Days had gone by with no news from Jaina’s team. This was to be expected, of course. Jaina had been informed to not use any forms of communication until they knew it was safe. She and her team had all been fitted with sensor chips that could detect their vital signs and also warn if they had been captured, or killed. So there was no need to call if in distress because Coruscant Security would have been notified through their computers.
The days had also gone by slowly for Lilliya, as she waited anxiously on Ossus for any information from the TwinSuns Squad. She spent most of her days roaming the Academy grounds, exploring the jungles, the rocky cliffs, swimming the cold rivers, and the labyrinth inside the Jedi Temple. She had discovered that the oasis the Jedi Academy resided in was actually planted and built by the students studying there. The alien plant life made Ossus much more hospitable compared to its normally dry and desert-like atmosphere.
The days after her arrival were much more calm and peaceful, the family visitors having left the planet.
And when there seemed there was nothing else to explore, she took up Luke’s offer and followed the students on their training schedule. Mostly, she stood by and watched as they practiced levitation exercises, lightsaber sparing, and mind puzzle solving exercises. Sometimes, she would try an exercise or two, but would fail miserably, always embarrassing herself in front of the others. She did better at the aerobic exercises they did throughout the day. But even those turned out to be too difficult for her at times. She didn’t have the stamina like a Jedi.
And when the students meditated for hours, Lilliya escaped into the Temple’s library, a dark and serene hall where she could really find some peace and quiet. She could sit in one of the deep couches and explore the documents and files for hours.
This was one of those days.
“Hello,” someone said from behind her.
Lilliya jumped in her seat, surprised by the soft voice disturbing the otherwise perfectly silent hall. She turned halfway to see who it was.
A young man, skinny and pale with green eyes, stood behind her, smiling. He was bald without a hint of hair left on his scalp, but it seemed to suit him perfectly.
“How is it going?” He gestured to the data pad on her lap.
“Oh,” Lilliya said, surprised anyone even noticed her at all. “It’s just a little reading.”
“Ah,” he nodded. “I am Forra.”
Lilliya slid up from the couch and greeted the young man.
“Pardon my intrusion,” Forra bowed his head. “I noticed you in here many times. I assume you are the mysterious new guest we have on Ossus.”
“Mysterious?” Lilliya murmured. “I didn’t realize I was a mystery.”
“Oh, yes,” Forra chuckled lightly. “You could say that. Well, I just wanted to introduce myself. I spend most of my days in the library too. But I will leave you be.”
“Wait,” Lilliya said, holding out her hand as if to stop him. “Actually, I wouldn’t mind the company. You’re sort of the first person I’ve been able to talk to. That is, besides Luke Skywalker. But he’s so busy with his students, I haven’t had a real conversation with anyone in a while.” Which was true. She could talk to Ben, whom she saw occasionally training with the other students, but he stayed clear of her. She had to keep reminding herself that Ben didn’t particularly care for her.
Forra raised his eyebrows in surprise and a big smile spread across his lips.
“You are not what they say you are,” he said. “Sure, I will join you.”
Lilliya cocked an eyebrow. “What is it that they say about me?”
Forra shook his head, wishing he hadn’t said anything. “I am sorry. They were just rumors—”
“Rumors? About me?” Lilliya was shocked. “I thought I pretty much stayed out of everyone’s way. I’ve been more like a ghost than anything else.”
“A ghost, yes,” Forra chuckled again. “Interesting choice of words. Well it does not matter what they say.”
Lilliya pondered that for a moment, and decided to drop it. She didn’t really need to know what the rumors were.
“So what do you do here?” she asked instead.
“Me? Oh, I just hang around here a lot,” he said. His demeanor was almost nervous or shy.
“So do I, but I’m supposed to be training with the others. Are you a keeper?”
“Of the library? Oh, no. But I suppose you could say that I am, sort of. I am a Jedi student, but…I am not very strong in the Force. I cannot keep up with the others very well,” Forra said, a somber look flashing across his face. “So I devote most of my time learning the histories of the JedI and the Sith. Most of the older documents are in an ancient language, so I took it upon myself to decipher most of it. I can read almost nine thousand languages.”
Lilliya’s mouth dropped. “Wow, that’s quite a brain you got. I can barely remember six.”
Lilliya barked a laugh. “No, no. Just six. I don’t think my brain capacity could handle even a hundred.”
Forra smiled. “You would be surprised with yourself, but then again, I am not human either. I am a Seviths.”
Lilliya cocked her head to one side. “I am unfamiliar with that species. Where are you from?”
“We have no home planet. We sort of are nomadic,” he explained. “We make it a life’s goal to know most, if not all, the languages of the galaxy. Maybe that is where my Force talent lies. Inside my translation.”
“Maybe so,” Lilliya murmured. “I don’t fit in here very well myself. I am a military pilot. My base was on Endor, until…”
“Yes, I heard,” Forra said, and there was only sympathy in his voice. “Most of us found out why you were here. As soon as you arrived, you became the focus of our attention.”
“Why is that?”
“Well, because…” Forra hesitated. “There are some who feel threatened by you.”
“Threatened?” Lilliya exclaimed. “But I’ve done nothing—”
“It is not what you have done,” Forra said, his voice soft and calming. “No matter. I do not sense what they feel. It may be because I am not strong in the Force, but still. I do not feel threatened by you.”
“Well that’s good,” Lilliya grumbled. “Although, it explains all the strange looks I’ve been getting and why no one comes near me.” She shook her head in frustration. “It doesn’t make sense! I haven’t done anything that could be considered a threat.”
“It is a mystery. It is why you are the center of our attention,” Forra said.
“I don’t know why I’m even here. I only do some of the Jedi exercises to keep my mind off—the waiting.” Lilliya corrected herself. She was going to say, “mind off Endor,” but decided not to bring up that personal subject.
“What are you waiting for?” Forra asked, cocking his head to the side and gazing at her with his innocent green eyes.
Lilliya was a little taken aback by how the question was phrased. And she realized something she hadn’t even considered. She was waiting. But for what? For something better than where she was, or what she was? Maybe for her to be able to tap into the Force, which Luke was so convinced she had. She didn’t know. And for the first time since she’d arrived on Ossus, she felt like she needed to really do something about it.
“That,” she said, a wry smile curling up one side of her mouth, “is a very good question.”
Forra cocked his head to the side again, almost like a curious bird.
“Look at me,” Lilliya chuckled. “I’m spilling my guts out to you like I’ve known you forever.”
“Well,” she continued. “I suppose I should make something of my life. I’ve got nothing else to wait around for, that’s for sure. I guess I’ll go meet up with the group and try a little harder.”
Forra laughed quietly.
“What?” Lilliya asked.
“There is no try,” he said, laughing softly. “It is just a little something Master Skywalker likes to say a lot.”
“Interesting,” she said, smiling slightly. “I’ll see you around. Don’t get stuck in here too long. Oh! And one more thing.”
“Could you do me a favor. I nearly forgot, but once you told me you spoke nine thousand languages—”
“Read. I read nine thousand.”
“Oh, yes,” Lilliya corrected. “Well, I found something that belonged to my father.” She unhooked the metal tag from her necklace that she had attached nearly a week ago. She handed it to Forra. “It has an inscription embedded in it. But I don’t know what it says. I would have asked my best friend, Jenar, to translate it, but…” She allowed her voice to trail off.
Forra peered at it curiously, flipping it around in the soft orange lighting. “I don’t recognize it offhand, but if you give me a few days…”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want,” Lilliya said. “It was just something that had me interested.”
“I would be happy to,” Forra said, beaming. “I have been studying so much of the historical documents, it would be nice to solve a little mystery like this.”
“Well, I’m full of mystery…apparently,” she muttered. “Thank you, Forra. I really enjoyed talking with you. I’ll see you soon.”
Lilliya quickly left Forra in the library to hunt down the group of Jedi students being led by Master Skywalker. She ran down the stony path, kicking up dust behind her. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was running for or what even inspired her to suddenly act so excitedly. She only knew that she had to hurry.
She saw a group of people up ahead, nearby the jungle’s edge, and picked up her pace.
“What are you in such a hurry for?” A man’s voice made her stop short, a dusty cloud swirling around her feet.
Lilliya looked to her right to see Ben Skywalker leaning up against an irregular stone sculpture. Lilliya hesitated. He looked casual and relaxed, his expression seeming innocently curious. This was the first time he had spoken to her since they’d arrived, so she felt a little uneasy and suspicious.
“Uh,” she stumbled, “I was trying to catch up with the rest of the students.”
Ben glanced over at the group, then looked back at her, his blue eyes penetrating. “I thought you didn’t believe in any of that Jedi stuff,” he said.
Lilliya hesitated again, wondering about his motives. “I thought I’d give it another chance,” she said, smiling weakly. “It seems to work for them.” She gestured to the group of students, who were now standing on their hands. “What about you? Why aren’t you with them?”
He shrugged, then turned to look at them before answering. “I’m taking a break. It’s been a while since I used the Force. Gets a little overwhelming at times.”
“I didn’t realize you’d stopped,” she said, cocking her head to the side.
“Oh, yeah,” he grumbled. “I was a Jedi Knight. Then I decided a life of pain and suffering wasn’t a life I wanted to live.” His blue eyes twinkled in her direction. “I’m only here for the sake of my father. To please him somewhat in picking up my training.”
“Well that’s awfully nice of you,” Lilliya said. She wondered why he had decided to open up to her now after blatantly avoiding her for days. It was funny that after days of wishing he would talk to her, now she didn’t want anything to do with him. “I think I’d better get going.”
“Yes, of course,” he said, pushing himself off the sculpture and moving closer to her. “Sorry for keeping you. I’m sure you’ll be able to catch up with the lessons in no time.”
Lilliya was about to leave, then stopped herself, turning slowly to look Ben in the eye. “What is that supposed to mean?”
He feigned innocence, smiling ever-so slightly. “I’m sure a girl as talented as you can pick up the traits of a Jedi very quickly. You know, like levitation, lightsaber fencing, being able to sense an attacker’s next move, being able to sense someone’s presence in the Force… That sort of thing.”
Lilliya frowned, crossing her arms across her chest. “I never said I had the Force. But Luke Skywalker seems to believe that I do. I figured I’d try it out.”
“Yes, my father has a lot of faith in the strangest of peoples,” Ben murmured.
“What exactly is your problem?!” Lilliya burst out. “I don’t know what I’ve done to you, but this is ridiculous. You haven’t said a word to me in days and now you’re criticizing me for wanting to actually participate in these lessons. Is there something you’re not telling me? Something I need to know?”
Ben stared at her for what seemed like an eternity. Something flickered in his gaze, but she couldn’t quite place it. It was quickly shielded by his critical glare.
“You’d better get over there,” he muttered.
“Oh that’s fine!” Lilliya exclaimed, her diamond scar growing a dark red. “Sure, why not. Don’t answer me. I love these guessing games anyhow. Just let me know when you wanna have another conversation about how I don‘t belong here. About how, maybe, I don’t belong anywhere. You know where to find me.” She stormed off in the direction of the students. Some of them were surprised by her approach and fell from their hand-stands to their sides. Lilliya was so angry, she didn’t even notice all the stares.
“Lilliya?” Luke said, standing from his sitting position. “Is there something wrong?” As he spoke, the small group of students began to lower themselves from their hand-stand positions.
“No, not at all,” Lilliya said, her tone a tad bit higher than usual. She forced a smile. “I just thought I’d join in on the exercise.”
Luke looked confused. He could see the anger in her eyes and the strange diamond scar glowing a dark red. “Are you sure you can do it?”
Lilliya swallowed down her first response and opted for another one. “Of course. I’ve done hand-stands since I was six.”
She heard some of the students whisper to each other, but ignored whatever it was they were saying.
Luke looked warily from his students to her. “This exercise takes a lot of concentration, Lilliya,” he said slowly, trying not to offend her. He saw Ben in the distance and already understood Lilliya’s sudden anger. “It’s more than just doing hand-stands. This is a levitation exercise. You will be trying to lift the object in front of you…with your mind.”
Lilliya’s anger seemed to abruptly subside and was replaced by chariness. She glanced from one student to the other, each one looking at her in anticipation.
“Well…” she hesitated. “I could try.”
Luke nodded slowly. “Yes, I suppose you could,” he said. “Everyone, please return to your positions.” The students obeyed, though some continued to watch Lilliya. Luke moved to where Lilliya was, standing in front of her.
“Now, this may be very difficult for you,” he said quietly. “I wasn’t planning on having you start at this level. But if you feel you’d like to try it, I will help you.”
“You’ll have to stand on your hands for longer than what is considered normal,” he instructed. “Once you have mastered it and feel confident you can remain in the position comfortably, then place your concentration on an inanimate object nearby you, preferably a rock or something similar. In order to do this, you must let go of any thought that plagues you. Let your mind empty.”
Lilliya looked as though she was going to argue, but she didn’t. Instead, she nodded, closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Once she felt calm, she rocked onto her hands and head, then pushed her legs up until they pointed straight and up. Then she slowly lifted her head off the ground with her arms, biting her lips all the way. Lilliya hadn’t done something like this in months, much less keeping herself in a hand-stand, so the effort strained her forearms.
Luke stood close, lightly placing his hands on her knees to help her steady herself until the twitching in her muscles began to subside.
“How are you doing?” he asked.
“Fine,” she said through gritted teeth. The other students were already beginning to levitate their inanimate objects. She doubted she would get that far.
“Look up and focus on something,” he said. Lilliya had her head tilted back and was staring at the ground. “Keep your eyes on something ahead of you. Don’t look at anything else.”
Lilliya did as she was told, and felt her body nearly topple backwards, but Luke kept her in place. He held onto her until she seemed in control. “You got it?” he asked.
“Mm-hmm,” she mumbled, realizing this was a lot harder than she imagined. Sweat began to trickle down her cheeks and into her eyes.
“Now…” Luke murmured, “let your mind go. Feel everything around you, the ground, the trees, the cool air flowing around you, holding you…”
Lilliya’s gaze went blank as she concentrated on Luke’s words. Her crystal necklace bumped against her face repeatedly as she held her balance.
“There is nothing but you and the life surrounding you, flowing through you, becoming apart of you.” His voice was like warm silk, hypnotic, seductive. He watched her intently, gauging her strength and focus. His hands hovered near her legs, ready for her to falter. She seemed to steady, and to Luke’s mild surprise, was able to keep her balance, even though the simple task of staying in a hand-stand was a difficult one to master for the average person.
Luke also let his mind wander through the Force, searching for Lilliya’s presence somewhere amidst his students. He pushed farther, focusing on the area where Lilliya existed physically. There was nothing but emptiness where she stood. He focused deeper and realized that not only did she not exist, but the immediate space was vacant of any life. Normally he would be able to feel the atoms of life resting around her, but he felt nothing. A small circumference of a void existed where she was, as though she repelled the Force’s touch. He searched for anything, a glimmer of a thought, a strain in the Force, and still he failed to feel her presence.
Lilliya felt her body heat rise as she struggled to keep her position. She knew her muscles weren’t twitching in rebellion anymore, but she could feel herself weakening. She focused on a nearby rock to keep from looking elsewhere and forced her heart rate to slow. But it didn’t. In fact, she could feel her heart quicken with every intake of breath. Her body seemed to be on fire now, every muscle aching to be let down. And there was something else.
She felt something pushing on her, weighing her down with every second. She tried to ignore it, but the pressure kept coming, harder, more unbearable. Dizziness seemed to be clouding her vision and she wondered if she could hold out much longer.
A hot pulsing began to spread from her gut to her chest and something searing hot pressed against the side of her forehead, but she dared not look away from the rock. However, she couldn’t help but notice a bright, glaring light distorting her vision. Something bright grew brighter to the point of nearly blinding her. She could no longer see the rock.
Lilliya stopped breathing as she realized she was going to lose it. Whatever was blinding her was burning her forehead and the invisible pressure she fought against was making her sick. She was vaguely aware of someone saying her name, but all she heard was a loud humming. Lilliya focused harder on the rock, squinting her eyes as she fought against the blinding light. Then, suddenly, the pressure seemed to be loosening up, and when it seemed it would disappear, she pushed.
“Stop!” Someone shouted in the distance. “Whatever you’re doing, stop!”
Lilliya blinked and lost it. The dizziness took her and she fell backwards, landing hard on her spine and head. She thought she heard someone vomiting in the distance, but was too dizzy to open her eyes.
“What happened?” she mumbled through a dry mouth. She felt a hand against her arm, shaking her awake. No one answered her, so she rubbed her eyes open and was glad to see the light was gone and the dizziness had subsided.
Luke was sitting beside her and it was his hand that gripped her arm.
“What’s wrong?” she asked again. But as she pushed herself up on her elbows, she didn’t need an answer. She saw it. All the students who had just recently been standing erect on their hands, were now crouched over on their knees, vomiting. When one of them was able to stop, they started exclaiming to Luke in shock.
Luke didn’t meet Lilliya’s confused stare. He watched his students doubling over in nausea. He also had a hand gripping his stomach as if he was going to be sick too.
Finally, after the students’ sickness decreased, Luke stood up and ordered a recess for everyone to recover.
Lilliya remained in her sitting position, watching the students drag themselves away, some of them glaring at her as they passed.
Luke stared down at Lilliya, a mixture of confusion and worry contorting his face.
Lilliya gulped nervously. She had no idea what had happened and she was afraid to find out.
“Can I ask you something?” Luke said, after many minutes of silence.
“Where did you get that necklace?”
Lilliya glanced down at the crystal that laid against her chest. It sparkled dully in the sunlight.
“I’ve had it since I was a child,” Lilliya said. “I don’t know where it came from.”
Luke stared at her, his blue eyes scrutinizing. “You wear it all the time?”
“Do you think you could not wear it once in a while? Maybe not wear it during training.”
Lilliya gulped. The very idea made her nervous for some reason. “Why?”
“Something happened here today that I can’t explain. I’d never seen anything like it. And I’ve got a hunch it is connected to that crystal,” he explained, crouching down on his knees to look her straight in the eye.
“I’ve never really taken it off. It’s kind of apart of me,” Lilliya said quietly.
“You know,” Luke started slowly, “there are some crystals in this galaxy that have their own…power, so to speak. The crystals we use in our lightsabers, for instance, have a very unique strength within the Force, almost a life of their own. And there are other much larger crystals that can contain the Force, or magnify it. Then, just a moment ago, while you were exercising a levitation technique, your crystal started to glow. Very bright.
“Then out of nowhere, everyone started getting sick. I nearly vomited myself. I’d never seen anything like it.”
“I’ve seen it glow,” Lilliya explained softly, nervously, “from time to time. It doesn’t very often, but it has in the past. I never understood it. Never questioned it. But I can tell you that I felt something too. Something like pressure, or smothering. It was making me sick, but then I pushed against it.”
“You pushed?” Luke repeated.
“Yes, kind of, I guess. At least, I imagined I was pushing against whatever was smothering me…”
A new kind of worry flashed across Luke’s face. He sat silent for a moment, staring at Lilliya with a strange curiosity. Then he held out his hand and helped her to her feet.
“Could you not wear your necklace tomorrow?” he asked.
Lilliya hesitated, panic flashing in her eyes, and Luke saw her diamond scar turn a dark purple, almost like a deep bruise.
“I always wear it…” she said, her throat closing up in fear.
Luke frowned at her, curious as to why she was so afraid. “Why is it such a problem?” he asked.
But before Lilliya could answer, Ben suddenly showed up.
“Dad,” he said, his voice sounding concerned. “The students are going crazy in the mess hall. A lot of them are scared or angry and are shouting about—” he looked at Lilliya, “—something.”
Luke sighed, glancing from his son to Lilliya. “Excuse me, Lilliya,” he said gravely. “I have to take care of this.” Luke turned and left, leaving Lilliya standing in shock. Ben stood by Lilliya, staring at her for a minute before turning to leave as well. Lilliya watched the two Skywalkers disappear down the dirt path, her ivory hand unconsciously gripping her crystal charm, knuckles white.
Another week went by, much slower this time, and still no word from TwinSuns Squadron. Although Lilliya worked hard at keeping up with the other students—running miles along side of them, solving mazes deep below the Temple—she had to quit when faced with anything that involved the Force. Luke suggested she meditate during those hours and try to tap into the Force that way.
Lilliya didn’t know what to look for, and she didn’t believe she would ever find it, but she was thankful for the activities. They kept her mind distracted from the real threat that lurked deep inside of her.
The other students stayed away from her, blaming her for the reason they all got sick. Luke worried this would cause too much tension among his young students, especially among those he felt could be more prone to the dark side. He and the other Jedi Masters watched every student carefully for any signs of emotional instability. There were many that disliked her, merely because she repelled the Force away from her, a mystery Luke still hadn’t solved.
Luke met with the other Masters every night to discuss Lilliya and the mysteries she brought to their attention. He felt himself becoming obsessed with her and needed time to himself to meditate. He had ordered the other Masters to take over for him so that he could meditate privately for days.
Lilliya wondered why Luke had disappeared and felt vulnerable because of it. The other Masters seemed wary of her as well, not like Luke, who acted confident and comfortable around her. With the students hating her, the Masters nervous of her, and Ben Skywalker making her feel like an intruder, Lilliya fell deeper into a depression she feared she could never escape.
It was midday, and Lilliya sat cross-legged under a canopy, eyes closed and meditating. The other students were sparring with their lightsabers in the open space right outside the jungle’s edge. The Masters had retired for an hour, disappearing inside the Jedi Temple. Ben, though he now participated in every other exercise, also excused himself during the lightsaber fencing, disappearing into the jungle.
It was hot out this time of day and Lilliya felt sticky in her tan jumpsuit. Her crystal seemed to dig up against the skin of her chest in irritation. These days she hid the necklace beneath her clothing, rather than leaving it behind like Luke had asked. She forced herself not to fidget as a droplet of sweat trickled down the side of her face. She could hear the lightsabers humming and vibrating, clashing together in loud electrical surges. Some of the students liked to talk during their sparring, murmuring things like, let the Force flow through you, or feel your opponent, sense his thoughts…
Lilliya felt a cynical smile curl on her lips. Let it flow through you, she thought. Right! What a bunch of sith—
“Hey, you.” A man’s voice suddenly broke Lilliya’s reverie. She let her eyes slowly open and saw Pell, a male human standing in front of her, lightsaber humming in hand. Lilliya moaned. Like Ben, this particular human also made her life miserable. Except that he made it a point every chance he got that she shouldn’t be there.
“What do you want?” Lilliya said, sighing in defeat. There was no point in making it a fight…again.
Pell flipped his long blonde hair out of his eyes and smiled sardonically. He was not an unattractive man, but the nasty looks he always shot at Lilliya made him appear hideous.
“Lilliya,” he said, his voice riddled with sarcasm. “Have you ever wielded a lightsaber?”
“No,” she said, closing her eyes and assuming the conversation was closed.
“Why don’t you join in with us?” he pushed.
Lilliya opened her eyes again, glaring up at Pell. The other students watched her warily, some of them whispering to each other. Otherwise, everyone had stopped practicing, all attention on her and Pell.
“What are you trying to do?” Lilliya asked, her voice lowering to a threatening growl.
“I’m sure, with all your combat training, that you could handle a simple lightsaber,” he said, twirling his lightsaber around casually.
“My combat training didn’t include fencing…or lightsabers,” Lilliya grumbled. “Besides, you know I’m not supposed to mess around with those things.”
“I don’t recall anyone saying you couldn’t practice with one?” Pell said. “Come on, Lilliya. I’m giving you a challenge you can’t refuse.”
“Sure I can,” Lilliya rolled her eyes. “And I don’t need to prove myself to you.”
Pell raised his eyebrows. “Really? Then why are you here? You’ve pretty much failed at every other Jedi task, sitting out and meditating. Meditating what, I wonder? You can’t feel the Force like the rest of us. Your mere presence is an insult and a distraction, and a waste of your time.”
Lilliya’s eyes flashed darkly, her diamond scar burning red.
“You know it too,” Pell continued casually. “You know you’re wasting your time here when you could be off doing something with your life. You’re no Jedi. You can’t use the Force, yet you pretend to be like us. And for what?” Pell moved closer, crouching down to his knees to peer at her more directly. “Because…you want to prove something. Maybe you want to prove something to Master Skywalker. You know, it’s because of you that he’s not here right now. You’ve taken up all his time. Why? What is it that you want to prove?”
Lilliya pushed herself off the ground, standing straight and threatening. She had had enough of Pell. “All right,” she growled. “You want to play, you got it. If it’ll only make you shut up.”
Pell laughed mockingly. The other students began to crowd around nervously, still keeping their distance.
“There she is,” he murmured. “Now you’re awake. Someone hand me a lightsaber.” He looked towards the crowd.
“I don’t think this—” Someone said, but Pell cut him off.
“Nobody asked for your opinion, Danican. Just hand me the lightsaber.” Danican hesitated, then unwillingly tossed the deactivated lightsaber into Pell’s hand. Pell then passed it on to Lilliya who gripped the handle tightly. She gulped anxiously, realizing that this was probably a really bad idea. Still, she ignited the lightsaber, a blue blade snapping to life.
Pell brandished his white-blue one menacingly. Then saluted Lilliya.
Lilliya didn’t bother with the salute, rather she smacked her blade against his, swatting it away.
And then it began.
White-blue blades collided in crackling hisses. One was more fluid than the other. Lilliya was clumsy, barely keeping out of the way of Pell’s blade. She fought against him, using only her instincts, wondering nervously how it would end.
Pell laughed as he barely used his full strength on her, letting her gain the lead, then backing her up again and again. It was like a predator playing with his prey, knowing that, in the end, he would win.
The crowd of students began to grow as others from other groups joined in. They stayed silent as they watched, fearful of the outcome, and fearful of being found out by their Masters.
Lilliya felt her heart rate quicken as panic filled her veins. She was tiring, constantly dodging Pell’s blazing blade. She almost thought she felt the ends of her hair singe when the blade got too close.
“You’re not getting tired, are you?” he laughed. “I’m barely out of breath!”
Lilliya gritted her teeth angrily, swinging her blade around at his midsection, trying to push him back. She knew this was dangerous and that either one of them could lose a limb or worse. Pell was able to parry and dodge every swing she made with ease.
“I will say this,” he said, smiling, “you could be a challenge. I can’t sense where you will attack next. But, you are too predictable. Try changing it up.”
“What?” Lilliya puffed, trying to catch her breath. “You’re giving me pointers?” She slashed at him again; Pell batted it away with one hand. He began to back her up towards one of the stone walls.
“Why not? I want to make this more interesting.” He feigned a yawn.
Lilliya thrust her blade at him with a one-handed grip, but Pell knocked it easily, the hilt ripping from her hand. It bounced to the ground, deactivating automatically.
“All right, Pell, you win,” Lilliya said, holding her hands up defensively.
But Pell didn’t stop. He charged at her, swinging at her head. Lilliya had to duck and roll to get out of the way. Fear was caught in her throat as she realized Pell didn’t want to stop. She wondered how far he would go. It would be a shame if she died by accident at the hands of a Jedi student, after all she’d survived from.
“Come on, Pell. She’s unarmed,” Lilliya heard one of the students say.
Pell didn’t seem to be hearing them, though. She saw in his eyes a dark rage that frightened her. He couldn’t really be planning on killing her, could he? She knew that Pell didn’t like her, but she didn’t realize his anger was so strong.
Pell swung at her legs this time and Lilliya jumped, missing the blade. She stepped further back from him, but he wouldn’t let up. He swung again, more towards her waist. Lilliya rolled to her side, close enough to kick out her leg and bash her heel into the side of his knee.
That took him by surprise as he toppled over to one side, nearly losing his lightsaber. If wanted unpredictable, he would get it, Lilliya thought.
She took the moment’s pause to see if she was close enough to reach her lightsaber. She wasn’t and Pell was back on his feet before she had a chance to escape.
He swung again, nearly nicking her arm. She felt the heat of the blade brush her skin as she ducked out of the way. Then, out of nowhere, something punched her in the gut, an invisible force shoving her backwards and against the stone wall. She coughed for air.
Pell moved in, brandishing his lightsaber.
Lilliya peered at him through blurry eyes. Was he really going to kill her? It was the only thought that registered in her dazed mind. This can’t be the way it ends…
Fear rolled inside her, flooding through her and down her limbs, to her fingertips and toes. She couldn’t think straight. All she could see was a blinding blue blade flashing in front of her. She felt heat burning her skin, numbing her senses.
Pell had thrown the blade in her direction, towards her head. Lilliya saw it coming, and all of a sudden the air inside of her vanished. Her lungs collapsed, her vision went white, her skin was on fire, and she felt a rushing sensation, as though she was being pulled through a liquid very, very fast.
Pell’s lightsaber nicked the stone wall an inch above Lilliya’s head, or at least, where Lilliya’s head would have been.
She was gone. Her body had vanished literally into thin air. The lightsaber had fallen to the ground, deactivating, since Pell didn’t call it back to his hand. Pell stood in absolute shock, staring at the place where Lilliya should have been. The crowd was silent for what seemed like forever.
A second later, somebody gasped.
Pell turned to see who it was, but found Lilliya standing directly behind him. She did a double-spin, kicking him square in the chest. He flew back hard against the rock wall, his head snapping back against the stone, knocking him out cold.
Lilliya stood shaking, staring at Pell’s limp body. She felt cold, colder than she’d ever been. And completely horrified.
The students stared at her in repulsion. None of them moved, or could think of moving. All they could think of, all they could recall, was Lilliya’s body dissolving, disappearing, and a second later, reappearing behind Pell.
Nobody, no Jedi or Sith, or any species for that matter, could do that.
Lilliya fell to her knees, sucking in air like she had been drowning, clutching her arms. Then she heard the concerned murmuring, the heated whispers.
Lilliya glanced up to see Luke and Ben Skywalker at the front of the crowd. They had gotten there just in time to witness Lilliya’s transportation. The look on Ben’s face was one of pure disbelief, like he couldn’t comprehend what he just saw.
Luke also stood frozen in astonishment, his blue eyes unwavering.
Still, nobody moved, and Luke came to the disappointing conclusion that this young woman was more of a dilemma than they thought before. Now she was a social obstruction. Now she was a real threat.