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At the Calhazar, as was tradition for countless years, the tournament of the High Lord was taking place. Each tournament had highlighted the prowess of individual Jinsai participating, showing their peers their talents and just how skilled each could be. This tournament was no different.

While most tournaments had focused on the Jinsai masters testing themselves against their contemporaries, this Cahlazar was proving to be different. Two young Jinsai apprentices had stolen the show and shifted focus away from the highly skilled masters onto themselves. It was no surprise that Dontaine and Draygan Strykia were in the spotlight. The whole Cahlazar seemed to be about the Strykia’s anyway.

Dontaine and his brother, Draygan, were polar opposites. Dontaine took after his father in looks, dark complexion, dark hair, and dark eyes while Draygan took after Marissa with fairer skin, blondish hair, and lighter eyes. One could use the Force, the other could not. But one thing had become evident at the Cahlazar: The brothers were skilled warriors despite their age.

Both of the brothers had participated in a bracket of duels, facing off against their peers. Regardless of abilities in the Force or not, both of the Strykia’s had risen through the brackets and were now set to face each other for the championship. If they had had a high profile status before, the Cahlazar tournament was giving them a celebrity status due to their performances thus far. Every set of eyes that had watched the tournament were now focused on the two teenaged brothers.

After her meeting with the Jedi, Marissa had gone to find her husband. The conversations she overheard as she made her way through the throngs of Jinsai, nobles, and others at the Cahlazar raised her curiosity quickly. She detoured from finding her husband, Artur, and went to the tournament grounds instead.

The great arena used as the tournament grounds had stood for nearly as long as the Jinsai had. Carefully built from the native stones of Odya, the four story, open arena had been maintained carefully throughout the centuries. Intricate archways and pillars adorned the outside, interspersed with carved statues depicting the various animals native to the Commonwealth worlds and historic Jinsai warriors from legends past. Even though House Mortia oversaw control of Odya, each animal that represented the major noble houses of the Commonwealth was equally displayed.

She approached the entrance that would admit her into the rooms below the arena, where Jinsai prepared before ceremonies and duels. The rooms were used to house opponents prior to tournaments too.

The two guards standing at either side of the entrance immediately took notice of Marissa’s approach. They also recognized her. It was hard for anyone in the Commonwealth to not know who Marissa was. Both guards quickly dropped into bows of respect as she neared them.

“Lady Strykia.” The eldest of the guards spoke. “You honor us.”

“Thank you.” Marissa responded as the guards straightened. “I have heard that my sons are competing in the Lord’s Tournament and I wish to see them.”

“My apologies.” The guard returned. “You cannot.”

“I cannot?”

“You are Jinsai. You know of the tradition.” The lead guard answered. “Only sponsors and the Jinsai masters of the duelists are permitted during this time.”

“But I am Stormfist’s Kyudan.” Marissa said, adding a little heat to her voice.

“I am sorry, my Lady.” The guard responded. “The word has come down already that Stormfist is now apprenticed to Master Thunderheart. By tradition and honor, I cannot allow you entrance.”

For the first time in a long time, Marissa was stunned by being barred from somewhere she desired to be. As High Lady, she had access to nearly everything within the Antrixian Commonwealth. She was privy to meetings and information because of her position within the Jinsai Order. She knew that her concern over Dontaine and Draygan dueling each other in the final fight of the tournament wasn’t because of her position. It was because she was their mother. While she wanted to see them and caution them, she knew she couldn’t. She would have to contend herself with watching the duel and perhaps giving them some words prior to the commencement of the duel.

“You are right. My apologies.”

With that, Marissa turned and walked away. She returned to her initial search for Artur. She wanted to voice her concern about the duel, but she knew that the honor of making it this far in the tournament was great for both Dontaine and Draygan. She couldn’t deny them that. She would shame herself. She would shame them greatly too.

Artur was too proud and too honorable to stop it either. There was no doubt that he was riding high on the idea of his sons, his legacies, dueling for the championship in the High Lord’s Tournament. He wouldn’t stop the duel even if Marissa demanded it.

She contented herself to finding her husband and taking her place by his side. She remained quiet throughout the hours leading up to the final duel. She was introspective and admittedly nervous. Despite her position and years of training, the duelists were her children after all. She was concerned for their safety.

The hour finally arrived and Marissa made her way to the arena alongside Artur. In the family’s pavilion box, a raised dais that was front and center to view the arena, Marissa took her seat next to her husband. She focused and centered herself, pushing away emotions in order to obey what tradition demanded of her.

Eventually the fanfare began and the announcement came for the final duel of the tournament to commence. Both Draygan and Dontaine entered from opposite sides of the arena. The Jinsai assistants present with each of them made sure everything was in order before exiting from the arena floor. It left Dontaine staring at his younger brother as the horn blew, signaling the start of the duel.

As Marissa sat there, watching her oldest sons square up against each other while wielding weapons, she couldn’t help the feeling of trepidation that began to crawl over her. Through the Force, regardless if she wanted to feel it or not, came a wash of darkness. It wasn’t a feeling that was directed at anything in particular. None the less, Marissa felt dread beginning to form in her stomach.

Her focus was now totally on her sons. Part of her wanted to jump over the rail, into the arena and stop the duel. Marissa knew that she couldn’t. It would be a huge affront to the honor of both Dontaine and Draygan if she did. The duel had started and it had to be completed. Jinsai honor demanded it.

Dontaine was the bigger of the two brothers. He was taller and more muscled. Wielding the traditional Wor’Sai, the Warblade of the Jinsai, he took the familiar guard stance with the weapon held at the ready, poised to block or strike. The Warblade predated Lightsabers for the Jinsai Gai’din. It had continued on as the main weapon of the Jinsai over the eons. Gai’din and non-Force using Jinsai wielded the weapon as a symbol of tradition and defense. Dontaine might have used a Lightsaber, but he was skilled with the Warblade.

Draygan, in contrast, was slimmer than his older brother and just shorter. He had selected the Mara’Sai polearm as his weapon early on in the tournament and continued to use it in the final duel. Marissa noted that Draygan paralleled Dontaine’s movements, keeping the Mara’Sai moving in his hands as the brothers circled each other.

Each had on a personal shielding unit that would protect them from serious harm. The shields were tuned so that weapons could still cause minor cuts, but would stop a weapon from fully penetrating the shield and causing serious or fatal injuries. Concussive forces could still get through the shielding though.

Normal tournament rules had been lifted for this final duel. While a duelist was usually scored for parries and strikes through a number of rounds, this duel was to go until one of the combatants yielded or was rendered unable to continue. This was tradition from long ago and with it came great honor for even participating in the final duel of the tournament.

Marissa knew that Dontaine would make the first strike. His stance was all too familiar. He was going to do what he always did, using brute force to dominate his opponent. Regardless if he used the Force or not, he had the physical power to do this. He would be like a bull Rancor, overcoming and crushing his opposition. Dontaine’s eyes flared with their telltale red glow as he moved, looking for his opening to start his attack.

Draygan, on the other hand, was a center of calm and calculation. While he moved the polearm within his hands, he kept himself light on his feet with his weight evenly distributed. Marissa recognized the style of the Knydens in his stance. She knew that Draygan would rely on speed and finesse over trying to brutalize his brother. She also knew that his style, coupled with his weapon choice gave him an advantage. Draygan would have more range in his counters and attacks. His weapon also gave him leverage to deal out some devastating blows.

“You can call off now, little brother.” Dontaine mocked as the pair paralleled each other. “There’s no shame in giving up and letting the better win.”

There was the arrogance. Dontaine had always viewed himself to be above his brother. He was the eldest. He was a Force-user. He was next in line to the High Seat. Marissa always worried that his arrogance might push him to places he shouldn’t go.

“I call off and give you the satisfaction of an easy win?” Draygan asked coolly in response. “No. If you want the win, you’ll have to work for it.”

“So be it.” Dontaine returned.

In a blur of steel and body, Dontaine made his first strikes. He rained down a flurry of fast jabs and slashes towards Draygan. Each was met with a calm block and parry that kept the eldest Strykia brother’s weapons pushed downward or outward. While Dontaine probed for an opening, Draygan kept himself moving, but in small ways to preserve his stamina.

The Mara’Sai and the Warblade clashed together over and over. Draygan worked his hands along the weapons handle, keeping it moving. His range lengthened and shortened, never giving Dontaine a true fix on what or where he needed to be in order to make a positive strike.

Draygan’s footwork also kept Dontaine in a random pattern. While Draygan never fully retreated, he stepped back in a small circle that cause Dontaine to follow with his attacks in a wider circle. Marissa noted that Draygan’s style was very similar to the Lightsaber style known as Soresu. He was defending and trying to tire Dontaine.

It was working. Marissa knew it. Draygan knew it. Dontaine, perhaps, also recognized it, but too late.

Enter the bull Rancor.

Out of frustration, Dontaine began to throw more physical power into his strikes. If it weren’t for the personal shields, Draygan would have been in true, mortal peril. While his blows were almost shattering, his arches and swings were wide and becoming more and more wild.

Dontaine finally tired of chasing his brother around and around. He charged and came at Draygan as hard as he could. Against a normal enemy, Dontaine would have run him through with his Warblade.

Draygan, however, sidestepped, pushing his brother’s weapon away, and spinning his own into a drag/slash that would have taken Dontaine’s leg below the knee if not for the concussion shield. Regardless of the technological protection, the Mara’Sai still made a pierce through the shield and into Dontaine’s flesh.

The long cut along the calf sent Dontaine stumbling. Draygan immediately went on the offense, chasing after with a spinning blow aimed towards Dontaine’s shoulder. If Dontaine hadn’t stumbled, Draygan would have scored a blow that probably would have ended the duel.

The Warblade fell and Dontaine rolled, narrowly avoiding the shot his brother aimed to deliver. The Mara’Sai whistled through the air with a blur again and Dontaine rolled farther away to get free from the onslaught. Finally, he had rolled himself far enough away that he had room to move and gather himself.

Draygan relented and resumed a stance ready for defense. He had struck first blood and had nearly won. He also knew that his brother had just become that more dangerous. He needed to be on guard even more.

Dontaine extended his hand, using the Force to call his dropped weapon back to his hand. The cheers from the crowd, which Marissa had not really heard before, immediately changed. There was a reverse in the air, one which favored Draygan now over Dontaine.

A Gai’din using the Force in a duel was never against the rules. It was frowned upon though, when the Gai’din was facing a Jinsai that was merely normal. The duel was about skill. It was never about power.

Dontaine’s eyes flared brightly with their Antrixian emotional glow. Marissa knew that he was seething. She could feel it coming off of him. Silently, she prayed to the Force for Dontaine to find his center and calm himself. Anger was the root of dark things.

As the Warblade landed in his hand, Dontaine shot his other hand out in a jabbing motion. It was enough to know that he pushed outward, using the Force as an attack. An invisible blast caught Draygan and threw him backwards. It wasn’t enough to truly injure him, but it had the effect of knocking Draygan off of his feet and onto his back.

Almost as fast, Dontaine leaped into the air, his weapon arching up and then downward. His attack was meant to be his finisher. This was his act of salvaging what he could of the duel to ensure his victory.

Draygan must have been prepared. Even after being knocked down by Dontaine’s Force push, Draygan held onto his Mara’Sai. Marissa was sure that Draygan would hold his weapon in front of him to block the incoming blow. Instead, Draygan swung from his laying position, using the Mara’Sai like a child’s implement to swing at a ball. The proverbial ball was Dontaine.

The haft of the Mara’Sai struck Dontaine in the side while he was still in the air. Due to the extra length of his weapon, Draygan had more fulcrum power in his swing than another weapon might have. The effect was just what the younger Strykia had hoped for. Dontaine crashed to the side and into the dirt of the arena floor, missing Draygan.

Even as Dontaine tried to roll, Draygan turned his weapon’s arch into a spinning swing that trailed into Dontaine. Dontaine looked up as he rolled, seeing the blue sky of Odya above the open arena and his brother’s bladed end of the Mara’Sai hit him in the chest.

His arrogance had cost him. His willingness to try and take advantage of his brother through the Force had turned against him, even if he hadn’t given in to the anger that threatened to overtake him. This had cost him. The easy way had a price and this time it would be defeat, along with a cut leg and broken ribs.

Marissa saw the strike and knew what it meant. Everyone knew what it meant. Even before it landed, a lull went through the crowd as the spectators watched collectively, knowing that Draygan had outwitted Dontaine and had won.

The strike hit Dontaine in the chest and immediately the shield held. But enough force was transmitted through that three of Dontaine’s ribs fractured. Just as much as Dontaine felt the pain, so too did Marissa. They knew it was done. The duel was finished. Draygan had won. That pained Dontaine more than his physical injuries.

Somehow, though, Draygan didn’t relish his victory. He had studied and prepared. He knew that he wanted to show up Dontaine. Yet, it was bittersweet at the end. Draygan only lay in the dirt, looking upward, trying to think of why he had wanted to upstage Dontaine so badly.

Jinsai attendants rushed out from the sides as Artur stood and declared the duel done. The crowd erupted in a cacophony of pure celebration. One attendant went to Draygan, offering help in getting to his feet. Draygan waved the man off as he used the Mara’Sai as a brace to stand up. Two others assisted Dontaine in standing.

Despite the pain, Dontaine was determined to finish this like a Jinsai should. Breaking away from the aid of the others, he staggered forward, towards the dais where Artur was descending to the arena floor. Draygan tried to parallel Dontaine, even offering his arm to assist his older brother.

Somehow, the pain from the physical wounds wasn’t as bad as the sting Dontaine felt when he looked at his brother. Pride and arrogance was now shattered. He had been basted in the public eye by somebody he had always considered lesser. Dontaine had always said he loved Draygan as a brother should, but then and there, Dontaine was jealous and outraged by the younger Strykia.

Artur took both of his sons’ hands, raising Draygan’s as the victor. When he released their hands, Draygan tried to step over and heft Dontaine’s along with his own. Dontaine shrugged away, stung too much to share in his brother’s declaration of victory.

Even when he had received the tournament trophy and the ceremonial Warblade, Draygan didn’t celebrate. If anyone was asked later, they would have said that Draygan tried to honor Dontaine and share in the finish of their historic duel. Even when Draygan had picked up a bouquet of flowers from the arena floor, he had bypassed his betrothed, Jehna Metheyr, and went to Dontaine’s betrothed instead.

Draygan handed the flowers to Fara Corisso first. He then knelt and presented the ceremonial Warblade to her. In the older customs, this crowned Fara as the Lady of the Cahlazar. Most saw it as Draygan trying to save face with his brother by bestowing the honor onto Dontaine’s betrothed. For Marissa, the act was something else.

Draygan had beat Dontaine in the contest. Draygan had also betrayed his brother.

***

A year and a half had passed by since the Calhazar and the duel between the Strykia brothers. Marissa found herself busy as always. Duties of State, being present for formal dinners and visting dignitaries, the trips to the various worlds of the Commonwealth, and communiqué with various Jedi on the affairs of the Separatist Uprisings kept her active. Moraine had chided her more than once that she needed to step down as the Jinsai liaison to the Jedi and just be a wife and mother from time to time. But Marissa continued on. If there were only twenty-two hours in the day, Marissa would squeeze twenty-four hours out of it. That day was no different.

That day would turn out to be a special occasion for her. Marissa was talking to one of the aides for Tribune Mortia of the Jinsai Tribunal when she caught sight of three individuals walking up the corridor of the High Palace on Antrixies. She immediately felt her mood lighten and her duties become an after-thought.

Striding along, talking with two members of the Grey Guard, Dontaine Strykia looked right at home. He had broadened across the shoulders since the last time Marissa had seen him. Dontaine also looked taller. He wasn’t the boy or the teen that she had once shared stories with, had taught about the Force, and had helped construct a lightsaber for the first time. No, her son was now truly a young man. And from what Marissa saw, he needed a haircut.

Barestan Santigar and his captain, Moraine Strykia, flanked Dontaine as he strode towards his mother. Talking with youthful enthusiasm, Dontaine obviously had each of the elite Jinsai’s ears as he told tales of his recent adventures. The pair laughed as Dontaine finished, giving Moraine a chance to badger her nephew.

“So what’s this I hear that you’ve been sniffing around the daughter of Lord Berelain, dear nephew?” Moraine asked.

“Cersi?” Dontaine pretended to feign innocence. “I’m not sure I know what you mean, Aunt Moraine.”

“Please, spare me.” Moraine countered. “Her father has been here complaining to your father more than once.”

“Alright… She may have requested counsel once or twice. I am pledged to serve the citizens of the Commonwealth, am I not?” Dontaine said with a roguish smile. This caused Barestan to chuckle.

“Dontaine!” Moraine said, feigning embarrassment.

“The boy is young, Shadowsong.” Barestan said, addressing Moraine by her Jinsai honor name. “A little flirting and public relations never hurt a future politician. Let your nephew experience life before marriage and duties tie him down.”

“You are betrothed, dear nephew.” Moraine chided him. “Remember that. Fara is much more than just a marriage arrangement.”

“I know. You’re right.” Dontaine said with a blush and a flare of his eyes.

His statement really didn’t hold weight though. If rumors were true, Dontaine and Fara weren’t even communicating with each other anymore. Dontaine had walled himself off to his intended shortly after the High Lord’s Tournament on Odya.

Moraine looked at Dontaine, who put on a very large smile, letting it spread across his face, along with a bright glow to his eyes. She couldn’t help but laugh, falling for the same charm that he had used so often as a child to get out of trouble.

“Okay, fine.” She said with a laugh. “Just promise me you’ll do what is right.”

“I know, I know…”

It was about that time that Dontaine took note of his mother standing at the end of the corridor, watching the trio. Forgetting his companions, he trotted ahead and embraced his mother in a tight hug. Marissa returned the embrace, feeling her son both physically and also reaching out to greet him within the Force at the same time. She found a fountain within the Force in her son, but there was something else there. Something underlying.

“Mother!” Dontaine said as he hugged her. “It’s been forever.”

“Yes it has!” Marissa returned. “I’ve missed my son.”

Stepping back and holding him at arm’s length, Marissa looked him up and down.

“Is Master Metheyr making sure you’re eating? You look skinny.” She said.

“Mom. I’m fine.” Dontaine said, a hint of the boy she knew peeking out from beneath the young man standing in front of her.

“You’ve grown up while you’ve been away. Look at my son. A young man in his own right.”

“Thank you, mom.” Dontaine said, a slight edge of embarrassment on his voice.

“So what brings you home?” Marissa asked.

“Master Metheyr and I just finished doing an escort detail to Coruscant. We’re back here to await a possible mission to help the Jedi investigate some possible separatist activity.”

“I hadn’t heard of anything close to the Commonwealth.” Marissa said with some concern blooming in her voice.

“We’re checking out an area in the Barrens where potential smugglers might be operating to aid the separatist movement. I’m sure it’s just rumor though.”

“Please be careful.”

“I always am, mother.” Dontaine replied. “Any word from Coruscant?”

“The twins are fine.” Marissa reassured the older brother that was showing concern for his younger siblings. "Two Jinsai are on Coruscant to ease Graydon and Allyson during their stay with the Jedi. The Jedi temple has kept me in the loop to some extent and all is well.”

“I was nervous.” Dontaine sighed. “When I heard that the plans had changed and that the twins had moved onto the next stage of training, I worried.”

“Both of them have exceeded expectations.” Marissa smiled up at her oldest son. “It was only natural for them to accelerate their training. The word is that they will be returning to Antrixies in less than six months to move on to the next stage.”

“That’s faster than I was trained.” Dontaine frowned a bit, more out of concern than jealousy.

“I think your brother and sister want to catch up with you.” Marissa tried to reassure Dontaine.

“You’re probably right.”

Marissa paused for a moment, looking at her son. She tried to gauge his emotions and his state before she breeched the next topic. It tore at her that since the tournament, Dontaine avoided Draygan at all costs.

“Your brother is here with your Uncle.” Marissa decided it was time to press the issue a bit. “Should we go say hello?”

Dontaine paused, his eyes going absent for only a second. There was a brief flash of red glow before it dimmed away. It was very obvious that Draygan was still a sore subject.

“No.” Dontaine answered very as-matter-of-factly. “I really should get back to Thunderheart. I really only stopped by to see you for a minute.”

“I see.” Marissa was wounded inside by the rift that was still in place between her sons. “Do take care of yourself.”

“I will, mother.”

***

Dontaine walked through the foyer that led to the garden, letting out a long breath that he seemed to be holding in since he had seen his mother in the hallway. She hadn’t noticed and that was good. The conflict stormed within him. Part of him knew that he was on a path that meant he’d potentially break the code of the Jinsai. The other part of him said it wasn’t too late to remain true to honor and family obligation.

Somehow, though, he couldn’t get past the duel on Odya over a year prior. He had conceded that Draygan had beaten him by using his own arrogance against him. The lingering thought of Draygan presenting the championship blade to Fara nagged at him more, though.

On top of it all, the encounter with the two rogues he had had still swam in his mind. The escaped outlaw, Imohen, and his blue-skinned companion had caused Dontaine to begin to doubt who he was and what his family was. Not right away.

Their words, especially the words of Sev’Rance Tann, the blue-skinned Chiss female, chewed at his spirit. It was like an infection in his mind. One of doubt.

When he first encountered Tann, she had told him nothing but lies, or so he thought. She sensed the anger in him, along with the power. It was through Tann that Dontaine had realized there were more options to his life than he had been presented. Was he stuck being the guardian to the Commonwealth? If he had been a Jedi, would he be a Jedi Knight by now?

“You are young and foolish, young Jedi.” Sev’Rance Tann paced around the dark-haired Antrixian, standing defiantly in the center of the room. She had led him here and now she could toy with him or finish him off, but there was something in the Force that told her otherwise.
“I am no Jedi, you blue-skinned wench.” Dontaine Strykia, full of pride and foolish bravado, stood poised, ready to strike if the tall, blue-skinned woman with glowing red eyes even flinched in his direction. She may have a Lightsaber, but to a Jinsai, that should not matter, thought Dontaine. “I am Jinsai, alien. And you are not prepared to deal with me!”
“Well, well. You are daring, aren’t you? I sense darkness in you along with your ambitions. We would be better allies than enemies.” Tann laughed as she finished, extinguishing her Lightsaber.
His master, Jevan Metheyr, and Dontaine had followed Tann’s ship to Janara III after forcing her small ship out of hyperspace near Tauber. The Jinsai duo had tracked the criminal Imohen to Takodana and then to Tann’s ship. It was a long chase that had finally come to an end when they had forced Tann’s ship to land on the planet. Unfortunately, their fighters had been faster than the other pursuing forces that were supposed to be assisting them. They were on the surface, chasing after two criminals alone. At least until their reinforcements arrived.
The two Jinsai Gai’din had been separated and now Dontaine stood, possibly facing off against one of future generals in the Separatist army. She turned out to be a Force-user too. Not that that frightened Dontaine.
“I sense power in you, Jinsai.” Sev’Rance casually said. “If you were a Jedi, your Republic allies would have me captured now. But you’re not and you have no back-up here. Why?”
“The Jinsai do not need help to do our bidding.” Dontaine said, straightening a bit from his battle posture. His guard was still up, though, along with his Lightsaber. He didn’t dare underestimate this opponent.
“Don’t they?” Sev’Rance Tann stopped her pacing, standing in front of Dontaine. “The Republic doesn’t trust the… the Jinsai?”
“We are members of the Republic.” Dontaine narrowed his eyes at her.
“Yet you aren’t treated the same.” Tann responded. “If you were, you’d have forces to reinforce you, right now.”
“I don’t need-”
Tann’s red-bladed Lightsaber sprang to life, interrupting Dontaine before he could finish. Flashing through the air, he barely deflected the first swings of Tann’s assault on him. He had to be purely defensive as Tann brought on an onslaught of blows, driving him back. He could deflect her, but that was about it. It was taking everything he had in the Force to hold her back and protect himself.
Finally, she pressed her attack and while he deflected her swing, she disarmed him and tripped him, all in one fluid motion. And with that, she could feel the sting in the young Antrixian’s pride.
“That is why I won, today.” Tann said as she disengaged her saber once again. “Perhaps with the right training, the right trust, you could have beaten me instead. Perhaps you’d be better off with a master who would do both.”

That had been over six months ago. Sev’rance Tann had contacted him once more after that, only reinforcing the seeds of doubt that she had planted on that first day. She spoke of how her master, the leader of the Separatists, Count Dooku, had taken a great interest in him. Apparently Dooku also mouthed the same words that Tann had: Why were the Jinsai considered less worthy than the Jedi? The Jedi always espoused how the Jinsai and the Jedi were allies and equal. Why was the Commonwealth’s involvement in galactic matters different than the Republic’s?

Dontaine began to think that her words were nothing but an attempt to make him defect to the Separatists. It was the last contact he had with her. The contact with the renegade, Imohen, whom Dontaine knew through reputation, made things clearer, yet more complicated.

Imohen knew of the dual training of the twins. He also knew that their training had been accelerated by the suggestion of the Jedi. Imohen knew that the Strykia twins were on Coruscant ato the Jedi Temple. The rogue Jinsai said that it was a plot to destabilize the Commonwealth or to hold the twins hostage in order to make the Commonwealth fall in line with the Jedi’s plans in the upcoming war.

Imohen said that Dooku hadn’t forgotten about him, but there was a bigger picture to look at. Apparently, the Commonwealth was more in league with the Jedi than he realized. Apparently, the Jedi were starting to plan to usurp power away from the Republic. His youngest brother and sister were pawns in the plan to buy the Commonwealth a seat in this Jedi revolt.

Graydon and Allyson would seal a deal between the Commonwealth, the Jinsai, and the Jedi once they had set their plan in motion and overthrown the Chancellor and taken control of the Republic. Once the Separatists were out of the way, it would be an open road for the Jedi to enact their plans. That meant that the Commonwealth would allow the Jinsai to be absorbed by the Jedi. Either that or the Commonwealth would be left alone, isolated from whatever the Jedi were planning to do once they took control. His own flesh and blood would be the bargaining chips in whatever was to come.

Dontaine looked down and shook his head. Everything pointed to the fact that his mother and father were involved. Probably deeply involved. The galaxy was unraveling around him, so it seemed.

“Master Dontaine, are you alright?” Came the voice of the family protocol droid, T-3C1.

“Yes, Teethree.” Dontaine responded. “I was just thinking about the horrors of everything going on in the galaxy.”

“If there’s anything I could do to help-”

“No. No, there’s nothing you can do.” Dontaine replied before he started for the garden doorway.

Entering the garden at a brisk pace, Dontaine stopped to take in the splendor of the Strykia family garden. Trees, bushes, and flowering plants from all over the Commonwealth were kept in a climate controlled sanctuary. Their colorful vibrancy was available year round, making a peaceful retreat available to the High Lord’s family and staff all the time. Dontaine took a moment to relish in the smells and sights around him. Opening himself to the Force, Dontaine let the flood of life wash over him.

As he tried to let calm overtake him, Dontaine knew that if all the words he had heard were true, he had to step onto a path that would go against tradition and honor. He would have to essentially pit himself against the allies of his own people. He would have to pit himself against his own family. If he was to maintain order and keep a plot from affecting the whole galaxy, especially his homeworld, he might have to step onto a path that would make enemies out of everything he had trained to protect his entire life.

***

Coronet City was a hustle and bustle just like many metropolis within the Core Worlds of the galaxy. The roar of starship engines could be heard as ships left the starport, climbing to break free of the planet Corellia’s atmosphere, travelling to distant worlds elsewhere in the galaxy. Repulsorlift engines whined as airspeeders travelled along designated routes, going here and there too.

Diadem Square was no exception to noise. Here in the urban district of Coronet City, the crowds milled about, some people going to various street-side shops, others going to and from their daily jobs. The occasional speeder passed overhead, droning by with a buzzy/whine as it went.

There were lots of evidence that the corporate giant, Corellian Engineering, was present in Coronet City. Company work uniforms could be seen on dozens of workers and holo-billboards dotted the scenery, showing the latest news on company stocks and advertisements for the newest models of starships and speeders being introduced to the buyer’s market. A large holo-display in the middle of the square displayed the latest news feeds from the holonet and Corellia’s own CCI feed.

The small, street-side café, The Virtue & Vice Side Caf, had outdoor tables bordering the sidewalk. Being midday, not many of the dozen tables were occupied. At one table, the three occupants talked among themselves, paying no special attention to the hubbub going on around them.

One of the occupants was a grizzled, old spacer-type. His gray hair was longer, almost to his shoulders, his beard and moustache were both thick from not being shaven in many years. He didn’t look unkempt, but he looked like he’d fit in more out on the fringes of the galaxy rather than here in the Core.

Of course, here in the Core, he wasn’t recognized. Out towards the Rim of the galaxy, he could have been identified more easily. If his physical features didn’t tell who he was, his clothing and sidearm did. The long, oiled coat and hulking pistol strapped to his waist and leg pegged him as a Morellian Enforcer. An Enforcer was akin to a galactic Marshall, a law man that could travel the galaxy in order to help uphold Republic law. Being a Morellian meant that he had a lot of years in his abnormally long lifespan to crack down on criminals and travel from one end of the galaxy to the next, making sure that Republic law was maintained, especially in the lawless areas of the galaxy.

That was who Yanas Dosson was. He was a lawman. While he might have also been a father and a grandfather, he had always had a sense of duty that kept him away from home. It didn’t mean that he didn’t love his family any less. It was just an underlying drive that meant he wasn’t around very much when his children were growing up. At his age, he should have been retiring and staying at home, though. His drive kept him going.

His companions were a beautiful young woman with long, light brown hair and sparkling blue eyes, along with a small child with dark brown, unruly hair. There were subtle similarities in all three of the companions at the table, enough so that a person could tell that they were family.

Cassie Morgan could have been easily recognized in Diadem Square by any of the passerby’s. She was a former child actress in a holodrama whose popularity had waned a bit as Cassie grew up. She had received some local notoriety in the Minos Cluster, especially her homeworld of Adarlon, and on Alderaan as an up-and-coming singer. However, a five year lull had almost plunged her into obscurity when she took a break away from the glitz and glamour of fame.

Cassie had decided to focus on her family, especially her mother’s declining health. The break allowed Cassie to tend to her mother, Alandra, and also repair a rift between her estranged father, Yanas. It was during that break that Cassie met a brash Marcus Morgan and fell in love.

Cassie had quickly married Marcus and the couple moved to Corellia, Marcus’ home planet. There, they welcomed their daughter, Cassandra, into the world. About the time that Cassandra was turning four years old, Cassie felt the itch to begin singing again. She quickly re-established herself in the music community and released her music in the Core World market again after five years away. The reception was quick and astounding, rocketing Cassie back into the spotlight.

While Cassie had made sure to keep relations with her father tight, it wasn’t until Cassandra, or CJ as she was nicknamed, was born that Yanas became a frequent fixture in Cassie’s life again. Yanas made many trips to Corellia to dote upon his granddaughter and to visit Cassie. Yanas was also very critical of Marcus, trying to persuade Cassie into leaving Corellia and returning to Adarlon or Alderaan.

Yanas and Marcus never did see eye to eye, except for when it came to Corellian Whiskey. It was very much a hypocritical argument on Yanas’ part, with Dosson criticizing Marcus for always being away from home, working with his brother and cousin in the family shipping business. Perhaps Yanas felt guilty and wanted to make sure his granddaughter had what his daughter hadn’t: A father that was around.

So the visit to Diadem Square was the tail end of Yanas’ visit to Cassie. As was their usual, Cassie and CJ went to the plaza with Yanas to see him off before he boarded the mag-lev bound for the starport. There was something in the air about this time, however.

Cassie sipped her Corellian noale before setting down the glass and fixing upon her father. “You know, it’s not too late to put the papers in and retire, Dad.”

“And it’s not too late for you to pack a few things and go back to the estate on Alderaan.” Yanas replied, wrinkling his brow as he looked across the small table at Cassie.

“Dad, we’ve been over this.” Cassie quickly retorted.

“I know.” Yanas said, a despondent look replacing his frown. “You know I never have cared for him. Gallivanting off to who knows where. Is he being true to you? I know these Corellian flyboy types. They flash into port, sweep you off your feet and then leave you stranded with a bundle that comes along nine months later.”

“But yet after four years, the flyboy still returns to the same port.” Cassie countered. “I wish you’d give him a break, just once.”

“As long as CJ’s taken care of.” Yanas quickly said, reaching across the table to give his granddaughter a quick pinch on the cheek.

CJ smiled and gave a quick giggle. “Yup! I’m good!” She chirped with her usual enthusiasm.

Yanas and Cassie both chuckled and CJ’s mother gave her a quick hand in her hair, messing the unruly locks even more. CJ just smiled at her mother and grandfather with a wide grin. She quickly went back to watching people and speeders passing by.

“So where are you going next?” Cassie asked her father.

“I’m meeting up with a Jedi, Master Billaba, for some dispute that’s going on out towards the Rim.” Yanas answered. “There’s a lot of tension going on out there with systems threatening to leave the Republic. I’m supposed to investigate potential black market activity with this Jedi to see if there’s a possible illegal militia forming.”

“As always, be careful.” Cassie said.

“Don’t you worry about me.” Yanas clucked. “What about you?”

“I’ve got two months before I start on the tour.” Cassie smiled. “We’re sticking to the Core Worlds for dates on the tour right now. So until then, it’ll be rehearsals, costume fittings, and meetings.”

“What about CJ while you’re working and on tour?”

“Meghan is going to be in port to have her ship overhauled.” Cassie answered her father. “She’s agreed to stay with me while Marcus is out on business and help watch CJ.”

“Well, if I don’t come back before then, you be careful.” Yanas quipped.

“Dad…”

“Remember what I taught you if you ever need to use that blaster I got you.” Yanas quickly added.

“Both eyes, momma!” CJ jumped in, adding to the conversation. She’d heard the adults talking about this more than once. “Aim with both eyes!”

Yanas almost roared with laughter. “I think she’s a faster learner than you were!”

“And obviously a little girl that listens to big people conversations that she shouldn’t be hearing.” Cassie mocked a frown, tickling her daughter’s sides.

CJ squirmed in her mother’s lap and burst out in laughter from the tickling assault. As soon as she settled down, Cassie fixed her look onto her father again.

“Seriously, Dad.” Cassie spoke. “Be careful.”

“I’ll be fine.” Yanas gave his daughter a caring smile. “I’m too damn stubborn to let anything happen to me. And I’m going to be late if I don’t get moving.”

Yanas stood and embraced his daughter and granddaughter, giving them farewells and the promise that he’d be back soon. It was a promise that he’d try to keep, but circumstances would prevent him from seeing them for quite a while.

Tensions were starting to run high all across the Republic. While things seemed status quo in the Core region, numerous systems in the outlying areas of space were beginning to voice displeasure with the Chancellor and the Galactic Senate. A storm was brewing and with that coming storm, peace would be shattered.

***

The door slid open, making only the slightest whisper of sound as it did, to reveal the grand reception room of the Chancellor’s suite in 500 Republica. While luxurious, it was quaint compared to some of the other senatorial housing located on Coruscant. The view of the ecumenopolis through the large, arching windows was spectacular.

The first individuals through the door were a pair of senate guards dressed in their long, flowing, blue robes with blue plasteel helmets with opened t’s across the eyes and nose. They turned and stood each to one side of the doors. The next to enter were a pair of guards dressed in grey colored armor with gilded silver and gold trim. Long silver cloaks hung from one shoulder and draped down to the floor. Jutting from their other shoulder, slung across their back, were long-handled swords.

One guard, the male, was just starting to show the first signs of grey in the temples of his hair while the other, the female, wore her long brown hair pulled tightly back to cascade down her neck and back. They were the Grey Guard of the Antrixian Commonwealth and their duty was to protect the High Lord of the Commonwealth.

The male, Ser Barestan Santigar, quickly looked over the room while his counterpart and his commander, Lady Moraine Strykia, did the same. She nodded to Barestan before proceeding forward and motioning to the others following her. She had the signs of a youth not long gone with a maturity in the set of her jaw that spoke of years of training. There was elegance in Moraine while there was also an air of deadly purpose to her too.

The next to come through the doors were the rest of the party, numbering five in all. The youngest of the group, the twin children Graydon and Allyson, began to stare wide-eyed at the view of the buildings that rose up from the city to nearly reach the edges of the atmosphere itself. They followed the steady stream of airspeeders coursing along their routes while starships descended or ascended to landing platforms across the scene. Both Graydon and Allyson immediately ran to the windows for a better view of the cityscape.

While the twins had been on Coruscant for almost a year already, they had been sequestered within the Jedi Temple for almost all of it. The demands of their studies and training had prevented them from any sightseeing. The city world of Coruscant was so much different than their homeworld. The view before them always excited them and left them craving more.

Marissa, dressed in her light blue shimmersilk dress and robes, looked at the twins with a smile on her face as both children began to whisper back and forth to each other about the sights they found before them. Artur stood stoically next to her, dressed in dark blue armor with gold and silver gilding, not much different than the armor of the second set of guards. Behind the elder Strykias was the High Lady’s personal protocol droid, T-3R1. T-3 stood silently behind his mistress, simply observing until called upon. Just as Marissa was about to go to the children and usher them back towards Artur and the Grey Guard, Artur gentling put his hand on Marissa’s arm, halting her.

Artur gave his wife a loving smile and subtlety shook his head. Marissa relaxed a bit, but still looked after the twins with motherly concern. Moraine looked towards the High Lord, her eldest brother, and smiled. She casually walked over to stand by the children and watch over them as they pressed against the windows, attempting to see everything and anything. Artur watched his youngest children with a broad smile blooming on his face, enjoying their youthful innocence that neither of the twins had been able to partake in as of late.

"High Lord Strykia and Lady Strykia. Welcome to Coruscant." Came a regal voice. Stepping into view from a side hallway was a man dressed in blue and purple robes, trimmed in gold embroidery. Supreme Chancellor Palpatine. The head of the Galactic Senate for the Galactic Republic and the head of the Republic during one of its most troubling times, the Clone Wars.

"It is an honor to be here, Chancellor." Artur responded as he began to step forward. He held a regal air that spoke of a proper upbringing, but his eyes told that if needed, he could be ready for combat at any time. Artur offered a bow to the Chancellor.

"Chancellor Palpatine. We are honored to be here." Marissa added after Artur. She presented the Chancellor with a regal curtsy. By now, Moraine had herded the twins away from the window and back over to their parents. "Children. This is Supreme Chancellor Palpatine." Marissa said as she moved the two children to the front.

"Sir." Both children spoke as they offered their own bow and curtsy.

"This is delightful." The Chancellor spoke, a wide, almost endearing smile blooming across his face. "The Strykia twins are everything that I've heard rumored. What do you think of Coruscant, young ones?"

"It's big, sir." Allyson answered. Her eyes darted back to the windows as a smile of curiosity and wonder began to creep across her face.

Laughing, the Chancellor patted Allyson lightly on the head. "Yes it is, my dear. I suppose it's not quite as open and wondrous as your world of Antrixies, now is it?"

"No sir." Graydon added. "But it is very different and wondrous from what we've seen."

"I'm glad you think so, young master Strykia." The Chancellor directed to Graydon.

The Chancellor placed a hand gently on Graydon’s shoulder, mostly to give a comforting pat. As soon as Palpatine’s hand made contact, Graydon made a distinct jerk, almost as if he was responding to a precieved assault. Marissa was watching the whole time and noted that Graydon almost broke into a defensive stance.

"Blade.” Marissa immediately addressed Graydon by his given Jinsai honor name. “Where are your manners?"

Graydon lowered his head. Turning towards his mother, he offered a quiet apology. "I am sorry and ask for forgiveness, Kyudan." He addressed Marissa not as his mother, but as his Jinsai master.

“Don’t ask me for forgiveness, young Shodan Blade. It’s the Chancellor you need to address.” Marissa scolded.

"That is alright, Lady Strykia. He meant no dishonor. It was just a reaction children have at times when they meet someone new." The Chancellor quickly said before moving on, dismissing the event as nothing. "Lord Strykia. Your visit does surprise me. Especially with the way things have been going in the war. Travel isn’t safe anymore."

"I felt it was very necessary to make this trip, Chancellor. We need to make sure we present a unified front to those who still may try to secede from the Republic." Artur stated. "As members of the Republic, the Antrixians and our Commonwealth have an obligation to assist in this time of need. Republic forces took a pounding on Tauber and I used the opportunity to escort them back as an excuse to come." Artur gave the Chancellor a quick smile. "I doubt highly that the Separatists would attack the Battle Group that escorted us here."

"I do suppose you are right, Lord Strykia. But we must use caution these days. The Separatist forces have their targets and agendas, but I fear they may look on an opportunity such as your visit as an open invitation to bring you or your family harm."

"Lady Marissa insisted on coming." Artur smiled as he motioned towards his beautiful wife. "She has business at the Jedi temple, concerning the twins and herself."

"The twins have been studying at the temple, haven’t they?" The Chancellor asked. “Are they going to be joining the ranks of the Jedi?”

"For our people, Allyson and Graydon will be the first fully trained Jinsai and Jedi. When that time is right, of course." Marissa answered.

Marissa’s answer wasn’t a straight forward one. She skirted it without giving an outright lie. The oath she’d taken when she had become more than just an apprentice within the Jinsai Order prevented her from lying. Still, she could give half-truths that could be just as deceptive as a lie. It was an art she had mastered.

The twins’ dual training wasn’t common knowledge. It was part of the reason why the Jedi had kept them so isolated during the year they had been on Coruscant. While the general, galactic public wouldn’t care, there were those in the political scene that could view the twins’ training as a move by the Jedi or the Antrixians to secure power.

"That is a good thing for everyone in the galaxy. Now come. You must be hungry and I would like to talk to the High Lord about the Commonwealth's assistance with the conflict." The Chancellor motioned to a table adorned with platters of food as he beckoned the group to follow him and be seated.

As the group sat down and servants brought in drinks and trays of hors d'oeuvres, Graydon couldn’t help but feel the Chancellor look at him from time to time. Graydon sat quietly next to his mother and sister, trying to be as polite as he could. But each time he felt the Chancellor look in his direction, icy chills ran up his spine.

***

Three figures walked inside the open bay of one of the industrial towers of the section of Coruscant known as the Works. The tallest Human had gray hair and a gray beard, dressed in fine-tailored browns with a silver-clasped cloak. The other two, shorter, wore concealing cloaks. This was the only time there were three, instead of two.

“Lord Tyranus, what news do you bring?” Asked one of the Humans, dressed in the dark robes that concealed all his features. His voice was old, but one full of malice despite how well-spoken he might be. There was darkness within him.

“My master, our plan is moving accordingly.” Count Dooku, also known as the Sith Lord, Darth Tyranus said, answering his master. His well-tailored clothes and cloak spoke of fortune, power, and etiquette.

“Good.” Darth Sidious responded. His words, despite his pleasure in the report, still were laced with a darkness that was foreboding.

“The seeds of doubt are sown in the rogue Antrixian. Dontaine Strykia could become a valuable acolyte.” Dooku stated.

“No.” Sidious responded, turning to address his apprentice, Tyranus. “The Strykia boy is too reckless, too narrow-minded to join our plans. But perhaps his younger siblings could be of more interest to us. Yes. The twins are powerful in the Force. They would make powerful allies.”

“The future of these two children you speak of is clouded.” The man in the concealing red robe finally said, stopping beside Sidious. “The first one you spoke of, his path has been set. But these two, I’m not certain.”

“Rhakyhl, can they be made my servants?” Sidious asked, turning away from Dooku.

“I shall have to meditate on the matter. I will find out, my Lord Sidious.”

Rhakyhl had seen the twins in the Force. There were two of each of the twins, however. One set would die in service to the plans of Darth Sidious. The other set would be enemies of Dark Lord of the Sith. Was it the possible destinies that Rhakyhl had envisioned? Two different paths set before these twins? The interesting thing with his brief vision was that the twins killed each other in one fashion or another. From different paths, they would kill each other.

Only time and the Force would make clear what this meant.

***

"I don't like this, my dear." Marissa said as she paced the floor in front of the windows of the private apartment of the Antrixian senatorial complex. "This isn't right."

"Why all of the sudden are you so disturbed?” Artur, sitting in an over-stuffed chair, asked his wife.

"There's a shadow hanging over this place. It’s shrouding this planet and especially the Force here. It’s even worse than it is at home. There is a darkness hanging over the entire galaxy now, dimming the Force." Marissa answered as she turned towards the windows.

"In a time of war, feelings are bound to be darker than in a time of peace. Marissa, I don't want you to fret over nothing. Coruscant is not Antrixies and I'm sure that you are sensing that the senate is overly concerned with the Separatists and how wrong this war is." Artur rose from his chair and moved behind his wife, hugging her, resting his chin on her shoulder and pressing his head to hers. The glow of her blue within blue eyes subsided some, but still was there.

Artur referenced the war that had broken out recently. The Clone War, as it had come to be known, had started on Geonosis and was now enveloping the galaxy. The Separatist Crisis had turned into a galaxy divided, worlds seceding from the Republic to join the newly christened Confederation of Independent Systems. Armies on both sides had been mobilizing and warring against each other for months by then.

"I feel ripples in the Force, surging out from here. I'm afraid that there is a huge shift in the Force." Marissa's toned dropped to a hushed tone. "I cannot sense the direct source, but my gut tells me that these ripples have something to do with the Chancellor."

Marissa reached up and put a hand on Artur's face, gently and lovingly pressing his face against her head even more. "The last time Dontaine came home to the palace, I sensed almost the same thing. It was like an oil slick on water. The surface was somehow polluted. But this is stronger. Here. Before the reception with the Chancellor, Graydon's unconscious thoughts said the same thing. Especially when he came in contact with the Chancellor. He's sensing the wrongness in everything, even if he's not aware of it."

“Tensions are high, especially on Coruscant.” Artur said softly. “The people who are in charge of defending our way of life are under a huge amount of pressure. I’m sure that has to influence the Force.”

“It’s not just that.” Marissa responded. “Did you notice how withdrawn Graydon was while we ate? It’s the same way he acted around Dontaine after the Cahlazar. Graydon wants nothing to do with him anymore.”

“And here I thought it was more of a jealousy thing between them.” Artur said back. “I thought that that’s what had occurred. Especially when they use to be so close, despite their age difference.”

“No. It’s more than that. Graydon may still act a boy, but he is the most responsible Jinsai initiate I’ve seen.” Marissa smiled. “Dontaine and Graydon were close, but now Graydon treats Dontaine as if he’s an outcast. It’s almost as if Dontaine is Gai’shan to him and that has me concerned. All that aside, he’s too young to be feeling this heavy of a burden.”

"Does this have to do with the visions you've been having? Are his behaviors and your dreams linked? Do you think this has to do with the prophecy?" Artur asked softly.

"If it does and they are, then we are all in danger." Marissa moved to turn and face Artur. "I don't want Allyson or Graydon here. Not on this world. Not at the Jedi temple. Not now." Her eyes began to glow brightly again. "But I feel that none of us will be safe, anywhere."

"Your eyes tell me that a mother's concern is just as fierce as a mother Sai-tooth Felyx's protection of her cubs."

"I must speak to Master Windu. And then I want to be gone from here, tomorrow."

"You are not just my wife. You are my most trusted advisor. I've learned to never doubt you." Artur leaned in and kissed his wife softly. "You attend to your business. I can have Moraine and Barestan go with me to help with the twins. They have to see the sights here, before we leave. It’s my fatherly duty to make sure they see something of the galactic capital since the Jedi kept them locked away for so long."

"Be on your guard, Guardian. Please, for your sake as well as for the children’s." Marissa leaned closer and hugged her husband tightly. "As soon as I am done, I will come to wherever you are. The sooner we are done, the better."

***

Moraine quickly glanced around the rounding pillar she stood behind. It offered decent cover, but also obscured her view of the would-be attacker. Glancing the other way, she noted that Barestan had his Warblade sword drawn and that Halden Storme had his Lightsaber in hand, but not activated. They had just landed in their airspeeder when a blaster shot exploded into an arch over their heads as they made their way towards the awaiting Phoenix shuttle. Everyone had immediately rushed for cover.

Who knows what fate might have met them had they remained at the docking terminal at the Senate Complex. Graydon had immediately voiced his concern when they landed. Two of the Jinsai that were assisting the Grey Guard had ventured ahead while everyone else waited in the speeder. Those two unfortunate souls met their demise at the hands of droids that were apparently sent for an assassination attempt. It was Graydon’s sense in the force that saved the rest of the party.

Moraine looked back to her brother, seeing that he too had his weapon drawn and was shielding the twins as he waited for Moraine to motion them forward. Her eyes narrowed as she began to feel overconfident. Whoever had chosen to attack them didn’t realize that they were dealing with a party of Jinsai. It would be a deadly mistake for whoever their assailant turned out to be. Moraine glanced out again and saw no sign of where the blaster shot had come from.

With a quick motion of her free hand, Moraine sent Barestan and the Jinsai Gai’din, Halden, sprinting out from their cover to attack any hidden attackers. After a second, she followed suit. What surprised her most was that Halden had stopped quickly in his tracks and was now turning around to face the direction that Artur and the twins were in. There was a look on Halden’s face that turned Moraine’s innards to cold water. She quickly assumed the guard position with her own Warblade as she spun around.

The sound of Artur’s own Warblade clattering to the ground registered before the sight of her brother being knocked back against the wall did in her mind. A hulking Aqualish stood between Artur and the twins with three of the remaining Jinsai Gray Guards some distance away. In the Aqualish’s hand was an immense vibroaxe and he began to raise it, preparing to strike at Artur.

Without thought, Moraine sprinted forward. She knew that there was no way to reach the monster before his blow fell. She didn’t care. She had to try. Her vision tunneled in on the scene in front of her as she began to run.

Allyson and Graydon, even though they had just turned eight years old, weren’t helpless. Even as Moraine picked up speed to attempt to intervene with her brother’s assailant, she saw the twins act. They acted as true Jinsai. As true Jedi. It was as Marissa always said, together, the twins could do great things. Greater than when they were apart.

Allyson was the first to attack the monster in front of her. The Aqualish never knew her attack was coming. She jumped up with a nimble grace that only a child possessed and placed a determined kick right in the rear side of the alien. It was enough to hurt him a bit, but distract him more. The Aqualish paused in his attack on Artur and turned, swinging blindly at where he thought his assailer would be. Allyson had ducked down, almost as if she knew the intended blow was coming.

While Allyson was acting, so was Graydon. He rolled into a tight somersault across the floor towards his father. As Graydon came up, so too did his father’s Warblade. The crimson metal of the unique sword flashed in the light as Graydon raised it, pointing it at the Aqualish. It was mere inches away from the exposed lower torso of the alien.

Between Allyson’s first kick and the Aqualish’s wild swing, the alien was off balance. Allyson, already in a crouch, used the opportunity to kick out at the back of the alien’s opposite knee. It was almost perfect teamwork for the twins. The Aqualish buckled, sending him down on the aimed tip of Artur’s sword, held ever so steady by Graydon.

The alien’s weight finished what the twins had started. The Warblade sunk into his vulnerable flesh, piercing vital organs and severing blood vessels. Graydon let go of the grip, allowing the Aqualish to fall onto the sword and letting gravity finish the job. Graydon quickly backed up against the wall next to him father.

The Aqualish let out a howl of pain and anguish as the melee weapon fell from his hand and his valuable life blood spilled out. He rolled onto his back, clutching at the weapon now embedded in him. Within a mere second, the alien jerked once and then was dead.

Halden stopped just behind Moraine as she stopped next to her niece, looking at the scene in disbelief. Halden appeared just as shocked as she was. Artur straightened and stepped next to the corpse of the Aqualish. He carefully reached down and took hold of his weapon, pulling it free. The Aqualish didn’t move.

“If I wasn’t here, I wouldn’t believe it.” Halden quietly said.

Artur quickly looked at Graydon and then Allyson. “Are you two alright?”

“Yes, daddy.” Allyson responded.

“Yes, sir.” Graydon added.

Moraine, finally being able to break her shock, looked at her brother. “Artur… I’m sorry. I was bold. I should have-”

“No apology is necessary my dear sister.” Artur calmly interrupted his sister, wiping his blade clean on the tunic of the Aqualish. “How were any of us to know that this was an ambush. We all thought we had avoided the attack at the Senate.”

“We shouldn’t have been spread so-”

Moraine was once again interrupted, this time by the clang of metal on metal and the sound of sizzling. The group turned towards the sound as one. Barestan Santigar stepped around one of the pillars the Jinsai had earlier used as cover, holding a droid head in one hand and his Warblade in the other.

“I think that takes care of the threat.” Artur said, sheathing his own blade. “Let’s not tell your mother about this.”

The twins looked at each other and smiled.

***

Three chairs were occupied in the council room at the top of the Jedi temple. A short, green creature with wispy hair and pointy ears sat to the right of a dark skinned human, bald and dressed in the brown and tan robes of the Jedi. Another, younger than the other human, with short brown hair and a full beard and mustache, sat to the center's left. Marissa stood in the center of the chamber, facing the three, with full composure and all of her regalia. Slightly behind her stood her ever present and faithful droid, T-3. Addressing the Jedi Council was nothing new to her, but addressing some of the most important members of the Jedi Order with concerning matters such as what she was feeling was troubling to her.

"Master Strykia. All of the council senses the same ripples that you do." Mace Windu, leader of the Jedi Council, addressed Marissa with confidence and respect. "But you are leveling some very harsh concerns towards the Chancellor of the Republic. A Republic that the Jedi and the Jinsai have all pledged to protect."

"Yes, Master Windu. I know full well the weight of my words." Marissa responded without hesitation. "I would not bring this before you, if I had not thought it was of the utmost importance or that this did not warrant your attention."

"Your son, strong is he." Master Yoda, the oldest of the Jedi Masters on the council spoke. "Sense more than anyone is aware, he does. A shadow, he sees, falling upon everything."

"The council is aware that there are, issues, let us say, concerning the Chancellor. There is darkness near him that we are investigating. With that darkness comes danger. To the Republic and to the Chancellor. Your padawan may be seeing through this mask on the Force that everyone appears to be covered in. And he may not even know that he is doing so." Master Kenobi added after Yoda finished.

"Graydon is Shodan again, Master Kenobi, not a padawan learner. He may be a padawan when he’s here, but on Antrixies, he’ll be a Jinsai Shodan." Marissa chuckled softly. "But he instinctually sees through the Force as if he has more years’ experience than he does. I want him to fulfill my wish to be a Jedi, but not now. Not until this war is over and these dark times are past."

"The Jedi will always count on the Jinsai as our allies and our equals, Master Strykia." Mace Windu said when Marissa paused. "The twins will be welcomed back when the time is right. Until then, we have faith that you will continue to train them just as we have.”

Mace paused, reflecting on the first meetings with Graydon and the shatterpoints that he had seen surrounding the boy. After focusing himself, he then continued. “I sense that there is importance in him, which I can only assume carries on to his sister also. The council will discuss what you have brought before us."

"Dark times, these are." Yoda said as he slowly moved from his chair to walk to Marissa's position. Both Windu and Kenobi followed. "Your son, when I met him for the first time, has a hard destiny to fulfill. Not of the Jedi, is his road. But Jedi, he will be. This I see for him. Hope that your daughter is there to travel that road also, I do. By his side, with her, these twins can accomplish much."

"Master Yoda and Master Windu." Kenobi said as he moved to Marissa's side, addressing the other masters. "I will see Master Strykia off, with your permission."

"Of course, Master Kenobi." Windu responded.

After offering bows, both Marissa and Obi-wan turned and walked to the turbolift in silence with T-3 following closely behind. Obi-wan keyed the lift controls to take them to the ground level of the temple. Marissa was the first to break the silence.

"Obi-Wan? What did Master Yoda mean by that? Not a Jedi, but a Jedi?"

"I wish I knew, Marissa." Obi-Wan replied. "Master Yoda has the strongest gift for foresight out of the whole Jedi order. But there are times when he sees only what he tells. I remember how he spoke of his visions shortly after we first met the boy. Do you have another, younger child?"

“No. No other children. Why?”

“Yoda spoke of three children sharing a path together.” Obi-Wan stroked his beard as he thought on the conversation for a moment. “Either way, when we can get rid of Dooku and the rest of the Separatists, the war will be over and we can continue as planned. If all goes well, my next mission will be our first step towards victory.”

"I wish this war was not happening. Things were so much easier before the Separatists started this mess. I wish that Graydon could be here, studying with the likes of you and Master Yoda. I wish Allyson could be here to temper her impulsiveness. But I will not put either of them so far away and in harm's way. Not now. Not after what I've sensed and obviously what Graydon sensed."

"We all have trust that you will train both of your children in the same manner as we have. This is a new road for both sides. When the time is right, the Jedi will always accept them back to the temple." Obi-Wan said as he placed a re-assuring hand on Marissa's shoulder.

"I know." Marissa said with a sigh. "On another matter, how goes the training of your padawan?"

"Anakin?" Obi-Wan asked as Marissa nodded in response. "That boy will be the death of me. He's been granted knighthood, but he still has a lot to learn. He's as headstrong as ever and at times very careless and selfish.”

"He sounds like my oldest son, Dontaine." Marissa said, a look of remembrance coming to her eyes. “He was my first apprentice.”

"You aren't instructing your other son?"

"He's moved on in his instruction. The other Jinsai masters say the same as I do, though. He's trying to move through his training too fast." Marissa responded.

"That is a problem and a reason for concern."

"Master Jevan Metheyr is observing him for the time. This pairing should heal the rift between House Strykia and House Metheyr. They are out amongst the sectors, giving aid where they can and assisting the Republic with our troops."

The lift stopped and opened to the main hall of the Jedi temple where the pair exited the lift and began walking towards the main entrance. Their conversation continued as they walked, mostly concerning the movement of Republic forces and how they both felt that the Republic was barely making headway in the war against the Separatists. As they came out on to the main walkway leading up to the temple, the pair stopped, simultaneously. T-3 had to stop and take a step back, nearly bumping into Marissa.

"Do you sense that?" Obi-Wan ask as he began to search the stairs from his position.

"Yes." Marissa's hand swept her lightsaber from her belt in a fluid swipe as Obi-Wan did the same. Her years of training in the Force allowed her to feel the slight vibrations emanating outward, casting a dark shadow on the moment. The snap-hiss of their blades igniting was also almost simultaneous. From behind a statue, a small, black sphere darted quickly into view and fired two quick blaster shots from it's center. Obi-Wan deftly deflected one while Marissa did the same with the second bolt. As soon as the second bolt was deflected, Marissa fell into a rolling ball and dodged another pair of shots fired from a second droid sphere that appeared behind them.

Mastering the Force, Obi-Wan stretched out his hand and made a downward motion, sending the first droid crashing into the pavement. The telekinetic push through the Force did exactly what Obi-Wan had intended. The resulting explosion from the droid's crash was loud and could be felt through the stairs. Marissa was just as quick, throwing her lightsaber at the second droid, as she came out of her roll. The droid exploded in a loud shower of sparks and debris as the lightsaber made contact. Marissa guided the blade back to her hand through the Force, finding it surprisingly unscathed from the explosion.

"Dooku has gone too far." Obi-Wan said before extinguishing his lightsaber. Marissa did the same and clipped her's to her belt as her free hand pulled a comlink free.

"That was no attempt on my life. It was too easy and I don’t think Dooku was solely responsible." She said as she raised the comlink towards her face. "It was a distraction." She quickly keyed the comlink on. "Artur! Are you there?"

A brief moment passed before a response came back through the comlink. By this time, several clone troopers had moved from the temple entrance and were taking up defensive positions around Obi-Wan and Marissa.

"Yes Marissa. I am here with Moraine and the twins." Artur responded.

"Are you safe?"

"We are at the shuttle, waiting for you." Artur replied. "Graydon sensed a ripple in the Force and directed us to go to the shuttle just before we arrived at the Senate. We lost two guards to some type of assassins. One was a droid and the other was some creature that tried to ambush us when we landed at the pad. The other Jinsai took care of the threats, though."

Obi-Wan, overhearing this, interjected. "Tell him to come to the temple to pick you up. I fear that going to their location may be too dangerous. There may be other traps laid before us."

"Tell Master Kenobi I heard that and we're on our way there." Artur said through his own comlink.

"Use caution, my heart." Marissa said before disengaging the comlink and putting it back on her belt. "I fear this is the end of my visit, Master Kenobi."

"I agree, Master Strykia." Obi-Wan said with a sigh. With that, the pair, flanked by clone troopers, made their way back inside the temple to await the Antrixian shuttle.

***

“Master? What’s happened?” Asked the young teenaged girl, standing among six other members of the Jedi Order. Not far from where they stood were Master Obi-Wan Kenobi and his guest, Marissa Strykia. Her green eyes darted from her master to the surroundings of the landing pad in which they were all standing. The wind tossed her blonde hair away from her face as she cautiously looked over the scene before her. Attempting to seem calm and at ease, Becca Gellar felt nervous. More and more, she was feeling unease while she was on Coruscant, even at the Jedi Temple.

“We believe that the Separatists attempted to send a special force here in order to carry out an assassination attempt.” Master Tatianna Zem, stood tall, next to Becca. She was slender and beautiful, even exotic with her dark skin and dark eyes. Tatianna’s hair also fluttered in the wind on the landing pad. Ever watchful, Master Zem stretched out with the Force into their surroundings, watching for any signs of danger.

“Who is that talking with Master Kenobi?” Becca asked.

“That is the High Lady of the Antrixian Commonwealth. She came to speak to the masters and was leaving when the attack occurred.”

Master Zem’s words were nearly cut off by the sounds of repulsors and ion engines from the approaching shuttle. It’s sleek lines spoke of speed, mixed with a lethality that hinted of wartime needs. Becca watched intently as the strange shuttle came to rest on the landing pad. Securely landed, the boarding ramp lowered, ushering out two armed guards, standing ready should another attack occur. Overhead, a pair of Antrixian Shoto starfighters rushed by, flanked by Republic ARC-130 fighters, flying cover around the temple.

Becca watched as an older gentleman, dressed in a dark blue armor with a cloak draped down his back stepped down the ramp. Another guard rushed down behind him, trying to get in front of this man. The man, whoever he was, stepped around the guard, offering possibly stern words that made the guard snap to attention and halt his attempted stall.

Two smaller figures rushed down the ramp, however, bypassing the guards and running to the woman that stood with Master Kenobi. For an instant, Becca thought she recognized the pair. Hadn’t she seen them in the temple, training and studying with different masters?

Stretching out with the Force, Becca felt no disturbances in her vicinity. She was surprised that she could feel the warmth and light through the Force that came from the small group of newcomers. She watched intently as the children, ran to their mother, first offering a quick bow then hugging her tightly. It brought a smile to her face, watching that love. Becca wished, briefly, that she could be included in that feeling of belonging. The dream of having a family had started to become strong. Each night, she drifted to sleep thinking of the family she didn’t know and dreaming of a family that she might one day have.

***

As the Antrixian Phoenix shuttle landed, Obi-Wan reached out with the Force, scanning the surrounding for any lingering threats. Sensing none, he looked to Marissa and nodded.

“I sense nothing unusual.” Marissa nearly had to shout as the engines and repulsors of her husband’s shuttle threatened to drown her words out. She looked on as the shuttle landed and the boarding ramp opened. Two guards quickly came to guard the base of the ramp, which were followed by her own husband. Another guard, Rengan, she thought, tried to stop him from coming down to her, but Artur wasn’t easily dissuaded.

Behind Artur came the sense of boundless energy and brightness in the Force. Both Allyson and Graydon came rushing down the ramp, easily sliding past the guards with twists and spins, even as the guards tried to bar their way. From Marissa’s perspective, she could see Moraine standing atop the ramp, watching the twins, but smiling at their youthful defiance. The twins beat Artur to her, but not by much. The twins stopped just short of her, snapping off quick bows.

“Mother, Master Jedi.” Both said in unison. Standing straight again, they rushed Marissa in a combined hug, leaving Marissa little time to respond. A smile quickly spread across Obi-Wan’s face as he bowed in return and then stepped forward to greet Artur.

“Lord Strykia. I wish we were meeting under better conditions.”

“Likewise, Master Kenobi. Thank you for watching over my wife.” Artur responded.

“Watch over her? She did half the work all on her own.” Kenobi returned with a laugh. “Perhaps I should thank you for having her here to watch over me.”

“Still, thank you.”

“Don’t mention it. I’m glad everyone is safe. That is the important part.” Kenobi said as he turned to bid Marissa farwell. Seeing the twins looking at him, he addressed them. “These must be the rumored twins. Your reputation precedes you, young ones.”

“Thank you, Master Jedi.” Allyson said first. Graydon followed with an even deeper bow to honor Obi-wan.

“Children, this is Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Marissa added.

“The whole temple has buzzed about you since Geonosis.” Graydon responded, a wide smile spreading across his face. Graydon’s eyes lit up with a sense of admiration for the man. “You and Knight Skywalker.”

“You have me there, young one.”

“I’m Graydon, but my honor name is Blade. This is Katana, or Allyson. That’s her real name.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet both of you.” Obi-Wan smiled.

“Come children, we have to be off. Thank you again, Master Kenobi.” Artur chimed in.

“Until next time, Lord Strykia.” Obi-wan addressed Artur. “Master Strykia, children. May the Force be with you.”

“And may the Force be with you.” Marissa and the twins said in unison as she guided the children back to the shuttle. Obi-wan watched as the Antrixians boarded the shuttle. At the top of the ramp, Graydon turned around and looking at Obi-wan, placed his closed fist into his other hand, bowing, giving the Jedi Master a respectful Jinsai farwell.

***

“Wow!” Allyson exclaimed as she slowly turned, gazing in wonder around the cavern.

“Shhh, Ally!” Graydon said in a loud whisper. “Remember what mom said! We have to be able to hear a crystal sing to us!”

“Yeah, yeah.” Allyson responded sarcastically. “But would you look at this place?”

“I see it.” Graydon continued in a loud whisper. “Still… Be quiet please.”

The Strykia twins advanced into the frozen cave a bit farther. The ice and snow just inside the mouth of the cavern crunched under their small feet. Here, on Lysai, the Jinsai brought their apprentices in order to begin the most important part of building a Gai’din weapon, the legendary Lightsaber.

Lysai was one of the few places in the galaxy where Kyber crystals could be easily found. It wasn’t easy to find them here though. The few caves on Lysai where the Kyber could be found were carefully guarded secrets. The Jinsai guarded them zealously and the mountains where the caves were found were restricted areas where mining couldn’t be done. It was also one of the most remote regions on the planet.

Marissa had brought the twins here for the purpose of finding Kyber crystals for their training in Lightsaber construction. She refused to enter the caverns with her children. It was up to Graydon and Allyson, each alone, to find a crystal for their own Lightsaber. She had trained the twins enough so that if they listened to the Force, they would be able to hear the Kyber crystal “sing” to them, meaning that the crystal had selected one of them.

While it was cold in the cave, neither twin seemed to notice. After their brief conversation upon entering the cave, both had fallen silent. They were focusing themselves for the discovery, should they each find a crystal.

The twins walked slowly, paralleling each other, running their hands along the wall, examining the rock and ice within the cave. After a few long paces, they eventually entered a domed volcanic chamber within the cavern. Neither had a light source with them, but they didn’t need it. The cavern was washed with a soft white glow from various crystal formations. Some protruded from the floor, others from the walls.

Graydon immediately noted that the chamber had a clean feeling to it. Despite not having any vegetation or animal life, there was a strong, pure Force presence in there. There was also a soft chiming in the cavern. Graydon felt it more than heard it.

Both Graydon and Allyson opened themselves to the Force, allowing the cosmic energy to course through them. They paced themselves through the calming exercises their mother had taught them, allowing the Force to guide them, acting as natural conduits for the mystical energy. It was then that they heard the song.

From all around them, the chiming changed to a soft, melodious chorus. Graydon could only call it to the most beautiful singing he’d ever heard. Even the choir from the Relkan Youth Academy didn’t compare. It was light, almost like pure light in an audio form. It was invigorating and refreshing. It was energizing.

While Allyson began walking in one direction, Graydon focused on one particular song voice that seemed to reach out to him. He began to move towards it, allowing the singing to guide him. As he approached a cluster of crystals on a shelf within the cavern, he saw the glow from the crystals begin to intensify.

He watched as he moved forward, the cluster brightening as he slowly stepped forward. What amazed him the most was that as he neared the cluster, the silvery light of the crystals changed to a blue hue. It wasn’t intense, but he could make out the change. What caught his attention the most was the plume of green that blossomed in the middle of the cluster.

It was a strong, bright green, like the blade of a lightsaber. One crystal, in particular, was calling out to him, shining to him in order to gain his attention and bond with him. His Kyber crystal had selected him. Despite having heard the stories about the Kyber selecting it’s Jinsai or Jedi, Graydon was in awe from his own personal experience.

He slowly reached towards the green glow. It felt like he was moving through water, with each second being drawn out into an eternity. As his fingers made contact, he was immediately surprised to feel a cool, hard texture, with no heat coming from the crystal. It wasn’t until he’d had a few seconds of contact with the crystal that Graydon felt the warmth coming from it.

He carefully tweezed it from the cluster with his thumb and finger. Placing it in his other palm, Graydon brought the crystal towards his face. The Force was filling him. He felt at peace, especially gazing on the crystal. The Kyber had chosen him.

About the thickness of one of his fingers, the Kyber crystal was half as long. It pulsed with life. Graydon could feel it. In its faceted sides, he could just make out the lattice that made the crystal living and inorganic at the same time. It was fascinating.

The Kybers grew throughout their indeterminate lifespan, slowly adding to themselves layer by layer. Their lattice of living cells held unique properties that allowed the Kyber to absorb energy and greatly increase the output return they discharged. The crystals were also strongly attuned to the Force which allowed them to bond with Force-users. Those that were chosen were always servants of the Light side. The Kyber didn’t bond with the Dark side. Only by sheer domination through the Dark side could a Kyber be made to serve evil intent.

Graydon knew this from Marissa’s teachings. He knew that because he served the Light, the Kyber would in turn serve him as he needed. This crystal, which had chosen him, would be the heart of his Lightsaber. This task and journey for a young, Jinsai apprentice, was now complete.

Without saying a word, Graydon turned and made his way out of the cave, to where his mother would be waiting. While he was calm, some of his pride drove him to show his mother his success. He didn’t even wait for Allyson. The experience was his and his alone. He didn’t want to share it with his twin.

***

Marissa watched from her place at the head of the trail leading to the crystal caves. She noticed Graydon exit the cavern first. It concerned her that Graydon came out, alone. He had either succeeded or he had doubted himself and given up.

The other concern was that Allyson didn’t exit with him. Marissa was tempted to reach out with the Force to see if her children were successful or not. She had to still herself, though. Her guiding hand could not interfere with this trial, regardless if her motherly concerns tried to override her Jinsai training and obligations.

Marissa felt herself sigh in relief when Allyson appeared. She was walking fast, trying to catch up with Graydon without running. The mother and master wanted to know if the twins had been successful. She watched, hoping that they had.

***

Allyson had caught up to Graydon and both of the twins approached their mother without a word. Neither would speak, even though they could both feel the success they had achieved through their bond in the Force. Graydon noted that Ally could barely contain her excitement though.

Stopping before Marissa, both of the twins bowed respectfully and held out an open hand, showing their success to their mother and master. Marissa couldn’t suppress the smile that bloomed on her face. The crystals pulsed with color and life in each of the twins hands.

Graydon’s crystal was still singing the song of the Kyber, which Marissa could hear very plainly. It’s glow was a strong green. It was different from so many of the other Jinsai’s crystals. Most were a silvery white but Graydon’s was green, like a Jedi’s energy blade.

In Allyson’s palm, two blue crystals sang to Marissa too. They shined brightly, just like Graydon’s crystal. Another rarity. It made Marissa give pause, thinking to back to her bargaining to have Graydon and Allyson train with both the Jinsai and the Jedi.

This had to be a sign.

“You both have done well and succeeded, my children.” Marissa smiled warmly.

Allyson and Graydon bubbled over with excitement, their calm evaporating fast. They both knew what this meant. Once their Lightsabers were constructed and finished, they could move on to the next part of their training. They could then begin to act as extensions of their master, as guardians of the Commonwealth. They were true Padawans and Jinsai Godans, ready to be out among the stars, in service to those that needed them.

Graydon looked over and saw the two crystals which Allyson held. A twinge of jealousy threatened to overtake him. He knew what two crystals meant.

“Seriously, Ally?” Graydon asked before he could even stop himself.

“What?” Allyson shot back, her smile widening.

“Two?” Graydon furrowed his brow. “You just had to out-do me, didn’t you?”

Marissa stepped in to break up what could quickly turn into another dispute between her children. “Blade… Be thankful. Some are not chosen upon their first trips here. Also be thankful that you won’t have double the work when crafting your saber.”

Marissa’s words had an immediate effect on Graydon. He stopped and calmed himself. But before he was finished, he stuck his tongue out at his sister. The words also had their effect on Allyson. Her smile dimmed as she realized that instead of working on one saber, she’d have double the workload now.

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