Faith II - Pilgrimage
“Of all the stories I expected to hear, I can’t say I anticipated that,” Grand Master Satele Shan said with awe.
“It’s the truth,” Faith said. She was joining the Jedi Order’s Grand Master for an evening meal after the earlier ordeal with the Flesh Raiders. “One second, I’m on the Earth, my home. The next, I’m in the middle of a warzone on a planet that everyone tells me is called Denova. I’m there with my… God, what do I call B? She’s like a friend and a sister and something else. I dunno how to describe our relationship, but we were both there. We got separated. I saw Master Ralto coming at me with a laser sword and thought he was a demon trying to kill me.”
“Because your world has never met life from another planet,” Satele added.
“Right. So, I try to attack Master Ralto with a shovel, somehow managing to avoid getting myself or my weapon sliced by his laser sword, and he shoves me to the ground without even touching me. Used the Force or whatever. Your boys in white armor put me in chains, but Ralto sought me out, let me go and took me with him. He’s a good guy.”
“Yes, he is,” Satele agreed. “I wonder if we can locate your planet. What can you tell me about it?”
Faith felt herself squirm inside. “I, uh, I’m not gonna be much help. I wasn’t ever really the school type. I can tell you that it’s mostly water, it’s the third rock from the sun, it has a moon… That’s about it, really.”
“How many other planets are there?” Satele asked patiently.
“There are nine total, I think, but some idiots tried to say that the last one isn’t technically a planet. Oh! The ninth planet’s orbit overlaps with the eighth one! Thank you, plastic childhood teaching placemat!”
Satele arched an eyebrow at the last exclamation, but said nothing about it. “Well, it’s not a lot to go on. I’ll do what I can, but I can’t promise much. I’m sorry, Faith.”
“Don’t sweat it, Sa… Grand Master,” Faith said, not used to being with such important people.
For her part, Master Shan didn’t seem to take it the wrong way. “Thank you for your understanding. I believe Master Ralto was looking for you. He’s in his meditation chambers.”
“Thanks, Master. May the Force be with you.” Faith felt strange saying it, but it seemed to be the proper way to say goodbye to a Jedi.
Satele took it in the spirit offered and bowed her head. “May the Force be with you as well.”
Faith bowed her head and took off for Master Ralto’s room.
She knocked gently, despite the door being ajar. The blue Nautolan was hovering in the air with his eyes closed, but he unfolded his legs and stood up to speak with Faith. “Ah, thank you for coming. This is urgent, so we should speak quickly.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Faith said, forgetting the Jedi Master’s title.
He let it slide. “First of all, well done with the Padawans in the Gnarls. That took some serious skill and fortitude.”
Faith nodded. “Gave me a better idea about that Code you were trying to teach me.”
“And I am glad of that, but now your talents are needed elsewhere.”
“My talents?” Faith was very confused. “I’m no Master. I’m still a potty-one, whatever that is, and not by choice, may I remind you.”
“Your strength in the Force is too great to allow to remain untamed. You could be a dangerous enemy, Faith.”
“Ha! Master Ralto, I am a dangerous enemy. Just not your enemy.”
“I recognize that, and I believe that your lack of preconceptions about our galaxy will give you insight where the rest of us see no solutions. There is a settlement nearby, you see. A group of Twi’lek pilgrims settled in Kalikori Village, but the settlement was not sanctioned by the Republic, and they have asked us not to intervene in Twi’lek affairs, so as not to validate their settlement.”
Faith shook her head. “You lost me. What’s the point?”
“The point, Padawan Lehane, is that these illegal settlers are being attacked by Flesh Raiders, and the Jedi have been obligated to ignore the problem. It was only recently brought to my attention that one of the pilgrims may have unearthed a dangerous relic, and now we must mend ties in order to gain their cooperation.”
“Ugh. Let me get this straight,” Faith said, audibly aggravated. “These guys came here peacefully, right? They needed protection, which you didn’t give them. Now they have something you need, and you want me to go and help you get it. That about right?”
“I did not say that it was an ideal situation, nor did I say we made the right decisions. It is what it is, and we have to deal with it.”
Faith sighed for deliberate dramatic effect. “What do you want me to do?”
“You will need to aid in the defense of the village, and help to organize the Twi’leks so that they can more properly defend themselves. The handling of the relic will be left to others. I suggest that you undergo a local ritual to see the settlers’ matriarch before you do anything else. It should earn you some level of respect, as it is considered a rite of passage for outsiders.”
Faith nodded. “Anything else?”
“Trust your instincts and your feelings, Faith. I know that you are a woman of deep passions, regardless of how the Jedi Order would have you think and act. You must sort out in your own mind which of those feelings are truest and act upon them accordingly. Your eyes and ears can deceive you, so reach out with the Force to discern the truth.”
“Yeah, sure. If you say so, Master Ralto. So, give me a map, and I’ll get on my way.”
“Just a simple ritual. Nothing too big, right?”
Faith was talking to herself as she carried a flaming brand up the mountain path leading out of the village. A helpful Twi’lek male had explained the ritual to her: carry the brand up the path, light the beacons along the way, and survive whatever she ran into on her journey.
So far, Faith had had to deal with a number of Flesh Raiders and some other creatures they seemed to be keeping as slaves. Faith didn’t know what they were, but if they were an intelligent species, then these were their lesser, feral cousins.
She’d lit three beacons so far, and the fourth and last was in sight. There wasn’t a lot of wildlife along this particular trail, save for the occasional uxibeast, and they were grazers.
Not sensing any form of attack, Faith lit the fourth beacon and continued up the path. Was it just her imagination, or was that a house at the top of the hill?
Her goal in sight, Faith resumed her journey with renewed energy. The small band of Flesh Raiders did not deter her in the slightest. The Force guided her blade, killing each of the three beings with a single, efficient slash.
At the peak of the mountain, Faith felt an influx of energy. It was positive, sustaining, and protective. She’d learned enough about the Force to know that it was stronger in certain places than in others. Tython as a whole was one such place, and this peak seemed to be another. Faith figured that it accounted for the Matriarch’s safety from the Flesh Raiders.
Not wanting to appear completely out of it, Faith sat cross-legged on the ground and tried to focus on a healing meditation that she’d been taught. It was simple if one could just relax one’s mind enough, but that was something that didn’t come easily to Faith.
Still, she managed enough of a brief trance to reinvigorate her, and she had the presence of mind to make herself somewhat presentable before going inside.
Faith moved around to the front of the house, only to find no door, just an open portal. “Hello?” she called. “Is anybody here?”
“I am here, indeed, young Jedi.”
Faith looked up and saw an elderly Twi’lek speaking to her from the roof of the house.
“Please, come upstairs.”
Faith nodded and ascended the spiraling staircase inside the house, which eventually led to a nicely furnished roof where the woman who had to be the Matriarch stood waiting.
“Welcome, Jedi. I am Kolovish, Matriarch of the Pilgrims here. I saw you light the beacons as you ascended the mountain. You do both us and yourself credit by respecting our customs.”
Faith didn’t know what to say to that. She wasn’t the diplomatic type at all. She was a fighter. How was she supposed to react to an old woman’s gratitude?
“Look, um, Matriarch? Can I be honest with you?”
“I would appreciate that greatly. Might I first have your name?”
“Oh! Right, sorry. I’m Faith.”
“A telling name, indeed. Now then, let us sit, and you can be honest about what is on your mind.”
Kolovish directed Faith to a small table with two simple wooden stools, where they sat down together.
“Thanks,” Faith said. “It’s just… The Jedi are looking for some artifact or something that they think one of your people has, so they sent me to help you out with defending yourself. Something like a sign of good will to make up for all the times they ignored you when the Flesh Raiders were attacking. And they asked me to do the ritual. It made sense, you know? Be respectful and do what’s expected, right? Only thing is that I’m lost and clueless and your people have been screwed over big time and I feel like a liar coming here and doing this ceremony just to earn your trust when you got no reason to give it.”
The Twi’lek Matriarch merely smiled kindly. “Your words do you great credit, Jedi Faith. You clearly wish to do what is right for all people, and you are not so blindly devoted to the Jedi that you do not see their faults. A true Jedi does what is right even when it is not convenient, or even lawful sometimes. At least, that is what my ancestors taught me. If you are the future of the Order, then perhaps there is truth to that.”
Faith wriggled in her seat, feeling horribly awkward. “You’re being too good to me, Matriarch. I’m just a fighter, really. I see monsters or bad guys, and I kill ‘em. Not much of a peacekeeper or philosopher or whatever.”
“Perhaps that is not what the galaxy needs right now,” Kolovish said sagely. “Perhaps we simply need an honest woman who will speak the truth, even when it pains her to do so. Jedi Faith, you have my blessing and are welcome among our people.”
“What?! You’re serious?” Faith asked disbelievingly.
“Of course, I am serious. You give yourself too little credit. I mean no humor when I ask you to have faith in yourself, young Jedi.” Kolovish’s hands went to a decorative button on her robe and removed it. “Let me put this on your robe, Faith. It will show to all of Kalikori Village that you are a friend of our people, and are welcome among us.”
Faith stood up and held still as the Matriarch affixed the button. “Thank you, Matriarch. I don’t know what to say, but I’ll do my best to keep your people safe.”
“I know you will, Faith. Go now, and peace be with you.”
The trip back down the mountain path wasn’t nearly as difficult as it had been coming up. Faith’s attackers were all dead, and any potential new attackers were scared off by the dead bodies she had left behind.
Upon arriving in the village proper, Faith saw that most of the pilgrims had gravitated towards the center of the town, where a tall, blue-skinned Twi’lek man was speaking to the crowd, which was listening with rapt attention.
“For too long,” he yelled, “we’ve been captive to the Flesh Raiders, who hold us in fear. Captive to the Republic, who tried to deny us our right to settle here. Captive to the Jedi, who have so much power, and yet refuse to share it. But I have found power of my own, and I will use it to defend our village!”
The Twi’lek raised in both hands a glowing green cube, etched with symbols that Faith didn’t recognize. It sounded like a twinkle or a sparkle might sound.
“This device has granted me knowledge and power beyond any that I have known before, and it can be yours as well. Join me, and we will take the fight to the Flesh Raiders, then to the Jedi Temple, and then to the Republic itself!”
The crowd cheered wildly, and Faith knew that this could get out of hand very quickly if she didn’t do something. There were no other Jedi nearby, and these villagers were caught up in a mob mentality. “How do you plan on doing that?” she called out.
The crowd of Twi’leks parted to allow a clear line of sight between Faith and the speaker. “What do you know of this, outsider?”
Faith smirked. “Well, I did just have a nice chat with your Matriarch. She seemed like a nice old lady. Gave me this wonderful button and everything. I think that means that I have a voice here.”
“You have no place here, Jedi! Begone before we cut you down!” the speaker yelled angrily.
“I have heard from the Matriarch,” a green-skinned Twi’lek said, and Faith recognized him as the one who had set her on the path up the mountain. “She has passed the trials, and is recognized by Kolovish as a member of our tribe.”
“And as a member,” Faith said, "I gotta say that your plan has some serious flaws. If you go out and attack the Flesh Raiders, you’re gonna come home to find your village ransacked and destroyed. That’s assuming you survive.
“Then there’s the Jedi,” Faith continued. “Now, I’m new to the whole Force-using stuff, but I’ve seen some Masters at work, and from what I can tell, they could probably smack you down without even trying. They haven’t, though, so don’t try to fix what ain’t broke.
“As for the Republic… Well, all I have to ask is how’re you gonna get off Tython? Where’s your ship? And what about the Empire? Are all, what, two hundred or so of you going to take on an entire galaxy?”
“You know nothing of the power I have obtained, outsider!” the speaker said, and Faith felt power in his words. “You will not poison the minds of my people. I, Gaspal, challenge you to prove your mettle against me. I will prove to everyone here that I have what it takes to conquer a Jedi.”
Faith chuckled and slid off her outer robe and stretched a bit. Some of the Twi’leks gestured at her strangely, and Faith realized that they were looking at her tattoo. Jedi probably didn’t get body art, she figured.
“You ready to do this?” Faith asked as she sauntered up towards Gaspal.
“I am,” he said as he drew his sword.
Without warning, he attacked, bringing his sword down in an overhand chop. Faith blocked and turned the blade aside, but he was on her again, swinging from all angles.
Faith knew herself well enough to remember what it was like to fight on pure anger and adrenaline, and this guy had all the symptoms. “You’re pretty angry, there, aren’t ya?” she said, between blows.
“The Flesh Raiders kill my people! You Jedi do nothing! What do you expect me to feel?” He lunged at her.
Faith parried the blow. “Angry, of course. But not stupid.”
Faith parried another series of blows, seeing no need to strike out herself. “You think you’re doing your tribe a favor by sending them out to battle? They’re not warriors. You’re gonna get ‘em killed.”
“Not with this power!” Gaspal shouted, and he lashed out with the Force, and Faith felt herself go flying through the air.
Guiding her body with the Force, Faith landed on her feet and her spare hand. “Is that all the power you’ve got? Really? You’re using up an awful lot of it right now. You sure you aren’t getting tired?”
Gaspal did look like he was wearing himself out, but he merely screamed and charged at Faith.
She easily sidestepped him and slapped him on the rear with her blade. Not hard enough to cut, but enough to knock him down on his belly.
A gasp went up through the crowd as Faith stalked over to Gaspal, threw away his sword, and turned him over on his back. “You lost, buddy.”
“What are you waiting for?” he spat. “Finish it.”
Faith shook her head. “No. I’m not a murderer. Get up.”
Gaspal looked appalled. “What?”
“I said get up!” Faith shouted.
The Twi’lek rushed to obey.
“All right, everyone. You want to protect your village, right? That’s why I’m here. I don’t give a damn about this relic, save that it seems to have given Gaspal here delusions of grandeur. I think it’s dangerous. It made him angry and stupid, but it didn’t give him enough power to beat a mere apprentice over at the Temple.
“So, here’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna go over maps. We’ll analyze the terrain, set up scouting posts, stockpile weapons and ammunition, and train civilians to defend themselves if they need to. We’re not going to let the Flesh Raiders get the upper hand on you guys.
“As for the Jedi, they owe you. I’m gonna do everything I can to make sure that they bend over backwards to make up for all the times they’ve let you down. And if they don’t budge, then I’ll be back here on my own to help you out. Any questions?”
“Why are you doing this for us?” a yellow-skinned woman shouted. “Why bother helping us?”
Faith looked at her straight in the eye. “Because I’ve been where you are. I’ve been helpless, surrounded by enemies and all on my own. Only I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was, but I refused to see it that way. I got help, and I got better. I was able to look out for myself. And this was all before I even knew the Jedi existed. I met a lot of people who needed saving, and I helped ‘em because it had to be done.”
“And what’s to say the Jedi won’t force you to stop helping us?” the woman asked frantically. “How can we be sure you won’t abandon us?”
Faith smiled faintly at the memories that gave context to her experiences, and to what she had to say.
“Because it’s wrong.”
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