Mikala suddenly screamed as the ground under their feet began to writhe with vicious looking insects.
"Mikala, these are your demons. Be calm. Breathe." Mel continued to scan the trees as she spoke.
Alidar lifted her from where she stood and put her on a clear spot.
"And we need to move quickly." Darien added. "Kids follow me. Tiri, Jan, stay with Mikala. Lonnie, Mel, join me in front."
Mikala squeezed her eyes shut in fear, struggling to not to scream again.
The bugs near Mel's feet blacken and popped as the flames around her brighten and descend. She steps lightly through the mess to Darien.
"Attiles, watch our rear."
The kids moved to obey Darien.
The bushes at the edge of the garden shook as something large worked to push through them.
Alidar started back up and concentrated. Imari dropped onto his shoulder as if watching over him
"Goldie," Lonnie called.
Goldie growled at the bushes and then bounced to Lonnie's side.
Mikala shoved the palm of her hand in to her mouth to keep another scream in. Her eyes wild and a look of fear beyond reasoning thought in them.
The foliage seem to shimmer a bit as something like a curtain began to form and gain substance.
Jan took Mikala's left arm and Tiri took the right one and they began to half carry her toward the house.
The bushes at the other side of the garden parted and wide, yellow reptilian eyes stared in at them.
Mel reaches back to grab Mikala and pull her along. "Move Mikala. Focus on the house nothing else. Feel how solid it is. How clean."
The bushes on the opposite side collapsed and deep crimson eyes glowed out from the gloom.
"Lonnie, keep us moving," Darien commanded. Then he dropped back to help Attiles.
Mel looked at Tiri. "If she doesn't calm down smack her." Then moved away towards the nearer beast.
Mel's hands and body started to glow brighter then the glow transformed into a large ball of fire racing across the lawn at the reptile.
The reptile let out a roar as the fireball exploded around it, blackening its scales.
The group around Mikala continued to move towards the house.
Mikala suddenly balked against the hold the girls had on her arms. "No! This is my fault! Get out of here! They just want me. I don't want any of you to get hurt because of me!"
"No, you're our sister. We don't abandon our own." Tiri answered.
Melody retreated back to the group, walking backwards. She grinned and realized she forgot something.... She holds up her necklace and the tiny gold symbol there, holding it up as a focus for her power.
Mikala looked down at her and the fight went out of her.
"Now clear you're mind." Jan told her. "Fear draws them."
Mikala nodded, closing her eyes.
One of the creatures tried to lunge forward, but seemed to run up against something. It bellowed and tried to push through it.
Darien and Attiles backed away from the creatures.
The flying creatures were gone.
Alidar continues to focus on his barrier.
Lonnie and Goldie moved toward the house, cutting their way thought what remained of the lesser demons and the monkeys.
The reptilian creature slammed into the barrier.
Mel glanced at the skies noticing the lack as well. She kept backing up towards the group.
"Attiles, when we get to the house, you and the others pull out of the astral plane." Darien ordered.
Alidar's eyes squinted with the extra effort.
"Ok, " the boy answered.
The door to the house suddenly opened and a woman stepped out. Short dark hair hanging into her eyes and a wicked looking vibroshiv in her hand. A vicious snarl twisted her tough looking features.
"No," Mikala moaned, trying to pull the girls back. "She's dead. She can't be here. She's dead."
Lonnie stopped and faced her. Goldie moved to flank her on the left.
"She is here because you are here and make her real Mikala." Mel told Mikala.
"She's in your mind, Mikala." Jan said.
"Who is she?" Tiri asked.
"You think they can help you, girl?" the woman said. "You know what happens when you disobey me."
Mel glanced at the woman in the door. True ghosts did walk these Planes as well, and this could be more than a figment of fear.
"My Mother," Mikala said in a quiet voice.
"Oh," Tiri answered. "Well this is our place, not hers."
The woman started down off the steps, light reflecting off the vibroshiv as it hummed softly. "You remember what happened when Corbin interfered."
"Mikala, keep your mind clear." Jan reminded her. "Ghost or phantasm, she feeds on your fear."
"I--I can't," she said trying to pull away from the girls to run.
Lonnie moved to block her. "I don't know who Corbin is, or was, but he was not a Sith Lord. I am."
Goldie moved behind Trinity.
The woman smiled cruelly. "You really think you can stop me?"
Alidar continued backing up slowly. He eyes closed but moving confidently.
"I have an idea," Jan said. She touched Mikala's forehead. "Sleep!" She commanded.
"Darien, I think we need you in front." Tiri called.
Mikala looked at her strangely, her eyes starting to slide closed. Trinity's image began to flicker.
"No!" she ragged and suddenly began to solidify again.
Darien turned to move forward. "Attles, keep watch."
Alidar was sweating a bit in concentration
Mel sidles up by Alidar to help him, backing up with him now.
Goldie pounced. The leopard passed straight through the image.
Trinity held her ground. "She is mine. I let her get away from me once, not again. Worthless trash that she is."
Goldie hit the ground and rolled having not hit what she expected. Then she jumped to her feet. She radiating, "you didn't see that."
Mel would sense a flash of gratitude but Imari watched her closely.
Mel ignored the bird except to check that she's not demonic.
Trinity turned her focus back on Mikala. "Stop this nonsense, girl."
Darien steps up to the girls. "What's happened...oh."
They felt a fear deeper than anything Mikala was projecting before with the other monsters, radiating from her as her mother approached.
"No," Mikala said softly. "I'm safe here. You're dead. I have a family now."
Darien looked at Trinity, then at Mikala. He turned off his lightsaber.
Trinity laughed darkly. "A family? You think you have a family. You'll never have one. You're not good enough for something like that."
Darien slipped Mikala's arm away from Tiri, stepped around in front of Mikala and presses his lips to hers.
Tiri moved to join Lonnie in blocking Trinity.
Mikala's eyes snapped open for a moment and then she just melted into the kiss.
Jan let go of Mikala's other arm.
Trinity snarled and then started to flicker again. She let out a cry of frustration and melted away.
Darien tossed his lightsaber to Jan, hooked his other arm under Mikala's legs, and picked her up.
Mikala closed her eyes and pressed her face into Darien's shoulder.
Mel closed her eyes and lowered her head. She glowed brighter now, the glow seeping over the lawn to the edges of the barrier and past....
"Cover us, I'm going to try to take her into the house and back to the material plane." Darien started walking toward the house
The lizard demon started to push through the wall, bellowing deeply as it did.
"Please...hurry." Alidar asked.
Goldie bounded ahead of Darien. The kids followed behind.
The lizard snarled, its scales blackening as it pushed.
Darien reached the house, and started up the back stairs. He moved quickly to the third floor and then to Mikala's room.
Mikala was crying softly against his shoulder.
Darien laid Mikala on her bed. Then he touched her shoulder. "Wake up, Mikala. Time to wake up."
Mel bumped the wall of the house and checked her bearings, moving with Alidar into the house and along the route to Mikala's room.
Goldie jumped up on the bed and began licking Mikala's face.
Alidar backed up with his eyes closed
Mikala jerked awake back in her bed with a gasp, her eyes flying open in panic.
"Are you...ready? I fear I must let...the wall down."
Mel yelps as a long snaky tentacle snaps out of a room and into her forearm, yanking her with it.
"Tiri, drop out of the circle and make sure she's alright." Darien ordered. "The rest of you come with me. We need to finish off the monsters.
Mikala had rolled over onto her side and was sobbing into her pillow.
Darien, Jan, Lonnie, Goldie and Attiles ran back down the stairs to join Alidar and Mel.
Imari hops off the shoulder and dives for whatever had attacked Mel
"I yes...." Mel grabs onto the doorframe and holds on as other tentacles lash out around various appendages. "Um...."
Goldie pounces on a tentacle grabs it in her mouth and give it a yank.
Alidar drops the wall, ignites the saber, and slashes the tentacles in one fluid motion.
Another tentacle shot out to lash at the cat.
Lonnie severed it with his lightsaber.
Green gold flames race down Mel's arm and where they meet tentacle it smokes with a horrible stench.
The tentacles landed on the floor with a wet sound and lay there quivering for a moment before they began to slither toward Alidar.
Jan chops at the tentacle.
Alidar said "Thank you" to Goldie in a language Goldie would understand
"Close the door," Lonnie ordered. Then he opened a panel by the door and entered a code.
The severed tentacles slithered on the floor toward them as several other tentacles tried to push in through the door.
Mel scrambles back towards the stairs, again holding her symbol for protection. "This way!"
Darien and Attiles slammed the inner door on the monster.
A tentacle wrapped around Darien's waist and tried to toss him aside.
The sound of many blasters is heard outside.
"That should keep them busy for a while." Lonnie said.
Mel hesitates on the second step. "Oh, good then. Come on. We shouldn't stay here."
There was a small explosion.
"I think they found one of the mines." Attiles said.
A few of the severed tentacles had started to crawl up the stairs.
Mel giggled at Attiles, but spying some tentacles writhing her way nukes them to ash.
"What did you do, Lonnie?" Darien asked.
Alidar followed the group, as they seemed to know this place
Jan chases after the tentacles, attacking with her lightsaber.
"I turned on the outside security system." Lonnie answered.
There was a sound of rending metal and some of the blasters stopped firing.
"Kids, back up to Mikala's room and return to your bodies." Darien ordered.
He started herding the four kids up the stairs.
Mel waited on the steps for Alidar and Imari before going up, blazing the carpet behind her as she went.
The back door started to splinter as something large threw itself against it.
Darien pushed the kids into Mikala's room. "Now back to your bodies, all of you."
Jan sat where her body was in the real world and vanished.
Mel grabs a marker from the desk and draws a symbol on the floor around her and Alidar. The lines brighten glowing green and she fades away.
Attiles followed Jan's example. Lonnie grabbed Goldie's collar and the two of them vanished.
Darien turned to Alidar "I don't know where your body is."
"I will return now. I thank you for you assistance." Alidar said.
"It is I who must thank you. But we both need to get off this plane. So good bye." Darien answered
"Until next we meet." Alidar responded.
"Yes, until then."
Alidar bows. Then he and Imari were gone.
Darien stepped thought the door, and ran down the hall to his room where he quickly returned to his body
Darien sat up, rolled off his bed and headed back down the hall to Mikala's room.
Mel picked herself up and ran outside to turn off her idling speeder out front, then came back inside.
Darien pushed his way though the crowd of younger kids that had gathered outside Mikala's room and went inside. Alana stood in the door, keeping the little ones out.
Mikala still lay huddled on her side on the sleep couch sobbing into the pillow.
Goldie stood on the bed, licking Mikala, as if she were a cub. Mikala wept, oblivious to Goldie's attention.
Lonnie, Jan, Attiles and Tiri sat on the floor recovering.
"Everyone all right?" Darien asked.
"I think so," Lonnie answered.
The other kids nodded.
"But I'm not sure about Mikala." Lonnie finished.
Mel came up the stairs two at a time and rejoined the cluster.
"What happened?" Cassandra demanded as she stepped into the room, followed by Taras.
Mel stepped silently out of their way.
"Our wayward child here," Darien pointed at Mikala. "Seems to have been unwittingly wandering the astral plane."
"We had to rescue her from her fears." Jan added.
Mikala struggled to get her tears under control and pushed Goldie away from her.
Sandy went to the bedside and took Mikala's pulse.
"I think we may have wrecked the astral version of the house, Dad." Lonnie said.
Mikala rolled onto her back, her eyes red and puffy from crying. She brushed her free hand against her face and looked at the others. "I'm sorry," she said softly.
"The back yard is knee deep in dead demons at least." Tiri added.
"Did you know you were on the astral plane?" Taras asked. "It's no place for beginners."
She shook her head. "I thought I was just having a nightmare until the others started showing up." Mikala answered.
"Nightmares often go there. It's a fluid world." Mel added.
Sandy picked up the med scanner from the nightstand. "No apparent physical damage."
Mikala ran a hand through her hair and grimaced. "Alidar said I was on the Astral Plane the last time I talked to him."
"Who is Alidar?" Taras asked.
"The Jedi," she said and then shook her head, looking at Darien. "The other Jedi."
"One who joined the fight?" Darien asked.
"He was protecting us from her demons." Mel put in.
"Who all was there?" Taras asked.
Mel counts heads. "Mikala, Tiri, Lonnie, Attiles, Darien uh, Alidar, and me and um, her mother? I think."
"I made the demons?" Mikala asked in a small voice. She closed her eyes when Mel mentioned her Mother.
"Oh, and a bird." Mel finished.
"And Goldie." Lonnie added.
"What you think of can become real there. Fire can burn, or not burn at all if you don't believe in it." Mel looks apologetic. "Yes Goldie." Mel reaches over to caress the kitty.
"Sometimes the demons we meet on the astral plane are created by our own minds. Sometimes they are real." Taras explained. "I think the really big ones were real demons, attracted by you, rather than created." Taras continued.
"All right. That's enough for tonight. Mikala needs to sleep. So everyone back to bed." Cassandra interrupted.
Mikala rubbed her face. "I can still feel their claws," she said softly. "It hurt like when that woman attacked me." Mikala quickly shook her head. "I'm not going back to sleep."
"I'll stay with her."
"Yes, you are. I'll give you a sedative that will put you too deeply to sleep to go astral." Sandy reassured her.
Mikala looked torn. "I don't want drugs, but I don't want to do that again."
"You can't stay awake for ever. That will hurt you worse."
Taras and Darien started herding everyone else to bed.
"Please," Mikala pleaded. "Just a for a while."
"All right. We'll sit with you."
She nodded. "Thank you."
Taras returned and pulled two chairs up to the bed. He and Sandy sat down.
Mikala took a shaky breath and sighed. "Sorry. I keep setting everything in an uproar. I must be wearing out my welcome by now."
"I'll have to admit I'm impressed." Sandy answered. "But you'll have to do better than that to drive us away."
Mikala made a face. "I haven't had a nightmare like that since I was little."
"That wasn't a nightmare." Taras answered. "Your recent traumas when amplified by the Force in you. That often happens to the inexperienced. You are now strong enough to enter the astral plane. That is what happened tonight. Otherwise, Darien, and the others would not have been able to help you. And Darien says he was already there when he heard you."
She nodded slowly. "Alidar was there too. He and a bird," she said with a bit of puzzled look. She looked over at Goldie was still sitting beside the sleep couch. "Was Goldie really there?"
"Yes, Lonnie has trained her to follow him into the astral. He says she led the kids to you. Cats are good at finding things, if you can convince them they want to." Taras explained.
"I didn't know animals could be Force sensitive," she said.
"Ysaimiri are Force null. So why can't animals be Force sensitive?" Sandy asked. "There are some species where every one is Force sensitive. It's rather common in cats."
"I guess I just never thought about it before. That bird with Alidar must be Force sensitive as well."
"All cat species have Force using individuals." Taras added. "Goldie comes from a well known strain of Force sensitive leopards. When Lonnie was six we decided that since he loved animals and was good about taking care of his pets we'd get him one."
"As you can imagine she's been the head pet ever since."
She smiled a little at that.
"And I'm sure you're right, this bird must been like Goldie."
"I didn't see it the last time though," she said thoughtfully.
"The last time?" He asked.
She looked over at him and grimaced. "I've talked to him a couple of times now."
"But you thought they were dreams?" Sandy said.
She nodded. "The first was when I was in the bacta tank. I woke up and couldn't move and then suddenly I was in Keiren's garden. It was so quiet. I don't know how long I was there until he showed up and we talked."
She looked over at Taras. "You came then and said it was time to come home."
"Yes, I did." He laughed. "You see, it fooled me too that time. I thought I was pulling you out of too deep a dream."
She smiled a bit. "I talked to him another time after that." She paused. "I think he's the same Alidar my Grandmother spoke of, but he's nothing like the stories she told me. He's...kind."
"It would appear so." Sandy said. "I'll want to talk to the kids about him in the morning, but what I've heard agrees with that."
"Maybe he's learned things since he hurt your Grandmother." Taras suggested.
Mikala sighed deeply. "I think my Grandmother lied," she said softly.
"Why?" her father asked.
"Darien isn't anything like what my Grandmother told me Jedi were like." She looked at him. "None of you are anything like what she told me Sith were."
"What did she tell you?" Sandy asked.
"Jedi weren't to be trusted. They were evil and heartless and would betray you the first chance they got. Sith were worse."
"Not only would a Sith betray you, they would kill you the first chance that came along."
"Did she say where she learned about Sith?"
"From when she was a Padawan in the Temple. She said that she thought Sith were a myth made up to scare the children until she found out they were real after the Clone War. She said that's why we were hiding on Ord Mandell. That's why I hid from you when you came and took Polena away."
"So you figured out I was a Sith?"
"Only a Sith could feel that dark," she said softly. "A Sith or my Mother."
"I don't think you've felt real Darkness. You've not met Vader or Palaptine."
"I don't think anyone could feel darker than my Mother," she said bitterly.
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