been fifty years since you were last here,” Juhani observed. Even she too seemed in awe of the grandeur of the Jedi Temple. Those students trained on Coruscant took it for granted, but Dantooine-trained younglings grew up to regard the temple with their jaws hanging open.

“Something like that,” Jolee chuckled, “You know, if I didn't know better, I'd say they designed this place to imitate the holy woshyr of Kashyyyk. Pales in comparison to the real thing, though.”

“Oh hush,” Bastila snapped half-jokingly, “Are you so anxious to be back under your log that you can't appreciated the Jedi Temple when you have been invited back to it?”

“Me invited back?” Jolee scoffed playfully, “I'm just your crotchety, old tag-along.”

“Come on, Jolee,” Ev elbowed him, “We owe you more than just to call you that. At the very least, you're my favorite crotchety, old tag-along I've ever had.”

“That so?” Jolee laughed.

“What was the Jedi Temple like fifty years ago,” Juhani asked, “I know they have been building and improving it for years now.”

“My memory has gone all fuzzy, but at least all these woshyr-pillars look the same,” Jolee shrugged, “When I stormed out of this place, proud and angry, fifty years ago, I hated these pillars. They were ugly and repressive, like the whole rest of this damned place.”

Master Anika, still walking ahead of them, drew in a sharp breath.

“But seeing it in a better light, they're not so bad,” Jolee admitted, “Though I still like the real woshyr trees better. No doubt Nomi has done some redecorating—like all of those indoor gardens she was talking about. She was always a good house-mom to this place.”

“You would speak of the Grand Master of the Jedi Order as a 'house-mom'?” Anika snapped in a low whisper.

“Why not?” Jolee asked indifferently.

Anika held her peace. Evidently, she was finally learning that it was fruitless to argue with Jolee.

“It must have been nearly three years since I was last here myself,” Juhani admitted quietly as Anika turned and led them towards a grand doorway along the wall. “It was when Quatra and I came to study the archives in preparation for our mission against the Sith on the outer rim.”

They came into a narrower hall, dotted with lush potted plants. There was a lift at the far end with several other Jedi waiting patiently in front of its closed doors. Sunlight streamed in from vaulted windows near the ceiling. A trio of younglings scurried past them, late for something. One looked over his shoulder at them and gaped wide-eyed for a moment before hurrying on.

“I think the last time I must have been here was when the council granted me the Endar Spire and gave me my mission to seek the secret of the Sith's power,” Bastila said distantly. She hesitated for a moment, then added, “It was when they told me that Revan—Ev, you were 'finished' and ready. It took them almost a year.”

“A ready puppet for the Jedi's cause,” Ev murmured.

“I was only present at the beginning,” Bastila said quickly, “when they needed my connection with you in order to stabilize your life force. You don't hold it against me, do you Ev?”

“You? No,” Ev shook her head. As her gazed drifted over the Jedi in the hall around them, all of whom quickly pretended not to be staring, she felt wary—almost trapped. “No, I couldn't hold a grudge against you, Bastila. You tried to save me, to keep me alive. What you did was out of compassion. Where the council took it from there is out of your hands, and for their own purposes. If I have any grudges to hold, it's against those puppeteers who dropped me into your hands and told you what to do.”

Bastila let out a sigh of relief, but there was still an unseen weight on her shoulders; a weight that had haunted her ever since Ev had found her on the Star Forge and convinced her to return to the Light. They arrived at the lift doors, and the other Jedi waiting around them stepped aside.

“Since we're all reminiscing,” Ev mused, changing the subject, “I bet the last time I was here was probably when I took off for the Mandalorian Wars, never to return, though, of course, I wouldn't remember any of that.”

“No, you returned once more after that,” said an old Jedi who had been leaning casually beside the lift doors since they had entered the hall. He was gray-haired and going bald, but there was a fit, liveliness about him even still. “To tell the Jedi Council that the war would be over soon, though few believed you. You didn't tell the masters even then of your secret weapon.”

Ev leveled her dark gaze at him. “It seems that we have met before,” she said evenly, “But I don't remember you, Master Jedi.”

“You wouldn't,” he replied with equal gravity. “Can't say I agree with the circumstances that led to your amnesia, but what's done is done.” Shrugging himself into a smile to ease the rising tension, “But where are my manners? I should be welcoming you all back as heroes! The valiant Evrue Pell, I hear that's what they're calling you now, youthful prodigy Bastila Shan, and—oh, what was it—Juhani, right?” he tapped his forehead as if it would help him remember, “And Jolee Bindo, the prodigal padawan returned at last. I should have know you were still out there making trouble somewhere.” The old Jedi grinned.

“Blast my hold, if it isn't Visto Cafran!” Jolee laughed. He lunged forward and shook Visto's hand enthusiastically, “What're you doing here?”

“What I've always been,” Visto replied firmly, green eyes smiling, “Stirring things up, keeping all these people humble, and doing the bidding of the council now and then. But now that you're back, I'm going to have to hand over 'kookiest old Jedi' title to you again.”

“Hey now,” Jolee said warningly raising a hand, “Who ever said I was rejoining the Jedi Order?”

“Then what are you doing her, old friend?” Visto asked, with an amused twinkle in his eyes.

The lift made a subdued ding and the doors slid open. “Come,” Anika urged her charges.

“Now you just wait one minute,” Jolee wagged a finger at her, “I'm not going anywhere in a hurry. I've got a friend to catch up with.”

“So?” Visto persisted.

“He says he has come along to humor the High Council at their request to have him here and to let them fawn on him with their praises, and then be done with them and their flawed moralities for good,” Juhani said, yellow eyes dancing, as if she knew better.

“Is that so?” Master Anika asked huffily.

“I didn't say anything like that,” Jolee snapped irritably.

“Sure you did,” Ev insisted playfully.

“We are holding up the lift,” Bastila reminded them.

“I won't delay you any longer,” Visto said with a courteous, though stiff bow, “And I know I'll be seeing you around the temple later on, Jolee, no matter what you're saying now.”

“Don't you go making any high-handed predictions about me, Cafran!” Jolee warned as he was ushered onto the lift by the others.

Visto only laughed as the lift doors slid shut again.

As the lift raced up the temple spire, making several stops along the way, Jolee's irritation faded slowly into bemusement. “Imagine that: Visto Cafran still alive and kicking!” he muttered to himself, “After the war with Exar Kun, I thought he'd never be himself again. Well, prove me wrong.”

Master Anika's foot tapped impatiently as the lift slowed to a stop at nearly every level. One Jedi would step off as another would shuffle on. At one floor, a clump of knee-high younglings poured on, chattering animatedly.

“Oh yeah? I bet I could lift that bogee tree, pot and all,” one of the little boys boasted

“I bet'cha I could lift Master Waykennit,” a second bragged.

“No,” a third little girl called his bluff, wide-eyed.

“I bet you could,” Ev joined their conversation, “And even Master Vrook too, if he'd let you.”

All six younglings beheld her with stunned wide-eyes.

“Not Master Vrook, never,” a young Nautolan moaned fearfully.

Ev laughed, “In the Force, anything is possible.”

Realization suddenly struck one of the little boys, “Hey! You're those four Jedi who took down Darth Malak! Was it hard?”

“Rumors of a confidential nature certainly do travel quickly,” Bastila observed under her breath.

Ev squatted down as far as she could in the confines of the crowed lift. “I'll tell you this,” she answered, “Nothing a Jedi does is ever easy. Dueling Malak may have only taken five or ten minutes, but getting to that point took a lifetime.”

“I hope I grow up to be a hero like you or Bastila, or—or those two,” a little Echani girl gushed.

“I hope you become your own kind of hero, if you have to be a hero at all,” Ev said darkly, straightening up, “I wouldn't wish my fate on anyone.”

“But will you teach me?” the girl asked eagerly.

“You're a bit young to be a padawan, aren't you?” Ev observed. “And besides, I'm still a padawan myself.”

“Really?” the little Nautolan gasped.

The lift slowed to a stop again and the doors slid open. The younglings poured out around a wiry built Jedi with a head of messy black hair to rival Ev's. He smiled warmly at all of them.

“Master Waykennit! Master Waykennit!” one of the little boys said urgently, “Abel said he bet he could lift you!”

“I bet he could,” the spindly Jedi laughed and pat the boy on the head, “and you too, but that will have to wait for another day. I am called to sit with the Jedi High Council this afternoon.”

The children moaned their despair.

“Don't worry, I will leave you in the capable hands of Master Epiere,” he said said warmly, “Who will take over your lessons for the day.”

Anika Epiere looked flustered for a moment at the sudden assignment, but quickly smoothed herself over. “Yes, of course,” she said, “I would be glad to be of help. Come children.” She squeezed off the lift as Master Waykennit stepped on.

“I will see them to the council chambers myself,” he assured Anika.

“Of course,” she repeated with a respectful bow.

As the doors slid shut, Juhani added quickly, “Thank you, Master Anika.”

The Arkanian woman hardly had time to wave before they were whizzing upward again, this time with no more interruptions.

Master Waykennit surveyed the four other Jedi in the lift with him, eyes lingering on Ev. Finally, he extended a hand to her, “I am Embrik Waykennit. I have been wanting to meet you for some months now. What do you prefer to be called these days?”

Ev eyed him suspiciously then answered succinctly, “Ev.”

He drew back and chuckled. “And you are wondering under what circumstances we last met?” Embrik guessed.

“It is a question that has been on my mind a lot lately,” Ev replied, but betrayed none of her inner feelings.

“We never met as foes, I can promise that,” Embrik's easy smile seemed to ease the tension in the lift, “I don't think I would have survived it if we had. I have always had the highest respect for you, and would have made you my padawan had Master Kae not gotten to you first. And I am sure you will go far even now.”

“Thank you, Master Waykennit,” she made a polite bow, “I am glad to know that I didn't burn all of my bridges as Revan.”

“Please, just call me Embrik, Ev,” he protested and rested a hand on her shoulder. He was barely taller than she was. “I should say that—” he cut himself short as the lift stopped and the doors slid silently open once again. Sweeping his arm out in a wide gesture, he said, “The Jedi High Council chambers are just this way.”

There was only a short, tiled hallway between the lift landing and a set of massive wooden doors—wood that must have been unimaginably expensive on Coruscant, even after the Great Hyperspace war when the temple was built. Master Embrik raised his hands into the air and the doors swung gently towards them, leaving enough space in between for them to pass. As soon as the party was inside, Embrik made a curt bow and announced, “Masters of the High Council, may I present the newest heroes of the Republic: Jedi Knight Juhani, Padawan Bastila Shan, Padawan Evrue Pell, and the former padawan, Jolee Bindo.”

Ev heard the doors slide closed again behind them, though she did not notice which of the Jedi Masters present had done it.

“It is of heroes, in this age, that we must be most careful,” Ev heard Master Vrook murmur.

“Welcome back to the Jedi Temple,” a slender woman with vibrant red hair streaked with gray smiled warmly at them. She sat directly across from the door where they all stood. Bastila and Juhani stepped into the center of the circle of the chairs and bowed respectfully. Ev glanced over at Jolee, who shrugged, and they joined their two friends at the center of the room.

Ev gazed back at Master Embrik, who still stood in front of the only empty chair in the room. Embrik met her gaze then shot a quick glance at the elegant woman at the head of the room again before he began, “Ev, as you would not remember, and Jolee as you have been away for a long while, please allow me to introduce the Jedi High Council.” Still standing, he first gestured to the woman who had welcomed them, “This is Master Nomi Sunrider, Grandmaster of the Jedi Order.”

“Nomi Sunrider,” Jolee guffawed, putting a hand to his forehead, “So you've gotten yourself to the head of the Jedi Order?” Turning to Ev, he added, “I always knew the pretty lass would go far.”

Nomi's eyes danced and a smile played at the corner of her lips, “It is always good to see an old friend again, Jolee.”

Embrik next gestured to the small greenish Jedi seated to the right of Nomi. “This, as you know, is Master Vandar Tokare, who joined Master Nomi in leading the Jedi assault on the Star Force,” he explained and Vandar nodded in acknowledgment. Next to Vandar, pointed out a strong-jawed blond-haired man, wearing only simple brown and beige robes. Even at his age, he was strikingly handsome. “This is Master Kavar Ardale and Tyjesh Kay.” The tiny furry Jedi next to Kavar, nearly as small as Vandar, had a long angular face, dark eyes, and long, pointed ears. A Bimm, Ev reminded herself. The Bimm woman wore goldenrod yellow clothes that were shaped more like a dress than Jedi robes. She tilted her head slightly in recognition.

Next to the Bimm sat a sturdy-looking man with shaggy brown hair and a mustache to rival any Ev had ever seen. If not for the plain Jedi robes he wore, Ev would have marked him for a rowdy, gun-slinging frontiersman. “This is Master Zez-Kai Ell,” Embrik announced. At the mention of his name Zez-Kai clasped his hands together and nodded twice. Between Master Ell and Embrik's own seat sat a tall and slender pink skinned woman who was almost completely covered in shaggy white fur. Her short-cropped hair on her head seemed almost like a white mane. A Devaronian female; so unlike the males of her species that Ev had almost been unable to place her. “And this is Master Ruell D'tarn,” Embrik said. Ruell smiled, relieving two rows of sharp, cat-like teeth.

Gesturing back to the balding red-robed man to Nomi's left, Embrik continued, “This is Master Vrook Lamar, whom I am sure you are all acquainted with.” Ev almost caught distaste in the younger Jedi Master's voice. To Vrook's left was a younger looking woman dressed entirely in white and had stunning white hair to match. “This is Master Atris, Jedi Historian,” he said. Atris remained pensively still with her hands together, not acknowledging the mention of her name.

Next to Atris sat a quiet sort of balding black man. Pleasant wrinkles lined his face. “This is another of our Jedi Historians, Master Tchaan Dorak, who has been serving at the enclave on Dantooine,” Embrik explained. This was clearly for Jolee's benefit. Sitting Next to Dorak was a sandy-brown Gotal whose fur was already going silver. “This is Master Kronn Hakkes, our emissary to the Supreme Chancellor and the Senate,” he introduced the Gotal, then shifted to the final Master who sat across the door from him. With flaming red hair tied back in a low ponytail, their was a thrilling liveliness about her that Ev had not seen in any others who had been raised by the Jedi. “And finally, this is Master Vima Sunrider,” Embrik said.

Vima grinned broadly at them. “Welcome back to the Jedi Temple, all of you,” she said brightly.

The four standing in the middle, even Jolee, bowed at her.

Chuckling and grinning back, Jolee marveled, “Last time I saw you, you were a little squirt who couldn't even hold a lightsaber yet, always getting into trouble.”

“And, if I recall, Jolee,” Vima flashed a smile back at him, “You were plenty enough trouble yourself.”

Jolee laughed, “Strike and parry.”

“Must you reply to everything said, Jolee Bindo?” the Gotal sitting next to her asked disapprovingly.

“My apologies, Master Hakkes,” Jolee replied, heavy with sarcasm, and dipped his head in a bow.

“Thank you Master Waykennit,” Nomi drew all the attention back to herself again. Embrik nodded and finally took his seat. She then addressed the four people standing before her, “Juhani, Bastila, Evrue—I hear you wish to be called Ev, and Jolee, we have asked you to come before us in order that we might formally thank you.”

“We did nothing more than what was asked of us, and follow our duties as Jedi,” Bastila protested humbly.

“Oh?” Zez-Kai Ell asked, “Didn't you?”

“This was, of course, the task assigned to you, Bastila,” Nomi acknowledged, “But it would not have been possible at all, had you not boldly moved to save Revan a year ago. You knew what rested on your shoulders—the fate of the war, and yet you did not falter. That is commendable, especially in a masterless padawan. You have done well, Bastila, very well. Master Shol would be proud.”

Bastila blushed and looked down at the geometrically tiled floor beneath her feet.

“And you, Ev,” Nomi continued, “You who were thrust into this plot, you who carried so many of our hopes and our doubts, you were the axis about which this whole mission turned. When confronted with the Dark Side, the truth of your past, and even the loss of Bastila, you pressed on and brought about the destruction of Dark Malak and his Sith Empire.”

“Perhaps by your actions, the past may be forgiven,” Atris added.

Ev regarded her coldly, her face unreadable. “Thank you for those sentiments,” she said coolly.

“Juhani and Jolee,” Nomi said, “You two voluntarily joined onto Bastila and Ev's mission without fully knowing with it entailed.”

“I don't even think they knew,” Jolee murmured.

The Gotal cleared his throat loudly.

Nomi ignored the exchange and continued unbothered, “It seems that without you, they may not have succeeded. I commend you both for your courage and commitment to restoring the peace, especially in light of each of your own falls. Juhani, you have risen back from the Dark Side a stronger woman and stronger Jedi. Jolee, you once said that the Jedi Order had left you and that you would never return. Despite your intentions, I am glad that the Jedi have found you again, for the sake of our galaxy and our freedom. Thank you both.”

“When we sent you all on your mission,” Zez-Kai Ell began, “We could not foresee what would come of it. The Dark Side has clouded our vision since this war began. But we had hope for the Jedi and for the Republic, and you were that hope. It was the will of the Force, Bastila, that you should confront Revan as you did, and it was the will of the Force that Revan should undo what she wrought.”

“Awfully wasteful plan for the Force, if you ask me,” Ev murmured under her breath.

Juhani shot her a nervous glance.

“Padawan Evrue Pell,” Atris observed, “You seem ungrateful for the second chance we gave you.”

Ev straightened up and cleared her throat. “Pardon me, Masters,” she replied stiffly, “that I am not grateful for the tampering you did with my head, with my very being. Please forgive my resentment. As you are quick to point out yourselves, I was not too long ago a slave to the Dark Side. Give me some time, and maybe I will come to appreciate this 'gift' you have given me as what you convey it to be.”

A stunned silence hung over the council chamber. It seemed that none of the Jedi Masters had expected to find such feelings in Ev.

Jolee chuckled.

Master Kavar was the first to speak again, “But we did not bring you here just to shower you four with praise. Juhani, your master Quatra did well to knight you when she did. As for the rest of you, your masters are dead and unable to recommend you to us. However, your actions have given your recommendations themselves.”

“Bastila,” Vandar began, “Your trials began a year ago when you and your master lead the attack on the Sith fleet. Your controlled use of battle meditation to bring about such a confrontation, your level-headed leadership in the face of grief and adversity, and your preservation of Revan; through these actions you passed your Trial of Skill.”

Ev saw Bastila's hand twitch towards her mouth to cover a gasp, but she held herself steadily and composed.

“You faced your Trial of the Flesh that day as well, and in the weeks after,” Vrook added, “As you came to terms with the death of your master.”

“Perhaps, at that time, you thought you were ready to be knighted,” Vandar continued, “But you still had two more trials to face.”

“Your duel with Darth Malak aboard the Leviathan, intending to sacrifice yourself for the mission and your companions took bravery beyond yourself,” Vrook took up the thread again, “This was your Trail of Courage.”

“And your Trial of the Spirit, young Bastila Shan,” Nomi Sunrider explained, “was your fight with the Dark Side. I sense you see your fall to the Dark Side as your greatest failure, but you know better than most its lures and temptations. However, you rose above it and you understand your folly. You are a stronger Jedi by it, Bastila, and we will now proudly accept you as a Jedi Knight, young as you are.”

“I—I thank you,” Bastila stammered, bowing towards Nomi, Vrook, and Vandar all at once.

“And you, Jolee Bindo,” Nomi started again with a playful glint in her eyes.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Jolee protested and stepped towards Nomi with his hands waving, “I thought I made myself pretty damn clear fifty years ago when I left this blasted place.”

“That your crimes could not be forgiven so lightly?” Nomi asked, lifting an eyebrow.

“Damn right they couldn't,” Jolee retorted.

“And so they will not be,” Nomi replied and settled back into her chair, “So, please do me a favor, Jolee, and listen to what we have to say.”

“Since it's you doing the asking,” Jolee said and crossed his arms stubbornly over his chest, “I think I'll have to.”

“Good,” Nomi smiled. “Clearly your subverting our rules, marrying, and training the woman the Council forbid you to has weighed heavily on your mind these last fifty years. As has your wife's betrayal. Coming to terms with it, this was your Trial of the Flesh.”

“Now wait a minute—” Jolee protested.

“Surviving in the Shadowlands, where few can, and befriending the Wookiees, this was your Trial of Skill,” Vima Sunrider put in brightly after her mother.

“You passed your Trial of Courage aboard the Star Forge, where odds were against you,” Vrook added.

“I didn't sign up to take any trials again,” Jolee argued halfheartedly, but was ignored.

Ev found herself snickering at him.

“And in resisting both your wife and Bastila as they called you to the Dark Side, as well as determining against all hope that you would return Ev to the Light rather than fight her,” Nomi finished, “You have passed your Trial of the Spirit.”

“You're going to overlook what I did all over again,” Jolee pointed out bitterly, “And prove to me that the Jedi Order hasn't changed one bit since I left all those years ago.”

“No, Jolee,” Nomi replied with sudden gravity, “We are not ignoring the trespasses of your past, as we should not. But you have served out your sentence, meditating upon them in the wilderness for half a century, and we are ready to welcome you back, older and wiser than you were before.”

“Older, that's for sure,” Jolee grumbled.

“You were perhaps truer to the code than the elders of the Order at that time,” Nomi said, “They were too eager to fill the ranks of the Jedi Knights, to replace those who had fallen in the war. For their carelessness in your case, I hope you will accept my—and our apologies.”

Jolee was dumbstruck for only a moment before he regained himself, “You really want a crabby old man like me to rejoin the Jedi Order? You're sure you're just not trying to fill up the places of all of those fallen heroes from this war again?”

“Well, that too,” a smile crossed Nomi's lips, “But we really do want you back, if you will have us.”

Jolee chuckled, “Things have changed around here. And I hope it's your doing, Nomi.”

“Then will you accept your knighthood this time or not?” Nomi asked.

“Willingly,” Jolee replied.

“And that brings us to Revan, the prodigal Knight,” Vrook said dryly.

Ev shifted uncomfortably at the mention of that name.

“Though you achieved full knighthood in your past, we thought it necessary for you to face your trials again to prove that you had indeed returned to us,” Vrook continued.

“And have I passed your tests?” Ev asked.

“You have the power and brilliance that you once did,” Zez-Kai Ell said, “But that is not enough. It could qualify you as a Sith as easily as as it could as a Jedi.”

“Your duel and victory over Malak was your Trial of Skill, one we had no doubt that you would pass,” Vrook said.

“Your Trail of Courage was when you infiltrated the Sith and took on the Star Forge alone, determined to bring down the Dark Lord yourself,” Dorak put in.

“Your Trial of the Flesh was when you resisted torture at the hands of Saul Karath,” Atris added.

“But most important of all was your Trial of the Spirit,” Embrik said slowly. Ev realized that it was the first time he had spoken since the initial introductions. “Your training was quick and your powers were immense from the start, yet you did not fall to the temptation of the Dark Side. Even when you knew the truth of your past and your identity, you did not attempt to reclaim the mantle of the Dark Lord, nor did you take the bait with Bastila urged you to join her. After your defeat of Malak, you had the Star Forge in your hands. You could have ruled the Sith again then, but you let it be destroyed and even showed mercy towards its crew. Time and time again, you showed mercy. The flood of Sith trainees that now wish to join the Jedi, we can only assume to be your doing, as with the young Selkath.”

“The Selkath were Juhani's doing, actually,” Ev corrected respectfully.

“As it may be,” Embrik nodded, “But nevertheless, you have passed your trials. You will be knighted once again.”

“I'm glad you all,” Ev paused, searching for the right word, “approve of me.”

“There is but one difficult matter left,” Vrook began, “None of you have living masters left to perform your knighthood ceremony. Master Shol died in the assault on the Taninim, Master Zhar Lestin died in the attack on the Dantooine enclave, and your master, whoever that was—”

“Master Iviyish,” Jolee put in quickly.

“Became one with the Force long ago,” Vandar finished.

“I would be honored if, you, Master Vandar would knight me,” Bastila said, bowing to him, “As you have been supervising the rest of my training, if from afar.”

“Then let it be so,” Vandar replied.

“Nomi, would you do me the honor?” Jolee asked with a crooked smile.

“Of course, old friend,” she replied warmly.

“I must have had a master before the Mandalorian Wars,” Ev observed, “Where is she—or he?”

“Master Kae left the Jedi Order shortly after you did, and we have not seen her since,” Atris replied, her voice heavy with distaste.

“Then,” Ev began, then turned to face the masters seated by the doorway, “Master Waykennit, you said that you would have liked to take me as a padawan when I was younger. Even though you did not, will you knight me now?”

“I would be honored to,” Embrik replied with a warm smile.

“Then it is all settled,” Nomi said, “You three will be knighted tomorrow at noon. In the mean time, I believe the Jedi Knight Belaya is waiting outside to attend to your needs.”

“Thank you, Masters,” Bastila said, overwhelmed with both gratitude and shame.

“You will one day learn to forgive yourself, Bastila,” Master Ruell promised, sensing her inner conflict, “But the sooner you do, the better it will be for everyone.”

The great wooden doors swung open again, and, as promised, Belaya was waiting patiently outside. Led by Juhani, Ev, Jolee, and Bastila strode out to meet her and the great doors shut behind them.

“I sense much darkness in all of them, though perhaps least of all in that old hermit,” Vrook said as soon as the chamber was sealed again, “I don't like it.”

“If you will excuse me, Vrook, but what do you like?” Kavar asked dryly.

Vrook shot him a sour look.

“To deny knighthood to a Jedi that knows she is ready is more dangerous than we can afford, Vrook,” Kavar argued, “You know that.”

“But it is also dangerous to let them know so explicitly how powerful they are,” Vrook replied, “When they have tasted the Dark Side already.”

“Then we must keep them here under close supervision,” Atris suggested firmly.

“And put some of our most capable Jedi to waste?” Vima argued, “I don't need to remind you all how few our numbers are. Less than a hundred Jedi remain in the Order now, and we have not achieved a full victory over the Sith yet. We destroyed their biggest weapon and their most powerful leader, yes, but another can rise in his place. We must wipe the galaxy clean of the Sith once again, and we will need the help of the four heroes who destroyed the Star Forge.”

“And they know they are heroes,” the Bimm Jedi master observed calmly, “They will not be content to remain on Coruscant while others are away driving off the Sith.”

“Master Tyjesh is right,” Vima put up a hand for calm, “We cannot keep them here at the temple.”

“Then send them all to the Glythe Sector to disrupt the Sith there as soon as they are knighted,” Atris suggested.

“No, we cannot do that,” Kronn argued, “The politicians and the people will want a good look at their heroes, Jedi included. We must be prepared to release them for a victory tour.”

“And waste valuable time in our fight against the Sith?” Atris asked sharply.

“We live in a galaxy that has lost faith in the Jedi,” Kronn said, shaking his head, “Let the citizens have their heroes. Then we will put them to work.”

“But they cannot be sent together,” Vrook argued, “The other three look to Revan as their leader, and she holds an unnatural sway over them. Their loyalty and admiration of her is unmoving. I do not like it.”

“Her bond with Bastila is an asset, not a danger,” Zez-Kai Ell said, “At the very least, Bastila should remain with her.”

“And Juhani and Jolee should be sent elsewhere,” Kronn agreed.

“On this point, I disagree with you,” Nomi put in, “They are valuable as a team, and every team needs its leader. Because of the trials they have already faced together, the four of them are better prepared to face what still remains of the Sith than almost any of our other Jedi. To split them up immediately would be a waste.”

“There is still darkness deep within Ev's core,” Tyjesh said, “Perhaps she knows it is there, and perhaps she is willfully ignoring it. But it is there all the same. She could turn on us again at any moment, and she is clever enough that we would never see it coming.”

“Which is why we cannot trust her,” Atris said derisively.

“I believe it was you who insisted we were giving her a second chance, Atris,” Vima observed.

“If we treat her like an enemy, she will begin to believe it herself,” Nomi warned, “And this time, her fall would be our doing.”


***


The Temple Court was filled as it had seldom been before. Somehow, nearly overnight, perhaps through the whisperings of padawans, nearly all of Coruscant came to know of the knighting of the heroes of the Battle of the Star Forge. Even as Jolee, Juhani, Ev, and Bastila stood before the Jedi council the afternoon before, the Holonet finally exploded with reports of the Republic's victory and those pivotal heroes that made it possible. Overnight, the entire crew of the Ebon Hawk became celebrities.

Usually, non-Jedi were not present at knighting ceremonies, but the council made an exception so that the other heroes of the Star Forge could come to witness their friends ascension. However, that exception opened the flood gates to a myriad of politicians, grateful navy and army officers, and other curious Coruscanti citizens. Master Kronn Hakkes had done his best to bar journalists from entering, yet even as the ceremony began, a few cameras flashed in the crowd around the hall.

On a raised dais in the center stood Ev, Jolee, and Bastila. The twelve Jedi Masters of the High Council encircled them at the edge of the dais. Their order, however, was slightly altered. Instead of Vrook, Embrik Waykennit stood immediately to Nomi's right.

Just behind them stood Juhani, Carth, Canderous, Mission, Zaalbar, and Kionee Rinnh, all given a place of honor to see their friends.

Excited murmurs filled the Temple Court, as people strained to see the Jedi on the dais as well as their friends standing just off the edge of it.

Suddenly, twelve brilliant lightsabers hummed to life. A hush fell over the hall. Each of the Jedi Masters first pointed their lightsabers to the sky and slowly lowered them towards the ground. Nomi, Embrik, and Vandar stepped forwards towards the three Padawans before them, who all dropped down on one knee.

“We are all Jedi. The Force speaks through us,” Nomi recited, her voice unnaturally amplified, “Through our actions, the Force proclaims itself and what is real. Today we are here to acknowledge what the Force has proclaimed.” She shifted her gaze across the three of them and continued, “Evrue Pell, Jolee Bindo, Bastila Shan—”

At that moment, Nomi, Embrik, and Vandar sliced their lightsabers over each of their charge's right shoulder. Ev's tiny padawan braid dropped to the ground beside her. It had hardly been growing for five months. Bastila's, which usually was tucked up into a pigtail, also flitted onto the tailed floor. Jolee had long since had enough hair to braid, so Nomi's saber blade merely hovered over his right shoulder. In unison, the three masters transferred their lightsaber blades from the right to the left shoulders.

Nomi finished, “By the right of the Council, by the will of the Force, I dub thee, Jedi Knights of the Republic.” Cheers and applause erupted. Though out of place in such a ceremony, Nomi waited for them to die down before she continued with grace, “Take up your lightsabers, Evrue Pell, Jolee Bindo, and Bastila Shan, Jedi Knights. And may the Force be with you.”

Purple, green, and yellow erupted from Ev, Jolee, and Bastila's hands as the stood. Their lightsaber salute was met by all twelve members of the council, as well as Juhani who watched proudly from outside the circle.

Again the crowds cheered uproariously.

Over the din, Jolee tilted his head towards his two companions and commented, “How do you like being famous?”

- Next Part -


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