Onward down the passage, leaving damp footprints. At last, quite abruptly, the way ended in a solid stone wall, a perfect dead-end. Obi-Wan raised his lightsaber to read the words carved in odd, flowing characters roughly at eye level.
“This script is ghastly,” he complained. “‘And now, having done all else, to stand.’ Master Seva, of course. I suppose you don’t know what it means?”
Nasriel glanced up. “There’s more here in the corner. ‘Luken’ – look? – ‘to the ant, who findest a way, and to thy freedom sing thee.’ Whatever that means.”
“I think the first part is a joke. If you don’t look down where an ant would be, you will have to stand still or go back. Wait – what was that about singing?”
“I hate riddles,” Nasriel grumbled. “Maybe it means the Lay of the Door. Jiron was learning it from one of the older guys last time we were here.”
“A song neither of us has ever heard is the only fair-means way of opening the door. Wonderful.” Which meant, of course, that the only remaining option was the quick way: lightsabers.
Just as the slab of stone was about to fall, Obi-Wan cautioned Nasriel, “Remember, we don’t know what to expect. Let the Force guide you.”
This room beyond the door was small, perhaps three meters by five, and brightly lit by electric lamps in the ceiling. Glancing to her right as she slipped through the door after Obi-Wan, Nasriel saw Reseda and scowled blackly. The Twi’lek smiled and wiggled his fingers slightly in greeting. “Laaady Kaliu.”
Perhaps he should have been more surprised to see a green lightsaber only centimeters from his face. The yellow blade flicked forth rapidly, but he need not have bothered. Fully half a second before Reseda activated his lightsaber, Nasriel was at blades crossed with Ben. Che stifled a snicker and backed away.
“What are you doing?” Nasriel asked Ben, bewildered.
“What are you talking about?”
Pausing for a moment, Ben pointed to K’tarr and Reseda. “Sentinel, Sentinel, and…” the blue blade buzzed angrily against the green. “Sentinel. See the connection? I do.”When his next attack came, Nasriel was ready for it, and rolled down, out of the way, fetching up afoot and face-to-face with Reseda. “All right,” Ben agreed shortly, “Him first.”
Careful of his timing, the Twi’lek leaned forward, simultaneously ducking Nasriel’s lightsaber and whispering to Ben, “Does he know about her yet?” And then Reseda turned his attention to Nasriel, leaving Ben free to consider the question.
Beyond the fallen slab of stone, Obi-Wan was dueling K’tarr, and the Trandoshan was having the worst of it. But Ben needed only a split-second to thin before shouting, “Master! Look out for Nas!”
Fortunately for the Witch, Obi-Wan’s instinctive swing in her direction coincided wit her stumble backwards over the stone, so that the hissing blue bar of energy passed harmlessly over her. But the one instant of distraction caused by Ben’s shout was costly. Unprepared for K’tarr’s next attack, Obi-Wan was forced to drop to his knees in order to avoid decapitation. And as any youngling will tell you, the floor is an inadequate defensive position.
Almost casually, the Trandoshan glided his lightsaber toward his fallen opponent. Jedi-fast reflexes on Obi-Wan’s part saved him from death, but not from a searing burn along his side.
Seeing his Master wounded, Ben leapt across the room to engage K’tarr, intending to keep the Sentinel busy until Obi-Wan could get out of the way. It was with a twinge of unease that he felt Nasriel, emerald-green saber dancing in the air, standing back-to-back with him as she battled Reseda. The yellow lightsaber before Ben executed a perfect circle right through where his legs would have been – had he not jumped just in time. Well, Ben mused philosophically, if K’tarr wants to play dirty…Mou kei, the dismemberment stroke, was normally forbidden as a barbaric, Sithly trick, but Ben, only a little clumsily, whirled his lightsaber through the three arcs of mou kei, detaching K’tarr’s right arm and both legs, and only narrowly missing his left arm. Had Ben been fighting a Human, the stroke would have ended his career as a Jedi, but a Trandoshan could regrow missing limbs over only a few days, so Ben had inflicted no permanent damage.
Meanwhile, Nasriel, fighting Reseda, had all she could do to defend herself without killing Reseda outright. Three times the yellow lightsaber of the Sentinel crashed against hers, forcing the two crackling beams of energy so close she could feel the heat on her face. Three times he drew back before she was burned.
The third time, his slight retreat switched his saber hilt into his left hand, leaving the other free.
“Lady Kaliu,” said Reseda softly, extending his right hand toward her, palm down, “shall we be friends?”
As Nasriel was about to slap his hand away and snarl, I could never be your friend now, a bolt of white lightning forked from the Twi’lek’s hand and arced painfully over her. Through the blood pounding in her ears, Nasriel could hear the crackling electricity, could feel stabs of pain shoot through her whole body. At the moment she could bear it no longer, the web of lightning loosed itself from Reseda’s fingers and began to dissipate. A beam of blue light, moving nearly faster than the eye could follow, crossed Reseda’s torso, from right shoulder to left hip, and there was only time for a faint look of surprise to appear on his face before the black-clad body fell in pieces to the floor.
Obi-Wan deactivated his lightsaber and bent stiffly to help Nasriel to her feet. Tiny, stinging touches of lightning leapt from her fingertips to his, but he did not seem to notice.
“No, Master. Thank you.” Nasriel looked away from Reseda’s body, lying on the floor.
Ben sauntered over to them, absently kicking K’tarr’s arm into a corner and reclipping his lightsaber to his belt. “Red mist and body bits,” he said with a forced laugh. “I’ll find Allun and we can get out of here.”
Another stone in the wall proved to the be entrance to a tiny, cupboard-like chamber, where Allun had been confined, and whence he emerged, blinking in the light and hissing imprecations against K’tarr. On seeing that Jedi disabled, he brightened considerably, only to droop again on learning that he was expected to help in getting K’tarr out.
This proved to be harder than it sounded, but ended in K’tarr’s being carried in a sling folded from his cloak. Allun swore bitterly all the way to the water gate, where he mewed unhappily, but swam as ordered.
Finally reaching daylight in the ruins of the Great Hall, Obi-Wan sent Ben and Allun to bring the ship closer, while he and Nasriel waited with K’tarr. It was a long, silent vigil, with not a word spoken until the shuttle’s engines roared in the distance.
Then Nasriel said tentatively, “Master?” No reply. “Master, I’m sorry. For trusting Reseda. For putting Ben in danger. I was wrong. Will you… will you forgive me?”
“It’s all in the past now.” With that, the topic was effectively closed.
It was the work of a few minutes to lock K’tarr into the cargo bay, note the Priory’s coordinates for Madame Nu, and set off back to Coruscant.