Kylo Ren’s mind had been shifting, floating, but the sound of Rey’s voice drew his attention and he returned to himself, although it took him a moment to remember where exactly that was.
She spoke again.
“What are you doing?”
What was he doing? He looked around; he was sitting on the ledge of the meditation pool in the first Jedi Temple on Ahch-to. The fingertips of his right hand were dabbling in the water; his glove was lying on the stone next to him, but he couldn’t remember removing it. The sun was shining in through the opening in the wall, but it wouldn’t be for long; the twin suns were setting, sending their long orange beams into the chamber, illuminating the entire space as though with fire. It was growing late, and very soon the suns would be gone, and the beams of light with them, withdrawn from the sky to someplace under the horizon. The sky would become dark and the island would, too.
Kylo answered, his own voice sounding deep, echoing strangely through the empty space.
He was. He just couldn’t remember what exactly he’d been thinking about. But Rey smiled at him, from her position just inside the doorway, and that made him feel better.
She’s smiled at him a lot, since the battle in Snoke’s throne room, when he’d killed Snoke and then they’d battled the guards together. They’d fought as one - so much more powerful together than they were alone - and when it was over she’d agreed to join him, and they’d let the Resistance go, and then they’d escaped the destroyed ship together and he’d taken his rightful place as Supreme Ruler. She was his co-ruler, and he couldn’t imagine living without her.
He reached out to her now, through their bond, grasped a thread and chased it to her where she stood in the doorway just across the room, followed it into her heart. She loved him, he could feel it, and she was so glad that she’d gone with him; so very thankful.
She was aware that he was there, inside her, and she let him stay.
As he watched her, Rey’s smile grew, as though she was really very interested in what he was pondering, up here in the temple. She stepped quietly across the room and sat next to him on the ledge, carefully avoiding his glove.
“What are you thinking about?”
Kylo had no reason to lie. He moved his fingers across the water again. The clear liquid glowed in what was left of the orange light, and lapped quietly against the edges of the stone pool.
“I was thinking about the throne room, after we fought together, and you agreed to come with me. To rule by my side.”
Her smile grew, as if that were possible, and her hands - also clad in black, as was the rest of her; black leather and fabric, tight around her body and draped over her shoulders - her hands clenched briefly and then loosened again. A similar ripple moved through the bond, barely a flutter. It was slight, but he noticed, and it made his heart warm. She glanced towards the opening in the wall, where the very last of the sunlight was peeking through. It brightened her face, and then it was gone, and she was in shadow.
He heard her shift in her seat, felt her settle into a more comfortable place through the bond.
“While you’ve been up here, I was down in the Falcon, reading one of the old texts. I think I found something. Will you come see?”
Of course he would; Kylo Ren would do anything for Rey, and she knew it. He reclaimed his glove and followed her out of the Temple, down the long and narrow pathway towards the grassy saddle that dominated the top of the island. As they picked their way down the rocky steps, Rey asked him a question.
“What do you know about Force creatures?”
“Force creatures? What do you mean?”
“I mean, creatures that use the Force, or that are immune to it. I’d never heard of such a thing before, but something I read in the book this afternoon implied that such things exist.”
Kylo thought about it as they took their last steps and landed on the soft grass. During the daytime it was green, a bright shade that shone in the sunlight, but the darkness stole its color, leaving it grey, or perhaps without any color at all. The weather, however, was warm, pleasant, and the breeze that blew across the land brought with it the scent of the ocean, fish and seaweed and salt. Both of the suns had finished sinking, and by the time they reached the saddle the sky was shifting from dark blue to black, and the stars were blinking on, one by one and then dozens, covering the dome over their heads with thousands, millions of brilliant pinpricks of light.
“They exist,” Kylo began, continuing to follow her steps across the grass. “Force creatures. Although I’ve never personally seen one. The Ysalamiri from Mykr have Force immunity, and it projects from them like a bubble. Grand Admiral Thrawn used them in his campaigns against the New Republic. And Loth-wolves, they’re Force sensitive. And there are others, too.”
Rey hummed. Her boots were shiny and black, her cape fluttered down around her feet, and Kylo followed those feet as they pressed into the grass and led them onto stone again. The night was dark but the stars and moons provided enough illumination to light their way. Rey felt warm to Kylo, through their bond. She was content, and that made him feel content, too.
“Have you ever heard of something called a Dynwar Wraith?”
Kylo racked his brain, but came up empty.
“No. What’s a Dynwar Wraith?”
There were stairs under Rey’s feet, and then under Kylo’s feet. Stone stairs, leading down to someplace dark.
“According to the text I was reading, Dynwar Wraiths are Force eaters.”
Kylo scoffed. “'Force eaters'? What does that mean?”
The air grew chilly as they stepped down, down, down; chilly chilly, cold and damp. A low growl reached Kylo’s ears; the distant sound of surf.
“What they do is, they tap into the Force, and follow the threads to Force sensitive lifeforms. They get into their heads and feed on the Force through them.”
“Why would they do that?”
“That’s how they eat, sustain themselves. They feed on Force energy until they can’t do it anymore.”
“And then what?”
“And then nothing.”
Kylo focused on Rey's feet, on the sound of her shuffling on the stairs ahead of him as they continued down, down, down.
The stairs kept going. Kylo was confused, because they were supposed to be walking to the Falcon, to look at the texts. But it shouldn’t take this long to reach the landing site; it wasn’t that far. He wanted to look around, but all he could see in the darkness was Rey’s boots, and the fluttering of her black cape. It captivated him. He nudged her through the bond, and she nudged back; warm, content.
“It eats the Force?"
“Yes, that’s what the text said.”
“And these things exist?”
“They’re very rare - so rare they’re almost mythical.”
“What do they look like, then? These Dynwar Wraiths?” Even as Kylo asked the question, he regretted it. He remembered when he was very small, and a giant miltroed found its way into his bedroom. Nanna had chased it, crushing it under her heel after several terrifying minutes. Kylo hated miltroeds, and he was certain that the Dynwar Wraiths looked exactly like that.
He was relieved when Rey said, “They look like what you aren’t expecting. What you aren’t paying attention to.”
There was humor in Rey’s voice, mirrored in the bond, and her humor made Kylo smile, too. Very soon after that exchange the stairwell widened, and Rey paused so Kylo could step down next to her. She took his hand. He could see her face then, her eyes bright and shining in the darkness, her smile wide, teeth white, so very white.
“Tell me about your day, Ben.” Rey requested as they slowly stepped down the stairs together again. The sound of the surf grew louder and louder the further down they went. “Have you had a good day?”
Kylo cast his mind back to that morning, which suddenly felt very, very far away.
“I guess I have. I woke up, had breakfast,” he frowned. “And then I got some news.”
“News?” Rey sounded genuinely interested, her voice sure and soft, next to him, in the dark. “What news?”
“Strange Force readings coming out from the sector around Ahch-To.”
“Ah,” she replied. “So that’s why you’re here?”
“Yes.” His thoughts were muddied, floating like they had been earlier, and he had to struggle to focus. He squeezed her hand, and she squeezed back; he nudged her through the Force, and she nudged back.
“How did you get here, Ben?” Her voice was soft, so soft, and so sweet. Her voice brought tears to his eyes.
They were still moving downwards, and her boots rang against the stone steps, her cape fluttered behind her. The sound of the surf grew louder with each step.
Kylo suspected they were nearing the center of the island.
“My ship,” he murmured, feeling very far away from that morning and very close to right now. “No, not mine. Sakhmes Ren, she insisted on coming with me, and we took her ship. The Vanth.”
“Sakhmes Ren. She was … quiet.”
It wasn’t exactly a question, but Kylo spoke as though there was one.
“Yes. She doesn’t speak; Snoke had her tongue torn out years ago.”
Rey hummed again, at the same time they reached the bottom of the stairs. The floor was damp, and slick, and Kylo could see an opening in the wall on the other side of the room. It was a tall, thin, jagged thing, and through it Kylo could see a slice of the sky. Cold, black, but white with stars. The sound of the surf was almost deafening. In the center of the cave, in the ground, there was a round hole. There was something through that hole, and Kylo could hear it calling him.
It sounded like Rey.
Kylo was gripped by a sudden bout of nausea, and he struggled to keep from vomiting.
Rey stepped closer, standing chest-to-chest with him, and she interlaced the fingers of her other hand with his, gripping both hands tight. Through the bond she felt happy, light, and that helped Kylo keep his bearings.
Rey said, “What about Rey?”
The voice was wavering, higher than Rey’s usual tone, and it sounded as though she was moving away from him even though she was still right there, gazing up at him in the darkness. Her eyes were as bright as they’d been in the Temple, maybe even more bright, and her teeth were as white as the bone of her skull.
Rey, oh Rey. Darling Rey. Kylo's heart clenched at the thought of her. She'd cut him off completely after their last connection on Crait; he hadn't seen her in months, or felt her. Not until the moment she appeared in the doorway of the temple minutes or hours or days before.
Misery overwhelmed Kylo and he collapsed to his knees, buried his face in her black tunic, and sobbed. “She didn’t want me, after the fight. I killed for her, and she fought alongside me, but in the end she didn’t want me. I asked her to join me. I said we could rule together, and bring a new order to the Galaxy. But she didn’t want that; she didn’t want me. She left me in Snoke’s throne room. She left to go with them.”
“See?” She sounded amused again, as though she had secret knowledge that he lacked. “You know all that. But you don’t think. You just let your brain fill in the gaps.”
She stroked his head as though he were a pet, and tutted, then nudged him through the bond. It felt just like Rey.
“It would have been nice if she’d stayed, wouldn’t it,” the Dynwar Wraith crooned in a voice that no longer resembled Rey’s at all, a voice that was thick and cold and very, very dark. “You’ve had a taste of how beautiful that would have been.”
“Yes,” he whispered, and then she was there again. She was there, exactly like his Rey, as though she’d never been anything else. She reached down and he took her hands, and she helped him back to standing.
She gestured to the hole in the ground, which was round and shining in the moonlight, surrounded by a thick layer of slippery red moss.
“Come with me, Ben,” she implored, walking backwards and pulling him towards the darkness. “Come with me. Come with me and you can be with Rey. I am so hungry, and it will feel exactly like you’re with Rey.”
They reached the edge of the black hole, and she sat down on the edge, slipped through, and was gone. Her voice, sweet and pure, called to him from far below. Their bond tugged at his heart. Without another thought, Kylo Ren lowered himself, sat on the edge of that slimy, wet void, and followed.