"Fight him, son, for there is no alternative."
There were other voices as well - some of which spoke alien tongues - but none as clear as the one from within.
"To know where evil grows and permit it to flourish is to accept responsibility for all that follows."
A mound appeared in front of them. It marked the center of the Valley and the point from which the rays of light emanated. Someone had left footprints in the soft soil, and Kyle followed them up onto the mound. Jan followed. The light, which had grown more intense, strobed upward and splashed across the rocky ceiling.
Kyle could "feel" the power gathering around him and knew time was running out.
"Stop him!" a disembodied voice begged. "Stop him before he enslaves the billions we fought to defend! Even now he strengthens the bonds that hold us here! He plans to feed on us, to take our power, to use it for evil!"
Kyle started to reply but stopped when the ground started to shake and debris rained from above. It was difficult to walk, so he scrambled on all fours, determined to reach the top of the mound.
The center was hollow. Dirt fell away from the edge and avalanched into the depression below. Jan arrived at Kyle's side, looked into the mound, and was amazed by what she saw - Jerec, quivering with the power that coursed through his body, light spilling from empty eye sockets. His voice came from everywhere at once.
"Yes! Join me! Share the power!"
Kyle moved forward; Jan grabbed for his arm and missed. The Jedi jumped, fell through the air, and absorbed the impact with his legs. His lightsaber sizzled as he turned it on.
"Yessss," the chorus chanted, "free us that we might merge with the Force!"
Jerec chose to ignore the lightsaber and the spirit voices. He spoke without turning.
"Your efforts are misguided. Can you hear them? Whining and sniveling? Is that what you seek to become? Another voice in a chorus of weakness?"
Jerec turned, extended his hand, and triggered an explosion. Kyle was propelled up and out of the chamber and onto the Valley floor. The impact knocked the air from his lungs.
He was lying there, trying to breathe, when an icy wind swept through the Valley. It circled slowly at first, as if gathering energy, before steadily picking up speed. Dust and other bits of debris were vacuumed up and whirled about. Voices wailed as mist billowed and the temperature continued to drop.
Kyle made it to one knee as Jerec levitated up and out of the mound. Voices moaned as large chunks of the inner mound and paving stones followed him up. Kyle stood, heart pounding, staring upward. What could he do? Jerec had claimed the Valley's power, had already harnessed it, and would soon rule what remained of the Empire. And then what?
A new Empire, worse than the first, and a whole lot bigger.
Despair threatened to pull him down. To come so far only to have failed those who counted on him was worse than death itself. The Rebel watched Jerec rise and marveled at the power the Dark Jedi had unleashed. Power waiting to be used, power that could defeat Jerec, that could pull him down...
Kyle brought himself up short. What had Jerec said? That's the second time you called on the dark side. What was the magic number, anyway? The repetitions beyond which one was changed? Was it three? Four? Five?
Suddenly, Kyle knew that the number didn't matter - that the light side offered more than enough power for any task he would be called upon to do, and that knowledge was the key.
The Jedi closed his eyes, resisted the temptation to look at the light that strobed against his eyelids, and sent a series of commands. He gathered the Force around him, shaped it into a protective cocoon, and sealed Jerec within.
Jerec felt a sense of warmth and peace as the cocoon of light formed around him. It was a wonderful sensation - and one he enjoyed, until something went wrong. The Jedi fell, struggled to stay aloft, and fell again. Something, or someone, had cut his access to the dark side of the Force...
Who? How? The Dark Jedi fought to break through and knew it was too late. The dark, nearly black column of energy that pushed up out of the mound had been severed, and he, along with the rocks that had risen with him, plummeted to the ground.
Kyle opened his eyes, saw the Dark Jedi fall, and knew he had taken the correct approach. By doing something positive, by protecting Jerec from evil, the battle had been won. The ground under Kyle's boots crunched as he approached the fallen Jerec. Though stunned and badly bruised, Jerec was otherwise uninjured. In spite of his blindness, the Dark Jedi knew that Kyle stood over him with lightsaber in hand. His own weapon lay ten meters away - but may as well have been on the far side of the planet. Having never shown mercy to others, Jerec sought none for himself.
"Strike me down and the power of the dark side will be yours! It was I who took your father's head... or have you forgotten?"
Kyle looked down at the man before him and felt a strange sense of pity. Here he was, physically powerless, but still hoping to bring Kyle over or, failing that, to secure a quick and painless death. The Rebel shook his head.
"No, I haven't forgotten, and I never will."
He extended his hand, felt the Dark Jedi's lightsaber strike the surface of his palm, and then threw the weapon to Jerec. Jerec rejoiced in the agent's stupidity, leaped to his feet, and thumbed the power switch. Energy crackled as he moved forward, and Kyle came to meet him. The Rebel spun on the ball of his right foot, executed what Tal called the "falling leaf" and "slashed from the sky."
Jerec stutter-stepped, brought his weapon up and across, and waited for the inevitable result. Something warm touched his side, sliced inward, and stopped just short of his spine. It took Jerec a moment to understand what it was, to realize that his life had come to an end, and to start his long, dark journey.
Jan arrived at Kyle's side as Jerec's body started to fall. It seemed to lose substance as the Force departed, and it landed like a shadow on the ground. In the meantime, the ancient bonds that Jerec had worked so hard to repair had been strained by the recent turmoil. Now, subjected to even more stress as the prisoners hurled themselves about, the invisible fabric began to tear.
One of the more active spirits spotted the hole, slipped through, and was quickly followed by another. The spell was broken! An unseen chorus screamed their joy, circled the Valley, and poured into the sky. A joyful singing was heard as the spirits rode the wind out into the atmosphere - and Kyle felt a chill run up his spine as voices thanked him, one after another.
And then they were gone. Kyle knew that the Army of Light had set forth on one last journey, that his mission was at an end. The "storm" went on for what seemed like a long time but was no more than minutes. Finally, after the wind had died down and one last screamer had followed the rest to freedom, the Rebels turned away.
The walk out through the monuments was a slow, almost reverential affair - that ended in front of a long stone wall. Kyle whirled in response to a series of clicks, whirs, and beeps, saw Wee Gee, and grinned.
"Weeg! You survived the crash! I'm glad you found us."
The droid squeaked happily and propelled itself forward. Kyle turned toward the wall, triggered his saber, and struck a carefully aimed blow. A section of stone fell away and landed at his feet. Wee Gee turned his vid pickup in Jan's direction, and she shrugged. The Rebel, unaware of the byplay behind his back, knelt before the wall.
He said, "Thank you, Father," and Jan, who had moved close enough to see, saw two freshly carved reliefs. She had seen bolos of Morgan Katarn - and knew him by sight.
The other face was new, but Kyle had described him often enough, and she knew it was Rahn. There was a moment of silence as Kyle bowed his head and flowed with the Force.
Then, with Jan's hand in his and Wee Gee following behind, the Rebels made their way out of the Valley and up into the sunlight. And it was then, at that exact moment, that the prophecy came true...
A knight had come, a battle had been fought, and the prisoners were free.