The voice was eager, almost trembling with hope.
Korto Vos turned to find the speaker.
He didn’t recognize the Padawan, but he recognized her type, and he really wasn’t in the mood to talk to another prim and proper member of the Order.
She wore traditional Jedi robes, shoulder-blade-length light brown hair pulled back and tightly bound except for the thin, perfect braid trailing down her right shoulder. Her expression was sober and controlled.
Very definitely human, somewhere between sixteen and seventeen years old, brown eyes, average height, slender build.
His tight impatience must have slipped through his expressionless mask, because she seemed to melt.
“I’m sorry. Never mind.” Turning, she strode rapidly down the broad hallway, head lowered, visibly deflated.
A strange jolt struck him in the Force, like the buzzing of angry insects, very definitely coming from the Padawan. What in blazes?
He sensed movement behind him and spun around, seeing a semi-familiar face, belonging to a Jedi he happened to know was looking for a Padawan. She might have the information he wanted.
“Master Leem,” he greeted.
The Gran smiled at him, all three eyes lit with an inner motherly glow. “Master Vos.”
“Who is that?” he asked, pointing at the retreating girl.
Maks Leem followed his finger with her gaze. “Ah. A sad case. Probably headed for the agricultural corps, though her greatest dream is becoming a knight. She just can’t seem to get a hold of her aggression.”
“She struggles with anger?” Korto clarified.
Maks shook her head. “No. Kindest personality you’ve ever met. Taunt her all day, and she won’t grow angry. Perfectly in control of her emotions—even better control than many considered the best in her age group.”
“She doesn’t have a master, then?”
“Not currently, and that’s why I made inquiries about her. She did have one, but he turned her away after several missions with her.”
Not many Padawans are taken only to be rejected. She must have seriously stepped in it… “Who?”
Well, that explained it.
Cahl was even more pompous than Kenobi.
Thank the Force he hadn’t been the Vos pounced upon to accompany Obi-Wan on a recent mission. His normally laid-back cousin looked ready to claw the walls when he’d gotten back.
Send Quin, and the two will bicker the whole way. Send me, and one of us isn’t coming home.
It hadn’t always been this bad. Kenobi hadn’t always been perfect.
No one in their youngling clan would be able to forget the trouble he used to get into. Hotheaded, angry, easily provoked—
After Qui-Gon Jinn had taken him as his apprentice, the young Kenobi had still been a bit of a show-off, but after Melida/Daan...
He’d become this.
The bonds of friendship had slowly unraveled over time. Kenobi and Quinlan could still tolerate one another if they had to... but something had gone very wrong for Korto.
Quin didn’t appreciate the distance that had come between them, and tried to ease the tension. To Kenobi’s unceasing criticisms he always sent back an unconcerned smile, instead of the vicious snarl Korto resorted to, and he’d pestered Korto seven... no... eight times so far to fix what was broken.
Korto had no use for such a disgustingly perfect Jedi.
No wonder Kenobi and Skywalker quarreled so often. What was more amazing was that in between quarrels they could get along at all . Vos liked Skywalker. He had spirit, and didn’t just do everything he was told. His cousin could stand to learn a little from the—
“—felt he couldn’t train her properly. She enjoyed fighting. Loved it. It wasn’t as though she chafed at the bit— she worked hard to find peaceful solutions to conflicts, but when battle was inevitable, the violence seemed to thrill her blood like a song. It’s a pity. But for that, she would have made a stellar Jedi. She’s self-sacrificing and dedicated.”
Vos made an effort to clear his head of Kenobi. The man wasn’t present at the moment, so he shouldn’t have to think about him either.
To let Maks know he had been listening… sort of… he grunted. “You’re not planning on taking her, then?”
“Oh, my, no,” Maks’ three dark eyes widened. “I don’t have what it takes to help her, the poor dear. I’m considering Whie Malreaux.”
Now that was a name he had heard.
Rising star, good pupil, a bit modern-Kenobi-ish…
But that made sense for Maks. She had a gentle nature, and it would take more than gentleness to rein in the violent types.
Just look at me, he thought with a grim form of humor.
He realized he’d been walking in the same direction as Maks, and couldn’t remember what had been so blasted important that he had been going to do a few minutes earlier.
Eh, it was probably irrelevant. This was interesting. A modern delinquent. Skywalker was no longer the problem Padawan, now that he’d been knighted. Become significantly less interesting.
“Are you thinking of taking her, Master Vos?”
His eyebrows shot up. “Me? No, no. I’m not looking for a Padawan at this point.”
“Are you sure? It’s been a while since you had one.”
She was just trying to be kind, but he really wanted to tell her mind her own business. After what happened with Aayla…
No. It was much better if he didn’t have a Padawan.
One wouldn’t fit in his current line of work anyway.
Quin’s temperament would work better.
“Yeah. I’m sure.”
She turned to head into the large dining room. “I’m sure the Force will guide you, Korto.”
He gave her an absent nod in return, vaguely surprised she’d managed to use the right name, and kept going down the hall.
Wait. Leem never said the Padawan’s name.
He turned to back and ask, when he caught sight of a figure hiding behind a statue in a niche in the wall.
The face that peered out was young. Very young.
And there was a furtive look in the apparently-nonchalant eyes that Vos recognized instantly. When the kid saw he was caught, he whispered, “I can tell you more about the static girl.”
“Yeah. When she’s too close, you can’t hear the Force. Too much static. She makes you feel sick.”
Korto remembered the buzzing sensation. “Isn’t there some class you’re supposed to be in?”
Things may have changed since he was a youngling—most notably the you-must-have-a-master-by-age-thirteen cutoff, which had slid closer to fifteen or sixteen and grown more flexible— but he was confident he could spot a truant when he saw one.
“Maybe if I tell you about her, you won’t mention you saw me.”
Korto laughed in spite of himself. He couldn’t decide whether the kid more resembled himself at that age, or the great Negotiator.
Wouldn’t it annoy him if I said that, he thought.
Since it amused him, he figured he’d give the kid a lesson in real bargaining. “Why should I trade with you? I could just ask any other Jedi. They wouldn’t demand payment.”
“Because I know things others don’t.”
“Is that right.” Korto gave him a skeptical, hard look.
“Not good enough, kid. Need proof of your claim.” Korto made as if to walk away.
“No, wait! Here. I’ll give you this bit for free, as proof. If it’s as good as I say, then we deal, all right?”
I should keep an eye on this kid. By the time he reaches Padawan age he might actually be of use in underworld work… “Shoot.”
“She cries over her problem in secret. When she thinks she’s all by herself. She cries her eyes out.”
“And nobody else could tell me that?”
The cornered doer of misdeeds drew himself up. “I said, in secret. She’s good at hiding. I know because it’s my job to know these things.”
“Is it, now?”
“Absolutely. Need information? Kizzik’s your man. Nobody breathes in this place without me knowing.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Korto said, intrigued now. “I’m ready to deal. You tell me what I want to know, I don’t turn you in.”
“What’s her name?”
“Not quite seventeen.”
“What did her Clan Mother and youngling clan think about her… static?”
“Hated it. She’s not close to any of the members of her clan. Some younglings had to be transferred away from the clan because being near her made them sick.”
“True,” the boy stubbornly insisted.
“Come on. There has to be someone. If she doesn’t get along with the grownups, of course she has an accomplice in crime.” Too bad Quin is too busy these days. It had been too long since Korto himself had a solid accomplice.
“There isn’t anybody. And she doesn’t get in trouble.”
Korto arched an eyebrow. “Making other kids sick isn’t trouble making?”
“She can’t help it.”
“Is that what you think, or what the adults think?”
“It’s what I think. She and the adults all think if she works harder she can do it.”
“Just what exactly is ‘it’?”
“She’s messed up in the Force. It makes classes and cooperation exercises and sparing miserable for everybody involved. Makes me glad I’m not in her age group.”
“No, really good sport. It’s just with her static, it was unfair all the time.”
“You said she doesn’t get in trouble. That just means she doesn’t get caught.”
He shook his head vehemently. “In most cases, sure. In hers, nope. I thought what you did. That she’s just full-moon sneaky. Nope. She’s even better than that Whie everybody talks about.”
“How can she be good and messed up in the Force at the same time?”
Kizzik shrugged. “The grown-ups all think she’s bad. She thinks she’s bad. None of them know what they’re talking about. Big surprise.”
Quinlan wondered just where this kid was going to be a decade down the road.
“If I need more information, where can I find you, Kizzik?”
The kid shrugged. “Here—there—anywhere. Just mention you’re looking for me to one of the guys. I’ll find you.”
“One of the guys?”
“Yeah. Anybody who knows the handshake.”
So the kid had a network, did he? Or was it more of a gang?
“One more question. Where is Yoda?”
“His rooms. Meditating.”
Korto gave him a nod. “Keep a low profile, kid.”
The boy made an intricate gesture involving his fist, waving fingers and a sharp elbow jerk. “Don’t forget the sign. And I’m always happy to do business.”
Korto walked off, shaking his head in amazement to himself.
What if this little information-brokering syndicate had been in existence when he’d been a youngling? Would he have been one of the ones who’d let the boss know or would he have challenged Kizzik and made himself chief?
What he knew for sure was that if he’d had anything to do with how the organization was run, they’d do far more than just sell information.
Maybe I should’ve turned the kid in, he laughed to himself.
When he knocked on Yoda’s door, he heard the ancient Jedi call, “In you may come.”
At least that part of the kid’s information had been sound.
He let himself in and closed the door behind him.
Yoda was sitting on one of the round meditation seats, looking very relaxed and calm. He smiled when he saw Korto. “A question you have for me, hmm?”
“Thryn Sein.” Korto settled himself on another of the seats so he could face Yoda, and crossed his legs.
“Hmm,” Yoda said, cheerfulness turning very sober. “Remind me of you in your youngling years, she does. Eager in the path of right. Deep-set hunter-warrior instincts, you had. Conflicted, the two did.”
It had been… difficult.
“What’s going to happen to her?”
“One of the Corps, most likely, claim her will.”
“There’s no one willing to take her on, give her another chance?” Korto pushed. Yes, she’d been rejected by the well-respected Master Cahl, but Kenobi had left the Order, for the love of Tython, and look at what he’d turned out to be! Qui-Gon Jinn had taken him again, even after that colossal betrayal… but Qui-Gon was dead, and so wasn’t an option for Thryn. “Tholme, maybe, or Tonnal?”
“Tholme busy is. Unwilling to take on a Padawan at all right now. A special case, definitely not. Tonnal, the same.”
“Well, then… Aayla. Would Aayla possibly—”
“Ready to take on a Padawan like Thryn, Aayla Secura is not,” Yoda said firmly. “Obi-Wan Kenobi I had in mind, but willing to accept a Padawan right now he is not. Press him, I will not. Many Padawans in need of masters there are. Some who desire him to be their master, above all other desires.”
Korto scowled to himself, feeling slightly impatient.
Too bad Yoda doesn’t take on apprentices anymore…
If Tholme, Tonnal, Aayla, and Kenobi wouldn’t...
“Interested deeply in her, I am,” Yoda admitted with a heavy sigh. “A girl of much compassion and great dedication Padawan Sein is. Much potential. Skillful in strategy; also in battle. Spoken to you, has she?”
“Yes. No. That’s what interested me in the first place. She wanted to talk to me, but something stopped her.” Now, looking back, he thought she probably had been expecting another lecture. He half-wished he could go back and change his response. “And I felt something… really… strange. It made me curious.”
“Told her, I did, that born with a warrior’s nature you were. Watching you, she is. Hoping to see a possibility of success for herself. Losing hope, she has been.”
Why did he care? Why should he care? Why had this girl snagged his attention in such a powerful way? Kizzik hadn’t, and the little troublemaker was far more like him than this Thryn was.
Even if he was willing to risk taking on another Padawan, his line of work was no place for one.
I’ve already told myself that once this afternoon. Once should be enough.
Apparently it wasn’t.
Most of the time his work required him to not act like a Jedi at all. It was a crucial part of the war effort. Morally, however…
Quite possibly unjustifiable.
All Korto knew was that he was one of the very few capable of the job, and he could find out more than any Republic Intelligence agent. His work was saving lives—civilians’ and, even though he didn’t like or trust them, clones’. More than that, his work was crucial to the survival of the Republic. Freedom.
Once this war was over, the Jedi could get back to their real jobs. Clearing out the horrible conditions for the abject poor, putting an end to slavery, overthrowing the cartels and crime syndicates that held large areas under reigns of terror, rooting out corrupt politicians and taking care of the average, forgotten citizen of the Republic.
Then he might take on a Padawan.
But as long as he was walking in shadows, precariously close to the edge of the cliff dropping off into darkness, he did wrong things as often—and more often—than right. It was dangerous.
And there was no way he could or would drag a Padawan into that.
Why am I so annoyed with Tholme and Kenobi for refusing the waif when my response is the same?
He knew the answer almost before he was done formulating the question. Because I want her to succeed. That’s why. “She… hasn’t found Balance?”
“Balance? No. Balanced she is, Korto. In battle, never loses control of herself. Follows directions and no unnecessary risks does she take.”
“Not like me, then,” he muttered.
He still hadn’t found his own personal Balance. He dwelt on the slopes of the Force, never fully in the light of the peak of Balance.
There was a reason he would never be on the Council.
“If she’s found Balance, and she’s a good fighter and a well-behaved, intelligent student, why in blazes would you send her to the Corps, when her greatest dream is to become a knight? She sounds like a more stable, mature Padawan than ninety-nine percent of the kids out there! Who finds and maintains personal Balance before apprenticeship?”
“Enjoys fighting, she does. Takes great pleasure in it.”
Korto’s annoyance was swift turning towards Jedi rule and regulation. The endless nitpicking… “If she does it well—”
“No, Korto. Satisfaction in a job well done, this is not. Never happier, she is, than when fighting.”
Yeah, the Order could really get on his nerves at times. “Some just don’t like a quiet life of contemplation, Master,” he said, perhaps a bit too gruffly considering the position of the individual being spoken to, but Korto didn’t much care. “If she keeps it in check, I don’t see what the—”
“Expect you to see, Korto Vos, I do not. But trust you I do.”
Korto’s throat seized up, and he had to struggle to swallow. He hoped Yoda didn’t notice.
Oh, yes. He knew many in the Order not only avoided him, but distrusted him. Some of the younger ones actually feared him.
His deepest fear, the one he didn’t dare express even to himself, was that they might have good reason to.
The only way to block out that fear and ignore it was to tell himself that he simply walked in shadows. He wasn’t of the dark.
Then again, it seemed almost wrong to call himself of the light, either…
To keep from despair he told himself he didn’t care what the other Jedi thought. In a sense, it was true. But the fact that Yoda, knowing him the way only Yoda could, gave Korto his trust meant something.
And Korto felt he couldn’t afford to admit it.
He suddenly realized the moment of silence was stretching long. He felt uncomfortable.
Yoda, of course, didn’t.
His voice wasn’t near as rough or disrespectful as before when he spoke. “Master… don’t give up on her. She’s found Balance. That’s something I’ve never been able to accomplish. I’d say she’s far safer than I am.”
“Feed off the fear of your enemy as she does, you do not. Even artificial, droid fear. Gain strength through their pain and enjoyment from their deaths.”
“I don’t know. I’ll admit, there’ve been times when those—”
“Vos.” Yoda’s voice was calm, and its very warmth sent shivers down Korto’s spine. “Like this, you have not.”
“Why didn’t she insist on talking to me, if she thinks I can help her?” That’s absurd. If anything, she should be helping me. Balance and a thirst for blood. Since when?
It just didn’t work.
No wonder Yoda didn’t know what to do with her.
“Know the answer to that, I do not. Fear, perhaps. Maybe shame.”
“I’m not someone she should look up to.”
“Tell her to, I did not. Said I did, that with an aggressive nature you were born. Understand her struggle, you could.”
“But you just told me it’s not—”
“Not the same. But understand, you can.”
Maybe that wasn’t as contradictory as it had seemed on the surface. “Is there no master you would entrust her to?”
“The masters experienced enough to help her, either Padawans have, or unable at the moment are. To entrust her to a less experienced knight, disaster would be. Cause, it would, frustration and broken expectations. Much hurt. Understand her, her former master did not. Unintended wounds he left behind. Wonders, she does, if no place in the Jedi Order there is for her.”
Of course there’s a place. We just have to find it. And… it may just be in a more fringe area. Like mine. No wonder he doesn’t want to entrust her to most Jedi. Stang. I wish Tholme would ease up a bit. Or even Kenobi. He’s done his best for Skywalker, and I don’t think another master could have done better.
Not that he would ever admit that aloud, of course.
And the fact he’d thought it—
I’m taking that back now.
“And you’re sure about Aayla.” But even as he said it, he knew. He also knew Yoda knew he knew. “I suppose I could find her, talk to her a bit,” he mused, “but I don’t know what I’d say to her. Next to me, she’s a perfect Jedi.”
For a long second Yoda remained thoughtfully silent. “A favor, may I ask of you?”
Korto stared at him in shock. “Sure.” What could he possibly—
“Take Padawan Sein with you on a special mission, I would like you to. Understand, I do, a Padawan you do not seek. Accept that, I do. A short mission, this should be, leading a troop of clone reinforcements to Jezzo Luggar on Dafdar Prime. Besieged, she is, and help she needs. Break through the siege, deliver the troops, and return, you would. Willing to help me, are you?”
“I don’t know what you think I could do—”
“What she experiences in battle, try to sense. Perhaps insight you can give me, hmm? Advice, how to help her?”
Yoda was asking him for help.
Korto Vos couldn’t help feeling astounded… and then deeply humbled.
Who was he to give advice to Yoda? The wizened master was acting as though this would be a great favor.
“I’ll… do my best, Master Yoda, if you can convince the Council it’s a good idea.” Good luck with that.
A sparkle of mischief twinkled into Yoda’s eyes. “To me, leave that.”
Korto Vos left the Council chamber in a daze.
Technically, his plan was to find Padawan Sein and tell her they’d been assigned a mission together.
In actuality, his mind was spinning, trying to take in all that had happened and how quickly it had passed.
He hadn’t known the Council could move so fast.
I’m not going to let myself get tangled in this farther than I can help, he promised himself. He was too invested already. If your emotions get involved, Vos, you’ll have a problem. You’re not taking her as your Padawan. She’ll find her way. She’ll work it out. There’s a knight out there who will be the perfect master for her. You can’t start adopting every needy stray you come across. That’s what Qui-Gon Jinn always did. You’re not going to start that, Korto Vos.
In this particular case, easier said than done.
Where would he find her? Should he try to track down Kizzik or one of Kizzik’s miniature enforcers to find out?
That might be as much work as just searching for Thryn himself.
Where would I go if I felt like I was a failure? Perhaps even a moral hazard to the rest of my family?
He would try to escape the civilized areas… the tranquility and stillness of the halls. Not the gardens up on the roof, where technology still obviously intruded, or the carefully structured kitchen gardens. He’d want a place that felt wild.
The Room of a Thousand Fountains.
He would seek to find something intense. Something hard and cold... a place of escape... where his natural predator instincts could...
Waterfall. She’s probably near a waterfall. Probably sitting beneath one.
Kenobi seemed to find that game most enjoyable since his strange, ultra-secret mission to Wild Space. The barv would sit there for hours, if he had the chance.
Korto didn’t have to spend much time at home to know that.
But I don’t think I’m going to find Thryn Sein completely dry, calmly diverting water to either side.
He made his way to the garden that to every sense felt outside and boundless, though it was cradled within the walls of the Temple. The sun blazing overhead was fake, but it felt real. The breezes, the wild air…
He couldn’t really say he hated the Temple, because he loved this room.
The first waterfall he sought out was the largest. The one that crashed most fiercely into the rocks below. The one most violent in its fall.
There she was.
Standing directly beneath a blast that would easily have killed someone her size and species if she didn’t have the Force. Instead of being battered against the stones, she stood firm as the water crashed full tilt into her. Slamming, pounding...
Her arms were outstretched so that little knives of water could strike more area. Her head was tipped slightly forward, her eyes closed, a look of intense calm on her face.
The instant she sensed his approach, she seemed to jerk back to reality, and leaped out from under the waterfall. Standing on a boulder on the opposite side of the artificial river from Vos, she looked startled and ashamed.
Korto Force-leaped across and landed lightly, predator like, on a rock next to hers.
“The Council has assigned the two of us to take reinforcements to Master Luggar on Dafdar Prime. The Dafdi are loyal to the Republic, but a group of malcontents are assisting the droid army. Luggar and her clones are under siege, completely trapped where they are now. We’re to break them out, leave our clones with her, and come back here. It’ll be intense fighting. We’ve only been assigned one company.”
She stared at him, speechless.
“It should take about a week. Perhaps less if we work hard. Maybe we’ll come back alive. What do you think? You up for that?”
The stare continued in silence for several moments as water droplets rolled unheeded down her face.
“The masters are allowing me to go fight? They’ve assigned me to not only battle droids, but sentients?”
She was no fool, evidently.
“You’re one of the best Padawan fighters the Order has, if the reports are true.” He shrugged. “And you’re free. It makes perfect sense for you to come with me. If you don’t mind a hard life, I think we’ll get along all right.”
Her gaze drifted back to the lashing waterfall and she didn’t respond.
“Aren’t you the girl who spoke to me in the hall earlier?” he asked.
Thryn gave a silent nod, still looking back at the waterfall.
“I thought your face was familiar.”
She flicked a glance at him that proved she saw through his attempt at being casual. It also begged him to cut the banthakark.
She knew this was no coincidence.
She probably knew this mission was simply an excuse to put them in the same place, with the opportunity to have grimy, intense, long-hours fighting side by side. Either for him to evaluate her, or for her to watch him—probably both.
“I’m grateful to Master Yoda for trying to help me,” she said, voice soft.
How does she know he’s behind this? Korto wondered. Did that suggest this wasn’t the first time Yoda had tried something?
“But I think this will be a highly volatile situation. I will not be able to repress—”
“I don’t want you to repress anything,” he interrupted her. “You keep your balance in the Force, and just do whatever it is you usually do.”
She gave him the full benefit of her piercing gaze. Behind the clear blaze of her eyes lurked a not-fully-hidden pain. “Please be honest with me. Am I supposed to learn from you on this mission, or is this the time when you evaluate me and decide whether I am too dangerous to become a knight? Is this it?”
There was nothing he could say to that.
Or was there?
“I don’t know what to tell you,” was his quiet response, after a moment. “Master Yoda says you have great promise. He spoke very highly of you.”
“And yet I’m about to fail.” Sudden water glittered in her eyes. Vos knew it hadn’t come from the drops rolling down from her soaked hair. “Master Vos, I’m sorry. I don’t want to be causing trouble. I know I… deeply disturb… many students here. I’m afraid I may be harming them without trying. I have a very strange influence on people fighting alongside me. And my duels in the dojo….”
Korto thought she might try to explain, but she didn’t.
“There’s no room in the Jedi Order for me.”
Her words echoed Yoda’s insight so closely it tingled in Vos’ fingers. Yoda seemed to be able to see straight through them.
What does he see in me?
“I wouldn’t say that until we’ve checked. I wouldn’t feel so down. Yoda rarely praises a Padawan to me like he did you.”
A tiny smile of pain flicked into her face. It was almost a sneer. She obviously didn’t believe Yoda’s commendation was going to secure her a master. No one wanted her.
He could almost hear her voice in the smile. They all know there’s something fundamentally wrong with me.
What she did say, was, “Isn’t this the point where you tell me that gardening is as legitimate a Jedi occupation as peacekeeping, so if I don’t find a master, it’s okay?”
Interesting. She said peacekeeping, not fighting. Is that because it’s what she thinks I want to hear?
“Why would I tell you that?” He met her gaze squarely. “I don’t believe it.”
That startled her. She looked up at him in mild shock.
He laughed. “I’m not the good Jedi that many of the other knights are. Maybe Master Yoda failed to mention that. I live in deception and double-dealing. It’s my job description. I’m a spy. Infiltrator. One who buys information. Don’t expect me to look down on you. According to Master Yoda, you live in balance. To be honest, I haven’t found that yet, so don’t be surprised when you look for it in my life and don’t find it. Now let’s go, shall we? Grab a bite to eat and then head out.”
It was a silent walk to the dining room. Kizzik was no longer hiding in his niche. Though Korto had expected him to be long gone, he’d glanced back there just in case. The kid had nerve. Had to give him that.
“Did you mean what you said?” Thryn asked, quiet. “That you haven’t found balance?”
“Yeah. I meant it.”
She sounded genuine.
“You and I are very different,” Korto admitted as the door slid open and they walked in. “But I have my place in the family, not tending plants, and I’m sure we’ll find yours too. Not tending plants.”
For the first time, she almost genuinely smiled. It was half a smile that didn’t uncover her teeth, but her eyes sparkled, and not with water.
There were a few Jedi scattered about; most of them busy with datapads while they ate. A few spoke in low-murmured conversations while they worked on their meals.
Several looked their way as they walked in.
Evidently they felt Thryn’s weird Force signature.
A couple actually got up and left, refusing to make eye contact with Thryn as they walked past.
Korto stared after them in shock. Since when were Jedi so blatantly rude?
And I don’t count.
Thryn’s expression had hardened into a blank mask again.
Something about all of this was niggling at the back of his mind. Rude… blunt…insight… able to handle the unconventional…
He had it.
“I don’t suppose you’ve spoken with Master Taria Damsin?” he asked, heading towards the long serving counter, pleased he’d come across the solution so quickly. Taria was perfect. Why hadn’t he thought of her before?
Thryn shook her head and kept her voice low, evidently not wanting the Jedi who hadn’t left to overhear. “She won’t want a Padawan.”
“And just how do you know that?” Vos demanded, vaguely amused. “You can’t know without asking—”
Vos paused, then turned to fully face her. “What do you know that I don’t?”
“If she doesn’t want it public knowledge, then it’s not my place to—”
“There’s something wrong,” Vos growled. “She’s my friend. I have a right to know.”
The girl considered it, her expression growing ever more gloomy. Then she nodded. “Friends should know. She’s dying, Master Vos.”
Korto stared at her in stunned disbelief. “That can’t be right.”
“I went to speak with her, but when I entered the same room I could— feel it. The decay. I don’t know what’s wrong, but when I told her she was sick, she clearly already knew. She thanked me, said she still had a couple of months, and sent me away.”
“You didn’t ask her for—”
Thryn scowled up at him. “She’s
Master Vos. I may be desperate, but I’m not—” She searched for a word. “Not
“Easy,” Vos soothed.
But inside, he was anything but tranquil. Taria...
Thryn moved again, ignoring the few starers who still weren’t remembering their manners.
The female human Padawan working at the counter turned a sickly shade of green at Thryn’s approach.
Ducking through a doorway, she disappeared.
Vos stared after her in growing astonishment. “Is this normal?” he asked, looking down at the teen.
Thryn gave him a silent nod. “Master Claenst will be here in a minute. She can handle being near me. She doesn’t like it, but it doesn’t make her sick.”
Vos considered his own state.
Her Force signature was disturbing. That grating sensation of rioting insects…
But it wasn’t making him feel sick.
Maybe he was just more accustomed to disturbing individuals.
“So others feel sick and make mistakes?”
“They can’t seem to sense danger when I’m around. Or… at least, they feel I’m the most urgent hazard in the room. It seems to block out anything else.”
“Even when you aren’t intending?”
She gave a nod. “Joint exercises. I tried it once, the games that Master Damsin and Padawan Tano have started downstairs. I made our side lose, and a couple of the Padawans on the opposing team sick. It depends on the individual whether I make them feel nauseated, sad, aggressive, angry, or afraid. Master Damsin was kind to me. Made me think she might be willing to help. That’s why I approached her.”
Ri Claenst, a massive Cathar, padded in through one of the other doorways behind the counter. “Padawan Sein, Master Vos. What can I get for you?”
Korto somehow focused on the food, but it suddenly felt like the least important thing he had to deal with right now.
* * *
This was it.
The light bathing the clones, Thryn, and Korto was a bloody red. As the dropship touched down, it flashed green and the doors slid open.
They were about three days’ hike out from their target, but this was the closest the gunships could get them.
Farther in, the enemy presence was too strong, and their anti-aircraft artillery too well placed.
“Kill some clankers for me!” the pilot called as the ship instantly emptied.
Blaster fire blazed from the direction of their target, and a couple of the clones fell before everyone took cover.
“Thought we were landing outside the kill zone,” Vos growled to the captain in charge of the company in mild annoyance.
“I think they found out, Sir,” the clone called back.
Korto rolled his eyes as he ignited his brilliant green lightsaber and batted away blaster bolts.
He’d be very happy to turn these over to Luggar and simply walk away.
Thryn’s blue blade pierced the air, and she looked to Vos for direction.
He shook his head. “We’re headed that way.” He pointed. They couldn’t see their destination from here, tiny settlements, low hills, and a few patches of trees blocking the view.
Interspersed with mud.
The planet just had to be in its rainy season.
“As few clone casualties as possible. Let’s go!” Korto started in the direction he’d pointed.
They’d figure it out and keep up.
He heard Thryn behind him. “Jace, What’ve we got?”
He glanced back.
The captain shook his head. “Small group of wets taking cover behind that small hill. They may have alerted the others to our presence, or not.”
“Want to simply charge, send some troopers around as we rush in?”
“There doesn’t seem to be many of them. I’d say we just take it and move, Commander.”
“Let’s do it.”
She sped to Vos’ side. “Permission to take point.”
“Eh. We’ll go together.” He grinned.
Thryn was over the hill in a heartbeat, Vos just a second behind her— deliberately. The clones surged around them.
Thryn hit the first opponent with a lightsaber blade full in the chest, nearly cutting him in half. Spinning, she swept the legs out from under another, then stabbed backwards to keep a third from shooting a clone who had no cover.
In five standard seconds the holdout was cleared.
“No way to know if they called it in or not,” Korto said. “We move. Fast.” He set out at a run.
He could sense Thryn’s contented hum in the Force as she fell into the same speed, just a pace to the side and behind him.
As he ran, he thought.
It was very surprising to him that the Council would let her fight against sentients, even in a test situation.
It didn’t take long before they ran into a droid patrol. Again Thryn threw herself at them.
Now Korto could feel it.
The intense, wild happiness that flooded her being as she killed.
They slowed as they approached the first settlement.
It was too quiet for Vos’ taste.
Unfortunately, unless they wanted to travel far out of their way, they would have to just skirt this place. He would have preferred they avoid all such areas completely.
Too much cover for hidden enemies.
“Something’s wrong,” Thryn said as they drew closer. “Jace, have the men form up.”
“You heard her!” snapped the captain to the others. “Keep your eyes peeled, shinies.”
Korto found it interesting she automatically took charge of the strategy, just like she’d seemed interested in the clone captain’s opinion.
He nearly tripped over something. Studying it, he discovered a kid, curled up on the ground, almost completely hidden by the tall grass.
Thryn dropped onto one knee beside the child, who was young enough and covered in enough grime that Vos was only halfway certain it was even human.
“What are you doing out here?” she asked, voice soft.
It had been staring up at Vos in terrified silence. Now it turned huge, dark eyes on Thryn.
“It’s all right,” she soothed. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
To Vos’ surprise, the kid scooted over to her and wrapped its arms around her neck. She picked it up and stood.
“Do you come from there?” she asked, pointing to the collection of buildings. “Is that your home?”
“The droids,” it sniffled.
“You were hiding from the droids?”
“They killed everybody—”
Thryn’s eyes filled with tears and she hugged the child close. “Are the droids there now?”
“I don’t know.”
Thryn turned to Vos. “We can’t just leave him here.”
It’s a him? “What do you suggest we do? We have an objective, here.”
“I don’t think we’ll find the enemy in the settlement.”
“What makes you say that?”
“They haven’t attacked us yet. If it was just droids, they wouldn’t be smart enough to lure us in—not an outpost’s worth. And I don’t sense any sentient combatants. It feels… empty.”
Vos shrugged. “We could go through. It’s more risky, but you’re right. We can’t just leave him here.”
Thryn turned back to the clones. “Change of plans. We’re going through. An ambush is still possible. Keep sharp.”
Thryn slung the child over her back so he could wrap his arms around her neck and legs around her middle. “Hold on tight,” she murmured.
This time she let Vos take absolute lead.
The closer he got to the group of homes, the more he was convinced something was wrong.
It was so empty…
And it stank.
This place hadn’t been attacked today.
Thryn came to a sudden halt. “Master. Permission to leave three clones here with Tiggs while we clear the area.”
He must have missed when she’d asked the boy for his name.
“Granted,” he offered.
“Sharp, Triple, Block. Stay with Tiggs and keep him safe. We should be back soon.”
She tried to set the boy down, but he whimpered and clung to her.
“Listen. These men are going to take care of you, all right? Nothing is going to happen to me. I’ll make sure there aren’t any more droids here.”
The kid let go, staring in her eyes a long moment before giving a miserable nod and walking over to cling to one of the troopers’ legs.
Vos could sense the clones’ discomfort.
“The rest of you, on us. We go in quick and quiet. Don’t shoot any civilians unless they attack you first,” Thryn directed.
They ran to the edge of the first buildings, then slowed.
Vos felt the death here. The stench was worse now, choking. Here, he could see that most of the homes were burned-out husks.
A few clones scouted the place out, and it was small enough that they returned in mere minutes. “No droids here, Commander. And… it looks bad. I don’t know if anybody made it.”
“Go through each house,” Thryn directed. “I want any survivors found. I can’t leave that child here, and we can’t exactly take him with us.”
Vos studied her, but didn’t have a chance to for long, because she was off again, into one of the houses herself.
“What’s your plan?” he asked.
She shook her head. “I can’t guarantee his safety if he comes, and leaving him alone in a town full of the decaying dead isn’t something we can do. None of the dead seem to have been disturbed. That tells me there are either few survivors… or none.”
“What about time?”
She suddenly froze and turned. “I’m sorry, Master. I took charge instead of waiting for your plans. I won’t make the mistake again.”
As far as Vos could see, she was genuinely contrite.
“No, no, you haven’t done anything wrong—yet. Just keep in mind the objective. How much time are you willing to give to this child?”
“Whatever it takes. If that means I have to take him myself to find people to leave him with while you continue on with the troops, then meet back up with you later, so be it. With your permission, Master Vos.”
“Sir,” her comlink flickered, “the houses are cleared. I think you’d better see this.”
“Be right there, Jace.” She continued clearing the house.
Vos shook his head. “A name that’s not a descriptive or object, for once.”
“I’m assuming he named himself after Jace Malcom, warrior and military leader during the days of the Old Republic,” Thryn explained. “I think Captain Jace is aiming to emulate Malcom. He’s a good role-model.”
“You bothered to find out their names?”
“I don’t have all of them, yet. But I’m working on it.”
As they pushed back out into the cloud-caused gray of the outside, Vos heard Thryn’s breath catch.
Perhaps twenty children, anywhere from toddler to what looked like ten years of age, stood huddled together in the area between the houses.
“No adults?” Thryn asked, her voice just a bit hoarse.
“No, sir.” Jace stood at attention.
“At ease, Captain. All right. We can’t leave them here. What are our options?”
“Scout and Longsight have reported that the next closest village is minutes away from here, in the direction we’re already headed.”
“Yes. It doesn’t seem to have been hit too hard by the Seppies. Probably because they’re Seppie sympathizers. Don’t expect a warm welcome.”
Thryn thought a bit, then nodded. “Master Vos. I would like permission to take the children to this village.”
“Approaching might start a firefight,” he pointed out. “How will that help?”
“I’m not suggesting the clones come anywhere near, or you. Begging your pardon, but you look like a soldier. I’m smaller, younger, and don’t look like a soldier. If I walk the children in, I think I can keep hostilities from breaking out.”
“Who says they’ll take the kids?”
Thryn drew in a deep breath. “I don’t know if they will or not, but we have to try. We can’t leave them here, and we have to move on.”
“Thank you, Master Vos.”
She approached the band of kids— slowly— and knelt.
Vos couldn’t hear what she was saying, but the scared, distrusting expressions slowly melted off the little faces, and soon they were gathered around her like a magnet.
She retrieved little Tiggs, and led her flock out.
“General? What do you want us to do?”
Vos turned to see the captain at his elbow.
To Thryn, not just a clone, but Jace.
Someone who evidently had heroes and aspirations.
“We’re going to follow at a distance. I don’t want them firing on her because they think we’re about to attack,” Vos directed.
“Begging your pardon, Sir; I think the Commander can take care of herself.”
Vos stared at him. “Do you know Commander Sein from somewhere else, Captain?”
Jace shook his head. “But she has a reputation, sir.”
This mission was taking on a surreal feel. Vos wasn’t at all sure what to think.
Long, tense minutes passed, each one making Vos regret the decision not to follow Thryn.
Master Yoda, I figured out how to help Padawan Sein. She’s in desperate need of a coffin.
Yeah. That’d be really good.
Vos paced, frustrated.
Maybe we should move out.
“She’s coming back!” a clone voice called.
The dreadlock-strewn head came up as relief spilled through their owner.
Within moments, Thryn was by his side once more.
“They agreed to take them,” she said, a weary smile on her face. “And they didn’t kill me.”
Vos gave her a gruff nod. “Good. We can get underway again.”
“And Longsight. I saw you tailing me.”
One of the clones dumped his helmet back on his head with a swiftness that almost amused Vos.
One slipped away and I didn’t notice?
What was more disturbing was that their allegiance seemed to lie with Thryn first.
Just another reason to distrust them...
Though, of course, perhaps they were just responding to his own lack of loyalty to them...
Tromping through the wet, he thought he heard murmurs among the clones.
Unless more had followed after their commander, it had to be this Longsight.
“It took forever for her to convince the kids to let her go.”
Vos eyed his companion and wondered.
* * *
The next two days were a nightmare.
Rain. Mud. More rain.
Droids. Dafdi. More droids.
He saw Thryn utterly cut loose in battle, a force of destruction.
It became too much. Vos might not feel very fond for the clones, but even he could see this wasn’t a defensible spot.
They needed to retreat.
When he called it, Thryn obeyed without a murmur of complaint. Not even a scowl.
It impressed him. At that age, he would have complained.
Maybe even disobeyed.
The comlink crackled with a desperate voice begging for help—
Thryn’s head came up and her gaze snapped back into the mass of droids.
And then she was gone.
“ Thryn— ” Vos howled after her, ready to tear his hair out. It’s just a clone , leave it!
The kid had no survival skills. None.
Gritting his teeth and reminding himself of all the reasons why he didn’t want to die in a war he didn’t believe in, Korto Vos waded in after her.
Several steps into hell, he found her, crouched over a wounded soldier.
He moved to defend them from the hail of bolts, giving Thryn a chance to throw the man’s arm over her shoulder and haul him to his feet. The two set off at a hobbling run as Vos covered their retreat.
When they reached the edge of the droid advance, Vos felt absolute relief to realize that at least the clones had obeyed him. The rain of protective fire sheltered them as they fell back to the cover of the bluff.
Exhausted, Vos sagged against the natural wall of grass and dirt.
He watched Thryn ease her clone into the waiting arms of his brothers, with a tenderness that baffled Vos.
And then she was huddled over the holomap, consulting with Jace, asking for Korto’s opinions.
This is not my arena.
Another thought swift joined the first.
But it is hers.
So he found himself trudging after her as she drove herself to meet the objective. She had to be as bone tired as he was, but she just kept moving. Strategy changing with every counter the droids offered, improvising as required when the terrain didn’t match the map, and trying her level best to keep the clones alive.
Not, Korto realized in those endless hours of misery, just because the mission was to deliver a full company to Luggar, but because they were individuals.
It was a relief when they found another hamlet. Night was falling, and the wind picking up. The cold of the day turning to a bitter twilight.
Korto pulled his leather coat tighter around himself and wondered if snow was going to start falling. It wasn’t supposed to be this cold this time of year.
They trudged down the one street, ready to drop where they stood.
It didn’t take long before the village leadership came out to meet them.
Korto let Thryn do the talking, vaguely remembering he was supposed to be studying her reactions—
Mostly because it would take far too much effort to make his mouth move and keep his eyes open at the same time.
She asked for shelter.
Next thing Korto knew, enraged villagers spilled out of houses, hurling stones. One clocked Vos in the head before he realized what was happening. Fury spilled through his eyes, and he dodged the next few, catching others with his lightsaber.
Those split in half, almost melted chips breaking free to burn his hands and face.
“Stop!” Thryn thundered.
Korto spared her a glance, realized she wasn’t speaking to the townspeople.
The clones had raised their blasters.
Korto recognized the emotions tumbling through the men as mirroring his own.
“Fall back,” Thryn directed. “Keep close together. Weapons down .”
There was no room for argument in her tone.
Bricks joined the rocks, and then rotten food.
The clones were restless as they beat their ordered retreat—
Vos even more so—
But Thryn kept a firm hand. They hadn’t drawn blasters; therefore the GAR wouldn’t.
Once far enough away from the village, the men gathered into a small huddle, still in full armor, forming a tight circle.
Emergency heaters were passed around, and each man hunched, trying to escape the wind.
Vos found himself hunkered between cold armor on his left, and Thryn’s shoulder pressing in from his right.
He closed his eyes against the sting of the wind and hoped for dawn as snow fell.
The insect buzzing of Thryn’s Force signature chafed at his mind the way the cold wet chafed at his skin. He scanned her mind, trying to find anger or resentment.
The only thing he found was compassion for the clones’ anger.
When they engaged the CIS army in the morning, Vos was fully ready to take out his misery on metal bodies and humans alike.
They had weapons; they were fair game.
Apparently only a small patrol, they put down the resistance with little real effort. Vos was killing off the last of the droids when he heard Thryn’s voice behind him.
He turned to find her offering quarter to a handful of defeated sentients.
Some of them refused, lunging for her with their bare hands, teeth gnashing—
Those, she put down.
The last three raised their hands in surrender.
Vos tromped over, very, very done.
“And what are we going to do with them?” he demanded. “Hauling prisoners—”
“We’ll send them to the village that didn’t let us in.”
Vos stared at her. “They’ll simply loop around and
the army. We’ll have to fight
these exact individuals
Thryn turned to look at her prisoners. “You’re probably right.”
“They’re going to kill the men you seem to care about so much.”
Sadness filled her eyes. “You might be right. But I can’t murder them. There’s an anti-Republic village nearby,” she told them. “Just head west.”
Silent, sullen, the three set out.
Vos felt the clones’ frustration.
Felt his own.
It was almost a relief when they ran into another batch, this time all droids.
A strange, fierce song seemed to wrap around Thryn in the Force as she slaughtered them. She loved every second of it.
Vos wasn’t at all sure what he was seeing anymore.
She was a blazing Jedi. The most stable and promising Padawan he’d ever seen.
The way she fed off fear and pain and death was so disturbing— even to him.
It seemed so Sith.
Sith while firmly entrenched in the light. He didn’t see her once slide off Balance. To test her willingness to let go, he began to steal away more and more control over the tactics and clones. He intentionally shut her ideas down.
She didn’t seem to resent handing that authority over to him. She responded with instant obedience to his every command.
And if her lips thinned when he interrupted her and discounted what she had to offer, she simply raised her chin and performed his insisted maneuvers to her absolute best.
Some of his directions would never have worked except for her dedication to making them work.
On that fourth day they succeeded in punching a hole through the enemy lines just long enough to extract Luggar and her beleaguered troops.
Thank the Force that’s done.
It should be quicker and easier to get back to the rendezvous point with just the two of them traveling, unlike the march here.
Their goal would be to avoid the patrols, since killing anyone would give their position away.
Vos wanted to see how well Thryn would handle not being allowed to kill.
Korto’s plan was to sneak through, be picked up at the drop point, then sleep the whole way back to Coruscant.
And the next time the Council asked him to help in this war, they were going to get a flat-out no.
Korto watched out of the corner of his eye as Thryn took leave of the men they’d brought with firm handclasps all around.
“Good luck, Commander!” A call from one voice, many throats.
“I’d be glad to serve under you anytime, anywhere,” Jace said, quiet compared to the others.
“You should be proud of your men,” Thryn returned. “They’re solid. It was an honor serving with all of you; Jace Malcom would have been proud could he have led Gundark Company into battle. You’re living up to your name, Captain. May the Force be with you. Vode an.”
“Vode an!” the clones yelled back at her, startled and deeply pleased.
Several minutes into the trek back, Vos asked, “What’s that vode an business?”
“It means brothers all. It’s the GAR’s anthem.”
“There’s a song ?”
Thryn nodded. “It’s... just one of those things. Like their names. You have to look deeper.”
Korto shook his head to himself.
He didn’t agree with her on the clones, but Kenobi sure would.
That meant her perspective should fall on the good Jedi side of the ledger, right?
* * *
The tension in the Council chamber had only increased as Thryn completed her report.
Korto had taken that time to study the responses of the individual masters, and had almost figured out which ones were feeling in need of throwing up at the moment.
It was strange, to know that some of them felt physically ill in Thryn’s presence. It certainly justified the ringing in his ears that just wouldn’t go away as long as the Padawan was present.
So far, only clarifying questions had been asked.
Thryn stood still beside him, falling silent.
Seeing she was done, Windu sent her out.
Korto felt the tiny vibration of dread the girl felt as she bowed and turned to walk away. He sent her a quick, strong nod.
He was fully ready to go to battle on her behalf.
When the door closed after Thryn, Mace leaned forward and steepled his fingers. “What is your conclusion regarding Padawan Sein’s aggression?”
Here we go.
“Masters. She is very effective, and has good judgment. Given the way she sometimes makes other Jedi feel ill, send her on missions alone, instead of with other Jedi. We can’t afford to send skill and a tactical mind like this to the greenhouses. Not in a war.”
“But her bloodlust? Her sadism?” Windu pressed.
Korto nodded. “You already know she has no talent for healing, and if she had any part in EduCorps, it would hinder Force-sensitives from learning. They’ll be too busy hanging over a garbage container. ExplorCorps requires working in teams of at least two, and I have yet to hear of a Jedi who doesn’t have some form of allergic response to her. You can send her to the greenhouses. She will go and never breathe a word of complaint. She will give her entire mind, body, and soul to nurturing plants, and will do everything in her power to be the best member AgriCorps has ever seen. And Masters, every single one of the plants under her care will die.”
Surprise rippled through the room with a healthy bit of shock.
Windu leveled an intense stare at Korto. It was a look that could reduce Skywalker into frustrated silence, but Korto wasn’t Skywalker. “Master Vos. I don’t think I understand what you mean.” His voice was anything but warm. “Do you think she is mentally unstable?”
“No. She is both stable and dedicated to doing what is right, which is why she will submit to whatever you decide. However, place living things under her care and they will not prosper. I expect plants to actually die. Some of disease, others of who knows what. Some may just plain die. She’s like nothing we have ever seen before. In the hours we’ve been back, I’ve tried to find anything in the archives to match—”
“And nothing, found you,” Yoda asserted.
Korto bowed his head in agreement. “Not in anyone who is neither fallen, nor Sith.”
“Is she close to the dark side?” Adi Gallia asked.
“It would be impossible for any Jedi to be farther from the dark than Padawan Sein is. I should know. She puts me to shame.”
Saesee Tiin frowned. “Then how can she be such a death magnet? How can she enjoy the killing and fighting? How can she be like that and still firmly Balanced?”
“You’re the experts in philosophy, not me. I can just tell you what I’ve seen, sensed, and witnessed. You heard my report. Take her on a mission yourselves if you don’t trust my judgment, and watch how she cares for the victims of this war. The way she looks out for her troops and the wounded, how instantly she responds to orders given in battle and offers quarter to all defeated organic opponents, how she never pushes too far, and then you tell me. But this girl is not on the path to the dark side.”
“Believe Master Vos, I do,” Yoda said solemnly. “And great potential I sense in her.”
“But she feeds on fear, death, and pain,” Eeth Koth growled. “The very opposites of what a Jedi is to be and do. We must use violence at times, but enjoy it? Never. It is to be a last resort, and we must never grow accustomed to killing. It’s what makes us Jedi. Only Sith and darksiders are casual about such things—let alone enjoy them.”
“And yet she is as opposite all of that as she can be,” Korto argued. “Dedicated to the Code. She doesn’t take it lightly. She tries every peaceful solution first. Genuinely. She has her desires fully in line. This may not be comfortable, and it may not be easy to hear, but it’s true. Examine her. More than once, if you have to. Thryn Sein has a gift, Masters.”
Korto paused and looked around. He drew in a breath and then dropped his thermal detonator.
“Her gift is violence.”
The Council erupted with the closest it ever came to an uproar. Kit Fisto was staring gloomily at the pattern in the floor, lost deep in his thoughts. His lekku twitched in discomfort.
Adi Gallia stood up and spun to face the windows out over Coruscant.
Quiet Saesee Tiin was trying to say something though no one was listening, and Eeth Koth and Ki-Adi-Mundi both tried to gain Yoda’s attention at once.
“We need her, Masters,” Korto called out over the commotion.
“Her ‘gift’ is of the dark side, Vos!” snapped Ki-Adi. “It’s a very common Sith trait!”
“But Balanced, she is,” Yoda disagreed.
“How can she be Balanced if she has such a glaring character flaw?” Mace Windu chided.
Eeth Koth glared. “Her ‘gift’ goes against the very principles of the Jedi Order.”
“Does it?” Vos answered Eeth, looking him square in the eye. “I don’t think it does. Masters, hear me out. There has been much debate as to whether my actions are morally justifiable or not. However, you continue to give me assignments, and thousands of lives have been saved by my work.”
He could hear Gallia mutter, “Humility is also an important Jedi character trait…”
“I often veer near the edge of what’s acceptable. Probably pass over it. Perhaps that’s to be expected, since I’ve been so unable to find Balance. But Thryn has found it. Think of the weapon you hold in your hands, if you will just use it!”
“Jedi are not weapons,” Kit Fisto said, ominous, his eyes clear and focused on Korto again. “They are peacekeepers.”
“And so is she.” Vos threw a holoprojector on the floor. As it hit, it began to play back footage. “She had no idea I was recording her actions.”
Absolute silence fell across the Council chamber, and the noises of the holoprojector filled the void.
No one knew how much time passed as they watched the girl’s life unfold before them. A Padawan unconscious of Council surveillance, unconscious of much of anything except duty, the Jedi Code, and compassion…
And thoroughly enjoyed fights, which were never dragged on beyond the absolute minimum of time and destruction.
“Keep it,” Vos said as the last image faded. “I showed you just the highlights. I have dozens of hours on there. Study them. Examine her. She’s different. So fine. Keep her away from the other Jedi. But don’t muzzle her or fail her because of it. She’s fully in control of herself.”
“Vos, we could let you go on your missions because you are a knight. She is not ready for the Trials, mature though she may be,” Tiin said. “We cannot just send her out yet.”
“At all,” countered Mundi.
“Masters!” Vos interrupted before the debate could proceed. “Just one last question. What would Qui-Gon Jinn have done?”
At that, the silence was so thick it felt like a hand was reaching into Vos’ chest to crush his heart. This was a gamble, but one worth it. There were some here who had deeply respected and loved Qui-Gon despite their differences.
“Given her a chance to prove herself, he would have.” Yoda was the first to break the silence. “Give her a chance, I think we should.”
“Train her simply so she can betray us and go over to Dooku? Does anyone remember Aurra Sing? Ventress herself was trained by a Jedi. What about Sora Bulq?” Ki-Adi pointed out. “There are enough Jedi-trained assassins out there as it is.”
“I would bet my life on Thryn not becoming one of them.” Korto stood his ground.
“A risky thing it is, Master Vos, to so certain be.”
“Maybe. But then, my line of work has always been risky, Master Yoda.”
Vos retreated to the doorway while the Council discussed the matter in lowered tones. None of them wanted to open the doors until they had an answer to give the girl waiting with almost heartbreaking patience outside. Vos could sense no anger in her, no frustration with how long this was taking. She was even controlling her fear and longing.
Vos knew that silent testimony was as powerful a voice in her favor as anything he’d said.
He could sense Gallia siding with Yoda.
Bringing up Qui-Gon had done that. It might have alienated Ki-Adi even more than he already had been, but it would be likely to soften Eeth’s stance…
“Master Vos,” Windu announced once they’d come to a decision. “You surely understand that not just any Jedi can train Padawan Sein. That would not only be dangerous, but harmful to both master and apprentice.”
“Yes. That much is clear.”
“You have twenty-four hours to find a master who can train her, and who will take her on immediately. If we do not find someone in that time, she will have the choice of entering the AgriCorps, or leaving the Jedi Order.”
Vos felt as though they’d slapped him in the face.
Windu wasn’t finished.
“We cannot keep her in the Temple longer than we absolutely have to. The effect she has on the other students is marked and negative. It extends even beyond the students, to the knights and masters.”
“But she’s such an exemplary—”
“But nothing, Korto Vos,” Mace returned severely. “They sense her… problem.”
He refuses to call it a gift.
Only twenty-four hours.
“Masters, I don’t know if we can find someone that fast—”
“Hard, it will not be, to rule out most of the Order,” Yoda pointed out. “Your list of potentials, small already is. Go to them, you can, if continue this, you feel you must.”
Feel I must? Like hell! Of course I feel I must!
“Yes, Master Yoda. I can’t say that I feel you’re being generous or compassionate in this case, but I’ll take what’s given me.” Korto felt anger swirling in his gut. Thryn outclassed many of the individuals in this room—
“That’s all that’s expected of you, Korto Vos,” Mace Windu said coldly.
The tone stung Korto though he refused to admit it, even to himself.
“I’ll tell Thryn what you’ve decided.”
The masters glanced at one another. They all noticed he hadn’t asked permission.
They also decided not to make an issue of it.
Vos stormed out of the room, royally angry. He was so frustrated that he walked right past the silently waiting Thryn, but when he felt a spike of apprehension in the Force, he stopped and tried to calm himself. He was alarming her. Terribly.
“They’ve given us twenty-four hours to find a master who can train you.”
She looked up at him in hope. “They’ve given me a chance?”
“Yes.” As little a one as they can get away with and still say they gave you one. “If we can find a master who they approve of who is capable of handling your differences and training you and discovering your potential… then yes.” And the best way of telling them they can collectively frip themselves is to succeed even when they’ve tried to make sure you can’t.
“And what if we don’t find a master they approve of?”
Vos couldn’t meet her gaze and looked away. “Then you have the choice of going into the Agricultural Corps or leaving the Order.”
He caught the flinch in her sense in the Force.
“They don’t want me at the Temple,” she said.
“Yes.” Vos glanced back at her. “And you know why.”
“I disrupt the patterns in the Force the other Padawans and younglings use in meditation and finding Balance. My mental calibration is different. To others it seems like static. It can cause… interference.”
Vos smiled to himself in spite of the situation. Yes. He’d experienced that. It was difficult. Rough. But not necessarily in a bad way. She was simply… built different. The first of her kind the Jedi had ever experienced. The Council, even with their access to the holocron vault, hadn’t argued that point with him.
It was just time to discover how to deal with the new and different.
“Where are we going first?” She looked calm, but he could sense vibrations that he assumed were anxiety.
“To talk to Master Damsin. We can use her insight. And then I’m going to find my Finder. Tholme.”
“Korto,” he corrected as he started walking.
“I just want something to be clear. I will never leave the Order. If we don’t find a Master… I’ll join AgriCorps.”
And it will be sheer disaster. He hated to think about it.
The plant-tending Jedi were awfully sensitive to Force patterns.
We have to find someone who understands her thoughtwaves and can deal with the static. Maybe even teach her how to control it for short periods of time, so she doesn’t have to always avoid the Temple. She does seem to love it here.
Though he couldn’t figure out in blazes why.
Then again, he had to look at himself.
He would be the first Jedi to complain about Coruscant’s Temple…
But it was home. And if it was ever attacked, he’d be the first to fly to its defense.
Taria wasn’t in her quarters, and she wasn’t answering her comlink. Vos paused for a moment to think.
Should he go for the place where she would be most likely to spend time… or the one Kenobi preferred?
Stang, Vos, he realized. It’s the same place.
He led Thryn to the Room of a Thousand Fountains.
Obi-Wan was mildly obsessed with waterfalls. Damsin? Water of any sort.
“Taria Damsin!” he cupped his hands and yelled.
The echo rang through the giant room. Thryn stared at him.
Yeah, not socially acceptable. But… since when had he cared? He smirked at her.
His smirk widened into a grin when a female voice shouted back, “What is it?”
A few short seconds brought Vos and Thryn to where Taria Damsin and Obi-Wan Kenobi stood, near one of the waterfalls. Kenobi made a move as if to leave, but Vos detained him. “Whoa. You gotta hear this too. I’m after advice.”
Obi-Wan looked at him as though he’d lost his mind. “Advice? From me?”
“Well…” Vos shrugged, giving him a rogue grin. “I didn’t say I’d follow it, did I?”
Then he lost the grin and cut to the chase.
* * *
Thryn stood next to Korto in silence, watching the faces of the two as they listened. She could sense intense compassion flooding from Master Damsin, but Master Kenobi...
Had a very carefully built wall around his senses and his face was an emotionless mask, giving no indication of what he was thinking.
“Oh, you poor dear,” Taria breathed as Korto finished. “I would take you in a heartbeat—”
Not outwardly, but inside. Thryn didn’t know if Vos had caught it or not, but she had. Then again, she seemed to sense these sorts of things without even trying.
“—but I don’t have many heartbeats left, I’m afraid. I don’t think the Council would accept me. However…” Her eyes gleamed. “If we can’t find a master for you, I will take you on. They can’t deny me—I only have a week left to live. It won’t give you much of a reprieve, dear, but it could give us time to find a more permanent solution.”
We. Us. She’s counting herself with me now. Thryn fought against tears. I don’t deserve that.
Vos didn’t say a word.
Kenobi turned his head away with a swift movement.
“I sense disapproval.” Taria glanced sideways at him.
What seemed to be impatience flooded his face and voice. “I don’t know that—”
Taria placed a hand on his elbow and spoke gently. “What would Qui-Gon have done?”
Kenobi closed his eyes and the annoyance disappeared.
He misses his former master still. After all these years. Will I connect with a master that deeply?
It seemed too much to hope for. Her last master had viewed her as the Council did. Something dangerous. Her gift as something to be suppressed and throttled, if it couldn’t be destroyed.
And tending plants should keep it from surfacing.
“I'll help,” Kenobi said quietly, opening his eyes. He was fully in control of himself and his emotions again, but the stern, almost harsh mask was gone.
“Qui-Gon would have been proud,” Taria agreed happily. “Master Vos. Do you have any Jedi in mind specifically?”
He sent her a rueful smile. “My first choices, to be honest, were Tholme and Yoda.”
“Yoda, no,” Taria mused. “Tholme?”
“Has refused a Padawan for some time now.”
“Alright. Who were your second choices?”
Vos snorted a laugh. “Aayla, who Master Yoda says is not experienced enough, so the Council would not agree to it; Tonnal, yourself, and Master Kenobi.”
Kenobi visibly started. “My, aren’t you in a complimentary mood today. What’s gotten into you, Vos? Are you ill?”
Korto gave him a lopsided smile. “Nah, I’ve seen what you did with Skywalker. That was a challenge and a half. Full of unexpected, non-standard questions and problems. I think you’re flexible enough you could handle Thryn.”
“I can’t seem to figure out whether he just insulted Anakin or praised me or both,” Kenobi muttered.
“Take it how you like,” Vos shrugged. “Point being, so far the options are Tholme, Taria, and Kenobi.”
“What about you, Korto?” Taria asked.
And then Vos startled her again. “I honestly considered it. But I don’t think I can help her. Not the way she needs. In many ways, I could be learning from her. Just ask Kenobi. He’s known Padawan Sein for all of twenty minutes, and I’m sure he’d say she’s far more Balanced and safe than I am.”
Kenobi snorted silently and didn’t comment.
“Besides. My line of work wouldn’t fit with a Padawan. I couldn’t act like a Jedi or I’d lose my cover.”
“Well, then,” Taria offered briskly. “Tholme, myself, Obi-Wan, and you. Let’s go talk to Tholme.”
Thryn almost laughed. Taria had pretty much ignored Vos’s beg-off. Stranger yet, he didn’t seem to mind.
As the four made good speed for an exit, Thryn heard Kenobi murmur to Taria, “If only Qui-Gon were still alive.”
“Perhaps this is your chance to let his life carry on through yours.”
“I’m not ready for another Padawan yet, Taria.”
“Anakin doesn’t really need your help with Ahsoka. At least, not full-time.”
“If I took her on, I would have to break the Skywalker-Kenobi team.”
“Why? Because she might be a hazard to the Chosen One and Ahsoka? I think not. On the contrary, for them to work with a Padawan fully in Balance would probably be good. Very good.”
“You have reasons that you’re not willing to share with anyone at this point, Obi-Wan. I understand. But whatever they are, eventually you’ll have to move past them. We have so many Padawans without masters. We need masters to step forward.”
“Inspirational, as always, Master Damsin.”
“How would you suggest we do this, Taria?” Vos called back, interrupting them.
“Splitting up,” she returned. “You find Tholme and talk to him, while I go through the archives and get the name of every living Jedi knight and master.”
“There are ten thousand Jedi in the Order,” Kenobi pointed out.
“Yes, and how many of those are younglings and Padawans and Service Corps? Then we get rid of the ones who already have Padawans. That will leave us with the list of potentials. It should be easy to rule out most of those left.”
Kenobi gave a nod. “All right. Thorough makes sense. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to spend some time talking with Thryn, and racking your brains over who could possibly train her like Qui-Gon would have.”
“There’s nobody,” he said flatly.
“Except possibly one of his Padawans,” was Taria’s serene reply.
Kenobi gave her an odd look.
“Feemor?” Taria offered, making a face right back.
Understanding dawned. “Oh. Yes.”
How could he forget someone that close to him in his lineage?
“I have no idea what he’s doing these days,” Kenobi admitted. “I haven’t seen him in years, and only met him a few times before that. I don’t actually know him.”
“I think it’s time we change that,” Taria decided. “He might be the key.”
It wasn’t a name Thryn was familiar with. He’d had the same master as the famous Obi-Wan Kenobi... did that make them similar?
“Tholme knows Feemor,” Vos offered. “Has always spoken very highly of him. I’ve met him on a couple of occasions, but never worked with him.”
“What is he like?” Thryn found herself asking without intending to.
“Quiet.” Vos shrugged. “I wasn't focusing much on it at the time.”
“Qui-Gon thought that whoever ended up trained by him would be a very lucky Padawan,” Taria added. “Did he tell you that much?” She looked over at Kenobi.
Thryn couldn’t help but wonder what that meant, but Kenobi seemed lost in brooding thought and didn’t respond.
Vos and Taria continued on out of the Room of a Thousand Fountains, leaving Thryn and the master of the Chosen One alone together.
The man who, as a Padawan, had been the first Jedi in a thousand years to defeat a Sith.
His name was known and revered by younglings and Padawans the Order over. The Council entrusted him with their most important and sensitive missions. He—
“No, it’s not what you think,” Kenobi said, interrupting her musings. His voice was gentle. Almost humored.
“What?” she asked, startled.
“You’re looking at me like I’m some sort of hero. I can sense awe, and even a little fear. It’s not like that. I’m just another Jedi.”
Well, that wasn’t true. At least, maybe it was true in principle. In practice?
He continued, “And right now, I’m a Jedi trying to help you find your place as a Jedi. So wipe that reverent expression off your face and let’s get to work.”
Thryn tried to smile, but was sure it looked paper thin.
So little time.
Not nearly enough.
“I need to have a first-hand understanding of what we’re dealing with here,” he announced. “This isn’t a test, all right? Relax, just be who you are. No trying to give the correct answers. Give me your answers.”
“Yes, Master Kenobi.” Thryn’s pulse pounded, and she hoped she didn’t look as scared as she felt.
Alright, Thryn. Just like with Master Vos. Korto. Just like with Master Yoda.
“What is the first line of the Code?”
“There is no emotion, there is only peace,” Thryn recited.
Kenobi watched her. “Does that mean there are no emotions whatsoever?”
“No. A Jedi is encouraged to express compassion towards the innocent and suffering, and loyalty towards the Code and Republic. Dedication to who we are as Jedi.”
“It means that we are to place thought and reason above emotions. That we are never to be driven or steered by emotions alone. That we must keep them subservient to what is right, aware of how they affect us, and aware of how they will affect the people around us. We know we are acting clearly when we feel a calmness within.”
Kenobi’s eyebrow flickered. “Well answered. Why do emotions have the potential of danger?”
“They cloud our perceptions of reality. They can make it difficult to see things from another person’s point of view. They can lead us to make decisions that are harmful for many people, simply to help a few or one. If we listen to emotions alone, it’s easy to end up thinking only about the people close to us, and count all others as meaningless.”
“Because we choose peace, does that mean we do not experience emotions?”
“Of course not. What we feel is never wrong. What we do with it is what counts.”
“What is the second pillar?”
Thryn took a deep breath. You can do this. You haven’t made a mistake yet. “There is no ignorance, there is only knowledge.”
“I suppose that means that Jedi masters know everything.”
A quiver of a smile tugged at Thryn’s lip. “Not at all. A Jedi is always learning, always on a path of discovery. There is no ignorance, because we actively seek knowledge. Knowledge is not ours by default, and wisdom only comes with experience.”
“What does a Jedi think about power?”
He left the Code. “We do not seek power. We seek knowledge, and knowledge empowers us.”
“What about those who follow the dark side? What do they think about power?”
“They think that by seeking power they gain knowledge.”
Kenobi gave her a nod. “Where do you personally think you are with both those precepts?”
Thryn didn’t immediately fire back a response. Instead, she took a moment to consider.
“I do not seek power.”
Kenobi’s gaze seemed to bore through her. “Do you have it?”
“What do you use it for?”
And there she hesitated. “A Jedi uses their power for knowledge and defense.”
“But you prefer to go on the offensive now, if it is clear that a defense will have to be made eventually. You believe that much suffering can be prevented that way.”
“Did you pull that from my mind?” Thryn hissed, startled.
He offered her a wan smile. “No. But I agree with you, as does Anakin. There is a fine line between an offense-style defense, and aggression. Do you think you have a clear grasp on the differences?”
“Master Yoda says I have a naturally aggressive nature, so it’s very possible I don’t understand it like I should.” Here’s where it will all begin to fall apart.
“Humility is an essential Jedi trait,” was all Kenobi said. “The fact that you admit you may be wrong is a sign of maturity.”
Thryn tried to hide her surprise.
“What is Balance?”
He’s not trying to trap me, she realized . “In my own personal life, Balance is remaining on the peak of the mountain of light. Pride in detachment would throw me off one direction into the valley of the dark, and emotion without my will involved would send me off the other, where I care only about those important to me as an individual and not others equally deserving.”
“Isn’t Balance a careful line between too much light and too much dark?”
“No. That is the path to failure.” Thryn’s earnest conviction was interrupted by a gravelly voice.
The two looked up to find Korto returning.
“So, Thryn— you think I’m on the path to failure?”
Panic seized her soul. Master Kenobi asked me for my answers— “My apologies, Master Vos. I was not trying to—”
“No, that’s alright,” he chuckled. “You’re a far better Jedi than I. I know I walk in the shadows. This is Tholme.”
Thryn turned her attention to the older Jedi walking beside Korto. He was tall, well-built, and a scar down his face explained his artificial eye. His long, silver hair was bound in a tail down his back.
He held a droid in his hand.
“So you are Thryn,” he said by way of greeting. “Korto has been telling me about you. I hear you don’t have much time, so let’s not waste any of it. Will you demonstrate your fighting capabilities for me?”
“Yes, Master. Which dojo would you prefer?”
Tholme shook his head. “I don’t particularly want a crowd of gawkers. How about here and now? I brought a training remote.” He fiddled with the settings, then dropped it into the air. “Fight as you would any Separatist droid. You have permission to take it down however you like, including destroying it.”
Tholme, Vos, and Kenobi backed up, leaving Thryn alone with the droid.
Thryn’s opening move was so swift it would have been hard for eyes not aided by the Force to track.
She deflected bolts and focused in on disabling the droid.
Vos could feel Thryn’s inner struggle to hold something back. He sensed the other two felt it as well—
Only Vos knew firsthand what that something was.
But they’re about to find out.
* * *
More droids slipped from hiding in the surrounding foliage and attacked Thryn from all sides.
The surprise in her face and sense were noteworthy, and Obi-Wan glanced at Tholme in approval. He had suddenly and completely changed the equation.
Now, Thryn was fighting for all she was worth.
And then the beast within slipped its chain.
Obi-Wan felt like he’d been kicked solidly in the chest.
Korto glanced first at him, then at his Finder. Tholme was obviously impacted as well.
Neither of them had been expecting the sheer dissonance of the Force.
Through the storm, Obi-Wan scanned Thryn’s Force signature, her emotions, her actions, everything—
And found himself feeling deeply disturbed.
She is in perfect Balance.
Droids fell, disabled, and more moved to join them, attacking from random angles and forcing Thryn to strategize in the moment.
A bolt slipped past her guard and delivered a painful sting to her left arm. An embarrassing mistake.
She didn’t seem embarrassed or angry. She accepted it and continued. It didn’t break her concentration or plan.
“Stop violence,” Tholme commanded, voice quiet.
Obi-Wan half expected the Padawan to not hear him, but she pulled back from attacking the droids. She continued to deflect bolts, but this time, into the ground.
Still more droids joined the fray, pushing Thryn to the point of being outmatched. Her strategy shifted, became more desperate, but she awaited further orders, refusing to break that last one—
No directions came.
Obi-Wan expected frustration to begin and build. After all, this was a test, and Tholme was pretty much forcing her to lose it.
No hint of ire marred the serene Balance of her Force.
She wanted to tear those droids to shreds— anyone within sensing distance would know it— but she had that desire perfectly under control.
The strange sound echoed through the Force.
She loved battle. Loved taking those droids down.
Like Korto said.
These droids were not imitating fear or pain. I wonder what she would do if they did.
Several more bolts slipped past her guard, not injuring, but inflicting significant pain.
Still, no anger.
“You may attack again,” Tholme offered, still quiet.
She launched into them like a nexu, disabling the droids with a vicious efficiency. Intense delight whispered through her.
Obi-Wan lifted a rock in the Force and sent it skittering behind her. Even though he hadn’t moved more than his fingertips, and her attention was fully demanded, she’d noticed his interference.
Her situational awareness is solid.
Obi-Wan didn’t think she’d be likely to hurt an innocent bystander. And she seems to be quick to follow orders to cease. That alone is more than you can say for Anakin.
Droids began to falter. Draw back.
Everything within Thryn responded to their fear.
She pressed harder. She merely nicked one, and it squealed in simulated pain.
Something within the Padawan flinched in happiness.
It sickened Obi-Wan.
“Offer quarter or wipe out?” she called, calm over the intensity of battle.
“Wipe out,” came Tholme’s order.
Thryn’s gratitude in the Force felt like a powerful push. In a matter of moments she took the rest of the droids out.
Her lightsaber fell silent.
For a long moment no one said anything.
No wonder the Council is so bothered.
She was a quandary. She was... he didn’t know what.
Unlike anything he’d ever encountered before.
The only thing he could think of that was similar was Ventress, torturing him.
He drew his breath in sharp between his teeth. The memory of pain, of Ventress’ eyelids falling half closed—
Loathing flooded Obi-Wan’s soul.
He forced himself to look at Thryn, not just with his eyes, but with the Force. Memories threatened to pull him inward to see only that.
But this wasn’t then.
It was now.
See her, Kenobi? She is nothing like Ventress.
Thryn stood in meek silence, waiting.
Obi-Wan had nothing to offer her.
“That was very impressive, Padawan,” Tholme said, his voice, expression, and sense closed. “Explain to me what you experienced when fighting the droids.”
She thought hard. Obi-Wan could almost see the gears in her mind turning. Eventually she shook her head. “I’m sorry, Master. I don’t think I can express it.”
“You must ,” he snarled.
Thryn’s sense flinched, but she kept herself under full control. “I... like fighting.”
“You like causing inanimate objects pain and fear,” Tholme snapped, disapproval now flowing from him in waves. A deep, deep condemnation.
Obi-Wan didn’t allow himself to betray the fact that Tholme was still testing her. Given the Padawan’s alarm, she couldn’t. Obi-Wan schooled his expression into something equally threatening.
“Do you know what that is called, Padawan?” Tholme asked, cold.
Thryn stood frozen. Obi-Wan could see the frantic pulse in her throat, the moisture in her eyes
“Which word do you have in mind, Master?” she whispered, voice torn in humility.
“Sadism. Cruelty. And a lost grip on realty.”
Thryn bowed her head, but it wasn’t enough to hide her face.
to stop it?” Tholme demanded, belligerent now. “Just choose to
“Yes, Master Tholme.” Obi-Wan could barely hear her now.
Tholme cocked his head. “What’s that? Speak up. You’ve tried ? And yet you’ve failed. Failed completely. Do you want to fail every Jedi in this Order? Do you want to end up as another common assassin, another fallen Jedi who preys on the innocent? One we have to kill?”
“No, Master,” Thryn choked.
Tholme scowled. “Your defiance is disturbing, and so is your haughty refusal to comply with the precepts of the Order. No wonder your master rejected you.”
Is he taking this too far? Obi-Wan wondered. How many of these words were going to torment her later, even after she found out Tholme hadn’t meant them?
The accusations had become cruelly unjust, and Thryn knew it, but she didn’t respond with resentment or bitterness, and she didn’t take offense.
She stood quiet and waited, her sense still humble, but now quivering in pain.
“Why shouldn’t we expel you from the Order entirely?” Tholme demanded.
“I don’t know, Master.”
“Give me an answer!” He closed the space between them. Got in her face. Even more threatening, more dangerous—
He actually looked like he might harm her.
Given her horrified expression, she had never been faced with a Jedi master who considered her a threat like this. “Master?”
“An answer,” he growled again. “Why shouldn’t we cast you out? Better yet, give me a reason I shouldn't kill you here.”
Obi-Wan desperately wanted to intervene, to pull Tholme away, to—
But we have to know her breaking point.
Perhaps... but if we break her completely?
Utter shock washed across Thryn’s face.
“There are children here who are in danger by your very presence. Why shouldn’t I force you into battle right now? You might kill them slowly simply for an afternoon’s entertainment!”
Thryn stood speechless.
In a lightning fast movement, Tholme had ignited his lightsaber and was carving it through the air towards her head.
Abject fear slammed through Thryn, vibrating along her strangely different Force sense. She barely blocked the blow and sprang backwards, but Tholme was on her. She stumbled, dodged to the side, obviously fighting panic.
She knows she’s not good enough to win this fight.
Given the fact she didn’t know Tholme, the look on his face and the sense he was giving out in the Force proclaimed that she would not escape unharmed. If alive.
Her only hope would be to attack fast, then slip away and lose him among the plants, then try to escape the Temple.
Probably for good.
But Thryn didn’t run, and she didn’t attack. Instead, she worked hard to avoid his blows, and when impossible, she blocked.
She won’t last long.
She was very afraid, very confused, and the whole situation was completely unfair.
Vos is supposedly on her side, but he’s just standing here, while a Jedi master blatantly breaks the Code by being angry and aggressive towards her. And yet we’re insinuating she has the problem.
If anything should make her angry, this betrayal should.
Obi-Wan searched for any sign—
Nothing. And she was managing her fear now. In Balance again, though convinced this was the end.
And then, to Obi-Wan’s utter astonishment, that same thrum of intense belonging rang out from her again, like a bell’s peal.
What in worlds? She thinks she’s going to die or lose limbs, and she’s... enjoying this.
Perhaps enjoyment was the wrong word. Obi-Wan scanned her song in the Force. It was loud. It disrupted him. Her very signature was a different wavelength, crashing into instead of blending with those around her.
This is why Vos thinks she should work missions alone.
It would keep her from distracting or generating fear in her allies.
Obi-Wan realized he felt stirrings of fear. Strange.
As if her wavelength manipulated him as effectively as Falleen pheromone manipulation.
Yet Korto said children love her. That orphans were drawn to her naturally, as if they knew she was their protector. That she responded tenderly, and fully met their expectations.
What could it mean ?
The fact that she remained completely in Balance even though Tholme was traumatizing her was almost as disturbing as her Force signature or response to violence.
Any sensible Padawan would have snapped by now.
No wonder the Council was in turmoil. Her very presence in the room would put them on edge, drawing fear to the surface, even if she was completely humble and silent.
Your signature has all the comfort of a screech-panther ’s scream.
Against the rest of the Jedi ’s, it was discordant. Like a false note.
One more time, Obi-Wan searched for shadows, desperate to find them, somewhere—
Tholme’s foot struck a loose stone and he faltered.
It was a masterful bit of acting, and probably looked real from Thryn’s angle, where she couldn’t see that there weren’t any stones.
The girl bought it completely.
Your opportunity. Dart in, inflict a non-serious but debilitating wound, escape in the opening it creates.
And... she didn’t do it.
Instead, Thryn backed up and extinguished her lightsaber.
Tholme recovered and prowled closer to her, eyes glinting dangerously, his Force sense imitating bloodlust perfectly. Blind intensity. The absolute determination to kill her.
“If my life is a threat to the Jedi Order,” Thryn said, her voice unsteady, choked with pain, “then end it. I wouldn’t put those children in harm’s way for anything.”
She didn’t retaliate with an accusation that Tholme was far more dangerous— a master who apparently couldn’t control his anger and hate—
Vos drew in a long, low breath.
Obi-Wan’s head gave an involuntary shake from amazement.
And Tholme’s mask vanished.
He turned on his heel and walked back to Obi-Wan and Korto. “Absolutely astounding.”
“I told you she was like nothing we’ve ever seen before,” Vos pointed out, not very humbly.
“I believe you. And you’re right that not just any master would be safe for her, or her for the master. That signature is alarmingly disruptive. I think I would find it somewhat difficult to sense danger when she was nearby.” Tholme rubbed his forehead. “The interference is certainly loud.”
“Add to that the fact that most Jedi interpret her signature as a Force warning of danger, and therefore assume she herself is the hazard,” Vos agreed.
Thryn stared at them, her breathing slowly returning to normal, sheer confusion painted across her face.
“Well, Master Kenobi,” Tholme continued, turning to face Obi-Wan. “What do you think?”
I think what just happened was completely inexcusable. But I have no further doubts... and I’m not sure I would have arrived there any other way. Definitely something he was going to meditate on.
He gave Thryn a gentle smile and spoke to Tholme without taking his gaze off her. “I think we have a rare blossom that needs special tending and specific training. Not in the AgriCorps.”
She stared back at him, breath temporarily stolen.
“Was... that... a test?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Yes,” Tholme announced, turning to face her and giving her a warm smile. “I’m not sorry I put you through that, but you passed with flying colors.”
Thryn studied his face as she tried to put reality together from the pieces of information she now had. “Did you mean what you said about me being a hazard to the youn—”
“No, my dear.” And now Tholme’s tone was compassionate. “And I am very sorry if any of my words will continue to haunt you. Know that I meant none of them, and I would not have said them had I seen any other way of testing you to the utmost. I believe you should be trained to become a knight. I believe the Order needs you.”
“But I could place the other Jedi in danger because I would disrupt their connection to the Force.”
“They could learn to work around it,” Tholme assured her. “But first we must experiment and find out if you can quiet your signature some. Korto is able to so blur his own that most Jedi wouldn’t even sense his presence. You may be able to quiet yours not to that point, but low enough that though disturbing, it’s not distracting. That would make it easier for other Jedi to learn how to work with you without endangering them, or wearing them out.”
“I... think I understand,” she said, more sturdily now.
Tholme nodded. “In order for you to have time to learn that, we have to find a master who won’t be compromised by your different signature in the meantime. Or, at least one who is adaptable enough to be able to adjust quickly. Understood?”
“Is what Korto says true? That my gift is violence?”
Obi-Wan sent that worthy a glower.
“I wouldn ’t put it like that,” Tholme hedged. “I imagine that statement caused quite a stir in the Council.” He leveled a look and the child he’d found.
“Of course it did,” Obi-Wan groaned. “Vos, did you really shoot yourself in the foot like that?”
“ What ?” he shot back. “ I’m not the Negotiator. You figure out some nice, Jedi-sounding alternative to use. Maybe they’ll listen to you.”
“I doubt it,” Obi-Wan murmured. He
what he was about to say next. “Because as coarse as it may sound... that statement may be as close to accurate as we’re going to get.”
Tholme nodded his agreement. “Her Force signature is entirely different from Ventress, Bulq, Sing, and every other fallen Jedi I have ever come across. How about Sith? I know it’s different from Dooku’s, but how about Darth Maul’s, Master Kenobi?”
Obi-Wan thought of the long-dead murderer. “Very different.”
“Then perhaps we could say that another of her gifts is disruption. It’s possible that introducing her in a fight with a fallen Jedi or Sith may tip the odds in our favor. I think she might disrupt them as badly as she does us. If she and her master can learn to be as close as, say, you were with Qui-Gon Jinn, they might be able to eradicate the so-far unkillable darksiders.”
Vos nodded. “I think it’s highly likely.”
“Now to find a master for you, little one.” Tholme’s tone was kind. “Come join us.”
Thryn obeyed, if slowly, only now remembering to clip her lightsaber to her belt.
“I would like to spar with you, Thryn.” Obi-Wan felt a bit hesitant with his request. “I am curious whether we could accomplish lightsaber flow.”
“I’ve never actually done it before.” Thryn’s voice might be clear, but the intense feeling of being left out burdened the Force around her.
Relaxation. Relief. Friendship. The favorite game of the Jedi.
Obi-Wan could remember many of the best moments of his life occurring within a session of lightsaber flow.
And you’ve never experienced it.
Compassion welled up within him. “We’ll see if we can’t make it work.”
“Shouldn’t we be looking for a master instead?” Vos asked.
Obi-Wan fought the urge to be annoyed with his coarseness. He conquered. “I think that Thryn and I can take the time. And—” he caught Thryn’s gaze and held it— “if we don’t find a master for her, and the Council refuses to grant Taria her Padawanship, then I will take her.”
Look at that. Wouldn’t Qui-Gon be proud of me.
Korto stared at him in utter astonishment and Thryn’s heart skipped a beat so loudly they all knew it.
* * *
“Sorry,” Thryn murmured as she realized her reaction had been read.
“If it does work out that way, you’re going to have to let go of this mentality that I’m some great Jedi and hero,” Obi-Wan insisted.
The flicker of humor in his tone made her wonder if he was teasing.
“In the meantime, Korto and I will find Feemor and speak with him,” Tholme decided.
“So you didn’t decide to take her after all?” Vos asked, clearly disappointed.
Tholme looked sideways at him, then glanced at Thryn. “Let’s just say I’m not as convinced it’s not an option anymore, and leave it at that.”
* * *
Obi-Wan hid a smile in his beard as disbelief shot through Thryn’s face.
They were very different. Taria, himself, Korto, Tholme.
Yet we’re all drawn to the little waif.
Each willing to set aside their own plans to make sure she didn’t fail. Didn’t lose out.
I certainly can’t just stand by and watch her be thrown to the AgriCorps, after Qui-Gon took mercy on me.
“Let’s use the lower intensity settings on our sabers,” Thryn suggested, a twist of concern adding intensity to her voice as Tholme and Vos walked away.
“Why?” Obi-Wan asked, studying her. “Because you don’t think you can anticipate my movements, or because I couldn’t read yours?”
“Because with my dissonant nature, who knows what might happen.”
“If you would rather, then we can.” But we will move on to full intensity as soon as you’re willing to. You’ve gone without the experience long enough.
This particular activity would be better served in a dojo, so as they walked, Obi-Wan spent the time analyzing Thryn’s Force signature.
Because he was intently searching for it, he was beginning to see how it had a harmony all of its own. It didn’t conflict with her Balance, it was simply a different song with a different rhythm in a different key from the other Jedi. It had an intricacy and beauty hidden within.
He compared his own signature to hers, wondering if he could find a way to weave the songs together to make one complicated two-stranded melody.
They would find out soon.
He almost wanted to have someone see, simply so the rumor mill could start working in the opposite direction.
Thryn ’s reputation had to be pretty well destroyed among the Jedi, old and young alike. If they could achieve lightsaber flow, it would be a statement of his trust, his approval of her as a Jedi.
A risk? Definitely.
But it’s a risk Qui-Gon would have taken. Anakin too.
Every child deserves a chance. Qui-Gon took a massive chance with me. The least I can do is try to help someone else.
And even if he didn’t want to admit it, he knew he did have weight with the younger generations of Jedi. Whether Thryn ended up as his Padawan or not, whispers that he trusted her enough for lightsaber flow could work in her favor.
Fame was worthless if you couldn’t use it to help people.
When they arrived, the arena was empty, the balconies just as vacant.
Even so, Thryn seemed slightly on edge, as if worried someone would walk in and see.
“Relax,” Obi-Wan counseled. “Let go of the fear of what others think of you, or might think. Connect with your saber’s crystal.”
* * *
Kenobi visibly relaxed, focused a moment with his eyes closed, took in a deep breath...
Thryn imitated him, marveling that this was even happening. It seemed almost too good to be real.
“Have you tried to accomplish flow before?”
“Yes.” The memories stung her eyes. “I never mastered it as a youngling. And the one time my master and I... he ended up... I injured him. Badly.”
That particular memory wasn ’t a scar. It was a deep, still-bleeding wound. The accident had led to the distrust forming on her master’s side.
Next thing I know, I ’m thrown away.
Kenobi didn’t respond with disapproval or shock. He gave her a kind glance, and adjusted his saber. “When you’re ready. Remember, not a battle; a dance.”
Thryn nodded almost compulsively as she ensured her lightsaber would leave a stinging jolt, not a wound. It can’t happen again. We’re safe. It’s safe.
Igniting her lightsaber, Thryn slid into a battle stance. “Ready.”
“We’ll go slow until we’re comfortable.”
Not until she was comfortable.
This is different for him too, Thryn thought.
He set the pace. “I’ve lowered my mental shields. Can you sense where I’m going to make my next move?”
Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force signature was similar to that of the other Jedi. Unique, of course, but along the same basic lines. Thryn had spent her entire life looking at those kinds of signatures and trying to mimic them.
But for lightsaber flow to work, I have to be me. Not trying to change me.
Then again, that’s what had gone wrong with Master Cahl.
There is no way I can make my song blend with his. They’re too different.
“Don’t focus on your doubts,” Kenobi encouraged as their blades met for the fifth time. “You can do this.”
She nodded, and tried to read his intent.
She caught the next strike with her saber—
But was that part of her danger detection system, or reading intent from his mind? His weight shifted, a microscopic adjustment, and Thryn ducked the next blow, answering with one of her own.
His grip adjusted, his eyes flickered just a hint to the left, and then he was moving to follow through—
“I’m responding to what I’m seeing you do.” Thryn pulled away and sighed. “Your body’s tells. If you speed up, I won’t be able to keep up unless I switch to battle mode. And that’s how I hurt my master.”
“You are forced to rely on strategy because you’re not hearing my intent. You’re treating this like a sparring contest.”
Thryn shrugged. “I can’t make sense of your signals. I have a vague idea what they mean, but I can’t translate it fast enough to survive. Not unless I’m relying on my danger warning system.”
“Which changes the intent from dance to contest.” Kenobi ran a hand over his beard. “Our signatures are not clashing. In this moment, we are both in Balance. We are both of the light. That being the case, there is a way for the two songs to work together. Close your eyes.”
Thryn stiffened. “Then we may as well quit, because if I can’t read your tells—”
“I will project my intentions as clearly as I can. I need you to lower your shields and reach out. We’re going to keep moving slow.”
“Are you closing your eyes?” she asked even as her eyelids obeyed. She hated the worry that shivered through her.
The worry turned just a bit louder.
“It’s not like you can hurt me. If one of us slips, it’s not the end of the world, Thryn. Relax. We’re safe.”
Thryn took a deep breath to calm herself.
He’s right. I can’t nearly kill him with an under-powered saber.
“Let go of your fear.” Kenobi’s soothing tone smoothed the wrinkles in her mind.
The first few blows were awkward. She felt his lightsaber brush against her left thigh, then her forearm a few moments later.
And then her own saber slammed into his gut.
She sensed his jolt of pain in the Force and cringed. That signal she understood.
“You’re not failing,” Obi-Wan assured her, no sign of pain in his voice.
That might be true, but the last of Thryn’s confidence had been cut off at the knees.
She lowered her mental guards as far as she could and tried to share her plans as she reached out for Kenobi’s own.
She caught a whisper of something—
A high strike for her shoulder was coming.
I’ll catch it, duck underneath his blade—
A strange reverberation shivered, and Thryn realized he understood.
There came his blow.
Even then, he was sharing what he planned in answer to Thryn’s answer.
It is a dance, Thryn realized. One continually improvised, where both individuals took turns leading. She sensed his approval.
She felt the gentle urge coming from Master Kenobi.
In sync they sped up.
The steady, firm pressure of his mind loosened some of Thryn’s worries. It’s working. Clearly he was understanding her signature, and she suspected she was beginning to understand his.
She felt the last of her reluctance drain away. She could feel Kenobi’s heartbeat, the sand beneath her feet, the song of her own soul—
Thryn released herself to float on the waves of the Force.
And felt her blade crash full-speed horizontal into Kenobi’s chest.
Thryn’s concentration broke as the older Jedi fell backwards to the floor, the wind knocked clean out of him.
Sheer horror took over. Thryn sprang to his side and knelt. “I’m so sorry,” she choked against blinding tears that fell despite her best efforts. “I don’t know what happened—”
“I’m not completely sure either,” Kenobi admitted, looking up at her with sober eyes.
Thank the Force we weren’t using full intensity blades.
“I’m so sorry,” Thryn repeated, terrified he would reject her the way her first master had. “I am dangerous, I should have known better—”
Kenobi flipped himself to his feet, dusted off his hands, and shrugged. “No harm done. Training strength, remember?”
Relieved he wasn’t angry, Thryn ran a shaking hand over her hair. “Did I slip into fighting mode?”
“I didn’t see it coming, whatever it was.” Kenobi smiled at her, of all things. “And I should have felt a flicker of danger, even if I wasn’t reading your unprotected intentions at the time, which I was. ” Smug satisfaction crossed his face. “I think you would be quite a hazard to the good Count.”
“I’m a hazard to my friends, ” Thryn lamented.
“Not so. I just haven’t learned how to adapt fully yet.”
“Yet? I thought it was working, until I took you out. How could we know if you were fully adapted— when I was fully safe? Something could go wrong at any time!”
Kenobi gave her a nod. “Which is why we’ll switch to full intensity with our lightsabers now.”
“ What? ” she yelped. “If we’d done that first, you would be dead or dying!”
“Dead,” he admitted. “But don’t you see, Thryn? No. You won’t. Once you have a Padawan of your own, you’ll understand it. You won’t until then. But trust me. Trust me fully, completely.”
Thryn clipped her lightsaber to her belt in refusal. “I am not going to kill or dismember you. No, Master Kenobi.”
“But you should listen to him.”
Thryn spun around and saw Korto standing on the observation balcony.
“ But— ”
“I’ll spot for you,” Korto offered, leaping over the railing to land softly nearby. As he walked up, he grinned. “If a wild move like that happens again on either side, I’ll deflect it. You couldn’t see what it looked like from the outside, Thryn. It was... worth seeing.”
Kenobi sent him a dry look. “Especially that last bit?”
“Got that right. Won’t be something I forget soon.”
“Of that I have no doubt,” Kenobi muttered.
Vos ignored him and turned to Thryn. “But that’s not what I was meaning. You have to overcome your fear.”
“By giving me something to really worry about?” she demanded.
“By forcing you to rely completely on Kenobi. The only way to survive is to let go and let him guide you, and it will be the same for him. To avoid your blade and to avoid injuring you, he will have to completely let go of himself and rest on your mind.”
Thryn stared at him. “We just proved we can’t do that.”
“No. You just proved that you couldn’t do it without pressure. You were close, but that wasn’t flow. You’ll know flow when it feels as if you are Kenobi, and the other way around.”
Kenobi sent him a surprised glance. “Well put.”
“Raising the stakes is going to make it harder for me to lose myself,” Thryn protested.
“It’s not so much about losing yourself as finding your counterpart,” Kenobi explained. “Don’t focus on letting yourself go, but of turning reins over to me.”
“Think of it like you’re moving Kenobi, and he’s moving you,” Vos suggested. “That’s how you’ll be able to get to full speed.”
Thryn frowned. “It felt pretty fast to me.”
“It was good, but it wasn’t battle speeds.” Korto shrugged. “And it wasn’t something you could have maintained more than a few minutes.”
“That was my fault, wasn’t it?” Thryn asserted more than asked.
Vos shook his head, dreadlocks swaying around his face. “Don’t look at it like that. You two were still too separate. You were reading one another’s intentions. Not switching minds.”
“He’s right,” Kenobi admitted. “In lightsaber flow, nothing is one person’s fault.”
But my master clearly blamed me when I wounded him so badly.
Kenobi was already readjusting his lightsaber.
Here goes nothing. Hoping she wasn ’t making the worst mistake of her life, Thryn followed suit.
“Remember, don’t let go,” Vos coached, taking only a single step backwards, and igniting his own green lightsaber as insurance. “ Hand it to him. And Kenobi. You managed to make your Force signature sing with hers, but not meld with hers. It’s not two intricately played songs. It’s one song. You aren’t individuals here. ”
* * *
Obi-Wan gave a nod in response to the instruction, surprised he felt no frustration.
It was strange.
He actually felt... in harmony with Korto Vos at the moment.
He liked it.
Instead of causing division in the Order, Thryn had drawn Obi-Wan and Korto to a shared goal.
It had been a long time since the two had been able to be in the same room and not be locked in an endless battle.
The little Padawan before them was unifying them. Banding them together as Jedi, first and foremost.
And yet part of the whole cause of the disturbance concerning her is that she might be damaging to unity.
* * *
“Can I keep my eyes open?” Thryn pleaded.
Vos chuckled. “If you do, then you ’ll see Kenobi’s closed, and that will scare you. No. Don’t rely on the Force to warn you, or for your other senses to give you hints. Rely on what Kenobi is sensing of you. Act on what he perceives, and he will act on what you perceive of him. Ready. Go.”
The lightsabers hissed as they struck.
Thryn tried to let go of her fear. And then...
Kenobi was relying on her. Completely. She could feel it.
That was even scarier.
The only way to keep him from being injured or killed was to reciprocate. With a nervous gesture in the Force, Thryn dropped responsibility into him.
For a split moment it felt like the world was turning on its head— and then everything righted.
And it all made sense.
This was what Korto had been talking about.
Thryn became acutely aware of her surroundings. Where Korto stood, where every grain of sand lay. The shifting of the air currents.
As they whirled and pushed off from the walls and spun around Vos, Thryn realized they were incorporating everything present into the dance.
She was aware of another Jedi somewhere... up on the balcony. No, two. Three. She wasn’t willing to give thought and energy to discovery who.
Thryn had never moved this fast in her life, not even in genuine conflict. The sensation of belonging was very strong, similar to the one she felt in battle...
Only this was a peaceful form of rest, and the other, while bringing rest, couldn’t really be termed peaceful.
Thryn’s fear wasn’t hers, now. It belonged to Kenobi.
And his confidence was hers.
That confidence urged her to relax. He wasn’t going to hurt her, and he wasn’t going to let her hurt him either.
The violence of the game was in appearance only. It had always looked to Thryn as though the participants were trying to slaughter one another.
Here, on the inside, it was so very different.
She could hear music.
Kenobi’s Force signature blending with hers in a wild, strange dual-melody, with two different backgrounds weaving together.
Wonder took possession of Thryn. It was beautiful here.
Gratitude welled within her, and she could feel the tears in her eyes.
Never, in her life, had she ever felt like she belonged.
Thank you. Thank you for showing me. For taking the time to harmonize with my dissonance.
Strangest of all, she could feel how much Kenobi enjoyed this too. Nothing else mattered— every worry, every line of care fell away in the perfect safety of this temporary bubble they created around themselves.
Nothing existed except for these two, here, now, as one.
They both understood when it was time to return, and they slowed with precision and harmony.
When they pulled away and stood, breathing heavily, sheened in sweat, the first thing Thryn became aware of was Korto clapping in exaggerated applause. “Congratulations. Feel different?”
I am definitely doing that again. How do those who can’t touch the Force survive without this kind of personal connection?
“How long was that?” Thryn panted.
“A standard hour.”
Thryn stared at Korto in shock. “An hour ?”
A lock of hair had fallen across Kenobi’s face. He pushed it back out of his eyes and sent her a slightly lazy grin. “You’ll eventually learn how to keep track of time while in the middle of it.”
“It was... absolutely incredible.” Thryn found herself at a loss to find words strong enough.
Kenobi clipped his quenched lightsaber to his belt again. “You let go of your fears, and we’ve proven you are compatible with the rest of the Jedi.”
“I’ll say,” Vos agreed. “Feemor should be here any moment. Tholme has been in contact during his flight, so he should be all brought up to speed by now. Tholme thought it would be better if I wasn’t around.” He smirked. “ I’m not very compatible with the rest of the Jedi.”
Thryn’s body felt spent, her muscles quivering with exhaustion, but her mind had never felt more clear and focused. She wasn’t sure whether she wanted to curl up and sleep, taking advantage of the calm within her mind and body, or whether she wanted to go accomplish something.
As an afterthought, she glanced up at the balcony, but the observers were gone.
“Who was it, who was watching us?” she asked.
Kenobi stretched, stifling a yawn. “Master Windu.”
The peaceful warmth vanished from Thryn’s mind, replaced with horror. It must have been loud enough for both men to sense it, because they exchanged glances.
“I wasn’t— it was alright for me to do that with you, right?”
“It was fine,” Kenobi assured her. “It gave him an opportunity to study both you and your Force pattern.”
“Oh.” Her voice sounded small. What did he think?
’ comlink beeped. “Korto. Feemor’s here. Bring Thryn on up to the hangar. I’ll meet you there.”
Thryn followed behind as the other two Jedi fell in step.
At least, that’s what Thryn felt it was. When she actually looked at their feet, she realized the steps didn’t match. At all. The speed was the same, but everything else was different.
And yet somehow they are in step.
“Yes, and you’re in step with us too,” Kenobi said without looking around, succeeding in startling Thryn.
“How did you—?”
“I understand your Force patterns now.”
“Huh. He understands you better than he does most of the Jedi he works with,” Vos grunted. “Strange, but true. He’s definitely connected with you.”
“Is that a good thing?” Thryn asked, unsure.
Korto laughed. “Yes, Thryn, it’s a good thing. It’s called friendship. All Jedi are part of the family, but there will be some Jedi you connect deeply to. They understand you. Sometimes they can even accurately guess what you’re thinking. Those patterns of connection aren’t predictable. Sometimes you’ll just be working— or playing— with someone, and click. ”
“You have friends like that?” Thryn wondered.
“Tonnal.” He hesitated. “I’m not like the other Jedi, Thryn. I don’t fit in as well as... most. Due to choices of my own. And the fact that I’ve never found Balance. It’s hard to find Balance with another person if you don’t have it with yourself. I will admit I was oddly drawn to you when I first saw you in the hallway. I had a chance to really watch your signature and Kenobi’s while you were in flow, and I think that if you and I worked together again, we’d be able to work as a team.”
Thryn’s eyes widened. “Really? My dissonance wouldn’t hurt you like last time?”
“What do you mean, like last time ?” he growled back with mock indignation.
Kenobi snorted again. “Nothing could trip such a humble Jedi.”
Vos sent him a withering look.
“And you, Master Kenobi?” Thryn interjected before Korto could speak. “You have friends like that?”
“Anakin,” he returned almost before the question had fully left her mouth.
Korto rolled his eyes. “Skywalker and Kenobi. The phrase is almost one word,” Vos complained. “Two halves of a whole. Never happy when the Team is broken.”
Kenobi sent him a glower.
“ You said Tonnal, and Master Kenobi said Master Skywalker. Tonnal is your master, and Skywalker had been your Padawan. Is it the Master-Padawan relationship that makes it like that?”
“It’s a bond that forms a deeper friendship than others,” Kenobi agreed. “Qui-Gon and I... it was the same with Qui-Gon and I.”
Thryn could sense there was more he wanted to say, but couldn’t put into words.
I hope I feel like that about someone someday.
“Taria is also someone I connect with, but it’s different from Qui-Gon and Anakin.”
“That’s because you love her,” Korto jabbed.
“And here I thought perhaps I’d been wrong about you all these years,” growled Kenobi. “To continue answering the original question, I also connect with Bant Eerin.”
Thryn nodded. “And you two?”
That startled Kenobi and Vos. The latter looked around at her in amazement. “ Us? ” He glanced at Kenobi with mild disgust.
Kenobi stared back, an equal look of distaste on his face.
“No,” they said as one.
“ Not us,” Kenobi assured her.
“Not in your wildest dreams, Padawan,” insisted Vos.
Thryn couldn’t help the snicker that escaped her.
“And people wonder why I haven’t taken a Padawan since Aayla,” Korto groused to himself.
Kenobi wasn’t listening to him, instead, he was muttering, “I’d almost forgotten what it was like, all those years with Anakin.”
Thryn smiled to herself. She’d never felt comfortable with any Jedi in her life so far— and even less at ease with those who couldn’t touch the Force.
She felt safe with these two. At home.
She wasn’t sure what she thought of Tholme. She wanted to believe his attempts to put her at ease now... but she couldn’t forget the gleam of death that had been in his eyes.
“You’ll warm up to Tholme.”
Thryn narrowed her eyes at Korto. “Why can’t I guess what you two are thinking, and you seem to be able to read me so clearly?”
“Because I keep my thoughts inside my head.” Vos shrugged. “You throw yours all over the place. They’re encoded differently, and I now know the code. You better learn to shield, or I’m going to be in your head all the time.”
Kenobi shook his head. “There is that concept of courtesy, Vos, where you don’t intentionally view everything that isn’t actively shielded.”
“You were responding to her thoughts too, you know,” Korto countered.
“Yes, well— ” Kenobi launched into a perfectly good reason why.
Thryn tuned him out as she picked up on something. There was something these two didn’t want her seeing or hearing or sensing. By mutual, silent agreement, they were keeping her fully preoccupied.
What is it?
She reached out with her Force senses, trying to discover the source of the disturbance...
Kenobi’s comlink activated.
“I’ve got our list,” Taria’s voice announced. “With help from Madame Nu and Master Yoda, I’ve narrowed it down to ten potentials.”
“Are the four of us and Feemor on the list?” Kenobi asked.
There was the briefest of hesitations, then, “Yes.”
“That should help us narrow things down, then.” Kenobi’s tone was optimistic. But there was something lurking. A flicker in his signature that suggested of hidden tension. “Are the other five here at the Temple?”
“Four are, the fifth in transit now, returning from a recent mission. I’ve already contacted the first on my list, and I’ll be meeting with her momentarily.”
“Good. Kenobi out.”
On edge now, Thryn tried to calm herself with deep breaths.
And then she remembered their audience.
There were three Jedi.
And now that she thought about it...
They were there since the very beginning, Thryn realized. They saw me strike Master Kenobi.
If Master Windu was the least scary answer to give me, who could—
Something clicked. The memory focused beneath her scrutiny.
The two Jedi in front of her stopped in the same instant.
They knew she’d figured it out.
“My old master was there,” Thryn murmured. “And... and a Padawan.”
Kenobi and Vos didn’t look at one another. They remained silent.
“The Padawan is his. Isn’t it.”
After a pause, Kenobi turned around and met her gaze with both compassion and understanding. “Yes.”
“And he was talking with Windu,” she pieced together. “That’s why Korto interfered so quickly when I knocked you over. He was keeping me from realizing who had just witnessed that. You were afraid I’d give up completely if I knew.”
“And I wanted your master to see what you are capable of,” Vos added, his voice still rough but gentle at the same time. “That’s why we insisted on the full-strength intensity.”
“It was important for Master Windu and Cahl to see we trust you completely,” Kenobi agreed.
Thryn held her head up, trying to speak clearly around the constriction in her throat. “What were they talking about? Why is he here? I thought he was on mission.”
“He knew the Council was deciding what to do with me, didn’t he,” Thryn guessed. “He came to testify against me.”
* * *
Obi-Wan closed his eyes. The pain that oozed from Thryn was an agonizing sensation for him, now that he was in tune with her.
It felt like poison, slowly dripping into an old, open wound.
“Try not to think too badly of him,” Obi-Wan said, voice soft. “The Council summoned him.”
He could see that helped a little.
* * *
Korto refrained from pointing out that Cahl had been on his way here before the Council’s transmission reached him.
Or that the new Padawan was one of the worst behaved Padawans Vos had encountered.
Or that master and new Padawan seemed to hit it off very well.
Thryn would probably find it all out for herself. She was visibly struggling against tears.
“What,” she started, then, ashamed of the unsteadiness in her voice, waited half a beat to collect herself together better, “did Master Windu think?”
“His thoughts are his own,” Kenobi admitted. “It is impossible to tell what he is thinking unless he reveals it.”
Thryn gave a nod. “They didn’t wait to speak to me.”
“They left maybe five minutes before you stopped,” Vos offered. “I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Kenobi here has great weight with the Council. He’ll be on it someday. Probably soon.”
Kenobi looked at him in genuine shock. “ What ?”
* * *
“Of course he can’t see it,” Vos chuckled. “He ended up with all the humility I never had. But the fact that he placed his life in your hands after you killed him says a lot right there. The fact that I believed in you wasn’t very reassuring to the Council. But they trust in Kenobi.”
“ Korto— ”
“Shut up, Kenobi,” Vos interrupted good-naturedly. “It’s true, so just shut up.”
Thryn wanted to take comfort in their words, but found she couldn’t. “What does my master think the Council should do with me?”
Both men’s senses snapped closed.
Thryn grit her teeth and tried to not show she’d noticed.
It’s bad. Really bad.
They’re trying to keep me from despairing.
“There’s one of him, and four of us,” Korto offered. “Four masters willing to train you, one who isn’t. Pretty good odds, don’t you think?”
Not when the former master is well respected and I nearly killed him. His word will have plenty of weight. Especially after Windu saw what I did to Master Kenobi.
Thryn blinked back a shudder.
What if I had killed Master Kenobi?
The thought of Skywalker ’s grief was mental torture. Skywalker’s emotions roared through the Force like a hurricane, especially pain and grief.
Everyone in the Order, even if they weren’t mourning for Kenobi personally, would have suffered alongside him, simply because he couldn’t— or wouldn’t— shield himself.
Jabiim wasn’t that long ago. Thryn remembered.
Would they have thought she’d killed him on purpose? Concealed her intent and slaughtered him when he trusted her? Would they—
“Padawan,” Kenobi said, tone firm, “collect your thoughts. You didn’t kill me. Let’s not keep Feemor waiting.”
That didn’t make her feel much better.
Feemor. One of six.
While she was grateful of her new friends’ willingness to turn their lives inside out for her, she didn’t want them to have to. Tholme and Vos had tasks vital to the Republic that a Padawan could hinder. Taria would die in a few weeks.
Had some deep, inner reasons why he didn’t want a Padawan at this time.
Vaguely, Thryn caught Vos throwing Kenobi a glance before he pulled ahead. Kenobi slowed his pace just a bit to walk beside Thryn.
“Has anyone told you about when Qui-Gon took me as his Padawan?” he asked.
Thryn shook her head.
“It was just before my birthday. If no one chose me before it, I was to be sent to the Agricultural Corps. In those days, it was the thirteenth birthday. We are in great need of knights now, and things have changed, but in those days it was a strict rule. I wanted more than anything else to become a knight. Couldn’t bear the thought of being an agricultural Jedi. But even after all hope seemed gone, I found a master. Not just any master, but one of the greatest Jedi of his time. Our friendship was deep, our connection solid. Take heart. I know we will find you one.”
“Have you seen it?” Thryn asked, wondering if it was safe to hope.
“No, but I feel a deep confidence in it.”
Hopefully, that would be enough.
Korto paused in the doorway of the hangar, allowing the other two to catch up.
Thryn watched in nervous silence as Feemor climbed out of his starfighter, then turned to speak with Tholme.
She trailed behind Kenobi and Vos as they advanced.
It took a few moments to draw close enough to read expressions on the waiting faces.
Feemor was tall and lithe with light-toned skin, piercing blue eyes, and long blond hair. The front locks had been pulled back and bound at the back of his head to keep the tresses out of his face.
Feemor’s gaze hadn’t made it past Vos and Kenobi yet when his face drained of all color. Sheer panic echoed through the Force from him, mingled with roiling nausea. He doubled over and violently threw up all over Tholme’s boots, then crashed to his knees.
“ Whoa !” Korto yelped, grabbing Thryn’s arm and towing her backwards.
Kenobi sprinted forward and leaned over the wheezing Feemor.
Tholme said something, but Feemor didn’t seem to respond. He swayed—
He’s struggling against blacking out. “What’s happening to him?”
“Well...” Vos sounded hesitant. “Tholme can probably tell better, since he was closer.”
He looks absolutely terrible.
Tholme exchanged a few words with Kenobi and then started towards those who had retreated, leaving Kenobi with the green-and-white Jedi Master. As he reached them, Korto scrunched up his nose.
“Something tells me that wasn’t a case of motion sickness,” Vos grumbled. He stared down pointedly. “Your boots stink.”
Tholme glanced at them, then shrugged. “I was wondering if something might happen. I should have stood back a little farther.”
“What happened?” Thryn prodded.
Tholme turned to her. “Feemor is very sensitive to the Living Force, like his master before him.”
“That was me ?” Thryn demanded in shock.
That’s new. Haven’t had anybody vomit before. Kark.
Neither of the older Jedi said a word.
“I guess that’s that, then,” Thryn observed, looking back at Feemor, who sat leaning against his ship, looking rather weakened still. Kenobi had his hands on his head, clearly trying to help him recalibrate. “And I shouldn’t get close enough to apologize.”
“Probably not the best idea,” Tholme agreed. “I’m pretty sure he’d black out the whole way if you went much closer than you did.”
If we’re looking for someone like Qui-Gon Jinn, and Feemor, who’s similar, can’t tolerate me... maybe we’re looking at this wrong. Qui-Gon might have been disrupted by me too. The one who everyone keeps saying would have trained me had he been alive would have thrown up if I was in the same room? Passed out if we tried sparring, let alone lightsaber flow?
Something inside Thryn shriveled and began to die.
“Taria,” Vos asked into his comlink, “are you there?”
Thryn took a deep breath, unable to tear her gaze off the slowly-recovering Feemor. He didn’t look at her once. I hope he knows I didn’t attack him. It wasn’t on purpose.
“I’m assuming the meeting with Feemor did not go well,” Taria shot back. “I sensed great disappointment from Obi-Wan.”
Vos grimaced. “That makes sense. Thryn incapacitated him by walking to a comfortable shouting distance. Who’s up next?”
“I’ve already spoken to her. She’s already chosen a Padawan. She hasn’t announced it, hasn’t gone to the Council about it yet, since she wants him to run one more trial first. Character building in patience and letting go, you know. But there is little doubt it will work out well.”
Thryn felt her heart drop into her boots.
“All right,” Vos muttered to himself. “Four more to go.”
“Knight Ko Rogut and Kiridd Sae.”
“I know Rogut slightly,” Vos offered.
Taria sounded cheerful. “Good. Take Thryn and go meet with him. I ’ll talk to Kiridd.”
“Good luck with that,” Tholme muttered to himself, almost too low to hear.
“Why?” Thryn asked.
“In childhood, he earned the nickname Lord Farfalla from my friends and I . It still fits.”
Oh. Extravagant, then.
Korto scoffed. “Glad we don’t have to talk to him, then. Let’s go. Hey, Kenobi! We’re going! ” His voice boomed through the hangar.
The other’s response came through the comlink in a more civilized tone. “Be right there. Feemor’s alright, just a bit shaken.”
There was a little background noise, then Feemor’s voice on the link, “I’m sorry, little one. It’s not your fault. Obviously. Since Obi-Wan and Masters Vos, Tholme, and Damsin are fine.”
“I’m sorry too. It... looked miserable.”
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
Kenobi caught up with them as they reached the exit of the hangar. He didn’t say anything.
Thryn tried to sense the disappointment Taria had mentioned, but couldn’t find it.
“Where next?” he asked, apparently without a worry.
Thryn suspected he felt differently on the inside.
“Knight Ko Rogut, Master Kiridd Sae,” Tholme repeated for his benefit.
Kenobi nodded. “Met Sae, know Rogut only by face.”
“He trained a Padawan all the way through,” Vos volunteered, “but the day before the boy was going to take the Trials, he—”
And there Korto stopped.
Tholme glanced at him.
Kenobi kept looking straight ahead as they walked. “He joined the task force trying to rescue me on Geonosis, and died in the Petranaki arena.”
There was awkward silence for a moment.
“I saw him fall,” Kenobi added, words nearly inaudible.
Thryn felt her gut flip. The amount of guilt and pain that lay behind the words was terrible, though well controlled. “I’m sorry.”
“There is no death, there is only the Force,” was Kenobi’s brisk response. “Did Taria say where to find Rogut?” When everyone looked at him blankly, he pulled away and activated his comlink.
Thryn used the moment to ask Korto, “If Rogut trained a Padawan to completion, wouldn’t he be promoted to Jedi Master? Even if it
missed by a day?”
“He refused the promotion,” Vos admitted. “He’s one to do everything by the letter of the law instead of the heart of it.”
Thryn frowned. “That doesn’t sound like my chances are very good.”
“That remains to be seen,” Kenobi said as he rejoined them. “Qui-Gon used to tell me to expect nothing. Just accept what comes and act accordingly. Taria said Archives.”
They passed a few Jedi in the halls, and Thryn was glad there weren’t many.
Several, as soon as they sensed her coming, either switched direction or made a large detour around her. A few kept straight on, but glanced at her out of the corners of their eyes.
She could sense fear shivering in some. Disgust in others.
Thryn grit her teeth and forced herself to ignore it.
“Calm,” Kenobi murmured. “Relax, Padawan.”
They found Ko Rogut.
Thryn couldn’t make up her mind whether it had taken too long to find him, or not long enough.
As they approached and he sensed her, he instantly clamped down on his shields. Not a hint of what he thought showed in his face, eyes, sense... not a hint.
By unspoken agreement, Korto and Tholme let Kenobi do the talking.
Rogut listened until the man was through, never once looking at Thryn, and seemed to have his response ready.
In a single word, he summed it up.
“AgriCorps.” He looked into Kenobi’s face, then glanced at Tholme and Vos. “AgriCorps.” His gaze traveled back to Kenobi’s. “This is why we have the AgriCorps. It’s where we place the dangerous ones. The too aggressive ones. The failures.”
“That is not why the AgriCorps exists,” Kenobi returned with some heat. “It ’s for those who naturally connect to plants, those who wish to avoid battle at all costs, and those who wish to devote their lives to growing things, contemplation, and feeding the hungry.”
There was a pause, and then, still not taking his gaze away from Kenobi’s eyes, Rogut cocked his head to the side and seemed to size the other man up.
“You know, I never did agree with Qui-Gon Jinn training you at the last minute. I always thought he should have let you go to the AgriCorps. That’s where failed Jedi belong. I think Melida/Daan proved me right.”
Thryn felt Kenobi’s senses slam shut, throwing up a thick wall with more speed than a striking isk.
But she’d felt the sharp stab of pain the comment had caused. An old wound. One that hadn’t been touched recently. One he hadn’t been expecting. And it hurt.
“Perhaps if you investigated further into this, you might discover Padawan Sein is not a failing Jedi by any means,” Kenobi said, voice calm. “I think it is safe to say that she will never make the mistake I made on Melida/Daan.”
“ Mistake ?” Rogut returned, a partial sneer now twisting his face. “You betrayed Jinn. The man who trusted you and chose to give you a chance when it was obvious you didn ’t have what it took to become a knight. You endangered Tahl , abandoned your mission, and turned your back on the Order.”
“He was thirteen , for the love of Tython!” snarled Vos.
Rogut sent him a cool glance. “Yes, and you are such a stellar Jedi yourself. Honest and Balanced.” He turned back to Kenobi, who gave no sign of pain or anger. “Qui-Gon Jinn took you as his Padawan again , and that was obviously a mistake. He’s dead now, while you stand here. Of course, that could have been prevented if the Council had put their foot down. Mistake after mistake. I think Petranaki proved that true.”
Kenobi’s wall cracked.
Thryn struggled against indignation. Not for herself— she’d heard the failure label many times before, and had believed it herself until her new friends had stepped in. She still wasn’t completely convinced it didn’t apply to her.
But to strike Kenobi in so many places that obviously hurt? That was unfair. Whatever this Melida/Daan incident was, Kenobi didn’t deserve to have it dredged up so many years later.
“This isn’t about me,” Kenobi said, his voice now strained, though still quiet, “and anything I have been or done has no bearing on Padawan Sein’s future. Perhaps, since you don’t trust me, you could speak to others—”
“I have not spoken to Master Cahl, and I think to do so would be unnecessary. The case is obvious. I understand your emotions since you undoubtedly feel that her story is similar to your own. Take my advice, Kenobi. See where your path has led, and then honestly decide whether we really need another Jedi like that or worse.”
Kenobi stood frozen, shock across his face as Rogut turned and walked away.
Tholme had retreated to a discrete distance, but Korto still stood near with his arms folded. He glared at the receding form. “Barve,” he muttered to himself. “Anybody can see he’s bitter and resentful. And he was pointing fingers at us.”
“His Padawan died because of me five months ago,” Kenobi bit out. “Cut him some slack.” He pulled himself together as best as he could— and he could very well outwardly— and raised his comlink. He hesitated.
Then he closed his eyes and rubbed his temples with his hand.
He has... a headache.
Thryn wasn’t sure how she knew. But she also knew it had been triggered by the knifing pain of the encounter.
Something was different in Master Kenobi from other Jedi.
In the Force, in his body—
There was a fragility to him.
I’m crazy. He’s fit, fast, skilled, optimistic, fearless.
But she couldn’t help but think that some ordeal in the past had damaged him physically. Severely.
And it occasionally reared its head to bite him.
* * *
For Obi-Wan, time seemed to drag to a standstill. He fought wave after wave of memories, threatening to swamp him. Petranaki. The duel with Maul. Tahl’s death. Melida/Daan.
Zigoola was always with him now. And there was something... wrong, within. The thin knives of pain stabbing through his brain right this second were evidence of that. He had bled often on Zigoola. Eyes... nose...
The Healers and medics alike had never been able to determine where the fluid had come from. His head appeared to be undamaged.
He knew it wasn’t, no matter how hard they tried to deny it.
He forced himself to fight to the surface. He couldn’t let the memories attack him now.
I am not responsible for Qui-Gon’s death.
And the Jedi who came to Geonosis volunteered. They knew the risk.
It’s why so many of them had come.
But so many had died. For him. They hadn’t known Anakin and Senator Amidala were there— not until everything had come down.
He tapped his comlink without opening his squeezed-shut eyes.
Oh, that headache...
“Taria. Ko Rogut is not going to work.”
“Well, I have good news,” Taria’s voice came back, sounding hopeful. “Master Sae has heard Thryn’s story and has agreed to meet her. I’m already halfway to the Archives. I’ll meet up with you, and we can go.”
* * *
Kenobi opened his eyes and turned towards the exit. Master Tholme had drawn close again, and Vos didn’t say another word.
Thryn wondered, briefly, what Malida/Daan had been about... then shut down that thought. Obi-Wan might be able to hear it.
And she didn’t want to cause him any more pain than he was already experiencing.
Taria met them at the door. She was careful to keep an optimistic look on her face and in her sense. Thryn’s forehead furrowed as she realized that inside, the woman felt anything but.
* * *
The Padawan had seen through her front.
Especially since Obi-Wan hadn’t. Then again, he seemed distracted.
Taria felt annoyed, deep inside. Yes, Kiridd Sae had agreed to meet with them...
But his sense had been apathetic. Like he was listening with only half an ear. The response had been casual. A conferred favor.
Taria scanned Thryn’s sense, trying to discern how the first three let-downs had affected her. She tried to interpret the strange patterns in the Force, and decode them into emotions.
The only problem was she had nothing to compare against to make sure she hadn’t miscalculated. There was no answer key.
According to Obi-Wan, he and Korto had managed to sort it out. Surely I can too.
But it might take some communication to do so. Korto was naturally off kilter by a bit, so it might have come easily for him. Obi-Wan had reached lightsaber flow, and that would bring clarity for anybody .
I may just have to talk to her.
She allowed Korto and Obi-Wan to take point, and fell back to talk with Thryn.
Given the expression on the girl’s face, the ploy had been used already on her today.
Taria decided to get straight to the point. “I’m trying to learn your Force patterns. I don’t want to assume I have it right. I suspect that most other Jedi may misinterpret your patterns, assigning emotions and intentions to them that aren’t accurate. That could explain the chasm between you.”
Thryn’s slightly wary expression melted.
“So will you be completely honest with me, and not give me the
“What are you feeling right now?”
For a moment Thryn was silent. Then, “I don’t want to get my hopes up. I’m afraid.”
“I’m still shocked that Master Rogut would be so cruel to Master Kenobi. I had a hard struggle against anger when he did it, Master Damsin. He was so casual about it.”
Thought I sensed something.
“You didn’t enjoy Obi-Wan’s pain? It didn’t give you that sense of belonging?”
A look of sheer disgust and injury washed across Thryn’s face. Her sense recoiled in what was obviously the feeling of betrayal. She hadn’t expected that from Master—
“I can see the answer is no,” Taria encouraged.
“But Rogut thought you did,” Korto spoke up.
Embarrassment— quite recognizable— whispered through Thryn’s sense.
“It’s how he interpreted your response. If I hadn’t been trying to get to know you, I probably would have assumed that as well.”
Now concern was wafting through Thryn’s signature. Taria was able to detect fear.
Making progress, here.
“Master Kenobi didn’t think that... right?” Thryn whispered.
A wave of intense calm and peace flooded Taria. She froze, turning to stare at her charge.
Obi-Wan and Korto spun around almost as one, even as Obi-Wan said with vehemence, “ No. ”
“What was that ?” Korto demanded.
Thryn’s eyes widened. “What was what? Did I do something wrong?”
“No, no,” Taria assured her. “When you thought maybe Obi-Wan misinterpreted your intention, what did you feel?”
Korto shook his head. “But that wall of... whatever that was, hasn’t hit us before. And this is not the first time I’ve sensed you feel pain.”
Her blank look didn’t clear.
“Hmm.” Taria shook her head. “Let’s keep on. We don’t want to keep Master Sae waiting.”
Obi-Wan’s feet might be moving forward, but his brain sure wasn’t. “Thryn. I did not interpret your response that way. Though I have no doubt I would have if I had not already learned how to read your signature.”
“Is that why others respond with so much disgust?” Thryn asked. “When I hurt for other people, they think I like their pain?”
“I’m afraid so,” Taria said, as gently as she could. “And since you do enjoy enemy suffering, it probably seems like a logical extension.”
Thryn was quiet, but the knowledge obviously hit her like a solid blow to the solar plexus.
Taria wanted to ponder the strange explosion of just a few moments ago, but they had reached the hall where she’d left Kiridd, and had no time. Later, she promised herself.
The master was no longer in the lounging, comfortable frame of mind that she’d left him in. Taria realized she hadn’t been scanning his signature because she’d been too busy with Thryn’s.
Taria’s gut dropped into her toes.
There was a fiery glint in Sae’s eyes that didn’t bode well for their mission.
“Master Sae?” Taria asked, stepping forward again, trying to understand his change in manner. He seemed deeply agitated, close to furious. And he was pointedly not looking at Thryn.
Oh, dear. Taria stifled her growing dread. “You have agreed to talk with Thryn, Master Sae?”
“I’ve changed my mind,” he snapped. “I didn’t have all the facts. I’m disturbed that you hid some from me.”
“What did I hide from you?” Taria asked, dumbfounded. And then she caught a glimpse of a well-sculpted girlish face peering around a corner down the hall.
Thryn visibly drooped when her gaze found the same pair of eyes.
Score one for Cahl.
But perhaps the situation was still redeemable.
“I’m sure there’s a misunderstanding,” Taria soothed. “I did not hide anything from you intentionally. Shall we find a place to sit and talk?”
“ No !” he returned, his agitation increasing. “I can sense her disruption in the Force. What’s the use in talking? I can see the evidence of the truth of Master Cahl’s statements for myself.”
And Taria Damsin knew that once again, they had run into a wall.
“I’m sorry, Master,” Thryn offered, but Sae still wouldn’t look at her.
Instead, he turned around and walked away.
Obi-Wan gave a heavy sigh through his nose.
Korto jerked his head in a frustrated movement. “We still have a couple more options,” he offered, but it sounded hollow.
Taria instantly got on her comlink to contact the last ones. She’d already shared the little reject’s story with them both, and they had been willing to meet the girl.
Now to find out if they still are.
The news, at least, was encouraging. Cahl’s dire predictions had made little headway with either of them.
Taria relaxed, just a little, but could sense that Thryn had not.
She was still afraid to get her hopes up.
Maybe it was unwise for Taria to do so either, but she couldn’t help it.
She could feel the pulse of that grim determination of Obi-Wan’s, familiar, and just a bit painful.
It was aimed at saving me, not that long ago.
Has he given up?
She’d asked him to. Demanded he let her live these last few weeks in peace.
So far he’d allowed her that.
When is the desperation going to kick in again?
She didn’t want to think about it.
Instead, she smiled at Thryn as they traveled, at a faster speed this time. “Master Skai is rather shy. She is very unconvinced of her skill. When I first spoke to her, she wasn’t willing to try, because she’s only recently become a Master and has raised only one Padawan. She’s afraid she may do you more harm than good. However, she is willing to speak with you.”
Taria scanned Thryn’s sense, but a large portion of the tangled jumble was still heavily encrypted.
“She has a good, kind heart, and is far wiser than she thinks. I don’t believe she would do you harm, and I think she is qualified to teach you. So does Master Yoda. So don’t let her humility deceive you.”
“Never seen that before,” Korto growled, throwing a pointed look at Obi-Wan.
The other was too deep in his own pensive thoughts to respond.
* * *
Thryn studied the Nikto as they approached.
No sign of nausea.
Though Thryn wasn’t sure how such a sensation would manifest for the species... and was less sure she wanted to know...
And unlike Master Sae, there didn’t seem to be a Thryn-enhanced anger present.
But there was something else.
Something very, very familiar to Thryn. Her subconscious caught hold of it and sucked it in.
The moment she realized what was happening, Thryn recoiled from it in shock. She clamped down on her self-control, and pulled up.
The sensation eased, but Thryn felt excruciatingly embarrassed. Her three friends must have felt it. What were they thinking?
Taria rubbed her shoulder in sympathy as they continued walking.
Relief that Taria, at least, wasn’t condemning her, helped.
Thryn couldn’t help her initial reaction to fear in others. And if Nicfi-Ton Skai had been an enemy, she wouldn’t have been able to squash it at all.
“You don’t have abilities similar to Falleen, do you?” Vos asked, looking like a sudden thought had struck him.
Thryn felt miserable. “I don’t think so.” She could sense the Nikto woman’s fear spinning out of control, turning into a deep, primal terror. The desperate urge to run. “I’m not trying to scare her!”
“We know,” Kenobi soothed, but Thryn could sense he felt disturbed.
Despite the overwhelming panic threatening to choke her, and having sensed Thryn’s initial reaction, Nicfi-Ton stood her ground. She put what Taria had said of Thryn’s character above the evidence of her own senses.
Nicfi-Ton lifted her chin and set her jaw. But when she opened her mouth to greet the four, not a sound came out. Her breathing shallow, eyes wide—
Thryn recognized the symptoms. Her mind is beginning to shut down.
The Nikto’s gaze was locked on Thryn’s face, her entire body frozen as though she’d been turned into crystal.
The Jedi struggled to break free, knowing the response wasn’t rational, wasn’t helpful, had to be worked around ... knowing Thryn wasn’t a threat—
Or did she know it?
And then the scales tipped and she took several steps backwards, beginning to tremble uncontrollably.
Thryn stopped dead in her tracks, holding very still, trying to wear a reassuring smile—
But as soon as the wavering corners of her mouth drew up, the Nikto broke and fled.
Tears blurred Thryn’s vision, though thank the Force they didn’t fall.
Tholme looked to his chrono, scowled, then sent Thryn an apologetic glance. “I cannot stay longer.” He squeezed Korto’s shoulder, then headed off.
Taria’s comlink chimed. She answered, “Nic? You okay?”
“I’m so sorry, Taria,” Master Skai’s voice burst from the speaker, colored with shame and— were those tears? “Please tell her I’m so, so sorry. I’m sure she’s a wonderful young lady, and I fully believe she isn’t a threat to the Order or to me, but I—”
“We understand,” Taria soothed. “Don’t blame yourself.”
“Tell her I’m sorry.”
Thryn stared at the floor, letting loose a weary sigh. Naturally shy, but willing to sacrifice her own comfort to give things a try. To step way outside her comfort zone to help me.
The exact sort of master she would want...
And we’re completely incompatible. Of course.
* * *
“I don’t think Awarra Tu is shy,” Korto offered, trying to ease the gloom on Thryn’s face.
Taria shook her head. “No. She has already trained several Padawans through to knighthood. Five or six, I believe.”
She didn’t mention that Awarra had said she hadn’t planned on taking on another apprentice at all. She’d been fully content with her additions to and expansion of her lineage.
But she did say she wanted to see “the child” anyway.
“She’s been in Balance for decades,” Taria added, “is sweet, calm, compassionate. Not given to insecurity and fear. I doubt you will terrify her.”
A terrible sensation tingled deep inside—
No, no— not now, she scolded her body. She arranged her shields to keep Obi-Wan from sensing her discomfort, moving with great care so he wouldn't notice.
She forced her feet to keep their pace, kept her face clear—
Now was not the time for a flareup.
I can’t afford to be immobilized until after we’ve found a master for Thryn. So there.
* * *
Awarra Tu stood in the center of a small meeting room, eyeing the solitary painting that graced its walls.
She might be old and frail, but she was still full of indomitable spirit and energy. Her traditional Jedi robes had a reddish tinge to them, to match the dark crimson of her skin.
She could sense the small delegation approaching. Could sense the collective sinking of their hopes.
Sudden anger flared within her.
It startled her.
She hadn’t felt full anger in years— in never passed the irritation point.
Uncomfortable, she considered the inexplicable fury that boiled within her. This is what Taria spoke of. The unconscious effect the child has on other Jedi.
Knowing she wasn’t angry, that she had no quarrel with the poor child, the Twi’lek tried to take a deep breath to calm herself.
And found she couldn’t take a deep breath. Her chest seized up, and she gasped.
* * *
“Something’s wrong,” Kenobi barked as they approached. He sprang forward and smacked the button controlling the door.
As it opened, worry jolted through his Force sense and he darted inside, followed by Taria.
His voice wafted out to where Thryn hesitated. “Kenobi here, meditation room seventeen. We need Healers here, now. Awarra Tu is down. I think it’s her heart.”
Not me, then.
“Vos!” Kenobi’s voice snapped. “Get Thryn back— get her back !”
It is me.
Thryn didn’t wait for Vos to grab her arm. She turned and fled, not stopping until she’d reached the far end of the hall. Korto skidded to a stop beside her. For a long moment they waited, watching figures spill into the room.
And then Kenobi contacted Vos’ comlink, sounding much less urgent. “The Healers are here. They’re taking over. Force— Taria! ” That last, yelped not to the link, but in response to something else in the background.
A muddled murmur of voices, Taria’s rising above the rest, sounding weak and annoyed.
“Is not serious. I am not going to— no, I will not go to the Healing Chambers, thank you very much—”
One of the Healers intervened to insist she either submit, or return to her own room.
“I think that’s entirely unnecess—” Her voice broke off into a hiss and the sound of someone catching something heavy as it fell.
Thryn’s gaze snapped up to Korto’s face. It was set in a hard mask. Thryn’s fingernails dug into her palms as she forced her feet to stand still.
And then Kenobi was back on the comlink. “They’re trying to stabilize Master Tu now.”
“And Taria?” Korto grit out, since Thryn couldn’t find her voice.
“I’m going to take her back to her room.”
Kenobi didn’t answer for a moment. Then he admitted, voice strained, “She’s unconscious.”
“I didn’t do that, right?” Thryn blurted in horror.
“No, no,” Kenobi assured her. “She’s just been doing too much. I keep telling her to not—” He broke off as someone asked him a question and he answered. Then, “I’ll meet you two at the Room of a Thousand Fountains— the waterfall again— as soon as I can get there. Kenobi out.”
For a long, painful moment, nothing happened, and neither Jedi moved.
Thryn watched as he emerged from the meeting room and strode away, the teal-haired Jedi limp in his arms.
Two perfectly round tears broke free from Thryn’s control and slipped silent down her face.
She struggled for composure, knew she wasn’t going to be able to regain it—
So without a glance at Korto, she turned and ran.
Korto watched as Thryn fled.
He had no idea how to help her, so he decided to let her have some space. He slowly worked his way around to the rendezvous point.
When she was ready, she would come.
And it might not be such a bad thing to be alone with his own thoughts for a bit.
We’re back to where we started. Only I’m not sure anymore that Taria’s few weeks are a few weeks.
Yoda might support Korto in taking Thryn, but the Council would never go for it .
Same goes for Tholme.
That leaves Obi-Wan.
He left the building behind as he wound his way through the green wilderness, a world within. A place so disconnected from everywhere else that it almost seemed like another planet. Vast in its own right.
I don ’t think she’s meant to be with Kenobi.
Korto would still fight for Thryn—
But it won’t go anywhere.
He contacted the Halls of Healing to ask about Tu’s condition. The news wasn’t encouraging.
They didn’t know if she would return to consciousness again.
Great. That’s just what Thryn needs right now. To think she caused another Jedi’s death.
He’d seen what that had done to Obi-Wan.
He felt angry. This whole thing was so fripping wrong. He found himself staring at the waterfall in simmering despondence.
An idea whispered at the back of his skull. There was no one here to see him, and he wanted to get rid of this frustration...
Two careful jumps placed him beneath the waterfall.
The force of its violence nearly knocked him over, and for a moment he simply had to fight for his place.
And then he had to fight to find an angle where he could breathe without having the water run into his mouth.
The fall was merciless, endless. He couldn’t see anything beyond it, could hear nothing but its roar, feel only its cold taking possession of every nerve in his body. It weighed him down and beat him, millions of stinging blows.
It also held no malice. No favoritism. No safety net. No compassion.
It demanded his full attention and refused to let him stray.
You are mine, it seemed to growl. And I am the only thing in your universe.
After a moment, Korto Vos believed it.
And when he submitted to its will while still standing his ground, refusing to give in—
Every frustration was pounded from his soul.
* * *
Thryn felt desperate as she raced for her room.
Her fervent hope that she could get there without crossing paths with any family members was futile, at best, but she felt ninety percent sure that she simply could not handle one more negative response to her existence.
I will never be a knight. The least I can hope for is to not kill any by simply being alive.
Somehow, being alone was harder, now that she knew what hope tasted like.
They should have just let me walk by.
She had nowhere to go, no one to go to.
Yoda was in the middle of a class at this time of day. Taria in her room, with Kenobi by her side, struggling in some form or other against the disease slowly killing her.
She couldn’t face Korto’s helpless sympathy.
If impossibles could be taken out of the equation, Thryn wanted Taria.
The older woman would rub her shoulder, soothe her, somehow reignite the dying hope within.
But I can’t let myself feel too reliant on her. She’s not going to be here much longer. I’m just going to have to manage on my own.
Thryn cut a corner very close, spinning around it and crashing into another Padawan. Stumbling backwards, muttering apologies, Thryn tried to move past.
“Emotions out of control, I see,” a prim voice responded.
Thryn actually looked at the other and saw her replacement.
The girl sneered, looking her up and down, drawing back as though physical contact with Thryn had been defiling. “You’ve really outdone yourself this time. Both Master Tu and Master Damsin!”
How do you even know that? And it’s quite the coinciden— you ambushed me.
“Where are your handlers? Did you slip the leash when they weren’t looking in the chaos created by bringing both of them to death’s door? Or did you kill them all when their backs were turned?”
Thryn stared at her in disbelief, acutely aware of her tear-stained face and red nose. “How long did it take to perfect that little speech?” she muttered as she pushed past the other and returned to running.
“The Council will never agree to training you!” came a singsong call.
Fury flooded Thryn’s soul. What the Kessel is wrong with you?
And why had her former master and his new Padawan decided to destroy her life?
It’s almost like I insulted his honor. You’d think I abandoned him.
Fortunately, a place of absolute safety was close by. No one can ambush me once I reach my room.
And then she was intercepted. Again.
Granted, it was Tholme, not an enemy, but—
Shame washed over Thryn. He can probably sense my anger.
“Where are you going?” he asked, not seeming to notice her disheveled appearance.
“Why yours?” he returned. “Why aren
’t you heading for Master Damsin’s?”
What I wouldn’t give to be able to.
“She ’s very badly off. Not even conscious.” Thryn raised her head and tried to square her shoulders. “Did you hear about Master Tu?”
“Kenobi commed me.”
Which is why you’re here, tracking me down.
Hopefully with less malice than her last ambusher.
“Please be honest with me. Is Master Tu dying?”
His eyes gentled. “She is still in danger, but we hope to see her make a full recovery soon.”
So much for honesty.
“Master Damsin is conscious, by the way, and wondering where you are. Kenobi wouldn ’t leave her side, and Korto said you disappeared, so I ’m the one who got roped into this again.”
“Sorry,” Thryn murmured. “You have things you’re supposed to be doing.”
Tholme shrugged. “What else is new?”
“I don’t want to make her sicker.” Thryn’s voice broke, and then the tears were here, again, and would not be denied. Through their curtain of salt, she realized Tholme didn’t look down on her for it. Apparently he didn’t consider it something to be held against her.
In that moment, something began to heal deep inside her, even as the rest of her soul was tearing apart. She also found her wariness of Tholme fading, the reserve she ’d felt because of the hurt he’d inflicted with his test disappearing.
“She only has a couple weeks left,” Thryn whispered.
Tholme’s voice was gentle as he corrected her. “Days. Possibly a week. Her illness has taken a sharp downward turn.”
Thryn’s heart skipped a beat. “Then I definitely can’t go anywhere near her. I am not going to make it harder for her, or steal a single day away from Master Kenobi. I’ve done enough damage already.”
“You think it’s because of you?”
“It has suspicious timing, and Jedi seem to be falling all over the place.” Thryn attempted a laugh, feeling her self-control slipping even more.
The sound was terrible.
Still Tholme did not respond with disapproval.
“You aren’t making her sicker.”
“How would we know?” Thryn fired back. “Would she admit it? I don’t think so.”
Tholme’s reply was quiet. “It’s the natural progression of the disease. It’s just picked up speed.”
“From spending time with me.”
“No. Because her body is shutting down, and will only be able to endure so long. She’s dying, Thryn. You aren’t changing that a bit. She cares about you and wants you to succeed. She’s confident you can. Go to her.”
“But... isn’t Master Kenobi there?” she asked, too far gone to even be concerned that she was working off of a jibe Korto had thrown his way that might have been nothing more than jest.
Tholme gave a short nod. “I happen to know he won’t mind, and would rather have you obey Taria than listen to her grouse about your disobedience.”
And then all the energy required to resist drained out of Thryn.
“I can’t face any more Jedi.” Her voice sounded exhausted in her own ears. “I don’t even know where Master Damsin’s room is. ”
“I’ll help you get there without being seen. You won’t have to speak to anyone.”
Thryn stared at him for a moment, then capitulated.
If I see any sign of her getting worse because I’m present, I will leave and not come back , she vowed.
Tholme proved as good as his word.
Jedi in rooms along the hallways sensed her, though most didn’t know what it was they’d detected. They simply emptied from the rooms, instinctively moving away from the disturbance.
Focused on following Tholme’s path, Thryn managed to dry her face.
And then walked straight into a flock of younglings, escorted by their Clan Mother.
Thryn sprang backwards in horror, terrified lest they all gasp and die—
They were so young. Barely walking. They hadn’t even begun lessons with Yoda yet... probably didn’t even know they had a connection to the Force. They just did.
Wide eyes stared at her.
And then someone toddled towards her. The little Mirialan boy was followed by a tiny Togruta girl... then an Ishi Tib... a small human...
Thryn’s feet froze to the floor as they gathered in a semicircle around her, looking up at her in silence.
The Mirialan reached out his hand and gently patted her leg.
Thryn raised her gaze to their caretaker, waiting for the cutting, tearing reaction of protectiveness...
But the young Zeltron woman, though clearly uncomfortable and not taking her gaze off Thryn, didn’t respond with fear, anger, or aggression. She simply watched over her charges.
Thryn crouched down to the children’s level. They smiled at her, placing soft hands on her face, shoulders, and knees. They were so in tune with the Force. So powerful, in their own little ways.
She felt a tiny measure of calmness settling over her spirit. It didn’t clear the fog, but took the edge off. She gave them a faint smile.
“Thank you,” she whispered.
Thryn stood, careful not to step on anybody, and followed Tholme down the hall, only looking back once.
The Clan Mother caught her gaze and sent her a smile.
Not everyone fears me, Thryn realized. She answered her comlink when it pinged.
“Is this Padawan Sein?”
“Master Kenobi instructed me to contact you as soon as we had positive news regarding Master Awarra Tu,” the clipped and businesslike voice returned. “She is past the danger point and will definitely recover, though it will take some time.”
Thryn’s throat closed again, this time in relief. “Thank you,” she rasped.
The link fell silent, the transmission over.
Tholme gave a quiet knock at one of the doors, and after a second, Kenobi’s voice called, “Come in.”
Tholme signaled the door open, then walked away.
For a moment Thryn stared after him, wondering if she should panic.
“Thryn,” Taria called.
Quiet. Taria was being quiet.
Thryn shivered as she made her way inside, allowing the door to slide shut behind her.
Taria lay on her sleeping mat, looking pale and worn.
Kenobi sat beside her, near her head, to all appearances looking calm and undisturbed.
“I’m sorry about Master Tu, my dear,” Taria murmured.
Thryn’s control betrayed her again as she dropped to her knees beside Taria and wept.
Kenobi rose to his feet, a silent shadow, and slipped from the room. Thryn barely noticed.
Taria passed her hand over the weeping girl’s hair in gentle strokes. “Shh,” she soothed. “Master Tu will be fine. And we will see you continue as a Padawan.”
“There is no one else to go to,” Thryn choked.
Taria gave her a wan smile. “There are four of us.”
Thryn tried to feel positive about that, but a thousand difficulties screamed in her ears.
“The Council has moved your hearing to this evening, in about a standard hour.”
“ What ?” Thryn yelped, sitting up straight, her tears shocked into cessation. “They told me I would have twenty-four hours!”
“New war crises. And your master is demanding an answer before he leaves again— in about five standard hours. And since we don’t have anyone else to consult with...” Taria shook her head. “It isn’t going to be a problem.”
“Yes. Yes, it will. I’ll be in that chamber alone— ”
Taria tapped her on the nose with a finger. “Not true. I won’t be there, but Obi-Wan will. He’ll give you a better spoken defense than anyone else in the Order could. Trust me. He’s a wordsmith. And don’t let go of your faith in Yoda— he’s sympathetic to your cause.”
None of those things guarantee victory.
“I’m sorry,” she said, to distract herself from the gloom of the future to the gloom of the present.
“ This. ” Thryn nodded her head at Taria. “I—”
Taria arched an eyebrow at her. “ This has nothing to do with you, so don’t you dare try to take credit.”
“Master Kenobi said you overdid, and you’ve been helping me so much—”
Thryn stopped as she saw Taria’s sad smile.
“Obi-Wan doesn’t want to face the fact that I have less time than we thought I was going to get. That was his initial response of denial, not an objective diagnosis. This is difficult for him to accept. He’s tried to do what he can for me, and he’s asked me to let the Healers try again, but to tell the truth, I am so sick of Healers.” She chuckled softly. “And I don’t want to be stuck in a healing trance, or even a Halls of Healing bed, for the last of my time. I would much rather be here, or in the gardens.”
A new tear slid down Thryn’s nose. “I’ve just gotten to know you. And now I have to lose you?”
“You know, Ahsoka’s response was very similar. I hope you two will be very good friends. Have you met her?”
Thryn shook her head.
“Ah, well. That will change, no doubt,” Taria dismissed. “Especially if Obi-Wan ends up with you as his Padawan. I hope you two will be of great help to one another.”
“What? No. Obi-Wan.”
Thryn wondered if she should feel guilty for not having the slightest interest in the other Padawan at the moment. Right now, she couldn’t care less whether this Ahsoka became her close friend, or a Sith.
“There’s something I want to try. Did you feel Obi-Wan’s response when he saw me collapse?”
Everything within Thryn twisted. Oh, she’d felt it. It had been horrible—
Taria drew in a quick, deep breath and Thryn snapped her focus to her friend, horror spilling through her. Did I hurt her? She scanned the older woman’s body in the Force—
No. If anything, Taria’s pain had eased somewhat.
“You hurt for him?” Damsin asked.
Confused, Thryn answered, “Yes.”
“Is there anyone else you hurt for? Think hard.”
That was an easy one. “Yes. Feemor and Master Tu and Master—”
“No, no,” she murmured to herself. “Not the ones you feel sorry for or compassionate for or guilty over. What feels like a kick in the gut that isn’t actually something done to you? ”
“You mean when someone else is hurting?”
“Exactly.” A brief glimpse of impatience crossed Taria’s face.
* * *
Taria wanted to have patience. She really did. But I don’t have the time and I want to figure this out before I go.
And then the same sensation swept Taria as it had earlier, then again just a few minutes ago.
“ That ,” she demanded, eager, “What were you thinking about just there?”
“What Master Rogut said to Master Kenobi. Insinuating his master’s death was his fault, and accusing him of Geonosis being his fault.”
Scumbag. I really should kick his rear.
“When it first happened, you were angry too, right?”
Taria nodded. “So none of them felt it. They only felt that inner turmoil.”
“When you bleed for someone else, you bleed comfort and relief.”
“What?” Thryn looked completely baffled.
Taria glanced at her wrist chrono. “We’ll talk more after your hearing. If you want to clean yourself up and try to get rid of those tear stains, you’d better get a move on.” She sent Thryn a special smile. “I’m sure it will turn out well. I’m sure of it. I’ll call Obi-Wan, Korto, and Tholme. They’ll meet you at the Council chamber.”
Thryn nodded, dread clear in her face.
* * *
Thryn stood between Masters Kenobi and Vos, with Tholme slightly behind her. Not far away stood Cahl.
The Council had investigated his testimony first, with painful thoroughness.
Thryn kept her affect humble, her mouth silent, and tried to find her calm center of Balance. It hadn’t been easy.
Then Kenobi had taken point in her defense, backed up by Vos, Tholme— the Council even asked Taria a few questions via holo.
But now Taria was gone and the investigation over.
It was getting perilously close to time for the final judgment.
“Masters, you agreed to give her the opportunity to continue her training if we could find a master for her. There are four of us who have volunteered,” Kenobi finished.
“Chosen, you have, not because you feel a right fit it is. Dislike the idea of her failing, you do. Led by the Force you are not.”
Thryn listened in shock. I thought you were going to stand by me.
Now she realized her mistake. Yoda was loyal to principles over favored individuals.
Like all Jedi should be.
If what was right clashed with what she so desperately wanted... she knew where he would go.
In an odd way, it relieved Thryn to know it would always be that way. She knew she could always count on him to do what was right, as far as he could see it.
But Yoda wasn’t done. “Tholme and Vos, other tasks you have. Important they are. A Padawan, end those roles for you would. Afford that, in this time of war, we cannot. Too vital for the survival of the Republic. To help one innocent, sacrifice other innocents we will not. Master Damsin’s time, almost run out is. Obi-Wan—”
“I am not going to let her fail, Master.” Kenobi’s voice was quiet, but there was a fierce gleam in his eyes. Everything else about him spoke of calm, even his Force signature.
Thryn sent him a quick glance. Surely he wasn’t going to defy the Council.
“You’re responding emotionally,” Windu growled. “You feared the AgriCorps as a youngling, and Jinn took you in at the last minute. That’s not a good enough reason to take her, and you know it.”
“Qui-Gon would never have allowed her to drop to the wayside,” Kenobi returned, adamant. “Neither will I.”
“You are not Qui-Gon Jinn,” was Mace Windu’s pointed retort.
“You’re right. I can never hope to be as great a Jedi and sentient as he was,” Kenobi admitted, his sense fully open for the Council to inspect as they would. Thryn saw that Windu’s statement didn’t seem to trigger any pain. “All I can hope for is to try to follow in his footsteps.”
“I can sense that all four of you have some form of connection with her,” Gallia said, in her smooth, low voice. “But none of you are drawn in the way that is necessary for a Master-Padawan tie. You know what that tie feels like, Obi-Wan. You are trying to force circumstances to come out in a certain direction, rather than seeking the correct path. Qui-Gon Jinn did not do such things. He always tried to find and follow what was right.”
“With all due respect, Masters, I am convinced that it is right for her to be trained, and if there is no one else available, then it must be right for one of us to take her on.”
“Obi-Wan, the agreement was that if you could find a master for her, we would give her another chance,” Windu said, narrowing his eyes. “You haven’t found one.”
Thryn heard the door hiss open.
That doesn’t make sense.
Somehow, Thryn kept from looking around as the Council members’ gazes snapped to the doorway.
“Actually, they have, Master Windu,” a voice rang out.
Thryn felt absolute shock as she recognized the voice.
Her resolution to stand unmoved broke after a moment and she turned to look.
Feemor looked green, and he was carefully balanced on his feet, as though he might be having trouble keeping upright, but he was fully calm and looked very determined.
Windu, a skeptical glance on his face, waved Feemor in.
Thryn held her breath, trying to contain her Force signature, but not knowing how.
Feemor took a couple of steps closer, then stopped.
“You can ’t even be in the same room with her without being almost defenseless,” Windu pointed out, merciless, after his custom. “How do you think you will be able to train her?”
“I am confident this response is one I can overcome,” was the quiet answer. “As I intentionally begin to decipher her Force signature, my physical response should lessen.”
“And if it does not?” Fisto asked.
Yoda shifted in his seat. “Dangerous it is, to so certain be.”
“You knew that you must go to Geonosis to help Master Kenobi,” Feemor said, quiet, respectful. “There was no question in your minds. You knew it was your path, even if it would cause discomfort, perhaps death. I know that it is my place to train Padawan Sein.”
For another long moment there was silence.
And then the Council sent them all out so they could confer.
Thryn bit her lip as she waited, forcing herself not to pace.
Kenobi gripped Feemor’s hand tightly, but that was the only expression of what he may have been thinking. As Kenobi turned away, he sent Thryn an almost joyful smile.
Thryn studied Feemor’s Force signature, delighting in its texture—
Cahl intercepted Feemor as the other man tried to put some temporary distance between himself and Thryn.
Thryn stared in disbelief as Cahl shamelessly tried to urge Feemor to change his mind, words tumbling out of him in a low torrent. The man raised by Qui-Gon Jinn lifted a placating hand. “I need some space—”
“Right. Right.” Cahl stepped out of his path but followed him down the hall, talking the whole while.
Shaking her head, Thryn scowled.
It seemed forever before the Council called them all back in again.
“Master Feemor,” Windu said, stern gaze zeroed in on him, “You may take Thryn Sein as your Padawan learner.”
Thryn’s heart stopped entirely.
Cahl, though clearly displeased, wasn’t about to make a scene. He bowed his head in acknowledgment.
“Thank you, Masters,” Feemor murmured, bowing. “I have one request.”
“That Thryn be considered Master Damsin’s Padawan as long as she remains with us, and at that point I will take up the Padawanship.”
Thryn felt the jolt that slammed through Kenobi, though he quickly controlled it and threw up his shields.
Windu glanced around the Council, read their signatures and expressions—
Thryn found herself breathing again.
I am Taria Damsin’s Padawan.
As soon as they put a little distance between the Council Chamber, Cahl, and themselves, Kenobi cornered Feemor. “You spoke with Taria, didn’t you.”
“Yes. I was trying to reconcile my physical reaction with what the Force was telling me, and she was the only member of your team that wasn’t with the Council. It became clear she wants to invest in one last great work, she wants Thryn near, and I need time to acclimate. It made sense.”
“Now that this is settled, I can return to my mission.” Tholme bowed to them collectively. “We’ll see how many minutes I can get into it before something else happens.” He turned and swept down the hall.
Korto chuckled. “He’s happy.”
Thryn sent him an unconvinced look.
“ Trust me. He’s happy.”
Kenobi barely spared them a glance. “I need to check on Taria.” And then he was gone.
Korto’s expression shifted to innocence. “I should... check on my contacts. Make sure my spy network is still functioning. Yeah. Important stuff.” He walked backwards a few steps, nodding wisely, and then turned around to get the Kessel out of there.
Not obvious at all.
Thryn gave a nod to no one in particular and managed to look Feemor in the eye. “Thank you, Master.”
“It’s what Qui-Gon would have done,” was his quiet response. “You’ll need to be patient with me, I’m afraid.”
She smiled a trembling, almost-falling-apart-from-relief smile. “You already know I’m going to be one horribly puzzling case of a Padawan.”
“We’ll figure it out,” Feemor assured her. “Now, I’m afraid I really will need to back away for a little.”
“I understand.” Thryn took several steps backwards. “I don’t want you getting sick again.”
“I’ll find you later. Until then, may the Force be with you.”
“And with you, Master.”
The word sent a thrill through Thryn’s heart.
And suddenly she knew.
We have a connection.
She understood the way Kenobi spoke of Qui-Gon Jinn.
And somehow, she believed him when he said they were going to make it.
* * *
“Welcome back, my Padawan!” Taria sounded quite a bit stronger, and cheerful to boot as Thryn obeyed the come in call.
“Master.” Thryn’s eyes stung, but she managed to keep it there this time.
I have cried far too much today.
Kenobi sat where he had earlier, with no visible sign of pain. Or in the Force.
So why do I think he’s hurting?
“Are you pleased with the arrangement?” Taria asked.
Thryn could only nod.
Taria grinned. “Is it safe to assume that sense in the Force means happiness?”
“Intense happiness,” Thryn qualified.
A knock at the door made all three look up.
“We can crowd in one more,” Taria called.
The door slid open to reveal Tholme. He slipped inside, despite the small size of the room. “I ’m leaving the planet. Last minute errands need to be specified now, not as soon as I’ve crawled into my ship.”
“We’re through with you, Tholme,” Taria dismissed. “You’ve served your purpose.”
“Can’t tell you how glad I am to hear it,” Tholme muttered.
Taria smirked. “On a more serious note, thank you for your help. I know your influence helped sway the Council in our direction.”
“I’m glad to have been of assistance.” He cracked a smile, rare and swift gone. “I look forward to seeing what this Padawan grows into. She’ll be a rather unpleasant surprise for those following the dark. May the Force be with you all.”
“And you,” Taria and Kenobi returned.
Thryn followed him out and the door slid shut behind them. “Master Tholme, I want to apologize. I misjudged you.”
Tholme gave a single, silent laugh. “I think I’m the one responsible for that. No hard feelings on my side.”
“Or mine.” She bowed her head. “May the Force be with you, Master Tholme.”
“And you, Padawan Sein.” He bowed back, then left without a single glance behind him.
“Well, well. Looks like it’s official goodbye time,” a rough voice behind her announced.
* * *
Thryn spun around. “Master Vos!”
“ Padawan Sein .” Korto put on a grave face and conveniently forgot his former doubts, “I knew we’d find your path.”
Thryn flung her arms around the Jedi, completely startling him and throwing him into a turmoil of discomfort.
“Thank you. This wouldn’t have happened without you. I never would have had the courage to try again with Taria, and—”
“That’s alright,” Vos returned, patting her on the back awkwardly. “Though it’s probably better if you don’t let anyone catch you doing something like this. They’d say it demonstrated a lack of restraint.”
She pulled back, looking chastened.
That hadn’t been his intention. He hastily tried to rectify the situation. “ I’m not the one to worry about such things, but I think Cahl’s little snitch might make it a problem for you. Anyway. I better get going.”
* * *
“Aren’t you going to say goodbye to Masters Kenobi and Damsin?”
“Oh...” Vos shrugged. “I’ve never been much for farewells. You can tell them I said congratulations. Including myself in that too, of course.”
Thryn smiled. “Alright.”
“After all, Kenobi and I are not friends. ”
“Wouldn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression.”
“Of course not.” There was a pause, and then Thryn said softly, “It’s likely she won’t still be with us next time you come home.”
“I’ve... already had a little talk with her about that,” Korto admitted, and his hard exterior suddenly seemed like a protective shell. He spun on his heel.
Is he afraid that if he goes in there he may betray the fact he cares deeply? That Master Kenobi and I will see it?
“She’s a unique and excellent Jedi,” he called back over his shoulder. “Wise. Be sure and take advantage of that while you have her.”
“I will. May the Force be with you, Master Vos.”
He grinned at her, wild eyes glinting. “Right back at you. I’ll see you around. If you see me on the streets of some run-down world, remember not to blow my cover.”
He passed Feemor on his way down the hall. They exchanged nods.
“Thryn!” Feemor called. “If you don’t mind, I’m just going to stand out here, and try to get used to your Force signature. You’ll probably feel me scanning it. Will that be all right?”
“Yes. Yes. Of course.” Thryn nodded, trying not to sound as eager as she felt.
“We’ll need to take this slow, or I might wreck your boots like I did Tholme’s.”
Thryn felt a smile tug her lip. “Take your time, and of course you have permission to constantly scan my Force sense. May I study yours?”
“As my future Padawan, it is your right to do so.”
Thryn reentered Taria’s room, wondering if she might be the happiest Padawan in the Order.
That was before she realized what was happening.
She’d been so focused on what was taking place outside the closed door she hadn’t noticed what was going on inside.
“ Please let me call a Healer,” Kenobi pleaded, his voice grieved.
“ No ,” Taria grunted back. “I don’t like them. You know that.”
She lay curled up on her side, teeth clenched and shivering.
Kenobi no longer tried to hide his pain at watching her suffer. He had his hands on her head, trying to relieve what he could—
* * *
Still worn thin from his time on Lanteeb, Obi-Wan felt his efforts slipping through his fingers.
Frustration boiled within him. She wouldn’t let him get help, and he couldn ’ t help.
He closed his eyes against the vicious helplessness.
* * *
Thryn could see what this was doing to Kenobi. She felt her gut twist and her eyes burn. Grief threatened to swamp her.
Both adults started, and Kenobi’s head snapped around to stare at her.
Taria took a deep breath and the shivering stilled. She blew out a great gust of air, then rolled onto her back again, little by little relaxing the tense muscles.
Kenobi’s face held a mixture of shock and amazement, even a little fear.
“What— what— ” he tried to speak, but instead closed his eyes again.
Taria smiled. “Let her in, Obi-Wan. Let go.”
Thryn had no idea what was going on. She stood frozen in the doorway, unable to move.
For a moment more Kenobi struggled, and then he obeyed. He surrendered, lowering his shields.
Thryn, now fully able to read his sense, was startled by an inexplicable easing of his internal pain and desperation.
The connection snapped, uncertainty and fear overriding whatever had been happening. Thryn’s gaze flicked from one to the other in growing agitation. “ What ?”
“Neither of you seem very eloquent at the moment,” Taria teased. Thryn could sense that her pain had been placed under leash again. Perhaps it wasn’t greatly diminished, but she was in control of herself once more. “What, you thought her only gift was violence?”
“But she’s not a Healer, ” Kenobi protested.
“And she didn’t heal,” Taria explained, so gentle. “She gave peace and relief. Didn’t you wonder why children and the wounded are drawn to her?”
“But why didn’t Vos sense it?”
Taria laughed. “Because from the outside, before you’ve calibrated, it looks and feels as though she’s enjoying the pain and fear they’re feeling. Everyone assumes that’s the case. But once calibration is achieved, what’s pouring off her becomes clear... as long as you let it help. Those who can’t touch the Force don’t feel the dissonance, and only know she brings them inexplicable comfort and peace when she is near and focused on them.”
“I don’t understand,” Kenobi admitted. “What did she just do to us?”
“When Thryn is hurting over the pain others are experiencing, she oozes comfort and relief. The more she hurts, the louder the outflow. You felt it in the hall earlier.”
“But that was in response to the Rogut incident, and I didn’t feel it during— ”
Taria nodded. “Because she was struggling with anger, during. Anger cancels it out. I’ve been thinking about it while lying here. Thryn, you absorb other people’s pain. That ’s why the wounded cling to you and grieving children gravitate towards you. Most people want to point out that you feed off the pain of others, but that’s just one side of the credit chip. Yes. You are a pain magnet, but when your compassion is triggered, it draws pain away from your allies and friends. Not healing, but it helps.”
“I’m helping control yours ?” Thryn asked in stunned disbelief. “ Right now ?”
Taria’s smile turned wan. “Physical pain is nothing to me. I’ve had it for so long— we understand each other and have a steady, clearly-defined relationship. Death is the same. But the pain my friends feel over my pain and my dying, that is what hurts me the most. That, I can’t take. It’s why I hid my condition for so long. I also made Obi-Wan promise not to let his grief surface when around me.”
He looked away. “I’m afraid I’ve broken that promise many times,” he admitted, voice not completely steady.
“Your presence not only soothes his pain, but that which I experience when feeling him hurt.”
Thryn approached and sat beside Kenobi. She hugged her knees and rested her chin on them. “And my pain? Does mine over this hurt you?”
Taria smiled, taking a few deep breaths. “Your pain is different. I can sense it is there, but it doesn’t reach into others like that of other Jedi. Are you hiding it, dear?”
She shook her head, tears filling her eyes. “No,” she whispered. “It’s full strength.”
“Your pain is expressing itself as a soothing, calming influence on others.”
Kenobi didn’t move.
“The fact that I’m in pain actually brings comfort to others? On a deep, subconscious level?” Thryn whispered.
Taria nodded. “It’s your gift. Most only see you feeding on pain and death and fear, and yet when your allies are in pain or dying or afraid, you draw it away from them, leaving them with confidence. There isn’t one without the other. ”
“Except for when I trigger fear and anger, and they get sick and die.” Thryn frowned, not believing Taria’s theory.
“Only because they don’t know you. They are responding to you as a threat, not accepting you as an ally. Did your clones fear you? Do people who aren’t Force sensitive fear you?”
“Do the tiniest of babies and younglings in the Temple?”
Thryn could still feel the warmth of tiny hands, warding away the cold of rejection. “No.”
“And Feemor is gradually becoming more immune to your disruption,” Taria pointed out. “He entered the Council chamber and didn’t hurl. He’ll be able to conquer it. And once he has, he can teach you how to shield yourself so you don’t send elderly Jedi into fighting rages and heart attacks and trigger all the warning flags of everybody. If you can do that, then they will begin to see your good qualities.”
“So I can grieve openly for you here and now?” Thryn clarified, trying to smile through unshed tears. “It’s calming, not hurting you worse? Because I can tell, Master. You hurt so badly. ”
Kenobi looked away.
“ Physically, ” Taria countered. “But it’s strangely muted at the moment. Hmm. Oh, Thryn. You will become a great Jedi Knight. I can see it.”
Thryn felt a different wound, one she recognized, reopen within Kenobi and bleed.
That’s the one connected to Qui-Gon.
Thryn closed her eyes and allowed herself to feel it. Instead of thrumming through her, it hurt. Here goes nothing. She tried to transfer it. Draw Kenobi’s pain inside the way she would with an enemy’s... and then spill her own hurt back into its place.
For a moment, nothing changed. This is stupid.
And then the bleeding slowed, stopped, the wound disappearing again under its scar tissue.
Thryn’s eyes flew open to find both Jedi looking at her.
Oh, Force, I went to far, didn’t I?
That had stepped on all kinds of personal boundaries.
Kenobi shook his head. “No... no. Thank you. I’m just not used to having Jedi try to... outside of Mind Healer appointments—”
“Jedi are expected to monitor their emotions,” Taria explained. “And if they need help, they seek professionals. They rarely turn to friends. It’s perceived to be an invasion of privacy. And Mind Healers never alter one’s emotions, they simply try to help their patient understand them.”
“I’ve only experienced something similar to this once before,” Kenobi mused. “Master Fay once gave me strength and renewed hope when I was completely exhausted. But she wasn’t able to ease old wounds.”
Taria arched an eyebrow. “Did you feel she’d invaded your own personal space and autonomy?”
“No,” he admitted.
“Then you won’t block my Padawan out?” Taria asked, almost playfully.
He sent her a small, sorry smile. “We have to discover how far her talents go, don’t we? And the two of us are the only ones available.” He turned to Thryn again.
She could read the struggle in his eyes, and also his determination to do what he considered to be the right thing.
“You have permission to scan my Force signature and to experiment with locating and... whatever it is you’re doing.”
Thryn blinked. Then swallowed. That was almost scary.
Actually, it was really scary.
Jedi had very few possessions in the universe, so those they did have, they guarded. They didn’t talk about their deepest hurts because those were theirs. Their own personal space, sacred, and to be protected.
“I won’t betray your trust,” was what Thryn finally settled on. “But I know you’d rather not, and that’s reasonable. I don’t have to — ”
Taria interrupted her. “Once he grows used to your intervening unexpectedly, I think he’ll grow to like it. I already do, and I’ve only experienced it three times.”
“Three?” Thryn’s forehead wrinkled.
“Yes.” She ticked them off on her fingers. “In the hall after Rogut, then right before you went to see the Council. Remember? I said we’d have to discuss it later? This is later.”
“Now you probably don’t want to try this with Feemor until you’ve grown to understand his Force sense and he yours,” Taria cautioned. “Though he’s trying to understand, it may still feel like sandflimsi or worse.”
“So,” Taria continued, cheerful as if planning a party, “I think you and I will focus on exploring this talent of yours, since you don’t make us sick, and we’ll let Feemor teach you all about the Living and Cosmic Force, and combat, and all the rest of the wonderful things you’ll learn as a Padawan. I want to steal the interesting stuff.”
Thryn felt her heart shiver. She’d known Taria for less than a full day, but the thought of losing her already hurt.
Kenobi and Korto had known her since they were younglings. No wonder both men hurt so badly.
Korto is right. She is special.
“Now, the rules of how this is played,” Taria went on, ignoring the long faces of both individuals present, “is that if anyone wants to come and visit me, Thryn is not kicked out. If they just have to talk to me alone, fine. Otherwise, if they want me, they get her too.”
Kenobi’s head tilted, just a little. “That might cut down on how many visitors you get.”
“Definitely. That means fewer interruptions to our lessons. And no Healer would want to stay up here— so I’m more than happy. And they wouldn’t want Thryn in the Halls of Healing, so add that to the list of reasons I will not go down there.”
“The first semi-legitimate one I’ve heard so far,” Kenobi teased. “But I won’t make an issue of it as long as Thryn can help you keep control over that pain. I don’t care if she’s doing it herself, or if she’s clearing your mind so you can suppress it on your own—”
Taria’s face went blank as she surveyed her internal state, then cleared. “Obi-Wan, you’re a genius. That’s exactly what happened.”
Kenobi held up a hand. “I’m not finished. If that pain is not managed, I will ask Senator Organa to smuggle painkillers up here and I will administer them when you’re not looking.”
“Says the man who refuses to take them himself except under the most dire of circumstances,” Taria scoffed. “Of course, Bail might just tell you he’s discovered another unknown planet he needs you to—”
Kenobi clutched at his head. “ Don’t even say it. Every time I see him I’m in mortal dread of just such a conversation starting up.”
Taria laughed her low, musical laugh. “Even if he does find something else, I think he
tell you about it. He’ll take it to Yoda. I think the fact you nearly died both times before scared him. He considers you a close friend, Obi-Wan.”
“I know,” was the sober reply. “I’m not sure how I ended up with politicians for friends.”
“Certainly not by trying ,” Taria chuckled.
Thryn watched in silence, feeling fascinated instead of left out. She had never been able to observe Jedi interacting freely with one another before. Her presence had always thrown up guards, driven people away, and every other negative reaction in the book.
To watch two friends talk, aware of her presence but not allowing it to hamper them...
“You certainly are collecting them,” Taria teased. “Senator Amidala, Senator Organa, Duchess Satine—”
Thryn sensed a flicker of disappointment—
Shields slammed up—
Then reluctantly lowered.
He tried to stifle whatever it was that Taria had unearthed, clearly not wanting Thryn to touch this one.
Too personal, Thryn concluded, carefully refraining from pursuing it.
“Yes, well...” Kenobi tried to sound unconcerned and utterly failed. “I’m afraid the Duchess and I can no longer be considered friends. There were... words spoken at the outbreak of the war.” He shrugged.
Trying so hard to say no pain here ...
“She’ll get over it.” Taria’s voice had shifted to something soft. “I’m sure of it.”
Kenobi blew air through his nose. “Not likely. She’s a dedicated pacifist.”
Taria only smiled. “You know... she still refuses all suitors who come her way.”
And that was when Kenobi reached the absolute done point. Back were the shields as his face stiffened into a mask of unreadable neutrality.
Taria ignored it. “I think there’s a reason.”
“Taria, the Duchess’ personal life is none of my business. It has no bearing on the subject at hand. I think we really should—”
She interrupted him, voice quiet. “Obi-Wan. I’m dying. Just let me say one last thing before you shut me up and shut me out.”
Kenobi froze so still it was uncanny.
“When she finally tries to make peace, don’t respond like an ice cube.”
Thryn could see Kenobi gritting his teeth.
We have obviously found the last thing he wants to have discussed in front of me.
Equally obvious, Taria wasn’t going to let it go.
Thryn stood, ready to just slink out of the—
“Sit down,” her master commanded.
Thryn sent her a pleading glance, but Taria didn’t retract the command.
Can’t very well break the first direction my master has ever given me.
Thryn sat, and wished the floor would swallow her whole.
“You know there is nothing between us,” Kenobi ground out. “Why are you even bringing this up? If you’re going to force this conversation, then I at least deserve some answers.”
“Remember Qui-Gon Jinn.”
“Qui-Gon ended up attached to Tahl and nearly turned to the dark side when she died,” he snapped, the frustration spilling over.
Taria’s voice gentled. “Yes, he did have a problem there. But in other areas of his life, he was able to balance love and lack of attachment.”
“I’ve let go, Taria. She can fall in love with whomever she pleases, marry whomever she wishes. It won’t bother me. So why go to such lengths to humiliate me—”
“Willing to let go doesn’t mean throwing away,” Taria insisted. “It means holding with an open hand.”
Kenobi scowled. “Close your ears, Padawan.”
Thryn lifted her hands—
“ Don’t. ” Taria leveled her with a stare.
Thryn squirmed, actually wondered if a whimper would help her case—
“ Fine, ” Kenobi snarled. “You know what? Fine. For her to love me would be insane. It would prevent her from living a full life. We can never be together.”
“Is my care for you insane, then?”
Red from his cheeks to his ears, Kenobi looked like a martyr.
“I don’t want to have this discussion,” he said, much more quiet now, but with a bite all its own.
For anyone other than Taria, that would have settled it.
But this was Taria.
“I know your heart is Satine’s. And because I have let go, I am fully comfortable with that. But I want you clear on your own mind about this. Either you love Satine, or you don’t.”
He fell into stony silence.
* * *
If telling Taria he didn’t want to talk about it wouldn’t get her to stop, maybe if he just refused to participate, it would all go away.
Of course, he could leave... but at this point, that might do more damage than good, and he had a terrifying worry that she might take yet another dive and die without him being there.
He would endure all rather than risk that.
So he sat in cold stillness, trying to bear the ordeal with patience, and not finding a single scrap of it available inside him.
A Jedi is humble. Pride has little place here, especially when Taria is dying. This won’t kill you, Kenobi. And it could be worse. She could have Anakin in here. Or Ahsoka.
At least he should be able to avoid Thryn later.
And then he realized Taria wasn’t talking.
In fact, she hadn’t said another word.
She knew I’d tuned out.
One she saw she had his attention again, Taria gave him a lopsided smile that was infuriating because of its good-natured calm.
“I’m dying,” she repeated. “I think that trumps you not wanting to talk about it. Soundly. ”
“There’s a Padawan present,” Kenobi sighed.
“This is her first lesson,” Taria explained, pleased with herself and clearly trying not to rub it in. Too much.
Kenobi scowled. “I begin to think this conversation wasn’t spontaneous.”
“You’re right. It was planned.” Now Taria looked smug. “Questions, Padawan?”
This really isn’t something I should be in the middle of.
Then again, she wasn’t going to have Taria for long. And since she’d asked , Thryn did have one burning question—
Kenobi was muttering something about highly uncomfortable and very unconventional, but Thryn took the potentially disastrous liberty of ignoring him.
“Master Damsin. Do you believe that love is acceptable?”
“Yes. As long as you love with an open hand. Even Master Yoda believes this, though he words it differently and does not speak of it to younger Jedi. Total mastery over self is what is required. If the one you love and the lives of several other people were weighed against one another, standard procedure is to attempt to save every life. But if you can’t, and you have to choose— do you act for the whole group’s good, or in your own interests to save the one you love? The Jedi path is about not being a slave in your relationship with emotions, but the one holding the reins. That doesn’t mean we can’t experience some of the positive emotions, as long as we keep them in their place. Compassion. Dedication to justice. Loyalty to democracy. Love.”
“Open hand,” Thryn repeated.
Kenobi was right about one thing. That is a very strange first lesson.
Master Yoda agrees with this? No sooner had she asked the question than memory after memory came flooding in to answer. Why, I suppose he does. He loves the Order, in his own way. And Master Windu loves the Republic.
“What about there is no emotion, there is only peace ?” Thryn asked.
“I know you already recognize compassion and loyalty to what’s right as positive emotions encouraged in Jedi,” Taria coached. “They are not turbulent. They are steady, calm. There is only peace. It’s how you know it’s the right path. Quiet conviction is stronger than a spontaneous scream. It effects lasting change. Emotions are susceptible to diet, environment, lack of sleep, and your personal comfort level. Jedi choose to be guided by their consciences instead. Allow yourself to feel the emotions, see them, understand them, then let them go as they turn into new ones. They’re always changing through.”
“Which means that since Satine is obviously repulsed by me, I stand back,” Kenobi pushed.
“It means you should at least discuss it with your former Padawan.”
“ Anakin ?” he yelped. Then, “Who says I haven’t?”
Thryn tried to hide a smile. Your response just did.
Taria leveled a stern gaze at him. “Posh. I know you haven’t. Padawans shouldn’t be left wondering how to deal with their feelings. They should be taught, and shown examples.”
“Then share your own examples with your P adawan.” Still obviously sore at being used as an object lesson.
Sudden, deep silence fell.
For the first time, it wasn’t awkward.
Thryn sensed some of Kenobi’s roiling frustration ease.
“Since I could never have first place in your heart, I want to make sure you don’t alienate the one who does. ”
Thryn couldn’t help herself. “You?”
“Yes. I love him.” Taria gave her an encouraging smile.
Thryn’s gaze flicked from one to the other. “But isn’t that... awkward ?” I thought unrequited love was very awkward. But they seem to be best friends.
“Not when you fully let go,” Taria explained.
Kenobi’s voice was still wry, still held undertones of annoyance, but not of near-anger anymore. “It’s only awkward when deep internal matters are discussed in front of Padawans.”
“The things I do to you, eh, Obi-Wan?”
He blew air forcefully out of his nose again. “Exactly.”
“I have just one point to make.”
“I thought you had two. Embarrass me, and entertain the Padawan. You know, between you and the Vos cousins—”
“ Teach the Padawan,” Taria corrected. “Embarrassing you wasn ’t actually on the list. I don’t know how much time I have left, and I just had to remind you that Satine has your Padawan braid. Don’t forget it. You aren’t a child to be blown and tossed around by all these crazy winds. Just promise me you’ll remember that when you see her next.”
“And if she’s married?”
“Then I know you will let go of her like I let go of you. And you won’t keep the bitterness I’m sensing in you right now.”
In a heartbeat, Kenobi looked significantly younger than his thirty-five years. “She honestly believes I ’ve failed as a Jedi.”
“And I don’t suppose either of you were upset over your unresolveable difference in opinion and so not quite in control of yourselves, and I don’t suppose you said anything hurtful to her in return,” Taria pointed out, with just enough playfulness to take the sting out of the rebuke.
But the point was made, and Kenobi accepted it. “I’ve heard you, and I promise to think about it. Think about it. Not overmuch.”
Taria smiled. “And you, Padawan? Any more questions?”
“I really think that’s unnecess—” Kenobi received a smack in the knee from Taria.
Kenobi stared at her. “That hurt. I could sense what you wanted that to be.”
“Is it... actually all right for me to ask a couple questions?” Thryn asked, with plenty of hesitation.
“Of course it’s all right. That’s why I asked you.”
And yet Kenobi’s response was a bit more relaxed than it had been before.
Maybe he wouldn’t resent the intrusion of the Padawan...
* * *
Obi-Wan could only hope the young woman wouldn’t gossip.
The tales going around were bad enough already.
Obi-Wan had never bothered to set the record straight, always avoided discussing such things, and the rumor mill— which was well maintained by younglings and Padawans— could never figure out exactly who it was he cared for. Some of the more ludicrous hypotheses included his childhood friend Bant Eerin.
Now that was just plain annoying and almost humorous, at the same time.
Bant seemed to think it a good joke, and had yet to set the little heads straight.
Besides Taria and Master Yoda...
Bant was the only living Jedi who knew about how he felt for Satine.
Well... and now this Padawan.
He felt his annoyance returning.
He hadn’t even spoken to Anakin about Satine. His best friend didn’t know the woman existed , yet Taria had forced the issue with an individual he’d met today.
But can I really afford to be angry with Taria, when death is so imminent?
No. He couldn’t.
Obi-Wan closed his eyes and centered himself, almost tuning out the sound of the others’ voices.
He had chosen to trust Thryn with his life in lightsaber flow, and with his reputation by siding with her in the Council chamber.
Now he would just have to trust her with knowledge of Satine too.
He didn’t like it, but...
As Taria had said. Her situation trumped that.
* * *
Thryn could sense Kenobi drifting out of the conversation, and so felt more comfortable asking her question. “How did you control your initial disappointment about Satine? How can you be so comfortable with all of this? Doesn’t it bother you, deep inside?”
Taria shook her head with a small smile. “I don’t consider him as belonging to me. In the beginning, it was hard. For a long time I was interested, but he didn’t even notice I existed. We were very young, had all sorts of absurd ideas in our heads. He was mildly interested in a different Padawan. My master used that as an opportunity to teach me of the dangers of jealousy, and how my feelings of anger against a fellow Jedi only hurt me. They kept me from seeing the good around me, and only gave me a desire to bring hurt to another being. I began to actively turn away from the resentment.”
Taria paused, shook her head, and huffed a smirk. “Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon left for what turned into a year-long mission to take care of Satine Kryze. For that year, they had no contact with other Jedi, and they had to consistently think of their charge’s life above their own. It wasn’t an easy time. It took a lot from both of them, in weight, in suffering, in new scars. When Obi-Wan returned to the Temple, he had to face conflicting emotions. He cared about Satine far deeper than anything he’d felt about the Padawan. He was struggling to figure out his loyalties. I knew something was bothering him— I’d made a point of studying his Force signature, trying to discover a connection.” She gave a low laugh. “I didn’t know what the problem was, but I wanted to help. Bant— his confidant— wasn’t on Coruscant, and Obi-Wan wanted to share with a peer. I made it very easy for him to communicate.”
“ Yes, and I thought it was in the strictest confidence,” Kenobi grumbled, though Thryn could sense no lingering frustration anymore.
“And I’ve kept it the strictest of confidences until right now. And honestly, I think it still
a strict confidence. After all, if you had allowed her to practice her talent, she would have discovered all of this anyway. Working with you is so she can work in a safe place until she’s learned how to control
she sees. If it
possible. I think it might not be.”
Kenobi arched an eyebrow. “I don’t think you’ll find many Jedi willing to let her help them if she can’t keep from reading their deepest wounds.”
“Then they will miss out on what she has to offer,” Taria said, voice soft. “But she will be a confidant to many, I think.”
Thryn wanted to push the conversation back. “How did you feel when you discovered what was wrong?”
“Deep frustration, but I refused to let it show. I had been very careful to hide my feelings from Obi-Wan all along, biding my time. And once I had his confidence, it definitely wasn’t the time to speak up. Instead, I just listened. And then cried in secret.”
“You cried ?” Kenobi yelped, startled. “You never told me!”
“I’m training a Padawan here, Master Kenobi,” Taria returned, rather stern. “I believe in being very real with one’s Padawan. That doesn’t mean I have to be that honest with anyone else.”
He gave her a narrowed-eyed look.
She ignored him. “I was angry. How could I hope to compete against either of these two? And yet it became clear that Satine was foremost... and would continue to be. So I had to learn to let go. It was hard. Very hard. But I did.”
“And she made no effort to try to make me forget Satine, or to draw attention to herself,” Kenobi added. “She hid her feelings from me for years. I had no idea the sacrifices she was making. I just knew I could rely on her implicitly.”
Taria chuckled. “And then one day he overheard my master speak of me and my battle—”
“No, of your continuing victory even though you were so close to me. She was very impressed with your stand and was holding you up as a role model,” Kenobi corrected.
Taria shook her head. “ Now who’s being annoying and embarrassing? Anyway, my master didn’t specify who said handsome heart-stealer was, so he cornered me and insisted on finding out just exactly what was going on. I was honest with him.”
“So it was awkward at first,” Thryn accused.
Kenobi nodded. “Painfully so. I had to reevaluate everything. I wondered if I’d been harming her all those years, or been leading her on. I felt I couldn’t be as open with her anymore— that it might even be a friendship destroyer. It was a struggle. Bant was on an extended mission, and I had no chance to speak with her, Garen, or Reeft— other friends of mine,” he explained. “I felt very lost.
“I finally explained the problem to my master. I should have done that from the first.” Kenobi gave Thryn a wry smile. “If you ever have a deep problem or dilemma, speak to Feemor first. You won’t want to. You’ll want to figure it out alone. But don’t wait to get desperate before you turn to him for advice. I’m sure he’ll know when to stand back and let you figure things out on your own, but he can give pointers that will take some of the agonizing nights of sleeplessness out of it. It’s the whole point of having an older person raise a younger one.”
Good to know. “What did Qui-Gon say?”
“He pointed out that nothing had changed between us, and that I shouldn’t act as though something had. He pointed out that even I could sense that Taria had let go. He encouraged me to be fully open and honest with her, and said that if I was always that way, then she would never think I was leading her on. She would know where my heart lay. At first it was difficult and strange, but Taria was just the same Taria she’d always been, and eventually I fell into line.”
The woman smiled again. “You know, Master Jinn came to me not long after that discussion of yours, and asked me to be patient with you.”
“He what ?” Obi-Wan demanded.
“He told me that he and Tahl had a deep disagreement that kept them apart for years. That they made assumptions and weren’t patient. He said he regretted that wasted time deeply. He didn’t want me to make the same mistake.”
Thryn studied both faces, now drawing closer to serene. Honestly serene. “Do you... still ... love him?” It felt wrong to ask, but Taria had given permission.
“Yes,” Taria replied without hesitation. “And I always will. It has never been dependent on his response. He holds my heart like Satine hold his, and, I am confident, he still holds hers.”
“I consider it a great responsibility,” Kenobi explained. “I’ve made it a priority to hold it gently. Her love for me is just as sacred as mine for Satine. To intentionally trample that would be wrong. I try to look out for her well-being as I would for Satine’s.”
Thryn considered what she could see of them in the Force.
Kenobi’s shields had been retracted again, and Taria’s had been all along.
There was a balance between them that whispered in the Force of trust won and deserved.
No wonder Korto had been confused.
Was he in love with Taria, or was he not?
Thryn watched the gentle flow of Kenobi’s emotions. He’s not... and yet there are ways in which he acts as though he is... and yet she’s not misled. All of it is somehow a solemn trust.
One thing was terribly clear.
Taria Damsin’s death was going to wound Obi-Wan Kenobi very deeply.
“Did Qui-Gon help you a lot, Master Damsin?”
Taria smiled. “Yes. I have many memories of him giving me encouraging words, advice, help.”
“Why am I just hearing these things now?” Kenobi shook his head in amazement. “I never knew you’d spoken to Qui-Gon beyond introductions and the most commonplace business matters!”
Taria smirked. “Because they weren’t things I could share when I was living. But dying changes the game. He invested heavily in your friends, Obi-Wan.”
Kenobi’s sense changed. He looked away, up at the wall, his gaze searching as though he could find an answer. He shook his head, stubborn desperation leeching into his signature. “There has to be some way.”
Thryn wasn’t sure what he was talking about, but Taria sure did.
“I thought we’d dealt with this on Lanteeb, when you nearly killed yourself trying to save me,” she urged. “You let go, remember?”
“Yes,” he returned, visibly struggling. “I won’t grow bitter and angry, and I won’t let grief consume me like it did Qui-Gon. But I... don’t want to think of a life where you aren’t. It’s like trying to imagine a world without Anakin.”
“No,” Taria soothed. “It’s not that bad, and you know it, and it’s right that it won’t be that bad. If he died... you would die with him. I’d feel guilty leaving if it was going to be that bad. You will heal in time.”
Thryn could read that was a comfort to Taria, even if it wasn’t helping Kenobi.
“Really?” he returned, almost coldly. “Have I ever fully healed from losing Qui-Gon? Cerasi? All those Jedi on Geonosis?”
“Hmm. Well, thanks to my Padawan, perhaps you’ll find comfort, at least. Now that you won’t block her out anymore. After all, you were still blocking her full access because you didn’t want her finding out about me and Satine and the other Padawan. Even Melida/Daan. You didn’t want her to uncover your inner self.”
Absolute shock swept Kenobi’s face. “Is
why you did this to me? So I will lower my shields completely because she already
“Ah— yes. I’m training your loss-of-Taria support group.”
Kenobi lunged to his feet, headed for the door. “I— Taria— I don’t even know what this is .”
“Are you angry with me?”
Her quiet question brought him up short.
His shoulders sagged, his head drooped.
* * *
Taria was Taria.
He’d always known that.
He wouldn’t change anything about her, if he could. Except for the part about her loving him. He would have changed that if he could, just to spare her the pain of letting him go.
But it had been a long time since since that pain last surfaced.
Her peace puts my own turbulence over Satine to shame.
And she will be gone. Very soon.
Once again the sense of betrayal drained away.
“No,” he answered. “No, I am not angry. I was. It keeps happening, every three minutes or so, but I can’t stay angry with you. And I only mean half of what I say each time that hits.”
* * *
Taria patted the meditation mat.
After a moment, Kenobi returned to his seat there.
“I know,” she reminded him. “I’ve been reading you for over two decades. I know you as well as your former Padawan does.”
“You understand me far better,” Kenobi admitted, running fingers through his hair in an absent-minded, half-worried way.
He’s concerned about Master Skywalker. I wonder why. He’s a stellar Jedi, Thryn mused. Maybe if I ever meet him, I’ll discover the reason.
“I know that you want to save me from this,” Taria murmured. “But I am fully ready and willing to go. There is just one thing. I wish I could have seen you promoted to the Council. I know it will be soon.”
Thryn felt Obi-Wan force his grief down again, as he had trained so long to do.
As he promised her he would.
The slightly bantering tone returned.
“Korto insinuated that earlier too. I don’t know where you get these wild ideas. You know, you and he are uncannily similar in some ways.”
“In good ways?” Taria joked.
“Perhaps.” His expression said there was no maybe about it— the similarities were downright aggravating. “Though they don’t bother me as much in you as they do in him.”
Taria turned her head and patted Thryn on the knee. “Padawan. Learned anything from your apprenticeship on its first day?”
I just hope it won’t be the last day. Thryn nodded.
“Excellent. We should probably call it a night. I’m so tired my mind is beginning to wander. Not the best condition for teaching.”
“Or for tormenting old friends, either, apparently— there’s one relief.”
“Yes, well, I happen to know you need rest too. Between Zigoola, the war, the bundle of worries you carry, and Lanteeb—”
“ Taria— ”
“I never did understand why it was all right for you to fuss over me about my problems, but it was never all right for me to bring up yours, ” Taria chided. “At any rate, you need rest. Go sleep. I’ll see you in the morning.”
“I am not leaving you alone here,” was the grim reply.
“She wouldn’t be,” Thryn interposed before Taria had a chance to take affront. “I’m not leaving.”
“ What ?” Taria yelped. “From the way you two are coddling me, one would think something was wrong !”
“You’re dying. ” Pain exploded through Kenobi’s sense.
Sudden silence fell across the room as he struggled to keep himself together.
Thryn felt her gut twisting up in pain again. Neither master glanced at her, but she could sense they felt the strange calming, peaceful stream.
“Taria,” Kenobi murmured, his voice a little unsteady, “Let me stay until it’s over. I had no warning of what was coming with Qui-Gon. I have a warning now. I don’t— I don’t want to walk in and find you dead.”
Something inside Taria broke in response. “All right,” she whispered. “Just... if you both feel you must watch over me, be sure and sleep in shifts, so you get some rest.”
They nodded, silent.
Thryn rose to go check on Feemor.
The older two seemed to understand her intention and let her go without a word.
Thryn rubbed her eyes for a moment, pulling herself together.
How she wished it didn’t have to be this way.
Feemor had moved a few meters closer, and was sitting with his back against the wall, busily at work on a datapad. He smiled up at her as she exited.
“How is she?”
“Not much pain. Talking a lot, but she’s going to try to sleep now.”
Taria claims that because she’s dying, she doesn’t have time for word games, but I suspect it’s always been that way.
It was probably one of the reasons Kenobi had made her a confidant to begin with.
All of us are dying. If something doesn’t intervene to kill us, we’ll die of old age.
“She said some things.” Thryn sat with her back against the wall, a couple meters away. “It always felt like Master Cahl was there to teach me, not to help. Command, instead of advise. Master Kenobi seems to think that’s unusual.”
Feemor smiled. “Master Kenobi is a wise Jedi. He reminds me very much of Qui-Gon.”
“I never felt comfortable asking Cahl questions.” Thryn winced. “It felt like he expected me to just know the answer, and he certainly wasn’t interested in sharing his struggles with me. I am I allowed to ask you questions?”
“I may not always answer them directly or immediately, but yes. How else are you supposed to learn?”
Thryn weighed her next words. “Sometimes it felt like asking the question had more consequences than just holding my silence and trying to muddle through on my own.”
“Can’t promise that won’t happen with me, but I hope to prove different.”
She hoped so too.
“How did you handle the news of Master Jinn’s death?”
Feemor clearly guessed the reason behind this particular query, compassion softening his expression. “I felt... much pain. Some regret, for not having been able to say goodbye, for not having been there with him. For the many more years he could have had, if they hadn’t been cut off.”
“Did you feel cheated? Angry?”
His smile was gentle. “Yes. I allowed myself to feel the emotions, and then let them drain away.”
“Did it all go?” And how soon? How long is this going to hurt?
Thryn could sense sadness. “The anger and regret left. The pain and sorrow stayed.”
“What do I do with those?”
“It is not wrong, or even dangerous, for a Jedi to feel sorrow, as long as you allow it to be sorrow, and don’t mutate it into anger or vengeance or bitterness. Sorrow is simply the heart’s pain. How does a Jedi handle pain?”
She didn’t have to search for that answer. “We embrace it, accept it, and then request our bodies to heal. But when the wound is of the soul, how do we ask it to heal?”
“The body heals when it is at rest. Its best chance to heal is during sleep. Our minds are similar. Stillness allows it to mend.”
Thryn shook her head. “Qui-Gon’s loss still hurts you. Why?”
“Some old physical wounds, long since closed, can still cause pain. The heart is similar. To experience frustration with our bodies or minds for not responding as if it had never happened is folly. Living with both requires some forgiveness aimed in our own direction.”
“Do some wounds never heal at all?” Thryn wondered.
“Some. But the method of dealing with them is the same. We accept what we are experiencing, and we learn to live with the new normal. Pain of body or heart can consume us, if we allow it to. That’s why it’s important to accept it, to work with and through it. We want to avoid building walls in our minds to hide behind. We keep on.”
He’s not just saying that. Thryn could sense the conviction behind his words. “How long did it take before memories of Qui-Gon weren’t excruciating?”
Feemor sent her a thoughtful look. “It’s been over ten years since he fell. I like thinking of him. There are many healing memories, and I constantly rely on the wisdom he tried to share. His example and life make mine better, but his death still hurts. There’s a large hole in my life, a void created by his absence.”
“Master Kenobi feels the same,” Thryn observed. “You both miss him very much.”
“As you will miss Taria.”
After a moment, Thryn gave him a nod. “It feels wrong, though. You and Master Kenobi spent so much time with Qui-Gon, that your grief is reasonable. I barely know Taria.”
“Comparing your pain to another’s is rarely helpful. It usually results in either downplaying your own wounds, and therefore not seeing to their healing, or downplaying someone else’s, and therefore losing your grip on compassion.”
Thryn sensed a twinge within him, a building discomfort. She stood. “I think we’d better take a break.”
“Good idea,” Feemor agreed, looking just a little green.
Thryn slipped silent into Taria’s room once more. She found her master in an uneasy sleep.
Kenobi sat, like a stone guardian, watching over her. His gaze tracked up to Thryn’s as she returned to her earlier place. Something like gratitude flickered in his eyes.
I may be new, Thryn promised, but you will find I am loyal.
It was a priority for her.
The Padawan studied her master’s Force signature.
It was lined with pain.
That made Thryn hurt.
Taria’s troubled sleep seemed to ease somewhat, grow more peaceful as Thryn embraced her own pain.
Thryn hoped desperately that she could claim responsibility for that, instead of helplessness.
Thryn, curled up in a small ball, was asleep. She didn’t take up much more room now than she had been when sitting at attention.
Only the faintest light lit the room, the shadows lying deep. It should have been calming, but Obi-Wan felt stifled.
Every few minutes, Taria’s head snapped one way... then the other... her fingers would clench... her forehead would twist.
Her breathing might be deep, but it was jagged too.
Each inhale was dragged in with more noise and effort than it would have taken to catch her breath after a run.
Each exhale was like vacuum had ripped the air from her lungs, leaving her to flounder a moment before the next long, painful draw.
Her pain whispered through the Force, black feathering across Obi-Wan’s mind.
And he knew that if she awoke, it would only get worse.
Thryn had kept awake as long as she could, fighting exhaustion with a valiance that had warmed Obi-Wan’s soul.
Keenly aware of the slowly shutting down systems in the pain-wracked body, he couldn’t let this continue. He had to relieve her. The agony dragging through her frame was too much for him to take.
He shifted position and placed his hands on either side of her head. He focused, drawing all his attention and strength and will to bear.
His efforts to help her on Lanteeb had been for nothing. He had nearly killed himself with trying to help people, and the attempt to reach her mind had just about broken him. He knew just enough of healing to make the experience of watching Taria suffer excruciating... but not enough to help.
Anakin had somehow found out. He had tried to make Obi-Wan promise to not attempt healing anymore. If only Greti hadn’t spoken of those weak tears of agony and frustration he hadn’t been able to prevent— the one time he fell apart with an audience—
And she just had to tell Anakin.
And then Bail found out. Obi-Wan wasn’t even sure who to blame for that. Bail proved to be almost as bad as Anakin.
He hadn’t tried to heal Taria since Lanteeb. Everyone had insisted he stand aside and let the Healers do their work, but Taria refused to go to the Healers, and tried her level best to keep them away. And Healers couldn’t work in Thryn’s presence.
He could wake Thryn, tell her to leave so that Taria could be helped while the older woman couldn’t object—
But he was not sending the Padawan out while her master faded away.
He had been there for Qui-Gon. He hoped Anakin would be there for him. He wasn’t going to take that from Taria and Thryn.
So it fell to him.
He located the damage. He was here to ease the pain, not to search one last time for something they’d all missed—
The temptation was too strong.
He sought deeper, could feel his head starting to pound, a vice beginning to crack his skull. He knew something in his brain was expanding under the pressure.
But he couldn’t let it go. He had to help her. He struggled, his own breathing growing as ragged as Taria’s, his pain flaring in sync with hers— but unable to take any from her.
He clenched his teeth and kept trying.
Lanteeb, all over again.
The hopelessness, the desperation, the pain, the sheer exhaustion...
No, no ! Taria—
His world swirled and his head snapped backwards. He gasped for air, feeling something in his mind give way. Unconsciousness closed in, struggling to claim him—
He pulled his hands away from Taria’s head and fell back, panting, almost succumbing—
He had nearly done it. Nearly lost it. Nearly... become like the Healers he’d seen on the battlefield, writhing against the ground, foaming at the mouth, stares vacant and Force signatures broken.
The imperative that he must do something, something more didn’t lessen.
He clutched his head, trying to calm his growing sense of claustrophobic desperation, but his emotions were too fierce. They refused to pass, and he would not be able to shield them from Taria much longer.
I promised her I wouldn’t let her feel this.
So far, it had been her one request. He wasn’t about to deny it.
He shook Thryn’s shoulder.
“I’ll be right outside,” he whispered, voice thick.
A sleepy nod.
As he rose and went to the door, he could feel Thryn trying to relieve Taria’s horrible pain, and failing.
You can’t. It’s physical, not mental.
The Force shifted as Thryn focused instead on her own pain for Taria, trying to give the sleeping master peace, but it wasn’t enough to overwhelm the physical pain.
Obi-Wan reached the hall and the door slid closed behind him. He stood there for a moment, feeling ready to unravel, and so alone.
There was no one on planet he could turn to, and Anakin was gone.
Hearing firm, steady footsteps coming up behind him, he opened his tumultuous sense enough to discover it was Feemor.
And Feemor’s sense reminded him of Qui-Gon’s, when his master had known Obi-Wan was driven past his endurance.
Understanding. Solid. Present.
As the other man reached him, Obi-Wan fell in step beside him. Focusing on just walking, just breathing.
One foot after the other after the other and on. Up the hall, then down. Always in sync.
Silent. Never once looking at one another.
Obi-Wan leaned heavily on Feemor’s calm, the older Jedi’s signature held open for him.
As the frantic pulse of Obi-Wan’s desperation eased, their steps began to slow and head for the wall.
They ended up sitting with their backs against it, knees drawn up, side by side.
For a time the silence continued as Obi-Wan focused on the Code and his breathing.
“Now is probably not the right time,” Feemor murmured, hesitation in his voice. “But I never asked you about Qui-Gon. I read the report, but I never asked you. I think I was afraid to. It was a long time before I was willing to risk running into you. I didn’t want to talk about him. A few hours ago Thryn asked me how I responded to his death.”
Obi-Wan watched out of the corner of his eye, saw Feemor staring at the opposite wall, or what could be seen of it in the dim light.
“I told her we couldn’t hide behind walls in our own minds to avoid pain. Took me about an hour to realize I was still doing just that. So I needed to get this said: when you’re willing to discuss it, I... want to hear about it.”
Wouldn’t do to start the team with hypocrisy.
The first few years after the Battle of Naboo, Obi-Wan had avoided Feemor as well. He’d been afraid.
But tonight is already terrible, so why not get it over with?
Feemor had a right to know, and Obi-Wan needed a distraction from a situation he couldn’t salvage.
“I knew it would be my last mission as his Padawan,” Obi-Wan spoke, his voice quiet in the dark. “I had always assumed that we would continue to work together after my knighting. We were a team. Even Master Yoda wanted it to work out like that. I didn’t realize it was going to be our last mission ever. I was ready to face my trials. I wasn’t ready to face life without Qui-Gon entirely. I thought I would strike out on my own but that he would always be there, in case I needed him.” He shook his head.
The way Anakin assumes I will always be here.
He wanted to be.
But if my desires were enough to shape the universe, so much would be different.
“He always handled pain well. I’m sure you know that,” Obi-Wan murmured.
“He was a great inspiration to me.”
And me. “From his face and voice, one would have thought the shock had kicked in.” Another head shake. “It hadn’t. I could feel it, and I couldn’t relieve any of it. I hadn’t yet learned how to consistently. I was in too much turmoil to help him. To listen to him, you’d think it didn’t matter. He believed Anakin to be the Chosen One. He used the last of his strength to tell me that.”
He paused and swallowed, grateful for the concealing lack of light.
He could sense Feemor’s pain, a heartbeat matching his own.
And yet... it was healing to finally speak of Qui-Gon with the only other surviving member of the man’s Line, after so many years of silence.
Better to remember and ache than forget.
“His final request was for me to train Anakin.”
“He... died in peace?”
“Yes,” Obi-Wan returned, thankful for that. “In Balance, calm, without fear.”
Neither man looked once at the other.
It took Feemor a long moment before he asked his next question. “I don’t suppose... he left a request for me.”
“No.” At least I had that. The final, precious gift from a master to their apprentice hadn’t been denied to Obi-Wan. But it was to you. His pain changed, just a little, turning to hurt for his Legacy sibling. “I’m sorry.”
Feemor’s voice was just a bit tear roughened when he spoke. “What’s important is he wasn’t alone. He had you there to ease his passage.”
“He didn’t seem disappointed about going. I found no rebellion, no frustration.”
“He missed Tahl.”
Obi-Wan was tempted to throw a quick glance Feemor’s way, but refrained. Why am I surprised he knew? They must have had some form of relationship after his knighting, even if Qui-Gon never spoke of him. “He once said that he used to wish he could have died in Tahl’s place, but had changed his mind. That he’d discovered it’s harder to be left behind. That he never would have wanted her to endure the pain he lived with.”
“He was right,” Feemor agreed.
Silence stretched on for several moments as memories cycled through Obi-Wan’s soul.
“Do you remember how he used to adopt every stray waif he came across?” Obi-Wan asked.
Feemor let out his breath with a distant cousin to a chuckle. “Yes.”
“And his friend, Didi Oddo and his tapcaf.” Obi-Wan found a tiny smile tugging at his mouth.
“Yes, and the warning he would give,” Feemor agreed, “Whatever you do don’t eat the food. ”
Obi-Wan chuckled. “It was something awful until Astri took over. Then it improved a bit.”
“Do you remember the expression Qui-Gon would get on his face when he’d discovered Didi hadn’t been
honest with him?”
Obi-Wan leaned his head back against the wall, amused. “Do I ever. Have you met Representative Binks?”
“I... don’t think so.”
“You would remember, if you had. He was so typical of what Qui-Gon would collect. He’s a Gungan. Told us he was banished from his tribe for being clumsy. Qui-Gon saved his life, so Jar Jar insisted he belonged to Qui-Gon. That made him so uncomfortable. He tried to push him away, but Jar Jar wouldn’t go. When we reached his city, and saw the hostility aimed for the poor creature, Qui-Gon’s annoyance vanished like dew on Tatooine.”
Obi-Wan exhaled, enjoying the memory. “Next thing I knew, he was mind-tricking the leader of the Gungans into honoring Jar Jar’s life debt.”
“I tried to reason with him. We had a mission— a delicate one— and Jar Jar and delicate... they don’t match well. Qui-Gon actually told me we would need a guide for the next leg of the journey, ignoring Jar Jar’s repeated warnings against the road he’d chosen. What’s more, he never once asked our guide for directions.”
The two laughed together, a quiet sound in the silent hall.
“Did he take you to Ragoon VI for that game of his?”
“Tracking another Jedi while being attacked by wild beasts and surviving off the land?” Obi-Wan clarified. “Yes. So often.”
“I didn’t understand at first how he could find it so enjoyable,” Feemor admitted. “But after about the fifth time I started to see the charm. Did you ever take Anakin?”
“Yes, once or twice. Do you plan to take Thryn?”
“I’m considering it for our first exercise. What do you think? Is that a good place to learn how to work together without endangering others?”
“I think it’s perfect.” Another pause. Then, “I remember one mission where our host offered us a plateful of pastries. At the time, I didn’t think it appropriate for me to take one. It was early in my apprenticeship. They looked good, but I restrained myself. So proud of my self control.” Obi-Wan shook his head. “We were walking away from the mansion when Qui-Gon gave me a lesson I never forgot. Always take time for the pastries. He’d tucked one into his sleeve without my noticing, and gave it to me then.”
“Was it as good as it looked?”
“Better,” Obi-Wan admitted, and they laughed again. “I tried to remember that lesson with Anakin. He was always hungry, growing up.”
“Hmm.” Obi-Wan nodded.
“Qui-Gon was so compassionate,” Feemor reminisced. “He would be in the middle of something, yet take the time to listen to the stories of random strangers, and then try to help them, no matter how inconvenient. Dooku, before he left, told me Qui-Gon was like that even as a Padawan. Drove Dooku crazy— Qui-Gon's compassion. Dooku didn’t... have compassion. Not any that I could ever detect.”
“Imagine that,” Obi-Wan murmured. “As a child, I thought it strange that Qui-Gon never introduced me to his own master. He always changed the subject whenever I asked him why.”
“Dooku took little interest in me, except in the sense that I continued his Lineage, and therefore needed to act in certain ways. When I didn’t , he thought it reflected poorly on him, and I could be certain of a visit.”
“How in blazes did he pick Qui-Gon?” Obi-Wan asked, “Their time together must have been difficult. Though, to hear Dooku tell it now... ”
“I haven’t seen him since his Fall,” Feemor admitted. “I’m not sure I want to.”
Obi-Wan scowled. “He tried to recruit me to his cause, saying Qui-Gon would have joined him because he wouldn’t have wanted to submit to the authority of a corrupt senate. That might have sounded plausible, if I hadn’t just heard him arrange for the murder of one of the few honest politicians left in order to gain the Trade Federation’s military assistance. Qui-Gon never overlooked the individual. It was his gift. If Dooku thinks he could have overlooked the murder of a few decent people for the greater good, he never knew his Padawan at all.”
“Qui-Gon would have hated his own statue,” Obi-Wan mused, thinking of the addition to the planetarium. “But I’m glad it’s there.”
“Me too. I hope it prompts younglings hundreds of years from now to search the archives and learn of his life. It’s well worth remembering, though he thought himself a failure for so many years.”
Obi-Wan winced. “Did you know Xanatos?”
“Not very well. Qui-Gon wanted us to work all together, similar to you and your Lineage, but we couldn’t find harmony. It was awkward at best. I started finding excuses to not be here at the Temple when they were, and careful to be busy when he might request an additional Jedi’s assistance on a mission.”
“I was under the impression Xanatos was a charmer.”
“Yes. To people he could get something from. He didn’t want anything from me but to go away. Which, looking back, is exactly what I did, so I suppose I succumbed to his manipulations after all.”
“Were you surprised when you received the news he’d turned?”
“There was a meanness in him. A self focus that worried me. I grieved for Qui-Gon, but my first thought wasn’t, oh, he couldn’t have. ”
Obi-Wan sighed. “I don’t see how any Jedi with a master like Qui-Gon could have turned.”
“Dooku was the Padawan of Thame Cerulian and Master Yoda. How could he turn?” Feemor returned. “They stop thinking of others. Stop caring. Sometimes it’s even more insidious, because they don’t realize that attachment is selfishness. They think they are being selfless.”
“I don’t believe Dooku’s fall was brought about by attachment,” Feemor mused. “He never trusted anyone. Was always expecting everyone to betray him... but his definition of betrayal was... interesting, to say the least.”
Obi-Wan frowned. “I can’t decide whether he believed what he told me on Geonosis, or if he was simply attempting to manipulate me.”
“Qui-Gon is the one who taught me that politics and corruption are never solved by violence, but by the people acting in unison, demanding change. In a democracy, corruption is allowed by the people. If the people haven’t changed, providing a new government by force will not solve the problem. They will soon have corrupt officials again, that those who fought for change themselves elect. Not to mention the system getting bogged down because individual worlds refuse to take responsibility to solve their own problems, and expect the Republic to do it for them. Too many demands for anything to get done with any kind of efficiency.”
“I certainly wish worlds would stand up for themselves more instead of waiting to be rescued. We’d be spread far less thin. But that was a problem even before the war. For some reason Dooku decided that thinning our ranks even further would help. I’m glad Qui-Gon didn’t have to see his master’s Fall. He suffered enough as it was.”
Feemor turned his head, met Obi-Wan’s gaze. “I agree. Xanatos was painful enough.”
A beep brought Obi-Wan’s attention to his chrono. He started. “I hadn’t realized— I’d better get back to Taria—” He sprang to his feet and reached for the door, but hesitated. “Thank you,” he said, and then he entered.
* * *
The moments slipped by, precious and fleeting, like sand through Obi-Wan’s fingers.
He forced himself to smile as Taria sparked laughter in Thryn, the two presiding over meals as if they were picnics.
Obi-Wan hated the subdued sorrow in the faces of the Jedi working in the kitchen, even as he appreciated their efforts to tempt Taria’s appetite. The culinary skill brought to bear on them was impressive, to say the least.
He pretended to care.
Perhaps it was for the best that Taria couldn't find the strength to leave her room.
That would mean realizing that the Temple now knew her secret, something she’d fought so long to hide.
When Thryn was awake, Obi-Wan curled up by the head of Taria’s sleeping mat. The soft murmur of their voices and Taria’s soothing hand on his shoulder or head would lull him into grief-burdened sleep.
And while Thryn slept, Taria insisted on acting like they always had.
She wanted to know all the latest on Anakin, Obi-Wan, everything.
Grateful she allowed this to happen when the Padawan wasn’t listening, Obi-Wan complied.
He could sense, could feel the life creeping out of her.
Soon, that voice was going to fall forever silent.
So he tried to focus on each moment, holding them close as they vanished.
For now, she’s here.
There would be time enough to grieve once she’d left.
* * *
When Thryn thought of the word kindness, her mind offered up an image of Yoda.
Tenderness was swift taking on Obi-Wan Kenobi’s face.
When Thryn had walked in two days ago, she hadn’t really understood what helping someone through the final stages of a body shutting down would look like.
Now she knew.
She could sense the frustration in the older woman as she fought to walk. The struggle of having to allow one of the Healers to drop by every few hours to help her to the refresher and back.
The moment when she could no longer walk, even with assistance.
The point when she couldn’t adjust her position on the sleeping mat without allowing either Kenobi or Thryn to help.
The moment when her fingers refused to hold the glass of water held out to her.
That was the moment when silence fell.
Taria had retained a humored affect through it all, laughing at her growing helplessness, and trying to put the others at ease. Kenobi had taken each new limitation in stride, no pity in his signature, acting as if this was normal.
But now he knelt frozen, gripping the glass tight. His eyelids fell shut and his face fell into its familiar mask.
Taria turned her head away, but Thryn could sense desperation clawing inside the older Jedi.
Everything being stripped from her by centimeters.
Without the shields to protect either of them from Thryn, their suffering was so terribly readable.
Taria focused on breathing— which she still could control— and faced her greatest fear.
Helplessness, Thryn realized. She’s always been self-sufficient. And now she has to allow others to take care of her.
Slowly, the claustrophobic sensation of being trapped drained away from Taria’s soul. She set her jaw, blinked hard once, turned her head back.
Obi-Wan, already cradling her back so she wouldn’t choke, held the glass to her lips.
Thryn looked away. At least here, at the end, it’s him, she thought.
When Kenobi held out the glass without looking around, Thryn took it to free up his hand. He eased Taria back down, drawing the blankets around, smoothing the blue-green hair away from her neck and forehead.
“Obi-Wan,” she whispered, reaching for his hand.
She tried to give it a squeeze, but the barest twitch revealed the effort.
Silent, he took her hand in his and held it close.
“I know you asked the Healers what to expect,” Taria murmured, voice so quiet. “What comes next?”
Thryn saw his fingers grip tighter, sensed his heart twist.
Taria stared up into his face, liquid obscuring her eyes, though it didn't escape. “How much worse is it going to get?”
His other hand brushed across her forehead.
For a long moment he didn’t trust himself to speak.
When he finally did, his voice was almost calm. “You will have your mind. You won’t lose awareness, or memory, but you won’t be able to speak.”
A shiver ran through Taria’s body.
“Is there more?”
Again, the soothing palm against her hair. “They think it likely your eyes will water.”
“I’m going to cry ?”
“No,” he soothed. “We’ll know you’re not crying.”
Humiliation flooded her face.
“Just give the word.” His voice choked. “And I will put you in a healing trance.”
Soon the two of you will be
,” she protested, “I need to
you as long as possible.”
“We’re here. Thryn’s here. Your Padawan.”
A faint smile cut through the blush. “A Padawan was on my bucket list. Just hadn’t found the right one. I’m lucky she found me.”
Thryn’s throat closed and she moved closer. Taria and Obi-Wan might be able to hold back their tears, but Thryn’s slipped free.
No. No. She doesn’t want this, she doesn’t want to see us mourn—
Taria’s voice broke into her desperation. “Let’s not talk about me.” She seemed to realize Thryn wasn’t capable of speaking, so her gaze went back to Obi-Wan. “Let’s talk about you. ”
“Certainly,” Obi-Wan whispered.
“I need you to not blame yourself.”
“You weren’t even on the mission when I ended up with this, so it’s absurd. And yes, I came out of remission when I went storming off to Lanteeb to rescue you, but it’s not like I didn’t know what I was doing. Yoda wanted to forbid me to come, but I wouldn’t let him. I’m not sorry .”
Obi-Wan blinked, the movement rapid and repeated.
“You couldn’t have held out much longer,” Taria continued. “You were killing yourself trying to help those injured villagers. I got to be a hero one last time. It felt good, Obi-Wan. So much better than doing nothing for months longer.”
“All right,” he whispered.
Letting her have this.
“And you. ” Taria looked back to Thryn. “When he starts in on his guilt, you remind him I ’m mad about it.”
Why isn’t Master Skywalker here for Master Kenobi to lean on?
A Jedi could stand alone, but they were always stronger together.
There was a reason Jedi were usually sent out in teams.
Thryn ’s thoughts about Skywalker were interrupted by seeing the answer.
Something had come between the two. They had quarreled on the Lanteeb mission.
Skywalker didn’t understand his master, and Kenobi found himself unable to explain.
Thryn cringed. She knew what that could feel like—
Surprised, she watched the effect of her response. It was like draining poison from a wound and then shielding it from the air. The sting slowly eased, though the intense throb wouldn’t go away.
It had been an accident, and she realized her mistake as cold eyes found her face.
“What did you see?” he asked with a tone like durasteel.
Thryn held her ground. “Nothing specific. He said hurtful things to you. Recently.” Masters Kenobi and Damsin are similar, Thryn realized. She hates having anyone see physical hurts, and Master Kenobi—
“Things he felt at the time, but didn’t mean,” Taria intervened. “Anakin believes something intently one moment, something different the next. He’s irrepressible. But what he comes back to again and again is that you are his best friend. If you were to die, he would be devastated.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” Obi-Wan muttered, still glaring at Thryn.
“If he was here, he wouldn’t be giving you the cold shoulder,” Taria asserted. “There is much confusion in him, fear and turmoil. But he relies on you. He knows you’re always there for him to fall back on. If he knew how much his words hurt you, he would flog himself mercilessly over them.”
“Taria, this is where the line is drawn,” Obi-Wan warned.
It was Taria’s turn to scowl. “ Is it, now? My time is very limited, Master Kenobi. You don’t feel sick when she’s in the room. She needs someone willing to let her practice. How is she supposed to learn how to—”
“I said no , Taria.”
“So you’re going to make it so my Padawan cannot fulfill her request?”
Obi-Wan grit his teeth. “ Boundaries, Taria—”
“She needs someone it’s safe to know too much about, so she can learn how to guide her searches. I need to know someone will refuse to allow you to put up walls, since Anakin isn’t that person and I’ll be gone .”
“I don’t need anyone to take care of me—”
Taria tried to speak, but couldn’t get enough air. “You—”
The anger vanished from Obi-Wan’s face as he propped her up again, needing her to breathe—
Thryn’s heart stopped.
After a few moments, Taria had pulled in enough oxygen to finish her tirade. “For the love of Force, Obi-Wan Kenobi. I’m going to put this as clearly as possible. Thryn Sein, as my final request, a sacred charge from master to Padawan, I ask you to watch over Obi-Wan Kenobi. You will learn mastery over your gift, using his soul as your practice arena. You will refuse to let him lock you out, for embarrassment, fear, or pain, or whatever stupid reason he tries to give you. You will bring him relief.”
Again, that vicious expression on his face—
“And you, Obi-Wan Kenobi. A final request is usually a gift from a master to an apprentice. But I have one for you too.”
Kenobi’s face crumpled.
“Something for you to hold on to when the pain wants to overwhelm you. One last thing you can do for me when I’m gone, and all you want is to hear my voice again.”
He tried to keep it together. Thryn didn’t have to be reading his signature to know that.
She could also see the tremble in his shoulders, his own difficulty in breathing—
“You will let her in. I don’t care how painful, embarrassing or inconvenient it is. She is my chosen heir. You will let her explore her gift, without corralling it in any way. You are the one person I trust enough to believe it’s safe for both of you.”
Tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Do either of you have any questions?”
“No, Master,” Thryn whispered. “I understand, and I will obey.”
“Taria.” Kenobi’s voice was nothing more than a hoarse rasp.
She refused to drop his gaze. “If there is no element of sacrifice, the charge will comfort you less when I’m gone. You know how this works.”
He bowed his head, the silent tears falling on their joined hands.
“All right,” he whispered. “It’s granted, Taria.”
Thryn closed her eyes and ached for them.
A brush of a hand against hers had her looking up again.
It was Kenobi.
Thryn scooted closer and leaned against his shoulder as he wrapped an arm around her.
A pleased light lit Taria’s weary eyes.
A calm fell over them, Thryn’s unintended contribution.
“Who would have thought,” Taria murmured, her eyelids drooping, “the girl with the gift of violence and death and pain and fear can find the deepest places where others are dying, hurting, and afraid, and bring relief.”
And then Kenobi’s head came up. “Anakin is near.”
“Is he worried?” Taria asked.
“No— yes. Now he is.” Obi-Wan gave a final squeeze to Taria’s hand and stood. “I better go find him before he sets the whole Temple on edge.”
He rose, a silent, graceful shadow, and left.
“He has so many old wounds,” Taria murmured. “When you see him, take the time to find out which ones have reopened, and if there are any new. He’s learned to act normally. He pushes himself very hard, and takes responsibility for just about everything.”
Thryn nodded. “We won’t break our promise, Master.”
“Then why do you look like you’ve got some wonderful out you can use the instant I’m not watching you?”
Thryn grimaced. “I don’t want to cause trouble for the Chosen—”
Padawans, and even knights, weren’t supposed to know who he was—
Taria chuckled, low and wet. “Open secret,” she rasped. “Everyone acts like no one knows, when there’s no one who doesn’t. Meaningless game. I don’t think you’ll harm the Chosen One.”
“And I won’t... drive wedges between Masters Kenobi and Skywalker? The task you’ve given me really belongs to him.”
* * *
Taria tried to shake her head, and succeeded with only a tiny rocking.
“He probably won’t give you much thought after his first startled response, let alone be damaged. He has his hands full with other things.”
“Hope I don’t make him sick.”
“If you do, he’ll recover.” I need to get Ahsoka in here. She might avoid Thryn out of sheer discomfort, and if she does make Skyguy sick, the protective instinct will be strong. I need to warn her. I want Ahsoka and Thryn to be friends.
Something glitched, deep within. Taria gasped, stunned for a moment by the pain, then felt her grasp slipping.
Thryn’s voice seemed far away.
“ Taria— Master! ”
She tried to speak, found she couldn’t.
Thank you for being my Padawan for a few days.
She looked up into the terrified brown eyes above hers.
So this was it.
She wouldn’t get to talk to Ahsoka after all.
She fought fleeting disappointment.
She felt the loud cry Thryn let out in the Force, felt Obi-Wan’s responding alarm—
“He’s coming,” Thryn whispered, hands caressing her face. “He’ll be here soon—”
Thryn tried to calculate how long it would take to travel from the closest hangar back here, and was interrupted by the door sliding open.
Kenobi rushed in, closely followed by his former Padawan and Tano.
The Chosen One stopped in the doorway, looking like he’d been punched in the gut with an electrostaff. He crumpled to his knees and let out a low grunt.
“ Master !” the young Togruta yelped. Her gaze flicked up. Cold, blazing, and locking on to the source of the disturbance.
I’m causing trouble again.
Kenobi wavered, looking between Taria and Anakin.
Taria was trying to say something, Thryn could feel it—
Kenobi sensed it too. He crashed to his knees beside her, alarm seeping from him—
Tano grabbed Skywalker’s arm and tried to haul him to his feet. Their difference in size was stark. “Master! Master ! Are you all right? Talk to me!”
Master Kenobi didn’t have a chance to warn them.
Anakin looked up, sending a dark shiver over Thryn’s spine. The expression in his eyes... his sense...
Kenobi caught it— and it was just too much— Taria was almost gone, and Skywalker’s aura was hurting her —
Before anyone could stop her, Thryn leaped up and fled the room, pushing past Ahsoka to get out the door. She sped down the hall, paused, and started pacing.
Where is Master Feemor?
She needed Skywalker and Tano to get it, to clear out so she could return to Taria—
But I can’t stay in there and create chaos. That was harming both Taria and Obi-Wan.
If that means I don’t get to be there at the very last...
Thryn bit her lip, tried to focus—
She tried to send Taria her sense of gratitude for all the older woman had given her—
She didn’t feel any response.
Thryn had no training in such sending, since the generalized instructions had been useless for her. It’s probably only my sheer desperation that alerted Obi-Wan.
Taria was most likely too weak to hear Thryn’s attempt.
Anakin Skywalker emerged from the room, pausing outside the again-closed door, and looked down the hall at Thryn.
She felt a shiver of fear wash over her.
There was something...
Very scary, here.
Master Kenobi trusts him completely. They’re best friends.
And yet this young man was willing to wound that friend in the deepest and most painful ways without a second’s thought. He didn’t reach deep enough to discover just how much hurt he inflicted.
A Chosen One who lived by emotions, instead of the Code.
Someone who might choose something else over kindness and compassion.
That scared her.
She wondered if that instinctual disturbance was what other Jedi felt when around her. The unsettled fear. She almost wanted to run. To hide.
It was absurd. If Feemor ever wanted to work with Obi-Wan, of course Skywalker and Tano would be there—
The thought was sheer torture.
Skywalker started walking towards her.
She had never seen him in person before. Even as a youngling, the masters had liked to take her on outings. Oftentimes just tiny Thryn and a babysitter.
She’d suspected then, and knew now that they’d been trying to keep her away from the Temple as much as possible to keep her from disrupting its tranquility and harmony in the Force.
Maybe... they timed it with when he was here.
Given the what are you expression on his face, Thryn thought that might actually have been a factor.
Thryn swallowed both her fear, and the pain over Taria so she could stand her ground.
Skywalker stopped at a safe distance, his face just a bit pale. It didn’t keep the snarl from his lip. “What are you?”
You actually said that aloud ? Thryn’s chin came up.
“I’m a Jedi Padawan.”
“ Whose Padawan?”
“Doesn’t have one,” Skywalker challenged.
Thryn forced her voice to be steady. “I’m to be transferred to Master Feemor once... it’s over. But I am her Padawan until then.”
“What have you done to Obi-Wan?” The hostility took on an edge of anger.
“What have I done?” You’re the one who—
Skywalker’s fist clenched. “I felt his pain as soon as you left the room. You were manipulating him somehow. Clouding his mind, making it so he couldn’t think. And you attacked me when I came in the room. Why didn’t you want me near him?”
“ What ?”
“You tried to keep us away from Obi-Wan. I want to know why .”
Thryn stared at him. “I did not attack you, it was an acciden—”
“You’ve been trying to turn him against me, haven’t you, you little Dathomir witch!”
“I am not from Dathomir, and I’m a Jedi , not a—”
“I see you for what you really are,” he snarled. “The others might be fooled, but don’t you go near Obi-Wan again, or you’ll regret it. Do you hear me?”
Thryn’s gaze flicked from him to his Padawan, but only saw similar hostility in her face.
Is the aggression something he’s getting from me, or is it his own?
Thryn had a terrifying suspicion it might be his own.
“Taking advantage of him at a time when he’s in pain and vulnerable. You’ve picked the wrong Jedi to prey upon, darkling. We’re here now.”
This is not going to be resolved here and now. “Please let me go in,” Thryn asked, careful to remain nonthreatening, “Master Kenobi was alright with me being there, and Taria wanted me—”
“ Taria ?” Anakin pounced. “I thought you said she was your master. That should be Master Damsin to you.” He leaned closer to his Padawan and whispered something. Ahsoka turned and darted down the hall the other way.
“Please,” Thryn pleaded, her throat closing over, “my master doesn’t have much time left, please let me in—”
“You’re probably the reason she’s taken such a turn for the worse,” was his cold response.
That hurt. “She said I wasn’t. She wants me there—”
And then she heard them.
Temple Guards, coming down the long hall behind her, led by Ahsoka.
Feeling cornered and betrayed, Thryn tried to call out to Feemor.
She couldn’t figure out how to make it work.
But I did succeed with Obi-Wan.
She didn’t want to do this to him, but Taria had asked her to stay, and Skywalker and Tano didn’t look like they were planning on staying with her instead , so if it was just Obi-Wan, Taria, and Thryn herself, there shouldn’t be a problem—
She reached out to call to Obi-Wan, but Skywalker’s power crashed into hers, swamping it, drowning it out.
Obi-Wan didn’t hear her.
Thryn could feel Taria slipping away, Obi-Wan’s pain increasing exponentially—
The guards walked towards her, calm. Slow, steady, double-ended saber pikes held diagonally.
Thryn’s desperation grew, and she knew Skywalker could sense it. She tried to get a hold of it, but there wasn’t time—
Taria slipped away.
Obi-Wan’s cry of pain in the Force was intense.
Thryn leaped forward— the guard broke into a run behind her— Anakin stood his ground.
When she got close enough he might start feeling ill, he Force-pushed her so hard backwards that she fell to the floor in a sprawled heap, the air knocked completely from her lungs.
Struggling to breathe, Thryn’s mind thrashed.
Taria made me promise to help him. She wanted me there to soothe her pain and his, and I can’t —
She could see Obi-Wan’s signature, a murk of deep, searing loss—
Skywalker had to feel it—
If Taria was right, he must want to help Obi-Wan through it—
But he’d chosen the wrong path to accomplish that.
Or maybe he feels jealous that I was helping instead of him, the rebellious thought lurked.
Guards grabbed her arms and hauled her to her feet.
“Please,” she whispered, tears lining her eyelashes, “Master Feemor is my master now. Call him. Please.”
He would straighten it out. Even if he had to lose his most recent meal in the process.
And then she sensed him, returning.
“He’s coming,” she announced. “He’ll be here soon.”
Tano took her place next to her master, glaring at Thryn with almost hatred.
For a little, Thryn looked back, and then she hung her head.
Obi-Wan’s pain was being reined in, controlled, stifled—
But not comforted. Not eased.
And those were two very different things.
It was beyond unfair. It was cruel.
I promised Taria...
Steady footsteps pattered faster, and Thryn realized Feemor had broken into a run.
Somewhere, deep in the back of her mind, she smiled.
Feemor pulled up beside the guards. “I’ll take it from here,” he announced. “She’s my Padawan— to be my Padawan. You understand the arrangement.”
“Master Feemor.” They bowed, let go of Thryn’s arms, and retreated down the hall, pikes still held diagonally.
“ Please let me go back in, Master,” Thryn urged. “Taria is dead, and they won’t let me in.”
to let you in,” Skywalker declared. “She’s gone.”
And in that moment, Thryn felt utterly thankful Feemor was a Master, and Anakin Skywalker, only a Knight.
She’d never heard her master sound this stern.
“Let her pass.”
Skywalker frowned. “You don’t understand how dangerous she is. She’s a monster masquerading as something decent. She’s been deceiving you.”
“I think I fully understand the situation,” was Feemor’s icy reply. “As does your former master, and Master Damsin. Let her pass.” The last three words were spoken like each was its own sentence.
He would not take no for an answer.
Skywalker and Tano stared back.
The Chosen One was obviously weighing his options.
He folded his arms and widened his stance. Tano, taking her cue from him, braced herself.
“No,” Skywalker said quietly, “ Master. ”
“No?” Feemor asked, obviously not wanting to start a fight, but more unwilling to back down. “She’s my Padawan.”
“And that is my former master in there. He’s in pain. I’m not letting anyone disturb him.”
“I outrank you, Skywalker.”
“I don’t really care.”
For a moment the two locked gazes.
Thryn longed for Yoda, Korto, or even Tholme—
Why now? Please, why can’t you just stand aside? Give me five minutes?
* * *
Feemor knew how much this meant to his Padawan.
But appealing to the Council would take time.
Time they didn ’t have.
“Wait here,” he murmured to Thryn. She gave a tiny nod, and he could see her eyes swimming with tears against the injustice.
Feemor walked forward, and Skywalker stepped into his way.
“You have no quarrel with me, Skywalker,” Feemor said coolly.
“I’m not letting anybody intrude.”
“You claim Obi-Wan as your father,” was Feemor’s even return, looking him square in the eye, “therefore you must face the fact I am his brother.”
“Sure. And Xanatos too.” Anakin’s voice darkened. He leaned closer, eyes firing sparks, “You don’t even know Obi-Wan. Don’t play games with me.”
“Things have changed since you last left,” Feemor murmured, his voice just as flinty quiet, but without the threat. “Nephew.”
With that, he put his arm against Anakin’s shoulder, and half pushed, half walked around him, and pressed the button to open the door.
* * *
Thryn felt a slight thrill of justification.
It felt so different to have someone with authority move to back her up.
As Feemor disappeared, Skywalker turned a bloody gaze onto Thryn.
His eyes and sense clearly whispered, you are going to pay for this, but he didn’t say anything .
It wasn’t what she’d expected in the Chosen One.
Not at all.
The door slid open again.
“Master Kenobi wants to see you, Thryn,” Feemor said quietly.
And there was nothing Skywalker or his Padawan could do but back down the hall ahead of her so he wouldn’t have a sick attack again.
Thryn took a moment to try to compose herself, pulling Feemor aside. “Please... don’t tell Master Kenobi about what just happened,” she murmured. “He has enough to—”
Feemor looked very green around the gills. “I won’t go near that subject or any at the moment. I’m staying outside.”
“It’s just that he’s suffered so much already—”
Thryn looked up into his face.
“I promise I won’t speak to him about it without consulting you again first.”
Thryn ducked her head in gratitude and swallowed hard.
He reached out his hand, like he might try to hug her, then hesitated and drew back.
“Please,” she whispered.
So he put his arm around her and squeezed. She pushed her head against his shoulder for a second, then slipped through the door.
* * *
Feemor moved only a small distance away, unwilling to go farther with Skywalker and Tano standing like a couple of threatening bullies nearby.
He couldn’t help but be reminded of Xanatos.
He felt instant guilt over the comparison.
Obi-Wan trusted them completely.
They’re reacting out of emotions instead of listening to us.
Thryn wasn’t easy to accept for most Jedi, and they were responding to Obi-Wan’s grief as well.
They’d get it figured out in time. And if they didn’t... there was no need to work with them.
We won’t be staying in the Temple much longer anyway.
Perhaps not even a full day.
And then he realized something.
Yes, he was feeling slightly nauseous, but he hadn’t thrown up, and he’d actually touched her.
And she is deeply agitated, but I was able to read her uppermost emotions.
Not to mention the fact that he’d sensed she’d been in trouble, which is why he’d come in the first place.
They just needed to get through the ceremony, and get out of here.
He wasn’t going to let Skywalker and Tano accost Thryn again today. Not if he could help it.
* * *
Thryn walked in and paused in the doorway.
She almost expected to not see Taria at all, since she was completely gone in the Force.
It was shockingly painful to see her and know she wasn ’t there.
No. It’s not her. Just her body.
She felt the careful shielding Obi-Wan had up crack in response to her pain.
Not because her self-focused mourning helped, but because he wanted to help her.
He did in the only way he knew how.
He opened his signature to her.
Thryn darted forward and dropped into her place again.
She let her tears fall freely, knowing Obi-Wan wouldn’t chide her for them. She lifted one of Taria’s hands and squeezed it.
She’d wanted so badly to say thank you. And she hadn’t been able to. The pain nearly made her vision go white.
Will it help him?
Thryn scanned his sense. The sharp, tearing pain was being muffled, so she focused on it.
There is only one way I can tell her thank you now.
In that instant, Thryn understood the tradition of final requests.
She sought out the worst of Obi-Wan’s pain and drew it into herself, taking it away and allowing comfort and peace to radiate outwards from herself, generated by her own pain and his.
He was tired. So tired.
And... Anakin still wasn’t here.
Instead of being a pillar to lean against, he was lashing out in anger at everyone else for causing Obi-Wan’s suffering.
What Obi-Wan needed from him was to be still. Just... still.
No more strife and turmoil.
Obi-Wan was trying to retain his Balance, and Anakin’s tempestuous response only made things worse.
Thryn focused on gliding her way through the minefield of Obi-Wan’s inner self, soothing, comforting, easing— never saying an audible word, never moving.
Obi-Wan too remained motionless, broken and grieving.
He was tired of the war. Of the fighting. Of the death in the Force screaming from all corners of the galaxy. Of the gathering darkness and the murky gloom of the future. Tired of trying to help people and failing. Tired of not being strong enough to save the people around him.
Just plain tired.
All of it was here for Thryn to read, jumbled, perhaps, unorganized—
But she could see it.
And she could see he hadn’t been this tired before something his soul had labeled Zigoola.
Obi-Wan’s ragged breathing slowed to deep and even, his pain slowly surrendering as he accepted Thryn’s help.
Drowsiness began to overwhelm the Jedi old enough to be her father.
Yes. Sleep was probably the best thing for him right now. His subconscious could begin healing itself.
She hadn’t been taking his tiredness away, just soothing it from sharp, restless weariness to a normal sort...
Can I send him completely to sleep?
It was worth a try. At least it would give him a break from the pain for a few hours at least.
Thryn gently nudged the exhaustion one... last... time.
He didn’t fight it. He allowed her to succeed, and she felt his mind melt into blankness, the pain evaporating like dew in the morning’s sun.
Thryn eased him onto his side and waited for half a moment to make sure she wouldn’t wake him by leaving, then leaned forward.
She gently ran her fingers over Taria’s hair and face.
“Thank you,” she whispered. Taking a still hand, she pressed a soft kiss to it, and left the room.
The instant she exited, she was assailed by a storm of emotions. It was like stepping into a hurricane.
It startled her.
All had been so calm and peaceful in Taria’s chamber.
“How do you know he’s alright?” Skywalker demanded. “He just blacked out!”
“He’s asleep. ” Feemor’s patience sounded similar to explaining something to a youngling. “Focus harder and you’ll see it’s a healthy, healing sleep. He’s fine. ”
“He doesn’t realize the danger he’s in,” Skywalker growled. Tano stood at his elbow and a little behind, arms crossed, a scowl on her face.
They go well together.
“What did you do to him?” Skywalker snapped at Thryn.
Her own pain had lulled to a gentle hum, but now flared up.
“I complied with Master Damsin’s final request.”
In fact, he froze so tightly, and reigned in all his emotions and shielded his sense so fast and so hard that the sudden absence of his input nearly disoriented her.
Master Kenobi is the only master you’ve had. So what final request has so greatly affected you?
“What was the request?” Ahsoka bluffed, trying to cover her confusion at her master’s silent response.
“That I help Master Kenobi find relief,” Thryn said, quiet.
Anakin Skywalker seemed to be at a total loss for words.
Tano looked up at him, suddenly unsure.
Thryn turned, and walked down the hall, Feemor at her side.
“When do we leave?” she asked.
He sent her a gentle glance. “Directly after the ceremony.”
“How are you feeling?”
“Only slightly ill. We’ll take a public transport to Pantolomin, that way I’m not the one flying, just in case.”
“Are we staying there?”
“No. It’s just a stop on the way to a place Qui-Gon loved above all others, excepting only the Temple. Ragoon VI. It’s a wild world, barely inhabited. Forests, mountains, streams, waterfalls. He would take me there to practice survival skills. Hunting, tracking, animal friendship, things like that. We’ll be trying to follow the path another Jedi has set out for us.”
“We? Don’t you mean I will?”
“No. We’ll have to work together on it. I don’t know the Jedi like you do, and he’s very good at giving even professional Jedi trackers the slip.”
“ Korto ?” Thryn realized, brightening in spite of herself.
“Yes.” Feemor gave her a small smile. “He won’t have made it easy on us, I can promise you that.”
“Qui-Gon liked the exercise?”
“Loved it. He actually preferred it to lightsaber flow. It was his favorite game.”
For a moment, Thryn tried to reach out to the past. Tried to know Qui-Gon Jinn through the memories of his two former Padawans.
But it would never be.
“It will give us a chance to practice without any Force sensitives nearby to be disrupted. We’ll get this figured out. I promise.”
Thryn tried to smile, but right now, every hope she had lay buried under a blanket of sorrow.
“You are in pain?”
Thryn looked up at Feemor’s soft question and made a single nod.
“Do you...” he searched for words, “get your sense of belonging when you’re in pain?”
“No. You’re not sensing my pain as pain in the Force, are you.”
“No.” He considered. “It’s not twisting and painful. Almost the opposite. Skywalker probably interpreted it by thinking you weren’t in pain, and wanted to feed on Obi-Wan’s.”
His belligerence is understandable, at least. If I thought someone wanted to enjoy my master’s pain, I’d be putting a stop to it too.
Obi-Wan Kenobi experienced a gradual resurfacing to reality, feeling strengthened.
He hadn’t forgotten. There was no moment of returning memory.
It was something he surfaced with, the pain slowly returning to normal levels as his consciousness grew clearer.
The sheet had been pulled up over Taria’s head, and someone was kneeling beside him. He turned his head, found Anakin.
The younger man’s emotions twisted in a bewildering snarl despite his efforts to hide them, and his calm expression.
Obi-Wan uncurled himself and stood up. His Jedi sense of time told him it had been four hours.
He’d needed them.
And... though he hurt badly , it wasn’t the same desperate pain as before.
Thank you, Thryn.
There hadn’t been a Jedi with her talents when Qui-Gon Jinn died. Those dark early months weren’t something he wanted to remember.
This was different already.
To think I nearly condemned this talent to never be cultivated, never used. How many people will you help, Thryn?
Korto had watched her and decided her gift was death and fear.
Obi-Wan looked at the same child and saw her gift as peace and relief.
So many people saw the magnet, the way she drew pain into herself. Only the people willing to see that it drew the pain away from others would allow her to help.
Only those willing to extend trust. They had to refuse to allow the different wavelength to trigger the wide range of protective responses. Only then could they discover the other half of her gift. The result, rather than the process.
“Where is Thryn?” Obi-Wan asked, watching Anakin stand to his full height.
His former Padawan stiffened. “I don’t know.”
That alone told him plenty.
“Anakin, I didn’t get a chance to tell you about this before you met her, but it’s not what you think.”
“What do you think I think?” Anakin snapped.
Obi-Wan winced. Why does it have to be like this? Please, Anakin. Just this once. Please. “What do you think?”
“I think now is not the time to talk about the darksider.” The resentment in Anakin’s sense hung thick.
Obi-Wan had the sudden realization it was much worse than he’d thought.
I was too preoccupied with Taria.
Too busy trying to ease her suffering as she slipped away.
Anakin and Ahsoka weren’t in the room, so Thryn should have come back. She knew it’s what her master wanted. She would have.
He remembered Feemor entering, asking if Obi-Wan wanted Thryn to return.
Of course had been the answer.
Obi-Wan gave closer scrutiny to Anakin’s closed sense.
Horror gripped him. “ Anakin. ”
Anger roiled within his former apprentice in response to the master’s fear.
“ What did you do? ”
Anakin’s self-control vanished. “Why are you treating me like the enemy?” he snarled. “I try to help you, and this is the thanks I get? You’re acting like you wanted Taria to die faster. I got sick, and I’m in perfect health.”
Obi-Wan grabbed his arm and dragged him into the hallway, shutting the door between them and the corpse.
Anakin’s words didn’t slow. “I kept her out. I gave you more time with Taria. You’re acting like I committed some atrocity. I gave you the chance to have some time alone without a twisted, mind-manipulator hovering at your elbow, interrupting!”
“You what ?” Obi-Wan growled. Now he was angry. “You refused to let the Padawan be with her master as she died? Anakin !”
“She was enjoying Taria’s pain, Obi-Wan! You didn’t sense it? She was feeding off your pain too. It was sick. Like some... like an Anzat assassin.”
Obi-Wan’s lip curled.
He hoped Thryn didn’t have to hear that ever.
“She was not, Anakin. You were misinterpreting,” he snapped. “You jumped to conclusions. Her Force signature is different and most Jedi interpret it wrongly. ”
“What did she do to wrap you around her little finger?” Anakin hissed. “She’s dangerous!”
“Don’t you remember?” Obi-Wan fumed. “At
? Who was it who complained to me that Jedi were hypocrites who didn’t accept anyone who wasn’t just like them? Who was it who was furious with the Council for not wanting to accept him because of perceived danger?
Who was it,
who felt the wound of rejection because other Jedi were afraid of him? Who responded with deep pain to those who ostracized him because he began training supposedly
and didn’t act the way everyone else did? Who said I wounded him by saying he shouldn’t be trained because he was
? I can’t believe you just
that, Anakin. I surely hope you had the decency not to say it in front of
Anakin glared at him, eyes lit with betrayal. “She’s a threat. She doesn’t act according to the Code!”
“So are you, and she follows it better than you do!” Obi-Wan snapped.
Deep silence fell.
“We all have the potential of being threats,” Obi-Wan said, softly this time. “All Jedi have the capacity for darkness within them. No Jedi is perfect, but we fight to prevent the dark side from claiming us. That’s what makes us Jedi. Not perfection, but reaching for kindness in spite of our faults. I can assure you, Thryn Sein is as far from the dark side as she can get.”
Anakin turned away in disgust. “I don’t know what she’s done to you, Master. But whatever it is, it’s keeping you from acting like yourself. Taria’s dead, and all you care about is this— sithspawn. ”
“What she did was help me become more like Qui-Gon.”
That turned Anakin around to face him again. “ Qui-Gon would never have allowed her to roam within these walls, and would not have let her be trained only to end up an assassin like Ventress or Sing or Bulq or Dooku. He would have remembered Xanatos.”
“He didn’t say that about you,” Obi-Wan murmured. “He believed in you.”
“He knew I wouldn’t lose it and kill everyone in the Temple,” Anakin returned, a harsh light in his eyes. “And you’re no Qui-Gon Jinn.”
It was far from the first time Anakin had stabbed him with those words.
This time he almost didn’t feel the sting, because something else flickered, catching his attention. “You’ve been speaking with Master Cahl, haven’t you.”
“Why shouldn’t I? You were out for four hours. Is Cahl a criminal for having been nearly killed by his own Padawan when he put full confidence and trust in her? Lightsaber flow is a very personal thing, Obi-Wan. For her to—”
“It was an accident !” Obi-Wan protested.
“She nearly killed him!” Anakin yelled back. “And she nearly killed you too.”
Obi-Wan had hoped he could be the one to try to explain what had happened in the dojo. Somehow, this had all gone terribly wrong.
Anakin wasn’t done. “And even after that, you practically commanded her to take a lightsaber to you. I don’t know what you’re trying to prove, Obi-Wan, but it’s not just reckless. It’s stupid. It’s putting the lives of innocent Jedi— Padawans and younglings— at risk. Qui-Gon Jinn would never have approved of it.”
If the accusations and beliefs behind them didn’t hurt so much, it might have been amusing to see how Anakin had moulded Qui-Gon into what he felt an ideal Jedi should be, rather than who Qui-Gon Jinn had been.
Obi-Wan had almost given up trying to set the record straight. Qui-Gon had been a stellar Jedi. Just not the way Anakin saw it.
Anakin saw him as a renegade. A rebel. Obi-Wan himself had seen Qui-Gon as that to begin with, so long ago. There had been so much more to him than that. Anakin thought of Qui-Gon as Yoda’s opposite, as if they’d almost been enemies. Obi-Wan knew they had been very close friends, trusting one another completely, even when they didn’t agree.
Anakin had stereotyped the Jedi Order and its Council, and promptly turned Qui-Gon Jinn into the antithesis.
Some of the threads were true to reality. Most were slightly color skewed, warped, twisted, or completely fabricated from his imagination.
No, it wouldn’t have been amusing.
Just plain sad.
“Have you ever considered that she might not be completely honest with you? And that you might not be able to tell, since she’s so chaotic in the Force? Have you thought to talk to anyone else about it? Padawan Aldergastek, for instance?”
Cahl’s replacement for Thryn? Why would Anakin—
And then it clicked.
Naesi Aldergastek. Ahsoka’s friend Naesi. Odds are they’re the same person.
Who was Ahsoka more likely to listen to? A member of her youngling clan, or the character of a stranger?
“She’s deceiving you, Obi-Wan,” Anakin said, quiet now. “And when her twisted mind decides the time is right, she’s going to hurt you badly or kill you. But you would rather trust her than people you’ve known for years.”
You think this is me siding with her over you? Oh, Anakin. Why do you do this?
Thryn had been right to be worried about driving wedges.
Had Yoda foreseen something of this? Could that be why he’d refused to consider Obi-Wan an option once the Council had met?
I know he’d considered me for the position before that. Something changed.
This might very well have been it.
“If I promise to be careful, will that help?” he asked mildly.
“No.” Anakin turned and walked away.
Obi-Wan looked back to the door behind which Taria’s form slept in peace. Not even five hours after her death, and Anakin was already angry with him again.
You were wrong, Taria. You seldom were, but Anakin will not let this go.
* * *
“You were her Padawan,” Feemor murmured as they entered the burial chamber before anyone else. “You can stand at the foot, and I’m allowed to stand beside you.”
Taria’s body lay on a stone slab, a simple cloth draped over her.
A full-sized hologram winked into existence. Tholme.
At the sight of him, a tear slipped past Thryn’s guard. He saw her and gave her a solemn nod.
She bowed her head back. But when the second hologram wavered and took form as Korto Vos, she lost her composure. She sped over to the blue figure and stood in front of it, struggling hard against her overwhelming grief.
Korto could see it. He held his arm out to the side. She stepped up and turned as he curved his fingers. The illusion of his arm around her shoulders helped her somehow.
“Will you be alright?” Tholme asked, voice gentle. “This room will most likely be packed with Jedi. Master Damsin touched many lives.”
Thryn gave a single nod. “But will they be fine with me?”
“If they aren’t, it’s not your problem in this instance,” Korto assured her. “You were her Padawan— you get to be here. If they feel sick, they can move to the edges of the room. They’re Jedi. If they feel fear or aggression, they can just deal with it.”
“What are you? My Finder?” Thryn asked, trying to joke, and failing.
Vos considered. “Yeah, Kenobi and I sort of are. ”
“I’m going to hold you both to that.” Thryn drew in a breath, trying to still the shaking in her hands. There are people who stand with me.
“You’ve got to meet Aayla someday,” was Korto’s response. “If you’re going to claim me, you have to claim her too.”
When he spoke again, Korto’s voice was almost a whisper. “Skywalker trouble?”
“What?” she hissed.
“If Kenobi is your other Finder, and he only trained one Padawan, and Skywalker has just recently come home and Taria...” he trailed off, frowning a little.
It wasn’t anger. Thryn could see through it, saw he hurt too. Not like Obi-Wan, but there was pain.
“Lucky guess,” he finished.
She sighed. “I don’t want to cause trouble between Masters Kenobi and Skywalker.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” Korto comforted. “They’ve got problems, but they work around them. Nothing could break the Skywalker-and-Kenobi team. Not Sith, not wars, not peace, not anything. Definitely not you.”
He knew what he was talking about, right? She allowed herself some relief.
“He scares you.”
Thryn startled. “First thing Feemor teaches me needs to be shielding my thoughts.”
“Eh. Nobody would be rude enough to read your mind without permission except me. But, if it makes you feel any better, you probably scare him too.”
The door opened and Obi-Wan walked in. He bowed his head gravely to Tholme. Feemor embraced him, and he hugged back.
* * *
Feemor was reminding him ever increasingly of Qui-Gon. He had a similar quiet to his Force signature, and Obi-Wan appreciated it all the more for Anakin’s storm.
He wasn’t sure he’d been entirely at peace since that battle on Naboo so long ago.
He turned to Korto, who had a non-physical arm around Thryn. Her face was pale, and he could both see and sense her dread.
Probably of being around so many other Jedi at once.
Given the way she’d scanned the doorway behind him to ensure he was alone...
And of Anakin and Ahsoka especially.
“Vos,” he acknowledged, then, “Thryn, may I have a word?”
She nodded and followed him a little distance away, keeping a nervous eye on the door the while.
“I want to apologize for Anakin’s behavior earlier—”
She interrupted him with a quick head shake. “Don’t, Master Kenobi. He’s just trying to protect you. I don’t want to cause— I’ll stand in the back of the room. You can stand at the foot.”
“I don’t think so,” Obi-Wan returned, with just a little vehemence. “You did more for her than I ever could. You gave her last days a meaning and purpose that brought her deep happiness. You won’t stand in the back. The five of us belong together. We’re a team.”
“No,” she murmured. “Kenobi and Skywalker and Tano are a team. And I am not going to put a strain on that.”
He frowned. “Anakin has no right to—”
“But he will, ” she pointed out, her eyes pleading with him to understand. “And I—”
“Kenobi.” Vos sounded both quiet and urgent.
Obi-Wan and Thryn looked up. Sure enough, Anakin and Ahsoka were walking through the door. Thryn started to back away, but Obi-Wan placed a hand on her arm.
* * *
Thryn looked from the hand to the owner’s face.
“Don’t,” Obi-Wan murmured.
The sheer malevolence that shivered through the room made Thryn want to find a hole to crawl into and hide, whether her Finder liked it or not.
“Ahsoka considered Taria a close friend,” Obi-Wan continued, so quiet. “I’m sure she’s hurting a lot. I don’t think she’ll let you help, but I’m sure some of this response is pain. Can you forgive her for it?”
She gave a short nod, though it wasn’t Ahsoka who was threatening in the Force, despite the diminutive Togruta looking like a storm cloud.
A red-eyed storm cloud, Thryn realized. Ahsoka Tano had been crying.
Could Master Skywalker’s response also be rooted in pain? Did he hurt for her Finder?
She only realized she’d reached out to lightly scan his signature when a fierce wave in the Force thundered back at her and stole her breath.
“Don’t ever try that again,” growled a voice from across the room, blue eyes glaring into her own. “And get away from him.”
Korto’s eyes widened in surprise.
So this is clearly not normal.
Tholme stood unmoved, and Feemor the same by Taria’s feet, gaze resting on some point between Obi-Wan and Thryn, Ahsoka and Anakin.
Master Skywalker and I are like cousins, Thryn thought, gloomy. And yet he’s not willing to accept that I’m in Qui-Gon’s line. He’s rejecting me. Ahsoka and I are what? Second-cousins?
Neither Thryn nor Obi-Wan budged, as Jedi began to pour into the room, Yoda with them.
Skywalker contented himself with a vicious glower and silence.
Obi-Wan guided Thryn to Taria’s feet, placing her between himself and Feemor.
To their right stood Tholme, Korto, and a salmon-toned Mon Calamari woman, for whose presence Obi-Wan’s signature gave a gentle hum of gratitude.
To the left, Windu, Yoda, and a few other Council members.
And at Taria’s head stood Anakin and Ahsoka.
Thryn tried to listen to Yoda’s words of wisdom, but even though he didn’t speak long, she couldn’t take in the meaning.
All Thryn could do was stare at Anakin Skywalker, his dark brown cloak wrapped around him, the hood lowered over his head until only his eyes and the lower half of his face were discernible.
Even his chin was in shadow.
But his eyes gleamed at her.
In them she read hatred, and something so much more than distrust that the term hardly seemed adequate. She couldn’t tear her gaze away.
He knew she was afraid of him.
And his message coming loud and clear back at her was you should be.
Definitely not welcome to the family , or I am sorry for your loss, or thank you for helping Obi-Wan cope with the pain.
Thryn didn’t think Obi-Wan sensed how deep this went. He seemed fully focused on Yoda and Taria. The pain inside him was welling up again, fiercer than ever. Thryn knew the Jedi around could feel it hammering them too.
He wasn’t as loud in the Force as Anakin, but he was a beacon in his own right.
With difficulty, Thryn tore her gaze away from Skywalker’s, though she knew he was still staring at her, and instead focused on Obi-Wan. Gently she drew his pain away, into herself.
The still ranks of Jedi shifted, disgust and horror exploding through the room, a silent wave.
Yoda paid it no heed.
Obi-Wan didn’t seem to care either. He hurt too badly.
She focused on relieving him, blocking out the condemnation screaming at her through the Force from all sides, ignoring the Jedi backing away from her, trying to get as far away as possible.
And above all else, she ignored Skywalker’s glittering gaze, the yellow eyes burning into her forehead like living coals.
No. His eyes were blue. Not yellow.
What had she been thinking?
Being distracted, that’s what.
She focused harder on Obi-Wan, his pain slowly giving way to her insistent pull.
Peace, far less slowly, whispered into him again. He closed his eyes and lowered his shields to her, allowing better access.
A violent movement at the door nearly broke Thryn’s concentration, but Feemor placed an encouraging hand on her shoulder. It clearly said, keep on. Let them see the other side of your gift.
She ignored the Jedi fleeing from the room like it was a cauldron of evil. She ignored the hissed comments. She watched as the stone platform holding Taria’s body descended into the floor and the doors closed over it... and the shaft of intense white light that sealed it.
Obi-Wan’s wound closed over as well, the pain being brought down to a manageable dull ache.
The ache would remain forever.
Thryn looked up. Except for the Council members, Yoda, Skywalker, Ahsoka, and “her team,” the room was empty.
Her face flushed a deep red. Maybe she shouldn’t have done that in front of people. Maybe—
“Thank you,” Obi-Wan said, voice quiet.
It was a hesitant voice behind her. Thryn spun around to see the owner. She found a Nautolan youngling, not quite old enough to be chosen by a master.
“Master Damsin meant a lot to me,” the girl whispered. “Can— would you do to me what you did to Master Kenobi?” Tears ran silent ribbons down her cheeks.
Thryn’s heart melted. She could feel the child’s breaking heart. “Of course,” she murmured back, forgetting her worries about audiences.
They didn’t matter anymore. All that mattered was that she had the power to relieve the suffering of an innocent child.
“You will have to let me see your heart,” she explained, her voice gentle. “I don’t feel the same as other Jedi. Don’t fight me.”
Thryn felt an impatient, fierce movement behind her, but ignored it, crouching down to eye-level with the little one. She took a moment to look into the tear-flooded eyes for permission, then she focused.
In the Force, she softly touched the single, big wound in the child’s heart. It was so different from Obi-Wan’s. His inner self had many wounds, deep and varied, several of which that could be reopened with simply a callous touch.
This child had only one, but it consumed her.
I hope you never have to bear as many wounds as Master Kenobi, she thought in sorrow. The life of a Jedi is hard, but I hope you don’t have to bear so many scars.
Thryn’s pain expressed itself as comfort, enveloping the girl as she gently drew both pain and fear away from the little one.
And then she knew the child was at peace. A gentle smile touched Thryn’s face as she broke the connection.
To the surprise of everyone, the youngling flung her arms around Thryn’s neck.
“I don’t care what they say about you,” she whispered in Thryn’s ear, loud enough the others had to hear it too— they were silent enough to hear a whisper in the Senate building— “you are my hero.”
Thryn’s heart broke. She wrapped her arms around the tiny form and hugged her tight. Burying her face in the small shoulder, she discovered tears were drenching the little Jedi robe.
After a long moment, she released the child, and the Nautolan, after giving her a huge smile, raced from the room on some invisible errand.
That’s when she saw her in the doorway.
* * *
Korto recognized the woman wrapped in a voluminous cloak. He remembered multi-clan outings, where Alassiette kept track of a truly astounding number of young ones. Remembered the soft spot Alassiette had kept especially for Taria.
Seeing the final occupants of the room watching her, Alassiette straightened and threw back the hood. “No use in hiding, I suppose.” She sounded stiff, very formal. It surprised Korto. He hadn’t remembered that...
Not even when Quinlan and I were especially trying.
The woman seemed almost ashamed of herself as she crossed the great hall and came to stand before a still-crouching Thryn.
“I felt what you did for Master Kenobi.” Alassiette hesitated. “I mean, I felt his response to it. And little Deeli...” She ran out of words, a helpless, pleading look in her eyes.
Thryn nodded, stood, and focused.
The Council members had heavy shields up, not letting even a hint be seen as to how they viewed this.
Ahsoka wasn’t quite as skilled in hiding. Looking uncertain, she kept glancing up at her master and then over at Obi-Wan in confusion.
Skywalker remained unmoved.
Korto felt the tingling sense of danger and disturbance at the edge of his mind, sensed Thryn consuming Alassiette’s pain—
“There,” Thryn murmured. She opened her eyes and waited for the old Jedi to open hers.
When she did, the dull edge of agony was gone, a soft peace in its place. “You healed other things too.”
“I can’t help your joint pain,” Thryn volunteered.
That earned her a smile from Alassiette and a snicker from Korto. “That’s not what I meant, dear girl. May the Force be with you, as you seek out your path. I’m sorry for doubting you for so long.”
Korto focused on Thryn’s presence, realized two things simultaneously.
Alassiette had been Thryn’s Clan Mother.
And it hadn’t been a pleasant experience.
Thryn helped her anyway. And not just in what she had to.
Once again, he felt the differences between himself and Thryn.
Thryn formed a wavering smile.
“Thank you,” Alassiette murmured, turning and walking out without a glance to anyone else.
For a long time no one moved, and then the Council left, as if by mutual consent. Yoda climbed back into his hover chair and went with them.
I wish I knew what they were thinking.
Surely if they ’d disapproved for any reason, it would have been felt ?
It left Thryn’s four champions, Anakin Skywalker— who only looked even more menacing— and Ahsoka Tano, who simply looked miserable and confused.
“You hurt,” Thryn said, voice soft, looking deep into Ahsoka ’s eyes across the grave.
Ahsoka swallowed, clearly nervous.
* * *
She was afraid of me. Afraid for Obi-Wan.
Thryn let go of the lingering resentment she had felt for Ahsoka.
She was afraid, and in pain. Her actions and words came from that place.
She lost a friend and mentor, and her master has been too focused on his fear of me to ease her suffering.
The hurt Thryn felt at Ahsoka’s actions faded, being replaced with hurt for Ahsoka herself.
Skywalker’s Padawan must have been trying to understand her, because she didn’t recoil in horror when she felt the gentle wave strike. She gasped, eyes widening, experiencing comfort. The Togruta sent her master a quick, feral glance, but he said nothing, simply standing there, looking furious.
Maybe he did have yellow eyes... but he was human, right? So that didn’t make any sense.
Thryn tried not to think about him or his eyes. This was about Ahsoka. I can make her burden less heavy. I want to help take some of that weight. “Please let me help you.”
After another quick glance at Skywalker, as though afraid he would object— and Thryn suspected everyone in the room expected him to— Ahsoka whispered, “Alright.”
The Togruta made no move to come closer, and Thryn thought it might be dangerous to make any movement in her direction. Instead, she drifted her eyes shut. A couple meters away wasn’t that far. She could handle it.
But only if Ahsoka let her.
And... only if Skywalker let her.
Thryn sensed no resistance from him. Ahsoka lowered her shields, but not quite far enough, her hesitance stilling their progress.
“Lower them more,” Thryn murmured. “I can’t quite touch the pain yet.” She could see it, just not—
Skywalker intervened. “See, Snips? She won’t help with the pain unless she knows the cause. Open your shields farther. Sure. And have her mess with your mind. She feeds on you but you walk away thinking you’re better off. Bet you an Anzat’s victims feel some relief too; worries draining away.”
Ahsoka’s shields snapped into place again, and all hint of pain vanished in the fierce glow of her eyes. Thryn’s own snapped open, her balance just a bit off as she reeled back a step.
Anzat? The accusation hurt quite a bit more than the forceful expulsion.
The response from three of the four men around her was instant and clear.
Feemor drew in a deep breath, and though his eyes flashed and his jaw clenched, he didn’t say a word. He kept a tight rein over his emotions, refusing to allow anger to have its way.
Obi-Wan’s response was a mixture of sheer mortification and indignation against perceived injustice. “How could you be so cruel, Anakin?”
“You think you’re clever, don’t you, Skywalker,” Korto growled, outraged. “Have some special exemption from being decent because you’re supposedly the Chosen One and all that kark. My advice to you: go frip yourself.”
Skywalker turned cold, dead eyes to him. Thryn thought they looked like the eyes of a furnace dragon. “Vape you.”
“ Anakin, ” Obi-Wan protested as Korto switched to Huttese and Anakin followed suit.
* * *
Ahsoka couldn’t speak Huttese, yet, but Obi-Wan still felt it was no behavior to demonstrate in front of a Padawan.
Of course, nobody expected more from one of the Vos cousins, but Anakin was supposed to know better.
I taught him better.
“Stay out of this, Obi-Wan,” Anakin snarled. “You’re dazzled.”
Tholme’s apparent response was to completely ignore Anakin and Korto, and instead commend the shame-stricken Padawan. “I think this new manifestation of your gift is very promising.”
Vos and Anakin continued growling at one another, switching from Huttese to Toydarian.
Feemor sighed. Tholme glanced at the bickering two, who were both keeping their voices down and tones, though scathing, weren’t yelling ... and rolled his one real eye.
Obi-Wan wanted to drop through the floor.
This kind of thing wasn’t supposed to happen in this sacred place.
It wasn’t supposed to happen in the Temple, period.
Or... at all. Between Jedi or between Jedi and outsiders.
And then Korto said something that evidently struck a nerve.
“ Sie batha ne beeche? ” Anakin switched back into his Mos Espan-accent Huttese, since it was as natural for him as Basic, and though he kept his face in a calm mask and his voice in legitimate tones, Obi-Wan could sense his pure anger.
Korto’s response finally dragged one from Tholme. “Korto,” he said in a slightly bored tone of voice. “Really? Padawans present. Thryn speaks Huttese.”
Obi-Wan sighed to himself, deciding not to bother trying to do anything with Anakin at the moment. It would be worse than futile.
It would be downright detrimental.
* * *
Ahsoka looked very uncomfortable.
Thryn caught her eye. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.
Sudden tears started to Ahsoka’s eyes. She glanced up at her irate master, then at Obi-Wan, back to Thryn. They edged a little bit away from the circle, just enough to hear one another better.
“No,” Ahsoka countered, her lekku swaying. “
sorry. Taria believed in you. Master Obi-Wan does. And though it feels all
... I don’t think you
any of the people you’ve done that to. Since they’re so busy, do you think you could...?”
Thryn glanced up at Feemor, who gave her the slightest of nods.
The two girls slipped a little distance away, and Ahsoka allowed her access.
Fear. Thryn found fear. Ahsoka was afraid of not being a good enough Padawan for the Chosen One. She was afraid she would be the one to get him killed. Softly, gently, Thryn drew it out and away from her.
Grief. She knew the name of each man in Rex’s command. All of those who had died since she’d been assigned to Master Skywalker. She’d felt their deaths in the Force. Their pain. Their fear. Their desperate wish to live ripped clear out of their grasp .
It was so difficult for Ahsoka to bear.
Thryn endured the crushing weight of it with her.
Her own hurt over Ahsoka’s already too-scarred heart poured peace into the younger Padawan.
Feeling the tipping point reached, Thryn pulled back and looked into Ahsoka’s eyes. Their blue depths were swimming in tears.
“I was so wrong about you,” Ahsoka whispered. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry we kept you away from Taria. She was right about you. Master Kenobi is right.”
Thryn caught her breath. The recognition felt... it felt so good—
“Ahsoka!” Skywalker’s voice snapped. Both girls jumped. “Come on. We’re leaving.”
He walked like a predator towards the door, throwing one last, malevolent yellow glance at Thryn from within his hood.
Blue. Why do you keep thinking it’s yellow? Who’s ever heard of a human with yellow eyes? Something must be wrong with your vision.
Ahsoka had to trot to keep up with her master’s longer legs, and Thryn returned to the grave.
“May the Force be with you,” Tholme offered in farewell.
“And with you, master,” she returned. His hologram winked out.
“And... sorry about the word fight.” Korto sounded begrudging. “He just thinks so much of himself sometimes.”
Obi-Wan stirred, irritated, made a move as if to speak—
Somehow, Thryn just knew it was going to be sarcasm or something equally cutting, so she spoke up first. “I’m looking forward to following the trail you laid out for us. Thank you.”
Korto smirked. “I didn’t make it easy for the two of you, I’ll grant you that. You’ll spend a couple weeks lost.”
“Ragoon-Six?” At least Obi-Wan seemed to have lost interest in picking a fight with Korto.
Vos smirked. “Yep. Hey, Thryn. Good luck.”
“May the Force be with you, Master Vos.”
“Just say good luck, kid. Please?”
Thryn smiled and shook her head. “I don’t believe in it.”
“Just don’t start saying you make your own luck, for the love of Force,” Korto muttered. “I’ve had enough Skywalker to last a century. Vos out.”
And before Obi-Wan could even scowl completely, he was gone.
Alone with Feemor and Obi-Wan, Thryn felt she had privacy enough to communicated what she needed to say.
“I’m sorry about what happened. I think I made just about everyone in the room uncomfortable or unhappy. I didn’t mean to turn something that was supposed to be about Taria into something about me.”
“Three people left this room with wounds that are more likely to heal now. And you helped me, if that counts for anything. And the Council was able to see what they will consider to be the positive side of your talent.”
“Please get things straightened out between yourself and Anakin,” Thryn requested. “Don’t let me be a problem. If he wants to think about me the way he does, fine. Don’t let it be a problem.”
“If anybody called any of my other friends an Anzat I’d take exception to that too,” Obi-Wan pointed out.
Thryn shrugged. “It’s not worth it on my account. He’s half right anyway.”
“No, he’s not,” Feemor countered.
Obi-Wan gave her a sad look, but didn’t try to argue. “I’ll come see you off. You leave this evening?”
“I’ll see you then. May the Force be with you.” He turned to Thryn. “And the Force will be with you.” He touched the top of her head lightly with his fingers. “And you will help many in your lifetime. Don’t ever shy away from helping someone just because others won’t understand.”
“I won’t, Master,” she promised.
He nodded and left.
“Well, Padawan.” Feemor glanced down at her. “What do you have needing to be done so you can be ready to go?”
“It’s not like I have to pack,” she pointed out with a little smile. “I would like to stand under the waterfall one more time.”
“Shall we do it together, then?”
She stared at him, amazed. “You like getting hit by waterfalls too?”
“I normally divert the water,” he admitted. “I don’t know that I’ve ever just stood there and let it pound me for the sheer fun of it, but now’s not a bad time to learn.”
Thryn felt her heart constrict.
I know why Korto looks at Tholme the way he does. Why Obi-Wan speaks so tenderly of his memories of Qui-Gon. Why every jab Skywalker makes hurts Obi-Wan so badly.
I’m a Padawan, I have a master, and the Council has called it legit.
That was all she needed.
I ’m going to do my best to learn anything and everything my master sees fit to teach me.
Water roared in Thryn’s ears, the power of it both striking and pulling at her. Barely able to see, she squinted up at Feemor, trying to discern his reaction.
He adjusted his feet, trying to find a place where the fall wouldn’t drive him from his footing. He slipped.
Thryn’s hand snaked out and caught his arm, leaning her body the other way to counterbalance him as he recovered.
“This is harder than it looks,” he shouted over the sheer noise.
For several moments she let herself bask in the demanding brutality of the waterfall, and then she led Feemor out of it with careful leaps.
Just a little on edge because of standing so close to her for so long both at the funeral and here, Feemor missed one of the boulders and landed in the pool instead.
Laughter stunned Thryn’s ears.
She’d been expecting annoyance or mild embarrassment, perhaps, but Feemor seemed to think his mistake hilarious.
She crouched on one of the boulders, feeling her awkward smile as she watched him turn to the bank. “Need help?”
“You know, I think I do. ”
Caught off guard, Thryn found herself sailing through the air and crashing into the pond. She resurfaced laughing, gasping for air and completely shocked that her master had used the Force to drag her in . She splashed water at him, delighted with the playful side of her master that she hadn’t suspected lurked beneath the surface.
They sloshed out of the pond and parted ways to retrieve dry clothes, gather belongings, and head to the hangar to catch a ride to the spaceport.
Is this really happening? Thryn wondered as she collected her needed items and traipsed down to the outfitters to gather what supplies Feemor had deemed necessary.
Even the discomfort of the Jedi she encountered couldn’t dim her cheer. I have a master, and he wants me for who I am. Not for the challenge of fixing me.
Her feet felt light against the floors, her soul even lighter. Perhaps light enough to float away entirely.
They reached the spaceport without incident, and Thryn was more than ready to go.
She draped herself in a sober cloak, drew the hood over her head, and followed Feemor through the maze of people, smiling to herself when people saw them and knew they were Jedi.
Knew they were Master and Padawan.
Know we belong. Belong to the Order, with each other.
These people couldn’t see the differences between herself and her people.
They only saw nameless Jedi.
Here, to them... that’s all I am. Equal with all the rest.
They took their places on the public transport, Thryn watching the people with careful eyes. Businessfolk, families, so much life crammed aboard a not-so-large ship.
Feemor leaned over to murmur in her ear, “What can you tell me about the human woman holding the baby?”
Thryn’s forehead furrowed as she observed. “She looks in her early forties?”
“Good guess. Is the baby hers?”
Thryn considered the weary love in the woman’s face when she looked down at the infant, the familiar way she held the little one, knowledge that the child wasn’t going to break. “I think so.”
“Is she traveling for business or pleasure?”
Thryn glanced up at him. “How do you figure it out?”
“Just watch her, and see if you can discern it.”
“With the Force?”
“With your eyes, my Padawan.”
Thryn gave him a nod and considered. She has a bag that looks like it’s for the baby, and a handbag for herself.
Thryn was about to speak up and announce it was just a day trip when something else caught her eye.
The frayed hem of the woman’s sleeve.
Thryn looked closer, realized that the dress had rips in it, cleverly hidden by something holding the fabric shut from within. Clamps of some kind? Her hair, while carefully combed and tied back under a scarf, looked just a bit greasy. And it’s not cold. In fact, the scarf might be uncomfortably warm. Sure enough, Thryn found the hint of a shimmer at the top of her forehead. Why wear it if it’s uncomfortable? Why not put it in the baby bag?
Because she’s trying to hide the state of her hair.
The arm, slightly obscured by the dress sleeve, looked thin. The face, just a bit pinched. She had a sweet, worn expression, a selflessness when she looked in her child’s face, but something grim around the eyes.
“Master,” Thryn murmured, her heart going out to the woman in sympathy. “Maybe she’s going to live with family or friends, or maybe she’s looking for work.”
“Why did she bring the baby, if she’s looking for work?”
Because she has nowhere to leave the poor thing.
“I don’t sense resentment in her. She’s tired, somewhat afraid, but I don’t sense bitterness.”
“Thank you.” Thryn sighed. “Is there something we can do to help her?”
“What do you have in mind?”
“Letting her know we
Feemor placed a hand on her shoulder. “Given what you’ve seen, do you think she would like that?”
Thryn considered again just how put-together the woman appeared. She might not have had access to wash herself or her clothes, but she’d repaired them as well as she could. Her face was clean, her hair hidden as well as possible, she carried herself with dignity.
Thryn shook her head. “Singling her out would probably embarrass her.”
“Is there another way to help?”
Thryn frowned. “I doubt offering her money would be better.”
“There are many in this galaxy who would find that insulting. True.”
“I have an idea.”
“Show me when the time is right.”
Thryn sent him a surprised look, having expected him to want to approve it first. He’s trusting me.
It was a strange sensation, one that made her heart ache in a wonderful yet painful way.
As the ship touched down and Feemor moved up the aisle heading for the door, Thryn paused where the woman still sat, waiting for the press of people disembarking to clear.
The woman looked up, surprised, eyes widening as she saw Thryn’s garb and recognized what she was.
“You have a beautiful child, M’Lady. May the Force be with you both.” Thryn gave them a smile, and then she was following Feemor out.
In the back of her mind, Thryn could sense the woman’s surprised pleasure, tinged with just a little awe, as if Thryn had bestowed a great gift upon her baby.
“Well?” Feemor glanced down at her as they walked away.
Thryn shook her head. “It wasn’t much, but she seemed a little happy.”
“Bringing happiness to another being is always a worthy effort.” His smile warmed Thryn’s spirit, made it feel home.
* * *
Feet planted on the ground of Ragoon VI, Thryn took swift glances around. Mountainous, forested, not a city to be found on the entire planet.
She breathed in the air, scented by the trees. It smelled... cleaner, somehow, than Coruscant.
The pilot they’d hired took his ship up and out, clearly glad to leave the planet he claimed gave him “the creeps.”
“Korto wasn’t dropped off here too long ago. He can’t be very far ahead.”
Feemor adjusted the pack on his back. “Farther than you’d think.”
Thryn wasn’t sure she believed that, but she didn’t think it mattered much.
Feemor studied the meadow’s grass and surrounding trees. He pointed out faint hints of passage, and led her into the forest.
Thryn certainly hadn’t been able to discern what he’d seen.
That’s what this trip is about, though. Learning.
They walked for fifteen standard minutes in silence, and then Thryn decided to speak up. “Do you have a battalion of clones?”
“No. I’m not actually involved in the war.”
Thryn’s eyebrows arched in surprise. “Are you a protester?”
“No, it’s just that I’m more useful off the field of battle than on it.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a retrieval specialist.”
Thryn peered up at his face. “What’s that?”
“I fined things and people that don’t want to be found, and I get them out with as little fuss as possible.”
“What kinds of things and people?”
Feemor ducked under a low-hanging branch. “These days, it’s mostly criminals who’ve gone into hiding that local police haven’t been able to find, or individuals who’ve been kidnapped and locked away somewhere. I’ve broken a couple of Republic military officers out of Separatist prisons, escorted hunted individuals from one place to another while making sure they didn’t get grabbed or assassinated. I help set up safehouses and escape routes.”
“You’re a bodyguard,” Thryn summarized.
Feemor looked amused. “There’s quite a bit more to it than that .”
“How will I be involved?”
“I’ll teach you what I know of being a Jedi, and you’ll also pick up retrieval skills, since that’s what I do.”
Thryn made a face. “Unless I can figure out how to shield, we won’t be particularly useful in any retrieval having to do with Force sensitives. Subtle isn’t going to be possible. ”
“That’s alright,” Feemor assured her. “For now, we want to keep knowledge of you from the Sith, so we’ll be avoiding Force sensitives as a general rule anyway.”
* * *
That night, stretched on the ground and staring up at what few stars she could glimpse between the treetops, Thryn allowed her mind to relax and reach out for her master. Feemor slept nearby, his breathing quiet.
Thryn permitted herself to simply exist here, with him, watching the gentle whispers of his signature in sleep. She found traces of discomfort, but they were already fainter than they had been when they landed a couple hours earlier.
Maybe it was the emptiness of this place that helped. As far as Thryn knew, there wasn ’t another sentient on the entire planet— except for Korto, somewhere ahead.
Coruscant was a bustle of life, thinking minds all around, above, below; and even at night the business of life hadn’t stilled.
Here there was silence, along with the loudness of nature. The insects singing, the night avians’ hunting cries, the rustle of the tree leaves, the murmur of the wind. The sound of a stream somewhere near.
Feemor had fewer external pressures in the Force here, allowing him to focus on one alone.
This was a good idea.
She hoped Korto was enjoying his alone time, wherever he was lurking. For all his bravado, Feemor hadn’t seemed to have a very difficult time tracking him.
* * *
The ease of their task fell away with morning.
It took two hours of moving in the wrong direction for them to realize they’d been led astray.
“He’s good,” Feemor muttered as he crouched at the place they had first lost the path.
Thryn planted her hands on her hips. “I couldn’t see the signs the
“You feel them as much as see them, my Padawan. Experience gives them to you.” He beckoned her down to his level, took her hand, and ran her fingers lightly over the ground. “You can feel that depression, even if you can’t see it.”
“It just feels like every other dent in the ground.”
Feemor stood and led her through the trees again. “I know, Thryn. It takes years to feel different.”
Tramping through the woods was rapidly becoming... difficult. Thryn dreaded every second hearing they’d need to turn around again.
I take it all back, Korto.
She hoped to Kessel that he hadn’t estimated rightly about the time it would take them, however.
They stopped at midday and Thryn sank against a tree trunk, chewing on her rations with a grim determination. “Is it required of our Line to enjoy this?”
Feemor chuckled. “No. It’s alright to severely dislike it.”
“That’s a relief.” Thryn shook her head. “To be perfectly honest, I miss Coruscant.”
“That’s actually a good thing, since I think we’ll be spending a lot of time there.”
Thryn leaned her head back against the bark. “Is that normal for you?”
All too soon Feemor was giving her a hand up, and they were off again.
* * *
It took a week of zigzagging all over the place before Feemor found the true path.
“He was never far away from us, was he,” Thryn huffed, more impressed than frustrated. “He spent most of his time creating distractions!”
Feemor smiled at her from inspecting the area where Korto had made camp. “He’s going for speed, now. We’re catching up.”
“Does that mean we’ll spend less time lost ?”
The smile turned to a grin. “It definitely means that.”
Thryn soon discovered that just because Korto was no longer trying to send them off in bizarre directions, he was still working to lose them. He seemed to pick the nastiest bits of terrain and headed straight through the middle of them.
Another week passed, and Thryn discovered it was possible to be so bone tired you no longer cared if your hair was tangled. Thryn had always kept herself neatly tended, and now she found herself unwashed, uncombed, dirt-covered—
Some of it she could ignore. The rest of it she felt slightly embarrassed about.
Which is ridiculous. The whole point of packing so light was to make sure we tested ourselves. And Feemor’s just as badly off.
Still. Thryn didn’t like the way she smelled.
The first hint of malia Thryn received was being knocked flat on her back, a ninety-pound, starving canine on her chest, and her hands instinctively holding its jaws open and back.
“ Kriff! ” she yelped, shoving the creature off and grabbing her lightsaber at the same moment.
Any lingering fear she’d retained of what Feemor might think once he actually experienced her battle mode vanished.
She didn’t have time to count, but the data on the planet Feemor’d had her read said packs could be anywhere from twelve to sixteen adults.
She could sense their desperate hunger, something so terrible that it had driven them to hunt in the day, despite their nocturnal nature.
She pressed her back to Feemor’s and fought for her life.
When it was over she stood panting, shoulders hunched, lightsaber still on and angled towards the ground, waiting for something more.
Her scruffy master placed a hand on her shoulder. “You alright?”
Thryn ran a quick scan of her body as she tried to calm her breathing. “Uninjured. You?”
Thryn reached up to wipe sweat from her forehead, left blood behind.
She switched off her saber and clipped it to her belt, fear finally remembering to return.
“Are you feeling sick?” she asked.
He scratched at his chin with an equally bloody hand. “I felt just a little woozy at the beginning, but adrenaline burned it out of me. Help me gut one of these.”
“I don’t like killing, Padawan. While these creatures left us little choice, I don’t want to take their deaths lightly.”
Thryn found she could respect that. Deeply.
“Any four-legged mammal can be prepared this way,” he explained as he worked, handing his small knife to her and letting her make mistakes as he gave guidance. “Doesn’t matter if you’re lost in the underworld of Coruscant and you catch vermin, or lost on Dantooine and find yourself a wild nerf. By the time I’m done with you, you will be able to survive anywhere. You probably won’t like it, you’ll hope to never have to put these skills to use, but you’ll be capable. No matter what happens, you’ll be able to survive, and help others do the same.”
Thryn looked up and met his sober gaze. He had a scratch on his nose, his hair was just as tangled as hers, and there were sticks trapped in it.
But there was something so clean about him in the Force, and right now, very earnest.
“Thank you, Master.”
He gave her a smile and went back to work. “There are things Qui-Gon didn’t teach me that I wish he had. I don’t want to leave you the same way.”
“I thought he was a wonderful master.”
“He was, but his focus in missions was very different from what I’ve taken on through the years. He had no need to teach me how to deal with long stretches of working alone with no friendly contact of any sort. Those are skills I had to learn on my own. His teaching wasn’t deficient by excluding them— there’s only so much time, and one must prioritize.”
Thryn nodded. “Alright.”
“I need to know, for my own comfort, that if we get separated on a mission, you can take care of yourself, even if it takes a long time to find one another again.”
Something that felt almost like a quiet ache trembled in Thryn’s gut. She didn’t like the feeling.
As they continued on their way, stopping for the night only once they’d put enough distance between themselves and the fresh meat behind them, Thryn tried to make sense of her dread.
I’m glad he’s not lying to me, telling me he’ll always be there to protect me. I’m glad he wants me capable.
She found campfire-cooked malia to be tough, bitter, and fibrous.
Somehow, that didn’t matter.
What mattered was that as far as they could, they made sure the creatures’ deaths had not been put to waste.
It wasn’t easy to sleep that night, even though Feemor assured her that a new pack would not have moved into this one’s territory so soon.
In the dark of the night, she finally realized why Feemor’s manner made her uneasy.
Master Cahl was preparing me for glory.
Master Feemor is preparing me for disaster.
Thryn fell asleep to the steady rhythm of Feemor’s breaths, thinking that despite the unease and discomfort, she preferred Feemor’s focus.
* * *
The day they stumbled out of the forest and into the meadow where Vos had left them a ship to get off planet, Thryn found her laughter mingling with Feemor’s.
Force. We made it. We actually made it.
Dried blood, tree sap that was still sticky after having collected tremendous amounts of dirt, and probably their fair collection of tiny arachnids covered them from head to toe.
Thryn pounded on the closed hatch, calling, “Korto Vos, if you’re in there—!”
“Oh, he isn’t,” Feemor interjected. “ Two ships, Thryn. One left for us, the other took him away.”
She slumped against the sun-warmed metal. “That’s a good thing. I think I’d end up complaining far more than is strictly becoming.”
He only grinned at her as he opened the ship and headed for the pilot’s seat.
“Home?” Thryn asked.
Thryn collapsed into the copilot’s chair. “Do you think I’ve learned enough about shielding?”
“We’ll find out, won’t we.”
“Is the reason you don’t get sick anymore because I’m shielding?”
“Are you shielding right now?”
Feemor’s smile gentled. “There’s your answer.”
As hyperspace twisted around them, Thryn allowed her head to fall back and closed her eyes.
She could feel Feemor watching her Force signature. Somehow, it felt like home. All residual discomfort from the scrutiny had gone away. Three weeks of wilderness had driven quite a few of Thryn’s misgivings away...
Though she was still looking forward to actually being clean again.
* * *
Nervous for the first time in a long time, Thryn left the safety of the lowered ship ramp.
Jedi moved about the hangar, oblivious to her presence.
Is it working?
Feemor led her deeper into the Temple, headed for the Council chamber first and foremost, before embarking on the quest to clean up.
Still no one noticed until she was very close to them. Even then, it was simply a matter of discomfort until they glanced at her the second time, realized who she was, and all their bad memories and associated worries spilled to the forefront.
No one is getting sick, or panicking, or growing furious.
Thryn couldn’t contain her grin.
Now to see what the Council thought.
* * *
“They were surprised in a good way.”
Thryn sent her master an unconvinced look. “They didn’t say anything.”
“They think there might be hope for you.”
Sure. There might be— just might be— a tiny, however unlikely, shred of a possibility of hope for me.
Then again, that was more than they’d had before.
Besides, Kenobi and Skywalker weren’t home, according to the answer Feemor had received when he had the foresight to ask. And while she somewhat regretted the former, the latter could only be an added bonus to the whole victorious enterprise.
I hope they’re alright, wherever they are.
Yes, even Ahsoka’s Skyguy.
They parted ways in the hall, Thryn seeking out the refresher and spending quite a bit of time trying to scrub the dried blood from her hair.
* * *
Thryn joined Feemor in the dining hall the next morning, eager to find out if he had any plans.
“A few days’ rest was at the top of the list.” Feemor had shaved, his hair was clean and neatly tied back, and he ate with definite relish.
Thryn gave a nod. “Okay. But can I add something to that?”
“Lightsaber Flow after breakfast?”
Cautious delight crossed Feemor’s face. “Do you feel ready for that?”
“I do.” We worked together, we suffered together, we nearly died in the malia attack.
And if she didn’t try soon...
The longer she waited, the more terrifying the idea would become. Better to face it now.
“But I want a spotter, just in case something goes wrong.”
“That can be arranged.”
* * *
Thryn hadn’t realized Feemor meant to ask Yoda to watch over them, and when she found out, it unsettled her just a little.
Feemor sent her a reassuring smile, and Thryn chose to turn away from her worry.
I can do this. We can do this.
And she certainly wanted to.
* * *
Yoda had sensed Thryn’s reluctance, her anxiety over his presence.
He watched her let go of it and allow herself to focus only on enjoyment and unity with her master.
Yoda smiled to himself as he stood guard, but he had little fear of an accident.
Instead, he allowed himself to bask in the beauty of the Force singing around these two.
Thryn tucked her hands into the sleeves of her cloak, keeping a respectful, calm expression as she entered the Council chamber, a step behind Feemor.
Our first assigned mission.
Her mind flooded with possibilities for what it could be.
Probably an extraction.
Her steps faltered as she saw the room already had a couple people standing in the center of it.
Why is Lisk here?
Thryn tore her gaze away from his pleased eyes, instead focusing on the woman with him and the Council members as Feemor moved to stand beside Lisk. Grateful for something to hide behind, Thryn took her place on his other side.
“Master Lorik Toc is currently incarcerated on the world of Marinae in the Mid Rim,” Windu announced without preamble. “Marinae had yet to choose a side, and requested a Jedi ambassador to assist in making their decision. They made it. In the ensuing chaos Toc was wounded and imprisoned. The Marinaeans intend to offer Master Toc to the Separatists when they arrive in the hopes of earning special treatment within the Confederacy.”
Eeth Koth steepled his fingers. “We don’t know when the Separatist army will be arriving, and we cannot afford to shift troops to Marinae.”
“You want me to get her out,” Feemor concluded.
Mace bowed his head in acknowledgment. “We’re sending Master Barssand with you because she is both familiar with the peculiarities of healing Trandoshans and seems to be immune to Padawan Sein’s... dissonance. While Sein appears to have come a long way in shielding, we still don’t know if that will hold when she is startled or put in a combat situation. Until we know for sure, we don’t want to take any unnecessary chances. It is vital for your team to not be compromised by any accidents, should they occur.”
Makes sense. Except for Lisk.
“Padawan Pollid has worked alongside Padawan Sein in training exercises, and does not seem to experience any negative effects,” Windu finished.
“Curious, Master Barssand is, to study Thryn’s ability to relieve mental wounds. Yes. Also able, she is, of concealing another presence with her own, should the need arise.” Yoda smiled.
I don’t need convincing about Master Barssand. I want to know about—
“That skill will be necessary should you encounter any Force sensitives,” Windu agreed. “While we’ve gone over this with most of you separately, I’m going to say it again. Until we’ve honed Sein’s ability to disrupt, we don’t want our enemies knowing that what she can do is possible.”
Honed? Wait... they’re actually going to use my gift?
The thought of her peculiarity helping to protect the Order instead of shredding it from within made Thryn’s heart soar.
Windu was still speaking. “If Ventress or any other Force sensitive becomes a factor, Barssand and Sein will move as far away as possible, both actively shielding the Padawan. Is that clear?”
“Yes, Master,” Thryn murmured, her words mingling with synonymous agreement from the others.
“What details we have on the planet, city, and prison facility have been compiled for you, you’ll find it on datapads at the Outfitters.”
Ooh. Didn’t have to do our own research. They really want us to go quick.
Feemor bowed. “Understood. We will leave as soon as supplies are assembled.”
Thryn followed his lead.
Once clear of the Council room, Feemor spoke up. “We’ll collect the supplies and meet up with you at the ship.”
As soon as he had Barssand’s acquiescence, Feemor broke into a brisk walk that took them away from the other two Jedi without Thryn having to once make eye contact with her Mirialan counterpart.
Once out of hearing range, Feemor slowed just a bit. “Thryn, how do you feel about Barssand’s Padawan being part of this mission? Would you like me to request he be left behind?”
Thryn sighed. “If we get into a fight with a Force sensitive, Master Barssand and I won’t be able to help you out. I like the idea of you having backup.”
“He’s... he behaves strangely, Master. It’s annoying, that’s all. It’s not anything terrible. At least— that’s what I remember, but I haven’t seen him in a couple years, at least. But being a Padawan has changed
so I expect he’s grown too. I’ll try not to walk into this with preconceived anticipations of trouble.”
Feemor processed it for a moment, and then glanced around to make sure they were still alone. “He is... ah.” He looked somewhat perplexed. “You may not know this, but—” He stopped again.
Thryn looked up at him in amazement. Tongue-tied? My Master?
“Do you have any idea why he was so annoying?” Feemor finally asked.
“He hadn’t exactly learned the
A Jedi is humble
lesson when I knew him, but many not-yet-chosen Padawans hadn’t.”
Hell, plenty of chosen Padawans haven’t, even a few years into apprenticeship
. “He just liked to feed his ego by showing off.”
Feemor winced. “It’s a little more inconvenient than that. He’s very... interested in you.”
Thryn looked up at him blankly and stopped walking. Feemor paused and forced himself to meet her gaze.
“I don’t—” Then her face flushed to a deep scarlet. “You didn ’t mean that as in...”
“I’m saying that I have no doubt he was trying to draw your attention, and has been for a long time. I assumed you were aware of what was happening, which is why I wanted to know if you are comfortable with this mission assignment, or if you would like me to intervene.”
Thryn frowned. “Doesn’t he
that romantic relationships between Padawans are
“He was rather open in the Force back there. Were you doing everything you could to not pay attention?”
Feemor looked slightly amused. “Fine. He was expressing a mild antagonism against the Council, probably because he feels them to be too restrictive. He sees you as a Padawan who is living her dream in spite of them, defying them, and breaking free of the rules.”
“ What ?” Thryn rubbed at her forehead with her palm. “That’s not. ”
“No, it’s not. But that’s how he sees it. He doesn’t understand that the Jedi form one team.”
“He’s not even going to be a mission-taking knight, for Coruscant’s sake! He’s training to be a healer ! I thought healers had naturally harmonious, peaceful dispositions.” She huffed in frustration. “So now we’re stuck working with him. Great. Just great. I am so looking forward to this now.”
“Sarcasm?” Feemor asked in some surprise. “I do believe I’m sensing not only frustration, but some anger.”
Thryn closed her eyes and focused hard, reining in her runaway grumpiness. When she had succeeded, she opened her eyes again. She’d found calm and felt Balance, even if she didn’t feel peace or acceptance at the moment. “How do I make it so he’s
“Your best bet is to make your confidence and trust in the Council and in me apparent,” Feemor suggested. “Your response to authority is very different from his, and I’m sure it will bother him. Especially since he feels you have been ill-used by the lot of us.”
Anger began to flare within her again, but she quickly threw water over the flames.
“He may try to convince you to join him in his point of view. If you refuse to, he may become frustrated and turn somewhere else.”
“Can I be rude? Please, Master?”
“Not unless you absolutely have to.” He watched her with sober eyes. “The mission comes first. We have to work together to rescue Master Toc, and the more conflict there is, the more likely a mistake will be made that could cost us dearly, if not fatally. Padawan Pollid is a Jedi, no matter what faults you may perceive him to have. He does have good qualities, and even if he didn’t, he’s still part of your family, even though he wasn’t in your youngling clan.”
Thryn rubbed her face with her hand. “Right.”
“Just be glad he’s not a Zeltron.”
An image popped into her mind of Lisk with red skin instead of green, smirking and staring at her... and projecting pheromones all over the place.
Thryn scowled at her master. “That’s not even remotely funny.”
Master Damsin, how I wish you were here. I don’t think Pollid has actually given me his heart. We’re teenagers, so that’s not actually possible, right? And even if he did, I somehow doubt he’s mastered the concept of nonattachment, even if he had. Responding like Master Kenobi isn’t an option here, I don’t think. So what do I do?
He might be interested simply because of the rule against Padawan involvement. I could simply be an expression of his rebellion.
And that was just insulting.
I am more than that, you arrogant little sleemo.
“Does Master Barssand know?” Thryn spoke up, trying to form some sort of plan.
Feemor shook his head. “That I do not know. I haven’t spoken to her about it, and I don’t intend to unless Padawan Pollid endangers the mission’s success.”
“And what if his annoying behavior becomes worse ?”
“We’ll play it by ear. But somehow I think you’re going to have to end up dealing with this yourself. Lisk isn’t the sort of Padawan who responds instantly and well to being rebuked by his master or anyone else.”
The mission had gone from an eagerly-anticipated opportunity to a dreaded assignment in the space of five standard minutes.
“Are you still determined not to go in with preconceived anticipations for how badly he’ll behave?” Feemor asked, voice quiet as they reached the Outfitters hall.
Thryn knew what the answer to that should be.
I will make it be my answer. I believe in this. I’m going to live it.
“Yes. I will give him the opportunity to act as a Jedi.”
Feemor beamed at her. “That’s my Padawan.”
Thryn fell into step beside him again, hoping things would be less awkward than she feared.
Gear collected, bags slung over their shoulders, the two headed back out, aiming for the hangar this time.
“Did you ever have to deal with something like this?” Thryn asked, unable to drag her mind away from their previous conversation.
Feemor blew air softly through his nose. It reminded Thryn of Obi-Wan.
“Yes. The circumstances were not identical; she didn’t have a problem with the Council or authority. She had a problem with her species. She was Zeltron.”
Thryn’s eyes widened. So you were being serious with that joke earlier. “What did you do?”
“I avoided her whenever possible.”
“And when not possible?”
“I ignored her. And that wasn’t the best way of handling the situation, and Qui-Gon did not approve of it.”
I am so Force damned grateful Lisk isn’t Zeltron.
But interested was interested, and she would just have to figure this out as she went along.
“Do you know if Master Kenobi ever had to deal with something like this?” Thryn asked, wishing Obi-Wan back to the Temple. By nature he might have seen the question as an intrusion, but he would know Thryn simply wanted to know what Taria would have advised her to do.
“I don't know.”
* * *
Feemor watched her out of the corner of his eye. He knew she was deeply disturbed, and he was sorry to have their first mission clouded by this. And he wasn’t sure how she should deal with it.
He had only one real concern: that the infatuation might end up returned.
Obi-Wan had warned him that Taria had— for the first lesson— explored the ins and outs of the differences between attachment and selfless love, and that the latter was acceptable.
Feemor felt grateful for the heads up. So far, Thryn hadn’t brought it up, but Feemor was sure she’d been giving thought to it. How could she not? He just hoped she wouldn’t experiment with the concept on this first mission. She’ll be far more likely to succeed, and less likely to end up burned, if she’s a few years more experienced.
And somehow, he was convinced Pollid wouldn’t be one to support the concept of nonattachment, which would make things more complicated.
Keep a level, logical head, my Padawan.
Most Padawans had to deal with this in some way or another. Many ended up hurt before discovering calm Balance and an acceptance of the Jedi way. His Padawan had an advantage over others her age— she’d already discovered her Balance in the Force and was confident there.
But that could be compromised and changed. Very quickly. He would try to watch out for her and help her, but unfortunately this was a minefield she was going to have to navigate on her own. He couldn’t make the decisions for her, he could only offer her advice and sympathy.
And possibly... just maybe... a lesson from his own past.
He considered it, but pushed the possibility away.
No, he didn't want to talk about that. Definitely not.
Perhaps Taria Damsin had been willing to talk about her own life like that, whatever the story may have been. Feemor didn’t know it, and Thryn hadn’t offered to explain. But as far as he himself....
No. Qui-Gon had never talked about such things with him, and he had managed all right.
Then again, you always wondered if your master understood your struggle, something whispered in the back of his mind. You wondered if the Jedi who made up the rules really knew what they were doing, or experienced emotions remotely similar to yours. How many times did you tell yourself that the nonattatchment concept was not invented by Zeltrons? And that the no-family concept was not invented by Cereans?
He shook his head to himself.
Thryn was far more advanced than he was at her age.
She would be fine.
He was sure of it.
And he most definitely did not want to talk. Not about that.
* * *
“Master Feemor! Thryn!” It was a cheerful, young voice that greeted them as they approached the ship.
Thryn looked up to see Lisk.
She was used to him being shorter than herself. It had helped reinforce a feeling of being vastly older. That crutch was gone now. It would take a while to get used to this several centimeters taller than her business.
His smile, too, had changed, from toothy to matching his face’s size and shape. His glossy black hair was still immaculately trimmed, his Padawan tail and braid in perfect order.
He’d also changed his attire.
Thryn had been too disgruntled in the Council room to pay attention, but now she noticed. Traditional in cut, the dark colors and subtle patterns in the cloth were of Mirialan origin, paying honor to his roots.
It brought out the green of his skin, and electric blue of his eyes, and matched the dark stain of his tattoos.
Black lower lip, a flared diamond split into four pieces on his forehead just between his eyes, and tribal scrollwork beginning behind his eyes and spilling down his jawline completed the picture. That was mostly familiar.
Except that the line of black diamonds along the left side of his jaw was split almost down the middle with a scar that hadn’t been there two years ago. Raised, pale green scar tissue turned the diamonds into a double row of triangles.
* * *
Feemor groaned within. This might be a more painful mission than he’d expected. The boy had a smug twang to his Force sense that suggested he thought himself handsome, and was trying to see if he’d made any impression on Thryn.
Force save us from preening teenagers.
At the same time, he could sense Thryn’s careful, reserved sense flicker as she recognized the same thing Feemor had.
She was disgusted. Very disgusted.
Lisk didn’t seem to be able to decrypt her scrambled senses to figure it out, though, and gave her his most charming smile.
Given an ego quite that large, it’s possible he’ll interpret what he’s sensing in the opposite way it’s meant.
Which might actually end up slightly amusing for a spectator.
But you aren’t one, so you’d better be sympathetic.
“Congratulations on your Padawanship, Thryn,” Lisk murmured. “I always knew you would succeed.”
“Congratulations to you too,” Thryn returned, her voice carefully neutral, but her lip pulling up just the slightest.
Feemor made a mental note to tell her later that kind of destroyed the vocal effect. Doesn ’t matter how sincere you sound if you sneer at the same time.
Lisk ignored it, clear faced, but Feemor could sense disappointment. The young man turned to Feemor. “Master Barssand is already on board. We ’re ready to leave as soon as you are.”
“We’re ready,” Feemor returned, gesturing for him to lead the way up the ramp into the small merchant vessel that would hopefully slip them behind Separatist lines undetected.
Feemor and Thryn made their way to the cockpit, and found Kewari Barssand at the controls.
“It’s been a while since I’ve flown a mission,” she admitted. “Would you prefer to fly this bucket of bolts, Master Feemor?”
Feemor smiled. “I don’t mind flying.”
“Then I’ll leave it to you.” She vacated the pilot’s seat, obviously relieved as Feemor took it. “I most definitely dislike it. Ah, Padawan Sein. It’s good to see you.”
Thryn gave a formal bow. “Master Barssand. I hear you would like to study my mind.”
“That I would, if it won’t bother you.”
“Not at all, Master.”
Lisk stood silent in the background, watching, his fingers fiddling with the air by his side.
Feemor felt the idea strike Thryn. He kept his back carefully to the rest of the cockpit, focusing instead on finishing the takeoff prep. He shielded his senses from everyone, including his apprentice.
It was a clever idea, but he didn’t know if he should approve or not.
He liked the idea, though...
So he wouldn’t get in the way. But he wouldn’t give it his stamp of approval, either. He could remain indifferent and aloof.
And watch with veiled but definite interest.
“Of course, Master,” Thryn spoke up, a little too casually, “if you want to make sense of my dissonant nature, you’ll want to see me both relieving and fighting. Besides, I’m sure that you and Padawan Pollid”— Feemor noted she did not call him Lisk even though he’d used her given name— “will want to make absolutely sure my dissonance won’t disrupt you. Probably the best way to do that is for Padawan Pollid and I to have a small duel while you analyze. We’ll have a few hours in hyperspace before we reach Marinae— plenty of time for a small spar.”
Feemor appreciated Thryn’s honesty with him. The other two had no idea she was setting them up, but she was letting her master know her full intention, so he could stop her if he would.
He wondered vaguely if Qui-Gon would have...
And figured he probably would have stopped her.
Quite possibly not. In fact, Feemor had a hunch Obi-Wan would have enjoyed this, as he certainly was going to.
He could feel Pollid’s eagerness in the Force, though the boy was hiding it.
Unfortunately for you, hiding from a different resonance will be nearly impossible, Padawan, Feemor inwardly chuckled. You think you’re going to be able to impress her with your fighting prowess, but you’ve never fought against her before. Only alongside her. And this will be no lightsaber flow. She will treat you like an enemy. You’re not going to soon forget it, especially if you experience a little pain and sense that aimed for you.
She clearly had every intent of inflicting fear.
Vindictiveness? No... I don’t think so...
Kewari, obviously intrigued, said, “That sounds like a wonderful idea to me. Let’s head to the empty storage room. There will be enough space there, and plenty obstacles. Unless Master Feemor objects.”
“It’s important for you both to understand how she fights,” Feemor said neutrally, without turning around as he lifted the ship up off the landing platform and guided it into Coruscant’s busy skylanes.
“And for her to understand us,” Pollid chimed in.
Somehow, Feemor just knew it was with a special smile directed at Thryn.
Even if his instinct hadn’t told him, Thryn’s swirling snarl in the Force would have.
Yes... he probably shouldn’t allow her to intentionally prey on a fellow Jedi.
Yet somehow he found himself following them deeper into the ship without saying a word against it once the ship made hyperspace.
A solid scare might do the young man good.
Kewari took one wall, Feemor the opposite. He crossed his arms, choosing an unreadable mask for his face.
So far, his Padawan had been actively shielding her dissonance. The other Jedi on board knew she was different and could feel it, but neither realized how deep it ran. Lisk might have remembered, if he hadn’t been so convinced he could handle it. Feemor suspected Lisk though the fact that Thryn seemed less overpowering was because he’d grown stronger than he had been not long ago. Then again, two years of daydreaming about someone not actually present may have left a blurred memory of reality.
Thryn stood in the center of the room, lightsaber held, not yet ignited, in her hand.
The last time they had a joint training exercise it was almost undoubtedly teamwork against droids.
Lisk took a casual Jedi Ready stance, lightsaber lit.
“On your mark, Master Barssand,” Feemor offered.
She gave him a nod. “Ready... begin.”
In an eye blink, Thryn was in Lisk’s face, lightsaber flashing and driving him backwards. He barely had time to block, his astonishment whispering in the Force.
Not used to seeing her take the initiative. She’s always been worried her style would be seen as aggression.
Thryn ’s eyes glittered, the love of battle thrumming through her blood. Feemor recognized it, understood it immediately even if he’d never felt the like himself. It didn’t matter to her that the sabers had been adjusted to nonlethal beams.
She gave herself fully to the fight, obviously enjoying Lisk’s momentary confusion.
He recognized that sense, which made him uncertain. He’d never felt it aimed for him before.
She fed on the slight falter of his soul.
That’s when the natural-born effect she had on her enemies took hold.
Fear flooded Lisk’s sense. He tried to hide it, but couldn’t.
No one could hide fear from Thryn.
Everything within her responded to it and she drove him harder. He tripped over a crate and crashed to the floor, sharp pain shooting through his elbow and hip.
Thryn’s signature responded to that even more than the fear. Kewari stood frozen, her face twisted in an expression of horror, but her eyes captivated by what she was witnessing.
She didn’t call it off.
Lisk didn’t have personal Balance to be able to launch his defense from. The arrogant overconfidence sabotaged his ability to stand firm against Thryn’s Force signature.
It wasn’t the fear and pain that drove him to break away, it was the weight of Thryn’s response to them. Lisk retreated to the far side of the room with a single bound and looked back at her with in concealable confusion, and a revulsion so instinctive it couldn’t be helped.
A very rational response to running into someone who would feed from their fear and pain.
But this was a duel, and it wasn’t over until a surrender was given. Lisk didn’t appear to be at that point yet.
Thryn stood still. Uncannily still.
Lisk watched her warily, expecting her to lunge for him again.
For almost a full minute no one moved.
Lisk lost patience first. He slowly returned, his confidence along with it, wrongly mistaking Thryn’s inaction for a bluff to hide her lack of surety as to who would win.
Feemor could almost see the gears in Lisk’s mind churning.
He could deal with this. He could win. Of course he could. He’d forgotten what Thryn’s fighting sense felt like, but he remembered now, and could cope with it. It was... terribly disturbing to have it aimed at him, but they were competing, after all. He attacked forward, only to find Thryn no longer there.
And then a foot kicked him in the back and sent him skidding.
He’d been unable to guess her intent.
According to the basic notes in Lisk’s public file, he was quite good with using the Force to anticipate. Feemor hadn’t had a chance to look very deeply at any of the records, but it seemed clear to Feemor that Lisk was having a hard time deciphering the seeming chaos around Thryn.
He couldn’t see the rhythms.
Lisk crashed into the crate he’d tripped over earlier, and Feemor sensed a sharp pain stab through the boy’s head.
At that moment, Thryn lowered her carefully-practiced shielding for the first time.
Kewari flinched backward as she felt the full weight of what Vos and Feemor had felt fighting alongside her, and Lisk experienced the crushing, subconscious horror and fight-flight panic of a Force-sensitive fighting against her.
His brain scrambled. Feemor saw his eyes go blank—
Thryn sprang forward, snapping her lightsaber to his neck, pausing just centimeters away.
Lisk froze, fear infusing his posture, his expression, the Force around him; he wasn’t sure she wasn’t going to hurt him.
Feemor knew she wouldn’t. She’d won the battle, but she’d refrained from leaving him with a memorable welt. She hadn’t marked her victory on him, when Feemor knew many other Padawans would not have displayed such restraint.
“Enough!” Kewari called.
The instant change in Thryn’s sense seemed almost as frightening to Lisk as her fighting sense had been. Thryn took an immediate step back and powered down her lightsaber, posture humble and nonthreatening, her Force signature stilling for a moment of utter silence; and as she drew her shields around her again, it was clear she was no longer feeding on the fear and pain still present in the room.
Thryn stepped to Feemor’s side and stood there like an obedient massiff.
For a long moment silence hung thick in the air.
Kewari let out a long, deep breath. “So
what they meant, what everyone has been trying to describe. That was... that was wild. Are you sure it’s fully tamed?”
“ It ?” Feemor asked, noncommittally.
“Whatever it is inside her.”
Feemor shook his head. “No, Master Barssand. This is her. Not something inside her.”
“That’s almost worse, you know.” Kewari arched an eyebrow. “Are you saying she is a natural-born sadist?”
“It is only worse if you choose to not look at it as a gift.”
Kewari’s gaze shifted to Thryn’s face, and Feemor could sense his Padawan’s desire to be accepted, along with the way she braced herself for rejection.
Those who matter, know. We’ve never before encountered a sadist who wasn’t fighting for evil. It will take time to adjust.
“I begin to understand the controversy surrounding this Padawan,” Kewari admitted. “I’ve heard that her ability to help is something unusual as well?”
“Unusual, but perhaps not utterly unheard of. Master Fay had a skill with a similar outcome, but Fay never made it a practice to reach out to other Jedi. It only seemed to happen when she found one with unusual suffering. Also, according to the Jedi who experienced this gift— Master Kenobi included— she did not seek out pain and fear to take them away. She simply took what she could feel on the surface. Thryn reaches deep within and touches the most concealed, most painful, most poisoned wounds and eases those.”
“I am aware of Fay,” Barssand mused, “but was she granting peace by consuming the soul pain of others, or by giving peace she already possessed?”
“You would have to ask someone who experienced it. I would like to point out, however, that children and the wounded gravitated towards Fay, somehow sensing she could help them, whether they were Force-sensitive or not. My Padawan is the same way.”
“Only excluding Force-sensitives.”
“Not all of them. The littlest children don’t find her Force melody disturbing. They reach out to her.”
Kewari nodded. “This is what I desire to see. For deep healing and compassion to be mixed with such ruthless bloodlust and predatory charm is... unprecedented.”
Feemor frowned. “I would suggest that what I just described is not a serpent’s hypnotism, but something subconscious in those being drawn recognizing a protector and comforter.”
Thryn didn’t seem to find the choice of words offensive, even if Feemor had. She waited, and Feemor found her quiet acceptance strangely calming to his own soul. She knew she, simply by existing, was frightening, and wanted to be as nonthreatening as possible.
She also knew there would be people who could not come to terms with how she’d been born. Feemor allowed himself to breathe in how Thryn did not hold it against those people.
For the first time since the end of the fight, she glanced at Lisk. And started.
Feemor followed her gaze, found the boy curled up on the floor.
Concern smacked into Feemor from Thryn, as easy for him to read as his own handwriting. “He’s sending out strange, erratic waves,” Thryn spoke up, worry in her tone. “Did I hurt him?”
Kewari, despite her initial response, knelt beside her Padawan without a hint of panic or disgust, and placed a hand on his shoulder. He jerked away. Withdrawing the hand, Kewari focused on him. A moment later she looked up in amazement. “He’s trapped in his own mind. You... terrified him.”
Huh. Terrified may be too mild a word. I’ve never seen a Jedi this incapacitated before. Feemor felt sudden regret. I should not have allowed it. “I'm sorry. I should have thought about this. We haven’t had her unleash herself fully on a Force-sensitive ever. It was terribly unwise of me to—”
“No,” Kewari countered. “I think it’s good.”
* * *
Thryn’s eyes widened as Master Barssand offered more explanation.
“She can pull him out of it.”
Sudden horror swamped Thryn. Get inside Lisk’s head? No thanks!
“I can’t do that!” Thryn protested. “Not— not without his permission!”
“He’s far too traumatized to recognize anything being said to him,” Kewari pointed out, almost grimly sober. “If he remains in this condition long, it may end up permanent.”
Thryn was aware of Jedi who had experienced mind trauma so deep they never surfaced again.
Don’t let me have done that! Thryn begged the Force, I don’t like him, but please, don’t let me have broken him.
She hadn’t meant to turn him into a vegetable.
But she had tried to instill terror in him.
I brought this on myself.
“I can’t control what I see in his mind,” Thryn warned, moving to kneel beside them. “He’ll probably be very angry when he wakes up and realizes I’ve read his most traumatic memories.”
“I know Lisk. He would rather suffer some embarrassment than live out the rest of his life in a Halls of Healing bed.”
Thryn drew in a breath, feeling her nerve waver.
“Zeltron,” Feemor murmured.
Thryn’s eyes flew open, then narrowed. As in, be grateful he’s not one? Thank you, Master. Very helpful.
But it was. A too-real joke from a time before this had happened somehow eased the trembling in her hand.
* * *
Feemor sensed the easing in Thryn’s mind, and knew she would be alright, no matter what she ran into in the other Padawan’s brain.
Thryn took a deep breath and focused intently, not touching him.
Feemor could feel disgust sloughing off her... but it stopped in an instant, as though cut off. Horror sparkled for a moment, quickly followed by intense compassion. Deep compassion.
Peace began flowing from her, radiating outwards in ever increasing circles, but focused mainly on the shivering, curled-up Lisk.
“Remarkable,” Kewari whispered.
And then Thryn was drawing pain and fear out of him and into herself strand by strand.
Kewari stood up and retreated to join Feemor.
“If any of us tried that, we would end up swamped by the fear and pain. We wouldn’t be able to contain it, on top of our own mind’s needs. It’s only because she’s built to absorb them that she can do this.” Kewari shook her head. “If she wasn’t a sadist, she wouldn’t be able to do this without trapping her own mind.”
Feemor could sense Lisk’s tension easing, the terror starting to fade. He uncurled, lying limp and still instead of trembling. His breathing grew easier, no longer quick, panicked gasps.
* * *
Lisk’s eyelids slammed open to find himself staring up into Thryn’s brown eyes.
His automatic response was unmitigated horror at finding a Padawan— especially this Padawan— in his head. He scrabbled backwards, only to discover that even as his fear and revulsion filled him, they were being sucked away.
She’s eating them?
How repulsive was that?
But it didn’t feel malicious, and the peace replacing what was being drawn away from him felt... good. In fact, his inner self felt more calm than at any time he could remember. Closer to Balance.
And the terrible pain of losing Ista to Plague 214B, like a stone in his shoe, something that needled him from the back of his mind, eased. It wasn’t gone, he could see what he’d lost— what they’d all lost— but it didn’t make it hard to breathe to look at it now.
And the frustration and helplessness caused by the teasing of Padawans Kid and Horad, the churning resentment and anger were calming. Some day he would be beyond their reach, and what they thought would no longer have any meaning. It never seemed like that, but in this moment, maybe... maybe he could endure.
He found his gaze trapped in Thryn’s.
What is she doing to me?
It felt wrong, it felt like he should run, should try to hurt her and escape, she was preying on him—
But he wasn't sure he wanted to leave this place where the worries of yesterday seemed survivable.
And then something else bubbled up, into his mind, into her view, and no, she couldn’t see it, couldn’t know—
But it was too late. He couldn’t stay the images and sensations twisting through the Force within him, revealing the deepest hurt he’d ever received, his greatest fear.
Terrible, gnawing, fueling fear, he could see it manifesting itself in pushing against his master, against the other masters, sparking verbal assaults against Padawans, igniting the need to prove himself at every opportunity.
He’d never seen those eyes blazing yellow, yet in his mind, they were like he knew they did, somewhere out there in the galaxy.
Eyes belonging to a man who would try to kill Lisk, a man Lisk might have to kill simply to survive—
The eyes of his Finder.
Questions he didn’t dare to ask even in the safety of his own mind surfaced, clear to the predator, drawn to her like a magnet.
Why wasn ’t I good enough?
Why would he leave me?
Memories, once precious, now cruel flitted through his mind, and he couldn’t control them.
Tolor, soothing away Lisk’s fear when Yoda’s lightsaber-holding explanation didn’t make sense to his childhood mind. Explaining it in a different way, so Lisk could make sense of it.
Tolor, who held his five-year-old self as Lisk sobbed, broken by his clan sibling’s senseless and needless death. His best friend, his only friend— in so much pain, it wasn’t fair, why Ista?
Tolor, patient with Lisk’s hyperactivity, the need to continuously be moving, his inability to sit still, apparently not bothered by the fact that Lisk couldn’t seem to remember to think before acting. Eleven years old, and none of the younglings his age liked him. They saw him as a show-off, someone who discounted everything they did because he could do it better—
He’d never meant to do that, he always kicked himself for it after, but it just happened—
Tolor, who’d turned to the dark side. Left him without so much as a goodbye.
Lisk had counted on him, needed him, had trusted him implicitly—
He’d believed him when he said that Lisk would overcome his personal demons.
Was it all a lie? Did he ever love me?
Or was he the one youngling whose Finder just didn’t care? Had everyone else known? When they looked at him, did they see the youngling whose parent cast him aside?
The only one who didn’t have their Finder come to visit?
The problem child who’d become too much of a problem... but he wasn’t even sure what he’d done.
Or worse, maybe his Finder hadn’t left him because of something Lisk did wrong, but because he didn’t care.
What if I Fall too? I’m not kind like him. I’m not patient like he was, how do I stand a chance? What if I turn into a Jedi-killing monster?
He hated having this dragged out for Thryn ’s eyes to view, the soul-deep reasons why he lashed out against the Council, his youngling clan, anyone, everyone else—
It had nothing to do with them.
But it was safer to let people think it was—
Time slid forward again, revealing the Iskeagle younglings teaming up with Clans Vorn Tiger and Kath.
No, no, please—
Discovering a youngling so quiet, so thoroughly rejected, one who didn’t know about his Finder—
Humiliated, Lisk winced.
He felt her heart pulse in pain alongside his, and the pain of those years before being chosen by Barssand eased, peace taking its place.
Somehow, she’d been able to bring to bay this monster within him, one he’d struggled for years to survive.
He expected a sneer in her eyes, to find condemnation, to see her look down on him for all his inadequacies—
Instead, he only found understanding, and an apology for what she’d done in their duel.
“No, no, don’t apologize,” he muttered. “It’s fine.”
And it was.
It hadn’t been, before. It had been a severe blow to his pride.
But now, he understood her. At least, far better than he had before. And she understood him. Probably better than he did himself.
He found it easy to accept that, somehow, and that wasn’t Thryn making him feel that way.
* * *
Seeing Lisk was safely back in control of his own mind, Thryn gently broke the connection, only to be startled by Kewari’s quiet murmur of, “Marvelous.”
Feemor allowed himself a small, wan smile.
Yes. Half of it seems appalling, the other, absolutely wonderful. But there isn ’t the one without the other, because it’s the same gift.
“No, it’s not,” Thryn spoke up, apparently finishing the half-spoken conversation with Lisk. “You’re a Jedi. I should never have lashed out at you like that.”
“You going to do that to Dooku sometime?” Lisk rubbed a hand over his face.
“Something like that,” Feemor agreed. “Once we know how to make it an even greater punch.”
“ Greater ?” Lisk blew out a heavy breath. “Well, let me know ahead of time so I can get a front-row seat.”
* * *
She hadn’t destroyed him.
Thryn steadied herself with a careful breath, the relief almost more than she could take.
She knew there was plenty wrong within him, but it wasn’t anything that could be healed in an instant, even were she able to heal.
His heart wasn’t as scarred as Master Kenobi’s, but it held far more scars than Ahsoka’s. Thryn half-wished she hadn’t seen the state of it.
I won’t be able to be rude, now , she knew. Not because she shouldn’t , but because it would feel like kicking someone already down.
And she couldn’t do that.
You know, for Jedi-in-training, Padawans can be cruel, Thryn mused. Even without trying to be. Especially without trying. I don't think half of them realize what their glances and senses do, as they so patiently keep their mouths shut.
But that made things just that much more complicated. Rejecting him and casting him aside until he got the idea and lost interest wasn't a viable plan anymore. But treating him with compassion would only encourage him.
He has that kind of nature, and that kind of ego.
So strange. It's so large, yet so fragile. Does it bluff a lot, to try to keep people from seeing how fragile it is?
That was a definite possibility.
But the main question on her mind was what in the universe to do next.
I need to speak with Master Kenobi.
There was one thing that she knew how to do well, and that would work in this situation...
“Master, I would like to go meditate,” she announced, rising to her feet, trying to ignore Lisk's still-somewhat-groggy gaze locked on her face.
“I will accompany you,” Feemor responded. “Master Barssand, if there are any problems, feel free to comm me.”
She was visibly disappointed to not be able to study Thryn further at that moment, but seemed to understand that they had things needing to get straightened out.
“We’ll be fine.”
Thryn turned and left, closely followed by Feemor, but when they reached the small hallway, it was Feemor who took the lead. “The room you’re sharing with Master Barssand is here, and Lisk’s and mine is opposite,” he explained.
“I’m not happy with the arrangement,” Thryn growled. “I get the feeling that Master Barssand is a scientist, and I’m the specimen. To be poked and prodded and experimented upon... studied like I’m not a person.”
“Is that how you view scientists, my Padawan?” Feemor asked, almost cheerfully. He opened the door to her room and they entered, the door sliding shut behind them. He promptly took a seat on one of the two bunks set into the walls.
Thryn dragged herself to the bunk opposite and sat down.
“I haven’t seen this much anger and frustration in you ever,” Feemor said quietly.
“Yes, well, things have just gotten a whole lot more complicated,” she lamented. “It was sad inside his mind, Master. So many terrible things have happened to him already. And he’s far more serious about me than I thought.”
Thryn scanned his sense, but couldn’t guess what he was thinking.
“I just wish I could speak with Master Kenobi,” she admitted. “Master Damsin told me that there was someone who loved Master Kenobi, whom he did not love in return. Well, not in the same way,” she qualified, remembering his sheer agony as he watched her die.
Feemor’s voice was gentle as he replied, “There are many different kinds of loves.”
“Maybe he could give me advice.”
Feemor thought about it for a few moments. “I might be able to get through to him, I have his frequency. But I can’t guarantee Skywalker won’t be around when you contact him.”
“At this point? I don’t know that I care.”
Feemor gave a nod in return. “Perhaps I should have requested the Council assign a different Master-Padawan team?”
“No, you said that avoiding and ignoring isn’t the way to handle this. And after seeing inside his mind, I agree.” Thryn sighed. “He doesn’t have friends, Master, and...” He thinks my existence gives his hope.
She feared it would sound arrogant to say aloud, even if she was merely repeating what she’d seen in his mind.
If she mocked or trampled him too...
Feemor pulled out his holotransmitter and sent an alert ping through to Obi-Wan.
“You... don’t feel like I’m betraying you? By wanting to ask him for advice?”
“Why would I feel like that?” he asked, eyebrows rising in surprise. “I’ve admitted I don’t have the faintest idea of what you should do, and that I have no experience. Master Kenobi has experience, and you trust one another. It makes perfect sense for you to ask him.”
“Even though he’s a lot younger than you?”
Feemor sent her a look. “Not that much younger. But on a more serious note, age is of no consequence to Jedi. Obi-Wan is far wiser than I will ever be, and fully in Balance. His opinion is worth listening to.”
Relieved, Thryn smiled.
“Besides, somehow I know Master Damsin would have wanted you to ask his advice.”
Thryn gave a small nod. “Yes. She would have,” she murmured.
A small blue Obi-Wan wavered into view.
“Master Kenobi. I have a Padawan with a rather unpleasant predicament. Do you have a moment to give her some advice?”
Obi-Wan looked surprised. “I’m sure there’s nothing I can do for her that you can’t and haven’t done.”
“Ah, but she thinks you can, and that’s what counts. Do you have a few minutes?”
“I can make a few.”
“Thank you. I appreciate it. I will see you another time. Here she is— I have a ship to attend to. Farewell.” He handed the small disk to his Padawan, smiled, and left the room.
“Well, Thryn?” Obi-Wan prompted.
“Are you alone, Master?”
“Yes.” Sudden caution slipped into his voice. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes. No. I don’t know. I’m alone too, so you know.” She took a deep breath, and then explained her predicament, trying to leave names out of the whole mess.
“It’s a lot deeper than I’d thought,” she finally wound up. “I thought it was a reaction— you know. They say don’t, so he will, sort of thing. Or maybe just a passing fancy that he would be over soon. But I don’t think it’s the same thing Taria had for you, either. I’m completely confused.”
“That’s not something to be surprised about. Quite often matters of the heart are dreadfully confusing.”
For long moments there was silence as Obi-Wan thought about the problem. “What do your instincts tell you?” he finally asked.
“That I can’t just respond in a callous, frustrated, leave-me-alone-I’m-not-interested way. But that if I don’t, he’ll take it as encouragement.”
“You have quite the quandary, don’t you. I’m afraid my advice is simply to focus on the mission and stick close to Feemor. Because of the restrictions placed on Padawans, it is unlikely he will be very obvious when your master and his are nearby. Don’t let this distract you from the mission— you know the drill.”
“The mission is most important.”
“Precisely. If he insists on trying to spend time with you or get some sort of response out of you, you can tell him politely that you want to focus on the mission, and that he should too.”
“Oh, that will really work,” Thryn grumbled.
Obi-Wan’s eyes narrowed as he studied her far more carefully. “I’m sensing a lot of anxiety and anger in you. It’s unusual, and it’s disturbing me.”
“I’m not in Balance, Master,” she admitted. “I am very lost and feel so alone. I miss Master Damsin so much, it’s more pain than I thought possible given I didn’t know her very long.”
“That I understand completely.”
“What would she have told me to do?”
“Taria?” He paused, thought about it. “She would have said...” he stared back at her, completely serious, “focus on the mission, stay close to Feemor, and trust your instincts.”
Thryn blew air through her nose with a tiny smile, and didn’t even recognize that she’d just used the same expression that she’d seen both Obi-Wan and Feemor utilize so often.
“But in all seriousness, Padawan, I know Feemor told you that ignoring Lisk won’t be your—”
“I never said his name!” Thryn blurted.
Obi-Wan grimaced. “I may have seen the assignment notice listing your two teams having been sent out.”
Thryn groaned, dragging a hand down her face.
“It’s alright, Padawan. I survived you knowing about Satine and Taria.”
Thryn snickered. “In other words, toughen up?”
“Perhaps. Feemor told you ignoring Lisk won’t be your best course of action. I agree for the most part. I also think that if you see him walking towards you looking deeply agitated, it’s perfectly acceptable for you to excuse yourself and find something very important to do elsewhere. In the refresher, perhaps.”
Thryn laughed outright.
“If it is a passing fancy, all you can do is wait out the tide. It will turn. And hopefully he will be the wiser for it, and won’t put himself through something like this a second time. If it’s not a passing fancy...”
“Then I should act as you did?”
Obi-Wan sighed. “I’m sure there are ways I should have acted differently; areas where I failed. To be fully honest— and I’m only saying this because Taria would say it were she here— I haven’t straightened things out with Satine yet. I’m on the same ship with her, and things are worse than ever before. I have absolutely no right to be giving you advice. But I do know what Qui-Gon would have said.”
“Expect nothing, just take what comes and act on it.”
“Alright,” she murmured. “I admit I don’t like that answer.”
“I never did either. Make finding your center of Balance a priority, Thryn. I would go so far as to say don’t let yourself leave your room until you’ve found it again. Force yourself to find it. And then don’t let yourself be knocked off it, no matter what comes. And if you do end up off-Balance, get back there faster than a Togruta can pounce on a rodent.”
Thryn’s face twisted in a wan smile. “Is Ahsoka there?”
“No. And I admit that’s a relief. It’s confusing enough as it is.”
Thryn hesitated. It seemed a complete, absolute invasion of privacy to ask, but...
“You want to ask about Anakin,” Obi-Wan sighed. “ No, I haven’t explained things to him. And yes, he’s noticed something is wrong. And yes, I know he’ll force me to communicate with him eventually.” He gave a rather exasperated grimace. “In some ways, he’s almost as bad as Taria.”
“Am I as bad as Taria?”
He laughed, the sound soft. “You’ll get there, I’m sure. I confess I miss her. Her wit, her stubbornness, her advice. Though I cringe to think what she would say could she have seen me earlier.”
Thryn didn’t ask. She just didn’t ask.
“There are many times when I still feel like a Padawan. You will never always be confident. There will be a thread of fear throughout your life. It’s something you’ll have to learn to deal with. We all have it, we just handle it differently. Some don’t handle it at all, and instead pretend it’s not there. That’s not wise. Admit it, feel it, then let it go.”
“Yes, Master. Thank you for taking the time to help me.”
“Padawans are the next generation,” Obi-Wan returned, a bit playfully, “it’s our duty to make sure they find their way. Even ones who know far more than it’s comfortable for them to know.”
“No, no. If my mistakes can possibly help you not make the same ones... if you can get safely past the fire that burned me, we’ll call it even.”
“I’ll consider it a sacred pact, Master Kenobi.”
“Excellent. Now I really must be going. You wouldn’t believe how fussy these senators are.”
“I believe it.” She couldn’t help but smile at his thinly-veiled disgust. “Is Senator Organa there, at least, to help you with them?”
“No. And I’m almost glad of it.” Obi-Wan rubbed his forehead with one hand. “I hate to think of what he would say about Satine. I can’t seem to hide much from him, either. Evidently I need to work on my concealment capabilities. May the Force be with you, Thryn.”
“And with you, Master.”
“I’ll need it,” he said wryly. “Kenobi out.”
For a long moment Thryn sat looking at the empty disk. She wasn’t really much farther than she had been to begin with. Except for having two of the Jedi she respected most in the entire Order tell her they had no idea what she should do.
That bothered her. A lot.
That must be what he meant, about the thread of fear always with us. Uncertainty. “A Jedi is always learning.”
She had to accept the fact that there wasn’t an easy plan of attack, and then let it go.
Accept, and let go.
At least it made sense to her, even if she had no idea what it would look like. The theory is sound. Now for practice.
Thryn drew up her knees and straightened her back. She closed her eyes, rested her palms on her knees, and focused.
After a little searching, she found her Balance.
As she walked to the door to go rejoin the others, her goals were clear in her mind.
Do no harm to Lisk or myself. Be kind, but firm.
She found Feemor in the cockpit, explaining in detail the workings of the merchant vessel to a very interested Lisk. Kewari sat in the seat behind the copilot’s chair, running through finger-control exercises. She would move one finger the tiniest fraction of a millimeter, then the next... keeping each small muscle perfectly tuned.
As a healer, it was important for her to be able to make the tiniest adjustments with her bare hands.
“Ah, welcome back,” Kewari said brightly, looking up and continuing the exercises without watching her hands. It was almost uncanny how good she was with it, even while apparently focused on something else. “Had a good meditation? I sense you’re fully in Balance. How strange. Do we know how it’s possible?”
“That’s a question no one has been able to answer for me as of yet,” Thryn responded, cheerful. Kewari Barssand was a member of her family. A fellow Jedi.
I will not treat her like a foe.
Lisk looked startled, but Thryn had no idea why. He looked first to his master, then at Thryn. She shrugged her shoulders and gave him a neutral smile.
“What was it like, being Taria Damsin’s Padawan in those last days?”
Thryn spun around to face Kewari. Her hands were still held up, but now completely still. Not just to human eyes, but to the Force as well.
“We were younglings together. In the same clan,” Kewari’s voice grew soft with memory. “She was a dear friend to me.”
Kewari gave her a sad smile. “She’s earned her rest. I imagine she made the most of her time with you.”
“She did. She claimed the reason was that she wanted to teach me the fun things, and let Master Feemor teach me the boring.”
“I’ll bet,” Kewari chuckled.
Feemor continued his discussion with Lisk, much quieter now, and Thryn’s discomfort slowly eased. Feemor allowed the friendly chatting for a time, and then drew their attention to maps, strategy, and compiled Archive data.
The hours didn’t pass nearly as painfully as Thryn had anticipated, and they dropped out of hyperspace ready for their work of subterfuge and sneaking.
They were contacted by the planet’s security— not overtight, in Thryn’s opinion— and Feemor gave their bogus story and permits along with their very real landing request.
“Hold your position for a moment.”
“Shouldn’t take too long,” Feemor murmured, waiting in perfect calm.
Thryn felt little jitters within, and wondered if Feemor had them too. He was so still...
Yes, she decided, he probably does have them. He just knows how to handle them better.
Lisk did not have that skill, apparently. He was fidgeting.
He’ll have to break himself of that, if he wants to be a successful healer. Terrifying your patients by showing your own nervousness? Counter productive.
The distinctive and unmistakable sound of a laser blast startled them. Ships bearing the planetary insignia were firing on them.
“I think they don’t accept our codes,” Lisk grimaced.
Feemor was on the comm instantly. “Demand a response! Repeat, why are you firing? We gave you the clearance codes! Stop firing!”
“Those are warning shots, merchant vessel. The planet is locked down. No one in or out right now.”
“I don’t think you understand,” Feemor argued. “We have perishables on board. They will spoil before we could get anywhere else to sell them—”
“Tough luck,” the voice shot back. “Get out of here, or the next time we won’t miss.”
Feemor cut the transmission. “Friendly, aren’t they?” he murmured. “We don’t have time to go back and invent a good way in.”
“Agreed,” Barssand said. “Lisk, strap in.”
Thryn did the same. “Are we going to make it?”
“Just get ready to hold on.” Feemor directed, then keyed the comm. “Alright, alright. We’re going. Gonna tell all my friends never to sell here again.”
The microjump had Thryn’s heart in her throat.
“Here we go.” Feemor nudged the ship again—
And they reverted back into realspace right at the edge of the gravity well, quite a ways away from where they’d been intercepted.
Thryn gripped the arms of her seat, breathing carefully as their ship sank like a stone through the atmosphere and into a forested area not too far from the target, but hopefully far enough out of the way to not be spotted immediately.
Feemor called in the repulsorlifts at the last moment, and they clunked onto solid ground.
“Where did you learn to fly like that?” Kewari demanded. “I haven’t been that convinced we were going to die since the last time Kenobi was at the controls. I refuse to fly with that man.”
Master Kenobi ? Thryn wondered. That can’t be right.
Feemor simply smiled. “I’m no Kenobi, but I can get the job done. I can’t heal wounded team members, however.”
As Thryn followed him out, she heard Lisk mutter, “I am so going to learn how to fly like that.”
And his master’s playful retort: “Not while I’m in the ship. On your own time, Padawan.”
“Do you think they saw us on their scanners?” Thryn asked.
Feemor searched the skies with his eyes. “I think if they knew what they were looking at, they would be flying over already. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t move quickly, though. As long as she’s here, the ship can be discovered. And depending on how busy they are over there, they may send someone out to investigate.”
“Will we take another ship on the way out?”
“Perhaps. We’ll stay flexible.”
Feemor led them through the deep bed of leaves covering the forest floor, while Thryn ran through the plan again in her mind.
Break into prison, find out where Master Toc is being held, get her out, find a way off-planet. Before the Separatists arrive.
She checked her chrono.
It’ll be close.
This didn’t feel the same as a battle. There, she had backup. And it wasn’t a matter of sneaking, but of fighting . I’m good with fighting. I’ve never been good at sneaking.
Here, if something goes wrong, help is too far away. What if—
“We’ll work with what we’ve got.” Feemor’s quiet voice pulled her from her worrying. “Keep calm, Padawan.”
Thryn gave a grim nod. “Yes, Master.”
“There is always a solution. There is always more than one solution. Keep that in mind. That was Xanatos’ game. To always keep two options open for himself.”
Qui-Gon’s Fallen apprentice. Feemor had spoken of him during their time on Ragoon VI. Didn’t think I’d be learning from him.
He caught her surprise as he continued to wind his way around trees and over vines. “We can learn much from our enemies. Don’t let pride blind you to what it is that has defeated us in the past. If we failed, there was a reason, and if we can figure out what it was and how to guard against it next time, we’re less likely to fail on the second try. Pull out your map of the cave complex.”
Thryn signaled her wrist unit into action.
Kewari moved closer to peer at the map. “Where are we headed?”
“The side entrance marked Dorn-3,” Feemor pointed.
Kewari nodded. “How long will it take us to get there?”
“Eight minutes, brisk walking. I’m going to say ten, given two of you are unused to forest terrain.”
They moved forward, Feemor taking the lead and Kewari following close on his heels. Thryn ended up last, following after Lisk.
Now that he was actively moving, he seemed less jittery, both to her eyes and in the Force. More in control, and almost excited.
Is the excitement part of a persona he’s putting on because he feels it’s impressive or necessary? Is it a front to hide fear or is it genuine?
She wanted to explore his Force signature and find out, but knew that would be unspeakably rude, so she refrained.
Entrance Dorn-3 proved to be a massive ramp leading into the ground, with a wrought durasteel gate set in the middle of it, so it couldn’t be climbed over.
Won’t be closed until nightfall, unless Marinae customs have changed for the Separatist arrival.
“Guards?” Feemor prompted.
“One battledroid,” Thryn reported. “No sentients I can see or sense.” They had a good view through the gate into the dim-lit murk of the tunnels that formed city streets. “Once we leave the trees, high visibility across the plain, but it should take us less than a minute to reach the gate.”
“Well done.” Feemor levitated a small stone and sent it skittering past the droid in the direction of the open grasslands.
“Hey!” it whined. “What was that?”
Feemor repeated the movement with another rock.
“ Who’s there ?” The droid stomped off to investigate. “Show yourself! Access to this area without permission is not permitted! A rock ? That’s weird. Rocks don’t usually move by themselves.”
Before the thinking- really- hard droid could figure out a course of action, the four had slipped past his station and into the maze of caverns.
“They’re stupid,” Lisk smirked, “ really stupid. Why haven’t we won the war already?”
“Because large numbers don’t have to be smart to overwhelm,” Feemor explained, voice grim. “I have had many friends die because there were simply too many to fight their way out.”
That seemed to throw a blanket over Lisk’s arrogant amusement.
Thryn pulled up the map again, and the other three huddled around to inspect it.
“We’ll work our way to this point here,” Feemor pointed, “and check to see what kind of guards are in place. We want to move as quickly as possible, but not take any unnecessary risks. We’re going to try to come out this exit, so we need to make every effort not to alert anyone to our presence on the way in.”
“Do we come out quiet or loud and fast?” Lisk asked. “Since the plan has changed, I mean.”
“Plans rarely follow the first version. We’ll play it by ear. But if there’s an option, quiet and unnoticed would be better. It would give us a better chance of returning to our ship. Let’s go.” Once again, Feemor took the lead.
The second version of the plan lasted longer than the first.
The prison wasn’t difficult to locate, in the center of the sprawling network of what once were mines and was now a city. The four Jedi paused in the shelter of one of the massive dams that held back underground seas to look at the map one last time.
Except for local criminals and one Jedi, the prison itself should be empty. Marinae had been used in ancient times as a prison planet for nearby systems, underground prisons being built to minimize the chances of escape. The prisoners set out in the morning to mine all day, and returned at night without ever setting foot aboveground. Once veins ran dry, the caverns were crudely widened and filled with homes to house guards and families of the prisoners.
The current security consisted of two Marinaeans at the front gate and no droids.
“Master Barssand and I will wait here.” Feemor gestured to the returned map. “Lisk and Thryn, create a distraction near the front. Don’t stand and fight, and make it pretty close to the entrance. Just a big enough incident that draws one of the sentries away, and keeping the second focused elsewhere. You need to make the incident big enough to require their immediate assistance, but in such a way that they don’t think leaving the post is a risk. We will sneak in while you watch from a safe place nearby. This will be our rendezvous point.”
Thryn’s gaze followed his finger to a spot in the forest.
“Don’t rush it. Haste will destroy the mission. Make sure your plan is solid and your timing right. We will wait for your signal. On our way out, we may need assistance, so stay sharp.”
Thryn felt her gut knot up, but nodded in silence. Lisk’s fingers beat a pattern in the air at his side and he gave a tiny, clearly unfelt, smile.
“Wouldn’t it be better if we had an expert on both tasks? I could go with Master Barssand, while you with Lisk.”
Feemor shook his head. “You are not strong enough to help carry Master Toc should she be unable to walk. Fully-grown Transoshan, Thryn. And Lisk has no experience with extractions, so there’s no point in him going. It’s better this way, Padawan.”
“Yes, Master.” We can make a mess and fade into the background. Should be easy with all the shadows down here and the uneven walls...
Except they didn’t know the terrain. Or security measures.
Or anywhere near enough.
She knew her master didn’t like working under those conditions, and it made her uneasy, feeling boxed in and tense.
Relax. Calm. Focus. Keep your guard up so you don ’t hinder the others. Get in, get out. That’s all there is to it. Come on, Thryn. Be a Jedi.
But as she and Lisk slipped through the large, rugged hallways to the front of the prison, Thryn felt terribly alone and vulnerable.
Cahl had never trusted her to work alone. He hadn’t trusted her at all.
I’ve never worked alone before.
She recognized, in a dim, distant sort of way, that she was grateful Lisk was with her. It felt safer, to have company.
As long as we’re careful and follow directions, we can do this.
Master Toc is what’s important. She’s the mission. What happens to the two of us isn’t as big. So calm down.
Their cloaks wrapped closely around them, the two slipped into a tapcaf almost directly across from the prison’s main entrance. It took a mere second for Thryn to spot the table by the grimy window, the pane so dirty that the guards at the prison’s gate shouldn’t notice them watching.
Even better, it had a good view of the room, and there weren’t any patrons close enough to overhear low murmurs.
They slipped into the chairs opposite one another, so they could watch the areas behind each other. They ordered caf, then waited until it arrived before actually speaking to one another.
“Been thinking about a plan?” Lisk asked in an undertone, hunching over a mug of something that smelled poisonous enough to slaughter a bantha.
What do they make caf out of around here? Thryn forced her mind to focus, and her tongue to attempt the beverage. It tasted as bad as it smelled. “Causing a commotion in here should do the trick, right? But how will we get out?”
“Picking a fight shouldn’t be too difficult. We don’t have to be the ones directly involved. At least, not visibly. Knock something over with the Force onto someone. That should start something.”
“Like dumping a drink?” Thryn scanned the clientele, decided they did look grouchy and drunk enough for it to work.
“Like tripping the waiter. That would be less obvious. The floor has all sorts of stuff on it,” Lisk pointed out. “Something spills all over one of these tough guys, he jumps up all angry.”
“That doesn’t guarantee a fight. It guarantees some yelling, apologizing, and the drenched man a free drink.”
“So we don’t let it fizzle out.”
Thryn quirked an eyebrow at him. “How do we make sure it escalates?”
“Ah...” Lisk studied his mug more carefully. “I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”
“Well... it’s a good start,” Thryn admitted. “But it has to be big enough to get the attention of—”
Both detected the flicker in the Force too late to react in time.
Thryn felt the muzzle of a blaster pushing between her shoulder blades and felt a sharp flare of anger at Lisk. Wasn’t he supposed to be watching what was happening behind her back, just like she was doing for him?
Thryn froze and focused.
“I happen to think you two are big enough to capture the Confederacy’s attention,” a sly voice spoke up from behind Thryn. “Nice attempt to hide your species, Mirialan, but we don’t get those here. Not often. You weren’t here before the lockdown, so you snuck in. Funny timing and place for a smuggler, when there’s a Jedi in the brig.”
A large, coarse hand slowly caught the edge of Thryn’s hood and pulled it back in a likewise slow gesture. Thryn didn’t move a muscle. She wasn’t sure how many there were yet.
“Hmm. Two young adults, who are trying to look like they fit in but obviously don’t with little braids in their hair.”
How in the world could he see those under our hoods from a distance in this light?
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Lisk said calmly.
“Heh. Let’s just say I overheard you talking, as well.”
“Really.” A sneer crossed Lisk’s face and he leaned back in his chair as though fully composed, but Thryn could sense he felt beyond nervous. “I don’t think you were close enough for that. But nice bluff.”
“Cybernetic implants, Padawan. See better, hear better, move faster... which is a good reason, I think, why you’ll want to come with me without making a fuss. You’ve already seen I can sneak up on you.”
“Who says we don’t have you right where we want you?” Thryn asked softly, but her mind was spinning.
He could probably see tensing muscles using a scanner.
If not, he must know that even with implants, his reflexes are no match for a Jedi’s...
Or does he?
This might just create the diversion necessary.
“Is it your master they’ve got locked away?” the man asked in a mock-sympathetic tone, ignoring Thryn and still speaking to Lisk. “And you’ve come to try to rescue her, you and your girlfriend?”
“Jedi don’t have girlfriends,” Lisk returned coolly. He opened his mouth to say something else, but was interrupted by a low, grating laugh.
“Funny, that. It’s a matter of semantics. I’ve seen how your heart rate speeds up every time you look at her. Cybernetics, remember? Now move. ” His voice took on a cruel edge. “Your destination is just across the street, and I have a nice, fat bounty to take on your head.”
Thryn narrowed her eyes at her mission partner, but forced herself to focus on the situation at hand instead of frustrating complications. Alright. So we get to the street, then work in sync to take them down. Use our lightsabers out there, that should draw attention. Yes, we were supposed to slip quietly out... but plans never go according to the first draft, right? We’ll lose them somehow.
Thryn just hoped Lisk’s ideas were running similar to hers.
“Get up, boy.”
Lisk slowly stood, hands where the other could see them.
And... yes. Our captor’s alone.
That made quite a bit of difference.
“Now you, girl.”
He couldn’t possibly focus on both of them at once—
Everything turned blue and a sharp, painful jolt knocked everything to black.
* * *
“I didn’t do anything!” Lisk growled as Thryn’s limp form slumped against the table.
“And this will just make sure she doesn’t.” He shrugged. Seven of the patrons stood, walking over in their direction.
Wait. Wait just one fripping minute, Lisk’s mind protested.
“You owe me two hundred credits,” the man who’d stunned Thryn chuckled. “Told you this would pay off.”
One of the others scowled. “You just got lucky the Jedi sent people to get her.”
“I used my brain. That’s how you end up with credits.”
One of the attacker’s friends pulled Thryn out of the chair and clapped a pair of stun-cuffs on her and gagged her. He slipped the lightsaber that had been concealed by the cloak off her belt, and handed it to another standing near. Then she was thrown over his shoulder like a sack of tubers.
Too many in too close proximity for Lisk to take them out here and now, he needed more room, needed to not trip over chairs and a table with this many blasters in play—
“How much are they paying you?” Lisk asked, cocking an eyebrow.
Laughter was his only response.
The other patrons of the tapcaf were studiously paying attention to their own business, with no one looking this way.
Great, Lisk thought.
He had three different men training blasters on Thryn’s stunned form, two of them too far out of reach even if he Force-leaped to get between Thryn and them. Not to mention the four who had blasters trained on his own head.
That left the first man with his hands free.
“Set the lightsaber down on the table.”
“Who says I have one?”
“My metal-detection enhancements do.”
Lisk obeyed, cautious, hoping to buy some time. The stun blast shouldn’t keep a Jedi out long, and he needed time to come up with a plan—
The man who’d taken Thryn’s lightsaber now pocketed his too.
In Lisk’s private opinion— one shared by many Mirialan— humans with skin shades that pink looked like bark from trees long dead. They never had a healthy touch of green... and when they did, you didn’t want to be within three meters of them. They had a ghastly habit of emptying their stomachs at such times.
Hints of metal glinted around his eye, down his jaw, in his forehead.
“I assume you have a plan?” Lisk asked as he kept his hands up and was prodded towards the door. Since they hadn’t cuffed him too, he decided they didn’t have a second pair of stun-cuffs, and suspected that iron wouldn’t keep him contained.
That was disturbing. Most people didn’t know that.
If Lisk could manage to send a distress signal through his comlink...
And then they were out the door, and Lisk stumbled as though he’d tripped and lurched into the shadows to the side. He just needed half a standard second—
Lisk froze as he heard a blaster switch from stun to kill. He glanced over his shoulder, his hand just centimeters from his link.
“If you move a hair in that direction, I kill her. I still get money if she’s dead.”
The sense behind the calm, casual threat proved he meant it.
There’ll be a different opportunity. There are always two ways out of any situation, right? That’s what Feemor said.
“Now turn around slowly, or I put a bolt in her foot. She’s just now standing again... but even a Jedi would have trouble standing with a hole burned through their foot.”
Lisk obeyed, hands lowered but somewhat apart.
Either I have to make this the best diversion possible, or I have to let the masters know the whole thing has come unraveled.
The question being,
this the best diversion possible, or
this an unraveling and quickly spiraling-out-of-control problem?
The leader spoke into his comlink. “The younglings are secured. You can begin evac.”
To Lisk’s utter shock, the prison gates swung open, and out marched what seemed to be a miniature army. He could sense Master Toc amongs them, a flickering, weak presence in the Force, and caught sight of her, apparently unconscious, being hauled along on an antigrav stretcher.
It should be easier to take her in the halls, than—
But where are they going? And why?
“While they go that way, we’re going this way,” their captor said conversationally. “And I don’t have to remind you I have the girl.”
Thryn’s eyes were open now, still foggy, but taking reality in. The man hauling her along was pretty much dragging her, since her feet wouldn’t cooperate quite yet.
“Running from a couple of prisoner Padawans? Would have thought you were braver than that,” Lisk fished.
“Oh, we’re not running from you, but from the flood.”
Lisk’s blood ran cold. “Flood?”
“Yes. The sea to the west. Four Jedi is a bit much, even for our planetary security to handle. And since your freighter didn’t conveniently explode, we had to come up with a Plan Besh. You know how it is. Rarely does a plan finish using the first version.”
Lisk froze. How did he—?
And then he realized.
Security was much tighter than we thought. We’ve been had.
“I have no doubt that the two Jedi knights with you will escape the water,” the man said, still with that casual tone, “after all, they’ll sense impending destruction and flee. But they’ll be... a bit preoccupied by trying to rescue people. Too preoccupied to put up a big enough resistance to stop us from escaping with our prisoner. Besides. If they still manage to juggle both, we have you two as hostages. They won’t put your lives in jeopardy.”
Lisk felt Thryn’s inner being thrum with determination not to let these men win.
“You’re going to flood the city?” Lisk demanded, hardly believing what he was hearing.
“We’re already doing it. We’ll get out just in time to escape it ourselves— don’t slow down, kid. The chronos are ticking.”
“But all those people—” Lisk sputtered, and the research on the ship came rushing back— “ two thousand people— they’re your people!”
“I have a senator very eager to not lose the prize that will bring him a good position in the Confederacy. He’s paying me very good money, and trust me, he’d rather have one rather unfortunate rural accident than lose this opportunity.”
“Aren’t you at least warning the people it’s coming so they can evacuate?” Lisk protested.
“Why do that? That would tip off your Jedi sooner.”
“Tell them. Alert them.”
Thryn’s intent was faint, but he could feel it pushing against him. Not words... just an urge.
His hands were free. He could get enough said before the men took him down for the masters to understand the situation and begin evacuating the population. Shrieking the words flood coming ought to do it. If he didn’t, the masters would probably only sense the impending disaster in time to escape themselves, not help others.
Two thousand lives.
At the potential cost of my own?
At the cost of Thryn’s...
Everything within him choked.
He couldn’t think.
He continued to follow, in silence, struggling to focus, to come up with a plan— there had to be some way to make this work.
He did not have to sacrifice Thryn in order to save these people.
Always two ways out of any given predicament, right?
Letting Thryn die is not an option.
He tried to reach out in the Force and touch his master’s mind, or even Feemor’s, to warn them, but he couldn’t get through. He was too conflicted, under too much duress. And he knew Thryn’s Force-voice would still be weak after being stunned.
An exit loomed above them, and they began to take the ramp upwards.
He could pretend to fall, but talking would give him away. He couldn’t use the Force and he couldn’t use his comlink.
He would come up with some other way.
He could sense Thryn’s urgency deepening, pushing against, him, telling him to make the call. Demanding he make it.
They reached the open air and paused a few meters away from the opening.
This side of town opened onto wide, empty plains.
“Thirty seconds to detonation,” one of the henchmen announced.
“Excellent,” returned the leader. “We’ll wait here until the others have gotten clear.”
Lisk could feel Thryn pounding on his skull through the Force. Though she was weak, it still hurt.
She was furious he hadn’t acted sooner. Was desperate for him to act now.
I can’t. I can’t let you die. I’ll figure something else out—
And then he felt the jar of the Force as the dams broke and gave way.
And as his master and Feemor felt the danger and fled.
“Thryn! Lisk! Get out!” Feemor’s voice cried through their comlinks. “Get out! Now !”
And still Lisk didn’t move.
There was no point now. The masters would figure something out— they would get out and figure out how to rescue the rest of the people—
And yet underneath the conscious thought roiled a black murk of agony as he felt death thunder through the Force.
Thryn stopped fighting, her eyes going glassy and her entire Force signature freezing and curling up.
Lisk could feel them. All those men, women, children—
He could sense Kewari and Feemor’s exit— could even see it from where he stood. Each held a child in their arms, and were followed by a man and woman, but even as they spilled onto the grass, water plumed from the opening in the ground, knocking them over and drenching them. Its backpull nearly sucked the woman back in, but the man grabbed her wrist and dragged her out of its reach.
The opening near Lisk’s feet churned with water, muddy and thick.
They had seen several people in the passages on their way out... but none had followed.
Or if they did...
Lisk could sense Thryn’s sheer shock, and something inside her seemed to die. She hung limp against the merc’s arm, panting.
“There! That wasn’t so hard, was it?” the leader asked, sounding smug. “Girl’s alive, you’re alive, your friends are alive— and your mission’s flunked. Somehow I think your pride will survive.”
At a motion from him, Thryn’s captor dropped her and she fell to the ground, lying still in a heap.
The men turned and began a quick lope toward the forest in the distance.
Without his lightsaber or any other weapon, severely outnumbered with no cover, and worried by Thryn’s state, Lisk knew it made no sense to go tearing off after them. Besides. Master Toc was with the other group headed in a different direction.
Lisk looked around, but couldn’t see them.
He knelt beside the crumpled Padawan.
“Thryn? Are you alright?” He pulled the gag from her mouth.
She exploded to her feet, knocking his hand away using her cuffed wrists, with a violence and strength that shocked him.
“ Alright ? How can you even ask that ?” she yelled, eyes like those of a dragon.
He stared at her in frustration. “I can ask that because I just sacrificed the mission to save your life! That’s how!”
“You just sacrificed two thousand people !” she shouted back.
“I saved your life !”
“I didn’t want it saved if that was to be the price!”
They glared at one another, backs stiff, shoulders squared.
“I couldn’t just let them kill you,” he growled. “You’re a fellow Jedi—”
“Of course you could have!” She was almost spitting, she was so upset. “You’re a Jedi ! With much power comes equal responsibility, you should have told Feemor and Barssand so they could get people out ! Think of how many are dead now because you wouldn’t do your job !”
Lisk forced himself not to glance at the small groups of people gathering around the openings, many of them silent, others weeping loudly.
“I couldn’t just sacrifice a partner—”
“You could have and you should have! And any Jedi would have told you to! I told you to! You didn’t have time to come up with an alternate plan, but no— you were so fripping confident in your own abilities that you were willing to just assume you’d come up with something so you didn’t have to take responsibility and do what needed to be done !”
“ Vack! ” he yelped, feeling beyond cornered. He felt trampled, betrayed. “It wasn’t about my ego !” He forced his voice to a lower level. “I— you— you’re important to me. I couldn’t let you die.” His voice broke.
Couldn’t she understand what he’d faced ?
“Yeah?” she challenged. “See them ?” She pointed at one of the gatherings of people around a bubbling opening in the ground. “ They loved too. I can sense over twenty who have lost their significant others just around the three entrances closest to us. I’m sure there’s more elsewhere. And that doesn’t count how many here have lost parents, siblings, children, those who were engaged to be married— how many people have to suffer because you weren’t brave enough to confine the suffering to one person by taking it yourself?”
“If I sacrificed the mission, it was to save you ! People are more important than goals !”
“This isn’t about the mission!” she fumed. “And it isn’t about me. It's about these people. Not just the ones who died, but those who have to live on without the ones who died, to save you from pain. Jedi are supposed to protect people, not use them as shields ! They’re to sacrifice themselves for the people, not let people be slaughtered to protect self !”
“ Fine, then!” Lisk snapped. “Call me a coward! But the fact is I wasn’t brave enough to let you die! I would have gladly died back there to protect them!”
“ I wanted you to let me die if that’s what it took !” Thryn was far beyond angry. Beyond even furious. “Now I have to live with knowing that you are unreliable in danger and who knows how many more people you may let die on my behalf because of this— this— attachment! It’s an attachment ! It would have been better for me to die. Then, at least, there wouldn’t be this menace hanging over the future!”
It wasn’t Lisk’s voice that broke in.
* * *
The two Padawans hadn’t noticed their masters’ approach. Kewari was busy with a device in her hand, and seemed not to hear what was going on.
But that had to be nothing more than seemed. She was standing only a couple meters away now.
Feemor was a whole lot closer.
“ No !” Thryn yelled at her master. “He needs to hear this!”
She was angry enough that she couldn’t gauge her master’s sense except to know that he was stunned by the tone and volume she’d just used on him, and was hiding it from everyone but her.
That should have called to her, but it didn’t.
Not with two thousand people dead and this fripping son of a Sith trying to blame her for it. The guilt and terrible, howling pain within her was holding herself responsible enough as it was.
All those deaths in the Force were screaming in her ears, driving knives into her brain. Not all of them could have been saved, maybe not most, but many . The masters might have even been able to hold back the water until an evacuation could be started.
She was not about to let this boy with his large ego get away with lying to his own conscience about this.
“He needs to face it! There’s a reason why Jedi are not allowed attachments. It’s not just some stupid rule. It’s not because someone doesn’t want him to have fun. It’s not arbitrary ! It’s because Jedi don’t act like Jedi when attachments are involved! They act like everyone else ! They betray the trust the common people have put in them. The entire Order would be destroyed if Jedi allowed themselves to act on emotions without regard to logic and by a moral compass so we can protect the rest of the sentients in the galaxy who do live by emotions instead of a personal code!” She turned on Lisk again. “If you plan to live like that and say you can’t help it, don’t pretend to be a Jedi too.” Her tone turned sharper than any blade.
“ Thryn. ” This time, Feemor’s voice was stern.
For the first time ever with his Padawan.
And that cut through the fog of agony and guilt and fury stinging and suffocating her mind.
“You are angry. That is just as much against the Code and dangerous as Lisk’s attachment. Calm yourself, Padawan.” No hint of sympathy or compassion. Sheer command. He ignited his saber and cut through her cuffs, freeing her hands.
She barely noticed. She was panting, struggling for control...
“I can’t help who I am, Thryn.” Lisk’s voice was quiet. Almost bitter. And he obviously felt betrayed by her response.
He’s convinced what happened wasn’t his fault, that he was the victim of circumstances.
A victim. A victim ? When he’s managed to save his own heart’s skin at the expense of so many others? She fought hard for composure. “You can love without attachment,” she growled back. “I know because I’ve seen it done.”
She spun on her heel to leave, not knowing where she would go, and not really caring, but knowing she had to get away from him—
“Love is attachment!” he snapped, fully angry. “It’s not genuine if it’s not! You can’t really care about someone and not care if they’re dying! You can’t really care about someone and still be willing to let them die if you can do anything about it!”
Apparently, he’d reached the point where he was angry enough not to care that both masters were listening.
The fire that had begun to die in Thryn’s eyes savaged back to life again. In less time than it took to blink, she was facing him again, this time getting in his personal space. She was no longer yelling, but the tone and bite of the words were somehow even more cutting.
“Oh, so now you want to tell me that Master Damsin didn’t actually love? That my master had some cheap, fake, unreal, worthless tie to the one she loved? That his tie to the one he loves is somehow false and not as good as yours because he is prepared to do what’s right no matter the consequences? Because he would act like a Jedi ? You are sick. Conceited. Dangerous. A million other things. I was willing to give you the chance to earn my respect. But you know what? You’ve lost it. Completely. If you ever even think about doing something like this again—”
“ Thryn !” Feemor’s voice was loud. Not angry, but absolutely severe. “Jedi do not threaten.”
His displeasure, disappointment, shame, and feeling of betrayal split like a lightning bolt through Thryn’s skull. The shock instantly brought her self-control. She clamped her mouth shut and walked to his side.
Kewari looked up from what she was holding. Thryn now recognized it to be a scanner. “I’ve picked up the transport. I know where Master Toc is, and there are only ten guards with her at the moment. I think we can take them. If they are the men who had the Padawans, they may still have the lost lightsabers. We can still complete this mission.”
And then her expression turned durasteel. “ If we can work together, and if the two of you will follow orders.”
“And if Padawan Sein will get hold of her anger, and if Padawan Pollid can set aside his distraction long enough to get this done. Are you in agreement?”
Lisk gave a sullen nod, and Thryn’s was numb.
“Alright, then,” Feemor said.
Though his tone had returned to normal, and his sense would also seem relaxed to everyone else, Thryn knew they weren’t even remotely close to alright. Not between the two of them.
That hurt. Like a knife in the gut.
They had been a team. Since the moment Feemor had entered the Council chamber to claim her as his Padawan, they had been a single unit. Halves of a whole. In harmony. In sync.
Now she felt utterly alone, and even worse.
He’s angry with me.
Except he wasn’t angry. He was still fully in Balance.
So... it was more severe displeasure. He felt deeply betrayed. His trust and faith in her had broken, and he was keenly disappointed.
Thryn fell in a pace behind him and to the right, her usual place, and felt her heart break. She had her walls carefully up, and now was using them to shield herself from Feemor too.
I am responsible for the deaths of two thousand people, a trashed mission, and for completely destroying Feemor’s trust in me.
No. You aren’t responsible for the town. You aren’t.
What would happen to the survivors? They had lost their homes, their livelihoods, their families...
They would head for the next closest town, probably. They would survive.
Though she knew many of them would wish they wouldn’t have to.
You’re not responsible for Master Toc’s rescue falling to pieces.
But she was responsible for the schism between herself and her master.
You know that for you to get angry is even more dangerous and deadly than it would be for another Jedi. You know that. The only reason the Council hasn’t banned you is because you don’t get angry. Because you keep your Balance. You just proved Cahl right. You should be sent to AgriCorps. You lost control over yourself and you didn’t care. If Feemor hadn’t been there, you wouldn’t have stopped.
And a Jedi who loves violence and feeds on pain and death who doesn’t have perfect self-control...
Is a Jedi already lost, even if she hasn’t yet turned. Because a turn is inevitable.
Tears burned her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Couldn’t let them fall. She had to focus on Master Toc’s rescue.
Thryn’s world had come crashing down, but maybe she could at least complete the mission.
She snapped back to the present, suddenly recognizing landmarks. Why, they’re heading for our ship!
They ambushed the band of mercenaries just meters before they reached the merchant vessel. Kewari and Feemor dove in with their lightsabers ignited. Kewari took her place by Master Toc, while Feemor fought the rest.
Lisk, as though trying to redeem himself in the eyes of his master, flung himself into the fray, aiming for the man who held their lightsabers. He dodged blaster bolts and worked his way closer.
Thryn knew he wouldn’t succeed without help, so she joined in. Though she focused completely and gave it her best, it was still half-hearted. She couldn’t have cared less whether she survived or not, even as she fought hard to stay alive and take down her target.
They succeeded, retrieving their lightsabers.
And as the five remaining mercs found themselves facing four saber-wielding Jedi, they turned and fled— including the ringleader.
After all, you can’t spend a reward if you’re dead.
Feemor opened the ship and Kewari pushed Toc’s stretcher up the landing ramp, Lisk nearly glued to her side. Thryn followed until the two healers diverted to the small but well-stocked medroom. She could go join Feemor in the cockpit where he was starting up the ship for their getaway.
Thryn shook her head, and moved to the empty cargo bay, maneuvering to sit with her back against the crate that had caused trouble so long— no, earlier that day. Just hours ago.
Back when her biggest problem was having nearly vegetablized Lisk.
Now things were a whole lot worse.
We completed the mission... but at what cost? Losing two Padawans who were in the middle of the fight in order to save Master Toc, that’s one thing. Losing two thousand uninvolved bystanders?
That was something else entirely.
Quiet footsteps alerted her to Lisk’s presence. Thryn didn’t look up.
The fight had gone out of her. Now she was left empty and alone.
“I’m sorry,” Lisk murmured. “I wish it hadn’t turned out like that.”
Not good enough. Need to make sure it doesn’t happen again. That’s the only way to redeem yourself. To swear you’ll never let it happen again.
But she didn’t say it aloud.
“And I take full responsibility for it. Their deaths aren’t your fault.”
And then the tears could no longer be held back. Silently, they slid down her cheeks. She lowered her head, far too miserable to care that her attempt to conceal them from him had utterly failed.
* * *
Lisk stood still. He wanted very badly to crouch beside her, put a hand on her shoulder, try to comfort her. And yet he couldn’t help but think she might kill him if he tried.
Her earlier loss of self-control would have been terrifying had it not been so enraging. He hadn’t been thinking clearly enough to understand the hazard she presented, too wrapped up in his own pain, the utter knowledge that he wasn’t good enough.
He’d worried he would fail the Jedi somehow, someday.
That day was today.
If he’d been good enough, smart enough, quick enough, he could have been able to save everyone. Thryn and the others.
He was willing to admit that, now.
But there was one thing she was wrong about.
“I can’t say I’m sorry for saving your life. If I faced the same choice again, I would choose you again. I would try to save them too, but you come first.” He was calm now. Quiet. He’d never felt sorry and unapologetic at the same time, and it felt strange.
He waited for an explosion, but none came. Instead, there was a rumble of sense that he couldn’t decrypt.
“Then if you aren’t planning on staying in the Temple the rest of your life and never going outside again, the sooner I leave, the better. As long as I’m here, I’m a hazard to people.” Thryn’s voice was calm, almost matter-of-fact, but the edge of despair behind it remained plainly readable.
“What?” Lisk asked, shocked. “I just said it’s not your fault .” His voice wasn’t raised much, just enough to try to make her see.
It didn’t seem to help. “But since you aren’t planning on taking responsibility for your power and your actions and your choices, then someone else is going to have to or who knows what kind of evil might be unleashed.”
Still the voice was lifeless. He had absolutely no way to guess what she was thinking or gauge what she was feeling.
Her words stung him to the quick. If even she thought he was going to Fall...
Now we both think it.
He shoved the thought away, driving it with concern from the rest of what she’d said. “You’re not thinking of giving up ?” disbelief and fear filled his voice.
And then something he understood slammed across her sense. The tears were gone, like they had never existed. In fact, he almost wondered if he’d imagined them. Shatteringly cold. The fury in her eyes, voice, and sense was as cold now as it had been sun-melting back by the flooded entrance.
“No. I’m not.”
She stood up in a smooth yet somehow violent motion, and walked out, not once looking behind her.
He watched her go, his insides crumpling.
Hope had been something terribly elusive in recent times.
And now even the one person who should be his natural ally had lost all faith in him.
He bit his lip and bowed his head.
And heard so many voices screaming.
Thryn entered her room and locked the door behind her.
She nearly collapsed onto the bunk.
The last time she’d sat here, she’d been in trouble, but her master hadn’t been angry with her then. She hadn’t been alone.
She wasn’t angry with Feemor. Not even in the midst of her fury at Lisk had she felt that. None of it had been directed at her master.
And she didn’t blame him at all.
No, he’s right to be so upset with me.
Throughout the plan for the ambush at the ship, the ambush itself, and the aftermath, he had only spoken to her when he had to, his displeasure obvious.
She curled up against the wall, then felt something lumpy against her side. She reached into the folds of her tunic and pulled the object out.
What would Taria have done?
Taria and I wouldn’t have had this kind of a fall out to begin with , she thought gloomily, What in the world would she advise me to do? What can I possibly do to straighten this out?
Even as she asked herself the question she knew the answer.
The very fact that she was seeking Taria’s wisdom from the halls of her memory was her answer.
She needed help.
Thryn had no idea how to approach Feemor, or even what she should do. Should she ask him to send her to the AgriCorps? Was there no hope for her? Should she ask for forgiveness, or was that presumptuous? Should she stay quiet until he decided to bring the subject up? Would he consider her pushing him if she brought it up? Was his silence part of her training, or was it something else?
And the last time she’d disappointed her master—
Memories of Cahl walking away from her, leaving her, of the Council’s stunned and compassionate expressions—
Desperation clawed at her throat. She had to fix things with Feemor. Before they reached home. She couldn’t give him time to renounce her to the Council and abandon her.
She almost felt guilty for contacting Obi-Wan twice in one day, but she felt cornered, treed, and very, very afraid, with nowhere else to turn.
And yet, as the blue image wavered into existence and he asked what was wrong, Thryn found she couldn’t speak of her trouble with Feemor.
Instead, she found herself spilling out only what had happened with Lisk.
He listened until she lost words and fell into silence.
“Thryn, you won’t want to drive him into doing something rash,” he said, his voice grave.
And that sparked the anger that had been returning to a greater furnace within. It expressed itself in a half-sullen, “That’s his problem.”
“But you do have to take responsibility for your words. You know you cut him deeply.”
“Not deep enough, evidently. He told me just minutes ago that he’d make the same choice again.”
“You are not helping him to become a better Jedi. You have only given him more reason to hate the Order, because now he will look at it as though it has stolen your mind from you.”
“I am fully in charge of my own mind,” she growled.
“He won’t understand that, since he can’t seem to understand how Jedi operate and think. Thryn, you
to stop treating him like he’s unredeemable. That will only solidify his perspective,
help him see things differently.”
“If he can’t control what he does, then if I antagonize him enough perhaps he’ll lose interest. Turn infatuation to disgust. If he doesn’t love me, then he won’t let more innocent people be hurt to save me. He’ll act like a Jedi!”
“Thryn. You are angry. Very angry.”
“ Yes, I’m angry!”
“Very off Balance.”
“Very far down the slope of loss of self-control.”
Still more silence. But she was starting to get a grip on herself again.
“If he loses interest in you, he may just find another person to love. It might take years, but he would find someone else eventually. He’s like that. Driving him into loathing you won’t have solved the problem, it will just have transferred it to someone else.”
“What in the name of the moons of Bogden am I supposed to do then?” she asked, tired and frustrated and in pain.
“ Don’t drive him away. Try to help him see, but do it gently, when both of you are calm.”
“I can’t just give in!” Thryn protested. “What he did was wrong— it was beyond wrong—”
“And your response was just as wrong, and just as hazardous. Just because you didn’t happen to become violent this time does not mean you won’t next time. Please be honest with yourself, Thryn. This is what the Council was afraid of.”
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath.
“You want us to give you another chance. Give him one too. Be firm, yes, but not like a gundark shredding him. Firm like an immovable rock. A rock that knows the battering of the waves and isn’t worn away, just polished. Solid. Dependable. Unbudging, but something that can be leaned against for strength.
“That is what he’s missing, Thryn. He has the desire to do what is right, but doesn’t have the strength to do it when conflicting desires get in the way. Just like you desire to do what’s right, but when the weight of what happened crashed against you, you didn’t have the strength to resist the anger.”
Thryn bit her lip and looked away, wrestling with it. It felt like an insult to be compared to Lisk Pollid, and yet she could see the sense in what Master Kenobi was saying.
“You will find he does have some strength. Perhaps he’ll do what’s right even when he’s angry. Or exhausted. Or when he doesn’t want to. When the deepest emotions conflict... that’s harder. Just like you have much strength, most of the time, and none in particular situations. He needs someone to help him strengthen those muscles, not crush him for failure. He will never grow that way.”
am I supposed to help him?” Thryn asked, listlessly, her anger melting into liquid loss again. “I don’t want to.”
“You’re the only one he’ll listen to. That’s what you discovered earlier, isn’t it? He doesn’t hear the masters or Padawans because he doesn’t believe they can understand. He’s turned to you, Thryn. It’s your responsibility to decide what to do with that trust. You have power over him. You may not like it, you may resent it, but it’s true. And that gives you responsibility.”
“How did you know I told him that?” Thryn grumbled. “Power and responsibility?”
“I didn’t know you did.”
Thryn sighed. “Alright. I’ll try. But I think I’ve lost my power over him.”
“You may be surprised. I would have thought that after all our fights, Satine wouldn’t care for me either.”
“She still loves you, like Taria said?”
“Yes. Just like Taria said.” He studied her half-averted face closely. “Something is wrong between you and Feemor.”
Thryn glanced at him.
“You didn’t contact me to rage about death.”
“How can you tell?”
“What was it you left out of your story?”
And suddenly Thryn discovered she could talk about it.
She expressed her feelings of lostness and disorientation. Of the pain and horror she felt in the Force and the loss of the two thousand.
Before she’d shared only her anger and frustration at Lisk.
Now she was able to express how guilt was killing her. She’d lashed out in anger not just on their behalf, but her own. She couldn’t live with guilt like this. And to be cut off from Feemor, at the same time?
“You fear you will never gain back what you had with him.”
Thryn choked back tears. She hadn’t been willing to say that aloud, but he’d figured it out anyway. “It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.”
His voice was gentle when he spoke again, not at all the way he’d handled her anger.
“There were times Qui-Gon would pull back from me. Refuse to let me know what he was thinking, leave a cold wall between us. I know exactly what you’re feeling. It’s painful. Very painful. Especially if you feel that your mistake has cost others’ lives. But you
gain back the trust. You
gain back the mind meld. I did with Qui-Gon. And when I had to punish Anakin in his Padawan days, he was able to earn back mine as well. This is how a Padawan is trained, Thryn.”
“But what do I do ? What is the right course of action? How can I earn it back when I don’t know what is right ?”
“I see much of Qui-Gon in Feemor. My advice is for you to apologize without justifying yourself. An honest apology is most likely to succeed. Depending on how much like Qui-Gon he is, he may accept it with what seems to be indifference, and remain closed to you. Then it would be time for you to step back and simply wait.”
“Wait for what?”
“For him to reach out to you again.”
“How long will it take?”
“That depends on how deeply you have wounded him.”
Thryn dragged a hand down her face. “I have, haven’t I. I hurt him.”
“Thryn, the Master-Padawan relationship is closer and more precious than any other a Jedi has, so it is the most difficult to navigate and the most tried. Yes. You have wounded him. But there will come a time in your life where he will wound you, and you will have to accept it, and choose to reach out to him again in spite of it. Choose to trust again. Your master is not perfect. You must have patience and compassion with him, just as you want him to have with you.”
After a moment’s silence, he continued. “When a Padawan is in trouble, the master stands to their defense before the Council, and must find a way in which he is to blame for his Padawan’s fault. It is an ancient custom. I have stood there with Anakin many times, and Qui-Gon stood there with me. There were times when I felt frustrated, because Anakin’s mistakes were his own fault. But even then, I could see where I could have done better. Yes, it was his choice, but I too had fault somehow. Your master will view this as his own failing, not just yours. In that sense, he is disappointed with himself, not just you.”
Surprise and compassion lurched within Thryn.
Masters stand with their apprentice like that?
Cahl sure hadn’t.
Feemor thinks he messed up?
“No doubt he wonders whether he is skilled enough, wise enough to teach you,” Obi-Wan murmured. “He may remain silent until he’s sure of what to say. In Qui-Gon it wasn’t vindictiveness, not an effort to torture. He felt he made a mistake, and he didn’t want to make another.”
“But it’s my fault—”
“Remember that when you fail, it drags your master in too. It always does, and will, because you are a team. A unit.”
“If— if he ever fails,” Thryn asked, hesitant, unsure whether she should or not, “would it do the same with me?”
“ When he fails, Thryn,” Obi-Wan said softly. “There will be times he fails you. Just as there were moments when Qui-Gon failed me, and I have failed Anakin. Yes. When one member of a team makes a harmful decision, both members are affected by it. But as far as responsibility goes, since he is the teacher, he is the one ultimately responsible for the team.”
“When I fail it makes him look bad, but when he fails, it only makes him look bad? That’s not fair.”
“It’s the price of leadership.”
Thryn thought about it for a little. The more she did, the sorrier she felt for Feemor. She couldn’t imagine what it must be like, to have taken charge of a Padawan.
Especially one like me.
“I’ll try what you suggested, Master Kenobi. And I’ll keep the rest in mind.”
“Don’t put up walls to him in response to his to you. Keep your sense open. Humility will break the ice. Perhaps there may be a time when he punishes you farther than you deserved. It will be your humility that brings him back to reality. It took me a long time to realize that with Qui-Gon. I would respond in frustrated pride, which would only escalate the problem. Anakin and I used to go around and around over the same thing.”
Somehow, Thryn doubted things were much different now. Everyone knew how Anakin would push the limits and argue with his former master. In many ways, he wasn’t very discrete.
“Master... may I ask you some questions about Satine?”
He sighed inwardly, but not aloud. “Taria would want me to agree. So... yes.”
“Is she trying to... I don’t know. Tempt you away from the Order?”
“You mean is she more focused on having me rather than helping me keep the Code? No. She is actively working to protect me from myself.”
Thryn blinked. Her confusion swirled in the Force.
“The Senator of Mandalore was a traitor to the Republic. Tal Merrik. Long story short, he took Satine hostage and rigged the ship’s engines to explode when he sent a signal by remote.”
“ Today ?”
“Yes. About an hour ago. Today’s been... an uncomfortable day for us all.”
“No exaggerating there.”
“Yes. Well, I couldn’t take the remote from him without either hurting Satine or detonating it. He announced his plan was to escape to a Separatist vessel, and then blow up the ship when he was safe away.”
“He— what ? He forced you into action? That was... unwise.”
“It was a tenuous situation at best. The halls were too narrow, and I was too far away to be sure he wouldn’t set it off as I tried to take it from him, and too close for him to not notice if I moved for him. It would have been a simple thing to shove Satine forward to trip me, which would have given him plenty of time to detonate the trigger. He had a firm enough grip on it that I wasn’t certain I could tear it from his hand with the Force without giving him enough time to make his move.”
Thryn considered it. “You needed to wait for his attention to split between you and trying to climb into the getaway vessel.”
“Satine knew I couldn’t move yet. She... is strangely aware of my limitations. So in one sense, he wasn’t forcing a confrontation. If I could have been absolutely certain of the remote not being activated...”
“It would have been a different scenario.”
“Yes. And I admit to being glad not to have to face it.”
“But if you had... what would you have done?”
A deep flicker of pain whispered across Obi-Wan’s Force-sense. “I would have gone for the remote first, then done everything I could to save her.”
“What if you had known it would have been hopeless?”
“As a Jedi, I would have had to have focused on the survival of the ship’s crew and passengers.”
“And do you think, do you honestly think, that you would have made that decision, had it come to that? That you would have acted as a Jedi?”
“Yes.” There was no hesitation in his voice or sense, though Thryn could find plenty of pain, and even the faint hint of fear. “I live by the Jedi Code.”
Thryn gave a nod. “I just... I just needed to know. What happened?”
“Satine knew there was a solid chance of this not turning out in her survival, so she told me she loved me. Right in front of Merrik.”
Thryn couldn’t help the single laugh through her nose that escaped her. “I’m sure you were
comfortable with that.”
Obi-Wan didn’t seem to find it funny.
Taria would have loved it.
“I told her it wasn’t really the best time... and then I thought of Taria. And relented. I told her that if she’d asked it of me, I would have left the Order for her sake.”
“What was her response?”
“And her sense?”
“She responded. But not as though she would take me up on it. And once it all worked out, she didn’t bring it up again.”
“Even though she still loves you?”
“ Because she does.”
“I’m assuming it all worked out,” Thryn asserted. “With the detonator, since we’re talking.”
“Anakin took him out while he was focused on us. And before you ask, he’s aware, now. We had a talk.”
Thryn couldn’t help a little smile of approval. “Taria would be happy.”
“Satine and I didn’t get a chance to really speak afterwards, there were too many clones moving into the area. I confess I was disappointed, there was more I wanted to say. She did too, I could see it. But instead of making time for that then or later, she turned away.”
“Why?” Thryn asked, confused now.
“She knew that I was willing to let go of nonattachment for her sake. But she wouldn’t let me. She knows my life
being a Jedi. She won’t let me sacrifice that. And by intentionally keeping her distance, she is helping me. If she insisted on spending time with me, it would be much more difficult. I love her all the more for her dedication to helping
do what’s right. Some are dedicated to doing what’s right themselves, but aren’t focused on helping
do the same. Not Satine. And that is the sign of true, selfless love. Not when you’re doing what you think is good for the person you love. Not when you’re looking out for their best interests. But when you’re helping them do what’s
Even if that leads to suffering or death. It is better to die for what’s right than survive by harming others or doing what’s wrong. That is what it means to be a Jedi.”
“If Lisk genuinely loved me, then, he would have risked me dying instead of let those other people drown?”
“If it was selfless love. I don’t doubt that it is genuine, but it is selfish. It is more about him than you, though he doesn’t understand that and wouldn’t believe it were he told.”
“Because Satine has a true, selfless love for you she is keeping away from you?”
“That seems very backwards to the way the galaxy operates.”
“The galaxy operates on selfish love,” Obi-Wan agreed. “Satine has intentionally made herself not a competition with the Code. She is not allowing herself to pull me in a different direction. I am grateful. It would be much, much more difficult if she allowed herself to act as though the Code was arbitrary or pointless or a mistake. I believe in my path. She loves me enough consider my beliefs sacred, though they are not her own. Try to help Lisk see what that kind of love is. True love. The kind that lets go.”
“He’ll think I’m just making it up to make him leave me alone.”
For a long, long moment there was silence. Then...
“If you bind him to silence... you may use my experiences as an illustration. And Taria’s. I think that’s what she would have wanted.”
“No, no—” Thryn protested. “I know how unhappy it’s made you that I know about it, and that I ask you questions— and now that Anakin knows—”
“Thryn, it’s alright.” He gave her a small, rueful smile. “What did I tell you about fire, burns, and worthwhile discomforts?”
“Thank you, Master Kenobi. I will honor your trust.”
“I know you will. I know I can trust you. I believe in you. And so does Feemor. He will open to you again.”
In a split instant, Thryn was having to choke back tears again.
“Thank you, Master Kenobi.”
“You’re welcome, Thryn. You’re not my Padawan, yet somehow Taria managed to make it almost like you are. I still can’t figure out how she could do things like that. The Force will always be with you, Thryn. Don’t give up hope. Face your anger, face your fear, and don’t let them hold you back. Find Balance before you leave your room.”
“Sein out.” Thryn leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes.
She was already feeling significantly calmer. Somehow, talking with Obi-Wan seemed to do that.
Thryn took several deep breaths, carefully searching for her center of Balance. She found it.
But only as she let go of her anger, guilt, fear, and grief.
Exhaustion claimed her. She stepped to the door, unlocked it, then returned to her bunk and collapsed into deep sleep.
The man didn’t look around.
Lisk stood his ground, watching the shifting lights of hyperspace play across the side of the older Jedi’s face. His attention on the sensors wasn’t needed, but his gaze was locked on them anyway, checking one, then another; to all outward appearances, his attention focused intently on the workings of the ship.
“I just wanted to— please don’t be angry with Thryn for—”
“I am not angry.”
Calm, composed, cold.
Not the fury cold of Thryn’s voice, but the freeze of I don’t want to talk to you right now, go away please.
The cold of a man who wasn’t angry, but was deeply displeased.
“Thryn had every right to be angry with me.”
“No. She didn’t.”
“I— was in the wrong.”
“Yes. You were.”
Lisk almost stumbled over his thoughts. “So she—”
“She had no right to be angry, any more than you had any right to throw away the lives of those civilians.”
Lisk flinched. He’s saying I should have let her die. His Padawan. Why is there so little care between master and apprentice when it’s supposedly the closest, most important relationship?
He turned and left the cockpit in silence. Feemor could have it.
He didn’t understand the man, and he didn’t understand how Thryn and Feemor could be so close.
Feemor is so stuck on the Code, and somehow Thryn is too.
Though her very existence proves the Code has flaws in it.
Still, even if Feemor was angry Thryn hadn’t died... Thryn and Feemor were close.
Lisk didn’t want that wrecked.
He just didn’t know how to keep that from happening.
And it’s not that he wanted her to die... I know I’m oversimplifying things...
As he worked his way through to find Kewari, he found himself face-to-face with Thryn exiting her room. He ducked his head and tried to pass her, but she moved into his way.
His heart sank. Now what? He braced himself for more cutting words—
His head snapped up and he stared at her, incredulous.
“I was wrong to treat you like that. I knew better. For me to respond to you like that, after what I learned in your head...” Thryn shook her own. “It wasn’t just wrong. It was cruel. I’m sorry.”
Lisk felt his carefully-sustained walls crumbling. “No. Master Feemor said it, and I can see it. I should have made the call. Maybe I could have rescued you too. I didn’t know for sure you were going to die, whereas if I’d been honest with myself, I would have known the others would. And even if he had killed you, he would no longer have had a bargaining piece with me, and lost one of his hostages, and—”
And then everything inside him crumpled. A tear formed and escaped before he even realized he needed to guard against them. More followed, a silent, conquering flood.
He sank to the floor, drawing up his knees and tilting his head forward to try to hide the tears. His arms were braced against his knees, his hands out in front of him, fists clenched.
For a moment Thryn stood still.
He had no idea what she was thinking, and at this point, he didn’t care.
All those people.
He could feel their terror in the Force even now. Their pain. The desperate, panicked scramble for air, the violence of the water breaking them against obstacles and dragging them against rough-hewn walls and floors...
And he’d felt the agony of those who had survived.
I’m responsible for that too.
They, and the masters, and Thryn have every reason to be angry with me. I failed. I’ll undoubtedly fail again. Maybe that’s why Tolor never said goodbye. He figured he’d see me again, as one of the broken ones. The failures. Knew I’d go bad too.
His first mission away from the Temple. Brought along to help heal.
Healed no one, hurt who knows how many.
A hand on his shoulder startled him. He hadn’t sensed Thryn sitting down beside him.
“Nothing’s changed,” he choked, turning his head away from her. “I’m still responsible.”
“But something has changed ,” she said quietly. “I’ve realized I was wrong. Just as wrong as you. The fact that nobody died because of it was simply a matter of circumstances, a chance cube roll. And something else has changed. I’ve realized you’re not unredeemable.”
He shook his head. “It will
stain me, and I can’t go back. And even if I could, I don’t think I would have the— I’m not like you.” He gave up trying to look with-it. What did it matter anyway? He’d already lost all chance of earning her respect. “You’re strong. You do what’s right because it’s right, no matter the consequences. I can’t seem to live by the Code. I don’t even understand half of it. I’m a failure.”
“No, you’re not. Not until you give in completely and refuse to try again.”
“ Trying got two thousand people killed,” he pointed out bitterly. “It’s better if we don’t have that possibility again. Since I’m not strong enough, we have to protect others from me. You’re right. I am a hazard. I should just stay at the Temple.”
“We need healers on the front lines, and on delicate missions like this one. You’ll go where you’re needed, because that’s the kind of person you are. You answer the call. You don’t live for yourself. You are a Jedi.”
He scoffed. “How would you know? We were little more than
last time we saw each other, and I haven’t done
right on this mission. I ended up beat and trapped in my brain in a sparring session, then nearly destroyed the mission. You don’t know who I am.”
“I saw quite a bit of your heart in your head,” Thryn reminded. “So... yes. I do know who you are. You’re an honest young man who wants to do what is right, in spite of the odds stacked against you.”
“Just try telling that to everyone else,” Lisk muttered.
“It doesn’t matter what they think. What matters is how you live. What counts is the present and the future.”
Lisk risked a glance in her direction, couldn’t find pity in her face. It didn’t look like she was condescending, or reaching out to help the failure because it was her duty. She was looking at him like they were equals.
“I have no idea what the Council will do about this,” Lisk admitted, dread churning in his gut. Facing Master Windu would be the hardest, it always was...
But Yoda’s disappointment would hurt the most.
And Lisk would have to hear his master try to take the blame when she was absolutely faultless in this. She’s not to blame because I don’t take her instructions to heart.
He just hoped they wouldn’t punish her too.
“I don’t know what the Council is going to do with me, either.”
Lisk felt shocked to hear dread in her voice. “ You ? You didn’t do anything worthy of censure. They would disapprove of the fact that you grew angry and yelled at me, but as long as it doesn’t happen often, they won’t take action. Probably won’t even bring it up.”
“For most Jedi, yes.”
He could sense her worry. The fact that he understood it, in the static of her signature amazed him. The fact that it was there dismayed him.
“The only reason I’m not in AgriCorps is that I so far have remained in Balance. That was the only reason they were going to give me a chance. But this proves I can lose it and not care. What if next time I have a lightsaber, and I decide to use it? What’s to keep me from doing so?”
“What keeps all other Jedi from doing the same thing,” he returned, instantly and just a little defensive. “You’re a Jedi. ”
“I’m also aggressive, violent, and sadistic.”
“No, you’re not— ”
“Yes. I am. You felt it.”
Lisk shook his head, very uncomfortable. “The words you’re using all have a negative connotation to them. I’m not convinced it’s wrong— ”
“And my Master is displeased with me,” Thryn interrupted. “Disappointed. He feels betrayed. And he has every right to. He’s put his reputation on the line by taking me as his Padawan. I don’t know if you know this, but the first time I came within fifteen meters of him, he became violently sick. Threw up, nearly passed out. Couldn’t function. It took him a long time to recover, too. In spite of that, he took me as his Padawan. He spent hours in discomfort, slowly working his way closer to me, building his tolerance. He’s spent countless more hours deciphering my my Force signature. Learning what vibrations mean which feelings. Learning how to catch my intentions and thoughts. He’s endangered his life in lightsaber flow with me.”
Lisk studied Thryn out of the corner of his eye, his head turned just slightly towards her. He didn’t want to look at her directly. She seemed to have forgotten there was anything awkward between them and was just... talking.
And she seemed to need to talk.
He didn’t want to move too quickly and break the bubble.
“Master Feemor has given of himself, set aside his plans for the immediate future, his comfort, and so much more to train me. And on the very first mission, I lose it.” She shook her head, blowing air softly through her nose with a rueful look on her face.
It was an expression Lisk had seen both Kenobi and Feemor use... and wasn’t one Lisk had seen on Thryn’s face before her contact with either of them. He wondered if she knew she’d picked it up.
“I let him down. Master Kenobi gave me some advice on how to try to make it up to him, but the Council? That’s a completely different matter.”
Lisk frowned. “The Council must see your potential. You could take down Sith.”
“Maybe. We hope.” Thryn sighed. “As long as I don’t Fall myself.”
“You would never— ”
“You don’t really know me,” she pointed out. Not harsh, but with blunt reality. “You can’t read my signature. You can’t even tell what I can read from yours. And for that one moment when we were dueling, you weren’t sure I wouldn’t hurt you.”
Lisk muttered an inward curse. “It was... it just—”
“No, face it, Lisk. It was genuine. That’s what most Jedi feel all the time. They don’t know if I’m just going to lose it and start a slaughter in the Temple.”
“You wouldn’t do that.”
“You don’t believe I would, because you care for me. Your opinion isn’t exactly objective.”
Well, there was that.
Thryn sighed. “The thing is... I’m not sure I wouldn’t do that. I have to face the fact that I lost control. Mastery of self is the only mastery that matters.”
“ Don’t just—” Lisk huffed his frustration, “Just... quote Jedi platitudes. They have their place, but—”
“You don’t think they bring comfort and assistance?”
“Why? Do they for you ?”
“ Honestly ?” Now he allowed himself to look her full in the face.
She was quiet for a moment, looking straight back. Then, softly, she said, “Yes. They do.”
“The whole there is no, there is only line? Seriously?”
“There is no emotion, there is only peace.
“There is no ignorance, there is only knowledge.
“There is no passion, there is only serenity.
“There is no chaos, there is only harmony.
“There is no death, there is only the Force.
“There is no pain, there is only acceptance.
“There is no revenge, there is only justice.
“There is no attachment, there is only selflessness.
“There is no fear, there is only preparation.”
“That actually helps you?”
“Just the Code itself, or other things too? Like the fear leading to suffering thing, or allow yourself to feel the emotions then let them go ?”
Lisk arched an eyebrow in disbelief. “I’ve heard all of those a million times. Master Yoda, the other Temple teachers, and now Master Barssand. They drive me crazy, to be fully honest.”
“Did they drive you crazy when I said them?”
“No,” Lisk murmured. “You... mean them. They aren’t just words to you.”
“Do you think the Temple Masters, Council, Masters Yoda and Barssand don’t mean them? That they’re just words?”
She had a point there.
“You’ve assumed on a deep subconscious level that the Jedi are arbitrary and hypocritical. I know because I’ve been inside your mind and I’ve felt it. And some of the younglings you grew up with gave you reason to think you were right, but they were younglings, Lisk. Don’t assume that what you can’t understand is not worth understanding.”
“But you’ll admit there are things I can’t understand?”
“You don’t currently. I believe it’s possible to. I know it is.”
“Because I understand some of these things, and my Force pattern is radically different from everyone else’s. Yours is of the same cut as theirs. And your mind is sharp. It may just take more contemplation.”
“I hate meditating and contemplating.”
“You hate being still,” Thryn corrected.
He grimaced. “Yes. And despite the fact that a Jedi does not crave adventure and excitement, I do. And despite the fact that Jedi are not ambitious, I am. And despite the fact that Jedi are not violent, aggressive, or feed on fear and pain, you do. We’re not like them. They don’t understand us, so they fear us and try to shove us out.”
“No.” Thryn shook her head. “They are wary of our potential, just like
should be. And they want to make sure they don’t create more monsters, just like
should be careful not to do the same. They
to be careful when it comes to me. They
to be strict. If they aren’t, how will I learn how to be strict and careful with myself? And if I’m not, what might I become? Self-mastery
the only mastery that matters. I
must learn it
, and the only way to teach me is the hard way. There is no easy way.”
“You don’t feel that the Council is unfair with you?” Lisk asked in disbelief.
“No. They have to be hard on the violent and aggressive and hurtful. It’s the opposite of the Jedi path.”
“But you can’t help it. You’re different.”
“I don’t want them to just accept everyone who might be different. I want them to make sure they don’t let anyone or anything into the Temple that could hurt the younglings. I want them to make sure no impostor wears the robes and wields a lightsaber. I want them to root out corruption and keep more from growing. I want them to be strict. The fact that it weighs heavy against me doesn’t matter. All it means is that I must walk carefully and openly, and complete any tests they see fit to give me.”
Lisk scowled. “They single you out—”
“As they should. No, I am fully on board with this. I confess I don’t look forward to the debriefing. But knowing that they are firm and absolutely committed to what’s right brings me comfort. It’s something that I can count on. They won’t suddenly go soft. I can lean on their dedication to what’s right. I may not know what they will decide is the right course of action, but I know that whatever it is, they will do it. And if that puts walls around me, or blocks me out of certain things, or even brings me pain or disgrace... that’s alright. It’s a comfort to know where they stand, that they won’t give way when it’s not me standing there, but a menace in innocent’s clothing.”
“But what if they’re overcautious?” Lisk protested. “And discriminate against you when you aren’t a hazard? What if they end up doing something unfair— even if they are convinced it’s right?”
“I would rather suffer those small inconveniences than have them change the standard, and allow just anyone in. It’s better for me to be ostracized than for the younglings and aged Jedi, or even worse, the Republic, to be put in danger. The next Force-sensitive who comes along may be different, and not have my commitment to my moral compass. I don’t want them to let her in, assuming she’s safe because I was deemed to be safe.”
For a long moment there was silence, but it didn’t feel awkward.
Lisk did feel a bit embarrassed. Not about this moment, but their earlier meeting. And I thought the outward and physical might impress her. Damn, she spends a lot of time thinking.
Not only that, but...
And to think I thought her a rebel who resented the Council like I do.
When everything had blown up, he began to suspect she was a mindless parrot, spewing back everything she’d been taught.
But she actually believes in it. As a person. After having thought it through.
A hell of a lot more thought than I’ve given it.
Her voice broke him out of his confused musings. “I don’t want you coming to my defense if we face the Council as all four of us together.”
He glanced at her.
“I want you to keep quiet and not protest anything they may see fit to say to me, or do to me. Will you do that for me? Please?”
“Because it might make your situation worse, or mine?” Lisk wondered.
Her eyes seemed touched by a small smile. “The reason doesn’t matter so much as the desire. I want it very much. You claim to care for me, and granting my request isn’t going to hurt you or anyone else, or go against the Code.”
“Alright.” Lisk sighed. “If they are completely unfair, though, it’s going to be painful. I don’t respond well to injustice.”
“Then don’t think of it as injustice. I don’t.” Thryn reached out and touched his shoulder softly. “And thank you.”
He gave her a nod. “Will you do something for me?” His pulse sped, he feared he was blushing—
“What do you have in mind?” Thryn pulled her hand back, and he was sorry for the loss.
He wondered if the sudden shift in her signature meant wariness. Distrust. He tried not to assume, Since I could be very, very far off the mark. Wouldn’t be the first time with her. He dragged his courage together. “Just tell me honestly. You’re not interested in me. Are you.”
“Not romantically, no.”
Lisk gave a grim nod, forging ahead despite his discomfort. “And even if you did end up interested... it would be without attachment.”
Lisk looked down at his hands, something aching deep in his soul.
“How likely do you think it would be for you to become interested?”
“Very unlikely.” Thryn didn’t apologize for it, and for that Lisk felt vaguely grateful. “However, the fact that we are not compatible doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. I know you don’t have many of those.”
“Any,” he muttered, the future looking sadly grim.
“Neither do I, except for the few masters who have chosen to reach out to me.”
“Are you going to set up rules, parameters for this friendship ?” He tried to sound upbeat, but his voice betrayed his unease.
“I would rather not,” Thryn said softly. “Will you force me to, or will you respect what I am comfortable with, and what I’m not?”
“How will I know?”
“I will be honest with you.”
Lisk weighed his options. He could walk away from this whole humiliating mess and try to never look back.
And still be alone.
Or he could accept friendship with Thryn, in spite of the fact that he wanted something else, because he was sick of being alone.
This might be a mistake, but...
“Alright. Let’s try that.”
Footsteps in the hall made both of them look up to see Feemor striding towards them.
* * *
Thryn looked up, and instantly knew he was not pleased to see the two of them sitting together, obviously on friendly terms.
“Have either of you checked on Masters Barssand and Toc?”
“No,” Lisk admitted.
A thrum of displeasure vibrated within him. Thryn was sure Lisk couldn’t sense it— could only see the Force and visible mask of a calm that was almost indifference.
He thinks we’re out here complaining about our masters , she realized in shock.
“You’re going there yourself,” Thryn surmised. “Should I come with you?” she stood up as she asked.
“Whatever you wish.”
The tone cut her through. It was a level of disinterest in her behavior that would have made sense had he never met her before, and probably would never meet her again.
Lisk rose too.
“I can’t imagine that all of us going in there at once would be good,” Feemor spoke up. “Crowding Master Toc.”
The two Padawans froze, then looked to one another uncertainly.
And Thryn knew that irritated her master too. She quickly turned her head and dropped her gaze.
“I’ll... wait here,” Lisk announced, voice quiet.
Feemor didn’t respond, only continued down the hall. Thryn followed on his heels, glancing back at Lisk once.
He sent her a rueful smile and half-shrug.
Feemor didn’t once speak to her on the way to the medroom, or once they were within. Almost as if she wasn’t there.
Master Kewari sat at the head of the fold-down bunk, her hands on either side of Master Toc’s head. The Trandoshan lay still unconscious.
“Not all of her problem is due to her injuries,” Barssand said. “I am detecting a toxin in her system as well; I believe it to be a tranquilizing agent. They would have had a difficult time keeping her contained without it. It’s kept her from healing her own injuries, and she is gravely ill.”
“Is she in danger?” Feemor asked.
“We’ll be back at the Temple soon, so I don’t think so.” Kewari shook her head. “If we had a longer flight, I wouldn’t be as confident. Master Che will know best how to proceed from here. I’m sure we’ll have her back on her feet eventually, though it may take some time.”
Thryn felt relief surge through her. It would help Lisk to know this. It helped her.
“I will be in the cockpit. Let me know if you need anything,” Feemor offered. He turned, and without looking at Thryn, left the room.
She stood very still, feeling lost.
Was now a good time to try to apologize to him? Or should she give him space?
Follow my instincts.
And they said...
“Hmm?” The woman spared her a glance before returning her focus to her patient.
“I’m sorry for what happened. Me blowing up. That was completely unacceptable.”
“I forgive you.”
Thryn felt a little better, like the whisper of a fresh breeze.
Two down, Feemor to go.
And that was the scariest part.
Thryn moved closer for just a moment and leaned over Master Toc. Get better, please.
The reptilian woman’s scales looked dull, almost washed out.
Lisk’s face. Lorik Toc. Qui-Gon Jinn’s lightsaber. The Room of a Thousand Fountains. Kewari’s eyes.
Feemor’s eyes were blue.
Right now, ice blue. Cold, cutting.
I’m coming, Master , she thought.
Did Anakin Skywalker ever feel this way when he went to apologize to Master Kenobi? Did he ever apologize to him? Did Master Kenobi’s eyes drive pain and fear when he was displeased too?
You’re going to try very hard never to find out, and you’re going to try even harder to make sure it never happens with Master Feemor again.
Thryn already knew what the Chosen One’s eyes looked like when he was... displeased.
Blue too, she told herself, inner voice firm.
She had no idea why his eyes kept bothering her.
Thryn worked her way to the front of the ship, trying to gather her courage and fully lower her shields. Right outside the cockpit’s closed door she took a deep breath, relaxed, and silently pushed the button for the door to open.
It slid aside and she entered.
Feemor seemed totally absorbed in monitors that had no need of such intent observation, and his sense was absolutely closed.
Thryn squelched her knee-jerk reaction of wanting to throw up her own shields.
Keep them open. Keep them down. Keep humble. Keep honest.
She moved to his elbow and a little behind, then stood very still and silent, watching him out of the corner of her eye as she stared out the front window.
Obi-Wan had encouraged her to apologize.
He meant out loud...
But Thryn felt she couldn’t speak.
Instead, she let her sorrow build and softly drift off her, like an aura, or mist around the base of a waterfall.
I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.
Still Feemor sat with no hint from his sense that he felt it, or what he was thinking.
Just the slightest crack formed in his shielding. He allowed a little response to reach her...
Just a tiny contact. Cautious. Almost as though trying to avoid being injured.
As though he was concerned she might lose it again, who knew when, or that her sense might be somehow false.
Thryn’s sorrow turned to grief, sharp and painful. Her eyes squinted under its weight.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
And then something changed within Feemor. He slowly opened his shielding, and in an instant Thryn knew.
And trust. He was going to trust her again.
I will be very careful not to wound him a second time. The Master-Padawan relationship had many opportunities for deep injury for either party. That just came with the territory of caring so much and working so deeply.
He was giving her the opportunity to hurt him again.
I swear I will do my best to never do so.
Neither said anything more. There was no need to. The tension eased and melted.
It didn’t feel like it had before the falling out, but it wasn’t any less important. In fact, it was more precious since Thryn felt she didn’t deserve a second chance, and was determined to not make Feemor regret his decision.
Their relationship had been tested, and had survived.
Master Kenobi said it would happen again. And again. Will it hold?
Yes. It would.
Thryn just didn’t know if the Council would permit it. Will they insist on sending me away?
“You are deeply worried,” Feemor said quietly, still apparently intent on studying the control panels.
“I assume you have stood before the Council before on a debriefing which was also a chastisement?”
“Yes,” she answered, but this time her voice rasped. “Once.” A shiver ran down her back.
“When your master was injured?”
Thryn fought to retain control over her voice, but the swirling fog within made it difficult. “They waited until Cahl could be present. And then... they started the investigation. He said, ‘Masters, the injury was my fault.’”
Thryn found she could not go on.
“As is usual for masters,” Feemor said softly. “What angle did he take it from?”
The pain was too deep. Too sharp, even now. Thryn fought her way to speak through it.
“‘I trusted her when I knew I shouldn’t.’ And right after that, he renounced me as his Padawan, and recommended they send me to the AgriCorps.”
A flare of indignation flickered deep within Feemor, but he controlled it.
That was not a legitimate Master-Responsibility statement, he thought. Cruel and proud. Appearing to take responsibility, yet not.
But what are you going to say, Feemor?
He’d been thinking about it for the last few hours.
They were so close to Coruscant now.
He hadn’t been able to help the situation— sending Thryn off with Lisk alone...
Perhaps I should have consulted with Master Barssand before leaving Coruscant to see if Lisk could handle the assignment.
But at the time he’d felt it would not have been his place.
He still felt that way. It hadn’t been any of his business.
And Pollid’s response was a first offense. Predicting it would have been near impossible.
But all of this shifted blame to Lisk.
It didn’t find where Feemor had failed.
The Council would decide how much Lisk was at fault. That wasn’t his job.
His job was to find where he had failed his Padawan.
How had she needed him, and he not been there for her?
Then he realized Thryn was speaking.
“You must find a way that you are to blame? Even though you weren’t ?”
“Of course I am to blame in some way,” Feemor said quietly. “We are linked, and I am your master. Yes, the Council will expect me to have discovered my fault in this.”
“You don’t have one.”
“That is not the case, my young apprentice. I failed you somewhere.”
“The fact that I ignored your teaching doesn’t mean you didn’t teach me better than anyone could. My mistakes are my own.”
He smiled at her. “They will be once you are a knight. As long as you are a minor in my care, things are different.”
“What are you going to tell the Council?” Thryn asked after a moment’s pause, hesitating as she did so.
He remained quiet. Admit he didn’t know? Ask her for help?
No, this is an exercise I need to work through on my own.
And the Padawan isn’t supposed to know ahead of time, lest they figure out a way to counter the master’s responsibility.
“You’ll find out when we’re there,” he said as gently as he could.
It still bit her a little, but she accepted it. “As you wish, Master.”
* * *
Thryn stood beside Feemor, and a few paces over, Lisk stood next to his master.
They were facing most of the Council, either in person or holographic form, but because of the circular shape of the room and where the chairs were set, a few were out of Thryn’s range of view.
A couple seats were completely empty.
And one held Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Thryn tried to conceal her shock at seeing him there, wondering when he’d received the position.
Out the wide windows, Thryn knew she would be able to see the skyscape of Coruscant at night, the lights glittering and flashing with the buildings and traffic.
She wasn’t looking out the window.
Neither was anyone else.
“Padawans Pollid and Sein, do you agree with your master’s statements about what took place?”
Both gave grim nods.
All of it had been too painfully true, simply the facts, what they had seen, what they had sensed.
“Padawan Sein. Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Mace Windu asked, voice even more cold than usual.
“No, Master,” she said quietly. “Other than I am sorry.”
His eyes narrowed. “How do we know this won’t happen again? Perhaps violently, next time?”
Thryn wished the roiling in her stomach would calm. “Is that a question you wish me to answer, Master Windu?”
“ Yes. It is not rhetorical.”
There was complete, total silence. All, except for Feemor and Kewari, looked at her. Waiting.
How could she answer the question when she didn’t know the answer herself?
Thryn could tell Lisk was dying to answer the question instead, but he kept his promise and kept his mouth shut. His fingers, twisting and tapping the air at his side, spoke loudly about his discomfort.
“Masters, if I may,” Feemor spoke into the silence.
Windu turned baleful eyes to him, but many of the other gazes didn’t move. “I hope you have a good reason for the interruption, Master Feemor?”
“Yes, Master. I have blame to bear, here. I have not taught Padawan Sein how to respond to others’ failures, or her own. She has not faced either before.”
“Not faced either before?” Windu echoed, disbelief in his voice. “Perhaps not others’ failings, but definitely her own. Master Cahl was wounded by her hand, and she struck down Master Kenobi.”
“I would like to suggest that those were not instances of failing, but merely evidence of lack of training. If Padawan Sein were to enter lightsaber flow with either of those two masters now, I am confident there would be perfect safety. She has learned control.”
“Not far enough, evidently,” Windu returned with severity, never once ceasing to scan Thryn’s signature through the Force.
“Not in the area concerning when others fail, Master. I have not taught her.”
“Teach her this will you, Master Feemor?” Yoda asked.
“I will do my best.”
“And teach her as well, how to respond to her own failings, will you?”
Feemor gravely bowed his head. “You have my word.”
“Hmm.” Yoda leaned forward, his ears moving upward just slightly. “All Jedi fail. Learn compassion, learn forgiveness, learn self-discipline, we all must.”
“Her particular area of failing is dangerous, Master,” Ki-Adi Mundi warned.
“When agreed to Feemor training her, knew that we already did.” Yoda shook his head, ears swaying. “Give her opportunity to learn the lessons not yet taught, we should.”
“And what of Padawan Pollid?” Eeth Koth asked.
“This is his first offense,” Windu pointed out. “We’ll give him another chance, but he will be closely watched by Master Barssand.”
“If unable he is to love without attachment, give up that love he must.” Yoda’s voice was both gentle and immovable.
Lisk’s gaze flicked around the room.
Thryn refrained from looking at him, but she felt sorry for him, could sense his agitation.
“Should the two be separated for a time?” Kit Fisto asked.
“No,” Yoda countered. “If control his actions when near her, he cannot, then when far, it matters not. Control all situations we cannot. Work together again, someday they may need to. Prepared to survive that, he must be.”
Kewari took a step forward. “Masters, I too must take a measure of responsibility for my Padawan’s actions. I knew of his interest, but did not take steps to ascertain whether its foundation was selfish or selfless.”
“Why was that?” Windu asked.
“I had thought it was an unimportant and quickly-forgotten expression of his youth,” she returned. “That the novelty and word forbidden were behind it. I had hoped the mission would offer a dose of reality. I know Padawan Sein’s reputation of being in Balance.”
“You hoped she would be a good influence?” Koth clarified.
“I hoped she would remind him of his duties and loyalties as a Jedi, that she would show him how to put the mission first.”
“Padawan Pollid.” Windu’s eyes turned back to the Mirialan. “Has Master Barssand’s hope been realized?”
Lisk met his gaze. “I don’t know, Master,” he said, his voice thin but clear.
“Will you endeavor to make it be realized?”
“I—” he hesitated.
Thryn grit her teeth and silently pleaded with him to go along with the Council’s wishes. If you refuse, they will want you to destroy the feelings completely. And that will be worse for you than learning to hold with an open hand. Just comply. Please.
“I will do as you have asked, Masters.”
For another long moment Windu’s gaze drilled into him. Then he glanced around the Council, found what he was looking for.
“We are in agreement, then. Master Barssand, you and your Padawan should return to the Halls of Healing as soon as you can; we have some cases needing your attention and expertise. Master Feemor, you and your Padawan are free to go.”
Feemor and Kewari bowed, their Padawans following suit, and then all four left the room.
As the door slid shut behind them, Thryn fell back a step to walk next to Lisk.
“Thank you,” she murmured. “I felt how difficult it was for you to keep quiet and respond humbly.”
He gave her a very wan smile that didn’t come close to reaching his eyes. “See you later, Padawan Sein.” He turned to follow his master down the hall.
“May the Force be with you.”
Things had turned out better than Thryn had expected.
But she was still stinging under the fact that Feemor had felt the Council’s censure when he took blame.
Because he failed to teach me how to respond to others’ failings and my own.
Thryn didn’t call it a failure, but she was determined to learn those two things, no matter what it took, so that he would never again be grilled by the Council on those points, at least.
“Are you still counting yourself as on the same side as the Council?” Feemor asked as he led her down another hallway.
“Yes, Master. We are in a war, with lives at stake. If Lisk can’t make good judgment calls in the field, he needs to figure out how to make better ones. The Council was more lenient than I could have hoped for them to be.”
It was Master Yoda behind that, Thryn thought. Somehow, he believes in me, when wisdom dictates they really probably shouldn’t.
“What are our plans?” she asked.
“We’re free, which means we can either help other knights on their missions, take a mission of our own, or take some free time. We don’t have an assignment or request for now.”
“I’d like to speak with Master Kenobi, once he’s done for the evening,” Thryn admitted. “I asked him for advice when we... when we weren’t...”
Feemor glanced at her and raised an eyebrow. “You did?”
“You contacted him to complain about me?”
Thryn’s heart lurched painfully. “No, Master, I never—”
And then she caught sight of the twinkle in his eye and the humor in his sense.
He’s teasing me.
Thryn forced herself to relax and smile back, though it wasn’t very happy. The joy of being a Jedi seemed a bit out of reach at the moment.
“Thryn? Feemor,” a voice called from behind them.
They turned, found Obi-Wan hurrying in their direction.
Thryn beamed. “Congratulations on your Council appointment!” Feemor murmured in agreement as she continued, “When did that happen?”
“It’s been two weeks or so now.”
“But when we got back from Ragoon IV—” Thryn protested.
Obi-Wan grimaced. “ I was away. Welcome back, by the by.” A strange look crossed his face as his gaze drifted past Thryn’s shoulder.
Thryn glanced around to find a girl a few years younger than herself with crimson skin and deep maroon hair striding very purposefully in their direction.
“Youngling,” Obi-Wan greeted.
“Master Kenobi,” she purred in return. “Welcome back.”
“Thank you. Can I help you some way?”
She beamed, teeth glittering in the hall lights. “That’s what I came to ask you.”
“Nothing at this time, thank you. And I’m in a bit of a hurry. I’m sorry.”
“Of course, Master Kenobi. May the Force be with you.” The girl continued on down the hallway, something supremely confident in the way she walked—
Obi-Wan caught Thryn’s raised eyebrow and grimaced. “I’ll explain later. I’ll also be interested to hear about Ragoon, but I must get to the Senate. I’m going to be late.”
“Is there a time we could talk?” Thryn asked.
“Certainly. Maybe in a couple hours. Comm me.”
Thryn nodded. “Alright. Hope the Senate goes well?”
He sent her an unconvinced look and rushed away.
“I wonder what’s happening this evening,” Feemor mused.
Probably something to do with Satine.
“If you want to stay up late to chat with Obi-Wan, that’s fine, but I’m very tired, so I’m going to retire for the evening.”
Thryn smiled up at him. “Thanks. See you tomorrow.”
“You did well, Padawan. Goodnight.”
Thryn watched him walk away, and realized he’d given it back to her.
The low-level heart-bursting gladness she was here, now, with these people.
Couple who bore me, whoever you are, thank you for sending me here.
Speaking of mothers...
Thryn hadn’t seen Alassiette since Taria’s funeral.
And since I can shield quite well now...
Thryn allowed her feet to tread a very old path, drawing her ever closer to her first memories of life.
The hallway lights had been turned low, only the running lights near the floor lit her way.
There was still some movement in the main, wide hall as she passed, and for a long moment she stood at the entryway that led into the smaller hall that belonged to Clan Vorn Tiger.
How many generations of Jedi have called this home? Thryn wondered, peering into the hallway. Five doorways down each side, dead end at the back.
First door to the right, the common room. First door on the left, the Clan Mother’s.
Those deeper in belonged to the younglings.
Last door on the left is mine.
Only it wasn’t, anymore. It belonged to someone new.
Someone else lives at Number Seven Vorn Tiger, Hall Cresh, Secondary Youngling Wing.
The same held true for Thryn’s earlier residences in the Wing. The Second-Middle quarters, which she could barely remember, the Early-Middle quarters which had even fewer memories, and then First.
Thryn only knew what First dorms looked like because of child care classes.
The Vorn Tiger rooms in each of those places lay dormant, waiting for this group of younglings to spread their wings and fly to their next home.
Likely, their final home.
It had been unnerving for Thryn to live so far away from everything familiar. Yes, the system was set up to make the move as natural and painless as possible, but it had still taken getting used to, the sensation of not having the rest of her clan mates or Clan Mother just next door.
Then again, she hadn’t sought out those clan mates or mother since the move.
So I guess I must not have missed them that much.
They certainly hadn’t come looking for her.
The common room door opened, and Alassiette ushered Deeli out.
“Padawan Sein!” Deeli called, face lighting up.
Thryn smiled, gave a little wave.
“I’ll be with you in a moment,” Alassiette promised, herding her youngling to the door marked three.
Where Murrugh used to live, Thryn mused. I wonder what he’s doing now.
She could almost smell the earthy scent of the Togorian youngling’s fur.
Alassiette reemerged, beckoned Thryn into the common room. Thryn complied, the whole thing feeling slightly surreal.
“Is everything alright?” Alassiette asked.
Thryn gave a nod. “Yes. I just came back from my first mission with Feemor, and I had some time, and I thought I’d come down here and see how everything’s going.”
Alassiette had to be wondering what had changed for Thryn that it would even occur to her to do so, but she didn’t let on.
“We’re alright,” the woman assured her. “A bit full this time around. I have two sharing a room so they can all fit.”
“ Nine ?” Thryn asked, amazed. “Are they well behaved?”
“They have their good days and not so good days,” Alassiette shrugged. “A couple are struggling against their own demons.”
“I have not encountered anybody like you.” But the Clan Mother smiled as she said it. She eased herself into a chair with a small groan. “I think this may be the last clan I take through.”
Thryn’s eyes widened. “Are you serious?”
“I’m sixty-four, Thryn. This is my fourth set, ten years with each.”
Thryn nodded, sinking into one of the other chairs, feeling strangely wistful. “What will you do after?”
“I don’t know, but I have some time to figure it out. I still have a few years with these. Ali-Alann has been pestering me to consider accepting an oversight position, but I’m not sure I want to go from one high-stress job to another. So. Your first mission. How did it go?”
Thryn winced. “Not as well as I’d like, but I’m back up on my feet.”
“That’s what counts. Not how many times you fall down, but whether you get back up again.”
“I remember you saying that when I was little.” Thryn felt the rueful smile that tugged her lip. A lot. “Did you tell Taria that too?”
“ Taria was telling me that.” A fond sparkle lit the Clan Mother’s eyes. “Precious little creature. That hair was a nightmare to comb. I made the decision she had to wear it short until she could comb it herself, and then she could make the decision of what to do with it.”
“Which room was hers?”
“Five. I saw Korto Vos near you during the ceremony for Taria. Are you a friend of his?”
“Yes. He’s been very kind to me.”
Alassiette smiled. “The Vos boys and Kenobi lived the next hall over. Quinlan and Korto shared a room. When Taria was little, she used to say that the three of them were the twins except as three. She could never seem to remember the word triplet. Anyway. Because their room was number five too, she felt it meant kinship.”
And then the weariness hit, dragging at her eyelids.
“Someone needs sleep,” Alassiette observed.
Thryn choked a laugh again. “I’ll go to bed soon. I promise. I have one last thing to do.”
“You better get on it, or you’re going to fall asleep in that chair.”
Now that was likely true.
“Thank you for talking with me.”
Alassiette nodded. “I always make time for the younglings who return. Sleep well.”
Thryn worked her way back out of the Youngling Wing.
I actually spent time talking to her, she realized, amazed. I sought her out, and we actually talked like normal people. I knew what to say and didn’t sit there feeling awkward.
How much of that was her understanding me now, and how much was me understanding her now?
Thryn had spent a good portion of her life telling herself that talking to others was pointless since they wouldn't understand. She’d come to that conclusion through experience, of course, but...
She stumbled into her room and shut the door, collapsing onto the bed. There was still some time before she could call Obi-Wan.
In the end she wound up dozing for a while until her chrono signaled her. She sat up and tapped her comm.
“Hey. How was the Senate?”
“The whole thing is terrible.” He sounded frustrated.
“So now is not a good time to ask who the Zeltron is?”
“Lifta? She wants to be my Padawan.”
Thryn smiled at that. “Are you going to consider it?”
“To be perfectly honest I have more important problems right this moment.”
“Is everything alright?” Thryn asked, suddenly worried.
He huffed a sigh. “No. Satine has been set up by someone in her government, is acting on emotions rather than calm logic— and when I told her so grew angry with me again— her courier was murdered and she’s out there somewhere and wanted for his murder— other than that, I’m as content as a bantha with its sand person.”
“Isn’t she a pacifist ?” Thryn protested. “The whole thing about earlier today—”
“Yes, yes, yes. It makes no sense for her to have killed him. And the blast was one that should have been from a much larger blaster than Satine had with her, but no one seems to care at this point. They’ve called upon her to turn in for questioning, and instead, she ran off into the night.”
Oh. That’s not good. “How will she clear her name if she’s acting guilty?”
“ Precisely. ”
“Is there anything I can do to help? I have some free time.”
“Thank you, Thryn, but...” Obi-Wan’s voice eased a little to a darker, sadder tone instead of being twisted in knots. “I am not getting you involved in this. We’ll figure this out. We’ll work it out. I know Satine didn’t kill the courier, and I know that someone else did, and has been taking shots at her as well and sabotaged her speeder. Nearly killed her earlier. I have the feeling we’re low on time, with painfully high stakes. We’ve already found one traitor in her government, I wouldn’t be surprised to find more. Death Watch is linked to the Separatists, and Satine is refusing to allow the Republic to flush them out.”
The frustration was building in his voice again as he continued, “I just wish she would listen to me for once.”
Your Duchess gets into all sorts of trouble, doesn’t she. “It’ll work out. I’m sure of it. The Force will be with you, Master Kenobi.”
“Thank you.” He sighed. “I should be taking my own advice to you, shouldn’t I? I won’t be much help to her if I’m too wound up to think clearly on how to get her out of this mess. I’m going to try to refind my Balance. It’s been sorely elusive today.”
“It’s been one of those days. And I’m going to fall asleep talking.”
Amusement traced into his tone. “Goodnight, Thryn. Maybe tomorrow will be better.”
“I hope so, for both of us. Sein out.”
It didn’t take Thryn long to pass out against the bed.
Thryn slept in the following morning, and felt significantly better for it. She and Feemor met up for breakfast to discuss their plans. Some of Feemor’s old friends were currently at the Temple and he wanted to spend the morning visiting various of them before they all split ways again.
Thryn ended up wandering around the Gardens of Meditation just for the sheer fun of it, enjoying the fact that she could walk by mediating Jedi without throwing them out of their calm, happy state.
She also spent some time in the archives, pulling up reports by and about the other members of her youngling clan, to satisfy her curiosity as to where they were now.
After that she ended up in the Memory Garden to visit the holo statue of Taria. On the way out, she paused before the one of Master Fay and wondered.
Would you have believed in me, or not?
She wandered down to the eating hall a bit later than normal and found it nearly deserted, the lunch crowd already gone. She felt satisfaction when no one looked up as she walked in, not having sensed anything unusual. She spotted Obi-Wan sitting alone at one of the tables, with no sign of Skywalker or Ahsoka.
Thryn moved her way along the counter, just a little smug when Master Claenst served her with clear confusion on her face.
That’s right. I’m shielded now.
Thryn took her tray and set it down opposite to Obi-Wan’s. “You’re looking more positive than you sounded last night. Does that mean it turned out alright?”
“Satine turned herself in, she’s been cleared of the murder and released, and the Republic will
be assisting Mandalore in apprehending Death Watch. I personally disagree with that last point, but the Duchess is happy.”
“And she’s no longer angry with you?” Thryn sat down.
Obi-Wan laughed through his nose. “Up and down yesterday, wasn’t it? Half of the time I couldn’t figure out where we stood. Things seem a bit clearer now. I think. She’ll be returning to Mandalore soon.”
“Are you... alright with that?” she asked. “Invoking Taria’s name,” she added quickly, half-joking.
“Taria,” he returned, a gentle light in his eyes. “Yes. I’m alright. I will miss her, though.”
“Even with her angry with you half the time?”
“I do hope we’re done with that for a while. It was painful.”
Thryn nodded. “Speaking of. What do you think I should do about Lisk?”
“That seems about as complicated as anything I have to deal with,” Obi-Wan jibed. “Lisk. Padawan Pollid. Lisk. Anger, compassion, anger. Compassion again.”
“Sorry,” he apologized. “Should have refrained.”
“No, no,” she protested. “I teased you. ” Thryn toyed with her food but her hunger seemed to have waned. “I’m not interested. At least, not right now. I just don’t know what to do. He doesn’t have any friends. And he doesn’t have anybody encouraging him and helping him except Master Barssand.”
His eyebrow flickered. “Is Master Barssand only worth an except ?”
“No. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just that... if I’m going to be his friend, how can I stay away? But in these early days when he’s trying to figure all of this out, wouldn’t it be easier for him if I stayed away?”
“What do your instincts tell you?”
Thryn glanced up, weary forbearance in her face.
“You must remember that I, as a master, must help you discover the path, not just tell you the path. There is no ignorance, there is only knowledge. You find it by seeking it.”
“All I know is that he’s not going to figure these things out by himself, and I have some influence over him, and I understand what goes on in his head. I know I have responsibility in this thing, but I can’t seem to figure out where that meets with compassion. ” Thryn shook her head, feeling grim.
Obi-Wan rested his forearms against the table. “Both Taria and I— well, we’ll go at it this way. I developed feelings for Satine over a year-long extended mission with Qui-Gon. We were together constantly. Discovering emotions I had never fully experienced before, I was amazed by their power and strength. I learned what it meant to live with an open hand and to let go in those months. I couldn’t help being near Satine, so I didn’t face that question. Taria, now,
to get close to me and be around me. She learned the same lessons while being one of my closest friends. It was difficult for her, and it was difficult for me. Would it have been easier had we not been near the ones we loved? I do not know. I have never experienced that.”
“Would you change it now if you could?” Thryn forced herself to take a bite.
“No. I treasure the memories, and I know Taria did too.”
“Lisk claims to have a determination to learn to love without attachment, but I don’t know how deep that runs,” Thryn admitted. “Satine loved you in return as you were learning that. You didn’t know Taria loved you until after she had learned it. I can’t help but feel I might be sending him mixed signals and be raising false hopes if I do my best to be the friend I know he needs.”
“You won’t as long as you keep completely honest. It may take letting him into your mind at times, the way you have seen into his.”
“So you think I should become his friend.”
“I’m suggesting you determine what is right, and follow that path.”
“You know, it’s answers like that which frustrate Lisk so badly,” Thryn grumbled.
“I’m sure they do.” Obi-Wan smiled at her as he stood with his empty tray. “Now, I must be off. Happy hunting.”
“But I’m not on a mission— not right now,” Thryn protested.
“Hunting for the right path.” And with another smile, he was gone, leaving Thryn staring at her uneaten food.
Movement caught her eye and she looked up just in time to see Feemor set down his tray where Obi-Wan’s had been moments before, and sit down.
“How was your morning?” he asked.
“Productive, I think. Yours?”
“Very enjoyable. I haven’t been able to spend time just talking with my clan in years.”
Thryn gave a wan smile. Clearly he doesn’t have the problem of wondering what to talk about when with them.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do?”
“About Lisk?” At Feemor’s nod, she considered. “Yes. Not avoid him.”
Feemor looked mildly amused. “That’s pretty open to interpretation. Could mean anything from spending all your time with him, to intentionally seeking him out on occasion, to just leaving things to happenstance.”
“Somewhere near the middle of that spectrum?” Thryn grimaced.
“I want you to know,” Feemor said, tone quiet and earnest, “that whatever you decide about Lisk, if it’s not against the Code, I’ll try to uphold you in it. Though, I admit, I do rather hope he’s not the one you end up giving your heart to.”
“Why?” Thryn asked, a tiny, wondering smile tugging at her lip. “Because he’s a healer?”
“No, because he’s
You both are. You both are still learning who you are, and who you want to be. Master Kenobi knows who he is.”
Thryn quirked a smile. “You aren’t technically supposed to know about that.”
“If that’s true, they shouldn’t argue in front of other people. Master Kenobi does not argue with politicians in public. Except for one.”
Yes, Thryn decided, he does need to work on his concealment tactics if he wants to hide it.
Thryn looked down at her tray and allowed the Force to speak of what was passing around her instead of her eyes.
The quiet hum of home that finally felt peaceful. A master who would not cast her aside the first time she made a mistake. Friends, finally, even if she’d had to look outside her age bracket to find them.
I have been given so much.
“Are you alright?” Feemor asked, voice quiet.
Thryn’s gaze lifted to his face, realized there were tears in her eyes.
“Yes,” she whispered in reply, and it was true, because the future was scattered with glimmers of hope.
Thryn's story will continue in “Melodic Dissonance.” If you are subscribed to the “Harmonic Chaos” series, you will receive notification. If you are subscribed to this alone, you will not.
Lisk has a very brief cameo in “Only the Force,” but we'll pick up with him again in earnest in “Melodic Dissonance.”
The Padawan fishing for Obi-Wan's mastership will be found extensively in “Gates of Hell,” also currently being turned from its original, plotless mess into something a shade more presentable.
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