"Ahsoka… why did you leave me?"
Behind her helmet, Ahsoka found that her lips could move, but no words would leave her mouth. What could she say? How was Anakin here? He was on the other side of the door dealing with those ghostly figures…. wasn't he?
"You left me Ahsoka. You left us." 'Anakin' said again, despair in his voice as his expression turned to one of great pain and misery, a rush of grief flooding off of him through the Force, nearly bowing her over from the pain she was feeling from him in the process.
"Anakin…. I thought you understood. I… I didn't leave you… I left the Order!"
"You left me Ahsoka. You left me!" 'Anakin' snarled this time, his face contorting into an expression of anger and hatred, surprising Ahsoka.
"You were never a good Padawan. I should have expected it really. Nothing more than a major disappointment in every way. You nearly killed me on Christophsis. All of your men at Ryloth died because of your stupidity! You got captured by Trandoshans! And you were framed for terrorism, and once again, I had to save you! Pitiful creature! You are no Padawan of mine!"
"No." Ahsoka replied softly, feeling tears build up in her eyes. How could Anakin say such horrible things about her?
"You are a failure!"
"You were a waste of my time!"
"Because of you, I will never be a Jedi Master! It's all your fault!"
"YOU WILL DIE!"
Ahsoka barely had time to react as a blue blade came careening towards her, crashing into her golden one at the last second, barely saving her from death.
"Fight it Tano! It isn't real! Merely an illusion of your deepest fears!" Another voice, Maul's, called out from behind her, his tone oddly encouraging despite their hostility towards one another.
Fight it? That's what she was supposed to do? Fight her Master when he was trying to kill her?! But… surely that meant that the only way for her to survive would be to kill him! She wouldn't do that… ever!
'Anakin' lunged with his blade again, narrowly missing impaling Ahsoka on the blue blade in the process, who evaded to the side and brought her own saber up to deflect a volley of harsh and brutal strikes that came her way. Blue clashed against golden, forcing Ahsoka back from the sheer impact of his saber on hers.
This was no sparring match! This was Anakin Skywalker going full on! He was literally trying to kill her!
"Master! Stop this madness!" Ahsoka cried, trying to get through to him, even if she knew deep down that it could very well be in vain. Anakin was too stubborn to listen to someone who he was trying to kill.
"Failure! Disgrace! Worthless! You are no Jedi!" 'Anakin' yelled aloud, each word accompanied by a heavy handed strike from his saber against hers, until she found herself knocked onto her back, lightsaber falling from her hand and rolling away, leaving her defenceless.
"DIE!" 'Anakin' screamed again as he brought his blade down on Ahsoka, who acted at the last possible moment, rolling to the side to avoid the lethal blow, whilst throwing her foot out in the process to catch 'Anakin's' leg, knocking him off his feet.
'Anakin' collapsed to the floor with a loud thud and a groan, buying Ahsoka the time she needed to push her own body back up and summon her lightsaber back to her waiting hand, golden blade flashing back into existence in the process.
The scream of another voice, one that Ahsoka didn't recognize drew Ahsoka's attention away from the collapsed form of her Master, and instead to a new figure, one shrouded in a long black cloak, concealing their identity.
The mysterious figure was advancing upon where Maul stood, lightning erupting from his fingertips, crashing against Maul's ignited saber. The Zabrak had a fierce look of concentration, as well as pain on his face as he did the best he could to deflect the endless barrage of lightning.
The snap hiss of a lightsaber behind her drew Ahsoka back to her own predicament, her blade moving to duel against the oncoming rage of 'Anakin'.
Clash after clash, lunge after lunge, and once more Ahsoka found herself knocked backwards, 'Anakin' standing above her, saber poised to strike.
This time however it was Maul who saved her, a powerful Force push sending 'Anakin' careening through the air until he hit one of the chamber walls with a resounding crack.
"On your feet Tano! Fight your fear and overcome it!" Maul's voice called over to her, even as he moved to deal with the shroud that had engaged him, still pushing against the endless stream of lightning that was erupting from his fingertips.
"Fear? Oh…. of course." Ahsoka spoke to herself as she refocused on where 'Anakin'... no…. not Anakin…. where the vision of Anakin, the vision of her greatest fear, was.
Failing her Master. Failing Anakin! That had always been her greatest fear, even after she had left the Order. She would never admit it to his face, nor would she admit it aloud, but his approval, his confidence in her was a lifeline, one she had clinged to for many years now.
Yes, she was an independent person, now more so than she ever had been. But that didn't mean that Anakin wasn't important to her, important to who she was.
If he was disappointed in her, then she had failed him. And that was her greatest fear of all. Failing Anakin Skywalker.
"Face what we fear most." Ahsoka whispered to herself, remembering Maul's earlier words when she had asked what they would face. In hindsight, she should have known this wasn't the real Anakin. The real Anakin would never attack her in such a way. The real Anakin would never try to kill his friends.
"You are not my Master! And I am not your Padawan!" Ahsoka spoke aloud, reigniting her saber once more as she darted towards the struggling vision of her former Master.
This time round it was 'Anakin' who barely managed to bring his own blade up in time, defending his form from blow after blow from Ahsoka's own saber, each saber clash weakening him further and further, until finally, she broke through his defences, destroying the lightsaber he held in the process, leaving him defenceless.
A cry of pain distracted Ahsoka once more. Turning her head, she saw Maul impale the shroud that had been attacking him with his saber, the vision of what she assumed was his greatest fear evaporating into dust in an instant. The Zabrak seemed content in his victory, his golden eyes burning a ferocious gold in contrast to the darkened chamber around….
Suddenly, a sharp pain crashed into Ahsoka's knee, and she found herself back on the floor, 'Anakin' crawling above her form and wrapping his large hands around her neck, beginning to squeeze with all of his might!
"Tano! This is not a Jedi vision! It is a Sith vision! It is not enough to simply beat your fear. You must destroy it in its entirety!"
She knew what that meant! She had to kill 'Anakin' no matter how much it pained her to do so, even if it was a vision of him. The thought of Anakin Skywalker, dying by her blade… it made her feel sick!
"Kill him Tano, or you die!"
She didn't want to…. but she knew she had to! She had to survive!
"I'm sorry Master." Ahsoka choked out as she angled her saber, pressing the emitter to 'Anakin's chest before igniting the blade, resulting in a pained gasp emerging from the vision of her best friend.
The look on his face, the agony he was in… it broke her heart that she had been the one to do it.
And then, just as with Maul's opponent, the vision faded away into dust, leaving Ahsoka alone with Maul once more.
"Was that who I think that was, Sir?!"
Rex's exclamation, followed by the sounds of his blasters filling the air around them brought Anakin out of his anger induced stupor.
Maul! Darth kriffing Maul had his Padawan! His Ahsoka!
If so much as a skin cell was harmed on Ahsoka when they caught up, he'd tear the Zabrak limb from limb without his lightsaber. Kriff… after what that monster had done to poor Obi-Wan too, he might just do it anyways!
No one ever harmed his friends, his family…. and lived to tell the tale.
Pivoting his blade, Anakin moved to engage the first of what he assumed to be spirits of long-dead Sith. His blue blade clashed against an oncoming red one, deflecting a pair of strikes before unleashing a heavy handed counter of his own, one that left the spirit vulnerable to several blaster bolts courtesy of his loyal Clone Captain.
The shots struck… something… causing the ghostly figure of the Sith to fade before their very eyes, but Anakin had no time to dwell on how exactly he and Rex had just killed a ghost, not with another pair of enemies charging towards him, their own red blades twirling in vicious arcs.
Vicious arcs that were suddenly intercepted by a green lightsaber in the hands of Masana Tide, who moved to assist.
Anakin watched as Masana enacted a long sweep with her saber, aiming for the legs of both ghostly figures. Said figures evaded out of the way before advancing again, their red blades swinging towards Masana's now exposed body.
Except, her body wasn't exposed. As fast as she had moved to sweep out their legs, her own blade was back defending her centre line, deflecting and redirecting the attempted lethal strikes with considerable force. For someone of her size, Masana was fast!
The two ghostly figures attacked the Dowutin again, trying to overwhelm her with several fast strikes, but each were deflected and redirected until an opening presented itself.
Anakin watched as Masana seized the opportunity, swinging her saber out with a heavy strike against one of the ghostly figures, her saber crashing into his and causing him to stumble backwards, disorientated from the impact.
Rather than strike him down with her saber however, Masana made an unorthodox move. Spinning on her heels, she reached her free hand out, grabbing hold of the disorientated ghost by the scruff of his neck, whilst angling her blade in her other hand to block a flurry of strikes from the other ghost, forcing it back until it too stumbled.
Releasing a roar of rage, Masana lifted the ghostly figure in her claw up, before bringing him down into the floor before her. Despite being a ghost of some kind, the figure landed with a resounding crack that Anakin would associate with a fractured skull.
Sure enough, seconds later, the now prone ghost faded just like the one Rex had killed earlier, leaving Masana with one opponent left, who was quickly dispatched when Masana lunged forward with her saber, impaling the ghost on it's burning green tip.
Content that Masana was more than able to hold her own, and grateful for the assistance she had provided, Anakin turned his attention back to the rest of the team.
Bil was engaged in a heated duel with a ghost wielding what looked like a crossguard saber, a weapon of the ancient times. The Jedi Knight pivoted several times, his blue blade dancing around his body in graceful arcs as he defended himself, waiting for an opening to present itself.
Prosset too was locked in a duel of his own against a pair of ghosts, his own green saber clashing against the blades in fast moving arcs, fending them off to the best of his ability. Moments later, Anakin witnessed the Miraluka break through the defences of one of the ghosts, his blade sweeping along it's midsection and causing the ghost to vanish into dust.
Windu meanwhile seemed to be facing the biggest challenge. Four separate ghosts, including one wielding two sabers had moved to engage the Council Member, but Windu did not seem fazed in the slightest, not as he parried a trio of strikes from one ghost, only to move and strike down another with a single forceful blow.
Choosing to assist the Jedi Master, Anakin moved to support, with Rex staying back to wait for an opening of his own.
Reaching out with the Force, Anakin grasped hold of one of the ghosts, pulling him off his feet and towards his blade, severing his head in the process. It was perhaps not the most 'Jedi-like' move to pull off, but right now the situation called for it.
As the decapitated figure faded away, Anakin brought his blade up to clash against the blades of the dual wielding ghost. Years of sparring with Ahsoka had led to him perfecting how to deal with opponents such as these. All he had to do was wear them out.
That was assuming you could wear a ghost out of course!
Bringing his blade up, Anakin blocked a flurry of strikes from the twin red blades, redirecting what he could in hopes of draining the ghost of it's stamina.
Half a minute of intense sword play later, and the ghost finally made a mistake, one that led to a saber embedded in its gut.
As the ghost faded away however, Anakin found to his shock two more advancing on his position, red blades twirling in their hands with malicious intent.
Bringing his blue saber up to defend his centre line, Anakin blocked a barrage of strikes just as Obi-Wan had taught him too. Anakin might have preferred a more aggressive style in saber combat, but there were benefits to learning from the 'Master of Defense' himself.
Strike after strike came his way, and each was blocked with ease, ensuring his survival.
Survival that allowed Windu of all people to intervene and assist, his purple saber coming from nowhere to take out the legs of both of Anakin's opponents, causing them to fade just as the rest of the defeated opponents had done previously.
Nodding his thanks to Windu, Anakin moved his blade to clash against another foe that had appeared, entering into a saber lock that was broken moments later by a stream of blaster fire striking the ghost.
Rex had clearly seen an opening and taken it.
"Die you bastard ghost thing!" A yell of anger rose from Bil, who finally managed to disarm his own opponent, literally. His blue blade cleaved through the ghost's wrist, before being swept along his torso, causing him to fade.
"How many of these things are there!?" Masana called out over the ongoing battle, bringing her large foot down on a ghost she had knocked off its feet, crushing its torso in the process.
"We've had worse." Prosset responded, oddly calm despite the situation they found themselves in. The Miraluka was dealing with another pair of targets, but this time he had opted for a new tactic. Much to Anakin's surprise, Prosset's own saber seemed to separate into two, leaving him with a pair of shotos, one in each hand.
The Miraluka advanced on both ghosts, who held surprised looks on their faces, and began his assault with several rapid strikes, breaking through their defences with each before embedding both of his sabers into the chests of each ghost at the same time, causing them to vanish.
"Prosset?! Since when do you have two sabers?!" Masana called out over the chaos, twirling her blade to deflect an incoming assault, causing the ghost to stumble and leave itself open for a well placed shot from Rex.
"Figured I'd experiment for once. What do you think?"
"As long as you are dispatching bad guys I really don't care Dibs!" Bil's response was through gritted teeth as he sparred against his own opponent, yelping out in pain when the ghost managed to land a light hit on his thigh.
Masana's cry of anger was accompanied by her sudden intervention. Her green saber crashed into the ghost's red, knocking it out of his hand and leaving him defenceless. Masana followed through once more with her clawed hand, the sharp talons wrapping round the ghost's head before squeezing with all her might, crushing the skull in the process.
"Thanks Masana!" Bil called in response as he shrugged off the wound, allowing adrenaline to fuel him onwards, his blue blade sweeping to defend Masana's unprotected flank, eviscerating another ghost in the process.
"There's too many of them!" Rex cried from behind, one of his blasters firing stun blasts as opposed to lethal shots over Anakin's shoulder. Each stun blast struck an approaching ghost's red saber, not doing any damage, but keeping them preoccupied. Rex was smart not to use lethal shots on saber wielders. If he did, the blasts would just be redirected back at the Clone Captain, likely killing him in the process.
"Hold on Rex! We've got this!" Anakin called in response as he shifted his blade again, batting away an incoming red saber, leaving it's wielder once again exposed for Rex, who fired a lethal shot from his second blaster pistol, downing the ghost.
Taking a moment to compose himself, Anakin glanced up at where Maul had kidnapped Ahsoka. The doorway had fully sealed now, and standing between them and it was an army of ghosts, too many for Anakin to count.
And far too many for the six of them to fight head on. Sure, they were holding their own, but it was only a matter of time until fatigue set in and the ghosts overwhelmed them.
"Anyone have any bright ideas?!" Bil called out again as he and Masana covered each other's exposed weakness, working in tandem to survive.
"I'm glad you asked Knight Valen." Came the response, this time from Windu. Anakin could almost swear there was a hint of humour in his voice!
"Well, what is it?!"
Windu's one word response was all that was needed. The Council Member swung his purple saber once more, disposing of a pair of ghosts in one strike, before he extinguished the blade, placing it on his belt. For a brief moment, Anakin could have sworn Windu was going to give up!
Instead, Anakin felt a sudden build up in the Force, one that swam around Windu, channeling all of its power onto him.
Windu's hands extended in that moment, palms facing towards the army of ghosts, and the Force complied.
A massive rush of power echoed throughout Windu's Force signature as he let loose a massive Force push, sending all of the assembled ghosts careening through the air. Each collided with the wall behind them, exploding into dust in the process from the sheer velocity of the impact. No doubt if they had still been living, they all would have suffered several broken bones, spines and necks included.
And then, just like that, aside from the humming of the lightsabers in each Jedi's hand, the hallway fell silent, and the spirits of the Sith of old were no more.
"Tano? Are you alive?"
Ahsoka didn't respond. What could she say? She had just been forced to murder a vision of her Master, or be murdered herself! What sort of Padawan was she if she was willing to sacrifice his life for hers?!
Anakin would be so ashamed of her.
"Tano? Do you function?" Maul asked again, his tone annoyed, but at the same time understanding, which Ahsoka found weird. How could he possibly understand what she was going through?
"Yeah. I'm alive."
"Good. Then we must vacate this room. The exit is now open. Up on your feet former Jedi." Maul spoke again as he moved above her, his red and black face coming into view where Ahsoka was laying on her back.
Adding to her surprise, the Sith extended a hand down to her, offering to help her up.
Sighing to herself, Ahsoka reached her own gauntleted hand up, grasping hold of Maul's wrist, allowing him to pull her up onto her feet.
Once she was up, and had regained her balance, Ahsoka turned and looked back at the way they had originally entered the room. The door was still sealed, and no doubt Anakin and the others were on the other side trying to find a way through.
"That door will not be able to reopen until we vacate this chamber. This challenge was designed for two at a time." Maul said, answering Ahsoka's question before she had even asked it.
"And I suppose you expect me to follow you instead of waiting for my friends to catch up?"
"Of course. After all, I still hold your Temple above hostage. Do you want them all to die?"
"No." Ahsoka replied through gritted teeth, glad that Maul could not see her expression beneath her helmet.
That said, he could clearly feel her annoyance through the Force, judging by the smirk that appeared on his face in the process.
"Excellent. Then we proceed to our shared goal. Come." Maul spoke again, the smirk never leaving his face as he began to leave towards a newly opened doorway. Having no choice, Ahsoka moved to follow.
Stepping through the threshold of the doorway, Ahsoka was surprised when it slammed shut behind her, startling her briefly, something that got a chuckle out of Maul.
Gritting her teeth again, Ahsoka spoke.
"Laugh it up ugly. I'm sure there are some things that make you jump too."
"Indeed there is Tano. Indeed there is."
That seemed to be the end of that line of conversation, but Ahsoka was not done yet. She had something else she wanted to ask, something she wanted to know.
Failing in beside Maul as he led them down yet another seemingly endless hallway illuminated only by the red glow of the walls around them, Ahsoka spoke again.
"So, who was that you were facing back there? Some Sith Lord or something?"
Maul halted in his footsteps in an instant, a rush of fear coming off of him through the Force before he answered.
"That was my former Master. He is a cruel man. Naturally, I fear him, just as you fear your Master."
"I don't fear Anakin!" Ahsoka snapped in reply, and it was true. She didn't fear him… she feared failing him.
"Foolish Jedi sentiment. You will learn in time that the only person you can trust is yourself." Maul countered, his golden eyes rolling once before he began to move again, Ahsoka following beside him.
"Then why do you seem so willing to trust me to help you retrieve this artifact or whatever?" Ahsoka countered as they continued onwards, earning a sigh of annoyance from Maul. Whereas before she had been purposely trying to antagonise and annoy him, this time she was not. She was genuinely interested, and confused at the hypocrisy in his words.
"I do not trust you Tano. We merely have a mutual agreement and goal. Once that goal is fulfilled we shall go our separate ways and never see one another again."
"Knowing my luck I'll find a way to stumble across you by accident. I've lost track of how many times I've run into Grievous!"
"Then perhaps you should learn to be more discreet?"
This time it was Ahsoka's turn to sigh at the mocking tone in Maul's comment. It wasn't an overly harsh tone, but it certainly wasn't a friendly one either. He was clearly trying to push her buttons just as much as she had his earlier.
"Still, how did you even get down here? Was there another way down to this level?"
"Of course there was. You would have to be a special kind of stupid to believe the shaft beneath the Jedi Temple was the only route to the lower level where the Shrine resides!"
Maul's comment confirmed what had been discussed earlier on, which she supposed in a way was a good thing. It meant that her friends and companions weren't stupid after all, if she was taking Maul's description seriously that is.
"So, if I'm right…. you ventured down here into this Shrine all on your lonesome until you realized you needed help? That must have been annoying."
"Excruciatingly so. Alas, this Shrine also offered me a solution to my problem."
"The weapon that crippled the Temple above?" Ahsoka replied, recalling what she had seen, and what Anakin had described to her on their flight from the Chancellor's office to the Jedi Temple.
"You catch on quick. This Shrine housed the weapon I spoke of, one powered by what lies beyond these doors." Maul said, gesturing to the end of a hallway that Ahsoka could now see. Unlike the previous hallways, this one was much more brightly illuminated by fire torches on the walls. How they were burning after all these years of being abandoned Ahsoka didn't know, but she assumed it had something to do with the dark side of the Force. It was mind achingly dominant here after all, and who knew what sort of power it had behind it.
Ahsoka was about to respond to Maul when something caught her eye, or more precisely, three things.
Three ghostly figures, much the same as the ones Maul had apparently summoned earlier, materialized in front of the door, red sabers ignited in their hands, poised to strike as they began to advance towards her and Maul. On instinct, Ahsoka's hand grasped hold of her saber hilt, bracing herself for a fight.
A fight that didn't come, thanks oddly enough to Maul.
The Zabrak stepped in front of her, his palms facing outwards towards the ghostly figures, an act of surrender.
And then he spoke, his tone bordering on what Ahsoka would call upper class snob. She nearly laughed right there and then once the words began to leave his mouth.
"My brothers and sisters. There is no need for violence. There are no Jedi in this section of the Shrine. Please, return to your well earned slumber."
If someone had told Ahsoka that one day she would watch as a Sith Lord appealed to the apparent ghosts of dead Sith… she would have never believed them.
However, after the day she was currently having, clearly anything was possible.
Such as ghosts talking back!
"Your companion is tainted by the light! It must be extinguished!"
"Now my friend, the polite term to use would be 'she', not 'it'. My companion has renounced the Jedi ways, and we seek a holocron of great power that resides in your Shrine. We have already bested the trials to get here. I only ask that you allow us both through." Maul replied to the ghost, seemingly unfazed by the fact that the dead were talking to him.
"No! It's light will consume the Shrine! It must be destroyed."
Maul said nothing at first, instead choosing to merely turn his head to face Ahsoka's, a look of annoyance dominant before turning back to face the trio of ghosts before replying.
"Oh. Very well then."
The sudden twin flashes of red startled Ahsoka, as it clearly did the ghost closest to Maul when he suddenly found himself bisected by Maul's lightsaber.
The figure vanished into thin air, a scream leaving him in the process as Maul turned his attention to the remaining pair of ghosts, spinning his double sided blade in vicious arcs before him, taunting the ghosts, a taunt they took.
Both ghostly figures charged the Zabrak, with one of them being brushed aside by a harsh Force push whilst Maul dueled with the second for a moment, before severing the figure's head, causing it to fade into dust.
The third and final ghostly figure had regained its footing by now, it's red blade twirling in its hand ready for a duel.
A duel that would never come, not as Ahsoka chose that moment to intervene. She removed her own saber from her belt and ignited the golden blade, lunging in the process and impaling the figure from behind, causing it to fade from existence just like the rest. It was not the most Jedi-like move to pull, stabbing an opponent in the back, but then she was no longer a Jedi.
Besides… the ghost was already dead. One couldn't put morals into a situation like this!
"Impressive young one. Perhaps there is hope for you yet." Maul's tone was condescending, showing no appreciation for the assistance she had just offered him. Then again, Ahsoka wasn't surprised. Why would he be appreciative? He was a Sith Lord!
"Jedi and traitor. Face your fate!" The resounding call of what was several voices at once startled Ahsoka as several more ghostly figures materialised around them, surrounding the unlikely partners.
Taking a deep breath, Ahsoka took up the ready position she was most familiar with, her grip on her saber tightening as she braced herself for a fight, slowly backing away from three ghosts that were slowly advancing on her, ignited red blades twirling in their hands.
Suddenly, she found her back come into contact with something solid, and glanced over her shoulder to find Maul standing back to back with her, his own saber ready to face the ghosts that advanced on him.
Sighing to herself, and accepting the reality that she would need to fight back to back with the person who had murdered Obi-Wan's Master, Ahsoka turned her attention back to the advancing ghosts and made the first move.