She didn’t see him until the next morning, in the Great Hall, and by then had endured so much teasing in the Padawan Halls that she couldn’t bear to talk about herself anymore.
“Do you know what your name means, Master Kenobi—or at least, who you’re named for?” Nasriel asked.
Obi-Wan looked at her, an odd, calculating expression on his face. “You’ve probably heard of Jedi Ae’enn Narshala Kenobi—or just Ae’enn Narshala?”
“What?” Nasriel looked disbelievingly at Obi-Wan. “Well, of course! It’s in the history textbook. Wasn’t he simply eons ago?”
“My true name is Ae’enn Narshala. Obi-Wan is my birth name. I go by that since it’s easier to pronounce.”
“Why didn’t I know about this before?” Nasriel said, feeling guilty. There is so much I am keeping from him.
“Because I was born Obi-Wan Kenobi. My parents gave me an honor-name — Ae’enn Narshala — when they found out I was Force-sensitive. No one can say that five times fast nowadays, so I’m just called Obi-Wan. It’s the tradition on my homeworld to give someone a new name if they have to leave their families and live a different life, so the birth name remains sacred and used only by the family, mainly for remembrance, but no one here could pronounce Ae’enn properly, so my name stayed Obi-Wan. It’s quite complicated.” Kenobi chuckled at Nasriel’s skeptical expression. “You should have seen Master Jinn’s face when he found out. My early initiate records weren’t easy to find; they were classed under Ae’enn before Master Eldeth decided that Obi-Wan would be simpler, when I was about four. A few years after that I was supposed to go to Ord Sigat with Master Jinn and all the immunization records were missing – what a surprise. Master Jocasta Nu threw a fit. You know what she’s like: ‘if it is not in the records it does not exist’. But I remembered being given the immunizations and made a wild guess. ‘Master Nu!’ I said. ‘Try looking under Ae’enn!’” Obi-Wan laughed at the memory. “The look on her face, I’ll never forget!”
“But… what about ‘Obi-Wan,’ then?” Nasriel persisted. Kenobi thought for a moment.
“Other than that it’s Old Deshann and that there is no record of anyone who bore the name before me, I actually don’t know anything about it. Why?”
Nasriel smiled grimly. “I just wondered. I mean, I wonder how many other species have the custom of calling a child by a different name.”
“This is getting somewhere, Nasriel. Where?”
“My birth name wasn’t Nasriel. I forgot to tell you that. The original wouldn’t mean much to you, but translated, it means ‘Inevitably Rising Darkness.’” Nasriel shrank back as she saw the anger rage in Obi-Wan’s normally gentle face. His changeable eyes had turned almost black with fury. “No, Master, please, I’m so sorry, I’m just stupid, and hybrid, and I don’t understand things; I didn’t think it was that important…”
“How could a mother and father do that to their own child, their own flesh and blood?” he grated out through clenched teeth. “You may regret not being able to stay on Saalis with your family, Nasriel, but I’m glad you’re here with me and away from them. Glad!” Obi-Wan collapsed back against the wall. He offered Nasriel a weak, apologetic smile. “I’m sorry you had to see that. I’ve always struggled with my temper… I’m sorry. I know it’s alarming.”
“I’m sorry! I never thought it mattered. I’ve never cared, I didn’t think… please, Master Kenobi, you don’t think it’s a bad omen, as Master Vareng did? You aren’t going to send me back to the Council because I’m bad luck? But let’s not talk about that.” She smiled brightly. Too brightly, Kenobi thought suspiciously. “Your parents loved you, didn’t they?” she asked, almost wistfully.
“Yes. My family was very loving, very close.” Obi-Wan looked away hurriedly, but not quite quickly enough. Nasriel’s sharp eyes spotted the shining tear that worked its way down his face. “The worst I’ve ever had to deal with was because I’m some kind of genetic freak. My eyes are the wrong color. It’s a byword on my homeworld, “the day there’s a blue-eyed Kenobi,” to refer to something that will never happen. They thought it was something about our genome, that we couldn’t have blue eyes.” Obi-Wan looked down at his hands, which were shaking slightly. “I’m different. No one knows why. My cousins and near relations were gracious enough to pretend they didn’t care, that it didn’t matter. Everyone outside our closest circle… they were a different matter. One day, we were at a play group or something of that sort, I don’t remember. One of the older children started asking me whose son I really was, taunting me. I didn’t understand him, but my mother did. She fell out with his mother and never spoke to her again, and we never went back there. After that, though, I mostly hid from other children, afraid they’d call me a foundling, or worse. It was a relief when the Master came to take me to the Temple.”
Nasriel nodded nervously, still unsure how to tell the truth without provoking another furious outburst. “I see, Master. I mean, I can see that such a situation would be difficult for you.” She quickly added, “But of course I couldn’t know from personal experience.”
“Nasriel, never try to lie to me. It doesn’t work. What happened before you came to the Temple?”
The sharp blue face lifted proudly, gazing up from the dusty floor where the young Padawan was kneeling. “I told you, it was my family: I lost them in an unforeseen accident.”
“The only beings that use exactly the same phrase just like you just did are the beings that are lying. What is the problem about your name and your family that you can’t bear even to think about it? And could you answer fairly soon? I never know when I have to leave the planet.”
Nasriel changed the subject again, with a hopeful demeanor that reminded Kenobi far too much of a kicked tooka cub hoping to be forgiven. “Master Deah said your other Padawan does not much like to be off-planet. Can I come with you – or are you meeting him somewhere?”
Kenobi tilted his head back, trying to clear his thoughts, and then turned to look at the cowering Padawan again. “Nasriel, this is going to be a very long six weeks if you keep behaving like a – a shy droid. I’m not going to kick you. Get up, and tell me why you think you are bad luck, just to start with.”
Nasriel slowly uncoiled her thin limbs and stood up, but still wary and oddly careful to stay out of his reach. “Is it not obvious? My name alone – no, wait! Please. It was given to me by my half-brother, a seer, who saw the future and said that I would live to see the Inevitably Rising Darkness. At Saalis, it is common for children’s names to be remembrances of something. It wasn’t an insult, at least, it was not originally meant for one by my father. My mother had nothing to do with it. She was dead before I was named. Listen, Master, is it really such a wonder to you that I fear you? You are a Shendi Human. I am Saalisan. Five centuries ago, your people conquered mine. Only in my grandfather’s lifetime did we regain freedom, and mothers at Saalis still threaten their children with the Shendi. Even when I was only three, just coming to the Temple, I knew what all Saalisan children have known for generations: every Shendi hates every Saalisan. They are evil and delight in causing pain of any kind.” She grinned shyly. “Master Jocasta threw a fit at me when I said that. In the end somebody had to explain that the old horror stories are only true of non-Jedi Shendi. Do you recall, eleven years ago, on the meditation platform outside the Council Chamber?”
It had been night, he remembered. Dark enough to hide the youngling’s face, but not her clear voice and adult way for phrasing things. Master Jinn had promised his good friend from his homeworld that, should any of her offspring make it to the Temple, he would personally oversee their training. Master Jinn’s friend Taharat Gul had been her grandmother, and Master Jinn had been kind enough to extend that promise to her also. And now Anakin was taking the place that had been kept for her for two generations.
Obi-Wan remembered swearing an oath on his lightsaber to keep his Master’s promise himself. To train Youngling Nasriel Threeb as his own Padawan. But Master Jinn had died, too soon, and Anakin had become the responsibility of Jinn’s former Padawan, while a decades-old promise and a solemn oath were flung to the winds together.
Nasriel’s voice broke in on his reverie, as clear and mature as it had been that night ten years before. “If I’d known on that night that you were Shendi, I’d have screamed and run away. Isn’t it odd how everything turns out right in the end? Even an oath.”