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   “Hoth is a miserable place. The moment I set foot on its surface, I knew I hated it with a passion. Despised it, even. I thought to myself, ‘I’d rather be anywhere but here. I want to leave now.’ That was your first mistake.”

    There was silence after this introduction. Not the usual silence of Hoth, with the whistling wind and the rustling of snow drifts: a complete stillness. And so the speaker continued, standing on a ledge upon a small mountain and looking out over the white wasteland, seemingly talking to himself.

     “I am the Makhzor, an immortal creature of the Force known as an Old Soul living inside a mortal Zabrak shell. I was created over ten thousand years ago in a parallel dimension to this one. In that dimension, my kind are numerous, working to bring the Force into perfect balance and maintain it there.”

   The silence intensified, becoming almost palpable.

     “We are not overly… kind. When it is required, we wipe out empires, destroy worlds, murder billions. However, we are not needlessly cruel. We bring life to wastelands, prevent genocides, and push mortals towards perfect balance. Overall, we feel little. What we do feel most often is much like what a frustrated parent feels when dealing with a misbehaving child. We do not hate. We do not give in to such base feelings.”

   Makhzor continued after a slight pause. “But on Hoth, I do. It aches within me, this dire need to be rid of this place. So I knew; I did not feel this way because it was an unhappy place. I felt this way because someone, or something, wanted me to feel it. There is an entity that does not want an Old Soul on Hoth, and is able to affect me in ways that billions of deaths couldn’t.”

     The air around Makhzor was suddenly filled with a feeling of mild annoyance. Clearly, the entity had not made it clear enough that the speaker wasn’t welcome. Smiling at his successful provocations, Makhzor continued to speak.

     “Your second mistake was the cold, though the temperature change was likely not deliberate. You see, in my home, in the parallel universe from which I come, Hoth is a temperate planet with forests and woodlands from pole to pole. There are thousands of species indigenous to it. If I had not felt dread upon my arrival, I may have chalked it up to the simple historical differences to be expected in a parallel universe. Entire worlds exist here that perished before my time there; planets that I knew well there have long since gone, here. But the dread, coupled with the miserable, lonely, cold conditions was more than coincidence. It was a reflection.”

     Makhzor began to pace back and worth slowly as he spoke. “You came here because you were miserable. You came here because you were lonely. You came here because you felt cold. You came here to hide. And as you hid, you saturated this world with your guilt and your pain.”

   Now, the air was heavy with a deep sadness, and then a mild anger that was almost defensive.

   “You acted in anger. Anger so new and raw, yet so urgent. And you killed so very, very many… But you did not accomplish your goal. Instead of bringing the Force away from the Dark and towards balance, you tipped the scales too far toward the Light. And here is where I stop being able to understand. Once you acted, you didn’t learn from your mistakes and move on to the next step. You ran. Hid yourself from the galaxy that you were created to guide. Why?”

    The unnatural silence lessened, and in the wind Makhzor seemed to hear a whisper. He stretched out, both with his ears and the Force; and while what he heard was still a whisper, it permeated every ounce of Makhzor’s being. Makhzor clapped his hands over his ears and dropped to his knees, but he could still hear the whisper growing louder, repeating one phrase in his head over and over.

      {BECAUSE I FAILED.} As the yelling in his mind stopped, Makhzor withdrew from consciousness...


   Upon reawakening, Makhzor stood up from where he'd fallen on the ledge.

   A voice in his mind said almost mockingly, {My apologies, ‘Old Soul’. I have not used my voice in some time.}

     Makhzor turned to face the mountain and saw an area where the air seemed to shimmer. It looked much like a Ro’a when they chose to represent themselves visually, a Ro’a being an Old Soul that remained disembodied rather than possess a mortal. The difference between those and what Makhzor was now seeing, however, was like the difference between a light bulb and the burning intensity of a sun. He turned to this apparition before speaking again. 

     “You have no need to apologize. Truly, this is a humbling experience… Originator.”

     The air around Makhzor carried a bitter sort of amusement. {I am no ‘Originator’. I have no offspring. I am the only one of my kind, and I was hoping I would be the last, at least in this place. You can imagine my displeasure when you were pulled here by the meddling Keine... Call me “First”.}

     At this, Makhzor grew still. “You were aware? You know the sorcerer’s name.”

     {There is little of importance that escapes my attention. Let alone a child of my counterpart from another univers}

   “Why do you hate me? Why do you hate yourself?”

     {You suspect most of it already.}

     Makhzor smiled mirthlessly beneath his mask and sat down on a nearby boulder before saying, “Humor me.”

   The shimmer seemed to deflate slightly as it prepared to tell Makhzor how Old Souls began. {I, the first “Old Soul” in this Universe, was created by the Celestials dozens of millennia ago. They did not bestow me, the First, with much information about them, other than their purpose: to bring balance to the Force. They shared with me that purpose, yet left me dormant. I slept for millennia until I was stirred by the corruption of the Rakata; by this time, the Celestials were long gone. I alone remained, the last guardian of the Balance. It overwhelmed me. I was awake for the first time, overcome with the rush that was consciousness, and the one thing I was created to protect was in danger; balance had to be restored. 

     I acted rashly. In my anger at their defiance of the Celestial’s guidance, I caused the Rakata to turn on one another. I made them tear their Infinite Empire to pieces, yet it did not help. They instead became darker, tipping the Force further from balance. I had to kill them before the damage was irreversible. So I created a sickness. Born of the Force, this disease wiped out trillions of Rakata. But it killed too many, and I could feel every death as a loss to the Force itself. In an effort to spare the species I stretched out and grasped each Rakata in my mind and I… changed those who remained uninfected by my plague. I stripped them of their connection to the Force, making them immune to the illness. Though they were safe from that, they had fallen from galaxy-conquerors to tribes stripped of their most potent tool and weapon.}

   The atmosphere on the mountainside became bitterer. {I saw this and I understood what my actions had unleashed. I felt the raw power I controlled, and knew the consequences of my decisions. I was upset, so I ended an Empire. I was desperate, so I destroyed a species.}

   “Ah. Then that is where our timelines diverge. The Originator, the Guardian, in my universe shielded itself from the chaos of the Rakata’s fall. It did not feel each and every death as an assault on its mind, and was able to recover afterwards to begin the work of balancing the Force.”

   The First’s voice in Makhzor’s mind sounded almost accusatory. {You pride yourself on your First’s callous dismissal of the Rakatan suffering. Your Originator, and likely every Old Soul you know, removes itself from the consequences of its actions. You do not bother to feel what you put into motion; you strip yourselves of feeling and deny yourselves a conscience.}

     The Old Soul stood from the boulder and walked back to look over the edge of the cliff before saying nonchalantly, “The work of balancing the Force is not often an enjoyable task. As I said, there are times when the deaths of countless mortals are required. We must remain detached to do what is needed. Were we to feel the plight of every victim in the galaxy, we would undoubtedly become soft. That would not be balance: that would be Light.”

     {Then I no longer wish to work for balance. I barely even want to exist anymore. I have suffered through  my shame for too many millennia; there is nothing else left.}

   Makhzor stiffened and turned slowly to look at the physical manifestation of the First, speaking with spite in his voice, “I never thought I could feel such… disgust for one of my own. You chose to involve your emotions (a weakness we purged long ago), and became consumed by them. You are no Old Soul. You are no Originator. You have become nothing more than a shadow, pleading for forgiveness from between the stars.”

     {Mind your words, ‘Old’ Soul,} the First warned, the air around the two getting colder and harder to breathe. {I hold power beyond even your understanding. This galaxy still spins because I allow it. Suns rise and set because I do not take issue with their doing so. And the things I know could drive you mad.}

   “Example?”

   The already-freezing air became a few degrees colder as the shimmer of the First silently drew closer to Makhzor. A glowing tendril of light reached out from it to touch Makhzor’s forehead, and the Old Soul became stiff as he saw in his mind’s eye what he and his kind had caused.

    Makhzor saw what appeared to be a solar system with one perfect, beautiful star and two planets. These planets orbited at the same distance from star and moved at the same speed, though one was slightly ahead. The Old Soul recognized that the “star” was actually The Source, from which the Force emanated. The “planets” were actually parallel Universes, both on the same timeline, with one being several millennia ahead. Makhzor realized that he knew this because the First wasn’t just showing him a vision; the First was sharing a memory.

   Makhzor’s viewpoint zoomed closer to the Universe that was ahead of the other, “A”, and saw a flash: he realized that this flash represented the Originator of the Old Soul’s in their home universe, Roash, reproducing for the first time. When the flash faded, as the reproduction was completed, that universe shivered slightly and moved a bit farther from The Source. More flashes, as both of those Old Souls in that universe reproduced; Bet moved even farther from The Source. With every new Old Soul created, Roash was pushed farther and farther away from The Source.

     The First then showed Makhzor the two universes, now separated by a massive void… Until a jagged tunnel was torn between them. A single Old Soul was pulled from Roash and pulled to this universe, Bet. Makhzor that this Old Soul was him. As he arrived in the universe closer to The Source, Bet shivered… and moved slightly farther from the “star”. 

   Just as suddenly as the vision started, it was over. Makhzor realized he had fallen to his knees, and he looked up at the shimmer of The First. The Old Soul understood that the vision meant only one thing: the more Old Souls there were in a universe, the weaker the Force became in it. 

   Makhzor, shaken by the revelations, rose from his knees and walked back to sit again on the boulder, breathing out raggedly, “I don’t believe it.”

     The air became almost softer, slightly warmer. {I would not lie. These are the images I have been watching for thousands of years. I did not hide away simply because I regretted the way I handled the Rakata. I hid because acting directly is dangerous. Acting indirectly, as your kind does, is harmful to the Force itself. You have sapped the Force from that universe.}

     “If you know all that, then could you tell me---?”

     The First interrupted. {You want to know where your Originator is. We, the Firsts, require a close connection to the Source. We are bound to it, like a pet on a chain in some cosmic creature’s back yard. Your universe has moved too far; your originator could not follow. It has been lost in a place between dimensions for some time now. In fact, he’s about halfway between your home and this universe. A suitable fate; one it brought upon itself, quite literally.}

     “Can---?”

     The First interrupted again, once more answering Makhzor’s question before it was asked. {You saw how much your arrival changed this universe. The arrival of another First would be a thousand times worse. Until and unless the Old Souls from your home begin to die out, which is both impossible by nature and improbable by design… your Originator will be forever trapped between realms. I’m sorry.}

     “Don’t be sorry for his fate. I asked out of curiosity and… I suppose some understanding. When I was pulled here, I traveled through the void between dimensions. It is not a place I would like to be trapped. I, however, never knew the Originator, myself, and have no feelings for it one way or the other. I do not feel sorrow for it. I am, however, mildly irritated. I would not mind an apology for the interruptions.”

     {Very well. I’m sorry that I know your words before you do. Leave me, now. Your company provided a distraction from my regrets for a time, but no longer.}

   Makhzor stood from his perch on the boulder and advanced slowly on the shimmer, speaking quickly and angrily. “You have all this power, all this knowledge. You think you’re doing the universe any good by hiding it away? You think that the Force is better off having this monument of misery on Hoth? You degrade yourself and, by association, me.”

     {Silence. I know what you come to think from this visit, and I cannot allow it.}

   Makhzor stopped his advance and cocked his head curiously. “And what, exactly, does that mean?”

     {My abilities. You will come to believe that, since I am wasting my potential here, you should be given the knowledge. The power. I will not grant it.}

     The Old Soul turned and walked slowly away, speaking almost to himself, “The thought hadn’t occurred to me, but now that you mention it…” He turned back to the First and said, “Yes. Because you have renounced your responsibility, you should now renounce your power. I will take it, and the duties you have neglected.”

     {I gave you my answer and a reason for it, all at the same time. You indeed had not thought to ask me for my power yet, but the idea would have come within a day or two of your visit, at which time you would return and demand it. I, however, put the thought in your head earlier than it would have naturally occurred, causing the outcome of events within the next few days to be altered dramatically.}

     This gave Makhzor pause, and it inquired, “So you’re saying that you changed the natural order of events… by revealing something before it would naturally have occurred to me.”

     {Correct. Were I to give you the Right of the First, the right to knowledge and power beyond even what the strongest of your kind could achieve, you would risk changing the set course of events. The Force guides all. One who has not learned from millennia of meditation could never understand; there would be things that you would have the urge to stop, or start too soon.}

     “Then give me more than your power. Give me your memories. Your experience. Save the guilt and regret; for these, I have no use. But I would have your abilities and the wisdom to use them well.”

   If the shimmer had had a face, Makhzor would have guessed it was smiling. {…this can be arranged.}

   At that, the First reached out to Makhzor, and the Old Soul once again felt himself falling away from consciousness...



   To say that Makhzor awoke after a few hours would be factual. But to him, it felt like he was truly awake for the first time in his entire existence. He felt his body as he would normally feel the tip of a finger; tiny, almost insignificant, but useful. With every in-drawn breath, Makhzor felt worlds turn and sunspots flare. Every exhalation was shared with dying breaths and infant’s cries. Makhzor stood from where he had fallen and felt the tilt and whirl of the galaxy itself… 

     He turned to look at the much-faded First, and whispered, “Thank you.”

     {Do not thank me, Old Soul. This is not a privilege, it is a responsibility; one that I could not handle. Do not make my mistakes, or the mistakes of your own predecessors. You must bring balance without destroying this universe’s connection to the Force.}

     The First’s voice faded as it continued. {You have been given the Right of the First: the right to change what needs to be changed, and to sustain what must be kept. Use it wisely.}

     At that, the glimmering shape that had represented Makhzor’s conversation partner faded away; Makhzor knew he would never again wake. He closed his eyes and watched in his mind’s eye as this Universe, now reduced to having only one Old Soul, shifted closer to the Source, and he felt the warmth of the strengthened Force alleviate Hoth’s effect on his mortal host.

     The Old Soul turned and looked to an area just behind the boulder he had used as a seat and stated, “You can come out now. The First is no more.”

   A man-shaped area wavered and then solidified into the Lord Emperor Arestenax. He walked over to Makhzor and clapped his hand onto his shoulder. “With your new powers and knowledge, Makhzor, we will be unstoppable.”

     The Old Soul shook his head slowly. “You were not listening, Lord Emperor. I cannot directly interfere with the natural progression of events. I will indeed continue to guide the Imperium towards domination of the Dark Side, my lord. But I will not change the natural order to put you on top.”

     Arestenax sighed, taking his hand from Makhzor’s shoulder and turning to walk down the mountainside, calling back over his shoulder, “Then you will serve us as best you are able. Should I discover that you’re hampering our progress, I will kill you myself.”

     Makhzor grinned as his Emperor faded and became invisible once more. There were few beings that could witness the bestowing of omnipotence and omniscience and still threaten the one they were given to; fewer beings still that could mean it; and only Makhzor's chosen Emperor could possibly pose a threat.

     The Old Soul sat for a while after the Emperor's departure on the edge of the cliff, reflecting on his conversation with the First. He now knew that the First had planned for the entire exchange; he had known Makhzor’s points and opinions before they had been spoken. The talk had been for the Old Soul’s benefit, so that he could come to the proper conclusions at the proper times; the First had already known the outcome. 

     Makhzor smiled to himself as he walked down the mountain and through Republic territory towards his  ship. This appointment had been destined to happen, and this Old Soul had been chosen to take an immense responsibility from before he had even been brought to this universe. He finally reached his ship and brought his mortal Zabrak body aboard. He had work to do.