Cᴏʟʟᴀʙ ʙᴇᴛᴡᴇᴇɴ Fᴀʟʟᴇɴ ᴀɴᴅ Bᴇᴀ

It wasn’t often that Master Rothul rested, especially not during the ceasefire that was the “treaty” of Coruscant. Even though a treaty had been signed, that didn’t mean his work of intel gathering and person watching was over. He had dived deep into his work after the Sacking, for more reasons than one. It was a distraction, his home away from home. His ship, the Mirage held enough supplies for him to be gone for months. Although, as a member of the Jedi Council, that was not something that could easily be done.

As the Master Jedi reflected on these thoughts, the ramp to the Mirage lowered and he stepped out into the cool morning air of H’ratth. Dominik could count on his hand how many times he had visited the jungle planet, and the small praxeum that resided there. Nowadays, there was only one reason to step away from his duties and direct his way back into the inner rim.

The Jedi keepers of the praxeum emerged from the front entrance to the landing pad, greeting the master as he approached them. Few small younglings followed in suit, and Dominik could not help but notice the absence of one that was normally among the others to greet him. One Jedi stepped forward from the rest of the greeting party, bowing his head in respect to the Master. As Dominik did the same they both exchanged smiles before laughter filled the greeting.

“My my, am I seeing a tinge of gray there? You sure you’re not thinking about retirement, Master Rothul?”

Knight Arv Tyhpis. A seasoned Zabrak Jedi that Dominik had known for most of his later years. They didn’t see each other often, but each meeting was always one filled with laughter and reflecting upon the good old times.

“Y’know if you’re really that concerned we can take it to the sparring ring and see just how rusty I’ve become?” Dominik teased, to which the Zabrak playfully held his hands in the air and gave a lighthearted chuckle.

“I see that we’re missing someone today.” Dom continued, glancing around at the Younglings before his eyes moved back to Arv.

The Zabrak gave a smirk before his head nodded towards the praxeum.

“You’ll find her in the lower courtyard. It seems to be one of her favorite places as of late.”

Dominik nodded his head in thanks before his stride took him down a stone pathway. He followed it around the lower base of the praxeum, his eyes observing the gorgeous greenery that surrounded the walkway and extended farther than his old eyes could see. ‘

Stepping into the lower courtyard, he wandered through the tall trees, his eyes observing the treetops, watching as a slight breeze moved the leaves and made the old trees creak. It was then that he spotted the young Bothan. She wasn’t too high up, but it was high enough that he did not want to climb up after her. The older Jedi smiled, his eyes moving down to the jungle floor as he kneeled down.

Soon the master found himself in a meditative position. Sitting, waiting, listening to his surroundings and taking in the sounds of a world at peace with itself. Time to meditate surrounded by peace and quiet proved hard to find for Dominik. So the master took this time to do just that, and to reflect on the experiences that brought him to the planet in the first place.

Lo’s figure shifted. A few leaves floated down and touched the Master on the head. She couldn’t help the shift as she made a soft whimper, her eyes closed tighter. Her fur bristled to make her seem larger than she was. As her eyes drifted open, her fingers curled to wipe away the sand in her eyes. She pulled upward on the branch then gave a long yawn. Her fur flattened out while she placed her hands on her ears, pinning them to her head.

“You know, you’re going to get me in a lot of trouble some day, little one.”

Dominik’s voice came softy, soothing, a tone that few could say they’ve heard. Despite what he had told himself he wouldn’t do, Dominik found himself scaling the tree and finding a seat on a large branch across from Lo. A hand against the strong trunk, Dominik glanced down to the jungle floor before looking back to the Youngling in front of him. Dom knew she might not be able to hear his soft words, but with words came comfort through the Force; a warm, friendly feeling that only two Force-users might be able to share through the bond they had together.

Lo, curious as ever, looked down to spot Master Rothul climbing to the branch just below her. Her muzzle slipped into a wide grin. She felt the earlier crash fade as new energy sprung up in its place. She sat upright, looking from her perch. After a moment or two, she slid to the trunk and began to scale to Dominik’s branch.

“I’m so sorry. I forgot you were coming!” Lo’s voice took a higher pitch as her guilt cropped up too.

Gradually, she began to inch closer until they were facing each other on the same branch.

“You’re not hurt, right?”

"I'm fine, Lo." Dominik replied, watching the young Bothan for a moment, "And what about you? I can sense something was bothering you a moment ago. Just a dream?"

Lo shifted in her seat, her legs straddling the branch and keeping her upright. She bit her lip then looked thoughtful to the side. A hesitation filled her for a moment before she braced her hands onto the tree bark. She opened her mouth to explain.

“A dream, yes. A confusing one. I was running. I don’t know why, but I was being chased. Big black creatures with helmets and they weren’t stopping. I was scared. One grabbed me and I just woke up.” She frowned in a cute fashion, her fur upright and unhappy.

“I don’t like how it made me feel.”

“We must not let our dreams tell us how to feel, Lo,” Dominik began, giving a slight smile as he spoke, “it’s alright to be afraid, or sad, but you can’t let those emotions linger. It was only a dream after all. Look around and focus on where you are, here and now.” the Master Jedi said, offering his wisdom to the young Bothan. It wasn’t often that Dominik was around to guide Lo; his time was filled with the tedious and dangerous job of seeking intel and watching persons of interest. Finding the time to visit the praxeum was rare, so the master took advantage of it.

“How often do you have these dreams?”

Lo lifted her head to face the Master then considered his question.

“When I first arrived, they were really bad. They stopped for a while, then started up again.”

“Have you talked to any of the Masters about them?” Dominik replied.

Lo’s silence told him everything he needed to know. A simple, unsaid no.

Dominik’s nostrils flared after a few short moments, the man letting out a sharp sigh of disapproval as a slight frown found its way to his face.

“It is not good to hold on to these feelings, Lo. If you’re having multiple dreams, then it could be something else. You cannot hide these things.” The old man gave Lo a stern look before he started sliding off of the large branch, making his way carefully down the tree.

“Come, I want you do meditate with me.”

Her fur flattened out at his gentle scolding. She didn’t like disappointing her teachers as her ears caught the sound of him lowering himself to the ground. Lo peered over from her seat, watching him a moment and finally began to follow down. After her feet hit the ground, she straightened up.

“I was hoping they would stop. They did before.”

“That was before, Lo. This is now.” Dominik began, watching the young Bothan as she straightened herself. He adjusted his robes before eyes moved to observe the jungle around them. The praxeum was just in view through the trees, but the Master had other plans.

“What do you say to taking a short hike into the jungle, hm?”

Lo’s head tilted to the side, “Sure. There’s not much here aside from peace and quiet. So any place works well. Did you have a certain place in mind?”

“No, I don’t,” Dom began as he started to head off down a small hiking trail that led away from the praxeum, arms held comfortably behind his back. “And that is why I’m going to let the Force guide me there.”

He glanced back at Lo, a slight smile in his features before eyes returned to the pathway ahead. “Are you coming?” the Master Jedi teased as he continued down his path.

Lo’s fur rose a little as her feet rushed after him. Her movement quickly catching up to him before she slowed into a leisurely walk.

A few long minutes went by as the two walked together. Dom held his eyes closed every now and then, reaching out with his senses. He listened to the world around him, felt for emotions, followed the Force as it flowed through the planet.

“Lo,” he began, glancing down to the young Bothan besides him, “do you trust in the Force? Do you trust it to guide you to becoming a Jedi?”

Lo looked down and thought for a moment how to give her words a proper voice. She trusted the force knew best, but her issue was following it accurately. Her own confidence in her instincts fell short of what other students seem to have.

“I trust the Force knows best, but I worry about my ability to follow it. It’s hard to explain.” Lo tried to explain. Her hands folded into her sleeves of her training robes. Her feet kept pace by stepping twice as much as his longer strides. She was a smaller individual compared to him.

“You’re young, Lo,” Dominik began, slowing his pace slightly to allow the young Bothan to catch up, “you have time to learn and to train and grow as a young Jedi. You will lose, you will fail, but you cannot be afraid of that. You must be able to take that failure and turn it into something greater.” The man advised, his arms hanging casually at his side now.

The man took in a long breath, sorting out his thoughts and words before he spoke next. “I have failed, many times, Lo. And I will fail, many more times. I do not know when, or how, but I must be ready and I must be able to take that failure and keep going.”

Lo cocked her head. Her eyes widened in surprise as she spoke what was on her mind, through it just tumbled it out.

“I… you’re a master. I didn’t think you could fail.”

“Anyone can fail, Lo. Sometimes you cannot help what happens no matter how hard you try. I have failed many times, but I still stand here today. Sometimes I learn through my failures, but I take them and I keep going.”

Lo rolled her shoulders. Her feet stepped casually in pace with Master Rothul while her eyes shifted. They looked at him then back to the ground, absorbing his wisdom. She bit her bottom lip before she replied.

“If I fail the Padawan trials, I’ll go to the service corps. It means I can’t become a Jedi. I haven’t shown much talent in anything.” A little bit of sorrow jumped into her voice.

“If you focus on failure, that’s all you will see. You’re already talking about the future, but you need to focus on the here and now.”

Dominik stopped suddenly, his Jedi robes swaying around his form at the sudden change of momentum. His head turned, ever so slightly, as if listening to something. Moving off the beaten path, Dominik stepped into the thick brush of the jungle. He glanced back at Lo for a moment as he walked.

When Master Rothul stopped, Lo jumped and stepped back. Avoiding knocking into the older man, she tilted her canine head then followed his new direction. A confused look crossed her face, but she didn’t question his reasons. Timidly she keep close while they continued to walk.

“Change of plans, I guess we’re going this way now.” Dominik teased, winking at Lo before he started further off the path. His words hinted as if Dominik wasn’t making his own decisions, yet it was just he and Lo there in that moment. The Master Jedi let the will of the Force guide him. He wanted to find the ideal spot to meditate, somewhere maybe Lo hadn’t stepped foot before. Something new.

Lo’s eyes wandered to the background. Animals, from avian to mammal variety, all scattered into their branches. Harmless creatures but all curious about the invaders into their territory. Small eyes followed them which drew Lo’s anxiety to a new level.

Dominik glanced down at the young Bothan at his side. He could easily sense the young Initiate’s anxiety, he hardly had to reach out to feel it.

“They will not harm you, Lo. They are only curious. Show them you mean no harm and they will do the same.” Dominik said calmly, parting two large leaves as he walked in between them, allowing Lo to do the same before he let the foliage return to its natural position.

The youngling nodded, but still seemed unsure. Lo’s fur flatten as she followed the master, shifting through the leaves after him. “I’ve never been this deep. We’re usually told to keep close to the temple. How will we find our way back?”

Her eyes glanced back as she bit her lip. She noted how fast and heavy her heart began hitting her chest. She knew she shouldn’t have been frightened, but her mind didn’t help. Instinctively the small Botan kept close to Master Rothul. Her mind drew familiarities and peace from his presence.

"If we trust the Force to guide us, we will find our way back. Just as we are finding our way now." Dominik replied, letting Lo hang close to him as they moved through the thick foliage.

"You must trust the Force to guide you as you grow, Lo, just as we're trusting it now. Do what you feel is right and you will succeed."\

Master Rothul grew quiet, his pace slowing as eye closed, his senses reaching out. After a few moments, a smile grew upon his face. Two hands reached out to part a wall of thick foliage. He allowed Lo through the small pathway first before he followed. What greeted them on the other side, however, was something far different from the jungle they had been traversing through.

The forest floor opened up tremendously to a small, sunny glade. Daylight and sky could be seen through the treetops, small flying creatures made their way from branch to branch, dancing with each other as they went.

A small stream ran through the middle of the glade, carving through two large, flat and smooth rock ledges a few feet above the creek.

With experienced eyes, Dominik could see the use of the flat stones. Many Jedi had meditated upon them before. He could feel the Force flowing through the small glade, greeting them as the pair observed the area.

Lo’s eyes widened in wonder and awe. Her attention shifted from one end of the scenery to the other. She didn’t expect to find such beauty among the jungle, especially after such unfamiliarity. Her heart swelled with joy at the sight. She looked up at Master Rothul, her muzzle wrinkled by childish grin.With renewed curiosity, the small Bothan edged deeper into the glade as she raised her arms to spin around. A small giggle erupted from her before she paused to look at him.

“Did you know this was here?” Lo asked, her attention fixed on him again.

"I did not," Dominik began as he slowly walked over to the large, smoothed out stones. Slowly lowering himself down on top of one, the Master Jedi took a loose meditative position, inhaling and exhaling as he glanced around at the small glade.

"I trusted in the Force and it brought me here, Lo. This is what can happen if you trust your instincts and trust in who you are."

The Master glanced back at the young Bothan, a small smile donning his face at her antics.

"Come, sit, I want you to meditate with me."

Not wanting to be left behind, Lo followed him. Her feet easily navigating the scattered jungle debris and taking the other stone right next to him. With a swift movement, she crossed her legs and lowered herself into a sitting position. The ending resulted into a hard flop drawing a soft grunt from her.

She inhaled to clear her earlier anxieties from her heart and head. Her hands rested on her knees while she closed her eyes. The sounds of the jungle’s surroundings that fallen silent began to build once more, their daily activities returned once more.

Dominik waited for a few long moments until Lo was settled. His eyes closed, hands rested on his knees, the Jedi drew a breath in and out, calmly, quietly.

"I want you to think about what's been bothering you, in your dreams. But, Lo, you must also remember where you are. You need to face these dreams and realize that is all they are, dreams."

Lo nodded as she turned inward. Her mind shifted through the dreams, picking out elements and determining their hidden meaning. As she detailed her dream, she explained her thought process in an objective perspective.

"The running could mean I'm running to or from something. It felt more like I was running to safety rather than away from the monsters. Their shapes…"

She stopped, her anxiety reared up in her chest again. Her breath inhaled then exhaled. Each time she kept trying to remember she wasn't dreaming anymore and instead awake.

Dominik waited and listened as Lo went through her dream, step by step, and detailed it to him and what she thought the meaning was. He remained still as she started to struggle, waiting a few moments to see if she would pull out of it.

When Lo didn't, Dominik moved closer to her. He rested a hand on her shoulder, taking in a deep breath and then exhaling as he concentrated on the here and now.

"You're here, Lo. It is just a dream, it isn't real."

Lo began to relax again. Her breathing settled down and became steady again.

"Thanks. The shapes might not be important. We had a lesson over the Empire so maybe they are fears instead? I'm worried about not making it. That the force feels I'm not good enough to become a Jedi."

The moment the words slipped out, it felt right and accurate. "I am afraid to fail."

"You cannot be afraid, Lo. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering… it is not the Jedi way."

Dominik sat in silence for a few long moments, his hand remaining on Lo's shoulder as a gesture of compassion.

"You need to trust in the Force. Let it guide you through these dreams, let it guide you as you grow to become a Jedi. If you trust the Force, you will not fail."

“I’m trying. My own insecurities keep getting in the way. I don’t know how to make them stop. I feel like I’m alone.” Lo tried to keep her voice from cracking during the last part, but Dominik could easily tell.

“Lo, listen to my voice. You are never alone, even if there is nobody around you. You are a Jedi, Lo. The Force is with you, always.”

Dominik sat in silence then. There wasn’t much more to try and convince Lo that she wasn’t alone. She had to trust in herself, she had to see her nightmares through and realize they are not real.

Lo’s fur flattened and relax against her form. She reasoned away the guilt as she released it, letting it gradually unknot her emotions. Her breathing became steady and strong with each inhale then exhale. Dominik could feel her tension begin to fade from her shoulder.

“Where the Force guides me, I will trust it is for the best.” The words didn’t hurt when she spoke, instead it felt right to say. She didn't like it, but she wouldn’t feel rotten about it.

Her eyes opened to look at Dominik with a small, warm grin.

Watching the young Bothan begin to find reason behind his words, and convincing herself to calm down a little, Dominik was glad he had found this moment to teach Lo. He was worried, forgot seemed a lot harder for her than he expected. Lo harbored feelings and memories of her past that she didn't recognize, though the Master Jedi knew exactly what her nightmares reflected when she described them.

"There you go." Dom said, offering a kind smile back down to the young Lo.

"Trust is the first step little one. It is also one of the hardest steps for most."

“I know that and it’s hard not to worry. It’s like a knot gets created in my stomach and I can’t stop trying to untangle it. Each worry leading to another until it’s bigger than before. I just don’t see any sort of greatness within myself.” Lo stated calmly, her fur flattened against her figure.

She adjusted her sitting posture while keeping her calm demeanor. The sounds of the jungle appeared to fill her ears causing her nervousness to fade completely. Each time she heard an avian or creature scurry about, her lips curled into a bigger grin.

Things were going to be alright.