No one could truly be prepared for what the day could bring. That's what Dominik's Padawan, Lo had said. Even though she was a young Padawan, sometimes the things she said reflected the thoughts of an aged Knight or Master. The day had been full of surprises. None of them pleasant. One of the patrols had been ambushed by Zygerrians, though the ambushers quickly fled. The second patrol team had discovered the remains of Dominik's ship where it had been hidden ever since they started living in the cavern. He was grateful his Padawan had emptied it weeks before, for there had been things he would rather not have destroyed, such as the Holocron she kept.
As all of the leaders sat huddled in a tight circle around a large cluster of crystals in the center of the cavern. Sar was joined by the lead Twi'leks skilled in medicine, many of the patrol leaders were also present. Dominik sat on the opposite side as them with his Padawan Lo. Aren Bec and her Padawan Val'ko also joined, seated right next to them. Only those who knew Dominik would realize how deep in thought he was just by glancing at him. As Sar spoke of the day's events to his fellow Twi'lek, Dominik Rothul's mind wandered. He played out their scenario, different aspects coming into play or not. They were greatly outnumbered, outgunned, and their enemy knew more about them than the Jedi did looking back at their enemy. The ship had been destroyed, which left only Aren's ship on the planet's surface. Why hadn't they hit hers either? Was it possible they hadn't detected it? What game was their foe playing.
"The Master Jedi's ship was found destroyed where it had been hidden. We've also recieved reports from our scouts that there are signs that more Zygerrian patrols are making their way around our position. It hasn't been clear if they know our precise location within the caverns, or if they know we're in the caverns at all. We do not know how our enemy obtained this kind of firepower, as the Zygerrians have never bothered with it before."
"We must remain vigilant." Aren began, glancing around to the Twi'leks as many of them started to quietly mumble amongst themselves. "Master Rothul, Sar and I will soon begin discussing possible relocation. If it is not safe here, we will not stay. We can scout the terrain for something less restricting, but more hidden and better fortified. Please... remain calm. Keep the children occupied, and don't let the elders worry. We will not abandon you."
The cold hold of the freighter was something Evie never got used to but was thankful that the trip to Ryloth was almost over. The accommodations are less than ideal but figured it would be best to keep a low profile if I’m going to answer the call for aide as there is no telling how many other Jedi may appear… I wonder what exactly is going on to have a master be incapacitated like that… They must have has some sort of under handed move… Anyway that poor padwan… I do hope they are okay as the situation is a lot to handle for someone so young. she thought to herself as she fiddled with her data dagger. She was dressed in her casual attire to avoid suspicion and appeared to be nothing more than a Chandrillan trader. She put her data dagger to the side and pulled out her data pad to send a message to her sister.
Dearest Aren, I hope all is well! I’m answering a call that was sent out by a Padwan in need of help. My heart aches for the poor child that has had thrust into this awkward position. I worry that by the time I get there things may be too late… However, let’s be positive and hope that isn’t the case! I do hope I make a good impression on them as I know I can be a bit… To the point! Well I hope you can write me as soon as you’re free and wish you the best. Sincerely, Evie.
Week 7, Day 1 Early Evening
It was early evening when the freighter made land fall, Evie could not help but worry that it may be too late. Well let’s do my best to get a speeder bike and try to make my way to the coordinates… I wonder if I may be doing more harm them good by going directly to the coordinates as there could be potential enemies keeping tabs on the situation. However… I can’t let that Padwan go it alone and getting to the area quickly is paramount. I hope that ditching the bike and then going the rest of the way by foot will be ideal as I can easily out maneuver non force users that may be keeping tabs on the area. she thought to herself as she exited the ship and made her way into city with acquiring some mild rations and speeder bike. She then took off for the general location of the cavern. A few hours had passed and she made sure to hide the speeder bike as soon as she arrived in the area. Maybe I’m just being paranoid but I’d rather be safe than sorry… Hopefully the bike will still be here but I have my doubts. she thought to herself as she made her way stealthily to the location. Evie took great care to cover her tracks and took longer to arrive at the location. Taking about an hour before finally arriving at the mouth of the cavern. She could see that it was guarded by two Twi’leks, she pondered if it would be better to sneak past them. However this situation called for openness as things seemed dire and not clandestine. She was not wearing her robes and appeared to be just another off world trader if it wasn’t for her flashing her curved hilt saber as she walked up to the Twi’leks. “Greetings, I received a message calling for aide from a Lo Lya’Tre. My name is Evemarie Barrall and I’m here to help.” she said with a cheerfully unsettling grin.
As Evemarie approached the two Twi’lek guarding the mouth of the tunnel, four more came out of hiding from the foliage and rock surrounding the area. All held blasters at the ready and aimed towards Evie, as the Twi’leks were not about to take a stranger for granted. Not after all they had been through. Speaking in their native tongue, one of the older looking Twi’lek instructed the initial two guards to pass back the word to the cavern that there was a presumed Force-wielder, judging by the lightsaber, at the cave of the mouth.
The two Twi’lek didn’t hesitate. They turned and bolted back into the tunnels, disappearing into the darkness that started to spread as the sun set over the horizon.
From the initial meeting of the stranger to arriving back at the cavern was a ten minute run for the two Twi’leks. They hurried past the small population that was moving around the cavern as they prepared for nightfall. Approaching the meeting of leaders and the Jedi, both were slightly winded as they slowed just a few feet from Sar.
“Bril, Nabat, what is it?” Sar asked immediately, eyeing the two Twi’leki males as they stopped to catch their breath.
“There’s someone at the entrance of our tunnel. She said she was responding to Lo’s message, and carries a lightsaber.” The man said in between breaths.
Before Lo could agree with Aren's words, she spotted the two Twi'lek guards moving in close. Her head shifted with concern plastered on her face. She narrowed her eyes while they exchanged words with Sar. When her long ears twitched at her name being mention, her eyes looked to Dominik and it clicked. The message sent out about two weeks ago.
"It seems more help arrived." She began to raise onto her feet as she paused, glancing briefly at her master.
"I'll go get her and explain the situation, so by the time we arrive she will have a grasp of what has happened."
“Do not be so quick as to accept them as help, Lo.” Dominik warned, taking his walking stick and using it to help himself stand slowly. “You sent the message to the Council, but who’s to say it wasn’t intercepted. It’s a chance you had to take.” He said, balancing himself before looking to Sar. “Lo and I will go see who it is. Send more runners to the other entrance, just in case.”
Sar glanced at Lo before his eyes moved to Dominik as the older Jedi spoke. He couldn’t hide the concern in his eyes but he knew it was best for the Jedi to go see first. He nodded and looked to one of the other leaders, who understood his look and immediately stood to fetch more runners for the other group guarding the second open tunnel.
Lo looked ready to argue, but her master had a point. She merely assumed the channel was secure enough not be sliced into. Her mouth closed as she gestured for him to lead the way. It was obvious he wasn’t going to let her go alone or likely first, despite any arguments. With a slight curiosity, she let herself reach out with the force. Nothing. No hint of the individual in the force aside from Dominik, Aren and her padawan.
Lo’s head tilted to the side in confusion at the discovery. She questioned if they were even a Jedi at this point as she followed behind her master, quietly figuring out the answers to her question.
Dominik saw that Lo had wanted to argue with him as he stood, but she didn’t, and he smirked. Walking past Sar, Dominik handed the Twi’lek man his walking stick after he got his balance. The Twi’lek man cautiously took it, giving Dominik a questioning look. After a few moments, he figured it out. No matter who it was, Dominik did not want them to see him using it at their first meeting. He didn’t want to look weak.
After leading the way out of the cavern, he slowed down, pushing his senses out around them as he attempted to feel who it was that's waiting for them. He took in a deep breath, limping only slightly without the help of his walking cane. He took this moment to look over to his Padawan as they walked before his eyes returned ahead.
“I want to resume your training tomorrow.”
“Master, not to be disrespectful, but that is easier said than done. With the new developments and concerns the village leaders have, they will be looking to us for assistance. We can’t simply brush off their request.” Lo pointed out, fearing there wouldn’t be time or a chance for training. The time for that felt like it had passed for them now. Her eyes turned to him while her feet kept walking in a straight line, her senses aware of her surroundings in a way she hadn’t been when they first arrived.
“We won’t be brushing off their request, Lo. We have other Jedi here to help as well. I’ve already spoke to Sar on the matter, he fully understands the duty I have as your Master. We will make time, even if it is just a few minutes.”
“All right, but I’m finding that hard to envision. What happens if you’re right and it’s not a Jedi that has come to our aid? I don’t sense anything and I can usually sense someone with the Force pretty well. Do you think it’s possibly someone here, of all places, managed to obtain a light saber and intercept the message?” She continued to keep pace as they drew closer to the entrance.
“Honestly, Lo, I’d almost prefer that over what else it could be that isn’t help.” Dominik said quietly. Slowly the pair emerged from the darkness of the tunnel, trailed by the two Twi’lek from before. As the dimming sun greeted them Dominik saw the darkened figure out the mouth of the tunnel, surrounded by Twi’lek scouts. As he approached, his eyes became more adjusted to the light and he was able to make out the figure’s features easier. He could sense her Light-sided aura, though it was obvious she was using her skills to hide it from those less skilled. Looks were deceiving though, as she wore no Jedi robes, bore a curved-hilt saber on her hip, and wore a darker tone to her appearance.
As the two Jedi grew near, the Twi’leks surrounding the stranger backed away slightly and lowered their weapons. Dominik stood tall and held his hands lightly behind his back as he stopped about a dozen feet away from the figure. He waited for a few moments, observing her stance and the way she presented herself before he spoke.
“I am Jedi Master Dominik Rothul. State your business.”
Evie casually awaited on whom she was going to make contact with, the Twi’lek guards were less then friendly but given their situation she’d be a bit on edge as well. Eventually two figures emerged and what appeared was an older gentleman with what appeared to be a Bothan. Both were wearing their robes but it appeared the gentlemens hung a bit looser than they normally would. When he spoke he was frank and to the point.
“Greeting Master Rothul. I’m Jedi Knight Evemari Barrall. I picked up a distress message about two weeks ago and thought my assistance may be needed. My apologies for not arriving promptly but I always do my best to cover my tracks. Especially when receiving such a message as one never knows whom else may have heard it. An old habit I picked up from my master.” she said courteously.
Lo wanted to blurt out that the knight didn’t look like a Jedi, but she resisted the urge. Instead, she fell into the role of student and simply observed the transaction between the pair. Her brown eyes flickered from Master Rothul to Knight Barrall casually.
Instantly, her name brought back old memories Dominik hadn’t thought of in years. He took a near silent sigh of relief as his nostrils flared. He glanced at the Twi’lek surrounding her, watching each one for a second before nodding at them. Almost instantly, they began to relax a little more.
“Knight Barrall, this is my Padawan, Lo Lya’Tre.” Dominik said, gesturing to Lo beside him before he glanced past Evie towards the horizon. “We can answer any questions you may have, but first we should get inside the tunnels. It’ll be safer.”
Lo’s head bow respectfully, but she still remained silent.
“It’s a pleasure to formally make both of your acquaintances, my apologies for putting you on edge but thought it was best to avoid wearing the traditional robes to not raise any suspicion. Please lead the way, I’m hoping that the situation has slightly improved.” Evie said calmly as she followed Dom into the tunnel.
"I don't think we'll see any true improvement until more support from the Republic or the Council is received." Dominik stated as they started into the tunnels. It was a topic he had spoken to Sar about often. Both before the accident and after he had woken from the mortar attack. The caverns were a maze, which was both good and bad for their situation. They provided cover and concealment whilst allowing movement easily within the tunnel system. However, they couldn't trust the integrity of the rock that made up the system, nor were their options for easy escape viable. Right now one of the tunnels was completely blocked, the one he had forced a collapse into. Which left two tunnels, both looking in poor condition after the mortar attack.
They needed to move the people. But with the eyes of the enemy on them constantly, Dominik knew movement into the open was risky. Especially with so many Twi'lek. Plus they were still running low on supplies. The supply drops the Council had provided, two of them so far, had gone a long way on providing for the people, but there wasn't enough rations, ammunition and weapons, and medical assets to help support this relief mission that seemed to grow closer and closer to a war each day. Dominik couldn't hide the facts, so he had to be honest.
"We still don't know everything about our enemy. It seems however that they know much more about us than we previously thought. The Zygerrians aren't capable of the feats they have accomplished so far, not without help. But we don't have the assets to attempt a reconnaissance mission yet."
As they walked, Dominik couldn't help his partial limp as he favored his right hip. The man kept his pace slow, allowing both Lo and Evie to keep at an even walk next to him.
Lo listened. She knew the situation nearly as well as her master, in some areas more. The tension had become thick enough it needed to cut, and she knew how.
“We still have local wildlife and plants to help some losses. It would help to do another search for healing herbs in the near future. We might be able to figure how to refit certain materials for new purposes, it will just take time.”
Evie took in the situation but two things stood out to her the most, the first was Dom appeared to be concealing a limp and the second being the capability of the Zygerrians. “Whom do you think would be guiding them?” she said calmly, completely ignoring Lo as if more sinister forces were guiding the Zygerrians. Sending scavenging parties would be fruitless. Especially if they couldn’t afford the man power but raiding parties would be potentially more fruitful. Albeit more risky and would violate terms of the treaty. However if the Sith are involved then they are violating it anyway. She did not like the idea of fighting with one arm behind her back. Especially against those devious masters of despair.
Dominik nodded towards Lo's direction as she made the point of foraging parties. He knew anything was needed right now, they still had the natural world to draw from in terms of healing and help. “I believe it’s the Sith. But I don’t want to spread rumors. We don’t have positive identification that the Dark Side is helping the Zyggerians. All we can do right now is wait until the opportunity arises… and hope we can get more aid from the Council and the Republic.”
Evie nods and looks down at the young Bothan girl and smiles. Ahhh to have such hope even when the situation is dire. I wish I was like that but alas I think that fire has diminished. She thinks to herself taking a moment to compose her words. She knew her blunt nature had not fostered many relationships and had alienated her peers. “How have the foraging parties been going? Hopefully yielding results to maintain for now. Also I take it was you who has been organizing everything when your master was injured?” she says with a smile.
“Right now, the herb stock is full. But I feel, now that it has been confirmed my message has gotten out, that we will need more. A dark, worried sensation seems to make me think the worst hasn't come yet and I want to prepare for that. We also found some of what I think are abandoned outposts and machines, but we haven’t had a chance to investigate it.” She answered the first question then moved onto the next after a breath.
“Yes, I have. Master Rothul was in a coma for about a week. I didn’t know if he would ever wake up, so I had to take charge and make some decisions I didn’t like. However, it was needed.”
“That is very commendable of you Lo, to take command of the situation when things seem bleak is quite the feat. And you did what you had to do, such decisions are never easy but need to be made.” she replied cheerfully before turning to Master Rothul.
“Quite the apprentice you have there Master Rothul. Now if it is the Sith… Are we prepared to deal with the threat if it presents itself and if not how may I be of service.” She replied. Her tone had noticeably changed when the topic of the Sith was addressed.
Dominik kept silent as he listened to Lo and Evie talk. He would never be able to undo what had been done. The hardship Lo had endured while he was in a coma was something very few Padawans faced during their early years as a Jedi.
He smiled at Evie's comment complimenting Lo, before his thoughts moved on to the rest of her question afterward.
Lo listened to the praise, but didn’t think she deserved it. Not fully. Her early lessons about hesitation and not weighing risk had humbled her in her master’s absence. A role she felt she was ill-suited for. She remained silent while Master Rothul and the Knight talked. Her awareness barely noted her teacher smile at her causing her to return a watered down version before returning her gaze to the front.
"We're prepared in certain aspects, but in others we are not." Dominik said, glancing to Lo for a moment. “Jedi Knight Aren Bec and I are prepared to fight any that come our way, but our Padawans are not. I'll discuss it with you later. Now is not the time." Dominik stated. He was grateful Evie had arrived, for now he had another asset he could use if it did come down to a fight. He had someone to look after the Twi'lek and the Padawans should he and Aren need to lead the Sith away.
“Aren???? She is here? Oh that is wonderful!” she said excitedly before composing herself. Such behavior is unbecoming but she couldn’t help it as she had not seen Aren in a year. Now she was going to be working with her elder sister.
Lo’s fur bristled from her ears to her toes from the Knight’s sudden outburst. Her step stuttered, but she managed not to fall on her muzzle. However, she tasted blood from biting her tongue. A painful lesson about being more careful where it wandered to. Swallowing the iron taste, her eyes darted to the Knight just as the apology came.
“My apologies Master Rothul, it is just that we were quite close at the academy and we are like sisters. Anyway, I take it that neither has been properly stress tested in duel? I can be of assistance with that.” she said in a flustered tone clearly trying to mask her excitement for working with Aren.
Evemarie’s excitement caught Dominik off guard, but it was a welcome reaction. The situation had become very serious and due to that many of the emotions Dominik sensed around him were that of worry, rigidity, and things slightly more grim. The Twi’lek children had managed to remain joyful, happy. Laughing and playing when they were allowed. Sometime he wishes Lo would join them like she used to, but he knew the experience she had whilst he was in his coma had changed her a lot. He hoped she’d still be able to have a little downtime once things were truly settled.
“No need to apologize, Barrall. It is a welcome emotion right now.” Master Rothul said, a faint smile on his face as they walked.
Lo’s head turned to one of the children waving their arms at her, trying to draw her into their play. Naturally she didn’t move. The days of carefree days and play had been replaced with overwhelming responsibility. A depressing enough thought that Lo pushed it away.
It was a long casual walk from the entrance of the cave system to where the cavern finally opened up. A couple Twi’lek followed in behind them as eyes from many others move to the trio of Jedi as they entered. It was early evening, so many of them were either grabbing a late dinner or preparing for bed.
“We should talk to Sar about a room and place for you to bunker for the night.” Lo commented toward Knight Barrall. Her eyes seeking out the older Twi’lek from where the leaders once sat. They appeared to have departed for the night while waiting on the Jedi.
Dominik nodded towards Lo. “He’s the leader of these Twi’leks. He’s also the one that we met first once we arrived. They were wary of us when we first arrived, but they’ve proved to be reliable allies.” Dominik explained, leading the way towards the hut Sar usually bunked in for the night.
“I should likely check in on the patients while you two handle this. One of them is on high risk of relapsing and I’m scheduled to take the night shift today.” Lo spoke, giving herself an excuse to depart.
Dominik looked towards his Padawan at her words, watching her for a moment as he stopped walking. “Get some rest after your shift. Remember what I told you earlier.” Dominik said, watching her almost sternly before he continued walking with Evie. “Sar and I will be discussing more into the night, if you need either of us Lo.” Dominik called back to her before he continued leading Evie on a search for the older Twi’lek.
"Easier said than done. You know I'm the main healer here and there're things I can do, that others can't. I promise, I'll find some time to sleep. If I need help, I'll make sure to send someone or you'll sense it." She stated, leaving something unsaid as she moved toward the healer's hut.
Evie just took everything in and couldn’t help but smile a little. I wonder if my interactions with Padawan will be similar . she mused to herself before interjecting. “You will be of no use to your patients Lo if your fatigue gets the better of you. You’d do best to mind your master.” she said sternly as Lo walked off.
Collaboration between Bea, Almalthia & Fallenreaper
Memory - 6 ATC, 8 Week 5, Day 4, Midday
There was little time as he turned back, holding back the wall of inferno for as long as he could. Dominik made sure the tunnel had been sealed, so that all others in the cavern would be safe. Including Lo. He felt the inferno building, threatening to overtake him as he fought against it with the Force. Too long had the explosive forces been held using the Force, too long had they been contained. Dominik suddenly felt his hold on the Force loosen as the forces he was trying to fight exploded violently outward. The Jedi master felt the gravitational force against his body as it rippled through him. He heard the sickening crack of bones, and the internal tearing of something more. His body was forcefully thrown back against the wall of rock he had created mere moments ago.
He hit the rock wall hard, losing the air in his lungs as his body succumbed to the forces of gravity. The man’s body sunk down over the rubble, sliding down closer to the tunnel floor as the flames he had been fighting danced along the tunnel ceiling above him.
As his eyes slowly started to close, his body began to go into shock due to the internal injuries he had just sustained. His ability to feel pain started to dim and a numbness set in. The only pain he felt was for Lo. She did not deserve this.
As his mind went black and his spirit wandered, he felt along all of the bonds he had with his fellow Jedi. Satele, Kyla… Cora. He didn’t want them to be in the dark about what had just happened. Dominik felt he was going to die, his body was holding on but for how much longer?
Even though what seemed like minutes to the Master Jedi were actually hours, his mind continued to wander. He reached out to Cora, a younger Jedi whom he had trained and been helped by throughout his years. She was bright, compassionate, and selfless.
Cora… A weak voice went through their bond. Dominik wasn’t sure how much of his emotion she could feel, how much pain was reflecting from his side of the bond. He didn’t want to hurt her, but if this was it he wanted to say goodbye. He also knew Lo would need help, someone to look up to should he pass on to be one with the Force. He needed to tell Cora.
Cora looked up from a medical text she was reading with a raised eyebrow. How could I have not sensed Dominik? His presence should have been apparent when he landed. What is going on? She looked around with a smile but saw no one. Standing she looked at the door to her office. It was still shut. It could only mean one thing, Dominik wasn’t physically present.
Cora felt the bond that she shared with her former Master Dominik. She felt the stirrings of the Force and the unique way that Dominik shaped it. It reminded her of bright hot afternoons in a garden. The warmth of his personality shaped the effect that the Force had on another as he wielded it. But this felt like a cloud had passed before that sun, it was still Dominik but somehow… lesser?
Cora took hold of the connection and held firm. In a no nonsense voice she called out to him. “Dom. I am here.” It was aloud and in her mind through the bond. She turned the lock on the door with a wave of her hand. Usually no one bothered her in her office but there was the rare occasion. Better to be safe than sorry. She did not like this at all. It felt… off. As if something deeper were wrong. The Force rang with it, as if a shadow was over it. She acknowledged the feelings but did not act on them yet. Time would tell if she could fully sense what was disturbing the Force at present. Other than her turning it over and over like a puzzle box from Alderaan. “Alone if that matters. What is going on?”
Cora, my Padawan is on Ryloth. The man began. Physically his body took a deep, pained breath as his mind tried to come to terms with what was happening. He wasn’t ready for this, but it was necessary. He had no time to think of any other options. The safety of the Twi’lek people and his Padawan came first, always.
There’s been an accident. Mortars… I managed to stop the fire from getting to them. I just… there was no other way. There was a long pause, as if their connection threatened to break due to the weak nature of Dominik’s aura in his injured state.
Cora, I need you to help Lo. I don’t want her to be alone.
As Dominik spoke Cora realized what this was. Cora realized this was Dominik reaching out with the last of his will to help save others. A wave of pain had her sitting down. She couldn’t check his injuries at this far away but they felt extensive. The emotional pain roared through her and she quickly tamped it down. She buried the welling sorrow with the knowledge that it would be dealt with later. Dom what are you saying? Why can you not protect Lo? I will leave immediately but you must tell me what happened. I have to know the extent of what is going on here.
Cora had fallen silent. She briskly stood and put the book away and calling a pen to her hand wrote out a note. She kept a hold on the bond and waited for Dominik to respond to her. She was anything but still while she did so. With an economy of motion and grace the petite woman swept down the hall of a pristine building. She encountered a Chadrafan to whom she handed the note as she headed for the landing field.
I don’t know if I can pull through this, Cora. There was a long pause as Dominik felt his mind being pulled away, his will weakening and the connection threatening to fade. He pushed back with the strength he had left. His words became clearer as his mind fought that darkness that threatened him.
If I don’t come out of this, I need you to be there with her. She does not deserve to be alone. His last thoughts were strong as they pushed hard, but his body kept falling further and further away from the land of the living.
His thoughts rang again to Cora, this time much weaker than when he had reached out initially.
I want her to remember what I told her, Cora. To trust. Please do not let my absence hurt her willingness to trust in herself…and in the Force...please.
Cora stilled. She was losing him. She had come here to escape that pain. To escape the depth of her grief at the loss of her Padawan and now she was losing someone even more dear to her. Dominik had been like a father to her. Or at least that is how she had seen it. That bond was more precious to her than she had even realized until it threatened to not be there. She blinked away the sting of tears that threatened to fall. She was done with self exile. It was time to make a stand and hope that the Force was with her and with Dominik. She kept a tight rein on the bond. Dom...I will be there as soon as possible. You… must trust that you still have a place here. I have been so blind as to hide here after… Pyter’s death. I did not spend the time as I should have. Dom I do not wish to lose you as well...
You’ve done well, Cora. Grief is a fickle thing. I do not blame you...for exiling yourself. May the Force…be with you.
His mind pulled back fully, leaving his side of their bond eerily silent, and void of any feeling. It was still there, faintly, holding on to the last glimmer of life it could. Physically, Dominik’s breathing lessened and became more shallow the longer time went on. The rock and dirt settled around his form as a few larger rocks pinned him down. He was cradled into the collapse as his mind started to wander, and his body threatened to succumb to it’s injuries.
Cora felt the once strong unshakeable bond dwindle to a meer thread but not vanish and fizzle out as she had with Pyter. Hope sprang in her and she held on tightly to that tiny thread as she picked up her skirts and ran. Cora never ran anywhere, especially in skirts. It was unseemly.
Rounding a corner she almost bowled over the Chadrafan that she had given the note to. He was wide eyed and holding a pack that was well worn. Knowing that her medical supplies and some clothing for the trip to Ryloth were in it she quickly, albeit, gently took the pack. She had barely slowed down and she made a mad dash to the door that was opening. No one stopped her but she was sure that they all wondered what was going on.
She got to the Corvette just as something was being loaded on. She spoke to Dominik through the bond not expecting a response but she would not let him give up. Instinctively she knew that if she did let go so would he. There was something so wrong about his light leaving the universe. As if she knew that if he were gone then things would not turn in the favor of the Light. The thought rang true and she knew she had a battle on her hands. On that she would gladly accept and win.
She started to tell him a story as she started to take off. Many years ago there was a small girl whose parents were taken from her, but she was saved by a man she would come to look at as her father…
Ryloth 6 ATC 8, Week 7 Day 4: Night
Cora finally within sight of a good landing place away from civilization touched down. She had just been able to hide her ship in a clearing large enough to take off and not land without knocking over trees. The landscape allowed her to relax and meditate in the Force. Stretching out she allowed her senses to flow over the landscape.
After a few minutes she rose and started heading in the direction that called out to her within her meditative contemplation. She picked her way to a rocky outcropping that was a hole. Like a sinkhole that had opened up ages ago swallowing up some of the ground and trees around it. Collapsed logs scattered down till the darkness swallowed them whole. She had no idea how far down the sinkhole went but she knew that she’d been led here by the Force and she was going down there.
“Well, of course Dom cannot make this easy. It would not be his style. If I wind up looking like something the lo-cat dragged in I will not be happy.” Cora started climbing down thanking the Force that she’d decided to wear her boys attire. Her bag jostled up and down, left and right against her back as she lightly lept from one edge to another. She reached around and shuffled the bag open and digging in it she pulled out a light. Activating it she shined it down to lighten the darkness in the hole.
Thankfully without incident she was able to reach the bottom. The floor was wet and cold. Looking around she noticed that there was more than one way she could go. Blowing a piece of hair from across her face she rolled her eyes. “Oh of course.” Taking a deep breath she focused and reached out again.
Left. Opening her eyes Cora swung left and with a confident stride went in the direction that the Force pulled her. She could feel the familiarity of the Lightside echo back at her as she went farther in. Time was hard to track down here but Cora thought she might have been walking, or crouching for about four hours now. She came to a large chamber and stopped for a moment. The feeling was different. Larger.
Cora reached out to Dominik hoping that he was conscious or at least receptive.
The older Jedi had found himself on the floor of his hut, back leaning against the wall and eyes closed as he finally found time to rest. Ever since Evemarie's arrival, he had been discussing the idea of moving the people to a different location, staying and fortifying tunnels, and preparing for the next supply drop. Among other things. Feeling a gentle brush from the bond he held with Cora, the Master Jedi's mind was nudged awake. His eyes opened slowly, observing the dimly lit space and realizing just what it was that he felt. Was Cora on Ryloth?
The older man reached back out through their bond. Physically, he took his walking stick and used it to help himself stand. Nearby sat another dose of the herb mixture Lo had concocted to allow him to feel less pain from his hip. She had constantly supplied a new one every other day ever since the first. He eyes it for a few long moments before taking it slowly and pouring it down his throat.
The man coughed softly as the taste made him shudder. He took in a deep breath, eyes closing as his body finally began to wake up. He stood fully up, using the wall as a brace to his side as he focused on the bond he held with Cora.
Cora felt the presence of Dominik across the bond. Her head snapped to the smaller opening across from her. She was going to have to crouch again. No matter she could feel that Dominik was close. Crouching down Cora quickly slid into the tunnel and came to a cavern that was the sight of a recent cave in. She reached out with the Force and washed it over the cavern as it echoed back to her; she realized that the wall she was standing in front of was where she needed to go. Turning she laid her hands on the wall of the cavern.
She could feel how close he was, maybe a few feet away. “Dominik!! DOMINIK!!!” She pushed with the sense of the Force hoping that Dominik would be listening not only to the bond but also maybe, just maybe, sensing her presence and trying to figure out where she was. She was on the verge of franticness to see if he was alright. Swallowing the emotions she had let surface she calmed herself and reached out again.
Dominik felt as Cora's aura slowly came closer and closer over the course of minutes. The older man took hold of his walking cane and quietly slipped out the entrance of his hut. He steadied himself for a few moments, his mind still continuing to wake as he walked towards one of the still accessible tunnels.
Lo's brown eyes tightened when she spotted her master leave the hut then enter a tunnel. It led to the outside causing the padawan's irritation to rise in her chest. Every night, she had stayed up late. Each time she pounded new salves, set them into portions, and finally sealed them into leaves. The last ritual of the night had often been tucking her master's exhausted form into bed.
Now, he chose to leave his hut and wander off. Wordlessly, she followed him close enough to not get lost. She resisted the urge to holler at him. This time, Lo decided to watch and wait for the chance to interrupt.
Her aura led him down a series of smaller tunnels he hadn't trekked down often. Although he knew he wouldn't be lost, these tunnels were still uncharted territory in terms of how stable they still were.
Slowly the man found himself at a dead end of the smaller side tunnel. It was darker than the larger tunnels but the nearby crystals still allowed for some light to get through.
He felt Cora's aura so close, yet so far. He could feel her emotion, but there was still something in the way. Letting his cane fall to the rock floor of the cave, the old man took a few steps, holding his palms out in front of him and leaning against the rock wall nearest to him. His palms felt the cold rock underneath them, and through to the other side was someone he held very dear. The older Jedi closed his eyes and focused the Force through his body and through the bond he held with Cora.
I'm here. I'm alright. Came his soft voice. Eyes shut tight as he channeled the Force through his palms. It was the rock wall that blocked them. And it seemed only together could they safely eliminate it.
Tears of relief leaked from Cora’s eyes as she heard his call through the bond. Dom. Which way? I have not found another way to where you are at present. I might be able to cut through the wall but I do not know if it will hold on your end. Dom? What are we looking at on your end?
If we work together, I think we can safely break through the wall without the entire tunnel collapsing. I'd prefer not to go through that again. Dominik replied, teasing slightly at the end as a playful smirk came to his lips. His eyes were still shut tight and his hands flat against the wall as he spoke to Cora through their bond.
If we focus, we can do it. But we have to be slow, and careful.
Cora took a deep breath as a flash of what Dominik was thinking came across the bond. She placed her hands on the wall. Alright. I am ready. She focused the Force to a fine point and struck the wall like a sculptor with a fine chisel and hammer.
Dominik felt Cora's presence in the Force as they both started to work away at the wall. Deep, long cracks started to stretch through its surface as both Jedi worked to challenge and undo what nature had done. Dominik felt a tinge of exhaustion just as they started, but he had to give everything he could so that Cora would be able to safely make it to the cavern and not have to backtrack to find a connection to the main tunnel.
He took in a deep, sharp breath as he pushed all of his focus into the task at hand. As the cracks grew, he made sure they wouldn't threaten the integrity of the tunnel as a whole once the wall came down.
Sweat dripped down Cora’s face and neck to slide along her spine. She shivered and continued to chip away at the wall with the Force. She could feel Dominik’s exhaustion and hoped that this would be over soon. She had a better idea of what was ailing him this close but she needed to lay hands on him to be sure. Almost done Papa-uh Dom.
Dominik faintly registered her words through their bond as he worked, but his mind was so focused on the wall, on preventing another cave in, that he didn't put much thought anywhere else.
Slowly the cracks in the wall went deeper and deeper. Dominik started to hear the shifting of rock and dirt as the wall slowly started to give way along the guide they had created. A rough doorway opened up, connecting the two tunnels and effectively reuniting the two Jedi.
Dominik quickly leaned against one side of the doorway as the dust settled, rocks and dirt flowing around his feet as the rest of it fell. He took in a few deep breaths as he looked down to see a Jedi he had not seen in many years. Cora.
Cora directed the flow of rocks and dirt past her deeper in the chamber as the dust settled after they accomplished what they set out to do. Cora looked up as a figure became clear. “P-Dom.” She reached out to him touching his face. Instantly she was assessing the damage.
"I'm… fine." Dominik spoke quietly, watching as Cora came near, feeling her hand on his face. The man finally allowed his body to rest as he slid down the wall he leaned against. There was no denying the strength and endurance he still lacked even after recovering quite a bit. It was frustrating, and embarrassing. It had been a very long time since he had been the weak one. It was not a feeling he liked.
"You didn't have any trouble getting here, did you? No one followed you?"
Cora sunk down with him, her mouth a firm line rather than the normal cupid’s bow. “You old fool. You are not fine. Lie to someone other than a Master Healer. I had someone dogging me for a few days before I arrived in the system but I lost them. It was likely because of the Corvette. I am no Padawan or green Knight. I know that it draws attention. Mainly the wrong kind. Stealth was an excellent skill to know in this instance. As is Revitalize and Healing both of which you need and I mean to give.”
Looking like she was ready to do so she touched his brow smoothing back his hair. Her face softened as her hand trembled. She looked around and nodded, her face becoming blank. “We should move. I believe that the orchestration of the Force to get us here will not hold off the creatures that should be here for much longer. Can you move Dom?”
"I do not need your healing skills, Cora. There are others who are far worse than I am. They need it first… and Lo. She needs to rest." Dominik mumbled, glancing up and down the tunnel as Cora suggested they move. He nodded, indicating he could move, before he slowly began to use the wall to help himself stand.
"Thank you, Cora." He began, taking a small breather as he fully stood. He held out one hand, using the Force to call his walking stick back into his grasp. "Thank you for risking your safety to come here. I couldn't leave Lo alone. And I was afraid that it was my time… but she's not ready. She shouldn't have had to fill in my position while I was in my coma." Dominik remained still as he spoke about his Padawan, eyes closing as he recalled those last moments before his mind had gone black. Cora was his last hope in making sure Lo wouldn't be alone. He knew, even though he had survived, he would still need help in giving her some relief.
Rising Cora nodded. Her lips thinned stubbornly. “Fear from you? You surprise me. This should convince you Dom that you need to be at your best for everyone here. I will not hear an argument. I am the only full Healer here. You may be the leader but when it comes to your health I refuse to argue with you about this. You have not been well for far too long. You look gaunt. I will not have you shuttle me off telling me that you do not need my skills. I will do what the Force wills of me and if you do not want Lo to be alone then you will stop this nonsense. Listen to the Force. You pulled through for a reason. You reached out for more than one reason. I am here because the Force wills it. Do not turn me from the path that it has set for me. The path that you set me on thirty-two years ago.”
Cora looked at Dominik knowing that he could refute all of it but knew that she spoke truthfully and it resounded in the Force. She helped him away from the opening they had created and gently pulled him in the direction that she felt more Jedi. “Since you have successfully gotten me to string more than seven words together than I have in the last ten years you will have to put up with my ways. You really should resign yourself to the organizational and management skills of someone who has had to run a teaching hospital for the last ten years. You have no idea the force of nature you have let loose. Yet.”
Dominik smiled at her words, his eyes closing for a moment as he regained his balance while Cora helped him back towards the cavern. “Lo and I will surely accept your help, Cora. Thank you.” He said softly, allowing the younger Jedi to help him back in the direction he had come.
With that Cora nodded and continued walking with Dominik. "Where is your pallet?" She was looking around taking in her surroundings as much as she could in the almost non-existent light.
There were very few Twi’lek out and about at that time of night, however those that were watched Cora and Dominik with curiosity and caution. Dominik waved a hand towards them, indicating there was nothing to see. A couple of the younger Twi’lek children who were out and about watched with pure curiosity, their eyes on the newcomer as Cora helped Dominik.
“There’s a hut- right over there.” Dominik said, pointing to one that stood a little out of line versus all of the other huts around it.
Cora moved them to it. They almost tripped over a small body, almost. Cora pulled up short and saw a small Bothan breathing deeply obviously tuckered out. Leaning over she realized it was a teenage girl and picked her up. She motioned for Dominik to keep following.
Dawn had just broken and in the gray light she shifted the cloth flap from the entrance. She noted the sparse furnishings and took the situation in hand settling the Bothan girl gently. She was in charge here. Getting him to lay down was far too easy. Which meant he was weaker then he wanted to let on.
Sighing Cora sat beside him and took his hand. She called upon the Force and began healing him. It was no small task and she had expended quite a bit of energy with the rock wall.
Concentrating on Dominik she could feel him slowly healing the damage that had been done to him just before he reached out to her. She replenished his body's natural healing stores and went on with her work. He was healing well at least. The basics of life-saving healing were there and she wondered who had started the daunting task.
As she realigned muscles and tendons setting them back into place she realized he'd have been weeks away from full recovery, only days if they'd been getting supplies regularly. He'd be less weary now but they needed those supplies, and soon. She knew that he'd be better soon and she was almost too weary to continue. She stopped and set his hand down on the bed. He'd be sore when he woke but he'd be better off.
Rising Cora teetered for a moment. She steadied herself and walked slowly to the exit. She turned as she steadied herself on the wall with her fingertips. She walked over to the girl and sat down with her back to the wall. Reaching a weary hand out she stroked the girl's face seeing the circles under her eyes.
Gently Cora released some of the girl's tension so that she'd sleep better and deeper. She felt the girl relax and her twitching stopped. She kept her hand on the girl till she was sure that the girl had passed into a restful sleep. Standing again she used the wall leaning her head back and sighing heavily. She was tired. So very tired. But there were things to do and not before she had a couple of hours of sleep.
She went over and sat on the edge of the bed and checked on Dominik. He was sleeping his breathing deep and even more relaxed than he had been. She counted his breaths and took his pulse closing her eyes as she counted.
One. Two. Three…
Cora slumped over seconds after she closed her eyes. Asleep even before her head hit the bed.
Adjusting himself on the bed, Dominik slowly began to stir as the minutes passed by. He felt Cora’s warmth nearby, both due to being in close proximity to her, and in her aura through the Force. The older Jedi slowly sat up, one hand holding his body up as the other rubbed his eyes. Glancing around the small room, he noted Cora sleeping next to him, and Lo resting, seemingly comfortable, on some blankets not far from the bed. The older man stood from the bed and grabbed a spare folded set of robes from the small crude stone table nearby. Soon he had disappeared from the room, leaving the two to wake when they needed.
Cora jerked awake startled by the lack of the rhythm of the sea. Her eyes snapped open and she pushed up shaking the exhaustion from her. Within moments she relived the last two weeks and she pushed to her feet. Softly padding over to her bag she pulled out her normal attire, her saber and a charcoal cloak. Tucking her hair behind her ears she looked over the Bothan girl but did not touch her. She was afraid that if she did the girl would wake up and she looked peaceful. Besides the girl needed the rest from the circles she had noticed that, while not as prominent as last night, were still there.
Peeling off her shirt Cora pulled on her white dress and shimmered out of the rest of her clothes under the dress. Tossing the cloak on she carefully clipped on her lightsaber. She strode out of the hut and barely stopped herself from snarling for Dominik. That man could try the patience of a Grandmaster. He was one of the worst patients she'd ever had.
Coming back from preparing for the day, Dominik held his old pair of robes draped over one arm, his other hand running over the freshly shaven bread on his chin. He spotted Cora outside of the hut and very briefly considered turning away. Taking in a deep breath, he continued forward. Unable to hide the slight limp on his right side, he walked slowly in an attempt to mask it as much as possible.
“How is Lo, Cora?” he asked, his first thoughts always on the well-being of his tired Padawan.
Lips thinning Cora's silver eyes snapped to his right side then back to his eyes. "She needs more rest as do you." Cora's tone was firm but unfailingly polite. Her diction was crisp and her words kept short. She was upset and her exhaustion still lingered. "Whom do I see to request information on the status of the situation from Dominik? Also am I to tie you to the bed like any other recalcitrant patient?" She used his full first name. Which he knew her well enough to know she was vexed.
Dominik caught the gaze she shot at him, he couldn’t help the shiver down his spine. Peeved healers were never a pleasant sort. “I can fill you in on most of it. Lo knows our healing situation better than anyone else. There’s also Sar, he’s in charge of his people.” Dominik explained, walking over to the open doorway of the hut and peeking inside. Seeing Lo still sleeping soundly, he placed the old robes just inside the doorway, draped over a crude table, before pulling back out from the doorway and looking to Cora.
“There’s much to be done Cora.” Dominik began, speaking almost sternly as an attempt to fight her attitude at his restlessness. “Lo has been working far too hard for a Padawan, Cora. She needs to rest, and I have my own duties to tend to.”
Nodding she pointed at the hut. "Correct. You do. She does and now I do. Your duties now include resting as do hers. I will not have you waste my talents by pulling your hip out of joint and having to wait in pain while Lo or I finish with someone else. Nor will I have her or myself distracted by your pain down the bond that we make a fatal mistake. You would crush her. At her age young girls are sensitive to these things. I shall also point out that you, yes you are the reason she has not healed more here. If you would not push yourself she would be better."
Her tone was firm and no nonsense and her posture loose. She knew her scant observations were hitting their mark as she watched his reaction. She'd come into her own in the ten years she'd been separated from the Order and surprisingly a better Jedi for it. She knew she was a force to be reckoned with since she'd helped anyone who sought her out on Manaan. She'd healed normal people and Force Users alike. Jedi, Sith and in between. She knew how to cut to the heart of the matter and give the cold hard truth.
Dominik found himself silent as Cora spoke the truth. Everything he had been holding in his heart was basically handed to him and made vocal. Nothing she said was out of place, it was as if she had been here this entire time. Watching, listening, learning. It was sad, Dominik thought, that it was easily noticeable the issues he and Lo were having by someone who had just arrived. It was the hard truth, and Dominik hadn’t quite expected it all to be said so bare boned and open. Nothing was hidden.
The older Jedi took in a deep breath as his mind rolled her words around in his head. He could feel her worry; about him, about their whole situation. The Ryloth relief mission had turned into something far darker and far more serious than before. It had burned holes in he and Lo’s bond in ways Dominik wasn’t sure he could fix quickly. He sighed deeply and stood in silence. Lately he had felt less like a master and more like an apprentice. He felt as if he was failing in his duties to Lo.
He took in a sharp breath as he moved from the doorway, glancing up as a few Twi’lek emerged from one of the huts nearby. “Your words speak the truth, Cora. I will not ignore them, but I must meet with Sar this morning.” He said quietly, smiling weakly at the younger Jedi before he moved past her in the direction of the healing tents and ration tables.
Lo's head nuzzled deeper into the assortment of thick blankets as she twisted about. Her body stretched out, moving the blanket, as she curled back into her ball. A slight burn etched into her muscles. Her body wanted to continue sleeping, but her mind knew better. She had to get up.
Sighing a bit, she pushed herself upright. Her hand reached back to scratch a budding itch near her ear. She then rubbed the grit from her vision before giving a loud, lengthy yawn. Her body tilted then plopped on her ass. She took in her surroundings before she frowned. This wasn't the medical tents.
Walking into the hut Cora sighed. She looked over at the slightly confused Bothan girl, Lo. "Good morning Lo. I was hoping you would sleep longer but I suppose not. My name is Cora. Cora Alcyon. How are you feeling?" Cora sat down on the bed and patted it next to her as an invitation for Lo and to continue the conversation.
Lo leaned back. Confusion increased as she looked at the Jedi, unsure where they met before. Her fur fluffed a bit at the lack of memories. She didn't even recall making it to her Master's hut before she collapsed. Her hand pushed away her bangs from her eyes as she began to move upright. Lo's sluggish movements gaining some strength with the effort.
"I need to get dressed and check on the one hurt in the cave-in yesterday and prepare Master Rothul's pain killer." She started to look around for her spare robes she kept alongside Dominik's.
Cora smiled indulgently. “That is not an answer.” She was warm but had that no nonsense tone that was long practiced to getting what she wanted from a recalcitrant patient.
Lo internally groaned. She hated that tone and knew it well enough to cooperate. Her hand paused inches from her outer robe as she turned to Cora, facing the older Jedi. A small, soft sigh escaped her muzzle.
"I'm feeling well rested, but sore from the floor." Her tone held sincerity and minimal information.
Cora nodded, still smiling. “Well done Padawan. A very political answer. Vague but truthful. Now you shall not like this next part.” Cora paused for a moment. “I am very impressed with what you have done for the past few months. Most especially when Dominik was incapacitated. That being said you need a break. You need a few days to relax and regain your strength. As of right now you are not the only one here that can heal. However I do need something from you while you rest. I need you to make sure your Master does so as well.”
Lo braced herself then bit her lip hard, a habit developed through stress. "One healer is not enough, even with some twi'lek assisting you. Add on the responsibility to figure out how to substitute the lack of Kolto, sterilization, and more with natural options. Then include more critical injured patients..."
She took a breath then collected her rushing thoughts. "It isn't a one person job. As for making my master rest... what do you think I've been trying to do? Best I got was being able to give him painkillers for my own selfish reasons."
Mischief sparked from Cora’s eyes as she grinned. “One Jedi Healer is more than enough to take over for a span of two to three days while you both recuperate. You have stocked up on the local useful flora, located a water source, cleared a useful camp, isolated the injured versus the sick.” She ticked off her fingers with each statement.
Lo gritted her teeth as she felt her fur press against her skin. A sense of depression washed over her as she listened to the praise she didn’t deserve. As well as it looked on the outside, most of the time she had been flying on the seat of her trousers. No plan or skill involved at all.
“So now that we understand each other I expect that you will find it interesting to know that I know just how you feel. During my trials to become a Knight I was under just as much and sometimes more stress than you are at present. So I know how much you need to rest. Besides, Dominik should be easier to handle after our little talk. You need some guidance in the healing arts since you have shown such a talent for it. I aim to make that happen. I will need your help once you have recovered to care for the wounded or sick and I will need your knowledge of where the flora are located and where you have picked them from. Furthermore Dominik has failed to teach you manners and that is his fault not yours. He’s about to have more time on his hands to continue your training. I intend to lighten both of your burdens. I may have come running for you but I intend to stay for both of you.”
“Training…” A small, bitter laugh escaped Lo’s lips. “I think the time for that has passed a long time ago. I’m already behind for a padawan my age by two months and I keep falling farther and farther. First being captured by the slavers, assisting the Twi’lek, then mortar attack. Now new Jedi arrive. It’s like the force is telling me that I shouldn’t be a Jedi now.”
Cora stood and walked over to the clothes and handed the girl the extra set. “It will go much easier if I have your friendship and agreement Lo. Should not be a Jedi? Heavens no my dear. When you have a calling you have a calling. What makes you think you are two months behind?”
“Master Rothul sent for me, but it took him two months before he came for me. Two long months. This is my first actual time with him since I’ve been a padawan.” Lo bluntly stated.
Blinking Cora looked at the girl. “Pardon?” She was in shock. “Did he explain why? No wait, do not answer that. I know he did not. He would not. Surely he would have a specific reason that he would have been unable to tell you or even, perhaps he did not recognise how you felt? That is… did he ever ask you what the matter is Lo?”
"He did, but… This isn’t the first thing he didn’t go into depth over. I know he's keeping things from me, and they are painful, so I stopped asking about them. I don't want to cause him more pain."
Lo took the clothes still held out to her as she turned to get dressed.
Tucking her hair behind her ears Cora turned her back to give the girl some privacy. She pulled a face as she realized that she was going to get to the bottom of this so that she could fix it. Her face was full of concern, which she honestly felt, but none of the shock or slowly building frustration and anger at Dominik. Oh she realized that there were good reasons. Good ones too. “Did not go into depth over? Painful secrets? I noticed that you did not state your answer. We shall get back to that. Let me ask you Lo, do you trust your Master?”
Lo’s arms paused midway putting her tunic on. The question caught her off guard and caused her to look back over her shoulder. A long awkward silence stretched between them. Giving a heavy thought to the question and its reason, she knew the truth. Yet saying it proved harder than she wanted it to be.
“That question is too vague. I trust my master to be a Jedi, to trust the force, and do his best. I trust him not to purposely harm me.” Lo stated, picking the answers she gave based on her understanding of the question.
“Goodness that is a long list. So you do trust your Master then?”
“If you’re looking for a specific answer, you need to be more specific. You left the question for me to guess about what you mean and I can understand it in various ways. However, I’ll take it as you mean with my life and training. That’s a… yes.” Lo commented as she began to pull down her tunic over her head, careful to avoid catching her muzzle on it.
Cora tilted her head in acknowledgement. “You will think differently within a couple of months. I appreciate your honesty Lo. Please know that Dominik cares very deeply for you or I would not have flown from Manaan at his, what I thought might be dying, request so that you would not be alone. You hesitate my dear but in time you shall not. All I want you to do for the next three days is eat, rest and ask Dominik every question you can think of that comes out of your head. Can you do that?” Cora smiled conspiratorially.
“Questions are never the issue, it’s getting answers and understanding that is.” Lo said as she began to pull her hair back and tie it against her head. Her padawan braid hung down over the side of her eye. She turned about then tapped the older Jedi on the shoulder, indicating she was done.
Turning around Cora looked down at the girl. “If you do not receive answers I will want to know. Now if it is a personal matter you are not getting answers to, just know it is not you. If you keep with it eventually he opens up like an Alderaan rose.” She stroked Lo’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “Now on to break our fast and then I want you both relaxing. You for three days and Dominik for five.”
“I don’t know if I have the strength for silence anymore.” Lo admitted, her ears perked up for the morning meal. She instinctively leaned into the touch to absorb the security and comfort it provided.
“A meal sounds good though.”
Turning Cora walked over to the rations table with Lo. Looking for Dominik Cora glanced at the rations. She could not partake of these when she had not been accounted for. Cora had some rations in her bag as some more on the ship. Looking around she noticed that even though they were underground shafts of sunlight slanted in. The beams were only halfway down the wall. They were thin but still there. Ventilation was assured as well as fresh water if it rained.
Her gaze fell on Dominik, who was sitting by the rocks meditating. She had to make sure that he was not going to stress himself out. Or Lo for that matter. They both needed a break and Cora was going to be that for them. She turned toward Lo and thought better of asking her to introduce her to the leader.
Catching sight of a male Twi’lek that was salmon colored with darker bands along his lekku. His profile showed a strong straight nose and a rugged jawline. She smiled as she caught his eye. She could be charming if she wanted.
Walking up Cora tipped her head up at the Twi’lek and grinned charmingly. “Hello my name is Cora. Cora Alcyon. I am a friend of Dominik and Lo and a Jedi Healer. I hate to bother you but can you point me in the direction of Sar, please?”
Lo tilted her head. She noticed the smile and shift in behavior, the sweetness oozing out almost.
"You've found him." Sar said, bowing politely to Cora as she introduced herself. He finished the last remaining but of his rations before placing the crude bowl to the side. "What can I do for you Cora?" He asked gently, moving slightly to the side as a couple Twi'lek children ran past them.
Cora blinked at Sar for just a moment. She smiled at the kids that ran past. “I did not expect someone so young to be the leader here. How did that happen, if you do not mind me asking?” Cora was genuinely interested and was hoping for something that wasn’t tragic in the least.
Lo continued to frown then looked past Sar’s body and toward the medical hut. She debated on sticking around or heading to grab her notes.
"Before Master Rothul arrived, we were losing entire villages to gas attacks. Half of my village had disappeared after we had left on a hunting trip. When we returned and they were all gone, we found neighboring villages in the same predicament. I rounded up as many remaining as I could and we banded together." Sar explained, thinking over the last few months, even before Dominik and Lo had arrived, and how hard it had been on his people.
Cora was moved. “I am truly sorry for your loss. I can see why Dominik wanted to help the sheer audacity of someone to attack a village with poison gas… I cannot fathom it.”
“It wasn’t poison, it was knocked out gas. It left a nasty headache afterwards too.” Lo corrected Cora without thinking, her voice still gentle.
Cora bit her lip and looked between Lo and Sar. “Slavery.” Shaking her head Cora looked at Sar. “I have made Dominik and Lo more comfortable and they are healing but they need rest. I know this is unprecedented but until they are healed fully I would like to assist in their duties. I know you do not know me but I would be happy to answer any questions that you have. You can ask me anything.” There was a determined set to her chin and her silver eyes held Sar’s blue ones.
"You aren't a complete stranger to me, Cora. Dominik spoke of you a few times. We often sit at the center and talk late into the night. He's tried to tell me about his past, but it's hard for him. So I share what I can about mine. He knows he can trust me but it seems there's a lot of pain in bringing up old memories. Lately we've talked about other things. Friends, family. He has those very close to him that he cares for. You were often a topic when it was brought up." Sar explained, smiling softly at Cora as he spoke.
"I trust your judgement and your skills. Just as I do Dominik, Lo, and the other Jedi. We're grateful to have your assistance."
Cora did not know what to say. She blushed and smiled. “You have me at a disadvantage Sar. I hope that it was not my awkward teenage years. I assure you those are behind me. He is like a father to me. I-I did not realize how much I missed him until it was almost too late.”
Looking back over her shoulder at Dominik a tear rolled down her cheek. She had not realized she was crying. Quickly she swiped it away and turned back to Sar. “Dominik needs to stay off his feet and rest for a week. I have healed him but he needs to take it easy and let his body finish off the healing. Lo needs three days of sleep or she will push herself beyond tired and make a mistake that she will never forgive herself for. If they want to continue being useful they will stay in bed. I have drastic measures that I do not want to take but I will if need be.”
Sar laughed heartily as Cora mentioned her teenage years. "I promise you Master Jedi, it was not those. We talked about a lot. I respect his boundaries though. There are topics that I would bring up, about the war or other hard times we've been through. Sometimes I could get him to talk but more often than not he'd grow quiet."
Sar glanced over towards Dominik, able to see him past the tents and across the cavern, sitting next to the collapse as he normally did every morning. "I'm glad you're here Cora. I think he needs a little more firm encouragement. More than Lo and I combined could give him." He said, moving aside again as the same children from before ran back through, giggling and laughing. "I'll help keep an eye on him, and make sure he takes it easy. You have my word."
Cora blushed as Sar said her name. “Cora will do nicely. I am not a Master. The war was... Is… like every other. Nightmarish to be the least eloquent.” Cora smiled at the children. They always seemed to touch a place deep in her heart.
Reaching out she lightly touched Sar’s arm with just her fingertips. She looked up at him smiling. “Thank you Sar. For more than you know. Now to deal with the two most ornery patients in the whole of the Order. I shall see you about midday.” She let her fingers slide off his arm and strode over to Dominik.
Sar smiled and bowed his head at Cora as she left. He turned then, taking his empty bowl and moving to help those who still needed their morning meal.
Lo’s eyes had found the ground during their conversation. Admirable or not, she didn’t feel proud of her failure to reach her master. At the mention of two ornery patients, she felt the comment referred to her master and her. She didn’t look forward to the next three days of sitting around while others did her job.
Seeing Sar busy and Cora already moving toward Dom, she debated on the wisdom of retrieving her notes. Cora would need them since the wrong combination of plants would only waste supplies. Lo sighed again and followed her logic. She turned on her heel and shifted her path to the medical tents, the last place she left them.
Sitting in front of the rock collapse, knees folded and his hands resting on his knees, the older Jedi often fell into a deep meditation while he sat there. Today seemed different though, for he couldn't lose himself in his thoughts as he normally did. He sensed as Cora came near, but chose to say nothing just yet.
Cora sat down facing Dominik. Waiting patiently was something she was used to doing. She watched him with a healer's eye, looking for signs of strain and backsliding in his progress. She saw none and turned her observations over to more emotional territory.
"Talked about me did you? To a single, attractive, assertive male? I quite remember a time that you were not so keen on my association with the opposite sex. And do not pretend to not hear me." Cora cast a raised eyebrow and a blank look at Dominik.
Eyes closed, but an eyebrow raised, Dominik waited for Cora to finish speaking before he let out an exasperated sigh. “I spoke to him of fond memories and good friends.” Dominik replied, opening his eyes to look at Cora before they closed again. “Sar is a good friend, Cora. He has made talking easier, if only by a little.”
Nodding her head Cora looked over at Sar across the cavern. "I am glad you have him. Although it does sting a bit that you have not spoken with your former Padawan with such freedom. But you were always too protective about certain things. You might find that the people walking beside you wish to assist you with the burden you shoulder. Indeed they would relish the chance to become even closer to you."
Rising smoothly Cora shook out her skirts. "You are on bed rest for five days, argue with me or do something taxing and see how fast I use restraints."
“Those walking beside me, especially my padawan, do not need to hear me sulk over the guilt that I carry.” Dominik replied, eyes still closed as he spoke. “And I don’t need bed rest, Cora. I’ve been resting long enough.” He challenged, eyes opening now and his posture relaxing. He rested an elbow on one of his knees, one hand moved up to rub his eyes.
“I don’t need bedrest, nor do I need to share with others the grief I hold. I just-” Dominik sighed again, continuing to rub his eyes as his thoughts raced.
Cora's eyes snapped silver fire. "You do. On both counts. You close off on her and so help me Dominik Rothul I will not care if you are on the Council or not I will make you regret it. She is not half as persistent as I was at her age. You push her away and she will resent you for it and you will break her. Let her do what you would not and will not let me do. Let her in. Everyone needs someone."
It took everything Cora had to close off her emotions and push them back down. Seeing Dominik was joy and sorrow for her. She constantly felt like she'd never lived up to him. She'd analytically dissected the feelings long ago and buried them only to have them rise again. Ironic that she should lecture him on repression or letting people in.
Lo reminded Cora of herself at that age. She hoped that Lo had an easier time with Dominik than Cora had. It was worse that she was supposed to stand by and watch it happen again. Well she had decided that she was stepping in.
The Master Jedi would not say it, he could not. But he was afraid. Afraid of letting Lo in and then losing her, just as he had lost Evin. Just as he had lost Sela, and Xid, and so many others who he would never see again, who he could never speak to again. The older man sat there, slouched with his head rested in his hand, almost as if all of his strength had left him. He thought that by not letting anyone in, he could prevent himself from losing anyone, and prevent others from the pain they may feel should they lose him. It seemed though that if he shut Lo out, he would lose her, and lose their bond in a way he didn’t think possible.
He said nothing. For many long, silent moments the old man sat there, breathing in and out as he kept his emotions down, but he hid his face from Cora. Slouched over, head resting in one hand, he wasn’t sure if he was ready to release his grief and let others in.
Turning in a swirl of skirts Cora retreated before she dashed herself on the sharp rocks that were Dominik’s stubbornness. If it would have done her any good she would have mentioned that he was special to so many people that, while they may not number as the stars, they were still countless. She had waited so long for his approval and to have it when he thought he was dying, that was upsetting.
No that was not correct. She wanted his love, approval was secondary. She looked at Dominik as a father. After all he had been the one to save her.
Ever since speaking to Cora earlier that day, Dominik hadn't the energy or the focus to move from his spot in front if the rock collapse. He mostly meditated, off and on, over the words Cora had said to him and how deep they had dug into his heart. He knew they were true. He knew he shut people out. But in Dominik's mind, it was for their own good. No one deserves to carry the grief he does. He was afraid that Lo would only ever see herself as a comparison if Dominik spoke too much about Evin. He was afraid she would look at him differently should he talk about his experience in Sith hands, or about the things he's seen during the war and the things he's had to do.
What good could sharing his burdens do for others?
He knew Lo cared, and that she wanted to help. But he was afraid that letting her in would shove nothing but negativity and grief into her young heart.
Lo watched Dominik from a distance. It had taken her the whole day to collect her courage and nerve to approach him. The perfect excuse came around meal time as she stepped into line and patiently waited for her turn. She told Sar she intended to take his meal to him which the older Twi'lek acknowledge. After putting a large serving of rice and various sauce and medley dishes on a leaf, she left.
With careful steps and balance, she managed to approach her master without an issue. Lo couldn't help the anxiety start to grow within her heart while she drew closer. She swallowed then recalled Cora's request, unsure of how to approach it. Her master's head rested in his hand causing her to gently tap his thigh with her boot toe.
Cora came out of a hut where a young man was laid up with a broken leg. Lo had set it well and there was no sign of complications, except that the young man was bored. Cora had given him her sternest look and let him know that she expected him to stay off of it for six weeks. She had promised him she'd see if she could fashion some crutches for him.
Looking up she saw Lo headed toward… Dominik? I told him bed rest! Stubborn man! As she watched Lo took him food. Has not eaten either. If he back slides I will Stasis him till I feel he is better. Please just talk to her. She needs you but you need her more...
"Master? I brought food, you should eat. You haven't eaten all day." She said quietly, looking worried.
He heard the footsteps as Lo grew closer, but chose not to say anything. After a few moments he felt a gentle tap on his thigh which caused him to focus on her words. He didn’t move at all yet as he thought about what she said. “Thank you Lo, but-” he stopped suddenly, recalling Cora’s words, recalling her request to let Lo in. He took a deep breath and pulled his head up, opening his eyes to look up at his Padawan with a faint, but true smile. “You’re right. A meal would do me good… what did they fix tonight?”
Lo’s chest tightened at the start of his rejection. Immediately her fur flattened and her eyes looked to the ground instinctively, trying to accept the pain. As he took a breath, her thoughts considered escape until she caught his question. A small, timid smile crossed her lips. The gesture was little, but the most meaningful thing to her right now.
Careful not to destroy the moment, she bent down and set the leaf between the two of them. Her finger pointed to each dish as she explained them.
“We have some roasted Rycrit in the center with cooked rice and some sauces to go with it. They are mainly a medley of vegetables and fruits, with some hot after-taste in some. This one is very bad with it.” She pointed to the reddish one nearest him.
“It’s called Kreen. Due to the root used in it. I would brace before trying that one and have a chunk of meat and rice to temper.” Lo’s voice took on a relaxed and childish excitement as she continued to explain each one to her master.
The smile remained on Dominik’s face as he listened and watched Lo go over every part of the meal. He watched the enthusiasm and couldn’t help a soft chuckle after she explained the Kreen.
“Becoming quite the cook are we?” Dominik said, smiling faintly to Lo as he looked over the meal.
“I loved helping in the kitchens as a youngling. Even when I put a lot of what I liked into the meals, thinking it would taste better. It turns out milk and nerf steaks… don’t taste too good mashed together.” Lo tried not to blush at her early experiments with food.
Dominik snickered at her comment, “I can imagine they don’t.” He said, reaching down and taking a small piece of the sliced meat. He lightly pulled it through one of the sauces before bringing it up and placing it in his mouth.
“Thankfully, I’ve learned more since then. I also know how to deep-fry nerf steaks with a crispy coating.” She had before; also trying some rice and one of the sauces, a deep orange one with some chopped fruit in it. A quick tense faded into bliss as the strong tang faded into sweet. She managed to lick her fingers clean.
“Soo… Cora told me I’m on three days rest. Did she tell you that you’re on five?” Lo chose an easy question to test the waters.
“She did.” Dominik said, taking another piece of the meat before dragging it through the same sauce as before and plopping it in his mouth. He wouldn’t openly admit it, but now that Lo had brought food over his stomach started to feel like an empty pit.
“Did she tell you anything else?” Dominik asked, wondering if Cora had mentioned yet anything about teaching Lo more about healing and helping the young Bothan to hone her skills.
“Yes. She was taking over until I’m done resting then going to help me with training and improving my healing. She says she’s impressed, but I don’t see why. I was flying by the seat of my trousers the whole time and even my organization could be better.” Lo commented, indifferent to her accomplishments, as she took some more rice and tried another sauce. This one was sour and savory, causing her to let out a little moan of enjoyment.
“Even if you don’t see the talent Lo, I see it. You are very gifted.” Dominik said in between bites, his free hand brushing over the robes over the scar on his abdomen. He looked over at her as she was enjoying her bite. He licked his fingers clean and then brushed them on his trousers before he adjusted the way he was sitting to be a little more comfortable.
“There also was something else Cora wanted me to do… but I’m not sure it’s a good idea.” Lo stated, trying to muster up her courage and strength.
Dominik took a deep breath at Lo’s words. He had a feeling he knew what she spoke of, but he could also be wrong. “What did she tell you? I’m sure you can do it, Lo. You can do anything you set your mind to.”
She wasn’t sure about this, even with her master’s encouragement. Her eyes closed for a moment as she inhaled then exhaled, letting her calm wash over her.
“She told me for the next three days, all I was supposed to do was eat, rest, and ask you every question that came to mind.” Lo fell silent, taking another bite. This one became tasteless the moment the truth invaded the air.
Dominik’s head moved to the hand resting on one knee again. His palm rubbed over his face as he thought over what Lo said. He straightened himself up again, turning himself more towards Lo before he spoke again. “And have you thought of any questions?” he said, looking to her and attempting to be as open as he could.
"Master... the more accurate statement is when don't I?" Lo pointed out.
The man nodded almost immediately at Lo’s statement. He couldn’t help the playful chuckle at the truth of it. Though it was something that Dominik had never really thought about until now. “What are your questions, Lo?” he began, looking directly at his Padawan as if to help show he was listening to her and only her.
Her tension cautiously began to drop from her figure. She gave a soft smile and sorted through her endless list, finally settling on one.
“We’ll start with an easy one. Since we’re currently eating, what’s your favorite food?”
The old man couldn’t help but chuckle again at the simple question. “Believe it or not… Colo Clawfish.” he teased, knowing good and well many of the younger generations of just about any species despised odd looking food before trying it. It definitely wasn’t the most appealing meal Dominik ever had, but it was a delicacy on his homeworld and something he had grown up eating on special occasions.
Lo tilted her head then blinked. “What’s that?”
“It’s usually a mix of two to three different types of cracked eggs mixed with a type of caviar from species of fish.”
“Caviar is fish eggs, right? How do they get those?”
“I’m not sure Lo.” Dominik said, snickering at her simple questions, though he figured it was only the beginning. “I just enjoy the taste. Though most younger ones around your age tend to this it’s disgusting.”
“I’m curious to what it tastes like, but I doubt I’ll get a chance. Maybe when I do, I’ll be the right age to actually enjoy it.” Lo retorted in a cheeky, playful fashion.
“What were you like as a youngling and padawan?” She asked suddenly, her figure leaning in to listen.
“My master often called me reckless.” Dominik began, laughing softly at the memory. “Master Ki always hated how little interest I had shown in the way of combat and dueling. I always preferred to watch and to wait before I made my decision.” Dominik paused for a moment, hesitant before he spoke again. “We fought a lot because of our indifference. Even then, he always told me how proud he had been. After I passed my Trials with great success, we stayed in touch and I continued to learn from him even though I felt like I was on my own.”
“Was it ever hard to talk to him?” Lo asked, hoping the question might enlighten her own issue and bring a solution.
“It was, at times.” Dominik said, thinking back to the first years with his master.
“What did you do and did it ever get better?”
“I kept working towards what I loved most.” He began, eyes closed as the memories slowly started to come back. “Soon he saw that my tactics and my patience weren’t such a bad thing. Soon he became more understanding, and we began to get along.”
A lengthy pause started as Lo took some meat and tried the spiciest of the sauces, absorbing what he had said. A few moments ticked by before she broke the silence again.
“Master, do you miss Evin?” Her heart thumped loudly in her chest, her head up and studying him. She didn’t know what to expect from her master with this question.
As Cora moved toward the hut that she left her belongings in she kept a close eye on the Master Padawan pair. The easy emotions coming off them were a good sign. The chat was going well. She set the old bag she carried her medical supplies in just inside the door and looked over her shoulder at the pair as they spoke.
She was going to try and get closer incase she was needed. She wandered over to the central area with a raised portion. Still watching the exchange.
Dominik choked at Lo’s next question. He took in a deep breath, his head bowing and eyes closing as hearing his previous Padawan’s name struck something in his heart. He exhaled slowly before inhaling sharply again. Finally, gathering strength, he looked back up at Lo.
“I miss Evin just as you miss your parents, Lo. It is… something neither of us can change.”
“I can’t miss my father. I only knew my mother and it’s been a long time. I barely remember her voice or her image. I don’t even know if I should feel guilty I can’t recall many memories about her.” Lo honestly admitted, her voice rather quiet.
Dominik’s breathing changed as the topic stretched on. He wanted to talk about these memories, he didn’t want to shut Lo out. Yet he couldn’t help the grief that seemed to resurface everytime he recalled that terrible day. “Do not blame yourself for something such as that, Lo. You had no control over the situation. You were very young… sometimes we cannot help but wish we could change the past.”
“If you could, what would you change? From the past that is.” Lo continued to watch her master intently, through her excitement and energy had spiraled down obviously. Several times she had considered altering the topic. However, she promised Cora she would speak whatever came to her mind. Even if it hurt.
Dominik exhaled quickly, holding his head in one hand as he struggled to keep his bearing.
"I would change nothing, Lo." Came his answer after a few long, silent moments. "Nothing can ever be changed, Lo. Everything is as the Force wills it…" he paused again, taking in a deep breath and glancing to his Padawan with tired eyes. "Even if it hurts. Nothing can ever be changed. That is why we must look around us. And look to the future."
Lo felt sick. A twisted, raw feeling had bunched itself up in her stomach. Growing stronger as the conversation took a less pleasant turn. She had stopped eating as the talking went on, losing her appetite with the change in subjects. Regret filled her at actually doing what Cora told her, but she couldn’t stop now.
“Is that why Evin is with the Force? Because it willed it?”
The grief and pain was staggering almost making Cora collapse. She saw Evin, or what she assumed was Evin, for a split second then she knew Lo had asked about him. Cora dropped the wall she had put up earlier and let his emotions wash down the bond. It was like lancing a wound that was infected.
Lo was faster than Cora expected on the hard questions. Cora passed Dominik the good emotions from her years as his Padawan. Happiness, joy, acceptance, peace and love. She walked over to the pair and sat down to join them. She looked at Lo and smiled. "Gently. You have time Padawan. I think patients should be doing what their Healer advised them."
Cora was still drawing in the negative emotions and pushing the positive ones back at Dominik down the bond. The power behind them was stunning. She hoped they were all spilling this way. The negativity she was drawing in, she distantly realized, was something she would have to inquire as to if Lo had that ability. Lo was not ready for that yet though. Healing mental trauma was more suited to those with Empathic abilities. Fortunately, or unfortunately as the case may be Cora has that skill set as well.
Dominik felt another Light push back the darkness not long after Lo asked her previous question. Dominik was not one to allow others in, he never had been. This conversation only further backed his reasoning as to why. He was also not one to let others see his emotions. He was supposed to be the leader, be the one that anyone could go to at any moment should they have trouble. How could he do that if he let his emotions reflect on the surface. He was not mad at Lo for asking such questions, but he was regretting opening up so quickly.
As Cora came near and sat down next to them, Dominik didn't move. His face buried in one hand while he sat cross-legged next to Lo. The other hand simply rested on the other knee. To others, it would look like a very uncomfortable position to e slouched in. But the Master Jedi did not care on that moment.
"Cora, this was a bad idea."
Though Dominik kept the full force of his pain back, pieces slipped through. They impaled her in ways she didn't understand or knew how to deal with. The new input of emotions caused her stand up and promptly walk away. She couldn't stand the suffocation it brought or the fact she caused it.
Holding up a hand Cora stopped the girl's feet in her tracks. "So? You run from a test and you will never be a Knight Padawan. Yes I understand how painful this is but if you walk away you turn your back on an opportunity to make a difference. So tell me Padawan, why are you walking away? Did you even think of how your Master would feel being walked away from? Let me tell you how this plays out."
Breathing deeply Cora went on. "You walk away he blames himself. He closes off further. He never allows anyone in. Eventually he falls prey to the Darkside. You dear girl, walk away doubting every single breath you take. You look back on this as this colors your view of life. You spiral down and never achieve Knighthood. Stopping the conversation, while yes a good idea, you do not walk away."
Dominik allowed as many positive emotions over as he could as Cora continued to push them through their bond. His breathing was staggered as he attempted to reign in his emotions. He knew Lo would want to talk again, he knew that curiosity was still there and he did not want to hide it from her. But the older Jedi realized he needed time.
Lo hated Cora's wisdom and the fact, her own heart screamed at her to leave. She wanted to protest, they... no, she needed space. Instead, her shoulders slouched as she moved back and folded her legs up to sit down. Silence became Cora's answer to the question she asked. Lo’s head bowed down as she rested her arms onto her legs, locked within her inner thoughts. For the moment, the student reflected a mirror image of her master in the worst way.
Shaking her head Cora dropped her hand gracefully letting go of Stasis as she noticed Lo's attempts to move. She sighed, most of her concentration was on Dominik and she had a battle on her hands at present. So it didn't help that she and Lo did not have a bond as of yet, so Cora could not shield Lo from the few pieces of Dominik’s brittle emotions giving Lo a glancing blow at best. Cora was starting to struggle with them herself since there was so much self recrimination, guilt, regret, sorrow and pain. Perhaps she, who'd also lost a Padawan, should have been the one to bring up Evin.
Cora looked over at Lo pouting because she had not gotten her way. "Fine. Do not answer and sulk Padawan. When you wish to learn you may wish to reconsider your attitude. You may leave if that is your desire. That is too bad this would have been a great demonstration for you to watch. Plus you could have helped me. As I stated earlier, you may go if you so wish."
Lo's fingers curled into fists. Cora wasn't wrong. Lo wanted to leave, wanted to lash out, and stop feeling altogether. Everything lately seemed to be against her, and she didn't understand why. Deep down, she knew Evin had died and that had allowed her to become Dominik's padawan. Otherwise, she doubted she would be with him now.
Again, she inhaled trying to push her own issues aside. She wished it had been easier than this.
"He needs time. " She again tried to manage her own issues.
"I doubt I'm helping while being present and I need to try to regain control. I'm adding fuel to the fire until I can meditate. Sometimes space is needed and a lesson absorbed to learn from it."
Looking back at Dominik then to Lo, Cora nodded sharply. She would allow it. The Padawan was not ready to learn yet. It was not Lo's fault, no that blame could be left squarely on Dominik’s shoulders. He had not taken her in hand and let the girl get used to a routine that did not include training, that was in all aspects self study of a sort. "Meditation is always good to center oneself. If you are so inclined I would be happy to show you some lightsaber forms and see where you are with those."
“Let me think on it. Any decision right now is ill-advised. Right now, I just want Master Rothul to feel better and I need to take some time to think. Will you be upset if I still chose to leave?” Lo asked, not daring to rise back to her feet.
Smiling faintly Cora shook her head. Giving Lo permission to leave. The girl could not stay for this next part unless she was ready, which she wasn't.
Without hesitation, Lo pulled up on her feet then quickly walked away.
Cora waited till Lo was out of range then turned to Dominik. "Protect your Padawan, Rothul. You are not some green Knight with their first Padawan. I cannot fathom why you let that happen. Now we are just getting started here. Why is this such an issue Dom? Is this why you're struggling with your Padawan?"
"I did as you asked, Cora. I tried to let her in." He said, taking in a deep breath as he attempted to calm himself still. "This is why I could never let you in, it's why I wasn't ready to open up to her. I hold in far too much pain. More than a Jedi should and I fear for what it can do to others."
The older Jedi finally lifted his head, looking at Cora. His eyes reflected the exhaustion he felt, both mentally and physically. He had held back so much emotion in their conversation. Some of it had cracked, had leaked through into his bond with Cora and with Lo. There was so much more that had been ready to burst, but the older Jedi held it back. He closed it up just like it had been for years on end. This is why he had never wanted to open up. It was why most older Jedi didn't open up; there was too much emotion and pain that could harm those they cared for. It wasn't worth the risk.
Cora lifted her chin in a determined fashion. "You are so stubborn. You only think about your pain. What about our pain? If you bury something like this it does not heal. It festers. Grows larger than it should have. You romanticize the incident and the connection to it. You foster the feelings behind it to multiply and they do, at an alarming rate. So now you have a Rancor to deal with rather than a Lo-cat. Talk to me. There is at least one story I need to share as well."
Dominik remained quiet for a few long moments. He tried to push back the painful memories that were surfacing in his mind. They started to lead farther back into his past. To Alderaan, the siege, his capture and his torture. A spark of pain ran through the man's body at those memories of being in Sith hands. He visibly winced, eyes closed as he tried to push away those memories; those nightmares.
"I can't Cora. Not here." He spoke, the pain in his voice almost tangible and he pushed everything down inside.
Reaching out Cora covered his hand with her small one. "Dom it will always be, not here, not now, maybe later. There is no truly conventional time to speak of what bothers you. You can but you will not. There is a massive difference. If we wait too much longer I fear you shall have more reason to withdraw."
Dominik wanted to talk, but he didn't want the emotions from his past boil over into his bond with Lo. He couldn't let them. The older Jedi took a deep breath. His ears caught footsteps and he looked up and behind him. Two older Twi'lek approached Cora and himself. Dominik immediately recognized them through the dim light as two of the warrior leaders. "Master Jedi, the evening meeting will begin shortly. Sar wanted to know if you were attending." One of them asked, looking from Dominik to Cora, then back again.
Cora watched as Dominik struggled to stand. Rising quickly she placed a hand on his arm. "You should be doing what I asked of you. I can take over for a bit. You might even like it." Cora smiled weakly.
She turned toward the Twi'lek. "Master Rothul needs to rest I shall accompany you to this meeting." Looking back over at Dominik she squeezed his arm affectionately then nodded to his hut letting go and following the Twi'lek.
Dominik managed to return a weak smile back to Cora as she took off with the Twi'lek. He appreciated everything she had ever done for him, and he was grateful she was here now. Taking a few moments to balance himself, Dominik watched as Cora made it to the center of the cavern and joined the leaders in the daily meeting. He took a deep breath, looking towards his hut, and started walking.