On the Side

by DocDelray

Chapter 9: A New Path

Previous Chapter

The sun had just begun to crest over the mountains, drenching the valley in its warm rays. The sounds of birds filled the air as a warm breeze pushed its way around the mountainside and brushed through the young Unicorn’s mane. Twilight Sparkle once again found herself on the intoxicatingly peaceful world of Talgear. Her body was clad in a set of simplistic brown robes that hung loosely around her form despite the tailor droid’s best efforts. She was thankful for the machine’s attempts to accommodate her, though secretly she wished that Rarity had not left on her spur of the moment trip, she would have had these robes fitting perfectly.

Not far ahead of her the slightly hunched form of Jedi Master Carso Laan made his way down the carved steps in the side of the mountain. She found it rather odd how easily he seemed to move, even managing to stay ahead of her despite looking so ancient and frail.

For a moment her mind drifted back to Canterlot Castle, far across the sea of stars and the light years that now separated her from it. She remembered the look of pride in her beloved monarch and teacher’s face when she had asked permission to pursue her study of the Force. How Celestia had embraced her tightly and wished all the luck and blessings she could when she told her she was going to become a Jedi.

This also brought back to mind the heartache she felt when she boarded that shuttlecraft all alone. The tearful goodbyes she shared with her friends, her family and especially her number one assistant. It hurt the most to have to leave Spike behind, especially after all that they’d been through. But as Shin’ima had told her, this was a path she could only walk on her own. At least the little dragon would be safely surrounded by loved ones and kept busy running the library in Twilight’s absence. The introduction of long-range intergalactic communication would also certainly help the mare keep tabs on her beloved friend.

She then remembered the apprehension she felt when the ship left Gaia and began the long journey to this remote world. There was a touch of fear when she stood before the assembled masters of the temple while they evaluated her. And then, the way her heart soared when Master Laan stepped forth and declared that he would begin her training.

And now, here she was, so far from friends, family and anything she knew and held dear. Yet in this place there was a calmness that seemed to constantly wash over her. Setting her mind and heart at ease and making her feel like everything was going to be alright. Maybe it was the tranquil setting or Master Laan’s confidence in her, either way Twilight felt as though she was exactly where she belonged.

“Come along Padawan Sparkle,” Laan called back to her. “We don’t have much further to go.”

“Master, where exactly are we going anyways?” the Unicorn asked.

“Ah, right here!” the old man happily declared when they reached the valley floor.

Before them was a large jagged cut in the side of the mountain. Peering inside Twilight found that she could barely see a few inches into the darkened interior. An oppressive blackness seemed to almost force even the rays of daylight out of it.

“What is this place?” she asked him.

“This is your first trial as a Jedi,” he told her. “You must walk from this entrance to the other side of the cave. There you will find the exit.”

“That’s it?” Twilight asked. “I’m sorry master it’s just that, when you said I would be receiving advanced training from you I thought that I’d be doing something closer related to using the Force.”

Laan merely cracked a smile and began to make his way around the foot of the mountain. “All things in time Padawan, now then, you might want to hurry. We have the sun now, but it will not wait for you forever. We don’t want to be out here after dark after all.”

Twilight gave the entrance to the cave one final stare. She could feel something, like it was staring back at her daring her to enter. “Master, what will I find in the cave?”

“Only what you take with you,” Laan called back to her as he continued his own trek.

Looking back to the open maw of the cavern, she steeled herself before taking those first few cautious steps inside. The moment Twilight entered the cave she could feel the darkness around her reaching out and pawing at her. Like invisible hands of vapor that clawed away at her hide. She shivered at the thought of it and focused her magic into the tip of her horn. Obeying its master’s command, a ball of light formed around the pointy appendage and sprayed a dull white light around the area. Yet, even this seemed to barely push back the inky blackness that sought to smother her.

“Okay Twilight, this is some kind of Jedi test,” she mused aloud. “That means there’s gotta be some kind of over arching lesson to be learned from all of this. But what am I supposed to learn from walking in the dark?”

It was then that a dull orange flickering light caught her attention. Far off in the distance, deep within the bowels of the cave was another light source. Something in the back of her mind told her to ignore it. This tiny voice begged her to just keep walking forward and ignore this mystery. But curiosity had always been a weakness of Twilight’s. Cautious of the uneven ground beneath her hooves, she made her way through the darkness to find the source of the light.

Soon she came to an open stretch of ground. Ahead of her a robed figure sat huddled next to a small fire that seemed to keep the darkness at bay. She slowly approached the robed figure, uncertainty gripping at her heart and soul urging her to turn back. When the thick hood of the figure turned towards her, she felt her heart stop.

“Ah, company,” it said in a soft welcoming tone. “Please, come and share my fire traveler.”

Surprised by the warm welcome, Twilight made her way to the other side of the fire and took a seat on her haunches. “Thank you, I wasn’t aware that anypony else would be in this cave.”

“I’ve actually been here for quite some time,” the robed man told her. “One tends to lose track of time here in the dark.”

Twilight watched the figure across from her very carefully. His form was hidden deep beneath the robes though and gave her no hints beyond him not being a pony. Beyond that, there was a strangely cold aura that seemed to seep from him despite the fire.

“Soooooooooo, I don’t suppose you know the way out of these caves,” she asked with an uneasy smile.

“A way out,” the mysterious man asked with a chuckle. “I’m afraid I’ve been having a hard time finding that myself. The dark makes it hard to find the path after you’ve left it.”

In a panic Twilight turned her gaze back towards the direction she’d came from only to find pitch black and the faintest hints of what might lay within. Her eyes desperately searched against the oppressive shadows but she couldn’t even see the entrance to the caves anymore. Fear and dread began to seep into her heart as she continued to scan the emptiness.

“Your fear is quite palpable Padawan,” the robed man said with a snicker. “It reminds me of the last time we met.”

Ice filled her veins and poured into her stomach at his words. With a great deal of reluctance she turned her gaze back towards him in time to see him slip off the robes. Before her stood something that should be impossible. Davian Teth, the deceased commander of the Deathwatch forces that invaded her home world, was standing before her. It was him though. She could never forget that thin gaunt face, his thinning blonde hair or those cold icy blue eyes. She quickly backpedaled away from the man in front of her until her backside pressed into a rocky outcrop.

“Why, Twilight Sparkle, you don’t look very happy to see me,” Teth said with a sneer. “What’s it been, a year, maybe two? And how’s the shoulder? I hear you never quite get the feeling back in certain joints.”

“You,” she hissed at him while still keeping as much distance as she could. “You can’t be here, it’s not possible!”

Teth took the saber hilt from his belt and ignited it with a loud familiar hiss that sent phantom pains through Twilight’s shoulder. The area around him became illuminated by the purple glow of the energy blade. “And yet, here I am. Tell me Sparkle, do you think you can manage to kill me for good this time?”

As Teth lunged at her, saber ready to run her through again, panic guided the Unicorn’s actions. On reflex, Twilight quickly forced a spell to be cast which engulfed her body in a burst of purple energy. The dead Deathwatch Commander’s laser sword stabbed harmlessly into the rock she had been pressed against.

Deep within the caves, Twilight Sparkle sparked into existence with a burst of magical energy. Adrenalin still burned through her entire body, numbing her and driving her to keep moving. Meanwhile, her analytical mind tried desperately to make sense of what she’d just seen. Davian Teth was dead; she’d seen him die herself and she had been the one to kill him. There was no way he could be here Talgear in the caverns beneath the Jedi temple!

In her heightened state, she’d nearly missed yet another figure in the dark. The moment she bumped into something that didn’t feel like stone and reacted to her presence, she leapt backwards and brightened the glow in her horn. Twilight quickly brought to mind a number of offensive spells that she’d kept on the back burner as she prepared herself for another murderous ghost.

What she found was a rather tall broad shouldered man. His physique and build spoke highly of a very active and physically demanding life. He had a strong squared jaw, a head of brown and grayed hair and deep brown eyes. The man wore what looked to be a kind of armored robe that seemed out of place compared to anything she’d seem from Mandalore.

“Be at peace, Padawan,” his deep voice was filled with a soothing aura that managed to cut through Twilight’s guard.

“W-who are you?” she quickly demanded.

“I am a guide here in the darkness, for those who are willing to listen,” he assured her. “You have left the path and stumbled into the darkness, I can help you, if you are willing.”

She was hesitant at first since the last person she’d met down here had not been so friendly. But still, her own growing desperation forced her to admit that she couldn’t do this all by herself. Twilight sighed in defeat and nodded her head.

“Okay, I’ll take whatever help I can get, but we need to be quick,” she cautioned. “There’s a dangerous man down here with us, Davian Teth, he’s a Force user.”

“Be at ease Padawan, you are only in danger if you allow yourself to be.”

Twilight stared at the man in confusion. “Uhm, okay. But we should get moving all the same.”

“I cannot go with you,” he told her.

“But you said you’d help me.”

“I told you that I am a guide, and guide you I will. The way back to the path is a simple one,” he assured her. “You must rely less on these,” he pointed towards her eyes. “And rely more on this,” he pointed towards her chest. “Your eyes can deceive you, they can convince you that there are dangers when there are none and clear paths that lead only to certain doom. You must put trust in your instincts, let go of your perceptions and let the Force guide you. It will lead you to where you need to go.”

“That’s it?”

“No, there is one more lesson I can impart to you. If you truly wish to become a Jedi, you must learn to let go.”

“What do you mean let go?”

“Simply that,” he told her. “Let go of your hate, fear and anger, or they will drag you deeper into the darkness as they did me.”

She stared at the man in confusion for a time while she turned his advice over in her head. This wasn’t the first time she’d been told to just give in and take a leap of faith. But the last time she could at least see the hydra when it was bearing down on her. Teth was somewhere out there in the darkness waiting for her. Glancing over her shoulder at the rest of the cave, she scanned the darkness for any sign of her enemy. When she looked back though, he was gone.

His words remained in her mind though. Let go and trust in the Force to guide her. If it worked then she’d make it out of the cave, if not then Teth would find her and kill her. Then again this was why she came to Talgear, to learn about the Force and immerse herself in it.

She took a deep breath and cleared her mind, she thought of nothing but this moment in time. She could feel something rising up around her and slipping through her mind and body. Like a strand connecting her and the direction she needed to go.

Carefully, Twilight navigated her way through the blackness. Somehow she could simply feel the cave around her, every stone and crack suddenly became clear as day. The Unicorn followed her instincts, feeling the world around her through the strange yet familiar energy that spread from everything around her. She knew what this was, it was the same energy that filled her whenever she cast her spells but somehow it was more noticeable now.

In her journey she felt something calling out to her, guiding her further along. Almost like a song that filled her heart and soul rather than her ears. It called out to her and brought her to a small green gem embedded in a rock. It seemed so insignificant at first, but something about this gem told her that she should take it with her. With a touch of magic, she lifted the gemstone from the rock and slipped it into her robe pocket.

Far in the distance she could see it, a single point of daylight piercing the blackness. Twilight’s heart sang and her legs quickly kicked into a gallop as she made her mad dash towards the exit. Just when she felt she was home free, a single blade of purple energy blocked her path and brought her tumbling to a stop.

“Leaving without saying goodbye, Sparkle?” Teth chastised her. “You have such terrible manners.”

Twilight quickly ducked and rolled away from her opponent as he cut and slashed the air around her. She could feel the heat from the blade and her ears rang with the loud humming hiss of the weapon. Panic was starting to build within her yet again, but something caused her to pause and reconsider things.

Your eyes can deceive you.

Was any of this really happening?

Only what you take with you.

Teth died in Canterlot, she watched them burn the body. Logic says that this can’t possibly be happening. No, it was deeper than that. Twilight stopped her running and finally faced Teth. She had a stern look of resolve upon her face as she looked him dead in the eyes and stood her ground.

“Giving up already,” Teth asked with no shortage of disappointment. “And here I thought you’d at least make this more challenging for me.”

Let go.

“There’s no challenge to be had, Teth,” Twilight said in a calm even tone. “The fact of the matter is, you aren’t even here. You died on Gaia when you fell from Canterlot Castle, none of this is real.”

“Perhaps,” Teth mused casually before readying his blade. “But are you willing to stake your life on this theory of yours? I didn’t hesitate to stab you once before, or have you forgotten the pain of my saber already?”

“I’m not afraid of shadows, Teth,” Twilight said boldly.

Twilight stood her ground and stared Teth dead in the eyes as she made no attempt to escape. She didn’t flinch or shy away as he raised his saber over his head and she didn’t even move out of the way as it came down across her neck. The energy blade passed through her with ease and left no mark.

“I’m sorry that you died,” Twilight told him. “I’m sorry that I killed you and I forgive you for what you did. But now, I need to move on and close that chapter of my life. I cannot focus on the past, I need to focus on the now.”

In a wash of shadows, Teth’s form began to waver, guttering away like a flame breathing its last. Soon, Twilight was left standing all alone in the dark cave with the exit finally in sight. With a content smile on her face, Twilight strode proudly towards her destination. She brought a hoof up to shield her eyes as she washed over by the sunlight and her lungs nearly burst at the taste of fresh air that finally filled them.

“Padawan Sparkle, you’ve finally made it to the other side,” Master Laan happily greeted. “And just before sunset too.”

“Thank you Master, it was a little tough at first but…“ Her words fell short when she looked back into the cave. From the exit she could see the entrance just a few yards away. “I… I don’t understand. I was lost in a huge cave.”

“Correction, Padawn, you don’t understand yet,” Laan pointed out. “But, in time, you will.”

Twilight gave the cave one last look before she caught the sound of Master Laan’s footsteps on the path up the mountain. She had walked through a deep and endless darkness not but a few minutes ago. She had been terrorized by the phantom of the man she’d killed. All of it was gone now though, only a short straight path from one end to the next. Was she wandering around in madness, or maybe…

“Was this the work of the Force?” she asked herself looking down at her hooves.

“Padawan,” Master Laan called back to her. “Come along or we’ll be late for supper.”

Forcing herself to walk away from the entrance of the cave, she could swear she’d seen something in the corner of her eye, a man, strong and noble looking with a warm proud smile upon his face. Taking one last second to look back yet again, all she could see was the very short and straight path from one end of the cavern to the next. Putting the thoughts out of her mind, Twilight quickly galloped after the old Jedi ahead of her. But a lingering feeling her breast still brought a calming sense of confidence to her at the thought of what she may have seen.


Dear Princess Celestia,

Today I learned quite a lot about the Force and what it means to be Jedi. I learned that I must put faith in myself to find the right way to go and the virtue of letting go. Old hatreds, fear, and anger can blind somepony and leave them wandering around in the darkness. But when we let go of them and put our trust in our own ability to find the right path, that’s when we find our way back into the sunshine. Sincerely,

Your faithful Padawan (that’s the term the Jedi use!)

Twilight Sparkle

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