Author's note: Yes, I indulge in the occasional construction of fanfiction stories, and have done so on several occasions over the years. This Star Wars tale first appeared as an audiobook presentation on my Bitchute and Rumble video channels, both sharing the username ‘Byronofsidius’.
My Rumble channel: www.rumble.com/user/byronofsidius
With that out of the way, on with the story.
The Strength of The Way
A short story by Joshua Calkins-Treworgy
Jaris understood his parents' concerns, even if he didn't precisely share them. At only fourteen years of age in Standard Galactic Time measure, he had slain one of the renak'ka beasts that had threatened their herd of muskal, improvising a landmine from scrap collected by his mother on her frequent salvage trips to old battlegrounds of one of their people's many wars against the Jedi. She had trained him well to recognize routine junk from useful components; the power cell of an assault droid had been rigged as a catalyst, and proximity sensors from a weathered auto-defense turret had been the primary components used. The rest had been a simple matter of selecting the sharpest, sturdiest bits of metal and cobbling them into a shaped charge.
When the renak'ka had come near the opening Jaris left in the electro fence, it had been shredded into scores of throbbing, bleeding bits. Clan Bosang had feasted well that night.
Their rapture had been short-lived, however. The very next day, while out in the field re-establishing the fence line, Jaris and his father Jarna had been ambushed by another of the oversized reptilian beasts. It had charged from the treeline of the woods bordering their ranch on the south, lowering its blunt, bullet-shaped head and slamming his father a dozen yards through the air.
Jaris had let out a wordless howl and threw one open hand out at the beast-
and the renak'ka had been flung by unseen power into an activated stretch of the electro fence, where it swiftly perished in a hellstorm of electrical power.
He was touched by the Force.
That had been six months ago, and the young Mandalorian now stood among the muskal, watching them graze through the visor of his helmet. The clan elders had agreed that he had earned the right to begin following The Way. He was now only fifteen, but had earned the right, having slain two of the local beasts that threatened their people's primary source of economic well-being. Reluctantly neutral on their small Outer Rim world, detached from the other clans who were constantly bickering among themselves, Clan Bosang was committed to the long-term goal of establishing a new homeworld for the Mandalorian people, one that would be its own power in the galaxy, free of the control of any outer influence.
Jaris had heard the stories from his parents and others of the clan, and those told by travelers who came to their world to trade. He well understood that his time was likely quite short. Someone from the Jedi Order would invariably be coming to see for themselves who this new source of Force powers was. Likewise, some dark side agent would be coming along too, eager to recruit the young warrior to whatever cause they were involved with.
Clan Bosang had a long and storied history as warriors, as did all Mandalorians, but Jaris, young though he was, held no delusions about his community's capabilities. For three generations now, they had moved further from the masterful wagers of war they had once been, and become ranchers, farmers, and traders. Sure, they all knew well how to set traps against wildlife, how to hunt, how to survive. But if Jedi came snooping around, or agents of the Sith, what chance would his people have?
The entire village only had six full suits of their people's traditional armor. Jaris himself wore the smallest of these, originally designed for use by a warrior woman whose more slender frame made it a better fit for the adolescent than those others. Moreover, four of the other five were already claimed, worn by the village's dedicated protectors.
I'll have to go to the landing port again soon, young Jaris thought, strolling by the docile, bulbous creatures his father raised, bred and sold. It's been a week; for all I know, one of the Order's lackeys is already here. Jaris headed into the house, a modest one-story domicile, looking for either or his parents. When he found neither, he headed through the front of the house, using his helmet's long-range scanner suite to locate his mother.
She was, as usual, just down the central village path, at her workshop. Jaris stopped by just long enough to inform her that he was heading to the landing port, then took off, trying to ignore her outwardly concealed worry. He knew she'd become fearful for him, and this too played hell with him, for there was no obvious, outward sign of her concern.
But he felt her fear, through the Force.
"They sent a messenger ahead, young one," elder Shokana replied when Jaris asked if they had any ships inbound in the last few days. Jaris had shared his suspicion with the middle-aged Mandalorian, the lone warrior representative of the village's elder council. Since then, Shokana had apparently been coming to the port for any news from the Inner Rim worlds, and specifically, from The Republic. "It is as you feared; the Jedi are sending one of their people to come meet you."
"What did you tell them," Jaris asked, taking a look around the small landing port to ensure nobody was eavesdropping on their conversation.
"We are Bosang, young one. We do not lie. I sent their messenger a reply that indeed, we had a youngling here touched by the Force. What they or you choose to do about that is between you. You know your duty to our people, and to The Way. The choice, however, is yours."
Jaris nodded, his heart racing. He wanted to scream at the elder warrior, to rage against his foolishness. But Shokana spoke true. The Clan Bosang did not lie. The only place for deception was in war, in battle. There was no honor for deceit elsewhere in a true Mandalorian's life.
"I understand, sir. I have a request, however," Jaris finally replied, quickly putting together a plan in his head. When he relayed to Shokana what he would need, the older warrior just nodded, and beckoned Jaris follow him away from the landing port.
The pair ended up at an old metal structure, half-buried in the ground a hundred yards into the forest north of the village. In truth, the structure had been a Mandalorian troop transport ship that had crashed when their people, in full flight from Imperials hounding their escape from the Inner Rim, had opted to make a stand on this tiny planet. They had killed their pursuers, gathering all of their resources and storing them here.
The transport had become the Bosang war cache. "Take only what you need, young one," Shokana instructed firmly. "And if you mean to fight this Jedi, keep it away from the village. We don't need more of them coming for revenge."
Jaris acknowledged this command, and set to his preparations. Shokana's thoughts, so near the surface of his mind, were too easy for the young warrior to read: Only fifteen now, and already more fearless and fierce than any of us. Mandalore would be proud.
"I just don't understand, master Jedi, why you would even want to bother," said the pilot seated up front, talking over his shoulder. "These Mandos have never been fond of your Order. Or the Republic, for that matter," the man added with a grunt. Norris Kaad, a member of the Order barely out of his apprenticeship as a padawan, shrugged in response, his dark brown robes rustling slightly on his broad shoulders.
"Master Luke saw fit to send me to investigate and possibly recruit. He seems more willing to take on students since the Empire's final defeat" Norris remarked. "But I understand entirely your hesitation, Phillip." The Jedi guardian reached into his robes and withdrew a small canteen, taking a good long pull of his water. "How long until we arrive?"
"About an hour, sir." Kaad closed his eyes, letting himself open up to the flow of the Force around him. He almost flinched, chest tightening; there was incredible, raw potential where he was going. He pulled back within himself for a moment, making note of the fact that there had been another, nearer presence, also strong in the Force.
It is as Master Skywalker suspected, he thought. Where the Jedi sense potential, so too do the Sith. When the transport was perhaps half an hour out from the little Outer Rim world that was his destination, Philip broke into his quietude.
"We're being hailed, master Jedi. They're asking for you directly, on a holo-line," the pilot said. Kaad pursed his lips, a useless gesture since Philip was still looking at his instruments.
"Put them through back here," Kaad said, standing from his bench seat in the main passenger cabin. A translucent blue image of a Mandalorian in full armor, a female's by the look of it, showed before him. Whoever they were, they were in full kit, including the stylized helmet worn by the warriors of their people's religious adherents.
"You are the Jedi coming to speak with me," said the Mandalorian warrior. Kaad was caught off-guard; the voice was male, and young. The Order had historically taken in their trainees young, yes, but for a Mandalorian to be in full kit at such a young age seemed, to Kaad, almost barbaric. Their people did not don the helm of their Way until they had been blooded, to his understanding.
"I am. I am Norris Kaad, a disciple of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. Forgive me saying so, but you seem, young, to be a warrior," the Jedi observed.
"I am fifteen standard galactic years of age," the Mandalorian replied evenly. He gave a nonchalant gesture with one hand. "There have been younger in the history of Clan Bosang."
"I see. Why have you reached out to me," Kaad asked, leading for a name.
"I am Jaris, son of Jarna and Helena, of Clan Bosang," the young warrior replied formally, straightening in the projection. "I have hailed you to provide directions to you to come meet with me. I will not risk your presence near my people, and so have taken myself away from them. I have been, meditating, on this strangeness I feel around me," the young warrior said. "The elders tell me this strangeness is the Force."
"That's correct," said Kaad. "And I am more than happy to answer the questions you undoubtedly have."
"That, will be helpful. I will transmit the directions to your pilot, and your companion's pilot as well," Jaris said, inadvertently confirming the presence of an unseen but nearby Sith agent approaching the same location. The image of the young man vanished, and Philip's instruments chimed.
"Here," Kaad said, passing his personal datapad to the pilot. "Transfer the file to this."
"Did I hear him right up here," the veteran pilot asked, tapping various controls on his console. "Another ship on our vector?"
"I'll deal with that if and when the time comes," said Kaad. "For right now, just get us to the planet as fast as possible."
Jaris knew very little about 'light' or 'dark' as pertained to the Force, and he needed very little more knowledge than what he was naturally detecting as he roamed the natural corridors of the caverns he'd taken himself to that morning. They're here, and they're aware of me and one another, and they're trying to avoid each other. This worked just fine for the young Mandalorian warrior; both of the pathways that led to the lowermost chamber were open, with no useful obstructions to his view.
He had taken the week since Shokana had brought him to the war cache to prepare for the intruders. Force users had all manner of powers, their sorcerous abilities providing them all manner of advantages over their enemies, no matter how well trained or experienced. In a direct confrontation, a fifteen-year-old boy with no combat experience beyond standard training as a youth would have no chance.
Jaris was no simple boy, however. I follow The Way, he thought, returning to the chamber where he would make his stand. Using the wrist-mounted control keypad on his left arm, he activated two small, floating camera drones nearby, transmitting back to the elder council.
His people would see; his people would remember his choice.
Norris Kaad had no taste for games of cat-and-mouse, and he ignited his lightsaber with a grunt. "Come on out and let's have done with it," he called out, stepping out from behind a stalagmite in the dim light coming from strips of bioluminescent mold sprouting from the unevenly shaped walls of the cavern system.
The chamber Kaad stepped into was oblong, with two distinct tunnels branching off the opposite end. From around a matching stalagmite some twenty feet away, paralleling his own elusive and cautious movements, he watched as a scarlet lightsaber sprang to life, its wielder barely discernible beyond a narrow frame in a billowing black cloak.
"I would prefer not to fight you," came a rasping voice, modulated by some kind of helm or facemask. In the dimness of the caverns, Kaad couldn't tell what sort of gear his foe wore. "My master's orders were to avoid a battle if possible, and bring the adept back with me. He would prefer you see that the Dark Side is superior in drawing recruits to it naturally." Kaad held himself still, trying to listen to the guidance of the Force.
Disarm, a soft voice urged him, a voice not his own. Mayhap if this one sees the Light convince this young Mandalorian, it will bring him too back to the path of the Light. Kaad flicked off his saber, and straightened. To his relief, so too did his counterpart. "A truce for now, then," Kaad asked, using a small stream of Force energy to enhance his vision in the dark. The Sith, if Sith he was, was cautiously crossing the chamber toward him, hands out and open to his sides.
"For now, yes," came the garbled reply. The Sith's mask was flat, featureless, with bulging goggles over his eyes, reminiscent of the old Sith assassins. The duo stared at one another for a moment longer, before Kaad felt a sudden flare of power, coming from further along in the tunnels and caverns. He looked toward the twin tunnels branching from this chamber, as did the Sith. "Such raw potential," the Sith rasped. Kaad's mouth was a tight line, jaw clenched.
"Yes, but with no focus. He's trying to practice, but he wields the Force like a club," the Jedi grumbled. "Come along, you take that path, I'll take this one."
"Why separate? I could just follow you down that way," said the Sith, pointing to the right-hand path. Kaad smirked at the other man knowingly.
"Grand idea, let me just go ahead and make it all the easier for you to literally stab me in the back," he said with a theatrical smile. The Sith shrugged and loosed a snort of a chuckle.
"Worth a shot," the masked man observed, heading across to the left branch. Kaad went right, eyes narrowing as more pulses of pure Force energy lanced through the tunnels, primitive efforts to manipulate the natural currents of power in the area. He needs finesse, Kaad thought, ducking and angling himself this way and that, trying to concentrate on the path ahead through the young Mandalorian's cast-off energies. We can give him control, precision.
When finally he came around a blind turn in his corridor, Norris Kaad could see that the chamber ahead was actually quite well lit, with artificial light poles set up within, and the Mandalorian warrior kneeling in the center of a naturally rounded cavern, a blaster pistol held in his left hand loosely, the barrel resting on his thigh. A pair of drones of some sort hovered behind the young man, and his head hung slightly down. That doesn't mean he doesn't see us, Kaad thought. He cast about briefly, spotting his counterpart finally coming out of his own pathway to the cavern, the Sith with one hand on his hip, ready to draw his lightsaber again.
"I was beginning to think you'd decided this wasn't worth the trip," Jarin said, lifting his head and slowly standing up. His left hand remained down, the blaster pistol now in a firm grasp, but kept aimed at the floor. His free right hand came up and beckoned his visitors closer, even as another device behind and to the left of him began humming and crackling with energy.
"What is that," the Sith rasped, halting his advance.
"Signal booster," the Mandalorian youth answered. "The elder council of my Clan are watching on these camera drones, and I'd like you both to broadcast to your people as well. Otherwise, we won't be having any conversation at all."
Kaad and the Sith looked to one another, sharing a slow nod. Each of them pulled out small camera drones of their own, connecting with their shuttles. "I am not accustomed to meeting the demands of my lessers," the Sith said in his artificially altered voice.
"I don't care," replied the young warrior. "Make your case. Why should I agree to train with your people?" The Sith extended a hand before him, twisting it hard to the left, and a nearby stalagmite burst apart into rocky shrapnel.
"The Dark Side can give you the power to crush any foe as easily as this stone. Command of the Force can be wielded to put you in your rightful place as a Mandalorian, as a conquerer of all enemies, great and small. Any threat to your Clan could be decimated, including the ever-reaching hand of the Republic," said the Sith, his tone dripping with contempt. "Think of it; how long until they set their sights on your little planet here? Until they demand you submit to their oversight?"
Jarin gently lifted his right hand in a 'halt' motion, and nodded. "I hear you. Now, you," he said, pointing that same hand to Norris Kaad. The human Jedi took a steadying breath, refusing to look over at the Sith. Something tickled at the back of his mind, a feeling of nervousness. There is peace, he thought to himself, proceeding.
"Learn to walk the Path of the Light Side, and you will be at peace with the seemingly savage nature of this world. The beasts that roam this planet, that likely threaten your livestock and thus your Clan's well-being? You can learn to soothe them, to turn them aside without depleting your armory and resources. Train with my people, and the Republic may cease to see all Mandalorians as a threat, to regard them with suspicion. You would likely be too old now to become a full Jedi; I won't lie to you," Kaad said with a sigh, folding his arms into the sleeves of his robes and standing straighter. "But you could easily become a true defender of your Clan, and establish stronger trade ties to planets within the Republic. You could provide greater prosperity for them, through the Light."
Jarin held his hand up again, and nodded, slowly lowering it. He angled his visored helm toward the Sith. "You would appeal to the storied strength of my people, to our glories of old as conquerors, as warriors. You would have me believe the Dark Side is a weapon, which needs only training to master." A pause, then, "I can respect you taking that approach with me."
That isn't good, Kaad thought, once more sensing a kind of pressure behind his eyes, a subtle tug at his attention. He was about to turn his head, to let the Force guide his eyes, when the young Mandalorian reclaimed his attention. "And you, Jedi. You would appeal to the sense of duty I feel toward Clan Bosang, to the cunning of Mandalorian hunters and scouts, to use knowledge of our environment in order to command it. You would have me bring honor to my people and guide them out of centuries, millenia, of suspicion from the eyes of others in the Republic." A pause, then, "I can also respect you for taking that approach."
"What more would you have us say," the Sith hissed, hand gripping his saber's handle with a creak of his leather glove.
"Hold," said Jarin, putting his empty right hand to his chest. "When you first entered these caves, what did you notice?" Once more the Sith and Jedi regarded one another, but turned their eyes back to the young warrior silently. "Did you feel my efforts at lifting some of these rocks with the Force," he asked, waving his hand at some small stones scattered by his feet.
"Yes," Norris Kaad replied. "I indeed felt that."
"As did I," said the Sith. "Your raw potential is impressive, and could easily be used to bend the Force to your will!"
"So, you both felt that, yes? And followed it back here, to me, right?" The flickering at the back of Kaad's mind would no longer be ignored, and he let the Force direct his eyes. There, on the floor of the cavern, barely covered by loose soil by the young Mandalorian's foot, he could just make out some kind of bluish light, tethered to a dark-hued thread of wire. The wire led back between he and the Sith, buried under more loose dirt and dust, where it bent up to the walls of the cavern.
Dozens of neon orange thermal core mines had been lashed together, linked by dozens of wires in a spiderweb framework. More wire led back down both tunnels that led out of this chamber, where old droid power cells and blaster rifle power cells had been half-hidden by rearranged luminescent moss and mold.
"Oh," Kaad managed, recognizing too late what had happened.
"And so, both of you came here in the hopes of taking me from my people, of making me ignore my duty. Your desire to serve the Force blinded you, as you hoped to blind me. But that is not The Way," said Jarin evenly, moving the barrel of his blaster pistol just the barest fraction of an inch. "Let my people and yours see that with a single shot of a blaster, a lone Mandalorian can take down two Force users. This is The Way.”
He pulled the trigger.
And nobody watching in the crowded hall of the elder council would forget.
And none would ever again question the determination of the Mandalorian Clan Bosang.
I like it, but then, I'm a big Star Wars nerd as well. I have about ten chapters laying around here somewhere. Maybe I'll pick it up after I finish the project I'm working on right now.