The Mandalorians were all right, apart from their dull sense of humour. Agent Knarf longed to be in the invigorating presence of Shadie again.
‘Here’s the datapad with the encryptions,’ said Kelbourn. ‘We’ve had many coders try their hand at it.’
‘How do you know I’ll succeed?’ asked Knarf.
‘If you’re good enough for the Sith to capture you, you’re good enough for a Mando. You crack these codes, we get access to the spicer’s base on Ylesia. Then you can work on creating your own codes, and reprogram that droid.’ Kelbourn pointed to an old T4 astromech model. ‘It’s going to be our new spy.’
‘You’re going after spice?’
‘No, barve, there ain’t no profit for us Mandos in spice. We’re going after a spicer, a very powerful one.’
‘For a slicer, you ask a lot of questions.’ Kelbourn crossed his arms.
‘I just want to know what I’m getting myself into and how big his bounty is.’
‘No, this is no bounty. It’s payback from the Mandalore himself.’
‘All right.’ Knarf nodded. ‘How long am I obliged to stay with you and your team on Ylesia?’
‘Depends how long it takes for you to crack that code and program the astromech.’
Knarf sighed. No matter how little time it took, it would be too long a time away from his Lady. She truly did bring light into his life, as incredible as it still seemed, and he felt amazing, except for now, looking at the scrapped up T4 unit and the code on the datapad. He needed to focus if he was going to get any of this done at all. The sooner he started, the sooner he’d be done.
* * *
‘Aha, Ylesia!’ said Brenum. ‘We know where to go after we’ve spoken to that exiled Jedi on Nar Shaddaa.’
Shadie looked at the blue glow of hyperspace.
‘Did Knarf know about this?’
‘Not until I told him, but yes, when he left, he knew he’d sliced into the Mandalorians’ communications system for us. He is a slicer. He can’t work without knowing what he’s doing.’
Shadie gave Brenum a sardonic look.
‘But did you know there would be a Jedi on Nar Shaddaa?’ asked Trylia.
‘I asked Knarf if he knew of anyone in Hutt Space who might be able to help us be more prepared for our mission.’
‘You didn’t have to do that, you know,’ said Shadie.
‘Hey, don’t think I did it to encourage your secret-not-so-secret-from-us-anymore affair with lover boy the slicer nerf herder. I did it because I don’t want you to die! Kromus is going after you whether you go after him or not. And so are all of his assassins. We might not fight Kromus with you, but I certainly want you as ready as you can be when you face him. You’re my friend, Shadie, and I value our friendship. Besides, Kromus is dangerous, even to the other Sith. He needs to be destroyed. Seems fate, and the Force, has chosen you for the task.’
‘Well, thanks,’ said Shadie.
Suddenly her heart felt less heavy with woe. Trylia beamed at her, the white skin around her eyes taking on a pinkish hue of joy.
‘By the time we’re done talking to our exiled Jedi, Knarf will be done programming the Mandalorian droid, I’m sure,’ the Togruta said, nodding her head vigorously.
* * *
Finding an exiled Jedi on Nar Shaddaa was like searching for one single Mynock in an asteroid belt. Nar Shaddaa was teeming with life. It was perhaps one of the most populated places Shadie had ever been to, apart from Coruscant. Moon to Nal Hutta, it was the ideal despot for runaway criminals, exiled Jedi, as well as merchants, mercenaries, or spicers. The best spice came from Kessel, everyone knew that, and they’d stop at Ylesia to transform it and then sell it and distribute it on Nar Shaddaa. From here, spicers or their merchants would travel to deliver it to some other places in the galaxy. But if you wanted fresh spice, and the best, this is where you came for it. Shadie hoped Knarf wouldn’t get harmed on the mission on Ylesia.
‘So where do we begin?’ asked Trylia.
‘Let’s try expanding our senses,’ suggested Shadie. She stretched out with the Force. ‘Interesting.’
‘What is it?’ asked Brenum.
‘You know how Darth Lahnius hid himself in the Force? Once we knew he was there, when I reached out with the Force, all I could sense was a gap, a brief flicker of nothingness. Well, I believe our exiled Jedi may know the same trick. And on this moon full of life and Force energy from all the busy beings, I sense a gap.’
‘Wait, I sense it too,’ said Trylia.
‘Then what are we waiting for?’ said Brenum.
* * *
They found their Jedi in a cantina in one of the lower level districts of Nar Shaddaa, sitting quietly, watching a game of Pazaak going on at the table next to his. They sat down on the large bench seat across from him, thus blocking his view from the game of Pazaak. He looked up. Old, haggard, he had a merchant’s look.
‘Can I help you? My shop is closed today.’
‘So are your senses, exile,’ said Shadie. He stirred. ‘We are Jedi,’ she added quickly, ‘and we need your help. We…I am going to the ancient Crypt.’
The Jedi shuddered.
‘The Crypt. How do you know about it?’
Shadie explained her story briefly and as honestly as she could.
‘Master Vorum, I used to be. I did business with Agent Knarf a few years back. He can be rather persuasive when he wants to be. I s’pose I could trust him, seeing as the only people he’s told my story to is you, and I understand why.’
‘He told us of you, not your story,’ said Trylia.
The Jedi nodded. ‘Exile was my choice. I had followed a hunch and ended up at the Crypt. Kromus, I met him there. A Jedi and a Sith, discovering an ancient power. He thought it was significant, and that we must bind our powers together and make the Crypt ours. That sphere corrupted my senses, and Vorum, I became no more. I was Sith Master with Kromus acting as my Sith partner. Together we learnt from the sphere and established an academy at the Crypt. We brought in ship parts to create a more comfortable temple within the cave, adding artificial gravity.
‘But then one day, I realised what I had become and what I had done and that Kromus was planning on killing me. He wanted to keep the power for himself, earn the right to learn more from the sphere, more than it was willing to show us at that time. So I left, renounced my title as Jedi Master and the Council asked me what I wished to do to amend what I had done. I chose exile, which they granted me. Of course they did. They told me that I had acted as an unofficial spy, and had done a great deal to help destroy the new threat. But I knew… They’d send me into exile eventually anyway.’
‘So what do I need to know to be more prepared when I face Kromus at the Crypt?’
Vorum leaned forward and spoke low and eerily.
‘The place reeks of the dark side. You must beware of its temptations. The pull might overwhelm you otherwise. If you aren’t strong enough, it will corrupt you.’ He paused, as though letting the words sink in. ‘When you arrive, you will see the training ground in the cave.’
‘You mean his apprentices and acolytes begin their training in low gravity?’ asked Brenum.
‘Yes,’ replied Vorum. ‘Some of them have never had any training at all before, neither Sith nor Jedi training. Others are dark Jedi, others Sith already. And once their Force senses have become better attuned to that dark side in the Crypt, they can train in the artificial gravity with more ease.’
‘That explains what I observed of the ones who attacked us,’ said Brenum.
‘Shadie,’ whispered Vorum low, ‘you must be forewarned about Kromus… ARGH!’
At that moment, several things happened at once: a crimson blade protruded from Vorum’s chest, coming from the seats behind him, seats which were hidden by a plasteel wall; many patrons and Pazaak players revealed themselves as Sith, igniting their blades; and crimson blades were pointing at Shadie, Trylia and Brenum. Shadie cursed herself for not sensing their presence, or their gaps. All three were pinned down by the Force as well, a bit differently than how Shadie had done it to Agent Knarf. At that moment, the figure of Darth Lahnius rose from behind the wall separating the grouped seats, his blade still in the exiled Jedi’s torso. Vorum whispered his final word:
Holocron. Kromus. He’d been trying to warn her about something. Had Kromus built himself as Sith Holocron? Those things could hold great power or dark side energy and signatures, even lives and souls. All she knew, though, was that she could not move. Her lightsaber was taken from her belt.
‘We meet again, Shadie,’ said Lahnius, powering down his lightsaber, the exiled Jedi’s face falling onto the table. ‘I will now take you to my ship,’ he sneered. ‘And there, I will make you suffer.’
The other Sith seized the three Jedi. Shadie realised neither of them could move yet, nor could they speak. Lahnius’s power was stronger than hers. There was nothing she could do. The Sith lead them out the cantina. It seemed the Jedi could walk if their steps fell in line with the Force commands that the Sith issued them. Shadie wished she could fight back, yet she could not. She couldn’t even look back at Vorum’s dead body.
When they entered the sphere, they were bound to individual Force barriers. Although she could not move, Shadie could feel the sphere reaching out to her. Perhaps she could win this battle yet.
‘Now all we have to do,’ said Lahnius, sitting down on his throne-like chair, ‘is wait.’
“Darth Shadie: Lady of the Force” is written by Celinka Serre (2018).
Disclaimer: The Characters in this Fan-Fiction are new and have original names. The story is an original written work. The story is derivative and consistent of Fan-Fiction since it borrows the franchise world of Star Wars. Certain jargon and places, or concepts mentioned, along with the SW Old Republic universe belong to Lucasfilm Ltd. and Disney. No characters or storylines from the films are used. No storylines or characters from the games or books are used. A handful of characters from the games may be referenced, but are not the main focus in this fanfic story. This fan-fiction story falls under FairUse.