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Saga - OT [DDC 2018] (Not) The Ballad of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus | (OCs)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Raissa Baiard, Jul 9, 2018.

  1. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thanks to @Findswoman for helping me through my writer’s block and for beta-reading @};-

    Noemi’s Journal (It’s true, all of it!)
    10/11 3301


    You will not believe what happened last night. I’m not sure I believe half of it and I was there…

    The NLUPS production of “An Estival Solstice Reverie” is only a couple weeks away now, and we’ve been rehearsing onstage at the school every night, which isn’t so bad for the kids who live in Jogan Grove or Graylor Flats, but it’s kind of a pain in the shebs for me and Ro to have to go all the way back after our classes at the Academy and dinner and homework and everything. At this time of year, it’s kind of dark and a little chilly when we leave the Academy and really dark and pretty cold by the time we get back.

    There is one benefit to the karabastical drive, though: Ronen and I always take his jump speeder and ride double, and I might ride a just little bit closer and hold on just a little bit tighter now than I used to—not like improperly close or anything, nothing that would make Mom give me the Look, young lady, not even enough that Ronen has noticed. (Has Ro always worn cologne? Or has he started using VibroAxe lately? Because I never noticed before that his hair has this kind of herbal-citrusy scent. It’s really kind of nice, very Ro… and I feel like I’m veering dangerously close to “Dear Diary—tee hee hee!” territory here…). And, well...when we’re riding back home, and the stars are out over the plains, I can lean against him, forget about this other girl who makes him miserable, and imagine what it would be like if Ro and I were really together and not just together.

    Last night, though, there weren’t any stars and the moons were both down to thin slivers. A cold wind blew ragged wisps of clouds across them, making strange shadows across the rippling grass. Ronen hunched over the speeder’s handlebars and sped over the grassland without saying anything. His Force-presence was uneasy—if he’d been a Loth-cat, his ears would have been back and all his fur would have been standing on end, like Spots before a thunderstorm. Leaning that close to Ronen, I couldn’t help but pick up on his mood, and sense what he felt, too: a weird prickly feeling in the Force, the kind of feeling Jakspeeir would have described as “portentous”. (Do I get extra-credit for using my vocab words correctly in a sentence?)

    That same prickly, portentous feeling covered the whole Academy complex like an itchy bantha wool blanket, and I was so jittery by the time we got to Ro’s house that when Spots, who’d been waiting for me like she always did after rehearsal, jumped up onto the speeder next to me, I had to swallowed a scream so I wouldn’t wake everyone up. *Look!* Spots nudged my arm and waved her tail towards the cluster of stone mounds in the center of the courtyard.

    Something—no, someone—stood in the shadows, an ominous figure in shrouded in dark, heavy robes, the hood pulled up over his face. The wind picked up, whipping his robe into hawk-bat wings, and his hood blew off. He yanked it back into place, but not before the fitfully shifting moonlight revealed a profile with a long, straight nose and sharp chin framed by flowing dark hair...

    Ben Solo.

    He stood frozen among the rocks, like a pocket-hare that thinks it’s invisible if it only stands perfectly still. Even though I couldn’t see his face, I swear I could feel Ben glaring at me and Ro and scowling at us beneath his hood (probably with a disdainful sniff for good measure). And then, even though the clouds had finally blown away from the moons and their pale light bathed the Academy, Ben’s shape somehow got blurry, like he was a second rate holo-image instead of a real person. “What is he doing?”

    Ro glanced over to see what I was looking at, and his eyebrows shot up, almost disappearing under the fringe of his unruly brown hair. “Is that Solo?!” He shook his head in disbelief. “He’s trying to disappear, but he’s not very good at it. He might as well just wear a big neon sign that says DON’T LOOK AT ME.”


    *He creeps like a kitten just learning to pounce,* Spots agreed. *A kitten who thinks he’s clever—right up until the nek dog bites him.*

    The prickly, itchy blanket of the Force grew thick and oppressive as Ben gathered his robes around him and skulked off like a villain in some cheap holo-toon, with all the grace and subtlety of the stalking kitten that Spots compared him to. Ronen frowned; the apprehension in his presence grew into a sort of creeping dread as he watched fuzzy holo-Solo slink into the darkness and hardened into resolve. “I’m going after him,” Ronen said, climbing off his jump speeder. “If I’m not back in an hour, tell my dad where I went.”

    “What?! Why?”

    Ronen looked over his shoulder at me. “Because he’s headed to the Temple.”

    I started to protest, to ask how he could possibly know where Ben was up to, but when I thought about it, I realized he was right. Ben was headed east on foot, and he only thing in walking distance in that direction was the Jedi Temple. And if he was going there in stealth mode—even an amateurish, half-shebsed stealth mode—at 23:00 at night when no one would be there, it couldn’t be for any good reason. I clambered off the bike and sprinted after Ronen. “I’m coming with you.”

    “No, you’re not.” I think Uncle Kanan would have been proud of the look Ro gave me, his mouth set in a line and his eyebrows drawn together, not quite a frown or a scowl, but definitely the look of a Very Serious Jedi Who Totally Means It.

    Thing is, Ro’s not Uncle Kanan. He’s not my dad. Not my Jedi Master or even my instructor. He’s my best friend, and I love him, and there’s no way I’m going to let him get hurt. And if he can pull Uncle Kanan’s Serious Face on me...well, the women in my family have been working on The Look for three generations now. “Yes, I am! If you think Ben’s up to something so dangerous you might not come back, I am absolutely not letting you go by yourself!”

    “Noemi, I can make myself invisible—”

    “Then I guess you’ll just have to make me invisible, too, because you are not going alone, Ronen Ildephonsus Syndulla-Jarrus!”

    Ronen sighed and turned back around, his Very Serious look collapsing into one of resignation—he knew I Totally Meant It, too. “Fine, but I’m warning you right now, I’ve never done this with anyone else before.” He took my hands and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply as he centered himself in the Force. He frowned in concentration, just a bit at first, but more and more until his face contorted and he was clenching his teeth with effort.

    I don’t know exactly how to explain what Ronen did. The best I can say is that it was like he bent the Force somehow, so that we were in an empty bubble of space with a sort of mirrored shell around us so anyone else would only see and sense the Force reflected back at them. It was incredible—so subtle and complex, more like the work of a master than a padawan. I had no idea that all those times that Ro made himself disappear that this was what he was doing! I never believed Ronen when he claimed to be the lamest padawan ever, but I guess until that moment I didn’t appreciate exactly how amazing his talent truly is. And to think he’s been doing it since he was little, as easily as most Jedi can levitate a piece of flimsi!

    Ronen’s eyes popped open and he gasped, “There… I think… I think that did it!”

    I wanted to throw my arms around him and tell him how awesome I thought he was, but that was probably not the best idea, because if I did, there was a good possibility I would wind up kissing him, too. Even if he hadn’t been in love with someone else, it would so not have been a good time for it. I’m pretty sure he would have lost focus freaking out because his best buddy and kind-of-cousin kissed him. So instead I just smiled and squeezed Ro’s hands before we raced off after Ben.

    He had a good head start on us, and I think we were slowed by the fact that Ronen had to concentrate so hard to keep the double shield up over us, but fortunately it was a straight shot across the grasslands on a wide, well-worn trail to the Temple. Spots ran ahead of us, keeping tabs on Ben. Like all cats, she’s as good as any Jedi making herself unnoticed, though I knew he wouldn’t give her a second thought if even he saw her—just another pesky Loth-cat on the prairie.

    She was waiting in the doorway to the Temple when Ronen and I got there. We were both a little out of breath from our mad dash from the Academy and Ronen was gritting his teeth with the strain of focusing on our shield while trying to keep up with Ben. Spots, catlike, ignored our discomfort. *Come on!* she insisted, tail twitching impatiently. *That Human is sneaking around like a Loth-rat trying to get into a pantry!* She bounded down the entry corridor without waiting to see if I was coming; I sighed, grabbed Ro’s hand again and ran after her down the corridor and into the Temple’s circular antechamber.

    The first time Dad came to the temple, he found the bodies of Jedi who’d died waiting for their padawans to return from their trials still sitting at the pillars’ bases, and even though I’ve been in that chamber I don’t know how many times, last night thinking about those long-dead masters waiting for apprentices who never came back sent a shiver down my spine. There was no sight of Ben there, and I was glad that we could follow Spots, who made for the smallest door, an unobtrusive dark rectangle on the chamber’s far left, instead of having to resort to Dad’s “Loth-rat, Loth-cat, Loth-Wolf, run” method of choosing which way to go.

    The narrow portal, its sides and lintel carved with ancient runes led to a short passageway, and at the end, Ben Solo, glowrod clenched in his teeth and a faintly glowing holo book in his left hand, was tracing a series of runes that had been carved into the wall with his right hand. He frowned, the glowrod twitching in his mouth as he worked. He traced a final glyph and stepped back, placing the the palm of his hand flat against the center of the wall.

    The runes flared to life, one by one. The glittering orange-gold symbols quivered and ran together like liquid fire, a swirling stream that flowed down the stone wall to trace Ben’s hand. He jumped back with a yelp, the glowrod clattering from his mouth and the holo-book dropping onto the floor with a thud, as the wall slowly slid open.

    And when he sprang backwards, Ben crashed into Ronen, who bumped into me. I tripped over Spots, and we all went down in a heap. Under the circumstances, I don’t think even Uncle Kanan could blame Ronen for losing focus; his shield popped like a soap bubble.

    Ben blinked at us for a minute, mouth hanging open and eyes wide, looking like a frightened pocket-hare, then his eyes narrowed and his mouth twitched into a scowl. “You!” he hissed. I’m not sure whether that and its accompanying glare were meant for me, Ronen, both of us, or even Spots, who had wriggled free of the pile of Humans and was grooming herself—one hind leg hoisted into the air, licking...well, you can guess—with an air of offended dignity that matched Ben’s. He yanked a corner of his robe out from underneath Ro’s elbow. “The Blade is mine! I’m the one who researched it; I’m the one who figured out…” He scowled even harder, something cold glittering in his dark eyes, but he shook his head, collecting himself as he stood up and straightened his perfect robes and smoothed his perfect hair. “No, it doesn’t matter. It belongs to the worthiest Jedi and we’ll just see who that is!” And without another word, he snatched up his glowrod and book and disappeared down the dark tunnel where the wall had opened, leaving me and Ronen still sprawled on the floor.

    Ro looked at me, lekku twitching. “What was tha—“

    The rest of his words were drowned out by a hollow boom, followed by the noise of gears grinding and stone scraping on stone—and I swear, underneath it all, a sound like a weary sigh. And the the whole Temple seemed to shift, the floor slowly sinking beneath us. Spots yowled, her claws scrabbling against the stone, and all her fur standing straight up. The bottom dropped out of my stomach and I saw the same sick horror that I felt mirrored on Ronen’s face.

    Because the Temple was closing. The Temple that had been open for almost twenty years, ever since the Jedi had returned to Lothal, was closing on us. “We have to get out of here!” Ronen shouted over the sound of grinding stone. He grabbed my hand, and we tangled feet and bumped knees as we scrambled to stand up. “Come on!” He sprinted for the door, pulling me with him, but skidded to a stop so suddenly I ran into him.

    The door we’d come through had vanished, leaving only a blank stone wall.

    We were trapped.

    Notes:
    Ronen’s full name: Ro’s middle name is a nod to @Findswoman ‘s Caleb Dume’s Foofiest, Messiest AWESOMEST LIFE DAY EVER! , which gives Caleb’s full name as “Caleb Ildephonsus Dume”:D In my headcanon, Kanan keeps his middle name and passes it on to Ronen. (In case you’re interested, the other kids were much luckier with their middle names, Jacen Dume and Ayelet Chamine)
     
  2. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful details about riding on Ro's speeder before and after rehearsals, closer than necessary under the stars.

    What was Ben sneaking around for? :eek:

    That talent of Ronen's is fascinating, definitely Master-level! :cool:

    But now they're trapped. [face_nail_biting] (Perfect time to accidentally on purpose confess who they're in love with). [face_laugh]
     
    Findswoman and Raissa Baiard like this.
  3. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
  4. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    It's all Ben's fault.
     
  5. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    It totally is. It’s always Ben’s fault, in every universe.

    Hey, as long as they’re stuck with this long, boring drive, Noemi might as well make the best of it. There’s no harm in siting just a little bit closer to Ronen, is there? He’ll probably never even notice... ;)

    Knowing Ben, nothing good!

    Ronen is definitely nowhere near as lame as he thinks he is. Jacen had a point about the strength and uniqueness of Ronen’s talent, in fact, I’d venture that he may be the strongest of Kanan and Hera’s children.

    Hmmm...could be! Life threatening situations are always a good time to confess one’s secret love:D
     
  6. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thanks to @Findswoman for beta-reading@};-

    Journal of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus, who should pay more attention to those really bad feelings
    Centaxday, 10/11 3301


    So I spent last night trapped in the Jedi Temple, thanks to Ben Solo and his nerf-brained scheme to prove that he’s TEH WORTHIEST JEDI EVER.

    I had a really bad feeling all night. It started when Noemi and I were at rehearsal, so at first I figured it was just because the play is in two weeks and Ozrei still flubs like every other line and Zofi can only remember half of the queen’s speech in Act Two. The feeling grew worse when we were on our way home, though, until it was like a swarm of myrmins crawling up and down the back of my neck, the kind of feeling that usually means the Force is trying to tell me something Really Bad is about to happen. And it completely ruined the ride back home, which is usually the best part of the night, because… Okay, don’t laugh...I know it’s just my imagination, but lately it’s like Noemi sits closer to me when we’re on my jump speeder, almost like she’s snuggling against me. And when we’re riding across the plains and all the stars are out, sometimes I let myself believe it, just for a little while. (I said don’t laugh…)

    When we got to my house, it became obvious what the source of that Really Bad Feeling was: Ben Solo was sneaking around the Academy’s courtyard, half-invisible. It was like...well, kind of like he’d done the first and last steps for making yourself invisible in the Force, but skipped all the stuff in the middle. He just looked blurry and out of focus instead of disappearing. Yeah, because that won’t attract any attention, Solo. Maybe you should stick with smoldering.

    As I watched him creeping off into the darkness, it suddenly clicked—he was going to the Jedi Temple. And if he was headed to the Temple and didn’t want anyone to see him, you could bet he wasn’t going there to meditate on the Code, retune his lightsaber crystals, or return an overdue holo-book to the Archive.

    I should have paid attention to that Really Bad Feeling. I should have gone inside and told Dad what Ben was up to and let an actual Jedi Master handle things, but I guess I felt like since I was the one who’d sensed the Force’s prompting and figured out what was going on, it was my duty to handle it. And I could always make myself invisible, so I’d be okay, right? Ben would probably never know I was there until I… I didn’t have that part figured out yet, but I’d do something to protect the Temple from whatever Really Bad thing he was planning. It sounded like a good plan, such as it was, until Noemi insisted she was coming with me. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to dissuade her when she broke out The Look and called me by the Full Name of Doom (Thanks Dad, for passing on your middle name to me. It makes the Name of Doom that much more doom-ish. Dume-ish? Whatever…)

    I’ve never made anyone invisible before, and I think it has to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

    There are kind of different levels of invisibility. At school, when I’m mostly dealing with beings who aren’t Force-sensitive, it’s pretty easy to disappear. What I do then is sort of a variation on the Jedi mind-trick and suggest that I’m really not all that interesting and they should look somewhere else. Kind of quick and dirty, but it works nine times out of ten. When I’m trying to really make myself invisible in the Force, when I really don’t want anyone to see or sense me, it takes a little more effort. It’s more like I have to push the Force out around me so that it sort of makes me blend in with scenery. I’ve done it enough that I know how to shape the Force, though some who knows me really well can still sense my Force-signature, if they look hard enough. I think the only reason I was able to expand my shields to cover Noemi was that I know her as well as I do. I know the shape (or whatever you want to call it) of her Force-signature almost as well as my own, but between holding up our shield and running after Ben, by the time we reached the Temple, I felt like I’d run to Capital City and back.

    We found Ben lurking in a hidden side passageway, thanks to Spots, who’d been tailing him for us. (She’s as sneaky as any Jedi Shadow, even if she is only a Loth-cat!) He was tracing the mysterious symbols that had been carved into the stone wall, consulting his mega-thick Stikk-Itt noted ancient text, looking all serious and scowly, at least as much as he could while holding a glowrod between his teeth. It did not help my Really Bad Feeling that it was just like the scene in “Gar-Jen: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone” where Gar-Jen is in the Sith temple on Korriban and he opens a secret passageway and gets attacked by half a dozen tentareks. But unlike a Jedi Action hero, Not-So-Intrepid Solo yelped like a mooka pup when the runes started glowing and a panel in the wall swung open with a scrape. He scurried to get away from all this Scary Temple Stuff as fast as he could. (What did he expect to happen, anyway? Shouldn’t all his secret scrolls and texts and stuff have prepared him, at least a little bit?) And in his hurry to get away from, you know, the door he’d presumably been trying to open, he ran into me and I bumped into Noemi and we all went down like a row of galactic tiles.

    I kind of lost hold of my shield then.

    OMF, the look Ben gave me! I’ve been on the receiving end of Dad’s Very Serious look, Mom’s “yes, General!” look, Uncle Zeb’s Honor Guard Captain look, and Aunt Sabine’s “don’t mess with the Mando” look, but Ben Solo’s Smoldering Scowl outdid them all for sheer intimidation (probably because underneath all the scary looks, my family still loved me, while at that moment, Ben would have cheerfully fed me to a rancor if there’d been one handy). After a brief rant about how the blade of the Revanchist was TOTALLY HIS and he was the WORTHIEST JEDI, SO THERE!, he scurried off into the darkness like a Loth-rat.

    And then things got Really Bad, really fast.

    There was a boom from somewhere deep in the Temple and this horrible scraping, grinding noise. The floor started moving, corkscrewing down, down, down… The Temple was closing and we were going to be stuck inside. I grabbed Noemi’s hand and ran for it, hoping maybe we could make it out of there before the Temple shut completely, and nearly smacked into a wall where the door had been.

    I stared at the smooth, blank stone in horror, feeling like a terrified four-year-old again. That was the year that I became convinced that I was going to be trapped in the Jedi Temple, die there, and wither away to a dried-out corpse, just like the old Masters in the story of how Uncle Ezra found his first kyber crystal. Why, you may ask, did I have such an irrational fear? Thanks to my loving brother, who, when I was daydreaming about the new model spaceship I was hoping to get for Life Day instead of listening to Dad’s Life Day invocation, hissed at me that I’d better focus, because when little younglings lost focus, the Temple got mad and closed up. I guess he thought the way I jumped was really funny, because after that, every time we’d go to the Temple, Jacen would whisper “don’t lose focus!” So, yeah, I spent months believing I was going to meet a horrible demise if I didn’t pay attention in youngling lore class. Jacen got a good talking-to when Mom and Dad found out. Dad assured me that now that the Jedi were back on Lothal, the Temple didn’t need to protect itself that way anymore, and it wasn’t going to close just because my mind wandered a little, but I still had terrible dreams about being stuck inside with no way out.

    All those old nightmares came rushing back, pressing in on me in the claustrophobic hallway. I felt sick to my stomach, like I was going to hyperventilate or something. Noemi’s face was pale and drawn in the the weird glow of the mystical glyphs on the wall. Get it together, Ronen, I told myself. “Emotion, yet peace,” remember? Even if I felt like a terrified youngling, I had to find a way to get us out of here, for Noemi’s sake. A little thing like facing your lifelong fear wouldn’t stop a real Jedi Shadow. So, first things first—I took my mini-glowrod out of my satchel (I always keep it and my multi-tool there, just in case of emergencies), and handed it to Noemi. Then I took the pieces of my lightsaber out and assembled them. (Of course I had had it with me at rehearsal. Like I told Noemi and Maatko: no matter what Dad says about taking my lightsaber to school activities, you really never know when you’re going to need it.)

    “What are you going to do?” Noemi hung the mini-glowrod‘s lanyard around her neck and shone its pale beam towards me.

    I ignited the orange-gold blade (who said Jedi should only have blue and green lightsabers, anyway?) and took a step towards the wall, looking for any cracks or weak spots. “I’m going to see if I can cut our way out of here.” I’d heard of lightsabers cutting through double layered durasteel starship airlocks; a stone wall couldn’t be that much thicker, could it?

    “I don’t think that’s going to work.” Noemi laid a hand on my arm before I could try to plunge my blade into the stone. “I think this might be like when Dad came here as a padawan and had to pass the Temple’s trials before he could find his kyber crystal and make his way back to your dad.” She looked back towards the dark tunnel that Ben had disappeared down. The outline of his hand still glowed faintly on the wall. “Ben’s looking for the blade of the Revanchist, and I think he’s going to have to prove he’s worthy of it before the Temple opens again.”

    “So we’re doomed, in other words.” I lowered my saber with a sigh, switched it off and clipped it to my belt. “I guess we’d better go after him, then.” Smoldery, Moody, Mopey, Self-absorbed, Self-Important Solo was going to need all the help he could get if he wanted to prove he was worthy of anything.

    We made our way down the twisting tunnel. Spots padded ahead of us, ears back, sniffing the stale air cautiously as she went. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I took Noemi’s hand. If I had to be stuck inside my worst nightmare, I was glad she was with me. I guess that sounds kind of selfish, like “oh, if I’m gonna die trapped in the Temple, at least I’m not gonna die alone”, and okay, maybe there was a little bit of that, but it was more like I felt stronger with Noemi there. Like it was easier to keep going and be the Jedi I wanted to be, the one who had emotion, yet peace with her next to me, and I only wished she knew that.

    So tell her already!

    Wait, what? Where did that little voice inside my head come from?! There was no way I could tell Noemi that. She’d laugh at me, and wouldn’t that make being trapped in here together miserable and awkward? I’d get to spend the rest of my short life knowing the girl I loved thought I was a complete moof-milker. What a way to go…

    Yeah, but...doesn’t “awkward” pretty much describe your life already? that little voice argued. Maybe Dad and Uncle Ezra would find some way to get us out of here, but maybe not. And if Noemi and I were depending on Ben Solo proving that he was the worthiest Jedi ever...well, this might be the last chance I got to tell her. Wouldn’t being stuck here together be even more miserable if I wasted that chance and never told Noemi how I felt about her?

    While my internal voices were debating, we came to the end of the tunnel. It led into another round room, like the Temple’s antechamber, but smaller. Like that chamber, there were doors arranged around the circle at intervals, but every time I tried to count them, I got a different total. Weird lights—hazy green, glowing red and watery blue— shone from some of them. Strange lumpy shadows moved in others. A cold breeze swirled around the room, and I could hear voices whispering in it, though I couldn’t make out what they were saying. I wasn’t even sure some of it was Basic. Spots growled uneasily, her ears gone completely flat, as the three of us stepped to the center of the room. My hand tightened around Noemi’s—and hers tightened on mine. “So which way do we go now?”

    “I don’t know.” Noemi reached down to pet Spots, smoothing down her fur and rubbing behind her ears until they went back to their normal position. “I can’t sense Ben, and Spots says she can’t even smell him.” She shrugged as she straightened back up. “I guess we leave it up to the Force—‘Loth-Cat, Loth-rat, Loth-wolf, run’?”

    “Right.” It was as good an idea as any. The Force alone knew what was waiting on the other side of those creepy, shifting doorways, after all. I had to trust the Force. I knew I trusted Noemi… “Wait, before you do..there’s something I need to tell you.” We’re really doing this?! another voice in my head bleated like a panicked eopie as I took Noemi’s other hand and pulled her a step closer to me. Seriously?!

    Yeah, the first voice replied. We really are. We’ve waited long enough. “Remember how I said I’d tell who the girl is I’m in love with when I was ready to laugh about it? Well, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to do that, but this may be the only chance I have left to tell you…” This was either going to be the bravest or stupidest thing I’d ever done. Maybe both. I swallowed hard as I looked into her eyes—her beautiful eyes the color of the sky over the prairie. “It’s you. Noemi, I love you.”

    For a moment, she only looked at me, blinking, and then her sky-blue eyes widened. A little bubble of laughter escaped her lips, only it wasn’t derisive “seriously, nerf-brain?” laughter. It was warm, surprised, even—delighted? No way… ”Oh, Ronen!” More golden laughter colored Noemi’s voice, and I swear, even in the darkness of the chamber I could see sparks lighting up her eyes. “I'm not laughing at you, I promise! It’s just…that guy I’m in love with? The one who’s sweet and funny and kind?” She squeezed my hands, hard, and the corner of her mouth quirking up into that amazing smile she she has. “It’s you!”

    “Wait…” No way no way no way... this couldn’t be real. This was too good to be real But it was. Really, really real. My heart was thumping so hard and so fast, I think it completely overwhelmed my brain. “So...wait…you mean... I’ve spent the last month and a half being jealous of myself?”

    Noemi laughed again. “I know! Me, too! It’s like something out of a bad holo-rom, isn’t it?” Her smile quirked up a little further, and there was a playful gleam in her eyes as she added, “And you know what would happen next if this really was a holo-rom…”

    I shook my head, apparently my brain was still having trouble coming up with witty lines—or any lines. Um, no not really—I don’t watch that many holo-roms; I’m more of a Jedi Action ’flick kind of guy.

    Fortunately, Noemi was there to enlighten me. “We’d kiss…” she whispered, leaning towards me.

    I’d been imagining this moment ever since that day Noemi decided to update my look, the day she’d been so close to me I could have kissed her if I’d leaned forward just a little. I'd kicked myself a hundred times for not doing it then, and I’d come up with a hundred different, hopeless scenarios for kissing her since then. None of them had been anything like this, though, trapped in a creepy chamber full of weird lights and shadows and voices… But suddenly the room didn’t seem as creepy; the lights were warmer, the shadows were still, and the voices were quiet, listening. And, really, did it matter where we were as long as Noemi was with me?

    I don’t know which one of us put our arms around the other first or which of us leaned toward the other. Maybe we both leaned in at the same time, because our lips met and it was like Life Day fireworks. Noemi’s lips were soft and warm against mine, and I could smell the jogan blossom scent of her vinesilk hair, which somehow the fingers on my right hand were twining themselves into, while Noemi’s fingers curled at the base of neck. And the Force itself seemed to hum around us like music.

    “Is it supposed to do that?” I asked when Noemi and drew apart. “The Force? Is it supposed to hum like that when…?”

    “Oh, yes, “ Noemi confirmed. “It very definitely is.” She smiled dreamily and pulled me back towards her….

    “Well, isn’t this lovely?” A snide voice and a derisive sniff shattered the moment. I knew who it was, of course. Even if he hadn’t been the only other person in the Temple with us, no one else in the Galaxy has quite the same cheerful and pleasant demeanor. Noemi and I both sighed and Spots hissed as we turned to see the inimitable Ben Solo, arms crossed over his chest as he scowled at us smolderingly. “Here I am searching for the blade of the Revanchist and you two are playing kissy-face.”

    Did I ever mention how much I hate that guy?
     
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  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful update all around! I love Ro's and Noemi's reaction to "It's you!" "Really?" [face_love]
    SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! That was lovely, it hummed, too. :D [face_dancing] And then Smoldery-Pants had to spoil it. :p
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
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  8. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Wow, excellent timing, Ben. Not! Get out. Moon Moon.
     
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  9. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Oh my, looks like it’s high time for twofer time—really sorry I’ve fallen behind on this, especially when this wonderful story has begun to take such a momentous turn! [face_love]

    Noemi, 10/11 3301: I know you had concerns about the sequence leading up to Noemi and Ronen following Ben into the temple, but I think this came out great and works very well—traveling back from evening rehearsal together makes good sense as a time when they would run across Ben sneaking around the temple. (Plus Ronen and Noemi get a nice chance to ride double on that jump speeder; I don’t blame her for feeling a little wistful there...) Mr. Smolderface is clearly Solemnly Up to No Good, in a big way... and of course he would do a crummy job at making himself *disappear,* because isn’t that just the way with types who think they’re Best at Everything? I love both Spots’s and Ronen’s observations and assessments of his attempts, hers from the cat viewpoint and his from the sentient-with-unique-abilities viewpoint; they are both experts in that area, in one way or another, and would know! :D Naturally brave Ro wastes no time in going right after him, and brave Noemi wastes no time in joining him no matter what the cost. From the “look” to her spirited reply to Ro—you are most certainly not going in there alone, Mr. Full Name of Dume (and yes! I love that you got “Ildephonsus” in there!)—she truly exhibits the same wonderful gumption we loved in her mother and grandmother. [face_dancing]

    I love the glimpse we get into Ronen’s invisibility talent here—we’ve seen him do this to one degree or another several times throughout this story, but this is the first time we get a look at how, and it’s cool that it’s not from him but from Noemi, who for the first time is getting to see her friend’s wonderful ability from the inside, as it were. Ro’s reservations about shielding more than one person reminded me of Violet Parr in the first Incredibles film, when she tries and tries to make a forcefield big enough to protect the plane but can’t—Ro’s clearly putting in the same kind of effort and having very similar doubts. And, similarly, he loses focus at a critical moment—but how could he not in the circumstances, when Ben basically barreled backward into him? I know this too was a scene you were concerned about, but you solved it in a way that makes perfect sense.

    And now all three teens are really quite literally inside a rock and a hard place, with Ben aware of their presence (of course he would think they’re there just to steal his thunder) and the temple deciding that now, after twenty-plus years of behaving itself, is the best time to trap everyone in... wow, what a cliffhanger! A real adventure is ahead for our two brave teens, and I’m sending them all good vibes of courage and success as they ponder how they’ll get out of it! :eek:

    Ronen, 10/11 3301: This brave, brave young fellow! Of course he immediately hops to action when he sees Ben’s plotting something fishy, regardless of the cost to himself—that’s our Ro, all right. :) Again, I just love the details you give us about exactly how Ro’s invisibility talent works, the different degrees, etc.; we got Noemi’s impressions as a “participant-observer” of sorts in the previous entry, and now we get Ro’s perspective as an adept at this technique—from the equus’s mouth, so to speak. :D You bring back some very intriguing echoes of “The Jedi Path” here too, not only in the “Loth-wolf, Loth-cat” rhyme (which like that kingsfoil rhyme in LOTR is clearly more than just any old rhyme!), but also in the way Ronen feels his own old fears about being trapped in the temple coming back to haunt him—even those with cool and unique abilities are not without fears. (Boo on Jacen for being such a meanie! :p )

    But that leads into the heart of this chapter—the moment we’ve all been waiting for! The inner voices at odds with each other (so typical for a teen in love)—the heartfelt confessions—and THE KISS! What a kiss! But of course the Force sings along in approval in that old, familiar sweet hum—the continuation of a beautiful Baiard-Blayne-Bridger-Syndulla-Jarrus tradition. [face_love] And of course Ronen’s poetic side comes through in the beautiful descriptions of the scent of her hair, the feel of her lips, the fireworks-like feeling of the whole thing. A perfect, squeelicious, splentabulous moment, in so many ways...

    ...till who should show up to shatter that moment but Mr. Smolderface himself. :mad: It would have been one thing if he had just done a Threepio-like “oh my,” but he has to go and make some snide little remark too... ooh, I don’t blame Ronen for hating him more than ever now! And here too you’ve given us another cliffhanger in a way, with him and Ronen and Noemi all confronting each other in this sticky situation, and with the mutual dynamics among them all in such a new place. They’re going to have to work together to get out of this mess, and as always I’m raring to see how—all I know for sure right now is that it won’t be in any wise easy! :eek:
     
  10. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Ooh, a SQUEE with 17 Es! I’d say my work here is done [face_laugh] I’m glad that you enjoyed it! Ronen and Noemi still have some adventures in store here in the Temple, but they’ve got each other now, and not even Smoldery Ben can spoil things completely!
    Doesn’t he have just the best timing in the Galaxy? (Seriously, Ben, you couldn’t give them just a couple more minutes?) I guess I need to brush up on my memes, because I had to look up Moon Moon—the least intelligent wolf in the pack. Yep, that’s our Ben, at least when it comes to love...or y’know, any ordinary human interaction.
    Thank you, and thank you for your help in figuring all the details for this chapter. Play rehearsals seemed like a good reason for them to be out and about when all good little Jedi should be home meditating. Plus you know that Noemi has her own speeder, but one of them suggested there was no reason to take both and the other agreed a little too quickly. ;) Ben is decidedly up,to no good, but he’s really not very good at being no good yet. He’s such a fine upstanding Jedi (and he will tell you, given half a chance) and so used to being noticed for it that he really doesn’t have Ronen’s Jedi Shadow mindset. Ronen is nowhere near the lame padawan he believes he is; he’s ready to do what he sees as his duty to protect the Temple, and of course, Noemi’s going to protect him! She couldn’t do any less. And thank you for letting me borrow the wonderfully over-the-top name “Ildephonsus”. Ronen just had to have an extra mortifying middle name

    You know, it’s always kind of weird trying to explain how a Force talent actually works, so I’m glad my explanations made sense. I was thinking of ysalimiri and the “bubbles” they create in the Force when I was writing about Ro’s invisibility talent. He and Violet really do have a lot in common, with their self-deprecating personalities and talents for disappearing. Fortunately, Ronen doesn’t have to hide something as big as a plane, but pushing his abilities beyond their usual limits is a challenge. And as Noemi notes, even Kanan himself couldn’t fault Ro for losing focus under those circumstances!

    A rock and a hard place—love it! Though it’s probably no consolation to Ronen and Noemi, the Temple itself (the source of that weary sigh) doesn’t seem to be too thrilled to go back to its old ways after a twenty year hiatus.

    I think Ronen’s got a little bit of the teenage invincibility factor going on, but more than that he’s been raised to take action and take responsibility when needed. “The Jedi Path” and Ezra’s trials, the way he had to face his fears, were a big influence on this chapter. I think that rhyme has a deeper significance, too. My theory is that
    the “Loth-rat” is Ezra, who is guided at various points by a Loth-cat and a Loth-Wolf, and who does have to “pick a path” at several points during Rebels.
    Likewise, Ronen has to “pick a path” in more than one way here

    Aww, thanks! [face_love] I’ve been looking forward to this scene, too! Ronen may not understand the significance of the Force’s musical hum just yet, but Noemi (and we along with her) knows that it means everything is absolutely right, and their beautiful friendship has blossomed into something wonderful.

    The flip side of a family tradition of Force-humming first kisses: first kisses interrupted by unwelcome, sarcastic intruders :p (At least Ro doesn’t end up in binder cuffs!) But there is more in store for all of them, and as you note, the only way out is together.
     
  11. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thanks to @Findswoman for beta-reading@};-

    Noemi’s Journal (Ro! <3)
    10/11 3301 cont’d.


    I will warn you upfront that this next part may sound like it was written by one of those Dear Diary glitterskirt girls, but you know what? I don’t care. Because I can’t talk about what happened last night without talking about Ronen, and I can’t talk about Ronen without glowing.

    Ro was all kinds of awesome last night, and that’s not just me gushing because I love him. All right, maybe I’m gushing just a little, but it’s true—Ro was amazing, the way he made us both invisible so we could follow Ben. When the Temple closed, he must have been freaking out inside—he used to have nightmares about being trapped there—but you wouldn’t have known it to look at him. His expression was so courageous and determined, it made me feel fluttery inside. I mean, I’ve always known Ronen was brave, the way he stands up to bullies like Dack, but wow!—last night he was ready to cut through a stone wall with his lightsaber to try to get us out! It was like he was a hero straight out of a Jedi Action holo-flick!

    I know *I* was freaking out a little. This was not the Jedi Temple I was used to, the one where I went to lore class and sang in the younglings’ choir, the one where Jacen had been Knighted, where my whole family went on Life Day to listen to Grandpa and Uncle Kanan speak. This was the Temple from Dad’s stories, the one that protected itself from intruders and subjected anyone who wanted its wisdom to freaky visions and fiendish trials. I had a feeling that Ronen and I weren’t going to be exempt from that just because we’d been in the wrong place at the wrong time; knowing what the Temple had put Dad and Uncle Kanan through to test them...maybe I was freaking out more than just a little.

    But when Ronen took my hand, somehow the darkness didn’t seem so thick and the atmosphere wasn’t as oppressive. No matter what the Temple had in store, I didn’t have to face it alone. My best friend was there with me, my Ro, my own Jedi Action hero. I felt safer with him next to me, and stronger, too. Whatever trials the Temple threw at us, we’d get through them together, like we’d done so many things in the past, from dealing with older siblings and facing the first day of school to tuning our focusing crystals and building our lightsabers. As long as we had each other, we could handle anything.

    Just when I thought I was ready for anything, Ronen proved he still had a couple surprises left for me…

    Oh good skies, when he said he wanted to tell me who the girl was that he was in love with, I absolutely froze. All I could think was “Noooo!” I didn’t want to hear his confession. As long as I didn’t know who the girl was, in a way, she wasn’t real. It was easy to pretend that Anonymous Girl didn’t exist, but if I knew it was Zofi or Kaia or Nadiya or whoever, I couldn’t pretend anymore. I’d have to face the fact that Ronen loved her, and not me, and I didn’t think I could handle that now on top of everything else.

    And then he looked into my eyes. “It’s you,” he said, with that same intense, in-love look he’d given me when we tried out for the play. “Noemi, I love you.”

    Me.

    Ronen loved me.

    I was the girl he was in love with. I was the one who’d made him so miserable. The one he thought would never love him in return. Me. I was the one who’d made him feel that glowing, humming feeling the day I’d tried to make over his hair. I was the one he’d been thinking of when he’d auditioned for Lisandro and amazed everyone with his sincerity. Oh good skies...how could I not have known it all this time? How had I not seen it in his eyes every day we spent together? How had I not felt it the night he came to the orchard after my horrible date with Ben? How could I not have guessed when all the clues were there, when everyone from Maatko to Mistress Eupraxia to Spots had figured it out? It was so crazy… so impossible… so wonderful—Ronen loved me!—that I couldn’t help myself from laughing. “Oh, Ronen!” I felt so light inside, so fluttery and giddy, because “…that guy I’m in love with? The one who’s sweet and funny and kind? It’s you!”

    “Wait…so....wait...” Ronen stammered and blushed; the stripes on his lekku turning a darker shade orange, and his right lek started twitching back and forth. If his lekku had been longer, it would have looked like he was signing “yes” repeatedly. It was kind of adorable, really. His Force-presence swirled with a dozen different feelings: hope, doubt, love, fear, joy and every shade of emotion in between. “You mean...I’ve spent the last month and a half being jealous of myself?!”

    I laughed again. I still couldn’t help it; it was all like something out of a bad holo-romance. I don’t watch a lot of holo-roms (I think Jedi Action ’flicks are a lot more entertaining and a lot less cheesy), but the ones I’d seen were pretty much all the same—the Heartfelt Declarations of Love would always be followed by the Big Kiss. So maybe being like a holo-rom wasn’t such a bad thing after all. It would have been a shame not to go along with the pattern, right?

    Ro’s blush deepened when I explained this convention, and all those emotions swirling in his Force-presence played across his features for a moment before he smiled, his eyes lighting up—and Ronen’s eyes don’t smolder, they shine like the light of the Force itself—as he leaned towards me…

    I think every girl wonders what her first kiss will be like. I think we all have some silly, romantic ideas about it, whether we’re the kind of girl who writes diaries and wears glitterskirts or not. I know I did—and this was nothing like any of them.

    It was better.

    There might not have been starlight over the prairie or jogan trees in bloom, but that moment with Ronen in the darkness of the Temple with who knew what kind of dangers waiting for us, everything was perfect. The whole Galaxy was perfect and everything was right. I was safe with Ronen’s arms around me; nothing could hurt me as long as I was with him.

    The touch of his lips on mine made me catch my breath—and it made the Force hum and every part of me hummed along with it. Oh good skies, no wonder Mom and Dad still give each other those moony looks if this is what it’s like whenever they kiss!

    And just when Ro and I were about to discover if the Force would hum for us every time we kissed, a snide voice from the darkness interrupted. “Well, isn’t this lovely? Here I am searching for the blade of the Revanchist and you two are playing kissy-face.”

    Oh. Good. Skies.

    Ben Solo, your timing is truly impeccable.
     
  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    [face_laugh] [face_love] :D =D= Wonderful! I love reading this from Noemi's POV. Her "How could I not pick up on all those clues?" was totally realistic. ;) Once they get out of there, they can find out if it DOES hum every time -- I wouldn't be surprised. I adore her feeling safe and confident because Ronen is with her. You truly get a sense of not only the romantic feelings she has but the depth of trust and friendship.
     
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  13. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    Noemi's sarcastic declaration that "Ben Solo, your timing is impeccable." Is absolutely perfect. And it also gives me the impression that the GFFA's equivalent of the internet has a meme equivalent to "Moon Moon".
     
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  14. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    “DNT DNT... doo-doo DNT DNT... doo-doo DNT-DNT... doo DNT-DNT...”

    Sorry, that’s “Stand By Me” coming on in my head, because while I was beta-reading this that came to mind as the absolute perfect anthem for Noemi and Ronen right now. The dangers and uncertainties of the temple—which is definitely putting on that ominous, pre-New-Order, “Jedi Path”-type face right now, and probably deliberately—don’t seem so dangerous and uncertain when they face them together. Their bravery rubs off on each other. How could Noemi not glow with pride and love at Ronen’s determination to get them out of their stony prison at all costs? And how could that pride and love not strengthen her own resolve too? So I say Noemi can go ahead and be as gushy and glowy and glitterskirty as she wants here. Sure, their situation does have that romcom aspect to it, and I’ll admit that there were times earlier I wanted to shake Noemi a bit for not seeing what everyone else saw between her and Ronen. :p But in the final analysis there’s nothing flighty or superficial about her love for the sweet, funny, and kind young fellow who indeed has always stood by her. [face_love]

    I love the way Noemi recalls her thoughts about what her first kiss would be like—because who doesn’t wonder that at some point or other? It almost never happens quite the way one expects it to, and it’s almost always better than expected, as Noemi more than finds out. In a way, the element of danger and onimousness (onimosity? :p ) make their moment together all the sweeter, because it shows that this is not just a fairweather love. It’s a love that will be a light in the darkness to them wherever they are, whatever other difficulties they find themselves facing together, despite the Smolderfaces of the universe. And I absolutely adore the detail that Ronen’s eyes shine with the Force’s own light rather than just smoldering like Ben’s—that says so much right there about the kind of sincere, sho’ nuff kind of person he is and Ben isn’t.

    And you know, if Ronen and Noemi can face being trapped together in ominous sentient temples, they most certainly can stand up to Ben “Impeccable Timing” Smoldery Solo. I shouldn’t wonder if he’s just a leetle teeny bit jealous right about now. :p They’re really and truly going to have to work together now, and color me very eager to see how that will go—in your hands I bet they will end up making quite a dynamic trio! :cool:
     
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  15. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thank you! Yep, hindsight is always 20/20 and it’s easy to figure out what all those clues were in retrospect. I think that the Force will hum for them every time—and I imagine her mother is going to say a few “oh good skies” of her own when she learns that Noemi has found The One who makes the For e hum for her! I think this is where Ayelet’s point about them the fact that they are best friends being a good thing really shines through; they have all those romantic feelings for each other, but they’ve also grown to trust and rely on one another over years of friendship, so that now when they’re facing weird and dangerous stuff, they know they’ve got each other.
    The sarcasm is strong with Noemi... her mother has it, her grandfather has it...okay, her father and grandmother have it, too :p Poor girl never had a chance... And yes! There absolutely should be a holonet meme—I’m picturing a derpy looking Loth-wolf named Moon Moon (or maybe even Moon Moon Moon since Lothal has two moons)
    Aww, that really is a perfect song for the two of them, because they really have stood by each other, from the time little Noemi offered to kick the kids who had been cruel to Ronen at school. [face_love] Noemi has always believed that Ronen is far more than he believes himself to be. Now that she’s seeing just how much more he is, it exceeds even what she imagined! Being with her best friend, who she knows she can always rely on, takes a lot of the scariness out of the situation. Ronen’s strength and bravery builds her up—even as her presence strengthens him, though she doesn’t realize it. Like Mara in Teenage Rebellion, Noemi’s discovering that being a little gushy and glowy isn’t a bad thing, in fact, it’s pretty nice when you find the right person, the one who truly makes you glow! She’s been a little obtuse about things (and i’ve wanted to shake her sometimes, too! [face_laugh]) but her feelings for Ro are true and grounded in their shared experiences.
    I think we all do, and while first kisses aren’t always better than expected, I think for Noemi it is because she’s lucky enough to be kissing someone she has the sort of love for that isn’t just a passing fancy, to quote Padmé, she truly, deeply loves Ro, for everything that he is. (And also, I imagine that she had fantasized that her first kiss would be with Smoldery Ben, so that right there leaves plenty of room for improvement! :p) Even though the setting may not be the romantic ideal she’d hoped for, her feelings for Ronen—and knowing that he reciprocates them—more than makes up for that. Ronen and Ben are opposites in a lot of ways; Ben wants to be noticed but he keeps his emotions smoldering inside, while Ro may be happy to blend in with the background, but he’s genuine and lets his feelings shine through.

    Oh yes, Ben is an irritant at this point, nothing more. And I think he probably is a bit jealous, for all his talk of non-attachment. He did have some plans for himself and Noemi, even if they were built around an image of her as Third Generation Jedi of Flawless Lineage and Impressive Strength, It’s got to hurt (or at least his ego) that she rejected him and now has found someone else. The Temple has some interesting things coming up for our trio, and they may all learn a thing or two in the process.
     
  16. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Thanks to @Findswoman for beta-reading@};-

    Journal of Ronen Syndulla-Jarrus, whose parents raised him to be polite, even to crazy old coots
    Centaxday, 10/11 3301 cont’d.


    The absolute last being in the Galaxy I wanted to see at that moment was Ben Karking Solo. Admittedly, I don’t think I’d have been exactly thrilled with anyone who interrupted me and Noemi just then, but I would have been a lot happier if it were, say, Dad or Uncle Ezra or Master Skywalker or someone who was there to help us get the heck out of there. But no, it couldn’t be anyone friendly or useful, it had to be Master Smolder-Pants himself, interrupting the best moment of my life with sarcastic comments about “playing kissy-face,” like kissing Noemi was just a game. He had no idea how much I loved her, and the thought of singeing his perfectly flowing hair with Force lightning crossed my mind even before he decided to offer us more of his ineffable wisdom: “This just goes to prove what I’ve said all along: the old masters had the right idea when it came to attachments. These sorts of feelings”... his mouth twisted into a sneer and his brows arched in a way that made it clear he thought our feelings were, um, centered rather lower than our hearts... “only serve to distract a Jedi from their true focus.”

    Noemi sucked in a sharp breath, her Force-presence recoiling like she’d been slapped, and her eyes narrowed down to slits. Next to her, Spots wore an identical expression; she and Noemi both looked like they were ready about to claw Smoldery Ben’s smug face. I stepped between Noemi and Ben, not to protect him—because, honestly, having a Loth-cat disarrange that smirk was no more than he deserved—but to keep Noemi from doing anything she’d regret. “You know what I think?” I was surprised how level my voice sounded. “I think you’re just saying that because you’ve finally found something you can’t have, and you can’t stand it because you’re used to having everything.”

    “Me?” Ben snorted. He tossed his hair and looked down his long (but perfectly straight) nose at me. “I have everything? Excuse me, but you’re the one with everything, O Headmaster’s Perfect Son.”

    Perfect son? Uh, no...that would be Jacen, the exotically good-looking pilot and Jedi. I was just the undistinguished younger son with the weird, stunted lekku, which at the moment were twitching spasmodically despite my best efforts to get them to behave. “Oh yeah, right! I’m the one with the perfect hair and the smoldering eyes. I’m the guy that half the girls in the Academy have inexplicable crushes on. I’m the one who always has the answers in Philosophy of the Force. I’m the one with the pretentious cross-guarded saber. You have literally everything!”

    “You don’t even see it, do you?!” Ben advanced on me with quick angry steps; he loomed over me and got in my face, practically shouting, “You’ve got a home, a family, friends, a girlfriend… Your parents didn’t ship you off to live with your uncle to learn control when your Force talents started frightening the poncy little senators’ children they made you play with. Your father doesn’t only visit you when he happens to be in the Sector on the racing circuit. Your mother doesn’t just talk to you for five minutes whenever she can squeeze you in because she’s too busy running the Republic to care!” And then, like he had earlier, he stepped back and smoothed his robes, schooling his expression from a twisted scowl into hard, cold planes. His eyes still smoldered, though, with a carefully tended fire of hurt and resentment. “But I will have the Blade of the Revanchist, and then they’ll see…”

    Whoa… Okay, I guess I’d never actually stopped to consider what it would be like to live half a Galaxy away from your parents and only see them on visits. I’d just always assumed Ben was happy living with Master Skywalker—but how would I have felt if my parents had sent me to live on Ryloth with Grandpa Cham? Even though I love him, it wouldn’t have been the same as being with my family. And I kind of had to admit that Ben was right (yeah, I know, but even a broken chrono is right twice a day…). I really hadn’t seen all the good things that I have in my life. My family has always just been there, so I’d never thought they were anything special. But having them was the most awesome thing in my life. As busy as they are with the Restoration Council and the Academy, Mom and Dad always make time for me. They’ve always been there for me, encouraged me, believed in me, and I wouldn’t trade them or Jacen and Ayelet or any of the members of my crazy, multi-species Spectre family for all the perfect hair or crushing girls or fancy sabers in the Galaxy.

    I glanced back at Noemi. She was frowning and her Force-presence was still stormy, but she didn’t look like an angry Loth-cat with its claws out anymore. I was pretty sure she was thinking about the same thing as I was: if that was how Ben felt all the time, no wonder he was always scowling and smoldering and trying to prove that he was the best, most worthiest Jedi ever. True, none of it excused Ben from acting like a nerf’s backside, but maybe it explained it a little bit. “We can help you find the Blade,” I offered. If it meant that much to him, we might as well try. We were stuck here anyway, and maybe finding it would even make Ben happy—

    Because offering to help him sure didn’t. Ben turned away with a sniff and a scowl. “I don’t need your help!”

    “Humph!”

    We all jumped at the sound of that irritated snort from across the room, but none of us jumpedhigher than Ben, who whirled around, his glowrod held in front of him like it was a weapon. His hand shook a little as he swung it towards the noise.

    In one corner of the room—well, okay, not really a corner since the room was round—near a door lit by a pale greenish light like twilight filtering down through a forest canopy was an old man. He wore old fashioned robes and leaned on a walking stick. The man was dark-skinned and bald with a short, neatly-rimmed gray mustache and beard; his expression matched Ben’s for sheer smoldering scowliness.

    Ben seemed to take this as a personal challenge to take his scowling to new levels. “Who are you? What are you doing here?” he demanded, waving his glowrod in what I guess he thought was a threatening manner, but come on—it was a glowrod. Short of shining it in the guy’s eyes and making him blink a little, what did Ben think he was going to do?

    “Me? Hmmph, I’m the one who should be asking you that, you young hooligan.” The man brandished his staff at us as he advanced to the center of the chamber—and as weapons went, it was definitely more intimidating than Ben’s glowrod. First round of the Jedi Temple scowl-off went to the cranky old guy. I would not have wanted to meet him in a dark… oh wait…never mind. He humph-ed again, brows pinching together into a V. “Oh, but I suppose you don’t need to be polite to the crazy old coot standing alone in the dark. Heh, even a crazy coot knows we all need help sometimes, even the worthiest of us.”

    Ben’s face and Force-presence darkened; apparently he didn’t think much of self-proclaimed coots challenging his worthiness. He jabbed a finger towards the man’s chest. “What would you know about being worthy?”

    I bit back a sigh. That was Ben for you, making friends and influencing beings wherever he went. The old man glowered and I decided that it would be a good idea to change the subject right about then. For the second time that night, I found myself standing between Ben and his antagonist. “So, um...do you need help?”

    The old man raised one of his wiry eyebrows at me. “I’m standing alone in the dark; what do you think?” He leaned around me to finger the glowrod that Ben was still wielding like a lightsaber. “Make my life easier if I had one of these…”

    Ben jerked it away. “Get your hands off, you...you….”

    “Crazy old coot?” the man suggested with poisonous sweetness.

    Behind me, Noemi sighed and tsk-ed. ”Ben! It’s a five credit glowrod, for the Force’s sake. Let him have it!”

    “What, so I can be alone in the dark?” He clutched the glowrod like it was Xim the Despot’s lost treasure, not something that you could buy at any village marketplace. “I don’t think so!”

    This time I had to stop myself from rolling my eyes as I bit back a sigh. “Um, hello? We’re here, so you’re not really alone, are you?” Figured he wouldn’t count me and Noemi—I mean, who were we, anyway? Just a couple of kissy-faced, unworthy nobodies, I guess. Unfortunately for him, he was kind of stuck with us. As for the old guy, well, I’d probably be cranky in his place, too—and then having to deal with Ben on top of it. Yeah, it was a wonder he hadn’t poked us all with his stick, but maybe he’d lighten up if he had some light (Get it? Lighten up? Yeah...lame pun, never mind). “Noemi, give him my mini-glowrod. It’s not like we don’t have another light source.” I unclipped my lightsaber from my belt and ignited it as Noemi took off the lanyard and handed it to the man.

    Ben stared at me like I’d just proposed.something unspeakably sacrilegious. “You’re going to use your lightsaber as a glowrod?”

    I shrugged. Really? Ben was going to get all uptight about that? “Hey, it works.”

    “Heh heh heh!” The old man chuckled as he put the mini-glowrod around his neck. “Now that’s thinking, young man,” he noted approvingly. “I knew a padawan once who used his lightsaber to make sandwiches. Gave his master fits, of course, but it toasted the bread quite nicely.”.

    “Uh, yeah, I guess it would.” I think I will pass on trying it, though, because I can just imagine what Dad would say if I started toasting bread with my saber. I was going to be in enough trouble for taking it to rehearsal. “Is there anything else you need?” I asked the old man, rummaging in my satchel. “I have...uh...a multi-tool...hmm, six and a half credits—that’s probably not too helpful… a ration bar…”

    “Two,” Noemi corrected me. She pulled a foil wrapped packet from her own satchel. I noticed that hers was the chocolate-covered, vitamin-enhanced kind rather than the Republic surplus chak-fiber-and-sawdust-flavored ones Jacen brought home from maneuvers. “Plus most of a tin of fizzy-sweets. What?” she asked, as I glanced curiously at the brightly colored container with a smiling Loth-cat logo on it—the same kind of sweets we used to play sabacc for as kids. “I still like them.”

    The old man actually smiled as he accepted this bounty from us. It made him look a lot less like a disagreeable old coot and more like someone’s slightly eccentric grandfather. “Well, it’s good to see that this entire generation isn’t a bunch of brash young ninnies who can’t see past the end of their own noses. So, since you helped me, I’ll help you. When you leave this room, go by the center door and stay on the center path, whatever you do.”

    Ben, who had been smoldering quietly while no one was paying attention to him, decided he needed to get in the last word. “Why should we listen to you, old man?”

    The old man skewered him with another sharp look. “You probably shouldn’t. You should do whatever you want and not listen to someone who has three times as much experience as you. Hmph!” He shoved the ration bars and sweets into his robe with another disgruntled bantha snort, and headed off towards the green-lit door, muttering “That’s the problem with youth today—they’re young! And stupid… but that’s redundant.” He paused at the door’s threshold and leaned on his walking stick as he looked over his shoulder at us. “May the Force be with you,” he said, nodding at me and Noemi. “And you…may it grant that you live long enough to outgrow your youth.” The old man gave Ben one last fearsome scowl and vanished into the hazy green light of the portal, and as soon as he had disappeared completely, the door vanished, too.

    I glanced at Noemi and Ben, feeling like there were multi-pedes crawling up my spine; cranky strangers who mysteriously appear and disappear, taking the door with them can do that to you, even if you are a Jedi who’s used to encountering various Force-powered oddities. Ben’s know-it-all expression was suddenly a lot less certain as he shone his precious glowrod at the spot where the door had been. Noemi scooped up Spots and started rubbing her ears; I wasn’t sure if she was trying to calm the cat or herself. “So what do we do now?” she asked finally.

    I raised my lightsaber, and held it up in front of me like a beacon. “We go through the center door, of course.”

    Notes:

    The old man is Jolee Bindo, the cantankerous old Jedi that Revan meets in the Shadowlands of Kashyyyk, in the video game Knights of the Old Republic.
     
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  17. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Intriguing encounter and I just know Jolee has Ben's character all assessed :p and he can tell Ronen and Noemi are quality. :) Disappearing doors, now that can be freaky indeed! Now how do we get out of here? :eek:
     
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  18. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    [face_laugh] You literally almost made me spit my coffee with this. Like, I was legit drinking coffee while reading this.
     
  19. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    Wow, we really see a whole new side of Smoldery Ben here! I know you’d had in mind for a long time to write and “angst-off” confrontation between Ben and Ronen, pitting their “very serious Jedi” looks and brooding tendencies against each other, but this scene turns out to be more than that: we start to learn a bit about where Ben’s behavior and attitude comes from, and we see that he hasn’t had it exactly easy either. In a way, Ronen’s been making assumptions about him as much as he, Ben, has been making assumptions about Ronen. It has got to be rough having an absentee family like that, shipping you off to your uncle and too busy to ever see you; I can see where that would get Ben feeling very invisible to them, and as though he has to constantly prove himself Smart and Worthy in order to ensure that anyone notices him. As Ronen so aptly puts it, it doesn’t excuse his behavior, but one certainly sees where it comes from.

    It still says a lot for Ronen’s character that he immediately understands what Ben is saying and immediately offers to help. As it does about Ben’s character that he immediately, and with a Byronic swing of his head, refuses the help—but I somehow doubt he will be able to keep that attitude up for long...

    And what a treat to see JOLEE!! [face_dancing] [face_dancing] [face_dancing] Oh, he’s absolutely spot-on perfect to character—I can just hear his voice from KOTOR! And I love how he totally out-angsts Ben in even just those first few minutes—“First-round of the Jedi Temple scowl-off” most definitely goes to him. :D Ronen, true to his character, immediately offers to help, offering his glowrod (and other assorted bits and bobs), and Noemi, true to hers, immediately seconds his offer and contributes her fizzy-sweets; I think even now it’s pretty clear who’s “worthy.” Ben still doesn’t get it, as we see, but Jolee’s retort to him is just so perfect, and so him:

    I know you were debating about which character to use for this scene, and I think you made the absolutely right choice with this one. :D

    So now, onward through that “center door” (and I see what you’re doing there)! Not much else that can be done, really, and it looks like even Ben is in a position where he has to admit that. These three really are a team now, and I can’t wait to see how they’ll surmount the temple’s next challenge! Keep it coming! :cool:
     
  20. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    Jolee's a perceptive guy; he's been around the block a couple of times and has a good understanding. In KOTOR, he definitely his his younger companions' number (including, and especially Revan!). His advice usually takes the form of cranky old man stories, liberally sprinkled with comments about how young people just don't listen these days, but beneath the crusty outer shell, he really wants to see the youngsters (in KOTOR and here) do well.

    Since Star Wars is all about the Hero's Journey, I decided to dip into myth and folklore for the Temple's trials here. Often in fairytales, those on a quest will meet an old crone or beggar who asks a favor of them. The hero doesn't find out until later that this was a test of character. It's pretty obvious who passed the test here and who didn't...
    :D This is kind of a variation on an old joke between me and my friends that Luke Skywalker would use his lightsaber for terribly mundane things like opening potato chip bags or cans. I bet a lightsaber would give you perfectly sliced and toasted bread every time! Who doesn't love a nice toasty sandwich? ;)
    These two have more in common than either of them would be willing to admit--in a way all the teens have some of the same problems, since they come from famous families and are children of the Republic's Great Heroes, and they're all dealing with issues of being seen: Ronen tries to be invisible because he sees himself as a freak, Noemi wants to be seen as herself and not her parents' daughter, and Ben, as you note, feels invisible to his own parents and wants desperately to be seen by someone. He and Ronen have a "grass is greener on the other side" view of each other, only seeing what the other has going for them and not any of their problems. I have to give the edge to Ben here, because Ro does have an incredibly supportive extended family to help him through his problems while Ben's family is literally worlds away. But Ben's attempts at being Teh Bestest probably have served to isolate him from those who could support him.

    Ronen's a pretty empathetic guy, and I think a lot of that comes from having been bullied as a child. He really does understand how it feels to be hurt badly. And it is an eye-opener for him to learn that Ben envies him for what he considers his perfectly ordinary, boring life. Sometimes it's hard to see what you have until someone points it out to you. Ben isn't willing to concede he needs help just yet, but the Temple has a lot in store for him. By the time this adventure is over, hopefully he'll have learned the truth of what Jolee says: even the worthiest of us need help sometimes.

    Aw, thanks! Jolee was an awful lot of fun to write; he's just so cantankerous and cranky that he made a perfect foil for Ben. Do not try to out-scowl him, you young hooligan, he's got years of practice on you, and even Revan himself learned a thing or two from him! Humph! :D Ronen falls into the "youngest brother" role in the fairy tale quest motif I mentioned earlier, the one who isn't a mighty warrior and doesn't outwardly seem to be the hero type, but has a generous heart and when asked for help by the beggar/crone is the one who is willing to interrupt his quest to help, and gets some help along his way. Like the older brothers who scorn the beggar, Ben may be surprised in the end to find how his worthiness on the quest has been judged...

    The next challenge is coming right up, with plenty of surprises in store for our young heroes.
     
  21. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    As always, thanks to @Findswoman for beta-reading @};-


    Noemi’s Journal
    10/11 3301 cont’d. (yes, again…)


    I don’t know who the old man we encountered in the Temple was—for all that he got on Ben about being polite, he didn’t bother to introduce himself. (Not that Ben didn’t deserve it; OMF, wild Kowakian lizard apes are more polite than Ben was to him!) I’m not even sure what the old man was. If he was some sort of apparition created by the Temple, then how did he take Ronen’s glowrod, two ration bars and my fizzy sweets? And if he was a person, then how did he get into the Temple and how did he just disappear the way he did? I mean, Ronen can make himself invisible, but he can’t make a door vanish into nothing! I was starting to freak out a little again, and I really wanted to take Ronen’s hand, or, better yet, put my arms around him and have his arms around me, but that would only have given Ben a reason to make more rude personal remarks about our feelings. And if he did that, I was so going to have to bust out my k’tarra skills and go Mando on his shebs—probably not the best thing to do in the Temple, especially now that it was acting like its old defensive self. So I did the next best thing: I picked up Spots. As she likes to remind me, petting the cat always helps. “So what do we do now?”

    “We go through the center door, of course,” Ronen said, raising his saber like a true Knight, ready for anything.

    And Ben—sniffing, scowling Ben—was ready to complain. “Just one problem—there are four doors. There is no center door.”

    Though I hated to admit it, Master Smoldery-face sort of had a point. The doors, which had been shifting and fading so that you couldn’t really be sure how many there were, had finally settled in place. Now there were clearly four of them arranged in sets of two, one set on either side of the circular chamber. In between them was just a blank expanse of stone.

    “There.” Ronen said, pointing his lightsaber to a spot in the center of the wall, midway between the two sets of doors. “That’s where the old guy went. That’s the center door.”

    Ben snorted. “That is a wall. I know this is a high level concept, so let me explain the difference to you: you can walk through a door, you can’t through a wall.”

    If I were a Loth-cat, my hackles would have gone up at the arch tone of Ben’s voice and I would have spit at him to let him know exactly what I thought of him and his spiteful comments. Since I’m not, it was a good thing I had Spots there to do it for me.

    Ronen’s left lek started twitching, the quick tap-tap-tap of an angry Loth-cat’s tail, and I caught his muttered thought, *Thanks, nerf-brain, I never knew…*, but his expression stayed impassive. “What if it’s not? This Temple used to be really good at creating illusions; what if it only looks like a wall? He said to go through the center door and he left through there. You don’t have to come with me, but I think the old guy was telling the truth.”

    Ben crossed his arms over his chest, kind of a feat since he was still holding his precious glowrod like a youngling clutching a favorite toy. “I’m going to enjoy watching you slam yourself into the wall like that anooba in those stupid holo-’toons.”

    Okay, forget just hissing and spitting, i was this close to demonstrating my k’tarra skills… but Ro, my brave Jedi Action hero, squared his shoulders. “Right.” He held his lightsaber up, took a deep breath, closed his eyes and walked into the wall.

    Not into the wall like Ben’s holo-’toon anooba, smashing himself into a flatcake, but into the wall, vanishing like he’d become part of the stone itself. There was a small, strangled squeak and I’m not sure whether it was me trying to call Ronen’s name with my heart in my throat or Spots protesting that I was squeezing her much tighter than she liked. Oh, dear Force, please let there really have been a door there! Please don’t let my Ro be stuck inside the stone! Please…

    Before I could finish that last plea, a muffled, echoing voice called out, “Uh, guys...there’s some sort of a tunnel or room or something here…”

    I laughed, giddy with relief. That was my Ro—my brave, clever, wonderful Ronen! I turned to Ben and tried not to smirk at the look of absolute slack-jawed dumbfoundedness that had replaced his supercilious sneer or the way his smoldery eyes were bugging out of his head. “What were you saying about holo-toon anoobas?” I asked. Ben collected himself enough to splutter and scowl at me, but I was more concerned with how I was going to make myself go through a door that wasn’t actually there. Because my muscles were refusing to cooperate, insisting that walking into solid stone was a really bad idea, even as I was telling them not to be deceived, we could totally do this. I decided that Ronen had the right idea: eyes closed, deep breath and GO!

    Even then, I half expected to wind up topato-flatcaked on the floor and was relieved when I didn’t hit stone or any other kind of barrier. There was a feeling being hit by a cold blast of wind, as cold as space itself, as I crossed the invisible threshold, and I panicked for a moment, clutching Spots tighter. If she protested, I couldn’t hear it as we stepped into the icy void and then—“Noemi!”—I opened my eyes to see Ro.

    To call this a tunnel or even a room was being generous; it was more of...well, more of just sort of a place. There was definitely a floor, but if there were any walls, I couldn’t tell. Ronen was illuminated by orange-gold light of his lightsaber’s blade, but beyond him everything was an amorphous gray blur, not a mist or haze, just a nothingness. But Ro was there and we were safe--or safe-ish, at least--and that was all that mattered.

    “Aaaaah!” Suddenly, Ben plunged out of the grayness with a yell like a crazed Gungan, arms pinwheeling at his sides. Ronen and I jumped out of the way as he went sprawling onto the gray and misty floor, which fortunately was a lot more solid than it looked. Ben lay there for a moment, then scraped himself up, looking like nothing so much as a cat who’s missed her leap and is trying to convince you that she totally meant to do that (but I would not say that to Spots that; she would not appreciate the comparison). “Yes, well…” Ben said, fastidiously smoothing out the folds of his robe. “Now which way do we go?”.

    “Um…” Ronen’s lekku swayed uncertainly as he glanced around, peering into the grayness. At least in the last chamber, where the doors seemed to come and go according to their own rules, you could have picked a direction. True, it might have disappeared before you had a chance to go that way. It could have been the wrong direction and lead to a dead end or dumped you in a sarlacc pit or something, but it would have been a definite direction. Here, without anything as basic as walls, and without any real sense of distance, it was hard to tell which way we should go—or even which way we could go.

    Our answer came from an unexpected source. Spots wriggled out of my arms and cast about in the tiny circle of light around us, sniffing the air the with her whiskers twitching. When she’d gone about halfway around, her ears flicked once and she came to attention with one forepaw raised. *This way!* Spots bounded forwards, beckoning with her tail. *I smell fresh air and plants!* I expected another disdainful sniff from Ben when I relayed this to him and Ronen, but though he seemed to be trying not to roll his eyes, he only shrugged like “not as if I have anything better to do” and fell in behind me and Ronen.

    I don’t know how far we walked or for how long. In the grayness, nothing seemed to have any meaning. We could have gone meters and taken hours or travelled kilometers in minutes. But after we’d travelled for what seemed like forever, I noticed that the grayness was changing, becoming lighter, a sort of beige blur instead. And gradually, like a holo coming into focus, the blur resolved itself into a landscape—a vast prairie of golden-brown grass swaying gently beneath a bright blue sky.

    We were standing on a well-worn path that wound its way across the grassland. It looked almost like the one that led to the Jedi Temple, except that there was no Temple, no sign of the Academy in the distance, and none of the rounded cairns that dotted the plains at home. “I don’t think we’re on Lothal anymore…”

    “How can you be so sure?” Ben challenged, because the Force forbid he not challenge anything anyone else said. “Looks like the same boring plains to me.”

    Okay, maybe if you were a city-dwelling Core-worlder who’d never seen real grass until you were ten, but I’d grown up on Lothal and lived all my life on the Northern Plains, so I knew deep inside that however much these plains might resemble Lothal, they weren’t quite right. But I doubted that Ben would accept my word that the grass wasn’t the exact shade of gold or that the breeze didn’t carry a hint of jogan fruit or that the insects buzzing faintly definitely didn’t sound like crickbeets. “Well, for one thing, we don’t have anything like that at home,” I said pointing upwards at a creature that looked exactly like the manta rays we’d seen when we vacationed on Mon Cala when I was ten except impossibly huge and even more impossibly airborne. It flapped its wing-like fins lazily as it soared across the sky, momentarily blotting out the sun.

    Ben gaped. “Er...yes…”

    “Wherever we are, we should probably keep moving,” Ronen hid a smile as as he lowered his saber and clipped it back onto his belt. “The old man said we should stay on the center path.”

    The path meandered its way across the grassland seemingly at random; every now and then, it would branch off to one side or the other, but none of these side paths seemed to lead to anything other than more rolling grassland. After traveling through musty stone corridors, chambers with vanishing doors, and hazy gray nothing, this place was practically paradise. The sweet smell of the sun-warmed grass wafted on a gentle breeze, and Spots bounced merrily ahead of us, startling winged insects out of the tall grass. But however nice it seemed, that prickly foreboding was back and I knew it was just a matter of time until something happened

    And it did when the path suddenly split into three, and the center path was blocked by a group of fierce looking beasts.

    When I was little, I used to read every holo-book about animals I could get my hands on. I had this crazy idea that when I grew up, I was going to use my beast-warden talent to talk to ALL THE DIFFERENT CREATURES IN THE GALAXY, just like my dad! (And I didn’t figure out until much later that he hadn’t actually done it, and in all likelihood I couldn’t either. Yes, I know; I was an idealistic kid…) So I learned a lot about the Galaxy’s wildlife, and I recognized these creatures as kath hounds.

    I’ve never really understood why they’re called that. They’re not canids; they’re actually hoofstock, but strangely enough, they’re also carnivorous. They’re also not the most attractive creatures ever, and the members of this pack were no exception. Each of the hounds was over a meter high at the shoulder. They had shaggy, matted pelts and long curved horns, plus a bony crest at the back of their heads and keratinous outgrowths on their backs. The largest hound was an albino close to two meters at his shoulder—and from the size of his horns and the way he was guarding the rest of the herd, he had to be the dominant male. He fixed his beady red eyes on us as we neared and, bellowing like a bawoonka in a Gungan marching band, rushed at us with his head lowered.

    “So now what?” Ben asked sourly, after we’d scrambled back to a point where the albino hound seemed content to just snort at us and toss his head to let us know he totally had his eye on us, so no funny business, you interlopers. “I suppose you’re going to insist on following the crazy coot’s advice to stay on the center path.” He screwed his face into a cock-eyed scowl and pitched his voice into the querulous tones of a daft old man.

    “He was right about the center door!” There was a hint of defensiveness in Ronen’s voice and his left lek was twitching again.

    “Then I hope you can use that lightsaber as more than a glowrod!”

    “What?!” Ronen looked slightly sick as he realized what Ben was suggesting. That probably sounds weird, since it was “just” a kath hound, and hey, aren’t all of us Jedi just raring to get out there and chop things up with our lightsabers? Um, no. No, we’re not and we certainly don’t practice our saber skills on whatever hapless animals we can find. Killing something with your saber is one of those things you prepare for but hope you don’t really have to do. So of course Ronen, who hates the idea of anyone getting hurt and always stands up for the underdog, wasn’t going to slice and dice the kath hound, who was really just doing what kath hounds do.

    Ben, on the other hand, didn’t seem to have any problem with the idea. “Can you think of another way to get this ugly Sith-spawn out of the way? Oh, here give it to me, I’ll take care of this—” He grabbed for Ronen’s saber; Ro jumped back just in time, smacking at Ben’s hand. And you’d think that Ben would have realized that A.) trying to take someone’s saber is like stunningly rude and something not even a youngling would do, and B.) their tussle was making the kath hounds nervous. They were tightening their defensive circle and shuffling their feet; the albino bellowed again.

    I forced my way between the guys. “You’re not going to take care of anything!” I informed Ben. “They’re only trying to protect their pups—see, there are three of them in the center there. I’ll handle this.”

    Ben crossed his arms over his chest and smoldered down at me—like I cared. “And just how do you propose to do that?”

    “I’m going to ask him nicely; I’m a beast-warden, remember?”

    Okay, being a beast-warden is not what most people think it is. I don’t go around commanding animals to do stuff. I mean, I could, the same way I could command people to do things by using Jedi mind tricks, but I consider it just as rude and unethical for the same reasons you’re not supposed to do it to a person. Dad’s always taught me that being a beast-warden is about being able to connect with animals using the Force, and once you have that connection, most animals, like most people, will be happy to help you. It doesn’t always work out, but I had to try.

    I can connect with most kinds of creatures. I usually say I can talk to them, but it isn’t really talking in the regular sense. It’s more like when I find that connection in the Force with a creature, we can understand each other on some level. It works better with some creatures than others; for me, cats have always been the easiest—Loth-cats, of course, but other felines, too, like Aunt Annina’s pittins. Some creatures “talk” more than others, some convey feelings more than words, and some are more interesting than others (fish, for example, are pretty boring unless you like to discuss water). And every type of creature has its own “voice”: the way they sound, their accent and grammar...and yes, I know I’ve already said it isn’t talking or words, really, but that’s the best way I can explain how the Force translates it to me. I can talk to Spots—or pretty much any random Loth-cat—the way I would to Ronen or Caleb, but since I’d never spoken to a kath hound before and didn’t know their language (so to speak) I figured it was best to be formal. You can never go wrong that way. I took a step towards the albino hound but kept my head lowered and my eyes down, signs of submission. Again, you can’t go wrong being deferential to the dominant member of a pack. *Greetings.*

    He bellowed again, tossing his head to show off his horns, which looked like they could skewer me like a ripe meiloorun without the hound half trying. I sensed Ronen stir behind me, his hand going to his lightsaber. He might not have liked the idea of attacking the kath hound just to clear the path, but he’d protect me by any means necessary. *Stay still,* I told him. *I can handle this.* I hoped… This was not the kind of thing I was used to doing as a beast-warden. Facing an angry kath hound was a far cry from soothing a cranky Loth-cat or a frightened convor chick. I took a deep breath, drew on the Force, and made myself approach the hound.

    He loomed over me, snuffling and snorting as he took my scent. His breath was hot and smelled worse than Caleb’s socks after a grav-ball tournament. *Are you not frightened, little Human?* His voice in my mind was a guttural growl.

    *You are quite impressive,* I admitted. Up close, I could appreciate just how long and sharp his teeth were. He was being defensive, not truly aggressive, but that wasn’t going to be a consolation if if he decided to chomp my nose off. I kept my eyes down but made myself stand still even as he huffed his fetid breath in my face. A little flattery might be in order here, I thought. *We are truly in awe of your might, noble one, and we humbly ask your permission to pass through your territory on this trail.*

    My flattery seemed to please him; he made a sound somewhere between a purr and a growling cackle, but he tossed his head again. *Why do you not go elsewhere? Are the plains not vast enough that you must encroach on our territory?*

    Oh, wow, how to explain this…? Well, you see, this strange old guy we met in the dark told us to go through a door that wasn’t there and then said we had to stay on the center path no matter what. I considered how best to phrase things so that it made sense to the hound when it still sounded pretty crazy to me. *An elder of our species commanded us to follow this trail,* I finally managed. Most canids follow pack hierarchy and most hoofstock have similar rankings in their herds, so I figured he would appreciate the idea of a group of youngsters following their superior’s orders, even if kath hounds weren’t really either one. *Please, if you let us pass, I promise none of us will harm any of your pack.*

    The albino hound huffed again, and lowered his head so that his red eyes were staring directly into mine. *On what do you swear this vow?*

    Vow? What, was this kath hound related to Maatko or something, to take things so literally? Okay, well, there was one vow I could make without hesitation. *I give you my word as a Jedi… a servant of the Force,* I clarified, as the kath hound snorted and scuffed the ground with his front hooves, unfamiliar with the concept of a Jedi and unwilling to take this as any sort of indication of my good faith. *The power that binds all things together…*

    The hound’s nostrils flared, and suddenly he buried his muzzle into my hair, sniffing and nosing at me enthusiastically. I felt not just his hot, smelly breath but warm trickles of slobber...ewww. This was why I preferred felines; they were never so undignified as to drool on you, while canids seemed to think it was perfectly appropriate in any number of social situations. Finally, the albino hound left off his sticky snuffling. *Ah, I scent it on you now!* He reared onto his hind legs and trumpeted to the pack. Their heads snapped up as one, and, as neatly and smoothly as soldiers in formation, they divided into two rows, one on each side of the path. *I understand now why your elder bade you go this way,* the hound said, as he, too, moved to the side *There is another like you here. This path will take you to him. Go well, little Human.* He bent one foreleg, dipping a bow with his head lowered—a gesture of respect, if not outright submission.

    I laid a hand on his muzzle. Perhaps he wasn’t so bad after all, for a hound at least. *Thank you, friend. May the Force be with you and your pack*. I turned back to the guys, but before I could say anything, Ronen was there, gathering me into his arms, heedless of the flecks of hound slobber in my hair and on my shoulders and the way Ben seemed to be torn between gaping at the hounds standing in neat formation and glowering at Ro to head off any ideas he might have of playing kissy-face with me again.

    “You did it!” Ro hugged me close. “Well, I mean, I knew you could do it, but still, that was seriously awesome! I thought that thing was going to eat your face there at the end, but you…” His voice trailed off, and he shook his head, smiling as if he’d never seen anyone more amazing than me.

    I could have kissed Ronen. I could have kissed him a lot if Smoldery Ben and a pack of kath hounds hadn’t been there watching everything. So I hugged him back, pouring that feeling into my embrace, and it must have worked, because he was blushing when I let go. “Thank you,” I murmured as I straightened out my hound-slobbery hair. I might have been blushing a little bit, too. “But the hound was pretty reasonable when I explained things to him. He said that there was another Jedi here..”

    “Yes,” Ben said tightly, and pointed down the path. “I’m guessing that’s him.”

    I would have sworn there had been nothing but more rolling prairie there a moment ago, but now just beyond the kath hounds there were half a dozen tall rectangular stones slabs standing along the path. Each of them had a notch carved half way up on the narrow edge facing us. Though their edges were only slightly worn, some of them leaned at haphazard angles. The path led through them to a turf mound too perfectly round to be natural. A stone doorway was set into the mound, and in the doorway stood a tall figure dressed in the white robes and mask of a Temple Guard. Next to me, Ronen shifted and took my hand; and I knew he was thinking about our dads’ second visit to the Jedi Temple, when Uncle Kanan had been tested—and then knighted—by the Grand Inquisitor, redeemed by the Force and returned to his former position as a Temple Guard. “I don’t think that’s him,” I whispered, squeezing Ro’s hand. The figure was tall, but much too broad shouldered to be a Pau’an.

    “No.” Ronen squeezed my hand back. “But there’s something strange about him, something almost familiar...”

    “Well, you two can stand here and figure it out if you want.” Ben swept past us with a sniff and a scowl, perfect robes and perfect hair flowing behind him. “But if he’s a Temple Guard, then I intend to find out exactly what he’s guarding.”

    Ro and I exchanged glances. "Here we go again," he sighed, and, hand in hand, we followed Ben.

    Notes:
    Kath hounds

    The “holo-’toon anooba”: my fanon GFFA equivalent of Wile E. Coyote

    The teens are, or at least seem to be, on Dantooine.
     
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  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha 2 Truths 1 Lie Host star 8 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow, how disconcerting to walk in a nebulous misty area, then wind up WAAAAAY far from home. Yay for Noemi's beast-warden talent, really literally came in handy. [face_relieved]
     
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  23. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    The plot thickens.....

    And Ben is still being Ben
     
  24. Findswoman

    Findswoman Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Feb 27, 2014
    What a full, rich chapter! From the mysterious old dude who disappears into thin air with glow rods and tins of sweets, to Middle Door 9 3/4 that Isn’t Really There, to strange, mysterious, misty-gray expanses that have more than a little of the World Between Worlds about them, to steppeland that is Just Different Enough from Lothal, to kath hounds, for Pete’s sake—there are so many new ways the temple keeps our trio (OK, quartet, because Spots would probably want me to count her too :p ) guessing at every turn. And at each turn they rise to the occasion—each one of them. Ronen thinks out of the box and figures out the riddle of the “middle door.” Noemi deploys her wicked-cool beastwarden skills to not only negotiate with the kath hounds but also win their respect—it’s not everyone who gets the distinction of having a pack alpha actually bow to them! Spots uses her heightened animal senses to guide the three teens from the misty wasteland into a place that feels more like a place (and I have a guess about that just-different-enough steppeland). And even Ben takes a plunge of faith through Door 9 3/4, which is a huge step for him considering his attitude toward Ronen before now. I think he may just be starting to get the idea, in a way. Just.

    It’s so cool to see Noemi’s beastwarden talent at work in detail here, just as it was a few chapters ago to get to know the nuts and bolts of Ronen’s invisibility talent. I love the way she thinks so carefully about each gesture and each response she makes to the hounds, even putting herself in their shoes: yes, they will respond well to deference and formality, yes, they understand the concept of young beings following the advice of an elder, yes, this is how to invoke the Force in a way they can relate to. And her careful thought pays off each time, even though dealing with this particular species is new to her—just as Ronen pushed the limits of his invisibility talent by cloaking Noemi along with him. They’re all really taking their abilities to new levels on this adventure! I’m going to say, too, that it doesn’t seem like coincidence that the kath hound pack leader is big and white... he partly puts me in mind of another big, white canid. [face_thinking] (Still, I don’t blame Noemi at all for preferring felids—I’ve never quite gotten used to big, slobbery canid kisses either. :p )

    Knowing that there’s “another like you” further on down the path definitely deepens the mystery of this already mysterious place. And I note that it’s Ben who first sees that strange figure in temple guard attire and alerts everyone—perhaps he is starting to get it, at least partly. “Here we go again” indeed with the rash, arrogant bluster, but the fact that he’s taking the lead and being proactive this time isn’t necessarily completely unadmirable. Color me very, very intrigued to see who this mysterious being will turn out to be, what awaits our teens next, and whether they’re closer to their goal! Always looking forward to more. [face_dancing]
     
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2019
  25. Raissa Baiard

    Raissa Baiard Chosen One star 4

    Registered:
    Nov 22, 1999
    The Temple is doing its best to test them, throwing them into one strange situation after another, but it’s also not throwing anything at them they can’t handle. Noemi’s talent makes her uniquely suited to handle this particular trial—and handle it without resorting to violence.
    (Cue dramatic music): Dun dun DUNNNNN! He is getting the hint of a clue, though—just a hint, but it’s a start!
    These last couple chapters have wound up being longer and more jam packed than I’d thought :p I have to thank you for the Mysterious Door 9 3/4, because I had something else in mind for the center door, but it wasn’t nearly as interesting. The misty expanse is sort of a World-Between-Worlds and it owes a lot to
    the way Loth-wolves can travel over long distances though a similar “landscape” (or lack of landscape)
    . Spots would absolutely insist on being counted! She’s part of this team, too, lending her senses to track Ben and find the right way to go. Noemi brings her own unique way of looking at things to bear, realizing that, hey we’re not in Kansas...er, on Lothal anymore (and that’s also me bringing a bit of my lifelong-Midwesterner sensibilities to the story, as well as the fact that, like Noemi I read every book about animals I could find as a kid). She also recognizes that the kath hounds aren’t just an obstacle to be gotten rid of, they’re beings who are protecting their young, behaving in a way that’s instinctive to them.

    I have to say I love writing my beast-warden characters (it’s another reason I love Ezra!) I wish I could be able to communicate with animals that way. I have always been fascinated by National Geographic specials and Ranger Rick magazine, so I can put myself into Noemi’s shoes in a way—Okay, if was going to talk to a herd of carnivorous nor-quite-hounds, not-quite-hoofstock, how would I approach them? She read enough and e perienced enough to be able think it through and that careful, polite approach pays off for her. And like Ronen, she’s stretching her abilities. As far as the albino Kath Hound, there was a mention on the Wook that the albinos are the largest and most aggressive of them, but white animals do have a way of turning up as “spirit animals” and this big guy certainly takes on a bit of that for Noemi here. And it’s not that I don’t like dogs (and I do love wolves, as you might have guessed) but the kittehs just have a special,place in my heart after having had a cat for 17 years.

    Ben’s starting to get a crack in that Smoldery attitude, though he’s still got a ways to go—they all do, because the Temple isn’t quite done with its trials yet—and this may be the chance that Ben’s been waiting for.
     
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