“A Different Path” (Nayel, Herneth)

Note: The story takes place after Chapter 9 of KOTET but contains no spoilers.

Note #2: Herneth is Nayel’s apprentice. She arrived on Odessen with him, when he joined Attira.

“Master.”

Herneth’s soft voice behind his back didn’t startle Nayel. He carefully put the tablet back in its place, and then turned to her.

“This is probably the last time I call you that,” she said, bravely looking into his red eyes. She had made her decision, and was ready to go on with it, but she was also fully aware these could be the last moments of her life.

But she owed him this much: honesty.

Her master always terrified her. He was cruel and ruthless, and she could never understand his lack of compassion and empathy. How his mind worked that no suffering made his heart ache?

However, she also always respected him. He was the first person in her life who treated her with kindness, never called ‘slave’ with contempt, and sacrificed a lot of his time to teach her. The knowledge he’d passed on to her was enormous, and his trust in sharing dark Sith rituals with her humbling.

But she was never a true Sith. She was forced into the academy, but never wanted to become what they wanted her to. She enjoyed the knowledge, but not the cruelty; cultural artefacts, but not their dark application; rich history, but not the conclusions her instructors expected her to draw from it.

Her path led somewhere else.

“Why?” he asked.

“I have spoken with Master Tarkana. She agreed to take me as her padawan.”

She’d expected rage. The Dark Lord didn’t need much to infuriate him but what she saw on his face was the last thing she’d thought she would: disappointment. Even sadness. He was silent, looking at her, and she felt she’d failed him.

“You did so much for me, and I can never repay you for all the good, care, and respect you showed me. But… being Sith is not my place. You must know that. You tried your best to prepare me for difficult life among other Sith, and my being still alive is the best proof you succeeded, but I don’t want to live like this any longer.

“You will always be very important to me, Master, and I will never forget what you did for me. I’m sure I’d be dead by now without you.

“But this is something I must do. This is my true calling. I cannot be a Sith. I am a Jedi.”

His expression hardened. His eyebrows drew together, and his lips tinned with anger.

“Get out of my sight,” he growled.

“Master…”

“Don’t you dare to call me that ever again…” he hissed. “Get out!” he yelled, stretching his hand toward the exit. “Before I kill you!”

It didn’t escape her that his voice shook but not only with fury. She’d hurt him. Failed him.

Betrayed him.

“Forgive me,” she whispered, but the look he gave her prevented any more words leaving her mouth.

She wouldn’t be forgiven, ever. She knew he was incapable of that. And maybe… she didn’t deserve it either.

“I’m so sorry.”

He jerked. It startled her for two reasons; she hadn’t expected it, but also she knew he’d barely stopped himself from hurting her right this moment. She wanted to say something soothing, something appropriately apologetic, but she understood that her words were hurting him even more, adding more pain to the betrayal he had just suffered.

She backed out of the room, watching him fuming in cold silence.

When she was outside and out of sight, she heard the characteristic sound of his lightsaber being activated. She stopped, wondering if he was chasing her. She’d never survive a fight with him; she knew that for certain. But no, he didn’t follow her. She heard him scream in rage, and a noise of smashing destruction raining on every object in the room.

A tear rolled down her cheek. She’d never forgive herself what she’d done to him, but she knew she had to take care of her own future. It was the hardest thing she’d ever done, but it was the right thing to do.

She was to become a Jedi.

Still, the greatest influence on her life, and the most important person, whom she ever had, would always remain Darth Nox. Even if he wouldn’t even look at her from now on, he would always be uniquely meaningful to her.

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