Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 25 - Grasping at Shadows

“They did not speak. They only attacked, materializing out of nowhere. Somehow they even seemed to be able to suppress their presences in the Force before they attacked me, and yet they were not Force users as we would know them,” Master Thon, the great bearded Tchuukthai narrated from his spot on the Jedi Council circle. The chair that had once been Anika Epiere's was gone, leaving space for him to sit on the ground. Although the sounds that came from his mouth were a language that none of the other Jedi understood, he made his meaning known through the Force.

“That sounds consistent with Bastila's narrative of her attackers on Onderon,” Kavar nodded thoughtfully.

“What did they look like?” Vima Sunrider asked.

“Masked and uniformed,” Thon rumbled, “In all gray and black with red tinted glasses. They all looked the same, felt the same, and attacked the same.”

“Attacked the same?” Atris asked, cupping her chin in the palm of her hand as her elbow rested on the arm of her chair.

“They were trained in makashi form, for fighting Jedi,” he paused and shuddered so slightly that only the tip of his wispy beard jiggled, “And they drew the Force from me, feeding on its living energies to give them strength. In all of my days, I have never seen anything like this.”

“How they could have found you in such a remote part of the outer rim is most disturbing,” Vandar nodded slowly.

“To such a creature, my presence in the Force is a loud call,” Thon replied darkly, “I have no doubt that the Force led them to me.”

“If you were not safe on Ambria, then what of our other Jedi in the field, on the edges of contested space?” Vima asked abruptly, thinking of the thinning network of Watchmen they had posted across the galaxy. How many of them were dead already that they did not know about?

“Let's not get ahead of ourselves, Vima,” Atris reminded sharply.

“Atris, have you found any mention of Force Techniques like these in your research?” Dorak asked her, “I have found nothing, myself.”

Atris shook her head gravely, “Nothing in the tomes of the Jedi.”

Vima pursed her lips, she hated to ask it, but the Jedi risked far greater things already, “What of the Sith holocrons in our vault? Perhaps they might have some answers.”

“It is possible...” Atris drew out slowly and thoughtfully.

“I am not sure if this is a risk we want to take,” Vrook cautioned, “Those holocrons are dangerous.”

“If it brings us closer to answers,” Nomi started, taking a deep breath, “then it may be worth the risk. Atris, I grant you permission to use the Sith holocrons in our collection, but only yourself. I do not want to risk more than one Jedi to their tainting influence.”

Atris bowed her head somberly. “They will not leave the vault,” she promised, “and no mention of them will escape my lips but in this chamber.”

“Good,” Nomi nodded, “May your research bring us closer to the answers.”

“Darkness clouds everything now,” Tyjesh murmured, “It obscures our enemies from us far worse than ever during the war. But now the Sith attack from the shadows, in secret. How can we trace what we cannot see and we cannot sense?”

“There has been no sign of Revan since she disappeared over a year ago,” Atris observed coolly, “Have any of you considered that this could be her doing?”

“I have considered it...” Vrook murmured.

“We should not have given her so much freedom, and now we pay for our generosity with her,” Atris fumed, “She was never to be trusted.”

“And yet none of this feels like Revan,” Kavar put in thoughtfully. “I do not sense her behind this.”

“And it isn't her style,” Vima added.

“No, the enemy comes from too many different angles,” Vandar agreed, “Ev would not have had time to gather such an army, even if she wanted to, in the time since she left us. I believe Master Kavar is right. The threat we are facing now is not the return of Darth Revan.”

“It might be better for us if it were, unfortunately,” Zez-Kai Ell admitted, “Revan is an enemy we understand and know how to face. These enemies, they are unlike any we have faced before. We know nothing of them only that they are killing Jedi.”

“We could attempt to draw them out, to a confrontation,” Zez-Kai Ell suggested, his blue hologram flickering in his empty chair.

“How do you suggest that, Master Ell?” Atris asked. “That may be our best chance at tracking them.”

“That is absolutely out of the question,” Vrook snapped before he could answer. “We will not bait this enemy. There is too much unknown here, too much at risk.”

“There are too few of us left,” Nomi sighed. Anika Epiere was only the first member of the council to go missing. Since then Kronn Hakkes and Ruell D'tarn had failed to return from their missions into the field. Besides them, nearly twenty other Jedi and their padawans had failed to report in on schedule. Communication was often difficult in the more remote regions of the galaxy, but Nomi feared the worst for all of them.

“Has there been any contact from the Dorin Jedi Enclave?” Kavar changed the subject.

“Not for nearly a month,” Dorak replied, “Although we have hailed them repeatedly.”

“For an entire enclave of Kel Dor to disappear, it is almost too much to believe,” Vima commented. “The Kel Dor are powerful Jedi.”

“If our enemies truly have destroyed them all, we are facing a far greater darkness than we believed before,” Vandar warned. “Someone must go to investigate what has happened to our Kel Dor fellows.”

“I will go,” Kavar volunteered almost immediately, but his grave voice lacked enthusiasm. “I will leave this very afternoon. The sooner we know what has happened to our Kel Dor brothers, the better.”

“Very well,” Nomi nodded, “You are right.”

Dorak cleared his throat, as if debating whether or not to steer the conversation in another direction. “There was an unexplainable tragedy this week in an outer rim mining colony,” he began, “Perkkik Station only had several thousand residents and workers, mostly Felucian colonists. This week, after Felucia had not heard from them, an investigative team discovered the colony to be completely dead, with no clues as to their attackers.”

“Felucians are a Force-sensitive race,” Tyjesh observed, “Could this be the work of our attackers as well?”

“Anything is possible, for as little as we know,” Zez-Kai replied, a hint of frustration in his voice.

“Someone from the Order must go to Perkkik Station so that we can see for ourselves if there is any connection,” Kavar suggested.

“Then I will go,” Vrook volunteered. “First to Felucia and then to the mining station.”

A tense hush fell over the Jedi High Council Chamber. They all knew that, in all of their wisdom at the head of the Jedi Order, none of them had the answers.

“I fear that our Watchmen are in danger,” Vima said slowly. “We do not know where these enemies are striking from, or what they want, but they seem to be after Jedi and other Force-sensitives. I suggest that we call them back to the temple on Coruscant, except for those in particularly vital or delicate positions.”

“The Jedi Watchmen are the peace keepers in the galaxy,” Vrook argued, “From their positions, they may see more than we can from the core. We need their insight.”

“But they will do us much more good alive and on Coruscant than dead on the outer rim,” Vima pointed out, “What they see may kill them. So far, the only Jedi to survive attacks of these assassins, as far as we know now, are Bastila Shan and Master Thon. Too many of our watchmen have gone missing already. We cannot afford to loose more. There are already less than a hundred full Jedi left in the order.”

“Vima speaks true,” Thon agreed, “We must protect the Jedi we have now, until we have discovered and eliminated the source of this threat. I agree. We should call back the non-essential Watchmen and make sure all those that remain in the field are all aware of the dangers.”

Nomi already had a datapad in her hand and was scrolling fixatedly through a file. The rest of the council waited for her make her conclusions. “The only Jedi in the field right now that cannot be spared from their posts are Kaden Thuvell in the Chorlian System, finalizing peace settlements with the Sith-aligned factions on Sigil, on the edge of Sith space, and Master Lonna Vash and her padawan Kaah Ohtok investigating the recent rumors of another Sith warlord on the outer rim,” Nomi concluded, “The rest, we will call back as soon as they can wrap up their current duties.”

“We should call back our fellows from Agricorps as well,” Vandar suggested, “They are particularly at risk without the full training of a Jedi.”

Realization suddenly hit Vima. She gasped and clapped a hand over her mouth. Managing the placement of apprentices who never made it to the rank of Padawan was one of her duties, a duty that she had fallen lax on with so many apprentices growing old without masters to take them. “I haven't heard from either of our agricultural teams since last month,” she gaped, utterly horrified and ashamed of herself. “I did not realize it before. I have been so busy with everything else, I did not notice the drop in communication.”

“We lost Agricorps as well, it seems,” Vandar said mournfully.

“I will contact them immediately,” Vima volunteered hurriedly, “If there is no response, then I will go see myself what has happened. They are my responsibility and my failure.”

“You could not have foreseen this, Vima,” Thon tried to calm her. She felt no less guilt inside of her, but the low rumble of his voice did somehow smooth over her anxiety. What was done was done.

“If only we had some clue as to the motivations or origins of these enemies,” Atris sighed, “They do not appear to be like the Sith we have faced before.”

“But shadows in the Force obscure everything,” Tyjesh added.

“Not even our combined meditation is enough to break through the fog,” Vandar lamented.

“Add more Jedi to our meditation circle, and perhaps we may reach the answers,” Thon suggested.

“You mean to suggest that we bring in other members of the Jedi Order to this mystery?” Vrook asked, cautioning, “We must be careful not to cause panic, or leak our concerns to our enemy. There is safety in fewer Jedi knowing what is truly at stake.”

“There is already fear in the temple, Master Vrook,” Dorak pointed out, “I feel it in the uncertainties of all of our students and peers. They all know something is happening, but they do not know what.”

“And neither do we,” Vima added, “If the cooperation of the whole Jedi Order, all sixty-six of us, can bring us the clarity it takes to face this enemy, then let us call a conclave.” Vima saw several of the other Jedi Masters flinch at her statement. In particular, Master Kavar seemed hit hard, color draining from his face. So, many of them have not done the math yet. They did not know it was quite so desperate.

“There is too much noise in the Force on Coruscant, too much life,” Atris began, “If we must call a conclave, let it be away from such distractions, such as on Exis Station.”

“That station is now overrun with smugglers and other low life,” Kavar pointed out.

“There are other space stations in the galaxy we could use,” Vrook suggested dryly, “Many others.”

“Better yet, let us find a focal point in the Force,” Zez-Kai offered, “Like Felucia, Alpheridies, Katarr, or Ossus.”

“I feel this is not a decision we can make just yet,” Nomi cautioned, “Let each of us pursue our investigations and meditate on it. We will call back the Jedi Watchmen and learn what we can. For now, we have talked long enough this afternoon. We are spread thin now, even at the temple, and we have our duties here.”

The other Jedi Masters nodded and murmured. They rose and stretched, like stiff old men and women, aged far beyond their years by the heavy burden of not knowing the danger they were in.

Vima remained in her seat near the door and breathed deeply, closing her eyes. She sunk into meditation as the other masters filtered out. Try as she might, Vima saw only clouded darkness and formless shadows. Even the simplest of questions seemed unanswerable through the Force now. The obscuring darkness came on so gradually in the last year, that she had hardly noticed it at first. None of the Jedi had. Now, their vision and clarity was too far gone.

Vima sighed and opened her eyes again on the silent and empty council chamber. Her mother still sat directly across from her in the seat of the Grandmaster. Their green eyes met and Vima sensed Nomi's pain through her gaze. They did not know, and without knowledge, they were powerless.

- Next Part -


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