Standing outside the house, the trio of Antrixians looked about the new surrounding, inquisitive about what the future held for them. It had only been a year since Moraine had brought the twins to Coyn, leaving Wazta and their silent guardians behind. The first three months had been filled with work, moving, and little time for much else.
Upon arriving on Coyn, Moraine had been very fortunate in securing a modest apartment for their first few weeks on the planet. It was quiet and comfortable, but still located within the city. The paranoia was still there, regardless if they were surrounded by aliens of varying species or by a mix of predominantly humans. Moraine felt that she was always looking over her shoulder for signs of pursuit or trouble.
The finances that Marcus and Kelenn had imparted on them could have allowed Moraine and the twins to live comfortably for a couple of years, but she didn’t want to waste it. Moraine had made up her mind that she and the twins would assume new identities and begin a new life on Coyn. By all appearances, the Strykias would be just another family looking to start anew after the ravages of war had displaced them. No longer would they live as exiled nobles from the Antrixian Commonwealth. They would live as any other common family from anywhere in the galaxy.
After settling into the apartment, Moraine began searching for a small, discreet location in which she could set up a small shop, reacquainting herself with the Jinsai art of bladesmithing. After the first day, Moraine truly believed that perhaps Marissa had been right: The Force truly was writing a destiny for the twins and she was now involved. By luck or by destiny, she had located a small shop not far from the starport. It was a quaint building which had recently housed a weaponsmith. The old Coynite that had owned it had died, without an apprentice or heir to carry on after him. The rest of the old one’s family simply wanted a fair price for the shop. Moraine didn’t argue.
Inside, the forges were still intact and well-tended. Most of the tools left behind were old, but still very functional. If she closed her eyes, she could hear the hammer on the anvil, smell the smoke of the heating furnace and feel the heat from the forge. This wasn’t much different than the forges the Jinsai used to forge their weapons. Even the Gai’din had used the forges to help in the forming of parts of their Lightsabers.
This was a part of her that could keep her tied to the past, to her memories and her family. It would also allow her to keep that connection alive in the twins through her. Her thoughts harkened back to Marissa.
- “Please, Moraine. Should things come to pass, I need you to take the twins. You can train them as well as be the mother that they will need. Through you, they will be prepared to do whatever the destiny of the Force lays before them.”
All the planning, all the dread, all the dreams…
Dreams might have been shattered, but through pure tenacity, Moraine clung on to hope. Dontaine might have betrayed the whole family, but she wouldn’t let it stop her. She wouldn’t cave to despair. She’d use it to drive the future forward. She might hate everything that had happened, but she’d forge a new dawn, for both her and the twins.
Standing in her new shop, she felt hope, more than a tickle now, creep into her. This was the start of the future. This was the start of hope.
After settling into the shop, Moraine and the twins had busied themselves cleaning it and preparing it. Within a week, they were ready to open it. Within a month of self determination and hard work, Moraine was starting to see the muscle tone returning that she once had from before becoming a Grey Guard. Her time working in the new shop was hard, but it felt good. She relished in the chance to work with her hands and create something new from nothing.
Business was slow at first, which gave her time to reacquaint herself with skills she hadn’t used in years. Moraine was able to begin honing her skills through trial and error. Folding heated metal over and over, working the impurities out, quenching the steel in treated waters to add strength, and finally bringing an edge to a blade which could cut with a light touch brought a piece of the Commonwealth to her.
It took a while, but after her first few customers, Moraine found that the Coynites began referring others to the “off-worlder” that could make and/or fix a blade with true artisan skill. It took time, though, to build her reputation. Her business would never be booming, but she had work. She had requests and there were always individuals interested in custom orders.
Mer’Karl was an older Coynite that frequented her shop during the few months, never buying, but always browsing. Finally, she openly confronted him on his loitering. The Coynite was proper and honorable, yet took offense when questioned. That required rectifying, which meant a duel. Coynite honor demanded it and after the challenge was made, Jinsai honor also demanded that Moraine fulfill it, which she did.
Moraine seemed to be at a disadvantage from the start, just by size comparison alone. But the group of six that gathered to watch the duel in front of the shop found that they had seriously underestimated the “off-worlder.” Moraine wasn’t a Jinsai Blademaster, but she was close. Her skills were among the best within the Commonwealth. Knowing that she had to do what she must, Moraine quickly allowed her steel to flash and sing, flying through the air and disarming her opponent before he took more than two offensive moves.
Mer’Karl submitted right there, right after Moraine nudged the tip of her Warblade against his chest. “Off-worlder, you move as a true warrior and have shown skills which many of us doubted. My honor is less now because I offended you. As I am in your debt for my offense, you choose my fate.”
“Stand, Mer’Karl.” Moraine responded. “My honor will not have you die from a challenge, regardless of what yours demands.”
“The price of dishonor is death.” The Coynite replied.
“Not by my honor code.” Moraine lowered her blade. “You may choose one other choice, or leave branded in dishonor.”
“Af’Farl, is the word.” Mer’Karl answered. “No. What is the other choice?”
“You are in my service then, since you won’t accept the dishonor.”
“So be it.” Mer’Karl bowed before her.
By the old traditions of the Jinsai, an opponent who challenged and was beaten in combat could be taken into servitude if they would not accept the dishonor of defeat. This meant being in another’s service for one year and one day. During that time, the person could not pick up a weapon or engage in combat without being branded Gai’shain, dishonored. The Jinsai code and the Coynite code were similar so once Moraine explained it, Mer’Karl nodded and agreed. Little did either know that after a year and a day, Mer’Karl would become, in essence, part of Moraine’s family. Mer’Karl tied his honor and his life to Moraine and the twins, which would have further implications on their lives in the future.
Moraine chose to move the twins to the outskirts of town shortly after that. They were able to find a small acreage that gave them some distance away from the spaceport while also giving them some privacy. The domed house had softly rolling hills around it and a thick screen of trees. It looked no different than something they might find on another world. For Moraine, it was perfect. For the twins, there were adventures to be had in the woods. Adventures in the hills.
“Well, children… This is it.” Moraine said, trying to take in the view. She was also trying to picture the upcoming years that they might spend there.
“It looks doable.” Graydon said nonchalantly.
“It’s a fine choice, Aunt Serina.” Allyson chimed in, trying to be humorous with a bad Core accent. She also referred to Moraine by her assumed name, Serina.
“Thank you, Dara.” Moraine replied, using Allyson’s fake name. She gently put an arm around the young girl’s shoulders.
Moraine had been drilling the twins for some time now to use their assumed identities instead of their real names, especially in public. For all intents and purposes, it was better to let the galaxy think that Graydon, Allyson, and she had died back on Antrixies, during the event that was now called the Antrixian Purge. Right then and there, the galaxy didn’t need to know otherwise.
The three Strykias were anxious for a new start. They were ready for this new beginning.
“Pushee wumpah skocha-kloonkee.” Said the library droid as the young girl with long brown hair stepped back, wiping her hands on her pants and admiring her handy work.
‘Watch who you’re callin’ exhaust-for-brains, you bucket of grease.” CJ Morgan responded back to the droid. “Let’s see how big of a stink this causes.”
The recently rewired library droid continued to prattle on, uttering every swear word in Huttese that its memory banks could hold. CJ laughed as she threw down her tools on the table and began to walk out, intent on causing more mischief during the wee hours of the morning.
Peeking through the sliding door, out into the empty corridor, CJ slid out into the hall, backed against the wall, slowly advancing, constantly watching for anyone that might catch her up and out of her room at this late hour. She wasn’t sure what her next plan was going to be, but she was sure she had to do something that would upset Mistress Delonia and Madame Vesta. Maybe if she set off the fire suppressant units again, she’d get kicked out and sent back to Corellia. Either that or her mother would send her Kessel. Either way, she’d get off Alderaan and away from these stuffy little princesses. This place, the Alderaan Academy for Select Young Ladies, was a waste of her time. She wanted adventure.
Coming upon the intersection in the hallway, CJ stopped, peeking around the corner to make sure her route was clear. While looking one way, she failed to hear the soft footfalls behind her. The hand clamping down on her shoulder nearly shot CJ to the ceiling.
“Miss Morgan!” Alavia Kaval, assistant teacher, said in a stern voice as she took hold of the rebellious ten year-old. The tall blonde that had spent more time with CJ than anyone else on Alderaan had a look of concern on her face.
“Ah frak!” CJ spouted, not even trying to keep herself from swearing. “You trying to give me a heart attack or send me into orbit?”
“Watch your language, young lady. And what are you doing out of your room at this hour?”
“I’m hungry. And who’re you callin’ lady, lady?” CJ returned, squinting in defiance at her singing instructor. "And I swear that there were no berry-bombs in the refresher when I left there."
“Cassandra, please!” Alavia scolded. “This is the third time this month that you’ve been caught out of your room after hours. You know Madame Vesta is going to demand disciplinary action for this.”
“You’re right… You’re totally right.” CJ began to smile. “For being a ‘karking loca gaggalak mursto’ she should be shipped off world on the first garbage scowl available. But I doubt the captain or the crew would accept that kind of trash on their ship. I'm actually hoping she kicks me out!”
“Oh CJ… I know you’re miserable here.” Alavia said as she knelt down in front of CJ. “What can I do to help?”
“Nothing. There’s nothing you can do. I don't want to be here.” CJ’s smile disappeared quickly.
“Alright. Come on. Let’s get back to your room. We’ll deal with this in the morning.” Alavia said as she stood, wrapping a caring arm around CJ’s shoulders. “Are you sure you were just up and wandering, looking for something to eat?”
“Oh yeah, totally.” CJ lied. “But you might want to have someone check out the library droid. He’s gotten to be very rude. I think he might be malfunctioning.”
CJ was escorted back to her room where she didn’t sleep. Even though Alavia seemed like the closest thing she had to a friend at the academy, she felt totally alone there. Anger and resentment brewed in her heart. Partially because her mother had left her there. The other part was because she was so far away from home and her friends. She knew that her family was split in two and it wasn’t going to be mended.
So she may have gotten in some trouble with some local security officers back on Corellia. Her father's friend, Bren Inarro, in CorSec had smoothed it over. And yes, she might have been caught staying out past curfew, but at least she was with her friends, safe in Nadja's speeder garage. They might have caused a few noise complaints due to playing loud music, but it was better than her joining a swoop gang.
Yes, Nadja and Nita had convinced her to start singing for their little garage band they started. It was an outlet for CJ and it provided her with a way to forget exactly what had happened between her parents. CJ had found a passion for Heavy Isotope music. It was probably because it was the exact opposite of what her mother sang. Moreover, she didn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. CJ wasn’t sure what she wanted in her life.
That day proved Alavia right. Madame Vesta had confined CJ to her quarters for three days, especially after the library droid had addressed the Madame as a “bantha excrement sweetheart.” CJ sat her three days in silent defiance, barely eating and not talking when Alavia stopped by to check on her. She was the only one other than the servant droids that did. None of the other girls would. They were too busy doing their snotty, upper-class things and being self destructive themselves.
CJ withdrew over the next week, closing herself off to nearly everyone. It wasn’t until Alavia showed up at her room with a droid and crate that CJ broke her silence.
“Cassandra?” Alavia said as she entered, finding CJ sitting in her window, staring distantly at the Thrantas as they drifted in the sky.
“What?” CJ responded blankly.
“You know what tonight is, don’t you?”
“No.” CJ answered. “Wait. It’s my scheduled execution. Death by boredom and humiliation.”
“Nooo…” Alavia responded. “It’s the Feat Week Ball at the Palace Annex. The whole academy has been invited. That means you too.”
“I’m not going.”
“Oh yes you are!” Alavia said with a smile. “You’ve been cooped up in here for nearly two weeks. You’re coming with me and we’re going to have fun.”
“Only if it involved a thermal detonator in a toilet somewhere.” CJ said, a smile beginning to creep across her face.
“No, no detonators. But there will be boys there.” Alavia said with a wink.
“Boys? On second thought…”
“Oh no you don’t! I had you hooked! You’re coming!”
After three hours of poking, primping, and dressing, CJ felt miserable again. This time, it was due to the clothes, not because of where she was. Arriving at the Annex Ballroom, CJ saw that the other girls were breaking off into their own little groups of gossip, lies, and snobbery. She made her way to a back table and sat down, quietly away from everyone else. Perhaps staying out of the road will keep me out of the notice of anyone and everyone, she thought. She kept a watch on the room, noting that the music was classy, but not her style. The girls were giggly and less self-assured than they bragged at being.
The boys across the room were a mass of male grandiosity. Loud, and trying to catch the attention of the girls, they put on fake displays of macho behavior and attempts at weak self-confidence. She rolled her eyes and snorted as she watched their displays. CJ didn’t notice a group of boys off to the side, talking and gesturing at her, until it was too late. A young boy, not much older than her was shoved out of the little group and given a push in CJ’s direction. She fixed her sights on him and quietly waited for what was to come next.
“The females of the Twi’lek and Zeltrons are said to be, uh, the most beautiful creatures in the galaxy. But I think I may have discovered a new species.” The young boy said bashfully as he stopped in front of CJ.
“Have you ever met either one of those?” CJ ask as she addressed the young man with a smile. “I’m pretty sure a Twi’lek could make you eat your own spleen for saying something like that.”
“Was it that bad of a line? My friend’s dared me to come over and say it…”
“Save it.” CJ interrupted. “You put effort in, so I’ll help you save face. Besides, I’m bored.”
Standing, CJ took the young boy by the hand and started to lead him towards the dance floor. Walking past the group of boys that her companion had emerged from, CJ quickly made a rude hand gesture towards the group. Arriving on the dance floor, CJ quickly wrapped her arms around the boy’s shoulders.
“Do you know how to dance?” She ask.
“Um, yeah. A little, I guess.” He responded.
“Good. You lead because I don’t.”
The couple began to slowly sway and step across the floor, an awkward silence forming between them. CJ was staring to tense.
“By the way, I’m Sebastian.” The young boy said, breaking the silence. CJ’s tension started to dissolve a bit.
“Cassandra.” She answered back. “Well, most people call me CJ.”
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Cassandra, err, CJ.” Sebastian responded.
“Why’d you take the dare?”
“Why did you take the dare to come over and talk to me?” CJ asked.
“You looked alone. You shouldn’t have had to be sitting by yourself.” Sebastian answered.
“You’re going to make me answer that, aren’t you?”
“What do you have to lose?”
“I embarrass myself in front of the prettiest girl in the room and she shoots me down. That’s what I have to lose.” Sebastian responded. “I prefer a safe landing over a crash upon re-entry.”
“Is your father a pilot?” CJ asked, her interest peaking at Sebastian’s comment.
“Hardly. He oversees a company that builds ships on Caprishia. I want to fly and see the stars, not sit behind some desk. That’s what he wants from me.”
“Me too, except it’s my mom instead of my dad.” CJ said. “I want adventure. I want to see places that nobody else gets to see.”
“Maybe we could hop on a starship and do just that!” Sebastian said with a wry smile.
“Maybe.” CJ responded, smiling back.
She stared deeply into Sebastian’s eyes, giving him the first genuine smile she’d had in a long time. Her anger and trepidation seemed to melt away and she was soon dancing close to him, resting her head on his shoulder. Alavia watched from across the room, seeing CJ melt into the young lady that was trapped under the disguise of an insolent child. Alavia smiled, truly happy that CJ had found some comfort and happiness on this night.
Two songs passed and Sebastian and CJ didn’t seem to notice. They continued to dance as they had been without care for the world around them. It was when the third song finished that CJ lifted her head and looked at Sebastian again.
“Come on, flyboy. Let’s go outside for a walk.” There was a confidence in her voice that belied the youth in her physical form.
The young couple spent the rest of the evening walking in the garden outside of the Palace Annex. They talked about hopes and dreams and how someday, they’d travel to far-off worlds and have great adventures. Both CJ and Sebastian felt at home around each other, forgetting that they were on a world other than their homeworld and that they both had problems with their families. That night, they had each other for companionship.
“Sebastian?” CJ asked, stopping and looking up at the starry night sky.
“Yeah?” Sebastian inquired back.
“When this night comes to an end, do you suppose we’ll see each other again?” There wasn’t any doubt in her voice. CJ was calm and seemed to be truly wondering about what the future might hold.
“Do you believe in an old mysticism they used to call the Force?” Sebastian asked back.
“Sure.” CJ’s reply was chipper. “My grandma used to tell me about the Force and the, well, those people that could use it.”
“I believe in it.” Sebastian looked up to the heavens too. “I believe that it will have us cross paths again. We found each other once, we’ll find each other again. It’s destiny.”
CJ giggled and gave Sebastian a gentle push. “Oh wow, flyboy. What holovid did you pull that from?”
“Save it.” CJ leaned closer. “It was sweet.”
CJ leaned in more and gave Sebastian a quick peck on the cheek. After he turned a deep scarlet in color, CJ smiled and then nonchalantly turned her attention back to the sky. Sebastian, trying to overcome his embarrassment, cleared his throat and stood beside her. Slowly and timidly, he moved his hand to gently take hold of hers. CJ didn’t look away from the night sky. She just softly smiled instead.
At the end of the ball, they had to part ways, but both promised to someday find each other again. On the way back to the academy, Alavia didn’t say a word as she walked CJ back to her room until they arrived there. CJ was quiet the whole way back, seemingly lost in a daydream.
“So, did you have a good night?” Alavia asked, breaking the silence once they arrived at CJ’s room.
“Nope.” CJ quickly responded with a smile. “I thought the dance was terribly boring and tedious.”
“Good. So that means you won’t be sneaking off to visit Mr. Synklair at the Boys’ Academy?”
“Is that his last name?” CJ asked mockingly. “No matter, I wouldn’t dream of being around a disgusting boy.”
“Right. Good night, CJ.”
“You’re welcome, sweetie.”
CJ attempted to sleep, but it didn’t come. Once again, in the wee hours of the morning, she found herself creeping down the halls, this time in honesty, going to the galley for something to eat.
When she had reached the corridor leading to the dining area, she saw a couple droids leaving the service area, following a couple humans dressed in coveralls. They definitely weren’t the regular staff from the academy. Curious, she began to follow the four, wondering who they were and what was going on.
CJ followed to a part of the school that she didn’t recognize. She watched as the group walked down a corridor before tuning another corner. She quickly dashed after them, attempting to be as quiet as she could. Just as she was halfway down the corridor, she turned to see the doors behind her slide shut. At the same time, the floor began to pull her forward, towards the corner where the group had disappeared. In front of her, a blast door was beginning to lower.
“Oh frak.” She said as she noted the gap forming behind her as the floor began to shrink in length. “I’m in a docking ring!”
Running forward, she slid under the door just before it sealed. Standing up, she looked at the door, muttering a curse at the close call and the situation she was now in. CJ felt the telltale signs of engine reverberations beginning through the deckplates as she started to turn around. She was trying to determine which way to go to the cockpit when she felt a hard bump from behind her. Turning around, CJ found herself looking into the photoreceptor of a red and white R2 astromech droid.
The droid sent out a series of beeps, chirps, and whistles at her as she looked at it.
“I have no idea what you just said.” CJ responded back.
The droid issued more tones.
“Nope. Still no idea.” She responded once more. “Any ideas on what kind of mess I’m into now?”
The droid let out two chirps in a response of his own.
“Nevermind.” CJ said as she looked the astro droid over. Noticing it’s model number inscribed just below the droid’s dome, she quickly read it. “R2-F3, huh? Nice to meet you. I’m CJ.”
R2-F3 let out a series of twitters and whistles before turning and going back the way it had come.
“Well then, lead on, oh short leader!” CJ said after the droid. “Let’s see what we can do while I’m here. I might as well make the most of it.” Following the droid, CJ ventured deeper into the ship, leaving Alderaan and the Academy for Select Young Ladies behind.
Six years had passed since the exile to Coyn had come about. The sounds of teenagers filled the house on Coyn, except those teenage sounds weren’t from teenagers anymore. The young adults that had come to be from the teenagers they once were still held the traces of youth in them. The twins were constantly active and kept the home anything but quiet.
Moraine had come to accept this. More than anything, the sounds of the twins, regardless of the laughing, fighting, or pranks, warmed her heart. They were the only connection she had left to an old life. A life that had been taken away from her by treachery and betrayal. This was her family now, even though that family was about to grow in number again. Her new husband had welcomed not only her, but her niece and nephew without reservation. Now, there would be another to add. Deshawn and Moraine were expecting their first child, a daughter. She would be named after Moraine’s great aunt, on her father’s side of the family. It was just one more connection that she would attempt to make to keep memories alive.
Nearly eight years before this day, Moraine had made a promise to her brother’s wife that she would watch over her niece and nephew, raising them as her own and training them for a day that she hoped wouldn’t come. The betrayal of her family and people by her eldest nephew still hurt her, in a deep, emotional way. She was sure that the scar would never heal completely. But the life she and the twins had started here had helped to dull the pain, to make it bearable.
One of the hard parts had been laying aside the oaths that she had taken. As a member of the Grey Guard, her responsibility had been to safeguard the High Lord and his family. She was still performing her duty, as she had sworn she would. Watching over the Strykia twins still honored that oath. But she had sworn to never hold land or have a family. Duty was to always come first. That was until Graydon had told her that she needed to be happy.
- “Moraine. You need to be happy.” Graydon said matter-of-factly.
- “My dear, sweet nephew. I am happy.” She responded.
- “No, you are not.” Graydon had a sheepish grin begin to cross his face. It was a look that Moraine and Graydon shared, when either one of them knew that the other was right and the one in the wrong must defer. “You do realize that I will pull rank.”
- “I am your aunt and your Kyudan.”
- “And for all we know, I am the eldest, surviving child of a Lord, giving me rights to my House’s seat.” His eyes were alight with a blue glow, showing a happy playfulness that matched his grin.
- “You mean to impose the Lord’s will on me?”
- “No. I mean to make sure you’re taken care of and happy too. You’ve done that for Allie and I.” Graydon grew serious for only a moment. “Your oath to the Grey Guard is done. Quit flirting with Deshawn at the starport and accept his advances.”
- “Graydon Kelan Strykia! You can’t be serious?”
- “I am. You are yet one more hope for our people to keep going. I can’t let that fade away.” His boyish smile returned. “Now, Kyudan. I am your pupil once more.”
- “When did you grow up on me?” Moraine returned his smile. “I shall consider what you’ve said. But I’m only considering it!”
After a week of deliberating over his words, Moraine acquiesced to Graydon’s statement and invited a modest, yet dashing, Deshawn Sandoval to their quaint home for dinner. After that, a year flew by and Moraine found herself standing with the twins by her side as she accepted a pledge of marriage from her new love. Six months later and she had discovered that she was expecting her first child. Her family, which six years before, had been decimated, was growing once again.
Moraine’s pregnancy had prevented her from working much in her small shop. Still she always tried to be present to assist Mer’karl’Sar and Graydon with customers and purchasing orders. The Coynite was more than capable of repairing any blades that came in. She also was discovering that he was capable of forging new blades with a growing skill with she helped to nurture. Mer’karl would have to be up for the challenge of forging and repairing. It wasn’t a matter of days until Aleisha was born. It could be a matter of hours. Still, she smiled as she heard the laughter and jabs between the twins.
Out of breath and laughing, Graydon and Allyson Strykia had burst into the house through the back door, into the kitchen area. Both doubled over, trying to regain their composure, the twins looked at each other and began to laugh again.
“I would have beaten you that time if you hadn’t cheated.” Graydon said, panting.
“You didn’t say tripping was against the rules.” Allyson responded, equally panting and chuckling still. Her eyes flashed with a blue glow that matched her brother’s.
“I’ll remember to include that next time.” Graydon responded.
As they both regained their breath, they stood up and began to look for something to quench their thirsts which they had developed while training in the back yard before their foot race to the house. Near the kitchen’s cooler, Allyson paused as she took note of a leather bound book lying on the counter.
“Gray… What’s this?” She asked as she went over to the book, gently picking it up.
“I think it’s the book that mother gave to Moraine when we felt Antrixies.” Graydon responded. “Really?” Allyson began to open it. Graydon quickly rushed to her side, gently, yet firmly, placed his hand on hers, shutting the book.
“No Allie. We can’t.”
“Quit being a stick in the mud.” She said as she tried push him away and retain her hold on the book. As usual, she found her brother to be like a steelcrete wall, almost impossible to move. “Really, Blade! Let me look!”
“No.” His words were calm, yet his grip remained firm on the book also.
“Damn you!” Her eyes began to glow with a brilliant blue as a tear welled up in them. “Don’t deny me this!”
“Remember your control, Katana.” Graydon was still calm, his eyes locked with his sister’s.
Although he was full of resolve to keep the book closed until their aunt had given them permission to look at it, deep inside of him, the same pain his sister felt welled up. She saw this.
“I do remember control.” She said.
At first her words were harsh, but as she continued, they softened, laced with sorrow more than anger. “This might be the only thing we have left of her. Marissa Damodred-Strykia. Our mother. For all we know, Draygan’s gone, and so is she.”
The tears that had been welling up in her eyes began to slowly fall down her smooth cheeks. “I want to cave in to the despair too, sometimes. There are nights when it creeps up on me like a shadowy sand panther, trying to eat me. But I keep telling myself that if any of them were gone, we would have felt their passing.” As Allyson’s grip on the book relaxed, Graydon took it and set it aside, then embraced his sister in a hug.
Hearing the argument, Moraine had made her way to the kitchen. Her pregnancy made getting out of her chair a chore and walking uncomfortable. Still, she was determined to find out if the twins were going to have another one of their terrific Jinsai feuding duels. Instead, she found them standing in the kitchen, hugging one and other. Clearing her throat, she startled the twins.
Breaking apart, the twins faced their aunt. Allyson wiped at her eyes, her cheeks flushed. Graydon cast his eyes down as he saw his aunt.
“Aunt Moraine.” Allyson spoke first. “We found the book but we didn’t look. I swear.” Taking a breath, Moraine gave the twins a caring smile and moved to take a seat at the table. “Allyson and Graydon, I don’t doubt your word. Bring me the book and sit with me.”
The twins responded by doing what their aunt asked. Sitting at the table, both Allyson and Graydon waited for their aunt to speak again.
“I have to apologize. Your mother gave this to me when we fled Antrixies. I tried to wait for a time to show this to you when you were older.” She smiled as she slowly opened the book to the first page. “That time has long since passed. The Force may have dictated that it be done now, though.”
“What is it?” Allyson ask.
“Some instructions, some stories.” Moraine said with a sad smile. “This is to help you keep the memories of our family alive. And the memory of our people.” Turning the book so that both of the twins could read the page, Moraine grew silent as the twins began to read.
- To Allyson and Graydon,
- If you are reading this, then my nightmares have taken shape. As your mother, I never wanted this to have to be written, but none the less, we all have to be prepared.
- Moraine promised me two years after you were born that she would look after you and raise you as her own should a vision I had come to pass. It has and you are safely with her. She will train you to be Jinsai. While she cannot train you as Gai’din, she will make sure that the principles are there for that, when the time comes.
- You were both born strong in the Force. I wish that the training could go through as it was planned, but the Clone Wars interfered with that. You have natural talents that are connected to each other. Graydon: You have always been able to sense the path of those you come in contact with. You know if they are destined for darkness or for the light. Allyson: You can see the emotions of others and can let them fill you as a driving force. This is the way of the Force with my youngest children. When together, you will be strongest as you can play off each other, sharing a natural bond. That bond will always allow you to sense the other when you are close to each other. You proved it when you were starting to crawl. Keeping you two apart from each other was never easy. Keep that in mind for things that will come.
- I have spoken to the Jedi of the potential that is in you. The masters see a great many things in you. Please, for the sake of our people, never give up. You may be our only hope. That is a heavy weight to place on your shoulders, but none the less, one that you may have to bear. The Force willing, you will have support when you need it the most. As long as I have breath in me, you will have mine. I may not be there now, but I will be when needed. The tasks I have set upon myself are going to be great and grievous, but never enough to keep me away when the time is right. Please remember, when the time is right.
- Until then, you must grow. Start a family if the Force wills it. Be wary though. The Force will run strong in any blood that comes from you. Your enemies may use that against you. I have foreseen a fresh start coming from what I hope is the twins that I gave birth to. Finish your training with Moraine and then follow the path that the Force puts in front of you.
- Until we meet again. As the Jinsai have said for thousands of years: May you always find shade and water. Be strong my twins.
- Marissa Elyda Damodred-Strykia
The twins stared at the page for many long minutes in silence. They re-read the page more than once, exchanging an occasional glance with each other. Moraine felt like she had provided these two young people, her kin and her blood, with a small piece of missing answers from their past. She tried to smile, but the smile wouldn’t come. The first true signs of her impending labor started at that moment, forcing the smile away. The contractions were starting and soon, Aleisha would be coming.
“Okay,” She said as she attempted to bite back a stab of pain. “I think it’s time.” Both Graydon and Allyson looked up. The realization set in quickly as Moraine took in deep breaths.
“The baby!” Allyson exclaimed.
“Come on, Aunt Moraine. Time to go to the Med Center!” Graydon added as both twins jumped up to assist their aunt.