101 Jedi Tales:
A Time of Life,
A Time of Darkness
Disclaimer: I don't own anything in the Star Wars universe, so I make no money off of this. However, donations are accepted to help me pay for plane tickets to see my family. giggles
Feedback is always appreciated and your words encourage me to write more. So don't be so stingy with the comments, Ya'll.
Summary: Takes place when Obi is 13. Slight spoiler for the JA books. I wanted a story that kept the basic humor I always put in my stories, but I wanted to make a more serious plot. Let me know what ya think.
Obi and Qui go to the planet of Ild-Re to assist in the planets ceremonies. Things go wrong, as they often do with these two. I keep the tradition that Big Daddy George started, there is a father/son relationship between them.
This story contains material that may not be suitable for young readers. Use your discretion.
"Oh force, can't we get a break?" Obi-Wan sighed.
"The turmoil does not take a holiday, and evidently neither do we." Qui-Gon stood next to his apprentice.
"We should be allowed to take a regular break. It would be more efficient that way. If all Jedi took a break from their duties, they could return, refreshed and be more productive." Obi-Wan explained.
Qui-Gon nodded in agreement, "A rest would be beneficial. It would increase productivity, awareness, and give us a break from the fast paced life the galaxy throws at us on a regular basis."
"Would you two stop it?!" Mace yelled over the comm. "I swear, you two will be the death of us!"
"Master Windu, you sound stressed." Obi-Wan observed.
"Maybe you need a vacation Mace?" Qui-Gon smirked over the holovid link.
"Not funny! I swear, its like you two were cut from the same cloth!" Mace snapped, then added with a heavy sigh, "After this assignment, you can have a month off to do whatever you want."
"A whole month off? Oh great! Sleeping in, no saber practice, no meditations, all the junk food I can eat…." Obi-Wan's eyes got large as he rambled.
"Think again!" Qui-Gon snapped. "Don't think you will get a chance to do all that, cause during your break, you are perfecting kattas, saber techniques and your gymnastics needs some work."
"Aww… come on master!" Obi-Wan pouted. "The whole idea of vacation is to do NOTHING. Please master, don't make me do all the kattas and meditations. What's the fun in that? I want some fun and working on exercises ISN'T what I call fun."
"Padawan, quit whining." Qui-Gon sighed.
"Are you two done? May I continue?" Mace asked.
Qui-Gon nodded, "Oh, please do. Don't mind us, we're having a bonding moment."
Obi-Wan waited until Qui-Gon turned back around to face the comm and stuck his tongue out.
Windu snickered at seeing Obi-Wan's childish behavior, and grinned at his friend. "Well, since you finished your last assignment early, we are sending you to Ild-Re to assist in their ceremonies. I'm sending you all the information we have, and expect everything to go smoothly, then you may take your vacation anywhere you see fit."
"We will be coming back to Coruscant so Obi-Wan may work on his skills." Qui-Gon said nonchalantly. With lightning speed, his hand flew over to Obi-Wan's face, grabbing the boy by the nose. "And don't think I can't see what you're doing. You are earning extra meditation time with this behavior. Now be a good little padawan and pack your things, then you can pack mine. I have a long list of chores for you to do during your vacation."
"This is SO unfair. Everyone has FUN on their time off, but NO. Not Qui-Gon Jinn and his poor padawan." Obi-Wan griped while preparing for their next assignment.
Qui-Gon terminated the transmission hearing Mace laugh heartily. Qui-Gon heard Obi-Wan in the next room, still griping and protesting, causing the Jedi master to smirk in amusement. He grabbed his datapad that had downloaded the information that Mace had sent, sighing when he read the transport would take 5 hours to reach the planet. He had to admit, the constant hopping of transports was starting to wear on his nerves.
The duo boarded their ship, Qui-Gon threatening Obi-Wan if he continued to whine. The pilot laughed at the exchange the two Jedi were having, and turned to see Qui-Gon pretending to strangle Obi-Wan.
The Jedi master's voice boomed, "I'm telling you one last time, you little pain in the neck! Stop whining! And you're doing that extra training during vacation!"
Obi-Wan faked choking, but whimpered, "Please master? Not even one week for a break?"
"That's it! I'm trading you in for a model that doesn't whine!" Qui-Gon threw his arms up in defeat.
"Good. Then I can get a FUN master and one that can keep up with me. I need a good challenge." Obi-Wan teased back.
"You just wait until we arrive at Ild-Re! You are getting a thumping for that!" Qui-Gon shot back, mischief in his blue eyes. "I have several things to teach you, and look forward to whooping your butt!"
The pilot interrupted their exchange, "My goodness! Do all Jedi bicker like this?"
Qui-Gon's face became serious, "Oh no. Some masters get padawans that only follow the rules and like to be the perfect role models for the code. I'm lucky because I got the padawan that likes to give me a challenge."
"Sounds great." The pilot smiled.
"He is." Qui-Gon affirmed, then ruffled Obi-Wan's hair affectionately. "I would be lost, physically and emotionally, if it wasn't for this tagalong."
Obi-Wan's face beamed, "Thank you master. But I still don't think you will be able to defeat me. I've been practicing."
"I'll make you a deal. If I win, you have to do all the extra training. You win, and I'll let you do whatever you want during vacation." Qui-Gon offered.
"Deal!" Obi-Wan smirked, then went to his cabin for a snack.
"Looks like you're in a battle. He's very determined, and will be hard to beat." The pilot commented.
"Oh, he will be a handful, but I was going to let him win anyway. He really needs a break, and this way I can teach him a few things before his time off." Qui-Gon said through a smile.
"Very clever." The pilot agreed, as Qui-Gon left to read over the information one more time, and to make sure Obi-Wan had read it as well.
The pilots voice alerted the two still in deep conversation, "Thirty minutes until we arrive at Ild-Re."
The transport landed on the planet of Ild-Re, late in the evening. The pilot wished the Jedi well and left for his next stop, his ship disappearing into the night sky. The council of Ild-Re greeted the two Jedi and escorted them to the manor house.
The manor was the central meeting place for the country, housing all council members and their aides. The Jedi would reside with the diplomats until the festivities were over.
Every 10 years, the planet of Ild-Re would hold, on the rare occurrence of the three moon alignment, festivals and ancient traditions that the inhabitants have maintained for centuries. Though most rituals were celebrated and honored all over the continent, one was performed by the high ranking officials in private. No outsider, or commoner, has ever seen the private ritual. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were already informed that they would be exempt from the ritual as well.
The Ild-Re council leader spoke, "I am Makolie. We are honored to have the Jedi to attend our celebrations. We are hoping that there won't be any violence, and are relieved you will stand guard during the most sacred and sensitive part of our festival."
"We are here to assist you in any way we can." Qui-Gon bowed.
"Thank you." Makolie returned the gesture. "Your rooms are here, and if you need anything, alert the servants."
"Thank you." The Jedi said in unison and entered their rooms.
The door closed behind them and Obi-Wan turned apprehensively to Qui-Gon. "Master, do you sense anything?"
"I don't sense anything out of the ordinary. Everyone is excited about the upcoming festival, so emotions are running high right now. I suggest you put up your shields, allowing danger to be the only thing you sense." Qui-Gon ordered, then retreated to his bedroom for a long rest.
"Yes Master." Obi-Wan sighed, though still very wary. He entered his room, prepared for bed, and settled into an uneasy sleep. The force flooding him with the emotions of the surrounding population.
Obi-wan awoke with a start, seeing the first rays of the morning sun peeking through the window. He quickly dressed and headed for the kitchen for another helping of the tangy Joka fruit. He made sure to bring the bright yellow fruit with him on missions.
After nearly inhaling two of the large fruity addictions, and many sour faces, Obi-Wan knocked on Qui-Gon's door and heard the elder sleepily acknowledge him.
Obi-Wan smirked to himself, "And I'm the one that wants to sleep in when vacation starts."
Qui-Gon semi-staggered out of his room, pulling a fresh shirt over his head and sat down heavily on the kitchen chair, obviously still half asleep. "Morning padawan."
"Morning master." Obi-Wan chirped, pouring some juice for them.
"You're unusually vibrant this morning." Qui-Gon noted, taking a sip of his juice.
"Today is the beginning of the festival. All fun, games, enjoyment for four days and nights. Then we have a month off to rest and relax." Obi-Wan said, grinning ear to ear.
Qui-Gon finished off his juice, raising an amused eyebrow at his apprentice. "Anticipating a win at today's saber practice?"
Obi-Wan's grin broadened, "Oh yeah! When my sleeping in and junk food are at stake, I can be a formidable opponent."
"Great." Qui-Gon smirked. "Now if all our enemies refused you sleep and snacks, we'd never have to worry about living through a battle ever again."
Obi-Wan faked a pout, then smiled wickedly. "I'm going to teach you to never taunt your padawan, or threaten my junk food. I'm going to earn my break."
"Shall we get the humiliation started then?" Qui-Gon asked, gesturing towards the door.
"Now? Right after breakfast?" Obi-Wan asked.
Qui-Gon nodded. Obi-Wan sighed and shoved the last piece of Joka fruit in his mouth and followed the elder out the door.
The two Jedi found a small court to have the battle for the right to sleep in and gorge on junk food. They bowed to each other, ignited their sabers and squared off.
Obi-Wan had a determined look on his face, and Qui-Gon could feel the force pulse around his apprentice. Obi-Wan's focus made Qui-Gon proud, but he remained quiet, staring down his padawan.
Qui-Gon faked to his left, then swung to his right, narrowly missing his already spinning apprentice. Qui-Gon's green blade swiped, singeing the cuff of Obi-Wan's sleeve, then meeting the solid blade of blue as Obi-Wan spun, counteracting his masters move.
Obi-Wan parried a thrust to his midsection, then chopped at his masters wrist, hoping to swing around while the elder was distracted and deliver a 'killing blow'. If one of them tapped the other on the neck, it was considered a 'kill'. Two kills meant end of match.
Obi-Wan spun to slice at his masters head, but Qui-Gon sidestepped the move. The momentum carried Obi-Wan past his master, and Qui-Gon gave him a swat against the back.
Qui-Gon slashed low, trying to clip the younger Jedi in the legs, but Obi-Wan was somersaulting over his masters head, avoiding any contact. Obi-Wan landed, made a strange face, then parried another attack from his master. Their sabers clashed and sizzled against one another viciously, each trying to gain the upper hand.
Qui-Gon had strength and size on his side, but Obi-Wan was small and very fast. Their sabers tangled against one another, stopping between them. The deadly blades hissing close their faces, the light casting odd shadows against their skin.
Qui-Gon landed a light punch to Obi-Wan's stomach, hoping to dislodge their sabers and allow them time to retreat for another attack.
Obi-Wan winced, then belched loudly, expelling all the pent up indigestion from the Joka fruit. The burp burned his throat and nose, causing the padawan to gasp and curl his nose.
Qui-Gon got a full dose of the noxious odor, making a soured, surprised looked. He lessened his grip, shocked at Obi-Wan's actions. " Obi-Wan! That's disgusting!"
Obi-Wan's face flushed with embarrassment, then he grinned. His saber disengaged from Qui-Gons, due to the distraction, and found the tender skin of Qui-Gon's neck. "Gottcha!"
"That wasn't fair! You nearly killed me with nerve gas!" Qui-Gon protested, deactivating his saber as he argued.
"It wasn't my fault. You made me do a strenuous activity right after I ate, AND made a cheap shot to my stomach. I can't help my bodies natural reaction." Obi-Wan quipped back.
"It wasn't clean. I refuse to go out this way." Qui-Gon pouted.
"You taught me to take advantage of your enemies weakness. I seen you cringe and felt you lessen your attack. So I used it to my advantage." Obi-Wan explained.
"Very good padawan, but next time I won't be an easy target." Qui-Gon said, pointing his finger at Obi-Wan.
"I'll just have to wait a month to find out." Obi-Wan ginned.
A small clap caught both Jedi offguard, and they turned to see a small boy, around 7 or 8 standard years, standing in the archway of the courtyard. His bright blue eyes shone, dirt covered his face, and his short blonde hair was littered with flower petals. He seemed scared, as he clasp his hands together to get the attention of the two combatants. "No fighting! Be nice to each other or I'll tell the council."
"We are the Jedi the council sent for. We're just practicing. This is to keep our skills sharp, and teach lessons. We wouldn't intentionally hurt each other." Qui-Gon explained, taking a couple steps towards the youngster.
The boy looked skeptical.
"The sabers are set on training mode. They will only give a slight burn to the skin, they won't kill." Qui-Gon assured.
"That reminds me." Obi-Wan started. He lightly tapped the other side of Qui-Gon's neck, signally another killing blow. "You dropped your guard. Game point, I win the match AND my time off."
Qui-Gon stood amazed and shocked. "Hard fought and deviously planned. Good job Obi-Wan."
Obi-Wan grinned and bowed his head. "Thank you. I learned from the best."
"Could you show me how to fight like that?" The young boy asked eagerly. "I learn fast."
Qui-Gon smiled at the boys enthusiasm. "I'm afraid not, Little One. You're too young to handle a lightsaber, and must train for years to earn the privilege to carry one."
The boys face fell, his bottom lip coming out in a pout. "Oh. That's too bad. I would love to have learned at least some, before Majuki."
Obi-Wan stepped forward, attaching his saber to his belt. "What's your name? And what is Majuki?"
"My name is Ari. Majuki is the ritual of life. Shh… I'm not supposed to talk about it, cause it's an ancient tradition and we are to honor its secrecy." Ari explained.
Qui-Gon winked, while dusting off the youngster, "Do not worry. We won't say anything."
"Thank you." Ari grinned, a bright smile. "What are your names?"
Qui-Gon nodded, "I am Qui-Gon Jinn."
Obi-Wan stood beside his master, mimicking the elder, "I am Obi-Wan Kenobi."
A council member entered the courtyard, bowing to the two Jedi. Her short cropped hair fell around her eyes, and her long robes of shimmersilk covered her tall frame. "Mr. Jinn. Your presence is requested by Makolie. He wishes to discuss the delicate and private matter, of the Ritual of Life tomorrow night."
Qui-Gon nodded to the diplomat, then turned to Obi-Wan. "This could take a while. Why don't you wander around the city and learn about the customs. We can quiz each other later on this evening."
Obi-Wan bowed, "Yes master. I won't go far and will be back shortly. I promise."
"I can show him around!" Ari bubbled with excitement. "I know the whole city!"
"Great! I couldn't ask for a better guide." Obi-Wan smiled, placing an arm around the boys shoulders, and heading out of the courtyard.
Qui-Gon grinned as the pair left, seeing his short apprentice now towering over the youngster. Ari was barely to Obi-Wan's shoulders, and Qui-Gon ruefully smirked, realizing that he and Obi-Wan look similar when they walk together.
Ari lead Obi-Wan through alleys and down the streets, staying close to the manor house. People would pass, touching Ari's forehead and offering him small yellow and orange flowers.
"What's the deal with the flowers?" Obi-Wan asked.
Ari smiled as people passed. "I was chosen, along with some other children, to assist in the Ritual of Life. It's a highly honored role, and very few get the privilege to be a part of it. Sorry, but I can't tell you anymore. I'm not allowed."
Obi-Wan smiled, "It's ok. The ritual sounds so important. I wonder why it's so secretive? Why doesn't the whole city get together and celebrate it with you?"
Ari shrugged and pointed to an alley, "This leads back to the estate. If you are in a hurry, cut through here, it leads to the main court."
"You are very helpful Ari. I think public relations would be your calling when you grow up." Obi-Wan said.
Ari's face became stony. He walked to a street vendor, spoke a few words, accepted some flowers, and some spiky looking fruit. He handed the fruit to Obi-Wan and waited for the Jedi to try a taste.
Obi-Wan didn't want to try the fruit, but reluctantly he bit into the spiny surface. He expected it to be sour, but instead, a sweet juice flooded his senses. He took another bite, wiping the excess off with his sleeve. "This is delicious!"
"They are my favorites. You want to see where we harvest them?" Ari bit into his fruit and smiled.
"Sure" Obi-Wan said, as an elderly woman placed a small yellow flower in Ari's palm and kissed his forehead.
Ari lead Obi-Wan further away from the manor, winding a path through the city. Soon the duo found themselves on a beach, the afternoon sun illuminating the water.
Obi-Wan stood in awe of the site before him. The water glowed like a thousand glow rods were under the surface, making the sapphire water sparkle like a giant jewel. He looked down at the sandy beach, and marveled at the pearl colored sand. "That fruit comes from here?"
"Yes. It grows out in the ocean, but each year there are less and less. But, after tomorrow nights ceremony, there will be plenty." Ari explained.
"What does the ceremony have to do with the fruit growing? I thought this was a moon festival." Obi-Wan inquired.
"It is." Ari beamed. "When we celebrate the tri-moon alignment, it's our way of showing thankfulness, just like our ancestors have done for generations. The rituals are performed and our food and spirits are renewed."
"Sounds wonderful. I can't wait to see everything." Obi-Wan grinned and turned, his eyes falling on something that made his heart stop.
A tall black cube rested a little way down on the pearly beach. Obi-Wan's mind flashed back to Melida/Daan, and the Halls of Evidence. He instinctively grabbed Ari's arm, panic starting to rise in him. "What is that?"
Ari looked down the beach, pointing at the ebony structure. "That is the pedestal for our ceremonies. You want to see it?"
Obi-Wan swallowed hard, not liking the situation. He remembered that fear is the path to the darkside, and he must face what scares him most, if he's to conquer it. He took a deep breath, calling on the force to give him strength. "Sure"
Ari lead the way, chattering away about all the rituals that lead up to the grand ceremony, but keep quiet about the details that surrounding the black pedestal. As they approached, Obi-Wan's palms were sweating, hands shaking and every cell in his body was on alert. He didn't like the feeling of this place, and flashed back to his experiences on Melida/Daan.
Obi-Wan stood beside the structure, noticing that it was much smaller than the Halls of Evidence. He could reach the top by standing on his tiptoes. He calculated that the 'box' was a little less than 2 meters wide, and about 6 meters in length. Small carvings and symbols donned the ebony surface. Obi-Wan reluctantly extended his hand to touch the symbols, but his hands were shaking uncontrollably. Without making contact, he withdrew his hand and tucked his hands inside his sleeves.
"It's ok. We're allowed to be here. It's only during the evening ceremony that no outsiders can be present." Ari assured the obviously nervous Jedi.
"It just reminds me of something else. Something very sad and painful." Obi-Wan took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
"I'm sorry. This is a joyous place though. It brings food and life to my people." Ari's eyes searched Obi-Wan's face.
Rationalizing that one bad experience is isolated and shouldn't jeopardize current missions, Obi-Wan smiled at Ari. "You're right. So, tell me about the pedestal and what these symbols mean."
Ari grinned and began to explain some of the carvings and the stories behind them. He omitted some details and briefly touched on some of the stories, worrying about the ritual and what he could and couldn't say.
The evening sun wan setting low in the sky and the sounds filtering down to the beach told the two that the festival had officially begun.
Obi-Wan glanced at the sky, then turned to Ari. "My master is going to kill me! I said I wouldn't go far and would be back soon."
"It's ok. I'll just him I kidnapped you." Ari laughed as they raced through the streets and threaded through the growing crowds.
"I don't think he'd buy it." Obi-Wan shouted ahead, and ducked to follow Ari to the shortcut back to the manor.
The two entered the main court, panting. "Thank you Ari! I'll see you later, if my master lets me live!" Obi-Wan joked as he parted company from his friend.
Obi-Wan raced upstairs, just in time to see his master closing their door. Obi-Wan skidded to a stop as Qui-Gon faced him, his expression showing his disappointment and agitation.
"Sorry master. Ari took me to the ocean, and we lost track of time with the stories about their rituals." Obi-Wan explained as he bowed.
"Change your clothes. We will discuss this later." Qui-Gon's tone was stern.
Obi-Wan bowed again and ran into their room to quickly change. A few minutes later, he met Qui-Gon at the door, looking fresh and revitalized.
"We are expected to meet the council member and go over the plans for the ritual tomorrow night. However, since you never returned for a briefing, you will learn the information while the rest of us have fun. I'll quiz you later on what you learned." Qui-Gon's tone was even, but Obi-Wan sensed Qui-Gon's anger.
"I am sorry master. I did learn a lot about the ceremonies and rituals and the amazing stories on how they began. But Ari wouldn't tell me about the secret ceremony tomorrow night. It is strange, and I'd LOVE to be the first outsider to see it performed. Ari's been chosen to assist in it, and is thrilled to be a part of it. I wonder if he could sneak me in?" Obi-Wan rattled on as he followed his master through the halls to the outside, where the beginning festivals were getting into full swing.
"We do not make friends to gain favors. I do sense however you are holding something back and are feeling uneasiness." Qui-Gon looked over at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan bit his lip and took a deep breath. "Master, do you remember the Halls of Evidence on Melida/Daan?"
Qui-Gon stopped suddenly, flashing back to that fateful planet. His voice was barely over a whisper. "Yes"
"There is a pedestal at the beach that looks exactly like those black boxes of hatred. At first I was terrified to get near it, memories flooding at me." Obi-Wan stopped alongside Qui-Gon. He took an unsteady breath, "But I allowed myself to go near it and put the past behind me. Ari told me it was a symbol of renewal and hope. Each festival they celebrate the new life and food it brings."
"It bothered me, seeing it just standing there, like a haunting reminder of all the pain, suffering and death. But, just because it reminded me of something terrible in the past, I shouldn't let it hinder the future. So I dropped all preconceptions, not wanting the past to be the judge. I judged it for what it is, not what it reminded me of." Obi-Wan closed his eyes tightly, fighting back the bitter memories.
"You learned much Obi-Wan, and conquered a demon from your past. I'm proud of you." Qui-Gon placed a reassuring arm around his apprentice's shoulders.
Obi-Wan smiled, "Thank you. I do try to learn as much as I can."
A loud bang followed by laughter caught the two off guard and they jumped. Qui-Gon laughed at the situation, directing Obi-Wan towards the courtyard for a meeting with the council members.
The two Jedi walked out of the manor onto a large veranda that was elaborately decorated for the festivities. Large lanterns hung down, their shapes modeled after the triple moons. Long table ran along the sides and disappeared into the crowds of people surrounding them.
The council members were standing in a circle, their backs to one another. Their eyes were closed and soft chanting filled the night. People would lay small flowers at their feet, do several hand gestures, then touch their foreheads.
Obi-Wan noticed Ari standing in the middle of the circle, along with 3 other children, no more than 7-8 years of age. They all were smiling and chanting along with the adults. Obi-Wan smiled and waved, and Ari grinned back and slightly nodded his head in acknowledgement of his friend.
"I don't like this." Obi-Wan stood silently watching the crowd.
Qui-Gon looked skeptical, "I only sense happiness, joy, and excitement. Come on Padawan, this mission will be simple. You'll see."
"Missions are rarely simple or easy. Sometimes the danger lies hidden in the open." Obi-Wan commented.
Suddenly the council stopped, turned to the children and exchanged bows. Everyone went their separate ways and joined in the festivities. The council members went to the two Jedi, warm smiles and pleasant greetings. Ari followed behind them, intent on speaking with Obi-Wan. Obi-Wan seen his friend join them and hoped the adults wouldn't get mad.
"Honorable Jedi! We hope you enjoy the celebration. We decided that we will hold off part of the celebration to allow you two some time to enjoy yourselves. Tomorrow, we will go over the plans before the midnight ritual for the tri-moons." The leader, Makolie informed them.
"As you wish" Qui-Gon bowed.
"Please, feel free to do whatever you want, is afterall, a festival!" One of the male diplomats said, piling up a plate of food and being flanked by several attractive women.
"We will be retiring early to go over the plans for tomorrow night. My apprentice needs to be fully briefed, and needs plenty of rest." Qui-Gon said, but the council members were already mingling among the crowd.
Ari spoke up, "Can Obi-Wan stay here with me for a little while?"
Qui-Gon looked over to the two youngsters who were standing side by side, both looking hopeful. "I suppose some time can be spared. However, when I contact you on your commlink, I want no arguments."
"Yes Sir!" Ari perked up, then grabbed Obi-Wan's arm and lead him off into the crowd.
Obi-Wan smiled as he was being towed away, "Yes master."
Qui-Gon smiled back, then left to return to his quarters. The force swirled around him, warning him of some eminent danger. He couldn't shake the feeling of uneasiness, and dread that flooded his senses. He thought some meditation was in order to clear his mind and thoughts, and to ascertain why the force was sending him a warning during this joyous time.
Ari pulled Obi-Wan to one of the food tables and both grinned wickedly, overloading their plates with food. After both had stuffed themselves to where they could no longer walk, they leaned against a marble pillar, away from the still partying crowd.
"Obi-Wan will you spend tomorrow with me, before the ceremony?" Ari asked.
"I would love to, but I have a job to do. I can ask my master." Obi-Wan said, rubbing his stuffed stomach. "I can meet you after the ceremony, then we could enjoy the rest of the festival."
"No. I don't think we could." Ari seemed saddened.
"You duties require you for a long time?" Obi-Wan asked, watching people pass.
Ari's voice was low, "Yes. After the ceremony, I won't be allowed to see anyone. I'm forbidden any contact."
"Well, maybe I can convince my master to let us spend some of our vacation here. We could have fun after all the ceremonies and festivals." Obi-Wan tried to offer some solace to the youngster.
Ari faked a smile. "I won't be allowed around anyone even after the festival, but its ok. We can have fun until them. I'm just glad I finally have a friend."
"You don't have friends?" Obi-Wan was surprised.
Ari shook his head sadly, 'I was chosen at an early age to help with the festival, so I had to be trained. I wasn't allowed to be around people, other than the council and other teachers."
Obi-Wan felt a connection to Ari. "I know what you're talking about. I was taken from my parents when I was a baby. I was raised in the Temple, by the Jedi. But it was for the best. The Jedi trained me to do what's right, and to do what I must to help others in the galaxy."
Ari perked up. "Me too! I wish I could go with you and be a Jedi. That would be so much fun, and I could help the whole universe!"
Obi-Wan chuckled, "Its not all glamour and beauty. We see a lot of death, destruction, and other things that I won't get into." Obi-Wan seen Ari's face pale and quickly changed the subject. "We do what the force wills us to do."
"The force?" Ari looked quizzically at Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan nodded, "Yes. The force is what binds the galaxy together. There are tiny creatures called 'midi-chlorians', in every living thing. And those that are sensitive to them, hear the force. The force in turn amplifies our senses, hones our abilities, protects us, warns us of danger, connects Jedi together telepathically, and other things that it would take a long time to explain."
"That sounds so much fun. Can you do anything fun with it?" Ari's big blue eyes shone with excitement.
Obi-Wan grinned broadly, "Have you ever wanted to fly?"
Obi-Wan was concentrating on levitating Ari when he heard his commlink beep. He yelled at Ari that it was time to leave and lowered the boy gently to the ground. Obi-Wan smiled as he answered his comm. "Kenobi here"
"Obi-Wan, its time to come back. We have plans to go over." Qui-Gon's crisp voice said.
"On my way master." Obi-Wan answered, then turned the comm off. He looked over so see Ari trying desperately to use the force to levitate himself, but all he succeeded in doing was turning a bright red. Obi-Wan laughed, "Ari, do you want to walk with me back? We could fly there."
Ari's eyes flew open, "Oh Yes!"
Obi-Wan grinned, then closed his eyes, concentrating every cell in his body to become in tune with the force. Soon, both boys rose a few inches up off the ground, and began a slow journey into the manor house. The party was still in full swing, and crowds mingled and enjoyed the atmosphere. No one noticed the two floating through the party.
When they got to Obi-Wan's door, he set them down easily and sighed with exhaustion.
Ari grinned, then launched himself at Obi-Wan, pulling the much taller boy down to his level in a hug. "That was so much fun! Thank you!"
Obi-Wan laughed, "You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow morning and maybe we can fly some more before the evening rituals."
"I hope so!" Ari said, then bounded down the hall.
Obi-Wan entered the quarters he shared with his master. He sighed and leaned against the wall, removing his boots and letting his robe rest on a small hook by the door.
Qui-Gon seen his tired apprentice and raised his eyebrow curiously, "Partied a little too hard, did we?"
Obi-Wan gave his master a lopsided grin. "Not partying. I've been levitating Ari around the courtyard, then I brought us both back here. I'm exhausted."
"You were able to levitate the Both of you back here?" Qui-Gon was surprised.
"It took all my concentration, but yes, I did." Obi-Wan yawned.
Qui-Gon got excited at Obi-Wan's show of skill. "That's great! You have advanced further than I anticipated. We'll start difficult force manipulations and meditations…"
Obi-Wan interrupted, "After vacation, of course."
Qui-Gon gave Obi-Wan a stern glare, "You need to perfect these skills. And you can protest as much as you want, but you will begin the advanced meditations as soon as possible."
Obi-Wan's face contorted in displeasure. "I can't stand meditations!"
"Obi-Wan," Qui-Gon rolled his eyes, "Quit whining."
Obi-Wan yawned again, and seated himself beside his master. Qui-Gon handed him a datapad, and the two began their study to prepare for tomorrow nights ceremony.
"So we're expected to stand guard outside of the ceremonial tent while the moon rituals are performed?" Obi-Wan asked.
"Yes. I'll be on one side, while you guard the other. We were ordered that under NO circumstances are we to watch or see any part of their ceremony. They fear outsiders will ruin the ritual and anger their deities. " Qui-Gon explained through a yawn.
"Well, angered deity or not, I still don't like all this secrecy. I get a bad feeling from this whole scenario." Obi-Wan said, placing the datapad on a small table.
"Well, I felt a disturbance earlier, but after some meditations, my mind is clear and closed to all the emotions that everyone else is abundantly providing. I suggest you do the same. Too many and too much can overload your senses, young Jedi." Qui-Gon smirked.
"This isn't from everyone and their emotions. This is something else." Obi-Wan bit his lower lip in thought.
"You're just excited about vacation, and want time to pass quickly so you can enjoy your time off." Qui-Gon chuckled.
"Well, maybe a little. I just don't like all this secrecy. Things are better off out in the open." Obi-Wan stood and stretched.
"That's true. Secrecy leads to distrust, and distrust leads to unrest." Qui-Gon yawned and stretched out on the couch.
Obi-Wan gave his master a pleading look, "Master, do you mind if Ari and I enjoy the festival in the morning? He said we won't be able to see him after the ceremony, he's forbidden visitors."
"Oh, alright. Stop giving me that pathetic look!." Qui-Gon swatted at Obi-Wan's head. "But you must return when Ari prepares for the evening ceremonies."
"Thank you master!" Obi-Wan beamed and hugged the elder, then went into his room.
Qui-Gon smiled and lazily went to his room. Outside, the party was still going strong and made it difficult for the Jedi master to sleep. Obi-Wan was so exhausted, he was unconscious as soon as his head hit the pillow.
The next morning, Obi-Wan was up and dressed, just after dawn. He knocked on his masters door, and heard muffled protests and threats. Obi-Wan grinned, grabbed several Joka fruit and headed out the door to find Ari.
Obi-Wan walked all over the manor, searching for his friend. The party was still going on, mainly in smaller private parties. People were scattered on the grounds, passed out from the nights celebrations.
Obi-Wan found Ari at the fountain in the far courtyard. He was surrounded by the other children that were to assist in the ceremony, all talking quietly amongst themselves. Obi-Wan waited patiently for them to finish their talk.
As soon as Ari seen Obi-Wan, he excused himself and went to the young Jedi, giving him a warm hug. "Obi-Wan! I didn't think you would be up this early."
Obi-Wan hugged the small boy back, "I got up extra early so we can do whatever you want. My master said it was ok until you have to get ready for the ceremony."
"And he doesn't mind?" Ari asked.
"I think he's a little upset, but I told him that you are forbidden to see anyone after the ceremony. He understood and allowed me to spend part of the day with you." Obi-Wan explained, handing the yellow Joka fruit to Ari.
Ari looked curiously at the fruit. "What's this?"
Obi-Wan's eyes got big in surprise. "It's Joka fruit."
"Joka are purple, not yellow." Ari corrected.
"Actually," Obi-Wan started, taking a bite and making a soured face. "The Joka that grow here are purple, but on Selv-7, they are yellow, and VERY sour."
Ari took a small bite and the tartness made him curl his nose and pucker his lips. "WOW! This IS sour, but good!"
The two laughed and walked around the city, finishing off their fruits. Ari found a particularly sour part and closed his eyes as they watered from the tartness.
Obi-Wan laughed, "If anyone seen us making these faces and didn't know what we were eating this sour fruit, they would think that we are having seizures."
Ari laughed too, feeling the last bit of the tarty fruit leave his tastebuds. "We'd be rushed to the med centers for sure!"
"I can just imagine the trouble we'd be in when they figured it out that it was the sour fruit." Obi-Wan quipped.
The duo walked to the beach, chatting and laughing like long time friends. Some workers were already there, around the pedestal, erecting large tapestries and curtains.
"What are they doing?" Obi-Wan asked.
Ari explained, "Those are the ceremonial shrouds. They are put up to hide the ceremony so only the chosen can be a part of it. Only the council knows the ritual that goes on."
"And now you do too." Obi-Wan winked.
"I know a small bit about the ceremony. There only teach what you need to know for your role. They don't teach us everything about it." Ari said.
"So not all the people know what goes on? Only the council know and perform the rituals?" Obi-Wan walked around the workers, watching them expertly do their craft. He meant it more like a statement, than a question.
Ari nodded, "No, most people don't know about all the rituals. It makes it more sacred if only a few know about it."
"Ok, enough of this seriousness. What do you want to do?" Obi-Wan turned to face Ari.
Ari grinned and pointed a slender finger towards the sky. His face beamed, a broad grin spreading as he began to bounce around happily.
"I had a feeling." Obi-Wan laughed and put his arm around the boys shoulders. "But let's get out of the way here. If they see you flying, we're liable to scare them to death!"
"Oh definitely! They have a lot to do and shouldn't be distracted by a flying kid." Ari grinned. "Would you tell me about the Jedi, the Temple, and going to other worlds while I fly?"
Obi-Wan lead the way back to the manor and to the courtyard. "Of course. It's going to take all afternoon though."
Obi-Wan grinned and concentrated, sending Ari into the air. Ari squealed, floating around the courtyard. He listened intently as Obi-Wan told of Jedi life and all the things he's seen in his travels. Obi-Wan took several breaks, to eat and rest. The two of them ate every yellow Joka fruit in Obi-Wan's quarters and the spare from the main kitchen. The cooks were surprised when the boys ate them raw, and everyone roared with laughter at seeing their soured faces.
It was getting late evening when one of the council members came to get Ari. Ari gave Obi-Wan a quick hug and followed the council member to prepare for the rituals that night.
Obi-Wan walked back to his quarters, once again exhausted. He couldn't remember when he's been so tired, yet so happy. Qui-Gon was at a meeting, so the young Jedi laid down to recover from the strenuous day he had with his friend. He dosed off quite easily, and had a restless sleep.
Qui-Gon returned from the last council meeting for the day and seen Obi-Wan asleep on the couch. The apprentice was obviously having a nightmare, struggling against something and whimpering. Qui-Gon sensed fear, anger, and extreme panic from the thrashing boy, and hurried to his side.
"Obi-Wan? Obi-Wan, wake up! It's just a dream. Wake up padawan!" Qui-Gon's voice rose as he shook his distressed apprentice awake.
Obi-Wan grabbed Qui-Gon's arm, his eyes flew open and meet his concerned masters gaze. "Master? Is it you?"
"Yes Obi-Wan, it's me. What's troubling you?" Qui-Gon asked.
"I don't know master. I felt like I was suffocating, trapped in a small, dark space. I was screaming for you, but you wouldn't answer. I couldn't sense anything, like I had no force perception." Obi-Wan's manner calmed, but remained tensed during the recollection.
"It's ok padawan. It was just a dream" Qui-Gon smiled then rose and went into the kitchen. "How about some dinner before we begin our guard duty in a couple of hours?"
"Sounds good to me!" Obi-Wan exclaimed, then began to help his master in the kitchen.
During their meal, Obi-Wan told his master all about the levitations he had done, and excitedly told about how far he'd progressed. Qui-Gon beamed with pride, listening intently at Obi-Wan's accomplishments. When Obi-Wan recalled the pedestal and the workers, his face grew grim and he tensed up.
Qui-Gon explained the last bit of details about the ceremony and filled his apprentice in on the meetings he missed while visiting with Ari. He admitted, at first, he was upset about Obi-Wan's lack of attention to their mission. But after seeing Ari and Obi-Wan together, he realized Obi-Wan needed someone around his own age to be around for awhile, and encouraged their friendship.
After they ate and cleaned up, they left to meet up with the council members to escort the ritual committee to the beach. The two Jedi met the entourage at the courtyard. Everyone bowed to each other, as a show of respect, then started their trek to the beach.
Several members lead the children, lightly sprinkling the ground with the petals of the flowers that people have offered to them. The children, Ari included, walked delicately on the petals, following the elders, with the rest of the council taking up the rear.
The children walked single file, their eyes locked to directly in front of them, their expressions stony, like in a daze. All except for Ari, who's eyes searched his surroundings, his curiosity overcastting his nervousness. He glanced over and seen Obi-Wan, glad his friend was nearby for support.
Obi-Wan smiled to his friend, then walked beside his master as they escorted the ritual party towards the beach. People lined the streets, chanting softly and throwing flower petals on the ground.
When they reached the beach, Obi-Wan gasped at the elaborate tents that sheltered away the ceremony from the view of the outsiders. The Jedi bowed and flanked the large enclosure, separating to take up their guarding positions.
Obi-Wan didn't like the thought not seeing his master. //Master, I don't like this.//
//You're just sensing that everyone is nervous. Emotions are high right now, be careful to not be overwhelmed. You have your shields, use them.// Qui-Gon said through their bond. Then erected his shields, blocking out the flooding of emotions.
//Yes Master.// Obi-Wan said, then erected shields to help prevent an overflow.
The council members lead the children into the small opening in the construction, then shut it, closing off the outside world from disturbing the ceremonies.
Obi-Wan fidgeted, trying to filter out the surrounding emotions, finding it difficult with several people in the vicinity. Hundreds of towns people waited a distance away, still speaking the chant. Behind the shroud, Obi-Wan could hear a different chant the council members and children were speaking.
It was past midnight, and the 3 moons began their slow ascent into the night sky. Within the hour, the moons would align and the Ritual of Life would be complete.
Feelings swarmed the padawan. //Master. Something's wrong. I should check to see if everything is ok//
//Under NO circumstances are you to go in there! It's against their culture and rights. Do not interfere.// Qui-Gon sternly rebuked his charge.
Anxiety flooded Obi-Wan. He could sense nervousness, sadness, apprehension, and….. terror! Obi-Wan's heart raced as he tried to focus on the source. Suddenly, like a crashing wave, he recognized the source.
"Ari." Obi-Wan breathed, then spun and slipped between two long tapestries.
Obi-Wan stood frozen into place, horror on his face at the site before him.
Burning candles highlighted the water that was lapping up against the ebony box, due to the high tides caused by the moons. The council members were chanting, surrounding the pedestal, as two members pushed closed a long slab into the blackness.
Ari was laying on the slab, his body disappearing into the darkened rock. He glanced over at his friend, terror in his eyes and his breathing was deep and fast. It closed, sealing him into the tomb.
Obi-Wan snapped out of the morbid situation, putting his hand on the hilt of his lightsaber, intending to free his imprisoned friend. The hesitancy was all that was needed, as a council member he didn't sense sneaked up behind him. Obi-Wan felt a small prick on the side of his neck, and jerked to get away, but it was late.
His vision began to blur, legs suddenly could no longer support his weight. A cold feeling swept over him as he lost his connection to the force, and his master. He sunk into the arms of the council member, who dragged him over the stone tomb.
Though Qui-Gon shielded his mind from the surrounding emotions, he could sense Obi-Wan heightened state. Suddenly he felt Obi-Wan retreat mentally, then nothingness. He rationalized that Obi-Wan had to shut down completely in order to regain control. He began to worry about not being able to sense his padawan, even when one shuts down, the training bond keeps them linked to the other's lifeforce.
"You shouldn't have seen any of this. Our gods demand that a chosen few are allowed to see this ritual. Unfortunately, you will no doubt tell others of our ways, and that's something we can not allow." Makolie spoke to the semi-conscious padawan.
"Please." Obi-Wan stammered out, finding it difficult to form coherent thought and the strength to speak. "Don't. Please don't do this."
"The poison in your system now, will ensure you don't suffer. You will sleep, and know no pain." Makolie assured sadly, opening another panel on the top of the pedestal.
Obi-Wan felt himself placed on the cold stone surface, his head lulled uselessly about. He seen the water was halfway up the pedestal, and realized he was placed on the same level as Ari. Their tombs to be side by side.
Obi-Wan shook from fear and panic. He felt the stone slide, enclosing him into the inky blackness that awaited in the depth of the pedestal. All attempts at calling the force were hindered by the poison coursing through his blood. As the stone sealed shut, he could no longer feel his body and began to drift off into unconsciousness. One last plea for help disappeared on his lips as the darkness closed around him, swallowing him up into its abyss.
Makolie, and the two council members that placed Obi-Wan in the pedestal, struggled to shore, due to the rising tides.
The council members divided up, walking close together. They exited both sides of the shroud, mingling around and hurrying towards the manor house.
Makolie stopped by a surprised Qui-Gon. "Your apprentice said he would see you later."
"What?" Qui-Gon senses suddenly jumped to life. He knew Obi-Wan wouldn't go anywhere or do anything without permission.
"He said he and the other children were going to have fun and that he would see you later. Not to worry, they are being watched over." Makolie tried to sound convincing.
"Thank you for telling me." Qui-Gon nodded. He sensed Makolie was lying, but decided to let the council member feel like he had tricked the Jedi master, and gave a false sense of agitation at Obi-Wan's apparent actions.
Makolie smirked inside, thinking that he had fooled the Jedi. "We will see you later. We're off to enjoy the rest of the festival and I hope to see you there. Your apprentice is probably already there, having fun."
Qui-Gon bowed and waited for the dignitary to leave, then ducked behind the shroud, pulling back the tapestries and stepping inside. He seen the top of the black pedestal, barely visible under the still rising water. Candle and incense burned, flower petals littered the ground, a clutter of small ceremonial parchments were being swept away with the tide, and lapped softly against the top of the black stone.
He opened up to the force, hoping to sense Obi-Wan. But all he sensed was a void, and the emotional highs from the parties throughout the city. He turned, suspicious and weary, about his padawan. He walked slowly back towards the manor, passing by workers hurrying to take down the ceremonial shrouds so they wouldn't be swept away.
Walking through the streets and into a courtyard, Qui-Gon sifted through the past events. With the surrounding emotions, he fought to focus on the force. Abruptly the force swirled, causing the Jedi Master to lean against a pillar for support from the overwhelming sensations. Images flashed in his mind, Obi-Wan in pain, the pedestal, fear, seeing Ari's scared face as he disappeared into darkness. Visions of Ari and the other children flashed before him, their numb bodies being laid out on the cool stone that swallowed them into nothingness.
When his mind cleared, Qui-Gon could still see the imprint of the stone pedestal. He raced back to the beach as fast as he could. The large tapestries were gone, but the candles and incense were floating in the high tide. Qui-Gon concentrated on the force, willing it to push the water away to allow him to rescue his padawan and the children.
The pull of three full moons in alignment was more powerful than the force of one man, and the water continued to rise against the master. Anger and frustration filled his senses. Quickly thinking, he raced back to his room and sent a transmission to the Jedi Temple.
Yoda's face appeared, "Important this better be."
"Master! It's urgent! Obi-Wan's in trouble! I need any Jedi in this region to get here immediately!" Qui-Gon was nearly shouting.
"Explain you shall." Yoda perked his ears.
"I can't explain right now. Send as many as possible immediately to Ild-Re. If you don't, Obi-Wan and 4 other children will die." Qui-Gon was nearly in tears.
Yoda's head jerked up, eyes wide. "Immediately send them we will."
Qui-Gon heard the rest of the council activating comms and sending transmissions. Adi Gallia's face replaced Yoda's.
"Qui-Gon, there are four master/padawan teams en route to your location. They are stopping by SheVa 3 to pick up Master Windu. Their ETA is 7 hours." Adi informed the distressed master.
"7 HOURS? Obi-Wan will be dead by then!" Qui-Gon fumed.
"I'm sorry. It's the best we could to. No one else is even remotely close to the Ild-Re system." Adi apologized.
Qui-Gon cut the transmission, panic and helplessness set in, causing him to pace furiously. He stormed out of his room, heading straight to the main party, and the council members.
Qui-Gon found the council, his fists clenched tightly. In a few quick strides, he was standing behind Makolie. He spun the diplomat around, his fist flying with all his might behind it. The punch landed squarely on Makolie's jaw, sending the dignitary crashing to the ground unconscious.
People stared, shocked at the Jedi masters actions. Qui-Gon grabbed another council member by the collar, his feet barely touching the ground.
Qui-Gon snarled, "You sacrificed them! They were kids!"
The strangling diplomat sputtered, "This is to be discussed in private."
"NO!" Qui-Gon shouted, shaking the man viciously. "You will tell these people about the children. How you entomb them in that pedestal at the beach."
People stopped partying and gasped at the Jedi's words. They looked to each representative, pleadingly, expecting an explanation.
"Be assured, if ANYTHING happens to those kids, MY padawan, I will personally see that you are all sentenced to death! And will do everything in my power to make sure the Republic carries out that sentence!" Qui-Gon's blue eyes flared. Even non force sensitives know he meant business. The strain of the situation made him dangerous, he was NOT one to cross.
The people began to become angry and restless, upset they were lied to and conned all these years. Qui-Gon stormed away, going back to the beach. The tide had swallowed up almost the entire area of pearly sand. Qui-Gon dropped to his knees, calling on the force to help him.
"Please Obi-Wan. Hold on. We're coming for you soon." Qui-Gon spoke softly into the night, hoping his words didn't fall on deaf ears. He called on the force with every cell of his body, hoping he could sense Obi-Wan's presence.
Again, only the suffocating darkness answered. Was Obi-Wan already gone? Had he realized he would die and severed the bond with his master?
Qui-Gon could only contemplate and slipped into an uneasy meditation, wishing the next 7 hours would pass by quickly.
Qui-Gon's eyes flew open, sensing Jedi nearby. The midmorning sun reflected off the water, stinging his eyes, and he blinked several times to adjust. He was startled by 9 Jedi running towards him, Master Windu in the lead.
"Qui-Gon! What's going on?" Mace gasped, catching his breath.
"The leaders entombed children, including Obi-Wan, inside a stone pedestal out in the water." Qui-Gon explained, pointing out to sea. "I tried to get to them, but the moons are creating a too strong of a pull." Qui-Gon glanced up to the sky and seen the three moons still high in the sky, magnifying the sun's rays with their luminescence.
Windu shouted to the others, standing at the waters edge, "Everyone, focus on the water and use the force to move it aside to allow passage to rescue the children."
The masters and padawans followed his orders, standing next to the waters edge. With their combined effort, the water began to part, creating a small passageway into the azure deep. The Jedi advanced, single file, each concentrating to hold the water back to allow Qui-Gon access to the now visible pedestal.
As the last bit of water parted to expose the mausoleum, Qui-Gon activated his lightsaber. The green blade carefully cut into the stone, presenting each tiny body held within.
One by one, Qui-Gon carried the stiffened bodies to shore and laid them carefully on the beach. When he opened the last enclosure, his heart stopped. There in perfect peace, laid the body of his padawan. Obi-Wan's face showed no fear, no pain. His skin was an ashen pale, his cheeks no longer had the soft blush of color to them. His features seemed emtpy, reconstituting the fact that the body was a shell, and the sparkle of life was no longer present.
Qui-Gon pulled the rigid body out and carried the lifeless form to the beach. When he reached far enough up along on the beach, his legs collapsed under him and tears ran down his cheeks. He held Obi-Wan's form close to him, rocking him gently and saying soft reassurances and apologies.
The Jedi retreated, allowing the water to crash and return to its previous state, the spray misting the occupants on the small portion of the beach where the bodies lay. The masters picked up and began to carry the bodies of the children to their ship. People they passed, bowed their heads in grief, and chanted death prayers in sadness.
Qui-Gon took the lead, carrying the stiff body of his padawan. Tears fell freely, without a sound, dropping on Obi-Wan's pale face. The bodies were placed in the ships medical area and covered with sheets for respect. Qui-Gon stayed by Obi-Wan's side as the other Jedi thought it best to leave him alone for the journey home.
Mace didn't want his friend to be alone in his time of need, and stayed by his side. "I'm sorry Qui-Gon. We got here as fast as we could."
Qui-Gon nodded slowly, "I know. Thank you for helping. I couldn't bear to leave him there, not like that."
"You understand the Republic has legal advisors that will want the bodies for proof to build their case against the Ild-Re government?" Mace asked.
"I know." Qui-Gon's voice was barely over a whisper. "Why him Mace? He's so young. He's 14th birthday was in two months. I had a surprise planned, but now…" Qui-Gon choked out his words, crying into his hands.
"I lost one of my padawans at an early age. I understand how you feel." Mace softly said, rubbing Qui-Gon's back in condolence.
Qui-Gon rose up, looking at the sheet over his still padawan. "I should have listened to him. He felt something, even had a nightmare about it, and I being the 'ever right Jedi Master' dismissed him."
"No one is perfect, not even Jedi. You didn't know this would happen. Don't blame yourself, the government of Ild-Re will be brought up on charges, and the guilty will be put to justice." Mace's voice showed his anger.
"I lost control Mace. When I heard how long it would take and that I was truly helpless, I let the dark win. I let my anger control my actions and I hit the leader as hard as I could, and threatened the others. I seriously wanted to draw my lightsaber and run them through." Qui-Gon's voice quivered.
Mace sighed, shaking his head. "It's understandable. You were grieving, like you are now. Everyone loses their control at some time or another. The good thing is, you didn't let it take complete control, and kept a level head instead of attacking those cruel people."
Qui-Gon sniffled, his face red, eyes swollen from crying. "I nearly died after Xanatos turned, but Obi-Wan came into my life, and his determination helped me to heal. How do I pick up the pieces now? What's left for me? My son is gone."
Mace tightened his embrace, sharing the sorrow. "I know the emptiness that's left behind, but time does help it to heal. It's never really gone, a part of you will never be the same after ones you love leave your life."
Qui-Gon stared at the bed's still occupant, who earlier had been a vibrant, energetic, dedicated, headstrong padawan. He concentrated as hard as he could, as if sure will power alone could bring his apprentice back. A barely noticeable movement caught the master's attention.
"Mace, did you see that? The sheet moved!" Qui-Gon perked up.
"Qui-Gon it's just the nerves twitching." Mace was on the verge of tears, seeing his friend in such a condition.
"No. That's not what it was. He's alive, he's breathing!" Qui-Gon exclaimed, jumping up and yanking the sheet off his padawan. He reached for a medical scanner, and hurriedly set up the heart monitor.
Mace grabbed his arm, "Qui-Gon, let him go. It was just nerves. You're looking for things that aren't there. You're going to have to come to terms with his death."
"I KNOW I saw it move with his breath! I'm not imagining things! Please Mace, let me attend him." Qui-Gon pleaded. "It wouldn't hurt just to check to make sure."
Mace sighed sadly, and let go of Qui-Gon to allow him to set up the heart monitor. Qui-Gon opened Obi-Wan's shirt, placing the small devices on Obi-Wan's cold chest.
Both gasped as a slow, steady heartbeat registered. The scanner beeped, signally the rhythm was dangerously low and weak.
Mace's voice boomed over the speakers on the ship, "EMERGENCY! Everyone report to the medical bay immediately!"
Curious Jedi rushed into the medical area, finding Qui-Gon in a deep healing trance, trying desperately to support Obi-Wan's vitals. Master Windu was running a scanner over the children's bodies, finding one in the same condition as Obi-Wan. He ordered one Jedi back to the cockpit to fly them home, and the rest to surround the two frail bodies, precariously hanging on to life. The Jedi combined their healing force ability to sustain the two youngsters until they reached Coruscant.
One of the padawans sent the message, informing the Temple of their arrival and the condition of the ones rescued. They were given immediate clearance and the ship set down easily on the landing pad. As soon as it was secured, healers scrambled aboard and rushed the bodies to the healing ward for further treatment.
The Jedi disembarked, wishing Qui-Gon the best, then going their separate ways to resume their missions. Qui-Gon thanked for them for their help, then followed after the healers, anxious to be with his padawan. He wasn't allowed near Obi-Wan while the healers worked on him. Master Windu stayed by Qui-Gon's side, offering his support.
A familiar tap on the floor alerted the two to Yoda's presence, making slow progress towards them.
"News there are?" Yoda asked.
Qui-Gon shook his head, "The healers are still with him. I just don't understand how I wasn't able to sense him."
"Sensed him you did not? How you know alive he was, if sense nothing you did?" Yoda looked quizzically at his former padawan.
"I seen the sheet move from his breath. It was faint, but I seen it. If I hadn't been watching, we would have missed it, and he would be gone for good." Qui-Gon's eyes teared up again.
A healer opened the door, Qui-Gon and Mace stood up expectantly. "Master Jinn, your padawan is a very lucky young man. I'm surprised he lasted as long as he did. By all accounts, he should be dead."
Qui-Gon just stood, dumbfounded. He opened his mouth to speak, but found that no words formed.
The healer understood and explained. "The poison in his system attacks midi-chlorians, so they need time to rebuild and strengthen. He lost all force perception and abilities because of it. Right now, his force ability is nominal, but will improve as he heals. He is stabilized now and looks like he'll make a full recovery. You may go in now and see him."
Qui-Gon's knees buckled at the healers words, but he hurried into Obi-Wan's room, Mace and Yoda right behind him. The three of them surrounded Obi-Wan's bed, monitors showing that he was stronger, and to Qui-Gon's relief, still alive. Yoda sat on one of the multilevel chairs, making it rise so he could see Obi-Wan.
Obi-Wan's eyes fluttered open, and he fought to regain his focus. His eyes adjusted and seen Yoda, Master Windu, and finally fixing on his masters face. Pain, worry, heartache, joy, all shone on Qui-Gon's smiling face.
"Master?" Obi-Wan's voice was low and raspy.
"Yes Obi-Wan?" Qui-Gon grabbed his apprentice's hand.
"Are we home?" Obi-Wan's eyes drifted around the room, nothing focusing from far away.
"Yes Obi-Wan, we're home. You're at the healers." Qui-Gon explained.
Obi-Wan looked back into his masters eyes, "What happened?"
"The council members sealed you in a that pedestal, along with the children for the ceremony. You all were the ritual sacrifice." Qui-Gon said.
"Ari?" Obi-Wan asked expectantly, hoping for the best.
"He's alive and in the next room recovering. He's going to take a little longer to recover." The healer explained with a smile.
"The others?" Obi-Wan rasped out.
The healer bowed her head sadly, "They weren't as fortunate."
"How?… We?… Why?.." Obi-Wan's throat constricted as he fought the tears back.
"You know that yellow Joka fruit you like so well?" the healer asked.
"Well, it turns out that it's enzymes are the natural counteragent for the poison the Ild-Re injected into you. Instead of killing you, it just dropped your vitals so low, it put you in a very deep sleep, like a hibernation. It cut your force sensitivity and abilities, but you will regain them with time." The healer explained. "That fruit saved your life."
"Actually, Qui-Gon did. He wouldn't give up and called Jedi away from missions to come rescue you." Windu clarified. "And he's the one that seen your shallow breath on the ship."
"Thank you." Obi-Wan grated out.
"I'm so sorry it took so long, and I'm sorry for not listening to your worries." Qui-Gon apologized.
Obi-Wan smiled and waved it off, squeezing the elders hand. "One thing…"
"Just name it." Qui-Gon said.
Obi-Wan cleared his throat, took several deep breaths. "No meditations for a long time."
"Deal!" Qui-Gon agreed, happy to have his son back home.