This piece was written as part of the weekly prompt at the SWTOR forums, a simply fantastic place with a gaggle of lovely writers and readers. It’s fantastic to have a challenge to get the ideas going and even learn new things about characters.
Title: Only the Force
Prompt: Passing On (on the subject of death)
Characters: Aitahea Daviin (Consular), Satele Shan
Chronology: Weeks after the Sacking of Coruscant, years before Luminous.
The little girl’s feet dangled over the stream as she sat on one of the sweeping branches that arched over the water. The youngling, Aitahea, liked the muted bubbling sound it made. She’d never heard a sound like that before on Coruscant.
It was one of a million things that separated Brentaal from Coruscant. Instead of the constant sound of speeder traffic, it was the wind whispering through the trees. Instead of buildings of duracrete and transparisteel, there were spires and cliffs of stone. Instead of the bustling yet peaceful Coruscant Temple, there were the idyllic cities and quiet natural spaces of Brentaal. The Republic outpost was like nowhere she’d ever been. Everything was so different.
And it had taken only hours to change.
As one of the few Jedi survivors of the Sacking of Coruscant, Aitahea had been whisked away from the beleaguered world as soon as the peace treaty was passed and the blockade lifted. The young empath – away from the Temple at an event with her family when the razing occurred – had been shuffled from safehouse to safehouse as the Sith hunted down Jedi throughout the Galactic City in the following days. Of course it wasn’t only the Jedi who suffered – hundreds of thousands of civilians were also killed.
And they blamed the Jedi.
Aitahea couldn’t understand it. Why were the Jedi in trouble? They hadn’t hurt anyone. The Sith… they killed Master Faron. So why-
No, she thought. Master Faron used to say that life and death were both of the Force. There was no death, only the Force.
Then why do I miss him so much?
Aitahea swiped the back of her hand across her cheeks, scrubbing away the tears that had suddenly started flowing. She missed everyone in her little clan of empaths; she missed their presences, the group of them like little glowmoths fluttering around a light, never without companionship. She missed her parents, too, and her baby sister, Tember. She even missed the never-sleeping, never-silent world of Coruscant.
She was about to release a heartbroken sob when she felt a comforting presence behind her. “M-master Faron?” she cried, twisting around on the branch to look behind her.
Instead, Aitahea saw Satele Shan approaching, smiling gently. “Hello, youngling.”
“Master Shan!” Aitahea hiccupped and scrambled down from the huge branch, easing her way with the Force.
“Well well, little Aitahea, that’s some impressive work there.” Master Shan knelt to the child’s level as she approached and reached out to smooth the little girl’s platinum hair back from her tearstained face. “Did Master Faron teach you that?”
“Um, not really, Master Shan,” Aitahea replied cautiously, scuffing one small boot against the grass. “I just sort of figured it out, I guess. I don’t like falling down hard.”
Satele laughed warmly. “I don’t blame you. Nevertheless, that’s a very advanced skill. You’re very strong. Why is such a strong little girl crying?”
Aitahea fidgeted, considering her answer. She knew there were a lot of Masters who didn’t think attachments were a good idea. But Aitahea was very lucky and had gotten to see her parents a lot even after she joined the Jedi Temple. And she loved her family, especially baby Tember, even though she didn’t get to see her a lot.
And she knew she’d loved Master Faron and her youngling clan at the Temple. They were so close, how could she not love them? Love made her feel happy and safe and warm, and that’s what being with Master Faron and her friends had felt like. Now she was alone, and she was cold and frightened. If loving someone meant it was an attachment, and attachments were dangerous, Aitahea wasn’t sure what her answer should be.
So she told the truth.
“I miss Master Faron, and my friends, and my family.” Tears began to well up in the youngling’s green eyes again and the quiet voice cracked as she spoke. “I know that ‘there is no death, only the Force,’ but it’s hard to think about when I can’t feel them… like I used to.”
Satele’s smile softened and her eyes shone with what looked like tears, but Aitahea couldn’t imagine a great Jedi like Master Shan crying. “You love them.”
At this, Aitahea could no longer contain her emotions. She broke into sobs, tears streaming down her face. She was embarrassed at being so weak in front of Master Shan. She missed her loved ones. She had loved ones, and was breaking Jedi code. She was so afraid of what would happen to her – what had already happened. She was all wrong.
In the midst of her turmoil, Aitahea felt warm arms wrapping around her. Satele pulled the youngling close, nestling the weeping girl onto her shoulder. She said nothing, but Aitahea felt a wash of feelings from the Jedi: regret, gladness, longing, peace, and at the root of it all… love.
Aitahea cried herself out, and Master Shan held her patiently the entire time. When she’d quieted, Satele smoothed back the girl’s pale hair once again and stood the girl up with gentle hands.
“Aitahea,” she began, dropping her hands to pick up the little girl’s tiny ones in her own, “you will be a strong, wise Jedi, because of who you are and what you have been through. Your master was right: death is a part of the Force.” The smile she gave to Aitahea was heartbreaking. “But that does not mean it isn’t difficult.
“I have been where you are, youngling. I’ve lost those I cared about; masters, friends…” For a moment, Satele’s eyes grew far away. “But I can live for them. The actions that I take can speak the words they would have said. We still live to serve.”
Aitahea pursed her lips, considering. “So it’s okay if I love them? Even if they’re gone?”
Master Shan broke into a brilliant smile. “If that love prompts you to do the right thing, yes. No matter where your loved ones are; in the Force, or at your side. It’s why we take care of strangers all over the galaxy, youngling. Because they all deserve love, no matter what.”
The youngling thought on the elder Jedi’s words for a moment, then nodded with a certain finality. “I think I understand, Master Shan.” The girl chanced a wobbly smile. “Thank you.”
“Of course, Aitahea.” Satele Shan stood up then, offering an open hand to the child. “Come now, let’s go back to camp. Whoever that trooper cook is, it smells like he needs our help!”
Aitahea’s returning smile was fully childish, all crinkled nose and glittering eyes. “Okay.” She placed her hand in Master Shan’s and aligned herself to walk with the Jedi. Satele herself glanced back over one shoulder as the pair walked away, smiling toward the transparent shimmer in the shape of Master Faron, smiling silently from across the bubbling stream.