He looked closely at Nasriel as he spoke. She wanted to wince under that penetrating gaze. He sighed and looked down at his hands instead. How, in Heaven’s name, am I to gain her trust? Maybe… if Ben can get through to her…
Nasriel followed Obi-Wan’s gaze down towards his hands, which looked slightly shaky. They were long and slender, smaller than she had somehow expected, and scarred, very badly scarred, from about the wrist forward, stopping just short of the fingers. Each scar was a memento from a mission, a reminder of a slaver band conquered, an evil defeated, a world freed. No other Jedi that Nasriel had seen gloveless had hands this – damaged. On a sudden impulse, Nasriel reached forward and grasped his hand. Obi-Wan stiffened reflexively, but did not pull away, though he was too obviously fighting the urge to do so. The pulse that she could feel in his fingers was racing even faster than her own. The Jedi Master seemed unsure about what to do, uncomfortable with her so close, yet unwilling to pull away. How often did it happen that someone closed the distance? she wondered.
Obi-Wan replied silently. An image flashed into Nasriel’s mind. She instinctively knew that it was shortly after Qui-Gon had almost been killed on Naboo. The then-queen comforting, supporting, Obi-Wan all but broken, uninjured but nonetheless in pain. Suddenly, the emotions she could feel surrounding the image were withdrawn.
Slowly, Nasriel came back to herself. Ben had picked up a book from the table and was quietly reading, as if nothing strange had happened. Obi-Wan had leaned back, seemingly in meditation. Nasriel heaved a deep sigh and stood up. Obi-Wan stood as she did. ”Come along, I’ll show you your room.” The Padawan followed him as he reconfigured the door code.
“I’ve set it to neutral, but you can change the code as you see fit. Some advice, Nasriel: don’t keep anything that Anakin might think… interesting in your room, or at least hide it well. He consistently breaks in here every time I’m offworld, and no matter how often I change the codes, he invariably figures them out. He’s stolen my journal and my mission notes twice, doodled banthas with exceptionally bad hair days in my notes, written comments like ‘old sour face’ about Master Windu, threatened to write my biography from my journals… Believe me; you want to keep your personal things hidden, though maybe you’ll be able to set up your codes so he can’t get in.”
“I think I might be able,” Nasriel said, grinning. The door slid open, and they stepped inside. The walls were painted a neutral warm green, the bookshelf had been recently cleared, and the blankets were lying neatly folded on the bed. On the dresser stood a row of small hand-carved vreay wood statuettes. Nasriel walked over and picked one up. It was a whimsical piece, a model of an elfin figure in a sweeping dress playing a flute, with a collection of small woodland animals surrounding her bare feet, looking up at the puckish face. Another was a little boy, seated on a mushroom, looking curiously upwards, with a toad in the act of reaching out its tongue toward one dangling foot. The sense of humor evident in the work made her laugh; a minute attention to the smallest details and innate talent was clearly visible in each of the works, right down to the flyaway wisps of hair and gracefully spread fingers. A third little statue was an artist with easel, brush, and pallet, unaware of the enormous butterfly perched lightly on his shoulder. Nasriel looked up at Obi-Wan curiously. ”These… these figurines… where did you find them? I’ve not seen anything like them before.”
“It’s been a long while since I had the time to do anything like this,” Obi-Wan remarked, brushing the dust off the artist’s easel. ”I haven’t worked on it since Naboo. When times get busy, hobbies take a back seat.”
“Hobby?” Nasriel exclaimed. ”This is incredible! I’ve seen worse artwork than this in royal palace collections, and almost any collector would be willing to pay upwards of thousands of credits for these.”
“But for me, it’s just a hobby that I can’t devote my life to. Ironic, isn’t it? I would like to do more with the arts, but I’m a Jedi Master and I have to go where my duty sends me. If I can’t do what I would like to do, it’s a pity, but it’s not important. After all, I am doing better work, keeping the galaxy safe.” Nasriel looked down.
“It still seems horribly sad to me,” she said.
“What? That I should have to choose between my gifts? Nasriel, I may not be consistently ‘happy’ as a Jedi, but I know that I’m making it possible for others to pursue their interests. That makes it worthwhile. And all my life, I dreamed of being a Jedi. You know what I mean. I wanted it with all my heart; I fought for it against all the odds. What use would it be to give up now? And, regardless of what beings think, walking away is not as easy as giving up your lightsaber.”
“Yes, being a Jedi consumes your entire life. There’s a saying in the Halls. ‘Let me tell you about life, youngling: Life sucks, and then you die’,” Nasriel said sourly.
“Not quite. Try, ‘Pledging your life to something is not a decision that can ever be completely rescinded’.” Obi-Wan’s com beeped and he answered it. “Kenobi.”
“Obi-Wan,” Mace Windu said. ”The situation is much more urgent than we thought at first. I’m sorry, but you must go, immediately.”
“Yes, Mace,” Obi-Wan replied, and then he shut the com off and glanced at Nasriel. ”I’m sorry I don’t have the time to begin with you as I would like, but we are at war.” He gently pressed her shoulder. ”I may be back sooner than you expect. Say goodbye to everyone for me?”
“I’ll… try…” Nasriel said uncertainly.
“Thank you. Oh! Would you mind helping Ben with the Shii-Cho drills? His fifth is a bit weak.”
“I will.” Nasriel promised.
“And if Anakin challenges you again, you can run him into the ground, but please do not rub it in. You know who he’ll come complaining to.” His eyes sparkled a little. Nasriel grinned weakly in spite of herself.
“I’m afraid I can’t make any promises on that count, Master.” Obi-Wan smiled at her, and then he was gone. Nasriel sat down on the bed and fingered the flute-player carving. She was a little confused. Her new Master was such a paradox. Fearsome warrior or fun-loving, friendly man who looked much younger than his thirty-six years? The two images didn’t line up. Then there had been his brief, terrifying fit of anger. She still couldn’t make that out. Nasriel sighed. She had a puzzle to figure out.
Near midnight that night, Nasriel was studying history again, hands over her ears, an old habit from her noisy former quarters, when Shaniel tapped on the door. ”Hello, Kenobi quarters! Anyone home? Ben? Threeb? Is even Blaze there?” Something was wrong. Nasriel’s slim fingers fumbled for the lucky charm hung around her neck, and rubbed it hard as she went to let Shani in. The red-haired Padawan was not alone. Garen Muln and Siri Tachi, Obi-Wan’s good friends, stood close beside her, all three looking concerned.
“What’s the matter? Something awful happened; I can tell by your faces.”
Siri stepped forward. “Is Ben there? He needs to hear this too.” When Nasriel, sick with sudden fear, returned with Kenobi’s nephew, Siri went on, “We don’t know. I was teaching Shaniel the finer points of finding someone in the Force, and we decided to look for Obi-Wan.” So. That twinge in the Force that hadn’t felt like anybody Nasriel knew had been real – and important.
Garen took up the tale. “We told Master Windu that something had gone badly wrong in Obi-Wan’s mission. Ben, Nasriel, the mission was to find Dr. Nuvo Vindi, because the rumors out of Kashyyyk and Iridonia are that he’s working on a new strain of the Blue Shadow Virus.” He let the words hang in the air. The virus was still too raw a memory for too many beings across the Galaxy to even attempt to joke about it. Nasriel let go her charm for just long enough to snap her fingers for Blaze. She buried her hands in the txakurra’s thick coat as Garen continued, “We think it must be really bad, because Mace forbade us to go after Obi-Wan. Siri and I are leaving for Dorshan in ten minutes. We thought you two ought to know.”
Nasriel straightened abruptly. “I’m coming too.”
“Nas,” Ben said, alarmed, “It’s forbidden!”
“You stay. He wouldn’t want you in danger for worlds. Me, I’m expendable. I’m not –” suddenly it was deadly serious. “I’m not a Kenobi.” She walked to her room as in a dream, picked up her cloak and lightsaber, and, as an afterthought, transparisteel dagger, brushed her fingers over the vreay figurines by way of farewell, and returned to the doorway. Only then did she notice that Garen and Siri were already cloaked and prepared to leave.
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s go disobey the Council. Ben: Shii-Cho drills. Master Obi-Wan said.”