A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 4:
One Knight Hunting part 2 of 2

by Fur and Fantasy
NC-17 for M/F and M/M
full contents and notes located at the bottom of the file

The Sharufa pulled into an open docking bay on the seemingly derelict space station orbiting Yavin 4. The entire place was ancient, thousands of years old as far as Jay could tell, and had been repaired and refitted hundreds of times in its life. Despite that, and despite the fact that it had been occupied for most of the last thousand years, it still looked like it had been untended since the day it was built, something Tes knew was a very intentional illusion its occupants had cultivated.

"Are you sure this is the station?" Fenrik asked her from the copilot's seat. "Not even the Corusca fishers would live in a place this broken down."

"It's a show," Jay chuckled in mild admiration. "Some avoid trouble by looking too tough to mess with. Some avoid it by looking like they aren't worth the effort. She's old, but she's in pretty good shape."

"If you say so," Fenrik said, shaking his head. "They certainly do a good job of making it look dead. So... do we wait for him to come out, go in, what?"

"We'll probably have to remind him we're expected," Tes chuckled. "He's not exactly that good about remembering his appointments."

"That sounds familiar," Fenrik chuckled.

"Have Massassin do it, or do you want to call like normal people do?" Jay asked with a smirk towards his mate.

"Well, Tes knows the guy," he chuckled. "What's the usual way?"

"Knock," she chuckled, standing up. "C'mon, let's go pay him a visit. Fen? Might want to grab that box of dried Dantoon locusts before we head in. He knows me, Jay's a fellow techie, be good to give him a reason to like you too."

"Will do," Fenrik nodded, heading back into the hold to get the treats nobody else on the ship would touch before joining Tes and Jay at the hatch. Tes pressed a button on the console next to the door, and a grainy image of a disheveled Rodian appeared from the other side.

"Who's there?" Duvam Tam asked in Rodese that was dated, but still understandable to Tes and Jay both.

"It's Tes," she rolled her eyes. "We're expected, remember?"

"Tes?" Duvam peered into his own viewscreen, cocking his head. "How did you get out here so fast? Just talked to you a couple days ago, you weren't due for at least another two days...."

Jay and Fenrik couldn't help but snicker slightly.

"Check the date, we're not that early," she shook her head. "Open the door already."

"I'm sure that - oh! All right, I'll open up," he said, shrugging slightly as the blast door slid open to reveal a massive workspace littered with assorted half-finished projects from droids to small vehicles to exotic suits of armor to... really, it was probably a miracle if the station's owner knew what everything was at this point.

"I was working on an inventory after I got back from my last... err... vacation," Duvam explained. "I guess I lost track of time." The end of his snout wiggled slightly as he looked between the Wolf and two felines. "So! Who are your new friends? Did you bring the supplies I asked about?"

"Of course," she chuckled slightly. "The red one's Jay, the techie I told you about. The Panther is his mate, Fenrik."

Fenrik heard his name mentioned, and saw Duvam's eyes stray towards the small bag he'd collected. Not for the first time he wished he'd had Doruth teach him Rodese along with Huttese during the past few years, but there wasn't anything he could do about that just now. He took the bag and passed it to the Rodian, who opened it up and looked inside with a pleased sound.

"Most polite your friends are!" He said with the closest a Rodian came to a grin, pulling one of the large dried insects out and popping it into his mouth, crunching down on it approvingly. "So, you built the ship you came in?" He asked Jay, looking at him suddenly.

"*He likes your gift,*" Tes translated for him. "*Most polite.*"

"*Thanks,*" the Panther replied silently.

"Refurbished, technically," Jay grinned back. "But she's not bad for a first try at a ship from scrap."

"Ah! So you are another who prefers to work with what others have left behind," Duvam said approvingly. "Are you planning on staying some time?" He asked hopefully, looking between the young tom and the Wolf who'd brought him.

"A few weeks, assuming nothing calls us away." Jay grinned back easily. He was still on edge, uncomfortable with what he was talking to, but the subject was so comfortable and Duvam was just not projecting the aggression his kin usually did.

"Maybe you can help with a few projects of mine," Duvam suggested. "We could compare notes; maybe I can help you with some projects of your own."

"*I think this is the point where I go to help unload the ship,*" Fenrik chuckled mentally to Tes.

"*Not a bad idea,*" she chuckled. "*They're about to get techie on us.*"

"Worth a look," Jay agreed easily.

"Well, you two have fun; we'll go work on unloading Sharufa." Tes told them and headed back to the ship, one hand on Fenrik's shoulder to bring him along.

"*I take it it went well,*" Master Essani commented as the pair entered the ship.

"Quite well," Fenrik nodded with a smile. "They seem to be getting along as techies. The fact that he's a Rodian still has Jay a little on edge, but not nearly as bad as he can be."

"*Very good,*" Essani said approvingly. "*I assume your friend is doing well then?*" She asked Tes.

"Yes, his usual forgetful creative self." She chuckled. "We came back to unload the supplies for him."

"*He sounds familiar somehow,*" Essani chuckled, chirping as her fur shifted to a light pink. "*Would you like any help with the larger objects?*" She offered.

"Always welcome," Tes grinned. "I think we're all just avoiding the techies talking."

"*Something that I can only imagine is harder to understand when they're speaking a dialect that's about fifty years out of date,*" Essani chuckled, standing up and following them back to the hold. "*The greatest threat to Jedi inscrutability is that more people will meet inventors.*"

"Fortunately they are even rarer than Jedi, and a lot more reclusive." Fenrik chuckled.

"Would you like to learn the basics of Rodese?" Tes offered him.

"It would probably be a good idea," Fenrik admitted. "Huttese usually works, but I'm not usually speaking to somebody who only knows Rodese either."

"Oh he speaks more than that," Tes chuckled. "He just doesn't let the Trandoshans know that until after he knows if he has to jack up his prices to prove they respect him properly."

"*He's not quite as scatterbrained as he acts, is he?*" Essani chuckled. "*I have to say, I think I'm getting to like him.*"

"He has a lot in common with Jay," Fenrik shook his head as they started to unload the supplies. "Let's just hope we can pry him out of the lab sometime this year."

"*I'm sure we will eventually,*" Essani smiled, pausing for a moment to focus and move a large crate of foodstuffs. "*I'm surprised you're just bringing these out to him,*" she observed, glancing at Tes.

"It's what's hard to get out here," she shrugged. "Food's valuable when it's a rare commodity."

"*Very true,*" the kushiban nodded, moving another of the crates out with an ease that would have made most jealous, particularly when they considered that she was doing it simply through her skill with the Force.

Fenrik, on the other hand, was moving things in a much more traditional manner, usually taking the other end of whatever container Tes was hauling.

"I'm just worried about what Jay might end up coming home with from here," he chuckled slightly. "He manages to frighten enough people working on his own."

"*On the plus side, I doubt he'll be able to find a way to improve on the lightsaber any more than he's already doing,*" Essani chuckled. She cocked her head slightly, her fur turning a light teal. "*Though... before we leave, Tes, I would like you to introduce me to Duvam Tam. I may have some business to discuss with him.*"

"Sure," she nodded easily. "We might want to time it for when Fenrik has Jay distracted though."

"*Agreed, though once a good first impression has had the chance to sink in I think it would be safe to meet him while Jay's there.*"

"I think she meant so that those two would pay attention to whatever business you might have to discuss," Fenrik chuckled. "If he's anything like Jay, it'd take a scream or the computer announcing that the station is about to be exposed to hard vacuum to snap him out of a project, especially if there's somebody else there to work on it with."

"Yeah, they are two techies in the same room." Tes chuckled. "Distracting one long enough to talk can be a trick."

"*All right,*" Essani chuckled. "*Let's just not forget it, that's all I ask. I feel something interesting here, now that I listen for it.*"

"No problem. We can handle it when Fenrik coaxes Jay away for a 'nap'." Tes smirked at the Panther.

"Which will probably be in a day or two and for actual sleep," Fenrik smirked back. "Trust me, I do try to get him to behave when I can."

"*And you have about as much success as anybody else does,*" Essani chuckled.

"The difference is that he doesn't glare at me when I do it," he smirked.

Doruth stepped from the Gurath, now sitting on one of the few stable areas for it near the town, with four Wolves not far behind. Despite that they'd all brought back roughly the same information from the miners and opinions of their honesty, there was nothing in the databanks to indicate what could possibly be happening. It didn't squelch his suspicions that this was probably a predator of some kind, it only confirmed that no one had survived an encounter with whatever it was long enough to make it known.

That would be his job.

He noticed that the miners were gathered around the yawning maw of the spice mine, looking in almost like the entire lot of them was considering jumping.

Or like the gawkers that inevitably gathered around a fight scene. He had a bad feeling that whatever was down there had just claimed another victim.

He reached out, feeling for the disturbances that meant this was something he could actually help with and felt nothing.

"*Fazer, Tulgwar, go see what is going on.*" He instructed the smaller male and female of the pack, leaving the two largest Wolves with him as he went to the cantina to meet with LirTan.

"*Right, boss.*" Tulgwar nodded and led the lighter male towards the gathering.

The meerian was sitting at his table, but this time he approached Doruth in his hovering chair, the apparatus rising so he was on the same level as the Panther again.

"Well," he said, "I'm guessing you noticed the commotion out there."

"Yes," Doruth nodded. "What happened?"

"Officially, I'm guessing the boss'll say nothing. Or maybe that one of his guards fell off the lift. 'Bout a half-hour ago somebody heard a scream. All the miners are accounted for; a couple of my boys went down to see what it was. Step a bit further inside, we'll see if I'm right," he said, moving his chair back to let Doruth in as a powerfully built Badger broke off from the crowd.

The Panther nodded and stepped inside the building, Ragil and Hegrin behind him.

LirTan moved around as the Badger walked in.

"They found a helmet down where the last guys disappeared," he said gruffly. "Blaster too, still hot."

"And of course, Rhyallis doesn't want anybody thinking this proves the mine's not safe," the meerian muttered, shaking his head and pulling out a datapad, adding something to it. "Thanks, Spike."

"No problem." He looked up at the Panther. "So, you're the guy who's gonna try and clear this mess up?"

"That is the idea," Doruth nodded. "Did you find any signs of blood, the guards or his attacker's?"

"No, but they could definitely see that there'd been a fight. That's one of the weird things, really. The blaster was warm, but no scorch marks on the walls and no signs of blood."

"Which means that every shot hit his opponent, that opponent did not bleed and he did not bleed from being incapacitated or killed." Doruth rumbled, his voice low as he worked on the limited number of things he knew could accomplish that, and what did work against them. "Ragil, go check on the ballistics. We'll probably need them."

"Yes, Master." The giant male rumbled and turned to trot back to the Gurath.

"You're going in after whatever's down there?" LirTan asked him.

"That is why we're here," Doruth nodded. "To stop the killings. That means we go in to find what's doing it."

"You've got guts," the meerian observed, handing over his datapad. "Just make sure you don't get 'em ripped out, hmm?"

"Nothing's managed yet," he said simply and nodded to himself as Ragil told him the weapons and pack was ready. "If this thing can take out a Jedi and four heavily armed Custos, you've got something that will take a not-so-small army to put down, and get a lot of attention from the Council to what's going on out here. It's not a bad thing for you."

"Maybe not," LirTan chuckled slightly. "But it'd still kinda suck to be you."

"Perhaps," he acknowledged. "It is something that we don't think of much. It is a distraction from our mission."

"That's somethin' we can relate to," the meerian nodded. "Good luck to you," he said as Ragil, Fazer and Tulgwar returned with some of the heavy slugthrowers from the ship and extra body armor for Hegrin.

"Thank you," he nodded and skimmed the data on the pad, forming a mental map of the mine and the hits while Hegrin got her armor on and checked her heavy slugthrower. He looked up and glanced at the pack, who nodded to him before following him outside and into the mines.

As they worked their way into the mine, both Jedi and Custos were grateful for the built-in lighting. It was dark, but not impenetrably so, and the Wolves were able to leave the lights on their armor off for now. For a place with so little living in it, the shafts were surprisingly loud. Every motion they made, every drop of water from the ceiling, every single sound was amplified and echoed through kilometers of tunnel.

Between that and the darkness just beyond the main tunnels, it was hard to imagine that there weren't bloodthirsty predators waiting in the wings. It made them all grateful for what Force-senses they had, and especially the finely tuned ones of the Panther leading them.

"*Creepy.*" Fazer commented. The smallest of the pack, almost as small as a Coyote and just as fast, he was always the jumpy one of the group, for all he could be as ferocious as any when the battle was joined.

He was right though. And as they drew closer and closer to the location of the last attack, he only seemed to be more correct. The bogies flitting through glimmered in the dark tunnels, passing through walls easily.

"*Everybody be on guard. There's no telling if this thing's going to be hungry yet or not... or where it might come from,*" Doruth admitted. The bogies moved through rock, it stood to reason that any predator that might feed on them could do the same thing.

They progressed slowly, every sense on guard for motion or life from any direction. It wasn't long before they could see the end of the tunnel, and the pure spice there.

"Whoa," Tulgwar murmured in the dim light.

"Yeah," Hegrin nodded, stunned by the sight of what amounted to a block of pure spice at the end of the tunnel.

"*We've got blood.*" Fazer informed them silently as he sniffed around the spot where he could smell the guard's trail end. "*And whatever hit him ... I've never smelled anything like it.*"

"*Not surprised,*" Doruth said mentally. "*Whatever it is, it doesn't officially exist. Check your filters quick; there might be powdered spice in the air, don't want the breathmasks quitting on us when it'll end up with somebody getting high.*" As they did so, he stretched out with his senses, searching for what he knew would tell them where the predator was.

The impressions the guard had left behind.

It wasn't hard to find him; the agonizing pain of his slow death was almost like a beacon.

"*Behind us... the wall's not solid,*" he said. Not uncommon; water washed out cavities in the rock all the time. And when the sensors didn't indicate spice, the miners probably just ignored them.

Which, when there might be a predator's lair in them, could prove fatal.

"*Break in?*" Ragil asked with a calculating look for the section of wall.

Doruth inspected it with his Force senses. There was nothing but blackness in the cavity, nothing he could see. He could smell the blood, the smell of death that was kept inside... and whatever strange predator had killed the guard, and the other miners.

He also knew that breaking in would likely put the beast at the advantage. This was its lair, and it was a trapper. The only reason it hadn't attacked them yet was because it had already eaten today.

And, like all trappers, it had a way out to check on its traps.

"*No. Weapons at the ready, I'm going to open its door. I doubt it's going to be happy to see us.*"

The pack nodded and got ready, their heavy ballistic weapons aimed for where he indicated.

He ignited his lightsaber, not certain how much damage it would do against a creature that didn't care about blaster bolts, but intending to find out. He focused for a moment, then started to lift the heavy slab of stone opposite the spice deposit, a sort of 'lid' to a massive cave.

The response was almost immediate. A massive, grotesque creature that looked something like a blue-green spider with twelve legs and six tooth-filled mouths spaced around its body lunged out of the cavity at the Wolves and Panther to an instant explosion of bullets intended for both armored and unarmed targets.

The bullets struck its thick chitin, most of them stopping before they made it through, but a couple drawing spurts of green ichor. One of its legs was mostly ripped away, a process Doruth finished an instant later as he brought his lightsaber up in a burning arc that separated limb from body.

The strange spider-like creature jumped over them, coming down behind Hegrid in the tunnel and striking her with one of its remaining legs. The force of the blow knocked her back a few steps, her armor dented by the impact.

"Fall back," Doruth ordered them, moving to help the large female regain her footing so they could do that. Now that they knew what they were up against, he realized that they would need much more potent weaponry to really take it down properly.

He was obeyed immediately, Ragil taking up his habitual position at the rear to guard their escape with the only ranged weapon that made a dent on the creature.

The automatic roared as he fired another burst, more of the metal slugs ripping into his target and ricocheting off the walls, kicking up stone dust. It clicked at this clip was emptied, and he turned to run after the others while he reloaded.

The massive Wolf felt the ground beneath him shake as the wounded spider leaped towards him, enraged by the pain. Two of the powerful legs lashed out, wrapping around him and pulling him close. Ragil got a very, very good look at a mouth full of razor sharp teeth, just before two forward fangs sank through a joint in his armor, and the thing's poison knocked him out as he howled for help.

"*Doruth!*" Tulgwar grabbed him even as they ran, now well clear of the creature's lair. "*Ragil down.*"

The Panther had heard the howl just as clearly, felt the Wolf pass out. He was injured, but not dead yet.

And there was no telling how many more of those things were down here right now, or where it was going. The compromised lair was a possibility, but he doubted it.

"You three, back to the ship," he ordered the others. "I'm going after Ragil. Get the miners to gather any explosives they can turn into weapons, collect the grenades from the Gurath. If I'm not back in an hour after you've reached the surface, come back after us."

There was a real hesitation for a moment, Tulgwar almost ready to challenge the choice, but she nodded and bolted towards the entrance, her packmates behind her.

Doruth turned and bolted back down into the mines, his senses alert for any signs of life. As he'd expected, the creature had continued on past the lair they'd found. He scored the wall with his lightsaber, making sure to leave a trail that could be followed back out ... or in by the three Wolves preparing for war the way only this pack did.

This was not going to be a pleasant hunt. He could only hope that it still wasn't going to kill Ragil until it was hungry again... and that it didn't have a mate.

It wasn't much of a surprise to the Custos when they burst out of the mine's entrance right into the middle of a gathering of miners, though their arrival at speed clearly was a surprise to those gathered.

"We'll need whatever explosives you have that can be fashioned into weapons." Tulgwar barked to the nearest miner, her gaze flashing across the crowd, looking for LirTan while the crowd parted, Hegrin and Fazer on their way to the Gurath for their heavier weapons and anti-armor ammo.

"You heard her," LirTan called from the back, his chair moving forward as some of the miners started to move. "What's down there?" He asked her.

"Biggest, nastiest spider I've ever heard of." She replied quickly. "Ballistics make a dent, but not nearly enough with what we brought down. Master Doruth went after it when it got Ragil."

"Told you to bring the heaviest stuff you have down after them," LirTan guessed with a nod. "Heading down once we've got it set up then?"

"It's not just a matter of heaviest," she nodded in answer to his question. "It's heavily armored. The rounds that do well against that don't do well against softer targets, and the rounds we'll need against that thing could bring the mine down on us."

"And we definitely don't want that," LirTan nodded. "On the other hand, that's mostly the concussive stuff. We've got some thermal charges we use for focused demo that some of the guys are after."

"While mine are after the armor piercing rounds," she explained as Hegrin and Fazer came back and she began to switch out her clips for the new ones.

"So, when does he want you going back down?" The meerian asked as his men started bringing back the charges he'd mentioned.

"An hour after we hit the surface," she shrugged, her tone indicative of just how unlikely that was to happen.

"Well, guess we wait until then," the meerian said, going to work putting the charges together. "After all, he knows what he's doing."

"He's Jedi. It's part of the job description, even when they don't have a clue." Hegrin shook her head and began to pace, anxious for the supplies the miners were bringing.

"He's hardly out of his element," Fazer said quietly, uneasy leaving their Alpha to hunt alone. "Hunting is what he does."

"Doesn't mean we leave him alone for it." Tulgwar rumbled.

"Especially not with Ragil down there too," Hegrin muttered.

"The charges should be ready in about five minutes," LirTan offered from where he was working.

"Any of you bother to check your chronometers when we got up?" The smaller female asked, offering an excuse for what they all knew they were going to do already.

"Nope," Tulgwar shook her head. "Other priorities."

"Guess we'll just have to guess then," Fazer said unrepentantly, waiting with the others to head down as soon as everything was ready.

"Lady Jedi, we can't land where we had planned to." The officer who had interrupted Shivasta's meditation sounded apologetic as she opened her eyes and tried to realize what he had said.

"Why not?" She asked, standing and looking at the lean Lemur.

"A sudden storm blew up as we were making our approach. We have an alternate landing site, but it's also undergoing some freakish weather… we have a third landing site, but it's on the other side of the planet. We're about to start for it now, the Captain wanted to alert you as to the delay."

Shivasta frowned; two freak storms at their landing sites were too much to be a coincidence… particularly given her family's gifts.

"Are there sufficient escape pods to spare one?" She asked.

"Yes, Lady Jedi, but it would be foolish to try and take a pod through those storms. Even if you made it to the surface in one piece, the temperatures are so low you'd be dead before you reached shelter."

"You underestimate me," she smiled slightly. "I was born here, remember? I'll be properly prepared… and I suspect I'm expected. Alone."

"Very well," the Lemur granted. "I'll alert the Captain."

"Thank you," she smiled, moving to pull on the heavy winter robes she'd brought along for this trip as the Lemur left for the bridge, wondering just what it was they did at the Temple that made so many Jedi half-crazy.

Shivasta rested her hand on the launch console for the escape pod she was taking, calming her mind. She was no pilot, but she wouldn't have to be with this; the pod was pre-programmed to take her to the surface. The Captain himself had tried to talk her out of it, but she was convinced that she was meant to do this.

Even now, she could feel the swirling Force of the raging blizzard beneath them. Somebody wanted to keep the cruiser from landing… but she could also sense the eddies in the storm. She would be safe, whoever was behind this would see to it.

She braced herself against the gravity couch, and initiated the launch sequence. The engines flared to life, the small ship firing into the atmosphere, accelerating painfully. She hurtled towards the blue-white planet beneath her, clouds swirling directly in her path.

A part of her wanted to scream as the pod entered the atmosphere and her mind realized that she was freefalling into a blizzard with nothing more than a disposable escape pod between her and a likely very painful death. Another part of her was riveted by the adrenaline rush and excitement.

A third part of her, the one that was winning out, wondered why it was that somebody was going to such lengths to keep the cruiser away. She had a bad feeling that things weren't going to be going well when she landed.

The blizzard caught the pod, tossing it around until it hit a calm spot and continued its descent, slowed by the repulsorlifts mounted into the hull.

After what felt like an eternity, the wind howling and buffeting the tiny pod outside, she touched down. She pulled her winter robes tighter around her body and pulled a piece of cloth across the front of the hood to protect her face from the cold. The hatch depressurized, starting to open, letting in the bitter cold of the outside air.

Shivasta stood easily, blinking as her pupils nearly disappeared from her dark blue eyes, a defense against the blinding glare the ubiquitous snow and ice created in all but the most cloud-covered conditions. She stepped out, looking around, not surprised to see that there wasn't anybody there to greet her. She caught the glint of metal in the snow, and moved towards it. Metal wasn't often used on Garosh, not for things that were intended mostly for use outside.

A little digging unearthed a snowspeeder, the display flashing a directional indicator that said it was probably pointed straight towards town… or, at least, towards where ever the person who'd left it here wanted it to go. She checked out the controls quickly, nodding her approval as she found it was fully functional. Straddling the long, thin vehicle, she started it up, praying that the controls were close enough to the one Jay had tried to train her to use, and soon disappeared into the blizzard.

Jay frowned, lifting his head from the body armor they were working on and sniffed the air. Something was ... not quite right. A resonation deep in his bones similar to when he'd been tuning his lightsabers and different from anything else.

A generator calling for its weapon.

Two ... old and powerful ... and very lonely.

He wasn't exactly sure where they were, but he could feel them reaching out towards the people who could sense them, back with a number of other similarly neglected objects, though none of them came close to the power of the ones he was hearing.

Only the two power sources were practically begging for somebody to notice them. Nothing else cared.

"What's back there?" Jay asked curiously, motioning towards the general area.

"Back there?" Duvam asked, looking up from the light suit of armor they'd been tinkering with. "Oh, nothing much. Some old weapons from the last time Jedi visited the station, I think. Bad times, those were," he observed. "Much more violent than now. Good for business though, I understand."

"Mind if I nose around? Something interesting's back there."

"Go ahead," Duvam nodded. "Lemme know if you find anything unusual, I haven't finished my inventory of that pile yet."

"Sure," he nodded and headed over, trying not to be too eager as nosed around holocrons, heavy blasters, and heavier bladed weapons until he found what he was looking for; two half-built lightsabers.

"Find anything?" Duvam called curiously. "Ouch!" He swore as he shook his hand, glaring at the offending soldering rod he'd burned himself on.

"What I was looking for," he nodded. "A couple lightsabers. The remains of them at least." He could feel the power inside them, not just as objects, but as artifacts of the Force, warm and happy to be found.

"Hmm. Must've been from that Jedi who visited. She left a couple of them here... great-great... well, many-times great-grandsire Suvam must have tinkered with them after that." Duvam looked down at the armor, finishing the seal he'd been mounting. "I've got the overlay fixed here, why don't you bring them over; we'll take a look at them?"

"They're old then," he nodded and walked over. That made sense. Lightsabers ... Jedi equipment in general ... hated to be abandoned.

"*Master, there are some things here we will want to bring back.*" He made the effort to contact her directly. "*Lightsaber crystals ... potent ones ... and several holocrons that are worth trading for. He says they date back to the last war.*"

"Hmm... ah, I remember these now," Duvam nodded. "Mother said something about them. They should be functional with new emitters and lenses," he added, cocking his head slightly. "Should we see if we have any spares?"

"If you don't, I do." Jay nodded to him, his excitement carefully held inside where only his Master felt it.

"*I sensed them,*" Essani told him. "*Just recently... and I agree. I want to make an arrangement with him later on.*"

"Well, that's even better," Duvam said enthusiastically. "I don't have many lightsaber parts here," he admitted. "They don't often find their way out here."

"*I'll keep my mouth shut about wanting them, then.*" He nodded. "I'm not surprised. It's a rather specialized market even on Coruscant. I'll be back in a couple minutes with the parts."

"I'm not going anywhere," Duvam chuckled, inspecting the lightsabers as Jay ran off for the parts he'd need, more excited than he had been since he'd started work on the Sharufa.

He smiled and bowed his head slightly when he stepped inside the ship. "Master."

"Good job finding those, Jay," she chirped approvingly as he returned. "I imagine it would have taken somewhat longer if I'd had to look for them." He wasn't surprised to see most of the parts he'd need already gathered and waiting. "How are things going between the two of you?"

"He's more weapons focused than I am, and definitely mercenary, but we're getting along fairly well." Jay admitted. "The holocrons in that pile are amazing too. Huge chunks of history that was lost is sitting right there."

"I'll keep those in mind," Essani nodded. "Do you think it's safe to introduce me to him now?"

"As safe as it'll ever be," he nodded and picked up the parts. "He's in a pretty good mood, burned finger aside."

"If you don't mind, I'd like to go with you to meet him now, maybe handle the negotiations before he has a chance to realize exactly what he's sitting on to us."

"Sure," he nodded. "Does he know we're Jedi?"

"Yes," she nodded, starting to follow him out of the ship. "I wanted Tes to mention that, just in case there were issues there. There are sometimes, with the more mercenary sorts."

"Understandable," he nodded and made easy time to the workshop. "Duvam!" He caught his attention in Rodese. "I have the parts, and my Master wanted to talk to you."

"Where is he?" Duvam asked, looking towards the door, clearly expecting somebody other than the tiny white kushiban beside Jay.

"*Down here,*" Essani chuckled, hopping up onto Jay's seat. "*I'm a little smaller than most Jedi.*"

"Your pet talks?" Duvam asked Jay, cocking his head curiously. "Maybe I should have checked those locusts more carefully...."

"She," Jay rumbled, his temper tightly in check. "Master Essani." He indicated the long-tailed white rabbit in his chair. "She's not a pet."

"Oh. That explains why she talked," Duvam observed. "What did you want to talk about?" He asked, easily accepting the idea that, yes, this day was going to be stranger than normal.

"*The crystals and holocrons you have here. It seems your family has recovered a good number of Jedi and Sith artifacts from the ruins since you arrived here.*"

"Yes, yes," Duvam nodded. "Many Jedi things, many Sith things. Most people don't want to buy them though."

"*Then this is a good opportunity, yes? Most people don't have any interest in them; they can't really use them. To us, they contain some interesting historical information, and we can use the crystals for lightsabers.*"

"Hmm. How much are you willing to offer for them?" He asked her curiously.

"*That depends on how many there are here. If you don't mind, I could look around and gather them up while you and Jay work.*"

"All right," the Rodian agreed. "Just be careful. There might be a few booby traps I haven't found yet."

"*Booby traps?*" Essani's fur flushed a grey-teal immediately.

"Yes. Woeful business with trandoshan mercenaries who skipped out on bill. They came back after weapons seemed faulty, tried to use heavy repeating blasters as clubs. They expressed their displeasure, I argued my side of the story, they planted a couple fragmentation mines while I was hiding on Rodia... I think I found most of them, but there might be a few left."

"*I'll be careful,*" she agreed, hopping down and starting to search. "*You be careful too, while you work, Jay.*" She warned her Padawan over their bond.

"*Of course, Master.*" He nodded and looked up at Duvam. "Shall we see if these things work?" He suggested with a motion towards the parts he'd brought.

"Certainly," the Rodian nodded enthusiastically. "I've always wondered how these went together."

"With a lot of work," Jay chuckled. "Took me six months solid to put mine together, though they are more complicated than most."

"Hmm. Well, these are mostly together, that should make it a bit easier. If not... it's been a while since I've had a real challenge."

An hour of high-speed travel later and Shivasta could see the outlines of Stormwarden City's buildings ahead of her. She'd left the blizzard behind long ago, trading it in for the lighter snowdrifts that were a constant feature. Fortunately, with the directional indicator, it wasn't hard to find her way. All she had to do was keep the speeder steady and point it the way the arrow was pointing.

Now, she didn't need it. She pulled the snowspeeder up into the ice city, large buildings carved directly out of the ice surrounding her. She climbed off and looked around, wondering where she was supposed to go next in the city she hadn't seen in well over two decades She didn't have too long to wonder.

Before she'd spent too much time in the open, others started to come out of the buildings, dressed in light-blue robes that blended well with the surrounding ice and snow. She felt distinctly out of place in her own, a brown more common for the Jedi than for her own people.

"And who might you be?" One of them asked, an older Ice Walker woman whose few exposed features were weathered by years of hard living.

"Shivasta," she answered. "Given to the Jedi after my third Thaw," she added, not recognizing any of the faces she could half-see, and sure none of them would recognize her.

"Show us your face," the woman ordered her.

She pulled the cloth mask away from her face, turning to expose the complex tattoo that marked her as a member of the clan. There were nods and murmurs of recognition as she brought the mask up again, blocking out the worst of the wind.

"Follow me," the woman said gruffly, turning to walk back towards the tallest of the buildings.

Shivasta did so silently, trying not to look around her at the eyes that followed her motion. Some of them were curious, she knew… but she could feel the animosity others among them felt towards her.

She wondered which end of the spectrum the woman who had greeted her was at.

The two of them walked into the building, the rooms much smaller than the size of the entire building would suggest. It was built less for space than to hold in heat, making it warm enough that both of them could comfortably remove their winter robes, which they did. Shivasta was better able to see the family resemblance between herself and the older woman now. She doubted it was her mother, but she was definitely closely related. Her pupils dilated in the lower light of the room and the older Ice Walker turned towards her.

"So, you did come back; Grandmother was right. I am Impana, Chief of the clan."

"Thank you for greeting me, Impana," Shivasta said, lowering her head respectfully. "If I was expected, then why the storms?" She asked.

"You were expected by some, but not all," Impana explained. "And even so, while you are welcome, those who brought you are not. Not here, at least. They can go to the reznin on the other size of the Wastes," she muttered. Shivasta didn't let her surprise show. Reznin was worse than calling them enemies; enemies were expected to work against you. It was practically calling them traitors to all the clans, their own included.

"What's happening here? The last I'd heard, the clans were at peace, and the Republic was welcome."

"The last you've heard was from some time ago," Impana shrugged slightly, taking her seat, one of the few in the entire city that was made out of wood. Most furniture was hewn out of stone like the chair Shivasta sat down in; trees were rare and metal required flame to work. The wooden chair the Chieftain had was a mark of her rank in the clan, though that was one of many things that might change in the coming years.

"You've asked me what's happening here. A better question to ask would be what has happened. The Great Peace has proven to be a lie. It lasted long enough for two generations to grow up without knowing a true war, but now…." She shook her head.

"Why don't you start with where things went badly with the Republic?" Shivasta asked, suspecting that this was the reason she'd gotten the chilly reception she had from several of the others. She was a Jedi… and more importantly, as far as she knew, the first Ice Walker Jedi. She hadn't been raised among her people, and as hard as the Jedi had tried to bring her up with a knowledge of her culture, she was almost certainly considered an outsider by most of them.

"They haven't yet," Impana snorted, "not for all of us. You were too young to remember, of course. But when the Republic came, they offered us technology that we were centuries away from developing on our own. Foodstuffs from far-off worlds, metal, weapons, vehicles, armor… all they asked in return was that we trade them animal hides and crystals. Well, the crevasse cats have always been common, along with the frost wolves and sheeloth, so of course we agreed."

Shivasta nodded; it was in keeping with what she'd learned. The sheeloth hides in particular were desired for clothes in some parts of the galaxy, though they were a more recent market. The crystals were still the primary good… and she had a feeling that was the problem.

"Let me guess," she said softly. "The Republic wanted to export more crystals. The other clans went along with it… the Stormwardens didn't?"

"Not just crystals. The Jedi wanted to take all the children they could find who could feel the Force. Train them to become Jedi… and let our ways quietly go extinct. Oh, they would teach them about our culture, the way they promised they would teach you, but have they taught you to master the storm? Have they taught you the rites of our people?"

"The ones they could," Shivasta answered cautiously. "And no, I haven't learned to summon storms yet, though as I understand it would be unusual if I had."

"True, but you would have started to learn here. But that's just the point. The Jedi ways aren't the ways of the spirit-walkers. In a few generations, if we let the Jedi take all the children they would want to, there would be only a handful of us left, if that."

That much Shivasta couldn't deny… and it was something she was concerned with herself, she had to admit.

"The Jedi don't plan to take children," she explained. "They ask, but they accept a refusal as well as acceptance."

"The only reason they're ever allowed near our lands," Impana allowed. "You were one too many for us to give up."

"What do you mean? I would have thought the Clan's chief would have had to agree before I could have been given to the Jedi?"

"Yes, she would have. But she didn't. Your mother gave you to the Jedi against your grandmother's wishes. It's why I serve as Chieftain now, and your mother does not."

Shivasta swallowed, her eyes widening as she realized the level of crime that had been committed under Ice Walker law. She was keenly aware of the value they put on their children.

And the penalties for killing or giving one away without permission, even in marriage. To give her to the Jedi without permission….

"What happened to her?" She asked softly.

"Exile," Impana said, her voice carrying a trace of regret. "We suspect your father's clan took them in after they left, but they are dead to us."

Shivasta nodded, her training helping her to control her own sorrow over the news. She'd been half-hoping that she'd be able to see her again after all these years.

"You're her sister then?" She guessed.

"Yes," Impana nodded. "Back to your question, the Republic wants everything we have, everything we hold sacred. They're willing to compensate us well for it, certainly… and that's where the Peace is falling apart. Most of the clans want to trade with the Republic. They see blasters and speeders, they see a way off this 'miserable ice-ball,' they've called it. The price is a small enough one to pay in their minds. But they don't have control over the best crystal mines."

"Because they've always been in Stormwarden territory," Shivasta nodded understandingly. "Because we've been here since the Great Migration, no matter how bad the ice became."

"So they have taught you some of our traditions," Impana observed approvingly. "You're right, of course. What's more, the crystals can't be replaced once they're mined. Not before the Walkers themselves have surrendered to the ice. We're willing to trade some of them, but not nearly the volume the other clans want. And they're willing to go to war against us, and our remaining allies, to change that. Which leaves one very important question right now," she said, looking at Shivasta pointedly.

"What is that?" She asked, fairly certain she wasn't going to like it.

"Why are you here?"

Shivasta sighed mentally. She'd been right; she wasn't going to like it.

"I had a vision that I was to return here," she answered. "I've reached the point in my training where I have to construct my own lightsaber."

"And you returned here to claim the crystals for it," Impana said, a slight scowl forming.

"Yes, but only because that is what my vision led me to believe I was supposed to do," Shivasta said, inclining her head slightly. "And I know what will be involved in earning the right to go into the caves. I do not intend to break the laws of the Stormwardens."

Impana looked at her appraisingly.

"And you think you stand any chance of winning that right?" She asked pointedly. "If the other Chiefs agree, you will be tested not as a miner, but as one of the shamen of old, seeking to claim her talisman."

"I understand Chieftain, and I am willing to undergo these tests. Perhaps, while I prepare for them, I will be able to help in other ways."

"You presume much, child."

Shivasta's Jedi training told her to ignore the belittling comment… but her nature, and her knowledge of her people, told her otherwise. She looked her aunt, her Chieftain, in the eyes, her own glittering dangerously.

"I have come here as a member of my clan. I can feel that half the people here despise me for a decision made for me when I was a child. I accept this, and I accept your decision to present me with tests greater than others would face. But I am not a child, Chieftain. I have faced death, faced the Dark Side of the Force, wrestled with them both and won. I may not have the wounds or trophies of a warrior, but I bear the scars of a healer's battles. I am young, but I am of age, and the only reason I have not passed the rites of our people is because I was not here to do so. I will be given the respect I am due as a young healer."

Impana met her gaze for a moment, and then the habitual frown she wore turned into a slight smile.

"If you can show that sort of fire inside you, maybe you do stand a chance of passing the test. Come with me; I'll show you to your quarters. I'll speak with the Chiefs this evening. If they agree, we'll start the purification once I return." She stood up, Shivasta doing the same.

"Welcome home, Ice Walker," the older woman said, stepping forward to squeeze Shivasta's shoulder lightly before leading her deeper into the building.

Another scorch mark, another chunk of tunnel passed threw on the trail of the spider. His senses were at their limit, his entire reality limited to his target and where he was.

Fortunately, he could tell he was getting closer. Its injuries seemed to be taking their toll, the creature gradually slowing down. It was stopped now, in an area he couldn't find on the maps.

Another lair, probably, and down a tunnel that hadn't been considered. This just got better and better.

He scorched the wall again, marking his progress as he closed on the creature and his missing Custos. Ragil was hurt, he'd need medical attention and likely some down time, but he was still breathing and his subconscious railing out against his body's failing.

A few moments later, he found the well-concealed hatch of another lair. If he didn't know what to look for, he wouldn't have noticed it; no wonder the miners didn't know about these things. At least this one probably hadn't been used in ages; there was no sign of spice near it.

It made him wonder if this critter was intelligent, though the Force signatures were of an animal, if a rather bright one. He focused and lifted the hatch, ready for another attack.

He wasn't disappointed. The creature lunged out at him, one leg coming off at the foremost joint as he halted its attack and immediately went for another, aiming to cripple it before he killed it.

Unfortunately, for all that its legs came off easily, the creature seemed to have some sort of sense for how to fight and keep from being totally cripple. It had lost two and most of a third now, but with nine left, it was still able to stand. And with six heads, it was quite able to defend itself.

Especially against an opponent who wasn't wearing the armor Ragil was. The fangs of one mouth lunged forward, the fangs and head quickly falling to the ground. The stench of the thing's burning body was potent; it was going to die sooner or later at this point. More likely sooner at that, though it might be possible for it to survive if it was lucky.

Unfortunately for both of them, it seemed to realize that the best way to get that chance was to keep fighting. One of Doruth's sleeves was caught in a second mouth, quickly shredded by row after row of razor sharp teeth, but those same teeth ripped the fabric away before any fur or flesh could go with it. The head came off a moment later, though it left too many more.

Doruth gritted his teeth and pressed the attack. He was going to kill this thing, but he wanted enough of it left take back and prove it was real. At this rate, pulling that off would mean having somebody come down to pick up the pieces after he'd taken it apart!

Finally, he saw an opening; a shot straight to its bloated middle. Given the way it had reacted so far, he was fairly sure that would be the place to strike and he made a full lunge for it, driving his lightsaber up and into the body.

He could feel the difference between the muscle tissue he'd been cutting through up until now, and the softer flesh in the center protected by the thickest layers of chitin.

Unfortunately for the spider, while it might stop blaster bolts it didn't do a thing against a lightsaber. The body thrashed for a few moments, one of the legs battering Doruth's side as the thing's brain misfired randomly, but then it was still.

And very, very dead.

Doruth drew a deep breath to settle himself and stretched his senses out again, seeking both Ragil and any other spiders that might be around.

Fortunately, this place seemed to be empty save for the Wolf in the back of the lair he'd just cleared out. He was still alive, though he'd have to get to a medical facility as soon as they could arrange it if he was going to make it through this without some sort of serious damage.

"*Tulgwar, bring the pack down, with a stretcher. Spider's dead, Ragil's alive, but badly injured. I intend to bring them both back.*"

"*Right, Boss.*" She shot back, relief in her mind even as it was clear they were already too far into the mines to have waited as he told them too.

"Hey Jay," Fenrik said, looking over the younger tom's shoulder at the lightsaber he and Duvam had just finished assembling. "Know how long you've been working in here?"

"Since you're asking, longer than I should be." He chuckled and shifted back to stretch in place.

"Well, Essani's starting to listen for replies to her message back home, and I've seen two flights of Corusca fishers hit the atmosphere," he chuckled. "C'mon, let's go get you some sleep."

"Not even a full day," Jay rolled his eyes, but he stood without any other protest. "I'll be back in a few hours," he added to Duvam.

"Sure thing," the Rodian nodded easily, still inspecting the reassembled lightsaber.

"So," Fenrik asked as he walked back to the ship with his mate, "how's it going?"

"Interesting," he shook his head a bit. "He thought Master Essani was my pet at first, but he's gotten the idea now. He's got some good stuff here we'll be taking home."

"Sounds like it's going pretty well then," Fenrik smiled. "And I can't really blame him, to be fair. I mean, she probably has somebody try and turn her into dinner about once a week around the Temple. At least he didn't go that far."

"True," he admitted, even though part of him wasn't nearly as forgiving of the Rodian as he was of the new toddlers at the Temple. "I think he's gotten used to the fact that things are weird and going to get weirder with us here."

"To be fair, I think things are a little weird around here already," Fenrik chuckled slightly as the Sharufa's door shut behind them. "So, what's all this that's going on with these crystals and holocrons Essani's looking for?"

"The crystals are probably two of the most powerful in existence, and the holocrons are mostly history from the last war and before. Things long lost to our records."

"Whoa," Fenrik said, nodding slightly. "That's worth her attention, yeah. So those crystals are being built back into those lightsabers?"

"Yap, the ones they had been in since the war. Not sure if they'll stay in them."

"Hoping to put 'em into yours, or think the Council's going to assign them to somebody?" Fenrik asked curiously.

"Not the kind for me," Jay shook his head. "But if someone who can use them better can learn to use my type of 'saber I might be resetting them."

"Whoever does use them will probably reset them themselves," Fenrik pointed out. "Into their own lightsabers. Then again, they might end up in the Library until they're needed more."

"I'm not even going to comment on that one," Jay said quietly. "Or that half the holocrons won't ever be run. It's just how it works."

"Sorry," Fenrik apologized, rubbing his mate's back lightly. "C'mon, let's get to our quarters and get you wound down enough to get some sleep."

Shivasta drew in a deep breath as she meditated in a small stone building, sweat pouring down her skin as she inhaled the heady, aromatic scent of the incense burning nearby. Her old plague-scars stood out in stark contrast to her undamaged skin, flushed a deeper blue than normal with blood and heat. She was grateful for them for the first time; while Jay and Fenrik had helped her to accept them, being here where scars of one sort or another were marks of experience, she found that they had done much to help her acceptance for the tests she was going to face.

The sweathouse was the only building in the city that wasn't carved out of ice, but the reason for that was obvious; it was also the only heated building in the city. A small pit of heated gravel in the middle of the room kept the stone structure at temperatures Jay would have found remarkably comfortable. Shi had left her pendant with her robes outside the building, so she was as uncomfortable as everybody else in the room with her.

Impana and an older woman, one of the shamen of the clan, were both chanting quietly, the sound a gentle, almost calming murmur as they kept the incense burning and the room heated. Shivasta let the sound and scent carry her deeper into her meditative state, knowing that the purification ritual, for her, was simply to sit and endure the stifling heat until she was deemed ready.

As she let her conscious mind go, she began to sense the ebb and tide of the living Force of her home world. It was a soothing sensation, one she was used to on Coruscant, but far more vibrant and alive here. For all that her clan was concerned for the wellbeing of Garosh if trade continued unrestricted, for now the only pain the world felt was that of its people returning to wars they weren't entirely ready for anymore.

She let the flow of the Force guide her, immersing herself in it and surrendering to its will. As she did so, she began to see beyond the simple movements of the world's Force. She began to see the patterns it was forming, the points where important moments would occur… and the points where the most trivial of moments would. She felt something unusual, a pattern that didn't quite seem to fit with the rest. Curious, she followed it, wondering where it would lead her.

She wasn't surprised when the vision started to form in her mind; she also wasn't surprised by the sense that she was involved in whatever was going to happen. She had an impression of tension, like a skin pulled too tight over a drum. She was calm though, one of the only people involved who was. The images started to clear, going from impressions to a clear scene. She saw Ice Walkers gathered, all heavily armed and ready to do battle. One of the combatants stepped forward, armed with a blaster on one hip and a chillsteel blade on the other.

She called for a battle of champions… and Shivasta was the one to step forward for her side, her newly constructed lightsaber in hand.

What she couldn't tell was who was on which side of the conflict.

"Grandmother saw it as well," Impana said, snapping Shivasta out of her meditation. "It's how she knew you were going to return."

"Does she have any more idea what it means than I do?" Shivasta asked, looking at the older woman with a concerned expression.

"Not yet," Impana answered, shaking her head. "You're the part of all this we can't predict. You are a Stormwarden, and you seem to be faithful to our ways. Yet you are Jedi, a living symbol of the Republic. You know many of our ways, and seek to learn those you don't know. But you came back here to claim a crystal for your lightsaber. You yourself aren't sure which side you will go to that battlefield as a Stormwarden, or as a Jedi."

"You're wrong about that, Chieftain," Shivasta said, shaking her head. "When I go to that battlefield… it will be as both."

Impana seemed to be ready to say something to that, but the shaman at the other brazier shook her head silently. The two of them returned to their chanting, and Shivasta fell back into her meditation as the ritual continued.

"*Tes, may I have a word with you?*" Essani hopped up into the co-pilot's chair next to the Wolf once she was done reviewing the reply from the Council. Now that she had a budget to work with, she had to figure out the best way to get the most out of it she could.

"Of course," the shewolf nodded and looked over at her.

"*I just got word back from the Council about the budget we have to work with. However, I'd like to get some suggestions for how to stretch it as much as possible; I rather doubt that Republic credits mean too much to him.*"

"No," she chuckled softly. "But as you saw, except for the cost of getting them out here, things that cost very little do. Top tradegoods are foodstuffs, though he has a lot right now, parts, tools, medical supplies, weapons and armor he can strip for parts. They're worth a lot more than you buy them for because of the shipping cost to get them out here."

"*And because of his relative isolation, I would imagine,*" Essani nodded, thinking about it. "*That might work out much better, actually... do you think some company might be worth a premium to him?*" She asked.

"More than anything you could buy," she nodded with a curious look. "I'm not ... or do you mean droid company?"

"*Unless we could find a volunteer from the Temple who was willing to move out here,*" Essani nodded. "*There are a number of 'orphaned' astromech droids we're aware of who are very skilled, and would appreciate an owner who isn't likely to wipe their memories when they start to develop personality quirks of their own.*"

"I'm sure Jay would be thrilled with that idea too," Tes chuckled with a quirk of a grin. "Yes, that would be worth a lot to him. Especially as you're asking for things that have a very limited market to start with."

"*I have a feeling that, limited market aside, he still knows exactly how much those crystals are worth,*" Essani said seriously. "*And you probably don't want to know how much.*"

"Given you actually talked the Council into buying them, I can hazard a good guess," she smirked. "That was my job for most of my life, after all."

"*An excellent point,*" Essani chuckled slightly. "*I still find working with sums that can purchase starfighters to be... daunting. If we can arrange for an astromech droid he gets along with to be shipped out here along with some supplies, that should stretch things out a bit better.*"

"Very much so," Tes nodded. "I could probably stretch it further, if you let me handle the trading."

"*If you're willing, that would be appreciated,*" Essani nodded. "*I'm sure I can find a reasonable compromise, but it's much better when they agree to it willingly.*"

"And my family goes way back with his, plus my couple decades trading with him. We've never screwed the other over. It does help."

"*Very true,*" Essani chuckled. "*Thank you, Tes.*"

"You are welcome. Now, what do I have to work with?" She focused on the mission at hand.

Shivasta shivered beneath her heavy cloak and robes as she worked through the deep caverns, the cloth covering her face warm and wet from her breath. If not for the layers of cloth above it, it would have been frozen instead. She would have been more comfortable if she'd brought Jay's temperature regulator, but tradition forbid taking any tool other than those necessary for extracting the crystals down with her; surviving the mine was entirely up to her own abilities.

She had the parts for her lightsaber with her, so she wouldn't have to return to the city before leaving to finish its construction, but beyond that she only carried a small laser torch to extract the crystals, and a small glow-cube to provide enough light to see by.

She took that torch in her gloved hand, extending her senses to the surrounding area to search for the crystal that was meant for her. She could tell it was nearby, but exactly which one was more difficult. The entire cavern glittered with ice and gems, even in the dim light provided by her glow cube. Blue, red, yellow, green… even stranger colors and shades that were hard to identify. In the end, it wasn't a glimmer of color that caught her eye, but the even sheen of a flat, polished surface where another crystal had been extracted previously.

She leaned in close to inspect the cavity, and smiled slightly. There was another crystal behind the ice, one the last miner hadn't taken. She raised the laser torch, and flicked it on, carefully starting to remove the ice, setting two large pieces of it to the side before she began the painstaking process of excising the crystal she was after from the ice and stone it sat in without damaging any other crystals nearby.

It felt like she spent hours focusing intently just to finish a few centimeters of work, even though it was likely only a few minutes. She could understand why the other clans were frustrated with the Stormwarden's insistence that they follow tradition; a single mining droid could have extracted a fortune in crystals and gems in the time it took a single miner to extract a literal handful of them.

Finally, she clicked the torch off, turning it around and extending a short set of pincers to grip the crystal and withdraw it, careful not the scratch it. Her work completed, she opened a small pouch, dropping the crystal and pieces of ice she'd collected into it, and started out of the mine.

Now came the hard part; cutting the crystal and attuning herself to the lightsaber it would become a part of.

No one was surprised to see the gathering of miners when Doruth and the pack came out of the mine, Ragil on a stretcher between the two females and the monster spider floating behind them, chopped off pieces and all. The first to react where the medics who'd been warned when the pack first came up that they would be needed for at least one badly injured Wolf.

They hurried forward, checking his vital signs and leading the pack towards the mine's bacta tank. The spider's poison had done a number on him; he'd be in there for some time, but he'd recover and go back to the field with his pack.

"This is what was killing us down there?" LirTan asked, looking at the 2-meter wide corpse and its assorted pieces.

"Yes," Doruth nodded as he set it down with relief. "I'm fairly sure it is what kept filling those spice deposits that you thought you'd mined out."

"What, you're saying this thing probably created the spice?" The meerian looked up at him dubiously, but then back at the grotesque creature. "Suppose it could be. Think there are more of 'em down there then?"

"Probably," he nodded. "It doesn't have the feel of a single, created creature. I suspect that the spice is its web, meant to catch bogies. You were just a last recourse from starvation."

"There's some news that puts a new spin on this," the meerian mused. "You can bet Rhyallis isn't going to like it. A lot of the miners won't either."

"Given how long you've been mining this planet, they are likely rare, and you haven't been mining active webs." Doruth pointed out. "Just stop mining any vein that is replenishes like this one did and you are unlikely to have problems again. Obviously most of this mine system isn't inhabited."

"Or we'd have known about them before," LirTan nodded. "You're right, but you can be sure that if this gets out, somebody's going to argue that what we're doing has to be stopped. Quite a can of worms that'll work out to be."

"Yes, though it's not one they'll win," Doruth shook his head. "Spice is simply too valuable to too many powerful interests for environmentalists to get anywhere. Besides, now we know that at least on this world, it's a renewable resource." He cracked a grin. "The spiders obviously abandon their webs, so there's no reason not to harvest them. The language may change in time, but the practical aspects won't much."

"Very true," LirTan nodded, and then chuckled. "Who knows? Maybe we'll be able to talk an Ithorian into coming out here, maybe find a way to train 'em."

"I know a couple Masters who might be paying a visit along those lines too." Doruth said as he lifted the spider again telekinetically and began moving towards the Gurath. "After they finish with this one."

"Well, now that this one's down, we'll see about getting back to work," the meerian said. "Thanks, Jedi."

Shivasta slowly chewed on a piece of dried meat, eating as she worked. The half-eaten strip of jerky, her last one, sat next to her on a piece of leather with her tools. She hoped to finish her work soon; she was about to run out of food, and would have to start over if she returned to the city for more supplies. The presence of other living people would disrupt her focus.

The wind was howling outside the small shelter she'd made for herself to work in, but it was warm inside, her body heat held in by nearly a foot of snow and ice. She wore only the light trousers that went with her summer robe, the rest of her body exposed to her home world and the Force. She let it guide her hand, and the laser torch as she used it to carve the crystal she'd mined. The pouch she'd brought with her sat outside her shelter, holding the two pieces of ice she'd brought with her. She'd carved them into crystalline shapes before digging her shelter, knowing that they would melt inside, and that it wasn't time to mount them in her half-finished lightsaber yet.

That would come once she was finished with the crystal itself.

Small flakes of stone sat next to her, barely millimeters thick. The raw stone had lost nearly a third of its weight already, but it was taking shape as an intricately cut gem, nearly completed, dozens of facets reflecting the light of her glow cube through the crystal's depths. The Ice Walker swallowed her meat and held her breath as she made the final cut. One false move could ruin her work, and the crystal itself.

"Yowch!" She winced as the sound filled the small shelter, the crystal falling from her hand to the floor as she pushed her finger against the snow, letting the cool surface soothe the burn she'd given herself with the torch as she finished the cut. She flicked the torch off, setting it aside and picking up the crystal, inspecting it with the eye of a Jedi who knew they were staking their life and the lives of those they defended on the small stone and the quality of the lightsaber it would be mounted in. She could feel that the crystal was perfect as much as she could see; any flaws that a jeweler might have noticed, and she could see that there were some, were meant to be there.

Satisfied, she started to pack up her tools and dress herself to go outside again. She used the torch to cut her way out of her shelter, digging through the snow that had gathered on top of it to reclaim the pouch with the two smaller ice crystals she'd cut. She laid the parts of her lightsaber out, disassembling it quickly and opening the hilt.

She set the crystals in with intense care, one of the ice crystals at each end, the real gem set in the middle. A few minor adjustments to the setting points, and she had them properly balanced. She closed the hilt, mounting the emitter to the base and the focusing lens at the mouth, finally picking it up and giving it a slight twist at each end to properly set the latches and activate the cooling device Jay had given her. The ice crystals inside would stay frozen well above the temperatures she could endure, between his regulator and the ancient Ice Walker Force techniques she'd used to reinforce them, similar to the way her people made weapons and shields.

"Moment of truth now, Shi," she murmured to herself, taking the lightsaber in one gloved hand and pressing the switch. The brilliant silver blade ignited, glowing internally and seeming to glint in the light of Garos. Shivasta smiled to herself and turned it off, pulling out the last of her jerky and ripping off another chunk to chew on as she started to walk back to the city.

"*I was reviewing the scans of the moon today,*" Essani said conversationally over dinner with Tes and Fenrik after three weeks on the station. "*Tes, do you know if there are any rules, official or otherwise, about running salvage or exploratory operations on Yavin 4 without Duvam's permission?*"

"Nope," she shook her head. "It's open to anyone who wants to bother."

"*I think we might want to take a look down there some time while he and Jay are working up here then. According to the scans, there are a number of structures that seem to be related to ancient Jedi architecture.*"

"You think they have some old temples down there?" Fenrik asked her.

"*Possibly,*" she nodded. "*Though they may not be of Jedi origin. Rumor has it that Yavin 4 used to be a Sith outpost as well.*"

"So be on guard for anything," Tes nodded easily. "Who's going?"

"*Well, somebody needs to be up here in case there's trouble, so I was thinking you two should probably do a little discreet exploring.*"

"Works for me," Fenrik grinned. "It's good that Jay's getting along as well as he is, but it's getting just a smidge dull up here if you don't speak tech."

"That's pulling it mildly," Tes chuckled. "A little exploration is good for the body and mind. Head out in the morning?"

"Good timing," Fenrik grinned. "I'm dragging him to bed after dinner, so we'll have a few days to play down there."

"*Assuming you're in any shape to go exploring in the morning,*" Essani teased, munching on a berry. "*Just be careful, you two. If Duvam Tam had the Heart of the Guardian and Mantle of the Force, that means that Exar Kun came here after his crusade against the Jedi. There's no telling what else he might have left behind.*"

"Jay said that though were left here by a female Jedi after the last war," Fenrik shook his head. "Most likely Revan from what he'd gotten."

"*True,*" Essani nodded. "*But that's not the full story. She bought them from Suvam Tam before fighting Malik. She didn't name them in her story, but she did mention them. He found them on the planet, in an old temple. That temple I want you both to stay away from.*"

"Do you know which one it is?" Tes leaned forward, sharply interested.

"*No,*" Essani said, shaking her head. "*Fenrik will undoubtedly be able to sense the power of the Dark Side there. Exar Kun was the worst example of a Jedi fallen to the Dark. If you do sense that you are at that temple, Fenrik, do not go in,*" she said firmly.

"I understand," he nodded. "No going into Sith temples looking for goodies. No problem. That round on Korriban was quite enough for me."

"*Well, Force be with the two of you then,*" Essani said, finishing her meal. "*Hopefully you won't need it too badly.*"

"Touch down there," Fenrik said, indicating a clearing near one of the temples on Yavin 4. "There's something there we should look for."

"Any idea what?" Tes glanced over at the young Panther before concentrating on setting Sharufa down in the thick, soft jungle soil, near a small temple.

"I'm not sure," Fenrik admitted. "But it doesn't feel like most of them."

It didn't look like them either. While it was a pyramid, it seemed to be made out of a translucent red crystal, polished so you could see very slightly through it.

"Well, it's different to be sure." She nodded and set Sharufa to defend herself before standing. "Ready to stick our noses where they no doubt don't belong?"

"Always," Fenrik chuckled slightly and stood up. He had to admit to a little nervousness; this was the first real mission he'd had, though it wasn't an official one. "Could you run a quick scan for any natives before we head out? It's hard to tell with everything else that's here."

"Already did," she flashed him a grin. "Nothing showing up, just small buildings of former inhabitants."

"Wonder what happened to them," he mused, moving towards the hatch. "Well, here goes."

"Could be anything," she shrugged and followed him out, her senses open for trouble of any kind as they walked the short distance to the ruby pyramid. Once they were there, they found a short stairway into what looked like a solid wall of the crystalline material the temple was made out of.

"This could complicate things," Fenrik murmured, starting to search the wall barely a tenth of the way up the pyramid.

"What direction is the call coming from?" Tes asked matter-of-factly as she checked her scanner for what kind of blast would make the most effective entrance.

"In and down," Fenrik said, frowning. "I don't think there is a door here...."

"There will be soon," she picked a spot that looked good.

Fenrik got back out of the way, giving her a clear shot to fire her blaster and punch a hole through a weaker part of the wall.

"That's one way of knocking," he observed, moving up to finish breaking out a hole big enough for them to walk through.

"Whatever works," she grinned at his back. "Anything in there?"

"Whatever's in here is probably in deeper," Fenrik chuckled slightly, stepping in and looking around as his eyes adjusted to the darkness. "Don't recognize these symbols," he murmured, walking in a bit further to let Tes follow.

"Neither do I," she admitted. "But I can sure as hell feel that whatever it is."

"I think there's more than just one thing down here," the young Knight murmured. "It feels like multiple things... the weird part is that things don't usually call out like these seem to. Come on, let's keep going."

"Right," she nodded, though something about the setup made her uneasy.

"You don't like it either, do you?" He asked her, guessing what was probably causing the nerves he could feel.

"On a normal world, it wouldn't bother me. On a Sith-heavy world ... this just screams of a trap of some kind."

"Well, it's not just a Sith world," he pointed out. "The natives had their own traditions before the Sith subjugated them, I'm sure. Though you're right; I'm not entirely comfortable with this either. Let's keep an eye out; no telling what might be down here...." He trailed off, walking down the corridor slowly, searching for something.

"That's the only reason I haven't hauled you out by the scruff yet." She pointed out, keeping on a more general alert as he followed his trail.

Fenrik might have been a little wounded by the comment if he didn't know from experience that she was quite willing to do the same to Doruth. She definitely had the protective role of alpha down pat.

Including being overly prepared the way Custos tended to be with extra equipment that few Jedi thought to bring along. The sudden light of her flashlight, one he recognized as a Jay creation from years before, made him blink for a moment before his eyes adjusted to it.

He dearly wished his eyes didn't adjust to the light when things like this happened. Going from inconveniently dim to bright as day was not pleasant, even if it didn't last more than a heartbeat while he reflexively adjusted faster than most could.

"Do you have an extra power pack?" He asked, stopping to inspect a point along the wall. "I think I found the lights for this place."

"Always," she fished around in a pocket on her light cloth body armor to hand one over.

"Thanks," he nodded, taking the cell and looking between it and the location where it seemed it was supposed to go. A frown crossed his lips as he realized that there was a slight difference in the interface that would keep the cell from fitting.

"I can improvise, or we can trust to your light," he said, looking back at her. "Improvising might be risky, but I think I can do it without anything going wrong."

"Just don't blow us up, okay?"

"That I can guarantee," he nodded slightly, holding the power cell near the interface and focusing. He let his senses open up, seeking the energy in the cell itself. It wasn't quite the same as the Force, but it worked.

"What did you just do?" She asked curiously as an arc of energy passed between cell and interface just before the lights came on.

"Something I'm not sure I should have," Fenrik murmured, pocketing the discharged cell. "I drained the power from the cell and fed it into the system. Kind of like linking a power cable between the two of them."

"This is a questionable idea because ..."

"Just the way it felt," he said, shaking his head. "Don't worry about it; let's just keep going now that we can see our way better."

"All right," she nodded and clicked her light off before following him deeper into the solid red crystal pyramid, though it never completely left her awareness. Anything that 'didn't feel right' to a Jedi probably wasn't.

Both of them were finding things that didn't feel quite right as they worked in deeper. It seemed like every turn led to another puzzle, and some solution that either called on brute force, a starkly pragmatic solution to an ethical question, or some use of the Force that Fenrik was developing on the spot and Tes hadn't really thought of doing before.

After about a half-hour of these tests, Fenrik was looking a force field with another logical test to shut it down. A diplomat and her servant being escorted through no-man's land... out of food... the solution being to find the best way to handle the situation.

He couldn't get around the fact that the 'best way', as most of the other puzzles had interpreted the situation up to now, would be to kill the servant and use his remains to provide enough food to make it to civilization. The loss of the servant would be secondary to bringing the diplomat to the summit alive.

It also made him feel sick, even as he accepted that it would be a viable solution. And one that was definitely not dreamed up by a Light Sider.

"It's a trap," he murmured. "C'mon, Tes, we're getting out of here."

"Wait." She was reading the puzzle too, and she could all but read the answer that came to his mind, even if she was at a bit of a loss as to how he'd gotten to that solution. "You are completely overreacting to the situation presented." She added as she began to type in her own reaction, to summon animals to her or use Force-flow to find things to eat. Even no-man's land had lots of little things. Small rodents and insects were everywhere and most were edible enough.

It raised an eyebrow when the computer said it wouldn't work for lack of life.

"Okay ..." She put her hands on her hips and glared at the console. "Have it you way." She typed in the answer she knew it would take even if she didn't agree with it.

"I knew it was going to protest to those solutions," he pointed out quietly, reaching up to take her shoulder before she progressed beyond the force field. "Like the one before about ending a war at the expense of allowing a devastating attack on your own people. Any suggestion it doesn't like has details added to the question until you give the 'right' solution. It's an old Sith security measure. If you answer the questions right on the first time, you're Sith. If you don't, you will be by the time you finish."

"Only if you actually believe what you type." She shook her head.

"How would you be prone to thinking after another hour or two of this place, these tests, and doing it all on your own?" He pointed out. "Do you think we should head back, or get creative instead?"

"Me? A good night's sleep would clear it out," she shrugged. "But I'm used to living like that from when I was still running the Outer Rim. You say what gets you through the day and keep your opinions to yourself. You're the one at risk, though."

"I meant a different type of creative," Fenrik said simply, igniting his lightsaber. "Tes? Don't tell Jay what I'm about to do? We're about to redefine straight-line movement to the middle."

"I won't if you won't," she laughed heartily and lit her own with a grin for his idea. "Let's go for it. I seem to recall it's as legal a solution as any."

"Yep," Fenrik nodded, driving his lit blade through the crystalline wall and starting to slowly cut through it. "And a lot easier to sleep with at night."

"True," she agreed and drove her own blade into the wall to meet him in the middle for a door, though her more powerful lightsaber made it more like two-thirds of the way.

After another hour of carving their way through walls, Fenrik and Tes could both feel that they were close to their goal, probably just on the other side of the wall they were facing now.

"Y'know, you wouldn't think it would be quite this tiring to do this work with lightsabers," Fenrik muttered, rubbing his shoulder lightly, his beam temporarily extinguished. "Just glad the power cables all run through the ceiling, or we'd be in the dark again by now."

"Just be glad no one lives here," she shook her head and stretched before driving into the last wall between them and their goal, Fenrik's own 'saber sinking in to start the other end.

"Believe me, I'm already more than glad for that one," the Panther said. "I'm just glad this place doesn't have the Sith's usual punishments for wrong answers. We'd have been attacked by a small army of droids by now."

"It's not exactly their usual architecture either." Tes pointed out. "May not be actual Sith, just somebody not quite with our civilization."

"It's not that far off," he pointed out. "It's not normal, but if you accept that some of the other temples we've found were built during Exar Kun's rule, this isn't too far off. But yeah... I've been thinking about that too. If this does turn out to be a burial chamber, should we still take whatever's down here?"

"Depends on what it is," she chose easily. "And who it is."

"All right," he nodded, grunting as he carefully lowered the cut-out panel of stone to the floor. "Think we might want to take a piece of this back with us, see if Essani recognizes the symbols." The chamber beyond was black except for a dim patch of light next to their impromptu 'door,' none of the artificial lights through the rest of the complex inside it.

"No need, I've been recording them." Tes flipped her light on, sweeping the room for trouble before focusing on the central object. "Impressive." She cautiously stepped forward to examine the expertly carved life-sized Massassi warrior. "Damn, the price this could fetch in the right port."

"Forget port, there are probably a dozen different Senators who'd kill to have it," Fenrik murmured, following her in and looking it over. "Literally, I might add." The statue looked almost alive, every feature painstakingly carved from the same ruby-colored stone of the temple. The humanoid's face was weathered and battle-hardened, deep furrows in his chin and around his eyes. Its long 'antenna' around the nose and eyebrows were carved with no less attention to detail.

Fenrik almost expected it to complete the swing with the strange pole-axe it was carved to hold, releasing the razor-sharp metal disk held in the head. The care taken in preparing the statue marked whoever this warrior was as almost painfully important to the makers.

The weapons and armor it wore, however, marked him as a dark sider of an age long past. While it was holding a weapon that was probably unique to his race, the sword at his hip was plainly of Sith design and the shield he wore strapped to his chest practically seethed with Dark Side energies to the young Knight's senses.

"If he wasn't Sith, he probably could have taught them a thing or two," he shuddered.

"Strange we couldn't sense the dark energies until we were standing right in front of it." Tes murmured as she began to investigate around the statue more carefully, looking for anything to indicate that this room was anything but a holding cell for the statue and its gear.

"Agreed," Fenrik nodded, frowning slightly as he looked around. It didn't feel like there was anything down there but them, the statue, and its equipment; no spirits, no ... anything.

"There's something about the room that limits our senses in here," he said. "It's not enough to notice unless you think about it, but it seems to dampen the Force before you can really sense anything. I wonder if it's the crystal," he mused.

"It could be part of the gear he's carrying, some tech, even the area ... they are all rare as hell these days, but there are a lot of things that can do it." She came back to consider the statue and its equipment. "So do we take it back, or leave it for the first Darksider to come by?"

"We're taking it back," he said seriously. "It's not a body that we'd be desecrating by taking it, and more importantly, I do not want to end up on the wrong end of that gear in a fight. Besides, you know that if we leave it down here, your friend'll just pick it up on a scavenging mission and sell it off to the first person who's interested anyways."

"True enough," Tes admitted. "Levitate it out?"

"Actually, I was thinking we should grab one of the repulsor lifts off the Sharufa," Fenrik said. "We probably could lift it out without one, but it'll be a lot less tiring to use one, and there's no telling what might decide to pay a visit tonight."

"Works for me," she nodded with another look at the statue before they headed out to get the repulsor lift.

"*Fenrik, I want you to go here.*" Master Essani contacted him with a set of coordinates after they had finished loading the statue and its artifacts in the cargo bay. "*There is an object of the Light that wants to be found there.*"

"*Can't blame it,*" he responded, the communication taking a bit of effort over the distance to the orbital station. "We're heading about half-way around the world," he told Tes. "Essani sensed something."

"Hopefully not another one of those," she motioned towards the cargo hold and the Dark artifacts there.

"No," he said, shaking his head and heading towards the cockpit. "She says it's a something of the Light. Mind if I try flying us there? I'm going to have to get better at piloting if I'm going to be using the Sharufa on a regular basis."

"Go for it," she nodded and easily took the co-pilot's chair. "She'll probably handle better for you. Even when he doesn't try, Jay tends to personalize his creations."

"True," he nodded, starting the take off sequence. "Though you're still talking about somebody who didn't even start flying a ship until a couple years ago," he chuckled. "You and Doruth usually took care of that."

"Going to have to change that for the next one," she mused and kept an eye on things without giving directions. "It's too valuable a skill to miss out on."

"Just don't tell Master Ursal that," Fenrik chuckled, handling takeoff easily enough and punching in the coordinates Essani had given him. "Shi can't fly anything larger than a speeder bike to save her life."

"Yeah, but they're Healers," she smirked. "*They don't go out on missions where it's useful."

"I get the point," Fenrik chuckled. "Still, it's weird. We've both tried to help her learn, but anything where the controls handle most of the steering is just too much for her."

"You know, everywhere but the Temple calls that a control issue," Tes mused mostly to herself. "Somebody who doesn't trust the equipment enough to let it do its job."

"I think she trusts it, she just can't visualize how what she's doing is affecting the ship," Fenrik mused. "She tends to miss the adjustments and not quite realize it. Works well enough when you can check the instruments," he said, looking at them himself, "but when you have to try anything fancy or make the fast decisions, you need to have some instincts for it."

"True," she admitted. "I guess I just haven't met one of them outside of Jedi. Probably because they stay as far away from the controls as they can manage."

"Yep," Fenrik nodded. "Though to her credit, Shi does too, when she can. We've just agreed that if it ever comes to her having to get Jay and I out of a bad spot, she'll heal one of us enough that we can make it to hyperspace instead of trusting her to do it," he chuckled grimly.

"A good arrangement, honestly." Tes nodded in approval. "Though I wouldn't be surprised to see Jay next ship capable of getting itself into hyperspace and to a location all on its own."

"Neither would I," Fenrik nodded, handling the flight rather well. "Hell, they come close enough to it as it is, you'd just need one that looked up the location on its own instead of having to put in coordinates manually."

"True," she considered the control system and began to check a few things out. "I think he may have already. Only it's under emergency procedures and a destination has to be set beforehand. At least that's what this looks like. Of course, with Jay, all he has to be is conscious in the same system to set the destination."

"I am so not surprised," Fenrik chuckled. "Mind if I practice below the canopy? The 'point A to point B' I can handle."

"Go ahead," she nodded, though she kept a bit closer eyes on things as he got out of his skill range.

Fortunately, he seemed to have an innate sense for when it was more than he was capable of handling. While he weaved between the large trees, he didn't push himself to do even half the things Doruth could, let alone that Tes could probably handle with her eyes shut.

In the end, it was a fairly enjoyable, if quiet, trip to the ancient, dust-choked ruins at their destination.

"I'll take a jungle any day." Tes shook her head as they looked at the only buildings within hundreds of clicks. "Are you sure this is the right spot? It's been gone over with a fine toothed comb already."

"These are the coordinates," he said, double-checking it. "Could be that whatever we're after is hidden pretty well."

"Or it's got issues with anyone but who it wants finding it." She frowned and got up. "I can't sense anything."

"Neither can I," he admitted. "Though I'm a bit off-center yet from earlier. How comfortable are you with spending the night down here? It's close enough to dark, wouldn't hurt to wait until morning. I might be able to get a better grasp on where it is after some meditation."

"I don't mind." She agreed easily. "I was figuring on a few days anyway. Go ahead and settle down. I'll lock us down for the night and run the checks."

"Right," he nodded and headed back to his quarters, taking his lightsaber from its holster as he moved. This was definitely not a night for quiet meditation. He suspected it would not be the last time he was grateful for the extra-large main suite Jay had build for them with kata-meditation and sparing in mind.

"Feeling more centered?" Tes asked easily when Fenrik walked into the galley for breakfast.

"Much," he nodded. "And I can feel what we're after, though it doesn't feel strong enough to be detected from an orbital station. It might react to the strength of the user."

"Or how strongly they are of the Light," she added and poured him a strong cup of tea. "I can't sense anything, you couldn't before but now you can, Master Essani's as Light-side as they get and it called to her."

"Very true," he nodded, taking the cup from her. "Thank you. Some days you should be glad you don't have the same senses we do. It can almost be painful to look at her like that sometimes. Soothing, but painful." He sipped the tea slowly, wincing and swearing under his breath as he added a little honey to sweeten it.

"Can't believe I keep forgetting that," he muttered to himself.

"You may be more centered, but something's off." Tes chuckled softly and offered him a plate of meat, eggs, fruit and bread.

"Thanks," he chuckled, taking the plate. "What can I say? Master Kiris taught me to wake up in an instant and be able to fight without losing any performance. Waking up and being functional without a five-minute walk to get the blood going and no emergency to get the adrenaline running is another thing."

"And no mate to get the blood flowing either." She winked at him and sat down to work on her own breakfast.

"Like you're one to talk," he smirked, starting on the eggs. "I did live with you guys for a couple years, especially on missions. I swear, between you two and the Pack I'll never forget what horny Wolves smell like."

"Or sound like," she snickered. "Though you have to admit that Doruth has the loudest voice of anybody on board."

"Only when you don't howl," he grinned. "Trust me, roars don't carry nearly as far. He might be louder through a couple walls; you're louder half-way across the Temple."

"You can't hear us outside our quarters," she smirked. "I know the soundproofing is good enough."

"Tes?" He smirked back, trying not to giggle. "Be that as it may, Doruth has never made me lose prey on a morning hunt."

"You were just hunting too early," she teased back, remembering the incidents clearly.

"Now why is it that I'm hunting too early when you end up scaring them off when you get off, but it's not a problem when I go upwind and bring home fresh breakfast?" He laughed.

"Okay, so you were hunting too late," she countered with an easy laugh of her own.

"And the only reason I can't say the same about you ever is because Jay and I aren't that loud," he chuckled.

"Maybe something you need to work on," she winked at him.

"Well, you can't say we don't get enough practice," he grinned back. "And if Jay or Shi were here right now, I'd probably have been tackled and gagged already."

"And dragged off for more practice." Tes couldn't help but snicker. "I have to admit, you and Jay are seriously hot together."

"And just how do you know that?" He asked her, raising an eyebrow slightly. "I think I've always managed to get him back to our quarters first."

"Fenrik, dear, it is so easy to watch the two of you when Jay's in the mood. Especially camping."

"And does Doruth know about this?" He asked with a smirk. "You should see us when Shi's around too."

"But she doesn't have a thing for water or outdoor games that Jay does." She let him wonder about his former Master.

"She's got her reasons for it too," he admitted, finishing up his breakfast. "Besides, if she found out she'd probably just about melt."

"True, though I understand she turns this lovely shade of purple first." Tes winked at him and helped with the cleanup. "Ready to track down this object of the Light?"

"That she does," he chuckled, purring lightly at the thought. "And yes, I am. Let's get going and figure out what it is that's bugging a Master in orbit."

"*They're keeping something from you, you know,*" a familiar mental voice told Jay while he was tinkering alone one day.

"*They always are,*" the kat shrugged with a bit of a mental sigh, absently wondering how much worse the taunting could get after he'd accepted his Gift. "*Tell me something that's news if you're going to bother me.*"

"*Does a ship that makes Kraken look like a baby qualify?*" The Demon asked him with a smug tone, knowing full well, even before Jay went stiff, that he had the kat's undivided attention. He could feel the question that didn't quite come across in words.

"*Oh it's much older. I'll admit, not that much bigger, but this is the masterpiece the Kraken was based off of. You haven't heard it yet because you're up here while the ship is down on the surface, long ago stripped bare by a Jedi.*"

Jay stilled his mind and body, his attention focusing down to the world under them and listened for the distinctive resonance of a piece of technology that large and advanced.

He could feel it, faintly, almost silent after centuries of a jungle world's environment wearing it down. He could feel other things too, though that was one of the strongest.

"*They're down there on that moon, you know,*" the Demon pointed out. "*Hacking through walls and taking everything they can find at the kushiban's direction while they keep you distracted up here.*"

"*No surprise there,*" he said quietly, knowing that they'd rather find the objects than buy them or face them. It disturbed him, in a detached way, that he'd come so far into the local morals that he was not really be bothered all that much to learn they were using violence to get what they wanted.

He looked around the shop; he really was on his own. It was free time, time that was his to do as he pleased. He reached out to the station and smiled faintly when it reported that there was a shuttle he could take down to the surface.

"*It's down there,*" the Demon told Jay in a soft rumble as the teen flew the small shuttle down.

"*I can feel it, you know.*" He shot back, though he wasn't as irate as he sounded. He was too focused on the huge ship almost completely concealed in the jungle to feel much of anything but the tingling excitement of discovery.

Even now all he could see was a corner sticking up out of the trees, but he could see it. It really was bigger than the Kraken... and, somehow, it seemed to have landed and remained mostly intact despite being decidedly not inclined towards planetary touchdowns.

He reached out with part of his awareness, seeking a landing bay that he could set the shuttle down in. It took some doing, and he could tell the ship wasn't particularly happy about it, but he also could tell it was opening up for him beneath the canopy and maneuvered the shuttle down, into the gaping blackness of the bay.

He reached out again, his senses caressing the ship from where he was, trying to assess its condition and what was still left of its systems, particularly life support so it would be safe to explore. Power was almost completely down... everything seemed to be offline, though it seemed livable. The atmosphere was breathable at least where it could reach.

He nodded to himself and focused on the computer system, feeding it power from the ambient amount available to coax it on line enough to check out what it still had left.

The computer seemed to be fine, though still mostly offline. He could sense that there was a break in the power system, something that had damaged some of the main cables. It had been running on its backup generator for centuries and shut down system after system to preserve what absolutely had to have power to survive.

That at least was good. The power-dependant information would have survived, though there was little telling how many more years it had left.

He stood and grabbed the small pack he'd put together for the trip; his travel tool set, a data cube to download the useful bits still present, a comm that could contact Sharufa if he couldn't, a breather with supplemental oxygen and a few odds and ends he found useful. First issue would be to get the power turned back on.

He just hoped there weren't any local critters looking to make life interesting. At least the Demon seemed to be shutting up for now. It was quite dark enough to require a flashlight, and he still needed on hand on the bulkhead to guide his way to where the power lines had been damaged.

He had to marvel at what the planet's jungle was capable of doing. Assorted mosses and vines seemed to grow through some portions of the ship, soil that had been blown and tracked in through assorted smaller openings providing them with the nutrients required.

This place clearly hadn't been used more or less since it had landed, though he was now sure it hadn't crashed. As impossible as that was, it didn't feel that damaged.

A low, warning growl from the darkness just outside the range of his light told him he wasn't alone.

Instinct made him freeze for a fraction of a heartbeat, then his light focused on the source of the sound as one lightsaber dropped into his free hand and ignited.

A leopard-like creature was crouched in one of the nearby halls, still growling, though it didn't seem like it was about to attack him. He wished, not for the first time, that he could sense living things like most Jedi could. The feline didn't seem injured, or starving, and there was no smell of blood that marked a likely kill it might be willing to fight for.

He started to form a Force-wall to push it away, and then blinked as he realized what else animals guarded against damn near anything: their young.

He sighed and let the wall stay while he tracked the ship's layout to find another way to where he was going and eventually settled on just backtracking to the next access panel and fix the thing via Force. It wasn't quite as simple as when he could touch the damage directly, but it was easier than dealing with an irate mother and her young while he tried to work and fifteen feet wasn't that hard to deal with.

The big cat seemed content to let him work, though she occasionally growled slightly to remind him she was there in the darkness beyond his light. There were days he really didn't like animals, but he couldn't really hate her for doing what was so strong in his own instincts. He slid an access panel back and reached in close his hand around one broken cable and focused his will along it, summing the small energy and strength needed to repair it, then more as his orders traveled along the rest of the cable to continue the repairs.

It wasn't long before he knew the cables were whole again, the access panels sliding shut along their length so the cubs or mother couldn't get into them when he started the full power again. The main core was offline for now, but that had saved enough power and fuel that he could get it back online as soon as he was down there.

"Now for the power," he drew a deep breath and focused again, extending his mental map of the ship to find where he needed to go before he started to move, then headed out with a sharp ear open for more critters that he'd have to work around.

"At least the ship's intact." He murmured to himself as he shut the main generator down again, this time with the sequence that would put the ship into a planned hibernation rather than a forced one.

"*I can tell you where the contents are,*" the Demon pointed out. "*Maybe you can't right now, but I can feel them.*"

"*Where?*" He asked, curious and rather doubtful that anyone was still alive after so long.

"*Hidden in that pyramid we flew by on the way here,*" the Demon explained. "*The Jedi who stripped the ship is dead now, but his loot is still there.*"

Jay considered that as he made his way back to the shuttle. By the time he lifted off and the bay door closed under him he pointed the shuttle towards the pyramid, curiosity overcoming cautiousness.

"Turn back to the station, Jay," Essani said from the back of the ship; stepping out of the shadows she'd been hiding in.

"Urr, okay." He glanced over at her, honestly only fractionally surprised to see her on board and obeyed without any real hesitation. "What's wrong with it?"

"That place is pure Darkness," she explained to him.

"*The Dark Side again,*" the Demon said exasperatedly. "*Doesn't it seem odd that a Jedi's lair would be so evil? She's trying to keep you away from the ship's contents, after what happened with the Kraken.*"

"Jedi can turn," he countered out loud, though it wasn't hard to know he was pretty confused by the arguments. He knew he could rarely feel Light or Dark, but he trusted his Master.

"And the one buried there did so more than any other," Essani told him, guessing why he'd said that. "That's the temple of Exar Kun."

"*Why would Exar Kun have stripped a Sith warship?*" The Demon countered. "*He would have used it against the Jedi.*"

"Only if he could have," Jay shook his head sharply, his mind countering with just how many reasons the ship would have been stripped and not lifted off, not the least of which was that it probably couldn't have gotten back into space.

"*And because he did turn it against the Jedi,*" Essani said, her presence in Jay's mind suddenly very noticeable, and very different from most of what he'd felt before. "*Then, after his apprentice realized what he was doing and turned on him, he fled here.*" Jay could tell that what she was saying wasn't directed at him nearly as much as it was at the Demon; any doubts he had were wiped away by what she said next. "*And I will not allow you to turn my Padawan down the same path.*"

There was a blinding flash of light, both in the real world and in his mind, and he felt a searing pain flash through his mind. It wasn't his own pain though; it was the Demon's response to his Master's manifestation of the Force.

For the first time in a long time, Jay's mind was silent once the sense of pain left. Essani was sitting at his feet, only her dark red, frizzed-out fur a sign of what she'd just done and how pissed she'd been to do it. She stood, the color draining back out of her fur as she carefully smoothed it out with her forehands.

"Are you all right, Jay?" She asked him, her fur the light grey of her concern for him as he reached down to pick her up and help smooth her fur with his fingers and tongue, more than a little dazed by what had just happened and reacting on his most basic level: caring for those close to him that seemed in distress to sooth his own distress and confusion.

"I think so." He said softly, a little weirded out by how quiet his mind was but appreciating the calmness that came with it too. "Thank you for shutting him up."

"You're welcome," she said, curling up in his arms as her fur lightened further. "Though I hope I don't react to him that way too often. How you deal with it all the time I'll never know. Let's get back to the station."

"Remember what I said when you took me as a Padawan, about not wanting to tempt fate?" He asked softly as the shuttle continued skyward. "Around the Temple, the worst he has to talk about are holocrons and other records that have restricted access. I can't get into that much trouble going where I shouldn't."

"I can understand that," she nodded slightly. "I don't think I've lost control like that in a long time."

Jay smiled slightly and gently stroked her long ears along her back. "What did you do to him?" He asked curiously, more than content to have her sit in his lap and stroke her ears.

"It's the technique I've mentioned to you a few times," she explained. "I basically exposed him to the raw energy of the Light Side."

"Which hurts like hell to one who isn't," he nodded in understanding and resisted the urge to squeeze her tightly. "Do you think we can head back home when Tes and Fen get back from their expedition?"

"I was just thinking the same thing," Essani agreed. "They should be back later today. This is a bit closer to one of us ending up in that building than I like."

"Odds are pretty good I wouldn't have come out of it with my head in any kind of shape to be talked reason too." He admitted softly. "That's way more eager than he usually is."

"When Exar Kun was alive he and his apprentice turned dozens of Padawans against their Masters," Essani pointed out. "He likely wanted to give his spirit a chance to do the same to you, if it's still there."

"Not something I want to give a chance," he shuddered slightly before the fear of becoming what he fought passed.

Even now, after a decade among the Jedi, his Master still knew that what he feared was not 'going Dark' but 'becoming an Omega'. It was a linguistic quirk that while she understood, did worry her at times.

"We won't," Essani promised him, settling in quietly. "Let's just get back to the station and I'll tell Fenrik and Tes to come back after their current job."

"Hey J-oof!" Fenrik grunted as the wind was knocked out of him by the flying tom that tackled him as he opened the door to the Sharufa, completely unable to do anything but reciprocate the nuzzles and kisses he was being given by his lover. He quickly realized that this wasn't for being gone for a couple days, but because Jay was still unsettled by something that had happened very recently.

"Why don't you get him to your quarters before this gets questionable." Tes chuckled at him with a smirk.

"Right," the Panther nodded, picking Jay up with another grunt and nuzzling him lightly, carrying him to their quarters and cuddling up with him before he even started to worry about what had happened.

Not like he was going to get anything useful out of Jay about what had happened before then anyways. Fortunately, he knew exactly how to do just that, and quickly. It just took a warm, closed space and being held tightly until he stopped shivering and relaxed into the comfort and security of his mate's arms.

"What happened?" He asked, once the younger tom was settled down a bit.

"Did you know that Exar Kun's tomb is down there?" Jay murmured quietly.

"I know there were places Essani wanted us to stay away from," Fenrik nodded slightly. "That'd be one of them... you almost paid it a visit somehow, didn't you?"

"Yap," he murmured. "Thanks to the Demon. Damn thing knows exactly what to say to get me to do what it wants."

"It's okay," Fenrik murmured, rubbing his back. "You didn't end up going there in the end, after all. And it's not like you knew what was down there."

"No," he admitted. "That's half the problem. I still can't feel Light or Dark to save my life."

"It's something you'll probably get a better feel for with practice," Fenrik reassured him. "Let's be fair, you haven't been taken out to that many places where you'd experience it."

"I know, and really bad things happened both times." He sighed and closed his eyes, once again relaxing into the logic of his mate that made things so much less disturbing.

"Shh, everything still worked out in the end," Fenrik said, nuzzling him gently. "And before things went too far before they could be controlled. Just rest for now, Jay. We'll head back home soon."

"I know," he murmured and rested his head against Fenrik's broad chest. "Sometimes it just makes me wonder if I should go out more, or a lot less. Something like this happening during my solo would be really, really bad."

"It probably won't," Fenrik said reassuringly. "They're supposed to take the fact that you are still a Padawan into account, not send you somewhere you're probably gonna have to deal with something they'd normally save for an experienced Knight."

Jay couldn't help but chuckle. "It would be my luck to be the one to find the ancient unknown Sith tomb on mine."

"So we'll talk to Essani about making sure you get assigned to a well-populated world for it," Fenrik chuckled. "C'mon, you'll be just fine," he smiled.

"I know, sometimes," he nuzzled his mate, then stretched up for a kiss. "But since no one is going to expect us for a few hours ...."

"Mmm ... let's just be sure we don't disturb anybody," Fenrik chuckled, rolling on top of his mate with a tender kiss and felt as must as heard the low moan it earned. "Tes already has enough to razz me about."

"Soundproofing, a lot of it," Jay grinned up at him. "You wouldn't hear her in here."

"I'm sorry to see you go," Impana said, holding Shi's hand and clutching her shoulder with the other hand in a traditional gesture the young Jedi returned.

"I'm sorry I have to," she admitted. "But I have my duties."

"And you have your people, if you ever choose to leave the Jedi. We might not be as civilized as the rest of the Republic, but I have a feeling we'll be able to use your talents in the years to come."

"If you do, let the Jedi know," Shivasta said. "I know you have a transceiver by now, you've been sending information for years."

"True," the Chieftain nodded. "Though there are still some who aren't sure whose side you'd be on."

"Are you one of them?" Shivasta asked pointedly.

The older woman smiled slightly. "Not at all. You're a Stormwarden, and you're a Jedi. But I know what side you'll be on. I'm not sure how, but you'll find a way to be on both."

Shivasta smiled slightly. "Some folks have said the Jedi's best gift is for not making up their minds," she said. "They just forget that there are more than two sides to every conflict."

"Very true," Impana nodded. "You're welcome back to our lands as long as I rule the Stormwardens, Shivasta. As far as I'm concerned, you're one of our clan, and one of our shamen. You may not be able to summon a storm, but you've undergone all the rights beside that one." Shivasta bowed her head respectively.

"Thank you, Chieftain," she said seriously. "However, I'm afraid that while I'm a Jedi, I can't claim that honor."

"I know," Impana nodded. "Consider it a standing offer. There are some here who might not appreciate it, but I can't see any reason you can't rejoin us if you leave them."

"I understand," Shivasta smiled. "Though don't alienate the clan for my sake. It's not worth it."

"You're right, it wouldn't be," Impana agreed. "However, they'll come to see what you really are. You're not just a Jedi in an Ice Walker's skin. It may be that your Jedi are better for training some of our children than we'd expected. But we'll have to see what develops."

"That's all that can be asked," Shivasta said, lowering her head respectfully. She still regretted that her mother had paid the price she had to get her trained… but, in the end, it might prove to have been for the best for everybody.

The blizzard that had raged for weeks finally started to clear as the Stormwardens let it fall away to let the transport land for her. She pulled her mask up in front of her face as she turned to face the landing pad and saw the massive ship start to land. Impana and the warriors with her would probably convince them that they were only here to pick Shivasta up.

A boarding ramp extended, the airlock opening as she started up it, the same Lemur who'd warned her not to come waiting for her at the entrance.

"What happened here?" He asked her. "The storm just disappeared; we'd been getting ready to leave."

"The Force works in mysterious ways sometimes," Shi said simply, removing her mask and pulling back her hood once she was on the climate-controlled confines of the ship, the door closing behind her. "Though I suspect this won't last long, so we might want to leave some time soon?"

"The Captain's making ready to lift off now," he nodded. "Surprised to see you again," he admitted. "Pleasantly surprised, but we'd all been sure you'd be frozen by now."

"As I said, I was born here," she chuckled. "If you'll excuse me, I'd like to change into something a little better suited for inside wear?"

"Of course, Lady Jedi," the Lemur nodded, hurrying out and setting about his duties as Shi started to strip out of her heavy outer robes and gloves, chuckling slightly. Easiest way she knew to get a little privacy. She started back towards her quarters to pack everything up, something a little more confident in her bearing and step as she returned to the private room.

Looking out the viewing window, she watched her home world disappear, quite possibly for years before she would return again. Hopefully for years, given the circumstances that would probably call her back to it. She'd miss it, but she didn't look forward to the end of any of the paths she knew they were walking down.

She took her lightsaber, cool to even her touch, in her hand. She'd miss Garosh and her kin. But she was taking a part of them both home with her.

"*I have to say, I'm not going to be sorry not to see this place again,*" Essani admitted. "*I think it was good for Jay though.*"

"It certainly proved that he can get along with a Rodian that isn't being a jerk." Tes nodded as the station retreated from view.

"*Something I don't think even he was sure of,*" she nodded. "*I'll have to keep closer tabs on that thing in his head though. So, how did the exploration go? I saw a number of artifacts that you'd brought back, though I haven't looked through them yet.*"

"It was interesting, there's definitely a lot more down there to find." She nodded slightly and paused as they dropped into hyperspace. "Some serious Dark Side ones, a few Light Side ones and some I haven't got a clue on."

"*I imagine the strongest are all gathered in Kun's temple,*" Essani said softly. "*Almost found out the hard way today.*"

"So that's what the sudden rush was about." Tes raised an eyebrow and set the autopilot. "Jay managed to get curious about them?"

"*No,*" she said, shaking her head. "*His 'friend' tried to trick him into it. Fortunately I'm better at stowing away on shuttles than he is at noticing me.*"

"Bets he wouldn't have worried about it even if he knew you were there," she commented. "I doubt Jay thought he was sneaking out to do anything wrong."

"*Agreed, and he wasn't,*" Essani nodded. "*However, if he'd known, then the Demon would have known to be much more careful about exposing itself while I was there. I did manage to learn something about it at least.*"

"A good thing, given how little we know." Tes nodded with a curious look on her face.

"*It does have a bond to Jay, but it goes both ways,*" she explained. "*A potential weakness if it continues to harass him like it has.*"

"True," she agreed easily. "I would be surprised if it lets up on him in the long run. It's not how they tend to operate. Jay's too much of a prize to let go of."

"*Yes,*" Essani nodded. "*Though a few more times like today might convince him otherwise. I found out that there are ways to hurt it, for all that I'll need some time on my own later to deal with what happened.*"

"Do you want the time now, or after we do a real inventory of the haul?"

"*After,*" Essani said easily. "*I just don't usually respond like that. I'm not about to do it again any time soon,*" she added with chirp, standing up. "*So, why don't we start that inventory?*"

"Sounds good," Tes agreed and stood to follow her back, not really wanting to press for details about what had happed.

"*You two did manage to find that second artifact I sent coordinates for, yes?*" she asked, easily slipping into the role of the senior Jedi.

"Yes, though what it does is anyone's guess. It doesn't seem to like me at all."

"*It will probably like Jay less,*" Essani admitted. "*At least while he's still grappling with the Demon. I have a few theories about it, myself. Was it difficult for Fenrik to find?*"

"Not after he meditated and centered himself again, but while he was still dealing with Sith security measures in his head, he couldn't sense it at all."

"*I think I know what it is,*" the kushiban nodded. "*There are legends of some items that give a great sense of calm to the people who used them; according to legend, they hid themselves from the impure.*"

"Which pretty well explains its dislike of me," she nodded. "Even on my good days I'm in the grey end of blue."

"*Very true,*" she nodded. "*While Fenrik was undoubtedly dealing with a fair amount of turmoil it didn't want to deal with.*" They walked back into the cargo hold, the kushiban walking straight towards the opalescent sphere almost a foot across that they were talking about.

"If he hadn't settled enough by morning, you may have had to come down to find it." She nodded towards the object that she knew was there and still couldn't see. "Hiding it is damn good at."

"*You can't see it at all, can you?*" she asked curiously. "*You're right, it is good at it. It calms the Force, and wraps it around itself more tightly than most any Jedi can manage.*"

"No, I can't. The only reason I know where it is is because I know where Fenrik put the thing." Tes shook her head. "I am not going to touch it again. Thing burns like hell."

"*This one's more aggressive than most it seems,*" the kushiban said, inspecting it. "*Why don't we look at the rest, I'll take a closer look at this during the trip?*"

"Works for me," the Wolf nodded easily.

Essani hopped down from where she was standing next to the sphere, walking over to the secured statue and its equipment.

"*Some of these weapons haven't been seen since the Hyperspace Wars,*" the kushiban said, looking it up and down. "*These were in the first temple?*"

"Yes," she nodded. "The point of the place, it seemed."

"*The only thing a Sith who found them would be missing would be transport of some kind,*" Essani said, frowning. "*The armor is the worst part. The rest of it has been modified alchemically, but the armor goes well beyond the simple preservative steps taken for the rest.*"

"How so?" Tes regarded it curiously.

"I suspect you'll find that it is lightsaber resistant, most obviously. Not like a cortosis weave in modern armor, but instead turning the blade like it was a physical one. It can probably withstand an average blaster shot as well. This isn't the armor of a Sith assassin or spy; its user had no intention of being subtle. It's like whoever made it forged the power of the Dark Side itself into the armor."

"Impressive," she raised an eyebrow. "No need to block the 'saber when your armor can take it. Completely changes the dynamics of combat, and not many Jedi would survive long enough to pass the info along."

"*And those who might survive probably wouldn't know,*" Essani pointed out. Her lightsaber suddenly flew in from her room, igniting and striking the polearm. Despite the crackle of lightsaber striking metal, there wasn't even a scorch mark left on the handle.

"Whoa!" Tes jumped back, half expecting the statue to come to life in protest to being attacked.

"*The weapons both use a more traditional cortosis alloy. They're as effective for blocking as another lightsaber is. A warrior with these weapons could wreak havoc against any Jedi combatant, quite possibly even take on two or three with a reasonable chance of winning and the proper training.*"

"Sounds like Jay," Tes observed with a more critical look. "Only with much better defenses."

"*And much better training,*" Essani nodded. "*My apologies for the flamboyant display; I was pretty sure I knew what would happen, but I wanted to be certain. Should have warned you.*"

"It's okay, that thing's just had me jumpy since I first saw it." The shewolf shook her head. "It's a bit too lifelike for my tastes."

"*Agreed,*" Essani nodded. "*Though the craftmanship is exceptional. I don't think there are any records of a display like this. Usually a Sith Lord's equipment would be buried with him; I think this is proof that between the two wars, there was another culture that developed, or at least reasserted itself.*"

"They were something before the Sith claimed them," Tes pointed out. "Few cultures can be destroyed so completely that nothing remains while the people still do. Remove the influences, and old ways tend to reassert themselves. It can happen fast too."

"*Very true,*" Essani nodded. "*Though the Sith were likely in control for some fifteen thousand years. Of course the Republic itself is proof of how thin the veneer of a so-called 'common culture' can be. It's still quite interesting, from an archaeological standpoint as well as an artistic one. The only records we have of what the Massassi looked like, before this, are records of Exar Kun's invasion.*"

"This one good enough to take to a geneticist and have it brought to life." She considered the statue. "Though I'd be willing to bet there is plenty on that planet to give more info."

"*Possibly,*" Essani nodded. "*Unfortunately, a fully equipped expedition will have to wait a while. Given what's involved, we can't risk sending anybody who's sensitive and any less well trained than a Master along long-term.*"

"Especially not for the raid on Exar Kun tomb," she nodded. "That won't be an easy run."

"*No it won't, and likely one they just won't make,*" Essani agreed. "*Too dangerous.*"

"A foolish choice, though I understand it." Tes said softly. "The odds are you won't pay for it."

"*And if something goes wrong, the price will likely be far greater,*" Essani pointed out. "*Have you ever flown through the Ossus system?*"

"No," she admitted, not in the mood to try to counter whatever logic the Jedi Master had to back up her side.

"*I'm not too surprised,*" Essani said. "*There's not much there anymore, just a star and the ruins of a once-great world. The trick is, a thousand years ago, there were two stars there. The second was one of Exar Kun's casualties. The risk of releasing that... we'll watch Yavin 4, certainly, but that's one tomb I'd rather not have opened.*"

"The problem with that logic is the assumption that you will be able to stop whoever does go in next before anything happens." She countered without any real interest in the outcome. "And now that its location is confirmed, someone will go after it. It is far too great a prize to leave be for most of the interested parties."

"*I did say watched,*" Essani chuckled slightly. "*And we likely will explore it eventually, I just don't know anybody I'd ask to go in, rather than letting them volunteer. Jedi archaeologists, especially Masters, tend to roam where they feel capable of roaming. So, did you find anything else while you were down there?*"

"Half dozen holocrons, couple lightsabers that need repairs, some crystals and books I can't read." Tes ran off the inventory. "And a dozen hours of recordings from walls of the buildings. Looks like a pictograph language of some kind."

"*You do realize that you've just guaranteed we won't see Master Kareth in the Council chambers for a month?*" Essani chuckled, her fur shading a light gold. "Though I don't doubt it will prove fascinating, assuming there actually is a meaning to it, rather than merely being decorative."

"Unfortunately the fastest and easiest way of finding out is not much of an option now." The shewolf chuckled softly. "Jay could probably translate it in five minutes."

"*Probably,*" Essani nodded. "*Ah well. Later maybe. If you'd like to go rest, feel free, I think I'll poke around the sphere a bit longer. I could use the meditation.*"

"I'll see you then, Master." Tes inclined her head slightly and headed back to her quarters as the kushiban hopped up next to the iridescent orb and settled in to meditate.

Fenrik stretched languidly after he finished meditating, holstering his lightsaber and starting out of the room. Jay wasn't in the room, which wasn't surprising really. He did, however, have a feeling he knew where he was... and that it might be a good idea to go check on him before he stumbled onto something dangerous. The statue and orb weren't the only things they'd brought back, after all, though probably the ones he was interested in.

The Panther walked into the cargo hold, seeing Jay sitting calmly before the Massassi statue, meditating for all appearances.

"Finding out anything interesting?" He asked quietly.

"A great deal," the young tom nodded. "I should be able to create Light-side variants when we get back to the Temple."

"Really?" Fenrik asked, sitting down next to him. "That's good news."

"I think so," he nodded. "We'll see what the Council thinks of it when I sort it out."

"You'd actually stop if they told you not to?" Fenrik asked knowingly.

"Not a chance in hell." He grinned at his mate. "I just may be the only one who gets any use out of it."

"If you can find a way to do it, I have a few ideas that might get some use out of it," Fenrik chuckled. "I don't know about you, but if you found a way to do with robes what that guy did with that shield, I think it'd make fights a lot safer."

"It will," Jay nodded. "I don't know about robes, but a light body armor to wear under them is definitely viable. Ditto with my Glovatrix. It's an interesting concept. They wove Force directly into the objects."

"That's definitely tricky," Fenrik observed. "Though similar to how you build a tuned lightsaber. Not the same, but kinda similar ... probably more universal though."

"It's all a matter of how you look at it, and power in general." Jay smiled slightly. "I look at it a little differently than most here. Makes things like this easier."

"Just keep me up to date on how it works," Fenrik smiled, kissing Jay lightly. "Be good to see something the Sith used turned to a good reason for once, instead of the other way around."

"Yap," he grinned. "It's easier than they'd lead you to believe too."

"Just remember that you're the one who can make gadgets tell you how they work," Fenrik chuckled. "You don't have to trial-and-error it based on what you saw before what you're trying to recreate was too hacked up to be fixed."

"I know," Jay chuckled and nuzzled him. "Everybody's got their gifts."

"Very true," Fenrik smiled, returning the nuzzle. "Out of curiosity, anything unusual about the statue besides the obvious?"

"Not really. Though it has a lot of strong impressions of the artist's feelings towards Ludo Ragnos."

"And what were they, if I dare ask?" Fenrik chuckled slightly, looking up at the fierce warrior.

"He's a hero, pure and simple." Jay said softly. "A Sith, yes, but an honored and respected one by his own people."

"Different standards I suppose," Fenrik murmured, though Jay didn't need to feel it to know that the response surprised him.

"It's all about perspective." He said simply. "It's the winners who write the history after all. Not every monster is one. Some just lost."

"True," Fenrik nodded, wrapping an arm around Jay lightly. "Just kinda hard to think of somebody who probably worshipped the Dark Side as being a hero, even in the eyes of somebody else who probably did."

"I know," he leaned into the embrace. "But not everyone thinks like that. My family is close enough to the line to make it easy to see both sides. I'm still not sure how history will remember us, once we're no longer part of the picture."

"No way to know for sure," Fenrik agreed, rubbing Jay's side lightly. "For anybody. The mistakes usually live on long past those who try to remember the good, even for the Order."

"Yeah," he sighed and let his eyes close, content to be in his mate's arms for a time. "One thing we've learned is that recorded history is rarely reliable, even when there is an effort to make it that way. Details are lost, future generations change it, reinterpret it, or just change themselves so the truth no longer means what it used to."

"And often all of the above," Fenrik nodded. "Or they just forget it altogether when what was recorded is lost. There's a lot of that in here right now," he mused, looking around the cargo hold, knowing just how much supposedly lost history had been found on this trip.

"And a lot that's still there." He added. "It's hard to comprehend just how much has been lost, just of the Order's history, never mind the rest."

"Well, twenty-five thousand years is a lot to keep track of," Fenrik chuckled slightly. "And that's just the Republic era."

"I know, it just ... it seems so careless, if not downright intentional. It's not like there has been any major disruptions that could take out the records."

"Jay? We're leaving one of them now. There was so much lost when Exar Kun wiped out Ossus and attacked Coruscant. Between that and theft, a lot of the Jedi's history was lost that way. The rest... well, it could well be intentional on some parts. After all, it's not like most planets particularly want to remember the rough patches when they're living in the 'pinnacle of all civilization.'"

Even though he bristled, the rage and outrage just barely contained, Jay kept his voice calm. "New subject. Before I decide it'll be good to finish the job."

"Right," Fenrik nodded, seriously wishing he hadn't brought it up. Sometimes it was a little too easy to forget that Jay had very different hot buttons than anyone else he knew and reacted more strongly than even Master Kiris had to slavery. "So, looking forward to seeing Shi when we get back home?" He asked, picking what he thought was the safest possible topic to discuss.

"Yes," he smiled and worked to settle himself, shoving the history lesson to the same place in his mind as he kept his belief about droids. "Hopefully things have gone well for her."

"I'm sure they did," Fenrik smiled, kissing Jay lightly. "Probably going to be sitting there waiting for us when we get back too, and ready to explain just what the heck she needed that cooler for in her 'saber."

"Probably to increase the efficiency of it. Her crystals are from an ice world."

"True," Fenrik nodded. "Just seems odd. I know there've been other 'sabers with crystals like that that haven't used 'em. Not something I've really seen before." He chuckled slightly. "What can I say? You're not the only curious one."

"It's like mine," Jay nuzzled him. "They work without the enhancements, but they work better with them. It's not like anyone else has had the choice to super cool their crystals."

"True," Fenrik admitted, nuzzling him back. "Maybe hanging around you's rubbing off on her," he grinned.

"I can think of worse things." Jay snickered and kissed him softly, a lingering contact that heated Fenrik's entire body.

"Mmm ... and I can think of a few better things we could be doing with our time than sitting in the cargo hold and chatting," the Panther purred.

"Like being in our quarters making you whimper for more?" Jay grinned at him with a low rumble.

"Mmm ... or making you do the same," Fenrik purred, standing up and helping Jay to his feet. "Either way, testin' out the soundproofing you put in here," he winked.

"I've got time to study them later." Jay chuckled and slid a hand down Fenrik's back to cup his ass while they walked through the halls. "You are going to be on the bottom today."

"You say that like I haven't made you whimper from there," Fenrik smirked, rubbing his back then pulling him close for a heated kiss that left no doubts that they were both physically turned on enough to go for it where they stood. "Though you aren't gonna get any complaints from me," he purred.

"Good." Jay licked his whiskers back and all but pulled his mate into the large quarters. "Because I'm in the mood to fuck you senseless on both ends."

"Promises, promises," Fenrik smirked, stripping Jay's robes off as the door closed behind them. "You're welcome to try though," he winked and found his mouth claimed by a kiss that all but made him whimper while he was stripped to the fur as well. Before it ended, Fenrik was reminded of Jay's best Force-skill as invisible hands caressed his cock and gently began to stretch his ass.

"Let me taste you?" He asked with a soft moan, kissing Jay's neck hungrily.

"Yes," he rumbled and guided his lover to his knees and caressed his rounded, velvety ears.

Fenrik nuzzled his crotch eagerly, licking at his sheath and fondling his balls. He reached back with one finger to tease Jay's own ass, his rough, warm tongue caressing Jay's silky sheath. The pleasure and affection that all but rolled from Jay as he worked on pleasing him was an intoxicant of a very real kind, one that only got stronger as he breathed in the rich male musk that smelled of his mate concentrated.

Fenrik could feel when Jay wanted more; for all the kat was gifted at hiding, he never hid anything in the bedroom. The Panther grinned as he took Jay's cock into his mouth, suckling it hungrily and squeezing his balls. He teased Jay's barbs with his tongue, purring deep in his throat as it gained a low moan and Jay closed his hands around the back of his head with a light thrust.

He rumbled hungrily as he pleasured his mate, letting him thrust, bobbing his head in a counter to his thrusts. He looked up into the younger tom's eyes, his own shining lustily. Jay knew all his weaknesses, but he knew of all Jay's in return.

In a mood like this, it was giving the smaller tom the illusion of using him. It didn't surface often, but Jay did have a potent dominant streak in him.

The up side was that even in this mood, he was still considerate of his lover's pleasure, unlike so many who wanted control.

Fenrik mumbled and relaxed when he felt more of Jay's weight lean against him, pulling his head forward to be fucked until Jay's pleasure rose to his limit.

He relaxed his throat, still working Jay's shaft with his lips and tongue, knowing it wouldn't be long before he'd get the first blasts of his seed.

Jay growled, his claws pinpricks against Fenrik's skull. Damn it was good when he let himself go like this and took his pleasure as he wished. Even as he shuddered and thrust hard into the Panther's mouth he could feel the willingness in Fenrik's relaxed body and let the pleasure take over with a roar.

Fenrik drank down his hot, bittersweet seed hungrily, savoring the taste of it as it hit the back of his throat, the last spurts landing on his tongue before he eagerly licked Jay clean, enjoying the way Jay felt as he came down.

"Now," Jay rumbled hotly as he pulled his lover to his feet and to the bed. "Let's see that vaunted Jedi self control in action."

"Now you know you won't beat me like that," Fenrik smirked as he got comfortable on his arms and knees with his tail raised shamelessly and his hard cock a tempting black rod hanging down between his legs.

"We'll see," he grinned down as Force bound Fenrik where he wanted, adjusting the Panther's position slightly, while he got the real bindings and secured his wrists, calves and thighs in place.

"What do you have in mind now?" Fenrik asked, looking back over his shoulder with an inquisitive smirk.

"Make me come before you do." He rumbled and cupped Fenrik's face for a searing kiss.

"Oh I think I can manage that," the Panther grinned as their lips parted. He shuddered and moaned throatily when his ass was stretched open again, the Force stroking his body inside and out.

"We'll see." Jay grinned and stroked his ears before pressing his hard cock into Fenrik's mouth again, this time to enjoy the Panther's skills.

Fenrik rumbled, trying to focus on getting his lover off again, teasing each of his barbs with his rough tongue and skilled mouth. The fullness in his ass, and the invisible hand now stroking his cock made it hard to concentrate, but he had plenty of experience at this particular game, one of Jay's favorites.

"Mmm, that's my Panther." Jay rumbled, his pleasure unrestrained and hot despite the orgasm only minutes before.

"All yours," Fenrik managed to mumble around his cock, bobbing his head and wishing he could use his hands right now, but knowing he wouldn't need to in order to win their little contest.

He moaned as Jay's telekinetic thrusting rubbed against his prostate, but tried to focus on the flavor and feel of the shaft in his mouth, a sort of meditation that neither of his Masters would have been all that likely to think of, or necessarily approve of if they had. It still worked, and worked well, even with the uneven nature of their current arousal levels.

"Oh, yeah ... suck me off." Jay closed his eyes and let his head drift back, letting the pleasure wash over him and not challenging his shift in mood so much earlier than it usually happened.

Fenrik grinned and purred, working his cock and trying to give him the pleasure they both enjoyed so much. He could tell Jay needed it tonight, and he wasn't inclined to deny him in the least. He shuddered slightly when Jay's hands tightened around his skull. It wasn't just the physical pleasure coming from Jay, or his own body, but the emotions and half-worded sentences of how much he meant to the rusty-furred tom. Jay all but offered his soul to his mates at night.

He wished he could say even half of it back right now. Instead, groaning as Jay's telekinetic fingers worked his body expertly, he took Jay's shaft into his mouth until his nose was pressed into the younger tom's slightly rougher pubes, inhaling the potent scent of his arousal and purring around his tip.

"Ohhhh, yes." Jay's throaty groan was the only warning either of them got before his body stiffened and shot a load of come into the waiting mouth.

Fenrik drank down the hot fluids, letting himself go as Jay's attentions forced him over the edge, his balls emptying themselves onto the sheets.

"Mmmm, so does my Panther want his reward for winning?" Jay rumbled excitedly as he was licked clean.

"Yes please," Fenrik rumbled deeply, swishing his tail excitedly as he wriggled his rump.

"Such a hot ass you have too," he grinned and moved down the bed, his hand stroking his lover's back until he squeezed the Panther's ass and hot between his legs. "So kissable," he added as he kissed his way along his ass before teasing the well-stretched pucker with his tongue.

"Ooh..." Fenrik groaned, then giggled. "So you're saying you like kissing my ass?" He asked, teasing his lover's ears with the tip of his tail.

"Same as you love kissing mine," he grinned and caught the wayward tail in his jaws before driving into Fenrik's body with a lusty rumble.

"Oh yesss," Fenrik groaned, squeezing down around the length invading his body. The pleasure and his mate's hand kept him hard as he was fucked relentlessly.

He panted hard, milking Jay with his shaft. His mate's pleasure and desires washed over him, sweeping him up into a potent combination of lust and love. As difficult as it was to focus on anything but not coming immediately, he couldn't miss the desire rising in his mate to reverse their positions, only with brute strength holding him in submission.

Jay growled and let Fenrik's tail go to lean forward and grab his scruff, pulling his lover off the bed by it until Fenrik's arms were stretched tight between his bonds and Jay's jaws.

He purred through his tight throat, milking Jay's shaft and preparing to break loose as soon as the younger tom was finished.

He was going to give Jay a night he wouldn't forget for a long, long time.

He felt the tightness building in Jay's body, the rusty tom close to the edge despite having come twice already.

"Fill me, Jay," he groaned, tightening his body eagerly mere moments before Jay let go of his scruff and roared, his balls emptying their hot load deep into Fenrik's body, a pleasure that easily overcame the pinpricks of Jay's claws digging into his hips.

Besides, he fully intended to return those pricks tenfold before he was done.

He let Jay finish, rumbling deeply, his cock rock hard as the younger tom pumped his bowels full of seed. As soon as Jay was done, Fenrik pulled off of him, ripping free of the tie-downs and rolling over on top of Jay with a lusty, possessive rumble that was met with a moment of tension from surprise, then a hungry rumble and complete surrender.

"Use me, lover." Jay breathed.

"Like you've never been used before," Fenrik promised, sinking his length into Jay's barely stretched ass with a deep groan before he bit down on the younger tom's shoulder roughly, fucking him for all he was worth.

Despite the sound of surprised pain, Jay soon groaned and wrapped his legs around Fenrik's while his hands rubbed the Panther's back and his ass tightened around the hard rod pounding into it.

"Ohhhh, you are in a mood." Jay arched up as his prostate was driven into relentlessly, keeping him hard and trembling.

"Like you're not?" Fenrik asked with a smirk as he released Jay's shoulder. "You know what to do if it's too much," he rumbled, biting the other shoulder roughly, though not enough to break the skin as he groaned and pumped a load of seed into Jay's ass.

"Like you've ever pushed me that far." He whimpered at the hot fullness of Fenrik's come inside him, soaking his insides in a pleasurable, slick warmness.

Fenrik let out a deep, satisfied rumble as his tail lashed above him. He started fucking Jay hungrily again almost before his cock had stopped spasming, raking his sides with his claws.

They'd played rough before, but Jay couldn't help the feeling that this was only going to get more intense. Just the thought that Fenrik was going to push the limits for real made Jay shiver in excitement before he relaxed with a deep moan and gave himself over to the Panther's will without reservation.

Fenrik slowed his thrusts, pulling out of Jay with a moan.

"Hands and knees, lover," he purred lustily. "Want to be able to really get inside you."

He nodded and rolled over, taking the same position that Fenrik had been in a few minutes before, his tail waving over his back.

Fenrik completed the reversal by sinking himself into Jay's body, biting his scruff hard and gripping his hips tightly. He pounded himself into the younger tom's ass eagerly, his barbs raking the nerve-dense flesh of his anus as he slammed his tip into his prostate. The mewing and shuddering pleasure that crashed into Fenrik with each thrust gave him the perfect way to time his actions, when to push at just the right moments and to brace himself for the intensity of his lover's orgasm when it began to spiral out of control.

He pulled back slightly so Jay could climax without pulling him over the edge with him quite yet. Still, his claws pricked through the rusty fur as he came close, finishing Jay off as quickly as he could so he had a panting, lax tom under him with no real ability to fight after four orgasms in less than an hour.

He released his scruff, licking the back of his ear tenderly before kissing his head.

"What would you say if I told you I was going to take you until I couldn't take it anymore, or until you begged me to stop?" He asked with a rumble and relished the shiver that brought.

"Please." Jay moaned. "Please take me."

Fenrik didn't need to be an empath to feel just how much he meant it. He started thrusting into Jay's willing, compliant body hard and fast, his claws digging into Jay's thighs lightly. He began to take the younger tom just as hungrily as his second Master had ever taken his own mate.

It was intoxicating to let go like this, and even more so to feel the partner under him getting off on it just as much. Mews and whimpers reached his ears, but it was the Force and scent that saturated the air around them that guided Fenrik's growing savagery and let him ignore the smell of blood that was slowly growing.

He sank his teeth into Jay's shoulders, the metallic flavor in his mouth reminding him to take a little care for his partner as he kept pounding his ass, pumping his seed into it at least twice more before he even started to slow down. It was obvious enough that Jay wasn't going to stop him, at least not short of a crimpling injury.

He'd have to make sure he stopped himself short of that. Whether or not Shi could patch up anything he did, which she probably could if he couldn't, he didn't like the idea of hurting him that badly.

"More," Jay shuddered in response, his cock hard and dripping come.

The submissive plea was enough to make Fenrik focus on him again, starting to pound into his prostate even as blood matted his fur, staining Fenrik's teeth and claws.

"*Jay, are you awake?*" Essani asked her Padawan mentally when neither he nor Fenrik were present for breakfast. She knew they'd been rough the night before, but hadn't expected they'd be so rough as to cause any serious damage.

"*Yes, Master.*" He responded quickly, the shadow of pain still present in his mind, though nothing indicated he was in trouble.

"*Do you want me to come check on you?*" She asked, her concern clear. "*You feel like you could use a healer.*"

"*I'm sure I do,*" he admitted. "*I'm not hurt bad, things got a little rougher than planned.*"

"*Not so rough we can't fix up the worst,*" Fenrik added, breaking into the telepathic communication. "*Though it would probably be a good idea if you checked him out later to make sure we've done enough,*" he added.

"*I will,*" the kushiban agreed, her disapproval of what had happened as clear as the fact that it wouldn't help to argue the point with her.

"*Yes, Master.*" Jay replied, acknowledge her disapproval as well as the fact that he didn't regret what he'd done.

"*Can you answer something for me, Tes?*" Essani asked as the Wolf sat down to eat and she focused on the world around her again. "*It's somewhat personal.*"

"If I can," she nodded, curious what the Jedi Master could be wondering about.

"*What's the appeal of the sort of rough 'play' so many predators seem to enjoy? Jay and Fenrik are currently practicing their healing skills on account of it.*"

"That one's complicated," Tes admitted as she tried to form a coherent answer. "I can't speak for them, but for most people, it's erotic to surrender that much control to someone, to trust that they won't go too far and hurt you more than you can take. It seems to be normal for Panthers too, to get off on that level of domination."

"*Might be a feline thing,*" Essani mused. "*Still, I would imagine the pain would offset any pleasure involved, especially when your partner isn't capable of healing you later.*"

"It doesn't." She shook her head. "It is present in most races to some extent. It's probably more prevalent in canines than most; we just don't have the claws that inflict damage that they do. Pain and pleasure are very close to each other at a certain intensity."

"*I suppose it just doesn't make too much sense when pain usually means becoming lunch,*" Essani said, chalking it up to yet another of the oddities involved in sex. "*I don't suppose you have any advice for how to be involved in that sort of thing without leaving your partner unable to move comfortably the next morning?*"

"What they already have, honestly. Practice and a good Healer nearby." Tes paused. "I'm sure Shi usually takes care of whoever was on the bottom on a given night. The boys were both really wound up from the last couple days. It's a hell of a stress relief method for both sides."

"*I suppose,*" Essani granted. "*Though they usually don't end up being that rough.*"

Just then, Fenrik and Jay started into the room, cutting off Tes' response.

"Hi guys," she smiled at the pair, assessing just how rough they had been, given how Jay still was. "Two Tetinol will work wonders on that."

"You have some on board?" Fenrik asked as Jay sat down and claimed his share of the breakfast she'd put out. "I can go and grab a couple for him if you do."

"In the cupboard," she motioned to one of the top ones in the galley. "Standard bottle."

"Right," the Panther nodded, moving to reach up and pull the bottle down, shaking a pair of pills out and putting the bottle back, handing the pills to Jay before sitting down next to him.

"*Were you two able to take care of most of the wounds?*" Essani asked Jay and Fenrik after Jay had downed the pills.

"Yes," Jay nodded after a bite of scrambled eggs and meat. "The bleeding's all under control. I'm just a bit sore."

"And he wasn't still bleeding this morning," Fenrik added quickly, knowing that was what Essani was about to ask next as her fur instantly became a dark grey. "He just opened up a couple of the deeper scratches when he tried moving. We managed to get them closed up, though I think Shi'll want to hurt me later for not being up to her par."

"He wouldn't hurt me that badly, Master." Jay said firmly, an almost exact tone reversal of most lectures. "I'm sore, but I'm not injured."

"*Very well,*" she allowed. "*Though I still want to make sure I don't have to do any work myself before we get back to Coruscant later.*" She started on her breakfast, her fur shifting back to white.

"Yes, Master." Jay nodded without hesitation.

"We'll be more careful in the future, Master Essani," Fenrik promised. "Seven years and this is the worst that's happened, I don't expect it'll happen again any time soon."

"Yeah, it's not like we play rough all that often anyway." Jay added with a bit of a blush as he realized his sex life was the subject of breakfast conversation.

"You should've heard what we were talking about on the ground," Tes teased, earning a blush from both felines before Jay heard the Sharufa telling him a message had arrived, marked for Tes and listed at a high priority, though not urgent.

"Tes, Doruth sent a message. High Priority." He went for the change of subject.

"About what?" She focused instantly.

He paused reviewing it quickly. "His mission. You should hear it from him." He decided rather than being the one to tell her one of her packmates had been in critical condition for over a week.

"All right," she nodded and grabbed her cup before heading to the bridge to view it.

"Tes, it's Doruth," the brief message started. "I'm gonna keep this short, I have to go meet Ragil in a couple minutes. Turns out there was some sort of new species down on Kessel that was munching on the miners. I can kinda understand why they didn't want to work, and that's before you look at the conditions they work in normally.

"I wanted to be sure you heard it from me first though. When the thing first showed up, most of the Pack's weapons weren't doing any serious damage, and Ragil took rear guard while I got the others out. The spider-thing got close enough to bite him and headed back into the tunnels along with him. I got him out, but he spent the next few days in a bacta tank before he was back up on his feet. He's doing pretty well now, no permanent damage, but he'll probably be on light duty until you get back. Hope it's not too much longer before you are, hon; I miss you, and so do the others. See you when you hit Coruscant." The message ended; to judge by the date stamp for when it had been sent out about half a week before, Ragil had better be off light duty by the time they got back.

"I miss you too, Doruth." She said softly and double-checked the navigation. "Two days and we're home. It won't be soon enough for me."

"If I didn't know any better, I'd say they were rolling out the red carpet," Fenrik chuckled as the Sharufa flew into its docking berth. It was easy to see why he was saying that; unlike most arrivals, when there were only one or two people there to greet them at best, there was a small crowd of Wolves eagerly awaiting their Alpha's return, a familiar Panther in front of the pack.

"*They are, in their way,*" Essani chuckled, sitting near the two younger Jedi and waiting for the sleek transport to land.

"Wolves hate to be separated." Jay added. "Tes' return is a big deal for them, even before you take into account her mate's there."

"Didn't say I was surprised," Fenrik pointed out with a chuckle. He reached out mentally, expecting to find Shi was behind the crowd, only to find she wasn't there yet.

"Think Shi's still in transit," he told Jay.

"It's not like she had a transport at her disposal," he said softly, though the disappointment was there too. "Come on. Let's get unpacked. Maybe she's sent a message."

"Probably," Fenrik said, reaching over to squeeze his shoulder lightly as they finally landed and the hatch open opened. "She probably misses you just as much."

Tes was first out to no one's surprise, and was almost immediately assaulted by four Wolves who touched and sniffed and licked to reaffirm their pack bond while Doruth held back from the tangle of bodies and wagging tails

Hanging back or not, they all knew that he'd be in there just as soon as the pack was starting to back off slightly. As Jay and Fenrik were starting off the ship, he got his opening, moving through the group and hugging his mate tight, kissing her tenderly.

It made both toms wish their own other mate was there too as they started back towards their quarters.

"I hope everything works out for her with her lightsaber." Jay said softly with a slight smile for the energetic welcome going on behind them.

"C'mon," Fenrik half-grinned. "Let's get back to our room and see if she's left word. With our luck, she's stuck catching up on her training or something."

"Mmm, or waiting in our quarters." Jay rumbled.

"Now that I could live with," Fenrik grinned, his stride quickening slightly.

"Well, if she's not, we'll just have to pretend, won't we?" Jay grinned and opened the door to their quarters.

"Looks like we'll be pretending," Fenrik observed as he stepped inside, unable to hide the slight disappointment he felt. "She's left a message though, from the look of it."

Jay nodded and brought the message up with a thought.

"Hey guys," Shivasta's image said as it appeared in front of the projector. "Afraid I might not be there when you get home; I ended up taking a bit longer than I'd expected. Things were a little rough on Garosh; I had to go through a few days of extra rituals before they were convinced I wasn't coming to help take them over. I'll tell you the story when I get home, should be later tonight according to the Lemur who's been fussing over me." She chuckled slightly, smiling.

"I'm not sure if it's his Captain's orders or if he's just worried, but I think somebody on this ship is convinced that all Jedi need somebody to keep an eye on them so they don't accidentally hurt themselves.

"At any rate, just a quick message to say I should be home soon. Gods I've missed you two - so no fair tiring each other out before I get home," she winked, "that's gonna be my job. Love you both! See you in a few hours." The projector turned off, the message finished.

"Figures that something'd go wrong," Fenrik chuckled slightly, nuzzling his mate and starting to unpack.

"Yeah, but she's going to be home tonight." Jay grinned and hugged him.

"I got a message from Mother while I was gone." Tes rumbled happily, snuggled up against Doruth's powerful body as they cooled down from their reunion. "She'll pay for two cubs for us and has the lawyers who know how to talk to the Kaminoans."

"Great," Doruth smiled, kissing her softly. "You think it's best to go through her resources instead of the Order's?"

"I'd rather the Order did not have a claim on them," she said softly, a bit uncomfortable with the truth. "I've given them four of four pups already, I'm sure they will want most of this litter too. Maybe they will become Jedi, but I don't want them to have been paid for by the Order."

"All right," Doruth nodded. "Do you want to try and make either of the kits sensitives?" He asked her with a nuzzle.

"Inclined to, yes," Tes nodded. "Give them the same chances as their siblings."

"All right," Doruth nodded, nuzzling her throat. "I'll want to send your mother's contacts some genetic data we have. Nothing that proves sensitivity conclusively, but we have some stuff that seems to be common among sensitives more than the general public."

"Good," she shifted to kiss him softly. "Just so you're warned, Mother is going to have a fit if she doesn't get an heir out of this litter, Sensitive or not. It doesn't look like any of the first aren't going to find a Master."

"Understood," Doruth nodded slightly. "Though it's a little young to be sure yet," he pointed out. "The Order won't object too strongly if they don't get all the sensitive pups, they're just concerned with what might happen to them if they aren't trained. We might find a work-around that'll make everybody happy."

"Home schooling, Custos training," Tes suggested. "It's not like we don't know what we're doing."

"That's what I'd been thinking," he nodded. "They probably wouldn't get the full Jedi training, but they'll probably have more than enough other things to worry about with being the family heir."

"Yes," she agreed with a smile. "There is a great deal to learn, and the hands on solo training tends to begin around fourteen."

"Is that when you took off across the galaxy?" Doruth asked teasingly.

"Yap," she smirked back at him. "Had my own ship and pack by then."

"Mmm ... just a little smuggling prodigy, weren't you?" He asked, kissing her and rolling over on top of her. "Not that that's your only skill," he purred.

"Or I wouldn't have held your interest for so long," she grinned and reached between them to stroke his half hard cock, playing with the barbs to encourage him.

"Mmm ... you might be surprised," he rumbled, sealing his muzzle against hers and pressing himself into her tight, slick body that was still soaked with his seed from previous hours.

Shivasta rolled her head with an internal groan, feeling the vertebrae in her neck pop as she stretched out after the interminably long ride in the air cab from the landing site. She wished that she'd been able to get a transport from the temple, but that just hadn't worked out.

Ah well. She was going to be perfectly honest; she could have had to climb her way out of a trash pit by hand and she wouldn't have been any less happy about getting home. As much as the ride sucked, what she knew was waiting for her was more than enough to make up for it.

The cab touched down in the Temple's courtyard, and Shi stepped out with a grin as she saw Jay and Fen hurrying over to meet her.

"Welcome home," Jay rumbled and swept her into a tight embrace and nuzzle to her neck as he breathed deeply of her scent.

"Good to be here," she sighed happily, hugging him back just as tightly and nuzzling his neck as Fenrik hugged her from behind. "Mmm ... feels so good to feel you guys again," she murmured, closing her eyes contentedly for a moment.

"In the mood to feel a little more of us?" Jay purred throatily and stepped back slightly to look at her.

"Mmm ... you tempt me," she grinned. "Though we should definitely get back to our quarters first. Want to play, or hear how things went first?"

"Let's hear how things went," he purred and brushed a strand of blue hair from her cheek before guiding her into the Temple and the room none of them had seen enough of recently.

"Definitely not how I'd expected it to," she admitted as they walked on in. "And a story better told in our rooms, maybe over a little dinner?" She asked hopefully.

"Anytime, Shi." Jay smiled and sent an order ahead. "Should be ready when we get there."

"Didn't they feed you on that ship?" Fenrik asked with a chuckle.

"Yes," she said, rolling her eyes slightly and leaning over to nuzzle his shoulder lightly. "But somehow, it's never quite the same as when you've got company."

"And when the food hasn't been sitting in the cargo hold since you left Coruscant," Fenrik chuckled knowingly.

"I'm not even going to dignify that with an answer," Shi said with a giggle.

"Then some dantari steak will be a nice change." Jay purred as the door opened to their quarters.

"After seven years with you guys I'm lucky I'm not spoiled," Shivasta grinned.

"Only because you spend too much time trying to spoil us right back," Fenrik chuckled as the door closed behind them. "So, got your lightsaber built?"

"Of course," she smiled. "Not as fancy as either of yours, but it should do the trick."

"Did the temperature regulator do what you wanted it to?" Jay asked curiously as they sat down to a set table fragrant with meat stewed in fruits and other goodies.

"Yep," she nodded, taking her seat and enjoying the smell of the fresh, hot meal. "Thanks for putting it together for me. I ended up using a regular crystal for the main one, but I actually used some of the ice from the cave walls for the other two."

"That's definitely... unique," Fenrik admitted. "They hold up to use?"

"Just fine," she nodded. "The heat isn't an issue until after the focusing lens, after all, and with the regulator it keeps the internals at a low enough level they won't melt."

"And by the time it's out of its range, it honestly won't be much of an issue anymore." Jay nodded thoughtfully, though he had to admit he did not like the idea of her lightsaber being so much more fragile than most. "Sounds like you had quite an experience."

"By the time it's out of it long enough to cause any damage, I'll be long dead," she nodded seriously. "And before you start worrying, it's not just raw ice, I did a little work on them while I was prepping them, a technique the Walkers use to build their traditional weapons and armor."

"All right," Fenrik nodded, relaxing a bit. "That sounds better. So, what happened there?" He pressed, as curious as Jay was.

"Well, I found out that there's a civil war brewing," she admitted. "It might take a while to come to a head, but some of the clans are extremely for the Republic, others are more of an isolationist group, or at least don't want as much to do with them." She sighed, shaking her head a bit. "And of course, the Stormwardens are on the isolationist side."

"When it happens, do you plan to fight for them?" Jay asked seriously after a bite of steak.

"Probably," she said quietly, earning a slightly surprised look from Fenrik.

"Shi, I know they're your clan, but you're not a warrior...."

"No, I'm not," she admitted. "But I saw it already. I will be involved, and I can't imagine fighting against them. Besides, if I involve myself that way, I might be able to bring an end to it without too much bloodshed."

"Don't discount the possibility that you'll be fighting for them as a Healer, not a warrior." Jay added. "I know enough about visions to know they aren't literal."

"I know," Shivasta nodded. "Even if it wasn't literally though, this vision was fairly explicit that I'd be involved centrally. For obvious reasons, I'd like to try and keep the whole thing quiet," she said softly. "The Jedi could be interpreted as having a duty to intervene on the side of the Republic if this got out. There's already been enough pain because of how we have interfered."

Jay nodded. "And the Jedi have a vested interest in having the war go against your family."

"I'm afraid that might influence things," she nodded. "I don't think the Order would interfere without a direct request, but I don't think they'll take well to the idea of me going to interfere on the other side even if we get one from the Stormwardens."

"They'd probably complain more about you going into a war zone," Fenrik said softly. "Are you sure it's going to go down that way?"

"Unless somebody manages to bring the two sides together one way or the other, yes," Shivasta nodded. "It's not just a clan war, or a territory war, like we used to have. This one is a full-blown war to control the future of Garosh. To be honest, there are probably Stormwardens on both sides of the conflict, not that they'd admit to it."

"I doubt those who go against their clans stay with them long after voicing it." Jay shook his head. "Or still be claimed as members."

"Depends on how they voice it," Shivasta said softly. "Some of them probably leave for the other clans that would agree with them. Others are exiled ... it depends on the laws they break in disagreeing. Had a hell of a time convincing them that I was worth being allowed to do what I had to because of it."

"I can't say I'm surprised," Jay admitted. "War does that to people, even when you have the best intentions."

"And when you have a clan that's understandably proud of their heritage, which you only know based on second-hand information," Shi nodded. "That's why I took as long as I did; they didn't exactly think it was a good idea to skimp on the purification rituals before I went in."

"At least they did accept you, in the end." Jay pointed out, a small voice in his mind wondering if he'd be so lucky when he finally met his people again. "No one ever said a Jedi's life would be an easy one."

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not really complaining," Shi smiled slightly. "And it's true, nobody ever did. I just wonder if it'll really be possible to be faithful to both. I can see why the Jedi prefer that people try to avoid those sorts of strong ties... the conflicts can be nasty."

"They want your first, and preferably only, ties to be to the Order." Jay shrugged. "No different than most groups, really. Jedi are just better known for it."

"There is a bit more to it than that, Jay," Fenrik said softly. "Like Shi said, it can be pretty nasty when you have to choose between the two, especially if you don't know how to choose."

Both of them could feel him disagree, and that he just didn't feel it was worth debating.

"Just glad they don't mind our ties," Shi said, shaking her head slightly. "So, how'd your trip go? I've been talkin' about mine, you guys haven't said a word yet," she smiled, trying to change the subject.

"Mmm, lets see, we found the Heart of the Guardian, the Mantle of the Force, dozens of holocrons from the time of Exar Kun and before, a way to create Force-imbued armor and weapons, something that Master Essani really likes and I still can't see and a statue that looks like it could come to life at any second," Jay counted off on his fingers, going through one hand twice. "For the high points."

"You win," Shi chuckled, shaking her head in disbelief as she ate. "What about what you were trying to run into?"

"Jay and Duvam got along pretty well, from what I saw," Fenrik chuckled. "And the thing he can't see is some sort of meditation orb from what I can gather. We're still working on some of the stuff he mentioned too. We found some Sith gear, for example, that he's still trying to figure out how to duplicate for the Jedi."

"I've only had two days to work on it!" Jay protested playfully.

"What? And you don't have enough prototypes to outfit half the Order yet?" Shi asked, giggling as she leaned over to kiss him lightly on the cheek. "Mmm ... don't worry; we'll give you at least a week before we get on your case."

"A week if you don't see me," Jay countered with a smirking grin.

"Now that's just crazy talk," she grinned. "After all, I just got home!"

"And the faster we finish dinner, the faster we can welcome you properly," Fenrik grinned at her.

"You can't have both me and my inventions in half normal time," Jay winked at her. "You want to play with the kat, you've got to give him longer to work."

"Oh all right," Shi giggled, kissing him again and received a lick on the nose in return. "A month maybe."

"That'll give plenty of time to attend to my duties to my mates." Jay rumbled with a lusty grin.

"And for us to attend to you," Fenrik grinned back, finishing his meal and leaning over to kiss Shi's cheek. "I think we're entitled to a bit of R&R tonight."

Hours later, the well-sated threesome was snuggled up in bed for the first time in months. Shivasta held Jay close with a happy sigh, Fenrik snuggled up against her back. She really didn't want to do anything to break the mood, but as her hands strayed over Jay's thighs, shoulders, and the wounds on both, she had to ask.

"You and Fenrik get a little rough a couple nights ago?" She asked him quietly.

"Yeah," he murmured. "A lot rough, really."

"This is after you two tried to heal it, isn't it?" She asked. That meant a lot more than she'd known them to ever do before.

"Uh-hu," he nodded and nuzzled her.

It sent a twinge of frustration through her that she tried to keep hidden fairly successfully. This was a lot more than she'd ever been interested in, granted, but it was just one more sign of how much more comfortable the two toms were with each other than they were with her.

"Want me to try and finish the job?" She asked him.

"Yes, please," he kissed her softly.

She focused for a few moments, visualizing her lover in the Force, finding the disturbances his injuries had caused and fixing them. Before long, she knew that the only damage left would be cosmetic, and minor at that. But that first day ... Jay must have been sore as hell if he still looked like this three days later and after they'd done what they could.

"Might take a little bit for the fur to grow back in those spots," she murmured, "but it's fixed."

"Thank you, love." He purred and snuggled close to her, his affection and appreciation clear to her.

"You're welcome," she murmured, scratching his back lightly. She couldn't understand it, especially times like this. She couldn't quite figure out what it was that let the two of them be so much closer so often, and still let Jay feel the way he did for her. She couldn't believe he was really holding anything back there. "Jay?" She asked him softly. "Why is it the two of you are so much closer like this?"

"Urr?" He shifted to look her in the eye, confusion written on his face.

She sighed mentally, trying to come up with a better way to word it.

"You don't hold back with him," she explained. "I know you love us both, but sometimes... it feels like you're more comfortable with Fenrik."

Jay dropped his eyes. "Because I am." He admitted softly. "I love you, Shi. But you're not feline."

"Is that it?" She asked softly, rubbing his back gently. "Or is there something more to it? I just want to know if it's anything I can change to try and make you more comfortable," she explained, kissing him softly.

"I can't take hurting you, even when you enjoy it." He whispered and looked up to meet her eyes again. "There's no reciprocation, no ... balance to it." He struggled to explain a difference between making love and stress relief with a trusted lover.

"You don't think it's fair unless I can claw you back?" She asked him, wondering if it was because he didn't feel it was fair to him, to her, or to both.

"It's got nothing to do with thinking," he shook his head. "You have no fur or loose skin to protect you, no strength to make the fight or surrender feel good, no claws or teeth or cock to turn on me. It doesn't feel good."

"All right," she nodded slightly, snuggling a bit closer to him. "I wish there was something I could do, but it sounds like there's not much."

She just wished she could make herself feel like there wasn't something wrong about that.

"Give me time," he murmured and caressed her smooth body. "Maybe I can talk myself into it ... see if I can."

"You don't have to force yourself," she murmured softly, running her fingers through his fur. "If there's anything I can do... let me know, okay? Maybe I can put on some muscle or something," she suggested with a soft smile, shivering slightly as he caressed her slender body.

"It bothers you that I can't," he gently slid his fingers along her cheek. "I'll at least try to do what you desire. Even if it's only once."

"It bothers me that I can't give you what you enjoy," she corrected him softly, giving him a soft, tender kiss. "That's the big part," she admitted. "I know how much you like the other way, I can feel how intense it is for you... and I can't do that for you."

"Shi ... you do give me what I enjoy." He kissed her softly. "I don't want from you what I want from him. Please don't go comparing it that way. You're the Healer, he's a Warrior."

"I'll try," she promised, nuzzling his neck lightly. "I love you, Jay," she murmured softly.

"I love you." He kissed her back and snuggled close.

Master Essani trotted through the Temple gardens a few days later, returning to her quarters after a day of long meetings and reports in the Council chambers. She paused as she noticed Sharo lying down in the gardens, watching something intently. Oddly enough, her body language didn't seem to suggest she was hunting something.

Curious as to just what the young saber-toothed feline might be watching, she moved quietly to watch with her and followed her gaze to what was of such interest: her own Padawan.

Jay was working through weaponless katas, something he'd picked up from Master Pr'tan from the look of the slow, smooth motions that were more about muscle control and physical condition than combat.

It had Sharo transfixed.

Essani watched quietly, reaching out with the Force to feel both the unwitting performer and his silent observer. It was fascinating to watch her watching him, though she wondered what Sharo's fascination was, this young.

It wasn't hard to pick up that the Remok was watching him through the Force more than normal vision, and what had her transfixed was a feeling of home and rightness that Sharo didn't feel from much around the Temple. Something about Jay, or at least Jay doing his meditative katas, made him feel like a Remok to her.

It was an interesting, and rather fascinating, development that Essani wanted to follow. For now, she just kept watching, wondering if Jay would notice. She knew from experience that he was prone to obliviousness to the universe at large when he was meditating like this; it was how he tackled problems that required less thinking and more intuitive understanding. He could also keep it up for hours.

"*He'll probably be here for a long time,*" Essani told Sharo mentally, and chirped reassuringly when the young feline jumped and spun around to look at her. "*You enjoy watching him?*"

"*Yes,*" Sharo nodded, her mind-words much more coherent than the last time they had encountered each other, though she was still far from skilled at it. "*He looks so healthy.*"

Essani could sense the implication that it wasn't that Jay didn't usually seem to be healthy, but that he was unusual compared to the other Jedi she felt weren't.

"*Healthy?*" Essani asked, fairly sure that Sharo wouldn't really be able to explain it any better, but willing to try.

So was the cub, though she offered two mental images in her attempt; one of Jay, shrouded in his blue Force-aura, the other of Essani herself, glowing bright white. Then a series of auras around a generic adult Remok: black, grey, blue, gold and white. "*He is ... in balance. Jedi too white. Healers. Confused. Unhealthy. Unbalanced.*"

Essani thought about that. She'd have to do some research into the Remok Force traditions, though it seemed like they believed in balancing the two sides more than following one or the other.

Of course, it could just be Sharo's inexperience.

Still, it would be likely that she and Jay would get along well once she was older and she could talk. Their beliefs were similar.

"*I suppose that makes sense,*" Essani said after a few moments. "*Though there are reasons we don't balance things like that.*"

"*So the crèche-master keeps saying.*" She nodded, though there was no missing that she didn't believe in she'd been told in the least.

"*So the crèche-master keeps saying.*" She nodded, though there was no missing that she didn't believe what she'd been told in the least.

Very much like Jay. Essani couldn't help but wonder if it would change as she grew up, before she tried to find a Master. It could be difficult, if it didn't. She also couldn't help but wonder if Jay would take her, she was young enough that he could well be looking for a second Padawan, if he decided to train one shortly after being knighted. It was a situation that would require careful watching.

It was odd, to say the least, thinking about saving a Master from a potential Padawan.

"*He is definitely unusual,*" she said, turning the conversation back towards Jay. "*In a good way, generally. I don't suppose you have any idea why he's here?*"

"*To learn?*" She looked over at the lion-tailed rabbit.

"*I mean here, meditating like this,*" Essani said. "*He usually only meditates like this when there's something bothering him, I was wondering if he might have mentioned it to you.*"

"*No, I don't think he's noticed me yet.*"

"*All right,*" Essani nodded slightly, standing up. "*You want to stay here and watch?*"

She nodded, her gaze still focused on the young adult.

"*Don't stay out too late,*" Essani said with a mental smile. "*He may well be out here well past dinnertime.*"

"*Yes, Master.*" The cub agreed obediently.

Jay smiled when he walked into his quarters to find Shi there, reading on the couch, and Fenrik was elsewhere.

"Hi, love." He murmured and knelt to kiss her on the cheek.

"Hi," she smiled, turning to kiss his lips lightly. "Fen's off working with his class," she added, "I just got back from my shift in Medical."

"Does it still bother you; that I play rough with him and not you?" He asked her gently.

"A little," she admitted after a moment's hesitation. "I try not to let it though. Not your fault, after all," she smiled slightly, reaching up to scratch his neck lightly and moved with him when he wrapped his arms around her and urged her to her feet.

"Can you tell me why it bothers you?" He asked gently.

"Sometimes because I can't help but watch how much you both enjoy it, and I know you're not willing to share it with me," she admitted, ducking her head slightly. "I know I shouldn't feel that way, and I don't most of the time, but sometimes I can't help it."

"Even though I share pleasure with you that I don't with him?" He kissed her gently.

"What?" She asked him softly. "Everything you do with me, you do with him too. Maybe not as often, but only because you're doing other things instead."

"Here I thought you were the empath," he smiled slightly and tipped her face up. "The acts may be similar, but it's not the same."

"How is it different?" She asked him, her eyes searching his. "Make me understand," she said softly.

"Even if you might not like what I've got to say?" He hesitated, realizing that with her interest in pain she may well not appreciate what he saw in her as a lover.

"Please," she said, nodding slightly. "It's better than guessing."

Jay slid an arm around her and guided her into their bedroom to the full-length mirror. "What do you see?"

"What do you mean?" She asked him, looking back at him in the mirror, not quite sure how to answer.

"Look at yourself, not me." He chuckled softly. "What do you see?"

"Your lover," she said softly, trying to put her emotions about this aside and look from his perspective. "A healer... somebody who can't keep up with you."

She knew with the second word she'd surprised him, and the last was dead wrong even before she'd finished saying it.

"I guess the first is correct if you want to be technical." He spoke quietly. "It's not what you are to me, though. Ceremony or not."

"What do you see?" She asked him.

"My mate," he said softly. "A Healer, the heart and morality of this family. A beautiful woman that has made a great deal of my life."

"And Fenrik?" She asked him.

"My mate," he smiled and nuzzled her. "A partner that understands the violence and darkness. A tom that balances your Light with me."

She closed her eyes, wrapping her arms around his and pressing back against him. She wanted to understand, and she could, as far as being able to say it.

"It'll take me a while to convince myself, Jay," she murmured softly. "It makes sense... I just need to make it make sense," she said, chuckling slightly.

"All right," he nuzzled her. "Do you still want to feel what it's like, to submit to our violence?"

"If you're willing," she nodded, though she felt he was. "Not like that time on the ship... but what you're like normally," she said. "You don't have to worry about hurting me," she added, "I can fix anything you'd do to me."

"I know," he ran his teeth along her slender neck as his claws unsheathed, catching on her robes as he began to undress her, his manner shifting to a level of aggression that she'd never experienced directed at her, but had seen turned on Fenrik more than once.

"Mmm...." She arched her neck for him, helping with her robes as she felt a shiver of anticipation and adrenaline run through her body. She knew, could feel, that he was doing this for her and not for himself, but he was no less honest for it. He'd done the same for Fenrik, and had it done for himself.

A growl, more felt than heard, reverberated between them as her only warning before a hand was between them, slicing threw her trousers before he slammed her against the mirror with his teeth against her neck, his face buried in her hair. His rough, barbed cock spread her ass open as he sank into her with a lusty groan.

"Nnngh!" She bit her lip as her bare breasts were pressed against the cool glass of the mirror, her ass spread wide without any prep or warning at all. Pain shot through the nerve-dense flesh, but it was joined with pleasure on a different level entirely. Physically, it hurt like Hell right now, but emotionally, even Jay could feel how much she was enjoying it, being taken and dominated by her mate.

She forced herself to bear down around his barbed length, tightening her already-tight body as she groaned and he continued to thrust, his rough cock drawing blood and tearing flesh as he pounded into her relentlessly. She could feel his confusion at her pleasure even as he accepted it and raked his claws along her bare sides, drawing tiny rivulets of dark red blood to stain her blue and white skin.

"Gods, Jay," she groaned. Her body was protesting the rough treatment, but at the same time her keyed-up nerves were tingling all through her, the feel of her blood trickling down her sides strangely sensual as she started to adjust to the pain.

His only reply was a growl, a feral sound that warned that his body was at the edge, just before his jaws tightened, drawing blood from her thin skin as he came hard in her abused ass.

She whimpered softly, feeling his hot seed fill her, her own body on the edge between agony and ecstasy. She barely got a chance to catch her breath before he pulled out of her and threw her to the bed on her back. He was on top of in before she registered the shift in position and pinned her there as he drove into her wet pussy, his jaws on her neck again, this time across her throat.

For a moment, she tried to struggle, but he was holding her in place through the Force as well as with his hands and teeth. Then she was bound in place by leather and steel and his hands where free to roam over her body, drawing blood or just leaving angry red marks.

She whimpered again, a soft, submissive sound as her sex spasmed around him and she tried to focus enough to make sure nothing would get infected inside. As soon as she could, she forced the Healer part of her mind back and let herself give in to Jay's rough attentions, coming hard around him, only not crying out by virtue of his teeth on her throat as he continued to take her with all the violence in him.

She lost track of how long he took her like that, how many times either of them had come and how many times he'd dragged her into different positions as he fucked her every way he knew how. All she could focus on was the mix of pain and pleasure shooting through her abused body, and the intoxicating feeling of Jay's own pleasure, though it was more purely physical than she remembered ever before. She tried her best to hold out as long as she could, even after her training told her she should have stopped.

In the end, it was Jay's response that brought it to an end. She felt the slight tremor in his jaws against the back of her neck, and knew he was losing the fight to keep from using his teeth the way he wanted to, the way the toms did on each other on their scruff. The thought of what it could do if he lost that shred of control with his teeth around her spine....

"Jay," she panted, half-whimpering against the pillow her head was pressed against as he took her ass again, "please, too much!"

It took him a moment, a couple more thrusts, before it sunk in enough that he let her neck go and withdrew much more gently than previously.

Her body was trembling, sweat and blood mingling on her skin as she felt the end of the almost ritual begin with his rough tongue gently licking her skin clean of blood.

She moaned softly at the tender touch, reaching down to take his rock-hard shaft, slick with a mix of their juices and her blood. She could tell he wanted to finish, badly. And she wanted so badly to give him something back for this.

"How do you want to finish?" She asked him softly.

"Stroke me," he breathed against her skin, his attention on cleaning her and soothing some of the pain he'd caused.

"With pleasure, she murmured, starting to stroke him lightly, teasing his barbs with her fingers as he moaned and thrust lightly into her hand, the pleasure from him shifting from purely physical to the mix she was more used to feeling as his breath quickened.

"Yesss," Jay moaned, his tightly clenched teeth pressed against her shoulder as he came into her hand, his hot seed splashing across her stomach with a long groan as he relaxed.

She was tempted to keep going for a few moments, but instead just snuggled up to him, licking her hand clean quickly before she started to focus on healing her injures.

"Thank you," she murmured softly into his fur as he held her, his tongue instinctively licking at blood until it stopped flowing.

"You are welcome," he smiled and nuzzled her. "Feel like a tongue-bath when you're healed?"

"Mmm ... sounds wonderful," she smiled, shivering a bit as he licked her shoulder. "Or I could shower, if you don't want to help me clean up that way."

"I can at least get you started," he chuckled and slowly moved down her body, cleaning the blood from her soft skin as he went.

"Mmm... Jay?" She asked him with a soft murmur, rubbing the back of his head as he cleaned her up.

"Mmm?" He glanced up at her as he worked on her flat belly.

"You don't have to do that again, if you don't want to," she said softly, reaching down to scratch his neck. "But thank you again, for this time." She smiled softly, honestly grateful for being able to share it with him.

He shifted his body up to kiss her gently and lightly fondled her breast with a free hand. "I will, if you feel you need it." He told her softly. "I've done it for Fenrik; I will do it for you."

"Mmm ... he might enjoy it more too," she murmured, returning the kiss and holding his furry body close to hers. "It was good, but not as good as when you enjoy it too."

"I'm sorry," he relaxed in her embrace and nuzzled her. "It just goes against what I am to hurt a Healer."

"Don't be sorry," she smiled, nuzzling him back. "It's a good thing, most of the time. Mmm ... and I've gotta admit, I don't know how often I could take that," she chuckled slightly.

"Good," he smiled and slid a hand down her chest to tease her clit. "Want me to finish your bath?"

"Oooh...." She murmured softly, rubbing his back. "I've got a better idea... I go clean up, then we spend a little time doing it the way you like?" She half-grinned. "Unless you like the... uhm... extra flavor."

"Go clean up," he chuckled and rolled to his side, off of her so she could get up.

She did just that, though she groaned a bit as she tried standing.

"Mmm ... another perk of fur," she giggled as she walked into the bathroom, "bruises don't show. Be out in just a few minutes." She stripped down the rest of the way, stepping into the shower and turning the water on to a comfortable level for her, quickly cleaning the blood and cum from her tender flesh. Healed or not, she'd be feeling this in the morning.

And, she had to admit, she didn't mind in the least.

She took a few moments to examine herself, ignoring pleasure or pain except as an indication of whether or not she'd fixed all the damage. She paid special attention to her sex and ass, the parts of her that had probably taken the most punishment, using the showerhead to make sure she cleaned herself out thoroughly. Looking at the amount of red going down the drain, she reminded herself that she'd have to be more careful about that the next time, if there was one.

It wasn't enough to be dangerous, but she knew she'd be getting a lecture from Master Ursal the next time she saw her.

Soon enough, she headed back out to the bedroom, blushing as she saw Jay changing the blood-stained sheets, his fur matted every which way with blood, sweat and cum.

She moved around behind him as he finished putting the new sheets in, pressing against his back.

"Want some help cleaning up yourself?" She asked him. "You look like a bigger mess than I did, almost."

"You don't like my water," he smiled back and nuzzled her over his shoulder. "I'll be clean in a few minutes."

"I'll be here for you," she smiled, settling into the fresh sheets and giving him one of her sweetest, most loving looks.

"Rurrrr, you are a temping creature." He rumbled before heading for the bathroom and a fast, hot shower to clear his fur of the evidence of his actions.

"I do my best!" She called after him, laughing a bit before she settled back to wait for him.

Essani finished setting the table with Fenrik's help, a family meal like none before, but so were the concerns about the one member that wouldn't be joining them. Between orders and cooking, it was a varied table as well; though only she didn't eat meat.

"How's Jay doing?" The Panther asked as he went back into the kitchen to check the assorted dishes being prepared. He and Shivasta's were the most meat-heavy, though Master Ursal's plate was hardly a vegetarian one. It was just heavier in fruits and breads than either of the younger Jedi's. "Haven't heard from him in almost a week."

"*Still oblivious to the universe at large, she admitted with a click of her teeth. "*I felt a significant surge in the Dark in him when he began, but nothing unusual since.*"

"Which means he's probably still working on his tesseract," Fenrik nodded. "I can't help but wonder how it'll hit him. It's not like he's had the easiest time staying with the Light up until now, let alone after he's got the Demon bothering him constantly."

"*He has you and Shivasta, and a belief in doing the right thing.*" Essani said quietly. "*It will have to be enough.*"

"It's just going to put a lot of weight on that belief when we're both on missions," Fenrik said softly. "At least Shi'll probably be around the Temple more often."

"*It will be a rare mission that he goes on alone.*" She said simply, the weight of her standing on the Council behind her words. "*When he is here alone, I will be here to help keep him in the Light.*"

"I know," Fenrik nodded, chuckling slightly. "I just still worry, I guess. Though he really does do his best."

"*That is why I believe he will make it. That and a bit of common sense when assigning him missions. His triggers are fairly easy to keep track of.*"

"Yeah, Rodians and anything involving treating droids like objects," Fenrik nodded as the door to the room opened, letting Master Ursal and her Padawan enter.

"*And keeping him away from Darksiders at all likely to talk to him.*" She added and chirped a greeting to the Healers.

"Mmm ... I know who cooked tonight," Shivasta chuckled as she stepped in.

"Is it my fault I don't have the broadest set of recipes?" Fenrik asked his mate with a chuckle, moving to kiss her lightly before he bowed respectfully to her dark-furred Master.

"You just have two mates who like spicy meat." She smirked back.

"So how is our resident Darkside beast doing?" Ursal asked simply.

"*Quiet,*" Essani answered. "*Though I doubt it has a choice at the moment. Jay is oblivious to everything but his work.*"

"And given just how engrossed he gets, it probably knows better than to waste its time," Fenrik added. "Though once he's done, it'll probably get started."

"I'm not sure about that," Shivasta said, moving to help her mate with the food. "It's just a hunch, but I think it might have been active for a long time now."

"*Quite possibly, but the odds have now changed. There is a direct opening to the Dark Side in Jay's mind that was not there before. He is much more vulnerable.*"

"I know, Master Essani," Shivasta said respectfully. "I only meant that I don't think it will be trying to convert him any more often than it had been, though it might be more successful."

"I have to admit, I'm more worried about those around him," Master Ursal rumbled as she sat down with the others. "He seems to be fairly used to it. But I'm sure we all remember the day it nearly escaped on its own."

"*Yes,*" Master Essani's fur went dark grey for a moment. "*Possession instead of conversion may be its goal with him. We will simply have to be ready for it.*"

"And the possibility it might find a way to try and convert those around him," Master Ursal nodded.

"That's a possibility we're ready for," Fenrik said softly. "And that he is, I think."

"*It is something we all have to be ready for.*" Essani nodded gravely.

"We will be," Shivasta nodded. "Though I don't think it will do that. It seems content to work on him." She licked her lips. "I think it knows he can do more damage."

"*It is not wrong, either.*" Essani admitted as they sat down for the meal. "*He is very dangerous. He is also one of the Jedi least likely to fight back if he turns. He has learned a strong sense of self-sacrifice from his family, even as young as he was. It will give more of an opening than most.*"

"He also has two people willing to make it fast and quick," Shivasta said softly.

"*So how are your studies coming?*" Essani changed the subject.

"Well," the Ice Walker smiled. "I should be ready to finish my Trials and take my solo soon."

"Three or four years, I would say," Master Ursal nodded with an approving smile. "I still think you chose to build your 'saber early, but I have to agree that you're coming along quite well."

"Thank you, Master," Shivasta said, bowing her head respectfully, and to hide a slight blush.

"I love that shade on you." Fenrik snickered between bites of spicy meat.

"I think everybody does but me," Shi giggled slightly, eating her own dinner.

"It's certainly striking," Master Ursal chuckled. "Though I imagine it's not quite as common for you the last few years."

"You don't know my mates well enough then," she grinned at Fenrik. "Seems they always know how to see it when they want to."

"We can cheat," he winked. "Embarrassment isn't the only way to see her that shade."

Everybody at the table had to laugh as Shivasta managed to turn one of the deepest shades of purple any of them had seen in some time.

"It's all right, cub," Master Ursal chuckled. "You're young."

"And very healthy," Fenrik purred throatily, enjoying the color on his mate as much as the game that was turned on him as often as her.

"Thank you," Shi managed to giggle. They all knew it was just joking, as much as it did embarrass her to be talking about this in front of her Master.

"You three make entirely too much of a game out of this," Master Ursal chuckled, though they could both tell her disapproval was mostly show.

"You know who's responsible for that," Fenrik chuckled. "Jay likes games."

"*And this is one of the few he particularly enjoys that you three can play in public,*" Essani chuckled, her fur a light pink.

"Not that the boys have always let that stop them when they were on the ship," Shi teased, winking at Fenrik, who blushed faintly beneath his black fur.

"Only because you've always managed to get back to quarters first." He protested.

"And whose fault is that?" Shi grinned, taking pleasure if having turned the tables, even if she knew he was going to turn them right back.

"Yours," he retorted with a smirk. "Though I swear you enjoy the feel of grass more than either of us."

"Only because I can actually feel it, and it doesn't count when the only 'people' around to watch are taks," she giggled. "Besides, I was still in the tent."

"Under it maybe," he shot back with a chuckle. "But you were hardly in it."

"Jay was... energetic... that morning," she giggled, blushing as Master Ursal gave her a quizzical look.

Fenrik was about to add something when Essani's suddenly grey color stopped him. "What's wrong, Master?"

"It's Jay," Shivasta said, knowing that it was the only possible explanation. He was ahead of schedule by a day or two.

"*Excuse me.*" Essani said hurriedly as she jumped down from her seat at the table and rushed from the room to her Padawan's side.

She knew the others would be shortly behind her, but she wasn't about to wait. She could sense that Jay was grappling with the Demon, more than he ever had before. A head to head contest of wills and beliefs, not the subtle seduction it usually used.

She was going to be there if he started to lose.

He wasn't yet, but it was a savage enough a contest to get her attention, and that of half the Council. It wasn't often the Temple itself saw an entity so purely of the Dark Side that so very few of them could fight.

When it did, it was usually a disaster, and she wasn't going to let that happen. She just hoped that Jay could deal with it herself. If not, she was sure she could.

But she didn't know what damage not being able to handle it might cause Jay's psyche.

She skidded sideways as the door to his workshop opened for her and she followed the bond to the struggling tom.

On the outside, everything looked fairly normal. He was straining, stressed, but nothing was obvious. In the Force, the duality of minds in his body was clear.

One was pure Dark. Not corrupted, but created of the Dark itself.

The other was blue with a grey tint. It wasn't an even match in raw power, but Jay had a real advantage in having the battlefield be in his own mind. All he truly had to do was hold his ground and raw stubbornness, something he had in abundance, would manage most of that. She could feel that, being of pure Darkness or not, it couldn't keep this up for long.

No wonder this was so draining for the other Clawsons who'd had to deal with it. To win this battle every morning for life ... even if that wasn't literally what happened ... it was an amazing feat for someone untrained.

Even as she marshaled her energy to intervene if it was needed, she could feel the others enter the room, the younger Jedi going to their mate and try to offer what support they could. She could feel them reaching out to him unconsciously, practically see the bonds between them glowing in the Force as they lent him what strength and support they could like this.

The instant their minds touched his, both Masters saw the balance shift. What Jay could barely do for himself, he easily marshaled the strength for when reminded it wasn't just for him. He didn't need his mate's strength for the battle; he needed to have someone he cared about enough to win that fight.

It was an eerie reminder of his words when he'd first explained how things worked for his kind, back when he was too young to know the Demon or desire. When all he could do was tell them what he had been told as a young child.

Both Masters could tell that, as much as the Council had doubted it, it had undoubtedly been true. The Demon simply wasn't able to get more than a foothold that it could hang on to. Before too much longer, it had no choice but to retreat, or exhaust its powers.

Jay growled softly, a sound of a victory hard won and a warrior still keyed up from the battle.

"*I'm all right, Master.*" He told her along their bond first, though physically he leaned against Shi with an appreciative nuzzle and squeezed Fenrik's hand.

"*You are,*" Essani said approvingly. "*You should go rest. You did well, Jay.*"

"*Yes, Master.*" He murmured and stood shakily, one hand still on the bracer he'd been working on all week. "You guys free for the night?" He glanced between his mates.

"Yeah," Fenrik nodded, kissing Jay's cheek lightly.

"Just finished my studies a bit before coming down," Shivasta smiled, giving him a gentle kiss. "Let's get you back to our room and help you wind down."

"Then some real sleep." He added and slipped and arm around each of them for a hug. "Thanks." He murmured against them.

Go to Part 1         Part 2

A Heritage of Power 3: Jay's Story 4: One Knight Hunting part 2 of 2

NC-17 for M/F and M/M
Het Level is MediumHet Smut Level is Medium
Slash Level is Slash Smut Level is Medium
Femslash Level is None
Herm Level is None

216 KB, Story is Complete, Series is Finished
Written March 3, 2005 by Rauhnee Ranshanka and Karl Wolfemann

Setting: Star Wars (Furry)

Primary Races: Ice Walker, Kat, Kushiban, Panther, Wolf

Contents: Furry. Het (M/F). Slash (M/M). Relationship (Established), Sex (BDSM), Sex (Kinky), Violence (Sexual)

Pairings: Doruth Parn/Tes Ramaris, Jay Clawson/Shivasta Stormwarden/Fenrik Aren

Blurb: A great deal can change in five years, but for three Padawans it has only made them stronger as a triad and honed each of their talents, minds and bodies to face the reality of life as a Jedi Knight, and the possibility that one may not make it. Now they begin to truly prove their worthiness to the Order and to themselves.

Disclaimer: All things taken directly from the sources listed under 'Fandoms' belong to the owners of those shows. No harm is intended and we're definitely not making any money. Now, the things we created are ours, and if you see 'Non-FanFic' up there, it's probably all ours.

Page Hit Count from March 3, 2005    1769