June 27, 2000
Category: Star Wars, PG
Author: BeElleGee


Broken Circle

Summary: Before EP1, Xanatos and Qui-Gon's battle on Telos after the death of Crion

Author's note: Umm, if you haven't read the Jedi Apprentice novels by Jude Watson, you probably won't understand a lot of this story. Number two especially. So if you haven't read them, go do that now and come back to this story later. I'll wait.

Disclaimer: These chararcters are not mine. The idea isn't mine. The situation isn't even mine. But alas, no money changed hands over this bit of fic and it never will.

Xanatos was a perfect apprentice. His Jedi Master,Qui-Gon Jinn, couldn't have been more pleased with him.

Xanatos possessed the natural intellect of the people of Telos, his home planet. He learned quickly and never forgot what he was taught, never making the same mistakes twice. His ability to rationalize and reason through problems made him a top negotiator. He had helped Qui-Gon settle more than one dispute between arguing factions with very favorable results.

Throughout his training with Qui-Gon, Xanatos had grown from a startlingly beautiful child into an elegantly handsome young man. He wasn't vain, but he took care of himself, toning his body to an optimum form the way he toned his mind.

But it was his ability to utilize the Force that impressed Qui-Gon most of all. Xanatos could surrender himself to it completely and absorb its potency without fail. He was attuned to the slightest tremor in it, always aware of what it was telling him, and always willing to act upon its guidance. Because of this, Xanatos was very adept with a lightsaber and could handle his own in any given situation.

It had been only a few short days ago that, with unwavering conviction, Qui-Gon Jinn had stood before the Jedi Council with his star apprentice at his side and declared before all present that Xanatos was ready to become a knight.

How quickly things had changed.

Since that day, Xanatos had displayed nothing but deceit, treachery, and lawlessness. Above all that, he had led a hired army into civil war against his own people, resulting in thousands of casualties.

Now Qui-Gon's once gallant apprentice knelt on the floor beside the dying remains of Crion, his biological father,whom he had seen his master cut down in battle right before his eyes. Xanatos remained motionless, but his hatred for Qui-Gon blazed forth as he now drew from the Force's dark side, allowing 'it' to fill him.

Qui-Gon could sense his apprentice purposely severing his connection with the light side of the Force. Qui-Gon knew he must keep trying to reach him. He had to find a way to end Xanatos' destructive downward spiral.

"Xanatos! Listen to me!" Qui-Gon pleaded, wiping away the sweat streaming over his forehead and into his already burning eyes. Physical pains and emotions swirled around him like a whirlwind, threatening to suffocate him if he didn't get them under control.

Xanatos refused to acknowledge him.

Qui-Gon tried again, hoping beyond hope that he could get through to him before it was too late. "Xanatos!"

Xanatos shook his head slowly.

Qui-Gon turned to the window of the governor's quarters overlooking the square where the sounds of death and destruction resonated in the night air. He gestured outside.

"There is a civil war raging, right outside the gates," the Jedi Master stated. "Your people are dying needlessly. Crion is near death. There'll be no planetary take overs. No expanding contracts. This battle is over nothing!"

"Nothing?!" Xanatos hissed, snapping his head around to finally face his master.

Qui-Gon saw Xanatos' red rimmed eyes brimming with unshed tears, but Qui-Gon felt no grief in him, only a black, burning rage.

"So this is 'nothing' to you," Xanatos sneered contemptuously. He rose fluidly to his feet and turned from Qui-Gon to look around the devastated governor's quarters.

A small fire had broken out during Qui-Gon's struggle with Crion. The heavy draperies were burning slowly, blackening nearby furnishings. Glassware lie broken and scattered on the floor, chairs were overturned, and the fine carpets were torn. Laser blasts dotted the walls and had impacted into the control room computers leaving them in a molten mass of sizzling, sparking metal.

The sounds of battle coming through the open window intensified. Qui-Gon spared a quick glance outside. He turned back to Xanatos, pleadingly, knowing without a doubt his apprentice could hear the agonized screams of his people as well as he could. Why was there no trace of concern in him? Why did he continue to make his people suffer for a lost and misguided cause instigated by Crion's greed? Qui-Gon was about to bring this to his padawan's attention when Xanatos spoke up.

"I suppose you are right again, Master," Xanatos murmured, with a hint of sarcasm. He spied the gleam of metal just beyond the burning draperies. He walked slowly towards the object. A strangled cry caught in his throat as he realized what it was he had found. He closed his eyes momentarily, fighting back tears, then he curtly addressed Qui-Gon. "I have nothing left, thanks to you." He sniffed loudly and stared down at the tiny metal object on the floor in front of him.

Qui-Gon saw that it began to glow as it absorbed the fire's heat. He swallowed down the lump forming in his throat. He could see his apprentice's heart shriveling with hatred as he absorbed more of the dark side of the Force. A feeling of desparation washed over the Jedi Master. I'm losing him, he thought. He took a tentative step forward, his mind racing.

"That's not true, Padawan," Qui-Gon told him softly. "You still have everything of value you ever possessed. You still have your wisdom, your reason. Your strength and all your unique abilities. And you still have the power of the Force. Don't abuse it. Don't crawl into its shadow. Embrace its truths; embrace its life before it's too late."

"Power?" Xanatos asked in astonishment. "Value? You know nothing of real power." He suddenly pointed to Crion. "He knew what power was. He HAD power! The kind of power I want! And he would have given it all to me! Because I was his son. He was placing entire systems in the palm of my hand. I would have had power beyond anything you have ever known. Far beyond all your vague notions and concepts. This was reality and it could have been mine."

Qui-Gon bowed his head. How could his padawan feel so strongly about a man he had only known as his father for a few weeks? Qui-Gon had been more of a father to Xanatos than Crion ever had. Qui-Gon had cared for him, taught him, guided him, and most of all loved him as his own son. Why, all of a sudden, did all his nuturing mean nothing to Xanatos? How could he have become so influenced by Crion's wealth that he readily cast aside all righteousness for it?

The answers came from the hidden, suppressed recesses of the Jedi Master's mind. Everything he had suspected but refused to believe. Maybe it was all true. Maybe Xanatos was not who Qui-Gon always believed him to be. The seeds of corruption may have been germinating in him for a long time now.

Qui-Gon gazed forlornly at his apprentice. How could he have been so blind? Why did he not sense these things sooner? The truth was, he had; he had only been denying what he had known in his heart all this time.

"Have you nothing to say for yourself, Master?" Xanatos said, his deep voice piercing through Qui-Gon's thought-filled haze.

"Why do you still call me 'Master'? I am no longer your master. You've made that more than clear," Qui-Gon said quietly.

"You repudiate me?" Xanatos snarled. "Now? At this, my 'most desparate hour'?" He turned away from Qui-Gon in apparent disgust.

Qui-Gon's pulse pounded heavily in his head. He had been considerably bruised and battered during the fighting and his limbs felt heavy with fatigue. He was feeling a little light-headed as well and tried to tap into the Force's healing power, but it evaded him. Qui-Gon rebuked himself for being too undisciplined and too distracted. A most desparate hour indeed.

"I...would never denounce you, Xanatos. You are still my padawan whether you choose to acknowledge that fact or not," Qui-Gon reassured him, relaying his concern through the Force. "I am still your master," he added, his voice gritty with fatigue and emotion. He felt Xanatos' hostility wane at his words. Encouraged, he stepped forward, over to where his padawan stood transfixed by the tiny metal object in the fire. "Trust me," Qui-Gon breathed. "Let me help you through this. We'll leave this planet behind and it will only be a memory. The time we have spent here will just serve to remind you of the destruction caused by unmitigated power." He drew up close to Xanatos and placed a cautious hand on his shoulder. "Come back to Coruscant with me. We'll work this out. Together we'll find a way to heal your people, Padawan. But for now, only you can set things right."

Xanatos peered over his shoulder and into his master's dark blue eyes. He began nodding slowly.

"Just a memory?" he asked in a quiet voice.

Qui-Gon nodded. He smiled warmly. Maybe his padawan was not lost after all. Maybe Qui-Gon had gotten through to him in time. Maybe everything was going to be all right.

"I can tell you've learned a lot from this sordid affair," Qui-Gon informed him. "That is the only good that comes from such experiences."

"Yes," Xanatos agreed, with a slightly derisive tone. "I have learned a lot today. About you. About the Jedi. The power of the Force...."

Suddenly Crion's body convulsed spastically and went limp. Both Jedi turned as one at the sound. Both heard the man's last breath slipping from his mangled body.

Xanatos stared long and hard at the still form of his father. Suddenly, he twisted away from Qui-Gon's grasp. He stooped swiftly and plucked the tiny metal object from the midst of the fire. He pressed it hard against the soft flesh of his cheek. It seered his skin but Xanatos seemed oblivious to the pain.

Qui-Gon spun him around and saw the raw, angry-looking broken circle branded deeply on Xanatos' face.

Xanatos held up the metal object for his master's inspection.

Qui-Gon saw that it was the ring that had been cut from Crion's hand as Qui-Gon had delivered the fatal blow with his lightsaber. Foul tasting bile rose in the Jedi Master's throat.

"This will be my memory, Qui-Gon!" Xanatos seethed, gesturing at the blackening welt just below his right eye. "Everytime I see my reflection, it will serve to remind me of all that has transpired here between a father and a son. And a master and a slave." He tossed the ring angrily aside.

Qui-Gon's heart sank. "Xanatos," he whispered raggedly. "Find the strength to forgive me for what I was forced to do here. Your father left me no other alternative. It was all I could do to stay alive. I acted in the best interest of Telos and her people. Too many have died at his hand."

Xanatos crossed the room to put as much distance between himself and Qui-Gon as possible. With a newfound sense of freedom, he pulled off his Jedi cloak and threw it forcibly to the floor.

"Forgive you?" he spat.

Qui-Gon took a deep breath. "If I could have spared you from seeing your father struck down before your eyes, believe me, I would have."

"And that would have made it all right?" Xanatos asked with an incredulous expression. "Sparing me my eyewitness account of my father's murder? And at the hands of a man I once trusted." He shook his head slowly. "No. I'll never be able to forgive you. You betrayed me. You lied to me and cheated me. I hate you more than anyone I have ever hated before."

Qui-Gon took a faltering step backward, stung by his padawan's words and the darkness he now felt eminating from Xanatos' lifeforce. Qui-Gon placed his hand over his heart as though he felt a real physical pain there. He closed his eyes and tried again to pull the Force around him. It came to him at last as a comforting presence in the cold darkness of the room. Qui-Gon focused on drawing strength and peace from it. He knew he had to keep his emotions at bay so he could think clearly and act precisely.

The first thought that entered his mind was that he had failed on the grandest scale a Jedi Master could. His apprentice had surrendered himself to the dark side. There was nothing else Qui-Gon could do for him at this point. It was time to focus his energy into stopping further bloodshed.

Qui-Gon looked up at Xanatos, but found he could not bear the way his former padawan was looking at him. He quickly looked away and took a deep steadying breath.

"Regardless...of how you feel about me, I am sorry for what has happened here," Qui-Gon stated. "I will leave you. Since that is what you wish." Qui-Gon took a step forward and pulled his cloak tighter around himself to step around Xanatos. However, he stopped short, hearing the familiar hiss of a lightsaber being activated.

Qui-Gon stared incredulously at Xanatos.

"Leave? I don't think so," Xanatos growled. "Someone needs to answer for this." He gestured absently around the governor's quarters. "And it's not going to be me."

Qui-Gon blinked a few times, scarcely believing his eyes. Xanatos stood before him, blocking his path with his lightsaber pointed at Qui-Gon's chest.

"Has it truly come to this?" the Jedi Master questioned. He leaned towards Xanatos slightly. "Do you realize exactly what you are doing by drawing your lightsaber against me?"

Xanatos merely shrugged. "Maybe I'm delirious with grief."

Qui-Gon straightened to his full imposing height and placed his hands on his hips. His face became void of expression. Any compassion, any feelings he had had for Xanatos, left him.

"There is no grief in you!" Qui-Gon hissed back. "Your heart is so blackened by greed, you only mourn the loss of your father's blood money. You don't mourn for him, or Telos, or the countless people made to suffer under his dictatorship!"

"You jealous old fool," Xanatos' deep voice rumbled. "You were jealous of my father. I will tell everyone that you killed him so you could have all this for yourself."

Qui-Gon reached for his lightsaber and took it from his utility belt, but did not activate it. "Don't make me do this," he whispered. "If you attack me, I will kill you as well."

Xanatos snarled and lunged forward but Qui-Gon was able to dodge out of his way. Xanatos' lightsaber came crashing down on the floor in an explosion of sparks, adding to the already expanding fire.

Qui-Gon glared menacingly at his apprentice. Slowly, he turned away from him.

Xanatos stared after him, his chest heaving with rage. Qui-Gon was almost to the door.

"Damn you Qui-Gon!" Xanatos screamed. He hurled himself forward, and grasping his lightsaber in both hands, he swung the weapon with all his strength at the back of Qui-Gon's head.

Through the Force, Qui-Gon had sensed Xanatos' attack and ducked, spinning on his knees, and rising to his feet in the blink of an eye. He hit Xanatos with a force push, throwing him to the floor beside the burning draperies.

"Enough!" Qui-Gon commanded.

As Xanatos struggled to stand, he whipped his lightsaber at Qui-Gon's legs.

Qui-Gon jumped, narrowly avoiding having his legs severed at the knees. Furious, Qui-Gon violently back-handed his former apprentice, sending him back to the floor.

"I said enough," Qui-Gon repeated. He stood staring down at Xanatos, breathing deeply, trying to calm himself. Shame washed over the Jedi Master as he slowly regained control of his emotions. Xanatos refused to look up at him. Qui-Gon shook his head. "I'm sorry," he whispered hoarsely. "The stealth of the dark side can catch anyone unaware. Even me from time to time. I'm not perfect, Xanatos, I never claimed to be. Perfection comes when one is able to recognize and reject the darkness before it can influence you." Qui-Gon turned away from him to leave.

"You bastard," Xanatos growled. He climbed shakily to his feet, wiping away a trickle of blood seeping from his nose. He went to the open window and glanced out into the night. Slowly, he lowered his lightsaber. "You preachy, self-righteous bastard. How dare you."

Qui-Gon peered over his shoulder. "I'm finished with you, Xanatos. I'm leaving you to your choices."

Xanatos inhaled slowly, filling his lungs with the clean night air. A calm seem to descend over him. He slowly turned his face away from Qui-Gon. Tears suddenly welled in his pale blue eyes. "I suppose I really have lost everything now," he murmured.

Qui-Gon watched him warily.

Xanatos turned back to Qui-Gon with a dejected expression. "I...I am a disgrace, isn't that what you're thinking? You're right, Master. I am not worthy to be a Jedi," he said in a barely audible voice. "I am not worthy of being your apprentice."

Qui-Gon's heart melted. He stepped towards his padawan, eager to forgive him everything. He stretched out with the Force to console Xanatos, but oddly still felt no remorse or shame in him. Only hate. He stopped, almost too late, as Xanatos' lightsaber swept up from his side. Qui-Gon jumped back, but not before the scalding tip caught him across the chest. Qui-Gon staggered back, stunned. He prodded his wound gingerly with his fingertips as if trying to convince himself it was real.

Xanatos sneered and lunged at Qui-Gon again, forcing the Jedi back even further. "You are pathetically gullible," he muttered.

Qui-Gon raised and activated his lightsaber, ready to do battle. "You are simply cruel."

Xanatos sniffed and wiped angrily at his eyes. "I have every right to be."

Qui-Gon began slowly circling Xanatos, drawing the Force to him in preparation for the private war he was about to engage in.

Xanatos was the first to strike. His intention was clear. He wanted to kill the Jedi. He drew his saber back over his head and brought it down with a sizzling crash against Qui-Gon's lightsaber.

Qui-Gon was surprised by the strength behind Xanatos' blow. Their sabers were already locked together, rasping and hissing in protest. Qui-Gon gathered his strength as well as the Force and shoved Xanatos away from him.

But Xanatos jumped right back into the fray, not giving Qui-Gon any time to recover. He grinned as the Jedi Master was forced to take a retreating step backwards as he parried Xanatos' attack.

"Yes," Xanatos panted. "You knew I was good. But you had no idea just how good, did you, 'Master'?"

Qui-Gon had to admit, his former padawan's skill and strength were commendable. But what Xanatos failed to realize was that until now, Qui-Gon had been holding back due to his reluctance to fight.

"That kind of bravado will be your undoing, 'Padawan'," Qui-Gon quipped back. The Jedi's saber came down and tapped Xanatos' left arm. Xanatos reared back with a curse, clutching at his arm with his free hand.

Xanatos' anger flared. He swung his saber one-handed at Qui-Gon's unguarded right side. Qui-Gon twisted to avoid the blow from the saber, drawing his own saber back from his other side in a split second. Again, their lightsabers locked together. Using the leverage of the locked sabers, Xanatos pushed off of them and jump kicked Qui-Gon in the ribs. The Jedi landed heavily against the wall; the back of his head smacking sharply against the masonry. Qui-Gon propped himself up on his elbows and shook his head to clear it. He scrambled back to his feet and leapt out of the way as Xanatos came at him in pursuit from across the room.

Qui-Gon turned and faced his opponent, determined not to let Xanatos catch him unguarded again. Anger and frustration began surfacing inside him and he resolutely pushed it away. Now was not the time to lose his control of the Force. Like it or not, he knew he was in a life or death struggle. He ordered himself to remain calm and focused. He knew he had to if he wanted to come out of this alive.

Qui-Gon watched Xanatos closely. Depending on the way he shifted his weight, Qui-Gon could tell where Xanatos' next attack would come from. It was a subtle mistake, unnoticeable to anyone but Qui-Gon, but now worked to the Jedi's advantage. Qui-Gon blocked each strike of his former padawan's lightsaber with relative ease, even though Xanatos was thrusting and slashing at him with an inhuman speed.

Xanatos was tiring. He knew he had to pace himself and he had to control his temper and focus. He smiled to himself, thinking how odd this scenario was. The man he was fighting was the one who had taught him everything he knew about handling a lightsaber. Because of this, Xanatos realized he had to devise different strategies of attack. He had to think of something new that Qui-Gon would not be able to anticipate. He broke off his attack suddenly and danced quickly backward, narrowly avoiding Qui-Gon's countering strike.

The two opponents stood regarding each other for a moment. The lightsabers hummed impatiently in their hands.

Qui-Gon straightened and put his hand to his chest. His wound was open and bleeding, soaking his tunic with a dark red stain. He licked his lips and took a deep breath, watching Xanatos from across the room.

"Have...have you had enough of this foolishness?" the Jedi Master breathed, slightly winded. His lungs burned from the smoky air in the room.

Xanatos shook his head and wiped his arm across his sweating brow. His black hair glistened and his fair skin was flushed with exhertion. "Not yet." He sprang forward, hopped up and propelled himself up and over Qui-Gon's head, landing squarely on his feet directly behind the Jedi Master.

Qui-Gon simultaneously turned and parried, catching Xanatos' lightsaber with his and shoved it away. "Well I have," the Jedi Master declared. He leaned back, shifting his weight behind him and came forward, driving his fist into Xanatos' jaw. His knuckles cracked and split with the impact.

Xanatos staggered back, spitting blood and bits of teeth from his mouth. His head was spinning and he felt like he had just ran full tilt into the side of a mountain. He looked up at Qui-Gon. For the first time, real fear registered in his eyes, but he continued to attack and swung his lightsaber, pivoting on his toes to put more power behind the strike.

Qui-Gon encircled Xanatos' saber with his own, tangling the two blades. The sabers buzzed and hissed loudly. Xanatos stepped forward, jerking his lightsaber away from the Jedi's and tried to stab the tip into Qui-Gon's torso.

Qui-Gon slipped beyond his opponents reach and slapped Xanatos' lightsaber down with an overhead strike. Now it was Qui-Gon who attacked. He made several rapid jabs at Xanatos, forcing him to circle back and away from him. Xanatos continued to brandish his saber one-handed, blocking the Jedi's blows as he cradled his jaw in pain.

The two warriors circled and pursued each other in turn around the room, jumping over and on burning furniture, leaping off the walls, twisting out of corners and sprinting across the spacious flooring, all the while slashing furiously at each other in desparate attempts to gain the upper hand.

Xanatos had sustained two more injuries from Qui-Gon's attacks. His thigh was badly bruised and the skin on his right hand was burned and blistering. The pain was becoming debilitating. Qui-Gon hadn't let Xanatos score another hit on him since sustaining the wound on his chest, which still seeped blood through the cauterized edges. Xanatos knew in time the loss of blood would weaken Qui-Gon, but as of yet, the Jedi Master showed no signs of losing strength. Xanatos needed to distract him. It was the only way to get his guard down. He pulled energy from the dark side of the Force, letting it feed off his anger and hatred, and letting it fill him with its power.

Qui-Gon felt the sinister tremors in the Force around him. He was reminded again of his immense failure and his heart became heavy with burdensome emotions. But he knew there was no time to analyze what he had done wrong at this point. Xanatos was focusing himself. He would attack with new ferocity soon.

"Wha' iz the matter, Qui-Gon?" Xanatos asked suddenly, his speech slurred and thick. His jaw throbbed and he was sure the Jedi had broken it when he had punched him, but he couldn't let that stop him from taunting Qui-Gon into distraction. "Do I senze in you...zelv doubt? Are you theenking wha' a pathetic mazter you are?" Xanatos smiled, catching the flicker of unease in Qui-Gon's eyes. "Do you wan' mee to tell you jus' how pathetic you are, my friend?" Xanatos crossed his lightsaber with Qui-Gon's, pushing against it.

Qui-Gon pushed back, holding Xanatos away from him. Their sabers once more locked together.

Qui-Gon was close enough to look into Xanatos' eyes now. He swallowed dryly. His former apprentice glared back at him, his pale blue eyes reflecting the cold vacancy of a predator. Qui-Gon almost didn't recognise his padawan anymore. There wasn't any trace of the youthful vitality and spirit that Qui-Gon had known. Yet these were the same eyes that had once looked up to him with child-like trust and affection. That was the same handsome face of the dedicated pupil Qui-Gon had taught. The same young man he had cherished like a son. The Jedi Master's heart ached again with the realization of what he had to do now in order to stop the new evil that had been spawned due to his own inadequacy as a master.

Xanatos knitted his brow. "Ah, well, perhas you know now...jus' how baadly you screwed up with me. I ken zee it in yourh eyess." He backed up, unlocking his saber from Qui-Gon's and swung it sharply to the left, but Qui-Gon blocked it and advanced on him, driving him slowly back. Xanatos cursed himself. He stretched out with the Force and centered on his former master's emotions. Yes, he thought triumphantly. There was definately turmoil there.

"It was your choice, Xanatos, not mine," Qui-Gon told him.

Xanatos frowned and tried to negotiate around Qui-Gon and reverse their positions. Xanatos knew he was being cornered again.

"Are you asking yourzelf how you could bee zo daft?" Xanatos continued, biding his time with a series of short thrusts and parries. "You though' you knew me, but you didn't know mee a' all. Your zinful pride kep' you from accepting how deztitute I really waz. Oh, yez, from the beginning. It wazn't that I waz so good at keeping things from you. It waz jus' that you were so blinded by your foolizh pride. All thos' countless fightz wit' the other studentz, the vandelizm, the abzences. Theen as I grew older, there waz the nights I snuck out of the Temple. The robberiess. The numerouss women. The 'accidental' and 'unnavoidable' deathss." Xanatos nodded and grinned as Qui-Gon's face betrayed his shock. Xanatos knew he could probably hurt Qui-Gon more with words than he could with his lightsaber at this point. "Zo see, Master Jinn. You never really ha' an apprentis at all. Zo don't grieve for me now. Don't bee ashamed of me. Bee ashamed of yourzelv."

Xanatos watched his former master's soft blue eyes shimmer with excess moisture. For a split second,Qui-Gon wasn't thinking about offense and defense anymore. His mind was punishing him with unwanted thoughts and feelings. It was all the distraction Xanatos needed. He smiled triumphantly and raised his lightsaber for, what he was sure was, the killing blow.

Qui-Gon saw, more than felt, the red blade descending. He spun around to his left and swatted it harmlessly away. "Thank you, Xanatos," the Jedi began and inclined his head in a gesture of appreciation. "Your revelations have empowered me. I can assure you, I too have learned a great deal this night and I will never make the same mistakes again."

Xanatos swore in frustration and attacked again, but the instant of distraction was gone. Qui-Gon blocked and thrust and parried all Xanatos' advances. Nearing exhaustion, Xanatos found himself retreating more where Qui-Gon only seemed to be getting stronger.

The Jedi Master followed Xanatos back to the window. He half knew what his former apprentice had in mind by leading him there. Xanatos would use the extra striking space the open window provided. It would be a tight manuever, but Qui-Gon was certain Xanatos would opt for the unexpected. Qui-Gon refused to be placed in such a vulnerable position. Instead of circling to the right, which was what he believed Xanatos was hoping he'd do, he veered left at the last second, almost impaling himself on Xanatos' saber tip as the former apprentice hauled it back behind him to strike Qui-Gon's unprotected side.

Caught completely by surprise, Xanatos whirled around to face Qui-Gon, but the Jedi Master was ready for him. He was near enough to strike Xanatos' blade close to the hilt with enough force to disarm him. The red lightsaber flew out of Xanatos' hand and across the room.

Qui-Gon stood towering over his former padawan, poised and ready to bring this chapter of his life to an end. He dragged his wrist across his eyes to wipe the sweat away. He took several deep cleansing breaths.

Xanatos stared into the Jedi's eyes, a mixture of emotions playing across his face. He nodded slowly as if in acceptance and crashed to his knees in front of Qui-Gon in capitulation and exhaustion. He bowed his head honorably and waited.

Qui-Gon was stunned by Xanatos' gesture. He sighed heavily and closed his eyes. He knew what he had to do but suddenly, he could not do it. He opened his eyes and looked sadly at his former padawan. His padawan. It was no use. He stepped back from Xanatos and lowered his lightsaber.

"I can't," he whispered.

Xanatos raised his head slowly, warily. "You won. Jus' do it!" he grumbled. "Truss me, Qui-Gon, you'll never have thiz chance again."

Qui-Gon deactivated his lightsaber. "I can't."

Xanatos sighed with a mixture of impatience and relief. He rose slowly, stiffly.

"Just because I did not exact capital punishment upon you doesn't mean I am letting you go. You will be brought to justice, Xanatos. You will return to Coruscant with me and come before the Council and the Senate for your crimes," Qui-Gon informed him.

Xanatos laughed humorlessly. "I'mm not goin' anywhere wit' you. You're goin' ta have to kill mee if you wanna stop me."

Qui-Gon merely shrugged and turned away from Xanatos. "I can always change my mind. Perhaps I will decide to kill you if there is no other way." He crossed the room to retrieve Xanatos' lightsaber, but just as he was about to pick it up, it rose and sailed into Xanatos' hand. Qui-Gon faced his former apprentice.

"You know you are not allowed to keep that," Qui-Gon duly informed . "At the very least I'm taking IT back to the Temple with me."

"Oh no you don't! Thiz is mine," Xanatos snapped, attaching it to his belt. Then he added menacingly, "Our pathz will cross again. And I promize next time, one of uz will die!" He hopped up on the window ledge and ducked out the window.

"Then I will see you in hell," Qui-Gon growled. He didn't pursue him. Instead, he turned and walked out the door.



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© 2000 Dragon's Library & Ulrike Großmann