When Ayedanna woke this morning, she had the distinct feeling once again, that she had dreamed the recurring nightmare that had haunted her for the last fifteen years. As the initial grogginess wore off, she remembered: the wild flutter of her heart, the desperate fight for air, the frightening certainty of approaching doom--they were fragments of moments she had long wanted to forget. At night, they came to her, uninvited memories that invaded her mind when she could not ward them off.
But here in the light of day she was in control again. Nothing and no one could force her to relive the horror of those days again. She would not let them.
"Ayedanna, you wished to see me?"
The voice was young and confident, nothing like the meek, tentative voices that the other Nightsisters used when they spoke to Ayedanna. Sevar was different from the others, Ayedanna mused. While Ayedanna always felt the others tremble in her presence, she felt none of the same fear in Sevar. Perhaps it was the cockiness of Sevar's youth. She had a bravado that was unmistakable, indeed almost enviable. No one else but this young woman ever dared to look Ayedanna in the eyes. And no one else dared to question her in the presence of all the other Nightsisters, as Sevar had the other night.
Much to her surprise, Ayedanna was impressed.
Sevar did not immediately sit down next to Ayedanna. Instead she remained standing, waiting for Ayedanna to acknowledge her presence, dwarfed by the bare, rotting trees that surrounded them in the empty courtyard. The young woman's gold-flecked eyes stared straight back at Ayedanna, fearless and unintimidated, the jagged lines of her closely-cropped red hair and her tall, straight stance almost reminding Ayedanna of a young cadet.
"Yes, Sevar, thank you for coming," Ayedanna said. She gestured beside her. "Please have a seat."
The young woman obeyed, nodding stoically. As she sat down, a strong current of energy burst forth from her, an intense white-hot light that made Ayedanna blink back in shock, and for a brief moment, her breath stalled in her throat.
She had not felt a presence like this since Gethzerion. This girl is strong in the Force, thought Ayedanna, like her mother...
This one will be useful...
As if sensing that Ayedanna had been scrutinizing her, Sevar narrowed her eyes in curiosity. "Is something wrong?" she asked her flatly.
"No," Ayedanna said. "Nothing's wrong." She rose from her seat and clasped her hands behind her, at first staring absently ahead of her, then turning back to look at Sevar once again.
"You asked me the other night how we intend to take our revenge on the Jedi," she said, eyes locked on Sevar's, closely monitoring her reaction.
"Yes," Sevar answered. "I apologize, Ayedanna. I should not have questioned you like that in front of-"
"There's no need for apology."
Sevar seemed surprised at Ayedanna's statement--for that matter, so did Ayedanna. She wasn't sure why she didn't lash out at Sevar, as she normally would have. She felt the hardness of her face, the facade she had worn so long that it had become her trademark, begin to soften a tiny bit. She even smiled.
"I don't like anybody second-guessing me, that much you've figured out," she continued. "But it takes a lot of courage to do so anyway. If you have something to say to me, go ahead."
Sevar didn't flinch, nor did she lower her eyes as she had the other night. Ayedanna waited for her to speak, but the young woman took her time formulating her thoughts.
Finally she answered.
"Do you really think we are ready Ayedanna? You really believe the time is right to do this?"
"You don't think it is?"
"I... don't really know... All I've ever heard ever since I was a little girl was how one day we would avenge what Luke Skywalker did. It's just hard to believe that the moment has actually arrived."
Ayedanna eyed her closely. "You don't remember much about that time, do you?"
Sevar shook her head. She leaned forward, her eyes drifting up to the swaying branches above her. "I remember running," she said in a quiet whisper, as if straining to find the long-forgotten memory. "I remember the panic... And... not being able to find my mother..."
She remembered more than Ayedanna had expected her to. As Ayedanna watched her, she once again felt the dark rumble of the Force swelling inside the young woman, the blackness that started to fill her aura, and Ayedanna saw the purplish veins in Sevar's forehead began to throb uncontrollably.
"I feel your anger," Ayedanna said. "Don't you think it's time someone paid for what happened?"
Sevar looked up at her. "But the Jedi just seem... They seem so strong... If one man was able to destroy us before, what will an entire legion of them be capable of?"
Ayedanna said nothing. She looked away from Sevar and closed her eyes. The memories assaulted her once again--debris that rained down on them, the horrid stench of fuel and fire, the smoke that nearly choked her... Left behind in the frenzy of the escape, she had watched helplessly from the ground when Luke Skywalker shot again and again at the ship that had carried her sisters, until finally, the star destroyers that swarmed in the sky released a barrage of shots that destroyed the ship for good.
And in that instant--an instant forever burned into her soul--she lost all that she knew.
She wanted Luke Skywalker to know that feeling.
"I don't care how many of them there are," Ayedanna replied hoarsely, still looking away from Sevar as she spoke. "I will succeed where my sisters failed. We will destroy Skywalker and his Jedi. And we will take back the honor that was stolen from us..."
Callista always did find it hard to sleep on starships, or anyplace else, for that matter, other than her own bed. She lay there in the stillness of the main cabin, still awake, her head resting on Luke's bare chest as he slept soundly. Exhaustion had claimed him, sending him into deep slumber in the wee hours of the early morning, still holding Callista in the passionate embrace they had been in when he fell asleep, their limbs still intertwined.
Gently, so she wouldn't wake Luke, Callista lifted her head and propped herself up on her elbows. She watched him sleeping, running a hand down his arms, tracing his cheeks, his dimpled chin, feeling his stubble against her delicate skin. She loved watching him like this. The sight of him--peaceful and content, his body rising and sinking with each breath he took--was always enough to calm her when during anxious moments such as this, when she couldn't quite get herself to sleep.
Thoughts of her daughter kept Callista awake. She knew that the children had been apprehensive about the move; over the last few weeks alone, they had endlessly asked their parents every question imaginable: Would Coruscant be cold at night? What would their new apartment look like? Would they have a balcony so the could hang their wind-chimes? Would they make new friends in their new home? Luke and Callista had both laughed at their difficulty in trying to catch up with the each new thought that Cailin and Owen threw at them, but they knew that they needed to help make the transition as smooth as possible for the children.
Cailin's last-minute worries shouldn't have surprised Callista--but they did. She hadn't been able to shake the vague uneasiness--that whisper of something--ever since they left Yavin. She's just sad about moving, Callista reminded herself. Somehow the words didn't feel true to her. They felt empty and unconvincing.
Owen's cry broke through the silence, jarring Callista from her thoughts. "I'll be right there, sweetheart!" she called out to him, as she sprang out of her bed and fumbled in the dark for her robe. She sprinted towards the children's cabin, sending her Force energy towards him to quiet his crying.
"I'm here now, baby," she whispered, taking him into her arms and rocking him gently. "You'll be all right now, Owen.... Mama's here... It's over now..." His crying eased, and Callista felt him drift off into sleep again as she cradled him.
"Oh, Cailin, I'm sorry we woke you..." Callista gently eased Owen back in his crib and crossed the room to sit beside her daughter. "You can go back to sleep now, it's over..."
"It was a scary dream, Mommy..."
"I know, baby," Callista said. She leaned over and kissed her forehead, smoothing her sleep-tousled curls. "But he's fine now, see?"
Cailin shook her head, then clutched at Callista's waist and pressed herself close to her side. "I dreamed it too, Mommy."
"You... did?" Callista could feel her heart leap to her throat at the sound of those words, and with a conscious effort, she summoned the Force to remain calm and passive. Hear her out, she told herself. It could be nothing... "Tell me about the dream, Cailin. What was it that frightened you both?"
"It's too scary, Mommy," she whimpered, her tiny body trembling in Callista's arms.
"Oh baby, you know you can tell me and Daddy anything-"
"Everything all right, Callie?"
Luke must have heard them. Callista looked up at him and saw him he leaning against the doorway, still rubbing his face to shake off the drowsiness. "Hey, what's wrong, princess?" he said, seeing Cailin's frightened posture.
"The kids had a nightmare, Luke," she told him, "the same nightmare."
His expression changed immediately, and he knelt beside them on the floor, his eyes locked with Callista's. "What was it, sweetheart?" he asked Cailin.
She didn't move at first, but then finally looked back at Luke. "We were some place new," she began. "I don't know where... We couldn't find you and Mommy. We were calling you, and you were calling us, but we couldn't see you... We were so scared... Owen started crying, and I had to be the big sister. But he wouldn't stop crying, Daddy, and then we woke up..."
Callista looked at Luke, and she knew he could feel her worry, just as she felt his. He gave her a small nod, then took Cailin in his arms. "We're here now, princess," he reassured her. "You and Owen are safe. The nightmare's over now. We're not going anywhere, I promise."
"Sir, I heard one of the children crying... Is there anything I can do?"
"It's fine, Threepio," Luke told the concerned droid. "We've got it. Thanks for checking up on us."
Threepio nodded. "Of course, Master Luke. If you wish, I can stay here with the children to watch over them..."
"Can he, Daddy?"
"Of course, princess... Mommy and I can stay here too, if you'd like. Or you and Owen can come sleep in our cabin."
"That's okay, Daddy. Threepio's here. I'll go back to sleep now, I promise."
Callista couldn't help but exchange smiles with Luke at their little girl's attempt to be brave. But she was still concerned, and she didn't want to leave them just yet. "You're sure, sweetie? We can stay here as long as you like."
"I'm sure, Mommy."
Callista looked to Luke again, and she felt the gentle touch of his mind on hers. They'll be fine, Callie... She nodded and gave him a weak smile.
You're probably right, she answered him.
"Threepio," she heard Luke say, "you'll come get us if they wake up again?"
"Certainly, sir. I'll make sure to alert you and Mistress Callista should the children need anything."
"Thank you," Callista whispered to him, then she turned back to look at Cailin one more time. "We'll be right in there, sweetheart," she said, pointing towards the main cabin. "If you get scared again, you and Owen and sleep with us, all right?"
Cailin nodded. "I'm sorry we woke you."
"Don't be sorry, baby. You can wake us anytime you get scared..."
Once she was out of the children's sight, Callista gently pulled Luke into their cabin.
"What is it, Callie?"
"Luke, I meant to talk to you about this once we reached Coruscant, but now..." Callista folded her arms across her chest and sat down on the bed. "Before we left Yavin, Cailin said something that threw me a little..." She sighed, not even sure herself why this was bothering her so. "I didn't think anything of it at first... I mean, I figured the kids would have a hard time leaving..."
"But she said something unusual?"
"She said she had a bad feeling about Coruscant... I don't know, maybe it is just about her adjusting to the move, but now..."
"That wasn't an ordinary nightmare then, was it?" he said, his eyes instinctively going to the children's cabin.
Callista shook her head. "I... I don't know," she stammered. "I haven't really sensed anything out of the ordinary about returning to Coruscant... Have you?"
"No, I haven't either," Luke admitted, shaking his head as he sat back down beside her on the bed. "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" He laughed softly before she could answer. "As if I had to ask..."
Callista smiled in spite of herself. "They're sensing something... Aren't they?"
Luke nodded. "It could be nothing. But then again..."
Callista sighed and slipped her arms around him, summoning the Force again, hoping she could will her anxiety away. After a while she said, "We really should start training her soon, you know." She looked up to meet Luke's gaze. "Those two are getting stronger in the Force everyday, but they still don't have any control over it. With training, they would be able to articulate what they’re sensing in times like these."
"Isn't she a little young, Callie? Leia's kids didn't start her training until they were twelve, and even then we wondered if that was too early..."
"They used to train them really young," she told him with a husky laugh, remembering the obstacles she had to face to get her own training approved. "By the time Master Altis found me, I was way past the age that they normally started training," she recalled. "But Chad was a long way from the center of the galaxy. There wasn't really a chance for me to be tested as a baby..."
"A baby?" Luke asked incredulously.
"Yes," she chuckled. "Jedi started their training at six months old. Needless to say, I was too old. I don't know what Master Altis told them, but they finally approved me."
"Clearly they knew a good thing when they saw it," Luke said, giving her a wink that made her laugh out loud. "Well, now I know why Master Yoda said I was too old. And here I was wondering why a nine hundred year old would think a twenty-one year old was too old to be trained..."
She squeezed his hand, relieved that the worry had started to fade for both of them. "So what do you say, Luke?" she asked him. "I think she's old enough now. With both of us doing the training, she'll be up for it."
"Let's do it," Luke agreed. "As soon as we get everything settled on Coruscant, we'll talk to her about starting her formal training."
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