Being lost can be a crushing and disorienting feeling. But sometimes you want to get lost. You want to leave something behind, escape a bad dream which has been your reality for some time. When you do, you leave something behind. A piece of yourself. You drop it on the lonely, familiar places – alleyways and stairwells where you spent your childhood. You drop it on the carnival fields where you had your first kiss, and on the sidewalks where you learned how to spill blood.
Câein left a lot of things behind, and he knew it too. Memories he wanted to forget, broken promises and pools of bad blood. But you never escape Nar Shaddaa. It clutches at your soul with its decadent claws, and no matter where you run or how far, it always reels you in. Then again, perhaps it had nothing to do with Nar Shaddaa. Perhaps it was just the clutches of home, the streets upon which your corpse belong.
He took one step. Then another and another. His boot clapped hollowly against the cold, familiar ferocrete, even thought he could see familiar patterns in the cracked and worn stone, but surely that was his imagination. He stared at it, lips lightly parted, and his recently and newly scarred face alight with nostalgia. There was no flash of light, no burning sense of belonging, no magic. Yet, something was different.
He'd been back once before, they all had. The Family, all those who were now lost. They’d started something here, started anew of the second time, and when Arcann came with his fleet, they’d been forced to run. He’d run to Asylum, became something there, just like he’d become something wherever he’d gone before. But last time he came back, it hadn’t been like coming home, not really. When his brother died, almost a decade ago now, he’d exiled himself from this place.
He’d abandoned business ventures, deals, friends, the occasional lover and run for the stars. He’d ended up on Ord Mantell, got involved with some nasty cats, and soon bumped into Locke, Koldrax, Scarlet and the whole crew. They were the first, the beginning. Together they’d reached out as one, sunk their claws into pieces of the galaxy and tried to make them their own. They’d succeeded and they’d failed, found redemption and damnation alike. But above everything, they’d become Family.
They built their organization, then left for Nar Shaddaa – The Old World, but when he came back it was not the end of exile. It was just another place. The Family was his home now, and being on Nar Shaddaa had not been like being home at all. It had just been another stepping stone. Together they had grabbed territory, connived with Hutts, opened up a club, sold blood and spice on streets already overrun with it. They’d done well for themselves.
When had everything gone wrong? When had they all started dying off, or simply gone lost upon the path? He couldn’t say when. He’d stopped in his tracks and stared at a broken glass bottle next to a trash compactor. Above him the broken neon sign saying; “Barley’s Home Pub” had been replaced with a fixed, blue sign saying; “Darleen’s Scavenged Parts.” It made long, forlorn shadows on the filthy street.
It was always like that. Time made a few adjustments, but the world itself remained the same. Whores died of and were replaced by new ones. The beggars either got chased away or killed, and new ones returned to loiter in their place. Everything changed, everything remained the same.
Was he crying? He thought so, but made no attempt to wipe away the tears. Everyone were gone now. The world had moved on again, and this time he had been left behind. Koldrax was dead in prison cell somewhere on Quesh. Scarlet had vanished a long time ago. Reaver lay rotting in a grave on Alderaan, and Ezrab had taken his family and disappeared. Zeeke had taken to wander her own path, and he himself was here.
So, he’d gone from escaping Nar Shaddaa, became a hood on Ord Mantell, a businessman on Coruscant and second in command of The Red Rose Syndicate. Come back to Nar Shaddaa, opened a club, been chased off to Asylum for five years where he opened up a spice-hauling smuggling business, returned to Coruscant to be reunited with The Family, then being chased off by the law after a member had gone rat, and returned to come full circle with Nar Shaddaa.
Wherever he went, all roads led here. But this time, this time it was different. He bent one knee and put a hand on the sidewalk. The ferocrete was cold to the touch, and his long sweaty hair hung in tendrils over his forehead.
“It’s been a while, old friend.” He muttered, feeling the crack in his throat as nostalgia and melancholy came together to clog it up. “One exile ends, and another begins…” He’d never been a man of profound or cryptic words. He’d known how to grease palms, how to make others do as he wanted by promising them something which sounded like much but was really nothing. Now, he barely knew who he was anymore. It was like coming home after a journey that had lasted for a thousand years. What would he do now? Who would he become? He had been so many things, seen and done so much, he could no longer grasp the young punk who’d once fled his brother’s death.
“Câein Deadalus…” He murmured, tasting the name. So many had spoken that name in fear. So many others had taken it in contempt and disrespect. He’d beaten people and been beaten. He’d killed others, and almost died a few times himself. But so many of those he loved had been lost along the way.
He got to his feet. Slowly he put his hands in his coat pockets, feeling the familiar place where the lining had ripped, and sucked on his teeth in thought.
Perhaps… gambling? Gambling was a good business. And if old Myreena Tyroll was still in the works, well… then that was at least a foothold. Perhaps he would stride down the old blocks, see what had remained and what had been replaced.
He turned and walked down the old sidewalk, six miles from where he was born. Ghosts called to him from alleyways and food stops, candy stores and spice dens. Ghosts of the old crew, of his brother and so many other kids who were now long gone.
He grieved, but there was also relief. A long, hard journey had ended, and he was home.
He was exile, no longer.