While I research for my next Type Casting, we'll continue Cailen and Teek's adventures over the next two weeks. This week is a particularly charged scene, and one of my personal favorites. Those of you who have seen The Force Awakens might recognize a callback my friend Kaze slipped in there. ;)
To First Excerpt ("A New Master")
[Cailen ventures into the desert with Master Teek to complete his trial to become a fully-fledged Jedi Knight. When they arrive at the mouth of a cave overflowing with the Force, Master Teek unveils a collection of lightsaber parts.
"This is your lightsaber! It's missing one part though: the crystal. Inside the cave will be your crystal. Find it, retrieve it, and bring it back here. Once you complete your lightsaber, you will be a Knight of the Jedi Order!"
Cailen descends into the cave, battered by visions of his past that shake him to his core. The deeper he delves, the more he feels himself falling prey to the cave's machinations...]
Cailen glanced up. I... I shouldn't have seen... any of this. I have to--I need to leave!
But glancing around, he realized in horror... he'd lost which way was the exit.
Was it-- He spun around. Was it this way? N-no, that was the way I came in... wasn't it?
He turned again. No, that way looks familiar... But...
Terror stabbed through him. He clutched his chest, gasping for air.
Where am I?
Cailen bit back a scream as he turned back toward the wall, placing his palms on the cold stone.
Breathe... Just... just breathe... Try to calm down.
He inhaled. Exhaled. He could feel his heartbeat settling.
Now, remember why you're here. This... this is just a trial. Finish what you came to do. Pick a direction and keep going. You can't turn back now.
The tunnel dead ahead seemed as good as any, so he pushed on, shoving back the fear. Going the wrong direction had to be better than standing there in this ominous dark, frozen in indecision and panic.
As Cailen walked, he heard more voices echoing off the walls of the cave.
"Rise, my Child," came the Emperor's voice. "The Jedi honed your skills well, but they are nothing but controlling hypocrites. They lied to you, Cailen. You had a right to know of your family's death, but they chose to keep it a secret. You were nothing more than an experiment, a walking thesis for a foolish old man. Your pain, your hatred, will become your greatest weapon. You are my Child now, and your Father loves you very much. Make your Father proud... Strike him down, Cailen. Sever your ties to the Jedi."
And then the vision came in full force. There was Master Teek, kneeling before a much older, much darker Cailen. Teek was broken, beaten, and completely defenseless.
The Jawa master looked up at his former apprentice and said, "Will you fail, just as all of my other students? You can bring Balance to the Force, Cailen... You must resist the Dark Side... Balance it within yourself...."
"Fool," the Emperor said. "Your ideals are false. If Revan, the epitome of your ideology, could not defeat me, then you will fail as well. Cailen, do it. Take your rightful place by my side, Son."
"I feel the pull of the Light on me still, Father," the Dark Cailen said. "I know what I must do, but I am afraid to do it."
"You must snuff out the Light, Cailen."
"You are right..." the Dark Cailen said, turning to face the real Cailen. "You must die!" his Dark self said, igniting a red lightsaber and pointing it at him. "The power of the Dark Side is the truth! The lies of the Jedi must be destroyed! Why can you not see that!?" It felt like his Dark Side self was truly speaking to him.
The rest of the vision faded, leaving only Cailen and his dark counterpart.
Suddenly Cailen felt something like a barbed hook stab into his heart, connecting him by a cable to his Dark self. Cailen clutched his chest. His heart hammered in his ears. Fear and confusion mingled, swimming in his head.
"Are you... really me?" Cailen whispered in curiosity and horror. "What did you do to Master Teek?!" As he shouted, his voice cracked.
"Of course I'm you, you idiot! What, that poor excuse of a Jedi Master damage your brain? Ha, I wouldn't be surprised. That little rodent... Making us carry him for hours on end... throwing rocks at us while we meditated... That... that stupid chittering he calls a language! I relished beating him down to submission! He wanted me to feel the power of the Dark Side?! Well, I feel it now!"
Cailen flinched as if he'd been struck. "Y-you're NOT me! I don't think that about Master Teek! He--he showed me what the Dark Side results in. I don't want that. I never want it! All that pain and death... You're just as bad as them! The ones that... the ones that killed..." Cailen's voice faltered. It hurt too much to say that his entire colony was dead. Somehow, it almost felt that if he didn't say it out loud, it would never have happened.
"Oh, boo hoo, our parents died! So what?! Do you think our parents could have controlled our power? Given us the training to survive out here? Of course not! They got killed so easily by some poor excuse of a Sith! The Emperor is a much a better father and mentor than our original one. You should be feeling hate, not sorrow!"
"The Emperor killed them!" Cailen roared. "He killed them all just to get--"
A spark of realization lit his face. "YOU'RE the real pawn!" Cailen spat. "Master Edrasi... and Master Teek, they care about me! You're the experiment! You're the tool being used, not me! I won't be anyone's weapon!"
"I'm the darkness that you will never get rid of. Remember what we did, Cailen? Nox had to die for what he did! You cannot deny me! I will engulf you and return us to our true calling: as a Child of the Emperor! Not some puppet of the Jedi! Your only choices are to give in or suppress me! You will never be able to use the Dark Side like that rodent wants!"
Cailen felt another yank on his chest, like his Dark Side self was drawing him one step closer. His feet skidded on the cold stone floor. His pulse spiked. I can't give in! I won't! But suppress this? Sweat beaded on Cailen's forehead. How can I fight against him, let alone subdue him?!
"M-Maybe I can't control the Dark Side like Master Teek. But... my master believes in me. So I'll never know unless I try!" Cailen shot back, struggling to keep his feet steady.
Not his best recovery.
"And N-Nox..." Cailen glanced away as shame washed over him. "It wasn't right for me to strike in anger. That only played into their hands. That's just what he wanted. It wasn't justice. It was... mindless. I won't be a pawn of my emotions, either. I won't be controlled by anyone or anything!" He insisted, clenching his fists at his sides.
"So, you would hold to your Jedi teachings after knowing the truth, hm? Suppress me, then, before I overwhelm you!" his Dark self yelled.
Suddenly the power of the Dark Side flowed around Cailen, like tendrils wrapping around his body. Instead of one cord binding them together, it was six--ten--dozens, all lashing around him and dragging him in.
"Show me how strong the Light Side is!" his Dark self cackled.
Cailen felt dread seep in, as if the tendrils of dark power were crawling right under his skin. He struggled to move, but his body only shook uselessly. He stumbled forward a few more steps, pulled ever closer to his Dark self. "Y-You can't..." Cailen gritted his teeth. "You... won't... win!" he growled.
"Ooooooh, I think I will! The Dark Side is true power! You think compassion gives you strength?! Compassion didn't work on Nox!"
N-No! Cailen writhed against the tendrils of dark energy, desperation mingling with panic. Master Teek! Someone! Anyone! Help me!
His Dark self only laughed.
There was no one to answer. No one to help him! I'm too weak... I can't... He was only a few feet away from his Dark self now. Soon he'd be in the Dark Side's clutches!
"The Jedi are the guardians of the galaxy, Cailen," came a gentle voice in his mind. "And one day, you will join our ranks as a full-fledged Knight."
Tears trickled down Cailen's face. Master Edrasi... I'm so sorry. I've failed you again.
"The past is important, but it should not dominate your life. You learn from it, but do not dwell on it."
And Master Teek...
"You are strong in the Force, though. Maybe that is where your true strength lies!"
"You are powerful in the Force, Cailen! Believe in that!"
But Master... How can I...?
"It is fear above all else that drives a person to the Dark Side," Master Edrasi's voice whispered. "As a Jedi, you will learn that there is nothing to be afraid of.
The Force is our ally..."
Something thrummed in Cailen's chest, familiar and totally unlike the despair of the Dark Side. Cailen recognized it immediately: the same sense of peace he'd felt at the marketplace.
Cailen's hand surged forward, his fingers wrapping around an invisible tendril of the Dark Side. He snarled. "The Force is my power. Not you. I'll find my own way. And believe me, it won't be yours. You won't control me anymore!"
It felt as if a great wind had picked up out of nowhere in the cavern room. Cailen felt his hair and robe being buffeted by the powerful gust.
"Suppress me all you want! I will always be here!" the Dark Cailen cried as he was engulfed by the spiraling Dark Side energy and vanished. But still his voice echoed: "You will never get rid of me..."
The room lit up. Before Cailen stood a dazzling array of crystals. Finally, his trial was over.
Cailen panted; his body felt heavy with exertion. But he'd done it. The Dark Side presence was gone. For now.
It took him a moment to recover as he knelt there, catching his breath in the depths of the cave. But at last, he slapped his palms on his kneecaps and staggered to his feet.
One particular crystal formation called out to him, as if the Force was tugging him toward it, but not like his Dark Side. The Dark Side call had been full of fear and dread, but this... almost felt warm. The crystal glimmered gold in the unnatural light, inviting, as if it was meant to be.
"...The lightsaber crystal," he whispered reverently. Cailen wrapped his fingers around a smaller chunk of crystal and tried to pry a piece free of the larger formation.
With the crystal in hand, Cailen felt the cave shift and move beneath his feet. And suddenly, the cave exit appeared behind him.
Cailen glanced between the exit and the direction he... well, where he thought he'd come from. There was nothing there now; just a blank stone wall.
Cailen shook his head and headed for the exit.
"...I am never coming back here again," he muttered under his breath.
Adapted from writing by Kaze and me. Used with permission.
Star Wars and all related names and terms property of LucasFilm and Walt Disney Studios. And, unfortunately, I am not affiliated with them.
From Him, To Him