On the Defects of Obedience

Yet another nightmare, always the same one. Obi-Wan so hated being… predictable. It irritated him that he always had the same horrifying, heart-pounding, torturous dream, the same conscious effort to not scream when he woke up from the smooth, deadly laser walls… and had to make the same awkward excuse, always avoiding his Padawan’s worried golden eyes that reflected the soft light of her candle. Nearly every night. But, to be fair, she dreamed too. And nearly every morning he had to remind her, reassure her, that her silly wish four or five years ago had nothing, but nothing, to do with his dreams. Tonight the excuse was different – just to make a change, to eschew the hateful sameness of horror.

“I miss Qui-Gon desperately, Nasriel, now – next time, leave me alone.”

The round wells of liquid gold filmed over, dimming their brightness. Good grief, she wasn’t going to cry, was she? No, he saw. That clouding in the Force, the gray veil that drew across the sky before a storm, was not sadness. It was contemptuous anger. “And that makes you special… why? All orphaned Padawans miss their Masters desperately. You were fortunate.”

Him? Obi-Wan Kenobi? Fortunate? The fallacy burned deep within him, twisting the knife that was furious hatred one turn nearer to his heart.

“Truly fortunate,” Nasriel repeated bitterly. “I’ve heard a lot about what happened at Theed. If even half of it is true, Qui-Gon died quickly, in the course of a mission that was of enormous and obvious value to the Galaxy as a whole. And you avenged his death before returning home as a hero. But,” she shrugged, “To you I’m just one more pathetic life form out of the collection. Why would the great Master Kenobi listen to me?”

“I don’t know,” Obi-Wan shot back. “Why would I?”

Now the storm clouds threatened rain rather than thunder, and Nasriel did not launch into the withering invective he had braced himself for. Instead, she merely turned away and trudged back to her own room, snapping her fingers to call Blaze as she went. When the soft, padding footsteps of Padawan and ‘kurra had faded across the main room, Obi-Wan firmly closed his door and went back to sleep.

It was the buzzing that he heard first, a quiet, insistent whine like a mosquito. A red sort of whine. Obi-Wan groaned and rolled over to switch on the light, and then he saw them. Crossed a few feet from the ground, waiting, two red lightsabers glowed menacingly in the cold, still darkness before the dawn. And then, for a fraction of a second, so little time he barely believed he had seen it, the sabers were gone and, in their place, two balls of fire flickered in the air. Obi-Wan only just had time to register that there was something wrong with the fire, something hugely wrong, before the sabers were back and one of them was lunging toward him as only a lightsaber held by a truly expert swordsman could move.

He groped under his pillow for his own lightsaber, and found it inexplicably gone. So, the cold Negotiator reasoned, this must be a nightmare; I always leave my saber there. But the beam of hissing energy was closer now, its mate remaining hovering uncertainly, and, nightmare or no, he would have to fight back. Diving underneath the threatening blade of light, he snatched at where the hilt of the other red sword should have been – and yanked his hand back with a yelp of pain. He began to shiver: you never felt real pain in a dream, so what was this? Of course, the hilt was at the other end; the saber was being held upside-down.

Gently, Obi-Wan reached up and took the cool metal of the hilt. Although it felt so wrong, so twisted, to fight an invisible enemy with a Sith lightsaber, he didn’t really have a choice. Turning on the light, a necessary action that stole only half a second of his concentration, he saw for the first time who his opponent was – and nearly dropped the lightsaber. Darth Maul? “You’re dead,” Obi-Wan whispered.

The Zabrak Sith Lord looked faintly amused. “No. You are.” He swung his lightsaber in a perfect, centered arc, and – cut off Obi-Wan’s right hand. The pain was unexpected. So… this was how it felt for Anakin? A searing heat shooting up his arm, waves of agony racking his whole body, and an overwhelming sense of loss, loss of part of his precious connection to the Force.

He woke up with a start, panting, soaked in sweat, gripping his right wrist in an ecstasy of relief that it had been, after all, only a nightmare, and relishing the simple pleasure of flexing his fingers and closing them around the hilt of the lightsaber that was precisely where he had left it – and always had been.

Obi-Wan waited, not sure what for. Perhaps for his pounding heart to slow back to its usual pace. Perhaps for sleep again. But finally, he admitted to himself, he was waiting for the quiet, respectful double-tap on the door, the faintly comforting glow of a candle, and an anxious voice asking the same old question, “Are you all right, Master Obi-Wan?” Nothing. Well, he thought wryly. This was one for the books: Padawan Threeb obeying an order!

This was ridiculous, he reasoned nearly an hour later. It was younglings that couldn’t get back to sleep after nightmares, not Masters. As an experiment, he tried making the same familiar reply aloud, “I’m fine, I just had a bad dream. Go back to bed.” That didn’t work either. In the morning he was irritable and headachey from lack of sleep.

Nasriel paused in making a cup of caf, spoon halfway to the mug, to say brightly, “Good morning, Master! It’s a beautiful day. Did you sleep well?”

“Damn the day. I didn’t sleep at all. Can you make two of those?”

She stirred the caf and grimaced. “Strong enough to dissolve durasteel. I think you need this more than I do, frankly. Bad dreams or trying to work too late?”

Letting his aching head fall into his hands, Obi-Wan mumbled, “Darth Maul and… a pair of fiery hands or something. Gods, I want to die.”

“Fiery hands?” There was a crash and a slosh of liquid as the caf mug fell from Nasriel’s hand. Obi-Wan diplomatically ignored it – this was not the morning to worry about shattered cups. “Did you just say what I think you just said?”

“I said I had a nightmare, and for Force sake stop shouting,” he moaned. “Yes. Two of them.”

Swallowing hard, Nasriel said, “Then I won’t tell you.” Under her breath, not meant to be heard, she added, “Oh, Jiron.”

“Go away. Leave the caf, just… go away. Go blow something up or start a war, just get out and stop talking.”

Nasriel left.

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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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