Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
Legalese disclaimer: This is a work of fiction based in part on characters and story elements created by George Lucas. It is a work unauthorized by the rights holders to those creations. The text itself is copyright the author of this blog.
Colloquial disclaimer: It’s a work of fan fiction.
Fanbase disclaimer: This story takes place within the canon continuity to the best of my knowledge of canon, meaning the first six films and the two animated series. Don’t bite my head off if I write something that contradicts your understanding of the Old Republic or the plant life on Alderaan. See colloquial disclaimer, above.
Four hundred and five.
The wind had grown colder and harsher in the hours since he’d left, stirring itself from flowing whispers to an onslaught of spiteful knives.
Four hundred thirteen. Four hundred fourteen.
The man was dressed in scarlet animal hides and fur, his long white beard frozen stiff. He’d stopped at the inn at the edge of the nearby village for a drink of something that pleasantly burned the inside of his throat before heading back out into the night. The innkeeper had warned him against being outside in such weather. The innkeeper, like most of the villagers he interacted with, called him Claus, and it was easier not to correct them. Very well. “Claus” it would be. Stay here tonight, friend Claus, the innkeeper had said. Free of charge. I wouldn’t turn out a guest on a night like this.
The man called Claus had expressed his gratitude but departed all the same. He opened his eyes a sliver to assure he hadn’t stepped off the path. The lights of the shelter felt a galaxy away. He shut his eyes, adjusted his grip on the rope, and continued to pull the massive sleigh towards them.
Four hundred forty-seven. Forty-eight. Forty-nine. Fifty.
He knew it needn’t be this hard. He refused to make it easier. The last five hundred steps were his ritual now. They were his reward. They were his reminder. Four hundred eighty-three. Eighty-four. The lights in the shelter glowed amber and gold, like bonfires he’d once cherished in his childhood, sealed in glass jars of the memory, set free in the moments one had forgotten the possibility of warmth.
Four hundred ninety-nine. Five hundred.
The wind howled its fury as he closed the large wooden doors, rendering it uninvited. The solid white whistling in his ears dissipated, replaced by the low hum of the generator from the other side of the shelter, feeding power into the chaotic arrangement of wires and lights that hung from the ceiling beams. The shadows bent themselves at sharp angles away from the man and his sleigh, over the piles of wooden boxes and cloth sacks strewn haphazardly near the walls. He wiped the rapidly melting snow off of his face and head; released the tears that had threatened to petrify inside his eyes.
Five hundred steps. It needn’t be so hard. He refused to make it easier.
He realized that something was wrong a half-second before it announced itself.
“Don’t look like I expected,” a voice called out. Low, arrogant, and playful. “Sure this is you?” From the corner of the man’s vision, a metallic object slid in his direction across the thin layer of ice near his feet. An image of flickering blue light projected upwards from the device — a familiar figure, slender and bare-faced, a figure he hadn’t seen in the mirror in years. “Came a long way,” the voice called out. “Disappointing if it’s all for nothing.”
The man inhaled sharply and shifted his left arm within its sleeve. Within an eyeblink the black-and-silver hilt of the lightsaber had dropped into his gloved hand, its blue blade ignited. The voice in the room emitted a hoarse, rumbling laugh.
“Then it is you, Jedi. Lucky, then. Have somebody wishes to pay me for the honor of meeting with you.”
The blaster bolt came from behind him, high and to his right. The Jedi spun, his saber following his arm in a wide arc, and the bolt redirected into the walls. He dove behind the sleigh and searched for the source of the attack. His assailant had been nesting in the ceiling beams; he could hear the wood creak as they stepped towards their next position, maneuvering to flank him while they retained the high ground. Their gait sounded stiff and halting, as if plagued by old aches. Claus considered that they were looking to avoid direct confrontation, which meant that he needed to coax such a confrontation to occur.
The second attack came as three bursts from almost directly above him. His opponent would have known that he had no hope of hitting him from that angle; this was a ploy to keep him pinned in one spot. Claus heard the timbers creak again as the attacker moved to a new position. He shifted around the side of the sleigh.
The Jedi felt a surge of defiance. He had designed and built this shelter himself and he would not let an intruder assume advantages they had no right to take. On the third attack Claus charged out of hiding, deflecting the blaster bolts deftly, and then leapt upwards with a vicious swing, cutting directly through three beams of the rafters. The wood and his attacker fell together and the Jedi finally had a glimpse of who had come to challenge him.
The being was tall and thin, not human, garbed in stretches of blue and black cloth with large black eyes peering with cold menace from an otherwise impenetrable red face mask. Rodian, perhaps, although the speech patterns were unlike any Rodian he had previously encountered.
The next blast zipped past his ear. Planet of origin was not currently relevant. The Jedi rolled back behind the cover of the sleigh. His opponent cackled and stalked closer, the steps heavy and deliberate. The fall may have hurt them.
“Come out,” they said. “Make this easy.”
Claus closed his eyes and focused his energies. This would have to end quickly if it would end at all. He waited until his opponent had reached the corner of the sleigh.
In one fluid motion he flattened himself to the earth, rolled under the tracks of the sleigh, and came up with a great push of the Force that caught his opponent on their blind side. They rocketed to the back of the shelter, smashing into the generator and landing in a heap. Claus charged forward as they attempted to get their bearings and aim their blaster. The slash took their hand off at the wrist. He pointed the lightsaber down at their throat, keeping them on their back.
“Now,” the Jedi said. “Who are you. Who sent you?” His defeated foe was silent, its eyes unblinking. It barely seemed to breathe. “Talk,” Claus commanded. His assailant remained silent. He looked down at the stump where his lightsaber had done its work and saw orange sparks fly from the sleeve. “You’re a droid,” Claus said.
“No,” the droid replied. “I am a decoy.”
A high-pitched whine sounded to his right. The Jedi noticed the thermal detonator underneath the generator just as it exploded, throwing him backwards amid fragments of both generator and droid, knocking away both his weapon and his senses. The lights in the shelter abruptly died, leaving only the barest illumination in the room from the fading moonlight, reflected off the snow outside the newly torn hole in the walls. His ears rang and then subsided, replaced by the low throb of his heart hammering quickly away. The droid’s final words screamed in his mind. Decoy. Get up. Decoy. For who. For what. Decoy. Get up. Get up or die here. Decoy. Get up.
A new set of footsteps came towards him, attached to a new frame, this one female and humanoid. She held his deactivated lightsaber in one hand, and attached it to a belt at her hip. She knelt in front of the battered Jedi as he struggled to regain strength in his arms and legs.
“Well-fought, Master Klaos,” she said. “I can see why the bounty on you was so high.”
She placed a set of magnetic manacles around his wrists and ankles. The ringing in his ears returned, mixed with the distant echoes of the wind through the smoking remains of the wall. His vision grew white, then gray. His mind went blank, and then time ceased to mean anything at all.
End of Part I