Chapter 25

By morning, the rain clouds had blown away and the ground was dry.  Obi-Wan went out early for a walk, enjoying the wide open space that was so rare on Coruscant.  Half an hour after sunrise he was nearly a kilometer away from the house.

“Will you please be so kind” murmured a dreamy voice from the depths of the tall grass, “as to endeavor not to step on me, Master?”

“What are you doing there?”

Nasriel sat up abruptly.  “I was watching the sky.  And the grass.  And the clouds.  And anything else that happened by.  I came out an hour ago, while Abi was still asleep.  It was such a lovely dawn.”

“You are a very bizarre being.  I hope you didn’t go too far away from the farm?  Yivan and Ben and Abiya and I were going to go into the city this morning – do you want to come?”

“Walking?” asked Nasriel suspiciously.

“Equui.  Yes, I know you’ve never heard of them before.  Before you say you feel stupid, bear in mind Abiya won’t have seen a nexu, and she still thinks a wampa is a story-book creature.  Equui are a kind of animal used to carry loads and pull carts on this planet.”

“Like tauntauns?”

“No, they aren’t much like tauntauns at all, actually. Less grumpy, for one thing.”

“If you say so, chenray.  Oops.”  She clapped one hand over her mouth, sprang up, and started to run back to the house.

“Hey!  What did you call me?  Never mind.”

Far from helping Ben and Abiya and her older brother Yivan introduce a still-skeptical Nasriel to the equui in the stable, Obi-Wan found himself, on return to the farm, cornered by Erirea, who was looking very serious.

“What happened to Nasriel at Saalis?”

“Can we talk about this later, Eri?  I was going into the city with the children.”

“What happened to Nasriel at Saalis?”

Stop it.”

“Listen to me.  I’m not a Jedi, I don’t pretend to ‘sense’ what people are thinking, but that girl is hurting pretty badly over something that happened on her homeworld and I want to know what.  Now you may not have realized this, Obi-Wan, but when you changed her name you close to adopted her, and you gave me the responsibility to be concerned for her welfare just as much as I am for Abiya’s.  I can’t read her mind, and she’s not going to tell me because it hurts her too much.  You are going to tell me, right now, what – happened – at – Saalis.”

Obi-Wan sighed.  “It’s fine.  It’s just a bit of a sore point for Nasriel at the moment, but she’ll get over it.”

“A bit of a sore point,” echoed Erirea incredulously.  She appealed to the sky, “He says it’s just a bit of a sore point.  Obi-Wan Kenobi, a ‘sore point’ does not, in my experience, make an otherwise fairly normal teenage girl say she ‘oh, gods, hated him for what he did.’  The ‘he’ refers, obviously, to you.  Is it straightened out now?”

“No.”

“Straighten it out with Nasriel, or I will straighten you.  Got that?”

“I’ll see you later, Eri.”

The capital city of Steujan was quiet, practically deserted compared to Coruscant, and Nasriel was nervous and edgy, eyes darting restlessly about, forever scanning for danger.  They were walking idly along the left bank of the river, talking about nothing in particular.  Yivan noticed his new ‘cousin’s’ uneasiness.  “It’s always like this, Nasriel.  It’s okay.  This isn’t a very densely-populated planet.”

“Relax, Yiv.”  Ben seemed to enjoy being on his homeworld again, and was more than prepared to joke.  “She’s just another paranoid Jedi.  Usually,” this with a sly grin at Obi-Wan, “the ones with the weird and terrible apprentice years become the paranoid ones.  What was weird and terrible about your other Masters, Nasriel?  Your file’s been sealed.”

“Shut up.”  Her tone came as a surprise to him, bitter and terse as it was.  “You have not got a clue what weird and terrible even means.”

“The Chancellor planting bombs in the Temple.  The bloodbath at Geonosis.”

“Go back to the youngling halls, Ben.  Come back when you’ve grown up.  And until then, leave me alone.”

“Do I get to guess again?  Your homeworld being conquered.  Your sister beating you up.  Close?”

Yivan interjected lightly, “What do you bet Mother could beat up Uncle Obi-Wan?”

“Odds of seventy-five percent, I think,” giggled Abiya after consideration.

“The file is sealed, Ben.  Let’s leave it like that.”  Nasriel dropped back and slipped her hand into Obi-Wan’s.

He winked at her.  “Well done keeping your temper.”

Yivan pointed upriver to where a lot of beings were hurrying toward a point on the riverbank where an intricate grey stone bridge met the land, all apparently concerned about something.  “Hey, I wonder what’s going on.”

After a brief parley with one of the bystanders, Abiya and Ben, who had darted forward to investigate, reported back, “Somebody’s fallen in the river.  They think he must have drowned, because he hasn’t come up again.  It’s all right, though, because one of the people there has called an emergency team; they’ll be here soon.”

Obi-Wan’s hand drifted to his lightsaber.  “Something’s wrong.”

“It’s nothing,” said Ben, confused.  “A guy fell in the river.”

Nasriel seemed to be listening to something, and studied her Master’s face as if looking for a clue.  “No, Ben, wrong wrong.  Weird and terrible has its uses – I notice things you don’t.  East of here, right, Master?”

Seeming to reach a decision, Obi-Wan corrected sharply, “North-east.  Probably at the spaceport.  Ben, take Abiya and Yivan to the nearest police depot for safety.  Check who fell in the river, and then come find us.  Nasriel, you’re with me.”

Ben shrugged, “There’s no arguing with a Jedi Master.  Come on, you two.”  The other Jedi didn’t hear him, having already set off along the street.  Nasriel had to hurry to stay beside Obi-Wan, but her pride – he chose me.  He wanted me to help him!  – far outweighed the annoyance of having to run to keep up.

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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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