His Old Lightsaber

It was good that Balmorra was currently in the hands of the Empire, Lathril thought. Not for sake of its citizenry, but because it made his task easier.

He tried not to think of the plight of its citizenry. He really did.

Lathril walked through the Balmorran battlefield, following the track that had been burned into him. Despite the resonance the place held for him, he couldn’t remember much about the battle that had been fought here, that he had taken part in. He would try to think back, and only hear laughter, and then feel a burning pain inside his head, and then… what?

Only snatches of the re-education room came to him, before the clearer memories of the Sith Academy after that. The Sith had broken his concentration, his hold upon his old life, jolting him with pain anytime he had disloyal thoughts or began to relax into any kind of contented, un-Sithly peace. The calm Lathril naturally projected became more of a lid on a storm instead of a reflection of his inner state. Anger and fear swirled painfully close to the surface; memories of fire, lightning, the close walls of a canyon before the wreck, and the pleading eyes of Republic soldiers turned up at him, him, before the lightning surged into them and left them convulsing on the snow-swept fields of Ilum…

Lathril shuddered, almost missing a step as he trotted down a rocky mountain path through the Balmorran spires. Such thoughts were not helping him, and taking a deep breath, Lathril returned his mind to his task. His Sith master, Aidas, had returned after a long time spent away. He had come back seeming at once both more confident and less, like a young man who, having stepped out into the world, found it was much different than what he had expected, but not in any bad way.

Lathril was happy for him. He remembered being that age, nearly a decade ago, journeying with his Jedi mentor, until something had clicked on in his head and his old fears and anxieties had laid to rest. It had been almost comical watching the same phenomenon in Aidas, as the young Sith struggled for words, trying not to say the things Lathril already suspected about him.

For Lathril, his confirmation had come as a relief, though. When his Force senses had confirmed a Jedi had passed through his master’s domain on the neutral planet of Rishi, Lathril has been filled with dread at the thought he might have to kill her, her eyes wide and shining like those Republic soldiers… He wasn’t ready for that; he wasn’t strong enough… but he had taken a leap of faith, that Aidas would not demand something from him so cruel and so soon, and then when they turned the corner to seeing a Pada’wan calmly eating an apple, Aidas’ expression has only shown exasperation, not hatred or bloodlust. And Lathril felt himself to be lucky, very lucky indeed to have Aidas as his master.

Or was it luck?

He didn’t think Aidas understood how unbothered Lathril truly was by their strange friendship. He seemed worried Lathril might snitch about their failure to kill the Jedi, and Lathril indeed wondered what would have happened if he had crossed paths with her just a few short weeks before. His traitorous mind could imagine it. The pain would have built in Lathril’s head until he couldn’t see, the lightning would surge: and that was when Lathril did the things he most regretted.

He had been naive as a Jedi, he knew now, not believing in the terror that lurked inside of him. Worse than wondering how someone was capable of committing the terrible acts of the Sith was the knowing that he now was capable of it. Finding his old lightsaber wasn’t difficult in that he’d have to brave the active warzone of Balmorra; it was in having to face just how far he’d come from the bright-eyed, young warrior who’d gone to battle with the Sith, believing only anxiety — and not depravity — was all that lurked inside him.

Night had fallen over the old battlefield. Turrets still occasionally lit up the sky with streaks of color through the dark atmosphere, but the land right around Lathril was quiet. The Imperial and Republic forces had moved on from this place long ago, and now only the wrecks of tanks and a few tattered remnants of their dead remained behind. Lathril tried to retrace his steps through the mud, but whether by the march of the seasons or simply his bad memory, he couldn’t recall what had happened here well enough to find his way.

He was forced instead to reach out through the Force, willing it to show him the trail he had once laid here long ago as a Jedi Knight, but, like the turret fire in the dark, the Force’s guidance only darted right past him, disappearing into the gloom far beyond what he could see.

And the dangerous frustration built up in his throat. “No!” Lathril burst out when his third attempt to find the path had failed. “Why can’t you just behave! Come back to me… come back and OBEY!”

The Imperial word slipped out, a word no Jedi would say to another, and certainly not to the Force, but it was one heard plenty often among the Sith. It hung in the air like a ghost, and Lathril shivered. It had just slipped out, just like that…

“Lathril?” came a sudden voice from the side, and startled, Lathril spun on his heel. A frightened Jedi was staring at him, her face pale as if she’d seen a ghost — and Lathril didn’t blame her, for he felt the same way.

“Is it really you?” she gasped out.

“It is,” he said softly, wonderingly.

It was the first time they had seen each other since he’d been deployed here; he could be a Force ghost for all she knew. He only knew she wasn’t by her breathing, quick and hard, as well as by how very familiar that face was to him: the face of his once-Pada’wan.

“Why are you here?” he asked.

“Why are YOU here?” she demanded.

“It was the Force,” both said at the same time.

“…no, really, why are you here?” she asked after a pause.

“Is that any way to speak to your former master?” he countered bemusedly.

“Well, if you see him, let me know! I have some choice words for him after letting me think he was dead for over a year!”

“Pada’wan,” he said, with just enough of a quelling tone that she quieted, though she still glared at him. It was as if no time had passed after all.

“They told me you were dead,” she said finally. “When the troopers came back in without you, I didn’t know what else to think. I was reassigned… but I kept having dreams — about you!”

“About me?” Lathril asked, mystified.

“Yes, stupid!” She glared, then shivered. “You were in pain…”

Lathril felt himself stiffen. “…and then you had a dream that brought you here. Is that it?”

“Yes.” Swallowing, she worked up the courage to say, “Why didn’t you come back?”

Lathril didn’t answer that, changing the subject. “My lightsaber, Pada’wan. You have it?”

“Here,” she said, touching the unadorned hilt at her hip. “It was the only thing they could find of you…”

Lathril felt flash of jealousy as he looked at it. Why? If anyone should have had his lightsaber after he’d fallen, why not her? And yet… “Give it to me.”

“Of course,” she said, though she was frowning slightly, and she drew the hilt and held it out to him.

Lathril seized the weapon with a greed that startled the both of them. When he held the weapon in his hands, however, it simply felt right… and yet not. It felt fragile in his hands, and when he ignited it, the soft musical hum of the green blade sounded frail and weak to his ears.

So he had been as a Knight: naive, simple, blind to what lurked in the depths of the human heart…

“Does this mean you’re coming home?” his Pada’wan asked.

“No,” said Lathril.

She stared at him a long time, her expression sad, even hurt. “So it’s true. You joined them.”

Why did she sound so unsurprised? Had he really been the only one who’d been blind to his failings? Lathril gripped the saber harder, even as she watched him warily. Anger rose up from within him, from the twist the Dark Side had put on his soul. Even knowing its source, he couldn’t separate it from himself…

“It must have been terrible,” she said gently.

He let out his breath in a rush. Terrible was a thought. How could he explain to her all the pain he’d endured? The panic, the daily fear for his life? The inability to escape: the cold knowing he would have to accept his new lot in life no matter how much it disgusted him…

Then suddenly a new thought came to him. Balmorra was a wartorn planet. A Sith apprentice like himself going missing on it wouldn’t be too out of the ordinary, and his old Pada’wan was right here. He could leave with her, go back to his old life as a Jedi. Aidas would understand, Lathril felt. The rest would hunt him, but Aidas would understand…

And where would that leave his friend? Lathril started to shake again as he considered the implications of a new Lord having a traitorous apprentice, one who not too long ago had been a suspect of a high profile case of the Inquisition — and Lathril would simply be running away from it all, like a coward. Hadn’t that been his failing, the one the Sith had exploited? If he turned his back now, wouldn’t their work be complete?

And wouldn’t he also be breaking his word to Darth Nelserzi? No matter how much Lathril told himself he had made the best of a bad situation and things were much different now, the thought of that betrayal really bothered him. If his word meant nothing as soon as an easy escape offered itself, what good was his word, really?

“I wouldn’t describe it that way exactly,” he finally said. “Things are very complicated, and I have to return.”

“Master… I’m scared for you.”

He was scared for himself, he admitted. Would it be better to be honest and tell her that? Or lie and say he had it all under control?

She was looking at him, one hand reached out as if to trace the scars his implant had left on his face, where it had burned him. “What did they do to you?” she murmured.

What, indeed. “Nothing,” said Lathril softly. “This is me. This was all me.”


“You need to go.”

“I–” She hesitated. She would not.

And Lathril knew what he had to do. He couldn’t escape the monster inside, but… perhaps… he could use it.

He tried to block out her scream when the lightning arced from his hand. He hoped she wasn’t proud enough not to run, and she obligingly began sprinting away, with only one look back. Lathril shot lightning at her heels, sending up a spray of dirt in each of her footprints, though he also turned his head away, not wanting to see her if she was too slow and got hit.

The look she had given him… did she really understand the position he was in? Had that look been made in sympathy or in horror?

As her form disappeared between the rocks on the other side of the valley, Lathril turned away. He opened up his lightsaber, tugging out the green power crystal inside and dropping it to the ground. He scuffed dirt over it with his toe, almost like he was planting a seed, and maybe he was. Maybe another Jedi would pick this up, and he could be happy that something of his sacrifice would live on. Either way, he could not take it back with him to the Sith Empire, and he didn’t think much of surrendering it to the Inquisition to be melted down or corrupted or whatever they did with such things, anyway. Aidas had only asked Lathril bring his lightsaber; he had never said anything about keeping it intact.

And besides… Lathril grimaced as he gave the hummock one last compression with his foot. He had accepted the color green when he had been made a Knight, for it represented the life, healing, and peace he had wished to bring to the Force.

Lathril knew none of those things were applicable to him now.

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