I woke up in darkness with a gasp momentarily uncertain of where I was. The nightmare that had gripped me fled and all that remained were remnants, fleeting images of the Emperor and Luke Skywalker melding into one. I did not need to remember all the details to know what it had been about. With a sigh I heaved myself out of bed, sleep still numbing my brain, and stumbled my way to the ‘fresher.
For what seemed an age I stood in front of the mirror, ice cold water still dripping off my face and stared at my reflection. I looked like a speeder wreck. My eyes were still puffy from sleep and crying and the dark circles that were etched into my skin scared me. In my heart I felt sick. My deal with Jyrki did not sit well on my soul but I did not know what else to do to help my family. I did not know how to circumnavigate what Jyrki had done, what he wanted to do. I shook my head at my self, dried off my face, switched off the light and made my way back to the darkened bedroom. I didn’t want to even consider all the possible, terrible outcomes of Jyrki’s insane plans.
On the bedside table sat the little holo recorder Jyrki had given me. It contained a message from my father, a sign of life, but I had not opened the file to watch it. I was terrified of what I would see. The flash of memory the recorder had given me as I had picked it up in the cantina had been bad enough. Jyrki or his partners had beaten my father, that much I had seen, and I had no desire to see any more but somewhere in the message would be a clue to his whereabouts, I was sure of that. However until my mind was a little more focused, all looking at the message would do was anger me further and anger, while useful also clouded my thinking.
I went over to the window and pushed the slotted blinds apart with my finger to stare out into the city. Lights shone and signs blinked, traffic moved in a never ending stream and for a small moment I felt as though I were back on Coruscant. A pang of homesickness for something that had never even existed ripped sharply through my chest and I found myself crying again, silently.
Somewhere out there my Uncle lay broken and dead. Somewhere out there the people I loved were being held against their will by a man they had once considered part of the family. I did not know how to move forward and for one of the few times in my life I felt a terribly sense of helplessness and hopelessness. I drew a deep steadying breath and shook my head to myself. I should have talked to Thrawn before rushing off, I should have asked for his advice and maybe gotten some back up. He would have had a plan or even several plans because he always knew what to do and just how to do it. My hand went to place at my throat where my necklace would have lain, its comforting weight gone because it was on Nirauan where I had left it.
For a moment I rested my forehead against the frame of the window. The sickly sensation of utter inevitability crawled across my skin, the hair on the back of my neck stood up and I slowly realised that these sensations were not due to my feelings of helplessness but rather because I was not alone in the room but before I could move, turn around or grab anything that could be used as a weapon, one strong arm had wrapped itself around my upper body pinning my arms to my sides while the other hand cupped, with surprising gentleness, over my mouth.
The moment stretched and fear, along with anger, shot through me. I had been so wrapped up in my own little world I had neither sensed nor heard the intruder. I forced myself to calm down and to breathe slowly. As I did so I realised that I knew the scent of the man that was holding me and the voice that whispered in my ear was as familiar to me as my own.
“Screaming would be a very bad idea.” He said softly, sensing the moment I recognised him because I went from rigid to relaxed as his words tickled the skin on my neck. He released his grip, allowing me to spin around and fling my arms around his body.
“Navaari.” I whispered, so astonished, so relieved to see him here instead of some stranger hell bent on doing me some sort of bodily harm that I did not even think to question his unnoticed presence in my hotel room at all.
He stroked my hair as he had done so often on Hjal, letting me cry, letting me pull myself back together. When I drew a deep breath he pushed me back from his chest, a hand upon each of my shoulders so that he could study me with his fierce red, glowing eyes. He shook his head and frowned. “You are an idiot child. You are knowing this, yes?” He said but there was no anger in his voice, only sadness and frustration. “Impetuous and headstrong, you do not think, you simply act. How many times will you be racing headlong into danger without thinking first?”
I shook my head pulling away from him to turn back to the window, peeking out through the small crack in the blinds once again. “How did you find me?” I asked after what felt like forever, careful to avoid his question.
Navaari snorted and moved away from me to sit on the edge of the bed. “I am Jhal’kai, you forget. You are not so difficult to track.”
I nodded, absently remembering that the tracer chip in my Dantassi mask, still on my ship, would have led him straight to me. I had forgotten about that. “How long have you been hiding in my room?”
“Long enough to be knowing you are troubled.” He replied cryptically. “I have been watching you for some time, waiting until you were awake and this seemed the best moment to make my presence known to you without alerting the others who also keep their eyes on you.” He nodded towards the door. “That lock was easy enough to undo.”
I gave him a look. “That’s a little creepy you know.”
He simply shrugged, half amused at my annoyance.
“What are you doing here, Navaari?” I asked quietly.
“Your Ta’kasta’cariad was feeling it would be beneficial if someone backed you up in what ever snow crazed plan you had rushed headlong into.”
“I didn’t tell Thraw…. Za’ar where I was going, so how the hell did he know?” I asked, surprised at the anger lacing my words.
Navaari snorted. “You were thinking that message you received was known only to you?”
I drew in a deep breath and let it out with a noisy sigh. “He made a copy and decoded it himself.”
“He was telling me the look on your face was as if your world had collapsed, he knew it had to do with the Andando boy. Before you had even left the base he had word sent to me to come here. He is knowing you even better than you know yourself sometimes. You seem to think you must face all these terrible things by yourself but that is not the case and one of these days you will be learning to ask for help instead of help having to seek you out. It would be saving much time and difficulties, you know.” Navaari chided.
I sighed. “Jyrki is hardly a boy, Navaari, he’s years older than I am.” I snapped trying to hide the fact that no matter what I thought I was unable to hide anything from Thrawn. I couldn’t decide if that made me angry or relieved.
Navaari shrugged. “In his head Jyrki Andando is still the wounded, terrified child who has never forgiven the galaxy for its wrongs to him or his kind. He cannot let go of the past which is haunting him. Unlike you Kysci’i, he has never had the chance to go through sju’ru’arwy’kha. He still walks with all of his ghosts and they have had a long time to whisper their poison in his ears.”
I could only glance at him in agreement, unable to speak as emotion choked me. I had seen what Anakin had done, felt it as though I had been there. If anyone in the galaxy understood Jyrki’s pain it was me but that did not mean I could forgive him for what he had done, for what he was now doing, no matter what his reasons were.
“Is Za’ar very angry with me?” I asked after a while.
Navaari’s shrug was nonchalant. “No more so than usual.” He replied honestly, “He understands that sometimes certain things have to happen no matter what and that the past must be faced before the future can be met. This boy is bound to you, I have said this before. You will not be free of this until you sever this bond. It is a terrible destiny that ties the two of you together.”
I nodded miserably and sat at his side burying my face in my hands trying not to let the terrible wave of sorrow I felt engulf me.
Navaari, who had nursed me through hell and back and knew me better than probably anyone else with the exception of Thrawn, frowned. “Kycsi’i what is it you are trying to tell me without saying the words?”
“He killed my Uncle Vahlek.” I whispered, not wanting to say the words out loud, not wanting them to be true.
Navaari was surprised. “Tze’yusha’Jin Akosh is dead?”
I nodded again, the lump in my throat making it difficult for me to speak.
My shoulders heaved as I drew in a deep breath and then recounted to Navaari everything that Jyrki had told me, leaving out nothing. When I was done he was silent, lost in thought, considering what to do next, what to say next.
“Did he see where the body landed?”
I frowned at the question and shook my head not even wanting to consider the images that flashed through my mind.
Navaari gave me a little nod and let the matter drop.
“I don’t know how to help Jyrki any more. I don’t know how to make him see that what he wants to do is beyond insane.” I said trying to fill the sudden gulf the quiet had created. My voice trembled, making Navaari look at me.
“A’myshk’a,” He began patiently, “you must be understanding, Jyrki Andando is so haunted by his past he will never be free of it. That is his madness, being trapped in this terrible thing that happened to him with no way to escape.” He finally said, breaking the awful silence. “You loved him, you gave him your heart freely and for that he is tied to you. He doesn’t understand it but he cannot let go of it either.”
“He refused me, when I told him how I felt; he pushed me away, shut himself off and vanished.” The words, as I spoke, were surprisingly acidic on my tongue, the hurt as fresh as ever. Jyrki was not the only one who had unhealed wounds. I wondered then, did we ever really get over these things, these terrible rites of passage?
“This is because your love frightened him; it was pure, innocent and unabashed. This is the one thing he could not understand because it is the one thing he has never truly known or learned. It was easier to turn away from you than face his greatest fear.”
“But why? What is so frightening about love? About being loved?” I asked.
“Nothing unless you feel you are unlovable. To accept that this was untrue would have meant letting go of the past.” Navaari explained.
I sighed and frowned. “How can he think he is unlovable?” I whispered.
Navaari shrugged, “Only he can answer that and it is something of this man you will never understand because it is something you have never known. You have always been loved and cared for no matter what you have done, no matter what befalls you. This has shaped the woman you are today and he does not understand how someone such as yourself could ever have loved someone such as him. He does not think he is worthy.”
Suddenly I understood. “He blames himself for what happened at the jedi Temple, he feels responsible somehow, even though he was just a small boy, even though there was nothing he could do, he blames himself.” I whispered. “He feels guilty because he survived.”
“What a terrible thing for a child to have experienced.” Navaari said quietly.
I looked up at Navaari in surprise. “You sound as though you feel sorry for him.”
“That is because I do.” He replied without explanation and before I could say anything more, or tell him that he was not exactly alone in this emotion, he abruptly changed the topic. “Now, what are your plans?”
“Plans?” I shrugged, “I have no plans. I have no clues, no ideas, no nothing! He has my family, he wants me to help him murder someone for something they have not even done yet and his bargaining chip is my family’s life. How can I plan around that?”
Navaari shook his head, his long silver hair rippling across his shoulders with the motion, catching in the sliver of light that made its way through crack in the blinds. “Silly pup, have I not taught you better than this? Do you give up so easily to this pash’kja’anta.” He stood up, slipped off the satchel that had been slung over his shoulder and shrugged off his long, full coat. “Do you have nothing to guide you or is your head so clouded by fear that you have forgotten how to track?”
His rebuke stung but he was right. I leaned back to grasp the holo recorder off the night table and winced at the images which flashed through my head as I did so. While Jyrki might not have turned to the Dark Side with his powers he had become cruel and hurtful. I described what I saw to Navaari as the visions unfolded in my head and he listened without interruption. When I was done he made me go back into the memories and pick out tiny details in the room I had seen, the sounds I had heard and every little thing no matter how small it might seem that I could pick apart. When he was satisfied he allowed me to play the recording. The small blue hologram shimmered as it displayed from the small recorder-player. I had to cover my mouth to stifle the whimper that threatened to escape.
My father sat, bound to a chair, his face beaten and bruised and stared at the recorder which Jyrki had held in his hand.
“Tell her.” Jyrki said. The coldness in his voice scared me. The madness behind it frightened me even more.
My father raised his head slowly, obviously in pain and began to speak. “Merlyn, what ever he asks don’t do it….” He began and someone, whose back was to the recorder, stopped the rest of the sentence with a vicious back hand.
I looked away but Navaari touched my shoulder. “If you are wanting to help your father you must bear to see his pain. Watch and detach yourself from your emotions and see with a hunter’s eyes. There are clues in this waiting for you.”
I bit back the angry retort that threatened to escape my mouth and did as he told me.
My father’s head rocked with the blow but if it hurt him further he did not show it. “Go to hell!” he spat, blood running from his already swollen and bruised lips.
Jyrki snorted and turned the small recorder on himself. “Yer see Mouse, he is very much alive. If yer want to save him then yer will do as I ask. If yer do not then my friend here will take care of Kit and the rest of those yer love.” The holo recorder swung around to show me the man Jyrki was talking about, the one who had hit my father. It was the same man I had met my first time in the Cantina. The man I knew as Lorano Dek inclined his head ever so slightly to the recorder. “Yer see, Mouse, I have the situation in control. Do as yer told and all will be well.” He said and then he swung the recorder around to show me my father and the image shut off.
I trembled with the rage I felt. Power crackled around me and I had to fight the urge to smash the small recorder against the far wall. Navaari wrapped his arm around my shoulders and the boiling fury which burned my gut diffused into something else, something manageable. I released the heavy breath I had been holding and leaned against his shoulder.
“So, pup, what will be your first move?”
I glanced up at him and sighed. “I don’t know, I don’t even know if there is a solution that doesn’t involve someone dying.” I told him.
Navaari shook his head, “Well then, let us be making sure that you are not the one who dies.”
I made a face. “The first thing I would try to do is find out where he’s holding papa, but I don’t know where to begin.”
“Hmm.” Was all Navaari said letting me that he too was going to have to think about this a little then he asked, “Why have you not returned to your ship since you landed?”
I looked at him. “You are the one who has been following me?” I asked not answering his question.
“Yes, although I am not the only one. You were right to be cautious in your comings and goings.”
“Why did you wait till now to talk to me then?”
“I wished to observe the meeting between you and Jyrki Andando without you knowing I was there.”
I shook my head. “I knew someone was watching me, I thought it was one of Jyrki’s pals and that’s why I didn’t go back to my ship. I don’t want him to know about it.” I said and I explained to Navaari why I feared Jyrki finding my ship.
“So you think he will have a ship of his own?”
I nodded. “It makes sense. He will want to have complete control over the situation and using a ship he was not completely familiar with would not fit into that plan. He knows what I can do, hell he taught me most of it.” I said crossly, “He knows me well enough to anticipate some of the counter moves I would make. Having his own ship would ensure he was prepared for that. Even if he knows about mine, he would be reluctant to use it but that would not stop him from sabotaging it anyway.”
“Tell me how to bypass your security measures and then I can fly it for you, follow you to where he wishes you to go, to meet this son of Vader.”
I nodded then frowned, “But I think that he has my family here on Nar Shadda, at least papa is here. He keeps saying family but I have not actually heard him say anything about Bedi or Bel and they are not in any of the visions I have seen or the recording he made. That man in the holo recording was at the cantina to meet me the first time I was there.” I said. “It would not make sense if they were being held on a different planet or moon. They might be in a different city but I don’t think so, I think they are close by, close enough to be able to watch me as well. He won’t have that many people involved. Jyrki is a loner, he doesn’t play well with others and especially not for something like this.”
“It would be making things a lot easier if it was only your father to find and free.”
I nodded, realising the implication of my words. I wasn’t sure that Bedi and Bel were safe but the more I thought about it the more I began to get the feeling they were not on Nar Shadda and that Jyrki didn’t have them captive. It was just a feeling but it was so strong I could not ignore it.
“Tell me about the second man.”
“He’s a killer.” I replied without having to think about it. “He moves the way Uncle Vahlek does… did.” I stopped and corrected myself, “He hides his power, his edge behind a front of feigned indifference and indolence but he moved like a gurreck. I think he’s had training like Jyrki maybe from the Anzati. He has an easy smile but it never reaches his eyes. I think he felt he had me summed up inside of five seconds but he missed a lot of things as well. He underestimated me once. I saw that in his face.”
I recounted when I had told Lorano Dek ‘no I would not meet with Jyrki that day’. “He was surprised and that was not faked. He’s a big man and he’s all muscle but he isn’t hampered by it. Right handed but I think he could wield a weapon in his left if he had to. There were calluses on both his palms. Jyrki told him about me, as much as he knows and he watched me drop a spacer who world not take no for an answer so he is aware that I am not just fluff.”
“Could you kill him?”
I nodded. “Yes.” I did not hesitate on my reply. “But it would be a difficult fight.”
Navaari gave me a little nod of approval. “So how do we go about finding them?” He asked, testing me just as he used to Hjal while teaching me the tricks of the Jhal’kai trade.
“Use the clues in the recording and the memories.” I replied.
Navaari sat still, allowing me to think the problem through, then when he sensed I was ready we walked the problem step by step, looking for the tiniest of signs which would lead to the quarry, just as he had taught me and he had taught me well. At some point between the billionth viewing of the holo recording and dawn I fell asleep, slumped against Navaari’s shoulder, exhausted beyond caring. When I woke up on my bed with a blanket draped over me, it was broad daylight and Navaari was gone.
For a moment, caught between sleeping and waking, I knew a sort of despair and wondered if Navaari’s visit had all be another figment of my already addled imagination but when I saw that he had left behind something I knew he was real and here on Nar Shadda, sent by Thrawn to save my ass yet again. I reached over and picked up the tiny bone amulet and studied it with a smile. It had been carved in the shape of a wolf’s paw print from the bone of a grellett which was hard, smooth and deceptively heavy. The snow wolf was apparently my spirit animal so Navaari’s friend, Kerrjan, had said; noting the ease with which the sled hounds had taken to me.
“They recognise kin.” Kerrjan had said.
“I am not related to sled wolves!” I had retorted completely missing his point so he had spelled it out for me.
“They recognise your spirit is the same as theirs, free and wild. You are kindred spirits. That is why they are happy with you, why you find solace when you are with them.” He had explained.
His answer had made sense and I had just smiled.
By carving this for me, Navaari was giving me the strength of the sled wolf, reminding me that I was no longer the little girl I had once been. That Jyrki only held sway over me if I let him. I clasped it in my hand for a moment and a flood of images melted into me. What Navaari had really given me was his strength and his love. I slipped the leather thong over my head and tucked the tiny wolf paw pendant under my shirt, then rubbing the last of the sleep from my eyes I went to the fresher to shower and begin to put into place some of the plans Navaari and I had made the night before. Now that I understood I was not alone, that I was never truly alone I felt better about the terrible tasks that lay ahead.