Jyn crosses the wide hall towards Bodhi , expecting to find him wracked with fear. He’s pale, yet he seems composed despite the prospect of being trapped here under Imperial siege. She wonders again at the kind of man who can become a herald, and at the effects his life and his missions have had on him. He is a strange creature, never quite what she would have anticipated. Brave and calm now, yet another day something as small as a strand of red wool in the mending basket would set him off into a state of numb dread for an hour or more.
She touches his sleeve. “How are you feeling?”
“Scared. Scared, of course, how not?” Good; he has the common-sense to know things may go hard for him. “Scared and sorry. If this place were still what it once was –“
How do you know anything of that? “What do you mean?” He’s surely too young to have been here as a herald in the days when these passages were filled with magic, and bold souls armed with crystals and incantations stood shoulder to shoulder with troops carrying crossbows and swords of iron.
It must have been quite a sight, Red Crag in its prime.
And why should that thought make him sorry?
“When it was a shrine, I mean,” Bodhi says. “With Guardians to protect it. We could have used a few of them now, hmm?” He reaches out thoughtfully to the wall beside the old prayer niche, the spots where some kind of carving has been hacked away, long years past. “I’ve counted the open chambers here, this place had many monks and Guardians once. When the Moon still stood bright, here, when it was shining and full of crystal.”
“Full of crystal?” There are pock-marks in the carving, and suddenly she can see that perhaps there were once patterns of stones set into the rock wall here. Was the image in the niche a moon, then? - was this a temple of his own southern faith once, long before the cadre came, when its walls all gleamed with kyber and captured moonlight?
She leans closer, reaching out to touch the stone, trace the ruined form carved there. An elegant curve, that might have been the line of an arching neck; it finishes in a smashed-out hollow, but from the other side of that a small, clear shape emerges, undamaged, like a pair of crescent moons, hooked downward. Claws? Or a bird’s bill? “Was this an animal, do you think?”
“Oh yes. A Guardian, I’m sure of it. Look at the shape of the wings.” Bodhi strokes the wall further along. “It’s the same style as the Great Temple, must have been from the same era. Beautiful carving work, look how shallow the relief is yet such a sense of form.”
The more Jyn studies the rock, the more the remnants of carving leap out at her from the hacked and battered stone around them. The whole wall around the niche was once carved with the forms of great beasts with wings. So are these the creatures that lived in the beast-holes? – was that crazy old name in fact a literal truth? “You call them Guardians. Are there Guardians at the Great Temple still, in Jedha?”
Bodhi shivers. “We – we do not speak of that. Oh, God, my God. Let this be a warning to you, they said. Ah, God, there was so much blood that day. Now only the last Guardian remains, blinded, frail, alone, ah God, my God, how can you let such things happen?”
“The Empire killed them?”
He nods, swallows hard, closes his eyes for a moment. “The Guardians and the brother monks refused to surrender the temple. The Emperor wanted the crystal from it, the true great treasure of Jedha. So the commander of the garrison had the father abbot blinded and nailed to the doors with his Guardian at his side. When the rest did not back down, he – he did the same to them, one by one. One Guardian alone had no brother monk to stand with him that day; they blinded him still, and caged him, as a warning to us. A warning to us.” His voice has shrunk to a ghost and he looks as though he may be sick.
As well he might.
Around them the wide hall is almost empty of bustling figures now, everyone who has a task has gone to it, the cadre efficient as ever once the first moments of panic had passed. Melshi and Cassian are still talking with Saw on the steps by the entryway, and Maia loiters, waiting for her husband. And she, Jyn, is chatting to the herald about ruined religious art and the tragedy of Jedha, as though there were nothing more important going on today.
“We’ll turn this fight round, hit back against them somehow,” she promises him helplessly, and he blinks at her and says “Maybe, maybe, if the moon wills it” in a strange, numb voice.
She touches his right hand, that lies shaking now on the broken stone carving.
“Somehow, Bodhi. I swear it.”
After a moment he nods solemnly, and then turns and hurries away.
Jyn looks round for Cassian. Still waiting while Saw explains, or speechifies, or whatever he’s up to now. Melshi and Edrio with him, both listening, looking shocked and ill. Cassian’s ears are back. Not good news then, whatever the old man’s saying.
Jyn moves towards Maia with a nod.
“Hey. How are you feeling today?”
“Ha. I still ache all over, if that’s what you mean. That was a fuck-ton of a spell you slung out at me last night,” Maia grins, a hard mirth to counteract her words. “Good thing I don’t have my bloods right now, all that shit plus cramps on top would’ve been a bit tough, eh?” She’s almost laughing at herself. “No matter. Tired or no I can still make a spark, though, and suchlike other stuff. But I’d wanted to get some good solid practice done, damn it. Before the fucking war came to us again. I haven’t worked a word of fucking magic in anger or play for these two years past, and now I’m going to need to just remember it all. Fucking shit.”
“We could go and practice now if you like? The enemy won’t be here for hours yet. Want to practice some hexes, throw fire, that sort of thing?”
“You want me to hex you, eh? See if you’re quick enough to slap it back?”
“No, idiot, hex a rock or something.” It’s odd, but it’s good, to be spell-mates again, to think of standing side by side throwing magical attacks out at the oncoming assault.
It makes it easier to hide from the possibility that none of them will live past the waning of this moon. The Empire does not deal kindly with fortresses taken after siege. Yavine was only one of dozens left in ruins, every surviving defender enslaved or worse. Somehow, if the gates are breached, they will need to get out of here…
“Listen, Mai, there’s one spell I really want to teach you. I don’t know if there’s time to practice it, I don’t even know if it’s something that can be taught. It isn’t like an incantation or anything, there’s no ritual to it at all. But if you can do it…”
“What’s that, then?”
“You remember the reaching into the stars?”
“Remember it, yes, as a theory at least. Force knows if I still remember how.”
“If you can reach into the stars, you can move things. People, even. I’ve done it. You reach out into the star veil, draw down the Force and then – it sounds childish but you have to see somewhere else in your mind and you can move them to it, with the starfire power.”
Maia stares and says “Fuck” slowly. Just as Melshi and Cassian appear. Melshi’s expression is grim. Cassian’s eyes are narrowed and his nostrils flare as he holds back a tiny snarl. Tension and frustration roll off him in the Force, she doesn’t even need to reach out to feel it.
When Jyn looks back past them to the stairs, Saw has already vanished.
God’s blood, what in hell is the old man planning? They both look as heartsick as though he’s ordered them to swallow poison.
“Well,” Maia says, reaching out for her husband’s hand “If you’re going to show me how to do strong damn-fuck spells like that, we’d best get started then, eh?”