Rite of Passage

By Patrick Stutzman and Trampas Whiteman

The virtual silence of the forests of Yavin 4 is suddenly broken as Jan Tolbara and Kurrelgyrre arrive at the future site of the Jedi Academy. KG, flying his newly upgraded X-wing, and Jan, flying a borrowed Y-wing Longprobe from the New Republic, land their ships gently in the hangar designed from the days of the Rebellion within one of the ancient buildings.

As the canopies open on the ships, Jan removes his helmet and says, "Well, KG. I think I'm getting better at flying these things. I may see about getting one of these for my own. I won't have to worry about bumming rides from Eriyani every time I want to come here." Jan begins to climb out of the Y-wing, still wearing the orange flight suit.

Upon exiting the ships, they are greeted by a golden protocol droid that speaks with a gentle voice.

"Hello. I am C-3PO, human-cyborg relations. I have been sent by Master Luke to escort you to the audience hall."

"Thank you," Jan responds. "Lead the way."

As the three walk to the Massassi temple across the compound, C-3PO can be heard muttering, "I wish he would stay around. He's always off doing things that get me worried."

Jan looks to KG for a second and turns back to the golden droid. "Excuse me?" he inquires.

"Oh," C-3PO responds with almost a surprised reaction. "My counterpart, R2-D2. It seems like he's never around when . . ."

Just then, an astromech droid is seen moving toward the group from across the way. It chirps and whistles as if it is excited about something.

"There he is now," C-3PO states matter-of-factly, and he turns to greet the little droid. After a minute, the smaller droid joins the group.

"It's about time you showed up, you near-sighted scrap pile!" C-3PO scolds. "I was beginning to wonder if you'd fallen into a hole or something! It's a wonder my circuits are still in decent shape the way you carry on!"

R2-D2 whistles and beeps a message in its electronic language.

"Oh, dear," answers the protocol droid. He turns to Jan and Kurrelgyrre and states, "We must hurry. It appears Master Luke needs to depart."

Jan looks at KG again with a frown and says, "So much for training." He turns back to C-3PO and instructs, "Lead on."

After a few minutes of walking, Jan and KG are finally led into the audience hall, where Luke Skywalker is on the raised stage area on the far side of the hall giving instructions to three ASP-7 droids.

C-3PO turns to the Jedi duo and says, "I will inform Master Luke that you have arrived." He, then, turns and walks across the hall to the stage. After a short conversation, Luke looks toward Jan and KG and walks down the steps to the floor and moves across the hall as C-3PO leaves the hall through a doorway.

"R2, get my X-wing prepped," Luke states. The astromech droid chirps an acknowledgement and departs.

"Welcome back," Luke greets as he turns back to the two students. "I regret to say that I have been summoned to Coruscant on Republic business and must depart shortly."

"If you will excuse me, master," Jan interrupts. "I thought we had arranged for me to complete my training on this visit."

"There is not much more I can teach you, Jan," Luke responds. "However, there is something I need the two of you to do while I am gone. I sense that if you complete this task, Jan, you will complete your training.

"I have sensed a disturbance in the Force recently, and I need both of you to investigate it. I sense that is near the old temple that you found," states Luke, pointing to KG.

"I will return shortly," Luke continues. "Let me know what you find when I return. Unless you have any questions, may the Force be with you."

Kurrelgyrre turns to Jan after Luke has left and says, "We must be cautious. The temple is where I found the crystal to my lightsaber. It was in the flame of a torch, yet the flame had no heat. After that, I was chased by what I would call "Dark Side Snakes" back to our ship. They were ghostly apparitions that only Force-users could see. That temple is filled with the power of the dark side. I was very leery coming here in the first place. Now it is even more so. I do not relish the idea of going to . . . that place. However, I sense that this is something I must do. We must prepare."

"I know how you feel," Jan responds. "I'm not looking forward to this either. However, it is something that needs to be done.

"Anyway, find a room on one of the upper levels to use as your quarters and spend some time in meditation. When you are ready, find me. My room is three floors up from here."

KG finds a room with two large windows overlooking the compound. The view is gorgeous, allowing him to see a mountain range a far distance from the temple. After settling in, he gets out of his oversized flight suit and into more comfortable garb. Once done, the wookiee returns to the hangar bay to unload R2-X0 from the X-wing and set it up to roam around.

Walking into the hangar bay to unload R2-X0, KG finds Luke looking over his newly modified X-wing. When the wookiee is heard approaching, the Jedi master turns around and exclaims, "That is an impressive design. Let me know how it works out for you." Without waiting for a response, Luke walks over to his X-wing, boards and takes off.

Kurrelgyrre meditates for several hours afterward, trying to suppress his anger and animosity at having to go to the temple. When all is calm, he finds Jan meditating in his own room. He has changed out of his orange flight suit into his own black Jedi outfit and cleaned himself up, despite the fact that his dark brown hair is slightly mussed.

"I am ready," KG says standing a few meters before his teacher.

Jan comes out of his meditative trance, stands and replies, "Okay, then. Let's go."

While walking to the ground floor, Jan mentions to Kurrelgyrre, "I hope you don't mind a hike through the forest. We have no vehicles here, and I doubt that there will be a large enough clearing to land your X-wing.

"We should take some food and supplies. It will probably take a couple of days to get there. I can take you to the pantry."

"A hike through the forest would be welcome," KG replies. "That is my native environment. Besides, I need to stretch. We can grab supplies then go.

"I don't think it would be good to take my R2 unit. I will leave him here to guard the ships. You know, it just sort of figures. Seems like every Jedi Master I have known has just up and left. They never stick around."

After gathering some supplies from the pantry and storage, Jan and Kurrelgyrre double-check their inventory and determine that they are ready to go, when Jan suddenly turns to his wookiee student and says, "Oh, KG. I just remembered that I need to give some final instructions to 3PO before we leave. Come on."

Once the control center is reached, Jan begins to tell C-3PO about a few things that need to be done while he is gone. Without warning, the communications panel signals an incoming transmission.

"I'll get it, 3PO," Jan states. "I'm closer anyway."

Jan takes a few steps over to the communications panel, hits the toggle and announces into the microphone, "Jedi Academy, this is Jan Tolbara."

"So, that's where you went!" replies a familiar female voice.

"Eriyani?"

"Last time I checked."

A low groan is heard from Kurrelgyrre.

The conversation continues, finishing with Eriyani requesting Jan to contact Coruscant to check on any missing dreadnaughts from the Old Republic. As soon as the channel is closed, Jan calls Coruscant and informs them of the ship found by Eriyani. After a few minutes, a file is received listing all reported missing ships dating before the rise of the Empire.

"Well, this helps narrow it down," states Jan facetiously after opening the file listing thousands of ships.

"Oh, brother!" Kurrelgyrre replies.

Jan hails the Sarlacc to inform them of the news. After a short moment, it is discovered that a life form was discovered aboard the ship in a cryogenic capsule. A woman wearing an Old Republic uniform was found inside the capsule. Upon awakening, she stated that she was placed inside the cryo capsule when a hive virus broke out on the ship. Eriyani determined that she had been in the capsule for about 500 years.

"That narrows it down," Jan replies. "According to the list I got from Coruscant, a dreadnaught did come up missing 518 years ago named the Tana Lyran. It was reported to be carrying a VIP to Coruscant."

"Okay. Please report that the ship was found one day out from Yavin. We'll place a beacon on it."

"Sounds good. Thanks. Yavin out." Jan closes the channel once again, calls Coruscant again to report the latest findings. Then, he turns to KG and inquires, "Shall we go now?"

"I tire of these delays. Let us be done with this!" KG grumbles.

Once out in the lush forest some time later, Jan begins instructing KG in additional methods to use the Force while they are walking. He offers many chances for KG to practice new skills, such as lifting rocks and branches, listening for sounds so faint that they would be totally missed by most people and expanding awareness of the environment around them. Many times, Kurrelgyrre is able to spot tiny insects and creatures so small that the unassisted naked eye would not see them and even hear them chirping back and forth in their form of communication. Some of the larger branches prove to be a bit difficult to handle but does have some success.

That night, the pair finds solace in the branches of a tree high above the forest floor. The two trade stories before settling into a light sleep.

The next morning, the two set off again toward the distant temple. About mid-morning, Jan spots a creature similar in appearance to a buck that has not noticed the two Jedi-in-training. Jan suggests that KG attempt to use the Force to help him sneak up on the animal and touch it.

Concentrating for a moment, KG begins to sneak up on the unknowing animal. All seems to be going well as KG comes within 6 meters of the creature, when Jan's comlink signals another incoming call. The creature bolts and sprints further into the forest.

"Sorry, Kurrelgyrre!" Jan calls to his wookiee student with a hint of disappointment in his voice. He pulls out the comlink, switches it on and speaks, "This is Jan."

"This is C-3PO, sir. Captain Rusta'al has arrived and wishes to speak with you."

"Damn prissy droid," Kurrelgyrre grumbles as he reaches the place where Jan is sitting.

His teacher responds, "Put her on."

"Where are you?" Eriyani anxiously asks.

Jan replies, "We have an assignment we need to complete for Master Skywalker before he gets back."

"Well," Eriyani continues, "we are here at the academy. We brought that lady we found on the ship. You might want to speak with her. She said she was coming from some place called the JRDC . . ." Eriyani returns.

A pleasant-sounding feminine voice can be heard in the background saying, "Jedi Research and Development Center." Jan's eyes widen, his attention renewed. KG's eyes widen as well as he looks at Jan.

Eriyani continues, "Did you hear that?"

"Yeah, I heard that," Jan says with a fascinated tone.

"She says she needs to find some mainframe on a world called Ossus about three days from here to get the coordinates for the facility."

Jan turns to KG with a look showing he's already made his decision. He turns back to the microphone and states excitedly, "Go there. I'm SURE Master Skywalker would agree."

"Alright. Thanks a lot," answers Eriyani.

"No problem. Jan out." He switches off the comlink and replaces it in his belt pouch.

"Sorry about that, KG. Didn't expect that to happen."

"Damn smugglers," KG replies. "The planet Ossus sounds familiar. I think it has something to do with the Jedi, but I don't know what."

A few more hours pass with the duo walking through the woods. Suddenly, Jan and Kurrelgyrre both hear slight rustling sounds coming from above. As the two look up toward the source of the sounds, a large arachnid measuring approximately two meters in length drops from the trees and hang just short of a meter off the ground suspended by thick, silk strands coming out of the backs of their abdomens. The dark brown color and pale yellow patterns on the arachnid's back seems to complement the chitinous, yellow blades located at the ends of its front two legs.

Instinct forces Jan and KG to draw and ignite their lightsabers. The snap-hiss of the blades' ignitions blocks out the sounds of the surrounding fauna's retreat. The arachnid draws back one of its bladed legs as if to strike.

KG lets out a thunderous wookiee yell, one that would curdle the blood of the average person.

The loud yell from the wookiee seems to pause the arachnid for a brief second, but it continues and strikes with one of its blades toward Kurrelgyrre. KG brings down his lightsaber and cuts the incoming limb from the rest of the insectoid body. The arachnid squeals in pain but remains active.

Jan, seeking to disarm the creature, attacks the arachnid's other bladed leg. The lightsaber's violet blade slices through the leg, dropping it to the leaf-littered ground.

Kurrelgyrre moves in and swings his flame-bladed lightsaber at the suspended arachnid. The blade cuts cleanly through the insectoid's abdomen, splitting it into two pieces. The head and lower half of the spider's abdomen drop to the ground, leaving the other half hanging from its silk rope.

Jan shuts down his lightsaber and clips it to his belt. He turns to KG with a smirk and says, "Well, you killed it. You skin it." Jan steps over the bladed limb he severed and walks over to a nearby rock and sits down facing his student and the arachnid's corpse.

"Grumble grumble. Humans. Grumble grumble. See if I ever share my food. Grumble grumble." KG cleans up the mess so the carcass will attract no predators.

After KG finishes dealing with the dead arachnid, Jan walks up to him and points out an area not too far from their current location.

"There is a small clearing not far from here," he says. "We will set up camp there."

The two settle down and dine on fresh meat for the evening.

The night is peaceful, and the two enjoy a fairly restful sleep.

The next morning, the pair set off again toward the ancient temple. The journey is uneventful, until a small, deer-like creature is found wandering close behind the two Jedi. Jan smiles at his student, and they continue their trek.

A little past midday, Jan and KG reach an area where the ground changes into cobbled stone. Both notice that the sounds of nature are not heard. Surprisingly, the fawn is still with them.

"Well," Jan starts. "I guess this is it. Be cautious."

Moving forward, the two step lightly for a few minutes until they break through the edge of the forest into a set of abandoned ruins. Stone structures of varying sizes mingle with trees and undergrowth to populate this area that stretches toward a range of purple mountains far in the distance. A short distance from where they are standing, KG recognizes the area where he found the crystal for his lightsaber and notices that the flame from which the crystal was pulled is burning.

One particular structure stands out in the middle of the complex. The building, a ziggurat of worked stone, points to the sky with an ominous silence. The plants seem to avoid this building, growing at least 10 meters away from any part of the pyramid and letting it display untouched by nature.

"That is where I sense we need to go," he states matter-of-factly.

Reaching the structure, the pair notice pictographs etched into the wall along the base layer. Most are undecipherable, but a few can be recognized as depicting some sort of scene from a time long forgotten. Most of the scenes show an individual performing some sort of great feat in combat.

Walking the perimeter the first time, no opening leading inside can be found. When they reach the first side again, they find that some sort of door has opened in the middle section of the wall of the building.

Both of them feel a sudden, almost tangible, darkness while gazing at the doorway. An audible gulp is heard from Jan, and he states, "I have a bad feeling about this."

Jan takes a step forward, looks back to Kurrelgyrre and mentions, "Have your lightsaber ready to go." He lifts the metal device from his belt and hefts it once in his right hand.

Much to KG's surprise, looking behind him reveals the fawn still following the two of them. It steps cautiously, though.

Looking into the darkness, Jan looks back to his student one more time, takes a deep breath and steps in.

KG readies his lightsaber, looking around cautiously. He remembers when he came here last and briefly entered the temple. Even the mighty wookiee has his hair standing on end.

Kurrelgyrre reaches out with his feelings to see if he can locate any source for the Force around here. Upon doing so, he senses a STRONG presence of the dark side here.

Being especially leery of the deer, KG tries to get a scent off of the deer to see if it actually is a deer. Taking a whiff of the air, KG does indeed smell the deer. The deer seems to be enamored with something regarding the two Jedi.

Pulling out a glowrod, KG activates it and holds it up for illumination. The light creates ominous shadows on the stone walls etched with ancient writings and hieroglyphics. The darkness seems to swallow the light a mere 5 meters away. Footfalls created by Jan's boots echo almost endlessly through the corridor leading into the pyramid.

Stretching out with his feelings, Kurrelgyrre senses a dark presence below them a short distance. The presence's darkness seems almost infinitely deep and darker than the surrounding darkness when compared to KG's own abilities. For a brief second, the wookiee feels like the presence is watching them as well, but the feeling quickly passes.

Keeping Jan beside him at all times, KG states, "I suggest we stay together. By the way, what's the deal with the deer?"

Jan nods and looks back at the fawn following close behind. "I don't know," Jan replies. "I sense nothing wrong with it."

The two continue down the corridor until Jan stops and holds up his left hand in a fist.

"I sense a disturbance ahead," Jan whispers. He stoops, picks up a small rock and tosses it down the passageway. About three meters down, a burst of energy shoots from above and shatters the small stone in midair. The light from the blast is almost blinding in the near darkness.

"Search for a switch of some type around here," suggests Jan as he begins scouring the walls.

After a few minutes, Jan quietly says, "Here it is." as he turns a small stone located in the middle of what looks like a wheel pictograph. KG hears something shut down that he didn't notice earlier.

"We'd better move fast," Jan states. "That may only delay its operation." The pair move down the corridor to a point 5 meters past the area where the rock was vaporized, followed closely by the small deer. After a moment, KG hears the device reactivate, and nothing happens. Jan breathes a sigh of relief and turns to continue down the passage.

After a couple of turns, the hall leads to a 10-meter square room with a square stone pillar in the middle. Wide rays of sunlight pierce the darkness through the south side of the room through two small openings on the wall by the ceiling, showing the dust floating in the air and setting undisturbed on the floor. Sconces attached to the walls and on stands at each corner of the pillar hold unlit torches. The walls are unadorned, showing only dark gray stone. The thick silence filling the room sends chills throughout Jan's and KG's bodies.

Steadily, Jan steps into the room and walks partway to the pillar, when flames shoot up from the torches throughout the room. The roar of the sudden ignition causes even Kurrelgyrre to flinch and clench his lightsaber even tighter. The sudden barrage of light blinds both Jedi for a few seconds. When their sight returns, they notice that the flames have died down and illuminate the room, casting shadows upon the gray walls.

The deer, reluctant to enter the room at first, follows the pair in after the flames lower.

Jan turns to KG with a look of doubt that quickly changes to one of determination.

"Probably set to a sensor of some type," Jan mentions coolly. "Let's move on."

Moving around the pillar reveals a doorway that leads to another corridor that continues deeper into the dark recesses of the temple. Walking a few meters brings the group to a stone staircase leading down.

Leading the way, Kurrelgyrre begins descending the cold, stone staircase after handing Jan his glowrod and igniting his lightsaber. The narrow staircase leads down a short distance and turns to the right at the bottom.

As they walk down the steps, Kurrelgyrre sarcastically growls to his teacher, "If I didn't know better, I would say that the deer is following us."

"Focus, Kurrelgyrre," Jan straightforwardly replies.

After a brief moment, KG inquires, "What do you know of this place?"

Jan answers after a second, "Other than the fact that this is believed to be a Sith temple, absolutely nothing."

Moving into the passage a few meters and turning right at the next bend, both Jan and KG notice the dim, gray light that slowly oozes into the corridor. A doorway opens to the left a few meters down the corridor, which continues further to open into another chamber. Dim, gray light fills the room creating an ominous atmosphere.

"Let's check out the chamber first," Jan suggests to the wookiee.

The pair moves past the doorway and begin walking toward the chamber. As this moment, Kurrelgyrre notices that the deer is no longer behind them.

About halfway between the doorway and the chamber, Kurrelgyrre begins to hear what sounds like faint, distant whispers breathlessly repeating something in a rapid, chaotic pattern. KG's concentration on the unknown sound is broken when Jan states, "KG, use the Force to enhance your eyesight to take in more light. It should help us see better down here."

Concentrating for a few seconds, the wookiee's sight improves as he feels the Force engulf his eyes. Slowly, the breathless whispers return.

"Jan," KG softly says. "Do you hear those whispers?"

Jan pauses briefly for a second and replies, "I do now. We must move on, though."

The duo moves toward the chamber, and the whispers increase in quiet intensity sounding like thousands of people chanting in asynchronous rhythm. As Kurrelgyrre concentrates on the sounds, he is finally able to pick out what they are saying. "Jedi . . . Jedi . . . Jedi . . ." Amidst the whispers, a faint, blood-curdling scream is heard within the chaos.

Finally, the two reach the doorway to the chamber. Looking around with Force-enhanced vision, they quickly look around the room. The ten-meter-long room is virtually featureless except for what appears to be a stone altar at the far end. Surrounding the altar are three figures, almost ghostly in appearance. Two of the figures appear to be digging into the flesh of some sort of humanoid sacrifice while the third observes their progress.

The whispers continue to increase with intensity as the two Jedi watch the scene unfold before their eyes. As they watch, the three figures suddenly stop what they are doing, slowly turn to face the pair standing at the doorway, and stare at them from behind cold, emotionless gazes that send chills up Jan's spine.

Without warning, the whispers stop. The thick, unexpected silence fills the room as Jan and KG stare at the three watching back at them. Suddenly, Kurrelgyrre feels the temptation to look back down the corridor. The wookiee slowly turns his head . . .

Standing in the doorway is a silhouette of a man shadowed by the gray light filtering in behind it. A strange, supernatural sound faintly drifts down the hall and is quickly followed up by a word slowly spoken in a familiar language, "Hello."

A brief moment passes as Jan slowly turns to look down the corridor as well to see the silhouette.

In a fraction of a second, the silhouette traverses the space to stand inches in front of Kurrelgyrre, and a gray light appears from below to reveal the silhouette's appearance.

A pale, demonic-looking figure stands at KG's height. Its form, sunken with death and decay, looms before the wookiee as it stares with hollow eye sockets into his face. It opens its fanged maw and screams an intense roar that practically deafens the two Jedi. A gust of wind that smells of rotting flesh blows past the two as they flinch from the sudden burst of sound. Kurrelgyrre is unexpectedly grabbed by his chest and thrown back down the corridor. He tumbles through the air to impact hard against the stone wall and slumps to the floor. Jan feels an invisible force slam into his chest that thrusts him into the far corner of the room, painfully hitting the stone wall.

Kurrelgyrre quickly regains his footing and looks around. Down the passage to the right leading to the stairs, KG notices the slaughtered form of the small deer sprayed throughout the hallway, its blood and entrails dripping from the stone as if it had exploded. Looking into the room, KG observes that Jan regains his senses, instantly stands and ignites his lightsaber. The pale figure advances on him in a blindingly fast move, grabs his lightsaber by the handle and throws it across the room toward the doorway. The weapon tumbles through the air until the violet blade digs into the stone. Surprisingly, the lightsaber remains active and is held against the wall by an unknown force near ceiling level. The pale creature holds Jan pinned to the wall as the three from the altar move toward him in jittery, almost stop-action, movements.

Roaring as he charges, Kurrelgyrre sprints straight for the demonic figure. All five faces turn to greet the oncoming wookiee, the three ghostly creatures show emotionless expressions and the demonic one displays contempt.

Kurrelgyrre chops down with his energy blade, but the demonic figure merely sidesteps the blow. It hurls Jan across the room, and he slides face down across the stone just inches from the altar. The gray demon turns on the wookiee.

As the demon jabs an open hand at KG, an invisible force slams into KG's face and sends him sprawling backward into the wall. The demon moves with lightning speed to tower over the fallen wookiee, grabs a handful of fur from atop KG's head and starts to pull. Kurrelgyrre winces in pain and starts to slowly stand with the pull.

The three ghosts turn and begin to move toward Jan as he slowly, painfully starts to get up.

The demon grabs Kurrelgyrre's chin with a clawed hand and begins digging into the wookiee's flesh. KG howls in pain but tries to resist as he feels his head start to twist in an unnatural direction.

Jan regains his senses and rises to his feet, fighting back the pain in his body. He turns to see the ghosts advancing on him and quickly looks around for his lightsaber. Locating the active weapon, Jan reaches out with the Force, but the lightsaber does not budge.

Gaining enough willpower, Kurrelgyrre swings his lightsaber at the demon looming over him. The attack falls short as the blade slices into the stone floor.

The ghosts draw closer to Jan as he slowly backs against the altar. One of the ghosts appears to go into blurred convulsions for a second, shaking and twisting his head and arms. The convulsions stop, and the ghost is now wielding a wicked-looking serrated machete.

The demon continues to twist KG's head in its attempt to break his neck. As KG resists, he finds it harder and harder to maintain his strength.

Cornered against the altar with nowhere to go, Jan begins looking around for options and finds none.

Kurrelgyrre draws back with his lightsaber and attacks the demon once again. The blade cuts through the demon's left leg, causing the demon to scream in agony and release its hold on the wookiee. Jan's lightsaber suddenly deactivates and drops to the floor next to KG.

Seizing the opportunity, Jan reaches out with the Force and telekinetically draws his lightsaber into his hand and activating it once it is grasped. Swinging the blade before him, Jan advances on the ghosts. The violet blade passes uninhibited through the ghosts but separates the machete into two pieces that fall and loudly clang onto the floor.

KG leaps away from the demon as it clutches its leg. He turns and brings up his lightsaber in a defensive position and advances toward the demon.

The demon, seeming to ignore his injured leg, glares at Kurrelgyrre with white-hot anger and roars another deafening cry. A putrid wind passes over KG, inciting a sudden nausea in his stomach.

Fighting back the feeling, the wookiee stands his ground. As he looks back at the demon, KG's eyes widen as the demon slowly lifts off the ground and floats in midair.

Jan, now in a fighting stance, jumps into the air and somersaults over the three ghosts, landing on his feet about two meters behind the specters. Upon landing, Jan immediately scrambles to face the demon alongside his student.

Letting the Force flow through him, Kurrelgyrre reaches out and pushes against the airborne demon. The demon moves toward the ceiling a small distance but is able to maintain its general position.

The ghosts on the far side of the room slowly turn and begin marching toward the battle.

The demon's lips curl back as it snarls at the two Jedi standing firm against its attacks. Stretching forth its hand at Jan, its arm jerks slightly as blue lightning bolts shoot forth. Unable to react in time, Jan cries out in pain as the electricity arcs around and through his body. As the lightning subsides, Jan nearly drops to his knees in near exhaustion.

Jan, fighting back the temptation to collapse, stands back up and attacks the demon. The violet blade cuts through the demon's abdomen, spraying a thick, black ichor outward onto the floor and ceiling.

Kurrelgyrre moves in and strikes the demon with his lightsaber, severing the head from the rest of its body. The head drops to the stone floor and rolls against the wall, resting against it facing up at its slayer. Its mouth moves slightly as it utters a last, breathless word, "Soon . . ."

The lifeless corpse drops to the floor as it and the head begin to cave in on themselves. The skin begins turning ashen gray, then to black and starts to crumble. The bones buckle, and the remaining flesh begin withering before the eyes of the two Jedi. After seconds, all that remains is a black, rotted skeleton that soon fades from view.

Turning to face the ghosts, Jan and KG stop to see that the room is now vacant, bathed in the dim gray light as before.

"I hope that is all of them," Kurrelgyrre growls under his breath.

KG tries to sense any other dark side presences around as he is checking on Jan's condition. As he reaches out with his feelings, the wookiee detects the presence of the dark side all around them. But, an even darker presence is felt deeper within the temple, a presence that almost seems to be watching, waiting.

Kurrelgyrre turns to Jan and says, "Let's examine the room. I don't like this one bit. Are you hurt?"

After checking the scrapes on his face, Jan returns, "Not too badly. I'll be fine."

Searching the room reveals nothing. Another exit is near the altar on the opposite side of the room from the entrance.

Walking through the exit and down the stone hallway, the pair cautiously moves with ever-alert senses. Shortly, they come to an intersection where the passage continues straight and turns to the left.

KG begins looking frantically about as he hears the whispered chant start again. As he looks around, he can hear within the chaos of whispers a new word, "death".

When he turns back to Jan, he reels in shock as he gazes upon a humanoid creature standing before him where Jan once stood. The unclothed creature stares at the wookiee through sunken eyes that pierce KG's soul. Its dark brown flesh seems to drip off its face and large, pointed ears. Rips and cracks are aimlessly scattered across its hairless scalp and naked body. It opens its grossly fanged maw and utters a low growl as it stares hungrily at Kurrelgyrre and reaches out a clawed hand toward him.

The chaotic whispers continue as Kurrelgyrre steps back and ignites his lightsaber. The creature steps back from the wookiee, almost in surprise. It softly barks something as if trying to say something.

Reaching out through the Force, KG detects darkness very close around him at an almost claustrophobic range.

Overwhelming KG's hearing, the whispers intensify to an almost deafening volume. Faint screams heard within the whispers surrounding the wookiee sound of painful death. The relentless voices continue their aural onslaught, pushing KG to the brink of insanity. The chants of "Jedi, death, Jedi, death" are almost too much for the student, and he begins to wince in an attempt to block them out.

The creature quickly moves toward Kurrelgyrre.

Kurrelgyrre reaches out with his feelings to find his teacher to no avail.  But, he is able to smell him close by.

The creature grabs KG by the shoulders and loudly growls something at him.

The voices continue to grow louder and louder, painfully piercing the wookiee’s brain with its never-ending chant.  KG feels like he is going to snap very soon.

Using his sense of smell, Kurrelgyrre tracks Jan's scent to the creature standing before him. Reaching out with his feelings, KG is only able to detect darkness around him.

The whispers and screams continue their assault on the wookiee's mind.

KG touches the Jan-creature on the shoulder in a gesture of friendship. As soon as KG touches the creature’s shoulder, the voices cease. Opening his eyes, KG sees Jan standing in front of him with a worried look on his face.

"My apologies, Jan," KG says. "But the darkness has invaded my mind, clouding my senses and sense of reality. We must go forward, cautiously."

"I know," Jan replies. "I was trying to help you break through it, but you didn't seem to understand me. Are you alright?"

The wookiee nods and stands up, ready to continue. As they are about to move, Kurrelgyrre states, "You're just jealous because the voices are in my head!"

Jan smiles and moves ahead.

Standing at a "T" intersection that leads forward and right, both Jan and KG detect the darkness to be strongest down the left passage. Jan points down the corridor, slowly grabs his lightsaber and begins walking in that direction.

After walking a fair distance, the passage gradually descends deeper into the temple's catacombs. Another fair distance is traversed when the two Jedi-in-training emerge into a small, dim room about 5 meters wide. Across the unadorned room is what appears to be a doorway that has been sealed off for ages. Undisturbed dust rests on the floor. Sitting across the room from Jan and KG is another gray-skinned demon. This one appears to be feasting on the remains of some unfortunate animal. The kill must be fresh, for bright red blood can be seen trickling down the demon's pointed chin.

In the middle of devouring its meal, the demon stops and shifts his eyes to evilly glare at the pair standing in the doorway. It slowly lowers the food, letting the fresh blood pour down its face and onto the cold, stone floor. An evil grin grows on its face as it silently rises to stand by the sealed doorway. The demon begins to glide mere millimeters off the floor toward the two invaders, wiggling its clawed fingers in anticipation.

As the demon slowly approaches, Jan ignites his lightsaber and begins to slowly circle the demon to its left, ready to attack.

The demon dives at its closest target, Jan. Jan drops in an attempt to dodge underneath the incoming demon but is not fast enough, and the gray creature tackles him.

Jan retaliates by swinging the violet blade of his lightsaber into the demon's hip. As the demon howls in pain, Jan pushes it off him and rolls away toward the far side of the room.

KG moves in and attacks the demon from behind. Despite the pain from its new wound, the demon is able to move quickly enough to avoid the blow.

The demon turns on its new assailant and raises its hand toward the wookiee. Instantly, an arc of blue lightning shoots outs and strikes KG in his hairy chest. KG is knocked back against the stone wall as he screams in pain from the shock.

Jan moves in on the demon from behind and attacks with his lightsaber. Almost as if it knew, the demon sidesteps the incoming energy blade and turns to face the human.

Kurrelgyrre, ignoring the pain in his chest, swings his lightsaber at the demon while still prone on the floor. The fiery blade slices through the demon's left leg, dropping the now lifeless limb to the floor. The demon cries out again.

With a look of anger, the demon floats across the room toward the sealed door.

Reaching out with the Force, Jan pushes against the demon. The impact of the blow sends the demon sprawling uncontrollably through the air, until it crashes against the sealed door. The demon crashes through the seal and lands in the room on the opposite side. The room is only 3 meters across with no other observable exits.

Jan and KG rush to the formerly sealed doorway and observe the demon lying in the dust. It starts to get up but drops back onto the floor in pain.

Without warning, the voices that were silent until now begin again.

Jan, while watching the demon, quietly states to KG, "I sense that this room is the source of the darkness we have been feeling all this time."

On the other side of the room, something that looks like a deep black mist begins to seep out of the wall. The mist starts to swirl together and coalesce into a larger cloud formation within the room. The whispering voices slowly increase in volume to a more audible level.

Within seconds, the cloud quickly becomes visible, almost tangible, and begins to take an amorphous shape floating just millimeters above the floor.

Unexpectedly, oily, black tentacles burst from the cloud and grasp the demon as it lies on the dusty floor. A sudden look of fear overcomes the demon as it struggles futilely against the tentacles pulling it into the cloud.

As the demon reaches the edge of the cloud, a low rushing sound can be heard, and the demon begins to turn black as its flesh decays at an unnatural rate. Within a minute, all that remains of the demon is its skeletal remains and the black flaky remains of its flesh as they are drawn into the cloud.

After the cloud has finished absorbing the demon's flesh, a face forms within the cloud that turns to gaze at Jan and Kurrelgyrre. The face opens its mouth and utters a single word in a distant, raspy voice, "Jedi . . ." The cloud begins moving toward the pair standing in the doorway.

Without waiting, KG begins slowly moving away from the cloud. Jan stands firm and moves into his combat stance, raising his lightsaber to defend himself.

Seeing his teacher not moving, KG calls out, "Jan, come on!"

Instantly, a single tentacle shoots out from the cloud at the Jedi standing in the doorway. Jan manages to dodge it as it flies past his head. Moving back toward his Wookiee student, Jan replies, "I think you're right."

Shutting down their lightsabers, Jan and Kurrelgyrre begin their flight from the room. The cloud slowly chases after them with an almost patient demeanor.

Quickly reaching the altar room, KG pauses and looks back down the corridor that they just left, and Jan stops at the far doorway to wait for his student. His eyes widen upon seeing the cloud emerge from the wall and continue to loom towards them.

The cloud seems to be moving faster and shoots out another tentacle at the Wookiee. Barely managing to dive away from the attack, Kurrelgyrre sees the tentacle smack against the far wall and pull a stone out of the wall into its swirling mass.

Scrambling to his feet, the two Jedi continue to run from the dark cloud pursuing them up the stone stairs to the upper level.

Reaching the top of the stairs, the Jedi continue to flee as the mist of darkness rapidly seethes through the stairs and launches yet another tentacle. The black, oily mass wraps around Jan's leg and holds tight as it pulls him to the stone floor. Landing hard, the impact knocks the wind out of the young Jedi and forces the lightsaber out of his hand, sending it sprawling across the room.

Regaining his senses after a brief second, Jan instantly realizes that he is being pulled toward the dark mist now floating at the top of the stairs. Jan reaches out with the Force and pulls his weapon to his hand, instantly ignites the lightsaber and attacks the tentacle holding his leg. Much to his surprise, the deadly, purple blade glides harmlessly through the black appendage.

Kurrelgyrre, realizing on the far side of the chamber that his teacher is no longer beside him, turns to behold the incident unfolding across the room and charges at the mist while igniting the flame-like blade of his lightsaber. Letting out a loud roar, KG swings at the tentacle wrapped around Jan's leg. Much to Jan's surprise, the Wookiee's lightsaber cuts through the tentacle without hindrance, freeing Jan from the cloud's grasp. The dark mist retreats from the attack, almost as if it is in pain.

Scrambling to his feet, Jan suddenly feels a sharp pain shoot through his entire leg from a wound caused by the black tentacle. Trying to ignore the pain, Jan quickly moves across the room with Kurrelgyrre and into the corridor.

Approaching the energy trap as they run toward the doorway leading out of the temple, a loud scream echoes through the corridor that seems to cut at the very souls of the two Jedi. With his lightsaber still ignited, Jan swings the weapon above his head just as a searing ray shoots down from the ceiling and deflects the bolt into the wall.

With the entrance in sight, Jan and Kurrelgyrre suddenly find a second wind as they feel through the Force the dark presence of the cloud closing on them with lightning speed, its anger almost glowing in the dark recesses of the ancient corridor. The duo sprint toward daylight, mere meters from the opening, as they feel the mist closing on them. The vaporous mist launches two more of its slick, black tentacles at the fleeing Jedi as they bolt through the entrance into full sunlight. The tentacles dart into the sunlight and instantly disintegrate into dark ashes that flutter to the paved ground around the temple. A hollow scream is heard from the portal as it slowly fades to become part of the wall once more.

Upon hearing the scream, Jan and KG stop and turn to watch the opening disappear. After a moment of staring at the temple, Jan looks to his Wookiee companion and says, "Remind me never to go there again."

Without warning, the pain returns in Jan's leg, and he drops to his knees while fighting it back. Kurrelgyrre steps toward him to help his teacher, but Jan waves him back. After a brief moment, the cringed look on his face melts away to one of tranquility. Taking off his boot, Jan pulls up the pant leg to reveal an ashen-gray wound that looks as if the skin has died.

"That doesn't look good," Kurrelgyrre states bluntly.

Jan looks up to his student and replies, "You can say that again." Kurrelgyrre continues to look at the wound as Jan enters a meditative trance for a brief moment.

Finally breaking the silence as he starts to roll his pant leg down and put his boot back on, Jan says, "Come on. Let's head back to the academy. I think I hear a bed calling for me."

With a look of concern, KG adds, "What about your leg?"

"Trust in the Force, Kurrelgyrre," Jan answers, rising to his feet. "Life and the Force go hand-in-hand. My leg will be healed.

"Now, let's get started. We have a long walk ahead of us," Jan continues as the two walk away from the ruins into the Yavin forest.

This work of fiction was written in 1999 by Patrick Stutzman and Trampas Whiteman.
Star Wars® and other associated elements are copyright by Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Though understood that fan fiction is technically a copyright violation,
this work is not meant as a challenge to that copyright.