Knarf’s starfighter flew right into the hangar. He pulled back on the throttle a little too late and crash-landed the fighter. It slid along the durasteel flooring and came to an abrupt halt as it hit the wall. Smoke rose from the engine. So much for subtlety and a quick escape. But Knarf knew he could slice into the system’s relay and reprogram the battery lasers, not disable them; reprogramming them would cause them to shoot inward and destroy the ship from within.
Knarf sighed and closed his eyes. He felt a tear on his face. He had purposely clicked off his com, though he could still hear everyone else’s voices through the speaker. But he did not want to reply back, he did not want Shadie to hear his fear through his voice.
He switched off the speaker, which still functioned, surprisingly enough, as Shadie still spoke through the com channel. He could no longer bear to hear her voice. It pained him. “I need you!” she had cried out. He needed her too. But he needed her to remember the words he told her when they were in the Sphere, that his love for her was stronger than anything, that no matter what happened, she had to remember that. His heart somersaulted as he remembered holding her body against his, as he’d made love to her, and in his mind he saw her beautiful face staring at him.
‘Oh, Shadie,’ he sighed out in a whisper.
He was the only one who could accomplish their task, and even take it a step further. He had resolved to doing so. He would do it and succeed. He would do what was necessary for his Lady, for their love, and for Mandalore and all the citizens of the Republic.
He brought his thoughts back to his immediate reality, snapping out of his reverie, when the hatch of his fighter was popped open and he was literally hurled out of the cockpit with the Force. He gasped and let out an elongated cry of surprise. He was thrown onto the ground, landing on his stomach. He looked up and saw an unsettling familiar blue face staring down at him, gleaming red eyes in a stern scowl, lips curled on one side to reveal satisfaction.
‘Well, we meet again, Agent Knarf.’
‘Darth Gourd,’ said Knarf. ‘Glad to see you too. Very hospitable of you to come greet me.’
Gourd lifted him with a Force Grip, choking him. He set him down to stand in front of him, let go of the grip, put a hand on Knarf’s should, and smiled.
Then, everything became blurry as pain shot through Knarf’s body, dark energy from Gourd’s hand, and Knarf’s knees buckled under him. He fell back down on his knees, crying out. The pain was so intense, everything started to go dark. He faintly heard Gourd speak to another before Knarf fell into darkness.
* * *
Shadie’s scream was pained and hoarse, and full of dread, but it only reflected Talyc’s own fears as Darth Gourd’s dreadnought winked out into hyperspace.
‘Shadie,’ said Talyc into the transceiver, ‘we need to get back to the surface.’
‘No, I need to go after Knarf.’
‘Shadie! There’s nothing we can do right now. Knarf may be barvy, but he is an intelligent man. I’m sure he has a plan. Mandalore needs us back on the surface.’
‘No!’ Shadie’s voice was shrill as she began to weep, or so Talyc thought by the shake in her voice.
‘Master, don’t give into your fears,’ said Fane. ‘The Sith fleet is retreating. We should gather ourselves and figure out our next move.’
‘Shadie, Knarf will be all right,’ said Trylia soothingly. ‘He must have a plan. I’m sure he acted on what he believed was best, he acted because of his love for you.’
‘It was stupid! He deliberately flew his fighter into…’
‘Shadie!’ shouted Brenum in an urgent tone. Then, more gently: ‘We can’t do anything right now. Mandalore needs us.’
‘Knarf needs me.’
‘Or you need him?’ Brenum’s voice was soothing, emulating Trylia’s tone.
‘Listen, Shadie, something’s aloft,’ said Talyc, as he flew his fighter closer to hers, his squadron following closely as the rest of the Sith fleet vanished into hyperspace. ‘Something’s happened to the Holonet, every frequency is jammed and Mandalore can’t raise anyone outside the system. We need to be on ground, assess the damage and figure out what’s going on.’ He paused. ‘Shadie, Knarf will be fine.’
‘Are you sure about that?’
‘Well,’ said Talyc, hoping above all odds that he was, ‘he better karking be, otherwise I’m going to kill him.’
Talyc thought he heard Shadie laugh, for she exhaled a few short breaths. At least, if she smiled, he had done something to help.
‘All right, to the surface we go,’ Shadie conceded. Talyc smiled. ‘And Talyc?’
‘If anything happens to Knarf, and it turns out you’re wrong and he’s not all right, I’m going to…’
‘Well… Doesn’t sound very Jedi-ish, does it?’
‘Shadie, it sounds very humanoid. I’m scared too, but I hope that the Force will be with him.’
Shadie’s fighter began to descend towards the planet’s surface. Talyc sighed. He truly hoped that Knarf was all right.
‘Oh, Knarf,’ he whispered to himself, ‘what in the kark did you get yourself into now?’
* * *
Knarf fell onto his hands and knees as Relsor pushed him forward, after dragging him from his cell. Gourd stared down at him.
‘Rise,’ he commanded. Knarf breathed heavily, panting. ‘I said rise!’
Knarf looked up at him defiantly. ‘You can demand all you want, I will not…’
Gourd bent down, put a hand on Knarf’s should and sent energy pulsing through the human’s body. It was satisfying to watch, though Relsor wished he could torture Knarf himself.
Knarf fell flat on his stomach. Gourd stood and used the Force to bring Knarf to a standing position and held him there. He looked at Relsor, who understood his uncle’s command, and the younger Chiss sent lightning towards Knarf, who jerked in pain, unable to defend himself.
‘Aargh!’ It was satisfying to hear him scream with such torment in his voice.
‘Are you going to beg me to stop yet?’ asked Gourd.
Knarf took a while to answer, a long while, breathing heavily. ‘I will never satisfy your dark desires, Darth Gourd. I… Argh.’
This time, Gourd poured the energy continuously, waiting for Knarf’s plea.
‘Uncle, stop. Are you so sure he will not speak?’
Gourd continued, never ceasing. As Relsor stood next to his uncle, looking at Knarf, he couldn’t help but feel pity for the man. Love was such a weakness. His lip curled up in a smile as he felt his uncle’s glee when Knarf finally shouted.
‘If you’re going to kill me, kill me already.’ Knarf’s voice was defiant, croaked, and harsh.
Gourd laughed and turned to the guards who had accompanied Relsor when he had dragged Knarf from his cell.
‘Take him away.’
Once they’d left the room with Knarf in their tow, Relsor turned to his uncle.
‘Will you kill him?’ he asked, wanting to hear what was on his mentor’s mind.
‘No, Relsor, I will break him… And then you will train him. And then he… will destroy Shadie.’
Relsor smiled in satisfaction. So his uncle had understood his desires. This was good. Knarf would prove more valuable an asset than Relsor had hoped for.
* * *
The damage on the surface was less disastrous than Shadie had feared. Darth Gourd must’ve wanted to send her a warning of some sort, because the battery lasers had destroyed farmland and no occupied houses or any of the major infrastructure. Still, trees were burning and the earth was scorched and scarred with large craters. It had taken several teams many hours to scan the planet, stop the fires, assess the damage, and send their report back to the Mandalore, who now stood before them all, his helmet off, a very grave expression on his face.
‘I understand, Mandalore, and I owe you a dept of sorts, but we could have traced their signature drives and gone after them in hyperspace.’
‘Shadie, I understand your worry,’ replied Mandalore, ‘but each ship left a different signature, meaning they would each make several jumps before regrouping at a rendezvous point. They’d have destroyed any ships that would have attempted to follow them before reaching their destination. It would have been impossible to go after Knarf.’
‘Something’s happening to him, I can feel it.’
‘Shadie,’ said Talyc, ‘what’s the last thing Knarf said to you before it happened?’
‘Well, I told you already,’ she replied. ‘It doesn’t give us evidence as to…’
‘Master, Talyc’s point is to remember his words and trust in the Force,’ said Fane.
‘We’ll go after him once we’ve contacted the Temple,’ said Trylia. ‘Perhaps they can help.’
‘You can’t,’ said Mandalore.
‘What do you mean, we can’t?’ asked Brenum, a little too menacingly.
‘Just that. We tried them first; your friend Lian, who was in the med bay, tried to raise his brother on his personal com channel. I was trying to contact the Temple. The coincidence was brought to my attention. Then I tried to reach Coruscant, then any planet outside this system. We’re jammed.’
Everyone looked at each other. Fane stared at the Mandalore, as though hoping he’d offer something more that might help them figure out what was happening. Shadie sensed trepidation in her apprentice.
‘Okay, what happened on Coruscant?’
As though to answer Fane’s question, Shadie’s transceiver chimed in the coded frequency the Jedi sometimes used. As a Master, she was now privy to a few secrets the Masters used amongst themselves for crisis situations. Shadie’s heart felt like it had skipped a beat from the fear of what this might mean. She took her holocom out immediately. A holoimage of Master Salah appeared. She seemed to be walking briskly in a dark alley of some sort.
‘Shadie, I don’t have much time. I’ve managed to smuggle myself and a handful of Jedi in a hide-out here in the lower city.’
‘What happened?’ asked Shadie.
‘The Temple has been taken. Thankfully, few Jedi were killed and those of us who were lucky enough to be undercover escaped captivity.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Trylia.
‘The threat was real. Gourd attacked Coruscant.’
‘How?’ demanded Brenum. ‘He was here, he desecrated Mandalorian lands!’
‘Then he attacked two planets at once,’ replied Salah. ‘Coruscant has been taken by a Sith known as Darth Perce. He appointed himself the ruling Chancellor of Coruscant.’ Trylia gasped and put a hand to her mouth. ‘Coruscant is overrun by Sith, and the Jedi are prisoners in our own Temple.’
‘How can we help?’ Shadie didn’t hesitate to ask; Coruscant had to be saved.
‘I’m not sure. I…’
A figure entered the holoimage, holding up a pistol. ‘Hand me your transceiver!’ he said in an accented basic.
Master Salah waved her hand left to right and the pistol went flying. When the being lunged himself at her, a Duros they could now see, Salah used the Force to push him away. He fell unconscious on the ground.
‘I must go and return to the others. I will contact you again when I can.’ And she chimed out.
‘Between saving Mandalore, going after Knarf, and retaking Coruscant,’ said Fane, ‘what are we supposed to do now? Which should we try to accomplish first?’
‘Go home,’ said Mandalore. ‘We cannot help you retake Coruscant and defend Mandalore at the same time without allies in our army. And we can’t find Knarf without knowing how to find Gourd. But we can protect Mandalore and we can see to it we figure out a way to prevent those lasers from penetrating our planetary defences. That’s step one. We’ll figure out the rest later. I wish there was more I could say or do, but there isn’t. Not right now, anyway.’
‘I’m sure the Force will bear fruit…’ began Trylia
‘It better!’ said Brenum, interrupting her. ‘I don’t like guessing my next move along the way!’
‘Uh, Brenum, isn’t that what being a Jedi is all about?’ asked Talyc.
Brenum just smiled. Shadie dreaded returning to an empty home, alone without Knarf, feeling his pain. She had this excruciating pain in one shoulder and she just knew that it was Knarf’s pain. She turned to go, letting her tears silently fall down her cheeks.
‘Master,’ said Fane, catching up to her. ‘It’ll be all right.’
‘It would be easier to think so if you yourself believed in what you were saying.’
‘I’m sorry. You must then seek comfort in the Force.’
‘And not in another’s words. What did I tell you about quoting me the lessons I teach you?’
Fane smiled. ‘Come, Master. Brenum and Trylia wish for us to accompany them. You shouldn’t be on your own.’
Shadie followed. She had not the will to argue or even think anymore. The pain in her shoulder was increasing, and it took all her Force energy to keep it from manifesting itself more intensely.
* * *
Despite all the pain that Gourd inflicted on Knarf, he never begged for him to stop, never gave into his instincts of comfort. He had promised Gourd to never satisfy his desires for him to beg and he stuck by his guns, despite having begged that first time. Knarf was strong willed, and somehow this made Gourd more confident.
Now, he wanted to see if Knarf would give into his instincts of survival, and most importantly, how.
Relsor was with him, and he had an apprentice bring Knarf in. Knarf’s hands were bound, but he stood upright defiantly. He had an air of condescension about him; his lips were pressed tightly and his jaw looked tense. His nose twitched as his face crinkled in anger, and his lips compressed in a crinkle of their own as he looked at Gourd with disdain.
The apprentice looked smug. He had been instructed to inflict pain on Knarf, on the pretence of getting him to spill secret information. What he didn’t know was what Gourd hoped Knarf would do to him.
‘You summoned me, Darth Gourd,’ said Knarf, ‘but you waste your time.’
‘All right then. You may go.’
He dismissed him. Knarf hesitated, but only briefly, before he turned to go. The apprentice shot him lightning that flickered through Knarf’s body. Knarf fell to the ground with a scream of pain.
Gourd used the Force to unbind Knarf’s hands. ‘If you survive,’ added Gourd.
The apprentice sent dark energy Knarf’s way. Knarf was Force-sensitive, but he was no Jedi: he could not create a Force shield, he could not deflect, he could not absorb. And he took the brunt of the dark energy; painfully, by the looks of it. He tried to crawl on hands and knees whenever the apprentice would stop.
‘You are so weak and helpless,’ said Gourd.
The apprentice began choking Knarf, lifting him in the air with the Force. Knarf tried to kick him, but the apprentice was too far. The apprentice used the Force to slam Knarf onto the ground. Knarf panted and gasped for air. He reached out a hand as he lay flat on his stomach, reaching towards the apprentice.
‘Pfft, as if I will pity you or show you mercy,’ the apprentice said. ‘I will continue until you speak or until you die.’
He pulsed with the Force and Knarf bounced back farther away from the apprentice. Still, he held out a hand, despite the pain from the lightning and dark energy that was streaking towards him.
His outstretched arm gave Gourd hope and pride, yet it was not enough effort to satisfy his purposes. Knarf was sustaining too much pain to concentrate, such was the mix of streams of lightning and dark energy so continuous. How he kept his hand outstretched was beyond Gourd’s guess.
‘Stop!’ Gourd finally commanded. ‘Enough.’ Gourd calculated his next words. Knarf was his leverage. If his plans did not fully work today, he would have to be ready to kill the apprentice. ‘Strike him down.’
The apprentice smiled, but before he could grab his weapon, the lightsaber flew off his belt and into Knarf’s hands. Gourd’s excitement rose. The apprentice, shocked and angry, lunged at Knarf, who stood, igniting the red blade, and immediately went to strike the apprentice. This one pushed Knarf away with some lightning, reached towards Gourd’s lightsaber, calling it with the Force, caught it and ignited it.
Gourd had duelled Knarf in the past. His skills were raw, somewhat untrained, but he had learnt from Mandalorians. Time had passed since then and Gourd was eager to see how the Jedi’s influence on Knarf’s sparring abilities had improved his skills. He watched as Knarf and the apprentice duelled, exchanging basic attacks.
The apprentice came at Knarf, pulling him with the Force and sliced through the air at his head. Knarf blocked, the apprentice pushed, Knarf fell to his knees, still blocking. Gourd was ready to end the apprentice’s life at any moment.
Knarf gave out a loud yell, like a war cry. The yell was long, as Knarf pushed upwards, slowly getting back up, yelling and pushing upwards, against Gourd’s blade, while the apprentice pushed down even harder. Sparks flew from both blades, as the blades slipped close to the hilts. Knarf had managed to get back up on his feet, but the apprentice proved stronger, and Knarf was now in a crouching position. Still, he persisted.
Finally, Knarf fell silent and let the blades come down as he moved his body rapidly to the side. Yes, Gourd remembered how Knarf had been nimble during his duel with him. He threw a glance at Relsor who watched eagerly, and looked as amused as Gourd felt. The Chiss master leaned forward in his seat as he watched the duellers.
The lightsabers hit the ground. The apprentice, caught off guard, staggered as his blade scorched a line on the floor. Knarf retracted his arm back and struck the apprentice down in one blow before he could recover. The apprentice fell on his own lightsaber and Gourd’s powered off. Knarf looked at the red blade in his hands.
Gourd smiled in satisfaction, leaning back in his seat. He had broken Knarf. The man walked up to Gourd, his weapon pointed at him, threateningly.
‘Did it hurt?’ Gourd asked.
‘The torture? Of course it did.’
‘No. When you believed Shadie had betrayed you. When you thought she had turned to the dark side and rejoined Kromus and she tortured you?’ Knarf gave no reply. His eyes, however, betrayed the pain he felt. ‘She does not deserve you, nor you her. What do you think she’ll do if she thinks she’s lost you? Your Mandalorian friend’s not such a bad looking human. Her Jedi friend is always willing to comfort her. Her apprentice will soon surpass all expectations and knows Shadie in ways you will never know or understand her, as is the bond between master and apprentice.’
‘If you’re trying to make me jealous,’ began Knarf…
‘No, I’m merely trying to help you see how she doesn’t truly love you. Her whole spiel about combining light and dark is a lie, it’s a ruse. She has no light within her, her light is an illusion created by the Force, that’s how powerful she is, you see?’
‘Do I? The whole thing about Sith is that we need passion. Right now, you, Agent Knarf, serve her, you “serve the Lady,” Lady of the Force, not Lady of Light, the Sphere has never referred to her as such. You are a tool, a means to an end. You serve her for one purpose and one purpose alone.’
‘Shut up.’ Knarf’s tone was low and full of rage.
‘To fuel her passion. She uses you to fuel her passion, which she uses to be powerful in the Force, powerful enough to create all those illusions about balance and light, when in reality, she is a dark side user, a true Sith, fuelling herself with passion from a frivolous relationship, from a man whom she will discard once he can no longer serve her and service her purposes, once another, who will be more capable, can take your place. Her apprentice, who also turned to the dark side, whose brother was a Sith; both of them capable of using the dark side, and he will have been trained by her. She will discard you when someone else can feed her more passion and he will take your place!’
‘I said, SHUT UUUP!’
Knarf lunged at Darth Gourd. The Sith lord brought up his lightwhip and flicked it on. It slashed the weapon away in time and Knarf staggered back.
‘What do you see, Knarf? What do you wish to do to me? Show me?’
Knarf balled his hands into fists. ‘I wish I could strangle you, I wish I could send you your own dark energy.’
‘Why didn’t Shadie teach you those techniques?’ asked Relsor with a curious tone.
‘I don’t want to be a Jedi. Had I asked she would have shown me.’
‘You don’t want to be a Jedi?’
‘No! I don’t want to be a Jedi.’ Knarf lunged at Relsor and began choking him with one hand on his throat. ‘Tell me why I shouldn’t plunge this blade into your body? Tell me why I shouldn’t spill your guts onto this floor?
‘Because I have never betrayed you. I have never held you back. I have never tried to convince you to be something you did not wish to be. Because I never lied to you. Because I never purposely hurt you.’
Knarf squeezed harder, his veins popping out of his forehead and neck, rage in his expression.
‘Shadie betrayed you by making you believe something you wanted to believe, something she wanted you to believe,’ Relsor continued. His voice was not pained but he did struggle a bit. ‘She lied to you by pretending to be something she was not. I will never hide my true self from you, Knarf. I will never hide my dark side from you. I will not use your light to fuel my dark power. I will not abandon you at the hour when you need me most.’
Finally, Knarf let go with a shout of anger. Gourd knew his nephew was letting Knarf have the upper hand, though he could deflect him should he sense that Knarf would try to kill him. Knarf resorted to punching him in the face and kicked him in his gut with such force that Relsor was flung a good distance away. Perhaps had there been the Force in that kick?
Knarf looked back at Gourd, pointing the red blade at him again, holding it with one hand and walked right up to him, the blade’s tip mere inches away from Gourd’s neck.
‘Does it hurt to miss her now? To know that she could have gone after you, but instead abandoned you?’ Gourd sensed his conflict, but also all the rage he had successfully unleashed.
Knarf closed his eyes and took a deep breath, powering down the weapon. When he opened them, they shone as brightly as Gourd’s red eyes, his brown eyes ablaze with a fire Gourd had never seen, his expression colder than Csilla at its coldest pole.
‘No,’ he said, with durasteel in his voice. ‘But she…will hurt.’
“Masters of the Force” is written by Celinka Serre (2019).
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.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.