[M21 - Danoor - FF] New Jedi Order | Chapter 1.2 - Master of the Woods

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Stories of the New Jedi Order



The harrowing journey through the dark woods of ATOR HOLLOS comes to its conclusion, but not before the Jedi encounter a mysterious avatar, enslaved by the Dark Side . . . 



Previously . . .

By the end of the night before, the decision had been made; the dangers of splitting up were too great. They would stake out for the Monastery together as one group.
As dawn broke over the forest, they took down the camp and set off. Most had barely slept. The injured rode on hover-stretchers, three of which had survived the crash. In one long line, they trekked into the woods traveling south, as the hermit had told them.
Aemos stayed back at the rear of the line while Noko and Jun led from the front.
Noko did not appreciate Aemos' continued attempts to distance himself, in this case literally. It worried her. If they couldn't face this challenge with the patience Jedi should, how would they face those to come? She had failed the previous night. She regretted what she'd said. But there was nothing for it now. She did her best to put the students at ease, and hoped their journey would end sooner rather than later.

The woods became deeper and darker, damp with fog and vividly green. Tall trees cast long shadows. Harmless animals scurried out of their path in the underbrush. Jun kept quiet and watched their surroundings carefully, channeling the skills he'd acquired during his time as a bounty hunter. The last thing he needed, he thought, was the death of any Jedi students on his hands. He had a complicated enough relationship to the Jedi as it was; dead kids would not help.

Soon, their path became difficult and confused. There was no trail to speak of, no stars or sun could be seen through the cloud cover above, and alarmingly, their compass was unreliable: while it had been stable enough before, it now occasionally spun before seeming to right itself.
Electromagnetic interference from Ator Hollos' atmospheric storms.

Aemos finally relented and allowed Ma-Riki to lead the group. She swore by her sense of direction, and promised she would keep them going south.

The dark side was strong in these woods.

The students began to see strange things, and hear whispers from the fog. Darkness crept in from every direction, a sense of fear and guilt. Solid shapes would coagulate and then vanish like breath in the air.

"We must press on," Noko insisted, though she felt weary and worn down. Jun was jumping at every sound. Asa's wound had him asleep on a stretcher as often as not. Aemos was as upset as ever. She was grateful for Ma-Riki's comparative cheer--the Lannik appeared unaffected by the dismal energy floating around the trees. It was her resolve that was rallying the students now.
Noko was beginning to understand why Luke felt she would be useful.

Their journey south took them lower and lower, down gullies and patches of bog. For the first time, they saw ahead through the tops of the lowest trees an open space, a distant moor uncluttered by forest. It was an encouraging sight, but it was followed by as deep a plunge into the darkest woods as they had made yet.
Here, roots curled around like wires, the trees were gnarled and old. Strange plants reacted to their passing by uncurling, or opening, or changing color, the meanings of which were impossible to surmise. It kept them moving all the faster.

And then, a sensed presence nearby. Something old, and sad. There was beauty here, but pain and regret obscured it. A terrible shadow.
Their path had taken them through a deep ravine, there was no way to go around it. 

Ahead, atop a rock in the middle of a throne-room like clearing, there sat a humongous beast, a behemoth with enormous, powerful limbs, a winding neck, and a face that looked both dragonish and as like the trees as the trees themselves. Across its back lay a sheet of moss, interrupted by stony growths. It reclined on the rock in the center of the grove, watching them as they approached.

This was something deep and ancient, and profoundly sorrowful. Darkness and light battled within. Eyes stared out at them soaked with regret, glowing lamp-like with unknowable light, shining through a tangle of antlers. Each of the Jedi and students felt as a frightening intelligence began taking their measure, so powerfully that each encountered a psychic phenomenon unique to them. It whispered truths and dark tidings, fears unrealized, tragedies long past, things yet to come. It told them who they might be, what they might lose. These things spoke into their minds all at once.

"The Force is with you, students," Noko said, but her voice was weak, hoarse. She felt faint. "Stand strong," she stammered.

Aemos was talking to himself beside her. "Darkness, clinging. Pulling. Straining. Disease. Disease . . . Father-! Father . . . Mother . . . "

It was Jun who moved to do something. He closed his eyes, stepped forward and raised a hand, his fingers grasping in the force. He would make it impossible to ignore him.

The thing's attention turned to him alone. The entirety of its powers, its consciousness, flooded Jun's brain at once. Whether it was an attack or it simply didn't know a human's mind would crack under so much pressure, Jun didn't know. But the power was driving him to him knees. He did the only thing he knew to do.

He ignited his lightsaber.
Deep blue light washed around the darkened grove. 

The thing regarded the glowing blade. Jun felt his stomach plummet with relief as the mental presence receded from his brain, leaving his head pounding, leftover images and foreign thoughts clinging to the corners. Respect? Fear? Disappointment? The reaction was impossible to read.

The Master of the Wood stood and began to prowl its grove, the ground shaking with every mammoth step. It opened its jaws and a word gasped from deep inside its stomach.


The Jedi fled the darkness of the deep woods and the grove of the creature, beating as hasty a retreat as they could while still guiding the wounded, and recovering from the encounter themselves. As they went, the forest around them cleared. Light poured in from above. The oppression lifted, until the darkness was only a bad memory.
Once they felt they had left it behind, they collapsed in the ferns. Aemos supported Jun. Ma-Riki trotted underfoot while waving a stick with a bag full of herbs tied on the end and murmuring some kind of charm over the affected students. The dark side still hounded a few.

Aemos made sure everyone was accounted for. He looked back in time to see Noko collapse to the forest floor.

"Jedi Imani!" 

He helped prop Jun upJun prop against a tree, and hurried towards the fallen Jedi. He found her shivering on the ground, arms wrapped around her middle. Asa shouted behind him, hobbling as fast as he could.

"We won't be enough," she gasped, eyes blank and staring.

Asa sunk to her side, propping her up and embracing her. He threw a defensive look towards the looming Aemos. But Aemos' face was not hard. The confrontation had been burned out of him by their encounter with the darkness. He had, once again, to confront his own unworthiness. It reminded him of his place.

"We will fail," Noko said to no one. "Our failure will cause their deaths."

"Visions of a future that may not come to pass," Aemos reminded her, his voice low and calm. "Bestowed by a creature enslaved by the darkness. Do not fear, Jedi Imani. The future is ever in motion."

Her breathing stabilized. She looked first at Asa, and then up at Aemos. The Hybolon coughed awkwardly, and kneeled.

"Before, in the woods...I became defensive, because you were right. We have a duty not just to these students, but the Jedi Order itself, all generations past and future. What we do now determines the Jedi's destiny. It is not a time for . . . ahem, whining." He took a deep breath, steeling himself. "I . . . apologize, Jedi Imani."

Reason returned, and peace along with it. Noko touched her worried husband's shoulder gratefully before she turned to Aemos. She rose, and Aemos tentatively followed. Weary and injured, she smiled, bowing slightly.

"Thank you, Jedi Suurm-Xachus. You have my gratitude."

Aemos returned a stiff nod.
The matter resolved, they turned to Jun, who was leaning against a tree nearby.

"Now there's a Jedi Knight," Noko grinned. Jun laughed weakly, waving away the compliment.

"Indeed, indeed!" Ma-Riki chirped from where she was helping the students. "He saved your all's lives! I would have been fine, myself. Probably just taken to living with the big beastie if it ended up killin' you all. I do adapt well."

Aemos gritted his teeth. "Jedi Jin-Wa!" he rumbled.

Jun raised an eyebrow. He had a feeling what followed wouldn't be another scolding.

Aemos chewed on the words. "Not terrible."

Jun chuckled hoarsely, shaking his head.

A sudden sound nearby made all the initiates and Jedi turn at once. Their nerves could not handle much more.


Three tiny hooded Jawas stood a few meters away watching them.
One nearly fell over in fright and turned to run. The second slapped him, jabbering something in Jawese. The third opened its arms to the Jedi in welcome.


The Jedi and initiates stared for a long time. A single initiate meekly raised a hand in greeting.

"Utto nye usabia keena?"

One initiate, familiar with the language of Jawas from childhood, turned to his fellows to translate. 

"They've been expecting us. They'd like to show us the way."

Noko almost didn't believe it. But Luke told them a small clan of Jawas lived in the Monastery, and he had secured their permission to the Jedi to live alongside them. These, she imagined, must be them. "We would be very grateful for the help."

"They would . . . like our hover-stretchers, in exchange."

A beat of silence. Jun shrugged. "Typical Jawas. Fair enough."

"Once we reach the Monastery, they may have them."

The initiate repeated this to the Jawas. The trio listened intently, and leapt excitedly at the answer. Eagerly, they waved for the Jedi to follow.


With guides, the way was far easier. Already, the Jedi had traveled leagues closer to their destination, and the Jawas knew the path well. The three hooded creatures led the group carefully through the woods, pointing out landmarks invisible to the less experienced observer. Ma-Riki seemed delighted by them, so much so that her pleased cackles earned a surprising shushing from all three. These Jawas were quieter than anyone who knew Jawas could expect--not only cautious in the way their height and strength necessitated, but practiced in their footfalls and intentional about their steps. Their way of navigating the woods illustrated respect--and fear--of their surroundings. One got the sense of things just out of sight, things watching and waiting for a careless mistake, things appeased by being shown the honor they were owed. Any questions--and there were many to ask--were rejected to keep the silence.
They soon left the sounds of waterfall and pine-tree for the open expanse of the misty moors, and the shadow of tree-cover for the shadows of mountains. Great peaks and rocky slopes rose before them, snow drifts and steep paths fell underfoot. Now the questions were rejected because they all had to concentrate, or risk tumbling down into the mist below.

The Jawas stopped and shushed their followers, gesturing collectively to a hillside leagues away, glimpsed through a gap in the fog. In the far distance stood two silhouettes--humanoids astride some manner of steed, wide-brimmed hats on their heads. The Jawas said something to their translator.

"Not dangerous. Not raiders, they say," the initiate passed on to the teachers. "Scouts from . . . a village . . . keeping watch."

They gazed back at the scouts until, after some time, their steeds turned and galloped out of sight.



A final climb culminated in the Jedi tromping up a heather-strewn hill. One-by-one they crested the top and gasped when they discovered the sight on the other side: a great mountain, the largest they had seen. The peak and its range commanded a sweeping valley, waterfalls cascading down its cliffs like the white hair of a matriarch. On its side, overlooking a wide silvery lake, stood the cluster of ancient towers and scoured domes of the Ator Monastery. 

Their new home.




None of them spoke. There was silence beyond the howl of the wind and the whipping of their cloaks. Their faces sweaty and weary, their limbs aching, they stood and took it all in. 

Leagues in the distance they saw the shapes of long-legged beasts as tall as mountains themselves, moving herd-like across the moor. Wide Beldon-like siphonophores floated in and out of sight between the dense clouds above.

". . . It's something, huh?" Jun said aloud. It felt like an understatement, but it did the trick. 

Soon, the initiates began to collapse to rest. The Jawas would have none of it, not when they were almost there. One of them tugged at an initiate's jacket in a useless attempt to muster her; while the Jawas were used to clambering over these mountains, the initiates were obviously not. 
Noko requested they be given time to rest. The leader of the three Jawas did not like it, but after admitting their current position was fairly safe, he could not say no. 

They staked camp within sight of their final destination, and fell asleep wondering at the dark towers in the distance.









Thank you for looking.

Edited by RocketBoy

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