I just saw Revenge of the Sith for the first time, having waited six years, and I’m still a tad angsty. Please excuse. This story explains, a little, various things that various characters have said on this blog over the last few months.
It was so cold, so cold, she could only focus on one narrow idea at a time. Crouching on her heels in an ice cavern. Cold. Well, naturally it was cold, this was Hoth, for Force sake – wasn’t it? It might not be Hoth. Definitely Hoth. Cold. Cold, fingers turning numb. She wriggled them, experimentally, just to keep the circulation moving.
With difficulty she levered herself to her knees, ignoring the persistent pain that raised itself to a scream at every movement, and crawled slowly around the cave. Risked a glance outside, at the howling snowstorm. Nobody could go out in that, certainly not without a cloak. Glancing down at her bare arms, she shivered again – well, shivered more violently than she had been. Oh, to be warm and safe in the Temple again.
Warm in the youngling Halls, nearly thirteen years ago, a time she remembered faintly but with terrible clarity. Master Jinn had appeared in the day-room very abruptly, early one morning, to talk to Master of Younglings Ali Alann. Curious as any other three-year-old, she had drifted closer and closer to them, listening. Suddenly, Master Jinn had pointed to her, without looking.
“Is that her?”
Ali Alann sighed and beckoned her closer, tapped her chin upward so Master Jinn could see her face. “Yes. This is Nasriel Threeb. ‘Riel, this is Master Qui-Gon Jinn.”
“I know,” she had interrupted, wondering why he was bothering to tell her something all her agemates knew perfectly well already. Master Maverick Jinn of the Turned Padawan and the highly unconventional ways was every youngling’s dream Master – of course she knew who he was.
“He knew your mother,” Ali continued imperturbably.
Now, that was new. She stared back up at Master Jinn, puzzled but unafraid. “Was she pretty?” Silly and childish, but the first question she thought of asking.
“Not very,” he answered gravely. “But I promised her something important, last time I saw her. I promised your mother that if you came to the Temple I would train you as my Padawan. Are you listening? That means that after Obi-Wan is Knighted you will be my next Padawan – unless you object.”
Object? Object to being promised apprenticeship under Master Jinn? Object? “Not at all, Master. Thank you, Master!”
Today, she took three more steps across the ice of the cave and peered out through the arched entrance. Was that a light? A craft? A dream, like the dream so many years ago.
It was now marginally day, but it had been night, then. Her bed had been by the window, and she had looked out to see a ship landing. To a five-year-old, any ship was an Event worth being awake for, so she had tiptoed across the room to wake her best friend. She and Kijé had crept together out of the youngling dormitory, down the stairs – that was back in the day when both Kijé’s legs would bend and he could manage stairs – and out to the statue of Chakora Seva, to see who was landing this late at night.
On an ordinary night, that annoyingly superior Padawan Kenobi would have been standing dreaming by the statue, but for some reason he wasn’t tonight. Anyway, she had consoled herself, he was nearly ready for Knighthood, so the rumor went, and then – oh, heavenly day, when he would become Jedi Kenobi. Sneaking around the base of the statue, seven-year-old Kijé leading the way and keeping her safely in the shadows but still able to see, they knew at a glance why Kenobi wasn’t there to pounce on them and send them packing back to the dormitory: he was on the ship that had just landed.
Master Jinn was stalking down the boarding ramp, leading a little boy by the hand. A stranger. An outlander, by the looks of him. And Padawan Kenobi followed, two paces behind, like any good Padawan. Like the good Padawan she would strive to be someday soon. Padawan Kenobi looked sulky about something, and she whispered so to her friend, who shushed her hastily.
In the end there was very little excitement that night. No, the excitement came the next night, when Master Jinn and Padawan Kenobi and the little outlander were summoned to the great gold-and-scarlet Council Chamber in the highest spire of the Temple. And one of the senior Padawans who helped with the younglings came to fetch her to the spire, to wait patiently on the meditation platform outside for – he did not tell her what. Wrapping a heavy cloak around her shoulders, he had counseled her firmly to be quiet, speak only if she was spoken to, not act surprised about anything that happened, and above all for Force sake kid keep that sassy tongue of yours in check.
Standing on the platform in the icy breeze whistling around the spire, she had, as ordered, waited composedly, still as a statue, not allowing herself to fidget or appear bored. It was nearly an hour later that someone else came; another Jedi, swathed in his cloak.
“Are you Youngling Nasriel Threeb?”
“My name. Please, -” a passing speeder illuminated his face for an instant. “Padawan Kenobi, why am I here?”
“Master Jinn says I am to be Knighted soon. And he is… going to train Anakin Skywalker. He said I ought to tell you.”
What a way to destroy a life, she had thought helplessly. How the nine-sith-hells had Padawan Kenobi ever survived twelve years of diplomacy with blunt manners like that?
But he was still talking. “I am led to believe that this might be upsetting to you. Because he had said you were to be next. And because Anakin is only a little older than you, too little older to postpone your training until he is also a Knight.”
“Yes.” It was all she could think of to say that wasn’t sassy.
“I am truly sorry. I – if – I know it is not much of a consolation, but… if you are agreeable to such an arrangement, I will undertake to train you as soon as we are both old enough.”
Hope. No, it wasn’t much of a consolation, but it was a lot better than being left with no guarantee of anything but the AgriCorps. “Do you swear it?” she asked desperately.
“I swear. I swear to you on my lightsaber, and by my love for my Master, my devotion to the Jedi Order, and my faith in the Force, I will train you, Nasriel Threeb.”
The dream melted away into the swirling snowflakes and she took a slow breath to bring her consciousness back to the present. Exhaling did not make the familiar smoky vapor drift through the air in front of her: she was so cold inside as well as out. So cold.
The light was coming closer, too meandering to be a ship. Just a dream, then. Or the end of the tunnel, the one you weren’t supposed to go towards unless it was your time. How did one know?
“Hello?” Somebody was calling. Now who could that be? “Are you there?” Was it her time to die? “Nasriel Threeb?” Odd. Familiar voice. Who could it… oh, it was that snooty… what was his name, now?
“Pada -” her voice had frozen in her throat, coming out as a mere whisper, and she had to cough before going on. “‘wan Kenobi?”
The light was hovering in the mouth of the cave, and the reply came from just beyond it, in the dark snow. “Obi-Wan Kenobi, that’s right. Are you hurt?”
Hurt. Good question. There was the nagging ache in her side with every breath, the leg she couldn’t bear to walk on, and the arm hanging sickly at an unnatural angle. She was fairly sure there were scrapes on her face and something odd about the other arm, but that was on the numb surface and she had stopped feeling those a long time ago. “Not much.”
“Well, that’s good. Do you know what’s happened to Jedi Jados?”
Jiron. He was dead – wasn’t he? Yes, he was, she had seen the fire that destroyed the gross matter of his body, setting his soul free. The fire that had killed him. Fires. Fires where people burned all smelled alike, dark and bitter and – there was another, years ago, the year of the outlander, the year it all went wrong.
She had stood silently on the Temple steps, watching her future go up in smoke, curling toward the heavens. Watching Kenobi comforting the outlander. Wishing smoke could carry a prayer to the Father of the Celestials: please, let us have him back. Standing perfectly still until the bright glow of the last spark died from the embers of the pyre, as the last glow of life died from the living being. And finally, late at night, allowing herself to weep for the dead. To weep for Master Jinn.
“Dead.” So many were dead. “There was a fire.”
“Sort of.” It was an accident that her Jiron had died. An accident that the outlander had not been sent on this mission instead. “He died,” she repeated doggedly. “He’s dead.”
“Yes, people tend to be when they die. Come on, shall we get you out of here?” He was holding out one hand to help her up, so she took it, and tried to stand.
“I’m sorry. I can’t.”
Kenobi nodded comprehendingly, and shrugged off his cloak. Wrapping it around her, he lifted her up like a youngling’s doll and carried her quickly to the small russet-red fighter landed just outside the cave. Gently, he set her down in the rear seat of the cockpit and fastened her seat harness as if she were an infant who had never learned how, being careful the while to prevent the webbing straps from chafing her damaged skin.
“There. You don’t get space-sick, do you?”
She didn’t hear the question, but said in confusion, “I hated you.”
“Oh… don’t worry, you’re not the first by a long way. The first was Bruck Chun. Then Ky Sinshee. Then – I forget the name, it was a girl youngling.” Settling into the pilot’s seat, he shrugged. “She’s probably forgotten all about it by now; she was only about four. By the way, I’m sure I’ve met you somewhere before.”
“I think -” So sleepy. This sleek little craft was so warm and safe, and she was exhausted, and Kenobi had such a quiet, golden voice… it must be ghastly hard trying to stay awake if he ever taught an academic class. “I suppose I’ve just got that kind of face.” What happened then was anybeing’s guess.