This story owes ‘thanks’ mostly to G—, who cut the past off short, messed with my head without even meeting me, and, in brief, confused me to the point that I needed to write this if only so I had Kijé to help me deal with it. Thanks for nothing, G—.
All over the Galaxy, beings fall into two distinct groups: early risers, and their victims. No single dwelling is ever populated solely by members of one group, and the Kenobi quarters in the Jedi Temple proved no exception. On one side, Padawan Nasriel Threeb usually managed to get herself up, run a lap of the Temple perimeter circuit, shower, and dress, before even the sun was fully out of bed. On the other, her Master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and fellow Padawan, Ben Kenobi, rarely woke early or willingly.
Thus it was that one day when Kijé Yenseh, apprentice to Madame Nu the Archivist, came by four hours before noon, he found his friend Nasriel already dressed and brewing a pot of caf. Ben was not in evidence, his door closed and the door-control panel showing a red locked symbol. Master Kenobi’s door and the refresher-room door were also locked, but wisps of halsamint-scented steam crept out from beneath the latter, effectively betraying the Master’s location.
Accepting a cup of caf from Nasriel, Kijé sipped the scalding liquid slowly, his head cocked to one side and a puzzled frown developing on his face. At length he spoke, in tentative tones.
“Uh – Witch – just out of curiosity. Does Master Kenobi… often sing in the shower?”
Nasriel’s reply was muffled as she stowed the ground caf in the conservator under the narrow kitchenette counter, so she repeated herself as she straightened up. “I wouldn’t know. Saalisan over here – total inability to hear anything musical. Is he? Singing, I mean. Singing what?”
After a moment listening, Kijé ventured, “Something about… mountains too high and rivers too wide. ‘Storm clouds may gather and stars may collide‘. Go figure. But that’s not why I’m here. Witch, listen -”
However, before the assistant Archivist could state his business, the door flicked open and Obi-Wan emerged, shirtless, and vigorously toweling his hair.
“Sorry – I left my tunic in my room,” he explained to Nasriel. “Oh… hello, Kijé. I didn’t expect to see you here this early.”
Distracted from his train of thought, the boy stammered and hesitated until Obi-Wan finally shrugged and wandered into his own room. When Kijé had regained his poise, his glass-green eyes glowered at his friend, and his normally half-smiling lips were pursed in frustration.
“Why’d you have to spill about me all over the HoloNet?” he blurted out. “If you’d asked, even -”
“She was getting me out of some tricky questions about an eyes-only mission plan,” Obi-Wan interjected, making his appearance still uncombed of hair and half-buckled of swordbelt. “Unfortunately the only questions the Net reporters ever ask Padawans are related to their personal life.”
“Yeah, well, good Padawan to the witch, but now I’m the one in a tricky situation. Madame Nu just called me to say there’s a woman kicking up a fuss and insisting she’s…” he bit his lip. “My mother.”
“I thought she was dead!” Nasriel yelped, almost dropping a mug of caf.
“So did we all.” Kijé’s voice cracked, and he paused to re-center himself. “Apparently she thought I was dead, until you shot off your mouth on the Net.”
Nasriel sighed. All around the Temple, and particularly in the Boehme Gang of which she and Kijé were founding members, it was common knowledge: Master Rhara and Master Muln had brought Kijé to the Temple from the world of Skye, as a half-starved child of five. His home had been blown up a year before, in the civil conflict that rocked Skye at that time, and his parents’ bodies left in the ruins. Or so everyone had believed until that day.
“I’m sorry, Kijé. Are you going down to meet her? Do you want me to come with you, or would you rather go it alone?”
“Thanks, Witch. But I think this is something I have to do by myself.” They finished their caf in tense silence, and then Kijé left, ruffling Nasriel’s already untidy hair by way of farewell.
In the cool blue silence of the Archives, the Jedi Order’s millennia-old repository of knowledge of all kinds, the assistant Archivist found his redoubtable mentor engaged in stilted small-talk with a faded-looking Human woman, whose butter-blonde ponytail of hair showed dark grey at her scalp, and whose alabaster complexion and crimson lips were all too obviously the result of art, not nature. Bowing politely to Madame Nu, Kijé waited, unspeaking, for instructions. They were not long in coming.
“Padawan, this is… Mizz Yenseh.” The Archivist, a grandmotherly-looking lady with silver hair in a neat bun, could be as tart-tongued as any High Council Master when it suited her, and the subtle embroidery of her long swishing robes often misled younglings as to the conservatism of her views. In this case, she allowed her lip to curl in distaste at the secretive modern title Ms, which gave away nothing about the wearer’s status. “You may want some privacy – I’ve ensured the third study room is free.”
Kijé beckoned to the woman, who followed him to the end of the great Archives hall, teetering only a little in her impossibly high spike-heeled scarlet shoes. When the door was closed behind them, and the world had shrunk to four white walls, a desk, and a chair, she snatched at Kijé’s sleeve, gazing anxiously into his face.
“Would you prefer not to speak to me, son?”
“Certainly I will speak to you, madam,” he answered, distant, but not resisting her touch. “But I cannot think what we could possibly have to say to one another.”
“I can say that your sister longs to meet you, can I not? That your mother and grandmother have mourned your loss these past fourteen years. That my younger son – your brother – runs half-wild for want of a man’s guidance. Kijé, we knew these Jedi wanted you, but we would never have given you up. After the explosion, I was concussed, and when I remembered who I was, I came straight back to look for you, only to find you were gone. Please, you must come back to us. Family ties are the strongest in the Galaxy, is that not so? You cannot leave your family for strangers who mean nothing to you.”
At last, the woman’s impassioned rambling ceased, and for a long moment, Kijé stared at her. He took in her crimson dress, cut so as to show most of her white-powdered bosom and long tanned legs, while leaving very little in between to the imagination; he saw the long, silver-painted nails on beringed and wrinkled hands, and gently disengaged himself from their grasp.
“Madam,” he began, and had to stop to clear his throat. “You spoke of my sister and brother, my mother and grandmother. Madam, I already have a family.” Bending over the desk to key in his personal access code, Kijé selected a few images from a file. “Madam, this is my grandmother: Jocasta Nu. She has protected me from scorn and shame and given me a purpose and a hope. These are my younger brothers: Elimyo, Sai-Dan, Ulex, and Allun. They need me, and I guide them as best I can. This is my sister: Nasriel Threeb. She has been my rock the last fourteen years, and I have been hers. Madam, you were right. You said family ties are strong: you were correct. I cannot leave my family for a stranger who means nothing to me.”
“I gave you life.”
“You abandoned me.” Kijé’s tone was flat and cold; seemingly passionless, but only to one who did not know him.
“You are my son. I have at least a mother’s rights.”
“The Order took me in, and trained me as a Jedi, trained me in the knowledge of the Force, which you would have withheld from me. My duties as a son are owed to the Force and to my Master. You have no claim on me. Please leave, Ms. Yenseh.” The woman banged open the door of the study room and stalked out, high heels clicking indignantly over the mosaic tiles of the Archive floor. Kijé waited until he heard her footsteps fade in the distance before venturing out to find Madame Nu.
The Archivist and her assistant took a few minutes off, to sit quietly with mugs of hot caf in the sitting-room attached to the Archivist’s private quarters just off the main hall.
“What do you think, Master?” Kijé was asking miserably. “Did I do right?”
“What does your conscience tell you?” Madame Nu replied, far more gently than usual.
“Yes – no – I hope so.”
“And that is often the best answer anyone can give in a situation of this nature. Without knowing what passed between you and your visitor today, I can tell you with my whole heart that I am proud of you, and glad you elected to remain in the Temple.”
Kijé smiled slightly. “Thank you, Madame.”