Episode X: The Reckoning: Chapter Thirty-Nine

Ora should’ve been exhausted but her determination outweighed her endurance. She ran for minutes on end, allowing the Force to lead her. To where? She could not tell, but she could feel whatever was calling to her drawing nearer.

And then she stopped. It was like she had been slammed with the Force, bringing herself to a grinding halt.

DANGER!

It screamed at her from all directions. She stepped back, her chest pumping in horror as she stood in a clearing lit only by the two moons overhead. And then she heard them. Slow footsteps approaching from behind.

She whirled, thrusting her hand forward, expecting to Force push her attacker. Instead, the attacker simply continued to advance upon her. Her eyes widened.

The enemy was a boy who didn’t seem much older than her. His caramel skin was dark under the cast of night and his black eyes held only malice. He was dressed in a dark, flowing tunic that billowed in the wind over leather pants and in his hand was a sword wreathed in dark purple mist. The same mist that powered The Whisper. He was undoubtedly an agent of hers and that meant he had to be powerful.

She stepped back, trying to look fierce even though her heart was pounding in her chest.

“And I don’t suppose you’re an old boyfriend of mine that I forgot about, huh?” she asked.

A hint of a smile touched his lips. “Not exactly,” he responded.

She chuckled nervously. “Didn’t think so.”

She knew running away wasn’t an option so she did the opposite. She ran towards him, her brain racing as she tried to figure out how she was going to beat this guy without her lightsaber. He seemed surprised by her advance and she smiled inwardly. That was a good sign. She was determined to keep surprising him.

He swung at her with the sword but she simply flipped over him, kicking at his leg as he landed. Her foot struck the back of his knee, making him crumple but as she twirled to roundhouse kick him across the chest he raised his hand, stopping her foot just inches from his body. With a flick of his wrist, she went flying across the clearing.

She landed on her back hard. Hard enough where all of the breath whooshed from her body. She didn’t even hear him approaching. She just felt a spike in the Force that screamed to her that she was in danger. Despite barely being able to breathe she rolled into a crouch just as her attacker thrust his blade into the ground where she had been a second before.

She thrust her hand forward, catching him off guard this time. He raised his own hand just in time and they clashed over a battle of wills.

She pushed harder and harder but he too didn’t seem to want to bend. Their hands drew closer and closer, pushing further and further through the wall of the Force, and then their palms pressed against one another.

Ora’s eyes widened as images flashed through her mind.

Her father standing over her with his lightsaber drawn. Ora holding him in her arms as blood leaked from his mouth and his eyes dimmed. Ora running through an abandoned city, her face a mask of hatred. The Whisper on her throne. Ora standing before HER, her father’s red lightsaber in one hand, a blue lightsaber in the other. An explosion of purple light that engulfed a flatland under a dark purple sky. Ora garbed in a black cloak, standing before a cavern wall covered in glowing symbols. Beside her stood Kar-Aan, practically glowing in his white robes and to her other side stood a woman, pallid and robed in darkness.

“The Force will be with you, always,” the man and woman spoke to her.

And then Ora was back to reality, her hand pressed against her enemy’s as they struggled in a war of wills. Fear and shock gripped her, making her power increase. With a defiant cry, she pushed harder and blasted her enemy across the clearing until he collided into a tree.

He grunted, falling to the ground unconscious. She remained where she knelt, her hand quivering and her breaths coming in startled pants. She couldn’t explain what had happened. She didn’t know what those images she had seen had meant. But she knew one thing. They were real. There was no doubt. And that’s what scared her.

Don’t be too late. Don’t be too late.

That’s what Ben kept saying to himself as he hurried through the Forest, following Ora’s anger like an invisible scent trail. He eventually found her, kneeling in a clearing. Her head was bowed and he could sense fear rolling off of her like a fog.

Across the clearing in the direction that she faced was a man. He seemed unconscious at first glance but Ben was still remaining alert. He hurried to Ora and knelt by her, holding her in his arms. To his surprise, she let him embrace her, welcoming his warmth as she trembled in his grasp.

“Daddy,” she said.

He could’ve cried. It was the first time he had ever been called something as tender as Daddy and he was determined to remember this moment for as long as he lived.

He held her closer.

“Whatever you’re facing, wherever you plan to go, know this. You don’t have to do this alone. I will be here with you. At every step. At every moment. I promise.”

For the first time knowing his daughter, he felt her truly relax in his grasp. It brought him peace and happiness. After the minute-long embrace, he released his hold on her.

“Let’s go find that kyber crystal,” he told her.

She smiled. And then her gaze darted to the unconscious man.

“What about him?” she asked, tensed as if ready for a fight.

Ben shook his head. “He doesn’t matter. And if he shows up again…” he grinned, “he’ll have both of us to worry about.”

She grinned in response.

Arran woke up to a throbbing headache. What had just happened? How could that girl, unarmed and far less powerful than him, have defeated him so easily? What had The Whisper not told him?

His teeth gritted with anger. He promised The Whisper that he would not fail. But for the first time in his short existence, he was beginning to wonder if even The Whisper knew what enemy she was facing.

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