She needed help.

He looked into my eyes with such assertiveness. There was no request in his gaze, no hesitation, just determination. His grey-blue eyes felt colder than usual, not that I had found much emotion in them as of late.
He turned his back to me, breaking his eye contact with me in dismissal, arms behind his back, signifying how little of a threat I was to his power. He turned away with our daughter, leaving me behind at the doors.
The winds were strong in this hollow place, yet I felt numb as my tunic gently flowed over my skin. He walked calm and confidently, maintaining his hands behind his back, head held high, almost blocking my view of her as they descended into the red-lit corridors.
She looked back... back at me. Her natural smile in her eyes was replaced by confusion. She must've been so scared. She didn't turn all the way around, but she looked me directly in my eyes while walking slowly forward. I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I just wanted to reach out for her, hold her tight in my embrace. I wanted to tell her how much I loved her and how everything would be okay, even if I couldn't say it with much conviction.
I felt my muscles tense for a split second. It almost prompted me to take a step forward, reach out for her, to stop this, but a dozen zealots were standing on both sides down the dimmed corridor, dressed in long white robes, masked, emotionless like statues. In unison they turned their gaze on me, warning me without a word spoken.
I had to fight back tears swelling up in my eyes, consciously trying to relax the muscles in my forehead forming a worried frown. A lump had taken residence in my throat. Long deep breaths, having to clench my jaws to not let a scream of hurt burst out of me. Did he know how I was feeling? To take away a child from its mother is the deepest cut into one's soul. I felt powerless, desperate. I wanted her to receive the help she needed, but was this the answer?
She turned her face away again, now with her head down, defeated, and the doors closed on us, separating us physically and emotionally. I felt paralyzed by grief.
A shiver ran down my spine, I had a profound dread that this was a mistake, a costly one, at our daughter's expense.


She's lying on the cold stone floor in a fetal position, twitching from the pain they are inflicting on her, sitting in a circle surrounding her, trapping her, torturing her. She's still wearing what she arrived in, a black and white light robe with matching white boots, her blond hair still in a long braid.

She's tucking her knees to her torso, head down in her lap, shielding her face from the faceless ghosts constantly tormenting her, rocking back and forth.

She's sitting up in a meditative position, still hunched over, her forearms resting on her knees, letting the pain wash over her. Her white robe has turned ashen, dirty. Her long blond hair is shaved off.

She is sitting up, shaven head still down, but her arms are stretching out in a relaxed pose, as if being held out by something. Her tunic is gray, sleeves ripped off exposing her bare arms, showcasing tattoos in patterns unknown to me from her shoulders to her elbows.

She is sitting up confidently, straight back, eyes closed, head up, arms out, palms turned upwards, welcoming the pain. The tattoos have spread all the way down to her forearms. Her tunic seems even darker.

Finally, she's sitting up straight with her legs crossed, arms in front of her with her hands clenching her forearms, eyes closed in meditation. She looks older, but not yet an adult. The tattoos are covering her arms completely, from her shoulders to her wrists. Her tunic is dark, almost black. She is sitting in the center of the stone floor, cold light passing from above, replaced by the warm lighting of candles obscured by the ghostly zealots forming the same enclosing circle. She is surrounded by four floating stone orbs, a sign of her control of the Force.
Her fingers are digging into her forearms, dark rims around her fingernails, skin covered in filth, like she hasn't had a shower for weeks.
She opens her eyes, no longer bright and blue, but yellow and orange like fire.


Eyes wide open, gasping for air as I awoke from my terror, screaming out my daughter's name - Vaylin.
My heart was hammering inside my chest, blood rushed through my veins. The more my heart was pounding, the more air I needed, and the more air I was trying to inhale, the more my heart would pound. The back of my garments were cold from sweat soaking through, even my sheets were drenched. I released the grip of the smooth fabrics of my bed linen and I closed my eyes for a moment, finding my center, but all I could see were her eyes, all I could hear were the sound of her crying. I had experienced these sorts of nightmares before, but this one felt different. It felt like a cry for help coming from stars away.
Thunder was rumbling in the distance, echoing between the towering buildings. Rain was trickling down the large floor-to-ceiling windows, every drop gliding down resonating inside my head. Lightning illuminating in quick succession, expelling the darkness from my chambers for a split moment, then another, and another.
I opened my eyes, breathing in through my nostrils and out through my mouth, in and out, in and out. I looked at my immaculate Knight's armor and weapon on display to my right, white and black, reflecting the sudden brightness every time lightning flashed.
There was no doubt in my mind what I had to do. She needed me, she was calling for me.
He was not going to let me, so I had to act fast.


Breaking through the atmosphere, the emptiness of this planet hit me again. It's a feeling that is difficult to put into words, but it was a stark reminder of my failures. I had to stay focused on my mission.
The shuttle was creaking from the turbulence. I had to hold onto the support handles for rough landings alongside my brothers and sisters, dressed in the traditional armor of a Knight, except it was white, matching my armor. High pitched beepings were wailing one by one, warning us of the unstable weather ahead of us. It was as stormy here as it was on Zakuul the night I decided to rescue my daughter. Rain was whisking on the front shield of the shuttle, lowering visibility immensely. A river of rain ran alongside the shuttle's viewports, branching out into smaller streams, scuttling past as fast as a blink of an eye. Lights were flickering with every bump we hit.

"You're up!", the pilot announced over the intercom barely audible through the raging weather as well as the murkiness of my mind.

My mission was simple. Get in as quietly as possible, grab Vaylin, get out and rendezvous at the pickup. It rarely turns out that way though.
Harsh winds and rain were whipping the skin on my face as I jumped out of the shuttle onto the walkway. It was so dark during the night cycle, the walkway was only dimly lit by floor lights, welcoming me to the same horrific red-lit corridors where I let go of Vaylin, her prison. There were no guards and it was eerily quiet despite the storm.
The glaring lights of the shuttle faded behind me along with the sound, as it moved out of sight, awaiting my request for pickup, along with my fellow knights who stayed aboard, ready to assist me. It was a risky mission, defying the Eternal Emperor's will. I couldn't risk their lives by bringing them along inside. Besides, I would have a better chance of getting out unseen if it was just me.
Without any hesitation, I ran through the door into the gaping mouth that was the red-lit corridor with determination. I didn't know what was waiting for me inside, what horrors had been committed in that place and how little I would care. I was there for Vaylin, everything else was simply an obstacle.


"I need a pickup. Now!"

I had found her. There were no guards or zealots around, nor any alarms. She was lying unconscious on the cold stone floor of the same candle-lit circular room from my nightmares, but without the menacing gaze of her torturers. With her in my arms, I rushed through the door back into a series of red-lit corridors leaving behind her carved-out animal toy that was hauntingly similar to the one she made years earlier when she was full of joy and laughter.
But I couldn't wallow on that, we had to escape the consuming grasp of the harrowing labyrinth of the facility.
Something was off, like I was being watched.
I kept on running, red lights streaking past my peripheral vision, one after the other. I could see the light at the end of the corridor, the light that was showing me the way out. Whispers were creeping up behind me, like long slender fingers slithering out of the shadows. I could almost feel them, tickling the fine hairs on my neck, like a serpent getting ready for the fatal attack, when I felt the relief of fresh air.
I looked down at Vaylin in my arms. I got you, I thought. She was bare lucid, her eyes almost rolling back in her head.
Outside the rain again whipped my face, cold and harsh. It was coming down hard, running down my face and down my neck, my hair was soaked in seconds. The platform was straight ahead. The rain and the wind almost seemed to scream at me, but then the shuttle came into view fast, the glare revealing why I had not been stopped by any guards or zealots inside.
They were waiting for me, standing in my way to the landing platform, to freedom for my daughter.

With the same cold presence six ghosts of this place dressed in long white robes, stood in front of me. Only the lower part of the face was visible, their eyes covered as much as their body, out of dedication or necessity, I could not be sure of.
I slowed down to a halt to assess the threat, as they shed their robes in unison, letting them slip off with such grace, like a reptile that sheds its skin to reveal vibrant colors underneath.
But these aren't beautiful reptiles. They are dangerous fanatics, revealing their black armor underneath weapon in hand - a stark contrast from zealot to warrior.
They stood still and waited for me. They probably waited for me to put down their asset.
Vaylin was awake. I gently put her down, kneeled down in front of her to look her in the face. Her gaze was fixated on something, rain trickling down her face. She was awake, but she was not. It was like she was really far away. I held her face with both my hands, trying to reassure her without words that everything would be okay.
As I turned around to face the soon-to-be dead zealots, she looked me directly in the eyes. I would save her, even if it would cost me my life here on this platform.

I rose and turned to confront my faceless opponents, hiding Vaylin behind me, the shuttle impatiently hovering above the landing platform, illuminating the narrow battleground. I have faced many enemies, been in countless battles for my Emperor. This was no different. I felt the same duty, the same determination to persevere. My cause was just, and I could not fail.
I drew my lightsaber from the compartment in the back of my armor. The hilt felt light as it extended and the blue blade ignited with a quick hiss. My opponents stood firm, igniting their lightsabers, no longer in unison, pale yellow blades facing the platform. The angry hum of my blade was only mildly disrupted by the sound of rain drops turning into vapor upon impact with my weapon. The rumbling thunder and the wind's warning howls was dulled by the anticipation of combat.

"Stay behind me."

I ran in breaking their perfect formation, engaging the first pair.
I dodged the first strike, followed by parrying my opponent's blow. I disarmed one with a swift grab of his right arm that stabilized me to kick the one charging me in the face, stunning him long enough to knock out the first zealot.
Swiftly, I ducked down and let a lightsaber swing wildly above me as I let the hilt of my own lightsaber extend to its full length and used it as a pike to strike the zealot with an uppercut, knocking him down hard.
I followed the momentum to swing down at the next one that ran towards me, staggering him, then struck him in the abdomen with the blunt end of my pike.
I promptly turned towards the one that was getting up off the floor. I raised my pike again, but first I kicked him in the jaw with my left knee, then struck him down with my raised pike.
I contracted my pike back into the length of a normal hilt as I sheathed it at the back of my armor and quickly intercepted an incoming strike by grabbing his lightsaber from his grasp and threw his weapon over the edge.
With a clenched fist, I punched him square in the jaw, then moved quickly to my right and grabbed the foolish zealot who came towards me by his wrist and twisted around to grab him by the shoulder as well, to thrust his ignited lightsaber into the chest of the one I had just punched and was left staggered, wounding him severely.
With a continued firm hold of his arm, I kicked back at one who attempted to flank me. I turned around the one I had in my grasp, grabbing him by the neck and with a quick twist he tumbled to the ground, his face exposed, showing his pale white skin and dark tattoos of similar design as the ones that disfigured Vaylin's body.
I turned around as the wounded one lunged at me. I caught his arm and punched him in the gut, then raised my arm above his head pulling him down with me as another one swiped at us.
I took one of the daggers from the back of his armor, while using him as a shield and threw the dagger at a zealot in the back, then ducked down again for the second swipe.
I got up and with a twist got a hold of my lightsaber. I ignited it and stabbed the one swiping at me in the side, then quickly deactivated my blade again, while I furiously held onto the wounded one by his helmet.
I finished him off by forcefully striking him in the back with my elbow, all while the one I had just stabbed staggered backwards.
I ignited my lightsaber, ran towards him and used him as a launch point, letting him succumb to his wounds, and with a backhanded swipe, impaled the last one standing.

It was over.

I immediately looked back at Vaylin, hoping I hadn't scared her with the violence I had to engage in, even though it was for her sake. The thunder continued, rain clattered on my armor and the wind still howled as I got up and turned towards her. She was standing in the same spot, staring at me. Lightning flashed and illuminated her dark face.

"Vaylin, come on." I said as I reached out my hand in a gesture of encouragement.

But she didn't come.

She withdrew from me and took a small step backwards, faintly shaking her head. She didn't speak a word. She just stood still drenched by the rain and stared at me with anger and contempt written on her face.

She was so close, but yet so far away.

The door behind her hissed open and out walked Valkorion confidently with his arms behind his back accompanied by a dozen white-robed, faceless zealots. I could hear the shuttle setting down on the platform behind me. The faceless men surrounded her. I couldn't let them take her!

A faint scuffle approached me from behind. My brothers jumped out at great risk to themselves and grabbed me by my arms and shoulders stopping me in my tracks towards my daughter, pulling me back. She stood frozen as the zealots moved up past her, engulfed her, like a pack of ravenous beasts circling their prey.
The immeasurable pain of failure burst from the pit of my stomach. Every facial muscle tensed. My face twisted in a suffocating grimace as I cried out while my brothers pulled me back to the shuttle, my scream of agony echoed louder than the rumbling clouds, but to no avail.

Everything went blank. A still image of my once so sweet child staring at me with disdain surrounded by monsters was burned into my mind, a haunting memory that was bound to torment me, a visual confirmation of my betrayal as a mother.

When my awareness resurfaced, I sat on my knees on the floor of the departing shuttle with my fellow knights behind me, panting.
The shuttle doors were still wide open and I could see her.
She stood with her gaze locked on me while the zealots stood guard as motionless as sentinel Skytroopers. My husband stood behind her, without a word or even a gesture. It was almost as if he was reminding me of his power - over her, over all my children... and over me.

I remained on my knees, slumped over, unable to cry and unable to move, as I witnessed my daughter disappear indefinitely.

I knew. I was too late. I had lost her.

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