My exams are currently making me miss this country’s only ComicCon this year, and after I found some black nail varnish to do the Joker nails properly too. A friend got dissed in the national newspaper. I had to return Kenobi because the library in the other island wanted it back a week before they said they would. I don’t have a job yet and sumer is icumen in. ruth baulding has not written anything since June and is not replying to messages. In short, I’m not having a great week.
All that said… shall we press on? We may well come to a grinding halt in about two chapters time because there’s an discontinuity in the story that I haven’t found a way over yet (hence messages to ruth baulding) but no doubt a solution will present itself.
At Laerdocia, in the same street, outside the same inn, after a long day asking answerless questions, Nasriel tugs at Qui-Gon’s sleeve for attention.
“We – we’re staying here?”
“Can I have a room to myself again?” Three-fourths of a year have passed since they were last here, but the memories of that last time are as vivid as when newly-minted.
“Are you sure?”
She nods firmly. “I’m sure.”
The innkeeper, in a strange coincidence, once again has only two rooms to let: one on the ground level, and one in the attic, three floors away. When asked if that is all right, Qui-Gon glances down at Nasriel, who grins shakily back.
“Déjà vu. It’s… perfect.”
Handing over the room keys, the innkeeper comments, “Got a mind of her own, your granddaughter, doesn’t she?”
“Oh yes,” the Master agrees, not correcting the misapprehension. “She does indeed.”
Don’t know if I’ll get much sleep tonight. Same room, same… I hope it isn’t the same everything. Lightsaber under my pillow. Boots off – think I’ll sleep in my clothes again. Lightsaber back in my hand – someone’s coming up the stairs. Dear Force, I’m scared.
Only Qui-Gon come to make sure I was okay. Reminded me to keep the door locked, and said I knew where to find him if I wanted anything. I like that – wanted. Telling me it doesn’t have to be anything real, and he won’t mind if I bother him about nothing in particular.
Don’t know if either of us will get much sleep tonight.
It is morning, a dirty-grey dawn is breaking over the city, when Qui-Gon is roused from an uneasy doze by a whisper-soft tap at the door, and rises to let Nasriel in.
“Did you stay up all night, Master?”
“Yes,” he says, not bothering to conceal the truth. “Did you?”
“Most of it.” Diffidently, Nasriel adds, “I’m not quite as much over all this as I thought.”
“That’s all right. Give it time.” Qui-Gon checks his chrono. “At this hour we’re unlikely to find out much of value. Shall we share meditation?”
Strengthening one’s connection to the Force, centering and focusing the mind, either alone, or in communion with another, anchoring each other; meditation is one of the cornerstones of Jedi life. Stray thoughts are to be admitted, acknowledged, and dismissed. But meditating with Nasriel is… difficult, since her return. While Qui-Gon has had decades of practice at adroitly sidestepping any thoughts or memories he doesn’t happen to want shared, Nasriel has not, and occasionally allows rather odd things to float to the surface. Today, though, something changes partway, something became in an indescribable manner different. The Master returns abruptly to the ‘real’ Galaxy, the realm of the senses, drawing his Padawan back with him.
“What?” Nasriel scowls, thrown off-balance.
“What was that?”
“It’s – it’s what you do. A lot. You’re smoother about it than I am. I… recognized a memory, but I didn’t want it, so I sent it away again.”
The idea makes him pause. “You notice when I do that? What did you think – when you first noticed?”
“That there’s stuff you don’t want me to know about. Your history is your business. It’s fine.” Changing the subject, awkwardly, not wanting to discuss the keeping of secrets, she adds, “Is it late enough yet to keep hunting?”
The best way to find a specific bounty hunter in a place like Laerdocia is to locate a generic, any-old bounty hunter, and convince him – or her – to talk connections until they mention the name one wants. And, of course, the wheels of commerce have to be kept well-greased. By mid-afternoon, a small-timer becomes sufficiently curious to reveal that the infamous Fett has gotten wind of a wealthy potential client at Malastare, and left Laerdocia that morning.
“… and if he can afford to run a ship like that I tell you I don’t know why he bothers to work –”
“Thank you,” Qui-Gon interrupts politely. “You’ve been most helpful.”
Leaving the bounty hunter to grumble in peace, wandering away down the street, Nasriel murmurs, “Never underestimate greed as a motivating power for any sentient.”
“…Keep your focus in the present moment where it belongs; faced with two mutually exclusive options, choose patience; and above all –” he pauses to let her join in on the end. “Do not get yourself killed.”
Nasriel laughs. “How long have you been saying that?”
“Since Xanatos. Feemor didn’t need it.” The long list of advice whose tail end they have just finished saying is an old one, true, but he is not being quite transparent with her: it was not originally his own. Dooku repeated it for over a decade, and Qui-Gon did not gather the courage to ignore the past and repeat it himself until Xanatos was apprenticed.
Ascending from Laerdocia, dodging the ill-regulated traffic, Qui-Gon focuses on the controls, deliberately not catching at the loose end of Nasriel’s train of puzzled thought. At last, the Padawan ventures to speak.
“Don’t interrupt when I’m concentrating.”
Nasriel withdraws slightly, folding her legs up with her heels on the chair, hugging her knees, out of the way but still present. Soon, though, the Morningstar has slid gracefully into hyperspace, and Qui-Gon can afford his Padawan his full attention.
“What is it, Nasriel?”
“That innkeeper at Laerdocia. You let him think I was your granddaughter.”
“Yes, I did.”
After a moment’s pause, Nasriel asks, a nervous whisper, “Am I your –”
“So that’s what was bothering you. No, you aren’t.” He wonders, fleetingly, how long that has been bothering her. A moment? A year? A decade? Wonders what it is like, not knowing for certain who one’s own family is. Wonders what – besides the innkeeper’s mistimed observation – could have given Nasriel that idea in the first place.
The Padawan nods. “Okay. That’s – that’s good.”
It’s odd. I love Qui-Gon so much, but I was so relieved to have it confirmed that I’m not related to him. If I were… it would reduce us both. Because he wouldn’t be Qui-Gon anymore, he’d just be ordinary, an ordinary man who had children and abandoned them and kept it a secret. Whatever he’s hiding from me… it’s nobler than that, I know it is. And me: if I was Qui-Gon’s granddaughter, I’d be someone’s dirty little secret, and he wouldn’t have chosen me for me, just for the sake of keeping the secret. But I’m not. And everything’s going to be fine.
We’re bound for the Malastare Quadropolis because word is Fett has a client there. Trouble is, I know someone else at the Quad – Mi Amarok. And I know Qui-Gon knew her when he was a Padawan – so chances are she’ll have a fair idea what it is he’s not telling me. I don’t want to find out from her – but I need to find out somehow, and if Qui-Gon’s this set on keeping secrets…