Second installment. I was originally planning only six chapters total, but then there was a minor hiccup in the mind palace, involving blue sherbet powder, teenage angst, and a peculiarly strong variety of hair-dissolving cream, all of which ended in Tahl saying she would like to have more control over what is, after all, her AU.
So she got it, and now I’m not sure how long this will be. Today is Qui-Gon’s turn.
And I guess this is also a celebratory piece. Welcome back, Master. I’ve missed you.
Sitting here in your chair, at your desk, in your green-painted room, I watch you as you sleep. At least, I suppose you are asleep. Master Li diagnosed nothing more or less serious than sheer exhaustion, compounded with hypothermia, and told me it was all my fault and I must take better care of you. And he is right: I forgot. I forgot it was our first mission together, Padawan, and I forgot you were still recovering from Tandari fever, and I forgot that a ten-year-old girl cannot walk at my pace for forty miles a day, on short rations, for a week in subzero temperatures. And I am truly sorry.
I am also very glad that we have three bedrooms in our quarters, and that Tahl agreed to move into the third. Since I’m used to boys, I don’t quite know where to begin with you. Perhaps I could start by trying to understand you. Staring at the wall above the desk, I study your tree-worth of rustling picture leaves pinned there. Presumably the Jedi with the vivid orange hair and beard and blue lightsaber is meant for Obi-Wan. Tahl’s portrait is recognizable by the overlarge eyes, carefully penciled in green and yellow candy-stripes. I see sketches of Bruck and Xanatos, Yoda, Anakin, and various of your own friends, all labeled in straggling, unsophisticated capital letters.
Concealed by fluttering edges of newer drawings, I find one I do not understand. Against a background of blurry blue bars suggestive of the Archives, you have drawn a Jedi with long gray hair, standing with one hand stretched out toward a narrow pedestal surmounted by a statue of some sort. By the color, I guess that the originals of both statue and plinth are crafted from bronzium. Curious now, I unpin the sketch to find the caption.
‘Master Qui-Gon worrying about Master –‘ two attempts at the final word are scratched out; I suppose you couldn’t spell it; then Tahl’s spiky handwriting interposes ‘Dooku‘. In the Archives, a bronzium cast of his head was recently erected among the representations of the Lost of twenty centuries. And while I do go there often enough that you would notice, I do not worry about Master Dooku, Padawan mine. I wonder. Where he is. Why he left. What he is doing. Whether I should have gone with him. When one’s Master – note, I do not say your Master, for I mean never to do this to you – leaves the Council and the Temple without a word of explanation or farewell, and stays away five years, one naturally wonders. I couldn’t go with him then because of Obi-Wan; I cannot search for him now because of you.
Perhaps, when you wake, I will ask: Nasriel, would you like to come with me on a quest the Council has repeatedly vetoed? Or perhaps I will not: flying in the face of authority myself is one thing; involving you is another entirely. Odd: I would not have hesitated to take Obi-Wan or Xanatos. But girls are tricky. I count three former Padawans, all boys, all Human. You, small one, with your sky-blue skin pearly in the dim light, and long, loose, carbon-black braid snaking over your shoulder, are neither. And a month after obtaining special permission to take you on two years early, I realize I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing.
So why was I so insistent on training you in the first place? It’s a long, sad story. Nearly fifty years long now, in fact. Your grandmother Taharat and I came from the same world, and I met her on one of my first missions as a Padawan. We became friends, and maintained contact over the years. Eventually she married a soldier. It proved to be a terrible match, and she was desperately unhappy. However, her daughter Rasla was Force-sensitive to a high degree. One day Taharat wrote to me, greatly agitated: her baby had tried to get something that was out of her reach, and had summoned it straight into her hand.
When I explained what was happening, and offered to watch over Rasla when she was sent to the Temple, her father was furious, refusing to let her go, and forbidding me ever to contact Taharat again. A few weeks later, I heard that my friend had died, apparently an accident. Rasla was raised in her father’s army unit, and married an earl – your father, Nasriel. It would seem unhappiness in the mother is conducive to Force-sensitivity in the child. As you know, your mother died young – three days after you were born – but the earl was a reasonable man, and sent you here as soon as your abilities became apparent.
Do you ever regret being sent to the Temple? You’re only ten, but you’re richer than Crion ever was, since your father’s death left you his entire fortune. We’ll have to talk about that when you wake up – it’s positively irresponsible to leave a ten-year-old in sole charge of an estate that size. You could be the queen of a whole world, adored by millions of people – but instead you’re just a Padawan, no more important than any other. Except to me. To me you are quite astounding, very precious, and critically important.
Your eyelids flutter; you’re awake, your pupils flashing purple as they reflect the lamplight. Tell me, Padawan Nasriel Threeb: how would you like to come with me, searching for Master Dooku?