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Stormseeker: Nexus of Shadows

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"Ho, Millennium Falcon," I say, coming into the rec room. "I got a present for you that I made." I set it on the table.

"What is it?" Falcon says, examining the ornate, glowing cube.

"This, is a Jedi holocron," I say. "I promised you schematics, didn't I? It also contains a bunch of stories, too. Here, try it out, just touch it, right here."

Falcon presses his fingers where I indicate, and a holographic projection of my face appears above the cube.

"I am Stormseeker Interactive Holocron 1," the image says. "Enter your query."

"Access schematics," I tell myself. "Display, T3-M4."

"Voice imprint recognized," my projection says. "Welcome, Stormseeker. Searching. Data found. Displaying."

The image changes to a detailed representation of a utility droid design.

Falcon raises an eyebrow. "Nice. Holocron, list schematic files."

"Voice imprint unrecognized," the holocron says, switching back to the head image. "New user. Input username and passcode."

"Username, Millennium Falcon," he says, then looks to me.

"Passcode: There is no temptation, there is only choice," I say.

"Acknowledged," the holocron says. "Accessing data."

A list of file names appears above the cube. I put in everything I could think of into the data cube. Lightsabers, blasters, droids, even spaceships. I don't have the time or resources to construct most of this stuff, never mind that most of it isn't useful to me right now, but the Glass Walkers are another story.

"Display schematic, Ebon Hawk," Falcon says.

The image of my face is replaced by that of my ship, my former ship maybe I should say, left behind on a planet a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

"Zoom in on drive section," Falcon says.

The section of the ship enlarges, showing labeled components of the hyperdrive. Falcon looks at it intently, gauging it.

"This is real?" Falcon says. "This technology actually works?"

"Absolutely," I say, patting my lightsaber hanging from my belt.

"Huh," Falcon says. "I guess you really are from the future."

I chuckle. "Did you doubt me?"

"It's one thing abstractly accepting time travel weirdness," Falcon says. "It's another thing entirely seeing something like, this." He waves a hand at the display.

"Lucky for you, I was quite the engineer in the future," I say with a grin. "I had to reconstruct these schematics from memory, and my memory has been a chancy thing at times. I might have had to fill in some gaps off of new design because I couldn't remember exactly what was used, and replaced a few components with ones that should work with currently available resources."

Meditation exercises and being able to look things over in a Pensieve certainly didn't hurt, either.

"Was this your ship?" Falcon asks.

I nod. "Knew her like the back of my hand. Well. Not my ship, my ship. I didn't build it. Just kind of, stole it from some crime boss. Accidentally smuggled some drugs with it too, since it apparently came with a secret cargo space I didn't know about." I snicker. "Went over it with a fine-toothed comb after that, though, once I had a chance and people weren't trying to kill me. Was quite the adventure there for a while."

"Sounds like it," Falcon says.

"So, hey, presents aside, this wasn't the only reason I came over here," I say, reaching over to deactivate the holocron. "Your organization. Tribe. How does one join?"

"So you want to be a Glass Walker," Falcon says, chuckling. "I have to admit, I've never run across a case quite like yours before. I'm convinced that you must have been a Glass Walker at some point, and if not, you should have been. You're not a cub anymore, and yet you are. You haven't completely made your First Change yet, and yet you have. And your pack is the most eclectic mix I have ever seen happily working together that I'm almost surprised you don't have a token vampire in there for good measure. A Garou, an elf, a wraith, an Animagus, some wizards, and you. Whatever you really are."

"That's my life for you," I say. "Nothing if not complicated."

Falcon snickers. "So I see. Normally, I'd send a cub off on a Rite of Passage to earn their place in the tribe and Garou society. I'd give them some minor problem to solve, a basic test of some sort, something well within their capabilities. You're well past all of that and it would be nothing more than a formality. I watched you program a storm, hunt down fomori, rescue innocents, face down Black Spiral Dancers, and destroy an artifact to prevent it from falling into the clutches of the Wyrm."

"I'm not taking any glory for any of that shit," I say. "It was my own mistake that it happened at all."

"Too late," Falcon says with a smirk. "You weren't the one who called in the Black Spiral Dancers there. And you didn't have to stand your ground and stop them, either. But you did. And you've gotten recognition for that whether you want it or not."

I grunt. "Fine. So what about this Rite of Passage?"

"I can't send you on a Rite of Passage," Falcon says. "Not with all this time travel weirdness, as you call it. I can't determine whether you were or weren't a member of the tribe in some alternate timeline, and regardless, it's not up for me to decide. I can, however, suggest you seek recognition from the tribe's totem."

"The totem?" I ask.

"The patron spirit of the Glass Walkers," Falcon says. "Cockroach."

"Cockroach?" I repeat, raising an eyebrow. "Alright, how?"

"Do you know how to step sideways?" Falcon asks. "Or remember? Whichever."

"Step sideways?" I wonder. "Maybe I should ask for a lexicon of terminology next..."

Falcon chuckles. "By which I mean, to enter the Umbra."

"Oh," I say. "Hmm." I think back. "I might." I work up my face. "This might sound strange. I vaguely remember at one point that I made a deal with a spirit, Mouse, to teach me about the Umbra."

"Not strange at all," Falcon says. "That's how shapeshifters learn many of their Gifts. So what did Mouse teach you?"

"Among other things?" I say, then grin. "How to slip through the little holes in the world to get into and out of places..."

I pick apart the memories running through my head. I know I must have known how to Apparate at one point, but this isn't quite the same thing. Is it really all that different, though, when you get down to the basics of it? Apparation is going from one place to another place, but what if that other place is right on top of you, effectively?

Fragments of memory slip through my fingers. I can't quite piece it together. I need to find Mouse again. But just because I can't remember it entirely doesn't mean I can't still figure it out. The Veil is so thin here one might slip across with just a thought...

The world doesn't really so much shift as that the air feels different, prickling the hair on my arms. Nothing else seems different, so for a moment I don't think I actually did anything, until I see Falcon grinning at me.

"It's something every shapeshifter can do," Falcon says. "Most breeds wouldn't even need it to be taught to them by a spirit. As shapeshifters, we always already have one foot on each side."

"Or two paws?" I add wryly.

Falcon chuckles. "So to speak." He tilts his head at the hallway. "You'll have to make this trip yourself."

I look over to the hallway, but now that I look at it more closely, it doesn't really seem like the hallway that was on the other side of the Veil. As I turn to walk, out of the corners of my eyes, wisps of lines appear, like circuits, like wires. The further I go down the hallway, the further away from the real world it seems I get.

My surroundings fade a metallic hallway covered in green lines zigzagging about at right angles. Small metallic spiders skitter about, frenetically working on one inscrutable task or another. Doorways and intersections lead off at different points, and I think I could quickly become lost in a digital labyrinth like this.

I know what I'm looking for, though. And if there's one thing I know, it's computers. The systems I'd seen on this planet are primitive compared to what I'm used to, not surprising from a society that has yet to develop interstellar travel. What I gave to Falcon alone should be enough to catapult the Glass Walkers into the next millennium.

So I follow the lines, just like I'm slicing into a computer. I might as well be. It certainly feels like it. I've never felt like I could be so literally inside a computer system before. And it is awesome. Programs unfold around me like blossoming flowers built of sparkling digits. Processes flow like rivers of light. Metallic spider-like creatures of all shapes and sizes scurry around. One such weaverling the size of a Muggle automobile stops and takes a long look at me through large, glowing eyes before moving on.

I'm in the spirit world. I'm surrounded by spirits. These aren't real machines or real creatures, but spirits of order. And for the most part, they don't actually care about me. They're busy.

It would be hard to imagine that many shapeshifters who aren't Glass Walkers would come to this part of the Ethereal Plane. They wouldn't even be able to interpret what they're seeing. Not that that's saying much. I'd probably be just as lost in some mystical forest that they'd feel right at home in.

A black door opens into a room, a node, humming with energy, buzzing with activity, lit up like a Yule tree. This is my mystical forest. This is where I feel at home.

"So you are here."

A voice, calm, soft, almost feminine, from no discernible location. It takes me a moment to register that the words weren't spoken in English, but in elven. Akaya hey, a traditional greeting I haven't heard since Torn Elkandu. Is there someone else from Torn Elkandu here, or is that merely my perception?

I clear my throat. "Greetings."

Weaverlings scurry around me, some of them moving out of the way or adjusting their paths and making slightly annoyed clicks and whistles at being inconvenienced by my presence. They almost sound like utility droids. One of them comes up to me, carrying a box twice its size, and bloops indignantly at my feet.

"Ah, I'm in your way, sorry," I say, stepping aside.

The little weaverling makes two short bloops in thanks or acknowledgment and goes on.

"Stormseeker," intones the voice. "Timewalker. Fateweaver. Doombreaker."

Fuck, like I need any more pretentious titles? I thought I was full up on them.

"You know who I am," I say.


"Who are you?" I ask.

I have the distinct feeling of being watched. A rather silly thing to be feeling considering that there are weaverlings all around me who are, for the most part, cheerfully ignoring me rather than watching me. But I can't tell where the voice is coming from.

"I am the one who thrives where others cannot survive. The one who is never noticed but is everywhere."

"Cockroach?" I say. "It's not much of a riddle if I knew the answer beforehand."

A sound like faint laughter falls through the air, and one small luminous insect emerges from a wall. "Yes, challenge-response authentication only works if each party knows what they're expecting already."

"Complicated passcodes can be easy to forget," I say.

"I recommend using a dedicated weaverling as a password manager," Cockroach suggests.

"Wouldn't that also have security issues?" I ask. "Couldn't it be subverted?"

"If it were connected directly to you, it would be very difficult to do so," Cockroach replies.

"I'll take that into consideration," I say. "However, would it be capable of traveling across time and space readily? It's simple when time only goes in one direction, and not backwards or sideways. Sideways is the most confusing sort."

Cockroach titters in amusement. "If set up properly, perhaps. You just step sideways a little further than most shapeshifters."

I pause. "You know who I am," I say again. "You greeted me in the local elven dialect from where I grew up."

"Are you surprised? What were you expecting?"

"I'm not really sure," I admit. "I try not to, generally. Expectations can lead to trouble."

"But you expect nonetheless," Cockroach says.

"I suppose that's inevitable, " I say.

"Were you expecting the worst?" Cockroach asks. "Did you prepare for it?"

"Not really," I say. "I mean, I'm kind of hard to kill and I've got so many backups and contingencies that I'm sure I could have recovered even if I couldn't have possibly predicted what might happen."

Cockroach clicks in appreciation. "Yes. Exactly. I like you. You can't trust what you expect. You can't expect everything. You can't rely on deep planning or trying to outsmart yourself. You just have to be prepared to survive no matter what happens."

"I guess that kind of makes me a time-traveling cockroach, so to speak," I say with a smirk.

"Quite so," Cockroach replies. "Now, you sought me out deliberately. What would you ask of me?"

"I was looking to join the Glass Walkers," I say. "Millennium Falcon mentioned something about a Rite of Passage, but–"

"Rites of Passage are for cubs who haven't proven themselves yet," Cockroach interrupts. "You're no cub, and you've nothing to prove. If you want, you're in. Is that really all you sought? My blessing in that? Not to learn any Gifts or bargain for knowledge?"

I bite my lower lip. "You would teach me?"

"Of course," Cockroach says. "And since you're now a brand new Glass Walker – possibly not for the first time, but let’s not dwell on that – you even get a freebie.”

“I’m never one to argue with knowledge,” I say. “Especially if there’s no cost attached. What can you teach me?”

“Hmm. Let me teach you how to interact with the spirits of machines. They can help you to find out what’s wrong and assist in repairs.”

“That sounds really useful,” I say.

“I thought you might say that.” Cockroach ticks cheerfully.

I pause. That was the thinking of the Force user on the spaceship. “But what if I wind up somewhere more primitive again?”

“The spirits of a cannon or a water wheel are just as valid as those of an engine or computer. And I expect that wherever you wind up, you will adapt and survive.”

“Alright. True. Thank you.” I pause again. “I am a shapeshifter, aren’t I?”

Cockroach scoffs. “Of course you are. Not a sort that normally joins my Tribe, but definitely a shapeshifter either way.”

“What sort is that?” I ask.

“Give you a hint,” Cockroach says in some amusement. “It has wings.”

“A duck?” I guess.

Cockroach outright laughs at that. “Fine, fine, I won’t beat around the bush. You’re a dragon.”

“A dragon,” I repeat.

“I think you already knew that, though.”

“Heir of the Children of the Dragon’s Blood,” I say. “Yeah, when you put it like that, it was pretty obvious.”

“Haven’t seen many of your kind still around, and none of them out in my little corner of the Umbra,” Cockroach says. “They’re dying out because they can’t adapt. Most of them can’t even change form anymore. I haven’t seen a dragon shifter in an age. You’re lucky to have been born homid. Quick lifespans and endless adaptability.”

“Like cockroaches,” I say wryly.

Cockroach shows me how to detect and contact the spirits of objects, a simple task once it has been pointed out, or really more of a Gift I suppose. I make my way out of the Umbra and return to Millennium Falcon, still somewhat awestruck by what I’ve seen and learned.

He looks up at me expectantly, but breaks out into a grin when he sees the look on my face. “I take it it went well?”

“She says I’m in,” I say. “Also, she taught me a Gift.”

“She?” Falcon says.

“I didn’t take a close look and I wouldn’t be able to tell the sex of a cockroach anyway, and I don’t think it even matters all that much for spirits, but it sounded feminine.”

Falcon chuckles. “Well, either way, congratulations. The recognition of the spirits matters. Will you still be staying with Buried Cable Sept, or did you plan to move to London?”

“I’ll still be at Cardiff for a while yet,” I say. “I have some unfinished business to take care of. Then, I’ve got some business in the States. I’m not sure how long that will be. Knowing me, both far too long and not long enough. That’s about the way things go sometimes.”

“Yeah, I don’t blame you for wanting to get out of the country for a while,” Falcon says. “I can get you in touch with the local Tribe wherever you wind up. If you’re hunting Jez’kai, they may be able to help in some way.”

I give a nod. “Thanks.”

The wards of Caer Danas alert me to cursebreakers trying to make their way in. Expectations aside, I didn’t expect to be able to make it to Beltane without interruption. I cast aside the book I was reading without a second thought, and cast a quick spell to amplify my voice.

“Everyone up!” I call out, leaping to my feet. “Take position. We are under attack.”

Remus and Gellert leap up from the couch.

“Who is it?” Sirius wonders, pulling out his wand along with the others.

I snort softly. “You mean which of the several groups that we’ve pissed off has bothered to show up at our doorstep even though we haven’t really been keeping quiet about still being here?”

Remus peers out the front window. “Aurors, from the look of it.”

“More likely to be able to be reasoned with than Black Spiral Dancers, at least,” I say.

“Even considering their corruption and demon summoning?” Sirius asks.

“They couldn’t all have been complicit to that,” I say.

“Guess not,” Sirius admits. “Is it wise to let them know we’re actually here, though?”

“We’re going to fight,” I say. “This is our house. I won’t let them take it.”

“Right then,” Sirius says. “Standing our ground it is.”

“And if met with overwhelming force, we shall go back in time and then evacuate,” I say lightly.

“I’m still getting used to the idea of this whole ‘immortality’ thing,” Sirius says wryly. “Are you always so flippant about it?”

“Now that I know you all will be safe and not dying horrible deaths?” I say. “Yes.”

“That’s reassuring,” Sirius says.

Expecto Patronum,” I cast. The dragon spirit emerges from my wand, and I nod to her. “Please tell the people sieging my castle, I don’t want to have to kill them. I will parley, but not surrender. They may back off and send one representative to the gate. I will come out and meet them.”

The dragon Patronus nods and flies out across the grounds.

“Be on alert,” I turn to tell the others. “I’m going to speak with them. Cover me.”

I head outside. The wards let me know that the attempts at breaking them have paused for the time being. A dark-skinned man has approached the gate, wearing robes that remind me more of a Jedi than a wizard who might have gone to Hogwarts. He holds a wand at his side, ready but not pointing directly at me.

“Darth Revan?” the Auror asks.

I nod to him. “That’s me. And you?”

“Kingsley Shacklebolt. I’m here to place you under arrest–”

I hold up a hand and interrupt him. “Are you aware that Moody is possessed?”

Kingsley pauses. “That’s a serious accusation. Do you have evidence?”

I reach out with my senses to try to get an assessment of the man in front of me. A feel of the Force around him, his smell in a manner of speaking. But I sense nothing of the Dark Side in him. He may be misinformed or misguided, but he’s not corrupted. Not in that sense of the term.

“There were others who encountered him and can corroborate that,” I say. “They’re werewolves, though, so I’m not sure how much store you’d put in their words.”

“I’ll take that under advisement,” Kingsley says. “Do you claim that he is the one who destroyed the Ministry of Magic, and not you?”

I shake my head. “No. That was me. It was an accident, but it was me.”

“An accident,” Kingsley repeats, then sighs. “An accident that conveniently occurred immediately following your threats?”

“I didn’t say I intended nothing,” I say with a smirk. “Just that what actually happened was unintentional. I didn’t mean for a huge magical storm to destroy central London.”

“Regardless of the scale of what you intended, you need to pay for your crimes,” Kingsley says.

“What do you want of me?” I ask.

“I want you to come along quietly,” Kingsley says. “My team will stand down and we won’t damage the house or harm anyone else inside of it. We can hold a makeshift trial with what’s left of the Ministry, but you don’t deny your actions. You need to go to Azkaban for this.”

“No,” I say flatly. “And do you really think Azkaban would hold me, after I broke everyone out of there?”

Kingsley pauses. “We may need to rethink our criminal justice system.”

“You don’t say.”

“Regardless, you need to answer for your crimes,” Kingsley says. “You cannot simply do whatever you want without repercussions.”

“Yeah,” I say. “It would be so easy to avoid repercussions, you know. To avoid consequences. A snap of my fingers, and I’m in another country, another world, another time, another universe, and no one there will know what happened here. And you’d be standing there looking at an empty house without anyone that could make amends for his mistakes.”

“Do you intend to try to escape?” Kingsley demands.

I shake my head. “Not at this moment. You know, prison is really counterproductive. The only purpose it serves is in preventing the prisoners from harming anyone else so long as they’re inside. It doesn’t actually fix anything that they might have done, nor does it change them to be better people who wouldn’t have committed those crimes. It probably is more likely to make them worse people than better, especially that prison of yours staffed by soul-sucking monsters of doom.”

“I don’t like them, but I know they are effective at keeping the worst of the worst out of the general populace,” Kingsley says.

“It’s good that you think so,” I say a little wearily. “I’d really rather not have to kill you. I have the blood of too many innocents on my hands already.”

“You think you could win?” Kingsley says. “I’ve got the best Aurors still alive backing me up here, minus Moody.”

“Is there some compromise we could make?” I ask. “Is there something you’d ask of me that doesn’t involve being locked up anywhere, with or without the soul-sucking monsters of doom?”

“You can’t just submit a plea bargain and ask for community service in exchange for mass murder,” Kingsley says.

“Did you see the Black Spiral Dancers attack the place?” I ask.

“Yeah, I can’t believe you’re working with that scum, either,” Kingsley says.

“Working with?” I say in startlement. “Absolutely not. I was fighting them. I stopped them. You didn’t really think I brought them in, did you?”

Kingsley frowns. “You oppose the Black Spiral Dancers? But you broke out all the former Death Eaters from prison.”

“You know, there’s more than one group of assholes running around,” I say. “It would be so much simpler if ‘evil’ were some monolithic entity and not a bunch of squabbling factions of varying degrees and flavors of evilness. For what it’s worth, I was hoping that any of those former Death Eaters who were too dumb to live would get themselves eaten by werewolves.”

“So you admit that you’re evil, too?” Kingsley says.

“I’m really not going to squabble over definitions of morality,” I say. “I’m sure you find some of my views to be reprehensible, just as I find some of yours to be. It doesn’t matter. What matters is what actually happened, and what each of us is going to do from here on out.”

“I take it you still won’t come quietly,” Kingsley observes.

“Not a chance,” I say with a ghost of a grin. “It seems we’ve reached an impasse. Will it be war, then? Or shall we settle this in a duel, and not make a mess of things and drag others into it where permanent damage could be dealt on either side.”

“You would abide by the results of such a duel?” Kingsley asks.

“Of course,” I say. “I can’t speak for anyone else, though. But if I cannot earn my victory through my own skill and strength, then I do not deserve it.”

Kingsley looks at me for a long moment, before nodding tersely. He holds up his hand in a staying gesture toward the other Aurors who are holding position on the perimeter, and I do likewise toward my friends inside the house.

“Wands, then?” Kingsley says.

“As the one challenged, I have the privilege of choosing my weapons, don’t I?” I ask.

“This is true,” Kingsley says. “You do not wish to use wands, then?”

“Swords,” I reply flatly. “And to make things fair, I will use a standard metal sword and not my magic light blade, since you do not have one.”

“You’re serious about this,” Kingsley says. “Formal duel it is, then. I know my way around a blade.”

So we call out seconds, and see about obtaining suitable weapons. An uneasy truce settles over the grounds while we make arrangements. Dobby brings out refreshments. The Aurors won’t touch them, although they look wistfully toward the cool glasses of lemonade and the tiny cucumber sandwiches.

“I hate to resort to this, but with all other government and justice systems having broken down, the only other alternative is outright warfare,” Kingsley says.

Rispy brings out a pair of swords. “Here you go. Two swords, well-crafted and unenchanted.”

“Do you keep an arsenal around just in case?” I ask.

“Absolutely,” Rispy says. “You should see my collection of crossbows.”

The Auror that Kingsley has chosen as his second is a pale, middle-aged man by the name of Dawlish. He waves a wand over them, then nods to Kingsley. “No magic on them, no fault or defect that I can detect.”

“Let us agree on the stakes,” I say. “If I should win, I will not harm you anymore than may be necessary, and you and your team are free to go, but you and yours will not harm me or mine nor interfere with our business. As our business does not involve intentionally fucking over the world, that should not be too reprehensible to you.”

“If I win, you will go to Azkaban,” Kingsley says.

I narrow my eyes at him. “You cannot ask that of me.”

“I’m asking it,” Kingsley says. “Are you backing out now?”

Rage bubbles up through me, narrowly held in check by willpower. “Don’t ask that of me. I will agree to anything else within reason, but don’t ask me to go to Azkaban.”

Rispy puts in, “I can’t guarantee your safety if you insist on imprisonment for him.”

“You can’t guarantee my safety?” Kingsley asks.

“I can’t guarantee that he’d be able to hold back and keep this from turning into a war,” Rispy says.

Kingsley’s eyes fall upon my clenched fists. “You’re that terrified of the place. As well you should be.”

“That place is a fucking nightmare that I would not wish upon my worst enemy,” I growl. “I would rather die. And that would entirely defeat the point of the exercise.”

“Then you’ll just have to win, then, won’t you,” Kingsley retorts.

I take a deep breath. Through rage, I seek justice. “I’ll warn you one more time. If you are going to ask Azkaban of me, then this will be a duel to the death, yours or mine. And I implore you, for the sake of both of our lives, ask something else.”

Kingsley gives me a long, considering look, and I have to wonder if he’s going to back down or not, but Dawlish clears his throat and pins him with a gaze.

“He isn’t asking much of us,” Dawlish says. “He would be well within his rights to have countered with the demand that we go to Azkaban. He hasn’t asked that.”

“You really think he can win?” Kingsley asks.

Dawlish openly stares at him. “You have to consider the possibility.”

Rispy sighs. “Look. Just tell us to bugger off or something. Restitution or exile.”

“I strongly agree with that recommendation,” Dawlish says.

Kingsley eventually settles on, “Fine. Exile. If I win, you and yours are never to set foot in the British Isles again, and will leave by the end of the month.”

“Acceptable,” I say, calming. I take my sheathed blade in both hands, bow my head and close my eyes. “Through sorrow, I seek hope. Through rage, I seek justice. Through truth, I seek love. Through sorrow, I seek hope. Through life, I seek freedom.”

The mantra helps me to focus and control my emotions rather than letting them get the better of me. When I open my eyes again, Kingsley is standing across from me with his own sword.

“Are we ready to begin?” Rispy asks.

I nod tersely.

“I am,” Kingsley says. “May the best wizard win.”

We bow to one another and draw our weapons. The formalities taken care of, the world falls away and fades from my vision as I focus solely upon the duel. I wouldn’t generally have thought it a fair fight, no matter that he says he’s skilled with the blade, but this sword is heavier than I’m used to and I don’t have the size or muscle mass that I’m used to, either. Lightsabers weigh almost nothing, and this is no fencing foil, either.

I fall into Soresu form, focusing primarily upon defense as I get a feel for his skill and style, countering or evading his own testing attacks. He wasn’t exaggerating. He does seem to know what he’s doing, at least. It would be foolish to underestimate an unknown opponent, to scoff at them and be unable to imagine that they could possibly come close to a Jedi Master I’d fought once. I’m not on Dantooine, and this is no Jedi. I don’t know what he’s capable of.

“Left-handed, huh,” Kingsley says. “Don’t think it’ll give you any advantage. I’ve gone up against a few lefites in my day.”

I say nothing. Words are a weapon just as much as a blade, and they can be a shield or a distraction. Kingsley slowly begins to grow frustrated with his inability to get through my defenses.

“Are you going to fight, or just block everything I send at you?” Kingsley wonders.

“I’ll fight when I’m good and ready,” I say with a grin.

“You’re not going to wear me out, you know,” Kingsley says. “I’m in prime health and whatever you might be inside, you’ve got the body of a child.”

He makes quick, precise strikes, trying to find any hole in my form to take advantage of. I block out everything else and let the Force guide my actions, let me sense where he might be about to strike next. The key to winning any fight is to know where your opponent’s blade will be before it’s there.

Kingsley overextends himself. In the middle of a strike, I shift suddenly into Juyo form, in one smooth motion going from all defense to wild, rapid attack. Kingsley recovers quickly, however, as if he’d been expecting that.

Something occurs to me. Aurors are wizards. They’ve been trained to fight with magic. That need not be solely restricted to wands. After all, there’s potions and any number of magic items as well. I don’t know what Auror training involves, but Kingsley’s reflexes remind me more of a Jedi than anything else.

I almost laugh aloud at the sheer joy of the fight. Juyo form is all passion and energy, something the Jedi tended to shy away from. You have to thrill in battle, and I’m enjoying a good fight here. It has been a while since I was challenged by a complete unknown like this. Dueling with blades seems somehow more pure than the harrowing all-out bloodthirsty war the Black Spiral Dancers bring.

Kingsley isn’t talking or taunting now. We dance. His advantage lies less in his skill and more in that he’s using styles I’m unfamiliar with. When going up against any Jedi or Sith, I know all their moves already because I’ve also learned all their forms. Dueling Club has not at all prepared me for this. But I wouldn’t be Darth Revan if I couldn’t learn and adapt.

In one blink of the mind’s eye, I see where his weapon will be, sense his next move, and I’m there first. With one swift strike, I knock the weapon out of his hands and send it falling to embed itself in the soft ground ten feet away.

I step forward and hold the tip of my blade to his throat for one moment. “You are beaten. Yield.”

Kingsley glances aside to where his sword fell, it having happened so quickly he hadn’t quite registered that the fight was over, before raising his hands. “I yield. You win.”

I nod, and lower my sword. “As promised, you and yours will be allowed to leave here unharmed.”

The other Aurors look about themselves, and one of them says quietly to Kingsley, “Sir… let’s go home.”

After a long moment, Kingsley nods wearily. He bows hesitantly toward me, then turns and walks away. One by one, the Aurors Disapparate. Kingsley remains last. He turns to give me one last look, and nods to me, then vanishes with a crack.