The padawan followed closely behind his Master, fingers picking and kneading at the hemmed sleeve of his tunic as together they ascended the stairs that would feed them to their collective destiny. The padded echo of her boots against the stone ahead of him served as comfort enough, even as he found the lingering silence disturbing. She guided him forward, nevertheless, a confident pillar of shining brilliance in his sight, ever-luminous, and ever bright. This trial had been spoken of without his knowledge and sprung upon him without his consent, as were most, he had come to discover.
Unbeknownst to him, it was to serve as the final trial he was to undergo beneath Muwian's guidance. The mirialan had planned this for months, now, all that she needed to wait for was the proper authorization and permission to venture here with him, to bring him to this sacred place for a final act of trial, one final test, to see if he was truly ready. She paused at the top of the steps, leveling out her shoulders to tilt her head back and breathe deep of the rich air. Emerald eyes swept over the seemingly empty plateau, finding the worn sigil carved into the stone that was to serve as their staging grounds. It had been ages ago, now, that she stood here on this precipice with her own Master. A test of a bond. Of strength of will. One to decide if the threads woven by The Force were truest in their intention to unite two souls together.
To see if she had failed him.
"Come along padawan, we've arrived." She turned, struggling to suppress the smile that attempted to bloom across her features, as she watched him reach the top and stand next to her. Curious, she tilted her head, awaiting his analysis of where they stood. He always had something to say.
"There's... something here." The miraluka started, angling his head down as he fixed his blindfolded features towards the ground they stood upon. "Down below... beneath the stone. But nothing above?" His tone held his woven intrigue, expressing it freely in the correction of his initial assessment and the decision he made to speak aloud when he had remained silent on the journey to this place. "This isn't an ordinary temple at all, is it?"
"Correct," Master Muwian stated as she stepped forward, beckoning for him to follow, "This place was built decades ago, carved and shaped from the stones of this world and sealed down below to shield it from harm. Only a Master and Apprentice, together, can raise it from the earth and enter. This is a rite, Kezec." Her voice trailed with the squaring of her boots on one side of the sigil.
"A rite?" He questioned as he settled beside her once more, "Another?" His voice cracked with the followed word, perhaps betraying the stoicism he had taken fondness of as of late. In his growing years, he had become far more of a listener, rather than a speaker. A notice, he had taken, that those around him often revealed more in what they didn't say, rather than what their words held; revelations only revealed if one could discipline himself to silence and resolve to simply listen.
"Another one, yes." She couldn't help but chuckle softly at him with her reach to grasp his shoulder, "There are many, many trials on this path, Kezec. You know this better than most. And I have watched you grow into a disciple who will serve The Order in a capacity sparse few could fathom through them all. Do not become impatient now, not so close to your destination. Plant your feet there, my padawan, we will raise this temple together."
The padawan shifted his heels and shuffled slightly to his right, moving away from her, and nodded. Faintly he could discern the Force-touched lines carved below them. The bow of the arc. The words spiraling around it. Two halves completed the whole. One body in each. One resolve in each. One pillar of strength, in each. A familiar nag at the back of his mind scratched his brain, worming its way beneath his skull to ride the wrinkles between his thoughts and pester him once more. It was enough to force his concealed brows to crease, wrinkling the crimson fold wound over his eyeless sockets. 'One must rival it.'
'One must rival it.'
"Kezec, are you alright?" Her voice chased it away, sending it back to the cavernous ravine in the shadowed depths of his consciousness.
"Yes, sorry Master. I thought... I thought I heard something." He admitted freely with a vague shake of his head, scattering the words further and further from him. Through the years that had passed, he never dared reveal what he had seen on Ilum. She had accepted that from him, knowing how often padawans were forced to experience the horrors or tragedy of their lives in the quest for their crystals. And though he may have overcome it in the depths of that crystalline cavern, he likely did not wish to speak of it again.
"What did you hear, hm? Was it your stomach growling?" She teased to mask her concern, reminding him of the scolding he had endured that morning when he had refused to eat breakfast. He had turned that into a habit, doing himself no favors when it came to the physicality of his training and the attention his lessons required of him.
He cracked a wry smirk, turning his head in her direction to expose it, and huffed to blow the wind-bothered strands of his lengthy hair from his face. "Yes, it was my stomach growling." He played along, thankful she had made an excuse for him so he was not forced to fabricate one on the spot. "You were right this morning, given the task you had in mind."
Muwian could only shake her head and chuckle along, turning her focus back to the task ahead. "Focus now, Kezec. Feel the flow around you. Feel its call. Reach for its strength and take hold with your will. Bolster yourself to the stone, resonate with it, and overcome it." The soft drag of her boots revealed she had taken a stance to him, and beside her, he mirrored.
His hands unfurled from his sleeves and he expelled a weighty breath, narrowing his focus to hone his clarity to the precipice of his destiny and the fate lain far beneath their feet. "I see it..." he murmured, pushing the sinew of his hands to the surface with the sharp flex and curl of his digits, latching onto the flow.
His Master closed her eyes, reaching with much less strain than he seemed to require, to grab onto it as well. "Now, with me. Bring it forth."
Together the pair moved in harmony on the stone, her fluid motions contrasted by his much shakier, unsteadiness. She noticed his tremble but felt no disturbance from him, nothing beyond the normal strain she felt him toil beneath as he exerted himself. Muwian would pay it no mind. Her breath came and left as easily as a stream through rocks.
Beneath their boots the ground rumbled, quivering and shaking as might overpowered might, and the heavy, imminent rotation of the temple was set into motion. Kezec bared his teeth, clenching his jaw as he strained against the weight, but soon, he found the rhythm, and his confidence was spurred on further by the thunder below. Brilliance beamed beneath his boots, encircling not only him but the woman he stood with. The sigil was responding to their efforts. The temple heeded their call. He held his focus despite the growing intensity of his breathing and the shudder of his lithe frame under pressure. He could do this. He knew he could do this. He was always meant to reach this point. It was destiny.
Muwian bore her weight gladly, knowing from the start things were always meant to be this way. She knew the bond nurtured between herself and her student was unshakable. It was true in its intent and pure in its natural resonance. Many times over, they had proved that to not only themselves but those they encountered. They were two halves of a whole, or so it seemed, working and playing off one another in their abilities and banter. She couldn't imagine Kezec with any other teacher, but herself, nor could she picture another student in his place. That, to her, is what destiny held. She had been told to give up on pushing him; that he would not achieve greatness. That some people were just simply not cut out for such things. But she knew better at her core. She would prove them wrong, not just for her sake, but her student's, as well. The grinding intensified as the spire came into view, twisting up out of its earthen bed to emerge into the tangible plane. The mirialan felt herself smiling brilliantly.
Yet, as the success of the first step in this journey was only starting to set into finality... she felt a greater burden weigh onto her suddenly. The grinding thunder ceased. Veins and tendons alike spurred to rise beneath her green skin as the tax took its hold. Her eyes flew open, lashes fluttering with a failure to understand. "Kezec, what are yo-"
A mere half-second was the time she had been spared to process the unmistakable snap-hiss of a plasma blade. Who was-?
Kezec growled in shuddering resolve as he tightened his grip on the curved hilt of his lightsaber, painting his features in baneful orange. It glinted off the golden adornments curled around his throat. His earrings. The metallic inlay of his blindfold. The shadow cast across his face was stark and harsh, unlike him, entirely.
She stared at him, wide-eyed, hands frozen out before her as the temple sank slowly back into the bed they had called it from. From his face, Muwian's eyes fell down, fixing on the woeful source of the heated agony punching through her abdomen- emerging through the flank of her ribcage. "K-Kez-" she stammered, struggling to breathe, and reached out to clasp his face between her hands.
"I'm not sorry I spared you of the fate to come." He spoke steadily, blindfold creasing over the bridge of his nose with the knit of his brows. "But I am sorry that this... is where we must part ways." The flick of his thumb deactivated the plated switch of his blade, allowing the woman to tumble into him. Both arms curled around her, embracing her as she struggled to breathe. He had hoped she would die quickly.
Hope was pointless in the face of an impending, dark end.
"I-I'm so-sorry..." his Master sputtered rasping words against his ear, "that I failed you."
He was silent as he felt her form weaken and go limp against him, and remorseful as he lowered her to the stone.
'One must rival it.'