Several days later, after dutifully visiting with K’tarr, whose limbs had regrown satisfactorially, in his detainment cell in the basement of the Temple, Healer Bant Eerin slipped away to the Archives. If Madame Nu’s young assistant was surprised to see the Mon Calamari Master anywhere so dry as a library, he did his best not to show it, and deferentially directed her to the shelving bay where she would find the item she sought. Standing in the end of the aisle, Bant frowned to see the slim Padawan at the desk in the corner, head bowed over a book, fingers deftly twirling an ink-pencil. Bant walked softly up to the desk and tapped the child on her hunched shoulders. She was faintly amused to see her start in fright and drop her ink-pencil to the floor.
“Hello, Master Eerin,” Nasriel stammered. She gestured to the other straight-backed chair in the bay. “Won’t you sit down?”
“I’ve only got a minute. You ought to stop sleeping in here of a night; that boy at the desk already thinks you’re one of his files. Really, though, Obi-Wan sent me to talk to you. He thinks maybe you’ll trust another female…” Her voice trailed off and she began again. “Why aren’t you two talking? You haven’t been home for days. What’s he done to upset you?”
For a moment, Nasriel looked confused, then she smiled a little wistfully. “Master Obi-Wan hasn’t done anything. No, it’s what I’ve done, I think. I… misplaced my trust and nearly got them both killed. I tried to amend my mistake,” she finished helplessly, “and I said – truly – that I am deeply sorry for my idiocy. Ben says he knows we were both tricked, and that neither of us knew until it was too late, but I haven’t dared talk to Master Obi-Wan and he’s still angry with me.”
“Oh, little one. He’s not angry. Hurt, yes. He doesn’t understand why you won’t talk to him. But not angry. Why not explain to me, for practice, and then, if you like, go tell him. Perhaps,” she said teasingly, “you can get him to stop acting like a ‘kurra with a sore head.”
“All right,” Nasriel complied. “I trusted Reseda for the same reason as I’d trust Dex: because my Master did.”
“Have you learned anything? Obi-Wan probably will ask you that.” Nasriel hesitated, then nodded confidently. “I see.” Bant smiled. “Now, I suggest that you will find what you are looking for if you go to the mediation gardens and offer to do some weeding.”
“What am I looking for?” the girl asked seriously. “Forgiveness?”
“Perhaps, child. Go on, now.”
For the first half-hour or so, kneeling beside a plant garden that ran along the line of a tall hedge, Nasriel found little besides dirt and frustration. She also found a worm, which she flicked back into the soil with an exclamation of disgust.
From the other side of the hedge, someone said mildly, “A worm, Padawan, is not ew. It is your fellow creature. And that,” one soil-darkened hand reached between the spindly trunks of the hedge-plants to indicate the small tuft of green she had been about to pull out, “is not a weed. Come over here so I can keep an eye on you.”
Coming around the end of the garden, Nasriel almost turned and went back, but remembered what Bant had said. Perhaps, she conceded, she had been looking for Obi-Wan after all.
“Hello, Master.” He didn’t reply, but seemed to think she had more to say. “What?”
“I’m waiting for the sorry-can’t-stay-I’ve-got-work-to-do,” the Master replied quietly. “I haven’t seen you in a week.” Shifting away from the garden bed, he motioned to the grass beside him. “Sit down and tell me why that might be.”
Obediently, Nasriel sat cross-legged on the ground, not meeting Obi-Wan’s eyes, but looking instead downward, where her fingers nervously tore at the soft grass. “I was afraid…” No, not fear. “I thought you… didn’t want me anymore. Because I was such a fool. I’m sorry, Master. I can explain, I truly can.”
“Nasriel, alir’yana…” Something in his voice made her look up hopefully. “Mistakes happen. Learn from them, and go on. You made a mistake; that means you have more to learn. Nothing would be accomplished by sending you away. Do you think I am N’Cai Vareng?” No. “Very well. I think, now, the time has come to tell you about Melida/Daan and what happened there. You are not to repeat this to anyone.”
Melida/Daan. Every Padawan had heard the name, but none knew the details. As Obi-Wan began the retelling, quiet, relentlessly calm, Nasriel began to see why it was not widely told, and although she tried to control her emotions, she felt her eyes grow wide in astonishment.
A Master and Padawan team had been sent to the world of Melida/Daan to rescue another Jedi, who had been captured in the course of another mission entirely. They discovered that the planet was rocked by a civil war between the two native clans. The children and teenagers of both clans had joined forces, vowing to fight to end their parents’ war. In the course of their mission, the Jedi were helped by these young warriors, and the Padawan came to admire their resolution and courage. He fell in love with a girl, a leader of the children, and although he still dutifully helped his Master with the mission, he became more and more convinced that the purity and integrity of the children’s aims far outstripped even the Jedi Council.
Finally. the two Jedi found their comrade, badly wounded, all but broken in spirit, but still alive. The Master immediately arranged to return to Coruscant. The Padawan declared he was leaving the Order to fight alongside his love and her people, and that he would not go. Shocked and grieved, the Master had no choice but to return without him. The Padawan remained, and fought. He killed people. Some of them were almost certainly innocent. At last, the girl the Padawan had loved was killed by a sniper, and the Padawan himself took over command.
For all his efforts, the group of children splintered into factions, and the war became bloodier. Because he still ruled one faction, the Jedi Council sent a Master to mediate the situation. They sent his Master. Eventually, a fragile peace was created. No longer needed at Melida/Daan, the Padawan reluctantly agreed to return to the Temple.
“Well, that is the story,” Obi-Wan concluded soberly. “Tell me, was what that Padawan did so long ago more, or less serious than a misplaced trust?”
“More,” gasped Nasriel, still shocked by the enormity of the Padawan’s betrayal. “Much more.”
“You don’t know yet what the most wonderful part of the story is,” Obi-Wan continued. “Shall I tell it you?”
“Sure – I mean, if you would be so kind.”
“The most wonderful part in the story of Melida/Daan,” the Master said slowly, ensuring that Nasriel heard every word clearly, “was that, although the Padawan certainly had to face consequences for my actions, Qui-Gon forgave me freely and took me back as his apprentice.”
Nasriel almost choked in amazement. “It was you? Ye blue skeg – I mean, really, Master?”
They were both silent for a moment, and then Nasriel asked uncertainly, “You actually do forgive me for – for being so stupid and making such a mess of the mission?”
“Yes, Padawan Threeb, I do.” Formal. Calm. Uneffusive. Which, from Obi-Wan Kenobi, added up to absolutely sincere.
“Thank you, Master.”
Glancing sideways at her, Obi-Wan suddenly smiled. “We still have work to do.”
Nasriel looked despairingly at the garden. “Yes, Master.”
An hour later, Bant was walking in the meditation gardens when she overheard a brief snatch of conversation.
An exasperated sigh. “No, Nasriel, that’s not a weed either.”
“Oh. Is this, then?” A suppressed giggle.
Bant continued on her way, a slight smile of satisfaction on her face.
Balance, it seemed, had been restored.