Tower of Time: Long Ago and Far Away

The Road to Rediscovery
Part 9 - Cathar Memories

Juhani disembarked from her transport on a humid Cathar night. It was the first Cathar night her skin had tasted in twenty years. All around the make-shift spaceport were sounds, smells, and feelings that should have been familiar to her. Insects whirred in the whispering grasses. Nocturnal predators stirred and rattled out their evening song in the distance. A western wind carried warm sea air laden with moisture over the plains. Diamond-like stars twinkled in the sky between patches of wispy clouds that drifted across the heavens and veiled the waxing moon. Towering, bulbous home trees of Enos Village cast dim shadows in the moonlight.

Amid all this, only the rumbling of a transport ship shutting down and its rhythmically blinking wing lights were familiar to Juhani. She felt like an alien on her own world.

“I am,” she breathed, “home.”

“Good luck to you, Jedi,” the mother of a young Cathar family she had been traveling with hailed her from across the grassy landing strip, “I hope you find what you're looking for.”

So do I. Juhani called back, “I wish you luck as well in your new life, friends.”

With only their hopes, their two children, and three suitcases of belongings, they would restart their lives on Cathar. The six other families on Juhani's transport were the same, all returning to their ancestral home with the hope that one day again Cathar would be a world worth mentioning with anything other than mourning.

Juhani was not here to make a life for herself. She was not here to stay.

“Ev, you seem different somehow,” Juhani observed, meeting her friend for the first time in nearly four months.

Ev smiled and leaned back in her seat. “It's refreshing to hear you say that, Juhani,” she replied. “I was beginning to wonder if I would ever get anywhere in conquering this.”

“I am not sure I understand,” Juhani admitted.

“Some of the Masters seem to take pleasure from telling me how far I fall from being a true Jedi,” Ev explained, “How dangerously I flirt with the Dark Side.”

Juhani stiffened. “Anyone who can say such things about you, does not know the greatness in you,” she spat, fur on the back of her neck rising in agitation, “How can they know what it is like to be in your position? You are already among the great Jedi for the darkness you have resisted!”

Ev held up a hand to silence her. Juhani felt ashamed even before Ev began to speak. “Watch it Juhani,” she warned, “'Anger leads to the Dark Side'.”

“'There is no passion...' I am sorry, Ev,” Juhani apologized, “I just cannot see why the Jedi distrust you so much. If they knew you as I know you...”

“No,” Ev countered calmly, “They really are right to be worried about anger. Anger does lead to the Dark Side, Juhani. That much is clear through ages of the Jedi's history. And some days, I'm as angry as a Sith.”

“You?” Juhani drew back in surprise, “No.”

“I am,” Ev asserted, nodding, “Maybe I bury it deeper than most. I have lots of practice. I've got plenty to be angry about, and it's dragging me down. It's ruining my focus, distorting my purpose, and tying me up in things that I aught to leave behind me for good.”

“When I see you here,” Juhani started, “I do not sense anger. I sense a calm in you I have not ever felt before.”

“I've realized what it is I have to live for,” Ev continued, “The friendship and love I have—but more than that, even, I tried out forgiveness.”

Juhani stared at her, waiting for an explanation.

“Forgiveness is the antidote to anger, not meditation and denial like so many Jedi claim,” Ev explained, “If you can forgive, forget, and move on, your anger won't haunt you any more.”

“So you have forgiven those you were angry at?” Juhani gathered.

“Not completely,” Ev admitted, “I've still got a long ways to go, but what you've said makes me think I must be making some progress. Juhani,” Ev paused and put a hand on her shoulder, “You've got a history with anger as deep as mine, you deserve to free yourself from it. You have to find the real root of it all and start forgiving right there.”

Even under Ev's soothing touch, thoughts of the Mandalorians made Juhani's blood boil. She clenched her fists so hard that her claws pinched the flesh of her palms. “How could I ever forgive the Mandalorians for what they did to my people? To my family?” she demanded.

“You don't have to rage at me about Mandalorians,” Ev laughed, but her tone was serious, “I have my own forgiveness battle with them too.”

“But how could you forgive what they have done?” Juhani asked more calmly, rage still biting at the edge of her consciousness.

“That's for you to figure out, Juhani,” Ev replied, “It's your battle. But you've got to go to the heart of your anger and confront it at its source before you can forgive anyway.”

“I,” Juhani took a deep breath and relaxed her fists, “I will try.”

So here she was, hunting the source of her anger so that she could conquer it. Twenty years after the Mandalorians decimated her planet, Cathar still bore the scars of the slaughter that ripped her people apart and cast the survivors to the far reaches of the galaxy. The near-genocide of the Cathar could not be undone even in a few centuries. Empty skeletons of cities still wept for their dead. Abandoned home trees were home to only memories and wails of the past.

Juhani returned to Cathar to forgive the Mandalorians for all this.

She started into an easy trot towards the eastern horizon and the ocean. Juhani's memories of Almudena Village were few. She had been less than two years old when the Mandalorians forced her family to flee their home. All the same, it was to Almudena that Juhani knew she must go.

Jogging across the grassy plane, Juhani met no one. Only glow-bugs danced across her path, mimicking the bright stars overhead.

Juhani fell into a meditative mindset to the rhythm of her breathing and footfalls on the soft earth. She had once run barefoot through these very fields, playing with other Cathar children, her own kind. The Mandalorians ripped that from her. Her parents lived in exile, and she never again had the companionship of other young Cathar. The attack that sentenced countless of her fellows to death sentenced Juhani to the life of an outsider.

Here on Cathar, she felt just as much an outsider. She had neither Cathar family to share her life with nor Cathar friends to relate to. She hardly knew how to relate to other Cathar any more.

Feeling fatigue coming to her limbs, Juhani opened herself to the Force and let it flow through her muscles. The warmth of the Force coursing through her, she pushed herself even faster. For just a moment, she felt almost free as she practically flew over the plains. The smell of the sea air growing ever stronger and the wind whipping through her braids, Juhani let out a yowl of exhilaration.

She dashed up the crest of a hill and the ocean unfolded before her, dark and undulating under the setting moon. On its sandy shores, not far distant, was a dark cluster of home trees: her Almudena Village.

At the sight of it, empty and abandoned, Juhani's voice caught in her throat. She felt the Force go out of her as longing, despair, anger, nostalgia, and loneliness welled up inside her all at once. She stumbled down the hill, tears wetting her yellow eyes. At the base, she fell to her knees and wailed for all that had been lost that day the Mandalorians came.

So many Cathar died. So many. She and her parents survived, but was the life they lived a life worth living? On Taris, they were starved, abused, and ignored. Weakened and depressed, living lives of destruction, both her parents met an early end.

She may not remember it, but Juhani knew that in Almudena they had been respected. They had promising lives ahead of them. Juhani herself could be mated and raising a family right in that very village by now if it had not been for the Mandalorians.

But had it not been for the Mandalorians, she would never have met Revan—or Ev. Suddenly, she could not bear the thought of trading that friendship away for anything. It was the will of the Force that she should meet Revan, even if it meant her near brush with slavery. She would never have discovered her potential as a Jedi without that chance encounter that saved her future. It was the will of the Force that Ev, not remembering her past as Revan, should save here again, from the consuming Dark Side. The Mandalorian attacks on Cathar may not have been the will of the Force, but the Force worked in mysterious ways. Through a path of pain and tragedy, Juhani found her life and her calling. She found Ev. And she would follow Ev to the ends of the universe.

Juhani rose shakily to her feet and let the sea breeze envelop her, drying away her tears. Slowly, she plodded towards the coast and the shell of her childhood village.

She thought back to the last two years of her life.

In a fit of anger, she nearly killed her master Quatra. Descending to the Dark Side in a shallow fit of self-pity, Juhani stalked the outback of Dantooine, believing that she could never be saved. It did not take long for Ev to find her. Ev had compassion for her, even as Juhani tried to kill her. Fortunately and inevitably, Juhani failed. Ev gently and patiently talked her back to the Light Side and the Jedi. In the end, Quatra not only forgave her unconditionally, she had Juhani knighted as a full Jedi.

Then Juhani was given the privilege of traveling with Ev and the others on their quest for the Star Forge. Along the way, Ev pulled her back from the slippery slope of the Dark Side more than once. When, in the very temple of the Builders and under the shadow of the Star Forge, Ev turned on them for the Sith, Juhani's world almost shattered. She wanted to believe that it was all a clever ruse, but could not. In the end, her gut feeling proved to be true. Ev fooled the Sith, defeated Darth Malak, and brought about the destruction of the Star Forge.

Juhani would never doubt her again.

The others—Carth, Bastila, Mission, Zaalbar, Canderous, Jolee, and even that misfit pilot Kionee—taught her what friendship could truly be like. For all its ups and downs, the crew aboard the Ebon Hawk was like her second family. She learned the value of trust from Carth. Zaalbar gave new meaning to the word honor. From Bastila she learned the danger of becoming too self-absorbed. Mission taught her not to doubt herself even in impossible situations. Jolee brought a lightheartedness and a different perspective to grave situations. Kionee's naivety and joy brought light to the darkest hours. Even Canderous the Mandalorian was not so bad.

At first Juhani hated him just for what he was. Canderous soon proved that his loyalty went deeper than a mercenary's bounty. Juhani could not see eye to eye with him on values and morals, but he fought for freedom and justice in the end. Although the old Mandalorian may not admit it, he could not support death and slaughter just for glory's sake any more. Juhani had watched that change in him as they traveled. Canderous was a Mandalorian, and Juhani could forgive him.

That was a start.

Juhani ambled through what was left of her childhood village. The home trees stood just as they had before the attack. Now they were overgrown, wild, and abandoned, but the trees stood straight and tall as ever. The Mandalorians never came to Almudena. Its people had fled long before the war front arrived. Almudena stood as an eerie testament to their terror on that day.

Passing through the village, Juhani stepped onto to the sandy shores on the other side. The eastern horizon began warming with tinges of pink. The waves licked gently at the sand as if nothing but peace had ever graced the ocean's shores. The ocean had a long memory. Surely it remembered those days.

Somewhere else along the shores of this very same shore, the Mandalorians had rounded up the remaining Cathar survivors. All were terrified and none were warriors, but Mandalorian spite would not let them live. Pushed farther and farther into the waters, they either drowned or were shot down in an attempt to escape.

More than ten years after that slaughter, Revan and Malak walked these shores. The ocean cried out to them and told its story. Through the Force, they saw a vision of that day and the horrors committed there on that beach. That was the day Revan took on her mask and vowed not to rest until the Mandalorians were defeated. Revan mourned and raged for Cathar. Juhani could see that Ev mourned and raged for it even now.

There was no going back on it. Cathar's fate was to lose terribly to the Mandalorians during that war. Now there was only to go forward. Slowly, with every re-immigrant family, Cathar was coming to life again. It did not need two Jedi brooding over its fate any more.

Juhani sighed and sat down on a tidal-smoothed rock. She stared out at the ocean and the horizon. Deeper hues of crimson and orange crept into the sky and danced on the waves.

Ev was right. She needed to move on. What was past was past. Her stomach still churned at the thought of what the Mandalorians did to her people here. She could forgive one Mandalorian, though, so she would have to learn to forgive more.

Juhani had friends to live for. She had the ideals of the Jedi Order to live up to. There was still a galaxy out there in turmoil, waiting to be healed. The Jedi were not only warriors, but healers and teachers as well. Her part in the Jedi Civil War was almost over. General Talorias promised her only one more tour with his company. The war was winding down and the Sith were all but defeated. The Mandalorians were long gone too. It was a battle she did not need to fight any more.

What was her purpose? Both Bastila and Ev had taken padawans. After all they had all experienced together in their quest for the Star Forge, they had much to pass on. Juhani thought about it, watching the sun rise over the ocean. The Selkath Shasa still did not have a master yet. Of all the Selkath students, Shasa did show the most promise, but also had the most questions. In an instant, Juhani decided. When she left for her next tour of duty, she would take Shasa along with her as her padawan. It was time to stop behaving like a lost padawan, leaning on Ev at every quandary. Juhani needed to step out and become the Jedi Knight she had always dreamed of.

And yet, Juhani knew she would always follow Ev in whatever cause she undertook.

Cathar's sun blazed over the horizon, glittering on the waves and on the sand. Not far north along the shore, morning lights began to illuminate a cluster of new home trees. Cathar families awoke to the dawn for another day of working towards the future. Juhani knew that one day again, Cathar would live up to its dreams again.

Deep down, Juhani knew that so would she.

- Next Part -

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