The boys went yawning into the tent they shared, giving a token protest after an energetic day. "Good night, Darien." Kieren grinned at the Jedi before a final yawn took him.
"Good night, boys." Darien answered.
Kieren pulled the tent flaps together behind him and dove into his sleeping roll next to his foster-brother.
Darien sat by the fire, drinking coffee and thinking.
The sound of night insects was soothing, and the campfire flickered and spat embers from time to time as a log settled into ash. After a bit, a different sort of flicker began to appear on the far side of the campfire. Gradually, a half-transparent figure limned in blue light came into being, sitting on the log that Kieren had abandoned to go to bed.
Darien felt the slight shift in the Force. He looked up, surprised. "Hello."
Cam smiled and nodded to him. "Thank you for helping my son, Darien Lell."
"Your son?" Darien looked startled, then the realization came. "You must be Cam." He sat back and looked across the flames at her.
"Yes." She glanced down at the fire and looked up at him, her expression serious. "I do hope that you will continue to help him. I've been able to protect him to a certain degree in this environment, but he is coming to an age where he requires not just protection, but training which I cannot supply."
"I see. How long have you been dead?" Darien asked.
"About seven and a half years, by your reckoning."
"So Kieren never really knew you."
She shook her head. "I was hauled away from Zoron at the Emperor's command when the children were about six weeks old--I still remember the last time I held him in my arms. I had no idea at the time that it would be the last time."
"And he's been raised by Cassandra ever since?"
" Yes. And, despite her Force orientation, she has reared him with affection and kindness."
"She does seem to be a mother first. He calls Kerisha his twin?"
"Yes, she is his twin sister. I don't understand though, why he is so light and she so dark. She's never been able to perceive me, not the way Kieren has." She shrugged, "I wasn't a very talented Jedi when I was mortal, and although I've learned much since I crossed over, there is still much I do not understand."
"That is strange. The family's influence cannot explain it all."
Darien mused. "Keri is the Darkest of the kids. One would think those whose real parents are Sith would be darker. "I think her Darkness worries Taras at least," he added.
Cam shook her head. "I can only assume that it comes from the father's influence, but I don't know who that is."
"You don't know who the father is? What happened there?"
"I spent much time a prisoner of the Emperor, and when he learned of my Healing talents, and also that I'd already borne a Force-using child, he arranged--" she raised her hands in a gesture of frustration. "There are days missing from my memory and shortly thereafter, I was packed off to the Steele's. but I was rescued enroute by Kirienne Solo's Silver Flight. They returned me to the Alliance and I thought all would be well, but one of the Counselors, a being named Borath, proceeded to persuade the Council that I had been brainwashed and was not to be trusted. I was set up as a danger to the Jedi and the Alliance. He somehow managed to trick them into putting me in exile on Sanctuary, but the ship carrying me there developed drive problems and crashed. The pilot and I were rescued by an Imperial Star Destroyer which picked up the distress beacon broadcast."
She sighed. "Thus, I was back in Imperial hands when I discovered I was pregnant. I could only assume that it happened during those missing days. I never knew who he was, and I'm not really in a position to do the research now."
"How much of this do you think Cassandra knows? Darien asked. He tossed a stick into the campfire and a flare of sparks spiraled up toward the stars.
"She may have her own suspicions, but I would think that the only ones who really know about it are the Emperor and those who actually performed the procedure. There are some things one doesn't question if one wishes to remain standing in Palpatine's presence."
"I have the impression that Taras and Cassandra can get away with a lot more than the average Imperial."
"Perhaps. Such as bringing you here to teach Kieren what they are unable to."
"Exactly. Talasa told me that I was none of Imperial security's business."
"Darien, how do you think the Jedi would react to Kieren's presence at the Academy eventually? I wish for him to become a Jedi, one day, but I do not wish for him to be torn apart emotionally because of the circumstances of his birth and rearing."
Darien looked doubtful. "I hadn't thought about Kieren and the academy. The Jedi council, of course, seeks to bring as many Force users as possible to the Jedi," he continued. "But would they accept one who has been raised as a Sith?"
"He never will be a Sith." Her voice held the tone of prophecy.
"I agree. If he's held out this long, even at his age, he's not turnable. But will the council believe that?"
Cam rose and paced around the fire to stand next to him, gazing into the flames. "I have not approached the Jedi of Yavin since my death, concentrating on my children here who are at highest risk. But I will come to them, if necessary, to persuade them to accept him."
"I don't think Taras and Cassandra particularly care if he go Dark or not. But both sides must be convinced." Darien pointed out.
"I've watched Cassandra. She is a wise woman even if she has chosen what I consider the wrong path. She will not force him into something he cannot become."
"I gather she was born on the wrong path." Darien interj ected softly.
"Which is why you and the children are here, instead of at the Manor, while the Emperor is present."
"So that's what is going on. I wondered why she wanted us out of the way so fast."
"Darien, it will be difficult to build the necessary trust on both sides. But for Kieren's sake, you must do so."
"It will take time. Cassandra must first come to trust me before we can do anything else about it." Darien pointed out.
"We have time. And I will be around to help whenever you need me." She smiled at him, "You only need to call for me if you need me."
"I will. But, how will we explain to the other apprentices on Yavin why this newcomer is fully trained for his age?" he continued. "In fact, he's trained well beyond what is proper at his age."
"Give them the truth. Hiding anything will only lead to suspicion and fear... I will speak before the council if I must."
"The council would have to be told. But the apprentices?"
"Kieren has a half brother there; my first son, Jeren. Once that becomes apparent, no one who is familiar with Jeren will be surprised."
"How will he react?"
"I have appeared to Jeren in dreams from time to time." Cam said."When the time is right, I will appear to him directly and enlist his assistance. He knows of my death and why it happened. He will accept my appearance."
"Then we must begin to prepare the way. You must prepare Jeren. I need to win Cassandra's confidence and prepare Kieren." Darien ticked off items on his fingers. "And the council must be told."
"Yes. Thank you Darien. The Force will be with you. Remember, I will be watching, and waiting for your call."
"Wait, Cam. Does Kieren know who you are?"
"He knows me as a friend and teacher now. But he needs to know all the truth. Tomorrow night, send Bertel to sleep before Kieren, or find an excuse to send him to the lodge for a while. I will tell Kieren tomorrow."
"I will." He tilted his head and looked up into her brown eyes.
"May the Force be with you, Jedi Darien." Cam slowly faded away into the night.
"May the Force be with you, Cam Lightdancer."
(To be continued)
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