by Avalon (email@example.com)
PG-13, AU, Angst, Part 1/4
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: To Linda Campbell, for Beta-Reading, title-approving, and for helping with such dark stories!
DISCLAIMER: Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon don't belong to me. I would never be allowed to keep them -- I don't take enough care of them!
NOTE: It will help if you've read the first two books of the Jedi Apprentice series, but it's not necessary.
ANOTHER NOTE: The title and subtitles are all from the song "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt (from her CD "The Book of Secrets").
CAST MY SOUL TO THE SEA I
"When the Dark Wood Fell Before Me"
The boy was familiar. About 17 or a little older perhaps. Long light brown hair, caught up in a pony tail. Not overly tall, not overly stocky... He was dressed in unrelieved black from head to toe - black boots, black trousers, black shirt. His eyes were blue-grey...
...and cold. Cold as the ice they resembled.
Qui-Gon shivered. The feeling of familiarity persisted though. He knew this boy. If he could just focus, he would remember...
Unfortunately, focusing was beyond difficult just now. He was in too much pain. He couldn't concentrate, could barely see. It was taking all his powers just to remain conscious.
They had shot him not once, but twice, in the leg. The same leg. In almost the same spot. The twin blaster bolts had caused untold damage to nerves and muscles and were sending a tidal wave of agony rolling over him with every movement. The wound could be healed - probably - if he could reach those equipped to deal with such an injury. But he was a long way from Coruscant -- and a long way from safety.
Nevertheless, he was a Jedi Master. Under normal circumstances he would have been able to focus the Force, to deal with the pain and find a way to escape...but the binders around his wrists that crackled and hummed and sent random bursts of electricity arcing through his body, combined with the drugs they had pumped into him...no, he couldn't reach the Force, couldn't move, could barely think. Somebody had obviously told these raiders how to capture and hold a Jedi, in frightening detail...
* * *
He had been sent to the Acarian sector by the Jedi Council, to help track down and deal with space pirates - raiders that had spent years pillaging and plundering this part of space. Actually, he had volunteered. Qui-Gon hadn't admitted that he had been motivated in part by guilt, but the Council had known. And they had said nothing.
There was nothing to say. Vayrann and the others were dead and it was his fault. Much as he would like to, he could not turn back time and change the past.
Four years. Qui-Gon's pain-wracked mind wandered back, seeking an escape from the agonizing present. Four years ago. He had still been smarting from Xanatos' betrayal, even though more than enough time had passed for Qui-Gon to put that betrayal behind him. But he hadn't, hadn't even tried. He had allowed himself to dwell in the past and in the hurt. He had refused to take another Apprentice despite the best efforts of Yoda and the others.
Four years. He had been ordered to Bandomeer. He had suspected a scheme on the part of the Council to push him into accepting that young boy...Kenobi...as his Apprentice. But he would not be pushed. He had found another, more urgent mission elsewhere and the Council had agreed to it, reluctantly. Qui-Gon never went to Bandomeer. Jedi Knight Vayrann had gone in his place.
And died in his place.
Raiders had attacked the transport ship, killing everyone on board. The passengers and crew, the boy, Vayrann... And it was Qui-Gon's fault.
No-one blamed him, he knew. There was quite probably nothing he could have done; if he had been there he would have died too, or so the other Jedi had told him, over and over. No, nobody blamed Qui-Gon. Except himself.
He had evaded his responsibilities. Had taken the easy path out of selfish motives. And he had to live with the consequences. Qui-Gon had never been able to ignore the feeling that he was meant to be on that ship, to die with the others if necessary, or to somehow save them. The Force had laid out a path for him and he had refused to walk down it...
Qui-Gon shook his head slightly, wincing as the pain redoubled. Why was it all coming back to him so clearly now? Something inside him answered his own question - because these raiders who had captured him were the same ones who had destroyed the transport ship all those years ago. They had killed Vayrann, Kenobi...all of them.
Obi-Wan Kenobi. A jolt ran through the Jedi. That was why his mind had been reliving the past. The boy in black standing before him was Obi-Wan Kenobi.
But Kenobi was dead.
* * *
Qui-Gon remembered the boy. He had been almost thirteen. Young, eager to please, doing everything within his power to become a Jedi, to be chosen... There had been a training duel with another hopeful candidate. The boy was reckless, taking unnecessary risks, impatient -- yet somehow reminding Qui-Gon of himself. Kenobi had won the duel. Qui-Gon had been impressed though he had taken pains not to show it. But in the end, the boy had lost. Qui-Gon had not taken him as his Apprentice, had not gone to Bandomeer with him...
Another memory. The flash of hurt in the boy's eyes. Loss. Unhappiness. Sorrow. A dream stolen away...
* * *
There was no sorrow in the boy's eyes now. There were no emotions at all. Only a cold, frightening blankness. Qui-Gon tried to focus on him, trying to ignore the pain in his shoulders -- caused by hour after hour with his arms stretched tight above his head, bound by chains and the binders. It didn't help. Nothing helped. But even the pain paled before the wordless accusation on the face before him.
"Obi-Wan Kenobi." Qui-Gon had to swallow several times before his voice would work properly.
The boy didn't blink, didn't look surprised. He merely nodded and said: "Qui-Gon Jinn." His voice was a mocking reflection of the Jedi's own.
"Yes." Nothing else. No accusation, no questions, just silence. And hostility, suddenly beating out from Kenobi's slight frame, like heat from a small sun. Qui-Gon shut his eyes for a moment, unable to face the boy. It didn't help.
When he opened them again they were no longer alone. The leader of the raiders -- Danaire Shevann -- strode into the small cell, followed by several others that Qui-Gon recognized. They were the ones who had captured him when he had arrived on Acaria. The stunted man on the left had shot him...twice. Qui-Gon suppressed a small flicker of anger that flared up inside him. Beside him, Kenobi smiled slightly, mockingly.
Shevann closed the distance to the two of them and put a hand on the boy's shoulder. Kenobi didn't quite shrug it aside, but his muscles tensed beneath the hand. A flicker of something went through his eyes, then they reverted once more to shards of ice -- blank, expressionless...and waiting.
"Well?" Shevann asked, staring at the chained Jedi.
Qui-Gon stared back. He had read reports of the man who commanded the raiders, but this was the first time he had seen him. Danaire Shevann was taller, more muscular, and much younger than Qui-Gon. He exuded power - the kind taken by force and forged by the pain of others. A faint scar silvered his cheek. It would have been easy enough to eradicate, Qui-Gon thought, but the raider obviously kept it for a reason...that told him something about the Raider. The Jedi frowned, struggling to maintain his concentration as another arc of electricity shot through him.
"Well what?" Kenobi was saying. His voice was carefully emotionless, but Qui-Gon could detect a quiver of...something else...underneath it. Hatred? Fear? Impudence? He couldn't tell.
Shevann's grip tightened on the boy's shoulder. It must have been painful, but Kenobi did not flinch. "Have you scanned his mind yet?" the Raider asked, his voice a growl.
Kenobi turned away, using the motion to break Shevann's grip. "I haven't had a chance yet. I just got here." Insolence hovered on the edge of his voice.
Shevann's eyes narrowed, but he let it go. "Well you're here now boy. So do it."
Once again, a flash of some nameless emotion went through Kenobi. Qui-Gon frowned. Usually he was much better at reading people than this, but the boy seemed to be so tightly shielded, so controlled that nothing came through. After his initial hostility, no unconscious movements betrayed Kenobi's feelings, no stray thought leaked from his mind. It was if he wasn't really there. And yet Qui-Gon could sense myriad emotions seething, just beneath the surface. What would it take to set them free, he wondered? Then Kenobi turned his blank eyes on the Jedi...and Qui-Gon abruptly decided he didn't want to know. There was something...frightening...in those blue eyes.
Qui-Gon took a deep breath. "There is no emotion, there is peace," he told himself firmly. "There is no fear..." But he couldn't quite dispel the tremor of disquiet that ran through him. "What happened to you, Obi-Wan?" he thought unhappily. What had the Raiders done to turn the eager thirteen-year-old into...this?
He wasn't going to get an answer now, Qui-Gon realized. As he watched, Kenobi's eyes darkened slightly...
...and the power of the boy's mind surged up over his own, like a tidal wave - unstoppable, uncaring... Qui-Gon tensed, his mental shields going up automatically. They weren't going to be enough. The sheer power of this untrained boy's mind was overwhelming all of Qui-Gon's defences and his shields were crumbling, one by one. Sweat sprang out on the Jedi's forehead and his fists tightened, straining against the chains. Darkness seemed to rise up before him, waiting hungrily just outside his ever-thinning defences...
...and Qui-Gon's last barrier fell...
TO BE CONTINUED