Chapter 21

The next few minutes passed in a blur.  Somehow, the three Jedi made it back to the ship.  As soon as the figures for the jump to hyperspace had been worked out and typed into the guidance computer, Nasriel vanished aft into one of the sleeping cubicles, closing the door softly behind her.

Ben leaned back in the pilot’s chair.  “Aren’t you glad our family isn’t rich?”

“Yes, but more so today.  You know, I always thought the ‘last letter’ to your family when you became a Padawan was just optional, not political.”

“I looked up the Threebs on the way here.  What she signed over to her brother is breathtaking.  Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land, over a billion credits, and near-absolute power over an entire planet.  Seriously, if Mom and Dad had that fortune at stake, they’d tell the Temple what it could go throw itself off of.  And now Nas has got nothing, and been kicked around into the bargain.  Shall I get her out of there, or will you?”

“I’ll go.  I think I remember what to say.”  He went and tapped gently on the door.  “Kaliu?  Wlen Obi-Wan.  Yu kamlech pyn orli?”

The girl opened the door a crack for just long enough to say icily, “You’re speaking it with a brogue, and ‘yu’ is the feminine form anyway,” before slamming it shut again.  There was a crash as she hurled something at the door, followed by a shout of, “And never, never call me Kaliu again!”

“Nasriel, let me in.  We have to do something about the cuts on your back.”

No!  Skeg off!”  There was a brief silence.  “I mean, please just leave me alone, Master.”

“Nasriel, I’m serious.  Let me in.”

After another pause, she said reluctantly, “Whatever.  Why not?  How can my day possibly get worse?”

Obi-Wan fetched a basin of water and a soft cloth and came to sit beside her on the bunk.  “Take a deep breath.  I’ll be as gentle as I can.”  Very carefully, he began the slow, painstaking process of cleaning the blood from the innumerable whip cuts that crisscrossed Nasriel’s back and shoulders.

She stiffened at his touch, breathing shallowly, trying not to cry out.  “You weren’t kidding.”

“No.  And any beating hurts more for being pointless.  I know.”

“You do, do you?  How come?”

“An unfortunate incident with some slavers.  I’ll tell you about it someday when you’re a little older.  Keep still.”

When he was finished, she half-turned to face him, saying awkwardly, “I’m sorry I swore at you earlier, Master.  I guess I haven’t had a very good day.”

“That would be the understatement of the… let me see.  The understatement of the entire Republic.”

Nasriel smiled wanly at the feeble joke.  “Right.  Okay.  Would you excuse me for just a moment?”  She stood up fairly steadily and strode to the galley at the rear of the cabin, where she was violently sick in the tiny sink.  After rinsing the vomit down the drain and pouring herself a glass of water, Nasriel seemed to lose all energy, slumping into a kneeling position on the floor.  She looked up shyly as he entered the galley, and said before he could ask whether she was all right, “No, Master, I’m not.  Vomiting blood, nausea, stomach cramps, megrim – I suppose I should be grateful.  Sien said I’d suffer but live.  He’s dead.  Listen, Master Obi-Wan, just go away.  Help Ben pilot or something.  I’ve learned a little about how poisons like this work; it was hardly any at all really, so I should be fine before we get home.”

“Nasriel, go and change into a clean tunic – you have got one, alir’yana, I saw you pack it last night – and wash the blood off your face.  Then –”

Nasriel broke in eagerly, “Then nobody will ever have to know what happened!”

“I have to make a full report to Master Yoda, but I can recommend to him that the Order take no action.  I don’t know what he will want to do about this.  I think he will probably go to the Senate with it.”  Obi-Wan headed back to the control deck, closing the galley door behind him.

***

Three weeks later, Ben was reading Nasriel’s math textbook, because his own had mysteriously vanished, when Obi-Wan swirled into the room like a tornado, gasping breathlessly, “Where’s Nasriel?  Ben?  Have you seen her anywhere?”

“Yeah.”  Ben said touchily.  “She just left.  Why don’t you; I’m trying to study.”

Left?  Left to go where?”

Slamming the textbook melodramatically shut, Ben sighed and elaborated:  “Plaza of Blood.  Senate sector.  She said she’d be back before dark.”

“She’s gone to the where?  You know that’s out of bounds for Padawans!  Did you not even try to stop her?”

“Well, no.  She had a special dispensation to go to the Plaza, so I didn’t think you’d mind.  What?  She’s out.  She’ll be back.  No problem.”

Obi-Wan tried to calm down.  “Only Masters can sign off on dispensations.  Who did she get it from?  Not me, that’s for sure.”

Ben laughed, remembering the ruse Nasriel had used to get the precious dispensation.  “Master Kit.  He’s gone off-world looking for Nahdar somewhere; Nas got him to sign the papers for her just before he left so you’d yell at her when you found out, not at him.  She was helping out in the administration offices, and slipped it in among the flight plan papers.  Only told Master Kit what he’d done after he signed it, but he thought it was a pretty funny stunt, so he let her keep it.  What?  What’s wrong?”

“I didn’t want Nasriel to go to the Plaza of Blood because there is a public execution scheduled for today.”

“Oh.  Master, you have to lighten up.  Yeah, Nas shouldn’t have tricked Master Kit into giving her the pass, but she’s a Jedi, death isn’t really anything new for her.  This doesn’t have to be an issue unless you turn it into one.”

“Ben, you would think it was an issue if you knew who it was that is going to die.  The Senate has ordered the execution of Orien Threeb.”

Hurriedly, Ben added, “Nas borrowed Master Skywalker’s airspeeder from Ahsoka.  You’ll never catch her, and it’s going to be way crowded down there.”

As it happened, Obi-Wan only just got to the Plaza of Blood before the execution, and had to give up all idea of finding Nasriel in the thronging crowd.  Orien Threeb was killed without being permitted to speak, and only a few minutes later, the mass of beings in the Plaza streamed away in various directions, leaving one small, isolated figure in a dark Jedi cloak standing alone in the middle of the square.  Watching from one of the dark alleyways nearby, Obi-Wan saw Nasriel move toward the raised area in the center of the Plaza and raise her bowed head to talk to the executioner.  He heard her voice, faint across the empty square, saying something he didn’t quite catch, then the murmured, questioning reply.  Flipping back the hood on her cloak, Nasriel answered in a calmly ringing tone, “I want you to wait for a moment because that was my sister.

Obi-Wan decided it was time to interfere, and strode across the Plaza toward his Padawan.  “Nasriel, I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”

She stared at him blankly, seeming not to recognize him.  “Obviously not, if you did not look here.  What do you want with me?”

“Nasriel, it’s me.  Obi-Wan.  We have to go.”  Alarmed, he saw her hand move toward the sheath on her belt where her transparisteel dagger hung, and took a step back, knowing the Padawan well enough to know that she would not throw her precious knife, even when she truly felt threatened.  “Nasriel.”  He had a brainwave.  “Kaliu, alir’yana, what are you doing?”

She said flatly, automatically, “Don’t call me Kaliu,” but then her amber eyes refocused, her hand dropped away from the dagger, and she said as if nothing had happened,  “Oh, hi, Master Obi-Wan.  What’s going on?”

Shepherding her gently away from the platform, toward where the distinctive yellow paint of Anakin’s airspeeder gleamed at the edge of the Plaza, Obi-Wan said peaceably.  “Nothing’s going on now.  Good work fooling Kit, by the way; Ben told me about it.  I didn’t think that was possible.  But I did specifically tell you not to come here today.  I’m going to have to confiscate your driving license, do you hear?”

Nasriel pulled her cloak around her as if chilled, although the summer sun beat down on the planet and the air was still and warm, and whispered miserably, “I had to go.  I had to.  You know it was all the Baron’s idea, Master.  But he – he gave evidence at the Senate and told them everything that had happened, so they let him live.  And Orien…”

Obi-Wan finished the sentence.  “Was condemned for plotting the overthrow of a planet and for senselessly injuring a Jedi.  Get in.  I’m driving.”

Slumped in the passenger seat of the speeder, Nasriel commented drily, “You’ll never get it to start with that code.”

“Well, what is it now?  And how do you spell it?  I know what Anakin’s like with his exotic code words.”

Nasriel murmured, “Surely, Master, you know how to spell your own name.  The code is ‘Narshala’.”  A few moments later, she added, “Where are we going?  This isn’t the way home.”

“Yes, well, that’s because we’re not actually going back to the Temple.  I’m taking you to see somebody.”

“I will not,” declared Nasriel firmly, “talk to a shrink.  I’m fine.”

“Who said anything about a shrink?  I know you’re fine, I just thought it would be a good idea for you to meet Dex.”

In a slightly sordid cantina far away from the Temple, Obi-Wan pointed Nasriel to a seat by a window, then raised his voice and yelled, “Dex?  You there?”

‘Dex’ turned out to be a massive Besalisk, not a great deal less shabby than his cantina.  “Hello, Obi-Wan.  What can I do for you?”

“I need one very strong cup of caf – for her – and some information.”

“Both of which are free to you.  What do you want to know?”  He snapped his fingers and a droid brought the caf, setting it in front of Nasriel, who was listening intently.

Obi-Wan hesitated for only a second before replying, “I need you to tell me about the political situation out of Saalis.”

“Oh, well.”  Dex folded two of his arms and his face grew serious.  “It’s bad.  Since that Jedi got tortured out there –”

“I know all about the Jedi.  It was my Padawan, actually.  What’s happening now?”

“The monarchy’s fallen and the planet’s been conquered by a bunch of Mandos,” said Dex succinctly.

“Thanks.  That was all.”

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About coruscantbookshelf

"A writer is an introvert: someone who wants to tell you a story but doesn't want to have to make eye contact while doing it." - Adapted from John Green
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