Chapter 1: Prologue
B2MeM March 1 prompt: G48, Song Lyrics 1, "It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine."
The flames leapt higher into the sky as the Two Trees burned in the distance… and Father rushed forward, red-orange lightsaber in his hands, to attack Darth Vader for the crime of murdering Grandfather Finwë.
Maglor woke with a gasp before the duel came to its inevitable conclusion. Too hot, he flung the covers off and sat up to put his bare feet on the metal deck, warm from the radiant heating that ran through the starliner. He took several deep breaths, falling into a near-meditative rhythm, trying to calm his racing heart.
Aman had fallen three years ago and his life with it. The Quendi had been lucky to survive the Clone Wars unscathed, even though they were nominally a Republic system, but the Empire no longer cared how out of the way the Arda system was; they only cared about control. Add in a species that was mildly Force sensitive, well, at least the Quendi weren’t Jedi. That was the only reason they hadn’t all been killed in the swift, brutal takeover.
At least, the vast majority of the Quendi hadn’t been Jedi-trained. Maglor rubbed the scar on his right hand that his broken lightsaber had given him in the last, desperate fight to drive back the Empire at the Havens. He jerked his left hand away when he realized what he was doing. It was a habit he could not afford to indulge due to the risk of someone asking one question too many about the scar.
Maglor looked at the chronometer on the wall and sighed. Still far too early to be awake, especially after the farewell party the other entertainers had thrown for him after his final concert for the starliner’s passengers. But he would be unable to sleep for the rest of the night cycle. The memories-- of Aman’s fall, of Arda’s takeover, of his family dying-- would haunt him. Sometimes, he wanted to curse Quendian memory.
He scooted back on the bed until he could lean against the cabin wall, thankful yet again his position as main entertainer on the cruise guaranteed him a tiny but private stateroom. He draped his blanket over his folded legs and breathed slowly in and out, falling into a light meditation trance until his alarm beeped.
He wasn’t refreshed after what should have been a good night’s sleep, but rested was good enough. All he had to do today was leave the ship, finish the paperwork at the starliner’s corporate office, and then he was free… to become an independent cargo pilot. He was now just a little too well known in the starliner cruise entertainment industry for his peace of mind.
After using the refresher unit, he went to breakfast in the crew cafeteria. He scanned the room, full of Humans, near-humans, and a scattering of other humanoid species. “Hey Malda,” Raderick said, waving him over to a table near the center of the room. “Looking forward to retirement?”
The people around the table laughed and Maglor smiled as he sat down with his tray of some sort of yogurt, a bowl of fruit from the last planet the starliner had stopped at, and a slice of dark brown bread. “I wouldn’t call a change of careers retirement.”
“Yeah, well, it beats cleaning cabins,” a new-to-the-crew Rodian said. “Do this, do that, and not even a thank you.”
Maglor pulled out his datapad, ignoring the conversations as they drifted around him. Raderick suddenly shoved his datapad around so the holograph emitter faced the center of the table and said, “Hey, everyone, look! They found another Jedi!”
“Found?” Lariesh said, her blue hair rippling as she turned her head from her conversation with the Rodian.
Maglor watched the shaky holovid as a middle-aged Ithorian fought with a lightsaber against stormtroopers and then fell. Maglor kept his anger and his fear off his face from long practice-- he couldn’t afford to show anything other than indifference. So he turned back to his own datapad to read the news and resumed eating his breakfast.
“I think it sucks,” Lariesh said.
“The Jedi tried to kill Palpatine and overthrow the Senate!” Raderick said. “Should they escape justice for that?”
“I don’t buy it,” she said. “They fought for the Republic for thousands of years; why would they have tried to stage a coup?” She snorted and stirred her bowl of hot cereal. “It’s not like the Republic stayed a democracy. The Empire--”
“Shut up!” Everyone looked at the Rodian. “I don’t want to hear this. I don’t want to be arrested simply for sitting at the wrong table. Keep your opinions to yourself and the rest of us will be safer.”
Lariesh opened her mouth and Maglor quietly said, “She’s right.”
She glared at him. “Malda, you need to stop pretending everything’s fine and actually look at the galaxy.”
He couldn’t tell her he had… and that his life literally depended on keeping his head down and out of view of the Empire. His world had ended and everything was not fine. But he had to pretend it was. “The Empire is what is. I just want to do my job.”
She growled, “Fine. Be cowards.”
She spent the rest of breakfast silently glaring at everyone and no one. Maglor left as soon as he politely could, not wanting to draw attention. But throughout the morning until the starliner settled into orbit around its home planet, people stopped by his cabin to wish him farewell and good luck.
It was with a sigh of relief when he stepped off the ship-to-ground shuttle and smelled open air for the first time in three weeks. He shifted his luggage strap on his shoulder and made his way through customs and to the corporate office to finish his paperwork.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
B2MeM March 3: I20, Darkness Darkness, separation
The instant everyone heard the front gate shut behind Darth Vader, Mother said, “We need to leave.”
Maglor remained in the shadows of the corridor leading from the front hall, though he saw three of his brothers staring down from the balcony, shifting their feet. Amrod and Amras were still behind him. Celegorm moved from the sitting room to lean against its door post to the entry hall, directly opposite Maglor.
Father laughed, gentler than he had laughed in Vader’s face when Vader had invited him to work for the Emperor. “We are safe here. Vader wants me for my mind; he wouldn’t dare to kill me.”
Mother slammed her hand down on the wooden table, the sudden crack making Maglor flinch. “The only reason we weren’t killed in the Purge is that the Jedi never listed us as part of their Order, no matter that you and I and all of our sons spent half a dozen or more years each in the Temple as young adults.”
“They considered us to be a splinter group like the Corellian--”
“The Corellian Jedi are dead, just like the rest of the Order. We would not still be alive if we were on the Temple’s roster as Jedi. We were and remain an ‘alternate Force tradition.’” She shivered. “Do you truly believe that a Dark Lord of the Sith will take as answer you laughing at his offer? He came here in his shuttle. Where is his Star Destroyer? Where are the support ships for his flagship? They are coming, Fëanáro, mark my words.”
“Should I have said yes to a Sith?”
“Never. To have any of the Force artifacts you make, the Silmarils included, end up in his hands is unthinkable. But politeness goes far, Fëanáro. It may have given us a few more hours. Unless you have plans to escape you did not inform me of, he will take you with him. You will not have a second chance to refuse.”
“Hours?” Maedhros said from the balcony.
Mother glanced around at her family. “The Imperial fleet is undoubtedly on its way here. I am leaving. Too many will die trying to fight them off and we cannot afford to be caught. Your father is correct: he is safe. The rest of us are not.”
“We have to stand against the Sith,” Celegorm said, absently reaching down to rest a hand on Huan’s head when the dog nudged him. “We are Jedi, whether the Order thought of us as such or not. I will stay here with Father.”
Mother met each of her sons’ eyes and Maglor looked away rather than openly confirm his plans to her. Arda was his home; he could not flee to uncertain safety rather than defend it.
She sighed. “I will take what I can with me. You have twenty minutes to change your minds.”
After embracing everyone in turn and exchanging a last, passionate kiss with Father, Mother walked out the front door twenty minutes later, the go-bag she’d packed after Palpatine declared himself the Emperor and the Jedi traitors-- the go-bag everyone had packed-- over her shoulder, her rarely worn lightsaber hanging from her belt. Through a window, Maglor watched her go down the street until she reached the corner and entered the speeder cab she’d hailed to take her to Tirion’s tiny airport to catch a short-range flight to Alqualondë's spaceport.
Maglor ran a hand over the freshly painted hull of his cargo ship. He’d bought it shortly after enrolling in the three-month program to become a cargo pilot. Some of his fellow trainees thought he was nuts for buying a ship before he earned the license to fly it, but he knew what he wanted and the used shipyard with the merchant he trusted had exactly the model he desired.
It was a lesser-known maker, not Corellian-- which was a downside for many-- but Maglor preferred the smoother lines. Those three months had also allowed him to do a partial refurbishment of the living area, as well as a new exterior paint job. The hull was now white, with a line of stylized flames running from nose to stern. Each flame was the color of one his family’s lightsabers, a private memorial to a family he was-- according to the ID he traveled under-- not even legally related to. Not that it mattered anyway; even the Empire thought the House of Fëanor was eliminated.
He shook his head to clear the memory of how he’d escaped out of his head and looked at the Shistavanen shipyard owner. “You and your people have done a remarkable job. Thank you.”
“It’s a great ship, your Calanár. Just be careful, that right engine will need to be replaced within a couple of years.”
Maglor shrugged. Two years was two years. The engine was sound for now. “Is there anything else I need to know?”
She tapped her claws on her thighs. “Nah, she’s ready to be hopped over to the spaceport. I wish you luck, Malda. I tossed a bottle of wine into the refrigeration unit for you.”
“You shouldn’t have.”
She smiled, her fangs showing. “You spent a lot of money here. Least I could do.”
Maglor grinned. “I’ll bring the Calanár back if I need repairs.”
“That’s what I like to hear. Now get out of here.”
Maglor laughed and headed up the ramp to the cargo hold. The Shistavanen woman walked a safe distance away as Maglor hit the button to close the ramp. He looked around the bare cargo hold, climbed the ladder to the walkway/balcony overlooking the hold, and into the living space. He ignored the cabin and lounge areas to enter the cockpit. Two chairs-- he could easily fly this ship alone, but a copilot was possible if he changed his mind-- stood in front of the console. He waved at the shipyard master and turned on the engines.
Once he received clearance from Spaceport Control, he took the minute hop to an open port at the spaceport and set the Calanár down. It handled beautifully in atmosphere and he couldn’t wait for a longer run in space-- longer than the test drive had been. That had been a few orbits and a hyperspace hop to the edge of the system and back. A proper cargo run would be the perfect thing to break in the ship with. But to do that, he needed a cargo.
Maglor shut off the ship and left the same way he entered. It wasn’t worth paying the extra fee for a staircase just so he could use the airlock in the lounge area. Not that it was much of a lounge: it held a table large enough for six, a full-size galley so he wouldn’t have to eat easy-to-prepare ship food all the time, and a flatscreen to display the collection of two-dimensional landscape photographs he’d found so he wouldn’t have to stare at bare walls all the time.
Once the ramp locked behind him, Maglor hopped on the spaceport runner shuttle to get to the administrative district that held the freelance collective he’d registered with. It operated solely in the Mid Rim: close enough to the Outer Rim it could still be risky but well within Imperial space. The latter was a downside for him, but as long as he avoided attracting attention-- and he should; he’d signed up with a well-known collective-- he’d be safe. There was no sign anywhere that he was a Jedi; his false ID had existed five decades before the Empire rose, as a way to conduct an undercover investigation for Grandfather Finwë. It was one of the reasons he was able to hide so well: apart from being in actual fact false, it was a legitimate ID with the records to prove it.
Maglor signed in at one of the office’s computer terminals and switched his availability from “Pending” to “Available.” Now all he had to do was scroll the job boards or wait for someone to contact him. Two hours later, he had a job to deliver cargo to Bothawui with pickup in the morning, so with nothing better to do, he returned to the boarding house he’d used as his permanent address the entire time he’d been with the starliner company. The old Human woman running the place greeted him enthusiastically. “I made your favorites for supper. Your last meal here, isn’t it?”
Maglor bent and kissed her on the cheek. He would miss her. “You shouldn’t have.”
“Yes, I should have,” she said, one hand on her hip. “You’ve lived here for three years and now you’re off on your own. It’s a good thing I know you know how to cook, else I would have been forced to give you cooking lessons so you don’t subsist on those rations like half the spacers I know.”
Maglor laughed. “I need to pack. But I should have known you were right about my having a job.”
The Force hadn’t told him anything one way or the other. But the landlady knew the planet and especially this city far better than he did.
He escaped up the stairs to his room on the third floor. It overlooked the back garden and, in the distance, the mountains to the north. It was small-- as befitted someone who would only spend four nights there out of every twenty-- but the mattress was comfortable; there was an overstuffed chair to lounge in; and a wardrobe large enough to hold all of his clothes. He did have to share the refresher unit with the other five people who shared this floor, but they all had varying schedules that rarely conflicted.
It didn’t take long for him to pack: one large suitcase and a smaller bag that he could carry over his shoulder. He rubbed the leather straps and sighed. They’d all packed go-bags after Order 66; his bloodstained bag had been deliberately left in the Sea near the Havens for the stormtroopers to find. They’d bought it; he’d seen the announcement of his death not a day later in the HoloNet News, alongside the reports praising Darth Vader and the 501st for freeing the Arda system from the grip of chaos and rebellion and bringing it fully into the Galactic Empire.
He shoved the sudden fury and grief into the Force and went downstairs to eat.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Prompts: O72: Color Burst Red, target and Deep Thoughts, we
The Star Wars character cameoing in this chapter is Kanan Jarrus, the adult male lead from Rebels. He survived Order 66 when he was fourteen and spent the next eight years hopping from short-term job to short-term job, drinking, and pretending he was never a Jedi. He won't show up in my fic again, but I love him too much not to have him cameo.
Maglor looked across the holotable at Maedhros. “Do we know yet how many survived?”
Maedhros shook his head. “The Empire completely destroyed Gondolin. The only survivors I know of are Idril, Tuor, and Maeglin, as well as Glorfindel and the two Elves and handful of Hobbit tourists he saved on the Asfaloth. Beyond that…” He stared at the map of Beleriand hovering between them. “After Lúthien and Beren’s success, the Empire will target Doriath next. Vader won’t tolerate the insult.”
They’d saved one Silmaril. Out of everything Vader had stolen, one Silmaril. Maglor didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He was tempted to do both, given that Lúthien had then refused to return it to the Fëanorians, citing their lack of ability to keep it safe given Himring’s position on top of a hill and that Vader was targeting them for being Jedi.
Lúthien was a Singer of the native Quendi tradition of Force wielders. It had made a difference for the Empire, like the Guardians of the Whills on Jedha: closely watched, but not yet active targets. Maglor thought that would change now, given that Lúthien had easily proven just how dangerous a Singer could be. Not that the House of Fëanor hadn’t been Singers… but their Jedi training had made the difference in determining threat levels and classification.
“We need to leave,” Caranthir said, running into the room. “There are TIE bombers approaching.” He paused, looked at the map, and said, “Imperial shuttles are heading to Doriath.”
Maedhros sighed. “Let’s go. Maybe we can save ourselves, save them, and retrieve the Silmaril.”
Maglor followed his brothers from the war room, with a last glance at the map. Aman and Gondolin had fallen; Doriath was about to. The major settlement left in Beleriand was the spaceport at the Havens, a so far neutral port. He had a feeling it would not remain such for long.
Maglor walked to the locked dock door to type in the key. He stopped, hand raised, when a Human male with his brown hair in a ponytail and brilliant green eyes approached him with a bag over his shoulder and a flimsi in hand. “May I help you?”
“I’m Kanan Jarrus, the guard IndaCorp hired to watch their cargo.”
Maglor took the flimsi from Kanan and studied it. The holograph matched the company’s logo and it looked precisely like the paperwork IndaCorp’s representative had said their guard would bring. “I’m Malda Coinon, the pilot. The cargo won’t be here for another hour or so; you may as well come on board.”
Maglor typed in the number code and the door hissed open. Kanan whistled when he saw the Calanár. “Not exactly what I thought your cargo ship would look like.”
Maglor gave him a crooked smile. “I live on it. I wanted something I wouldn’t wince to see.”
He hit the button on the side of the ship-- keyed to his handprint-- to lower the ramp. It was a bit of a difficult climb up the ladder with his shoulder bag full of groceries, but he couldn’t exactly use the Force in front of Kanan. Even though the Force was humming rather louder and happier than it had in a while.
The door to the living area slid open as they approached it. Maglor pointed to the first door on their left. “That’s the refresher. The doors on your right are passenger cabins; both are empty so you have your choice. The other door on the left is my cabin.” Maglor put his bag on the galley counter when they reached the lounge. “And this is the rest of it.”
Kanan looked around and shrugged. “It’s comfortable enough. It’s what, a six hour hyperspace jump?”
“About that, yes. Part of your pay includes a meal. I was thinking wheat noodles in a red sauce with roasted vegetables. Do you want nerf meat in it?”
Kanan shrugged. “I’m not picky.” He turned around. “I’ll wait outside for the cargo.”
“All right.” Maglor heard one of the cabin doors open and then shut, just long enough for a bag to be tossed in, and then the door to the cargo hold slid open and shut. Maglor busied himself putting away his groceries and then walked down the hall to join Kanan outside. But by the passenger cabin door nearest the hold, he paused at the sound of something singing quietly to itself in the Force.
He’d only heard the like in the Jedi Temple holocron archives on Coruscant.
Maglor swallowed. No wonder the Force was humming happier today: there was another Jedi around. And for their safety, Maglor could never, ever let on that he guessed Kanan’s secret.
He took several deep breaths to compose himself and went down to the hold just in time to see the IndaCorp cargo truck arrive.
Kanan had spent the entire trip in the cargo hold until Maglor told him the midday meal was ready. He ate steadily in silence until near the end of the meal when he said, “I thought Quendi were isolationist. I didn’t expect to--”
“See one flying a cargo ship?” Maglor half-smiled. “Insular might be a better word for us. When the average Quend lives six hundred years, there’s a desire to want to be among your own people. I guess, yes, there’s a tendency toward isolationism in general. I never really bought into it.” He shook his head. “There’s never been that many of us out in the wider galaxy. Since the Empire took over…” Maglor didn’t know how to finish that thought.
“You left Arda because of them, didn’t you?”
He met Kanan’s eyes. “The Empire killed my family. I didn’t want to see what they’d do to my planet. That’s why I left.”
“You’re an exile by choice.”
Maglor shrugged a shoulder. “You could say that.” It wasn’t the truth, and as much as he wanted to tell Kanan neither one of them were alone, he knew better. Chances were, the Jedi hunters-- the Inquisitors, he’d heard rumors they were called-- would catch up to one or both of them. What someone didn’t know couldn’t be tortured out of them.
Kanan’s mouth twisted bitterly and he said, “I can’t go home, either, for much the same reason.”
He put his plate in the sink and returned to the cargo hold without saying another word.
Four hours later, when the cargo had been offloaded and Kanan signed off his guard duty to the IndaCorp guard, Kanan returned to the ship long enough to grab his bag. “Thanks for the meal; it’s the best I’ve had in a while. Good luck to you.”
“To you as well, Kanan.” Maglor waited until the spaceport door had slid shut behind him to add, “And may the Force be with you.”
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
N42: Darkness Darkness, slavery
B12: Color Burst Green, secure and Late Great Mary Oliver, wild geese are headed home again
So I've more than doubled the story's wordcount; this chapter is nearly 5600 words. Also, I think, the last of the beginning flashback chapters.
Maglor leaned against the building, catching a moment to simply breathe before returning to the battle. His unlit lightsaber was clasped loosely in his right hand, the metal warm. He’d been using it nonstop since the battle for the Havens had begun an hour after dawn. It was now nearly noon.
He’d lost track of his brothers-- the ones who had survived Doriath, that is. Caranthir and Curufin had been blasted down by stormtroopers; Celegorm and his dog died protecting Beren and Lúthien’s escape route. He didn’t know what happened to the couple after they’d made it to the dubious safety of the woods. He shook his head to clear his thoughts: his focus needed to be here and now, not wandering the past.
An Imperial gunship roared overhead, but the troopers on it didn’t seem to notice Maglor. They probably thought he was another civilian cowering away from the battle. Their mistake: he lifted his hand and yanked with the Force, bringing the gunship down so fast the pilot didn’t have a chance to react. It crashed and immediately burst into a rather satisfying fireball.
He thumbed his lightsaber on and turned the corner, nearly running into a group of Sindarin soldiers. They stared at each other for an instant when one of them blurted out, “Your twin brothers!”
“Where are they?” Maglor growled out.
The woman looked away. “I’m sorry, Master Jedi. They’re two squares west if you wish to see their… bodies.”
He closed his eyes briefly. He hadn’t felt their passings in the Force… but given the amount of death in the past few hours, that shouldn’t have surprised him. “It is not necessary.” He reopened them. “Where were you headed?”
She gave him a wicked grin. “Another squad passed along the information some stormtroopers are marching on Starfish Square. We planned to give them merry hell. Feel free to join us if you want.”
He deactivated his blade and followed the squad down the street.
He split off from them not long after; they were handling the stormtroopers well enough on their own. He took to the roofs and ended up in a square halfway across the city, just in time to see Maedhros and Fingon fall side by side under a barrage of blaster bolts, their lightsabers turning off as they slipped out of limp hands.
He immediately lay as flat as he could on the roof, trying to go unnoticed as the troopers fired at the bodies until they were sure the the Jedi and the Singer were dead. Maglor breathed through his mouth, suddenly sure why the Sinda had hesitated about what to call the corpses of Amrod and Amras. He was the last Fëanorian left: Father had died in Aman dueling Vader; his brothers had fallen defending Beleriand; and Mother… well, he hoped Mother was still alive. But he didn’t know and had to assume not. The galaxy was not a friendly place for Jedi.
He reached out with the Force, quietly, seeking to gain information rather than draw attention. The farther he looked through the city, the worse it became. The Quendi had lost. There were pockets fighting here and there, but the worst of it was over. There was nothing left he could do, not without needlessly sacrificing himself. He needed to retreat, to hide in the wilderness and regroup, the better to prepare an effective resistance to the Empire.
He ran across the rooftops, heading south until he reached the outskirts of the city. He slid off the roof and landed in a crouch on a side street, one that looked a little worse for the wear but not as if it had been an active battle zone. He kept his lightsaber in hand and crept down the street, listening with ears and the Force. The warning came almost too late: a gaggle of stormtroopers came around the corner and spotted him. His electric green lightsaber blocked the blaster fire, but he was growing weary-- and then one hit the hilt, directly above his right hand. The lightsaber’s circuits shrieked and the metal grew red-hot. Maglor yelled as he threw it in the direction of the troopers and ducked down, protecting his head with his arms, as the lightsaber exploded.
There was nothing left of the squad: only armor and body parts scattered around, a small crater in the street and scorch marks on the nearest houses. Maglor panted for breath, trying to ignore the pain in his right hand. But a glance at it told him that he would not be able to ignore the burn for long, Force or no Force. It was far too severe; he didn’t want to think about the glimpse of bone through the charred skin. He needed to leave the Havens now, find a place to hide, and enter a healing trance.
He looked up at the clatter of more stormtroopers rushing to site of the explosion. Maglor stood just as two troopers rounded the far corner. One of them shouted, “Halt!”
Maglor twisted out of the way of the blaster bolt, barely. It grazed his abdomen and he gasped at the sudden pain. He took off running, shunting the pain of both burns into the Force. The troopers followed him down the street, shooting at him and missing. Maglor stumbled, came to the end of the street where it dead-ended into the forest, and turned around to face the troopers. They hesitated and that was enough for him to use the Force to toss them all back.
It gave him just enough time to run to the brush pile where his brothers and he had hidden their bags that morning. He scrabbled for his, hearing troopers in the woods behind him, flung the strap over his left shoulder, and pressed the bag to his abdomen. It wasn’t the best option to cover the wound, but he had no time to bandage it. And it would keep his bag from bouncing all over.
He made it to the beach and looked north. Parts of the Havens were on fire, which he’d known about, and parts looked untouched. Gunships flew back and forth, escorting the fire brigade. And Maglor turned south, trudging down the beach, leaving tracks behind him in the sand.
He’d gone no more than a kilometer, hearing no sign of pursuit behind him, when a ship came out of the sky to hover over the Sea. He stopped, the waves crashing about his feet, and turned to face it, expecting to see cannons pointed at him.
It was Eärendil’s Vingilótë and the man himself stood on the lowered ramp. “Get on board!”
Maglor stared at him, looked back at the burning Havens, and jumped using the Force. He landed on the ramp and lost his balance to sprawl at Eärendil’s feet. Eärendil crouched down next to him. “Give me the bag. I need to toss it overboard.”
Maglor shook his head. “I--”
“If they don’t find it, they’ll think you lived.”
That… was a good reason. But it held his last holocube full of family pictures-- and one thing of far more importance. “I need my false ID.”
With some difficulty, Maglor pulled his bag off and slipped his left hand into the main compartment, sliding his fingers into the concealed pocket and pulled out his wallet. He shut the bag and nodded. Eärendil used the Force to drop it into the surf near where Maglor had staggered into the waves, his line of footprints clearly visible heading to the north-- but no further southward. Eärendil then helped Maglor to stand and used the Force to shut the ramp once they were inside. “We can go!” Eärendil called and the ship accelerated out of the atmosphere.
“Won’t the Empire--”
Eärendil shook his head. “We had clearance to leave.” He sat Maglor down on one of the chairs surrounding a circular holotable. “How badly are you injured?”
Maglor put down the wallet on the table and gestured at his abdomen. “This was a graze.”
“It should still have bacta--”
Maglor shook his head and held out his right hand. “This needs it more.”
Eärendil’s face lost all color. “I’m not sure we have enough.”
“Anything will be helpful; a healing trance will do the rest.”
Maglor felt the ship enter hyperspace and then heard Elwing leave the cockpit. “What needs to be done?”
“We need the medkit and the boys to stay in their room,” Eärendil said. “They shouldn’t see this.”
Elwing’s lips thinned when she saw Maglor and the condition he was in and hurried out of the room without comment. He heard her faintly down the corridor ordering her twin sons to do exactly that and returned with one of the largest personal medkits he’d ever seen. Elwing chuckled. “Elros is accident-prone. We learned the hard way. Now, stay still. This will be… painful is the mildest word I can use.”
Maglor took a deep breath and then nodded, closing his eyes and letting the pain bleed into the Force. Once the bacta was on and the bandages wrapped around his hand and his abdomen, he opened them to find Eärendil holding a mug of water out. “Drink this. We’ll show you to the guest cabin and you can heal there.”
“I’ll be in trance for at least a few hours.”
Elwing and Eärendil exchanged an unreadable look and Maglor was frankly too exhausted and in too much pain to attempt to read their emotions in the Force.
Elwing said, “That will be fine.”
Maglor nodded, grabbed his wallet in his good hand, absently noting that his shirt had been cut to give better access to the blaster burn, and followed Eärendil down the corridor.
He woke up in an oversized tunic and sleep-pants and a note on the blanket that told him he had three sets of clothes in the middle drawer under the bunk. Maglor carefully sat up. His abdomen no longer twinged and his right hand no longer hurt, though it felt distinctly odd. Elwing appeared in the doorway almost at the moment his feet hit the deck. “You’ve been out for nearly a day, not just a few hours. We’re on Corellia.”
“Corellia? What in blazes--”
“We were able to depart Arda because of my shipping business. We had a run scheduled; we had our cargo and ship inspected to ensure we weren’t hiding rebels; and we left.” She paused. “Not that we aren’t rebels and Singers ourselves, but the point is you are safe. We aren’t going to turn you over to the Empire; they think you’re dead. We’ll drop you off on our next planet in the schedule. You can make your own way from there; it’s safer if we don’t stay together. Now come and eat; I know you’re hungry.”
Maglor silently followed her to the living space he’d been treated at. Two identical boys stared at him from where they were watching a holovid of some sort at the holotable. “Mama, is he okay?” the one on the left said.
“He will be, Elrond. Go back to your vid.”
Elwing gestured him into the kitchen/dining room and the door shut behind them. “We keep the door closed and locked. Valar know we don’t need Force-sensitive kids playing around in a kitchen.”
Maglor bit back a smile. “What do you need from me, Lady Elwing?”
She glanced at him as she reached into a cupboard. “Right now, for you to sit down and get out of my way. You’re getting instant gruel and vitamins; I’m not going to cook you a full meal when Eärendil’s due back in two hours with takeout from our favorite restaurant here.”
“Ah.” Maglor said and sat at the table against the far wall, ignoring the datapad left on it. Honestly, he’d probably eat a gundark. Healing trances were not the easiest things to do. Reminded of that, he felt no bandage on his abdomen-- not a surprise-- and then unwrapped the light bandage around his hand. A burn scar covered half of his palm and a ridge that matched his lightsaber grip went up each finger. He flexed his fingers as best as he was able: it was a good range of motion but not what he should have had. He stared down at his hand, trying not to cry. But this was flat note that made the song fall apart. His family was dead; his dominant hand was injured; and there was no returning home.
Elwing touched his back and put a bowl of gruel down in front of him, the purple vitamin powder clearly stirred in. “Eat. And you’ll want to use the datapad to read the HoloNet News to see what the Empire’s saying about Arda.”
She left him alone then and a tear dripped into the gruel as the door shut.
Maglor swirled the dregs of the crastelvelian tea around in his mug and sighed. He’d been here all morning and most of the afternoon, waiting for someone to respond to his posting. Usually, he had jobs lined up so he was never on planet for more than a day at a time. Now he was going on three thanks to a cancellation.
He looked around the room, at the other cargo pilots also waiting for jobs. Some of them did have customers at their tables, but those were uniformly pilots with large ships and crews. Even after two years in the job, he preferred to operate alone. The rest like him, well, they’d all end up with cargo sooner or later. It simply happened to be one of those brief weeks where supply outflew the demand.
The transparisteel door slid open and two young Humans, a man and a woman, dressed in clothing that was frankly too nice and in-fashion for the environs, stepped into the room. The secretary pointed at Maglor and they walked over to him without thanking the droid. Maglor hid his frown as the customers sat down in front of him. “How may I help you?”
“We saw your job availability. We’d like to hire you to fly us to Arda.”
Maglor barely kept the reflexive “no” from being spoken aloud. “Why did you choose me?”
The young woman looked at her friend and said, “Well, your ship and your name are both Quenya, one of the Quendian languages. We thought you’d be more than willing to fly home, take a break, see your family.”
“My family died during the rebellion,” Maglor said softly. “I haven’t been home since.”
“Oh. I’m sorry,” the man said awkwardly. “Do you have some other objection to going there?”
Maglor suddenly placed their accents: Coruscanti, high society. They truly didn’t see the problem in asking him that question immediately after he implied he had no interest in returning. “I have no job contacts on Arda. An empty hold is money lost.”
“We’ll pay you double-- no, triple-- the maximum amount you’ll make with a full cargo,” she said. “To fly us there and to fly us to wherever we fly next. Triple each trip.”
“I only fly in the Mid Rim,” Maglor said. He couldn’t turn down that amount of money. Nothing said he had to leave the ship. “And I won’t stay on Arda waiting for you unless it’s an extremely short visit. How long will you be there?”
“Seven days,” the young man said. “We’re visiting Khazad-dûm.”
Maglor hadn’t realized the Dwarves had opened their cities to tourists. Given the Empire, though, they probably had no choice. “Then I’ll take another job in between.”
They looked at each other and he shrugged a shoulder. “Fair enough,” she said. “But if you’re late returning, we’ll only pay the standard passenger fee.”
“Also fair,” Maglor said. “When will you be ready to leave here?”
“Midmorning,” she said.
“I’ll pull up the contract and we’ll sign it,” Maglor said. At their nod, he did so. Surprisingly, they took the time to read it before affixing their signature. “I’m in Docking Bay 7.”
They nodded, thanked him, and hurried out the door. Maglor frowned after them and looked at the signatures on the contract. Their surnames bothered him with their familiarity, so he used the computer terminal to look them up. Woena Talifa and Makri Storshif, respectively the daughter of a Moff and the son of the Imperial governor of Chandrila, both off on a gap year adventure. He wanted to bang his head on the wall and delete the contract. Neither was an option, but he took the precaution of printing the contract onto flimsi before logging off the terminal.
“Bad news?” the pilot sitting next to him said.
“Hopefully not,” Maglor told her and left the independent cargo pilots’ collective’s office. If he had to fly Imperial brats to his homeworld and they sought him out specifically because he was Quendi, they’d be expecting “exotic” Quendian fare on his ship, not the random foodstuffs he’d felt like buying that morning. He honestly wasn’t sure anymore if the money and the chance to get off this planet would be worth it.
Woena and Makri showed up precisely when they said they would. Given who they were, Maglor had arranged to rent stairs to the airlock rather than make them climb up the ladder in the cargo hold. Woena moved out of the way of her friend and set one of her two bags on the dining table. She looked around, frowned at the two-dimensional screen showing a picture of a desert to her right, and then said, “Quaint.”
“The cabins are this way,” Maglor said.
They followed him to the corridor and let them decide for themselves who got which cabin. Maglor had been tempted to say that they couldn’t share, but it would draw too much attention to himself. Noldorin morals did not match Imperial Court morals. If they were traveling together, it was assumed they were lovers whether they were or not. To his surprise, they actually did choose separate cabins.
“Please strap in for takeoff,” Maglor said when they emerged. “You can do so on your bunks or in the dining area.”
They chose the dining area. “Pilot, why don’t you have more items from Arda here?”
Maglor turned his head to look at Makri. “I’m a cargo pilot, sir. I don’t have room for knickknacks. Those flatscreen photos are the easiest thing for me to travel with.”
“Oh! Are they all from Arda?” Woena said.
“Some of them. I bought the landscape package with the most images of Arda I could find.” They didn’t need to know there were only three images in a chip of thousands. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in the cockpit.”
They were shortly in hyperspace and Maglor no longer had the excuse of needing to pilot to stay away from them. So he went out to the dining area and told them they could unstrap their restraints. They did so and proceeded to ignore him, talking something about caverns and carved cities and some sort of mountain sport. “I’ll be in my cabin if you need me.”
Makri nodded, so Maglor left.
Once his cabin door shut behind him, Maglor leaned against it with a sigh. His cabin had a lofted bunk, a desk and chair underneath it, and a set of cabinets and drawers on the opposite wall. The wall between the head of the bed and the drawer was painted a light green. There was enough space for him to pace in a constrained oval, which he didn’t feel like doing.
One fourteen hour trip there, one trip away to a planet they hadn’t yet told him: and then he’d be free of people he truly didn’t want on his ship. And if they told his friends about him… Well, he’d made it perfectly clear to them he was a cargo pilot. Why couldn’t they have used their own ships to travel around the galaxy rather than pretending as if they were everyday citizens? It would have been easier on everyone-- and probably safer for them. But they were just young and naive enough they probably thought themselves in no danger in Empire-controlled territory.
Maglor sighed again and moved away from the door to sit down at his desk. He pulled his datapad over and the datacard for his logs and other data. The shipping collective needed their monthly documentation and the Imperial income tax was due soon.
“It was a great flight! We’ll see you in a few days,” Woena waved as she trotted down the stairs.
Makri said, “Don’t be late.”
His cargo run was a short hop to a system three hours away and back. Though he was leaving as soon as the inspector left, he’d be there for three days before his cargo would even be ready. Better there than here.
Maglor signaled to the droid driving the ladder that he was done with it and shut the airlock. Then he lowered the cargo bay ramp and went down to the meet the inspector Traffic Control had said was mandatory for any Quendi ship landing on Arda. Maglor knew better than to complain. The very little he’d seen on the HoloNet in the past four years had made it quite clear how deeply entrenched the Empire was in the system.
He didn’t wait long and when the door opened to admit the inspector, Maglor’s first thought was shit. His second was to run and his third was to stay put because fleeing would expose him.
Finarfin, wearing an Imperial uniform and a black leather shoulder bag, walked up the ramp, eyes wide. “You survived! I thought-- how did you escape?” He shook his head sharply, once. “No, don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.” And then he embraced Maglor.
Maglor stiffened and his half-uncle released him. “What are you doing here?”
Finarfin snorted. “As the king of the Noldor, it is my duty to inspect every Noldorin ship that lands here. As you can imagine, there aren’t many.”
“What else do they have you do?”
“I’m a figurehead and a bit player in King Ingwë’s court. The Empire kept me on despite my… family problems. Being a Senator worked to my favor for once.”
“You aren’t Senator any longer.” Maglor paused with one hand on the ladder. “Do you really need to inspect my ship?”
Finarfin shrugged. “Technically, yes. So we have some time to talk.”
Maglor sighed. “Are you going to turn me in?”
Finarfin froze, staring at him. “Maglor, I would never do such a thing. I remain where I am because it’s the bare minimum I can do to keep the Empire from further devastating our world.” He scrubbed his hands over his face. “Do you have a place where we can sit and talk?”
Maglor nodded, reading his uncle’s sincerity in the Force. “This way.”
They settled at the table. Maglor hadn’t bothered to serve drinks. “What do you need to tell me?”
Finarfin clasped his hands on the tabletop. “Ingwë has some power here and cooperates fully with the Empire. He’s the only reason we don’t have a governor instead. Aman become limited to his court, those who serve them, and the bare minimum of people needed to maintain the city and palace. Droids are far more common now. The rest of the moon has been declared an Imperial hunting preserve. Everyone else has been relocated; Tirion and Alqualondë are deserted. All of the Quendi save for the court now live on Arda itself. Unless you have a permit to go to the moon, you simply can’t.
“That’s not the worst of it: the Dwarves have been forced to open their cities; the Empire won’t tolerate them mining for anyone else, not even themselves. There are persistent rumors that they’ll be enslaved if there’s a hint of organized grumbling. The Empire’s already enslaved the Shire and its surrounds; there are only a few hundred Hobbits left in the system.”
Maglor stared at him. The Hobbits, slaves? They largely kept to themselves, uninterested in the Big People. He couldn’t think of a single Hobbit who had ever left the system.
Finarfin closed his eyes. “The Singers are dead.”
“I expected that,” Maglor said softly. “But how did the Empire kill so many?”
Finarfin opened his eyes and looked down at his hands. “There are beings called Inquisitors. They’re Force-wielders and they specialize in hunting Force sensitives. They use red lightsabers to execute any they find. There were three of them and they were here for months. By the end, there were no Singers anywhere on the planet. The Inquisitors also destroyed what documentation there was about training methods and philosophies. There is very little left, Maglor.”
Lightsabers… and he no longer had his. “Do you have any good news?”
“Three weeks after the Battle of the Havens, Beren and Lúthien stole an Imperial shuttle, sent an open broadcast that showed they still had the Silmaril, and disappeared into hyperspace.”
Maglor grinned. “That is good.” And then his smile vanished. “What happened to their granddaughter? I know she ran a company out of the Havens.”
“The Empire immediately absorbed their shipping company and the Vingilótë turned pirate. They broadcast every few months to let us know there are free Quendi and they attack all over the galaxy. They’re vexing the Empire, but there’s no pattern to catch them by.”
“Yet,” Maglor said. “All four of them are Singers or could be; the Inquisitors will find them eventually.”
“Let us hope not.”
At the very least, Maglor had to hope that. If they were captured, so would he be. “Is there anything else?”
Finarfin sighed. “Out of our extended family, the only survivors are Mother, Findis, and myself. Everyone else…” He trailed off.
Maglor reached out and rested a hand on his uncle’s. They were the only baseline Quendi in the family. Everyone else, all whom the Quendi considered Force-sensitive, either died in the brief rebellion or been executed. “Uncle, please remember that the Empire likewise considers me dead. You have to pretend I’m just another trader.”
He nodded and stood. “Then it’s time for me to go. How long will you be here?”
“I’m leaving as soon as you get off my ship and returning in seven days to drop off a small cargo of luxury items bound for Ingwë and to pick up the passengers who disembarked today.”
Finarfin nodded. “Don’t return after that, Maglor. It isn’t safe.”
“I know. But I can’t explain that to junior members of the Imperial Court.”
Finarfin’s face lost color. “Junior members of--”
Maglor nodded. “The only worse people to have approached me for passage would have been people who either recognized me or spotted me for a Jedi. I’ll take a couple of brats over that.”
“As would I. May the Force be with you, Maglor.”
Maglor bowed slightly. “And with you, Uncle.”
The seven days passed all too quickly. Maglor landed again at the Havens, commed the Imperials to let them know he had landed, and turned over his three crates of cargo to a young Vanya who paid him little mind and left as Finarfin arrived.
“Every ship, every time,” he said with a sigh as he walked up the ramp. “Are your passengers here yet?”
“Not for another three hours,” Maglor said.
“Good.” He followed Maglor back to the dining table and put his shoulder bag on it with a metallic clank too loud to be just a datapad. He opened it and withdrew three items: a holocube, a large tin, and a small leather bag. “Sit,” he said. “They’re not going to bite.”
Maglor unfolded his arms and sat down. Finarfin turned on the holocube and handed it to him. “I doubt you have any holos of your family.”
Tears pricked Maglor’s eyes as he looked at the last family portrait of the House of Fëanor, taken shortly after Celebrimbor’s birth. That had been the year the Clone Wars broke out. “What else is on here?”
“A hodgepodge. And the little bit of Singer material I was able to save.” He slid the tin across the table. “Open it.”
Maglor did so and smiled when he inhaled the scent of the mixture that was uniquely Noldorin grown and blended tea. “That will be enough to last me a few years.” It was the largest tin he’d seen outside of mass storage.
Finarfin picked up the leather bag and Maglor held out his hand. “Your mother… she gave this to me for safekeeping. You were always too good at finding gifts hidden in your house. It was supposed to be for your two hundredth begetting day, but the Empire…”
The invasion happened three months before then. Maglor untied the knot holding the drawstring closed and pulled out a metal armband. Diamonds in the pattern of the spring sky were scattered across it and a Durindfire the size of his thumbnail, shining brightly silver, was placed in the center. “It’s beautiful.”
“I’m glad I was able to give it to you, Maglor.” He stood and pulled the shoulder bag back over his head.
“So am I.” He put the bracelet back in its bag and left everything on the table to escort his uncle out.
Finarfin clasped his arm at the bottom of the ramp. “May the Force be with you, Maglor. Don’t return.”
“I won’t,” he whispered and his uncle released him.
Maglor watched him walk out of the docking bay and hurried back into his ship, shutting the ramp behind him. He put the tea on his desk and the holocube in the locking drawer where he usually kept his blaster when he wasn’t wearing it. The armband, he couldn’t help but study. It was worth a good amount of money if he needed to sell it. But he had enough money in his bank account that it wouldn’t be required unless the Empire froze it. And if they froze it, he’d be in serious trouble because that likely meant one thing: they’d learned his identity.
He opened his wardrobe and took the hanger holding his formal outfit off the rod long enough to loop the drawstring around the hook. He put it back in the wardrobe: the safest place for it, hiding in plain sight. The tea had to stay in his cabin until the Imperials were gone and then he’d move it to the galley. The holocube could probably use a better place. Imperial inspectors who weren’t Finarfin generally liked checking weapons lockers.
Maglor left his cabin when his comm beeped, making sure to lock the door behind him. The stairs had arrived and the Imperials would shortly.
“How was Khazad-dûm?” Maglor asked Woena and Makri when they came through the airlock.
“Wonderful!” Woena said with a little twirl. “The Dwarves are so industrious, you’d never know they were uncivilized a decade ago. Have you ever been there?”
“No, ma’am; I’ve never been to any Dwarven city. Please secure your luggage and we’ll leave as soon as you tell me where you want to go next.”
“Bothawui,” Makri said.
They’d gotten half a dozen steps away from Maglor when Woena’s comm beeped.
“Ah, shit,” she said as she pulled it off her belt. “Hello, Daddy.”
“Woena. It’s time to return home. We have put up with your galavanting around the galaxy long enough. You and Makri have duties to the Empire; it’s time to fulfill them.”
“We’re in the Mid Rim, Daddy. It will take a day or two to return to Imperial Center.”
“Get here as fast as you can. I have lost my patience.”
A click and Woena sighed as she returned the comm to her belt. “I guess we’re not going to Bothawui.”
Makri turned to look at Maglor, folding his arms across his chest. “You will fly us to Imperial Center.”
“Maybe Malda’s only licensed in the Mid Rim. We can find someone else.”
“I’m licensed everywhere in the galaxy,” Maglor said, hating that he had to say this. But he knew Makri’s type: he would do everything in his considerable power to ruin Maglor’s life if he didn’t cooperate. “My shipping collective only operates in the Mid Rim. But I can fly you to Imperial Center.”
“Good,” he said. “We said we’d pay you three times your maximum fee. We’ll pay five for the inconvenience.”
Woena nodded. “Thank you! How long is the journey from here?”
“We have to reach the Corellian Trade Spine first, but once we do, it’ll be faster. About a day and a half on the outside, most likely close to a day. Settle in, please. It doesn’t sound as if we have the luxury to wait.”
“No, we don’t,” Woena muttered and they stowed their bags in their cabins before returning to the dining table to strap in.
Maglor entered the cockpit then and stared out the viewport at the docking bay wall for a moment. Imperial Center, the planet formerly known as Coruscant. Of all the places in the galaxy he needed to avoided, he was headed for the top of the list.
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
B11: Color Burst Spectrum, snow cones and Food, stew
“Have you ever been to Imperial Center before?” Makri asked Maglor when he came out of the cockpit to tell his passengers they’d landed.
“I have not,” Maglor said. It was the truth-- he hadn’t been to the planet formerly known as Coruscant since it had been renamed.
“Then you should make the time to visit,” Makri said.
Maglor shrugged a shoulder. “The dock is rented for six hours. What would you suggest?”
He’d fully anticipated a test of his loyalty. If he’d just dropped them off and returned to the Mid Rim, it could very easily be twisted into sympathy for the scattered rebellion. If he stayed too long, well, he couldn’t afford that and it too would gain Imperial attention for living beyond his means. A handful of hours-- enough to see something like the many transients who had never been here before-- was the perfect compromise.
Woena dropped Makri’s bags at his feet and said, “There’s tours of the Imperial Palace or the Imperial Senate.”
Makri shook his head. “You didn’t have to grab my bags, Woena.” To Maglor, he said, “They require reservations weeks in advance for background checks. We don’t want malcontents gaining access.”
“No, we don’t,” Maglor said.
“There’s a walking tour of the Federal District; I don’t think it requires--”
Woena said, “It’s usually sold out. The Imperial Museum; there’s always a couple of exhibits worth spending some time in. Or there’s a hop-on hop-off hoverbus tour of Imperial City; it has a stop at the Museum where you can buy a ticket, so you could do both if you have time.”
“I think I’ll take that option; thank you.”
Both of them smiled at Maglor and departed the ship through the airlock. Once they were out of the docking bay, Maglor had the staircase removed and left through the cargo bay as usual. Four hours, to give plenty of leeway in travel time, on a planet that made his skin crawl.
Not simply because of what happened here and who ruled it, but also because it was entirely city. He knew there were parks here and there-- only a handful of them free-- but the never-ending skyscrapers and traffic; the noise of machines, droids, and people; the crowds themselves… He’d grown up in a culture that prized connection to nature, even in their cities. Tirion had been the most urban city in the Arda system, but even it had fountains and gardens everywhere. Coruscant-- Imperial Center, he had to remember that-- lacked even that touch of connection.
He couldn’t stay in the docking bay; he had to leave, else give the Imperials something else to check on. He had no doubt one of the teens’ parents would run a background check on him. It was thankfully easy for him to catch one of the public transports from the spaceport to the Museum Plaza, thanks to being on a direct line. If he’d any other passengers or simply cargo, he would have been routed to a different spaceport. But his passengers merited landing in Imperial City itself. It got them out of his ship faster, thankfully, but that was the only upside.
Maglor stepped off the transport with half a dozen other people and walked to the nearby holomap. He didn’t need to worry about pickpockets here; there seemed to be one stormtrooper for every five civilians. A chill went down his spine. As long as he kept to himself, attracted no attention, and left quietly, they had no reason to bother him. He sighed and studied the map. The Imperial Museum stood nearer to the Senate Dome than the Federal District, though he could see both from the plaza: the Senate to his left and the District in the near distance on the right.
Given the sick feeling in his stomach even looking at the icon of the Imperial Palace, it would be better idea to skip the hoverbus tour entirely and stick to the museum. So he walked across the plaza and entered it. Security blocked his way. Maglor shuffled through the queue with everyone else, setting off no detectors he could hear, and joined the faster-moving line to buy a ticket to enter the museum proper.
The atrium opened up in front of him, a giant Imperial logo made of thousands of smaller images-- probably from every planet in the Empire-- hovered in the middle of the floor. Half a dozen floors opened onto the atrium. And the information center was placed directly below the logo. Not knowing where to go, he walked over there. A Human woman wearing a museum uniform smiled at him. “How may I help you?”
“I have only a few hours to spend in the museum. What exhibits would you recommend?”
She picked up a tiny holograph emitter and a marker pen, putting three red dots respectively on the ground floor, the first upper level, and the fourth lower level. She put six orange dots on other floors. “The three red dots are our central exhibits: the Fall of the Republic, the Rise of the Empire, and the Security of the Empire. The orange dots are smaller exhibits that tie into the larger ones. Is there anything you are particularly interested in?”
“I’m a Mid Rim cargo pilot--”
“Ah! Then you’ll enjoy our Exploration of Hyperspace exhibit on the fourth floor.” She put a green dot on the other side of the fourth lower level. “You should be able to see that one and one of the main exhibits and have time after to enjoy a meal on the cafe at the top of the museum. It has great views of Imperial City.”
Maglor took the holomap, thanked her, and walked to the turbolift. He’d start at the bottom and work his way up. Not that he’d have an appetite at the end of the Rise of the Empire exhibit, but at least this way, he might see something he’d enjoy before entirely ruining his already poor mood.
Maglor stepped off the turbolift at the cafe level, keeping his emotions off his face and body language. The hyperspace exhibit had been interesting enough-- he now had one historian’s work to read if he could find a copy of the book-- but the Empire exhibit? That had started off with the Clone Wars, putting full blame on the Jedi for not being able to stop the war and twisting their actions during it, ending that part of the exhibit with the so-called attempted coup against Palpatine and the destruction of the Jedi Order. It devolved from there.
A droid greeted Maglor when he reached the cafe entrance. “This way, good sir. We have the perfect table for you.”
It was just Maglor’s luck that the droid led him to a small table overlooking the Imperial Palace. Maglor sat down, absently noting that the vast majority of the people in the cafe were Humans and near-humans like himself, and pulled up the holomenu to pick from the limited selection: all ridiculously expensive tourist food. There wasn’t much here he preferred to eat, but that was only to be expected. “A nerf meat burger, fried tubers, and a glass of water.”
“Would you like to order dessert now or when your meal is ready?”
The droid nodded and zoomed off back to the front of the cafe, undoubtedly having transmitted Maglor’s order to the kitchen droids. Maglor stared out the transparisteel window at the Imperial Palace. The last time he’d seen it in person, it had been something else entirely: the Jedi Temple. But Palpatine had made it his home and the center of his government.
He didn’t even need to actively use the Force to feel the corruption. It saturated Imperial City, a heavy fog seeping everywhere to those who knew how to see it. But even passive use of the Force here was a terrible danger. He didn’t know where the Inquisitors were based; Darth Vader lived here; and Darth Sideous, well, Maglor didn’t know for sure, but would guess that he was Palpatine. Only a Sith would have taken over the Jedi Temple and claimed it for his own.
He could hear, faintly underneath the corruption and darkness, a sweet song: all that was left of the thousand generations of Jedi who had lived there.
Maglor clenched his fists below the table. He had lived there once, well over a hundred years ago. Father had encouraged his sons to look beyond the Singer Force tradition; both he and Mother had studied briefly with the Jedi soon after they married. (That, he suspected, was one of the main reasons the Order never recorded the House of Fëanor as Jedi.) Maglor had spent the longest at the Temple-- nearly two dozen years-- studying how the Jedi treated music as part of their connection to the Force. Apart from a handful of people from longer-lived species, he doubted any of the people he’d known had lived to see Order 66. And he knew none of them had survived.
But the Temple itself: that he missed. Not just the extensive Archives, but the mix of serenity the Code encouraged and the passion about the Force that made up the Jedi’s day-to-day life, the lightsaber arenas and the discussions of morality and duty and responsibility, the culture and history that made a Jedi a Jedi.
He smiled pleasantly at the droid server who put the tray with his meal in front of him. Maglor ate quickly, not because he was running out of time, but because the more he sat here and thought about the genocide of the Jedi, the more tempted he was to storm the Imperial Palace.
That was a trap, he realized abruptly: a perversion of the Force to bring any Jedi who was foolish enough to ignore Master Kenobi’s warning to flee and never return to Coruscant to a place where they could be easily dealt with. Goosebumps rose on Maglor’s arms and he put down the last few bites of his nerfburger on his plate. He took several deep breaths to center himself, not touching the Force at all, and made himself finish his meal. He pressed the call button for the droid server, paid it without caring about the change, and left.
He kept his head down as he crossed Museum Plaza to reach the hoverbus stop, nearly running into a Human child holding (and partly wearing) a multicolored snow cone from a stand that was placed by the railing overlooking the Palace. The Plaza rather had a festive air, but then, it was clearly designed-- or redesigned-- to celebrate everything the Empire had done in bringing order to the galaxy. Maglor took one last look at the old Jedi Temple and shuddered.
Within the hour, he was in hyperspace. Never again would he return to Coruscant, not while the Empire controlled it. He opened himself up to the Force, letting the background singing that made up every day of his life soothe him.
Maglor put the last of the cubed stew meat into the pot, covered it, and turned the stovetop on low. It would take hours to cook, a necessary thing given his project for the day. He’d planned this deliberately: no cargo in the hold; no job for another two days; his ship parked in a system marked with only a numerical designation thanks to the complete and utter lack of life and scarce resources. It was an almost utterly forgotten system, marked only on navigation charts because of its star’s gravity well.
He turned away from the galley and looked at the supplies scattered across the dining table. It had taken several weeks to gather all the materials, a piece here and a piece there, cautiously and carefully. In the center of the wires and power supply and circuits was the Durindfire gem he’d carefully pried out of his mother’s gift to him.
A kyber crystal would have been a Jedi’s first choice, but those had been difficult to find in general and were now impossible. Father had made his own crystals and given his sons free choice of his work. But a natural crystal was the the only option Maglor had: he didn’t have the smithing skills of his father or his brother; there was no way to look for a kyber crystal without revealing himself.
He sat down at the table, checking one final time to make sure he had everything on the table. Once he began, it would be inadvisable to stop. Maglor closed his eyes and reached for the pipe that would become his lightsaber hilt.
Several hours later, he opened his eyes, mentally exhausted and sure in the knowledge his new lightsaber would function as designed. He rose, stretched, and went to the hold to test it. He stood in the center of the empty space and held the hilt upright before him: black in color, with silver accents. The grip was softer than his older lightsaber had been, and placed slightly differently, partly to accommodate for his scar. He thumbed the button and a brilliant silver blade ignited, the hum reassuring.
He swung his blade, moving into some of the basic forms to get a better feel for his new lightsaber: it was balanced and perfectly in tune with him. The Maglor who hadn’t yet lived through the Jedi Purge would have found the weapon uncomfortable, but he was no longer that man.
He was a Singer and a Jedi and a survivor. He was an exile in hiding. He was Malda Coinon and Maglor Fëanorian.
He shut down the lightsaber and hung it from his belt. For the rest of today, he would wear it. Whenever he was in hyperspace and ferried no passengers, he would wear it. He could not risk it anywhere else, not yet and maybe not ever. But onboard his own ship, he would no longer hide.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
B7, Horror, mazes and labyrinths
For those who wondered if Lariesh would return, she's back! Also, I only have one chapter left to write (not to post), so I can definitively say this story will remain rated Teens with an overall warning for canon-typical violence.
Maglor stepped through the open gate to the festival grounds of the government’s official Empire Day celebration. The entire planet had shut down for the day, not that they’d been given any choice. Maglor had been on planets where Empire Day was less forcibly celebrated. It was just his bad luck that the right engine on the Calanár had indeed needing replacing right when the Shistavanen shipyard owner had told him it would, so he’d brought it back to her. And ended up stuck because of a holiday he never wanted to acknowledge.
Though the eve of Empire Day was worse, for it was when the Jedi Order fell.
He rubbed his forehead and looked around. Off to his left was the hedge wall of the giant maze. To the right was a flat space, mostly filled with games and distractions for children: face-painting, balloons, play areas, even a petting zoo. A lot of young families crowded the area. There was nothing over there for him.
So he walked across the wooden bridge separating the children’s area from the main part of the festival, pausing a moment to study the shooting range to the right side of the bridge. Low-powered blasters from positions underneath the bridge aimed at targets placed to the far right. He swallowed when he saw the holographic forms: faceless people in Jedi robes, each with a blue or green lightsaber.
He hurried on down the ramp into the festival proper. It was crowded with people, but he’d expected that. They had nowhere else to go save private celebrations, restaurants, and bars. Or to stay home, which could very well get the Empire’s attention. It was the only reason he hadn’t holed up on his ship for the day.
The smell of food wafted over the crowd, a combination of fried foods, meats, and other scents he couldn’t tease apart. Booths in rows created makeshift pedestrian paths. Music from speakers and from a couple of stages placed at opposite ends of the grounds hovered in the air, nearly drowning out the sound of blaster fire behind him. Maglor moved out of the way of the path from the bridge and glanced behind him.
The firing range was from the Imperial Armed Forces. A holograph display meant for children to have their holos taken as if they were wearing stormtrooper or TIE pilot or Imperial Navy uniforms stood next to the entrance of the shooting range. Lines snaked out of both. Maglor shook his head and heading into the sea of booths.
He wandered, glancing at some items on sale, and itching for his lightsaber. The last time he’d been among this many people was in the Imperial Museum on Coruscant. He was only marginally safer here. But festival policy was “no weapons” so he wasn’t even carrying his blaster. Not that he needed a weapon; the Force was enough. That realization, and a little more attention paid to the background singing of the Force, was enough for him to relax. Maybe he had to be here because he couldn’t afford to stand out by not attending. Maybe he hated why the festival happened. But people were trying to make a living, enjoying a day off with family and friends, and living their lives as best as they could.
After exploring a chunk of the booths, he ended up standing underneath a shade umbrella, finishing off the last of a sausage from an animal he’d never heard of, and people watching when he felt a whisper of familiarity behind him.
Maglor turned around and smiled. “Lariesh! I didn’t expect to see you again.”
She wore her bright blue hair up in a braided bun and held hands with a light blue-skinned Twi'lek. “Neither did I. This is my wife Tula.”
“It’s my pleasure to meet you,” Maglor said. “I hadn’t realized you were married, Lariesh.”
She shook her head. “When we were working on the starliner, I wasn’t. I quit half a year after you left and met Tula shortly after.”
“We’re both fans of the same band and… things happened from there,” Tula said.
“What are you doing back here, Malda?”
He shrugged. “My ship needs an engine replaced. It arrived yesterday, but with everything shut down for Empire Day, it’ll be at least another day, if not two, before I’m able to leave. So I decided to have some fun.”
“What have you seen so far,” Tula said.
“Not much. Just a few of the booths.”
Tula said, “Ooh, you haven’t done the maze yet, have you?”
“I’d planned on it, actually. Does it live up to what I’ve heard?”
Lariesh laughed. “Not today, probably. It’s too crowded. If you wanted to solve it properly, wait three or four days. But you’re never here for very long.”
“Only two or three times a year, mostly for ship mechanics I can’t do myself.”
“So you’re enjoying your job?”
“I am. What are you doing now?”
“Odds and ends. Tula’s an accountant at one of the medcenters downtown, so I don’t need a full-time job.”
“Good for you.”
Tula said, “I see them.” She met Maglor’s eyes. “I’m sorry. We’re meeting friends here. We’d love to have you over for dinner tomorrow evening, though.”
Maglor smiled. “I will be honored to join you.”
Lariesh nodded. “Don’t bring anything but yourself. We’ll see you at seven?”
“That’s fine. See you then.”
They said goodbye to him and met a group of mixed-species people near the entrance to one of the paths through the booths. Maglor tossed his sausage wrapping into a nearby trash can and headed in the opposite direction, to the maze’s entrance.
Ten acres, multiple paths that ended in dead ends, and a persistent rumor that people disappeared in it. That he’d chalk up to the usual horror stories surrounding mazes, though he had heard that last year two families had reported their of-age teens missing only to find them three days later in another town, having used the chance to elope. Today, given the presences of stormtroopers and local police (some of whom were surely to be undercover), plus the abundant crowds, he doubted much would happen.
So of course when he rounded a corner only to see a dead-end and the closing of a camouflaged trap door, he sighed. Prudence dictated that he ignore what he’d seen and go back to where he made the wrong turn. Curiosity and the Force humming a worried pitch told him otherwise. Now he really wished he had his lightsaber.
He glanced behind him with the Force and walked forward. There was no hollow sound, no give to the ground. It was like the trapdoor wasn’t there at all. He turned in place, looking and sensing for any mechanism that would open it. There was none.
Maglor rubbed the bridge of his nose. A useable trapdoor with security and designed to stay hidden. At a festival known planet-wide for its maze. On Empire Day. A chill went down his spine. This was planned by whoever owned the grounds and that he knew for a fact was the Imperial governor of the planet, a man who had been duly elected by the people and worked willingly with the Empire.
Whatever was going on here was known-- and known by the populace. Rumors hiding truth, the only way some information could be spread in the Empire. But disappearances? Those were common now. All too common. What could he do, report what he saw?
That might be all he could do. Further involvement-- when he was sure that some form of security was recording all his actions here-- would put his life in danger. And truly, he had no idea what happened. All he’d seen was a trap door closing. Maybe it was a maintenance shaft. But the Force told him otherwise. Something had happened.
If this was the Republic, Maglor would not have hesitated to use the Force to enter the trapdoor. But it wasn’t the Republic. It was the Empire. And he had to weigh his safety over everything else, as much as he hated the guilt. It would not be the first time he turned away from something he questioned. His best course of action was to pretend like nothing was wrong and finish the maze. So he did, not enjoying a moment of it. After he left, he approached the nearest stormtrooper. “Sir?”
“What it is, citizen?”
Today of all days they made the effort to be approachable. “I saw something odd in the maze. I turned the corner and it looked like there was a trapdoor shutting.”
“Ah. That’s nothing to worry about. The irrigation system runs under the hedges. Something must have happened, so one of the gardeners was checking on it.”
The ground hadn’t been wet. “That must be it. I was remembering those rumors about people disappearing--”
The trooper chuckled. “ Don’t let your imagination ruin your day. It’s usually kids playing tricks on their parents. Or eloping.”
“I won’t. Thank you!”
Maglor walked off. Known to the Empire, then. Nothing good could come of that. Maybe after the fireworks were over and the park closed, he could return and investigate-- and he flinched when the Force screamed at him about how terrible an idea that would be.
He moved to the side of the pathway, out of the way of the flow of traffic, his right shoulder brushing the hedge wall, and breathed. In for seven, hold for seven, out for seven. The Force hadn’t been that loud since… since the Jedi were massacred. If he went tonight, he would die.
He hated leaving the matter alone, but he was one Jedi against an Empire full of people who worked for evil purposes. Whatever was going on here was something he’d need a team-- or even a battalion-- for, with no guarantee of learning exactly what was going on. People who vanished in the Empire stayed vanished.
If he pushed further, he would become one of them, shortly to be executed for the crime of surviving. That was not a tenable solution to the problem. Neither was ignoring it, but there was nothing else he could do.
Maglor rejoined the flow of the crowd.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
I16, Color Burst Green, balanced
N39, Late Great Mary Oliver, "…makes me take measure of myself, one iota pondering heaven."
Maglor knelt down on the cushioned pad he’d laid out on the catwalk overlooking the full cargo hold. He’d be in hyperspace another six hours; it was the perfect time to meditate. He set his lightsaber hilt in front of him and closed his eyes, sinking into the song of the Force.
…“Mama, what’s the Singing?”
“It is the background to life itself; everything is connected. And those of us who are fortunate enough to hear it can use it for great feats.”
“Like those in the songs you sing to me at bedtime?”
“Exactly like, Makalaurë.”
…“What do you think the Valar are?”
Maglor wasn’t sure what the right answer was. “They are the founding myth of the Quendi. Many still worship them as gods. Many of those who do say they created the Singing, what the Jedi call the Force. Others say the Valar are the Singing, but each Vala is different aspect of it. Others don’t even make that distinction, viewing the Valar and the Singing as one.”
Father raised an eyebrow. “That didn’t answer my question.”
Maglor tilted his head. “I think the Valar are myths, a way that our ancestors tried to make sense of the world around them and the Force. But that doesn’t mean they’re worthless.”
…Father unlocked the door to the cabinet where he kept the lightsaber-quality crystals he created. “Choose one, Makalaurë. It is time for you to construct your own lightsaber.”
Maglor inhaled, listening to the quiet singing before unhesitatingly reaching for an electric green crystal. “This one.”
…Maglor took a deep breath, shifted his bag’s strap, and walked off the transport into the hanger of the Jedi Temple. Mother and Father had trained here, as had Maedhros. Now it was his turn to learn how the main Force tradition in the galaxy heard the Singing.
“Welcome to the Temple, Singer Maglor. I am Jedi Master Renela.”
A tall Human woman bowed to him and he bowed in return. “It is my honor,” Maglor said and not as a mere pleasantry.
They exchanged small talk as Master Renela led him through the Temple, giving him a brief tour as they walked to his quarters, but Maglor could hardly hear a word she said. The Force was singing him a welcome home.
…He still wasn’t used to the never-ending cityscape of Coruscant. The lack of greenery outside of the Temple made him itch, made him wonder how the Jedi could stand living here. But there were gardens inside, a full sense of life, and the knowledge and tradition of nearly a thousand generations of Jedi who made their home here. The Jedi could no more move from Coruscant than a star could choose to independently wander.
If it wasn’t for his family and duties on Arda and the Temple’s placement in the middle of a planet made entirely of city, he would be content to live here. As it was, people hadn’t called him Singer for more than a dozen years. He was a Jedi Knight and he was home.
…“What do you mean, the Sindar quit talking to you? I wasn’t gone that long.”
Maedhros huffed. “Blame Father. Something he did-- and I don’t know what-- made Thingol withdraw all the diplomats from Tirion. Grandfather is going to have to make Father grovel to have them return.”
“And we all know Father will never do that,” Maglor said, raising his mug of beer. “Cheers.”
Maedhros snorted at Maglor’s sarcasm and bumped his mug against Maglor’s.
…“I need you to go on an undercover mission for me,” Grandfather Finwë said. “I’ll have a false ID created, including family history in case someone decides to run a background check.”
“How long will I be gone?”
“I don’t know,” Grandfather said. “But I need a Quend who can blend into the background of the galaxy… and you’re more Jedi than Singer. You know the galaxy better than anyone else I can trust with this job.”
…Maglor eyed the Hobbit’s door and said, “It might be better for me to sleep in my tent.”
Bilbo Baggins frowned. “You are here as my guest for the 1400th anniversary of the Shire’s founding. I couldn’t possibly--”
“I do not take it as an insult to your hospitality if I sleep outdoors. The weather is perfectly lovely… and I will have far less of a chance of forgetting where I am and hitting my head on the ceiling when I roll out of bed in the morning.”
The Hobbit laughed. “Fair enough. But you had better show up for first breakfast!”
“I will, Master Hobbit.”
…“No. The Arda system has no protection apart from the Singers. We cannot allow you to leave.” Grandfather Finwë’s voice softened. “I know you all want to help the Republic, but the Republic has an army, for better or worse. Arda does not. We need you here far more than the Republic needs you.”
Maglor bit his tongue, knowing that Grandfather had his mind settled. He bowed shallowly and left the room before his father and brothers began to argue. Could none of them hear the Force? It counseled patience, that their time to fight had not yet come.
…Maglor sank onto the overstuffed cushion of the chair by the holotable where the HoloNet News played, his legs no longer able to support him as he watched Emperor Palpatine declare the Jedi enemies of the Empire.
…The blue streaks of hyperspace soothed when he couldn’t sleep. It had been four years to the day that he’d fled Arda. Four long years of hiding who and what he was.
…His lightsaber gleamed, brilliant silver reflecting off the hold walls. He took a deep breath, closed his eyes, and turned on the remote to practice for the day when he’d need to defend himself against blaster bolts.
Maglor opened his eyes. Meditating usually didn’t bring memories with it, but today, the Force had seen fit to do so. But he felt more at peace and balanced now: he knew himself.
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
G57, Color Burst Indigo, truthfulness and Last Lines, "We'll think of something." -Zhan, Heir to the Empire
Maglor stared at the droid. “What?”
“I’m sorry, sir, but we are unable to transfer your payment to your bank account. You will need to comm your bank to fix the problem before we can pay you. Please contact our company when you have done so.”
The droid turned and rolled away to the hovertruck where it had loaded the cargo Maglor had just delivered. Maglor rubbed his forehead. Was this it? Had the Empire finally figured out his identity?
He pulled his comm off his belt and called his bank. “Hi. My name is Malda Coinon and I’m having trouble with my bank account.”
“I can help you with that, sir,” the droid on the other end said in an obnoxiously cheerful voice. “What is your account name and password?”
Maglor gave them to him and after a few moments, the droid said, “Unfortunately, your account was caught up in the identity theft ring originating on Rodia. Your voiceprint is not quite a match for what we have on file, so you need to come into the nearest branch to fix this in person. Do you need assistance locating the nearest branch?”
“No, thank you.”
“Have a pleasant day, sir.”
Maglor rolled his eyes and shut off the comm. He’d chosen the bank because there was a branch three blocks from this spaceport. After all, this was listed in Imperial records as his “home” spaceport, despite him only visiting a few times a standard year, and anything else could have been flagged as odd.
Maglor went back into his ship to grab his ID card and grocery bag… and paused when he saw his lightsaber on his desk. The Force hummed a little louder. He could feel he wasn’t in danger, but he wouldn’t ignore the Force’s encouragement. So he dropped it into the grocery bag and walked out of the Calanár. He shut the cargo ramp and left Bay 27. Better to get this over with so he could finish his grocery shopping before meeting Lariesh for lunch.
When he passed a stand selling fresh fruit, Maglor took the little bit of time and last of his credits on hand to begin shopping. At the very least, the fruit would hide the shape of his lightsaber in the bag. And then he walked into the bank.
The teller smiled at him and called another employee over to direct Maglor to the room where he’d need to talk to yet a third person. He sighed. How long would this take? Having nothing better to do, he sat down on one side of the table and waited.
It was only a couple of minutes before the door slid open-- and a Human man wearing the Imperial Security Bureau uniform and carrying a datapad walked in. The only thing that kept Maglor from going for his lightsaber was that he had no sense of danger. The ISB agent sat down across from Maglor. “I am Agent Denovar. The ISB has been investigating reports of a rebel cell here. But don’t worry; you’re not actually a suspect.”
Maglor blinked at him. “Then why the deception to bring me here?”
“Your friends Lariesh and Tula are Rebels. Lariesh is in fact the leader of the cell.”
“What?” Not that it was much of a surprise; she’d clearly learned from her time on the starliner to keep her opinions quiet in public but she was not as restrained in private, despite it mostly appearing in conversation with him regarding his seeming apathy.
“Yes. We tracked everyone they were in regular contact with. You being a cargo pilot was… hmm, a point of interest for us. But our background checks, both after you delivered Woena Talifa and Makri Storshif to Coruscant and now, showed that you are just that, a simple cargo pilot. You unfortunately happened to be acquaintances with Rebels.”
“If you’d already cleared me--”
“You are meeting Lariesh for lunch today, are you not?”
“I am,” Maglor said quietly, seeing were this was headed and hating the choice he’d have to make. If he refused to cooperate, they’d arrest him, find his lightsaber, and turn him over to the Inquisitors. If he cooperated, he’d betray friends to, at best, an immediate execution. One choice would get him killed; the other would see him betray friends for the Empire. He knew which one he could live with.
“We need you to call her and confirm that it’s still on.”
Maglor opened his mouth to ask why-- a reasonable citizen would not want to be involved in what was sure to turn into a firefight-- when his comm chimed. He raised an eyebrow at the ISB agent, who nodded. Maglor answered it, “Malda Coinon.”
“Hi Lariesh. What’s going on?”
“I need to cancel our lunch. Something’s come up and I hate to do this on such short notice given how infrequently you’re on-world, but…”
“It’s okay. We’ll meet up next time.”
“Yeah, sure. See you then!”
Maglor put the comm back on his belt and looked at the ISB agent. “I’m sorry, Agent. I--”
“No, no; this is fine. There’s nothing you can do about her canceling on you.” He smiled nastily. “Especially when it’s because she likely received some sort of warning of her cell is about to be apprehended.”
“And you’re sitting here in a bank talking to me?!”
The agent laughed. “We all have our parts to play. Your account should be active now. I’m sorry for the inconvenience now that your role in ISB’s operation is unnecessary. You may leave.”
Maglor nodded and walked out the door. He spent a few more minutes withdrawing credits-- twice his usual amount-- and left, walking through the market next to the spaceport to finish his shopping.
There was nothing he could do. Lariesh was undoubtedly busy and if he called her, he would only be a distraction at best. At worst, he’d tip off the Empire he cared enough about her to want her to avoid arrest and that would lead them straight back to him. He didn’t even know where she was in the city. So he bought fresh pasta from a stall, tucked it into his bag, and turned to leave. And saw Tula, wearing business clothing, just a few feet ahead of him. He quickly stepped forward. “Tula!”
She spun around, raising her arms in a self-defense position and dropped them when she recognized him. “You cannot be seen talking with me, Malda. Go away.”
Maglor half-smiled. “I know what’s going on. I had a run-in with ISB not an hour ago.”
“We didn’t mean to drag you into this.”
“I know. They cleared me.” Which was a relief for two reasons. If ISB hadn’t found anything connecting him with the Singers or the Jedi on two different occasions, they wouldn’t likely do so at any point.
“Do you have a plan to leave?”
She nodded. “Our ship is in Bay 29.”
“That’s next to mine. I can hide you there--”
“You would do that?”
Maglor shrugged. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Tula snorted. “Lariesh was sure you would walk away if it ever came down to protecting us.”
“Everyone has their breaking points. Let’s go.”
They wound through the spaceport and stopped when people began pouring from the way they were going-- along with the sound of blaster fire. “Shit,” Tula muttered. “I managed to escape the medcenter because I was out of my office getting caf. I should have known the Empire would beat us here.”
“Just wait. There might be something we could do.” Maglor reached the corner to the row the 20s were on and stopped just in time to not run into a stormtrooper.
“You’ll need to turn around, sir. There’s Rebels fighting down here.”
“I’m in Bay 27.”
He could feel the trooper’s wince, though he couldn’t see it. “They’re holed up in front of that bay, sir. You’ll have to wait.”
“I guess so.”
Maglor turned around and shooed Tula back a few meters. She said, “I heard. Now what are you going to do?”
“Something suicidal,” Maglor muttered and thrust his grocery bag into her arms. “Hold that.”
“Wha-- Malda!” she said as he dig through it until he found the cool metal hilt of his lightsaber. “You don’t need to--” When he pulled it out, her voice dropped. “Is that a pipe bomb? Malda!”
He shook his head. “Something worse, in Imperial eyes. Stay behind me and I can protect you.”
“You are making no sense.”
Maglor grinned and thumbed the button to turn on his lightsaber. “Stay behind me.”
He turned the corner and the stormtrooper didn’t have any time to react before he fell dead to the ground. Maglor took the moment to survey the street: a dozen troopers blocking both ends; six people he could feel trying their best to stay covered, and one Jedi that the troopers at the other end of the road could see but the ones immediately in front of him could not-- though they were already starting to turn thanks to in-helmet comm warnings from their comrades.
It wasn’t fast enough. Three of them dies from reflected blaster bolts, one from a lightsaber to the chest, two from blaster fire from the Rebels, and then he was in the midst of the other six, none of whom lived. He rushed over to the bay doors, unlocked them, and hurried everyone in, ignoring the silent stares. And then sealed the doors by the very efficient means of a lightsaber to the locking mechanism.
After turning his lightsaber off and placing it on his belt, he opened the Calanár’s cargo hold and everyone rushed inside. Once sealed behind them, Maglor didn’t bother with the ladder but jumped straight to the catwalk. “Stay here. I need to get this ship into hyperspace and then we’ll talk.”
He heard Lariesh start up the ladder and ignored her to run to the cockpit. He didn’t bother contacting Spaceport Control; the troopers had undoubtedly called for reinforcements well before he had arrived. So he took off, narrowly missing another freighter coming in to land and made it out into space before he saw the first hint of Imperial trouble: a pair of TIE fighters coming into firing range.
Too late. He punched in the coordinates for the system he’d built his lightsaber in and pulled the lever. They leapt into hyperspace, leaving the Empire behind them.
Maglor relaxed into his chair, running a hand through his hair. The Empire knew, now. But he could have done nothing else. Walking away would have meant a betrayal of everything he was.
Finarfin. He sat up and scrambled for the comm, typing in his uncle’s personal comm. He spent a couple of seconds waiting, hoping-- but even the Empire couldn’t move that fast.
“Malda Coinon,” Finarfin’s voice boomed through the cockpit. “How did you get this number?”
Maglor swallowed. “The Empire knows who I am. Run.”
Finarfin went silent. He knew as well as Maglor did that by not reporting Maglor when he’d come to Arda, Finarfin had sealed his fate as a traitor if Maglor was ever discovered. “I will. Thank you for the warning.” He paused and said, “May the Force be with you, Maglor.”
“And you, Uncle.”
Maglor ended the call and buried his face in his hands. Nine years since the Order fell. Seven since Arda’s takeover. Two years since he’d built his silver lightsaber. Now he was officially a fugitive.
He took a deep breath and slowly let it out. He needed Lariesh’s input on where to go next.
When he stepped out of the cockpit, she stood at the border of the hallway and living area. “You’re a Jedi.”
Maglor nodded. “Do you understand now why I pretended everything was fine?”
“You had to,” she said in a low voice. “I owe you an apology.”
“I accept it,” he said, leaning against the table.
“What will happen next?”
Maglor shook his head. “If you have a place you were fleeing to, I need to know the coordinates. We’re making for an empty system, and I’d like at least one and preferably two jumps before we head for wherever you were going.”
“We have a base in another empty system. The only thing memorable about it are old ruins that even the Republic didn’t feel worth excavating. I’ll give you the coordinates after the third jump.” She paused. “What will you do?”
“Flee,” he said. “I can’t remain with the Rebels. The Inquisitors will be coming after me as soon as word is passed to them. As ISB was involved in the operation to capture you, I have no doubt they have been or will shortly be. If I stay with you, everyone on that base will die.”
She sighed. “We’ll need a new base after you leave us. But that’s what being a Rebel means.” Lariesh smiled. “You put your life in danger to save us. We’ll figure something out to help you.”
Maglor bowed in thanks.
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
B10, Darkness Darknees, captivity
G48, Horror, chains, prisons, and torture
O68, Horror, footsteps and whispers
O67, Writer's Block Smash, an unexpected person on the other side of the door
Maglor stepped out of the ship formerly named Calanár and looked back at it as the ramp closed. The Rebels had repainted it: a black stripe on both sides to cover the flames and a matching stripe on the top of the ship. They’d also reprogrammed his transponder code and given him a fake ID, one that would hold up to casual scrutiny but he doubted would hold up to a deeper investigation.
He sighed, made sure his lightsaber was hooked onto his belt on the opposite side from his blaster, and stepped out of the docking bay. The humidity from the subtropical summer made him feel like he breathed through a wet blanket, but the heat was nice after a couple of days spent on a base in the middle of winter. It was a risk coming to an Imperial world, but the Rebel cell leadership had given him a tip on a contact here that could further help him hide.
Any help he accepted put people at risk, but knowledge of shadow ports and planets were the Empire hadn’t reached or if they had, didn’t care about-- dirtballs like Tatooine-- was necessary. And the Rebel cell hadn’t been able to give him any ports. He needed them to disappear into the underground economy of the Outer Rim.
He sighed and turned into the open-air market. He wasn’t due to meet the person until mid afternoon and it was only just after noon. He’d buy lunch, act the tourist, meet his contact, and leave the planet immediately after.
Maglor wandered the stalls, buying a pocket bread stuffed with greenery and some sort of mashed legume balls to eat as he did. He’d just finished it when the Force sung a warning and the jewelry stall owner became wide-eyed and silent. “Freeze,” a stormtrooper said behind Maglor. “Raise your arms over your head and turn around.”
Maglor did as instructed, glancing at the market. If it was just one trooper-- It wasn’t. The troopers formed a semicircle around Maglor, all facing outwards with their blasters pointed at the crowd. “If you resist, Jedi, they die.”
Maglor let the trooper disarm him and place him in stuncuffs. “How did you know?”
The trooper snorted. “The Imperial Security Bureau. Now shut up and move.”
Maglor remained silent, ready and waiting for the opportune moment. They hadn’t put him in a Force suppression collar or cuffs. That was their mistake. A bit of lock-picking with the Force, grabbing his lightsaber-- he’d be free. Free to flee again without the information he needed, but free.
The Force screamed a warning just before he saw out of the corner of his eye one of the troopers press a button on a small device.
Maglor’s head swam in echoing silence. He opened his eyes. He was no longer in the market, though from the construction of the room, he was still on-planet, probably in the Imperial Complex. He tried the restraints on the interrogation bed and gasped as a brief shock ran through them. The pain cleared his head a little… but the Force was utterly silent, without even a faint background hum.
Footsteps rang on the tile floor behind the interrogation bed Maglor was strapped to. He should have sensed another person in the room-- Force suppressants of some form, then, likely a collar from the weight on his neck. Unable to turn his head, Maglor could only stare at the front of the room, facing the door. From what he could see, a low cabinet lined the wall on his right, a tray with items on it barely visible on its surface. An interrogation droid, its syringe filled, hovered to the left of the door, in the corner by the ceiling.
The Force suppression collar worried Maglor more. Without the Force, it would become much more difficult to resist interrogation. The Empire would wring every detail it could out of him.
That’s why he’d stayed on the Calanár while at the Rebel base, only talking with Lariesh and Tula as go-betweens. When the Rebel who had reprogrammed his transponder came on board, Maglor had locked himself in his cabin. He couldn’t give away what he didn’t know. And he knew the base would be evacuated after he left. The Rebels were as safe as he could make them.
Finally, the person walked to where Maglor could see him. Agent Denovar. “I must admit your Malda Coinon ID was impressive,” he said. “It still comes up as legitimate in the ISB database. But then, it was a legitimate ID. How did it feel knowing you lived when the rest of your kind did not, Jedi?”
Maglor didn’t answer, just looked steadily at him.
“The Inquisitor will arrive in six hours to bring you to Mustafar,” Denovar said. “I see no reason why I cannot begin your interrogation now. My responsibility is to stop the Rebel cell you saved.” He turned away to go to the tray of items and turned his head, “That was foolish. You could have remained hidden for years had you not--”
“Been a Jedi?” Maglor said. “I do not regret my actions.”
He didn’t, even now that they had landed him here. He had saved lives, ensured that a light in the galaxy wasn’t extinguished. Thatwas his purpose as a Jedi. Yes, he would have preferred to outlive the Empire. But he’d always known how remote that possibility was.
“You lived alone on your ship for years,” Denovar said. “It was remarkable how few personal items you had. Even knowing the Jedi preference for simplicity, it was austere of you to have only a few changes of clothing, a two-dimensional image chip, a holocube with pictures of your family, a bracelet with a gem missing, and your lightsaber. I assume the missing gem is in fact in your lightsaber?”
The ISB agent held up Maglor’s lightsaber. Maglor remained silent and the man put it down on the tray. “Pity you won’t cooperate. But why should I be surprised? Your uncle didn’t either. The Empire executed him this morning. Would you like to view the clip?”
He barely paused before pressing a button on a device next to the tray. A blue hologram appeared in the air in front of Maglor: a firing squad standing in front of Finarfin. Maglor didn’t close his eyes when someone off-image shouted the command to fire. His uncle had died for him; watching his death was the only honor he would be able to give.
Denovar turned off the vid after Finfarin’s corpse fell to the ground. “Your step-grandmother Indis and your aunt Findis have been transported to a labor camp. It was made clear that the Empire cannot trust the House of Finwë in any capacity. Pity. It makes ruling so much easier if we can leave the original government in power.”
“The Empire will fall. Palpatine will not remain emperor forever.”
“The Empire will be his lasting legacy,” Denovar said. “You Jedi have nothing left.”
“We have the Force.”
“How much help is it to you now?” He gestured at the droid, who slowly floated over.
The door slid open and a redheaded woman not in Imperial uniform entered. As the door closed behind her, Agent Denovar snapped, “What is the meaning of this?”
Maglor couldn’t help but grin when Mother answered by igniting her purple lightsaber. Agent Denovar didn’t even manage to remove his blaster from his holster before he was cut down and the interrogation droid bisected to land with loud clanks on the floor. Mother turned off her blade and went to the side of the interrogation chair. She pressed something and the chains snapped open. Maglor carefully stood and reached to the collar around his neck. He tugged but couldn’t remove it. “I think you need to cut it off.”
“Hold still,” she said. Her lightsaber ignited and hummed unnervingly close to his left ear-- and the collar came off.
The Force returned, trilling warnings and a greeting. “How did you find me?”
“One of the group had a vision.” Mother stepped to the side. “Is there anything you desperately need to grab from Evidence?”
Maglor grinned. “Everything of import is on the tray behind you.” He used the Force to grab his lightsaber while she put the image chip, holocube, and bracelet into a pouch on her belt, lingering only slightly over the bracelet. “Now where?”
“Follow me,” she said, holding her unlit lightsaber close by her body. “We only have a few more minutes before the security feeds return to normal operation.”
They ran from the Complex, joined by a teenaged Human girl with hair even redder than his mother’s and an astromech. Only when they reached the street did the alarms start ringing. But it was too late: they climbed onto a landspeeder and sped off down the street to the spaceport.
Maglor kept his mouth shut while they boarded Mother’s ship, escaped from the TIEs chasing them, and entered hyperspace. “A vision?”
Mother turned around in her seat. “Eärendil’s, actually. It was fairly clear for a vision, though we had a bit of a hard time figuring out exactly what planet this was. There are a lot of planets with palm trees.” She gestured at the teenager. “This is Direne, my apprentice, and her astromech Spot. She’s a slicer, which is how we’ve been able to stay away from the Empire’s attention.”
“How’d you meet?”
Direne smiled. “I was taking a shortcut through a spaceport, trying to lose the attention of a couple of stormtroopers. I… may have made unfortunate remarks about Vader.”
“Good. He deserves every one of them,” Maglor said and stretched with a wince. He didn’t know how long he’d been unconscious, but his muscles were stiff enough it could have been hours.
“I’ll show you to a cabin where you can rest,” Nerdanel said, standing. She took the pouch off her belt. “Here. I’m sorry we couldn’t save your ship.”
Maglor shrugged and tied the leather pouch on his own belt. “It was a place to live more than a home.” He wrapped her in a hug. “I thought you were dead.”
“You had to,” she said quietly. “And now you don’t.” She pulled away from the embrace. “We’ll be home in a couple of days. We have plenty of time to catch up between now and then.”
Direne smiled. “You’ll see,” she said and turned back to the navigation console. Maglor sighed and followed his mother out of the cockpit.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
I18, Song Lyrics 1, So here's to drinks in the dark at the end of my road
Maglor entered the cockpit and sat down in the seat behind Mother. The blue and green planet streaked with white clouds grew larger as they approached. “Where are we?”
“Wild Space,” Direne said. “It’s a planet not listed on any Imperial charts.”
“We’ve set up a small colony here,” Mother said, reaching up to flick a couple of switches.
“Who is we?”
Mother glanced over her shoulder at him. “You’ll see. We really aren’t that large. There’s barely a hundred of us.”
Maglor shrugged. “All right.” Curiosity would be satisfied soon enough. Hopefully, it would be people he’d tolerate because now that the Empire knew he survived, leaving would doom the colony and himself.
Once the ship landed, Direne scrambled out of the cockpit. Mother turned in her seat to look at Maglor. “I know you’d prefer to be in your own ship--”
“I’d rather be with people here than out there alone, Mother.” He was tired. Having to hide himself, keep moving, keep from drawing attention, knowing he lived under a death sentence: here he could finally rest. But he had one more concern. “They do know we’re Force-users?”
Mother laughed. “Of course. Come; I’ll show you around.”
Mother led him through the village. It was organized in a grid pattern, with fields surrounding it on three sides. The fourth was a dirt landing pad large enough for half a dozen cargo ships or yachts, though only three ships were on the ground. He recognized Glorfindel’s Asfaloth. “Glorfindel’s here?”
Mother nodded. “Most of the Hobbits he rescued from Gondolin returned to the Shire. The oldest Hobbit-- you stayed with him during the Shire’s anniversary celebration-- remained with Glorfindel, claiming that he was too old to assist in the rebellion. We haven’t heard anything from his nephew Frodo and his friends since the takeover. We suspect they’re enslaved or dead.”
Maglor frowned. “I am sorry to hear that.” He took a deep breath. “Mother, Uncle Finarfin is dead.”
“We know,” she said, turning to face him. “Our contact in Ingwë’s court informed us and that Indis and Findis were transferred to a labor camp. He wasn’t able to tell us which one and right now, we can’t dig for them. Direne is a good slicer, but the Empire will be watching more closely than normal.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “This isn’t your fault.”
“I know. We all made our choices.” He looked over at the buildings made of shipping containers or logs, though some were prefabricated structures. The largest, in what passed for the town square, was. “Who else lives here?”
“Elwing and her family, of course. Their twins remain planetside rather than travel on the Vingilótë; Elros is apprenticed to his father and Elrond to Lúthien.”
Maglor’s jaw dropped. “Lúthien?”
“Beren and Lúthien found the planet and quietly reached out to every Quend they could trust.” She held up a hand before Maglor could ask the question that flashed into his mind. “You were safer where you were. Once you knew, protocol demands you be based here, working odd jobs and acting more or less as a pirate.”
He could feel the truth through the Force, so he nodded. “What am I to do now? I certainly can’t be a pirate with the Inquisitors after me.”
“We’ll figure it out. We always need more hands around building the colony, though the farming droids we have work well enough.”
They stopped by the quartermaster working out of one of the ubiquitous cargo containers to get him some clothing and ended up at Mother’s log home. “I don’t have a spare bedroom but the couch is large enough for you for a couple of nights while we work out living arrangements.”
He’d undoubtedly end up in a renovated shipping container. At least it was a roof over his head. Maglor dumped the pile of clothing onto the cushions, along with the small bag from his belt holding everything he owned. “Is there anything else?”
“Our next stop is the infirmary. You were captive; this isn’t optional.”
“I wasn’t going to argue,” Maglor said.
“Good,” Mother said and smiled.
Maglor leaned back in his chair and looked around what happened to be the largest structure in the village: the communal cafeteria. Bilbo had absolute control of it, even when it doubled as a gathering area at night, complete with alcohol for those old enough, which happened to be almost everyone in the colony. He’d seen only a handful of minors-- Elros, Elrond, and Direne included-- and he suspected that all of them were Force-sensitive or had siblings who were, though none of the minors were in the building right now. Three Hwenti Quendi played instruments in the far corner; small groups of people gathered around tables to talk, play games, or simply relax in company.
After they’d eaten a quiet supper in Mother’s house, Mother and Maglor had joined Lúthien, Elwing, and Eärendil in the cafeteria. He didn’t know what to say to any of them, especially when they were talking about plans for the colony and stealing more supplies from the Empire. He knew very little about Imperial anti-pirate measures. But being with everyone… He’d lost so much and now he’d regained some of it. He might still be the only Jedi alive, but he was no longer alone.
Eärendil raised his mug. “To a free Arda.”
Maglor tapped his own mug against Eärendil’s and said, “To a free galaxy.”