Gehenna. It is a world of deserts, lava rivers, jagged mountains and monsters. In the old days, it was the homeworld of the Bando Gora. Nothing grows beneath its burning hot sun. The atmosphere is toxic. Anyone who leaves the caves without a sealed environmental suit is done for. Word is that Firemane tried to terraform it.
Akala's rampage put an end to their efforts, but I doubt they would achieved anything lasting if she had not seen fit to plunge the Galaxy into chaos. Gehenna always resists being tamed. It is a hellish place, wild and untamed. Siobhan crushed the Bando Gora, but she could not dominate their planet.
I was raised and trained here.
Which makes it the perfect place to teach Thalia some lessons. By the time we reach our destination, she is bruised and bloodied. Down here the lava tunnels still show signs of battle, but the Reavers and monsters have grown scarce. The Force is strong here.
We come to a chamber larger than any others. The walls are honeycombed with holes like a sponge. Maelion brought me here many years ago. The circle closes. "The Bando Gora sent their initiates here. But they were consumed by a creature called the 'Nightmare Brood'. Or multiple ones by that name," I shrug.
"Later they sent captives to appease the beast. When you step into that room you will be a target, but they cannot leave it. They come from the walls."
To her credit, she is actually paying attention. "Well, they haven't met me yet. You coming or is it just lil ol' me and the beasties?"
"I will support you from here, but the danger is real." There is a strong warning in my tone. Thalia is annoying, but she is family. "There is no easy way to make it stop except through victory or death." What I tell her is true, from a certain point of view. Thalia is family, but she needs to learn.
"Dramatic. Then I guess it's victory, huh?" she declares cockily. "Trial by fire, serious business, I get it. Nightmare Brood, here I come."
One of the benefits of having an HRD body is that I am good at controlling my expression. It remains impassive. "There are lessons to be learned which you do not yet know you will learn."
She frowns. "What the frak does that even mean? Leave the cryptic talk to the elf, sis."
"Get moving." Before she goes I offer her a band to be tied around her waste, so that she can be hauled back if needed. Once Thalia has stepped into the chamber, there is distant hissing and slithering. I watch from outside. All of a sudden, from one of the many holes, a glistening black tendril emerges and shoots towards her, aiming to seize and drag her away.
The chamber is so dark she can probably barely see - not with her eyes at any rate. She cuts the tendril in twain, then spins around to strike another. Then another. More and more tendrils emerge. She has to jump to avoid being ensnared, but is seized in a vice grip. She cries out in pain. Pain is something I no longer feel. But I remember the tendril's sharp teeth, and the draining effect they have on Force-wielders. She roars in rage.
I act. Accurate streams of disruptor fire slice through tentacles as they close in, giving her time to free herself. She strikes, with blade, the Force and in one instance stomps on a tentacle with her boot. But for every tendril blown or hewn, another takes its place. There will be no end to the onslaught. Aggression swells inside Thalia. Her face is contorted with rage. She strikes like a fury. The chamber is littered with broken tendrils and the floor is coated with blood. But I can see her tiring. She is baked in sweat and blood drips from her injuries. There is a strong part of me that wants to intervene...
But she has to learn. They all have to learn.
It takes her a while.
I feel...worried.
"They won't stop!" she finally shouts. "I gotta pull out."
As soon as the words leave her lips, I pull on the line to haul her out. But the tentacles are very attached to her. I reach to my belt and pull out a grenade. "Shield now!"
She does so. Boom. Tentacles burst or are burnt. The chamber door is slammed shut. Then she is standing beside me, panting and sweating.
"What the frak was that? Did you just throw me in there for fun? You told me this was my trial by fire."
My expression is impassive. "It was. Just not in the way you thought."
"So what the hell was the lesson? I can't beat a monster if I can't reach it and all I get are tendrils that respawn every couple seconds?"
"You're enjoying this, aren't you?"
"Think." I stare impassively. "It became apparent to you from early on that killing the tendrils would not the creature, yet you kept fighting. Why?"
"I wanted to bloody win," she admits, looking annoyed.
"Because you were too proud to admit you could not. What is the lesson then?"
"Fighting on for pride's sake is dumb?"
"Precisely. Many people suffer from pride and arrogance, fighting for reason other than their own dignity. My template is one of them. You must learn differently."
"You know you could have just told me that instead of letting me think I could actually kill that damn thing."
"A lesson told is never as effective as a lesson learned."
"Yeah, fine, I guess. How long are you gonna with these lessons?"
"Until they are no longer needed."