by Season Irwin and Ginna Wilcoxen

Blinking hard against the sudden glare of sunlight, Luke let himself be lead out the doorway. He was hit immediately by the oppressive heat, but it did not phase him; he had grown up on Tatooine, and he remembered it very well. He concentrated carefully on his surroundings and quickly took in the details of what he saw and heard. The arena throng was staggeringly huge. He strained his eyes to see his opponent.

"Wait here until your name is announced," the guards told him gruffly, and then stepped back. Luke could feel vibrations through the Force as the guards stepped away from him and was greatly relieved. Octavia would be able to use the Force out here to pull her through the battle. And to help himself as well. Noting the paces where the other guards stood, Ysalamiri draped across their shoulders, Luke made a mental note to let Octavia know to avoid those areas so that the Force would be available to her.

"From Turvechia, in this corner we have Lady Kordella Nomata!"

Thunderous voices echoed across the arena. The guards shoved her forward where everyone could take a good look at her. She was humanoid in appearance with a very strong build, and of an average height. Her long hair was wrapped securely about her head in a thick black braid. An aquiline nose and strong jaw graced a pair of wide eyes. The first thing she did was glance around herself in what appeared to be terror. But Luke could not get a Force reading on her. He frowned slightly.

"And in this corner we have Luke Skywalker, Master of the Jedi Academy!" Suddenly the crowd was hushed, recognizing his name.

In moments they returned to their former deafening din, louder than before. It was as though they realized how exciting this battle might be. The phrase, "Kill the Jedi!!" could be made out vaguely in the sea of voices. The Jedi Master ignored the noise and fixed his attention on his

opponent. Since he could not Force-read her, it was obvious she was a Force-null type. There was no barrier to push his mind against. He would simply have to anticipate her moves. But he did not wish to have to kill her...

The woman was allowed to choose her weapon first. He watched as she picked up a long, slender, curved sword. It glittered in the sunlight as she struggled with it to get a firm grip. Choosing a similar weapon, a broadsword with two sharp points raised on either side of its hilt, Luke stepped out into the arena.

"I didn’t want to fight you," she told him in a voice that was tremulous, "But I want to live." She faced him without a fearful expression, but her sword seemed to shake in her hands.

Blue eyes gazed at her cautiously. He knew they would not have purposely paired him with a helpless woman, yet he had only a few more moments to learn all he could about her before the fight actually began. He chose to remain perfectly silent, keeping his eyes fixed on hers. He did not like being faced with a female as a combatant, and it felt even worse to know that she was not even a Force sensitive.

The signal sounded. Immediately, Lady Kordella took up a fighting stance, but it appeared by her movements that she had had little experience in fighting. Luke remained cautious and still, readying himself for the worst case scenario. He stretched out with the Force, and still sensed nothing emanating from her.

Fiercely she swung out with her sword, and he was easily able to step aside to dodge her. The crowd began to roar approval. Jumping back quickly, she faced him again. After what seemed like many minutes as they circled one another, she leapt forward again, almost losing her footing in the process.

Luke moved back, but she followed him. Her expression was one of growing desperation. "You know I can’t win. You’re stronger than me!" she said. With that said, she thrust out her sword again, missing him by inches. But he was standing too closely for her to miss.

*What is she thinking?* Luke thought carefully. There was something about her. He could not quite put his finger on it. Without warning, she charged at him, blade fully sideways in front of her body. She moved so fast that he had no opportunity to step aside, and her weapon hit its mark.

Luke staggered back, stunned by the suddenness of her move and her newfound agility, feeling his arm burn across the bicep of his sword arm. Before he was ready again, she made another pass, this time slicing the wrist of the same arm. He parried her move too late, and then took up a new stance.

As blood began to flow down his arm, the mob roared its appreciation. Keeping his distance from her, Luke let the Force flow through him steadily to block the pain. She had been faking her distress all along!

The next few moves were fierce and sudden, Lady Kordella’s sword flashing expertly in and out. He managed to block her moves in time and shove her sword away with the edge of his broadsword. Not wanting to kill her, Luke was torn on what to do. *If I could get close enough right now to stun her with the hilt of the sword...!* he thought. With tremendous speed, she brought up her weapon again and slashed at Luke’s abdomen.

Only due to the Force was Luke able to move aside in time and block her blow. Their swords locked and they struggled with brute force alone to see which one of them would be able to push down the other’s weapon. *Her eyes are so beautiful and green,* he thought absently, amazed at her strength.

Their swords broke free of one another and they both staggered for a split second. Lightening fast, she ran at him with her full weight behind it.

Bringing up his broad- sword to fend her off, Luke was shocked to see her lunge straight onto the tip of his blade. It buried itself through her midsection almost to the hilt, so great was her rush upon him. She looked into his eyes searchingly and moved her lips soundlessly for a few moments, but if she spoke aloud at all her words were drowned out in the uproarious noise of the crowd. Lady Kordella began to droop, but the expression in her eyes turned to one of pure hatred before she died. Finally, her body sagged lifelessly, and Luke eased her gently to the ground.

He was still stunned at how fast she had come at him. But now she was dead, and Luke was certain that she had impaled herself purposely. The crowd didn’t seem to care, though, as they continued their earsplitting din. He knew their bloodlust had been appeased for the moment. It sickened him.

He barely heard the announcer as he was named formally as the champion.

The guards lead him back through the door, but all he could see was the expression in her eyes changing from anguish to hatred. Luke Skywalker’s heart grieved.


On to:
Part Two