Читать онлайн "Shadow Academy"

автора "Моеста Ребекка"

  • Aa
    РАЗМЕР ШРИФТА
  • РЕЖИМ

Shadow Academy

Kevin J. Anderson and Rebecca Moesta

To our brothers and sisters—

Mark—who has been my hero since childhood. A true Jedi Knight, always ready to race to the rescue

Cindy—who always watched out for me. You showed me that effort and determination will get you what wishing and waiting will not

Diane—who broadened my horizons. Thanks for forcing me to watch every monster-and-hero movie ever made

Scott—who tolerated all the books I read to him. Thanks for telling me in May of 1977 that there was a movie I just had to go see—Star Wars

Rebecca Moesta

and Laura—for never fighting with me, always understanding (just kidding!), and providing a wealth of experiences for me to draw upon in my writing

Kevin J. Anderson

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank Lil Mitchell for her tireless typing and for urging us to bring her each chapter faster and faster, Dave Wolverton for his input on Dathomir, Lucy Wilson and Sue Rostoni at Lucasfilm for their unwavering support, Ginjer Buchanan and Lou Aronica at Berkley/Boulevard for their continuing enthusiasm, Jonathan MacGregor Cowan for being our test audience … and Skip Shayotovich, Roland Zarate, Gregory McNamee, and the entire Star Wars ImagiNet Echo computer bulletin board tor helping out with the jokes.

1

Jacen grasped the lightsaber, feeling its comforting weight against his sweaty palms. His scalp tingled beneath its unruly tangle of brown curls as he sensed the approach of his enemy. Closer, closer … He drew in a slow breath and reached with one finger that trembled ever so slightly to press the button on the handle.

With a buzzing hiss, the cold metal handle sprang to life, transforming into a sword of glowing energy. The deadly lightsaber pulsed and vibrated in his hands like a living thing.

With a mixture of fear and excitement, Jacen’s wiry frame tensed for the attack. His liquid-brown eyes fluttered shut for a moment as he visualized his opponent.

Without warning, he heard the hum of a lightsaber slice down from above.

Jacen whirled just in time and caught the blow with his own lightsaber. The deep red of his opponents weapon throbbed with power, filling his vision as the two glowing blades warred for dominance.

Jacen knew he was far outmatched in size and strength, that he would need all of his wits to get out of this encounter alive. His arms ached with the strain of holding off the blow, so he took advantage of his smaller size, spinning under his opponents arm and dancing out of reach.

The attacker advanced toward him, but Jacen knew better than to let him get that close again. The ruby glow flashed toward him, and he was ready. He parried the blow and then swept sideways with his own blade before dodging backward and blocking the next thrust.

Attack and counterattack. Thrust. Parry. Block. Lightsabers sizzled and hissed as they clashed again and again.

Though the room was cool and dank, perspiration ran down Jacen’s face and into his eyes, nearly blinding him. He saw the arc of red light barely in time and ducked to avoid it. A cocky lopsided grin sprang to his lips, and he realized he was enjoying himself. Stone chips flew around him as the deadly ruby blade gouged the low ceiling just over his head.

Jacen’s grin faded as he tried to take a step backward and felt cold stone blocks press into his shoulder blades. He parried another thrust, sprang sideways, and fetched up against another stone wall.

He was cornered. An icy fist of fear clenched his stomach, and Jacen dropped to one knee, flinging up his blade to ward off the next blow. A sound like thunder echoed through the chamber….

Jacen opened his eyes and looked up to see his uncle Luke standing in the doorway, clearing his throat. Startled, Jacen fumbled to turn off the lightsaber and accidentally dropped the extinguished handle to the flagstones with a clatter.

The sandy-haired, black-robed Jedi Master strode into the private room that served as both his office and his meditation chamber at the Jedi academy. He held his hand out toward the lightsaber, and the weapon sprang to his palm as if magnetized.

Jacen gulped as Master Luke Skywalker fixed him with a solemn gaze. “I’m sorry, Uncle Luke,” Jacen said, his words coming out in a tumbling rush. “I came here to ask you for your help, and when you weren’t here, I decided to wait, and then I saw your lightsaber just lying on your desk, and I know you said I’m not ready yet, but I didn’t see how it could hurt to just practice a little. So I picked it up, and I guess I just got carried away and—”

Luke held up one hand, palm outward, as if to forestall further explanation. “The weapon of the Jedi shouldn’t be taken up lightly,” he said.

Jacen felt his cheeks flush at the gentle rebuke. “But I know I could learn to use a lightsaber,” he said, defensive. “I’m old enough, and I’m tall enough, and I’ve been practicing in my room with a piece of pipe I got from Jaina—I’m sure I could do it.”

Luke seemed to consider this for a moment before shaking his head slowly. “There’ll be time enough for that when you are ready.”

“But I’m ready now,” Jacen protested.

“Not yet,” Luke said, smiling sadly. “The time will come soon enough.”

Jacen groaned with impatience. It was always Later, always Some other time, always Maybe when you’re older. He sighed. “You’re the teacher. I’m the student, so I have to listen, I guess.”

Luke smiled and shook his head. “Ah. Be careful—don’t assume a teacher is always right, without question. You have to think for yourself. Sometimes we teachers make mistakes, too. But in this case, I am right: You’re not yet ready for a lightsaber.

“Believe me, I know what it’s like to wait,” Luke continued. “But patience can be as strong an ally as any weapon.” Then his eyes twinkled. “Don’t you have more important things to be worrying about right now than imaginary lightsaber battles—like getting ready for your trip? Don’t your pets need to be fed?”

“I’m all packed, and I’ll feed the animals just before we leave,” Jacen said, thinking of the menagerie of pets he had collected since coming to the jungle moon. “But the trip is what I came here to talk to you about.”

Luke raised his eyebrows. “Yes?”

“I—I was hoping you could talk to Tenel Ka and convince her to come with us to see Lando Calrissian’s mining station.”

Luke’s brows drew together, and he chose his words carefully. “Why is it important to change her mind?”

“Because Jaina and Lowbacca and I are all going,” Jacen said, “and … and it just won’t be the same without her,” he finished lamely.

Luke’s face relaxed, and his eyes sparkled with humor. “It’s not so easy to change the mind of a Force-wielding warrior from Dathomir, you know,” he said.

“But it doesn’t make sense that she wants to stay behind,” Jacen exclaimed. “She made up some dumb excuse that it would be boring—said she was sure Corusca gems weren’t any more beautiful than rainbow gems from Gallinore, and she’s seen plenty of those. But she didn’t sound bored; she sounded worried or nervous.”

“We must think for ourselves,” Luke said, “and sometimes that means we have to make difficult or unpopular decisions.” Luke put an arm around Jacen’s shoulders and led him toward the door. “Go feed your pets now. Have a safe journey to GemDiver Station—and rest assured, Tenel Ka has good reasons.”

Tenel Ka woke with a start, shivering and drenched with perspiration in the cool, stonewalled chamber. Sunset-copper hair hung across her vision in tangles that had once been orderly braids. Her bedsheets were twisted about her legs as if she had been running in her sleep.

Then she remembered the dream. She had been running. Running from black-cloaked shadowy figures with purple-splotched faces. Muddled memories of stories her mother had told her as a child swirled through her sleep-fogged brain. She had never seen those terrifying forms before, but she knew what they were—witches from Dathomir who had drawn on the dark side of the Force to work all manner of evil.

The Nightsisters.

But the last of the Nightsisters had been destroyed or disbanded long before Tenel Ka had even been born. Why should she dream of them now? The only Force-wielders left on Dathomir used the powers of the light side.

Why these nightmares? Why now?

She squeezed her eyes shut and flopped back on her bed with a grunt as she realized what day it was. This was the day that her grandmother, Matriarch of the Hapan Royal Household, was sending an ambassador to visit Tenel Ka, heir to the Royal Throne of Hapes. And she didn’t want her friends to know she was a princess….

Ambassador Yfra. Tenel Ka shuddered as she thought of her iron-willed grandmother and her ambassadors, women who would lie or even kill to preserve their power—although her grandmother no longer ruled Hapes. Tenel Ka shook her head in wry amusement. The impending visit must be why she had dreamt of the Nightsisters.

Although the inhabitants of her mother’s primitive planet of Dathomir ...