The Beginning of the End
Dedicated to Ruth Baulding, a wonderful writer and reviewer. Your use of language and poetic imagery not only make me swoon, but also inspire me to work toward new heights in my own creative endeavors. RB, you're a gem and I'm thankful you are not only a fellow academic, but also a writer.
The first thing that he noticed was that the lights were far too bright. He blinked once, twice, finally at his third, harsh blink, light blurred and coalesced into vibrant color. He tensed, the battle rushing back to his senses. Red bolts rained down around white armor, hellfire unleashed on the unsuspecting battalion. "Get down!" The brothers dove in striking unity and he knew that he had to do something to keep them safe. —The air seized, froze, then quaked around them, flinging crude matter and mud in all directions—a seismic charge? Overwhelming white smeared with earth tones encasing green skin.
A green hand, tinged with the slightest undertones of gray and exhaustion, calloused but gentle, shielded his eyes. Peace, brother. The Jedi Master allowed his eyelids to droop once again. Sound was muffled as if he were hearing everything in slow motion or under the sea. He could vaguely make out words beyond the dull ringing that clogged his ears. Perhaps some dirt got lodged in his ear canal when the charge went off.
The Jedi healer spoke to Obi-Wan Kenobi, barely conscious on the medical examination table before him, as if discussing the weather. Kenobi's hearing began to slowly return as he kicked upward to the surface of consciousness. "And so we meet again, Master Kenobi. I hope that one day it will not be under these circumstances."
Obi-Wan managed a small groan as his blue eyes focused on the medical bay. Blast. He stared blearily up at the Twi'lek healer. Where had he met this Jedi before? Ah. Yes. Bakura. "Knight Noki'ido?" He tested words out on his tongue. His normally cultured voice came out as a distinctly undignified rasp. That's unfortunate. The Jedi Master frowned.
Noki'ido tilted a cup of water to the Master's parched lips. Obi-Wan drank gratefully and slowly sat up with help from the Twi'lek.
"We are very fortunate in this meeting, Master," the healer commented, turning to examine a datapad.
Kenobi swallowed heavily, then decided to make another attempt at speech. "How so?" Relief. His voice sounded better already.
"I did not have to sedate your counterpart this time. He is, however, en route with his Padawan and should be here within the next few hours," Noki'ido put the datapad down, walked over, and began to examine his patient.
Anakin. Of course. The General repressed an annoyed huff as the healer began his poking and prodding. "He has been stationed here, as well?"
"No, actually. I believe he has been sent to retrieve you and take you back to the Temple. There are rumors of peace on the horizon, but we both know how much stock to put into these rumors," the healer pressed gently on Kenobi's abdomen. "Any pain?"
Caught off guard by both the statement and the further examination, Obi-Wan winced. He shifted uncomfortably, still digesting the earlier words. Peace? "How long have I been out? I haven't heard of anything like that."
"You have been in bacta for several days and I have had you in a healing trance for the past twelve hours." Noki'ido shifted, recorded more notes onto his datapad, then turned back to the Jedi Master. "You were injured very badly, Master. What you need now is rest."
"What I need is to speak with the Commander and debrief him on the battle," Obi-Wan started to sit up, his muscles trembling with exertion from too many days spent under a healer's care and from too many bones broken at war. He fell backward, defeated and betrayed by his own body.
"Rest, General. There is still time. The war will still be out there when you are healed…unless the whispers of peace are true, of course," a mischievous spark flared in Noki'ido's emerald gaze.
Obi-Wan sat for a moment, wracking his still fuzzy brain. Rest. The oft-repeated word seemed to jar a conversation loose from the dregs of Obi-Wan's memory. "Rest? And what of you, Healer? I believe the last time we spoke you were in need of some rest yourself if my memory serves me. Or have these rumors of peace breathed new life into you?" He turned a scrutinizing eye on his fellow Jedi. The Negotiator drew his best weapon—his tongue.
Noki'ido chuckled quietly. "You are correct on both accounts, Master." His visage became serious. Honesty. The Jedi owed one another honesty always. The green skin, which was dull and mossy with the onset of exhaustion and illness at their first meeting seemed to almost have a gray undertone. Fatigue—near collapse. His hands no longer shook. Did his hands even have enough energy in them for the extra motion of tired quaking? "At this point, I feel that I will need a lifetime of rest to recover from this war. But I took an oath to preserve life. And as long as there is life left in this crude matter, I will press on."
"So you understand that is why I must also take my leave of this medical bay. I, too, took an oath to protect the Republic, to protect those who are weak, no matter the cost." Obi-Wan moved slowly, deliberately, breathing in strength as he accepted his body's limitations. Victory was at hand. The Negotiator rarely failed.
"And of course that is why you understand that I can't sign your release yet. To preserve your life, I have to deny you."
The Negotiator rarely failed. That did not mean failure was impossible. It usually meant that there was only a slight delay in victory. Obi-Wan leaned back against the cushioned examination table. He could bide his time. Hadn't his own Master long ago reminded him to be patient and mindful of the present moment? He yawned.
Besides, he could use a nap…
The Jedi Master peered up at Noki'ido accusingly, struggling to see past rapidly drooping eyelids. A sleep suggestion? He had been betrayed twice: first by his own body, second by this healer.
That mischievous glint returned to the Twi'lek's eyes. The same hand that greeted him when he first awoke passed over Obi-Wan's eyes and was the last thing that he saw before he drifted off into a deep, peaceful sleep.
"He is resting. I thought I told you scavengers to wait until he was discharged before descending on him—" A familiar voice pierced his slumber. Obi-Wan allowed himself the luxury of floating in the blissful stage between sleep and wakefulness. The healer is agitated. Good for whoever is causing it. A half smile graced the Master's features even in sleep.
"Nokii, we are hardly scavengers." A new voice interjected, female, with a subtle, strange accent reminiscent of an enemy he knew once before.
"We are investigators. There is a difference." Yet another newcomer spoke up, this time male, with a slight core accent. The new voice dropped to a whisper as if he realized the subject of their conversation was shifting toward wakefulness. "It will not take long, Nokii. Please. We will be in and out in moments. No harm done."
Noki'ido released a heavy sigh. He grumbled an obscene phrase in his native language. Obi-Wan's eyes opened in surprise at the utterance, new wakefulness coming along with the mild amusement of hearing the healer's profanities.
Obi-Wan sat up on his own this time and regarded the two newcomers carefully. A tall, fair skinned, fair haired male stood before him, accompanied by his diminutive counterpart, a smaller, dark haired female.
"This is Knight Zave Vorun and Knight Allyah Khai. They would like to have a few words with you if you do not mind, Master," Noki'ido glared meaningfully at his two companions. "They will not be long."
Noki'ido nodded and left the small examination room, but not before hissing a warning, "Not long."
And then they were alone. The door slid shut behind the healer.
Obi-Wan took in the two Knights standing before him. They bore the saber, but no robes or Republic insignia armor. "Sentinel class, I presume?"
"Yes, Councilor. We will not take much of your time. We come at the behest of Grand Master Yoda, who recommended you as a source in an ongoing investigation we have undertaken. We merely have a few questions to ask you in regards to an occurrence from around two years ago." Vorun, the male, spoke first.
"Which occurrence?" Obi-Wan tilted his head slightly to the side, thinking back on the many significant points of the war.
The General tensed. No one knew of Zigoola. Only Yoda and Senator Organa knew of the horrors of that Force-forsaken planet. The momentary slip in Obi-Wan's composure was quickly smoothed over by the currents of the Force. There is no emotion. There is peace. "And what do you need to know?"
The female, Allyah Khai, stepped forward. "Master Kenobi, what can you tell us about the Holocron you encountered on Zigoola?" Her dark eyes clouded over, the question of the Sith artifact bringing not only memories of darkness for the Master, but also shadows and remnants of untold tales that the two Knights had faced.
"I can tell you that it is locked away where it belongs," Obi-Wan blew out a long breath, organizing his thoughts. There were times in the dark watches of the night that even the memories of Zigoola were still painful, a saber burn reopened and aggravated by the heat and movement of war. But he was stronger now because of it. Pain was a teacher, if nothing else. "It was…dark. The darkness encompassed the entire planet. The darkness made me see terrible things."
"How much ground did you cover on Zigoola?" Zave pressed on, ever the practical one of the team.
"I'm not certain exactly. Much of it I spent incapacitated. If you want specific numbers and that sort of data, I'm sure you could get access to that portion of the archives from Master Yoda."
"Fair enough. Did you interact with the Holocron at any point?"
"Yes. I was able to use it to contact Master Yoda for help."
"Did it…talk to you? Other than the oppressive repetition of evil and malice?" Vorun's voice dropped low at the end of his question as if he, too, were suppressing a shudder from a past experience.
Obi-Wan studied the two Knights yet again, their facial expressions, the undercurrent of wisdom on the subject of the Dark carved into their Force signatures. A clear knowledge and experience with the Sith. Sentinel Shadows. He inwardly amended his initial label of the pair. "Why do you want to know?"
"We need to know if it said anything about another Holocron, if there was perhaps another Holocron hidden on Zigoola, or if there was perhaps a link in the one you interacted with on Zigoola to one elsewhere in the galaxy," Allyah supplied hesitantly. "I wish we could tell you more, Master, but—"
"I understand." Undercover. It is no wonder that they came without Republic insignia and without announcement from the Council. "And no, I sensed nothing of that sort from it."
The two Knights straightened simultaneously. A curious look passed between them, words and impressions floating through the Force on a bond that the Jedi Master could not access. Vorun turned and bowed deeply, "Thank you for your time, Master." The pair began to leave the room, leaving Obi-Wan to his memories and speculations.
Allyah began to follow the taller Knight from the room, but paused, indecision and confusion written on her face. "Master?" The tides of the Force shifted, turning and twisting with unanswered questions.
A weighty, aching confusion leaked out of her mental shields and drifted over to the Jedi Master on the ebb and flow of the Force. Obi-Wan looked up, his expression softening. "Yes, young one?"
"W-What….how were you able to go on after being in such close contact with so many artifacts of the Sith? Your stories have become legend and I—I was wondering—" The young woman faltered, unsure of how to proceed.
"You were wondering how I am still standing?" Obi-Wan chuckled slightly. He had often wondered the same thing himself.
If the General had learned anything in his life, it was that the Force was rarely a nursemaid. It was an ever-present guide, a teacher even in the fires of whatever hells the Jedi may face. The Force turned the hells into a refining furnace, purifying a Jedi's heart, the saber crystal of the Force, until it was simply and utterly at peace with the Light.
Kenobi sighed, considering his next words carefully. "I can only assume that you have experience with the Dark, young Shadow. Correct?"
Allyah nodded mutely. Zave watched from the doorway, face impassive, eyes almost dreading the words to come next.
"All of the pain that I have endured at the hands of the Sith and because of the Sith has guided me. As Jedi, we cannot lean on pain as a crutch. That can only lead to fear, anger, hatred, suffering. But pain can be a teacher, much like the Force. Simply trust the Force, young ones." Obi-Wan's voice dropped to a murmur. Wisdom hard-won, payed for in blood, in tears. Yet it was well worth the price. "That is all I can tell you. There is no place in this galaxy where there is not the Force…and that is all a Jedi needs."
The young Knight swiped hastily at her eyes. Tears? An unbecoming display of emotion for a Jedi Knight— If Obi-Wan saw the tears, he pretended not to notice them. She bowed deeply. "Thank you, Master."
And then they were gone. Just as quickly as they came.
Noki'ido reentered the medical examination room to find Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi dressing, albeit slowly, returning to his Republic insignia battle fatigues.
Noki'ido busied himself with his datapad again, preparing the release form. "Master, how are you feeling?"
"Better, thanks to you," Obi-Wan nodded gratefully. "Were those friends of yours?"
"One could call them that," the healer smiled absently, transported for a moment back to the crèche, when innocence reigned and there was no conflict and no creeping darkness that the Jedi could not defeat. "We were in the same clan, raised together." He straightened and handed the datapad to Obi-Wan. "I trust they were not too bothersome. Your signature?"
"Not bothersome at all, actually. Challenging, not bothersome." The General pressed his thumb to the datapad, signifying his release from the medical bay. He stood and stretched until his spine conceded a gratifying pop, testing out his freedom. "Thank you again, Healer."
The two Jedi surveyed one another and exchanged deep bows of respect.
"May the Force be with you, Master."
"And may the Force be with you. Let's hope those rumors of peace are true."
Jedi General Obi-Wan Kenobi strode down the hall to press on, always striving for peace, a beacon of the Light, in the midst of war and the slowly creeping darkness.
Thus ends the conversations from the battlefield, but this is far from the over.
Coming soon, a post-Order 66 installment to see where the Jedi featured in In War find themselves once the Clone Wars end and the Order crumbles.