The Book of Trials and Tribulations Part 2
Bali's feet were cold and the ache raced up passed his knees and made him want to do nothing more than curl up into a small ball hoping the pain would go away. But he was Jedi and that kept him from doing just that.
Fingers pressed against the invisible wall as he kept walking along the long curve searching for an opening that would bring him ever closer to the warm, beckoning light in the center.
Feeling an opening, Bali nearly tumbled forward into the next level. He only made a few meters before running into another dead end. Turning back, he was stopped again by an invisible wall that had appeared in his path. Chilled fingers searched the surface, slowly gliding over the nothingness until his little hand plunged through an opening at the floor. Smiling, he got down on hands and knees and climbed through.
Bali knew he would not have found the trick earlier if he had not briefly given up and sat down on the floor several rings back. That was when he nearly fell backward when the wall disappeared. It was curious, the nine-year-old decided as he continued searching for another opening to the next ring. There were no monsters or anyone to taunt him. Isn't that what happened when taken hostage? Aren't they bullied and lied too? Locked up into little rooms and beaten? That was what he had heard at least from older padawan's that had been on missions.
Still, the dark haired boy had never been on a mission outside the Temple. He didn't even know how he got there or where there was. The room was so big and quiet and the only sound to comfort him was the quick thrum of his heart. Not even the Force was there to help guide him.
He was completely alone.
* * * * *
"Worry the same, all master's do. Fear for their padawans," Yoda said softly as his large gaze settled on the quiet figure of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
The little troll's words did little to comfort the young master. "I know this is an important trial, I just hoped you would wait another year. Allow him more time to prepare."
"Do not think he is ready, do you?" Yoda inquired.
"I have great faith in Bali but this test is generally for children a little older. What if he fails?"
"What if he does not?"
"He is almost there," Obi-Wan said softly.
* * * * *
Grunting in frustration, Bali stopped at another dead end. He searched high and low for a passageway but none existed. He could almost imagine the warmth of the light pouring into the center of the room and desperately wished he were there. His master would find him then.
The little padawan stopped and studied the circle of light that remained just out of reach. All he wanted was to get there.
Bali stopped and stepped back from the invisible wall until another pressed against his back. A question that had been brewing ever since he began the quest was screaming at him now. Why, the nine-year-old had to ask, was it so important that he get into the light circle?
A big empty room, no place to hide but in the shadows. In the light he was exposed.
His heart was racing as he moved along the invisible wall away from the light. It was safer in the shadows.
* * * * *
"Remember, I do," Yoda said as he hobbled across the corridor to his hover chair and climbed into it. "Grudgingly accept this trial, most masters do. Tried to stop it, Qui-Gon did. Said proven yourself you all ready had."
"Like my knighthood trials?"
Yoda gave Obi-Wan a sharp look but did not rush to correct the statement. Taking his time to ease back into his seat, the little master turned to study the younger man. "Been through too much on Bandomeer, he thought. Believed he did, all ready passed this trial. Already his padawan, he had decided, a test changes nothing."
"I still had to take the test."
"Demanded it was. No choice but to submit, Qui-Gon had. Care, he did."
Obi-wan leaned back against the wall, his pale blue gaze settling on Yoda. "He sure has a funny way of showing it."
"Stubborn you are," the little master grumbled. "Take after you, I hope Bali does not."
The younger man grimaced.
"Came into a line of stubborn teachers, he does."
"You should know."
"Never did I train such spirited, rebellious Jedi."
Obi-Wan just studied the little master. "No, of course not," then he smiled.
Bursting into gentle laughter, Yoda sank back into his chair. "Pass this, he will," he said firmly. He was about to go one but stopped when Obi-Wan rose to his feet. Frowning, the ancient one waited, then added, "Allowing his passions to cloud his judgment, was Qui-Gon's mistake. Repent for that error, he will."
"When ready, he is."
Saying nothing, Obi-Wan turned to face the wall.
* * * * *
Mercifully the invisible walls did not block his escape until he was back in the shadows. Then his luck ran out and he was trapped in a dead end. Turning back the padawan found the way sealed there too.
"No," Bali moaned when he didn't find an opening. "Do not do this, not now," the panic rose in his whispered voice. Unable to help himself, he launched his pajama-clad form against the invisible barrier.
A terrified shriek escaped the padawan the instant the wall disappeared and he tumbled toward the floor. The cold stone stung as his skin slammed into it.
The boy rolled and stared out at the room. He was still alone. Rising to his feet, he began to retreat from the light again. No walls blocked him.
His bare feet pressed into the smooth stone until it came to a sharp ledge. Arms flailed as he fought to get his balance back. Falling backward, he vanished into the blackness.
Another startled cry sounded when he crashed into the floor below. Moaning softly, the padawan just laid there in the blackness.
Lights came up in a much smaller room revealing a reflective black wall. Even without the Force, Bali seemed to sense the unseen eyes that studied him. Crawling to his feet, the roughed up, cold padawan rubbed his eyes in the bright overhead light and looked at the glass.
A lot of good it did him to run back to the shadows. Huffing softly to himself, Bali marched up to the glass figuring it couldn't hurt now. Shielding his eyes with his hands, the little boy pressed his face to the glass and peered into the room.
"Step away from the glass," a stern voice ordered.
Surprised, Bali quickly obeyed.
A loud clicking sound and the glass wall disappeared revealing a control panel and a group of Jedi.
The Force rushed back to the padawan with such ferocity that Bali stumbled and fell backward. He felt a little dizzy from the rush. The instant it passed, Bali cast out, searching the room and beyond. He felt the Jedi Temple all around him along with the hundreds of beings that filled it at any one time. More importantly, he felt his master's warm presence just outside the room.
Bolstered by his knowledge, the boy climbed to his feet again and stared at the masters that silently watched him. They were taking notes. Bali frowned when he realized it had all been some test. He had not even studied for it.
* * * * *
"Even if he passes, what about me? I didn't think you would let me out of the temple," Obi-Wan asked showing his impatience as he started to walk the corridor.
Activating his hover chair, Yoda followed the younger Jedi. "Learn everything in the temple, Padawan Tiro cannot. A courier mission you two will attend to."
"Couriers?" The Jedi turned and stared at Yoda for a moment.
"Into a dangerous mission, will not send the boy into. Dangerous mission, you do not need."
"Yes, Master, of course."
A door down the hall opened and a tall humanoid woman stepped out. "Padawan Tiro has completed the trial." Without hesitation, the Jedi returned to the room.
Before the Jedi had vanished, Obi-Wan sprinted to the room where his padawan quietly stood. He struggled not to rush to the worried and tousled child but offered an approving smile.
"You didn't tell me I had a test," Bali quickly admonished.
"I wasn't supposed to," the master replied. "You were to be tested on how you responded to stressful situations."
Searching the room, Obi-Wan found the small bench where Bali's cloak and boots sat. Pressing a hand to the boy's back, he led Bali to the bench and sat him down. Grabbing his boots, Bali rushed to cover his bare feet and wrap himself in his cloak to hide his pajamas.
Little feet swung nervously waiting for the group of trial supervisors to announce their conclusion. Obi-Wan absently reached out and brushed his fingers through the boy's hair standing the spikes up on end. Bali burst into giggles, which briefly drew the attention of everyone.
After a prolonged silence, the humanoid with the brow ridges approached. She looked from Obi-Wan who had risen to greet her arrival to the boy who quickly mimicked the movement. Focusing on Obi-Wan, she began, "He passes with a minimal score. We will have a full evaluation for your records by the end of the day. I suggest he work on controlling his emotions. Throwing himself against walls is an act of desperation. He needs to remain calm in these situations."
Obi-Wan nodded, deciding to read the evaluation before passing judgement on the boy's performance.
The supervisor looked to Bali and continued, "Why did you retreat from the circle of light?"
"I could be seen easier in the light," Bali whispered. When the supervisor did not continue, Bali added, "I didn't know why I wanted to go there and I should have stayed where I was so my master could find me quicker."
"Most padawans make it to the light before they decide it isn't safe there," she said, making a notation on her data pad.
"Did I do good?" the worry was heavy in the little boy's voice.
"You passed," the supervisor said.
"What does that mean?"
Obi-Wan smiled. "It means we get to go on missions."