Title: Night of Ghosts Author: devilinthedetails Characters: Obi-Wan Kenobi; Qui-Gon Jinn Genre: General, Friendship, Mildly Spooky Summary: Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon debate the existence of ghosts. Night of Ghosts The wind howled like a vengeful spirit across the cold, dark Oriai plains that seemed empty and desolate despite the tribespeople gathered around a blazing fire at the heart of a camp of circular tents built from the long yellow grasses of the plains. These tents Obi-Wan knew from nose-wrinkling experience had a pungent scent that seemed to arise from the grass itself but did an admirable job blocking out the wind that slammed against the flaps, demanding admittance like an irascible traveler. Oria was a rural planet sparsely populated by tribespeople who seemed determined to reduce that sparse population still further through regular, bloody conflicts between neighboring tribes. Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon were on the cusp of negotiating a tentative peace settlement between three tribes who had been warring intermittently for four generations, but no treaties would be signed tonight for tonight was devoted to a different, spookier celebration. Tonight was the Night of the Ghosts, a night all the tribespeople of Oria agreed was sacred to the spirits of the unrestful dead who prowled the plains, eternally unable to find peace after violent or abrupt ends. The Oriai, a species that had evolved thick fur to protect them from the merciless winds of the plains, dyed it garish colors in the hope of scaring off these disturbed spirits and formed tight, defensive rings around their campfire as if seeking strength and solidity in numbers against foes that were no more than phantasms. Around their fires, adults played tricks on one another, hoping their screams would frighten away the unquiet spirits off the plains or told ghost stories to wide-eyed children whose terrified shrieks were supposed to be the most effective at warding off roaming spirits. “Strange, isn’t it?” Obi-Wan asked his Master as a series of particularly shrill noises emerged from a cluster of children being told a horror story by some adult Obi-Wan couldn’t help but regard as irresponsible. No doubt these children would be haunted by ghostly nightmares for a month after this celebration. “The lengths beings will go to in order to convince themselves that life endures after death?” “Hmm.” Qui-Gon didn’t look at Obi-Wan but instead stared into the campfire’s flickering flames, making Obi-Wan wonder what fleeting figures he saw there, even as he asked, “What makes you so certain life doesn’t endure after death, my young Padawan?” Obi-Wan bit back a caustic comment about how he believed he would have noticed ghosts if they wandered about as freely as the Oriai believed and instead took refuge in the Jedi philosophy in which he had been raised. “Because we become one with the Force.” “Ah, and what does it mean to become one with the Force?” Qui-Gon did turn to look at Obi-Wan now, his face half in shadow in the firelight. “It means that you cease to be yourself as you merge into the Force that knits the galaxy together.” Obi-Wan was nonplused at being asked questions with answers he had been made to memorize since he was a youngling, but he supposed that was the inevitable consequence of having a maverick for a mentor. “The Force that knits the galaxy together because it creates everything and is in everything–including all life,” Qui-Gon added to Obi-Wan’s words with a faint smile. “Oh.” Obi-Wan was silent for a moment as he pieced together the puzzle his Master was explaining. “You’re saying since the Force is in all life and since we become one with the Force when we die, life does endure after death?” “I’m saying the Jedi belief is that it does in some form.” Qui-Gon’s eyes shone with gentle amusement in the dark emptiness of the plains. “We’re just like the Oriai in that way.” “We’re not like the Oriai, Master.” Obi-Wan shook his head, irked by the notion that he might hold any beliefs as irrational as the Oriai idea of ghosts. “We don’t believe in an individual consciousness, an individual spirit, surviving death. We don’t believe in ghosts.” “Yes, we don’t believe in them, but that doesn’t mean we know they don’t exist.” Qui-Gon’s gaze had drifted to focus on a group of children being told a shriek-inducing ghost story. “I know they don’t exist.” This time, a piqued Obi-Wan couldn’t bite back a snide remark. “I’m sure a disturbed spirit would’ve bothered me by now if they did exist.” “Perhaps not all spirits are disturbed.” Qui-Gon’s attention seemed to have drifted back to the dancing shapes in the fire. “Maybe some are peaceful spirits who wouldn’t want to bother you.” “All the ghosts in horror stories are unquiet spirits determined to share their misery with living beings.” Obi-Wan frowned, beginning to have a creeping suspicion that he was being teased by his Master who could have a wicked sense of humor. “That’s true.” There was a chuckle in Qui-Gon’s voice that seemed to confirm he was indeed teasing his apprentice. “Of course the horror stories wouldn’t be very scary for children if they didn’t feature unquiet spirits inflicting havoc on the galaxy, would they?” “You’re trying to scare me, aren’t you?” Obi-Wan shot his Master an accusatory glare, realizing that there were indeed bumps on his flesh that he would have to blame on the chilly wind and certainly not any discussion of ghosts he didn’t believe in. “Never, Obi-Wan.” The chuckle wasn’t just in Qui-Gon’s tone now. It was emerging rich and deep from his throat as if in counterpoint to the shrieking children. “Good.” There were shivers slinking up and down Obi-Wan’s spine but he would deny them to his dying day. “I’m too old to be frightened by ghost stories, Master.” “Oh, you’re never too old to be scared by ghost stories.” Qui-Gon rested a warm hand on Obi-Wan’s shoulder, and Obi-Wan felt the shivers slip away from him as suddenly as they had come.