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Saturday, May 22, 2010

Episode 4: The Heart of Dantooine

In a dark place we find ourselves..a little more knowledge might light our way

Aarik had woken up long after Taedron had left for the temple, he had a  propensity to sleep in when he had stayed up late studying. Aarik washed, dressed and headed downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast and a nice hot cup of vine-coffee that Cook has brought in from Belsavis. When Aarik entered the kitchen, Cook, who had returned from serving breakfast at the temple handed Aarik the steaming cup of coffee with milk and honey. Cook had always had an uncanny way of being prepared for Aarik, especially when matters of food and drink are concerned. “So where are you off to this beautiful spring morning Aarik?” Cook asked. Aarik already had it in his mind where he was going, but to tell too much has never proved to be in his advantage when dealing with Cook or Mrs. Hairon. If he were to tell Cook exactly what he had planned for the day it might not be the best thing, for information had a way of getting back to who they didn’t need to get back to, Taedron. Cook would tell Mrs. Hairon about what Aarik had done, planned to do or just mentioned in passing and she in turn would tell Taedron. So, Aarik made up his mind very quickly, “I am going to search the beaches north of the village for more seashells”, Aarik answered Cook. “Well, if that is the case then it is a good thing I had packed you a small lunch to take”, Cook said giving Aarik a knowing little smile. Aarik ate the breakfast Cook sat in front of him, nuna eggs over easy, milk fried toast.
After Aarik had finished breakfast he took an empty sack for ‘seashells’ and the lunch that Cook had prepared. Aarik walked outside and thought to himself what a beautiful morning it was indeed, there was a light breeze off of the sea and the faint smell of the early spring flowers in bloom. Aarik went down to the stables for Bolie, his small Bol. Aarik put the tack on Bolie and mounted up the two headed north along the beach, greeting and waving to the various villagers and fishermen he met along the shore as he went. After a while of riding Aarik reached the Janta Village.
The people of the villages don’t particularly dislike Jantas, they trade with them all the time. But they are not particularly fond of them either. Though the people of the village and farms on Dantooine are many varied races, they are prejudiced against the Janta for being primitive. Now, Jantas are a very smart people and their little villages are scattered here and there across Dantooine.
Jantas if treated with respect can also be a great source of information on the history of Dantooine, which many would probably consider with skepticism, but not Aarik. He had met Vonik months ago when he ran into Vonik gathering seashells himself along the beaches north of the temple. The two talked for quite a while and Vonik offered to show Aarik more of the ways of the Janta and their history. Aarik was making the trip to speak again with Vonik in hopes he tell him more.
About a half a hour north of The temple Aarik saw the small road, more of a trail really heading east from the beach into the dunes and then what Aarik could gather would lead almost directly or directly to the Janta Village. Aarik had no idea what the name of the village was or if it even had a name. Assuming the level of intelligence shown by his new friend Vonik and the way Vonik talked of his people Aarik was sure the village, town or settlement would be very interesting, name or no name.
Aarik took the small road up into the mix of rolling dunes and trees, he rode on until the dunes gave way to a small rocky forest of conifers and herb bushes. Soon after there were tell tail signs he was getting close to the village, actually the small road sign at a fork in the road was the tip, it was a wooden pole with a skull and some fish bones hanging from it, where the small road that this one intersected going north and south would lead, he didn’t know, so he kept heading east. Then as he rounded a corner there it was, the Janta Village. It was round and walled with stones and the dome shaped structures, some made of wood, others made of stone rose up many feet into the air, ropes hung between them and there were Jantas everywhere, wearing all the same fur and woven cloth type wraps.
Aarik stopped at the gate to be greeted by two guards. “So what you be wanting?”, a guard asked, both of the guards were wearing the most peculiar armor, it seemed to be almost patchwork from various skins and bones. “I am here just to visit with my friend Vonik”, Aarik answered. The guards looked Aarik up and down suspiciously and the one said, “You wait”. Then he said, “We go get Vonik.” The two headed into the village.

2

A few minutes later Vonik came walking up to the gates followed by the two guards. “Hello Aarik, I not expect to be seeing you, but I ask you to come, so come”, Vonik said smiling. “Hello to you as well Vonik”, Aarik greeted Vonik in return. “Why you come Aarik?” Vonik questioned. Aarik and Vonik walked out into the small clearing by the village, right by a newly plated garden. “I have been thinking of what you told me of your people Vonik and I was hoping that you could tell me more about them and their history.” The Janta motioned for Aarik to sit and the two sat down on the grass at the edge of the garden and Vonik began, “The Janta live on Dantooine many thousand years, we native people. Others come join us, some human, Zabrak, Twi'lek and Weequay.” “Aarik you Jedi, I tell you story of bad Jedi ”, Vonik finished. “Oh yes, Vonik, please do.”
“Long time been past, in old, old days Janta had stone holy to us. Stone called ‘Pok og Datin’, you say ‘Heart of Dantooine’. Bad Jedi lived at temple. He live with other not bad Jedi’, Vonik said. “We no know if other bad Jedi know he bad. But he stole Pok og Datin and took to temple, it not same temple u live now. Old tale say we talk to not bad Jedi, tell them he stole stone. He tell them no, they say he no lie. He no stone and no give stone back.” Aarik, considered the story and said, “How long ago was this Vonik?” The Janta said, “Me not know when. Me ask.” Vonik stood and called to some older Jantas, they walked over and the four of them talked and argued a bit. Finally, they all were nodding and agreeing. “Old Janta say many thousand years Aarik.” Aarik replied, “Many thousands of years? That is a long time, the stone is probably gone from Dantooine now Vonik.” The Janta said, “No it still here, we know.” Aarik thought about it, he could investigate the story. Aarik knew his time was running short he had class soon and needed to get back to the temple. Aarik said, “Vonik, I will see what I can find out about the stone, I’ll let you know if I find anything. However, I need to get going” they said their farewells and Aarik mounted Bolie and they returned to the temple for his lessons with Master Melucian.
Aarik told Master Melucian the story that the Janta had told him o about the stone, just not when or where he was told it. “Well Aarik, I have not heard of the Heart of Dantooine, or of a Jedi stealing such a stone. The Jedi have been on Dantooine on and off for thousands of years, he is correct about that. Now, as for another temple, that could also be true. This site we are at now has been used here and again for five thousand years or so, but older Jedi ruins are on the planet.” Aarik asked where are those Master Melucian, I have not seen them.”
“Aarik, I am not going to tell you. I want you to research the locations of the other Jedi ruins, then write a report on your findings. Now, if you happen to find the Heart of Dantooine as a result of your search, which your Janta friends seem to believe is still here on Dantooine, all the better. You are a tenacious padawan Aarik, almost ready for your Knight Trials, if the stone is on Dantooine, you will find it”, Master Melucian said smiling at Aarik. Aarik said, “Yes Master, I will get right on it.” Melucian said, “You do that, I’ll see you tomorrow at your lesson time and you can tell me of your progress.”
Aarik was headed over to the library to research Jedi ruins here on Dantooine when Taedron ran over, “Hey, I didn’t wake you this morning when I got up did I? You were up so late I wanted you to sleep in.” Aarik looked at his Master and lover, “No you didn’t. I think I slept too late actually”, he said smiling. “Come have lunch with me Cook and COO-2180 are about to serve lunch” , Taedron said. Aarik had forgotten it was just about lunch, how in the world could he forget, he was always hungry. “Cook, you have nut crusted goober fish again!” Aarik exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell me this morning?” Cook replied smiling, “I like to see you surprised is all.” Aarik was an avid seafood fan, his favorites were from Dantooine, berry crabs, river prawns, goober fish and red flounder, and he really liked it all except muscles and squid. Aarik and Taedron ate with some of the Guardians in training. “Aarik do you know how much caffeine is in Poptree Soda?”, Taedron asked. Aarik sat the soda down and said, “Not nearly enough Master.” The others at the table laughed, Aarik laughed too. “He drinks a huge cup of vine-coffee every morning and usually has two or three Poptree Sodas at lunch, then when he gets home Cook has a pot of Tarine tea ready for him. He is addicted to caffeine I think”, Taedron said. He was teasing Aarik, trying to give his padawan more attention in public, Aarik had recently accused him of treating him coolly when around others. Taedron had promised to do better. After they had finished eating Taedron asked. “Where are you headed now?” Aarik replied, “I have to go to the library and do some research for a report. I’ll tell you all about it tonight, because I may need your help.” Taedron touched his padawan’s shoulder, “Ok, well, I’ll see you for your lightsaber training in two hours.” Aarik headed over to the library and was greeted by X3PO. “Hello Master Aarik, Do you have another report that you need my assistance with?” Aarik smiled at the droid, “X3PO, I sure do.” The droid said, “Very good, I do enjoy helping others, it is a shame more people do not visit the library.” Aarik replied, “Well, you see me here often X3PO, I won’t let you down.”
“I need help finding old Jedi ruins here on Dantooine, think you can help me find that information?”, Aarik asked. “Why certainly, let me see”, the 3PO droid said as he walked over to the computer interface. “Here is the information you requested Master Aarik”, the droid said. The giant holoimager displayed Dantooine and the dots meant the locations of various Jedi ruins. Aarik touched one and read on it, then continued with the next. “Some of these ruins are over ten thousand years old”, he told the droid. Aarik plugged in his data pad and downloaded the information. “Thank you X3PO, you help was invaluable”, Aarik said, giving the droid a little boost. “You are most certainly welcome Master Aarik, let me know if you need help in the future.”

3

Aarik headed home to read over the material in his room before a short nap. He had less than two hours before his lessons with Taedron. He entered the house through the kitchen like always and sure enough Cook and COO-2180 were home back home from the temple, “Master Aarik, I have prepared a snack for you, it is a new recipe I wanted to try, I think you will like it”, the COO droid said. Aarik looked at Cook and he just made the face that said, may as well try it. Aarik sat at the table and the droid placed the plate in front of him. It looked delicious Aarik thought, “What is it?” The droid answered, “It is a vine-coffee, chocolate crumble, with Vasarian Brandy mousse on top.” Aarik tasted the desert, it was really good. “COO, that is excellent”, Aarik said while continuing eating. Aarik had two pieces of the desert and two cups of Tarine Tea. Aarik thought he may not need a nap after all that caffeine, it didn’t bother him.
He thanked them both and headed upstairs to work on his report. After studying the locations on the map he realized there is no way Bolie would be able to make the trips in the time, he would be all day just going to one and back. Aarik considered he could camp while traveling between sites. No, he would miss Taedron too much he thought. Well, Taedron could come along for the trip and then the more he thought about it the more he knew that would not happen. Aarik just needed a faster way to travel, he could borrow someone’s speeder. Master Melucian has a classic XJ-8 he could borrow. He will just ask Taedron what he thinks about it.
“Absolutely not”, Taedron replied. “But Master I need to do the report properly”, Aarik said insistently. “I have no problem with you traveling to the ruins, but you are not borrowing anyone’s speeder, least of all Master Melucian’s.” Taedron sighed as the two left the training room, “You did very well today in your lightsaber training Aarik.” The padawan said, “Thanks”. Taedron took Aarik’s arm and said while they were walking to the dining room, “We will figure something out, your right about you and Bolie making the trips, it won’t work.”
Mrs. Hurian was helping Cook and COO-2180 in the serving line. “Mother what are you doing back there?”, Taedron asked. “What does it look like Taedron? I am having to help, the droid is trying new recipes and they fell behind. They are very good new entrees. Taedron you are getting the baked red flounder with camby berry chutney and Aarik, your getting berry crab claws with spicy bantha butter.” Aarik exclaimed, “Yes!” After the two they helped Cook, the COO and Mrs. Hairon get everything cleaned up. The four headed home and watched the news and their favorite holonet shows ‘Smugglers Run’ and ‘Wayback Machine’. After the shows were over Taedron and Aarik took a shower together and went to bed. “I love the Wayback Machine, but I hope no one creates a real time machine like that. Sharman and Dr. Peabandy are always so close to messing up the timeline.” Taedron laughed, then he held and kissed Aarik, pulling him onto the bed. “Your so funny Aarik no one can create a time machine.”
Aarik woke up, where was Taedron? It was still early, but if Taedron was up he may as well be the good padawan and get up as well. Aarik washed his face and put on a robe. “What in the world are you doing up Aarik?”, Cook asked. Mrs. Hairon said, “I have something new and before you say anything, just take it and we can argue later.” She sat the bottle down in front of him. “It will ruin my coffee”, Aarik said. “Fine, just make sure you drink it after you have finished your coffee.” COO-2180 sat a nice cup of hot vine-coffee down in front of Aarik. “Where did Taedron go this early in the morning?”, Aarik asked. Cook and Mrs. Hairon just looked at each other and then both of them shrugged. “You three had to have seen him”, Aarik said. The droid said, “Master Taedron had a cup of coffee and then left.” Cook said, “Ok let’s get this breakfast over to the temple.” Aarik got up and drank the bottle of whatever potion it was, Spring, Daily, or something. He grabbed one of the hot boxes with a handle and the group walked over to the temple.
As they went up the back way into the kitchen. Aarik said, “What is that ship doing here? It looks like a merchant ship.” Mrs. Hairon said, “Aarik bring that food on into the kitchen, it’s probably just a ship delivering supplies.” Aarik helped the three set up the breakfast buffet. The Jedi started coming in to eat. “Aarik, you may as well serve dear since you are here”, Mrs. Hairon said. Aarik washed up and put on gloves, Cook refused to use the automated kitchen here at the Jedi Temple, he and COO-2180 cook at home and bring it over. Taedron was next in line to be served, “Why did you get up so early this morning?” He looked at Aarik and hid a smile, “I had things to attend to and those gloves suit you, I think you may have found your calling.” Aarik laughed, “I don’t think so.” Aarik was finally able to fix his own plate, he went and sat at the table with Taedron and the others. The group of Jedi at the table started discussing Aarik’s report and the traveling he was going to have to do. They were planning his routes his campsite, the watering spots for Bolie. “Aarik it looks like you are going to be gone for about 3 weeks”, Vins Voz said, smiling and laughing. “Aarik looked dismayed, “3 weeks? Traveling for 3 weeks?” Aarik was glad he was through eating because he had lost his appetite at that time frame.

4

Everyone began to stand up and go put their trays away, “Come on Aarik let’s walk”, Taedron said. Cook and Mrs. Hairon were following them outside. Many of the Jedi were standing all in a group out front. “What’s going on Taedron?” Taedron nodded and the Jedi moved out of the way. There was a speeder sitting out front. “What is that?”, Aarik asked. “It is yours and mine actually”, Taedron answered. Aarik as very surprised. “Are you serious? I can’t believe it”, Aarik said as he walked up to the speeder. Mrs. Hairon said smiling, “I was scared the surprise would be spoiled with you getting up early for the first time in who knows when.” Taedron said, “It’s an X-34, a classic model. It’s very, very old but should do fine for what we need.” Aarik said, “It’s perfect Master. Thank you!” the Jedi had gone on about their mornings. Mrs. Hairon and Cook went back inside. “So this is what you were up so early for and why there was a cargo ship on the lading pad?” Taedron said, “Well, I couldn’t have you riding your bol across half of the Northern Continent going from ruin to ruin camping in between. It would have been too dangerous and took you away from me for far too long. Now you can make a trip a day to the locations and be home in time for supper.”
“Well, It is a good a time as any, get in and let me teach you to drive.” Aarik hopped in the driver’s seat and Taedron got in. Aarik drove them towards the beach, it would be the best place to learn Taedron thought, less to hit. After a short while Aarik got the hang of driving and they returned to the temple. “Go get your maps and a communications device. Cook has your lunch packed and ready to go”, Taedron said to Aarik. “So, I get to go today?”, Aarik asked. “You may as well start”, Taedron said. Taedron knew Aarik needed more freedoms, to get out and away from home, the temple and from him.
Aarik set out for the closest of the old Jedi ruins, it was about 90km away, and he would be there and back before he knew it. The Dantooine countryside was pretty, he passed herds of pickets, bols, thunes and a scary group of grauls. But, in spite of the grauls being large and dangerous Aarik was glad they and the other larger animals had reestablished on Dantooine. The trip was uneventful really, he passed farms and a few Janta villages. Aarik eventually reached the first set of Jedi ruins. It was fairly large and for the most part totally ruins. Aarik didn’t know what to expect when he got there, the pictures in the database were really helpful. Aarik walked around the ruins looking for a clue to a secret door or something that may have remained unnoticed over time. His search turned up nothing, but he used his data pad to take more up to date picture. He could give them to X3PO and maybe the librarian droid could use them on this temples information.
Aarik returned home and went to see Master Melucian, he told Master Melucian that he had found nothing, which of course was to be expected this many years later. “Aarik, don’t be discouraged by one site, for this assignment is also to help hone your investigation skills as well.”
The next day Aarik went for the temple in the east, it was about 150km away, and this one was used up until three thousand years ago. When Aarik arrived, there was not much to see, the temple was originally very small and appeared to be more of a shrine. The sea that had been created on Dantooine had surround the temple leaving it as an island. Aarik took pictures of it as well and then returned back home. It was too late in the evening to see Master Melucian and instead watched the holonet with Taedron.
The last temple was in the north about 300km, lots further than the other two. Aarik brought two packed meals with him for this trip. It was a lot cooler up near the mountains, the temple ruins here were by a small lake. Aarik got out of the speeder and walked around. This complex of ruins was quite a bit larger than the others. Some of the buildings were not in bad shape, one looked very much like the temple back home. Aarik rounded a wall and there was a large door led inside what remained of a large pyramid. This pyramid structure was unlike the other buildings he had encountered so far.
Aarik was nervous about going in, not telling what creatures may line in there. “Aarik you are about to become a Knight if everything goes well, suck it up and do this”, he told himself. Had Taedron or Master Melucian known that any of the entrances to the pyramids were still accessible they would not have let Aarik go alone. Aarik used his data pad for a light and entered the darkened doorway. The first room was large and it led to en even larger room behind it. The temple had a one time large working light fixtures and computer consoles, but the lights and consoles along with everything else had been ripped out and taken over the millennia .The opening to the temple was clean of debris, but as he got inside, there was a buildup up rocks and soil on the floor. The larger room had four hallways leading off of it. Aarik decided to take the one on the left first. The passage lead around and down into a large chamber with some stonework on the walls and nothing else. Aarik went back up and took the passage to the right, it led down as well, and however, the ceiling had collapsed and was impassable. Aarik had one last passage to try, he and been taking pictures of the inside of the building.

5

Aarik entered the center passage, it led down as he expected it too, down to another large chamber, this one had stonework on its walls as well, but this chamber had three more passages leading out of it. Aarik decided to take the middle one first. It led down again, then leveled off into a long passage. There were what have one been elevator shafts leading up, but there were no longer elevators there. Aarik reached the end of this passage, it divided off into two large rooms. One was completely empty from what he could see and the second still had items and things strewn across the floor. Aarik looked at the debris, this was more modern, like from an archaeological dig. Aarik said out loud, “This is useless, I have led myself this hunt knowing full and well these temples have been the subject of looting and study forever.”
“Yes, they have young padawan”, a voice said. Aarik jumped and almost screamed, he was scared. Where was the voice coming from? Aarik looked all around and then it appeared out of the shadow. “Who are you? What are you?”, Aarik questioned. “Who I am or was does not matter anymore. But what I am is another story. I am a disembodied spirit of a Jedi that fell away from his path long ago.” The blue transparent being approached Aarik, "Do not be afraid padawan, I will not harm you.” Aarik finally whispered, “A force ghost.” The ghost answered, “Yes, that may be what they call what I am these days. For I have no way of knowing when this time is. What year is it padawan?” Aarik still breathing hard answered, “It is the year 1000 ABY.” The force ghost said. “ABY, it means nothing to me.” Aarik said, this temple was constructed over ten thousand years ago if that helps.” The Force Ghost surprised, “Ten thousand years? Has it been so long? I remember when the temple was new.” The ghost was of no old man, but of a young man, probably in his twenties.
“I know why you have come young padawan. I was the Jedi that took the Pok og Datin from the natives. I was the one who used it to amplify my dark powers and then drained them from it to make me more powerful. I was also the one cursed to linger after my death because of it. You may take it, for I have no use for it now”, the force ghost said. “I have been waiting on one who would come and return it to them.” Aarik was no longer really scared but now felt that this Dark Jedi had more than paid the price for his actions. The force ghost motioned Aarik over to a wall and said, “It is behind here, those that came before you to plunder and steal never discovered the secret room, and it is protected by an alloy that masks it from being detected. Clever wasn’t it padawan?” Aarik answered, “Yes it was, very clever.”
The ghost told Aarik, “Push on the wall, once on all four corners and then three times in the middle.” Aarik did as he was told and the secret door opened. The blue ghost led Aarik into the small room, there was a large red crystal suspended over an alter and a box on the floor. “The crystal is quite heavy padawan. There is also something that you can take for yourself in the box, a force crystal, for a lightsaber, it has never been used. It was cut from a crystal found in a dead star. Aarik picked up both objects, “Now go,” the ghost said. “There is nothing I can do for you?”, Aarik asked. The force ghost laughed a long laugh, “No, just go.” Aarik left the small room and when he got back to the door to the large chamber, the force ghost was still watching him. “Thank you”, Aarik said to the blue ghost as he left the chamber.
Aarik left the pyramid and put the two objects in his speeder. As he drove back home he considered the fate of the unknown Jedi, who was now seemingly trapped in the temple as a force ghost. Aarik felt bad for him and wished that he could do something for him. But, Aarik was glad he had retrieved the Heart of Dantooine and could return it to the Janta. It was late evening when Aarik got home, he was met by Taedron, Mrs. Hairon and Cook. “Well, right on time Aarik”, Taedron said and hugged his padawan. “How was the trip?”, Taedron asked, knowing Aarik didn’t find what he was looking for, but needed to ask.
“It was a success”, Aarik said smiling, but had a bothered look on his face. “It was?”, they all three asked in unison. Aarik lifted the Heart of Dantooine out of the speeder. “Oh my, Aarik that is truly amazing”, Taedron said in total surprise. “I can’t believe you found it Aarik”, Mrs. Hairon added astonished. The three looked at the crystal and Aarik took it and the box inside the Jedi Temple. Master Melucian said, “Extraordinary Aarik, simply Extraordinary, I have seen force ghosts before, but never one ten thousand years old before. And to be trapped inside the temple for so long.” Master Melucian shook his head still looking at the large red crystal.

6

“I also have something else to show you, though I have not seen it myself. I wanted to tell you all about it first and all see together”, Aarik said looking at Taedron. “What is it Aarik?”, Taedron asked. “It is a lightsaber crystal, never used. It was cut from a crystal found in a dead star. At least this is what I was told.” Aarik opened the box and within it was an odd crystal, long and heavy, it looked like a gray diamond, with a faint glow emanated from the stone. “Aarik that is quite unusual, I have never heard of such a crystal”, Taedron said. “We need to have it analyzed to make sure it is safe. I don’t feel any dark energy from it, though I do sense a natural power, just as precaution, let’s put it in a containment field.”
The next day Aarik took the Heart of Dantooine to the Janta Village to return it to the people. Vonik and the villagers rejoiced at the return of the Pok og Datin. Aarik was hailed as a hero and made and honorary member of the tribe. Aarik was sitting in his room that afternoon. “Padawan”, Aarik turned, it was the force ghost. “How?”, Aarik asked. “I am free now and I have you to thank as you thanked me”, the blue ghost said. “You will become a great Jedi one day padawan, I have seen it.” The force ghost of the unknown Jedi disappeared.
The End
by sweufan