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Before the Saga Cold Harvet (Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Multi-Chapter Mission Story)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by devilinthedetails , Jan 17, 2020.

  1. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @earlybird-obi-wan Thanks so much for commenting, and sorry for the delayed response, but, yes, this story's setting is inspired by Russia, though a bit like if Russia had remained under the czars if that makes sense.

    Apologies to everyone as a whole with how long this update took. Perhaps I've spread myself too thin with too many projects, but I hope this chapter will be enjoyable now that it is posted![face_blush]

    Across the Steppes

    In their rented speeder—roofed as the security officer had suggested at the spaceport—they quickly left behind the city and were swallowed up by the vast emptiness steppes. They could see for kilometers in every direction, but all that was visible was grass and grain bowing in the strong wind sweeping across the steppes.

    The wind howled against the speeder, constantly threatening to shake it in an angry fist, and Obi-Wan was grateful that the speeder was roofed. Even with a roof and the speeder’s climate control cranked up to the maximum red heat setting, the heat it churned out could only be described as tepid. Obi-Wan had draped a thermal blanket from his pack around his shoulders for warmth as Qui-Gon perpetually wrestled with the speeder’s steering mechanism to ensure their craft stayed on the course of the dirt road before them rather than getting carried wherever the wind took it.

    Obi-Wan didn’t want to imagine how cold and lost far from help they would be if their speeder broke down in the middle of the steppes beyond the sight of any kind of civilization however loosely defined. He especially didn’t want to imagine it because it seemed entirely realistic given that the speeder rattled without ceasing and often made sputtering noises of protest at even the most basic of maneuvers. Even though he didn’t want to contemplate a breakdown, he found himself muttering, “We’d better hope we don’t get engine trouble here in the middle of nowhere.”

    “The Force will guide us through any trouble we find ourselves in, Padawan,” Qui-Gon assured him as he continued to fight against the wind to keep the speeder on as steady a course as possible given the circumstances.

    Obi-Wan, who thought this was asking rather a lot of the Force, observed dryly, “Yes, the Force is an excellent mechanic.”

    “We aren’t quite as in the middle of nowhere as you think, either,” added Qui-Gon, tilting his chin toward a dark, indistinct speck on the horizon. “That must be a village ahead.”

    As they approached the group of ramshackle buildings that seemed on the verge of collapse even without the strong wind that had to be placing an extra strain upon their dubious structures, Obi-Wan decided that village was a generous description.

    “You’d think they could spare a credit or two more on repairs,” Obi-Wan commented as they flew through the dilapidated village and back onto the endlessness of the steppes.

    “Perhaps they can’t.” Qui-Gon shook his head. “Or perhaps they don’t think it is their responsibility to conduct the repairs.”

    “Why wouldn’t they think it was their responsibility to conduct the repairs?” Obi-Wan’s forehead furrowed. “They live there, don’t they? Who else would be responsible for the repairs?”

    “They live there, but they don’t truly own the land,” Qui-Gon pointed out. “The land belongs to the wealthy nobles who also own most of what is harvested from the land. The people who live in those derelict houses don’t really own anything, so they don’t feel truly responsible for anything. A terrible lack of responsibility can set in when people are denied ownership and property, Padawan.”

    Obi-Wan considered this, the knot in his forehead refusing to untie. “Jedi don’t own anything, Master—possession is forbidden to the Jedi—but no Jedi would ever allow the Temple to fall into such a state of disrepair.”

    “Jedi feel a collective responsibility to the Temple and to each other.” Qui-Gon smiled gently. “We don’t feel repressed in the way the people who work this land might.”

    “Not even you?” Obi-Wan felt the tips of his own mouth beginning to quirk into a grin. “You don’t feel repressed by all the rules, Master?”

    “Not at all.” Qui-Gon’s smile grew. “Jedi discipline is imposed from within, not from without. It is the opposite of repression.”

    They settled into one of their comfortable silences, and Obi-Wan found himself once again staring out at the steppes. There was something mesmerizing about how the grass and grains seemed to bow and dance in the wind. It was almost beautiful even.

    He had come from a farming planet called Stewjon, he remembered suddenly. He had grown up there until he was three—identified and taken to the Temple later than most Jedi younglings. He remembered green things tickling him as he ran on toddler legs through fields after his older brother. He remembered the full-bellied laugh of his father and the softness of his mother’s cheek pressed against his when they said their final goodbye—when she whispered in his ear, “I carry you always.”

    He remembered that he had learned to talk there with an accent and a dialect of Basic derisively considered a non-standard variant on Coruscant. He remembered hours of forcing himself to re-shape syllables until finally he had a perfect, polished Coruscanti accent that couldn’t mark him as different—that couldn’t betray him as an outsider from a backwater world who didn’t belong among the Jedi.

    His fingers had strayed into his pocket, subconsciously seeking the smooth, soothing surface of the stone Qui-Gon had given him for his thirteenth birthday. Qui-Gon had told him that he’d found it in the River of Light on his homeworld, which meant—Obi-Wan realized suddenly—Qui-Gon not only knew his home planet but had returned to it since becoming a Jedi, two rarities among the Jedi.

    “You went back to your homeworld?” Obi-Wan stroked at the stone.

    If Qui-Gon was surprised at the question, it didn’t show on his face as he answered, “On a mission, yes.”

    “Did you remember it from before you were taken to the Temple?” Obi-Wan’s fingers tightened around the stone as he reached the question that was most important, most urgent, to him.

    “No.” Qui-Gon yanked on a lever to maintain control of the speeder in an especially sharp gale of wind. “I was too young to remember anything when I was taken to the Temple.”

    “Oh.” Disappointed, Obi-Wan bit his lip. “How did you know it was your homeworld then?”

    “Temple records.” Qui-Gon remained calm even as Obi-Wan gaped at him. “You know that every Jedi has a personal file that lists among other things the planet of birth.”

    “Yes, Master.” Obi-Wan shifted awkwardly beneath his thermal blanket. “It’s just that most Jedi don’t ever look at that part of their personal files.”

    It wasn’t precisely forbidden perhaps because it didn’t need to be as few Jedi seemed interested in uncovering their pasts before they became Jedi.

    “That’s true,” Qui-Gon agreed, and it was almost as if he were echoing Obi-Wan’s thoughts more than just confirming his words. “But when have I ever been a conventional Jedi?”

    “Never.” Obi-Wan injected his tone with the mix of fondness and frustration he often felt for his Master’s creative interpretation of the Jedi rules as loose guidelines rather than firm directives.

    “Do you remember your homeplanet, Obi-Wan?” Qui-Gon’s question was soft but still too keen for Obi-Wan’s comfort.

    “It doesn’t matter if I do.” Obi-Wan knew his answer was evasive and unfair—closed when Qui-Gon had been so open with him—but he couldn’t help but shutting and shuttering himself down. He was a teenager, after all, even if he was a Jedi too. “Jedi aren’t to be attached to the past or to their memories.”

    He had been attached to his past and his memories on Phindar, however. He had been determined to hang onto his memories—to his past—and only that had allowed him to survive a memory wipe on Phindar with his memories still intact. He felt a strange mingling of pride and guilt about that, and neither of those emotions were Jedi emotions. Both of those emotions were unsettling emotions that created a turmoil within him that threatened the Jedi serenity he strove so hard to cultivate.

    Thinking of Vasilisa, Obi-Wan hoped that if she was indeed strong enough in the Force to become a Jedi she had been identified early enough that she would forget everything about where she had come from so that she would never have to confront this confusion of memory.

    “It’s possible to remember the past but not be attached to it.” Qui-Gon’s words were barely audible over the wind buffeting their speeder, and Obi-Wan was grateful that his Master didn’t push the issue beyond that, allowing a silence to settle between them again like a thermal blanket.
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    Your updates are ALWAYS worth the wait! @};-

    I love the tone of this conversation, full of the personal and abstract philosophy--about responsibility and whether one feels oppressed by rules or not. Obi-Wan's introspections are especially poignant as they touch on memories, home-places, and attachment. Qui-Gon's tactful, caring probing is not lost on me but I think Obi-Wan is not ready to confide or needs to puzzle through his own tangled feelings.

  3. Kahara

    Kahara Favorites of Fanfic Hostess Extraordinaire star 4 VIP - Game Host

    Mar 3, 2001
    [face_laugh] Yup, that sounds like a teen Obi-Wan all right! Very interested to see how things go once they get to the steppes. The family definitely seemed concerned about being overheard for some reason and that trips alarm bells even if without Roodi's ominous warnings. I can see how Qui-Gon isn't taking him too seriously; it's easy for people living in isolated places to be labeled with all sorts of things that aren't necessarily true. But there could be some fire under all that smoke... [face_worried]

    The latest chapter with Obi-Wan's sense of conflict about his own memories of home was moving. On the one hand, those memories may have helped him literally keep his own mind. But on the other, and this is such an Obi-Wan thing, he worries that having a past outside the Order somehow makes him less Jedi. Qui-Gon can tell from his questions that something has been stirred up, but of course Obi-Wan wants to deal with everything himself. I guess we'll see how that goes! [face_thinking]
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2020
  4. Valiowk

    Valiowk Chosen One star 6

    Apr 23, 2000
    One would think that since Jedi younglings come from all parts of the galaxy, there would be more of them speaking with accents and non-standard dialects, although at the same time fewer of them may have it since most Jedi would have been taken to the Temple earlier and may have learnt to speak on Coruscant. At the end of the day I would say that this is probably something he's worried about for nothing. :)

    Love how you pointed out that Qui-Gon mentioning that he had found the stone on the River of Light on his homeworld meant both that Qui-Gon knew his home planet and had returned to it since becoming a Jedi - I too caught how interesting this revelation was, especially coming immediately after Xanatos' story.

    Glad to see Obi-Wan's experiences on an unfamiliar planet letting him get a new perspective on things - that's the joy of travel, isn't it? :)
  5. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    I love the discussion of home-planets
    Obi-Wan and his emotions; they make him very human.
  6. AzureAngel2

    AzureAngel2 Chosen One star 6

    Jun 14, 2005
    * is totally out of breath after this reading marathon

    Wonderful idea to have the old, golden Russia in mind while writing this!

    And such lovely details like for example Yekaterinbirsk, a clever word mix from Jekaterinburg and Nowosibirsk.

    Or the people they bump into on the planet. One of them reminds me pretty much of a former Russian colleague of my Dutch husband. That very proud guy from Moscow and DarthUncle were in the same catalysis group together. (But due to his kidney disease the latter never finished his doctor thesis.)

    Russians are fascinating people and this fact comes through in your writing.

    During my kindergarten teacher studies I have met many Russians and "Russlanddeutsche"/ German Russians. All of them hard-working women with great cooking talents.

    And, personal fun fact, my mother almost had been stolen by a female Russian officer during WW2. Imagine, I would have grown up somewhere in Russia instead of Northern Germany!

    Having grown up so close to the former inner German border I loved watching the East German TV stations "DDR 1" and "DDR 2". To my mother´s sheer horror I preferred the Polish fairy tales, the Czech ones and mostly the Russian ones to the German fairy tales. (Little did I know or understand about her motives as a child. But well, us "Kriegsenkel"/ war grand children aka the off-spring of the traumaticed "Kriegskinder"/ children of the WW2 children sooner or later find out stuff to understand our own biography.)

    Especially the story of "Wanja" by Ottfried Preußler (which was unfortunately never translated into English it seems) was my favourite. (Oh, and "Krabat" also known as "The Satanic Mill" or "The Curse of the Darkling Mill".)

    When I grew older I liked historical documentaries and geographical documentaries about Russia. (Tonight the one about the River Wolga on ARD was cancelled due to another Corona special.)

    You, my dear @devilinthedetails, really should check out the deeper meaning of your Vasilissa character by peaking into the book "Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype" by the Jungian psychoanalyst Clarissa Pinkola Estés.

    Then you also understand the question about the famous witch Baba Yaga that @Valiowk asked you. (One can also regard her as an aspect of the Dark Mother, the forth aspect of the goddess/ her hidden aspect who combines the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone.)

    Anyway, I love how we always explore new planets with the Qui-Gon/ Obi-Wan team. As we all know the later hates travelling and especially flying... he, he... but I think that "Reisen bildet"/ travelling makes one clever. So our young padawan should appreciate the prospect more.

    And leaving the Jedi temple and go to other places is the best thing that Qui-Gon can do as a teacher. He literally tries to open up new horizons to Obi-Wan. But he also does so to keep an open view/ perspective on matters himself.

    "Lebenslanges Lernen"/ life-long learning is never wrong.

    I could be like my dear mom, being stuck in anger, fear & hatred for the bad things that happened to her in winter 1945 when she was just 3 years old. But instead I try to learn something new every day, to keep a fresh approach towards life.

    This is why I think Qui-Gon is a brilliant teacher, undergoing all this troubles for his padawan and trying to learn something new for himself all the time.

    I know that I said it elsewhere before on these boards, but I wish that the rest of the Jedi Council would have been like Qui-Gon. But the majority of them are basically stuck up in their ivory tower. And this is the hubris that Palpatine & the dark side feed on.

    Aaaaanywaaay, I wonder what will happen next.
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020
  7. Valiowk

    Valiowk Chosen One star 6

    Apr 23, 2000
    @AzureAngel2 ! Nice to see you again! [:D] (I was gone from the JC forums and more specifically from the FanFic forums for quite long. [face_blush])

    I haven't read Preußler's Krabat before but I watched Čarodějův učeň a while ago—perhaps it was one of the Czech films you watched when growing up. ;) It is a lovely story. The English translation will go on my reading list. :) I also love old Russian and Czech fairy tale films. They are worth watching no matter what culture one grew up in, to see excellent storytelling and film-making.

    (Apologies for temporarily going totally off-topic in this thread! [face_blush] )
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2020
  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for commenting! I always appreciate your kind words:D I am so flattered that you find my updates always worth the wait, though I do feel guilty when I make readers wait too long. I really enjoyed writing this conversation between Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon so I'm so happy to hear that you appreciated the tone of it with the mix of personal and abstract philosophy about responsibility and feeling repressed by rules. I found Obi-Wan's reflections on home, memory, and attachment very poignant as I wrote them, so it is great to hear those passages so moving. You're right that Qui-Gon is probing in a gentle way but Obi-Wan is not yet ready to share and will have to work through some tangled emotions first, but this conversation might come up again before the mission is over! ;)

    @Kahara As always, thank you so much for commenting! :) I'm glad that you found that very fitting for a teenage Obi-Wan. I agree that things should get interesting once they reach the family out on the steppes, and more about why the parents seemed anxious should become more clear as we learn more about the family and the community in which they live. You're right that it can be easy for people living in rural areas to be labeled with a host of unfair and unflattering traits but at the same time there can sometimes be smoke under the fire...Obi-Wan's internal conflict about his memories of home was very moving for me to write so I'm happy to hear that it resonated and connected with you as well. I agree that in this case Obi-Wan's memories helped him hold onto his mind and his fundamental identity as a person (a positive), but you are so right that it is one hundred percent Obi-Wan to worry about that. I think you're right that right now Obi-Wan wants to keep things to himself and puzzle them out a bit on his own but by the end of the story he might be confiding more in Qui-Gon not that I want to spoiler anything...

    @Valiowk As always, thank you so much for commenting! :)I agree that Obi-Wan is probably worrying about nothing when it comes to the accent, but I imagine Obi-Wan as the type who would worry about nothing from time to time, and I think unfortunately it is fairly common for people to feel self-conscious about accents even when there is no need for it. A little detail that always struck me as interesting from the Jedi Apprentice books was the fact that the stone Qui-Gon gave Obi-Wan was from Qui-Gon's homeplanet so I couldn't resist integrating that into this story, and I'm so glad you appreciated that decision. Oh, and I absolutely agree that one of the benefits of travel is broadening perspective.

    @earlybird-obi-wan Thank you so much for commenting! :) I really enjoyed writing the discussion of home worlds so I'm so happy to hear that was a highlight for you, and I agree that Obi-Wan's emotions are part of what makes him human and character I enjoy writing about in fanfic.

    @AzureAngel2 Thank you so much for commenting as always! :) I'm super impressed by your reading marathon. Using Russia as inspiration for this story has been very rewarding. I do find Russia very fascinating so it has been fun to have an excuse to delve into those aspects of Russia I find so interesting and then to add a Star Wars, science-fiction type twist.

    I'm so glad that you liked the name of Yekaterinbirisk, since coming up with the city name by combining the names of real Russian cities was a very enjoyable part of writing this story for me.

    That is a crazy personal fact that you could've ended up being raised in Russia rather than Germany. History can work in incredible and mysterious ways.

    Historical and geopolitical documentaries on Russia are fascinating. I enjoy those and books about Russia's history and culture.

    Thanks for the book recommendation! I'll have to check that out at some point.

    Exploring new planets with Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon is always fun for me, so I'm glad that you're enjoying the journey with them and with me. I agree that travel makes one clever and so it is good that Obi-Wan travel despite his dislike of flying. I think even Obi-Wan deep down knows that even if he enjoys griping about flying too much to stop. [face_laugh]

    I agree that Qui-Gon is good at opening new horizons for Obi-Wan and still keeping his perspective open. In that way, he is a great mentor to Obi-Wan I think.

    Hopefully you'll continue to be intrigued by this story as it continues!
  9. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    Author's Note: Some more breadcrumbs laid in this chapter. Next chapter we will finally meet the family, I promise.

    A Crime against Nature

    Creativity seemed to be in as short supply on the steppes as it had been at the spaceport. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon stopped for the night at a wayside inn in the middle of a ramshackle town that appeared slightly less ramshackle than the others they had passed on their long journey across the kilometers of open, windy land that made up the steppes. A rather rotted plank outside the inn’s door proclaimed the establishment was Sveta’s Inn.

    Upon entering the inn, Obi-Wan noticed immediately that Sveta or whoever was in charge of the decor had an obsession with carpets. Thick carpets covered the floor and didn’t stop there, climbing the walls and plastering them so thoroughly that Obi-Wan couldn’t see if the wall was made of native stone or wood. The sheer volume of carpet was so overwhelming that he couldn’t help but mutter to Qui-Gon, “The carpet factory just commed and wanted their entire warehouse back.”

    Before Qui-Gon could reply a plump blonde woman with a stained apron tied around her waist emerged from what Obi-Wan suspected was the kitchen to greet them.

    “You’re the lady who runs this inn, I take it?” Qui-Gon asked as the woman studied them with a wariness Obi-Wan thought strange from someone ostensibly welcoming guests.

    “That’s me, Sveta.” Sveta gave a short nod. “We don’t get many outsiders passing through this inn. Mainly steppe farmers coming through on their way to or from the city to buy supplies.”

    “We’re visiting a family of steppe farmers.” Qui-Gon smiled in the face of her suspicion. “The Komovs.”

    “Ah, I know the Komovs. You must be visiting family for the harvest festival.” Sveta returned Qui-Gon’s smile, plainly pleased that she had now found a neat box to shove them into in her mind. “Well, will it be one room or two?”

    “One if a room with two sleep couches is available,” answered Qui-Gon, not bothering to correct her false assumption. “Two otherwise.”

    “A room with two sleep couches is available.” Sveta reached into her dress pocket, withdrew a ring of keys, slipped one of, and handed it to Qui-Gon. Jerking her chin at a wooden staircase with a crooked banister, she explained, “This will open the third door to your left upstairs. That’ll be your room for tonight. Dinner is served down here in the common area if you want something to eat after carrying your bags upstairs.”

    Resigned to the lack of a turbolift, Obi-Wan slung his duffel over his shoulder and followed his Master up the flight of steps that creaked a protest every time a foot was set upon them. As soon as Sveta was out of earshot, Obi-Wan observed under his breath, “This is definitely a no-frills establishment.”

    This earned him a snort from Qui-Gon but no other response as they continued to climb the stairs to the second floor. Once they reached the top of the steps, they walked down the—thickly carpeted, of course—hallway to the third door on their left, which Qui-Gon unlocked with some difficulty as the lock on the door seemed as old as the creaking staircase and the crooked banister.

    When Qui-Gon opened the door, Obi-Wan saw that Sveta’s decision to decorate the walls with carpets had—perhaps unsurprisingly—carried over to this room from the common area. Dumping his duffel onto his sleep couch, he commented archly, “Guess Sveta has confused carpeting with wallpaper.”

    “The carpets must be intended to function like tapestries, I suppose.” Qui-Gon spared a glance for the carpets on the wall as he deposited his duffel bag on his sleep couch as well. “They provide decoration and insulation. I imagine we’ll be grateful enough for the insulation the carpets provide when the winds howl tonight.”

    Obi-Wan thought that carpets wouldn’t be necessary to provide if the inn’s walls were in a better state of repair rather than on the verge of collapse but decided against sharing this notion aloud with his Master. Qui-Gon already harbored the misconception that was he complained about everything in typical teenage fashion, which was blatantly and insultingly untrue. He only complained about most things…

    “Let’s go downstairs and eat, shall we?” Qui-Gon suggested, and Obi-Wan found this such a good idea that he didn’t need telling twice.

    They returned to the common area, where they joined an assembly of what appeared to be steppe farmers and their sons in coveralls that had been patched many times at one large, long table. At the head of the table, a holoscreen was tuned to what Obi-Wan had the impression was a rambling religious leader, but Obi-Wan’s attention was drawn away from the holoscreen by Sveta piling his and Qui-Gon’s plates with heaping helpings of steaming, doughy dumplings.

    Thanking Sveta, Obi-Wan tucked into his platter of dumplings with the gusto that could only come from a long day’s traveling and discovered to his delight that they were filled with spiced meat. He devoured dumpling after dumpling and was halfway finished with the generous serving Sveta had given him before his focus began to drift toward the holoscreen at the head of the table.

    “It’s a blasphemy against our fertility goddess, Masha, and our god of the harvest, Vlad, when anyone abandons are steppes.” The religious leader, standing at a pulpit, clenched a fist and shook it to emphasize this fervent point of doctrine. “We live by the bounty that grows from the ground, we pour our sweat into this sacred soil, and when we die, we are blessed to return to this holy ground—to become the fertile ground to feed future generations. It’s a crime against nature for any of us to abandon these steppes on which we are born, on which we live, and on which we die only to be reborn out of as sustenance for our children. This sacred cycle must never be interrupted by the tempting glamor of the city.”

    Obi-Wan’s fork clattered to his plate, falling out of suddenly shaking fingers, as his stomach tightened and twisted into knots. In his experience, whenever beings began working themselves into a lather about crimes against nature, killing in an attempt to preserve what was deemed to be the natural order of things was never far behind…People, he thought as his blood went cold as a steppe wind, were always very eager to make extinct any life that they could be convinced had a committed a crime against nature…

    His appetite gone, Obi-Wan rose, muttering to Qui-Gon something vague about going up to sleep. As he stood from the bench, he barely avoided banging into Sveta, who had been about to load his dish with a gigantic spoonful of mashed root vegetable and eyed his left-behind meal with a frown as she asked, “Why are you dashing away without finishing my food?”

    Remembering a caution in the research Jocasta Nu had sent them about how the only acceptable reason for not eating to the bursting point whatever was served by a Ruushan hostess was some sort of physical ailment, Obi-Wan answered, not exactly lying, “I’m afraid I don’t feel well.”

    “You must have caught a chill riding over the steppes.” Sveta stared into his face with a concerned concentration as if she could diagnose his health problem just by looking at him. Flicking a scolding glance in Qui-Gon’s direction, she added, “You let your boy get too cold, and now he’s taken ill.”

    “I had a thermal blanket on me.” Obi-Wan was quick to defend his Master from this implication of negligence.

    “You obviously needed two on you.” Sveta clucked her tongue. “Well, you should go rest. I’ll send a cup of tea up to you.”

    She hurried off, doubtlessly to prepare his tea as promised. As Obi-Wan headed toward the staircase, Qui-Gon joined him, remarking dryly, “I better come up with you, or our hostess will worry I truly neglect you.”

    “It’s a crime against nature to leave the steppes, the religious leader on the holoscreen claimed.” The words burst from Obi-Wan like a torrent once they had climbed the stairs, reached their room, and shut the door behind them. He felt sick wondering if children were being killed—or sacrificed—if they tried to leave the steppes. “People are quick to kill those they believe have committed a crime against nature, aren’t they?”

    “Sometimes and sometimes not.” Qui-Gon stroked his beard. “Ruushans love children. You saw that with Sveta downstairs. She was so quick to promise to bring you up a cup of tea because she thought you had taken a cold riding across the steppes today. Does she seem like the sort of woman who would countenance the murder of children to you, Obi-Wan?”

    “Spurned love can easily darken into hatred.” That was Jedi teaching, Obi-Wan thought, feeling as if ashes coated his mouth. Attachment was forbidden precisely because it could so easily be corrupted into fear, anger, and hatred, a Light emotion poisoned into something perverted that destroyed everything and everyone it came into contact with until the flames finally burned themselves into oblivion. “It’s a short trip from suffocating love to outright suffocating, Master.”

    Before Qui-Gon could reply, a knock came on the door. Qui-Gon opened it to reveal Sveta bearing a teacup on a tiny platter with a yellow citrus fruit of some sort wrapped around the teacup’s chipped rim.

    “Thank you.” Qui-Gon took the teacup and platter from Sveta, passing it along to Obi-Wan.

    When the door closed behind her again, Obi-Wan wrinkled his nose at the citrus fruit. Dubiously, he demanded, “Am I supposed to squeeze that into my tea?”

    “I believe so.” Qui-Gon cracked a grin. “The health benefits of citrus fruit are myriad, Padawan, and it is the Ruushan custom. Drink up.”

    Not over his skepticism, Obi-Wan squeezed the citrus fruit into his tea and took a tentative sip, which he nearly spluttered out onto the room’s many carpets. The citrus fruit made the tea so bitter, and as he coughed, he thought that if he hadn’t been sick before the tea, he would certainly be sick after it.

    “Speaking of crimes against nature, that’s a crime against nature.” Obi-Wan scowled at the tea and citrus fruit that had combined to cause him so much distress.

    “Ah.” Qui-Gon’s grin grew, and Obi-Wan had an eye-narrowing theory that his Master had forced him to drink the tea with the fruit to prove a point as Qui-Gon went on, “But not one you’d consider killing anyone for, I trust?”

    “Don’t tempt me.” Tartly unwilling to concede the argument, Obi-Wan extended the teacup toward his Master. “Do you want to finish the cup, Master?”

    “Not at all.” Qui-Gon chuckled. “I’ll leave it all for you to enjoy, my young apprentice.”
  10. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] I love Obi-Wan's commentary on the inn's décor etc. ;) :eek: That inflammatory speech about crimes against nature is a thinly veiled "threat" not to leave the steppes. [face_worried] No wonder Obi-Wan's considerable appetite (thankfully with hearty tasty food to satisfy it), was quelled.
  11. Valiowk

    Valiowk Chosen One star 6

    Apr 23, 2000
    [face_rofl] //Imagines how a turbolift would ruin the look of a country house, if that's how we're supposed to imagine the inn. Besides, I always got the feeling that Jedi travelled light, so Obi-Wan can certainly afford to walk up one storey. ;)

    I love how you've introduced the idea of a people who are bound to their land, in a galaxy where travelling to another planet is as common as taking a bus is on earth. I remember reading a Lord of the Rings fan fiction story that went with the interpretation that Beregond was exiled from Minas Tirith so that there was a punishment for breaking forbidden laws, but Aragorn gave Beregond a post that he would be happy in and would mitigate the impact of exile as far as possible, to the extent that it seems like a reward with a negligible penalty. The author made the point that to many of us in present times who are used to travelling to faraway cities in a matter of hours and moving house every few years, such a punishment seems negligible in comparison with the opportunities offered, but to people of that day and age, the large majority of whom were born, grew up, lived out their lives and died in the same city, this had a much greater significance. So I can imagine how primitive this religious leader's words must seem to Obi-Wan. I'm curious to know if there is some historical background behind it and how the Jedi will get around the matter eventually.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2020
  12. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Chosen One star 6

    Aug 21, 2006
    religious leaders, always wanting the BEST or not
  13. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting!:) I'm so glad that you were amused by Obi-Wan's commentary on the inn's decor. I do imagine Obi-Wan as someone who's almost always good from some amusing commentary on anything. I think you're right that the inflammatory words were definitely a perhaps not-so-thinly veiled threat not to leave the steppes, and I could totally understand Obi-Wan's appetite being quelled by those words. The no leaving the steppes policy will likely continue to be very important in future chapters.

    @Valiowk Thank you so much for commenting!:) Yes, I think that a turbolift would ruin the rustic nature of the inn (I definitely pictured the inn as a rustic type place) and I think Obi-Wan can afford to walk up one story, ha ha.

    Travel in the galaxy far, far away is interesting to think about, since while interstellar travel at lightspeed would make traveling from planet to planet something that doesn't take lifetimes to accomplish, it does seem like not everyone does it. Like I wouldn't be surprised to hear if Beru and Owen had never left Tatooine in their lives and thought of interstellar travel as a sort of abstract thing that other people did and that Owen even thought of as being dangerous and sort of tried to dissuade Luke from doing. So I guess I suppose while some people like Jedi and galactic politicians or important business people might do it all the time, others might only do it more rarely and others might never do it at all. Similar perhaps to on our own world there are people who have never traveled outside their countries despite the fact that we can fly around the world much quicker than past generations would've believed possible, and within the United States, for example, there are even some people who have never left their own state or never seen an ocean, while others in the United States might see an ocean every summer or every day and might travel into a different state every day for work and just see it as a normal commute. I guess the more I travel, the more I realize how different traveling itself is from place to place even within the same country.

    I agree that to Obi-Wan the perspective of the religious leaders must seem very primitive and probably very provincial-minded as well. To a Jedi who travels all the time and is very familiar with a broader galaxy, a narrower perspective rooted in one part of one planet would seem very limiting indeed. And I think it would be especially off-putting for Obi-Wan since it doesn't seem to just be advocated as a personal matter of choice but as a matter of sort of collective policy for everyone to adhere to potentially without much choice or consent, and the lack of choice or consent is arguably more disturbing than anything else.

    I always think that everyone who does anything probably has a reason why they are doing that particular thing whether it be a good or valid reason or not, so I hope to explore a bit more in future chapters the reason why this sort of philosophy developed apart from them just being isolated from much of galactic civilization on the harsh steppes.

    @earlybird-obi-wan Thank you so much for commenting! :) I'm willing to give the religious leaders in this story the benefit of the doubt in assuming that they do want what's best but they have gotten very muddled and misguided about what is best and even worse they are making the mistake of thinking they should be able to force what they have decided is "best" on everyone rather than giving everybody free will and independent choice to decide individually what is "best." I think the biggest danger always come when people appoint for themselves the right to wholesale decide and force on others what is arbitrarily decided to be "best." So, that is usually the perspective that I try to bring to my writing, but of course, individual readers can have their own ideas and interpretations as well. Ultimately that is only my perspective that can't and shouldn't be forced on anyone. It is just the one that shapes my writing.
  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman The Fanfic Mod in Pink star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    All right, I’m caught up now—please forgive me for being so tardy and almost missing these two wonderful new chapters! “Across the Steppes” was a nice interlude with some reflections on the pluses and minuses of remembering what home was like, especially for Jedi, given that they’re sworn not to be attached to such things. I don’t know if it’s established or not that Obi was taken from home at 3, but I like the idea, and it definitely gives him a perspective that most other Jedi—who tend to be taken from their families as babies and thus never get any memories of home to begin with. As Obi very rightly muses, it’s an open question as to whether that’s a good thing, or not so good, or somewhere in the middle—and of course it has definite implications for little Vasilisa, especially given the kind of homeworld she’s grown up in so far. All that said, though, I’m somehow not surprised that Qui-Gon skirted the rules and did a little research of his own! :D

    Then we get our very fascinating first glimpse of one of the villages out in the steppes. I’m very intrigued by the carpeted walls; I too suspect that there’s more behind that than just keeping the place insulated! And I share Obi-Wan’s Very Bad Feeling about the religious leader’s holovid speech, especially coming so soon after the two Jedis’ ruminations on what it is to remember one’s home. It looks like the attitude out here in the steppes is the complete opposite of that of the Jedi Order: the steppe dwellers are enjoined to be completely attached to where they live, so much so that even temporarily leaving the steppes is considered a “crime against nature.” I’m starting to see why the Komovs were so nervous about contacting the Jedi to come evaluate Vasilisa: if the Jedi take her, they may face some very serious opposition, to put it lightly! I hope they tread carefully—though I know that whatever happens, their witty repartee and collegial banter will definitely help sustain them :D Mighty fine work once again, and I’m much looking forward to seeing what will happen next! :)
  15. Valiowk

    Valiowk Chosen One star 6

    Apr 23, 2000
  16. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Findswoman Thank you so much for your thoughtful and lovely comment![:D]Please don't apologize for the time it took you to catch up, and instead accept my apology for my delayed response to your review. I'm so flattered that you found the past two chapters wonderful, and I hope that you'll feel the same way about the next chapter when I get around to posting and writing it (which I will try to do as soon as possible since I'm starting to feel badly about neglecting this story again...).

    As a writer, I really enjoyed the interlude and opportunity for reflection that "Across the Steppes" provided, because really one of the best things about a long journey is a chance to reflect upon things. It was interesting for me as well as for Obi-Wan to consider the pluses and minuses of remembering home especially in the context of being a Jedi. One of the intriguing details from the Jedi Apprentice books for me was that Obi-Wan seemed to have some memories of home that he wanted to hold onto, so I decided to give him a bit of backstory where he would remember his home a little bit but not too much. I sort of like the idea of leaving it a bit of an open question about whether it is a good, bad, or both good and bad thing for a Jedi to remember his home. And I do think for Vasilisa this will be an interesting question with interesting implications to consider especially as the Jedi meet her family which will happen next chapter (I promise).

    I hope to provide some more fascinating glimpses of village life out on the steppes in the next chapter and to maybe provide some more socio-cultural background for the religious leader's words and beliefs at least if all goes according to plan and outline. In some ways, this story for me has evolved to be all about home and what it means to be attached to home--to be very rooted in a particular place or piece of ground. The steppe dwellers are very attached to the land that sustains them to the point of regarding the act of leaving the steppes by those who were born there as a "crime against nature," but at the same time there is perhaps something understandable about yearning for that sense of deep connection to a particular place and maybe the whole history of those who inhabited the land in the past. In a positive way, the connection can be almost transcendent, but in a negative way it can be almost oppressive. Really I think the feeling of being rooted in a particular place is fine as long as it is voluntary. When it is forced on somebody by someone else, that is where I think it can become very problematic and twisted. As it so often is, for me I think it is a matter of choice. Being able to choose to leave or to stay. But then in a way Vasilisa can't make the choice for herself. Her parents must make it for her as she is a baby.

    Vasilisa's parents definitely faced a difficult decision in contacting the Jedi to come evaluate her potential to train as a Jedi, since they will no doubt face opposition for that close to home, and even more opposition if they do consent to allowing Vasilisa to leave to train as a Jedi. It'll be a very difficult choice facing them in the upcoming chapters with many things for them to weigh, but I do think it must have taken incredible courage for them to even conquer the fear of reaching out to the Jedi with regard to Vasilisa being Force-Sensitive.

    I do think that our Jedi will be relying on their wits and their witty repartee to sustain them in the face of any opposition they encounter. They will have to be careful on the steppes, because things should get even more interesting next chapter (which I will really try to post soon...)

    Thank you again for the thoughtful comment, and I hope you don't mind my rambling[face_blush]
    AzureAngel2, Kahara, Valiowk and 2 others like this.
  17. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    Author's Note: Apologies again for the long delay in updating. I will try to do better in June, I promise...

    Unwelcome Outsiders

    The sun was beginning to inch toward sunset in the great open sky of the steppes as Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon’s speeder approached the Komov farm, which seemed fairly typical of the hinterland homesteads they had seen fly past on their journey across the steppes. A crumbling wooden barn and house were dwarfed by a field of golden grain.

    When Qui-Gon landed the speeder, a man Obi-Wan recognized from the holomessage sent to the Temple to request a Jedi evaluation of Vasilisa approached with one arm each draped around the shoulder of two boys Obi-Wan suspected were his sons. Both the farmer and his sons wore dark, austere clothes in plain styles and thick fabrics not doubt intended to soften the harsh winds of the steppes.

    “I’m Nikolai Komov,” the man greeted the Jedi as they climbed out of their rented landspeeder. Gesturing at first the taller and then the shorter of his two sons, he went on, “My boy Slava—he’s twelve—and my other boy Misha—he’s six. You must be the Jedi sent to inspect our baby Vasilisa.”

    “I’m Qui-Gon Jinn, and this is my apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi.” Qui-Gon bowed, and Obi-Wan copied him. “We are indeed here to evaluate Vasilisa’s potential to serve as a Jedi.”

    “Vasilisa’s inside. We should head there.” Nikolai spun on his heel, and, along with his two sons, began to lead the Jedi through the grain field toward the tiny wooden house. As they approached the house, Obi-Wan saw a pump that filled him with trepidation as it proclaimed a distinct lack of running water in this village.

    As if to underscore this lack of running water in this village, on their way to the house, they passed an outbuilding out of which the never ceasing wind carried the unmistakable, fetid stench of human waste. Obi-Wan had to fight the urge to crinkle up his nose at the foul smell as such a facial expression of disgust would be undiplomatic and unbefitting of a Jedi—even one in training who might be forgiven the occasional lapse in proper manners.

    Fortunately for Obi-Wan, when they entered the house itself, its odor was far more appealing. The aroma of baking bread and cooking meat came from a small room connected to the main one. This main one was simply furnished with a table and chairs carved from wood, and, at the far end, a ladder that led up to a loft. What was in the loft was concealed by a curtain, but behind the curtain, Obi-Wan expected the family’s beds could be found.

    By the warmth of a cackling orange-yellow fire in the hearth, a girl who appeared to be about eight hunched over a woven basket that must have contained the baby Vasilisa if the manner in which she was crooning folk songs to it was any indication. A man with a wrinkled face and balding hair that had long gone to gray rocked in a wooden chair behind them, but when the man’s squinting eyes noticed the strange figures of the two Jedi crossing the threshold, the creaking of his rocking chair abruptly faded.

    With a scowl that was the opposite of welcoming, he rose from his chair and hobbled toward the Jedi with a cane clenched between his gnarled fingers. “Who are these people, Nikolai?” demanded the old man, waving his cane at the Jedi in a fashion Obi-Wan could only describe as accusatory.

    “This is my honored father, Evgeny,” Nikolai’s almost apologetic words were addressed to the Jedi, and Obi-Wan felt a shiver spike up his spine as he realized that Nikolai wasn’t the head of the household according to Ruushan culture and custom as they had assumed when he and his wife had contacted the Jedi. His aged father was, and Evgeny seemed hostile to the Jedi. It didn’t require a large leap in logic to figure out that Evgeny would doubtlessly be opposed to the Jedi testing Vasilisa nonetheless taking her away to be trained by the Order. Obi-Wan could sense the distrust of outsiders clinging to Evgeny like a cape along with a deep attachment to the land that Obi-Wan couldn’t understand because it wasn’t as if the tenant farmers truly owned the ground on which they toiled—the noble landowners did. “My wife Alyona and I care for him in his old age.”

    “I’m not in my dotage yet.” Evgeny rapped his son’s ankles irascibly with his cane. “I know who I am. I’m asking who these unwelcome outsiders who disturb the peace of my household are and what their business is with us.”

    “They aren’t outsiders but guests.” It was Alyona, stepping into the main room from the kitchen with an apron smudged with the flour from the bread she was baking tied about her waist, who answered rather than her husband. “Nikolai and I invited the Jedi here to inspect Vasilisa and her strange powers.”

    “You had no right to invite guests into this house without my permission.” Evgeny’s cane pounded the floor in emphatic punctuation. “Why would the Jedi need to inspect Vasilisa anyway? So they can kidnap her as their Order is known to do.”

    “Jedi do not kidnap children.” Qui-Gon’s voice was calm, quiet, and firm but devoid of offense. “Jedi only take children to train at our Temple with the informed consent of their parents, and parents are not to be rushed in their decision to give their child to the Temple but rather offered all the time they need for reflection.”

    “There’s no need for reflection here,” snapped Evgeny, glaring at first Qui-Gon and then his son and daughter-in-law. “Vasilisa will never dishonor the land that created and sustained her by abandoning it. She will care for it all her life until she dies in this village and returns to fertilize the ground that fed her. That is her duty and her destiny as it is the duty and destiny of all who are born on these steppes. It would be a crime against nature to take her away from this land—her land.”

    “It might be a crime against her nature not to let her train as a Jedi if she has the talent for it.” Nikolai sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose.

    “The nature of every child is different. I’ve felt that as a mother of five children.” Alyona’s hands seemed to fold unconsciously over the womb where she had carried her five children. “It could be Vasilisa’s nature to live as a Jedi, not on these steppes.”

    “Heresy!” Evgeny’s cane stabbed through the air in condemnation. “Blasphemy against the goddess Masha and the god Vlad! If Vasilisa leaves these steppes, she denies them and the nature and purpose for which they formed her. They will repudiate her and never allow her to return to the fertile ground from which she came.”

    This rant left Obi-Wan in no doubt that Evgeny was a subscriber to the same religion he had heard promoted in the inn where any desire to leave the steppes was regarded as a crime against nature. He felt cold sweat begin to seep out of the skin on his back, and he wasn’t the only one distraught by Evgeny’s tirade as Vasilisa burst into tears in her basket.

    The girl who was tending her slipped her out of the basket in a bundle of blankets, smoothing her hair and smothering her cheeks with kisses until her sobs subsided into hiccups. Watching the baby as her big sister soothed her, Obi-Wan wondered if Vasilisa’s distress had stemmed entirely from the shouting or if some tremor in the Force had upset her.

    It would be impossible to know without a formal evaluation, and it was Jedi policy that such a formal evaluation only take place in the presence of the parents, who would then be able to ask all their questions about the Jedi lifestyle in private confidentiality. Evgeny, however, would surely scream in protest if he were told to be absent during such an evaluation. Another pretense for removing him from the house would have to be devised…

    Remembering the domed building in the dusty village square he and Qui-Gon had seen as they flew toward the Komov farm, Obi-Wan commented pleasantly as possible, “I think I saw a place to worship the goddess Masha and the god Vlad in the village sqaure as we traveled through it. It looked beautiful.”

    “All places of worship to Masha and Vlad are beautiful places.” Evgeny glowered at Obi-Wan as if determined to be insulted by any remark that emerged from a Jedi mouth. “They are consecrated to the god and the goddess, and that is what makes them beautiful and holy places. I wouldn’t expect an outsider to understand this.”

    “I would be eager to learn more about the teaching Masha and Vlad.” Obi-Wan inclined his head, discovering as he spoke that this wasn’t a lie. He truly was curious to learn more about the teachings of Masha and Vlad not because he would ever become a devotee of this religion, but because he sensed that an understanding of the dogmas of this particular faith would be essential for the successful completion of this mission. “Perhaps a tour of the place where they are worshipped would increase my knowledge of Masha and Vlad.”

    “You want me to give you this tour?” Evgeny’s hard eyes were narrow with suspicion.

    “You seem the most knowledgable in the faith.” Obi-Wan kept his head lowered in humble deference to Evgeny’s extensive understanding of religion.

    “It is the teaching of Masha and Vlad that nobody’s questions about the faith should go unanswered.” Evgeny’s lips were thin. “I will show you where we worship the god and goddess, but if you disrespect them, I’ll remove you from sacred ground in an instant.”

    Evgeny lifted his cane to emphasize this threat.

    “I would never disrespect the god and goddess.” Obi-Wan bowed to Evgeny and allowed the older, irritable man to lead him from the house, confident that Qui-Gon would take advantage of Evgeny’s absence to test Vasilisa and speak privately to her parents about what it meant to walk the Jedi path.
    Last edited: May 23, 2020
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    You set a very vivid picture of the scene, the home and the family, with the scent of yummy home cooking, the older sister lovingly tending the baby, and the complicated and volatile situation as Evgeny apparently is the patriarch of the family and would have a decisive if not final veto in the matter of Vasilissa's testing.

    Obi-Wan handled the situation with marvelous tact and discretion in order to keep the situation from blowing up and also to allow Qui-Gon to speak privately with the parents and test Vasilissa.

    It also allows him a unique opportunity to learn about this culture. [face_thinking]

    As to the belief that Jedi kidnap children, I bet in isolated worlds that is a common misperception. It would be a grave disservice and might even be dangerous to leave any Force sensitive youngling untrained, however. [face_thinking]

  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman The Fanfic Mod in Pink star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Feb 27, 2014
    Ah ha, I think I now see why Nikolai and Alyona were so cautious and scared when they first contacted the Jedi—it was Evgeny whose notice they were trying to avoid! He sounds like he could be trouble for Qui and Obi’s mission given that he’s basically the person in charge in the Komov family. Obi-Wan’s tactic of trying to find out more about the local religion is a good one, and very Obi-Wan in its diplomacy—he does have a motive in mind, but his curiosity is also perfectly genuine and could lead to some important answers. I wonder what Qui-Gon will find as he looks at baby Vasilisa, too; I suspect the very nature of Force sensitivity could be different here from most other places.

    Also, just noticing: the Komovs mentioned five children, but so far I’ve only counted four: Vasilisa, a big sister, and two big brothers. Have I just missed someone, or is there a reason that fifth sibling isn’t around...? [face_thinking]

    This continues to be super intriguing—keep it coming! So glad this was one of your sign-ups for WIP Month. :D
  20. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting!:) I'm so happy that you felt I was able to set a very vivid scene with the home and the family with the yummy smell of home cooking. In future chapters, we'll get a chance to get to know the family and their home even better. I agree that the situation is definitely very volatile and complicated with Evgeny being the patriarch of the family who is hostile to Vasilisa's testing.

    You're right that Obi-Wan did handle the situation with marvelous tact and discretion to prevent a blowup, and I think this mission will continue to test the diplomatic skills of the Jedi, and I believe that Qui-Gon will take advantage of the opportunity to test Vasilisa and speak with her parents.

    And Obi-Wan will get another glimpse into the local culture in the next chapter, which could also provide useful knowledge and insights for the mission as it progresses.

    Yeah, I think in more isolated areas of the Republic, their might be the mistaken belief that the Jedi kidnap children, but really the Jedi wouldn't take a child without the consent of the parents. Yet, at the same time, it would be a disservice for a Force-Sensitive child not to have the opportunity to train as a Jedi and it might even be dangerous as well for that great power and potential to go untrained as it were. So, it's going to be quite dilemma for the Jedi and the family in this story...

    @Findswoman Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment!:) Yes, I think Nikolai and Alyona were so cautious about contacting the Jedi because they were trying to avoid Evgeny's notice. Evgeny could definitely be trouble for Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon's mission, especially in upcoming chapters as he continues to find ways to resist the Jedi and their mission.

    I agree that Obi-Wan's tactic of trying to find out more about the local religion is a good one that could provide him with important insights and knowledge for the mission. I also enjoyed having an opportunity to showcase how Obi-Wan is learning and honing the diplomatic skills he'd one day become known for possessing, and I do think there is something genuine about his curiosity. That he does want to understand these sort of mysteries as he encounters them.

    Good observation about the Komovs and their children. They do indeed have five children, and Vasilisa has two older sisters, not just one, but the other older sister has yet to make her appearance. I do promise that we will meet Vasilisa's other older sister, however, and get a chance to know her as well.

    I'm so glad that you find this story intriguing, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy it, and that I can continue to make progress on it in June:D
  21. teamhansolo

    teamhansolo Jedi Master star 4

    Jun 25, 2018
    I just read through the whole story so far and it's truly Incredible! Your interpretation of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's relationship is just perfect. [face_laugh]
  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Chosen One star 8

    Aug 31, 2004
    A MARATHON READ! [face_dancing] [face_dancing] Awesomeness!
  23. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @teamhansolo Thank you so much for reading and commenting, and I'm super impressed that you read the whole story so far in one sitting=D= There can really be no higher compliment than that for me as a writer, and I'm so flattered that you've found the story incredible so far and that you think my interpretation of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's relationship is just perfect because I really love that Master and Padawan duo. I hope that you'll continue to enjoy the story and my depiction of Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan's relationship! Thank you again for reading and commenting:D
  24. Valiowk

    Valiowk Chosen One star 6

    Apr 23, 2000
    And thus does Obi-Wan take his first steps towards becoming a consummate negotiator and diplomat. :) He is maturing and learning how not to react almost instinctively to displeasing situations, but instead figuring out how to make the best of things in the medium term.
  25. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Fantastically Fiendish Fanfic Manager star 5 Staff Member Manager

    Jun 19, 2019
    @Valiowk Thank you so much for commenting, and sorry for taking so long to respond. I agree that Obi-Wan is taking his first steps toward becoming a consummate negotiator and diplomat, showing how he is growing in maturity. I hope you'll continue to enjoy the story as it progresses in this next chapter:)

    Dark Mirrors and Ugly Opposites

    With some grumbling about how his creaking old knees protested walking, Evgeny led Obi-Wan along the dusty, dirty street from the Komov homestead to what passed for the village square at the center of which was one of the distinctive domed buildings used for worship on Ruusha. Unsurprisingly, the structure the village had devoted to worship had a far less impressive exterior than the gilded domes Obi-Wan had seen from the air as he and Qui-Gon flew into the Yekaterinbirsk spaceport.

    Nothing gilt sparkled against the sky on this village’s dome, Obi-Wan noted as he and Evgeny stepped into the dim interior of the place of worship. Evgeny dumped some small credits from his pocket into a collection bin by the door and then grabbed a handful of matches, which he used to light candles along the walls.

    In the flickering candlelight, Obi-Wan could see the rustic beauty of this place of worship. Wooden icons and illustrations had been carved into the walls surrounding him and painted with colors that must have come from local plants. The play of light and dark on these figures and pictures made them come to life in Obi-Wan’s eyes.

    Wanting to look closer at these icons, Obi-Wan approached the largest picture of what appeared to be a man lying in deep, dark dirt with golden grain sprouting from his body. Blood seemed to be seeping from his body into the soil, but he was wearing a serene smile as if he were sacrificing himself for some greater good that would emerge from his suffering. Over his body, a woman wept, and where her tears fell, more plants appeared to grow from the soil as if her grief were fertilizer.

    “That is a depiction of Vlad’s sacrifice and Masha’s lament.” Evgeny’s footsteps echoed to the domed ceiling as he made a slow progress to join Obi-Wan. “Vlad was the leader of the first settlers of the Ruushan steppes. When Vlad saw how infertile the soil of the steppes was and understood how many would die if the harsh ground could not be made to yield a decent harvest, he ordered that he must be made a sacrifice for his people. He arranged for himself to be brought to a field with grand ceremony and then to have his throat slit like an animal raised for the slaughter. He smiled as he was slaughtered for he knew that this was the greatest gift he could give to those settlers who had followed him to the steppes, and that smile stayed on his face as he was buried in the field as he had commanded before his sacrifice. His wife Masha, being distraught at his death, wept over his grave, and where her tears fell, plants sprang to life, while from Vlad’s dead body, golden grain sprang. That is why Vlad to this day is our god of the harvest, and Masha is our goddess of fertility. That is also why we steppe dwellers know in our blood and bones—in our very souls—that there is no life without death and no sacrifice without grief.”

    “Do you”—Obi-Wan coughed to clear a lump from his throat—“engage in ritualistic sacrifice at the harvest festival to recreate and commemorate Vlad’s sacrifice?”

    “Once we used to recreate and commemorate Vlad’s sacrifice with a villager chosen at random by lots, but now we only use animals raised for the slaughter to recreate and commemorate Vlad’s sacrifice.” Evgeny’s face was tight in the candlelight. “Long ago, the tzars outlawed human sacrifice, but I imagine city dwellers still spread that rumor that we engage in human sacrifice to malign the steppes. The city dwellers hate what they don’t understand because they’ve never lived on the steppes.”

    Obi-Wan should have felt reassured at the revelation that human sacrifice had been outlawed long ago on Ruusha, but he couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that something was very wrong and twisted about what Evgeny was describing about faith on the steppes. Struggling to articulate what he found so perverse, he ventured at last, “You wish to recreate and commemorate Vlad’s sacrifice at the harvest festival, but Vlad chose to sacrifice himself for his people. He choose to sacrifice other creatures—human or animal—and he didn’t order that they be killed in his honor.”

    “You’re an outlander.” A door seemed to slam shut in Evgeny’s face as he turned from Obi-Wan in a huff and stumped away with a gait made stiff and jolting by troublesome knees. “I wouldn’t expect you to understand sacrifice and honor. It was a mistake to bring you to this sacred place, which you profane with your sacrilegious questions and comments.”

    After that outburst, Evgeny remained stone-silent as he stalked back to the Komov homestead with Obi-Wan at his side. They had spent rather less time in the place of worship than Obi-Wan had wanted and he had learned less about Ruushan culture and faith than he would have liked. He supposed that meant he had to develop a stronger control over his propensity to ask questions that he considered curious but others all too often seemed to regard as offensive and cutting too close to the core. As he trudged along the dusty road, Obi-Wan could only hope that he had bought Qui-Gon enough time to evaluate Vasilisa’s Force potential and answer any inquiries her parents might have about the Jedi path.

    When he and Evgeny neared the homestead, Obi-Wan saw the distinct shape of his Master lifting an ax over his head and chopping what must have been firewood. Cocking his head, he decided that this could only mean that Qui-Gon had concluded his conversation with the Komov parents and had volunteered to help with the household chores like a good guest.

    Apparently this last thought mirrored Evgeny’s for the sour old man muttered as he disappeared into the house to bestow the warm rays of his sunny personality on other fortunate individuals, “Nice to see a guest doing something useful instead of just being the burden of an extra mouth to feed.”

    “Nice to hear him say something somewhat pleasant for a change.” Obi-Wan rolled his eyes as he joined his Master at the woodshed.

    “He’s elderly.” Qui-Gon continued to chop at his wood, unfazed by Evgeny’s perpetual cloud of irascibility. “The elderly often have aches and afflictions youth cannot understand that make the them irritable. Therefore, it is the duty of youth to be patient with the infirmities of the elderly.”

    “Master Yoda is pushing nine hundred and he’s nowhere near as irritable as Evgeny.” Obi-Wan wrinkled his nose at what would have been Qui-Gon’s surprising sympathy for Evgeny if Qui-Gon weren’t so determined to be understanding of every undeserving being he and Obi-Wan had the bad luck of encountering on their journeys across the stars.

    “Master Yoda would be the first to say that we should respect and reverence the aged, and you know it,” Qui-Gon pointed out, and, because Obi-Wan did know this, he remained quiet as Qui-Gon went on, “There’s another ax against the woodshed.”

    Taking this not so subtle hint, Obi-Wan grabbed the second ax from where it was leaning against the woodshed and began to cut wood. “Vasilisa has the Force-sensitivity to be a Jedi, doesn’t she?”

    “Yes.” Qui-Gon nodded. “And I was able to answer all the questions her parents had about the Jedi lifestyle.”

    “But they haven’t made their decision yet.” Obi-Wan tried to keep the impatience—the desire to get off this world—out of his tone, but he might not have entirely succeeded in this endeavor.

    “No, and we must be patient with them as they make this important decision about their daughter’s future.” Qui-Gon’s voice and gaze were steady.

    “Their daughter won’t have much of a future if she stays here.” Obi-Wan snorted dismissively at the farm that offered little reward for back-breaking labor. “It’d be selfish of her parents to keep her here when she could escape this place to have a more fulfilling life.”

    “She’d be with her family and connected to her land and culture if she stayed here.” Qui-Gon paused in his cutting to wipe sweat from his brow. “We can’t dismiss that life as less fulfilling, Padawan, and if her parents wish to keep her here, we can’t call that selfish.”

    “Yes, Master.” Obi-Wan wondered whether he would ever stop being shocked by how much Qui-Gon’s perspectives could differ from his own.

    “Her parents might have asked all the questions they have for me, but I suspect they might have some questions left over for you.” Qui-Gon had resumed chopping wood.

    “For me?” Obi-Wan repeated, astonished by the notion that anyone would prefer to ask questions of a Jedi Padawan rather than a Jedi Master.

    “Indeed.” There was an amused twinkle in Qui-Gon’s eyes as he nodded. “You’re young enough that I think Vasilisa’s parents will want to ask you what it’s like to be raised as a Jedi.”

    “Oh.” Obi-Wan was disconcerted by the idea of having to explain what it was like to be raised as a Jedi though he could’t pinpoint why he felt that way, another unspeakable anxiety.

    As if sensing his discomfort, Qui-Gon changed the subject.“What did you learn from your visit to the village place of worship?”

    “Not as much as I would have liked, Master,” Obi-Wan admitted, shoulders slumping between strikes of the ax. He wished that Qui-Gon hadn’t switched the topic to something he found even more discomfiting than answering questions about what it was like to grow up as a Jedi. “I went to the place of worship hoping that I would find answers to my questions about the faith and culture of the steppes, but instead I only found more questions as if each answer contained a thousand questions of its own.”

    “Then it sounds like you learned much from your visit to the village place of worship.” Qui-Gon reached out to pat Obi-Wan’s slumped shoulders. “Often asking questions is a sign of deeper learning.”

    “I hope that’s the case.” Obi-Wan sighed, and then launched into a summary of the salient details of Vlad’s sacrifice, Masha’s lament, and its recreation at the harvest festival that he had heard from Evgeny in the domed place of worship. Drawing to a finish, he couldn’t resist ending on a note of confusion, “The icons and images are so beautiful that I just don’t understand how they can inspire such ugly sacrifices as we’ve heard about happening on the steppes.”

    “The beautiful icons and images may not be created by the same people who express some of the ugly beliefs we’ve heard on the steppes.” His wood-chopping done, Qui-Gon returned his ax to the woodshed wall and stroked his beard meditatively. “Every beautiful faith can be perverted into its ugly opposite, Obi-Wan. Even the Jedi produced the Sith whose code is the dark mirror of ours.”

    At the mention of the Sith, Obi-Wan felt a shiver in his spine that was only calmed by the stern mental reminder that the Sith had been extinct for a millennium, thank the Force for its many mercies.