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Hunters of the Dark Side (Part 8)

 


Chapter Twenty-Two

John was standing in the doorway to Miss’Ouri Ot’Kla’s kitchen. Her home was like many on Dantooine, sprawling but low-to-the-ground and partially built into the side of one of the farming planet’s many grassy dunes, windows set high in the walls where the building peeked above the bluff. It hadn’t changed since the last time he’d stood here over twenty years ago.

 

“John Winchester,” the Caamasi woman’s voice singsonged, her tone somewhat melancholy. “Just what do you think you’re doing here?”

 

Miss’Ouri, short and stout for a Caamasi, was standing at her gasser with her back to John. The kitchen was set on the side of the building that was away from the dune, so it was light and airy with high ceilings and a row of tall windows that ran above the line of appliances and the sink. The windows were tilted open, and a light, dew-scented breeze was blowing through them. It was possible she had seen his reflection in the window or possibly heard his near-silent footsteps, but John thought it more likely that she had sensed him approaching, perhaps even known of his impending arrival for hours or days. Miss’Ouri was, after all, a trained Jedi, even if she no longer saw eye-to-eye with the Order, and she was renowned for her gift of prophecy and Force-sight. She was stirring something that smelled like yot bean stew. John stilled for a moment to inhale the aroma. It reminded him of Mary and home. He wished he had cooked better for the boys over the years, hell, he wished he cooked better for himself. But then the pain and loss, the anguish of Mary’s death rose anew in his chest, and he remembered why he had not. Sometimes reminders of home and the happy life he’d had were too much.

 

“Please, Miss’Ouri, my boys…. It’s after my boys,” John begged, finding it hard to figure out where to start. He leaned into the door jam letting the cool duracrete take his weight. He felt like he had learned and deduced so much over the past weeks, the pieces were starting to fall together in his mind, clicking into place, snapping and locking, like parts of a children’s toy. Yet there was so much John knew that he didn’t understand, pieces that were blurred or missing. And one wrong step could mean everything falling apart, everyone…  I will not lose my son! Not like I lost Mary! He couldn’t control the desperation that spilled from his mind, desperation he knew Miss’Ouri would have to understand.

 

“Your boys are on their way here,” Miss’Ouri replied, tapping the wooden spoon against the rim of the pot and placing it on the work surface, while holding back a flinch at John’s emotional overflow. 

 

John tensed, almost ready to run. He wanted his sons protected, but he couldn’t see them, not here, not now, it was too risky. If the Sith got them all together…

 

Turning to face him at last, Miss’Ouri took in John’s skittish appearance. “John, I said they’re on their way, they’re not here yet. Now sit down before you pull something… or give me an even bigger headache.” Miss’Ouri held out her hand, gesturing at one of the sturdy chairs that surrounded her table. 

 

John noticed she seemed almost playful, teasing, not upset, so he allowed himself to relax a moment, and only a moment. He immediately tensed. Why is she playful? Doesn’t she realize how serious this is? Isn’t she taking me…

 

“John!” her voice broke through his thoughts loud and clear. “I’ve told you a thousand times, you think too loud. I do take you seriously, just…” She took a deep breath. “Let go a little bit right now. The Universe is just gonna keep on ticking along, and you need to start by telling me what you’re thinking, and what you think you know, one little step at a time rather than letting it all come tumbling out in one big painful psychic jumble. Take deep breaths, I know you can do that.” As she spoke, she sat at the table and scooted forward in her chair.

 

Hesitantly, John stepped into the room, approaching Miss’Ouri with trepidation.

 

She nodded, her expression still a little scolding.

 

John took a few more steps and stiffly folded himself into a chair facing Miss’Ouri.

 

She brought her right hand forward to rest on John’s, and he gasped at the touch. Caamasi were naturally telepathic among their own species and experienced emotions acutely.  Couple that with Miss’Ouri’s Jedi training—even if she no longer considered herself to be a member of the order—and you had one talented and formidable woman whose touch felt like an electric surge, at once grounding and purging John, forcing the overwhelming thoughts out, making him refocus. He sat breathing, just looking into her eyes, still, existing, for several minutes until his thoughts and emotions coalesced into a more salient, linear strand. 

 

“Good, John,” she said, lifting her hand away. “Here now, have a cookie.” As she spoke, she reached across the table to the cylindrical jar at its center removing a puffy little blob. “Baked them myself. Besides, you could need some more meat on your bones.” She placed the cookie in John’s hand, and closed his fingers around it. “Now, tell me.”

 

John looked at the cookie in his hand like it was a key that would unlock the mysteries of the universe. He took a tentative bite and began. “The thing that killed Mary, it’s a Sith. I’m not sure how or why or who, but it is, and it’s after my boys… or at least it’s after Sam,” John began tentatively.

 

“Go on,” Miss’Ouri said with a nod that made John think all too much of counselors and medics and sterile environments—all the threats and encouragement he’d received twenty-two years before when he’d found Miss’Ouri and she pointed him on the path to hunting. She scrutinized him, eyes narrowing, “John, I am not going to rip the thoughts from your head, so you had better tell me. I know this makes you uncomfortable, but…”

 

“Ok,” John sighed. “It… I think it’s possessing people. I don’t know how that works, but it’s the only thing that makes sense. It keeps changing ships, and there’re never the same two people on them. I checked aliases, I thought it might be smuggled goods, but then I had a friend slice the scanner logs a Hutt did on one of the passenger vessels, and they couldn’t find anything. I thought I might have just missed something, but then…” John stopped, swallowing. Just thinking it mad a chill whip through his body. “It tricked me. Like it was aware, intelligent. Sent me off on a wild Iriaz hunt, tried to get me caught by CorSec. And while I was tied up, it went and killed Sam’s girlfriend. Burned. On the ceiling. Just like Mary.” 

 

Miss’Ouri squeezed his hand again. John realized, belatedly, that they were shaking, crumbs falling from the cookie. Miss’Ouri’s touch calmed him enough that his was able to take his hand still, taking another bite. This time he actually tasted the puffy, chewy texture. They were flavored with something sweet and earthy and a little spicy—chocolate John thought, if he remembered right. He recalled Miss’Ouri once telling him that chocolate was an ancient food that many Jedi found soothing.

 

“And so you came to me.” Miss’Ouri said, more statement than question.

 

John blinked, taken aback, Well of course, I came to you, he thought, but really, why was that? Miss’Ouri was trustworthy, because she was a Caamasi, and because she was a Jedi. But John knew that sometimes Jedi lied… Scratch that, actually he found Miss’Ouri to be so trustworthy because she had left the Jedi order. He had always been suspicious of the Jedi’s isolationist, attachment-phobic tendencies, and somehow Miss’Ouri’s separation from the order had always signaled to him a rejection of those less-than-trustworthy aspects of the Jedi. But more than that, Miss’Ouri was the person who set John on the path to begin with, the person who had helped him to figure it all out, to understand that he really hadn’t imagined his wife burning on the ceiling, hadn’t imagined the fire lashing out at him like it was alive, and for that reason alone, he would always see her as his most trusted advisor… but for that same reason, he had resisted coming to her when he first got word of the Sith, because telling her, waiting for her answer would make it real.

 

Miss’Ouri hadn’t moved. She was studying John, her eyes soft and reassuring, yet coaxing, looking at John like she knew what he wanted to say (and maybe she did), but needed him to say it aloud.

 

“I thought you would know. I think I know you know… something about this. And now maybe you can tell me?” John said, hearing the uncertainty in his own voice.

 

Miss’Ouri let out a long sigh, pulling her hand back from John’s and tabling her fingers together. “I know you don’t particularly care for the Jedi, because of how they take children away from their families.”

 

John nodded, swallowing another mouthful of cookie, inherently understanding that he would not be getting a quick or straightforward answer. 

 

“Well, that is not the only reason I left the Jedi. In fact, I joined the order as a child knowing that I would one day leave because of a secret about which my people know, a secret that has been passed down from generation to generation, the memory of it shared to chosen children in the bloodline for over five thousand years.” She paused, as if waiting for John’s reaction.

 

John felt his eyes widen, but remained silent.

 

Miss’Ouri continued, a triumphant look passing through her eyes as if John had passed some sort of test. “It’s a long story,” she said, glancing over at the pot of stew that was boiling away on the gasser. “You don’t mind if I keep with my cooking while I tell it to you, do you?”

 

John shook his head.

 

“All right then,” Miss’Ouri said, rising, her hands running over the fabric of her robe lightly, smoothing it as she stood. She puttered over to the stew and stirred a moment in silence, before turning to her food prep station and beginning to chop some vegetables. 

 

“You see, there are some secrets, some prophecies if you will, that even the Jedi fear. They don’t like them because they challenge the precise order with which the Jedi control everything. Order is a huge part of the Jedi order...” She looked over her shoulder at John her features quirked in the Caamasi version of a smile. “Jedi fear the Dark Side, yet they know fear leads to it, so their solution to the conundrum is to follow rigid protocols and strict routines. They sort everything into little boxes and categories and expect it to stay there, try to hush it up when it doesn’t. Of course that doesn’t always work. Life doesn’t fit into neat categories, and neither does the force.” 

 

She paused again, glancing back, her eyes piercing John, and through her look he knew, he knew that one of these secrets had something to do with his sons. John’s heart flipped in his chest, thumping against his ribs, making it hard to breathe. He almost didn’t want to hear, but at least now he might know…

 

Miss’Ouri turned back to her vegetables, her knife making a rhythmic thumping sound on the prep surface.  She tossed some of the yams she was slicing into the stew pot and resumed slicing, this time chopping tatoes into precise cubes. “A little over five thousand years ago, before the Jedi Civil War, before Kun… there was a Sith Lord who rose to power. He had many, many followers, and for a time, it seemed like he would defeat the Jedi, and thrust the galaxy into an era of chaos. He rose to power so quickly and so fluidly, because the Jedi under estimated him, doubted that he could do what he said. He plumbed some of the deepest depths of Sith lore, scouring for ideas, and he was smart too. Creative. Came up with a fair number of tricks no one had ever seen or heard of before.” She tossed the tatoes in the pot and stepped away from the prep station, clearly hunting for something. “Ahh, there it is,” she murmured, bending over to retrieve a large, broad, curved pan John thought was used for sautéing greens. 

 

She stood with the pan, turning towards John again. “Mind you, back then, not many knew of the Sith,” she added, shaking her finger at John. “The legends weren’t as ripe and ready in the imagination, and it had been a long, long time since anyone had really had to face a Sith threat. The Jedi wanted to keep it that way, so they kept it mostly silent, not letting the people know what was causing all the trouble,” she added with a sigh, setting the pan down on the cooking surface on top of the gasser. She turned to the conservator and began rummaging inside for more vegetables, continuing her story as she did so. “They hid it from themselves—many members of the order didn’t even know what was going on. For all their preaching, Jedi have always had problems with arrogance and secrecy. They think they know better than everyone else, and sometimes, that means we pay the price for their mistakes.” Miss’Ouri emerged from the conservator, bundles of greens and good-sized block of soypro stacked in her arms. She paused, a far-off look in her eyes, her features momentarily tense, as if she was trying to figure out how much to tell John or how best to tell him.

 

“What happened,” John asked, finally, his breath shaky with anticipation.

 

“The Jedi were appalled at how many of their own were following him, how many younglings they had missed or rejected were falling under his thrall,” she said setting the ingredients on the prep station, and resuming her methodical slicing and chopping. John found her cooking soothed him, lessened the shaky, prickly feeling her words gave him, made him almost able to believe it really was just a story.

 

“This Sith Lord he appealed to the rejects so to speak, those society—especially the Order—had rejected; he was willing to take and accept those that the Jedi had cast aside. So they made a choice.” Her voice was cutting, cold, strained as if the words she was speaking hurt to form. “They decided to use a weapon, the worst weapon, one only Sith had used before.”

 

John shivered. The air in the room seemed to get colder, as if sensing the darkness of Miss’Ouri’s tale.

 

She set down her knife, and rested her hands against the counter. She didn’t turn to John, instead looked up and out of the large window, seeming to take strength and peace from the breeze as it wafted into the house. “It was called the thought bomb. It’s a weapon that uses the Dark Side to vaporize any force-sensitive individuals within its blast radius. It rips clothing from flesh and flesh from bone, and kills, sucking the living souls of its victims into a sphere of Dark Side energy where the souls are trapped and tormented by the Dark Side for all eternity. Of course, by employing this most vile of weapons, the Jedi themselves had to use the Dark Side, open themselves to it, commit an unthinkable wrong.” She paused again, turning, her expressive eyes piercing John’s.

 

He shuddered at the description, but remained silent. Somewhere in this story might lie the key to explaining the suffering his family had been forced to endure. John swallowed the last of his long-forgotten cookie and shifted in his chair uncomfortably.

 

“Creating a thought bomb requires a very complex ritual and the efforts of several Sith Masters.” Miss’Ouri explained, wiping a hand across her forehead. “Of course, that meant that it similarly took several Jedi, sworn to secrecy, and pledged to violate the sacred vows of their Order to use the Dark Side. They justified it, said it was for the greater good—using the Dark Side against the Dark Side, defeating evil with evil—just this once would be OK.”

 

John nodded, he’d heard other hunters echo similar sentiments from time to time, hell, some of the people in his unit had shared similar sentiments when engaged in one of the particularly bad inter-system feuds they’d been deployed to settle. It was an appealing thought. Appealing, but flawed. Because once you start down the dark path… There was always the problem of when to stop and where to draw the line. And every time after that, it was just that much easier to do it again.

 

 Miss’Ouri cocked her head at John before turning back to her cooking. She laid the neatly shredded greens in the sauté pan and added the soypro to the stew pot. “Of course, a normal thought bomb wouldn’t be enough.”

 

“Why?” John couldn’t stop himself from asking. He couldn’t think of anything much worse than being trapped in the Dark Side of the force. What more could the Jedi have wanted?

 

“A thought bomb is a sphere of Dark Side energy with the souls of its victims trapped inside. It’s a tangible, corporeal, physical object that, given the right training and enough skill with the Force, could be torn open to let the souls escape.” Miss’Ouri explained. “The Jedi saw The Sith Lord and his followers as such a threat that they wanted to get rid of them for all time. No chances, no risks. No dark souls speaking to young Force-sensitives in their dreams. No accidentally getting freed farther down the line. So, the Jedi experimented and researched and studied the forbidden Sith texts and came up with a way to send the thought bomb to the other side, to actually trap it within the Dark Side of the force, like a dark soul that has crossed over. Of course in order to do so, it would cost one of their own. A Jedi would have to sacrifice himself and allow himself to be killed by the thought bomb, for only such a sacrifice could destabilize the force enough to allow the others to force the thought bomb into the Dark Side.”

 

John gulped. “That sounds pretty horrible. But what does that have to do with now? Are you saying that this The Sith Lord has somehow figured out a way to work himself free of the Dark Side? Is that…” His voice trailed off. “Is that what’s after Sam?” John’s heart leapt in his throat, his pulse racing, his breath shuddering. Even thinking that such a dangerous monster could be after his boy was enough to terrify his very soul.

 

“The Sith Lord was not killed by the thought bomb.” Miss’Ouri continued calmly, deflecting John’s question, stirring her greens intently. “The story goes that the Jedi’s efforts to manipulate the Dark Side caught his notice. He captured one of the Jedi, tortured him, and found out the plan. He engineered the situation so that his followers would be caught in the bomb’s blast radius, but he would not. When the Jedi found out what had happened, they tracked him down and engaged him in a duel.” She shuffled the pan around on the gasser’s cooking surface, focusing intently on the movements. “The Sith Lord was killed, but not in a fair fight; he sacrificed himself in order to set the final piece of his plan in motion. He had wanted his followers to be caught and allowed himself to be trapped so that he could later return and free his followers, ushering in a new era of the Force, an era where the Dark Side would reign supreme, unbalanced and unopposed.” Her voice grew pained and cold, “what The Sith Lord either did not know or did not care about is, if the Force is unbalanced too much or for too long, all life will perish. The Jedi, they talk about light and dark and good and evil as if they can exist on their own. But what is good without evil to measure it against? How can you appreciate the light without the dark? So is it with the Force.” She removed the greens from the heat returning her spoon to the stew, stirring with mesmerizing rhythm. “It must be balanced, light and dark together, in order for life, for the universe to exist. Shift the balance too far to one side or the other, and you get death, annihilation, suffering.”

 

“But what does this have to do with my son!” John exclaimed in frustration, rising explosively from his chair.

 

“Patience, John Winchester, or I will smack your ass with this spoon,” she retorted, turning around and sounding much more like her usual, sarcastically sassy self than the sage philosopher of a moment ago. She took a deep breath. “John, you know that my people the Caamasi can share memories with members of their bloodline, memories complete with sensation and emotion, so vivid it’s like you actually lived it.”

 

John nodded wordlessly.

 

Miss’Ouri scowled at him, waving her spoon threateningly. 

 

John took a step back and sat, deflated.

 

“Why don’t you make yourself useful and set the table for us to eat, John,” Miss’Ouri said much more gently. “Plates are in the cupboards behind you,” she added, pointing with her spoon. 

 

“Ok,” John managed to choke out, once again thrown by Miss’Ouri’s somewhat unpredictable mood. He rose stiff and shaky and walked around the table to the cabinets and reluctantly began looking for the place settings.

 

“Don’t worry, John, I’ll keep talking,” Miss’Ouri said, chuckling.

 

John relaxed minutely.

 

“One of my ancestors was a Jedi at the time of the Sith Lord’s rise.” Miss’Ouri continued. “He found out about the Jedi plot and tried to stop it, went to the Council, wanted to reveal the plot to the rest of the Order. It was against the Code to use the Dark Side. But they wouldn’t have it. The Council was so scared that they nearly kicked him out. Instead they just forbade him to talk.” 

 

John could hear her puttering around behind him as he started pulling down plates and bowls to put on the table.

 

“He suspected that the Sith Lord might have something even more sinister was planned, and next he tried to physically stop the Jedi from carrying out the ritual. He did not get there in time, and only narrowly escaped the thought bomb’s blast radius.” 

 

Missouri stopped speaking, and John froze. The air seemed to chill further, and the kitchen was silent but for the subtle bubbling of the stew.

 

“He witnessed the Sith apprentices’ deaths, the misguided sacrifice of a once-noble Jedi master,” she said, her voice cold and anguished, hoarse like she’d been screaming.

 

John looked up to see Miss’Ouri shudder, the pans, windows, and cabinets rattling in response. John tried to still the plate he had just set down, chasing it as it rocked over the edge of the table, catching it, only narrowly prevented it from falling to the floor with a clatter. John looked up. Miss’Ouri was regarding him, her eyes filled with tears, a profound sadness possessing her features. “You saw that,” John said, surprised at the roughness of his own voice. “I mean, it was a, a memnis, passed down to you.”

 

Miss’Ouri nodded solemnly, but no tears fell from her eyes. “And I have experienced what happened next.”

 

John returned the plate to the table and fell back into the seat he had stopped next to.

 

“When he realized that the Sith Lord had escaped, he followed, traced the Sith to his ultimate encounter with the Jedi assassins the Counsel had sent for him. He witnessed the Sith Lord allow himself to be killed, felt the—corruption—of the force, the wrongness and unbalance of it when he crossed over,” Miss’Ouri said, reaching out and clasping her hand into a fist, as if she were reliving the battle or watching it play out before her eyes. 

 

John realized that perhaps she was.

 

“The Sith Lord, promised to the Jedi who killed him, that he would be back, not now but when the time was right, and that he would free his followers from their tomb and together they would rule the galaxy, bringing a new Order to the force, wiping the Jedi from the face of the universe for ever,” she continued, her voice almost possessed. With a shudder she seemed to snap back to the here and now, catching John in another soul-piercing glare. “His words,” she added, turning back to the now-finished stew, “became the so-called Lost Prophecy.” As she spoke, she walked back to the tale, the pot of stew in her hands. “John, be a good boy and fetch the greens, we should eat.”

 

John scrambled to obey, but couldn’t quite stop himself from asking, “but what was the prophecy?”

 

“We’re getting to that,” Miss’Ouri said, gesturing to the spot on the table where she wanted John to set the greens.

 

He complied and took his seat. Miss’Ouri wielding a wooden spoon was definitely a force to be reckoned with; John was not about to risk upsetting her. He raised his eyes expectantly to Miss’Ouri, and found he was filled with an almost eager trepidation, desperate to hear more, yet terrified of what he would learn.

 

“The Sith Lord proclaimed that in time there would be a Chosen One, a child especially strong and talented in the force, a child he would mark as an infant, mark and bind, limiting the child’s access to the force until the Chosen One was ready,” she continued, ladling out the stew into bowls for John and herself. “The Sith Lord claimed to have bound his soul to a relic so expertly hidden that only a Jedi of incredible talent, cunning, bravery, a Jedi dedicated to the hunting of the Sith would be able to find it, when such a Jedi found the relic, it would signal the coming of the chosen one, and wake the dark lord from his slumber.”

 

John waited, mouth half-open, attempting to enjoy his yot bean stew, but shocked by Miss’Ouri’s words. 

 

She glared at him. “Haven’t you learned not to chew with your mouth open boy?”

 

John shut his mouth with a click, and hastily gulped down the soup. “What do you mean ‘wake the dark lord from his slumber?’”

 

“Well,” Miss’Ouri answered, seeming to choose her words as she savored her own sip of stew, “those of us dedicated to studying the lost prophecy believe that the relic was meant to act as an anchor for the Sith Lord’s soul. When it was found and activated, it would somehow pull the Sith Lord’s soul out of the Force and back into the mortal world. It is believed that this Jedi would lead the Sith Lord to the Chosen One, and that when the Chosen One reached a certain point in his or her life, the Sith Lord would release the bindings, allowing the chosen one to touch the Force for the first time as an adult.”

 

John shuddered, the Force was so powerful, he’d known a fair number of Jedi during his time in the support corps, and the way they talked about the Force and learning to use it, he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to suddenly have that power as what, an adult? Still, something else about Missouri’s story bothered him… “What did the Sith Lord want with the Chosen One?” he asked at last.

 

Miss’Ouri got a strange, strained look on her face, her features pinched as if she was stuck in a particularly tight spot and trying to wiggle her way out. She set down her spoon and leaned back. “The Sith Lord was to use the Chosen One to free his followers from the Dark Side.”

 

John froze. He felt like there was something she wasn’t saying, but it was hard to remember what. “Use” could mean manipulate or kill or both or a million other terrible things, and more and more John was beginning to think that the Chosen One could only be Sam. His dear, beautiful, son. “This Chosen One, it’s Sam isn’t it?” John asked, bitterly.

 

“John,” she started.

 

“No, don’t ‘John,’ me. This is my child we’re talking about. My child who just lost his girlfriend and might have used the Force. My child who is under suspicion of the Jedi Council and is being investigated by a damned Jedi Shadow. Tell me if it’s him!” John spat, rising from he seat. He could feel all the rage and frustration and fear, everything that had piled up since that first fire, since the first inkling of the Sith relic coalesce into a searing flame inside him. John wanted to explode.

 

“John, sit,” Miss’Ouri said calmly, nonplussed by his outburst. 

 

Sagging, John collapsed back into his seat, noticing that his plate seemed to be rocking slightly on the table. Miss’Ouri raised a furred eyebrow at him, but said nothing. John didn’t have energy to spare thinking about what that might mean.

 

“I’m going to tell you a secret that comes with centuries of wisdom and lots of bad experiences,” Miss’Ouri said picking up her spoon and taking another sip of the stew.

 

John regarded her with confusion.

 

“One of the many memnii that were passed on through the generations to me as part of my preparation,” she added by means of explanation. “You see, John, I joined the Jedi Order knowing I was going to leave them one day. I’m the last in a long line of Caamasi Jedi who have been bred and trained to fight the prophecy. Don’t worry, we’re part of a larger plan. And if there’s one thing we’ve learned,” she said, sighing, “it’s that you can’t fight a prophecy.”

 

“So, is my son just doomed? Is that what you’re saying?” John said bitterly.

 

Another raised furry eyebrow. “No John, not at all. I have no idea what Sam’s future will hold. To paraphrase the wise Jedi Council member, “the future is always in motion.” Miss’Ouri pushed back from the table. “I’m just getting us some Chulaberry juice, you just keep your butt in your seat,” she threatened. 

 

“But the prophecy…” John tried again.

 

“We believe the prophecy refers to Sam. I was sent here shortly before he was born to watch for him. We knew that the Sith Lord had been summoned, and that soon he would mark the Chosen One,” Miss’Ouri admitted returning to the table with a tall stoneware pitcher and two large glasses. “We did not know how he would be marked or even if he was, but when your Mary died, we were pretty sure,” she added, pouring the deep purple juice in the glasses and passing one across the table to John.

 

“So, what, you’ve been watching me? Setting Sam up!” John exploded, furious.

 

“No John, I was here to guide you,” Miss’Ouri said, her calm, melodic voice a sharp contrast to John’s increasing agitation.

 

“But why don’t you do something? Does this prophecy just say you have to let Sam die to save the Republic or something? Are you just letting my son die as a noble sacrifice?” John pleaded, his voice caught somewhere between hysterics and rage.

 

“The thing about prophecies is that we never know what they mean. Many Jedi over many centuries have had force visions about the lost prophecy. They have seen snippets of the Sith Lord’s rise. Some have seen different futures, different possibilities.” She paused letting her words sink in. “What we’ve figured out is that prophecies always ‘come true,’ just they don’t always mean what we think they mean. In fact, they may mean many different things, precisely because the future is not predetermined, so even if we could pinpoint exactly what they meant, we wouldn’t know which meaning would be triggered by which actions.”

 

John looked sullenly into his juice, taking a sip. “Ok… Ok, but can’t you do someth—”

 

“Far wiser people than I have tried to manipulate events, change their actions to try to avoid a prophecy, or to try to bring one about. Trying to dodge or fight or direct a prophecy is like trying to fight a sandstorm. Your actions get picked up and swirled around and around mixed up so that they never do what you expect them to do, and in the end, reacting to the prophecy often brings it about. The best thing we can do is prepare, and then act like we don’t know about it. You can’t let this prophecy run your life, and neither can Sam. You need to make your own decisions for your own reasons, not try to fight of the 'what if's of a prophecy!” Miss’Ouri scolded.

 

“But…”

 

“No, no ‘buts’ John. You mess with this, and you could make things worse.” Her face softened. She reached across the table again to pass the greens to John, her hand brushing his and again sending soothing calm through his body. “I know I can’t stop you from trying to hunt this Sith Lord, trying to keep him away from Sam. That’s what you do regardless of any prophecy. But you need to realize that your son is going to need you, you can’t just run away and think you can trick the Sith Lord into a fight. It’s too smart for that.”

 

John thought of the sickening feeling he’d experienced when he realized the Sith had led him astray and set a trap for him. He let out a long, shaky sigh. “I hear what you’re saying, but I’m—”

 

“Scared?”

 

“Yeah,” John added. “Feel like this is my fault. I must have somehow…”

 

You didn’t do anything to bring this about, John,” she replied. “But that’s another story. Your boys will be here soon. I know you think you need to stay away from them, but I’m begging you, don’t run far. They’re hurting, and they’re going to need their father.”

 

“I’ll think about it,” John said, his resolve wavering. He was filled with an overwhelming need to see his sons—fear that they might not have much time left. He still felt like if he stayed away, or just tried to tack the Sith, it would somehow protect the boys, but the way Miss’Ouri had described it, it didn’t sound like that plan would work for long. The Sith Lord was either going to come after Sam or he wouldn’t and there was no way John could guarantee that his actions would stop that from happening.

 

“There’s more to the prophecy, John,” Miss’Oui said, smiling.

 

John looked up, feeling the dread on his face.

 

“It tells of a Guide who will come from the light side of the force, and like the Sith Lord, will be called to rejoin the living. The Guide will find the Healer, a powerful Jedi that does not know his worth. It says that the Healer will have the power to vanquish the Sith Lord once and for all.” 

 

“Huh…” John croaked out in surprise. “That sounds kind of hopeful.”

“Yes it does,” Miss’Ouri said, reaching over to give John’s hand a reassuring squeeze. “Now drink your juice. It will put your mind at ease. I think we’ve had enough discussions of doom and gloom and prophecy for one day.”

 

John burst out laughing much to his surprise. “When you put it that way… Can you tell me one thing though?”

 

“Maybe,” Miss’Ouri responded.

 

“Did this Sith Lord have a name?” John said (OK, so warned or not, he was still going to find out everything he possibly could about this Sith, after all, Miss’Ouri had said they should be prepared).

 

“I doubt you’ll find much about him,” Miss’Ouri answered. “After all, the Jedi did try to keep his uprising, the war, his death, his very existence, a secret.” She resumed eating, and John had pretty much given up any hope of getting an answer out of her when she responded. “Azazel… Lord Azazel, was his name.”

 

 

Chapter Twenty-Three

 

Bobby entered the dining area carrying a deep pot of mynock stew. Mynock might be an acquired taste, but he had mastered preparing and serving the pesky animal, and hoped that a hot, home-cooked meal—rather than whatever prepackaged rations they could find or the local tapcaf’s cheapest fare—would be exactly what the Winchester boys needed to calm down enough to talk some sense into. He had overheard their argument earlier in the day (it was damned near impossible to miss!) and had mostly given them a wide birth since then, opting to spend his time on research instead.

 

Research he had, and he came bearing bad, worse, and hopefully not-so-bad-maybe-even-good news. Right, ply the boys with food and get them to listen. It was only one step above actually drugging them, but they were running out of time. 

 

“So, you two decide to stop fightin’?” Bobby asked, setting the pot down in the middle of the round table, two sets of equally guilty eyes glancing up to meet his. “Thought so,” he murmured, taking his seat and pulling the chair in closer to the table.

 

“So, Bobby, d’you find anything?” Dean asked helping himself to a steaming bowl of stew and pulling a piece of fresh bread from the basket on the table.

 

“Yeah, did you?” Sam echoed, eyes far too eager for the hunt for Bobby’s liking.

 

“Well,” Bobby started, scratching his head. “I’ve got bad news, worse news, and some news that might actually help.”

 

“What’s the bad news?” Dean asked cautiously around a mouthful of stew, slurping the strip of marinated mynock between his lips and spraying broth on the table.

 

“Watch yer manners boy; I know your daddy raised you better than that,” Bobby scoffed, in semi-disgust.

 

Sam tossed a napkin at Dean’s head. Luckily he caught it before it landed in the stew or Bobby would have had harsh words for Sam too.

 

Bobby let out a sigh. “Bad news is there was another fire.”

 

Sam’s spoon clattered to the table.

 

“On Onderon,” Bobby continued. “Hasn’t hit the holonet or the news vids yet, I’ve had a friend of mine in the area running scans for anything along those lines, and I just got a call about it. Just happened.”

 

“Shit,” Dean muttered letting out a sigh. “Wait, there’s worse news?”

 

Bobby gave a rueful chuckle and held out a datapad filled with a criminal alert and warrant notice.

 

Leaning forward to take a closer look, Sam realized what it was first. “Oh crap,” he sighed. 

 

On the alert was a recent picture of Sam, probably one from his school or work ID and an older, blurry picture of Dean, probably snagged off a security holo sometime when Dean was a teenager and managed to actually slip up enough to get photographed.  Their real names were listed underneath along with a list of crimes for which they were wanted. Dean’s included grand theft, burglary, slicing, destruction of Republic property, treason, and accessory to murder, while Sam’s included the same list plus arson and murder swapped for the accessory charge. The warrant bore the seals of both the Jedi Council and Republic Intelligence, and posted a hefty five million credit reward each for information that would lead to the Winchester’s capture.

 

“They think I killed Jess,” Sam murmured incredulously. 

 

“We knew it was a risk, Sam,” Dean said gently, trying to appear interested in his soup but looking sick.

 

“I hate to rub it in, but a lot of people saw your little battle with the Sith, and they think you were firing on a republic military vessel,” Bobby started.

 

“Oh, right,” Dean said. “That’s what the ‘treason’ is. I was wondering what the hell was up with that.

 

“So far, these are just going out to people who are looking for them. There haven’t been any newsvids about you two, but you can rest assured the slimy Hutts that run this planet are gonna see that credit figure and roll like the worms that they are. You boys gotta get out of here, and fast, or you won’t be able to leave at all,” Bobby said sadly.

 

“Well, the Dream’s fixed,” Dean said with a weary sigh. We can leave now, or first thing in the morning.

 

“But where are we going to go?” Sam asked.

 

“Ah, that’s the good news,” Bobby answered with a smile. “I checked in with an old contact of mine on Dantooine.”

 

Dean flinched at the mention of his home planet.

 

“Just hold on, she’s an ex-Jedi, Caamasi, very trustworthy, and she knows a bit about the Sith. I told her what was going on, and she said for you two to come right there,” Bobby added. “I also heard back from one of my contacts about that drawing your daddy found. Turns out there’s a legend on Myrkr about some Force Rune or Rune of the Light… it’s supposed to be some kind of weapon against the Sith. I mentioned it to Miss’Ouri, the ex-Jedi I told you about, and she says she thinks she knows something about it. Was very cryptic… What?” he asked, noticing the strange, pinched expression Dean had on his face.

 

“You said her name was Miss’Ouri?” Dean asked.

 

“Yeah, Miss’Ouri Ot’Kla,” Bobby confirmed.

 

“We know her,” Dean said cryptically.

 

“We do?” Sam asked, sounding confused.

 

Dean shrugged, taking a sip of ginger water. “When you were a baby, right after Mom died, Dad when the Jedi didn’t help and couldn’t tell him what had happened, he went looking for answers and talked to Miss’Ouri. She lived not that far from us… I think we’d actually talked to her a few times when mom was alive… but it’s kind of foggy. She’s the one who got Dad into hunting.”

 

Sam looked almost murderous for a moment, and Bobby knew he was probably cursing Miss’Ouri for introducing his father to the profession.

 

“Sam,” Bobby said gently. “She’s offered to train you.”

 

“Train me?” Sam asked, not understanding.

 

“To use the Force, control it at least,” Bobby explained. 

 

Sam started to protest, but Bobby gave him a scathing look.

 

“She left the Jedi Sam, so I think you’ll be safe from any of their unsavory doctrines,” Bobby said.

 

“Sam, I think it’s a good idea,” Dean said hesitantly.

 

With a resigned sigh, Sam agreed.

 

“Good,” Bobby proclaimed. “While you two are on Dantooine, I’m actually gonna get out of here myself. Don’t want to be around if any of those Jedi come searching this way. I’ve managed to reschedule my work, so don’t you two go worrying about me,” he added to preempt Dean’s concerned apology.

 

“Where are you going to go?” Sam asked.

 

“Myrkr,” he said.

 

“The planet with the uh, Runes?” Dean asked.

 

“Yeah, turns out my contact says they’ve also got these lizards there… ysalimiri I think they’re called, that supposedly repel the Force or can hide from the force or something. Think those would be damn handy to have if we’re up against some Sith, or Jedi, so I’m going to check them out.”

 

“Thanks Bobby,” Sam said.

 

“I’m going to head to Carida after I’m done there. And if I find anything for you, we can rendezvous there. I can stay semi long-term, and at least keep off the Hutt radar. Until and unless the Jedi or RI goes wide with those warrants, you boys are probably ok as long as you avoid Hutts and the Jedi and RI themselves,” Bobby concluded.

 

~~~

 

Sam, Dean, and Chevy left on the Dream before dawn the next morning, and not a moment too soon. Sure enough, as Bobby was packing up his own ship, the Womp Rat, he caught spaceport traffic chatter reporting that a Jedi Master Gariq Shran and some Republic Intelligence confederates were landing at Mos Eisley and had an audience with one of the Hutt crime lords in residence there.

 

Bobby knew that within an hour there’d be Jedi knocking on his door, so taking advantage of Tatooine’s almost non-existent customs process and his own landing pad, Bobby took off and headed out of the system, being sure to lay in a multi-jump hyperspace trail to throw them off, and slowly made his way to Myrkr.


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