The fifth story in the Life in Freefall series; can probably stand alone. (Since, you know, Star Wars started off with Episode IV ... )

Disclaimer: Lucas owns Star Wars. This is purely a work of fanfiction, written for my own enjoyment and shared for your amusement.

Feedback: Oh, I'd love some!


CHAPTER ONE:

We have come to bring you home. Your brother is dead.

Ryn opened her eyes slowly and refocused on the woman who had spoken. "Then you have come a long way for nothing," she said quietly. "My brother is alive, and I am not going anywhere." She pressed her hands together and bowed. "Have you found rooms on Coruscant? Let me help you secure lodgings."

"We have a place to stay, thank you," the oldest of the messengers gritted. "You Grace, your brother has been missing in action for more than two weeks. There has been no word, no offer of ransom. We cannot possibly continue to wait and hope for the best."

"Kitraal Orun is alive," Ryn reiterated firmly. "I can feel him."

"But ..." the older woman looked at her helplessly. "What will you do?"

Ryn gathered calm silently, met the messenger's gaze. "Speak with you in the morning." She bowed again, to all three of them. "Excuse me."

[]

As the turbolift doors closed behind five astonished Jedi, Ryn turned to Anakin. "This is very bad," she anxiously.

It was a gross breach to etiquette for her to speak to Anakin first, but this didn't seem like the time to call her on it.

"Yeah," Anakin said. "I was getting that. You really think Kit's alive?"

"Yes. I really can feel him. But something is very wrong here." Ryn bit her lip, thinking furiously. "I didn't recognize any of those women."

Obi-Wan cut in at this point. "Any particular reason you should?"

"Yes," Ryn said. She sounded as definite as Anakin had ever heard her. "If the High King wanted me home, he would have commed the Temple himself to tell me so. Or in the event of my brother's death, he might conceivably send someone trusted to bring me the news - a member of his own family, or an old retainer of mine, if we had any left." She looked up and met Obi-Wan's eyes. "But he wouldn't send three total strangers to tell a girl her brother had died. That's inhumane. And I've never seen those women before in my life; they can't possibly belong to the High King's household." Ryn dragged in a deep breath and let it out, scrubbing her face with her hands. Energy sparked in the Force around her. "Besides," she said, her voice steadying, "I am a noble hostage. I can't simply be called home; an agreement of some sort, probably an exchange, would have to be reached with the Jedi Council."

Anakin could practically see his master going over what he knew of Lorethan politics.

"By your own admission, the Jedi have not treated you according ot the usual terms of such an arrangement," he suggested. "Perhaps the High King has decided the agreement is no longer valid?"

Ryn made a small noise of frustration. "The Jedi have not honored the terms of a noble hostage, yes, but I have never reported it," she answered. "And still the High King would have spoken to me himself."

Obi-Wan frowned. "Perhaps your Council, then?"

"The Council couldn't order me to tie my shoelaces, even assuming they could reach a consensus long enough to try it," Ryn said impatiently. "They don't have the authority."

Obi-Wan blinked; the other Jedi stared. "But I thought the Council was the most powerful body on Loreth?"

"It is," Ryn agreed. "But the only beings who can give me an order are the Chief of my Clan - in this case, Kit - and the ardh-ri - I mean the High King - himself."

"Must be nice," Siri joked, clearly trying to relieve the tension.

Ryn managed a brief, sad smile for her effort. "It is my birthright. With power comes responsibility." She exhaled gently. "That's how I ended up here."

There was a wealth of history behind those words, the echoes of all Ryn's sacrifices; but the turbolift was nearing the apex of the tower, with the Council chamber just ahead, and the Jedi let it go.

Anakin didn't, not quite. He looked at Ryn with eyebrows raised: You've been holding out on me.

Ryn's slight grimace was an acknowledgement; but she met his eyes and answered with that infinitesimal shake of her head that meant not no, but later. Anakin knew her well enough to guess that the rest of that thought was when we're alone.

And he trusted her enough to play along.

So when they stepped through the turbolift doors and into the round room at the top of the spire that served as the Jedi Council's meeting chamber, he took a long step forward and to the right, blocking any straight-on view of Ryn's face and taking her, visually, off center stage. It was a small trick, and any Jedi could see through it with minimal effort ... but unless one got a good look at Ryn's face, imperfectly concealing her feelings, there was no need to make even that small effort. They would sense Ryn's anxiety - there was no help for that - but Ryn was always nervous around the Council.

Hang on, Ryn. We'll figure this out. Just hang on.