Xani was unconscious long before he heard the whisperings and giggling outside of the cabin. He slept soundly, finding it easy to sleep after being up all night and wandering around through the woods for the past two days, or was it three? Time slipped by and days ran together for the sleeping group.
The cabin door opened and two figures crept inside. They slinked over to Xani, surmising he was sound asleep, and tip toed upstairs to peek at the sleeping children. Every child was fast asleep on top of their sleep couches, the blankets weren't even bothered to be turned down by the exhausted children.
The two figures whispered to each other, then slipped back down stairs and outside. The two figures met up with at least a dozen more and whispers softly filled the air.
The troop disbanded, then gathered again, each one armed with a small container. They crept silently up into the cabin, two went to Xani's bed, the others went quietly upstairs and positioned themselves beside a child. On a mental countdown, all of the figures released the containers filled with ice water onto the slumbering forms.
Screams filled the air as the children got the wake up call. Xani yelled, then rose up and struck the first person he seen, landing a hard punch to a jaw, knocking the person to the ground with a loud THUD. He jumped up, positioning himself to attack the other by his bed, when he heard the kids come running down the stairs.
Some of the kids were crying, holding up their arms to show that they were soaked with the freezing water. Xani glanced his kids over, then glared at the person by his bed that was still standing.
Water dripped from Xani's drenched hair, flattening it to his face, and giving him a somewhat weathered look. He clenched his teeth and flexed his hands into fists. His eyes glared menacingly at the lone occupant that was the center of his scrutiny. His lip curled up in an evil sneer and he took several deep breaths.
The person that stood at the side of Xani's bed was a fellow Padawan Counselor and he held up his hands defensively, "Hey, it was just a joke. Everyone does it to the ones who sleep in. Don't get so upset over it."
Xani glared down the other counselor, then heard the second rise up from the floor, clutching his chin and groaning low in his throat. Xani's voice was low and dangerous, "If you ever come in here again, I will make sure you leave here on your back. Do I make myself clear?"
The other counselor stuttered in surprise, "But it was only a joke."
Xani glared at him, then pointed to his soaked crying kids that stood by the bottom of the stairs, "Here is a rule for you. You upset my kids, I hurt you. If you try to get out of it, you'll only make the punishment that much worse. Now get the hell out of here so we can sleep, or I'll make it to where you won't walk at all!"
The counselor blinked in shock, then shook his head, "I understand. Sorry about this. But we were told that today is the day when everyone is supposed to participate in the force exercises. The head master told me to get you up and tell you to get ready."
Xani sighed and ran his hand through his tangled soaked hair. "Tell the head master that we spent the night finding out way back here and we're too tired to come and play in some silly game. Now, get lost!"
The other counselor helped his still groggy comrade to his feet and ushered him out the door. A few seconds later, their kids followed them out the door, one or two sporting black eyes of their own.
Xani looked over his soggy kids and sighed, "Get changed and then you can go back to bed."
The kids whimpered and climbed the stairs in obedience. All they wanted to do was to pass out for a very long time and NEVER see the woods again. They mumbled their dislike on the way to their sleepcouches, then noticed that their beds were soaked with water. They soon heard Xani realizing his bed was wet to, when a grumbling curse echoed its way up to them.
"Find some dry blankets and everyone sleep on the floor." Xani called up.
The kids groaned that now they were denied sleeping on soft beds. After everyone had their turn at changing in the refreshers, the kids were just settling down to sleep when there was a knock downstairs and Xani cursing as he answered the door.
Xani threw open the door to see a head master standing at his doorstep. "Hello Xanatos."
Xani ran his hands threw his hair, his agitation growing from lack of sleep. "What do you want?"
"I was informed that you and your children weren't going to participate in the force exercises." The head master started.
Xani yawned and looked sleepily at the master, "We spent all night looking for camp. We are too exhausted to play right now. Maybe later on tonight we'll be more willing, but right now, we just want to sleep. Now if you'll excuse me, I hear my floor calling."
The head master looked somewhat shocked and raised a questioning brow.
Xani sighed, "From that sith twit that dumped water on my bed. I now have to sleep on the hard floor."
"He is not a sith twit. He was only following my orders. And as for your attitude, PADAWAN, you will have a stern lecture in store for you." The head master put his hands on his hips.
Xani yawned again and shrugged, "Great. Now get lost so I can get some sleep or I'll be grumpy."
The head master's jaw clenched at the defiant teen and he rose his voice, "You will get your children ready and meet at the conference building as soon as possible. You will participate in this event and you will watch your mouth when addressing a master! Now, Get ready and be prepared for a LONG lecture on protocol and procedures."
"Fine!" Xani snarled. "Then its your fault when everyone gets tired and fussing cause YOU won't let them sleep. And lecture all you want! I need a good nap myself!!" Then Xani slammed the door.
The head master stalked off away from the cabin and called into his comm link, "Reese, find out who Xanatos DuCruets' master is."
"Yes sir" came the reply over the comm.
Xani hated to, but he climbed the stairs and started to raise the kids up once again them from their slumber. "I'm sorry, but the head master said you don't get to sleep today. You have to do some stupid exercises instead of sleep."
The kids whined and groggily rose up and staggered downstairs. They left the cabin, some of them nearly in tears as their sleep deprived minds fought to remain conscious, and walked a good distance to the conference building.
Xani and his kids were the last ones to arrive and everyone else gave them evil stares, upset that they had to wait for the slow starters.
"Now that we're all here.' One of the masters started, shooting a threatening glance at Xani. "We are going to play a little game in where we will blindfold you and you have to find your way around by using the force."
"We've done that already." One of the kids in Xani's group chimed in. "We weren't blindfolded though. We used the force to find our way out of the woods, so it was just like being blindfolded."
One of the others in Xani's group piped up, "Yeah, we've done this already. Can we go now?"
"No." The master stated flatly. "You have to do this where the masters can watch you and see if you need help developing these skills."
Ben chimed in, "Well, we already know that we need help with it. Are you going to teach us how to use the force so we can find our way around?"
"No." The master answered, starting to get impatient with the children in this group. "This is just an exercise to see if you need help. When you return to the temple, then you will be assigned a master to teach you what you need to know."
"GREAT!" Ben exclaimed. "Then we can go cause we have done this!"
"NO!" The master yelled. He took several deep breaths and calmed his rage down and continued, "You will also identify plants and animals and will learn all about.." The master stopped as Xani started to get up and lead his kids outside. "Just where are you going Padawan DuCruet?"
Xani looked at the master like he was the dumbest creature on planet and pointed, "We're going to go and finish what we were doing because we have already done this and its pointless to do it again."
"SIT DOWN" The master shouted. Another master went to his enraged comrade and quieted him down, and taking the masters place.
The new master that was speaking was an older Ardonic male and said gently. "Padawan DuCruet, you and your children are required to do this with everyone else. If you refuse to participate, then you will be reprimanded and will not receive any credit for attending the camp. DO I make myself clear?"
Xani seen his kids looking sad that they might lose all their honors for accomplishing everything they already had. He sighed and shook his head, "Very well. Just make it fast. We're exhausted from being up all night and we would like to have some sleep before we become comatose."
The master bit back his growing anger and motioned for Xani and his kids to be seated once again. "You can drop the sarcasm padawan." He added after everyone had been seated.
"Actually, I cant." Xanatos grinned, "I'm just a sarcastic person, so it comes naturally."
The master clenched his fists together in agitation. After several deep breaths, he started the explanation of what was expected of each child and signaled for the lights to be lowered as a projector started up and showed pictures of plant life on the planet.
One of the kids perked up when the pic of berries shown on the projector, "Look Xanatos! It's those good berries you found for us!!"
Xani jolted awake from his dozing and shook his head and smiled.
"Yeah, but there isn't a bear in this picture." One of the kids joked.
The lights came up to full power and the head master stood directly in front of Xani, "You showed the kids a bear? Don't you know that is dangerous?"
"It was an accident. No one got hurt so drop it." Xani sighed.
"Its ok." One of the kids perked up. "Xanatos only showed us the bear cause it was chasing him through the woods. It was snarling and it went right through the camp, trying to eat him!! He led it away from us, so he didn't do anything dangerous. The bear didn't even pay us any attention and left us alone."
The head master had turned to the child as he explained what went on, then turned to Xani with a look of shock on his face. "You led a bear to camp? With small children?"
"Yeah." Xani shrugged. "I couldn't get him to follow me to a transport." Xani threw up his arms in fury, "It was chasing me and wanted to eat me for crying out loud! I just RAN! I didn't care where, I just didn't want to end up in its stomach!"
The master was about to smack the padawan, but another master pulled him away and ushered him to have a seat. The master standing in front of Xani was a tall human female and glared down at the apprentice.
"You are reckless! You are careless! You care nothing for people or consequences!" Xani opened his mouth to protest, but she cut him off with sharp reprimands. "You are a self centered, whiney ,spoiled apprentice who doesn't deserve his title or a master! You are a disgrace and I will make sure you NEVER come back to this camp EVER again!"
When the master was finished, Xani was furious. "What in the sith hells do you know anyway? I don't want to be a Jedi in the first place! I don't want to be at this stupid camp and I don't want to be around dumb ass children with the IQ of a pet rock! So shut up and leave me alone you devil spawn of a sith!"
The entire camp shushed at Xani's words. Some kids began to whimper, Xani's kids began to cry. Over 100 sets of eyes stared at the fuming padawan, each one showing sorrow, pain, and heart break.
Xani heard one of his kids whisper, "We love you. We took care of you when you got sick and you let us stay with you when we were scared."
"And you fed us and took us swimming and showed us the bear." Another soft voice added, choked by tears.
"Don't you love us to?" Little Ben looked up at Xani with his soft blue eyes filled with tears.
Xani felt his rage disappear immediately upon looking at the sad faces. He sighed and remembered all the fun he had, even when they got on his nerves. He ran his hand through his hair and said, "Yeah, I guess I do. Sometimes I just get upset and say things that I don't really mean because they were said in the heat of the moment. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You have been excellent kids to take care of. I'm sorry I have been so distant. Do you forgive me?"
The kids looked at one another and exchanged shrugs. Tears still poured down little faces and sniffles could be heard.
Ben reached out his arms and hugged Xani's leg, "Its ok Xanatos. Everyone feels bad sometimes."
One by one the kids hugged their leader, some still crying. Xani would wipe off cheeks and smile, hugging each one of his kids back.
The masters and other children remained quiet, watching the scene. The female master that jumped Xani's case interrupter the exchanges still going on. "Padawan DuCruet, what did the child mean by you were sick?"
Xani looked back to the master and shrugged, 'I guess it was an allergic reaction to something. I got these spots," Xani lifted his shirt to show his bright red welts, "And they bled for a bit and I had a high fever. But the kids practiced some first aide and now I'm fine."
The master quickly went to Xani and lifted his shirt again to get a better look at his spots. She touched one and asked, 'Did you eat anything other than berries while out in the forest?"
Xani frowned, "Only berries and some soup from some roots."
"And that fuzzy animal you ate." Ben added.
"Oh yeah." Xani smiled at Ben. "I ate that the first night we were out there."
"Padawan DuCruet, all animals here are highly poisonous. These red welts are only one sign of the toxin. Its accompanied by fever, hallucinations, uncontrollable emotional states, bleeding and a huge list of other effects. You have to get to the infirmary as soon as possible!"
Xani's eyes went wide as the master went over the list of reactions to the small animal. He hurried to the medical area and was immediately admitted and hooked up to several machines.
The healer informed Xani that the kids did a wonderful job to healing up some of the toxins effects, but his system was still infected and would take intense therapy over several days to fully cure him.
Xani noticed his itching started to bother him again and he dug at his welts until they started to bleed. A healer entered Xani's room carrying several long needles, filled with all kinds of liquids.
Xani shook his head, "I don't like needles. I can't stand to watch them come near my skin!! Keep them away from me!"
"Padawan DuCruet, you need these anti-toxins or you will get worse. Besides, these needles only go in your backside, you won't be able to see them coming at you."
"If you think that I'll let you stab me in the ass with those, you are sadly mistaken!" Xani yelled, then suddenly felt hot and sweaty. His breathing labored as he tried to use the force to calm himself down. The force wasn't accessible to the distraught padawan and he felt himself slipping into unconsciousness. "Damn' Xani mumbled before he passed out.
The healers kept a close monitor over Xani, and contacted his master of the mishap. He explained to the now pacing master that Xani would be ok, but it would take some time to get the toxin out of his system and build up his strength.
"I assure you Master Jinn, your apprentice will recover fully. It will take him a couple more days to regain his strength and be back to his normal self." The healer smiled.
Qui-Gon frowned, "I'd rather have him here so I can attend him."
"I'm sorry, but there isn't transports coming here for a few days, and by the time one would get here, it would be the end of camp." The healer explained. "Not to worry Master Jinn. Xanatos will be fine and will get something out of this excursion. He will bring something back from this trip, you'll see."
Qui-Gon sighed, "I think he has done that already."
The healer smiled and signed off. He went in and checked on Xani, noting that the welts were much smaller and that Xani was already well on the road to recovery. He injected Xani with another anti-toxin, mixed with a slight sedative, and left the unconscious padawan to his dreams.
Xani's kids were assigned another padawan counselor, though they protested and fought the masters wishes. They argued to stay by Xani's side and eventually lost the battle to do so. The kids piled into Xani's room during the visiting hours and took turns hugging him and telling him how well they were behaving. They were proud about keeping their cabin neat and told Xani that the masters were impressed with their abilities and the things they accomplished so far.
Xani remained in the infirmary for another day, though he insisted he felt fine. After putting up with Xani's whining, the healers agreed to let Xani out of the infirmary for the closing ceremonies, where the kids received their honors and praise for everything they accomplished.
Xani sat in the front row, and applauded loudly as his kids each received the congratulations and accepted their awards. The kids turned and waved at their ailing counselor, then took their seats by the replacement counselor.
After the ceremony, Xani slowly made his way over to the new counselor. She was a tall, dark skinned padawan, around Xani's age. Xani approached her, slightly bowing his head and smiling his most flirtatious grin. "Thank you for taking care of my kids."
The other counselor smiled back, blushing slightly, "Think nothing of it. I was happy to help out. Besides, they are wonderful children. They told me all about you."
Xani looked over at the kids and winked, then turned back to the other counselor, "Would you like to take a walk with me?"
"I would love to. By the way, my name is Ryne." She smiled and linked arms with Xani and walked towards the door.
Xani's kids started giggling and some started singing about how Xani was in love and how he was getting mushy. Xani frowned at them, causing them to only raise their voices and be joined by their fellow initiates in teasing Xani.
Xani hurried out of the noisy room and escorted his new lady friend around, going slowly because of his waning strength. Xani assured his companion he was fine and that they should linger to enjoy the day.
By the end of the evening, Xani and Ryne were really smitten with each other. Xani went to the infirmary for a check up and another vaccination, then helped his new girlfriend in getting the kids packed for the return trip the next day. After all the kids were packed, Xani helped tuck them all in and followed the other counselor down the stairs.
Xani settled down on the small sleep couch, pulling Ryne up against him. They talked quietly, hoping to avoid waking the children upstairs. The two were so engrossed with each other, then didn't notice the crowd forming on the stairs. When the two had passed the kissing stage, a loud 'Ewwww Gross!' snapped the two out of their enchantment with each other and jumped apart, yelling for the kids to get to bed.
After everything settled down, Xani was non-too-gently ushered out the door. He headed back to the infirmary and received his last injection, which quickly put him out for night.
The next morning Xani tried to talk Ryne into seeing them off, but she insisted she had work to do and that she would only miss them that much more. Xani waited until all the kids were gone, then gave Ryne one last kiss and told her that he would write to her when he got back. Ryne smiled and ushered the padawan out the door and waved goodbye to the kids as they sped off.
The group met their transport and settled in as the engines warmed up and the ship lifted off the ground, leaving behind the planet that gave them all quite an adventure. Xani sighed, staring sadly out the viewport, missing his girlfriend already. The kids easily picked up on Xani's heartache and started to make kissie faces at him and talk in 'lovey dovey mushy talk'. Xani rolled his eyes and teased the kids back, careful not to over exert himself from his recent sickness.
When the transport landed, the kids flew out the door, squealing upon seeing the crèche master. Xani saw Qui-Gon standing off to the side, watching the frenzied joy and every child viaing for storytelling time.
Xani went to his master, his face all drawn and bewildered. "Well Master. I survived prison. Did you inform the healers of my immediate admission to begin extensive therapy?"
Qui-Gon gave his padawan a wry smile and motioned for him to follow, "I believe the healers informed ME that you will be required to stop by every day for a check up for the next month. You may have a relapse from eating that poisonous animal."
Xanatos sighed as he dragged his travel pack, "I didn't know it was poisonous. If I would have known, I wouldn't have eaten it. I thought the berries were poisonous, that's why I didn't eat them." Xani scratched at his back with a frown.
"So, you gave food that you wasn't sure was poison to kids and you ate what you thought was safe?"
"Yes Master. I guess so." Xani scratched at his growling stomach.
"I think you deserved what you got. That was a cruel thing to do Xanatos. Those kids could have died because of your ignorance. I hope you learned a lesson from this." Qui-Gon scolded sternly.
Xani shrugged, "Yeah I did Master. Next time, I'm going to read that book to see what all is poison and what is safe."
"Next time?" Qui-Gon perked his brow at his apprentice in amusement. "I thought you hated doing this and would rather die that do it again?"
"That's before I met Ryne." Xani smiled and drifted off into a dream state.
Qui-Gon frowned in concern, then asked, "Is she about your height, thin, dark colored skin, soft brown eyes, and a intoxicating floral scent?"
Xani's eyes grew wide and he nearly jumped up and down with excitement. " That's her!! She helped take care of my kids while I was sick! She's the most gorgeous, wonderful, sensual…."
Qui-Gon interrupted his apprentice by adding, "And also a myth."
Xani stopped and glared at his master, 'What? She cant be. I felt her. Touched her. I even kissed her. I would have known is she wasn't real."
Qui-Gon smiled, "I have met her Xanatos. When I was a padawan counselor, I too fell for her. But according to the camp legend, she isn't real. She is a myth from the ancient tribe that inhabited that area millennia ago. She is there to watch over people and guide them. The counselors have known of her and know the camp will remain a safe place as long as she is there to guard and guide."
"But, I wasn't lost. Neither were my kids. We were safe and at camp." Xani shook his head in disbelievement.
Qui-Gon stopped right outside their door, "Are you so sure padawan? Maybe you were lost, you just didn't know it."
Xani looked up at his master, then down at the floor and frowned. "I guess maybe I was a bit lost."
Qui-Gon opened the door and directed his padawan to his room, "Let's just hope that you found what you were looking for. Now, you have had a long trip and need rest. Afterall, you are still recovering from that nasty poison."
Xani dumped his pack by his door and crawled into his welcoming bed. "Yes master. No arguments here."
"Good little padawan." Qui-Gon said gently as Xani curled up under his blankets. He cracked the door, just in case Xani would need him, and went to the comm terminal in the corner and started a search about the myths that surrounded Delv 6.
Xanatos was asleep for several hours, when an irritating itch brought him out of his slumber. He scratched at his backside, hoping that the itching would soon stop. Xani stopped scratching long enough to realize that the itching would not go away and felt even worse when he stopped digging at his skin. Xani rose up out of bed and yelled for his master. "Master!! Master make it stop!!!"
Qui-Gon rushed, half asleep, into Xani's room and nearly fell through the door. "What? What's going on? Xani, you ok?"
Xani was scratching hard at his lower back, "Master, it wont stop itching!! Make it stop!!!"
Qui-Gon lifted the back of Xani's shirt and stifled a laugh, 'Let's get you to the healers."
"What? Is the toxin back again? I thought it was out of my system!!" Xani fumed as he rose and was helped out the door by his master.
"Oh, the toxin is gone, that's for sure. But as before, in your haste, you didn't read that book about what all was safe and what wasn't. You must have slept or put your back against something covered in poison miphac."
"It's a small plant, covered with a thin film that causes red watery welts and they itch really bad. The book explained it all."
"Not funny master. Trust me, my lesson is learned. Quit rubbing it in"
"That's the whole fun of it padawan." Qui-Gon smiled as they arrived at the healers.
Several healers converged on the scratching apprentice and took him into one of the exam rooms. After a few minutes, they filed out and one remained behind to explain the prognosis to Qui-Gon.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting Master Jinn, but we had to get him calmed down and then give him several injections. You know what he's like around needles."
Qui-gon rolled his eyes and sighed. "How bad is it?"
The healer grinned, "I take it you didn't tell Xanatos to pack any toiletries with him for the camping trip?"
Qui-Gon shook his head NO, then realization dawned on him. "You mean…"
"Yes." The healer admitted with a grin. "His backside is completely covered in welts and we've had to inject him several times to help alleviate the swelling and itching. He will be here for a couple days. At least until the swelling goes down and the itching subsides."
"Can I see him?"
"Go on in. He will be groggy from all the medication we had to give him."
Qui-Gon went into Xani's room and nearly burst out laughing. Xani was laying face down on the med table, stripped down except for a light sheet pulled up half way up his back.
Qui-Gon sat down in a chair beside Xani's bed and patted his arm. "I'm so sorry you have to go through this."
Xani opened his eyes and stared at his master, then started giggling like an idiot.
"Xani? Xani, what's wrong? Why are you laughing?"
Xani giggled, then whispered, "I thought it couldn't get any worse, and the force surprised me! I thought all my itching was gone, but NOOOOO, the force gave me THIS!!" Xani pointed to his butt with a snarl.
"Xanatos, it takes the plant several days to infect your skin. You had no way of knowing. There are no indicators that you are infected, until you break out with the welts and itching." Qui-Gon tried to calm down his apprentice and make him feel some better. "The healers said you will only be in here for a couple of days, then you will be cured of everything."
"OH, that's a relief" Xani answered with his face buried against the bed. He rose up and looked over at his master with a sincere expression, "I promise that I will NEVER go on another camping trip, or be suckered into anything like that again. If they even THINK about it, I will find some of poison miphac and rub it all over their bodies!!"
Qui-Gon sighed, then furrowed his brow, "I think you haven't learned a lesson afterall. It wasn't everyone else's fault you got poisoned, then got these welts from the miphac bush. It was all YOUR fault Xanatos! YOU were the one that didn't want to read the manual, YOU were the one that thought you knew everything. As far as I'm concerned, you are getting exactly what you deserve for your arrogance!"
Xani frowned, mulling over his masters words. He didn't like it, but Qui-Gon made sense. If Xani had read over the books and listened to what the counselors advice, then he wouldn't have ended up in this predicament.
"I'm sorry master. You're right. It was my own stupidity that caused this. And I have learned something from this. I have learned to pay more attention to what people tell me and remember that I DON'T know it all."
Qui-Gon regarded Xani for a minute then nodded. "Good Padawan. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to report to the council and tell them that we won't be able to attend the Chancellors banquet this evening. I'm sure the Chancellor will understand."
"Good master." Xani said as he started to drift off. "And if he doesn't, tell him we can't go cause my ass is killing me."