Title: The Shaman of the Whills
Description: Qui-Gon Jinn goes on a quest to find the mysterious Ancient Order of the Whills, keepers of the secret to immortality.
Characters: Qui-Gon Jinn, Obi-Wan Kenobi
Disclaimer: I don't own the rights to Star Wars and I write for fun, not profit.
Author's note: Don't let the prologue fool you. This story is from Obi-Wan's POV!
"Can I have a drink of water?"
Luke Skywalker paused in the act of switching off the light in his son's bedroom.
"You already had a drink of water, Ben. Lay down. It's time to sleep now."
"But I'm cold."
Luke sighed, but he crossed over to the closet and got another blanket down from the shelf.
"Father, who was that man who came to see you today?" Ben asked as Luke spread the blanket over him. "The Force was very strong with him, I could feel it. Is he going to be one of your Jedi?"
"No, Ben. He's already in another Order. In fact, he's the head of his Order."
"Then how come he came to see you?"
"He wanted to give me a book."
"What's a book? Can I see it?"
"It's a record, like a holocron, only it's just words on flimsi or paper."
"No pictures?" Ben asked in disappointment.
"This one does have pictures, on some of the pages, but they don't move."
"Can I see one?"
Luke hesitated. "I suppose. Just for a minute. And then you must go to sleep, or I'll get in trouble with your mother. It's far too late for a 6-year-old boy to be still awake."
Luke left the room and returned a few moments later with a large, thick book with blue covers and gilded edges. He set it gently on Ben's lap. "Be careful with this, son. It's very valuable."
"It's heavy!" Ben said in surprise. "The Journal of the Whills," he read slowly, tracing the words on the cover with his finger.
"There have been many journals of the Whills," Luke said. "This volume was written before I was born. At least, the beginning was."
Ben opened the book to the middle and began to flip through the pages, looking for pictures.
"Wizard!" he said. "Look at this one, Father!"
Together they looked at the sketch. It depicted an enormous droid stalking forward, brandishing a lightsaber in each of its four hands, malice gleaming in its yellow eyes. Was it a droid? Those eyes look alive, Ben thought with a shudder.
In the foreground, a man in white stood facing the droid, a single blue lightsaber ignited in his hand. He was dwarfed by his foe, surrounded by its whirling blades, but he was leaning forward boldly, about to strike.
"Look, a Jedi!" Ben said. "Who is he?"
"He's the hero of this book," Luke said.
"Will you read this part to me?" Ben asked eagerly.
"Yes, son, but not tonight. You need to go to sleep now."
Ben knew better than to argue with his father. "Promise you won't forget?"
Luke ruffled Ben's hair. "I promise. I'm eager to read it myself. Much of this story is new to me, too." He took the book from Ben's hands and switched off the light.
"Good night, Ben."
"You told me that 10 minutes ago, Padawan."
Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi clambered over a moss-covered log, both panting in the oppressive heat. Qui-Gon continued walking in front so he could beat through the underbrush and make a path for his more slender apprentice.
"Well then, I'm still hungry," Obi-Wan clarified.
Qui-Gon parted a heavy curtain of vines that hung from gnarled branches overhead, and held them to the side so Obi-Wan could pass. "You're a 15-year-old boy, Obi-Wan. I think it's safe to assume you will always be 'still hungry.'"
With that, Qui-Gon seemed to think the conversation was over, and continued wading through the thick undergrowth. Obi-Wan followed him with a sigh, pulling his damp tunic away from his sweaty back in a futile attempt to find some relief from the heat. He'd wanted to take his tunic off completely, but Qui-Gon said no, he'd be sure to get a sunburn. Obi-Wan also suspected Qui-Gon didn't think it was proper for a Jedi to run around half-dressed. Not that it mattered here. There was no sentient life, besides themselves, on the entire continent. The people of Guatama had carefully preserved it for the native wildlife.
"It's just that it's been a long time since breakfast," Obi-Wan persisted. "And I'm tired of eating protein pellets. They don't fill me up."
His Master suddenly froze in place, and Obi-Wan skidded to a stop to avoid running into his back. He cringed, waiting for Qui-Gon to turn around and lecture him about how Jedi were not supposed to complain.
But Qui-Gon just stood there with his eyes fixed vacantly into the middle distance. Obi-Wan thought it was a good thing the Guatamans weren't here to see his Master now. His tunic was sweat-stained and his brown trousers were coated with bits of plant material, his long brown hair was mussed and half-escaping its tie from his exertions, and he looked like he was listening to voices no one else could hear. Like a madman. Obi-Wan hastily slammed his mental shields into place, hoping Qui-Gon wasn't focusing on him closely enough to sense his apprentice's inner impudence.
He needn't have worried. Whatever it was Qui-Gon was focusing on, it wasn't Obi-Wan.
"Do you sense it now, Padawan?" he murmured.
Qui-Gon sighed, and then his vision cleared. "Come," he said to Obi-Wan, and they tromped on through the jungle as if nothing had happened.
This sure is a lot of trouble to go to, just to see a pile of rubble, Obi-Wan grumbled to himself.
It had taken Qui-Gon nearly two weeks to convince the planet's government and religious leaders to let them travel here to the most sacred location on Guatama. Obi-Wan had spent many dull hours in the stateroom of Guatama's capital city while they were being interviewed, staring at the globe displayed there and focusing on the small, roundish continent located precisely on the equator, wondering what it was about the place that fascinated his Master so much.
Obi-Wan had been sleeping peacefully, en route back home to Coruscant after the successful completion of a mission, when the jolt of the ship exiting hyperspace awoke him. Obi-Wan had sat up, rubbing his eyes, and looked out the viewport to see, not Coruscant's bright lights and bustling traffic lanes, but a small blue-and-green planet floating serenely in the inky black space. A few moments later, Qui-Gon knocked on his door and told him to get dressed.
On the way down to the surface, his Master had refused to answer any questions about how or why they'd ended up there. Obi-Wan had snuck a look at the star charts and discovered ... nothing at all at their position. It was an uncharted world.
It turned out that the Guatamans preferred it that way. Obi-Wan had rarely met such reclusive and suspicious beings. When Qui-Gon asked them if he could visit the nature preserve, they had immediately begun to interrogate him. Oddly, the Guatamans never asked why the Jedi wanted to go there. But they did ask them many other questions, in every subject in the galaxy, it seemed. Galactic history. Engineering. Politics. Literature. Economics. Philosophy. Mathematics. Obi-Wan was impishly delighted to discover Qui-Gon had no head for math at all. He'd ended up answering most of those questions himself.
Still, Obi-Wan emphatically wished he knew what the point of all of it was. As they were tested day after day, Obi-Wan could sense even his Master growing impatient. Once, he thought Qui-Gon was subtly trying to influence one of the questioners to wrap up the testing and take them to the preserve, but she merely gazed steadily at Qui-Gon and said, "I am Guataman. Mind tricks don't work on me - only knowledge."
"She knew exactly what I was trying to do," Qui-Gon said to Obi-Wan during a break in the interviews. "There certainly are an unusual number of Force-sensitives on Guatama."
"But none to the degree the Jedi are," Obi-Wan said.
"Yes, and that makes me wonder..." Qui-Gon trailed off.
"Master, what are the Guatamans really trying to find out from us?" Obi-Wan asked. "I have a feeling they don't really care how many facts we can recite."
Qui-Gon looked pleasantly surprised. "A year ago, you would not have caught onto that so quickly."
Obi-Wan bowed in gratitude for the compliment.
"What do you think they are trying to accomplish, Padawan?"
Obi-Wan thought about it. "Perhaps they want to try our patience, to prove how much we want to see their preserve. Or they just want to see whether we value knowledge in general. Except... did you see that cleric's face, when he asked us what a bongo was? He was actually pleased when you didn't know."
"Or he was pleased that I was able to admit I didn't know," Qui-Gon said. "Knowing the limits of your knowledge is the beginning of wisdom."
"What is a bongo?" Obi-Wan murmured to himself. "I'll have to remember to look that up when we get back home."
"You may be able to look it up here, if they ever grant us permission," Qui-Gon said. "I was looking at a map of their capital city this morning. They have libraries on virtually every corner, extensive ones. This planet must hold more information than any person could learn in a lifetime."
At last the Guatamans had grudgingly agreed to permit the Jedi to travel to the equatorial continent, and it was only after they were dropped off on the pristine white beach, framed by a verdant green jungle, that Obi-Wan gathered the courage to ask Qui-Gon what exactly they were doing there.
"We're going to look at some ruins," Qui-Gon said.
"We're going to go sightseeing?" Obi-Wan asked in disbelief.
"Not just sightseeing. There's something about this place," Qui-Gon murmured softly, looking ahead to the lush green land in the distance ahead of them. "I sense..."
"What, Master?" Obi-Wan asked when Qui-Gon trailed off into a thoughtful silence. He didn't sense anything unusual.
"Let's go see for ourselves," Qui-Gon said.
So here Obi-Wan was, trekking through the jungle looking for the ancient ruins of some long-gone Guataman civilization, annoyed that Qui-Gon wouldn't let him use his lightsaber to hack through the prolific vegetation that constantly tripped him up and whipped his face as he walked.
"This place is strong in the Living Force, Padawan," Qui-Gon had said. "It would not tolerate the needless destruction of life, even on a small scale."
Obi-Wan's stomach growled.
"I've never seen any of these plants before, Master," he said.
"Mmm hmm," Qui-Gon said absently.
"Do you think any of them are edible?"
Most adults would have let out an exasperated sigh at this point, Obi-Wan knew, but not Qui-Gon.
"Obi-Wan, you know the Jedi aren't the only ones who devote themselves to the study of the Force, I hope?" he asked his Padawan.
Obi-Wan knew his Master was just trying to distract him from his hunger, but he decided to play along.
"I've heard of a few others," Obi-Wan said. "Like the Potentium. But none have ever been as wise or powerful as the Jedi Order."
Qui-Gon laughed shortly. "Many in our Order would agree with you. But I do not.
"Another Order once existed, one that amassed more wisdom than is stored in the Jedi Archives even today," Qui-Gon continued. "And not just knowledge of the ways of the Force - although they were unrivaled in that - but also the histories of all the known worlds in the galaxy, for many thousands of years before you and I were born. Much of the galactic history taught to you when you were a child was written by them, although not many remember to credit them anymore."
"Because they disappeared. New volumes of the Journal of the Whills used to appear from time to time in libraries all over the galaxy, but one day long ago, they simply stopped coming. No one ever knew why."
"Didn't someone go check on them? Maybe there was a natural disaster or something."
"No one knew where their homeworld was. They were a secretive Order, one that preferred pursuing knowledge directly through the Force, rather than by interacting with other beings."
"Xenophobes. Like the Guatamans," Obi-Wan said.
"Strikingly like the Guatamans, don't you think?"
Obi-Wan was taken aback. "Master, you can't tell me ... you don't think that this is where the Order of the - whatever - came from?"
"The Ancient Order of the Whills, Padawan. And I think it is a distinct possibility."
"But..." Obi-Wan's mind raced with the possibilities. "Even if that were true, you said we were here to see ruins. So if they lived here once, they must be long gone. Why are we going there, then?"
"Aren't you curious to see the place for yourself, Padawan?"
"I guess," Obi-Wan said doubtfully.
A silence fell between them once more. Determined to keep his mind off food, Obi-Wan decided to stretch out with his senses and see what he could learn about this place for himself. Clearly, Qui-Gon was not telling him everything he knew.
A few minutes later, his eyes widened in surprise.
"Master," he said. "I feel it now, too."
TO BE CONTINUED