Sunrise broke on the forest moon of Yavin 4 in a brilliant burst, illuminating the life all around. Leaves rustled, and far away the trilling of a woolamander could be heard. The tall Massassi trees swayed in the gentle morning breeze, and it seemed that nothing in the galaxy could be anything but peaceful.
Zekk stood on the roof of the Great Temple, a structure stronger from being rebuilt so many times than it originally was when built by the ancient Massassi. The Jedi Knight, in his early thirties, always felt at peace during these mornings. The presence of life, the sense of renewal, all left him feeling inspired and refreshed. Sometimes, even among several Force-strong children all day, it was hard to listen to what the Force was saying.
Actually, it was especially hard among several Force-strong children.
Even as Zekk was smiling to himself at this thought, he sensed the approach of three of his pupils. Sighing and giving the sunrise a final glance, Zekk turned to find Jayk Terro, Leara Sunrider, and Kurie climbing the temple wall. Leara ascended first and then turned to make sure the other two made it all right. The Bothan boy extended his hand to help Kurie to her feet. Then the three approached Zekk.
Zekk observed his students as they walked toward him. Their bond of friendship had been extraordinarily strong from their first hours together at the Jedi Academy. Zekk suspected this was because of Leara and Jayk’s naturally sympathetic natures. The Empire’s heartless destruction of Firrerre was not unknown to them. Kurie had never met another Firrerreo in her life, and her loneliness drew the other two students to her.
Jayk bowed, his golden fur glistening in the morning sun. Leara bowed next. Kurie followed suit, bowing deeply so that her black-and-golden streaked hair fell about her face. Looking up at his master, Jayk blinked his emerald eyes in the sunlight. “Master Zekk,” he began. “We have all sensed something with think you should know about.”
Zekk was disturbed by the trio’s solemn appearance. Even being as strong in the Force as they were, Jayk, Leara, and Kurie were usually three of the most jubilant and boisterous kids he knew. He looked at the alien boy intently, having a hunch at what had sobered them so. “Please tell me.”
Kurie rung her hands and her large brown eyes were wide with worry. “It’s--it’s--we sensed darkness. Strong, dark powers. It was as if...as if it was getting darker all the time.” She looked at her Bothan friend for support, and he nodded.
The lines in Zekk’s face deepened. “Yes, Kurie,” he replied. “I, too, have sensed what you described. It reminded me of when I was turned by Brakiss.” The young man shuddered. His fall to and return from the dark side had left him feeling scarred emotionally for years. Finally coming to grips with his failure, he had eventually been able to move on. This feeling that he and his students had sensed, however, shook him to his very core.
Leara looked from Zekk, to her friends, and back to Zekk again. “I have a bad feeling about this,” she gulped.
Nik sat hunched over his work in his quarters on Telti. It had been four years since he had left Dathomir. His shoulder-length, raven-black hair fell around his pale face. His twilight blue eyes were darker than they once had been, clouded. He radiated power, dark power. It seemed to seep from his pores, and yet it was not tangible. It came from his deep anger and hatred, and from his fear. At first Nik had wanted to resist it. But it had happened.
Niko Kitana had fallen to the dark side.
The boy snapped together the casing on his newly-constructed lightsaber. He leaned back, weighing the hilt in his small hand, and admired his handiwork. He flicked the power button and watched as the fiery yellow blade appeared.
His time had come.
He would be the Darkest Knight.
The room was filled with dark Force power. It covered the room like a cold fog, while at the same time it made things clearer. Quicker. Easier.
Two figures faced each other, man and boy. From a distance, the boy seemed like a smaller version of the man. They both wore black leather clothing, and ebony capes lined in scarlet. But at closer range, drastic differences were apparent.
On one side was Axum Senn, his short blond hair damp with sweat, his gray eyes cold and unfeeling. Beyond the chill of his stare, it was visible that hysteria was setting in. Hysteria born of power, uncontrollable power. His blood-red lightsaber blade flicked back and forth warningly.
Niko Kitana was facing him, strands of dark hair falling from the ponytail tied at the nape of his neck. His eyes were clouded, dark, but behind it was not hysteria. Instead it was uncertainty. Dark power still seemed wrong to him, though he had nothing left for him elsewhere. The only thing left to give Nik doubts was a strange feeling at the pit of his stomach, something he felt whenever he accessed dark power. It was as if the dark side was a sickness, a dreadful epidemic with no cure and no escape. Nik was trapped, and he became further entangled in it by the second.
Then the sabers clashed as both lunged forward. Red and yellow exploded together like some enormous sun gone supernova. With a cry on the brink of madness, Axum furiously slashed away at Nik’s lightsaber. Senn was losing his control. He was losing his control of Niko, and as that happened he began to lose control of his life and his sanity.
Nik slashed again. His small arms vibrated as the two blades collided. It was really his disgust with Senn’s state of mind that angered him. That was what spurred him to fight. Telti needed to be controlled by someone who was in control. And that someone was Nik.
Eyes blazing, Nik achieved a series of quick, strong thrusts. Eight, nine, ten...Axum was tiring. Fifteen, sixteen...there was a hole in his defense. Seventeen...Jab! Blazing yellow pierced Senn’s gut. The Dark Jedi dropped to his knees, and then collapsed as the life left his body.
The nine-year-old watched this unfeelingly, happy to be rid of his disquieting teacher of four years. He dragged the body to the docking bay and jettisoned it into space. Finally, a competent person would take charge of Telti.
Niko Kitana, Darkest Knight, was Telti’s ruler now.