Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away
   

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 7 - The Shame of the Dark Side

Bastila felt Ev coming long before she saw her round the bend in the corridor ahead.

“You're late,” Bastila scolded lightly, “I was just coming to look for you.”

“Sorry,” Ev apologized with a shrug and a smile, “I got caught up in the sparring ring with Dustil and didn't notice how much time had flown by.”

“That seems to be a common excuse of yours these days,” Bastila replied. “Well, where shall we have our chat?” With all of the secrets Ev sheltered from the Jedi, they had to be careful where they had even their most casual conversations. Even if she wanted to, Ev could not keep any real secrets from Bastila. Thankfully, she did not want to. Bastila remained her constant ally and confidante, and, oddly enough, coach. Despite the large gap in their ages, Ev and Bastila still often fell back on the roles of apprentice and teacher forced upon them during their journeys in search of the Star Forge.

“I need to head back to my room and change before my outing this evening,” Ev replied, “We could chat while we walk back that way.” After a pause, she added, “There is no one in our path. At least, not at the moment.”

Bastila still marveled at the breadth of Ev's power, which seemed to grow by the day. “Alright,” she agreed, “I trust Dustil isn't giving you too hard of a time.”

“No, no, not at all,” Ev laughed as they began walking towards the wing of the temple where both of them had their living quarters, “ At least, not more than I deserve. He's a good kid, all things considered, and a studious learner. I really am enjoying teaching him. Having a padawan fills me up in a way I hadn't expected. You really should consider taking a padawan, Bastila. You're not a half-bad teacher yourself.”

“I am far too busy with the campaign planning committee,” Bastila made an excuse. That wasn't the real reason, and by the look in Ev's eyes as she spoke, her friend knew it too.

“This war won't go on full-throttle forever,” Ev replied, “It is already starting to slow down. I'm sure you see that. When your duties with the military lighten up, you really should take a padawan. I'm sure it will be good for you.”

“I'll consider it,” Bastila replied uncomfortably.

“You know,” Ev added, “If you found someone with a knack or even an interest in military planning, you could even start training someone now. Sitting with you at the meetings would be a certain type of training, even if you couldn't spend as much time sparring and the like.”

“So what is this outing you have tonight?” Bastila changed the subject.

“Ostensibly, I am taking Dustil into the lower levels of Coruscant for a lesson on suffering, justice, contentment, and social stratification,” Ev explained, then leaned closer to Bastila and continued in a low murmur, “While actually, Dustil is going on his own and returning with his notes tomorrow. I have a meeting of my own tonight. Carth is back on Coruscant for a two-day leave.”

Bastila smirked. So that's why Ev is in a better mood than she has been all month. “But do you think that's a good idea,” she asked quietly, “Sending Dustil on his own? The lower levels of the city can be quite dangerous.”

“If the Sith taught him nothing else, they taught him to trust no one and nothing,” Ev replied confidently, “He knows it's dangerous and he will be on his guard. He always is. Trust is something we need to work on, but mistrust will protect him for the evening, anyway. Besides, he is only to observe and take notes, not to get involved in anything. And I'm sending HK along to shadow him in case something does happen.”

“I would think that blood-thirsty droid would do more harm than good in an exercise like this,” Bastila observed with a snort.

Ev chuckled, “True, but I've told him to stay out of sight and stalk Dustil discretely. Dustil doesn't know that he'll be shadowed. I am hoping that his senses are sharp enough that he will figure it out though.”

“Do you trust Dustil to stay out of trouble?” Bastila asked skeptically. She didn't know Dustil or the other students from Korriban as well as Ev did, but she still felt a Sith was a Sith; all angry brutes, ready to stick their lightsaber in anything that caught their attention.

“Mostly,” Ev replied with a shrug as they arrived at the door to her room. She keyed it open and they both stepped inside. Like all of the other Jedi's chambers, Ev's room had bare cream colored walls and contained only a twin bed, a small closet and drawers, and a tiny bed-side table. The door clicked shut behind them. Ev added, obviously sensing Bastila's feelings towards the Korriban students, “Dustil and the others may have been training to be Sith, but they voluntarily sought to change sides. They want to become Jedi. They want to change their ways, whatever it takes. While there have been some incidents of old, bad habits flaring up, they all have been making immense progress, Dustil almost the most of all.”

Bastila sat down on the edge of Ev's bed as Ev moved to her closet and stripped out of her sweaty practice robes. There was no point of physical modesty between Ev and Bastila, when they intimately shared every feeling that rose into their minds. Even so, Bastila averted her eyes to stare at the plain, durasteel door. “Fine,” Bastila admitted, “You do know them all better than I do.”

Pulling on a pair of brushed denim pants, Ev cast a look over her shoulder at Bastila. “You still hate the Sith, don't you?” she observed.

“Jedi do not hate,” Bastila replied sharply.

“No, but you do,” Ev persisted. “I don't have to tell you that I can feel it in you. You even want to hate the students we have here whose pasts lie with the Sith.”

“Ev, that's not true, I—” Bastila protested.

“You know it's pointless to argue with me,” Ev retorted firmly. She pulled on a cream-colored tunic and clasped a thin belt around her waist. The whole outfit looked like ordinary Coruscanti fashion, though still in Jedi creams. Even the belt was a fashion accessory rather than the thick utility belts Jedi usually wore.

Bastila sighed as Ev sat down next to her on the bed. “I can't move beyond what the Sith did in this war, and what they did to me,” Bastila admitted. She dreaded saying any more, but Ev remained silent, waiting for her to continue. “But, in the end, after all the goading and torture Malak put me through, it was me who decided to become a Sith. I took up that role willingly. I wanted the power and recognition. I embraced the Dark Side to get it. Even though it was for such a short time, they called me Darth Bastila. I was a Dark Lord of the Sith. In that battle, so many good men and women fighting for the Republic died because of me.”

Sympathy flooded over their bond from Ev. “Try having an entire war worth of deaths on your conscience,” Ev replied. She paused then continued, “A Jedi Master I respect recently told me that I need to learn to forgive; not just forgive the Mandalorians and the Sith, but I also need to forgive myself.”

“Ev, I don't think I can do that,” Bastila shook her head, “My fall to the Dark Side haunts my every thought.”

“And it will continue to unless you can forgive yourself,” Ev replied firmly, “Or so I'm told, anyway. Shoot,” Ev suddenly spurted, seeing the time on her chrono. She leaped up from the bed, “I'll be late if I don't hurry.” She clipped a money pouch to her belt, purposely neglecting her lightsabers, then swung a plum-colored riding cape over her shoulders. “I'm sorry,” she apologized, “I've got to run, if I'm to make our date on time via public transports.”

“I understand,” Bastila replied, wishing she really did understand that thrill of excitement and love that surged all over Ev. She followed Ev back out into the hall.

Ev closed the door and dashed off with a wave, saying, “I'll see you later, Bastila.”

“Have fun,” Bastila called halfheartedly.

Hearing Ev's footsteps fade away down the corridor into nothing, Bastila felt her presence as firmly as if Ev was still standing next to her. It never changed. Distance meant nothing. She wondered just how Ev coped with having a second person in her head at all times. It hard seemed to bother her at all. Maybe that was because Ev had been sensing Bastila's presence for every moment in her current memory.

For Bastila, however, she could remember all the time before that moment, nearly two years ago, aboard the Taninim when she reached out to the dying mind of Darth Revan, in a reckless effort to preserve it, and irreversibly linked herself to the Sith Lord. She knew now that that naive, split-second decision had chanced the course of her life forever.

She couldn't have known then what the Jedi Council would do with Revan or the part she would play in the life of a woman who had once been a Sith Lord but remembered nothing of it.

As the Force willed it. She sighed, staring down the corridor where Ev had gone.

Bastila, unlike Ev, clearly remembered her few short weeks as a Dark Lord of the Sith; the power, the respect, the exhilaration, the absolute disregard for other sentients with which she acted. It was behind her and forgiven, as far as the Jedi were concerned, but she knew it would haunt her forever.

Deep down, Bastila knew that if not for Revan—if not for Ev—she would not have fallen as she had. This was not the obvious sense that if Revan had not fallen and brought the Sith back to attack the Republic, there wouldn't have been any Sith for Bastila to become Dark Lord of. It was more personal.

Despite all of the lectures and warnings of the Dark Side that she had given Ev, all along, the mysterious, buried darkness within her fascinated Bastila. She felt it continuously through their bond, but could not grasp at it as she could Ev's other feelings. She could not find the source. No matter how compassionately Ev walked in the light, that darkness never disappeared, never wavered.

It was still there, even now.

It drew Bastila in, despite herself. Her curiosity for what fueled Ev was the tipping point that Malak used to turn her, in the end.

Not that she could blame Ev for her own fall. She didn't.

Being bonded to someone such as Ev wasn't all bad either. Ev was inspiring, energetic, and wiser than even she knew. Bastila admired Ev in so many ways. Ev was among the most loyal and supportive friends Bastila had ever had. Through their bond, Ev understood her in a way that no other could. All the same—

She felt a powerful need to meditate to clear her mind. The mediation chambers were too far away. Her private bedroom would have to do.

Bastila absently made her way back to her room, her mind still wrestling with thoughts of Ev and of the Dark Side.

Once in her room, she stripped down to only her undertunic and leggings and settled into a comfortable, meditative pose on her bed.

Slowly, slowly, her stresses and worries faded away, leaving her with calming oblivion in the Force.


Suddenly, a rush of violent emotions threw Bastila out of her meditations. Passion, urgency, and ecstasy flooded from Ev over their bond. Bastila, alone in her room, felt hot and uncomfortable, her face flushed.

Shaking herself and trying to ignore it, Bastila rose from her bed and began to get dressed again. She knew from experience that it was pointless to attempt to meditate when Ev was—well, doing what she was doing now. She also knew that focused, rhythmic sparring exercises were just enough to distract herself from the bond.

With that thought in mind, Bastila clasped her lightsaber to her belt and headed for the sparring rooms, doing her best not to blush as she walked past the other Jedi. Ev's emotions still smouldered at the front of her mind.

Not that Bastila could fault Ev for her relationship with Carth, for all the Jedi teachings said. Love supported and fueled Ev, and she in turned poured it out on those she cared for, Bastila included. Bastila couldn't see anything wrong with that. A small part of her—actually, a bigger part than she was willing to admit to herself—wistfully hoped that she would find love like that in time.

Bastila found one of the larger practice gyms. It was mostly empty except for a cluster of older students sparring with live sabers under the supervision of a master. In the opposite corner, Bastila took the long hilt of her lightsaber in her hands. The metal was cool on her palms. She sunk into the initial stance of Shii-Cho and ignited her saber. She concentrated on the hum of her yellow blade.

Once that was the center of her focus, she began. She stepped and swung through the movements of Shii-Cho over and over, letting her body's well-trained reflexes think for her and draw her deeper into the Force.

After some time, she moved into Makashi then Niman, and then into the tightly controlled forms of Soresu and Shien. Breathing deeply and beginning to sweat, Bastila focused her attention so intensely that nothing but the sweep of her lightsaber crossed her mind.

Just as she switched into Ataru, a form she still struggled to perfect, the down-sweep of her blade met resistance. Her yellow lightsaber crackled as it clashed against another silver blade. Jolting back to reality, Bastila took in the owner of the other silver saber, standing across from her in the beginning stance of Ataru, small red eyes fixed on her. Bastila's opponent was a white Twi'lek woman; not cream colored like many other Twi'leks that Bastila had seen before, but completely albino. She wore dark crimson robes and had similarly colored geometric tattoos at the ends of her lekku and across her forehead, almost in the shape of a tiara. Her lips were parted in a sly, toothy smile.

Their eyes met, and the Twi'lek woman lunged. They began what seemed like a dance of Ataru. Neither aimed to defeat the other, but only to meet strike for strike in perfect form.

Bastila had not fought someone else with a double-bladed saber in a long while. She twisted and spun, enjoying both the freedoms and constraints of her weapon of choice.

The Twi'lek woman was good. She sparred with aggressive energy and intense focus, but there were holes in her technique. Bastila had only to take advantage of one of those weaknesses, and she got the point, adjusting her stance for the next pass around. Even still, there were points in Ataru where she outshone Bastila, moving with athletic grace and ease.

Bastila marveled that she could not remember seeing this particular Twi'lek before. Granted, she had spent very little time in the Jedi Temple on Coruscant, so there were many Jedi that she did not know. Still, Bastila was sure that she would remember someone as distinctive looking as her current sparring partner.

Finally, panting hard, Bastila stepped back and called, “Enough.”

Smiling lightly, the Twi'lek bowed and extinguished both blades of her saber. Bastila shut hers off as well.

“Good bout,” Bastila commented.

“Yes, thank you for that,” she replied with another small bow.

Bastila could not think of anything else to say, and before she came up with anything, the Twi'lek woman started again, “Please forgive me if I'm wrong, but are you the Jedi Knight called Bastila Shan?”

“Yes,” Bastila stammered, “That's my name. And you are?”

“Snow,” she replied, then amended, “Seno'vwannin.”

“Well, I'm pleased to meet you, Jedi Knight Snow,” Bastila replied stiffly. She could not sense Snow's intentions.

“Apprentice, actually,” Snow corrected.

“Apprentice?” Bastila repeated, then scrutinized the woman before her. Although she as a poor judge of non-humans' ages, she felt certain that Snow was at least as old as she was. “How old are you, Snow?” she asked.

“Twenty-three,” she replied.

“You are older than me and not yet a padawan,” Bastila observed, reminding herself that she had only been knighted eight months ago.

“There seems to be a shortage of Jedi able to take on padawans these days,” Snow replied with guarded neutrality, “and an even greater shortage of Jedi willing to take on a padawan who used to be a Sith.”

“Then you must be one of the Korriban apprentices,” Bastila realized.

Snow bowed her head in a slow nod.

“Can I ask why you joined me in sparring today?” Bastila asked.

Snow met her eyes, “I was watching you practice after our lesson finished and suddenly, the Force seemed to say to me, 'This woman understands you, and you understand her.' It wasn't so much my decision as much as the Force prompted me, and there I was in front of you.”

“Understand me?” Bastila asked somewhat skeptically, but the Force nudged her, urging her to believe it was true.

A pack of noisy younglings poured into the gym after their teacher, each clambering for one of the blunt practice sticks.

“Do you have anywhere you need to be, Snow?” Bastila asked.

“No,” she replied with a shake of her head, “Not until meditation at four.”

“Then, walk with me,” Bastila suggested, “We can talk for a while.”

Snow said nothing in reply, but followed Bastila to the door.

They strolled slowly in the direction of the center of the temple, side by side.

“So, without having met me before,” Bastila started, “you are supposed to understand me, and I am supposed to understand you.”

“Trusting in the Force, yes,” Snow replied then pause, “I may have an advantage to begin with, though. I read your biography, Bastila.”

“My biography?” Bastila gaped, “I was not aware that I had one.”

“The short biography that the HoloNet News network released after the destruction of the Star Forge, along with the bios of all of the other participants of your mission,” Snow reminded her.

“Ah, that one,” Bastila nodded. Although it had been short, Bastila remembered marveling at just how many details they had dug up on her.

“I think,” Snow started slowly, “From what I read, we have some important things in common: both love and bitterness towards our parents, a feeling of being held back despite our accomplishments, and a nagging, no, consuming guilt for our falls to the Dark Side and all the things we did then, at least.”

Bastila stared at her. That sort of analysis had not bee in her biography. “I think that's a good start,” Bastila admitted, a little shaken.

“To be fair, I should tell you something about me,” Snow replied, “As I don't have a biography of me floating around.”

“If you don't mind,” Bastila urged.

“I hope this doesn't get too long,” Snow started, “It has been a while since I tried to put any of this into words.

“When I was about six years old, my family fell on hard times. My father, who I loved very much, worked hard to feed us all, but when my mother saw the chance to sell me for a high price, she took it. My own mother put me up for auction, and all the slavers bid furiously to have an albino little girl in their stock.

“I was bought and trained to dance. I was a natural at it and earned my first master lots of money when I was sold to an up-scale bar on Taris. I was passed around to a few different places until I was thirteen, when I was bought by a rich Tarisian to be a pleasure slave for his spoiled-rotten, do-nothing rancor of a son.”

Color drained from Bastila's face as she listened. Snow left much unsaid, but the horrors of her early life could hardly be ignored.

“I'll spare you the details,” Snow continued, “But I will say that he was as speciesist as any other rich, Tarisian human. He treated me like an animal.

“He socialized with the Sith even before they came to Taris, and they quickly discovered that he was Force-sensitive. They invited him to Korriban to train to use those powers. When he went, instead of selling me off with the rest of his slaves, he decided to bring me along.” Snow swallowed hard, then continued, “How I wanted him to sell me away with the others.

“On Korriban, not only did I have to put up with his abuse, but the abuse of his friends. One of them made a mistake, though. He noticed that I was also Force-sensitive and said so out loud, withing my hearing.

“From that night on, I did all I could to learn to use the Force, and finally, one night when I could take it no longer, I killed my master. When he was found dead in the morning, his friends came at me for revenge. I killed them too. I demanded that I be allowed to train as a Sith, and the academy accepted me, impressed by my ambition and brutality.

“But I was shunned by the others because of what I had been. Even Master Yuthura loathed me for it. I trained for years with every part of me. If others lashed out at me, I lashed back, usually leaving them maimed or dead. I became better than many who had started before me, but no Sith ever took me as an apprentice. I began to feel resentful and doubt the Sith. Their teachings and way of life seemed to be missing something. They were not the ultimate answer to what I craved. When I overheard Dustil and his friends planning their revolt, I joined in. For once, the fact that everyone ignored me came out to my benefit.

“Here, the Jedi avoid me to, but at least they try to be polite about it,” she added with a shrug, “They can't understand that even though evil raised me and even controlled me for a while, I can't bear the memories of that time any more. I want to leave it all behind me, but my dark past haunts my every move.”

Sensing Snow's narrative was finished, Bastila dared to speak again, “Is this common knowledge among your peers?”

“The other students from Korriban know that I was a slave at one time before I killed my master,” Snow replied, “to the rest of the Jedi, I am just one of them, tainted with a dark past.”

“Then why tell me?” Bastila asked, “We only just met.”

Snow shrugged, “Because it seems like the Force wanted me to.”

Bastila recalled how badly she needed someone to confide in only earlier that afternoon. Darkness was a heavy burden not easily escaped. “Do you feel better, having told me about all that?” Bastila asked.

Slowly, Snow nodded. “The who story isn't something that I have been able to tell anyone before. It feels like a start to getting free of my past.”

“What else do you feel is left?” Bastila asked. She did not notice that she had, once again, fallen into the role of a teacher.

“I guess I'm still frustrated,” Snow admitted with some difficulty, “I was the oldest, most skilled apprentice without a master on Korriban. And now it's the same thing all over again. Of course, I'm happy for Dustil, really. We all are. It's just...”

“You feel you deserve to become a padawan more than he does,” Bastila finished for her.

Snow didn't deny it.

“I would be your master, if you would let me,” the words flowed from Bastila's lips, surprising even her, “I am younger than you, but I have completed the training of a Jedi Knight.”

“I would be honored, Bastila Shan,” Snow replied.

So, it's decided. Bastila was awed by the abruptness of it all. “I will have to apply to the council to have it formalized,” she explained, suddenly nervous at the prospect of all the responsibilities that would come with the commitment she had just made.

“Right,” Snow nodded.

“What is your full name again?” Bastila asked.

“Seno'vwannin,” she answered.

“How did you come by 'Snow' then?” Bastila asked.

“One of the Selkath couldn't pronounce my name and called me 'Snow' by mistake,” she explained, “After that, it stuck.”

“Well, I can't promise anything exciting for your training right away,” Bastila admitted. “I am serving on the campaign planning committee as an adviser from the Jedi, due to my insight into the Sith.”

“Still I think that would be interesting,” Snow said firmly, “And I may be able to help, if it's perspective in the Sith they want. I was a Sith longer than you.”

“First, the Council needs to approve,” Bastila reminded her.

“Right,” she nodded again. Seeing a chrono on the wall, she started, “Well, I'm due in the meditation hall soon. I should go. Thank you, Bastila.”

“Thank you too,” Bastila replied. They exchanged quick bows and Snow glided off towards her next class.

Despite the sudden new responsibility of taking on her first padawan, Bastila felt at peace. Rather than a burden, Bastila knew that snow would become the friend and confidante that she had been yearning for.

- Next Part -


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