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Before the Saga Schism--Complete

Discussion in 'Fan Fiction- Before, Saga, and Beyond' started by Jedi_Perigrine, Sep 9, 2015.

  1. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    Greetings all, it's been forever since I've been active on here. I was approached about re-posting this story from ~2009, and I figured...why not? Maybe I'll be able to jump-start my writing again if I get into a routine, too. Let me know what you think.

    Timeline: A few centuries before ANH
    Characters: Mostly OCs, Master Yoda
    Story Type: Action/Drama/Mild Humor

    ___________________________________

    As he stood outside a small conference room waiting for his impromptu meeting with Master Yoda to begin, Jedi Knight Pelt Quar absent-mindedly adjusted his midnight blue robe over his tailored black tunic and loose fitting trousers. He was pleased with the way his garb made him look, and he didn’t want the effect spoiled by a couple of wrinkles. Long, loosely flowing ginger-brown hair almost reached the middle of his back. His hair was all uniform length and cut just so; he only trusted one barber. His hard, angular jaw was always clean shaven. He refused to wear what the fashionistas were calling a “soul patch”—the strip of beard that ran from the bottom of his lower lip to just above the end of the chin. It was his one rebellion in the galaxy of popular human styles. Gray eyes stared hard at his tall frame in the nearly-reflective wall, hoping to see the affect of his fastidious grooming.

    Distant steps from behind caused him to turn and see the approaching party of people. A bug-eyed, silver-plated humanoid protocol droid was leading a group of dignitaries from who-knew-where. Four of them wore the armor of soldiers or bodyguards, while a man, perhaps ten years older than Pelt escorted what appeared to be his daughter through the Temple halls.

    Her eyes locked onto his and a slow appreciative grin crept across her face. When he smiled back, she blushed furiously and broke eye contact. Pelt bowed modestly as they passed, barely hiding his open leering at the young woman’s figure. He couldn’t suppress a wink as she turned around, causing yet another rosy glow to warm her pale features.

    “Others you might be able to convince of your modesty, but fooled, the Jedi are not.”

    Yoda’s voice behind him was completely unexpected. Pelt flinched, turning to face the diminutive Jedi, unable to think of anything to say that wouldn’t make him seem more pompous. Instead, he bowed again, much more deeply this time.

    Green eyes regarded him from almost a meter and a half below. Yoda finally gave a jerking nod. “Wise you are to hold your tongue. In.” One sharp-nailed digit pointed towards the door opened to the conference room.

    Unwilling to risk more trouble, Pelt strode inside. His stride faltered when he saw the other Masters waiting for him, though. Hruuvokka, the newly raised Wookiee Jedi Master growled a welcome that could have been mistaken for a growl of another kind. Two other Jedi Council members, ancient humans both, regarded him coolly.

    A clandestine meeting was most likely not the news he had been hoping to hear. Promotion to Jedi Master would probably not be coming this day.

    Yoda hobbled by, heading towards the seat situated next to the other three Jedi.

    Hruuvokka howled a few grunts, signaling the beginning of the meeting that Pelt had been ordered to attend.

    “Do you know why you’re here?” Davip Galgalor asked mildly, hands steepled over his nose. His wrinkled face was so permeated with lines it appeared his face could slough off at any time.

    “No, Masters,” Pelt replied, trying to sound meek.

    “Well I’ll tell you why you’re here,” Pul Tchar, the other human Master cut in. Unwilling to beat around the bush, he bypassed the polite way the other Masters might have spent half an hour trying to communicate their same opinion. “The four of us think you’re an arrogant, egotistical slimo unfit to be promoted beyond Jedi Knight.” There was no malicious intent behind the words, no anger. But there was distrust, and at least a little dislike in his tone.

    The news stunned Pelt enough to drop his jaw. He never meant to come across as such, though he had been warned by other Jedi, not the least of which his own Master, to beware of his seemingly inflated impression of his own worth.

    “The most arrogant Jedi in the Order, have I heard you called,” Yoda said, gesturing mildly with one hand. “Unfortunate, this is, and must be corrected if you hope to attain Masterhood.”

    He was flabbergasted. Was he going to be denied a Master’s title because he was a fastidious groomer and a snappy dresser? Because he had negotiated successful peace treaties between warring nations on dozens of occasions? Because he had single-handedly destroyed a nest of gundarks that threatened a small city back on Thorlis Prime? Pelt knew he deserved that title. In fact, he knew of nobody else in the entire Order who deserved it more than he did.

    Oh, he thought to himself. That was his arrogance. Other events passed through his mind, each time his actions took on a different light and, through a certain point of view, made him seem like a cock-fluhtt strutting with the brilliant plumage of his tail exposed for all the hens to gawk at.

    As much as he would have liked to refute the charge, or try to mitigate his circumstances, Pelt kept his mouth shut.

    “I told you he could be silent when it mattered,” Davip said. “Continuing to ignore the protocol Pul threw by the wayside, I’ll get right down to it. We four are refusing your ascension to Master because of our perceptions of your motivations and…shall we say…your over-inflated self worth?”

    Pelt had never been called an arrogant bastard so nicely before.

    “A proposal have we for you,” Yoda chimed in, as though the entire conversation had been rehearsed.

    “We know who you’ve picked out for your Padawan,” Davip said. “We understand why you will choose him, and many Jedi agree that he is a good match for you. But.”

    The room filled with silence as they gave him a few moments to think.

    Pelt tried to keep his features neutral, but he wasn’t sure how successful he was as he fought through the incredulous implication. Give up Naan Chudo? I couldn’t possibly choose another Apprentice. He’s intelligent, self-assured, and well rounded in his Force abilities. I’ve had my eye on that young man for the last eight years. I’m not giving him up to some other Jedi, no way. I should be the one to teach him. Me!

    Pelt closed his eyes. Damn! I am that arrogant, he thought to himself. Other than his small sigh, he gave no other outward sign that he had just understood what the Masters had been talking about. He didn’t have to. Pelt knew they had been sensing his roiling emotions the entire time.

    He opened his eyes and forced himself to relax. “But?”

    “But another there is, who needs your instruction more. Know you Hilaal Yuchee?”

    Pelt searched his brain, but nobody by that name came to mind. As if anticipating this, Davip Force-floated a datapad over to him. He took the pad and flipped it over and started reading aloud through the short bio.

    “Born in a small colony on Dantooine, she had been abandoned as an infant at the foot of a Jedi’s starship. The Jedi, about to turn her over to an orphanage, discovered she was Force sensitive, though her moderate midichlorian count suggested her abilities could be somewhat limited. Through the years, she has been a fair student, excelling only in physical abilities, scoring average in theoretical and scholastic exams while barley passing her Force-ability tests.” She sounds like a real winner he thought facetiously to himself as he paused.

    “Her image is at the top,” Pul said, a subtle sneer erupting across his face.

    Suddenly dreading the result, he scrolled up and saw the face of Hilaal Yuchee. “No…” he murmured, recognizing the girl with big frightened eyes who had always been hiding in a corner while the other Younglings had crowded around him and begged him for one of his stories. Every time Pelt had seen her, her face was dirty, her red hair was lifeless and jagged, as though she tried to cut it herself, blindfolded, with a half-functional vibroblade. Her white robes hung awkwardly on her very narrow shoulders and were often singed around the edges. While her clothes were never actually dirty, there were often odd patterns, crudely hand-sewn into the white fabric.

    “You want me to teach this girl,” Pelt asked, nearly incredulous. “Masters, I don’t think I have anything to offer her.”

    “But you do,” Yoda countered, hiding a small smile. “She is everything you are not. Learn many things from her, you could.”

    “Learn from—!” Pelt barely restrained himself from throwing the datapad across the room. Not only were they trying to take away the Padawan that would be like a small version of himself, they were trying to stick him with that…slip of a girl who’d probably never amount to anything. And they were insisting that he would be the one doing all the learning. It was preposterous and insulting to the extreme.

    “Masters, I will not.”

    “Will not?” Davip echoed, his voice still mild. “Oh you will, Pelt. You will train her and make a Jedi out of her, or we will chain you to a desk and see to it that you leave the Temple archives no more than once a season for two and a half minutes at a time. I have grave need of…” his smile became suddenly predatory. “…of an assistant.”

    “Training her may bring other rewards,” Pul added, this time he seemed almost supportive. “Perhaps if you’re successful, Masterhood could await you.”

    First they beat him senseless with the stun-baton and then they dangle the sugar-tuber. He clenched his fists and tried to keep his face from turning a violent shade of crimson.

    “Or you could leave the Jedi,” Davip said.

    Pelt’s eyes sprang open. “No! I will never leave the Jedi. The Jedi are my family, as abusive and manipulative as they sometimes are,” he said, glaring daggers at all four of them.

    The only reaction that got him was the chuffing laughter of an amused Wookiee.

    There was no way these four were going to pressure him to leave the Temple. He had grown up here, been trained here, and he loved being a Jedi. Pelt lived for helping others, loved bringing criminals to justice or rescuing those in distress—especially the attractive women. Though Jedi weren’t supposed to crave adventure, he truly did. He would sooner cut off his own limbs than leave the Temple, or get shuffled away to the depths of the archives. He clenched his fists tightly and tried to feed his anger and disappointment to the Force. The attempt was only moderately successful.

    “As you command, Masters. I will teach Hilaal Yuchee.”

    Yoda’s wide smile was like a slap in the face. “Thought reason, you would see. You may go.”

    With a deep bow he did his best to disguise his irate expression, turning around before any of them could see the thunderheads lighting up his face. Pelt stomped out the door. There wasn’t a Jedi in the entire temple who didn’t sense the storm raging around Pelt Quar over the course of the next week.
     
  2. metophlus

    metophlus Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 30, 2015
    Hey, Perigrine! Thanks for posting!

    Pelt Quar's every single thought, emotion, and action conveys who he is as a person. And man, is he believably flawed. It's nice to see this type of main character, since readers have a harder time relating to the everyday aloof Jedi. At the same time I want to see him outgrow some of that vanity and cockiness (even if he's arguably justified in that attitude, he's still supposed to be a friggin' Jedi!)

    We know the stakes. If he keeps acting a slimo, the Council will confine him to his current rank, or worse, throw him in a demeaning role. If he makes a Jedi out of this girl, he might get that promotion he wanted.

    I can't wait to meet Hilaal Yuchee. She sounds like she'd be a harrowing challenge for her future trainer. >=] This is gonna be fun to read.

    Also: do you accept constructive criticism?

    Keep up the good work. Update soon.
     
  3. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008

    Thank you very much, Metophlus! :) I'm glad you enjoyed it. Writing flawed characters is something I need to improve upon. This story is my best start yet, but I still feel like I have a long ways to go. I'm always up for some good constructive criticism!

    General note: I'll update this every Tuesday or Wednesday, unless there's a call to post on it more frequently. I tend to post large chunks, so I suppose I should let you folks catch up. Okay, on with the show!

    ______________

    He sat in front of the stage next to a big-headed, dark brown skinned Ithorian inside the auditorium packed to the rafters with people. The Ithorian’s big hands scrolled through the list of potential apprentice candidates. Everybody sitting with Pelt had a preference on which young student they would select, but they all had backup choices in mind as well, in case their first or second preference was taken before their turn. Once the random order selection had been distributed, the Knights and Masters would select their Padawan, one by one.

    The twenty Jedi looking to take apprentices watched the twenty-one young sentients hoping to be chosen. This year almost every potential Padawan was near the age of refusal. If those were not selected now, they would be shipped off-world and delivered to AgriCorps, where they would perform hard labor terraforming a world barely able to sustain life. After five years of hard work, they would have earned enough money to buy passage off the planet to choose any life they wished, though they would be completely separate from the Jedi.

    Pelt clutched a datapad in numb fingers. His eyes were completely unfocused, the rest of his senses were practically turned off as well. He didn’t see the thousands and thousands of citizens in the stadium stands, anxious for the once a year event. He didn’t hear their muted conversations flushed with excitement. He didn’t even turn his nose up at the smell of sweat and foreign body odor of hundreds of alien species as they practically sat on top of him. Pelt couldn’t bring himself to look at either of the young people whose lives he would be a part of, either. He couldn’t bare to watch Hilaal as she did her best to hide behind the taller frames of her classmates, or Naan’s seemingly relaxed stance as he threw jaunty little waves into the crowd, as though he were a star athlete about to take the field for his favorite event.

    The insistent beep of his datapad was barely enough to break him out of his stupor. “The lottery is complete. You may examine your datapads and see the order at which you may choose your new apprentices!” a cheery voice announced over the loudspeakers. “Would the sentient who drew number one please stand!”

    An Aqualish Jedi bounded to his feet, adjusting his robes happily. Pelt let his mind wander as the large-throated Master gave a speech about the importance of the day, and how vital Jedi interaction was in the Republic’s society. When all the talk was finished, the Aqualish picked a young Zabarak girl who beamed with pride at being chosen first. Her selection didn’t surprise Pelt. She was the most promising student by far, of the entire group of potentials. A roar of applause filled the stadium. The Master and his new student stood proudly, side by side until the clapping finally subsided.

    Only as the pair left the stage did Pelt glance down to see which number he had drawn.

    In bright, glowing green numbers, his datapad steadily blinked. “20.”

    He almost laughed out loud, realizing that he would never even get a chance to select Naan. Somebody would scoop him up long before Pelt could. The desire to laugh sank into his stomach as reality set in and he was forced to remember who he was going to choose as Padawan. So deep in despair he was that he didn’t notice the second selection had already passed.

    “Number three! Stand up!”

    Pelt glanced at Uvhal Ickchar—one of his closest friends in the Order—as the man stood. Uvhal acknowledged the smattering of applause. The way he looked at Naan, Pelt thought his friend was going to jump on the boy before he would have had a chance, even though Uvhal knew Pelt wanted him.

    With a surreptitious glance at his friend, and a small smile on his lips, Uvhal passed Naan and selected another.

    The gesture touched Pelt deeply. He joined in the clapping as whole heartedly as he could as his friend and the man’s new Padawan wandered off the stage.

    One by one, Jedi chose their students. Each time there was a tumultuous applause as another pair left the stadium together. By the time the Ithorian’s turn had come—
    number eighteen—Pelt realized there was something else to worry about.

    Naan Chudo had still not been chosen. Neither, of course, had Hilaal. Who in their right mind would pick her?

    With a booming bass voice echoing from both sides of the Ithorian’s mouth, he gave a short speech and selected the only Ithorian candidate in that year’s group of selectees. Looking already comfortable with each other, the two large-headed aliens sauntered out of view.

    “We’re almost done! Nineteen!” The announcer roared.

    The second-to-last human stood. She acknowledged the crowd and turned to face Pelt. She gave him a nod of respect and a smile before making her way to the last three candidates. As she selected the only Wookiee in this year’s group, there was much braying by the Wookiee audience, cheering for their species-mate. The new pair made a slight detour so they were able to pass by Pelt on their way off stage.

    She shot him another grin, one whose meaning was clear. “I know how much you wanted Naan, so I left him for you.”

    Pelt couldn’t have been any more surprised—or horrified—by the way things had turned out. He wanted to scream. He wanted to cry. He actually could have been crying, but his shock was such that he wouldn’t have realized it. One of the most promising students Pelt had ever met was going to be shipped away from the Jedi forever, never being able to meet his true potential. All because Pelt had to fulfill his bargain with Master Yoda. But if he ignored the Master’s orders, Naan wouldn’t be able to reach his potential, either. He, like Pelt, would become a glorified librarian.

    “Hello, number twenty, are you awake?” the announcer joked. “It’s your turn and it’s not like there’s a lot of choices left!”

    The crowd’s laughter jarred him, almost hurting him as physically as the last time he had crashed his speeder. It seemed even they knew that the girl was unlikely to be taken, that this confident young man was destined to be chosen.

    Pelt glanced up into the proud face of young Chudo, and then literally had to stand and study the stage to find Hilaal. After a closer look, he caught a slightly better view of the skinny girl as she hid behind a pillar, practically off the stage.

    He met the smiling young man’s eyes and locked on, hoping the moisture he suddenly felt really wasn’t a tear dripping down his face. He spoke in as loud of a voice as he could. “It is my deepest regret that one of these students must be left behind. Both are extremely promising candidates who would have had a lifetime of success with the Jedi order.” That was quite possibly the biggest lie he had ever told. Each step towards the stage felt like another lightsaber through the heart.

    He dropped a big, heavy hand onto the boy’s shoulder, whispering, “I’m sorry, Naan, I’m so very sorry.”

    The boy’s shock was palpable, almost sending Pelt to his knees. From somewhere deep inside himself, he found the strength to pass Naan by and to stand in front of Hilaal. He couldn’t even bring himself to touch her. He pitched his voice as loudly as he was able. “I choose Hilaal Yuchee as my Padawan learner.”

    Pelt thought he was going to have to catch her eyes as they went shooting out of their sockets. He knew exactly how she felt. But in her wide eyes, Pelt saw something there that tugged at his heartstrings. Maybe it was just her hope, finally bubbling to the surface, but he thought it was something deeper, something he couldn’t identify. The moment of clarity was banished by the crowd’s reaction.

    The first sound that reached his ears was several hundred sentients’ laughter. After a moment, very modest applause followed. Fully in his view, the four Masters who had blackmailed him into this decision stood, clapping more loudly than almost all the other spectators combined.

    “Master Quar must have a high opinion of himself to take on that girl,” the announcer was saying in a voice that contained more than a little sarcasm. “I think I speak for everybody here when I wish you both the best of luck.” This time, almost the entire crowd laughed.

    At his meekest moment, the crowd thought him to be the most arrogant sort of man the galaxy had to offer. He wanted to vomit, or kill himself. Pelt sensed, rather than saw or heard Naan Chudo as he ran off the stage. It was all he could do not to leave this girl whose jaw had dropped below her knees behind and chase after the boy.

    “Come, young one. Together, we have much to learn.”

    Such was his distress that he could only sigh as she fainted dead away, much to the amplified amusement of the crowd around him. He gathered the slender girl into his arms and carried her out of the stadium, doing his best to ignore the onlookers, some of whom had dissolved into amused tears. Pelt felt sorry for the girl, and he felt sorrow for himself; horrible as it was, he was hard pressed to admit which one of them he felt worse for.


    Still, he strode out with a straight back and a self-assured expression on his face, even though he felt no pride at this moment. Yoda wanted him humbled, and at this moment in time, he couldn’t possibly get any lower.
     
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  4. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= I love character-growth/driven plots! And this Pelt sounds like a big work in progress! [face_laugh] Very well written so far. I can almost taste his regret over not being able to take the student he wanted to. :p And the idea! ;) that he has something to learn from Hilaal. He coulda swallowed his tongue with surprise I'll bet. :p
     
    Jedi_Perigrine likes this.
  5. metophlus

    metophlus Jedi Padawan star 2

    Registered:
    Jun 30, 2015
    Makes me sick to my stomach.

    Disgusting.

    Disgusting.

    The announcer and crowd bordered on unbelievable. It was like the reader took a turn into Star Wars: The Twilight Zone, where the galaxy has taken on a surreal, vaguely sinister feel. Jedi Knight Pelt Quar and his padawan Hilaal Yuchee walked out of this chapter as sympathetic, sure, but the path there was awkward.
     
    Jedi_Perigrine likes this.
  6. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008

    Indeed! Poor slob doesn't know what's coming next. Thanks very much for reading! :)

    I did mean to torture the two of them as much as possible. :) I've never considered the Twilight Zone aspect of it, interesting comparison! Thank you for your comment.

    See you all on Wednesday!
     
  7. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    I hope they will get along.
    Nice to see you here again Peri;)
     
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  8. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008

    Thanks EB! :) Good to see you again too! [:D]

    Thanks for reading everybody! On with the show.

    **

    Several hours later, Hilaal Yuchee’s eyes popped open to see Pelt Quar, sitting on the edge of her bed. She groaned as she saw him.

    “I thought it was a nightmare,” she said, slapping one delicate hand over her deep blue eyes. “But I guess it really happened, huh?”

    Pelt put down the datapad he had been reading and gave his best smile. “I’m afraid we were both a part of that nightmare. I’m sorry the crowd treated us so harshly.”

    “Hey, you’re the numbskull who picked me,” Hilaal retorted. “If you felt so mistreated, it’s your own stupid fault. I never asked you to choose me. I didn’t want to be chosen!” she shouted, though the words rang hollow.

    Pelt picked up on her thoughts. She had wanted to be picked. Desperately. But she had decided it wasn’t going to happen and had resigned herself to that fact.

    “Yes you did,” Pelt countered. “You wanted to be chosen. You needed to be chosen.”

    She sat up suddenly, pointing at him angrily. “Not by you! You’ve been grooming Naan to be your student ever since I can remember. Did you feel so sorry for me you threw all that away?”

    “Pity for you had nothing to do to it,” he retorted, patience already beginning to wear thin.

    Her cobalt eyes, suddenly aflame were penetrating his, as though trying to dig through his thoughts. Quickly his mental shields went up, but she didn’t seem to need to read his thoughts.

    “You were coerced.” Her head was cocked at a slight angle, her expression thoughtful. “Someone forced you to take me.”

    How could she come to the truth so quickly? he wondered to himself. Is she that perceptive, or was it just a lucky guess?

    “I could have chosen Naan,” he answered firmly. “Nobody forced me to select you.” He left out the part where his life would be impossibly boring if he didn’t. His own attitudes towards adventure had held him hostage and forced the decision. If he could have been content with existence as a librarian, he would have selected Naan.

    The look Hilaal gave him said she doubted his words. She glared at him instead of calling him on his near-lie, arms crossed in front of her chest.

    “I’ve had all of your things moved to my room. Tomorrow we’ll get started with your training.”

    “Whatever.”

    Pelt leaned his head towards hers angrily. “Do you want to be a Jedi?” She blanched and backed away. “Do you?” he demanded again, this time more loudly.

    There was fear behind her eyes, but there was the hint of some steel, too. “Yes,” she answered, shoving her face back towards his.

    “All right then! A Jedi radiates power and is always serene, sure of their abilities. Even if I can’t teach you how to levitate your toothbrush, you will learn self-confidence. You will learn how to carry yourself with honor and self-respect, because if there’s anybody in the entire Jedi Temple who can grow you an ego bigger than the universe, it’s me!”

    Hilaal unexpectedly giggled girlishly. “I think that’s the first completely true statement you’ve ever said to me.”

    Pelt let out a quick burst of air as he stood. “Pff.” His face warred between mild amusement and exasperation at the same time. “Want to come get some dinner with me?”

    Any backbone she was showing immediately seemed to suck back into the deepest reaches of her personality. “I’m…I’m not ready to be seen in public with you. Yet. Uhh…sorry.”

    He turned around so she wouldn’t see him roll his eyes exasperatedly. “Do you want me to bring you something when I come back, then?”

    Hilaal slid further under the covers, almost covering her chin with the sheet. “Yeah…okay. Thanks, I guess.”

    “You’re welcome,” he answered, still not facing her. He strode out of the room and shut the door softly behind him, unable to keep from slapping both of his hands over his eyes, unwilling to even ponder removing them, all the while shaking his head to himself as he blindly sensed his way to the dining room.

    *************

    Uvhall and his new apprentice came to join Pelt as he listlessly stirred the food around his plate.

    “Are you all right?” his friend asked, sliding his tray down next to Pelt’s.

    “I’m wonderful. Why would you ask?” he answered, his tone so devoid of emotion that even the Padawan looked at him oddly.

    “I think the entire Jedi Temple collectively soiled themselves when you chose your apprentice, old friend.”

    “I think I did too,” he said, still unable to look his friend in the eyes. “Though there were four Masters who weren’t terribly surprised.” Too late, he realized the bitterness in his voice and his implication. The surge of worry faded away quickly, though.

    “Oh?” Uvhall took a bite of food and watched Pelt consideringly. “Oh,” he said after he processed what Pelt had said. “Wow. I didn’t know they could do that. Who?”

    Pelt stood suddenly, scraping his chair back. “I shouldn’t have said that. Forget it. I…uh…need to bring Hilaal some dinner.” He forced himself to look into his friend’s eye. “Congratulations, both of you. I truly wish you all the best.” Uvhall’s Padawan stood respectfully as Pelt did, but he waved the boy back into his chair.

    “Same to you, Pelt. When you feel like talking, I’ll be there.”


    By way of a reply, he could only pat the man’s shoulder half-heartedly as he went back to the ordering window. Having no idea what she liked, Pelt ordered her a serving of everything, including two of each dessert. No student of his was going to look like a half-starved orphan if he had anything to say about it. Almost overburdened with food, he meandered back to his room.

    ********

    “Thanks, but I don’t really like sweets,” Hilaal said as he gently laid the tray on her lap. “Or meat.”

    Dear Force, she’s a vegetarian? “You don’t eat meat?”

    “Meat is murder, right?”

    He sensed that wasn’t the entire reason, but he’d play along. “If you choose to think of it that way, yes. But then again, aren’t vegetables alive? Wouldn’t killing one be no different than the other?”

    Hilaal looked at him thoughtfully. “Animals have emotions…thoughts and dreams, hopes for the future.”

    Pelt tried not to scowl. “You’re anthropomorphizing. Most animals feel little besides pain and the desire to eat and reproduce. The same could be said of plants.”

    “I don’t think they’re similar at all!” she exclaimed.

    He took a subtle, calming breath. “If you harvest a lot of vegetables from a stalk, is the plant not going to become distressed, more open to disease and dying?”

    Hilaal gave him an annoyed glare. “Depends on the fruit and the plant.”

    “True, but if you only ate Correlian breadfruit, you wouldn’t be very healthy, now, would you?” Pelt tried a different tactic. “Am I evil because I like meat?”

    She ran a hand through her scruffy red hair. “I don’t think evil is the right word.”

    “Substitute any word you like. Until you come up with a better one, I’ll continue to use evil.”

    Unable to decide on a less aggressive adjective, she shrugged. “Fine, you’re evil because you eat meat.”

    “By that logic then, are predators evil because they eat herbivores?”

    “No, because that’s what predators do. Without predators to keep the herbivores’ population in check, they would multiply and devastate their food supply, which would kill herbivores off more brutally than any predator attack. They are a vital part of the cycle of life. But we’re able to sustain ourselves on vegetables.”

    “We’re able to, yes. But as humans we’re omnivores. We were designed as hunters as well as gatherers. We need a diet of both meat and vegetables in order to maintain peak health. Without all the vitamins and minerals found in both plant and animal life, our bodies don’t function properly.”

    “But I don’t like meat,” she objected.

    “So vegetarianism was just an excuse not to eat it, hmm?”

    Her lack of a response was all the answer he needed.

    He smiled, pleased at Hilaal’s attempt to reason with him. She seemed to have a sharp and logical mind that she dedicated adroitly to her own purposes. “You probably just haven’t had good meat before.” Pelt scrambled around with her knife and fork before taking a chunk out of the middle of the nerf steak. He stabbed a piece and held it up to look at it, making sure it wasn’t overdone and offered it to her. “Try this.”

    Hilaal looked at it skeptically. “But it’s still red inside. Ew.”

    “This is considered medium rare, actually. A Jedi must have an open mind. You can’t refuse to try new things because, as a Jedi, you’ll be required to try more new things than the majority of the galaxy. It’s a vital skill to learn, and one that you’ll use on almost every mission. That, young one, is a guarantee.”

    She didn’t look very pleased, but she snagged the fork and stuffed the bite into her mouth that was already making a displeased face. As she chewed, her expression mellowed significantly.

    “Okay, so maybe it’s not so bad.”

    Pelt smiled mildly at her. “That’s the spirit.”

    After that, Hilaal seemed intent on pushing her food around her plate just like Pelt had done back in the dining room.

    “Want me to leave you alone to eat?”

    She looked like she was going to say yes, but then she thought better of it. “I guess you can stay. Just…er…don’t watch me, or something.”

    Pelt chuckled darkly. “All right. I’ve got to organize your lesson plans. I’ll just be at my desk if you have any questions.”

    “I think I can probably figure out how to eat, thanks,” she shot back with a caustic tone.

    He rolled his eyes dramatically as he stood. “You’re so skinny, I can’t really be sure.”

    As he sat and stared blankly at his datapad, he wondered just what he was going to do with her. Hilaal had some spirit, but he had to rile her up in order to get her to show it. Making her irate every day, to show him the wonders of the light side of the Force was a bad plan, even by his standards. He fretted about that long after she had finished eating and started quietly reading on her own. Pelt lost all track of time as he thought. Eventually he gazed up at the chrono.

    “Time for bed, Hilaal.”

    “I’m not tired,” she argued, hiding a yawn behind her hand.

    “Well, I am. Time to sleep.”

    “I’m not going to sleep.”

    “Fine, just lay there in the dark, I don’t care.” He reached out with the Force and flipped off the lights. “Turn that datapad off. No reading.”

    Her response was an exasperated groan.

    For all his talk of being tired, he really wasn’t. Even though he was lying in his comfortable bed, he wasn’t even a little sleepy. Instead, he tucked his palms under the back of his head and stared at the ceiling he couldn’t quite see. He wondered what Naan would do next. Would the boy ever forgive him for the horrible way he had been betrayed?

    Worry ate at him for quite a while until he heard the gentle sounds of Hilaal as she began to snore softly. As odd as it seemed, once he knew she was asleep, he was able to relax more fully. He wasn’t long behind her in going to sleep.


    If he had known Hilaal would be gone before he woke up, Pelt would have never found the peace of slumber.
     
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  9. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Peregrine excellent stuff here! Great contest of wills, but having to rile her up just to get her to show some emotions not a good strategy. :p Glad Uvhall is there as a source of confiding. That last line - woo, mysterious! [face_thinking] Did she run away or something?
     
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  10. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    fun update with all the arguing
     
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  11. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    Please forgive my tardiness and my hurry this morning! I appreciate all of you taking the time to read the story, but apparently free time isn't something I'm going to have lots of for a few days. I'll just chuck in the next segment. Thanks, everybody! :)

    ************

    Hilaal’s nerves were already shot from her nightmares. Unnatural dark dreams involving a terrifying hooded presence had leeched all her hope and uncovered the realization that she didn’t belong in the Temple, nor would she. Ever. Deciding to run away had only increased her inner panic, amplifying her blood pressure and sending violent surges pulsating through her veins. Even in the minutes after those dreams had startled her awake, she thought she could still sense an evil presence watching her. Waiting.

    Hilaal quietly slipped out from underneath the covers and put her toes on the soft carpet. She stood and gave a cursory glance through her backpack that hadn’t been unpacked yet. So far, Pelt hadn’t stirred. That made leaving that much easier but it didn’t slow the thunderous pounding of her heart. After double-checking the bag’s contents, her only regret was that she didn’t have a warmer cloak in there. Moving ever so carefully, she opened one of Pelt’s drawers. Luck was with her, for she found a whole slough of Pelt’s reserves. She shifted away the top few, for they seemed to be folded the neatest. She didn’t want him chasing her to get back one of his prized cloaks. As far as Hilaal was concerned, the ones near the bottom of the drawer weren’t luxurious enough for Pelt to care about, so she picked the bottom one. Afterward, she softly folded things back to the way they used to be and gently shut the cabinet.

    Moving as stealthily as she could, she draped the stolen cloak over her belongings and moved to the door. She risked one last glance at the man who had inexplicably chosen her and for the first time she felt a little conflict. He had chosen her after all, and been nothing but nice to her so far, even though she was relatively sure he was just acting. He couldn’t really have an interest in her; nobody did. It was then that the nebulous impressions of her dreams came whispering back into her mind, like an actively running ranting commentary that someone was channeling directly into her brain.

    He doesn’t want you he’ll just cast you aside when he’s finished with you he doesn’t really care nobody cares you’re better off alone. You must leave yes leave go away nobody wants you here. You’re not a Jedi, the rambling voice paused long enough to guffaw. The sound of amused laughter didn’t last long though, and soon the voice was back, droning in her ear. You’ll never be a Jedi so weak so insignificant so pitiful you must leave…

    Still the whispering voice spoke on, as it had while shadowing her dreams with self-doubt. She shook her head trying to clear it. Doing so didn’t banish the voice but she had somehow muted it to the point where she could at least think.

    As she stared at Pelt for another minute, she knew somehow that he didn’t really want her to leave. The longer she delayed, however, the louder, the more insistent her inner voice was becoming. In a fit of frustration she yelled to the voice inside her mind.

    Shut up!.

    For fractions of a second, there was an image resembling a dark-cloaked presence that flashed across her mind. Though the figure’s likeness was short-lived, a pair of glowing red eyes remained behind like the after-image impressed on her eyeballs after a sudden bright flash of light.

    Her time to stay and gawk had passed. As she slipped through the door, she raced down the deserted corridors of the sleeping quarters of Jedi Knights and Masters alike. Nobody was about except her. Even so, there was food waiting in the dining room. She ordered a hot breakfast to go and loaded the rest of the free space in her pack with as many ration bars as she could stuff in before continuing towards the exit. Just before she had left the Temple altogether, she stopped and slung the pack the rest of the way over both shoulders and the shrugged into the oversized cloak she had taken from Pelt, throwing the hood over her head. Despite the large bulge her pack made on her back, the cloak’s bottom hem still dragged a few centimeters on the ground and the sleeves covered both her hands with fabric to spare. Hilaal didn’t have time to mess with it at the moment. She’d have to find a sewing kit from somewhere, once she had gone far enough away.

    After she had walked for perhaps another hour, the voice inside her head was finally silent, but now she was left alone with her own thoughts. She was free of the Temple and the voice had quieted. But why did she feel a subtle niggling feeling like she had made the wrong choice?

    Hilaal had wanted to be a Jedi ever since she was a little girl, and the instruction she got from Yoda and the other Masters had only amplified that desire. Other than the lessons though, the Jedi had brought her little but pain of every kind. Fading yellow bruises still dotted her body from the rigorous physical instruction Master Davip had inflicted during the extra training sessions she had begged out of him. The sadness of being unable to find friends in a cliquey society left mental wounds that were far more painful. Even though she had no idea of where to go or what kind of life to lead now, she had to get away from that kind of suffering.

    She sighed and chose a direction at random.

    ****

    Pelt awoke some time later. He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes and glanced over at the empty bed he had left Hilaal in the night before. Initially he wasn’t worried; but after a few moments when she didn’t appear from the ‘fresher, he became curious enough to get out of his bed. His eyes widened in shock as his mind processed the backpack that had been right next to his cabinet the night before. Dressing hurriedly, Pelt almost ran to the dining room in hopes of finding Hilaal and her missing backpack there. While there was no sign of his wayward apprentice, Uvhall and his apprentice were sitting at a table by themselves. There was no disguising Pelt’s harried expression or his strained, heavy breathing, and he was too worried to really care.

    “Morning, Pelt. Lose something besides your wits?” Uvhall and his Padawan chuckled together.

    “Yeah,” he answered, putting both his palms on the table and leaning in towards his friend. “My Apprentice. She’s gone.”

    “Are you sure? She could just be out for a morning run or something.”

    Pelt gave Uvhall a stern glare. “With a backpack full of clothes?”

    That was enough to make the man sit up straighter. “That is odd.”

    Uvhall’s apprentice wore a concerned expression, but one that wasn’t altogether surprised. “Hilaal always has been undependable…” the boy offered.

    Pelt squelched that line of discussion immediately with an angry glare. “She was your crechemate, boy. You should have more respect for her than that.”

    “Don’t talk to Hayrl that way,” Uvhall defended, though he seemed surprised at his friend’s revelation. “So she’s gone. You let slip that the Masters coerced you into the decision. Do you really want to find her?”

    Pelt’s angry face compressed into pure fury and his hand clenched into a fist. With his last shred of control he slammed his knuckles back onto the table. If it had been anybody besides his best friend saying that, he would have pounded something a lot more supple.

    “I admit the decision might not have been mine,” he said through a locked jaw. “Now I’m convinced there’s something special about her. Maybe she is just what I need. Even if that wasn’t the case, I don’t want to be the Jedi who lost his Padawan on the first day.”

    Uvhall’s face quickly recovered from the shock of his friend’s adamants. “Then go tell the Council, they’ll surely help you locate her.”

    “I don’t want to tell the Council,” he answered. “I’m already a laughingstock because I adopted her. What’s left of my reputation won’t survive if everybody finds out that I’ve lost her.”

    The other man looked at his Padawan thoughtfully. “Mind doing some field work on your first day, Young one?”

    “I’m ready, Master!” the boy said, a silly grin on his face.

    “That’s the spirit,” Uvhall replied, slapping the boy on the shoulder. “We’ll help you look for her. Go get some breakfast and we’ll leave as soon as you’re done.”

    “I’m not hungry. Besides, we don’t have time to wait!”

    “Relax, Pelt. Think. Breathe. She can’t go far without a speeder or supplies.”

    Pelt brightened visibly. “Right, supplies. Good thinking!” He pat the man on his shoulder and hurried over to the ordering counter.

    “What’ll it be?” the droid server asked blandly.

    “Have you seen Padawan Yuchee? Slender young woman with scraggly red hair, about yea high?”

    The droid conferred with the rest of the kitchen staff in short buzzing machine language. “Affirmative. Padawan Yuchee came through three hours and twenty six minutes ago. She asked for the morning special and twenty seven ration bars.”


    Three and a half hours ago? Damn! “Thank you,” he answered, his voice a lot more serene than the erupting roil of his emotions. “Give me a dozen ration bars. Something tells me I’m going to be out for a long time today.”
     
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  12. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Fascinating revelations about Hilall's past & hmmm on Pelt suddenly realizing she might just be what he needs. ;) Of course he certainly doesn't want her to be "lost" and that dream thingy or whateever she had -- :eek: Looking forward to more. Thanks for posting even if in a rush. :D
     
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  13. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    WOW, action packed update. I hope Pelt will find her
     
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  14. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    I appreciate your reading! Let's just say, Hilaal did not have an easy time of things at the temple at all. Don't worry though! THings will get better for her. Well...if she survives. ;)


    Thanks EB! :)

    Okay....where'd I leave off. Ah yes. Here comes the next bit. Looks like it's a bigun. Brace yourselves!

    ***

    It was at least the eighteenth time he’d circled the area in his speeder, positive that somebody must have seen Hilaal pass through at some point during the day. Nobody he’d interviewed had seen any sign of her though.

    The orange tip of the sun was sinking behind the kilometer-high buildings that made up the horizon when Pelt’s comlink buzzed.

    “Looks like we better pack it in for the day, Pelt.”

    He blew out a sigh of disgust. “I guess you’re right, Uvhall. I can’t believe we didn’t even catch a sign of her.”

    “Don’t worry, buddy. Even three Jedi can’t search this big of an area successfully on the first try. We’ll find her tomorrow.”

    “I hope so. Hey, I really appreciate you two helping me out like this.”

    Pelt could hear the smile in his friend’s voice. “No problem. I have to teach this kid of mine somehow. We’ll see you tomorrow. Meet at the mess hall just after dawn?”

    “Sounds perfect, thanks Uvhall. See you then.”

    As Pelt sped through the massive skyscrapers, he hadn’t stopped looking for Hilaal. Nor would he. He hoped to get lucky, even though he new the odds were insignificantly small. But the longer he looked, the more convinced he was that it was vital—for both of them—that he find her soon.


    He searched all night, despite the decreased visibility and seedier element roaming the streets. Pelt had to find her. The second full day of searching yielded as little as the first. Pelt wasn’t frustrated yet, but he decided there had to be an easier way of tracking her down without alerting the whole planet to her disappearance. On the morning of the third day, he decided to pay the security control room a visit. After he fed her image through the planetary droid network he only had to wait a minute before the first sign of her cropped up as a bright red dot on a city-sector map. Several hours passed as the network slowly started tracing a pattern for him.

    “Why in space didn’t I think of this yesterday?”

    “Why did you not think of what yesterday?”

    Pelt jumped, whirling around to see Master Yoda standing behind him, a mildly curious expression on his green face.

    “Master…I…uhhh…”

    “Lost your Padawan, hmm?”

    He hung his head in shame. Damn! he thought. Caught! “Yes Master,” he said at last.

    “Why did she leave?” Yoda asked, his stare as penetrating as a lightsaber through flimsiplast.

    “I don’t know!” he protested. “I carried her to my room, after she fainted. Then I asked her if she wanted to eat a meal with me, she refused, so I brought her some food. We had a debate—” Pelt saw the Master’s eyes widen slightly. Remembering the nature of their discussion, he hastened to clarify. “It was a friendly discussion, Master; there were no angry words said. Actually she seemed…a little more open to me afterwards.”

    There could be no doubting the sincerity or the deep sorrow in Pelt’s tone.

    “I see. So why did you not contact the Council and report a runaway?”

    He tried to think of an answer that wouldn’t make him sound as selfish as he was, but he could not. “Because I didn’t want the rest of the Temple to find out, Master. I didn’t want Hilaal…or myself to become the butt of more jokes.”

    Yoda finally nodded, his expression becoming concerned. “Need you help?”

    At that moment, the computer beeped a sequence of notes, indicating the last droid member of his reconnaissance network had reported in. Near a public spaceport, a steady green red dot pulsed indicating where she had been seen last, less than two hours ago.

    “I think I’ve got her now, Master.”

    “Then bring her back to us, Pelt. Quiet will I be about this, but updated, you will keep me.”

    Relief washed across his features. “Thank you!”

    “May the Force be with you, Pelt.”

    Quar was in too big of a hurry to reply. He shot past Yoda and raced to the Temple garage. Something made him choose a four-seated speeder rather than his usual sporty vehicle, but Pelt was concentrating completely on the memory of that glowing circle near the spaceport. If she had managed to leave the planet, his search was going to become a whole lot harder.

    ****

    As Hilaal pressed herself up behind a series of walls and breathed heavily, she listened hard for signs of pursuit. After a couple of minutes, she finally relaxed enough to exhale a sigh.

    Two days of aimless wandering hadn’t gotten her very far, in terms of what she was going to do with her future. Every place she saw opportunity, she stopped and asked for a job, something, anything to earn food or money. Nobody seemed interested in a dirty, smelly thirteen year old. At least, not as far as helping her start a new life. There were a few people who had nefarious motivations behind their offers of a warm meal and a hot bath, but Hilaal had run from them with even more desperation than she had the Galactic Transit Authority. After two days of failing to find somewhere in the city to live or work, her next thought was to stow away on the first ship leaving Coruscant. GTA’s security was far too tight, however. Guards and droids both watched her suspiciously as she scoped out potential routes onto a starship heading to Corellia. Realizing there wasn’t a way to sneak on board, she decided to try to bluff her way through.

    Claiming she was a Jedi, she did her best to stride up the boarding ramp and demand transport. They had laughed at her, telling her to go back to her Master. Hilaal had managed to levitate one of the men’s blasters out of his holster but the other guards reacted too fast, slapping the weapon out of the air and reaching to grab her arm. Her slender limbs were too slippery and she managed to get away from them, beginning the chase that would last well over half an hour to culminate with her hiding in an abandoned shop, praying they wouldn’t find her, or report a Jedi runaway to the Temple.

    For the first time, she seriously contemplated going back. Master Pelt would be angry of course, though probably more so at the theft of his cloak than her disappearance. She could learn a few things from him…maybe if she was lucky, she’d be able to make it to Jedi Knight. Then her life options would be infinitely greater. And more pleasant.

    The voice that had been her infrequent motivation throughout Hilaal’s escape attempts chose that time to become active again.

    Master Pelt doesn’t want you, girl, no all he wants is time to himself in front of his mirror primping always primping the young fool. You must hide and disappear no one must find you or you’ll suffer beyond anything you’ve felt thus far in your insignificant existence. Insignificant, yes you’re a worm, you’re nothing, you’re a waste of flesh and bone and blood. Better for everybody if you were gone or dead. Dead, yes. Hmmm.

    Hilaal came back to her senses, shaking her head violently, bashing the back of her head against the durocrete wall, trying to dispel the self-doubting voice that rarely seemed to leave her alone. Whenever she was at her weakest, the voice would return and steer her towards any decision that kept her from returning to the Jedi. Unable to find the time or slow her heart enough to rest, she had been moving constantly ever since she had left the temple. Was that three days ago? Or three weeks? She could remember each sunset and sunrise, but the hours seemed to drag on. She was exhausted beyond anything she had ever felt.

    A gasp from somewhere to Hilaal’s left startled her. Crouched in the farthest corner away from her were a man and his wife, and their tiny child. Their clothes were torn and dirty ruined far beyond her own. They seemed to have wrapped the very small baby with the nicest of their rags. Feverish eyes stared at her, fear and sickness plastered across the adults’ faces more desperately than anything young Yuchee had ever seen before. Their bodies were extremely undernourished, and they seemed to shiver despite the heat of the day.

    “I won’t hurt you,” she whispered, slowly moving towards them.

    Either they didn’t believe her, or they couldn’t understand what she was saying. The couple tried to scoot further into the corner, their bare feet scrambling heedlessly against the irregular floor, trying to push themselves back.

    Hilaal could hear their chattering teeth from five meters away. The sight was so awful that even the emotionally drained young woman couldn’t help but feel sorrow for them. She slipped out of Pelt’s cloak, offering it to them.

    “Here, take this. It’s warm.” She stood completely still for several minutes, holding the cloak out to them. Their fear lessened a little, but neither of them would move towards her. Deciding to sweeten the deal for them, she took two of her last ten nutrient bars out of her backpack. After dangling the food in the couple’s field of vision for a few moments, she slipped the bars into the cloak’s pocket, left the cloak where she stood and backed her way out of the building. Hilaal surreptitiously watched from a good ten meters away as the couple slowly approached the cloak, as though fearing it were a dangerous creature. Eventually the man had moved close enough to pull the nutrient bars out of the pocket. After he gave one to his wife and then tore open the wrapper, he devoured his in three bites, chewing faster than Hilaal had ever seen anybody chew before. Beady eyes darted back up to her face in triumph, watching her closely.

    She was content with her work. Hilaal turned and began her trek to nowhere. It was for situations like this homeless family that the Jedi were needed so desperately. As a true Jedi, she could have helped those people much more, perhaps she could have found a safer place for them to live, rather than a condemned building. She could have provided more food than a couple of healthy but tasteless ration bars.

    Yuchee stopped walking as she waited for the voice to blast her for her weakness. When seconds passed and nothing happened, she began to smile to herself. Her pleasure didn’t last long, though.

    A heavy weight crashed down onto her head from behind. All sense of bodily control was instantly severed; her limbs flailed as she pitched forward. A dirty hand scrambled for her backpack and one wrapped around the back of her head, slamming her forehead into the durocrete ground. Hilaal’s vision narrowed to a tiny lighted tunnel, but she was able to hold on to consciousness by a thread. It took a great deal of expended energy and bodily confusion before she could finally turn around and face her attacker. Somehow her pack had been torn off her shoulders, allowing her to lay flat on her back as she stared into the filthy face of the man she had just given food to. He was screaming wordlessly as he hit at her over and over again. Martial training took over and she was able to deflect some of the blows, but others were too strong and too random. His desperation was more than a match for her numb mind and boneless, exhausted defenses. She felt her left wrist snap just milliseconds before she heard the bone break. She cried out in agony once, and then again as the man’s knee caught her in her slender ribcage.

    Suddenly in a desperate situation herself, she found herself reaching for the Force. Without really knowing what she did, she shoved the man ten meters, crashing him into the condemned building he seemed to live in. He whimpered once, but his face broke into a contented grin as he realized he held on to Hilaal’s backpack. He retreated into his crumbling house, practically moving on all four of his limbs like an animal.

    Hilaal tried to stand, but because of the surging pain, she couldn’t. Her ribs were on fire and her left hand jutted out in an angle that horrified her. Using her good hand, she tried to heave herself back to her feet, gritting her teeth against the agony blazing inside her torso. Every little motion she made to keep herself balanced upright caused another surging tendril of pain to shoot up her left side. A sudden violent sneeze spilled her back onto the ground and sent tears leaking out of her eyes as she screamed against the pulsating agony of her ribs. Hilaal had no concentration to spare for anything except the pain. She couldn’t walk, she could barely breathe. Her stomach tensed and nausea erupted in her belly, causing her to expel the meager contents of her stomach.


    Is this how my miserable life is going to end? she thought to herself as the pain started to dim, along with her vision. Alone, in a dingy alley, killed by a man I had tried to save? Tired of fighting to stay conscious, or alive, Hilaal gave in to the demanding blackness of oblivion.
     
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  15. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Now Pelt has to find her soon
     
  16. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Something borne out inother fics I've read about Coruscant in any era is that the underlevels and disenfranchised are a desperate dangerous lot. [face_worried] And Hilaal certainly is now in a shocking mess of a situation, looks like medical attention is warranted immediately! [face_nail_biting] Pelt is genuinely remorseful and candid. Good start there. @};-
     
  17. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    Indeed! Thanks for reading!



    I usually like to shout Medic! at times like this. Happens more often than I'd like to admit. I appreciate your reading! :)

    ____________

    Pelt began his search at the spaceport, deciding it was as good of place as any. He parked his speeder just in front of the loading platform and caught a GTA employee as he began walking towards the main entrance.

    “Excuse me, have you seen this girl?” he asked, showing the most recent holo of Hilaal.

    “That girl? Yeah, she came by, dirty as a garbage compactor, trying to convince me she was a Jedi.” The man chuckled briefly. “We knew she wasn’t one of you, though. We tried to catch her, but she was too quick. Chased her for a long time, not long ago. Is she in some sort of trouble?”

    “No, she’s not in trouble, but it’s very important I find her,” Pelt answered firmly. “Will you show me which way you chased her?”

    “Sure! Lemme just tell my supervisor where I’m goin’.” The man only took a moment, and then they hopped into Pelt’s speeder and were on their way down the busy side streets. Slowly they threaded their way through the maze of buildings that became more and more run down. The once heavy population slowly faded away until they were no people on the streets anywhere.

    “This is where she disappeared, sir. We figure she could’a gone down any of those streets, or ducked into one of them buildings. There are some rough folks out this way, so we didn’t want to poke our nose where it don’t belong, you see. That’s why we gave up.”

    A sudden spasm through the Force made him stop his speeder. “You did well for following her this far,” he said, trying to concentrate on his inner senses. “I think she’s really close by. Do you want to help me look or do you need to get back to work?” Pelt put a little more Forceful emphasis on “go back to work”.

    “Nah, I’m sure my supervisor needs me. I’ll head back, but I can walk, don’t trouble yourself over me.”

    Pelt nodded, the best bow he could perform as he clutched the speeder’s controls, settling the craft onto the ground. “You’ve done me a great service today. On behalf of myself and the Jedi Order, I thank you for your service. If you ever need a favor, big or small, ask for Pelt Quar and I’ll be happy to help.”

    “Thank you, Master Jedi! Glad to be of service.” The man hopped out and started jogging his way back to the spaceport.

    Pelt didn’t see him go. He lost himself to the Force, trying his best to track down the source of the agony he had felt just moments earlier. There was suffering nearby, terrible pain. Whether the ball of agony was his apprentice or someone else, Pelt had to see if he could help. As quickly as he could, while still being able to see around him, he sped through the streets looking up and down every little alley and side street. After a minute he spotted a pair of figures on the ground just ahead; one of them was unconscious and lying on the ground in an awkward position, while another seemed to be trying to rip clothing off the first.

    Pelt turned on his auxiliary headlights and raced towards the sentients. As soon as he made out his apprentice as the unconscious form, he leapt from his speeder and ignited his lightsaber, sending an eerie dark green glow through the alleyway.

    The man on top of her finally pulled her outermost tunic off before retreating into a building. Feeling the desire to go after him and retrieve Hilaal’s clothing, he shoved that urge aside and hastened to her side. All of her clothing was filthy and torn, barely covering her at all. As he touched her flesh, Pelt realized how feverish she was, and how much thinner she had become over the last few days. A closer investigation of her body showed a badly broken wrist and wicked, dark bruises around her ribs.

    A tear leaked out of his eye as he gently levitated her into his speeder, laying her as flat as possible in the back seats. Heedless of any traffic, Pelt raced full throttle back to the Jedi Temple, shouting for Healers to meet him the moment he landed.

    ****

    Hours later, Pelt could do nothing but pace in front of the medical facility’s main door as he waited impatiently for word on his apprentice. He had been so distressed at finding her so badly beaten that he became a nuisance to the Healers as they checked her over. Finally agitated beyond their ordinarily patient limits, one of them had tossed him out of the facilities altogether, unable to let him so much as get a foot beyond the threshold of the door.

    How could I have let this happen? he wondered to himself for the eighteenth time. I never meant for her to end up like this! Force, if she ever wakes up I’ll do everything I can to teach her. She has to get better, she has to!

    Finally the door whisked open and a white-clad Ithorian Healer invited him back into the waiting room. With a large hand, he waved Pelt to one of the chairs. “Young Yuchee has suffered grievously,” the Ithorian said. Despite the gentleness of his tone, the words came from both sets of mouths, giving his voice a harsh stereo-like quality. “But she will be fine.”

    Pelt breathed an immense sigh of relief. “Can I see her?”

    “In a moment. I must first tell you that her wrist and her ribs have been set and are healing well enough. She has gone without sleep and proper food for so long that her weakened immune system allowed her to catch the Banjoidal Flu. If we hadn’t treated her when we did, she could have died.”

    Tears dripped down Pelt’s face. “Hilaal,” he murmured to himself. “I’m so sorry,” he wailed.

    The Ithorian patted his shoulder supportively. “These are not the worst of her injuries, however.”

    That made Pelt sit up straight. “What?”

    The large head nodded. “Her mental state is…raw, as if someone had forced themselves inside her mind repeatedly. The psycological wounds are extensive, I suspect she’s been suffering in silence for a very long time.”

    His expression dissolved into shock. “Could her crechemates have done this to her?”

    “I don’t think so. This kind of wound suggests an experienced hand. As far as I know, no Youngling has control of their abilities to that degree.”

    Pelt covered his face with his hands. “That’s…horrible…”

    “I doubt she had much control over what she was doing. We’ve subconsciously shown her how to strengthen her mental shields, and as she regains consciousness we’ll teach her how to lock down her mind completely, so this sort of thing won’t happen again.”

    “Thank you. I’m sorry I was such a pest when we came in. I was just so worried…”

    Two mouths grinned. “You weren’t the first, and you won’t be the last Jedi we’ve had to throw out. It’s nice to see you concerned about the fate of your Padawan. It’s no secret that she wasn’t your first choice.”

    A spurt of anger wormed its way to the surface, but he let it go immediately. He couldn’t keep the seriousness out of his tone when he answered, though. “She’s my first choice now,” he said.


    Pelt spent the next three days by her bedside, mostly just watching her sleep. Every couple of hours, a Healer would move him aside so they could work on her, but the moment they were gone, Pelt was back at Hilaal’s side.

    Intra-venous drip lines rapidly dripped nourishment and vitamins into her bloodstream, counter-acting her starvation and flu. She had been underweight before she went missing. Three days consuming only a few nutrition bars hadn’t done her physical condition any favors.

    She had visitors, too, though Pelt and Uvhall were the youngest ones by far. Uvhall couldn’t convince his own padawan to make an appearance, so the new Master kept his visits short. Masters Hruuvokka, Davip, Yoda and Pul all came to check on her at least once. They all radiated concern and support, though none of them stayed very long.

    When she woke up for the first time, Pelt was clutching her undamaged hand like a parent at a dying child’s bedside, as if trying physically holding her out of death’s clutches.

    Hilaal blinked half a dozen times before she recognized him. “Where…?” she whispered.

    “You’re in the Jedi Temple,” he answered, running a hand through her scraggly hair. “You’re safe. I’m here.”

    A panicked expression shadowed across her face, as if she were waiting for something else bad to happen to her.

    Pelt watched her for a few moments before speaking. “Are you hearing voices?” he asked softly.

    “No,” she answered, her voice full of wonder. “How did you know I was…?”

    He couldn’t stop himself from smoothing her hair back. It seemed to soothe him more than it did her. “The Healers said they found evidence of someone forcing their way into your consciousness. While you’ve slept the Healers have been training your mind to resist these attempts.”

    “Oh. So what’s this?” she asked.

    There was a probing pressure like a curious finger on the shield he had formed around her mind—a shield similar to the one Healers had erected to keep her safe.

    “That’s me,” he replied, grinning. “I’m here, keeping your brain intact, in case you ever decide to use it again.”

    She returned his smile, though to a far lesser degree. “So I’m not crazy?”

    “Only as crazy as I am.”

    “Great. I’m doomed,” Hilaal said softly, her voice mockingly severe. She tried to stifle the yawn, but it broke out anyway.

    “Sleep, Young one. I’ll be here when you wake up.” Hilaal immediately fell back asleep.

    Each time she awoke, Pelt was there, reassuring her as best he could. As the days passed, her conscious hours outnumbered her unconscious ones. Between Healers and her Master, Hilaal learned to erect a potent barrier around her mind that would hopefully prevent another mental incursion.


    By the time she was allowed to leave the healing ward, a full ten days after being found again, she felt better than she had in a very long time. Her body seemed to be as good as new. While she wouldn’t quite admit to trusting Pelt, they shared a healthy respect for each other, now. She even unpacked her belongings, once Pelt brought her back to his room. She had few words to say, but the way she settled into her bed that night spoke of a homecoming.
     
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  18. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    Wonderful - I'm glad they've found a way to give mental protection against incursions. Pelt and Hilaal seem to be on a gentler more cooperative footing. :) "Homecoming" - like the sound of that.
     
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  19. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Swee to see them together and becoming friends
     
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  20. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    I finally read this last night -- about time too, seeing as I asked you to repost it [face_blush], and I'm really glad I did, because this story is just everything I like!

    Chapter 1: The way you introduce Pelt Quar is simply priceless. The first paragraphs make him seem insufferably vain -- "an arrogant, egotistical slimo unfit to be promoted beyond Jedi Knight" [face_laugh] who intends to stay in his own world with Naan Chudo -- and it's interesting to see him realise little by little what the four masters mean.

    Chapter 2: The Padawan selection scene had me laughing on the other side of my face. There's something highly entertaining in watching Pelt deal with this situation, but the way drop-outs are treated, the way the audience reacts is simply distressing and the consequences for Naan Chudo are no doubt going to be awful -- especially because the poor kid doesn't deserve it. Will we see more of him?

    Chapter 3: "Hey, you’re the numbskull who picked me" -- I guess that's what you call starting a conversation with a bang, especially when it's your first conversation with your master. Hilaal has an issue of self-esteem, but she's a smart girl and she certainly has a way with words. And it's nice to see that Palt is self-aware "if there’s anybody in the entire Jedi Temple who can grow you an ego bigger than the universe, it’s me" [face_rofl] What was even nicer though is that they start building a rapport through all this banter -- or perhaps I should call it bickering? They've been master and padawan for just a couple of hours, and they're already arguing like an old couple.

    Chapter 4: Oops. There's someone very nasty interfering with the mind of that poor girl. I was about to skim through the rest of the chapter and jump to the next one, to find out what's up with her, but the breakfast scene with Uvhall and his padawan stopped me dead in my tracks, and I re-read it twice. Fantastic character development for Pelt here -- under the veneer of vanity seen in chapter 1, he's in reality a true Jedi who wants to do the right thing.

    Chapter 5: Well, it seems that Pelt passed Yoda's test here! I'm beginning to this that he might get his promotion to Jedi Master at some point after all. But Hilaal -- oh, Hilaal. I felt so sad for her, getting assaulted by the people she just helped at the very moment she was understanding what it could mean to be a Jedi... :_|

    Chapter 6: “She’s my first choice now.” Awww. Now I like Pelt for real. This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

    And now to find out who is this all-around nasty who has been playing around with her mind. I watched the thread and I'm waiting for more!

    A small request: could you please number the chapters? It will be easier for me to keep track of where I left off.
     
  21. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    It's not that I forgot about this per se...it's just that I got busy, went and harassed another country for a while, and then realized it'd been more than two weeks since I was here. Sorry folks!

    Nyota and EB: Thanks very much for reading!

    Hi Chyntuck! Glad you made it. :) I wanted to quote your reply so I could do a detailed response too, but apparently I'm having mental issues. Not the first time, won't be the last. Just give me a few more days before you call the nice men in the white coats.

    I'll begin numbering the chapters right away. Thanks for that suggestion and for numbering the ones before. ;) Keep the comments coming, and thanks for reading!

    CHAPTER 7

    “Okay, ready for lesson number one?” The first day after Hilaal had been able to leave the healing ward, Pelt had brought her to one end of a deserted corridor that was approximately twenty meters long. Not far from the Temple gardens, they could occasionally hear the chirping of a family of birds as they greeted the morning sun, or the barely audible droning of insects. He waved his arm towards the other end of the hall. “Walk.”

    “Walk? Are you joking?” she asked, startled. With her left hand she dusted the last crumbs of breakfast off the corners of her mouth. “You’re going to teach me to do something I’ve been doing by myself for twelve years?”

    Pelt nodded firmly, his expression one of forced enthusiasm. “That’s right. It’s not just me who looks bad when you go slouching through the city. You demean yourself and the whole Jedi Order.” He placed a small holo-recorder in the corner of the room so it could see her progress from one end to the other.

    “What’s that for?” Hilaal demanded.

    “To record your progress. Pretend it’s not here, forget about it.” He shooed her away with one hand. “So? Walk.”

    She sighed and began…trudging, just like she had shuffled through the Temple hallways before her runaway attempt. Her steps were too short, her toes practically dragged on the ground for half her puny stride. Arms hung lifelessly at her sides, barely moving with each step. Hilaal’s shoulders were slumped, her head was down and seemed to be staring at a point on the ground barely a meter in front of her feet. It seemed to take her forever to get to the other end and back.

    “Were you just defeated in dejarik by a blind Gamorrean? The weight of the galaxy isn’t on your shoulders yet.”

    The glare she shot him spoke volumes of her displeasure as she ran her fingers through her roughly cut red hair. He ignored he frustration.

    “Stand up straight!” Pelt said, grabbing her shoulders and lifting firmly. “Shoulders back. Head up, like you’re looking at the horizon. Keep your eyes alert, ready to watch anything in your field of view.” He let go and she started to shift back to near bonelessness. “No slouching!” he ordered as he wrapped his big hands around her arms and repositioned her again. “All right. We’ll try this again, but this time, don’t walk. Stride.”

    Hilaal let out a groan of frustration and began walking. She managed to keep her back straight, but her head immediately started bowing down to look at her feet again. The short steps made her stiff-backed procession almost comical, though Pelt did his best not to laugh.

    “That was much better,” Pelt commented. “But you let your head droop, and we need to work on your stride. Try to double the length of your steps. Remember, you’re a confident Jedi. The galaxy looks up to you.”

    “Nobody will ever look up to me,” she said, dejected as she used her fingers to try to smooth out the split ends of her hair.

    The way she kept toying with her hair gave him the beginnings of an idea. “That’s not true,” he told her, kneeling. Now that he was crouching, she was half a meter taller than he was, but in personality Pelt felt like he was still towering above her. “One day you’ll be a confident and powerful young woman. You’ll have a lightsaber on your hip, the Force at your command and the influence of the Jedi behind you, everywhere you go. But in order for anybody to believe that you’re a Jedi, they have to see what they expect to see.”

    “I don’t want to be a puffed-up, egotistical huttspawn.”

    “And you don’t have to be,” he growled, stung by her comment. “You don’t even have to feel confident, not at first, anyway. If you just look like you know what you’re doing, people will trust you. When you give the impression of being self-confident, eventually you’ll start to feel that way, too.”

    “This is stupid, I hate it!”

    “It’s not stupid,” he corrected heatedly, trying to keep his voice even. “Believe it or not, this is more important than learning how to move rocks, mediate disputes, keep other people out of your mind, or cleave bad guys with a lightsaber. You won’t be able to succeed at any of that until you believe in yourself.”

    Hilaal grumbled and took off on a lap down the hallway. She did a much better job of conveying confidence, this time, even though he noticed her head kept drooping towards the ground. Her stride lengthened, finally making it seem like Hilaal was walking rather than shuffling.

    “There, are you happy?” she spat once she had made it back to him.

    Pelt nodded and put on his best smile. “Yes. That was much improved.” He noted yet again at the way she was picking at her hair as she stared at her feet. The idea that had started out as an odd possibility suddenly made more sense. “Tell you what, give me two more laps with continued improvement and then we’ll go somewhere else. I think I know of a reward you might appreciate.”

    “I don’t want bribes,” Hilaal replied, her blue eyes flashing. “Besides, what could you give me that could possibly reward me?”

    “Mind your anger, young one,” he said automatically, realizing that he really didn’t know that first thing about her, aside from the fondness he had gathered for her at her bedside. He knew a lot of the stereotypes that surrounded her, but he didn’t really know who Hilaal was. Well, that was just another issue they would have to work through. “I may be a…how did you phrase it? ‘Puffed-up egotistical Huttspawn’, but I do have some redeeming qualities too. I’m sure some of them will slip out accidentally when you least expect them. Now, go. Walk.”

    She turned and started stalking away from him. As frustration powered Hilaal’s walk, her self-confidence started to poke through the shy exterior. “Good!” he shouted as she was half way down the hallway. “Don’t forget to move your arms.”

    Hilaal stumbled as her limbs swung awkwardly. Pelt couldn’t help but laugh. “No, not like that. Good grief, girl, haven’t you ever walked before?” She muttered under her breath, but Pelt knew he didn’t want to hear what she had said. “When you move your right foot, swing your left arm, then left foot right arm. That’s it. Better.”

    He watched her as she reached the far wall and came back. She stopped in front of him and glared.

    “You’re doing well,” he praised.

    “Whatever.”

    Pelt ignored her sarcasm. “One more lap. This time, keep doing everything you did the last time, but don’t swing your arms so much. You’re not in the military.”

    “Then we’ll be done with this?” she asked hopefully.

    He nodded. “For now. Then you’ll get your reward.”

    She rolled her eyes and began her walk. For half a minute she kept up the perfect stride, conveying just the right amount of self-assurance balanced with humility. Just before she completed her circuit, she stumbled again and nearly fell. Hilaal glared vibroblades at him as if it were his fault as she crossed her arms and stopped in front of him.

    “For a minute there, you were doing perfectly. I promised we’d be done after that, so we’re done for the day. Now, come. Try to walk the way you just practiced.”

    Pelt led her through the corridors of the Temple, greeting the Jedi he knew by name, nodding to the ones he didn’t. He pretended half the Temple didn’t know he had spent an entire week as a blubbering idiot at her bedside. As the pair walked, they were followed by mocking stares and amused chuckles. Pelt didn’t let it bother him, but his apprentice’s growing confidence slowly wilted underneath everybody’s silent gazes.

    “Head up, long strides,” Pelt would mutter out one corner of his mouth once they were far enough away that nobody else could hear him.

    “I feel like an idiot,” she answered.

    “So do I,” he whispered back.

    Hilaal suddenly stopped and looked at him distrustfully. “Really?”

    He turned around and broke into a grin. “I told you, we have to convey confidence, even when we don’t necessarily feel it.”

    The mistrust in her eyes lessened for a moment. “Oh.”


    “Come on. We’re almost out of the Temple.” When he resumed his stride, she was close at his heels, holding her head just a little higher.
     
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  22. earlybird-obi-wan

    earlybird-obi-wan Force Ghost star 6

    Registered:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Love how he teaches her
     
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  23. WarmNyota_SweetAyesha

    WarmNyota_SweetAyesha Game Host Who Loves Fanfics & RPGs star 7 VIP - Game Host

    Registered:
    Aug 31, 2004
    =D= =D= He is persistent and absolutely correct. The confidence will follow the making like you feel it part. [face_thinking] Also have an idea she will love his "reward"... @};-
     
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  24. Chyntuck

    Chyntuck Force Ghost star 5

    Registered:
    Jul 11, 2014
    Who would've thunk that Pelt is actually a good teacher? He really is! And Hilaal ought to stop calling him names ('puffed-up egotistical Huttspawn' [face_rofl]) because he's definitely a lot more than that, although he's already learning a lot from her, as Yoda predicted he would. I thought it was very sweet of him to kneel in order not to tower over her when he talks -- it was an unexpected show of humility after what we saw of him in the early chapters of this story, and one that proves (once again!) that he is sensitive to the feelings of others.

    Interesting that she thinks of rewards as bribes. Is it her true nature to be so self-demeaning, or is it something she acquired because of that voice in her head?

    I think I'm guessing what he has in store for her now that she can walk. This is going to be 'complete makeover', season one, episode 2 :)
     
  25. Jedi_Perigrine

    Jedi_Perigrine Jedi Master star 4

    Registered:
    Apr 22, 2008
    Thanks EB and Nyota's Heart! :D

    Pelt, in my mind, is always a great teacher. Just...one with an oversized self worth. :)

    I think Hilaal is just so unaccustomed to people paying attention to her that she doesn't know how to interact with them, and that rewards can be a good thing.

    Am I really missing something? Did the quote feature disappear?

    You guys guessed it! It's Padawan makeover time! Thanks for reading everybody!
    ______________

    “A hair salon?” she asked, incredulously. “My reward is a blasted haircut?”

    “Yes. That whole appearances thing, remember?” There was a soft chime as they went through the door. The receptionist, a young Duros woman, greeted them immediately.

    “Master Quar, welcome back! Are you having trouble with split ends again?”

    Hilaal snickered violently beside him, but Pelt ignored her. “No, Dellee, that shampoo you gave me seemed to do the trick, thank you. I’m here for her, today.” With a big hand he guided her in front of himself.

    “Yes, I see,” Dellee answered. “I think Horhey is almost done with his current appointment, have a seat, he’ll be with you shortly.”

    Hilaal started to sit in a chair a few seats away, but she caught Pelt’s warning glance and blew out a sigh, taking the chair next to him. He smiled and nodded appreciatively.

    After a few minutes silence, Hilaal leaned her head next to his. “I’m glad she’s not cutting my hair. She doesn’t have any, how can she do a proper job?”

    He shot her another glare. “That was rude. Just because Duros and Twi’lek don’t have hair doesn’t mean they have no talents where hair is concerned.”

    Her head jerked. “Wait. What do you mean, ‘and Twi’lek?’”

    “Pelt! I didn’t think I’d see you again so soon,” shouted a round-bellied dark-blue skinned Twi’lek as he magically appeared from the back room, gently pushing a tall, blond haired woman towards the receptionist to pay her bill. His twin lekku—long worm-like extensions that reached around from the back of his head and rested on his shoulders—twitched excitedly as he saw the Jedi waiting.

    Pelt stood, greeting the man with a handshake. “Hi, Horhey.”

    Pelt accepted a cheek-touching hug and a firm slap on the shoulder before the Twi’lek waltzed around him and began running blue fingers through his brown hair. “What seems to be the trouble, dear? Everything looks in fine shape up here to me. I think I outdid myself last week, hmm?”

    He accepted the scrutiny with longsuffering before disengaging himself and hurrying to stand next to his Padawan. “Actually, I’m here for her, today. This is my apprentice, Hilaal Yuchee.”

    “Oh,” Horhey said, startled. “Oh my. Yes, I understand why. Well, come on back with me, young miss and I’ll get you straightened out.” The Twi’lek unceremoniously grabbed her hand and forced her to her feet. “I’ve got a whole bunch of new styles for you to look through, we’ll pick one you like.”

    “Nothing too radical please, Horhey. And I’d prefer something that left her hair long.”

    Hilaal shot Pelt an irritated glare, which he once again ignored.

    The Twi’lek missed that visual exchange. Instead, he was shaking his head, amused by something else. “You Jedi with your conservative tendencies. I’ll do my best. Come, Hilaal, was it?”

    She followed Horhey into the back with a little more enthusiasm than she followed Pelt.

    Almost an hour and a half later, Horhey came striding out. “Her hair may not be quite as luxurious as yours, Pelt, but she’s much more sensible when it comes to hair styles. I may have given the best human haircut ever! May I present…Hilaal Yuchee!”

    The girl walked out more confidently than Pelt had seen her move thus far. Her body language finally radiated a little of her own inner strength and her face expressed proud defiance.

    That was when he saw her hair; the naturally red strands appeared freshly washed and groomed straight back, following the curve of her head to neatly collect just above her shoulders in a style not-too distant from his own. But the top! Instead of being uniformly cut, a wall of vibrant purple hair stood up in the middle of her head a full ten centimeters tall like a ridge, or a row of spines, starting from the top of her forehead and flowing all the way back to the nape of her neck. Her bangs had been parted down the middle, making way for the horrid mo-hawk.

    “What do you think?” Horhey asked proudly.

    “It’s…” he could find no words. He was going to be the laughing stock of the entire order. Again. Purple! he swore inside his mind. She looks like a delinquent Rodian! Pelt wanted to cover his eyes, but then he noticed the little braid of hairs that hung just below her right ear, indicating her Padawan status. She hadn’t been wearing that when she went in.

    For good or ill, she was his Apprentice, and though she still thought he was the number one slimo in the Jedi order, she was at least willing to admit knowing him.

    “It’s unique,” he finished at last, leaving unsaid Just like my Padawan. “But I think I’ll get used to it.”

    “He showed me how to do this by myself,” she said, gently rubbing her hand along the stiff purple fan of hair.

    “That’s wonderful,” Pelt replied, trying to fake some enthusiasm. “Looks like we’ll be competing for the ‘fresher mirror now, hmm?”

    She smiled, really smiled at him for the first time. Her face went from being decidedly ordinary to glowing with inner beauty. If Pelt could get her to smile like that in public, nobody would ever know what happened to the petrified girl who was hiding behind the pillar to keep herself from being chosen as an apprentice.

    “How much do I owe you?” Pelt asked the receptionist. She in turn glanced at Horhey, who shook his head and answered.

    “Nothing today, sweetling, you just make sure you come back and you bring her with you.”

    “Count on it,” Hilaal said, answering for him as she felt her head, still enthralled with her new hair.

    He did his best to stifle the sigh. “Thank you, Horhey. You know I’ll be back.”

    The Twi’lek’s appreciative eyes roamed over Pelt’s tall form. “The sooner the better,” he said.

    “Come, my Padawan. A new hairstyle is just the beginning of your transformation. We need to see a tailor. You can’t wear Youngling white forever.”


    Hilaal looked up at him, startled at being called Padawan, but apparently pleased. Her glee could just be residual from her haircut. It was good to see her smiling, whatever the case was. Her happiness brought warmth to his heart, a sensation he never thought he’d get when looking at Hilaal. Especially not after that haircut.
     
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