In which the 'indomitable' Ambrosia finally meets her maker.
She’s too late.
By the time the distress call had made its connection and her ship turned around, Ambrosia Greystorm was too late. Not that her wrath could’ve staved off the Sith invasion. If only it could have, perhaps she wouldn’t be so manic with rage now, searching through wreckage and ruin for signs of her children. Her grandchildren. Her husband, even.
All attempts to transmit out to familial ships, private frequencies, even the fleet have failed. Nothing is getting through. Maybe no one’s alive to receive them. If they are, they aren’t responding.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She should have been able to go away and die somewhere with the knowing that they’d live on.
But she couldn’t, and they haven’t. At least...that’s what her eyes are telling her. Her gut, however, urges her to go deeper. Search deeper. And get the hell out of this hot zone, because here comes another sweeper patrol.
Some time later, an armored speeder coughs and sputters its last in a desolate valley and the driver slithers on out, dragging an assortment of equipment along after. She’s slow to get to her feet, and leaves a dribbling trail of red in her wake.
A very long time later, Ambrosia hobbles her way over a crest of crumbled terrain, using the blunt end of a force pike like a cane to stabilize her climb down the other side, into a cavernous chamber. The sound of running water can be heard after awhile, once echoes from disturbed rocks and bouncing pebbles subsides. Once her ragged breathing stabilizes, and she takes another hit of ‘vito-stim’ from her medpack.
Aging muscles have performed above and beyond their age bracket today, but she needs them to carry her a little further. Work a little harder. Complete the mission.
It’s always about the mission.
Deeper inside the cave, she follows the contour of mineral-rich walls to the right, led by memory. This isn’t her first time down here and she’s hoping that it’s where they might have taken the boys to hide. A secret place to wait out the storm.
It isn’t long before natural light diminishes enough to warrant the use of a tac light. She creeps as stealthily along as she can, listening for sounds of life. Following the burble of this underground spring. Two more bends are rounded before a ray of light trickles in from above, illuminates the tomb.
Her tac light turns off.
She stares at what she finds. Which is nothing.
“Nnnno...” Ambrosia shakes her head, drops her bag, and shuffles over to the pile of rocks covering a very old grave, at the feet of a stone figure bearing uncanny likeness to herself. Her eyes search the empty shadows for signs of anyone. Anything. SOME sign that her son or his family had at one point been here.
And then she realizes...she’s standing on it.
Amber drops to a knee - her good leg - and picks up one of the rocks. Turns it over in her palm. These hadn’t been here, before. It feels new. Looks new. Looks...clean. It all looks clean. She grunts, pushes up to her feet, and takes a renewed look around. Someone’s been here. Recently. Jax??
The sound of grit crunching softly under a slow, rolling step interrupts her train of thought. Startles her enough that her DY-Torch is suddenly up in hand, aimed squarely around at the dark figure stalking toward her.
And then they stop, staring at her with a discernable air of surprise. Of caution. But it’s not the blaster that they seem concerned with.
Frosty, gray eyes shift from her steely-greens to the statue of Jera Aderanne, on her right. They’re nearly shoulder to shoulder, features unmistakably related. It’s no wonder he seems so caught off guard. Like he hadn’t expected to find her here. Or anyone, maybe.
Ambrosia’s arm holds a steady position, finger on the trigger, glare aimed with unfaltering attention. “I’m who?” she growls back at this stranger suited up in dark armor with red piping, half-hidden under a black, hooded cloak.
“Her...” the stranger repeats with an unsettling air of /knowing/ in his voice, and steps a half step aside, through the light, perhaps to view her from another angle. “I came here to see it for myself - the tomb of a long-dead Jedi...a line from which I descend. I’ve known the name ‘Aderanne’ for quite some time, but did not foresee the opportunity which war has laid at my feet. And now it is here.”
An uneasy chill creeps its way into the retired soldier’s veins and as she gazes upon his face, what bits the light does touch, she does not presume it to be the blood loss causing this jittery feeling. It’s the flutter of elation and the sinking hollow of despair, all at once.
“You...” the man takes another step forward, now standing toe-to-edge with the opposite side of Jera’s grave. Something more menacing has crept into his tone. “Are...her.”
“....I am.” Ambrosia maintains a steady bead on his forehead, even after the hood is pulled away and she’s staring across at a face so very familiar, so exceptionally reminiscent of the other line from which he descends. It’s in the eyes, really. Maybe a bit of the hawkish nose. It’s almost like being transported back in time, forty-two years.
She should just end it now. Squeeze the trigger. Correct the mistake of his existence. Of what he’d become.
But she can’t. She told Jax she’d try. Promised.
Her finger relaxes, hesitantly, and weapon lowers to her side. To its holster.
“Whatever you’ve come looking for here...you won’t find it.”
“Oh, won’t I?” The younger man chuckles, lifting his palms out, away from his sides. “Haven’t I? Not you, no, you were most unexpected...General Greystorm, is it? A change of name, but not of face, no. The likeness really is...astounding.” He’s looking back at the statue, now. “My father told me no stories of you. Only a name and the power I stood to inherit, were I so blessed. But I’ve heard stories, in recent years. News stories, rumors, propaganda, battle reports...you’ve been at war a long time, haven’t you, ‘mother’?”
Mother - a sneer of a word.
“Though I shouldn’t call you that, no. What mother throws away her baby boy?”
Ambrosia’s stoic line of lip breaks with a snarl. “I DIDN’T THROW YOU AWAY!” Erupts, really. “He took you from me...” her chin quivers, cracking that stony visage just a little bit more. The anger, the hate...her aura exudes it. Palpably.
“They took you right from my belly and I thought...I thought you were dead, that they–” Her hand no longer clutching a pistol lays lightly over her stomach. “---and then he disposed of me, too. After a time.” A little nod of reassurance to back her own claim. “I never forgot about you, never forgave him. I’ve spent...”
He scoffs lightly, looking away, then back to her. “Well you finally found him, didn’t you? And I found what you left of him.” If he’s harboring sad sentiment over the butchery of his geriatric father, he certainly doesn’t show it. Instead, there is a cold, calculating smile. “Vengeance hath no fury, like a woman scorned?” A quiet ‘heh’ issues from his chest and he wags a finger. “You did justice by that old saying...”
A little sway of his cloak has her looking sharply to his hand and what it very slowly procures.
“Which is why I took the liberty of taking this...”
It is a lightsaber hilt, unique enough to be recognizable to those who knew the Jedi who wielded it.
And who knows a son better than his mother?
Ambrosia’s heart stops, her breath stops, her everything just...stops. And stares.
“Jax...” she utters a whisper that seems deafeningly loud in this hollow, hallowed place.
“It was really just a happy accident that our paths crossed, but...they did cross.” A gloved thumb runs over the activation switch and a streak of blue light crackle-hums to life. “Much as I’d like to keep this little souvenir...” His mirthless smile angles her way after a long, admiring look up the length of the plasma blade. Then shuts it off. Tosses the cylinder at her.
It’s caught in a weathered hand, moreso by reflex than intent. Amber stares balefully at it. What its presence here, now, implies. She’d have thought she’d felt his death more substantially in her soul. Perhaps it is all a lie? Perhaps Jax yet lives?
Or perhaps she is just that broken.
“Well go on, then,” her firstborn goads. “A more formal introduction is in order, don’t you think, mother? What better way to get acquainted with one another?”
“To what end?” Ambrosia mumbles, rolling the hilt over between her palms, tracing the design with a calloused fingertip. The force pike loiters in the crook of her arm. Her right leg continues to seep red through the tear in her duraweave bodysuit.
“You’ve never held one before, have you?” The man studies her with an appraising squint. “You were never one of them. Never inherited the power...only passed it on.” A thoughtful moment of silence, then, “Well then...I suppose your pike will have to do.”
Ambrosia ignites the weapon just for a moment, feels the heat radiating off its blinding light. And then it’s quieted, brought to belt and clipped there, on part of her holster. “I s’pose so.” Her words are scarcely above a whisper, expression still a bit dazed, not quite possessing the fire it had when she cut her way free of the city.
One last fight. If her muscles will stand for it.
If her body will stand for it.
The pain gnaws at her deep within - ever nagging, ever constant. Disease has progressed about as swiftly as Medical warned it would. A cancer. Eating her from within. It didn’t have to, though. She could have consented to treatment. Been fine. But she didn’t. This was her contingency plan, in case she survived the war, in case the Resistance was successful in restoring the Republic, in case she retired and had no more enemies to strike that fatal blow.
In case she lived, this was her ticket out. Assurance of death.
The fact that she’d make it this far, found old officer Tyruni after decades of searching, saw that glimmer of recognition and fear in his eyes before her blade did what she’s been waiting over forty years to do...
It’s all that she had hoped for. And the knowledge that she’d had a son? That he lived? That’s more than she’d hoped for. Whatever happens next, at least she can die with some satisfaction.
He nods, paces aside a few steps, and removes his cloak to access the wicked blade strapped across his blade. It looks like a thing forged by necromancy as much as fire. His solemn face is carved from sharp angles, strong but sickly in its own way. Missing some glow of vigor, of life, that even a man of his age - just toeing the line of his middle years - ought still have. Like something’s sucked it from him.
In a way, Ambrosia’s face bears weary resemblance. She pivots stiffly to keep him in her sights, brings her pike to bear in a readied stance. “It isn’t your fault...” she says aloud, voice casting eerie echoes. “A tyrant for a father, a monster for a mother...” said monster shakes her head. “You never stood a chance.”
And then she feints, twirling aside when he swings his blade to meet her pike. She stumbles over some of the rocks, but whirls her pike down low in attempts to catch his ankles. He out-manuevers her, cutting an downward arc to take her head from her shoulders.
Or would, if she hadn’t jerked the pike’s pole back into position just in time.
It’s dented severely, but takes the hit and she’s rolling away before the next blow falls. It’s a flurry of action in a mismatched fight. She’s got the decades of combat training, the grace and agility of a dancer, but he’s got a tap into the Force, a boost to his reflexes, his speed, his youth, his strength...
This fight was never going to be a fair one. It’s outcome had already been decided by the fates, long before either of them came to be in this cave. But that doesn’t mean she can’t give him a little hell before he sends her there.
And when it happens, it happens so quickly that she doesn’t feel the blade carve its way in, not until its serrated edge catches on a rib when he starts to pull it back out.
The pike clatters to the ground, still humming with energy at their feet, and Ambrosia dips her chin to look with amazement at the new addition to her wardrobe, buried so deeply inside her. Did it punch through the other side? Maybe...she cannot see.
Her legs continue to support her in an upright position, but she cannot feel them there. Cannot feel much of anything, in this moment. A spasmic ‘hurrk’ spouts blood from her mouth and she knows..
“Now that...” she sags forward against his chest, empty hands catching herself on his shoulders as he looks on, impassively. “That’s a cut. That’s how s’done...” a pat to his cheek as she gurgles “Good boy,” and slumps a little bit more.
For reasons he doesn’t even know, the stranger-son releases his grip on the sword and encircles an arm ‘round her waist, supporting her there. Maybe it’s a sense of fascination for the way she’s taking this in stride. For the pat on the cheek. He thought she'd be angrier.
Tears flow freely for the first time in a long time, from grumpy Greystorm’s eyes, and she holds his face in her hands. An awkward lean forward presses her cheek to his and she whispers while there's still the breath to do so. “I j–jus..want you...know,” her speech slurs a little, body trembling with what’s probably shock, “it was all for you. Always for you.”
Her left hand slides back from his cheek to anchor a hold behind his neck as her other hand thumbs a stroke across the armored plating of his back.
“What was?” He questions, flatly, gray eyes deadened of any emotion as they gaze upon this broken warrior.
“Everything,” Amber murmurs. “All of it, from then till now...always for you.” And she holds him closer, driving that blade in a little bit deeper, out her other side. Her bottom lip runs red from the grip her teeth have sunk in, against the agony of it all.
But it also suppresses a laugh. Because probably, he just smote the hell out of her tumor with that sword.
And before he can guess as to what’s so ‘funny’, her left hand transforms as middle finger bends and a menagerie of slim and sharp lock picks pop up from hidden compartments between metacarpals. A cybernetics upgrade done years ago by her daughter-in-law, the Iridonian, though this probably qualifies as ‘off label’ use.
They embed into the back of his neck, under his skull, and at least one punctures through that delicate spinal cord.
For the second time today, he feels surprise, though it is fleeting. Before his weight drags both of them to the ground, he isn’t feeling anything at all.
It is done.
They collapse in an unceremonious heap - two warriors, Republic and Sith, who will leave the battlefield and this life together.
A beacon begins to bleep from Ambrosia’s datapad, broadcasting the sudden drop in her vitals - as detected by an implant. One of the compromises she’d made many months ago, to keep doctors happy.
“Oh, shhhhhuddup,” she grunts, rolling with considerable effort onto her side. Her killer's head is gathered up, held in the crook of one arm, then she takes hold of that wicked hilt protruding from her belly.
“Nobody’s listening.” But even if they were...
The old battle axe commits herself to the grave. Her tortured cry resonates throughout the cavern as she pulls it out, all twenty-eight inches of terrible, and with it comes a substantial leakage of blood and viscera.
She’d have died anyway...this will shorten the wait. But while she waits, she cradles her son, holding him in her arms for the first time.
And the last.
A few minutes later, General Greystorm, aka Ice Queen Aderanne, is naught but a memory. A mother, a hero, a terror to medbay, a dancing blade on the battlefield, a vindictive killer, masquerading as a soldier. But even memories die, when there’s no one left to share them. How long will her story live on? Well, that depends upon the status of the fleet, of her kin, and in her last conscious thoughts, she could find no answer.
Crimson rivulets trickle their way free of mother and son to quietly mingle among the stones of their ancestor’s tomb. For the first time in a long time, this old rebel gets some rest.
Some songs from Amber's playlist, in memoriam.