The title is an archaic Anglicism explained here. This story was written on the lame excuse that I wished to explain Kijé Yenseh’s disability – and relationship with Nasriel Threeb! – once and for all. Story takes place roughly two weeks before the Battle of Geonosis. Apologies to Rachel if any of my medical terminology is wrong.
He heard her footsteps in the corridor long before she entered the room. A light, rapid, even step. How long had it been? Counting back mentally, he figured three months. Of that time, one month had been spent here, in the sterile, uncomfortable environment of the medcenter, locked away from his friends and the merry bustle of life. Six weeks on Force-forsaken Er’Kit. And two weeks as a Jedi, the last two such he would ever spend.
The door slid open, and he turned to face her. “Hello, Witch. Long time no see. I was wondering if you’d ever come.”
“Kijé, darling, of course I came. I’ve not talked to you for ages.” She grinned, pointed white teeth gleaming in the subdued blue light from the curtained window. “You know nobody’s been allowed near you in case we ‘upset’ you? Good old ‘Roni. He knew the whole gang was going nuts missing you, so he – oh, it’s incredible! – swallowed half a beaker of speeder fuel, he’s awful sick. So Vokara let me in to see him, ’cause… he’s my Master, yeah? And the reason he did it at all was so’s I could slip in and visit with you!” Smiling, so terribly pleased to see him, she took a step forward.
“Stop! If you come one centimeter closer I’ll call Vokara and have you sent away – I shall!”
“Kijé…” How it hurt him to watch her face crumple like that. But it was better this way than if –
“I want to tell you for myself. I couldn’t bear to see the pity in your eyes if you heard it from somebody else and we didn’t meet until later. No, stay there. I’ll talk if you stay exactly there. If you won’t you must leave.”
“There are rumors all over the Halls. Jodiit said you were dying. Phiatalleika came down one day and said Vokara was worried sick about you. I -” biting her lip in confusion, she changed the subject suddenly. “I can’t feel you. What’s going on around here?”
“It’s this.” He gestured to the beautiful golden lizard in the cage on the small bedside table. “It’s a ysalamir, just a young one, but enough for what I need. A Force-blocker. I couldn’t… face it anymore, I was going mad. It’s so vivid in the Force.”
“What is? Come on, Kijé, we’ve known each other since I was three. You know all my secrets. Why won’t you trust me?”
Why won’t I trust you to carry this knowledge? Oh, my own darling Witch, it’s because I know all your secrets. I know how much you’ve been hurt, and how often, and many’s the time I’ve been the one to rock you back to an uneasy sleep after another one of your terrifying nightmares. I know this will hurt you too.
“All right.” He took two steps toward her.
“Kijé!” It was almost a scream. “Are you all right? You’re limping.”
“If…” he had reached her now, and took her face gently between his hands, hands pale and smooth as a youngling’s, now, from lack of hard work. “If I wasn’t all you’ve ever thought of me, if I was not strong or brave or clever, would you still love me?”
“Of course I would. You’re Kijé. You’re my best friend.”
“All right, then. Witch, I’m… lame.” It sounded just as odd when Vokara told me. “I can’t walk properly any more. I never will. I’ve been practicing the first kata,” he admitted. “All I do is fall over.”
“Kijé, how – Why?”
“We were at Er’Kit,” he began slowly. “Sit down, Nas. This is a long story. We were – my Master and I, we were trying to prevent a princess or something being kidnapped. Keeping the peace, that’s what the Jedi do.” He had always been a peacekeeper. For twelve years, in the Youngling Halls, and later the Padawan Halls, Kijé Yenseh had had a reputation for placating the aggressive and defending the shy. Little halfster Threeb had been his special project since they arrived at the Temple on the same day all those years ago.
“What happened?” little halfster Threeb asked softly. Not so little now. Fifteen, regaining her confidence now she was with Jiron Jados. Kijé thought he could afford to be proud of her, like a brother, though, not a sweetheart.
“We met the guy who had the contract. Master offered to deal with him, buy the contract off of him. Azor… somebody. Clever fellow. He knew we were double-crossing him.”
Ignoring his friend’s sympathetic moan, Kijé went on doggedly. “Just my luck that he reached that conclusion when I was alone with him, eh? I didn’t know what to say. So we fought.” Azor had had some nasty weapon he hadn’t recognized. Something like a cross between a fearsomely sharp vibroblade and an electropike, with the violet lightning shirring around its points. “I didn’t jump in time, he cut – well, you see. He cut my foot off, then -” then walked away without a backward glance, to the ship where the Jedi Master was waiting, leaving Kijé curled on the ground whimpering in pain. “They took off and left me behind. Master didn’t know I wasn’t aboard.”
“Shut up. Do you want to hear this or don’t you? We were ten kilometers from the nearest town. So I had to walk. Dear Force, I hope I never have to do that again. And the cut got infected. I found a medic – of sorts – in the town. He was nice, an old man who’d been fixing people up for decades. But there was nothing he could do, he hadn’t any bacta or even kolto or primitive antibiotics. Nothing. He said he could prevent an infection, but not halt an existing one.
“So he had to get rid of the bad flesh. I said I’d wait until a ship came so I could get to the healers at a Jedi outpost, but… it would have been over a month, and he said I’d have died before that. It was awful, Witch.”
“I’ll bet it was,” Nasriel said fervently.
“I tried to put myself in a trance, so I didn’t feel it as much, but… it didn’t work. In the end the medic gave me some drug – it’s called ixetal cilena, Witch, don’t go within a parsec of the stuff – supposedly to calm me down. But it blurs the Force and once you’re on it you’re hooked nearly for good. That’s one of the reasons I’m still in here, trying to get off again. Vokara was furious. Anyway. Ixetal cilena doesn’t block the pain, it just transfers it. So it hurts less all over instead of more in one place. Like really, really strong deathsticks. And the doc wasn’t so great – look at this.” Kijé tapped his left leg just above the knee. It sounded a light, hollow ding like a bell. “Above the joint. And he mangled half the nerve endings as well.”
“Oh no. Kijé, seriously?”
“Oh yes. They can’t make a prosthetic that’ll bend when the nerves are dead. So I’ve now got one joint in that leg, total. At the hip.”
“Soresu,” Nasriel suggested helplessly.
“Archives,” spat Kijé. “I’m to be assigned assistant to Madame Nu. No more missions. No more sparring – Vokara’s already talked to the Council, I’m banned from the dojo. I’m off the lists. All the lists. Forever.”
“No you’re not,” the girl was quick to contradict. “You’ll always be on the Boehme Gang list. We couldn’t do without you. At least,” she added, in an awkward attempt at comfort, “you’re still in the Temple.”
“Yes. That’s true enough. And… I’ve still got you, and I’ve still got the Force. It won’t be so bad. I guess. Thanks, Witch.”