Chapter 14. Duel of the Fates
The dead bounty hunter’s ship, Lord Vader’s personally customized hyper-space enabled fighter vessel, and the Jedi’s unregistered craft were the three silent spectators to the battle on the landing platform, high above even the skyscrapers of Coruscant. It was a battle, the likes of which living eyes had not seen since the Darth Bane and his apprentice had battled against the legendary Jedi Knight Yoda in the early days of the Empire. That battle had changed the fate of the galaxy as we know it. This one might very well do the same.
Blue lightsabres clashed against red and locked. Vader’s eyes, bright and yellow with Sith darkness, stared into the pale eyes of Kenobi, and the darker eyes of Ventress.
“Yield, Jedi,” Vader hissed, malevolence dripping from his tongue.
Kenobi’s eyes twinkled. “Three against one hardly seems fair.”
Vader’s eyes narrowed and he pulled at his sabre, trying to unlock it from their grip but they held fast.
A clever ruse. While other two Jedi get the Sith distracted with their taunting, Xanatos was sneaking up on Vader from behind, sabre drawn and ready to cut him down. Ventress smiled, the curling of her lips making her fierce face more sinister. “We really should have come with more.”
Vader snarled. Xanatos had got within striking distance when an invisible shard of malice struck him, knocking him off his feet sending him hurtling across the platform.
Kenobi and Ventress moved in quickly, trying to keep the Sith trapped but he was already out of their grip. Switching of his sabre, he unlocked himself from the deadly embrace and backflipped away from them, after Xanatos.
The Jedi had barely got to his feet, when Vader was before him. Red flame slashed at him, slicing through his vest.
Xanatos didn’t scream but Ventress did.
“I agree. Hardly fair,” Vader decided and slashed into the open flesh of the Jedi’s stomach.
The third slash would have torn Xanatos into two but Kenobi got there first. Vader’s red sabre clashed with the Jedi’s blue one. Ventress was coming at him with a flying leap, her blade swinging over her head.
Vader actually laughed. No Hand could give him a work-out as thorough as this. Using the lock with Kenobi’s blade as a fulcrum, he rose to meet her, kicking her in the stomach just as her blade slashed at his jerkin, and then on the return motion, using his legs to take out Kenobi’s from beneath him.
The two Jedi and the Sith all fell to the floor. Vader sprang to his feet first, dropping his sabre and letting Dark Lightning spill from his hands to his enemies.
After the initial shock and rage at the Jedi’s interference, he had found an unsteady balance of sorts. Nothing irked the Sith Lords as much as being thwarted and he let his rage burn cold, his spite gave him extraordinary focus.
The three Jedi were skilled: they wielded the Force and the blade with a mastery few Hands could imitate. They fought as a unit, each complementing the other two, literally and figuratively covering each other’s backs. When one of them was in danger, the other two would rush to his or her defence. They were determined not to lose any of their number to the Sith’s blade. It was in that strength, that their weakness lay. For they could not defeat him without one of them being sacrificed – and that was something that they were clearly unready to do.
The three Jedi were dead. They just didn’t know it yet.
His prize waited for him by his ship. It was time to end this now.
The Lightning caught Ventress full and her screams of agony were music to his ears. Kenobi’s blade was up before Kenobi was, and he held the weapon like a shield above his kneeling posture. Electricity reflected back at the Sith Lord and with a laugh, he caught it with his hand.
The Force had never felt so strong within him as he received his own Darkness back into himself. He could feel the outer edges of consciousness stretching, extending from the flimsy boundaries of his own physical limitations and into the people around him – Ventress’ gradual paralysis… Xanatos’s lifeblood draining from him even as he clumsily called on the Light (Vader’s aura shied away at once) and used elementary Healing powers to knit the open maw of his stomach… Kenobi calling on every element of the Force to withstand the onslaught of the Sith and failing, his arm almost breaking with the effort of holding off the Sith… Padmé Naberrie’s gradual rising to consciousness.
And like before, Vader’s very reaction to her weakened him. His hand shook slightly, fatally, and this time, when Kenobi’s blade directed the lightning, it struck Vader in his chest, in the very wounds that a young Jedi apprentice had only just knitted a few hours ago.
Kenobi’s hand came up and he directed his own Lightning at the Sith. Vader roared with pain, trying and failing to get his focus as he felt his wounds opening slowly.
“Still the dreamer, Sith,” Kenobi whispered, getting slowly to his feet. He concentrated all his focus on Vader, determinedly ignoring Asajj’s cries until Vader’s hand lifted from the woman and turned on Kenobi.
Kenobi just ducked from the second blast of Lightning. He rolled on the floor, and stretched his now free hand. When he got to his feet, Vader’s lightsabre was in his hand. The red flame opened in time to deflect a more carefully aimed blast of Sith lightning.
The look of outrage on Vader’s face was a masterpiece to Kenobi’s eyes. Around him, Xanatos and Ventress were getting to their feet. The Light was strong at this moment and it was getting stronger. The Lightning that poured from the Sith’s hands were weakening. He could feel the three Jedi move until they had him in the centre of a small tight circle. Around him, the Force was like a tightening noose on his neck.
“You will never have her,” Kenobi whispered. He let himself sink into a lower level of consciousness and he could feel his brethren do the same. As one, the three Jedi struck.
Vader drew on the Darkness and flew back, away from the tightening circle. And the Jedi flew with him, keeping him right in their centre. The Sith had lost his weapon but he was far from weapon less, he drew on the Force as unfamiliar as it felt now, and shrapnel from the bounty hunter’s ship lifted from the ground and aimed themselves at Xanatos.
The Jedi’s blade cut them before they reached him. Ventress raised a hand and sent them flying towards Vader. He deflected them back, as much as he could and in that moment, Kenobi went under his guard and ripped the Sith’s chest with his own blade.
In his mind, Vader howled but out loud, he had to conserve his strength. Resisting the urge to snarl into the Jedi’s face, he feinted quickly, grabbed Kenobi’s wrist, and pulled the sword arm until it was across Vader’s own body. His grip on Kenobi’s wrist tightened. The bones snapped and the sabre hung uselessly in Kenobi’s grip. His fingers had locked over the cylinder.
Kenobi’s second blade, Ventress’ green one and Xanatos’ lilac one all struck Vader at the same time. He fell beneath them, taking Kenobi with him. The red blade was not deactivated. It had cut through cloth and skin and was touching bone when Vader rolled away, the Jedi still with him so that when Xanatos and Ventress struck again, it was Kenobi’s thigh that took the impact.
Despite everything, Vader laughed. A fountain of blood came out of his mouth.
Kenobi jerked futilely in the deadly embrace. Vader’s grip on his wrist was like iron. He had raised his arm across their bodies and under Kenobi’s neck. The red sabre now hissed viciously in his loosened grip, the handle by Kenobi’s neck, the blade a safe distance from both their bodies. Apart from the fact that his body now served as shield between the Sith and his own companions, Kenobi’s own arm was now choking him. As situations went, it was all rather grim.
Xanatos studied the scenario carefully and then aimed at Vader’s arm. The Sith moved a little and the sabre struck Kenobi’s.
Vader laughed again. He couldn’t help it even though it hastened the drain of life blood from his body. His awareness was fading. He had a strong feeling that he might be dying.
Ventress aimed her blade at Vader’s temple. The Sith shifted a little (small motions were all he could manage now) and Kenobi’s right cheek tore open. By now the Jedi was almost as badly wounded as the Sith. He was drawing on the Light side to keep him alive. It was an action that both weakened and saved the Sith with whom he was in such close proximity to.
Xanatos struck again. Kenobi’s left cheek bleeded.
“I think you should stop doing that,” Vader noted conversationally through the steady stream of blood gushing from his mouth.
In his fading consciousness, he could feel all three Jedi fighting against their rage. He couldn’t blame them. It must have been so annoying to be so close to defeating him and now being tricked into this horrible stalemate.
Then the accursed Kenobi chose to break it. “Leave me. Get the Guardian. She’s more important.”
They could not defeat him without one of them being sacrificed...
“No!” screamed Xanatos and Vader as one. Then they both stared at each other.
Ventress took one look at the two of them. Then she switched off her blade and started running towards Vader’s fighter.
In Vader’s mind, time seemed to slow. His connection to the Force that strengthened him had been weakened, his supernatural awareness all but faded. Now that Ventress was out of his sight, he could not track her. For all he knew, Padmé Naberrie was already gone.
With strength borne of sheer desperation, Vader threw the Jedi away from him. Xanatos’ blade was ready and it passed easily into the Sith’s body. Vader gripped the handle. A few minutes ago, he could have broken it just by flexing his grip. Now, he could feel the narrow cylinder slipping through his blood-soaked fingers.
It was a wonder that he still had blood to bleed.
There was a look of un-Jedi-like spite in Xanatos’ face. Kenobi rose before Vader. Two blades were now swinging above his head.
“Now you die, Sith.”
And the blades came down.