Balms

After breakfast, Darra rode the turbolift up to the healers' ward to have some salve put on her burns. As she entered the ward, she nearly ran into Tru, who was on his way out. "You're better then!" she exclaimed, narrowly managing to hop out of Tru's path.

"You're not," remarked Tru, eyeing her singed body and robes. "You're worse."

"That's why I'm here," Darra informed him, her lips twisting wryly. "I need to have some salve put on my burns before classes start."

"Oh, you don't even get to miss lessons." Tru winced sympathetically.

"Neither do you get to miss classes as a result of your battering in the tournament," she reminded him in the interest of fairness.

"Yeah, but I was able to spend the night on a springy sleep couch—"

"An opportunity most sentients would kill for, I'm sure," Darra snickered.

"And I didn't have to endure a dawn session of lightsaber practice with my new Master," finished Tru.

"Jedi Padawans should be too noble to use low blows like that," Darra grumbled, her burns not appreciating Tru's comment at all.

"I'd better go." Tru walked around her and began to hurry down the hallway toward the segment of the Temple where the classrooms were. "If I'm late, Master Ry-Gaul won't be pleased with me, after all."

"If you anger him, he'll just frown at you. Honestly, you have no idea how easy you have it," Darra called after him. She hadn't known how simple and pain-free her life had been until Soara stepped into it, either, because it was sentient nature not to appreciate the wonder that was water until one was trapped on a desert planet with no oasis in sight.

Once Tru had disappeared around the corner, she finally walked into the healers' ward only to be greeted by the woman who had disapproved of her every action in the sick ward yesterday. "Tru Veld just left," she educated Darra shortly, and, if she hadn't known that the woman was this irritable all the time, Darra would have surmised that she wasn't a morning person. "If you're here to see him, you can leave now."

"I'm not here to see him," Darra replied as politely as she could as she decided inwardly that the woman must be blinder than a dingbat. That had to be the only explanation for her not spotting Darra's singed robes and limbs and not concluding why the new Padawan was here. "I'm here to have some salve put on my burns."

"Oh, in that case, see the med droid in Room Three," the woman stated, pointing out the room. "It will give you the lotions you need."

"Thanks for your help," Darra answered, forcing herself to mind her manners, before she headed for the room the woman had indicated, not at all sorry about leaving the irascible female in her wake. When she entered Room Three, she saw that a med droid was inside, organizing bottles of medications in a cabinet.

Its auditory sensors doubtlessly detecting her entry, the med droid swiveled to face her, asking in a metallic voice, "How may I help you?"

"I need some salve for practice lightsaber burns," Darra explained.

"Here you are." The droid removed a bottle from the cabinet and placed it in her hands. "You can take it into the refresher in the corner to have some privacy while you apply it if you like. If you need assistance, just call and I will come in to help you."

Thanking the droid, Darra disappeared into the refresher. Once she had locked the refresher door, she removed her garments and rubbed the cream gingerly over the tender burns that freckled her arms, leg, and stomach. Then, when she was done, she put on her clothing, being careful not to brush against the delicate pink patches on her skin. As soon as she was dressed, she exited the refresher, returned the salve to the med droid, and made her way back to the front desk.

"What can I do for you now?" the woman demanded when Darra approached her again.

"I need a note to give to my teacher explaining that I was in the healers' ward putting a salve on my burns," Darra told her.

Exhaling gustily as though this were an unreasonable request, the woman took out a piece of flimsy and wrote and signed the note Darra had asked for. Once she had done so, she thrust it into Darra's hand with a clipped, "There you are. Run along now."

Glad not to have to deal with the woman again for awhile, Darra raced out of the ward and off to her first class. Throughout the day, she discovered that it was hard to pay attention to what her instructors said, because she was busy contemplating what present her Master intended to give her, and, as a result, she was confident that she didn't learn anything in any of her lessons. When her last class finally ended, she scuttled off to Soara's chambers.

Soara's door flew open less than a moment after her eager apprentice knocked on it, and she gestured for her Padawan to come in. As she entered Soara's living quarters, Darra saw that they were plainly decorated as befit such a blunt and tough Jedi. Remembering that staring was rude, Darra quickly returned her focus to her Master. However, it seemed that she didn't do so fast enough, for Soara announced dryly, "I've never been one for my creature comforts, which is a good thing, since Jedi aren't supposed to have possessions."

"Yes, Master." Darra nodded unenthusiastically, as she had known that Jedi weren't supposed to have possessions ever since she had learned her alphabet.

"Yet, Jedi have their lightsabers, which they treasure almost as much as their lives themselves," continued Soara, appearing to take no notice of her student's waning interest. "By the same token, Padawans have gifts that their Masters give them on their thirteenth birthday, which they tend to value for many years."

"It's not my birthday, Master," Darra commented, nonplussed.

"No, it's not," agreed Soara briskly, "which is why I am not going to give you your traditional thirteenth birthday present now. Still, since you are a Padawan, you need something to hold your hair back. Come." Confused, Darra followed Soara over to a window that looked out over the gleaming spires of Coruscant that were sparkling muja as the day died in streams of purple, scarlet, blue, and pink. Once they reached the window, Soara went on, "Mirrors aren't permitted at the Temple. Do you know why?"

"To discourage vanity," Darra answered readily, since this had been hammered into her skull since infancy, so she would have been slower than a ninko slug not to know that by now. "It's what is on the inside of a Jedi that matters, not what is on the outside."

"Correct." Soara nodded. "However, every Jedi, whether male or female, has moments of vanity. One of mine occurred on a mission to the world of Valuccia when I was fourteen. Valuccia is a small planet populated by rural farmers, and it has no major exports of value. The people of that world, though, have perfected the art of making beautiful ribbons, and, when I was fourteen, as I walked through a marketplace with my Master, I found myself studying the ribbons longingly. I hoped that my Master wouldn't notice my interest, but he did. I thought he would lecture me on how such frivolities were inappropriate in a Jedi Padawan, since I had perfectly fine elastic to hold my braid. Yet, he didn't do that. Instead, he bought me two ribbons to weave into my braid. That night, as I wove the ribbons into my hair, I asked why he had purchased them for me, and he told me that just because a Jedi should dedicate himself or herself to cultivating his or her inner beauty, that didn't mean that a Jedi should avoid all external beauty. He said that he wanted me to have something beautiful in my life to compensate for all the horrors I had seen and would see in the future." Here, Soara paused and stared at Darra somberly before closing, "I want you to have something beautiful, too."

With that, she fished around inside the pocket of her tunic and withdrew two bright ribbons. Darra's throat constricted, and she found that she couldn't reply as Soara began braiding her hair, twisting in the two vibrant ribbons as she did so. As Darra watched the reflection of Soara's dancing fingers in the permaglass window, she stuttered, overcome with gratitude, "Thanks, Master."

"You're welcome." Soara finished braiding her hair and tied it with a simple elastic band. For a moment, Master and Padawan were silent as they stared out the window, examining themselves and each other in the permaglass. Then, Soara remarked, "I never really noticed it before, but we have similar hair colors. That will be useful on undercover missions, for we will be able to pose as mother and daughter easily."

"I'll have to disrespect you a lot, then." Darra smiled.

"I'll have to punish you a lot, in that case," countered Soara.

"We're perfect already, Master." Darra thought that she could put up with many more brutal lightsaber lessons if she and Soara had a lot of times like this. Here was the real balm to practice lightsaber burns.