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Fate Turned Choice

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It started out as a smudge on her baby's skin, an odd little mark that the med-droid had dismissed as a strange birthmark. Shara had thought it an odd birth mark, a dark blob on her child's palm, but she knew next to nothing about the matter, and expected that the med-droid knew what they were talking about.

It hadn't, not even for the smallest of moments, occurred to Shara that it might be soul mark.

Last time a census had been posted for Stewjon, the numbers had claimed that there were only a dozen or so Stewjonians each generation with soul marks. As far as Shara understood, that was a rate shared by most planets through out the Galaxy, it didn't seem to matter what planet, or culture, or species an individual belonged to. Supposedly, soulmates had at one time been more common, but that was so long ago as to be considered a time of myth. As it stood now, everyone in the galaxy shared a truth; soul mates were rare and soul mates were precious.

So perhaps it was understandable that Shara nearly dropped her little boy when she noticed that his strange little birthmark had only grown stranger, and was quite definitely not a birthmark.

Her first instinct was one of sharp, absolute joy. Her precious little boy had someone out there who would love him unconditionally. Who would move the galaxy itself to make her little boy happy.

Her first act, once she'd calmed her little boy down after his near fall, was to dive for the holo net. Her little boy's mark was beautiful, despite the fact that it was still in shades of gray, and she wanted desperately to know what it all might mean. There was a flower with its roots twisting down as though they would wrap around her little boy's wrist and petals opened wide as though towards the sun. It was difficult to determine what sort of flower it was, with no color to help with her search. In the end, with nothing but the outline of the flower to go by, all she was able to determine was that the flower wasn't native to Stewjon.

It could still be representative of her baby boy, but Shara suspected that it was probably a symbol meant to represent her baby's soul mate.

The other half of the soul mark was just as mysterious, though Shara couldn't help but feel that it looked familiar. It looked a bit like a sun, rising straight from the stem of the flower, bursting from the middle of the petals, except that at the top of the sun, one of its beams extended up like a sword, ending just below where finger met palm.

Her husband was far less mystified. He took one look at her baby's soul mark and his joy shifted almost immediately to pain.

"The Jedi." He whispered.

And Shara's heart broke.

Her baby was going to be a Jedi. Shara had known that her precious baby could be, that he had the potential for it, it was Republic law for babies to be tested at birth, and they had informed her that her baby was force sensitive, enough so that the Jedi would accept him if she and her husband chose to give him up. It was even standard for the Jedi to be notified, and a few Jedi had been in contact, asking if she would be sending her baby to the temple. She had delayed them, saying it was a difficult choice, and that she would need time to make it. The law and Jedi be damned, it was still Shara's choice. But now, with half the Jedi Order symbol on her baby's skin--a lightsaber stretching out of a flower, vines wrapped around it--it felt as though she didn't have a choice at all.

What if by keeping her baby from the Jedi she was keeping her baby away from his soul mate? Shara didn't think she had the heart to do that.

Her husband agreed, his eyes tired and sad. How could they stand between their little boy and his soul mate?

And so, not even a week after the soul mark had become clear on his skin, Obi-Wan Kenobi was given to the Jedi.

-_-

It started as searing pain in the middle of the night, waking Jango from what should have been a restful night sleep. He thrashed at his chest, pulling at his sleep shirt and scratching at his chest in agony.

Jaster, the guardian who'd taken him in, a man that one day Jango would look up to as Father, when the loss of his parents was not so new, when the grief was not so fresh, calmed Jango as well as he was able. He held Jango tight as the first waves of pain died away, and together they pulled the sleep shirt away to reveal the first gray smudges that marked Jango as a Dral'runi.

Everyone in the galaxy shared a truth; soul mates were rare and soul mates were precious.

But Mandalorians had their own truths as well. The first soul mates were Mandalorian, with strong souls and stronger bonds it was said that almost every Mandalorian had a soul mark.

It was said that the first soul marks not on the skin of a Mandalorian were marked clearly into the skin of a Mandalorian's mate, and it was from there that soul marks spread throughout the galaxy, until slowly the marks seemed to fade, and fewer and fewer individuals were given soul marks, Mandalorian or not.

This was not strictly true, but truth is often forgotten in order for stories to take their place.

And Mandalorians did not forget, strong souls and strong bonds had started with Mandalorians. It was believed that all Mandalorians had strong souls and strong bonds, that there was something deep in the soul of every Mandalorian that went deeper than their blood line, that went deeper than their ties to their planets of birth. It was said that anyone could become Mandalorian, because Mandalorians were bound together by something more, something Manda, something deep in their soul.

And among those Mandalorians were those whose souls were so strong and whose bonds were so true, those who followed the Mandalorians of old with marks across their skin. And so those that held soul marks became the Dral'runi, the powerful souls. It was from these Dral'runi that Mand'alors were chosen.

Jaster knew that, had been chosen as Mand'alor in part due to his status as Dral'runi and in part because he had vision, because he was both kind and strong, because he was Manda.

And now Jango was a Dral'runi as well.

For days Jango watched the smudge lying over his heart, waiting to see what his mark would be, two symbols--one to symbolize him and one to symbolize his soul mate--entwined together into one symbol.

Finally, the smear of grey over his heart grew distinct, though he didn't immediately recognize either half of the symbol; Jaster recognized both. The flower was the Kot'shla flower, beautiful, strong, resilient, capable of growing in the most desolate of wastelands that spread across much of Mandalore. Jaster told the boy it was a symbol to be proud of, a mark that tied him to Mandalore.

The mark that symbolized his Dral'runi was met with greater hesitance, half of the symbol that denoted the Jedi Order--a representation of a lightsaber growing from the Kot'shla flower.

A Mandalorian and a Jetii--or at the very least, someone who could claim the lightsaber represented them, and there were very few individuals who could claim that who weren't Jetii.

It caused quite the stir among the camp, the Mand'alor's ward a Dral'runi with a Jetii soul mate.

Jango found that his excitement dimming, ashamed. He had already lost his family, he did not want to lose his place with Jaster, his place among the Mandalorians because of the symbol on his chest, because a soul mate he didn't know might be a Jetii.

Jaster calmed him, no one would ever force the boy to love his soul mate, he said. A soul mark didn't need to mean anything, if Jango didn't want it to. But if Jango did love his Jetii, then Jaster assumed it meant the Jetii must be worth loving. Either way, Jango was in no danger of losing his place, not with the Mandalorians, and not with Jaster.

And Jaster told Jango about his own soul mate, a woman he'd loved and lost. He told him about how it felt, when mark touched mark and soul touched soul, about how there was nothing like it in all the galaxy.

Jango believed him, and quietly, nine years old and determined he decided, Jetii or no, he wanted his soul mate.

-_-

Things weren't quite that simple. Weren't quite that easy.

Though neither Shara or Jango knew that.

There was no way for Jango to know what their shared mark would mean for his soul mate. There was no way that Shara could know what the soul mark would mean for her little boy among the Jedi.

There was no way for Shara to know that by giving her baby to the Jedi she was starting something that couldn't be stopped. If she had known, it was quite possible she wouldn't have heeded the words on her child's skin, wouldn't have been so eager for her baby to find his soul mate. If she had known, then maybe her baby would have been spared a great deal of pain.

But she couldn't have known what exactly her decision had started.

-_-

It had started over a thousand years ago; the problem--though not many people truly realized that there was a problem--didn't just magically appear, no, it was the application of decisions and attitudes lifetimes in the making. Several thousand years ago the Jedi believed in soul marks just as much as anyone.

But they worried.

Attachment, they whispered amongst themselves, was dangerous. And a soul mark, and the soul mates that came with them, could only be equally dangerous.

But those whispers were disregarded. Attachment was dangerous, that was true, but surely soul marks were the will of the Force? And how could the Jedi argue against the will of the Force they were dedicated to following? And so even as the whispers started up they were disregarded, though not forgotten.

Soul marks were Force blessed, and the Jedi would rejoice in them, would respect their presence and what it meant for the children who bore those marks.

It could have ended there, and the issue of soul marks and attachment would have remained nothing more than a philosophical argument that the Jedi would place before their Padawans as a thought exercise or for the senior Masters to debate over tea and cookies.

And then... and then... and then he Fell. He was just one man. It was just one Fall.

It wasn't anger, or rage, or fear. Or at least that's what the Jedi told themselves, it was not that they had not taught him well enough.

No, her mark was wrapped around his wrist, and his mark fell in a line across her palm.

It wasn't the mistakes of the Jedi, it was her and him and their marks. He had Fallen, and if it hadn't been for their soul marks, they wouldn't have.

It was true--from a certain point of view.

After all, she had asked him to Fall. To Fall with her.

If he had been truly good man, it would not have mattered.

If he had been a truly kind man, he wouldn't have Fallen away so easily.

If he had been a true Jedi, he would never have let his greed and his wants outweigh the compassion that every Jedi was meant to have.

But he wasn't a good man, wasn't a kind man, wasn't truly a Jedi.

He was a man who had hidden his anger and his fear deep in his heart, had allowed those feelings to fester. He was a man who liked having power, and liked using his power to hurt others. The mark wrapped around his wrist wasn't the reason he Fell, attachment, no matter what he, or she, or the Jedi said, wasn't the reason he Fell.

Attachment was an excuse.

An excuse for the several dozen Jedi that died at his hands, at their hands.

The council met, grieving and in pain, the Fallen Jedi and the woman who had his mark were both dead, and those that they'd killed given back to the Force.

Attachment, they whispered. Dangerous, they said. The will of the Force, someone argued. But where that had once been the end of the argument, where the had once been enough, it wasn't.

Which side of the Force? Someone asked, and fear had spread through the council chambers like poison.

Round and round the arguments went.

Perhaps they had misunderstood in times past, perhaps soul marks were not Force blessed, but were a curse of the Dark Side, meant to steal away their children.

A month later a child was given to them, a sea-snake wrapped around a Morpheus flower tracing down her spine. They brought the child into the council chambers, and when the child left those chambers and was given to the creche the mark down the child's spine was forever hidden.

The child didn't remain a child, but became a young woman. She met her soul mate when she was seventeen years old on mission to aid a struggling planet. Her master watched as she fell in love, but when the mission was over, the girl said goodbye to her love. She returned to the temple, heartbroken. She had loved them, but they had a mark on their shoulder, a sea-snake and Morpheus flower, and it had been so beautiful. They had someone waiting for them, and she had a temple waiting for her.

Her soul mate had fallen in love as well, but watched their love walk away, an ache in their heart because they didn't want a soul mate, not if it meant losing her. They wondered, sometimes, why their mark had tingled in the girl's presence, wondered how anyone else could possibly compare to this girl who had made them feel free and happy for the first time in years.

They died years later, still in love with the pretty girl who had walked away, still waiting to find someone who's mark matched theirs.

The girl became a Knight, became a Master, was the perfect Jedi, and the council nodded to each other, pleased. Without the marks their children couldn't be corrupted. Without the marks their children would be safe.

Every child who arrived to the temple with marks on their skin joined the creche with the marks hidden away.

No one noticed. After all, soul mates were rare. And yes, perhaps it was odd that no Jedi ever had a soul mark. But anyone who could testify to the mark on their child's skin would never see their child again--who was to say that Jedi simply weren't meant to have soul marks?

And so Shara gave her child to the Jedi, hopeful that the mark on his skin would lead him to his soul mate. He was given to the council with a lightsaber growing from the petals of a flower on his skin.

He entered the creche with no mark to be found.

And maybe... Maybe that would have been the end of it. Just as it had been for so many children that came before him, whose marks had disappeared and whose soul mates were left forever waiting.

Maybe if it weren't for the fact that a Sith was on the rise.

Maybe if it weren't for the fact that the child with a mark hidden on his palm would gain the devotion of the Chosen One of prophecy.

Maybe if it weren't for the fact that the mark on his palm was the same as the mark over the heart of a boy who would grow to become one of the most dangerous men in the galaxy.

Maybe... Maybe... Maybe...

Maybe if Shara had known she wouldn't have given her son away. Maybe if the Jedi had realized what their decision would cost them they would have chosen differently.

Maybe... Maybe... Maybe...

Thousands of years ago the Council decided to hide any soul marks on the children that entered the temple, a secret hidden not just from the Galaxy outside their temple, but from every Jedi who didn't sit on the Council when a child with a soul mark joined them.

Thousands of years ago the Council, frightened by one man who would have Fallen even without the mark on his wrist, stole the marks from the children they were entrusted with, hiding their marks away.

But things that are hidden have a way of being discovered, sooner or later.