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Faith

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
The frigid winds of Ando Prime howled across the mountains and valleys, whipping snow and ice into the faces of anyone brave or stupid enough to be outside. One lone man, walking across a great plain of snow, was one of those brave souls, clutching at the jackets and robes he had wrapped himself in to keep the wind chill from giving him frostbite. None of his skin was visible – his hands were in thick gloves, and goggles protected his eyes.

Up ahead, a small village lay at the foot of a towering mountain. Constructed out of basic stone and wood, one would be hard-pressed to find any sort of advanced technology here, and it was no accident. This place was far from any sort of civilization, from even the winding podracing tracks that the planet was best known for in commercial sectors.

The man finally made it to the edge of the village, leaning against one of the buildings and blocking the wind for the time being. Cassius Droma removed the scarf and goggles shrouding his face, sucking in a deep breath. His face was reddened from the cold, and his breath billowed out in steam. Fingers fumbling around his belt for a moment, he retrieved his datapad and punched it on. The screen flickered, the extreme cold adversely affecting the device. After a moment of study, he confirmed it – he was in the right place.

Cassius took a moment to catch his breath. He’d walked so far… about five kilometers in the freezing cold. While he had been from a similarly snowy planet and was trained to survive in harsh winters, it was still difficult. He would have had T-4D4 drop him off closer in the Stardust Melody, but the wind was so bad that landing wouldn’t have been safe. Another option would have been for him to bring an A-wing, but he knew that would have been covered in snow within a day, and he wouldn’t be able to leave. Among his small pack of belongings for his journey was a high-powered transmitter that could contact T-4D4 whenever he was ready to leave. Otherwise, he was completely stranded, but it was what he wanted.

This was a path he had to walk alone.

Turning his body to face the village, he saw a male Talid, standing about ten meters away from him, dressed in layered clothing. Specks of snow clung to the Talid’s fur cloak, with the wind only sending light ripples through it. Narrow eyes stared down the newcomer, but not with any malice. Cassius gave a small wave, and almost spoke, but the Talid merely pointed up to the mountain with his wooden walking stick.

“Climb,” he said, in a clear and calm voice.

Eyes turning to the massive stone giant before them, Cassius sighed. “Is there…” he breathed, “is there any way I could stay here for the night? Any sort of shelter?”

The Talid only spoke once again, “Climb,” while pointing back up at the mountain. He then began to shamble back towards one of the stone huts.

Cassius huffed another sigh while wrapping his scarf around his face and placing his goggles back over his eyes. He walked through the village, feeling as though many eyes were upon him, yet not seeing any observers. Reaching the other side, he looked up to the mountain, looming before him like a giant colossus.

He’d come here because of a dream. Or rather, a series of dreams and visions. For the past few months, and perhaps even longer, he felt as though his connection with the Force were fading. After failed attempts at finding and keeping a master to teach him the ways of the mystical arts, he had begun to preoccupy himself with other things. Whether he was flying an escort mission with Jade Squadron, or diving into a cavern or abandoned temple for his archaeological studies, Cassius always seemed to be doing something other than training as a Jedi.

Then, a series of events made him realize the harsh reality that he was losing touch with the Force, and more importantly, his faith in it. His previous master, Romi Jade, had vanished and left him directionless. The former Grandmaster of a Jedi Order, Veiere Arenais, had turned to the dark side and had nearly killed him. More recently, he had been nearly seduced by a dark presence to take hold of an ancient Sith holocron that could have corrupted him. All of that combined with his diminishing strength in the Force, and the young man had decided that he needed to change something. He had to drop what he was doing and get himself right. He had left Rinn all that time ago in order to become a Jedi, and so far, he had failed.

That was when the dreams and visions had started, of a temple on the side of a mountain, surrounded by snow and stone. Men in hoods, chanting in a strange language, beckoning him. Through research of the architecture and iconography that he had seen in these dreams, he had narrowed down the location, and the visions pushed him even further. He came here, to Ando Prime, to find his way back to the path he had started.

He had to be able to touch the Force again. If not, he feel he would die.

So, he began to climb.
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
A gloved hand groped a rock above, struggling to find a good grip. With a heave, Cassius pulled himself up and over the steep precipice, rolling onto his back. His muscles ached and screamed at him, begging him to stop and rest a little while longer. At this point, though, there was no turning back. Peeking over the near-cliff he had just climbed, Cassius couldn’t even see the village below due to the snow and wind. There wouldn’t be enough time to climb back down, even if he wanted to – night would come soon enough, and then the temperature would drop. If he was still out here when that happened, he would freeze to death.

After taking a few more deep breaths, Cassius rolled back over onto his stomach and pushed himself up, his thighs starting to feel like gelatin. Looking up, he finally spotted it – the temple from his dreams. Made out of dark wood and stone, it blended almost perfectly with the mountainside. He figured that the only way to see it was to be this up close and see the details. Multiple connected buildings made up the complex, all forming together to make the shape of a larger structure. Knowing that it was only a little further, Cassius willed himself forward, the only thing keeping him going being the desperate will to find shelter and live.

Once up the final steps, Cassius was faced with a large wooden door. Raising his fist to knock on it, the door slowly swung open before he could do so. He paused for a brief moment, but then continued inward, the door shutting behind him with a loud bang. It was instantly warmer in here, and Cassius could feel his strength return in a small way. With a sigh of relief, he pulled down his scarf and goggles, letting them hang around his neck.

He was in a foyer with a tiled stone floor. Ahead of him was a long room ending in stairs leading upwards and a large window. Stepping into the room, he immediately realized that nearly a dozen hooded men had lined the room, heads bowed, not making a sound. With apprehension, he stepped further, his head on a constant swivel.

“Why are you here?” a voice called to him, and Cassius’s head snapped back forward. Another man in a robe, without his hood, stood at the first landing on the stairway, silhouetted in the light from the window. He was bald with a slight beard, and had thin, weathered features that conveyed wisdom and experience. His voice and demeanor was of utter calm and serenity. Cassius tried to get a read on him, but found himself unable.

“I’m…” Cassius had to think about it for a moment. Why was he here? “I’m here to learn. To gain knowledge and wisdom.” The man said nothing, as if he was expecting more. Blinking, Cassius continued, “I… I have lost my connection to the Force. To the universe. I want to regain it, refine it.”

“And why must you regain your connection to the Force?”

Again, Cassius had to give pause. The easiest answer was so that he could be stronger, strong enough to protect his friends and family, and those who needed it most. Was it really strength he was after, though? “With the Force, I had purpose. I had a cause. Without it… I feel lost. Broken. Empty. I feel like I’m not fulfilling my role that the Force has set out for me.”

Quirking his eyebrow, the bald man slowly nodded. An honest answer. “Your weapon?”

Reaching into a pouch on his back, Cassius retrieved his lightsaber and held it out to the man. He nearly stepped forward to hand it to him, but found it suddenly ripped from his grasp. The bald man caught it, and put his hands back into his large sleeves, concealing it. “Come, Cassius Droma. We have much to discuss.”

The other monks in the room began to break off and walk into branching corridors. Cassius walked up the steps towards the bald man, and the man turned, leading him up more steps and into another corridor. As they walked along it, Cassius could see a courtyard off to their right through the windows.

“What is this place?” he asked. Despite having seen it in dreams and visions, he still didn’t quite know.

“A sanctuary, a place of learning, of peace,” the bald man said, his voice deep and smooth.

“Are you Jedi?”

“No, not Jedi. We are descendants of the Bendu, those of which have inhabited this planet for thousands of years. Just like how many Jedi sects can be different from each other, however, we are somewhat different than other Bendu.”

“Why did you reach out to me?”

“We did not – it was the Force that brought you here. We were merely informed of your arrival, and our purpose in your journey was clear.”

Through another wooden door, they stepped out into the courtyard. Cassius instinctively gripped his scarf to wrap it back around his face, but paused. It was strangely calm out here, and not nearly as cold. The wind was but a light breeze, and Cassius found himself comfortable, like he was back on Rinn. The snow came down not in whipping icicles, but in a pleasant, meandering dance. A few trees and large rocks dotted the courtyard, and stone paths were visible throughout.

Bringing his hands forward, the bald man released the lightsaber from his grasp and it flew forward, embedding itself perfectly upright in a stoic pile of snow and ice.

“When you are ready, you will be able to call to it. For now, we will get back onto the path you have wandered from.”
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
The monk and Cassius continued along the edge of the courtyard, towards a path that led further up the mountain and through a stone gate of sorts. The path was like the courtyard – calm, peaceful, and not nearly as cold. There was certainly something special about this place, that was for sure.

“I am Unwyn,” the monk finally introduced himself, “and I will be just one of your many guides. The other monks here will help you in all different ways, different functions and paths in the Force. Feel free to pick and choose who you want to train with, and how much you want to train with them. We are here to offer you the guidance and wisdom you seek.”

Cassius still wanted to ask so many questions, but for the moment, he couldn’t help but look out at the mountains and valleys below them. They reminded him so much of home, of Rinn, but he knew that this was different. It felt sacred.

“Tell me, Cassius, what did your training entail up until you separated from the path?” Unwyn had his hands behind his back, and although this might have seemed like a rough hike for someone in a relatively more advanced age such as he, he showed no signs of fatigue.

“Well, I discovered a small abandoned enclave in the caves of my homeworld, Rinn,” Cassius said, keeping pace with the surprisingly spry man. “There were a few training holocrons in there, but they had to have been thousands of years old. There wasn’t a whole lot of information in them, as they were either incomplete or damaged. Once I learned everything I could, I set out into the galaxy. I ended up with a Jedi Order for some time. That was the most formal training I got – a woman named Romi Jade took me under her wing. She was a good instructor, but…”

“But?”

“Our time was cut rather short. It wasn’t long before we were stranded on the stormy planet of Eadu. A few months of survival and mostly combat training. Also…” Cassius hesitated. This wasn’t something he’d told anyone, or very much even talked about. “I had entered a physical relationship with Romi. It made things… complicated, to say the least. I found it difficult to train, to focus.”

“Emotions can cloud our judgment,” Unwyn nodded. “They can be great barriers to expanding our minds. We must learn to work through them in order to have true focus.”

Cassius nodded. Like most humans, he’d lived his whole life as an emotional being. The fact that his parents were engineers helped form a more meticulous and logical mindset, but there were parts of his animal nature that he couldn’t deny. “After Eadu, Romi and I parted ways. I left the Jedi Order and ended up with the Silver Jedi in time when they needed soldiers instead of Jedi. I think that was truly when I started to slip. I didn’t find another master, and I became preoccupied with being a pilot and hunting for artifacts.”

They reached a stone doorway, and once through, they were met with a small chamber. Pedestals with comfortable-looking padding circled the room, and the only light came from the doorway. The only sound was the very light whistling of the wind from the outside.

“This is our meditation chamber,” Unwyn said, gesturing around. “The distractions of the outside world will not find you here.” He pointed to a seat. “Go ahead, sit.”

Nodding, Cassius eased himself onto one of the stone seats, his leg muscles all crying out to him at once. He’d nearly forgotten just how exhausted he was, like he was just running on fumes. Crossing his legs, he grimaced as the pain stabbed through his body. He could only hope this meditation session wouldn’t take long.

“Close your eyes,” Unwyn murmured, and Cassius obliged. “Reach out to the Force, like you’ve done before. What do you feel?”

“Fear. Anxiety,” Cassius answered immediately, the hard line of his mouth pressing into a frown.

“You’re associating the Force, and by extension being a Jedi, with the pain and fear you’ve seen since you’ve left your homeworld and started your journey. I want you to breathe deeply, and clear your mind. Think of the first time you know you could touch the Force. Do you remember? Good. Grab on to that moment. What was the Force, back then, to you?”

“The light,” Cassius uttered. “The dark. The stars… the rocks… the mountains… the trees. It was what I felt when I looked at the people I love. What I felt in the cold emptiness of space when it was just me and my A-wing. It was everything. A tension, a balance between all things. It was like an energy that was all around, something I could feel, but not describe. Touch, but not see.”

“And now? What is the Force to you? What has been taught to you?”

“It’s a tool. A means to an end. Something I use only when I need it, or want it.”

“Clear that from your mind. You do not use the Force – it uses you. You can call upon its great power, but you must realize that to truly harness the Force, you must let it flow through you. That feeling you remember when you first knew the Force – it’s still there. Imagine that it’s a slowly moving river, an ocean extending in all directions. Now, slowly lower yourself into it. Feel it envelop your body – your soul. Relax your muscles, your mind, and instead of trying to move the water with your hands or swimming against the current… just let it take you.”

Cassius took in a breath so deep one might have thought he was sleeping. Just like Unwin described, it was like he was dipping himself into the water, into the current of the universe. However, he didn’t move just yet, as if the current wasn’t taking him. The images of all he had done flashed across his mind – things he regretted, people he hurt, and paths he shouldn’t have taken. They were like an anchor pressing down on his chest, keeping him from moving with the current.

In a moment of pure instinct, Cassius knew he had to let them go, dissolve them from his mind. Releasing his breath, Cassius felt as though his body was lighter, and now fully relaxed, he moved through the current of the Force once again.

Opening his eyes, a light smile brushed his face. A line of tears slid down his cheeks. All at once, he realized that he wasn’t tired anymore, at least not emotionally. He was no longer in pain. Looking to Unwyn, his smile grew brighter. It was his first step into a larger world.

“Welcome back, Cassius.”
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
It had been roughly a week since Cassius arrived on Ando Prime. Since he found the hidden Bendu temple and began to reconnect with the Force, he could feel it grow stronger within him every day. Most of his days had been spent meditating and pouring through old scrolls in the archives of the temple. For the first time in his like since he found the underground temple on Rinn, Cassius was completely devoting himself to studying the Force and becoming stronger in it. No Jade Squadron, no Stardust Melody, no archaeological pursuits. As much as those things were dear to him, they had become distractions.

The isolation of the temple helped – secluded in the mountains, there was only the whistling cold breeze that could be heard. There were a few villages that dotted the valley below, but they didn’t even know how to get to the temple. Each time they tried, they would just find themselves lost.

Now, Cassius was walking with Unwyn to yet another cave. The mountain was riddled with them, so the temple complex seemed much larger than it appeared from the outside. The young Jedi had not been told just what he would be learning today, but it would be the first guided lesson since his arrival. He’d spent the whole time acclimating to the new environment – now that he was back in harmony, the learning could begin.

The mouth of the cave was situated between two boulders that each man had to turn sideways in order to squeeze through. Once inside, there looked to be a great chasm stretching out before them, with tall, thin spires of rock that were generally on the same level as them. It was incredibly dark – Cassius couldn’t even see if there was another side.

Unwyn handed Cassius a thin strip of cloth. “Put this over your eyes,” Unwyn said. The younger man quirked an eyebrow as he took it into his hands. Taking a deep breath, he pulled the strip of cloth over his eyes and tied it around the back of his head, blindfolding himself. Now the world around him was truly dark.

“Traverse the chasm.”

Cassius pointed his head in Unwyn’s direction, knowing there was perhaps a wry smile on the man’s lips. Sensing the younger man’s hesitation, Unwyn continued. “Your parents were engineers, you yourself a pilot. Even during your initial training as a Jedi, you’ve always had trouble separating yourself from the physical world. This has put limits on what you can do – your over-reliance on your senses. I want you to push past that, and only use your instincts to navigate.”

Sighing, Cassius faced forward. “If I die, I’m haunting you as a Force ghost.”

There was a chuckle from Unwyn, but then silence. Cassius got into a ready stance, trying to see if he could remember the locations of the spires of rock before he was blindfolded. No, he urged himself. He had to just… feel it. A growing anticipation rose in his chest, but he put it away. The Force was with him again, and it wouldn’t let him fall.

He leapt forward. His boots found solid ground, and Cassius paused. The spire didn’t have a large diameter – it was only big enough for his feet to stand. Still, it was invigorating to have taken that leap and to have not fallen to his doom. With a newfound confidence, Cassius hopped forward again, and again, and again, his feet landing each time.

Pausing for a short moment, his brow furrowed as he concentrated. Slowly, he could feel the correct path ahead of him, one that would take him to the other side where a cliff-face similar to where he started. Rearing up, Cassius sprang forward, hopping and spinning to each spire with the grace of a professional acrobat. Just as he was reaching the half-way point, he took a large leap. As he soared through the air, his suddenly anxiety and insecurities cropped up again. Concentration lost, he started to plummet into the eternal darkness.

Reaching out, he smacked into a rock spire and hugged it with his arms and legs, stopping his quick descent. Hissing as his muscles screamed at him in pain, Cassius took in a deep breath. Trust the Force, he told himself over and over as he climbed back up the spire. Positioning himself back on the top of a spire, he continued.

More obstacles kept up the further he came along, and he found himself flipping over a few horizontal rock fixtures and moving around larger formations. Nearing the end, something urged him to reach out and catch an incoming object. His fingers clasped around a rock that had been flung his way as he landed on the other side of the chasm.

Sliding the blindfold off his head, he saw Unwyn standing there. How he got to the other side, he’d probably never know. Cassius tossed him back the rock that had been thrown.
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
Cassius was sitting cross-legged in his quarters, which were somehow even smaller than his personal quarters on the Stardust Melody. Meditation had always been difficult for him – he knew that it was something Jedi were supposed to do, but he’d never found the secret that made it actually work. Ouli, one of the monks at the temple who was more focused on the mind and the inner parts of beings, had managed to get him on the right track.

Breathe in, breathe out. It was like going to sleep, only you wanted to stay awake. Ouli had given him a similar speech to what Unwyn had told him when he’d first arrived. Like submerging oneself into a body of water, one wanted to feel weightless in the Force, to become a part of it. Cassius had asked what he was supposed to do other than just sit there. A bemused expression had crossed Ouli’s face – nothing. The point was just to connect to the Force, and hold that connection so it became more and more natural as time went on. The Force even gave insights and visions at times of meditation.

So there the young Jedi sat, eyes closed, breathing deeply, nearly encased by his thick robes. The temple was so old that it didn’t have such luxuries as heating and air conditioning. His body was completely relaxed, but that peace would soon be disturbed by the sound of boots scuffing up to his door.

Cassius cracked one eye open as he saw a tightly-woven wicker basket plopped down at his feet. He looked up to Unwyn. “What’s this?”

“Supply run,” Unwyn said. “We need some textiles for new robes.”

Cassius slowly stood, his muscles limber. “Where do I go? The village I encountered before I got here?” He was aware that on a monthly basis, the villagers would donate food and other items required for survival. How the monks got it all up the mountain, Cassius didn’t know. One of the many mysteries that the young Jedi would probably never solve.

“Yes,” Unwyn nodded. “Do hurry – Ulric’s cloak has a nasty tear in it.”

~~

It had taken him a good hour to get down to the village. Luckily, there was no wind or storm like before when he had first ascended the mountain. There was but a light breeze, and it wasn’t so cold out. The village came into view, and it looked much more inviting than it had before. The chimneys of the small huts puffed out smoke, carrying with them the wafting scents of cooking meat and vegetables. A few of the villagers were milling about, tending to their daily chores.

Cassius’s boots finally touched more solid ground, and he adjusted the leather strap that kept the wicker basket on his back. As Cassius approached the edge of the village, a tall Talid came to greet him, perhaps the same one that he had encountered before.

“Greetings, Cassius,” he said in a low tone. “You have come for the cloth?”

“Yes, I…” Cassius began, but he trailed off as he heard heated voices coming from inside the village. He stepped to the side of the Talid, peering past him. A small group of humans with scarves wrapped around their faces had come into the village and were now in the main square. Three villagers were arguing with them. A small crowd had gathered to watch them, but none dared to get close. They were speaking a language Cassius didn’t understand – he’d yet to learn the technique to have the Force translate for him.

“What’s going on?” Cassius asked, speaking to the Talid he was standing next to.

“They are a newer group of farmers from further down the mountain,” the Talid explained, turning his body so he was watching the conversation as well. “They’re possibly smugglers or thieves who are hiding out from the authorities, but we can’t be sure. They’ve been trying to bully us into giving them more land every week, mostly by claiming some sort of old family rights that have no basis in any records.”

Without answering, Cassius began to move forward, taking the wicker basket off of his back and letting it fall onto the snowy ground below. His boots crunched snow beneath them as he approached, and it wasn’t long before the group of humans saw him. Their attention was turned to him, as he was the only one that dared come close.

“Ey,” one of them said, before continuing in their unknown language.

“You’ll get nothing from these people,” Cassius said in a tone as clear as the sky above them. He stood firm, and stared down the men, his face stoic. “It’s best you leave them alone.” His mind was attempting to reach out to theirs to perhaps manipulate them, but no luck. These were hardened men – they would not be so easily influenced.

The point man for the group nodded to the one closest to Cassius, and before he knew it, the man had pulled out a curved blade and lunged at him, arm raised high. Instinctively, Cassius’s hand went to his hip, only to not find his lightsaber there. Instead, he stepped to the side and stuck out his foot at the last second, causing the man to trip and fall face-first into the snow. The next man pulled out a small hold-out blaster and fired. Cassius bent at the hip to the side, the blaster bolt just barely whizzing by his shoulder.

Stretching out his hand, Cassius ripped the blaster from the man’s hand with the Force, catching it himself. The human men looked stunned for a moment, unsure of what to do next. Cassius tossed the blaster aside, the weapon immediately absorbed by the snow. “Leave,” he said, but there was no malice in his voice, just a quiet strength. After a few moments and exchanged glances, the men began to back away, down the path that lead away from the village.

The village slowly went back to normal operations, and Cassius walked back towards the Talid. The wicker basket was already full of the necessary textiles – the Talid must have gotten it during the brief stand-off.

“Thank you,” Cassius gave a slight bow to the Talid as he picked up the basket and slung the strap over his shoulder.

“You see now, young Cassius, that the diffusion of violence can be more effective than the use of it,” the Talid spoke.

Cassius paused for a moment and thought about it. In his earlier days of being a Jedi, he would have turned on his lightsaber and scared the men away, perhaps even removing a limb or two from the group. And yet, all he did was trip one of them and steal a blaster. No one was hurt, and the situation was diffused. Could they perhaps come back later? Maybe, but then Cassius would do the same thing again. He was a Jedi – he had the power to disarm without bringing harm to others.

Nodding to the Talid, Cassius adjusted the strap on his shoulder before walking out of the village, heading towards the cliff face where he had climbed down earlier.
 

Cassius Droma

Jedi Archaeologist
Character
Cassius stood in the stone courtyard of the temple, snow lightly falling from a gray sky. Ouli stood opposite the young learner, and was flanked by Ulric and Unwyn. Cassius wasn’t exactly sure what he had been called here for – he never did. Whether it was to learn a new technique using the Force or to run an errand, he faithfully showed up every time. It’s not like he had anything else to do.

“Down in the village, you learned a little of redirection and non-violence,” Ouli spoke. “There are even more paths to dispatching of enemies and foes while causing them little harm. Above all else, you must learn to enter the mind of your opponent. Not just with the Force – you must think like them, try to predict their moves before they even make them.”

Cassius nodded. This was something he tried to do often. Something he prized was his own intellect – he liked to think that he could figure things and people out. Just like his parents, he was a puzzle-solver, and people were puzzles.

“First is a simple physical ability,” Unwyn said. “As an extension of your telekinetic abilities, you can freeze people in place, stunning them for a certain amount of time. Imagine that you are casting a net around your opponent, locking them in place.”

Ouli and Ulric suddenly charged, and Cassius got into a battle-ready stance. His hand shot out, and he did as Unwyn said, imagining that he was casting a net. The two monks suddenly stopped in place, with only a little bit of movement in their shoulders and arms. Cassius took a deep breath as his hand twitched and shook. He held the effect for only a few moments before releasing them, exhaling. It had been more difficult than he thought, as the monks were actively struggling against his grasp.

“Not bad, for a first try,” Unwyn said. “If you keep practicing, then you can not only hold some indefinitely, but leave the area and still have them stunned for a time.”

“Alright, let’s go again,” Cassius nodded, determined. For the next few minutes, the monks took turns charging at him at different angles and configurations, trying their best to get to Cassius under their own power. The longest he was able to hold them was about ten seconds, and he had to take a break even after that.

He certainly had a long way to go.
 
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