Chapter 1: Wear Layers
“Younglings, this way… and hurry!” Jedi Master Faron called, sweeping the children past him into a small classroom. His five – no, four – young charges scampered through the open door and darted into the shadows, feeling their minder’s urgency. Master Faron glanced down the hallway before silently closing the door behind him. Children scrambled under desks and chairs as the Jedi Temple quaked around them.
“M-m-master Faron?” a wavering voice called.
“Hush now, younglings. We must be silent,” Faron shushed, reaching out in the Force to brush each young mind reassuringly. He felt in return fear, confusion, and anxiety, though it calmed minutely at his touch. Beyond their tiny study room, there was even worse: pain, anguish, and… death.
“Little ones. Listen to me,” the minder whispered, “Search your memories… find the very happiest one you know, and meditate on it. Live… live in that memory.” Faron closed his eyes, a moment of regret, an instant of concern. Then he detached his lightsaber from his belt.
Master Faron hadn’t powered on the weapon in more than twenty years. He carried it as the symbol it was: to demonstrate that he was a member of the Jedi Order. He’d never had to kill, only rarely had to defend himself even at the worst of times. The empath had spent the majority of his time as a Jedi training Initiates like himself, some of the most vulnerable of Force-sensitive children.
He continued to sense his young students, settling into peaceful meditations as he’d asked. He projected one last soothing aura and then left the room in silence, lightsaber gripped tightly in his hand. They were coming. Sith.
Master Faron ignited his lightsaber; green, traditional for a Consular. He gazed into the blade’s bright glow for a moment, and then the attackers swept around the corner. The sage actually found himself recoiling from the aura of dark side energy surrounding the three Sith who approached.
“Well, well, well, my friends. What is this, now?” The closest sneered, whipping the ruby blade of her lightsaber around in a lazy circle. Master Faron shifted to a defensive stance and said nothing.
A Zabrak female sniggered. “It’s a minder, isn’t it? Like a nursemaid?” She edged up behind the leader, leering. “Obviously he’s protecting some little innocent Jedi children around here.”
Master Faron stiffened, a shock of panic racing up his spine. He felt one of his students falter in his blissful meditation, surprised and curious. The final Sith, a tall human male, lightsaber unlit, pushed past the other two and stood face to face with the Jedi Consular.
“We aren’t here to play games, you two nitwits,” he hissed, circling to Faron’s left side, away from the classroom door. The Jedi followed his movements closely, keeping his lightsaber as a ward between himself and the Sith, between his children and the darkness.
“Fine, then, if you’re going to be that way about it. He looks too soft for me, anyway,” the first replied, shrugging and deactivating her lightsaber with a snap. The Zabrak giggled again, no mirth in the sound at all.
“You can’t protect them, you know,” the man said, gazing solidly into Faron’s eyes. The gaze of the Sith was tinged with red, just the slightest glow marring otherwise perfectly normal human eyes. Faron shook his head.
“It is not whether I can or cannot, Sith. It is what is determined by the Force. You cannot understand.”
The young Sith smiled maliciously, his eyes blazing brighter for a moment. “It’s not that I cannot, poor Jedi. It’s that I simply don’t care.”
And then he attacked. Master Faron blocked the first two blows easily, but a third seared deep into his shoulder, a jolt of fiery agony that left his weapon hand numb. His lightsaber dropped from nerveless fingers, the blade sizzling out instantly. Moments after, a vast roar sounded, the rumble of stone and mortar breaking apart. Dust fell between the two opponents as they glared into each other’s eyes. One of the children in the classroom screamed.
“See, Master Jedi? There is nothing you can do. We will tear this temple down atop you; it will be your final resting place. The Jedi are finished.”
Jedi Master Faron straightened boldly, facing the Sith. “Our work is never finished, young man. The Jedi live on. The galaxy will see peace again.” He paused for a moment, reaching out to his initiates, a final touch of calm and… love. “You cannot win.”
The Sith smiled bleakly, shook his head, and raised his lightsaber. “On the contrary.” His blade struck-
Aitahea shot upright, grasping the sheets to her throat. The outcry was trapped in her chest, binding her heart into a knot, painful and tight.
“Lights!” she gasped, waiting agonizing seconds until the room slowly brightened. She looked to her left, eyes automatically seeking out the silver cylinder of her lightsaber hilt on the stand next to the bed. It lay there looking solid and real, and she reached out with a trembling hand to touch it, to feel the reassurance of cool metal and crystal.
More than ten years later, and the Sacking of Coruscant still haunted the young Jedi Master. She was only a child, an Initiate when the tenuous peace began in the wake of the Sith Empire’s attack – Aitahea now held the power and prestige that could have saved them all. Her fellow younglings and Master Faron, all murdered, and only she remained.
Wakeful but now calm, Aitahea considered the dream, taking it to pieces and examining each part without emotion. Part dream, part memories that were not her own, shared through the Force. She hadn’t been in the Jedi Temple at the time it was attacked and couldn’t know of this specific event. Saved by a twist a fate, a simple scheduling occurrence that placed her safely elsewhere on Coruscant as the temple was razed. She was the fifth youngling, the unaccounted-for child.
As a strong empath, Aitahea hadn’t needed to be near the temple to feel the suffering of her friends and teachers. Seated next to her younger sister Tember and their father as they watched their mother and wife being honored for her work as a teacher, Aitahea had gone rigid and white as snow when the Sith attack on the Temple began. The young Initiate gasped like one drowning, and in the same instant the doors crashed in. Imperial troopers flooded into the school, weapons aimed and ready.
Though not Jedi, it was Aitahea’s parents that saved everyone that day. After calming the audience, Aitahea’s mother negotiated a detainment period for the faculty and attendees of the school and the other visitors who were in attendance that evening. Rather than the devastation that could have occurred, the Daviin family kept their precious community calm, and two days later when the Treaty of Coruscant was passed, all the captives were released unharmed… including Aitahea, her Force-sensitivity and early Jedi training hidden.
And she knew she owed everything to them. Her parents, who continued to teach. The remaining Jedi who whisked her off of Courscant and continued her training. Her master, her friends, and those who had perished at the hands of the Sith.
When Aitahea dreamed of the Jedi Temple, all her trials, all her knowledge, all her triumphs against the Sith felt small next to the sacrifices of those who came before her.
There was no point in lingering on the sadness of the past; that way lay the dark side. With a sigh, the Consular rose from her bed, dressing silently in the earthtone robes of the Order. She wore almost no armor, relying instead on more peaceful methods of interaction; when diplomacy failed to diffuse a dangerous situation, the light tunic and robes allowed for the agility and speed she preferred. She’d just slipped into the subtly-patterned chestnut cloak when the comm in her private quarters pinged.
“Master, are you awake?” A robotic voice called across the connection. It was C2-N2, the ship’s droid. “I’m deeply sorry to disturb your rest, Master Daviin, but there’s an urgent comm for you from Tython. Shall I send it to your quarters?”
“No, thank you, C2, I’ll be out in a moment.” Aitahea smiled at the earnest voice, then ran a hand lightly over her pale hair, smoothing a few flyaway strands into the intricate braids. She left the hood of her cloak down and clipped her lightsaber to her belt before exiting her quarters. Her ship, the Luminous, hosted not only herself and the fretful protocol droid, but her friend and pilot, Prelsiava Tern, as well as several ambassadors from the Outer Rim. Already on their way to Coruscant to deliver the ambassadors, Aitahea was surprised to hear from the ancestral home of the Jedi.
In the main room, Aitahea activated the holocomm and stepped back to see Grand Master Satele Shan flicker into existence. Aitahea straightened; while she had known Master Shan since she herself was a youngling, being called upon directly by the heart of the Jedi Order was a significant occasion. The Grand Master’s features, mature but still sharply beautiful, regarded the young Jedi with approval.
“Grand Master, it’s an honor,” Aitahea smiled and offered a respectful bow.
“Aitahea Daviin, it’s wonderful to see you. You’ve been making an exceptional impression on the Council of late.” The Grand Master’s warm smile crinkled the corners of her dark eyes. “Even when you were a child, I knew you would do great things for the Republic.”
Aitahea felt a blush spread across her cheeks but simply nodded her appreciation of the praise. “I only seek to follow the Force, Grand Master. How can I be of service to the Order?”
“Gracious as always, Master Daviin. Your willingness is appreciated. We need you now to attend to an important mission. We have recently received some disturbing intelligence that a Sith apprentice has been hunting down Rakata artifacts in the Outer Rim.”
Aitahea nodded gravely, her delicate features drawn. “I’ve had firsthand experience with some of these relics. They can be exceptionally dangerous.”
“Just so, Master Daviin. Both the Jedi and the Sith have made extreme efforts to locate and retrieve these ancient technologies, but this artifact’s powers are distinctly troubling: the Sith are seeking a generator or focus of some kind that can – through a gruesome ritual sacrifice – empower a single Force-user to epic proportions. Invincibility, even immortality, or so the rumors state.”
An icy shiver raced up the Consular’s spine as she listened to the Grand Master. “That is without a doubt a tool of the dark side, Master.”
“Which is why we need to locate and secure it first. Allowing the Sith to use this technology to create such a living Force weapon is unacceptable.” Master Shan appeared to pace restlessly in the holo, arms folded and posture tense. “You’ve proven to be an exceptional investigator when it comes to relics like this one, and in the case of it being found by this Sith apprentice first, we trust in your diplomatic skills to sway her to give the generator up. And as a last resort…”
“Of course, Grand Master,” Aitahea nodded, reluctance in her voice. As a Consular, she was a gentle voice of reason first, a warrior second – though she was as equally accomplished with her lightsaber as she was in diplomacy. She regretted every life she’d ever taken, but lived in the solace that it was for the benefit of the Republic and the galaxy… she hoped.
“In addition to the focusing artifact, we suspect there will also be a Rakata-Sith holocron with instructions on how to use it. They may be found in the same location, but it’s more likely they were separated and lost at some point, whether by accident or with intention.”
Aitahea confirmed, sending a brief message to change course to Prelsiava over her datapad. “I’ll start the search immediately, Grand Master Shan.”
“Thank you, Aitahea. I’m sending the intelligence we’ve already gathered to you now.” Aitahea’s datapad chimed, and she spared a glance to the information that began scrolling across the screen. “And we aren’t sending you alone.”
Aitahea’s head shot up, eyes surprised. “I expected this to be a solo mission if it requires such strident confidentiality, Master.”
Grand Master Shan gave a brief smile before retreating to her typical stoic expression. “The Republic military has a vested interest in this artifact being recovered and secured and has extended their own offer of assistance on this mission.”
Aitahea genuinely appreciated the skills and efforts put forth by the Republic military in several of her recent assignments. She had been sent frequently in the past to add the support and expertise of the Jedi to particularly troubling or unusual missions, and for the most part had seen nothing less than the fiercest and most selfless of warriors, sacrificing much for the good of the Republic.
Nevertheless, even in the years after the Sacking of Coruscant, the Jedi still found themselves mistrusted and even despised by certain factions in the Senate. While military members seldom shared the ire of those in high places on Coruscant, the Order was considered more of a convenient and powerful tool than the wise council it had been.
“Of course, Grand Master. Any help is welcome.” Aitahea meant it wholeheartedly. A detective mission of this sort always benefited from extra sets of eyes.
“Excellent. You’ll be rendezvousing with Major…” Satele’s eyes ran over a datapad briefly handed to her from outside the holo, “Erithon Zale. He’ll meet you at Aurek Base on Hoth. Our last piece of intelligence indicated that the Sith apprentice is headed there. She may already be planetside, so you’ll have to hurry.”
“I’ll have Prelsiava drop me at the orbital station; she can continue on to Coruscant with the ambassadors we have on board.”
“Very well, Master Daviin. The Republic squad is already en route; you’ll meet them on the surface.” Master Shan paused meaningfully, tilting her head with a brief but amused smirk at Aitahea. “Wear layers, Master Jedi.”
07.23.14 UPDATE: The summer swallowed me for a while, and I was going through a phase of “write something you can publish for money, brain” and then I thought you know, if I’m writing, I’m getting better, so there we are. I’ve been fortunate to have some beta reading on this portion which I think helped with the overall quality of the text. I also attempt to make it accessible to someone who isn’t as familiar as this universe as we are, so hopefully you’ll feel comfortable even if you haven’t partaken in the Consular storyline in-game.
Chapter 2: Part of the Force
Major Erithon Zale clenched his teeth against the chill and hunched up his shoulders under his armor. A grumble of discomfort sounded from the shuttle pilot, setting Erithon chuckling. “Problem?”
A barked laugh came as reply. “Not a thing, Major, if you don’t mind the ends of your fingers freezing off.”
“That’s not the only thing you’ll freeze off on this planet, pal.” Hearty laughter erupted from the pilot, and even the major had to smile.
“Good to have a laugh, sir, thanks. It’s been bitter out here, and I don’t just mean the cold.” Erithon nodded; border skirmishes, back and forth claims of treaty violations all over the galaxy, and Sith and Jedi at odds around every corner. The galaxy was not a kind place right now. Laughter was in short supply, so even an unsophisticated jest was welcome.
“We’re about to land,” the piloted noted, gesturing at the sensor panel – Erithon glanced over them, then attempted to peer out the front viewport. There was nothing out there but blind, swirling whiteness.
“If you say so, there’s no telling from here.” Erithon chuckled, nodding at the shuttle pilot who cautiously moved the craft through the icy flurry. The ship plunged and veered, alarms suddenly shrieking. Both Erithon and the pilot strained against their safety webbing.
“I thought you said you’d flown on Hoth before!” Erithon called, grasping at the webbing and trying to stabilize his own movement.
“Sir, we’re being fired upon!” the pilot snarled back, attempting to control their suddenly disturbed descent.
Erithon jerked to his left as the transport swerved and dropped violently. “What? By whom?” Even in the midst of the fierce motion, Erithon took a moment to wonder who out there was that good of a shot in a storm like this, and he almost chuckled. The ship bucked again, this time clearly a direct hit.
“Unknown, sir! Hang on, we’ve lost propulsion – we’re going down!”
Isme dropped her arm and found herself trembling. It wasn’t with chill – no, she had plenty of technology-infused layers as well as her own Force skills to keep the cold from her skin – but with the effort. It was simple enough to seek out the two life forms coming into the atmosphere in the Republic shuttle. She knew the shuttle was going to be headed this way, and Republic boys all had the same pallid, soggy presence in the Force. But giving the focus to the pirate she’d borrowed, showing him the appropriate aim, taking the shot; that took effort.
She didn’t like forcing others to do her dirty work. She didn’t like forcing others at all. A throwback to being a slave, she supposed, but now that she was Sith it was simply duty. She would learn to do it, or she would be destroyed, one way or another.
Yet another reason she was on this frigid iceball called a planet; in service to her master. She was still a slave at the end of the day, and it stung. It burned and *****led and made Isme furious. But the faster she did this task, the closer she came to her own freedom – true freedom. She would be granted the title of Darth, and then she would be beholden to no one.
Just as this pirate thought he was. He was fighting her Force-control again, grimacing and grunting in his own effort to raise the assault cannon toward her head.
The apprentice sighed, Hoth’s icy wind stealing the breath away instantly. She didn’t bother to use her lightsaber – that would leave telling marks – and instead pulled her fingers into a fist, shattering a small but vital part of the man’s brain, an injury that would be invisible to all but the most thorough of medical droids. The body flopped unceremoniously to the frozen ground where it would be buried quickly by the whirling snow. If it weren’t scavenged by the wampas that were hunting nearby, that is.
“Poor fool. At least you are free now.”
Despite all the warnings, Aitahea gasped as the first draft of stinging Hoth air hit her face. For a split second she thought something was wrong – the air seemed to scorch her skin. Then she realized that it was simply so blisteringly cold as to invoke a burning sensation.
She swept the sensation of numbing chill to the back of her mind and ignored it enough to concentrate. She took caution to leave adequate consciousness in place in order to avoid any irreparable damage. Even on the interior of Aurek Base, ice and frost coated the walls, climbing like a living thing through cracks in the durasteel walls. Aitahea decided to keep a brisk pace as she moved through the base.
Like most Republic military bases, Aurek was bustling with activity, although regular work was slowed by the ever-present chill and creeping ice. Everything had to be modified to work in the sub-zero temperatures, from speeders to computers to weapons. There was no lack of work to be done, and the Jedi could feel the urgency that permeated the atmosphere.
“Master Jedi, thank goodness you’re here! We need your help!” The Aurek Base commanding officer was dashing toward Aitahea as she turned the corner into central command. She raised her eyebrows and rushed forward to meet the harried officer.
“I was under the impression I was here to help indeed, Commander, just not so soon. What’s happened?” Aitahea asked calmly, projecting a sense of serenity into the room.
“The shuttle with the rest of your team has been shot down, north of our location. They were on their way in when they crashed.” The commander led Aitahea to a console where a holoprojection of the area displayed the base and the crash in reference to each other. “We believe they’re here, Master Jedi, at the base of these ice cliffs.”
“But you don’t know for certain, Commander?”
“I’m afraid not. We lost contact just as they were entering the atmosphere because of the storm, but our projections indicate they should be in that area. We’ve sent a rescue team out, but it’ll take a while to go around those cliffs.” The man shook his head, reaching up to rub his face with gloved hands.
“I can reach them faster, Commander.” Aitahea stood back from the projection, folding her arms. “And it would be best to be sure there are survivors before we put another team at risk trying to reach them. I’ll leave immediately.”
“Thank you, Master Jedi. I was hoping you’d say just that.” He looked relieved. “But I have to warn you; we suspect they were shot down by pirates or another unidentified enemy. You could be heading into dangerous territory.”
Aitahea nodded, dropping her hand to the lightsaber on her belt. “What part of Hoth isn’t dangerous, I wonder?”
“As you say, Master Jedi. I’ve taken the liberty of requesting a snow speeder and as much emergency equipment as it can carry – if there are survivors, they may need shelter and medical assistance.” The commander shut down the projection before turning back to the Jedi. “They’re waiting for you at the speeder pad. Did they supply you with sufficient cold-weather gear at the station?”
“Yes,” Aitahea replied, pulling back a sleeve to reveal the close-fitted bodysuit under her Jedi robes. She tugged her hood a little closer around her face and nodded. “I’ll be fine – and I’d best be moving quickly.”
“I’ll take you to the entrance now, Master Jedi. You have my apologies – we didn’t plan to have your expedition begin like this.”
“Not at all, Commander. We do what we must. Was there any additional intel on the Sith apprentice we’re searching for? Is it possible she’s the one who shot down the shuttle?”
The Commander shook his head. “I’m afraid I can’t say either way. The storm was interfering with much of our sensor equipment. You may be able to discern from the… the wreckage.” The commander swallowed painfully, shaking his head. The commander and the Jedi approached the hangar bay, busy aides adding the few last items to a speeder that was ready and waiting.
“The Force is with us, Commander. I’ll contact you as soon as I can.” Aitahea swung astride the speeder, checking the navigation briefly, and soared out of Aurek base toward what she hoped would be survivors.
Aitahea flew straight toward the cliffs on the map; she would be able to climb directly down in a fraction of the time a rescue squad would take to navigate around or be obligated to manually rappel down the frozen cliff face. Besides, she felt movement in the Force; it seemed unlikely that the shuttle would have been shot down by pirates. Haste would be necessary.
The Jedi’s brief study of the situation on Hoth during her trip there had indicated the strong presence of several pirate groups, scavengers, as well as Imperial military, but there were few major conflicts near any of the areas each group had claimed for their own. Skirmishes happened more frequently over unclaimed territories and even single ships in the interstellar graveyard that the ice-bound planet had become.
A pirate or even Imperial military attack this close to the Republic base being out of the question, even without the whispers of Force presence Aitahea was left suspecting it was their Sith quarry, attempting to sabotage her pursuit before it had even begun.
A few hours of bitter travel on the snowspeeder brought Aitahea to the edge of the cliffs. The storm had cleared, but she understood how the base wouldn’t have had a clear view of where the shuttle had crashed. The plain the base stood on ended in sheer cliffs that dropped hundreds of feet to a surface of crumbled ice and snow below; the drop ran to the horizon in either direction, meaning a speeder would have to spend a significant amount of time diverging from the straight path the Jedi could take.
Aitahea crept close to the edge, cautious of any loose ice or snow, and peered over the sheer cliff face. The height was dizzying, but the wreckage of the shuttle could be seen easily through the lazy flurries. Smoke still rose from the craft, and with a rush of relief, Aitahea found she sensed human life near the wreckage. She sent a brief message back to the base via her comlink, confirming survivors and notifying Aurek Base that she would be descending the ice cliffs to attend to any needs they had.
She didn’t wait for a reply before preparing to rappel down the sheer drop. The speeder had been packed efficiently; Aitahea had only to don the pack that had been strapped to the back and she was ready to set up a secure, warm camp for the survivors. Getting down the cliff face was another matter. Aitahea found a rope in the included equipment and quickly set an anchor. She took one last look over the edge, noting some movement around the crashed shuttle. Someone was still mobile down there.
Aiding her movement with the Force, Aitahea gently eased herself over the edge and began her decent. Within moments she found herself dangling in the freezing void, spinning slowly in a recess in the ice. She shuddered once before she could clamp down on the fear and right herself, continuing to drop toward the crumbled ice and snow below.
Continuing to slide, the Jedi quickly discovered that the rope provided for her wouldn’t be long enough to reach the ground below. There were still over a hundred feed between herself and the floor of the ice plain below. Aitahea frowned; this would cause a problem not only for the remainder of her journey down but also any chance for climbing back to the speeder and safety with survivors.
Steeling herself for the drop, Aitahea dangled carefully at the end of the rope, measuring the distance with her eyes. It would take an extraordinary use of the Force to control and cushion her fall, but it would be necessary. With a shuddering breath of chill air, Aitahea released the rope and opened herself to the Force.
The feel of it was like… there was nothing to compare to. She was flooded with power and fought to keep it in check, overwhelmed with a sudden insight into the universe around her. She felt at once insignificant, yet entirely precious and unique. She sharpened her focus, imagining the shape of her own form in reference to the planet, and the safety of the ground still far beneath her.
It felt like an eternity. Aitahea left her eyes closed; the Force gave her a sense of the ground rushing toward her and allowed her to stay upright. Her robes fluttered around her, frigid air cutting through the cold weather gear and chilling her to the bone. She waited until she was several dozen feet away from the ground before slowing and gingerly touching one foot to the ice below. Finally she was safe on the ground, trembling in the wake of her charged journey.
A figure climbed out of the damaged shuttle, raising an arm in greeting. Aitahea raised her hand in return and moved quickly to close the final distance. She would have been recognized as a Jedi and the being’s presence in the Force – a human male – was relieved and grateful, with an undertone of frustration and brittle helplessness.
Compared to the fall from the rope, the dash across the snowy plain to the shuttle was short and easy. The man walked to meet Aitahea as she approached, pulling off a trooper’s helmet as they met.
“Master Jedi? Didn’t expect to see you so soon,” he tried to joke. “Major Erithon Zale.” He gave a lopsided smile, but his blue eyes were rueful.
Aitahea nodded in greeting. “Aitahea Daviin. I wish we’d met under better circumstances, Major, but it seems our investigation has already begun. Is the shuttle still intact? I brought a shelter with, but the shuttle would be preferable.”
“It’s still alright, mostly. But the pilot…” Erithon glanced back over his shoulder. The Jedi nodded; she’d sensed only Erithon when she was looking for survivors.
“I’m sorry for your loss, Major.” Aitahea pushed comfort and gentle regret into the Force, echoing the sound of the sentiment in her voice. Erithon shrugged and turned to face the shuttle, waving for the Jedi to follow.
“Comes with the job, as I’m sure you know, Master Jedi. The backup power is still working in the shuttle, so we have heat. We’ll plan better if we’re warm.”
Erithon had been more than a little surprised to see the tiny figure floating down the cliff face, and after a brief moment of panic, opted for the binoculars rather than a blaster. It was a Jedi, not pirates, Imperials, or worse.
He initially felt hard-pressed to be grateful or gracious to the woman who’d approached – he almost wanted to call her a girl. Even with the layers of traditional Jedi robes over the same cold weather gear he wore, she was a head shorter than him, all huge green eyes and pale face inside the hood.
She followed quickly, noting with a moment of silent reverence the human-sized bundle wrapped in plastifiber slightly behind the grounded shuttle. Erithon waited for her, leaning on the portal frame, silent and appreciative.
He didn’t know much about Jedi. He’d served with a few Knights during other missions and had always been grateful for their help. They were skilled warriors, to be sure, but more often than not held themselves away from the rest of the enlisted troops. He didn’t get the impression at the time that these Jedi thought they were better. They simply did… Jedi things. Meditated. Whatever.
But this woman seemed different right away. He knew from her file she was a Consular, a talented diplomat and empath, but even in the scant few moments they’d spoken, she had struck him as very different than the other Jedi he’d met. He watched her drop from that cliff face like a professional climber, never mind the flat-out drop at the end when she’d run out of rope.
And when she approached… he’d felt warmer, all the sudden. A well of hope had sprung up in his mind, easing the bitter regret and frustration of losing yet another fellow soldier. There’d been many, but every one still weighed heavy on his heart.
Erithon Zale waited anxiously as the Jedi remained motionless in the bitter Hoth air. He wanted to reach down and clasp the woman’s shoulder, draw her away and offer some comfort. What a ridiculous idea, he admonished himself, shaking his head. She’s seen just as much of this kind of destruction as you have. Probably more. She doesn’t need you. Does she?
To his surprise, the Jedi had her gloved hand on his arm, gazing into his face with evident concern. “Are you all right?” Aitahea asked. Erithon blinked rapidly and shook his head.
“I… I was going to ask you that,” he muttered, belatedly adding, “Master Jedi. But of course you-“
“-understand the process of death the same as everyone, Major Zale. It is never easy. It is simply a part of the Force, as is he now.” She smiled tightly, whether from emotion or chill he couldn’t say. “But we are alive and well, if somewhat cold. Let’s warm up and plan our next move.”