Obi-Wan turned to Nasriel as she trudged up the deserted, muddy street after him. “Are you sure that beggar said left?”
“Spaceport’s at the end of this street,” mumbled Nasriel unhappily. “Oh, I wish I knew what Res thinks he’s doing.”
Perhaps a trifle more sharply than necessary, Obi-Wan replied, “Kidnapping Ben, apparently.”
“Master, no. You don’t really think…” She had stopped mid-stride, in the middle of the road, staring at him in disbelief. “He wouldn’t. Jiron trusted him. I trust him.”
“Trial of Insight,” the Master said under his breath, and then, louder, “And if your trust is ill-founded?”
For one long moment, Nasriel did not respond, and time seemed to stand still in the abandoned street. Then, “I don’t know,” she said candidly.
The rest of her reply was drowned out by the thunder and fuel-stinking smoke of a ship taking off from the spaceport. Without quite knowing why, but feeling that the next few minutes were vital, Obi-Wan broke into a run.
“The ship that just left,” he was saying to the spaceport controller when Nasriel caught up to him, “what was that? A scheduled flight? Well, when was the last private takeoff, then?”
“Scheduled, Master,” gasped Nasriel. “Sentinels nearly always take skeddered. Where was it bound?”
“Corellia,” supplied the nervous controller. Although a touch surprised at the ensuing request, he still rapidly cleared the Jedi’s ship for the same route, and personally filed the flight plan.
On this journey, there was no discussion of history, or indeed of anything else. Obi-Wan maintained a grim silence in body and complete opacity in the Force, and Nasriel did not dare speak, feeling with a certain measure of accuracy that the whole mess was her fault. Why had she trusted Reseda? Because Jiron had, of course, because she loved Jiron, and he would have committed his life – no, he would have committed her life, which he valued more – to Reseda’s keeping. But Res was Jiron’s friend, not hers. Why had she not guessed that the death would change everything? Or had he been evil all along and she – horrid thought, that – had not noticed? No, she vowed, she would never trust anyone again. It was just too dangerous.
“Trust,” remarked Obi-Wan abruptly, “is too precious to either completely abandon or to give away lightly.”
Nasriel drew up her mental shields, offended at being read unasked. A Sentinel would never – but Obi-Wan was Templar. But now so was she, so why did she still think so slightingly of them?
Not an encouraging response, but Nasriel persevered. “Why don’t Sentinels like Templars?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t they?” It was a fairly standard response to a Padawan’s question, intending to make the apprentice think for himself.
“Because Sentinels think Templars boast a great deal in proportion to their achievements and complain a great deal in proportion to their privations, and also because Templars look down on them,” Nasriel replied glibly, remembering part of a list of complaints Jiron and Reseda had compiled when both were semi-intoxicated. “So I guess a better question would be, why don’t you Templars like the Sentinels?”
“We Templars,” Obi-Wan corrected, then answered archly, “I ought to make you answer that one as well, given the current situation. But that’s Corellia ahead; there’s not time.”
At Corellia, they checked the passenger lists for the flight that had just landed. Four tickets were noted in the name of Reseda Che, with four more on to Antar Two. All of the tickets were booked for the cheapest class of travel.
Running one finger slowly down the list of flights connecting at Antar, Nasriel smiled slightly. “I think I know where they’re going, but I don’t know why. Look, Master. From Antar, you can get to Kashyyyk, where nobody’s terribly upset about filing paperwork, and from there, to Nal Shend. It’s a bit of a dot-and-go-one route, but it’s not much noticed. And at Nal Shend is the Priory.”
“Was the Priory,” corrected Obi-Wan. “It was a Jedi outpost about a thousand years ago. Was it really at Shend?”
“Is,” Nasriel insisted. “The ruins are still there, and the last roof fell in only about a year ago. It’s been a Sentinel hangout for centuries, because after the Templars abandoned it, they forgot all about it.”
“And now you have answered your question. The Templars dislike the Sentinels because they look down on us as well, and have hiding-places all over the Galaxy, making them next-to-impossible to locate. I could have sworn Madame Nu said the last ruins had vanished…”
“Madame Nu’s not Sentinel either. In a few years, though, the ruins will vanish, because the weather there is ghastly and the little bits of maintenance that did get done won’t. So why the blue skeg are Reseda and this other Sentinel going there if they know there’s no roof?”
Leaving that question unanswered for the moment, they went on to Antar Two, and discovered that Reseda had indeed gone to Kashyyyk.
“It’s pride, isn’t it?” Nasriel asked suddenly, on the long flight to the Wookiee planet. “The whole feud is about pride.”
“Interesting. Expound.” Obi-Wan was unwilling to judge an idea right or wrong until he fully understood the reasoning behind it.
“Well, you said that if the Force and one’s conscience both vindicate one, all other opinions are irrelevant. So what any two parties think of each other should also be irrelevant. The only real difference between the Sentinels and the Templars are customs, and a few minor superstitions. We both – I mean, they both – believe basically the same things, so why can’t we just… agree to disagree on the small stuff? Pride leads both parties to insist that they are right, to the exclusion of the other point of view.”
“Pride in reputation leads to dislike of detractors,” Obi-Wan summarized neatly. “But pride has no place in the heart of a Jedi, so would you not say the whole debate is meaningless? Remind me to raise that with the Council when we get home. And we shall have to postpone this discussion for the present.”
At Kashyyyk, Jedi were welcomed, and so it was not long before the fact was established that Jedi answering to the descriptions of Reseda and Ben – and two others – had filed flight plans for Teth. “Nal Shend indeed,” muttered Obi-Wan. However, they had taken off in a chartered ship on a trajectory in quite the opposite direction. “Indeed, Nal Shend,” echoed Nasriel brightly.
Nal Shend was a singularly inhospitable-looking world when seen from orbit. The ruins of the massive Priory complex stood out starkly red against the pale brown, sandy soil, and patches of sickly-green vegetation.
“No wonder your ancestors left,” Obi-Wan said. “I’d leave too. Even wandering the Galaxy fighting people is better than this.”
Nasriel laughed. “I was going to say that! Mind you, I’ve not seen Steujan for comparison. For all I know the mikri Shendi – no, it’s not rude, it’s Saalisan for ‘peaceful’, to differentiate from yrelt Shendi – may have gone from bad to worse.”
“Things are bad. They will be worse if we don’t find Ben before Reseda meets up with K’tarr. Whose ancestors left where why is currently academic. Where’s the best place to land?”
Pointing away from the ruins, Nasriel said, “Over there, in those trees. It’s a bit of a hike to the Hall, but not too bad. Say five kilometers.”
Nal Shend was a cold, dry planet, swept constantly by strong winds which churned up the fine dust of the planet into a choking storm. However, it did make walking downwind, as from ship to Priory, a good deal easier.
Standing in the red sandstone walls of the building, running his fingers lightly over the wind-hollowed stones, Obi-Wan shook his head in a kind of dreamy amazement.
Nasriel sighed. “Master, come on. The Great Hall is this way.”
“It’s real,” he breathed. “The Priory exists. Nasriel, this is like – like you discovering you can force helium into a reaction. Madame Nu and I have been searching for this place for years.”
“Right now,” said Nasriel sharply, “we’re searching for Ben. I guess the old den’s lasted long enough that it won’t fall down now.”
“Of course. Where’s this Great Hall of yours?”