Madame Jocasta Nu loved order. And in the Jedi Temple's Archives, millennia-old living repository of knowledge, she played the role of devoted handmaiden to absolute Order. Ferocious in her gentility, intimidating in her dignity, entrancing in her severity, she was the terror and idol of many a Padawan and initiate. To those seeking knowledge, she stood as a threshold guardian, one whose strict trials must be passed before entrance to the realm of inherited wisdom might be gained. For those who violated the sanctity of the Archives' order and peace, there was no worse punishment imaginable than her legendary wrath. She reigned supreme, regent to an awful majesty, the embodiment of philosophy's grimmest and most demanding aspects, an avatar of pure, merciless truth.
Obi Wan Kenobi was not afraid of her at all.
And this fact, of course, endeared the Padawan to her immensely. Wise or cynical enough to disregard the fabricated persona constructed on her behalf by generations of fanciful students, he afforded her a proper and genuine respect ; and that was welcome. Serious – too serious, in the opinion of some – enough to be so intent on knowledge that he barely registered the existence of its guardian and servant, he charmed her scholarly sensibilities; and that too, was welcome. Charismatic and clever enough to rebuff her occasional gruff reprimand with a sly observation or barbed remark of his own, he disarmed her warrior's heart and evoked a seldom-felt pang of maternal - well, in all fairness, grandmaternal – softness in its depths. That was less welcome, but with age comes wisdom, and what cannot be overcome must be accepted.
She had come to accept that the young Jedi was simply adorable – a trait magnified intensity by his own obliviousness to the fact. And so, when she spotted him sedately ensconced in one of the data terminals on the light-drenched east-facing side of the main hall, quite early in the morning on the day of the Chakora Seva Tournament, she was seized with an irrepressible desire to demand of him what he thought he was doing. Stars above: the boy was born- had been shaped by the Force itself – to win this particular competition. And yet it would appear that he had chosen not to participate.
She wandered over to him, where he sat in plain sight of anyone bothering to look, and leaned over his shoulder. The screen before him was covered in the intricacies of a language tutorial, a rather unusual way to spend such an extraordinary morning. "Are you learning Twi'Lek in honor of Master Seva?" she inquired.
He glanced up, politely. "In honor of Master Jinn," he smirked. "He confesses to have failed the mastery exam three times, though he is fluent in several other languages. He much prefers Huttese."
Jocasta Nu snorted softly. "Twi'Lek is a beautiful language. Structured and complex, like good architecture. It does have one of the most intricate grammatical and syntactical frameworks in the galaxy of course. Is that why you chose it?"
The Padawan shook his robe's sleeve back with a graceful gesture and changed screens. "As Jedi," he answered thoughtfully, "We should complement one another's strengths and balance each other's weaknesses. So I would not be a dutiful Padawan unless I applied myself to making up this deficit in Master Jinn's learning."
He kept a straight face as he made this pronouncement. The archivist's silver brows crept upwards, amused. "And what is this passage you are reading?" she asked, noting that he was able to plough his way through lengthy historical treatises in Middle Twi"Lek, and must have been diligently working to ….balance out Master Jinn's deficit….for quite some number of years. She wondered idly whether the Jedi master in question had any inkling of the planned humiliation at his Padawan's hands. Perhaps, perhaps not. Jinn was not one to peer closely into the future, though he would certainly appreciate every ironic nuance of the gesture when his ever-faithful student subtly upstaged him.
"This? I'm studying the history of the Seva competition," Obi Wan supplied. "It's fascinating."
Again she was filled with the desire to ask him why he was not one of the competitors, but long decades of Jedi training instilled tact more deeply than any other instinct, and Jocasta Nu was no exception to the rule. She merely smiled indulgently. "And what have you learned thus far?"
He looked up again, eager to share the new knowledge. Jocasta nodded in approval. So often at his age, Padawans were far more eager to expend energy in honing saber skills than in the avid pursuit of learning. To see a young mind so happily occupied, even when his peers were absorbed in vying for a coveted victory in centuries-old contest, was nothing short of inspiring.
"As you know, master, the event is held in honor of Master Cheva's astounding defense of the Dantooine Enclave four centuries ago. While he was there studying ancient texts, a horde of marauders launched an attack, which he was consequently obliged to meet single-handedly. According to all the records, he held the outpost against siege for six consecutive days, by means of cunning, stealth, and direct combat. At sunset on the final day, only Master Seva was left standing, and the artifacts and texts were preserved from theft or destruction."
"Master Seva was one of the Order's most committed scholars," Jocasta beamed.
"And an extraordinary swordsman," the Padawan added, with a glimmer of adolescent enthusiasm that somewhat dimmed her previous high regard for his scholarly passion.
"Yes, yes. And you realize, I am sure, that the manner in which the Tournament is run now reflects both the events of that time, and the values we hope to propagate by remembering them."
He nodded gravely. The Seva tournament was held only every six years, and was consequently anticipated with great fervor by those few permitted to enter the competition. Open only to senior Padawans, and occurring at such a long interval, it was unlikely that any individual would have more than one opportunity in his lifetime to engage in such a rare contest of skill. The rules of the game were simple enough: the participants sought to emulate the elusive ancient warrior by hiding from their peers throughout the precinct of the Temple, each striving to find his fellows before he was discovered. Once a Padawan was discovered, a duel with training sabers determined who was to be eliminated and who was to continue on in the sport, which proceeded from sun-up to sun-down on the appointed day. The strictest honor system was preserved throughout. At sunset, any remaining competitors were to meet in the senior upper level dojo for a final refereed contest to determine the ultimate champion. Such a victor would have triumphed in dozens of duels, tracked down many cunning opponents, and managed to stay concealed from his highly skilled and Force-sensitive companions for the greater part of the day. Such a feat was impressive, and would be watched with interest, even by members of the high Council. The competition was looked forward to by Padawans and masters alike, for although it served as an unparalleled training exercise, the festival day was also one of the few unalloyed amusements, or frivolities, which the Jedi resident in the Temple permitted themselves.
"I wonder, master," Obi Wan continued blandly. "Could you help me with a particularly difficult passage – it's a quotation from Master Seva himself, and I can't quite make it out."
Jocasta Nu was intrigued. "Let me see the quotation."
He took his sweet time pulling it up onto the reader's screen, which was uncharacteristic. In the intervening time, another tall Padawan appeared briefly in the doorway to their right, peered at them curiously, and then moved on in a fleeting flash of brown and cream. Obi Wan's eyes flicked sideways, noting this apparition – doubtless one of the tournament's competitors – and then returned placidly to the text before him.
"Here, master. Can you translate?"
She leaned forward. "Ah, yes, this is difficult. He had a peculiar style all his own, you know – but this is a famous quatrain. My Twi'Lek is a bit rusty but the Basic version runs like this: A forest hides among its trees; the air is still within the breeze; the sun seems many on the sea; though I am here, you don't see me. A riddle, you might say. A good deal of Master Seva's wisdom is encapsulated in such rhymes, or even more perplexing aphorisms. I'm sure you've heard many before, even in the crèche, without attribution."
Obi Wan glanced again at the now vacant doorway, an inscrutable smile playing over his face. He looked down at his hands, folded them into opposite sleeves. "Thank you," he said.
She decided to abandon tact, and ask directly. Qui Gon Jinn's apprentice had been expected to enter the contest; expected, indeed, to make a good showing. His teacher was, if not a strategist, still wildly unpredictable and brilliant; and the Padawan, by all accounts, displayed a marked talent for craftiness and guile, not to mention a burgeoning reputation as a promising swordsman. Yet here he was, enjoying a leisurely morning in the Archives, musing on ancient riddles.
"Are you not participating in the contest today?" she inquired bluntly.
A blush crept over his cheeks – and his mouth twitched. There was a pause, in which he gathered his thoughts. "The contest," he said at last, quite neutrally. "Those who have been eliminated are permitted to return to their ordinary pursuits. And.. .ah…studying Twi'Lek is one of my ordinary pursuits."
Jocasta Nu admired his self control. It had not yet been two hours since sunrise; the contest was yet in its infancy. "You deal with failure very lightly," she remarked. "Many Padawans would be disappointed to be eliminated so early in the day."
He bowed his head, acknowledging the compliment. "Master Jinn has taught me much," he said. "About failure, as well as success. I only wish to do honor to those teachings."
Such poise. Jocasta was impressed. But she was also possessed of a rigorously logical mind. She weighed his words carefully, turning over their implications and connections in her mind, a slow smile of understanding curving her lips.
She folded her hands crisply over her long, embroidered tabards. "I see," she replied. "Well, you are to be commended for your devotion to scholarship. You and Master Seva have much in common, I would say."
He stood and bowed very courteously. "I am honored by the comparison, Madame Nu."