Please note that this is not the real Chapter 26 – this was Against the Shadows‘ April Fool’s Day stunt for 2016, designed to look like a distinctly un-Star-Wars ending to the story.
The real Chapter 26 – which is, by the way, neither the last chapter nor anything near it – is here.
Kohlma reminds me of what Bi-An’s told me about Zigoola: cold, and too quiet, and even though the sun blazes coldly down, you feel there’s not enough light. I can see why Komari called it hell. Even Wilse and the Fetts, who can’t sense the choking darkness in the Force, are uncomfortable. Xan looks the way I feel – this close to retching.
According to Wilse’s logic, the first place to look for Komari should be the black granite fortress of the Bando Gora, where she has lived for so many years. Because even if you hate a place, if it’s familiar and you have nowhere else, you’ll keep returning there. Whether we find her here or not, it’s a dangerous, inhospitable world, so Jango’s left Boba back at the ship. For once, it seems, nobody will fault the boy for being scared.
I’m scared too.
We – the Mandos, Xanatos, and I – did either the best or the most stupid thing we possibly could, by going straight to the front gates of the fortress to ask if Komari Vosa was there. Only two windows showed in the face of the stronghold, glowering down like eyes, from a dozen stories above the gates.
Jango hammered on the iron door with the butt of his pistol, and we waited for a few silent minutes before the door creaked open. A mute slave peered out at us – her lips were stitched shut, and the scars showed old and white on her olive skin.
“We,” Jango said loudly, as if volume would make up for lack of credentials, “want to speak to Komari Vosa, the high priestess of the Bando Gora. Our business is our own,” he snapped, apparently knowing what response the slave would have given if she could.
“As are our names,” Xan hinted, moving one hand surreptitiously in a gesture familiar to most Jedi younglings over the age of four. “The high priestess will wish to see us at once.”
Nodding slowly, the girl stepped back to let us pass.
Now we’re waiting for someone to tell us whether Komari is even here. The room isn’t really dark, though the black stone walls make it look so, nor really cold, though the light is blue and confusing enough for it to be an ice-cave. My hands look white, and Wilse’s mane of white hair glows a brilliant cerulean. I don’t care – I just want this to be over.
It is fortunate, Qui-Gon supposes, that Komari decided to watch her own gates today, and that she recognized Xanatos there. Fortunate for whom, of course, is still in question. If it were just Jango Fett and this other Mando, he would not much care – let them go on their way with no news of Komari. But Xan… Xan isn’t the type to give up so easily.
So Komari orders the visitors be brought to her, and for a few seconds, Xanatos seems glad to see her. Then he notices who stands to her right, and his face falls.
Noticing the same thing in the same instant, the girl accompanying Xanatos reacts with unexpected delight. Nasriel, her name is, Nasriel.
Bowing low, she asks of Komari’s companion, “Please, Master Dooku, I know you have people all over the Galaxy – have you heard any news of Qui-Gon? Please. I – I don’t know what’s happened to him. I don’t know where he is.”
“I’m here,” Qui-Gon says, and takes a step forward out of the shadowed corner. Nasriel frowns, but then her face clears. Perhaps he does look different, but merely a change to black clothing, and the uncertain light of Komari’s audience chamber, should not have caused such hesitation. Nasriel makes to dart forward, but Xan throws one arm around her waist, jerking her to a halt.
“He’s my Master, DuCrion, you dai-schen,” she hisses, struggling.
“I’m your Master, and I say you will not take another step until we hear some kind of explanation. Qui-Gon, what the blue Wild Space is going on?” And then Xan is no longer talking, or even holding Nasriel, but kneeling on the floor, head tilted back at an impossible angle, struggling to breathe.
Without releasing his Force-grip on Xanatos’ throat, Dooku turns to listen to Komari.
“There are strangers in the room, you know. Maybe don’t do that right now.”
“Who, the Mando’a? Mr. Fett, tell me this, are you in contact with any other Jedi than DuCrion here?” Dooku asks abruptly.
“I spoke to Master Kenobi only three days ago. He said he had another job for me after this.” Fett folds his arms defiantly.
“A pity. I was enjoying getting to know you. Both of them, Komari.”
“Them,” Komari confirms, pointing with strange deliberation first to the older Mandalorian, then to Jango. The word has barely left her lips before they both drop dead, felled by blaster bolts from the far end of the room. “You can go now,” she snaps, and the mute slave bows and vanishes, slinging a blaster rifle over her skinny shoulder. Qui-Gon would have no particular objection to the girl’s shooting herself as well – she is unnervingly silent in every motion, and he dislikes having people creep up on him.
“Leave or die, your choice,” Dooku calls after her. He releases Xanatos, and the Jedi collapses like a broken doll. The chill rush of death hits the Force as Xan’s head cracks against the granite floor, and the blood trickles across the stones instead of spurting… as it would have done had his heart continued to beat.
Nasriel’s mouth works noiselessly, trying and discarding the beginnings of a dozen sentences, before she says, very quiet, bewilderment and betrayal equally mixed, “I… I don’t understand.”
“No,” Qui-Gon agrees. “You will go to your grave without understanding. You can never understand, because you are a Jedi, and you cannot imagine ever being anything else.”
“I can so! You used… no, I don’t know who you are… Qui-Gon used to tell me off for imagining about being a great lady back at Saalis. “
“Hardly the same thing,” purrs Komari. “Do get on with it, Jinn.”
And the lightning crackles up, darting and biting around Nasriel, stabbing at her face, hissing over the dark lines of the tattoo on her hand, blazing white-hot around the stone pendant she wears. The hilt of her lightsaber cracks under the ferocity of the attack, and the green crystal clatters, shatters, on the floor.
Wearying of the game, Dooku snarls, “Finish her,” and the Force, twisted around the will of the Dark Side, catches up the Jedi child, first hurling her into the uncertain darkness of the ceiling, then flinging her to the floor with a final, definite crack.
Qui-Gon neither knows nor cares whether it was his former Padawan’s neck or skull that broke first – she is dead, and by his hand, and his loyalty to Dooku is now beyond a doubt.
“And we are a family again, with no need to worry about outsiders!” Komari crows, getting up to inspect the bodies.
“Family,” muses Darth Tyranus, Dooku-that-was. “The things we do for family.”