Ask Yavin IV Stonks

Maura Starwalk

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★​
"Dear journal,

I know it's been many, many, many, MANY years since I've written here, but I just found this notebook again! Last time I wrote here I was talking about this time I hung out with Laeonas, which is funny cause he was kicked out a couple years ago.

ANYWAYS, there's a lot new with me! I'm 15 now, Grandmaster Voran is my master, and I have TWO lightsabers! (One of them isn't mine though. I kicked a Sith's butt and took it from him.) I'm gonna ask Voran if she'll show me how to purify it cause I can't figure out how to do it on my own. I didn't get any memories from it either, which is probably a good thing cause I can't really prevent the psychometry stuff from happening. Usually it's not too bad though. Like this one time Ruzaan and I got stranded on a planet and I touched these drums and heard a rhythm from them.

Anyway, I'll try to write in here more often. One of my teachers told me that writing down my emotions is a good way to understand them. She also said something about controlling emotions makes you stronger or something like that. If I'm being honest I wasn't really paying attention cause her saying that reminded me about this journal so I went to look for it. It was shoved all the way under my bed!

Okay, I've got to go meet Master Voran now. Bye for now!"

Maura threw her pencil to the side, dropped her journal onto the table beside her little cot, then threw on her shoes. As per usual, the padawan's robes were worn with patched jeans and a partially exposed, graphic t-shirt. She practically skipped through the halls on her way to Alex's office. When she was about halfway there, she came to a complete halt when she came to a realization: "I forgot the lightsaber!"

After rushing back to her quarters to retrieve the blade, Maura finally arrived at Alex's door a little bit later than she was supposed to be. The padawan reached out, rapidly knocked on the door, then entered without waiting for the Grandmaster to call out. "Hiya!" Maura immediately plopped herself down into one of the chairs opposite of the woman's desk, much like she had all those years ago when she'd become Alex's padawan.

"Look at my new shirt!" Maura pulled the brown of her robes to the side so Alex could lay her eyes upon the meme called "stonks". The kid immediately began giggling about it, clearly amused with her own choice of attire. "Do you like it?" she continued, anticipating the woman to give her one of those looks her teachers always gave her when she showed them obscure stuff from the HoloNet. It cracked her up.

"Oh, I brought the lightsaber by the way."
★​
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Alexandria Voran

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Alex slapped the datapad down on her desk. The air escaping her lungs in an exasperated sigh. Not good behavior, Alex. She was frustrated. No…she was far beyond frustration. Fighting a seemingly endless war against the Sith had been challenging enough, now they faced an enemy with resources beyond comprehension. The powers of the galaxy barely trusted one another enough to fight back. The worst part being, she was just as guilty as the rest. Her dislike of the Sith had gone nowhere. They were an order of irredeemable monsters but in her heart, Alex was still pragmatic. She knew the galaxy could not survive the Killik threat without the Imperial war machine. That was the cause of her frustration.

She was so lost in thought she nearly forgot Maura was coming. The door to her office banged open as her young apprentice made herself at home. Maura had grown up quiet a bit since she first started training the girl…but…she was still Maura. Alex’s gaze found her ridiculous shirt. The Morellian Jedi solemnly shaking her head. “I gave up years ago on convincing you to dress properly.” She gestured casually at the get up. “I hate to say it…but this is an improvement” Maura delighted in poking fun at the formalities of the Order. Something Alex often reminded other Jedi was a quality she admired. They need not be so self-serious all the time.

The Grandmaster cracked a smile. “Not everyone was born with my good taste.” The smile slipped slightly. “Let me see it.” She knew the story behind the capture of the saber. “Corrupted kyber is dangerous…even to me.” It was a piece of the Darkside that could corrupt even the most noble of souls. Her own lightsaber was the purified crystal of her predecessor. It had required a battle she barely survived.

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Maura Starwalk

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Maura giggled at her master's reaction to the silly shirt, all while puffing out her chest as she took Alex's comments as compliments. "I got it on my way back from Onderon!" she continued. "They were selling it at this little stall with all sorts of funny shirts like this one, but I only had enough credits for one."

The padawan, at Alex's prompting, unclipped the Sith lightsaber from her belt and handed it over to the Grandmaster. It had the characteristic hum of the Dark Side around it, but as the weapon had only belonged to an acolyte, it was far from a strong hum. Still, Maura was almost humming with excitement herself. She didn't care if it was dangerous. Purifying it would be so cool! "White blades are so cool!"

"Are you gonna show me how to make it white?" she asked as she leaned forward over the desk. She put her head in her hands and her elbows on the desk, completely enthralled in whatever her master would do next.
-​
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Alexandria Voran

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Onderon. She still meant to address that little sojourn Maura took without permission. One step at a time, Alex. She reached across the desk and grabbed the saber. Yes…the hint of the Darkside was unmistakable. Weak and fluttering but present. Her own lightsaber float from the table. Coming to rest in her left palm. Alex turned the hilt and ignited the brilliant white blade. “This was Grandmaster Boan’s crystal before he passed defending us. The Sith who killed him corrupted the crystal to its very core…removing that poison nearly killed me.” That mindscape had trapped them in a true nightmare. Alex barely managing to get them out alive.

“This is different, Maura, but no less dangerous.” She flicked her saber off and tucked it away in her robes. “You snuck off to Onderon without permission, fought the Sith without permission, and put yourself in incredible danger.” She did not accuse or chastise. She only spoke the truth. “You were lucky you were not hurt. I know you want to help, and I have sheltered you more than I should…but this war can cause more than physical harm.” The Morellian Jedi leaned forward and put the saber hilt back on the table.

“If you want to purify the crystal, I need to know you’re ready.” She shook her head slowly. “I can’t always be there. I can’t always protect you…I know that…but I do need to trust you. Which means no more sneaking off to fight without telling me.” The thought of Maura fighting the Sith put a cold pit in her stomach. Others her age had. She wished they hadn’t. Children were not meant for this war. So far she failed to put an end to that.

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Maura Starwalk

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Maura's eyes lit up when Alex brought out her own saber and ignited it before her. Its brilliance reflected straight off of her pupils, casting an eerie green over them when the light reached them. "Grandmaster Boan..." She didn't remember him, but she knew who he was. The former Grandmaster died defending the Jedi's home against the Sith. Her teachers spoke about it a lot.

Her face quickly fell when Alex brought up Onderon. The padawan immediately averted her gaze, trying to hide the obvious look of guilt that washed over her features. "I know..." she mumbled. She'd honestly thought Alex would be proud of her, at least. If it'd been just Hailee against Wodanz and the other Sith, she probably would have gotten kebabed. "No datapad games..." It was an unfortunate thing to think about.

"I'm ready! I promise!" The words came tumbling out of her mouth as soon as Alex gave her a pause to interrupt. She really wanted her master to show her and help her purify a lightsaber. Plus, Alex hadn't said anything about her not being able to fight! She just had to tell her first.

"So how do I do it? Is it hard? How hard is it?"

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Alexandria Voran

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Alex scrunched her face. Maura was young but no longer a child. She could not shelter her forever. The goal of any master to prepare their Padawan to serve the Order faithful…to pass their trials and be knighted. Alex would be a sorry excuse for a master if Maura left her care unprepared. It was time. She knew that. “It will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” The Morellian Jedi burst alive in the Force. The Light rushing through her like a flood. The hilt lifted into the air and spilt apart to revel the ruby red crystal within. She continued the work the Force. The desk lifted and spun away against the wall. All the furniture in the room shuddered and pushed towards the edges of the office. Maura and Alex were left in their chairs, the space around them empty…the crystal hanging in the air between them.

“I can’t do this for you, but I can guide you along the way.” The corruption in the kyber was clear, but the saber had belonged to an acolyte. Maura would need to purify the crystal. That much was true. Alex would be there each step of the way in case she needed to step in. Her power far outstripped whatever bleeding the acolyte had managed. This was not the corrupted worked on her own blade. “You must reach out in the Force and touch the kyber. Let your mind flow into it.” She watched carefully.

Her own thoughts expanded. Her own presence in the Force growing. She touched Maura’s mind. The Grandmaster would see what she saw. “It will take you in.” Deep breath. The girl could do this. She was certain of it.

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Maura Starwalk

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"Voran is so cool..." Maura began bouncing on her seat when everything in the room was promptly removed and placed against the walls. All that was left was her, Alex, their chairs, and the levitating red crystal in front of her.

Alex might have been sure Maura could do it, but the padawan was feeling the lingering tendrils of doubt as she reached her hand out toward the exposed red crystal. Was it really going to be that hard? What if she couldn't do it? Would Alex be disappointed in her? The Kyber crystal's dark aura wasn't helping anything either.

But when Maura felt her master gently touch her mind, it gave her a draught of strength. She would be fine. Alex wouldn't let her get hurt, right? So she curled her fingers around the crimson crystal and closed her eyes.

She felt something happen, so the girl immediately reopened her eyes. Rather than sitting with Alex in her office though, she was standing alone in a dark room. There was nothing in the room other than a floor, four walls, and a ceiling. She blinked, and suddenly, there was a milky black pool in the center of the room. Whispy black vapor billowed off from it, and it had a scent she couldn't quite place. "Hate." It smelled like hate. "...and fear?"

It pushed against her skin, threatening to seep through and chill her to the very bone. The padawan hugged herself as if it would warm her, and tentatively made her way over to peer inside.

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The room dissolved. Alex closed her eyes and flowed with the current of the Force. Her mind spanning open. She saw as Maura saw. A lonely room with an inky pool in the center. Raw emotion clawing at the girl. Alex’s voice vibrated in the room. “We are not ashamed of our fear. Only fools fear nothing…bravery is facing that fear.” She could see Maura stepping forward. The cold claw of the pool seeking her out. Her apprentice looked over the edge. She would see the face of the corrupted. Wodanaz…face twisted in anger. The tendrils of the pool licked out. Vapor gaining form. Wrapping themselves around the apprentice…pulling her closer. Alex watched carefully.

Wodanaz would become more solid in the reflection. His voice suddenly bursting from the pool. The Morellian Jedi knew this was not the Acolyte but a fabrication of the corrupted kyber. She had seen this illusion before but in the moment, it had been very convincing. “You killed me, Maura.” The voice was ice cold. “A foolish little girl who doesn’t know the consequences of her actions. A tool of an order that cares little for her.” The pool pulled her closer. Seeking to drag the Padawan within.

Her master continued to watch. She was there to protect her. To support her but Alex could not complete the test for Maura. If the kyber was to hers, Maura had to cleanse the crystal without aid. Alex was facing her own test. Watching her Padawan struggle and fighting every urge within herself to intervene. Knowing she could drive the Darkside from the crystal in a heartbeat.

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Maura Starwalk

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“We are not ashamed of our fear. Only fools fear nothing…bravery is facing that fear.”

Maura knew she wouldn't find Alex's face in the walls of the lonesome room, but still she looked. Black eyes searched black walls but found no trace of her master, just the fading echo of her advice that had filled the room. They finally returned to the pool of black ichor to meet Wodanaz's yellow-tinged gaze.

She almost didn't notice the tendrils of darkness coiling around her arms and legs as she listened to Wodanaz's venomous words. Guilt and something akin to grief pressed down on her chest as the memory of the fight forced itself to the forefront of her mind, complete with the final scene of her slicing her saber clean through his midsection and leaving him to die on the battlefield. Guilt and regret choked and tore at her throat. Did she really kill him? Why would she do such a thing-

Wait. That wasn't right. The lost look in Maura's eyes was replaced with hardened indignation. "I didn't kill you," she retorted. "I brought you to a hospital! I sav-" Heat began to replace the weight in her chest, and Maura stopped herself short as soon as she noticed. No, she couldn't get mad. That was what the corruption probably wanted, right? Despair, anger... anything negative.

"I fought you. You had a spear, and I had a lightsaber. You tried to kill me, but I didn't!" Maura began to retell the story of what happened, entirely more for herself than Wodanaz in front of her. The more she talked, the better she felt. After all, she liked talking. "...and when we were at the hospital, I tried to talk to you. I asked you why you joined the Sith, and I asked you about Firrerre. You didn't give me very good answers though. You said you joined the Sith 'cause you like the color red, which I thought was a dumb answer. You also told me that hurting other people made you feel better, and I told you knowing people care about me makes me feel better. The Order cares about me, the ones that matter at least! And I told you that one day I was gonna be just like my master. And to do that, I have to...do...something."

Maura had no idea what she had to do to purify the crystal. She was still cold—still hugging herself—but she felt a little better now.

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Steady Alex. This is not your test. If she were to intervene, Maura would gain nothing. She could only watch while the young girl faced the Darkside seeking to worm its way into her heart.

The pool vibrated with Maura’s word. A visceral response to being challenged. Wodanaz becoming distorted. His features ugly. His words tainted. Still the tendril of the pool sought the girl. Seeking to bring her ever closer. “And what will you do now?” The room seemed to shake. “Your master cannot help you or will not help you.” A sickly smile spread across the Sith’s face. “It would be easier to work together. You and I. So much easier.” A sharp laugh cut through the silence. “Think of the power I could give you. Power your master will never let you touch.” A hand extended. Beckoning for Maura to take it.

“Or you’ll have to kill me, won’t you? How else does one remove an obstacle but by killing it?” A saber appeared in the aberration’s hand. He held it out towards Maura. “Take it. Kill me. You know the way.” The room seemed to grow darker. The light fading.

Alex clenched her teeth in the physical realm. Her mind carefully surrounding Maura as she fought. Her voice pushed through the haze of corruption. “Faith Maura. Not in me, not in the Jedi, but in yourself…in who you are. Steady, Alex. She could do this.

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Maura Starwalk

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The pool vibrated, which was weird to Maura who had never seen a liquid make such a reaction, and Wodanaz's features twisted and turned into something that was not. The girl had no idea had to describe it otherwise. It looked like Wodanaz, kind of, but there was something so uncanny, ugly, and unlike-him about the way it looked. A shiver crawled down her spine, from her neck all the way down, and she pulled her arms in closer around her.

Maura would be lying if she said she wasn't scared, or if she felt incredibly unsure of herself. Its voice didn't help either, not with the way it questioned her and then sought to undermine her trust in her master. What would she do now? Maura didn't answer, defiantly refusing to speak as if she had an answer to give, though she didn't. Stubbornous, it seemed, prevailed through all else for the colorful padawan.

She looked up to meet the eyes of the thing when it asked its question and then shook her head. She grit her teeth and shook her head again as if the physical movement could help stave off the ever-present weight of the Dark Side. What kind of question was that? There were so many ways to not kill. She could try talking to an enemy or ask them to stand aside. She could disarm them. But it was difficult for her to concentrate with it, and all she could do at that moment was continue to stubbornly refuse the thing's advancements. Refuse to talk. Refuse to entertain any of it.

The padawan couldn't help but feel herself losing her grip. She knew what she stood for and she knew that what the thing offered her was bad. Jedi don't take lives. Her master had told her that so many years ago, and she held that close to her heart. Maura liked helping people, and violence, murder, and death did none of that. Yet, here she was, hugging herself tighter and tighter, no longer even looking the thing in the eyes. She wouldn't fall, but she might just fail.

And then she heard Alex's voice in the echo of the room. Faith. She knew who she was. She knew who she stood for. Was that enough? Was that all she needed, to believe in herself?

"That's- that's not who I am." Maura was a confident child, but here she was unsure. "I don't kill." Her voice was a little more confident now, though still wavering a bit in tone. "And I don't want easier." The girl's arms relaxed, and instead of hugging herself, her arms crossed. "And I don't want power. I want to help people."

She loved learning, and she loved the pride she felt when she could feel herself improving. But power? Power was never something Maura thought about. She'd never wanted easy. In fact, more than anything, she wanted to be challenged! Easy was the opposite of what she wanted.

"What if I helped you?" Maura didn't take the inky hand, but instead held hers out to not-Wodanaz. She wasn't sure if this was what she was supposed to do, or even if it was a good idea, but Alex had said to have faith in herself. In who she was. "You told me that hurting others made you feel better, but I don't believe that! Every time I hurt someone, it makes me feel bad. So maybe... maybe you're just making yourself feel worse every time you hurt someone, and then you do it again 'cause you don't feel any better. Soo..."

"Believe in who you are. Believe in who you are." She was a Jedi. Her goal was to purify this Kyber crystal of the Dark Side, to help it. Maura took a deep breath, pushed all her doubts and worries as far down as she could, and held her hand out farther. She put her trust in herself, but also in her master, who she knew was watching over her.

"...let me help you."

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“How can you help me.” The twist visage looked down angrily at the proffered hand. “Do you know what they did to me? To make me this way?” The pain in not-Wodanaz’s voice was crystal clear. “I served faithfully beside one like you once…they took me away…and made me this…twisted me to this. Only unimaginable suffering can do this. The pain is felt. The pain inflicted upon me. What can you do to face that?” The creature’s face twisted into a sneer. Alex watching it all unfold from above.

Oota’s kyber crystal had reacted much the same. A friend turned enemy with no way to find hope. She knew what would come next. She hoped Maura could bear it. “You are not alone.”

Wodanaz reached out and took Maura’s hand. The vision of the kyber crystal being bled streaming between them. The agony of the Light being twisted away from the crystal. The suffering to create the red blade. “You are not alone.” And suddenly she was there. She stood beside Maura. Her hand gripping the other. The Force bond between them roaring as the vision crossed into her mind.

“We will take you pain, your agony, your suffering…we will set you free.” She felt it now alongside her apprentice. All the kyber had endured…the evil that had been done to it and it had done too other. The lives it had taken. The torture it had inflicted. They drew it like poison from a wound and they did it together.

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Maura Starwalk

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Maura didn't know the answer to its question. She didn't know how she could help the crystal, but she knew she could try. Before it even took her hand, the way it spoke threw images into her mind of what it might've taken to bleed it. Underneath the anger, she could almost feel its pain. It was unpleasant for the girl. She wasn't really the type to easily empathize with others, but being inside the crystal changed that a bit. She could feel a lot.

And when it took her hand, she could feel all of it. It was pain like nothing she'd ever felt, emotional or physical, all wrapped up into an inescapable ball around her. It felt like a part of her was being ripped from her chest—her very soul—and corrupted into something it was never meant to be.

The padawan grit her teeth and tried to bear it the best she could, but a small cry of pain squeaked out from between her lips as she was wrecked with the visions. She didn't even notice Alex's voice, and when her master suddenly appeared beside her and slipped her fingers into Maura's free hand, it took her a second to notice.

Bearing it together, with Alex, suddenly made a world of a difference. It was still hard, but she felt less like she was hopelessly drowning in pain and more like maybe she could fight her way to the surface. She had to. She said she would.

So Maura gripped Alex's hand as tight as she could, drawing on the strength of their bond to use her as a rock. With her master here, together, she witnessed the corrupting of the kyber crystal. She watched not-Wodanaz's face twist in pain, sorrow, agony, and despair and felt each and every one of those emotions. All she had to do was feel its pain. All she had to do was get through this.

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Memories of Oota’s kyber flashed through her mind. Alex could almost feel the crystal urging her forward. You have done before. Stand strong beside your student. She gripped Maura’s hand tighter. There were no secret tricks. No hidden paths to victory. She faced the same test as the young Jedi without buffer or wall. Her face set in a grimace the master and apprentice stood tall. In time, the darkness in the room faded. A different visage appeared before them. The one who claimed the crystal first. “I am free.” The mindscape shattered. Thrusting them back into the physical realm.

Alex shuddered as her mind returned to her body. The pure white crystal hanging in the air between them. A tired smile came to her lips. “Take it, it is yours.” The Force rang clearly in her mind. A bell clanging in her chest. “Huh.” She shook her head. “It seems I can still be surprised.” Alex looked across at Maura again. “You have passed the first of your Trials.” Yes, the Force hummed approval in her soul. “The Trial of Spirit.” This was a road she had not believed they were started down…yet here they were.

“The other Trials will come…in time. There is no telling when they will present themselves. It may be months or years, but you must be ready.” Alex stood slowly and walked towards the far edge of the room. “You and I are about to spend even more time together.” Her eyes flicked up and down Maura’ wardrobe. “I’m buying you new clothes.” She raised a hand. “No arguments. In the Temple you can wear what you want. When we are working…I get to pick.” The smile returned to her face. Yes, someone had to teach the girl proper attire.

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Maura Starwalk

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This was, Maura decided at that moment, the hardest thing she'd ever done. Emotions, specifically other people's emotions, were not something the padawan was very adept at understanding. She was horrible at telling how others felt if they weren't outright yelling, sobbing, or otherwise emoting. So having to take on someone else's emotions—their painful memories—was Difficult.

But she preserved, and after what felt like hours, it ended. There was a whisper lighter than air, and then she suddenly felt the cool air conditioning of Alex's office against her skin. When she opened her eyes, a pure white crystal hummed quietly between her and Alex.

"...no way." Her lips parted, but the words left just barely a whisper, and her black eyes were wide with disbelief. She'd actually done it. And now it was hers? And she'd passed one of her knight trials? All of her emotions, both good and bad, hit her like a truck, and tears began to well up in Maura's eyes.

She wasn't sad, and she wasn't not happy, but the padawan had just gone through a lot and was almost completely depleted. It was definitely a rare sight to see such a tuckered-out Maura, and she didn't even have the energy to protest Alex's clothes decision.

"You don't- you don't like the Stonks man?" she giggled in between sniffles, trying to wipe the tears away from her eyes. "Sorry for crying... I dunno why I'm crying," she added apologetically.

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“I love Stonks man.” She smiled softly. “I just want the galaxy to see your spirit rather than your t-shirt.” The tears sparkled on Maura’s cheeks. “Never be less than you who are Maura because that girl did what I have seen even the strongest Jedi fail.” There was something special about the odd little padawan. Alex had seen it the first day the met. Her belief only further confirmed over the years. “And don’t apologize for crying.” She took her saber hilt out again. “When I purified this crystal, I was a mess for days. I could barely think straight.” Alex turned to look her young student in the eyes.

“We often forget there is nothing wrong with emotion…I get sad…angry…it is part of life.” The Morellian Jedi shrugged. “It is how we face those emotions that makes us Jedi.” She moved forward and pointed at Maura’s heart. “This is your strength. One that I deeply admire.” Alex stood back up and let her thoughts wonder for a moment.

“Truthfully, I don’t know what we do next. We both need some rest and then we can decide how to proceed.” It had been sometime since Alex walked a student through their Trials. Crix had been the last if she remembered right. Fear threatened to pull at her heart. Maura was strong but there was no denying the dangers she would face. The galaxy was not a safe place. The Trials only made it that much more dangerous.

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