Many dark days passed on Moraband, long hours of pain and suffering. The Supreme Leader’s training was ruthless, intending to drive out whatever fragments of the light still lingered inside Kylo Ren. His apprentice knew this but made no complaint, for he was resolved to commit himself fully to the darkness. Despite the blow his father’s death had dealt, Ren could feel his power growing, sense his mind expanding. There was ancient knowledge in this place, secrets of a long-forgotten empire.
The air itself hummed with dark side energy. He could almost taste it as he took the desert path that wound steadily downward until it opened into what was once the Valley of the Dark Lords. Now, it was little more than a decimated graveyard. Its grand monuments and pillars had fallen, and many of the tomb’s entrances had caved in. However, there was one structure that remained largely intact, a mausoleum that stood proudly against the afternoon sky.
It was to this place that Ren’s master had commanded him to go for his final test, the test that would complete his training. Evil things dwelt in the valley’s catacombs, unholy spirits that would test him, mind, body, and soul. But Ren was confident in his ability to triumph over the schemes of specters. He paused at the structure’s entrance and looked up at the rectangular archway. Runes were carved into its sandy stones. They spoke of wicked things that he could read only in part.
Steeling himself for the assault he was set to endure, Ren inhaled deeply and extended his gloved hand towards the thick set of doors that lay within the arch. Reluctantly, they slid open, after much groaning and protest. When they grated to a halt, the sound reverberated through the shadowy passages beyond, disturbing primeval spirits that had been long brooding in the dark. For all their conniving, it had been some years since they had been provided with a living victim upon whom to impose their trickery. Concealed in the gloom, they watched with eager eyes as Ren crossed their cursed threshold.
Without any action on his part, the doors closed ominously behind him, and dust particles were shaken loose from the ceiling. They fell onto the hood of his cloak and cascaded over his shoulders before fading away into the darkness. Then there was silence. All Ren could hear was the sound of his own breathing.
Here, the Force was suffocating, confined to the extent that it stifled the air.
Cautiously, he ventured down the first passage, making several turns before he saw anything other than disheveled stones. Entering a larger, more cavernous chamber, he saw that there were sarcophagi lining each wall, smothered by layers of dust. Vague outlines of various alien races were carved into each surface, all representing a former Sith Lord. There were inscriptions in foreign tongues, but Ren did not bother to read them. His right hand was hovering near the hilt of his crossguard saber, for he sensed that danger was rapidly approaching.
There was an ear-splitting shriek behind him, and three beams of red light cut through the darkness. There was a strange sound, as of air being sucked out of a raspy throat, and a pile of bones clattered onto the floor. They glowed as if branded by fire, smoke curling from the ashes where Ren’s blade had incinerated them. He turned slowly in a circle, raising the hilt to his shoulder as his head swiveled in all directions.
A sarcophagus cracked open on his right as another animated corpse lunged at him from the left. He sliced it easily in half before dismembering the third, which had risen and climbed out of its own grave. Ren waited for more, but they did not come.
“Have you learned your lesson?” he mocked, his voice resonating abnormally amidst the silence of the tombs.
His saber deactivated with a hiss, and he lingered a moment more before entering another long, black corridor. Here, he perceived that the walls were beginning to glow with a faint red light, energy crackling audibly over the ancient stone. The dark side was getting stronger.
He stopped, listening.
“Ben!” the voice called again. It was faint and indistinguishable, but it was there.
“Who are you?” he replied. “Show yourself.”
No answer. Ren continued into the next chamber, which was circular and eerily empty save for the alcoves in the walls, which contained stone effigies that towered above him. He felt strange, as if many eyes were watching him, but he could see nothing. A low voice began to speak, and it fell like a single drop into a pool of water. The ripple grew and grew until it was a chorus of them, voices crying and wailing and pleading for mercy.
“You were one of us! We trusted you with our lives! It’s not too late! Turn back!”
“Jedi Killer,” said another voice, lower and more threatening.
Ren turned to see Luke Skywalker standing before him. His former teacher was bathed in red light, his face weary, burdened with anger, loss, and betrayal.
“You wanted me to be weak,” Ren countered, “to squander my talents. You were always envious of my potential.”
“It is far easier to fall into darkness than to remain on the path of the light.”
In a burst of anger, he hurled his blade, but it passed harmlessly through the apparition before spinning back to his hand. Luke vanished, only to be replaced by others who stepped out of the shadows. Ren’s arm fell uselessly to his side when he realized that one of them was his mother. There were tears in her eyes.
“You killed him,” she accused, her brown gaze piercing the depths of his soul. “I will never forgive you for what you’ve done.”
“You’re pathetic,” sneered Hux.
“Always will you be in Vader’s shadow,” said Lor San Tekka.
Han looked on silently, a gaping hole in his chest where the saber had impaled him. The profound sorrow and regret in his eyes drove Ren to his knees, his own scream ringing in his ears. His deactivated hilt rolled across the floor as his hands flew to his head.
“Enough!” he bellowed, and silence fell once more.
At last, Ren opened his eyes and surveyed the room. The visions were gone, and the stone figures seemed to gaze down at him scornfully. He was ashamed, ashamed that he had been driven to madness so easily. Standing, he called the saber back to his hand and hooked it on his belt. Ren took a moment to gather himself, for there were surely more traps such as these lying in wait.
There was a sudden groaning as a concealed door opened directly ahead of him. Through it lay a small burial chamber containing a single tomb, at the feet of which were set many urns. Slowly, he entered, resigning himself to face whatever ill will that was certain to strike at him from the shadows. Ren stiffened when the door shut behind him with a dull thud.
“At last, we meet again.”
He knew that voice. Turning, he saw her standing there, the girl from his visions, the scavenger from Jakku. It was only now, after everything that had transpired on Takodana and Starkiller Base that he finally knew what to call her—Rey.
“You’re not real,” he said.
“Of course I am.” She laughed, but there was no amusement in her voice.
“Why have you come?”
Her smile faded, her features becoming cold. “Isn’t it obvious? I made the mistake of letting you go before. This time, only one of us will walk away.”
Without hesitation, she drew his grandfather’s lightsaber from her belt, its single blue blade springing to life. Rey charged at him with a fierce cry, and he met her saber with his own. Flashes of red and blue lit up the tomb as both of them delivered one strike after another. After parrying a particularly aggressive blow from Rey, Ren was finally able to knock her off balance and send her stumbling backwards onto the floor. Smirking, he lowered his blade until it hovered just inches from her neck.
“Kill her!” a harsh voice commanded.
He hesitated, her eyes glancing up and meeting his own. They were brown, that much he noticed, but there was something else, something strange drawing him in against his will. His surroundings melted away and engulfed him in complete darkness, utterly alone. As if from across a great distance, he saw an ocean where rocky cliffs rose out of the sea. Away he flew, and when he looked again, there was a graveyard of ships passing below him.
“Here lies a seed with the power to unmake worlds.”
Ren opened his eyes. He was lying on the floor of the tomb. He sat up slowly, attempting to understand what he had just seen. The island he was aware of, but the rest of the vision was…intriguing, to say the least.
Ren stood as a door opened to his left, and the narrow passage that lay beyond soon brought him to another door. The air was less stifling here, and he did not hesitate to slide open the rectangular slab of stone. Squinting into the sunlight that suddenly flooded the corridor, Ren shielded his eyes and emerged from the mausoleum. He never thought that he would be so relieved to find himself in a valley full of sand. Throwing back his hood, he removed his helmet with a click and took a deep breath of non-musty air.
Ren stood there for a long while, contemplating all that he had just endured and attempting to discern what Snoke would have to say when he delivered his report. He was certain to be disappointed with his handling of the apparitions, but Ren was convinced that his failures would pale in comparison to his vision of the ultimate weapon.