Chapter 1: Safe
“And Caleb isn’t here, only Kanan.“
“Caleb. Caleb, wake up.”
He groans, mumbling incoherently into the pillow as he rolls onto his side.
The sudden, quiet hiss of his name is enough to wake him up, at least a little bit. He continues to grumble as he sits up, rubbing his eye tiredly and opening his mouth to complain when he sees his master’s face.
The older faerie looks panicked, or at least as panicked as Caleb’s ever seen her. Her braids are sloppy, looking as if she’s just barely finished them before rushing to wake him up.
“No time. We have to go, Caleb. Now.” He stumbles out of bed as her leonine tail lashes, indicating her anxiety. Once his first door is on the floor she grasps his hand, already tugging him after her as he stumbles to regain his balance.
“Wait, Depa, what—“
“I’ll explain later.” She pauses at a corner, glancing around before pulling him after her.
She rounds another corner and stops, shoving him behind her and opening her hand to summon her lightsaber at the same time. The faintly shimmering sword suddenly meets another, red-tinged one—and Caleb’s blood runs cold.
He turns and bolts, holding out his hand but not bothering to watch as his weapon appears in his grasp. Skidding around a corner, he hears the familiar sparking hiss as the weapons met, the sound of metal on metal lingering in the air as they break away only to clash together again. He keeps running, heart pounding in his throat.
Just an Unseelie. He can alert the guards, and then—
He rounds another corner and comes face to face with a blue-tinged lightsaber. He sighs in relief, breathing heavily and preparing for the words to pour out until he stops and gets a good look at the guard’s body language.
The helmeted faerie is standing defensively, hand and weapon out. Unease flickers in his mind. The whisper is soft when it comes.
He turns around and bolts, just in time to avoid the sharp arc that the guard’s weapon makes. A fraction of a second longer, and his head would’ve been separated from the rest of him.
Get out get out ge—
The rhythmic chanting in his head screeches to a halt, along with him, as he turns a corner and the sight of one of the guards fighting another Jedi, one he can’t remember the name of, meets him head on. Caleb turns once again, before the guard can notice, and runs.
He’s bolting down corridors heedlessly, just knowing he needs to get away, not caring how.
He skids to a stop and hurriedly backtracks to the door, wrenching it open and stepping out.
It looks as if the Seven Underworlds have broken loose.
Kanan gasps, panting heavily as the heat leaves him.
He’s not in the humidity of the midsummer night in the Seelie Court, he’s—
It’s cooler here. He grounds himself with that, allowing his fingers to dig themselves into the damp earth, curling around the larra grass as he breathes in deeply. The Court hadn’t smelled of horses and ash trees, not the same way it smells here.
And Caleb isn’t here, only Kanan.
But it’s not only him. It’s Hera, lying only a few feet away and stiller than the breeze had been on that night, the slight movement of her chest the only sign she’s alive. Ghost and Phantom dozing on their feet, the latter’s ear twitching every few seconds. Chopper, stretched out on his side with his own tail splayed out across his hind legs as his back touches Hera’s side lightly. Zeb, one leg crossed over the other in a manner that would leave anyone who doesn’t know him unsure if he’s really asleep or not, snoring loudly several meters away. And only a meter or two away from him, the kid, Ezra, curls in on himself as if trying to shield himself from something. Knowing where the kid came from, Kanan doesn’t blame him.
He doesn’t need to look to know Sabine’s on watch, likely awakened by nightmares of whatever she was trying to remember. And any attempt to take over her shift will get the same rebuttal.
That doesn’t mean he can’t sit with her as well.
Grunting softly, he gets to his feet, ignoring the memory of the searing heat that had greeted him upon opening the door to—
No. He shakes his head as he walks, running a hand through his loose hair in an attempt to untangle it enough to tie it back into its usual tail as he approaches Sabine. The teenager’s leaning against the front of a large rock that makes up most of the cliff that overlooks the valley below. If it was anyone else, he’d be surprised by the fact that she’s managing to keep her balance like that on the precipice.
However, it’s Sabine, and very few things about her surprise him anymore.
He clears his throat as he approaches, not wanting to startle her into falling off. She turns her head just enough to see that it’s him who’s walking up to sit on the edge of the rock above her before returning her gaze to the drop below.
He’s okay to let the silence remain as they take comfort in each other’s presence. He breathes in through his nose deeply, letting it out as a heavy sigh as he starts to tie his hair back. Sabine stays motionless, arms crossed as she stares down.
“Can’t sleep?” she asks finally, and he knows it’s to break the silence more than anything else.
She gives a short, breathy laugh in response, and they fall silent again. This time, it's him who speaks first.
“How long have you been up here?”
She shrugs, uncaring as a couple of pebbles slide loose from the dirt at the movement and skitter down the slope below. “A few hours, maybe. Took over for Zeb.”
She hesitates before nodding, and he doesn’t press her. She’ll answer in her own time, he knows. Or not. Either way, it’s her choice.
Or maybe dawn will come first.
It doesn’t matter which. It never has. Sighing again, he grabs the leather cord that’s wrapped around his wrist and pulls it loose in a swift motion as the other hand holds his hair back. Twisting it around before tying it off, he glances at Sabine again. Unlike him, she’s completely awake, showing no sign of falling asleep again or even of being tired as she stares out into the open air.
“Do you want to come sit up here, at least? You’re making me a bit nervous.” He tries to soften the suggestion with a joke, though he knows if she could read auras she’d see the truth in it immediately.
It’s a long moment before she responds in any way, but finally she nods and turns, more rocks rolling down the sheer slope as she throws herself up onto the rock, pulling herself up more before swinging a leg over and rolling into a crouch. She sits on the edge near his feet, kicking her legs and still staring aimlessly at the valley below them.
Sighing, Kanan sits as well, kneeling despite the hard rock beneath as he casts her a sideways glance.
“You know you can always talk to us if you remember something, right?”
She jumps, as if having forgotten he was there. Nodding hurriedly, Sabine replies. “Ye- yeah, I know.”
He nods. “Good.” They lapse into silence once more, but it's easier, and it doesn’t feel the need to be broken any longer.
“So when do I get one of those?”
Kanan smiles, raising an eyebrow and then his lightsaber. “This?”
“Yeah. Don’t all faeries get one?”
“You don’t just ‘get one,’ kid, you’ve gotta earn it.”
Kanan claps a hand on his shoulder, smiles, and he could be wrong but he doesn’t think the man notices his slight flinch.
Kanan’s smile only widens. “Training.” He holds the sword out to Ezra, whose eyes only widen as he studies the shimmering blade almost reverently. He ignores the man’s hand underneath his on the hilt, focusing instead of running his hand on the sword hilt.
Kanan extends another hand, stopping him before his grasp goes past the pommel. “You’ll burn yourself, kid.”
“It isn’t iron,” he mutters, twisting away mouth to rid the pommel of Kanan’s second hand and returning his grip to the hilt anyway. Kanan barks out a short laugh.
“That would burn anyone, faerie or no. And I think you’d like to keep all your fingers today.”
Ezra rolls his eyes, but takes the advice to heart. He gives the blade an experimental test swing, letting the not-completely-solid metal slice through the air in a wide arc. As the blade leaves Kanan’s grasp, however, it disappears. Turning back to Kanan, he raises an eyebrow.
“It only works for me, if I’m touching it. No one else can use it.” Ezra nods in understanding, still staring at the same place the sword had been before dissolving.
“Who made this?”
“I did,” he admits after a beat, eyes flickering down for a moment. “Back when the Seelie Court wasn’t...dissolved.”
“Alright, I have a question. Wh—“
“Not yet.” He shakes his head before continuing. “If you do this right, then you can ask one.”
Ezra sighs, glowers, but nods. He stoops to pick up the training stick from the ground again and raises it in a defensive position.
Kanan chuckles, shakes his head. He approaches and starts to fix the teen’s stance.
“We’ve got a long way to go, kid.”
It’s several weeks later, when they’re traveling, that he starts to get a hint as to what they’re really doing here. They stop the wagon at a fork in the road, and Kanan and Hera start arguing. Finally the dark-skinned woman gets out, Kanan following. They stop in front of the horses, and he notices Hera absently toying with Phantom’s forelock as she continues arguing with him in hushed tones.
He glances over at Sabine nervously. The pair, along with Zeb and Chopper—the latter of which is wandering somewhere in the woods nearby—are taking their turn out of the wagon for a change; Ezra never particularly likes taking his turns with Sabine because she’ll never talk to him. Or to anyone, really.
“What?” she asks with a strong undertone of exasperation, turning to him as if noticing him for the first time.
“What’re they arguing about?”
She shrugs. “Not sure. Ask Zeb.”
He turns to Zeb. Before he can even ask him the same question, the Lasat shakes his head.
“I dunno, kid.”
He groans in frustration, before blinking at an unfamiliar sound. Kanan’s unhitching Phantom from the wagon, and Hera’s standing by in tense silence. Ezra takes an unconscious step forward.
At the motion, Kanan turns, sees him, and makes a beckoning gesture. “Kid, let’s go.”
He approaches hesitantly, glancing up. “Go where?”
“I’ll explain later. But we have to hurry right now.”
Ezra nods slowly, and then Kanan’s handing him Phantom’s reins and unhitching Ghost, too. His brows shoot up in surprise.
“So everyone else is just staying here?”
“They’re hiding in the woods. Chopper might be able to take them a little farther, but Hera’s not sure. Wherever they are, they’ll be safe, and we’ll be back soon. Now mount up.”
“Um...okay…” he says slowly before leading the pony to a tree stump nearby. Phantom snorts as he gets on, raising a back hoof and threatening to kick out. Kanan mounts from the ground, bringing Ghost over without complaint from either party.
“ Let's get going, kid. We’re burning daylight.”
Ezra nods, finally getting the pony to move forward, albeit hesitantly. Together, the pair heads off onto the left fork of the road.
As soon as they round a bend and they’re out of sight, Kanan pushes Ghost into a trot, Ezra struggling momentarily to get Phantom to follow suit. Ezra glances over at the man while they’re trotting, and he swallows. Finally, he dares to ask his question.
“So why are we leaving them?”
“Hera said a contact of hers brought her a lead. She was gonna bring us all along, but.” He sighs.
“It’s less dangerous if just us two go to investigate it?” he asks in an attempt to fill in the gaps in Kanan’s explanation.
“No, it’s just the location. It’s near the sea. It’s easier for Hera if she doesn’t go.”
Something about Kanan’s explanation sounds off, and nags at him, but he shrugs it off, only nodding in response and falling silent as he quietly urges Phantom to keep pace with the larger grey mare.
Chapter 2: The Disk
"There’s many of us; not many left, but many who share the name."
They reach their destination about a day or so later. It’s small, a hamlet located primarily on a large hill overlooking a cliff which, in turn, is overlooking a rocky shoreline.
They stop on another hill, one further away, and watch the village for a while. Phantom stamps after several minutes of silence, snorting and tossing her head. The other three ignore her, but finally her agitation at having to stand still in the wind gets to Ezra. He swallows, glancing warily at Kanan, and when the man doesn’t appear to notice he clears his throat. Slowly, the Jedi turns, raising an eyebrow.
“Why’re we waiting?”
“Because I’m trying to see if it’s a trap or not. There’s only one way to tell for sure of course, but I’d prefer to know what we’re getting into before it gets to that point.”
They fall silent again, and Ezra returns his gaze to the town. He squints against the horizon, trying to see details, but he can just barely make out the outlines of building and moving gray dots that must be the town’s inhabitants as it is. Kanan picks up the reins again after several more minutes, clucking softly to Ghost as he wheels the mare around and heads back down the hill. Ezra hurries to follow on Phantom, the pony tossing its head the whole way down.
“Why are we going back?”
“We’re not. We’re just leaving the horses here.”
“But we don’t have anything to tie them with. What if they run off, or someone takes them, or the Empire sees them, or—“
“Empire won’t see ‘em.” Kanan dismounts at the base of the hill, taking Ghost’s reins over her head and twisting them before slipping them back over. “And they won’t run off.” He approaches Phantom as Ezra gets off and tries to twist the reins himself before stepping back sheepishly as Kanan takes over, making quick work of what Ezra couldn’t make sense of.
“Can you show me how to do that sometime?” the teenager asks as Kanan slips the reins back over and starts heading around the hill.
“So why can’t the Empire see them?”
“They’re lys hetts. Light horses. Since I was the last one to shield them, no one except members of the Seelie Court can see them unless I let them.”
“Then how come I—“
“Because I’m letting you. Now be quiet until we find the contact.” Ezra pouts for a minute as they crest the hill to the town.
They’re greeted by a group of spear-wielding men, all glaring intimidatingly at them. Ezra shrinks back, taking an subconscious half step behind Kanan.
“What business do you have with the people of Skessvangar?” someone in the middle of the group calls loudly.
“I was told someone I knew lives here,” Kanan responds in a measured tone.
“I’m told he goes by Fulcrum now.”
There’s a spark of recognition in the spokesperson’s eyes and he steps back, lowering his spear. Slowly, the rest of their group steps back as well, making room for Kanan and the teen to enter the town.
The spokesperson leads them to the very edge of the town, the part of the hill that’s on its own cliff. Ezra experiences a brief period of panic when the thought that they might be being led to their deaths enters his mind.
It leaves when their guide stops at the house, no, hut, on the very edge of the cliff. It looks like it could blow off and into the ocean at any point. Ezra shivers.
The guide leaves after Kanan knocks, and several seconds later it opens to reveal a man with fawn-colored skin and dark but graying hair. He studies both Kanan and Ezra carefully. The teen shifts his weight after a few moments, gaze dropping.
“What do you want?” the man says slowly.
“Hera sent us. She couldn’t meet you here, but she said you had information about the skin,” Kanan answers quietly. The man’s eyes widen fractionally and he nods, opening the door wider and gesturing for them to enter. Kanan steps inside and Ezra follows, still close enough to the older man that they’re almost attached.
Their host leads them to a small, roughly hewn table in the middle of the room, and sits opposite them. Kanan takes the other chair, leaving Ezra to move one of the nearby stools over.
“Did Hera tell you why I contacted her?”
“She said you had information regarding what she’s looking for.” Kanan chooses his words carefully, keeping his tone completely neutral. Ezra listens in silence, watching the other man’s expression closely.
“That would be correct. Here.” He passes a small, dark golden disk to Kanan. The man glances at it only briefly, running a thumb over the surface before pocketing it. He stands, glancing expectantly at Ezra. It takes him a minute to realize what the Jedi’s waiting him for, but once he does he quickly stands, nearly tripping over both himself and the stool. Kanan returns his attention to the dark-haired man.
“We’ll take our leave now. She’ll be glad to have this.”
“Wait.” Their host stands as well, circling the table to reach them. “There’s many of us; not many left, but many who share the name. Hera will know me more familiarly as Sato. It may give her some comfort to know those of us who are still alive.”
Kanan nods slowly. “You can call me Kanan. He’s my...apprentice.” He gestures to Ezra.
Sato nods. “I am glad to have made your acquaintances, both of you, in these dark times.”
“And the same to you.”
“He’s not going to last a week.”
Ezra glances up at Kanan, concern obvious on his features. “Who?”
“The man we just met.” Kanan’s words are clipped and short, the same as his steps across the field as they make their way back to the horses. His expression is stormy, and even if he hadn’t taught Ezra the basics of aura reading he wouldn’t have been able to miss the anger rolling off of him—though what the cause is, he’s not sure.
“Why isn’t he going to?”
“A lot of reasons, largely us.” Kanan’s silent for a moment, and he opens his mouth to ask another question when the man continues. “Neither will anyone else there.”
He’s silent on the way back, and it’s only once they’re mounted and trotting back to rejoin their group that Ezra speaks again. “Why didn’t you tell him my name?”
“Couldn’t tell if he was faerie or not.” Kanan’s voice is still clipped, with anger simmering beneath. “And even still, it’s better not to.”
“Why would that matter? I mean, he’s clearly not a supporter of the Empire.”
Kanan abruptly brings Ghost to a halt, staring at him incredulously. “You do know the rules for dealing with other faeries, right? No matter what Court?”
Kanan sighs. “Alright, first rule and probably the most important one—don’t tell anyone your full name. Use a nickname, none at all, or even your first name if you trust them enough—but don’t tell anyone your full name.”
Only when Ezra nods and verbally confirms his understanding does Kanan nudge Ghost back up into a trot. He kicks Phantom into a trot as well, and then realizes something else.
“Wait, so you trust that Sato guy?”
Kanan casts him a glance. “No.”
“Then why did you give him your first name?”
“But when he asked, you said Kan—“
“Kid, that’s not my name.”
Ezra falls silent, allowing Phantom to fall behind Ghost again.
Chapter 3: Sabacc
"Her expression is still deadpan, but he gets the feeling that not all of what she’s saying is meant to be taken sarcastically."
I literally had to look up like five different sites about sabacc rules for this chapter...and then I barely ended up incorporating anything. Oh well. There'll be a next time.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They meet up with the remainder of their group near nightfall the next day, a few miles ahead of where they left them. Apparently Chopper had managed to move the wagon slightly, though he had repeatedly pointed out how it would likely give him back problems for the remainder of his now much-shortened life.
Soon after returning, Kanan makes some excuse about talking to Hera, and the two disappear for a while. They return much later to where Zeb and Sabine broke camp a few hours prior to Kanan and Ezra’s return, still discussing something in quiet tones. Chopper wakes up and glances over at the pair briefly from his spot near the horses, but snorts and drifts off again once he decides there’s no issue.
Ezra glances up from their game of sabacc as well, but Zeb and Sabine barely acknowledge the couple’s passing. He watches as Hera starts to stalk off deeper into the woods, but Kanan grabs her arm. His grasp slips to her wrist and then breaks as she roughly twists away before walking toward him instead of away. He half closes his eyes, watching the pair’s auras in silence. Hera’s is, surprisingly, a slight crimson and a dark, dark blue. He recognizes the blue; it’s fear, the darker the stronger, but why? What does Hera have to fear? However, he doesn’t recognize the red; Kanan never mentioned that one. He’ll ask later.
Kanan’s is blue as well, but only slightly. Mostly, it’s white; he’s worrying but still telling the truth about whatever they’re discussing.
His eyes widen as he continues to watch their hushed conversation, trying in vain to make out what they’re saying. And then he realizes something much simpler—he can just read their lips, if he’s even able to from this distance. He can’t make out Kanan’s words, but he can make out snippets of Hera’s.
She’s saying something about not leaving...not going back...and a lot of head shaking...and then….
Sabine’s hand clamps down on his shoulder, hard. He gets the impression she didn’t mean to do it nearly as hard as she did, but he still shoots her a glare as he glances up at her.
“Done trying to eavesdrop? It’s your turn, kid.”
He turns back to her and Zeb and their game of sabacc, noting with a frown that he’s now losing. Two Demise cards and four others that don’t match suit. And none of the values add up to much of anything, either.
He tosses a couple of coins into the main pot anyway, brushing hair out of his eyes as he glances at Zeb. The Lasat’s frowning at his own cards, studying them with the most concentrated look Ezra’s ever seen.
And then Kanan and Hera walk up, the latter with her hands on her hips and frowning while Kanan’s expression is unreadable as he watches them in silence with his arms are crossed.
“Zeb, what are you doing teaching them how to play saba—”
“—without me?” Kanan finishes at the same time as Sabine tries to defend the Lasat.
“I already knew how to play,” she volunteers. Kanan smirks slightly at that, then glances at the pots while fingering his goatee.
“How far into it are you?”
“Sit down, we can still deal you in.” Sabine shifts, moving a foot or so over as Zeb does the same next to her. Ezra only watches in silence as Hera lets out a frustrated groan, throwing up her hands and muttering something in another language as she walks away.
The game continues in silence, Kanan’s expression returning to its customary blankness as he studies his cards and tosses a few coins into the main pot.
Three games in and so far, Kanan’s won the most, which is to be expected knowing him. And though Ezra doesn’t beat Sabine, he does manage to beat Zeb in all three games, and gets one point away from beating her. It’s enough to earn some of Kanan’s respect, more than a little bit of Sabine’s surprise, and most of Zeb’s anger.
Conveniently, he disappears after the third game.
He helps Kanan hitch Ghost and Phantom back up the next morning; a night spent sleeping as far as possible from Zeb has mostly dissipated the man’s annoyance at his defeat. Hera’s on the first shift walking for the morning, and she and Chopper lag behind slightly as they discuss something in quiet tones. Ezra has a feeling it has to do with their conversation last night.
As the winners from the night before, Kanan and Sabine get to be in the first shift on the wagon, and Zeb and Ezra take the walking shift, though they remain closer to the front of the wagon than Hera does.
“Hey, kid,” Sabine calls down. He glances up at her. “Where’d you learn to play sabacc like that? That can’t have been the first time you’ve played it.”
“I learned back in Lothal, in Capital City. A couple of the guys I ran messages for taught me. And everybody bets more back in Lothal.” He leaves it at that, silently thankful she doesn’t question him further on the matter.
That night, while Sabine’s trying to show him how to bank the fire better, his gaze is repeatedly drawn to Hera and Chopper. The horse-like faerie is laying down but still sitting up, legs tucked mostly underneath him and ears pricked forward as he listens intently to Hera. She’s leaning against his side and turning an object in her hands, but seems to be talking about something unrelated. He jolts as he recognizes the small object.
It’s the disk, the one that her contact gave Kanan at Skessvangar.
Finally Chopper extends his head toward the disk, and Hera raises it to his muzzle. He inhales deeply, and she flips it over, allowing him to see the other side.
“Ezra, are you listening?”
He jumps, glancing back at Sabine. She’s staring at him with an unimpressed expression, eyebrows raised. He ducks his head sheepishly, unable to suppress a slight smile (kriff the reason why he can’t; he’s glad she’s human and can't read auras) as he rubs the back of his neck. “Y- yeah, sorry.”
“Why are you even so interested in them?” she presses, casting a glance over his shoulder at the odd pair.
“Still trying to figure out what exactly Chopper is.”
“He’s a faerie,” she deadpanned.
“Well, yeah, I know that, but I just can’t figure out what kind.”
She shrugs, starting to rise. “He’s not a kelpie, I know that much. Otherwise, with how much Zeb antagonizes him, we’d all be dead by now.” Her expression is still deadpan, but he gets the feeling that not all of what she’s saying is meant to be taken sarcastically.
“Where are you going?”
She shrugs again. “You’re clearly more interested in the great mystery that’s Chopper than something a lot more practical, so I’m gonna go take Phantom out.”
“Where?” he asks, scrambling to his feet to follow. “And I’m not more interested in Chopper, I just got distracted—”
“To the woods. Target practice,” she answers over her shoulder, cutting him off. She’s already halfway across their camp.
“With the pony? ”
She reaches the horses and stops, snorting. “You think Ghost would let me take her more than a hundred meters from Kanan?”
“Well, no, but isn’t Phantom too small?”
Sabine turns back around, not bothering to saddle Phantom as she slips a bridle over the mare’s head and starts to lead her to the wagon. “You’re the one who rides her the most, so it’s a safe guess to say you would know.” She reaches the wagon, searches the back for something and pulls out a bow and a quiver. Slipping them on, she mounts Phantom from the ground, ignoring Ezra as she heads out of their camp.
Enjoy the fluff while it lasts :)))
Chapter 4: Supply Run
“Just don’t get yourself killed.”
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A couple of weeks later, their camp is a couple of miles outside of what most people would consider a town.
Ezra, however, in light of the population of most of the cities in Lothal, considers it a city.
Kanan unhitches the horses but doesn’t rub them down; instead he calls everyone over for a meeting. Ezra approaches with Sabine and Zeb, standing between them as Kanan clears his throat and begins to address the group.
“As you probably saw on our way up, there’s a town in the valley down there.” Kanan gestures vaguely toward the east, toward the valley. “And we’re also running low on supplies. I talked to Hera about it before this, and we decided to send Ezra and I on a supply run. So if anyone needs anything, speak up now.”
Ezra glances around the small group. Sabine shakes her head, folding her arms and glancing at Zeb. The Lasat shrugs. “Nothin’ in particular.”
“Alright, good. Ezra, let’s go.” Kanan turns, starting back toward the wagon and Ghost as the rest of the group disperses.
“Yes, now. No use wasting time tomorrow or risking traveling in the dark.” Kanan grabs the large mare’s tack and begins saddling her. She remains still, only snorting quietly as he settles the saddle onto her.
Ezra nods slowly before going to the wagon and grabbing Phantom’s set of tack. The pony mare squeals when he puts the saddle on, kicking out and threatening to buck. He glances at Kanan, watching as the man pulls the cinch and the mare just stamps. The Jedi glances back, brow furrowing when he sees that Ezra hasn’t started with the cinch. He strides over, taking the cinch and putting it on before quickly pulling it tight. “Check it again before you get on,” is all he says as he grabs Ghost’s bridle from the wagon and puts it on the mare. He double checks the cinch again and then gets on, watching as Ezra bridles Phantom and checks the cinch before leading the mare over to a rock and getting on.
Ghost picks up a trot once they were a good distance away from the camp, Ezra easily getting Phantom to speed up as well. Catching up to the man, Ezra glances up at him.
“What’s your question?”
“What does a red aura mean?”
Kanan finally actually looks at him, brows knitting together in confusion. “Where’d you see that?”
“Just a person, a while ago.”
His face becomes slightly troubled, and he doesn’t respond for a long moment.
The man blinks, clearing his throat. “Sorry, um...red means longing.”
Ezra nods slowly, allowing Phantom to drop back again. “Thanks.”
Kanan simply nods, and before he’s completely behind him again, he sees the man’s expression turn thoughtful.
It’s only about forty minutes of riding before they reach the town. “Keep your head down,” Kanan instructs as they approach the entrance of the town. “Don’t draw attention to yourself.”
Ezra nods silently, almost missing Kanan’s next comment, muttered under his breath as they pass under the wall.
“I have a bad feeling about this…”
As they walk down the main road, Kanan starts speaking in a low tone.
“Okay, so here’s a list of some of what Hera wanted.” He clucks Phantom forward to take a paper from Kanan, scanning it before realizing what it is. Kanan hands him a small bag of what sounds like coins before continuing. “I have another list of the other stuff. I’ll get mine, and you get yours, okay?” Ezra nods hesitantly, stomach twisting as he scans the paper again, but he doesn’t want to disappoint Kanan and lose the little respect he’s managed to gain from him so far. “Meet back here when you’re done. I shouldn’t be more than a couple of hours at the most.”
“Okay.” Kanan glances at him once more before signaling Ghost forward. The mare tosses her head as she moves up into a trot again, leaving Ezra and Phantom behind.
Ezra sighs, glancing down at the list again. He sighs, turning Phantom to the side of the road and stopping her as he runs a finger down the list and tries to sound out the words. He doesn’t regret not mentioning this to Kanan most of the time, but admittedly he’s never had to actually read in order to do something for their group before. Sighing again, he glances up and then back at the list. He has an idea of what Hera wants, so maybe he can just guess off of that.
Maybe he’ll get some of it right.
Kanan pays the merchant, moving to pick up bag when he realizes there’s someone else there. He half turns, watching the roof of the building across the alley out of the corner of his eye as he narrows his gaze. He can see only glimmers of an aura, a mostly orange one with indigo streaks. Satisfaction, with more self-centered intentions.
He blinks, gaze drawn back to the merchant. The man is staring at him expectantly.
“Oh, yeah,” he mumbles, taking the bag and leaving. He glances back up at the roof again once he’s several meters away.
The figure, and its aura, are both gone.
He heads back to Ghost, untying her before slinging the bag across his shoulder and mounting. The mare snorts as he turns her toward the meeting place, nudging her into a trot. As he gets closer, he notices Ezra and Phantom are already there. The boy’s watching a cart pass, the only one on the street—the only one he’s seen in the last hour and a half, he realizes—but as Kanan and Ghost near him he turns.
“So? How’d it go?”
“I think I got everything,” the teenager announces proudly, but a quick check of his aura reveals deep indigo and a lighter blue along with the white he’d expected.
“And? What aren’t you telling me?”
“Well, I got some coins….”
“How? Doing what?!” He realizes the obvious answer a moment later. “Did you pickpocket someone? Who?”
“Well it’s not technically pick pocketing if I don’t take it from their pocket, so—“
He needs to turn. Now. He whirls Ghost, instinctively holding her back from the rear she tries to launch into as he turns to whatever is making his senses go haywire.
Striding easily down the road toward them is a man, taller, even, than Kanan. His skin is a startlingly stark white, gray lines crossing it vertically every few centimeters that run into golden eyes and blood-red tattoos. He wears dark armor, the Empire’s sigil painted in a strongly contrasting bright white on one of the pauldrons. His blood runs cold as the man continues to approach, as slow and unbothered as a serpent.
Ghost tosses her head, snorting nervously and pawing. She wants to go, to attack, but he knows she won’t until he signals her.
“Kid, run,” he mutters quietly.
“No. I’m not just gonna leave you to the—“
“Kid, go. He’s Unseelie. He won—“
A sudden hum draws Kanan’s attention and he watches as the approaching faerie draws a scarlet-tinged lightsaber out of seemingly thin air.
He smiles, revealing sharp, jagged teeth, despite still being more than twenty meters away. He hates the thought of what they’d look like up close.
“Kid.” Kanan’s voice is strained; he’s itching to summon his own lightsaber but doesn’t want to be distracted until he knows the kid’s out of the way.
“I won’t leave,” Ezra responds determinedly.
Kanan sighs, summoning his own weapon as he signals Ghost to walk forward. “Just don’t get yourself killed.”
Anddd there's the last of the fluff for a while :)))
Chapter 5: Taken
“You don’t need to worry about that; you’ll join him soon enough.”
Kanan’s uneasy as Ghost walks with short, clipped steps toward the Unseelie. Something about the whole situation is putting him on edge, something he was taught when he was young, but he can’t remember what.
The complete serenity surrounding the Unseelie is part of it. The faerie has a plan, he knows that, but he has no clue what it is.
He signals Ghost to charge.
The mare tosses her head, snorting repeatedly as she picks up a gallop toward the man. She reaches him in moments, and the Unseelie’s lightsaber is up and moving. He thanks the Force for Ghost’s training because the mare immediately moves to the side, kicking out with her front legs as the Unseelie moves in tandem with her. Once Ghost is on all fours again, Kanan slashes with his own weapon, meeting the Unseelie’s blade. Kanan shoves upward, forcing the Unseelie’s blade away and backing Ghost up at the same time.
The Unseelie bares his teeth as he follows. “So it’s true, the Jedi are all cowards,” he calls, a vaguely familiar accent thick in his voice. “Too afraid to fight on even ground?”
Alarm bells that are completely unrelated to the man in front of him go off in his mind, but he shoves them away as he dismounts Ghost in one fluid motion. His feet have barely touched the ground when the Unseelie’s weapon is already up in his face and he’s bringing his own up in defense, gritting his teeth as the swords shimmer only inches above his face.
“You know, it wasn’t hard to kill your Court,” the Unseelie above him drawls. “Just a few seeds of distrust to stir the malcontents, some help from the Emperor, and the Seelie Court may as well have set itself on fire.” He grins just as Kanan shoves his blade upward again, narrowly avoiding another blow. The Unseelie starts a ruthless series of attacks, forcing Kanan backward. He gives up ground willingly, straining to remember his training as a strike with the lightsaber nearly catches his jaw.
The man lunges forward again and Kanan narrowly blocks the weapon with his own, but once more they’re at a stalemate. And then the Unseelie gets an odd look on his face, studying Kanan carefully. The Jedi ignores him, focusing on trying to push back against the blade. The Unseelie leans forward over the humming blades, grinning wickedly as he speaks in a low voice.
“Who’s the boy?”
He freezes, glances back up the street. His stomach drops.
Ezra and Phantom are nowhere to be seen.
Taking advantage of his distraction, the Unseelie shoves his lightsaber roughly, the force of the movement knocking Kanan back several steps. He barely manages to keep his balance enough to throw his blade up again in time to block the man’s next attack.
“Where is he?” he shouts, letting his guard down just long enough to thrust his weapon toward the man’s shoulder. The Unseelie dodges the sloppy attack, raising an eyebrow.
“You don’t need to worry about that; you’ll join him soon enough.” The man smirks as he finally gets a blow in, grazing Kanan’s arm. He cries out and takes several steps backward again, switching the blade to his other hand as he continues to fight.
He grunts as he’s pushed onto his knees, falling roughly onto the stone. He tries to rise, but a pair of heavy hands on his shoulders keep him on the ground. Another hand shoves his head down, and when he tries to raise it the grip just tightens.
Boots enter and cross his field of vision, stopping in front of him. His chin jerks up moments later, and he meets the gaze of a severe-looking man with light hair. The man studies him silently, turning his face slightly before releasing his chin. He swallows, face hardening into a glare as he continues to stare up at the man.
The man, however, has since moved on. He looks to the men holding Ezra in place.
“You said he was alone, with the horse?”
“Aside from the faerie, yes, sir,” the one on the left answers, grip shifting on his shoulder.
“And he’s human?”
“We’re...not sure, sir.”
The gaze of the man in front of him hardens, and he nods once. “Take him to a cell. We’ll know for certain then.”
He’s pulled to his feet, and when he tries to shift his hands in the ropes he’s backhanded harshly. “Don’t try anything.”
The man who was studying him calls after them as they lead him out. “If he does, make sure he regrets it.”
He tries to break their grip on him, but their grasp instead simply hardens to the point where it’s digging into his skin, even through his shirt. He stiffens, and lets them shove him forward again.
They reach the cell and they push him inside, leading him to the far wall. He takes note of the cuffs bolted to the wall at about a meter or so up from the ground, and guesses they’re putting them on him.
One cuts the rope when he’s close enough, and immediately Ezra lashes out. He kicks, trying to shove his way to the doorway, but instead he’s shoved to the ground.
“Cuff him already!” one of the soldiers yells.
“Think that’d just be a waste of your time! ” he grunts, twisting and trying to elbow the speaker. The other one takes the opportunity to grab his wrist and force it into the cuffs.
He gasps. Red hot pain is shooting into his wrist, and it throbs as if there’s a branding iron there instead of simple cuffs. He struggles briefly but stops as the pain grows more intense and the man shoves his other wrist up into the cuffs, locking them as his vision turns searing white. He cries out, curling and uncurling his fingers reflexively as he starts to lose feeling in his wrists.
“Get Kallus,” he hears one mutter through a haze of pain before the white mercifully turns to black.
Chapter 6: A False Absence
"They killed Ezra."
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He jolts when he wakes, breathing hard. Moving to sit up, he winces, glancing down at his wrists. Thin metal bands encircle each, chafing slightly on much thicker red burns. Surprisingly, the cuffs are gone, and the new metal bracelets aren’t connected to each other or anything else. He swallows slightly, some of the tension in his shoulders easing, though he does notice that his wrists still itch.
He studies the room around them, noting without surprise that it’s a cell. Four walls, each maybe about three to four meters across, and a thick door that his instincts tell him is oak. They also tell him, along with the distinctive smell that is much more recognizable now that he’s no longer panicking because of the ‘troopers, that the bars over the window and the flap over the small, rectangular hole in the door are iron, too.
He shifts, slightly uncomfortable, but winces as the bracelets grate on the burn. Ezra grits his teeth and stills, settling for just leaning his head against the wall and stretching his legs out before him.
He’s not sure how long it is—it feels like hours but it’s probably just five minutes, he knows he can’t sit still very long—when he hears footsteps outside the door. He straightens, wincing, and forces himself to his feet as keys jangle in the lock. Moments later, torchlight floods in and he shields his eyes, wincing and blinking rapidly.
Two figures step inside, but it’s a moment before he recognizes them as ‘troopers due to the light behind casting them into shadow. He swallows dryly, watching them carefully as they part to reveal the light-haired man from earlier.
He swallows again as the ‘troopers move back into place behind the man. The man keeps his hands behind his back, gazing down at Ezra with an air of superiority. Shifting his weight from one foot to the other, he studies the trio and tries to figure out the odds of being able to get outside the cell before he’s knocked out or killed.
“We can use the much simpler, much less painful method of extracting answers from you, boy, or we can make it much more difficult and more painful. Which would you prefer?”
Ezra keeps silent, continuing to study the ‘troopers and the man. Finally the latter sighs, shaking his head regretfully, and Ezra tenses. “It's a shame we have to revert to the second method, then.” He brings his hands out from behind his back, holding up a thin metal cylinder. He recognizes it as iron immediately. “Do you know what this is?”
He still doesn’t respond, but when the man takes a step forward he shrinks back slightly.
“This is iron, boy. Now, you wouldn’t want to add to the burns you already have, would you?”
He shakes his head, swallowing thickly again.
The man smiles. “Good. Then let’s start with a simple one—give us your name.”
He shakes his head again, but quicker, flinching back more as the man takes another step forward before passing the bar back to one of the ‘troopers.
“I have no qualms about using this. Make no mistake, I will not hesitate to use it if I have to. Now, what is your name?”
He tries to tell the man that he’s Jabba the Hutt; he heard a story once, several years ago, about a guy who did that when questioned. But the words don’t come.
“Time’s up.” The man motions for the ‘troopers to move forward. The one without the bar grabs his already-sore shoulders and shoves him against the wall, harder, while the other pushes his sleeve up and presses the bar to Ezra’s forearm in one smooth motion. The white-hot pain comes again easily, and he tries to think straight as he cries out. Tries to tell them he’s Jabba.
Instead, he tells the truth. And hates it.
“My name’s Ezra,” he gasps out finally, already slumping in the soldiers’ grips. Immediately, the man motions for them to let him go. The soldier with the bar pulls back, allowing Ezra to sag in relief.
“Ezra what? ” His respite is cut short with another cry of pain as the bar meets his skin again.
He bites his lip, squeezes his eyes shut as the pain mounts.
“Don’t tell anyone your full name. Use a nickname, none at all, or even your first name if you trust them enough—but don’t tell anyone your full name.”
Though Kanan hadn’t said why he shouldn’t tell anyone his name. Maybe he was just being paranoid. Wouldn’t be the first time.
Still, he continues to resist, crying out at the pain again. But it continues to burn, filling his vision and his thoughts and he doesn’t even realize he’s giving them his name until it’s already halfway out.
“Ezra Bridger,” he gasps, sagging against the wall again when the ‘trooper removes the iron. As soon as the words are out he regrets them, and suddenly he gets the odd feeling that he has no control any longer.
His questioner bends down to speak to him as he sits against the wall, shuddering and grabbing his arm. “Thank you, Ezra Bridger,” the man says, smiling. He motions to the soldiers and the trio leaves, the door clanging shut behind them with an awful finality.
Sabine scrapes the rock along her knife edge again, pausing briefly to check her progress before repeating the motion. The third time, the knife’s already starting to slide over the rock more smoothly.
As she scrapes it again, she begins to hear a low rumbling, still somewhat distant. She glances up, but the sky’s completely clear, apart from a couple of clouds barely moving in the gradual dusk. Frowning in thought, she sets the rock down next to her knee as she stands up.
The rumbling increases and she pinpoints it as coming from behind. Turning, she shifts her grip on the knife and starts to move it into a defensive position.
“Hera,” Sabine calls warningly. The thundering continues to get louder.
Suddenly, a large white horse bursts from the trees, trumpeting loudly. She moves out of the way as the horse charges toward her, and then realizes it's wearing tack.
And then she recognizes its rider.
“Hera, it’s Kanan and Ghost! He’s not doing good!” she calls as she cautiously approaches the frantic mare, making soothing sounds as she reaches for the mare’s reins before realizing they’re wrapped around her front leg. She grasps the cheekpiece with one hand, moving to untangle the reins with the other.
She clucks, running her hand down the mare’s leg until she lifts it and then carefully pulls the reins over the hoof before letting it drop. The mare puts it down cautiously, but snorts and raises it before setting it down lightly and picking it up again. She winces when she sees the red marks on the horse’s leg.
Sabine glances back at Kanan cautiously. The man is slumped forward in the saddle, one foot in its stirrup while the other dangles loosely. Sabine swallows tightly, wanting to check for a pulse, but Hera’s already almost there, and Ghost is still antsy and tossing her head every few seconds, jerking her hand with it.
Hera finally arrives and moves to Kanan silently, lifting his wrist to check for a pulse. She glances back at Sabine, and upon seeing the young woman is still focused on calming the mare down, she calls for Zeb.
The Lasat appears a minute or two later, rushing over once he sees what’s happening. As Sabine holds Ghost steady, the pair carefully lift Kanan off of the horse and carries him over to the wagon. Sabine begins unsaddling Ghost, glancing over at Kanan periodically.
He’s still motionless.
She finishes and leads Ghost over to the wagon, putting the tack inside before removing the mare’s bridle. Immediately, she walks to Kanan and snorts, lowering her head to sniff him and gently nudge his foot. The man finally reacts, groaning softly as his face contorts. He opens his eyes, blinking slowly as Ghost nickers to him.
Sabine approaches hesitantly, calling to Hera and Zeb again. The other two approach as well as Kanan sits up, rubbing his shoulder.
“What happened?” Hera asks quietly. He forces his gaze away from Ghost and to the woman, blinking again.
“...Ezra,” he rasps slowly. “They killed Ezra.”
Feeling a little bit better but still not 100% :/ I finally finished the major revisions of this chapter and the next few though so I figured I'd post it since it's been a while since I've updated this one. Enjoy Kanan being oblivious I suppose.
Also, Kallus is very mean in this AU. I apologize.
Chapter 7: The Remoulding of One Ezra Bridger
“You see, Agent Kallus, there are much more effective ways to reach the enemy than through your short-sighted schemes."
TW: Manipulation, Gaslighting
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The door opens again, slightly quieter than the first time, much later. He looks up, blinking until he recognizes the man from the street. Ezra pulls back, slowly moving into the corner furthest from the door.
The man smirks lightly, shutting the door behind him and approaching. He stops two feet away, still studying him in silence.
Ezra shifts uneasily under his gaze, swallowing while ignoring the pain in his wrists.
“Ezra Bridger,” the man finally speaks, but slowly, as if testing out the name for the teen in front of him. Again, he feels the same surge of powerlessness, along with a sudden eagerness to do whatever it takes to satisfy the man. He pushes it aside.
“I do deeply regret Agent Kallus’s behavior. It was unsanctioned, and he should not have reacted as strongly as he did.”
Ezra remained still, trying to puzzle out the man’s words. Was he... apologizing?
“Where’s Ka- my master?” he says hoarsely.
“The faerie who was riding with you?” He nods. The man shakes his head, sighing regretfully, and his heart stops. “He left you, Ezra. After he saw that Kallus’s men had...apprehended you, he galloped off. I deeply wish that I was not the one to inform you of this, but….”
His words fade out as Ezra stares blankly at him, unable to process his words. Kanan...left him? No, not Kanan. Never Kanan. Kanan wouldn’t leave him. He couldn’t.
Gradually, the white noise begins to quiet until he’s able to hear the man again. He isn’t exactly sure what the man’s talking about when he clears his throat, interrupting the man.
“So who are you supposed to be?”
Another smirk flickered on the man’s face. “You may call me...the Inquisitor.”
“Alright, ‘the Inquisitor,’” he begins, more than a hint of snark in his voice, “why are you lying to me about Ka- my master?”
“I am not lying, my boy. Merely stating facts. Unseelie cannot lie; surely he has taught you that much?” At Ezra's silence, the man raises a brow ridge in surprise. “Then he was clearly lacking.
“For the others, however, it varies,” he continues. Ezra's eyes narrow.
“How do I know you’re not lying to me right now?”
“Try it yourself, boy. Tell me an untruth.”
Almost against his will, he opens his mouth, ready to spill the same story about the crime ring’s leader that he had almost told earlier. But once again, his voice catches in his throat, and his eyes widen as he realizes he can’t say it.
“You see?” The Inquisitor takes a step forward, and for once the teen doesn’t shrink back. “You share characteristics with the Unseelie.” The man abruptly changes the subject. “Do you know which Court you were taken from?”
He shakes his head, remembers Kanan mentioning that he himself was from the Seelie Court, and that he had been adopted back into their ranks upon reaching a few years old. As for Ezra, however...he has no idea of his own lineage. Which is just great, because his age just so happens to line up with the fall of the Seelie Court and the chaos that resulted.
According to Kanan, at least.
But if the Inquisitor is telling the truth, and Kanan can lie….
“You seem to share many characteristics with the Unseelie.” His focus returns to the Inquisitor, eyes narrowing again even as something compels him to get in his good graces no matter what.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means, Ezra, that there is a chance you could be from the Unseelie Court yourself.”
His blood runs cold.
“I’ll leave you to contemplate that,” the man says abruptly, smiling thinly. “And the agent shall be given direct instructions not to harm you again.” He nods, still wary and in shock. The man turns to leave but hesitates, seemingly able to sense his unspoken question. “Yes, Ezra?”
“Why are you doing this?”
“Doing what, exactly?” The Inquisitor turns back around fully.
“Being– I don’t know, nice. The Empire’s not supposed to be nice.” As he continues, his voice raises in pitch and volume.
“And why would that be?”
“Because- because they killed my parents!” he finishes with a shout, breathing heavily afterward. The Inquisitor looks down at him silently, allowing the quiet to stretch out. Finally he breaks it, speaking quietly.
“And what if I said that that is not the same Empire?”
He scoffs, crossing his arms and forcing himself not to flinch as he looks away. “Then you’d be wrong. The Empire’s all the same.”
“But it is not, my dear boy.” The man takes a step toward him and crouches. Normally, Ezra would be bothered by the scarce distance between them, but for some reason it goes unnoticed now. “The Empire you are referring to is run by men. The Empire I serve, however…” he trails off, smiling with sharpened teeth that don’t put him nearly as on edge as they should, “that is a different matter entirely.”
He had been expecting the boy to be naive, but not...not this naïve.
The boy—no, Ezra, he reminds himself firmly; he has to only refer to him by his name or he’ll lose the advantage Kallus so graciously gained for him a few days ago—up until a day or two ago, hadn’t known that faeries were incapable of lying. And with how he had reacted to the torture, he clearly hadn’t recognized the full gravity of why he shouldn’t just give his full name up to others for the taking.
It’s both infuriatingly frustrating but also perfect, exactly what he needs.
He reaches the boy’s cell, raising a hand before sensing the iron inlaid in the framework. Sighing, he reaches into his pocket and tugs on a single long, white glove before turning to the silent guard behind. He holds out an expectant hand, and the ‘trooper drops a key into it—an iron one. He turns back to the cell door, unlocking it but hesitating with the key in the lock before fully opening it. “You may go,” he calls to the ‘trooper without turning around.
“I can handle a mere boy by myself, ‘trooper,” he responds sharply. “Or do you lack faith in the Unseelie?” There’s no answer, but within seconds he hears the man leaving.
He turns back to the door and opens it, eyes narrowing slightly as he takes in the sight of the boy huddled in a corner. His lip twists into what can almost be considered a sneer, but not quite. He clears his throat, and the boy’s gaze finally meets his.
“What?” Ezra snaps, clearly still wary of him. They’ll have to work on that.
“I wanted to speak to you regarding the matter of iron.”
Ezra frowns. “I have a question first.” He dips his head, allowing the boy to ask. The more open he seems, the easier the boy’s trust will come.
“Why can’t I see your aura?”
“The bracelets,” he replies, nodding to the small metal bands. “They prevent you from using your abilities.”
“Are they iron?” he asks. He pales, likely at the memory of the cuffs. “Will they hurt me?”
“The alloy has been specifically developed for the purpose of harming all but the Unseelie, though it still negates their abilities.” Ezra nods slowly. “Now. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that the doorframe is iron, along with the—“
“If you’re here to give me a list of everything in here that’s iron, you can just go ahead and leave. It’s obvious,” the boy interrupts. Irritation flares up but he pushes it aside, instead fixing the boy with a stern gaze. He’s cowed quickly, hunching further into the corner as the Unseelie clears his throat.
“The point I am trying to make here, boy, is that though you cannot directly touch iron, you can still find ways to use it against your enemies.”
“So I’m your enemy?”
He sighs inwardly—can the boy be anymore foolish?—before shaking his head and narrowing his gaze slightly. “No. I am simply using the Empire of men’s chosen method of restraint as an example.”
Ezra nods, blinking slowly. He sighs silently again; he doesn’t need to see the boy’s aura to know that he’s still confused. Though, the bracelet cuffs would have made that impossible anyway. But blocking the boy’s aura—even from himself—is an easy enough price to pay.
“Seeing as you clearly are incapable of understanding, I’ll leave you to think on the matter.” For the night, he almost adds, but giving the boy any sense of time will undo what they’ve spent the last week working on already.
He leaves him in the darkness, the cell door thudding closed behind him. He locks it again and removes the glove as he strides back to the main level of the outpost.
When the Inquisitor comes again, it feels like it’s been days, but he knows it’s likely only been one at most. Still, the silver bracelets continue to chafe on the burns on his wrists, and when the door finally opens the light burns his eyes.
He stands quickly, shielding his eyes as someone steps inside and closes the door. However, the Inquisitor remains there.
“Come.” Surprisingly, Ezra finds that he follows without resistance, though he hesitates at the threshold.
The Inquisitor continues down the hall without waiting for him, and he forces himself to follow the man. Even the torchlight continues to burn his eyes and he averts his gaze, half-closing his eyes as he follows the Unseelie through the hallways. He notes without surprise that the ‘troopers they pass duck out of the way, monochrome armor clinking softly.
Finally they reach what must be their destination, because the Inquisitor slows to a stop with his hands clasped behind him and glances down at him. Ezra looks up in return, still squinting in the light.
“Your oath. You took it three times; do not attempt to break it. It is unbreakable at this time, you do realize that, correct?”
Ezra nods hesitantly. “Yeah.”
The man smiles tightly. “Very good.” He turns to push open the door but stops. “And, Ezra Bridger, do not tell him or anyone. Have I made myself clear?”
He nods fervently. “Ye- yeah.”
Studying him silently for a moment, the Unseelie finally nods decisively. “Alright. You may go.”
He holds the door open as the teen walks out, heading across the courtyard to one of the hitching post where several horses, including the gray pony, are tied.
A man comes up behind the Unseelie as he watches Ezra check the pony’s hooves and mount.
“You see, Agent Kallus, there are much more effective ways to reach the enemy than through your short-sighted schemes,” he comments mildly. The human nods stiffly.
“Of- of course, Inquisitor.”
“Now, figure out what’s on the disc the boy mentioned. Figure out where. We shall intercept them at their destination.” The Unseelie pivots abruptly and walks away. As the agent stammers out an agreement behind him, a slow smile curls his lips.
Even for a likely Seelie-born, he has never seen someone so naïve.
I need to make a thing at some point addressing the various faerie-specific things but oh well.
Chapter 8: The Time Without
"I know, it’s just...I’ve already lost one of us, and it was my fault."
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“We need to move further inland. The proximity of the sea to our location, it- it’s just making everything worse…” Hera’s voice trails off to a murmur as she rubs her temples, sighing.
“If we go more inland, we’ll run straight into the Empire. I did some scouting with Chopper the other day, and they’re getting closer. He thinks they might be tracking us somehow.”
Kanan grimaces at Sabine’s words. “No, I don’t think it’s that.”
“Then what is it?” Zeb raises an eyebrow, and Kanan runs a hand over his face before replying.
“They saw me leave, I’m guessing. Probably suspect that I was returning to a group, to get them out of there.”
“But that was months ago,” the teenager points out, folding her arms. Kanan shakes his head anyway.
“Yeah, but that doesn’t make a difference. They can still track us, if they already have been.”
“So we have to go toward the sea,” concludes Sabine. Hera and Kanan glance at each other. At the same time, Kanan shakes his head while Hera nods regretfully.
“Hera, we’re not going closer if it’s making y—“
“I’m fine, Kanan,” she states firmly. “But I don’t want to risk coming into contact with it unexpectedly, and that’s what’ll happen if we decide to go inland and run into the Empire and they realize what I am.”
“Kanan, that’s final. We are going closer to the sea. I can deal with it; I dealt with it for a long time before I met you.” A quick glance at Zeb and Sabine reveal that they are completely and utterly confused by the conversation taking place in front of them. When Zeb catches Kanan’s gaze, he nudges Sabine, defensively gesturing to Kanan by way of explanation before she can slap him in response. The hot-headed teen hesitates before nodding, leaving with him.
Kanan sighs again and turns back to Hera. “I just don’t want you to….”
“Get sick? Die? Look what we’re doing! ” She throws her hands up. “Kanan, we’re literally running from what’s considered the closest thing to a government this world has right now. Dying is a part of life. Any one of us except Sabine and Zeb could touch iron and get sick. It’s not—“
“But it is, Hera.” Both his voice and gaze soften as he takes her hands, running his thumb over her dark skin. “We’ll get it back. But going to the sea before that...you know what’ll happen.”
In response, Hera’s own gaze hardens. She pulls her hands out of his grasp. “I know, but it might not. I’m well aware of the risks. And I’m choosing to take them.”
“The gesture is beyond kind, really Kanan. But I’m willing to take the chance that it won’t go well. I don’t want to leave before I’m ready.”
His eyes close and he leans down to press his lips to the top of her head, pulling back a moment later. “I know, it’s just...I’ve already lost one of us, and it was my fault. I can’t lose another, especially you.”
“I know.” She stares up at him, dark eyes meeting his lighter ones. “I know.”
He pulls her into a hug, resting his chin on her head and closing his eyes as he inhales deeply.
“What’s wrong?” Hera murmurs, pulling back enough to tilt her head up to look at him.
“I didn’t think...I didn’t think I’d lose him that easily. I was being careful. ” His voice breaks and when he finally exhales, it’s shaky. “He didn’t– I just turned around— “
“Kanan, look at me.” Her voice is firm but he still doesn’t listen. “ Kanan. ”
He finally opens his eyes and looks down at her. Her voice is slightly quieter, but still firm when she speaks.
“I don’t ever want to hear you blame yourself for that again, alright? It was not your fault. ”
“But I was the one that turned my back on him while an Unseelie was there— “
“And were you the one to kill him?”
Kanan hesitates before sighing and shaking his head. “No.”
“Then you didn’t cause it.” She reaches a hand up to cup his cheek, thumbing it gently. “I know it’s almost been a year now, and you’re expecting to not feel it anymore, but it’s okay if you do. It’ll get better with time, eventually. It never hurts less, but it does hurt less often. And we’re all here for you. It hurts for us, too.”
He nods, but he’s distracted, remembering the way the Unseelie smiled when—
He sighs, refocusing his gaze upon Hera once more. She’s looking at him worriedly.
He doesn’t deserve her. She deserves someone better than a murderer from a fallen Court who can’t even take care of one boy—
Swallowing, he nods again and reaches back to rub the back of his neck. “I- I need to go, I need to check on Ghost—“
Hera nods. “Just...remember that it wasn’t your fault.”
He nods, kissing her cheek lightly before releasing her from the embrace as her hand drops. “Of course,” he murmurs. He’s not saying it to that specifically. He could be saying it to anything. To the fact that he is the reason Ezra didn’t leave with him. To the fact that he wants to help Hera find it, to find what she’s been looking for for the last who knows how many years. To the fact that he loves her.
He walks away, and he can feel her gaze on him.
It was his fault.
But he does still love her, even if she deserves someone much better.
“So. What’s going on with Hera?”
Kanan glances over at Sabine, who’s sharpening one of her knives again without looking at him. Sighing, he returns his attention to Ghost’s tail, running the comb through it again. He takes a moment to reply, thinking about just how much he can tell her.
“She’s...looking for something,” he begins slowly.
Sabine snorts, but doesn’t take her eyes off of the knife. “I know that. But what is she looking for?”
“You’’ll have to ask her.” He runs the comb through his mare’s tail again, and the horse nickers softly before continuing to graze.
“And why can’t you tell me?”
“I’ll say.” She falls silent for several minutes. Kanan is finished with her tail and walking up to Ghost’s neck, running a hand along her back as he does so, when Sabine speaks again. “So how’d she get tangled up with the Empire?”
He grimaces, pausing halfway through lowering the comb to Ghost’s mane. When he speaks, it’s quiet.
“You’ll have to ask her yourself, Sabine.”
“Yeah, but she’s out with Chopper and Zeb, so I’m asking you. ”
He sighs in frustration, shaking his head as he kneels and starts to work through the large mare’s mane. “Then just wait until she gets back.”
“Nope,” Sabine replies immediately, popping the p. “Not gonna happen.”
Kanan remains silent, working through a particularly difficult knot before gliding the comb through again.
“At least tell me if she’s a faerie or not.”
This he stills at, the comb halfway through his mare’s mane. She nickers in inquiry when he still doesn’t move it after several seconds, and finally he sighs and responds to Sabine.
“Do you think she is?”
She snorts again. “She isn’t human, I know that much. Otherwise she wouldn’t be trying to avoid the sea that much.”
He chuckles, but the sound is hollow, without feeling. “I’ll admit you’re right on that point. Now tell me something. What do you really remember?”
The sound of the blade scraping along the rock disappears. He turns away from the horse, half-closing his eyes as he glances back at her.
Her aura is a mixture of colors, mostly deep indigo. However, when she finally speaks, it’s shot through with streaks of white.
“I remember waking up. They told me what I was there for, and that was it. I don’t remember anything beyond that.” Her voice is quiet, all evidence of her previous snark gone.
He tries to puzzle out the meager truth that her aura tells him is there, but is unable to as he mulls over a follow-up question at the same time. “What did they have you do?”
She hesitates again, now traces of blue replacing the white. She’s all fear and self-preservation now, and it hurts him to make her feel that way, but if that’s what it takes to get attention away from Hera’s past, then so be it. “They had me sew.”
Seamstresses don’t know how to sharpen knives, not like Sabine does. They don’t know how to throw them, either, not like how she does when she’s aiming for a target. And he knows the Empire certainly wouldn’t waste intelligence like hers. No, she did something else for them, something completely unheard of, but maybe befitting who she really is.
“Sabine, do you remember who you were before you woke up? Aside from what they told you?”
When she answers, her aura is still blue, but now the indigo has been completely replaced with white.
“No, I don’t.” She isn’t even trying to lie this time. He doesn’t know why she would lie about afterward when she doesn’t even remember her true nature.
Maybe, when they find what Hera’s looking for, they’ll find what Sabine needs, too.
“Kanan! Kanan, I figured it out!” Both he and Sabine glance up at the call to see Hera and Chopper cantering toward them. Zeb follows behind at a distance.
Hera dismounts smoothly upon reaching Kanan and pulls out the disc, waving it in his face. “Kanan, I figured it out. It’s talking about Eriadu.”
He pulls back. “Hera, that’s a death sentence! It’s—”
“I know, Kanan. That’s why it’s there. ”
“Alright. Give me a week, and I’ll get some sort of a plan together.” If it helps her, he’ll do it without hesitation.
Hera nods, but almost seems sad. He sighs, taking a step closer and raising a hand to her cheek. “Hey, look—”
Thundering hooves cuts him off and the group turns, Ghost whinnying loudly and moving from behind Kanan to greet the approaching rider. He raises a hand to call her back when he recognizes the pony, and then its rider.
“Ezra,” he breathes, running forward to catch Phantom and check on the boy.
Some timeline info:
-The first scene takes place approximately ten months after "A False Absence" (Ezra's initial capture).
-The second scene takes place about three weeks later.
Essentially, at this point, Ezra has been missing for quite a while.
If you have any more timeline questions, comment and I'll do my best to answer without spoilers.
Chapter 9: Coming Home
“You’re not cutting my hands off.”
TW: Implied/Referenced Torture
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He groans, head swimming as he blinks, vision blurry.
“Ezra, can you hear me?”
He recognizes Hera’s voice as he sits up, rubbing his eye. “Kanan, what’s that on his wri—“
“Don’t touch it! They’re iron. I need my lightsaber. Sabine—“
“On it.” Someone shoves him down as a hand pins his arm to the dirt without warning, and he struggles more.
“You’re not going to—?”
A humming hiss-snap. He stills in his thrashing, breathing harshly as he struggles to see.
The voice is resigned, tired. “I’m doing what I have to do.”
Ezra hesitates, blinks, and then shoves against the weight on his arm suddenly. He rolls away, breathing getting even harsher as he rises to his feet. Kanan’s grip is loose on his lightsaber, his eyes fixated on the silver bracelets.
“Kid, let me see those. I won’t hurt you.”
“The- they’re iron,” he mumbles, voice slightly hoarse.
“I know. So let me see them. I can get them off—”
He shakes his head fervently. “No, you- you won’t be able to. They’re iron, they’ll burn you—”
“Kid.” Kanan raises the lightsaber, nodding to it.
Ezra pulls a face in response. “You’re not cutting my hands off.”
“I won’t, kid. I can just cut the bracelets off. But you have to stay still.” He takes a step forward and Ezra remains in place, holding his wrist and watching him warily. “Can I see?” Wordlessly, the teen offers his wrist to the Jedi. Kanan takes it, carefully avoiding both the bracelet and the burns as he turns it over and sucks in a deep breath.
“It’s on tight, kid. I don’t know if I’ll be able to….”
“It’s fine. It’s- they changed it. Earlier, it was solid iron. Now it’s...different.”
He shrugs. “I dunno.”
“Well, how’d they get them on you?”
Ezra shrugs again. “I’m not sure. I woke up with them on.”
Kanan sighs, running a hand over his face.
“I know a guy who might be able to help.” He and Kanan glance at Hera. She still looks at Kanan as she continues, “You’ve met him, that time you were playing sabacc in Lothal with—“
His eyes widen with recognition and he shakes his head firmly. “No. We’re not going to see—“
“If he can help, then why wouldn’t we?” Hera challenges.
“I don’t care how you feel about him. If he can help Ezra, then we’re going, and that’s final.” The woman abruptly turns and walks to the wagon, likely double checking that everything’s ready. Sabine and Zeb follow. Kanan sighs, turning back to Ezra. “I wish this wasn’t happening, kid. Really.” His voice breaks as he continues. “I thought you were dead.”
“Guess I...guess I wasn’t.” His eyelids flutter briefly, and he catches a flash of panic cross the man’s face.
“What else is wrong?” Kanan opens his hand, and the sword shimmers lightly as it disappears now that his grip has left it. He takes another step forward, and Ezra forces himself not to flinch. “Ezra? Are you hurt anywhere else?”
He shakes his head, before hesitating and pointing to his forehead. “They didn’t do much, just the iron.”
“I’d consider that more than ‘just the iron.’ May I…?” He nods, and Kanan reaches a hand out to run a hand over the deep scar, removing it upon seeing Ezra shift. “Alright. I won’t touch it anymore.”
“No, it’s...it’s fine,” he mutters, voice strained. Kanan snorts in disbelief, folding his arms as the teen looks up at him.
“It’s clearly not. ”
“So tell me, who does Hera want to take us to go talk to?”
Kanan groans, shaking his head. “You’ll see.”
“The name’s Calrissian. Lando Calrissian.”
Kanan stands in the back, arms folded as he leans against the wall and watches the exchange silently.
Ezra takes the man’s offered hand and shakes it. “I’m—“
A hand comes down firmly on his shoulder and he jumps, glancing up at Kanan. The man shakes his head almost imperceptibly before looking back up at Calrissian. “He’s my apprentice. Anyway, as Hera told you, we need some help. Kid, show him.”
Ezra obediently raises his wrists, nodding to the bracelets. “I can’t get them off.”
“They’re iron,” Kanan adds unnecessarily as Calrissian carefully takes the teen’s wrist, examining the bracelet as Ezra takes in a shaky breath.
“Where are they from?”
“None of your business,” Kanan snaps as Ezra opens his mouth to respond.
“Well I need to know what I’m working with here,” Calrissian drawls, letting go of Ezra's wrist and leaning back in his chair. “I can’t do anything about it if I don’t know where they’re from.”
Kanan sighs. “The Empire.”
“Well now, that’s a different matter entirely.” The man rubs his chin as he studies the group. “I’d need payment, of course….”
“What kind of payment?” the Jedi asks, tone kept carefully neutral. Calrissian’s gaze flicks across the trio again, and he nods slowly.
“We can decide on the terms and conditions later. For now, I have a few more questions.” He turns to Ezra and the teenager straightens slightly. He lowers his voice before speaking. “You’re faerie, right?” he asks, gaze focused in a way Ezra’s rarely seen before. He nods quickly. “Alright. I’ll adjust accordingly. How long have these been on?”
He glances up at Kanan in uncertainty. “They wouldn’t tell me—“
The man cuts him off before he can reveal more details, nodding and looking back at Calrissian as he answers. “About a year, maybe. He’s not sure.” He jolts in surprise, gaze widening as he glances up at Kanan. The Jedi doesn’t move.
“Can I see your wrist again?” Ezra extends his arm again, the bracelet glinting from a light source further back in the tavern.
Calrissian examines it, frowning in thought as he turns it over. Ezra hisses as the man’s fingers brush against the burns, but the man continues to examine it for a moment longer.
“The other one?”
The teenager allows him to study the burns on his other wrist, sucking in a breath as the man carefully runs his fingers over the worst of the burns again.
“Cuffs?” he questions without looking up. Ezra nods.
“How long were they on?”
He shrugs. “A couple hours, a few days maybe, I’m not sure.”
Calrissian nods again, falling silent again. Finally he points to the burns from the bar. “And those…?”
He feels more than hears Kanan’s sharp intake of breath. However, Ezra remains quiet, gaze dropping to the table.
Finally Hera clears her throat. “Lando, do you think you can get them off today or not? Because we should get going if not.”
“Bring him by tomorrow, I should have everything I need by then.” Calrissian lets go of his hand and stands. Ezra follows suit, and when Hera offers her hand, presumably for a handshake, Calrissian takes it and lightly kisses the back of it, smirking slightly at her. Ezra feels Kanan stiffen beside him, and a quick glance back up at the man reveals a glowering gaze fixated on Calrissian. The latter, for his part, ignores him.
“Let’s go,” Kanan snaps a moment later, brushing past Calrissian as Hera follows. Ezra hesitates for half a second, glancing back at Calrissian before hurrying after the Jedi.
“How’d it go?” Sabine calls from her perch with Zeb on the driver’s seat of the wagon.
Ezra shrugs, starting to climb up until Zeb pushes him back down. He stumbles but lands on his feet, shooting the Lasat a glare.
“It’s not your turn yet,” Zeb snarls.
“Well?” Sabine presses, swinging her feet impatiently.
“It went okay.” He glances over at Kanan, who’s preoccupying himself with the horses, but the act is easy to see through. “Said to come back tomorrow.”
“Then let’s go. No use staying here if we don’t have to.” She moves to pick up the reins until Kanan meets her gaze, shaking his head as he moves back and climbs up onto the seat. She and Zeb shift over to give him room, but he shakes his head regardless.
“You two, off. It’s Hera’s and my turn.” Sabine shrugs, slipping past Zeb to jump off and walk around to the other side as the man follows her.
However, Hera approaches the wagon and shakes her head. “Ezra can have my spot, love. I get the feeling the two of you need to discuss some things.” She shoots him a meaningful glance as Ezra slips past and scrambles up onto the wagon, shooting Zeb a smirk followed by a quick wave as Kanan rolls his eyes. He slaps the reins and Ghost lurches forward, Phantom moving a moment later as Chopper follows alongside.
There's a reason why Lando gave his full name, and I'll address that later. Along with the reason Ezra couldn't see well at the beginning.