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Before - Legends Before the Saga Diary of a Very Sympathetic Padawan (Bant Eerin's diary for the 2020 DDC)

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by devilinthedetails, Jan 1, 2020.

  1. BookExogorth

    BookExogorth Jedi Grand Master star 4

    Registered:
    May 4, 2017
    Bant's trick was so funny! I am glad to see that this story is going strong :)
     
  2. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for commenting!:) The plot is definitely getting thick, and will continue to thicken in this chapter, and you're right that the Jedi will have to be careful because there will be those who don't want the truth to be discovered, but eventually, with Jedi determination and diligence, the truth will come out...

    @BookExogorth Thank you so much for commenting! :) Yes, the story is still going strong. I haven't abandoned it and hopefully I can provide regular updates until it reaches its conclusion! Bant's trick made me laugh and smile as I wrote it so I'm so happy you enjoyed it;)




    Dear Diary,

    Obi-Wan and I hurried to the address Mace had given us where the dead body had been found. It was only a few blocks away, and we could run there. My pulse echoed in my eardrums, not a testament to any sort of exhaustion—no Jedi would be winded by such a short run—but the pounding beat of a fear at my heels that I couldn’t outrun.

    The address turned out to belong to a dark, sketchy warehouse. The sort of abandoned warehouse that inevitably featured as a haunt of ghosts and goblins in horror stories told to terrify younglings late at night when they should have been sleeping.

    Vehicles emblazoned with the logo for New Aposolon security forces were parked, red lights flashing, in the street in front of the warehouse, and others were posted on guard at the warehouse’s many entrances.

    Obi-Wan strode to what appeared to have once been the warehouse’s main door in days when it had known greater prosperity and gainful employment. I followed his lead and stood beside him as he firmly spoke to the officers on guard there as if he expected to be obeyed, “We are Jedi. Manex has given us the authority to investigate.”

    Even if I had been angry at him earlier, I couldn’t help but admire his courage now. I wouldn’t have dared to speak so firmly to the guards stationed by the warehouse’s doors.

    That firmness and courage was all that was necessary to earn our entrance into the warehouse. The officers stepped aside to admit us, gesturing with hand waves for us to enter the building.

    Upon entering, we found ourselves in a dark, dingy hallway. The corpse lay in the hallway, hidden under a tarp that showed only an outline of the body beneath it.

    Obi-Wan knelt, lifting up the corner of the tarp so as to inspect the body beneath it. Glassy blue eyes stared blankly up at us, forever caught in their final expression of shock and fear. Was it shock and fear only at death overtaking him at last. Or was it shock and fear that marked him as a victim of murder?

    My stomach churned, and bile burned up my throat as the smell of death filled my nose. Death had a distinctive, sickening stench.

    “Do you have an ID?” Obi-Wan demanded of a nearby security officer who was bending over to scrape a sample of something into a vial for forensic analysis in a laboratory.

    “Name was Oleg.” The officer didn’t glance up from tying a record of his find into his datapad as he replied to Obi-Wan’s query.

    “Was anything on the body?” I asked. I wanted to collect any clues that might solve the mystery of how the the man before me had come to be dead.

    “Just a blaster. Never got a chance to use it, did he?” The officer was clearly indulging in one of those grim jokes that were said to be common to those who were constantly surrounded by death. Black humor was the coping mechanism of security officers and soldiers the galaxy over, it was widely claimed, and I saw no reason to disbelieve that in my limited interaction with those who pursued such professions. “A probe droid got him first.”

    Obi-Wan and I continued to examine Oleg’s body—it felt odd to be able to connect this corpse to a living person that Obi-Wan and I had been searching for only a half hour ago—and then began to explore the area where he had been found as we waited for Master Windu to arrive. Until we came to the back door of the warehouse, we discovered no signs of a struggle or clues that might point us toward a suspect. At the back door, however, we noticed that the panel was peeled back, leaving an open wide enough for a human male of average height and weight to slip through. A potential route of entry or egress? I wondered.

    Master Windu’s grim voice filled the corridor behind us. “A lightsaber, no doubt.”

    A shiver snaked up my spine at this pronouncement, because Master Windu, Obi-Wan, Qui-Gon, and I were surely the only beings on New Apsolon in possession of a lightsaber. Master Windu wouldn’t have done this, and Obi-Wan and I had been together all day as we searched for Oleg. The evidence, then, pointed to Qui-Gon committing this crime in his search for Oleg and justice for Tahl. Justice that might have crossed the thin, dangerous line into vengeance. The line a Jedi was never supposed to cross into that forbidden territory of the Dark Side.

    “It could have been a vibrotorch,” Obi-Wan suggested without much conviction, licking his lips nervously. No doubt he didn’t want to think that Qui-Gon could commit such a crime. Nor would he want Master Windu or I believing that Qui-Gon would do such a thing.

    I didn’t want to believe that Qui-Gon would do such a thing either. He was a free spirit, a maverick, but far too kind and gentle a man to be a murderer. Yet it was hard to dispute the evidence of my eyes that pointed to his guilt.

    Master Windu didn’t answer. Instead his eyes narrowed as they fixed on something. With a frown in his forehead, he plucked a beige fragment of fabric off the sharp edge of the broken door panel. He held it out for Obi-Wan and I to examine. I felt my soul sink as I saw that it was the exact color and texture of a Jedi robe, familiar to me as the one I wore myself.

    While Obi-Wan and I studied the piece of Jedi robe with wide eyes, Master Windu had turned his gaze to the perimeter of the warehouse, staring out through the lightsaber cut hole in the door at the yard illuminated in harsh yellow light by the glow rods the security officers had placed throughout it at regular intervals.

    “There was a battle with probe droids.” Master Windu could see so much in a single glance. I wondered if I would ever have eyes as keen as his. “See the scorch marks on the pavement? Maybe four or five or even more.” Looking at Obi-Wan, he asked in a grave tone, “Did Qui-Gon employ probe droids to track Balog?”

    I remembered at our briefing upon arriving on New Apsolon Obi-Wan telling Master Windu and I that Qui-Gon had done so, and Master Windu asking whether probe droids were illegal on New Apsolon. A briefing that now felt as if it had occurred in the distant past even though it had been only a short time ago because between then and no Qui-Gon might have fallen to the Dark Side seeking justice for Tahl that had turned into a bitter quest for vengeance prohibited to a Jedi and all who would walk a righteous path.

    “Yes.” Obi-Wan’s swallow was visible, and I could feel his distress in the Force.

    My broken heart went out to him as I worried that something worse than death might have happened to his Master. To lose a Master to death was terrible and painful, but there was still the comfort of knowing that my Master had passed into pure unity and transcendent, ultimate peace in the Force, but if Qui-Gon had fallen to the Dark Side, Obi-Wan would never be able to take comfort in such knowledge because for a Jedi to fall to the Dark Side was to be consumed by a perversion of all that was good and light: to give into fear, anger, and hatred eternally.

    I wanted to reach out to him—to console him—but I wasn’t sure how and was afraid that anything I did say would sound hollow or fake to his ears after I had been so harsh with him earlier. I regretted those words now because they created a gulf between myself and my friend that I wasn’t certain how to breach or even if I could breach it. I should have been patient and kinder with my best friend. I shouldn’t have let my temper do my talking. It was a lesson that stung my tongue like acid. I could only hope that some time I would find the right words to say and that Obi-Wan would want to listen to them when I did. Then we both might not feel so lost and alone.
     
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  3. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wow! The evidence seems compelling but it could also be a frame-up. Bant's regret about the harsh words of earlier and the gulf that persists was well-detailed. Her empathy is being stirred, and yet she hesitates to commiserate because of how she reacted to Obi-Wan's overture.
     
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  4. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting!:) You're so right that while the evidence might seem compelling it could easily be a frame up and the Jedi might wind up discovering that Qui-Gon is not behind Oleg's death. I'm glad that you found Bant's regret at her earlier harsh words and the gulf that still exists between them well-detailed. As you say, her empathy is being stirred, and in the next chapter, we will begin to see her act on her empathy and make an effort to close the gap between her and Obi-Wan. Reconciliation is finally coming between her and Obi-Wan (not to get to spoilery...)[face_blush]




    Dear Diary,

    Obi-Wan and I stood on the permacrete pedwalk an opulent cafe in the center of the Civilized district near the beating heart of power that was the United Legislature building. The glimmering holosign arching over the cafe’s entrance proclaimed it to be the Luster. It’s name perhaps was a tribute to the gilded dome chandeliers that hung over every table, making the shimmersilk fabrics of the elite dining below them sparkle like stars and making the polished laroon wood tables and chairs glow with a warm light.

    Master Windu had gone inside the cafe to mingle among the well-connected diners to gather more information and hints about the list that had led to Oleg’s murder and who might have the list now. Before he entered the cafe, he had suggested that Obi-Wan and I could wait in more comfortable quarters at Manex’s manor, but Obi-Wan and I decided by silent, common consent to wait outside the crowded cafe for Master Windu to return with whatever information he could collect from the gossiping cafe patrons.

    My body was rigid, my hands knotted together tightly as vines clinging to a forest tree, as I stared into the cafe. It was hard to see the laughing and chatting customers inside, knowing with a vibrodagger twist in my heart that Tahl would never talk or laugh again. These power-grubbing people were still alive to lust after more wealth and political clout while my Master had died on behalf of their world and they didn’t know or care.

    I tried to make my gaze hard and fierce as possible so I wouldn’t break down and cry in the middle of a Civilized street bustling with shoppers laden with bags and packages of the most expensive luxury goods available in the galaxy.

    Perhaps after all our years of friendship, despite the recent rift between us, Obi-Wan could detect my distress, because he said so gently that I knew I would weep after all, “Bant.”

    “She should be here.” I choked on the words, struggling to blink back the tears burning at my eyes. “It seems impossible that she’s not here. I can’t believe she won’t come around the corner any second. I keep hearing her scold us for making such a big fuss and coming here to save her.” Now the tears did tumble down my cheeks as I had known they would. “It hurts so much, Obi-Wan. I can’t find peace in her death. I know I’m supposed to accept it. I can’t.”

    There it was. The stark, painful truth. I wasn’t a true Jedi because I couldn’t accept death and the inevitability of loss. The fact that we had all been born from the Force and must return to the Force at the end of our lives.

    “I know what you mean.” Obi-Wan bit his lip, and I felt some strange solace in the understanding that I wasn’t alone in my grief—that Obi-Wan shared my feelings of confusion and failure to accept or find peace in Tahl’s death. “When we found her, and she was so weak, I never for one moment thought that she could die. Tahl was so strong. She was as strong as Qui-Gon.”

    She had been the strongest person I knew. That gave me the courage to ask the question I had been too afraid to ask since I had arrived on New Apsolon: “Did she say anything? Anything before…”

    “She was too weak to talk when I saw her.” Obi-Wan’s soft voice was heavy with sorrow. “Qui-Gon was with her when she died.”

    “I’m glad such a good friend was there.” My heart was breaking but my words were sincere. If I couldn’t be there when Tahl died, at least my best friend had been. Tahl had been fond of Obi-Wan, I knew that.

    Obi-Wan hesitated before replying, and I understood his hesitance when he told me in a quiet, confidential tone as if he were two conspiring Civilized in the cafe, “I think Qui-Gon and Tahl had become more than friends. Here on New Apsolon, something changed. That’s why Qui-Gon is grieving the way he is.”

    “You mean they loved each other?” I gasped, mouth agape and eyes wide with astonishment. Nothing could be more shocking than a Jedi falling in love, but at the same time it explained the violence of Qui-Gon’s grief for Tahl, his temper, and his tendency to isolate himself even from his fellow Jedi more than anything else could have. He hadn’t just lost a friend. He had lost the woman he had loved. The woman he had just realized that he loved more than anyone and anything in the universe.

    There could be, I thought, no greater sorrow than that. Even my own grief paled in comparison to that shadow of that loss that would forever leave a chasm in Qui-Gon’s life and heart.

    “Then it’s even more sad, isn’t it?” I whispered, staring down at my clasped hands. My compassion finally reawakened by my sincere sorrow at someone else’s grief.

    “Yes.” Obi-Wan’s answer was thick with tears he hadn’t allowed himself to cry. “It’s the saddest thing I’ve ever seen. That’s why I’m worried about Qui-Gon.”

    Spontaneously, I reached out to squeeze his arm, closing the gulf between us at long last as I promised, “We will help him, Obi-Wan.”

    It had been too late to save Tahl, but it wasn’t too late to save Qui-Gon. We could save him and so honor Tahl’s life and memory.

    Before Obi-Wan could reply to this pledge, Master Windu emerged from the cafe in a sweep of robes around his ankles.

    “I haven’t learned much, but I did pick up an item of interesting gossip as I was leaving,” he updated us once he had joined us. Just today Legislator Pleni has announced that she will run for Supreme Governor. She has kept a low profile in the Legislature, so this was surprising. In only an afternoon, she managed to sway some powerful Legislators to support her. Her sudden bid for power and the quick support she received could mean that she bought the list from Oleg. At any rate, it is worth investigating. If she has the list, she could be in danger. Whoever has possession of it could end up like Oleg.”

    He turned and began striding briskly away from us along the thronging pedwalk, calling over his shoulder, “Come. Her residence is not far.”

    His long stride covered more distance than either my legs or Obi-Wan’s could at a fast walk, so we had to run to keep up with him.

    It transpired that Legislator Pleni lived alone in a dwelling constructed from the gray stone native to New Apsolon that would be considered small by the standards of the grand neighborhood surrounding the Legislature. All the lights inside the house were switched on, allowing us to glimpse the elegant decor within as we approached the door.

    Master Windu pressed the button by the comm panel that would alert the Legislator that she had visitors, but we waited several minutes by the comm panel, waiting to announce ourselves, without any inquiry from Legislator Pleni as to who we were and why we had come to call upon her.

    I felt worries and suspicions begin to blacken my mind the longer we waited without word from within Legislator Pleni’s residence.

    “She could have left the lights on when she went out,” Master Windu commented in a tone that suggested he didn’t believe what he was proposing. “But let’s explore just the same.”

    We walked slowly around the house, alert for any signs of violence or evidence of a disturbance. We found such signs and evidence in the back, where Master Windu’s keen dark eyes spotted marks of a probe droid’s entry through a window high above our heads.

    The back door was secured, but that didn’t stop Master Windu slicing a hole in it with his lightsaber and striding inside. Exchanging concerned looks, Obi-Wan and I followed him inside.

    The stone floors gleamed in the bright lights, and eerily no item appeared out of place as we moved through the cavernous empty rooms in silence except for the echoes of our own footsteps. We came to the staircase, which we climbed with mounting unease. Upstairs, we finally saw signs of a struggle between Legislator Pleni and the invading probe droid in overturned furniture and smashed crystal vases.

    Glancing up at the ceiling, Master Windu pointed out smudges.

    “Probe droid,” he repeated as if his theory needed further proving.

    We turned a corner into Legislator Pleni’s bedroom, the door of which had been riddled by blaster fire from the probe droid. The legislator lay curled up and unbreathing in a pool of her own blood, fingers clutching a blaster that had failed to save her from the probe droid’s attack.

    “We are always one step too late on New Apsolon.” Maser Windu’s voice rang with the grim determination to ensure that this would no longer be the case.

    We heard the noises of people below and the echoing sound of footsteps on the stairs.

    “She is in here,” Master Windu called to the security squad as they stepped off the staircase.

    As the security team began their investigation of the crime scene and Legislator Pleni’s corpse, Master Windu brought Obi-Wan and me downstairs to wait for the report from security away from the grisly remains of Legislator Pleni.

    We had waited for perhaps twenty minutes before a security officer questioned us on who we were and how we had come to be here.

    The security officer was apparently satisfied with our answers and told us we could go, but Master Windu insisted that we linger until the investigation was completed that we might hear the results and the conclusions of the security squad.

    An hour later when the squad at last returned downstairs having finished their investigation, Master Windu asked the officer with the badge that proclaimed him to posses the most senior rank and placed him in charge of this investigation, “Any conclusions?”

    “Yes.” With a single brusque word, the officer in charge made as if to brush past Master Windu.

    “You know that Manex has ordered security to cooperate with the Jedi.” Master Windu stepped in front of the security officer, effectively blocking his path.

    “Fine.” Malice sparked in the security officer’s gaze as he spat, “Let me tell you what we’ve discovered then. Legislator Pleni was killed by a probe droid. We have been able to trace its owner.”

    “You have a name?” Master Windu pressed, raising an eyebrow.

    “Certainly.” The security officer bared his teeth in a predator’s smile. “Your Jedi friend, Qui-Gon Jinn.”

    I could feel my heart sinking to the floor as the security officer pronounced the syllables of Qui-Gon’s nam
     
  5. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Loved the exchange between Bant and Obi-Wan!!

    The sense of unreality and feeling that the person you've lost is going to suddenly appear is very realistic.

    Oh, no! The evidence is mounting as Pleni is found assassinated by a probe droid owned by Qui-Gon. [face_nail_biting] Eagerly awaiting more. =D=
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2020
    devilinthedetails likes this.
  6. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting![:D] I'm so glad that you liked the conversation between Bant and Obi-Wan. It was good to finally be able to write about these two best friends reconciling. It is so true that the sense of unreality and feeling that a person you've lost is going to suddenly appear again can be very painful and can last for a long time, making grief cut all the deeper and reopening wounds. And the evidence is definitely mounting against Qui-Gon with the probe droid that assassinated Pleni. The plot should continue to thicken in this next chapter as the story nears its climax.




    Dear Diary,

    The discovery that the probe droid that had killed Legislator Pleni belonged to Qui-Gon was sufficient grounds for the security officers and courts of New Apsolon to issue a warrant for his arrest. This arrest warrant had an inevitable, limiting effect on how much security officers and civilians (once the warrant for his arrest was broadcast on all the local holonews channels) wished to cooperate with us Jedi even with the support of the planet’s temporary leader Manex. All the more so because Qui-Gon did not turn himself into the security officers of New Apsolon when his arrest warrant was announced but remained a fugitive now on the run from the law—hiding from his fellow Jedi as much as New Apsolon security.

    Obi-Wan and I followed Master Windu on his sadly ineffectual quest for information. We hovered silently in the shadows as he received brusque non-answers from
    an increasing number of security officers and civilians. I could see the mounting frustration evident in Master Windu’s tightening dark features, and I knew he was as aggravated that Qui-Gon had not surfaced to clear his sullied name as he was with the obstacles forever being tossed in his investigative path by intractable security officers and obstinate civilians.

    The waves of distress coming from Obi-Wan, which I felt all the more acutely as we were reconciled to one another after our conversation outside the opulent Civilized cafe, were far more distracting and disturbing to me than Master Windu’s swelling frustration. Obi-Wan didn’t know where his Master was or what he was thinking, and that shook him to the core.

    I wanted to say something to comfort him, but the words always dried in my mouth before my lips could give voice to them because I had the disconcerting feeling that nothing I said could console him now. I wasn’t Qui-Gon, and he needed his Master beside him, speaking to him in that calming tone he had, to bring an end to his distress.

    “You need rest,” Master Windu told Obi-Wan and I when the three of us returned to Manex’s mansion after a long, fruitless investigation.

    I felt bone-weary but somehow too anxious—as if every nerve inside me was taut and strained—to rest. Exchanging a glance with Obi-Wan, I saw the same grim truth on his face. By silent, common consent we didn’t retire to our quarters but instead sat on the lurid green sofas that defined the decor in Manex’s favorite private parlor.

    None of us spoke until Manex rushed into the room bearing news from the Legislature, his curls mussed as if he had tugged fretful fingers through his hair and his cheeks flushed with agitation.

    “Qui-Gon was spotted at the Legislature,” Manex panted, rubbing a palm over a stitch in his plump stomach. Obviously this rotund man was not accustomed to the exertion of running anywhere and had taxed his body to return to us with this update as swiftly as possible. “There was a blaster battle.”

    I could almost feel the ice freezing in Obi-Wan’s blood and veins at this. Driven by my instinctive compassion for him, my best friend despite any arguments, I moved closer to him on the sofa, my shoulder brushing against his in wordless, solid support. Shoulder to shoulder, we could form a wall strong enough to withstand anything the galaxy hurled at us, I told myself, hoping that I could make him believe it too.

    Master Windu rose in a rustling ripple of robes as I inched closer to Obi-Wan, demanding of Manex, “What happened?”

    “He escaped, of course.” Manex sounded astonished that Master Windu had to ask.

    At the news that Qui-Gon hadn’t been shot by a security officer, I felt my tense muscles relax a fraction in the same second that Obi-Wan released a long, pent-up sigh, both of us emanating relief into the Force like a squid injecting black ink into the oceans of Mon Calamar.

    Mopping at his brow with a pale gold handkerchief, Manex continued in a tone that held too much self-pity for my taste, “What a day. I must tell you that there is a movement afoot to draft me for the elections.”

    As I marveled at just how desperate the citizens and elites of New Apsolon must be if they were looking to Manex for long-term leadership on their rocky path forward, Manex went on with a resolve that surprised me into re-evaluating my perceptions of this portly self-satisfied man in love with his creature comforts. “It is not a job that I seek, but I am thinking about it. Maybe it is time I got involved. I used to think my brother was the hero, the public servant. I used to say I was only here to make money.”

    Manex shoved his sweaty handkerchief back into his pocket before finishing, “Maybe I became the way I am because my brother was so noble. Now I am no longer sure what my role is. Maybe the time to abandon my principle of self-protection is here.”

    “What about Alani?” Obi-Wan asked. “Would it be hard for you to oppose her?”

    The twins Alani and Eritha had been wards of Manex’s brother, after all.

    Manex hesitated, reflecting on this, before answering, “I have to think of what is best for New Apsolon, and I’ve realized one thing. We cannot form a solid government—whether with me or another leader—if we do not expose Balog and the Absolutes. I have a plan.”

    I tried to conceal my skepticism about how ill-conceived a plan the indolent Manex might devise. It was difficult for me to remind myself that Manex was a successful businessman and must have concocted some cunning schemes in the past. I couldn’t let my prejudices about his taste and demeanor dominate and color my perception of him. I would underestimate him—underrating his cleverness and determination—if I did.

    “I will act as a decoy,” Manex declared, sharing his plan that showed a startling bravery and willingness to risk his own neck for the investigation—for the good of New Apsolon. “I’ll let it be known that the list of secret informers has passed into my possession.”

    “No, it’s too dangerous.” Master Windu shook his head. “You realize what happened to the last two beings that claimed this?”

    Both of them were dead in body bags at New Apsolon morgues, their stiff, cold corpses being studied for clues by forensic scientists.

    “They are dead. Yes, I realize this very well.” Manex clasped his hands that had to be shaking together. “I’m trying not to think about that, and actually you can’t say no. I’ve already spread the rumor.”

    A grenade hurled into the conversation, I thought, watching Manex and Master Windu. Seeing the worry and resolve on their faces, feeling their tension within the Force.

    “This may not be wise.” Master Windu frowned, forehead furrowing.

    “You’re telling me,” Manex snorted with a strange, sardonic self-deprecation. “I’m hardly a courageous man, but I’m hoping that with Jedi protection, I’ll be all right. If we can get Balog to expose himself, we can catch him. Don’t you want to clear Qui-Gon’s name?”

    I didn’t know whether this plan cooked up by Manex was more courageous or presumptuous of Jedi skills.

    Perhaps Master Windu felt the same way, because he replied crisply, “Of course, but it is not clear if this is the way to do it.”

    “It is the only way,” Manex insisted. “You know it is.”

    Master Windu could have continued to debate the point, but there would be no profit in it. Now that Manex had already started to spread the rumor that he had the list of secret Absolute informants, plots to assassinate him were likely brewing even as we consulted. Master Windu would have to agree however reluctantly and unhappily to our guarding Manex as he served as the decoy possessor of the list.

    “All right, we’ll protect you,” Master Windu conceded grimly as I knew he must, “but we will form the plan.”

    On this, Manex was eager enough to agree, trusting in Jedi knowledge and power to protect him from any assassination attempts. In that private parlor, the four of us devised our strategy—much of it decided by Master Windu as the most senior Jedi on this mission—for protecting Manex and uncovering who was behind the murder attempt when it inevitably occurred.
     
  7. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Frustrating as Qui-Gon continues to evade "capture." Daring strategy to unearthe the Absolutes but necessary. =D=
     
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  8. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and commenting!:D Qui-Gon might make an unexpected appearance in this next chapter, and we will see this daring strategy to unearth the Absolutes implemented in this next chapter!





    Dear Diary,

    The plan as devised by Master Windu required that Manex take his evening meal at his garden table. He was then to linger as if to inhale the fragrance of blooming flowers wafting in the gentle breeze and to watch the moons and stars rise silver in the sky.

    As could be expected with Manex, the evening meal he’d ordered his personal chef to prepare was an opulent spread that included an entire roast nuna, a heaping bowl of acid-beet salad, and a steaming fresh loaf of seedbread washed down with a pitcher of sweet blumfruit juice.

    When he first sat down to eat his feast, Manex had remarked to us Jedi that the blumfruit juice was “the finest juice on New Apsolon '' and asked if he could have glasses fetched for us to partake of it.

    We had politely declined. Since our refusal, Manex had picked at his food rather than devouring it, his fork more often shuffling food around his plate than devouring it. He was too nervous to eat, I thought, studying him from my appointed position at the opposite end of the clearing Manex had laid with stone to create an outdoor eating area. He was fiddling with his juice too rather than drinking it.

    That was bad as Master Windu’s plan was to use Manex’s seeming ease in the garden to lure the assassin’s probe droids into an attack that would end with a Jedi ambush in a location where there was plenty of room to maneuver. Right now, Manex did not appear to be at ease but rather overcome with tension. No assassin would be lured into attacking now.

    The same idea must have occurred to Master Windu because I could hear him whisper from a screen of blossoming hedges behind Manex, “Look relaxed.”

    “I’m trying,” Manex hissed back through what sounded like gritted teeth.

    Nevertheless, he must have agreed with the underlying logic and strategy of Master Windu’s words for he lifted his juice in another clumsy, doomed attempt at appearing natural that only resulted in the red liquid spilling all over the front of his green tunic.

    Seeing this unfold, I wished that Obi-Wan were beside me so we could swap amused glances, but he was on the far side of the clearing from me--stationed behind a shrubbery cluster a few meters from Master Windu.

    Time continued to crawl along in silence save for the noises of the city over the walls and the sounds of insects chirping in the garden. The suns set, dusk overtaken by a dark night illuminated only by moons, stars, the lights of the city over the garden wall, and the single glow-lamp Manex had placed on his table.

    As blackness settled over the clearing, I kept my ears on constant alert and my eyes wide for any sound or sight of approaching probe droids.

    Since my ears were attuned to every noise in the garden, I heard Master Windu, who had linked the manor’s security system to his comlink and who must have received a warning vibration, say softly to Obi-Wan, “Security has been breached on the east wall.”

    Adrenaline surged within me as I prepared mentally and physically for battle. My first battle on a mission. My first lightsaber fight with an enemy that would be aiming to kill me. I told myself that I was ready for that, because there couldn’t be any room for uncertainty in a fight like that. Doubt in a fight like that could kill me, and I didn’t want to die yet.

    Manex must also have been thinking that he didn’t want to die--perhaps his life was even flashing before his eyes like a holovid played at triple speed--for he asked Master Windu in a frantic tone, “What?”

    “Move closer to us as though you are looking at the stars,” Master Windu ordered, quiet and calming in his utter, unshakeable poise.

    Obligingly, Manex pushed his chair away from the table laden with the generous spread on which he had only nibbled. Still clutching his glass between what I knew must be trembling fingers, he rose and pretended to gaze up at the sky as if he were admiring the shining constellations.

    A heartbeat after Manex assumed this position--closer to the cover Master Windu and Obi-Wan could provide--I felt a disturbance in the Force. My wide eyes glimpsed a shadow flit bat-like across the garden. The shadow could have been a night bird’s flight or a cloud crossing one of New Apsolon’s moons, but the disturbance in the Force told me it wasn’t.

    As Master Windu and Obi-Wan sprang forward together--Obi-Wan pausing to push Manex behind a low wall that could provide shelter from bolts fired by a probe droid, I moved to flank the shadow. Within seconds, we had the shadow surrounded and our lightsabers ignited, their bars of bright light cutting into the night.

    As we advanced, our guards high, the shadow spoke in a deep, familiar voice laced with humor. “Good to see you too!”

    “Master!” Obi-Wan exclaimed, and I would’ve needed to be devoid of all sympathy not to hear the mingled delight and relief in his words.

    Qui-Gon didn’t respond to Obi-Wan’s delight and relief at his unexpected appearance. Instead, his gaze flickered over to where Manex peeked over the low garden wall at this impromptu Jedi reunion. “So I see it’s a trap. Looks like I fell for it, not Balog.”

    “Qui-Gon,” Master Windu began in a stern manner that made it clear that he intended to grill him about everything he had been up to since his abrupt departure. About the murders that seemed to have been committed by his probe droids. About the warrant for his arrest. “What are you--”

    He stopped suddenly, interrupted by loud pounding at the mansion’s front door by security forces who would surely be in the garden to investigate the situation within minutes.

    Master Windu hurried toward the manor to stall the security officers who must even now be getting invited inside by Manex’s eager-to-please protocol droid. As he strode toward the mansion, Master Windu tossed tersely over his shoulder at Qui-Gon, “I suggest you find another exit.”

    As Master Windu entered the mansion, I could hear the angry shouting of a security officer echoing across the garden, “I know he is here! We have our proof! He bought the probe droid that killed Legislator Pleni!”

    I was grateful for the elaborate shrubbery that shielded Qui-Gon from view. Obi-Wan must have felt the same way for he was urging a Qui-Gon who had paused as if debating whether he should turn himself in to planetary law enforcement, “Qui-Gon, you must go. I’ll come with you.”

    My heart hammered in my chest. It hurt me to think about Obi-Wan too disappearing, but I knew I couldn’t stop Obi-Wan from accompanying his Master. It would be selfish of me to even try.

    Qui-Gon hesitated and then shook his head, seeming to decide that he was going down a path Obi-Wan couldn’t or shouldn’t follow. “No. I’m sorry I’ve caused you worry, Padawan, but I must do this my way.”

    “But,” Obi-Wan started to protest before the wind snatched away his argument, and Qui-Gon faded into nothing more than a shadow again, climbing over the wall and vanishing into the city streets.

    “He’s sorry he caused me worry, but there he goes, causing me more worry again,” Obi-Wan muttered bitterly, kicking up dirt with his boot.

    “He’ll be fine.” I reached out to clasp his shoulder in a comforting gesture I’d been offering him since childhood.

    I believed that Qui-Gon would be fine as I spoke this assurance, but maybe that was only because I had to believe it. I didn’t want to think about what it would mean to lose both Tahl and Qui-Gon to New Apsolon. To have Obi-Wan and I both be apprentices without Masters, the saddest type of apprentices.
     
  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Great unfolding of the trap and look who wandered into it though! :eek:

    What in all 9 Corellian Hells is Qui-Gon up to, and if he's not guilty why has he taken literally no one else on the team into his confidence? :rolleyes:

    I believed that Qui-Gon would be fine as I spoke this assurance, but maybe that was only because I had to believe it. I didn’t want to think about what it would mean to lose both Tahl and Qui-Gon to New Apsolon. To have Obi-Wan and I both be apprentices without Masters, the saddest type of apprentices. Oh ow! I hope not either.
     
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  10. Cowgirl Jedi 1701

    Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Jedi Grand Master star 5

    Registered:
    Dec 21, 2016
    I remember reading that particular Jedi Apprentice book, but I don't remember what happened.
     
  11. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on this story!:) I'm so glad that you enjoyed the unfolding of the trap, and it is certainly surprising that Qui-Gon would turn out to be the one who sprang it. Qui-Gon is certainly acting very strangely and not helping himself in terms of finding more and more ways to rouse suspicions as to his behavior. And I do think it is a bit of a mistake on his part to not take any of his fellow Jedi into his confidence but try to "go it alone" as the saying goes. He really could benefit from the support more than he knows, I think.

    @Cowgirl Jedi 1701 Thank you so much for commenting!:)The three books that make up the New Apsolon arc were some of my favorite Jedi Apprentice books, so I'm glad that you remember reading them, and in a way it's nice you don't remember exactly what happened, because hopefully it makes the plot more suspenseful;)It really has been interesting to explore those events from Bant's perspective and I might even continue this diary after the year is over to give Bant a bit more closure about things after the mission is done. So, just because the year will be over, this diary doesn't have to be, haha.




    Dear Diary,

    After the security officers had left, Manex looked deflated like one of his favorite puff pastries that had lost all its cream. Shoulders slumping, he observed in a crestfallen tone, “I thought my clever scheme would work. That the assassin would spring my trap. Instead my trap only managed to lure in Qui-Gon. I guess it wasn’t such a clever scheme after all.”

    “Don’t worry about what is past.” Master Windu’s answer was bracing. “You’re still alive, and that’s the important thing.”

    “I feel I must rest and recuperate.” Manex did indeed seem wan and as if he might collapse if not provided with sufficient support for his body soon. “In my reception room perhaps?”

    “Rest and recuperation is a good idea.” Master Windu nodded, face grave. “We shouldn’t drop our guards entirely, however. That could be what the assassination wants. The assassin could be waiting for us to retire for the night before attacking.”

    “I certainly don’t have an objection to remaining under Jedi protection.” Manex attempted a brave smile that only appeared thin and wobbly.

    “You can rest and recuperate in your reception room.” Master Windu gestured at Manex’s sofas in their preferred shades of green. “Obi-Wan, Bant, and I will split up to offer the best possible defensive coverage.”

    Master Windu’s dark eyes flicked over the manor, deciding on the ideal positions in which to deploy each of us.

    “Obi-Wan, you’ll be stationed by the staircase leading to the upper floors.” Master Windu indicated the elegant, curving stairwell that ascended from the entrance hall to the luxurious private quarters located in the mansion’s upper stories. “From there, you’ll have an excellent vantage point for monitoring the door to the reception room where Manex will be resting. Bant, you’ll be in charge of patrolling the rear of the manor for any sign of intruders. I’ll do the same in the front. Understand?”

    “Yes, Master.” Solemnly, Obi-Wan and I nodded our heads.

    “Good. Contact me if you notice anything suspicious or need backup.” Master Windu clapped his hands to conclude the briefing. “Assume your positions.”

    At Master Windu’s order, I returned to the rear garden where Manex had struggled to eat his evening meal earlier. A droid must have cleaned away the mostly uneaten meal, I noted, for the table where he had been dining had no dishes remaining upon it.

    I tried to relax into the Force, immersing myself in its flow as I would a lake or an ocean. I wanted to be atuned to the Force so I would be aware of every sound and sight around me. Through the Force, I could see and hear all, and the Force would likewise act as a strong filter of reality for me, allowing me to discern the threatening and the suspicious from the inconsequential.

    The music of night noises—the symphony of the city outside the manor’s walls mingling with the songs of nocturnal insects—was suddenly interrupted by the back door of Manex’s residence sliding open. A shadow in Jedi robes emerged from the opening door, and I felt the ripple of Obi-Wan’s agitated presence in the Force.

    I hurried forward to intercept Obi-Wan as he dashed across the lawn toward the wall he must have been intending to scale.

    “Where are you going?” I asked in a worried whisper. Was he planning on chasing after Qui-Gon alone? Even after Qui-Gon had instructed him to remain here when Obi-Wan had wished to accompany him?

    “Tell Mace I need to talk to Eritha,” Obi-Wan replied in a clipped manner, not pausing in his headlong rush toward the wall as if my question was a delay on a very important, time sensitive mission.

    “But can’t it wait?” I could feel myself frowning in confusion at Obi-Wan’s words. Why was it so urgent that Obi-Wan speak to Eritha in the middle of the night? Was she somehow entangled with the assassin Manex had hoped to trap tonight?

    “No.” Obi-Wan shook his head. “Nothing can wait.”

    My mind reeled as I watched him disappear in the dark garden. Perhaps he could sense my bewilderment and pitied it for he called back to me, “I’ll explain later. Tell Mace that I’m gone.”

    I massaged my temples as Obi-Wan vanished from the garden into the city. I hated having to wait for explanations that I felt I was owed now, and I dreaded having to be the one to inform Master Windu that Obi-Wan had gone off on his own wild mission to speak with Eritha. With my miserable luck, Master Windu would probably blame me for not being able to halt Obi-Wan in this latest burst of impulsivity.

    Maybe I really should have stopped him from haring off, I thought with a ragged sigh. I just had been too wrong-footed by his insistence that he must accomplish this strange task of speaking to Eritha immediately for some unknown, undisclosed reason that I hadn’t been strong enough to argue with him.

    I could only hope that this most recent bout of craziness wouldn’t end in disaster. I could deal with a lecture—even one from the stern Master Windu. What I couldn’t deal with was another disaster on the heels of Tahl’s death. I needed time to recover from that trauma before enduring the next nightmare in my life.
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Happy to hear this diary is likely to continue into the new year. Well, [face_laugh] I guess Obi-Wan cannot gripe at Qui-Gon rushing off and doing inexplicable things :rolleyes: Poor Bant, he really has left her in an awkward position and her being mystified just adds to the frustration.

    =D=
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2020
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  13. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for reading and reviewing!:) Yes, this diary will be continuing into the new year, since the story still has more to be told before it can reach a proper conclusion, and I'd hate to leave poor Bant without closure after everything she has suffered. I think Obi-Wan would now be a hypocrite if he complained too much about Qui-Gon rushing off to do inexplicable things since he did the same himself. Bant and Mace Windu may be able to get some enlightenment this chapter on why Obi-Wan wants so desperately to speak to Eritha as the story comes to a climax. And I agree that Obi-Wan definitely left her in an awkward situation, and her mystification and frustration are totally understandable to me.

    Author's Note: This marks the last official entry for the 2020 DDC (my second December entry) but as I mentioned last chapter, I plan to continue this story into 2021, so please feel free to check for more updates in the new year as Bant's diary draws to a close.




    Dear Diary,

    After Obi-Wan abandoned me in the garden, I raced around the manor to find Master Windu and tell him that Obi-Wan had run off on us.

    “Master Windu,” I said when I caught sight of him crouching in the shadows behind a row of hedges, trying to sound calm as a Jedi should when providing a status update on a mission rather than frantic and panicked. “Obi-Wan has left us. I tried to stop him and convince him that it could wait until later, but he insisted that he couldn’t.”

    My words were flowing from me in a disjointed rush. Most likely, they didn’t make any sense to Master Windu. They barely made any sense to me, and I had been there when Obi-Wan departed. Then again, the reasons for Obi-Wan’s abrupt departure were as clear as mud to me, so no wonder I couldn’t explain them to Master Windu.

    “Did he run off after Qui-Gon?” Master Windu’s forehead furrowed. “I was worried he might do that at some point.”

    “No, Master.” I shook my head. “At least I don’t think so. He said he needed to talk to Eritha, and when I asked him if it could wait, he claimed it couldn’t, that he’d explain later, and to tell you he’d gone.”

    “Very mysterious.” Master Windu stroked his chin. “Manex will still need guarding tonight, so we should remain here to protect him and not leave to find Obi-Wan. We have to trust that he’ll contact us or return to us if he learns anything important from his conversation with Eritha. In the meantime, we might focus on discovering why he might have wished to speak with Eritha so urgently.”

    “He was stationed by the staircase to the upper floors with a vantage point of the reception room.” I bit my lip as I placed myself in the shoes of my best friend, seeking to understand what he had done and why. “Manex was resting and recuperating in his reception room. Is it possible that Obi-Wan might have gone in to speak with Manex and some words from Manex might have triggered a need for him to question Eritha about something?”

    Even to myself, I sounded like I was grasping at flimsy straws—the kind a teething youngling can warp and twist beyond recognition with a gnaw or two—but I had no other lead to follow.

    “Perhaps.” Master Windu nodded. “We could go inside and talk to Manex. See if he spoke to Obi-Wan and if so about what.”

    “Yes, Master.” Glad to at least have a direction, I trailed Master Windu into the mansion and crossed entrance hall to the reception room, deliberately not glancing at the stairway under which Obi-Wan would have been standing guard less than half an hour ago. How things could change—how lives could unravel or turn to chaos—in less than thirty minutes. It boggled the mind.

    “We wanted to speak to you, Manex,” Master Windu announced as he stepped into the reception room, where Manex was sprawled on a green sofa, a pillow pressed to his forehead as if to soothe a headache or shield his eyes from distressing sights after a stressful evening.

    “You aren’t the first Jedi to wish to do so tonight.” Manex gestured vaguely at more green furniture, indicating that Master Windu and I ought to seat ourselves on the plush curtains. “Young Obi-Wan was here earlier asking me questions.”

    Obi-Wan had talked to Manex before he left, and most likely it had been something he said that had prompted Obi-Wan to leave, I thought with an internal glow of triumphant. My crazy theory hadn’t been so crazy after all.

    “What was Obi-Wan asking questions about?” Master Windu posed the inquiry that was burning my lips unspoken.

    “First he asked me why I had my own medical team attend to Tahl when he and Qui-Gon brought her back from her imprisonment by the Absolutes.” Manex’s words were muffled by the pillow smushed against his face, and my heart beat heavy with sorrow at this mention of Tahl. How she had been kidnapped and locked in a sensory deprivation suit. How she had been rescued by Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon only to die with the man she loved beside her. The man whose love made her death all the more tragic. I had to blink away tears as Manex went on in a too flippant tone, “I told him that it was because my medical team was the best because I have the best of everything on New Apsolon.”

    It was a typical boast from him who relished having the best of everything—all the creature comforts—on New Apsolon, but I was tired to the bone of hearing it from him. His focus on material delights stood in too stark, too painful contrast with the spiritual grief we Jedi were experiencing.

    I wondered if Obi-Wan had asked that question because he was suspicious of Manex. Then I realized it couldn’t have been Manex he suspected of foul play if he had gone off to speak with Eritha. It must have been Eritha he had suspected of treachery, but if that was the case, why hadn’t he enlisted our support instead of racing off to question someone who might have been involved in Tahl’s abduction and imprisonment? His impulsiveness baffled and terrified me.

    “Did he ask you anything that made you think he distrusted Eritha?” I asked Manex for the proof I was half-afraid to hear because it meant my best friend was in serious danger.

    “As a matter of fact he did.” Manex shifted his pillow so that I could finally see his eyes as he answered. “He asked me if there was some reason that I didn’t trust Alani and Eritha. I told him that I had no concrete evidence against the twins and that I’d never denounce them without such evidence when I know how much those girls have been through first with the death of their father, and then the assassination of their protector, my brother, Roan. I told him how at first I thought I was crazy to suspect them of working with the Absolutes, the very group their father had fought so hard to destroy.”

    “But you do suspect them of this?” Master Windu demanded as my stomach dropped. I remembered how Alani and Eritha had contacted Tahl. How they had been so desperate for her assistance in transporting them to Coruscant. How they had appealed to her like daughters to a mother. How Tahl had hurried across the galaxy to help them. How they must have used the same wiles to urge her to stay on New Apsolon and involve herself with the volatile politics of the planet again. How they must have plotted against her with Balog and the resurrected Absolutes. How they must have manipulated and betrayed her. They had been beautiful girls in hologram form, but now I imagined them as faces of ultimate evil, forces of blackness working to exterminate the light in the universe.

    “Yes.” Manex took a breath deep and loud enough to be heard through the pillow that obscured his features. “That’s why I’m running for Supreme Governor against Alani. I’m not passionate about leading New Apsolon myself, but I can’t allow the government to fall into Absolute hands again and watch my brother’s legacy collapse completely.”

    “What makes you suspect the twins?” Master Windu was frowning. “And are you certain it is both of them?”

    I didn’t know about Manex, but my intuition—my creeping spider sense of evil—was certain that the twins must be conspiring together with the Absolutes. After all, both of them had contacted Tahl together and persuaded her to come to New Apsolon. How cold-blooded they must have been to plead with her to come to New Apsolon when they must have already been planning for her capture and death. I felt my fists clench, and it took an act of will for me to separate them again. It was even more difficult for me to relinquish the visions of revenge that began to dance and dart through my mind. A Jedi sought justice and never vengeance even against the most foul and manipulative creatures.

    “Alani doesn’t make a move without Eritha, and Eritha doesn’t make a move without Alani.” Manex’s words centered me back in the reception room with him and Master Windu. I found myself marveling at the underestimated insight of this man who saw through the sad stories Alani and Eritha had created about themselves to the rotting core within them. “As I said, I have no proof. Only overheard words. Unguarded moments. The way they communicate with each other. I sensed a falseness in their grieving for Roan, and today when I heard that Qui-Gon had been in the United Legislature, I also found out one thing. He had been with Eritha just before the security squad was sent after him.”

    That could have been suspicion, but it sounded very suspicious to me. “You think she turned him in, don’t you?” I murmured. That was definitely what I was starting to believe.

    “I don’t know.” Manex’s shoulders rose and fell in a miserable shrug. “I’m sorry. I realize it’s not much to go on and certainly nothing firm, but it’s all I could tell Obi-Wan as well.”

    “It’s enough that he would’ve been suspicious of Eritha,” remarked Master Windu grimly. “He would’ve gone to Eritha to see if he could draw her into revealing more and trick her into confessing her guilt somehow. That’s why he left to speak with her. That could be dangerous. We must contact him at once to learn whether he requires further Jedi support.”

    So saying, he pulled his comlink from his tunic pocket. Before he could dial Obi-Wan’s frequency, his comlink rang. He accepted the call, listening to the person on the other end of the connection for a second before mouthing “It’s Obi-Wan” at Manex and me. Then he switched his comlink to speaker mode so that Manex and I could hear Obi-Wan’s words echoing through the otherwise silent reception room.
     
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  14. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Ominous bit of surmising by Manex and reflectiong on Alani and Eretha's treachery
     
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  15. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for commenting on this story!:) Manex's suppositions about Alani and Eritha's treachery are definitely very worrisome. There will be more revelations to come with that in this next chapter here as the New Apsolon story arc begins to wind to a close.




    Dear Diary,

    “I went to the Supreme Governor’s mansion to question Eritha on whether she was in league with Balog and the Absolutes.” Obi-Wan’s voice was rushed and sounded as if it were fighting against the onrushing wind of a speeder. Was he in a speeder chasing Eritha or Alani now? “I couldn’t find Eritha, but I did discover Alani taking a night stroll through the gardens. She was confident that she would win the election tomorrow. So confident that she wasn’t careful about what she revealed to me. So confident that she told me she and her sister no longer have anything to fear from the Jedi. So confident that she didn’t hesitate to admit that not only was Eritha her ally in her bid for power, but the brains behind the plot. Eritha was the schemer who wanted to be the behind the scenes controller while Alani was to be the figurehead ruler glowing in the limelight. And to think that Eritha painted Alani as the cunning one to Qui-Gon and me when she came to help us track Tahl after she’d been captured, but I guess that just shows how manipulative and dangerous Eritha is…”

    Obi-Wan continued his story, and it only became more and more painful for me to listen. He described how Alani and Eritha had felt no qualm about luring Tahl to New Apsolon under false pretenses. About taking advantage of her sympathy for them—of her desire to ensure their protection and wellbeing. About how they had seen her only as a tool to be used and then discarded. About how they didn’t even think of it as a betrayal. I felt my hands clench at that and had to take a deep breath before I could relax them into anything other than tightly balled fists.

    He explained how the loose-lipped Alani had bragged about Eritha planting a tracking device on Qui-Gon when they met in the Legislature. How because of this device Eritha was able to know Qui-Gon’s exact location at any time. How she planned to lead him to planet security headquarters to be arrested and jailed under the guise of helping him.

    Almost breathlessly, he related how he had managed to make contact with Qui-Gon and warn him about Eritha’s treachery just before they entered the security headquarters. How they had dispatched the security droids that had surrounded Qui-Gon but not harmed the officers who were only doing their jobs. How they had fled through the darkness of a nearby city park and gone to Mota, the man from whom Qui-Gon had purchased probe droids, for very important information.

    How Mota had confessed that his programming had been hacked and the probe droids had never gone after Balog as intended but instead had hunted down Oleg and Legislator Pleni, the owners of the list of Absolute collaborators. How Mota had told the security officers that Qui-Gon had purchased the droids when questioned about who had bought them. How Qui-Gon had been able to use Mota’s database to trace who had hacked the programming of the probe droids Qui-Gon had purchased. How the hackers had been revealed to be Irini and Lenz, two prominent leaders in the Workers Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had already met.

    How when they hurried to the warehouse where the Workers led by Irini and Lenz held their secret meetings, they had discovered that Irini was injured from an attack by Balog, who had stolen the list of Absolute informers from her. How she had herself taken the list of collaborators from Legislator Pleni’s body before planet security and Jedi could arrive at the crime scene. How she had been determined to get the list only to protect Lenz’s reputation because his name was on the list since he had given information to the Absolutes under torture and the list made no distinction between those who had cooperated with the Absolutes in the name of greed and those who had done so only under torture.

    How Irini and Lenz suspected that since Balog had the list his triumph was complete as he could now erase his name from the list of collaborators and then release it to discredit all his enemies, including Lenz. How Lenz did not know of the assassinations Irini had committed on his behalf and how he was sorry to hear Qui-Gon had been blamed for those deaths. How he felt more than ever that he had to assist the Jedi.

    How Lenz told them he had received word from a Worker spy in the Supreme Governor’s mansion who reported that there is a secret tunnel connecting the governor’s residence to the old Absolute headquarters that became the museum honoring victims of Absolute cruelty. How Lenz suspected that Balog might be hiding in the closed museum until Alani and Eritha could smuggle him out in the morning.

    How Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon had decided to raid the museum through the secret tunnel and see if they bring Balog to justice tonight because tomorrow was too late. How they were headed to the Supreme Governor’s mansion to do so now.

    “Wait for us,” Master Windu commanded when a winded Obi-Wan reached this part of the story. “We’re close.”

    Master Windu and I rose from Manex’s green sofas in a flash. Adrenaline pounded in my veins. We were going to capture Balog and ensure that he faced justice on New Apsolon for his crimes. For killing Tahl and collaborating with the Absolutes. I would see action and battle on my first mission.

    “It’s too late.” Obi-Wan clicked off his comlink but not before we could hear the distinctive, disconcerting sound of a lightsaber slicing through a hole through a door.

    A door that probably led into the Supreme Governor’s mansion.

    “Blast it!” Master Windu shook his head in frustration as Obi-Wan hung up on him.

    “You can take one of my speeders,” Manex suggested in a burst of quick-thinking that must have defined his success in business. “Fly to the museum where Balog is believed to be hiding, not to the Supreme Governor’s mansion. As the acting leader of the planet, I will command the museum be opened for you and a team of security officers to follow you. The security officers will be under orders to arrest Balog with as much force as necessary and not to harm or arrest Qui-Gon.”

    “That would work well. Thank you.” Master Windu nodded.

    Manex made no reply. He only pulled out his comlink and began shouting orders to planet security into it, while Master Windu and I darted out of the room toward the entrance into a garage where Manex stored his array of speeders.

    All of his speeders were in various shades of green. We chose one that had a garish bright green exterior but appeared to have the greatest speed and acceleration. Speed was of the essence right now. Every second of every moment counted when it came to supporting Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan in capturing the elusive Balog.

    We jumped into the speeder, which had plush interior cushions in the same vibrant hue, and took off fast as we could, flying into the night. We raced along the mostly quiet city streets, a security vehicle with blaring red lights falling in behind us after only a block, until we came to the Absolute museum.

    At the Absolute museum, the security officers ran out of their vehicle and used a swipe card to gain access to the building. Master Windu and I charged inside, drawing on the Force to guide us to Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan.

    As we approached Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan, I could feel their signatures in the Force. Qui-Gon felt as if he were in turmoil—driven by rage and revenge that didn’t feel like his gentle self or like a Jedi should ever feel in the Force. Obi-Wan felt confused and worried—afraid for his Master—but also determined to guide his Master through this storm.

    When we raced into what seemed to be the museum tech room where Balog had taken refuge, we saw Balog sprawled on the floor with Qui-Gon looming over him. Qui-Gon’s lightsaber was deactivated and fixed in its sheath, I realized to my relief as I entered, and Balog’s eyes were shut.

    It was over, I thought as I drank in the sight of Qui-Gon standing over a defeated Balog. Balog had been captured. He would face justice for Tahl’s death and every wrong he had committed against the people of New Apsolon. Qui-Gon wouldn’t be tempted by the Dark Side—by rage and vengeance—any longer. Obi-Wan would have his Master restored to him.

    I would be able to begin to find peace in a galaxy that no longer held Tahl in it. I didn’t have to feel tense. I didn’t have to feel afraid. I could feel free. I could just breathe and know my first mission was over.
     
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Superb plot twisties and a stunning resolution. [face_relieved] =D=
     
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  17. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for commenting as always!:) I'm so glad that you found the plot twists superb and the resolution stunning. Now things will settle down a bit as the story comes to a conclusion and Bant finds some inner peace.




    Dear Diary,

    Balog and the twins Alani and Eritha were arrested and charged by planetary security. Charges of corruption, abduction, and murder that would see them trapped behind bars for life if convicted by judge and jury had been leveled against them. They awaited trial in cold, bleak gray cells, and not in luxury.

    Alani and Eritha’s arrest provoked mass protests by Civilized and Workers alike in a city already marked by political and social tension. The twins’ father, Ewane, had been that rarest of gem: a hero prized and admired by both the Civilized and the Workers. Neither the Civilized nor the Workers wanted to believe that Alani and Eritha would be involved in matters as sordid as corruption, abduction, and murder. They found it easier to believe that the government was guilty of corruption and seeking to frame Ewane’s innocent, beloved twin daughters. So, they marched in the streets, Civilized and Worker finally mingling together, in droves in both the Civilized and Worker sectors, waving placards demanding the immediate release and dismissal of charges against Alani and Eritha.

    There were no such marches advocating for the release and dismissal of charges against Balog. Apparently Ewane’s glow did not fall over Balog like an absolving halo in the same way.

    “Figures that we finally have Civilized and Workers united by a common cause on New Apsolon, and it’s to protest the imprisonment of twins who would’ve destroyed the legacy of their father and restored the Absolutes to power,” Obi-Wan snorted, his breath fogging the glass as we stood staring out at the protests from a viewport in Manex’s mansion.

    “At least the protests have been peaceful,” I murmured. At least we had gotten no reports of violence or destruction from planetary security.

    “The people of New Apsolon, whether Civilized or Worker, assume that the twins must be innocent based solely on their parentage,” Master Windu observed grimly. “It shows that the people of New Apsolon, whether Civilized or Worker, still attach more weight to a person’s birth than their individual choices and character. It’s troubling.”

    “Perhaps but it’s not entirely to my disadvantage,” commented Manex with his usual mix of shrewdness and good cheer. “My only selling point all my life has been that I am the brother of the great Roan. His light was always so bright that it lent a special shine to me.”

    Obi-Wan caught my gaze and rolled his eyes. I knew what he was thinking that Manex sounded like both a businessman selling himself and a politician obsessed with his image. I supposed the latter did make sense especially as Manex was still campaigning for his election as Supreme Governor of New Apsolon.

    Balog and the twins were not the only people charged with crimes in connection to recent political events and upheaval on New Apsolon. The Worker leader Irini was recovering from her injuries in a med center, but assassination charges had been made against her, and she would have to stand for trial once her convalescence was complete.

    “I do feel sorry for the Workers,” Obi-Wan confided to me when he visited the guest quarters I had been assigned upon my arrival in Manex’s opulent manor. “They must be reeling from the charges of assassination Irini is facing and the revelation that Lenz collaborated with the Absolutes even if it was under torture. They’ll be scrambling to find new leaders and feeling lost. So many people have been lost during my time on New Apsolon that it makes me sad.”

    “The Workers won’t be lost forever,” I assured him. “They’ll find new leaders and a new way eventually. The whole planet will.”

    “I still just can’t escape a feeling that I didn’t accomplish enough for the people of New Apsolon on this mission.” Obi-Wan shook his head, frowning.

    “You tried your best to help the people of New Apsolon.” I hugged him because I didn’t know what else to say or do to comfort him. “So did Qui-Gon, Master Windu, Tahl, and I. That’s all we could do. That’s all Jedi can ever do. Try our best to be lights in the universe who help the lost find their way again.”

    It hurt to speak of Tahl, but not as much as I had feared it might. Perhaps I was finding my own path to a peaceful acceptance of her death. Of her becoming one with the transcendent, binding Force that united and sustained all life in the universe.

    Master Windu decided that our time on New Apsolon was done—that our mission had been completed and that there was nothing else we could do to assist the world through a peaceful power transition at present.

    As acting Supreme Governor until the election, Manex arranged for the planet’s finest consular ship to transport us back to the Jedi Temple. The consular ship would be flown by his most trusted personal pilot, whom he promised us would see us returned to Coruscant safely and in extreme comfort. Tahl’s body was carried aboard in an honorable procession and placed in a small, private chamber fragrant with native flowers associated with mourning.

    Soon we were standing on a landing pad above the Civilized Sector of New Apsolon. Manex had designated this landing pad for our use instead of making us travel out of the main spaceport in the city. On the landing pad, we could drink in a last gaze of New Apsolon and from above clearly see the sharp class distinctions that still divided the world. From the elevated position of the landing pad, the contrast between the wide boulevards and grand manors of the Civilized Sector and the narrower streets of the Worker Sector with its narrower streets and grimier apartments was stark.

    Manex bowed to us as he made his formal farewells in a rich robe of green. “The people of New Apsolon owe you a great debt.”

    “There is still unrest on New Apsolon.” Master Windu inclined his head in an acknowledgment of Manex’s gratitude. “But the government will proceed honestly.”

    “The elections are now set for next week.” It was Manex’s turn to nod. “Other Legislators have stepped forward to run. I know the Absolute movement has been damaged, but it has not disappeared completely. We still have more enemies to fight. No doubt there are more troubles ahead as the Committee to Reinstate Justice deals with the list of Absolute informers, but I have committed myself to my world. If I’m elected, I’ll take up where Roan left off.”

    “If you need us again, we will come,” Master Windu told him gravely, bowing.

    I noticed that Qui-Gon seemed to recoil from the conversation at those words as if he couldn’t bear to imagine returning to the planet where Tahl had died. As if even the thought of doing so was too painful.

    “We thank you for your transport and for all you have done,” Master Windu finished.

    “I cannot begin to replace what you lost here.” Manex’s brown eyes were heavy with sorrow as they focused on the consular ship that would take Tahl on her final voyage to the Jedi Temple. “I can only promise you my service for the rest of my life should you need it.”

    At Manex’s waved signal, the pilot aboard the consular ship lowered the ramp for us to board, and Manex disappeared with a last, deep bow.

    As we prepared to enter the ship, I leaned close to Obi-Wan and whispered a concerned question. “Is Qui-Gon all right?”

    Even in my head, the words sounded silly, because obviously Qui-Gon wasn’t all right. His pain was a gaping wound, an enduring ache, that could be felt in the Force. I just didn’t know how else to express my caring.

    “I don’t know.” Obi-Wan’s forehead furrowed. “But he will be.”

    Obi-Wan’s answer might have sounded confident of the future, but I heard it as more of a wish. A hope. Perhaps that was all any of us Jedi could do in the end. Wish and hope for healing and for a happier future.

    The wish—the hope—continued to gleam in Obi-Wan’s eyes as he asked me his own question. “Are we all right?”

    The spark of hope in Obi-Wan’s eyes was so tentative that any harsh wind would extinguish it. I couldn’t be the harsh wind that extinguished it. I didn’t want to be the harsh wind that extinguished it for him or for anyone.

    I smiled at him with all the warmth my heart held for him, the warmth my heart would always hold for him regardless of any death or distance. “Of course.”

    Those two words felt like brilliant stars illuminating the black void of space.
     
  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    “Figures that we finally have Civilized and Workers united by a common cause on New Apsolon, and it’s to protest the imprisonment of twins who would’ve destroyed the legacy of their father and restored the Absolutes to power,” Obi-Wan snorted, his breath fogging the glass as we stood staring out at the protests from a viewport in Manex’s mansion.

    “At least the protests have been peaceful,” I murmured. At least we had gotten no reports of violence or destruction from planetary security.

    “The people of New Apsolon, whether Civilized or Worker, assume that the twins must be innocent based solely on their parentage,” Master Windu observed grimly. “It shows that the people of New Apsolon, whether Civilized or Worker, still attach more weight to a person’s birth than their individual choices and character. It’s troubling.”


    Excellent exchange. It's very slice of life. People protest the oddest things :p

    As we prepared to enter the ship, I leaned close to Obi-Wan and whispered a concerned question. “Is Qui-Gon all right?”

    Even in my head, the words sounded silly, because obviously Qui-Gon wasn’t all right. His pain was a gaping wound, an enduring ache, that could be felt in the Force. I just didn’t know how else to express my caring.

    “I don’t know.” Obi-Wan’s forehead furrowed. “But he will be.”

    Obi-Wan’s answer might have sounded confident of the future, but I heard it as more of a wish. A hope. Perhaps that was all any of us Jedi could do in the end. Wish and hope for healing and for a happier future.

    The wish—the hope—continued to gleam in Obi-Wan’s eyes as he asked me his own question. “Are we all right?”

    The spark of hope in Obi-Wan’s eyes was so tentative that any harsh wind would extinguish it. I couldn’t be the harsh wind that extinguished it. I didn’t want to be the harsh wind that extinguished it for him or for anyone.

    I smiled at him with all the warmth my heart held for him, the warmth my heart would always hold for him regardless of any death or distance. “Of course.”

    Those two words felt like brilliant stars illuminating the black void of space.


    This is lovely. It is definitely good to see the two of them so warm and candid with one another again.

    @};-
     
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  19. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Thank you so much for commenting as always!:)That exchange was one of my favorite parts of the chapter to write, so I'm so happy you appreciated the slice of life aspect of it. If there is one thing that recent years have taught me is that people will indeed protest the strangest things, so I couldn't resist having the Jedi comment on that tendency.

    And I'm so glad that you found the conversation between Obi-Wan and Bant lovely. It was a joy to write about them being once again so warm and candid with each other. To celebrate their enduring friendship. Next chapter should feature another conversation where they can again demonstrate their mutual warmth and concern for each other, and make it clear that their friendship is entirely restored and in some ways strengthened by what they have suffered. Suffering can put a strain on a friendship but if the friendship doesn't break, it might become even stronger in a way. At least I like to think that is ultimately what will happen with Obi-Wan and Bant's friendship because their friendship is just that precious to me.




    Dear Diary,

    When we returned to the Temple, I found myself walking through it in a pilgrimage to Tahl—an honoring of her life and how it had intersected with mine. Each place seemed to be sacred to me with a memory of Tahl or an imagination of what her life might have been like before I knew her—before I was even born.

    Here was the creche where Tahl must have played as a youngling. I smiled as I envisioned her gold-and-green striped eyes radiant with eagerness and curiosity as she learned her numbers and letters or painted pictures of rainbows.

    Here were the corridors of classrooms where Tahl would have studied hard with her friends and hoped to the Force that she would be chosen as a Padawan.

    Here was the hangar where she would have dreamed of flying off on missions as a little girl and where she had left on hundreds of missions throughout her impressive, vivid and too brief like a shooting star across a midnight sky, career as a Jedi. The hangar where she and I had parted for the last time. Where we had made our final farewell though neither of us had realized it would be that when we said it.

    Here was the training room where Tahl had taught me to destroy droids blindfolded—unable to see except in the Force as she was. Her words still echoed in my ears, forever reminding me: “Jedi never live in the darkness. We live in the light because the light lives within us.” A wisdom, a keen perspective I would never forget.

    Here was the gardens around the lake where we had strolled together. Where she had told me that she could feel the warmth and light of the artificial sunlight even if she couldn’t see it. Where she had thanked me for removing an errant branch from her path when I had hoped to do so subtly enough that she wouldn’t notice. Where her lips had quirked in amusement as she teased me about Masters always knowing what their Padawans didn’t want them to. Where she had sat in the grass and sniffed a blushing pink flower with white-bearded pistils she instantly identified as a Mycosia. Where she had me shut my eyes and perform the classic Temple exercise: Attention to the Moment Gives Knowledge. Where she had been appalled by an invasion of laughing younglings running into the lake for a swim. Where I had grinned and asked if younglings frightened her. Where she replied with sightless eyes that twinkled like sunlight on a lake that younglings certainly did frighten her as they should all sane beings.

    Here was the refectory where we had stood on line to serve ourselves from the buffet style table. Where she had inhaled slightly singed air and declared that it smelled like burned nerf casserole only to be informed by me that it was indeed nerf casserole that had been burned to a crisp.

    I broke through the enveloping haze of my memory enough to recall that it was dinnertime, and I should join the line of Jedi now waiting to select their meals from the buffet. I snatched up plates, cutlery, and napkins from the piles at the beginning of the line and made my slow progress up the table. I didn’t feel much like eating even though I knew that I should so I dumped a single, sad and lonely scoop of limp noodles and overcooked vegetables onto my mostly empty platter.

    The refectory was filled with Masters and Padawans dining together, a painful reminder that I no longer had a Master. I looked around the room for someone I could sit with, not wanting to eat alone.

    I saw Obi-Wan eating alone at a table in the corner and crossed over to join him.

    Concerned about Qui-Gon’s absence, I asked as I sat down, “Qui-Gon didn’t want to come to dinner?”

    “No.” Obi-Wan shook his head, spinning his noodles around his fork. “He said he’s not hungry.”

    Grief was strange, I thought. Sometimes it made me ravenous. Other times like now it robbed me of my appetite, and I had to force myself to eat even though my stomach rebelled and my numb jaw didn’t want to move.

    “He should eat anyway,” I murmured, taking a small bite of noodle and vegetable.

    “I have a container I’m going to take up to him.” Obi-Wan lifted a white container meant to keep a meal warm when it was carried out of the refectory. At least that was the theory. In my experience, those containers seldom worked as intended, and the food was often lukewarm at best and cold at worst when it arrived at its destination. “He’d never eat or drink anything at all if I didn’t bring it to him and urge him to eat and drink. Even then, I have the distinct impression that he only does it for me—to make me happy and because he believes it’d be rude to refuse food or dink I got especially for him—and not for himself even though he’s losing his strength day by day, and it hurts to watch him weakening. It’s like he doesn’t care about living—about sustaining his health and body—at all any more.”

    “I think he still cares about living.” I dropped my fork and reached across the table to squeeze Obi-Wan’s wrist, feeling his pulse pounding against mine, an affirmation of enduring life and friendship in a tumultuous galaxy that could be all too dark without the light of the Jedi. “He just has to re-discover why he’s living—to regain his sense of transcendent purpose and meaning in life. It’s part of the grieving and healing process.”

    I had been doing a lot of thinking about the grieving and healing process since I returned to the Temple. I had to understand it—what it was doing to shatter and rebuild me—because I was going through it myself. Sometimes it felt as if my broken heart would never be knit back together again. Other times it felt as if it were whole again. Sometimes the memory of Tahl made me weep. Other times it made me laugh. Both emotions somehow felt necessary, right, and real.

    “He’s not getting enough sleep either.” Obi-Wan bit his lip. “Instead of sleeping, he roams the Temple at night.”

    “He’s probably remembering Tahl.” I could understand Qui-Gon’s nighttime wanderings through the Temple and his memory because I too went on my own pilgrimages through the Temple in her honor even if I chose to wander during the day rather than in the dark. “I do the same thing though not at night. At night, I prefer to try to sleep.”

    The success of my efforts to sleep varied. Sometimes, exhausted to the bone, I collapsed into a dreamless, peaceful sleep. Other nights, my dreams tormented me with visions of Tahl in torture and myself eternally unable to rescue her, and I would awaken with her screams ringing in my eardrums like indictments of my weakness, my impotency in a cruel galaxy determined to snuff out all good and life. Or nightmares of Tahl dying without me there to comfort her as she became one with the Force would haunt me until I awoke, breathless and sweating.

    “I’d accompany him on his nighttime wanderings if I could, but I sense he wouldn’t welcome my presence.” Obi-Wan’s body heaved with a sigh. “So I make him tea and leave it out for him instead, but I don’t know if he really notices or if it does anything to help him.”

    “Of course he notices even if it doesn’t seem like it.” I gave Obi-Wan a smile that felt as fragile, as delicate as butterfly wings that could so easily be torn apart by rough fingers. “Of course it helps him whether he knows it now or not. One day he will know how much it helped him when he has moved beyond this pain.”

    “I still wish I could do more for him.” Obi-Wan was all broken weariness, and I wished that I could be more comfort to him in his confusion about how to guide his Master through the jagged peaks and low valleys of the grieving process.

    “Of course you do.” I gave Obi-Wan’s wrist another squeeze, speaking to my own feelings as much as his. “That is what compassion is, Obi-Wan. Suffering with someone. Feeling their pain as your own and wishing you could do more to ease it.”

    And Jedi were called to be endlessly compassionate. To always suffer with others. To always feel another’s pain as our own. To always wish to ease and heal pain wherever and whenever we encountered it. It was our ultimate mission, identity, and purpose in this universe.
     
  20. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Bant's reflections and memories were lovely, happily with more of a gentle gladness for the things shared than a bitter ache. Her words to Obi-Wan were wise, and her own ups and downs through the grieving process are very natural, where one day you feel fine and the next -- devastated. @};-
     
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  21. devilinthedetails

    devilinthedetails Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jun 19, 2019
    @WarmNyota_SweetAyesha As always, thank you so much for your kind words and support!:)I'm so glad that you found Bant's reflections and memories lovely. I think an important part of the grieving process is reaching a point where at least sometimes the good times can be remembered with a gentle gladness for the joys shared with the lost loved one instead of just a bitter ache. The bitter ache might be felt again from time to time because grieving is a process and a cycle, but part of healing is that bitter ache not coming to dominate every memory and every feeling associated with the lost loved one. It's also great to hear that you felt her words to Obi-Wan were wise and reflective of that cyclical nature of grief that to me is so natural as death is come to terms with, and in this next chapter there might be a chance for Obi-Wan to sort of repay the favor with his own words of wisdom as it were.




    Author's Note: Hi...um, has it been like six months since I updated this story? I had no idea[face_whistling]But, uh, here is another chapter if anyone is interested, and the current authorial plan is two more entries combined into one chapter for the grand conclusion to this tale I neglected for a bit too long. Now, without any further ado, here is our dear Bant's latest entry:

    Dear Diary,

    I was floating in the Temple lake, staring up at the blue imitation of the sky, when I heard the sounds of someone stroking through the water toward me. Twisting my head on my shoulders, I turned to see the Nautolan Jedi Master Kit Fisto swimming toward me.

    It wasn’t too surprising that he should be in the lake. Nautolan were an amphibious species capable of breathing air and water, and, on their home planet, much of their society lived in beautiful underwater caves, in tune and in worship of the elusive and glorious ocean spirit.

    However, it was somewhat surprising that he should be approaching me. Quiet and a desire for private, tranquil reflection were always almost universally respected by the Jedi, and my floating posture to me should have plainly communicated to any Jedi that I wished to be undisturbed as I took my peaceful soak in the lake.

    Still, he was a member of the Jedi Council, and I was only a Padawan who had recently lost her Master. I certainly couldn’t tell him that he was interrupting my solitude.

    “I’m sorry for your loss, Bant,” he said once he reached me. Nautolan were a generally empathetic species. Their large, dark eyes were capable of containing much depth and sympathy, and their tendrils were chemical-sensing, allowing them to detect pheremones emitted by a wide array of species, including my own. It was even said that the Nautolan used this pheromone releasing and sensing capacity as a language that could communicate ideas as simple as map coordinates or as complex as full sentences.

    “She is one with the Force.” I stared down at the lake as I recited these rote, Jedi words that were an unabating, on-and-off struggle for me to believe as my grief and efforts to find peace settled into a rhythm of rippling waves that sometimes gave way to riptides that threatened to drag me into a drowning ocean of sorrow.

    “Yes.” Master Fitso flipped onto his back, floating along beside me even if I would’ve preferred to be alone. Especially since he had chosen to make the topic of conversation between us Tahl. Tahl whom it was still so hard for me to talk about and painful for me to remember even if I never wanted to forget her. “You’ll need a new Master now.”

    “I suppose I will, Master.” I resisted the temptation to bury my face in the lake and not emerge until he left. I had been trying to avoid thinking about the fact that one day I would need a new Master to train me ever since I returned to the Temple because thinking about who would be my new Master felt too much like a betrayal of the dead. An insult to Tahl’s memory. An insulting implication that she who had been irreplaceable could somehow be replaced in my life. “I haven’t thought about that much yet.”

    “I would be honored to take you as a Padawan.” Master Fisto’s voice was soft but somehow echoed like thunderclaps in my ears. “To train you.”

    At that moment, it was as though as a tsunami whipped through my life, splitting time and reality into two divergent, parallel planes of past and present that could never intersect. Two timelines that could never be compatible or reconciled. In the lighter, happier past, Tahl was asking me to be her Padawan. Recognizing and praising me for my unique gifts of compassion, patience, and gentleness. Promising to always respect and nurture them. And I was accepting, so happy that I felt as though I might rise from the floor and fly. In the sadder, darker present, Master Fisto was asking me to be his Padawan, and I felt torn and trapped. As if I could never say yes but also somehow couldn’t say no either.

    “I-I.” I floundered for words, feeling as if I were sinking in a bottomless ocean. Struggling for calm and for breath, I managed to continue with what I hoped to the Force was some semblance of composure, grace, and tact, “I appreciate your kind offer, but it’s a big decision to accept it. I’ll have to think about it and get back to you if that’s okay.”

    Becoming Tahl’s Padawan had been a big decision too, but I hadn’t needed so much as a second to think before accepting her offer. I’d been younger then. I hadn’t really known what death, loss, or pain was. I’d thought I’d known, but I hadn’t. Not until I had lost Tahl. Now I was wiser and more hesitant. More careful about giving my heart away when it might bring me pain.

    “Of course it’s okay.” Master Fisto looked as if he would extend a hand and squeeze my shoulder. It was a bone-deep relief when he didn’t. I didn’t want to be forced to snub him by jerking away from his touch because I just couldn’t bear it right now. “Take all the time you need to think.”

    My stunned tongue managed to stumble through some routine expression of polite thanks. Then I could escape from him and his question that I didn’t want to think about even though I knew I had to, my numb arms and legs propelling me through the water, back to the shore.

    Once I had toweled myself dry and changed into a set of dry robes in my quarters, I found my feet carrying me to the door of my best friend, the person in all the wide universe who knew me the best and most understood the pain I was in these past, long days.

    I knocked on his door and entered when he shouted for me to come in.

    He was reading a holobook on his sleep couch, his face tinged a light azure in the screen’s glow, but put it down as I stepped into his room, closing the door behind me.

    “Master Fisto joined me for my swim this afternoon.” I felt as if I were choking on the words. “He--he asked me to be his Padawan.”

    “That’s great news!” Obi-Wan exclaimed before something in my expression or my Force presence must have alerted him to the fact that this wasn’t great news from my point of view.

    His own Force presence seemed to dim as he realized I wasn’t as happy for myself as he was for me. “But it doesn’t please you to receive that offer?”

    “No.” I shook my head, wondering if I would ever feel anything as simple and uncomplicated as pleasure untainted by sorrow again, or if that simple pleasure had died with Tahl. As lost and out of touch to me as she was. Salty tears began to trickle out of my eyes and down my cheeks. “I know I should be happy, but I’m not. The idea of feeling happy about having another Master makes me feel sick to my stomach. As if I’d be betraying Tahl by letting someone else take me as their Padawan. As if I’d be forgetting her and dishonoring her memory. As if I’d be trying to replace her when she’s irreplaceable to me.”

    “Tahl wouldn’t see it that way.” Obi-Wan wrapped me in a hug, and I didn’t pull away. He was my best friend. The only one I’d let hug me right now. “She wouldn’t be jealous and possessive like that.”

    Jealousy and possession. Jedi were supposed to be beyond such petty emotions in life and in death. Jedi were called to be selfless and transcendent, pure and radiant creatures and spirits of light.

    “She’d want you to move on. To find another mentor and happiness without her. To continue to grow and experience the richness of life,” Obi-Wan went on when I didn’t speak. Couldn’t speak for the fullness in my chest suffocating me when I tried to breathe. Tried to speak.

    “Could you move on--find another mentor and happiness--if Qui-Gon had been the one to die?” I asked, my voice raw with grief and thick with snot.

    “I don’t know.” Obi-Wan bit his lip, unable to lie to me after all our years of open friendship and trust. “I’d try, though, because I’d know that’s what he’d want me to do. He wouldn’t want me paralyzed by grief and unhappy forever.”

    I knew he was right. That I should honor Tahl and her vibrant memory by living and learning, continuing to grow and nurturing the talents, the promise, she had seen in me. Accepting Master Fitso’s offer and absorbing all the wisdom, all the lessons, he could give to me with the humility and gratitude befitting of a Jedi.

    “I suppose I should move on.” Sniffling, I mopped at my damp eyes with the sleeve of my tunic. “Accept Master Fisto’s offer and become his Padawan.”

    “Only if he doesn’t always make you want to cry.” Obi-Wan’s mouth twitched into the hint of a wry smile. “I couldn’t bear to see you on the cusp of tears all the time.”

    “I don’t think he’ll always make me want to cry.” On an impulse, I reached out to clasp Obi-Wan’s wrist. “Thank you for your counsel, Obi-Wan. You couldn’t have been a wiser or more loyal friend to me than you’ve been during this tough time. I’ll always remember and appreciate that.”

    “It’s a joy to be your friend.” Obi-Wan was smiling now. A soft, affectionate one. Not a twisted one indicative of wry humor. One that assured her a place in his heart would always be hers, a special space reserved for their friendship. “You couldn’t have been more patient and forgiving of me when I made all my many mistakes.”

    “I could’ve been.” With a surge of chagrin, I recalled with remorse how I had unleashed the storm of my own sorrow and fury at Tahl’s death upon Obi-Wan when he was mourning her loss too. I wished that I had never said such cruel things to him, but since I couldn’t change the past, in the present I smiled at him with all the warmth I felt for him in the depths of my own heart. “But thank you for having the courtesy to pretend otherwise for my sake.”
     
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  22. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

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

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    A very touching and realistic tangle of emotions. Bant's hesitation and feeling like she'd be betraying Tahl is understandable. Her wondering if she'll ever be able to feel uncomplicated pleasure again... =D= Obi-Wan's gentleness and empathy were just what she needed as well as the teasing. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2021
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