Written with the help of the lovely Ryv Ryv
Triumvirate Talks

Auteme pulled out of the embrace. No matter how many times Ryv promised, she’d always be relieved to see him home safe. Only now, back in one of the Coruscant Temple’s meeting rooms, did they have a moment to properly talk to each other. Conversing during the meeting would’ve been difficult.

Given his detour with the New Imperial forces after Ziost, Auteme had had more time in the Core prior to his return. The way she gave such a slight frown spoke volumes about what had happened in that time.

“Jend-Ro,” she started, the name feeling heavier than usual. “We have to talk about what he said. I know everyone else isn’t worried -- at least, not the leaders -- but we need to address it.”

Ryv slowly pulled away from Auteme, careful not to agitate his broken arm slung up across his chest. He couldn’t help but wince as he stepped back. He hadn’t shaken the limp he’d received from the starfighter crash quite yet.

“I agree,” he nodded. “The way he handled it was so… I dunno, pathetic? Like, I agree with him on almost everything. What happened? Bad. I want to hold folks accountable. I just can’t stand how cowardly he approached it. I just, man fu-”

He stopped mid sentence and shook his head. “Sorry, that’s not entirely fair. Go on, Auteme.”

“I visited him on Jakku a few days ago, when a bunch of us were there after Ziost. He… basically said what he said at the meeting. The academies, what happened there, the death, the purging. He also shared the memories he got from one of the Sith acolytes there- he’s really good at that kind of thing, but I really… don’t want to share them with anyone else, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.”

The kiffar nodded, motioning to a bench not far from the pair. “C’mon, let's sit down.”

Times changed. So did people. Lucky for him, Auteme only ever grew brighter, more inspiring. Her core beliefs were strong and she knew that. Nothing could shake her resolve, it made her the most reliable person in his life, even after he walked away from a potential future built beside her.

“I’m not gonna press you, you know that. And nothing will shake the faith I have in you, you should know that too,” he smiled at her as he lowered himself onto the bench. He gritted his teeth in response to another acute pain in his side. “What do you got in mind?”

“Well, um, let me just-” She sat down next to him, placing her hands on his side and arm. A few deep breaths later and her hands glowed a soft green, beginning to wash away Ryv’s pain. “Should’ve talked about mandating better healthcare across both nations.”

She shook her head and got back on track. “There’s two sides, I guess -- punishment and next steps. I don’t know what the Alliance will do; if they ask the perpetrators to go to trial, we definitely can’t say no, and then it’s out of our hands. But as terrible as it is, I… I could never incarcerate someone, not really. The Barash Vow is best, I think. If they exile themselves, really spend time thinking on what happened and how to be better, that’s the best route; and when they're better they'll be ready to help us again. Even with all this, though, there probably won’t be too much public support for a trial. People don’t like the Sith.

“Still, we need to be better, especially when it comes to the academies, and encountering acolytes in the field. They’re not fully indoctrinated. The girl whose memories I saw -- if we don’t do this right, this just ends up pushing the ones who manage to escape off the deep end. I don’t know anything about war, but we should be looking for nonlethal methods. We can’t demonize our enemies.”

He remained still, watching in silence as the glow spread across his arm and warded away his pain. Just being there became easier. His body suffered greatly on Ziost. It showed in the bandages wrapped around him from head-to-toe.

“War is...” he found himself unable to meet her gaze at that moment. His mind turned on itself almost immediately. A stream of emotions assaulted him, fighting for dominance, threatening to tear down the thin barrier between keeping it together and falling apart right there and then.

“Difficult, I’d say,” he looked down at his cybernetic hand, his artificial wrist rolling back and forth, fingers splayed to the sound of an uncomfortable, metallic whine. “When this all started, back before I took all those trips to the Outer Rim to fight the Bryn’adul, it was easier. Even on Kintan, seeing what the Sith did to all those people. Thousands killed in the blink of an eye, it just- hell, I dunno. I didn’t hate them. I didn’t hate ‘em after they killed my pops either.”

Ryv sighed, his shoulders slumped as he leaned forward, mechanical elbow resting on his knee. “I don’t even think I hate them now. They took everything from me. My childhood, my home, my family, and-” he stopped, voice caught in his throat. Through misty eyes he looked up at the wall across the way. “Lanik… they took Lanik, too. And even now, knowing all that, I don’t hate them. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about it. Like I should hate them, y’know?”

He looked back at Auteme, unfazed by the thin trails of tears moistening the bandages covering his face. “I’m just numb, I guess.”

Auteme did her best to make the sitting side-hug she gave him as not-awkward as possible.

“With everything… I’m worried I’m compromising too much. I’m worried I’m only delaying, or being ignorant of what I’m doing like all of this stuff will catch up to me- like, Force, I faced Carnifex on Ziost, Ryv. It scared me. And just staring at that empty evil…

“We can’t be empty. We just have to build habits, build better emotional reactions, because we’re never really thinking straight -- and when we go fight, do all that, the Jedi need to have all the tools to make the right choice.” She paused a moment, then took a deep breath, taking a few of his tears for herself to bring him back.

“We’re the few who are doing something, anything, against the Sith. But we should do it right. We’re… we’re doing this so fewer people turn out like you,” she said. Their bond didn’t blind her anymore -- if anything she saw more clearly what war could do when those fighting were careless.

“Yeah,” he nodded. “That be for the best.”

The Sword of the Jedi. Isolated. Alone. Never to know peace, a burning brand to their enemies, a warm flame to their kinfolk. His life was doomed from the moment he took on the mantle. Even knowing that now, the kiffar wouldn’t have stopped Wyatt if he could’ve.

“I don’t think there is another Jedi in the galaxy who could do this,” he said aloud, motioning towards his scarred body. “This title, this position, the weight, none of it. For a while, I thought so little of myself. Like I was expendable, just another warrior to die on a battlefield, bloodied, broken, forgotten. I dunno if that’s the case anymore. What I do, the life I’ll live, it frees so many from these damned chains. Duty, responsibility, call it whatever you want. I’ve always said I’m okay being the guy who stands between the Jedi and all that would harm ‘em. That hasn’t changed.”

He leaned into the hug, head resting on her shoulder. “But you’re right. The way we’ve approached it all so far is wrong. That needs to change.

“I didn’t know better. Maybe it was my fault, maybe it wasn’t, but it isn’t an excuse to stay like this. I intend on taking responsibility for what the New Jedi Order has done in this war. Don’t much care where that lands me. What I do care about, like I said at the meeting between us all, is making sure the Jedi who’ve followed me are given the chance to live a normal life, one where they aren’t condemned for fighting a war no other Jedi in the galaxy had the balls to fight.”

He reached up to his face. Cold, metallic fingers dug beneath the bandages and tore them away. His cheeks and neck were an angry red color, born of three savage scars that tore down his cheek and across his neck.

“The Barash is the best bet. I’m not gonna let them take any of our Jedi into custody for a war the Alliance sent them to fight,” he scratched at his stitching as he spoke. “Takui already spoke to me and mentioned taking one himself. Whatever happened on Ziost messed with him real bad. I think others in the Order would benefit from it as well.

“The Rules of Engagement we discussed at the meeting is a good first step. But it won’t be enough, I think. For anyone. I was a child soldier and the Sith had no problem trying to kill me. I saw them murder kids across numerous worlds. It sucks, really really bad, but that’s the enemy we face. And if they put a lightsaber in a sixteen year old teenager’s hands and he starts mauling our forces, it isn’t reasonable to expect them to lie down and die so he can live. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, it won’t be enough.”

Ryv sighed. “But we still gotta try. We can do a better job at working non-lethal techniques and methods into the Order’s training regimen. Make killing a last resort, like it should be. We’ll probably lose more lives on our end that way, but that’s supposed to be the difference between us and them, right?”

“It always should've been that way,” she said quietly. She was, for a moment, ashamed that she hadn't faced these things before today. Accountability, responsibility -- she shouldn't have needed anyone else to remind her. But there was no changing things. No turning back. There never was.

He nodded once, the gesture more for himself than anything else. Slowly, the bandaged kiffar climbed to his feet.

“I’m gonna go find Rhis. Out of everyone, I think I failed him most of all,” he smiled, the gesture somber, yet somehow filled with life he lacked moments before. “Wanna link up for dinner tonight in the mess and figure out what comes after all the accountability business? You’re way better at planning a curriculum than I am.”

He certainly knew his Jedi -- and that worried her, in an odd way. “He was the worst of them,” she said.

“Yeah.” He wasn’t surprised to hear that. “They hurt him worst of all.”

She nodded, staying seated. “I… you’ll need to talk to Maynard, too. And Bernard, whenever he’s back,” she said, knowing her conflict-avoidant nature was showing. “But yeah. Dinner. I’ll see you later.”

“What are you thinkin, Auteme?”

“I’m thinking,” she enunciated, “That this is going to be difficult.”

“Well, you know what they say,” Ryv offered up his typical grin. “Anything worth a damn always is.”

She managed to smile back. “Yeah. Yes, yes it is.”