101 Jedi Tales : The Measure of Humanity
Disclaimer: I don't own any character from the Star Wars universe. I make no money, so don't ask for any.
Takes place before Phantom Menance. Part of my series, 101 JEDI TALES.
"Remember this planet has the ability to interrupt the force. You are going on this mission with the knowledge that you have to fend for yourselves." Mace Windu focused on the two men standing in front of him.
"Yes Master," Qui-Gon said as he bowed to the council members.
Obi-Wan was standing silently behind him, watching the members and Qui-Gon discussing a new mission. He sighed slightly at the thought of going on another mission. It had been months since they have had a day off, and he was starting to wear from all the travel. He stared blankly out a window and allowed his mind to wonder away from the council chambers. He was startled back to the present by Qui-Gon smacking his arm.
"What?" Obi-Wan asked, glancing over to Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon glared at him before resuming his posture. "Like I said, WE are ready for the mission, and willing to do whatever is necessary. We will leave immediatly to assist in everything we can."
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan both bowed simultaneously and headed out the door. They walked back to their quarters without saying a word, only deathly silence followed them. They grabbed a few things for their trip, and headed down to the launch bay, where their transport was waiting for them. They boarded and stowed what little things they brought, settling in for the trip. Qui-Gon grabbed a few datapads and set them in front of Obi-Wan with a loud metallic thud.
"I know you weren't paying attention during the briefing, I hope you enjoyed your quick mental odyssey, so here's all the information you will need. Read it throughly, and make sure you have it memorized before we get there. We will arrive in 3 hours, start reading." Qui-Gon said bitterly. He spun around to leave Obi-Wan to his reading, and gruffly marched out of the small room.
Obi-Wan sighed heavily and reclined in his chair to begin his reading. He soon found himself restless and starting to fidget around. How he longed for a break from all the traveling and negoiations that recently seemed to occupy all their time. He quickly scanned over the datapads and hoped Qui-Gon wouldn't give any of his suprise quizes that he liked to spring.
Qui-Gon stood beside the pilot on the bridge, his hands tucked in his sleeves and his hood pulled over his face. The hood hid his face, which was in a wry smile, sensing the weariness of Obi-Wan and his dread. The pilot was uneasy with the Jedi leering over his shoulder, and did his best to hide his obvious distraction. The pilot didn't know Qui-Gon's lack of interrest in his abilities and tried to glance at his face hidden beneath the hood.
The planet suddenly appeared as they dropped out of hyperspace, and the pilot began the slow descent to the docking bay. Several robed figures awaited the transport, guards surrounded the figures. As soon as the ship sat down it was overrun with guards, scattering about and searching the ship. Serveral converged on the Jedi's and the pilot, weapons brandished and barking orders. The head guard disarmed the Jedi's and escorted them off the ship to meet the king.
The King was pacing around eagerly and looked up to see the Jedi's. "Your too late! You took too long!"
Qui-Gon replied, "Too late for what? "
"Guards, take them to the mining prision. Let them suffer deep in the planets core, without hope of rescue!" The King muffled his tears and started to run towards the palace, wailing becoming more louder.
Qui-Gon watched the king as he parted a sea of courtiers, distrusting him and wondering if it wasn't a show. Though he couldn't use the force to aid him, he had a feeling the king was up to no good, and used the Jedi's late arrival as a smokescreen to cover something up.
A guard grabbed Qui-Gon and pushed him forward, "Get going!"
"What's the meaning of this?" Qui-Gon asked, confused to their treatment. "We were invited here to rescue the kidnapped princess. I demand you explain what's going on here!"
"Your too late Jedi's!," the guard snarled, "The princess' body was sent an hour ago. She was murdered because you took too long to get here! The King sentanced the three of you to the mining prision to work until he sees fit. Or until you die." The guard emphasized the last remark, making the Jedi's and the pilot cringe.
A small transport arrived and the Jedi's and their pilot were ushered inside. The guards clasp large shackles to their wrists and ankles, and fastened a collar around each of their necks. They were chained to the large metal clasps bolted onto the ships floor, preventing their escape during transport.
"I demand that we be allowed to contact the council and see if there is anything we can do." Qui-Gon said, struggling as best he could.
The guard's hand sent Qui-Gon falling to the ground, and he pulled him up by a handful of hair. "You are in no postion to demand anything. Shut up! There will be no outside contact, nor will you get your weapons back. So don't give me none of that Jedi code nonsense. It means absolutly nothing, only the king's orders are to be obeyed. Now you obey him too, until he sees it fit to have you executed."
"Don't you dare talk to him that way!" Obi-Wan jumped up to defend his master. The guard beside him raised his weapon, which found a vulerable spot on the back of Obi-Wan's neck. He fell to the ground unconscious and bleeding from his temple.
Qui-Gon was released after a few angry blows to the head. He crawled over to check on Obi-Wan, who was still laying prone on the floor. He felt the ship lurch forward and then make a loud thud onto a docking pad. More guards piled onto the vessel and began to herd the passengers out of the ship.
Obi-Wan awoke to the sensation of being dragged over rough rocks and lazily hauled about. His legs were covered in abrasions and deep bruises, which ached with every protrusion of another jagged rock. The hit to the head kept him disoriented, and he struggled to memorize the layout of the carvern they were in. He only glanced about momentarily before a black veil of unconsciousness overcame him again.
Several hours passed with Obi-Wan unconscious. Qui-Gon stayed at his side, monitering his condition and trying to keep their pilot calm. Obi-Wan awoke and was helped up by Qui-Gon steading him. His legs were wobbling and he felt nauseous due to the spinning sensation of the room. He fought off the cries of pain his body was screaming.
Obi-Wan straightened up enough to help Qui-Gon quiet the now hysterical pilot. Suddenly a little man came seemingly out of nowhere and shot passed the three. He was soon followed by a large, burly man that wasn't exactly the best smelling creature. He slowed when he seen the newcomers, eyeing them and then returning his attention back to his persuit.
"Master, where are we?" Obi-Wan asked when the strangers disappeared back into darkness.
"I'm not sure Obi-Wan, I was knocked out as well. As far as I can tell, we are in a carvern deep in the planet. I think we should get our bearings and see if we can possibly escape and contact the council." Qui-Gon said, looking around and assessing their surroundings.
They made a slow descent down a dark tunnel, using the sides of the wall as a guide. The rocks under their wondering hands cut and pierced their skin, causing them to flinch at the contact. Blood trickled from the more dominate wounds, no one allowing the others to know. They walked for over an hour, searching and slowly making their way lower into the bowels of the planet. The tunnel opened out into a large room filled with people of all races and origins, and makeshift tourches supplying a dim light. Bodies lined the walls, very few of them alive. The ones alive weren't going to be for long, and the other prisioners picked their bodies clean of all material posessions.The smell of rotting flesh mixed with a distinct odor of burnt oxide stung the newcomers noses and made them queasy.
Several locals were huddled together, arguing over who gets what. A thermal vent sprayed upwards catching the pilot off guard. The pilot accidently tripped over one of the "locals", causing him to lose his consentration and a smaller, quicker man grabbing the objects of his desire. In one swift motion, the pilot felt the cold steele of a blade enter his stomach. The smooth metal thrusting upwards, spilling out the internal organs and precious bodily fluids. He stubbled backwards onto a unsuspecting Qui-Gon, knocking both to the rocky ground. He fumbled for words to say, and gasped out in a vain effort to speak, but blood emptied out of his mouth and he fell limp in Qui-Gon's arms. The attacker chased after the thieving man, shouting curses and demands.
Obi-Wan looked at the blood staining Qui-Gon's clothes, and stepped backwards in horror. He inadvertently fell over another prisioner, luckily this one was already dead. He offered his hand in an apology, but withdrew it quickly, feeling his stomach about to empty its contents. The body he tripped over started to move about. No, not move....squirm. He squinted and adjusted his eyes to see tiny worms slowly eating away at the corpse. Obi-Wan turned his head and felt all his pent up fear and sickness empty out of him, pouring forth violently and shaking his body.
Qui-Gon was automatically at Obi-Wan's side, trying desperatly to subdue his overwrought padawan. His stomach churned at the site before, but he allowed his mind to focus on Obi-Wan's injuries. He noted that Obi-Wan's pant legs were torn in several places and dried stiff with blood. He looked around for a place to rest and attend their wounds, but there was no such sanctuary around. He hauled Obi-Wan to his feet and they slowly made their way downwards deeper into the cesspit.
They found a somewhat suitible place and settled down, hoping to be left alone to attend their wounds. They were surprised when a small figure emerged out of the shadows and watched them. Obi-Wan noticed the spectator first and nudged Qui-Gon to expect the worst. Both were surprised when the figure brought out a little bowl filled with murky brown water and began helping Qui-Gon clean the wounds on Obi-Wan's legs.
The stranger was very small and thin, possibly a teenage boy, like Obi-Wan. Long hair understandibly unkept, was pulled back in a matted mess of tangles, with foreign objects lodged in several places. Though most of their body was consealed under dirt, the persons skin was an unnatural pale, typical of an underground deweller. The muscles were sinewy, like one who fights just for the shear animal joy of tearing flesh from bone. There were numerous tears all over the ragged clothes, accented by blood stains all over this persons body. Some scars exposed themselves along the wrists and forearm.
Qui-Gon put his hand on the strangers arm and softly said, "We thank you for your kindness. What is your name?"
The stranger looked up at him through the chaotic mass of hair, with deep crimson eyes and replied in a very feminie voice, " My name is Riv-A'cre'ae. But people call me Riv."
Qui-Gon stared blankly at the girl before acknowledging her. "Please to meet you Riv. I am Qui-Gon Jinn and this is my apprentice, Obi-Wan Kenobi."
Riv slightly inclined her head at the two and returned to cleaning the wounds on Obi-Wan's leg. She easily removed his boots and tore away the lower half of his pants in one easy motion, and handed the bowl of water to Qui-Gon. She rose and disappeared behind a ragged clothe over a doorway, and returned carrying several smaller bowls and bottles. She sat them down carefully around Obi-Wan and began mixing several herbal remedies together. She applied them liberally to the most outstanding wounds.
She reached up to tear away the material a little higher up on his thigh, but his hand shot out and grabbed her before she could do anymore harm. She looked at him, causing him to shudder under her glare. Her animalistic appearance only applified her quiet demeanor, giving the aura of an animal capible of silent and unprovoked attack.
"Please don't. I have no injuries that high, they are mostly on the lower half of my legs." Obi-Wan said, trying to assure the local medic and still keeping his dignity. He felt the soothing blend of oils and medication sinking into his skin. The bleeding stopped and a warn sensation traveled up his legs and seemed to coil in his stomach.
"As you wish." Riv said, returning her attention back to his more severe injuries.
Obi-Wan looked over at Qui-Gon and let out a sigh of relief. Qui-Gon grinned at him and watched as Riv quickly applied more of her remedy onto Obi-Wan's deep cuts and bruises. She gathered all her things and disappeared behind the ragged curtain once again. She came out again, this time carriying extra rags and settled down beside Obi-Wan to begin bandaging his wounds. He winced as she tightly wrapped and secured the pieces with smaller strips of fabric.
"You are new here, aren't you?" Riv asked, without looking up from her task.
"Yes we are. But we aren't going to be here for long. As soon as we can escape this place, then we will send a message to be picked up." Qui-Gon said, watching her hands move at exceptional speed.
"There isn't a way to escape, and besides, who would send for you? The people sent here are the most harden criminals, and dangerous indivduals you could ever come across. They're not likely going to help you. I'm surprised you have lasted as long as you did. Most do not survive the first ten minutes here." Riv said, she looked down as if in retrospect.
Qui-Gon helped with the last of the bandages, "We had another in our party, but he didn't make it. We will send word to our leaders that will get us freed. Why are you down here, you don't seem to be a harden criminal?"
"I guess you know about our King, right?" Riv stood and motioned for Qui-Gon to mimic her as she scooped up under Obi-Wan's arms and helped him to his feet. She motioned towards the ragged curtain and they slowly made their way into her "quarters".
It was quaint, in a dungeon sort of way. The walls were covered in a weird ooze that made the jagged rocks look like they were ripples in a pond. There were several shelves, mostly occupied by a bowl or bottle of some ethnic origin and a little bed in the corner. The bed was actually just a couple of torn blankets and a few peices of stray fabric laying on the floor.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan glanced around at the grungy surroundings.
"This just keeps getting better and better," Obi-Wan said under his breath. Qui-Gon squeezed his arm and gave a downhearted glance. Obi-Wan sighed, "Thank you for attending me like that. And thank you for offering us shelter here." Qui-Gon nodded approvingly.
"Will you continue your story?" Qui-Gon asked as he helped Riv lower Obi-Wan to the bed for rest.
"Well," Riv started, " The king has been wanting a new wife for some time now. His daughter will be of age, sixteen that is, and will be taking a husband soon, eventually replacing her father. But if he has another heir, then he doesn't relinquish his throne, he has to wait until all his children are married and the oldest child takes the throne. When his wife died, he searched for some time, looking for a suitable replacement. He choose me, but I refused. He only wanted me to serve his need for another heir, and when I refused, he had me banished down here. He has tried several times to make me accept him, but I refuse all ways of making me turn."
"What do you mean by that?" Obi-Wan asked, though he was starting to feel the room spin, he was interrested in her story.
Riv examined Obi-Wan and began cleaning the wound on his forehead, applying more of her medicine to his cut. He flinched as the medication stung his skin and ignited sharp stabbing pain. Riv found the tender area where the guard hit Obi-Wan on the back of the neck. She put a strange grey gel on the lumps on his neck and head, and motioned for him to lie down.
Riv looked at Qui-Gon, "He has tried everything from starvation to torture, to make me love him and accept his proposal. But he will not break me. I would rather die than to serve him at his every beck and call." Her fists clenched and her words becoming vicious as she reflected on her treatment.
"He used torture?" Qui-Gon inquired, watching Obi-Wan sink down on the bed and fall asleep.
Riv pulled her matted hair away from her face and showed Qui-Gon a scar running from her left eye down towards her chest. It snaked its way over her cheek and chin, finally coming to a stop just below her right collarbone. "He told the guard to persuade me. When he seen what the guard had done, he ordered the guard to be killed, unless I'd interveined. He would spare the guards life if I would submitt to him. I refused and he had the guard killed in front of me, and then I was thrown down here with the rest of the ones to be forgotten."
"If we can get to a communications relay, then I can call for help and the Jedi council will send someone to free us. If you can help us, we will take you with us." Qui-Gon pulled a blanket over an unconscious Obi-Wan and turned to face Riv.
"Your a Jedi?" Riv's jaw dropped, "Then why don't you use your Jedi powers to get yourselves out of here?"
"Yes we are, but we can't use our abilities because this planet naturally shields the force and prevents us from using it."Qui-Gon explained.
Riv mixed another batch of her herbs and began cleaning Qui-Gon's wounds. She took great care in cleaing the wounds as best as possible, and applied the same remedies she used on Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon's wounds weren't as extensive and required less diligent efforts. He felt the same tingling sensation that Obi-Wan had experienced and noticed how drowsy he was becoming. Soon he was fast asleep and Riv pulled a ragged blanket over the slumbering Jedi.
She kept watch while they slept, wary of the locals raiding their bodies for anything and all possesions. In their present condition, the Jedi's posed no threat and were totally dependant on Riv. She stayed focused on the plundering denizens that lurked outside her place, occasionally glancing over to the two passed out on her bed.
Obi-Wan was the first to wake and looked over to see Riv keeping watch. Her eyes focused on something in the distance, but her hand raised to keep Obi-Wan silent. She motioned for him to stay still while she got up and poured some water in a bowl and brought it to him.
Obi-Wan looked into the bowl and his stomach seemed to contort with dread. The water was a muddy reddish brown and odd things were floating in it. The smell of the water stung his nose as Riv brought it up for him to drink. But he closed his eyes and swallowed down as much as he possibly could without vomiting. He gladly held his breath, and waited until Riv had lowered the bowl. He nodded his thanks and noticed his legs were almost completely healed.
"I guess that stuff you put on my legs reacts really fast, huh?" Obi-Wan joked, surveying his legs and healing injuries.
Riv smiled slightly then resumed her blank expression, "No, it does take a while for it to work Luckily you two have been uncounsious for over a day. The inacitivity has doubled your chances of healing properly."
"Over a day?" Obi-Wan couldn't believe how long they'd been there.
"Time passes by somewhat slowly downhere. It's like there is no timekeeper, we just do what is expected and try to make it through another day, as it were." Riv quiped and returned her attention back to the shadowed figures sneaking around outside her door.
"I wanted to thank you for the water. I feel alittle sick, but I'm hoping it will pass." Obi-Wan said.
"I know this water isn't the best, but its all we get down here. It filters down through several layers of ore, and the occasional discarded corpse." Riv said, moving to the side to allow Obi-Wan room to puke the water back to the floor.
She wiped his head and lowered him back down to the bed. His eyes fluttered and he was sound asleep in a matter of seconds. She covered him back up and went back to stand watch at her door. People darted in and out of shadows, watching her and her tenants. She remained in her vigilance for several hours, occasionally attacking a eager local. All limped away to some degree, cursing and scolding themselves.
Qui-Gon was the next to wake. He rose and seen Riv at her post, and could have sworn he heard her growl. Obi-Wan awoke and rose up beside his master, watching Riv staring down a possible intruder. He soon scampered away and she motioned for both to talk and make lots of noise. They looked at one another and then complied, barking orders and yelling at the top of their lungs. After a minute or two she shook her head that it was sufficient and once again retrieved the watering bowl.
Qui-Gon sipped happily, while Obi-Wan turned a little green. Qui-Gon handed the bowl back and asked, "Why did we have to act like that, with all the noise?"
Riv smiled, "The locals thought you were close to being dead. They were waiting outside to pick you clean. They needed to see you two up and about, and showing no signs of demise."
"So I guess, you saved our lives again?" Obi-Wan questioned.
Riv nodded afirmative,"YUP. Don't worry, I won't let anyone come near you. I was keeping watch to make sure you won't be attacked."
Qui-Gon nodded," Thank you. We are indebted to you."
"Just help get me out of here and I'll consider us even." Riv said with a big smile.
A loud noise was followed by a booming voice that echoed in the tunnel, telling everyone to get to work. Riv jumped up and headed out the door, followed closely by Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan. She lead them up the stony corridor and turned into an ajacent tunnel. This tunnel had three times the torches, and eerie shadows danced along the walls.
"Why is there so much light on this part of the tunnel?" Obi-Wan asked. His legs were barely healed and he stepped uneasily on the jagged rocks. Though they still wore their boots, the rocks made their trek slow and difficult. Riv scampered without much thought, and waited several times for the Jedi's to catch up.
"There is a main vein of ore here. They have extra torches here so everyone can see what they're doing." Riv said, watching the two Jedi's struggle up the rocky escarpment.
Qui-Gon was first to reach the top and panted at the climb. "So I guess we are the ones expected to mine it and send it up to the King. Right?"
Riv nodded and started up the next level of the terrain. By the time the three of them had hit the sumitt, they were already sweating and winded. Riv picked up a small tool and went to a well lit place to start digging. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan followed suit, picking up various tools and joining her in the corner. They worked silently, except for the constant noise of metal on stone scrapping and clawing mercilessly. Several hours went by and a little boy carried down some water. He stood patiently waiting for everyone on the level to finish and then moved on.
"Why did he look at me funny?" Obi-Wan questioned when the boy had left.
Riv glanced over her shoulder at Obi-Wan, "You have to understand that down here, people don't have alot to eat. He was staring at you because it's obvious you get enough to eat."
Obi-Wan shook his head, "The king starves everyone down here?"
Riv frowned,"Yes. He only sends down the scraps and leftovers. Sometimes he sends down some "k-plechk"."
Qui-Gon stopped digging and joined in,"What is "k-plechk"?"
"It's a nasty tasting gruel that the king sends. Usually made with rotted food and I swear they use someone's bath water." Riv grinned at the last part, making the Jedi's smile back at her.
"How much longer are we going to be working?" Obi-Wan asked, feeling very sluggish.
"We still have several hours left. You better get used to this schedule, your going to be here for a long time." Riv said, her face drawing down sadly.
A guard appeared out of no where, brandishing a whip. He sneered at the prisioners and cracked his whip. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan jumped, Riv just stared him down. Her lips curled up spitefully at him and she clenched her teeth. His hand swept quickly upwards, knocking Riv to the ground. She used the momentum to swing herself around. Her leg swept under the guard, knocking him to his backside. She flipped herself over and was sitting on his chest, her long animalistic nails pressing against his throat.
"Touch me again, you die!" Riv hissed.
Another guard came to the aid of his fallen comrade, his weapon sweeping upwards and knocking Riv to the ground. Riv vacated the guards side and slowly rose to her feet, glaring with satisfation. The guards left mummering under their breaths, and Riv looked over to the two Jedi's. She pulled her matted hair away from her eyes, wiped away the blood and grinned at them. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan exchanged glances and then looked back to Riv.
"How did you learn to do that?" Qui-Gon asked.
"When you live down here, you have to take care of yourself. No one will do it for you, defend yourself at all costs." Riv said as she passed Qui-Gon.
"I take it you used that manuever on the king and his advances?" Obi-Wan asked with a slight hint of humor.
"No. Actually I bit him. But I have beaten on him when he wouldn't take no for an answer." Riv giggled.
"Though we only met breifly, I didn't see any bite marks on him." Qui-Gon thoughtfully remembered his encounter with the king.
Riv smiled ear to ear, "Who said I bit him where you could see?"
Obi-Wan looked confused, Qui-Gon grimaced and chuckled in amusement. Obi-Wan's eyes got big at the sudden realization and he joined in the jocularity. Other prisioners looked at them dumbfounded and whispered between themselves.
Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Riv would occasionlly laugh and share stories from their childhoods. Riv was enthralled with the details of growning up in the temple and all the training. She listened closely and hung on every word, interrupting to ask questions. They in turn, listened to her stories about growing up an orphan and the hardships she's endured. The stories made the hours pass by more quickly and with a better understanding all around.
A loud noise echoed once again through the tunnels and everyone started the slow descent back to the living area. The rocky terrain made the trip down even more dangerous. Little stones crumbled and collasped under their feet, sending down a shower of debris far below. Their journey was slowed by their exhausted bodies, and lack of oxygen into their lungs. Knees buckled, arms shook and heavy eyelids made the descent treacherous. It took twice as long to climb down as it did going up. When they finally made it down, they sighed relief and noticed a chill in the air.
"Where's that cold air coming from?" Qui-Gon asked, looking around.
"There's a vent up there and opens every evening. It sends fresh air down to us. It will get cold tonight." Riv said, wiping some of the dirt off her face.
Qui-Gon's face perked up,"There's an open vent? How long does it stay open?"
"Let's discuss this in private." Riv said, her hand coming up to silence Qui-Gon. He nodded and they followed Riv back down the winding tunnel to her place.
As soon as they got inside Riv's place, Qui-Gon turned around with his blue eyes flaring and a wide grin spread across his face. Riv made sure there was no one around and motioned for everyone to sit down. She put a large bowl under a small pipe that protruded from her wall. A greenish fluid trickled out of the pipe and began filling the bowl. After the flow had stopped, Riv carried the bowl over to the two Jedi's. The bowl was half full, but she offered it to them with a smile.
Obi-Wan peeked in the bowl and curled his nose at the site. The greenish fluid oozed around in the bowl and a pungent aroma filled their noses, causing the Jedi's to gag. Riv dipped her fingers in and licked them before any of the precious "food" escaped her gasp. Qui-Gon exhaled and reluctantly plunged his fingers in for a sample. His hands shook with exhaustion, though he tried his best to hide it. Obi-Wan soon followed suit, reluctantly, pushing away strange looking chunks and stray dirt and hair that seemed to clot the gruel. The contents of the bowl was soon emptied, though their appitites were barely quenched.
Qui-Gon leaned back against the wall to help steady himself, "How long does that vent stay open?"
"It stays open all nite. It brings in fresh air from the outside. Why? What do you have in mind?" Riv's face showed worry and hope combined.
"Has anyone tried to escape through it?" Obi-Wan asked before Qui-Gon had a chance to.
Riv shook her head, "Yes. We heard screams and later blood flowed from the corner of the vent. We assumed the guards caught him or he was killed by a ventilation blade."
"That's our way out" Qui-Gon yawned and stretched. His bones ached and his mucsles were becoming stiff because of the overexertion. He looked around for extra covers for him and Obi-Wan, but found none.
Riv sounded paniced, "But, we'll be killed! I'd rather stay here and wait for my release."
Obi-Wan put his hand on her trembling shoulder, "It will be ok. We won't let anything happen to you."
"Thank you. I don't want to seem ungrateful, but I'm scared. No one has suvived attemping an escape." Riv's lip started to quiver and tears began to pool in her eyes.
"I know we will be ok. You must trust us Riv. We will make our escape tomorrow night. We won't work much tomorrow, just enough to keep up appearences. When everyone is making their way back to eat, we'll stay behind and then make our escape." Qui-Gon yawned again and looked like he was about to collaspe.
"You must be exhausted. Lay down, both of you. You need your rest to be able to fully execute your plan tomorrow." Riv said, motioning towards the bed.
Obi-Wan crawled over to the bed and wrapped a ragged blanket around himself and was soon asleep. His snores filled the room and Riv looked over at Qui-Gon who was laughing.
"What about you?" Qui-Gon asked.
"I"m not tired yet. You two need sleep to recover from the days regimen. I'll turn in shortly, don't worry about me. I'm a survivor, in case you can't tell." Riv grined and motioned for Qui-Gon to lay down.
Qui-gon soon joined Obi-Wan on the floor and grabbed a blanket to wrap himself up with. With in minutes he was sound asleep next to his snoring padawan. Riv looked at both and smiled, and returned her attention back to the shadows lurking outside. After a couple of hours of monitoring, she finally gave in and fell into a deep sleep.
Qui-Gon awoke first, hearing the loud echo sounding the new day and for everyone to return to work. He rolled over to see Riv beside of him, facing him. Obi-Wan was behind her, his arm drapped over waiste, both sound asleep. He noticed she didn't have a blanket, just a small piece of fabric over her legs. Qui-Gon nudged her awake and then shook Obi-Wan from his deep slumber. Obi-Wan was surprised to see the sleeping arrangement and hoped Riv wouldn't hurt him.
"I had to keep warm somehow." Riv said smiling. "You two had the only blankets, so I slept between you. Your very warm, better than any of my blankets."
Qui-Gon laughed and held his back."Glad we could be of assistance, but hopfully we'll be on Coruscant within a couple of days. I don't think my back could handle sleeping on the floor for any length of time."
Riv giggled and started out the door to go to work. Obi-Wan followed closely behind, Qui-Gon took up the rear, still aching from the previous days work. His rigid form made the slow climb up to their place, his mucsles protested the treatment and cried out against him. He fought to keep the pain at bay, but without the force's help, he found it increasingly difficult. He spotted the ventilation shaft and mentally calculated the height and distance that was needed to gain access to it.
Several hours passes by with muscles starting to give in to the torture. The pain subsided and flexiblity started to come back to the Jedi's. They dug very slowly and made every effort to give the illusion of hard work. After a couple of hours, Qui-Gon motioned for Obi-Wan and Riv to gather around him for a rest. He glanced around to make sure there was no eavesdroppers and turned to see the dirty faces of Riv and Obi-Wan staring back.
"When the alert sounds for everyeone to head back, we'll wait until there is one or two people still lagging behind. Then we will start to climb down, giving them the false sense of our return. When everyone disappears down the tunnel, we'll hurry over to the vent shaft and make our escape." Qui-Gon whispered his plan.
"Master, it doesn't look like we can reach it. We can't use the force to aid us in a jump, so how are we going to get up there?" Obi-Wan asked.
"I will go first, and help Riv up. Then we'll help you up. The both of us should be able to pull you up." Qui-Gon said, glancing over to Riv.
Riv smiled, "I probably could pick him up by myself. There is a sharp ledge under the vent, it's about two or three feet wide. The fall could kill you, these nasty rocks are a accident waiting to happen."
"How do you know about the ledge?" Obi-Wan asked, and smiling at her comment.
"I have thought of using the vent as a way out for awhile now. I have tried several times to reach it, but I'm just too short." Riv pursed her lips and grinned. "I have the layout of the cliff face in my head, I know every nook and cranny. It would be wise for you to follow me up the slope. I'll show you where to put your feet and use the handholds in the rock."
Qui-Gon nodded and motioned for everyone to resume digging, "Then it's agreed. We will follow you up and then make our escape."
Obi-Wan and Riv nodded back and made their way back to where they were digging. The hours crawled by like years, each wishing the time passed more swiftly. Sweat and dirt covered their faces and clothes. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were begining to look like the natives and smell just as bad. Both would have killed for a hot bath with an endless supply of soap. They'd have to soak for a year to get the grime off and even longer for the smell.
The tunnel echoed the end of the day and the denizens made their way back down towards their sleeping places. Just as he said, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan went slowly down the rock face. Soon the area was empty, Qui-Gon looked around for Riv. She revealed herself from the hidden depths of the shadows under the vent. She nodded and they hurried over to her.
"What are you doing waiting here? You'll get us caught!"Obi-Wan wanted to raise his voice to yell at her, but kept it just above a whisper.
Riv's hand clasped over Obi-Wan's mouth and she glared at him, "Don't scold me like a child. I was hiding in the shadows to watch everyone leave. No one saw me, as I intended. I had to make sure we wouldn't be followed or our plan be known to the entire prision"
Obi-Wan bowed his head apologetic, "I'm sorry. I didn't know what you were doing. I was just afraid that you would give away our plans."
"Well, enough of this, let's get going." Qui-Gon shooed Riv to the rocky edge. "You said you'd lead the way. Go slow so we can make sure we get the leverage."
Riv made the climb up the ledge without much effort, but Qui-GOn and Obi-Wan labored behind, heavily breathing and groaning under the strain their muscles were under. They would shift their weight around on the different ledges, and desperatly fought off their muscles shaking feverishly. Riv topped the crest first and offered her hand down to Qui-Gon. He accepted her and stood beside her.
Qui-Gon extended his reach and found that his hand barely touched the corner of the vent. Riv moved to the side and clung to the sharp face of the rocky edge and allowed Obi-Wan to stand beside his master. Obi-Wan entertwined his figures and stooped to give Qui-Gon ample room to hoist himself up. In one quick motion Qui-Gon was lifted to the vent and securely inside. He turned and motioned for Riv to follow suit. She nodded and sprung off the ledge and used Obi-Wan as a spingboard, catapulting herself up to Qui-Gon's arms. He grabbed her on the way by and pulled her inside the vent.
Obi-Wan spun around at a strange noise in the distance. Qui-Gon and Riv looked out of the vent and seen a guard heading their way. Qui-Gon looked down to warn Obi-Wan, but he was no where to be seen. Riv pulled Qui-Gon away from the edge, consealing themselves into the darkness in the vent shaft. The guard walked around slowly, looking and listening for any unusal sounds. He stopped right below the vent and glanced up at it, anticipating something. Obi-Wan was hidden in the shadows right before him. Obi-Wan held his breath and peeked out of one eye to watch the guard move closer.
The forced air came through the vent shaft, dislodging it's sleathy occupants. Qui-Gon and Riv braced themselves against the vent walls to avoid being propelled out of the vent. The guard felt the fresh cool air and smiled, returning to his rounds. He disappeared in the tunnel and after a few mintutes, Obi-Wan came into view out of the shadows. Qui-Gon and Riv postioned themselves and braced against the vent for support, offering their hands down to Obi-Wan. With all the energy he could muster, Obi-Wan jumped up and caught their hands. He swung his legs to gain a foothold, without sucess. Riv reached down and grabbed a hold on his pants, pulling with all her might.
They all leaned back in the vent to catch their breaths and regain some strength. Obi-Wan pulled and tugged at his pants to dislodge them from where they hiked up from Riv's firm hold. After a minute rest, they made their way up towards the surface. The vent walls were just as sharp as the tunnels and the trek proved to be easier said than done.
Their path was blocked by a large rotating blade pulling in air from the opening high above them. Qui-Gon pulled a small pick out of its hiding place in his tunic, and jammed it in between the rotating blades. It screached and grinded to a halt, with just enough space to crawl through. Riv was first, followed by Obi-Wan and then Qui-Gon.
Qui-Gon squeezed through the last bit of the blade and looked to see Riv and Obi-Wan on their knees and guards surrounding them. Weapons were pointed at all angles and Qui-Gon joined his compaitraints on the ground. The pick stuck in the blade snapped and the blade restarted its deadly path circulating the air.
A beautiful dawn was peeking over the rolling hills, and a light breeze swayed the trees. The guards alerted the palace of the escapees and were ordered to bring them to the king immediatly. Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, and Riv went single file down the halls into the throne room. The large doors swung open and the king was postioned on his gold throne surrounded by servants. There was a tall woman next to him, a large golden crown adorned her head.
"Who are you?" Riv asked the tall woman.
"I am your new queen. You will address me as "Your Highness" or I'll have you executed!" the woman roared.
Riv rolled her eyes and pointed to the king, "Oh great. That's all this planet needs. Another one like him!"
The guards smacked the backs of the prisioners legs and made them go crashing on the cold surface of the floor. Riv gasped when she seen her reflection in the shiny surface, and touched the ground to make sure it was her reflection she was staring at. She muffled a cry and turned her head away from her reflection, holding back the sadness that wanted so desperatly to be heard.
The king watched Riv's actions and smiled, "You can still be at my side, love. You will have all the comforts and live in luxury for the rest of your life. Just submit to me and I will spare your life and the lives of your companions."
Riv looked up at him, her deep crimson eyes flaring like hot coals, "NOT A CHANCE!"
The king jumped up off his throne, hatred and anger evident on his face. "Then so be it. Take them away to the square for public execution. They are to be beaten to death!" The king screamed at the guards, making them cringe and look at him with befuddled worry.
The guards lead the trio out to the square, a large group was already assembling to watch the execution. The king was followed out by the new queen and they took their seats close by the torturing platform. The king motioned for them to be taken to the platform to enstate their punishment.
The king rose and stared at the Jedi's, his attention soon drifting to Riv ,who stood there with a venomous look on her face. The king raised his hand, "These people broken out laws. They escaped the prison and were captured. There punishment for such a crime is death by beating. The sentance is to be carried out immediatly, starting with the girl."
Riv gulped but focused her attention at the king. Her hatred towards him shone through as they ripped her shirt. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan tried to break free of their guards to help her, but were quickly struck down. They rose to their knees and watched helplessly as Riv was escorted over to stand between two tall towers. Her hands were bound and pulled high above her head, her shirt falling completly off and exposing her soft skin. There was clear evidence that this wasn't the first time she'd been beaten. Her feet barely touched the ground, and the guard stepped behind her, long leather whip in his hand.
The king nodded and the guard struck. A long gash split open across Riv's back, she gritted her teeth, refusing to scream out. There was no way she was going to give the king the satisfaction of having her scream and beg for her life. The guard struck again, weakening her resistance. He drew his whip back repeatedly, each time making a clear crack and Riv's skin splitting open. Blood poured from several wounds on her back, and her body was in pure agony. But she refused to lower her eyes to the king. Riv trembled and hung limp, swinging slighly from the bounds at her wrists. She heard a loud noise, then all went blank.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan pulled their eyes away from Riv and looked up to see the queen standing next to the dead body of her husband. The guards fanned out and Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon used the distraction to their advantage. They stood, knocking guards to the ground. Others came in the defence of their fallen comrades, kicking the Jedi's to the ground. Qui-Gon found the momentum to push himself back up and manuevered behind a guard that was attacking Obi-Wan. Qui-Gon wrapped his bound hands around the guards neck and started to constrict his muscles to tighten his grip.
One blast and Qui-Gon was laying prone, blood flowing from his shoulder and staining the platform. Obi-Wan thrust his elbow in a guards throat and sent him down, gasping for breath. Obi-Wan ducked the attacks from some of the other guards and easily dispatched them over the side of the platform and onto the unforgiving surface below. Obi-Wan rushed to Qui-Gon and assisted him to sit up.
The queen raised her hands, "STOP! I demand you stop all attacks."
The guards and the Jedi's looked at her in disbelief. The guards stopped their attacks and looked at one another. Some guards surrounded the queen to usher her inside to safty.
"I refuse to let this world suffer because of its egotistical, hard-headed, stubborn king. I killed my husband!" The queen yelled." I married him to change this world. Make it a better place and eliminate his unjust laws."
One by one the people started to clap and shout support to the queen. She smiled and graciously bowed to them, waving to all the subjects. The guards soon followed and began to shout their devotion and utmost dedication to the new leadership. Everyone forgot about the Jedi's and Riv on the platform, until the queen motioned for silence.
The queen spoke in a soft voice, "Please forgive my husband and his followers for the way you've been treated. We will do what ever we can to repay you for the suffering you've endured."
Obi-Wan helped Qui-Gon stand,"Thank you, Your Highness. I only ask that you return our weapons and send for someone to pick us up. We request that we take Riv with us."
The queen nodded, "It will be done at once. You may take the small one with you, hopfully you can do something for her."
"We can help her. Our healers can heal her wounds." Obi-Wan told the queen and then gave her a slight bow.
The queen nodded back, "You will leave as soon as possible. It's not wise for you to remain here, there will be civil unrest and choas with the death of the king. Your are welcome to stay in the palace until your transport arrives."
The Jedi's bowed their appreciation. Qui-Gon motioned for Obi-Wan to help him to check on Riv. They were at her side in a matter of seconds, unbinding her from the whipping posts. She fell to the ground uncounsiuos, and blood pouring from her injuries. Due to being so thin, several deep wounds were exposing delicate tissue along her spine and ribs. Obi-Wan took off his tunic and wrapped it carefully around her, picking her up in his arms and making his way to the palace.
The palace doctors came in and done some quick repairs on Qui-Gon and Riv's wounds. They could do very little, because of the extent of the injuries. Qui-Gon didn't heed the doctors warnings and paced the floor. Soon he felt dizzy and the room started to spin, the color drained from his features. The floor rose up to meet him in a hurry and he shuddered, bleeding heavily and in a deep case of shock. Obi-Wan was at his side, trying his best to get the bleeding to stop. He was relieved when a messenger came to inform them of the transports arrival.
Qui-Gon and Riv remained unconscious during the trip back. As soon as the transport landed it was flooded with healers and medical personnel. Obi-Wan followed the medics out of the transport to see Mace Windu and Yoda waiting on the landing platform. Obi-Wan bowed to the masters and collasped, feeling the hard surface under him disappearing into a void, as his mind greeted the feeling of relief and assurance of being safe at home.
Obi-Wan awoke with Qui-Gon standing next to his bed, smiling ear to ear. Qui-Gon was wearing a medical garment and his sleeve was postioned to allow his bound arm to be immobile. His shoulder was almost completely healed and the color was retuning back to his face.
"Master, how do you feel?" Obi-Wan asked, raising up.
Qui-Gon smiled and looked at his arm, "Well, I'm healed dispite this silly sling. I need to be careful and keep it immobilized for a while, and let all the damaged tissue heal. How you are you feeling?"
"My stomach feels like it was turned inside out and several banthas just ran over my head." Obi-Wan groaned.
"I bet it does. I felt the same way, turns out that we had been exposed to some nasty parasites. The healers took a long time to purge our systems, and it will take some time to recover." Qui-Gon said. "You gave Masters Windu and Yoda quite a scare when you collasped."
"I'm feeling alot better, just tired and extremely hungry." Obi-Wan said, clutching his stomach as it growled.
Qui-Gon laughed, "Your not the only one. I don't ever want to see anything that looks like gruel in my life."
Obi-Wan shuddered and curled up his nose at the thought. He looked around and asked, "Where's Riv? Is she ok?"
Qui-Gon nodded, "She is doing better. She's still in the bacta tank, recovering. You want to go see her?"
Obi-Wan nodded and slid out of bed to follow Qui-Gon out of the room and down the hall. They entered the room and a healer motioned for them to stand next to her. She had a chart and was reading the printout on Riv's condition.
Obi-Wan gave a little bow to the healer, "How long will she be in there?"
The healer looked up at Obi-Wan and smiled slighly, "That depends on her. She is very weak from losing all that blood, and being malnurished. She is suffering from several kinds of disease, mostly from poor living conditions. But she is salvagable. As soon as the majority of her wounds heal, she'll be out of there and then she'll have to deal with me."
Qui-Gon glanced up at Riv suspended in the ooze and looked back at the healer, "Your the one assigned to her?"
The healer nodded, "Yes. I just hope she lets me help her. I'm here to heal the physical and the mental wounds."
Obi-Wan mumbled under his breath, "You have your work cut out for you."
Qui-Gon smirked at Obi-Wan and returned his attention back to the healer, "I want to be notified as soon as she comes out of there. She'll need to see a familiar face to feel safe. She doesn't know what all had happened."
The healer nodded absently and then returned to monitoring Riv's condition. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon left to get some rest of their own. They were welcomed back to their rooms with a tray of hot food. Obi-Wan thought he was hallucinating, but when the first bite melted in his mouth, he knew it was reality. He spooned the food so fast into his mouth, he barely had time to chew. He called and another tray was brought to replace the now empty one.
A couple of days past without a word from the healer and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan decided it was time to check on her progress. Though they were warned to stay away to let the healer do her job, without outside interruptions. They entered Riv's room just in time to see the healer go flying out the door. She landed upside down against the far wall, personnel rushed to her side for assistance. As soon as she seen Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, Riv smiled and calmed down. She jumped to welcome her friends, but the tight restraints still on her ankles prevented her from doing anything.
Another healer came in with a stern look on his face. He said gruffly, "Now it's you and me, little girl. We are going to deal with this issue or your never getting out of here!"
Riv growled and brought her hand up to the new healers face, her long sharp claws pressed against his throat.
Qui-Gon stepped between them, and Riv released the hold she had on the new healer. She smiled at Qui-Gon and hissed at the healer.
"Why don't you leave us alone for awhile?" Qui-Gon asked the healer.
"If you want to endanger your life, go ahead. I won't hold you back, but she is a wild one. She broke the last healers nose, now we have to heal one of our own!" the healer yelled as he left the room.
Obi-Wan looked at Riv and grinned, "You broke the healers nose?"
Riv smiled back at him, "I don't know any of these people, and they forced themselves in here. I don't like people doing that, and they wouldn't listen. So I had to do something to make them listen to me. Where am I anyway? How did I get here?"
Qui-Gon sat down and explained the whole story to Riv. Her face lit up and she looked around quickly, eyes filled with wonder, or mischief, Qui-Gon couldn't tell. Riv told Obi-Wan to find a healer, and she would allow them to do their job, without her attacking them. Obi-Wan obliged, only to find the healers cower and refuse to go in her room. He found the healer that got her nose broken and explained to her what happened. She agreed to resume the healing process, but anymore outbursts from Riv and she is going into the detention level.
The healer came in and Riv apoligized for her behavior. The healer accepted her apology and ordered the Jedi's out of the room. It was going to take several hours of deep meditaion and possibly days of healing exercises to repair the damage on Riv's mind and body. The Jedi's were given clearance to resume their training, but lite contact only, nothing rough.
A couple of days passed and Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were in the gardens meditating. They were interrupted by Masters Windu and Yoda, who were looking for the two.
"Heard we did, that your friend will recover fully." Yoda said smiling.
Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan exchanged glances and returned their attention to the Masters standing before them. Obi-Wan caught sight of a majestic creature heading right for them. The being was wearing a thin strapped, long billowing dress of a light see-through fabric. The sun accented delicate female curves and the dress danced lazily in the breeze through the garden. Ivory skin was flecked with deep red spots that made trails up the outside of each leg. Deep auburn hair bounced on the supple shoulders, some pulled back away from a angelic face. High cheek bones, almond shaped eyes, full lips and the brigthest smile greeted all who look at them.
Yoda and Windu smiled as the new comer joined the ensemble of Jedi's. Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan were at a loss, until she knelt in front of them, deep crimson eyes blinking back.
Obi-Wan blurted out, "Riv? Is that you?"
Riv smiled wide, "Oh yeah. The healer took the liberty of cleaning me up. What do you think?"
Qui-Gon couldn't belive his eyes either, "Riv. You are absolutly breathtaking. Who would have guessed, under all that dirt, grime, and who knows what else, that there was a beautiful woman hidden under there?"
Obi-Wan nodded, "She's cleans up pretty nice. Tell the healer she did a wonderful job."
Riv smiled at the two Jedi's before her. For once in her life, she was in a safe enviroment with friends who cared about her.