‘Well, this cost was too high,’ I thought bitterly.
I wasn’t sure how the landing party that came in search of us had found us and since no one would answer my questions about it I gave up asking. In the end I didn’t care. All that mattered was someone had come in time to rescue Uncle Vahlek and me from freezing to death on Ando Prime. I had guessed that the last TIE that had not been destroyed in the chase which had brought the YU-four-ten down had returned to the ISD and reported our location but why a rescue party had been sent out for a downed rebel freighter was another mystery altogether.
I had been in a barely conscious state of shock when they had brought us onboard and taken us to the medlab where a med droid had treated my own iceburn injuries which were painful but not nearly as severe as my Uncle’s. After being given a clean bill of health I had changed into warm, dry clothes that did not stink of death and wreckage. I had refused the bed they had offered and had taken up vigil at the base of the bacta tank they were sliding my uncle into. No amount of cajoling or stern lectures could make me move and eventually the med-techs had given up. It was too much work or effort to argue with me and they had other things to do.
I couldn’t face the food they brought, the thought of eating made me ill. It was an effort to drink the water that was pushed into my hands but the threat of an IV line for fluids made me compliant. Someone had placed a blanket over my shoulders but I wasn’t sure who because at some point I had drifted into that half awake - half aware state where everything seemed very surreal. Time expanded around me like hyperspace until I no longer knew when or where we were, nor did I much care. For the second time in my life I had killed another human being only this time it had been someone I knew, someone I had cared about. The consequences of my actions left me hollow.
I became aware that we had reached whatever our destination was because the sound of the hyperdrive engines changed and eventually shut down to give way to the sublight engines instead. I leaned back against the bacta tank and closed my eyes. Through the Force I could sense my uncle’s wavering thread of life and I whispered silently for him to hold on. If he heard me or if it helped I never knew but it was the only thing I had left. I heard the murmur of voices talking around me but this was nothing new. I had become invisible to the med-techs who had decided that it was best to just leave me alone in what ever miserable hell I had wrapped myself in. Catatonic was one of the words they used a lot but they were wrong I wasn’t catatonic at all I was just empty. It wasn’t until I realised that amongst the unfamiliar voices there was one I knew intimately did I look up to see who it was.
Thrawn’s features were a mask set in stone and I couldn’t read him. He glanced at me for a moment, our eyes meeting briefly before I looked away and he turned his attention back to the doctor who was speaking to him in hushed tones.
“She hasn’t left that spot in seventy-six hours except to use the fresher, we’ve tried to get her to lie down but she refuses to listen, when we tried to sedate her she became…violent.” He sighed, “It was easier to let her be where she seemed the calmest.” The doctor said, his voice was a mixture of frustration and worry, “She won’t eat and barely drinks anything we give her. She won’t speak to us, she hasn’t said a single word since coming on board so we have no idea what happened to her. We think she is in shock but aside from treating the ice burn there isn’t much else we can do for her, there were no serious external injuries. We thought it best to leave her be until we got word from you.”
Thrawn nodded and glanced at me again before turning his gaze to the man floating in the bacta tank that I was leaning against. “What of the Tze’yusha’Jin? Can he be moved yet?”
Shaking his head the doctor said, “I would not advise it. His condition is stable but critical. He was brought onboard with hypothermia and severe ice burn. He was shot and the blaster bolt did a lot of internal damage. To be quite frank, I don’t know how he survived it. His will to live is very strong but moving him right now could kill him.”
Thrawn nodded then turned to look at me again. His red eyes pierced through the haze in my brain but I said nothing. There was nothing to say. He sighed slightly as if deciding something difficult and then turned back to the doctor. “Sedate her and get her ready to be transferred. Doctor Thracer is familiar with her medical history perhaps he will be able to do more.”
“Yes Admiral” The doctor said. He gave the med-tech who had been quietly standing by me a curt nod and before I understood what they were doing I felt the pressure and slight sting of the hypospray at my neck. A tingling warmth spread underneath the skin and I realised what had been done.
“No!” I protested wanting to stay by Uncle Vahlek but there was no strength left in my body, no real fight left in me and the last thing I remembered before the medlab tilted backwards into oblivion was Thrawn’s steady, unreadable gaze.
I woke up in a bed but it wasn’t in the med lab and it wasn’t the one I shared with Thrawn either. Guest quarters on Nirauan near the main medlab, I realised. The world entered back into my brain slowly, bit by bit and each single step was painful as the memories of what had happened flooded through my mind, drowning out everything else. I didn’t want to be awake. I didn’t want to be alive but in spite of my own wants the universe had other plans. I lay staring at the ceiling of the small, unfamiliar quarters I was in wondering if it was possible for a human being to feel so devoid of any sensation what so ever and still be alive. I decided that it was because I seemed to be living but I could feel nothing. I got up for lack of anything better to do and went to the fresher because despite everything I had been through my body still worked as usual and I had to relieve my bladder.
For a long time I stared at the face reflected back to me from the mirror over the wash basin. I didn’t know this girl who had deep dark hollows under her eyes and cheeks, whose hair looked like wamprats had nested in it, whose eyes looked as though they had been stolen from the dead. Every time I closed those eyes I saw Jyrki’s face as he had died. I couldn’t shut it out, nor could I forget the terrible anguish in his voice as he had whispered his last words. “Mouse…it hurts….” He had said but I was never sure what it was he was describing. Was it the pain of being speared to death by a lightsaber blade? Being betrayed by everyone he loved, turning to the dark side which had been my doing, my fault or something else. A myriad of emotions had flashed through his eyes as his life had ebbed away and I had not been able to read any of them. His death had given me no answers only more questions and the guilt which rested on my shoulders was so heavy I thought I would break from the weight of it but I didn’t. I shuffled back into the bedroom and dressed mechanically then I left to see if I could find out how my uncle was doing but instead I found myself face to face with Thrawn who had just been about to come in through the door. I backed up letting him enter and pass me but I didn’t know what to say. What was there to say? Because of me Navaari and Jyrki were dead, my father terribly injured and my uncle was hovering in the in-between. I didn’t know how to cope with what I felt and nothing had done in my life had wholly prepared me for this, even though I thought it should have.
Thrawn stared at me with an expression that wavered somewhere between sorrow and pity and I wasn’t certain which I hated more. The emptiness I had been feeling was inexplicably replaced by anger. “What?” I finally asked sullenly, breaking the awful silence, hoping he would lose some of his impeccable Chiss cool and rail against what I had done.
“A’myshk’a,” he began, “I have some terrible news….”
I waved my hand at him to stop. He wanted to tell me about Navaari but I already knew what he was going to say and I didn’t want to hear it. I felt guilty enough as it was. “I know he’s dead, Za’ar. I saw him being shot!”
Thrawn frowned. “Shot?”
“Navaari. I saw ….” I started the sentence but let the words trail off because Thrawn was looking at me in a way which suggested that we weren’t talking about the same thing.
“Kirja’navaar’inkjerii is alive, tekari.” He said carefully.
My eyebrows bunched together. “Alive?”
Thrawn nodded. “He is the reason the Judicator was able to find you. That bone necklace he gave you had a tracking device implanted it. Kirja’navaar’inkjerii was able to transmit the code and the frequency to the ship so they could come after you. The TIE squad only had orders to disable the ship, no one expected things to get so out of hand.” There was anger in his last sentence.
My hand went to the small pendant which still hung around my neck. I hesitated for second not able to take in this new information. “Navaari is alive? How? I saw him get shot.”
“Armourweave,” Thrawn explained. “He wore a form of Chiss armourweave under his clothes. It’s very effective. The blast only stunned him but it didn’t kill him.
My brain raced through the possibilities then and came to a single, terrible conclusion. “Then...then who…my uncle…?”
“The Tze’yusha’Jin is in stable condition. His recovery will be slow but he will live.” Thrawn said interrupting me. I could see he was still trying to find the words for what he needed to tell me.
“So what is the bad news?” I asked. “Am I going to be charged for murdering Jyrki or something?” The anger in my voice surprised me but he understood it was covering up my sudden fear.
Thrawn drew a very deep breath. “Perhaps you’d better sit down.”
“Just tell me!” I told him crossly so he did as plainly and as quickly as he could.
“Your father is dead.”
It was like being slapped hard across the face. For a second I forgot how to breathe and the world swam about me. Thrawn moved, catching me by the arm and gently pulling me to sit down on the side of the bed.
I looked up at him but I wasn’t sure I had heard him right. “That’s not possible. He was alive when I was there…when Jyrki knocked me out, papa was still alive.”
Thrawn nodded. “Yes he was but his condition was grave. By the time Kirja’navaar’inkjerii was able to get him to a medical facility it was too late.”
“No.” I shook my head slowly. “No.”
Thrawn’s shoulders heaved as though the weight of his own words pushed down upon him so much he was almost unable to bear it. “His heart gave out. He was too long without food or water and the torture he endured under Jyrki’s hand as well as the cocktail of drugs pushed into his system were all too much. He died in the medical facility. ”
“He was alive!” I yelled at him, my body trembling with anger and fear.
“Tekari, please….” Thrawn started but I shook my head.
“No. I don’t believe you, no!” I was shouting even though I knew that he was not lying to me but, irrationally, I couldn’t seem to accept the truth because accepting this truth meant I had failed my father in every way possible.
Thrawn stayed silent as he reached out to comfort me but I pulled away, springing up from the bed and backing out of his reach. “Don’t touch me.” I couldn’t look at him, “Please….”
He withdrew his hand. “I am so sorry.” He said. The expression on his face was heart breaking but all it did was make me angry although I didn’t know why. He was not the one responsible for any of this, I was.
“Go away.” I said softly, so softly that when he didn’t move I thought he hadn’t heard me.
“Merlyn, I don’t think you should be alone….” He started but the look in my eyes, when I met his gaze, stopped him cold.
“Get. Out. Now.” I hissed between clenched teeth. The rising fury that was beginning its journey from the depths of my gut blazed in my eyes and for a split second I thought I saw fear in his but maybe I was mistaken, maybe it was worry. He gave me a small nod and then, without another word, he left.
I stood in the middle of the silent room feeling like the center of a terrible storm. Anger boiled over and I could feel it flood my veins with fire that burned like the gut rot my father had loved to brew. It spilled out becoming something that I couldn’t control. I had never truly understood how Anakin could have succumbed to the Dark Side of the force until this moment but now I knew it was easy. I laughed as I felt the tidal wave come, welcoming its touch and gave in to its own brand of insanity.
It was like watching a HoloDrama from the inside out. I didn’t think I just moved, grabbing a hold of the nearest piece of furniture, a chair I think, which I hurled with all my strength against the wall. For a second I watched as it flew, almost in slow motion, to smash against the duracrete. It felt good to hurt something, anything. Time wavered and paused as if it could still be turned back, as if the onslaught of what would happen next could somehow be prevented but then, like a mass of water too long held back by a damn that can no longer keep it at bay, the rest of my anger roared through me.
I stopped thinking.
Whatever I could lay my hands on I destroyed, venting the terrible anguish within, only made worse because I tapped into the force. Unnatural strength flowed through me and it was intoxicating but it was also painful. A part of me knew this was wrong and from someplace deep inside my head I heard the whisper of someone begging me to stop but I didn’t. I screamed at the top of my lungs as I tore at the world around me, no longer sure who this creature that I had become was.
I wanted to annihilate everything. If it could break then I broke it, if it could be lifted then it was thrown, if I could rip it apart with my bare hands, I did so until my fingers bled and when there was nothing left to destroy and my fury was completely spent I crumpled to the floor in the middle of the room, like a broken doll, kneeling amidst the wreckage that my divine madness had created.
The blinding white noise in my head receded leaving me alone to wonder in a sort of awed shock at the damage I had done. I wasn’t certain what unnerved me more the fact that I was capable of such terrible dark passion or the fact that I had welcomed it. In the aftermath of the rage I felt only cold and began to shiver uncontrollably. This was how Navaari found me. He didn’t say a word as he entered the room, he didn’t look at the terrible mess my wrath had created he simply looked at me. He was masked and it made him seem fierce.
“Go away.” I whispered, my teeth chattering.
“No.” and he stepped over the carnage of broken furniture to crouch at my side when he reached out to touch me I slapped his hand away.
“Go away.” I said again trying to put some push behind the words but I had nothing left in me to be forceful.
He simply sighed and shook his head. “No.” he repeated and that was when I looked up into his eyes. I had expected to see anger, contempt even hatred for what I had done, for what I felt I had become but instead all I saw was love and compassion.
“Go away Navaari, please.” I whispered, pleading. My body was trembling, shock replacing the anger. I couldn’t fathom the terrible emptiness I felt as I spoke and my voice sounded strange and very far away. “Papa is dead because of me, I thought you were too. Everyone I care about gets hurt so, please, go away.”
Surprise flickered across his features. “This was not your doing. You did not kill Kit Gabriel. Jyrki Andando did that. None of what happened was your fault and you cannot take that burden on your shoulders.” He said gently.
Bringing up Jyrki’s name was a raw wound reopened, his face framed by black hair and snow swam in to my mind. “I killed him Navaari, I killed him in cold blood.” I sat staring at my hands; I didn’t recognise them, scratched and bloody. These hands, my hands had held the lightsaber which had taken Jyrki’s life.
Realising the topic had been switched he frowned at me and shook his head. “That I am not believing, little one, that man pushed you until you had no place else to go, until there was no other choice but to end it once and for all. You were doing what you were forced to do but it was not in cold blood.”
“I killed him.” I whispered shaking my head. “It doesn’t matter why or how or whose fault it was. In the end I took his life away. I tried to hate him for everything he did, I tried but in the end I failed because I loved him but I killed him anyway. I just wanted to help papa and now they are both dead.” I realised I was rambling and stopped. There didn’t seem to be any logic in what I was saying but somehow Navaari understood.
“The person who was Jyrki Andando died a long time ago he just did not realise it.” He replied. “You gave him something he never expected to find which was love, hopeful, unconditional love. It is not your fault he was not accepting this gift you give away so freely. It was not your fault he was so damaged he could not return it and be happy. Do you know how rare this is? Do you know how precious you are?”
I swallowed down the tears, shaking my head in denial. As I opened my mouth to say something all that came out was an ugly sob. I fought it down, almost choking with the effort. Jyrki was dead because I had killed him. My father was dead because I had not been able to save him, I had not been fast enough or smart enough, even with all the training I had gone through, and now because of this he was dead. I looked around the room and for the first time realised what I had done.
“How can you say these things?” I asked, “Look at what I have become?” I gestured around the room.
He reached out again and stroked the sweat soaked hair from my eyes. “Better to be unleashing your rage on ugly furniture than on a living thing, I am thinking.” He replied. “All that passion and pain, it has to be going somewhere, you cannot be holding it all inside of you even though you try. You are far too small a vessel for so much emotion.”
I turned away from his gaze and looked at the wreckage again. “What if the next time it is someone I love? If I could kill Jyrki I could ….”
He pressed his fingertips to my lips shaking his head. “I am thinking there will not be a next time, pup; you would not let that happen and this has been a very long time coming.” He spoke gently, “And I am thinking that after all that you have been through, you are to be forgiven for redecorating a room in this manner.” He paused and then said, “You control your temper and your strange power, not the other way around. You would not knowingly hurt or harm any living being without just cause.”
“How do you know?” I asked in disbelief.
He smiled. “Because I am knowing you.” And before I could protest or say anything to the contrary, he picked me up from the floor as though I really were still a small child and cradled me close.
I could not stop my whole body from shaking. This cold seemed to come from the inside out and since Ando Prime it was all I had known. I wondered if I would ever feel warm again. I held on to him, my arms around his neck as he carried me out of the wrecked room down the corridor to a small study that Thrawn sometimes used late at night when he couldn’t sleep. He set me down on the small couch and sat beside me, removing his mask as he did so. His words were the absolution I had not understood I had needed to hear and as terrible as my anger had been so my grief and my guilt were even worse. When I buried my face in my hands he wrapped his arm around my shoulders and pulled me to him, letting me cry.
I have no idea how long we sat like this, time had become irrelevant but eventually I became aware that I had stopped crying and was just clinging to Navaari as though he were some sort of life raft and perhaps he was. He stroked my hair and hugged me closely as though to let go of me would be to lose me and he wasn’t about to risk that again. Only after there was a very lengthy silence did he speak.
“Your father was a good man, little one. The doctor at the med clinic told me his last words were for you, to tell you he loved you, to tell you he was proud of you. They tried everything but his heart was just too weakened.” Navaari’s voice was full of sorrow, “I was there, pup, I watched them work to save his life but it was not enough, sometimes no matter what we are doing, it is never enough and I am so very sorry that I was not fast enough to help him in time.”
I moved then, lifting my head so I could look at him. “You’re sorry? You didn’t do anything to be sorry for I was the one who rushed in head long and screwed it all up. I was the one who didn’t think or plan. I just dived in and everyone suffered because of it.”
Navaari’s smile was kind. “You were simply being you and I was expecting nothing different which was why I made that pendant for you, easier to find you when you go running off if you can be tracked.” He said. “I should have taken that pash’kja’anta who had been following you out of the hunt as soon as I saw him the very first time but I did not and that was my mistake. Perhaps if I had done so there would have been enough time.” The regret in his voice was painful to hear.
I laid my head back down against his shoulder. I didn’t know what words to speak, how ease his own terrible guilt and pain. “It wasn’t your fault either.” I said at last, “It was Jyrki’s. He made a choice and it was a bad choice.”
He kissed the top of my head. “Are you calm now?” He asked.
I nodded although I wasn’t sure calm was the quite right word, sad, empty, lost, riddled with guilt may have been better ways to put it but Navaari knew me well enough see past my lie.
“Then you should perhaps be finding your Ta’kasta’cariad and letting him know that you are in one piece.” He said with a small smile. “He was worried about you.”
Navaari grinned. “You are fierce beyond belief sometimes especially when your emotions are choking you. He was concerned you would hurt yourself out of guilt and anger.”
“Why didn’t he stay and stop me then?”
“Because he also understands that sometimes storms need to be unleashing their fury before they can find calm again. You, little pup, are being a very, very wild storm when you choose to be.”
And for reasons I could not fully comprehend that statement made me smile but my sorrow overrode it. “Where is papa’s body, Navaari?” I asked after a small silence.
“His body rests on board of the Judicator in cold stasis.” Navaari replied. “Nikätza’arth’pavjäska felt it the best course of action. He believes that you would be wishing to return to your home world for the death rites.”
I felt tears well up in my eyes again, but there was no anger behind them, only an aching grief. “Has anyone told Bedi yet? She is…was his wife.”
“I believe it has been taken care of.”
“Za’ar?” I asked.
Navaari nodded. “He was thinking that while this was a job you would feel duty bound to do, it was one you should not have to but he can tell you more when you speak with him, and you need to speak with him. He worries far more than he lets on and you are having a very bad habit of being the cause for great worry, so please go and speak with him. Let him see that it is just bad furniture he must replace and not his bond- mate. He is waiting for you in his private study.”
I nodded and got up slowly. I was surprised at how much I ached, how much my physical body hurt. “Thank you.” I spoke quietly, almost shyly.
Navaari gave me a look I equated with an oncoming lecture and I wasn’t wrong. “You are thinking that you are all alone but you are not. There are so many who love you dearly who are wanting to be there for you when you fall, when you need help. You need to learn this lesson and stop shutting everyone out. That does not protect them nor does it help you. You are not alone Kycsi’i, not now not ever. Remember this.”
I bent down and kissed his cheek. “Ariathe’Ia-te’ka Pa’tjad’cu-sjä.” I told him. I have great love for you, honoured grandfather.
“And I for you, child.” Navaari said wearily, slipping on his mask again. “Now, enough sentiment. I have to be eating something and then I must rest; you are quite tiring you know. Go and make peace with your Ta’kasta’cariad.”
He watched me leave without following.
Thrawn, just as Navaari had said, was waiting in his private study. I opened the door and slipped into the dimly lit room. He was standing facing the window, he wasn’t wearing his uniform and it somehow made him seem less austere more vulnerable. When he stayed where he was, not turning to look at me, I went to him and wrapped my arms around his waist. I laid my cheek against his back, closing my eyes when his hands covered mine, his warmth replacing my cold. After a long moment he turned to face me without breaking the circle my arms had made. He didn’t say a word, he didn’t have to. He just pulled me to his body, one hand cradling my head against his chest, the other around my waist and holding me tightly as though I were the most valuable thing he had ever held.